Oklahoma City

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Oklahoma City

                   ***1/2

          When the media talks about a terrorist, they are supposed to say that he is a brainwashed coward. Yup. According to the talking heads on CNN and Fox, every terrorist is the same: cowardly and crazy.

          I don’t know why it is against the rules of society to be honest about terrorism.

          The truth is that some terrorists are not cowards. They put themselves at risk to be arrested, killed, and/or damned to further a cause that they sincerely believe in.

          The truth is that some terrorists have a well-thought out system of beliefs that they share with a lot of people. It’s just that most people who share those beliefs aren’t willing to kill.

          “Oklahoma City” is a thought-provoking documentary about an American terrorist and gun lover – Timothy McVeigh – who murdered a bunch of people for reasons that are not crazy.

          Director Barak Goodman does an amazing job of showing us the four things that motivated the Oklahoma City bomber.

1.     Operation Desert Shield

What better place for a young gun lover than the US Army? Timothy McVeigh was a proud, happy soldier until he was sent to Middle East.

McVeigh thought that killing enemy soldiers would be thrilling. Instead – he recounts from prison years later – he felt like the Arab men he was murdering were just like him. And it made him sick. McVeigh began to realize that Uncle Sam is a bully.

At least the government wasn’t bullying Americans back home…

2.     Ruby Ridge

In the 80s, Randy Weaver decided to move his family as far away from society as he could. He was living on the top of a mountain in northern Idaho with no electricity or plumbing. It is hard to be less of a menace to society than Mr. Weaver. The Feds had a different idea.

          When Randy Weaver missed a court date in 1992 for weapons charges, the ATF and the FBI moved in. Before the standoff was over, US Marshals had killed Weaver’s wife, his 14 year old son, and his dog.

3.     Waco

Christian minister/cult leader David Koresh and his followers were living apart from society, in an isolated compound outside of Waco, Texas. Their crime was not bothering or hurting any outsiders; it was buying weapons illegally.

Koresh’s followers fought off an ATF raid and killed four federal agents. The government responded by busting in with tanks and tear gas. On April 19, 1993, Koresh’s compound caught fire. 76 people were killed.

4.     The Brady Bill

Looking back, The Brady Bill was little more than a rare, minor legislative loss by the NRA.

To already angry Timothy McVeigh, it was the final straw. First, the government had forced him to murder Arabs for no reason. Then, Uncle Sam had killed a bunch of gun owners who were minding their own business. Now, it seemed , US Marshals were probably going to bust down HIS door and take his guns.

On April 19, 1995 (the anniversary of Waco), Timothy McVeigh detonated a homemade bomb on the bottom floor of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people.

Timothy McVeigh was proud and unapologetic. He was executed by lethal injection in 2001.

The Oklahoma City bomber’s intentions were as clear as his actions were monstrous. McVeigh was inspired by….White Supremacy!

Wait! What? In the final act, director Barak Goodman throws us an absurd, politically-motivated curve ball. His conclusion is that Timothy McVeigh was a natural culmination of the White Power movement. Never mind that McVeigh never attended a White Power meeting and, based on prison interviews, wasn’t concerned about race at all.

Fortunately for us and unfortunately for Mr. Goodman, he accidentally told the truth for most of his film. The truth is that Timothy McVeigh was furious about Federal overreach and Washington’s willingness to kill whomever it pleases – here and abroad.

I don’t know why the truth about terrorism is so hard to stomach. The truth is that some terrorists are rational people with reasonable anger over legitimate issues. The only difference is: they think it is right to kill for their beliefs while we know it is evil.

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  Dunkirk

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     Dunkirk
                     ***
   In 1939, the UK declared war on Nazi Germany. That said: the British weren’t actually in any position to fight a war.
   In spring 1940, the German army tore through the Netherlands, Belgium, and then northern France. The combined French and British armies were no match. Within just a few weeks, UK soldiers had stopped fighting. When the film begins, 400,000 men are on the beaches of Dunkirk, desperately waiting to be rescued.
   I can’t help but contrast the Dunkirk evacuation with the defense of the Soviet Union.
   In direct contrast with the UK, the USSR had no interest in going to war with Nazi Germany. Stalin was in horrified disbelief when he heard that Hitler had reneged on their non-aggression pact.
   Even though the Soviet Union wasn’t planning a war, it was darn well willing to fight one.
    “Quantity is its own quality,” Joseph Stalin said. The Red Army was inferior to the German war machine in every possible way. Inferior weapons, inferior training, inferior leaders, inferior medical supplies (the Soviets had no morphine). But the USSR was able to draft 30 million men…30 million men who knew that they would be shot if they retreated and that their parents might be shot if they deserted.
     There was no Dunkirk for the Soviets. Just sacrifice, cold, and death. Approximately ten million Soviet soldiers died in World War II. The United States and the United Kingdom lost fewer than a million combined.
     “Dunkirk” takes us to the beaches of Northern France to show how the British rescued their army from certain defeat.
     Although Dunkirk is less than 40 miles from England, the evacuation seemed impossible. The water is so shallow near the beach that no large vessel could come ashore. So the only solution was to have many, many small boats ferry small numbers of men across the Strait of Dover, with German bombers and U-Boats trying to sink as many as possible.
     In some ways, this is a straightforward war movie: loud, violent, and harrowing. But director Christopher Nolan (“The Dark Knight,” “The Prestige,” “Inception”) isn’t afraid to put his own artsy signature on the film at times. “Dunkirk” is the only war movie I’ve ever seen that is told out of sequence.
     If you blink you’ll miss it, but Nolan uses this Pulp Fiction-esque storytelling technique to show us characters who have been emotionally ravaged by war and then show us glimpses of the guys they were before they witnessed death.
     For some characters, seeing people die around them gives them bravery and resolve. For some characters, the trauma turns them into desperate animals. Nolan doesn’t want us to judge the cowards; he wants us to feel empathy for everyone on screen.
     For those who love war movies, “Dunkirk” is a must see. For those who are upset and stressed out by war movies (like me), I do not recommend it.
     In “Dunkirk,” Christopher Nolan asks a deep moral question.
     Was the UK less heroic than the USSR because the British retreated when faced with long odds while the Soviets sacrificed a generation of men in order to stop the Nazis? Or was the UK more civilized and humane because it refused to accept the premise of total war where human life means nothing?
     Nolan never answers this question. I vote for the British.

The Battered Bastards of Baseball

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                   The Battered Bastards of Baseball

                                  ****

 

          Tim Tebow is one of the most famous sports figures in America.

          He is best known for being Christian, but he actually plays sports from time to time as well. Tebow was a star quarterback for the University of Florida. Then he was a lousy quarterback in the NFL. 

          This year, he made headlines with his unusual decision to become a professional baseball player. The media scoffed. I scoffed. But, strangely enough, Mr. Tebow is doing all right. He is a productive starting Outfielder for the St. Lucie Mets, a single-A affiliate of the New York Mets.

          At work the other day, a guy who saw a Tebow story on ESPN stated that Tebow is living the good life, getting paid well, and is one step away from the Major Leagues. None of that is true.

And that’s when it hit me: most people – even most sports fans – don’t know anything about Minor League baseball.  

          The annual MLB Draft has 40 rounds. A kid who is drafted is, at best, a few years away from getting to the big leagues. More realistically, he will never come close. For every Major League team you have heard of, there are at least four minor league teams that you’ve never heard of (AAA is the highest level, single A is the lowest).

          The reason why even baseball fans don’t care about Minor League baseball is that affiliated minor league teams are little more than soulless corporate factories that help a few gifted kids become Major Leaguers and weed out the Tim Tebow-esque 90%.  

         

In 1972, every single minor league team in America was affiliated with a Major League ballclub. In 1973, every team was affiliated except one.

          “The Battered Bastards of Baseball” is the joyous, upbeat story of the Portland Mavericks.

          In the 1960s, Bing Russell (Kurt Russell’s dad) was best known as the Deputy Sheriff on Bonanza. But though he liked acting, he loved baseball.

Bing Russell used his own money to fund astoundingly serious and nerdy baseball coaching videos meant to teach fundamentals to little leaguers. Multiple Major League managers showed Bing’s tapes to their own players.

          When Russell founded an unaffiliated club in Portland, Oregon, the baseball world assumed that it would fail. Every other minor league team in America consisted of players drafted and paid by Major League clubs. How would The Mavericks find players? And compete?

          Bing Russell put an advertisement in The Sporting News announcing open tryouts. Five hundred men showed up. Russell himself selected the twenty-five best. Not the youngest. Not the strongest. Not the most physically gifted. The best.

          They competed pretty darn well. In their very first game, the Mavericks pitcher threw a no-hitter. And that set the stage for years of consistent dominance by the upstart Portland team.

          Their philosophy was to run the bases hard, take chances, be ridiculous, and have fun. While every other club in their league lost their best players to AA, the Mavericks became a tight family – all working hard to impress their baseball-savant boss.

          Minor League baseball is so uninspiring that the only minor leaguer that you have even heard of is a washed-up Quarterback.

           It doesn’t have to be that way. Following a baseball team is one of the most wonderful things about being an American. You get to share a magical summer with guys that you care about, watching them play a sport that you love.

“The Battered Bastards of Baseball” is the feel-good baseball movie of the year. Watch it on Netflix tonight. (you know, after the game).

         Boom Bust Boom

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Boom Bust Boom

****

 

By now, anybody who can sit through an economics lesson knows how the 2008 financial meltdown happened.

Banks assumed that housing prices would continue to go up forever, so they lent money to new homeowners who couldn’t afford the loans. Then the banks sold the loans to other banks and to private investors. This insured that a drop in housing prices would affect every financial institution and take down the entire economy. Then housing prices dropped…

It’s easy to play Monday Morning Quarterback and blame who you want to blame for the meltdown. You can blame the naughty banks. You can blame the lax regulators. You can blame the materialists who wanted to live in McMansions that they couldn’t afford.

People on the Right can blame big bad government for forcing lenders to make loans in poor communities. People on the Left can blame big bad Reagan and/or Bush for trusting the private sector with so much power and money.

Monty Python’s Terry Jones has a completely different take.

Jones achieved the impossible. He made a documentary about economics that is apolitical, upbeat, and easy to follow. And full of singing puppets.

 

The film’s hero is 20th Century economist Hyman Minsky. (As a puppet), Minsky explains his ground-breaking theory about business cycles.

First, there is a painful panic. After a panic, people become cautious and responsible. They take fewer risks. They do not invest on margin or using credit. Governments pass and enforce sensible regulations.

This responsibility leads to stability. And this starts the downward cycle over again. Stability leads to optimism and rising prices. Rising prices leads to euphoria. In the euphoria of ever-rising prices, investors use credit again and ignore regulations. Finally, inflated prices suddenly drop and a painful panic ensues.

This explains the 2008 Mortgage Crisis. According to Terry Jones, it explains every financial crisis.

Jones’s solution isn’t Socialism. Or more regulation. It is acceptance.

Terry Jones doesn’t blame anyone for the 2008 meltdown. “Boom Bust Boom” claims that cycles of boom then bust aren’t flaws in the Capitalist system – they are flaws in our nature.

If there are villains in “Boom Bust Boom,” they aren’t the capitalists – they are the mainstream economists. Jones states that the study of economics rests on a fundamentally flawed theory: the notion that people in the open market are rational.

When it comes to money and trading, Terry Jones asserts, we are irrational to our very core and always will be.

Jones illustrates his theory of irrationality with an experiment using Rhesus Monkeys.

A colony of monkeys was given coins that could be exchanged with humans for food. Food dealer #1 showed a bowl containing one grape. When the monkey gave him a coin, the human gave the monkey two grapes. Food dealer #2 showed a bowl containing three grapes. When the monkey gave him a coin, the human gave the money two grapes.

If the monkeys made decisions based on rationality, they would shop with dealer #1 as often as dealer #2.

But monkeys, like us, are emotional idiots when it comes to money. The monkeys all wanted to buy from Food dealer #1 and avoided dealer #2 like the plague.

When it comes to investment decisions, we are all monkeys. When our investment goes up, we feel pride and joy and euphoria. When our investment goes down, we feel shame and disgust and panic. The smartest among us know that our feelings are irrational, but we feel them anyway.

“Boom Bust Boom” is the exact opposite of a muckraking documentary. It presents a serious problem that plagues humanity. But there is no blame and there are no solutions. Just monkeys and puppets.

Betting on Zero

Image result for pretty girl drinking herbalife

Betting on Zero

**1/2

“By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”

-Genesis 3:19

 

I am thankful for the wisdom of this bible verse.

Without it, life would be a lot harder and more complicated. There have been hundreds of Sunday nights during my adult life where I lost sleep. I was dreading the long, daunting work week ahead.

But no matter how much I’m dreading it, I always go to work on Monday. That’s because I don’t view it as a choice. Genesis makes it sparklingly clear: if I want to earn the right to live and eat, I must labor.

I will work until my boss gives me a gold watch or until I expire at my desk. Either way is cool. I never feel sorry for myself. I feel sorry for the unfortunate people who haven’t internalized Genesis 3:19.

Life will always be harder for the chumps who think that there is a realistic path to wealth that doesn’t involve a 9 to 5 job. There will always be a Scammer trying to lure them away from their money. It could be the lottery. It could be the casino. It could be Herbalife.

Herbalife, I learned from “Betting on Zero,” produces health products. The company sells shakes, pills, and stuff that supposedly helps you lose weight.

Documentarian Ted Braun doesn’t tell us whether he thinks the shakes actually make you healthier and thinner. It hardly matters. Herbalife doesn’t make money selling health products; Herbalife is a Pyramid Scheme.

“Betting on Zero” is a half hour too long, but it is totally convincing. Herbalife doesn’t market its shakes to consumers; it markets them to its independent distributors.

The heart and soul of Herbalife are its shameless salesmen who are able to convince dozens of patsies to invest their life savings into Herbalife products and convince other people to do the same. That top salesman gets a cash bonus and an Alpha Romeo. The middle distributors break even at best. All the dupes on the bottom of the Pyramid get are products they can’t sell and bills they can’t pay.

The hero of this story is Hedge Fund manager Bill Ackman (seriously). Ackman saw what Herbalife is doing to its workers and set out to destroy the company and make money in the process. In 2012, he shorted $1 billion in Herbalife stock. Shorting a stock means that you sell shares that you don’t have. When the stock drops as planned, you buy them back for less and make a profit.

The victims of this story are the undocumented immigrants who fell for the scam by the tens of thousands. Herbalife used Spanish-language advertisements to target illegals because they are less likely to go public with complaints about being ripped off.

I don’t feel quite as sorry for Herbalife salespeople as Ted Braun wants me to. If somebody says: “I have a job for you! Now give me some money,” you should know that it is a rip-off, not a job. If you give that guy your money, you are not a victim – you are a fool.

To be clear: I’m definitely not defending Herbalife. The company is awful and I hope that its stock price does go to zero. However, we don’t need government probes or Bill Ackman to make it happen.

Herbalife would shut its doors tomorrow if everyone just woke up and realized there are no shortcuts to success in this life. All you have to do is read Genesis 3:19, get up bright and early on Monday morning, and then go to your soul-sucking dead-end job like the rest of us.

 

Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press

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Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press

***

 

In 2012, the news gossip site Gawker posted part of a video that showed Hulk Hogan in bed with his best friend’s wife.

Hulk Hogan was so ticked off that he could have torn his shirt off in anger. So, what did he do about it?

He successfully sued Gawker and its publishers for $140 million that they definitely did not have. Hogan knocked Gawker out of business faster than he knocked out the Iron Sheik.

Brian Knappenberger – director of the passionate, thought-provoking, outrageously biased documentary “Nobody Speak” – considers the Hulk Hogan trial to be the beginning of the end of America’s free press.

Knappenberger argues that the verdict violated Gawker’s Constitutional Rights. That is pretty far-fetched. Again, Gawker shared a recording of an old tan dude who was cuckolding his pal. If you think that’s specifically covered by the First Amendment, then you have an interesting notion of the kinkiness level of our Founding Fathers.

Knappenberger argues that the annihilation of Gawker is a warning sign that power in America is shifting away from reporters and into the hands of billionaires.

Apparently, the brains and the money behind Hogan’s lawsuit was Silicon Valley tycoon Peter Thiel. The tech billionaire had a grudge against Gawker because the site outed him in 2007.

Using $10 million to hire a team of A-list lawyers, the billionaire used the legal system to destroy his enemies. This sets an ugly precedent.

 

And if you can’t beat ‘em, buy ‘em. “Nobody Speak” also explores another way that billionaires can threaten the free press.

Sheldon Adelson is a casino tycoon and influential Republican donor. Apparently, he didn’t care for the way the Las Vegas Review-Journal was portraying him. So he bought the paper, made obnoxious rules about how much the staff columnists could write about him, and solved his problem.

I am not going to defend Sheldon Adelson; that is some childish Citizen Kane-esque nonsense. However, I don’t see how it spells the end of the free press. Mostly, it emphasizes how painfully anti-Republican this movie is.

Knappenberger spends a half hour on Adelson but no more than 10 seconds on Jeff Bezos’s purchase of the Washington Post.

If there is a man who has the motivation and the wherewithal to fundamentally alter truth and liberty in America, it is Amazon.com CEO and dictator Jeff Bezos.

Bezos is already the most powerful and influential person on planet earth. While most CEOs use their company’s profits to help investors get wealthy, Bezos continues to build a massive world-wide infrastructure that is slowly wiping out all competition.

Amazon.com is revolutionizing consumerism: making it easier, more mindless, more wasteful, more globalist, and more unaccountable.

Remember last year at this time when candidate Trump stated that Amazon corporation has “a huge anti-Trust problem”? Of course you don’t; the corporate media doesn’t even want us to debate that topic.

It is troubling that during the past few months, you and your family have spent more time discussing the substance-free Russia scandal than the urgent national need to break up Amazon.com. That is in large part because the most influential newspaper in Washington is now the propaganda arm of the Jeff Bezos empire.

In conclusion: Hulk Hogan is a crybaby who should be ashamed of himself. And we desperately need to break up Amazon.com.

Oh, and the death of the free press? That obviously isn’t happening. I proved it. I just published a column tearing down the world’s most powerful man and I’m not even going to get in trouble. The Press is fine.

Emmanuel Macron: Behind the Rise

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Emmanuel Macron: Behind the Rise

**

 

President Obama’s legacy has been hopelessly distorted by partisanship.

The American Right has spun Obama into something that he never was or tried to be: a Progressive.

Ask a Republican, and he will tell you that the President was an anti-American Socialist Peacenik.

Amusingly, the American Left has decided to defend this Funhouse Mirror version of Obama that never really existed. Ask a Democrat, and she will try to defend his foreign policy on humanitarian grounds and defend his health care plan on Progressive grounds.

The reality is that Barak Obama was as moderate as a leader can be. Every action existed to maintain continuity.

During the heart of the banking crisis, he let political donors at Citigroup choose his cabinet. Sorry, Obama fans, but you can read it for yourself in the leaked email from Citi to John Podesta on Oct 8, 2008. The Obama team was tightly allied with Wall Street from day one.

Obama’s foreign policy was a clever continuation of Bush’s War on Terror. Using drone strikes and covert actions, Obama kept his foot on the pedal of relentless Middle East murder and meddling while reducing the number of American body bags to a more tolerable level.

The Affordable Care Act is little more than a scheme to try to keep the current for-profit system going a few more years by extorting money from young, healthy people who need cash way more than health insurance.

In the end, Obama achieved minimal change. The only question is whether his campaign slogan “Change” was always intended as a cynical irony.

 

Now France has its own Barak Obama. His name is Emmanuel Macron. Macron is young, good-looking, smart, and charismatic. And he’s the living embodiment of the status quo.

“Behind the Rise” is a worshipful documentary that follows his successful candidacy for President. The documentary urges us to fall in love with the man. And urges us not to think too much about what he represents.

Emmanuel Macron is the insider’s insider. First he was an investment banker at Rothschild & Co. More recently, he was Deputy Secretary-General under President Francois Hollande.

Last year, Macron bolted from Hollande’s Party and formed his own Party: En Marche! (which means Onward!). See what he did there? Macron fights tooth and nail to defend the status quo, but he does it under the slick banner of Progressivism.

While Marine Le Pen relentlessly focused on France’s need to leave the EU and reclaim its borders, Macron felt no need to discuss issues at all. Throughout the movie, he mostly just smiles, tries to look dashing, and accuses his opponent of bigotry.

Apparently, Macron was right. He beat Ms. Le Pen in a landslide. Le Pen is the better person, but she was not a great candidate. She did a lousy job of reaching out to France’s growing minority population.

The winner of the France’s next election will be the one who communicates that the choice is not between Christianity and Islam; it’s between the Globalists and the people.

The problems plaguing France are unemployment, unchecked borders, and uncontrolled terrorism. The ultimate victims are poor, peaceful young French Muslims who just want to assimilate and work. They need change more than anyone.

The same bland agreeable nature that made Macron an appealing candidate will make him entirely incapable of leading France through the tough road ahead.

America has already been through this. Even though Barak Obama remained personally popular, his party and the American Establishment itself lost their credibility during his Presidency.

Change is no longer a cynical slogan. It’s a desperate need. The Establishment won with Obama and Macron. But we won’t be fooled anymore.
Après Macron, le déluge.

 

Get Me Roger Stone

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Get Me Roger Stone

****

 

“I am the most qualified. I have the most experience. I am the smartest and the most educated.”

-a foolish candidate for public office

 

I cringe every time I hear a politician say something like that. I loathe the guy saying it, but I still feel for him. That strategy never works.

At best, mentioning your brains and your experience makes you look like a boastful egghead.

At worst, people think you are telling the truth.

Being an experienced politician is not a qualification. It’s a huge strike against you.

It’s like saying: “hey, I’m an experienced thief. Let me guard your money.” Or “hey, I’m experienced at sending your sons to Asia to murder foreigners. Let me be your pastor!”

The American voter is willing to forgive almost anything – except the sin of being an intellectual insider. Roger Stone understands this better than anyone.

Roger Stone loves to show off the big tattoo of Richard Nixon that he has on his back. Stone’s worship of President Nixon makes total sense; Nixon was the master of anti-intellectual political success.

In terms of education, experience, and intellectual prowess, Richard Nixon was second to none. But he never would have told you that. He won a 49-State landslide victory in 1972 based on his personal appeal to the “Great Silent Majority” of working class Americans.

Conservative values only get a candidate so far. Republicans win elections by appealing to the anti-intellectual, anti-Washington, anti-establishment masses.

Roger Stone is the ultimate anti-insider insider. The colorful Netflix documentary “Get Me Roger Stone” presents him as the devious Forest Gump of Republican politics, conveniently popping up in the background at every major event.

The Watergate Hearings: 19-year old Roger Stone was there (he played a very minor dirty trick against Nixon’s GOP Primary competitor Pete McCloskey).

The Conservative triumph in 1980: Roger Stone was there (he was Reagan’s regional campaign director for the Northeast).

The 2000 Contested Election: Roger Stone was there (Stone claims that he organized a pro-Bush rally that intimidated Florida election workers from changing the results of the recount).

And if you don’t hate him enough already, Democrat readers, check this out: Roger Stone founded one of the original Super PACs in 1978 to run independently funded attack ads.

And he founded Black, Manafort, and Stone – a shamelessly greedy DC lobbying firm that represented the interests of anyone willing to pay them. Stone’s list of clients included Third World dictators like Ferdinand Marcos and Mobutu Sese Seko.

The neat thing about Roger Stone is that he doesn’t try to justify or explain away any of his villainy. If anything, he proudly over-emphasizes his evil achievements. It is better to be infamous, Stone proclaims, than not famous at all.

Though he works for Republicans, Roger Stone is far from a Conservative. He used to go to Swingers parties with his libertine wife. He enthusiastically supports Marijuana legalization.

He was pro-gay marriage long before any Republican (or any member of the Clinton family) supported it. There’s a surprising scene where Roger Stone proudly marches in a Pride Parade. He gets booed the entire time.

You can hate him all you want, but you must respect him. Roger Stone knows better than anyone how you win elections in the United States.

It definitely is not by claiming to be the smartest and the most experienced candidate. Just ask Roger Stone’s latest protégé: President Trump.