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Archive for December, 2020|Monthly archive page

LIFE BEGINS ANEW–AND STAYS THE SAME–EACH NEW YEAR’S EVE

In Entertainment, History, Social commentary, Uncategorized on December 31, 2020 at 12:08 am

New Year’s Eve, 2020, will soon lie behind us.

And for most people, saying “Goodbye” to 2020 can’t happen soon enough.

New Year’s Eve is traditionally a time for people to reflect on the major events of the previous 12 months. Some of these are highly personal. Others have been shared by the entire country.

Some of these remembrances inevitably bring pleasure. Others bring pain.

And 2020 has been a year of pain for millions.

Starting in January, COVID-19 swept across the globe. To date, it’s infected 82 million worldwide—and taken 1.79 million. In the United States, it’s infected 19.7 million and killed 341,000.

Coronavirus is the voice of the Earth | Schumacher College

COVID-19

But, as the year came near its end, a ray of hope suddenly dawned: Two anti-COVID vaccines finally appeared on the market.

It would take time for them to reach significant numbers of people. But now an end to the global pandemic was finally within sight.

At the heart of every New Year’s Eve celebration is the fantasy that you get to start fresh in a matter of hours. And with that fantasy comes hope—that, this time, you can put your sorrows and failures behind you. 

And for millions in 2021, life will look brighter—because Donald Trump, whose Presidency has been marked by unprecedented criminality and treason, will leave office on January 20.

True, he’s not going gently into that good night.

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Donald Trump

Ever since former Vice President Joseph Biden won the votes of 81 million Americans, Trump has refused to concede. Even worse, he’s repeatedly—and falsely—claimed that he was “cheated” of victory by massive electoral fraud. 

He’s pressed these lies as high as the Supreme Court—and has seen more than 50 cases dismissed by judges or withdrawn by his lawyers.

So he is going.

The last New Year’s Eve to be marked by worldwide fears was that of 1999:

  • Fear of Y2K—that our highly computerized, globally-interconnected world would crash when the “19″ at the start of every year was replaced with a “20″.
  • Fear of Armageddon—that Jesus, after dying 2,000 years ago, would return to destroy mankind (except for those 144,000 righteous souls He deemed worthy of salvation).
  • Fear of the Millennium itself—of ending not simply another decade and century but an entire thousand-year period of history, and thus losing our historical ties to the familiar highlights of our own (and America’s) past.

And, especially where Y2K was concerned, news commentators were quick to stoke our anxieties.

Long before New Year’s Eve, TV newscasters repeatedly warned that, when midnight struck on January 1, 2000, the three places you did not want to be were:

  • In an airplane.
  • In an elevator.
  • In a hospital.

Countless numbers of people in America and around the world stocked up on food, water, batteries and other essentials for surviving an emergency.

Merchants and police feared widespread rioting and violence. If Y2K didn’t set it off, then fears of a heaven-sent Apocalypse might.

In San Francisco, along Powell Street—a major center of tourism and commerce—store owners boarded up their doors and windows as New Year’s Eve approached. Many closed earlier than usual that day.

Fortunately, when midnight struck on January 1, 2000, the predictors of the coming Apocalypse were proven wrong.

  • Computers kept working—and civilization didn’t crash along with them.
  • Jesus didn’t miraculously return from the dead—just as he hadn’t during any previous year.
  • And those who feared that the Millennium would usher in a strange and frightening new world soon found that 2000 was not all that different from previous years.

New Year’s Eve 1999 is now 21 years distant. But some lessons may still be learned from it:   

Each year is a journey unto itself—filled with countless joys and sorrows. Many of these joys can’t be predicted. And many of these tragedies can’t be prevented.

Learn to tell real dangers from imaginary ones. Computers are real—and sometimes they crash. Men who died 2,000 years ago do not leap out of graveyards, no matter what their disciples predict.

Don’t expect any particular year to usher in the Apocalypse. In any given year there will be wars, famines, earthquakes, riots, floods and a host of other disasters. These have always been with us–and always will be. As Abraham Lincoln once said: “The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.”

Image result for Images of fireworks on New Year's Eve

Don’t expect some Great Leader to lead you to success. As Gaius Cassius says in William Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar”: “Men at some time are masters of their fate. The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in ourselves that we are underlings.”

Don’t expect any particular year or event to usher in your happiness. To again quote Lincoln: “Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

If your life seems to make no sense to you, consider this: The philosopher Soren Kierkegaard once noted: “Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.”

HITLER’S GERMANY HAD ITS RESISTENCE MOVEMENT–TRUMP’S AMERICA DID NOT: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 30, 2020 at 12:08 am

During his 12-year reign, Adolf Hitler was the target of at least 42 assassination plots. The most famous of these was the one of July 20, 1944.

  • So far as is known, Donald Trump has not been the target of even one.

In Hitler’s case, the plotters were officers of the German general staff—who believed the Fuhrer was leading Germany into a war it could not hope to win.

After the war’s outbreak (on September 1, 1939) most of the plotters were motivated by a desire to end the war before Allied—and especially Russian—soldiers reached Germany. But many plotters were motivated by sheer horror at the wholesale slaughters taking place in Poland and Russia.

Adolf Hitler

  • In Trump’s case, a non-violent method for removal existed in the Twenty-Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. This allows the Vice President and a majority of the Cabinet to recommend the removal of the President when he is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” The Vice President then becomes President.
  • No Cabinet members had the courage to invoke this.
  • Within the Senate and House of Representatives, Republicans acted as a rubber stamp for his every infamy. When he praised North Korea’s dictator Kim Jong-On or attacked Vietnam POW John McCain, they stayed silent. When he falsely charged massive voter fraud, Republicans stayed silent or loudly parroted his lies.
  • Their most notorious example of ambition-fueled cowardice occurred on February 5, 2020. That was when the Republican-dominated Senate—ignoring the overwhelming evidence against him—acquitted Trump on both impeachment articles: Obstruction of Congress and abuse of power.
  • At the Pentagon, American generals stood mute as Trump repeatedly sided with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin against the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency—and even gave classified CIA Intelligence to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
  • And just as high-ranking field marshals in Hitler’s Wehrmacht held their tongues when he insulted them, so, too, did American generals when Trump belittled their intelligence and even patriotism. 
  • When Trump arbitrarily decided to remove American forces from Syria and Afghanistan, Secretary of Defense James Mattis resigned in protest in 2018. But then he was simply replaced by Mark Esper.
  • Despite the fact that many of these men regularly came into contact with Trump, not one of them apparently plotted his removal. 
  • Similarly, Trump repeatedly attacked the integrity of the men and women of the FBI—even firing its director, James Comey, for daring to investigate Russia’s subversion of the 2016 election. If its agents—steeped in Federal criminal law—built a case for Trump’s indictment and prosecution, it has never come to light.
  • Neither did any of his Secret Service agents register the slightest protest, despite his arrogant behavior toward them. He forced them to work without pay during his 35-day government shutdown in 2018. And he forced them to accompany him to COVID-infected states—both during the Presidential campaign and afterward. Many of them became stricken with this often fatal disease as a result.

Donald Trump

On November 3, 2020, 81,255,933 Democratic voters elected former Vice President Joseph Biden the 46th President of the United States. Trump, running for a second term, got 74,196,153 votes.

Yet almost two months after the election, Trump refuses to concede, insisting that he won—and repeatedly claiming falsely that he is the victim of massive vote fraud.

This toxic lie has been feverishly embraced by millions of Right-wingers, and threatens to rob the incoming Biden administration of its deserved legitimacy.

This refusal to acknowledge the outcome initially denied Biden access to the money, information-sharing and machinery traditionally accorded the President-elect. Trump himself was the beneficiary of such assistance in 2016, after his win over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

Only on November 23 was Biden acknowledged as the winner by the General Services Administration, as the Trump administration finally began the formal transition process.

Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic rages across the country. More than 336,000 Americans have died, hospitals are filled to capacity, and millions are on the brink of starvation and/or eviction. Yet Trump remains obsessed with his loss, and has done nothing to coordinate the Federal response to the pandemic.

Trump’s refusal to accept reality poses an unprecedented danger to democracy: No presidential candidate has ever refused to concede defeat once all the votes were counted and legal challenges resolved.

By refusing to commit to a peaceful transfer of power, Trump has taken on the classic mantle of of a dictator.

Right-wing Virginia State Senator Amanda Chase has urged Trump to declare martial law and allow the military to “oversee” another election. So has disgraced ex-National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, whom Trump pardoned for lying to the FBI about private talks he had with a Russian official.

Reports have surfaced that Trump has considered doing so. Given his record as a lifelong criminal, there is no reason to doubt he is capable of this. 

History has recorded an active German resistance movement against Adolf Hitler—and has honored its members, many of whom died heroically for standing firm against a brutal tyrant.

To its eternal shame, the same cannot be said of America during the reign of Donald Trump.

HITLER’S GERMANY HAD ITS RESISTENCE MOVEMENT–TRUMP’S AMERICA DID NOT: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 29, 2020 at 12:15 am

On July 20, 1944, Colonel Claus Schenk von Stuaffenberg tried to assassinate Adolf Hitler.

He had served with the Wehrmacht in Poland (1939), France (1940) and the Soviet Union (1941).

While serving in Tunisa, he was seriously wounded on April 7, 1943, when Allied fighters strafed his vehicle. He lost his left eye, right hand and two fingers of his left hand after surgery.  

Colonel Claus Schenk von Stuaffenberg

Nevertheless, he now acted as the prime mover for the conspiracy among a growing number of German high command officers to arrest or assassinate Germany’s Fuehrer.

For most of these officers, the motive was craven: The “happy time” of German victories was over. Germany was losing the war it had unleashed on the world in 1939—and now they feared the worst. 

This was especially true now that the numerically superior forces of the Soviet Union had gone onto the offensive.

For Stauffenberg, there was another reason: His disgust at the horrors he had seen committed by his fellow Wehrmacht soldiers upon defenseless POW’s and civilians in Russia.

Thus, Stauffenberg—more than many Germans–knew firsthand the vengeance his country could expect if the “Thousand-Year Reich” fell.

Something must be done, he believed, to prove to the world that not all Germans—even members of the Wehrmacht—were criminals.

Most of the conspirators wanted to arrest Hitler and surrender to British and American forces—well before the much-feared Russians gained a toehold in Germany.

Stauffenberg didn’t want to arrest Hitler; he wanted to kill him. A live Hitler might eventually be rescued by his Nazi colleagues.

But Hitler was a closely-guarded target. He was surrounded by fanatical bodyguards who were expert marksmen. He often wore a bulletproof vest and a cap lined with three pounds of laminated steel. 

Adolf Hitler

Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1990-048-29A / CC-BY-SA 3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)%5D

But his single greatest protection—he claimed—was an instinct for danger. He would suddenly change his schedule—to drop in where he was least expected. Or suddenly depart an event where he was expected to stay a long time.

That instinct had repeatedly saved his life.

A series of assassination attempts had been made against Hitler. All of them involved time-bombs. And all of the would-be assassins were members of the German General Staff.

In one case, a bomb secretly stashed aboard Hitler’s plane failed to explode. In another, an officer who had a bomb strapped to himself unexpectedly found his scheduled meeting with Hitler called off. He had to rush into a bathroom to defuse the bomb before it exploded.

Stauffenberg intended to carry his bomb—hidden in a briefcase—into a “Hitler conference” room packed with military officers. Rigged with a time-fuse, it would be left there while he found an excuse to leave.

After the explosion, he would phone one of his fellow conspirators with the news. 

Stauffenberg intended to direct the new government that would replace that of the Nazis—and open peace talks with the British and Americans.

With Hitler dead, the coup—“Operation Valkyrie”—would be on.

Anti-Nazi conspirators would seize control of key posts of the government. The British and Americans would then be informed of Germany’s willingness to surrender. Provided, of course, that the vengeance-seeking Russians did not have a say in its postwar future.

The Wehrmacht and Schutzstaffel (SS) had killed millions of Russians. Many had died in combat. Others had been murdered as captives. Still more had been allowed to die by starvation and exposure to the notorious Russian winter.

So the Germans—both Nazi and anti-Nazi—knew what they could expect if soldiers of the Soviet Union reached German soil.

On July 20, 1944, Stauffenberg appeared at Hitler’s well-guarded military headquarters in East Prussia.  Like all his other outposts, Hitler had named it—appropriately enough—“Wolf’s Lair.” 

“Wolf’s Lair”

Stauffenberg entered the large, concrete building while the conference was in session. He placed his yellow briefcase next to Hitler—who was standing with his generals at a heavy oaken table. Then he excused himself to take an “urgent” phone call.

After Stauffenberg left the room, Colonel Heinz Brandt, standing next to Hitler, found the briefcase blocking his legs. So he moved it—to the other side of the heavy oaken support, partially shielding Hitler from the blast.. 

At 12:42 p.m. on July 20, 1944, Stauffenberg’s briefcase bomb erupted. 

Brandt died, as did two other officers and a stenographer.  

Hitler not only survived, but the plotters failed to seize the key broadcast facilities of the Reich.  

This allowed Hitler to make a late-night speech to the nation, revealing the failed plot and assuring Germans that he was still alive. And he swore to flush out the “traitorous swine” who had tried to kill him.

Mass arrests quickly followed.

Among the first victims discovered and executed was the conspiracy’s leader, Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg. Standing before a makeshift firing squad at midnight, he cried: “Long live our sacred Germany!”

At least 7,000 persons were arrested by the Gestapo. Of these, 4,980 were executed.

HITLER’S GERMANY HAD ITS RESISTENCE MOVEMENT—TRUMP’S AMERICA DID NOT: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 28, 2020 at 12:25 am

“When Fascism comes to America, it will be called anti-Fascism.”
–Huey Long, Louisiana Governor/Senator

In the Twilight Zone episode, “No Time Like the Past,” Paul Driscoll (Dana Andrews), a scientist in early 1960s America, uses a time machine to visit Nazi Germany on the eve of World War II. 

He’s rented a motel room overlooking the balcony from where the Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler will soon make a speech. And he’s eager to watch that speech—through the lens of a telescopic-sighted rifle.  

Just as he’s about to pull the trigger, there’s a knock at his door–by the maid. Driscoll hustles her out as soon as possible, then once again picks up his rifle. He—and viewers—can once again see Hitler through the cross-hairs of his weapon.  

Paul Driscoll prepares to shoot Adolf Hitler

But instead of the anticipated shot, there’s another knock at his door—his time by the black-uniformed secret police, the SS. Driscoll knows the game is up, and disappears into the present just as the thugs break down his door.  

And the audience is left to ponder how different the world would have been if Driscoll—or someone in Nazi Germany—had succeeded in assassinating the man whose wars would wipe out the lives of 50 million men, women and children around the globe.  

One 2016 Republican candidate for President dared to invoke the menace of Nazi Germany in warning of the dangers of a Donald Trump Presidency. And to argue that Americans could prevent that past from returning.  

In November, 2015, John Kasich, the governor of Ohio, was peddling a message of creating jobs, balancing the Federal budget and disdain for Washington, D.C.  

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John Kasich

But he remained far behind in the polls, dropping 50% in support in just one month—from September to October. Meanwhile, Trump, the New York billionaire developer, was being backed by 25% of Republican primary voters.  

So, with nothing to lose, Kasich decided to take off the gloves. He invoked the “N” word for Republicans: Nazi.  

He authorized the creation of a TV ad that opened with ominous music—and the face of a snarling Donald Trump.

“I would like anyone who is listening to consider some thoughts that I’ve paraphrased from the words of German pastor Martin Niemoeller.” 

The voice belonged to Tom Moe, a retired colonel in the U.S. Air Force—and a former Vietnam prisoner-of-war.

“You might not care if Donald Trump says Muslims must register with the government, because you’re not one,” continued Moe. 

“And you might not care if Donald Trump says he’s going to round up all the Hispanic immigrants, because you’re not one. 

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Donald Trump

“And you might not care if Donald Trump says it’s OK to rough up black protesters, because you’re not one. 

“And you might not care if Donald Trump wants to suppress journalists, because you’re not one.

“But think about this: 

“If he keeps going, and he actually becomes President, he might just get around to you. And you’d better hope that there’s someone left to help you.”  

Martin Niemoeller (1892–1984) was a prominent Protestant pastor who had commanded a U-boat during World War 1. He became a bitter public foe of Adolf Hitler.

A staunch anti-Communist, he had initially supported the Nazis as Germany’s only hope of salvation against the Soviet Union.

But when the Nazis made the church subordinate to State authority, Niemoeller created the Pastors’ Emergency League to defend religious freedom. 

For his opposition to the Third Reich,  Niemoeller spent seven years in concentration camps.

With the collapse of the Reich in 1945, he was freed—and elected President of the Protestant church in Hesse and Nassau in 1947. During the 1960s, he was a president of the World Council of Churches.

He is best remembered for his powerful condemnation of the failure of Germans to protest the increasing oppression of the Nazis:

First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist, so I did not speak out.

Then they came for the Socialists, but I was not a Socialist, so I did not speak out.

Then they came for the trade unionists, but I was not a trade unionist, so I did not speak out.

Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew, so I did not speak out.

And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.

Neither “Adolf Hitler” nor “Nazi Party” was mentioned during the one-minute Kassich video. But a furious Trump threatened to sue Kasich if he could find anything “not truthful” within the ad.

Apparently he couldn’t find anything “not truthful,” because he never sued.

So threatened the man who had called Mexican immigrants “rapists” and accused President Barack Obama of being a Muslim and an illegal alien.

The Kasich ad was the darkest attack made against Trump by any candidate—Republican or Democrat. And it raised a disturbing question:

If Donald Trump proved to be America’s Adolf Hitler, would there be an American Claus von Stauffenberg? 

Colonel Claus Schenk von Stuaffenberg was the German army officer who, on July 20, 1944, tried to assassinate Adolf Hitler. 

WHEN A COMPANY/AGENCY IGNORES YOUR PROBLEM

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Self-Help, Social commentary on December 25, 2020 at 12:06 am

How many times have you called a government agency or company and instantly found yourself put on hold?

To add insult to injury, you usually wind up serenaded by recorded music that would be totally forgettable if it weren’t so unforgivably irritating.

And every 30 seconds or so a recorded voice comes on to assure you: “Your call is very important to us.”

Have you ever wondered:If my call is so important to you, why aren’t you answering it?” 

The truth is that most companies and government agencies don’t want their employees speaking with the customers who make their existence a reality.

Having your questions answered by another human being requires the company/agency to assign—and pay—people to do just that.

Most hiring managers don’t want to hire any more people than they absolutely have to. They want to siphon off as much of the company’s profits for themselves as possible.

And assigning people to answer customers’ calls means that many of those calls will take time to answer, because some problems can’t be solved in a matter of seconds. 

Even government agencies like police departments don’t want to spend any more time than necessary taking the calls of those who need to reach them.

Even calls to 911 can leave you talking to no one, with only a recorded message telling you to wait until someone deigns to speak with you.

And you’re no closer to solving the problem that caused you to phone the company/agency in the first place.

What to do? 

For starters, don’t lose heart. There are usually a great many things you can do to obtain the help you need.

  • Go on the Internet and look up the company’s/agency’s website. 
  • Look for links to their Board of Directors. Often enough you’ll get not only their names but their bios, phone numbers and even email addresses.
  • Look at the bottom of the website page. Many companies/agencies put this information there–and usually in small print.
  • Look for the names of officials who can help you—those at the top, or at least high enough so that whoever responds to your call/letter/email has the necessary clout to address your problem.
  • If you call, don’t ask to speak directly with Mr. Big. Ask to speak with Mr. Big’s secretary, who is far more accessible.
  • Keep your tone civil, and try to make your call as brief as possible. Don’t go into a lot of background about the problems you had getting through.
  • Give the gist and ask for a referral to someone who can help resolve your problem.
  • If the secretary needs more time to study the problem before referring you to someone else, be patient.
  • Answer any questions asked—such as your name, address, phone number and/or email.
  • State—specifically—what you want the company to do to resolve your problem.  If you want a refund or repairs for your product, say so.

Stacey's Blessings: Been Awhile | Lonesome dove quotes, Cool words, Inspirational quotes

  • If you want a refund, don’t ask for more money than you paid for the product. 
  • If you want to return a product for an exchange, don’t expect the company to give you a new one with even more bells and whistles—unless you’re willing to pay the difference in price.
  • If you want an agency to investigate your complaint, don’t expect them to do so instantly.  Give them time to assess your information and that supplied by others.
  • It’s usually possible to get one agency to sit on another—if you can make a convincing case that it’s in that secondary agency’s best interests to do so.  
  • That doesn’t guarantee they will resolve your problem. But if you can show that the agency will gain by it—such as getting good publicity.
  • If a company/agency official has acted so outrageously that the company/agency might be held liable for his actions, don’t be afraid to say so. But don’t threaten to sue.
  • Just point out that the employee has acted in such a way as to jeopardize the company’s/agency’s reputation for integrity/efficiency and that the organization is not well-served by such behavior.
  • Whoever reads your letter/email will instantly realize the legal implications of what you’re saying—and, in most cases, will take quick action to head off a lawsuit by trying to satisfy your request. 
  • Give the CEO’s secretary at least one to two days to get back to you. Remember: Resolving your problem isn’t the only task she needs to complete.
  • If you’re writing the CEO, make sure you use his full name and title–and that you spell both correctly. People don’t get to be CEOs without a huge sense of ego. Nothing will turn him off faster than your failing to get his name and title exactly right.
  • As in the case with his secretary, be brief—no more than a page and a half. Outline the problem you’re having and at least some (though not necessarily all) of the steps you’re taken to get it resolved.
  • Then state what you want the company to do.  Again, be fair and reasonable.

SKIP CHRISTMAS AND SAVE MONEY–AND PROBABLY YOUR LIFE

In Business, History, RELIGION, Social commentary on December 24, 2020 at 12:12 am

There are several good reasons for skipping Christmas this year—if not in years beyond 2020.

Reason #1: The historical realities behind the event.

  • There is no reference anywhere in the Bible to the month, day—or even the year—of Jesus’ birth. 
  • There are no sources outside the Bible that give a date to Jesus’ birth.
  • Jesus never commanded his followers to celebrate his birth—but he did call on them to remember his death.  It’s called Easter.
  • Many of the “religious” traditions associated with Christmas stem from the pagan Roman festival, Saturnalia, which celebrated the “birthday” of the sun.
  • This was celebrated December 17-25. 
  • Saturnalia traditions included feasting, gift-giving, lighting candles (to ward off evil spirits) and displaying wreaths (as a sign of coming spring).
  • Early Christians tried mightily to convince their members to stop celebrating the Saturnalia.
  • When these efforts failed, the Roman Catholic Church, in 336 A.D. “Christianised” the festival by naming Saturnalia’s concluding day, December 25, as Jesus’ birthday.

Reason #2: It’s based on a story that’s patently false.

The story of the Three Wise Men—or Kings—bringing gifts to the infant Jesus was added long after Jesus’ birth.

Realistically, there was no reason why anyone in Israel would have known—or cared—about the birth of yet another Jewish child.

If he had actually been born the son of a king, then his birth might have mattered to people generally. 

In his 1973 bestselling Alexander the Great, Robin Lane Fox explains that “in antiquity…life’s perspective was reversed, and youth was mostly described through a series of anecdotes which falsely mirrored the feats of the adult future; proven kings or bishops were remembered as kings or bishops when young.”

Alexander The Great: Tie In Edition | Amazon.com.br

Thus, Alexander the Great, the future conqueror of the Persian empire, has been depicted—as a boy—astonishing Persian ambassadors with precocious questions about the innermost workings of that empire.

For followers of the crucified Jesus, it was essential to establish his divinity from the outset of his birth. And what better way to do this than having not one but three Kings show up, uninvited, to declare his reign over them?

Reason #3: It’s actually blasphemous. 

Assume, for a moment, that the story of the Three Wise Men—or Kings—is true. 

The whole point of the story is to establish that Jesus’ birth was a truly special event—and a recognition of his fate to redeem humanity from sin.

No one else in that story is depicted as giving—or getting—gifts.

No matter how much a child might be loved today, almost no one expects him to be a future savior.

So giving him gifts is essentially a parody of the acknowledgement of Jesus’ divinity. 

Reason #4: Christmas is overwhelmingly a commercial—not a religious—event.

  • The Christmas shopping season can start as early as September. Some consumers begin shopping even earlier.
  • For 2019, industry analysts expected the average American to spend $920 on holiday gifts, up from $885 in 2018 and reaching a total of more than $1 trillion.
  • Santa Clause made his first appearance in Coca-Cola magazine ads in the 1920s.
  • In 2019, the average cost of Christmas was $668, up from $633 in 2018.  
  • In 2019, 20% of consumers anticipated taking on debt due to Christmas shopping, with the average amount being $720.
  • For many stores, holiday shopping accounts for nearly a third of annual sales.

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Reason #5: At least for 2020, celebrating Christmas within large families could prove fatal.

A December 19 story in Business Insider carries the attention-catching headline: “The Thanksgiving Surge in Coronavirus Deaths is Here. It’s ‘Horrifically Awful,’ a Hospital Chaplain Said.” To sum up its contents:

  • More than 47,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 since Thanksgiving.
  • COVID-19 is now the country’s leading cause of death.
  • It’s just the beginning of the effects of Thanksgiving travel and gatherings,

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention begged Americans to forego traveling for Thanksgiving. But at least 55 million Americans ignored that warning. Their selfish, egotistical mantra—“I want to be with my family!”—overrode their supposed concern for the lives of their relatives.

As a result, untold numbers of those families will not again be sharing Thanksgiving—or anything else. 

And Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top expert on infectious diseases, has warned that the Christmas season will pose an even greater threat. 

What do you call the disease caused by the novel coronavirus? Covid-19

COVID-19 Virus

People will gather not just for Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, but for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day—not to mention any parties held in-between those dates.

The virus spreads faster indoors, where large numbers of people don’t wear masks, pack closely together, and talk or laugh loudly, thus spreading the droplets across a room.

There will be people who insist that Christmas is a religious event that they are commanded to celebrate—even in the midst of a deadly plague.

For those people, it’s a good time to remember the advice of 1 Corinthians 13:11: “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”

TREASON IS A TRUMP’S BEST FRIEND: PART FIVE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 23, 2020 at 12:14 am

The appointment of Robert S. Mueller as Special Counsel on May 17, 2017, aroused unprecedented hopes and fears.

Foes of President Donald Trump hoped that Mueller would unearth evidence of criminality—if not treason—blatant enough to guarantee his impeachment.

Supporters of Trump—starting with the President—feared that this would be the case. When Attorney General Jeff Sessions told Trump that a Special Counsel had been appointed, the President exclaimed, “Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I’m fucked.”

Yet even before the release of the long-awaited Mueller report, several deeply-researched and well-written books outlined Russia’s efforts to subvert the 2016 Presidential race. And they cast devastating light on Trump’s loyalty to the United States.  

Among these:

  • The Apprentice: Trump, Russia and the Subversion of Democracy, by Greg Miller
  • House of Trump, House of Putin: The Untold Story of Donald Trump and the Russian Mafia, by Craig Unger
  • Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump, by Michael Isikoff
  • The Plot to Destroy Democracy: How Putin and His Spies Are Undermining America and Dismantling the West, by Malcom W. Nance

According to its blurb on Amazon.com, The Apprentice is “based on interviews with hundreds of people in Trump’s inner circle, current and former government officials, individuals with close ties to the White House, members of the law enforcement and intelligence communities, foreign officials, and confidential documents.”

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Among the subjects it covers:

  • The Trump Tower meeting, where the Trump campaign sought “dirt” on Hillary Clinton from Russian Intelligence agents;
  • The penetration by Russian Intelligence of computer systems used by Democrats;
  • How Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, tried to set up a secret back channel to Moscow via Russian diplomatic facilities;
  • Trump’s giving Russian officials highly classified secrets supplied by Israeli Intelligence;
  • Trump’s clashes with the FBI and CIA.

Miller is a veteran investigative journalist and twice winner of the Pulitzer Prize. Among his stories: National security adviser Michael Flynn’s discussing ending U.S. sanctions on Russia with Russian officials prior to Trump’s inauguration. The story contributed to Flynn’s ouster.

House of Trump, House of Putin, whose jacket blurb describes Trump’s inauguration as “the culmination of Vladimir Putin’s long mission to undermine Western democracy, a mission that he and his hand-selected group of oligarchs and Mafia kingpins had ensnared Trump in, starting more than twenty years ago with the massive bailout of a string of sensational Trump hotel and casino failures in Atlantic City.  

House of Trump, House of Putin: The Untold Story of Donald Trump and the Russian Mafia

“…Craig Unger methodically traces the deep-rooted alliance between the highest echelons of American political operatives and the biggest players in the frightening underworld of the Russian Mafia. He traces Donald Trump’s sordid ascent from foundering real estate tycoon to leader of the free world….

“Without Trump, Russia would have lacked a key component in its attempts to return to imperial greatness. Without Russia, Trump would not be president.”

As an appendix to the book, Unger writes: “Donald Trump has repeatedly said he has nothing to do with Russia. Below are fifty-nine Trump connections to Russia.”

Russian Roulette, according to its dust jacket, “is a story of political skullduggery unprecedented in American history. It weaves together tales of international intrigue, cyber espionage, and superpower rivalry.

“After U.S.-Russia relations soured, as Vladimir Putin moved to reassert Russian strength on the global stage, Moscow trained its best hackers and trolls on U.S. political targets and exploited WikiLeaks to disseminate information that could affect the 2016 election.

“The Russians were wildly successful and the great break-in of 2016 was no ‘third-rate burglary.’ It was far more sophisticated and sinister—a brazen act of political espionage designed to interfere with American democracy. At the end of the day, Trump, the candidate who pursued business deals in Russia, won….

“This story of high-tech spying and multiple political feuds is told against the backdrop of Trump’s strange relationship with Putin and the curious ties between members of his inner circle—including Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn—and Russia.”

Malcom Nance, the author of The Plot to Destroy Democracy, is an Intelligence and foreign policy analyst and media commentator on terrorism, Intelligence, insurgency and torture. 

In his book, he outlines how “Donald Trump was made President of the United States with the assistance of a foreign power. 

The Plot to Destroy Democracy: How Putin and His Spies Are Undermining America and Dismantling the West

“[It is] the dramatic story of how blackmail, espionage, assassination, and psychological warfare were used by Vladimir Putin and his spy agencies to steal the 2016 U.S. election—and attempted to bring about the fall of NATO, the European Union, and western democracy….

“Nance has utilized top secret Russian-sourced political and hybrid warfare strategy documents to demonstrate the master plan to undermine American institutions that has been in effect from the Cold War to the present day.

“Based on original research and countless interviews with espionage experts, Nance examines how Putin’s recent hacking accomplished a crucial first step for destabilizing the West for Russia, and why Putin is just the man to do it.”

These books—combined with the findings of the Mueller report—clearly establish the damning conclusion: The man now sitting in the Oval Office is an illegitimate usurper, installed by an unholy alliance of American Fascists and Russian Communists.

TREASON IS A TRUMP’S BEST FRIEND: PART FOUR (OF FIVE)

In Bureaucracy, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 22, 2020 at 12:05 am

Donald Trump assumed the office of President of the United States on a pledge to “make America great again.”

Yet it is Russia that has been the beneficiary of his treasonous reign.  

Which brings us to:

TREASON EXAMPLE #5: On January 20, 2017—the day Donald J. Trump became the 45th President of the United States—Michael Flynn took office as the nation’s 25th National Security Adviser.

On February 13, The Washington Post reported that Acting Attorney General Sally Yates had warned Trump in late January that Flynn had lied about his contacts with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December, 2016. 

During those exchanges, Flynn had talked about removing the sanctions placed on Russia by the outgoing Obama administration.

Flynn was forced to resign that same day—after only 24 days as National Security Adviser.

On December 1, 2017, Flynn appeared in federal court to formalize a deal with Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III.  He pleaded guilty to a felony count of “willfully and knowingly” making “false, fictitious and fraudulent statements” to the FBI.

On November 25, 2020, Trump pardoned him, tweeting: “It is my Great Honor to announce that General Michael T. Flynn has been granted a Full Pardon.” 

TREASON EXAMPLE #6: On May 9, 2017, President Trump fired FBI Director James B. Comey for investigating Russia’s subversion of the 2016 Presidential race. 

There were four reasons for this:

  1. Comey refused to pledge his personal loyalty to Trump. Trump had made the “request” during a private dinner at the White House in January.
  2. Comey told Trump that he would always be honest with him. But Trump wanted the head of the FBI to act as his personal secret police chief—as was the case in the former Soviet Union.
  3. Trump had tried to coerce Comey into dropping the FBI’s investigation into Michael Flynn, for his secret ties to Russia and Turkey. Comey had similarly resisted that demand.
  4. Comey had recently asked the Justice Department to fund an expanded FBI investigation into well-documented contacts between Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign and Russian Intelligence agents. The goal of that collaboration: To elect Trump over Hillary Clinton, a longtime foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

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James Comey

TREASON EXAMPLE #7: On May 10, 2017, Trump met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the Oval Office—and gave them highly classified Israeli Intelligence about an Islamic State plot to turn laptops into concealable bombs.

Kislyak is reportedly a top recruiter for Russia’s SVR foreign intelligence agency. He has been closely linked with Jeff Sessions, then Attorney General, and fired National Security Adviser Mike Flynn. 

“I just fired the head of the FBI,” Trump told the two dignitaries. “He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”        

TREASON EXAMPLE #8: On July 16, 2018, Trump attended a press conference in Helsinki, Finland, with Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

There he blamed American Intelligence agencies—the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency—as partners in a conspiracy: “You have groups that are wondering why the FBI never took the server, why haven’t they taken the server? Why was the FBI told to leave the office of the Democratic National Committee? 

“I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.” 

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Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin in Helsinki

TREASON EXAMPLE #9:  On June 9, 2018, Trump called for Russia to be readmitted to the G7.  

“I think it would be an asset to have Russia back in,” he said during an impromptu press conference at the summit.

“I think it would be good for the world. I think it would be good for Russia. I think it would be good for the United States. I think it would be good for all of the countries of the current G7. I think the G8 would be better.”  

Russia was ousted from the group in 2014 after Putin annexed Crimea—the first violation of a European country’s borders since World War II. 

“Today crystallizes precisely why Putin was so eager to see Trump elected,” said former Obama National Security Council spokesman Ned Price.

“For Putin, this is return on his investment, and it’s safe to say that his investment has paid off beyond even his wildest dreams,” he said in a statement to CNN. 

TREASON EXAMPLE #10: In early 2020, members of the elite SEAL Team Six raided a Taliban outpost and recovered roughly $500,000 in American cash. The recovered funds led the American intelligence community to believe that the government of Vladimir Putin had offered money to Taliban militants to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan.

Additional confirmation came from the interrogations of captured militants and criminals.

 As early as January, the SEALS in Afghanistan alerted their superiors of this danger.

Trump—who receives Intelligence from a wide range of military and civilian agencies—claimed he wasn’t briefed on these Intelligence assessments. He made his denial through White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany: The information had not been “verified.”

This despite the fact that every morning he receives the President’s Daily Briefing, a top-secret document containing highly classified Intelligence analysis.

In fact, the Intelligence assessment had been under discussion within the Trump administration since at least March.

TREASON IS A TRUMP’S BEST FRIEND: PART THREE (OF FIVE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 21, 2020 at 12:10 am

Donald Trump took office as the 45th President of the United States on a promise to “make America great again.”  

Yet the chief beneficiary of his treasonous reign has been the former Soviet Union.

TREASON EXAMPLE #4: Trump has repeatedly praised and defended Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. 

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Vladimir Putin

On December 18, 2015, Trump appeared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” Its host, Joe Scarborough, was upset by Trump’s praise for Putin: 

SCARBOROUGH: Well, I mean, [he’s] also a person who kills journalists, political opponents, and invades countries. Obviously that would be a concern, would it not?

TRUMP: He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader. Unlike what we have in this country.

SCARBOROUGH: But again: He kills journalists that don’t agree with him.

TRUMP: I think our country does plenty of killing, also, Joe, so, you know. There’s a lot of stupidity going on in the world right now, Joe. A lot of killing going on. A lot of stupidity. And that’s the way it is.

On October 7, 2016, the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a joint statement blaming the Russian government for the hacking of Democratic National Committee emails. Its motive: “To interfere with the US election process.”

Two days later, Trump publicly stated: “But I notice, anytime anything wrong happens, they like to say the Russians are—Maybe there is no hacking. But they always blame Russia.”

On December 16, 2016, FBI Director James B. Comey and Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. agreed with a CIA assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election in part to help Donald Trump win the White House. 

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Trump, however, steadfastly denied any such role by Russia: “I think it’s ridiculous,” he told “Fox News Sunday.” “I think it’s just another excuse. I don’t believe it….No, I don’t believe it at all.”

Clinton Watts, a consultant to the FBI’s Counter Terrorism Division, is an expert on cyberwarfare. 

Testifying before the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on March 30, 2017, Watts outlined cyberwarfare measures that Russia used to subvert the 2016 Presidential campaign. 

This pattern of Russian falsehoods and social media manipulation of the American electorate continued through Election Day and persists today.

Many of the accounts we watched push the false Incirlik story in July now focus their efforts on shaping the upcoming European elections, promoting fears of immigration or false claims of refugee criminality.  

They’ve not forgotten about the United States either. This past week, we observed social media campaigns targeting Speaker of the House Paul Ryan hoping to foment further unrest amongst U.S. democratic institutions, their leaders and their constituents. 

As we noted two days before the Presidential election in our article describing Russian influence operations, Russia certainly seeks to promote Western candidates sympathetic to their worldview and foreign policy objectives.

But winning a single election is not their end goal. Russian Active Measures hope to topple democracies through the pursuit of five complementary objectives: 

  1. Undermine citizen confidence in democratic governance;
  2. Foment and exacerbate divisive political fractures;
  3. Erode trust between citizens and elected officials and democratic institutions;
  4. Popularize Russian policy agendas within foreign populations;
  5. Create general distrust or confusion over information sources by blurring the lines between fact and fiction.

From these objectives, the Kremlin can crumble democracies from the inside out creating political divisions resulting in two key milestones:

  1. The dissolution of the European Union and 
  2. The break up of the North American Treaty Organization (NATO).

TREASON EXAMPLE #5: On January 20, 2017—the day Donald J. Trump became the 45th President of the United States—Michael Flynn took office as the nation’s 25th National Security Adviser.

Flynn, a former United States Army lieutenant general and director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, seemed the perfect choice for safeguarding the country’s security.

Two days later, The Wall Street Journal reported that Flynn was under investigation by U.S. counterintelligence agents for his secret communications with Russian officials. 

On February 8, Flynn denied having spoken to Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December, 2016, about removing the sanctions placed on Russia by the outgoing Obama administration.

The sanctions had been placed in retaliation for Russia’s efforts to manipulate the 2016 Presidential election.

On February 13, The Washington Post reported that Acting Attorney General Sally Yates had warned Trump in late January that Flynn had lied about his contacts with Kislyak—and that he could be blackmailed by Russian Intelligence. 

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Sally Yates

Flynn was forced to resign that same day—after only 24 days as National Security Adviser.

Officially, the reason given was that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence. But Flynn’s deception had already been known—via the warning to Trump by Yates.

Only after Yates’ warning became known to the media was Flynn forced to resign.  

The same Washington Post story reported that, in December, 2015, Flynn had appeared on Russia Today, the news network that American Intelligence agencies consider “the Kremlin’s principal international propaganda outlet.” 

He had also received more than $45,000 as a “speaking fee” from the network for a talk on world affairs. At the gala where Flynn received the fee, he sat next to Russian President Vladimir Putin for dinner.

TREASON IS A TRUMP’S BEST FRIEND: PART TWO (OF FIVE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 18, 2020 at 12:12 am

“There is no doubt that [Donald] Trump has betrayed the country time and time again. It is a matter of public record that he encouraged our Russian adversaries to become involved in the 2016 election. When the intelligence community provided evidence of the threat posed by Russia, we saw Trump dismiss it, ignore it, fail in his duty to ‘preserve, protect and defend.'”

So charged David Rothkopf, an opinion columnist for USA Today, on October 27, 2020.

Among Trump’s many treasonous acts:

TREASON EXAMPLE #3:  Many of those whom Donald Trump appointed to office had strong ties to the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

One of these—already mentioned—was Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Another was Attorney General Jeff Sessions. During the 2016 campaign, Sessions—then serving as a surrogate for Trump’s campaign—twice spoke with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. But during his Senate nomination hearings, Sessions denied that he had had “communications with the Russians” during the campaign.

It was the discovery of those contacts by the news media that forced Sessions to recuse himself from any Justice Department cases involving Trump and Russia. All of these—including the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller III—would be handled by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. 

This led Trump to rage at Sessions—in person, in press conferences and on Twitter: “If I had known he would do this, I would have never appointed him.”

On November 7, 2018, the day after the Democrats won a majority in the House of Representatives, Trump fired him.

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Jeff Sessions

The Moscow Project is an initiative of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Its objective: “Analyzing the facts behind Trump’s collusion with Russia and communicating the findings to the public.”

According to its March 21, 2018 report (updated on July 10): “In total, we have learned of 80 contacts between Trump’s team and Russia linked operatives, including at least 23 meetings.

“And we know that at least 24 high-ranking campaign officials and Trump advisors were aware of contacts with Russia-linked operatives during the campaign and transition. None of these contacts were ever reported to the proper authorities. Instead, the Trump team tried to cover up every single one of them….

“The Trump campaign issued at least 15 blanket denials of contacts with Russia, all of which have been proven false.”   

Members of the Trump team who had contacts with Russians during the campaign or transition included:

  • Michael Cohen
  • Roger Stone
  • Donald Trump Jr.
  • Jeff Sessions
  • Paul Manafort
  • Jared Kushner
  • Carter Page
  • Michael Flynn
  • Erik Prince
  • George Papadopoulos
  • Anthony Scaramucci
  • Rick Gates 

George Papadopoulos, a member of the foreign policy advisory panel to Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign, pleaded guilty to making false statements about his contacts with Russians to the FBI. So did Flynn.

Paul Manafort was convicted for money-laundering relating to his work for the government of the Putin-supported  president of Ukraine, Victor Yanukovych. 

The discovery of numerous contacts between Trump campaign officials and Russian Intelligence agents led the FBI to investigate Russia’s efforts to subvert the 2016 Presidential election.

In July, 2018, Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller charged 12 officers of the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency, with crimes committed to the high-profile hacking and leaking emails from the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 campaign.

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Robert S. Mueller III

On numerous occasions, Donald Trump has fiercely denied any Russian connections. For example:  

July 27, 2016: “I mean I have nothing to do with Russia. I don’t have any jobs in Russia. I’m all over the world but we’re not involved in Russia.”

October 24, 2016: “I have nothing to do with Russia, folks, I’ll give you a written statement.” 

January 11, 2017: “Russia has never tried to use leverage over me. I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA – NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!” 

February 7, 2017: “I don’t know [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, have no deals in Russia, and the haters are going crazy.”

In fact, Trump had a highly profitable relationship with Russia—as his two sons, Donald, Jr., and Eric, unintentionally revealed.

In 2008, Donald Trump, Jr. said at a New York real estate conference: “In terms of high-end product influx into the US, Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets.  Say, in Dubai, and certainly with our project in SoHo, and anywhere in New York. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”

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Donald Trump, Jr.

Gage Skidmore from Surprise, AZ, United States of America, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

And Trump’s son, Eric, has been quoted as saying in 2014: “Well, we don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia. We’ve got some guys that really, really love golf, and they’re really invested in our programs. We just go there all the time.”

So any statement Trump gave—oral or written–on that relationship was a lie.

Donald Trump took office as the 45th President of the United States on a promise to “make America great again.”  

Yet the chief beneficiary of his treasonous reign has been the former Soviet Union.

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