Sunday, April 30, 2006

Huhudious (or Silly Season)

I can't take it any longer; there are too many huhudious things going on, this silly season has got to end. This is a cry for help. Somebody please help me, help me please. Believe me, I tried to wait until the end of May.

Part 8 of the Things Fall Apart series: an illustration of the B-Movie Theory.

Huhudious Defined

huhudious adj. an outrageous statement or a point of view or behaviour that beggars belief. A close synonym to hubristic, breathtaking and preposterous, with the same notion of brazen, yet insouciant, arrogance on the part of the interlocutor. Pronounced hoo-hoo-dious, this word is a neologism from the people of Ghana, coined circa 1975 when military buffoons were looting the country's finances while claiming they were fighting corruption.
There are unsubstantiated claims of an Akan derivation from the Fante (Fanti) word huhuhu which means big according to some, or hearsay or rumor, according to others. A few "globalization" etymologists have posited a sonic and hence linguistic relationship to the Yiddish notion of chutzpah albeit rendered as an adjective rather than a noun. I tend to discount such connections. More apt is the link to that other Fanti word bohu: to cause fear and concern. Thus huhudious has a sense of something offensively bombastic, calculated to stir anxiety. It is a case of there being no "there" there.

Huhudious was one of my favourite words growing up, and it was a joy to hear whenever it was deployed by The Parents. This was often accompanied with a look of indignation, exasperation and outrage as things in Ghana seemed to be falling apart. It was also soothing to the ear, mellifluous rather than strident. The aural proximity to "woo hoo" conferred a certain celebratory impart to its use; a verbal gotcha in short. Often a few paragraphs away would be that other word, kalabule, or "doing things in shady ways". That word hasn't aged gracefully in Ghana even as the phenomenon it describes continues to be background noise. The dividing line between the two words is like that between gremlins and parasites: no one really gets their panties in a twist about parasites, they're everywhere in life; gremlins however... those are interesting little critters... Thus kalabule implies garden-variety corruption; huhudious doings, on the other hand, are destined to be regaled in conspiratorial gossip or toli as it were. On reflection, it should have been a bittersweet thing that huhudious was said so frequently in my life, but it is often in pointing out malarkey that we are able to deal with this troubled world of ours.

I use it in many different contexts but, rather than give you my take, I'll lay out a few examples of its usage, taken from various Ghanaian newspapers and online forums and perhaps tie it to a few anecdotes that have stuck in my mind over the past year.

A Huhudious Index

Macho * Cheese and Vindaloo * Breaking News * Thundersnow * Editorial Decisions * Crocodile Tears "Don't Bring Yourself" * Anaesthetic * Echo Chamber? * Plagiarist for President * Coronations * The Beatification of Actors * Of Wider Applicability * Awards Ceremony * Photo-ops * "Gitmo-ize" * "Blood" * A Spring Day * A Cautious Experiment * Kingmakers of Redmond * The Chinese are Coming * Bongo Drums * Axis of Hypocrisy * The B-movie Theory * The Full Bolton

Sample Usage I

"But what is all this huhudious media coverage?"
See also: Supremely Supine and White House Press Corps.

Sample Usage II

"A situation that prepared the way for Samuel Kanyon Doe, and then Charles Taylor, Prince Johnson and all the other warlords with huhudious names."
Charles Taylor


After my recent huhudious confession of a social bookmarking "affair" to The Wife, this photograph seemed quite appropriate:

My wife beats me - she is macho

Or am I revealing too much about my family life?

Cheese and Vindaloo

In Britain, silly season traditionally starts on the Bank Holiday at the end of May. Last year was no exception, on a page opposite a story about a tragic murder-rape,

tragic yet huhudious

was the following: Downhill cheese race goes smoothly
Following a patently ridiculous but 200-year-old tradition, dozens of people put their safety at risk yesterday in Gloucestershire to chase cheese down a 1-in-2 incline.

Chris Anderson, the winner of one of four races, was taken to hospital clutching his prize cheese to his chest after he sprained his ankle.

Anderson, a 17-year-old window fitter, believed the prize worth the pain, although he did not intend to eat the cheese.

Competitors hurl themselves down a near vertical slope in pursuit of a Double Gloucester cheese.

But not everyone was happy with proceedings. Vegans branded the event "unethical" and said the cheese should be replaced with a non-dairy alternative.

Yvonne Taylor, chair of the animal rights campaign group Peta, said: "It's just not fair that vegans cannot enjoy the fun of the cheese rolling contest."
I've elided the other photo on the page which was a small photo of the murder victim, captioned "Stabbed..." The caption of the photo on the right was "Chris Anderson leads the cheese racers at the annual run down Cooper's Hill, Gloucestershire. He won the 8lb cheese and sprained his ankle."

Whoever edited that newspaper clearly wanted silly season to start out on the right footing.

In another section of the same newspaper was the news that Blair faces hard fight to keep reforms on track on the response to the French No vote on the European Constitution. You might recall that I addressed the French No vote in The France IBM Connection.

Non. Chirac.

The story went as follows:
The Foreign Office accepts that a British referendum in the wake of no votes in France and Holland would take Mr Blair's so-called masochism strategy to the level of a suicidal mania.

Mr Blair's response is a bit like offering a child a vindaloo curry after they have just said they don't eat spicy food.
Suffice to say that the Brits are well practiced in the art of silly season.

Blair Chirac

In the American past, silly season traditionally lasted from Memorial Day to Labor Day; the dog days of August are notorious low points in the public discourse. As Andrew Card said apropos the WMD hype and the "bureaucratic reasons" (in Paul "The General's estimate is 'wildly off the mark'" Wolfowitz's words) that bamboozled the US into the Iraq quagmire, "You don't launch a new product in August". It is not just war however, there are also elections, and August is when Swift Boat plots are hatched. We have seen that, in contrast to the Brits, seasons have been abolished in 21st century America which has seen year-round silliness. El Niño, or something, applied to life.

Breaking News

nu image barber bernard

I was sitting in my barber's chair, it was mid-afternoon, conversation had stalled hence we were watching Judge Mathis on the overhead television (I knew of Judge Judy but this was the first time watching Judge Mathis). The topic was a young black man complaining that his lovely white, nubile roommate had been too sexually suggestive and was harassing him with her approaches and the provocative attire that she wore around the apartment they shared. He testified about his sexual discomfort with her friskiness; she obviously couldn't believe that he was now suing her for being herself let alone plainly attracted to him. But this is America and everything gets resolved in courts, after the lawyers, or in this case, the television station, takes their cut.


This being a black barbershop, you can imagine the banter that was going on as we watched. We were clowning the guy with your typical hetero male posturing "I would have hit that in a second... That boy's crazy.. Fine woman like that throwing herself at you... Some people... What is he thinking?... etc". The old men and even the little kids were joining in as they could see the cluelessness of the guy.

All of a sudden there was a Breaking News interruption. Now this was a day that was one of the bloodiest of days in Iraq in 2005, you might remember it even though there has been a disquieting sameness of desolation ever since. It was a day in which there were 10 or more bomb blasts and "spectacular incidents" throughout the country. If I remember correctly, there were other spectacularly bad news items on the economic and social policy front that day. I worried that perhaps this news was of body bags, layoffs or worse, a Presidential speech or anything. About the only thing I could think that could interrupt Judge Mathis (who after all is like King Solomon) was perhaps the Michael Jackson trial (yes you remember that episode don't you? - that was going on at the time).

The newscaster came on. A nice blond talking head, she exuded telegenic, Gattaca-like perfection and vapidity. She said:
"This just in. A seal has been found dead on the shore of Quincy Beach."
That was the extent of story. They didn't have pictures of the seal or even stock footage of the beach, there was no indication on whether this was a rare event, if seals were an endangered species or anything. There was no other context.
"Stay tuned for more details."
Cut to commercial.
Afro blues Bernard

Now a certain amount of frivolity is expected during silly season, but as my hair got clipped in my barbershop chair, the entire barbershop cohort couldn't help but shake our heads and say that this breaking news was what the US media has been about for the past 5 years. Our previous barbershop banter about housing prices, job security, Iraq, race, pollution, love, fun, sex, church were all for naught. All these conversations on issues large and small needed to stop because of this breaking news. Oh well...

Nu Image barber Tim

We never figured out what Judge Mathis's verdict was for the couple because, by the time the TV returned to our regularly scheduled programming, the show had ended. We switched the television set off immediately.

These are strange days: we even mess with Judge Mathis.

The girls will feel something

Sample Usage III

"Lining up all these men with huhudious titles to perform ceremonial acts."
Note a well-worn quote:
"Brownie, you're doing a heckuva job".
Heckava job Brownie - FEMA George W Bush Brown

See also: Senate panel says FEMA is beyond repair and should be disbanded.
Oh Katrina. Oh Rita. Oh FEMA.


I learned a new word last December and saw something I'd never seen before. The word was thundersnow; the event was the presence of lightning and thunder during a severe snow storm.
"They did not foresee the sharp drop in air pressure that created what meteorologists call "thundersnow". A low-pressure system sweeping northward from the mid-Atlantic coast yesterday morning got a boost of low pressure from a system moving east over New York State. Snowflakes provided conductivity, and the result was booming thunder, flashes of lightning, and more snow."

I have traveled across oceans and logged thousands of miles in my lifetime journey as a beast of no nation. Still, at the moment that I saw, with my own eyes, snow falling and lightning striking the ground simultaneously (not to mention those flakes drifting horizontally), I thought the God's must be crazy. At that terrible sound of thunder, I was ready to return home, if indeed home would still have me. Huhudious weather has me Shuffering & Shmilling.

Editorial Decisions

I worked from home on Wednesday, June 15, 2005 and flipped between the BBC America TV newscast and the lunchtime edition of NBC News on television. These are the stories that were reported.

BBC America newscast
  • Aruba story - missing woman and the police search on the beach (10 minutes)
  • Terri Schiavo autopsy (10 minutes)

In other news, a seal was found dead on the shore of Quincy Beach. Anyway stay tuned. Gas prices have doubled since 2001.

Crocodile Tears

While we're on the topic of June 2005, remember what was important back then? Too long ago was it? Well I remember. Remember if you will that this was 8 months after a certain election. This was the headline
Yale grades portray Kerry as a lackluster student, His 4-year average on par with Bush's
Apparently because John Kerry got bad grades in his first year at Yale, we should be happy for the intellectual gravitas the 43rd president of the United States brings to the table. Indeed all was well in the land and the assurance the story was supposed to give was that the right decision had been made.

I have no words for the buyer's remorse that apparently is now being felt.

"Don't Bring Yourself"

There's a Ghanaian pidgin expression, "Don't bring yourself", which means pretty much what you'd expect, something like "I don't want to hear it" or "Talk to the hand". The indignant expression is often followed by a scrunching of the cheeks, and grunt that sounds like "Tchew".

Please don't bring yourself with that "we were duped" business. Please don't bring yourself with the more accurate "we were hurt but he's our sonofabitch" line of Realpolitik.

Please. Stand up and be counted.

Don't bring yourself.


High Spirits
Josh and Cindy have flown out to Colorado from their home in Circleville, Ohio, with two distinct goals in mind. The first is to get plastered - not a difficult task, as it turns out, because they have been drinking ever since they arrived at Columbus airport at 4am, and it's now pushing seven in the evening. And the second is to get married in front of a whole theatre full of fellow drinkers at a shindig known as the second annual Modern Drunkard Convention.
If no one offers me Prozac, I'm inclined to attend the 3rd Modern Drunkard convention... In other news, the Modern Drunkard magazine has seen its circulation go through the roof and now there are even books: Boys behaving badly score their own literary genre
A new word was coined in America this week: fratire. It refers to a spate of testosterone-fuelled books about belligerence and debauchery, leglessness and legovers, which publishers hope will spawn the male equivalent of chick-lit.

No Comment

A jury awarded $500,000 Friday to a woman who was spanked in front of her colleagues in what her employer called a camaraderie-building exercise.

Echo Chamber?

The Washington Post's Jim VandeHei who like me celebrates small things cut straight to the chase last Friday and asked outgoing White House press secretary Scott McClellan the following as President Bush was traveling to New Orleans:
"My question would be, is there a White House policy that all government TVs have to be tuned to Fox?"

[snip prevarications and bemusement]

"Well, the magic people at the other end of the phone ... I was told, 'We don't watch CNN here, you can only watch Fox,'", VandeHei said.

[more prevarications and bemusement]
You might call this a frivolous journalistic pursuit but there is a method behind VandeHei's line of question: as we know, when Dick Cheney travels to a hotel, his advance team make sure that the "all televisions tuned to Fox News" provision is enforced.

Plagiarist for President

For all the talk about plagiarism these days and the gleeful focus on the fall of "model minorities", say Jayson Blair at the New York Times, that beleaguered young white republican, Ben Domenech at the Washington Post, and that young, nubile and photogenic Kaayva woman, I often wonder why we don't celebrate the gotchas about the more important hustlers.

For God's sake, Russian President Vladimir Putin plagiarized his PhD thesis from two University of Pittsburgh professors. I realize that Russia is a shadow of the old Soviet Union but it bears thinking about. The Russian President, one of the most powerful men in the world, plagiarized his dissertation, and weeks later there is hardly a squeak. And there's a big to-do over a piddling half a million dollar contract.

It all depends on who is doing the plagiarizing I suppose.

There's also the analogy with the way Alan Greenspan dealt with that hedge fund, Long Term Capital Management in the economic sphere. If you're going to use huhudious financial instruments, you should go all out and be as outrageous as you can. If you're going to go into debt, you should borrow as much as you can. You should run up the most irresponsible deficits, as seems to be current policy, or as was the case in the glorious Savings and Loan past (with kind regards to presidential candidate Senator John McCain, proud member of The Keating Five).

My Life as a Fakevladimir-putin

The lesson is that you can indeed be too big to fail.

We've all read My Life as a Fake, haven't we? It's all about the hustle.

We live in the era of identity theft.


The President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Joseph Kabila recently received a curious letter. It was addressed to him by Major General Joseph Kabila. It concerned the latter's resignation from the army so that he could concentrate on campaigning for the presidency.


In case you weren't paying attention, the issue is this: he accepted his own letter of resignation.

See also: How To Hand Over To Yourself.

Do note that it has never been clear who promoted him to the status of Major General of the Congolese Army. I am still reeling at the cheek of this Messiah of the huhudious. But then I recalled that he was only following in the footsteps of Joseph Mobutu aka Mobutu Sese Seko ("The all-powerful warrior who, because of his endurance and inflexible will to win, will go from conquest to conquest, leaving fire in his wake").

Mobutu king of ZaireMobutu Congo Mr. Kurtz

Still, in sputtering about for historical precedents, I had reach back to the year 1804 and Napoleon's coronation. You might recall the then historically-unprecedented excercise in which, Napoleon huhudiously crowned himself Emperor.

Napoleon crowning himself Emperor

The Beatification of Actors

The Angola dossier that was handed to me last year made a passing mention of CNN celebrating its 25th anniversary with an award for the Top 25 most fascinating people of the past quarter-century.

The usual suspects were there: Nelson Mandela, Lech Walesa, Osama bin Laden, Ayatollah Khomeini and John Paul II who had just passed (he was an actor). I'll pass over Ronald Reagan being number one since nostalgia is pervasive after all, and he was another former actor who had passed away the previous year.

What struck me however was that the 43rd President of the United States was placed fourth in this list. Recall if you will that this was a vote by the editors of CNN and Time magazine. I do realize that these are journalists and not historians hence they might be missing the big picture. Still it gave me pause. Now the 43rd President of the United States is many things to many people. Fascinating is something that not even his relatives, let alone his wife would call him. He doesn't need his staff to compare him to Truman or Lincoln or anything else, the liberal editors of CNN and Time magazine already crowned him.

Napoleon in his coronation robes

Of Wider Applicability

At his graduation in 1995, yours truly ruminated on Ghanaian politics instead of drinking champagne.
The utter mediocrity of the jokers who are ruling us boggles the mind. Their idiosyncrasies, pettiness, moral failings, violence or personal corruption aside, they are a truly incompetent bunch. It is sad to say this and maybe other politicians are/will be no better. But since those who rule us set the tone in a country, their impact is felt in our family homes... and all over the country.
This just in: a seal has died on the shore of Quincy Beach. Stay tuned for more details.

Sample Usage IV

"As the trial drew to a close, his lawyers submitted a number of huhudious motions in the case".

Awards Ceremony

It is hard to know where to start when I look at my part of the world. In any case, the winners of the Huhudious Awards 2005 - West African Edition are President Laurent Gbagbo of Cote D'Ivoire, his wife and her death squads, and Blé Goudé head of the Young Patriots. The citation is for ordering the Ivorian Air Force to bombard a French camp and the rebels with which they had supposedly been negotiating with, killing nine peacekeepers and an American aid worker in an attempt to reignite the Ivorian civil war and precipitate a "Rwanda of the West" (as if the experiences of Sierra Leone and Liberia were not enough in our sub-region).

Jacques Chirac's response, delivered 15 minutes after he was informed of the events and the death of his men, was the destruction of the entire Ivorian air force.

It is sad to say, but Gbagbo and company were at it a few months ago, possibly trying to get a head start on the 2006 ceremonies.


But back to lighter topics: the Sierra Leonean civil war.

It's funny what sets me off and I suppose this is instructive... Nicholas Kristof in an aside in his recent examination of Osama Bin Laden's audio editorial on Darfur, made a quite startling claim that
"Madeleine Albright helped end the horrors of Sierra Leone simply by going there and being photographed with maimed children."
Now on the face of it that sentence is accurate; it meshes well with a sense of piety, broken taboos, and the feelgood factor. There are rhetorical echoes of Princess Diana's selfless humanitarianism towards victims of AIDS and landmines.

Now I have great respect for Madelaine Albright whose achievements and breaking of glass ceilings should be celebrated by all. Similarly I have great respect for Nicholas Kristof and his prize-winning efforts in crusading against child prostitution, ending the Darfur conflict and all around journalistic muckracking in a long and wonderful career. Thus you may ask yourself why I would bring that sentence up in connection with "startling" and all things huhudious. Well...

During her time, first as ambassador to the United Nations, and then as Secretary of State of the most powerful country of the world, Madelaine Albright stood by and let the combination of Pat Robertson and Jesse Jackson, the strangest of bedfellows that I can think of, run US policy towards Liberia and Sierra Leone. The foreign policy that those two advocated, and that she implemented, consisted of coddling those murderers Charles Taylor and Foday Sankoh in return for logging concessions (echoes of the long legacy of the Firestone corporation and its rubber plantations) and blood diamonds (which have now seen "blowback" as the preferred currency of "those evildoers"). I'll pass over her and her boss' behaviour on the Rwanda issue (active resistance to even minimal intervention by even the Africans: the Ghanaian soldiers who were there on the ground and had to stand by and watch are shadows of themselves these days, Romeo Dallaire is said to have attempted suicide many times; and we know all about those who didn't survive that conflict, and the walking wounded that did). Further, I'll pass over the more insiduous and ongoing policy of selling landmines and weapons systems of all kinds to the continent, that military-industrial complex business (or is it weapons of minimal destruction?).

I view Pat Robertson and Jesse Jackson as simply The Quiet American Theory revisited as the loud, oratorical encomiums of Country Preachers in matters outside of their competence. A grifter notion of dissident self-importance, hustler chic perhaps? Madelaine Albright, while receiving accolades as a doyenne of sagacity, should be duly savaged for dereliction of duty. Further, Nicholas Kristof should stick to things closer to home. Travel journalism as foreign policy can be lethal, and the consequent false pieties and celebration of post-facto "I feel your pain" photo-ops are simply huhudious. I appreciate pat notions of liberalism but, too often, they devolve into the rhetoric of 'Chutzpah' Thomas Friedman and his Flat World stylings or Michael Ignatieff's Manifest Destiny. I prefer good old Samuel Huntington's Clash of Civilizations or Francis Fukuyama's End of History garbage to this self-congratulatory nonsense.

Don't bring yourself.

Sample Usage V

A typical newspaper headline:
"Huhudious acts at VRA".
Which reminds me: the scary thing about Condoleezza Rice is that she actually believes it. For others like Dick Cheney and his ostensible boss, it is the plain exercise of power, or perhaps reading one's lines, depending on one's point of view. Those who actually believe in it are far more interesting psychologically because they cause confusion amongst the troops. What was Condoleezza's Road to Damascus moment, I wonder? Food for thought...

Recall, if you will, the derivation of the word huhudious:
ABC "were looting the country's finances while claiming" XYZ
Then you read this: US war costs 'could hit $811bn'
The cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has soared and may now reach $811bn, says a report by the Congressional Research Service.


General Asserts Right On Self-Incrimination In Iraq Abuse Cases
Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, a central figure in the U.S. detainee-abuse scandal, this week invoked his right not to incriminate himself in court-martial proceedings against two soldiers accused of using dogs to intimidate captives at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, according to lawyers involved in the case.
A full general mind you, a "man of honour"... and he hasn't faced any reprimand for his efforts to "Gitmo-ize" Abu Ghraib. Or rather, when a reprimand was strongly recommended, the Pentagon panel that reviewed it quietly declined to apply it. They couldn't face the heart of darkness. They preferred things fall apart, and an administrative retirement...


I don't know why people are calling for Donald Rumsfeld's resignation these days. If the President, the Vice President, the Defense Secretary, the Attorney General and those faceless lawyers at the Office of Legal Counsel were the ones who instituted the policies of woe that are now causing recrimination and blowback, the more interesting people are the enforcers.

Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Stephen Cambone was the chief enforcer and architect of Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, erustication and worse. Even if he'll never face the legal consequences, he ostensibly has the proverbial blood on his hands - albeit at a clinical remove and morally sanitized with self-righteous disinfectant.

Maj. Gen. Miller was asked during a May 19, 2004, congressional hearing on the Abu Ghraib scandal if he had talked with Cambone or Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin after Miller's "assessment" visit to Abu Ghraib. Miller replied that he had submitted a written report about his visit to the U.S. Southern Command in Miami, Fla., but had no discussions with Cambone or Boykin. "I had no direct discussions with Secretary Cambone or General Boykin," Miller said.

But three months later Miller told attorneys a different story. As the Chicago Tribune reported in July 2005, Miller said in a recorded statement, "Following our return in the fall, I gave an outbrief to both Dr. Wolfowitz and Secretary Cambone."

"Maj. Gen. Miller's apparent position that he did not discuss the subject with Undersecretary Cambone but that he briefed Cambone on the same subject is a distinction without a difference to me," said Sen. Carl Levin, the senior Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
If Carl Levin had said "it all depends on what the meaning of 'is' is", he wouldn't have been far from the truth, but he would have scored an own-goal. I suggest however that Senator Levin could have done with the word huhudious.

Like that other Stephen, Hadley that is, of the National Security Council, it is quite entertaining to see the little bureaucratic maneuverings that these seasoned operatives use to cover their behinds.

The cover story for the gruesome atrocities at Camp Nama (their extent is still classified) is a conveniently-leaked "exonerating" note that Mr Cambone supposedly wrote ordering his deputy to
"Get to the bottom of this immediately... In particular I want to know if this is part of a pattern of behavior".
It is much like the Leaker-in-Chief pointing his finger belligerently and intoning that "I want to know who did the leak". The man who instituted the "pattern of behavior" wants to know if it is part of a pattern of behavior? And then he'll be the one to investigate himself? What a huhudious notion.

I see hooded prisoners, barking dogs, summary beatings, electrical shocks and worse when I read about that huhudious duo, Undersecretary Stephen "Blood" Cambone and Major General Geoffrey "Gitmo-ize" Miller... Continuing my excursions in metaphorical excess, they lie at the bottom of a barrel overflowing with moral turpitude.

But back to lighter topics...

A Spring Day, April 2006

On a day in which it was reported that April was the deadliest month this year for GIs in Iraq...

On a day in which Kenneth "Kenny Boy" Lay, in his trial for world record fiscal chicanery at Enron, displayed huhudious chops in his defense
The Enron corporate murder mystery is solved. The investors did it.

That is essentially who Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling have blamed by describing the energy trading company’s collapse as a "classic run on the bank" during testimony at their fraud trial in Houston.

Had investors and creditors not run scared as the scandal unfolded in 2001, dumping their Enron shares and refusing to lend more money, the company and its purportedly healthy business wouldn’t have been forced into bankruptcy, the former top two officers of Enron argued.
Bruce Meyerson of the Associated Press called it "blaming the victim", I call it huhudious in the extreme. They've got gruesomely enlarged gonads.

On a day in which the World Food Program announced that it would have to halve the rations for nearly 3 million refugees in Darfur, Sudan due to a "severe funding shortfall"...

3 million refugees? For God's sake, I have no more tears to cry.

On a day in which the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) submitted its report and George W. Bush took yet another occasion to gleefully rattle sabers about "unacceptable" things in Iran and the "firm resolve" to keep all options on the table...

On a day in which Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed that Iran's nuclear programme was 'irreversible'...

On that day, I was reminded of Evelyn Waugh's wistful zinger
"Wars don't start nowadays because people want them. We long for peace, and fill our newspapers with conferences about disarmament and arbitration, but there is a radical instability in our whole world-order, and soon we shall all be walking into the jaws of destruction again, protesting our pacific intentions."

"Well, you seem to know all about it," said Mr. Outrage, "and I think should have been told sooner."
On a day in which the Wall St Journal reported allegations of hookers beeing procured for the "relaxation" of righteous congressmen by contractors in exchange for currying favour...

On a day in which Public Moralist-in-Chief, Rush Limbaugh turned himself in on a plea-bargained and quite lenient "deferred prosecution" of personal addictions and doctor shopping...

On a day in which Saddam Hussein turned 69 years old behind bars, the burning question asked was "whether he had received a birthday cake". The US military spokesman remained tight-lipped and noted only that "He is treated humanely and in full accordance with international standards".

It is clear that Saddam is going to be executed in time for an American election. I fiercely reject the death penalty, I prefer the sight of huhudious tryants of all sorts having to face anonymous judges, rapacious lawyers and bureaucratic process. That spectacle is far more satisfying and cathartic to my mind. Franz Kafka's trial bureaucracy is their just reward.

The Trial

A Cautious Experiment

Just in time for the 2006 midterm elections, we hear that the new chairmen of the Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke will play it by ear
The Fed May Stand Back and Watch the Numbers for a While

The chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben S. Bernanke, indicated on Thursday that the central bank was ready for a cautious experiment.

Despite unexpectedly strong economic growth in recent months, and some evidence of a risk of higher inflation, Mr. Bernanke told Congress that the Fed's policy-making committee might pause temporarily in its two-year campaign to raise interest rates.
A cautious experiment huh? Echoes of "voodoo economics"... A huhudious policy more like.

Kingmakers of Redmond

One theory about the result of the 2004 US presidential elections that I haven't seen discussed much is the effect of an unexpected dividend, namely: Microsoft Announces Payouts to Investors Wednesday, July 21, 2004,
First Step Valued At $32 Billion

Microsoft Corp., which has amassed an unparalleled cash hoard of nearly $60 billion from its world-dominating software business, announced yesterday that it would return a large chunk of it to shareholders, much of it through a one-time dividend of $3 for every share held by investors.

With 10.79 billion shares outstanding as of March 31, the company will pay out more than $32 billion in that one stroke
I assume that this was just financial savvy at work, if the election had swung the other way, a few tax loopholes might have been closed and that payday would have been lost. Still, the timing was very interesting and the largesse was unprecedented. As far as I can tell, there was no pressing demand for something that the company had long disdained. I hope some economist can show the effect of that surplus cash on the US economy; to my reckoning, that's like private financing of 8 months of the war in Iraq. Now don't get me wrong, like anybody who owns a mutual fund in America, I got my microdollars that year, and shared some of the fruits of hard work and the occasional monopoly profits.

The Chinese are Coming

The MC named Jin is not a great rapper, he's more of a muckraker and verbal backstreet brawler, the kind who, like Busta Rhymes is a great guest artist on a song but a little jarring at album length. He did manage to tone down his cacophonous inclinations for his most successful and inspired song, the suitably named Learn Chinese ("Y'all gonna learn Chinese"). Some evidence:

President Hu Jintao met with Microsoft President Bill Gates in Seattle before meeting US President George W. Bush during his "inspection tour".

China and Nigeria agree oil deal in which "China will invest $4bn in oil and infrastructure projects in Nigeria".


20 years ago, it was the Middle East that was the terrain for the Great Game. These days it is Latin America and Africa that are the New Frontiers. I love tomorrow but I'm scared of what we have seen so far. Perhaps there is something to be said for relative neglect.

Sample usage VI

"Any figures that will be finally given will be tainted by the huhudious hide-and-seek our elders are playing".
"Jon 'Guilty Pleasure' Swift" explicates this best: Due Compensation at Exxon?
Take Lee Raymond the chairman of Exxon Mobil, who is retiring this year. Although he has been taking some flak from a few pundits who have squawked that his $400 million retirement package is excessive, when you crunch the numbers it turns out that Raymond is grossly underpaid.

Last year Exxon made the biggest profit of any company in history, due almost entirely to record gas prices. Do people think those gas prices just raised themselves on their own? Of course not. Raymond deserves the credit for coming up with the idea to raise gas prices and blame it on global supply and demand. It was a courageous business decision to make in the middle of a war, one that might have backfired.

Bongo Drums

Lobbyist Sought $9 Million to Set Bush Meeting
The lobbyist Jack Abramoff asked for $9 million in 2003 from the president of a small West African nation (Gabon) to arrange a meeting with President Bush and directed his fees to a Maryland company now under federal scrutiny, according to newly disclosed documents.
Omar Bongo meets George W. Bush

Who's Omar Bongo you might ask? Omar Bongo has been President of Gabon for 39 years. He is described as that country's "President for life". I suspect only Fidel Castro has had greater longevity in power.

Axis of Hypocrisy

Last year, I tried to promote Arnie, or rather ARNIE, the Axis of Righteous Neocon Infamy and Excess, to no avail. No one liked my neologism. The subtle allusion to the Groping Terminator of B-movie and California fame and to Tom Delay, former exterminator, and now former senator per his legal troubles, was all for nought. Axis of Hypocrisy was a pithier formulation and sadly it remains relevant...

But first a blast from the past, those long forgotten 1980s, that decade of the Bonfire of the Vanities, Savings and Loan, crack epidemics and above-all, Money.


Let's go back to those glorious days when we met gruesome dictators sitting on a pile of oil, and shook their hands firmly and supplied them with weapon systems, closing our eyes while they dealt poisonous gas on their citizens or the armies of those neighbouring Mullahs.

Donald Rumsfeld meets Saddam Hussein

Things have changed a lot in the past twenty years haven't they?

On April 17, 2006, Condeleezza Rice met with Teodoro Obiang Nguema.

Condoleezza Rice with Equatorial Guinean President Teodoro Obiang Nguema

Who's Obiang Nguema you ask? That would be Equatorial Guinean President Teodoro Obiang Nguema. I have much to say about him but it wouldn't be nice and my parents taught me not to give vent to my frustration. Thus I'll let the nice folks at the Washington Post describe him:
A somewhat unsavory and corrupt character who seized power in a 1979 coup, runs a regime regularly condemned by the State Department for human rights violations, including torture, beatings, abuse and deaths of prisoners and suspects. He's gotten as much as 97 percent of the vote in recent elections, he told CBS's "60 Minutes" a while back, but that was because "there is no one left in the opposition."

Human rights groups and, we hear, folks inside the State Department, were beside themselves that Rice would meet with what one advocate called "one of the most brutal, most corrupt and unreconstructed dictators in the world." (We would opt for the lunatic Kim Jong Il, but let's not quibble.)
  • Equatorial Guinea is sub-Saharan Africa’s third largest oil producer.
  • Obiang Nguema was famously described as a tropical gangster in Robert Klitgaard's bestselling book of that name.
Ms. Rice unexpectedly changed the protocol for this previously "no-question" photo-op and took "just one question" from the media, predictably it was not about her meeting with the ecstatic president but rather an opportunity to continue rattling sabers about Iran's pursuit of its nuclear program.

Rights Take Backseat to Oil
Searching for energy supplies and allies against Iran, the Bush administration is reaching out to leaders who rule countries that are rich in oil and gas but accused of authoritarian rule and human rights violations.

The presidents of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Equatorial Guinea are all getting special attention. The effort sometimes seems at odds with President Bush's stated second-term goal of spreading democracy.

"I can tell you that nothing has really taken me aback as secretary of state than the way that the politics of energy is – I will use the word 'warping' – diplomacy around the world," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this month.

Rice herself drew some fire for welcoming Equatorial Guinean President Teodoro Obiang Nguema to the State Department as "a good friend".
Strange bedfellows doesn't begin to capture this huhudious life.

The B-movie Theory

I'll stop writing about the B-movie Theory when I stop seeing the daily evidence of its motive force in human affairs (or perhaps when the copyright lawyers come my way). Life is now a matter of political theatre and politics as theatre. I seek solace in the Urban Griot soundtrack which is the only thing that helps me get through these strange days. Until things change, I'll harken back to Curtis Mayfield singing Don't Worry (If There's A Hell Below, We're All Gonna Go). As he sang:
They're all political actors

And Nixon talking about "Don't worry".
He says "Don't worry".

But they all know
If there's a hell below
We're all gonna go
I'm also always going to be singing from the songbook of the prescient Gil Scott-Heron, who was a keen detector all of things huhudious. The song is "B" movie.
We're all actors in this I suppose...

What has happened is that in the last 20 years, America has changed from a producer to a consumer. And all consumers know that when the producer names the tune the consumer has got to dance. That’s the way it is. We used to be a producer – very inflexible at that, and now we are consumers and, finding it difficult to understand. Natural resources and minerals will change your world. The Arabs used to be in the 3rd World. They have bought the 2nd World and put a firm down payment on the 1st one. Controlling your resources will control your world. This country has been surprised by the way the world looks now. They don’t know if they want to be Matt Dillon or Bob Dylan. They don’t know if they want to be diplomats or continue the same policy - of nuclear nightmare diplomacy. John Foster Dulles ain’t nothing but the name of an airport now.

Gil Scott-Heron

The idea concerns the fact that this country wants nostalgia.

They want to go back as far as they can – even if it’s only as far as last week. Not to face now or tomorrow, but to face backwards. And yesterday was the day of our cinema heroes riding to the rescue at the last possible moment. The day of the man in the white hat or the man on the white horse - or the man who always came to save America at the last moment – someone always came to save America at the last moment – especially in "B" movies. And when America found itself having a hard time facing the future, they looked for people like John Wayne. But since John Wayne was no longer available, they settled for Ronald Reagan – and it has placed us in a situation that we can only look at – like a "B" movie...

A theme song for saber-rallying and selling wars door-to-door...

Put your orders in America. And quick as Kodak your leaders duplicate with the accent being on the dupe - cause all of a sudden we have fallen prey to selective amnesia - remembering what we want to remember and forgetting what we choose to forget.

As Wall Street goes, so goes the nation. And here’s a look at the closing numbers – racism's up, human rights are down, peace is shaky, war items are hot - the House claims all ties. Jobs are down, money is scarce – and common sense is at an all-time low with heavy trading.

Movies were looking better than ever and now no one is looking because we’re starring in a "B" movie. And we would rather have John Wayne - we would rather have John Wayne.
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

I love B-movies. The Wife complains regularly that the Netflix queue overfloweth with B-movies. I wish however that the B-movie stays on the silver screen or living room television and doesn't become policy and real life roadkill. Huhudious events are frequent in the world of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Africans are the long-suffering bar and restaurant owners who pay protection money to the "good" Clint "Blondie" Eastwood, get ripped off by the "ugly" Eli "Tuco" Wallach, or killed by the "bad" Lee "Angel Eyes" Van Kleef. We are those whose children are blessed with stray bullets when filmmakers want to emphasize a passing point. We are the Mexican old ladies running in fear and gathering our loved ones under our long and tattered skirts as we hear that Valdez is coming. The tagline for that movie was "For Three Men The Civil War Wasn't Hell. It Was Practice!". In the words of Angola, that is remixed to "Oh they had themselves a field day of collateral damage". It's fair enough if the B-movie Theory is indeed the nature of the Great Game of life, so long as "I can see the blows coming", in the words of a good friend. Still, I could do without the huhudious posturing.

The Full Bolton

I live in a building with a relative of John Bolton. When we moved in eight months ago, I saw the name on the mailbox, shook my head, and broke out into kotokious laughter - another Ghanaian neologism, an adjective that combines the notions of inspired serendipity and Murphy's Law. Surely it couldn't be? Living in a typically anomic western apartment building, one never gets to know one's neighbours unless one makes an especial effort. But perhaps this is a cultural universal, city life is what it is, and even back home, the ties that bind are being loosened. As it was, I never figured out who this man was... Last week however, as I was picking up my mail, I saw someone idling up and opening said mailbox. I looked askance and took in the haircut, noticing the same insouciant gray mess. I pondered the belligerent look - it's genetic apparently, and looked up and down at the scruffy clothes - it's garden-variety noblesse oblige. I smiled, and said "Good afternoon"; we then exchanged the customary pleasantries. He's a nice guy it seems, and I was as cheery as could be. At the back of my mind however, was a worry about being victim of The Full Bolton or an Italian Job. I hope I left a good impression.

I return to Gil Scott-Heron
[repeat 22 times in an increasingly militaristic manner]

This ain't really your life,
Ain't really your life,
Ain't really, ain't nothing but a movie.
The B-movie Theory: we live in huhudious times and are governed by huhudious rulers; our only escape is nostalgia.

Next in Part 9: The Books of Nima

From Napoleon to Charles Taylor - huhudious leaders

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Tuesday, April 11, 2006


Part 7 of the Things Fall Apart series... Perhaps I've read far too much James Ellroy and enjoyed his paranoid style, or is it that I admired that dark series, Millennium, spawn of the conspiratorial X-Files, at the end of the last century? In any case, consider yourselves Marlow travelling down the river Congo. You may not like the encounter with Kurtz... But here goes, you were warned. This one is for my good friend Sozi...

A package was slipped under my door late one night, a year ago today. Enough time has passed for me to share its contents. I think you'll understand the delay as you read. It was marked Angola, and had a note scribbled on it in crimson red that read, "You like strange bedfellows, don't you?"

Cover Letter

From: Anne Aliste, Research Dept.
To: [Redacted] - Director, Toli inc.
Date: April 12, 2005

What an extraordinary dossier. I've never had to do a workup on such curious material, and apparently this is just the tip of the iceberg. Anyway this preliminary analysis is based on the first stack of pages, We're working on decoding the rest. We've managed to discern (at least) 4 source documents
  • Marburg and Ebola Musings
    Briefing material on recent outbreaks of those hemorrhagic fevers caused by those newfangled viruses.
  • Ronald Reagan: Forward For Freedom
    The text of Ronald Reagan's celebrated speech from 1986. Verbatim.
  • Lizards and Bullets
    Extracts from a report recounting the proceedings of a rogues' gallery operating alternatively in the US and Africa. Lots of clippings to digest. Details of the operation are murky; your basic black ops but the connection seems to be Angola. Some of the names are very interesting, Savimbi seems to be a key figure (he's safely dead). The reference to lizards is an ancient Ghanaian proverb scribbled on the reverse of one of the clippings: "Just because a lizard nods its head doesn't mean it's happy". Similarly, the reference to bullets is a Gambian proverb: "Words are like bullets. When you release them, you can't call them back". More research is needed on these connections.
  • American Tabloid
    The preface to James Ellroy's novel on the Kennedy years, he writes your garden variety pulp fiction, think L.A. Confidential. Mostly anodyne stuff.
I've annotated where appropriate but it should be easy to follow. Put together, it's an interesting analysis, almost an alternate history. The authors (and there are multiple) seem to have taken to heart a recent missive about voices inside and the effect is akin to a Greek chorus. We're doing textual analysis to unscramble the idiosyncratic code.

We're revisiting our files in light of this material but it will take a few weeks to do a thorough workup. You might want to do a blind release to one of those non-traditional outlets, an African blog or something, see if it shakes anything out. This stuff is going to come out eventually, we should prepare our response and scrub things thoroughly.

A.A., Research Dept.
Attached: dossier and annotated clippings.

The Dossier

Ronald Reagan - Forward For Freedom
"But I do want to make a comment here on some recent history and let you draw your own conclusions."

Charles Barkley
"I don't know anything about Angola, but I know they're in trouble."
Africa was never innocent. All that cradle of mankind jazz... Whatever. There were always those willing to play The Great Game of power and expediency. Safaris for the kids? [redacted] Feed the children? Yeah right.

Europe was never innocent. All that White Man's Burden crap. God, Gold and Glory? Spanish Inquisition more like.


[Note: this might be some kind of codename, we're checking.]

James Ellroy - American Tabloid:
"America was never innocent. We popped our cherry on the boat over and looked back with no regrets."
Item: Marburg hemorrhagic fever is a rare, severe type of hemorrhagic fever which affects both humans and non-human primates.

Item: Ronald Reagan was the fortieth President of the United States.

Dig: Jesus was in the wilderness for forty days.

Item: The Marburg virus was first recognized in 1967, when outbreaks of hemorrhagic fever occurred simultaneously in laboratories in Marburg and Frankfurt, Germany and in Belgrade, Yugoslavia (now Serbia).

Dig: They called it Operation Quarantine.

[Note: We know of no operation of that name. Might be a referral to obscure author Jim Crace who wrote an alternate history of that biblical fable. He's already on our subversive file but we'll refer him to the Homeland guys]

Item: The exact origin, locations, and natural reservoir of the Ebola virus remain unknown. Current suspicions are founded on cynomolgous monkeys, civets or bats.

map of angola

Item: There was an outbreak of the Marburg virus in Angola in April 2005.

Angola Marburg

Clipping A [source appears to be Victoria Brittain's obituary of Jonas Savimbi. Note: we've used her in the past: Museveni, Rawlings etc.]
"It was a long fall from his heyday in the 1980s, when Chester Crocker, the longest serving US Assistant Secretary of State, and the Reagan administration's top official for Africa described him as "one of the most talented and charismatic of leaders in modern African history"."
American Tabloid
"You can't ascribe our fall from grace to any single event or set of circumstances. You can't lose what you lacked at conception."
Item: Jonas Savimbi, was nicknamed "The Black Cockerel" by his supporters.

Dig: Jesse Helms, the US Senator from North Carolina, was Jonas Savimbi's biggest promoter.

Item: The armies of 13 countries have been in the Congo as Mobutu's regime crumbled and the Rwandan genocide and its aftershocks played out.

Item: An outbreak of Ebola occurred in 1995 in Kikwit, Congo and surrounding areas.

Dig: Dr. Matthew's Passion [NYT]
"Biomedical researchers admit profound ignorance about Ebola, a viral bleeding fever that first appeared in Africa in the late 1970's. There is no cure, and researchers do not know where the virus hides between human outbreaks. They do know, though, that the blood of an acutely ill Ebola patient is one of the most infectious and deadly substances on earth.
Ronald Reagan
"Last September, at the Lomba River in southern Angola, when a force of UNITA rebels met an overwhelmingly superior force of government troops directly supported by the Soviet bloc, the UNITA forces defeated the government troops and drove them and their Communist allies from the field"."
Item: Jesse Helms became Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1995. His later nickname was "Senator No".

Dig: The pressure of marauding warlords roaming the bush has forced many to start eating animals that had previously been left alone in the bush.

Clipping B [source appears to be BBC article Angola's town of fear and lonely death - known foreign liberal outlet]
"They looked like spacemen, utterly out of place in this poor neighbourhood on the edge of Uige. It is no wonder that some local people fear the health workers, believing they are wizards or sorcerers.

They entered the hut, but not before spraying the door with chlorinated water. Then they picked up the tiny body, and wrapped it in white plastic."
Angola Marburg bodies

Item: In 1980, George H.W. Bush became Ronald Reagan's presidential running mate despite earlier criticism of Reagan's "voodoo economics". He had previously been Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Item: The South African regime combined with UNITA to invade Angola in August 1975, six months after that country's independence was gained from Portugal to kick its civil war into high gear. War would rage on and off for the next two decades.

Clipping A
"Savimbi was the toast of the Reagan White House, feted by the rightwing establishment in many countries and a friend to African tyrants. He was a willing tool of the cold war, the key figure in America's and apartheid South Africa's destruction of independent Angola's nationalist ambitions, and responsible for suffering and death on a scale barely comprehensible outside his ruined country."
American Tabloid
"Mass-market hagiography gets you hopped up for a past that never existed. Hagiography sanctifies shuck-and-jive politicians and reinvents their expedient gestures as moments of great moral weight."
Item: The Rwandan genocide took place in 100 days starting in April 1994. The Red Cross stopped counting bodies at 800,000. Remnants of the génocidaires fled across the border into Congo taking millions of Hutu with them.

Item: In 1998, an outbreak of Marburg fever occurred in Durba, Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Item: It is said that along with eating tainted meats, traditional funeral practices in Angola and Congo exacerbate the spread of the Marburg and Ebola viruses. Hear it from the Gray Lady:
But Angolans have resisted the public health messages, because they do not want loved ones taken away and put into isolation wards where family cannot visit and because they resent interference with funeral traditions of washing the body and kissing it goodbye. Funerals must be conducted properly to show respect and affection for the deceased and to avoid neglecting spirits who might turn vengeful.
Dig: Joseph Mobutu (a.k.a. Mobutu Sese Seko amongst other honorifics) was the most prized CIA asset in Africa from the 1960s until his death in 1997. He was a friend to every CIA director in his lifetime.

Clipping C [source appears to be subversive article, The terrible legacy of the Reagan years, The Guardian, known liberal UK newspaper]
"Over the Atlantic and down a bit, and we have Reagan welcoming Jonas Savimbi of the Unita organisation to the White House and speaking of his murderous outfit in Angola."
Ronald Reagan - Forward For Freedom
"In the history of revolutionary struggles or movements for true national liberation, there is often a victory like this that electrifies the world and brings great sympathy and assistance from other nations to those struggling for freedom. Past American Presidents, past American Congresses, and always, of course, the American people have offered help to others fighting in the freedom cause that we began. So, tonight, each of us joins in saluting the heroes of the Lomba River and their leader, the hope of Angola, Jonas Savimbi."
Item: Angola has oil, diamonds and more. Congo has reserves of gold, copper, tin, tantalite, coltan and almost every valuable mineral that exists.

Item: The Angolan army were in Congo chasing UNITA. The Rwandans and Ugandans were there too chasing the génocidaires and the Lords Resistance Army respectively. Mugabe sent a crew from Zimbabwe too, as did Sudan (both sides), Chad (all sides) and others. Various soldiers of fortune from Ukraine, Serbia and elsewhere came to ply their trade.

Dig: They say at least 3 million people have died, mostly of starvation, during Africa's World War centered on Congo.

Dig: The mines have continued operating throughout the conflict.

Dig the scene: Stalking a Deadly Virus, Battling a Town's Fears [NYT]
"For the people of Uíge, rampant death is now joined by the near equivalent of a space invasion: health workers encased in masks, goggles, zip-up jump suits, rubberized aprons and rubber boots as they collect corpses in the stifling heat. The garb is all white, a symbol of witchcraft here."
Marburg virus

Chew on this one: [Zaire's Mobutu Visits America - Heritage Foundation Research. Our people!]
"In Angola, Mobutu has been a catalyst, in supporting the U.S. objective of reconciliation between Angola's warring parties and, though he denies playing such a role, reportedly in assisting the U.S. in supplying Jonas Savimbi's UNITA Freedom Fighters."
Item: The Bush and Mobutu families spent vacations together.

Clipping C
Actually what Savimbi was doing was prolonging a civil war in which the UN estimates that 300,000 children died directly or indirectly during the Reagan years, and Angola was covered in landmines. Human Rights Watch reports that UNITA's indiscriminate use of landmines, caused there to be more than 15,000 amputees in the country by 1988, ranking the country alongside Afghanistan and Cambodia in the league of blown-off limbs.
American Tabloid
"Our continuing narrative line is blurred past truth and hindsight. Only a reckless verisimilitude can set that line straight."
Ronald Reagan - Forward For Freedom
"So, you see, like the Panama Canal in 1976, foreign policy issues like defense spending and aid to the freedom fighters may prove the sleeper issues of the year."
Dig the locals:
"When two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers." - Angolan proverb.
spraying disinfectant

Dig: The symbol of the Republican Party (a.k.a. the Grand Old Party, GOP) in the United States is the elephant.

Item: The Soviet Union, and later Russia, was a key financial and logistical backer of the MPLA movement in Angola. Cuba also provided significant military aid up until the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Clipping D [source appears be report on Operation Babushka - ref. [redacted] Bantustan. TPMCafe, known subversive outlet.]
"The [International Freedom Foundation] IFF was ostensibly founded as a conservative think-tank, but was in reality part of an elaborate South African military intelligence operation, code-named Operation Babushka. Established to combat sanctions and undermine the African National Congress, it also supported Jonas Savimbi and his rebel Angolan movement, Unita."
Item: Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison, mostly doing hard labour on Robben Island, South Africa.

American Tabloid
"They were rogue cops and shakedown artists. They were wiretappers and soldiers of fortune and [redacted] lounge entertainers. Had one second of their lives deviated off course, American History would not exist as we know it."
Clipping D
"From '85-'88, Grover Norquist, who worked with [Jack] Abramoff at the College Republicans, served as Savimbi's Economic Advisor and was registered with the Justice Department as a foreign agent of Angola. [PK]" [Note: we're investigating the PK initials, spin it: Paul Krugman?]

Clipping E [A blast from the past - Mail & Guardian, South Africa]
"For several years after its launch in 1985, [Jack] Abramoff (47) was the Washington face of Pacman, code name for the International Freedom Foundation (IFF). In 1995, the New Nation reported former security policeman Paul Erasmus as describing the IFF as a stratcom-military intelligence (MI) project designed to sway world opinion against the anti-apartheid movement."
Clipping D
"In 1995, [Williamson] described the IFF to Newsday as an instrument for "political warfare" whose job was "undercutting ANC credibility". The operation was constructed to prevent people knowing "they were involved with a foreign [South African] government. They ran their own organisation, but we steered them"."
Item: Claude Allen was Jesse Helms' campaign spokesman in 1984.

Dig: Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher argued vociferously against sanctions imposed on the South African apartheid regime by the United Nations.

Dig the locals:
"A woman who wants a child doesn't sleep in her clothes" - Angolan proverb.

Ronald Reagan
"So, let me urge you all to return to your organizations and communities and to tell your volunteers and your contributors that the President said that they're needed now as never before, that the crucial hour is approaching, that the choice before the American people this year is of overwhelming importance: whether to hand the government back to the liberals or move forward with the conservative agenda into the 1990s."
Clipping E [Jonas Savimbi, Unita's local boy - BBC]
"Some of the harshest criticism has come from those who once knew and admired Savimbi, but have since admitted they were duped by his charisma into overlooking serious character flaws. [Note: suggest we follow this talking point]

A former backer in Washington once conceded ruefully: "Savimbi is probably the most brilliant man I've ever met, but he's also dangerous, even psychotic"."
Clipping F [Jonas Savimbi profile Final Call, 2002 - Detroit)
Depending upon when and where he was interviewed, Savimbi appealed to tribalism, nationalism, anti-communism, or revolution, whichever suited his needs at the time. When speaking to Black American audiences, he would claim friendship with Malcolm X, and with international revolutionaries, he would invoke the spirit of the Argentine, Che Guevara, who became a leader of the Cuban Revolution. In European capitals and in Washington, D.C., Savimbi became the darling of the most racist right wing elements, and they handsomely financed his terrorist struggle against the peoples throughout southern Africa for nearly 30 years.
Item: Jesse Helms was chairman of Senate Agriculture Committee in the 1980s.

Dig: Claude Allen was appointed as Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy in January 2005

Clipping D
"After quitting the IFF in 1989, [Jack] Abramoff released Red Scorpion, an action movie that portrayed a Savimbi-like anti-communist guerrilla commander supported by Washington and Pretoria. Crystal said the IFF was not involved in the film's production. According to Williamson, however, it was "funded by our guys", who also provided military trucks, equipment and soldiers as extras."
Red Scorpion

Dig: Swedish actor Dolph Lungdren tends to play Russian roles. He is best known as Ivan Drago in Rocky IV. In Red Scorpion, he plays a KGB agent Nikolai. [Undetermined significance.]

Item: The Tale of Red Scorpion: "The manager of one of the major cast members, who did not want to be named, said that, according to her client, many of the actors and crew were never paid at all"

Dig: There was a Red Scorpion 2. "It went straight to video in 1994 and did not star Lundgren."

Ronald Reagan - Forward For Freedom
"My fellow conservatives, let's get the message out loud and clear. The Washington liberals and the San Francisco Democrats aren't extinct; they're just in hiding, waiting for another try. Well, let's make it clear to the American people that they must choose this year between those who are enemies of big government and the friends of the freedom fighters and, on the other hand, those who are advocates of Federal power and a foreign policy of illusion. So, let the choice be clear. Will it be "blame America first," or will it be "On to Democracy" and "Forward for Freedom"?"
Clipping G [Africa's Gems: Warfare's Best Friend - New York Times, 2000]
"Diamond money paid for Unita offensives that in the 1990's elevated Angola's civil war to a new plateau of savagery. Highland cities like Cuito and Huambo were all but flattened by artillery shells. More than half a million Angolans were killed. Land mines maimed about 90,000. Fighting displaced 4 million Angolans, and about 1 million continue to depend on foreign food aid. The United Nations Children's Fund now ranks Angola as the worst place on earth to be a child."
Item: "Just because a lizard nods its head doesn't mean it's happy." - Ghanaian proverb.


Ronald Reagan
"And freedom is the issue. The stakes are that high. You know, recently Nancy and I saw together a moving new film, the story of Eleni. It's a true story. A woman at the end of World War II, caught in the Greek civil war, a mother who, because she smuggled her children out to safety, eventually to America, was tried, tortured, and shot by the Greek Communists."
American Tabloid
"The real Trinity of Camelot was Look Good, Kick Ass, Get Laid. [Jack Kennedy] was the mythological front man for a particularly juicy slice of our history. He talked a slick line and wore a world-class haircut."
Ronald Reagan
"It is also the story of her son, Nicholas Gage, who grew up to become an investigative reporter with the New York Times and who, when he returned to Greece, secretly vowed to take vengeance on the man who had sent his mother to her death."
Dig: Claude Allen oversaw the White House Task Force that coordinated the response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Item: Bird flu found in stone marten in Germany [Associated Press]
"A weasel-like animal called a stone marten was infected with the deadly bird flu virus, marking the disease's spread to another mammal species... Cats are believed to have caught the virus by eating infected birds. Given the species' similar eating habits, Ulrich Arnold, a scientist at the University of Marburg's Institute for Medical Microbiology, said the discovery was "no new situation for Germany"."
American Tabloid

Dig: Laurent Desiré Kabila, installed as President of Congo by Rwanda and Uganda in 1997, was murdered by his bodyguard 3 days after the inauguration of the 43rd American president in 2001. His "adopted son", Joseph Kabila, assumed power after his death.

Ronald Reagan
"But at the dramatic end of the story, Nick Gage finds he cannot extract the vengeance he has promised himself. To do so, Mr. Gage writes, would have relieved the pain that had filled him for so many years, but it would also have broken the one bridge still connecting him to his mother and the part of him most like her. As he tells it: ".. her final cry, before the bullets of the firing squad tore into her, was not a curse on her killers but an invocation of what she died for, a declaration" how that cry was echoed across the centuries, her cry was a cry of love "My children!" A cry for all the children of the world, a hope that all of them may someday live in peace and freedom."
Dig: The B-Movie Theory [known African-American subversive poet/singer Gil Scott-Heron, we've got a workup ready on him]
The idea concerns the fact that this country wants nostalgia.

And when America found itself having a hard time facing the future, they looked for people like John Wayne.
But since John Wayne was no longer available, they settled for Ronald Reagan
And it has placed us in a situation that we can only look at like a "B" movie
Ronald Reagan
"And how many times have I heard it in the Oval Office while tryng to comfort those who have lost a son in the service of our nation and the cause of freedom. "He didn't want to die," the wife of Major Nicholson said at Fort Belvoir last year about her husband, "and we didn't want to lose him, but he would gladly lay down his life again for America"."
Clipping H [source appears to be Africa's Gems: Warfare's Best Friend - New York Times, April 2000]
"At Andulo, Unita's headquarters in the central highlands of Angola, Mr. Savimbi personally haggled with arms merchants and diamond traders who flew in from Europe. The rebel boss bargained using small bags of diamonds, each of which contained several million dollars worth of gems."
American Tabloid
"Lies continue to swirl around his eternal flame. It's time to dislodge his urn and cast light on a few men who attended his ascent and facillitated his fall."
Ronald Reagan
"So, we owe something to them, you and I. To those who've gone before - Major Nicholson, Eleni, the heroes at the Lomba River - and to the living as well - Andrei Sakharov, Lech Walesa, Adolfo Calero, Jonas Savimbi - their hopes reside in us as ours do in them."

Item: The battle of Cuito Cuanavale (1987-1988) in Angola was critical in the Angolan civil war, one in which the marxist MPLA, helped by the Cuban army, faced off against UNITA and the South African army. Each side played the indecisive military outcome off as a propaganda victory. The costs to Cuba and South Africa were primarily political and economic.

Dig: In 1990, Nelson Mandela was freed from captivity after 27 years. He had been having secret negotiations with the South African government. The first formal meeting was in May 1988.

Ronald Reagan - Forward For Freedom
"Some 20 years ago I told my fellow conservatives that "You and I have a rendezvous with destiny." And tonight that rendezvous is upon us. Our destiny is now. Our cause is still, as it was then, the cause of human freedom. Let us be proud that we serve together, and brave in our resolve to push on now toward that final victory so long sought by the heroes of our past and present and now so near at hand."
Item: "Words are like bullets. When you release them, you can't call them back" - Gambian proverb.

map of Angola

Item: Angola is the seventh most important source of oil for the United States which imports 433,000 barrels per day from it.

Dig the profile for Angola:
"The top foreign oil companies operating in Angola are US-based ChevronTexaco and ExxonMobil, France's Total, UK's BP, UK/Dutch Shell, and Italian Agip/Eni Oil Company."
Dig the headline: China expands ties with oil-rich Angola [CNN]

Clipping I [Columbia University press release]
"Researchers at the Greene Infectious Disease Laboratory at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, led by Thomas Briese, associate professor of epidemiology, have developed a rapid, comprehensive diagnostic test for viral hemorrhagic fevers caused by the Ebola and Marburg viruses, as well as others."
Clipping J [Jonas Savimbi profile - London Review of Books, March 2002]
Jonas Savimbi stole just about everything and he should not be pitied. His greatest wish was to take possession of Angola, not as a common felon but as a feudal grandee, a Naipaulian Big Man, who would stride out of the bush, fully empowered by elections or force majeure - it didn't much matter - and preside over the capital Luanda, the decadent enemy heartland of half-castes, Marxists, philanderers and oil-profiteers. This was not possible. In the attempt, which lasted roughly thirty years, he robbed Angolan peasants of just about everything and several well-known politicians of their plausibility. Jeane Kirkpatrick, the Reagan Administration's henchperson at the UN, described him as 'one of the authentic heroes of our time', and Reagan himself is reported to have likened him to Abraham Lincoln.


Even as he ceased to serve the purposes of Washington and Pretoria at the end of the Cold War, he continued to persuade Western right-wing lobbyists and anti-Communist crusaders to part with their money: 'hearts, minds and purses' was the Savimbi strategy on this front and it paid off handsomely. He also pilfered and cannibalised greater reputations to advance or tweak his own: he proclaimed himself a Maoist before Maoism became an anathema and a devotee of Che when fashion features in the Face were still decking out pretty boys from Epping or Harrogate to look like jungle revolutionaries. Ingenuity, coupled with immense reserves of courage, cruelty and amour propre, was the ingredient that allowed him to continue his 'armed struggle' in Angola for so long, and to turn the country into one of the unhappiest on earth. At the same time, he was a consequence of Angola's place in the Cold War jigsaw, and the speed at which the Angolan anti-colonial struggle became an internationalised civil war fought by large numbers of non-nationals.
Dig: The civil war in Angola lasted for 26 years.

Item: George H.W. Bush served one term as president of the US. His eldest son is currently in his 5th year as president of the US, Jeb Bush is currently governor of Florida and Neil Bush leads a relatively charmed life.

Dig: Jesse Helms retired from the US Senate in 2003, in his latter years he was pursued in a charm offensive by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. The two were said to have become quite good friends and made a curious couple around Washington.

Dig: Jack Abramoff pled guilty on January 3, 2006 to three criminal felony counts in federal court related to the defrauding of Native American tribes. "Jack Abramoff and a former business partner were sentenced to five years and 10 months in prison for fraud related to their 2000 purchase of the SunCruz Casinos gambling fleet. The sentences were the minimum under their plea agreement in the case." 266 eminent persons including congressmen submitted character references for his sentencing. In his plea bargain biography, he claimed to be "appalled at the violence in Red Scorpion". There is no word on his feelings on the sequel that he produced, nor indeed any reference to Jonas Savimbi, Angola, Nelson Mandela or South Africa.

Item: Claude Allen, who resigned in February 2006 as President Bush's top domestic policy adviser, was arrested March 2006 in Montgomery County for allegedly swindling Target and Hecht's stores out of more than $5,000 in a refund scheme, police said.

Dig: Grover Norquist is president of the anti-tax lobbying group Americans for Tax Reform with close connections to the White House. He is most famous as the architect of the political strategy known as Starve the Beast.

American Tabloid
"It's time to demythologize an era and build a new myth from the gutter to the stars. It's time to embrace bad men and the price they paid to secretly define their time.

Here's to them.
Dig: Jonas Savimbi was shot to death, his body riddled with bullets in February 2002 after being chased down by Angolan troops. Within weeks, UNITA sued for peace and the decades-long civil war was nominally over.

Ronald Reagan
"Thank you. God bless you."
Dig: There are stories that the remnants of UNITA are still roaming around the forests in Congo and Angola, serving as soldiers of fortune in that ongoing Great Scramble. They have company in the Rwandan Hutu génocidaires and the Ugandan Lords Resistance Army among other miscreants.

Item: Ronald Reagan passed away in June 2004 after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease. He was "the most fascinating person of the last quarter-century", according to a Top 25 list compiled by CNN and editors at Time magazine in 2005.

Dig: George W. Bush was fourth in that survey.

Angola Marburg 2005


Angola is a state of mind.

In the United States, it refers to Angola, Louisiana, the prison state of hard knocks and cruel disappointment that Gil Scott-Heron sang about or that gritty late night documentary you might have watched on cable television - Gary Tyler and all that. Angola used to be a slave plantation but it is now a maximum security prison.

There is more to the story of Angola however. There's that other story, of that other Angola, over there on that "Dark Continent", that other place called Africa. That story is of the civil war that raged for decades, fomented by opportunistic gremlins and parasites. Oh they had themselves a field day of collateral damage. Russia, Cuba, South Africa, the United States and their willing local companions.

Yet somehow, Angola has prevailed even as things fell apart. You can hear it in the music, see it in their eyes. The Angola that I know has resilience that illuminates that moral abyss and ineffable loss. The landmines that dot its territory are intermixed with diamonds, oil and, at its heart, a spirited people. The marauders will always be fighting for the loot but they will never extinguish the soul of Angola

Soul of Angola

There is much pain still, and we have returning war heroes contemplating the landscape; a generation striving to regain their footing. Like their Mozambiquan neighbours, it's a case of getting back to the farms and manning the factories. In short, a time to rebuild. Missing limbs are a matter of course but ingenuity abounds, and perhaps with kind words, good will, and a decade of quiet, the potential will be fulfilled.

angola hero

Now there is investment galore, millions to be made, they say. Angola is a US ally, there's Big Oil, Texan bankers and that War against Terror. Hell, the Chinese have joined in the fun. Hell indeed. We can no longer tolerate those inconvenient remnants of the UNITA movement roving around as soldiers of fortune. We're buying them off one at a time, they too need a piece of the proverbial pie. Reconciliation they call it. If properly directed, petrodollars should go some way to assuaging any latent guilt and restoring lost limbs.

Well let's just say that's the prevailing script: all is well, let us forget. Still, no one comes out of a civil war untainted, let alone the vicious, dirty proxy war waged for so long in that land.
I read the dossier.
I buried it for a year.
It's the Heart Of Darkness.

I saw a man raise his eyes to the sky.
I remembered another man's face.
I heard a rousing speech.

I want to believe.
Believe me.
I want to believe.
I take comfort in the Angola that I know, the one that is full of visions of hope. I treasure it in my sleepless nights. And even if those dreams founder, I know we'll always have Carnaval in Angola, glorious, exuberant and joyous.

To cap things off, last year Angola qualified for the first time for the 2006 World Cup to be held in Germany. I so look forward to this summer.
Dig this last one: the town of Marburg is at the center of the triangle of towns in which Angola is due to play its first round matches.
Angola Marburg Virus 2005

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