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Jeffrey Epstein and The Wheel

Jeffrey Epstein and The Wheel

At 12, I wasn’t interested … but she was beautiful.

Donald Trump on Paris Hilton in 2003

When Alexander Acosta faced a Senate Committee reviewing his nomination to become Secretary of Labor, no one asked him a single question about Jeffrey Epstein. Across a gray, unremarkable career, he’d done only one newsworthy thing and none of the Senate panelists, not even the Democrats, felt a need to explore that one thing.

Acosta’s nominating speech focused on his signature theme for the Labor Department, the “skills gap.” The only skills gap apparent in the hearings was his own. Acosta had bounced from job to job as a Bush II political appointee before landing in the Justice Department as an Assistant AG for the Southern District of Florida. That’s where he performed the only public service that could have drawn the admiring attention of Donald Trump, a service no one on either side felt the need to discuss on his way to becoming Labor Secretary. Acosta in 2007, intervened in a prosecution against Jeffrey Epstein, insuring that Epstein had representation on both sides of the case. He then arranged a settlement that sealed the records in the case, blocking further revelations. It almost worked.

Surprised by the apparent disinterest of senior Democrats in exploring Donald Trump’s finances? Why is Nancy Pelosi so reluctant to press a public corruption investigation against the President? Does it seem like everyone in power in both parties is ignoring the obvious?

A temptation to mischaracterize the Epstein case as a “sex scandal” threatens to miss the point. There are reasons that no one complained when Epstein’s earlier prosecution was delayed. They are the same reasons that leaders in both parties have offered no more than a show of concern over Trump’s crimes. They are, in fact, the same reasons that we have two Supreme Court Justices accused of sexual harassment and two of our last four Presidents have legendary careers of rape and abuse.

Epstein offers us a rare glimpse into the machinery of rape and money that fuels a new political power, an engine of exploitation that has grown to rival, and perhaps overwhelm liberal democracy. Epstein is not merely a pedophile or a pimp, but a dangerous political pioneer. Until we find the will and the methods to counter the new machine, the rest of our political engagement will be wasted. We are approaching the Dunkirk of liberal democracy.

Welcome to the Machine

When evidence is aggressively concealed and the subject matter is lurid, there’s a powerful urge to either ignore the matter completely or tip over into lizard-people, dot-connecting conspiracy theories. Figures like Mohammad bin Salman, Trump, and Putin hide their activities and threaten or murder those who attempt to investigate them. Enablers of all kinds, from skeevy hustlers like Kelly Conway and Alan Dershowitz, up to billionaire Kleptocrats like Erik Prince and Wilbur Ross use the legal system, paired with a network of illegal systems, to make disclosures prohibitively expensive. It’s difficult to discuss this problem without drifting into paranoia, because these matters are frightening and hard data is tough to obtain. That’s no excuse to ignore them. Likewise, there’s no excuse for us or our leaders to ignore the plain, common-sense conclusions from available evidence. So, here we go.

In his book, Moneyland, Oliver Bullough describes the emerging world of global impunity for the wealthy. He explores the matrix of hidden banks, obfuscated corporate entities, and formal legal harassment that comprise the skeleton of this emerging, trans-national political force.

Clever opportunists earn personal fortunes helping criminals hide and launder money. Participants at all stages develop leverage to protect their clients and their businesses through mutual networks of kompromat. Showy donations to generic but prestigious charities whitewash their public images, making it tougher for journalists to pry. And finally, those compromised are then turned out to spread the damage and recruit new minions. It’s tough to define a starting point for Moneyland because it functions as a wheel. Perhaps it’s best to begin where the money enters the system.

Secretive offshore shells, like the Cypriot Bank run by Trump Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, are the financial backbone of this machine, helping criminals launder illicit funds into transferable assets. Carefully crafted laws in those locations grant secrecy to bogus corporations. A blizzard of phony companies, swirled into existence for a fee, make it extremely difficult to trace assets to a human being. That washed money tends to flow into real estate, since owning and developing real estate requires very little energy, attention or expertise. Real estate is money-management for morons. If this picture resembles the Trump Organization, that’s not an accident.

How do people like Donald Trump get away with a lifetime of professional money laundering? Look what happened when Wilbur Ross faced a Senate confirmation hearing.

Before a Senate panel, Ross made the phony claim that he had divested his holdings. What did the Democrats on that panel, the people with the apparent partisan incentive to expose his fraud, do in response? Here’s what Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal said to Ross about his obvious lie:

You have really made a very personal sacrifice. Your service has resulted in your divesting yourself of literally hundreds of millions of dollars.

Blumenthal has a net worth in the neighborhood of $100m, dwarfed by the fortune resting on his wife’s side of the family. He’s not going to press anyone on financial disclosures or conflicts of interest. Blumenthal didn’t just give Ross a pass, he took time to congratulate his fraud.

Banks like Ross’ are just one piece of the circle of complicity that guards access to Moneyland. Banks and phony financial institutions provide concealment, but membership in this world is still governed by networks of “kompromat,” demonstrations of illegal or embarrassing activity that take on an almost ritual nature. You’re not “in” until you are compromised in some manner than leaves you vulnerable, and therefore manipulable. No one can be trusted until they are complicit. Leverage over politicians is crucial. Donations help, but bringing elected officials fully into the circle of kompromat is best.

Once someone is compromised and initiated, creating a legitimate public veneer is an important next step, usually taking the form of showy donations to uncontroversial, prestigious charities. Museums, Ivy League schools and health research charities figure prominently here. Ideally in Moneyland, the first thing anyone learns about you from a Google search is your donations to Yale, or the medical school named for you in Tel Aviv.

The last piece of the Moneyland infrastructure is the legal system in western democracies. Money obtained through theft, fraud or political looting, laundered in obscure corners of Moneyland, is then defended in the legitimate legal systems of the West. Donald Trump’s finances are secret because US courts protect his “privacy.” Victims keep silent to hide from Trump’s pattern of abusive litigation. Watching a longtime liberal Democrat like Alan Dershowitz contort himself into pretzels defending Donald Trump seems puzzling until you read the child-rape allegations against him. He’s leveraging the protections of a legitimate democracy to punish those who expose the workings of Moneyland and protect his Kleptocrat patrons.

Who Owns the Law?

Virginia Giuffre was a 15 year old towel girl at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago compound in 1999 when Epstein raped her, with help from his madam, Ghislaine Maxwell. They paid her and ordered her to return. That money was crucial, both as a threat and an inducement. If she was going to report this incident, what role would that money play in shaping the story? They were quietly telling her that she was complicit, and she heard the message. Epstein and Maxwell groomed her into an asset in Epstein’s traveling child-bordello, a rotating collection of dozens of children.

How they did it is important, because it mirrors the techniques used in Moneyland to compromise and control all the other ancillary figures in their orbit. Epstein’s rape of Giuffre left her ashamed and vulnerable. She might have decided to fight, but the odds would have seemed overwhelming. Then, right behind that rape came “the abuser’s kindness,” promises of power, travel and riches. A balance of assault and reward pries people away from their identity while obliterating their self-respect. From Giuffre’s affidavit in the federal case seeking to reopen the Epstein prosecution:

He could have had me killed or abducted, and I always knew he was capable of that if I did not obey him. He let me know that he knew many people in high places. Speaking about himself, he said “I can get away” with things. I was very scared,  particularly since I was a teenager.

The mental process that traps these children was explained with more depth by another Epstein victim, Jena-Lisa Jones, in an interview with the Miami Herald.

You beat yourself up mentally and physically. You can’t ever stop your thoughts. A word can trigger something. For me, it is the word ‘pure’ because he called me ‘pure’ in that room and then I remember what he did to me in that room…By the time I was 16, I had probably brought him 70 to 80 girls who were all 14 and 15 years old. He was involved in my life for years.

Also from the Miami Herald:

At least two of Epstein’s victims told police that they were in love with him, according to the police report.

The strange attachment felt by Epstein’s victims is vital for understanding the relationship between exploitation and passionate loyalty that characterizes so many in the Trump orbit.

Giuffre was 16 in 2000 when Epstein first invited his friend Alan Dershowitz to rape her. Her experience in this machine is particularly horrifying. Children like Giuffre are the most brutally exploited members of this great wheel of rape and exploitation, right behind the people who are murdered. However, it’s important to recognize that what happened to her is repeated all the way up the chain in different ways and to differing degrees. Dense layers of enablers in Moneyland serve both as victims and enforcers. You can see the outline of Virginia Giuffre’s story in the careers of Hope Hicks, Kellyanne Conway, or the unknown lawyers and accountants who grease the wheel for a little cut of the action. The cult-like complicity of this machine’s victims helps keep it running until it gains enough power in the world’s stable democracies that no one’s complaints will ever matter.

Giuffre at 15, in a photo taken by Epstein.

Dershowitz and Giuffre had very different experiences and status in Moneyland, but they played similar roles in a great wheel of exploitation. After she was raped and cultivated, Giuffre served Epstein by collecting compromising information on targets like Dershowitz. Now that Dershowitz is fully compromised, like Giuliani, Stone, Conway and dozens of others, he gets turned out as just another hooker in the brothel to spread the cycle of exploitation. The great wheel turns.

Giuffre is remarkable for mustering the courage for a fight. Few of the victims of this circle of kompromat ever so much as rattle their chains. When she finally went public with her story, Dershowitz threatened her, then sued to keep her silent. Unlike most of Epstein’s victims, Giuffre is fighting back, but she will probably lose. Our law is simply not on her side. Over the past three decades, legal and political controls that might have thwarted the growth of this Moneyland network have been stripped away bit by bit. Our system of “rule of law” now operates primarily to preserve the power of those bold enough to grab what they can.

Who is Jeffrey Epstein?

Recent disclosures about Epstein’s sex-trafficking network are creating more heat than light. Placing his story in the wider context of Moneyland starts with understanding who he is, who he knew, and what he did.

A decade after escaping from child sex-trafficking charges in Florida, Jeffrey Epstein was arrested last Saturday by federal agents on his arrival at Teterboro Airport from Paris. Agents raided Epstein’s $70m Manhattan home seizing a trove of evidence. Among his vast collection of child pornography, they found a unique portfolio of compact disks marked with handwritten labels that prosecutors would summarize as: Young [Name] + [Name].

Over a long career in Moneyland, Epstein’s party-friends have included Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, Prince Andrew, Woody Allen and a sparkling galaxy of stars from global politics, business and pop culture, drawn together by their shared appreciation of young girls. Epstein kept his photo of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who had dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi murdered, in a prominent place on his wall of fame. Bill Clinton flew on Epstein’s private jet, nicknamed The Lolita Express, on at least 26 documented occasions, five of them without the Secret Service. Despite published logs of his flights with Epstein, Clinton has maintained a pattern of lying about their interactions. Clinton has responded to Epstein’s latest arrest with a Sergeant Schultz quote that he “knows nothing” of Epstein’s activities.

Epstein and Trump partied together for years, including a 1992 “calendar girl” competition in which 28 girls were flown to Mar a Lago to meet alone with only the two of them. Epstein claims he introduced Trump to a foreign nude model with a dubious visa status who would become a client of Trump’s “modeling agency,” his third wife, and your First Lady.

Prince Andrew with Giuffre and Ghislaine Maxwell when Giuffre was 17.

Who is Epstein and how did he amass this wealth of connections? First, remember the wheel. Illicit funds find redemption in overseas shells. Mutual networks of kompromat with powerful people provide protection. Hollow, perfunctory philanthropy does for a public image what money laundering did for the assets. Then it becomes necessary to widen the circle, in a pyramid scheme of compromise and exploitation. All of this is protected by the rule of law in the western democracies, where any whiff of negative publicity draws crippling lawsuits and pressure from public officials. When holes emerge, they are plugged with shadowy non-disclosure agreements. Now, let’s go for a ride on the wheel.

The short version is that Jeffrey Epstein is Michael Cohen, but with a darker and more successful racket. He dropped out of college in the early 70’s and spent a few years teaching math. One of his students was the son of Bear Stearns Chairman Alan Greenberg. He got a job at Bear Stearns in ‘76, rising quickly, if oddly and without explanation. He left the firm in ’81 to start his own financial management company, with his first two clients being Greenberg and Bear Stearns CEO Jimmy Cayne. There’s no explanation of why these men were doing business with Epstein.

Earlier versions of the Epstein legend focus on his purported talent for financial math. Epstein made noisy claims that he would only accept money-management business from billionaires. However, no one can point to a trading strategy, an investment or any lucrative deal that succeeded. No evidence of Epstein’s financial talent is apparent anywhere in this story, but other skills have been plainly demonstrated over the years. Epstein is often described as a billionaire himself, without any attribution or evidence. His only discovered assets are a few pricey tracts of real estate and his planes, with no income details available.

Somehow, in 1986, Epstein earned the business of Leslie Wexner, owner and founder of The Limited Brands and Victoria’s Secret. If Epstein ever recruited another billionaire to his financial management business, they remain unidentified. Wexner and Epstein became curiously close and Wexner is the only identifiable source of Epstein’s wealth.

Epstein soon moved his business to the US Virgin Islands and formed a new joint corporation with Wexner. It looks like Epstein was leaning on Wexner’s fortune over the next decade. Wexner in ’89 bought the palatial Manhattan townhome that now belongs to Epstein. The home was transferred from Wexner to his joint business with Epstein in ’98. In 2011 it was transferred from that company, to a shell company wholly owned by Epstein for $0. It’s estimated to be worth roughly $70m.

Trump and Epstein met sometime in the late 80’s and appear to have become fast friends. By ’92 they were already close enough for Epstein to schedule a private party with himself, Trump, and dozens of “calendar girls” at Mar-a-Lago.

Here’s a photo of the two of them from 1997.

Another from 1999, with Melanie in tow:

Both of these photos were taken at Mar a Lago, where Epstein trolled for talent.

Epstein’s network of “models” seems to have captured Trump’s imagination. In 1996, Trump went into the money-losing business of beauty pageants, which made up for its poor financial returns with excellent access to young girls.

He followed that with his super-creepy Trump modeling business launched in 1999, with a remarkable pipeline of underage Eastern European girls, apparently working for extended periods in the US without visas, much like the First Lady. Unlike Epstein, Trump wasn’t very good at it. Epstein managed to run a network of dozens of children at a time, pimping them while they gathered valuable kompromat, and attracting little notice or complaint. By comparison, Trump’s boorish rapeyness drew his first known sexual harassment lawsuit in 1997. Unlike the careful, discreet Epstein, Trump’s assaults left a wake of noisy harassment and rape complaints and a very public reputation for abuse. Epstein had a talent, and it wasn’t math.

A cringeworthy 2002 fluff piece on Epstein in New York Magazine provides most of our publicly available biographical information. It delivered an uncritical account of his business backstory contributing to his persona as a self-made billionaire. He would join Mort Zuckerman, Harvey Weinstein and a larger consortium of investors in a failed attempt to buy the magazine the following year.

Remarkably, Epstein’s special talent for connecting powerful people with abused young girls was not a secret. In 2002, while Bill Clinton was jetting around on Epstein’s Lolita Express and New York Magazine was writing his hagiography, this is what Trump said about Epstein on the Howard Stern show:

I’ve known Jeff for 15 years. Terrific guy. He’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about it — Jeffrey enjoys his social life.

Epstein’s reputation as a child-pimp was sufficiently public by 2002 to be a laugh line on a comedy show. Trump took at least one documented flight on Epstein’s plane in 2002.

Running the Moneyland playbook, Epstein spent millions of dollars on charities, but in true Moneyland fashion he didn’t stop there. He invested a great deal of time cultivating relationships with the recipients of his largesse. Cecile de Jongh, wife of the Governor of the Virgin Islands, was hired to serve on the board of Epstein’s charity. In 2000, he was appointed to the board of Rockefeller University. He didn’t just donate to some random needy school down the road, he spent his money gaining access to Harvard, making sure he was photographed in a Harvard sweatshirt, at Harvard, standing next to Alan Dershowitz. A guy with little or no independent income who dropped out of a run-of-the-mill university used his access to Moneyland to become a Harvard Man.

In particular, Epstein developed a personal relationship with renowned mathematician Martin Nowak, who became a much-needed conduit for Epstein’s legitimizing project. Nowak has reportedly been on visits with Epstein to his infamous Caribbean rape-island. Still today, Nowak serves as the head of the Jeffrey Epstein IV foundation. There’s a priceless line from Nowak in an old interview that places his complicity in context, “[Epstein] has changed my life. Because of his support, I feel I can do anything I want.”

This is the original caption from this published photo: “Friend of Presidents, the ultra-rich and the elite of Wall Street’s bankers Jeff Epstein remains an enigma to many in the world of finance despite handling portfolios estimated to be worth over $15 billion.He is seen here at left in conversation with Professor Alan Dershowitz one of America’s best-known legal experts.” (Photo by Rick Friedman/Corbis via Getty Images)

One phrase from Epstein in a 2002 interview sums up the whole of his machine, from his relationship with raped children to the scientists whose reputations he funded, “I invest in people — be it politics or science. It’s what I do.” From 15-year-old Virginia Giuffre to the prize-winning scientists he bought, everyone had a role to play in Epstein’s machine of rape, money and power. Scientists who legitimize Epstein’s name right now, today, by serving on his “foundation,” are selling themselves to this machine willingly, with their eyes wide open, providing a flank of lingering support and legitimacy that keeps this wheel of rape turning. Who, exactly, is the whore in this brothel?

Considering the cruelty and horror of the rape allegations at the root of Epstein’s power, how did he avoid justice for so long? And more to the point, how does Epstein’s career shed light on the ability of Trump and others to commit crimes in plain sight while rising to the highest levels of power? Our legal system lays the final piece in this jigsaw puzzle.

Journalist Vicky Ward had Epstein’s number early on. At a time when New York Magazine was still producing adoring print on Epstein and his rape machine remained in the shadows, she was writing this skeptical content at Vanity Fair in 2003. What was stripped from that 2003 piece was the story that might have blown the case open.

Epstein had raped two underaged sisters, and they had the courage in 2003 to share their stories with Ward. Their stories were included in the profile of Epstein that Ward submitted to her editor, Graydon Carter. When Epstein got wind of those details he went on the attack, going directly to Carter to spike the story.

Pause for a moment, and revisit the trail. Money, and the veneer of money, picked up from Les Wexner. Notoriety gained from Donald Trump. Political connections from Bill Clinton and numerous others. Philanthropic and even scientific legitimacy sold to him by professor Martin Nowak. And powerful legal connections delivered by noted attorney and fellow rapist Alan Dershowitz.  Now, in 2003, an editor faces a weighty decision. Should Grayson Carter bet his magazine and his career on the word of a pair of abused teenagers, or should he delete those allegations from the story and make a powerful new friend. Carter decided to make a friend instead of creating an enemy, and Epstein’s wheel of rape kept crushing lives. That’s how you move from witness to accomplice.

In March 2005, a parent of one of Epstein’s 14-year-old victims went to Palm Beach police, and it looked like Epstein’s luck might have run out. Police launched a year long investigation accumulating victim interviews and material evidence. They filed their probable cause affidavit in May 2006.

Lurid press coverage of Epstein’s sexual activities distracted from the more serious aspects of the case. Prosecutors took that trove of evidence and sought a state indictment against Epstein on a single, minor charge of solicitation. Without the tenacity of a local detective, Joseph Recarey, it might have all ended there. Recarey went to the FBI hoping that federal officials would take the case seriously. They did, at first.

US Attorneys reportedly assembled a 53-page indictment for Federal Court, then Alex Acosta stepped in. He met with Epstein’s elite legal team, which included Ken Starr and Alan Dershowitz, and cut a plea deal. That deal sealed existing records while letting Epstein plea to only a single state charge of solicitation. He would serve a few months of “work release” jail time and carry on with his life. Asked later why he offered such a sweet deal to Epstein without even consulting prosecutors, he reportedly explained that Epstein was “untouchable.”  

We’re only talking about this now because of the brave persistence of reporters at the Miami Herald. Years of work resulted in a blockbuster, November 2018 story by Julie Brown, making the details of the case too clear and loud to be ignored. Where the legal system has failed, journalists risked their careers to protect us. They are the heroes of our time.

Now Epstein’s victims and the public get a second chance at justice in New York. It’s too early to say whether the wheels of Moneyland can crush this prosecution and protect their secrets.

Why Epstein Matters

In 2011, Jeffrey Epstein was still on the loose after his close escape in Florida. Before setting himself up again in New York City he was required to register as a sex offender. That’s when a Manhattan sex-crimes prosecutor went to court on a strange mission. Manhattan Asst. DA Jennifer Gaffney lobbied a judge to grant Epstein the lowest sex offender classification. Referencing the single, minor charge for which Epstein would eventually plead guilty, Gaffney dismissed the rest of the allegations, “If an offender is not indicted for an offense, it is strong evidence that the offense did not occur.”

Why would a prosecutor make a special appearance to secure leniency for a convict?

The wheel still turns. Money still talks. Those with access to Moneyland carry remarkable power to protect each other, even in the most dire circumstances. Manhattan DA, Cyrus Vance, still responds to pleas for leniency for predators like Jeffrey Epstein for the same reason that Bill Clinton is still welcome in influential circles, and for the same reasons that Nancy Pelosi feels no urgency to pursue Donald Trump’s finances. These wealthy people who have gained membership in Moneyland share a fraternity, with its own rules of civility and professional courtesy. Their fraternal ties are far more important than your grubby politics and meaningless partisan squabbles.

Jeffrey Epstein is giving us a brief, fleeting glimpse into the alternate political system gradually swallowing democracy. Call it Wu Tang Politics, a system of government in which Cash Rules Everything Around Me (C.R.E.A.M.), and it has successfully grown beyond the reach of conventional representative government. It’s not their alignment with red or blue, but green that moves our representatives. Those in our system who fight to resist the enticements of money are eventually crushed beneath the wheel, or cowed into complicity.

Cyrus Vance hasn’t just offered protection for Epstein. In 2012, Manhattan prosecutors built a powerful felony fraud case against Don Jr. and Ivanka Trump. Trump’s attorney, Marc Kasowitz who also represents Russian mobster Oleg Deripaska, paid Vance a personal visit on May 12, 2012. A few months later Vance quietly intervened to end the investigation.

Vance declined to prosecute IMF Director Dominique Strauss Kahn in 2011 after he raped a hotel maid in New York. Vance squashed a sexual assault prosecution against powerful filmmaker, Harvey Weinstein in 2015. Last year, Manhattan prosecutors began following up on the Michael Cohen revelations, investigating the role of Trump company in illegal payoffs. They’ve since backed off the investigation with no explanation.

Stories about these cases have focused on payments made by powerful attorneys to Vance’s campaigns, but look back at the pattern. Vance doesn’t need these donations, which function as little more than a polite tip-of-the-hat from a professional colleague. What he needs is the access, glow and credibility provided by being of service to powerful people. It’s not just money, but what money can bring, that entraps so many of our elected leaders.

What’s the point of being District Attorney in Manhattan if you can’t be of use to A-list celebrities or billionaires in their time of need? Anger these people, and the stories about you in Murdoch’s New York Post will quickly turn ugly. Invitations will dry up. Without that power and favor, Manhattan DA is just another dreary bureaucratic job. Like the money and vacations offered to the children Epstein raped, or the donations lavished on Harvard, the payments to Vance are just a small exposed arc of the wheel. As a child of politics, fame, trust funds and privilege, Vance is a low-ranking member of the same fraternity as Weinstein and Clinton, and yes, Pelosi, and they protect their own.

Nancy Pelosi comes from a political family of modest means. She’s never had a private sector job in her life, but across a lifetime of public service she’s been able to accumulate a fortune worth well over $100m in *declared* value.

Like Mitch McConnell, Pelosi points to the income accumulated by her spouse in the private sector as an explanation for her wealth. How did her husband Paul rise from not very much to a nine-figure fortune? Nobody really knows. They give oblique answers suggesting world-class success in real estate or stock investment. However, the real answer is that their finances are a secret, just like Donald Trump’s finances. Sure, Donald Trump hasn’t released his tax returns, but neither has Nancy Pelosi.

California Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein has enjoyed similarly uncanny luck in the markets. She’s accumulated roughly $50m on a lifetime of government service after earning a history degree. Where did it come from? Feel free to ask her. We can’t even tell what much of it consists of thanks to the blind trusts.

Senator Corey Booker isn’t wealthy yet, but the Kushner family played a key role in his rise to the US Senate, donating tens of thousands of dollars over the years. Booker attended Jared and Ivanka’s wedding. Here’s a picture of him with the Kushners:

Corey Booker and a few close friends.

Joe Biden’s wayward son, Hunter, lent his family’s reputation to help thwart a corruption investigation in Ukraine that might have threatened a particularly nasty Kleptocrat, Mykola Zlochevsky. Thanks to help from the Vice President’s son, Ukranian prosecutors fighting to establish some integrity in that system found themselves outgunned. By Joe Biden’s own account, he intervened in March 2016, threatening to withhold $1bn in loan guarantees for Ukraine unless the lead prosecutor investing his son’s company, Burisma, was dismissed. He characterizes this move as a proud stand against corrupt prosecutors, but it was his son’s shady company that benefited. Six months later a Ukrainian court dismissed charges against Zlochevsky citing the prosecution’s failure to make progress.

Hunter Biden resigned from Burisma this April. Zlochevsky’s company, incorporated in Cyprus of course, now enjoys the support of former CIA counter-terrorism coordinator Cofer Black, who serves on its board. The wheel turns.

Mount Rushmore

If the Baby-Boomer Generation was allowed to carve a new face into Mount Rushmore, one that most accurately represented their contributions to American life and politics, it should be Jeffrey Epstein. He’s the new Lincoln, herald of an emerging new political order stretching across our disintegrating national boundaries, in which wealthy criminals find legitimacy and legitimate political leaders find wealth. Epstein’s political model, repeated by aspiring kleptocrats all over the globe, is the heartbeat of a new system on the march, burrowing into the core of liberal democracies, destroying their capacity to represent the interests of voters before replacing them outright.

The Wu Tang Politics of the Moneyland elite plays out in a realm beyond parties or alignments. How enthusiastic do you think Nancy Pelosi will ever be about financial transparency in politics? Why should Nancy Pelosi or Joe Biden or any of the other senior Democrats change course? While the Democratic Party has been pushed to the ropes over the past three decades, they’ve not merely survived, but thrived. Their interests are not your interests.

When Nancy Pelosi rolls her eyes at the naivete of the anti-Trump resistance, she’s not concealing any cold, cynical, 16-dimensional chess approach to fighting Trump. She doesn’t find Trump any more troubling than Paul Ryan or Mitch McConnell ever did. If Donald Trump had run and won as a Democrat, she’s be doing exactly what Paul Ryan did for him. Pelosi and her class have already decamped to Moneyland. And if you find the Democrats’ ties to Moneyland troubling, you’re not ready for the briefest glance into the rollicking political brothel being run by Republicans.

Power corrupts. We have allowed the growth of a system in which too much wealth concentrates in too few hands with too little power remaining in public institutions. Once you reach a tipping point in the concentration of wealth, there’s no political rivalry of any significance other than conflicts among billionaires. How many top level elections on state ballots in 2020 will be fought between a pair of billionaire candidates? That system of concentrated wealth, much of it hidden away in Moneyland, threatens to neutralize democracy, and it may be too late to stop it.

Labor Secretary and Epstein protector, Alex Acosta resigned this week. He wasn’t brought down by Congress or the press, he simply wasn’t useful enough to retain his privileges. With no fortune of his own and insufficient leverage, his failure to build enough value in the currency of Wu Tang Politics leaves him with no foothold, a pariah in the world of legitimate commerce and a joke in Moneyland.

Acosta wasted his priceless shot at a place in Moneyland. Karmic justice may be satisfying in this case, but it’s not enough justice to protect us all.


  1. This deserves to be included as one of the most indepth, best pieces of political reporting I’ve read on the trump inner workings. It offers a rare inside look at the people and decision making processes that have swirled around trump’s immigration agenda. It has nothing to do with Epstein (apologies Chris), but it has everything to do with helping us understand what we are dealing with in trump’s world, how he uses people, is manipulated by people, is dangerously flippant in decision-making, and importantly, dominates those who surround him. Why? I wonder if it is because any normal person simply cannot fathom how to respond to him.

  2. Some good news, bail for this piece of shit has been denied!

    He was willing to put up his $77G mansion as collateral. Not impressive at all when you consider he’s supposedly worth more than $500G and word is that the fake passport that was allegedly for fooling “terrorists” was actually stamped. I have no doubts that he would sacrifice the bulk of his fortune with zero hesitation to evade justice. The judge made the only proper call.

    1. “He was willing to put up his $77G mansion as collateral.”

      Next time I notice something like this I should screencap it, but as this story has developed that mansion went from first $45million, to then $54million, then $56million, then $70, now $77???

      I mean, NYC real estate inflates fast but a 66% appreciation in two weeks is super impressive. It’s almost like the value is getting bid up to make the offer more generous or something.

      1. According to WaPo: “ If Epstein had been granted bail, defense attorneys said, he would have been willing to put up his $77 million Manhattan mansion as collateral and agree to home confinement with 24/7 security that he would have funded.”

        Plenty of fluctuating figures on his net worth too. Epstein had to be the most obvious flight risk in the history of American jurisprudence. The fact that we had any reason to worry that he might get bail just shows have scary and corrupt and downright stupid our timeline is.

    1. Question for you, to what degree can Barr delay, derail, hinder, or outright stop the legal process against Epstein?? His conflicts of interest are so obvious, but brazen hypocrisy is now the animating force of the GOP, so I doubt he can be shamed into re-recusing himself.

      Amazing how Barr makes Jeff Sessions look honorable and principled, and I say that as something with zero love lost for Sessions.

    1. Sorry, but if the dozen more recent suits against the tyrant are shrugged off, 25 year old allegations will be not even a blip.

      People don’t seem to get it. The tyrant and his crew do what they do because they can. I am not talking about the various machinations that Chris is describing. I am talking about the acts in front of everyone’s eyes that are ignored.

      The tyrant and his cadre ignore subpoenas, and nothing happens.
      The tyrant and his various organizations commit fraud and graft in open sight, and nothing happens.
      The tyrant is on tape talking about assaulting women and that nothing will happen to him, and he is elected president.
      The tyrant states he can ignore the constitution, and nothing happens.
      The tyrant and his cadre force people into concentration camps where people are dying, and nothing happens.

      Yet you people seem to believe that his organization still honors the sanctity of the election process, and that you can somehow vote out the tyrant.

      Bottom line, there is no one else in the fascist apparatus running the country that has the charisma, for lack of a better term, to do what the tyrant does. If he dies, there would be consequences, but ultimately the fascist movement is set back severely.

      Those that suggest that the country and planet would be in a worse situation if the tyrant had been stopped before 2016 are utterly delusional.

      1. Who is “you people”?

        I know the orange shitgibbon doesn’t honor our constitution or anything except money and the GOP will pander and lick his ass in order to consolidate power and have a one party dictatorship. I keep hoping someone in intel, ours or someone else’s, will take care of this but it’s becoming apparent that they are all in it together. A literal rich mans club.

    2. I hadn’t seen this. Filing in CA will at least allow the suit to be heard. Undoubtedly, The witness will be impugned by her longevity of affiliation with Epstein but as more women come forward, at the very least, both of these men will be forced to respond to filings. Ask yourself- how many are out there and what stories do they have to tell. The audience is not trump’s base nor the democrat’s base but rather independents who are needed to vote for the democratic candidate.

  3. It’s too bad Clinton didn’t win the election. Had she, the 2018 midterms would have cycled out yet more of the old guard GOP with even crazier, unaffiliated, and undisciplined bloodhounds into Congress that would take this Epstein scandal and beat that drum every single day; meanwhile the progressives on the left, having been angered by Bernie’s loss and also frustrated with Clinton’s inability to get even one bill passed against a Congress with an ultimatum to do nothing, will have focused on social and cultutleal activism which means #MeToo would still be a thing, and so basically everybody with skin in the game would be forced to take Epstein down very publicly, very visibly, and very quickly. 45 could get caught up in it (Republicans would blame him for Clinton’s win because who could possibly lose against Clinton and also there is this picture of them laughing together and clearly he was a false flag operation yadda yadda yadda) and it would serve nicely the story that all these powerful New York elites are just one big sex trafficking operation — which is essentially what Chris is saying here, using more facts and big boy words.

    Anyway the point is that without GOP’s sycophantic obsequiousness to every Daddy Don’t Hit Me that leads their party, and with a country united in destroying the Clinton franchise, Epstein would be a great witch to burn… The issue would be how well they gird the wheel behind him so it doesn’t break or fall off, causing the whole enterprise to collapse into a Lavo Jato of pedophilia.

    But alas, we’re only given the reality we have, where 45 can change the entire conversation with a Back to Africa tweet against 4 Congresspeople and his base don’t mind because they aren’t morally outraged by pedophiles, they’re outraged that people like the Clintons can get away with it while passing laws against pedophiles in their communities.

      1. Merciful? Please expand upon this comment. As for what a Clinton election would have achieved; Supreme Court would be more liberal; environment more protected; women’s rights more secure; budget deficits not $1T and middle class better protected; foreign affairs and alliances stronger not in tatters. I submit the world economy would be humm not depressed. If all these things happened as I believe they would have, there would be a stronger democracy to withstand the onslaught of nationalism and authoritarianism.

      2. You’re presuming quite a bit, Mary. Although I’d argue Chris is being way too pessimistic when he says we’d only stave off our comeuppance by some months, he’s right in that a Clinton presidency would’ve only delayed the inevitable.

        – Do you honestly think Majority Leader McConnell would’ve given a damn who sat in the WH? There’s not so much as a 1% chance he would’ve let Clinton seat a nominee on the Supreme Court.

        – 2018 would’ve been an absolute bloodbath. Republicans would’ve been the odds on favorites to have supermajorities in both the House and Senate and they may well have had enough control in the states to call a Constitutional Convention all on their own. We’d be *fucked*.

        Oh, and let’s not forget that the GOP would control the levers for gerrymandering their control for yet *another* decade.

        – Trump TV would be a thing. Let that sink in for a minute.

        – With nothing getting through a Republican Congress, Clinton would struggle mightily for re-election. And though this is venturing into the hypothetical weeds here, who’s to say an otherwise competent version of Trump wouldn’t have secured the GOP nomination?

        Mind-numbing as the notion that we’re somehow better off from Trump winning can be, we have to consider the alternatives. You can’t consider a Hillary Clinton presidency without ceding to the White People’s Party a measure of power and generational influence they haven’t enjoyed in any of our lifetimes – the consequences of that being profound beyond description.

      3. You’re assuming the forces (mainly women) that made the difference in 2018 would have sat on the sidelines? I don’t. Senate, yes, that would have stayed red. We still had a shot at the House. We will never know of course but even four years of gridlock would have been better than this domestic chaos and world turmoil. Nothings getting calendared for hearings in the Senate now even with the House sending over lots of bills. As for trump tv – that’s a given for the rest of time but at least we have a choice not to listen to it, don’t we?

        Pollyanna is alive and well. If she weren’t, I couldn’t handle this daily scrum.

      4. We’d have a better chance at Disney making a good live adaptation of The Little Mermaid than we’d have had at retaking the House in 2018 if Clinton was president. Yes, the suburbs were already trending Democratic, but they voted Republicans back into office in ’16 *specifically* to have a check on a presumed Clinton presidency. The only reason they did a complete 180 and backed Dems by such outstanding margins is King MAGAmerica being in the Oval.

    1. The only other figures in the Democratic field with fewer ties to Moneyland are the brand new people and the obscure outliers.

      Warren was fighting this battle long before I thought it was really an issue. Back in the 90’s she credited her concerns over financial corruption for her party-switch. I can’t identify anyone in either party who has made the fight for financial transparency more central to their career. And Wall Street HATES her.

      1. Warren gets my vote in the primary if she lasts long enough. Very principled, smart and has centered her platform on jobs and a fairer society, which I consider to be a good message.

      2. Ej:

        When I die, let them judge me by my company of friends
        Let them know me as the footprints that I left upon the sand
        Let them laugh for all the laughter
        Let them cry for laughter’s end
        But when I die, let them judge me by my company of friends

        When I die, let them toast to all the things that I believe
        Let them raise a glass to consciousness
        And not spill a drop for grief
        Let the bubbles rise at midnight
        Let their tongues get light as thieves
        And when I die, let them toast to all the things that I believe

        (c) 2007 Danny Elkin

  4. This stuff really sickens me. I’m not sure what’s worse, knowing that so many powerful men are pedophile rapists, or how badly our justice [sic] system protects them rather than the victims.

    I’ve always thought of Bill Clinton as being one of our best Presidents on a policy / political level, and looked the other way on his sexual history as most likely consensual sex between a serial philanderer and women attracted to his power. But his numerous trips to Epstein’s Rape Island show he’s not just a garden-variety husband cheating on his wife, or even merely hiring a prostitute (like NY AG Eliot Spitzer). This crosses into horrific crimes (statutory rape, sexual assault, sex trafficking, obstruction of justice, etc.). I hope he, Epstein, Trump, Dershowitz, and their posse spend the rest of their days in jail, where, as the saying goes, “the lovin’ you want, you ain’t gettin’; the lovin’ you gettin’, you don’t want…”

    I fully agree with you about the Democrats’ absorption into Moneyland (if they were ever apart from it; maybe in FDR’s time?). One of the most demoralizing things about supporting Occupy Wall St. was watching Democrats run away faster from them than the Republicans did. Most of Wall St (just like the rest of NYC) is Democratic. But more importantly, the financiers move easily between both parties, both of whom welcome them with open arms, and largely have a bipartisan consensus about how to implement Wall St’s policy goals. Obama’s kumbaya post-partisan “There’s no red state / blue state, there’s only a purple state” rhetoric really only applied to one place: Wall St. (well, and maybe the surveillance / national security state). For the rest of us, it was bullshit only someone as naive as Obama was could believe in.

    So what is to be done? Your point about all of this being brought out thanks to journalists is the clue, but not in the way you think it is. The biggest point was not that they were journalists. It was that they worked in Miami, far away from the power centers of DC and NY. Do you think reporters at the NY Times or WP didn’t have access to the same rumors, witnesses, and public records that Julie Brown did?

    Journalists can be easily corrupted, just like Graydon Carter was. Anyone who’s spent time in DC and NY’s halls of power knows how easy it is cultivate and capture journalists. Journalist compare themselves not based on who has a better record of uncovering the truth. They measure themselves by the size of their rolodexes: which powerful people do they have on speed dial for exclusive, anonymous quotes? Whether those quotes are true / false / biased / self-serving is secondary to whether they were given to you exclusively as a “confidante”.

    Only by physically separating reporters from the social milieu of the people they’re ostensibly keeping tabs on do we have a chance of keeping them independent. Which is also why the 53-page indictment you mention was compiled by US Attorneys *in Miami*, and not by US Attorneys in the much more prestigious and better funded Southern District of New York. Or do you think that the abuses going on in Mar-a-Lago weren’t going on in Epstein’s or Trump’s houses in NYC?

    Thanks to the internet, however, we have a fighting chance of doing this work far away from where the crimes are actually being committed, by people who will never be tempted by an invite to the Met Gala, because they don’t know or care to know what the Met Gala is. Most of the obfuscated paper trails used by money launderers can be unravelled by poring through public records. And thankfully, all those records are now available electronically, from anywhere in the world. You don’t have to fly to Delaware and sit in their paper archives to examine all those shell corporations. You only need an internet connection (And not a particularly fast one at that).

    I guarantee you Palantir and the NSA have already done it, by feeding every single corporate document filed in Delaware, Panama, London, Luxembourg, and every other tax haven in the world, into a giant AI engine that spits out every connection between Russian billionaires, Saudi princes, Manhattan real estate tycoons, and politicians in every capital around the world, by examining trivial stuff like official registered agents, the timing of opening and closing these companies, listed board of directors, etc. Most of the information needed to do so is public, available to us as well. All we need is a few ex-Palantir employees (they’ll be plenty when Palantir goes public and they can finally cash out their options) to use their know-how and write an open source AI platform to do it.

    This, I believe, is the solution. While the billionaires have been cultivating the traditional power structures, heavily concentrated in places like NY/DC/Brussels, the cyberworld is becoming increasingly decentralized. You can pass as many copyright laws as you want in DC. In the cyberworld, any kid in Botswana with an internet connection can download your movie off a series of servers located in pirate havens around the world. Or the latest Wikileaks report that every government in the world has been powerless to stop. This despite movie studios increasing their statutory control over their IP via increasingly draconian copyright laws.

    In a similar vein, the billionaire’s ability to stay out of the limelight only applies as long as you depend on power structures in their strongholds of NY/DC/etc to expose the truth. If you bypass those structures, utilizing the internet to gain the same access to information as a NY Times journalist, then you don’t *need* Cyrus Vance to publicize to Epstein’s neighbors that he’s a sex offender who raped underage girls in Florida. Is public shaming and exposure the same as being legally designated a sex offender? No, but maybe, just maybe, it might be enough to get him kicked out of moneyland and then face the full wrath of the legal system without his billionaire buddies backing him up.

    This may sound like vigilantism. And to an extent, it is. And we know that the internet’s ability to spread false rumors and innuendo like wildfire can also cause real harm to innocent people. But in this case, I’m willing to take that chance, if it gives us an actual chance to break this cabal apart.

    I’m seriously tempted to recruit a few AI guys to create scripts to screenscrape as much corporate info off of public websites from known tax havens, cross reference through google search results, and then, feed everything to an AI engine, and start making predictions about which companies are shady, and who’s behind them. A prototype would probably take a few weekends to throw together. Vacuum up enough data and the AI would probably outsmart any human sleuth. Anybody here with AI skills who’s looking for a new hobby? 🙂

    1. EJ

      “A prototype would probably take a few weekends to throw together. Vacuum up enough data and the AI would probably outsmart any human sleuth. Anybody here with AI skills who’s looking for a new hobby? 🙂”

      This touches on my day job.

      I would suggest that you are perhaps being a little optimistic about what can be accomplished, both in terms of the nightmare of standardising webscraped data, and the nightmare of trying to write the AI for that.

      It’s a morally good project idea and I endorse it, don’t get me wrong, but you’re basically reimplementing a white-hat version of Palantir only without the standardised data, and there’s a reason why they already need the amount of funds that only Peter Thiel can provide.

      If I may ask, are you a data person? Have you worked with ML/NN much before?

  5. Speaking of the perv who inspired all this, an interesting little nugget of info flitting around the Twitterverse:

    “SDNY says they learned today that Epstein had in a locked safe a foreign passport issued in the 1980s, expired, with a photo that appears to be Epstein and a name that is not his. It also gives his place of residence as Saudi Arabia.”

    My client is absolutely not a flight risk, how could anyone think that your Honor??

  6. I will keep this simple, and continue the theme I have stated for quite some time now. When the “rule of law” fails, or is in place to protect the powerful, then the only logical option is to operate outside of that system.

    You can talk about the evolution of giga-corps and tera-corps into some kind of nation imposing a more fair set of laws all you want. That will take a long time, and the odds are super high the same people operating inside the “wheel” will control these new nation-corps.

    To be extremely trite, and sophomoric, but still accurate, more and more I let my life decisions be dictated by “What would Batman do”? Years ago it would have been “What would the Godfather do”, then I remember in Godfather II when the senator is found in the Vegas cathouse with the dead prostitute. That scene with Duvall is a perfect illustration of someone being initiated into the “wheel”. “This girl has no family. It will appear like she never existed. All that’s left is our friendship.”

  7. Chris, how do you square this piece with your last piece?

    What I mean is, the thing that is apparently larger than nations is, right now anyway, moneyland. If that’s the alternative, I really, really want to stick with nations and nationalism! We need powerful legal institutions that are for the people, not for corporations and the rich. I just don’t see any way those can exist other than as organs of a democratic system of government, so we need nations to remain strong.

    1. It doesn’t matter what we’d like to stick with. Our problems and our lives are now bigger than the reach of nations. We can’t address fundamental issues without trans-national entities of some kind. I might like to go back to just having little Jeffersonian family farms and milking cows for a living, but it won’t work. That organizational system is too weak and too poor to protect itself once other more powerful adaptions have evolved.

      Frankly, what you should get from a peek at Moneyland is an appreciation for a certain brand of trans-national corporation. They can’t save us, but they can at least demonstrate that its possible to develop supra-national institutions that function and thrive without this wheel of kompromat that controls Moneyland. Where Epstein gives us a glimpse of Moneyland, these companies show us that’s it’s possible to build stable institutions in that supra-national realm that aren’t fundamentally premised on rape.

      1. I retired from the Orlando Utilities Commission. It is a quasi government organization both government and corporation. running the city’s power and water systems. The city directly runs the airport , sewage and trash disposal systems. Also a mix of corporate and government.

        The commission was created over a hundred years ago to get the politics out of business decisions.The reason I stayed so long is because it took care of it’s employees, customers and owners the citizens of Orlando Florida. There are other organizations like it in this country.

        Profit is a real motive (a reasonable profit goes into the city’s coffers) but since the owners were the city citizens other concerns are just as high. For instance a plant was shut down once to fix an issue causing a degradation of a pollution control system. It would’ve been cheaper to pollute and just pay the fine. But the owners health were at stake. Actually the external cost were on the backs of the owners. Something like this maybe part of a solution.

        I do not think Karl Marx’s idea of the government melting away is possible or going to happen. But blending of corporate and government has been around for awhile.

        When one General Manager wanted to sell off the water section the owner , (city citizens) rose up and said hell no. That died a speedy death. In fact the rates, reliability and quality are the best in the business. Better and more receptive to citizens concerns than a private entity would be.

        Just a thought. Like most things in life a compromising mix will probably eventually emerged to solve this problem.

      2. Just as Republicans are crippled by embedded assumptions unsupported by data, Democrats have their blindspots too. Here are two of them:

        Manichean thinking. That which is good is always good. That which is bad is always bad. Victory means good defeating bad. Both sides do this.

        Corporations are evil. This is as reliable and accurate as pointing to an undocumented immigrant who commits a crime and extrapolating his character to all immigrants. It simply isn’t true.

        A corporation is a tool. Manafort’s phony companies were corporations. So is Tesla. They aren’t the same thing.

        This is a very important thing to understand about the state of international corporations amidst the rise of Moneyland. Unlike Manafort and Trump’s phony companies, public companies accountable to western democracies are not roaming the world spreading pollution, murder and rape. That doesn’t make them holy. That doesn’t make them friends of democracy. That just provides us with a chance to observe a set of conditions that succeed in delivering a modicum of accountability to these organizations. We should not let a left-wing bigotry about the nature of the corporate form to obscure a chance to learn.

        Amazon and Apple are among the wealthiest and most powerful organizations on the planet, more powerful than most governments if not all of them. Yet the “abuses” we’re used to hearing about from them are laughably trivial compared to what we should expect from such powerful institutions. Even Exxon, which is about the ugliest major corporation with exposure to western governments, behaves with relative restraint, at least in the west. Why?

        I’m not entirely sure, though I think we’re starting to get hints. To my mind, that’s the most important question in political science right now, because the answer to that question could help us construct international or supra-national institutions that could clean out Moneyland.

        It’s not that corporations are some moral model. It’s that they aren’t nearly as horrible as they should be given the nature and extent of their power. There’s something about the incentives and oversight in the world of public companies that offers us lessons. We need to figure out what those lessons are, without the blinders of 20th century assumptions.

      3. Corporations are tools only for those who own them. To everyone else, they’re fortresses.

        FOIA laws don’t apply to corporations. Their bad acts and poor decisions can be hidden. Forever.

        If I am harmed by a corporate bad act or wish to report one, I must have the legal and financial wherewithal to sue them.

        Even I win, they may use their power to make my life miserable — which is why there are laws protecting whistle blowers from our corporate overlords.

        Government is not perfect. But I fail to see corporations as saviors.

  8. I’m glad you posted this because I’ve been thinking about this weekend’s racist tweets and the weird feeling of déjà vue I’ve been having. This feels exactly like the pussy-grabbing video that was released when the Russia hacking scandal was first reported. It forceably changed the subject. At the same time it did not offend the diehard Trump voter, for whom naked racism is a positive message. So I’m left with the question, what little dark cloud has appeared on the horizon, only the size of a man’s hand? And the answer is, the Epstein case. The news that Epstein, Trump, and others have been raping little girls might finally break his support among white evangelical women, a disproportionate share of his political strength. Just a thought..

    1. I’m not sure that would be enough to turn evangelical women off. Sexual abuse is rampant in that community and most of them vote according to how their menfolk tell them to. It a nice wish but I don’t see it making any difference. Lusting after his daughter and pussy-grabbing didn’t make a much of a ripple.

    2. Trump’s supporters already know he’s a rapist and they don’t care. The only issue at work here is the impact these revelations would have on law enforcement. It isn’t clear that law enforcement would care either, but what the revelations might accomplish is 1) a cleaving among law enforcement among those who really thought they were defending the public and truly want that to be their mission, 2) and a kind of final clarity among the public, a stripping away of the last bits of the veneer of integrity in the justice system. We need that catharsis, and the conflict that will follow it. Epstein may grant us that moment.

      1. This week two of our justices bit the dust in NJ. One retired who gave a pass to a young male who raped an unconscious girl then shared the video online. The other one questioned a female rape victim, in court asking her if she had “crossed her legs” to try to prevent the rape.

        This is what we are dealing with and having a sexual predator in the White House simply facilitates it. This is a problem as old as time and I’m sick of these people and those who enable them.

  9. Anyone who was a part of the Epstein wheel needs to be outed and charged as appropriate. Anyone. Any party. That’s hot just stops being ok.

    As for Pelosi, I am disgusted by her failure to lead on the acts of subpoena obstruction and the obstruction events mueller identified. How dare she! As much as I despise DJT the man and the despicable things he is and continues to do, i would roll those dice and take the odds of losing because doing nothing is totally unacceptable.

    I never thought I’d see the day when I would salute the most principled person in Congress, one of the founders of the Freedom Caucus, Justin Amash over a Democratic leader. The rotten, dirty wheel of lurid sex and and power manipulation by the wealthy is the most disheartening story I’ve read about the state of our country. It deeply offends me and it burdens me to my core. We are witnessing evangelical leaders and their flock hail this president as their messiah, watching republicans hide in their offices and destroy their party and our country in the process. Further, we are witnessing a failure of responsibility and leadership from the only party left to save our democracy. It’s heartbreaking.

    1. Speaking of evangelical leaders, I just didn’t have room in this already lengthy piece to include Franklin Graham. His three-way with his wife and a pool boy in Miami turned into a caper worthy of a Cohen Brothers script.

      They ended up giving the kid over a million for a “business investment” in a gay hostel, but that doesn’t appear to have been enough to keep him quiet. David Pecker at the National Enquirer got hold of the story, and apparently also got some photos. And Michael Cohen worked with Pecker and the kid to leverage the whole mess into a very enthusiastic endorsement of Trump. Even the Old Time Religion is for sale.

      1. Southern Baptists in particular, and Modern US evangelicals in general, is essentially Mammon worship.

        They worship Wealth – Mammon – dressed up like Jesus.

        They also worship those blessed by Mammon – the wealthy.

      2. Small correction, Chris — you cite the article about Jerry Falwell, Jr., but mention it as being about Franklin Graham. Unless Graham as a fourth member, it was Falwell, his wife, and the Miami pool boy involved in that particular corrupt entanglement!

    2. I feel disappointed and disgusted too; if Trump shouldn’t be impeached, then who should be? My most uncharitable interpretations on the inaction are cowardice or opportunism, i.e., thinking that Trump’s offensiveness is going to turn out the Dem base, so they want to keep him around a bit longer. That would be a very cynical and dangerous ploy, and I truly hope that’s not why. But I find it increasingly difficult to be charitable and say that they are just building an airtight case. That’s still possible, but time is running out.

      I’m too young to have followed Watergate as it happened with any real understanding, but I keep reading that the thing that turned public opinion was when Congress started actually investigating and airing all Nixon’s dirty political laundry. Let’s repeat that.

    3. I’m NOT disgusted about Pelosi – it has become very obvious that

      (1) There will be only one shot at impeachment

      (2) Impeachment will probably be an own goal – it will enable the rest of the GOP to treat Trump as a “Scapegoat”

      (3) Better than “Impeachment” is all of the dirty washing coming out about this time next year – THEN it may be possible to get rid of enough of the Crims to clean up the USA

      Pelosi is playing the long game

      1. What evidence can you point to (I would feel better if I could see some) that Pelosi is doing anything to investigate Trump’s crimes.

        I don’t think Pelosi cares in the slightest about Trump’s criminal activities – for any purpose other than electoral advantage. And honestly, I think she feels nervous that if she went after Trump too aggressively, the spotlight would turn back on her financial activities.

      2. Which, depressingly enough, brings us back to Richard Neal and why he’s only going after a few years of comparatively uninteresting tax returns. It’s no secret that it’s the early 2000s that would shed some serious light on Trump’s finances, and yet no one’s touching them or even trying.

        With that said, if I had my own personal attack dog of an AG, I’d have him ready and waiting to unleash hell if Pelosi or her crew so much as turned an eye towards them. One has to wonder what they’ve talked about in their self-professed “cordial” conversations?

  10. Good points on the candidates. The way I see it, the only thing worse than Trump would be someone with his racism, cruelty, authoritarianism, ability to con, and corruption, but also had some self discipline and knowledge of how to work the levers of power to maximum effect. So even the most corrupt D option is better (which is why I held my nose and voted Clinton in 2016).

    The thing I think that I find most disappointing from Chris’ tale is that not a single Dem Senator brought up the Epstein plea deal during Acosta’s confirmation hearing; I had not realized that.

    Finally, if getting Trump’s tax returns meant that Pelosi had to disclose hers, I’d take that deal in a nanosecond.

  11. EJ

    Chris, have you just reinvented the Marxist concept of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, expressed in terms of the disappointment that a lifetime supporter of capitalism feels when he discovers how capitalism actually functions?

    I’m calling it now. I say this with love, but at the rate you’re going, by the time you turn sixty you’re going to own a shirt with a hammer and sickle on it.

    1. I do recall that I posted on another forum (maybe Nick Anderson’s old blog) somewhen (maybe right after the financial shit hit the fan in 2008) that I wouldn’t be shocked to see Communism rise from the ashes like a very nasty and blood-soaked phoenix. I have no desire to see it, but capitalism isn’t looking like it’s going to check itself.

      1. EJ

        Apparently, a quarter of Americans between 18 and 25 identify as communist. (Source: a friend told me; I have no more documentary evidence than that.) Clemenceau’s famous dictum springs to mind, but I think it might also be a symptom of self-fulfilling prophecy.

        It is well known that if you tell teenagers that rock music is satanic, hoping that this will make them avoid rock music, you’ll instead make them into satanists. Perhaps we’re seeing the same thing happen with the decades of claiming that reformism, gun control and social welfare programmes are communist.

    2. EJ,

      Yes, I find it unsettling how much of basic Marxist political mechanics I’ve been forced to accept as valid. I’ll go one step further. The way that we’ve banished Marx from education, much like the way we treat evolution, has made us weaker as a society. Communism didn’t fail because Marx was wrong about economics, politics or sociology. It failed for the same reasons that our present system is collapsing. Too much power in too few hands breeds exploitative environments that turn cannibalistic.

      That said, a lot of what I’ve come to appreciate about Marx can also be found in Adam Smith. It’s just that the people who read Adam Smith don’t really want to see those parts of his work. Smith was worried about inequality and imbalance of power. That’s just not the stuff that capitalists like to talk about.

      1. “Communism didn’t fail because Marx was wrong about economics, politics or sociology. It failed for the same reasons that our present system is collapsing. Too much power in too few hands breeds exploitative environments that turn cannibalistic..”

        I’d add that both Communism and Capitalism get greed wrong, for different reasons. The Communist philosophy struck me as being hopelessly naive about human greed and competitiveness. It’s part of human nature, and you’ll never legislate or indoctrinate it away. But I find laissez faire Capitalism equally naive in that it does not recognize the toxicity of unchecked greed.

      2. I have read Adam Smith’s “Wealth of Nations” it was like a Nova going off in my brain. This old book , several hundred years old is very relevant today. Most of what goes as right wing economics goes against what he thought.

        Communism and Libertarianism both have the same weakness. There are always going to be cheaters. You need a system to curtail them. Neither of those philosophies do that. I think true capitalism is joined at the hip with government.

        Without a way to enforce rules and insure fair play the trade between individuals and groups break down because the cheaters destroy trust. That is in a nutshell what caused the Great Recession.

        Government failing to do it’s job because the cheaters took over the government by bribery tilting the rules allowing them to steal at will. No one knew if their investments (mortgages, mortgage bonds or their crazy derivatives) were sound or not so the flow of money was on the verge of freezing. We were close to the ATM machines to shutting down.

        The economy runs on credit. No one was willing to lend money. Even short term. The government took over the toxic investments in the morgage market and they had the time to unravel it ultimately at a profit. That freed up the banks to start the flow of money again.

        Complexities like this is why I think a world just ran by corporations would fail. They are important ways to mass capital and organize talent. But we still need umpires to keep Steve and John honest so trade can proceed.

      3. EJ

        Interesting. I haven’t read Smith yet, but he’s on the list of people I should read before I die. I survived Adorno and Derrida so how hard can he be?

        (On the topic of “people whose actual writings contain something very different from what their followers espouse”, I think a certain carpenter from Nazareth might win that sweepstake.)

        Coming from a Left viewpoint, I am extremely tired of doctrinaire Marxists whose scholarship consists of trying to find new and exciting ways to show how Marx is still the final word on so many things. One of the reasons why Piketty is so exciting is precisely because he reinvents the concepts while showing that many of the conclusions are valid, or can be reinvented.

        Are there any thinkers on the political Right who have a similar “your followers are bad people but your ideas should be cherry-picked for the nuggets of valuable wisdom they contain”? Schmidt, obviously. Anyone else?

      4. Chris,

        A question first: How much do you think of this Epstein/Trump/Bill Clinton child rape is being leveraged by our enemies in Putin’s KGB kleptocracy and by those in the equally kleptocratic Chinese Communist elite? They’re really falling down on the job if they’re not leveraging this somehow, especially given Epstein’s connections to the Russian mob via his friend/pimp Ghislaine Maxwell (whose father, Robert Maxwell, allegedly had ties to both the Russian mob and Israeli intelligence agencies)

        While I’m being paranoid, I wanted to float a theory of mine about why it’s not just the Russian crime elite who backs Trump, but also the equally reprehensible ruling Arab crime families (the Saudis, Emiratis, Kuwaitis, etc.) who are all in for Trump.

        What unites them all is their fundamentally parasitic nature. Unlike Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk, they are not creators of wealth but those who skim off the top wherever they can — Trump via his real estate money-laundering services & failed casino money-laundering services; Putin via his thugs killing & intimidating their way into siphoning Russia’s oil wealth off; and the various Gulf Arab royal crime families doing the same thing as Putin and his thugs, while claiming Allah’s imprimatur for their kleptocratic rule. The Sunni Arab royal thugs resemble nothing so much as feudal Catholic aristocrats. But I digress.

        Seen in the above light, I think the case can be made that the current prominence of Trump and his fellow thugs represents a last ditch scramble by dinosaurs to stay atop the financial food chain. The oil thugs know climate change and the necessary capitalistic innovation will leave no room for them, and they are utterly incapable of building a system allowing for the free flow of ideas that would allow their own sick societies to bail them out. We are far better off here in the U.S., insofar as we at least have some true capitalist innovators working on these thorny issues.

        While I’m being paranoid, might as well not hold back — it would not surprise me at all if the Chinese Communist Party were not the quiet silent partner to Trump and Putin in 2015-16, and here’s why:

        1. The U.S. had achieved a tremendous strategic victory in successfully negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership, setting the terms for trade on both sides of the Pacific Ocean, while locking China out.

        2. The two main populists of the extremes in the U.S., Bernie Sanders on the far-left and Trump on the far-right, trashed the TPP as a corporate sellout and Trump withdrew in the first week of his Administration, handing China a once-in-a-millenium gift without so much as getting a dime in concessions from China.

        Given the stakes for China in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, I can easily see the profoundly corrupt Chinese Communist elite quietly backing Putin’s efforts to throw things in the direction of any candidate but Hillary Clinton. Who did the heavy lifting on getting the TPP negotiated after all? Hillary did, in Obama’s first term as President.

        I am curious what everyone thinks of my ravings.

      5. Eric,

        Funny you ask. Someone like Epstein was bound to attract the interest of intelligence services. When asked about Epstein several years ago Acosta claimed the couldn’t do anything about him because he “belongs to intelligence” with no explanation of what that meant. He might have been blowing smoke to make excuses, but then again…

        However, I think it would be a mistake to imagine that someone is out there pulling puppet strings. I don’t that’s how things work. It’s better to think of this as a process, that’s why I used the wheel metaphor. You create an environment in which people can prosper by engaging certain kinds of behavior, and that behavior emerges. Would intelligence services have tried to leverage Epstein? Probably. But even among intelligence services there is competition and rivalries. None of these organizations collaborate well. Everybody’s just doing their best to exploit circumstances to their benefit.

      6. Interesting quote I recently ran across from The Wealth of Nations: “The rate of profit does not, like rent and wages, rise with prosperity and fall with the declension of the society. On the contrary, it is naturally low in rich, and high in poor countries, and it is always highest in the countries which are going fastest to ruin.”

      1. I’ve spent some time in New Albany over the years for work and I always found it creepy. I just couldn’t explain why. Even had conversations with colleagues about it. Starting to make sense.

        Epstein actually had a house there for a while. At least one of his known victims was raped at Wexner’s house there. She reported the incident to the FBI in 1996 and nothing happened. Must be a great little town.

  12. Well that was thoroughly depressing. But what do you think happens to Epstein here? He may have lots of connections, but this is so public this time that I can’t see anyone successfully pulling strings for him like they did in the past. Yet he knows where several cemeteries’ worth of bodies are buried. So he falls down the stairs onto polonium laced bullets?

    Also, based on your stories, it seems that the least compromised Dems with a currently realistic shot at the nomination (based on polls and $ raised) would be Warren, Harris, Sanders, and maybe Buttigieg. Unless you’ve got more stories omitted to keep the length down.

    1. I like all 4 of those you mention. Sanders has decades of baggage of being accused as the second coming of Mau. And Buttigieg’s life style will turn off many voters.

      Warren is also accused as a socialist which in many ignorant people minds is authoritarian rule. She is actually as Sanders a capitalist but wanting a strong social safety net and side bars to rein in the malfeasance of corporations.

      Harris is one tough lady who has impressed me. She can be, excuse the language, a bitch when she needs to be. As she showed Biden. To take down Trump you are going to have to be ruthless.

      The intellect of Buttigieg is very impressive as was his basic decency. From my religious view point I do not agree with his life style. But that would not stop me from voting for him. I can and do separate civil rights and religious rights. But many religious people would not do that.

      Biden is too embroiled in the old system for me. But I would take him over Trump in a heartbeat. His greatest strength is his greatest weakness. His strong link to President Obama. That will bring on the Obama coalition but also energize the GOP base against him.

      If you read the Bible which unlike any other holy book shows human character like it really is the obscenity of power and corruption in our country is child’s play. Nothing new under the sun. But does not excuse us from trying to make as good a choice as we can in the next election.

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