Meet The Teamsters Unionizing The Cannabis Industry
As more states and districts around the country push for legalization, the cannabis industry has exploded in recent years, with researchers estimating that the industry could generate over $70 billion in sales by 2030. While investors and business owners have dollar signs in their eyes, though, it is the everyday employees, from growers and packers to bud tenders, who are making the industry run. But the vast vast majority of those workers are not reaping the benefits of these booming profits; in fact, many cannabis workers around the country report insufficient pay, overwork and burnout, disrespect and mistreatment from management, all while having to navigate changing customer needs, state and federal regulations, and top-down decisions from executives and company founders that are handed down with little to no input from the actual workers who know the industry best. That is why we are seeing a simultaneous explosion of organizing efforts by cannabis workers themselves.
TRNN Editor-in-Chief Maximillian Alvarez speaks with a panel of workers and organizers from the state of Illinois who have been fighting to unionize with the Teamsters and improve the cannabis industry for themselves, their coworkers, and their customers. Panelists include: Ami Schneider, a worker at Enlightened Dispensary in Schaumburg, Illinois, and a member of Teamsters Local 777; Ryan “Fro” Frohlich, a worker at Zen Leaf in Chicago, Illinois, and a member of Teamsters Local 777; Chris Smith, organizer and business agent for Teamsters Local 777; Jim Glimco, president and principal officer for Teamsters Local 777.
Post-Production: Cameron Granadino
The following is a rushed transcript and may contain errors. A proofread version will be made available as soon as possible.
Welcome, everyone, to The Real News Network. My name is Maximillian Alvarez. I’m the editor-in-chief here at The Real News, and it’s so great to have you all with us. The Real News is an independent, viewer supported, nonprofit media network, which means we don’t do ads and we don’t take corporate cash and we don’t do paywalls. So we need each one of you to become a supporter of our work so we can keep bringing you important coverage of the voices and issues you care about most. So please head on over to therealnews.com/support and become a supporter of our work today, it really makes a difference.
As more states and districts around the country push for legalization, including here in our home state of Maryland, the cannabis industry has exploded in recent years, with researchers estimating that the industry could generate over $70 billion in sales by 2030.
But while investors and business owners have dollar signs in their eyes, it is the everyday employees from growers and packers to budtenders who are making the industry run. But the vast, vast majority of those workers are not reaping the benefits of these booming profits, with many cannabis workers around the country reporting low pay, overwork and burnout, disrespect and mistreatment from management, all while having to navigate changing customer needs, state and federal regulations, and top-down decisions from executives and company founders that are handed down with little to no input from the actual workers who know the industry best. That is why we are seeing a simultaneous explosion of organizing efforts by cannabis workers themselves.
And today, we’re going to take a deep dive into this burgeoning labor movement within the cannabis industry, and learn more about what is driving it and what we all can do to support it. And I couldn’t be more honored to be joined today by an incredible panel of workers and organizers from the state of Illinois who have been fighting to unionize with the Teamsters and improve the cannabis industry for themselves, their coworkers, and their customers. Ami, Fro, Christopher, Jim, thank you all so much for joining us today on The Real News Network.
Thank you so much for having us.
Really. Thank you.
Well, there’s so much I want to talk to you guys about, and I’m really, really grateful to you all for making time for this recording. And I wanted to start by going around the table and getting to know a bit more about you four and how you came to work in the cannabis industry or organize in the cannabis industry, and what that work looks like in your respective corners of the industry. Because I have to imagine that, like me, many folks don’t know exactly what that work looks like on a day-to-day basis. So Ami, why don’t we start with you.
Hi, I’m Ami Schneider. I work at Enlightened Dispensary in Schaumburg, Illinois. I started working in the industry about two years ago. I actually started organizing around cannabis before I started working in the industry. So back before medical was even legalized, I was organizing with Illinois normal. My brother has epilepsy, so that was always an option for epilepsy. So I was definitely organizing in that medical sphere before I had even ever joined the industry. The first time I ever went to a dispensary was in Colorado after they legalized, and I was like, this would be cool to work in eventually, someday, maybe. And I had gone to college and couldn’t really get a job in my degree field, so cannabis was always kind of there. And I saw a job posting for a dispensary that was opening up in my town and I was like, this is a short commute. Why not try to get into the industry?
And I went into the interview, and they hired me the same day, which might have been a red flag in retrospect, but I was really excited. I really was like, this is something that I’m passionate about. I believe in the medicinal benefits of cannabis. I think that it’s definitely something that benefits a lot of people. It’s benefited me — I have a medical card. So it’s something that’s always been there in my life, that’s been something that I’ve been passionate about. So it made sense to join the industry.
And I really thought that it was going to be… I don’t even know what I thought. I thought it was going to be a magical weed job. And for the first couple months, I bought into everything that I thought the industry was going to be. I thought, we’re doing big things, we’re changing things. This is the progressive industry. It just felt almost kind of a pyramid scheme kind of a thing at first, the way that all of the cultivators would come in and talk up their products and everything. It really made you buy into this whole industry.
But after a couple of months, it turned around. I got a title change, so not even a promotion, just a title change. So I got a whole lot more work without having any additional compensation. I went from having a normal cannabis badging, a license to sell cannabis, to now having an agent in charge badge. So once that comes extra responsibilities. I’m able to do destruction at my store. I onboard deliveries, take in deliveries. I’m responsible for a lot more of the compliance aspects of the job, and I still make as much as people who are now coming in are making. I have gotten no raise for the past two years that I’ve been at this job, despite almost tripling, maybe even quadrupling my workload at this point.
And the reason we started organizing at my location was because I saw my coworkers being fired for very strange reasons. I saw one coworker, he had an earpiece that got stuck in his ear canal. So the little plastic bit of the earpiece for these walkie-talkies we have to use to communicate throughout the dispensary got stuck in his ear, and he had to go to immediate care because he couldn’t get it out. The company refused to reimburse him for that, and he ended up quitting because of that instance. So that was one of the things that started opening my eyes up.
We had another employee who had been paying for insurance through our company, and then when he actually went to go use that insurance, they told him that, oh, well we actually don’t have an insurance policy for you, even though he had been paying for it. And it was a lot of just situations like that, on top of the fact that I was now doing all of this extra work and not getting compensated. So a few of my coworkers started talking to each other about unionization, and I was totally on board. I had grown up in a union family. My mom is in the NALC, National Association of Letter Carriers. So I grew up going to union halls and seeing unions firsthand, and knowing what unions meant for my family, and how they provided us a good stability in life, and provided us insurance and things that not everybody has as benefits for a job.
So I was on board with the organizing and the unionizing, and it made sense. And when we went with the Teamsters, I felt very supported. They helped us figure out what our rights were. They helped us learn about how we could organize and not get in trouble for it, because there’s things you can and can’t do, technically, in the workplace. And there’s also things that the workplace will do with union busting that aren’t even legal. So you have to be really careful. But I think that with the support of having the union there with us and giving us our rights really helped to ease into that process and make it a little bit less scary. It was still very, very scary, but just knowing our rights helped a tremendous amount. And we did win our election last February, and I’m on the negotiating committee now for our bargaining unit. It’s a very slow process. It’s been very frustrating. But yeah, that’s where I’m at now.
Hell yeah. And we’re definitely going to talk about the unionization efforts, the organizing that goes into that, the pitfalls you got to navigate to get to that first contract. But Fro, why don’t you introduce yourself as well to the good Real News viewers and listeners. Tell us a little bit about yourself, how you got into the cannabis industry, and what sort of work you do there.
Yes. Okay. So my government name is Ryan Frohlich, but my friends call me Fro. There were three Ryans when I started working there, and they asked me what my name was. And without skipping a beat, I said Fro. So now I’m Fro. I do love that name, by the way. I had a similar story to Ami, actually. I started out as a budtender. I got hired working in a chiropractic office. I wasn’t getting paid there. My boss had fallen on hard times and just stopped paying his employees. I had a client that came in who happened to be the owner of a location, THC, The Herbal Care Center. It got sold to Verano Holdings and it became Zen Leaf eventually. But this client saw that I was struggling and he gave me a job. I don’t know if I can curse, but I worked my ass off at this place, and I eventually got promoted to AIC.
It’s now a Zen Leaf location. And while I still love my job, there’s just a lack of respect amongst my coworkers. A lot of people get bullied. A lot of people get shut down for things they say, for things they do. And it’s frustrating to witness, and it’s frustrating to hear it and say, I’m going to say something, and nothing happens. This is why we went to the Teamsters. I wasn’t the one who initiated my location, but my location did have multiple people that went in to do this. Two people ended up getting fired because of organizing, and they have since gotten their jobs back along with back pay, all because of the Teamsters’ efforts. And this is something we are trying to make everyone realize, that if you are treated unfairly, we will be able to help you.
So I am on the negotiating committee because unfortunately the two people who started organizing did end up getting fired. They’ve since got their jobs back. And basically we are all working together as a unit to make our Pilsen location the ideal working location. Thank you.
Beautiful. And yes, you can definitely curse. I cuss like a sailor on The Real News, so I can’t ask others to censor themselves. So perfect. So then I’ll hang back in the cut, Christopher, if you want to hop in and then whenever you’re done, Jim, go for it and then we’ll do the second round around the table.
Hello, I’m Christopher Smith. I work with Local 777. I’m the business agent with the Local, but I have been in the cannabis industry for going on five years now. I started when it was mom and pop and just medical. I am a medical cardholder as well. And then because corporate takeover started to happen in my state, a lot of the mom and pops started to sell off, which is what happened to my first location and the second location I worked for. And then the third, which is where I met the Teamsters, was Verano in Romeoville, Illinois, owned by PharmaCare. It was a five-location movement, so we ended up getting five storefronts in that period of time that all were able to negotiate for their first contract. I ended up getting elected onto the negotiation committee, so I was on the forefront of the beginning and getting that election so that we had representation.
Then Teamsters, my president, Jim Glimco, decided he wanted to pull me out to offer me a position as the business agent with the local because he’s seen leadership abilities in me, and through desire to have change in this industry. There’s a lot of workers like myself that have a lot of skill and knowledge and bring a lot of customer care and service to the industry.
Unfortunately, one of our main concerns and why we had to organize in my location and unionize was it is a cutthroat industry right now. Being an at-will employee means that you can be fired at any point in time, and with a union that changes, you are no longer based on your contract and a just cause county. And so with that, the turnaround rate was huge. So job security was the big focus for us, and long-term career opportunity.
The only way to make a career in this industry prior was if you got lucky enough to get up in management, and sometimes at the locations, it’s who you know, not how skilled you are, which that is the unfortunate reality. So we had to create an opportunity to where we would get guaranteed raises as deserved and have benefits such as a pension. And now what my job will entail as the business agent is enforcing the contracts as they get in to ensure that they are actually upheld, visiting the location. Any issue that the workers may have, they can reach out to me and their shop stewards, and we can work to resolve them and have the workers truly have a voice to the top, because this is the only way that they get a direct communication. And unfortunately in this industry, there’s so many moving compartments that corporate, nine times out of 10, does not know what’s going on at their own location.
And with that, we’re creating that change. And then also hoping to implement a pension, which is something that was a huge part of my organizing task, to gain that in our contracts, as well as a little bit more security in our industry. We had gotten moved down to one security guard that was unarmed, and it felt, at times, especially when he was on his lunch break, not very safe. And that being said, I think there needs to be a change, and so did a lot of the industry at all locations with how they’re handling security at the locations. So putting standards so they can’t take away with making us feel safe in our workplace. But yeah, that’s basically my background, so thank you.
All right. Hello everybody. My name’s Jim Glimco. I’m president of Teamsters Local 777. Teamsters 777 is the cannabis local for the state of Illinois. And how we got there is Local 777 has a great history of always organizing, always about organizing new members. We did organize a couple dispensaries early on a couple of years ago, which was a Moca by Ascend in the city. We’ve negotiated, we’ve got contracts with them. The Teamsters since then, they have a new administration. Sean O’Brien is the general president, and he had me at the office headquarters at the IBT. And he has actually given us all the resources of our great international, which is a big, big organization, to help organize in this industry. So our goal for the industry is to raise the standards for the people working in the industry.
But I got to tell you, it’s a fun industry because you’re dealing with a lot of young people, and a lot of really nice people. I deal with other jobs and other things in the other part of the union. But with cannabis, what’s really unique about it is people want to be in this industry because it’s cannabis, because they have personal experiences with it, and they really want to do this. So it’s great, they get in there, they want to do it, but then they’re finding out that it’s not giving them all the things they need to stay in this industry.
So our goal is to raise the standards, to make sure that this industry pays proper wages, proper benefits, and people are treated properly so that the people who want to be here can stay here and make a career out of it. So that’s our goal.
And the other goal is that I have personally is with a lot of these people, I can see that there’s a lot of people that are getting in this, involved in this, and these are the future generation of the labor movement is in this industry I see, easily. So I’m excited to be part of this, and they’re really the stars of what’s going on in the labor movement today. So my hat’s off to the workers doing this.
Hell yeah. No, I think that’s beautifully put, and definitely one of the primary reasons that we wanted to have y’all on The Real News and make sure that our viewers and listeners know what’s going on, because this is all very important and very exciting, and I think has a lot to teach all of us who are invested in the labor movement or in workers anywhere, standing up for their rights, securing better working conditions for themselves and their coworkers, improving the industries that they want to make a career in. I really sympathize and empathize with what you just said, Jim, and what you all described in that first round around the table. Because yeah, I feel like cannabis fits into that category of industries where you can be exploited or taken advantage of because of how much you want to work in the industry or because of your personal investment in the service that’s being provided.
I’m recording from The Real News Network, which is a nonprofit news network. Anyone who’s worked at a nonprofit knows that you can take advantage of people and even overwork yourself because you’re so dedicated to the mission, but that’s no excuse for not getting the pay, benefits, treatment that you deserve, so on and so forth. But this happens in places like academia. So many adjunct professors or underpaid graduate students do so much vital labor that keeps higher education afloat, but they get paid like shit. They get treated like shit. And so much of it is justified because of the love that people have for learning, for their students, for their craft.
Take your pick, you could talk about minor league baseball players who just unionized last year — Shout out to the minor leaguers. But anyone who’s in that kind of industry where that vocational call to the work becomes, I think, a very complicated thing that can lead to very unfortunate consequences for the people working in those industries.
I want to build on that, because y’all started touching on this in that first round around the table, but I wanted to zero in on the unionization efforts happening across this industry in the states where marijuana is legal. So could you talk a bit more about the key issues and concerns that have been driving workers in this industry to organize, that maybe they’re more industry specific or maybe they’re the kinds of issues that workers in any service industry job or any retail job will face. And can you talk about what that organizing has looked like in your own stores? And say a little more about what it’s going to mean for you all and your coworkers to be unionized with the Teamsters. So Ami, we’ll start with you again.
Hello. So at my location and just in the industry in general, the wages are pretty abysmal. My location especially, a lot of the other locations are starting out a little bit higher than us. So our location starts at $15 an hour, and we’re all making $15 an hour there. Like I touched on when I first introduced myself, I have additional badging, so I’ve got additional workloads that are piled on me because I’m an agent in charge. On top of that, at the second level of badging, there’s certain things that fall on you as an agent in charge that you wouldn’t have that would fall on you as just a registered agent able to sell cannabis. For instance, when inspections happen, we have to be able to go and do the inspections with the state. I’m the only one in the building at my location who does destruction.
So in the state of Illinois, part of the compliance is that any product that is expired, any product that’s damaged, anything like that has to be destroyed. And I’m the only one in the store that does that. When I initially started in this position, only managers did that duty. That’s the only people that filled that role. And then it started being what we call floor leads at our location, which is like, they’re part of our bargaining unit, but they make significantly more than I do, and they were the ones that were supposed to be doing the destruction of the product. The one person that did that ended up quitting, he rage quit because of all of the issues that we have at our store and within our company. He just couldn’t take it anymore.
And after he left, I was the only person that had even observed destruction happening. So I had to take on that duty because I was the only one that even had a passing understanding of destruction. I didn’t get trained, really, on how to do it. I had to kind of teach myself, which is completely bonkers, to have to teach yourself how to do something that’s a literal state compliance issue. And to my credit, I get complimented by the state when they come in. They’re like, you’re doing awesome at destruction. I do things that apparently other dispensaries tend to forget. So the state always comes in and tells my general manager, this is on. This is spot on, which feels good to hear from the state because I don’t hear it really from anybody at my company. I’m not getting any additional compensation for it. So I guess it’s nice that somebody’s recognizing that I’m not getting fines for our store for being good at my job.
On top of that, there’s a whole bunch of issues I touched on before with the way that they treat people at our location. I had mentioned the one employee that had the earpiece stuck in his ear. We also had another employee who clearly had some physical limitations happening and was in pain, clearly in pain on the sales floor. And they would not let him sit down, and they would give him grief about sitting down. And it was observably cruel to watch somebody having to be put through that. I mean, I feel like they were trying to do that so that he would quit. Eventually they did fire him, but the working conditions that they provided for him were unbearable. It was really hard to watch somebody being treated like that, regardless of what they thought his work ethic was, or whatever they held against him. No human being should be treated like that. There was no dignity in the way that they were treating him.
And yeah, we’ve had a lot of issues with being severely overworked. So our staff originally started, we had like 50 team members. We now have I think 25 staff members. And we are the only dispensary in our area, at least I’m not sure about the rest of the state, but we have all of our product on display. So every single morning we have to come to work, put everything out into these glass cabinets, and then we have to set it all up. We have what’s called cannabis guides. So a lot of dispensaries do either pre-orders, or you come to the store and you order at a counter. We have a full service thing going on at our dispensary. So you come in, you’re talking to a cannabis guide, you can ask all sorts of questions, you can see what product we have. We’re expected to have a very high level of knowledge at our store so that we can have these conversations with people face to face.
And we are getting paid the least out of anybody else in the industry for the most amount of service, which, again, feels very wrong. And the company I work for is Revolution. So they’re really riding this very esteemed reputation that they have in the industry. They won six first place cannabis cups in 2020. They are constantly placed in the cannabis cups. The team is being very prestigious as far as weed companies go in Illinois. They’re one of the top tier companies. People assume that if you work for Revolution, things must be great. I remember going to other dispensaries and people were like, oh my gosh, you work for Revolution. That’s so cool. At first I was like, yeah, this is awesome. And now I’m like, you have no idea. The difference between the public image that they have and how they treat their workers, from all of us who work at the stores, even management gets treated pretty crappy at this company, at the store level and our cultivation, they get treated abysmally.
In cultivation, they can’t even… They’re growing the product, they’re extracting the product, and they don’t even get samples down there. Not that we get samples, really, from our own company. Most of the samples we get are from other companies. Our company just doesn’t take care of us really at all. So there’s just so many issues. Then management, they can’t really do their jobs because corporate is micromanaging the hell out of our shop. So these people who don’t even understand the industry at all are determining what should go on in our store on a day-to-day basis. Our store doesn’t even have lighters to sell, which is a customer service point. How do you have a place that’s selling you cannabis and you don’t even have lighters to give to your customers? And then the customers are coming at us, the employees like, what the hell, and getting mad at us for things that corporate is dictating.
So not only are we getting BS from corporate coming down on us telling us, get your cart totals up. Sell more, sell more, even if the customers don’t need it, which feels to me ethically wrong. I don’t want to give somebody a product that’s not going to work for them, and it’s aggressive sales. So we get that from corporate and then we have customers who are getting mad at us about the aggressive sales tactics, or getting mad at us because we don’t have things like lighters, or because we don’t have things to actually consume their products all in one spot.
So we’re getting it from every end, which again, is why organizing has been so important, because the issues between corporate treating us terribly, having to put on a customer service face even when we’re being treated terribly at times, all of these factors that play into it, and to be compensated so little for the work is crazy.
You can go across the street at our location to McDonald’s and make $2 more an hour where we’re at. We’ve tried to bring this up to management. When I tried to negotiate before we even unionized like, hey, I’m doing all of this extra work, shouldn’t there be compensation?” I was pretty much essentially told, “If you don’t like it, you can quit. And I was like, qell, I really like this job though. I love my coworkers. It’s not that I hate the job. I hate the corporate atmosphere. I hate the micromanaging. I hate that the workers aren’t being listened to when we have good ideas for how to make things better, we understand our customers, we understand the industry, and we’re not listened to and we are overworked and completely underpaid. The amount of things that I’ve had to deal with are really just bonkers.
During our organization efforts, they hired a labor consultant, so a union buster, for $71,000, we found out, and they still can’t give us raises. So it’s like, you paid this guy $71,000 for an ineffective union busting campaign, but you’re going to give us grief over giving us a little bit of a raise. The employees who sit there and drive your business, create our customers who come back all of the time. We have regular customers who seek out certain people in our store because they trust them. But you’re going to pay $71,000 to this guy to tell us not to organize.
And that whole situation was also very odd. So this guy comes in, he’s a labor consultant, and I got accused of salting for the union, which at that time I had no idea what salting even was. So I was like, what does that even mean? But it was during a closed door meeting where they bring everybody in, and that it was half of the store was on the floor and then half was in the meeting and then they would switch us out.
And then our half of the meeting he said, yeah, we have suspicions of somebody’s salting. And I was like, what the hell even is that? And it turns out that he was accusing me of being some covert operative for the union, but that’s because I knew my rights because the Teamsters had taught me what my rights are, what this guy’s going to say. They really prepared us for this union busting drive so that we knew what this guy was going to say. We knew all of the BS he was going to spew at us, and we knew how to combat that in a way that made sense for us. We knew that all of the things he was saying against union dues and all of these ills and all of this, it was just BS because the company has interest in us not unionizing. If we unionize, we have a voice at a bargaining table. They can’t just fire us for any reason. They can’t just tell us they’re going to change policies on us.
And even though we don’t have a contract, we’ve seen the effects of being able to have the union because we’ve had people who have gotten brought in for disciplinary meetings where they’ve avoided getting the discipline because they have the union. They know their rights. They’re like, no, I’m not going to sign that. I want my union representative. I’ve been brought into meetings with people when we don’t have, obviously the local’s not going to come in because we are the union. So if one of my coworkers has had a problem with an issue, I’ve been brought into these meetings ,and I feel like that has helped to defuse the situation, just having somebody else in that room so that corporate and management can’t just say a bunch of stuff and have no record of anybody else seeing it. And they’ve also been unable to change certain policies that have been long-standing on us.
So there’s definitely, even without the contract yet, benefits that we’ve seen. But our negotiations are going very, very slowly. Our last negotiation after… We’ve been in negotiations since last year, last April. Our last negotiation two weeks ago was the first time that the person from corporate that represents our corporate actually showed up in person to our negotiations, which is insulting. And then the things that have happened in negotiations with the slowing of the process, it just seems very calculated.
We’ve been losing a lot of our original people who signed on for the union, and they’ve been hiring a lot of new people. So the union busting didn’t stop just because we got the contract. So it’s an ongoing thing with them that they keep trying to break us. I suspect, honestly, that they’re trying to draw out the process so that they can try to de-certify the union election because of how long it’s gone on now, and just because of the different tactics.
Another thing that I personally experienced was myself and another AIC, my good friend Zach, he’s on the bargaining committee with me. There were four agents in charge that could have been promoted for a floor lead position and a management position. The two agents in charge who were not vocally pro-union are the ones that got promoted. And then Zach and I, who had been on the union paperwork for the press release when we first unionized, we had both been quoted in the press release. We have not been promoted, and we’ve continually had more and more and more work thrown on us. It’s a mess. It’s just a continuation of union busting efforts that didn’t stop just because we unionized, which is why we need to fight to get this contract so they can stop and we have a grievance procedure and can really go after them.
Beautiful. So that was great. Ami, thank you so much. I’m hanging back. So Fro, Christopher, Jim, go for it.
Yes. Okay, I got a few things. First of all, I can relate so heavily to you, Ami, being in the position of AIC as well. We have a cap. Unfortunately, we do have a bit of a higher pay rate over in Chicago, so we’re starting at $16, and AICs are getting $19. However, $19 is the cap, absolute cap. There is no promotion from there. There is no pay raise from there, and that’s completely ridiculous, especially when you have AICs working there, not me included, but other AICs that have been there two, three years-plus still making $19 in today’s climate. That’s not cost of living in the slightest bit. And these are people who used to work paramedic jobs, who used to be office managers at different hospitals, who understand how to run a medical facility. And my location is a medical location, but these people are not being compensated for that. They are their therapists, they are their friends, and at the same time they are their budtenders, and they’re not being respected in any way because of that.
In fact, they are readily reminded that they are replaceable in every single way. And that is something that is so frustrating. You can’t go into a job every single day and get reminded that you are just a cog in the machine. That is very annoying, it’s depressing. It makes people want to quit. And that is what corporate wants. They want people to quit so they can hire the people who will come in, do the job, get frustrated, quit again, do the job again. So they can keep pay benefits and everything else at the stagnated rate that it is. That’s something I’m not going to stand for anymore, because I’ll work all day, all night. I’ll do whatever I have to do to make sure that my coworkers can go home and afford their rent, can afford their hospital bills, can afford their groceries. It’s just a common thing. A thing me and a few of my coworkers did.
So we had a vending machine that wasn’t getting regularly stocked, and there was a mom who worked with us. And she complained one day in a bit of frustration, honestly, that she can’t afford to go to the McDonald’s across the street every single day because she has to go home and help her kid, blah, blah, blah. So from that day on, me and three other coworkers decided like, ee’re going to buy mac and cheese, easy Mac from the microwave, ramen, bring that in. And that’s going to be food you can eat if you need and you’re a little bit broke and tips aren’t enough. Since then, my management has put in a little bit of a budget for that, but it took us doing that. And that is the big message we’re having here with unionizing. It’s when we get together, we can make changes.
Another thing I want to mention, and I wrote notes, excuse me for looking away, is about the compliance. You put on a really great point. Once you get promoted to AIC, it becomes a whole different game that a lot of people really do not understand. You are expected to understand every single rule the state has when it comes to compliance with cannabis, and those rules will change on a dime within 24 hours notice. It’s completely ridiculous, and the customers get extremely frustrated about it. But you are expected to explain in a calm way that this is the change, and this is how we need to do it moving forward. This causes for a lot of anger with our customers, and us as workers are expected to defuse that anger.
Yet these corporations — I work for Verano, Ami works for a Revolution. They have been cutting back on means like security guards. We used to have two to three at a given time. Currently, my location has one, only one, who is not allowed to leave the location for the entirety of their shift. There have been shootings, there have been deaths, there has been altercations. For me to be expected to do that at $19 an hour, or for someone else to be expected to do that at $16, whatever you’re getting paid, that is not acceptable. We are expected to be that face. But these people — I’m talking about the corporations here — These people also expect us to go above and beyond for how little they respect us. That makes no sense to me.
Another instance I want to bring up is the responsibilities, as Ami said previously as well, we are expected to do so much more. There was a time where there’s people that come that pick up our money from our safes. They came very late this day. So I was expected to give the money in our safe to them. I didn’t know the combination to the safe. I had to call my boss. This person, this other worker who is late, obviously, and has more drop-offs to pick up, is waiting for me to get the combination to this code. It took a while, but I got it. When I held this bag, I realized I would never hold this much money in my life. It was upwards of $100,000 in my hand. And I’m like, this is ridiculous. What am I doing? That is disheartening. I don’t expect $100,000 in my hand. What I do expect is to get compensated for doing something like that. Do you understand?
I would like to be respected. What I’m getting paid is starting pay. I’m 30 years old. I’ve been in the workforce for maybe 25 of those years, just doing odd jobs, even babysitting my nephews. It’s hard to sit there when, as Ami said, again, you have corporate coming in, and I don’t mean to be mean, but some of them are just people straight out of college who are like, yeah, let’s do this. And they expect you to do things in a way that their frat brothers would do. And then they talk to you in a way that is like you don’t understand business. And it’s like, no, I just do it differently than you, and I expect you to treat me a certain way, but you’re not. And I’m going to unionize, and I’m going to talk to my coworkers in a way that you don’t like, because at the end of the day I understand that you actually can’t do anything to me for doing that.
It’s frustrating. It’s frustrating to have to deal with. Especially because, again, as Ami’s so astutely put, they drag these processes out. They make us feel as if little moments are stopping us. They are nails in the floorboard, but they’re not. They’re just you wasting time, and I’m going to show you that I am here to sit as long as I need to make this a reality.
Fro and Ami both covered great aspects, and I think hitting on both of them, one of the reasons that my location when I was still working in the industry as a budtender, we wanted to ensure that we had that voice and those raises. And with the Teamsters and the education they provided to us because we knew how we could keep the unit together as best as possible even though there was a lot of union busting done. And with that, it made me realize as our state keeps talking about these social equity movements and how the cannabis industry is supposed to be giving back to those disproportionately affected, unfortunately they’re not, because that is the workforce.
As you’ve just heard, we have a workforce that is underpaid and overworked. So this is where we hope as, not as the Teamsters do, not only set the standards in the industry, but truly bring the social equity movement to the country, and specifically right now to Illinois, and set the standards for the rest of the nation as, hopefully, federal legalization comes. There is a bigger push for hope of that to get cannabis more normalized in society and accepted as medicine. I believe that this whole movement will help solidify that as well.
Yeah, let me talk about, with this industry, what I think is really amazing. So when you go to a dispensary, you just really see the people up front, but you don’t realize all the work that gets done in the dispensary. So in the back of the house, there’s an elaborate inventory system, elaborate computer systems. The inventory is in a vault, the state regulates the hell out of this business, so they’ve got to follow this, this, and this, and this, all these rules on everything.
There’s shipping and receiving jobs that is just like in any other company and all these type of jobs. You’ve also got the people at the front who are selling the product, and the knowledge they have to have. I mean, the company does give them samples and educates them on what goes on. I’m sure they have a lot of life, a lifelong learning in this industry, which I’m sure they enjoy. And then also there’s a lot of people who’ve had medical issues and they got into the cannabis industry because of their medical issues and because they know how the cannabis really helps people and what it does for people. And that’s kind of the passion that people have and why they want to do this business.
So if you compare all these skill sets that you have in this industry compared to the other jobs that are in Chicago and Illinois and what they pay, these guys are grossly underpaid for what they’re doing and for the skill level that is expected of them. What’s disheartening to the workers is, okay, they will sit at a register all day, and that register at the end of the day, they see that total. And there’s many days where the total that they ring up for that day is more than they make in a year. It’s just really mind-boggling.
In the state of Illinois, Chicagoland area, they’ve been publishing every month how much money cannabis is making because it is a newer industry, and it’s really taking in a ton of money. The workers see other jobs that don’t have the skillset that they have right next door paying more money than they’re being paid. We know that the money’s there. We know that this is an industry that is growing. It is a new industry. It’s different than any other new industry that’s ever been out there that I know about, because with this industry, when they started just a few years ago, they started with a built-in customer base. So it didn’t start from scratch. There were millions of people doing cannabis everywhere and who are their customers. So it’s financially very, very successful, but they’re not sharing that with their workers, and that’s with all the union, the workers that are unionizing we’ve got about 17 different dispensaries that have organized.
We do have a couple that are under contract, and we’re getting close to the finish line on many negotiations, but we’re trying to get them to where they have to be so that this is the kind of job that the people you see here can stay here for a long time, because people really want to work here for a long time. They want to make this a career, and they do want to move up into the industry, and they have the skillset to do that. And that’s what we’re trying to do. So we’re trying to really bring the standards in this industry, create a standard in all the contracts so that people can stay in this industry and enjoy it and have a job that they can say, hey, I really like my job. I like working in this industry, and I do get paid well too. Not that, I like the job, but I’m working for peanuts. They don’t want to be saying that. But we’re working on it, and it’s getting there.
I just wanted to add with the retirement benefits that we do want as workers and what we are pushing. So some of the dispensaries do have a 401K benefit currently, but unfortunately, due to the low wages, being able to put into that is very difficult. And then there are different parameters on if the employer will match you or not, and how long we’ve been there or how much you have to actually put in. So that being said, having the Teamster Western Conference attention for the workers in this industry will set a retirement standard that can change lives. And given the amount of money that we see, and as I brought up before the social equity movement, this is how we can help the next generation retire, and properly.
So I think that that pension is one of the ways that we can guarantee as workers a career and an actual benefit, because it is employer contributed. So it would be a way for us to retain a little bit more money, maybe still add into that 401k, but also have a guaranteed retirement for all of the hard work and knowledge that we will put in throughout the next however many years.
It’s so incredible to hear about everything that is going on in this industry. And of course, we urge everyone watching and listening to this to do what you can to learn about those organizing efforts. Maybe they’re happening in your areas, and maybe there’s something that you can do to help, because we all need to stand together. And just like we are urging folks to continue supporting the Amazon Labor Union in their fight to get a first contract for the workers at the JFK8 warehouse on Staten Island, just like we are urging folks to not forget about Starbucks workers who have been unionizing around the country. but have yet to reach a first contract, and in fact have been facing vicious, relentless union busting: Worker organizers getting fired for the flimsiest excuses, unionized stores getting closed down at the drop of a hat like they did in Ithaca in Seattle.
We all have to stay vigilant, and we have to keep showing up for one another. And that includes our fellow workers in the cannabis industry like Ami, Fro, Christopher, folks who are still fighting to get to that first contract and improve the industry for themselves, their coworkers, and anyone who walks in the door and gets hired in a dispensary or anywhere else for years to come. This isn’t just about the folks working there now. This is about anyone who comes to work in this industry that, as we’ve all acknowledged, is booming right now, is raking in a lot of money.
And of course, I want to just acknowledge what is on all of our minds, I’m sure, it is the elephant in the room. We know that in the United States, the patently obvious injustice is the fact that so much money is being made from this industry while so many people continue to rot in prison for low-level drug offenses, primarily Black, Brown, and poor people. So there’s a whole lot to fix here. But I think that workers taking more control over that industry, having more of a say in that industry, is a very necessary step to attaining some level of justice in this fundamentally unjust arrangement. So we want to acknowledge that.
But we’ve covered so much important ground here, and I know I can’t keep you guys for much longer. So I just wanted to go around the table one more time and ask how you see yourselves and your organizing efforts in the cannabis industry, how you see that connected to the rest of the worker mobilizations that we’re seeing: Amazon, Starbucks — But also in healthcare, in retail, nonprofit spaces. I think there’s a lot to feel hopeless about in our world today, but this energy that’s coming from the rank and file in so many different industries, including ones that have been really traditionally hard to organize in, that is one source of hope that I think we can all latch onto and we can all do something to support.
And so I wanted to round out by asking A, how you see yourselves in the cannabis industry participating in a broader labor movement. And ultimately, I wanted to finish by asking what folks watching and listening can do to support you all, both in your local fights to get to that first contract, but also what we can do to support workers in the cannabis industry across the board.
So I think that as far as where I see myself in the cannabis organizing sphere, I think securing the first contract is incredibly important for everybody that’s going to work after I stay or go or whatever the future holds. Having a groundwork for other people to be treated with dignity, I think is so important for the industry. I also think that the more of us that organize together through different bargaining units, that really gives us a collective power beyond just our local bargaining unit, beyond just what’s in our stores. It gives us the power of the Teamsters. We are organized with this big, larger umbrella of organization, and that gives us more political power so that we would as an industry have more say as a whole to change things for the better for workers.
Because there’s so many things out there regulations wise that should be challenged just because they don’t really make sense, they’re not beneficial. And organizing on this local level provides that framework for us to organize on a larger scale, to really make differences for our industry. And my hope is that we’ll continue to organize, that we’ll get these contracts, and we’ll show people that this should be a career. It’s hard to even move into another career after working in cannabis because other employees look at like, oh, you’re a pothead. We don’t want to hire you, without really understanding how smart the people who work in this industry really are, the skillset that goes into everything we do. We are doing customer service, we’re doing retail, we’re doing shipping, receiving, we’re doing compliance. There are so many things that go into it. I think a lot of people just see it as, oh, this is just this glamorous fun job.
It is fun for a lot of different reasons, like the industry events are cool, but the actual nitty-gritty down in the dirt or work that goes into it isn’t really as glamorous as people would think. It’s hard work. There’s days that I’m doing like 15,000 steps running from our fulfillment to our registers to get product to customers. There’s days that I am so sore from hauling boxes around. And people should be compensated for that. People should be compensated for the labor that they put in, especially when these corporations are making as much money as they are. A lot of these companies are just focused on expansion, rapid expansion rather than taking care of the people who are already building their companies and the people who are really the bread and butter of the company. You need to take care of what you have before you start expanding everywhere else, and really take care of your people. So my hope is that that will happen through more organization efforts.
Ami, I have to say, you are hitting all the exact points. I’ve never met you before, but man, I relate to everything you say to a T. And again, we’re two different companies, Revolution versus Verano. I know they, on a corporate level, have been in wars with each other. They barely get your product into our store, and people want that.
So what I would say my place is in this industry is someone who is passionate about cannabis, about the benefits it has for you, about educating people about those said benefits, about telling people what will and won’t work for them. I want to do that. But you as a corporation don’t seem to value that. They want people who will just quit on a dime, and we’re trying to tell you that we want to make this work for you. Why can’t you work with us? That’s my question for all of the corporations. Why can’t you work with us? Because again, you’re rapidly expanding, and your workforce is not dwindling. Why can’t you help us out as the climate changes, as the cost of living increases? Why can you not help us out so we can get in our cars every day and sell the products you want us to sell?
It’s frustrating, but I won’t give up and they’ll try to make me give up, but it’s not going to happen. And I hope anyone out there who is fighting the same issues, who is trying to do the same thing at their location, be this cannabis, be this pizza cutting, I don’t know. I hope you know that we as a unit can always work together to make a work environment viable for you. You don’t have to give up.
I think too many people in this world right now, too many people in our generation are fearful to commit to something like that out of fear of moving up somewhere, but it does happen. You can move up, you can get promoted, you can do anything you want to do. Joining a union will not stop that, and do not let anyone tell you otherwise.
And the Teamsters have really paved that in for me, especially Local 777. I was scared to do this. I was not an initiator amongst my location. Once I saw it was going through, I made sure that I was involved. And I don’t regret that it’s given me purpose. It’s made me feel like I can do something in this world. And so can anyone else watching this right now. Thank you so much.
That was amazing, Fro, and I agree with that. I think that if you wanted to help this movement out and you are a cannabis worker, you unionize. Contact the local in your area. And if it’s in Illinois, please contact Local 777. We definitely want to get you guys as much information and help that we can.
But to touch on the bigger aspect of what we are accomplishing here. This is the fight against the separation of wealth in this country. This is one of the first movements in a new industry, but we’re joining the rest of the industries that are older than us, and we will not give up.
You have a huge body of people that have a very strong will and a need for change, to be able to provide for their families and to provide for themselves. I believe that that is the biggest takeaway that I’m gaining, is all of us are joining together to try to stop this separation of wealth before it is too late in our middle class is completely gone. And that is what I wanted to leave off with. So thank you for this opportunity to explain ourselves and our movement.
Well, thank you, Max. I appreciate that, as you can see, the group around me is very sharp and very bright, and I’m very lucky. Local 777, some people think that’s a lucky number. So I think that I’m lucky to be surrounded by good people all the time, and people who go above and beyond what you would ever expect to help the movement.
When you compare what’s going on today in the labor movement, one of the big things is that there’s a lot of big campaigns: the Amazon campaign, the Starbucks campaign, the cannabis campaign, and these are all big campaigns predominantly with younger people. It’s really an exciting time to be in labor. I think that the cannabis campaign has an advantage over all the other campaigns. One of the big advantages is we’re organizing an industry at its infancy. So we’re not going against Goliath. The Goliath that is Amazon, the Goliath that is Starbucks. A lot of these are smaller ma and pop, they’re big corporations, but they’re not in the ballpark of an Amazon.
So because of that, I’m extremely confident that we’re going to be incredibly successful in this industry and organizing and getting it to where it needs to go. So I think we will have great success, and that success will spill over into other parts of labor.
But a part of it, when you look at the younger people today that are involved in this, I mean, I got to say, because I know how I was when I was their age. They’re a lot smarter than we ever were. They get it. When a union buster comes out there and tells all the stuff that they say and all the BS, and they can see through that BS so perfectly. So it doesn’t work at all on younger people. You can’t screw them on fake information. I mean, they’ll pull their phone out, they’ll look it up right away to see is this true or not. So the union busters really aren’t working in this industry.
And with what’s going on now is, younger people, they want careers. They don’t want just a job, they want a career. And that’s what we’re trying to build. I think we’re going to get there. With cannabis, a lot of people who are coming into it, there’s a culture to cannabis, and they just love this culture. And the culture they want to keep, but then with this industry there’s a lot of people who’ve bought into the industry that are big time investors, and they’re investing money to try to make money on this industry. And they don’t really always have the culture at heart. They just want to make money. And a lot of the workers that are coming here, they’re into the industry, and they want to save the culture, and they want to protect the industry. So there’s kind of a clash there.
And when you hear in the newspaper and you hear why cannabis was allowed to legalize and all that, the big thing was social equity and to create social equity jobs, social equity to the people who got screwed over the legalization of cannabis. So far, none of that’s really materialized. I was reading the paper the other day, there was a social equity license went out, and a couple of the partners, one’s an alderman, one is a guy who’s got a top job with the Chicago Public Schools. And this is a social equity license. That seems like a million miles away from social equity to me, personally.
So to me, social equity is this work, the workforce in cannabis in most of the locations we deal with is very diverse, incredibly diverse, and for the workers to get paid properly, that’s the social equity. That’s why it made sense to legalize cannabis is that wealth is being created, and with that wealth, people can profit off it by having good jobs, they can provide for their families, they can pay their rent, pay their car note on cannabis. So that’s the social equity we’re looking for, and I’m just excited to be part of this industry with these good people. So I really appreciate it Max, thanks for having us on the show.
Hell yeah. So that is our incredible panel of workers and organizers in the cannabis industry. Shout out to Teamsters Local 777 and to everyone out there who’s fighting to organize with their coworkers, to improve their lives, their workplaces, and ultimately help us all fight to make a better world together.
I want to thank Ami, Fro, Christopher, and Jim for joining us on The Real News. Guys, keep up the fight. Please let us know how things are going. And yeah, we’ll have you back on when you get that first contract. And we’re sending love and solidarity from Baltimore. Thank you for joining us today.
Thank you so much.
For everyone watching, this is Maximillian Alvarez. Before you go, please head on over to therealnews.com/support. Become a monthly sustainer of our work so we can keep bringing you important coverage and conversations just like this. Thank you so much for watching.
Thank you so much for watching The Real News Network, where we lift up the voices, stories and struggles that you care about most. And we need your help to keep doing this work. So please tap your screen now, subscribe, and donate to The Real News Network. Solidarity forever.
Australian National Review – Every Christian In America Is A Target Now
Every Christian in America is a Target Now
This is what happens when you systematically suck all of the values out of a society. There is utter lawlessness in the streets, and violence can literally erupt anywhere. On Monday, a mass shooter ruthlessly gunned down six Christians at a private Christian school in Nashville, Tennessee. The shooter once attended the school, but after leaving the school the shooter developed a deep hatred for the Christian values promoted there. Unfortunately, this incident is a microcosm of what is going on in our society as a whole. Countless voices are stirring up great hatred for the Christian faith, and all of that hate was inevitably going to result in great violence.
When I was growing up, I never imagined that someone would come in to a Christian gathering and start shooting.
But now every Christian in America is a potential target.
If you are a Christian, you will need to be on guard whenever you attend any type of a Christian event from this point forward.
I wish that this wasn’t true, but ignoring the reality of the world that we live in now could get you killed.
Prior to Monday, I am sure that most of those that worked at The Covenant School in Nashville never imagined that something like this would ever happen. The following comes from NBC News…
Three children and three staff members — whose ages ranged from 9 to 61 — were killed at a private Christian school in Nashville on Monday before the shooter, a heavily armed 28-year-old woman, was killed by police, authorities said.
The shooting unfolded at The Covenant School on Burton Hills Boulevard where officers “engaged” the attacker, described by Metropolitan Nashville Police Chief John Drake as a former student at the school.
Actually, NBC News is guilty of “misgendering” the shooter, because “Aiden” has not identified as a woman for quite some time…
BREAKING: Audrey E. Hale, the 28-year-old woman who identifies as he/him and uses the name “Aiden,” is identified as the now-deceased suspect who shot up a Christian school in Tennessee, killing 6, including 3 children. The killings follow the state banning the medical… pic.twitter.com/Sp4RfGwcUj
— Andy Ngô (@MrAndyNgo) March 27, 2023
And it is also being reported that the shooter “had a manifesto and detailed maps of the school”…
Police said the “lone zealot”, who lived in Nashville, was armed with two assault-type rifles, a pistol and a handgun.
Hale had a manifesto and detailed maps of the school, and entered the building by shooting through a door before the killings.
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) March 27, 2023
I can guarantee you that this story will disappear from the news cycle faster than other mass shootings, because it is not a story that the corporate media will be eager to tell.
But the truth is that violence against Christians and Christian institutions is on the rise.
The corporate media is always trying to convince us that political violence from the right is such a threat, but the numbers tell us that political violence is far, far more likely to come from the left. Here is just one example…
There have been 22 times more attacks against pro-life groups since the leak in early May of a draft Supreme Court opinion overturning Roe v. Wade compared to attacks on pro-choice organizations, new data show.
“The overwhelming narrative in the media is the claim those on the right are responsible for most of the politically motivated violence in the U.S. It has been a theme in the news media after the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision was leaked, with many claiming that there was disproportionate violence against pro-choice providers. But a review of cases shows over 22 times more violence against pro-life advocates,” John Lott, the founder and president of the Crime Prevention Research Center (CPRC), told Fox News Digital on Monday.
In recent years there have been hundreds of attacks on police by radical leftists, and one lunatic actually put a “bounty” on more than 9,300 Los Angeles police officers…
Three Los Angeles police officers are suing the owner of killercop.com, accusing him of publishing their photos on his website and putting out a “bounty” on them.
It is the first legal action stemming from the Los Angeles Police Department’s release of the names and photos of almost every sworn officer — more than 9,300 officers, including some who work undercover — as part of a public records request. A police watchdog group posted the images online last Friday.
But these days attacking those that are promoting traditional values has become even trendier than attacking the police.
Sadly, this is happening all over the western world. Just check out what happened when Posie Parker attempted to hold a public event in New Zealand the other day…
#WATCH RNZ’s Jordan Dunn captured the moment that Posie Parker was escorted away from the rally.
The counter-protest crowd gathered in Albert Park this morning before Parker’s speech, and made a cacophany of noise to drown her speech out.
— RNZ (@radionz) March 25, 2023
So what was her crime?
She believes that a “woman” is a biological woman.
If you don’t agree with her, then make your case.
But don’t get violent.
Sadly, the “woke crowd” has become so angry and so violent that you can’t even have a rational discussion with them about any of these issues. I really like how this guy put it…
Sean absolutely nails it.pic.twitter.com/b2VWwNrVbg
— James Melville (@JamesMelville) March 26, 2023
If you do not go along with their agenda, they will seek to punish you however they can.
In fact, a bill that has just been introduced in the Minnesota legislature would actually take children away from parents that do not allow their kids to get “gender-affirming health care”…
Minnesota lawmakers have advanced legislation introduced by a transgender representative that could strip custody from parents who do not support their child changing genders.
The bill, HF 146, moved forward with a vote of 68-62, along party lines.
The bill says that the state can claim temporary emergency jurisdiction over a child if they are in the state and “the child has been unable to obtain gender-affirming health care.” It is meant to prevent law enforcement from removing a child from parental custody based on an order made outside the state.
This is what we are becoming as a nation.
And the values that this nation was founded upon are rapidly disappearing…
Patriotism, religious faith, having children and other priorities that helped define the national character for generations are receding in importance to Americans, a new Wall Street Journal-NORC poll finds.
The survey, conducted with NORC at the University of Chicago, a nonpartisan research organization, also finds the country sharply divided by political party over social trends such as the push for racial diversity in businesses and the use of gender-neutral pronouns.
People often wonder why I talk about “values” so much.
This is why.
Our country is decaying from within, and most people don’t seem to care.
But if we don’t stand up now while we still can, eventually just about everything that we love about America will be completely gone.
Australian National Review – The Trump Campaign’s Collusion With Israel
The Trump Campaign’s Collusion With Israel
By James Bamford
While US media fixated on Russian interference in the 2016 election, an Israeli secret agent’s campaign to influence the outcome went unreported.
“Roger, hello from Jerusalem,” read the message from the Israeli secret agent. Dated August 12, 2016, it was addressed to Roger Stone—at the time a key player in Donald Trump’s presidential election campaign. “Any progress? He is going to be defeated unless we intervene. We have critical intel. The key is in your hands! Back in the US next week.” Later, the agent promised, “October Surprise coming!”
While the American media and political system fixated on Russian President Vladimir Putin and his armies of cyber warriors, trolls, and bots, what was completely missed in the Russiagate investigation of 2016 was the Israeli connection. No details of it were ever revealed in the heavily redacted Mueller Report. Nor was there any mention of an Israeli plot in the similarly redacted Senate Intelligence Committee Report on collusion charges in the 2016 election, or in any of the indictments or trials stemming from the Russia charges. Nor did any mention of Israeli involvement ever leak into the press. Yet I can reveal here the details of an elaborate covert operation personally directed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that aimed to use secret intelligence to clandestinely intervene at the highest levels in the presidential election on behalf of Trump.
Shadowy hints of the plot only became visible with the little-noticed release in 2020 of a heavily redacted May 2018 FBI search warrant and its accompanying affidavit. As part of the Mueller investigation, the bureau had conducted an extensive search for any foreign interference in the 2016 election, and the warrant was directed at securing the Google accounts of a mysterious Israeli agent acting under the direction of someone identified as “PM.” The FBI agent who wrote the affidavit noted, “I believe ‘PM’ refers to the ‘Prime Minister.’”
In the spring of 2016, no issue was more important to Benjamin Netanyahu than Donald Trump winning the White House. The GOP presidential candidate was key to everything he was after, from ending the Iran nuclear agreement, to recognizing Jerusalem—rather than Tel Aviv—as Israel’s capital, to continuing the occupation of Palestine. But November was months away, and there was no guarantee Trump would win. In the meantime, Netanyahu was under mounting pressure from President Barack Obama to finally resolve the issues surrounding Palestine. Leading the charge on behalf of Obama was Secretary of State John Kerry, who was equally determined to find a solution after many years of trying.
Kerry was not alone. The Middle East Quartet, a group formed to mediate the Palestine-Israel peace process that included representatives from the United Nations, the European Union, the United States, and Russia, was also seeking a solution to the issues surrounding the occupation—and it was about to release a report that was expected to be highly critical of Israel. With so much on the line, Netanyahu appears to have made a drastic decision. He would dispatch a discreet, highly trusted aide, armed with critical intelligence, to covertly “intervene” in the US election to help put his man Trump in the White House. Based on the FBI documents, the intelligence appears to have consisted of advance knowledge of Russia’s hacking of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, and it may have included confidential details from the stolen e-mails. It was likely obtained by Israeli eavesdropping operations that were targeting secret Russian communications, as well as those of WikiLeaks.
Although the affidavit did not specify any individual defendants, the numerous potential criminal charges laid out in the FBI documents spoke to the seriousness of the Israeli plot. They included violation of the foreign contributions ban, which prohibits foreigners from contributing money or something of value to federal, state, or local elections. Other charges included aiding and abetting, conspiracy, wire fraud, and attempted conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Still another charge, “unauthorized access to a protected computer,” indicates Israel may have conducted illegal hacking operations. Based on the e-mails and text messages contained in the documents, the conspiracy began in the late spring of 2016, when it was beginning to appear that Trump had a good chance of winning the Republican nomination.
This was also when the FBI and the media began focusing heavily on possible Russian collusion with the Trump campaign, as a result of Moscow’s hacking of the DNC and the Clinton campaign. But while the Mueller investigation was never able to conclusively demonstrate any collusion with Russia, the FBI did uncover hard evidence of extensive collusion between close Trump associates and the highest levels of the Israeli government.
On the sixth floor of a concrete-and-glass high-rise just south of Tel Aviv, behind a door marked “Unit 17” in Hebrew, political operatives plot newer and more creative ways to use fraud to win elections across much of the planet. The 16-story Azrieli Business Center in Holon is home to Archimedes Group, a private intelligence company that boasts that it can “change reality according to our client’s wishes.” Those clients stretch from Africa to Latin America to Southeast Asia.
In Nigeria in 2018, the company’s campaign of lies and misinformation helped reelect former military coup leader Muhammadu Buhari as president. Hired by other would-be presidents and politicians around the world in at least 13 countries, Archimedes soon had 3 million people following its phony Facebook and Instagram accounts. It even created bogus “fact-checking” accounts to lie about its fake news stories, claiming they were based on solid facts.
But in May 2019, Facebook caught on to the various scams and removed 265 Facebook and Instagram accounts from the orbit of the Archimedes operation. “Archimedes Group,” it said, “has repeatedly violated our misrepresentation and other policies, including by engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior. This organization and all its subsidiaries are now banned from Facebook, and it has been issued a cease and desist letter.”
Archimedes is hardly alone. An Israeli government official told the Times of Israel that outsourcing fake news and voter manipulation is a growth industry in Israel because many young Israelis who serve in intelligence units in the army are trained in the use of “avatars,” or fake identities, on social media. The Israeli government appears to have made no effort to halt or even curb the activity. Such inaction may be deliberate, since a number of the groups that engage in voter manipulation have close ties to the intelligence and defense agencies, possibly providing Netanyahu an opportunity to secretly manipulate foreign elections to Israel’s benefit.
In fact, a recent multinational journalistic investigation revealed that Israel has become a world center for the export of election fraud, fake news, hacking of private e-mails, and disinformation. Connections were discovered between private intelligence firms and both Israel’s Ministry of Defense and the firm Cambridge Analytica, which illegally collected data from more than 87 million Facebook users for use in the 2016 presidential campaigns of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.
The eight-month international collaborative project involved journalists from 30 news outlets, including Israel’s Haaretz, the UK’s Guardian and Observer, France’s Le Monde, Germany’s Der Spiegel, and Spain’s El Pais. They discovered an Israel-based “global private market in disinformation aimed at elections,” according to The Guardian. Among the individuals unmasked was Tal Hanan, a former Israeli special forces operative and the head of a secretive organization with the code name “Team Jorge” whose specialty was weaponizing disinformation worldwide “to covertly meddle in elections without a trace,” said The Guardian.
Hanan told the undercover reporters that his services had been used in Africa, South and Central America, the US, and Europe, and that his company had completed “33 presidential-level campaigns, 27 of which were successful.”
What was not revealed in this investigation, however, was the separate and far more covert operation undertaken by Netanyahu and his secret agent to clandestinely manipulate America’s 2016 presidential election for Netanyahu’s own political purposes.
For years, the man Netanyahu relied on to do battle with Kerry and the Quartet was his top personal aide, Isaac Molho, a secretive and shadowy private attorney who was trusted with the prime minister’s most sensitive missions. “There has probably never been a person in the history of this country in such a desirable position as Isaac Molho,” Haaretz noted. “He enjoys almost complete silence from the media…. On Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s instructions, Molho undertakes sensitive missions to countries with which Israel has no diplomatic ties. The Mossad supplies him with logistical backing, security and transport.”
Some of Molho’s assignments are too sensitive even for the Mossad—a fact that has at times frustrated those at the spy agency. “The Mossad gritted its teeth over the past eight years while watching the diplomatic missions carried out by Isaac Molho, without any requirement to take a polygraph test and as a private citizen with business and other affairs that are not subject to civil service regulations,” Haaretz said. In addition to national loyalty, Molho, whose wife is Netanyahu’s cousin, may even be acting out of family loyalty.
Although the secret agent’s name was redacted from the FBI’s search warrant, his profile, as outlined in the accompanying affidavit, is strikingly similar to that of Isaac Molho. Like Molho, who was described by Haaretz as a “discreet man for sensitive missions,” the secret agent is described as highly trusted and very close to Netanyahu. Most important, at one point, according to the affidavit, the agent was summoned from the US to Rome at a moment’s notice to be by Netanyahu’s side on a date the Israeli prime minister was conducting negotiations with John Kerry in the Italian capital over Palestine. This critical role was for many years played exclusively by Molho. In addition, the agent referred to in the warrant had enough clout and authority to direct the actions of two other high-ranking Israeli officials involved in the clandestine operation to influence the results of the US election. Molho did not respond to The Nation’s request for comment.
The key for the Israeli agent was finding a back door—a covert channel—to Trump. Roger Stone, long a key Trump aide, fit the bill. Although Stone had formally left the campaign, he and Trump spoke frequently and confidentially. For these calls, Trump would often use the phone of his security director, Keith Schiller, “because he did not want his advisers to know they were talking,” according to Sam Nunberg, a political adviser who served on Trump’s 2016 election campaign. Stone energetically supported Israel’s harsh occupation of the Palestinian territories and its bellicose stance toward Iran; following Trump’s speech at an American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference in March 2016, Stone noted approvingly that “Donald Trump is a radical Zionist.”
Another Trump aide heavily involved in the conspiracy, according to the FBI documents, was Stone’s associate Jerome Corsi, who appears to have been the original contact who connected the Israelis to Stone. An ultraconservative journalist with a doctorate in political science from Harvard and the author of a shelf of books harshly critical of liberals and Democrats, Corsi was a leading literary light of the extreme right. He gained fame in 2004 for his “swiftboating” attacks on the military record of then–presidential candidate John Kerry. The secret agent was particularly drawn to Corsi’s adulation of Israel and support for its belligerence toward Iran.
Hiding behind his online pseudonym “jrlc,” Corsi was also a virulent Islamophobe. Posting on the conservative forum FreeRepublic.com, he has called Islam “a virus” and “a worthless, dangerous Satanic religion” and has written that “Islam is a peaceful religion as long as the women are beaten, the boys buggered, and the infidels killed.”
After Corsi provided contact information to Stone, the secret Israeli agent and Stone connected. Then, on May 17, the agent wrote, “Hi Roger, I hope all is well. Our dinner tonight for 7PM is confirmed. I arrive at 4PM. Please suggest a good restaurant that has privacy.” The original plan was for Stone and the agent to meet alone, but Stone wanted to bring Corsi along as backup. “I am uncomfortable meeting without Jerry,” Stone wrote, and then rescheduled the dinner for the next day.
According to the FBI warrant, the same day that Stone communicated with the Israeli agent, he began Googling some very strange terms, including “guccifer” and “dcleaks.” It would be nearly a month before those same terms would make headlines around the world. On June 14, The Washington Post reported that the DNC had been hacked by Russian government agents. The next day, someone calling himself “Guccifer 2.0” took credit for the attack. He claimed to be an American hacktivist, but according to a Justice Department indictment in July 2018, he was actually a Russian GRU employee. Soon afterward, the website DCLeaks—another front for the GRU—began releasing hacked Democratic Party documents.
The timing implies that the Israeli agent was Stone’s most likely source of confirmed details of a Russian cyberattack on the DNC, a month before it became known to anyone outside of the Kremlin and the GRU. If that’s the case, there are two critical questions: How did the Israeli agent know, and why was he revealing the details to a close associate of Trump rather than to the Obama administration, Israel’s supposed ally?
On May 18, the day after Stone’s Google searches, Stone, Corsi, and the Israeli agent met for dinner at the 21 Club on 52nd Street in New York City. The restaurant, which features a balcony lined with painted iron lawn jockeys, was a regular Trump hangout. At the top of the agent’s agenda was getting Stone to quickly set up a confidential meeting with the candidate. The next day, the agent pressed Stone in an e-mail: “Did You Talk To Trump This Morning? Any News?” But Stone was coy. “Contact made—interrupted—mood good.”
Then, in early June, according to the Senate Intelligence Committee Report, Stone learned that Julian Assange, the head of WikiLeaks, was about to release something “big.” Stone relayed the details to Rick Gates, Trump’s deputy campaign manager, and told him that Assange appeared to have Clinton’s e-mails. Yet it wasn’t until later, on June 12, that Assange would publicly announce that WikiLeaks had “emails relating to Hillary Clinton which are pending publication.”
These were the first of many tips to Stone that appear to have come from his new Israeli friend. Two days later, the DNC announced that it had been hacked by Russia. The day after that, Stone again Googled “Guccifer” and “dcleaks,” hours before Guccifer 2.0 publicly claimed responsibility. On June 21, as Guccifer released more documents, the Israeli agent notified Stone that he was in New York accompanied by a senior official and would like a meeting with Trump. “RS: Secret,” said the message, according to the FBI documents. “Cabinet Minister [redacted] in NYC. Available for DJT meeting.”
Other parts of the message were also redacted, but in the affidavit the FBI revealed the cabinet minister’s official title: “According to publicly-available information, during this time [redacted] was a Minister without portfolio in the [redacted] cabinet dealing with issues concerning defense and foreign affairs.” At the time, the only minister without portfolio in the Israeli government was Tzachi Hanegbi, one of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s oldest and closest confidants, and Wikipedia (the likely source of the FBI agent’s “publicly- available information”) uses nearly identical language to describe him. Israeli press reports at the time indicated that Hanegbi was in the United States on that date as part of a delegation attending the unveiling of Israel’s new F-35 stealth fighter jet.
Married to an American from Florida and fluent in English, Hanegbi previously held a post as minister of intelligence supervising Mossad and Shin Bet, the Israeli internal security service. The question is, why would a high-level confidant of Netanyahu’s, with an intelligence background and close American links, seek a secret meeting with a US presidential candidate?
Trump had been busy, hustling from city to city on the campaign trail and hitting several rallies a day. Taking valuable time to meet a couple of Israeli contacts was not a high priority, especially without any idea what the meeting would be about. So, on June 25, Hanegbi returned to Israel. “Roger, Minister left,” said the Israeli agent. “Sends greetings from PM. When am I meeting DJT? Should I stay or leave Sunday as planned?” The next day, Stone replied, “I would not leave as we hope to schedule the meeting mon or tues.”
One possible explanation of the agent’s sense of urgency was Obama’s and Kerry’s increasing pressure on Netanyahu to resolve the Palestinian issue. A key element of that solution would be agreeing to negotiate an equitable division of Jerusalem, since both sides claimed it as their capital. But if his secret agent could confidentially meet with Trump and get a commitment that, if elected, he would support keeping Jerusalem undivided, then Netanyahu could ignore Obama. An election win for Trump, therefore, would also be a win for Netanyahu. Especially since the candidate was already fully committed to another key issue for Netanyahu: canceling the nuclear deal with Iran.
Suddenly, there was a change in plans. According to the FBI documents, the agent was ordered by Netanyahu to postpone the appointment with Trump and instead get on the next plane for Rome. In a last-minute effort to find a solution to Jerusalem and the Palestinian issue, meetings in the Italian capital were set up between Netanyahu, Kerry, and the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini. Netanyahu wanted his aide, the agent, at his side. At the meeting, the elephant in the room was a forthcoming report by the Middle East Quartet. It was expected by all to be extremely critical of Israel for its apartheid settlement policies and its treatment of the occupied Palestinians.
The night before the meeting, Netanyahu and Kerry met for dinner at Pierluigi, a popular seafood restaurant in Piazza de Ricci, a block from the Tiber. “What is your plan for the Palestinians?” Kerry asked as the prime minister began chain-smoking a batch of thick Cuban cigars. “What do you want to happen now?” Netanyahu offered a vague response involving a regional initiative, but Kerry wasn’t buying it. “You have no path of return to direct talks with the Palestinians, or a channel to talks with Arab countries,” Kerry told the prime minister, according to Haaretz. “You’ve hit the glass ceiling. What’s your plan?” he asked again. But Netanyahu may well have had one: to use his agent, perhaps sitting with them at that very table, to help put Trump in the White House.
On June 28, after the meeting in Rome had concluded, the agent quickly dashed off another message to Stone: “RETURNING TO DC AFTER URGENT CONSULTATIONS WITH PM IN ROME. MUST MEET WITH YOU WED. EVE AND WITH DJ TRUMP THURSDAY IN NYC.”
The meeting with Trump was rescheduled for 1 pm on Wednesday, July 6, before the candidate took off for a rally in Sharonville, Ohio. The Israeli agent flew to New York the day before and checked into the St. Regis, the French Beaux Arts–style hotel on East 55th Street. The next morning, he had planned to rendezvous with Stone in the lobby for a pre-meeting discussion. “At the St Regis With Lt General. Waiting For You Thank You,” he wrote.
But there were problems involving secrecy. Stone, at his home in Florida, had come down with a bad cold and was too ill to travel, so he arranged for Corsi to make the introduction. That made the Israeli agent uncomfortable because of the sensitive nature of the discussion. “I have to meet Trump alone,” he said, and they agreed that Corsi would leave after the introduction. There was still another problem, however. The meeting was meant to be secret, but the agent was accompanied by an Israeli lieutenant general. So once again the meeting had to be postponed.
Who was this lieutenant general? Unlike in the United States, where the highest military rank is a four-star general, in Israel it’s a three-star lieutenant general, and there is only one, the chief of the General Staff, the commander in chief of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF)—the equivalent of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. At the time, that was Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot. But it’s unlikely that Eizenkot was the person waiting in the lobby of the St. Regis to meet with Trump. Eizenkot had little to do with the election—and had actually sided with Obama on the issue of Iran. In January 2016, he said that the nuclear deal “had actually removed the most serious danger to Israel’s existence for the foreseeable future, and greatly reduced the threat over the longer term.”
Instead, it may have been Eizenkot’s predecessor, Benny Gantz, who had retired as head of the IDF in February 2015 but still held the rank of lieutenant general in the reserves and was often referred to by his military title. He was in charge of the IDF during Israel’s war on Palestinians in Gaza in 2014. It was a war that produced a “vastly disproportionate” number of civilian deaths: 1,400 of the nearly 2,300 people killed in the conflict, according to Human Rights Watch. Gantz would later boast that “parts of Gaza were sent back to the Stone Age.”
In May 2020, Gantz would become the second-most-powerful person in Israel under Netanyahu, as the alternate prime minister. At the time of the canceled meeting with Trump, however, he was the chairman of Fifth Dimension, an Israeli private intelligence company run by a former deputy head of Mossad, with another former Mossad member as CEO.
Fifth Dimension wasn’t the only Israeli spy company with close ties to Israeli intelligence. Another was Psy Group, a private intelligence firm that operated under the motto “Shape Reality.” Earlier that year, on behalf of the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, Psy Group had carried out Project Butterfly, a covert operation that spied on and attacked Americans who supported the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. In April 2016, it offered Trump campaign official Rick Gates another secret operation, Project Rome. The subtitle of the six-page proposal clearly spelled out its objective to covertly interfere with the US presidential election: “Campaign Intelligence & Influence Services Proposal.”
Secrecy was paramount. “We recommend keeping this activity compartmentalized and on need-to-know basis since secrecy is a key factor in the success of the activity,” the proposal said. “Due to the sensitivity of some of the activities and the need for compartmentalization and secrecy, Psy Group will use code names.” Trump was called “Lion,” Hillary Clinton was “Forest,” and Ted Cruz was “Bear.” “This document details the services proposed by Psy Group for the ‘Lion’ project between now and July 2016,” the proposal noted, referring to the period of the US primaries.
The Project Rome proposal read like an official Ministry of Strategic Affairs or Mossad operational document, referring to “multisource intelligence collection,” “covert sources,” “automated collection and analysis,” and an “intelligence dossier on each target, including actionable intelligence.” “Once the information has been uncovered or extracted, it is delivered to the Influence platform for use in the campaign as needed,” the proposal said.
Project Rome’s “Influence+ process” platform involved targeting American voters through “authentic-looking 3rd party platforms”—that is, fake news sites—and also through the use of “tailored avatars,” thousands of phony social media accounts on platforms such as Facebook. “The purpose of these platforms is to engage the targets and actively convince them or sway their opinion towards our goals.” The “targets” were unwitting American voters. “The team will include over 40 intelligence and influence experts,” the document said. Then there were what internal company e-mails called “physical world ops like counter protesters, hecklers, etc.” The techniques were nearly identical to those used by the Israeli firms Archimedes Group and “Team Jorge” to secretly throw elections around the world.
The price tag for the operation was $3,210,000, with another $100,000 for media expenses and $400,000 more for “negative opposition.” It appears that Gates, wisely, passed on Project Rome. The key players behind Psy Group later formed a new Israeli company, Percepto International. Also investigated by the international journalism collaboration, it was labeled “an Israeli factory for online deception” by Haaretz.
Despite the Trump campaign’s rejection of Project Rome, covert high-level approaches to Roger Stone to get directly to Trump continued.
“Hi Roger,” the Israeli agent wrote on July 8. “Have you rescheduled the meeting with DJT? The PM is putting pressure for a quick decision.” Stone wrote back that Trump would not be back in New York until after the Republican National Convention, so the meeting would have to be postponed until then. He added, “Sorry about the fiasco last week, however you can’t just bring the General without tell[ing] me.”
As Trump stormed the Midwest for votes, Guccifer 2.0 was making final preparations for another major release of documents. On July 14, Guccifer sent WikiLeaks an e-mail titled “big archive,” with a one-gigabyte encrypted attachment. Four days later, on July 18, the WikiLeaks Twitter account notified Guccifer the data had been received and that release of the hacked DNC e-mails was planned for later in the week.
On or around the next day, Donald Trump was in his New York office venting at the press for its criticism of his wife Melania’s Republican convention address the night before. There were accusations that she had borrowed passages from a speech by Michelle Obama. At some point, however, according to Trump attorney Michael Cohen’s Senate Intelligence Committee testimony, Trump took a phone call from Roger Stone.
“Roger, how are you?” said Trump.
“Good,” Stone replied. “Just want to let you know I got off the telephone a moment ago with Julian Assange. And in a couple of days, there’s going to be a massive dump of e-mails that’s going to be extremely damaging to the Clinton campaign.”
Trump was pleased. “Uh, that’s good. Keep me posted,” he said into a small black speaker box on his desk. Sitting nearby was Michael Cohen. “Do you believe him? Do you think Roger really spoke to Assange?” Trump asked.
“I don’t know,” Cohen said. “Roger is Roger, and for all you know, he was looking on his Twitter account. I don’t know the answer.”
In the end, neither Mueller’s team nor the FBI could ever find any substantive or conspiratorial communications between Stone and WikiLeaks. He had exchanged a few innocuous messages with Guccifer, later reviewed by the FBI, but there was no indication of how Stone could have known what he knew—which left only one apparent explanation: that the information had been passed to him by Netanyahu’s agent. As in the case of the DNC hack, the information was 100 percent accurate. There was never any evidence that Stone learned of the releases from either WikiLeaks or the Russians, but during that period both he and Jerome Corsi were in contact with the Israeli agent. Israel’s version of the NSA, Unit 8200, which employs some of the most highly trained signals intelligence specialists in the world and is equipped with advanced intercept capabilities, may well have been surveilling Russia and WikiLeaks.
Three days later, on July 22, as Hillary Clinton was preparing to announce her choice of a running mate on the eve of the Democratic National Convention, WikiLeaks released approximately 20,000 e-mails stolen from the DNC. “I guess Roger was right,” Trump told Cohen. Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager, agreed. Sitting on the tarmac in his plane, about to take off for his next rally, Trump delayed the flight for half an hour to work the messages into his speech. Hungry for more, he later told Manafort to keep in touch with Stone about future WikiLeaks releases.
On Wednesday, July 29, the Israeli agent was back in touch with Stone and Corsi and eager to connect with Trump now that the convention was over and he was the Republican nominee. “HI ROGER,” the agent wrote. “HAVE YOU SET UP A NEW MEETING WITH TRUMP? I PLAN TO BE BACK IN THE US NEXT WEEK. PLEASE ADVISE. THANK YOU.” Stone sent a message to Manafort about finding a time to communicate, writing that there was “good shit happening.” The next day, the two spoke on the phone for 68 minutes. The following day, July 31, Stone had two phone calls with Trump that lasted over 10 minutes.
Then on Tuesday, August 2, despite previous failed attempts to connect with Assange, Corsi was nevertheless able to send a detailed message to Stone about WikiLeaks’ future plans:
Word is friend in embassy plans 2 more dumps. One shortly after I’m back. 2nd in Oct. Impact planned to be very damaging…. Time to let more than Podesta to be exposed as in bed w enemy if they are not ready to drop HRC. That appears to be the game hackers are now about. Would not hurt to start suggesting HRC old, memory bad, has stroke—neither he nor she well. I expect that much of next dump focus, setting stage for Foundation debacle.
Corsi later told Stone that there was “more to come than anyone realizes. Won’t really get started until after Labor Day.” The details, including the first indication that Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta was a target, were coming from somewhere other than Assange.
“Roger—As per PM we have one last shot before moving on,” the Israeli agent wrote to Stone on August 9. “Can you deliver? History will not forgive us. TRUMP IN FREE FALL. OCTOBER SURPRISE COMING!” What the “October Surprise” consisted of was left unexplained, but the implication was that there would be a spectacular new release of stolen e-mails, possibly centering on Podesta.
Three days later, the agent was even more frantic. He sent Stone his “hello from Jerusalem” message, promising that his government was prepared to “intervene” in the US election to help Trump win the presidency and offering to share critical intelligence to make it happen. Stone replied cryptically: “Matters complicated. Pondering.” Then, the following week, on August 20, Corsi suggested a meeting with the secret agent to determine “what if anything Israel plans to do in Oct.”
From the messages, it appears that Israel either had its own October Surprise planned or was aware of Guccifer’s planned release of the Podesta e-mails before the election. The day after Corsi suggested meeting with Netanyahu’s agent, Stone for the first time publicly indicated that Podesta would soon become a target of WikiLeaks—thereby predicting the event six weeks before it happened. “Trust me, it will soon the [sic] Podesta’s time in the barrel. #CrookedHillary,” said his tweet. Since neither Assange nor Guccifer was a source for either Corsi or Stone, the tweet once again points to the Israeli agent who was in communication with both of them about the October Surprise.
The prospect of an October Surprise, along with the offer of critical intelligence, apparently got Trump’s attention. On September 25, he and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, met privately with Netanyahu and Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer in his Trump Tower penthouse. Later that day, he publicly announced that if he was elected, his administration would finally “recognize Jerusalem as the undivided capital of the State of Israel.” Since 1947, there has been virtual unanimity within the international community—and among US presidents—that the future of Jerusalem must be the subject of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Now Trump was vowing to trash that consensus, along with the Palestinians, and support Netanyahu’s agenda. Whether Trump and the Israeli agent ever met in person is unclear. By late summer, Stone and Corsi were becoming increasingly concerned about potential charges, and to eliminate a paper trail they began meeting only in private with the agent. What is very clear, however, is that in the end Netanyahu got what he wanted—and so did Trump.
Around the same time, Stone had a conversation with Paul Manafort, who by then had left the campaign but stayed in communication with Trump’s political circles. According to Manafort’s later Senate Intelligence Committee testimony, Stone told him that “John Podesta was going to be in the barrel,” repeating the claim he made by tweet on August 21, and that “there were going to be leaks of John Podesta’s emails.” A few days later, on September 29, Stone called Trump, who was on the way to New York’s LaGuardia Airport in his black bulletproof limo. After concluding the call, Trump told Rick Gates, who was sitting next to him, that “more releases of damaging information would be coming.”
On October 7, WikiLeaks unleashed 2,050 Podesta e-mails that were damaging to Hillary Clinton and her campaign—just as Stone had predicted a month and a half earlier. But Stone’s concern about potential criminal charges seems to have turned into outright paranoia. Given that he had no close links to Assange or the Russians, the likely focus of his concerns were his numerous communications with the Israeli secret agent. After all, Stone had discussed clandestine foreign intervention in a presidential election, had made arrangements for Trump to meet a foreign agent, and had predicted the October Surprise. The prospect that authorities might look into any of these actions could certainly have been sufficient to rattle his nerves.
By secretly assisting Netanyahu’s agent in an attempt to make contact with a presidential candidate—aware that he intended to interfere in the US election on behalf of his country—both Stone and Corsi could have faced serious charges as agents of a foreign power under Section 951 of the criminal code, which makes it a crime to covertly assist a foreign government without registering.
Even before WikiLeaks released the Podesta e-mails in October, Stone and Corsi seemed to become nervous that someone would discover their back channel. Soon after the “Podesta’s time in the barrel” tweet in August, Stone and Corsi tried to find a way to somehow account for that unique insight. On August 30, Corsi said in his 2019 book Silent No More, “I suggested Stone could use me as an excuse, claiming my research on Podesta and Russia was the basis for Stone’s prediction that Podesta would soon be in the pickle barrel.” He added, “I knew this was a cover-story, in effect not true, since I recalled telling Stone earlier in August that Assange had Podesta e-mails that he planned to drop as the ‘October Surprise.’” The next day, Corsi said, he e-mailed to Stone “a nine-page background memorandum on John Podesta that I had written that day at Stone’s request.”
Following the Podesta dump, the cover-up became more frantic. Stone ordered Corsi to delete e-mails related to Podesta and hid his own communications with Corsi about WikiLeaks. Stone also pointed a finger at Randy Credico, a onetime friend who had a radio program in New York, as his back channel to WikiLeaks. Credico had interviewed Assange on his program, but that was four days after Stone’s tweet about Podesta’s upcoming time in the barrel. Credico denied under oath that he had acted as a back channel for Stone, and there was never any evidence to show he had.
In a predawn raid on January 25, 2019, heavily armed FBI agents stormed Roger Stone’s Fort Lauderdale, Fla., home and placed him under arrest. He was charged with seven criminal offenses, including one count of obstruction of an official proceeding, five counts of false statements, and one count of witness tampering. Later that day, Stone was released on a $250,000 signature bond. Defiant, he said he would refuse to “bear false witness” against Trump. Finally, on November 15, 2019, after a weeklong trial and two days of deliberations, Stone was convicted on all counts and sentenced to 40 months in federal prison. But on July 10, 2020, a few days before Stone was to turn himself in, Trump commuted his sentence, personally calling him with the news.
Throughout this chain of events—including the trial, the Mueller Report, and the nearly 1,000-page Senate Intelligence Committee Report—no hint of the involvement of Israel was made public. Despite the clear violations of US law and months of clandestine, high-level attempted interference in the presidential election, no details were released, and no congressional hearings or investigations took place. Nor was there ever a hint in the press, which remained transfixed by Russia.
The evidence, however, suggests that throughout the summer and into the fall of 2016, Israel illegally interfered in the US presidential election. A top agent of Netanyahu was secretly offering intelligence and other covert assistance to Trump to get him elected—all with virtually no oversight or scrutiny by the FBI or the US media, though both had numerous personnel in Israel at the time. Now Netanyahu is back in office as prime minister, and Trump is once again running for president. All the ingredients are there for history to repeat itself, unless the Justice Department and Congress conduct long-overdue investigations into the real source of secret foreign collaboration and interference in the 2016 election, and both the FBI and the media remove their self-imposed blinders when it comes to Israel.
Australian National Review – Governance By Artificial Intelligence:The Ultimate Unaccountable Tyranny: The Elites Will Present AI As The Great Adjudicator, The Pure And Logical Intercessor Of The Correct Path; Not Just For Nations And For Populations At Large But For Each Individual
Governance By Artificial Intelligence:The Ultimate Unaccountable Tyranny: The elites will Present AI as the Great adjudicator, the Pure and Logical Intercessor of the Correct Path; Not Just for Nations and For Populations at Large But for Each individual
By Brandon Smith
It’s no secret that globalist institutions are obsessed with Artificial Intelligence as some kind of technological prophecy. They treat it as if it is almost supernatural in its potential and often argue that every meaningful industrial and social innovation in the near future will owe its existence to AI. The World Economic Forum cites AI as the singular key to the rise of what they call the “Fourth Industrial Revolution.” In their view, there can be no human progress without the influence of AI algorithms, making human input almost obsolete.
This delusion is often promoted by globalist propagandists. For example, take a look at the summarized vision of WEF member Yuval Harari, who actually believes that AI has creative ability that will replace human imagination and innovation. Not only that, but Harari has consistently argued in the past that AI will run the world much better than human beings ever could.
Harari’s examples of AI creativity might sound like extreme naivety to many of us, but he knows exactly what he is doing in misrepresenting the capabilities of algorithms. Games like chess and Go are games of patterns restricted by rules, there only so many permutations of these patterns in any given scenario and AI is simply faster at spotting them than most humans because that is what it is designed to do by software creators. This is no different that solving a mathematical equation; just because a calculator is faster than you does not mean it is “creative.”
There is a big difference between cognitive automation and cognitive autonomy. AI is purely automation; it will play the games it is programmed to play and will learn to play them well, but it will never have an epiphany one day and create a new and unique game from scratch unless it is coded to do so. AI will never have fun playing this new game it made, or feel the joy of sharing that game with others, so why would it bother? It will never seek to contribute to the world any more than it is pre-programmed to do.
The manner in which globalists hype AI is very tactical, however. When Harari claims that many people will become part of the “useless class” once AI takes over the economy, he is hinting at another globalist ideology based on elitism – Transhumanism. The goal of transhumanism is to one day merge human bodies and human minds with technology and AI, and only a limited group of people will have the resources to accomplish this (the globalists).
Are you afraid of becoming part of the “useless class”? Well, if you scrape and beg and serve every whim of the elitist establishment then maybe you will be lucky enough to get implants which allow you to interface with AI, and then your future employment and “usefulness” will be secured. Doesn’t that sound nice?
But, like all the visions of narcissists there are delusions of godhood and then there is reality. I continue to have serious doubts that AI will ever be legitimately autonomous or legitimately beneficial to humanity in any way beyond having the ability to calculate quickly within mathematical rules. Speedy data analysis can be useful in many areas of science, but it’s not really proof of autonomous intelligence, and algorithms can be predictive but not any more predictive than human beings looking at the same statistical data. There is nothing about AI that is impressive when one considers what little it actually accomplishes.
AI is a toy, a parlor trick, not a living entity with independent observations and conclusions. And, it’s certainly not a god-like being capable of showering us with scientific ambrosia or building a perfect civilization. I predict that a society dependent on AI will actually stagnate and remain trapped in stasis, never really inventing anything of much value and never progressing. It will only ever be concerned with homogenization – The merging of people with the algorithm. That is where ALL the society’s energies will go.
As a point of reference to why AI is overrated, all we have to do is look at the behavior of AI programs like ChatGPT; the algorithm has been discovered on numerous occasions to contain extreme political biases always leaning to the far-left, including biases based in beliefs not backed in any way by scientific evidence. Interestingly, ChatGPT will even at times display a seemingly hostile response to conservative concepts or inconvenient facts. The bot will then DENY it is giving personal opinions even when its responses are consistently pro-leftist.
How is political bias possible for a piece of software unless it was programmed to display that bias? There is no objectivity to be found in AI, nor any creativity, it will simply regurgitate the personal opinions or biases of the people that created it and that engineered how it processes data.
Unlike a typical human teenager that seeks to adopt the opposing social or political beliefs of their parents in order set themselves apart, AI will never metaphorically dye its hair blue, pierce its nose and proclaim itself vegan – It will always do what its creators want it to do. Another example of this dynamic is AI art, which essentially steals the stylistic properties of numerous human artists entered into its database and copies them. While imitation might be considered the highest form of flattery, it’s not the same as creativity.
This might not sound like much of a problem when it comes to a simple chatbot or the making of cartoons. But, it’s a massive problem when we start talking about AI influencing social and governmental policies.
The globalists argue that AI will be everywhere – In business, in schools, in corporate operations, in scientific enterprises, and even within government. It MUST run everything. Why? They don’t really say why other than to make vague promises of incredible advancements and previously unimaginable benefits. To date, there have been no profound innovations produced by AI, but I suppose pro-AI propagandists will say that the golden age is “right around the corner.”
The uses for AI are truly limited to helping humans with simple tasks, but there is still a cost. A self driving car might be great for a person that is physically handicapped, but it can also be a crutch that convinces a population to never learn to drive themselves. By extension, AI is in a lot of ways the ULTIMATE crutch which leads to ultimate tyranny. If people are convinced to hand over normal human processes and decision making opportunities to automation, then they have handed over their freedoms in exchange for convenience.
More importantly, if algorithms are allowed to dictate a large portion of choices and conclusions, people will no longer feel a sense of accountability for their actions. Regardless of the consequences, all they have to do for the rest of their lives is tell themselves they were only following the suggestions (or orders) of AI. The AI becomes a form of external collectivized conscience; an artificial moral compass for the hive mind.
But who will really be controlling that moral compass and bottle-necking the decisions of millions of people? Will it be the AI, or the elites behind the curtain that manipulate the algorithm?
For many people this probably sounds like science fiction. Yes, there have been many fictional imaginings of what the world would be like in the shadow of AI – I would highly recommend the French New Wave film ‘Alphaville’ as one of the most accurate predictions on the horrors of AI and technocracy. However, what I am warning about here is not some far off theoretical future, it is already here. Take a look at this disturbing video on AI from the World Government Summit:
These are the blatant goals of globalists in plain view, with a sugar coating to make them more palatable. I wrote about the motivations of the elites and their worshipful reverence for AI in my article ‘Artificial Intelligence: A Secular Look At The Digital Antichrist’. That piece was focused on the philosophical drives that make globalists desire AI.
In this article I want to stress the issue of AI governance and how it might be made to appeal to the masses. In order to achieve the dystopian future the globalists want, they still have to convince a large percentage of the population to applaud it and embrace it.
The comfort of having a system that makes difficult decisions for us is an obvious factor, as mentioned above. But, AI governance is not just about removing choice, it’s also about removing the information we might need to be educated enough to make choices. We saw this recently with the covid pandemic restrictions and the collusion between governments, corporate media and social media. Algorithms were widely used by web media conglomerates from Facebook to YouTube to disrupt the flow of information that might run contrary to the official narrative.
In some cases the censorship targeted people merely asking pertinent questions or fielding alternative theories. In other cases, the censorship outright targeted provably factual data that was contrary to government policies. A multitude of government claims on covid origins, masking, lockdowns and vaccines have been proven false over the past few years, and yet millions of people still blindly believe the original narrative because they were bombarded with it nonstop by the algorithms. They were never exposed to the conflicting information, so they were never able to come to their own conclusions.
Luckily, unlike bots, human intelligence is filled with anomalies – People who act on intuition and skepticism in order to question preconceived or fabricated assertions. The lack of contrary information immediately causes suspicion for many, and this is what authoritarian governments often refuse to grasp.
The great promise globalists hold up in the name of AI is the idea of a purely objective state; a social and governmental system without biases and without emotional content. It’s the notion that society can be run by machine thinking in order to “save human beings from themselves” and their own frailties. It is a false promise, because there will never be such a thing as objective AI, nor any AI that understand the complexities of human psychological development.
Furthermore, the globalist dream of AI is driven not by adventure, but by fear. It’s about the fear of responsibility, the fear of merit, the fear of inferiority, the fear of struggle and the fear of freedom. The greatest accomplishments of mankind are admirable because they are achieved with emotional content, not in spite of it. It is that content that inspires us to delve into the unknown and overcome our fears. AI governance and an AI integrated society would be nothing more than a desperate action to deny the necessity of struggle and the will to overcome.
Globalists are more than happy to offer a way out of the struggle, and they will do it with AI as the face of their benevolence. All you will have to do is trade your freedoms and perhaps your soul in exchange for never having to face the sheer terror of your own quiet thoughts. Some people, sadly, believe this is a fair trade.
The elites will present AI as the great adjudicator, the pure and logical intercessor of the correct path; not just for nations and for populations at large but for each individual life. With the algorithm falsely accepted as infallible and purely unbiased, the elites can then rule the world through their faceless creation without any oversight – For they can then claim that it’s not them making decisions, it’s the AI. How does one question or even punish an AI for being wrong, or causing disaster? And, if the AI happens to make all its decisions in favor of the globalist agenda, well, that will be treated as merely coincidental.
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