Search This Blog


Blog Archive




Since the Dilly, Dally, Delay & Stall Law Firms are adding their billable hours, the Toyota U.S.A. and Route 44 Toyota posts have been separated here:

Route 44 Toyota Sold Me A Lemon

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

CounterCurrents: Write-In Voting And Political Protest, Is Humankind Suffering Of A Global Alzheimer Disease?, The Unique Risks Of GM Crops: Science Trumps PR, Fraud And Smear Campaigns

Dear Friend,

If you think the content of this news letter is critical for the dignified living and survival of humanity and other species on earth, please forward it to your friends and spread the word. It's time for humanity to come together as one family! You can subscribe to our news letter here You can also follow us on twitter, and on Facebook,

In Solidarity
Binu Mathew

Is Humankind Suffering Of A Global Alzheimer Disease? 
By Ugo Bardi

Could it be that we suffer from an Alzheimer-like civilization disease? That would explain why civilization never arrives at doing something useful about the terrible threats if faces, first of all, climate change. Maybe there really is no ghost in the machine we call civilization. It is a giant machine that stumbles around while arguing with itself in an endless squabble and getting nowhere

$50 Oil Doesn’t Work 
By Gail Tverberg

$50 per barrel oil is clearly less impossible to live with than $30 per barrel oil, because most businesses cannot make a profit with $30 per barrel oil. But is $50 per barrel oil helpful? I would argue that it really is not

Building Trust In Afghanistan 
By Kathy Kelly

U.S. people should earnestly ask how the U.S. could help build trust here in Afghanistan, and, as a first step, begin transferring funds from the coffers of weapon companies to the UN accounts trying to meet humanitarian needs. The “giant” could be seen stooping, humbly, to help plant seeds, hoping for a humane harvest

The Unique Risks Of GM Crops: Science Trumps PR, Fraud And Smear Campaigns 
By Colin Todhunter

The purpose of this piece is to draw readers’ attention to an important chapter from a document by Aruna Rodrigues that discusses the unique risks associated with GM crops. Contrary to what supporters of GM often claim, it shows that criticisms of this technology are based on credible concerns, sound logic and solid science

Write-In Voting And Political Protest 
By William John Cox

If America is to continue as a representative democracy, it must transform its government into one that actually represents and cares for those who elect it—rather than the corporations and financial elites who are now paying for election campaigns and bribing the candidates. The USVRA provides a constitutional basis for the transformation of the United States government; however, the energy to compel its enactment will come from the incredible power of the pen literally held in the hands of the People

The EU’s War On Refugees Is Repeating The Disasters Of The War On Drugs 
By Dan Glazebrook

The EU’s “war on people smuggling”, escalated last week by David Cameron, appears to be modelled on the failed “war on drugs” – and a new House of Lords report shows it is already producing the same disastrous results

Obama Continues To Ignore Pleas To Free Puerto Rican 
Political Prisoner Oscar López Rivera 
By Matt Peppe

The fact that Oscar López Rivera still sits unjustly in a prison cell is proof that the voices of Puerto Ricans simply do not matter to first-class American citizens on the mainland who hold power

Tolerance And Framework Of Islamic Democracy 
By G.Asgar Mitha

Thus far, the image of Islam has been one of extremism, intolerance and terrorism. That certainly is not what Islam means. It means peace. So what has happened that this religion has been so vehemently tarnished? Historically all great religions have gone through this phase, predominantly by the misrepresentations by the clergy who have exploited the illiterate and impoverished followers. In the past half century Muslim clerics too have misrepresented Islam starting with those who've been exposed to Wahhabi teachings and fundings through their madressas (religious schools) in Saudi Arabia. Thousands of such madressas then sprung up in Pakistan’s cities, towns and villages giving rise to the vulnerable students known as Taliban. Pakistani political leaders picked the cue and bowed to the will of the masses giving rise to “political Islam”

A Poem By K.P. Sasi

One day
I will open the windows of my dreams
To live in a world where there is no need
to write these words of troubled minds
or even to open the windows of my dreams

A Tale Of Two Vehicles: Sadhvi’s Motorcycle And Rubina’s Car 
By Ram Puniyani

Can there be two type of Justice delivery system in the same country? This question came to one’s mind with the U turn taken by NIA in the cases related to terror acts in which many Hindu names were involved. Now the NIA in a fresh charge sheet (May 13, 2016) has dropped the charges against Pragya Singh Thakur, has lightened the ones against Col Purohit and others. Along with this new line of NIA is that Hemant Karkare’s investigation in these cases was flawed and that it was ATS which had got the RDX planted in Purohit’s residence to implicate him in this case. The implication is that all this was being done at the behest of previous UPA Government

Dr. Sukant Khurana's Art Exhibition: A New Synthesis 
By Shikhant Sablania

Dr. Sukant Khurana is a polymath of Indian origin who was trained in US and his cutting edge work spans neuroscience, biotechnology, drug-discovery, computation, artificial intelligence, data science, ecology, visual art, sustainable development, various entrepreneurial efforts, creative and non-fiction writing, and philanthropic projects on socioeconomic development. I am writing this article at the heels of his first solo art exhibition in New Delhi at AIFACS starting 3rd of June

Sairat: Love Is Not Blind But Caste 
By Chandra Sen

Film industry is considered as working within a binary; films which are considered as social issue based on the one hand and commercial films on the other hand. Films by directors like Shyam Benegal fall in the former category while the rest of the patriarchal/ communal/ Islamophobic/ casteist masala falls in the latter. However, Sairat has destroyed this constructed myth of a binary. It proves that successful star cast, big budgets are not the crucial factors in making a film successful

Peoples’Alliance For Democracy And Secularism (PADS)
Condemns Fundamentalist Violence In South Asia

The past few years have seen an alarming increase in violent attacks on the democratic rights of ordinary people all over South Asia. Fundamentalist groups are attacking and/or killing people whom they perceive to be challenging their beliefs, or 'hurting their sentiments'

RSN: Eric Holder: Edward Snowden Performed a 'Public Service'

It's Live on the HomePage Now: 
Reader Supported News

FOCUS | Eric Holder: Edward Snowden Performed a 'Public Service' 
Eric Holder. (photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Dylan Stableford, Yahoo News 
Stableford writes: "Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder says Edward Snowden broke the law by leaking classified documents that revealed the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program. But in doing so, Holder believes the NSA contractor turned whistleblower performed a 'public service,' too." 

RSN: Danger Below? New Properties Hide Abandoned Oil and Gas Wells

A capped oil well. (photo: David Samson/The Forum)
A capped oil well. (photo: David Samson/The Forum)

Danger Below? New Properties Hide Abandoned Oil and Gas Wells

By Stephanie Joyce, NPR
31 May 16

n 2007, Rick Kinder was working for a contractor, building a house in southern Colorado. The workers had just finished putting in all the doors, windows and sealing the house. Kinder and a colleague were working in the crawlspace, hanging insulation.
"And we just heard this big roar and then a big boom, and it threw us against the walls, and it just blew the whole top of the roof off," Kinder says.
He and his colleagues didn't know it, but they were building on top of an abandoned gas well that was leaking methane — an odorless and highly explosive gas. No one was killed in the explosion, but the blast sent Kinder into cardiac arrest. He ended up having a quadruple bypass.
"And I lost probably a third of my heart, the muscle," he says.
In many parts of the country, areas that are now full of houses and schools and shopping centers were once oil and gas fields. You wouldn't know it by looking, but hidden underground, there are millions of abandoned wells.
New development happening on top of those old wells can create a dangerous situation.
No Systematic Monitoring Of Leaks
In most states, there is no requirement for homeowners to be notified about abandoned oil and gas wells on their properties.
Jeff Parsek bought his house in a neighborhood of cul-de-sacs and suburban ranch homes on the south side of Fort Collins, Colo., in 2004. He had no idea that state records show there is an abandoned well in his driveway until he was asked by NPR.
But unlike other homeowners who responded with curses and slammed doors, Parsek was unfazed by the news. "If it started to emit something, then I might [be worried], but to this point I'm not concerned," he says.
The trouble is that it might be hard to know if the wells were emitting something. When a well stops producing commercial quantities of oil and gas, companies "abandon" it, usually by filling the well with cement to stop the flow of gas and fluids. The industry considers that the end of a well's life.
"It's not rocket science to plug these wells," says Mark Watson, Wyoming's oil and gas supervisor. "It's a hole in the ground that's pretty deep. You set cement, and cement lasts a long time."
The belief that a well is dead once it's plugged means there is no systematic monitoring for leaks. We simply don't know what percent of abandoned wells are leaking — but we do know that at least in a handful of cases, it's happened, as it did to Kinder.
Locations Of Old Wells Poorly Mapped
Kinder had worked in the oil and gas industry for nearly 30 years. If anyone were going to recognize an old well site, it would be him.
"There were no signs, no nothing there that would give us an indication that somebody had built there or had done some work," he says.
Across the U.S., from Pennsylvania to Texas to California, there are millions of abandoned wells. But their locations are either unmapped or poorly mapped. Rob Jackson, a researcher at Stanford University, says keeping track of them is a low priority.
"When a state sees a well is plugged, they typically put a check mark by that well in a database, or in a file somewhere, and they don't do anything for the most part," he says.
Unless a well starts leaking fluids or a house blows up, the assumption is that everything is fine. Jackson says it's partly an issue of states not having the resources to monitor the wells.
"But I also think the states aren't that interested in some cases, in many cases, in the data," he says. "I'm not sure that they really want to know."
A No-Build-Zone Around Old Wells
In the Canadian province of Alberta, it's a different story. Theresa Watson, an engineering consultant and former Alberta energy regulator, started pushing for better tracking, monitoring and regulation of abandoned wells back in the early 2000s. That was when people started to move into rural areas that were once oil and gas fields.
"If you don't measure it, you don't know what kind of risk you have," Watson says. "I mean, ignorance is bliss, I guess, but I think most people will tell you that they'd want to know."
Watson recommended not only monitoring abandoned wells near homes, but also outright prohibiting construction on top of them.
"From the public safety perspective, even a slow leak into a building can cause an explosion hazard," she says.
Alberta now has a 15-foot no-build zone around abandoned wells. Similar rules are lacking in most of the U.S., even as new development is encroaching on old oil and gas fields in places like the Front Range of Colorado.
State oil and gas regulators say the situation is out of their hands.
"We really try to discourage the construction on top of old wells," says Stuart Ellsworth, engineering manager for the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.
But he says any actual prohibition is up to local governments that permit development. In turn, many of those local governments see abandoned wells as the state's problem.
For those who can potentially be affected by these wells, just having rules that will protect them is a priority. Kinder says he doesn't care who ends up making rules about building on top of abandoned wells — he just wants somebody to do it.
"Somebody needs to be held accountable for it," he says. "To me, the most important thing is it doesn't happen to somebody else. It doesn't need to happen to somebody else."

RSN: The Untold Story Behind Saudi Arabia's 41-Year US Debt Secret

The article below should be a STAND ALONE MUST READ! 

This really isn't such a 'secret' since it has been previously reported and anyone delving could have/should have known about this as well as the deal President Carter forged with Saudi/OPEC. 

Clearly, the Republican Congress was either ignorant of these agreements or chose to ignore them with their hostile rhetoric. .

President Nixon walks with Saudi king Faisal in Saudi Arabia, June 1974. (photo: Dick Halstead/AP)
President Nixon walks with Saudi king Faisal in Saudi Arabia, June 1974. 
(photo: Dick Halstead/AP)

The Untold Story Behind Saudi Arabia's 41-Year US Debt Secret

By Andrea Wong, Bloomberg
31 May 16

How a legendary bond trader from Salomon Brothers brokered a do-or-die deal that reshaped U.S.-Saudi relations for generations.

ailure was not an option.
It was July 1974. A steady predawn drizzle had given way to overcast skies when William Simon, newly appointed U.S. Treasury secretary, and his deputy, Gerry Parsky, stepped onto an 8 a.m. flight from Andrews Air Force Base. On board, the mood was tense. That year, the oil crisis had hit home. An embargo by OPEC’s Arab nations—payback for U.S. military aid to the Israelis during the Yom Kippur War—quadrupled oil prices. Inflation soared, the stock market crashed, and the U.S. economy was in a tailspin.
Officially, Simon’s two-week trip was billed as a tour of economic diplomacy across Europe and the Middle East, full of the customary meet-and-greets and evening banquets. But the real mission, kept in strict confidence within President Richard Nixon’s inner circle, would take place during a four-day layover in the coastal city of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
The goal: neutralize crude oil as an economic weapon and find a way to persuade a hostile kingdom to finance America’s widening deficit with its new found petrodollar wealth. And according to Parsky, Nixon made clear there was simply no coming back empty-handed. Failure would not only jeopardize America’s financial health but could also give the Soviet Union an opening to make further inroads into the Arab world.
It “wasn’t a question of whether it could be done or it couldn’t be done,” said Parsky, 73, one of the few officials with Simon during the Saudi talks.
At first blush, Simon, who had just done a stint as Nixon’s energy czar, seemed ill-suited for such delicate diplomacy. Before being tapped by Nixon, the chain-smoking New Jersey native ran the vaunted Treasuries desk at Salomon Brothers. To career bureaucrats, the brash Wall Street bond trader—who once compared himself to Genghis Khan—had a temper and an outsize ego that was painfully out of step in Washington. Just a week before setting foot in Saudi Arabia, Simon publicly lambasted the Shah of Iran, a close regional ally at the time, calling him a “nut.”
But Simon, better than anyone else, understood the appeal of U.S. government debt and how to sell the Saudis on the idea that America was the safest place to park their petrodollars. With that knowledge, the administration hatched an unprecedented do-or-die plan that would come to influence just about every aspect of U.S.-Saudi relations over the next four decades (Simon died in 2000 at the age of 72).
The basic framework was strikingly simple. The U.S. would buy oil from Saudi Arabia and provide the kingdom military aid and equipment. In return, the Saudis would plow billions of their petrodollar revenue back into Treasuries and finance America’s spending.
It took several discreet follow-up meetings to iron out all the details, Parsky said. But at the end of months of negotiations, there remained one small, yet crucial, catch: King Faisal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud demanded the country’s Treasury purchases stay “strictly secret,” according to a diplomatic cable obtained by Bloomberg from the National Archives database.
With a handful of Treasury and Federal Reserve officials, the secret was kept for more than four decades—until now. In response to a Freedom-of-Information-Act request submitted by Bloomberg News, the Treasury broke out Saudi Arabia’s holdings for the first time this month after “concluding that it was consistent with transparency and the law to disclose the data,” according to spokeswoman Whitney Smith. The $117 billion trove makes the kingdom one of America’s largest foreign creditors.
Yet in many ways, the information has raised more questions than it has answered. A former Treasury official, who specialized in central bank reserves and asked not to be identified, says the official figure vastly understates Saudi Arabia’s investments in U.S. government debt, which may be double or more.
The current tally represents just 20 percent of its $587 billion of foreign reserves, well below the two-thirds that central banks typically keep in dollar assets. Some analysts speculate the kingdom may be masking its U.S. debt holdings by accumulating Treasuries through offshore financial centers, which show up in the data of other countries.
Exactly how much of America’s debt Saudi Arabia actually owns is something that matters more now than ever before.
While oil’s collapse has deepened concern that Saudi Arabia will need to liquidate its Treasuries to raise cash, a more troubling worry has also emerged: the specter of the kingdom using its outsize position in the world’s most important debt market as a political weapon, much as it did with oil in the 1970s.
In April, Saudi Arabia warned it would start selling as much as $750 billion in Treasuries and other assets if Congress passes a bill allowing the kingdom to be held liable in U.S. courts for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, according to the New York Times. The threat comes amid a renewed push by presidential candidates and legislators from both the Democratic and Republican parties to declassify a 28-page section of a 2004 U.S. government report that is believed to detail possible Saudi connections to the attacks. The bill, which passed the Senate on May 17, is now in the House of Representatives.
Saudi Arabia’s Finance Ministry declined to comment on the potential selling of Treasuries in response. The Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency didn’t immediately answer requests for details on the total size of its U.S. government debt holdings.
“Let’s not assume they’re bluffing” about threatening to retaliate, said Marc Chandler, the global head of currency strategy at Brown Brothers Harriman. “The Saudis are under a lot of pressure. I’d say that we don’t do ourselves justice if we underestimate our liabilities” to big holders.
Saudi Arabia, which has long provided free health care, gasoline subsidies, and routine pay raises to its citizens with its petroleum wealth, already faces a brutal fiscal crisis.
In the past year alone, the monetary authority has burned through $111 billion of reserves to plug its biggest budget deficit in a quarter-century, pay for costly wars to defeat the Islamic State, and wage proxy campaigns against Iran. Though oil has stabilized at about $50 a barrel (from less than $30 earlier this year), it’s still far below the heady years of $100-a-barrel crude.
Saudi Arabia’s situation has become so acute the kingdom is now selling a piece of its crown jewel—state oil company Saudi Aramco.
What’s more, the commitment to the decades-old policy of “interdependence” between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, which arose from Simon’s debt deal and ultimately bound together two nations that share few common values, is showing signs of fraying. America has taken tentative steps toward a rapprochement with Iran, highlighted by President Barack Obama’s landmark nuclear deal last year. The U.S. shale boom has also made America far less reliant on Saudi oil.
“Buying bonds and all that was a strategy to recycle petrodollars back into the U.S.,” said David Ottaway, a Middle East fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington. But politically, “it’s always been an ambiguous, constrained relationship.”
Yet back in 1974, forging that relationship (and the secrecy that it required) was a no-brainer, according to Parsky, who is now chairman of Aurora Capital Group, a private equity firm in Los Angeles. Many of America’s allies, including the U.K. and Japan, were also deeply dependent on Saudi oil and quietly vying to get the kingdom to reinvest money back into their own economies.
“Everyone—in the U.S., France, Britain, Japan—was trying to get their fingers in the Saudis’ pockets,” said Gordon S. Brown, an economic officer with the State Department at the U.S. embassy in Riyadh from 1976 to 1978.
For the Saudis, politics played a big role in their insistence that all Treasury investments remain anonymous.
Tensions still flared 10 months after the Yom Kippur War, and throughout the Arab world, there was plenty of animosity toward the U.S. for its support of Israel. According to diplomatic cables, King Faisal’s biggest fear was the perception Saudi oil money would, “directly or indirectly,” end up in the hands of its biggest enemy in the form of additional U.S. assistance.
Treasury officials solved the dilemma by letting the Saudis in through the back door. In the first of many special arrangements, the U.S. allowed Saudi Arabia to bypass the normal competitive bidding process for buying Treasuries by creating “add-ons.” Those sales, which were excluded from the official auction totals, hid all traces of Saudi Arabia’s presence in the U.S. government debt market.
“When I arrived at the embassy, I was told by people there that this is Treasury’s business,” Brown said. “It was all handled very privately.”
By 1977, Saudi Arabia had accumulated about 20 percent of all Treasuries held abroad, according toThe Hidden Hand of American Hegemony: Petrodollar Recycling and International Markets by Columbia University’s David Spiro.
Another exception was carved out for Saudi Arabia when the Treasury started releasing monthly country-by-country breakdowns of U.S. debt ownership. Instead of disclosing Saudi Arabia’s holdings, the Treasury grouped them with 14 other nations, such as Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Nigeria, under the generic heading “oil exporters”—a practice that continued for 41 years.
The system came with its share of headaches. After the Treasury’s add-on facility was opened to other central banks, erratic and unpublicized foreign demand threatened to push the U.S. over its debt limit on several occasions.
An internal memo, dated October 1976, detailed how the U.S. inadvertently raised far more than the $800 million it intended to borrow at auction. At the time, two unidentified central banks used add-ons to buy an additional $400 million of Treasuries each. In the end, one bank was awarded its portion a day late to keep the U.S. from exceeding the limit.
Most of these maneuvers and hiccups were swept under the rug, and top Treasury officials went to great lengths to preserve the status quo and protect their Middle East allies as scrutiny of America’s biggest creditors increased.
Over the years, the Treasury repeatedly turned to the International Investment and Trade in Services Survey Act of 1976—which shields individuals in countries where Treasuries are narrowly held—as its first line of defense.
The strategy continued even after the Government Accountability Office, in a 1979 investigation, found “no statistical or legal basis” for the blackout. The GAO didn’t have power to force the Treasury to turn over the data, but it concluded the U.S. “made special commitments of financial confidentiality to Saudi Arabia” and possibly other OPEC nations.
Simon, who had by then returned to Wall Street, acknowledged in congressional testimony that “regional reporting was the only way in which Saudi Arabia would agree” to invest using the add-on system.
“It was clear the Treasury people weren’t going to cooperate at all,” said Stephen McSpadden, a former counsel to the congressional subcommittee that pressed for the GAO inquiries. “I’d been at the subcommittee for 17 years, and I’d never seen anything like that.”
Today, Parsky says the secret arrangement with the Saudis should have been dismantled years ago and was surprised the Treasury kept it in place for so long. But even so, he has no regrets.
Doing the deal “was a positive for America.”

RSN: Steve Weissman | What the Hell Does Bernie Sanders Think He's Doing?, Iowa High Court Bans Life-Without-Parole Sentences for All Juveniles

Please subscribe to and support INDEPENDENT MEDIA! 

It's your only source for TRUTH and FACTS. 

It's Live on the HomePage Now: 
Reader Supported News

Steve Weissman | What the Hell Does Bernie Sanders Think He's Doing? 
Bernie Sanders. (photo: Karen Bleier/Getty Images)
Steve Weissman, Reader Supported News 
Weissman writes: "Hillary Clinton had expected a stroll in the park to her anointment as Democratic candidate for president. But Bernie Sanders has made her life hell, forcing her to take left-leaning positions that will only make it more difficult for her to backtrack when the nomination becomes hers." 
Native American Activist Leonard Peltier Asks Obama for Clemency 
Angela Bronner Helm, The Root 
Helm writes: "In 1977, Native American activist Leonard Peltier was put behind bars, where he has remained in federal custody for 40 years, for the murder of two FBI agents. Yet, many have denounced Peltier's incarceration as a farce with a trial filled with shaky evidence at best, and an abuse of power by a vengeful FBI at worst." 
Samantha Power to Receive Prize From Henry Kissinger, Whom She Once Harshly Criticized 
Zaid Jilani, The Intercept 
Jilani writes: "Samantha Power built her journalistic and academic career around human rights, criticizing powerful nations for their complicity in abuses and failure to stop acts of genocide." 
The Untold Story Behind Saudi Arabia's 41-Year US Debt Secret 
Andrea Wong, Bloomberg 
Wong writes: "The basic framework was strikingly simple. The U.S. would buy oil from Saudi Arabia and provide the kingdom military aid and equipment. In return, the Saudis would plow billions of their petrodollar revenue back into Treasuries and finance America's spending." 
Iowa High Court Bans Life-Without-Parole Sentences for All Juveniles 
Josh Kenworthy, The Christian Science Monitor 
Kenworthy writes: "The 2016 decision demanded that even those juveniles who have committed the most serious crimes be given the opportunity to demonstrate to a parole board they are worthy of a second chance." 
Long a Symbol, Stonewall Inn May Soon Become Monument to LGBT Rights 
Hansi Lo Wang, NPR 
Wang writes: "The Obama administration is taking steps to name the first national monument dedicated to the struggle for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights." 
Danger Below? New Properties Hide Abandoned Oil and Gas Wells 
Stephanie Joyce, NPR 
Joyce writes: "Rick Kinder and his colleagues didn't know it, but they were building on top of an abandoned gas well that was leaking methane - an odorless and highly explosive gas." 

AMAZING from today:

Bernie Sanders for President

This was amazing the first time we showed it to you in October, Frank, and it's just as amazing today.

What you're seeing is a real feed from earlier today of people responding to Bernie's email from this morning, adding their contributions before the final FEC fundraising deadline of the primary.

Can you add a contribution now and be a part of this moment?

Add your contribution to the thousands of others recently made to Bernie 2016 ahead of our final FEC fundraising deadline tonight at midnight

Tens of thousands of people have already contributed today before the midnight FEC fundraising deadline, adding $2.70, $27, or whatever they can afford. I hope you can join them as we prepare for the last week of voting in our primary.

In solidarity,

Jeff Weaver
Campaign Manager
Bernie 2016

Paid for by Bernie 2016
(not the billionaires)
PO Box 905 - Burlington VT 05402 United States - (855) 4-BERNIE

RSN: Jane Mayer | Sting of Myself: Amateurish Spies Like James O'Keefe III Attempt to Sway the 2016 Campaign

It's Live on the HomePage Now:
Reader Supported News

FOCUS: Jane Mayer | Sting of Myself: Amateurish Spies Like James O'Keefe III Attempt to Sway the 2016 Campaign
James O'Keefe III takes part in a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. (photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Jane Mayer, The New Yorker
Mayer writes: "The use of deception and other subversive tactics to undermine voter choice is as old as the American republic."

s Dana Geraghty recalls it, March 16th was a “rather quiet Wednesday.” That afternoon, she was in her cubicle at the Open Society Foundations, on West Fifty-seventh Street, where she helps oversee the nonprofit group’s pro-democracy programs in Eurasia. The Foundations are the philanthropic creation of George Soros, the hedge-fund billionaire, who is a prominent donor to liberal causes, including Hillary Clinton’s Presidential bid. Soros, who has spent nineteen million dollars on the 2016 Presidential campaign, is regarded with suspicion by many conservatives. National Review has suggested that he may be fomenting protests against Donald Trump by secretly funding what it called a “rent-a-mob.” Geraghty, who is twenty-eight, had programmed her office phone to forward messages from unfamiliar callers to her e-mail inbox. She was about to review several messages when she noticed that one of them was extraordinarily long. “Who leaves a seven-minute voice mail?” Geraghty asked herself. She clicked on it.
“Hey, Dana,” a voice began. The caller sounded to her like an older American male. “My name is, uh, Victor Kesh. I’m a Hungarian-American who represents a, uh, foundation . . . that would like to get involved with you and aid what you do in fighting for, um, European values.” He asked Geraghty for the name of someone he could talk to “about supporting you guys and coördinating with you on some of your efforts.” Requesting a callback, he left a phone number with a 914 area code—Westchester County.
She heard a click, a pause, and then a second male voice. The person who had introduced himself as Kesh said, “Don’t say anything . . . before I hang up the phone.”
“That piqued my interest,” Geraghty recalls. Other aspects of the message puzzled her: “Who says they’re with a foundation without saying which one? He sounded scattered. And usually people call to get funding, not to offer it.” Victor Kesh, she suspected, was “someone passing as someone else.”
She continued to listen, and the man’s voice suddenly took on a more commanding tone. The caller had failed to hang up, and Kesh, unaware that he was still being recorded, seemed to be conducting a meeting about how to perpetrate an elaborate sting on Soros. “What needs to happen,” he said, is for “someone other than me to make a hundred phone calls like that”—to Soros, to his employees, and to the Democracy Alliance, a club of wealthy liberal political donors that Soros helped to found, which is expected to play a large role in financing this year’s campaigns. Kesh described sending into the Soros offices an “undercover” agent who could “talk the talk” with Open Society executives. Kesh’s goal wasn’t fully spelled out on the recording, but the gist was that an operative posing as a potential donor could penetrate Soros’s operation and make secret videos that exposed embarrassing activities. Soros, he assured the others, has “thousands of organizations” on the left in league with him. Kesh said that the name of his project was Discover the Networks.
The money that would be offered, Kesh said, couldn’t come from “offshore British Virgin Island companies,” because “Soros’s people don’t want to take money from a group like that.” He claimed that “Bill Clinton would” take suspect cash, “and Hillary Clinton would, and Chelsea would.”
One member of the team suggested to Kesh that he knew someone who could infiltrate the Soros network: an English orthopedic surgeon with “a real heavy British accent,” who was in the U.S. and was “more than happy to do anything he can do for us.” The surgeon was sophisticated about technology and would not “have any problem with the cameras.” The team member said, “He’s a very talented guy, so, I mean, he’ll be able to pull it off.” As Kesh mapped out the covert attack, however, he had no idea that the only person he was stinging was himself.
The accidental recording reached farcical proportions when Kesh announced that he was opening Geraghty’s LinkedIn page on his computer. He planned to check her résumé and leverage the information to penetrate the Soros “octopus.” Kesh said, “She’s probably going to call me back, and if she doesn’t I can create other points of entry.” Suddenly, Kesh realized that by opening Geraghty’s LinkedIn page he had accidentally revealed his own LinkedIn identity to her. (LinkedIn can let users see who has looked at their pages.) “Whoa!” an accomplice warned. “Log out!” The men anxiously reassured one another that no one checks their LinkedIn account anyway. “It was a little chilling to hear this group of men talking about me as a ‘point of entry,’ ” Geraghty says. “But—not to sound ageist—it was clear that these people were not used to the technology.”
Geraghty forwarded the voice-mail recording to Chris Stone, the president of the Open Society Foundations. “The Watergate burglars look good compared to these guys,” Stone told me last month. “These guys can’t even figure out how to use an Internet browser, let alone conduct an undercover operation. You read the transcript and you can’t help but laugh.” He went on, “But the issues here aren’t funny. There’s some kind of dirty-tricks operation in play against us.”
In the Westchester County suburb of Mamaroneck, a street-level office has reflective glass doors and windows that make it impossible to see inside. This is the headquarters of James O’Keefe III—the conservative activist who placed the phony phone call pretending to be Victor Kesh. As he showed me around, in late April, O’Keefe, who is thirty-one, told me that he is not a dirty trickster but an investigative journalist and a leading practitioner of modern political warfare. “We’ve got this guerrilla army, and it’s coming to fruition soon,” he said. “This is our base of operations.” Waving his hand around seven thousand square feet of empty office space, he said, “This is our NORAD. It’s our field operation.”
The back wall of the office, he explained, would soon be hung with an enormous corkboard covered with maps. Affixed to each map would be a card with the location and the assumed name of every undercover political operative working for his nonprofit, Project Veritas. Created in 2010 as a charity that could accept tax-deductible contributions, Project Veritas says on its Web site that it is dedicated to exposing “corruption, dishonesty, self-dealing, waste, fraud, and other misconduct.”
O’Keefe graduated from Rutgers University in 2006. He says that a professor there, David Knowlton, urged him to follow Saul Alinsky’s rule book, which advised radicals to use their enemies’ rules against them. On St. Patrick’s Day in 2005, O’Keefe lampooned campus political correctness by demanding that the dining hall ban Lucky Charms cereal. The box’s depiction of a leprechaun, he proclaimed, perpetuated “offensive” stereotypes about Irish-Americans. He videotaped a confrontation that he’d had with a school administrator and posted the footage on YouTube, launching his career as a political stunt artist. The Lucky Charms prank remains “a crowd favorite,” O’Keefe told me.
In 2014, his organization became more directly involved in electoral politics, sprouting a “social welfare” limb called the Project Veritas Action Fund. Such organizations, referred to in the tax code as 501c4 groups, have proliferated since 2010, when the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Citizens United case essentially legalized unlimited corporate and individual spending on politics. Unlike ordinary charities, 501c4 groups can accept unlimited contributions from secret donors and spend the cash directly on campaigns. They just need to make a plausible case that they promote social welfare and that politics is not their primary purpose. O’Keefe says that the new group “allows us to literally put someone undercover in a campaign.”
In the era of “dark money,” as anonymous political donations are often described, Project Veritas has been thriving. According to its federal tax filings, between 2013 and 2014 its budget doubled, from $1.2 million to $2.4 million. O’Keefe told me that he has “about a dozen undercover operations ongoing at any given time.” One of these, he said, involves “someone working for Hillary Clinton full time, as a paid staffer.” This “embedded” operative, he said, “is employed in the campaign in the highest echelons.” (He declined to be more specific.) Every day, the operative sends “video to us over our own server.” He added, “Just like Hillary Clinton, we have our own Internet server in Westchester County!” He went on, “We see everything. We have thousands of hours of video. You’ll see infighting, plans, strategy.” O’Keefe said that he has been compiling a feature film from the operative’s footage, but won’t release it until the late summer or fall, when it will have maximum impact. In the meantime, he has posted teasers online; several of the clips end with the words “Stay tuned, Hillary, and check your e-mail.”
O’Keefe promised that footage he has acquired through his various operatives “will force people to resign.” He later added that he had video of “top, top, top-ranking officials discussing how and why they commit” voter fraud “to sway races.”
Given O’Keefe’s track record, it would be a mistake to take his grand statements too seriously. He first gained wide notoriety in 2009, when he released a series of undercover videos attacking the liberal community-organizing group ACORN. The videos had an immediate effect, but raised serious questions about his methods and ethics—questions that have trailed him ever since. He secretly filmed encounters in which he and a female colleague showed up at ACORN offices in various cities, claiming to be a pimp and an underage prostitute who wanted advice on how to make prostitution look like a legal business. ACORN officials appeared to oblige them, in one instance advising them to make sure that the immigrants O’Keefe claimed he was going to prostitute actually went to school as exchange students. After O’Keefe began releasing his exposés of ACORN, the House of Representatives voted to cut off federal funds to the group, which soon collapsed. But an ACORN official filmed in California, who was fired because he seemed to embrace the proposed scheme, successfully settled a lawsuit against O’Keefe for a hundred thousand dollars. He argued that he had not consented to be videotaped, as is required in California, and that after learning about the prostitution idea he had called the police. O’Keefe hadn’t bothered to contact the employee before airing the damning footage.
In January, 2010, the F.B.I. arrested O’Keefe and three accomplices, two of whom had disguised themselves as telephone repairmen in order to enter the New Orleans office of Mary Landrieu, then a Democratic senator for Louisiana. (O’Keefe says he had hoped to disprove Landrieu’s claim that her phone lines were too clogged to answer the many angry calls coming from Tea Party activists.) O’Keefe was sentenced to three years of probation and a hundred hours of community service; he also paid a fifteen-hundred-dollar fine.
In 2011, O’Keefe embarrassed National Public Radio when two accomplices, pretending to represent a radical Muslim group, proposed to donate five million dollars to the network in exchange for favorable programming about Islam. After O’Keefe released videos depicting two NPR employees chatting with the undercover operatives about the need to put Muslim voices on the air, and criticizing the Republican Party as “not just Islamophobic but really xenophobic,” two top NPR officials, including its chief executive, Vivian Schiller, resigned.
Many O’Keefe operations, however, have fallen flat, including his repeated efforts to prove that voter-identity fraud is pervasive. “It seems like most of the fraud O’Keefe uncovers he commits himself,” Richard Hasen, a professor of election law at the University of California, Irvine, says. A sting aimed at Hillary Clinton last year was considered especially feeble. Veritas operatives persuaded a staffer at a rally to accept a Canadian citizen’s money in exchange for a Hillary T-shirt—a petty violation of the ban on foreign political contributions. Brian Fallon, the communications director for the Clinton campaign, says, “Project Veritas has been repeatedly caught trying to commit fraud, falsify identities, and break campaign-finance law. It is not surprising, given that their founder has already been convicted for efforts like this.”
O’Keefe’s unseemly tactics have increasingly caused other conservatives, including Glenn Beck, to distance themselves from him. But the 2016 campaign cycle appears to be reinvigorating the political art form that Richard Nixon’s operative Donald Segretti infamously called “ratfucking.”
The use of deception and other subversive tactics to undermine voter choice is as old as the American republic. Thomas Jefferson enlisted surrogates to publish attacks on Alexander Hamilton, who responded with anonymous ripostes. In the eighteen-seventies, cities were infamous for using ballots printed on multi-ply tissue paper in order to multiply candidates’ votes. In 1972, Segretti published a phony letter that he claimed had been written by one of Nixon’s rivals, the Democratic Presidential candidate Edmund Muskie. The letter slurred Canadians as “Canucks,” and the resulting furor sent Muskie’s campaign into a tailspin.
With cash streaming into dark-money groups, negative campaigning is a growth industry. Kathleen Hall Jamieson, the director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, and the author of “Dirty Politics” (1992), told me, “Dirty tricks have always been covert operations. But more money means it’s more possible to cover your tracks in ways that make it insidious.” Over the years, Jamieson says, opposing campaigns have attempted to sabotage one another by planting scandalous material, releasing doctored photographs, and undertaking sting operations. In 2008, a “citizen journalist” attended a private San Francisco fund-raiser and posted a video of President Barack Obama making a maladroit reference to embittered Americans who “cling to guns or religion.” Four years later, a bartender working at a private fund-raiser for Mitt Romney recorded him dismissing forty-seven per cent of the electorate as freeloaders “dependent upon government.” Afterward, Romney could not shake the perception that he was élitist.
According to Jamieson, the ability to download videos from smartphones directly onto the Internet has normalized what used to be shadowy practices. “In the past, you were the uncredited hero who got the candidate elected,” she says. “Now the brazenness of the process is such that you will admit it and put it on your résumé!”
The expected contest between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton is likely to be one of the nastiest in history, with putatively independent “opposition research” operations fuelling both parties. Meanwhile, negative campaigns funded by private donors and private interests are aiming at targets far beyond conventional candidates—among them intellectuals who have no official role.
O’Keefe declined to tell me why he had targeted George Soros. But Matthew Tyrmand, a recent addition to the Project Veritas board, has publicly declared his fierce opposition to Soros. Tyrmand is a thirty-five-year-old Polish-American investor who is an informal adviser to Poland’s right-wing nationalist government as well as a contributing writer at Breitbart, the conservative news site. As street protests have sprung up in Poland, Tyrmand has repeatedly suggested online that Soros is stoking the unrest. On the Web site of the Polonia Institute, a nonprofit that promotes Polish culture, he wrote that the “recent protest movement” was “rumored to be funded by George Soros’s Open Society Foundations” in order to “undermine and destabilize the new government.”
Tyrmand deflected numerous requests for an interview. When I finally reached him by phone, he said that he was too busy to talk. He was in France, on his way to the Cannes Film Festival for the première of “Clinton Cash,” a film adaptation of a scathing 2015 book by Peter Schweizer, a fellow at the Hoover Institution, which accuses the Clintons of enriching themselves by giving speeches to dubious sponsors. The film, along with other independently financed attacks on the Clintons, will significantly help Trump’s campaign by reducing its need to spend money on oppo research.
The first time I asked O’Keefe who Victor Kesh was, he declined to comment on what he called “investigations, real or imagined.” But, after learning that he had been caught on tape trying to infiltrate Soros’s group, he tried to put the best face on it. On May 11th, he, Tyrmand, and a cameraman showed up in the lobby of the Open Society Foundations, saying that they were conducting a serious investigation. O’Keefe phoned Dana Geraghty again, admitting that he had previously called her “posing as Victor,” and said that he had some “follow-up questions” about whether the Foundations were as transparent as they claim to be about the activities they fund. With the camera rolling, O’Keefe and his team stood outside the lobby and buttonholed people, asking them if Soros was funding Polish street protests.
Laura Silber, the chief communications officer for the Open Society Foundations, told me, “We were asked if we fund the Polish opposition—we don’t, directly or indirectly. We do support groups that advance the rule of law and human rights, which are under threat in Poland today.”
O’Keefe portrays himself as a rigorous journalist who is dedicated to furthering “a more ethical and transparent society.” He refuses, however, to be transparent about who is funding him. According to tax records obtained by, an investigative watchdog group run by the Center for Media and Democracy, in recent years hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations to Project Veritas have come through a fund in Alexandria, Virginia, called Donors Trust, which specializes in hiding the money trails of conservative philanthropists. In its promotional materials, Donors Trust says that it will “keep your charitable giving private, especially gifts funding sensitive or controversial issues.” The records obtained by also show that one donor, a conservative political activist in Wisconsin, contributed fifty thousand dollars just before Project Veritas undertook a sting of one of his political enemies—a state senator.
O’Keefe, when asked if donors to his group can pay for him to investigate particular people or groups, answered, “It depends.” He will pursue a requested target “if it’s an idea I want to do, or if it advances our mission.” But he added, “Not many people can tell me what to do, because they don’t know how we do it.”
As O’Keefe’s budget has grown, so has his ambition. “I want to expand to every state,” he told me. “I want to be everywhere.” If uncovering the truth requires deception, fake names, disguises, and other subterfuge, he makes no apology. The signature O’Keefe method is to try to entrap his subjects into breaking the law—a strategy that most political operatives consider a step too far.
He showed me a tiny video camera that had been hidden inside an Aquafina water bottle, and others embedded in a wristwatch and in an iPod Shuffle. A device in his shirt button, which used Bluetooth technology, could relay live audio to his control room. He argued, “What I do is the truest form of journalism there is. We hit the record button and show people what we found.”
The political left also outsources much of its dirty work to privately funded super PACs and dark-money groups. After the Democrats were eviscerated in the 2010 midterm elections—the first congressional campaigns after the Citizens United decision—an independently funded group named American Bridge 21st Century began supplying opposition research to Democratic groups and candidates. The network was founded by David Brock, a self-described former “conservative hit man” who became notorious in the early nineties for having described Anita Hill as “a little bit nutty and a little bit slutty.” In the aughts, Brock, who is gay, joined the Democratic Party—in part because he found the Republican Party homophobic—bringing with him an insider’s expertise in cutthroat politics. He describes American Bridge, which employs a hundred and fifty people, as a political “utility” for progressives.
The American Bridge network includes Media Matters, a watchdog operation that identifies what it sees as distortions by the right-wing press, and Correct the Record, a rapid-response unit that focusses on defending Hillary Clinton. Brock’s group also oversees political action committees, dark-money nonprofit organizations, and at least fifty video “trackers,” who hound Republican candidates in the hope of recording politically damaging moments. Video trackers have been mainstays of campaigns since 2006, when a Democratic volunteer upended George Allen, the Republican senatorial* candidate in Virginia, by releasing a video of him uttering a racist slur. In 2012, one of the trackers with Brock’s organization captured Todd Akin, a Missouri Republican running for the Senate, defending “legitimate rape.” With American Bridge’s success has come funding, largely from labor unions and wealthy liberals. One of the biggest contributors this year is George Soros—which may help explain why he was the object of an O’Keefe sting.
After Mitt Romney lost the 2012 Presidential election, conservative operatives concluded that they needed their own putatively independent negative-campaign machine. Out of this partisan arms race grew America Rising—the unofficial oppo-research affiliate of the Republican Party—which was founded in 2013 by Matt Rhoades, the former head of Romney’s campaign. Based in Arlington, Virginia, it diverges from Brock’s network in one crucial respect: It is a limited-liability corporation. Instead of relying on charitable and political donations, America Rising serves as a for-profit vender to conservative clients, who pay it to conduct customized negative research.
Rhoades and others declined to respond to interview requests, but when I stopped by America Rising’s headquarters, on May 18th, the office was filled with young researchers bent over their laptops. The walls were decorated with photographs of conservative icons (though Trump’s portrait seemed to be missing). An office door was covered with bull’s-eye targets, and a sign reminded staffers of the “Research Checklist: Nexis, Google Alerts, Facebook, Twitter.”
Brock told me that his group had rejected the vender model. “We didn’t want to be under clients’ thumbs,” he said. “If you work for them, you’re subservient. We wanted to build an independent progressive infrastructure.” Recently, some donors wanted video trackers to trail the Koch brothers, but Brock turned them down. American Bridge does a huge amount of oppo research on the Kochs, but Brock says he believes that tracking private citizens is unethical. He claims that he has also rejected the use of subterfuge. “We’re not in that game,” he says.
By contrast, in late April the dark-money arm of Rhoades’s group, America Rising Squared, announced the creation of a negative campaign to target leading environmentalists as well as prominent donors to environmental causes and candidates. The campaign’s initial budget was a hundred thousand dollars, which, among other things, would cover the extensive use of video trackers. According to the political tip sheet The Hill, the campaign would subject environmentalists to “the same level of scrutiny . . . that opposition research firms apply to presidential candidates.” America Rising Squared’s executive director, Brian Rogers, told The Hill that his group planned to hold “the Environmentalist Left accountable for their epic hypocrisy and extreme positions which threaten America’s future prosperity.”
Almost simultaneously, in early May, the organization announced the launch of an affiliated venture, run by many of the same operatives, called Definers Public Affairs. Definers offers to wage political-style negative campaigns, for profit, on behalf of undisclosed private clients, including corporations. According to its Web site, Definers will “create dossiers” on opponents, monitor them from a “full-service war room,” and build both “grassroots” alliances and “a paid online presence.” This raises the possibility that undisclosed business interests are paying to choose the targets they want Republican operatives to attack.
Soon after the campaign against environmentalists was announced, Bill McKibben, who teaches environmental studies at Middlebury College, in Vermont, got an alarming phone call from a librarian at Texas Tech University, in Lubbock, who supervises a literary archive to which McKibben had contributed his research papers. McKibben has been an outspoken activist against the Keystone XL pipeline, and in 2008 he co-founded, a “global grassroots climate movement.” For many years, he was a staff writer for this magazine. (He is now a regular contributor to the New York Review of Books, where he recently reviewed a book of mine.) He is a political thinker, but not a candidate, a major political donor, or a paid campaign operative.
The Texas librarian, Diane Warner, told McKibben that a man had shown up at the archive and requested copies of all his papers—fifty-four boxes of documents. The man identified himself as Aaron Goss, and said that he worked for Definers Public Affairs. Goss spent a week copying pages from McKibben’s archive. Meanwhile, as McKibben was getting ready to speak about the environment at a church in Durham, New Hampshire, an unfamiliar man aimed a video camera at him. The next day, a wordless two-second snippet of footage appeared online, showing McKibben looking at the camera and then turning away uncomfortably, to the accompaniment of the song “Show Me That Smile.” The video, which was titled “Bill McKibben: Ready for His Closeup,” was posted to the Twitter account of
The site is another recent creation of America Rising Squared, as is an app called Grill, which enables users to track the location of ideological enemies, including Hillary Clinton, and lists hostile questions to ask at public events, such as “Will you drop out of the Presidential race if you are indicted?” Within days, another contentless video snippet of McKibben popped up, this time showing him in Australia. The threat was clear: wherever he went, his enemies would be recording him.
Who paid for a professional oppo-research team to mock an environmental activist? The answer is secret. One could argue that the campaign isn’t substantially different from that of a corporate lobbyist, but, unlike registered lobbyists, America Rising Squared doesn’t have to file public disclosures or pay taxes, because it purports to be a social-welfare organization.
McKibben told me, “I have no fear of debating these people on the issues, but this is just intimidation.” He added, “It’s bad enough to do this to anyone who runs for office. But to do it to anyone who dares protest?”
Tom Steyer, the retired hedge-fund billionaire who runs the environmental-action group NextGen Climate and has been one of the Democratic Party’s biggest donors, is another target of America Rising Squared. has featured posts calling Steyer hypocritical, because he made a fortune investing in fossil fuels. America Rising Squared has accused him of self-interest in supporting green energy, as he has substantial investments in solar power. Steyer says that this is “complete and utter nonsense,” because his investments are held by trusts and structured in a way that any profits are transferred to charity. “They have to know they’re lying,” Steyer said. “It’s completely dishonest, unethical, and pitiful. And it’s creepy.” He says that the anonymously funded attacks won’t stop him, but he worries that such campaigns may deter others from engaging in activism. As he puts it, they “are another reason people are reluctant to get involved in politics.”
It may be that the shock value of such exposés is diminishing. A recent series of sting videos against Planned Parenthood, created by a group called the Center for Medical Progress, involved deceptions so devious—including an attempt by undercover operatives to buy fetal tissue—that the campaign backfired. Pro-choice activists united in anger at the sting’s perpetrators, and a Texas grand jury cleared Planned Parenthood of wrongdoing and indicted the C.M.P. In Presidential politics, gaffes may be less damaging. As Brock notes, “In the year of Trump, people are more inured to the outrageous.”
O’Keefe promises that his covert documentary of the Hillary Clinton campaign will command attention. But on May 19th he publicly conceded defeat in the Open Society Foundations investigation. In an interview posted on Breitbart News, he confessed that he had “been forced to abandon an ambitious undercover investigation into billionaire left-wing financier George Soros.” O’Keefe acknowledged that he “forgot to hang up” the phone, but declined to be more specific about the operation, saying, “I don’t like to reveal the tactics of what we do.” He apologized to his supporters and promised that his many other investigations had not been compromised. “Unfortunately, I’m burned on this particular investigation,” he said, adding that he was “very disappointed,” because he believes that the influence of billionaires such as Soros is “the most important topic undermining democracy.” But he concluded, “If I wanted to be perfect, I would give up.”