Thursday, November 16, 2023

Trump 2.0, Project 2025, and Agenda 47: a truly fascist nightmare in the making

 ...Donald Trump... is now so openly fascist he may soon start wearing his Mussolini Underoos on the outside of his pants.
~ Aldous J. Pennyfarthing,
Daily Kos, November 9, 2023

You might have noticed that the quiet parts are no longer merely being said out loud, but are now being shouted from the rooftops, in re the fascist aspirations (fascpirations?) of 2024 GQP (un)presidential front runner Donald John Trump and his cartel of powerful, deep-pocketed allies. Trump and gang have made no secret of the many ways in which they intend to crap all over the United States Constitution, and totally dismantle American democracy, if Trump wins another term in the White House.

Together, the Trump campaign's disturbingly authoritarian
Agenda 47 and the alarming Project 2025 have all of the makings of a fascist nightmare in progress, a dystopian novel come to life. Moreover, in the unlikely event that Trump does not win the rethuglican nomination, we're still not off the hook; the backers of the extremely well-funded and well-organized Project 2025 -- the theocratic Heritage Foundation -- have briefed not only the Trump campaign but those of the distant-second rethuglican candidates, Nikki Haley and Free State of Floriduh Governor Ron DeSantis. It seems pretty clear that the Heritage Foundation is determined to force its Christofascist agenda on the American people in the event that any rethuglican wins the White House in 2024.

The nightmare features of Trump 2.0, including the plot to dismantle America and recreate it in the Trumpublican/Talibangelical image, are not really new news, of course, but they were pushed to the front in the news cycle again due to
a report earlier this month from Washington Post. By now, everyone who has been paying even superficial attention to reports and commentary across the media spectrum has at least a glimmer of a notion that a second Trump term would be a vicious revenge tour. Unfortunately, it appears that many folks are totally fine with this. Trump may be an authoritarian asshole, but he's their kind of authoritarian asshole.

Behind the curtain there's not just a timid little bald man, but an army of aggressive Trump loyalists
In case you can't get past the WaPo paywall to read the report cited above, there are scads of other sources covering this matter. Axios,
in a piece published on November 13, 2023, is a good place to start if you want to catch up. The article provides a disquieting summary of the preparations being made behind the metaphorical curtain for a second Trump term.

If Trump were to win, thousands of Trump-first loyalists would be ready for legal, judicial, defense, regulatory and domestic policy jobs. His inner circle plans to purge anyone viewed as hostile to the hard-edged, authoritarian-sounding plans he calls "Agenda 47."

  • The people leading these efforts aren't figures like Rudy Giuliani. They're smart, experienced people, many with very unconventional and elastic views of presidential power and traditional rule of law.

Behind the scenes: The government-in-waiting is being orchestrated by the Heritage Foundation's well-funded Project 2025, which already has published a 920-page policy book from 400+ contributors. Think of it as a transition team set in motion years in advance.

  • Heritage president Kevin Roberts tells us his apparatus is "orders of magnitude" bigger than anything ever assembled for a party out of power.

The late poet Maya Angelou is often quoted as having said, "When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time." Although many folks voted for Trump in both 2016 and 2020 -- and plan to vote for him again in 2024 -- because he repeatedly showed the world exactly who he is, there were many others, at least in 2016, who were in a state of denial, not believing that he would be all that bad once he assumed the office of POTUS. But he was by most measures far worse than even many of the "alarmists" had expected, and a second term would be even more ghastly. From Axios again:

Here's what the early days of a second Trump presidency would look like, based on his words and our conversations with Trump insiders:

  1. His top obsession will be the Justice Department, the FBI and the intelligence community — all of which he thinks conspired to investigate him, thwart him, screw him. He's been very clear that he's willing to unleash these agencies against political enemies.
  2. The next priority will be the Department of Homeland Security and the border, with plans to erect sprawling detention camps, "scour the country for unauthorized immigrants," and "deport people by the millions per year," The New York Times reports. We're told Trump's top criterion for immigration officials will be whoever promises to be most aggressive. Trump has told allies he's confident the Supreme Court will back his most draconian moves.
  3. As first reported by Jonathan Swan for Axios last year, a key tool for Trump's "revenge term" would be the use of Schedule F personnel powers to wipe out employment protections for tens of thousands of civil servants across the federal government. Trump allies want a deep and wide purge of the professional staff that often serves across new administrations.
  4. Officials close to the Pentagon tell us they're worried about a plan, articulated by former Trump official Russ Vought in the Heritage document, to direct the National Security Council to "rigorously review all general and flag officer promotions to prioritize the core roles and responsibilities of the military over social engineering and non-defense related matters, including climate change, critical race theory [and] manufactured extremism." Indeed, the Trump allies see obstacles to remove at every level of every agency.

The fourth item on that list, regarding the military, should be a matter of deep concern for anybody who cares about national security. And since we're on the topic of the military for the moment, anyone who thinks that Alabama GOP Senator Tommy Tuberville's ongoing blockade of military promotions is really just about abortion access isn't paying attention. On November 7, 2023, The Guardian published an opinion piece detailing the ways that Tuberville is in reality the useful idiot of both Trump and the Heritage Foundation, with goals much more far-reaching than merely sabotaging reproductive rights.

Idiots can still be useful idiots. There are larger purposes involved in [Tuberville's] scam kulturkampf. His subversion of the military is not just collateral damage. It is not the unintended consequence, but the overriding motive. His abortion ban is both context and pretext. Tuberville has opened Trump’s strategy for a second term to replace the professional class of officers pledged to the constitution with a collection of flunkies who will salute his command, legal or not. Tuberville is a blunt instrument, but, however crude, he is the available tool.

The Heritage Foundation – which has produced a
blueprint for a Trump second term, the 2025 Transition Project, which includes firing the entire federal civil service and replacing it with Trump loyalists, and invoking the Insurrection Act on day one of Trump II to deploy the military against political dissidents – has evidently been behind Tuberville’s attack on the military. It circulated a letter of several far-right ex-military figures to Senate leaders demanding that they “Support Senator Tuberville’s Fight Against Woke Military”, which they denounced for “advancing the leftwing social agenda”.

Heritage published an
article by one of its fellows claiming that Tuberville is the “one man” standing in the way of a dastardly conspiracy led by Biden: “Replacing the officer class of police and military ranks with politicized ideologues who will bend to a transformative dogma is a strategy that has worked in places like the Soviet Union, Cuba and Venezuela … Tuberville, thus, is stopping the promotion of woke apparatchiks.” Like Trump, the Heritage cadres project their own scheme on to their enemies.

There are indicators that even the republicans in the Senate are finally growing impatient with Tuberville, but he has already done significant damage.

Axios report concludes with a dire warning.

The bottom line: This Trump-allied machine has the most power over the formation of a potential future government of any group in U.S. history. Trump, if elected, will leverage it to do things with government that none of us has seen in our lifetime.

That's the kind of stuff that should be keeping you awake at night.

The gaffes are good for laughs, but the plans (and the fetish for brutality) are anything but funny
The conservative Bulwark has had a lot to say as well about Trump's dick-tatorial wet dreams. In
a November 13, 2023 piece, Charlie Sykes warned that while Trump's numerous verbal blunders are a target-rich environment and rich fodder for comedians of all stripes, we really should be focusing on his clearly stated plans as well as his fetish for brutality. Sykes wrote:

Understandably, it’s tempting to focus on Trump’s gaffes, which are, indeed, a target-rich environment. The stumbles, the bumbles, the confusion.

But the problem with Trump isn’t the gaffes — underneath the verbal clownishness Trump is telling us who he is and exactly what he intends to do.

He genuinely admires the brutality of the Chinese; he finds violence exciting; and he’s a sincere fanboy of the world’s fascists. And he keeps tell[ing] us what his presidency will mean if and when he regains power. There’s no subtlety here.

It’s also no secret what he thinks about his fellow Americans.

To illustrate the latter point about Trump's regard for his fellow Americans, Sykes compared the November 11 Veteran's Day social media messages from Trump and from President Joe Biden. Biden's message on Xitter was clear and simple and decent:

Today, we honor the story of our veterans -- the story of our nation at its best.

On Veterans Day, let's recommit to fulfilling our one sacred obligation as a nation: to prepare those we send into harm's way and care for them and their families when they come home.

Trump, on the other hand, had this to say on his exceedingly ill-named platform, Truth Social:

In honor of our great Veterans on Veteran's Day, we pledge to you that we will root out the Communists, Marxists, Fascists, and Radical Left Thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our Country, lie, steal, and cheat on Elections, and will do anything possible, whether legally or illegally, to destroy America, and the American Dream. The threat from outside forces is far less sinister, dangerous, and grave, than the threat from within. Despite the hatred and anger of the Radical Left Lunatics who want to destroy our Country, we will MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!

And Trump amplified his message in a Veterans Day speech, in which he not only repeated the "vermin" comment but also claimed that undocumented immigrants are "poisoning the blood of our country." He got a lot of blowback for these comments, which are eerily similar to the rhetoric of Hitler and Mussolini, but he and his army of defenders have, not surprisingly, dismissed the criticism. Trump campaign spokesmonster Steven Cheung, for example, told the Washington Post that the critics are snowflakes. From Axios, November 13, 2023:

  • "[T]hose who try to make that ridiculous assertion are clearly snowflakes grasping for anything because they are suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrome and their entire existence will be crushed when President Trump returns to the White House," Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung told the Post in a statement.
  • Cheung later said he was referencing their "sad, miserable existence" instead of their "entire existence," the Post noted.
  • Oh, okay. So that makes it all right. Trump and his authoritarian army will only crush the "sad, miserable" existence of critics instead of the critics' "entire" existence.

    the Bulwark piece, Charlie Sykes continued:

    So, once again, it is essential to pay attention. Trump may be clownish, but the clown car is carrying a neutron bomb. Possibly several.

    Last week,
    the Washington Post detailed how Trump and allies are planning to weaponize the Justice Department to go after his opponents and critics. Trump himself confirmed as much.

    This weekend, we got a deeper glimpse at Trump 2.0 from the NYT: “
    Sweeping Raids, Giant Camps and Mass Deportations: Inside Trump’s 2025 Immigration Plans.”

    Former President Donald Trump is planning an extreme expansion of his first-term crackdown on immigration if he returns to power in 2025 — including preparing to round up people living in the United States without legal permission on a vast scale and detain them in sprawling camps while they wait to be expelled.


    Sykes later added, "You can't say we have not been warned."

    Asleep or awake?
    The big mystery to me is why so many people still don't seem to be particularly concerned about this whole mess. Whether they consider themselves to be conservative or liberal, republican or Democratic, or essentially apolitical, anybody who really cares about American democracy should be sounding the alarms full blast.

    I hate coming across like one of those intensely annoying conspiranoids who claim that only they and a few others are totally awake and aware, while the masses of sheeple snooze on unaware. Truth is, I don't consider myself to be totally awake and aware about anything. But I am awake and aware enough to understand what Trump and his backers are trying to do to the country I love.
    And so, of course, are millions of other people, but there are also millions for whom all of the above is NBD.

    Like most of us who have been blaring warnings about Trump for years and years, I have been repeatedly accused by Trumpanzees of being an alarmist, a snowflake, a libtard, and a victim of Trump Derangement Syndrome (when in fact supporting Trump is the true derangement). The accusations don't bother me.

    What does bother me is that the US as a nation appears to be sleepwalking towards authoritarianism, in the words of Professor Brian Klaas on a recent episode of "Morning Joe." Klaas said:

    I study the breakdown of democracy, and I don't know how to say this more clearly. We are sleepwalking towards authoritarianism, and people are not waking up to this. And the Constitution is not written with magical ink. It is protected by the people who make brave choices during moments of political peril and we are in one of those moments.

    So the question is, do voters wake up as well? Because our political class is not rising to the challenge. They're not distancing themselves and the Republican Party from this rhetoric. They're just sort of pretending like it doesn't exist. And we are literally walking towards a world in which Donald Trump is going to consolidate power, politicize the rule of law, and break down democracy one day at a time, and I think that's something that we have to really grapple with as we head towards the election next year because that is the biggest story in American politics and nothing else comes close.

    It's definitely time for more folks to wake up and smell the fascism.

    The next Big Lie is adding fuel to the fire
    America is still reeling from the effects of Trump's initial Big Lie, i.e., his repeated, obsessive claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen (or "stollen," as he has put it more than once) from him. But as Amanda Carpenter and Deana El-Mallawany wrote in
    a November 15, 2023 report on The Bulwark, Trump's next Big Lie -- his tall tale about "weaponization" of various institutions whose purpose is to uphold the rule of law -- is already here. And not only is it adding fuel to the fire that led to January 6th, it is in certain fundamental ways more dangerous than the original Big Lie.

    The authors warn that we should recognize the power the second Big Lie may hold over the 2024 campaign, as well as its potential to inspire violence the way the original lie did on January 6, 2021. In fact, as detailed on Carpenter's and El-Mallawany's Bulwark piece, the false weaponization claims have already inspired disturbing and credible threats of violence to witnesses and prosecutors in Trump's various legal dramas.

    But the danger to the rule of law cannot be overstated.

    TRUMP’S 2020 LIES WERE AIMED at holding on to power; the damage they caused to the rule of law was collateral. With his 2024 lies, opposition to the rule of law is the very purpose. No one is supposed to be above the law, not even former presidents. Yet Trump resists any form of legal accountability for his acts because, as he has said, “I was always of the opinion that a thing like this couldn’t happen. In other words, you protect your former presidents.”

    Like many aspiring autocrats, Trump is engaging in the democratic process in hopes of becoming powerful enough to subvert it. Should he win the presidency, he will use his powers as both a spear and a shield—both to “
    dismantle” the government and to protect himself from accountability.

    Anyone who is either unconcerned by, or actively supports, Project 2025, Agenda 47, and Trump's whole body of lies and his revenge agenda is very much a part of the problem, and is either willfully blind or not very bright... or is a fascist too. And as I've said many times before and will no doubt say again, anybody who still supports Trump and his allies specifically because of their rhetoric, actions, and plans deserves to live under an authoritarian, fascist regime... but the rest of us do not.

    We have to outvote them.

    Update: December 1, 2023: In a followup to its disturbing November 13 report, Axios revealed on December 1 that it has obtained copies of the exact questionnaires Trump allies are using and that then-President Trump used himself during his final days in office.

    The 2020 "Research Questionnaire," which we obtained from a Trump administration alumnus, was used in the administration's final days — when most moderates and establishment figures had been fired or quit, and loyalists were flexing their muscles. Questions include:

    • "What part of Candidate Trump's campaign message most appealed to you and why?"
    • "Briefly describe your political evolution. What thinkers, authors, books, or political leaders influenced you and led you to your current beliefs? What political commentator, thinker or politician best reflects your views?"
    • "Have you ever appeared in the media to comment on Candidate Trump, President Trump or other personnel or policies of the Trump Administration?"

    Axios noted that similar questions are being asked for the Talent Database being assembled by the Heritage Foundation's Project 2025.

    An alumnus of the Trump White House told us both documents are designed to test the sincerity of someone's MAGA credentials and determine "when you got red-pilled," or became a true believer.

    • "They want to see that you're listening to Tucker, and not pointing to the Reagan revolution or any George W. Bush stuff," this person said.

    Both documents," Axios added, "are striking for their emphasis on what you believe rather than your credentials or accomplishments." Copies of both docs can be viewed at the end of the Axios article (here's that link again).

    Reportedly, Trump himself has been irritated by
    all the attention Heritage and other outside allies have received for, as Axios puts it, "the prefab administration that's being assembled."

    • The Trump campaign's top two officials, Susie Wiles and Chris LaCivita, issued a statement in mid-November saying that "none of these groups or individuals speak for President Trump or his campaign. We will have an official transition effort to be announced at a later date."
    • "Unless a second term priority is articulated by President Trump himself, or is officially communicated by the campaign," they added, "it is not authorized in any way."

    Um...okay. But I think we've heard and seen enough from Trump himself (and his campaign) to know that he poses a threat of the highest order to American democracy.

    Sunday, October 22, 2023

    Old Glory: banking on reich-wing conspiranoia


    Old Glory Bank wraps itself in the American flag and the bogus banner of anti-wokeness to appeal to reich-wingers' grievances and fuel their conspiranoia.

    For years I've been harping on the theme of reich-wing/"conservative"/Christofascist whining -- members of those interrelated tribes are perpetually griping about being "censored" or "cancelled" or "deplatformed" or some such -- so The Great Debanking Narrative, one of the more recent vintages of the same tired old red whine, comes as little surprise.

    The Great Debanking Narrative holds that good, patriotic, law-abiding Americans are being "cancelled" by big banks solely because of their political and/or social and/or religious values. A driving force in this narrative at the moment is a relatively new digital financial institution, based in Oklahoma, that calls itself Old Glory Bank, which uses the debanking issue as its primary marketing hook.

    Formerly the First State Bank of Elmore, Oklahoma, Old Glory was founded by a quartet of reich-wingers. These include conservative political commentator, radio host, former GOP presidential candidate and ardent Trumper/election denier Larry Elder; country music singer and reich-wing zealot/Trump supporter/former Celebrity Apprentice winner John Rich; former Trump HUD secretary "Sleepy" Ben Carson; and former two-term Governor of Oklahoma, Mary Fallin-Christensen, a woman with impeccable reich-wing credentials (anti-LGBTQ... anti-public-school-teachers... anti-affordable-health care... anti-reproductive-rights... but pro-Big-Oil and a Trump ally to boot).

    Old Glory proudly declares that its mission statement is the United States Constitution, particularly the Bill of Rights, with a focus on the First and Second Amendments. Judging from examples cited in the press release linked to in the previous sentence, that focus is framed in a host of imaginary grievances:

    If the government requests that Old Glory Bank punish or cancel a customer for lawfully attending a protest, Old Glory Bank confirms it will not comply. If the government requests that Old Glory Bank cancel a customer for participating in the American lifestyle and using fossil fuels and lawful firearms, Old Glory Bank states it will not comply.

    I noticed that the press release neglects to mention customers who -- armed with tear gas, stun guns, pepper spray, bear spray, metal bars, flagpoles, baseball bats etc. -- attend a "peaceful tour" of the United States Capitol Building (which is, after all, the people's building!), and break its windows, smear feces on its walls and floors, threaten to murder legislators and the vice president, beat police officers within an inch of their lives, and attempt to violently overthrow the United States government in order to keep their Cheeto Jesus in power. But maybe that wasn't mentioned because it goes without saying that the J6 "patriots" are among the oppressed/repressed/censored/egregiously wronged target market for Old Glory.

    Old Glory Bank has been popping up on my Xitter feed frequently of late, due to its paid ads, most notably
    this one from October 17, 2023:

    Too many law-abiding Americans are having their bank accounts canceled simply because their bank doesn’t like what they stand for. That’s un-American. Old Glory Bank’s mission statement is the Constitution. Open your account today at [old glory bank dot com].

    When one reader expressed cynicism about Old Glory Bank's allegation, the bank responded with a flustercuck of multiple links defending its opinion that good, God-fearing, patriotic Muricans are in fact getting debanked solely because of their anti-woke beliefs and values. That response was copied and pasted several additional times on the thread, and on other Old Glory posts where the bank's allegation was challenged.

    Links that prove... not much at all
    Since I don't believe in presenting multiple links as a flustercuck, I'll break them down for you here [with annotations by me], in the order in which they were (repeatedly) presented by Old Glory Bank. You can follow the links and decide for yourself whether or not they actually prove the allegations or merely document them.

    Before you accuse me of engaging in ad hominem arguments and failing to prove my point, I'll add that I am aware of the fact that my annotations to the link list and my criticisms of the debanked accusers do not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they were not targeted by their banks purely for their personal values and beliefs. That said, the only completely honest statement about the accusations against the banks is that we just don’t know for sure. Anecdotal evidence and opinions do not constitute proof.

    Much to the credit of Xitter-at-large, there has been plenty of trolling on the Old Glory ad cited above. Overall the responses are skeptical, with several folks declaring that OGB is most likely just another Trumpian grift. (One naughty wag expressed distrust in a bank that was named after a glory hole.) Apparently Old Glory gave up on responding to every one of the doubters. But at least the remarks have been allowed to stand, so far, so it could be said that OGB is at least honoring its stated commitment to free speech.

    * * * * *

    As you can imagine, the reich-wing media were all agog at the news about the formation of Old Glory Bank. For instance, Western Journal had this to say:

    Financial organizations including PayPal, Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase Bank, and online fundraisers including GoFundMe have all canceled customers merely because they support conservative causes or traditional American values.

    In June of last year, for instance, two Florida-based banks, BankUnited and Professional Bank,
    canceled President Donald Trump’s accounts after the left falsely accused him of fomenting an “insurrection” on Jan. 6, 2020.

    "Falsely" accusing Trump of fomenting an insurrection... yeah, okay. Totally objective reporting there.

    The American Tribune wrote:

    A group composed of Larry Elder, Ben Carson, John Rich, and other American patriots has banded together to buy a bank in Oklahoma, First State Bank of Elmore City, so that they can run it as a bank that caters to ordinary Americans that don’t want to be “debanked” for supporting the same values as their ancestors, as many conservatives, particularly those in the punditry and firearms industries, have been in recent years.

    So it's all about the guns and the punditry (gunditry?).

    The Daily Wire focused its announcement about Old Glory Bank on the evil censorship and "cancellation" of conservatives by Big Tech. Other outlets basically parroted the Old Glory Bank press releases. Press releases are the eternal blessing of lazy journalists.

    Real values or empty words?
    Some might argue that there’s nothing inherently bad about establishing a business based upon specific political/social values or principles, nor with choosing that company’s products or services based on one’s support of those values. It happens all the time, and certainly there are businesses --
    yes, even financial institutions -- that are based on or cater to progressive or liberal or "woke" values such as environmental friendliness or social responsibility. Live and let live, give consumers a wide range of choices, let the market decide, and so forth. And, in general, I would agree with these arguments, but in the case of blatantly right-wing factions these days, there seems to be a glaring double standard.

    For instance -- and I hope you'll pardon what might appear to be a digression -- consider
    the intensive effort by red (MAGA-poisoned) states in the US to seriously restrict ESG (environmental, social, governance) investment of public funds. ESG investing means, in theory, that in addition to financial analysis of the investment, environmental, social, and corporate governance factors are also taken into account.

    Never mind the credible argument, calmly and rationally laid out in
    this February 2023 piece from The New Republic, that the whole "woke investors" thing is mostly a fabrication (the CRT of the investment world?), since the so-called "woke" money managers really care only about their bottom line. The red pols have deemed ESG to be "woke" and they don't like it at all -- partly on general [fascist] principle, and partly or mostly because they reflexively fight anything that might possibly smooth the transition from fossil fuels to more sustainable energy. Mustn't let the big oil and gas companies down.

    Accordingly, red states from Texas to Florida to West Virginia have labored mightily to stop public pension funds from using ESG as a consideration when making investment decisions, and they have pulled billions from asset management firms such as BlackRock, despite concerns that doing so would cause financial harm. To them, anti-woke values are clearly more valuable than woke ones, potential adverse financial consequences be damned.

    Since we're on the topic of values and principles, let's get back specifically to Old Glory Bank, which proudly proclaims its own values as "American" ones while flagrantly catering specifically to the reich. I wonder, as it seems that others have wondered (judging from the Xitter trolls) if the bank would be equally willing to embrace individuals or companies with blatantly “woke” values such as LGBTQ rights, racial equality, reproductive choice, assault weapons bans and other sensible gun safety measures, the phasing out of fossil fuels in order to address the climate crisis, and the like. And what about flag burners, who are only exercising their First Amendment rights, after all? Or advocates of police defunding/abolition? Would OGB remain true to their slogan, “We stand with you, no matter where you stand”?

    Finally, I think it's appropriate to address Old Glory Bank's general branding as having the customer's best interests at heart, as opposed to the evil big banks. I have to wonder why the reich/republicans -- whose base is clearly the target market for Old Glory Bank -- seem so determined to undermine larger efforts at real, widespread banking reform and consumer protection in general. Yes, I know that unfortunately the banking lobby is so powerful that
    even some Democrats, fearing their reelection chances, joined forces with the republicans in 2018 to weaken banking regulations. But by and large it's the republicans who fight regulation of the banking and finance industries, mainly because they're deeply beholden to Big Banking. Repubs are even trying to destroy the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and other hard-fought-for consumer protection agencies and initiatives.

    For that matter, the reich/republicans and their allies seem hellbent on
    destroying as many consumer protection agencies, laws, regulations, and practices as possible, taking us back to the bad old daze. Xitter owner Elon Musk has been preaching the word about the urgent need for "comprehensive deregulation." One of my favorite Xitter wags, Mrs. Betty Bowers, responded to one of Musk's tweets a couple of days ago:

    Bring back: Lead paint. Asbestos. Flammable pajamas. No seatbelts. Canned tuna fish with mercury. Grocery stores bleaching chicken to make it look less rancid. Car companies, like Tesla, endangering drivers with exploding cars. Payday loans that steal from people.

    Viewed in that greater context, Old Glory Bank's expressed concern for protecting their customers in any substantial way is hypocritical, and their overall mission amounts to little more than grandstanding on behalf of reich-wing identity politics. They may be fooling MAGAts, but they aren't fooling the rest of us.

    "Anti-wokeness" is a growth industry
    The marketing strategy for Old Glory Bank is rooted in two intertwining myths: (1) that the American reich holds the undisputed monopoly on patriotism, faith, support for liberty and freedom of speech, support for first responders and the military, concern about national security, and every other fine American value you could name; and (2) that because of their embrace of these stellar values, the reich are being grievously oppressed by the government, the courts, the media, Big Tech, the education system, and now, the financial system as well. In this garbled hero/martyr narrative, every aspect of American life has been "weaponized" against the good guys.

    As it happens, Old Glory Bank wasn't the first bank to attempt to do the very thing they accuse big banks of doing: weaponizing the financial system. In late 2022, a banking startup called GloriFi collapsed before it had even begun.
    From Rolling Stone, November 21, 2022:

    Pitching itself as a financial institution that allowed one to be “free to celebrate your love of God and country without fear of cancellation,” GloriFi’s marketing read more like a campaign ad than an enticing APR offer on a new credit card. Highlights from the “about us” page include: “OUR BILL OF RIGHTS IS NON-NEGOTIABLE” and “WE ARE ONE NATION UNDER GOD.” 

    In its short tenure GloriFi, managed to launch checking and savings accounts as well as credit cards, with plans to offer mortgages and insurance in a future that will no longer take place. Founder and CEO
    Toby Neugebauer pitched plans to offer gun owners discounts on home insurance, credit cards made of shell casing material, and assistance paying legal bills if customers shot someone in self-defense. Over the summer, GloriFi secured conservative commentator Candace Owens as a co-founder and spokesperson for the brand. 

    Wow... there are those gun-nut/ammosexual values again. These people are obsessed with their firearms. Alas, GloriFi was unable to put its real-world money where its grandstanding mouth was. Reported chaos among staff and financiers, and clashes with Texas financial regulators, caused it to miss its planned launch date several times. The drinking habits of Toby Neugebauer, who converted his Dallas mansion into the company headquarters, didn't help matters at all. In the end, GloriFi went down in a blaze of... well, not exactly glory.

    But the idea of "anti-woke" banking just wouldn't die, and along came Old Glory, proudly waving its colors and its ideology. And it's not just banking that has captured the anti-woke crapitalist imagination. There is a whole parallel economy developing in America, composed of firms whose stated mission is to fight the perceived threat of "wokeness" -- you know, such devilish concepts as LGBTQ rights, racial and ethnic diversity and equality, reproductive autonomy for women, rational gun safety laws, acceptance of climate science, and so on.

    But again... not surprising. Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, fascists gotta fash.

    Debunking the debanking narrative? Maybe it's just the algorithms
    Reich-wing whining aside,
    there are plenty of reasons to hate big banks. I get it. At one time or another, many if not most consumers (me included) have been frustrated by banking policies and practices, such as outrageous fees for every activity or mistake; incomprehensible and seemingly arbitrary terms and conditions; lousy customer service; systemic racial bias in loan practices; big banks' support of predatory lenders; lack of transparency; data breaches; and on and on. And yes, banks have been known to close customers' accounts for reasons that don't make sense and/or that the banks refuse to divulge to bewildered account holders.

    And, indeed, if any of the above-mentioned reich-wing whiners' accounts were closed solely because of their political beliefs or their faith, that is unacceptable, no matter how strongly I may disagree with those beliefs.

    But from what I have seen so far, there is no hard evidence that right-wingers/conservatives/religious (translate: right-wing Christians) are being targeted for those reasons. What we have instead is only their own and their allies' anecdotal evidence, rooted, as always, in
    an intractable persecution complex.

    More importantly, suffering consumers are not, in fact, limited to members of the conspicuously righteous reich. In recent years, banks have been suspending, restricting, or closing accounts belonging to a broad demographic of hapless consumers, oftentimes citing "suspicious activity" as a reason but refusing to offer the account holders any further explanation.

    And while some may claim that attributing the arbitrary actions to "algorithms" is a convenient coverup for nefarious activities on the part of the banks, in many cases the problems may very well be rooted in algorithms, and exacerbated by confusing and conflicting laws and regulations as well as plain human incompetence.
    An article in the New York Times (April 8, 2023) went into these issues in some detail.

    Whatever your opinion may be of the Times, the article is worth reading if you can get past the paywall. For those who can't,
    here's a Bing search results link to other resources.

    But I really don't expect my little shout into the void to make any difference at all in the reich-wing persecution narrative, which has become such rich marketing/fundraising fodder not only for politicians and theocrats but also for "anti-woke" businesses such as Old Glory Bank. Reality is nuanced and complex, but marketing strategies almost never are. The ongoing attempt to repress the righteous is their story, and by golly, they're sticking to it.

    Sunday, October 08, 2023

    Fourteen years after Sedona "sweat lodge" deaths, James Arthur Ray, now a full-on reich-wing conspiranoid, is still hustling and whining (and his victims are still dead)


    Today, October 8, 2023, is the 14th anniversary of the day that sociopathic New-Wage/McSpirituality guru/cult leader James Arthur Ray killed two of his followers: Kirby Brown and James Shore, and set in motion the death, nine days later, of a third follower, Liz Neuman. The instrument of their deaths was a fake and utterly reckless "sweat lodge" ceremony in Sedona, Arizona, that also injured dozens of other participants. The phony sweat lodge was the "final challenge" at Ray's pricey "Spiritual Warrior" workshop.

    Ray, who had shot to fame following his appearance in the simplistic and crassly materialistic New-Wage moviemercial
    The Secret, was convicted of negligent homicide for the three deaths in Sedona -- and consequently served less than two years in an Arizona state prison -- but he was never criminally charged in the death of yet another follower, Colleen Conaway, at a San Diego Ray event a couple of months before Sedona.

    For Ray, the daze of the four- and five-figure live events such as Spiritual Warrior would seem to be over, and that's a good thing. His homicide creds are right there at the top of the page on Google search results along with the promotional stuff, and although he has been struggling mightily to make a comeback since his release from prison more than 10 years ago, framing the whole Sedona thing as a super-major trial and tribulation for him, his audience -- both live and online -- has shriveled like the balls of
    a long-time steroid user.

    JAR joins up with the reich-wing conspiranoids and conspicuous contrarians
    For instance, a glance at Ray's Xitter account shows a pathetic level of engagement via responses and reposts, and a minuscule number of views. Granted, the same could be said about my Xitter account too, which gets even less engagement and fewer views than Ray's, but I'm a social media nobody and never pretended to be anything but that.

    When I checked out Ray's Xitter today, I admit to feeling a stab of pity for him, so I decided to engage, since nobody else was doing so. I responded to a post on which he wrote, "We have seen more real time footage of Israel in the last two days than we've seen in 3 years from Ukraine. What's really going on in Ukraine?"

    I had already seen those very words from numerous reich-wing politicos and proud contrarians who litter my feed despite my best efforts. Actually I remember first seeing it as a Xitter post by Donald J Trump Junior, aka DJTJ, aka Traitor Tot, the eternally triggered, coked-up elder son of #NeverWasMyPresident Donald J Trump. And from what I've seen, the commentators who have cited this post, either agreeing with it or scoffing about it, have all attributed it to DJTJ.

    This clearly was not an original thought, in other words, despite the fact that Ray presented it as his own, rather than as a repost or a quote post. So I complimented him on his parroting of right-wing talking points before casually mentioning that October 8, 2023 is the 14th anniversary of his Death Lodge. (I didn't take the time to point out that, especially in the days and weeks following the brutal Russian invasion of Ukraine back in February 2022, there was nonstop, wall-to-wall, multimedia coverage of the matter, and a slew of real time footage. Even now there's abundant coverage.)

    Ray engaged right back, telling me that I was parroting "mainstream propaganda" and that I should watch the video pinned in his feed, but insinuating that I probably won't because I am "rooted in mind control." My first thought upon reading this was that James Arthur Ray has zero standing when it comes to calling out mind control, since relentless, aggressive, targeted mind control was his stock in trade for years, and was a central cause of the deaths and injuries of his followers.

    And in case you're wondering, the reason his response does not show up on the screenshot that appears at the beginning of this post is that he hadn't yet responded at the time I created the graphic, and I didn't feel like going back and revising it. But you can see the exchange for yourself right here. You might also observe that so far, nobody has "liked" either my response or his response to me; at least that was the case last time I checked. [Update: It now appears that my response has one "like." His response to me still has zero likes, although it does have more views than my comment, for some reason. I guess he checks back frequently.]

    I think it's pointless for me to engage further in that particular conversation, but between you and me, it looks as if Jimmy A Ray has jumped aboard the reich-wing conspiranoia train. A closer look at his Xitter feed reveals that in between the usual self-promo posts, bits of McSpirituality wisdumb, and whining about being censored on social media for being a truth-teller, there is an abundance of reich-wing political pearl clutching about Biden, Obama, immigrants invading the US through the Southern border, and so forth. Oh, yeah, and retweeting vintage Donald J Trump, or retweeting posts that lionize Orange Droolius.

    Which comes as no surprise on this Whirled: in the past few years it has become increasingly clear that
    Scamworld and reich-wing politix go together like peas and carrots. And the scammers all seem to luv their Mango Mussolini.

    Ray, like so many others, seems to have discovered a $weet $pot in the marketplace of ideas, prompting him to pander to the gullible, the disillusioned, and the broken: people who, if they're at all politically inclined, are for the most part moving steadily rightward, lured by the deeply toxic siren song of Trumpism. He welcomes with open arms the conspiranoids and conspicuous contrarians who see a demonic (leftist/liberal) plot behind every adverse event, and who, like rebellious tweenagers, reflexively reject everything that they perceive as "mainstream" if it doesn't fit their narrative.

    Many of these are the same folks who flock to serial scammer
    Kevin Trudeau, who has been crapitalizing for years on "forbidden" information that "they" (the government, Big Pharma, mainstream culture, et al.) "don't want you to know." And in many cases, they're the same ones who have donned the red caps and prostrated themselves before the MAGA maniac. You can hardly blame JAR for wanting some of that action.

    "Yes! We are all individuals!"
    What's amusing is that Ray is taking great pains to brand himself as the guru of "Independent Thinking" (it's right there in his Xitter description), when in fact -- and forgive me for stating the obvious -- that's nothing more than a ruse to suck people into his web. In the pinned video that he urged me to watch but scornfully concluded that I probably wouldn't -- but that I did in fact watch (there's a YouTube link to it in the second to last paragraph of this post) -- he declared that even though he had become famous via the The Secret for teaching the Law of Attraction, his core specialty for decades had been teaching people how to think independently and reject the mainstream narrative. (He also claimed his teachings were Bible-based. Uh-huh.)

    Accordingly, his accusation that I was parroting mainstream propaganda was right on-brand, even if it was totally off the mark. Ray's shtick is anything but original, of course. Kevin Trudeau and numerous others in Scamworld -- not to mention Trump himself -- have claimed in their own ways to nurture "individuality" and "independent thinking" and other flavors of empowerment, when in fact they're only encouraging rejection of the mainstream in order to redirect loyalty to themselves. You know, just like cult leaders do.
    Again, forgive me for stating the obvious.

    As for that video that Ray cited in his response to me, I suppose I can also be forgiven for thinking at first that it might be an examination, however misguided, of the truth about the wars in Ukraine and Israel, since that was the topic of his original post, and since it was that post to which I was referring when I said he was parroting right-wing talking points. But I should have known better, should have immediately snapped to the fact that Ray, ever the malignant narcissist, makes everything about him.

    He was focused not on the matter of the two wars, or to the issue of partisan talking points, but on my mention of the Death Lodge anniversary. And that pinned video (to which, again, there's a YouTube link in the next paragraph) was indeed all about him, presenting a very skewed narrative of the horrible events in 2009, and how unfairly and unjustly he had been treated for something that wasn't his fault, but that the mainstream media painted as his fault. We've heard it all before.

    In any case, as long as he continues to try to claw his way back to the top of an industry that has more than its share of sociopaths and predators, I feel duty-bound to post periodic reminders of why you should not listen to James Arthur Ray. He is still spewing his toxic lies, still playing his dual role of faux-hero and martyr -- and most of all, still refusing to take any blame for the deaths and injuries of his faithful followers -- and the people he killed are still dead.

    Never forget.

    This post has been expanded and updated since its original publication on October 8, 2023.
    ~ CC

    Related on this Whirled

    • October 2010: Musings on a tragedy and its meanings.
      I published this on the one-year anniversary of the infamous "sweat lodge," framing my musings around a review of Connie Joy's
      Tragedy in Sedona: My Life in James Arthur Ray's Inner Circle. That's another one you need to read.
    • April 2019: From drawn-and-quartered martyr to "Crisis Coach": James Arthur Ray's newest desperate gimmick
      This is just one of numerous posts about Ray's arrogant yet pathetic attempts to reestablish himself as a selfish-help superstar. In this one we focus on Ray's efforts to brand himself as a "Crisis Coach."
    • August 2020: Whiny babies of Scamworld
      Of the three "whiny babies" I wrote about in this post, James Arthur Ray is the worst, because even after being directly responsible for the deaths of four people at his events, and directly responsible for the physical and emotional injuries of countless others, he continues to paint himself as the real victim.
    • October 2022: 13 years after James Arthur Ray's deadly sweat lodge, cults are still a danger
      This post, published last year on the Death Lodge anniversary, was a tale of two Virginias, one despicable one (that would be the infamous Virginia "Ginni" Thomas, insurrectionist extraordinaire, who was once a member of a selfish-help cult), and one admirable one: Virginia Brown, mother of one of James Arthur Ray's death lodge victims, Kirby Brown. One of the ways that Kirby Brown's family chose was to found a nonprofit organization,
      SEEK Safely to help educate the public, hold self-help leaders accountable, and hopefully avoid more deaths and injuries at the hands of reckless gurus. Even if you don't read my post, I urge you to visit the SEEK Safely site, which is continually expanding. You will find a wealth of useful information, as well as opportunities to get involved if you're so inclined.

    Tuesday, September 19, 2023

    Rising reich-wing hero Tim Ballard faced with allegations of lying & sexual misconduct, making him a perfect GOP candidate


    Tim Ballard, the inspiration for the American reich wing's favorite summer movie, Sound Of Freedom, is in the news again. Honestly, I had thought I was finished with this egotistical, endlessly self-aggrandizing Trumpist blowhard and career grifter for the duration, but alas, Ballard has been making headlines once again this month, not only for being rebuked by higher-ups in his beloved Mormon Church, but also for allegations of sexual misconduct. Meanwhile, his political star continues to rise as he threatens a 2024 Senate run to replace the departing Mitt Romney, and endears himself to the ultra-reich by telling lies to Congress about how the Biden administration is supposedly enabling child sex trafficking and kiddie porn because of loose border policies.

    Ballard v Ballard? The denouncement from on high
    Now, maybe it's just a matter of he said/he said, but, according to a September 15, 2023 report by, it appears that Tim Ballard was deceptively exploiting his (former) close friendship with one M. Russell Ballard (no relation to Tim). From the Vice piece:

    Documents obtained by VICE News show anti-trafficking activist Tim Ballard claimed that a revered and powerful figure in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints played a secret, central role in Operation Underground Railroad, or OUR, the organization Ballard founded. Insiders who spoke to federal and local investigators as part of a since-closed criminal inquiry described Ballard claiming that OUR and his personal business ventures were backed by the senior member of the church’s second-highest leadership body, and part of a larger mission to use the anti-trafficking cause to bring Americans to the Mormon faith—or, in his words, “lead them to the covenant.”

    “Tim is fully convinced that he is supposed to be the 'Mormon Messiah and lead people back to the church,’” read notes from an interview between criminal investigators and a former OUR higher-up.

    But now a spokesperson for the church tells VICE News that while the apostle in question, President M. Russell Ballard, was once close to Tim Ballard—to whom he is not related, despite their sharing a last name—the OUR founder “betrayed their friendship, through the unauthorized use of President Ballard’s name for Tim Ballard’s personal advantage and activity regarded as morally unacceptable.” 

    You really need to read the entire article -- here's that link again -- to understand the extent to which Tim Ballard's ego was invested not only in his (often exaggerated) battles against human trafficking, but also in his mission to use the full force of his multiple organizations and influence to bring all of America into the Mormon fold. (There's even a photo of a whiteboard chart outlining his master plan.)

    Tim Ballard has bitten back regarding the allegations about the Church and the elder Ballard. He insists that he was not rebuked by the Church and that he never, ever, ever exploited his friendship with the Apostle. He even made a video rant about the matter. He's very upset about what he calls years-long "attacks" on him, and says his family is being threatened too. If his family really is being threatened, shame on those who are threatening them, but, for that matter... shame on the Sound Of Freedom fans who, apparently having swallowed Tim Ballard's version of reality hook, line, and sinker, have been threatening sex trafficking survivors and advocates. Threatening innocent folks is never a good thing, no matter who's doing it and who's being threatened.

    Then there are the sexual misconduct allegations
    As if the Church debacle weren't enough, more details have come out about the sexual misconduct allegations that may have (probably?) prompted Ballard's June 2023 departure from the rescue org he founded, Operation Underground Railroad (OUR). Here's again:

    Tim Ballard’s exit from Operation Underground Railroad earlier this year followed an investigation into claims of sexual misconduct involving seven women, according to sources with direct knowledge of the organization.

    Sources familiar with the situation said that the self-styled anti-slavery activist, who appears to be
    preparing for a Senate run, invited women to act as his “wife” on undercover overseas missions ostensibly aimed at rescuing victims of sex trafficking. He would then allegedly coerce those women into sharing a bed or showering together, claiming that it was necessary to fool traffickers. Ballard, who was played by Jim Caviezel in the hit film Sound of Freedom, is said to have sent at least one woman a photo of himself in his underwear, festooned with fake tattoos, and to have asked another “how far she was willing to go,” in the words of a source, to save children. These sources requested anonymity because they fear retaliation.

    I wonder if Timmy was wearing magickal Mormon underwears in that photo, or just regular briefs or jockeys.

    OUR responded. (
    here's that link again) quoted their response in part:

    “Several weeks ago, an OUR employee who accompanied Tim on an undercover operation filed a sexual harassment complaint against him with OUR’s HR department,” the letter, which was sent this summer to donors to anti-trafficking causes, reads. “This resulted in an extensive internal investigation into Tim and his individual operational tactics and led to more women speaking up as part of the investigation process.

    “It was ultimately revealed through disturbingly specific and parallel accounts, that Tim has been deceitfully and extensively grooming and manipulating multiple women for the past few years with the ultimate intent of coercing them to participate in sexual acts with him, under the premise of going where it takes and doing ‘whatever it takes’ to save a child.”

    The letter further said that OUR’s board and lawyers had made agreements preventing executives from discussing the circumstances of Ballard’s exit from the organization he founded, making it “virtually impossible for them to defend the organization against Tim’s false narratives.” The author or authors of the letter did not respond to requests for comment. An OUR spokesperson
    did not dispute what was in the letter when asked about it by VICE News In July, or respond further when told that reporters could only take this as confirmation of its accuracy. 

    Vice also provided a link to journalist Lynn Packer's YouTube video regarding the allegations and the statement from OUR.

    On September 19, 2023,
    Ballard, via the organization to which he is senior advisor, the SPEAR Fund, denied the sexual misconduct allegations. Ballard, not surprisingly, claims to have always been a choir boy in all of his dealings with women in the course of conducting his rescue ops. Or, in his words (according to the SPEAR Fund statement):

    “During my time at O.U.R., I designed strict guidelines for myself and our operators in the field. Sexual contact was prohibited, and I led by example. Given our meticulous attention to this issue, any suggestion of inappropriate sexual contact is categorically false.”

    Still, the allegations won't go away. But hey, no worries. Tim's star is just beginning to rise.

    Bad moon rising
    If you're thinking that these allegations of lying and sexual misconduct make Tim Ballard an ideal GOP candidate, I totally agree with you. Indeed, all indications are that he's running for Mitt Romney's soon-to-be-vacated Senate seat in 2024. From The Deseret News, September 15, 2023:

    Rumors of Ballard’s potential Senate bid started after Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, who is close to Ballard, said Wednesday he was looking forward to supporting “a great conservative, patriot, and warrior” who would be announcing a Senate run “in the days to come.”

    Multiple sources close to Ballard have confirmed he is considering a run.

    And although some consider him a long shot due to the Church conflicts, don't count him out (especially given the fact that, as the Deseret News article indicated, Tim Ballard and his fellow Trumpian and fibber, Utah AG Sean Reyes, are good buds). elaborated on this point in their September 15 article:

    For now, Ballard’s professional and political futures aren’t certain– but he has made ambitious efforts to move himself closer to a new power structure. On Wednesday [September 13, 2023], he testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, where he made a highly politicized statement about the Biden administration’s role in aiding human trafficking, one which proved immediately popular with right-wing news sites. 

    “Tragically, as a result of this administration’s current policies, [the Department of Homeland Security] and [the Department of Health and Human Services] have unwittingly become a child trafficking delivery service,” Ballard said, in part.

    It’s difficult to imagine that Ballard could successfully run for elected office after being effectively denounced by the power structure of the most powerful religion in his home state. But he has proven himself, if nothing else, to be remarkably persistent, willing to reinvent himself—to spin new stories, to seek new allies—as many times as necessary. 

    I'd say that, judging by events in recent years, the allegations against Tim Ballard won't destroy him, at least not politically, but will only make him stronger and more dangerous, just like the overuse of antibiotics makes the hardiest bacteria stronger and more dangerous. After all, look what multiple indictments did for #NeverWasMyPresident Donald John Trump. And in slightly more recent developments, look what impeachment and acquittal did to Texas' criminally corrupt attorney general, Ken Paxton. And consider how little both of these men's sexual shenanigans, both alleged and proven, seem to matter to the diehard red base.

    Given all of that, it would appear that Tim Ballard, like so many other Christofascists littering the political and social landscape these daze, is here to stay.

    Update, October 19, 2023:
    The headline on the web site of Salt Lake City's CBS affiliate KUTV (News2) reads:
    Ex-police officer Eric Moutsos, friend of Tim Ballard, says he believes Ballard's accusers. Well, maybe ex-friend would be a better description. As reported on October 18, 2023 by KUTV, Moutsos used to be all-in for Tim and for Operation Underground Railroad (OUR) and for Sound Of Freedom. (He's also an anti-vax fanatic to boot.)

    Despite all of the above, Moutsos said he believes the alleged vics of Tim's alleged sexually predatory behavior, and that if he were still a cop he would definitely recommend criminal charges against Ballard. He told News2, "We need beacons, we need hope in the world. This has been absolutely devastating to me because I wanted him to be the person he said he was."

    Ballard, of course, continues to deny these "false accusations," claiming to be faithful to his wife and his God.

    Be sure to read some of the other linked articles on the page too -- for instance, this one regarding
    Utah's Attorney General (and good buddy of Ballard) attempting to shut down News2's questions about a lawsuit against Ballard. That's what friends are for, right?

    here is news about the lawsuit in question. According to News2:

    That lawsuit, which was filed Monday, alleged that Ballard used anti-trafficking operations as a way to sexually abuse and exploit female OUR employees and volunteers. The suit also claimed the donor-funded missions largely consisted of “going to strip clubs and massage parlors across the world, after flying first class to get there, and staying at 5-star hotels, on boats, and at VRBOs across the globe.”

    Here's a direct link to the lawsuit itself, in which we learn more than we ever wanted to know about Saint Timothy's bacchanalian indulgences and sexual activities in the field. For instance...

    78. At the strip clubs, Ballard would pay for and receive lap dances, and ingest alcohol and pills at these practice “Ruse Ruses” on OUR’s dime with donor monies.

    79. Ballard engaged in a ploy where he would tell the women that if they were offered alcohol, which is forbidden by the Mormon Church, that she should take the drink and then open mouth, kiss him and spit the alcohol into his mouth, and then he would spit it out when the traffickers were not looking.

    80. However, Ballard was doing the exact opposite–he was consuming excessive amounts of alcohol (tequila) of his own volition, which he drank at strip clubs, massage parlors, and on trips, to the point of passing out. For example, he missed a $250,000 speaking engagement a few weeks ago because he was drunk and missed his flight.

    81. Through these COUPLES RUSES, both in the office and in the field, Ballard eventually engaged in coerced sexual contact with several women and propositioned others.

    82. Ballard participated in several sexual acts with the exception of actual  penetration, in various states of undress while on an OPS mission.

    83. Ballard developed a sexual position where it appeared he was having full on sexual intercourse with his COUPLES RUSE victims, while not actually penetrating.

    84. While inside private accommodations, when no one else was around that they needed to fool, Ballard would claim that he and his female partner had to maintain the appearance of a romantic relationship at all times in case suspicious traffickers might be surveilling them at any moment.

    85. Ballard requested the women he invited to act as his significant other, to first have a Brazilian wax.

    86. Ballard would ask each woman, "Is there anything you wouldn't do to save a child?"

    87. To further convince the women of his need for them on the next OPS mission, Ballard would badmouth previous female partners, claiming that the women who had allegedly gone on COUPLES RUSES in the past were "crazy," and claiming that they had fallen in love with him along the way.

    88. Ballard used these mythical stories to motivate the women in his COUPLES RUSE to prove their mettle and their devotion to the cause by trying to outdo their supposed predecessors.

    89. When these women found themselves questioning the legitimacy of tactics involving sexual contact, they often doubted their own instincts, relying on Ballard's breadth of knowledge about rescue missions to convince themselves that such tactics were normal.

    90. Other employees of OUR would warn these women not to question Ballard or their lives would be put in danger.

    91. Ballard would also tell the women that engaging in sex play with him would improve their marriage, even as he also told them not to tell their husbands about what they were doing (or it would compromise the mission, children, their lives, and other informants’ lives)

    92. Ballard would repeatedly warn these women that if they failed in their COUPLES RUSE mission, they would have wasted the hard-earned money that honest donors had entrusted to OUR or be caught or killed by the cartel.

    93. …In the mind of the victims, this was very real and serious and the cartel was essentially all knowing and seeing.

    But hey, at least he didn't penetrate his vics! So, yeah... totally faithful to his wife. And I'm sure he still loves his God too. (Besides, everyone knows that any underground op involving a fake significant-other relationship requires that the female operative have a baby-smooth vulva. A Brazilian wax is just SOP for a COUPLES RUSE.) So all is well, and Tim has nothing to worry about. Maybe he'll even end up on the short list for Donnie John's running mate.

    Related on this Whirled:

  • August 13, 2023: Sound Of Freedom funders' hall of shame, and the Utah/Mormon huckster connection

  • August 7, 2023: Sound Of Freedom funder Fabian Marta's arrest: juicy scandal or dry nothingburger?

  • July 22, 2023: Unholy Moses! Sound Of Freedom star Caviezel wets himself kissing up to Donald Trump while amplifying his own QAnon convictions

  • July 17, 2023: Sound Of Freedumb: God's children are not for sale, but they're perfect little pawns for reich-wing agendas