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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

I noted yesterday that high profile GOP consultant Benjamin Spark (worked for Romney, Ryan, Walker and many others) signed an agreement with his new fiance for her to be his “slave and property” and do various BDSM-like things around the house. But things broke down when he demanded she have sex with other men, bound and blindfolded, while he watched. She said no. He attacked her. And when the cops showed up, he fled the state, apparently absconding to Texas.

There’s a warrant for his arrest in Nevada. So I figured we’d hear some time yesterday or today that he’d been picked up in Texas. But so far nothing. No updates or news reports I can find. Has he been arrested yet? Have you seen him? Has he enrolled a new woman as his sex slave in Texas? In all seriousness, if you see any updates on Sparks’ whereabouts or arrest, please let me know.

I wanted to flag your attention to this morning’s article from McClatchy about Robert Mueller and Michael Cohen. There’s a lot of context and background and bringing up to date detail. But the real key comes in the first three paragraphs.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators this week questioned an associate of the Trump Organization who was involved in overseas deals with President Donald Trump’s company in recent years.

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35 year old Benjamin Sparks, a prominent Republican political consultant who has worked for Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan and Scott Walker among others, was engaged to an unnamed woman. Sparks had his fiance sign a five page contract in which she agreed to be his “slave and property,” shortly after they started dating last November. This involved kneeling, looking at the ground while she spoke to him, being nude at all time, engaging in sex on demand at any time and wearing a collar. At the end of March he began to demand that she have sex with other men, while bound and blindfolded, while he watched. She refused. That led to a fight in which he allegedly attacked her. Sparks himself then called the police and then fled the scene. He apparently absconded to Texas where he is currently hiding out while there is a warrant for his arrest in Nevada.

The audio is poor. But here’s President Trump with what I believe are his first public comments on the Stormy Daniels story. Key thing: he says he didn’t know anything about the payment and didn’t know where the money came from.

Stormy Daniels’ lawyer makes the obvious point. This would seem to strengthen Daniels’ case since it makes it even harder to see how President Trump was a party to the agreement. More significantly, there’s a non-trivial chance that President Trump will eventually have to answer this question under oath.

We’ve seen a series of significant articles on the Trump/Russia front over the last 24 hours. CNN has reported that the FBI has detained and/or searched the communications devices of more than one Russian oligarch as they transited through the US looking for information about possible money transfers to the Trump campaign. The Times has reported that George Nader, the international fixer who arranged the Trump/Russia rendezvous in the Seychelles in January 2017 does not only have deep ties to the United Arab Emirates but to Russia as well. But it’s this article just out from The Guardian I want to focus on. It adds another piece of the puzzle about Paul Manafort’s role in the 2016 Trump campaign and the mystery of just who sent him.

The gist of the article is that between 2011 and 2013 Paul Manafort organized and okayed what one of the operatives referred to as a “black ops” campaign in the U.S. on behalf of Ukraine’s Russia-aligned President Victor Yanukovich. The details here are key. This was during a window of time when Yanukovich was still trying to build ties with the EU. Later, he dropped the EU effort and signed a deal putting him in a firmer alliance with the Kremlin. The campaign involved damaging the reputation of another top Ukrainian politician named Yulia Tymoshenko. Yanukovich had just defeated her in the presidential election and then had her charged and jailed for various crimes in what was widely seen as a political prosecution. The effort was to destroy her reputation.

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Trump claims that Central American immigration ‘caravan’ is marauding band of rapists.

In fact in many cases, they’re traveling in groups because immigrants and asylum seekers are often victims of rape and theft.

For more than a year, Facebook has faced a rolling public relations debacle. Part of this is the American public’s shifting attitudes toward Big Tech and platforms in general. But the driving problem has been the way the platform was tied up with and perhaps implicated in Russia’s attempt to influence the 2016 presidential election. Users’ trust in the platform has been shaken, politicians are threatening scrutiny and possible regulation, and there’s even a campaign to get people to delete their Facebook accounts. All of this is widely known and we hear more about it every day. But most users, most people in tech and also Wall Street (which is the source of Facebook’s gargantuan valuation) don’t yet get the full picture. We know about Facebook’s reputational crisis. But people aren’t fully internalizing that the current crisis poses a potentially dire threat to Facebook’s core business model, its core advertising business.

Facebook is fundamentally an advertising business. Almost all of the company’s revenue comes from advertising that it targets with unparalleled efficiency to its billions of users. In a media world in which advertising rates face almost universal downward pressure, Facebook’s rates have consistently risen. Monopoly power may drive some of that growth. But the key driver is efficiency. If old-fashioned advertising shows my advertisement to 100 people for every actual buyer and other digital platforms show it to 30 people and Facebook shows it to 5 people, Facebook’s ads are just worth a lot more.

As long as the rates bear some relationship to that efficiency (those numbers above are just for illustration), I’ll be happy to pay it. Because it’s objectively worth more. Indeed, as the prices have gone up, Facebook has actually gotten more efficient. As one digital ad agency executive recently told me, even if Facebook jacked up the prices a lot more, his firm would likely keep using them just as much because on this cost to efficiency basis it’s still cheap. This is the basis of Facebook’s astronomical market capitalization which today rates at over $450 billion, even after some recent reverses.

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