A former Democratic mayor on the election that returned him to politics after 20 years.

Below is only a part of our conversation. There is much more to hear in the full audio. Note that the sound gets a bit rough at 6:30 when a large group of teenagers surround us at the restaurant. We head to Mark’s office, and the audio gets much better at around 8:30.

Mark Fury is a criminal defense attorney and the former mayor of Plainfield, New Jersey, serving for a single term during the latter half of the 1990s. After losing his reelection, Mark left politics for 20 years. The drama and urgency of this election is what brought him back. We met at the November monthly meeting for Our Revolution: South Jersey.

Mark voted for Hillary Clinton during the democratic primaries, “because I know her friends” and, “having been the victim of the Democratic Party myself, I didn’t think [Bernie Sanders] could win,” adding that the “Democratic Party is sometimes hard on newcomers.”

[Hillary] is a flawed candidate, but [Trump] is a walking disaster.” He is “clearly unqualified, clearly unprepared, two faced, inconsistent, outright lies, and has fairly dangerous policies–if he believes what he says.

I never thought much of Hillary, but at least I know who her friends are… As a human being, I would pick Bernie over Hillary. The choice that I made was strictly based on the political likelihoods. That’s why I sit here with the degree of outrage [I have] because maybe I should have looked at it differently… [Things] were wired to defeat [Bernie]. They cheated him. There’s no doubt about that… In the five months of posts in conversations [that I have had on Facebook], I don’t think I’ve said ten words positive about Hillary. It’s just too much of a battle… She was a really hard candidate to advocate for. Her negatives were huge…

Turning to Trump:

I have trouble convincing [A friend who supports Trump] person that the world is not flat… Half the conversation [is spent] debunking plainly false things… It is extremely difficult to win an argument on reason when the people you’re talking to are unfamiliar with reason.

Before this election, Mark speculated that around 25% of the electorate was this way. Now he worries it is much higher.

What do I do with the person who doesn’t believe evolution is a real science? What do I do with the person who doesn’t believe global warming is a real problem? … They’re unreasonable… I’m coming up on 60 years old… I don’t have the same time or patience for what is patently false… That is not a reasonable person. That’s not somebody you can talk with…

Over the past 25 years, the number of people who have turned their minds off to the progressive agenda has grown. That’s the issue I’m troubled by. And right now, those people are being appealed to buy [some] very dark forces. I don’t think Donald Trump has a master plan to wipe Jews or blacks or gays or anybody else out of America…but unfortunately he has surrounded himself with people [who might].

Yet here we are, at the beginning of at least four years where a significant amount of the population–not to mention the president himself–that has these beliefs, has a much larger voice. So what do we do? Does Mark worry, as an African-American, that he will be especially affected by a Trump presidency?

Me as an American will be affected. The only way my African-American status plays in, is on the daily, face-to-face interactions with human beings. I’ve been negotiating that field my entire life. The day after the election, the week after the election, when I would go in my normal haunts and I would see white Anglo-Saxon males, they greeted me the same way they did before the election. Maybe a little bit more generously. Almost like they were saying, “Well, I know you can tell that I voted for Trump, but I’m not a racist.” I’m like, yeah, we’re cool. We can still sit down and have a beer, right? The race issue isn’t going to get any worse. The civil liberties, social justice, educational policies, urban policies, economic policies. That’s the stuff that’s going to get worse.

Donald Trump is the P.T. Barnum of his time. He is the best salesman of his generation. He had 14 years to practice how to talk to the American population on television. And for that 14 years he sold himself as the ultimate executive… and now he is taking that show to the White House… this is not a man who wants to be president. It’s a step down in lifestyle for him. What does he get out of it? Except to grind the news of those folks so he doesn’t think gave him his proper respect. We have an annoyed bully in the White House.

Three progressives discuss surviving and thriving in the world of Trump

A conversation with Kitty Snyder and John Laurits, on how progressives can survive and thrive in a Trump administration. In particular, how can we express ourselves through protests and actions, without alienating or being blatantly disrespectful to Trump supporters? Can we join forces in any way?

(Apologies for the last few seconds getting cut off.)

Kitty was a super-volunteer for Bernie Sanders in Philadelphia, who I met at a debate watch party for the second debate in the Democratic primaries (a few days after “datagate“). Kitty was, for me, the visual symbol of the campaign and the Democratic National Convention, where we both were delegates for Bernie Sanders. Kitty is also an editor for the Thompson Timeline, which is an academic study and documentation of the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while serving as secretary of state. She is also an administrator for their excellent Facebook group, and is the author of the article that partially inspired this conversation.

John is the “math blogger” and journalist that kept hope alive for Bernie supporters for a few months in the second half the campaign. John was at the DNC as a protester across the street in FDR Park, and we had a three-part interview where we thoroughly discussed our experiences. John is also an organizer of Occupy inauguration, which is been endorsed by many progressive organizations including Jill Stein, and is the first major demonstration to be conducted directly among Trump supporters. You can support John on his Patreon website.

We discuss the following and more:

– How the Democratic Party lost this election for themselves, but is desperately trying to blame anyone and everything, such as sexism, racism, Jill Stein voters, James Comey, and calling Bernie Sanders this election’s Ralph Nader spoiler. And how the media is also significantly responsible, and continues to discourage conversation and solidarity.

– Do we need to change our priorities, now that there is so much more to be protested? Do we give Trump supporters any input in prioritizing this list? For example, stopping the Dakota access pipeline is currently one of our most important causes, but once Trump takes office, he has openly stated that he will allow fossil fuel companies to do whatever they like. Do we continue the fight, despite knowing that this one will likely be lost? Do we document for years of suffering at the hands of this loss (not to mention the ongoing brutality against water protectors)?

– There is clearly overlap between progressives and Trump supporters, in that “the system is broken.” Can we get creative in working together? For example, Kitty brings up the intriguing idea of ending the war on drugs, which in turn would ease the problem of immigration, since transporting drugs illegally between Mexico and the United States would be dramatically reduced.

The most important thing progressives can do is reach out to Trump supporters with an open mind. If we start from the point of view that it is our job to educate Trump supporters on how they are misguided, then there is no hope for us. Some (and we believe few) of Trump’s supporters are blatant racists. Some of his supporters may very well do things that directly hurt those we care about. And none of this diminishes the fact that they deserve our respect. Kitty: “If you want this country to be less racist than you need to spend some time figuring out why people become racist.” We may view the world in different ways, but we all have the same core needs: providing for our families, staying safe, giving a good education to our kids, taking care of our loved ones when they are sick.

We must get off of our computers, stop watching television, get out of the house, and start talking to people that disagree with us. Get involved with their groups. Invite them to become involved in ours. Let’s help each other survive. Even if we do this kind of outreach perfectly, the next four years will still likely be extremely difficult for all sides.

Wayne Lewis: Free trade is colonialism without the guns

I just finished the book Bad Samaritans: The myth of free trade in the secret history of capitalism, by Ha-Joon Chang. I consider myself moderately well informed on what the Trans-Pacific Partnership is really about, but I have a lot to learn, and reading this book and talking to Wayne is the beginning of my journey for doing that.

Wayne Lewis was a fellow Bernie Sanders delegate from New Jersey at 2016 Democratic National Convention. We met on Monday morning in the state delegation hotel lobby, waiting for the shuttle bus to take us to the Pennsylvania Convention Center, where in a couple of hours Bernie Sanders would speak to his entire delegation.

He met his wife at the Borgota, where she works. He lives 15 minutes north of Atlantic city, and we are currently at a restaurant about 20 minutes west of there (I live about 50 minutes northwest of the restaurant).

Wayne has a bachelors degree in biochemistry and biophysics and graduate degrees in molecular biology and pure mathematics. He taught mathematics at Penn State University, and for the last 10 years has been a professional poker player. “I’m a systems thinker. I like to think about nonlinear, dynamic systems.”

From our interview on Wednesday early afternoon at the DNC (at the 18 minute mark):

Wayne:

I had very little experience in politics. It was Bernie Sanders who actually showed me the way to go with respect to politics. [This] is the first campaign that I’ve been involved with. I voted basically Democrat, but without giving much thought to it.

There was a period where I was just, like many Americans, wrapped up in my own life. Wrapped up in what I was doing to make money, and the relationship with my family. And just not really paying much attention to what was going on outside of my own little world.

Interestingly, about three years ago, a friend of mine who is pretty conservative, he’s a Republican, said to me–and I used to say the same thing a lot of people say: ‘Why even bother? Your vote doesn’t really mean anything. It’s all rigged. And what’s the point?’.

My friend said to me, “You know, you do an awful lot of complaining about the way the things are. And if you don’t get involved and you don’t vote, you don’t really have a right to complain.

This prompted him to dive into researching many issues, discovering how serious many issues are, and how everything is interconnected. Interrelated systemically.

It was at this point he saw Bernie Sanders, who put all of these pieces together into one coherent narrative, and was swept up into the campaign. Bernie Sanders was not the catalyst for him becoming involved, the issues were the catalyst.

According to Wayne, in a nonlinear, dynamic system, the pieces are interconnected in multiple ways, like computers on the Internet. The characteristics of each piece is not as important as the pattern of the connections between them. While the individual pieces are important, it is critical to balance between focusing on the pieces and on the whole, or connections.

Like at the DNC on Wednesday morning, this once again prompts the discussion on how in Bernie Sanders’ stump speech, every concept he talks about is intricately related to all of the others, And what’s most attractive about him is the narrative that weaves through his entire speech and platform. We agree that he has found the right balance between focusing on the “trees” and the “forest,” and also on how deep he goes into each issue, at a level most conducive to the general public understanding it. Wayne agrees and thinks that Bernie understands a lot more than he lets on.

This is as opposed to Hillary Clinton, who says many interesting and positive things–setting aside whether or not she means it–but there’s not much relationship between each topic. I suggested that Hillary looks too closely at the trees, to which he replied, “No, Hillary is looking at the individual cells of each tree.” He goes on to describe the term “reductionism,” with the analogy of dropping individual grains of sand on to a flat surface, slowly, at a regular pace. After some time, some of the grains will be touching one another, and eventually there will be a pile of sand. By this point, examining individual grains is no longer as important as the relationships between then. Once the pile becomes substantial, each new grain that falls can cause a landslide, affecting anywhere between a single grain and the entire pile. The concepts of chaos theory and fractals briefly come up at this point.

Moving onto free-trade, Wayne says that at its most fundamental level, free-trade is colonialism. It’s “about turning countries into colonies.” While wealth inequality is unfair to the less powerful and wealthy within a country, colonialism takes that to an international scale, with rich countries bullying developing ones. Interestingly, as a result of the New Deal, and especially due the period of the 1940s through the 1970s, while colonialism was active around the world, the strong middle class in the United States made everyone in our country benefit from it. Now our middle class is once again suffering like developing nations.

What used to be done with military might, is now accomplished with the three organizations created in Bretton Woods in 1944: The World Trade Organization, The International Monetary Fund, and The World Bank. According to Wayne, “They are the machinery of neo-liberals.” (Roughly speaking, neo-liberalism is defined as “those who want more free trade.”)

Like the Democratic Party in the United States is ostensibly for representing all the people, these three organizations are supposedly for equity among all countries as it relates to trade. And like the Democratic Party, these organizations only allow the rich and powerful nations a full seat at the table, therefore perpetuating this so-called “free” trade worldwide, where the rules are exactly the same for all sides, despite the players having vastly different capabilities, maturity, and resources. Free-trade, specifically, is “extracting wealth” from others in order to make yourself richer–not just getting more wealthy, but doing so at the involuntary expense of others.

Wayne suggests that the Trans-Pacific Partnership will turn all of its member countries, including the United States, into colonies of multinational corporations. “[I]t’s a little bit shortsighted in that, eventually, they’re cannibalizing their own markets. There’s no one left to buy their products.” The odious Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provision of the TPP is the super-government that trumps all branches of our own government (not to mention those of all member states), where multinational corporations can sue countries, in secret, in a court that is out of reach of common citizens.

According to Naked Capitalism, the ISDS provision

allows for secret arbitration panels to effectively overrule national regulations by allowing foreign investors to sue governments over lost potential future profits in secret arbitration panels. Those panels have been proved to be conflict-ridden and arbitrary. And the grounds for appeal are limited and technical.

In essence, it means that countries can do nothing without the approval of corporations. But, according to Wayne, regarding the ISDS, “the cat’s out of the bag,” meaning that the public is well aware of the dangers of this provision, making it less likely that it, and potentially even the TPP, will pass.

That President Obama and so many in Congress would allow this loss of sovereignty to happen, rendering their own jobs useless, is mind-boggling (let alone the rest of the horrors in the TPP). Or more precisely, rendering the jobs of their successors as useless. Clearly they are getting something out of it. Wayne suggests that perhaps they are doing the best that they can, in listening to the “experts” and making what they believe is the right decision. To me that is no excuse for ignoring the less powerful, who are clearly against it, all suggesting something more sinister or selfish.

If the TPP takes hold, getting out of it will take decades, superhuman efforts, and tumultuous events. This is evidenced by the European Union and its Brexit and crisis in Greece. Progressives in the United States are currently fighting money in politics, but if the TPP passes, we will have to fight for decades to get rid of that, before we could even consider fighting money in politics again.

Back to colonialism. Where exactly does the motivation for this selfishness come from? Wayne suggests that, like our government’s campaign finance system, the very fabric of our market economy condones unethical behavior, by promoting the needs of the shareholder over the original intention–the spirit–of the company. A corrupt CEO and his direct reports may be removed, but no matter who replaces them, the corrupt system remains.

In the short-term, fixing the system requires all stakeholders–not shareholders–to have a seat at the table (one person one vote, not one dollar one vote). This will either be done by the already powerful granting seats to the less powerful, or by the less powerful demanding it (or by rendering the more powerful irrelevant).

Wayne suggests that the longer-term solution is for communities that are currently dependent on far away multinational conglomerates, such as for power generation and internet access, to join forces with other local communities to become self-reliant. To bring those far away resources and services as close to home as possible (placing it under their control). The goal is not to isolate the community from the outside world, rather to dramatically increase its self-sufficiency should they become disconnected. An example is aggressive installation of solar and smaller scale wind generators. After the interview, he elaborates: Local communities that are

atonomous in terms of food sovereignty, energy sovereignty, mobility sovereignty and basic production. Worker owned coops, farming coops, housing coops, and Commons management all have roles to play.

Other novel ideas are constantly developing. Local sovereignty, and distributed networks of functionality provide resilience to societies. In this, we aim to emulate the resiliance of natural ecosystems of every scale up to and including the living earth. It is distribution of function within and across scales of organization which provides this resiliance, similar to what Nasim Nicholas Taleb calls antifragility.

He ends on an interesting and unrelated note, speculating that the fossil fuel industry may undergo its own “quantitative easing” (giving them about $4 trillion with no strings attached), in an effort to permanently shut down the industry, to once and for all transition to green energy.

After the interview, he shares this with me:

Clouds In Each Paper, by Thich Nhat Hanh

If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow: and without trees, we cannot make paper. The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either. So we can say that the cloud and the paper inter-are.

“Interbeing” is a word that is not in the dictionary yet, but if we combine the prefix “inter” with the verb “to be”, we have a new verb, inter-be. Without a cloud, we cannot have paper, so we can say that the cloud and the sheet of paper inter-are.

If we look into this sheet of paper even more deeply, we can see the sunshine in it. If the sunshine is not there, the forest cannot grow. In fact nothing can grow. Even we cannot grow without sunshine. And so, we know that the sunshine is also in this sheet of paper. The paper and the sunshine inter-are. And if we continue to look we can see the logger who cut the tree and brought it to the mill to be transformed into paper. And we see the wheat. We know that the logger cannot exist without his daily bread, and therefore the wheat that became his bread is also in this sheet of paper. And the logger’s father and mother are in it too. When we look in this way we see that without all of these things, this sheet of paper cannot exist.

Below are all of the sources that Wayne recommends during our conversation, plus a few more he gave me after the interview. He says:

All these sites are examples of of systems thinking applied to human society, and involve thinking about synergistic multidisciplinary solutions rather than the traditional, patchwork treatment of symptoms with unidimensional shortsighted solutions which always have unforseen effects downstream.

Books:

Websites:

You can follow Wayne on Twitter at @WayneLForBernie

Regina Bolton: From White Privilege to Angry Black Woman

Regina Bolton is angry.

“Today’s word is ‘insult.’ Uh! The special magic word is insult. Insulted, insulting… Insult.”

Regina grew up in one of the very few African American families in Carlsbad, California, a wealthy coastal town 30 minutes north of San Diego and an hour-and-a-half south of Los Angeles. A place that averages 263 sunny days a year, has high schoolers who almost always graduate, and lots of skateboarders and surfer dudes (“I’m sorry, you know,” she confesses, “surfers and skateboarders are kind of cute to me.”). Carlsbad is home to Legoland, the country’s first modern skateboard park (built in 1976, torn down 30 years later, and replaced with two others), and Rockstar San Diego, the company that created the core engine used by the Grand Theft Auto video game series.

There’s a part of me–and I know that this sounds really bad–[but] I’ll tell you the honest to God truth. I love my parents, but [they] did terribly in race relations. [They] raised me to believe that we’re all equal. They did. I get what they were trying to do. We lived in an all white community, very upscale. We lived near the police chief, the fire captain, and all that other stuff.

I get angry because I feel like I’ve had a great life. I had to have two professors, white professors [she laughs], educate me. They said, “No no, Regina. Just because you view the world that way, is not the experience of every other African American.”

(After the interview, she tells me that her only contact with African-Americans during her childhood was eight miles away in the more urban area of Oceanside, Sundays at church where her father served as deacon. She felt inferior among the other children, which she believes came from a mixture of unfamiliarity, and jealousy of her opportunities. She discovered later in life that some of those same children moved to Carlsbad to raise their own families.)

My introduction to Regina, along with thousands of others, was her drippingly sarcastic and incisive tirade in response to President Obama, who recently told African Americans that he would

“consider it a personal insult, an insult to my legacy, if this community lets down its guard and fails to activate itself in this election,” Obama said with a stern look and booming passion. “You want to give me a good send-off, go vote.”

the strong implication being that the only votes that he would not find insulting, are the ones cast for Hillary Clinton. But since there’s no way Regina will ever vote for her (“I meant what I said. #HillNo. [It’s] in the fiber of my being”), she’s decided that President Obama will just have to be insulted.

You know what, President Obama? I’m so sorry you’re insulted. I’m so sorry you’re disappointed. But when we use that word insulted, let’s think about what the definition of that means–and Obama, you’re a very educated, smart man, so let’s just assume you know what that means.

Insult is something that the Bernie Sanders people felt–

As if suddenly hit with enormous insight, her expression turns to deep thought, her eyebrows scrunch, her tempo becomes deliberate and slow.

“–when they were turned away at the polls.”

Regina is also angry that, despite all of the killings of unarmed African American men by police during Obama’s tenure (whose stories overflow on her Facebook wall), despite hundreds of years of systemic racism, instead of signing meaningful legislation to protect these innocent men, our nation’s first African American president signs a law that further protects police officers. The ones with the guns.

She tells me:

There’s nobody else that ever, in my lifetime, is going to have the ability to address this in the way that he could have. I’m very disappointed. [People think I’m talking about legislation]. I’m not that stupid. I’m not that naïve. There’s no way that the Congress, the Senate, the House, they’re not going to let him get anything passed.

In the video, Regina continues:

But as the president, you have the ability with what we call on the streets, ‘pull’… That means you can invite all the folks that you feel that have an influence in this country–and I can name quite a few, even though I don’t have the education of the president…

You could’ve had Jane Elliot, who is a very famous professor and teacher on race. You could’ve had Dr. Ron Clark, another white person that’s very familiar with race and has a very famous school in Atlanta. He’s a public educator.

You could’ve brought in [white] officer Tommy Norman, who is an avid police officer [who teaches] other officers about community policing. When he goes into these neighborhoods, African Americans love him! (So that tells me that African Americans don’t have an issue with the race of cops. It’s the cops that are kind of killing us that I think we have a problem with.)

You could’ve had Dr. Cornel West, you could’ve had sociologist Michael Eric Dyson.

Back in the interview:

The fact [is that you] did none of that. You could’ve brought so many people in who are very well aware of this epidemic [yet] you sit there with these law enforcement officers and you sign [a law that protects them even more]? Are you kidding me?

[Even] Michelle Obama, to create this White House garden, and this initiative to get people to eat healthy. How about helping us live? How about doing something that helps us kind of live, to get to eat what we want?

How about doing something that targets the real issues? … Because at the end of the day that’s what Obama did. Played it safe. Played it nice… And I thought it was an insult to my intelligence for you to come at me and say to me that I need to do something because you care about your legacy. No no no! I care about African American and minority lives. That’s what I care about more than their legacies. Their legacies mean nothing to me.

In 2008, Regina enthusiastically voted for Obama, but was so disappointed in Obama’s priorities during his first year, “I became a Republican. Everyone in my family had a fit…I’m African American and it shocked quite a few of my friends to see that I had turned into a Republican.”

How did she get involved in politics?

I’ve never been that obsessed with a 74-year-old man. I swear… When Bernie came along…there were things that I noticed about him that made him different from any other person that I had seen in politics. No matter who he was talking to, his message would always be the same. It showed me that a lot of people will have a message, and the message is designed for whoever the audience is… Bernie was not like that. His message was the same…

I kept hearing that “he couldn’t pull the African American vote.” I got offended [laughs] because, first of all, nobody speaks for me. Number one. Number two, I don’t know why any African American could not relate to someone who was so involved. I mean he was chained to a black woman.

She says in a deliberately urban dialect, “Ah own no [I don’t know] how much more closer he gone get.”

He got involved. While ‘ol girl over here was being the Goldwater girl, actually wanted to keep segregation alive and roaring. Here Bernie was on the front line when no one was even looking at him… That’s who he is… I’m tired of hearing that African Americans won’t vote for him, because I am an African American woman that will.

And not only will I vote for him, I will get out there and I will be a voice for him. And I will educate and inform people about him… So I got involved. I volunteered. I got to run a volunteer office down in Los Angeles. [I collaborated with community colleges.] I did voter registration. I even worked an election poll on the primary day… I did this and I was able first hand to see a lot of the tomfoolery going on during the primaries…

Right now, I’m looking in my car and I have a Bernie poster still. I haven’t let it go, you know?

Did Regina consciously make a decision to change her personality in any way, when she realized that there was more to the world than her white privileged upbringing? Did she choose to become or behave “more black”?

Yes. I had to. I mean, I grew up listening to INXS, Culture Club, Depeche Mode. Like, are you kidding me? Do you think I’m gonna walk around other African Americans in groups, and walk like that? “You listen to Wham!?” Oh my God, are you serious? So yeah… I felt like I needed to be around more African Americans. Because I felt like I was going to go in a direction where I was not [going to know] any African Americans…

[Race] is not something that I talk about a lot. It’s not something that I try to carry but I can’t help it. It’s kind of salient. But in my day-to-day life…I’m just me… When I was in high school I would always wonder what would it be like to have an African American teacher? … Because everybody around me didn’t look like me. That’s why so many [people] remember me, because I was the only black girl at the school. [Laughs] … When I realized the world is not like that, I wanted to understand every sense of everything.

(She also lived in a Mexican neighborhood for three years and speaks fluent Spanish.)

I so badly want Regina to run for office. Or more precisely, to do something, anything to help her community on a grander scale.

She is an electric personality who clearly has the confidence, intelligence and insight to stand up to the most seasoned politician. What’s unique is how very different she is from those standard, polished, “properly dressed” politicians. What’s exciting, is just how uncomfortable she and her truth, with its silver braids, purple lipstick, long fingernails, and Z-snaps, will make a political establishment who would do well with some discomfort.

Regina Bolton represents a community that has been treated poorly for centuries and she has earned the right to be an Angry Black Woman. The African American community deserves to be represented by people like her. Regina’s truth reflects her world, and it’s about time we inject some of that reality into our government.

I’m not a squeaky clean individual. I’m not a goody two shoes or anything [but] it makes me a real person. That’s what it does… I’m not ashamed of things that I’ve done. I’ve made mistakes like other people have… [T]here’s nothing that anybody could say to me that would make me crumple and break… I was the debate captain. I’m very very good at this. Let’s go. If you think I’m thin skinned and I don’t have a backbone, I’m gonna take you for a ride. So let’s go.

[I] definitely would love to represent people and be a voice for minorities and African Americans, absolutely. Absolutely.

(I’ve already nominated Regina to Brand New Congress.  You can, too .)

Charles Ortel: 40 days, 40 pieces of evidence that “the Clinton Foundation is not just a fraud, it’s a massive fraud”

(Apologies on the missing final seconds.)

Charles Ortel is a whistleblower who, during the financial meltdown of 2008, researched and revealed fraud by General Electric to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars. As described in one of his earliest articles on the subject, in March of 2015, he became suspicious of the Clinton Foundation and turned his full time attention to investigating it. Starting on September 6, 2016, and for 40 days, Charles will be releasing a series of one article per day on the Clinton Foundation, on his website.

While open about his disdain towards the Clintons (and to a lesser extent, the Bushes), he asserts the evidence in his research is comprehensive, objective, and well sourced. “This is not simply a fraud–which it is–it’s a massive fraud. And it’s a massive fraud that people in both parties, inside this country and in numerous countries around the world, have either willingly or unwillingly overlooked for almost 20 years… [In these 40 daily reports, we will be] revealing billions and billions of dollars of corrupt practices… This is Tammany Hall on steroids. This is not just confined to New York, it’s [global].” Beyond wanting to bring justice to the Clintons, Ortel is also motivated by the majority of those who donate to charities, who are not wealthy.

If none of the scandals associated to the Clintons over the years have brought them down, why does Ortel believe that this one can? Because in corporate fraud, it is required to prove intent, implying that the onus is on prosecutors to prove a crime was committed. This is not true with charity fraud, where it is the charity’s responsibility to prove that there is no fraud, implying that their paperwork must always be comprehensive, up-to-date, and publicly accessible. In other words, if someone at a charity commits fraud, they can go to jail even if they didn’t mean it. “And these rules are crystal-clear… It’s not like they’re buried in thousands of pages. They are crystal-clear.”

“Bill Clinton wrote a book in 2007 called ‘Giving‘ [for which he was paid $6.3 million]. I will be taking that book, which is in the public domain, and using it to indict him. In the first person, he declares crime after crime after crime… When you get involved in a charity and you don’t bother to know all the rules that apply to charities, [since intent is not required,] you can commit charity fraud.” He also points to the case of Hillary Clinton superdelegate and Democratic Florida congresswoman, Corrine Brown, who was indicted last month by the Obama administration’s Justice Department for $800,000 in charity fraud, and is facing the possibility of hundreds of years in prison.

People who commit fraud, “they have no moral compass, but they tend to be brilliant… They’re tough people to catch.” Regarding the Clintons, “we’re not talking about uneducated rubes. We’re talking about a Rhodes scholar, we’re talking about a Yale Law school graduate, and with Chelsea were talking about someone with a PhD and two other degrees. These are smart people. If they wanted to reveal the truth…they would’ve done it.”

“One of the oldest questions in the book is, who’s regulating the regulators? [Ratings agencies such as] Charity Watch and Charity Navigator are both very small enterprises. [They have minimal revenue, budget, and staff, and] are not equipped to evaluate the Clinton Foundation.” Although not accused of anything illegal, this is not unlike the influence and corruption of ratings agencies in the 2008 crash, from which GE, at the time it’s massive fraud was revealed, had a AAA rating. (I also can’t help but be reminded of this.)

As a former computer professional, I was interested in a potential and very specific technical issue. Some critical sources in Ortel’s research refer to information on websites that he does not control. I asked if it was a concern that perhaps some of these documents may be removed or altered, therefore invalidating or compromising his work. He pointed out that the Clinton Foundation’s website itself “is already gamed”. Documents have been removed in an alleged effort to suppress incriminating information (which is in itself an illegal act). That said, despite some required documents not being on the Clinton Foundation website, they are indeed available on the websites of other organizations, states, and countries. “I have what I need.”

A post script from Mr. Ortel: “For you and for your audience, I’m going to be so bold as to give you all an assignment.” He suggests reading Thomas Jefferson’s only book from 1787, where he predicted the current “political convulsion”, which is an inevitable reaction to rapidly growing corruption, derived from money and “growing lazy”. (In my interpretation, the laziness is the vegetative state people have taken in front of the so-called news and their personal electronic devices.) Ortel paraphrases: “There will come a time when there will be a convulsion. [Where] the chains that are tearing us down will be thrown off and we will enter a new era…or we will basically disappear.”

(Shout out to Kitty Snyder, a fellow Bernie Sanders super-volunteer and DNC delegate who I worked with throughout the 2016 Democratic primaries. Kitty is also a copy editor for the Thompson Timeline, through which she met Charles. To me, Kitty is the visual symbol representing the struggle of the Bernie delegates at the Democratic National convention.)

Nuisance: Interview with Lauren Steiner, Bernie Sanders delegate from CA, & longtime activist against the TPP

Interview with Lauren Steiner, Bernie Sanders delegate from California, longtime activist against the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the organizer of a large effort in California to observe the vote counting at the end of primary day.

What’s discussed:

– Lauren tells about her long history of protesting around the country. One of her favorites.
– Why she is so against the TPP, and her theories on why Obama is so strongly for it, and why she thinks his presidential library and the Trans-Pacific Partnership are related.
– The media, and how much of Internet media is dependent on large corporations such as Facebook Live and YouTube Live. Here’s one example she gave about propaganda regarding the Syrian regime change.
– The confusion of Monday morning’s private meeting with Bernie Sanders at the Democratic National Convention, and how that might result in his delegates missing votes at the actual convention. Monday was opening day.
– What happened at the Nevada State Democrat Convention, and how that was the catalyst for creating my news network, Citizens’ Media TV.
– The TPP protest organized by Lauren during Elijah Cummings’ DNC speech on Monday night about the democratic platform. How it was organized and communicated to the delegation, and Elijah Cummings’ reactions to it, both on and off the record.
– How the Bernie delegation was not given much guidance on what to do or what to expect during the DNC.
– The nonbinding Unity Commission created by the DNC platform committee, and the platitude filled speech about it on early Monday.

The resources that came up during our conversation:

  • 13 Bankers, a book by Simon Johnston.
  • Ben Jealous mentions the superdelagate reduction in his debate with Jill Stein. It’s a two-part interview (one, two), and I’m unsure exactly where he said it.
  • The blog of my DNC coverage with Citizens’ Media TV.

Interview with Agnes Marsala, president of Chesterfield, NJ’s People Over Pipelines, on the chaotic, postponed permit meeting from Monday.

Interview with Agnes Marsala, president of Chesterfield, New Jersey’s People Over Pipelines, on the chaotic, never started, ultimately postponed permit meeting from August 22, 2016.

The meeting took place at a Ramada Inn, in a conference room having a capacity of 200 people. Approximately 50% was filled by a union, and speculation points to the oil company, Transunion, packing the room in an effort to prevent residents from entering, and to overwhelm genuine comments with “don’t take away my union job” comments. According to Agnes, the oil company is under no obligation for the next decade to pay full union wages, as they were grandfathered in with pay related decision. Some of the union personnel were surprised to learn this. There is also speculation that some union people were paid, and that a list of those attending and not attending was recorded for retaliation purposes.

The parking lot and conference room became so full that police had to intervene and start turning people away. The Ramada Inn reportedly refuses to host related meetings in the future.

According to Agnes, the postponement is a setback for the company, not necessarily a delaying tactic. Filling the room with union people, as well as renting a room that could only fit 200 people, despite that even larger turnout a previous meetings, both backfired.

Here is the original, eye-opening interview I did with People Over Pipelines in April.

An article from the Burlington County Times:

Public hearing on compressor station postponed due to large crowd

By David Levinsky, staff writer; August 22, 2016

BORDENTOWN TOWNSHIP — A public hearing for a controversial natural gas compressor station was postponed Monday evening after hundreds of people showed up to participate, grossly exceeding the capacity of a hotel ballroom where the hearing was scheduled.

The hearing was for a New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection wetlands permit sought by Williams Transco, an Oklahoma utility company that is planning to build the compressor station in Chesterfield, off Route 528, near the New Jersey Turnpike and Bordentown Township border, in order to feed a proposed pipeline through northern Burlington, Monmouth and Ocean counties. It was scheduled inside a ballroom at the Ramada Inn on Route 206, which has a capacity to hold 200 people.

More than triple that number turned out, according to some local officials. The crowd filled the parking lot and forced police to close off the ballroom entrance and turn away people at the hotel entrance.

Things became heated after officials tried to start the hearing only to be interrupted by opponents who griped about the venue being too small and people being turned away. A large contingent of labor union members were also in the audience to support the project, and the two sides began shouting before DEP officials announced the postponement.

“Our goal as the department is to hear what everyone has to say,” the DEP official said. “We’re going to stop the hearing and reschedule it so it can be in a place where everyone can be heard.”

A new date and location will be announced soon.

Several opponents of the compressor station said the decision to reschedule was the right one.

“It’s the best decision DEP has made in a long time,” said Doug O’Malley, a leader with Environment New Jersey, a nonprofit environmental advocacy group. “This was a public safety issue. The room was too small and you shouldn’t be turning away people at a public hearing, so DEP should be given credit.”

“It’s too bad people’s comments couldn’t be heard tonight, but we hope they’ll come out and be heard again at a better venue,” said Patty Cronheim, outreach coordinator, ReThink Energy NJ.

The compressor station would link the Williams Transco gas line between Mercer and Gloucester counties with New Jersey Natural Gas’ planned Southern Reliability Link pipeline through northern Burlington, Monmouth and Ocean counties.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities have already approved construction of both the compressor station and pipeline, but those approvals are contingent on the projects obtaining several related environmental permits.

Although the compressor station and pipeline are being built by different companies, both projects are related and intended to enhance the reliability of gas delivery to New Jersey Natural Gas’ service territory, which is predominantly in Ocean and Monmouth counties but also includes parts of Morris and Middlesex counties, the Lakehurst side of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst and small portion of Burlington County and Bass River.

Both projects have drawn from residents and elected officials in Chesterfield, Bordentown Township and North Hanover, who consider them significant safety and pollution risks. Environmental groups have also objected.

Tom Gilbert, campaign director for the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, said the large crowd was indicative of the growing opposition to this project and others like it.

“I think the DEP now has a better understanding about how concerned about this people are and the opposition that’s out there,” Gilbert said. “People are paying attention about the threat these projects pose, and they’re trying to protect their communities and water and they’re counting on the DEP to do their job.”

Other opponents accused Williams Transco of choosing the venue in order to stifle public comments against the proposed station.

“It was a boondoggle from the get go, just like the pipeline and compressor station,” Bordentown Township Mayor Jill Popko said. “They had no business scheduling (the hearing) in a room that only holds 200 people.”

A Williams Transco spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment after the hearing’s postponement.

Earlier, the spokesman said the utility has been working closely with the Department of Environmental Protection to obtain the required permits.

“We’re looking forward to securing the remaining outstanding clearances needed to construct this important infrastructure project and meet the state’s growing energy needs with reliable natural gas service,” Williams Transco spokesman Christopher Stockton said.

In addition to the wetlands permit, the company is still awaiting DEP approval of a water diversion permit, which would allow it to temporarily divert as many as 7 million gallons of groundwater a month from the compressor site for about 10 months while the station is being built.

A public hearing on that permit application was held in April in Chesterfield and attracted several hundred people.

Williams Transco officials had originally objected to holding a public hearing on the outstanding wetlands permit, arguing in a June letter to the department that months had passed since the company submitted its application in July 2015 and that additional delays could jeopardize the station’s planned August 2017 in-service date.

DEP officials responded that the long review was necessary due to the scope of the project and that the additional opportunity for public comment was in the public’s interest.

Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, said the postponement should be considered a small victory for opponents of the natural gas projects, but he said moving to a bigger venue was not enough and that the department should extend the public comment period for the permit and hold two public hearings instead of just one.

“What DEP did was shameful and now they need to correct it,” Tittel said. “They should hold two public hearings so people have time to comment.”

The DEP also planned to hold a public hearing on a water permit application filed by New Jersey Natural Gas for its Southern Reliability Link pipeline. That hearing was to scheduled Sept. 7 at 6 p.m. at the same Ramada Inn.

It was unknown Monday if that hearing date would also be postponed or moved to a different venue.