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Open thread

Wednesday Evening Open Thread: Joke O’Keefe Strikes (Himself) Again!

Lest we forget — being a Republican means never learning anything from one’s mistakes. Jane Mayer, in the New Yorker, on a repeat offender:

James O’Keefe III, the conservative activist famous for undercover stings, has dedicated his life to exposing the “misconduct” of others. But he’s developed a side business in accidentally exposing his own. In the latest chapter of his strange career, the League of Conservation Voters, a national environmental-advocacy group, has filed a complaint against three individuals who infiltrated its operations, at least two of whom, the group alleges, “could be associated with” O’Keefe and have past ties to him. The group’s leaders recently began to suspect that they were being scammed, and decided to go to the authorities before O’Keefe or his alleged associates released any material on their own.

In a six-page letter of complaint sent to the California Department of Justice on Friday, the League of Conservation Voters, or L.C.V., asked the state’s attorney general, Xavier Becerra, to open a criminal investigation into the operatives for potential fraud, racketeering, unfair business practices, trespassing, invasion of privacy, and possible violation of the state’s two-way-consent eavesdropping laws. The environmental group filed the letter in California because the “imposters,” as it labelled the operatives, first made contact with the organization through its state branch in the San Francisco Bay Area. A spokesperson for the California Department of Justice declined to comment, as is its policy on potential criminal investigations.

O’Keefe, whom I reached by phone on Tuesday, said that he was unaware of the letter and otherwise declined to discuss the matter. “I don’t comment on investigations real or imagined, or work with mainstream reporters who operate in bad faith,” he told me. In 2016, I wrote an article for this magazine about O’Keefe’s bungled attempt to sting George Soros’s Open Society Foundations, a liberal nonprofit group that O’Keefe had targeted.

L.C.V.’s letter describes an elaborate, six-month-long scheme. It alleges that the three operatives created false personas—backed up with fake Facebook, LinkedIn, and e-mail accounts—under which they met with “dozens” of the group’s staffers, board members, and donors, and gained access to “confidential” information. According to the letter, “at least two” of the individuals, who are identified as Christian Hartsock and Daniel Sandini, have reportedly worked with O’Keefe in the past, though L.C.V.’s letter acknowledges that the group doesn’t know whether O’Keefe was directly involved in the sting or merely inspired a copycat operation. Hartsock and Sandini also have connections to Stephen K. Bannon, President Trump’s chief political adviser: they both received film credits in “Occupy Unmasked,” a 2012 documentary directed by Bannon. The film’s cast notes describe Hartsock as a longtime collaborator of O’Keefe’s and a “protégé” of Andrew Breitbart, the late founder of the right-wing Web site Breitbart News, which Bannon ran prior to joining Trump’s Presidential campaign last year. They also say that Sandini is “inspired by Andrew Breitbart and James O’Keefe.” The third individual named in the letter, Ann Vandersteel, is a conservative online commentator who has promoted conspiracy theories including “Pizzagate,” the election-season right-wing fantasy that claimed Hillary Clinton’s campaign was running a child-molestation ring in the basement of a Washington pizza parlor that, among other things, has no basement. (Hartsock declined to comment for this article, and attempts to reach Sandini and Vandersteel were unsuccessful.)…

According to the letter, the scheme began last December, when Hartsock approached L.C.V.’s Oakland, California, office pretending to be a man named Trent Maynard. He allegedly said that he represented a wealthy but politically inexperienced donor who had been motivated by Trump’s election to give to progressive causes. Hartsock presented a fake business card and mentioned that his donor friend wanted to be introduced to environmental leaders and elected officials. Soon after, L.C.V. staffers invited Hartsock to attend an Inauguration Day fundraiser for environmental groups, where he mingled with various progressive leaders…

The L.C.V. staff found some of Sandini’s behavior bizarre. At one L.C.V. event, he seemed inexplicably disappointed when he wasn’t able to present a pair of cufflinks to the California Senate’s president pro tempore, Kevin de León, after de León failed to show. The staff also noticed that he had a habit of leaving his cufflinks, and his phone, on tables during get-togethers, which, according to L.C.V.’s letter, “raises the possibility that we have been recorded without consent. We are deeply concerned that if surreptitious, unauthorized videos or recordings were made, these individuals could make deceptive edits to create unfair, malicious, and false impressions.”…

Beats looking for an honest job, I guess.

Apart from casting a cold eye on all the little criminals, what’s on the agenda for the evening?

Jaw-Dropping Read: “White Nationalists Try on an Unfamiliar Role: Police Victims”

And I feel like ‘victims’ should be in air-quotes, because SRSLY. I try not to mock the ‘Unearned Confidence of A Mediocre White Male’ too often, but even Politico strains to take these luzers at their whinge word…

Organizers of Saturday’s deadly white nationalist rally say they are planning to return to Charlottesville for a future rally and to file lawsuits against city and state authorities for allegedly failing to protect their gathering.

But first, they must cope with a psychic shock: feeling betrayed by government authorities they believed would always protect them. Before this weekend’s events, the alt-right had been a bastion of pro-police sentiment — especially when it came to police shootings of unarmed black victims and clashes with the Black Lives Matter movement. Now, the alt-right’s leaders are grappling with the realities of being identifiable members of an unpopular minority group in public.

“I have never felt like the government or police were against me,” said white nationalist leader Richard Spencer at a small news conference inside his home here on Monday afternoon. “There has never been a situation in my life when I’ve felt this way.”

Jason Kessler, the Charlottesville rally’s organizer, was also reeling. “This has changed everything,” he said. “I thought that the police would uphold constitutional law no matter what.”…

Following Saturday’s violence, Kessler attempted to hold a news conference on Sunday in front of Charlottesville’s City Hall but was foiled by anti-racism demonstrators, some of whom physically attacked him. Kessler criticized Virginia state troopers — who intervened after a scuffle broke out — for not taking more proactive steps to protect him.

“Even the lefties are astonished that the police apparently must’ve been ordered to just stand aside,” said white nationalist Jared Taylor, who has been called “the intellectual godfather of the alt-right” and monitored the weekend’s events from afar. “There wasn’t even a single arrest when Jason Kessler was assaulted. What were the police doing?”
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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?


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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