Why Americans Get Conned Again and Again ~ The Atlantic

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For decades, Donald Trump has been compared to the legendary showman P.T. Barnum. Trump himself has publicly embraced being likened to a man described by historians as “vulgar, childish, surely just a little crooked.” His willingness to invoke that set of values—quite different from the Horatio Alger-style “luck and pluck” that serve as an unofficial national ethos—may be what his supporters are praising when they say he “tells it like it is.” His base seems to view his readiness to dispense with ideals and ethics (“anyone would have taken that meeting”) as a sign of fitness to deal with the world as it is: a cesspool of corruption and “carnage” in which only suckers still believe that honesty is the best policy.

At this political moment, few books could be more timely than Fraud: An American History From Barnum to Madoff, by the Duke University historian Edward Balleisen. Other academics have documented the ways that the United States has been steeped in fraud and chicanery from the earliest days of the republic—notably, Stephen Mihm’s outstanding A Nation of Counterfeiters. But

Balleisen’s book provides a far more sweeping view than its predecessors, offering a much-needed big-picture perspective. Balleisen never mentions Donald Trump, but effectively contextualizes his ascent by tracing centuries of grift, fraud, and con men in American history.

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Soul Searching for the rich

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BIG SUR, Calif. — Silicon Valley, facing a crisis of the soul, has found a retreat center.

It has been a hard year for the tech industry. Prominent figures like Sean Parker and Justin Rosenstein, horrified by what technology has become, have begun to publicly denounce companies like Facebook that made them rich.

And so Silicon Valley has come to the Esalen Institute, a storied hippie hotel here on the Pacific coast south of Carmel, Calif. After storm damage in the spring and a skeleton crew in the summer, the institute was fully reopened in October with a new director and a new mission: It will be a home for technologists to reckon with what they have built.

This is a radical change for the rambling old center. Founded in 1962, the nonprofit helped bring yoga, organic food and meditation into the American mainstream.

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A nude group therapy session in 1968 at Esalen, which was once a storied hippie hotel where nudity was the norm. CreditRalph Crane/The LIFE Picture Collection, via Getty Images

The leaders behind humanist psychology worked from the lodge, and legend has it that Hunter S. Thompson wandered the place with a shotgun. Nudity was the norm.

Esalen’s last year has been apocalyptic. Three landslides in the spring took out the roads on all sides, and participants in a massage workshop had to be evacuated from a hilltop by helicopter. While the institute was closed, flooded and losing $1 million a month, its board made big changes. When the road reopened in October, the place had a new executive director, Ben Tauber, and its new mission.

“There’s a dawning consciousness emerging in Silicon Valley as people recognize that their conventional success isn’t necessarily making the world a better place,” said Mr. Tauber, 34, a former Google product manager and start-up executive coach. “The C.E.O.s, inside they’re hurting. They can’t sleep at night.”

Mr. Tauber has some competition. A former chief executive of Juniper Networks, Scott Kriens, opened his own tech and soul center nearby in May, with construction finishing in February. The goal of the center, called 1440 Multiversity, is to “recognize that the blazing success of the internet catalyzed powerful connections, yet did not help people connect to themselves.”

Still, there is most likely enough crisis to go around. Mr. Tauber has stacked Esalen’s calendar with sessions by Silicon Valley leaders, which are selling out.

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After Night of Drinking, F.B.I. Supervisor Wakes to Find a Woman Stole His Gun, his watch & his cash … gotta love these human interest stories

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WASHINGTON — An F.B.I. counterterrorism supervisor is under internal investigation after a woman stole his gun following a night of heavy drinking in a North Carolina hotel, according to documents and government officials.

In July, Robert Manson, a unit chief in the F.B.I.’s international terrorism section, had his Glock .40-caliber handgun, a $6,000 Rolex watch and $60 in cash stolen from his room at the Westin hotel in Charlotte, N.C., according to a police report.

 

Justice Dept drops case against woman who laughed at Sessions (how could you not?) ~ The Hill

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The Justice Department is dropping its case against a woman who laughed during Attorney General Jeff Sessions‘ confirmation hearing earlier this year, according to a court filing.

The nolle prosequi filing, obtained by HuffPost, means that the government will dismiss the charges against Desiree Fairooz, an activist affiliated with the anti-war group Code Pink, who was arrested in January for apparently laughing during Sessions’ confirmation hearing.

Fairooz reportedly chuckled after Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said during the hearing that Sessions’ track record of “treating all Americans equally under the law is clear and well-documented.”

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RESIST SISTER! She gave the “Finger” to Trump — and got fired from her government contracting job ~ The Washington Post

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It was the middle-finger salute seen around the world.

Juli Briskman’s protest aimed at the presidential motorcade that roared past her while she was on her usual cycling path in Northern Virginia last month became an instantly viral photo.

Turns out it has now cost the 50-year-old marketing executive her job.

On Halloween, after Briskman gave her bosses at Akima LLC, a government contracting firm, a heads-up that she was the unidentified cyclist in the photo, they took her into a room and fired her, she said, escorting her out of the building with a box of her things.

“I wasn’t even at work when I did that,” Briskman said. “But they told me I violated the code of conduct policy.”

Her bosses at Akima, who have not returned emails and calls requesting comment, showed her the blue-highlighted section 4.3 of their social media policy when they canned her.

Robert Mueller introduced the world to Sam Clovis. “You’ve got to read this for a good laugh!” Washington Post

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Robert Mueller brought to light a huge scandal this week, and it has nothing to do with Russia.

He has introduced the world to Sam Clovis.

Clovis, we now know, was the Trump campaign official who oversaw George Papadopoulos and encouraged his efforts to meet with Russian officials. But what’s more interesting than what Clovis is is what Clovis isn’t.

For those who had not heard of Clovis before (which is pretty much everybody), he has been nominated to be the chief scientist at the Agriculture Department, a position that by law must go to “distinguished scientists,” even though he is, well, not a scientist. He is a talk-radio host, economics professor (though not actually an economist, either) and, most importantly, a Trump campaign adviser.

President Trump promised to “hire the best people.” And, as scientists go, Clovis is an excellent talk-show host. Among his scientific breakthroughs: being “extremely skeptical” of climate change, calling homosexuality “a choice,” suggesting gay rights would lead to legalized pedophilia, pushing the Obama birther allegation, and calling Eric Holder a “racist bigot” and Tom Perez a “racist Latino.”

Trump may want “extreme vetting” of immigrants, but he’s rather more lenient with his appointees. On Wednesday, he named Robin Bernstein to be ambassador to the Dominican Republic. Bernstein speaks only “basic Spanish” (it’s so hard to find Americans who speak Spanish), but she does have this — membership at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club.

A group called American Oversight had the foresight to make records requests for résumés of those hired by the Trump administration, and the group searched for those who worked on the Trump campaign. Among the “best” Trump hires American Oversight found:

●Sid Bowdidge, assistant to the secretary of energy for energy efficiency and renewable energy. Before working for the Trump campaign, Bowdidge, from 2013 to 2015, was manager of the Meineke Car Care branch in Seabrook, N.H. He previously was service and branch manager for tire shops. I don’t know what qualified Bowdidge for his position, but I do know this: He is not going to pay a lot for that muffler. (He had to hit the road, losing his job after it was discovered he had called Muslims “maggots.”)

●Victoria Barton, congressional relations for Regions II, V and VI, Department of Housing and Urban Development. Prior to working for the Trump campaign, Barton was an office manager and, between 2013 and 2015, a “bartender/bar manager.” The expertise in housing policy possessed by Barton is no doubt invaluable to HUD Secretary Ben Carson, a retired brain surgeon.

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief scientist nominee, Sam Clovis, withdrew his name from consideration Wednesday amid revelations that he was among top officials on the Trump campaign who was aware of efforts by foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos to broker a relationship between the campaign and Russian officials.

Court documents unsealed Monday revealed that Papadopoulos pleaded guilty in early October to making false statement to FBI investigators about his contacts with foreigners claiming to have high-level Russian connections. In August 2016, Clovis encouraged Papadopoulos to organize an “off the record” meeting with Russian officials, according to court documents. “I would encourage you” and another foreign policy adviser to the campaign to “make the trip, if it is feasible,” Clovis wrote. The meeting did not ultimately take place.

In a letter to the president Wednesday, Clovis explained that he did not think he could get a fair consideration from the Senate, which was slated to hold a hearing on his appointment on Nov. 9.

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