Tuesday, August 23, 2016
Four years ago, I took down Dinesh D'Souza with my review of his god-awful movie, '2016: Obama's America.' In it, D'Souza hashed together a laughable conspiracy theory regarding Barack Obama's background and intentions. I hated watching it, but I felt it my duty to take one for the team, and then report on it.
Well, one presidential election cycle later, he's back at it. So again, I felt it my duty to go see his latest fantasy film (since I can't call it a "documentary"). Again, I hated almost every minute of it. But I am loyal to my seven readers, and see no reason why you should have to suffer as I did in order to stay informed about what the opposition is saying. Yes, I traveled out to the only theater showing the film locally, way out in Delafield, WI, and there I subjected myself to this foreigner's idiotic bile for a full hour and forty minutes.
This is how much I love you people.
The lies begin before Dinesh even speaks, showing a "disclaimer" reading, "This is a true story. No names were changed to protect the Democratic Party." So right there, you know the kind of fact-free journalism you are about to be exposed to. But then the film veers off on a tangent, which is D'Sousa's usual M.O., detailing his own anecdotal experiences. Except that this time, they are quite fascinating! Because D'Sousa was convicted in 2014 of illegally donating $20,000 to the New York Senate campaign of Wendy Long. His conviction, and his time in jail, marks the opening backdrop to his story.
It's an odd opening, because seldom does a narrator step into scene 1 and say, "I'm a convicted felon. Please take my opinion seriously." But perhaps that is yet another indicator on how wacky this whole election season has been.
D'Souza blames his conviction on persecution by the Obama administration. He claims his earlier movie, which attacked the 44th president, was the reason he was singled out and persecuted for a relatively small crime. He states, "If you make a film attacking the most powerful man in the world, expect the empire to strike back."
The fact that he has no evidence for this doesn't seem to bother him. His lawyer is shown, in what I can only assume is a re-creation of stock footage (because it looks too crisp), arguing that if it was someone other than Dinesh D'Souza there would be no trial. The judge angrily (and rightly) counters that such an argument is baseless, and finds him guilty. It's the right call, and the judge gives a balanced view, justifiably indignant that D'Souza would dare play at a political persecution defense. Dinesh is then seen being led away. His next scenes show him in jail, or what we are meant to think of as jail, having to endure the rough company of heavily muscled criminals, gang leaders and thieves. When he asks his fellow inmates what they're in for, they respond with answers like, "manslaughter," or "I got into a bar fight." One man tells Dinesh that he set someone on fire - and has a demonic gleam in his eye when he says so! (It plays far too well to the camera to be believable.) When these hardened thugs ask D'Souza what he's in for, he says, "I gave too much money to a friend of mine who was running for election," the other inmates, naturally, laugh at him.
But there are several problems with this depiction. For starters, it never happened that way.
D'Souza was never sentenced to actual prison. He was sentenced in May of 2014 to eight months in a halfway house, five years of probation, an hour each week of community service, and psychological counseling. Being in a halfway house must have been traumatic enough for a conservative geek like D'Souza, and some halfway houses are indeed a little like jails, but this was no high-security facility. Dinesh is seen reading all the books he wants, brought through the security check-point with little examination. Maybe it wasn't a country club federal prison, but it was room and board with little danger. His conversations with hardened criminals were probably not with murderers. Most of them were likely petty drug offenders. Maybe there were a few pre-parolees inside who were hard-core thugs, but they would be passing through, unwilling to risk their soon-to-be parole.
Dinesh got off light, and he knew it.
If Barack Obama wanted to target D'Souza for persecution, why give him a halfway house with community service and probation? And since he was given a slap on the wrist, what gall does Dinesh have to play the victim card?
As part of D'Souza's punishment, he is made to undergo psychological counseling. In his own words, Obama wanted to "deprogram" him. If that were actually the goal, then it didn't work so well, did it? And if that were Obama's goal, he surely would have better tools at his disposal, would he not?
This makes little difference to Dinesh, who then proceeds to thoroughly debunk his own claim by talking about what he did for his weekly community service, namely, teach English to immigrants applying to become U.S. citizens.
Why, oh why, would anyone who seriously wanted to "deprogram" a political enemy grant him access to legal immigrants - in a classroom? Even D'Souza admits that it seems like a strange punishment.
Convicted of illegal campaign donations in a post-Citizens'-United-ruling political landscape? Jesus Fucking Christ, how stupid do you have to be to get caught for that one! When millions and even billions of dollars gets thrown into superpacs with no legal blowback whatsoever, how can you be so dumb as to get caught for only $20 grand? It's like getting convicted for marijuana dealing in Colorado!
D'Souza even admits, as his fellow inmates laugh at him, that he feels like a pretty stupid criminal.
One of the more egregious falsehoods is shown during his halfway house scenes. Dinesh is depicted watching the news during his confinement. Hillary Clinton announces her candidacy for president, and the criminals, mostly black with a few Latinos mixed in, all applaud.
This is flat-out bullshit! Dinesh tells a bald-faced lie which can be proven with an examination of the timeline. D'Sousa was convicted in May of 2014. His eight months of time in the halfway house would have expired in January or February of 2015. Hillary did not officially declare her candidacy until April of 2015, meaning that Dinesh could not have been in his halfway house! He was walking free when Hillary made her announcement. And, the announcement wasn't made on the news, if you recall. It was done online! His depiction of criminals applauding Hillary making her announcement on CNN is a complete fabrication!
At this point, D'Souza has lost all credibility. And we're just getting started.
Dinesh is astounded at how thoroughly the Democratic party has infused the prison population he meets. He meets and befriends one chess-playing inmate who describes to him his crime, which involved an insurance con whereby he and a few other thugs would sell insurance to poor and/or elderly souls. Then, these people would "mysteriously" die, and the "sellers" would bilk the insurance payout. In an act of hubris I've seldom seen even from the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Dinesh looks at the camera and makes a thoughtful look as his narrated voice asks, "Where have I heard about something like this before?"
Of course, we're all meant to realize he's talking about Obamacare. It's an accusation every bit as void of truth as it is of substance. The "death panels" accusation regarding the ACA has long been debunked, and the fact that some form of it resurfaces in this film, even in a watered-down and metaphorical form, is truly disgusting.
Dinesh leaves the halfway house determined to get to the bottom of the Democratic Party brand, it's history, and how it relates to minority voters. He wants to know why Hillary has such sway over the black vote.
"I was right about Obama," he says. "Now I have to find out about Hillary."
Oh, no you don't, you son of a bitch! You won't get away with that one! You were not right about Obama! Let's take a good, long look at what you really said!
Early in the film, Dinesh says that he predicted three things about Barack Obama: that he would 1) weaken America's allies and strengthen America's enemies, 2) that he would double the nation's debt, and 3) allow Islam to rise up into a new Caliphate with designs on dominating the world.
No, not quite, Dinesh.
What he actually said was that Obama would try to raise up other nations by weakening America. D'Souza likened this to a story from Obama's book, 'Dreams From My Father,' in which he saw greater roles for Kenya and other third-world nations, and saw American influence as an enemy. I criticized this in my 2012 blog post as accusing Obama of trying to make the world taller by cutting off his feet at the ankles. I was right. Dinesh's prediction was wrong. Strike one.
Dinesh never said that the nation's debt would be doubled by Obama. What he specifically said was that Obama would use debt as a weapon. He said that by ensuring that America had less, other nations would be ensured of having more. But that's not what Obama did. Although the debt did double, it would have quadroupled or octoupled under Bush's rate of spending. Obama reigned it in, bringing America's deficit levels down to nearly nothing. No, we aren't drawing a surplus yet, but we soon will, and that's a credit to Obama's fiscal responsibility. Since D'Souza never specifically predicted that Obama would "double" the national debt, we must rate this as a non-prophecy. And since he also specifically predicted that Obama would use debt as a weapon, driving the deficit up rather than down, we must rate this as a failed prophecy. Strike two.
Finally, Dinesh did not predict that Obama would help give rise to a new Islamic Caliphate with designs on world domination. He did say something very similar, however. He said that Obama's policies would help to bring about a "United States of Arabia," with designs on global power.
Right. Obama helped bring about ISIS. Then bombed it? Which is it? Is Obama a war hawk who wants to bomb the Middle East, or is he a Muslim who wants to rule it? Conservatives can't seem to make up their minds. And Dinesh can't seem to tell the difference between opposing an Islamic State and helping it. Strike three.
And let's not forget other failed predictions. For example, that the United States would bring its stockpiles of nuclear weapons down to zero. That Obama would help Iran get a nuclear weapon. That's strikes four and five, right there!
As the movie begins its post-incarceration phase, Dinesh decides to visit the Democratic National Headquarters in Washington, D.C. to pay a visit to what the Democratic Party is all about. Entering, a pretty college girl behind a desk says to him, "Welcome! Are you a registered Democrat?"
"I'm from Mumbai," he replies, as if that were an answer to her question.
"Oh, wonderful!" she says, and completely abandons her original question to give a practiced pitch for the Democrats, depicting them as the party that is for the rights of the poor and minorities. When Dinesh asks if they've always been this way, she replies, "Oh, yes! Everybody knows that!"
Dinesh begs to differ. On his tour, he sees a prominently displayed portrait of Abraham Lincoln. 'What's he doing here?' he thinks. 'Wasn't Lincoln a Republican? The founder of the Republican party, in fact?'
He then depicts the man he thinks is the true founder of the Democratic Party - Andrew Jackson, our nation's seventh president, and the first president to preside over the newly formed Democratic Party after Thomas Jefferson's Democratic-Republican party split apart.
Andrew Jackson, Dinesh correctly points out, was a slave holder, and a racist. He spends all too much time depicting Jackson's depravities as a man who owned slaves, as if past performance were somehow an indicator of future results. And he bluntly tells his audience about how Jefferson took sexual advantage of his slave women. Then he gives this humdinger of a one-liner: "What is it with Democrats and young women?"
We all know damned well who that one was aimed at. Bill Clinton! But Thomas Jefferson also slept with his slaves, most notably Sally Hemings. That doesn't justify things, but it does prove that the misdeed was notsolely a Democratic Party trait. Besides, Donald Trump has had three wives and any number of mistresses. D'Souza's movie was likely in its post-production phase before the Trump phenomenon grew out of control. Had he seen that one coming, he might have guarded his tongue! And he is one to talk besides! D'Souza also was once a well-publicized philanderer, taking on a married mistress and getting engaged to her while still being a married man himself! The event caused him to swiftly "resign" from his position as president of King's College in New York.
They that live in glass houses...
Dinesh then spends an inordinate time going through the history of the Democratic Party, pointing out one racist atrocity after another. Now, it's true that the Democratic Party was once very friendly toward slavery, and D'Souza is correct to point this out. But he omits one very critical detail.
The Democratic Party was the conservative party back then!
All the racist atrocities, all the horrible things the Democratic Party did in support of slavery, while historically true, were done by conservatives! It wasn't until rather recently that liberals took hold of the Democratic Party, and the Republican Party became the domain of conservatives.
Yes, Lincoln was a Republican. He was also a liberal.
Perhaps this historical quirk is because the Democrats have always been populist, while the Republicans have always been elitist. That much, at least, has not changed. In the 1800's, elitism meant being scholarly, well educated, and prone to the liberal ideas that came from such high status. In modern America, where a college degree is almost ubiquitous, liberal ideology has become populist, while elitism is a wealth-mongerer's idea.
D'Souza shows the atrocities of the Civil War, rightly lionizing Abraham Lincoln, and showing the bloody battles that ensued when North fought South. In these depicted battles, one hears the iconic "Wilhelm scream" often heard in Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, and any other number of films.
D'Souza then makes a whole string of claims that are factually wrong. He implies, citing the congressional voting record of Davey Crockett, that he was a Republican Party anti-slave politician. Not so. He and his family owned slaves in Tennessee. He states that Republicans opposed the legislation which brought about the Cherokee "Trail of Tears." But this is false, as the Republican Party wasn't formed until 1854.
In an unprecedented lie, he states that "No Republican ever owned slaves." This is empirically false, as every Republican congressman from (for example) the state of Kentucky owned slaves between 1854 and 1864!
Dinesh goes so far as depicting the KKK as the military wing of the Democrats. But again, these ancient democrats were conservatives.
Dinesh says that more Republicans voted for the Civil Rights Act in 1964 than Democrats did. But this is also historically false. The Civil Rights Act passed with 199 Democratic votes and 163 Republican votes. But perhaps D'Souza was looking at the percentages. 64% of all Democrats voted for it, while 81% of Republicans voted in favor. Republicans just happened to be a minority in congress at that time.
He claims that Republicans gave women the right to vote. Not quite. In the Senate, women's suffrage passed on a vote of 56 to 25, with 36 Republicans and 20 Democrats voting in favor, and 8 Republicans and 17 Democrats voting against. The Democrats still had many conservatives among their ranks, but it was truly a bipartisan vote.
D'Souza's ghastly film does have one redeeming quality amidst all this falsehood, and that is that it remembers a powerful and righteous woman: Ida B. Wells. Ida Wells was black, a suffragette, a journalist, and a tireless campaigner for black rights. A Republican? You bet. But she was also a liberal - something D'Souza conveniently forgets to mention. It's sad that Ida Wells has had her honorable legacy hijacked by the likes of Dinesh and his truth-twisters, but the fact that more people will learn of this wonderful woman, and the great work she did, is at least one positive.
At the end of 2016: Obama's America, some people actually cheered. But there was no cheering at the conclusion of this film. The audience was even smaller. I had to go well out of my way to even see it. And perhaps part of that is because I saw this much later after its initial release than I did back in 2012. But I have a gut feeling that the real reason is that the elderly conservative bombasters are dying off. I feel what isn't dying off is skulking away in shame at the prospect of a Trump presidency. And I feel that this film, twice as neurotic as its predecessor from four years prior, is one which made too many factual mistakes for even die-hard conservatives to stand by it.
Saturday, August 20, 2016
It's winding down. I'm running out of Hillary "scandals" to write about. And while it might be tempting for my opponents to point out the sheer number of such items I've had to write about, and conclude that with so much accusation there must be some truth to it, I must point out that Hillary has been in the public eye a very long time. Arguing that so much purported scandal must mean an actual scandal must exist by law of averages is tantamount to arguing that an incredibly large pile of bullshit must mean there's a bull nearby. In the world of politics, where smokescreens are so common nobody can remember a clear day anymore, it is ludicrous to say, 'where there's smoke there's fire.' No, it's all smoke, and it's being blown up our kilts.
Today, we're taking a look at Hillary's voting record, and I'm not at all surprised that nobody's attacked her more on this. On the political Right, Hillary is the most socialistic candidate the Democratic party has ever had, with the exception perhaps of Bernie Sanders, who actually is a socialist. On the disappointed Bernie side, Hillary votes along with the Republicans, and is practically a Republican herself.
Obviously, somebody is wrong here.
So who's right, here? Is Hillary a virtual Republican or is she Bernie Sanders Lite?
For a basis of comparison, let's look at the two years Hillary and Bernie shared time in the Senate. Bernie Sanders was first elected to the Senate in 2006, and Hillary resigned the Senate on July 29, 2009, to serve as Secretary of State under Barack Obama. Over the two year period these two were on the same Senate floor, Hillary and Bernie voted exactly the same way 97% of the time, according to an article in the New York Times. You can read that New York Times article here. Only 37 times did Hillary and Bernie vote differently, and the Times gives an outstanding breakdown of the differences, and the different reasons each had.
That enough should silence critics who say Hillary is a virtual Republican. But there are six years leading up to that point to account for also. How did she fare on those votes?
It's impossible to adequately represent eight years in the Senate with a single blog post, but Roll Call did an excellent synopsis back on April 28, 2016. You can read that entire article here. In a nutshell, she gave 2364 roll call votes during her tenure revealing a center-left and only slightly hawkish voting record. Her time there precisely overlapped with the presidency of George W. Bush. Of the 511 Senate proposals Bush 43 gave to the Senate, Hillary went along with 252 of them, or about 49% of the time. Most of those votes were for continuation of the government budget, or some other procedural common-sense measure.
Disagreeing with a Republican president more than half the time is not, by definition, "as good as Republican."
What about her most notorious vote? To engage in the Iraq war?
I dealt with that one in an earlier blog post. But to recap, nobody in the Senate thought at the time that it was truly a vote for war. They thought that it was a vote to give Bush 43 the authority to engage in war if Saddam Hussein did not acquiesce to U.N. demands.
It was only when the bombs started falling literally hours afterward that she, and many others, realized that they had been duped.
But what about the BAPCPA? Hillary voted for that, didn't she?
Well, not quite. Many who followed the story of the BAPCPA (that's the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act) know about how Elizabeth Warren, then a Harvard Professor, was outraged at how that bill in particular would hurt working families who needed bankruptcy protection in order to get a fresh start. In particular, denying bankruptcy protection for student loan debt and divorced single mothers was particularly egregious. When the bill first came up for a vote, she met with Hillary Clinton and explained to her in detail how the bill would be so very damaging for so many at the end of their financial rope.
"Professor Warren," Hillary told her, "We've got to stop that awful bill."
Sure enough, largely with Hillary's help, Bill Clinton vetoed the BAPCPA bill in late 2000.
But it wasn't over. The bill came up for a vote again in 2001. Elizabeth Warren began to realize that this was a battle she and other social justice warriors would have to fight over and over again. But this time, Hillary was a Senator. Surely, she would vote against the bill, wouldn't she?
She voted for it! Elizabeth Warren felt betrayed, and said so in her book, "The Two Income Trap," and in interviews with the media, many of which got repeatedly shared on social media by Bernie Sanders supporters in 2015 and 2016.
What on earth happened?
The details of Hillary's vote pertain primarily to Hillary fighting to get one provision removed from the bill. She, like Elizabeth Warren, were driven to blood-boiling rage at the notion of single mothers being unable to collect child support after filing for bankruptcy. So Hillary fought hard to get that thrown out of the bill. She succeeded, but was told by other Senators that she now had to support the bill because it was considered bad form to oppose a bill you yourself had edited. Had Hillary known how Republicans would later abandon Obama's Affordable Care Act after getting nearly all of their revisions put in place, she would have rejected this line of thinking. But at the time, there was still something resembling chivalry in the Senate, and Hillary voted for the bill, hoping to keep the revision she had worked for intact, at least. In other words, allow the bill that would keep coming up for a vote over and over again (as Warren had also realized) to finally pass, but in a watered-down form so that it wouldn't do as much damage.
The bill failed. Teddy Kennedy and others pulled off a brilliant provision. Republicans wanted opponents of abortion clinics to be protected from bankruptcy if driven to it by legal costs. Kennedy and others fought to have abortion doctors protected as well. A true culture-war fight was brewing. It was a beautifully engineered poisoned pill! Eventually, Republicans realized they weren't going to have the votes with the added provision. Rather than get into a huge fight over it, they scuttled the bill and let it die.
The bill came up for a vote again in 2005, and this time it passed. But Hillary was not there. She was with her husband Bill, who was in the hospital with a heart ailment.
So, Hillary didn't like the BAPCPA, and fought against it, but found herself pigeonholed in her first Senate vote regarding it. One wonders how she would have voted on the final version which did finally pass. Very likely, she would have vigorously opposed it, and not just provisionally. She'd learned her lesson in 2001. And that hard lesson wasn't the flip-flop Elizabeth Warren thought it was.
Now, Warren has endorsed Hillary. No, she was not betraying the Left. She was doing the responsible thing. She held off as a result of the 2001 vote, but in the end, she not only endorsed, she did so enthusiastically.
So that's my take on Hillary's voting record. No, she isn't the equivalent of a Republican. No, she isn't a complete Socialist. The answer is in between. She is center-left, and only slightly hawkish in certain specific situations.
Even her most adamant critics describe Hillary as a policy wonk. She will always put families first, and she is not above getting dirty to get the job done right. She got burned in 2001 twice with both the Iraq vote and BAPCPA. But she has always came through.
I believe she will do so again.
Wednesday, August 17, 2016
When people attack Hillary with claims of corruption, one of the more entertaining names that gets tossed about is Peter F. Paul.
Peter Paul. Quite a name, isn't it? The two leading saints of the Bible. It's the sort of thing that makes it impossible to forget. It's even the name of a candy company that was acquired by Hershey. Remember Mounds? Almond Joy? York Peppermint Patties? All produced by Peter Paul. You just can't forget a name like that.
Which is why it's amazing so many seemingly have. Who is this guy, Peter Paul, anyway?
Peter F. Paul is the type of guy who has proven himself to be a remarkably smooth talker. Time and again he's been able to talk his way out of people looking at his questionable resume and then talk his way into ingratiating himself among individuals of power in politics and Hollywood.
Perhaps it began with his coffee caper. In the 1970's, Paul was an up-and-coming lawyer representing South American and Caribbean governments in the Miami legal system. On the side, he was a businessman, operating the largest mercantile section of the Miami Free Zone. He was European educated, multi-lingual, and developed good relations with business and political leaders in Latin America. Then, he got caught up in the anti-Cuban political movement. In an act of extreme hubris, he cooked up a plan to sell agents of the Cuban government a shipment of coffee which he would ostensibly smuggle in past the trade embargo. But Paul had no intention of ever delivering the goods. Instead, he would keep the $8.75 million, and then have the ship deliberately sunk before it made port in Havana. He gets millions, Castro suffers, everybody wins, right? Plus, having the ship sink also meant he could collect on the insurance money. It would be three-times the cash-in!
Well, it didn't work. The mercenaries Paul had hired to sink the ship were prevented from boarding in Santo Domingo because he had neglected to bribe the port official there. The coffee boat arrived in Cuba, very much afloat, and very much empty of coffee. The jig was up!
Peter Paul plead guilty to conspiracy charges. When his Miami home was searched by police in connection with that crime, they found cocaine in his garage. Peter Paul claimed it was planted, but the authorities didn't buy it. (Neither do I. Nobody gets the kinds of Latin connections he does without dealing with the drug trade.) He plead guilty to possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, and he was sent to Federal prison. He managed to get himself paroled after only three years, but then attempted to cross into Canada using a stolen passport, and got sent back to jail.
And here's where Peter Paul's story gets really weird. After being released from jail, he moved to Los Angeles in 1985, and almost immediately became the appointed President of the California Bicentennial Foundation for the Constitution and Bill of Rights, a foundation designated by the California state legislature and governor to direct California's role in the Bicentennial celebration of the Constitution and Bill of Rights! Most ex-cons are lucky just to get a job at all, but this guy gets named to a major California government job while his orange jumpsuit was still warm? It seems odd, and I can only guess it had something to do with the political connections he'd made during his tenure in Miami.
Well, it all blew up in his face again. The foundation he was put in charge of sold a commemorative book with a Ben Franklin inspired character, garishly named "Ben Bison-tennial Franklin." The book also described blacks as "pickaninnies," and declared slave owners to be "the worst victims of slavery." Well, that went over like a lead balloon with the Los Angeles Times, who lambasted him, and the governor's office for putting such a skunk in charge of something so culturally important. The L.A. Times article made him look like a fool. But Paul was not fired.
In fact, Paul seems to have ingratiated himself primarily with Republicans, and his actions indicate someone of a conservative bend. His failed swindle of Fidel Castro's Cuba is exactly the sort of thing a radicalized capitalist would want to do to a communist leader. The Arminian-descended Republican, George Deukmejian, was the governor of California when Peter Paul coaxed his way into the political scene there, and many of the other contacts he's made over the years have been die-hard Republicans.
Peter Paul seems to have spent the next decade ingratiating himself among Californian politicos and the Hollywood elite. Ever the businessman as well as the lawyer, he managed to ingratiate himself in many big-name affairs. In 1989 he helped actor Jimmy Stewart start the American Spirit Foundation, an organization designed to "enlist the entertainment industry's leadership, creativity and resources in developing and applying creative solutions to critical challenges facing America." Jimmy Stewart served as honorary chairman of the foundation until 1990. Then, Stan Lee, the founding father of Marvel Comics, became the chairman, serving until 1997. This association with Stan would become Peter Paul's biggest achievement, guaranteeing him a place among Hollywood's A-list. He co-agented several celebrity books. He helped found an art gallery in Beverly Hills called Galerie Tatou. That art gallery did a showing of the photographic art of Charleton Heston's wife, Lydia, further ingratiating himself among the conservatives of California. In an odd twist, he helped agent the career of model Fabio Lanzoni, known better simply as Fabio. Under Paul's guidance, Fabio became the most well-known romance novel cover model, and did a series of commercials for 'I Can't Believe It's Not Butter.' It seemed that Peter Paul was one of Hollywood's permanent insiders.
In 1998, Marvel Comics decided it could live without Stan Lee, and let him go. Peter Paul smelled an opportunity. He persuaded his old American Spirit Foundation buddy Stan to go along with him in creating a new enterprise called Stan Lee Media. It emphasized online content and creation and, for a brief time during the Internet boom-era, surpassed even Disney and Warner Brothers in online animation. It was Stan Lee's hope that the company could buy out Marvel Comics someday.
Right about this same time (1999 into early 2000), Paul broke from his usual Republican political affiliations and began fundraising for Hillary Clinton's senate campaign. (Here's where the anti-Hillary people jump in.) Using at least in part some of the substantial income he'd suddenly gotten through Stan Lee Media, he emerged as Hillary Clinton's biggest campaign contributor. The hope on his part was to have Bill Clinton join the board of Stan Lee Media and thus add much needed clout - and the money that goes with that clout - to the company's profile. He then held a large fundraiser as both a celebration of the exiting Bill Clinton and a fundraiser for Hillary's run for senate. The event cost roughly $2 million to organize, and Paul spent about $1.2 million of his own money on it.
Why did Peter Paul break from his usual Republican hobnobbing? Well, part of it may have had to do with the fact that the exiting president Clinton just happened to be a Democrat, and business comes before politics. Perhaps he decided that his fortunes would be improved by greasing palms on both sides of the aisle, as many other wealthy patrons do. Or maybe he just wanted to be the elite Hollywood guy, and Hollywood people generally lean towards the left. Who knows?
Whatever his motives, it all blew up in his face again. Two days after the fundraising gala celebration, the Washington Post exposed Peter Paul's past convictions, and the whole shebang became tarnished. Hillary disavowed anything to do with Peter Paul and returned his personal contributions (but not those from the fundraiser gala). Paul alleged later that she lied and denied ever knowing Peter Paul. But there is no evidence to support this. Hillary was pretty much in the clear.
But Peter Paul was not. After investing so much of his own money in throwing the Clintons their fundraiser party, the dot com bubble burst. Stan Lee Media, already heavily in debt, lost millions of dollars and suddenly had no money left to repay its loans. And with Paul's reputation sullied, he lost his big investors with no hope of ever gaining their trust back. Desperate not to lose it all, he conspired with fellow corporate officer Stephen Gordon to buy up 1.6 million shares of Stan Lee Media through nominee accounts, thus artificially inflating the stock price of Stan Lee Media. Gordon paid for this through a check-kiting scheme. Peter Paul undoubtedly knew about this, but didn't care. It was all slipping away, and he'd hit the panic button.
It didn't work. The company collapsed and filed for bankruptcy in February of 2001. Stan Lee, finally seeing Peter Paul for who he really was, moved his business interests and copyrighted characters over to POW! Entertainment, where they remain to this day. (Lee has severed all ties with Peter Paul and Stan Lee Media.) Leading up to the bankruptcy filing, Peter Paul saw the handwriting on the wall. He'd participated in a scheme to artificially manipulate the price of his company's stock, and that meant that he would soon go from being a three-time felon to being a four-time felon. He would go to any lengths to avoid that!
In fact, the lengths he went to stretched all the way to Sao Paulo, Brasil, where he fled. It was a logical choice for him. Sao Paolo was a hub for the Latin business and political contacts he had made back in Miami, and there he could begom legal fights to wrangle the rights to Marvel Comics characters away from Stan Lee. He could also rebuild his political and business portfolio.
But he was in exile, and he knew it. Sooner or later, he would face extradition and trial. How could he turn things around? How could he regain his footing and win back his standing in American politics and the entertainment business?
The answer was obvious! Blame the Clintons!
It was the clear move. The Clintons were universally and irationally hated by everyone on the political right. His old conservative connections would rally to him. There was a Republican in the White House as of January 2001. Surely, he could gain the support of a few Republican senators? Maybe even garner himself a presidential pardon someday?
Even before Paul fled to Brasil, he began to put the anti-Clinton card into play. He blamed Bill Clinton for persuading his number one investor, the Japanese businessman Tendo Oto, to abandon Stan Lee Media. He said the loss of that investor led to the downfall of the company. In truth, the Washington Post article which disclosed Peter Paul's shady past is probably what did that, and even in the unlikely event that Bill's influence was the reason, one does not lose a business with Stan Lee's name on it by losing only one investor! Peter Paul lost nearly all of his investors, and he did so thanks to his shady past. Had he simply come clean, apologized for his long-ago wrongdoings, and asked his investors to judge him by his more recent upstanding performances, he could have won some or even most of them back. Instead he played the Republican blame-game, and lost everything.
For the most part, it didn't work. After fleeing to Brazil, he was charged with securities fraud, as expected. Subsequently, he filed suit against the Clintons for various things, such as accepting illegal campaign contributions. This didn't pan out well, because a later audit was done by the FEC regarding Clinton's funding related to the Hollywood gala event, and found no wrongdoing. On top of this, Paul's lawsuits against the Clintons could not go forward because of his status as a fugitive. In other word's he couldn't flee American law and file suit via American law at the same time.
Peter Paul was eventually arrested in Sao Paulo and thrown in jail. His account of this is harrowing, as Brazilian jails are not the luxury hotels they are by comparison in the States. He eventually plead guilty to securities fraud, and reached a settlement to related charges. He could never run a company again. He spent the next four years under house arrest.
But remember, I said that his plan to blame the Clintons failed "for the most part." It did, as he undoubtedly expected, galvanize the Republican base. The conservative watchdog organization, Judicial Watch, represented his initial lawsuits against the Clintons when he first fled to Sao Paulo. But later, he claimed that Judicial Watch exploited his situation to drum up anti-Clinton sentiment for money raising purposes, leaving his cause in the lurch. He vowed to continue the fight with other Republican lawyers, which he did. But Judicial Watch accomplished its main goal: continuing the character assault against Bill and Hillary Clinton.
Years later, Peter Paul has accomplished nothing legally against the Clintons. Every lawsuit he has brought against them has failed. Every federal investigation into any misdeeds regarding Hillary's finances during her 2000 Senate run has found no wrongdoing. But this doesn't matter. Peter Paul has continued to blame the Clintons mercilessly. Why? Because he knows that this is his only way back in. This is the only way he can rebuild his life. He must tear down Bill and Hillary and hope enough people buy his bullshit that he can again become a big shot among the movers and shakers of the entertainment and political spheres.
He has re-filed his lawsuits against the Clintons on numerous occasions. They continuously fail. So he has taken to the Internet to defame them using propaganda videos instead. "Hillary Exposed: The Case of Paul v. Clinton," is one such video. But it contains very little in the way of truth. Desperate to gain any real traction for his story, he claimed in a 2008 blog post that none other than Stan Lee had helped him cover up some of his illegal donations to Hillary's year 2000 Senate campaign. Stan Lee responded to this by suing Peter Paul for defamation. I don't blame him. How dare Paul sully the name of a comic book giant just to score cheap political points!
Many people, anxious to believe anything negative about the Clintons, buy into Peter Paul's story. But this man has spent years lying, cajoling, cheating, and doing whatever he could to get ahead. He is the classic silver-tongued devil, a professional liar and a Shylock. We have seen his like before, and we know to steer well clear of people like him.
I suggest we do so again.
Wednesday, August 10, 2016
In a surprising turn of events, Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber announced to the world they had gotten married in a private ceremony in Massachusetts, according to a press release on Tuesday.
“It’s official,” Larry told reporters over the phone. “We’ve worked together for years, and we’ve denied our self-identity for years. Now we get to share it with the world. We’re a couple of fruits!”
Two years ago, as was first reported on this blog, Bob the Tomato came out of the closet as a fruit. At the time, his longtime associate and business partner Larry insisted that he was still a vegetable and that he was dismayed at Bob’s announcement. Now, it appears that the Veggie Tales duo have been acting out more than just Bible lessons.
Not everyone is pleased at the news. Creflo Cabbage, the founder and president of Christians for the Culinary Arts, expressed his disapproval in an interview this morning on ‘Good Morning, Garden!’
“It’s an outrage!” he said. “This is the Veggie Tales, we’re talking about. They’re veggies! They’ve always been veggies! How the liberal left could have brainwashed both of these leaders of the Faith into thinking they’re a pair of fruits, I’ll never know.”
But Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson Chicken disagrees. “Actually, tomatoes and cucumbers are indeed scientifically classified as fruits,” he said in an interview on Meet the Garlic Press, “along with pumpkins, squash, zucchinis, and eggplants. They simply lack the sugars traditionally associated with fruit.”
Big Idea Productions, the company behind the Veggie Tales franchise, has been working over the last two years with a look-alike actor to replace the original Bob Tomato. Christian kids don’t seem to have noticed the slight difference in Bob’s voice, and have no clue that there was a recent shake-up. One might assume a similar action will be taken now that Larry the Cucumber has outed himself as well, and Big Idea is forced to protect its religious franchise. Officials there did not return this blog’s messages.
When the newly married Bob and Larry were asked about the latest gay rights hot-button topic, namely gendered bathrooms, they both laughed.
“It’s a made-up issue,” said Larry.
“Yeah,” agreed Bob. “I mean, we’re not going to go into the veggie bathrooms and, I dunno, stalk the celery.”
“Or bob the apples,” Larry added.
Wednesday, August 3, 2016
Rajiv Fernando? Who is that? How does he relate to Hillary? And how the hell does one get an Indian first name and a Hispanic last name?
Well, I'm not going to go into that last part, but many people have questions about Raj Fernando and his relationship to the Clintons. Here's the story:
Raj Fernando is a businessman, securities trader and philanthropist. He's basically a financial and computer geek, and as a result of his success he's raised money for all sorts of causes from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra to no-kill animal shelters. But he's also raised a substantial amount of money for politicians, and particularly the Clintons, and that is what makes the story about him so sexy with the press.
In 2009, Fernando was appointed to the International Security Advisory Board (ISAB), an agency of the State Department which advises regarding all aspects of arms control, including containing nuclear proliferation, international security, and sensitive diplomacy. As an advisory panel, it has no real power, but the people on the board are usually people with extensive backgrounds in sensitive security matters relating to CBR warfare (chemical, biological, radiological). Former ambassadors, retired congress members, high-ranking military types and nuclear scientists tended to be the usual fare among this group. They nearly always had current or former security clearances. So this "techaccountant" getting appointed to the board raised a few eyebrows. Ostensibly, he was appointed for his expertise in cyber-security. In reality, it looked a lot like favor-trading.
Well, ABC News decided to run an expose on the guy in August of 2011. (You can see the full news story here, but it also contains "revelations about drone strikes" that proved to be nothing, so the story is a bit out of date. Just be warned.) They asked how Raj Fernando got named onto the board. He resigned almost immediately afterward. Over a year later, ABC confronted Fernando about his now-irrelevant appointment. He was clearly startled by the sudden appearance of news reporters asking about something long dead. Clearly, he was used to nobody knowing who he even was. "How do you know my name?" was his very telling knee-jerk response to the questioning. Then he ran away.
I don't blame him. And honestly, I really hate this sort of "gotcha" journalism. It's cheap, and it's unprofessional. But the story does smell a little bit fishy. It makes critics think that Mr. Fernando got named to the ISAB simply because he gave a lot of money. Could this be true?
I find Fernando's appointment odd, yes. But I would find it a little bit more odd if the ISAB would remain under-represented in knowing how terrorists could use the Internet for spying or obtaining a nuclear weapon, as well as how terror cells could move large amounts of money through securities exchanges. Both of these are areas of expertise that Fernando clearly had. So yes, there was solid reason for naming him on the board.
If one looks at the official page for the ISAB, one can see present and former members. Raj Fernando is not even named as a former member. It also does not name any successor. So perhaps the ISAB doesn't think much about him in retrospect. Or perhaps cyber-terrorism experts are kept anonymous because it makes no sense to advertise such valuable people and make them targets of terrorism as well. You can draw your own conclusions.
Also, if this is favor-trading, where are all the other big Clinton donors in government committees? Surely, ABC News could find more than one, couldn't they? And having found one, they must have gone looking for more. Where are they?
Understanding that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, it's still a fair question.
But why was Raj Fernando named to the ISAB? Was it the money he gave to Hillary? Well, ABC News again provides an answer:
“The true answer is simply that S staff (Cheryl Mills) added him,” wrote Wade Boese, who was Chief of Staff for the Office of the Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, in an email to [Jamie] Mannina, the press aide. “Raj was not on the list sent to S; he was added at their insistence.”
This appears to say that Hillary's staffers insisted that Fernando be included. And why was that? Well, apparently he talked his way into it with them, as reported by at least one D.C. news source. One of the emails that has surfaced as a result of the recent leak has Raj Fernando telling Hillary's top aide, Huma Abedin:
“In addition to my previous experiences listed in my resume, I have been meeting with professors from Northwestern, University of Chicago and Yale for the past 6 months. I know I will be able to hold my own and be valued contributor to this board. I promise I will make the secretary look good.”
I don't know what this says to you, but to me, it says that Raj was a smoothie. It's probably one of the things that made him so successful at business and securities trading.
Look, people get named to government committee jobs as a result of donating large sums of money all the time. But this doesn't appear to be one of those instances. Raj clearly had something to contribute to such a sensitive security advisory board, namely the ability to make them smarter in regards to how terrorists might move money and use the Internet to their own ends. He was a nobody at first, but he learned quickly enough to not cause any concern that warranted attention. Not, at least, until ABC News came snooping around, and he decided to quit rather than be a dead-weight. But no dead horse goes unbeaten these days, so ABC News dredged it up again in 2012, and have dredged it up again in 2016.
I don't think Rajiv Fernando got his appointment to the ISAB because he gave a lot of money. But I DO think he got his chance to talk his way onto the board by giving a lot of money! It's not how good you are, it's who you know. And Raj's financial power got him to know a lot of people. He met with Hillary's staffers repeatedly, and then eyed a job that few outsiders ever get a chance to bid for.
It worked. Hillary's staffers wanted Raj on the board. So he got on the board. Don't blame Hillary, it was Cheryl Mills.
And it's not like Fernando hasn't had similar positions to the one he had with the ISAB. He has also held memberships on other national security boards, including the board of directors for the American Security Project, the Foreign Policy Leadership Committee at the Brookings Institution and the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. Now, I was unable to find whether he held these positions before his appointment to the ISAB or not. Some have suggested on Reddit that he held at least one of these positions beforehand, which would give him more expertise to lend than merely his financial and cyber-security prowess. But I think it's far more likely that he parlayed his ISAB experience into these other positions. Not even ABC News would have overlooked such positions if he'd held them prior to being named to the International Security Advisory Board.
Hillary-haters will not be content to blame her staffers for the scandal. They will want to paint her as the mastermind behind it. But between plotting the socialization of the United States and working to overturn the second amendment, when on earth would she find time to bother with some appointment to a security advisory panel with no real power?
My determination is, she didn't.
Monday, August 1, 2016
I am continuing my quest to debunk old Hillary myths, and one of the more interesting ones is the charge of Hillary's corruption involving the Whitewater affair. Now, the charge of corruption relating to Whitewater isn't new. In fact, it's never left the lips of Republicans for nearly a quarter of a century. What's new is how many people have lately been citing Whitewater as an example of Hillary's corruption when knowing next to nothing about it. Hell, people who lived and breathed political news in the mid-1990's knew almost nothing about why the Whitewater affair was so damned important.
So how can younger people a full generation later truly understand what the implications were?
Just what the hell was the big deal with Whitewater, anyway?
Several government investigations led by Republicans and dozens of books have scarcely made much sense of the Whitewater affair. But I will do my best to boil everything down into a nice, digestible blog post.
The whole thing began back in 1978, when Bill and Hillary Clinton began a business deal with their friends Jim and Susan McDougal to borrow some money and buy up some undeveloped land along the White River near Flippin, Arkansas. They would then turn it into subdivided vacation homes for snowbirds from cities in the upper Midwest who wanted to escape the winter snow and live seasonally where they could enjoy the warmer weather by rafting and canoeing. The project incorporated in 1979.
It went bust. Inflation rates increased, and interest rates soared to 20 percent. People could not afford to buy seasonal homes. So instead, the Clintons and McDougals decided to build one model home and wait for investment conditions to improve. They never did, at least not in time. Jim McDougal went into banking and set up Madison Guarantee Savings and Loan. But he was unscrupulous about his dealings, and eventually his investments went bust during the Savings and Loan crisis of the early 80's. The Clintons lost somewhere between $39,000 and $69,000 on their investment.
So, the Clintons played the real estate game and lost. Big deal, right?
Well, not exactly. On March 8, 1992, the New York Times published the story as told by Jim McDougal, who felt he had borne the brunt of the financial and legal fallout unfairly. Republicans began to smell an opportunity. Jim McDougal's savings and loan business was represented by the Rose Law Firm, where Hillary worked? Could be conflict of interest, there. Did state regulators in Arkansas let regulations slide in exchange for campaign funds from the McDougals? Did the Clintons properly pay taxes on the Whitewater investment business? The sharks began circling.
Then Vincent Foster committed suicide, and the scandal had a dead body to go along with it. Now, I already dealt with the suicide in a previous blog post, so I won't go into detail about how we know he truly did kill himself and why. But I will simply say that the event was a flashpoint with the media and the Republican opposition. From that point on, the Republicans would vice-lock themselves onto Whitewater like the jaws of a pit bull.
What followed was a complete mess that is utterly impossible to keep track of. Special prosecutor Robert Fiske and Whitewater Special Investigator Kenneth Starr both led investigations which cleared the Clintons. The Starr Report, in particular, laid out the facts for the Whitewater affair and several other scandals besides, including the incident where Bill Clinton couldn't keep it in his pants with Monica Lewinsky. For brevity, I will only deal with the aspects of Whitewater which pertain to Hillary Clinton. There are only two items.
First, was it a conflict of interest for the Rose Law Firm to represent the Whitewater Development Corp. when Hillary was an employee of that law firm? No. Because other attorneys handled that particular case, and Hillary was assigned other duties. Yes, one is taught in law school that it is the appearance of conflict of interest rather than actual conflict of interest which should be avoided. But this is a legal grey area, and this particular loophole was and is often used.
Documents pertaining to the Rose Law Firm mysteriously re-appeared in the Clinton's private residence two years into the investigation. Was Hillary being honest when she said that they were simply misplaced? The Star Report says yes. And before anyone rolls their eyes at this, bear in mind that the files were hideously disorganized. Many papers were filed haphazardly, and it is therefore not surprising that relevant legal documents turned up in the wrong box.
And regarding Hillary, that was about it. The most damning thing against Bill, besides his affairs, was the allegation that he pressured a man named David Hale into making an illegal loan of $300,000 to the Whitewater Corp. That turned out to be a lie. Hale was convicted of the illegal $300,000 loan, and Bill Clinton was never charged by Kenneth Starr.
That's really about it. Oh, lots of twists and turns happened between 1992 and 1998 regarding the Whitewater affair, but there are entire books dealing with that subject. The bottom line was that, after millions of wasted taxpayer dollars on a witch hunt against Bill and Hillary Clinton, no major indictments took place. Bill was brought up for a vote of impeachment for perjuring himself about his affair with Monica Lewinsky, but that vote was defeated. For most representatives in Congress, just having an impeachment proceeding brought up was enough.
What we cannot forget is that for Hillary, Whitewater was one of her shining moments! When the scandal was beginning to grow out of control, she held a marathon press conference at the White House beneath a portrait of Abraham Lincoln. It was April 22, 1994. She sat in front of the entire press corps, and challenged them all to ask her anything at all about the Whitewater business venture. She held her own, under fire, for over an hour, refusing to leave until all press questions were answered.
They were. They had all their questions answered, and then some! It was a truly golden moment where a woman stood up for herself and was heard loud and clear. Glass ceilings shattered that day. You can see the entire press conference here. It is perhaps THE moment when buzz of Hillary being a better potential president than her husband first began.
She did it again in January 26, 1996 when she testified before a grand jury regarding her investments in Whitewater. It was the first time a first lady had ever testified before a grand jury. Again, she held her own, keeping poised when constantly under fire.
You see, when critics say, "Whitewater!" they want you to think: "Hillary = scandal!" But the actual truth is that Whitewater is when Hillary was at her best, her brightest, and her most poised! When the special investigation into the Whitewater affair turned its attention to Bill Clinton's affair in the Oval Office, Hillary's approval ratings soared as the victim of a philandering husband.
The word "Whitewater" shouldn't be considered a scandal as far as Hillary is concerned! It should be worn like a badge of honor by every Hillary supporter out there!
But it probably won't be. I, for one, would be more than happy if the word were simply not tossed out there as though the accusation meant anything.
Thursday, July 28, 2016
In honor of both the nomination of the first major-party female presidential candidate to be nominated, and in simultaneous commemoration of the 45th anniversary of the Weeble toy, Hasbro is proudly releasing a commemorative collectors' edition of the Hillary Clinton Weeble, according to a press statement made late this afternoon.
Brian Goldner, President and CEO of Hasbro, stood proudly beside President of Hasbro Brands John Frascotti as the new Weeble Toy was presented to the press.
"We thought it was both appropriate and profound," said Brian Goldner. "Weebles wobble, but they don't fall down, as the old commercials used to say. And that's just like Hillary. You can knock her down and knock her down, but she always bobs right back up again!"
"Plus, if you're of a conservative mindset, you can just keep hitting her," added Frascotti.
"The toy, you mean," Goldner corrected.
"Yeah, the toy," said Frascotti.
Hasbro first released the egg-shaped Weeble Toy on July 23, 2971. It was marketed under their "Romper Room" brand. Because the "egg" is weighted on the bottom, the toy always pops back up when knocked over, and wobbles back and forth afterward. Weeble People have ranged from generic men and women to animals and celebrities of all sorts, and have delighted generations of children.
Hasbro wanted to do the release on the 45th anniversary of the toy, but had to wait for Hillary to officially accept her party's nomination first.
"It's a remarkable moment," said Goldner. "Chelsea probably played with Weeble toys when she was a kid, and now her mother is one!"
"She's also a history making presidential candidate," Frascotti pointed out.
"Yeah, that too," said Goldner.
When asked whether Hasbro was considering releasing a version of a classic children's toy, John Frascotti didn't hesitate in his answer.
"Silly Putty," he told reporters. "Without a doubt, Donald Trump is definitely Silly Putty."
"We'll get back to you about that," interrupted Goldner.