Open Thread: Is that a Smile? [UPDATE]

[FYI, update is at the bottom of this post./~Rayne]

I’m putting up an open thread since the BDTS thread is filling up as the Oversight Committee’s hearing continues.

There have been some developments in the case of National Enquirer owner AMI’s extortive letter to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, threatening to leak sext images exchanged with his paramour.

If you haven’t read Bezos’ open letter to AMI you really should. There’s something about AMI’s attempt that’s more than squicky; it smells sloppy and desperate.

Perhaps it merely reflects what Bezos says about AMI’s David Pecker — that Pecker was “apoplectic” about Bezos’ attempt to investigate the source of personal text messages leaked by AMI outlet National Enquirer.

Or perhaps it reflects some urgency related to the level of interest from other parties.

In any case, there were a number of discussions in Twitter last night as to whether AMI’s letter met the legal definition of extortion. Former fed prosecutor Renato Mariotti published a thread on the topic and former fed prosecutor Mimi Rocah also had questions about the letter.

Bloomberg reported today that the feds in SDNY are now looking into National Enquirer’s treatment of Bezos’ affair and whether it violates the agreement AMI entered into regarding the Michael Cohen “Catch and Kill” hush money case. The agreement prohibited further illegal activity.

What was it about Bezos’ private investigations that set off David Pecker so badly he’d not think about the implications to AMI’s agreements?

Bezos appears confident — though he hasn’t confirmed this in public — that the messages he exchanged with his married lover were entirely private. This suggests that their leakage was through illegal means.

Why would Pecker risk the possibility such an extortive act might expose illegal surveillance methods had been used against Bezos?

The one other recent case where Pecker’s name has come up in regard to aggressive surveillance and shaping news media coverage was that of Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein. Pecker and Weinstein have been characterized as friends:

Mr. Weinstein held off press scrutiny with a mix of threats and enticements, drawing reporters close with the lure of access to stars, directors and celebrity-packed parties. Some journalists negotiated book and movie deals with him even as they were assigned to cover him. The studio chief once paid a gossip writer to collect juicy celebrity tidbits that Mr. Weinstein could use to barter if other reporters stumbled onto an affair he was trying to keep quiet. He was so close to David J. Pecker, the chief executive of American Media Inc., which owns The Enquirer, that he was known in the tabloid industry as an untouchable “F.O.P.,” or “friend of Pecker.” That status was shared by a chosen few, including President Trump.

(source: Weinstein’s Complicity Machine, 05-DEC-2017)

Weinstein had hired Black Cube to bat clean up on stories about his sexually abusive behavior. Who referred this private investigation firm to Weinstein?

It’s also possible the effort to silence Jeff Bezos and the Washington Post (owned by Bezos through holding company Nash Holdings) was driven not by Pecker’s relationship with Donald Trump but by Pecker’s desire to do business in Saudi Arabia. What resources would have been used to obtain Bezos’ text messages if Pecker was already tied up with KSA?

Saudi Arabia has now responded by denying any involvement in the conflict between Bezos and AMI, minimizing the dispute as a “soap opera.”

Again, treat this as an open thread.

UPDATE — 4:15 P.M. ET —

Activist Iyad El-Baghdadi has just finished a thread looking at the Bezos-AMI dispute. He had already pointed out each allusion to Saudi Arabia in Bezos’ letter; in his Twitter thread he says a Saudi whistleblower told him Crown Prince MBS is obsessed with the Washington Post and targeting WaPo journalists.

But the bit that clicked for me with regard to David Pecker: with its extortive letter attempting to blackmail performance from Bezos, if AMI was acting on behalf of or in coordination with a foreign nation-state, they may be in violation of Foreign Agents Registration Act.

Now one needs to ask themselves, assuming AMI did this for MBS/KSA, was this the first time they acted on behalf of another nation-state? Or have they acted as agents for foreign powers before and it’s all in their vaults?

Where’s that popcorn?

151 replies
  1. drouse says:

    To start the conversation, Adam Silverman over at Balloon Juice quite firmly pointed a finger at the Israelis, Saudis and the UAE.

    • P J Evans says:

      I don’t know if the Saudis have hackers that are that good, but they certainly know governments that do. (Israel comes to mind, and so does Russia.)

      • drouse says:

        He suggested that Jared was the middleman and he does like his back channel communications. We know that the Saudis use malware on journalists and dissidents. I can see them wanting to do Trump a solid and they have their own reasons to take a wack at the Post. The Israelis are known to sell to just about anyone.

        • Democritus says:

          Yes, the observer.  I was reading, surfing, thinking and trying out my new meds last night and I think the same is likely.

          Mentioning Qatar, One thing I wondered if anyone looked at was the kerning from the redacted SCOTUS brief for the other parties name?

        • Tracy Lynn says:

          Really? I must have read a few issues after he got involved–I thought it was the cheesiest publication I’d ever read.

  2. Valerie Klyman-Clark says:

    I have been waiting for you all to weigh in on this since last night!

    I feel like I need to make popcorn.

    • Rayne says:

      Come on, let’s get that air popper fired up! I like mine with sriracha butter! I suppose I’d better run down the road and buy a 50-lb. bag from the popcorn farm.

        • Laura says:

          Mmm sriracha butter… it’s easy.  Melt butter and add sriracha to taste – we usually do 1/2 and 1/2.  At least, that’s how we make it.  It’s delish on pretty much anything, great on chicken if you’re a carnivore.  I like it on roasted cauliflower.

          Olive oil popcorn with salt and pepper is also very nice. Or brown butter popcorn, with rather more brown butter than necessary. Swoon.

        • Rayne says:

          2 TBSP butter
          2 TBSP olive oil
          1 TBSP sriracha

          cayenne or hot paprika or smoked paprika
          fine salt

          Heat butter, olive oil, and sriracha together until butter has melted; stir until evenly blended.

          Pour over freshly popped popcorn to taste. Sprinkle with pepper to increase heat as desired along with fine salt.

          Enjoy with an icy cold beer.

        • P J Evans says:

          Some of the cauliflower “rice” stuff in the supermarket comes with chipotle butter – similar, I suspect. (It’s not necessary, IMO, so I save the butter for other uses. I think it would work on some kinds of bagels. And then there’s the cinnamon/brown sugar/honey butter that came with the riced sweet potatoes (with raisins and pecans).)

        • Laura says:

          So many toppings, so many reasons to pop corn these days!   I might have to order some of the really good stuff from a boutique popcorn supplier.  We got a gift package a few years ago with an assortment of popcorn varieties. It was great fun to pop-and-compare.

      • Valerie Klyman-Clark says:

        Sriracha butter?!!! That. Sounds delicious. Nutritional yeast and sea salt here.

        You know folks, everyday for the last few years, I wake up thinking, “I’m standing here quietly on my own two hands, going crazy” (a Katharine Hepburn line from Bringing up Baby, if I recall).

        EW has been a balm. Again, I am deeply grateful for your good works/words, from both writers and commenters.

        P.S. Anyone have thoughts about why the Ivanka and her “nothing to see here, what me worry” interview? Hangs head. These people.

  3. Hops says:

    I don’t know whether it’s true, but I once heard that the arrow used to go from the A in Amazon to the z, to show having everything from A to Z.

  4. Charles says:

    The Corsi lawsuit against Stone is all kinds of splendiferously, magniloquently bolshie. Exempli gratia:

    Defendant Stone’s intentional infliction of emotional distress and coercion and threats are intended to try even cause Plaintiff Corsi to have heart attacks and strokes, in order that Plaintiff will be unable to testify at Stone’s criminal trial.

    Stone’s behavior was so bad that it even caused Corsi’s lawyer, Larry Klayman, to have a mid-sentence mental eructation.

    • Rayne says:

      Oh Charles, where have you been?! Needed a comment like that badly, one in which “bolshie” and “eructation” were appropriately employed. ~fans self~

      ADDER — Scanning the document, I have to wonder what the ploy is behind this volley. Is this just part of an attempt to DDoS the court with crap? Is it a set up to eventually permit exchange of information outside the Trump-Manafort-et-al JDA?

  5. Savage Librarian says:

    Cathy, thanks for the link.
    Rayne, much, much more than PsyGroup in there. That’s why I added, RUDY is in the article.

  6. BobCon says:

    With Bezos I’m definitely getting a vibe of E.H. Harriman in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. He’s definitely hinting that he will spend any amount of money to hire the best posse in the world to hunt down the people who disrespected him.

    I have no illusions that Bezos is any more sympathetic a character than E.H. Harriman. But Pecker and Trump have none of the charisma of Redford and Newman, so it will be easier to root for the posse in this case.

  7. earlofhuntingdon says:

    I should think Pecker has been splitting his time among his board and shareholders, his criminal defense attorneys, and his bankruptcy attorneys. He would seem to need immediate input from them all.

  8. Democritus says:

    Thank you for your thoughts!!! I hadn’t noted some of that. Off to hit the links :)

    One odd, unrelated note, I discovered and wondered about the fact that you can not use apoplectic at the Washington Post.  It ate my comment when I did so I had to misspell it.

    Then an hour later it shows up in Bezos story.

    Maybe a mod thought it was a curse word or something?

  9. harpie says:

    Will Bunch [5:08 AM – 8 Feb 2019] has an interesting thread, with links, on this:

    1. It came out of left field, but last night’s bombshell developments seem to have exposed a tangled web involving the Saudis, MBS, their allies, Team Trump, global hacking rings, Khashoggi, the Washington Post and Bezos that could take everything down. Follow the chain here: […] 

    • harpie says:

      Here’s a thread from @dcpoll that’s also got some good info:

      Jeff Bezos: David Pecker was “apoplectic” about our investigation…the Saudi angle seems to hit a particularly sensitive nerve. // AMI sources say that in return for the catch & kill operation, Trump introduced Pecker to funding sources: Prince MBS. […] Israeli spyware Pegasus [for whom Flynn was a paid advisor], acquired by MBS for $55M in 2018, allows customers to secretly listen to calls on victim’s phone, see texts & photos, and use phone’s mic & camera as surveillance devices. […]

    • e.a.f. says:

      they all deserve each other.  with any luck they may all destroy each other and the world may be a nicer place.

      tomato soup and popcorn?  No wonder America is in decline.  probably some thing along the same lines caused the decline of the British Empire.  Tomato soup is only to be eaten with crackers or grilled cheese sandwiches.

      • Rayne says:

        Bah. Commercial canned tomato soup is perfectly accompanied by popcorn; crackers are passé and suitable for the youngest tastebuds. Homemade tomato soup requires crisply grilled cheese panini made with a stout peasant bread and a combination of mozzarella and a higher fat cheese like Havarti (for delicate soups made with fresh tomatoes, especially lower acid varieties) or sharp white Cheddar (for tomato soups flavored herbs and/or chilis).

        If any beverage- or comestible-related conflict has undermined the American way of life, it’s the stupidity of Tastes Great versus Less Filling.

  10. Anvil Leucippus says:

    @P J Evans, February 8, 2019 at 2:45 pm

    >I don’t know if the Saudis have hackers that are that good, but they certainly know governments that do.

    I can say with second-hand experience of very close and personal proximity that they do! However, I should clarify that only pertains to the ones that do things in the OTHER direction. I have no idea what they have for state-funded hackers, but I sure can imagine whatever they work on would turn my blood cold!

    Also, kudos for remembering that you don’t have to belong to that nation to be part of state-sanctioned cyber-terrorism.

    • Concerned Canuck says:

      The Saudi’s were caught using the Israeli hacking tool Pegasus against a Canadian student activist who knew  Khashoggi.

      They started imprisoning his relatives back in Saudi Arabia.

      Researchers from Citizen Lab in Toronto discovered & analyzed the infection and determined it was a state actor. They had a high degree of confidence it was the Saudi government given similarities to other attacks.

      The student is now suing the Israeli firm NSO group, the vendor of Pegasus.

      The story is bizarre – given the Saudis used this tech to attack a student who spoke out about human rights.

      I also think it is related to the extremely aggressive threats against Canada by the Saudis (suddenly expelling diplomats, pulling student visa’s, cutting off trade – for criticisms Canada has made of their treatment of women for years now) and the White House’ shocking silence & refusal to support Canada publicly.

      This is all very strange.

      • e.a.f. says:

        My take on all the Saudi carry on regarding Canada, is, they were doing Trump a favour.   After Saudi Arabia’s little hissy fit, we’re still doing fine.  Of course as the federal election comes closer expect more targeted “games”, especially aimed at Freeland and Trudeau.    Of course one could say Trudeau/Freeland got even with Saudi by accepting the young woman as a refugee.  Lets wait for the next tennis ball.

  11. Trip says:

    The Daily Beast said Sanchez (the brother of the woman in the affair) is a Trump fan and has connections to Roger Stone and Carter Page. There’s always the possibility that he somehow got access to his sister’s phone to collect texts and photos. (Or perhaps she gave them to him?) That’s not to say that the motivation isn’t political even if there wasn’t a hack. Supposedly, The NE is kinda under water and needs financing (it was a big get to do the MbS propaganda glossy). I think their demographic is older women, who likely would have no idea who TF Bezos even is. He’s not a Hollywood celebrity.

    On the other hand, it does sound like a Charles Kushner set-up. Except that there was no endgame.
    They got no money from Bezos, no promises for good comments, no promise not to write about Trump or the Prince, nada. They got him a divorce. That’s it.

  12. Charles says:

    From Chris Greidner, Buzzfeed (via Natasha Bertrand):

    JUST IN: Maria Butina and government prosecutors agree that Butina is not yet ready for sentencing because “[t]he defendant’s cooperation is not yet complete.” Continuance until Feb. 26 requested.

    • Charles says:

      And speaking of Butina, I haven’t seen any mention of this story from Mark Follman and Hannah Levintova of MoJo:

      On the weekend of March 25, 2014, Butina held a press conference in Crimea with Sergei Veselovsky, a leader of a pro-Russian separatist group called the Crimean Front. During their talk, Butina touted her connections with Kremlin officials and mentioned a civilian gun initiative by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Rogozin—at the time freshly sanctioned by the United States and who would be among those greeting NRA leaders during Butina’s conference in Moscow the following year. Butina spoke of her gun group’s plans to expand into Crimea, and Veselovsky asked about arming local citizens in response to news of Ukrainian militants heading for the region.

      Following the April 2014 convention in Indianapolis, Butina traveled to NRA headquarters in Fairfax, Virginia, where she visited the NRA gun range and museum with Keene and others and posed for a casual photo with Keene in front of the group’s flagship glass office tower.

      A few weeks later, she was back home actively promoting Putin’s territorial conquest.

      So exporting revolution is in the NRA’s wheelhouse?

      • Valerie Klyman-Clark says:

        I’d like to see a yarn wall connecting Butina, her newly-indicted lover, et al to the NRA to Congress. Our senior senator, Burr who just the other day claimed he’s seen no evidence of collusion during the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigations into 45-Russia-etc-etc-etc,  has received more financial support from the NRA than any other member of Congress.

        Gaaaa. Yarn wall. Some of us are visual learners.

  13. Peterr says:

    All the possible Saudi connections aside, AMI/NE is perfectly capable of reveling in their access to Trump and his approval, believing their own press releases,  and basically being s-bags all by themselves. They’ve had years of practice.

    For generations they’ve taken the lead on embarrassing photos and tabloid trash. Before there was such a thing as internet revenge porn, there were the leaks to NE with photos from disgrunted ex’es. Before everyone and their dog had a phone with a camera, they let the world know that they’d pay handsomely for compromising photos of famous people, and the paparazzi were thrilled. Somewhere along the line, they learned that they can make money not only by printing such photos but also by not printing them. And I’d guess that no one, not one person in all their years of sleaze, ever told them to pound sand in quite the way Jeff Bezos did.

    Look at it this way: they put their blackmail threat in writing.

    This makes them either idiots or supremely confident, assuming that this could not possibly backfire on them. At worst, they lose the $$ from their target, but it only creates more chatter when they DO publish the photos, right? Except for one thing: once Bezos’ wife filed for divorce, AMI had no leverage over Bezos. He’s so rich that nothing from AMI could hurt him — and he knows it.

    The NE has been dragged into court before for libel and such, so that doesn’t scare them. But we’re talking blackmail and extortion here, which is a very different deal. People could end up behind bars. And after that comes the civil suit.

    This could be Trump’s worst nightmare. Think about the discovery in a civil suit . . . I almost pity Trump if Pecker kept notes of his phone calls, or mentioned Trump in any orders he gave to his subordinates. But like any good horror movie/nightmare, there’s always a twist, because just when you think it can’t get any worse. Imagine if Bezos ends up owning AMI/NE after the civil suit is over, including the safe where all those stories the NE bought and spiked are kept.

      • KG says:

        I follow celebrity gossip, and it’s amazing that these two worlds have finally collided. NE and AMI have done this blackmailing in the past, but I think the Saudi connection is what made them go overly aggressive this time around.

        Not to mention, that whole “don’t commit crimes for 3 years” as a part of their plea deal. Why would they risk prosecution to threaten him? He is getting close to something they don’t want out.

        • Rayne says:

          I always thought the print stuff on celebrities was skeevy — now we know it’s worse than we could have imagined because the richest people were able to keep their dirt out of pulp.

          And yeah, why take the risk of exposure let alone prosecution? It seems weird Pecker would indulge in such hubris. Or was this the only way out of the tug-of-war between the richest guy in the world and some really ugly thugs?

    • Cathy says:

      A guest on Bloomberg TV just compared the Nat’l Enquirer‘s Bezos situation to The Sun‘s phone hacking scandal (reminder courtesy of The Guardian). Did someone say popcorn?

    • e.a.f. says:

      they could hurt his ego.  now he only has a mistress.  At one time he had a wife and a mistress.

      its sort of like, “see what I can do? nanananannan…..  Some men can be very petty.

  14. BobCon says:

    One thing I’m struggling to get my head around is why AMI took on this risk. They usually choose weak prey and calculate risks well.

    Pecker has very experienced legal advice, and they must have told him he was already skating on thin ice with the feds. He must have also known that Bezos could take revenge on him outside of the legal process, and chase away advertisers, distributors and retailers.

    One theory is that Pecker was trying to make up with Trump for cooperating with SDNY. But then why not hand the pics off to an offshore publisher and let the negotiations be handled by a third party, and let Trump know in secret what went down?

    I’m inclined to think somebody put pressure on Pecker to do this himself. However it’s not clear to me who has the ability to twist Pecker’s arm like this. Or is it likely that AMI faces such serious financial problems that they are doing the bidding of someone who could bail them out?

    • Trip says:

      If it’s the last one, MbS would fit nicely since he paid for the glossy propaganda piece (by Pecker) which was on shelves in Walmart, of all places. It’s speculation, but he could have called in a favor. He would also have deep animus against WaPo.

    • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

      If AMI thought they could intimidate the richest man in the world, one wonders how many GOP Congresscritters they’ve cowed.  Is there anything in AMI’s files about Nunes?  Gowdy?  Rohrbacker?  I’m not making accusations, but AMI kompromat could explain a lot.  If AMI could put a stranglehold on specific members of Congress, then it would also be useful for any foreign interests that want to stall, eviscerate, or ‘deep six’ Congressional hearings.  Or move legislation.

      If MbS has been obsessing on the WaPo’s coverage about Khashogi, and also if AMI/Pecker link to MbS , then Jared Kushner is surely close at hand.

      Intimidation and extortion have probably been Pecker’s M.O. for so many years that he actually assumed he could pwn Bezos.  He probably assumed that pwning Bezos would get him brownie points with Trump, Kushner (Israel), and MbS (Saudi) all in one fell swoop.  Like Vizzini in Princess Bride, he was too clever by half.  He went up against a guy who has been developing a tolerance for iocane powder via the crucible of building and creating a cluster of businesses, solving problems that no one in human history has ever had to solve before.  That takes guts.

      FWIW, I view Bezos as a business genius, but I also respect the guts and integrity that it took for him to let the chips fall where they may on this one.  It’s one of the most refreshing acts of integrity that I’ve seen in quite some time: to me, it is an act of moral courage.

      I’ve heard several folks at MSNBC attribute Bezos’ decision to ‘roll that log over and see what crawls out’ as some kind of luxury that his wealth enables — as if only very wealthy people can stand up to intimidation. It is true that Bezos is wealthy, but other wealthy people have been intimidated by Pecker (which, again, is perhaps why Pecker foolishly thought that he could pwn Bezos).  IMVHO, wealth alone is not the key factor in Bezos’ decision.  That narrative is toxic.

      The kind of thing that Bezos has accomplished requires a very unusual mix of characteristics, including courage.  Bezos is vastly wealthy for a combination of reasons, among which is the fact that he was willing to take risks.  He’s gutsy as hell.  (I don’t say this from personal acquaintance, but from watching through the years + three degrees of separation x12).

      There are many factors contributing to Bezos’ wealth, but among them is a kind of bold willingness to take (calculated) risks and ‘let the chips fall’ where they may.  Here’s hoping the media clue in to that very interesting part of the story, because IMVHO it is an exceptionally American trait.

      • Trip says:

        He’s a billionaire because, like a lot of other billionaires, he had no compunction crushing, stepping over or on top of others to destroy them for his own profit. That is vulturistic, and may represent the American spirit, albeit from the worst most callous and sociopathic origins. Why do we see those traits as admirable?


        4 Ways Amazon’s Ruthless Practices Are Crushing Local Economies

        He achieved this the old-fashioned way: Brute force. While it’s true that Amazon is innovative, efficient, and focused on customer satisfaction, such factors alone did not elevate Amazon to its commanding level of market control. To reach that pinnacle, Bezos followed the path mapped by Rockefeller and other 19th-century robber barons: (1) ruthlessly exploit a vast and vulnerable low-wage workforce; (2) extract billions of dollars in government subsidies; and (3) wield every anti-competitive weapon you can find or invent to get what you want from other businesses.

        Jeff Bezos Protests the Invasion of His Privacy, as Amazon Builds a Sprawling Surveillance State for Everyone Else

        This is not to imply in any way, shape or form, that I am a fan of the NE’s methodology and practices. But Bezos is no hero.

        • Rayne says:

          LOL You’re going to hate my ass but I’m going to defend Bezos and Amazon.

          You want a ruthless billionaire who should be pummeled for his approach to business? Go after the guy who bought Sears this week.

          Sears is *EXACTLY* the reason why Amazon has such dominance in the market.

          Ugh. I supposed I should write a post about this rather than dumping in comments. Trust me on this, Amazon has only taken up the slack spot in the market assholes like Sears’ owner and Walton family greed+stupidity left behind.

        • Trip says:

          I don’t see how bringing up more ruthlessness absolves Bezos.

          Nor does it even touch upon the vast collection of surveillance data and the intrusion into ‘privacy’.

        • Rayne says:

          The “vast collection of surveillance data” is not Amazon’s fault — it’s OURS because we haven’t legislated any real protections.

          Take a look at what you’re ranting about: how is what Amazon is doing with shopping data any different than what other retailers are doing? But OMFG AMAZON IS TEH EVIL.

          Ditto any online service like Yahoo, Google, Facebook, Netflix — what have we done to limit their acquisition and use of data? But OMFG AMAZON IS TEH EVIL.

          Do you think Walmart has any less data than Amazon? We know they treat their workers like shit. But [INSERT REFRAIN]

          And now Sears’ asshole billionaire owner holds 45,000 workers over a barrel right now because he’s saved them after mercilessly running the business into the ground, just as Toys-R-Us’ former owners did.

          It’s not the business owners. It’s us. It’s our failure to do something effective to rein in these abuses.

        • Trip says:

          I guess you were averse to reading the Intercept link.

          If we are going to play the game of “well, he’s not so bad compared to….”, we could compare and contrast Trump to Cheney, or other mob bosses, maybe Trump had no one killed. I don’t understand how someone genuinely progressive would take up defense of any of those people, except that I’m under the impression that you enjoy challenging whatever comment I post, regardless of content or opinion. Writing about Bezos, specifically, as the subject was about him, doesn’t denote some kind of advocacy for Google, Yahoo, Apple or any other company. In fact I stated “Like other billionaires…”. And yes, the country needs to rein in the vast collection of data, but pointing out who is doing it shouldn’t be some kind of controversy. Although I guess it is.

        • Rayne says:

          I didn’t say Bezos is “not so bad compared to…” My point was it’s so easy to pick on Bezos+Amazon while ignoring all the others who have systematically encroached on us and continue to do so right under our noses, often with our own help.

          Hell, even AMI’s business model — how many people have complained about their unauthorized data collection used to marginalize those with less power, which is exactly what they do? There wasn’t a furor over the “Catch and Kill” work they’ve done, only how Trump used it. It wasn’t really an issue until he broke campaign finance laws which we the people legislated.

          Again, easy to point to Bezos. Not so easy to look at our own complicity.

        • Democritus says:

          I wish he’d pay his workers a bit more, but he is not an evil man. Not by far, and I admire his courage for outing this and KSA.  Not easy.

          Slightly related, I’m surprised no one has brought up what a boon a single payor health care run by the government would be to businesses grappling with insurance costs.  Especially real, actual local small businesses by removing that expense from them and adding employee quality of life and productivity.

        • Rayne says:

          Amazon needs to pay higher wages but they’re paying what the market is paying — that’s the problem. The entire labor market is jacked up due to monopsony and it must be fixed or it looks like we are singling out individual employers for a market-wide failure.

          I wrote a post just after Schultz complained about Medicare for All being “unAmerican” in which I made a neoliberal case that it’s not good for business to spend their resources on health care insurance when a single-payer health care system would reduce costs to business while covering everyone.

          Small businesses in the U.S. just can’t afford this crap; bigger businesses should be focused on their competitive edge, not health care benefits management.

        • bmaz says:

          Also, please stop with the ‘test” posts. If your reply button does not work, do it the old fashioned way. This is really tiring.

        • CCM says:

          And the frog said the the scorpion, “Why have you stung me, now we will both die?’ The scorpion said, “Because that is my nature.”

        • JD12 says:

          No wonder Sears went bankrupt LOL.

          In 2008, Sears CEO Eddie Lampert decided to restructure the company according to Rand’s principles.
          Lampert broke the company into more than 30 individual units, each with its own management and each measured separately for profit and loss. The idea was to promote competition among the units, which Lampert assumed would lead to higher profits. Instead, this is what happened, as described by Mina Kimes, a reporter for Bloomberg Business:
          An outspoken advocate of free-market economics and fan of the novelist Ayn Rand, he created the model because he expected the invisible hand of the market to drive better results. If the company’s leaders were told to act selfishly, he argued, they would run their divisions in a rational manner, boosting overall performance.
          Instead, the divisions turned against each other — and Sears and Kmart, the overarching brands, suffered. Interviews with more than 40 former executives, many of whom sat at the highest levels of the company, paint a picture of a business that’s ravaged by infighting as its divisions battle over fewer resources.

        • Rayne says:

          Yeah, that and he sold off real estate like crazy. Lampert fundamentally didn’t understand what the Sears, Kmart, and Land’s End brands were.

          They were retail distribution companies with a catalog interface, an online storefront, and a brick-and-mortar presence.

          They could have totally annihilated Walmart — which understood its biggest asset was its distribution system — and the nascent had the board of directors and management not been so fucking stupid about Lampert’s right-wing idiocy.

          He completely blew off one of the other early lessons from B-school: profits may increase with applications of economies of scale. By dividing the corporation’s subset entities they could not build and utilize a single, massive enterprise ERP combined with a single distribution system.

          I’ve been watching this disintegration for nearly two decades while investors and the public all moaned about Walmart and then Amazon. It’s been a slow-moving trainwreck which didn’t need to be inevitable.

          But, but Amazon! Arrrgghhhh!!!

        • P J Evans says:

          It should have been easy for Sears (and Penney’s) to go from catalog sales to online sales: what’s a website but a non-physical catalog/storefront?

          Instead, they blew it. It’s a good argument for not letting “venture capitalists” run actual businesses, because they have no effing clue: they’re strictly “use money to make money for themselves”. They’re the main reason why I think people wanting MBAs should have to work at hourly jobs (making less than $20/hour) for 6 months to a year before they start taking actual classes.

          (I’ve ordered online from Sears. It isn’t a bad experience – but the product quality has gone down a lot in the last 10 or so years. About when they switched from stuff made in Central America to stuff made in China – and the Chinese stuff is cheap in every way, including needing to be washed a couple of times and aired for a week to get the solvent stink out of it.)

        • Rayne says:

          Penny’s could have tried to compete with Amazon more directly but they were very slow to recognize the threat. They also didn’t have the footprint Sears had with Kmart+Land’s End. Definitely another missed opportunity.

          I think you’ve put your finger on one of the challenges, the business people who’ve never gotten their hands dirty trying to make a profit from someone else’s money. I think of some uber-wealthy kids I knew who went to Wharton and the like who tried to tell businesses how to turn it around. Kind of a joke, that, given how little practical experience they had. This is one of the reasons I’ll defend Bezos — he actually started at the very bottom, in his goddamn garage filling boxes with books.

          (I don’t know what the hell happened to Lampert. It’s not like he isn’t aware of physical labor. I think he’s just stupid in the same way that “Wolf of Wall Street” Jordan Belfort has been stupid.)

          I think it’s another reason Google has been different from Facebook, apart from business model; Google allowing workers to invest a percentage of their time in personal research pursuits combined with their practice of “eating their own dogfood” helped them look at failures earlier. Their people were exposed to their own failures with their employer’s blessing.

          The business I wish could expand from its current model: Costco. I’d love to see them re-attempt their early experiment, Costco Home but buy Wayfair to do so — and then build out using Wayfair’s online store as a initial model. This I could see kicking Amazon’s butt.

        • JD12 says:

          Some of the Amazon criticism is valid but they’re being allowed to do what they do. Successful people test limits, and our elected officials are supposed to keep them in check, not help them get away with it.

          What Bezos really deserves credit for is having that vision, or imagination. He thinks of realistic solutions and implements them. In contrast to what Trump says Bezos is no bozo.

          The bozos are guys like Lampert, who think that if you just take all the restraints away the “invisible hand” will take over and somehow bring success. Kinda like how you put your tooth under the pillow and you wake up to find a dollar I guess. It’s silly.

        • Rayne says:

          …they’re being allowed to do what they do.

          That’s what I was trying to tell Trip. And it’s not just elected officials, it’s us who select and elect those officials. It’s us who don’t show up at meetings when we have access until it’s nearly too late.

          Look at what’s happening to HQ2 in New York — the plug is likely to be pulled because of so much public push back. Where was it while NYC was making a bid? Why didn’t New Yorkers hammer on Cuomo and deBlasio about this as election issues before HQ2 was awarded?

          (IMO, HQ2 is an example of a potential Amazon failure. It’s not looking at the the fundamentals. It’s an opportunity for competitor if they are paying attention.)

        • Valerie Klyman-Clark says:

          The brain trust sold off Sears’ Kenmore appliance line and Craftsmen tools. You know, the reasons people shopped at Sears.

        • bmaz says:

          This is absolutely true. I went to the local Sears for a specific tool numerous times and came out with that and Levis, a couple of flannel shirts and some other thing. And we always bought appliances there b because you could see them side b y side, and the Kenmore products were solid. And they delivered and set it up. Still have our Kenmore washer and dryer from probably ten years ago.

        • P J Evans says:

          They bought OSH, a good regional hardware/home/garden store, expanded it, added Craftsman tools, sold it to Lowes, which didn’t have a clue how to handle it (it wasn’t actually competing, as it was more home and less lumber, and the hardware and tools weren’t the big-volume stuff so much; also they had clothes and safety vests). So now it’s completely gone, and we’re stuck with Big Box hardware that doesn’t do home products and doesn’t have anything that isn’t a Big Seller.

      • JD12 says:

        If AMI thought they could intimidate the richest man in the world, one wonders how many GOP Congresscritters they’ve cowed.  Is there anything in AMI’s files about Nunes?  Gowdy?  Rohrbacker?

        How about Lindsey Graham? He’s certainly done a 180 when it comes to Trump. Granted it could just be because of SC politics, but if that were the case you’d think he could support DJT without acting like a fool.

  15. P J Evans says:

    assuming AMI did this for MBS/KSA, was this the first time they acted on behalf of another nation-state?

    There was that special glossy magazine they did praising KSA and MBS in particular, for supermarket sales in the US. (I haven’t seen it and haven’t looked, but I doubt that the market I go to would be in their target demographic.)

  16. cfost says:

    As Rayne notes above, it can be nice to be a “Friend of Pecker” if one is of the ilk of Weinstein, bin Salman or Trump. Problem is that all three guys were very sloppy. Each of them has far more money than sense.

    If bin Salman and Trump were trying to follow the playbook used by their heroes Franco, Pinochet, Stalin, Mussolini and the rest, then the first order of business is to silence the pesky journalists. Except in this case, the owner of the newspaper whose journalist they just murdered is a man who does have sense, and he has more money than many sovereign nations. In fact, given the amount of money sloshing around in these guys’ bank accounts, this episode has the potential to get very very juicy. What have Bezos’ journalists and investigators  discovered about MBS (my guess) that they have not yet made public? What leverage do DT and MBS have on Pecker, to induce him to make such a risky move? Which of Bezos’ competitors stand to benefit from his potentially diminished standing or capacity?

  17. Avattoir says:

    An Iowa Grifter Visits Nancy’s House
    Stand back: I need more room than most.
    One or two? / One or two? / BOTH?
    I’ll not only evade / I’ll lie under oath!
    One or two? / One or two?
    Bundy time / In the loo
    They’re enemies of the People, true?
    Right! Leftists versus…US-ists?
    [BDTS tosses out red challenge hanky]
    Hail, BDTS. Welcome to Congress. You can leave that … thing outside. Anyway, your 15 minutes await.
    My chance / My cracker barrel time /
    Mind chess against El Nadler & his off-white hordes!
    My reward! / My reward!
    I come to claim reward
    Armed to turn this committee completely bored
    Let waste / Be laid
    All progress be delayed
    There are probes to duck / CVs to polish /
    And standards to degrade
    Look at those arms
    Look at that chest
    Not to mention the rest –
    Even I am impressed!
    Look at that Foot!
    Is it’s Big-ness not plain?
    I am my own rural myth most inane!
    I, Mathew George Whitaker
    [He, BigFoot’s biggest fanboy]
    I, deceiver of thousands
    [Inventors bilked of savings]
    I, distraction of the week
    Defrauder of the meek
    Degrader of the laws
    Nominee of many flaws
    Must stonewall flapping jaws

    • Laura says:

      Look at that Foot!
      Is it’s Big-ness not plain?

      I am crying laughing.   Avattoir, you are maestro! Applause! Bravo!  Encore!

  18. JD12 says:

    I have no sympathy for Bezos, but to see AMI get Gawkered would be glorious. They deserve it more than Gawker did.

    It seems unlikely that Bezos would implicate SA without evidence. It certainly fits MBS’s pattern of clumsiness, and he does have the capabilities. Here’s an interesting WaPo piece from the Khashoggi incident that explains how he’s been accumulating spyware and other cyber weapons in recent years.

    • JD12 says:

      Here’s the most relevant part:

      Saudi intelligence in 2013 sought from Hacking Team tools that could penetrate iPhones and iPads, and in 2015 it wanted similar access to Android phones, according to company records revealed by WikiLeaks in 2015.

      It says they sought those tools but it doesn’t say they succeeded, but Hacking Team does advertise those tools so I think it’s safe to presume they did.

  19. sand says:

    Open thread: I have been waiting to comment on WaPo’s tagline “Democracy dies in darkness.”

    I really like the line. But if there’s one thing that the last two years prove, it’s that democracy can die on stage, under klieg lights, with all of us watching. It reminds me of a scene from “Interview with a Vampire.”

    This scene at 1:15:

  20. Peterr says:

    In the wake of the BDTS testimony . . .

    Somewhere, Alberto Gonzales is smiling this evening. “See? I look pretty good now, don’t I?”

    • Charles says:

      Thanks for the smile, Peterr.

      The entire Bush Jr. Administration must be relieved that they’re no longer the presidential equivalent of Mississippi.

  21. Drew says:

    AMI badly miscalculated. They had already embarrassed Bezos by releasing his texts, so their leverage was minimal. (I tweeted that they brought a salad fork to a gunfight). I wouldn’t put it past either Bezos or his lawyer (who I don’t know, but he’s been referred to as a big time celebrity defense lawyer & reputation manager) actually entrapping AMI by appearing to negotiate and getting AMI to put things in writing to document an agreement that had been agreed to verbally. Bezos is, after all the genius who put together Amazon’s business plan of aggressive predatory anticompetitive strategies. (We noticed this in the book industry before Amazon had dominated everything).

    This is fine with me, Pecker, AMI & National Enquirer have been caught in their sleaziness and nastiness–and if this ends up implicating Saudi Arabia as well as the Trumps, all the better. In this case Bezos may be the hero, but no innocent.

  22. Jenny says:

    Thanks Rayne.  A Full Friday.

    Ronan Farrow says National Enquirer tried to blackmail him regarding Trump.

    Ex-FBI agent states Whitaker “treated us with utter disdain.”  Interview with MSNBC (starts at 4:00).


    NYMag article:  Trump’s Inagural Grift Reportedly Lined His Own Pockets

    Now This News – Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez exposes dark side of politics in 5 minutes.

    • Rayne says:

      That five minutes on campaign finance with AOC has really made some waves. My kid in college sent it to me this afternoon in a text message asking me if I could believe it; I didn’t tell him it’s been in my timelines numerous times over the last 24 hours.

      I wanted to say to him, “What the hell do you think your mother has been bitching about at emptywheel and on the internet for the last 16 years?” But no…I know at least he’s paying attention which means many, MANY young first-time voters have been as well.

      Be afraid, GOP olds. Be very afraid.

      • Jenny says:

        Good news, is your son is conscious.

        Ha, yes, be afraid GOP.  AOC is shaking up the old foundation.  She is a breath of fresh air.  Plus she is so skilled at social media which is to her advantage to teach others, as she did to her colleagues weeks ago.  That is a progressive move.

        Watching the hearings today, the freshman Democrats were stellar. They were bold and direct.  The women brought compassion to the hearings.  More compassion is needed in our world.

      • Howamart says:

        Based on FOX obsession with all things AOC, it looks like the foaming-at-the-mouth-Right understand the threat of a smart, savvy, attractive young activist and are very afraid. Of course they are obsessed by the fact that she is young and attractive.

      • Democritus says:

        Oh that makes me ever so happy!  Ha :)

        Finally maybe, just maaaaybe,  people are waking up!

        We are seeing the people who came of age growing up online, knowing how to use those tools. Plus wage stagnation is just so bad and with health costs going nuts…

        • Rayne says:

          The youngsters don’t see the issue with health care at my son’s age. What they see are the tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt they are stuck with servicing if they want a decent white collar job which won’t chew them up and spit them out. They’re seeing all their friends constantly stuck in side hustles (like driving for Uber) to pay for any extras — ha, as if a down payment on a tiny house is an extra.

          Just look up the hashtag #vanlife on Twitter; you’ll see thousands of people living in their vans, trying to tell themselves this is a better way of life when they are really homeless. How are we going to ensure these people have adequate political representation?

          They’re woke; some day they will be really, really pissed off when their health requires them to find a place to park their van or trailer and find health care.

  23. Michael says:

    “Owning” anyone’s phone, anywhere in the world, is easy to do. All you need are connections and a pile of money, like. say, one of the Gulf states.
    The Citizen Lab has done more than a little work on certain real-world penetrations and has published that research.
    September 18, 2018
    HIDE AND SEEK Tracking NSO Group’s Pegasus Spyware to Operations in 45 Countries

    October 1, 2018
    The Kingdom Came to Canada – How Saudi-Linked Digital Espionage Reached Canadian Soil

    November 27, 2018
    Reckless VI – Mexican Journalists Investigating Cartels Targeted with NSO Spyware Following Assassination of Colleague

  24. JD12 says:

    This has me thinking, with Trump’s notoriously insecure phone there are a lot of people who could have a lot more kompromat than we even know. If his phone was hacked at some point all those NDAs won’t save him.

  25. Marinela says:

    Waiting for Trump to “take credit” with this story. How can he stay away?
    Otherwise would be news about AMI / Jeff Bezos flooding the world instead of Trump news 24/7.
    This cannot happen.

    He’ll find a way to insert himself and make it about him.

    • JD12 says:

      He sort of did already:

      So sorry to hear the news about Jeff Bozo being taken down by a competitor whose reporting, I understand, is far more accurate than the reporting in his lobbyist newspaper, the Amazon Washington Post. Hopefully the paper will soon be placed in better & more responsible hands!

      That last sentence is interesting. If DJT was involved, it seems they thought this would ruin Bezos. I can only imagine him and Mohammed E. Coyote planning it with delusions of grandeur.

  26. Rick says:

    One thing I initially found strange about that glossy propaganda magazine about Saudi Arabia was it’s very high price of $13.99.

    But then, just today, I see that some checkout lanes STILL have them, after what seems like forever.

    I would guess they were intentionally priced to NOT SELL. That way, they just sit there as propaganda for months upon months.

    • P J Evans says:

      Stuff like that usually ends up in the magazine section, in the stores I’ve been in, until it hits its pull-by date. Maybe this one doesn’t have a pull-by – and if the rack is owned by AMI or its distributor, it would make sense that stuff sits there forever. Otherwise the store would toss it as a non-seller.

  27. Emily says:

    Forgive me if this is already noted above; I’m having some trouble displaying all the comments. Long time reader, first time commenter.

    I think what is also adding complexity to this web, for me, is that the White House refuses to meet Congress’ deadline to report on the Khashoggi murder. Not that they are going to be late – they refuse to meet it at all. The points of the administration, WaPo (Bezos), AMI, and the House of Saud all seem to be overlapping. Add in emoluments and inauguration issues…

    I don’t know. While I’m at the point that I’m scandal-exhausted, I’m almost welcoming this one so we can turn over all the other non-Russia shaped rocks and see what’s under those as well.

  28. Rick says:

    So, why was McGregor “Greg” Scott present at Whitaker’s briefing on the Mueller investigation?

    Is he a friend of Nunes?

  29. Ed Smiley says:

    Some key points.
    1. Intimate photos indicating an affair would have most extortionate power if AMI believed Bezos marriage was still a thing.
    2. Bezos’ divorce was announced in =>January<=.
    3. Including "wedding ring" in extortion messages imply that they contained boilerplate prepared earlier in time than that.
    4. The fact he was married became less salient after divorce announcement.
    4. Were they holding the pix for later use?
    5. What WaPo stories triggered the release?

    • Jibe-Ho says:

      Normally a lurker here, but I think #5 on Ed Smiley’s post is easily answered.  D.C. natives feed on politics. The 2/8/19 WAPO features the Bezos-AMI story on page 1, naturally.  The overleaf features a nice photo of Bezos with half a page of text.  The lower half-page is entirely colored, striking ad for #Stand With Saudi Heroes, supporting jailed and tortured Saudi women.  Quite a spread and no coincidence that is all that is on the page!  Jamal Kashoggi was a WAPO columnist, highly revered and publicly mourned by WAPO, including full-page “In Memorium” tributes.  Since the Post vigorously pursues all stories Saudi, Bezos and WAPO are prez. enemies, targets for WH and AMI.

    • Marinela says:

      6. What WaPo stories not published yet are are making Trump, Saudis, AMI nervous?

      Could it be related to what  Jamal K. was working on before he was killed?

  30. Rapier says:

    RE: One thing I initially found strange about that glossy propaganda magazine about Saudi Arabia was it’s very high price of $13.99.

    I don’t think the Enquirer sells much either. It just sits there in the checkout lane and everyone sees it. I have a strong suspicion it isn’t really meant to sell. It’s main business I think is extortion and even that might not be so much about money but the power it brings to Pecker.

    Does it have many ads from big name companies? Or even small ones. Perhaps it has ads for movies. I don’t recall ever looking inside one. High ad rates could keep the cash flow well into the plus side. Paying a premium for ads would be a nice way to pay some hush money. Maybe the circulation alone provides a positive cash flow. Maybe not. Hefty ad sales could.

    I’m going to be contacting a few local grocery chains and bitching about the presence of NE in those check out lanes. I wouldn’t doubt they have sold the space and can’t take the spots down till contracts expire. Still a little heat could go a long way.

    The greatest irony here in the age of fake news is that NE represents the fakeist news of all. As I say about Soap Opera Digest which is probably an AMI property and is a good surrogate for the entire stinking genre, it’s true stories about make believe.

    • BeingThere says:

      There’s often another publication nearby, such as your local city monthly magazine, to peruse briefly and accidentally slot back in the rack infront of things like NE. Been doing this for decades as a counter to propaganda.

  31. Hops says:

    Did everyone notice that Cohen’s testimony to HPSCI was postponed to 28 February. Per Chairman Schiff, to avoid interfering with “the investigation.”

    So, after the 28th, it won’t, presumably.

  32. Viget says:

    How deep does this whole rabbit hole go?

    It seems as though, much like the red queen running faster and faster just to stay in the same place, the acceleration of the speed of details leaking only keeps us barely abreast of an ever expanding global conspiracy to reshape the balance of power.

    The anti corruption forces are all in, including the media now. So how’s this going to end? How do we save the republic?

    • BroD says:

      ” So how’s this going to end? How do we save the republic?”

      Been pondering that since Dr. King got shot. Tried this, tried that–nothing holds for long.  I guess we just have to keep at it.

  33. P J Evans says:

    @Rayne February 9, 2019 at 3:49 pm
    It goes with the idea that all you need to run a business is an MBA: no experience or knowledge of the field – or the business you’re running – is really required. (And then they can’t run one and blame everyone else for it.)

    The worst period that the company I worked for had was the year or so when a guy from Finance was the president. No effing clue about the operations that were its entire reason for existence, I think, and he was underfunding them,, which resulted in problems (at least one very public) that cost more than he thought he was saving. (He got bumped up to a VP at corporate, where he will probably never have to deal with operations again.) One of my uncles was a senior VP at a company in Texas, in the oil bidness, and he left because of the MBA bean-counters who were making him justify routine maintenance on equipment, which was needed to make the money to pay for that maintenance.

    • Rayne says:

      (He got bumped up to a VP at corporate, where he will probably never have to deal with operations again.)

      Classic. One of ye olde Peter Principle exceptions, the “percussive sublimation” when someone reaches their level of incompetence and is then booted up to the next level to get them out of the way.

  34. e.a.f. says:

    Decided pumpkin pie would be better than pop corn.

    When the Bezos/Pecker “situation” was reported in Canada, considered it the best comedy of the week. How stupid was Bezos to send these types of selfies. It does demonstratee, you may be a successful business person, but you can still be really, really stupid about other things. You put it on your phone and send, some one can hack. (why billionaires ought not to run for President). Then we have Pecker trying to get Bezos to do something he doesn’t want to under threat of exposing the pictures? Pecker has an inflated sense of self and what he can do and underestimates how others will react. A lot of people have met their end by under estimating the opposition.

    Bezos did not get to where he is by buckling under. omg, you can’t make this stuff up.

    Didn’t Pecker think that the richest man on earth might not retaliate. Where I live, gang bangers kill each other for less. The sense of entitlement Pecker has, knows no bounds. Don’t know anything about Bezos beyond he owns Amazon, the Washington Post, and is the world’s richest person. However, I don’t think this is over. Pecker had better watch out. Its going to be fun movie though.

  35. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    PJ Evans @4:15, Rayne @4/23: loved your comments both here and above.
    PJ, if I lived in your city, I’d be baking you cookies for that comment about clueless VC’s. Awesome!

    Jeebuz, this topic of wet-behind-the-ears MBAs could be a whole series of threads. Yves Smith at NaketCapitalism (who has an MBA from Harvard) has incredible insights about how too many MBAs have screwed the nation.

    At youTube, somewhere in its voluminous archives, is a very witty speech by (former) hedge fund manager Jim Rogers. (He was an early colleague of Soros at Quantum Fund IIRC.) Rogers pointed out that in the late 1950s, the US graduated a maximum of 500 MBAs/year. There were very few MBA programs, all prestigious. In addition, the US was probably the only nation, post WWII, to have the resources and interest in developing MBA programs.

    This helps explain why back in the early 1960s, the ‘Camelot’ era, the ‘smartest guys in the room’ were given a lot of attention and respect, because having an MBA was regarded as impressive: very few people had them.

    By the time of Jim Rogers’ speech, perhaps in 2014, he noted that 500,000 MBAs had been granted in the US the preceding year alone — IOW, half a million MBAs granted in one single year! (Multiply that by ten years… crikey.) Basically, the US seems to have developed a small industry puffing out MBAs every year; in Jim Rogers’ view, that was one factor leading to the financialization of the economy in the 90s and 00s, and has had long term deleterious effects.

    It’s also worth noting that Trump has an MBA (from Wharton, he constantly reminds us all!), whereas Bezos majored in EE (Electrical Engineering) and CS (Computer Science) – at Princeton. Relish the irony, and if you happen to hold an MBA, I am not intending any insults here: just trying to suss out that engineering programs may provide better training for certain kinds of business than an MBA program can offer.

    I thought that Trip’s comments earlier upthread were terrific in allowing Rayne to explain why some of us are exasperated by what passes for ‘biz news’ in the US: biz has been glamorized, and the journalists have too often been unable to distinguish sh!t from sh!nola. The difference between Amazon and SEARS is one for the ages.

    One of the best business questions, ever posed by a journalist was Bethany McLean’s famous query about Enron: “How exactly does Enron make its money?”

    In some respects, it feels as if Bezos (and the rest of us) are asking, “just how, exactly, does AMI get its news…?” The answer is sure to be interesting.

    • P J Evans says:

      AIUI, Tr*mp’s degree from Wharton is a BA in something like econ (which he still doesn’t understand), and he uses the school’s name like he went to the graduate school, which is far more prestigious. (He got in as a transfer from Rutgers, a favor to a brother – so ask whether he’d normally have qualified.) I don’t know if he even got into grad school. (I suspect he paid someone to take tests and write papers for him. I’d love to see his actual college-board scores.)

  36. Michael says:

    @Valerie Klyman-Clark 8:35 am
    “I’d like to see a yarn wall connecting Butina, her newly-indicted lover, et al to the NRA to Congress.”

    Yes, Bring it on. I’m sure the FBI would like to have a peek at some actual damning evidence against Butina.

    In the mean time, have a look at this article in The New Republic by James Bamford. (The cv’s of the … um… heavy hitters who ran the Butina investigation puzzle me._

  37. Doug Fir says:

    I would hazard that the richest man in the world, who has degrees in electrican engineering and computer science from Princeton, doesn’t use a run-of-the-mill smartphone on Verizon. He’s got a target the size of Omaha on all his digital activity, and must pay a fine sum to some very smart people who are supposed to keep him and his family and “friends” safe in the digital realm. They must be pissed as hell that he got hacked! It’s unlikely AMI could mount that operation on their own, hence the supposed involvement of state actors.

    • Rayne says:

      Last night’s scuttle was that the girlfriend’s brother was the source of the leak. Doesn’t matter how good the security is at one end if the other end is weak and prone to exposure by a malicious actor like a hostile family member.

  38. Doug Fir says:


    (Opps! In my very first post “Doug Fire February 11, 2019 at 12:06pm” I misspelled my last name. No fire here!)

    [Thanks for the heads up, I’ll fix it. Welcome to emptywheel, btw. /~Rayne]

  39. Ewan says:

    Are you not all worried that Trump is using unsecured phones « secretly » in the residence? It seems extremely unlikely that the Saudis and others would not have picked up on the opportunity to have an open mike (and camera maybe) in the WH..

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