Things I Did Not Know: Mercer-nary Objectives?

We were all, understandably, agog yesterday over Robert Mercer’s sudden decision to step down from his hedge fund (and also cut Breitbart loose). But I was working my ADD-addled way through the tweetstreams late at night, and read for the first time about Mr. Mercer’s disagreements with the IRS:

Suddenly, the government’s seven-year pursuit of Renaissance Technologies LLC is blanketed in political intrigue, now that the hedge fund’s reclusive, anti-establishment co-chief executive, Robert Mercer, has morphed into a political force who might be owed a big presidential favor.

With Trump in the Oval Office, Mercer and his daughter Rebekah, who has become his public voice, seem armed with political firepower every which way you look – and that’s even though presidential adviser Stephen Bannon, their former senior executive and political strategist, appears to have recently lost influence.

Since the IRS found in 2010 that a complicated banking method used by Renaissance and about 10 other hedge funds was a tax-avoidance scheme, Mercer has gotten increasingly active in politics. According to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, he doled out more than $22 million to outside conservative groups seeking to influence last year’s elections, while advocating the abolition of the IRS and much of the federal government.

The Mercer Family Foundation, run by Rebekah Mercer, also has donated millions of dollars to conservative nonprofit groups that have called for the firing of IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, an Obama administration holdover whose five-year term expires in November…

IRS leader Koskinen has said publicly that he intends to finish his term. On his watch, the agency hasn’t been cowed by the Mercers.

The IRS recently released a little-noticed advisory stating that its top targets in future business audits will include so-called “basket options,” the instruments that Renaissance and some other hedge funds have used to convert short-term capital gains to long-term profits that have lower tax rates…

More detail from an Oct. 27 Bloomberg article:

Members of the Internal Revenue Service’s Office of Appeals are scheduled to meet with lawyers for Renaissance in New York on Nov. 7, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. The meeting kicks off a review by an independent branch of the tax agency and suggests a resolution may be years away.

Although the dollar amount at issue has never been made public, Senate investigators estimated that Renaissance employees may have pocketed about $6.8 billion through what a bipartisan panel in 2014 called an “abusive” tax shelter. Renaissance executives maintain the transactions at issue were within the law and weren’t driven by tax savings…

Trump named David Kautter to become acting IRS commissioner after the term of John Koskinen, an appointee of Barack Obama, expires Nov. 12. Kautter doesn’t require Senate confirmation. Rootstrikers, a group critical of the Trump administration, began a petition drive Friday opposing the Kautter appointment, calling it an “end run around the Senate” that “could lead to a massive payback for billionaire Trump donor Robert Mercer.”…
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You’re Wrong and They’re Also Sending a Message, You Clueless Numpty

Being a libertarian at Reason means never knowing anything other than whatever the left is doing, they are wrong. Here is the latest:

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) is angrily condemning a memo released today by Attorney General Jeff Sessions that it describes as “an all-out assault on LGBTQ people” creating “a sweeping ‘license to discriminate'” in furtherance of President Donald Trump’s “cynical and hateful agenda.” The memo does this via provocative language such as “freedom of religion is a fundamental right of paramount importance” and “government may not interfere with the autonomy of a religious organization” by, for example, forcing an Orthodox yeshiva to accept female rabbinical students.

Don’t get me wrong—we’re not exactly fans of Sessions here at Reason. But today’s memo shouldn’t make your list of reasons to dislike the man, who is much more fittingly criticized for being a lover of asset forfeiture and a drug warrior extraordinaire.

Haters of the religious liberty memo seem to believe (or, perhaps more accurately, want you to believe) that it establishes a new right for businesses and government agencies to turn people away on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. They should be comforted, then, by the revelation that virtually everything in the document is merely a restating of existing law and Supreme Court precedent.

Ok (hold on to your hats folks, but a glibertarian is wrong), this is not true:

Today, HRC responded to the Trump-Pence Administration’s latest attack against the transgender community. At the direction of Jeff Sessions, the Department of Justice (DOJ) rescinded a memo issued by the Obama Administration. Sessions replaced the important instructions with a discriminatory memo, arguing that anti-discrimination protections under Title VII do not apply to transgender people. DOJ instructed all U.S. attorneys to adopt this dangerous position in all pending and future matters.

But let’s pretend this idiot is correct, and nothing has changed. Then why did they release a memo that, in her words “does little more than reiterate what federal law has been for years.” And let’s note that the weaselly “little more” nonsense, which is an admission that her entire premise that nothing has changed is, umm, a fucking lie.

The answer is because after consulting with Christianist extremists to help craft this memo (which, again, does more than just restate federal law), is that they are sending a message that the Justice Department and the weight of the government is open for business for bullshit religious grievances and eager to advance case law trashing minority parties for the benefit of religious lunatics. It’s “hey guys, we’re stacking the courts, you have a Justice Department that isn’t going to do shit to defend the rights of all Americans, and we’ll have the Supreme Court soon, so start getting these cases into the pipeline. It’s go time for religious bigotry.”

Because that’s how this shit works in America. No one is going to successfully introduce and pass a bill that says all gay people need to be stoned in the public square (well, at least not yet). So what they do is slowly chip away at constitutional protections afforded all individuals, eroding their rights, and creating a separate second class of American citizens which has the added benefit of making the lives of LGBT people miserable. On top of the overt actions in the memo, that’s what is really happening.

And the assorted douchebags at Reason either know this but their kneejerk hatred of “teh left” trumps that knowledge, or they don’t understand what the fuck is going on out side their myopic Randian universe. Either way, they should probably shut the fuck up until they know something.



Breitbart & Its (MERCER!) Sympathizers: Not *Actual* Nazis — They Just Hate All the Same People

Per Mic, the blowback has begun:

Vice has cut ties with a senior writer from its feminist vertical Broadly after a BuzzFeed report revealed that the writer pitched story ideas to then-Breitbart writer Milo Yiannopoulos, and once requested that Yiannopoulos mock a “fat feminist” writer.

Mitchell Sunderland, who at the time he sent emails to Yiannopoulos was managing editor of Broadly, was spotted departing Vice’s offices with a box of his belongings. (Mic saw a photo of Sunderland departing.)

A Vice spokesperson confirmed to Mic that Sunderland was let go Friday, and that Vice is continuing to look into the matter…

I’m sure that Mr. Sunderland would never encourage genocide, euthanasia of the disabled, or the invasion of Poland. But, c’mon — doesn’t “everybody” hate those “fat feminist” SJWs?

If you didn’t have a chance to read that Buzzfeed report when Cole posted about it earlier today, it’s well worth your time this weekend:

During the 2016 presidential campaign, under Bannon’s leadership, Breitbart courted the alt-right — the insurgent, racist right-wing movement that helped sweep Donald Trump to power. The former White House chief strategist famously remarked that he wanted Breitbart to be “the platform for the alt-right.”…

It’s a relationship illustrated most starkly by a previously unreleased April 2016 video in which Yiannopoulos sings “America the Beautiful” in a Dallas karaoke bar as admirers, including the white nationalist Richard Spencer, raise their arms in Nazi salutes.

These documents chart the Breitbart alt-right universe. They reveal how the website — and, in particular, Yiannopoulos — links the Mercer family, the billionaires who fund Breitbart, to underpaid trolls who fill it with provocative content, and to extremists striving to create a white ethnostate.

They capture what Bannon calls his “killing machine” in action, as it dredges up the resentments of people around the world, sifts through these grievances for ideas and content, and propels them from the unsavory parts of the internet up to TrumpWorld, collecting advertisers’ checks all along the way…

For the record, Yiannopoulos claims he didn’t see those Nazi salutes, because of his “severe myopia.” (Murphy the Trickster God remains an unsubtle scripter.)

… A year and a half ago, Milo Yiannopoulos set himself a difficult task: to define the alt-right. It was five months before Hillary Clinton named the alt-right in a campaign speech, 10 months before the alt-right’s great hope became president, and 17 months before Charlottesville clinched the alt-right as a stalking horse for violent white nationalism. The movement had just begun its explosive emergence into the country’s politics and culture.

At the time, Yiannopoulos, who would later describe himself as a “fellow traveler” of the alt-right, was the tech editor of Breitbart. In summer 2015, after spending a year gathering momentum through GamerGate — the opening salvo of the new culture wars — he convinced Breitbart upper management to give him his own section. And for four months, he helped Bannon wage what the Breitbart boss called in emails to staff “#war.” It was a war, fought story by story, against the perceived forces of liberal activism on every conceivable battleground in American life…

“Finally doing my big feature on the alt right,” Yiannopoulos wrote in a March 9, 2016, email to Andrew “Weev” Auernheimer, a hacker who is the system administrator of the neo-Nazi hub the Daily Stormer, and who would later ask his followers to disrupt the funeral of Charlottesville victim Heather Heyer. “Fancy braindumping some thoughts for me.”
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Late Night Chewtoy Open Thread: Twirling Towards FREEDOM!!!


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Remember, it’s not stealing if these kids offer you their money.



Pre-Dawn Open Thread: Oh, Look, the Zombie-Eyed Granny Starver Had A Town Hall!

I still haven’t been able to find any info on whether Trump decided to upstage Ryan with his Big Boy Great Game Adventure Speech, but would it be a surprise either way? Per Refinery29:

The Ryan town hall began 30 minutes later than originally planned to accommodate Trump’s nationwide address where he outlined a new strategy for troops in Afghanistan…

CNN extended invitations to people from Ryan’s district and selected the questions that were asked. That has led to criticism from Democrats who say the Republican Ryan has been hiding from Wisconsin voters since he hasn’t held a town hall open to everyone since October 2015.

Ryan’s Democratic challenger, Randy Bryce, said he did not receive a ticket to the event. Instead, he raised money to run a pair of television ads during the broadcast, including one where he poses three questions for Ryan to answer about health insurance, Trump, and equal pay legislation.
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