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THE TRAITOR–AND HIS PROPAGANDISTS: PART FOUR (OF SIX)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on June 17, 2021 at 12:06 am

Clinton Watts, a consultant to the FBI’s Counter Terrorism Division, is an expert on cyberwarfare. He has served as:

  • An FBI Special Agent on a Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF);
  • The Executive Officer of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point (CTC); and
  • A consultant to the FBI’s Counter Terrorism Division (CTD) and National Security Branch (NSB). 

In a statement he prepared for the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Watts outlined cyberwarfare measures that Russia used to subvert the 2016 Presidential campaign.

He delivered this on March 30. 2017. Part of this reads as follows: 

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 #6: On January 20, 2017—the day Donald J. Trump became the 45th President of the United States—Michael T. Flynn took office as the nation’s 25th National Security Adviser.

Michael T Flynn.jpg

Michael T. Flynn

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. 

Image result for Image of Attorney General Sally Yates

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. 

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

James Comey official portrait.jpg

James B. Comey

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. 

THE TRATOR–AND HIS PROPAGANDISTS: PART THREE (OF SIX)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on June 16, 2021 at 12:06 am

On July 7-8, 2017, leaders of the G20 met in Hamburg, Germany.

The G20 (or Group of Twenty) is an international forum for the governments from 19 countries and the European Union. 

Among those attending: American President Donald J. Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

After the meeting, Trump tweeted on July 9: “Putin & I discussed forming an impenetrable Cyber Security unit so that election hacking, & many other negative things, will be guarded.”

Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee reacted: “If that’s our best election defense, we might as well just mail our ballot boxes to Moscow.”

Even some Republicans strongly disagreed. Florida United States Senator Marco Rubio tweeted: “While reality & pragmatism requires that we engage Vladimir Putin, he will never be a trusted ally or a reliable constructive partner.”

Among those who followed Trump’s “I trust Russia” example:

  • George Papadopoulos, a member of the foreign policy advisory panel to Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign, pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI about his contacts with Russians.
  • Former National Security Advisor Michael T. Flynn also pleaded guilty to the same.
  • Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort was convicted for money-laundering relating to his work for the government of the Putin-supported  president of Ukraine, Victor Yanukovych. 

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.

Director Robert S. Mueller- III.jpg

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.”

Donald Trump, Jr. (49563836213) (cropped).jpg

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.

TREASON EXAMPLE #5: Trump has repeatedly praised and defended Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. 

Vladimir Putin (2020-02-20).jpg

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. 

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.  

THE TRATOR–AND HIS PROPAGANDISTS: PART TWO (OF SIX)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on June 15, 2021 at 12:14 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.

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 turned out to be the former Soviet Union.

TREASON EXAMPLE #2: On July 22, 2016, Wikileaks released 19,252 emails and 8,034 attachments hacked from computers of the highest-ranking officials of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Early reports traced the leak to Russian hackers. 

On July 27, 2016, during his campaign for President, Trump said at a press conference in Doral, Florida: Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you are able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing [from Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s computer]. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

This was nothing less than treason—calling upon a foreign power, hostile to the United States, to interfere in its Presidential election.

Hours later, the Main Intelligence Directorate in Moscow targeted Clinton’s personal office and hit more than 70 other Clinton campaign accounts. 

Clinton Watts is a consultant and researcher on cyberwarfare. He has served as:

  • An FBI Special Agent on a Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF);
  • The Executive Officer of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point (CTC); and
  • A consultant to the FBI’s Counter Terrorism Division (CTD) and National Security Branch (NSB). 

In a statement he prepared for the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Watts outlined cyberwarfare measures that Russia used to subvert the 2016 Presidential campaign. 

He delivered this on March 30. 2017. Part of this reads as follows: 

Through the end of 2015 and start of 2016, the Russian influence system….began pushing themes and messages seeking to influence the outcome of the U.S. Presidential election.

Russia’s overt media outlets and covert trolls sought to sideline opponents on both sides of the political spectrum with adversarial views toward the Kremlin. The final months leading up to the election have been the predominate focus of Russian influence discussions to date.

Image result for Images of Clinton Watts

Clinton Watts

However, Russian Active Measures were in full swing during both the Republican and Democratic primary season and may have helped sink the hopes of candidates more hostile to Russian interests long before the field narrowed. 

The final piece of Russia’s modern Active Measures surfaced in the summer of 2016 as hacked materials from previous months were strategically leaked.

On 22 July 2016, Wikileaks released troves of stolen communications from the Democratic National Committee and later batches of campaign emails. Guccifer 2.0 and DC Leaks revealed hacked information from a host of former U.S. government officials throughout July and August 2016.

For the remainder of the campaign season, this compromising material powered the influence system Russia successfully constructed in the previous two years.

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

Secretary Tillerson in March 2017.jpg

Rex Tillerson

One of these was Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. In 2013, as the chief executive of ExxonMobil, he was presented with Russia’s Order of Friendship award. He had just signed deals with the state-owned Russian oil company Rosneft. Its chief, Igor Sechin, is a loyal Putin lieutenant.   

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 now be handled by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. 

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 

THE TRAITOR–AND HIS PROPAGANDISTS: PART ONE (OF SIX)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on June 14, 2021 at 12:30 am

Who has not known men who discovered the truth about themselves only to be tortured by it for the rest of their lives? Is a man worse when he doesn’t know who he is or when he learns he is truly a coward? When he is ignorant of his true nature or when he knows he is a traitor at heart? Not that I pity cowards or traitors. To the contrary: In a just world, they would all be made to face the hard truth about themselves before they died.
—James Carlos Blake, The Friends of Pancho Villa

Donald Trump’s reign as President of the United States—and unofficial spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin—ended on January 20, 2021.

Yet his propagandists continue to deny what millions of Americans witnessed during the four years of his tenure in the White House.

One of these propagandists is Gregg Jarrett, author of The Russia Hoax: The Illicit Scheme to Clear Hillary Clinton and Frame Donald Trump (2018) and Witch Hunt: The Story of the Greatest Mass Delusion in American Political History (2019). 

WITCH HUNT BY GREGG JARRETT HARDCOVER LIKE NEW

Jarrett is a Right-wing news commentator, author and attorney. He joined Fox News in 2002.  

“How did a small group of powerful intelligence officials convince tens of millions of Americans that the president is a traitor, without a shred of evidence?” he provocatively demands in the book’s dust jacket. 

One need only read that dust jacket to answer the question—as Jarrett sees it:

“No marks have ever been as gullible as distraught Democrats in 2016. Washington insiders broke rule after rule investigating the president, chasing a conspiracy that turned out not to exist. Somehow this was spun into Donald Trump having something to hide. 

“People associated with the president were pushed into plea deals that had nothing to do with Russian “collusion” or discouraged from serving by the threat of huge legal bills. Somehow this was spun into Trump’s lawyers being bullies.

“The president complained that the investigation was a waste of time, but he allowed it to continue unimpeded to the end. Somehow this was spun into obstruction of justice.

“In Witch Hunt, Gregg Jarrett uncovers the bureaucratic malfeasance and malicious politicization of our country’s justice system. The law was weaponized for partisan purposes.” 

Gregg Jarrett (49286191086) (cropped).jpg

Gregg Jarrett  

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

[NOTE: Trump’s Justice Department secretly seized phone data from House Intelligence Committee Democrats, along with their staff and family members. The committee was investigating links between Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign and Russian Intelligence agents.

[The department’s Inspector General is now investigating those seizures.

[It was Trump—not Democrats—who weaponized the law for partisan purposes.]

“Even though it was Hillary Clinton’s campaign that collected and disseminated a trove of lies about Trump from a former British spy and Russian operatives, Democrats and the media spun this into a claim that Trump was working for the Russians.

“Senior officials at the FBI, blinded by their political bias and hatred of Trump, went after the wrong person. At the DOJ, the deputy attorney general discussed secretly recording the president and recruiting members of the cabinet to depose Trump.” 

[NOTE: This occurred after Trump fired FBI Director James B. Comey for investigating reports that there had been close contacts between members of Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign and Russian Intelligence agents.]

“…What about the pundits who concocted wild narratives in real time on television, or the newspapers which covered the fact that rumors were being investigated without investigating the facts themselves?” 

[NOTE: When the press did investigate Trump’s connections to Vladimir Putin, he retaliated with cries of “Fake news!” and secret Justice Department investigations of reporters.]

So much for Jarrett’s fraudulent claims on Trump’s behalf. 

On June 28, 2019, President Donald Trump demonstrated how seriously he took American election security. 

It came during a meeting with Putin in Osaka, Japan—their first since the March 22 release of the Mueller Report, which documented Russia’s subversion of the 2016 Presidential election.

An NBC News reporter asked: Would you tell Putin not to meddle in the 2020 Presidential election?

“Yes, of course I will,” replied Trump, grinning. “Don’t meddle in the election, please.”

And he jokingly wagged his finger at Putin: “Don’t meddle in the election.” 

Putin grinned back.

Related image

Donald Trump

Trump has repeatedly claimed that there was “no collusion” between him and members of Russia’s Intelligence community. But the damning facts speak otherwise.  

TREASON EXAMPLE #1: On July 9, 2016, high-ranking members of his Presidential campaign met at Trump Tower with at least two lobbyists who had ties to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. The participants included:

  • Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr.;
  • His son-in-law, Jared Kushner;
  • His then-campaign manager, Paul Manafort; 
  • Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer with ties to Putin; and 
  • Rinat Akhmetshin, a former Soviet counterintelligence officer suspected of having ongoing ties to Russian Intelligence.

The purpose of that meeting: To gain access to any “dirt” Russian Intelligence could supply on Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. 

Trump originally claimed that the meeting was “about the adoption of Russian children.” Eventually he admitted that it had been “a meeting to get information on an opponent.” 

[NOTE: So much for Gregg Jarrett’s claim: Somehow this was spun into Donald Trump having something to hide.”]

PROTECT YOURSELF AGAINST COMPUTER FRAUD

In History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on June 9, 2021 at 12:23 am

In 2020, the Federal Trade Commission received 4.8 million identity theft and fraud complaints. Of these, 1.4 million were for identity theft, up from 651,000 in 2019.

Identity theft complaints accounted for 29 percent of all complaints received by the FTC, up from 20 percent in 2019. About 2.2 million reports were fraud complaints and 1.2 million involved other complaints.

Of the 2.2 million fraud cases, 34 percent reported money was lost. Fraud robbed consumers of more than $3.3 billion, an increase of $1.5 billion from 2019. 

Among the online scams to be alert for:

  • Email phishing scams
  • Credit card scams
  • Bank loan scams
  • Lottery fee scams
  • Online dating scams
  • “Nigerian Prince” scams

Here’s how to protect yourself. 

  • Addressed Generally: “Attention!” “Dear Friend,” “Attention the owner of this email,” “Hello, Dear.” Your name is not mentioned, because this email has been mass-mailed to thousands of intended victims. 
  • Unsolicited:  You’re told that you’ve won a lottery you never entered, or have inherited a fortune from someone you never knew existed.
  • Appeals to Religion: “Hello Beloved in the Lord” or “Yours in Christ” seeks to create a bond with those who deeply believe in God.
  • Misuse of English: Misspellings and faulty grammar usually denote someone—probably a foreigner—using English as a second language. Examples: Run-on sentences; “you’re” for “your”; “except” instead of “accept”; “Dear Beneficial” instead of “Dear Beneficiary.”
  • Appeals to Sympathy: “My husband just died” or “I am dying of cancer.” This is to make you feel sorry for the sender and lower your guard as an intended victim.
  • Use of Important Titles/Organizations: “Director,” ‘Barrister,” “Secretary General of the United Nations,” “Police Inspector.” This is to impress recipients and convince them that the email comes from a trusted and legitimate organization.
  • Request for Personal Information: This includes some combination of: Name / Address / Telephone Number / Bank Name / Bank Account Number / Fax Number / Driver’s License Number / Occupation / Sex / Beneficiary / Passport Number
  • Claims of Deposit: “We have deposited the check of your fund to your account” is a typical line to instantly grab your attention. Someone you’ve never heard of claims he has just put a huge amount of money into an account you know nothing about. Nor can you access it unless you first pay a “contact fee.”
  • The “Bank” is in Africa: Unless you know you have relatives there, this should be a dead giveaway to a scam. Africa is a continent kept alive by the charity of other nations. It’s not in the business of doling out large sums of money to Westerners.
  • Overseas Phone Numbers: If you call these, you’ll have a huge bill. So many people skip calling and just send the money “required” to receive their “cash prize.”
  • Highly Personal Requests: Asking you—someone they’ve never met—to assume the burden of acting as the executor of their “Last Will and Testament.”
  • Love Scams: The scammer poses as a man or woman—usually outside the United States—seeking love. A series of emails flows back and forth for days/weeks, until the scammer says s/he will be glad to fly to the United States to be yours. All you have to do is put up the money for the flight cost.
  • “Make Money From Home”: With most employers refusing to hire, “work from home” scams promise a way to support yourself and your family. You’re required to provide bank information or pay an up-front “registration fee.” Then you wait for job orders—that never come.
  • Debt Relief: Scammers promise to relieve most or all of your debt—for a large up-front fee. You pay the fee—and are not only out of that money but still in debt.
  • Home Repair Schemes: Huge down payments are required for home repairs that never happen.
  • “Free” Trial Offers: The service or product is free for awhile, but you must opt out later to avoid monthly billings.
  • The Email Claims to Be From the FBI: The FBI is an investigative agency responsible to the U.S. Department of Justice. It does not resolve financial disputes or secure monies for “deserving” recipients. If the FBI contacts you, it does so by letter or sending agents to your address. 
  • “I Need Help”: You get an email claiming to be from someone you know—who’s “in jail here in Mexico” or some other foreign country. S/he begs you to send money for bail or bribes to win his/her freedom. If you get such an email, call the person to make certain. Don’t rush to send money—chances are it will go directly to a scammer.

FBI Headquarters

There are several commonsense rules to follow in protecting yourself from online scammers:

  • Don’t trust people you’ve never met to want to give you money.
  • Shop online only with well-known merchants who have a good reputation.
  • Don’t click on unknown links—especially those in emails from unknown senders.
  • If you’re required to pay an advance fee—“on faith”—to receive a big amount of money, the odds are it’s a scam.
  • If you can’t find any solid information on a company, chances are it doesn’t exist.
  • For additional information on how to protect yourself from cybercrime, check out the FBI’s page at https://www.fbi.gov/investigate/cyber.
  • If it sounds too good to be true, the odds are: It is untrue.

TEXANS: GUN MASSACRES YES, ABORTIONS NO

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on June 8, 2021 at 12:14 am

As we leave high school we need to make our voices heard.”

So began the graduation speech of Lake Highlands High School Valedictorian Paxton Smith. It was not the speech she had originally intended go give.  

“Today, I was going to talk about TV and media and content because it’s something that’s very important to me. However, under light of recent events, it feels wrong to talk about anything but what is currently affecting me and millions of other women in this state.”   

Her subject couldn’t have been more timely. Eleven days before students graduated from that Dallas high school, Texas Governor Greg Abbott had signed Texas Senate Bill 8, virtually prohibiting abortions across the state. 

“Recently the heartbeat bill was passed in Texas. Starting in September, there will be a ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, regardless of whether the pregnancy was a result of rape or incest.

“Six weeks. That’s all women get. Most women don’t even realize they’re pregnant by then,” said Smith, 18.

Paxton Smith

Paxton Smith

“And so, before they have the time to decide if they are emotionally, physically, and financially stable enough to carry out a full-term pregnancy, before they have the chance to decide if they can take on the responsibility of bringing another human being into the world, that decision is made for them by a stranger.

“A decision that will affect the rest of their lives has been made by a stranger.”

Actually, a decision that has been made not only by Governor Abbott but the Republican-dominated Senate and House of Representatives.

Texas currently bans abortion after 20 weeks, but the new law makes the procedure illegal after the first heartbeat can be detected, usually at about six weeks. Most women don’t realize they are pregnant until later.

The bill, as Smith pointed out, makes no exception for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. It also allows individual citizens to sue healthcare workers and anyone else who may have helped a pregnant woman obtain an abortion.

Texans have been at the forefront of those refusing to get vaccinated. They have also been among the fiercest critics of wearing masks to prevent the spread of COVID, shouting “It’s my body!” and demanding that the state “keep your hands” off it.

They have also overwhelmingly supported the National Rifle Association (NRA)—to the extent that the NRA, fleeing a fraud case in New York, intends to reincorporate in Texas.

I have dreams and hopes and ambitions. Every girl graduating today does, and we have spent our entire lives working towards our future. And without our input, and without our consent, our control over that future has been stripped away from us.

“I am terrified that if my contraceptives fail, I am terrified that if I am raped, then my hopes and aspirations and dreams and efforts for my future will no longer matter. I hope that you can feel how gut-wrenching that is. I hope you can feel how dehumanizing it is to have the autonomy over your own body taken away from you.”

Kamala Harris: "Can you think of any laws that give the government the power to make decisions about the male body?" - Kamala Harris: "Can you think of any laws that give

Initially, Smith intended to talk about TV media and content. But the move to ban virtually all abortions in Texas weighed so heavily on her that a week and a half before graduation, she realized she had to change her speech:

“I fully anticipated that if I made the speech, there would be some negative repercussions socially. I thought that graduation was the only place where I was going to reach such a large audience and a group with so many different opinions and backgrounds that I was going to be able to make a speech like that.”

Reaction to her speech has been overwhelmingly positive: “When I gave the speech, I didn’t realize people who weren’t affiliated with LHHS would see it. I’ve been getting hundreds of messages applauding what I said. It’s been shared on almost every platform I can think of. That’s exciting.”

But not everyone was happy with Smith’s exercise of her First Amendment rights. The school district issued a statement that it would review its protocols for student speeches before next year’s graduation:

“All students had to submit their speeches in advance for approval and the principal met with them to make any necessary edits and changes.”

In the past, high school valedictorians have had their microphones cut off for addressing such issues as sexual assault.

Smith, who will continue her education at the University of Texas at Austin, concluded her speech with these words:

And I’m talking about this today, on a day as important as this, on a day honoring 12 years of hard academic work, on a day where we are all gathered together, on a day where you are most inclined to listen to a voice like mine, a woman’s voice, to tell you that this is a problem.

“And it’s a problem that cannot wait. I cannot give up this platform to promote complacency and peace, when there is a war on my body and a war on my rights. A war on the rights of your mothers, a war on the rights of your sisters, a war on the rights of your daughters. We cannot stay silent.”

JUNE 6: A DAY FOR GLORY–AND TRAGEDY

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 7, 2021 at 12:21 am

“For it is the doom of men that they forget.”
—Merlin, in “Excalibur”

June 6—a day of glory and tragedy.

The glory came 77 years ago—on Tuesday, June 6, 1944.

On that morning, Americans awoke to learn—from radio and newspapers—that their soldiers had landed on the French coast of Normandy.

In Supreme Command of the Allied Expeditionary Force: American General Dwight D. Eisenhower. Overall command of ground forces rested with British General Bernard Law Montgomery.

Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion to liberate France from Nazi Germany, proved one of the pivotal actions of World War II.

Shortly after midnight, 24,000 American, British, Canadian and Free French troops launched an airborne assault. This was followed at 6:30 a.m. by an amphibious landing of Allied infantry and armored divisions on the French coast.

Field Marshal Erwin Rommel—the legendary “Desert Fox”—commanded the German forces. For him, the first 24 hours of the battle would be decisive.

“For the Allies as well as the Germans,” he warned his staff, “it will be the longest day.”

The operation was the largest amphibious invasion in history. More than 160,000 troops landed—73,000 Americans, 61,715 British and 21,400 Canadians.

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Omaha Beach – June 6, 1944

Initially, the Allied assault seemed likely to be stopped at the water’s edge—where Rommel had insisted it must be. He had warned that if the Allies established a beachhead, their overwhelming numbers and airpower would eventually prove irresistible.

German machine-gunners and mortarmen wreaked a fearful toll on Allied soldiers. But commanders like U.S. General Norman Cota led their men to victory through a storm of bullets and shells.

Coming upon a group of U.S. Army Rangers taking cover behind sand dunes, Cota demanded: “What outfit is this?”

“Rangers!” yelled one of the soldiers.

“Well, Goddamnit, then, Rangers, lead the way!” shouted Cota, inspiring the soldiers to rise and charge into the enemy.

The command also gave the Rangers the motto they carry to this day.

The allied casualty figures for D-Day have been estimated at 10,000, including 4,414 dead. By nationality, the D-Day casualty figures are about

  • 2,700 British
  • 946 Canadians
  • and 6,603 Americans.

The total number of German casualties on D-Day isn’t known, but is estimated at 4,000 to 9,000.

Allied and German armies continued to clash throughout France, Belgium and Germany until May 7, 1945, when Germany finally surrendered.

But Americans who had taken part in D-Day could be proud of having dealt a fatal blow to the evil ambitions of Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich.

So much for the glory of June 6.  Now for the tragedy—which occurred 53 years ago, on Thursday, June 6, 1968.

Twenty-four years after D-Day, Americans awoke to learn—mostly from TV—that New York Senator Robert F. Kennedy had died at 1:44 a.m. of an assassin’s bullet.

He had been campaigning for the Democratic Presidential nomination, and had just won the California primary on June 4.

This had been a make-or-break event for Kennedy, a fierce critic of the seemingly endless Vietnam war.

He had won the Democratic primaries in Indiana and Nebraska, but had lost the Oregon primary to Minnesota Senator Eugene McCarthy.

If he defeated McCarthy in California, Kennedy could force his rival to quit the race. That would lead to a showdown between him and Vice President Hubert Humphrey for the nomination.

(President Lyndon B. Johnson had withdrawn from the race on March 31—just 15 days after Kennedy announced his candidacy on March 16.)

After winning the California and South Dakota primaries, Kennedy gave a magnanimous victory speech in the ballroom of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles:

Robert F. Kennedy, only moments from death 

“I think we can end the divisions within the United States….We are a great country, an unselfish country, and a compassionate country. And I intend to make that my basis for running over the period of the next few months.”

Then he entered the hotel kitchen—where Sirhan Sirhan, a 24-year-old Palestinian from Jordan, opened fire with a .22 revolver.

Kennedy was hit three times—once fatally in the back of the head. Five other people were also wounded.

Kennedy’s last-known words were: “Is everybody all right?” and “Jack, Jack”—the latter clearly a reference to his beloved older brother, John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

Almost five years earlier, that brother—then President of the United States—had been assassinated in Dallas on November 22, 1963.

Then Robert Kennedy lost consciousness—forever, dying in a hospital bed 24 hours later.

Kennedy had been a U.S. Attorney General (1961-1964) and Senator (1964-1968). But it was his connection to President Kennedy for which he was best-known.

His assassination—coming so soon after that of JFK—convinced many Americans there was something “sick” about the nation’s culture.

Historian William L. O’Neil delivered a poignant summary of Robert Kennedy’s legacy in Coming Apart: An Informal History of America in the 1960′s

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“He aimed so high that he must be judged for what he meant to do, and through error and tragic accident, failed at…..He will also be remembered as an extraordinary human being who, though hated by some, was perhaps more deeply loved by his countrymen than any man of his time. 

“That, too, must be entered into the final account, and it is no small thing. With his death, something precious vanished from public life.”

WHAT FRIGHTENS DONALD TRUMP: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on June 2, 2021 at 12:14 am

…A truly great man is ever the same under all circumstances. And if his fortune varies, exalting him at one moment and oppressing him at another, he himself never varies, but always preserves a firm courage, which is so closely interwoven with his character that everyone can readily see that the fickleness of fortune has no power over him.
The conduct of weak men is very different. Made vain and intoxicated by good fortune, they attribute their success to merits which they do not possess. And this makes them odious and insupportable to all around them. And when they have afterwards to meet a reverse of fortune, they quickly fall into the other extreme, and become abject and vile.
—N
iccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses

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Niccolo Machiavelli

Donald Trump—as a businessman and President—has relied on bribes and intimidation to attain his ends. 

But when he’s been confronted by men and women who can’t be bribed or intimidated, he has reacted with rage and frustration. 

  • Trump boasted that he “never” settled cases out of court. But New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman pressed fraud claims against the real estate mogul’s counterfeit Trump University—and Trump settled the case out of court for $25 million rather than take the stand.
  • On May 17, 2017, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed former FBI Director Robert S. Mueller to investigate links between Russian Intelligence agents and the 2016 Trump Presidential campaign. 
  • Upon learning of his appointment, Trump wailed: “Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I’m fucked.” 
  • “How could you let this happen, Jeff?” Trump demanded of Jeff Sessions, his Attorney General. “You were supposed to protect me. Everyone tells me if you get one of these independent counsels, it ruins your presidency. It takes years and years and I won’t be able to do anything. This is the worst thing that ever happened to me.”
  • Throughout Mueller’s probe, Trump hurled repeated insults at him via Twitter and press conferences. He also called on his shills within Fox News and the Republican party to attack Mueller’s integrity and investigative methods.
  • But aides convinced him that firing Mueller would be rightly seen as obstruction of justice—and thus grounds for impeachment. So he never dared go that far.

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Robert Mueller

Perhaps the key to Trump’s innermost fear can be found in a work of fiction—in this case, the 1996 historical novel, The Friends of Pancho Villa, by James Carlos Blake. 

The book depicts the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920) and its most famous revolutionary, Francisco “Pancho” Villa. it’s told from the viewpoint of Rodolfo Fierro, Villa’s most feared executioner. In one day, for example, Fierro—using two revolvers—executed 300 captured Federale soldiers.

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As in history, Blake’s Fierro presides over the execution of David Berlanga, a journalist who had dared criticize the often loutish behavior of Villa’s men in a restaurant.

On Villa’s command, Fierro approaches Berlanga in a Mexico City restaurant and orders: “Come with me.”

Standing against a barracks wall, Berlanga lights a cigar and requests permission to finish it. He then proceeds to smoke it with such a steady hand that its unbroken ash extends almost four inches.

The cigar finished, the ash still unbroken, Berlanga drops the butt to the ground and says calmly: “I’m ready.” 

Then the assembled firing squad does its work.

Later, Fierro is so shaken by Berlanga’s sheer fearlessness that he seeks an explanation for it. Sitting in a cantina, he lights a cigar and tries to duplicate Berlanga’s four-inch length.

But his hand shakes—and the best he can do is less than three inches. He concludes that Berlanga used a trick—but he can’t figure it out. 

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Rodolfo Fierro

It had to be a trick, Fierro insists, because, if it wasn’t, there were only two other explanations for such a calm demeanor in the face of impending death. 

The first was insanity. But Fierro had studied Berlanga’s eyes and found no madness there.

That leaves only one other explanation: Sheer courage. 

And Fierro can’t accept this, either—because it’s disturbing:

“The power of men like me does not come solely from our ability to kill….No, the true source of our power is so obvious it sometimes goes unnoticed for what it is: our power comes from other men’s lack of courage.

“There is even less courage in this world than there is talent for killing. Men like me rule because most men are faint of heart in the shadow of death. 

“But a man brave enough to control his fear of being killed, control it so well that no tremor reaches his fingers and no sign shows in his eyes…well. Such a man cannot be ruled, he can only be killed.”

Throughout his life, Trump has relied on bribery and intimidation. He well understands the power of greed and fear over most people.

What he doesn’t understand—and truly fears—is that some people cannot be bought or frightened. 

People like Elliot Ness. Like Robert Mueller. And like New York Attorney General Letitia James, who is now investigating the Trump Organization for both civil and criminal violations of the law.

WHAT FRIGHTENS DONALD TRUMP: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on June 1, 2021 at 12:11 am

On July 14, 2019, then-President Donald Trump unleashed a brutal Twitter attack on four Democratic members of the House of Representatives who had harshly criticized his anti-immigration policies:

“So interesting to see “Progressive” Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly……

“….and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how…. 

“….it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!”  

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Donald Trump

The Democrats—all female, and all non-white—were:

  • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York;
  • Rashida Tlaib of Michigan;
  • Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and
  • Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.

Of the Congresswomen that Trump singled out:

  • Cortez was born in New York City.
  • Tlaib was born in Detroit, Michigan. 
  • Pressley was born in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Only Omar was born outside the United States—in Somalia. And she became an American citizen in 2000 when she was 17 years old. 

Critics have assailed Trump as racist for implying that these women were not United States citizens. 

Moreover, as members of Congress, they had a legal right to declare “how our government is to be run.”  Republicans in the House and Senate vigorously—and often viciously—asserted that right during the Presidency of Barack Obama.

Ocasio-Cortez quickly struck back on Twitter on the same day: You are angry because you don’t believe in an America where I represent New York 14, where the good people of Minnesota elected , where fights for Michigan families, where champions little girls in Boston.

“You are angry because you can’t conceive of an America that includes us. You rely on a frightened America for your plunder.

“You won’t accept a nation that sees healthcare as a right or education as a #1 priority, especially where we’re the ones fighting for it. Yet here we are.”

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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

But then followed the most significant part of Cortez’ reply:

“But you know what’s the rub of it all, Mr. President? On top of not accepting an America that elected us, you cannot accept that we don’t fear you, either.

“You can’t accept that we will call your bluff & offer a positive vision for this country. And that’s what makes you seethe.”

“You cannot accept that we don’t fear you, either.”

For all his adult life, Donald Trump—as a businessman, Presidential candidate and President—has trafficked in bribery and coercion.

Or, as they say in Mexico: “Pan o palo”—“Bread or the stick.”

First bribery: 

  • Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi personally solicited a political contribution from Donald Trump around the same time her office deliberated joining an investigation of alleged fraud at Trump University and its affiliates. 
  • After Bondi dropped the Trump University case, he wrote her a $25,000 check for her re-election campaign. The money came from the Donald J. Trump Foundation.
  • Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton moved to muzzle a former state regulator who says he was ordered in 2010 to drop a fraud investigation into Trump University for political reasons.
  • Paxton’s office issued a cease and desist letter to former Deputy Chief of Consumer Protection John Owens after he made public copies of a 14-page internal summary of the state’s case against Donald Trump for scamming millions from students of his now-defunct real estate seminar.
  • After the Texas case was dropped, Trump cut a $35,000 check to the gubernatorial campaign of then-attorney general and now Texas Governor Greg Abbott.

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Now coercion:

  • Throughout his career as a businessman, Trump forced his employees to sign Non-Disclosure Agreements, threatening them with lawsuits if they revealed secrets of his greed and/or criminality.
  • In 2016. USA Today found that Trump was involved in over 3,500 lawsuits during the previous 30 years: “At least 60 lawsuits, along with hundreds of liens, judgments, and other government filings” were from contractors claiming they got stiffed.
  • On March 16, 2016, as a Republican Presidential candidate, Trump warned Republicans that if he didn’t win the GOP nomination in July, his supporters would literally riot: “I think you’d have riots. I think you would see problems like you’ve never seen before. I think bad things would happen, I really do. I wouldn’t lead it, but I think bad things would happen.”
  • An NBC reporter summed it up as: “The message to Republicans was clear: ‘Nice convention you got there. Shame if something happened to it.'”
  • Speaking with Bob Woodward, the legendary Washington Post investigative reporter, Trump confessed: “Real power is—I don’t even want to use the word—fear.”
  • During his Presidential campaign he encouraged Right-wing thugs to attack dissenters at his rallies, even claiming he would pay their legal expenses. 

But when he has confronted men and women who can’t be bribed or intimidated, Trump has reacted with rage and desperation.

PRESIDENTS: THE LOVED, THE FEARED AND THE IGNORED: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on May 28, 2021 at 12:13 am

American Presidents—like politicians everywhere–strive to be loved. There are two primary reasons for this.

First, even the vilest dictators want to believe they are virtuous—and that their goodness is rewarded by the love of their subjects.

Second, it’s universally recognized that a leader who’s beloved has greater clout than one who isn’t. 

PERCEIVED WEAKNESS INVITES CONTEMPT

But those—like Barack Obama—who strive to avoid conflict often get treated with contempt and hostility by their adversaries.

Obama standing with his arms folded and smiling.

Barack Obama

In Renegade: The Making of a President, Richard Wolffe chronicled Obama’s successful 2008 bid for the White House. Among his revelations:

Obama, a believer in rationality and decency, felt more comfortable in responding to attacks on his character than in attacking the character of his enemies.

A graduate of Columbia University and Harvard Law School, Obama was one of the most academically gifted Presidents in United States history.

Yet he failed to grasp and apply this fundamental lesson taught by Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of modern political science:

A man who wishes to make a profession of goodness in everything must inevitably come to grief among so many who are not good. And therefore it is necessary for a prince, who wishes to maintain himself, to learn how not to be good, and to use this knowledge and not use it, according to the necessity of the case.

This explains why Obama found most of his legislative agenda stymied by Republicans.

For example: In 2014, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY.) sought to block David Barron, Obama’s nominee to the First Circuit Court of Appeals.

Rand Paul

Paul objected to Barron’s authoring memos that justified the killing of an American citizen by a drone in Yemen on September 30, 2011.

The target was Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical Muslim cleric notorious on the Internet for encouraging Muslims to attack the United States.

Paul demanded that the Justice Department release the memos Barron crafted justifying the drone policy.

Anwar al-Awlaki

Imagine how Republicans would depict Paul—or any Democratic Senator—who did the same with a Republican President: “Rand Paul: A traitor who supports terrorists. He sides with America’s sworn enemies against its own lawfully elected President.”

But Obama did nothing of the kind.

(On May 22, 2014, the Senate voted 53–45 to confirm Barron to the First Circuit Court of Appeals.)

USING TOO MUCH FEAR CAN BACKFIRE

But Presidents—like Donald Trump—who seek to rule primarily by fear can encounter their own limitations. 

During a 2016 interview, he told legendary Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward: “Real power is—I don’t even want to use the word—fear.”

As both a Presidential candidate and President, Trump repeatedly used Twitter to attack hundreds of real and imagined enemies in politics, journalism, TV and films.

From June 15, 2015, when he launched his Presidential campaign, until October 24, 2016, Trump fired almost 4,000 angry, insulting tweets at 281 people and institutions that had somehow offended him.

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Donald Trump

The New York Times needed two full pages of its print edition to showcase them.

As President, he aimed outright hatred at President Obama. He spent much of his Presidency trying to destroy Obama’s signature legislative achievement: The Affordable Care Act, which provides access to medical care to millions of poor and middle-class Americans.

Trump also refused to reach beyond the narrow base of white, racist, ignorant, hate-filled, largely rural voters who had elected him.

And he bullied and insulted even White House officials and his own handpicked Cabinet officers. Trump:

  • Waged a Twitter-laced feud against Jeff Sessions, his Attorney General. Sessions’ “crime”? Recusing himself from investigations into well-established ties between Russian Intelligence agents and members of Trump’s Presidential campaign.
  • Repeatedly humiliated Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus—at one point ordering him to kill a fly that was buzzing about. On July 28, 2017, Priebus resigned.
  • Tongue-lashed Priebus’ replacement, former Marine Corps General John Kelly. Trump was reportedly angered by Kelly’s efforts to limit the number of advisers who had unrestricted access to him. Kelly told colleagues he had never been spoken to like that during 35 years of military service—and would not tolerate it again.

If Trump ever read Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince, he had clearly forgotten this passage:

“Cruelties ill committed are those which, although at first few, increase rather than diminish with time….Whoever acts otherwise….is always obliged to stand with knife in hand, and can never depend on his subjects, because they, owing to continually fresh injuries, are unable to depend upon him.”

And this one:

“Still, a prince should make himself feared in such a way that if he does not gain love, he at any rate avoids hatred.”

On that point alone, Trump proved an absolute failure. He not only committed outrages, he boasted about them. He aroused both fear and hatred.

Or, as Cambridge Professor of Divinity William Ralph Inge put it: “A man may build himself a throne of bayonets, but he can’t sit on it.”

Trump nevertheless tried—and paid the price for it. On November 3, 2020, 81,255,933 fed-up voters evicted him for former Vice President Joe Biden.

And despite committing a series of illegal actions to remain in office, he stayed evicted.

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