Patterico's Pontifications

9/24/2017

How to Make the Comments of Annoying Commenters Disappear from Your Screen

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 1:46 pm

I don’t like to ban people. I generally ban people only when they commit an egregious offense. I often get requests to ban people whom folks find annoying. But being annoying isn’t a bannable offense.

But you shouldn’t have to suffer the annoyance of seeing a comments section overrun by people who do nothing but aggravate you. Am I right?

Today, there’s a better way!

Beldar explained how to do it in this comment. An edited version of Beldar’s explanation appears below, correcting one minor error in his explanation.

Follow these instructions and the annoying commenters will disappear from your screen. Just hit the bookmark after accessing the page. It has the effect of refreshing the page while eliminating the annoying commenter.

(more…)

Trump’s Russia Defense Funded in Part by Man with Ties to Russian Oligarchs

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 1:30 pm

The Wall Street Journal published a piece on Friday titled GOP Funds Donald Trump’s Defense in Russia Probe With Help From a Handful of Wealthy People. The deck headline reads: “Payment arrangement is legal, but ethics experts warn that reliance on party and campaign accounts could raise thorny political issues.” And here is the opening paragraph:

President Donald Trump’s attorneys in the probe of Russian election interference are being funded in part through a Republican Party account with a handful of wealthy donors—including a billionaire investor, a property developer seeking U.S. government visas and a Ukrainian-born American who has made billions of dollars doing business with Russian oligarchs.

The article lists details about several other donors, but I skipped ahead to the part about the Ukranian guy, to see what the Wall Street Journal says about who he is and why he is donating to Trump’s defense:

In April, billionaire Len Blavatnik gave $12,700 to the RNC’s legal fund, on top of donations of about $200,000 to other RNC accounts. He also gave the legal fund $100,000 in 2016, according to FEC filings.

The contribution from Mr. Blavatnik came during the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s probe of U.S. intelligence agencies’ findings of Russian meddling in the U.S. election, a month before the Justice Department appointed a special counsel to oversee its probe of Russian interference—which subsequently prompted Mr. Trump to hire a private legal team.

Moscow has denied interfering in the election. Mr. Trump has denied his campaign colluded with Russia and called the investigations a “witch hunt.”

A spokesman for Mr. Blavatnik didn’t return a request for comment. The White House referred questions to the RNC.

Mr. Blavatnik, who was born in Ukraine when it was part of the Soviet Union, and moved to the U.S. in his early 20s, amassed his fortune in Russia in the years following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

He is a longtime business partner of Viktor Vekselberg, who is one of the richest men in Russia and has close ties to the Kremlin.

In 2013, Mr. Blavatnik earned billions when he, Mr. Vekselberg and two other partners sold their stake in the oil company TNK-BP to Rosneft, a Kremlin-controlled oil company. Rosneft’s chief executive is Igor Sechin, a top ally of Russian President Vladmir Putin.

During the 2016 campaign, Mr. Blavatnik through his company donated to several Republican presidential campaigns, including for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham. He didn’t donate to Mr. Trump’s campaign.

Well. That doesn’t sound like great cause for concern. Yes, Blavatnik’s business partner has close ties to the Kremlin. But who doesn’t? Sure, Blavatnik earned billions from a sale made to a Kremlin-controlled company. Who among us can’t say the same about ourselves? But — he donated to other Republicans and not Trump during the presidential election. If he’s helping to fund Trump’s Russia defense, who are we to complain? It’s rather standard influence-seeking by a businessman, of the sort any wealthy American citizen does routinely.

Shall we stop there or shall we dig deeper?

Sure, let’s dig deeper. Why not?

First, Blavatnik’s ties to Trump run a little deeper than the Wall Street Journal revealed. His company Access Industries donated a cool million to Trump’s inaugural committee. And Blavatnik became a business partner with Trump’s Treasury Secretary:

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin just got a new Hollywood business partner: a man who made billions investing in Russia.

A company run by Len Blavatnik announced a deal Tuesday to buy a stake in a film-finance firm that, in turn, is engaged in a joint venture with Mnuchin, backing blockbusters including “The Lego Batman Movie.” The Treasury secretary has pledged to sell his own interest in the business by June.

All of that seems legal and aboveboard. What big businessman doesn’t have some ties to a presidential administration, after all?

But here’s what got my attention.

It also turns out this same fella, Len Blavatnik, gave a gang of money to Oxford University in 2010. Like $75 million worth. So the folks at Oxford named their school of government the “Blavatnik School of Government” (as you do) . . . and then something weird happened. A group of folks wrote a letter to The Guardian suggesting that Blavatnik has some unsavory ties with folks who have reason to oppose the Magnitsky Act:

Blavatnik has not been alone in seeking to collaborate with Oxford. His fellow oligarchs Mikhail Fridman and Pyotr Aven from Alfa-Bank gave a joint “award for excellence in foreign investment in Russia” with the Oxford Saïd Business School from 2007 to 2011.

All these oligarchs belong to a consortium of Russian billionaires called Access-Alfa-Renova (AAR). The consortium has long been accused of being behind a campaign of state-sponsored harassment against BP. In 2008-09 dozens of British and other western managers were forced out of Russia. As part of this campaign, Vladimir Putin’s FSB intelligence agency fabricated a case against two Oxford graduates. According to evidence from its jailed owner Sergei Bobylyov, Alfa-Bank oligarchs also raided a retail company called Sunrise.

The spy case and the attack on Sunrise involved the participation of Russian officials who are listed as gross human rights violators by the US Treasury in line with the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012.

These corporate abuses took place in Russia with active official support. There was a backdrop of state-sponsored propaganda. Russian state media broadcast libelous assertions against western and Russian citizens. AAR went on to make billions from a highly controversial deal with Rosneft.

Oxford University apparently failed to investigate these facts, AAR’s track record from the beginning, and its close ties with the Kremlin.

We insist that the university should stop selling its reputation and prestige to Putin’s associates.

Isn’t it weird how that name “Magnitsky” keeps coming up in connection with Trump?

The letter to The Guardian was signed by what Cherwell.org describes as “a group of Oxford graduates and human rights activists” including Vladimir Bukovsky, a Soviet-era dissident who wrote a book I read recently called To Build a Castle: My Life as a Dissenter. (If you haven’t read it already, I highly recommend it.)

Blavatnik’s lawyer, I should hasten to add for fairness, denies all this. Below the letter, The Guardian published the following:

Lawyers for Mr Blavatnik contacted us after publication, in May 2016, stating that Mr Blavatnik is not an associate of Vladimir Putin, with whom he has had no personal contact since 2000. Mr Blavatnik’s lawyers also stated that he is a strong believer in encouraging democracy and freedom throughout the world and that he had no involvement whatsoever in any alleged state-sponsored campaign of harassment against BP in Russia.

That may be. Lawyers tend to be biased, but I don’t know who’s right here. I just flag the issue for you, the reader.

Let’s sum it all up. This group of dissidents, human rights activists, and others signs a letter saying Blavatnik — the fella who is partially funding Trump’s defense to the Russia claims, who gave a ton of money to his Inaugural Committee, and who was a business partner with his Treasury Secretary — is part of a consortium alleged to have been involved with a raid tied to human rights abusers named in the Magnitsky Act.

Well, that’s kind of interesting. Especially given that, if you read my recent series (you did read my recent series, didn’t you?), you know that the Magnitsky Act is what Natalia Veselnitskaya was trying to get repealed when she met with Trump Jr., Paul “Shady” Manafort, and Jared “I Told Trump Not to Do It” Kushner.

As I always say when I write posts about Russia, this does not show collusion between Trump and the Russian government. (People ignore me when I say that, but I say it anyway.) But it’s interesting to see the interconnections here . . . and how often things come back to the Magnitsky Act.

[Cross-posted at RedState and The Jury Talks Back.]

Who Will “Take a Knee” on This Sunday?

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 10:19 am

Many will take two, in church. But what about just one — on the field, with a hashtag in front of the phrase?

#TAKEAKNEE!!!!

Not being a sports guy, I could not care less about any of this — but some of you probably want to talk about it because it’s one of those hot topics that everyone has to have a passionate opinion about. So have at it.

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back, if you want to discuss the topic without having people insult you. Sometimes people like that kind of thing.]

The First to Stop Applauding

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:00 am

I began reading The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn yesterday. I’m only 100 pages in or so, but in Chapter Two I ran across a great story that I wanted to recount to you here. It is timeless, and frightening, and funny, and horrific — all at the same time. And Solzhenitsyn assures the reader that this story — like every thing else he recounts — really happened.

Is it relevant to today? You be the judge!

Here is one vignette from those years as it actually occurred. A district Party conference was underway in Moscow Province. It was presided over by a new secretary of the District Party Committee, replacing one recently arrested. At the conclusion of the conference, a tribute to Comrade Stalin was called for. Of course, everyone stood up (just as everyone had leaped to his feet during the conference at every mention of his name). The small hall echoed with “stormy applause, rising to an ovation.” For three minutes, four minutes, five minutes, the “stormy applause, rising to an ovation,” continued. But palms were getting sore and raised arms were already aching. And the older people were panting from exhaustion. It was becoming insufferably silly even to those who really adored Stalin.

However, who would dare to be the first to stop?

The secretary of the District Party Committee could have done it. He was standing on the platform, and it was he who had just called for the ovation. But he was a newcomer. He had taken the place of a man who’d been arrested. He was afraid! After all, NKVD men were standing in the hall applauding and watching to see who would quit first!

And in that obscure, small hall, unknown to the Leader, the applause went on –- six, seven, eight minutes! They were done for! Their goose was cooked! They couldn’t stop now till they collapsed with heart attacks! At the rear of the hall, which was crowded, they could of course cheat a bit, clap less frequently, less vigorously, not so eagerly –- but up there with the presidium where everyone could see them?

The director of the local paper factory, an independent and strong-minded man, stood with the presidium. Aware of all the falsity and all the impossibility of the situation, he still kept on applauding! Nine minutes! Ten! In anguish he watched the secretary of the District Party Committee, but the latter dared not stop. Insanity! To the last man! With make-believe enthusiasm on their faces, looking at each other with faint hope, the district leaders were just going to go on and on applauding till they fell where they stood, till they were carried out of the hall on stretchers! And even then those who were left would not falter. . . .

Then, after eleven minutes, the director of the paper factory assumed a businesslike expression and sat down in his seat. And, oh, a miracle took place! Where had the universal, uninhibited, indescribable enthusiasm gone? To a man, everyone else stopped dead and sat down. They had been saved! The squirrel had been smart enough to jump off his revolving wheel.

That, however, was how they discovered who the independent people were. And that was how they went about eliminating them. That same night the factory director was arrested. They easily pasted ten years on him on the pretext of something quite different. But after he had signed Form 206, the final document of the interrogation, his interrogator reminded him:

“Don’t ever be the first to stop applauding.”

(And just what are we supposed to do? How are we supposed to stop?)

It’s easy to suppose that such fits of insanity can never happen to us. Well. In a foreward to the version of the book I am reading, Solzhenitsyn writes:

There always is this fallacious belief: “It would not be the same here; here such things are impossible.”

Alas, all the evil of the twentieth century is possible anywhere on earth.

Settle down, Trumpers. I’m not saying or suggesting in any way that Donald Trump is the return of Stalin or Hitler. Nor is this a post about Barack Obama, or a suggestion that he resembled those monsters.

But each has led cults of personality — and while those cults have not approached anything approaching the fanaticism that was seen under a Stalin or a Mao, such evils are “possible anywhere on earth.” We would be fools not to learn the lessons of history — not to be on the lookout for a repeat of such horror.

Crying wolf is not just foolish. It is dangerous. But if the wolf has attacked in the past, it is equally foolish and dangerous not to watch for the warning signs that the wolf may approach again. When I read the accounts of the torture suffered in Soviet Russia, I recognize some of the same techniques that were used in Abu Ghraib. When Solzhenitsyn writes that for men to do evil, they must convince themselves that they are doing good — and when he writes that ideology helps men justify their evil deeds as serving a greater good — I recognize the attitude of the more ideological Trump or Obama or Hillary or Bernie supporters, who argue that the use of a nasty tactic by the other side justifies the use of the same tactic by their own side. And a Clickhole article I saw yesterday sums up nicely, in humorous fashion, the attitude of some of the more mindless Trump drones:

Before attacking the president by pointing out the many flaws in his reasoning, why don’t you try agreeing with everything he says? The only people complaining about Trump are biased against Trump according to Trump, so you can’t trust anyone that questions the president, even when that person is you. This is America. If you’re not prepared to sell your values down the river to spew President Trump’s talking points word for word, well, you can find a different country to live in.

For the good of the country, Republicans like me must unite to automatically parrot whatever knee-jerk policy announcement Trump has surprised us with over Twitter. Conservatives must abandon our own long-held viewpoints and ideologies in favor of the random hodgepodge of right-wing causes Trump happened to talk about today. Sometimes it’s difficult to repeat Donald Trump verbatim when it goes against my very sense of right and wrong, but I know history will look kindly on patriots like me who compromise their integrity to echo the rhetoric of a president they vehemently disagree with.

It’s relevant to Trump today because he’s president, but let’s not pretend this is a phenomenon that happens only on one side. (Of course, many on this blog will argue that it does happen only on one side. And many commenters on a partisan lefty blog will argue that it happens only on one side. They’ll just disagree as to which side is the source of original and inherent evildoing.)

I’m tired of arguments that suggest that human nature is different for different political parties. After all, we on the right really thought we had the left pegged as the people who followed a cult leader. And then Trump came along. It’s a little hard to be too smug now.

The Clickhole article is very funny. And yet: the phenomenon of a room full of people who all know they are supporting something crazy, but are all scared to say so, is a reality that has been no joke at times in human history.

No, Trump drones and Obama cultists, I am not saying these guys are the return of history’s greatest monsters. Nor am I saying that you are the return of their supporters.

But . . .

But if you think such a thing could never happen again . . . think again.

[Cross-posted at RedState and The Jury Talks Back.]

9/23/2017

Steve Bannon Needles Trump by Agreeing to Headline Rally for Roy Moore

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 12:30 pm

Axios reports that Steve Bannon will be headlining a rally for Roy Moore, who is opposing Trump’s pick Luther Strange in a runoff election to be held on Tuesday:

Steve Bannon is heading to Alabama Sunday night to rally for Judge Roy Moore on Monday night with Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty.

Why it matters: This rally is three days after President Trump, Bannon’s former boss, was in Alabama rallying for Moore’s opponent — Mitch McConnell’s favored candidate Luther Strange. For Bannon to make a rare public appearance in such close proximity to Trump shows how invested he is in this race specifically, and attacking McConnell more generally. Another former White House adviser, Sebastian Gorka, rallied with Sarah Palin for Moore on Thursday.

From a source close to Bannon: “Steve is coming to Alabama to support President Trump against the Washington establishment and Mitch McConnell. Steve views Judge Moore as a fierce advocate of Trump and the values he campaigned on.”

Bannon’s Breitbart has been slamming Trump for endorsing Strange. There’s a little jostling for Supreme Alpha Male Status going on here. As Susan Wright noted earlier, the Trump folks did not give Breitbart media credentials to Trump’s pro-Strange rally. [UPDATE: According to this post, one Breitbart reporter ended up getting in late with media credentials after initially being denied entry. Another entered without media credentials as a standard rally attendee.] Now Bannon is needling Trump by showily supporting Moore, who is likely to win.

By the way, Moore does not deserve to win. My negative view of Roy Moore was cemented a long time ago, when he defied a court order to remove a monument to the Ten Commandments from the Alabama state Supreme Court building. Regardless of what I think of the ruling, the Rule of Law requires that court orders be challenged in court — or, failing that, by amending the fundamental documents that govern courts’ interpretation. You can’t just defy the court, unless the court order is so breathtakingly at odds with morality that to follow it would be monstrous to follow it (such as a court order to enslave someone).

I’d like you to read a quote from Judge Bill Pryor, who in 2003 argued for the removal of Moore from the Supreme Court of Alabama. The link to the official transcript is lost to history, so I take this quote from a 2004 post from BeldarBlog:

The stakes here are high, because this case raises a fundamental question. What does it mean to have a government of laws and not of men? ….

….

Every one of these citizens, and thousands more who come before the courts, must know that the final orders of the courts will decide their disputes, even if that citizen disagrees with that order. Someone has to lose, and virtually always, the losing litigant thinks he was right and the court was wrong. This court must provide the answer that no citizen, whether rich or poor, powerful or weak, is above the law.

As I mentioned a moment ago, the judicial branch of our government, both our federal government and our state government, as human institutions, are imperfect. They sometimes make mistakes. Even terrible ones. We correct some of those mistakes on appeal. Sometimes the appeals court, even the Supreme Court gets it wrong, too. Fortunately, our Constitution gives us remedies.

I stand by my remarks from 1997 that we’re called by God to do what is right. But we’re called to exercise our constitutional rights in fulfilling his will.

We can elect lawmakers, legislatures, to change the law. We can elect presidents to appoint judges faithful to the law. We, the people, can even amend the Constitution itself. That is what our nation did when it abolished slavery with the 13th Amendment, which overruled the abominable decision of the Supreme Court in Dred Scott versus Sanford. But the refusal of a party to comply with a court order, whether the court order is right or wrong, is not a remedy provided by the Constitution.

Because Chief Justice Roy Moore, despite his special responsibility as the highest judicial officer of our state, placed himself above the law, by refusing to abide by a final injunction entered against him, and by urging the public through the news media to support him, and because he is totally unrepentant, this court regrettably must remove Roy Moore from the office of Chief Justice of Alabama. The rule of law upon which our freedom depends, whether a judge, a police officer, or a citizen, demands no less.

Most recently, Moore suggested that 9/11 might have been a punishment for the United States rejecting God. He has also said “maybe Putin is right” given Putin’s rejection of gay marriage —
adding this about Putin: “Maybe he’s more akin to me than I know.”

He’s actually a perfect Trumper. I’m surprised Trump supported Strange at all.

Actually, it looks like Trump is starting to regret that decision. The polls show Moore winning decisively — and even Trump is starting to recognize that, saying that his support of Moore’s opponent Luther Strange might have been a “mistake” and that he will fully support Moore if he wins the runoff on Tuesday.

Roy Moore does not deserve to be in the U.S. Senate. But he is almost certainly going to be. Hey, if Donald Trump is going to be in the White House, what the hell, right? Just let anybody in anywhere. Something something tear it all down something something.

And when it happens, Alpha Male Steve Bannon will be there grinning. Your move, Trump.

[Cross-posted at RedState and The Jury Talks Back.]

The Magnitsky Act and the Woman Who Met with Trump Jr.: Part Six of a Six-Part Series

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 9:00 am

This is Part Six of a six-part series on the death of Sergei Magnitsky, what he uncovered before his death, and how it all relates to Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian woman who met with Trump Jr., Manafort, and Jared Kushner in June 2016. The springboard for the series of posts is this Michael Weiss article about Veselnitskaya and how she is connected to the Magnitsky case.

In Part One, I introduced the series and Weiss’s conclusions.

In Part Two, I began setting forth the background of the aggressive tax fraud scheme that Sergei Magnitsky discovered, as set out in Browder’s book Red Notice.

In Part Three, I discussed what Magnitsky did when he uncovered the scheme — and the terrible price he paid as a result.

In Part Four, I discussed the reaction of the Russian government to the Magnitsky Act, and why they hate it so much.

In Part Five, I discussed the connections between Natalia Veselnitskaya and the thieves behind the tax fraud uncovered by Sergei Magnitsky.

Today, in Part Six, I conclude by discussing Veselnitskaya’s relentless propaganda effort against Bill Browder, Sergei Magnitsky, and the Magnitsky Act. I return to Michael Weiss’s weekend piece, and draw some conclusions about the significance of the meeting with the Trump personnel.

PROPAGANDIZING AGAINST MAGNITSKY AND LOBBYING AGAINST THE MAGNITSKY ACT

Weiss’s latest piece notes the by-now familiar fact that Veselnitskaya has lobbied against the Magnitsky Act:

Concurrent with her legal work, she also lobbied in Washington against the very foundation upon which the US government’s case against Prevezon was constructed.

In February 2016, a few months before her meeting with Team Trump, this Moscow resident co-founded a Delaware-registered NGO called the Human Rights Global Accountability Initiative Foundation, purporting to seek the revocation of a controversial ban on American adoption of Russian children. In actuality, the ban itself and the dangled prospect of its repeal was cleverly conceived of by the Russian government as leverage with Washington to negotiate away a piece of American legislation acutely painful to the Kremlin.

He also explains how Veselnitskaya has aggressively maintained, consistent with the position of the Russian government, that Browder and Magnitsky are the Real Bad Guys:

Veselnitskaya has frequently argued in the Russian media that the entire story of what Magnitsky uncovered and the plight he endured is a fabrication accepted by a gullible US government from Magnitsky’s former client, William Browder, the CEO of Hermitage and Magnitsky’s posthumous flame tender.

In 2014, she told RBK-TV, “Sergei Magnitsky did not uncover any theft referred in the Magnitsky Act,” and, “Many events and data stated in the Magnitsky Act did not exist.”

Weiss also details her connections to high-level officials in the FSB, which was ultimately behind the case against Browder and Magnitsky. Indeed, she is also connected to Yuri Chaika, a high-level prosecutor and Putin favorite who opposed the Magnitsky Act.

CONNECTIONS TO YURI CHAIKA, PROSECUTOR WHO SOUGHT REVERSAL OF MAGNITSKY ACT

Veselnitskaya admitted in a Wall Street Journal interview that she knows Chaika and provided him with information about the Magnitsky affair:

The Russian lawyer whom Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort met last year with the hopes of receiving damaging information about Hillary Clinton says she talked with the office of Russia’s top prosecutor while waging a campaign against a U.S. sanctions law and the hedge-fund manager who backed it.

Lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya said she wasn’t working for Russian authorities, but she said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal that she was meeting with Russian authorities regularly, and shared information about the hedge-fund manager with the Russian prosecutor general’s office, including with Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika, a top official appointed by the Kremlin.

“I personally know the general prosecutor,” Ms. Veselnitskaya said. “In the course of my investigation [about the fund manager], I shared information with him.”

Mr. Chaika’s office didn’t respond to requests for comment on whether he knows and received information from Ms. Veselnitskaya.

The hedge-fund manager discussed in the article is Bill Browder.

Now, recall that former tabloid reporter Rob Goldstone had written Trump Jr. saying that the dirt on Hillary was going to come from “the Crown prosecutor of Russia:”

“Emin just called and asked me to contact you with something very interesting,” Mr. Goldstone wrote in the email. “The Crown prosecutor of Russia met with his father Aras this morning and in their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.”

He added, “What do you think is the best way to handle this information and would you be able to speak to Emin about it directly?”

There is no such title as crown prosecutor in Russia — the Crown Prosecution Service is a British term — but the equivalent in Russia is the prosecutor general of Russia.

That office is held by Yury Yakovlevich Chaika, a Putin appointee who is known to be close to Ms. Veselnitskaya.

So Veselnitskaya admits she knows Chaika, a man very close to Vladimir Putin, and the most logical candidate for the person who (according to Goldstone’s email) offered to provide the Trump campaign with dirt on Hillary. This is all rather significant because the Magnitsky Act was the focus of the meeting from the point of view of Veselnitskaya, and Chaika was similarly interested in having the Magnitsky Act sanctions removed. Financial Times:

Mr Chaika did have an interest in the Magnitsky sanctions.

Bill Browder, the US financier who employed Sergei Magnitsky and inspired the sanctions on Russian officials, has accused Mr Chaika of covering up the real causes of Magnitsky’s death in prison and of closing down the investigation into the $230m tax fraud.

Two months before the June 2016 meeting, Viktor Grin — a top Chaika deputy who is on the sanctions list — gave Dana Rohrabacher, a pro-Russian US congressman, a dossier that included materials from Ms Veselnitskaya and hinted at possibilities of better US-Russia relations if Congress repealed the Magnitsky Act.

“Veselnitskaya was working hand in glove with Chaika’s office on the anti-Magnitsky campaign,” Mr Browder said.

None of this means that Donald Trump collaborated with Russia, or that Trump Jr. or the other meeting attendees were doing so. That’s not the point of this series of posts.

But when this meeting was first announced, certain commentators on the right portrayed Veselnitskaya as a sort of odd character with an inexplicable obsession with adoption. Here is Brit Hume laughing it up at the notion that the meeting with Veselnitskaya was in any way connected to the Russian government:

Hume portrays the meeting as farcical — but someone armed with the information I have discussed in this series of posts would come to a different conclusion. Rather than some random Moscow lawyer only tangentially connected to the Kremlin, Veselnitskaya was well connected not only to the Kremlin, but also to thieves deeply involved in the fraud uncovered by Magnitsky. Now, with Weiss’s latest piece, we know that she was strangely enriched in a manner similar to the enrichment of those (like cops Kuznetsov and Karpov) behind Magnitsky’s murder.

Perhaps the stupidest single opinion I saw about Veselnitskaya was this howler from Trump shill Jack Posobiec, which I ran across while perusing a link supplied by a commenter of mine who (like Posobiec) is a mindless Trump-supporting drone:

This has to be a candidate for the dumbest thing I have ever seen on the Internet. The notion that Veselnitskaya is out there promoting Bill Browder’s book is something that only a dim, totally uninformed, demi-literate nincompoop would say publicly. If this series of posts has taught you nothing else, it is that Veselnitskaya is very much anti-Browder, anti-Magnitsky, and in favor of Putin’s attempts to have the Magnitsky Act repealed.

If you have come this far, and you want to see the entire story presented in a compelling documentary that contains footage of the Russian hero Sergei Magnitsky, and what his death means, I encourage you to watch this:

It’s only about an hour long, and tells the story better than I can.

You’ll never think about the issue of “Russian adoption” the same way.

[Cross-posted at RedState and The Jury Talks Back.]

9/22/2017

The Magnitsky Act and the Woman Who Met with Trump Jr.: Part Five of a Six-Part Series

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 9:00 am

This is Part Five of a six-part series on the death of Sergei Magnitsky, what he uncovered before his death, and how it all relates to Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian woman who met with Trump Jr., Manafort, and Jared Kushner in June 2016. The springboard for the series of posts is this Michael Weiss article about Veselnitskaya and how she is connected to the Magnitsky case.

In Part One, I introduced the series and Weiss’s conclusions.

In Part Two, I began setting forth the background of the aggressive tax fraud scheme that Sergei Magnitsky discovered, as set out in Browder’s book Red Notice.

In Part Three, I discussed what Magnitsky did when he uncovered the scheme — and the terrible price he paid as a result.

In Part Four, I discussed the reaction of the Russian government to the Magnitsky Act, and why they hate it so much.

Today, in Part Five, I discuss the connections between Natalia Veselnitskaya and the thieves behind the tax fraud uncovered by Sergei Magnitsky.

LAWYER FOR A COMPANY ACCUSED OF STEALING SOME OF THE PROCEEDS OF THE FRAUD DISCOVERED BY MAGNITSKY

In Part Two of this series I discussed the $230 million that was stolen in a tax refund fraud scheme, as uncovered by Sergei Magnitsky. In September 2013, the U.S. Attorney in New York, Preet Bharara, filed a suit alleging that a company based in Cyprus called Prevezon Holdings had received “at least $1,965,444 in proceeds from the $230 million fraud scheme.” Many stories describe this as a money-laundering case, but fail to make clear that the money allegedly laundered was from the same scheme that Magnitsky uncovered with his tax-lawyer detective work. The stolen tax money was then invested in expensive Manhattan apartments, the government alleged.

Guess who the lawyer for Prevezon Holdings was? Natalia Veselnitskaya, the lawyer who met with Trump Jr., Manafort, and Kushner.

The money-laundering case was settled in March 2017 for a $5.9 million dollar penalty, two months after Trump fired Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney who had initially brought the case. Lawyer Veselnitskaya described the settlement as a complete victory for Prevezon Holdings. The Hill:

Ms. Veselnitskaya told one Russian news outlet that the penalty was so light “it seemed almost an apology from the government.”

Some Democrats noted that Prevezon had been represented in an appellate matter by Michael Mukasey, whose son Marc had been a rumored replacement for Bharaha. This further fueled suspicions that the settlement with the SDNY U.S. Attorney was so generous because the Trump administration had ensured that the fix was in, by firing Bharara. However, Browder has said that he approves of the settlement, and it did not require DoJ approval, so any conspiracy theories about Bharara’s firing are likely groundless.

Part of the reason the government settled the case was for the protection of witnesses. In what seems like part of a pattern of unfortunate accidents that happen to people who upset Vladimir Putin, a lawyer for Sergei Magnitsky’s family who was going to testify in the Prevezon case oddly fell from a window before his testimony. Business Insider reported:

The Russian government declined to provide the US government with evidence of Russian money flows that would strengthen the case against Prevezon. Nikolai Gorokhov, a lawyer representing Magnitsky’s family, was able to photograph documents contained in a Russian case file targeting two people involved in the $230 million scheme that traced the money to Russia.

Gorokhov mysteriously fell from a window in Moscow just over a month before he was due to testify in the Prevezon case. But the documents he photographed were admitted into evidence just days before Prevezon agreed to settle.

So we have learned that Natalia Veselnitskaya was not just a lawyer interested in adoption. She was, in fact, the lawyer for folks who allegedly participated in the $230 million tax fraud scheme uncovered by Sergei Magnitsky. And, as discussed in Part One, she acquired real estate holdings that far outstripped her ability to pay for them, based on Weiss’s investigation into her finances.

Hmmm.

What else do we know about her?

Tomorrow, in the final part of this series, Part Six, I will discuss Veselnitskaya’s relentless propagandizing against Sergei Magnitsky and Bill Browder, and her lobbying against the Magnitsky Act. By the time you are through reading the series, you will understand that her lobbying concerning “adoptions” goes much deeper than a simple concern for Russian children.

[Cross-posted at RedState and The Jury Talks Back.]

Yes, Betsy DeVos Is Leaving On A Jet Plane – But It’s One That She Owns And Pays For Herself

Filed under: General — Dana @ 6:13 am

[guest post by Dana]

Just your periodic reminder of how Big Media intentionally misleads readers in order to provoke an instantaneous kind of sneering outrage:

Untitled

Untitled

You would need to cick on either of the links to find out that yes, DeVos does indeed travel on a private plane, however, it is her own personal plane, and she flies it at her own expense:

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos flies on her personal plane at her own expense when she visits schools around the country, according to her office, as other Cabinet secretaries’ flying habits at taxpayers’ cost have drawn scrutiny.

Education Department Press Secretary Liz Hill said in a statement to The Associated Press that DeVos travels “on personally-owned aircraft” at zero cost to taxpayers. Speaking with the AP on Thursday, Hill would not disclose details about the model or any other characteristics of the aircraft.

“The secretary neither seeks, nor accepts, any reimbursement for her flights, nor for any additional official travel-related expenses, such as lodging and per diem, even though she is entitled to such reimbursement under government travel regulations,” Hill said. “Secretary DeVos accepted her position to serve the public and is fully committed to being a faithful steward of taxpayer dollars.”

But why waste time being clear from the get-go, when ginning up outrage is so much more effective!

(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)

–Dana

9/21/2017

Valerie Plame Reminds Everyone of Her Utter Vacuity

Filed under: General — JVW @ 11:09 am

[guest post by JVW]

Let’s treat this as a how-to.

Step One
Find an article that appears to make a point or two with which you agree. Don’t bother to read the whole thing or investigate its source, just start Tweeting your recommendation of it [note: I am including screen caps in anticipation of all her Tweets being deleted]:

Plame original

Step Two
When the blowback inevitably comes because you didn’t notice that you had just promoted an anti-Semitic article, double down in the most condescending manner possible:

Plame 1

Step Three
Play the old “Hey, I’m just talking candidly about my own people (well, kinda sorta)” card:

Plame 2

Step Four
Make appeals to pacifism and insist that everyone has taken the quotes out of context, even if you haven’t actually read the entire article:

Plame 3

Step Five
Insist that it’s your critics who have a blinkered view of reality, not your own lazy and incurious self:

Plame 4

Step Six
Realize that you are completely exposed and start furiously backpedaling and apologizing:

Plame apologies

Do you suppose we can get Naomi Watts to reprise the role in Fair Game 2: the Protocols of the Elders of Zion?

– JVW

Jimmy Kimmel’s Dopey Sketch on Graham-Cassidy Misses the Point

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 10:00 am

A Republican U.S. Senator proposed a “Jimmy Kimmel” test for whether a U.S. healthcare plan is acceptable, and now (surprise!) Jimmy Kimmel is finding the latest Republican plan doesn’t meet it. Since we have now made a late-night talk show host an arbiter of health care, I guess we have to talk about Kimmel’s rant against Graham-Cassidy last night. I’m going to skip ahead to the unfunny sketch that supposedly illustrates the problem with Graham-Cassidy.

The “joke” of the sketch, for those who don’t want to sit through a painful two minutes of preachy and unfunny nonsense, is that Jimmy orders a black coffee. The barista pours it into a cup with no bottom, and the coffee goes all over the table. The barista explains that the cup decides whether it holds coffee or not. Hilarious, right? Graham-Cassidy: roasted!

To me, the irony here lies in these lines near the end of the sketch:

KIMMEL: You know what? I’ll just go to another coffee place. Thank you.

BARISTA: This is how all coffee shops are now. If you want your coffee in a cup, go to Canada.

Kimmel’s proposed solution is what we normally do when we are unsatisfied with a product or service: we go elsewhere. But Kimmel and his lefty pals are on a road away from choice, and towards exactly the sort of inadequate one-size-fits-nobody (except for the politically influential) service that government is so famous for.

This, by the way, is why I respectfully dissent from the views of some (like Joe Cunningham) that it is important that we pass Graham-Cassidy. Meh. I don’t think it matters at all. The only health care system that could work is one that depends on actual choice, which is only possible in a free market. But clearly Americans — and consequently their representatives — aren’t up for the sort of solutions that this would require. (I have discussed free-market alternatives for health care before –for example, here). Whether we tinker with a losing situation in this way or that way, in my view, matters little.

As I have said before, I think Rand Paul should be commended for standing against such tinkering. To whose who say: “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good” I respond: “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the chance to take joint responsibility for a socialistic program that will ruin 1/6 of the economy.” Or: “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the concession that this tiny meaningless improvement to the status quo is the best we’ll ever do.

Getting back to Kimmel’s sketch: the notion that Canada is the ideal is also laughable. The conservative rag The Huffington Post in June published a piece titled Why Canadians Are Increasingly Seeking Medical Treatment Abroad:

While Americans have been crossing the border for years in search of cheaper medications, it turns out there are a growing number of Canadians seeking medical treatment south of their border, raiding their bank accounts and choosing to pay for treatment instead of being treated through their nationalized health care system. In 2014, more than 50,000 Canadians left the country for medical treatment, a 25 percent increase from the previous year. A similar number left the country for treatment in 2015.

Why would someone pay for something they are entitled to receive for free?

According to The National Post, the answer comes down to a choice between time and money ― a choice that’s only available to those privileged enough to be able to finance expensive out-of-pocket medical expenses up front.

If we had a “Barista Theater” sketch about this, Jimmy would order a coffee today, and the barista would say: “Absolutely, sir! I’ll have that ready for you in a month!”

The only answer is free choice. Kimmel’s sketch implicitly recognizes this, but doesn’t face the implications of that fact. In that way, Jimmy Kimmel is like the rest of America — which knows it wants a better system, but has been lied to about how to achieve that.

I’m done banging my head against the wall. I’m like the guy who sees the car crash coming and is powerless to stop it. The best I can do is gear up for helping the victims. But the crash is happening.

[Cross-posted at RedState and The Jury Talks Back.]

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