Saturday Morning Open Thread: Summer WEEKEND!

(It’s okay to laugh, the experts assure us Zola’s enjoying himself.)

Apart from pool partying, what’s on the agenda for the day?

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My old man, who spent his working career as a dockmaster for the NY Port Authority, used to tell us one of the great criminal conundrums: You could steal from poor people and get away with it, because nobody with the power to punish cared about poor people… but poor people seldom have much worth stealing. On the other hand, it’s much more profitable in the short term to steal from rich people, but rich people will expend disproportionate amounts of money and effort to punish anyone who they suspect of stealing from them.

Looks like the man behind the (Dumpster)Fyre Fest is about to discover how true that is…

Per the NYTimes, which of course sympathizes deeply with the ripped-off richies:

Billy McFarland, the entrepreneur behind the Fyre Festival, which was sold as an ultraluxurious music event in the Bahamas but collapsed spectacularly in April, leaving behind angry ticket buyers, investors and workers, was arrested by federal agents at his home in Manhattan on Friday and charged with one count of wire fraud.

Federal prosecutors announced the charge involves a scheme to defraud investors, which included misrepresenting financial information about Mr. McFarland’s company, Fyre Media. His representatives were not immediately available for comment.

Joon H. Kim, the acting United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement: “McFarland allegedly presented fake documents to induce investors to put over a million dollars into his company and the fiasco called the Fyre Festival.” If convicted, Mr. McFarland could face a maximum of 20 years in prison, but is likely to receive a lesser sentence…

According to the complaint, sworn to by Brandon Racz, a special agent with the F.B.I., at least two people invested about $1.2 million in the two companies, and in communications with these investors in 2016 and 2017, Mr. McFarland repeatedly overstated Fyre Media’s revenue from bookings and his own wealth.

He said Fyre Media had earned millions of dollars from thousands of bookings this year and last. But in reality, the complaint said, his company had taken in only $57,443.

And in one communication with an investor, Mr. McFarland supplied a Scottrade statement that he had altered to inflate his ownership of a particular company’s stock. According to the complaint, the fake document showed that Mr. McFarland owned $2.5 million in shares, when in reality his position was worth $1,500…



Lighter Fare Open Thread: Sad ‘Supremacists’ on Parade

Per the local paper, the Washington Post, which has seen better rallies protesting product changes at neighborhood coffee shops:

A group of white nationalists and right-wing activists descended on one of America’s greatest venues for political speech Sunday — the area in front of the Reflecting Pool at the Lincoln Memorial, near where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of his dream — and it was essentially just another day in Washington.

Some on both the right and left had voiced fears of violence. But the National Park Service reported no arrests or significant incidents. Instead the day saw some speechifying, some counterprogramming, some counterprotesting and a searing argument about free speech and political correctness.

The Lincoln Memorial rally was headlined by white nationalist Richard Spencer…

Some in the crowd waved Confederate or green “Kek” flags identified with what is sometimes called the alt-right. More than one member of Vanguard America, a group that left white nationalist fliers at the University of Maryland last year, donned masks…

The gathering, dubbed the “Rally for Free Speech,” was held as another group of conservatives Spencer criticized as “losers and freaks” held a competing event in front of the White House, seeking to distance themselves from Spencer’s racial rhetoric. Spencer had referred to them as “alt-lite.”

The second rally was emceed by conservative provocateur Jack Posobiec, who recently disrupted a New York production of “Julius Caesar” that featured the bloody slaying of a President Trump-like Caesar. Many participants argued that the recent shooting at a congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, Va., was a product of left-wing rhetorical excess…

“We’re standing for an end to both political violence and violent rhetoric in the media,” said Posobiec, who also was a player in the false “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory.

Kenneth Lane, who wore a “CNN Terrorist” shirt depicting comedian Kathy Griffin posing with a severed “Trump” head, told a crowd before the speakers began: “It’s time to put George Soros in the gas chamber.”…

At least Posobiec, unlike Richard Spencer, didn’t just get busted for violating state non-profit laws in Virginia.

Justin Rosario’s report for the Daily Banter is pretty funny, too — “A whole whopping three hundred angry white men showed up to whine about how persecuted they are”:

To be fair, the counter rally further up the stairs of the Lincoln Memorial wasn’t awe-inspiring, either. The usual anti-fascist crowd was holding a protest across the city at the DC police headquarters so the white nationalists drew a much smaller protest crowd than normal…

As Spencer was finishing up with the news cameras, a couple of dozen white nationalists, mostly dressed in white polo shirts like a gaggle of Yuppies, marched in like they were on parade. They even had a soundtrack, some kind of vaguely Kraftwerk-sounding song on a loop. Several were carrying various flags and they seemed quite puffed up with importance…
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Social Notes Open Thread: Nazi Slapfight!

DC readers: You may want to stay away from the tourist areas this Sunday. Per the Washington Post, “‘Alt-right’ and ‘alt-lite’? Conservatives plan dueling conservative rallies Sunday in D.C.”

Dueling conservative rallies will be held Sunday in Washington after a split over the involvement of white nationalist Richard Spencer.

The “Freedom of Speech Rally” at the Lincoln Memorial originally included controversial conservative personalities and two people arrested this week after interrupting a production of “Julius Caesar” in New York.

But when some potential participants discovered that Spencer, known for his racial rhetoric, was on the bill, they withdrew and decided to hold a “Rally Against Political Violence” near the White House instead. Liberal protesters also plan to rally Sunday on the Mall to counter the conservative demonstrations.

The “Rally Against Political Violence” — headlined by Roger Stone, an adviser to President Trump during his campaign — is intended to condemn the attack on Republican congressmen during their June 14 baseball practice in Virginia and the “depictions of gruesome displays of brutality against sitting U.S. national leaders,” according to the event’s Facebook page. Stone didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Corey A. Stewart, a darling of the alt-right — a small, far-right movement that seeks a whites-only state — who narrowly lost in last week’s Virginia Republican gubernatorial primary, will also speak at the rally, his first major public appearance since his defeat. Stewart campaigned on unwavering loyalty to Trump, defending Virginia’s Confederate monuments and condemning what he called an “unhinged” left and the eventual GOP nominee Ed Gillespie, whom he blasted as a Washington insider and “cuckservative.”…
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Later Night Gleeful Grifters Open Thread: Newt Gingrich Has A Book to Sell

Sure, that’s how normal people think, but the Ambitious Albino Amphibian is still out there, chugging away, peddling his GOP-patented brand of toxic filth. Some wee-hour nostalgia for those of us who remember the 1990s…

Newt’s also trying to sell himself to Trump (or some upper-level Trump staffer who can give him a platform) as a Very Special Advisor, c.f. Dan Drezner’s “The worst Walter Lippmann impersonation ever“. Not a job you’d think anyone would be rushing to apply for, but then, the competition for Worst Repub Pundit is so intense these days! — it’s as though forty years of wingnut billionaires pouring money into college programs and veal-pen “think tanks” had created an oversupply of vicious little piranhas in almost-human form. The old pros just have to hustle that much harder to stand out amid the noise and churn…


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Open Thread: Rust GRIFT Never Sleeps

I know, I know, but… can you imagine the screaming if a Democratic president had even suggested that grifting this blatant might theoretically be acceptable, in some legalistic reading of an alternate-universe scenario?



Open Thread: Leeroy Jenkins Lewandowski!!!

You can see why no competent people would want to join the current White House team: They know they won’t get paid, they won’t get credit (not even Johnny-Cochrane-post-OJ-style credit), and they’d have to deal with some of the most unpleasant and incompetent individuals currently not under court-mandated supervision. Not to mention, even the enthusiastic brigands might not meet Lord Smallgloves’ highly egocentric standards. But, jeez, Lewandowski again?

Jason Zengerle’s GQ profile actually came online early in May, before the latest bouts of Russiagate revelations. That makes the whole thing even more darkly comic, IMO:

As unlikely a presidential candidate as Trump was 30 months ago, Lewandowski was an even more implausible pick to manage a presidential campaign. His experience in politics had been far from exemplary. When he hadn’t been failing in his own political ambitions—he managed just 143 votes in an unsuccessful attempt to secure the Republican nomination for a Massachusetts House of Representatives seat in 1994 and lost a race for the treasurer of his New Hampshire town 18 years later—he was coming up short on behalf of other politicians. Lewandowski had a stint working on Capitol Hill for an Ohio Congressman who’d later resign in scandal and serve 17 months in prison, and he managed the dismal reelection campaign of U.S. Senator Bob Smith of New Hampshire, who was the rare incumbent to lose a party primary. He eventually washed up at the New England Seafood Producers Association. For years, his closest brush with the big leagues of GOP politics came via his side-gig duties as a marine patrol officer on Lake Winnipesaukee, where Mitt Romney and his clan vacation. “He wasn’t even considered a B-teamer,” says one prominent Republican strategist, who first encountered Lewandowski on Smith’s campaign. “He was like a C- or D-level political operative.”

To the extent Lewandowski was thought of at all in broader political circles, it was because of his work for Americans for Prosperity, a group funded largely by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, which in 2008 hired Lewandowski to serve as its New Hampshire state director. (“The Koch operation is the island of misfit toys,” explains the prominent Republican strategist.) It was propitious timing. Riding the Tea Party wave in 2010, AFP helped Republicans take back the New Hampshire legislature and the state’s two seats in the U.S. House. Lewandowski created his own momentum, as well. Noticeable for the fact that he was invariably wearing a suit—a rarity in New Hampshire politics—Lewandowski became famous for “debating” a life-size cardboard cutout of the state’s Democratic governor at political rallies. “It got attention,” says Greg Moore, a New Hampshire conservative activist who succeeded Lewandowski as AFP state director. “You have to have someone who’s out there and leading the charge, and Corey certainly was that.” After the 2010 triumph, Lewandowski was promoted inside AFP to a regional director.

But according to multiple sources, Lewandowski ultimately ran into trouble at AFP. One former Koch adviser says it was because of spending and management issues—including an incident in which Lewandowski threatened to “blow up” the car of AFP’s chief financial officer because of a late reimbursement check. (Lewandowski has denied making this threat.) A GOP political operative says the Kochs were embarrassed when AFP was accused of voter-suppression tactics after its North Carolina chapter, which Lewandowski oversaw, sent a mailer to voters there with incorrect voter-registration information. Another former Koch adviser says Lewandowski was simply one of many AFP apparatchiks whose heads were put on the chopping block after the group spent hundreds of millions of dollars in 2012 and Republicans failed to win back the White House or the Senate. Whatever the reason, these sources say, by the time Lewandowski met with Trump at the beginning of 2015, he had fallen out of favor at AFP.

But Trump, according to people close to him, did not realize that. Indeed, when he offered Lewandowski the job of campaign manager, he believed he was poaching one of the Koch Brothers’ top talents. “Trump thought he was getting somebody who left the Kochs to go work for him,” says Sam Nunberg, an adviser to Trump at the time who later clashed with Lewandowski. “He thought he was getting the Kochs’ shiny trophy, when he was really getting their dog shit.”
 
And yet, in some ways, Lewandowski was the perfect campaign manager for Trump—at least at the beginning. “Five of us, that was the whole team,” he’s recalled wistfully. “You could have put ’em in a minivan.” Unburdened by any previous national campaign experience, and eager for his new boss’s approval, Lewandowski didn’t try to force the candidate into a conventional box. Instead, his mantra was “Let Trump be Trump”—which turned out to be a singularly important insight, a strategic directive that ultimately propelled Trump to the White House. “Mr. Trump’s gut instinct is better than anyone I’ve ever seen,” Lewandowski told me.

While Lewandowski’s critics were quick to point out that his duties for Trump were less those of a traditional campaign manager than of an “advance man”—the political worker bee who ensures the rallies have the right number of flags—that particular job, given the nature of Trump and his campaign, was a crucial one. If Trump decided on the spur of the moment that he wanted to go campaign Philadelphia, Lewandowski would find the biggest arena; if an aide played the wrong walk-on music for Trump—like a live version of Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” instead of the studio one—Lewandowski made sure the mistake never happened again. “Trump really pays attention to how his rallies work,” says one reporter who covered his campaign from its inception. “Corey was very good at making sure the thing that mattered most to the candidate, and at that point the campaign, were top-notch.”

The problem was that, as the campaign progressed, Lewandowski didn’t grow along with it. “You’re looking at a guy who not only didn’t understand strategy,” says a Republican political consultant who worked with Lewandowski on the Trump campaign, “he didn’t have a clue what a tactic was.” Even worse, Lewandowski resented those who did—and he became increasingly preoccupied with, and paranoid about, the people who were joining the campaign and turning the Trump minivan into a bandwagon…

His fate was apparently sealed when Lewandowski ran afoul of Jared Kushner. According to multiple sources, Lewandowski was discovered not only shopping damaging stories about Trump’s son-in-law to reporters, but also trying to keep Kushner from talking to higher-ups at the RNC. On a Sunday in mid-June—Father’s Day, in fact—Ivanka Trump reportedly insisted to her dad that he get rid of Lewandowski. The next day, Lewandowski arrived at Trump Tower at six in the morning, as he typically did, and conducted his usual series of conference calls; at 9:30, he was summoned into an office, where Trump’s two sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, as well as a family attorney, were waiting for him. They told him he was being terminated from the campaign. “What am I being fired for?” Lewandowski asked. “We won!” Security guards then escorted him from Trump Tower and he walked out, alone, onto Fifth Avenue.

But Lewandowski had the good sense not to burn his bridges. That afternoon, he appeared on CNN (in what would turn out to be a job audition of sorts) to sing Trump’s praises. “Corey recognized it was an honor, it was a gift, and it was time to hand off the torch,” says Bryan Lanza, a Lewandowski friend who also worked on Trump’s campaign. “Corey’s a professional.”…



Wednesday Morning Open Thread: Another Battle Begins

(Jeff Danziger’s website)
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As if Lord Smallgloves could tell you what was in “his” budget… Greg Sargent, in the Washington Post, “Even some Republicans balk at Trump’s plan for steep budget cuts”:

While some fiscally conservative lawmakers, particularly in the House, found a lot to praise in Trump’s plan to balance the budget within 10 years, most Republicans flatly rejected the White House proposal. The divide sets up a clash between House conservatives and a growing number of Senate Republicans who would rather work with Democrats on a spending deal than entertain Trump’s deep cuts.

“This is kind of the game,” said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Tex.). “We know that the president’s budget won’t pass as proposed.”

Instead, Cornyn said he believes conversations are already underway about how Republicans can negotiate with Democrats to avoid across-the-board spending cuts that are scheduled to go into effect in October. Those talks could include broad spending increases for domestic and military programs that break from Trump’s plan for deep cuts in education, housing, research and health care…

Budget experts questioned many of the economic assumptions that the White House put into its plan, saying it was preposterous to claim that massive tax cuts and spending reductions will lead to a surge in economic growth…

“Even some Republicans” plan on a political career that lasts beyond the next election — maybe even one that doesn’t involve people spitting on them in the street. This ain’t a budget proposal, it’s a new chapter in a cultists’ holy book. Or a performance-art script for grifters hoping to massage the plutocrats’ greed glands…