FLOTSAM & JETSAM

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

A few reasons Hillary Clinton shouldn't run for president again

A TIMELINE OF PROBLEMS

1960s

After becoming involved in politics, Wellesley graduate Hillary Rodham will order her senior thesis sealed from public view.

1970s

Two months after commencing the Whitewater scam, Hillary Clinton invests $1,000 in cattle futures. Within a few days she has a $5,000 profit. Before bailing out she earns nearly $100,000 on her investment. Many years later, several economists will calculate that the chances of earning such returns legally were one in 250 million.

1980s
Hillary Clinton makes a $44,000 profit on a $2,000 investment in a cellular phone franchise deal that involves taking advantage of the FCC's preference for locals, minorities and women. The franchise is almost immediately flipped to the cellular giant, McCaw.

Hillary Clinton writes Jim McDougal: "If Reagonomics works at all, Whitewater could become the Western Hemisphere's Mecca."
1990s
Hillary Clinton and David Watkins move to oust the White House travel office in favor of World Wide Travel, Clinton's source of $1 million in fly-now-pay-later campaign trips. The White House fires seven long-term employees for alleged mismanagement and kickbacks. The director, Billy Dale, charged with embezzlement, will be acquitted in less than two hours by the jury. An FBI agent involved in the case, IC Smith, will write later, "The White House Travel Office matter sent a clear message to the Congress as well as independent counsels that this White House would be different. Lying, withholding evidence, and considering - even expecting - underlings to be expendable so the Clintons could avoid accountability for their actions would become the norm."

Hillary Clinton attempts to conceal the fact that she had $120,000 of editorial help in preparing her book-like substance.

Hillary Clinton tells New Zealand television that she was named after Sir Edmund Hillary. At the time of Mrs. Clinton's birth, Edmund Hillary was an unknown beekeeper.
In 1996, Hillary Clinton's Rose law firm billing records, sought for two years by congressional investigators and the special prosecutor were found in the back room of the personal residence at the White House. Clinton said she had no idea how they got there.


Hillary Clinton goes for her daily dose of photographic self-aggrandizement - at the pediatrics ward of the Georgetown University Medical Center. She is to be pictured reading to the kids. The problem: sick children don't look that cute, especially those who are bald from cancer treatments or fitted out with tubes and such. The solution: replace the sick children with well versions belonging to the hospital staff. It works beautifully.

Webster Hubbell is indicted over the Castle Grande land scheme. Hillary Clinton is named in the indictment as the Rose Law firm "billing partner."

On April 27, 1998, deputy independent counsel Hickman Ewing meets with his prosecutors to decide on whether to indict Hillary Clinton. Here's what happened as reported by Sue Schmidt and Michael Weisskopf in their book, "Truth at Any Cost:"

"[Ewing] paced the room for more than three hours, recalling facts from memory in his distinctive Memphis twang. He spoke passionately, laying out a case that the first lady had obstructed government investigators and made false statements about her legal work for McDougal's S & L, particularly the thrift's notorious multimillion-dollar Castle Grande real estate project. . .The biggest problem was the death a month earlier of Jim McDougal. . . Without him, prosecutors would have a hard time describing the S&L dealings they suspected Hillary Clinton had lied about."
CNN- Deputy independent counsel Hickman Ewing testified at the Susan McDougal trial Thursday that he had written a "rough draft indictment" of first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton after he doubted her truthfulness in a deposition. Ewing, who questioned Mrs. Clinton in a deposition at the White House on April 22, 1995, said, "I had questions about whether what she was saying were accurate. We had no records. She was in conflict with a number of interviews."

Ewing also testified that in a later deposition with both the president and first lady on July 22, 1995, he had questions about the truthfulness of both Clintons. McDougal's attorney Mark Geragos asked Ewing: "Did you say the Clintons were liars?" "I don't know if I used the 'L-word' but I expressed internally that I was concerned," Ewing said.

Ewing later  reveals that a criminal indictment against Hillary Clinton concerning Whitewater had been prepared but never presented to a grand jury.

2000
Independent Counsel Robert Ray's final report on the White House travel office case finds first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton's testimony in the matter was "factually false," but concluded there were no grounds to prosecute her. The special prosecutor determined the first lady did play a role in the 1993 dismissal of the travel office's staff, contrary to her testimony in the matter. But Ray said he would not prosecute Clinton for those false statements because "the evidence was insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt" that she knew her statements were false or understood that they may have prompted the firings. . . The final report concludes that "despite that falsity, no prosecution of Mrs. Clinton is warranted."

SOME HILLARY STATS

FIRST FIRST LADY to come under criminal investigation

FIRST FIRST LADY
to almost be indicted according to one of the special prosecutors


NUMBER
of Hillary Clinton fundraisers or major backers convicted of, or pleading no contest to, crimes: 9 including Jeffrey Thompson, Paul Adler, Norman Hsu, Jorge Cabrera, Abdul Jinnal, Alcee Hastings, Johnny Chung, Marc Rich, Sant Chatwal


NUMBER OF TIMES
that Hillary Clinton, providing testimony to Congress, said that she didn't remember, didn't know, or something similar: 250


NUMBER OF CLOSE BUSINESS
partners of Hillary Clinton who ended up in prison: 3. The Clintons' two partners in Whitewater were convicted of 24 counts of fraud and conspiracy. Hillary Clinton's partner and mentor at the Rose law firm, Webster Hubbell, pleaded guilty to federal mail fraud and tax evasion charges, including defrauding former clients and former partners out of more than $480,000. Hillary Clinton was mentioned 35 times in the indictment.

ALSO . . . .

 HILLARY CLINTON AND HER HUSBAND set up a resort land scam known as Whitewater in which the unwitting bought third rate property 50 miles from the nearest grocery store and, thanks to the sleazy financing, about half the purchasers, many of them seniors, lost their property.

DRUG DEALER
Jorge Cabrera gave enough to the Democrats to have his picture taken with both Hillary Clinton and Al Gore. . . Cabrera was arrested in January 1996 inside a cigar warehouse in Dade County, where more than 500 pounds of cocaine had been hidden. He and several accomplices were charged with having smuggled 3,000 pounds of cocaine into the United States through the Keys


IN AUGUST 2000,
Hillary Clinton held a huge Hollywood fundraiser for her Senate campaign. It was very successful. The only problem was that, by a long shot, she didn't report all the money contributed: $800K by the US government's ultimate count in a settlement and $2 million according to the key contributor and convicted con Peter Paul. This is, in election law, the moral equivalent of not reporting a similar amount on your income tax. It is a form of fraud. Hillary Clinton's defense is that she didn't know about it


HILLARY CLINTON'S
participation in a Whitewater related land deal became suspicious enough to trigger an investigation by the Arkansas Supreme Court.


IN 2007,
A Pakistani immigrant who hosted fundraisers for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton became a target of the FBI allegations that he funneled illegal contributions to Clinton's political action committee and to Sen. Barbara Boxer's 2004 re-election campaign. Authorities say Northridge, Calif., businessman Abdul Rehman Jinnah, 56, fled the country shortly after being indicted on charges of engineering more than $50,000 in illegal donations to the Democratic committees.


HILLARY CLINTON SUPPORTED
the appointment of Rudy Giuliani's buddy, Bernie Kerick, to be Secretary of Homeland Security,. Kerick subsequently withdrew and not long after was indicted.


MORE TALES OF HILLARY

In August 2000, the NY Post reported: "The Arkansas man who accused Hillary Rodham Clinton last month of uttering an anti-Semitic slur in 1974 has passed a lie-detector test arranged by The Post. Paul Fray, who has charged Mrs. Clinton called him a "f- - -ing Jew bastard" after Bill Clinton lost his race for Congress, cleared the polygraph exam administered Sunday near his home here. "There's no doubt in my mind that Mr. Fray is truthful," concluded state-licensed Arkansas polygrapher Jeff Hubanks, who gave the three-hour test. . . The findings were reviewed yesterday by another expert, Richard Keifer, a former head of the FBI's polygraph unit who has 20 years of experience. Keifer judged the results "inconclusive" because they didn't meet the high federal polygraph standards - but said he found nothing to indicate Fray was lying. Clinton campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson said, "Paul Fray is an admitted liar, and we're not going to be responding to his lies anymore."

That same year former Arkansas state trooper Larry Patterson claimed that in their frequent arguments, Bill and Hillary Clinton would use such expressions as "Jew motherf*cker," "Jew Boy" and "Jew Bastard."

Christopher Hitchens, Slate, 2008 - "An upstate New York developer donated $100,000 to former President Bill Clinton's foundation in November 2004, around the same time that Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton helped secure millions of dollars in federal assistance for the businessman's mall project.

"Mrs. Clinton helped enact legislation allowing the developer, Robert J. Congel, to use tax-exempt bonds to help finance the construction of the Destiny USA entertainment and shopping complex, an expansion of the Carousel Center in Syracuse.


"Mrs. Clinton also helped secure a provision in a highway bill that set aside $5 million for Destiny USA roadway construction."




WAL-MART

Ward Harkavy, Village Voice, 2000 - Twice in three days last week, Hillary Rodham Clinton basked in the adulation of cheering unions . . . They would have dropped their forks if they had heard that Hillary served for six years on the board of the dreaded Wal-Mart, a union-busting behemoth. If they had learned the details of her friendship with Wal-Mart, they might have lost their lunches. . .

As she was leaving the dais, she ignored a reporter's question about Wal-Mart, and she ignored it again when she strode by reporters in the hotel lobby. But there are questions. In 1986, when Hillary was first lady of Arkansas, she was put on the board of Wal-Mart. Officials at the time said she wasn't filling a vacancy. In May 1992, as Hubby's presidential campaign heated up, she resigned from the board of Wal-Mart. Company officials said at the time that they weren't going to fill her vacancy.

So what the hell was she doing on the Wal-Mart board? According to press accounts at the time, she was a show horse at the company's annual meetings when founder Sam Walton bused in cheering throngs to celebrate his non-union empire, which is headquartered in Arkansas, one of the country's poorest states. According to published reports, she was placed in charge of the company's "green" program to protect the environment.

But nobody got greener than Sam Walton and his family. For several years in the '80s, he was judged the richest man in America by Forbes magazine; his fortune zoomed into the billions until he split it up among relatives. It's no surprise that Hillary is a strong supporter of free trade with China. Wal-Mart, despite its "Buy American" advertising campaign, is the single largest U.S. importer, and half of its imports come from China.

Was Hillary the voice of conscience on the board for American and foreign workers? Contemporary accounts make no mention of that. They do describe her as a "corporate litigator" in those days, and they mention, speaking of environmental matters, that she also served on the board of Lafarge, a company that, according to a press account, once burned hazardous fuels to run its cement plants. . .

And the Clintons depended on Wal-Mart's largesse not only for Hillary's regular payments as a board member but for travel expenses on Wal-Mart planes and for heavy campaign contributions to Bill's campaigns there and nationally. . .

Lisa Featherstone, Nation 2005- Unlike so many horrible things, Wal-Mart cannot be blamed on George W. Bush. The Arkansas-based company prospered under the state's native son Bill Clinton when he was governor and President. Sam Walton and his wife, Helen, were close to the Clintons, and for several years Hillary Clinton, whose law firm represented Wal-Mart, served on the company's board of directors. Bill Clinton's "welfare reform" has provided Wal-Mart with a ready workforce of women who have no choice but to accept its poverty wages and discriminatory policies.


CASTLE GRANDE

Stuart Taylor, National Journal - Castle Grande: In the summer of 1995, the Resolution Trust Corp. reported that Hillary had been one of 11 Rose Law Firm lawyers who had done work in the mid-1980s on an Arkansas real estate development, widely known as Castle Grande, promoted by James McDougal and Seth Ward. McDougal headed a troubled thrift, Madison Guaranty Savings & Loan, and had given Hillary legal business as a favor to Bill. McDougal and his wife, Susan, were the Clintons' partners in their Whitewater real estate investment. Ward was father-in-law to Webb Hubbell, another former Rose Law Firm partner, who was briefly Clinton's associate attorney general in 1993. Later, Hubbell went to prison for fraud, as did James McDougal.

Castle Grande was a sewer of sham transactions, some used to funnel cash into Madison Guaranty. Castle Grande's ultimate collapse contributed to that of the thrift, which cost taxpayers millions. Hillary told federal investigators that she knew nothing about Castle Grande. When it turned out that more than 30 of her 60 hours of legal work for Madison Guaranty involved Castle Grande, she said she had known the project under a different name. A 1996 Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. report said that she had drafted documents that Castle Grande used to "deceive federal bank examiners."

Hillary's billing records for Castle Grande were in a 116-page, 5-inch-thick computer printout that came to light under mysterious circumstances on January 4, 1996 -- 19 months after Starr's investigators had subpoenaed it and amid prosecutorial pressure on Clinton aides who had been strikingly forgetful. For most of that time, Hillary claimed that the billing records had vanished. But a longtime Hillary assistant named Carolyn Huber later admitted coming across the printout in August 1995 on a table in a storage area next to Hillary's office; Huber said she had put it into a box in her own office, without realizing for five more months that these were the subpoenaed billing records.

This implausible tale, on top of other deceptions, prompted New York Times columnist William Safire to write on January 8, 1996, that "our first lady ... is a congenital liar."

Jerry Seper, Washington Times, 2000 - The Arkansas Supreme Court, which is considering disbarment proceedings against President Clinton, yesterday said it also is investigating whether first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton engaged in fraud in a questionable Whitewater-related land deal. The probe, confirmed by the court's Committee of Professional Conduct, has focused on accusations about Mrs. Clinton's legal representation of a failed Madison Guaranty Savings and Loan Association real estate venture, which the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. called a "sham." A major area of concern is an option agreement that facilitated a $300,000 payment to Seth Ward, father-in-law of Mrs. Clinton's law partner, Webster L. Hubbell. The option, written by Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Hubbell while they were at Little Rock's Rose Law Firm, guaranteed Mr. Ward a payoff and negated his liability in the project.

RAYMOND HERNANDEZ and ROBERT PEAR, NY TIMES - As she runs for re-election to the Senate from New York this year and lays the groundwork for a possible presidential bid in 2008, Mrs. Clinton is receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from doctors, hospitals, drug manufacturers and insurers. Nationwide, she is the No. 2 recipient of donations from the industry, trailing only Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, a member of the Republican leadership.

Mike McIntire, NY Times, 2007- When former President Bill Clinton and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton took a family vacation in January 2002 to Acapulco, Mexico, one of their longtime supporters, Vinod Gupta, provided his company's private jet to fly them there. The company, Info USA, one of the nation's largest brokers of information on consumers, paid $146,866 to ferry the Clintons, Mr. Gupta and others to Acapulco and back, court records show. During the next four years, Info USA paid Mr. Clinton more than $2 million for consulting services, and spent almost $900,000 to fly him around the world for his presidential foundation work and to fly Mrs. Clinton to campaign events.

Those expenses are cited in a lawsuit filed late last year in a Delaware court by angry shareholders of Info USA, who assert that Mr. Gupta wasted the company's money trying "to ingratiate himself" with his high-profile guests"

JOHNNY CHUNG

A photo of Bill and her standing next to illegal fundraiser Johnny Chung was signed by HRC, "To Johnny Chung with best wishes and appreciation." Chung reportedly funneled several hundred thousand dollars from Chinese military intelligence to Bill Clinton's 1996 campaign. As Chung put it once, "I see the White House is like a subway -- you have to put in coins to open the gates." He was talking about the $50,000 he gave Hillary Clinton's top aide while seeking VIP treatment at the White House.


WHITEWATER DEVELOPMENT

In the late 1970s, the Clintons and McDougals buy land in the Ozarks with mostly borrowed funds. The Clintons get 50% interest with no cash down. The plot, known as Whitewater, is fifty miles from the nearest grocery store. The Washington Post will report later that some purchasers of lots, many of them retirees, "put up houses or cabins, others slept in vans or tents, hoping to be able to live off the land." HRC writes Jim McDougal, "If Reagonomics works at all, Whitewater could become the Western Hemisphere's Mecca." More than half of the purchasers will lose their plots thanks to the sleazy form of financing used.The McDougals will be among a number of close HRC's friends and business associates who will end up in jail..

Details of the Whitewater story

IT TAKES A VILLAGE

Things that happened to Barbara Feinman after becoming ghostwriter for "It Takes a Village"

-- She got no acknowledgement in the book by HR Clinton, contrary to what was stipulated in the contract
-- A reporter asked her how much she had written and she replied, "All I can say is they didn't pay me $120,000 to spell-check it."
-- The White House spread rumors that Feinman had been fired
-- Simon & Schuster refused to pay the last $30,000 of her fee. Asked why, Feinman was told that the White House didn't want her paid.

[Reported by William Triplett in Capital Style]



AND THERE'S MORE

Sunday, November 03, 2019

A half century of mob politics leading to the Trump Mafia

Sam Smith - Largely ignored by the media, the past half century of national American politics has deeply involved mobs and the Mafia, Trump's administration - definitely run more like a mob than a republic - is certainly a peak in this trend but hardly the beginning.

For example, Vice reported in 2018 on Richard Nixon: "The military veteran and aspiring politician felt safe meeting face to face with Mickey Cohen, the notorious Jewish gangster based in Los Angeles. Despite Nixon's notorious anti-Semitism, Cohen was an important figure in California politics. Cohen, for his part, later said he got approval for the meeting, a lunch at Goodfellow's Fisherman's Grotto, from Cosa Nostra bosses in New York and Don Santos Trafficante in Florida."

Vice interviwed Don Fulsom, author of The Mafia's President Nixon, who said that lawyer Murray Chotner "was Nixon’s first campaign manager and he had 221 Mafia clients. He dressed like one of the Mafia people: He had the white-on-white shirt, silk tie, pinky ring, monogramed shirts, and cufflinks that were little clocks. In other words, he was a fancy dresser and tied into the Mafia like no one else in the Southern California area. Nixon, through Murray Chotiner, was able to get in touch with Mickey Cohen, the boss of LA, and through Cohen, got some big contributions from the Southern California underworld in his [first] race for Congress way back in 1946"

As for Trump, Vice later reported:
Trump's mentor on issues of politics and business was Roy Cohn, a lawyer whose other clients included a passel of mobsters, among them the bosses of the Genovese and Gambino crime families. Cohn, who served as Senator Joseph McCarthy's chief witch hunter before going into private practice, operated out of a townhouse on East 68th Street where clients Anthony "Fat Tony" Salerno and Paul "Big Paul" Castellano were regular visitors. Besides getting advice on their legal problems, as a former secretary later recalled to Wayne Barrett in his 1992 book, Trump: The Deals and the Downfall, the visits by the mob titans to their lawyer's office allowed them to talk shop without having to worry about FBI bugs. Cohn told a reporter that Trump called him "fifteen to twenty times a day, asking what's the status of this, what's the status of that," according to Barrett's book.
Nixon would be far from alone. In The Mafia, CIA and George Bush  Peter Brewton describes  "President Bush's business ties with the Mafia, detailing the crimes of Bush's sons, Jeb and Neil, Bush's link to the BCCI scandal, and the CIA's involvement in disguising that involvement."

And here's a quick look into Ronald Reagan's mob connections

Even Barack Obama had mob connections. As Maria Houser Conzemius wrote a decade ago:
When former Pres. Barack Obama was in Chicago, he got a little help from some unsavory but powerful friends. Some had links to the Mafia. When Obama bought a house in Chicago, he got some help from Tony Rezko. Obama couldn't afford a side yard to the large house on the south side of Chicago, so Tony Rezko's wife bought the side yard and resold it to the Obamas. A Syrian immigrant who earned millions in the real estate and restaurant businesses, Rezko [was imprisoned] after he was convicted on 16 fraud and attempted bribery counts. The judge in the case stated that the endemic corruption in Illinois had to stop.

... Is Rahm Emanuel, Chicago Mayor and former chief of staff to Pres. Obama, tied to the Mob? He and two other Democrats once got into an argument got with a pollster. They found a company that offered a service: sending a dead fish in a mahogany case to someone. Emanuel and his friends sent a dead fish to the pollster. Emanuel claimed to be unaware that sending someone a dead fish was a not-so-subtle Mafia message to "sleep with the fishes"

When Mayor Rahm Emanuel awarded a contract connected to O'Hare Airport to a mob-connected firm, United Maintenance, the Service Employees International Union Local 1 secretary-treasurer, Laura Rueda, complained that Emanuel was taking care of his millionaire friends by hiring United Maintenance, and in so doing, taking away middle-class jobs from SEIU workers.

Paul Fosco, a vice president of United Service Companies, served time in 1987 after he was charged in the same corruption case as late mobster Anthony "Big Tuna" Accardo. The Chicago Sun-Times reported the owner of United Service Companies, Richard Simon, had partnered in the past with alleged mob figure William Daddano Jr. United Maintenance is one of the five divisions of United Services Companies.
One of the most startling examples of a president with mob connections - because it was so poorly reported by the media - was Bill Clinton. As I wrote:
When Bill Clinton is 7, his family moves from Hope, Arkansas, to the long-time mob resort of Hot Springs, AR. Here Al Capone is said to have had permanent rights to suite 443 of the Arlington Hotel. Clinton's  mother is a heavy gambler with mob ties. According to FBI and local police officials, his Uncle Raymond -- to whom young Bill turns for wisdom and support -- is a colorful car dealer, slot machine owner and gambling operator, who thrives (except when his house is firebombed) on the fault line of criminality.

As Hot Springs prosecutor Paul Bosson put it: - "'In Hot Springs, growing up here, you' were living a lie. You lived a lie because you knew that all of these activities were illegal. I mean, as soon as you got old enough to be able to read a newspaper, you knew that gambling in Arkansas was illegal, prostitution was illegal. And so you lived this lie, so you have to find some way to justify that to yourself and, you know, you justify it by saying, "Well," you know, "it's okay here."
When Clinton decides to run for office, his Uncle Raymond  offers the candidate unlimited use of his private plane, and other contributions that will launch Clinton in the most richly financed race in the annals of Arkansas.

Uncle Raymond - who had also played a pivotal behind-the-scenes role in keeping young Bill out of the Vietnam draft - was far more than an auto dealer. In the nationally prominent fount of vice and corruption that was Hot Springs from the 1920s to the 1980s (its barely concealed casinos generated more income than Las Vegas well into the 1960s), the uncle's Buick agency and other businesses and real estate were widely thought to be facades for illegal gambling, drug money laundering and other ventures, in which Raymond was a partner. He was a minion of the organized crime overlord who controlled the American Middle South for decades, New Orleans boss Carlos Marcello or "Mafia Kingfish" as his biographer John Davis called him."

In 1978, Clinton is elected governor and he Clintons and McDougals buy land in the Ozarks for $203,000 with mostly borrowed funds. The Washington Post will report later that some purchasers of lots, many of them retirees, "put up houses or cabins, others slept in vans or tents, hoping to be able to live off the land." More than half of the purchasers will lose their plots thanks to the sleazy form of financing used.

In the 1980s, Arkansas becomes a major center of gun-running, drugs and money laundering. The IRS warns other law enforcement agencies of the state's "enticing climate." According to Clinton biographer Roger Morris, operatives go into banks with duffel bags full of cash, which bank officers then distribute to tellers in sums under $10,000 so they don't have to report the transaction.

A drug pilot brings a Cessna 210 full of cocaine into eastern Arkansas where he is met by his pick-up: a state trooper in a marked police car. "Arkansas," the pilot will recall years later, "was a very good place to load and unload."

In  1981 major drug trafficker Barry Seal, under pressure from the Louisiana cops, relocates his operations to Mena, Arkansas. Seal is importing as much as 1,000 pounds of cociane a month from Colombia according to Arkansas law enforcement officials. He will claim to have made more than $50 million out of his operations. As an informant, Seal testified that in 1980-81, before moving his operation to Arkansas, he made approximately 60 trips to Central America and brought back 18,000 kilograms.

Documents confirm that from 1981 to his brutal death in 1986, Barry Seal carried on one of the most lucrative, extensive, and brazen operations in the history of the international drug trade, and that he did it with the evident complicity, if not collusion, of elements of the United States government, apparently with the acquiescence of Ronald Reagan's administration, impunity from any subsequent exposure by George Bush's administration, and under the usually acute political nose of then Arkansas governor Bill Clinton. . .

In 1986, Journalist Evans-Pritchard will describe the Arkansas of this period as a "major point for the transshipment of drugs" and "perilously close to becoming a 'narco-republic' -- a sort of mini-Columbia within the borders of the United States." There is "an epidemic of cocaine, contaminating the political establishment from top to bottom," with parties "at which cocaine would be served like hors d'oeuvres and sex was rampant." Clinton attends some of these events.
And several of the Clinton's close business partners ended up in prison.

These were brief exceptions from the mob connections of  our presidents such as Jimmy Carter and Jerry Ford over the past fifty years. But the key point is that the Trump Mafia didn't come out of nowhere. It was prepared for by decades of media, judicial and political acceptance of corrupt behavior and political lies. For example, my reporting on the corruption of the Clintons led to my being banned from CSPAN and the DC public radio station.

The Trump Mafia is undoubtedly the most corrupt national government we have ever had. But it had its roots in a half century of mob-related politics that our media and other leaders simply refused to take seriously.

And the story isn't getting any better.


RIP: Peter Sturdevant

Pter Sturdevant, former headmaster of Maret School in Washington has passed at age 87. Here is something I wrote about him and his school back when he was running the place.

Sam Smith - The first time I saw Peter Sturtevant he was lumbering up to the stage at Maret School to address the assembled new and old parents. An amalgam of Orson Welles and Rodney Dangerfield, the Maret headmaster leaned into the microphone and began to speak:

"Maret doesn't have a dress code . . . [Pause] . . . Last week I sent two girls home for violating it . . . [Pause] . . . Let me tell you why Maret doesn't have a dress code. I used to teach at the Landon School. One day the headmaster sent us a memo saying that the boys could not wear tight jeans . . . Some of us in the faculty sent him one back in which we asked, 'How do you define tight jeans?' He replied that tight jeans were those where a golf ball could not be dropped between the waistband and the body and have it fall out at the ankle. We wrote back: "An English or an American golf ball?" . . . [Pause] . . . That's why Maret doesn't have a dress code."

Sturtevant then proceeded, unaided by notes, to introduce every teacher in the school, recount the high points of their curricula vitae and take a jibe at those he felt could take it or were too new to do anything about it. Leonard King, a humanities teacher and head of the upper school, would recall: "I remember one time, however, when he said nothing to embarrass me and I thought, perhaps, that Peter didn't like me anymore." In fact Sturtevant - Big Sky they sometimes called him - served as best man at the wedding of Leonard and Betty King, the latter also a teacher. The wedding was on Maret's front lawn, although Sturtevant suggested that they do it during assembly period and "get it over with."

I would soon learn that Sturtevant's performance was business as usual at Maret, which -- even as the rest of Washington sank into puerile, pompous predictability -- was creating the magic that comprises a good education. Sturtevant and his extraordinary faculty - the latter sometimes because of and sometimes in spite of the former - had formed a cabal of competence, caring, and cheer.

Maret had been founded in 1911 as a French school for girls. By the time Sturtevant arrived on the scene in 1969 the place was a mess with huge debts and only 19 students. "When I took over," he recalled, "there wasn't a hell of a lot to correct It was already self-corrected. It was a shambles."

Sturtevant presented two plans for the school: one was to revive it, the other was to close it. The school was revived and, in a link to the French past, its sports teams would be thereafter known as the Fighting Frogs.

"Headmasters," said Churchill, "have powers at their disposal with which prime ministers have never yet been invested." Sturd used every one of them. It didn't always work out. He deployed the principles of affirmative action to his basketball team to the point of supererogation, but the school remained overwhelmingly white off the court. The owner of a then rare four-wheel drive vehicle, he kept the school open when everything else in DC was closed in the snow. At the same time, kids that would have been expelled elsewhere got a second or third chance. Sturd's reaction to trouble: "Now we can reach that kid. Now he might listen."

"I've found," he once said, "that a very inflexible, rule-oriented, quasi-conservative philosophy, which is not conservative at all, but basically laziness and reliance on rules, may be easier, but it doesn't do any good. It doesn't ultimately prove that you're really at teacher at all, but just somebody trying to make it easy."

His tolerance for variety extended to his faculty, which is how I found myself arguing about conservative Commentary Magazine with my son's 4th grade ancient history teacher five minutes after I met him. The teacher also used a 1920s textbook with none of the liberal virtues, but he told great stories and insisted that his students interrupt him if they didn't understand a word that he had used.

Anyway, by 7th grade my son's history teacher was Miss Davis, who held a mock trial of Columbus for having been so mean to the Indians. She also sent the students home with disgusting details of the Black Plague to be regurgitated with glee over dinner. I pointed this out to her later and she replied, "Yeah, the 7th grade boys love the Black Plague, so I always start off with that and then I hit them with Martin Luther."

As it must to all headmasters, a capital fund drive eventually arrived on Big Sky's doorstep. He took on the task bravely if typically idiosyncratically. One letter announced that a donor could become a Gold, Silver or Platinum Frog based on their contribution. I wrote Sturd that I found the distinctions tacky and reminded him that Emily Dickinson had written "How public like a Frog . . . To tell one's name - the livelong June- To an admiring Bog!" He wrote back saying, "Dear Sam: Of course it's tacky. On the other hand, another woman poet wrote. . " and there followed an ode to a frog.

The last time I heard Sturd speak, evidence of Maret's non-dress code was in full array as the graduating students each placed a paper lei over his head as he handed them his diploma. By the end he looked like a terrible ad for Hawaii.

Sturtevant started this speech by saying "The purpose of Maret is to teach its students how to educate themselves and I believe we have done our job." Once again he was right.


Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Why iiberals aren't doing better

Sam Smith

They got too academic. When I started as a journalist in the 1950s only half of all reporters in the US had more than a high school education. Even on Capitol Hill I concealed the fact that I had gone to Harvard as it would have been a negative getting along with other journalists. In the 1970s there only about 20,00 new MBAs each year. Now there are 200,000.

One of the results has been a greater emphasis on analysis over action. Follow the debate over ethnic relations or police behavior, for example, and you'll find a wealth of description and a dearth of solutions. 
There has also been a tendency to use more academic words that don't help one's cause, the classic being infrastructure, which has replaced public works  and leaves our bridges unrepaired.

The loss of social as opposed to academic intelligence. Politicians used to get to the top in part by knowing how to translate complex issues into something the average voter could understand. A classic failure was Obamacare, which was far too complicated to let its underlying virtue thrive. It should have been far more popular than it was but its designers didn't know how to make it easy to understand. In the current campaign, one reason Biden is ahead is because he speaks clear United States. 

Labor union decline - In the 1970s about 30% of the workforce was unionized. Now it's 11% and only about 7% of the private workforce. Labor unions not only organize for workers, they educate them and far fewer workers would be falling for Trunp's lies if labor unions were stronger. One way they could become stronger would be for liberals to pay them more respect.

Liberals let a social divide grow between themselves and the working class  Along with improvements in education, liberals as a class are making a great deal more money, helping to increase the gap between them and the working class. This has produced a sometimes snotty approach to social matters such as Hillary Clinton lumping weaker white Americans into "deplorables" and, more recently, indiscriminately using the term "white privilege" for a group that includes more poor whites than there are black Americans in total. 

Making identity more important that issues. When liberals were stronger, say in the 1960s, there was a big effort to organize by issues, deliberately bringing people who didn't often do things together into coalitions centered around causes. Now we have much more emphasis on identity and less on issues, and have paid the price for it.  Only about a quarter of voters are liberals; they need to find allies and common issues is one of the best ways to do it.

Doing real stuff. As I wrote back in 2011:
Frances Perkins, the first woman ever to hold cabinet office in American history,  played a key role in getting more accomplished than the last three decades of American liberalism combined - things like the Civilian Conservation Corps, Public Works Administration, Social Security, federal insurance for bank accounts, welfare, unemployment insurance, child labor laws, bargaining rights for labor, restrictions on overtime, a 40 hour work week and a minimum wage.
Perkins’ colleagues in the New Deal also brought us legal alcohol, regulation of the stock exchanges, the Soil Conservation Service, national parks and monuments, the Tennessee Valley Authority, rural electrification, the FHA, a big increase in hospital beds, and the Small Business Administration.

Add to that the numerous achievements of the Great Society including bilingual education, civil rights legislation, community action agencies, Head Start, job Corps, the national endowments for arts and humanities, Teacher Corps, anti-poverty programs, nutrition assistance, Medicare and Medicaid.
 Next to this, post-1980 liberalism seems at best pathetic and at worst a major betrayal of its own past. Even the otherwise crummy Nixon administration did better – bringing us EPA, affirmative action, the Clean Air Act, the first Earth Day, indexing Social Security for inflation, Supplemental Security income, OSHA, and healthcare reform.

Monday, September 23, 2019

RIP: Mark Plotkin

Image may contain: 1 person, screen, office and stripes 
WTOP PHOTO
 
 Sam Smith - DC radio commentator and columnist Mark Plotkin has died. He was a longtime,  close journalistic friend who sometimes judged me just like another news story. For example, I was described on-air a number of times by Plotkin as "the bad Smith," in contrast with my historian wife, who was "the good Smith."
 
It may have had something to do with a tale he recalled years ago:

"When I first ran for office in 1982, the start of a dismal political career, everybody said the first thing you gotta do is see Sam. I thought, "Who the hell is Sam?' People were talking of him in such lofty terms, like he was some sort of philosopher-king. So I went to his Cleveland Park porch and got the papal blessing. And I lost."

One day Plotkin started an interview with me on WTOP this way: "How do you respond to those who say you're just outrageous, off the wall, beyond normal?" Here's part of what I told him: If you go back and read what I wrote ten, twenty or thirty years ago  it's hard to see what the problem was.  In this town timing is everything. Senator Phil Hart once described the Senate as place that does things 20 years after it should have.

And then there was the time I appeared on the local NPR station and when I left the studio, the conservative black host Derek McGinty turned to the station's political editor, Mark Plotkin, and said, "He's banned" and I was. Several times when McGinty went on vacation Plotkin had me on, but the station manager noticed and told him to stop. I asked Mark why I had been banned and he said he thought it was for "excessive irony."

For a quarter century or so, Mark Plotkin and I would have occasional lunches with retired Senator Eugene McCarthy. Plotkin, then a political commentator for Washington radio station WTOP, had been McCarthy's campaign manager when he ran as an independent for president in 1976. The lunches were at such places as Duke Zeibert's - a haven for the untight powerful -  and later at the Progressive Review conference room at La Tomate Restaurant - aka the table just southwest of the bar. Between lunches, Gene McCarthy would write poetry, books of essays, and columns (which I happily published in this journal), drink coffee at the H&J Grocery in Sperryville, Virginia, and, when the mood struck him, run for president. During or after lunch I would invariably find myself scribbling a few words on a napkin.

During the 1976 campaign, while McCarthy and Plotkin were in Florida, Bill Veeck of the Chicago White Sox announced that he was reactivating Minnie Minoso for eight at-bats so he could claim to have played over four decades. Veeck was always coming up with ideas. Some weren't so great, like putting his players in short pants, but some became traditions like having the announcer sing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" during the seventh-inning stretch. When Chicagoan Plotkin read the Minoso story he quickly came up with another idea for Veeck: have him reactivate former Soo Leaguer Eugene McCarthy. Gene was excited and Plotkin made the call. Veeck had just one question: "Can he hit?" Plotkin assured him that McCarthy was a strong hitter. There was a long pause and then the reply, "Nah. . . Daley would kill me."

The Washington Post, with its usual arrogance would occasionally refer to Mark Plotkin as a "gadfly." When I was similarly described, I would point out that a gadfly is a small insect that buzzes around cattle to no good purpose and sits contentedly on piles of shit, something I never do. Plotkin deserved a better description than 'gadfly' especially from that malodorous journalistic stock yard, known as the Post.

In 2007, Mark Seagraves of WTOP described a not atypical Plotkin moment.
It was your typical White House event. The Ballou Senior High School Marching Band was being honored by First Lady Laura Bush. . . The First Lady gave a brief speech. That's when Plotkin literally sprung into action. He called across the East Room. . . In typical Plotkin style, he blurted out the following question [based on DC's lack of statehood]: "Mrs. Bush, do you agree with those who say and believe that members of the Ballou High School band should not grow up to become members of the House of Representatives?" About half way through the question, Mrs. Bush realized this was not a friendly softball being lobbed from the peanut gallery, but a real question with an agenda from the press gallery. Mrs. Bush looked down and walked to her seat without a word. The smile was gone. At that moment, White House staff formed a human wall between the press and the First Lady and pointed to the door. . . . . As we left the East Room, Plotkin ran into White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten. Bolten wasted no time telling Plotkin he had been disrespectful. As we stood in the horseshoe driveway of the White House, Sally McDonough from Mrs. Bush's press office hurried over to us. "Next time you have a question for the First Lady you can call me and request an interview.". . . McDonough asked Plotkin for his name and employer, which she wrote in her notebook. "Thanks, I'll walk you out." She escorted Plotkin to the gate.
According to WTOP, :"The longtime political analyst and local radio personality was dismissed after berating a fellow station employee, one in a series of blow-ups with colleagues that Plotkin had engaged in over the years, according to co-workers.

"The station's vice president of news and programming, Jim Farley, said he couldn't discuss a personnel matter but confirmed that Plotkin's commentary and analysis will no longer be heard on WTOP. 'He's still a friend and will always be a friend,' Farley said."

After Mark's death, WTOP reported:

NBC Washington's Mark Segraves said he learned "so much" from Plotkin from the 10 years he shared an office with him.

"He taught me not only how to hold public officials accountable, but [also] how to listen to a person's answers and follow up," Segraves said. "While Plotkin wasn't born and raised here., he considered Washington his adopted hometown and loved it with all of his might."

And his former boss, Jim Farley: described Plotkin as "one of the feistiest guys I had ever met."

"He was a bulldog when he got on a story or on an issue … He was rough on everybody because he wanted to get things done," Farley told WTOP. "He was a character. He had some rough edges, but was so memorable."

That wonderful combination of feisty friendliness was what typified  Mark, And as for me, I've never known anyone who was so much fun to disagree with.

 


Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Biden vs. the liberal elite

Sam Smith - There's a trend in the Democratic debate which is not likely to prove helpful in the long run: the liberal elite is taking on Joe Biden as though he were a right-wing Republican. In fact, in his last year in the Senate, Biden won a 75% approval rating from the liberal Americans for Democrat Action, far from perfect but not something to get too upset about.

What seems to be happening is further evidence of a growing trend to treat one's politics as a sign of one's religious virtue rather than as an imperfect system for picking leaders. In fact, real change takes place between elections, which are, in fact, more like inning scorecards in baseball. It took years before issues such as civil rights, women's rights, and marijuana freedom became acceptable at the national political level. The best an activist can do is to support someone who stands a good chance of winning and then, after the election,  return to the battlefield. This time the best person is the one most likely to beat Donald Trump.

The other factor that few talk about is that liberals are much better educated than in the past. For example, as I've noted before, when I started as a journalist, most reporters had only a high school education. One of the problems with this change is that it has separated liberals class-wise from other Americans far more than was once the case. For example liberals are far less interested in labor issues than they once were. And Hillary Clinton referred to those she should have been convincing as "deplorables." This is not so much a political matter as a cultural one.Liberals no longer are as effective in reaching out to others without their backgrounds.

This is dangerous because, in fact, only about 25% of Americans define themselves as liberals. To win they need to make new allies and currently they are doing a lousy job of it.

This is why the Biden case is useful. Biden, regardless of his faults, speaks United States. He talks in a manner far removed from the professorial lecturing of a Sanders or Warren. And this pays off. For example, the liberal elite attacked his speech about how he handle the gang leader Corn Pop, but if you go back and watch the video, you'll see he was successfully talking to young blacks, but also telling a story that many whites could understand and appreciate. It was the highly educated who considered it trashy.

If I was the only person who mattered, I'd easily prefer Sanders or Warren. But I'm also aware that what I think is a minority view in America, indicated by the fact that Biden beats Trump in polls in nine non-blue states, while Sanders only does in two, and Warren in one. This might change, but right now Joe Biden is the most liberal candidate who stands a chance of beating Donald Trump.

Sanders and Warren could change this by perhaps engaging in a more personal and conversational approach, but right now Biden is the strongest candidate and, like it or not, this is not something to be ignored.

Monday, September 16, 2019

How America helped get Trump to where he is

Sam Smith - As noted here before, Donald Trump has more in common with Latin American dictators than he does with traditional fascism. His policies are based more on his personal sociopathy than on ideological goals. He regards America as another one of his personal businesses with which he can do whatever he wants.

But regardless of one's definition, what Trump is doing is dramatically escalating the disparity between that which America is meant to believe and what it does. As early as 15 years ago, I began writing about the end of the first American republic, What is happening now, however, is far worse because it is not only Trump's madness that is at work, it is being aided by other segments of our government that won't stand up to him. It is fair to say that now not only the White House, but the US Senate (which isn't even being allowed to vote on key bills) and the Supreme Court (which is increasingly reflecting its near right-wing majority) are in effective coalition with the worst and most dangerous president of our history.

While Trump has the idiosyncratic character of a self-absorbed dictator, there are plenty of things that have happened in the past four decades that made his ascendancy possible. Here is where the fascism model is useful. To understand fascism, one must not confuse it with many aspect of Nazism, its partner in World War II. Fascism actually got its start in Italy, as I explained some years ago:
One needs to look not at Hitler but at the founder of fascism, Mussolini. What Mussolini founded was the estato corporativo - the corporative state or corporatism. Writing in Economic Affairs in the mid 1970s, R.E. Pahl and J. T. Winkler described corporatism as a system under which government guides privately owned businesses towards order, unity, nationalism and success. They were quite clear as to what this system amounted to: "Let us not mince words. Corporatism is fascism with a human face. . . An acceptable face of fascism, indeed, a masked version of it..."
Thus, although the model generally cited in defense of organized capitalism is that of the contemporary Japanese, the most effective original practitioners of a corporative economy were the Italians. Unlike today's Japanese, but like contemporary America, their economy was a war economy.
Adrian Lyttelton, describing the rise of Italian fascism in The Seizure of Power, writes: "A good example of Mussolini's new views is provided by his inaugural speech to the National Exports Institute on 8 July 1926. . . Industry was ordered to form 'a common front' in dealing with foreigners, to avoid 'ruinous competition,' and to eliminate inefficient enterprises. . . The values of competition were to be replaced by those of organization: Italian industry would be reshaped and modernized by the cartel and trust. . .There was a new philosophy here of state intervention for the technical modernization of the economy serving the ultimate political objectives of military strength and self-sufficiency; it was a return to the authoritarian and interventionist war economy."
Lyttelton writes that "fascism can be viewed as a product of the transition from the market capitalism of the independent producer to the organized capitalism of the oligopoly." It was a point that Orwell had noted when he described fascism as being but an extension of capitalism. Lyttelton quoted Nationalist theorist Affredo Rocco: "The Fascist economy is. . . an organized economy. It is organized by the producers themselves, under the supreme direction and control of the State."
The Germans had their own word for it: wehrwirtschaft. It was not an entirely new idea there. As William Shirer points out in the Rise and the Fall of the Third Reich, 18th and 19th century Prussia had devoted some five-sevenths of its revenue on the Army and "that nation's whole economy was always regarded as primarily an instrument not of the people's welfare but of military policy."
I use the 1980s as the kickoff for the major change in American economics, ethics, and the relative political power of people vs. corporations.  For example, labor unions began their membership decline in that decade, Reagan promoted a corporatist agenda, and the Democrats began to lose interest in legislation that aided the working class. The media increasingly presented as fact the economic biases of corporate America. 

In a recent article, Ralph Nader describes another trend that helped bring Trump to the fore:
For avalanche-level lying, deceiving, and misleading, mega-mimic Donald Trump need look no further than the history of the corporate advertising industry and the firms that pay them.

Dissembling is so deeply ingrained in commercial culture that the Federal Trade Commission and the courts don’t challenge exaggerated general claims that they call “puffery.”

Serious corporate deception is a common sales technique. At times it cost consumers more than dollars. It has led to major illness and loss of life.
Because history doesn't interest the media much, Americans have little idea of how much their government has changed. For example, in my book Shadows of Hope, published in 1974, I wrote:
During the [initial] 100-day session of Congress, Franklin Roosevelt pushed through legislation that rescued the banking industry, slashed government pay, established the Civilian Conservation Corps, passed the National Industrial Recovery Act, provided relief for millions of citizens, regulated Wall Street, created bank deposit insurance and set up the TVA.
Aside from the years of  Lyndon Johnson we have not only not see anything comparable, the Democrats have not even sought it with any meaningful energy. 

 In fact, the Democrats now find themselves paying the price of ignoring the successful values of the New Deal and Great Society, even to the extent that a con artist like Trump can successfully convince large numbers of white workers that he's on their side. Labor union membership, which used to be core to Democratic politics now represents only 7% of the private working class. And as the powerful in the party became increasingly well educated they increasingly took a more classist view of what was once a key constituency. 

Count the number of times you hear a Democratic presidential candidate speak of  labor unions, anti-trust or small business and you'll get some idea of how things have changed. To win this election the Democrats need to clearly realign themselves with the working class and with the small firms that provide an economic contrast to the system that allowed someone as awful as Trump to flourish.