In the USA...United Surveillance America
Bowe Bergdahl's home town left bewildered by backlash against its hero
Residents of Hailey, Idaho, waited five years for their native son to come home. Now, just a week after the US secured Bergdahl's freedom, the town's festive atmosphere has turned defiant
Rory Carroll in Hailey, Idaho
The Guardian, Friday 6 June 2014 11.00 BST
For five years, the coffeeshop in Hailey, Idaho, where Bowe Bergdahl used to work kept a light on. It was a symbol of remembrance, and hope.
The lamp still burned on Thursday, a discreet glow from a corner cabinet, but in the week since his release from captivity, it has become all but forgotten as a harsh, probing spotlight beamed on Bergdahl, his family and the town of Hailey.
An event for which this small Idaho community prayed and yearned and campaigned, an event expected to herald joyful catharsis, instead has turned into accusation and rancour. The town is bewildered, and the yellow ribbons, balloons and banners proclaiming “free at last”, “mission accomplished” and “welcome home Bowe” on windows, poles and trees appear more defiant than festive.
“It's so vicious. We've been blindsided,” said Sue Martin, a spokesperson for the Bergdahls who employed Bowe as a barista at Zaney's coffeehouse before he joined the army. “We knew there would be some stuff about [him] walking off the base but this controversy …,” her voice trailed off.
Video released by the Taliban of Bowe Bergdahl's release: 'Don't come back to Afghanistan'
On Wednesday, the town cancelled a welcome home celebration planned for later this month, citing security concerns amid a deluge of angry and in some cases threatening messages from around the country.
“They say we're kind of a disgrace, or what a shame is to have a celebration for a traitor,” Kristy Heitzman, a director of the chamber of commerce, told reporters. “The blowback was unexpected. We thought it would be like Kaitlyn Farrington coming back from the Olympics,” she said, referring to the snowboarder who won gold at Sochi.
Hotels that typically host hikers, fishermen and hunters have reported cancellations. Even with the celebration abandoned, there is concern that some protestors could travel to this rural community of 7,000 people to vent their anger.
“To have all these people phoning up and screaming, I mean, really?” said Chip Deffé, who runs a bike shop where Bergdahl's father works as a mechanic. Like many here, Deffé does not own a television, but heard about what was being said on Fox News and other outlets. “A bunch of armchair quarterbacks. They don't know what they're talking about.”
He echoed the prevailing view here: support the family, sympathise with a young man who has suffered a terrible ordeal, and await an official investigation into Bergdahl's alleged desertion before judging his actions.
President Barack Obama invited Bob and Jani Bergdahl to the White House for last Saturday's announcement that their 28-year-old son had been freed in a swap for five senior Taliban figures who were detainees at Guantánamo Bay.
Republican senators criticise prisoner exchange
Republicans lambasted the White House for not giving Congress 30 days notice of the freeing of the detainees, as required by law, and said the five militants could endanger American lives despite a condition of the deal that requires them to remain in Qatar under supervision for a year.
The White House, and Hailey, were unprepared for a third, visceral objection to the deal: that Bergdahl was a deserter, or even a traitor. That he was not worth it.
The claim has stunned a community who knew him not as a pale spectre in Taliban videos but as the tall, affable young man who served coffee and deftly fended off jokes about Billy Elliot – he did ballet along with karate, fencing, paragliding and mountain biking.
The idea that Bergdahl may have walked off his base before falling into Taliban hands in June 2009 was not news. Rolling Stone magazine published critical testimonies from former comrades in 2012. But the speed and force with which those accusations were recycled and amplified gave Hailey, where elk roam the highway, a crash course in US political polarisation and media saturation.
“Fox has been horrible. I'm a conservative but I'm disgusted by how they're trashing him,” said Lee Ann Ferris, an interior designer who lives near the Bergdahls’ wood cabin five miles out of town. “It's a modern-day lynch mob.”
Ferris said she had heard from a friend that the freed Taliban fighters were has-beens and no longer a threat to the US. “I'm told they're too old to do what they'd like.” Ferris acknowledged this was based on speculation.
Sherry Horton, who taught Bergdahl ballet and shared a house with him before he joined the army, said media depictions of him were a travesty. “We want the world to know that Bowe is not just the Bowe they're showing on TV.”
The Taliban video of the handover, in which US special forces escorted Bergdahl to a helicopter, suggested his health was precarious, said Horton. “I taught him dance and know his movements. He was always confident, surefooted. In the video he wasn't steady, he stumbled.”
“It's frustrating to see how people are willing to make snap judgments without having the full story,” said Nini Casser, 25, one of Bergdahl's old fencing partners. “I can't imagine what his family are feeling having all these people say all these horrible things about their son.”
The community is especially pained that Bob and Jani Berghdahl – believed to be at home, avoiding the media glare – have been portrayed as un-American oddballs.
For 28 years, Bob was the UPS guy, pausing for chats as he delivered mail and packages; a cleanshaven, outdoorsy neighbour who accompanied his wife to a Presbyterian church every Sunday.
Physically similar to his son, at first he grew his beard to match Bowe's growing facial hair on proof-of-life videos to try to verify recording dates, said Deffe.
Later it became a symbol of solidarity with his son and a way to connect with the captors. “Pashtun tribal culture is based on respect. He wanted to show he was an elder,” said Martin, the cafe owner. Asked if it helped with negotiations, she shrugged. “Who knows? It certainly didn't do any harm.”
In this new phase of the Bergdahl story, where diplomacy has given way to politicking and public opinion, the beard is now a source of scorn and suspicion outside Hailey. Privately, many townspeople expressed hope he shaves it off, and soon.
Bob Bergdahl remains calm at centre of storm over son released by Taliban
The decision to swap five militants for one American prompted a furore that threatens a family as well as the White House. The Guardian speaks to those who know a suddenly famous father
Rory Carroll in Hailey, Idaho
theguardian.com, Saturday 7 June 2014 13.00 BST
Bob Bergdahl speaks to the Guardian, before the release of his son.
The Berdaghl family made its home in a remote, wind-whipped Idaho valley to keep the world at a certain distance. But two outside forces – the Taliban and US politics – crashed into the idyll.
It says a lot about Bob Bergdahl, 54, and the son he raised that of the two, he appears to have handled the Taliban better.
The former UPS delivery man has intrigued, inspired and infuriated the US public since the release of his son, Bowe, 28, ignited a political firestorm last week.
The ponytail and straggly beard, the phrases in Arabic and Pashto, the refusal to look or sound like a conventional dad, the theories about Bowe's alleged desertion – all have fuelled the clamour, prompting many to ask: just who are the Bergdahls?
Interviews with friends, neighbours and colleagues in the valley and in Hailey, the nearest town, paint a nuanced portrait of a family that on one hand is sporty, Christian and all-American, fond of horses, hunting, chocolate muffins and Jimmy Fallon; and on the other bookish, private and iconoclastic, carving an individualistic trail in its own private Idaho. That lifestyle bred idealism – and, arguably, naivety.
“Bob almost reads and thinks too much,” said Lee Ann Ferris, a neighbour. “You'd ask him a question and, whoah, what an answer you'd get.”
Susan Martin, a close family friend who employed Bowe at her coffee shop, said he inherited his father's looks and passion for books and going his own way.
“I called Bowe the mystery elf. He was always out doing things, helping people,” she said. Bowe's father, Martin said, had an “old hippie soul”.
The story of how father and son came to animate the drama engulfing President Barack Obama – he has been accused of breaking the law and endangering US lives by trading five Taliban prisoners for Bergdahl without giving Congress the 30 days notice required by law – is rooted in a pioneering, individualistic spirit.
In California in the late 1970s, Bob was a young champion cyclist, tipped for the 1980 Moscow Olympics. A US boycott over the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan ended that dream – an ironic twist given the country's later impact on his life.
Bergdahl moved to Idaho to become a carpenter; he was attracted by the landscape and the opportunity to work outdoors, said friends. He married Jani, a devout Presbyterian who liked horses and biking. Bergdahl, a Catholic, switched to his wife's church, which they attended regularly, and built their wooden bungalow in a rugged strip of alfalfa crops wedged between bare hills.
After the arrival of a daughter, Sky, and then Bowe, Bergdahl took a job delivering parcels for UPS, a job he kept for 28 years.
“He knows more about the people in this town than anyone else,” smiled Chip Deffe, a bike store owner who hired Bergdahl as a mechanic after he retired from UPS.
Bob Bergdahl Bob Bergdahl speaks at a press conference in Boise, Idaho last Sunday. Photograph: Scott Olson/Getty Images
The Bergdahls schooled their children at home. There was no TV, but there were many books – to this day the house is filled with mostly non-fiction volumes including tracts on history, religion, science and athletics, said Alan Beserra, a friend and regular visitor.
When not working the older Bergdahl was out camping, chopping wood or hunting elk and deer with a bow. Bowe was equally active but often did his own thing – making 30-mile treks and taking up karate, paragliding, fencing and ballet. There are multiple testimonies to his desire to help others: shovelling snow, doing errands, teaching.
“He was a very good dancer, muscular and flexible. The girls trusted him when he was doing lifts,” said Sherry Horton, his ballet teacher, who shared a house with him at one point.
Bowe had friends and a girlfriend but could be socially awkward, Horton said. “Girls liked him but he'd miss the cues. He was observant, quiet, but would come out with the best one-liner of the night.”
He abandoned a plan to join the French Foreign Legion because it would mean giving up American citizenship, according to friends, so instead he signed up for the US infantry.
“He wanted to serve and to help people,” said Horton. “I thought the army would be a good fit.”
It wasn't. Bergdahl’s deployment to Paktika province in eastern Afghanistan, as the world now knows, ended in disaster. Instead of helping Afghans, the sensitive bookworm found himself in a flailing counter-insurgency. Former platoon comrades said he was a loner who lost faith in the mission and the US.
In June 2009 Bowe left his base, in circumstances which remain unclear, and fell into Taliban hands.
After recovering from the shock, his father, 7,000 miles away in Idaho, did three things: bought a TV to follow the news; immersed himself in online study of US foreign policy, Afghan culture, negotiation psychology and anything related to the crisis; and started growing a beard.
The study expanded to Arabic and Pashto and the beard – intended to express solidarity with his son and project the image of a tribal elder – gradually transformed his appearance.
Marathon sessions on the computer and phone became all-consuming. “Bob and Jani basically were prisoners too,” said Ferris. At Jani's prodding Bob resumed biking, ending excursions with apple strudel or chocolate muffins, and he discovered ABC's Jimmy Kimmel. But these were fleeting interludes in his efforts to understand and sway his son's captors.
There were, in fact, some parallels: a former endurance athlete who thrived in Idaho's elemental climate and terrain, Bob Bergdahl could relate to Taliban grit in a similar environment. He also vehemently opposed the US mission in Afghanistan and detentions in Guantánamo Bay.
“I think this is the darkening of the American soul,” he told the Guardian, in the run-up to Bowe's release.
Whether Bergdahl's outreach to the Taliban helped the negotiations remains unclear. There is little doubt, however, that some of his public relations efforts backfired in the US.
A 2012 Rolling Stone article included emails from Bowe to his father, shortly before his capture, railing at the US and hinting at desertion. Bob had confided in the journalist, Michael Hastings, and almost certainly provided the emails not realising the damage they would inflict, said one family friend.
The stakes were higher last Saturday, when Bergdahl and his wife appeared alongside President Obama for what was supposed to be a triumphant, joyful announcement of Bowe's release.
Any White House worries about their guest's appearance and what he would say were weighed against the emotional power of tearful, grateful parents emerging from a horrific ordeal.
Republicans, however, complained that Congress was not given 30 days notice of the freeing of the Taliban detainees, as required by law, and that the militants could endanger American lives despite a condition of the deal obliging them to remain in Qatar under supervision for a year.
Then some of Bowe's former comrades came forward, accusing him of betrayal, desertion and costing the lives of soldiers who searched for him. They depicted an eccentric, selfish loner.
Bergdahls, Obama Jani and Bob Bergdahl with President Barack Obama in the Rose Garden of the White House. Photograph: Jacquelyn Martin/AP
Amid the brewing storm, in the Rose Garden alongside the president and the next day at another press conference in Boise, stood Bowe's father, with a straggly beard, speaking the enemy's languages, invoking Allah, and saying things like: “We're so much like Afghanistan.”
Some found his composure and dignity inspiring. Plenty others did not, and the backlash strengthened. Social media erupted in insults, accusations and conspiracy theories. Bill O'Reilly declared on Fox News that Bob Bergdahl “looked like a Muslim”. Protests and threats prompted Hailey to cancel a welcome home celebration for Bowe, who remains at a base in Germany.
Some senior Democrats swelled the Republican clamour that the administration paid too high a price for a rogue soldier. A Time magazine cover articulated the subtext: “Was he worth it?”
Obama publicly held firm, saying he had no regrets. But the Pentagon, having initially signalled that Bowe had suffered enough, indicated he may in fact face a court martial after transferring to a military clinic in Texas – the next stage of his recovery.
Bob and Jani Bergdahl, meanwhile, remain out of sight, apparently hunkered down at home. On Thursday curtains were drawn and several vehicles were parked out front. Horses grazed in the fields. There was no sound except for the wind.
“All this criticism will be water off Bob's back,” said Chip Deffe, his friend and boss at the bicycle store. “He's true to himself.”
In a politicised climate obsessed with image, that can be a problem.
US stock exchanges face lawsuit over high-frequency trading
It is alleged HFT enables professionals to make quick profits at the expense of savers and pension fund investors
The Guardian, Friday 6 June 2014 19.30 BST
The American lawyer who orchestrated a successful class action suit against the tobacco industry 20 years ago has turned his sights on the stock exchanges caught up in the controversy over high-frequency trading.
HFT is the process by which professional traders are able to put orders in to the stock market more quickly than the majority of investors. Putting in these earlier bets on the market, it is alleged, allows professionals to make quick profits at the expense of savers and investors in pension funds.
The practice is being tested in a class action suit filed in a New York court last month by a number of US legal firms including Michael Lewis, the lawyer who led a class action suit brought by the state of Mississippi in 1994.
The team of lawyers he assembled at that time led to $368.5bn (£220bn) being paid out by 13 tobacco companies to cover the cost of treating illnesses related to smoking in almost 40 US states.
In an interview in Weekend magazine, Lewis – who is not related to the author of the same name whose book Flash Boys exposed high-frequency trading to the public – describes his court action as "a small skirmish against the larger backdrop of the vast accumulation of wealth and political power".
The case in the Southern District of New York is filed against 13 stock exchanges and subsidiaries on behalf of Harold Lanier "individually, and on behalf of all others similarly situated". "This is a case about broken promises," the 40-page document begins. It is signed by eight legal firms.
In the interview, Lewis says that the information being provided by exchanges "was not timely or accurate, and wasn't fairly distributed", and alleges that they were in breach of contract.
"The illusory market – the market that the investor sees when he looks at his monitor – is anywhere from 1,500 to 900 milliseconds old. That doesn't sound like much, because the blink of an eye is 300 milliseconds. But that's a long, long time in the world of HFT."
The case was filed on 22 May, and is one of what is expected to be a large number of legal cases related to HFT. The 13 exchanges involved are yet to file a formal response in the court. In April, Providence, the capital of the US state of Rhode Island, filed a case targeting a number of exchanges charged with fraud.
Republicans Label Obama’s Plan To Combat Climate Change a Terrorist Attack
Friday, June, 6th, 2014, 10:01 am
Something that promotes and contributes to social well-being, particularly on a national level, is regarded as beneficial. It goes without saying that a nation’s population expects their leaders to work tirelessly to promote policies and agendas that contribute to the well-being of the nation in general, and the people in particular; unless they are Republican leaders. Over the past five years, at least, Republicans have not only resisted doing anything beneficial for the American people, they have actively and with great contempt obstructed any attempt by President Obama and Democrats to pass legislation or enact policies to benefit the people and it has become their defining characteristic as conservatives.
It is, or should be by now, common knowledge that Republicans have not, and will not, propose, support, or advance any policies or agenda that benefit the people because their entire focus is serving the rich and their corporations. It was little surprise, then, that even before President Obama was forced to take it upon himself to address the devastating effects of climate change on the people and the nation, Republicans and their dirty energy donors lashed out against a proposal that benefitted the population. It is just what Republicans do.
The President’s action to reduce carbon emissions responsible for climate change have been labeled by Republicans as a terrorist attack, an assault on democracy, an deliberate Obama crusade to kill jobs, and an illegal use of executive power. Of course, everything Republicans claim are filthy lies, but it is their preferred action anytime this President, or Democrats, attempt to do anything to benefit the people or the nation’s well-being. Republicans know that reducing carbon emissions is the only course of action to reduce the devastating effects of climate change; including warnings from the Department of Defense of the likelihood of increased terrorist threats to America’s national security if climate change continues unabated. It is beyond refute that Republicans are united in supporting any policy advancing the devastation of climate change regardless the effect on the economy, Americans’ health, or national security including lying to protect their fossil fuel donors.
First, the President is not illegally using executive power in imposing new carbon emission limits according to the 1970 Clean Air Act; particularly Section 111 the President employed like Congress specifically intended to regulate pollution from power plants over 40 years ago. Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell accused the President of assaulting democracy itself, putting a “dagger in the heart of the American middle class, launching an Obama job-killing crusade,” and claimed “it is the single worst blow to Kentucky’s economy in modern times.” Subsequently, McConnell immediately introduced legislation to block the new EPA rules and rein in the African American President for attempting to benefit the nation and American people.
What McConnell, or any Republican beholden to the dirty fossil fuel industry, refused to acknowledge is that President Obama realized the challenge to reduce carbon emissions may hit coal producing states’ energy providers’ profit margins where it hurts and gave the states with the most carbon-intensive power plants a break. Instead of reaching the 30% reduction goal, states like Kentucky and West Virginia are only required to make reductions of 19.8% and 18.3% respectively. Instead of acknowledging the President’s generosity to make the new standards as economically manageable as possible, Republicans are already using them as election-year posturing and point-scoring.
Now, Republican claims based on the fascist U.S. Chamber of Commerce report that came out in advance of the President’s new EPA rules that reducing carbon emissions meant total economic annihilation have been thoroughly debunked as more GOP filthy lies to protect the dirty fossil fuel industry’s profits. Still, it has not stopped Republicans like McConnell, Rand Paul, David Vitter, RNC chairman Reince Priebus, and House Speaker John Boehner from citing the Chamber’s dirty lies as proof that “The president’s plan would cause a surge in electricity bills and “put an average of 224,000 more people out of work every year.” Besides being dirty vile liars, Republicans are projecting their own despicable three year job-killing crusade on the President. As usual they use mendacity as a fear-mongering tool to convince their stupid supporters that President Obama’s attempt to assuage the health and economic devastation of climate change is a deliberate job-killing, economy-devastating, terrorist assault on Americans.
The Chamber of Commerce, like the Koch brothers’ American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), may lead and speak for Republicans, but they do not have the support of some seriously major corporations, and surprisingly utility providers, that are distancing themselves from the fascist tax-exempt business organization’s lies and opposition to the President’s climate change rules. In fact, the communications director of Public Citizens’ U.S. Chamber watch, Sam Jewler said, “There are utilities that are major players in American energy and are part of the Chamber that think these regulations are fair and flexible enough for them to work with. It’s another case of the Chamber not doing what’s best for the economy or the American people and not representing the full range of businesses in the economy.” Several dozen of the major corporations that either contribute to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce or have executives currently serving on its board of directors do not endorse the new lie-filled report.
The President’s bold move to benefit America and its people had another effect that cannot be understated; China said that since America is moving forward to reduce carbon emissions, it will follow Obama’s lead and place an absolute cap on carbon emissions. According to Reuters, chairman of China’s Advisory Committee on Climate Change told a conference in Beijing on Tuesday that after President Obama’s announcement, “The government will use two ways to control CO2 emissions; by intensity and an absolute cap.” China and America are the largest CO2 (green-house gas) emitters in the world, and China previously complained that America had no right to point a finger at China while it was not willing to take steps to reduce carbon emissions driving climate change. China is suffering the same extreme droughts, wildfires, and devastating floods as Americans, as well as air pollution posing a serious health risk that is killing its people.
Republicans could not possibly care any less about the damaging effects climate change is having on Americans or the nation’s economy. The vicious droughts plaguing the Central and Western states are due to drastically drive up food costs across the nation, and as rivers dry up, reservoirs run out of water, there are serious concerns that states that produce a major portion of the nation’s food supply will run out of water within a few years; if not sooner. Still, Republicans are fighting each and every attempt to reduce carbon emissions to protect the dirty fossil fuel industry’s profits by either outright denying climate change is real or refusing to discuss it because they are not scientists. Republicans are not gynecologists either, but they have no issue discussing, and imposing restrictions, on every woman in America’s uterus to regulate their reproductive health.
There is not one conservative alive, not one Republican, teabagger, or libertarian who can cite even one instance of conservatives doing anything to benefit the nation or the American people, but they devote every waking moment in Congress and state legislatures working for the fossil fuel industry’s benefit. It is inconceivable that Republicans have any supporters after they have not supported even one policy to benefit their constituents, but it is likely their racist supporters regard opposing anything the President proposes as beneficial. One only hopes that as they are saved from being washed away in floods, burned out of their homes in wildfires, or forced to drink recycled urine they remember it is not because of the Republicans beholden to the fossil fuel industry, but because that Black President they hate worked for all Americans’ benefit; even those who least deserve it.
How The Theocratic Right Wing Guarantees Its Legacy: Grooming Future Judges
By karoli June 6, 2014 9:30 am -
Theocracy is coming to the USA, courtesy of Blackstone Legal Foundation, Alliance Defense Fund and associated non-profits. Meet the new generation of theocrats.
How The Theocratic Right Wing Guarantees Its Legacy: Grooming Future Judges
Earlier this month RhRealityCheck published a chilling exposé of a little-known organization which is quietly supporting, training, and placing law students in key internships in order to promote them into the judiciary. The group promoting these students -- Alliance Defense Fund via the Blackstone Legal Fellowship -- is a key connector between the fundamentalist Christian right and the libertarian right.
From RhRealityCheck's article:
Imagine that a little-known but increasingly powerful group of ideologues had hatched a plan to transform the United States into a Christian theocracy harkening back to the Dark Ages of Europe, a time when society was governed by the laws and officials of the Catholic Church.
Suppose further that this plan had a scary simple strategy: Recruit bright, young law students; put them through an intensive indoctrination program; place them in plum internships across the country; and watch as they swim upstream until they reach the top of the legal system, where they can create, enforce, and interpret laws according to a legal philosophy infused with fundamentalist Christian theology.
Blackstone Legal Fellowship
There really is a vast right-wing conspiracy with no separation between the so-called libertarian wing and the theocratic wing. Not only do they coordinate at the top levels, but they are also actively working to inculcate young people with their view that there is no barrier between church and state by actively pursuing law students and offering them a paid fellowship to learn how to bend American law and the constitution to suit a fundamentalist Christian world view.
The Blackstone Legal Fellowship, as described in RHRealityCheck's article, is no ordinary scholarship. It is an indoctrination ticket, a way to groom young people early in the ways of conservative thought and the religion driving their dogma.
Throughout the Blackstone Legal Fellowship website, in tax forms, on YouTube videos, and in radio interviews, the Alliance Defending Freedom has described the mission of the fellowship program to indoctrinate law students with a specific worldview.
“One of the greatest blessings of my life as leader in the Alliance Defense Fund ministry is the Blackstone Legal Fellowship,” said Alan Sears, the Alliance’s president, CEO, and general counsel, in a video published to YouTube on January 14, 2010. “This is the time when we see the brightest and best law students in America, who love Jesus, come together for nine weeks to learn how to serve Him effectively, how to integrate their faith and the law.”
Indeed, part of the nine-week program includes a rigorous reading guide that lists tomes by scholars widely considered to hold radical religious views—a reality openly acknowledged by the Alliance, which warns that:
Some materials may even contain assertions that may be construed (or misconstrued) to be unnecessarily sectarian, or even offensive to one’s particular theological or ecclesiastical tradition. No offense and certainly, no proselytizing, is intended. Rather, Alliance Defending Freedom seeks to recover the robust Christendomic theology of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th centuries.
Meet Evan Baehr, Blackstone Fellow
In 2007 while still at Yale Law School, Evan Baehr was one of those rising stars who received a Blackstone Fellowship. According to his testimonial on the Blackstone site, "the Blackstone Legal Fellowship, through its lectures, discussions, and reading materials, revealed to me a cohesiveness and integration of the Christian worldview—philosophy, theology, and political theory—that I had previously not understood. It lucidly presented the coherence of apologetics, theology, exegesis, history, legal philosophy, and political advocacy.”
Baehr's bio on his personal website is quite impressive. In addition to working for Peter Thiel on a 'political data company' (likely Palantir Technology, though it's not mentioned), he's worked for Facebook and been featured on conservative news outlets. But it's his non-profit connections that are most interesting.
He has worked for the American Enterprise Institute’s Charles Murray, the Ethics and Public Policy Center, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, and the White House Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, served as a legislative aide on the House Appropriations Committee under Rep. Frank Wolf, was Chief of Staff on the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, under which he wrote the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act, and was the failed candidate for Princeton’s City Council, despite receiving more votes than George W. Bush.
He has served on the board of the Manhattan Institute’s Adam Smith Society, the New Canaan Society, the Rivendell Institute, and Harvard Business School's FIELD Program, and is a mentor with First Round Capital's Dorm Room Fund. He cofounded the Hoover Institute’s Rising Fellows Program, Harvard Business School’s Ideas@Work, Princetonians in the Nation’s Service, and the Yale Forum on Faith and Politics. He is the recipient of the Lilly Endowment Thesis Prize, the Blackstone Legal Fellowship, and Princeton’s James Madison Fellowship. He lives in Austin, TX, with his wife, Kristina Scurry Baehr, a patent litigator, and children Cooper and Madeleine.
Of the organizations listed, the American Enterprise Institute, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the Manhattan Institute and the Hoover Institution are heavily funded by right-wing interests. In particular, AEI and the Becket Fund enjoy large contributions from the Kochs, the Bradley Foundation, and the DeVos family, among others. Evan Baehr moved fluidly among the elites of the conservative movement from one project to the next.
Although it wasn't mentioned in his bio, Baehr also established and currently serves as chairman of a non-profit organization by the name of Teneo, Inc.
Baehr established Teneo in 2008 to gather up the best and the brightest Christian conservatives into an online and offline social network. According to their form 990, their exempt purpose is continuing education, and they list the following program services:
Regional events to discuss pressing public issues, develop potential solutions and identify ways to contribute to realizing these solutions through their existing vocations.
Annual retreat where members convene to discuss and develop action items for a number of timely geopolitical issues.
Virtual communications, which is described as an online social network and listserv where members communicate, share ideas and articles, and discuss issues.
Teneo is Latin for "to keep on, persist, endure." And so Teneo's members strive to hold fast to and perpetuate religious conservative traditions, particularly conservative legal traditions.
According to their website, "Teneo is a network of the nation's most outstanding and entrepreneurial conservatives under 40 that seeks to establish conservatism as the most relevant, most responsive and most effective political ideology. Launched in 2008 as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Teneo builds strategic, vertically integrated relationships among our 250 members - translating ideas into action."
How do they decide who the most outstanding and entrepreneurial conservatives are? Are they Blackstone fellows? There is no way to know for sure, but according to their website, membership is by nomination or application only. Presumably no one is accepted who doesn't come highly recommended by conservative elites.
From 2009 to 2012, Teneo received just over $735,000 in grants and donations, with larger donation levels in 2010 and 2012 than off-election years, according to their annual reports. For the first time in 2012, Teneo received $140,000 from the Koch donor-advised fund, Donors Trust.
Before it was deleted, the public Google Group for one satellite -- TeneoDC -- served as a network for the A-list of DC millennial conservatives. For this group, the Federalist Society served as the hub, and they were the spokes.
Teneo DC Membership - Elites Galore!
Zachary Terwilliger is an assistant US Attorney in the major crimes unit for the Alexandria division. His duties include participation in the federal law enforcement efforts against the MS-13 street gang.
Adam White is a litigator at Boyden Gray & Associates. Boyden Gray is one of the Elder Conservative elites, serving as a board member at organizations like FreedomWorks, among others.
Brittany Riner is the Executive Director of Women's Rights Without Frontiers, a new nonprofit organization agitating in China against forced abortion. Before that, she was the High School Product Manager for private online charter company K12, Inc.
Her husband Noah Riner is managing director of Ironclad Capital. Noah Riner is also the homeschooled son of Kentucky Assemblyman and Baptist preacher Tom Riner. Tom Riner is known for his Christian far right battles, such as fighting for the Ten Commandments to be posted in the Kentucky homeland security office, Riner, a true Southern Democrat, also authored a law requiring citizens to acknowledge God as the guardian of the state's security or serve 12 months in jail for refusing.
David Azerrad is the director of the B. Kenneth Simon Center for Principles and Politics at the Heritage Foundation. The Simon Center sponsors the Heritage Congressional Fellows program for junior level staffers, and the James Madison Fellows program for senior-level staffers.
Apache Corporation corporate counsel Stephen Cox is a contributor to Teneo DC, as is Justin Shubow, director of Social Media and Alumni Relations at the Federalist Society. Elizabeth Fitton of the National Review Institute and Sarah Isgur Flores, Deputy Communications Director at the RNC round out some of the top participants in the domestic policy arenas.
In foreign affairs areas, David Trulio is the director of federal and civil programs at Raytheon, and pundit/writer Alexander Benard is an active participant in the foreign affairs arena. Benard is also owner of Whistlestop.com, a social media aggregator site measuring political candidates' reach and influence. The site is currently not functional but promises a return in 2014.
Simone Ledeen is the daughter of Iran war agitator Michael Ledeen. If you don't remember Ledeen for his Iran-Contra participation, perhaps his role in the yellowcake forgery allegations will strike a chord. Simone was an early member of the Iraq Provisional Authority Team in the finance arena. Simone's brother Daniel is most known for his stupid question to Michael Moore trying to link Fahrenheit 9/11's distribution to Hezbollah while interning with the New York Sun in 2004. Simone and Daniel's mother Barbara Ledeen worked for Rick Santorum during his tenure in the Senate and still serves as a staffer in the US Senate.
Michael James Barton rounds out the foreign policy team. Barton served on the Homeland Security Council staff and as Deputy Director of Middle East Policy at the Pentagon during the Bush years.
From the military perspective, members Ben Kohlmann, Jim Baehr, and Brian Ferguson round out the group.
Other members include William Blaise Warren and his wife Sarah Hawkins Warren, lawyers at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Warton & Garrison LLP and Kirkland & Ellis LLP, respectively.
The common link? They're in DC, they're mostly lawyers, and they're connected to heavy hitting conservative public policy organizations like the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society.
But how does this translate from pedigree to heir? And where do the right-wing billionaires fit in?
Lawyers, Tech, and Religion
Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel has long been a champion of the Ron Paul libertarian strain of the right wing. He was one of James O'Keefe's original benefactors, has created a foundation that pays young people to leave college and become entrepreneurs, and funds far-right wing causes. Because his focus is on technology and specifically the Internet, Thiel's ventures often intersect with the millennial libertarian set.
Thiel also has close ties to at least two Teneo directors. Chairman Evan Baehr worked with Thiel to "build a civic engagement social media company." Duncan Sahner's bio says he served as a "special assistant to investor Peter Thiel." Noah Riner worked in business development for big data analytics company Palantir Technologies. Thiel owns Palantir.
Treasurer Dave Trulio is connected to the Bush-Cheney administration, the national security industry, and is a member of the Council of Foreign Relations. Trulio's membership in the secretive policy group Council for National Policy is unmentioned, but according to an email he sent to members of the public TeneoDC group, he is a member there as well, and co-chaired a workshop in May, 2013 on Defense and Foreign Policy.
In 2013, Trulio extended a last-minute invitation to TeneoDC members to the CNP 2013 annual meeting which dropped a number of names, including Ken Cuccinelli, Cato Institute President John Allison, Rep. Tom Cotton, and Edwin Meese, III, among others.
The common links running through this organization are the deep ties to far-right wing organizations such as the Council for National Policy and the Heritage Foundation, members' ties to conservatives in the legal, tech, and policy arenas, and their advancement from fairly responsible positions to leadership positions in new organizations.
Passing the Baton
It's notable to observe the career trajectories of these conservative rising stars. These are not the people paraded on Fox News to pretend Fox has appeal to young people. This group is a group of doers, and they're being groomed to take over the reins of conservative activism in the years to come. But being from a new generation, they aren't content to stand on the outside. These are the young people expected to take the helm in areas of business, religion, and policymaking under future conservative presidencies.
Evan Baehr may not have succeeded with his tech startup Outbox, but he's building a formidable network of next-generation far right wing religious conservatives to be sent out into business, the courts, and even foreign countries in order to preach the Gospel of the Almighty American wherever there are ears to hear. Evan and his wife Kristina also have a business tutoring young law students for the LSAT. What better way is there to identify those who might have potential to join the group?
Teneo is organized as a network, but it is also intended to connect bright entrants into the policy arena with appropriate mentors and groom them for future responsibilities.
Blackstone Legal Foundation is an organized and focused effort to place bright law students in areas of public policy in order to further deteriorate any barriers between church and state. Many of these young people cut their political teeth during the Bush/Cheney administration and used that as a stepping-stone to more influential positions. From technology to policy shops to think tanks to a convergence of all three, they are positioned to ensure conservative enforcement of conservative ideas, bought and paid for with Billionaire Bucks, whether Koch, Thiel, or some other donor.
One of the final Teneo DC emails sent to their group was quite interesting, particularly with the barrage of faux scandals marching across news feeds lately.
It is an invitation to a dinner with Reginald "Reg" Brown, a lawyer in private practice who previously served the George W. Bush administration in several capacities, including a stint in the White House Counsel's office as liason to bankers and housing agencies during the time leading up to the crash in 2007-2008.
Stephen Cox describes Brown as a "DC lawyer who focuses on congressional investigations and crisis management. Cox goes on to describe Brown as a "brilliant political operator in the conservative movement" before inviting the group to join them to "discuss the future of the party, the best opportunities for young conservatives [sic] operatives in DC, or good ol' fashioned war stories from his experiences as a top lawyer to Governor Jeb Bush and President George W. Bush."
There's a connection not to be missed. It makes one wonder which of the Teneo group attended, and what advice they might have received about using scandals and congressional investigations as crisis-makers and election winners.
Theocrats, lawyers, pundits and techies, all rolled up and waiting in line to assume their rightful place in the conservative hierarchy. How long before some of them become household names?