U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Katerina Slivinske.
What could be simpler and more intuitive than telling people that countries are just like people, that we have to stand up to this bully or we'll get our lunch money taken again? — Max Fisher at Vox
Remember the "I don't think anybody could have predicted" defense Condoleeza Rice used to explain why the Bush II administration failed to stop the September 11 attacks? Look again at the quote in italics. Now ask yourself whether it is predictable that we'll hear the "stand up to this bully" argument deployed to sell America's next foreign military adventure.
Foreign intervention is another place where facts don't matter, according to Max Fisher. In a fascinating article at Vox, Fisher argues that American military intervention is often sold on the false belief that American "credibility" will suffer if we fail to intervene in this or that conflict regardless of our objective national interests. Regardless of the fact that this theory of credibility "does not appear to be real. Political scientists have investigated this theory over and over, and have repeatedly disproven it."
But it sells. Planes, drones, rifles, etc.
Reputation theory is "a compass that only points in one direction." Invoking credibility is a sucker move foreign leaders use to get the U.S. to intervene for them. Besides being an emotional argument and essentially unfalsifiable, the reason this version of the embolden-our-enemies argument serves foreign policy elites is it is easy to explain:
"The credibility argument is simply an easy (and hard to disprove) way for elites to sell the foreign policy they're most interested in to the American people, whether that's domino theory, primacy, or intervention in some conflict," Emma Ashford of the Cato Institute pointed out.
"Credibility is an intuitive and hard to refute argument, even if larger studies show it to be false," she added.
Plus, the credibility argument plays to America's inflated sense of its own importance:
It portrays the world as a place where the world turns on American power, whose assertion is inherently a force for justice and stability.
It's a world where the United States is the protagonist of every story — because every conflict is a test of our credibility, we are at the center even of events that seem to have nothing to do with us — and where the US is best served by personifying the characteristics of a Hollywood action movie hero.
Remaining 2016 presidential candidates (particularly of the Republican persuasion) are sure to entertain us this election season with how tough they are by repeating some version of the Ledeen Doctrine. Some already have. Fisher explains:
"The toughness fascination emerges from a variety of gender tropes that extend back pretty far that associate toughness with manliness," he wrote. "This understanding manifests in diplomacy through the obsession with reputation. Combine that with the regular diplomatic over-emphasis on the effect of US action, and you get a compulsion to look at every event in terms of whose dick is longer."
I can't imagine who among the presidential candidates might act out militarily just to prove that, can you?
We’re here, we’re soccer moms, get used to it: Gayby Baby***
By Dennis Hartley
NEWS FLASH: Just like the Russians, same-sex parents love their children, too.
And…their daily lives are virtually indistinguishable from any other typical family!
The parents feed, clothe, nurture their kids, have jobs…some even attend churches!
The kids go to school, play, laugh, cry, dream about their future…like normal kids!
I know, I know…I was just as shocked (shocked!) as you to learn all of these things.
Of course, I’m being facetious; although the sad fact remains that in the 21st Century, there are still those who would be shocked to learn life for kids in same-sex households is in fact, not tantamount to a forced “indoctrination” into some ungodly type of “lifestyle”.
Australian filmmaker Maya Newell sets the record straight in Gayby Baby, her documentary portrait of four kids who are growing up in same-sex households. Actually, the director herself doesn’t set the record straight; she just aims her camera, and the kids tell the story (that is to say, tell us their stories). Out of the mouths of babes, and all that.
This was a smart move, because children don’t view the world as a political battleground. They haven’t lived on the planet long enough to formulate any specific agenda. Ask them a direct question, and you’ll usually get an unadulterated answer (unless it’s “Who ate the cookies?”). Naturally, they are all aware that having two moms (or two dads) is atypical from their schoolmates…but that’s not something that any of them seem to obsess over.
They are mostly concerned with…kid stuff. A 10 year-old is preoccupied with all things WWF (and earns a stern talking-to when a wrestling match with his younger sister gets a bit too rough). One dreams of being a pop star; we watch her prepare for her audition that could get her into a performing arts school (warning: this likely will not be the first, or the last time you’ll weather a preteen girl’s approximation of “Rolling in the Deep”). An 11 year-old boy who grew up a foster child struggles with literacy. Another 11 year-old boy is dealing with a crisis of faith, pondering surprisingly deep issues for one so young.
Newell’s observational, non-judgmental approach is reminiscent of Paul Almond’s 7 Up, a 1964 UK documentary profiling 7 year-olds from varied socioeconomic backgrounds, sharing their dreams and aspirations. 7 years later the same subjects appeared in 7 Plus Seven, with director Michael Apted taking over. Updates continued with 21 Up, 28 Up, 35 Up, 42 Up, 49 Up and 2013’s 56 Up (my review). Newell’s subjects here are equally unfiltered and forthcoming; they leave you wonting for a similar update down the road.
In fact, I became so absorbed in the universal everyday travails of these families that I forgot all about any political subtexts until a brief jostle at the very end of the film where Newell inserts footage of some of the kids participating in a pride parade with their parents. Even in this arguably pointed coda, there is no palpable sense of proselytizing. At the end of the day, the film is not about being gay, or straight. It’s about being human.
(Currently playing in event screenings nationwide; available on VOD beginning May 1).
International Jazz Day brings together communities, schools, artists, historians, academics, and jazz enthusiasts all over the world to celebrate and learn about jazz and its roots, future and impact; raise awareness of the need for intercultural dialogue and mutual understanding; and reinforce international cooperation and communication. Each year on April 30, this international art form is recognized for promoting peace, dialogue among cultures, diversity, and respect for human rights and human dignity; eradicating discrimination; promoting freedom of expression; fostering gender equality; and reinforcing the role of youth in enacting social change.
Sounds like a good plan to me. In honor of this day, I’d like to share 10 of my favorites:
1. Pat Metheny and Anna Maria Jopek- “So It May Secretly Begin” – This has always been my favorite Metheny instrumental; but it got even better when I recently stumbled onto this breathtaking live version with added vocals, courtesy of the angel-voiced Jopek.
2. Gil Scott-Heron- “Lady Day and John Coltrane” – Gil’s poetic tribute to two greats.
3. Digable Planets- “Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)”- I caught these guys at a Seattle club in 1993; they were a unique mashup of hip-hop with traditional jazz instrumentation.
4. Gato Barbieri- “Mystica” – I missed the news about the passing of this Argentine jazz man earlier this month (sadly, we’ve lost so many musical greats in a row lately that it’s getting hard to keep up). To be honest, I’ve never been a big sax fan, yet something about Gato’s sound and expressiveness has always grabbed me (he won a Grammy for the Last Tango in Paris soundtrack). This lovely number riffs on a classic Eric Satie composition.
5. The Style Council- “The Whole Point of No Return” – Spare, beautiful, jazzy, and topped off with his most trenchant lyrics, I think this is Paul Weller’s greatest song, ever.
6. Barry Miles- “Hijack” – Memorable track from the keyboardist’s self-titled 1970 LP.
7. Takuya Kuroda- “Everybody Loves the Sunshine” – The Japan-born, NYC-based trumpet player’s hypnotic cover version of a Roy Ayers tune (with vocals by Jose James).
8. Brian Auger and Julie Tippetts- “Nothing Will Be As It Was” – I’ve been an Auger fan forever; it’s hard to believe “the godfather of acid jazz” is still gigging after 50 years. This cut is from Encore, the keyboardist’s excellent 1978 album with vocalist Tippetts.
9. The Mahavishnu Orchestra- “Open Country Joy”— What I like the most about jazz is that it’s the most amenable of musical genres. Put it next to anything else: rock, soul, hip-hop, whatever…and then just watch how quickly it absorbs, adopts, and then shapeshifts it into something else altogether. John McLaughlin, Billy Cobham, Jan Hammer, Rick Laird and Jerry Goodman understood this. Here’s a perfect example. As the title implies, it begins as a nice country stroll, then…then, it blows yourfucking mind.
10. George Duke & Feel - “Love”— The late keyboardist extraordinaire George Duke was a versatile player; in addition to the 40 or so albums in his own catalog, he was equally at home doing sessions with the likes of Miles Davis, Michael Jackson, Third World, and most famously played with Frank Zappa for a number of years. This cut is from Duke’s 1974 album, Feel. Zappa (credited as “Obdwel’l X”) contributes lead guitar.
UPDATE: ABC-TV is broadcasting "Jazz at the White House" tonight (Saturday, 8pm ET). The one-hour prime time special features highlights from an event taped Friday night, hosted by President and Michelle Obama. Billed as an "all-star global concert", artists include Aretha Franklin, Herbie Hancock, Sting, Diana Krall, Trombone Shorty, Pat Metheny, Al Jarreau, Wayne Shorter and more. How cool is that?
I applaud all the attention going to government corruption. It's a systemic problem that is distorting out democracy. But there is another side to the story and it's perfectly represented by the case of Don Siegelman, the former Governor of Alabama:
Former Alabama governor Don E. Siegelman was sent to solitary confinement this week at the Louisiana facility in which he is imprisoned on political corruption charges, according to his son Joseph Siegelman.
Siegelman, 70, was quoted extensively in a Washington Post article this week on former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell, whose 2014 conviction on public corruption charges was reviewed by the Supreme Court on Wednesday.
Siegelman was transferred to solitary confinement at the federal correctional institution at Oakdale, La., on Monday after the story was posted online, according to his son, who said he found the timing suspicious.
But Bureau of Prison officials, who refused to confirm that the former governor was in solitary confinement, said that there was no link.
“The allegation that Mr. Siegelman was punished for talking to a reporter is false,” a spokesman for the bureau said in an emailed statement. “Due to confidentiality concerns, we cannot speak specifically about disciplinary matters of a particular inmate.”
Joseph Siegelman said his father had told him he was being punished for three infractions: running a business from prison, misuse of the mail and a catch-all prohibition against behavior that is disruptive of prison operations.
An official at the prison said the incident report was about a T-shirt that Siegelman sold on eBay, which was mentioned in The Post article and had been reported on in Alabama media.
An unknown bidder paid $4,500 for it, and the proceeds are supposed to go toward completing a documentary about Siegelman’s case called “Atticus vs. the Architect.” According to the note Siegelman posted during the eBay auction, the T-shirts can be purchased at the prison commissary. Alabama media also reported on the sale.
The Post interviewed Siegelman by telephone April 22 after a request for an in-person interview was denied. The longtime state officer-holder has a substantial following who believe that vague federal corruption laws give politically ambitious prosecutors too much leeway in deciding what and whom to investigate.
Several Supreme Court justices expressed similar concerns during Wednesday’s hearing on McDonnell. The court, though, had turned down Siegelman’s request that it review his conviction.
That partisan majority gets the job done when it counts.
If you are unaware of Siegelman's alleged crimes, here's the story:
Siegelman’s long-running legal case began when he was indicted in 2004. The state’s last Democratic governor, he was convicted of appointing Alabama health-care executive Richard Scrushy to an important industry regulatory board in exchange for Scrushy’s $500,000 campaign contribution to a state referendum on a lottery, the proceeds of which would go to the state’s underfunded schools.
Siegelman’s many supporters say the prosecution was politically motivated — the “architect” in the documentary title refers to Republican strategist Karl Rove.
“There was no personal benefit, not a penny of any financial gain,” Siegelman said in the interview. “There wasn’t any self-enrichment scheme. There was no testimony of a quid pro quo, much less an explicit or express quid pro quo. And the contribution was not even to me but to a ballot initiative.”
That's the "corruption" that landed him in jail for years and has him in solitary confinement for speaking to the press.
It's important to keep in mind that when people rail against political corruption and want to make draconian criminal laws to prevent it, people like Karl Rove will often have to power to use them for political purposes.
John Martin Roos, a 61-year-old from Oregon, has been charged with communication of a threat in interstate commerce, and additional charges are likely forthcoming. Roos first came onto the federal government’s radar after a “concerned citizen” brought Roos’ Facebook and Twitter postings to the FBI’s attention in February, according to an affidavit from Special Agent Jeffrey Gray. (Excerpts, below, from Roos’ postings contain explicit language.)
In one Jan. 31 Facebook post cited by the FBI, Roos referred to agents as “pussies” and wrote he would “snipe them with hunting rifles everywhere.” (Despite his threats to kill members of law enforcement, he also complained on Facebook earlier this month about the “liberal media ... slamming police.”) In a post in November that was also cited by the FBI, Roos spoke out against accepting refugees and threatened to kill Obama.
“Obama you goat fffing fudgepacker, the refugees are men of fighting age. Black lives matter! Sure we need someone to pick cotton and wash cars. Paris, burn diseased muslim neighborhoods to the ground and start over with human beings. Obama you are on a hit list,” he wrote in a post that appears to have been removed.
In a sit-down interview with a Richmond news station, the Imperial Wizard of the Rebel Brigade Knights of the Ku Klux Klan said Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump is his candidate for President.
The KKK leader, identified by WWBT only as “Imperial Wizard,” also insisted his organization is not a hate group, telling the station’s black anchor, “We don’t hate anyone.”
Asked who he was supporting in the 2016 race, the wizard replied: “I think Donald Trump would be best for the job.”
"The reason a lot of Klan members like Donald Trump is because a lot of what he believes in, we believe in. We want our country to be safe,” he said.
The leader went on to say if Trump were to drop out, he would back Ohio Gov. John Kasich before Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), saying Cruz “is not an American citizen” because he was born in Canada.
WWBT’s interview opens with anchor Chris Taylor, trailed by a sheriff’s deputy as a precaution, driving to meet with Klansmen in a remote location in a national forest, because Taylor said the leader would only be interviewed on “his turf.”
The story was spurred by the group mounting a recruitment drive in the Richmond area, dropping fliers that read “I want you for the KKK” in mailboxes and front yards, Taylor said.
While the Imperial Wizard said Obama’s presidency has been “a very good recruiting tool,” he said it's because of Obama’s politics, not his race.
“We are not white supremacists, we’re white separatists,” the leader said on camera. “We’re not the big bad hate group people think we are.”
I'm sure Trump endorser David Duke was very upset by all of this too:
That's from the man whose candidate likes to tweet white supremacists and insisted our African American president wasn't a "real American." You, know, the man whose white supremacist followers also hate mexicans, Muslims and Jews.
Damn this is an ugly campaign. And it's getting uglier every day.
At Political Animal, Nancy LeTourneau comments on Rebecca Solnit's essay on cynicism in Harpers. She writes that when Barack Obama entered the White House riding on a message of hope and change, that "the Republican strategy of total obstruction was designed to dampen all that with cynicism about the political process." Cynicism about the political process is not in short supply in 2016. Hope is. But let's not give Republicans too much credit.
Cynicism is first of all a style of presenting oneself, and it takes pride more than anything in not being fooled and not being foolish. But in the forms in which I encounter it, cynicism is frequently both these things. That the attitude that prides itself on world-weary experience is often so naïve says much about the triumph of style over substance, attitude over analysis.
Anyone who dares venture onto Facebook or Twitter these days knows the posture. Solnit continues:
If you set purity and perfection as your goals, you have an almost foolproof system according to which everything will necessarily fall short. But expecting perfection is naïve; failing to perceive value by using an impossible standard of measure is even more so. Cynics are often disappointed idealists and upholders of unrealistic standards. They are uncomfortable with victories, because victories are almost always temporary, incomplete, and compromised — but also because the openness of hope is dangerous, and in war, self-defense comes first. Naïve cynicism is absolutist; its practitioners assume that anything you don’t deplore you wholeheartedly endorse. But denouncing anything less than perfection as morally compromising means pursuing aggrandizement of the self, not engagement with a place or system or community, as the highest priority.
Watching the Forward Together movement take on conservative retrenchment in North Carolina with its Moral Monday protests, one is struck by how cynicism has no place there. You take your victories where you can find them and take defeats in stride. People volunteer to be arrested by the dozens, by the hundreds. Nothing much changes week to week. Except one of those Moral Monday arrestees, Terry Van Duyn, is now a Democratic state senator and the Minority Whip.
The struggle is never over. The fight for justice is never complete. Moreover, the goal of the struggle is not necessarily winning every battle:
David Roberts, a climate journalist for Vox, notes that the disparagement of the campaign to stop the Keystone XL pipeline assumed that the activists’ only goal was to prevent this one pipeline from being built, and that since this one pipeline’s cancellation wouldn’t save the world, the effort was futile. Roberts named these armchair quarterbacks of climate action the Doing It Wrong Brigade. He compared their critique to “criticizing the Montgomery bus boycott because it only affected a relative handful of blacks. The point of civil-rights campaigns was not to free blacks from discriminatory systems one at a time. It was to change the culture.”
The Keystone fight was a transnational education in tar-sands and pipeline politics, as well as in the larger dimensions of climate issues. It was a successful part of a campaign to wake people up and make them engage with the terrifying stakes in this conflict. It changed the culture.
The Campaign for Southern Equality led by Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara led similarly "pointless" protests. Day after day, they led gay and lesbian couples in efforts to get marriage licenses in county offices across the South. It was never about this couple or that one. They meant to change the culture. The fight did not end with Obergefell v. Hodges. Now CSE has turned to fighting North Carolina's HB2 (#RepealHB2). Later this year Beach-Ferrara will be sworn in as a Democratic county commissioner.
How do you change our politics? The same way you eat an elephant.
Solnit takes on cynics not just as defeatists, but as enablers of what they condemn, "The dismissive 'it’s all corrupt' line of reasoning pretends to excoriate what it ultimately excuses."
Changing the culture is work, and change not always as rapid as with the marriage equality movement. Political change is the same. The two major parties are where they are, in part, because people who joined worked and built their organizations over many decades until they wrote themselves into the political structure of their states and set the rules that preserve their primacy. Cynics who don't like that want things to be different, but few are willing to do comparable work to build rival organizations over time or to take over those already in place. But they'd love for someone else to custom-build a new party to their specifications and work for decades to make it viable for them, then deliver it to them on a platter. Then they'd join. Maybe. It's why I keep around here somewhere a copy of the Little Golden Book version of "The Little Red Hen" to use as a prop. Florida's Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, Rep. Alan Grayson, used to prefer a rubber chicken.
"Cecil's Pride: The True Story of a Lion King" was written by Craig Hatkoff and his two daughters, Juliana and Isabella. While the barrage of coverage Cecil received last summer focused on his death, Hatkoff told The Dodo he was more interested in what came before it.
Cecil and a lioness
"Cecil's death was a very dark moment that tapped into a zeitgeist of anger about our endangered species, and indeed our planet as a whole," Hatkoff said. "The whole world knew how Cecil died; we wanted to tell the story about how Cecil lived."
In order to do that, Hatkoff reached out to the people who studied Cecil's pride at Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park.
We found Cecil's 'biographer,' researcher Brent Stapelkamp, who kept watch over Cecil for nine years," Hatkoff explained. "Brent had also taken stunning photographs of Cecil that we were able to use throughout the book."
oh my God
The images illustrate the complexities of the relationships between the lions in the pride.
One relationship that stood out was that of Cecil and Jericho, an unrelated male who eventually became the coleader of Cecil's pride. Instead of fighting each other for the seat as the dominant male, the lions decided to work together — a dynamic that persisted even after Cecil's death.
Jericho and Cecil
"There was a big concern by researchers that, after Cecil's death, Jericho would likely kill or abandon Cecil's cubs," Hatkoff said. "Instead Jericho has been raising them as his own for the past nine months. It was like the 'Lion King' story except Scar, Simba's evil uncle, turns out to be the good guy and saves the day."
Jericho and the step-cubs
I don't want to ruin the story by discussing the creep who killed that magnificent beast for no good reason. Or mention that Donald Trump's sons are also bloodthirsty big game killers who like to pose with dead African lions, elephants and others. It just. needs. to. stop.
“I know it is surprising to Donald Trump, but tweeting ugly pictures at ISIS is not gonna cause them to go away. Yelling and screaming and cursing at them and telling them what big hands you have is not going to cause ISIS to go away."
In a letter he sent to Benghazi Select Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy today, Assistant Secretary of Defense Stephen Hedger lists a litany of abuses that have taken place during the course of the investigation of the 2012 attack.
Among these abuses, Hedger reports, is that the committee is requesting that the Defense Department track down callers to Sean Hannity’s radio show in order to call them as witnesses:
The Committee has requested to interview an individual identified as ‘John from Iowa’ who described himself as a Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) camera operator on a talk radio show, where he described what he allegedly saw in the video feed from the night of the attack. The Department has expended significant resources to locate anyone who might match the description of this person, to no avail. The Committee staff then expanded this initial request to include all RPA pilots and RPA sensor operators who operated in the region that night.
The May 2013 call to Hannity’s program was subsequently reported on by other conservative outlets, including Glenn Beck’s The Blaze.
Wayne Simmons, who presented himself as a national security expert and was a part of the conservative media push for a congressional investigation of the Benghazi attack, has pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges.
In an April 29 press release the Department of Justice noted that Simmons “falsely claimed he spent 27 years working for the Central Intelligence Agency” and had pleaded guilty “to major fraud against the government, wire fraud, and a firearms offense.”
The release further noted, “Simmons admitted he defrauded the government in 2008 when he obtained work as a team leader in the U.S. Army’s Human Terrain Systems program, and again in 2010 when he was deployed to Afghanistan as a senior intelligence advisor on the International Security Assistance Force’s Counterinsurgency Advisory and Assistance Team.”
Dana J. Boente, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, said, “Simmons admitted he attempted to con his way into a position where he would have been called on to give real intelligence advice in a war zone. His fraud cost the government money, could have put American lives at risk, and was an insult to the real men and women of the intelligence community who provide tireless service to this country.”
Simmons was a frequent guest on Fox News, appearing on the network dozens of times purporting to be a former CIA operative. In those appearances, Simmons regularly criticized Democrats on foreign policy and national security issues. In one instance, he said, “If the Democrats come into power in the United States and re-employ their vision of defense for this country, we will have 9-1-1s unabated.”
Lara Logan's still got a job on CBS though so that's good.
Perhaps one of the most unnerving political developments to watch over these last few days has been the beginning of the reluctant acceptance of Donald Trump among the Republican establishment. Watching the like of Senator Bob Corker on television praising his "foreign policy" and seeing influential House members like Bill Schuster endorse him is more than a little bit unsettling. It stands to reason that this would happen now that Trump is looking more and more like the winner, but considering just how unpopular Trump is among the political establishment, it's more likely due to the hard work of his recently hired senior adviser, Paul Manafort.
According to this fascinating, must-read profile by Franklin Foer in Slate, Manafort "is among the most significant political operatives of the past 40 years, and one of the most effective. He has revolutionized lobbying several times over, though he self-consciously refrains from broadcasting his influence." He's the most important Republican campaign consultant and lobbyist the general public has never heard of.
Manafort was mentored by Bush family consiglieri James Baker and partnered with the notorious political operative Lee Atwater. He ran Republican campaigns and conventions for decades, including Reagan's legendary "Morning in America" convention in 1984. Everyone assumed he was hired by Trump to perform the specialized task of suppressing a convention insurgency, which he performed on behalf of Gerald Ford in the 1976 convention. But this man is so much more than that.
He went on to run Reagan's southern operation in 1980, remembered for its clever racist dogwhistle of opening the campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi famously known as the murder site of three civil rights workers 16 years before. After the campaign Manafort and Stone (along with another successful GOP operative Charlie Black) then opened their campaign consultant/lobbyist firm perfecting the dubious business of electing politicians and then lobbying them on behalf of their corporate clients. Trump was one of them, using the firm to help him stave off the threat of Indian gaming. It was an ugly, racist campaign that culminated with Governor George Pataki fining Trump and Stone $250,000 and requiring a public apology.
So Manafort and Trump are a match made in heaven for a whole host of reasons, not the least of which is Manafort's long association with oligarchs, despots and tyrants all over the world. As much as he's been a GOP operative, his real business is selling evil men to American politicians and power brokers.
Manafort first drew public attention during the Reagan era, when he and his lobbying partners represented Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos, a world-class kleptocrat whose theft of enormous amounts from his country’s treasury I helped to expose in The Village Voice more than 30 years ago (with my esteemed colleague William Bastone, who later created The Smoking Gun website). Few official criminals in the 20th century were as audacious and greedy as Marcos and his shoe-fetishist wife Imelda, but when their image cratered after our investigation, Manafort gladly took nearly a million dollars to apply lipstick to those pigs.
Not content with the tainted Marcos lucre, Manafort and company also advocated on behalf of international gangsters such as Mobutu Sese Seko, the kleptocratic dictator known as the “King of Zaire”; Jonas Savimbi, the reputed cannibal and blood-diamond purveyor who tried to seize power in Angola; Said Barre, the authoritarian crook who left the failed state of Somalia to pirates and jihadis; and Ukrainian overlord Victor Yanukovych, the corrupt, Kremlin-backed autocrat thrown out by massive street protests two years ago for fixing a national election.
Foer's account of the Savimbi lobbying campaign is mind boggling:
On a Friday in 1985, Christopher Lehman left his job at the National Security Council. The following Monday, he was flying with Manafort, his new boss, to the bush of Angola to pitch the Chinese-trained guerilla Jonas Savimbi, who wanted covert assistance from the U.S. to bolster his rebellion against Angola’s Marxist government. Savimbi briefly left a battle against Cuban assault forces and signed a $600,000 contract.
The money bought Savimbi a revised reputation. Despite his client’s Maoist background, Manafort reinvented him as a freedom fighter. He knew all the tricks for manipulating right-wing opinion. Savimbi was sent to a seminar at the American Enterprise Institute, hosted by the anticommunist stalwart Jeanne Kirkpatrick, a reception thrown by the Heritage Foundation, and another confab at Freedom House. (Kirkpatrick introduced Savimbi, who conscripted soldiers, burned enemies, and indiscriminately laid land mines, as a “linguist, philosopher, poet, politician, warrior ... one of the few authentic heroes of our time.”)
That was some time ago. But Manafort's more recent work in Ukraine with Victor Yanukovych and other former soviet bloc oligarchs is no less shocking. His relationship with Yanukovych wasn't unique --- Bernie Sanders' consultant Tad Devine worked for him too --- but Manafort became known as his closest adviser. Indeed, he apparently has an unusual affinity for leaders who are close to Vladimir Putin which may explain why he's also such a good fit with Putin's favorite American politician, Donald Trump.
Foer concludes his piece by explaining how Manafort's special talents will be of use in this coming campaign:
Manafort has spent a career working on behalf of clients that the rest of his fellow lobbyists and strategists have deemed just below their not-so-high moral threshold. Manafort has consistently given his clients a patina of respectability that has allowed them to migrate into the mainstream of opinion, or close enough to the mainstream. He has a particular knack for taking autocrats and presenting them as defenders of democracy. If he could convince the respectable world that thugs like Savimbi and Marcos are friends of America, then why not do the same for Trump?
Donald Trump is a wealthy, proto-fascist demagogue who has hired the man whose firm the Center for Public Integrity once called "The Torturer's Lobby" to get him to the White House. If anyone can do it Paul Manafort can. It's his specialty.
As Paul Ryan continues his latest make-over as a decent human being, people are taking a look back at this more colorful statements. This one came across my twitter feed last night:
The left is making a big mistake here. What they’re offering people is a full stomach and an empty soul. The American people want more than that. This reminds me of a story I heard from Eloise Anderson. She serves in the cabinet of my buddy, Governor Scott Walker. She once met a young boy from a very poor family, and every day at school, he would get a free lunch from a government program. He told Eloise he didn’t want a free lunch. He wanted his own lunch, one in a brown-paper bag just like the other kids. He wanted one, he said, because he knew a kid with a brown-paper bag had someone who cared for him. This is what the left does not understand.”
— Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference, March 6, 2014
The protests outside Donald Trump's rally in Costa Mesa on Thursday night appear to point to an upcoming month of activism by Latinos and others as the GOP front-runner tries to seal the presidential nomination in the state.
Hundreds of demonstrators filled the street outside the Orange County amphitheater where Trump held a rally Thursday night, stomping on cars, hurling rocks at motorists and forcefully declaring their opposition to the Republican presidential candidate. At least 17 were arrested.
Inside the OC Fair and Event Center, Trump had surrounded himself with people carrying images of family members killed by immigrants in the country illegally.
When Trump vowed to make Mexico pay for a wall along its border with the United States, thousands of supporters erupted in cheers.
“We’re going to stop drugs from coming in,” Trump told them. “The drugs are poisoning our youth and a lot of other people.”
While the billionaire businessman has faced protests elsewhere, California could prove to be potent ground for demonstrators because of its large Latino population and Trump's negative comments about immigrants in this country illegally.
Several days earlier, pro- and anti-Trump protesters clashed outside Anaheim City Hall, where the council considered a resolution condemning Trump.
Activists predict that Trump will continue to evoke angry protests in California.
"I'm protesting because I want equal rights for everybody, and I want peaceful protest," said 19-year-old Daniel Lujan, one of hundreds of protesters in Costa Mesa on Thursday.
Southern California's Latino community has a long history of street protests, dating back to the famous Chicano Moratorium march against the Vietnam War in 1970.
A decade ago, roughly half a million immigrants and their supporters took to the streets of Los Angeles decrying federal bills that would criminalize providing food or medical services to immigrants in the country illegally and build a wall along the southern border of the U.S.
A USC/Times poll found that 77% of Latinos in California have a negative view of Trump. Yet among Republicans, Trump is ahead in that poll and several others.
As the article points out, California Latinos are organized and they are experienced.
One of the most important moments in this election happened at a high school library in Nevada.
Nearly a year ago, Hillary Clinton spoke to young undocumented immigrants and their families at Rancho High School in the working-class neighborhood of North Las Vegas, where 40% of the population is Latino. The setting was risky — just the kind of event that activists have turned into protests, with videos that travel far and wide. Her words were directed at Jeb Bush.
She would offer a “path to full and equal citizenship” she said, while Bush, a favorite to win his party’s nomination, supported earned legal status — or as Clinton dismissed it, “second-class status.” That wasn’t unusual. Nor was her support for “comprehensive immigration reform.”
What she said next, however, was. “If Congress continues to refuse to act,” Clinton told the activists, she “would do everything possible under the law to go even further.” She wanted the parents of DREAMers, the parents of those seated around her, to be eligible for protection from deportation.
Clinton would prove to be very, very wrong about Bush. But she was correct about the driving issue of the election. The event would prove to be one of the most significant moments in the Democratic primary, and the policies Clinton outlined that day and as a result of that day will inform an election dominated by immigration policy, and the increasingly polarized approaches by both parties.
While Donald Trump talks of the wall and a far more restrictionist immigration policy, Clinton began her campaign with likely one of the most liberal immigration platforms ever adopted by a mainstream Democratic candidate.
It's an inside look at a momentous meeting between very savvy grassroots activists and a mainstream politician that changed the trajectory of the presidential campaign. Both Clinton and Sanders moved left as a result. It's going to be a battle royale here in California and the difference between the two parties could not be starker. The stakes for millions of people could not be higher.