Let Your Love Flow – cosmic country ditty

Let Your Love Flow 

(as recorded by The Bellamy Brothers)


There’s a reason

For the sunshine sky

And there’s a reason

Why I’m feelin’ so high

Must be the season

When that love light shines

All around us

So let that feeling
Grab you deep inside

And send you reeling

Where your love can’t hide

And then go stealing
Through the moonlit nights
With your lover

Just let your love flow
Like a mountain stream

And let your love grow
With the smallest of dreams

And let your love show
And you’ll know what I mean
It’s the season

Let your love fly
Like a bird on the wing

And let your love bind you
To all living things

And let your love shine
And you’ll know what I mean

That’s the reason

There’s a reason
For the warm sweet nights

And there’s a reason
For the candle lights

Must be the season
When those love rites shine

All around us

So let that wonder
Take you into space

And lay you under

Its loving embrace

Just feel the thunder
As it warms your face
You can’t hold back
Just let your love flow
Like a mountain stream

And let your love grow
With the smallest of dreams

And let your love show

And you’ll know what I mean
It’s the season

Let your love fly
Like a bird on the wing

And let your love bind you
To all living things

And let your love shine
And you’ll know what I mean
That’s the reason


Written by Thomas Schleh, Andy Jay Powell • Copyright © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

Enjoy a cup of snow melt tea…

Born in the woods,

enlightened in the woods,

In the woods he passed away.

The Buddha to his followers said,

Be sure to practice in the forest wild.”

                           – Pitaka Vinaya


There is no real hope of traveling perfectly light in the mountains.

It is good to try, as long as you realize that,

like proving a unified field theory,

mastering Kanji,

or routinely brewing the perfect cup of coffee,

the game can never be won.”

~ Smoke Blanchard (1915–1989)

Walking Up and Down in The World: Memories of a Mountain Rambler (1984)

my friend Smoke Blanchard, born this month of March, one hundred and two years ago.



There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried… …We but half express ourselves.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)


If you are depressed you are living in the past.

If you are anxious you are living in the future.

If you are at peace you are living in the present.

~ Lao Tzu (died/ascended circa 531 BCE)


That’s rock salt she added to the snow melt, brick tea, and milk.

Do not go unquietly into that dark fork in the road. No, not even.

To a large extent, personally, I find Keillor an insufferable gasbag, accept when his Lake Waypast Woebegone riffs are at their absolute best, and just golden-crisp. But too often he is just too much of too little. The following is mostly fingernails on a blackboard to me. But still, there’s some good little bits of mildly (irritating) fun amid the pain.  Everyone wants to like Keillor — even the venerable poet Ferlinghetti (who just turned 98 a few days ago), world famous anarchist and anti-war activist, silently cringed then responded compassionately and educatively when Keillor stated, more than asked, about the celebrated poet’s voluntary military engagement in World War Two, “You had a good war…[?]”  Ferlinghetti has been a famously avowed pacifist ever since visiting Nagasaki as a US Naval officer six weeks after Truman’s atomic bomb attack vaporized the city’s population and flattened its buildings.  Keillor at his best is certainly some kinda wordy comic genius and, like many another self-indulgent media celebrity, is also sometimes painfully lazy or even not so bright when at his least insightful and most cleverly cutesy. Still, everyone wants to delight in his unique if too frequently disturbingly uneven prose poetry. To wit… 

The Secret Delight of Poetry

By Garrison Keillor, The Washington Post

29 March 17

pril is National Poetry Month, a painful reminder for some, who suffered under English teachers who made them write about the cherry tree wearing white for Eastertide or “The Love Song of J. Alfred Pruneface” by T.S. Eliot, that small dark cloud of a poet.

We all suffered under English teachers who forced us to pretend to be sensitive and to sigh with appreciation over the plums in the icebox so sweet and so cold, and that is why reading poetry aloud has been shown, time and time again, to be effective at breaking up gatherings of people. Many police departments now use Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass” instead of pepper spray.

We resisted poetry in school because we could see that it is full of falsehood. Love is not the star to every wandering bark, and many true minds have married who should have stayed friends. April is not the cruelest month, March is. The best minds of our generation are not starving, hysterical, naked — most of them are well-fed, calm and stylishly dressed, thank you. Robert Frost’s little horse was absolutely right: It is queer to stop without a farmhouse near, the darkest evening of the year. Dishonesty has given poetry a bad reputation. You see that uneven right margin and you think, “Oh boy, here we go again. Hallucinationville.”

So I am not suggesting that you sit down and read poems for Poetry Month, but that you write your own poem for someone whom you dearly love.

Love is never easy to express. Rage is simple; loneliness, despair — a child could do it. And they do, especially preschoolers. But love is a challenge, especially for men.

Men are wired for combat, to bash the enemy into submission, and it’s hard to wipe the blood and gore off your hands and sit down and write, “O wondrous thou, the wonderment of these my happiest days, I lift my pen to praise thy shining beauty” and so forth.

But you can do it. The first step is: Imitate. Google “great love poems” and find one you like a lot and copy and paste it onto a blank page — Burns’s “My love is like a red, red rose” or Stevenson’s “I will make you brooches and toys for your delight” or Yeats’s “Wine comes in at the mouth and love comes in at the eye” — and simply change the nouns, e.g. “My love is like a double bed” or “a trip to town,” “a vision pure,” “a red T-shirt”; “I will make you coffee and serve by candlelight”; “I come in the front door and love comes down from upstairs” — and then go on to plug in new verbs and adverbs, prepositions. It’s like remodeling an old house.

If you were very ambitious, you could take off from Shakespeare’s famous Sonnet 29, “When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,” and rewrite that. The first eight lines are about how dreary and hopeless you feel, the last six about how you feel exalted by her love. Simple. Keep the rhymes — “eyes, cries, state, fate, hope, scope, possessed, the great Midwest” — and replace the rest.

Write the poem in black ink on a sheet of white paper — poems should never be sent by email, and never, never, never text a poem — hand it to her and as she reads it, put one hand on her shoulder so that you’re right there when she turns with tears in her eyes to embrace you and forgive you for every way you’ve messed up her life. This is the power of poetry. Poets get the girl.

Football heroes get concussions or need hip replacements. My classmates who played football are walking with canes and moaning when they sit down, and they find it hard to figure out the 10 percent tip at lunch. We poets go sashaying along, perpetually 17, lost in wonder at the ordinary, astonished by streetlights, in awe at lawn ornaments, bedazzled by baristas releasing steam into milk for the lattes.

This is what you learn during Poetry Month. You may lose the vote, fall into debt, suffer illness and remorse, feel lost in the crowd, and yet there is in language, everyday language, a source of such sweet delight that when you turn it to a good purpose, two gentle arms may reach around your neck, just as is happening to me right now, and a familiar voice speaks the words I long to hear and my heart is going like mad and yes, I say, yes I will Yes.

Bill Moyers on GOP Health Bill defeat

photo: Vice President Pence tweeted this photo of a meeting with the House Freedom Caucus on Thursday, March 23, 2017. (photo: Twitter)

Trump and the GOP in Sickness and Ill Health

By Bill Moyers, Moyers & Company

28 March 17


The Freedom Caucus gets in the way of the Republican health care bill, much to our president’s dismay.

he day after Republicans pulled the plug on Trumpcare (or was it Ryancare?), the front-page headline of the tabloid New York Post asked: “Is There a Doctor in the House?

None were in sight, but there were plenty of quacks wielding butcher knives instead of scalpels as they turned the body politic into a bloody mess and left it gasping for life on the floor of the House.

This is the Republican idea of governance?

Based on the howls emitting from the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, you might have thought they had amputated the president’s ego. But that would have required a chainsaw while Arnold Schwarzenegger held him down. No, the bellowing and barking from the Oval Office was just the president at his King Kong worst, hurling gorilla dust at Democrats for refusing to self-destruct by voting for the monster of a health care bill the Republicans had engineered in the House, only to turn on their own creation and at the last minute drive a stake through its heart.

Two days later, Trump was at it again, beating his chest and tweeting like a vengeful god who bruises easily, this time directing his tirades at the real villains — his fellow Republicans, right-wing think tanks and especially the roughly three dozen members of the so-called “Freedom Caucus,” the most extreme conservatives in the House.

When they vote as a bloc these guys — all of them are male — can hold the House hostage and stop any legislation they abhor, and believe me, they always abhor legislation that might enhance freedom for women. In their House, “freedom” is chronically masculine. Look closely at the group photo Vice President Pence proudly tweeted when he met with them last week: not a single woman in it. So in a country where women are in the majority, we have a Freedom Caucus that is defiantly and boastfully unrepresentative in its power over the House of Representatives.

We could see it coming back in January. The Freedom Caucus was out in force like a SWAT team as the House passed the first bill of the Trump era — a sweeping anti-abortion act making the procedure more expensive and harder to achieve. The bill rewards private health insurers if they drop abortion coverage. It bans abortion coverage in multi-state health insurance plans except in cases of rape, incest or life endangerment. And it denies women and small businesses tax credits if they choose health plans that cover abortion. Get the picture? These guys loathe subsidies that help the poor obtain health care, but they lavish benefits on businesses that willfully deny women their reproductive rights.

These lovers of freedom-up-to-a-certain-point objected to the entirety of Paul Ryan’s compromise health care plan last week. They simply don’t want government health care, period, but they especially were foaming at the mouth over its coverage for pregnancy, newborn babies and maternity care. These happen to be among the 10 “essential health benefits” that under Obamacare all health insurance plans must provide. But the soviet of pale, male and stale in the Freedom Caucus wanted all 10 provisions removed, as if they were mere vestigial, appendix-like polyps instead of life-saving, health-encouraging measures for the mothers of all our children.

The caucus also wanted to end support for a woman’s reproductive rights so hard won by Planned Parenthood and other groups. In this, Trump, of course, has proved a kindred spirit with the right-wing band of brothers on Capitol Hill. In one of his first acts as president he signed an executive order withholding US foreign aid from any international organizations that tolerate family planning options that include abortion. Earlier this month, he appointed two delegates to the upcoming United Nations Commission on the Status of Women who believe access to birth control is “antithetical to the values and needs of women worldwide.” This, when an estimated 225 million women worldwide wanting to avoid pregnancy “lack access to safe and reliable contraceptives.”

Given this common contempt for women’s freedom, it wasn’t surprising last Friday when Trump, desperate for a compromise bill that would pass and hoping to appease the Freedom Caucus, yielded and agreed to remove the essential 10 benefits of health care from the Republican bill. But still no deal. Speaker Ryan then pulled it off the table, ahead of what would have been a losing vote, sparing his party the further humiliation of Ryancare (or was it Trumpcare?) going down to defeat as people across the country watched on television. Better to beat the critter to death behind the barn than make a public spectacle of its cruel end out in the open.

(A short detour here: On the morning following Bloody Friday, The New York Times did a helpful analysis of the role of this Freedom Caucus. But alas, the writer failed to take us down the money trail. It would have led to the three largest caucus donors: The Club for Growth, a gaggle of megadonors whose idea of “good government” is one that vows secrecy for offshore tax shelters; Koch Industries, the vast empire run by right-wing oligarchs Charles and David Koch; and the American Bankers Association, reputedly the largest financial trade group in the country.

Get this: The Koch network even went so far as to assure members of the Freedom Caucus and other conservatives who wanted to vote against the GOP plan that the brothers had their backs if they bucked Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan. The Kochs wanted an all-out repeal of Obamacare, and were willing to pay for it.

As Kevin Robillard reported for Politico, they promised a “seven-figure” slush fund — sorry, a reserve fund — to provide financial aid to conservative rebels if a vengeful Trump or Ryan comes after them with an opponent in the next Republican primary. One top Koch hireling put it this way:

“We want to make certain that lawmakers understand the policy consequences of voting for a law that keeps Obamacare intact. We have a history of following up and holding politicians accountable, but we will also be there to support and thank the champions who stand strong and keep their promise.”

Promise to whom — the public or the plutocrats? Chris Carson, the president of the League of Women Voters, was outraged when she heard about the Koch brothers’ offer. The League opposed the Republican health care plan, though for different reasons than the Kochs. Said the disgusted Ms. Carson: “The American people have long believed that campaign contributions from big money and special interests are bribery, and today’s action shows how true it is. ‘You give me your vote, and we’ll give you the money.’ That’s just not right.”

But back to Bloody Friday. Trumped, so to speak, by his own party, the president by Sunday was once again his berserk self, tweeting his followers to watch a certain news show whose host, Jeanine Pirro, called on Speaker Ryan, the man who was Trump’s ally on Friday, to resign.

Hail, Trump; we can only imagine the sweet pleasure it would have given his festooned head if he had been a real Roman Caesar, rather than a fake one — rising up in the coliseum, turning thumbs up on one gladiator, thumbs down on another, and then, just for the sheer sadistic glee of it, reversing his choices.

Who knows that Friday’s debacle wasn’t what he wanted all along? The man thrives on chaos, cruelty and circus, and the hated Obamacare lives on, namesake of his predecessor, the Kenyan interloper who rose to the presidency without even a passport. How better to satisfy Trump’s insatiable need for spectacle than for him to fiddle as Obamacare crashes and burns, bringing pain and suffering to millions?

He made his inclinations clear on Friday when he told The Washington Post, “The best thing politically is to let Obamacare explode.” Democrats would then take the blame and Trump could go off to Mar-a-Lago to contemplate where to wreak havoc next.

As was said of an earlier president, he has, after all, the “peculiar powers as an assailant, and almost always, even when attacked, gets himself into that attitude by making war upon his accuser; and he has, withal, an instinct for the jugular and the carotid artery, as unerring as that of any carnivorous animal.”

That was President John Quincy Adams, as described by Massachusetts congressman Rufus Choate. But Choate noted a quality Adams possessed that Trump does not: “untold treasures of facts, and they are always at his command.” Trump’s slippery grasp of “alternative facts” doesn’t count. Not that it ever stops him.

Meanwhile, the best line of the week went to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. The Republican health plan, she said, would have made “being a woman a preexisting condition.”


Kremlingate Creeps Closer to Trump

Donald Trump, his former campaign manger Paul Manafort, and Ivanka Trump at the RNC. (photo: Getty)

Kremlingate Creeps Closer to Trump

By Tim Dickinson, Rolling Stone

24 March 2017


We’ve yet to get an explanation for the raging cross-currents of Russian influence and Republican politics

he noose of Kremlingate is tightening – and the scandal increasingly appears to tie Trump associates to a Russian campaign to subvert American democracy.

The FBI is now weighing evidence that Trump associates communicated – and possibly coordinated – with “suspected Russian operatives” about when to release information that damaged the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton, CNN reports. This inquiry is part of the counterintelligence investigation that FBI Director James Comey described to Congress this week, examining “the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 president election … and whether there was any coordination between the [Trump] campaign and Russia’s efforts.”

(In January, the U.S. intelligence community concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered a “multifaceted” campaign in 2016 to undermine Clinton and promote Trump – including by hacking Democratic Party operatives and relaying “material it acquired from the DNC and senior Democratic officials to WikiLeaks.”)

CNN’s report linking Trump’s inner circle to Kremlingate has surfaced just after a bombshell report by the Associated Press. AP reveals that Paul Manafort – Trump’s campaign chairman from March through August of 2016 – had previously been paid tens of millions of dollars by a Russian oligarch, after Manafort pitched him a plan to “influence politics, business dealings and news coverage inside the United States … to benefit President Vladimir Putin’s government.”

The AP report is stunning: From 2006 until “at least” 2009, Manafort was paid exorbitant sums – starting at $10 million a year – by Russian aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska, described in a U.S. diplomatic cable as “among the 2-3 oligarchs Putin turns to on a regular basis.” The payments began, the AP reports, after Manafort laid out a scheme to “greatly benefit” Putin.

Manafort’s work was covert. He did not report his contract to the Justice Department, a potential violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, the AP reports. A statement by Deripaska to the news service says Manafort was paid “to provide investment consulting services related to business interests.” Manafort confirmed he’d been paid, but according to the AP, “denied his work had been pro-Russian in nature.”

The New York Times had previously reported that Manafort received $12.7 million in off-the-book payments from a pro-Russia party inside Ukraine, dating from 2007 to 2012. That disclosure prompted Manafort’s formal exit from the Trump campaign in August 2016. But Manafort – who reportedly owns an apartment in Trump Tower – reportedly remained in close contact with Trump and running mate Mike Pence. According to the Daily Beast, Manafort was a pivotal figure in the Trump transition, helping select the top ranks of the new administration. “I think he’s weighing in on everything,” a former campaign official said in late November. “I think he still talks to Trump every day. I mean, Pence? That was all Manafort. Pence is on the phone with Manafort regularly.”

Take a step back. Consider what we’re talking about here:

Manafort was previously paid tens of millions of dollars by a Russian oligarch after proposing a secret, multifaceted campaign to influence U.S. politics and media to “greatly benefit” the interests of the Putin government in the United States.

A few years later, as Manafort had risen to become the campaign chairman of the Republican nominee for president, the Putin government engaged in its own multifaceted campaign to influence U.S. politics and media – seeking to undermine Hillary Clinton and ultimately to promote Donald Trump. The U.S. intelligence assessment on Putin’s interference in the 2016 election records that active Russian promotion of Trump began the same month that Manafort took the helm as Trump’s campaign manager. “Starting in March 2016,” it reads, “Russian Government-linked actors began openly supporting President-elect Trump’s candidacy in media aimed at English-speaking audiences.”

Perhaps there is an innocent explanation for these raging cross-currents of Russian influence and Republican politics. But listen to top Russia hawks in the U.S. Senate and that seems unlikely. “There are other shoes that will drop,” Sen. John McCain told Bloomberg of the Manafort affair. “This is a centipede.”

Creeps are gonna creep, …and take over our government with their dark money billions

Jane Mayer on Robert Mercer & the Dark Money Behind Trump and Bannon


Jane Mayer

staff writer at The New Yorker. Her latest piece is headlined “The Reclusive Hedge-Fund Tycoon Behind the Trump Presidency: How Robert Mercer exploited America’s populist insurgency.” Her book, Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, has just come out in paperback with a new preface on Trump

We look at Robert Mercer, the man who is said to have out-Koched the Koch brothers in the 2016 election. The secretive billionaire hedge-fund tycoon, along with his daughter Rebekah, is credited by many with playing an instrumental role in Donald Trump’s election. “The Mercers laid the groundwork for the Trump revolution,” Trump’s chief strategist Stephen Bannon said. “Irrefutably, when you look at donors during the past four years, they have had the single biggest impact of anybody, including the Kochs.” Before Bannon and Kellyanne Conway joined the Trump campaign, both worked closely with the Mercers. The Mercers bankrolled Bannon’s Breitbart News, as well as some of Bannon’s film projects. Conway ran a super PAC created by the Mercers to initially back the candidacy of Ted Cruz. While the Mercers have helped reshape the American political landscape, their work has all been done from the shadows. To talk more about the Mercers, we speak with Jane Mayer, staff writer at The New Yorker. Her latest piece is headlined “The Reclusive Hedge-Fund Tycoon Behind the Trump Presidency: How Robert Mercer exploited America’s populist insurgency.” She is also author of “Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right,” which just came out in paperback.

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: We turn now to look at the man who is said to have out-Koched the Koch brothers in the 2016 election. His name is Robert Mercer, a secretive billionaire hedge-fund tycoon who, along with his daughter Rebekah, is credited by many with playing an instrumental role in Donald Trump’s election.

Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, said, quote, “The Mercers laid the groundwork for the Trump revolution. Irrefutably, when you look at donors during the past four years, they have had the single biggest impact of anybody, including the Kochs.” Before Bannon and Kellyanne Conway joined the Trump campaign, both worked closely with the Mercers. The Mercers bankrolled Bannon’s Breitbart News, as well as some of Bannon’s film projects. Conway ran a super PAC created by the Mercers to initially back the candidacy of Ted Cruz.

The Mercers also invested in a data mining firm called Cambridge Analytica, which claims it has psychological profiles of over 200 million American voters. The firm was hired by the Trump campaign to help target its message to potential voters.

While the Mercers have helped reshape the American political landscape, their work has all been done from the shadows. They don’t speak to the media and rarely even speak in public.

AMY GOODMAN: During the entire presidential campaign, they released just two statements. One was a defense of Donald Trump shortly after the leak of the 2005 Access Hollywood tape that showed Trump boasting about sexually assaulting women. The Mercers wrote, quote, “We are completely indifferent to Mr. Trump’s locker room braggadocio.” They went on to write, “America is finally fed up and disgusted with its political elite. Trump is channeling this disgust and those among the political elite who quake before the boombox of media blather do not appreciate the apocalyptic choice America faces on November 8th. We have a country to save and there is only one person who can save it. We, and Americans across the country and around the world, stand steadfastly behind Donald J Trump.” Those were the words of Robert and Rebekah Mercer one month before Trump won the election.

Since the election, Rebekah Mercer joined the Trump transition team, and Robert Mercer threw a victory party of sorts at his Long Island estate. It was a hero and villain’s costume party. Kellyanne Conway showed up as Superwoman. Donald Trump showed up as himself.

To talk more about the Mercers, we’re joined now by Jane Mayer, staff writer at The New Yorker, her latest piece headlined “The Reclusive Hedge-Fund Tycoon Behind the Trump Presidency: How Robert Mercer exploited America’s populist insurgency.” Jane is also author of Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, which just came out in paperback.

Jane Mayer, welcome back to Democracy Now! The beginning of the piece talks about a former colleague of Mercer’s saying, “In my view, Trump wouldn’t be president if not for Bob.” Explain who Robert Mercer is.

JANE MAYER: Well, he’s a, as you’ve mentioned, a New York hedge-fund tycoon. He’s a computer scientist, a kind of a math genius and uber-nerd, who figured out how to game the stocks and bonds and commodities markets by using math. He runs something that’s kind of like a quant fund in Long Island, and it’s called Renaissance Technologies. He’s the co-CEO. And it just mints money. So he’s enormously wealthy. He earns at least $135 million a year, according to Institutional Investor, probably more.

And what he’s done is he has tried to take this fortune and reshape, first, the Republican Party and, then, America, along his own lines. His ideology is extreme. He’s way far on the right. He hates government. Kind of—according to another colleague, David Magerman, at Renaissance Technologies, Bob Mercer wants to shrink the government down to the size of a pinhead. He has contempt for social services and for the people who need social services.

And so, he has been a power behind the scenes in Trump’s campaign. He kind of rescued Trump’s campaign in the end, he and his daughter. And, you know, most people think Trump was the candidate who did it on his own, had his own fortune, and he often boasted that he needed no help and had no strings attached, and he was going to sort of throw out corruption. And, in fact, there was somebody behind the scenes who helped enormously with him.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about that moment, when you talk about them saving Donald Trump, which has become particularly relevant today. This was the time that Manafort was forced out as the campaign manager for Donald Trump. The campaign was in disarray. He was being forced out because of his ties to Ukraine and Russia and the money that was being revealed that he might or might not have taken. So, take it from there.

JANE MAYER: Well, right. And this was—really, Trump’s campaign was—it was floundering. It was in August, and there was headline after headline that was suggesting that Paul Manafort, who had been the campaign manager, had really nefarious ties to the Ukrainian oligarchs and pro-Putin forces. And it was embarrassing. And eventually, after a couple days of these headlines, he was forced to step down.

And the campaign was, you know, spinning in a kind of a downward spiral, when, at a fundraiser out in Long Island, at Woody Johnson’s house—he’s the man who owns the Jets—Rebekah Mercer, the daughter of this hedge-fund tycoon, Bob Mercer, sort of cornered Trump and said, “You know, we’d like to give money to your campaign. We’ll back you, but you’ve got to try to, you know, stabilize it.” And basically, she said, “And I’ve got just the people for you to do the job.”

And they were political operatives who the Mercer family had been funding for a couple of years, the main one being Steve Bannon, who is now playing the role to Trump—he’s the political strategist for Trump—that’s the role he played for the Mercer family prior to doing it for Trump. So, these are operatives who are very close to this one mega-donor. The other was Kellyanne Conway, who had been running this superfund, as you mentioned in your introduction, for the Cruz campaign, that was filled with the money from the Mercers. And so she became the campaign manager. Bannon became the campaign chairman. And a third person, David Bossie, whose organization Citizens United was also very heavily backed by the Mercer family, he became the deputy campaign manager. So, basically, as Trump’s campaign is rescued by this gang, they encircle Trump. And since then, they’ve also encircled Trump’s White House and become very key to him. And they are the Mercers’ people.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, Jane Mayer, Rebekah Mercer, whom you mentioned, is known—described as “the first lady of the alt-right.” Now, you tried to get Rebekah and Robert Mercer to speak to you for this piece. What response did you get?

JANE MAYER: Oh, I mean, it was hopeless, clearly, from the start. They have nothing but disdain for, you know, the mainstream media. Robert Mercer barely speaks even to people who he works with and who know him. I mean, he’s so silent that he has said often that he—or to a colleague, he said once—I should correct that—that he much prefers the company of cats to humans. He goes through whole meetings, whole dinners, without uttering a word. He never speaks to the media. He’s given, I think, one interview I know of, to a book author, and who described him as having the demeanor of an icy cold poker player.

His daughter, Rebekah Mercer, who’s 43 and has also worked at the family’s hedge fund a little bit and is a graduate of Stanford, she’s a little more outspoken. She has been in fundraising meetings on the right. She has spoken up—and very loudly and irately, actually. But she doesn’t speak to the press. And so, I had very little hope that they would.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about when they first met, the Mercers, Robert and Rebekah Mercer, first met Andrew Breitbart, and what that progression was and how they came to be linked up with Bannon?

JANE MAYER: Well, sure. The Mercer family, Robert and his daughter Rebekah, met Andrew Breitbart back—I think it was late 2011 or early 2012, speaking at a conference of the Club for Growth, another right-wing group. And they were completely taken with Andrew Breitbart. He was pretty much the opposite kind of character from Bob Mercer. Breitbart was outspoken and gleefully provocative and loved to offend people and use vulgar language just to catch their attention. And you’ve got this kind of tight-lipped hedge-fund man from the far right who just fell for Breitbart big time.

And he—mostly what he was captivated by, I think, was Breitbart’s vision, which was, “We’re going to”—he said, “Conservatives can never win until we basically take on the mainstream media and build up our own source of information.” He was talking about declaring information warfare in this country on fact-based reporting and substituting it with their own vision. And what he needed, Breitbart, at that point, was money. He needed money to set up Breitbart News, which was only just sort of a couple of bloggers at that point.

AMY GOODMAN: And talk about Breitbart News, about what the alt-right represented, whether we’re talking about anti-Semitism or white supremacy, and why they were attracted to this.

JANE MAYER: Well, I mean, you know, it changed. What happened was—I mean, it started as a—Andrew Breitbart had helped The Huffington Post get set up. And his idea was that he was going to launch The Huffington Post of the right. And so, he was setting it up, and his very close friend was Steve Bannon. And Bannon had been in investment banking. So Bannon got the Mercers to put $10 million into turning this venture into something that was really going to pack a punch. And they were just about to launch it in a big day—big way. They were a few days away from it, when Andrew Breitbart died. That was in March of 2012. He was only 43, and he had a sudden massive heart attack. And so, this operation was just about to go big. It was leaderless. And that’s when Steve Bannon stepped in and became the head of Breitbart News.

And in Bannon’s hands, it became a force of economic nationalism and, in some people’s view, white supremacism. It ran, you know, a regular feature on black crime. It hosted and pretty much launched the career of Milo Yiannopoulos, who’s sort of infamous for his kind of juvenile attacks on women and immigrants and God knows what. You know, just it became, as Bannon had said, a platform for the alt-right, meaning the alternative to the old right, a new right that was far more angry and aggressive about others, people who were not just kind of the white sort of conservatives like themselves.

AMY GOODMAN: So they made a $10 million investment in Breitbart. They owned it—

JANE MAYER: A 10 million.

AMY GOODMAN: —co-owned it.

JANE MAYER: They became the sponsors, really, behind it. And it’s interesting to me that—one of the things I learned was that Rebekah Mercer, this heiress, who’s had no experience in politics, is so immersed in running Breitbart News at this point. I mean, she—her family is the money, big money, behind it. That she reads every story, I’m told, and flyspecks, you know, typos and grammar and all that kind of thing. I mean, there is a force behind Breitbart News that people don’t realize, and it’s the Mercer family. So, anyway, it became very important, increasingly, on the fringe of conservative politics, because it pushed the conservatives in this country towards this economic nationalism, nativism, anti-immigration, pro-harsh borders, anti-free trade, protectionist. And it spoke the language of populism, but right-wing populism.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Jane Mayer, I mean, as you’ve said, one of the things that has made the Mercers so successful in their political interventions is precisely this, the way in which they’ve invested in an alternative media and information network, of which Breitbart is, of course, a very significant part. But can you also talk about the Government Accountability Institute, which you discuss in your piece?

JANE MAYER: Sure. I mean, and this was, you know, very much a design. You’ve got this family with all the money in the world, wanting to change American politics. And they hadn’t been very effective in their earlier efforts at this, until they joined forces with Steve Bannon, who’s a very sort of farsighted strategist who kind of sees the big picture and understands politics. And so, he very much focused their efforts on this information warfare, first with Breitbart, $10 million into that. And then, after 2012, when the Mercers were very disappointed that Obama got re-elected, at Bannon’s direction, they started to fund a brand-new organization called the Government Accountability Institute. It’s based in Tallahassee. It’s small. It’s really a platform for one major figure, Peter Schweizer, who is a conservative kind of investigative reporter.

And what they did with this organization, which the Mercers poured millions of dollars into, was they aimed to kind of create the—drive the political narrative in the 2016 campaign. They created a book called Clinton Cash, which was a compendium of all the kinds of corruption allegations against the Clintons. And they aimed to get it into the mainstream media, where it would pretty much frame the picture of Hillary Clinton as a corrupt person who couldn’t be trusted. And their hope was that they would mainstream this information that they dug up. It was like an opposition research organization, sort of masked as a charity and nonprofit. And they took this book, Clinton Cash, gave it to The New York Times exclusively, early, and the Times then ran with a story out of it, that they said they corroborated. But they ran with it, nonetheless, on their front page, which just launched this whole narrative of Hillary Clinton as corrupt. And it just kept echoing and echoing through the media after that. So, it was a real home run for them. A year later, they made a movie version of it also, which they launched in Cannes.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re talking about Peter Schweizer and, as well, the Mercers. What about Cambridge Analytica, in addition to the Government Accountability Institute? And also, the Mercers’ obsession with the Clintons, the whole issue that you write about.

JANE MAYER: Well, this is something that—

AMY GOODMAN: They’re talking about they’re murderers.

JANE MAYER: I mean, really—I mean, one of the—one of the challenges of writing about the Mercers, for me, was to figure out—OK, so they’re big players. There are players in the Democratic Party who put in tons of money, too. They’re not the only people who put money into politics. But they’re maybe the most mysterious people who put money into politics. Like nobody really knew what do they believe, what’s driving them. And so, I was trying to figure that out.

And what I finally was able to do what was talk to partners and people they work with in business and people who’ve known them a long time, who paint this picture of them as having these really peculiar beliefs, and based on kind of strange far-right media. Among their beliefs are that—Bob Mercer has spoken to at least three people who I interviewed, about how he is convinced that the Clintons are murderers, literally, have murdered people. Now, you hear that on the fringes sometimes when you interview people who are ignorant, but these are people who are powerful, well educated and huge influences in the country. And Bob Mercer was convinced that the Clintons are murderers. OK, so he’s driven by this just hatred of the Clintons and, coming into 2016, is determined to try to stop Hillary Clinton, and looking for a vehicle who would do that, who eventually becomes Trump.

AMY GOODMAN: Jane Mayer, we’re going to come back to this conversation. Jane Mayer is staff writer at The New Yorker. Her piece is “The Reclusive Hedge-Fund Tycoon Behind the Trump Presidency: How Robert Mercer exploited America’s populist insurgency.” And her book is out in paperback, Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right. There is so much to talk about. Stay with us.

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