JFK told the Secret Service to keep its distance on assassination day

17 May 2021 @ 9:32 am On Nov. 18, 1963, in the midst of a whirlwind campaign trip, President John F. Kennedy told Secret Service supervisor Floyd Boring that agents riding on special boards installed near the trunk of his car should drop back and tail him from a follow-up vehicle instead. Read More

Jazz take top spot in NBA playoffs, thump Kings 121-99

17 May 2021 @ 9:31 am Rudy Gobert wasn’t about to stop his Utah teammates from celebrating after securing the No. 1 spot for the NBA playoffs. He just wants the Jazz to keep focus on the bigger picture. Read More

Point scores 2 in 3rd to lift Lightning over Panthers 5-4

17 May 2021 @ 9:24 am For the Tampa Bay Lightning, the return of several key players couldn’t have come at a more opportune time. Read More

Durant, Irving power Nets past Cavs for No. 2 seed in East

17 May 2021 @ 9:19 am Blake Griffin started it with a behind-the-back pass and Kevin Durant finished it by slamming down a toss off the backboard. Read More

Eriksson Ek’s OT goal lifts Wild past Vegas 1-0

17 May 2021 @ 9:14 am Between hard hitting, fast skating, a torrid pace, spectacular goaltending — Game 1 of the first-round series between the Minnesota Wild and Vegas Golden Knights on Sunday had everything but a goal in regulation. Read More

Barcelona routs Chelsea 4-0 to win WCL final for 1st time

17 May 2021 @ 9:07 am Barcelona's slow start two years ago doomed its European dream so this time it came out firing against Chelsea, scoring after just 32 seconds en route to a 4-0 victory and its first Women’s Champions League title on Sunday. Read More

Sanders, AOC push back after Biden voices support for Israel

17 May 2021 @ 9:01 am Read More

Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips: How I became the face of ‘rights of conscience’ litigation in US

17 May 2021 @ 9:00 am I respect other people’s right to make their choices and to decide for themselves what messages they do and don’t want to communicate. I expect them to respect my right to make those decisions, too.  Read More

Prince Harry calls First Amendment ‘bonkers,’ faces backlash from Cruz, Crenshaw, others

17 May 2021 @ 8:35 am Prince Harry is facing a wave of backlash after he called the First Amendment "bonkers" during a podcast appearance last week. Read More

Burma junta attacks western town that resisted coup

17 May 2021 @ 8:28 am The U.S. and British embassies in Burma expressed concern about reports of fierce government attacks on a town in western Chin state, where the ruling junta declared martial law because of armed resistance to military rule. Read More

Elise Stefanik is a Truce Choice in the Republican Civil War

17 May 2021 @ 5:51 am

“We’ve spent 7.5 years with an authoritarian president who ignored our Constitution. We don’t need four more years of that,” Mike Pompeo, the then-Congressman from Kansas, said in the closing days of a fratricidal Republican primary for president.

Not a candidate himself, but a surrogate for Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who had then cornered the market on what appeared the intellectual wave of the future (back then: a neoconsersative comeback), Pompeo laid in. He told the hometown press, the Topeka-based Capital Journal: Donald Trump “is not a conservative true believer.” 

These comments were originally unearthed by Susan Glasser in The New Yorker in 2019 in perhaps the seminal profile of the man who would become Trump’s top diplomat, at the very least, and if not his someday successor. If there was something in the water in 2016, it was certainly lost on Congressman Pompeo. But by 2019, Pompeo was expounding on what nationalism meant to him at perhaps the hallmark think tank of Trump’s term, the Claremont Institute.

So it was not lost on Pompeo when the tide came in. After Trump’s November 2016 victory, Pompeo was in the lobby of Trump Tower almost as fast as Shinzo Abe of Japan, and on the phone with him as swiftly as Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt, two hard-nosed pragmatists who secured chummy relationships for their countries with Trump’s rowdy White House. Sisi had even met with Trump at the U.N. in September of that year, as most world leaders, including American ones, prepared for President Hillary Clinton. 

But if realpolitik is understood on the international stage, as it relates to Donald Trump and his outsized political career, it is just as often misinterpreted on the domestic front. 

This is it. This Republican defection will surely mean curtains for Trump’s clout in the party and the country writ large, goes the standard operating motif of the last half-decade, any time Trump suffers a defection. This is the true Trumpist — or, this is not a true Trumpist goes the mirror theme — any time Trump or his entourage brings in fresh blood. 

The day may yet come — sooner rather than later judging by Republican appetite for the reigning “woke” corporate mentality, the theology du jour — when Republicans are stuffed to the gills with neo-Buchananite staffers and politicians. At the very least, there are certainly those working on that.

But that day is not today. And demands for such ideological rigidity abjure the kind of success seen by a different breed of Republican during the Trump years: the conservative pragmatist. Ideological nationalists in high places are, so far, rare — perhaps just one reason why Tucker Carlson, Steve Bannon, Josh Hawley and others have gained such prominence in recent years: a lack of competition for a product in high demand. 

More common, if not just as successful, have been purer politicians: Pompeo, former Attorney General William P. Barr and former National Security Advisor Robert C. O’Brien, among others. From a Republican point of view, those who have gambled and fully renounced Trump — Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, former Secretary of Defense James Mattis, former National Security Advisor John Bolton, all floats in a NeverTrump parade — have seen their clout consistently consigned to the periphery, after considerable hype that the precise opposite would occur. 

This dynamic has seemingly been replayed in recent days with the rise of Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, and the dramatic apostasy of Rep. Liz Cheney. As exposed by intrepid muckrakers, Stefanik once harbored similar doubts about Trump, Trumpism and the like that are now emphasized by the woman she succeeds as House Republican Conference chair. 

And as pointed out by her conservative critics, most prominently Ann Coulter, Stefanik’s voting record is actually less in sync with the 45th president’s priorities than was Cheney’s. So why did Donald Trump so enthusiastically endorse the New York millennial? 

The personnel carousel of his administration should stand testament that Donald Trump only cares so much that people agree with Donald Trump. Rapport, even style and absolutely avoiding constant, flagrant insults of the man himself are the orders of the day. As noted by veteran Empire State chronicler Elizabeth Benjamin in the Times: “The reality is that Ms. Stefanik has always been a shape-shifter, driven more by the political zeitgeist than any strongly rooted ideology.”       

And it is in the uncertain environment of 2021 that Stefanik has succeeded. Eighteen years Cheney’s junior, the Republican leadership feels they just got a savvier upgrade in the political c-suite. They’re right. And if history is any guide, concerned congregants of the true faith need only worry so much.

Perhaps case in point: Joe Biden is the president. But no one, perhaps most especially Joe Biden, thinks this is the Joe Biden of 1996, as doubtless Wall Street and many swing voters had hoped. Political gravity has its own logic, especially in intra-party politics in the digital age. Casting aside an apparent one-term pledge (we’ll see), the Elise Stefanik of 2021 is simply unlikely to resemble the Elise Stefanik of 2016, to the chagrin and surprise of allies and antagonists alike. 

The post Elise Stefanik is a Truce Choice in the Republican Civil War appeared first on The American Conservative.

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Glenn Youngkin and the Fast Fade of the Virginia Old Guard

13 May 2021 @ 4:01 am

Virginia politics, especially conservative Virginia politics, used to be a waiting game.

Though, of course, folks occasionally jumped the line, the Commonwealth was once run by the iron rule of the Byrd machine. Only a half-century ago, “the Organization” as it was called, worked on paying your dues. Delegates became state senators. State senators became attorney general. AGs so often became lieutenant governor, and on.

The election of Republican Gov. Linwood Holton ended old school Southern Democratic reign in 1969, but a holistic, incremental ethos seemed to pervade the state’s politics even into the 1990s and 2000s, even with the rise of the rapidly growing Northern Virginia. Douglas Wilder went from the state senate to the LG’s office to the governor’s mansion, the first black governor in the nation’s history, in the capital of the former Confederacy, no less, before a quixotic, stillborn bid for the presidency, and an encore stint as Richmond mayor, becoming a sort of Jerry Brown figure in the original California.

The former delegate, congressman, and governor George Allen, though not a native Virginian (born in Richard Nixon’s Whittier, California) paired with the former Navy secretary, John Warner—the state the site of so many military installations, and so much military service—in the Senate when I first moved there, though my family’s ancestral home, in 2003. Warner would serve 30 years, and Allen was a George W. Bush heir apparent back then. Democrats, strikingly, would take pains to show fealty to the old ways.

They were “Virginia Democrats,” as partisans in the state were fond of emphasizing, well into Barack Obama’s years in the White House.

Mark Warner (no relation to John) anchored his 2001 triumph in gubernatorial politics, yes, in Northern Virginia, but with a lynchpin in the state’s sparsely populated but mammoth southwest, what would become core Donald Trump country. His successor, future Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine, married into Virginia royalty (former governor Holton’s daughter, Anne) before becoming councilman, Richmond mayor, lieutenant governor, and then governor, but not before taking out an ad at a critical juncture of the 2005 campaign assuring voters that just because he was Roman Catholic didn’t mean he’d hesitate to enforce capital punishment. The Commonwealth, at that time, was killing convicted murderers at a near-Texas clip, and doing so with real law-and-order pride. Between appearances of Cicada Brood X, they’ve shuttered the practice altogether.

To believe Guy Friddell’s “The Virginia Way,” old Richmonders used to call their metropolis “the Holy City,” a nod to the seven geographic hills, evocative of Rome, lined with church steeples, many of which are now gone. Charleston, South Carolina claims the moniker, as well, which is widely used, whereas contemporary Richmonders abjure it, unless one wishes to signal membership in or affinity for the old guard. Far more likely are you to see the state-sanctioned “RVA” bumper sticker, a product of a corporate campaign, of refinement culture.

Virginia has seen change before, and doubtless, in a place like the South, generations before have cried that the place is really going to hell this time, quite often on dubious grounds. Four hundred and fourteen years since the founding of Jamestown, four hundred and two years since the first known appearance of slaves in chains, two hundred and forty years since the Commonwealth-led military establishment secured final humiliation of the Crown at Yorktown, one hundred and fifty-six springs since humiliation of its own at Appomattox, a half-century since desegregation and the related party realignment, it’s hard to shake the impression the place has truly changed again this time.

Cue the coronation of Glenn Youngkin, the former Carlyle Group co-CEO, as the next Republican nominee for governor, official as of late Monday night. A political rookie, Youngkin will no doubt invite comparisons to Warner who likewise won statewide as an inoffensive, wealthy businessman without previously having served in office. Like Warner, Youngkin now leads the underdog party, with Virginia Republicans learning to live life with the shoe on the other foot.

Mark Warner, though, had run John Warner close in 1996 in a Senate race, earning him a sort of Lincoln-Douglas cache so rarely afforded a loser; Mitt Romney, a more contemporary example, had similarly benefited in 2002 from frightening Ted Kennedy in 1994. Youngkin, on the other hand, is completely green. He almost surely will run against former Governor Terry McAuliffe, the scandal-scarred but dominant Democratic party unsure of who else to nominate, led by a man who wanted to be president, or at least in Joe Biden’s Cabinet, and now unsure of what else to do.

McAuliffe was quick to latch onto the narrative that Youngkin had essentially purchased his shot at the prize, to say nothing of linking the new nominee to a radical out group, as Republicans did to Democrats in the state a generation prior.

“Now, Glenn Youngkin has paid enough to purchase the Republican gubernatorial nomination so he can run Donald Trump’s dangerous playbook here in Virginia,” the former governor said in a statement. McAuliffe’s messaging could serve the dual purpose of undermining Republican enthusiasm in a time of increasing party hostility to big business (and the feeling’s mutual). The rift was laid bare last month with corporate-hostile statements from Republican grandees, namely Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Justice Clarence Thomas, revered on the right. Licking its chops, the anti-Trump Bulwark noted wryly on the nomination of a private equity executive of a firm with past ties to the Bin Laden family: “Finally, the GOP has cast off the globalist elites.”

Youngkin will, no doubt, try to couch his business experience in nationalist terms. He noted during the primary that then-President Donald Trump had thanked him by name on China policy. And indeed, the new nominee received the former president’s endorsement, something he could have used during the convention, but will likely assiduously ignore when it suits him in the general, as he did in his first remarks Tuesday. “Glenn is running against Bill Clinton’s longtime enabler, Terry McAuliffe,” Trump said. “Terry McAuliffe was the Clintons’ bagman in more ways than one, from the cover-ups to the get-rich-quick schemes, and his deals with Communist China look suspicious.”

The endorsement is a continuation of Trump’s reverence for corporate figures, from his first Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (ExxonMobil), to first chief economic advisor Gary Cohn (Goldman Sachs)—who would likely have been embarrassed to shake his hand in a past life, and odds are they are again. (Cohn even recently abandoned the former administration’s line of a low corporate tax rate, a signature achievement). In short, Youngkin’s corporate pedigree and corresponding wealth is a double-edged sword, likely guaranteeing a high floor for his performance in November, but also surely a stab point for Democrats politically in an increasingly oligarchic economy. Not that McAuliffe is Huey Long.

“My guess all along…was that Youngkin would win,” Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia, the dean of the Commonwealth’s political scene, told me. “He was swamping the others, even [his principal rival, Pete] Snyder, with rather lavish campaign spending of all sorts.… Republican sources have told me Youngkin will spend a minimum of $30 million of his own money, and I had one tell me Youngkin had pledged $75 million. It’s possible McAuliffe will be outspent.”

***

The Democrat who took Sen. Allen out, Jim Webb, was once the party’s State of the Union respondent, only to nine years later find himself a keynote speaker at an event put on by The American Conservative. The architect of Webb’s sole political victory was David “Mudcat” Saunders, an Appalachian former aide-de-camp to Warner. He was profiled, rather approvingly, in the Weekly Standard in 2005 by Matt Labash, an old friend of Tucker Carlson’s. It’s easy to think what has occurred in the Old Dominion was a fait accompli. But Northern Virginian hegemony, with half the state’s population and more of its money, was clear by the Obama presidency, to which Virginia lent its electoral votes.

And yet, a certain culture endured. In 2009, Republican Bob McDonnell, a 14-year delegate and then attorney general, walloped State Sen. Creigh Deeds by seventeen points to become governor. Even Deeds’ surprise nomination had been a vindication of the old school, with a rather notorious good old boy beating out Northern Virginians Terry McAuliffe, the Buffalonian former Democratic National Convention chair, and Brian Moran, of the local Northeast transplant Moran dynasty. In the McDonnell administration, statues of Confederate luminaries Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and Stonewall Jackson continued to line Richmond’s Monument Avenue with a seeming bipartisan shrug.

It was likely only after Obama’s second Virginian victory—2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney announced his selection of Paul Ryan on a battleship in Norfolk—that things began to truly change. What went down was a combination: a collapsed statewide political style, that is, the rules of the road, an increasingly national Virginia Democratic Party, and a clear drift rightward by the Republicans, but an aimless one.

In 2013, then-Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a man by whose Caesarian ambition those who know him swear, jumped the line. His was an ideologue’s tenure at the AG’s office, from covering the breastplate of Virtus, the Hellenized warrior woman on the state seal, to suing the University of Virginia for climate change studies, his stint as the Commonwealth’s chief law enforcement officer was defined by gestures—some would say stunts—geared toward the hard right.

Above all, Cuccinelli is intense: from the size of his family (a no-slouch seven children), to his daily hours-long commutes from Richmond to his home in NoVa as AG, to slamming down his credentials at the 2016 Republican National Convention in vainglorious protest of Donald Trump’s ascent, from reversing himself and serving the 45th president on immigraton policy with a hardliner’s imprimatur, to the two hours he spent on a weekday morning with college students including this future reporter (Cuccinelli’s senior, Governor McDonnell, seemed more the master of the five minute gladhand).

But an instinct for scorched earth would cost him: Cuccinelli’s allies jerry-rigged the nomination process for governor, so that Republicans would vote by convention, not primary. The maneuver may have successfully sidelined the longtime lieutenant governor, Bill Bolling (who had his own Granita Pact with McDonnell), but it saddled him with a rather ludicrous wingman, the bombastic and decidedly unsavvy E.W. Jackson, after a day of grinding subterfuge in a Richmond convention hall. Cuccinelli lost the race that November by less than two points. His cutthroat, unrelentingly partisan reputation inspired a quite credible Libertarian challenger, Robert Sarvis, who garnered nearly seven percent of the vote, and Jackson ran a full nine points behind Cuccinelli.

In short, the Republicans blew it. And they’ve arguably never been the same since.

***

The convention chicanery didn’t start in 2013. In the 2008 Senate election, former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore, who would later become more famous as a gadfly loser of presidential elections, pushed for a convention, to muscle out Congressman Tom Davis, considered a moderate. It worked, and Gilmore lost literally two-to-one against Warner in a performance that would presage his potency at the national level.

But it was 2013 that seemingly codified this new institution, the legerdemain of consistent losers.

By 2021, it would be more establishment figures accused of using the process to knife the hardliners. State Senator Amanda Chase, censured earlier this year by her colleagues for pro-Capitol Hill riot statements, claimed repeatedly that former lieutenant governor candidate Pete Snyder had feared her performance in a primary, and vowed to run as an independent if Synder triumphed. Snyder ended up having bigger problems than Chase, running into the Youngkin buzzsaw. Youngkin gamefully contrasted Snyder’s business experience with his own, calling the venture capitalist “J.V.” In conceding, Snyder said it was clear the electorate clamored for an outsider with business experience, but as observed by veteran political columnist Jeff E. Schapiro of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Snyder lost to “the only candidate with a bank account bigger than his,” giving an impression of a Commonwealth for sale.

A former state House speaker, Kirk Cox, also competed, but finished a clear fourth in the ranked-choice voting, after Youngkin, Snyder, and Chase. Cox had had the support of former Sen. Allen, former Governor McDonnell, and former Congressman Davis: the goodwill, if not charity, of many old colleagues. But it was Snyder who lined up many of the state’s more recent political players, namely the full slate from the 2013 race: Cuccinelli, Jackson and State Sen. Mark Obenshain. It wasn’t enough. And though Youngkin had devotees in the state’s high command, such as State Sen. Steve Newman who wrote he was convinced Youngkin had “a very personal relationship with Christ,” Youngkin’s closer wasn’t from Virginia at all: it was Texas Senator Ted Cruz. Youngkin cut a slick video with the 2016 GOP runner-up for president, and Cruz’s enthusiasm for his fellow Gen Xer was clear, barnstorming the state. Youngkin also received favorable treatment from a Californian: conservative Washington Post columnist and fixer Hugh Hewitt. The Richard Nixon Foundation CEO called Youngkin “the next governor of Virginia” during an interview with the candidate during the convention campaign, and by this week was pitching Youngkin’s strategy to compete in the state’s liberal north, and urged his listeners to join the campaign and donate.

In many ways, Cruz is a neat contemporary for Youngkin. Both men are plainly talented, with a populist’s panache, but one paired with a high-brow background. They’re actually from the state, but are somewhat unknown and distrusted by the local political elite; they’re pro-Trump when necessary; they’re ideologically vague, not a full break from the party’s past—certainly to the relief, if not enthusiasm, of conservative grandees like Hewitt.

But above all, Sabato emphasized that Youngkin is a “near-complete unknown,” and that, at least, is a sea change for a state and state party as secretive and old school as any in the country.

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Here Comes the ’70s

13 May 2021 @ 4:01 am

It is somehow absurdly fitting that Joe Biden, who entered the United States Senate in 1973 at the age of 30 as an opponent of racial busing, is presiding over a return to the 1970s. The Seventies are one of the few decades that the popular imagination—economic decline, decadence, environmental catastrophism, a lot of great football—gets right. While the differences between our present moment and the world of half a century ago are ultimately more important than the similarities, the latter are worth enumerating.

More than a year after the imposition of lockdowns, unemployment remains high even as wages stagnate. Whatever professional economists say about the matter, inflation is undeniably here, and if the secretary of the Treasury is to be believed, higher interest rates will follow sooner or later. Meanwhile there are gas shortages on the Eastern Seaboard, though they remain a matter of curiously less reporting than one might expect. (This time we find ourselves hostages not to the whims of oil sheikhs but of teenaged hackers.) Memories of rioting are fresh in many of our cities, and abroad there is civil war again in Ethiopia and the threat of a major conflict in Israel. Unspeakable sacrileges are being perpetrated by radical clergy.

Like his immediate predecessor and the leaders of both of our major political parties in Congress, Biden is a product of the turbulent decade we seem fated to live through again. But his generation is more comfortably off than their own parents were at the beginning of the Seventies, while their children and grandchildren are in a worse position by almost every imaginable measure. A young couple with the husband as the sole breadwinner earned more relative to the price of everything from home ownership (which was then within the reach of blue-collar laborers in a way that seems unimaginable now) to college tuition to basic household goods, which were more durable and not imported from East Asian sweatshops.

The country in which a young Joe Biden came into his own politically was one in which there was a sizable industrial base, in which vast swathes of the economy were yet to be subsumed into high finance, in which uncreative Fordist assumptions that now seem unthinkable dominated many corporate boardrooms. Race relations were bad, but Angela Davis was not a tenured professor of anything, and instead of therapeutic clichés for the corporate lecture circuit, radicals spoke with moral urgency, if not always clarity.

Now he and his fellow septuagenarians are confronted by the same crises to which they once responded with blithe optimism. Will they handle, say, stagflation better than Nixon did? Or will they, too, shake their heads in surprise when faced with a new decadence that will almost certainly not involve quadraphonic long-playing records or another Raiders Super Bowl?

From the decadence of the 1970s there arose a series of new political arrangements, the half-invisible ones we attempt to describe with epithets such as “neoliberal.” What we think of as the legacy of the Reagan administration began with Paul Volcker and Jimmy Carter’s breakup of the post-war consensus on the mixed economy.

Now that the new consensus appears to be just as exhausted as the one it replaced, it is worth asking: What will emerge from the dark decade ahead?

Here I cannot pretend to be optimistic. While it would be tempting to imagine that out of the present chaos of atomization, a new synthesis founded upon social and economic solidarity will appear, what seems more likely is that we are entering a new era of neoliberal hegemony in which even the trappings of old-fashioned liberalism are abandoned in favor of blind arithmetic accumulation and algorithmically optimized digital entertainment, fast food and cannabis delivery, and goodness knows what else. Nixon presided over the opening of Mao’s China. One suspects that 50 years later the former junior senator from Delaware will half-wittingly open the United States to Chinese-style authoritarian capitalism.

I for one would prefer polyester and Jack Tatum.

Matthew Walther is editor of The Lamp magazine and a contributing editor at The American Conservative.

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Arabella Advisors: Democrats’ Darkest Dark Money

12 May 2021 @ 4:01 am

While most Americans were hooked on the 2020 electoral battle between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, Washington’s biggest “dark money” network was quietly funneling tens of millions of dollars into races meant to flip the Republican-held Senate and advance the left’s permanent transformation of America.

Meet Arabella Advisors, the Beltway’s best-kept secret.

Arabella Advisors is a for-profit consulting firm founded by former Clinton administration staffer Eric Kessler, who started his career as an environmental activist for the League of Conservation Voters. The firm controls four nonprofits (the “sisters”) with vague names and a common address: the 501(c)(3) New Venture Fund, Hopewell Fund, and Windward Fund, and the Sixteen Thirty Fund, Arabella’s 501(c)(4) lobbying shop. Each of these nonprofits pays the company for the privilege of being staffed and led by Arabella folks ($137 million since 2008), and all four are behemoths—bringing in $731 million from difficult-to-trace donors in 2019 alone.

My colleagues and I at the Capital Research Center have studied the Arabella network for over two years. Here’s how it works.

Arabella’s nonprofits act as the left’s premier pass-through funders for professional activists. Big foundations—including the Gates, Buffett, and Ford Foundations—have laundered billions of dollars through this network, washing their identities from the dollars that go to push radical policies on America.

But the real juice from these nonprofits comes from the vast array of “pop-up groups” they run—called so because they consist almost solely of slick websites that may pop into existence one day and pop out the next, usually once the campaign is through. We’ve counted over 350 such front groups pushing everything from federal funding of abortion to overhauling Obamacare to packing the Supreme Court.

Arabella is as dark as “dark money” gets. It’s also the prime example of liberal hypocrisy over anonymous political spending, operating in nearly total obscurity from the mainstream media, liberal dark money hawks like Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), or even the conservative movement, from 2005 until 2019, when the Capital Research Center yanked it into the spotlight.

As more of this massive web of groups—responsible for churning out nearly $2.5 billion since its creation—has come into focus, one thing’s become clear: When a special interest donor goes to Arabella, they’re expecting a political payoff.

Nothing better illustrates this than the network’s spending spree in 2020, when it channeled an unprecedented sum into critical races that handed key Senate seats to the Democrats, passed liberal ballot initiatives in states, and even set up the campaign to make the District of Columbia the 51st state. And all of this was run from Arabella’s plush offices in downtown Washington, D.C.

Electing Democrats

The Sixteen Thirty Fund, Arabella’s 501(c)(4) advocacy arm, poured over $57 million between 2019 and 2020 into left-wing PACs that savaged President Trump and aided Joe Biden. That includes $7 million passed to two pro-Biden super PACs: Unite the Country and Victory 2020. Victory 2020 was run and funded by the anti-Republican attack group American Bridge 21st Century.

Sixteen Thirty spent $15 million in four close Senate races in 2020, helping to defeat two Republican incumbents: Cory Gardner in Colorado and Martha McSally in Arizona. Iowa’s Joni Ernst and Maine’s Susan Collins both survived the onslaught. But the Sixteen Thirty Fund bankrolled its attack ads through local groups with sentimental names intended to fool voters into believing they represented grassroots interests, not the D.C. swamp.

Take Colorado, where the Sixteen Thirty Fund paid $4 million in 2019 to the 501(c)(4) Rocky Mountain Values, which describes itself as an “organization made up of real Coloradans—not special interests.” Rocky Mountain Values spent $1.3 million—more than twice the amount spent by the right-leaning Chamber of Commerce—on attack ads accusing Gardner of taking “hundreds of thousands of dollars” from D.C. lobbyists then “voting against commonsense limits” on prescription drug prices.

Almost nothing concrete about this group of “real Coloradans” can be found. Its Grand Junction address is a two-bedroom house, and it isn’t listed in the IRS nonprofit database. But its director, Alvina Vasquez, is the communications director of Strategies 360, a top public relations firm whose senior vice president ran the 2020 Senate campaign of John Hickenlooper, the Democrat who unseated Republican Cory Gardner.

Here’s the kicker: Rocky Mountain Values was backed by another $425,000 in anti-Gardner ads paid for by two other Sixteen Thirty Fund pop-ups: the court-packing group Demand Justice, and Protect Our Care, which supports Obamacare. For Arabella, this was an inside job.

The story repeats itself in Arizona, where Sixteen Thirty shifted $4 million to Advancing AZ (also called “Honest Arizona”), a (c)(4) formed a scant six months before the November election whose leader, Steve Gomez, has close ties to Majority Forward, the independent expenditure arm of the Democrats’ Senate Majority PAC.

That cash went into ads (some in Spanish) attacking Republican Sen. Martha McSally for voting to overturn Obamacare, claiming she would hike drug prices for seniors and eliminate healthcare coverage for nearly 3 million Arizonans with pre-existing conditions. Advancing AZ even held a mock town hall called “Missing Martha McSally” (she didn’t attend) co-hosted by the Sierra Club, Planned Parenthood, and others, with Democratic Arizona representative Ruben Gallego standing in for McSally to answer voters’ questions. McSally went on to lose reelection by 79,000 votes.

In Maine, Sixteen Thirty spent $3.9 million to help Maine Momentum, created by a former aide to local Democrat Rep. Chellie Pingree to defeat Sen. Susan Collins. Unlike its cohorts in Colorado and Arizona, however, Maine Momentum came under fire for attack ads even the Washington Post called “mostly false.” The group’s leadership even lied about its connections to Arabella, claiming it didn’t work with Democratic organizations and was “totally Maine-based”—before tax records revealed it was funded by the Sixteen Thirty Fund.

In Iowa, Sixteen Thirty gave $2.9 million to the self-described “grassroots” group Iowa Forward to knock off Sen. Joni Ernst. Within six months of its creation the group dumped $600,000 on attack ads criticizing Ernst for voting to repeal Obamacare, even wheeling out a billboard at the Iowa State Fair in 2019 demanding she “stop voting to gut our health care.” Ernst defeated her opponent by more than 110,000 votes.

The common thread between these races is healthcare, and it isn’t hard to see why; Democrats arguably won their 2018 House majority by thumping Republicans on the issue. But far from leaving these critical Senate races to chance, Sixteen Thirty Fund funneled tens of millions of dollars into tilting election outcomes to favor Democrats—with no accountability to the local voters it duped.

The North Fund: From Dark to Darker

Closely connected to Sixteen Thirty is the North Fund, a mysterious 501(c)(4) group with no online presence and a co-working space address in Washington, D.C. North Fund is a front for Sixteen Thirty Fund—which was its sole donor in 2019, passing $9.3 million to North Fund, a huge increase considering that its revenues were less than $50,000 in 2018. It also maintains a paid relationship with Arabella Advisors to provide “administrative support” and other services, according to its Form 990, as do Arabella’s other nonprofits.

The group is led by a handful of Democratic operatives, including a former aide to former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Jim Gerstein. Gerstein was a consultant for left-wing groups and political candidates, and he previously led Democracy Corps, the boutique strategy firm founded by Democratic strategists James Carville and Stanley Greenberg, the authors of Bill Clinton’s winning presidential campaign strategy.

North Fund is the puppet master behind “51 for 51,” the top campaign to grant statehood to the District of Columbia with a seven-figure ad blitz pushing the idea. Granting D.C. statehood would all but guarantee the Democrats a Senate majority by creating two additional Senate seats representing Washington’s 700,000 residents. House Democrats narrowly voted to advance a statehood bill on April 22 along party lines (216-208), but it will almost certainly die in the Senate, where Democrats and Republicans are tied 50-50 (the bill requires 60 votes to pass).

North Fund has also spent at least $200,000 lobbying Congress on bills, including the “For the People Act” (H.R. 1), the Democrats’ leading effort to dismantle voter ID requirements, federalize elections and the congressional redistricting process, and, ironically, end “dark money” in politics by forcing groups to disclose their donors—a serious breach of the First Amendment. It’s likely part of Sixteen Thirty’s own lobbying for H.R. 1, which the group’s director recently explained was part of its efforts to “reduce the influence of special interest money in politics, and rebuild the trust of all Americans.”

But don’t expect Sixteen Thirty Fund or its allies to disclose their donors any time soon. When pressed by the state of Montana to reveal its donors after plunging $4.8 million into the state’s largest pro-marijuana legalization group last year, North Fund refused. The initiative passed.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. North Fund poured millions of dollars into defeating Colorado’s proposed 22-week abortion ban (defeated), supporting Missouri’s Medicaid expansion (passed), and passing Ohio’s minimum wage hike (didn’t make the ballot) among others. It even supported an unsuccessful constitutional amendment to radically change how Arkansas draws its congressional and legislative maps to bring it in line with California and other states with supposedly “independent” redistricting commissions.

But good luck tracing these dark dollars back to their original donors. That’s Arabella’s specialty—remaking America in the left’s own image without leaving a money trail.

Hayden Ludwig is a senior investigative researcher for the Capital Research Center.

The post Arabella Advisors: Democrats’ Darkest Dark Money appeared first on The American Conservative.

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Biden’s Immigration Policies Prove His ‘Jobs Program’ Is a Con

11 May 2021 @ 4:01 am

On March 31, 2021 the White House issued a news release regarding Biden’s “American Jobs Plan” that laid out ambitions for far more than creating good jobs. Before we even consider, though, how the Biden administration would supposedly create good-paying jobs for Americans, let us remember how his administration is dealing with immigration—or, perhaps more accurately, not dealing with immigration.

Immigration has a huge impact on Americans’ jobs and wages. Prior to the Second World War, in fact, the primary authority for the enforcement and administration of our nation’s immigration laws was vested in the Labor Department. Immigration law enforcement was moved to the Justice Department when our leaders realized that enemy saboteurs and spies were seeking to gain access to our nation to undermine our national security, not unlike the way it was moved into the Department of Homeland Security in the wake of the terror attacks of September 11, 2001.

During the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt sought to get the American economy moving by getting Americans back to work. To do so, FDR ramped up the enforcement of America’s immigration laws to protect American workers from competition from foreign workers, who would not only flood the labor pool but would be willing to work for substandard wages under substandard conditions.

Effective immigration law enforcement back then protected American workers from both of these, and could and should still do so today. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many American workers and their families are struggling, not unlike the Americans who suffered during the Great Depression. Yet, rather than enforce our immigration laws the way that FDR did, the Biden administration has acted to permit and, indeed, encourage a human tsunami of aliens into the United States across the U.S.-Mexican border.

Furthermore, Biden has crippled immigration law enforcement within the interior of the United States as well. Coupled with the policies that set up “sanctuary cities” and “sanctuary states,” illegal aliens are being provided with driver’s licenses and being provided with a variety of benefits that not only fail to deter illegal immigration but actually incentivize illegal immigration.

Providing driver’s licenses to illegal aliens who are “undocumented”—meaning that there is no way to determine their true identities—undermines national security and public safety and violate the findings and recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. The mayors and governors of the sanctuary jurisdictions blithely explain that illegal aliens need driver’s licenses so that they can drive to work safely! (So much for protecting the jobs and wages of hapless American workers and their struggling families.)

Biden also wants to provide a pathway to U.S. citizenship to aliens who were granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS) in the United States. These are aliens, including illegal aliens, whose home countries suffered a disaster while they are in the United States. However, many times the emergency that prompted the issuance of TPS occurred many, many years ago and conditions in their home country may well have improved. Temporary is supposed to mean temporary. Consider the case of aliens who are granted TPS and get jobs as construction workers in the United States. Does it make sense to have illegal alien construction workers build and repair houses and other structures in the United States when their skills are sorely needed in their home countries to rebuild their countries after a catastrophe?

Biden and the Democrats also want a pathway to U.S. citizenship for “Dreamers.” The term “DREAMer” is an acronym for “Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors.” (It is interesting that the term “alien” is acceptable when it is used in an acronym that conjures up the desired imagery, but verboten under all other circumstances.) The original DREAM Act was supposed to provide a pathway to U.S. citizenship for illegal aliens who supposedly arrived in the United States prior to their 16th birthdays. However, aliens would have been able to file for amnesty as DREAMers under this latest immigration bill if they did so prior to their 35th birthdays. Aliens would simply have to claim to have arrived in the U.S. prior to turning 16. With no capacity to conduct field investigations or interviews for a population this large, fraud would permeate this program.

It is noteworthy that Biden said of illegal immigration in his address to Congress, “There’s over 11 million undocumented folks, the vast majority here overstayed visas.” Presumably the president wants Americans to forget the lack of border security and the crisis it is creating. Visa violators do pose a huge problem as well, however, and aliens who violate their visas don’t only overstay their authorized period of admission but almost invariably work illegally.

But as for Biden’s claim about the 11 million “undocumented folks,” in 2018 a Yale study found twice as many undocumented immigrants as previous estimates. The report stated that “using mathematical modeling on a range of demographic and immigration operations data, the researchers estimate there are 22.1 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.”

What is never discussed, however, in addressing the status of undocumented immigrants and any possible pathway to legalization is the fact that all newly legalized aliens would have the immediate and absolute right to have all of their spouses and minor children admitted to the United States as lawful immigrants. If, for the sake of argument, 20 million illegal aliens were legalized, and if on average each such alien would have (or claim to have) just four children each, we could see an influx of 80 million minor immigrants enter the United States.

Imagine the ecological, economic and societal impact this would have. Each person has an environmental impact, and requires water, food, electricity, sewerage, access to healthcare, education, transportation, and other such essential requirements. As these minor immigrants grew older they would join the overflowing labor pool. Imagine the impact this would have on jobs and wages that Biden promises he will create for struggling Americans.

The illegal employment of aliens used to be a traditional matter of concern for Democrats and the American left. In 2020 BuzzFeed News examined Senator Bernie Sanders’s evolving positions on immigration, including his early labor-supported opposition to “immigration reform.”

“I believe we have very serious immigration problems in this country,” Sanders said during a 2007 press event, with AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka behind him.

“I think as you’ve heard today, sanctions against employers who employ illegal immigrants is virtually nonexistent. Our border is very porous. And I think at a time when the middle class is shrinking, the last thing we need is to bring over in a period of years, millions of people into this country who are prepared to lower wages for American workers.”

Clearly, back then, Sanders was concerned about the deleterious impact illegally employed aliens had on Americans. However, he and radical Democrats have since reversed their position on this important issue.

Now, Biden wants to extend citizenship to alien farm workers who “put food on our tables.” The obvious question is “Why?” Aliens who work illegally in the United States violate federal laws that are supposed to protect the lives and jobs of Americans. Their wages are ill-gotten. When individuals acquire money or other assets by violating the law their money and assets are subject to asset forfeiture. Why should this be different for illegal aliens?

The ill-conceived massive alien amnesty of 1986 was an element of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) enacted during the Reagan administration. It was supposed to provide about one million illegal aliens with lawful status. It ultimately provided lawful status to more than 3.5 million aliens, and no one knows how many millions of family members were subsequently admitted under that program. A number of supposed farm workers who received amnesty under IRCA committed fraud and subsequently participated in terror attacks. The official report “9/11 and  Terrorist Travel – Staff Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States” noted:

Once terrorists had entered the United States, their next challenge was to find a way to remain here. Their primary method was immigration fraud. For example, [Ramzi] Yousef and [Ahmed] Ajaj concocted bogus political asylum stories when they arrived in the United States. Mahmoud Abouhalima, involved in both the World Trade Center and landmarks plots, received temporary residence under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers (SAW) program, after falsely claiming that he picked beans in Florida.

The Biden administration’s failures to secure our nation’s borders undermine national security, public safety, public health and the jobs and wages of Americans. Bad as the situation is now, Biden’s further plans all run contrary to the best interests of America and Americans and would encourage still more aliens to head for our borders confident that the Biden administration will take no measures to prevent them from entering the United States and that, once in the United States, they will having nothing to fear from immigration law enforcement authorities under Biden’s immigration policies.

As Congress considers this administration’s immigration and jobs agendas, the one question that President Biden must be asked is how his immigration policies benefit America and Americans. That is the one question that should be asked of all politicians.

Michael W. Cutler was a senior special agent for the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.

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It’s Afghanistan, Stupid

11 May 2021 @ 4:01 am

This week, House Republicans are set to remove Representative Liz Cheney from their leadership, in a move that has already launched a thousand op-eds. Defenders of Cheney, including Nancy Pelosi and Bernie Sanders, have huge incentive to make her ouster about Donald Trump and “January 6.” Her opposition, by contrast, wants to make this about professionalism: Her unhinged attacks demonstrate that she is not leadership material. As House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy noted, in a truthful and vapid comment, GOP House members are concerned Liz cannot “carry out the message.”

Neither side wants to state the obvious. It’s no mystery why Liz Cheney hates Donald Trump so much: It’s about Afghanistan, and the Bush legacy.

On the surface her personal beef with Trump is designed to look like it’s all about “democracy.” She just really feels compelled to keep writing op-eds and speaking out about what is, politically, ancient history, too. It looks undisciplined, but that can’t be right. I recently spoke with a good friend who has had a working relationship with Cheney for a while, and this person noted: “She is brilliant and always in control. If you want someone to read your financials and give granular advice, she’s your woman.”

This doesn’t sound like someone who would recklessly blow up her political future. But my friend went on: “She’s always in control…except on foreign policy. Move into that territory and her eyes transform into those of a zealot.”

By all rights, Cheney should be praising the most pro-Wyoming president in her lifetime, Donald Trump. And by all rights she should be attacking, rather than fist-bumping, Joe Biden, whose program is already killing jobs back home. On Wyoming issue after issue, Trump scores ahead, far ahead of Biden, which is why he won the state in 2020 by 44 percent. That’s a landslide. That’s more than a landslide.

But Trump got us to the finish line on withdrawal from Afghanistan, and Biden is more hawkish, and so Trump gets attacked, and Biden gets Liz’s praise. In fact, Biden’s announcement of a new (unwisely delayed) withdrawal timetable drew a rare rebuke from her. The decision to continue with the Trump withdrawal at all was, to her, a “reckless decision.”

If Cheney is cold and calculating, but wild-eyed on the single issue of continuing her father’s failed strategic vision in the Middle East, doesn’t this explain her actions? She can’t simply coast to a leadership slot—it has to be on her terms, demanding condemnation of Trump by the caucus. Like Mitch McConnell or not, he understands that part of the job of congressional leadership is to make it easier, not harder, for his incumbents to get reelected.

Cheney fragging the Republican caucus is thus calculated to target the weakest, suburban-reliant career politicians and encourage them to defect from the caucus and condemn Trump without thinking. Her actions are supremely selfish and ideologically driven, and they do a disservice to the people of Wyoming.

If she feels compelled to condemn Trump, and to do it in the most reckless way possible, she must know that she will not only lose the leadership contest she was never really going to win, but that she’s also imperiling her reelection back “home” in Wyoming. She has to have an exit plan. As yet, however, with the possible exception of former Trump administration loyalist Perry Pendley, there appears no strong challenger in the wings. So if I’m Liz, I anticipate easy reelection, playing the anti-Trump gadfly for the foreseeable future.

What is her endgame? She might be waiting for a Biden appointment shortly after the 2022 election. Perhaps she is waiting for an MSNBC or CNN “token conservative” deal. But more likely she and her donors hope to lead a defection movement from the GOP to rebuild the failed fusionist coalition. She could certainly go out in a blaze of glory, leaving the GOP and seeking to caucus with the Dems on foreign policy, but voting with the GOP on sham social issues.

The swamp is always happy to have social conservative voters held hostage, giving them the Hobson’s choice of voting for a GOP that cares only about free markets, or nothing at all.  In 2020 we saw “fiscal first” suburbs swing for Biden, but many of these voters are still performatively socially conservative. Cheney, who has already flirted with running in 2024, could fill the McMullin lane, giving those suburban voters cover to cast an effectively pro-choice vote.

But if I’m cold and calculating Rep. Cheney, after all the bridge burning, the single thing I don’t plan on doing is supporting my fellow Republicans.

Andrew Kloster is a lawyer in D.C., formerly serving concurrently as associate director in the White House Office of Presidential Personnel and as deputy general counsel at the United States Office of Personnel Management. He has served in various other Trump administration and conservative nonprofit roles, and his weekly newsletter “Right from the Ground Up” covers institutional growth on the right.

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The Black Deaths Nobody Wants to Discuss

10 May 2021 @ 4:01 am

Black men are systemically shot and killed in New York City and no one seems to care because the triggers aren’t pulled by cops. If you say discussing this is a distraction from racism, you do it from atop a lot of graves. And how can anyone say that doesn’t matter?

The context is that New York City saw its bloodiest week in late April, with 46 separate shooting incidents, a 300 percent surge from the same week in 2020. These shootings were part of a 205 percent overall increase in shootings in NYC in 2020, the bloodiest toll since 1996. The body count continued to rise in early May.

Who is dying? Some 65 percent of homicide victims are black, though they make up less than a quarter of the city’s population. In the unsuccessful homicides, e.g., “shootings,” black Americans are over 70 percent of the victims. The dead include more and more young people. This is because gang-related activity drives the shootings in the city. Over 90 percent of black homicide victims were killed by another black person, not by the white supremacists or cops the media warns us about.

In 2020, 290 black people were murdered and over 1,000 were shot, almost all by other black people. By comparison, only five of the 20 years of the Afghan war killed more Americans of all races. In further comparison, in 2020 five of the people killed by New York City police were black.

You have to wonder which pile of bodies is really the distraction and which is really the more serious problem. This is what a systemic problem actually looks like.

A disproportionate number of the killings and shootings take place inside the vast public housing world of New York City, the 2,602 buildings controlled by the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) Because there are so many people living “off-lease,” no one knows the actual NYCHA population, but it is believed to be over 600,000. If NYCHA were its own city, it would have about the same population as Boston. While much of the public housing is in “bad” parts of town, not all of it is. The housing was built largely on city-owned and available land and was championed by liberals in the 1950s and 60s. Some of NYCHA’s worst residences sit across the street from million-dollar condos on the Upper East Side.

New York in general, and NYCHA in particular, is simultaneously one of the most diverse places in America and the most segregated. About 27 percent of the city’s households in poverty are white, but less than 5 percent of NYCHA households are white. In contrast, about a fourth of the city’s households in poverty are black but black households occupy 45 percent of NYCHA units. But even that does not tell the real tale. NYCHA is segregated building-by-building. Rutland Towers in East Flatbush is 94.9 percent black. Though Asians make up less than 5 percent of the overall NYCHA population, the La Guardia Addition at Two Bridges is 70 percent Asian.

NYCHA is also a very dangerous world. The NYPD counted 59 homicides in NYCHA properties in 2020, up 41 percent from 2019. The murder rate is far worse in the projects than elsewhere. As of late 2020, the projects had seen 15.5 homicides per 100,000 people, compared to only four per 100,000 elsewhere in the city. Police counted 257 shooting incidents in NYCHA projects in 2020, a 92 percent increase over 2019. Some 67 shootings were reported per 100,000 NYCHA residents, compared to 12 per 100,000 in the rest of the city. A lot of numbers that all add up one way.

The vast majority of these shootings are gang related, the gangs involved in some of the worst locations are black, and the beef is over control of turf to sell drugs inside the city’s vast gulag archipelago of public housing. The mayor’s office both acknowledges and sidesteps this uncomfortable truth by blaming the shootings on “interpersonal beefs.” Worried about the Thin Blue Line, when cops won’t testify against other cops? Try finding a witness inside the projects for a black-on-black gang killing.

It wasn’t always this way. The last time NYC saw a decrease in crime was in 1993 after black mayor David Dinkins implemented a “quality of life” initiative. This set the stage for what came to be known as “broken windows” policing. It posits minor infractions such as graffiti, panhandling, and public urination create disorder which, when left unchecked, gives the impression crime is tolerated. Aggressively punishing minor crimes creates a perceived intolerance of crime, thereby lowering serious crime.

The numbers support this. New York City experienced a steep decline in homicides from 1990 to 1999. Homicides peaked in 1991 with a mean of 22 homicides per 100,000 people, and fell to a low of slightly more than four per 100,000 in 1998.

Everything changed with the 2014 election of Mayor Bill De Blasio, who did away with broken window policing, and specifically outlawed the liberal use of stop and search tactics by the police. In the wake of BLM, New York also stopped locking people up for many crimes where they had previously been held for bail, and cut back on undercover and special police units.

Following these changes, complaints about discriminatory policing went down. But violent crime went up. Persons released under bail reform went on to commit 299 additional major crimes last year that never would have happened the year before.

Since lived experience is so important today, before De Blasio changed policing policy, I could walk my dog through a nearby NYCHA complex. No one was gracious, but I was left alone. Today if I go to the same place a young man will pop out to ask “You buying?” and when I say no he’ll growl “Get the f*ck outta here” in reply.

These NYCHA islands, once thought to be the solution, are now incubators of the problem. We can argue over why they exist, but only in the face of how absolutely nothing that has been tried over decades has made a significant change. The deaths of young black people persist.

It has proved near impossible to provide incentives that outdo what the gangs offer, including quick money, access to drugs, a sense of belonging, a lifestyle promoted by rap music, and protection from other gangs. That’s needed today more than ever as the police withdraw (this year the NYPD saw a 75 percent increase in departures and retirements, the loss of over 5,300 cops).

We have been squawking about longer term solutions for decades, with NYC providing one of the most comprehensive menus of such ideas in the nation—near-free housing, education, internships, public medical care, benefits to mothers and children, before- and after-school programs, pre-K, school breakfasts and lunches, college scholarships, help centers, free or reduced cost public transportation, renaming, canceled statues, and on and on. There is little of the lives of the people affected in New York that has not been touched in an effort to fix something.

The standard progressive response to white people talking about black-on-black killings is that it is a distraction from the real issues, a trick of misdirection, a way to minimize the real problem of police killings. That ignores the harsh light; the score in NYC is 290 dead in black-on-black homicide to five killed by the cops. You bandage all wounds, but start with the one most life-threatening.

Another argument is that black Americans already talk plenty among themselves about intra-racial violence, and that’s enough. But it’s our country and our city, too. We all live here, and—sorry to break the narrative—many of us care for others beyond ourselves. We can also talk about more than one thing at a time, especially if the media, politicians, and black leaders will give us the room to do so and stop trying to shut down the dialogue and keep the wound open.

White Americans talking about violence in the black community isn’t a palliative for other violence but an acknowledgment that complex problems exist which cannot be solved by ignoring some things and dismissing others with argument-ending pronouncements of racism and systemic bias, now reduced even further to code words like “1619.” The job is pretty easy when you blame everything on one thing, racism, as if it was really that simple.

Yet while we wait for all this to be sorted out, the young black men of NYCHA seem to face our choice between aggressive (“discriminatory”) policing that lands many of them raw in jail even as it saves lives, or light policing that allows young blacks to kill other young blacks as they wish. It’s almost as if their lives don’t matter when the politics of race are in play.

Peter Van Buren is the author of We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People, Hooper’s War: A Novel of WWII Japan, and Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the 99 Percent.

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Biden Plans Expansion of Feds’ Army of Snitches in ‘Dollars for Collars’ Program

10 May 2021 @ 4:01 am

The Biden administration may soon recruit an army of private snoops to conduct surveillance that would be illegal if done by federal agents. As part of its war on extremism, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) may exploit a “legal work-around” to spy on and potentially entrap Americans who are “perpetuating the ‘narratives’ of concern,” CNN reported last week. But federal informant programs routinely degenerate into “dollars for collars” schemes that reward scoundrels for fabricating crimes that destroy the lives of innocent Americans. The DHS plan would “allow the department to circumvent [constitutional and legal] limits” on surveillance of private citizens and groups. Federal agencies are prohibited from targeting individuals solely for First Amendment-protected speech and activities. But federal hirelings would be under no such restraint. Private informants could create false identities that would be problematic if done by federal agents.

DHS will be ramping up a war against an enemy which the feds have never clearly or competently defined. According to a March report by Biden’s office of the Director of National Intelligence, “domestic violent extremists” include individuals who “take overt steps to violently resist or facilitate the overthrow of the U.S. government in support of their belief that the U.S. government is purposely exceeding its Constitutional authority.” Perhaps like setting up a private informant scheme to evade constitutional restrictions on warrantless surveillance?

One DHS official bewailed to CNN: “Domestic violent extremists are really adaptive and innovative. We see them not only moving to encrypted platforms, but obviously couching their language so they don’t trigger any kind of red flag on any platforms.” DHS officials have apparently decided that certain groups of people are guilty regardless of what they say (“couching their language”). The targets are likely to be simply people with a bad attitude towards Washington. That will include gun owners who distrust politicians who vow to seize guns.

The latest fuzzball standards (“narratives of concern”?) fit the post-9/11 pattern of wildly expansive threat definitions. Shortly after its creation in 2002, DHS warned local law enforcement agencies to keep an eye on anyone who “expressed dislike of attitudes and decisions of the U.S. government” as potential terrorists. DHS-funded Fusion Centers have attached the  “extremist” tag to gun-rights activists, anti-immigration zealots, and individuals and groups “rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority”—even though many of the Founding Fathers shared the same creed. The Pentagon taught soldiers and bureaucrats that people who attend public protests are guilty of  “low-level terrorism.” An Air Force report accused women who wear hijabs of “passive terrorism.” Endless enemies lists come in handy at congressional appropriations hearings.

Federal officials insist that those who have nothing to hide have nothing to fear. FBI chief Christopher Wray perennially proclaims that the FBI never investigates Americans based solely on their ideas. But, as the Intercept reported in 2019, “Who the Justice Department decides to prosecute as a domestic terrorist has little to do with the harm they’ve inflicted or the threat they pose to human life.” But that claim is belied by the FBI’s beloved “informant loophole.” As Trevor Aaronson explained, “FBI agents must obtain supervisory approval to enter a group or gathering using an undercover agent, and to obtain that approval, the FBI must have a ‘predicate,’ or a factual basis to suspect criminal activity. But neither supervisory approval nor a predicate is required if the work is done by an informant, creating a loophole that allows the FBI to investigate Americans for virtually any reason.”

Any new informants hired by the Biden administration will operate under the same perverse incentives that have long subverted due process. Informants tend to be rewarded based on how much assets they help government seize or how many people they help prosecutors condemn. As a 2019 report by the American Bar Association noted, “The government pays cash for incriminating information and testimony. This is troubling because the financial incentive to make cases against others may be much greater than the personal integrity of the informants.” A report by the Justice Department Office of Inspector General slammed the Drug Enforcement Agency for failing to “document the reliability of informants” who helped the DEA to confiscate billions of dollars of private property. The DEA paid informants $237 million between 2010 and 2015, including $25 million shoveled out to only nine informants. DEA’s best paid informant, Andrew Chambers, Jr., was found to have given “false testimony under oath in at least 16 criminal prosecutions nationwide before he was exposed in the late 1990s,” USA Today reported in 2013. Attorney General Janet Reno banned the DEA from using him as an informant but in 2008, DEA re-hired Chambers and used him for at least the following five years.

Informants have become far more perilous to freedom and decency since the 1970s thanks to the Supreme Court effectively defining entrapment out of existence. Almost anything an informant or undercover government agent does to induce someone to violate the law is considered fair play. Craig Monteilh, an informant who was sent into mosques in southern California, was given permission by his FBI handlers to sleep with Muslim women he targeted and to secretly tape record their pillow talk. Other FBI informants browbeat their targets into discussing bombing government buildings, providing sufficient verbal rope to hang them. The vast majority of people charged with international terrorism offenses in the decade after 9/11 were not bona fide threats but were induced by the FBI or informants to behave in ways that prompted their arrest, according to Trevor Aaronson’s The Terror Factory: Inside the FBI’s Manufactured War on Terrorism.

One purpose of relying on private informants is to assure that there are no federal fingerprints when people are coaxed or shoved into breaking the law. The FBI admits that it formally entitles its army of informants to commit more than 5,000 crimes a year; there is no estimate of how many crimes are committed directly by FBI agents, who have been formally taught that “the FBI has the ability to bend or suspend the law to impinge on the freedom of others.” Thanks to the FBI’s Iron Curtain of Secrecy, we have no idea what sort of atrocities its informants may now be committing. During George W. Bush’s reign, the White House formally invoked executive privilege to block disclosure of the FBI’s sweetheart deals for Whitey Bulger, a notorious FBI informant and Irish crime boss linked to 20 murders. The FBI knew of Bulger’s role in killings but lied in court to protect him, even providing false testimony to send innocent men to prison for life to safeguard Bulger. That debacle was summarized in a 2004 congressional report titled, “Everything Secret Degenerates: The FBI’s Use of Murderers as Informants.” In 2011, a federal judge aptly labeled the FBI’s behavior in the case as “uncontrolled official wickedness.”

In 2016, Omar Mateen carried out the biggest terrorist attack since 9/11, killing 49 people at the Orlando Pulse Nightclub attack. Prior to his attack, Mateen boasted of his connections to terrorists and threatened to have Al Qaeda kill a co-worker’s family; his mosque warned authorities that he was a threat to public safety. But the FBI swayed the local sheriff’s department to drop its investigation of Mateen because a “confidential informant” assured FBI agents that Mateen was not a terrorist and would not “go postal or anything like that.” The federal case against the killer’s widow collapsed in 2018 after jurors belatedly learned that the killer’s father, an Afghan immigrant, had been an FBI informant since 2005 and may have used his influence to assure that his son was not arrested prior to his killing spree.

The FBI has long relied on informants to choreograph political violence. In the 1960s, FBI informants “set up a Klan organization intended to attract membership away from the United Klans of America,” according to a 1976 Senate report. One FBI informant with the Klan, along with other Klansmen, had “beaten people severely, had boarded buses and kicked [Freedom Riders] off” and beat restaurant customers “with blackjacks, chains, pistols.” In 2006, a paid FBI informant organized and led a neo-Nazi march in a black neighborhood in Orlando, Florida. In 2017, an FBI informant masterminded a Klan rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, sharply increasing the tension and fear prior to the much larger and notorious Charlottesville Unite the Right rally the following month. There have not yet been any disclosures regarding what role, if any, that federal informants played in the January 6 clash at the Capitol.

DHS wants to enlist more private informants at the same time federal undercover operations are already out of control. At least 40 federal agencies are now conducting undercover operations involving thousands of agents. An undercover DEA agent “created a fake Facebook page from the photos of a young woman in Watertown, N.Y. — without her knowledge — to lure drug suspects,” the New York Times reported.  IRS agents are officially permitted to “pose as an attorney, physician, clergyman or member of the news media.” The Times noted in 2014 that  “the military and its investigative agencies have almost as many undercover agents working inside the United States as does the F.B.I.,” often serving on joint federal task forces of the type that will likely be expanded for the Biden extremist crackdown. A sting operation by the Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms agency swayed mentally handicapped individuals to get tattooed to help advertise its bogus gun store, violating federal laws protecting the disabled. Oversight is often a mirage: an ATF committee created to oversee undercover operations didn’t bother meeting for more than half a decade. The Times noted that “even Justice Department officials say they are uncertain how many agents work undercover.”

The Biden administration is considering unleashing a new surveillance program at a time when Americans have no idea how many federal agencies are already spying on them. Yahoo News disclosed last month that the Postal Inspection Service is running iCOP —the Internet Covert Operations Program—to sweep social media and other websites searching for any “inflammatory” postings on topics including protests against COVID lockdowns. Postal inspectors got access to private messages on Parler and Telegram, presumably with no search warrant. The iCOP program turns over its discoveries to other federal agencies. Rachel Levinson-Waldman of the Brennan Center for Justice commented that iCop “seems a little bizarre” since the surveillance included “monitoring of social media that’s unrelated to use of the postal system.” Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) denounced the program for violating the Constitution and asked: “The USPS has been losing money for many years… so where do they find money to run this surveillance program?” Unfortunately, federal agencies that trample the law and the Constitution in their surveillance efforts are usually punished with budget increases.

Perhaps setting up a new informant scheme to work around the Constitution is not the best response to extremists who fear government is lawless. Unfortunately, Americans are unlikely to hear about crimes committed by Biden’s new snoops until long after the damage is done, if ever.

James Bovard is the author of Lost RightsAttention Deficit Democracy, and Public Policy Hooligan. He is also a USA Today columnist. Follow him on Twitter @JimBovard.

The post Biden Plans Expansion of Feds’ Army of Snitches in ‘Dollars for Collars’ Program appeared first on The American Conservative.

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Decline of the West, Live on BBC

10 May 2021 @ 4:01 am

The interview is a dead medium, mostly because nobody alive today—whether interviewer or interviewee—is interesting enough to hold most people’s attention. Occasionally, a public figure comes along with enough of a personality and intellect to almost merit watching (think Boris Johnson); or an host presents enough raw energy to draw a captive audience and hide the lack of substance (like Joe Rogan); or the sheer weirdness of a subject reels a few people in (Bruce Caitlyn Jenner on Hannity).

Every once in a while though, somebody actually says something worthwhile, and the rarity alone of such occurrences means that people will take notice. The source of such a standout, too, is often unexpected—as in the case of Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev, a clip of whose November interview with BBC journalist Orla Guerin went viral last week on Twitter. Aliyev—who, despite his reputation as a pro-Western moderate Muslim, is hardly known as a champion of civil liberties and democratic values—is not the first person one would expect to speak with moral clarity about the state of free society in 2021.

Saul was not a likely prophet either.

Guerin, who was born in Dublin in 1966 but has chosen a career reporting for the royally chartered network of the British crown, had challenged the Azeri leader on alleged censorship of media under his 18-year (and running) administration, particularly concerning the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict that was then ongoing with Armenia. With an almost Trumpian opening, Aliyev let loose:

Absolutely fake, absolutely. We have free media, we have free internet. Now, due to martial law, we have some restrictions but before there have been no restrictions. The number of internet users in Azerbaijan is more than 80 percent. Can you imagine the restriction of media in a country where the internet is free, there is no censorship, and there is 80 percent of internet users? We have millions of people on Facebook. How can you say that we don’t have free media? This is, again, a biased approach. This is an attempt to create a perception in Western audiences about Azerbaijan. We have opposition, we have NGOs, we have free political activity, we have free media, we have freedom of speech. But if you raise this question, can I ask you also one? How do you assess what happened to Mr. Assange? Is it a reflection of free media in your country?

“For journalistic activity, you kept that person hostage,” Aliyev continued, “actually killing him, morally and physically. You did it, not us. And now he’s in prison. So you have no moral right to talk about free media, when you do these things.”

Of course, the most important thing here may just be that he’s right, that none of the limits Aliyev has placed on the flow of information in his nation are any worse than those imposed by his interrogator’s own government and its allies in the Anglosphere and beyond, to say nothing of the informal and self-imposed restrictions of non-governmental voices there. The Western powers that be are every bit as jealous in defending their own status as a smalltime central Asian strongman whose entire domain is hardly more populous than New York City proper.

The powerful establishment media of the West will point out the motes in their neighbors’ eyes not just because they cannot see the beams in their own—though the credulity of such journalists concerning their own governments’ should not be underestimated—but because they would never imagine a non-Westerner could point out the beam.

Until now, the assumption has largely been correct. Make no mistake, it is not because abuses like the persecution of Assange had not been taking place until recently; that kind of thing has been the stock-in-trade of the U.S. and U.K. governments at least since the height of the Cold War. But before 2021 no minor statesman from a small regional power would have risked running afoul of the Western hegemons by saying forcefully on TV what most people already new to be true. Aliyev—who is effectively a client of the informal Western empire with headquarters in Washington, London, and Jerusalem—clearly sees that the balance of power has shifted. With China poised to overtake the U.S. as a geo-economic superpower, and with American domestic politics in rough shape, the soft empire that the U.S. and its Western allies have been overseeing across the globe looks likely to collapse. With rich oil fields and a valuable strategic position between Russia and Iran, Azerbaijan may well be more important to the United States now than the inverse.

Thus we find ourselves, for the first time in decades, with practical vassals who have no qualms about denouncing the empire itself. Whatever some people might like to tell you, we have not had the moral high ground for a very long time; now, we barely even have the political high ground, and without either one our position is far more perilous than we realize. This time, the world actually is watching—and taking notes.

Elsewhere in the interview, Aliyev took an even more Trumpian turn. Guerin accused his troops of using cluster munitions in a populated town, a charge which the president flatly denied. When the reporter insisted that her BBC colleagues and other Westerners such as NGO observers had seen it with their own eyes, the president turned to a classic: “So what, they were there? That doesn’t mean anything. That could be fake news. . . .because it was a biased approach to the conflict, because of the black propaganda against Azerbaijan in international media.”

Guerin tried to push him: “So everything is fake news?” Aliyev, with a chuckle: “Of course, why not?”

Now, I don’t trust Aliyev as far as I can throw him; just because he’s right about Assange does not mean he is not corrupt and repressive, with a strong dictatorial streak. But it’s important to note that—whatever else in his words may be untrue or dishonest—Aliyev is correct in pointing out Guerin’s hubris. The mere fact that he is willing to point it out, together with the spectacular virality of the exchange, is a sign that tides are turning. Since the effective collapse of the formal British Empire in the last century, the vast majority of the imperialism of the West has been soft power: political sway bereft of force or serious threats thereof; massive and unavoidable economic influence; cultural hegemony that turns even formally unaffiliated nations into practical social vassals (just look at what Aliyev is wearing); and, perhaps more than anything, the ability to exercise near-unilateral control over the global political narrative.

No more. As Donald Trump realized long before most, the narrative has failed. As Ilham Aliyev has demonstrated, the rest of the world is catching up to the growing domestic recognition of that failure. This means, in all likelihood, a rocky road ahead, and a sea change before long.

In the oft-quoted evaluation of an overrated French novelist, the near future is likely to look the same, but worse. Politics will stay brutal, media will stay biased, and doubt will not disappear any more than hostility will. Sectarian wars in distant lands will wage on, and the West will continue its efforts to meddle wherever it sees fit. The facade, though, will continue to crumble. As the narrative falls apart and decline becomes apparent, the emissaries of the late globe-spanning empire will not be treated with the same deferential fêting to which they have grown accustomed—and we will all know, as Aliyev does, that they did not deserve it in the first place.

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Leftists in Pennsylvania Outspent Conservatives 3 to 1 in 2020

8 May 2021 @ 4:01 am

It’s time for the myth that conservatives outspend liberal elections groups to go the way of the dodo. New research examining the 2020 election in Pennsylvania reveals that left-wing political action committees (PACs) blew away conservative PACs in independent expenditures—outside spending that isn’t coordinated with the campaigns of politicians seeking office.

According to data from the Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth, liberal PACs spent over $7.5 million helping Democrats and opposing Republicans in the 2020 race for control of the legislature and attorney general’s office. Conservative PACs spent just $2.3 million, or less than one-third of what their liberal counterparts poured out statewide.

That money was used to pay for ads on television, radio, and Facebook; for fees to political consulting firms; and for digital and direct mail marketing schemes that blanketed the state in the lead-up to the November election.

Where the money came from is revealing. On the right, Republicans could count on almost $159,000 from Americans for Prosperity, a free-market group bankrolled by the libertarian billionaire (and liberal bogeyman) David Koch. Gun Owners of America, a pro–Second Amendment group, spent almost $15,000 aiding Republicans. The Pennsylvania Family Council, a conservative family values group, spent $56,000 in the election.

The biggest conservative spender was the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, however, which poured out $1.5 million aiding Republicans—most notably spending $172,000 helping Tim DeFoor in the auditor general race, $150,000 to unsuccessfully oppose the reelection of Democrat Sen. James Brewster (SD-45), and $304,000 to reelect Sen. John DiSanto (SD-15).

All these groups were dwarfed by their counterparts on the left.

Compare the left-right spending in particularly competitive districts Democrats hoped to flip in 2020. (Note: the figures are estimates due to inconsistencies in how groups reported independent expenditures.)

 

Who are these groups? Top spenders include:

  • $856,000 from Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania, an environmental litigation group that opposes coal, natural gas, and oil as “dirty fuels.” It’s associated with PennFuture, heavily financed by John Kerry’s Heinz Endowments.
  • $789,000 from Everytown for Gun Safety Victory Fund, a gun control group funded by liberal billionaire Michael Bloomberg.
  • $60,000 from Clean Wave, the PAC arm of the environmentalist Clean Water Action.
  • $270,000 from Commonwealth Communications, a firm founded by J.J. Abbott, a former aide to Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.
  • $30,000 from the far-left Abolish the Electoral College PAC.
  • $170,000 from the Maryland-based pro–illegal immigration group Casa in Action.
  • $403,000 from the left-wing Better Pennsylvania PAC.
  • $158,000 from Stronger Pennsylvania PAC, a Democratic group.
  • $66,000 from Fair Share Action, part of a multi-million-dollar nexus of leftist activist groups known as the Public Interest Network.
  • $28,000 from Free the Ballot Incarcerated Voices, which supports restoring voting rights to convicted felons.
  • $260,000 from International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 98.
  • $15,000 from Make the Road Action, a far-left immigration activist group associated with the Center for Popular Democracy, an anti-Republican agitation and voter mobilization group.
  • $28,000 from PACRONYM, the PAC arm of ACRONYM, a leftist digital strategy and voter mobilization group that gained infamy when its associated software arm, Shadow Inc., totally bungled the 2020 Iowa Democratic caucuses.
  • $197,000 from We the People PA Action, which aims to raise the state’s minimum wage, boost union power, and push Medicare-for-All.
  • $27,000 from Planned Parenthood PA Votes, the PAC arm of the nation’s largest abortion provider.

Yet the largest spender was the Pennsylvania Leadership Committee, which poured out close to $2.2 million in 2020. The PAC is associated with American Leadership Committee, which also funds Democratic campaigns in Alaska and North Carolina, the latter a leading battleground state.

The second-largest single spender, at $1.7 million, was Pennsylvania Fund for Change, a PAC that was identified as a leftist “dark money” group that attacked Republicans in 2018 and spent over $1 million attacking President Donald Trump in 2020. The Fund for Change is obscure, but its connections with trial lawyers and labor unions deserve a closer look.

In 2018, the Pennsylvania Fund for Change received $75,000 from the feminist group EMILY’S List Federal Fund, $350,000 from Working for Working Americans (a group backed by the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners), $100,000 from the National Democratic Redistricting Committee (a group founded and led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder), $200,000 from a fellow named Edward Snowden in New York, and $20,000 from the Western Trial Lawyers Association Education Fund, along with a range of donations from other individual trial lawyers. The largest donor to the Fund for Change was the Pennsylvania Alliance Action, which donated more than $1.4 million in 2018.

Public records from the Pennsylvania Department of State show Pennsylvania Alliance Action is a 501(c)(4) group that was incorporated by PA Alliance LLC. The lone member of the LLC is Samuel Pond, a managing partner and a workers’ compensation attorney with the Pond Lehocky law firm. From here the money trail leads back to union operatives. The alliance has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions from the Pennsylvania State Education Association, the state affiliates of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and the AFL-CIO, according to campaign finance records. The National Education Association donated more than $1 million to the Pennsylvania Alliance Action in 2018.

FEC reports indicate that the Pennsylvania Fund for Change is run by Victoria Perrone, president and founder of the Philadelphia firm Spruce Street Consulting, which has received payments from Democratic representative Karen Carter Peterson (LA-05) and the Democratic get-out-the-vote group New American Voices. Perrone is a former operations director for Organizing Together 2020, a nationwide effort to boost Democrats in six battleground states created by Paul Tewes, a strategist for Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign and Democratic National Committee (DNC). Tewes now runs Smoot Tewes Group (STG Results), an influential consultancy for Democrats and leftist groups in Washington, D.C.

In 2005, Tewes co-founded Americans United for Change (AUFC), a major activist group that got into trouble when it was revealed in late 2016 that the group’s field director, Scott Foval, had hired homeless people and the mentally ill to instigate violence at Trump rallies. AUFC later had a hand in seeding the Sixteen Thirty Fund with $221,745 in 2009, which is part of a $731 million “dark money” network run by the infamous Arabella Advisors.

So who provided that $1.7 million to Pennsylvania Fund for Change? We may never know. Very little of this money can ultimately be traced back to its original donors. What is clear is that these staggering figures reveal just how much the professional left carpet-bombed Pennsylvania with “dark” dollars in 2020—much of it from the consultant class in Washington, D.C.

Hayden Ludwig is a senior investigative researcher for the Capital Research Center.

Kevin Mooney is an investigative reporter for the Commonwealth Foundation and the Heritage Foundation.

The post Leftists in Pennsylvania Outspent Conservatives 3 to 1 in 2020 appeared first on The American Conservative.

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