Saturday, March 18, 2017

Robert Mercer’s Trade of the Century


The Beautiful People, The Beautiful People

I went to school at SUNY, Stony Brook in the 1960s and I used to dream when I grew up I would be a caretaker for a small park in the town next door, Setauket, that had a beautiful, peaceful little pond. The last time I saw either the little park or Setauket was in 1968. I moved to Europe after college and when I returned it the U.S. in the mid-70s I lived in California. I hadn't been back to Stony Brook in many decades when they decided to honor me with an awards dinner-- me and guy who was a principal at Setauket's most valuable company, Robert Mercer of Renaissance Technologies, America's most profitable hedge fund. I knew who he was because he was, at the time, Ted Cruz's biggest single contributor, $13,000,000 if I remember correctly. I asked the folks at the campus to read a little about my politics and his politics and to see if they thought it would be that wonderful of an idea to have us both on the same dais or at the same table. They eventually decided two separate dinners would work better. That was lucky because by then, Mercer was not just Trump's biggest donor (unless you want to count in-kind services from Vladimir Putin, the world's richest man). Trump's biggest donor and the man who gave Trump Kellyanne Conway, Steve Bannon and the world zany world of both Breitbart and Cambridge Analytica, both of which he surrepticiously owns, each of which being part of the nuclear triad (with Putin) that handed Trump the election.

There are two huge Mercer exposés to consider this weekend, one by Vicky Ward about Mercer and partner-in-crime, daughter Rebekah, The Blow-It-All-Up Billionaires, and one by Jane Mayer in the New Yorker, The Reclusive Hedge-Fund Tycoon Behind The Trump Presidency-- How Robert Mercer exploited America’s populist insurgency. Although neither comes right out and explains that Mercer is a dangerous sociopath who needs to be in a position where he can't do further harm to the society and the nation, both essays are excellent and worth reading. Let's start with some excerpts from Ward's. "When politicians take money from megadonors," she wrote, "there are strings attached. But with the reclusive duo who propelled Trump into the White House, there’s a fuse." The imperious, ultra-spoiled daughter was calling the Mercer shots after the unexpected win the Mercers helped engineer. She was a heavy hitter on the executive committee of the Trump transition team and pushed for Jeff Sessions, Michael Flynn and John Bolton and vetoed Mitt Romney. She backed, forcefully, everything that would destroy America and when she didn't get her way, she went ape-shit and threw her (father's) weight around. She went bonkers when Trump had Romney’s niece, Ronna Romney McDaniel, appointed to be chair of the RNC, who, to the Mercer psychos say that "McDaniel personified the very GOP establishment that her family had worked so hard to cast out."

Her father, viewed as a complete crackpot by everyone who has ever met him, is obsessed with urine research, revels in the death penalty, Islamophobia and Obama-hatred. He told her co-workers in Setauket that "your value as a human being is equivalent to what you are paid... [and] by definition, teachers are not worth much because they aren't paid much." The crazy daughter has the same bestial ideology as her dad and said to be even more dangerous. They "invested" $10 million in Breitbart to spread their crackpot ideas to the kind of mentally-weak people attracted to fascism, xenophobia, racism and generalized hate-mongering, the core of their lives. "[U]nlike other donors," wrote Ward, "the Mercers are not merely angling to influence the Republican establishment-- they want to obliterate it... In 2012 the Mercers recognized Bannon as an ideological ally." It was Bannon who persuaded Mercer to switch his allegiance from Cruz-- in whom he had invested $13.5 million-- to Trump. And it was Rebekah who persuaded Trump to dump Manafort and replace him with Bannon (as well as Kellyanne and little Nazi shit David Bossie).
In the end, Rebekah Mercer’s mistake was that she thought she could upend the system and then control the regime she had helped to bring to power. Helping to elect a president wasn’t enough: She wanted the machinery to shape his presidency. Instead, the chaos simply continued. An administration full of insurgents, it turns out, functions in a near-constant state of insurgency.

Bannon is said to be exhausted and stretched. He is largely responsible for the relentless pace of initiatives and executive orders in the early weeks of the administration, because he doesn’t expect to be in the White House forever. “I’m expecting to be fired by the summer,” he has told friends, likening himself to Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s chief minister, who was instrumental in enforcing Britain’s Reformation but ended up being beheaded by his boss. A source close to Bannon says that he may have “joked about being fired,” but disagreed that Bannon is tired: “I don't think he even thinks in those terms. He is used to an intense schedule.” His focus, the source says, “is working for the president to deliver on the promises to the American people for the first 100 days and then beyond on the overall agenda of Making America Great Again.” Bannon returns Rebekah’s phone calls when he can. But, according to someone who knows both well, “relations are strained.” Another person who works with both of them says, “I think Bannon, once he finally built a relationship with Trump, didn't need Rebekah as much … and he doesn't care about that. He only cares about the country.” The source close to Bannon says that Rebekah and the chief strategist remain “close friends and allies.”

As this piece was going to press, several sources warned me not to count Rebekah out. She still has a stake in Breitbart, which holds tremendous sway over Trump’s base and has recently gone on a no-holds-barred offensive against the GOP health care plan. And on March 13, Politico reported that some Trump officials were already disillusioned with America First, which they felt had been slow to provide much-needed cover for his policy initiatives. There was talk of turning instead to a new group being launched by Rebekah Mercer. And so she may yet get another chance to realize her grand ambitions. “She’s used to getting everything she wants, 100 percent of the time,” says another person who knows her well. “Does she like getting 90 percent? No.”
In the other piece, which isn't bad but not nearly as compelling or informative as Ward's, Jane Mayer interviewed Nick Patterson, a former senior Renaissance employee who claims that Mercer’s "influence has been huge. 'Bob has used his money very effectively,' he said. 'He’s not the first person in history to use money in politics, but in my view Trump wouldn’t be President if not for Bob. It doesn’t get much more effective than that.'" Patterson, who originally recruited Mercer for Renaissance from IBM says he always found "his susceptibility to conspiracy theories" strange. He was always babbling on about how the Clintons murdered people-- hard core fringe craziness. No one likes to talk about it but Mercer is an unadulterated racist scumbag, unaware he's a racist scumbag. Steeped in incredible ignorance, Mercer is also an aggressive climate change denier.

She noted that another ex-Renaissance employee, David Magerman told the Wall Street Journal that "Mercer’s political opinions 'show contempt for the social safety net that he doesn’t need, but many Americans do.' He also said that Mercer wants the U.S. government to be 'shrunk down to the size of a pinhead.' Several former colleagues of Mercer’s said that his views are akin to Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand. Magerman told me, 'Bob believes that human beings have no inherent value other than how much money they make. A cat has value, he’s said, because it provides pleasure to humans. But if someone is on welfare they have negative value. If he earns a thousand times more than a schoolteacher, then he’s a thousand times more valuable.' Magerman added, 'He thinks society is upside down-- that government helps the weak people get strong, and makes the strong people weak by taking their money away, through taxes.' He said that this mind-set was typical of 'instant billionaires' in finance, who 'have no stake in society,' unlike the industrialists of the past, who 'built real things.' Another former high-level Renaissance employee said, 'Bob thinks the less government the better. He’s happy if people don’t trust the government. And if the President’s a bozo? He’s fine with that. He wants it to all fall down.'"
Mercer's fortune has allowed him and his family to indulge their wildest material fantasies. He and Diana moved into a waterfront estate in Head of the Harbor, a seaside community on Long Island, and called the property Owl’s Nest. Mercer, a gun enthusiast, built a private pistol range there. (He is also a part owner of Centre Firearms, a company that claims to have the country’s largest private cache of machine guns, as well as a weapon that Arnold Schwarzenegger wielded in “The Terminator.”) At Owl’s Nest, Mercer has installed a $2.7-million model-train set in his basement; trains chug through a miniature landscape half the size of a basketball court. The toy train attracted unwanted tabloid headlines, such as “boo-hoo over 2m choo-choo,” after Mercer sued the manufacturer for overcharging him. (The case was settled.)

Mercer retains a domestic staff that includes a butler and a physician; both accompany him whenever he travels. But this, too, has sparked bad publicity. In 2013, three members of the household staff sued to recover back wages, claiming that Mercer had failed to pay overtime, as promised, and that he had deducted pay as punishment for poor work. One infraction that Mercer cited as a “demerit” was a failure to replace shampoo bottles that were two-thirds empty. This suit, too, was settled.

Mercer has bought several spectacular yachts, including the Sea Owl, which is two hundred and three feet long. A 2013 photo shows the gates of the Tower Bridge, in London, raised high to allow it to proceed up the Thames. The Sea Owl has a crew of eighteen, and features a hand-carved “tree” that twists through four levels of decks. Designed, in part, as a place where the extended Mercer family can gather, the yacht has many fanciful and didactic touches for the Mercer grandchildren, such as frescoes that allude to the discoveries of Darwin and Newton. There’s a self-playing Steinway, a spa pool, and an elevator.

Mercer has given major credit to his family for the yacht’s special details, telling Boat International that they are “endowed with both exceptionally good taste and exceptionally strong opinions.” The Mercer daughters are indeed forceful. When a Manhattan bakery that the sisters loved, Ruby et Violette, threatened to close, depriving the Mercers of their favorite cookies, they bought it. In a Fox News interview, Heather Sue recalled telling the others, “We are going to buy a bakery!” The Mercers still own the business, although it is now online-only.

After graduating from Duke, Heather Sue began competing in high-stakes poker tournaments; she is admired on the circuit for her cool manner. When Mercer insisted that Heather Sue take a security guard with her, Santavicca said, “they became friends, then they became whatever, and now they’re married, with two beautiful daughters.”

Jenji has a law degree from Georgetown, but she has pursued an interest in horses instead. In 2008, the Mercers bought a horse farm in Wellington, Florida, for $5.9 million. Jenji and Diana regularly attend the Winter Equestrian Festival, in Palm Beach. They are investors in an equestrian center in North Carolina, and have announced plans to open one in Colorado. Diana is also listed as the owner of Equinimity, a horse stable in Florida. According to the stable’s Web site, it specializes in Equine Facilitated Learning, a system that teaches “non-verbal leadership and interpersonal communication skills through non-predatory horse-inspired wisdom.”

Rebekah worked for a few years at Renaissance after graduating from Stanford. A former colleague recalls her as smart but haughty. In 2003, she married a Frenchman, Sylvain Mirochnikoff, who is a managing director of Morgan Stanley. They had four children and bought a twenty-eight-million-dollar property-- six apartments joined together-- at Trump Place, on the Upper West Side. Now forty-three, she is divorcing Mirochnikoff. She homeschools the children, but in recent years she has become consumed by politics. “She is the First Lady of the alt-right,” Christopher Ruddy, the owner of the conservative outlet Newsmax Media, said. “She’s respected in conservative circles, and clearly Trump has embraced her in a big way.”

Amity Shlaes, the conservative writer and the chair of the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Foundation, where Rebekah Mercer is a trustee, told me, “In the dull crowds of policy, the Mercers are enchanting firecrackers.” She likened the Mercer sisters to the Schuylers-- the high-spirited, witty sisters made famous by the musical Hamilton. Shlaes went on, “The Mercers have strong values, they’re kind of funny, and they’re really bright. Their brains are almost too strong.” Rebekah, she noted, supports several think tanks, but grows tired of talk; she “is into action.”

After the Citizens United decision, in 2010, the Mercers were among the first people to take advantage of the opportunity to spend more money on politics... In New York, reporters discovered that Robert Mercer was the sole donor behind a million-dollar advertising campaign attacking what it described as a plan to build a “Ground Zero Mosque” in Manhattan. The proposed building was neither a mosque nor at Ground Zero. The ads, which were meant to boost a Conservative Party candidate for governor, were condemned as Islamophobic.

In Oregon, the Mercers gave six hundred and forty thousand dollars to a group that attacked Representative Peter DeFazio, a Democrat, with a barrage of negative ads during the final weeks of his 2010 reëlection campaign. This effort also failed—it didn’t help when DeFazio announced that a New York hedge-fund manager and his daughter were meddling in Oregon politics.

Press accounts speculated that Robert Mercer may have targeted DeFazio because DeFazio had proposed a tax on a type of high-volume stock trade that Renaissance frequently made. But several associates of Mercer’s say that the truth is stranger. DeFazio’s Republican opponent was Arthur Robinson—the biochemist, sheep rancher, and climate-change denialist. The Mercers became his devoted supporters after reading Access to Energy, an offbeat scientific newsletter that he writes. The family has given at least $1.6 million in donations to Robinson’s Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine. Some of the money was used to buy freezers in which Robinson is storing some fourteen thousand samples of human urine. Robinson has said that, by studying the urine, he will find new ways of extending the human life span.

...In 2011, Bannon drafted a business plan for the Mercers that called for them to invest ten million dollars in Breitbart News, in exchange for a large stake. At the time, the Breitbart site was little more than a collection of blogs. The Mercers signed the deal that June, and one of its provisions placed Bannon on the company’s board.

Nine months later, Andrew Breitbart died, at forty-three, of a heart attack, and Bannon became the site’s executive chairman, overseeing its content. The Mercers, meanwhile, became Bannon’s principal patrons. The Washington Post recently published a house-rental lease that Bannon signed in 2013, on which he said that his salary at Breitbart News was seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars.

Under Bannon’s leadership, the Web site expanded dramatically, adding a fleet of full-time writers. It became a new force on the right, boosting extreme insurgents against the G.O.P. establishment, such as David Brat, who, in 2014, took the seat of Eric Cantor, the Virginia congressman. But it also provided a public forum for previously shunned white-nationalist, sexist, and racist voices. One pundit hired by Bannon was Milo Yiannopoulos, who specialized in puerile insults. (He recently resigned from the site, after a video of him lewdly defending pederasty went viral.)

In 2014, Bannon began hosting a radio show that often featured Patrick Caddell, who effectively had been banished by Democratic Party leaders after years of tempestuous campaigns and fallings-out. On the air, Caddell floated dark theories about Hillary Clinton, and often sounded a lot like Bannon, describing “economic nationalism” as the driving force in American politics. Under Barack Obama, he said, America had turned into a “banana republic.”

By 2016, Breitbart News claims, it had the most shared political content on Facebook, giving the Mercers a platform that no other conservative donors could match. Rebekah Mercer is highly engaged with Breitbart’s content. An insider there said, “She reads every story, and calls when there are grammatical errors or typos.” Though she doesn’t dictate a political line to the editors, she often points out areas of coverage that she thinks require more attention. Her views about the Washington establishment, including the Republican leadership, are scathing. “She was at the avant-garde of shuttering both political parties,” the insider at Breitbart said. “She went a long way toward the redefinition of American politics.”

The Mercers’ investment in Breitbart enabled Bannon to promote anti-establishment politicians whom the mainstream media dismissed, including Trump. In 2011, David Bossie, the head of the conservative group Citizens United, introduced Trump to Bannon; at the time, Trump was thinking about running against Obama. Bannon and Trump met at Trump Tower and discussed a possible campaign. Trump decided against the idea, but the two kept in touch, and Bannon gave Trump admiring coverage. Bannon noticed that, when Trump spoke to crowds, people were electrified. Bannon began to think that Trump might be “the one” who could shake up American politics.

...Until Election Day in 2016, Mercer and Hanley-- two of the richest men in America-- paid Caddell to keep collecting polling data that enabled them to exploit the public’s resentment of élites such as themselves. Caddell’s original goal was to persuade his sponsors to back an independent candidate, but they never did. In 2014, Caddell and two partners went public with what they called the Candidate Smith project, which promoted data suggesting that the public wanted a “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” figure-- an outsider-- as President. During the next year or so, Caddell’s poll numbers tilted more and more away from the establishment. Caddell’s partner Bob Perkins, an advertising executive and a former finance director of the Republican Party, told me, “By then, it was clear there wouldn’t be a third-party candidate. But we thought that a Republican who harnessed the angst had a real chance.” At one point, Caddell tested all the declared Presidential candidates, including Trump, as a possible Mr. Smith. “People didn’t think Trump had the temperament to be President,” Caddell said. “He clearly wasn’t the best Smith, but he was the only Smith. He was the only one with the resources and the name recognition.” As Bernie Sanders’s campaign showed, the populist rebellion wasn’t partisan. Caddell worried, though, that there were dark undertones in the numbers: Americans were increasingly yearning for a “strong man” to fix the country.

Caddell circulated his research to anyone who would listen, and that included people inside the Trump campaign. “Pat Caddell is like an Old Testament prophet,” Bannon said. “He’s been talking about alienation of the voters for twenty-five years, and people didn’t pay attention-- but he’s a brilliant guy, and he nailed it.” The political consultant and strategist Roger Stone, who is a longtime Trump confidant, was fascinated by the research, and he forwarded a memo about it to Trump. Caddell said that he spoke with Trump about “some of the data,” but noted, “With Trump, it’s all instinct-- he is not exactly a deep-dive thinker.”

Rebekah’s father, meanwhile, can no longer be considered a political outsider. David Magerman, in his essay for the Inquirer, notes that Mercer “has surrounded our President with his people, and his people have an outsized influence over the running of our country, simply because Robert Mercer paid for their seats.” He writes, “Everyone has a right to express their views.” But, he adds, “when the government becomes more like a corporation, with the richest 0.001% buying shares and demanding board seats, then we cease to be a representative democracy.” Instead, he warns, “we become an oligarchy.”
Two faces of pure and unadulterated evil-- on Long Island

An aside unrelated to the Mercers: when Democrats think "a big tent" means encouraging inherently corrupt conservative careerists-- think Pat Caddell, Rahm Emanuel or Debbie Wasserman Schultz, think the Blue Dogs and New Dems and the "ex"-Republicans-- to take leadership positions in the party, the results are INEVITABLE: the Party sinks into a wretched and unsupportable pool of shit, which is where we find it today-- the other reason for the rise of Trumpism, beyond Putin, beyond Comey, beyond the Mercers.

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At 4:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice summation. Yes, the democraps, frantic to keep pace with the worst of the worst in whoring, are beyond help/redemption/sympathy. Like even the richest thoroughbred with a broken leg, they just need to be put down. put them the fuck down!!

An aside. Hedge fundies are the absolute worst. predatory capitalists without an atom of conscience. They, too, should be put down. And props (?!) to bill Clinton and the '96 democraps for passing the lege that allows these vampire squids to thrive on the blood of the 99.99%.

At 12:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why do these pictures of Rebekah Mercer remind me so much of Ilse Koch (No relation to the brothers)?

At 1:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is really eye opening and scary.

At 5:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Put them on Naked and Afraid--then forget to ever go get them...

At 9:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

These people are abominations; what they have accomplished is equivalent to treason. More dangerous than Putin are home-grown lunatics who would destroy their own country for the feeling of power it brings them. They have set in motion a bizarre experiment that all of us must now endure. Wake up Republicans & fix this damnable mess!


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