The comic biopic War Dogs starring Jonah Hill as Efraim Diveroli, the 22-year-old Miami Beach international arms dealer whose scandal was a nine days’ wonder in 2008, serves as a fun test of my instincts about how the world actually works.
Eight years ago, I went out on a limb to predict that the stoner bro who won a $300 million Pentagon contract to supply AK-47 ammunition to the Afghan army wasn’t going to be the Bush administration’s Watergate or even its Iran-Contra. The more I looked into it, the less it smelled like a vast conspiracy implicating the entire military-industrial complex all the way up to Dick Cheney…and the more it seemed like a Jonah Hill movie.
By the way, here’s video of the 2008 mushroom cloud over Tirana, Albania. It almost certainly wasn’t Diveroli’s fault, although it involved people he was involved with. Albania’s paranoid dictator Enver Hoxha, who hated both the West and the Soviets, made it the most heavily armed country on Earth. For awhile Albania was friends with Chairman Mao, but then Hoxha turned against the Chinese for Marxist deviationism. When Albania joined NATO, the country set about destroying its former Communist ammunition, but occasionally there would be slip-ups. And, when there was, Ka-Boom!
Also, commenter Brutusale points out this scene in an Adam Sandler movie that explains a lot of the business model Diveroli brought to international arms dealing:
A growing genre of film is the nonfiction business movie, such as The Social Network and Steve Jobs (which goes into national release on Friday), and the upcoming The Big Short. Jonah Hill has had memorable supporting roles in a couple of recent such films, Moneyball and The Wolf of Wall Street. (A popular theme in some of these movies is that the point of being successful in business is to be able to afford more strip club visits.) Now Hill is moving up to the lead, playing lowbrow arms dealer Efraim Diveroli in Arms and the Dudes, coming in March 2016.
Back in 2008, this was a nine-days-wonder story about how the Bush Administration had awarded a giant ammunition contract to a couple of Miami Beach stoners, Efraim Diveroli and David Packouz. This was obviously a conspiracy that went all the way to the top! Surely, Diveroli must have been a huge GOP donor. This would be the scandal that would bring down Dick Cheney!
Except the more I thought about the details of the story, the more it reminded me less of some movie thriller and more about something more mundane. As I blogged in 2008:
In the wake of the NYT’s story on 22-year-old high school-dropout Efraim E. Diveroli, who snagged $202,000,000 in U.S. government ammunition contracts in Fiscal Year 2007 to supply bullets to the embattled Afghan government, many people are wondering how the federal government could have handed out such a big contract to some loser who has been arrested twice in his young life: for drunk driving and for beating up a parking valet.
You would think that somebody in our huge federal government might want to do some background checks on the Internet. For example, the only job Diveroli has ever held besides working for his dad Michael Diveroli was working for his uncle Bar-Kochba Botach’s weaponry shop, Botach Tactical, in South Central LA. So, what kind of lessons did young Efraim learn working for Botach?
Here, unedited, is just the first page’s worth of customer reviews of Botach Tactical on Epinions.com:
QUALITY MERCHANDISE/INEPT CUSTOMER SERVICE REPS!
Botach. Great Prices, Horrible Customer Service.
Shop elsewhere. Poor customer service. NOT WORTH THE AGGRAVATION !
One word “Agonizing”
Please investigate this company on the Internet before purchasing anything!
painfully awful. the WORST customer service you can imagine
Extremely frustrating and disappointing
Worst Customer Sevice Experience EVER.
My order was just forgotten
Cut out the middleman and just flush your money down the toilet.
RUN BY TOTAL MORONS
Worst Shopping Experience Ever!!!
service and trust, I rate them at minus 90
Worst Customer Service Around
Have you ever tried to buy a camera from the ads in the back pages of a camera magazine? There are pages and pages in tiny type offering better deals than you could get from any local store. A friend bought a camera from one once, and it turned out to be a horrible experience. The package showed up very late, was missing essential pieces, and when he called to complain the customer service rep acted hostile and tried to sell him more stuff he didn’t want rather than fix his problem. The representatives of the camera shop became highly abusive over the phone.
I asked him what city the shop was located in? Brooklyn.
And what time do they close business on Friday? 2 pm.
Well, there you go …
There are a whole bunch of Hasidic-run photography dealers in New York City. Some of them, such as B&H (which is jokingly said to stand for “Beards & Hats”), are quite honest and have done very well for themselves over the years.
On a bulletin board on Photo.net, customer Steve Levine says:
“Interestingly, B&H was the first “Hasidic” owned camera store that decided to treat customers like human beings. In the pre-B&H days, all of the NYC camera stores were nearly impossible to deal with.”
Many of them still practice bait-and-switch and other simple con techniques. They hook you in with too-good-to-be-true advertised prices, then proceed to make your life a nightmare as you try to get them to live up to their promises and they try to badger you into buying even more junk. …
So, Diveroli was just applying the family/ethnic tradition to federal contracts. You put in a low bid, assisted by Diveroli’s AEY, Inc. certification as owned by a disadvantaged minority (Hasidic, although Diveroli sounds like a Roman Jewish name — i.e., not Ashkenazi, which the Hasidim are — but Diveroli’s celebrity uncle Shmuley Boteach was ordained as a Lubavitcher Hasidic rabbi, although he has since broken with them) for affirmative action purposes. If the feds bite on the bait, well, you hustle like hell to come up with something that will make it so that the feds will be more willing to accept the crap you foist on them than dealing with you and your lawyers.
Here’s Hill in the Cousin Marriage scene from The Wolf of Wall Street (language NSFW):
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