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Posts Tagged ‘9/11 ATTACKS’

TRUMP: RESURRECTING “THE GERMAN EXPERIMENT”

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 12, 2020 at 12:10 am

On August 2, 1934, German President Paul von Hindenburg died. Adolf Hitler was then serving as Reich Chancellor—the equivalent of attorney general. Within hours, the Nazi Reichstag [parliament] announced the following law, back-dated to August 1st:

“The office of Reich President will be combined with that of Reich Chancellor. The existing authority of the Reich President will consequently be transferred to the Führer and Reich Chancellor, Adolf Hitler.” 

Immediately following the announcement of the new Führer law, the German officer corps and every individual soldier in the German Army was made to swear a new oath of allegiance:

“I swear by God this holy oath, that I will render to Adolf Hitler, Führer of the German Reich and People, Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, unconditional obedience, and that I am ready, as a brave soldier, to risk my life at any time for this oath.” 

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Soldiers swearing the Fuhrer Oath

For Germans—especially officers of the Wehrmacht—taking an oath was a holy act. Previously they had sworn obedience to the German state. Now they swore personal allegiance to Adolf Hitler.

On September 1,1939, Hitler ordered the invasion of Poland—and unintentionally ignited World War II. By 1943, the war had gone increasingly badly for Nazi Germany. And growing numbers of military officers felt torn between the oath they had taken to Hitler and the obligation they felt to save their Fatherland from total destruction. 

Now President Donald Trump wants to resurrect “the German experiment.”

On May 6, Foreign Policy magazine carried an alarming story under the headline: “Trump Taps Point Man to Remove Pentagon Officials Seen as Disloyal.” 

Specifically: “Michael Cutrone, who has been detailed as Vice President Mike Pence’s top national security aide for South Asia, is set to arrive at the Pentagon to serve in a behind-the-scenes role vetting Defense Department officials for loyalty to the president, according to two current administration officials.” 

An anonymous Defense official said of Cutroone: “He is pushing to replace and remove civilians in OSD [Office of the Secretary of Defense] that are not aligned with the White House. [Secretary of Defense Mark] Esper has no say in who the key people are going into senior positions.”

Cutrone is reportedly now serving as a CIA analyst. 

Veteran Pentagon officials fear that the few remaining professional appointees who can resist illegal or irrational  policy ideas will be removed from their posts or undermined. This will ensure far tighter White House control than had been the case under Defense Secretary James Mattis,

In February, Republicans refused to hold Trump accountable via impeachment for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Since then, the President has purged independent officials throughout government—and appointed political loyalists in their places. 

One such ousted official was Michael Atkinson, the Intelligence community’s top oversight official. Atkinson had enraged Trump by telling Congress the truth: That a whistleblower had filed a complaint about Trump’s attempted extortion of the president of Ukraine in return for his smearing former Vice President Joe Biden, a Democratic Presidential rival in the 2020 election.

In 1935, Adolf Hitler appointed his crony, Hermann Goring, as Reichsmarshall of the Luftwaffe, the German air force. In December, 1941, he promoted himself Commander-in-Chief of the Wehrmacht, the German army. 

Adolf Hitler

Both appointments proved disastrous.

Goring, a World War 1 fighter pilot, lost more than 1,700 planes in his attempt to conquer England in the battle of Britain (August – October, 1940). Many of the 2,662 casualties were experienced pilots, and the Luftwaffe never fully recovered.

Similarly, Hitler, a corporal during World War 1, presided over a succession of German defeats that ultimately led to the Red Army storming Berlin in 1945.

William Kristol—a Right-wing political analyst—has been dubbed “the godfather of neoconservatism.” And with good reason. 

Immediately following the 9/11 attacks, Kristol, the editor of the Weekly Standard, was one of the leading instigators of the 2003 war with Iraq.

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Bill Kristol

But on February 15, 2019, Kristol posted on Twitter: 

“Members of Congress take this oath of office (see Title 5, Section 3331 of the United States Code): ‘I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.'”

On May 7, in a blistering attack on his fellow Republicans, he posted “the new GOP Congressional oath”:

“I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend Donald Trump against all oversight; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to him; that I take this obligation despite mental reservation and in the spirit of evasion of duty. So help me God.”

No doubt Kristol, who considers himself a dyed-in-the-wool conservative, remembers all too well the fate of those who took a similar oath to Adolf Hitler.

The lucky ones were sent to concentration camps. The unlucky ones wound up on meat hooks.

TWO FACES OF TERROR: 9/11 AND COVID-19: PART FOUR (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 23, 2020 at 2:00 am

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has urged Americans to keep at least six feet from their fellows. And most of the nation’s governors have issued stay-at-home orders that ban large gatherings—including visits to parks and beaches.

Yet President Donald Trump has openly encouraged defiance of those orders. On April 17 he issued a series of tweets to his supporters:

“LIBERATE MINNESOTA!”

“LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” 

“LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!”

All these states have Democratic governors. Their residents are being urged to stay indoors, wear masks when they venture outside and keep a six-feet distance between themselves and others. 

These states have been targeted for Right-wing protests—featuring large numbers of men and women standing close together, with most of them not wearing masks. They claim their “freedoms” are being infringed upon.

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, hat and outdoor

Writer Steven Pressfield summed up the immorality of these protests: “Why are we asked to wear surgical or face masks in public, to practice social distancing and to observe self-quarantining? Because these practices are not for the individual alone but for the protection of the whole [community].”

Washington Governor Jay Inslee tweeted: “The president’s statements this morning encourage illegal and dangerous acts. He is putting millions of people in danger of contracting COVID-19.

“His unhinged rantings and calls for people to ‘liberate’ states could also lead to violence. We’ve seen it before.”

After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C. President George W. Bush publicly denounced harassment of American Muslims: “Muslim Americans make an incredibly valuable contribution to our country. They need to be treated with respect.”

But Trump has openly called for public—and illegal—defiance of the nation’s governors and the health experts of his own administration. Meanwhile, the United States has 855,255 Coronavirus cases—and 47,973 deaths.

During Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign, he did—for Republicans—the unthinkable: He openly blamed Bush for 9/11.

“He was president, okay?” Trump said on Bloomberg Television. “Blame him or don’t blame him, but he was president. The World Trade Center came down during his reign.”

But now Trump holds the Presidency, with more than 47,000 Americans dead of the virus—after he spent two months dismissing as a threat. 

On March 13, PBS NewsHour’s reporter Yamiche Alcindor bluntly asked Trump if he bore any responsibility for the surge in cases. Even more embarrassing for Trump, she noted that he had gutted the White House’s Pandemic Office set up by his predecessor, Barack Obama.

Trump’s reply: “I don’t take any responsibility at all.”

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So much for the public side of COVID-19.  Now for the personal.

At first, it was thought that only the elderly—those 65 and older—were the targets of the virus. Nursing homes started filling with corpses.  By April 18, 6,900 nursing home occupants had died across the nation.

But then its victims started including those in their 20s to 40s—and even teenagers. An Illinois infant became the nation’s youngest casualty.

Schools closed across the country. Parents found themselves living with their children fulltime. Schools quickly moved to provide online learning via the Internet. In Colorado, computers were provided for children whose families could not afford them. But many students in other states were not so lucky.

People who must “fort up” carry a huge emotional burden—especially children, who by nature are highly sociable. They miss their friends and fear that their lives will never be normal again.

But even adults feel similar fears—especially those who have lost their jobs because their companies have shut down. Will an administration dedicated to bailing out wealthy organizations—like cruise ship companies and luxury hotels—care about providing them with life-saving subsidies?

At greatest risk are those whose jobs demand extensive contact with the public—firefighters, janitors, garbage men, police, store clerks (especially in high-volume stores).

At the top of the list are nurses and doctors who treat COVID-19 patients. Many of them do so without Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs)—thanks to Trump’s “you’re-on-your-own” attitude and feuding with governors he feels don’t appreciate him enough.

Each person who leaves home must deal with fear in his or her own way. Some, taking “the stiff upper lip” approach refuse to openly admit the fear that constantly gnaws at them. Others are entirely willing to confess it and refuse to leave home except when forced to. And there are those who seem to dare the virus to take them.

Each person knows there are countless ways to become accidentally exposed to the virus. You can:

  • Put on your face mask wrong;
  • Be forced by sheer numbers of people to violate the “six-feet-apart” rule;
  • Take off your mask when you’re home and, before thoroughly washing your hands, involuntarily touch your face; 
  • Touch, with virus-contaminated hands, doorknobs, light switches, dishware when you return home.

The last time the United States faced a pandemics was 100 years ago—the Spanish influenza. Raging from January, 1918 to December, 1920, it infected 500 million people worldwide. Estimates of those killed range from 17 to 100 million. Of these, 675,000 were Americans. 

With a vaccine for COVID-19 at least a year away, Americans—and the rest of the world—can only take the best precautions they can. 

TWO FACES OF TERROR: 9/11 AND COVID-19: PART THREE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 22, 2020 at 12:27 am

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, going to the supermarket was a routine matter.

You assumed—usually correctly—that those items you wanted would be in stock. Then you would find and load them into your car.

But post-COVID-19 shoppers face a totally different world. Much of the time store shelves are completely bare, as if a marauding army has cleaned them out.

In this case, that “army” consists of your fellow Americans. And their insatiable, fear-driven buying frenzy snapped up the following products as quickly as store clerks could restock shelves:

Week 1: Hand sanitizers, soaps and disinfectants.

Week 2: Toilet paper and paper towels.

Weeks 3 and 4: Spiral hams and baking yeast. 

Week 5: Hair clippers and hair dye. 

Those who could afford to shop at grocery stores—and find what they needed—were the lucky ones.

Increasingly, tens of thousands of Americans were forced to turn to food banks to keep their families alive.

On April 9, the San Antonio Food Bank aided about 10,000 households in a record-setting giveaway at a South Side flea market. Its drive-thru was the fourth such event for the Food Bank since March 31.

In biggest turnout yet, 10,000 hit hard by economic effects of ...

Motorists lined up to receive help from food bank

About 6,000 households preregistered for the food distribution on the Food Bank’s website. But thousands more showed up, hoping to put something on their tables.

Similar scenes occurred at food banks across the United States.

According to Feeding America, a national network of food banks, one in seven Americans relies on a local food bank to eat. Statistics from the U.S. Department of Agriculture reveal that 11.8 percent of Americans are food insecure. 

But those who don’t need food banks face a serious question: “Is it better to order groceries or go to the store?”

A March 27 article in TIME addresses this and several other issues. 

According to “Is It Safe to Go to the Grocery Store?”: “If you can afford to, it’s best to order food online, experts say. Delivery services dramatically reduce your contact with other people: you pay online, it’s packaged elsewhere and the food is left outside your door.”

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) spokesperson told TIME that “[currently] there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food or food packaging.”

About CDC

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

But Jared Baeten, the vice dean of the School of Public Health and professor of global health, medicine and epidemiology at the University of Washington, advises that “for complete risk reduction, you might want to clean off your groceries,” while making sure to not get hazardous chemicals on what you eat. 

Dr. Lauren Sauer, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, says your primary concern while shopping should be the risk of contracting the virus from other people, not surfaces. She also warns that “not everyone is going to be respectful of that six feet” of social distancing recommended by the CDC. If you see a crowded aisle, skip it or wait for people to leave.

A major casualty of COVID-19 has been the restaurant industry.

Forget about dining out at leisure: Restaurants have been closed across the country. Many of them still offer take-out—provided you can get there to pick up your order. But some that would have never dreamed of delivering their fare have hired platoons of drivers. 

Another business that’s suffering badly is taxi services.

Fewer people are out on the streets. There are two reasons for this:

  1. Many people simply fear leaving their homes; and
  2. Stay-at-home orders by governors are restricting travel except for the most urgent needs.

So taxi drivers are hurting, making only a pittance of what they formerly made.

But there are risks for those who take cabs or buses.

Some cab drivers are reportedly sick with COVID-19 but, desperate for money, continue to haul passengers in extremely close confinement.

And while the CDC has urged Americans to keep at least six feet from their fellows, it’s impossible to do this on a crowded bus. Moreover, you can’t be certain that the seat you’re occupying hasn’t been sneezed or coughed on by a COVID-19 carrying passenger.

The White House and all prominent public health officials have urged people across the country to stay at home as much as possible to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus.

But as late as March 25, governors of five states—Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota—had refused to issue lockdown orders for their residents. Three states issued only partial measures. 

And the Right—headed by President Donald Trump—has erupted in outrage at being expected to show concern for their fellow Americans.

On April 15, Trump issued a series of tweets, calling on his supporters to “LIBERATE” Minnesota, Michigan and Virginia.

It’s no coincidence that all these states are headed by Democratic governors.And have been the targets of public protests by Right-wingers against stay-at-home orders.

Asked whether those states should lift their stay-at-home orders, Trump said, “No, but elements of what they’ve done are too much. …It’s too tough.”

TWO FACES OF TERROR: 9/11 AND COVID-19: PART TWO (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 21, 2020 at 12:11 am

One of the biggest differences between the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the COVID-19 pandemic is this: 

After 9/11, Americans drew strength from each other.  During Coronavirus, Americans remain isolated and forced to rely on their own resources. 

This has its origins at the top—with President Donald Trump.

Like Adolf Hitler, Trump likes to pit individuals and organizations against each other. Hitler, for example, would assign several agencies to tackle the same problem: “That way, the stronger one gets the job done,” he told his architect, Albert Speer.

This creates needless duplication of efforts and wasted resources. But it ensures that Trump—like Hitler—remains the final voice of authority, since so many others are competing for his favor and direction. 

Image result for Public domain images of Donald Trump

Donald Trump

This has not, however, worked out well for the 50 states that make up the United States of America.

During the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt intervened powerfully to ensure that all Americans received the help they needed.

Trump has made it clear that each state is responsible for securing its needed supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) for its doctors and nurses aiding Coronavirus patients. This has resulted in a dog-eat-dog atmosphere of cutthroat competition and scarcity, with Americans not only fighting the virus but each other. 

Even worse: Trump and Republicans are using a deadly plague as a weapon against those Americans they hate.  

On March 26, during an interview on Fox News, Trump blamed the failures of his administration’s response to Coronavirus on Democratic state governors like Andrew Cuomo (NY), Jay Inslee (WA), and Gretchen Whitmer (MI).

On March 27, during his press briefing, Trump said he told Vice President Mike Pence—who’s officially in charge of the White House’s response effort—to not call Inslee and Whitmer because they weren’t “appreciative” enough of his efforts.

Trump said this even as hospitals in each of their states were being overwhelmed with Coronavirus patients.

“I tell him—I mean I’m a different type of person— I say, ‘Mike, don’t call the governor in Washington, you’re wasting your time with him. Don’t call the woman in Michigan,’” Trump said. “If they don’t treat you right, I don’t call.”

Trump said that when people criticized him, they were criticizing the federal government: “When they’re not appreciative to me, they’re not appreciative to the Army Corps, they’re not appreciative to FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency]. It’s not right.” 

Trump also attacked Whitmer on Right-wing Fox News’ “Sean Hannity Show”: “I don’t know if she knows what’s going on, but all she does is sit there and blame the federal government.”

That same day—March 27—Whitmer told a Michigan radio station: “What I’ve gotten back is that vendors with whom we’ve procured contracts—they’re being told not to send stuff to Michigan. It’s really concerning. I reached out to the White House last night and asked for a phone call with the president, ironically at the time this stuff was going on.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (cropped).jpg

Gretchen Whitmer

A March 29 story in the Washington Monthly sheds light on what lay behind Whitmer’s inability to secure desperately-needed ventilators from her longtime vendors. Its headline ran: “What If Trump Decides to Save Republicans But Not Democrats?”

A sub-headline read: “He’s providing vital resources to red states and ignoring blue states.” 

Black Hand - No Racism" Art Print by AsbrinfitzTv | Redbubble

The Black Hand

Florida submitted a request to FEMA  on March 11 for 430,000 surgical masks, 180,000 N95 respirators, 82,000 face shields and 238,000 gloves—and received a shipment with everything three days later.

On Fox News, Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, bluntly told governors: “Take the blame when you have to. When you play with your boss, sometimes it’s better when you don’t win the golf game. He’s the boss, he’s got all the resources.” 

The mentality of the Black Hand has come to the Oval Office.

The Washington Monthly story concludes ominously: “What if the White House simply gives all the masks and ventilators to red states and counties, leaving blue ones to struggle? What mechanisms of accountability are left?

“U.S. democracy wasn’t set up to deal with a president openly behaving like a James Bond villain while being protected by a political party behaving more like a mafia than a civic institution.” 

But while corpses pile up and Trump wages repeated feuds with state governors, ordinary citizens daily face never-before-imagined fears and dangers. 

Coronavirus has forced people to be apart, with each one forced to face his / her own fears of something that can’t be seen and can strike anywhere, anytime, at anyone.

Smart Americans no longer venture outdoors without wearing a mask—a medically-approved N95 one if possible, but at least a homemade one. It’s not unusual to see people wearing blue rubber gloves as well. 3M N95, Disposable Respirator, Molded, Universal, PK 20 - 1AGD3 ...

N95 mask

Before COVID-19, a masked man entering a bank meant: “This is a robbery!” Today, tellers aren’t surprised when they see a customer wearing a surgical mask.

Going to the supermarket used to be a routine matter: You would assume—usually correctly—that those items you wanted would be in stock. Then you would find and load them into your car. 

No longer.

TWO FACES OF TERROR: 9/11 AND COVID-19: PART ONE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 20, 2020 at 1:01 am

COVID-19 may well change our lives more fundamentally than even 9/11.  

Yes, the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon were horrific—and costly in lives. Almost 3,000 Americans died that day. 

After decades of ignoring Islamic terrorist attacks on American lives and property throughout the Middle East and the rest of the world, America shook off its complacency.

First came a much-anticipated invasion of Afghanistan–the “nation” which had given shelter to 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden. Starting on October 7, 2001, by December American planes and ground forces swept bin Laden’s hosts, the Taliban, from power.

Bin Laden disappeared into Pakistan, but was shot to death by United States Navy SEALs on May 1, 2011. 

World Trade Center – September 11, 2001

The 9/11 attacks also resulted in unforeseen events. President George W. bush used them as an excuse to invade Iraq in 2003 and topple its dictator, Saddam Hussein, from power.

Bush had long blamed Hussein for not folding after the President’s father, George H.W. Bush, attacked Iraq in 1991 after its invasion of Kuwait. Hussein’s failure to fall from power, believed Bush Junior, had resulted in his father’s losing a second White House term in 1992 to Bill Clinton. 

But once the United States invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, it got stuck there—and remains so to this day. What started as a purely military mission became a “nation-building” one.

Yet another result of the 9/11 attacks was a complete restructuring of the United States military. In the past, Americans had excelled in set-piece battles and wars.

Americans have never forgotten their overwhelming victories over the Germany of Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1918 and Fuhrer Adolf Hitler in 1945. But when it came to fighting enemies where guerrilla warfare negated overwhelming military power, the United States had done poorly—first in Korea (1950-1953) and then in Vietnam (1960-1975). 

As a result, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfield reorganized the Pentagon’s bureaucracy, assigning highest priority to building unconventional military units such as the Army’s Green Berets and Delta Force, and the Navy’s SEALs. 

These were all major changes resulting from the 9/11 attacks. They cost billions of dollars and got huge publicity.  But they didn’t affect the lives of everyday Americans as intimately as has the advent of COVID-19, also known as Coronavirus. 

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Coronavirus

First, COVID-19 has killed far more Americans than 9/11. As before mentioned, 9/11 snuffed out the lives of almost 3,000 Americans. But as of April 20, more than 41,114 Americans have died of COVID-19. And the plague has not finished its murderous work. 

Second, while 9/11 affected two American cities—New York and Washington, D.C.—COVID-19 has spread throughout the country. As epicenters like New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago gain national attention, the virus continues to seep into rural centers—especially in the South and Midwest.

Third, the combination of evil and incompetence of the Trump administration has shaken Americans’ faith in the ability—and even the willingness—of the Federal Government to protect them.

Conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks attacked President Donald Trump in terms usually reserved for serial killers. On the March 13 edition of The PBS Newshour, he said:

“This is what happens when you elect a sociopath as president, who doesn’t care, who has treated this whole thing for the past month as if it’s about him. ‘How do people like me?’ Minimizing the risks. ‘Does the stock market reflect well on me?’ And he hasn’t done the things a normal human being would do, which was to, let’s take precautions….

“And he’s incapable of that. And he’s even created an information distortion field around him.” 

In 2014, following the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, President Barack Obama created the White House Pandemic Office, run by the White House’s National Security Council (NSC).

Obam has message for pokemon nerds - YouTube

Barack Obama

Heading it was Rear Admiral Tim Ziemer. Under President George W. Bush, he had successfully fought malaria overseas. His topflight team of infectious disease and public health experts was creating a national bio-defense strategy. Their goal: Coordinate agencies to make the United States more resilient to the threat of epidemics and biological warfare.

In May, 2018, Trump ordered the NSC’s global health security unit shut down. The reason: Trump’s pathological jealousy of and hatred for Obama.

Compounding that outrage: From January to early March, 2020, Trump and his allies within the Republican party and Fox News Network repeatedly assured Americans they had nothing to fear. 

Barnstorming the country in a series of hate-filled political rallies, Trump told his supporters:

  • January 22: “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China.”
  • February 24: “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA.”
  • February 26: “The 15 cases within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero.” 
  • February 27: “One day it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.”
  • February 28: “Now the Democrats are politicizing the Coronavirus….We did one of the great jobs….One of my people came up to me and said, ‘Mr. President, they tried to beat you on Russia, Russia, Russia’….They couldn’t do it. They tried the impeachment hoax….It’s all turning, they lost….And this is their new hoax.”
  • March 6: “I think we’re doing a really good job in this country of keeping it down. A tremendous job of keeping it down.” 

DYING OF THE FEAR: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on March 11, 2020 at 12:06 am

There’s an Arabian myth that offers a timely commentary on the hysteria surrounding the Coronavirus. 

Mohammed is walking along the road from Medina to Mecca when he meets the Genie of Cholera. 

“Where are you going, O Cursed One?” asks Mohammed.

“To Mecca, to kill 10,000 of the faithful,” replies the genie.

Image result for Images of the Grim Reaper

“All right,” says Mohammed. “See to it that you kill no more than 10,000.”

Six months later the two meet again—and Mohammed is furious: “You are a filthy liar!”

“Why do you say that?” demands the Genie of Cholera.

“Because when I reached Mecca, there were 30,000 dead, not the 10,000 you promised.”

“Oh, I kept by my word and killed only 10,000,” replies the genie. “But 20,000 more died of the fear.”

Fear is stalking the streets of the United States today.

Medical supply companies are rushing to turn out millions of surgical face masks—not for use by doctors but ordinary Americans.

Medical professionals warn that this will prove counter-productive for doctors and ordinary citizens.

Doctors and nurses need those masks when they’re performing surgery—or just coming in contact with patients who might be carrying the Coronavirus. They also wear them when examining patients suffering from routine illnesses.

Standard surgical masks are designed to protect against large, airborne droplets. They cannot protect against viruses. Their loose fit makes it possible for droplets to enter around the edges of the mask.

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Standard surgical mask

The N-95 respirator mask is a tight-fitting upgrade that forces inhaled air toward the mask but not its edges. It can filter out 95% of particulates—but not viral particles.

Nor has panic-buying been restricted to face masks. Hand sanitizers, bottled water, toilet paper—even rubbing alcohol—have been snapped off shelves, leaving stores empty of them.

“It’s been nuts,” says Costco’s Chief Financial Officer, Richard A. Galanti.

Businesses that rely on regular patrons—such as restaurants and movie theaters—are especially suffering.

In New York City and San Francisco, businesses in the Chinese community have been hard-hit. It was in Wuhan, China, that the Coronavirus first erupted. Millions of people continue to identify it as a peculiarly Chinese ailment.

The industries most affected are those directly connected to tourism. Cruise ship lines have proven a ready source of contagion, bringing large numbers of people together in what can amount to a floating hothouse for viruses.

Cruise ships have played a major role in the outbreak. More than 700 cases have been linked to the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which was quarantined off the coast of Japan for two weeks. At least 21 more cases were confirmed aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship that docked in Oakland, Calif., on March 9.

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Diamond Princess cruise ship

File:Diamond Princess (ship, 2004) and Port of Toba.jpg

The State Department and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have warned elderly and medically vulnerable Americans to avoid cruise ships until the outbreak ends. The CDC recommends that travelers “defer all cruise ship travel worldwide.”

During the 1980s, Kathie Lee Gifford appeared in a series of TV ads for Carnival Cruise Lines, singing an upbeat jingle: 

If they could see you now out on a Funship cruise
You’re eating fancy food and doing what you choose.
I’d like your friends back home to get a good look
At the first-rate Carnival cruise that you took.
All I can say is “Wow!” hey look at where you are.
Tonight you’re living life just like a movie star!
What a Funship, holy cow!
They’d never believe it
If your friends could see you now!

 

This ode to pure hedonism has given way to a climate of sheer panic—among those still aboard cruise liners, those thinking about embarking on cruises and—most especially—among cruise shipping line companies.

A more updated version of Kathie Lee’s song could go:

If they could see you now on a Corona cruise
You’re locked inside your room and someone took your shoes.
I’m sure your friends back home will look on with dread
As the ship docks in port and they haul off the dead.
All I can say is “Wow!”
Hey, look at where you’ll be
You’re turning blue for air
Right there upon the sea!
What a fright ship, holy cow!
They’re sure to believe it
And the doctor’s coming now!

 

And how is the cruise industry responding to the Coronavirus outbreak? By running more TV ads to sign up more passengers!

Perhaps it’s time for Americans to haul out their DVD players and watch Khartoum—a 1966 movie that offers a timely lesson in courage well-suited to the Coronavirus panic.

Image result for Images of "Khartoum" movie poster

It’s based on the true story of British General Charles George Gordon (Charlton Heston) sent to the Sudan in 1884 to evacuate the city of Khartoum before it’s besieged by the army of a dervish fanatic called “The Madhi”—“The Expected One” (Laurence Oliver).

But the siege starts before Gordon can evacuate its 30,000 citizens.

The Madhi orders a bombardment, and frightened townspeople rush into the public square—where Gordon is calmly seated on a camel, holding a Sudanese girl.

As they look up expectedly for guidance, Gordon gently says to the little girl: “I don’t ask you to be unafraid, merely to act unafraid.”

Americans would do well to remember those words—and act on them.

DYING OF THE FEAR: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, Entertainment, History, Politics, Social commentary on March 10, 2020 at 9:52 am

The outbreak of the Coronavirus has terrified Americans in ways not seen since the September 11, 2001 terror attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C.

For months after that horror, the two most profitable businesses in the country were video rental stores and food delivery services.

People stayed indoors—and at home, as if they believed this was the one place they would be safe. Everyone feared the next big terror attack—and didn’t want to be on hand when it exploded.

Restaurants, nightclubs, amusement parks and the airlines suffered accordingly.

World Trade Center – September 11, 2001

In the early 1980s, the AIDS epidemic had truly frightened millions of Americans. At first, no one knew what caused it—or, more importantly, how it was spread.

At first, gays were thought to be the only ones at risk. Then the list of potential victims kept expanding to

  • Intravenous drug abusers
  • Native Haitians
  • Recipients of blood transfusions
  • Those with multiple sex partners.

But with the passage of time—and the introduction of AIDS-fighting drugs that allowed victims to generally live ordinary lives—Americans’ fears gradually decreased. AIDS was seen as a disease like tuberculosis—dangerous, but unlikely to strike if you took reasonable precautions.

And now America is facing a new fear—that of the Coronavirus, otherwise known as COVID-19.

SARS-CoV-2 without background.png

 

Coronavirus

In December 2019, a pneumonia outbreak was reported in Wuhan, China. By December 31, the outbreak was traced to a novel strain of Coronavirus.

Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that affect birds and mammals. In humans, Coronaviruses cause respiratory tract infections that are typically mild, such as the common cold. Coronaviruses can cause pneumonia and may cause bronchitis.

When the virus surfaced in China, Americans didn’t worry, as it seemed confined to Wuhan. But then it began spreading.

By January 30, 2020, 9,976 cases had been reported in at least 21 countries, including the first case in the United States.

At that time, United States health authorities repeatedly assured Americans they had nothing to worry about, that “we’re on it.”

For example: On January 28, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex M. Azar II stated at a press conference: “We’ve been monitoring this virus and preparing a response since back in December, but it’s more than that. Preparing for these kinds of outbreaks is part of daily life at HHS and for America’s public health professionals.

“Preparedness is a day job around here. We are constantly making investments, training personnel at all levels, carrying out simulations and exercises, and sharing information.

“This commitment goes straight to the top: The President and I have been speaking regularly about this outbreak, and I have been speaking with the senior officials at HHS and the White House multiple times each day since the outbreak began to represent an international threat.” 

This was strictly boilerplate rhetoric. What Azar didn’t say was this:

  • Upon taking office as President,  Donald Trump had gutted the permanent epidemic monitoring and command groups set up inside the White House: The National Security Council (NSC) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). 
  • The reason:  Pathologically jealous of President Barack Obama, Trump has tried to destroy every vestige of Obama’s legacy as the first black President of the United States. And these disease-monitoring groups were set up by Obama following the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014.
  • Also: In the spring of 2018, Trump pushed Congress to cut $15 billion from national health spending—and cutting the global disease-fighting budgets of the CDC, National Security Council, Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services.
  • The Federal $30 million fund for Complex Crises was eliminated as well.
  • In April, 2018, National Security Adviser John Bolton forced Tom Bossert, director of the infectious disease unit at DHS, to resign—along with his entire team.
  • In May, 2018, Trump ordered the NSC’s global health security unit shut down.
  • Rear Admiral Timothy Ziemer, who headed the unit, was reassigned.
  • Neither the NSC nor the DHS epidemic team has been replaced.
  • The “advice” Trump has offered on the epidemic is misinformation—based on ignorance or willful lying. Example: “I think the [World Health Organization estimate of Coronavirus casualties of] 3.4 percent is really a false number—and this is just my hunch—but based on a lot of conversations with a lot of people that do this because a lot of people will have this and it’s very mild. They’ll get better very rapidly, they don’t even see a doctor, they don’t even call a doctor. You never hear about those people.”

Above all: Azar didn’t dare say that Trump doesn’t see Coronavirus as a threat to the lives of 300-plus American citizens.  Instead, he sees it as a threat to his continued reign as President.

Trump has repeatedly “joked” about how great it would be if the United States—like China—had a “President-for-Life.” And he has accused those Democrats who impeached him for obstructing Congress and abuse of power as guilty of treason.

In the Coronavirus, Trump has met his match in an enemy he cannot bribe or intimidate. The tragedy is that untold numbers of Americans will pay the price for his ignorance and narcissism. 

SUICIDE BY “REFUGEES”

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 2, 2019 at 12:13 am

Americans are suckers for children. Even if many of them might come wrapped in suicide vests.

On September 2, 2015, the body of a three-year old Syrian boy named Alan Kurdi washed ashore on a beach in Bodrum, Turkey.

He and his family had boarded a small rubber boat to reach Europe amid the carnage of the Syrian civil war. The boat capsized. 

The resulting photo flashed around the world and triggered international demands by humanitarian organizations that the West “do something.”

 Drowned Alan Kurdi lies on a Turkish beach

Only eight days later, on September 10, 2015, the administration of President Barack Obama announced that it would take in at least 10,000 displaced Syrian refugees over the next year. That was in addition to the 2,000 Islamic refugees the United States had already accepted.

Almost one year later—on August 17, 2016—another photo captured the world’s attention.

It depicted a five-year-old Syrian boy named Omran Daqneesh sitting in an ambulance. Covered head to toe in dust, his face bloodied, he seemed dazed. He had been pulled out of a building hit by an airstrike in Aleppo, Syria.  

Once again, demands arose among liberal interventionists, especially in the United States: “We must do something.”

All of which overlooks the increasing threat posed to the United States by Islamic terrorism.

According to U.S. Census data, America legally welcomes about 100,000 Muslim immigrants each year. This represents the fastest growing segment of immigrants coming to the United States.

The Pew Research Center estimates there are 2.5 million Islamics in the United States. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) puts the figure at seven million.

The Troubling Math of Muslim Migration | National Review Online 

Meanwhile, the FBI is being overwhelmed by the demands of countering Islamic terrorism against the United States.

On July 8, 2015, then-FBI director James Comey testified before Congress about the increasing burdens his agency faced in combating terrorism.

“We are stopping these things [Islamic terror plots] so far through tremendous hard work, the use of sources, the use of online undercovers. But it is incredibly difficult. I cannot see [the FBI’s] stopping these [plots] indefinitely.”

The FBI has only 35,000 agents and analysts—against seven million potential suspects. And only a portion of those agents and analysts are charged with investigating terrorism.  

And even children, for all their supposed innocence, are not to be ignored as potential weapons of Islamic terrorist organizations.

On August 20, 2016, a suicide bomber aged between 12 and 14 attacked a Kurdish wedding party in Gaziantep, Turkey, killing at least 51 people. Preliminary evidence indicated that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was behind the attack. 

 Palestinian child suicide bomber

America may well become a similar target for child suicide bombers.

How did all of this come to be?

On March 15, 2011, protests broke out in Syria, with demonstrators demanding political reforms and the ouster of dictator Bashar al-Assad.

These protests, met with government repression, continued to grow into a wholesale civil war. By April 23, 2016, the United Nations estimated that 400,000 Syrians had so far died in the conflict.

Put in a positive way:

  • More than 400,000 potential or actual Islamic terrorists will never again pose a threat to the United States or Western Europe. 
  • Additional thousands are certain to follow their example.
  • And the United States cannot be held in any way responsible for it.

But Americans and Europeans have chosen to see these positives as negatives.

The United Nations refugee Agency, UNHCR, estimated that 366,402 refugees and migrants crossed the Mediterranean Sea to Europe in 2015. And while the West has thrown open its doors to fleeing Syrians, the reaction of neighboring Islamic nations has been entirely different.

This was brutally but accurately depicted in a cartoon of wealthy Arab rulers looking on indifferently at the body of Alan Kurdi.

While European nations are being swamped by hundreds of thousands of these uninvited “guests,” the Arab world’s wealthiest nations are doing almost nothing for Syria’s refugees.

According to Amnesty International, the “six Gulf countries—Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain—have offered zero resettlement places to Syrian refugees.”

These nations are far closer to Syria than are Europe and the United States. And they contain some of the Arab world’s largest military budgets and its highest standards of living.

Note the contradiction: Democratic, non-Islamic countries are exposing themselves to increasing numbers of potential—if not actual—Islamic terrorists.

Meanwhile, the Arab world—awash in petrodollars and land—is closing its own doors to Syrian refugees.

The Arab world’s wealthiest nations are doing next to nothing for Syria’s refugees – The Washington Post

 * * * * * 

During the 1980s, the United States saw the terroristic acts of Islamic nations as mere crimes, and not acts of war.

The September 11, 2001 terror attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center changed that.

For the last 18 years, the United States military has actively fought Islamics in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. And now Syria.

To be admitting huge numbers of a population with which the United States is now waging all-out war is worse than stupid. It is a guarantee of national suicide.

REPUBLICANS: “I’D RATHER BE RUSSIAN–AND STAY ELECTED”–PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 5, 2019 at 12:10 am

From 1945 to 2015, it was unthinkable for a Republican Presidential candidate to pay tribute to a Soviet dictator.

But that utterly changed when Donald J. Trump, a “reality TV” host with longstanding financial ties to Russian oligarchs, ran for President of the United States.

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Donald Trump

The reason for the Trump-Putin bromance: Each had something to offer the other.

Putin wanted the United States to ditch the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance, which had preserved Western Europe from Russian aggression since World War II. And Trump had often attacked America’s funding of NATO as a drain on the American economy.

And Trump wanted to be President. For this, Putin could supply Internet trolls to confuse voters with falsified news—and even the hacking of key voting centers. 

And monies. These Russian monies were officially classified as “campaign contributions,” not bribes.

Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III Mueller spent almost two years uncovering links between Russian Intelligence agents and members of Donald Trump’s Presidential campaign.

On July 24, he addressed Congress on Russia’s subversion of the 2016 Presidential election.

“Over the course of my career, I’ve seen a number of challenges to our democracy,” Mueller declared to members of the House Judiciary Committee.

“The Russian government’s effort to interfere in our election is among the most serious. As I said on May 29, this deserves the attention of every American.

“It wasn’t a single attempt. They’re doing it as we sit here. And they expect to do it during the next campaign.”

Director Robert S. Mueller- III.jpg

Robert Mueller

In his report, Mueller documented years of meddling in American politics by the Internet Research Agency, which runs the Kremlin’s online disinformation efforts from its headquarters in St. Petersburg. 

The Agency reached 126 million Americans through fake accounts on Facebook. Its messages communicated with unaware members of the Trump campaign, and even prompted real-life rallies that mobilized crowds of unwitting voters.

Hours later that same day, Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Mississippi) blocked the passage of three bills designed to tighten election security at the federal level. She claimed that Congress had already responded to election security needs for the 2020 Presidential election.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) came to the Senate floor the next day to personally object to House-passed legislation backed by Democrats.

Nor is Trump the only Republican receiving “help” from Putin. A network of Russian oligarchs—all of them answerable to Putin—has been increasingly contributing to top Republicans. 

These Russian monies are officially classified as “campaign contributions,” not bribes—which, in fact, they are.

According to the Federal Election Commission:

One such major contributor is Len Blavatnik, who holds citizenship in both the United States and the United Kingdom. During the 2015-16 election cycle, he proved one of the largest donors to GOP Political Action Committees (PACs).  

Blavatnik’s net worth is estimated at $20 billion. Before 2016, he donated to both Democrats and Republicans in meager amounts. But in 2016, he gave $6.35 million to GOP PACs

Millions of dollars went to top Republican leaders—such as Senators Mitch McConnell (Kentucky), Marco Rubio (Florida) and Lindsey Graham (South Carolina).

Specifically, he contributed:

  • A total of $1.5 million to PACs associated with Rubio.  
  • $1 million to Trump’s Inaugural Committee
  • $41,000 to both Republicans and Democrats in 2017.
  • $1 million to McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund.
  • $3.5 million to a PAC associated with McConnell
  • $1.1 million to Unintimidated PAC, associated with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. 
  • $200,000 to the Arizona Grassroots Action PAC, associated with the late Arizona Senator John McCain. 
  • $250,000 to New Day for America PAC, associated with Ohio Governor John Kasich
  • $800,000 to the Security is Strength PAC, associated with Senator Lindsey Graham

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Another Russian oligarch, Alexander Shustorovich, contributed $1 million to Trump’s Inaugural Committee.

Altogether, four Russian oligarchs—Blavatnik, Shustorovich, Andrew Intrater and Simon Kukescontributed $10.4 million from the start of the 2015-16 election cycle through September 2017. Of this, 99% went to Republicans.

As Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell participated in high-level intelligence briefings in 2016. From agencies such as the FBI, CIA and the code-cracking National Security Agency, he learned that the Russians were trying to subvert the electoral process. 

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In October, 2016, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) issued a joint statement: The Russian government had directed the effort to subvert the 2016 Presidential election.

Two weeks later, McConnell’s PAC accepted a $1 million donation from Blavatnik.

On March 30, 2017, McConnell’s PAC accepted another $1 million from Blavatnik.

This is just 10 days after former FBI Director James Comey testified before the House Intelligence Committee about Russia’s efforts to subvert the 2016 election

So, what has changed in the Republican Party?  Essentially nothing.

Its enemies changed—from Russian Communists to American liberals. But its goal remains the same: The quest for absolute power.

When Americans feared Communism, Republicans depicted themselves as the only ones who could be trusted to protect the United States. Big contributions poured in from Right-wing billionaires like H.L. Hunt and Howard Hughes.

But then Republicans found they could enrich themselves and stay in power via Russian “campaign contributions.” So long as they did Putin’s bidding, the rubles would roll in.

So for a party of power-drunk would-be dictators, the decision was simple: Better Red than un-elected.

REPUBLICANS: “I’D RATHER BE RUSSIAN–AND STAY ELECTED”–PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 4, 2019 at 12:15 am

There was a time when Republicans saw—and portrayed—themselves as America’s foremost defenders against Communism. 

This was particularly true during the early 1950s. Case in point: Wisconsin United States Senator Joseph R. McCarthy. 

Elected to the Senate in 1946, he rose to national prominence on February 9, 1950, after giving a fiery speech in Wheeling, West Virginia: 

“The State Department is infested with communists. I have here in my hand a list of 205—a list of names that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department.”

Joseph McCarthy

Americans were already growing increasingly fearful of Communism:

  • Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin had not withdrawn the Red Army from the countries it had occupied in Eastern Europe during World War II.
  • In 1948, the Soviet Union developed—and demonstrated—its own atomic bomb, an achievement U.S. scientists had claimed would not happen for at least a decade.
  • In 1949, China fell to the triumphant armies of Mao Tse Tung.  Generalissimo Chaing Kai Shek was driven from mainland China to the tiny island of Taiwan.

Anti-communism as a lever to political advancement sharply accelerated following McCarthy’s speech. 

No American—no matter how prominent—was safe from the accusation of being a Communist or a Communist sympathizer—”a Comsymp” or “fellow traveler” in the language of the era.

Among those accused:

  • Secretary of State George C. Marshall, who had overseen America’s strategy for defeating Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.
  • President Harry S. Truman.
  • Playwrights Lillian Hellman and Arthur Miller.
  • Folksinger Pete Seeger.
  • Actors Charlie Chaplin, Zero Mostel, Lloyd Bridges, Howard Da Silva, Edward G. Robinson and John Garfield.
  • Composers Arron Copland and Elmer Bernstein.
  • Physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, who presided over the creation of America’s atomic bomb, thus forcing Japan to surrender.
  • Actresses Lee Grant, Delores del Rio, Ruth Gordon and Lucille Ball.
  • Journalists Edward R. Murrow and William L. Shirer, who had chronicled the rise of Nazi Germany.
  • Writers Irwin Shaw, Howard Fast, John Steinbeck and Dashiell Hammett

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Even prominent Republicans became targets for slanderous attacks on their patriotism. The most prominent of these: President Dwight D. Eisenhower—was labeled ”a conscious, dedicated agent of the Communist Conspiracy” by Robert Welch, founder of the John Birch Society in 1958.

In 1953, McCarthy attacked the leadership of the United States Army as “a hotbed of traitors” and convened an inquiry through the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

But the hearings exposed McCarthy as a bullying demagogue. A Senate committee condemned his behavior for “bring[ing] the Senate into dishonor and disrepute.” Shunned in disgrace by his onetime colleagues, McCarthy drowned his sorrows in alcohol, dying in 1957.

But even without McCarthy, Republicans rode the issue of anti-Communism to victory from 1948 to 1992. “Respectable” anti-Communists—like Richard M. Nixon—depicted themselves as the only ones who could be trusted to safeguard America.

Republicans held the White House for eight years under Dwight D. Eisenhower, then lost it in 1960 to John F. Kennedy and again in 1964 to Lyndon B. Johnson.

By 1968, with the nation mired in Vietnam and convulsed by antiwar demonstrations and race riots, Americans elected Richard Nixon, who preyed upon their fears and hates of blacks and “the Communist menace.”

The same strategy re-elected him in 1972.

Jimmy Carter won the Presidency in 1976 and lost it in 1980 to Ronald Reagan. And Republicans held the White House until 1992.  

Upon taking office as President in 1981, Ronald Reagan decided to end the “stalemate” of “containing” Communism. He intended to “roll it back.”

American proxies fought Soviet proxies in Afghanistan and Central America, but the world escaped nuclear holocaust.

During the 1980s and 1990s, Republicans continued to accuse Democrats of being devious agents—or at least unwitting pawns—of “the Communist conspiracy.”

In 1992, President George H.W. Bush and the Republican establishment charged that Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton might be a KGB plant.

George H.W. Bush

Their “evidence”: During his tenure at Oxford University in 1969-70, Clinton had briefly visited Moscow. 

After the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991, Republicans found that accusing Democrats of being “Commies” didn’t carry the same weight.

So they turned to “domestic enemies” to rail—and run—against: Liberals, blacks, Hispanics, “uppity” women, war protesters, lesbians, gays, and—after 9/11—Muslims.

From 1945 to 2015, it was unthinkable for a Republican Presidential candidate to pay tribute to a Soviet dictator.

But that utterly changed when Donald J. Trump, a “reality TV” host with longstanding financial ties to Russian oligarchs, ran for President of the United States.

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Donald Trump

Trump lavishly praised Russian President Vladimir Putin—and even invited him to directly interfere in the 2016 Presidential race.

The reason for the Trump-Putin bromance: Each had something to offer the other.

Putin wanted the United States to ditch the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance, which had preserved Western Europe from Russian aggression since World War II. And Trump had often attacked America’s funding of NATO as a drain on the American economy.

And Trump wanted to be President. For this, Putin could supply monies, Internet trolls to confuse voters with falsified news—and even the hacking of key voting centers.

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