…….GOP Wealth Care Bill…..June 22, 2017……

…..introducing the long awaited…..oh boy….the you’re gonna love this….steaming pile of ………………….insert personal feelings……….

https://www.budget.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/SENATEHEALTHCARE.pdf

….Gerrymandering, the dark art of drawing legislative maps that rig the game……..

…….the party in numerical control………gets to cheat……..really bright system ….

ZOHAR LAZAR
One thin you have to admire about gerrymandering: It’s got some wicked slang…..Gerrymandering is, of course, the dark art of drawing a legislative map that favors your political party. That involves “packing”—taking all the neighborhoods with voters who hate you and cramming them into one district. (You’ll lose that district by a landslide but have a leg up in all the others.) The reverse trick is “cracking,” breaking up a neighborhood that loathes you into chunks that you attach to other regions where you’re loved. Your opponents’ votes get spread around and diluted. Obviously these shenanigans warp and imperil democracy. Various groups have sued over gerrymandered districts three dozen times in the past few decades, but they’ve always lost, because it’s hard to prove how much a map is gerrymandered. Usually plaintiffs have resorted to hypotheticals. (“If both parties had won the same number of votes, this map would have given the Republicans four more seats than they deserved.”) But courts don’t like hypotheticals. They want hard numbers.Last year, they got them. Eric McGhee, a research fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California, has figured out a new way to think about gerrymandering: in terms of efficiency. With packing and cracking, the goal is to ensure your opponents’ votes are wasted, so they do not contribute to victory. A packed district has—artificially—too many votes for one side. A cracked district, too few. McGhee figured out how to calculate the “efficiency gap” of an election. Go district by district, counting how many votes the winner got above 50 percent—anything higher was a waste. Then count the loser’s votes, because all those went down the tubes. Add up all the waste by party statewide, then take the difference between the two numbers as a percentage of votes cast—that’s the efficiency gap. Yes, other factors could be at work—population change, let’s say. But in general, the bigger the gap, the more gerrymandered the state.

Best of all? “It’s fifth-grade math,” McGhee says. A judge could verify the calculations with a pencil and paper.

Indeed, the efficiency gap has already scored one major victory. In November a federal court relied in part on that formula to determine that Republicans had gerrymandered Wisconsin. Math: It works!

 The data age is likely to spell trouble for gerrymandering. This skulduggery relies on geometry, geography, and demographic tables, precisely the domains where math nerds can give us clarity. Recently, Moon Duchin, a mathematician at Tufts University, realized her research in geometry—figuring out the average distances between points in various shapes—had a bearing on “compactness,” the legislative definition of what makes a fair district. Inspired, Duchin formed the Metric Geometry and Gerrymandering Group. Their program, which aims to train mathematicians in mapping and civil rights law so they can be expert witnesses in gerrymandering cases, was so flooded with applications—she expected dozens and got over 1,100—that Duchin is expanding the size. “My God, we’ve been just amazed at the response,” she says.

Actually, tech could fight gerrymandering in a lot of ways. The Public Mapping Project and programmer Dave Bradlee have created apps that let anyone redistrict a state, to see just how easy (or hard) it is to map fairly. I’d love it if a tech firm with a huge footprint—Google, Facebook, I’m looking at you—would take that idea mainstream and bring gerrymandering into the public consciousness. Make it a smartphone game! Possibly one with an outcome you could email to your representatives.

After all, the nation’s political maps will be redrawn in 2020, with new census numbers. The data of democracy is up for grabs. Thank goodness the mathematicians are watching.

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…..tic toc tic toc… goes the doomsday clock…..tic toc tic tic tic tic

……have a nice day?……

…..what is that sound?…………

CLICK HERE

…now aren’t you glad you clicked it?……..

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…….now wasn’t that just another fun thing for the……………….back….of your …………………………..mind…………………w

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…Bob Dylan’s Nobel Lecture…

…….for obvious reasons ….this one is being published all over the place ……swiping abounds…. fore and aft … not inside……

Dylan visiting Stockholm for the first time in 1966. Photo: Ronny Karlsson

Bob Dylan’s Nobel Lecture

When I received this Nobel Prize for Literature, I got to wondering exactly how my songs related to literature. I wanted to reflect on it and see where the connection was. I’m going to try to articulate that to you. And most likely it will go in a roundabout way, but I hope what I say will be worthwhile and purposeful.

If I was to go back to the dawning of it all, I guess I’d have to start with Buddy Holly. Buddy died when I was about eighteen and he was twenty-two. From the moment I first heard him, I felt akin. I felt related, like he was an older brother. I even thought I resembled him. Buddy played the music that I loved – the music I grew up on: country western, rock ‘n’ roll, and rhythm and blues. Three separate strands of music that he intertwined and infused into one genre. One brand. And Buddy wrote songs – songs that had beautiful melodies and imaginative verses. And he sang great – sang in more than a few voices. He was the archetype. Everything I wasn’t and wanted to be. I saw him only but once, and that was a few days before he was gone. I had to travel a hundred miles to get to see him play, and I wasn’t disappointed.

He was powerful and electrifying and had a commanding presence. I was only six feet away. He was mesmerizing. I watched his face, his hands, the way he tapped his foot, his big black glasses, the eyes behind the glasses, the way he held his guitar, the way he stood, his neat suit. Everything about him. He looked older than twenty-two. Something about him seemed permanent, and he filled me with conviction. Then, out of the blue, the most uncanny thing happened. He looked me right straight dead in the eye, and he transmitted something. Something I didn’t know what. And it gave me the chills.

I think it was a day or two after that that his plane went down. And somebody – somebody I’d never seen before – handed me a Leadbelly record with the song “Cottonfields” on it. And that record changed my life right then and there. Transported me into a world I’d never known. It was like an explosion went off. Like I’d been walking in darkness and all of the sudden the darkness was illuminated. It was like somebody laid hands on me. I must have played that record a hundred times.

It was on a label I’d never heard of with a booklet inside with advertisements for other artists on the label: Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, the New Lost City Ramblers, Jean Ritchie, string bands. I’d never heard of any of them. But I reckoned if they were on this label with Leadbelly, they had to be good, so I needed to hear them. I wanted to know all about it and play that kind of music. I still had a feeling for the music I’d grown up with, but for right now, I forgot about it. Didn’t even think about it. For the time being, it was long gone.

I hadn’t left home yet, but I couldn’t wait to. I wanted to learn this music and meet the people who played it. Eventually, I did leave, and I did learn to play those songs. They were different than the radio songs that I’d been listening to all along. They were more vibrant and truthful to life. With radio songs, a performer might get a hit with a roll of the dice or a fall of the cards, but that didn’t matter in the folk world. Everything was a hit. All you had to do was be well versed and be able to play the melody. Some of these songs were easy, some not. I had a natural feeling for the ancient ballads and country blues, but everything else I had to learn from scratch. I was playing for small crowds, sometimes no more than four or five people in a room or on a street corner. You had to have a wide repertoire, and you had to know what to play and when. Some songs were intimate, some you had to shout to be heard.

By listening to all the early folk artists and singing the songs yourself, you pick up the vernacular. You internalize it. You sing it in the ragtime blues, work songs, Georgia sea shanties, Appalachian ballads and cowboy songs. You hear all the finer points, and you learn the details.

You know what it’s all about. Takin’ the pistol out and puttin’ it back in your pocket. Whippin’ your way through traffic, talkin’ in the dark. You know that Stagger Lee was a bad man and that Frankie was a good girl. You know that Washington is a bourgeois town and you’ve heard the deep-pitched voice of John the Revelator and you saw the Titanic sink in a boggy creek. And you’re pals with the wild Irish rover and the wild colonial boy. You heard the muffled drums and the fifes that played lowly. You’ve seen the lusty Lord Donald stick a knife in his wife, and a lot of your comrades have been wrapped in white linen.

I had all the vernacular down. I knew the rhetoric. None of it went over my head – the devices, the techniques, the secrets, the mysteries – and I knew all the deserted roads that it traveled on, too. I could make it all connect and move with the current of the day. When I started writing my own songs, the folk lingo was the only vocabulary that I knew, and I used it.

But I had something else as well. I had principles and sensibilities and an informed view of the world. And I had had that for a while. Learned it all in grammar school. Don QuixoteIvanhoeRobinson Crusoe, Gulliver’s TravelsTale of Two Cities, all the rest – typical grammar school reading that gave you a way of looking at life, an understanding of human nature, and a standard to measure things by. I took all that with me when I started composing lyrics. And the themes from those books worked their way into many of my songs, either knowingly or unintentionally. I wanted to write songs unlike anything anybody ever heard, and these themes were fundamental.

Specific books that have stuck with me ever since I read them way back in grammar school – I want to tell you about three of them: Moby Dick, All Quiet on the Western Front and The Odyssey.

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Moby Dick is a fascinating book, a book that’s filled with scenes of high drama and dramatic dialogue. The book makes demands on you. The plot is straightforward. The mysterious Captain Ahab – captain of a ship called the Pequod –  an egomaniac with a peg leg pursuing his nemesis, the great white whale Moby Dick who took his leg. And he pursues him all the way from the Atlantic around the tip of Africa and into the Indian Ocean. He pursues the whale around both sides of the earth. It’s an abstract goal, nothing concrete or definite. He calls Moby the emperor, sees him as the embodiment of evil. Ahab’s got a wife and child back in Nantucket that he reminisces about now and again. You can anticipate what will happen.

The ship’s crew is made up of men of different races, and any one of them who sights the whale will be given the reward of a gold coin. A lot of Zodiac symbols, religious allegory, stereotypes. Ahab encounters other whaling vessels, presses the captains for details about Moby. Have they seen him? There’s a crazy prophet, Gabriel, on one of the vessels, and he predicts Ahab’s doom. Says Moby is the incarnate of a Shaker god, and that any dealings with him will lead to disaster. He says that to Captain Ahab. Another ship’s captain – Captain Boomer – he lost an arm to Moby. But he tolerates that, and he’s happy to have survived. He can’t accept Ahab’s lust for vengeance.

This book tells how different men react in different ways to the same experience. A lot of Old Testament, biblical allegory: Gabriel, Rachel, Jeroboam, Bildah, Elijah. Pagan names as well: Tashtego, Flask, Daggoo, Fleece, Starbuck, Stubb, Martha’s Vineyard. The Pagans are idol worshippers. Some worship little wax figures, some wooden figures. Some worship fire. The Pequod is the name of an Indian tribe.

Moby Dick is a seafaring tale. One of the men, the narrator, says, “Call me Ishmael.” Somebody asks him where he’s from, and he says, “It’s not down on any map. True places never are.” Stubb gives no significance to anything, says everything is predestined. Ishmael’s been on a sailing ship his entire life. Calls the sailing ships his Harvard and Yale. He keeps his distance from people.

A typhoon hits the Pequod. Captain Ahab thinks it’s a good omen. Starbuck thinks it’s a bad omen, considers killing Ahab. As soon as the storm ends, a crewmember falls from the ship’s mast and drowns, foreshadowing what’s to come. A Quaker pacifist priest, who is actually a bloodthirsty businessman, tells Flask, “Some men who receive injuries are led to God, others are led to bitterness.”

Everything is mixed in. All the myths: the Judeo Christian bible, Hindu myths, British legends, Saint George, Perseus, Hercules – they’re all whalers. Greek mythology, the gory business of cutting up a whale. Lots of facts in this book, geographical knowledge, whale oil – good for coronation of royalty – noble families in the whaling industry. Whale oil is used to anoint the kings. History of the whale, phrenology, classical philosophy, pseudo-scientific theories, justification for discrimination – everything thrown in and none of it hardly rational. Highbrow, lowbrow, chasing illusion, chasing death, the great white whale, white as polar bear, white as a white man, the emperor, the nemesis, the embodiment of evil. The demented captain who actually lost his leg years ago trying to attack Moby with a knife.

We see only the surface of things. We can interpret what lies below any way we see fit. Crewmen walk around on deck listening for mermaids, and sharks and vultures follow the ship. Reading skulls and faces like you read a book. Here’s a face. I’ll put it in front of you. Read it if you can.

Tashtego says that he died and was reborn. His extra days are a gift. He wasn’t saved by Christ, though, he says he was saved by a fellow man and a non-Christian at that. He parodies the resurrection.

When Starbuck tells Ahab that he should let bygones be bygones, the angry captain snaps back, “Speak not to me of blasphemy, man, I’d strike the sun if it insulted me.” Ahab, too, is a poet of eloquence. He says, “The path to my fixed purpose is laid with iron rails whereon my soul is grooved to run.”  Or these lines, “All visible objects are but pasteboard masks.” Quotable poetic phrases that can’t be beat.

Finally, Ahab spots Moby, and the harpoons come out. Boats are lowered. Ahab’s harpoon has been baptized in blood. Moby attacks Ahab’s boat and destroys it. Next day, he sights Moby again. Boats are lowered again. Moby attacks Ahab’s boat again. On the third day, another boat goes in. More religious allegory. He has risen. Moby attacks one more time, ramming the Pequod and sinking it. Ahab gets tangled up in the harpoon lines and is thrown out of his boat into a watery grave.

Ishmael survives. He’s in the sea floating on a coffin. And that’s about it. That’s the whole story. That theme and all that it implies would work its way into more than a few of my songs.

____________________

All Quiet on the Western Front was another book that did. All Quiet on the Western Front is a horror story. This is a book where you lose your childhood, your faith in a meaningful world, and your concern for individuals. You’re stuck in a nightmare. Sucked up into a mysterious whirlpool of death and pain. You’re defending yourself from elimination. You’re being wiped off the face of the map. Once upon a time you were an innocent youth with big dreams about being a concert pianist. Once you loved life and the world, and now you’re shooting it to pieces.

Day after day, the hornets bite you and worms lap your blood. You’re a cornered animal. You don’t fit anywhere. The falling rain is monotonous. There’s endless assaults, poison gas, nerve gas, morphine, burning streams of gasoline, scavenging and scabbing for food, influenza, typhus, dysentery. Life is breaking down all around you, and the shells are whistling. This is the lower region of hell. Mud, barbed wire, rat-filled trenches, rats eating the intestines of dead men, trenches filled with filth and excrement. Someone shouts, “Hey, you there. Stand and fight.”

Who knows how long this mess will go on? Warfare has no limits. You’re being annihilated, and that leg of yours is bleeding too much. You killed a man yesterday, and you spoke to his corpse. You told him after this is over, you’ll spend the rest of your life looking after his family. Who’s profiting here? The leaders and the generals gain fame, and many others profit financially. But you’re doing the dirty work. One of your comrades says, “Wait a minute, where are you going?” And you say, “Leave me alone, I’ll be back in a minute.” Then you walk out into the woods of death hunting for a piece of sausage. You can’t see how anybody in civilian life has any kind of purpose at all. All their worries, all their desires – you can’t comprehend it.

More machine guns rattle, more parts of bodies hanging from wires, more pieces of arms and legs and skulls where butterflies perch on teeth, more hideous wounds, pus coming out of every pore, lung wounds, wounds too big for the body, gas-blowing cadavers, and dead bodies making retching noises. Death is everywhere. Nothing else is possible. Someone will kill you and use your dead body for target practice. Boots, too. They’re your prized possession. But soon they’ll be on somebody else’s feet.

There’s Froggies coming through the trees. Merciless bastards. Your shells are running out. “It’s not fair to come at us again so soon,” you say. One of your companions is laying in the dirt, and you want to take him to the field hospital. Someone else says, “You might save yourself a trip.” “What do you mean?” “Turn him over, you’ll see what I mean.”

You wait to hear the news. You don’t understand why the war isn’t over. The army is so strapped for replacement troops that they’re drafting young boys who are of little military use, but they’re draftin’ ‘em anyway because they’re running out of men. Sickness and humiliation have broken your heart. You were betrayed by your parents, your schoolmasters, your ministers, and even your own government.

The general with the slowly smoked cigar betrayed you too – turned you into a thug and a murderer. If you could, you’d put a bullet in his face. The commander as well. You fantasize that if you had the money, you’d put up a reward for any man who would take his life by any means necessary. And if he should lose his life by doing that, then let the money go to his heirs. The colonel, too, with his caviar and his coffee – he’s another one. Spends all his time in the officers’ brothel. You’d like to see him stoned dead too. More Tommies and Johnnies with their whack fo’ me daddy-o and their whiskey in the jars. You kill twenty of ‘em and twenty more will spring up in their place. It just stinks in your nostrils.

You’ve come to despise that older generation that sent you out into this madness, into this torture chamber. All around you, your comrades are dying. Dying from abdominal wounds, double amputations, shattered hipbones, and you think, “I’m only twenty years old, but I’m capable of killing anybody. Even my father if he came at me.”

Yesterday, you tried to save a wounded messenger dog, and somebody shouted, “Don’t be a fool.” One Froggy is laying gurgling at your feet. You stuck him with a dagger in his stomach, but the man still lives. You know you should finish the job, but you can’t. You’re on the real iron cross, and a Roman soldier’s putting a sponge of vinegar to your lips.

Months pass by. You go home on leave. You can’t communicate with your father. He said, “You’d be a coward if you don’t enlist.” Your mother, too, on your way back out the door, she says, “You be careful of those French girls now.” More madness. You fight for a week or a month, and you gain ten yards. And then the next month it gets taken back.

All that culture from a thousand years ago, that philosophy, that wisdom – Plato, Aristotle, Socrates – what happened to it?  It should have prevented this. Your thoughts turn homeward. And once again you’re a schoolboy walking through the tall poplar trees. It’s a pleasant memory. More bombs dropping on you from blimps. You got to get it together now. You can’t even look at anybody for fear of some miscalculable thing that might happen. The common grave. There are no other possibilities.

Then you notice the cherry blossoms, and you see that nature is unaffected by all this. Poplar trees, the red butterflies, the fragile beauty of flowers, the sun – you see how nature is indifferent to it all. All the violence and suffering of all mankind. Nature doesn’t even notice it.

You’re so alone. Then a piece of shrapnel hits the side of your head and you’re dead. You’ve been ruled out, crossed out. You’ve been exterminated. I put this book down and closed it up. I never wanted to read another war novel again, and I never did.

Charlie Poole from North Carolina had a song that connected to all this. It’s called “You Ain’t Talkin’ to Me,” and the lyrics go like this:

I saw a sign in a window walking up town one day.
Join the army, see the world is what it had to say.
You’ll see exciting places with a jolly crew,
You’ll meet interesting people, and learn to kill them too.
Oh you ain’t talkin’ to me, you ain’t talking to me.
I may be crazy and all that, but I got good sense you see.
You ain’t talkin’ to me, you ain’t talkin’ to me.
Killin’ with a gun don’t sound like fun.
You ain’t talkin’ to me.

____________________

The Odyssey is a great book whose themes have worked its way into the ballads of a lot of songwriters: “Homeward Bound, “Green, Green Grass of Home,” “Home on the Range,” and my songs as well.

The Odyssey is a strange, adventurous tale of a grown man trying to get home after fighting in a war. He’s on that long journey home, and it’s filled with traps and pitfalls. He’s cursed to wander. He’s always getting carried out to sea, always having close calls. Huge chunks of boulders rock his boat. He angers people he shouldn’t. There’s troublemakers in his crew. Treachery. His men are turned into pigs and then are turned back into younger, more handsome men. He’s always trying to rescue somebody. He’s a travelin’ man, but he’s making a lot of stops.

He’s stranded on a desert island. He finds deserted caves, and he hides in them. He meets giants that say, “I’ll eat you last.” And he escapes from giants. He’s trying to get back home, but he’s tossed and turned by the winds. Restless winds, chilly winds, unfriendly winds. He travels far, and then he gets blown back.

He’s always being warned of things to come. Touching things he’s told not to. There’s two roads to take, and they’re both bad. Both hazardous. On one you could drown and on the other you could starve. He goes into the narrow straits with foaming whirlpools that swallow him. Meets six-headed monsters with sharp fangs. Thunderbolts strike at him. Overhanging branches that he makes a leap to reach for to save himself from a raging river. Goddesses and gods protect him, but some others want to kill him. He changes identities. He’s exhausted. He falls asleep, and he’s woken up by the sound of laughter. He tells his story to strangers. He’s been gone twenty years. He was carried off somewhere and left there. Drugs have been dropped into his wine. It’s been a hard road to travel.

In a lot of ways, some of these same things have happened to you. You too have had drugs dropped into your wine. You too have shared a bed with the wrong woman. You too have been spellbound by magical voices, sweet voices with strange melodies. You too have come so far and have been so far blown back. And you’ve had close calls as well. You have angered people you should not have. And you too have rambled this country all around. And you’ve also felt that ill wind, the one that blows you no good. And that’s still not all of it.

When he gets back home, things aren’t any better. Scoundrels have moved in and are taking advantage of his wife’s hospitality. And there’s too many of ‘em. And though he’s greater than them all and the best at everything – best carpenter, best hunter, best expert on animals, best seaman – his courage won’t save him, but his trickery will.

All these stragglers will have to pay for desecrating his palace. He’ll disguise himself as a filthy beggar, and a lowly servant kicks him down the steps with arrogance and stupidity. The servant’s arrogance revolts him, but he controls his anger. He’s one against a hundred, but they’ll all fall, even the strongest. He was nobody. And when it’s all said and done, when he’s home at last, he sits with his wife, and he tells her the stories.

____________________

So what does it all mean? Myself and a lot of other songwriters have been influenced by these very same themes. And they can mean a lot of different things. If a song moves you, that’s all that’s important. I don’t have to know what a song means. I’ve written all kinds of things into my songs. And I’m not going to worry about it – what it all means. When Melville put all his old testament, biblical references, scientific theories, Protestant doctrines, and all that knowledge of the sea and sailing ships and whales into one story, I don’t think he would have worried about it either – what it all means.

John Donne as well, the poet-priest who lived in the time of Shakespeare, wrote these words, “The Sestos and Abydos of her breasts. Not of two lovers, but two loves, the nests.” I don’t know what it means, either. But it sounds good. And you want your songs to sound good.

When Odysseus in The Odyssey visits the famed warrior Achilles in the underworld – Achilles, who traded a long life full of peace and contentment for a short one full of honor and glory –  tells Odysseus it was all a mistake. “I just died, that’s all.” There was no honor. No immortality. And that if he could, he would choose to go back and be a lowly slave to a tenant farmer on Earth rather than be what he is – a king in the land of the dead – that whatever his struggles of life were, they were preferable to being here in this dead place.

That’s what songs are too. Our songs are alive in the land of the living. But songs are unlike literature. They’re meant to be sung, not read. The words in Shakespeare’s plays were meant to be acted on the stage. Just as lyrics in songs are meant to be sung, not read on a page. And I hope some of you get the chance to listen to these lyrics the way they were intended to be heard: in concert or on record or however people are listening to songs these days. I return once again to Homer, who says, “Sing in me, oh Muse, and through me tell the story.”

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© NOBELSTIFTELSEN 2017
Nobelstiftelsen har inte erhållit rätt att upplåta några rättigheter till Nobelföreläsningen till tredje part och kan således inte medge rätt till någon användning av föreläsningen. Alla rättigheter till Bob Dylans Nobelföreläsning är förbehållna upphovsmannen och Nobelstiftelsen och Nobelföreläsningen får därmed inte publiceras eller tillgängliggöras på något sätt av tredje part med ett undantag: ljudfilen som innehåller Nobelföreläsningen, så som den publiceras på Nobelprisets officiella webbplats, får bäddas in på andra webbplatser.

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…………that said…………………….

…….. a ditty I swiped from douglas LeBlanc…..

After Dylan won an Oscar for his song “Things Have Changed,” used on the soundtrack of “Wonder Boys” (2001), he began parking the statue atop one of the amplifiers during his concerts. The next time I see Dylan, I would love to see the Nobel hanging from that Oscar.

But even without the Nobel hovering in the background, Dylan fans will know why we are there: Dylan touches something deep in our souls, not simply with his lyrics or his acoustic guitar or the harmonica solos that always make the crowds whoop. It will be there in his singing voice, ravaged as it is by a long career of touring and sometimes shouting his songs into the night. It will be a sound of pain, of loss, of regrets, but somehow too of abiding hope.

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………..yep….you bet….I’ll take a pound of that and…..I have coupons……

w

P.S. One piece circulated widely is by Alexandra Schwartz ….a staff writer at The New Yorker.

I’ve skipped any of it here since it’s a disrespectful piece of crap written by a know nothing ……who missed a great opportunity.

Want to hear him yourself? 

 

 

Pedi-cab Driver

…….I used to sit on the curb with this guy, floating Popsicle sticks down the gutter in the rain…….well done mark….got that one to turn the corner….cool!……w

Lyfting Me Up

My life has taken a very interesting new direction.I am “Back in The Saddle Again”.It looks like I will be serving as the Senior Pastor at Greeley First Christian Church for the foreseeable future.In the past 19 months I have logged 3805 Lyft rides – you might call that ‘full time’. I have found joy and purpose driving complete strangers all around this five county area, and turning my riders into the stars 🌟 of this blog.How my new job affects what happens in our conversations in this blog, goes like this: I will be finding these ‘gems’ in 15-20 rides a week rather than 80-100.If it goes like it did with my three rides on Tuesday, it will be no problem.

I had just finished a 20 minute ride from near my house to about 10 miles west.He was a fascinating man with…

View original post 441 more words

…….“The more they screamed, the more I knew I was doing the right thing,” …….

When Don McGahn first arrived at the Federal Election Commission in July 2008 as a shaggy-haired, guitar-playing campaign finance lawyer, his casual appearance masked his carefully crafted plans for the sleepy agency charged with regulating campaign finance.

As a new commissioner, McGahn—now President Donald Trump’s top White House lawyer—quickly consolidated power. He persuaded the two other Republican commissioners to vote in lockstep with him, essentially deadlocking the agency’s decision-making. And he ostracized two of the FEC’s Democratic commissioners so much that they rarely spoke to the Republicans. McGahn once grew so irritated with one Democrat that he ripped out pages of a rule book and threw them at her during a meeting. He aggressively questioned and sometimes belittled career staffers and attorneys, according to 10 former FEC officials and staffers; the general counsel, the agency’s top staff lawyer, quit after McGahn tried to curb the power of the legal staff.

Today, the FEC ranks as the worst small agency to work for in the federal government, according to an annual survey done by the nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service. But from a strategic perspective, McGahn’s approach worked. In just five years, he ground the FEC to a slow crawl, with fewer disciplinary actions and fines at a time when 501(c)4s and super PACs flooded the political system with dark money. To longtime staffers, former FEC officials, and campaign finance and good-government experts, McGahn’s tenure seemed like part of a broader Republican-sanctioned strategy to defang the agency. That could be why Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell handpicked him for the job.

“It was pretty clear what he thought of the agency—that he did not believe it should exist,” one former FEC staffer says.

“I don’t think anything he does is fly by the seat of his pants,” is how another former FEC staffer describes McGahn. “There is a mission and reason why he would take that position.”

Even top Democratic lawyers acknowledge that McGahn’s tenure was one of the most consequential in the agency’s history. “He was the most significant commissioner to ever serve,” says Robert Bauer, one of the Democrats’ top campaign finance lawyers and former White House counsel to President Barack Obama. “He came with the capacity to control three votes on a six-member commission. He set the tone and a relentlessly ideological direction and went about this very aggressively.”

This article is based on interviews with more than a dozen former FEC staffers, former FEC officials, campaign finance lawyers and friends of McGahn’s, many of whom requested anonymity to speak more openly about the most powerful lawyer in the administration. Neither McGahn nor the White House responded to requests for an interview or comment for this article.

McGahn, for his part, has always been proud of his bomb-throwing FEC legacy. “I think it was Gene Simmons from KISS who said, ‘There’s no such thing as bad publicity,’” he told the trade publication Campaigns & Elections in 2013, a few months after leaving the agency. “I beat [good-government reformers] at their own game.”

“The more they screamed, the more I knew I was doing the right thing,” he added.

Years later, McGahn’s FEC tenure is instructive as he settles into his role as the White House counsel, advising Trump on conflicts of interest, national security, executive orders, campaign finance, regulations and, most recently, Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch. McGahn took the lead in vetting Gorsuch and was the only staffer to sit in on Trump’s meeting with the judge at Trump Tower in mid-January, giving McGahn a leading role in perhaps the longest-lasting decision of Trump’s presidency.

In just a month, McGahn has also found himself caught up in the early controversies of Trump’s presidency. As counsel, he is responsible for advising the White House on the drafting of executive orders, like Trump’s immigration and refugee ban, which has been frozen by a flurry of successful lawsuits. And McGahn, a powerful yet typically under-the-radar figure, played a starring role in last week’s biggest White House scandal, when Americans learned that the Justice Department’s acting attorney general at the time had personally warned him in late January that Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn, was susceptible to bribery following private conversations he had had with Russia’s ambassador to the United States before Trump’s inauguration. McGahn concluded “there was not a legal issue,” according to White House press secretary Sean Spicer. But within weeks, when it became clear Flynn had misrepresented his conversation with the ambassador, Trump dismissed him, after just 24 days on the job. The whole episode raised questions about McGahn’s effectiveness in looking out for the president and administration.

Critics of McGahn, like former George W. Bush administration lawyer Jack Goldsmith, have faulted him for not acting faster. “The multiple ethics problems swirling around the White House are squarely McGahn’s responsibility,” Goldsmith wrote in a blog post, concluding that the legal “screw-ups” in the White House so far have been largely about “McGahn’s substance and style.”

Disrupting the FEC, an arcane agency that few Americans understand or care about, is one thing. Disrupting the institution of the White House would affect a much broader swath of America. The question now is whether McGahn will slow down Trump, acting as an internal set of checks and balances and a legal and ethical compass in the White House, or whether he will capably encourage Trump’s own worst instincts to act impulsively, with little regard for process or precedent. The evidence from McGahn’s time at the FEC, and his first few weeks at the White House, suggests that he will serve more as the latter. At the FEC, at least, he was, as one former senior official puts it, “a one-man wrecking crew.”

McGahn’s preferred operating style at the FEC—working with loyalists, pushing a deregulatory agenda, and battling insubordinates and colleagues who disagreed with him—might foreshadow what he now could do in the White House, only with a much larger and more powerful platform. This scares critics of his FEC career, who argue that he can be as much of a bully as his new boss.

“McGahn will embolden Trump,” says a former FEC official. “He is not going to be a truth teller. He’s going to be an enabler.”

***

McGahn arrived at the FEC in July 2008, ironically in the middle of the presidential campaign of Republican Senator John McCain, a longtime champion of campaign finance reform. McGahn, after all, had a very different take on money in politics, arguing that spending on campaigns is a key element of free speech protected under the First Amendment. It was a philosophy he had come to after years in the legal trenches, fending off campaign finance inquiries and problems on behalf of clients at the law firm Patton Boggs; running his own law practice; as an attorney for the House Republicans at the National Republican Congressional Committee; and even defending the former Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who was forced to resign from the House in 2005 after being indicted for violating election law.

Along the way, McGahn developed strong ties to Capitol Hill leadership, as well as a practitioner’s understanding of how campaign finance laws can help or hurt campaigns and candidates. McGahn believed the government often overstepped its bounds in enforcing these laws, especially at the FEC’s six-person, appointed bipartisan commission, which was created in the wake of Watergate to better police money in the political system. “Having been a lawyer with the experience of defending people before the commission, I understood what it was like to deal with the FEC from that perspective,” he said in his Campaign & Elections interview. “I thought the place was in much need of some due process.”

Once he arrived at the agency, McGahn wasted little time in imposing a more standard Republican, even libertarian, orthodoxy, arguing for less everything—regulation, disclosure and fines. Where he differed from past conservative commissioners was in his discipline and strategic thinking that brought the Republicans together into a singular voting bloc, while the Democratic commissioners were less organized and ideologically aligned.

With regard to one FEC complaint, for instance, the Republican commissioners argued that it was not a violation of campaign finance law for a wealthy friend of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s to spend $150,000 in 2007 to privately fly Romney campaign volunteers from Utah to Boston for a phone-a-thon fundraiser—a case that seemed like a slam-dunk violation to Democrats because it violated the so-called in-kind contribution limit. In another instance, McGahn and his fellow Republicans argued that a complaint against Freedom’s Watch, a 501(c)4 founded by Bush administration alumni, should be dismissed—even though the group had failed to disclose its donors; the complaint, Republicans argued, did not contain enough evidence to show that the money had been donated expressly to influence elections. McGahn and another Republican commissioner even once wrote an opinion in favor of Trump, arguing that one of the real estate mogul’s websites could accept money from corporations without limits during the 2012 campaign because Trump himself had never officially filed paperwork to run for office or become a candidate.

Republicans all over town applauded this vision and the way they believed McGahn reined in an agency run amok. “I think he views his role there, not as wanting to piss people off, but as resurrecting the proper procedure,” says a Republican who is a close FEC watcher. “Bureaucrats should not overly regulate that type of speech.”

To allies, McGahn could be interesting, unconventional company, several sources said. Not many D.C. lawyers have long hair and a collection of guitars, or used to play rock band gigs at Dewey Beach in Delaware on the weekends. But for career FEC staffers, many of whom believed in the agency’s regulatory mission, McGahn’s disdain for the FEC was disheartening and made it difficult for them to do their jobs.

It was in a meeting with Ellen Weintraub, a Democratic commissioner and McGahn’s strongest adversary, that he grew so frustrated during an argument over rules and statutes that he ripped out the pages of a rule book and flung them toward her to make his point. The two dozen or so staffers in the room all sat there poker-faced, several attendees later remembered—an incident that staffers still gossip about today. “He was pissed—and that was pretty par for the course,” one former FEC staffer says. “The guy is a showman.”

Perhaps the biggest public blowup during McGahn’s tenure came in the summer of 2013, when the agency’s top lawyer publicly and abruptly resigned. Anthony “Tony” Herman had come to the FEC for a job as its general counsel from the white-shoe law firm Covington & Burling, looking to cap off his career with a stint in public service. By the time he arrived at the FEC, however, the staff “was pretty beaten back and intimidated by McGahn,” one former FEC official told me.

Then, in one of his final moves at the FEC, McGahn sought to revise the agency’s dull-sounding “enforcement manual”: a document that determined how the FEC worked with other agencies, how its lawyers investigated its complaints—generally how it did business. It was a chance for McGahn to formalize many of the subtle tweaks to FEC processes that he had been making. With one change, for instance, McGahn wanted to make sure the Office of General Counsel, the FEC’s top lawyers, including Herman, could not consult with outside agencies like the Justice Department to share tips and information without the approval of the politically appointed commissioners. Good-government types saw this as a huge power grab to limit the staff’s ability to gather information, while Republicans saw it as another move to stop the FEC’s overreach. In another tweak, McGahn wanted to prevent FEC lawyers from even Googling news stories about cases they were investigating; extra information from candidate websites, YouTube videos and business databases—sources many FEC believers felt were crucial to their work—overstepped the agency’s authority, McGahn argued.

Herman, the general counsel, was so shocked by these proposals that he resigned and returned to his law firm. (He declined to comment about his resignation.) And although the deadlocked commission never officially approved McGahn’s version of the enforcement manual, the document itself showed outside observers exactly how far he wanted to go in reshaping and, some say, downgrading the FEC.

“In his mind, if he can rig the way it works from the get-go, that is the real fix,” says one former FEC staffer who worked closely with McGahn. “Rather than having to be the judge at the end of the day, let me go to the source of the problem and not let it out of the gate. That was something he would often say—‘the process is the penalty.’”

***

McGahn got to know his new boss, Trump, during the campaign, when he was the Trump team’s lawyer. According to the New York Times, the two were introduced by David Bossie, a top Trump campaign aide and president of Citizens United, the group behind the famous 2010 Supreme Court campaign finance ruling. McGahn and Trump also share an awkward family connection, since McGahn’s uncle worked for Trump in Atlantic City in the 1980s before that relationship soured.

Now, in his new role at the White House, McGahn won’t be focused solely on ethics and campaign finance, but the in-your-face style he honed at the FEC already seems apparent. It’s one thing, however, to be an iconoclast or gadfly on a six-person commission at a second-tier agency; it’s entirely another to act that way as the top legal adviser to the president of the United States. The stakes are higher now, and McGahn will come under far greater scrutiny.

Friends of McGahn’s say his role at the FEC required him to act more confrontationally and so did not necessarily foreshadow the way he will behave as he counsels the president. “He was the decision maker at the FEC, and there was a clash of ideas. That was the role he was supposed to play,” argues Leonard Leo, executive vice president of the Federalist Society, who has known McGahn for years.

Still, from the Supreme Court pick to the immigration executive order to the administration’s policing of conflicts of interest, longtime McGahn observers say they’re already seeing hints of the ways he fought inside the FEC and signs that he is starting to exert his influence.

For instance, when Trump said leading up the inauguration that, legally, he did not have to divest his business holdings, FEC watchers called it “vintage McGahn”—a move that pushed the precedent as far as it could go without breaking the law. Decisions about how to handle conflicts of interest, after all, emanate from the White House counsel’s office. “The idea that conflicts-of-interest laws don’t apply to the president? That has got to be Don,” says one former FEC official.

Same for the administration’s refusal to back down from its controversial immigration and refugee ban, which has been stalled by several state judges and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. It was vintage McGahn, say former FEC staffers and officials, to have Trump keep pursuing the idea so vigorously, even as evidence mounted that it was not working out as planned. While Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller, Trump’s top strategist and policy adviser, respectively, played key roles in drafting the order, it fell to McGahn to try to salvage it legally. In early February, he clarified in a memo that key parts of Trump’s original order no longer applied to green-card holders—a way to backtrack while still trying to save face. The Trump administration is planning to unveil another version of this order this week, and McGahn has taken over the process of drafting it, according to Leo.

McGahn has also taken the lead on ensuring that the Supreme Court nomination goes smoothly—from personally shepherding Gorsuch to meet-and-greets on Capitol Hill to meeting with conservative leaders in the White House to discuss ways they should support the nomination. And already, he and his team are vetting people behind the scenes for the more than 100 other judicial vacancies this White House hopes to fill, Leo says—moves that could reshape the court system.

At the White House, McGahn has brought on several conservative colleagues from his former law firm, Jones Day. And Republican campaign aficionados have cheered McGahn’s ascent; they consider him a highly competent lawyer who shares their political ideology and will help Trump create the smaller government of Republicans’ dreams. But to Democrats, like Ellen Weintraub, who still serves as an FEC commissioner, he is the worst possible pick for the White House counsel’s job—especially for a president with no government experience and a complicated web of international business interests. “The last time McGahn’s job was to regulate corruption, he instead gleefully paralyzed the agency charged with enforcing the law,” Weintraub wrote in a December op-ed in the Washington Post.

Even less ideologically driven FEC staffers wonder aloud how effectively McGahn will do in the White House counsel job—or if he will just help Trump justify his actions and bat aside criticism. Case in point: The episode involving Flynn, which McGahn knew about for a few weeks before the White House took any action. That move publicly backfired on the administration and created fresh questions about its close ties to Russia. For former FEC staffers critical of McGahn’s tenure at the agency, it was another instance of McGahn not doing enough work to backstop a fledgling administration.

Leo, McGahn’s friend, argues that is par for the course for the president’s lawyer. “Hell, that is what lawyers do. They put out fires for a living,” Leo says. “You’re only likely to see the White House counsel when there is a crisis, but that does not mean he is responsible for it.”

A former FEC lawyer saw it differently: “He is a bomb-throwing enabler,” the lawyer says of McGahn. “I can hear him telling Trump, ‘There are no ethics rules that apply to you.’ … McGahn is willing to make arguments to get what he wants, even if he thinks they are not plausible.”

-30-

……………slimy fella…….true believer…………w

 

……the world that trump and ailes built…..

The measure of their influence lies in the distance between today’s media and politics and those of the years they were born.

Roger Ailes died recently, at the age of seventy-seven, during a week when the ground shook beneath a stumbling Donald Trump. The two men were in many things near: in age and appetites, in temper and coarseness. They were also in many things far apart: in intelligence and energy, in talent and purpose. Ailes was formidable, Trump brittle. Ailes’s decline began last summer, when he was forced out of Fox News. Trump’s fall, if he falls, is still to come. And yet at times it has seemed as if the two men were Humpty and Dumpty, tumbling off a wall that they’d built together, to divide one half of the country from the other.

The measure of the world they made lies in its distance from the world into which they were born, when the question of whether democracy could be defended without violating the freedoms on which it rests was a matter of pained debate. Ailes was born in Ohio in May, 1940. Weeks later, President Roosevelt gave a commencement address in Virginia. “Every generation of young men and women in America has questions to ask the world,” he began. “But every now and again in the history of the Republic a different kind of question presents itself—a question that asks, not about the future of an individual or even of a generation, but about the future of the country.” He was arguing against America Firsters, who wanted the United States to be an island, a vision he declared to be a nightmare, “the nightmare of a people lodged in prison, handcuffed, hungry, and fed through the bars from day to day by the contemptuous, unpitying masters of other continents.”

Roosevelt had been trying to gain support for entry into the war in Europe, but he knew that it was possible to push too hard. In 1917, to marshal support for another war, Woodrow Wilson had created a propaganda department, a fiction manufactory that stirred up so much hysteria and so much hatred of Germany that Americans took to calling hamburgers “Salisbury steaks” and lynched a German immigrant. John Dewey called this kind of thing the “conscription of thought.” It was a horse’s bit crammed into the people’s mouth. The bitterness of that experience determined a new generation of journalists to avoid all manner of distortion and error. In 1923, when Henry Luce and Briton Hadden founded Time (their first name for it was Facts), the magazine hired a small army of women to check every fact. (“Add Fact Checking to your list of chores,” the founder of The New Yorker instructed an editor, not long afterward.) In 1929, Luce hired as an editor of his new magazine, Fortune, a poet named Archibald MacLeish. He had fought in the First World War, then lived in Paris, where he wrote poems about places where lay “upon the darkening plain / The dead against the dead and on the silent ground / The silent slain—.” He worked at Fortune until 1938. F.D.R. appointed him Librarian of Congress in 1939.

“Democracy is never a thing done,” MacLeish said. “Democracy is always something that a nation must be doing.” He believed that writers had an obligation to fight against fascism in the battle for public opinion, a battle that grew more urgent after the publication, in 1940, of “The Strategy of Terror,” by Edmond Taylor, the Paris bureau chief for the Chicago Tribune. Taylor reported firsthand on the propaganda campaign waged by Nazi agents to divide the French people, by leaving them uncertain about what to believe, or whether to believe anything at all. (In “Mein Kampf,” Hitler had written that most people “are more easily victimized by a large than by a small lie, since they sometimes tell petty lies themselves but would be ashamed to tell big ones.”) Taylor called propaganda “the invisible front.” Roosevelt decided that he could delay his assault on that front no longer. In October, 1941, he issued an executive order establishing a new government information agency, the Office of Facts and Figures. He appointed MacLeish to head it.

“The duty of government is to provide a basis for judgment,” MacLeish insisted, “and when it goes beyond that, it goes beyond the prime scope of its duty.” Under his leadership, the office mainly printed pamphlets, including “Divide and Conquer,” which explained how foreign agents weaken a nation’s resolve by undermining confidence in institutions like elections and the press, and by raising fears of internal enemies, like immigrants and Jews. Still, some reporters suspected that the agency was nothing more than a propaganda machine, the wartime conversion of fact to fiction. MacLeish was worried, too. In April, 1942, he spoke at a meeting of the Associated Press. To counter the strategy of terror, he proposed a new strategy:

That strategy, I think, is neither difficult to find nor difficult to name. It is the strategy which is appropriate to our cause and to our purpose—the strategy of truth—the strategy which opposes to the frauds and the deceits by which our enemies have confused and conquered other peoples, the simple and clarifying truths by which a nation such as ours must guide itself. But the strategy of truth is not, because it deals in truth, devoid of strategy. It is not enough, in this war of hoaxes and delusions and perpetuated lies, to be merely honest. It is necessary also to be wise.

Critics called MacLeish naïve: winning a war requires deception. F.D.R., to some degree, agreed. In June, 1942, he replaced the Office of Facts and Figures with the Office of War Information. MacLeish left, and the agency drifted. Much of the staff resigned in protest. When a former advertising director for Coca-Cola was hired, a departing writer made a mock poster that read, “Step right up and get your four delicious freedoms. It’s a refreshing war.” In 1946, the year that Donald Trump was born, MacLeish published a poem called “Brave New World,” about Americans’ retreat from the world: “Freedom that was a thing to use / They’ve made a thing to save / And staked it in and fenced it round / Like a dead man’s grave.”

A lifetime later, Barack Obama greeted Roger Ailes at the White House. “I see the most powerful man in the world is here,” Obama said. “Don’t believe what you read, Mr. President,” Ailes answered. “I started those rumors myself.” Other rumors that Ailes helped start include Trump’s charge that Obama is not an American. Also: science is a hoax, history is a conspiracy, and the news is fake. It’s not always possible to sort out fact from fiction, but to believe that everything is a lie is to know nothing. Ailes won’t be remembered as the man who got Trump elected President; he will be remembered as a television producer who understood better than anyone how to divide a people. And Trump’s Presidency, long after it ends, will stand as a monument to the error of a strategy of terror. 

####

 

……eric prince in the hot seat…..

Blackwater’s Founder Is Under Investigation for Money Laundering, Ties to Chinese Intel, and Brokering Mercenary Services

Eric Prince, founder of the now-defunct mercenary firm Blackwater and current chairman of Frontier Services Group, is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice and other federal agencies for attempting to broker military services to foreign governments and possible money laundering, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the case.

What began as an investigation into Prince’s attempts to sell defense services in Libya and other countries in Africa has widened to a probe of allegations that Prince received assistance from Chinese intelligence to set up an account for his Libya operations through the Bank of China. The Justice Department, which declined to comment for this article, is also seeking to uncover the precise nature of Prince’s relationship with Chinese intelligence.

Prince, through his lawyer, Victoria Toensing, said he has not been informed of a federal investigation and had not offered any defense services in Libya. Toensing called the money-laundering allegations “total bullshit.”

The Intercept interviewed more than a half dozen of Prince’s associates, including current and former business partners; four former U.S. intelligence officers; and other sources familiar with the Justice Department investigation. All of them requested anonymity to discuss these matters because there is an ongoing investigation. The Intercept also reviewed several secret proposals drafted by Prince and his closest advisers and partners offering paramilitary services to foreign entities.

For more than a year, U.S. intelligence has been monitoring Prince’s communications and movements, according to a former senior U.S. intelligence officer and a second former intelligence official briefed on the investigation. Multiple sources, including two people with business ties to Prince, told The Intercept that current government and intelligence personnel informed them of this surveillance. Those with business ties were cautioned to sever their dealings with Prince.

prince-ko

Erik Prince, left, chairman of Frontier Services Group, looks at a map of Africa with Deputy Chairman Johnson Ko. FSG, which is backed by Chinese capital, is based in Hong Kong.

Photo: HKEJ

Erik Prince Sought to Recreate a Blackwater-Style Operation

In 2010, amid public scandals and government investigations, Prince began to sell off his Blackwater empire. Using new vehicles, he continued to engage in controversial private security ventures, including operations in Somalia and the United Arab Emirates. Eventually, the former Navy SEAL and self-proclaimed American patriot began building close business ties with powerful individuals connected to the Chinese Communist Party. In January 2014, Prince officially went into business with the Chinese government’s largest state-owned investment firm, the Citic Group, and founded Frontier Services Group, which is based in Hong Kong. Citic Group is the company’s single largest investor, and two of FSG’s board members are Chinese nationals.

Despite the provenance of FSG’s funding and Prince’s history of bad publicity, Prince was able to recruit an impressive line-up of former U.S. military and intelligence officers to run the company. Key to Prince’s ability to retain such personnel, given FSG’s ties to China, has been the firm’s strictly circumscribed mission, which does not include military-related services. FSG is a publicly traded aviation and logistics firm specializing in shipping in Africa and elsewhere. The company also conducts high-risk evacuations from conflict zones. Prince has described his work with FSG as being “on the side of peace and economic development” and helping Chinese businesses to work safely in Africa.

But behind the back of corporate leadership at FSG, Prince was living a double life.

Working with a small cadre of loyalists — including a former South African commando, a former Australian air force pilot, and a lawyer with dual citizenship in the U.S. and Israel — Prince sought to secretly rebuild his private CIA and special operations enterprise by setting up foreign shell companies and offering paramilitary services, according to documents reviewed by The Intercept and interviews with several people familiar with Prince’s business proposals.

Several of the proposals for private security services in African nations examined by The Intercept contained metadata in the digital files showing Prince and his inner circle editing and revising various drafts.

Since 2014, Prince has traveled to at least half a dozen countries to offer various versions of a private military force, secretly meeting with a string of African officials. Among the countries where Prince pitched a plan to deploy paramilitary assets is Libya, which is currently subject to an array of U.S. and United Nations financial and defense restrictions.

Prince engaged in these activities over the objections of his own firm’s corporate leadership. Several FSG colleagues accused him of using his role as chairman to offer Blackwater-like services to foreign governments that could not have been provided by the company, which lacks the capacity, expertise, or even the legal authority to do so.

FSG’s CEO, Gregg Smith, a decorated former U.S. Marine who deployed twice to Beirut in the 1980s, vehemently denies the firm’s complicity in any such efforts by Prince. “FSG has no involvement whatsoever with the provision of — or even offering to provide — defense services in Libya,” Smith told The Intercept. “To the extent that anyone has proposed such services and purported that they were representing FSG, that activity is unauthorized and is not accepted or agreed to by the company.”

Smith said that any proposals advanced by Prince in Libya were not made on behalf of FSG, explaining that the company “has strict protocols in place and has a board-level committee to review any high-risk project, which would certainly include any proposal” involving Libya.

“He’s a rogue chairman,” said one of Prince’s close associates, who has monitored his attempts to sell mercenary forces in Africa.

That source, who has extensive knowledge of Prince’s activities and travel schedule, said that Prince was operating a “secret skunkworks program” while parading around war and crisis zones as FSG’s founder and chairman. “Erik wants to be a real, no-shit mercenary,” said the source. “He’s off the rails exposing many U.S. citizens to criminal liabilities. Erik hides in the shadows … and uses [FSG] for legitimacy.”

Last October, FSG’s corporate leadership grew so concerned about Prince’s efforts to sell paramilitary programs and services that the board passed a series of resolutions stripping Prince of most of his responsibilities as chairman.

FSG also terminated the contracts of two of Prince’s closest associates within the company after management became suspicious that they were assisting Prince in his unapproved dealings, according to two people with knowledge of FSG’s inner workings. Smith declined to comment on internal FSG personnel matters.

In recent months, FSG employees became alarmed when they began to hear reports from sources within the U.S. government that their chairman’s communications and foreign travel were being monitored by U.S. intelligence. According to three people who have worked with Prince, his colleagues were warned not to get involved with his business deals or discuss sensitive issues with him. “I would assume that just about every intelligence agency in the world has him lit up on their screen,” said one of the people advised to avoid Prince.

A slide from a 2015 proposal for a private military force to help “support Libyan sovereign control.” Prince’s lawyer denies he has ever engaged in “anything regarding defense” in Libya.

Operation Lima: Prince Exploited Refugee Crisis to Peddle Paramilitary Services in Libya

Prince developed the paramilitary services proposal for Libyan officials in 2013, before FSG was created, according to documents and two people familiar with the pitch. He made several trips to Libya to meet with government officials there.

The Libyan proposal, reviewed by The Intercept, was code-named Operation Lima. It offered the Libyans an array of military equipment and services — including weaponized vehicles, helicopters, boats, and surveillance airplanes — to help stabilize eastern Libya. The ground force, according to a person involved with the plan, would consist of a troop of former Australian special operations commandos. Given the instability of the government and Prince’s inability to navigate complex Libyan factions to vet potential partners, he had trouble finding the right power brokers to help sell the proposal.

By May 2015, Prince had rebranded himself and claimed a legitimate public reputation as FSG’s chairman. Without the approval of FSG’s management, he returned to Libya offering a freshly repackaged proposal, according to a person involved with the plan. Rather than a counterinsurgency force, Prince proposed a similar set of equipment and services, but with a new justification: The mercenaries would be there to engage in border security.

Prince’s Libya proposal called for supplying “armed” vehicles, helicopters, boats, and surveillance planes to help stem the tide of migrants trying to reach Europe.

According to an internal slide presentation, Prince’s private force would operate in Libya for the stated purpose of stopping the flow of refugees to Europe. Libya is one of the main routes for migrants trying to enter Europe from eastern Africa and parts of the central Sahel region.Prince told colleagues that he received preliminary approval for the border force from a senior Libyan official, but would need to secure European support to loosen up restrictions on Libyan money and weapons, which would otherwise impede the plan, according to a person who discussed the proposal with Prince.

By exploiting European fears of a mass exodus from the Middle East and North Africa, Prince believed he could obtain political buy-in from Europe to bring a foreign force into Libya.

Prince arranged a meeting in Germany to pitch the plan and also shared the proposal with the Italian government, according to two people familiar with his drive to drum up support for Operation Lima. In Italy, Prince found only lukewarm interest, according to a person with knowledge of the effort. The Intercept was unable to confirm the German response.

One slide from Prince’s Libya proposal stated that military trainers and surveillance planes would be provided by Frontier Services Group. Prince is FSG’s chairman, but the company’s CEO denies the company approved — or was even aware — of this proposal.

Prince’s May 2015 proposal for the Libya operations suggested, “Funding can be jointly shared by the EU and Libyan government from Libyan Investment Authority money frozen in European Banks.”However, according to two people involved in the proposal, Prince grew frustrated with the failure to get European help in releasing the frozen Libyan funds, and began looking for other ways to get his border force funded.

By then, the U.S. government was already investigating Prince for possible weapons deals in Africa, according to the former senior U.S. intelligence official and the former intelligence official briefed on the matter. In the course of the surveillance operation for that investigation, U.S. intercepts revealed Prince appearing to discuss efforts to open bank accounts in China to help his Libyan associates.

“Money laundering for Libyan officials using a Chinese bank — that is the issue that pushed it over the edge” for the Justice Department, said the second former intelligence official.

The U.S. spies monitoring Prince soon discovered that he had traveled to the Chinese-controlled peninsula of Macau in an effort to open a bank account, according to two people familiar with the investigation. A well-connected source within the Macau banking community told The Intercept that Prince first attempted to open an account at the Macau branch of a European-connected bank, but was denied after a review by the bank’s European headquarters.

Later, Prince traveled to Beijing, where he met with Chinese agents from the Ministry of State Security, according to the second former intelligence official and a source familiar with the meeting.

In January, Prince returned to Macau and opened an account at the Bank of China, according to several sources, including the second former intelligence official and the source with close connections to Macau’s banking community.

“It was not a personal account,” said the former U.S. intelligence official briefed on the investigation. “He was doing it for the purpose of what is considered now — in the investigation — money laundering on behalf of the Libyans.”

“When he has legitimate business, he does legitimate business,” said Prince’s lawyer.

The CEO of FSG China is a former Chinese security official who was once described by a defense trade publication as “Prince’s right-hand man in China, oiling the wheels of his relationship with the government.”

“If Erik is fucking around with the Chinese, I don’t even want to imagine what the U.S. government is thinking about,” said Prince’s close associate with in-depth knowledge of his activities.

Toensing, Prince’s lawyer, confirmed that Prince successfully opened an account with the Bank of China. “He opened an account on behalf of a business,” she said. Toensing declined to say for which business he opened the account, but said that it complied with U.S. banking regulations. “This is not an FSG bank account,” a spokesperson for FSG told The Intercept.

As for Prince’s alleged meetings with Chinese intelligence, Toensing confirmed that Prince had met with internal security officials in Beijing, but claimed it was in connection to medical evacuation operations. Toensing was unable to answer allegations that Chinese intelligence assisted Prince in setting up a bank account in Macau because she could not reach Prince, whom she said was not in the United States. “What he told me about visiting China was that he was there selling his book and he’s given various speeches there,” she said.

While Prince’s re-invented Libya “border security” proposal was framed as a means of stopping migration, sources with knowledge of Prince’s business strategy allege that he had greater ambitions in that country. One person involved in Prince’s plan said the anti-migration force was seen as a vehicle for Prince to build a “backdoor” for so-called kinetic, or lethal, operations in Libya — a form of mercenary mission-creep. “During the day, you do interdiction of migrants — not kinetic,” said the person involved in the plan. “But those routes are used by weapons smugglers and drug traffickers at night. Insurgents too. Erik’s guys can then be offered to the Libyans to help with their other problems. That’s how you get kinetic.”

The plan called for a series of “border security” bases housing intelligence centers, helicopters, surveillance airplanes, and weaponized vehicles. Prince proposed a fully equipped, contemporary military force to be staffed in part by foreign mercenaries.

“This is Erik Prince using the refugee crisis in Europe in an effort to put mercenaries on the ground in Libya,” said Malcolm Nance, a former U.S. Naval officer who trained special operations forces and has extensive experience in Libya since the fall of Qaddafi. “They think they’re going to solve the migration problem with technology and a bunch of Western mercenaries?” Nance, who reviewed a copy of Prince’s plan provided by The Intercept, called the proposal “fantasy baseball.”

Government Investigation Focuses on Violations of U.S. Defense Export Regulations

Among the concerns of government investigators is that Prince’s attempts to provide defense-related services to Libya and other countries violate U.S. defense export regulations. Under federal law, U.S. citizens seeking to offer military services or technologies to Libya must have a license certifying that the services or articles are approved under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, or ITAR. “Many of these services and articles are designed to kill people or defend against killing people,” said John Barker, a former deputy assistant secretary of state for export controls. “To protect U.S. national security and foreign policy as well as that of its allies, the U.S. requires prior authorization.”

FSG officials told The Intercept that the company has no such licenses, nor has it sought them. “Since our inception, FSG has had bright-line policies against the provision of defense services and the purchase of U.S.-origin items that might be ITAR-controlled,” said Smith, the CEO of FSG.

The State Department’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls, which issues the licenses, told The Intercept that it would not comment on what licenses companies possess or lack, calling them “proprietary corporate data,” and asserted that information on the licenses is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act. The Intercept has a long-standing FOIA request with the State Department seeking information on licenses granted to Prince and his former network of companies. To date, no information has been provided.

According to documents reviewed by The Intercept, as recently as 2014, Prince was registered as a defense services broker with the State Department through a limited liability corporation in Delaware, Westcomi LLC. That registration would permit Prince to engage in brokering without further authorization for some transactions in some countries, but not in Libya. Even with a valid brokering registration, according to legal experts, Prince would still need to get State Department approval for specific deals and report them to the U.S. government. “He could not solicit or promote the brokering of defense articles such as armored equipment delivered from abroad, or engage in or make a proposal to engage in brokering activities, absent prior U.S. government approval,” said Barker, the former state department official.

An FSG official said the company did not know if Prince obtained a license for his activities in Libya, but noted that he did not have one in his capacity as FSG’s chairman. One of Prince’s Libya proposals reviewed by The Intercept lists FSG as the commercial vendor for the project.

Last October, concerned about Prince’s unsanctioned international activities, FSG’s board approved a resolution clarifying that the company does not “engage in activities that require ITAR licenses.” A State Department spokesperson declined to comment, saying, “We are restricted under Federal Regulations from commenting on specific defense trade export licensing activities.”

Prince’s lawyer, Victoria Toensing, told The Intercept: “I’m not going to get into what licenses [Prince] has.”

“You push the buttons on the company, but the main bad guy gets away and does it again,” said an official who tried to prosecute Prince.

Prince has run up against ITAR in the past. In 2010, Prince sold most of his equity in the companies that fell under the Blackwater umbrella. Claiming that left-wing activists, Democratic politicians, and lawsuits had destroyed his companies, he left the United States and became a resident of Abu Dhabi. The remnant of his network was renamed Academi LLC. Federal prosecutors eventually attempted to prosecute Prince’s former companies, culminating in a 2012 deferred prosecution agreement to settle a lengthy list of U.S. legal and regulatory violations committed from 2005 through 2008 when Prince was in charge, including ITAR violations.

A senior official involved with the Blackwater-related litigation, who has since left the government, told The Intercept that the Obama administration’s continued willingness to award contracts to former Blackwater entities while the case was active was a fatal impediment to a successful prosecution. The official, comparing the former Blackwater empire to a drug syndicate, added that prosecutors could not get anyone under Prince to testify against him personally. “This is very much the concern,” the former official told The Intercept. “You push the buttons on the company, but the main bad guy gets away and does it again.”

No criminal charges were filed against Prince.

In federal court filings, Prince’s former companies admitted to providing — on numerous occasions during Prince’s tenure — defense goods and services to foreign governments without the required State Department licensing. In some cases, they admitted to providing services even after failing to obtain a license from the State Department.

As part of their settlement with the government, Prince’s companies ultimately agreed to pay nearly $50 million in fines and other penalties and to implement compliance procedures to ensure such illegal activities did not continue. In September 2015, the deferred charges were dismissed after the U.S. government certified that the companies had “fully complied” with all of its conditions.

At that point, Prince was already deep into creating new companies registered outside of the United States and appeared poised to return to the conduct that had marked his time at the helm of Blackwater.

An internal document from Prince’s inner circle, reviewed by The Intercept, shows his team openly discussing the need to avoid U.S. and international defense export regulations and to mask the involvement of Prince and his cohort in efforts to provide mercenary services and military equipment to foreign governments. “Erik is always pressing the limits as to what is possible,” said the close associate of Prince’s.

deployment

Slides from a 2014 proposal for a private force in Nigeria called for airstrikes, raids, ambushes, and “black” operations. Prince’s lawyer claims he only offered to “fix roads.”

Project November: Prince Offered Services to Nigeria to Fight Boko Haram

Several of the proposals for paramilitary services Prince has shopped around the world called for the use of a foreign force to conduct operations, according to the proposals and a person familiar with Prince’s plans. These documents, including one for Nigeria, were not authorized or approved by FSG and do not exist on any of its internal computer systems, according to company officials.

Prince has long been interested in raising a private military force to battle Islamic militant groups in a variety of countries. In 2014, he traveled to Nigeria and met personally with then-President Goodluck Jonathan to offer a $1.5 billion proposal to wipe out the radical Islamic group Boko Haram, according to a person familiar with Prince’s meeting. “It was a proposal to fix roads,” Toensing, Prince’s lawyer, said in a phone interview. “It was for fixing roads and not military related.”

Part of Project November — Prince’s proposal for Nigeria — envisioned air attacks in northeast Nigeria against the Islamic militant group Boko Haram.

But the internal proposals Prince and his team drafted, reviewed by The Intercept, offered a markedly different set of services than street repairs. They explicitly promised to confront the sabotage and theft of Nigerian oil, provide VIP protection for Nigerian officials, and engage in counterinsurgency activities. Code-named Project November, the Nigeria plans were originally created with the FSG logo, though the company’s emblem was omitted from the plan presented to the Nigerians.Nigeria later hired Eeben Barlow, the legendary South African special forces mercenary — and Prince’s longtime business rival — to conduct a three-month operation inside the country to fight Boko Haram. Two sources close to Prince said that, as Prince saw it, Barlow had taken his plan and effectively stole the contract. “Erik was smokin’ hot” over that, said one of the sources.

In recent months, Gregg Smith and some members of FSG’s board, which includes retired Adm. William Fallon, the former commander of U.S. Central Command, began examining the possibility that Prince’s unauthorized activities could lead to a criminal indictment or other sanctions against the FSG chairman by the U.S. government. Toensing dismissed the notion Prince had broken any laws. “When he has legitimate business, he does legitimate business,” she said.

According to multiple sources familiar with Prince’s activities, as well as documents reviewed by The Intercept, Prince is considering an invitation to speak at a conference later this month in China sponsored by the country’s main domestic security organization, the Ministry of Public Security.

Internally, FSG executives determined that any presentations by the company’s U.S. citizen personnel at the conference could potentially violate U.S. laws against providing defense advice to China. Smith issued a directive that no U.S. personnel from FSG were authorized to attend. Erik Prince, Smith told his staff, would need to make his own decision.

Research: Sheelagh McNeill, John Thomason, Margot Williams, Josh Begley

CONTACT THE AUTHOR:

Matthew Colematthew.cole@​theintercept.com@matthewacole

Jeremy Scahilljeremy.scahill@​theintercept.com@jeremyscahill

####

……………….YO MAMA little eric…..a dangerous little weasel with a big checkbook and no respect for life….. w

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

……It may be time to disobey the commander in chief…….

With his assault on the rule of law, President Trump has undermined his legitimacy…..

 

…A Vision Of Trump at War….

…..once upon a time…..

How the President Could Stumble Into Conflict

 Just a few months into the Trump administration, it still isn’t clear what course the president’s foreign policy will ultimately take. What is clear, however, is that the impulsiveness, combativeness, and recklessness that characterized Donald Trump’s election campaign have survived the transition into the presidency. Since taking office, Trump has continued to challenge accepted norms, break with diplomatic traditions, and respond to perceived slights or provocations with insults or threats of his own. The core of his foreign policy message is that the United States will no longer allow itself to be taken advantage of by friends or foes abroad. After decades of “losing” to other countries, he says he is going to put “America first” and start winning again.

It could be that Trump is simply staking out tough bargaining positions as a tactical matter, the approach to negotiations he has famously called “the art of the deal.” President Richard Nixon long ago developed the “madman theory,” the idea that he could frighten his adversaries into believing he was so volatile he might do something crazy if they failed to meet his demands—a tactic that Trump, whose reputation for volatility is firmly established, seems particularly well suited to employ.

The problem, however, is that negotiations sometimes fail, and adversaries are themselves often brazen and unpredictable. After all, Nixon’s madman theory—designed to force the North Vietnamese to compromise—did not work. Moreover, putting the theory into practice requires the capacity to act judiciously at the appropriate moment, something that Trump, as president, has yet to demonstrate. And whereas a failed business deal allows both parties to walk away unscathed if disappointed, a failed diplomatic gambit can lead to political instability, costly trade disputes, the proliferation of dangerous weapons, or even war. History is littered with examples of leaders who, like Trump, came to power fueled by a sense of national grievance and promises to force adversaries into submission, only to end up mired in a military, diplomatic, or economic conflict they would come
to
regret.

Will that happen to Trump? Nobody knows. But what if one could? What if, like Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles DickensA Christmas Carol, Trump could meet a ghost from the future offering a vision of where his policies might lead by the end of his term before he decides on them at its start?

The problem is that negotiations sometimes fail, and adversaries are themselves often brazen and unpredictable.

It is possible that such a ghost would show him a version of the future in which his administration, after a turbulent start, moderated over time, proved more conventional than predicted, and even had some success in negotiating, as he has pledged, “better deals.” But there is a real risk that events will turn out far worse—a future in which Trump’s erratic style and confrontational policies destroy an already fragile world order and lead to open conflict—in the most likely cases, with Iran, China, or North Korea.

In the narratives that follow, everything described as having taken place before mid-March 2017 actually happened. That which takes place after that date is—at least at the time of publication—fiction.

STUMBLING INTO WAR WITH IRAN

It is September 2017, and the White House is consumed with a debate about options for escalation with Iran. Another dozen Americans have been killed in an Iranian-sponsored attack on U.S. soldiers in Iraq, and the president is frustrated that previous air strikes in Iran failed to deter this sort of deadly aggression. He is tempted to retaliate much more aggressively this time but also knows that doing so risks involving U.S. troops even further in what is already a costly and unpopular war—the very sort of “mess” he had promised to avoid. Looking back, he now sees that this conflict probably became inevitable when he named his foreign policy team and first started to implement his new approach toward Iran.

Well before his election, of course, Trump had criticized the Iran nuclear agreement as “the worst deal ever negotiated” and promised to put a stop to Iran’s “aggressive push to destabilize and dominate” the Middle East. Some of his top advisers were deeply hostile to Iran and known to favor a more confrontational approach, including his first national security adviser, Michael Flynn; his CIA director, Mike Pompeo; his chief strategist, Steve Bannon; and his defense secretary, James Mattis. Some of Mattis’ former military colleagues said he had a 30-year-long obsession with Iran, noting, as one marine told Politico, “It’s almost like he wants to get even with them.”

During his campaign and first months in office, Trump whipped up anti-Iranian feelings and consistently misled the public about what the nuclear deal entailed. He falsely insisted that the United States “received absolutely nothing” from it, that it permitted Iran to eventually get the bomb, and that it gave $150 billion to Iran (apparently referring to a provision of the deal that allowed Iran to access some $50 billion of its own money that had been frozen in foreign accounts). Critics claimed that the rhetoric was reminiscent of the Bush administration’s exaggerations of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction programs in the run-up to the Iraq war. In February 2017, in response to an Iranian ballistic missile test, Flynn brashly declared that he was “officially putting Iran on notice.” Two days later, the administration announced a range of new sanctions on 25 Iranian individuals and companies involved in the ballistic missile program.

Trump whipped up anti-Iranian feelings and consistently misled the public about what the nuclear deal entailed.

Perhaps just as predictably, Iran dismissed the administration’s tough talk. It continued to test its missiles, insisting that neither the nuclear deal nor UN Security Council resolutions prohibited it from doing so. Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, even taunted Trump for his controversial immigration and travel ban, thanking him on Twitter for revealing the “true face” of the United States. Tehran also continued its policy of shipping arms to the Houthi rebels in Yemen and providing military assistance to Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria, neither of which proved particularly costly to the Iranian treasury. U.S. efforts to get Russia to limit Iran’s role in Syria were ignored, adding to the White House’s frustration.

To the surprise of many, growing U.S. pressure on Iran did not immediately lead to the collapse of the nuclear deal. As soon as he took office, Trump ended the Obama administration’s practice of encouraging banks and international companies to ensure that Iran benefited economically from the deal. And he expressed support for congressional plans to sanction additional Iranian entities for terrorism or human rights violations, as top officials insisted was permitted by the nuclear deal. Iran complained that these “backdoor” sanctions would violate the agreement yet took no action. By March 2017, U.S. officials were concluding internally—and some of the administration’s supporters began to gloat—that Trump’s tougher approach was succeeding.

Iranian ships take part in naval war game in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz in April 2010.

Iranian ships take part in naval war game in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz in April 2010.

Different behavior on either side could have prevented relations from deteriorating. But ultimately, the deal could not be sustained. In the early summer of 2017, real signs of trouble started to emerge. Under pressure from hardline factions within Iran, which had their own interest in spiking the deal, Tehran had continued its provocative behavior, including the unjustified detention of dual U.S.-Iranian citizens, throughout the spring. In June, after completing a review of his Iran policy, Trump put Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations and announced that continued sanctions relief would be contingent on Iran’s release of all U.S. detainees and a return to negotiations to address the nuclear deal’s “flaws.” Instead of submitting to these demands, Iran responded with defiance. Its new president, a hard-liner who had defeated Hassan Rouhani in the May 2017 election, declared that in the face of U.S. “noncompliance,” Iran would resume certain prohibited nuclear activities, including testing advanced centrifuges and expanding its stockpile of low-enriched uranium. Washington was suddenly abuzz with talk of the need for a new effort to choke off Iran economically or even a preventive military strike. 

The Trump administration had been confident that other countries would back its tougher approach and had warned allies and adversaries alike that they must choose between doing business with Iran and doing business with the United States. But the pressure did not work as planned. China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the United Kingdom all said that the deal had been working before the United States sought to renegotiate it, and they blamed Washington for precipitating the crisis. The EU even passed legislation making it illegal for European companies to cooperate with U.S. secondary sanctions. Trump fumed and vowed they would pay for their betrayal.

As the United States feuded with its closest partners, tensions with Iran escalated further. Frustrated by continued Iranian support for the Houthi rebels in Yemen, the Pentagon stepped up patrols in the Strait of Hormuz and loosened the rules of engagement for U.S. forces. When an Iranian patrol boat aggressively approached a U.S. cruiser, in circumstances that are still disputed, the U.S. ship responded with deadly defensive force, killing 25 Iranian sailors.

The outrage in Iran bolstered support for the regime and led to widespread calls for revenge, which the country’s new president could not resist. Less than a week later, the Iranian-backed militia group Kataib Hezbollah killed six U.S. soldiers in Iraq. With the American public demanding retaliation, some called for diplomacy, recalling how, in January 2016, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif spoke directly to defuse the situation after U.S. sailors drifted into Iranian waters. This time, the EU offered to mediate the crisis.

But the administration wanted nothing to do with what it considered the Obama administration’s humiliating appeasement of Iran. Instead, to teach Iran a lesson, Trump authorized a cruise missile strike on a known Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps intelligence headquarters, destroying three buildings and killing a dozen officers and an unknown number of civilians.

Trump’s advisers predicted that Iran would back down, but as nationalist fervor grew in Iran, Tehran escalated the conflict, calculating that the American public had no desire to spend more blood or treasure in the Middle East. Kataib Hezbollah and other Shiite militias in Iraq, some directed by Iran and others acting independently, launched further attacks on U.S. personnel. Tehran forced the weak government in Baghdad to demand the Americans’ departure from Iraq, which would deal a huge blow to the U.S.-led campaign against the Islamic State, or ISIS. 

As Washington reimposed the sanctions that had been suspended by the nuclear deal, Iran abandoned the limits on its enrichment of uranium, expelled the UN monitors, and announced that it was no longer bound by the agreement. With the CIA concluding that Iran was now back on the path to a nuclear weapons capability, Trump’s top advisers briefed the president in the Oval Office. Some counseled restraint, but others, led by Bannon and Mattis, insisted that the only credible option was to destroy the Iranian nuclear infrastructure with a massive preventive strike, while reinforcing the U.S. presence in Iraq to deal with the likely Iranian retaliation. Pompeo, a longstanding advocate of regime change in Iran, argued that such a strike might also lead to a popular uprising and the ousting of the supreme leader, an encouraging notion that Trump himself had heard think-tank experts endorse on television.

Once again, nervous allies stepped in and tried to broker a diplomatic solution. They tried to put the 2015 nuclear deal back in place, arguing that it now looked attractive by comparison. But it was too late. U.S. strikes on Iran’s nuclear facilities in Arak, Fordow, Isfahan, Natanz, and Parchin led to retaliatory counterstrikes against U.S. forces in Iraq, U.S. retaliation against targets in Iran, terrorist attacks against Americans in Europe and the Middle East, and vows from Tehran to rebuild its nuclear program bigger and better than before. The president who had vowed to stop squandering American lives and resources in the Middle East now found himself wondering how he had ended up at war there.

FIGHTING CHINA

China's national flag is raised during the opening ceremony of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games at the Bird's Nest Stadium, August 2008.

China’s national flag is raised during the opening ceremony of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games at the Bird’s Nest Stadium, August 2008.

It is October 2017, and experts are calling it the most dangerous confrontation between nuclear powers since the Cuban missile crisis. After a U.S.-Chinese trade war escalated well beyond what either side had predicted, a clash in the South China Sea has led to casualties on both sides and heavy exchanges of fire between the U.S. and Chinese navies. There are rumors that China has placed its nuclear forces on high alert. The conflict that so many long feared has begun. 

Of the many foreign targets of Trump’s withering criticism during the campaign and the early months of his presidency, China topped the list. As a candidate, Trump repeatedly accused the country of destroying American jobs and stealing U.S. secrets. “We can’t continue to allow China to rape our country,” he said. Bannon, who early in the administration set up a shadow national security council in the White House, had even predicted conflict with China. “We’re going to war in the South China Sea in five to ten years,” he said in March 2016. “There’s no doubt about that.”

Not long after the election, Trump took a congratulatory phone call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, breaking with decades of diplomatic tradition and suggestinga potential change in the United States’ “one China” policy. It wasn’t clear whether the move was inadvertent or deliberate, but either way, Trump defended his approach and insisted that the policy was up for negotiation unless China made concessions on trade. “Did China ask us if it was OK to devalue their currency (making it hard for our companies to compete), heavily tax our products going into their country (the U.S. doesn’t tax them) or to build a massive military complex in the middle of the South China Sea?” he tweeted. “I don’t think so!” In February 2017, after a call with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Trump announced that the United States would honor the “one China” policy after all. Asia experts were relieved, but it must have infuriated the president that so many thought he had backed down. “Trump lost his first fight with Xi and he will be looked at as a paper tiger,” Shi Yinhong, a professor at Renmin University of China, told The New York Times.

There were other early warning signs of the clashes to come. At his confirmation hearings for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson appeared to draw a new redline in the South China Sea, noting that China’s access to islands there “is not going to be allowed.” Some dismissed the statement as overblown rhetoric, but Beijing did not. The state-run China Daily warned that any attempt to enforce such a policy could lead to a “devastating confrontation,” and the Global Times said it could lead to “large-scale war.”

Then there were the disputes about trade. To head the new White House National Trade Council, Trump nominated Peter Navarro, the author of The Coming China Wars, Death by China, and other provocative books that describe U.S.-Chinese relations in zero-sum terms and argue for increased U.S. tariffs and trade sanctions. Like Bannon, Navarro regularly invoked the specter of military conflict with Beijing, and he argued that tougher economic measures were necessary not only to rectify the U.S.-Chinese trade balance but also to weaken China’s military power, which he claimed would inevitably be used against the United States. The early rhetoric worried many observers, but they took solace in the idea that neither side could afford a confrontation. 

It was the decisions that followed that made war all but inevitable. In June 2017, when North Korea tested yet another long-range missile, which brought it closer to having the ability to strike the United States, Trump demanded that China check its small ally and announced “serious consequences” if it refused. China had no interest in promoting North Korea’s nuclear capacity, but it worried that completely isolating Pyongyang, as Trump was demanding, could cause the regime to collapse—sending millions of poor North Korean refugees streaming into China and leaving behind a united Korea ruled by Seoul, armed with North Korea’s nuclear weapons, and allied with Washington. China agreed to another UN Security Council statement condemning North Korea and extended a suspension of coal imports from the country but refused to take further action. Angry about Trump’s incessant criticism and confrontation over trade, Xi saw the United States as a greater danger to China than North Korea was and said he refused to be bullied by Washington.

At the same time, the U.S. current account deficit with China had swelled, driven in part by the growing U.S. budget deficits that resulted from Trump’s massive tax cuts. That, combined with Chinese intransigence over North Korea, convinced the White House that it was time to get tough. Outside experts, along with Trump’s own secretary of state and secretary of the treasury, cautioned against the risks of a dangerous escalation, but the president dismissed their hand-wringing and said that the days of letting China take advantage of Americans were over. In July, the administration formally branded China a “currency manipulator” (despite evidence that it had actually been spending its currency reserves to uphold the value of the yuan) and imposed a 45 percent tariff on Chinese imports. To the delight of the crowd at a campaign-style rally in Florida, Trump announced that these new measures would remain in place until China boosted the value of its currency, bought more U.S. goods, and imposed tougher sanctions on North Korea. 

The president’s more hawkish advisers assured him that China’s response would prove limited, given its dependence on exports and its massive holdings of U.S. Treasury bonds. But they underestimated the intense nationalism that the U.S. actions had stoked. Xi had to show strength, and he hit back.

All Trump wanted to do was get a better deal from China.

Within days, Xi announced that China was taking the United States to the World Trade Organization over the import tariff (a case he felt certain China would win) and imposed a 45 percent countertariff on U.S. imports. The Chinese believed that the reciprocal tariffs would hurt the United States more than China (since Americans bought far more Chinese goods than the other way around) and knew that the resulting inflation—especially for goods such as clothing, shoes, toys, and electronics—would hurt Trump’s blue-collar constituency. Even more important, they felt they were more willing to make sacrifices than the Americans were.

Xi also instructed China’s central bank to sell $100 billion in U.S. Treasury bonds, a move that immediately drove up U.S. interest rates and knocked 800 points off the Dow Jones industrial average in a single day. That China started using some of the cash resulting from the sales to buy large stakes in major U.S. companies at depressed prices only fueled a nationalist reaction in the United States. Trump tapped into it, calling for a new law to block Chinese investment. 

With personal insults flying back and forth across the Pacific, Trump announced that if China did not start treating the United States fairly, Washington might reconsider the “one China” policy after all. Encouraged by Bannon, who argued privately that it was better to have the inevitable confrontation with China while the United States still enjoyed military superiority, Trump speculated publicly about inviting the president of Taiwan to the White House and selling new antimissile systems and submarines to the island.

China responded that any change in U.S. policy toward Taiwan would be met with an “overwhelming response,” which experts interpreted to mean at a minimum cutting off trade with Taiwan (which sends 30 percent of its exports to China) and at a maximum military strikes against targets on the island. With over one billion Chinese on the mainland passionately committed to the country’s nominal unity, few doubted that Beijing meant what it said. On October 1, China’s normally tepid National Day celebrations turned into a frightening display of anti-Americanism. 

It was in this environment that an incident in the South China Sea led to the escalation so many had feared. The details remain murky, but it was triggered when a U.S. surveillance ship operating in disputed waters in heavy fog accidentally rammed a Chinese trawler that was harassing it. In the confusion that ensued, a People’s Liberation Army Navy frigate fired on the unarmed U.S. ship, a U.S. destroyer sank the Chinese frigate, and a Chinese torpedo struck and badly damaged the destroyer, killing three Americans.

A U.S. aircraft carrier task force is being rushed to the region, and China has deployed additional attack submarines there and begun aggressive overflights and patrols throughout the South China Sea. Tillerson is seeking to reach his Chinese counterpart, but officials in Beijing wonder whether he even speaks for the administration and fear Trump will accept nothing short of victory. Leaked U.S. intelligence estimates suggest that a large-scale conflict could quickly lead to hundreds of thousands of casualties, draw in neighboring states, and destroy trillions of dollars’ worth of economic output. But with nationalism raging in both countries, neither capital sees a way to back down. All Trump wanted to do was get a better deal from China.

Chinese soldiers drive their armoured vehicles to Tiananmen Square as others are shown on a screen during the military parade marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, in Beijing, China, September 2015.

During the military parade marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II in Beijing, China, September 2015.

THE NEXT KOREAN WAR

It is December 2018, and North Korea has just launched a heavy artillery barrage against targets in Seoul, killing thousands, or perhaps tens of thousands; it is too soon to say. U.S. and South Korean forces—now unified under U.S. command, according to the provisions of the Mutual Defense Treaty—have fired artillery and rockets at North Korea’s military positions and launched air strikes against its advanced air defense network. From a bunker somewhere near Pyongyang, the country’s erratic dictator, Kim Jong Un, has issued a statement promising to “burn Seoul and Tokyo to the ground”—a reference to North Korea’s stockpile of nuclear and chemical weapons—if the “imperialist” forces do not immediately cease their attacks.

Even Trump’s harshest critics acknowledge that the United States had no good choices in North Korea.

Washington had expected some sort of a North Korean response when it preemptively struck the test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to the continental United States, fulfilling Trump’s pledge to prevent Pyongyang from acquiring that ability. But few thought North Korea would go so far as to risk its own destruction by attacking South Korea. Now, Trump must decide whether to continue with the war and risk nuclear escalation—or accept what will be seen as a humiliating retreat. Some of his advisers are urging him to quickly finish the job, whereas others warn that doing so would cost the lives of too many of the 28,000 U.S. soldiers stationed on the peninsula, to say nothing of the ten million residents of Seoul. Assembled in the White House Situation Room, Trump and his aides ponder their terrible options.

How did it come to this? Even Trump’s harshest critics acknowledge that the United States had no good choices in North Korea. For more than 20 years, the paranoid, isolated regime in Pyongyang had developed its nuclear and missile capabilities and seemed impervious to incentives and disincentives alike. The so-called Agreed Framework, a 1994 deal to halt North Korea’s nuclear program, fell apart in 2003 when Pyongyang was caught violating it, leading the George W. Bush administration to abandon the deal in favor of tougher sanctions. Multiple rounds of talks since then produced little progress. By 2017, experts estimated that North Korea possessed more than a dozen nuclear warheads and was stockpiling the material for more. They also thought North Korea had missiles capable of delivering those warheads to targets throughout Asia and was testing missiles that could give it the capacity to strike the West Coast of the United States by 2023.

Early in the administration, numerous outside experts and former senior officials urged Trump to make North Korea a top priority. Accepting that total dismantlement of the country’s nuclear and missile programs was not a realistic nearterm goal, most called for negotiations that would offer a package of economic incentives and security assurances in exchange for a halt to further testing and development. A critical component, they argued, would be outreach to China, the only country that might be able to influence North Korea.

But the administration preferred a more confrontational approach. Even before Trump took office, when Kim blustered about developing the capacity to strike the United States with a nuclear weapon, Trump responded on Twitter: “It won’t happen!” On February 12, 2017, North Korea fired a test missile 310 miles into the Sea of Japan at the very moment Trump was meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at his Mar-a-Lago estate, in Florida. The next morning, Stephen Miller, a senior adviser to Trump, announced that the United States would soon be sending a signal to North Korea in the form of a major military buildup that would show “unquestioned military strength beyond anything anyone can imagine.” Later that month, Trump announced plans for a $54 billion increase in U.S. defense spending for 2018, with corresponding cuts in the budget for diplomacy. And in March 2017, Tillerson traveled to Asia and declared that “the political and diplomatic efforts of the past 20 years” had failed and that a “new approach” was needed.

In the ensuing months, critics urged the administration to accompany its military buildup with regional diplomacy, but Trump chose otherwise. He made clear that U.S. foreign policy had changed. Unlike what his predecessor had done with Iran, he said, he was not going to reward bad behavior. Instead, the administration announced in the summer of 2018 that North Korea was “officially on notice.” Although the White House agreed with critics that the best way to pressure North Korea was through China, it proved impossible to cooperate with Beijing while erecting tariffs and attacking it for “raping” the United States economically.

Thus did the problem grow during the administration’s first two years. North Korea continued to test missiles and develop fissile material. It occasionally incited South Korea, launching shells across the demilitarized zone and provoking some near misses at sea. The war of words between Pyongyang and Washington also escalated—advisers could not get the president to bite his tongue in response to Kim’s outrageous taunts—and Trump repeated in even more colorful language his Twitter warning that he would not allow Pyongyang to test a nuclear-capable missile that could reach the United States.

When the intelligence community picked up signs that Pyongyang was about to do so, the National Security Council met, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff briefed the president on his options. He could try to shoot down the test missile in flight, but shooting carried a high risk of missing, and even a successful intercept might provoke a military response. He could do nothing, but that would mean losing face and emboldening North Korea. Or he could destroy the test missile on its launch pad with a barrage of cruise missiles, blocking Pyongyang’s path to a nuclear deterrent, enforcing his redline, and sending a clear message to the rest of the world. Sources present at the meeting reported that when the president chose the third option, he said, “We have to start winning wars again.”

LEARNING FROM THE FUTURE

These frightening futures are far from inevitable. Indeed, for all the early bluster and promises of a dramatic break with the past, U.S. foreign policy may well turn out to be not as revolutionary or reckless as many fear. Trump has already demonstrated his ability to reverse course without compunction on a multitude of issues, from abortion to the Iraq war, and sound advice from some of his more seasoned advisers could moderate his potential for rash behavior. 

On the other hand, given what we have seen so far of the president’s temperament, decision-making style, and foreign policy, these visions of what might lie ahead are hardly implausible: foreign policy disasters do happen. Imagine if a ghost from the future could have given world leaders in 1914 a glimpse of the cataclysm their policies would produce. Or if in 1965, U.S. President Lyndon Johnson could have seen what escalation in Vietnam would lead to a decade later. Or if in 2003, U.S. President George W. Bush could have been shown a preview of the results of the invasion of Iraq. In each case, unwise decisions, a flawed process, and wishful thinking did lead to a catastrophe that could have been, and often was, predicted in advance. 

Maybe Trump is right that a massive military buildup, a reputation for unpredictability, a high-stakes negotiating style, and a refusal to compromise will convince other countries to make concessions that will make America safe, prosperous, and great again. But then again, maybe he’s wrong.

####

………that’ll scare the pants off some folks…..or not…………………………………………..

w

…….Colorado should remove its monuments to genocide….

With the Old South finally cleansing itself of outdated statues, Colorado should consider names like Evans, Byers and Gore.

Mountain Evans, as seen from Aurora, is named for John Evans, the first territorial governor of Colorado. In 2014, a nine-member committee at Northwestern University investigated Evans’ role in the Sand Creek Massacre and determined that he “helped create a situation that made the Sand Creek Massacre possible.”

Mountain Evans, as seen from Aurora, is named for John Evans, the first territorial governor of Colorado. In 2014, a nine-member committee at Northwestern University investigated Evans’ role in the Sand Creek Massacre and determined that he “helped create a situation that made the Sand Creek Massacre possible.”

The recent spectacle of crews in New Orleans removing the statues of Confederate heroes from places of reverence might seem long overdue to your average Coloradan. The tradition in the Old South of honoring white supremacists and champions of slavery is hard to fathom from this distant vantage point.

But here in Colorado, we have our own shameful traditions. Our whitewashed history from the territorial period in the late 1800s has elevated a whole cast of disgraceful figures to pinnacles — literally — of undeserved public esteem.

Let’s start with the first territorial governor, John Evans, whose name is memorialized on a 14,265-foot mountain peak.

In 2014, a nine-member committee at Northwestern University investigated Evans’ role in the Sand Creek Massacre and the genocide of Native Americans across the Colorado Territory. While it found insufficient evidence to suggest that Evans was involved personally in planning the attack on the Cheyennes and Arapahos at Sand Creek on Nov. 29, 1864, the report was highly critical, saying that he “helped create a situation that made the Sand Creek Massacre possible.”

Then, it said, “John Evans’ conduct after the Sand Creek Massacre reveals a deep moral failure that warrants condemnation. While he denied any role in the massacre, he refused to acknowledge, let alone criticize, what had happened, even going so far as to defend and rationalize it. Regardless of Evans’ degree of culpability in failing to make every possible effort to protect the Cheyennes and Arapahos when they were most vulnerable, his response to the Sand Creek Massacre was reprehensibly obtuse and self-interested. His recollections of the event displayed complete indifference to the suffering inflicted on Cheyennes and Arapahos.”

In case you might think that the committee was inclined to be hostile or unfair to him, keep in mind that Northwestern was founded by Evans and is located in a town called Evanston. (The University of Denver also was founded by Evans.)

Evans’ sidekick and collaborator in promoting and then rationalizing the slaughter at Sand Creek was William Byers, namesake for the 12,804-foot Byers Peak in Grand County.

Byers was the publisher of the Daily Rocky Mountain News, which was unabashedly in bed with Evans, even marketing itself as “the Official Paper of the Territory,” a sort of Pravda of the Plains.
In an editorial in 1864 that attempted to rally settlers to take arms against the Indians on whose land they were flagrantly trespassing, Byers wrote, “A few months of active extermination against the red devils will bring quiet and nothing else will.”

“Extermination.” His message was unambiguous.

Another despicable creature memorialized in the Colorado high country is Sir George Gore, who apparently didn’t participate in the war against the Indians, but instead was a prominent leader in the 1850s campaign to wipe out the buffalo, the literal and spiritual lifeline for Plains Indians.

Gore, a spectacularly self-indulgent Irish nobleman, came to Colorado to fish and hunt, bringing with him a valet, a spacious linen tent, a brass bed, a steel bathtub, a fur-lined toilet, packs of hunting dogs, and a selection of whiskeys and fine wines.

During his two-year hunting holiday, he reported killing some 100 bears, 2,000 buffalo and untold elk and deer for the heck of it, leaving many of them to rot in the sun while the Indians who depended on them struggled to survive.

Gore Pass and the Gore Range bear the name of this crazy fool.

And there are counties in Colorado named after prominent national figures in the campaign of terrorism and genocide. Among them are Kit Carson, Custer and Jackson counties. And, sickeningly, a town is still named after John Chivington, whose troops slaughtered and mutilated the bodies of an estimated 150 Indians — mostly women and children — who had been promised protection at Sand Creek.

So, in the interest of honesty, reconciliation and basic human decency, Coloradans should take a cue from the Old South and stop venerating a bunch of self-aggrandizing mass murderers from the 19th century.

Yes, these were prominent figures in our history, but the truth of their crimes against humanity must not be denied. Coloradans are better than that.

####

May 26, 2017 at 12:00 pm

Diane Carman is a communications consultant and a regular columnist for The Denver Post.

……..honesty, reconciliation and basic human decency …….who wouldn’t sign up for that?…………w

 

……………..The Liberal Order Is Rigged…………..

 You like apples?

The Liberal Order Is Rigged

Fix It Now or Watch It Wither

Prior to 2016, debates about the global order mostly revolved around its structure and the question of whether the United States should actively lead it or should retrench, pulling back from its alliances and other commitments. But during the past year or two, it became clear that those debates had missed a key point: today’s crucial foreign policy challenges arise less from problems between countries than from domestic politics within them. That is one lesson of the sudden and surprising return of populism to Western countries, a trend that found its most powerful expression last year in the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the EU, or Brexit, and the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president.

It can be hard to pin down the meaning of “populism,” but its crucial identifying mark is the belief that each country has an authentic “people” who are held back by the collusion of foreign forces and self-serving elites at home. A populist leader claims to represent the people and seeks to weaken or destroy institutions such as legislatures, judiciaries, and the press and to cast off external restraints in defense of national sovereignty. Populism comes in a range of ideological flavors. Left-wing populists want to “soak the rich” in the name of equality; right-wing populists want to remove constraints on wealth in the name of growth. Populism is therefore defined not by a particular view of economic distribution but by a faith in strong leaders and a dislike of limits on sovereignty and of powerful institutions.

Such institutions are, of course, key features of the liberal order: think of the UN, the EU, the World Trade Organization (WTO), and major alliances such as NATO. Through them, the Washington-led order encourages multilateral cooperation on issues ranging from security to trade to climate change. Since 1945, the order has helped preserve peace among the great powers. In addition to the order’s other accomplishments, the stability it provides has discouraged countries such as Germany, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and South Korea from acquiring nuclear weapons.

This peace-building aspect of the liberal order has been an extraordinary success. So, too, is the way in which the order has allowed the developing world to advance, with billions of people rising out of crippling poverty and new middle classes burgeoning all over the world. But for all of the order’s success, its institutions have become disconnected from publics in the very countries that created them. Since the early 1980s, the effects of a neoliberal economic agenda have eroded the social contract that had previously ensured crucial political support for the order. Many middle- and working-class voters in the United Kingdom, the United States, and elsewhere have come to believe—with a good deal of justification—that the system is rigged. 

Those of us who have not only analyzed globalization and the liberal order but also celebrated them share some responsibility for the rise of populism. We did not pay enough attention as capitalism hijacked globalization. Economic elites designed international institutions to serve their own interests and to create firmer links between themselves and governments. Ordinary people were left out. The time has come to acknowledge this reality and push for policies that can save the liberal order before it is too late.

THE BOATS THAT DIDN’T RISE

In 2016, the two states that had done the most to construct the liberal order—the United Kingdom and the United States—seemed to turn their backs on it. In the former, the successful Brexit campaign focused on restoring British sovereignty; in the latter, the Trump campaign was explicitly nationalist in tone and content. Not surprisingly, this has prompted strong reactions in places that continue to value the liberal order, such as Germany: a poll published in February by the German newspaper Die Welt found that only 22 percent of Germans believe that the United States is a trustworthy ally, down from 59 percent just three months earlier, prior to Trump’s victory—a whopping 37-point decrease.

The Brexit and Trump phenomena reflect a breakdown in the social contract at the core of liberal democracy: those who do well in a market-based society promise to make sure that those disadvantaged by market forces do not fall too far behind. But fall behind they have. Between 1974 and 2015, the real median household income for Americans without high school diplomas fell by almost 20 percent. And even those with high school diplomas, but without any college education, saw their real median household income plummet by 24 percent. On the other hand, those with college degrees saw their incomes and wealth expand. Among those Americans, the real median household income rose by 17 percent; those with graduate degrees did even better. 

The Brexit and Trump phenomena reflect a breakdown in the social contract at the core of liberal democracy.

As political scientists such as Robert Putnam and Margaret Weir have documented, such trends have led to different sets of Americans living in separate worlds. The well-off do not live near the poor or interact with them in public institutions as much as they used to. This self-segregation has sapped a sense of solidarity from American civic life: even as communications technology has connected people as never before, different social classes have drifted further apart, becoming almost alien to one another. And since cosmopolitan elites were doing so well, many came to the conclusion—often without realizing it—that solidarity just wasn’t that important for a well-functioning democracy. 

The bill for that broken social contract came due in 2016 on both sides of the Atlantic. And yet even now, many observers downplay the threat this political shift poses to the liberal order. Some argue that the economic benefits of global integration are so overwhelming that national governments will find their way back to liberalism, regardless of campaign rhetoric and populist posturing. But the fact is that politicians respond to electoral incentives even when those incentives diverge considerably from their country’s long-term interests—and in recent years, many voters have joined in the populist rejection of globalization and the liberal order.

Moreover, business leaders and stock markets, which might have been expected to serve as a brake on populist fervor, have instead mostly rewarded proposals for lower taxes with no accompanying reduction in government spending. This is shortsighted. Grabbing even more of the benefits of globalization at the expense of the middle and working classes might further undermine political support for the integrated supply chains and immigration on which the U.S. economy depends. This position is reminiscent of the way that eighteenth-century French aristocrats refused to pay taxes while indulging in expensive foreign military adventures. They got away with it for many years—until the French Revolution suddenly laid waste to their privilege. Today’s elites risk making a similar mistake.

A decaying Packard Motor Car plant in Detroit, April 2011. 

CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR

Some portion of the blame for the liberal order’s woes lies with its advocates. Policymakers pursued a path of action favored by many academics, including us: building international institutions to promote cooperation. But they did so in a biased way—and, for the most part, we underestimated the risk that posed. Financial firms and major corporations enjoyed privileged status within the order’s institutions, which paid little attention to the interests of workers. WTO rules emphasized openness and failed to encourage measures that would cushion globalization’s effects on those disadvantaged by it, especially workers in the traditional manufacturing sectors in developed countries. Meanwhile, investment treaties signed in the 1990s featured provisions that corporate lawyers exploited to favor big business at the expense of consumers. And when China manipulated trade and currency arrangements to the disadvantage of working-class Americans, Washington decided that other issues in U.S.-Chinese relations were more important, and did not respond strongly.

Working-class Americans didn’t necessarily understand the details of global trade deals, but they saw elite Americans and people in China and other developing countries becoming rapidly wealthier while their own incomes stagnated or declined. It should not be surprising that many of them agreed with Trump and with the Democratic presidential primary contender Bernie Sanders that the game was rigged. 

Much ink has been spilled on the domestic causes of the populist revolt: racism, growing frustration with experts, dysfunctional economic policies. But less attention has been paid to two contributing factors that stemmed from the international order itself. The first was a loss of national solidarity brought on by the end of the Cold War. During that conflict, the perceived Soviet threat generated a strong shared sense of attachment not only to Washington’s allies but also to multilateral institutions. Social psychologists have demonstrated the crucial importance of “othering” in identity formation, for individuals and nations alike: a clear sense of who is not on your team makes you feel closer to those who are. The fall of the Soviet Union removed the main “other” from the American political imagination and thereby reduced social cohesion in the United States. The end of the Cold War generated particular political difficulties for the Republican Party, which had long been a bastion of anticommunism. With the Soviets gone, Washington elites gradually replaced Communists as the Republicans’ bogeymen. Trumpism is the logical extension of that development.

In Europe, the end of the Cold War was consequential for a related reason. During the Cold War, leaders in Western Europe constantly sought to stave off the domestic appeal of communism and socialism. After 1989, no longer facing that constraint, national governments and officials in Brussels expanded the EU’s authority and scope, even in the face of a series of national referendums that expressed opposition to that trend and should have served as warning signs of growing working-class discontent. In eastern Europe, anti-Soviet othering was strong during the 1980s and 1990s but appears to have faded as memories of the Cold War have become more distant. Without the specter of communist-style authoritarianism haunting their societies, eastern Europeans have become more susceptible to populism and other forms of illiberalism. In Europe, as in the United States, the disappearance of the Soviets undermined social cohesion and a common sense of purpose.

The second force stirring discontent with the liberal order can be called “multilateral overreach.” Interdependence requires countries to curb their autonomy so that institutions such as the UN and the World Bank can facilitate cooperation and solve mutual problems. But the natural tendency of institutions, their leaders, and the bureaucracies that carry out their work is to expand their authority. Every time they do so, they can point to some seemingly valid rationale. The cumulative effect of such expansions of international authority, however, is to excessively limit sovereignty and give people the sense that foreign forces are controlling their lives. Since these multilateral institutions are distant and undemocratic—despite their inclusive rhetoric—the result is public alienation, as the political scientist Kathleen McNamara has documented. That effect is compounded whenever multilateral institutions reflect the interests of cosmopolitan elites at the expense of others, as they often have.

SYSTEM UPDATE

Derigging the liberal order will require attention to substance but also to perceptions. The United States has made only feeble attempts to sustain something like Ruggie’s embedded liberalism, and even those attempts have largely failed. Germany, Denmark, and Sweden have done better, although their systems are also under pressure. Washington has a poor track record when it comes to building government bureaucracies that reach deep into society, and the American public is understandably suspicious of such efforts. So U.S. officials will have to focus on reforms that do not require a lot of top-down intervention. 

To that end, Washington should be guided by three principles. First, global integration must be accompanied by a set of domestic policies that will allow all economic and social classes to share the gains from globalization in a way that is highly visible to voters. Second, international cooperation must be balanced with national interests to prevent overreach, especially when it comes to the use of military force. Third, Washington should nurture a uniquely American social identity and a national narrative. That will require othering authoritarian and illiberal countries. Fostering U.S. opposition to illiberalism does not mean imposing democracy by force, but it does require more than occasional diplomatic criticism of countries such as China or Saudi Arabia. A willing president could, for instance, make it clear that although the United States may have an interest in cooperating with nondemocratic countries, it identifies only with liberal democracies and reserves its closest relationships for them. Done properly, that sort of othering could help clarify the American national identity and build solidarity. It might at times constrain commercial relationships. However, a society is more than just an economy, and the benefits of social cohesion would justify a modest economic cost. 

Like it or not, “America first” is a powerful slogan.

Developing policies that satisfy those principles will require innovation and creativity. Some promising ideas include tax credits to businesses that provide on-the-job training for dislocated workers and earned-income tax credits for individuals. Progressives have pursued such policies in the past but in recent times have retreated or compromised for the sake of passing trade deals; they should renew their commitment to such ideas. Officials should also require that any new trade deals be accompanied by progressive domestic measures to assist those who won’t benefit from the deals. At a minimum, Congress should avoid regressive tax cuts. If, for example, the Trump administration and its GOP allies in Congress decide to impose a border adjustment tax on imports, the revenue raised ought to benefit the working class. One way to make that happen would be to directly redistribute the revenue raised by the tax on a per capita basis, in the form of checks to all households; that would spread the wealth and build political support for the combination of economic openness and redistribution. Another way to benefit the working class would be to stimulate job creation by lowering employers’ payroll tax burden. Such ideas will face an uphill battle in the current U.S. political environment, but it is essential to develop plans now so that, when political opportunities emerge, defenders of the liberal order will be ready.

The more difficult task will be developing a national narrative, broadly backed by elites across the ideological spectrum, about “who we are”—one built around opposition to authoritarianism and illiberalism. The main obstacle will likely be the politics of immigration, where the tension between cosmopolitanism and national solidarity surfaces most clearly. Cosmopolitans argue (correctly) that immigrants ultimately offer more benefits than costs and that nativist fears about refugees are often based more on prejudice than fact. The United States is a country of immigrants and continues to gain energy and ideas from talented newcomers. Nonetheless, almost everyone agrees that there is some limit to how rapidly a country can absorb immigrants, and that implies a need for tough decisions about how fast people can come in and how many resources should be devoted to their integration. It is not bigotry to calibrate immigration levels to the ability of immigrants to assimilate and to society’s ability to adjust. Proponents of a global liberal order must find ways of seeking greater national consensus on this issue. To be politically sustainable, their ideas will have to respect the importance of national solidarity. 

Like it or not, global populism has a clear, marketable ideology, defined by toughness, nationalism, and nativism: “America first” is a powerful slogan. To respond, proponents of an open liberal order must offer a similarly clear, coherent alternative, and it must address, rather than dismiss, the problems felt keenly by working classes. For Democrats, “the party of jobs” would be a better brand than “the party of increasing aggregate welfare while compensating the losers from trade.”

Without dramatic change to their messages and approach, established political parties will fade away altogether. An outsider has already captured the Republican Party; the Democrats are cornered on the coasts. In Europe, the British Labour Party is imploding and the traditionally dominant French parties are falling apart. To adapt, establishment parties must begin to frame their ideas differently. As the social psychologist Jonathan Haidt has argued, progressives must learn to speak of honor, loyalty, and order in addition to equality and rights. 

To derig the liberal order and stave off complete defeat at the hands of populists, however, traditional parties must do more than rebrand themselves and their ideas. They must develop substantive policies that will make globalization serve the interests of middle- and working-class citizens. Absent such changes, the global liberal order will wither away.

By and

 ####

…..How ’bout them apples…?!……..

 

……Meet the American Who’s Playing His First Major-Tournament Tennis Match at 25……

Tennys Sandgren, now ranked No. 114, has his first match against Mikhail Kukushkin, currently ranked No. 88

Tennys Sandgren in his qualifying match against Yasutaka Uchiyama of Japan during the Australian Open at Melbourne Park in January 2016. Sandgren didn’t make it out of the qualifying rounds.

 Tennys Sandgren in his qualifying match against Yasutaka Uchiyama of Japan during the Australian Open at Melbourne Park in January 2016. Sandgren didn’t make it out of the qualifying rounds.

PHOTO: MICHAEL DODGE/GETTY IMAGES

On Friday evening in Paris, a 25-year-old American was having dinner with his coach when a British couple approached and asked if he was a tennis pro. Then they asked for his name.

“ Tennys Sandgren, ” he said.

“The couple looked at each other and said, ‘The guy is full of s—,’” said Sandgren’s coach, Jim Madrigal. “After some mild convincing, they were believers.”

Sandgren’s name does, indeed, sound just like “tennis.” And right now he’s playing the best professional tennis of his career.

Sandgren will play a main draw match at the French Open Sunday. He has never before played in the main draw of a major tennis tournament.

“I’m not sure how the tennis will go, but I’m going to enjoy the experience and try to soak it in,” Sandgren said.

Sandgren’s name has a far different history than the sport. His Swedish great-grandfather, who had the name, didn’t play tennis at all, and the name was passed on to Sandgren more for family than sports.

“My parents played, but they just liked the name and they wanted to keep it going,” Sandgren said. “I obviously grew up on a court, but there wasn’t any, ‘All right, we’re going to name him tennis and he’s going to be a professional.’ ”

Few players make it to their first major at 25 years old. Sandgren had a shoulder injury, a torn labrum, in 2014. Other injuries followed, and his rank plummeted. But he’s had a recent run of good health and qualified for the U.S. Tennis Association’s spot for the French Open draw by piling up more points than other clay-court competitors in the U.S.

He is now ranked No. 114, close to a spot that will give him entries to other Slams. His first match comes against Mikhail Kukushkin, currently ranked No. 88.

“We have a solid game plan,” Madrigal said. “The goal is to make this match in particular a physical battle.”

Sandgren’s father played satellite tournaments and his mother picked up the sport in her 30s. She became her son’s coach. Though he grew up in Gallatin, Tenn., clay has lately been his best surface despite the minimal use. In 2009, he won three rounds of the junior tournament at the French Open.

A bonus at the event that year: He spent time with clay-court master Rafael Nadal. The first was a practice right before Nadal’s next match.

“I was exhausted, and he was like, ‘Well, I guess I’m going to play three or five sets now,’ ” Sandgren said. “And I was like, ‘Wow, OK, that’s interesting.’ ”

Sandgren soon got another Nadal practice request, this time on an off day. “I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it through the whole day,” Sandgren said. “I remember a freshly strung racket I broke in 20 minutes.”

For the record: Sandgren isn’t the reason Nadal lost the French Open for the first time in his career that year. “I wasn’t the one to warm him up before that match,” he said. “It was not my fault. I cannot be blamed for that.”

Sandgren could play Nadal for real this time, but he’ll need to have the tournament of his life to get to the fourth round, a huge achievement. If he does the improbable, he expects his mother to come watch.

“If I make a run, she’ll definitely come,” he said. “She doesn’t come for first rounds. She’s big time.”

####

 

…..Imagine a Manchester-style attack in the US. Now imagine Trump handling it……

What if it happened here?

Imagine a Manchester-style attack in the US. Now imagine Trump handling it.

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