Monday, May 7, 2018

Another #MeToo Moment For America

A sobering reminder tonight that it's not just high-profile Republicans who have been exposed by reporting and the #MeToo movemnet, but multiple Democrats and Democratic party donors as well.  

Of course, Harvey Weinstein was the tip of the iceberg, and Minnesota Sen. Al Franken resigned in disgrace, but it seems overdue justice has now come for New York's Attorney General, Eric Schniederman.

At least four women have come forward detailing physical sexual assault by Schniederman. He claims it was consensual roleplay, but what the women coming forward to Ronan Farrow and the New Yorker are describing is nothing short of sadism, and there was nothing consensual about it.

Manning Barish says that she fell quickly for Schneiderman and was happy to be involved with someone who seemed to share her progressive idealism and enjoy her feistiness. Page Six chronicled the romance, calling her a “ravishing redhead” and noting that, at a fund-raiser, the television producer Norman Lear had introduced her as Schneiderman’s “bride-to-be.”

But Manning Barish began to see signs of controlling and abusive behavior. Soon after she started dating Schneiderman, he told her to remove a small tattoo from her wrist; it wasn’t appropriate, he said, if she were to become the wife of a politician. The process of having it removed was painful and expensive. In retrospect, she says, it was the first step in trying to control her body. “Taking a strong woman and tearing her to pieces is his jam,” she says.

About four weeks after they became physically involved, she says, Schneiderman grew violent. One night, they were in the bedroom of his Upper West Side apartment, still clothed but getting ready for bed, and lightly baiting each other. As she recalls it, he called her “a whore,” and she talked back. They had both been drinking, and her recollection of their conversation is blurry, but what happened next remains vivid. Schneiderman, she says, backed her up to the edge of his bed. “All of a sudden, he just slapped me, open-handed and with great force, across the face, landing the blow directly onto my ear,” Manning Barish says. “It was horrendous. It just came out of nowhere. My ear was ringing. I lost my balance and fell backward onto the bed. I sprang up, but at this point there was very little room between the bed and him. I got up to try to shove him back, or take a swing, and he pushed me back down. He then used his body weight to hold me down, and he began to choke me. The choking was very hard. It was really bad. I kicked. In every fibre, I felt I was being beaten by a man.”
She finally freed herself and got back on her feet. “I was crying and in shock,” she says. She recalls shouting, “Are you crazy?” To her astonishment, Schneiderman accused her of scratching him. At one point—she can’t remember if it was at this moment or in a later conversation—he told her, “You know, hitting an officer of the law is a felony.”

After the incident, Manning Barish left the apartment, telling him that she would never come back. “I want to make it absolutely clear,” she says. “This was under no circumstances a sex game gone wrong. This did not happen while we were having sex. I was fully dressed and remained that way. It was completely unexpected and shocking. I did not consent to physical assault.”

Again, two of the four women are 100% going on record with their identities to accuse Schneiderman, and their storeis are very similar.  Schnierderman would hit women because he believed they liked it.

Tanya Selvaratnam is the author of “The Big Lie: Motherhood, Feminism, and the Reality of the Biological Clock,” which explores infertility issues; she is also an actor and a film producer, as well as a supporter of feminist and progressive social causes. She, too, is divorced. In 2016, she attended the Democratic National Convention, in Philadelphia, where Schneiderman introduced himself to her. She says that their first encounter felt “like kismet.” They had both gone to Harvard: she as an undergraduate and a graduate student, he as a law student. She was impressed when he expressed an interest in meditation and Buddhism. They had both studied Chinese, and, when he asked, in Mandarin, if she spoke the language, she answered, “Wo shuo keshi bu tai liuli”—“Yes, but not fluently.”

They began dating, and appeared to be a happy couple. Selvaratnam all but lived in his apartment, attending political functions and dinners with his friends and donors, and brainstorming with him on speeches and projects. But, as she puts it, “it was a fairy tale that became a nightmare.” Although Schneiderman often doted on her, he demanded that she spend more and more time with him, and he began physically abusing her in bed. “The slaps started after we’d gotten to know each other,” she recalls. “It was at first as if he were testing me. Then it got stronger and harder.” Selvaratnam says, “It wasn’t consensual. This wasn’t sexual playacting. This was abusive, demeaning, threatening behavior.”

When Schneiderman was violent, he often made sexual demands. “He was obsessed with having a threesome, and said it was my job to find a woman,” she says. “He said he’d have nothing to look forward to if I didn’t, and would hit me until I agreed.” (She had no intention of having a threesome.) She recalls, “Sometimes, he’d tell me to call him Master, and he’d slap me until I did.” Selvaratnam, who was born in Sri Lanka, has dark skin, and she recalls that “he started calling me his ‘brown slave’ and demanding that I repeat that I was ‘his property.’ ”

The abuse escalated. Schneiderman not only slapped her across the face, often four or five times, back and forth, with his open hand; he also spat at her and choked her. “He was cutting off my ability to breathe,” she says. Eventually, she says, “we could rarely have sex without him beating me.” In her view, Schneiderman “is a misogynist and a sexual sadist.” She says that she often asked him to stop hurting her, and tried to push him away. At other times, she gave in, rationalizing that she could tolerate the violence if it happened only once a week or so during sex. But “the emotional and verbal abuse started increasing,” she says, and “the belittling and demeaning of me carried over into our nonsexual encounters.” He told her to get plastic surgery to remove scars on her torso that had resulted from an operation to remove cancerous tumors. He criticized her hair and said that she should get breast implants and buy different clothes. He mocked some of her friends as “ditzes,” and, when these women attended a birthday celebration for her, he demanded that she leave just as the cake was arriving. “I began to feel like I was in Hell,” she says.

This guy is an abuser, point blank.  If this is true, and there's every reason to believe it is, then he needs to go.  I don't care how much of a crusader for justice he is if he's an abusive law-breaking jackass who needs to cool his heels in prison for a while.  Nothing justifies this in the short or long run.

And as expected, he has resigned.

Bye, Eric.

The Blue Wave Rises, Con't

There's no such thing as a truly "safe" suburban Republican House district anymore.  Increasingly, either there's a hefty challenge from the Democrats who are outraising you, a primary challenge from the right forcing you to split your resources, or both.  The heavily gerrymandered suburban Charlotte districts in North Carolina's are a good example.

Republican Rep. Ted Budd opened the calendar on his iPhone during a campaign day last week to reveal a jam-packed schedule — wake up at 4:55 a.m., breakfast with veterans, an opioid discussion in another county — and yet he was worried that it wasn’t enough.

“I’m getting nervous because of the white space I see,” said Budd, pointing to the few blank lines on the schedule.

Across the country, dozens of House Republicans who previously coasted to victory are for the first time facing credible and well-financed Democratic opponents — and working furiously to find a strategy for survival.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) delivered a stern message last month to the rank and file after a surprisingly narrow special election win in a reliably Republican Arizona district: Wake up, because Democrats are motivated.

Many newly vulnerable Republicans represent suburban communities such as Budd’s, where Donald Trump won in 2016 but has since lost popularity.

Budd is one of two GOP incumbents in this region of North Carolina being targeted by Democrats, with pollsters and independent handicappers saying the races could be competitive. 
The two GOP incumbents have adopted slightly different strategies for self-preservation, largely out of necessity.

While Budd has been able to focus on the general election by talking at times about how he has bucked his party, Rep. Robert Pittenger has been grappling with a bitter Republican challenge ahead of Tuesday’s primary election here that has led him to move to the right in ways likely to complicate his message to voters in the fall.

Democrats had largely ignored the districts in this decade after Republicans redrew the state’s congressional boundaries to their advantage. Budd’s district, which stretches from Democratic-leaning Greensboro to the northern suburbs of Charlotte, backed Trump by 9 percentage points. Voters in Pittenger’s district, which rolls from Charlotte nearly to the state’s coastline, supported the president by almost 12 points.

In 2016, Budd and Pittenger survived primaries, then sailed to victory over Democrats who raised less than $100,000. This election, Democrats recruited Kathy Manning, a philanthropist and longtime party donor who has raised $1.3 million to Budd’s $832,690. Dan McCready, a business executive and veteran, has raised $1.9 million to Pittenger’s $1.1 million.

Don't get me wrong, these are the districts that the GOP has to win in order to keep the House, and they know it.  But they're so scared at this point that like Ron DeSantis in Florida, they are starting to do things in swing districts like "Admit Obama was right".

Candidates rarely admit being wrong about anything.

It’s even more rare for a candidate in a Republican primary to say he was wrong and former President Barack Obama was right. But it happened during Saturday night’s Florida Family Policy Council dinnerwhen moderator Frank Luntz asked U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, who’s running in a GOP primary for governor against Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, to provide an example of a time he’s changed his mind about something.

“Actually, I think the one time that I was wrong in the Congress was when we had the breakout of Ebola and I thought we’ve just got to shut everything down, we can’t take any risks,” DeSantis said of the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa and concerns about its spread to the U.S.

“Obama didn’t do that and I criticized him a lot for doing that. A lot of my Republican colleagues criticized him for doing that but, you know, I look back at it – it was handled well,” DeSantis said. “I was just wrong about that. I think that the way the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) and some of the folks in government handled it was actually an example of government getting the job done. So I’m totally willing to just be honest and admit if I call it wrong. Just admit that you were wrong and people appreciate that. Because we’re going to make mistakes in this line of work, that’s just the bottom line.”

Damned if you run as a Trumpie, damned if you don't.

Collusion Of A Different Kind

Josh Marshall connects the dots on what looks like a orchestrated attempt by the Trump regime to use an Israeli private intelligence firm to dig up dirt on the previous administration's foreign policy people in order to discredit the Iran nuclear deal.

Yeah, that's a mouthful.  Yes, the evidence is there to support the theory.

We start with this story in The Guardian. It’s very hedged and key details are not included. But the gist is that aides to Donald Trump hired an Israeli security firm to dig up dirt on two prominent supporters of the Iran nuclear deal. They are Ben Rhodes and Colin Kahl, both Obama administration national security hands who were involved in the negotiation. They both continue to be prominent supporters of it into the Trump era. Last night I said that it sounded like Black Cube, the firm that surveilled and ran black ops operations against Harvey Weinstein’s accusers on his behalf.

Then overnight Kahl came forward with a story from around the time the firm was reportedly hired in which someone approached his wife about investing in their children’s charter school. You can read the thread here. There was a backstory and details. But it sounded to the Kahls like an intelligence operation – not altogether uncommon for people in that line of work to see. So they eventually cut off communication.

Then a short time ago, Laura Rozen confirmed with Kahl that the purported firm which reached out to the Kahls was ‘Reuben Capital Partners’. That’s the same name used by Black Cube in the Weinstein operations, first reported in The New Yorker by Ronan Farrow last year.

Black Cube is now vehemently denying it was hired to spy on or run dirty tricks against Rhodes or Kahl. It’s not clear to me whether that denial came before or after Rozen uncovered the apparent link between the two cases. The denial seems to be unambiguous. But it is very hard to believe that two separate operations would stumble on the same name for a front operation. Conceivably, two different firms worked in concert with yet another firm that was running this front operation. But that’s a very far-fetched hypothetical in contrast to a very straightforward explanations. It was Black Cube working for Weinstein and the Trump aides and they’re simply lying about their involvement.

Ronan Farrow has a new piece up on Black Cube to reflect these developments.

A month before Norris received her e-mail, Rebecca Kahl, a former program officer at the National Democratic Institute and the wife of the former Obama Administration foreign-policy adviser Colin Kahl, had also received a puzzling e-mail. A woman named Adriana Gavrilo claimed to be the head of corporate social responsibility at Reuben Capital Partners, a London-based wealth-management firm. Gavrilo told Kahl that her firm was launching an initiative on education and that she wanted to meet to discuss the school that Kahl’s daughter attended, at which Kahl volunteered. Kahl referred Gavrilo to school staff members, but Gavrilo repeatedly refused to speak to anyone but her. Gavrilo’s firm would “not be able to make the necessary due diligence” on the school employees, she wrote. Rebecca Kahl, who said she “worried I’m strangely a target of some sort,” eventually stopped responding to Gavrilo.

Adriana Gavrilo and Eva Novak appear to be aliases. LinkedIn pages for both Gavrilo and Novak at one point showed a slim blond woman advertised as fluent in Serbian. Shortly after The New Yorker contacted Black Cube about this story, Novak’s LinkedIn page was deleted. The e-mail addresses listed by both women do not work. Calls to the phone number Novak listed went unanswered. The Web sites for Reuben Capital Partners and Shell Productions have been taken down, but both were bare-bones pages constructed through the free site-building tool Wix. The addresses for both companies led to shared office spaces; there is no evidence that Shell Productions or Reuben Capital Partners had ever operated there.

The documents show that Black Cube compiled detailed background profiles of several individuals, including Rhodes and Kahl, that featured their addresses, information on their family members, and even the makes of their cars. Black Cube agents were instructed to try to find damaging information about them, including unsubstantiated claims that Rhodes and Kahl had worked closely with Iran lobbyists and were personally enriched through their policy work on Iran (they denied those claims); rumors that Rhodes was one of the Obama staffers responsible for “unmasking” Trump transition officials who were named in intelligence documents (Rhodes denied the claim); and an allegation that one of the individuals targeted by the campaign had an affair.

The campaign is strikingly similar to an operation that Black Cube ran on behalf of Harvey Weinstein, which was reported in The New Yorkerlast fall. One of Weinstein’s attorneys, David Boies, hired Black Cube to halt the publication of sexual-misconduct allegations against Weinstein. Black Cube operatives used false identities to track women with allegations, and also reporters seeking to expose the story. In May, 2017, a former Israel Defense Forces officer, who had emigrated to Israel from the former Yugoslavia, was working as an undercover agent for Black Cube. The woman contacted the actress Rose McGowan, claiming to work for Reuben Capital Partners but using the identity of a Diana Filip. Filip’s e-mails to McGowan displayed the same tactics as those in the e-mails sent to Norris and Kahl, and in some cases used almost identical language. (Filip also wrote to me from Reuben Capital Partners, and again used similar language.)

In a statement, Black Cube said, “It is Black Cube’s policy to never discuss its clients with any third party, and to never confirm or deny any speculation made with regard to the company’s work.” The statement also read, "Black Cube has no relation whatsoever to the Trump administration, to Trump aides, to anyone close to the administration, or to the Iran Nuclear deal." The firm also said that it "always operates in full compliance of the law in every jurisdiction in which it conducts its work, following legal advice from the world’s leading law firms.”

In the Iran operation, as in its operation for Weinstein, Black Cube focused much of its work on reporters and other media figures, sometimes using agents who posed as journalists. The company compiled a list of more than thirty reporters who it believed were in touch with Obama Administration officials, annotated with instructions about how to seek negative information. Transcripts produced by Black Cube reveal that the firm secretly recorded a conversation between one of its agents and Trita Parsi, a Swedish-Iranian author. The conversation, which began as a general discussion of Iran policy, quickly devolved into questions about Rhodes, Kahl, and whether they had personally profited off of the Iran policy. “I’ve had the first part of the conversation five hundred times,” Parsi recalled, of his conversation with the agent, who claimed to be a reporter. “But then he started asking about personal financial interests, and that was more unusual. He was pushing very, very hard.”

The Observer reported that aides of President Trump had hired Black Cube to run the operation in order to undermine the Iran deal, allegations that Black Cube denies. “The idea was that people acting for Trump would discredit those who were pivotal in selling the deal, making it easier to pull out of it,” a source told the Observer. One of the sources familiar with the effort told me that it was, in fact, part of Black Cube’s work for a private-sector client pursuing commercial interests related to sanctions on Iran. (A Trump Administration spokesperson declined to comment to the Observer on the allegations.)

There are a lot of people who want to see the Iran deal go up in smoke, not just the Trump regime.  Remember, Rudy Giuliani flat out said this week that Trump was not only going to rip up the Iran deal anyway, but that Trump was also 100% committed to regime change in Iran.

It doesn't take a genius to see what's going on here, and what the end game is going to be.

We're heading for war with Iran at breakneck speed.


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