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Posts Tagged ‘BLACKWATER’

WARNING! DOING BUSINESS WITH MERCENARIES CAN BE DANGEROUS TO YOUR HEALTH

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on August 30, 2021 at 12:05 am

The United States had been fighting in Afghanistan for almost 16 years—and between 2001 and 2017 had spent an estimated $714 billion.

Still, there was no end in sight.

Then Erik Prince suggested a remedy: Mercenaries—via his private company, Academi.

For $3.5 billion in taxpayer monies, he claimed that he could vin a victory that had eluded the United States Air Force, Army (including Green Berets) and Navy SEALs.  

Erik Prince.jpg

Erik Prince

By Miller Center [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

In 1997, Prince created Blackwater, a private security company providing support to military and police agencies.

In August, 2003, Blackwater got the first of a series of Federal contracts to deploy its forces in Iraq. For $21 million, it safeguarded Paul Bremer, America’s proconsul running the occupation. 

Ultimately, Blackwater got $1 billion to provide security for American officials and soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

According to human rights organizations, Blackwater abused Iraqis and engaged in torture to obtain information.

In September, 2007, Blackwater guards killed 17 Iraqi civilians and injured 20 more in a Baghdad traffic circle.

Five guards were charged with murder. Three were convicted in October, 2014, of 14 manslaughter charges and in April 2015 sentenced to 30 years in prison. These sentences were deemed unfair upon appeal and await re-sentencing. 

Owing to its highly controversial activities in Iraq, Prince renamed the company Xe Services in 2009 and then Academi in 2011.

By 2018, against opposition by the Pentagon, Prince lobbied President Donald Trump to let Academi privatize the war in Afghanistan.

Ultimately, his company did not become the sole American military force in Afghanistan—despite his sister, Betsy Devos, being the Secretary of Education.

Since the end of the Cold War, the American military and Intelligence communities have grown increasingly dependent on private contractors.

In his 2007 bestseller, Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA, Tim Weiner writes:

“Patriotism for profit became a $50-billion-a-year business….The [CIA] began contracting out thousands of jobs to fill the perceived void by the budget cuts that began in 1992. 

“A CIA officer could file his retirement papers, turn in his blue identification badge, go to work for a much better salary at a military contractor such as Lockheed Martin or Booz Allen Hamilton, then return to the CIA the next day, wearing a green badge….” 

Seal of the Central Intelligence Agency.svg

Much of the CIA became totally dependent on mercenaries. They appeared to work for the agency, but their loyalty was actually to their private–and higher-paying—companies.

Writes Weiner: “Legions of CIA veterans quit their posts to sell their services to the agency by writing analyses, creating cover for overseas officers, setting up communications networks, and running clandestine operations.”

One such company was Total Intelligence Solutions, founded in 2007 by Cofer Black, who had been the chief of the CIA’s counter-terrorism center on 9/11. His partners were Robert Richer, formerly the associate deputy director of operations at the CIA, and Enrique Prado, who had been Black’s chief of counter-terror operations at the agency.

Future CIA hires followed suit: Serve for five years, win that prized CIA “credential” and sign up with a private security company to enrich yourself.  

This situation met with full support from Right-wing “pro-business” members of Congress and President George W. Bush.

They had long championed the private sector as inherently superior to the public one. And they saw no danger that a man dedicated to enriching himself might put greed ahead of safeguarding his country.

But there are dangers to hiring men whose first love is profit. Recent examples include:

  • Edward Snowden deliberately joined Booz Allen Hamilton to secure a job as a computer systems administrator at the National Security Agency (NSA). This gave him access to thousands of highly classified documents—which, in 2013, he began publicly leaking to a wide range of news organizations. 
  • His motive, he claimed, was to warn Americans of the privacy-invading dangers posed by their own Intelligence agencies.
  • On March 7, 2017, WikiLeaks published a “data dump” of 8,761 documents codenamed “Vault 7.”
  • The documents exposed that the CIA had found security flaws in software operating systems such as Microsoft Windows, Android and Apple iOS. These allowed an intruder—such as the CIA—to seize control of a computer or smartphone. The owner could then be photographed through his iPhone camera and have his text messages intercepted.
  • According to anonymous U.S. Intelligence and law enforcement sources, the culprits were CIA contract employees. 

But there are others who have offered a timely warning against the use of mercenaries. One of these is Niccolo Machiavelli, the Florentine statesman of the Renaissance. 

Image result for Images of Niccolo Machiavelli

Niccolo Machiavelli

In The Prince, Machiavelli writes:

“Mercenaries…are useless and dangerous. And if a prince holds on to his state by means of mercenary armies, he will never be stable or secure. For they are disunited, ambitious, without discipline, disloyal. They are brave among friends; among enemies they are cowards.

“They have neither the fear of God nor fidelity to man, and destruction is deferred only as the attack is. For in peace one is robbed by them, and in war by the enemy. 

“The cause of this is that they have no love or other motive to keep them in the field beyond a trifling wage, which is not enough to make them ready to die for you.”

Centuries after Machiavelli’s warning, Americans are realizing the bitter truth of it firsthand.

IN MICHIGAN, STUPIDITY RULES, COVID-19 REIGNS: PART FOUR (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on April 15, 2021 at 12:05 am

On October 2,  2020, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that ruled Michigan’s Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer had no authority to issue or renew executive orders relating to Covid-19 beyond April 30.

On October 12, the Republican-dominated Court denied Whitmer’s request to delay the effect of an opinion that ruled her stay-at-home executive orders on the coronavirus pandemic were unconstitutional.

In its order, the Court wrote: “Our decision today….leaves open many avenues for our Governor and Legislature to work together in a cooperative spirit and constitutional manner to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Major cases likely to be decided by Michigan Supreme Court this week | Michigan Radio

Michigan Supreme Court

This ignored the fact that Whitmer faced an openly hostile Republican legislature—whose members acted in lockstep with the agenda of President Donald Trump. 

The Court also ignored that without significant changes in popular behavior—such as those mandated by Whitmer’s stay-at-home and wear-a-mask-in-public orders—the Coronavirus would run rampant through the state.

On November 16, Whitmer accused Republican leaders in the Michigan legislature of offering no answers for how to combat a new surge in COVID-19.

“When I see the criticisms, it just doesn’t seem particularly serious because they haven’t done anything and they haven’t offered up anything. In fact, I think that they have recklessly endangered their colleagues and all of you.”  

Essential credit union employees in Mich. eligible for education perks | Credit Union Journal | American Banker

Gretchen Whitmer

“The Senate Republicans still have faith in our fellow citizens and encourage them to protect themselves and others by adhering to the practices we know can help combat the spread of this insidious virus: washing hands, maintaining distance, and wearing a mask when it’s appropriate,” said Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey. 

This ignored the reality that, without significant penalties for irresponsible behavior, those who complied with such precautions would be at the mercy of those who refused to do so.

On March 11, 2021, the Republican-controlled Michigan Senate authorized a lawsuit against Whitmer, setting up a potential legal fight over millions of dollars in COVID-19 relief funds tied to limits on the administration’s power.

The lawsuit seeks to limit the state Department of Health and Human Services’ epidemic orders to 28 days and shift decisions on school closures from the state department to local health agencies.

Whitmer opposes the bills. 

It “defies common sense that the Legislature would try to block money from going to schools to help children learn in-person safely,” said Bobby Leddy, Whitmer’s spokesman.

“Governor Whitmer will do everything she can to ensure that funding is available to families, small businesses, schools and communities across the state because we can’t afford to wait.”

Michigan’s surge is a combination of two factors: The spread of the B.1.1.7 variant combined with people refusing to “mask up,” socially distance and keep businesses closed until enough residents are vaccinated. 

It takes about two weeks after the Pfizer and Moderna second doses and about two weeks after the Johnson & Johnson vaccine before people are immune. Meanwhile, the incubation period, which is the time from when you are exposed to when you are infected with coronavirus, is four to five days.

With the administration of President Joe Biden ramping up COVID vaccinations as that of Trump never did, Whitmer has pressed for more vaccine doses.

But on April 12, 2021, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that wouldn’t solve the problem:

“When you have an acute situation, extraordinary number of cases like we have in Michigan, the answer is not necessarily to give vaccine. In fact, we know that the vaccine will have a delayed response.

“The answer to that is to really close things down, to go back to our basics, to go back to where we were last spring, last summer, and to shut things down.”

Which is precisely what the Republican-dominated Michigan legislature fervently opposes.

On January 28, 2021, House Speaker Jason Wentworth said his caucus wanted students back in classrooms as quickly as possible. And Wentworth and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey criticized a 25% capacity limit Whitmer’s administration had put in place for restaurants and bars once they reopened for indoor dining on February 1.

By January 28, 83,240 Americans had died of COVID, surpassing the previous record set in December, 2020, of 77,486 deaths.

And what is happening in Michigan—the premature re-opening of businesses and the widespread refusal of citizens  to mask-up and socially distance—is happening throughout the rest of the United States. 

As a result, “The Fourth Surge Is Upon Us. This Time, It’s Different,” warns a March 30 story in The Atlantic.  Its sub-headline states: “A deadlier and more transmissible variant has taken root, but now we have the tools to stop it if we want.”

Several governors—such as Ron DeSantis of Florida and Greg Abbott of Texas—have thrown caution to the winds and refused to mandate mask wearing and social distancing. In doing so, they have condemned untold numbers of their fellow citizens to an early death.

Other governors—such as Gretchen Whitmer and Andrew Cuomo of New York—have aggressively fought COVID-19 with all the weapons at their command. 

When the history of the COVID epidemic is written, it is the latter who will be remembered as heroes in a time of fear and loss.

IN MICHIGAN, STUPIDITY RULES, COVID-19 REIGNS: PART THREE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on April 14, 2021 at 12:23 am

From the moment Michigan’s Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued her stay-at-home order to stem the COVID-19 pandemic in Michigan, she became a target for President Donald Trump.

On September 29, Trump faced off with his Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden, in the first of three scheduled Presidential debates.

When Trump refused to condemn white supremacists, moderator Chris Wallace challenged him to do so. 

“What do you want me to call them?” asked Trump. “Give me a name.”

Biden suggested the Proud Boys, a violent Right-wing group.

Trump’s response: “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by. But I’ll tell you what, I’ll tell you what, somebody’s got to do something about Antifa and the Left, because this is not a Right-wing problem.” 

President Trump's Proud Boys comments stir up Kalamazoo residents | WWMT

Donald Trump

On October 8, 2020, 13 Right-wingers were arrested and charged in a terrorism plot to kidnap Whitmer. The terrorists intended to overthrow several state governments that they “believe are violating the US Constitution,” including the government of Michigan, according to a federal criminal complaint.

Six of the would-be kidnappers were charged federally with conspiracy to kidnap. Seven others associated with the militia group “Wolverine Watchmen,” were charged by the state. 

Interviewed on TV that afternoon, Whitmer said: “I knew this job would be hard, but I’ll be honest, I never could’ve imagined anything like this.

“Just last week, the President of the United States stood before the American people and refused to condemn white supremacists and hate groups like these two Michigan militia groups.

“‘Stand back and stand by,’ he told them….Hate groups heard the President’s words not as a rebuke, but as a rallying cry, as a call to action. When our leaders speak, their words matter. They carry weight.” 

The scheme included plans to overthrow several state governments that the suspects “believe are violating the US Constitution,” including the government of Michigan, according to a federal criminal complaint.

Bond unlikely for suspects in Whitmer kidnapping case

Right-wing suspects in Whitmer kidnapping plot

Their chief grievance: Whitmer’s stay-at-home order to control the fast-moving spread of Coronavirus throughout Michigan. By no small coincidence, that happened to be the theme of Trump’s attacks on her.

The FBI learned of the plot in early 2020 through a social media group of individuals. Agents persuaded a confidential informant to travel to Dublin, Ohio, on June 6 for a meeting with about 16 plotters.

“Several members talked about murdering ‘tyrants’ or ‘taking’ a sitting governor,” according to a complaint. 

Needing reinforcements, one of the conspirators, Adam Fox, contacted a Michigan-based militia group.

”…Fox said he needed ‘200 men’ to storm the Capitol building in Lansing and take hostages, including Whitmer, said the criminal complaint.

Fox said they would kidnap and try Whitmer for “treason” before the November 2020 elections.

The verdict could only have been death.

On June 20, the conspirators met at Fox’s business in Grand Rapids. 

FBI agent injured in fatal Dexter crash - mlive.com

The FBI seal

The attendees discussed plans for assaulting the Michigan State Capitol, countering law enforcement first responders, and using ‘Molotov cocktails’ to destroy police vehicles.

On January 6, 2021, thousands of Trump’s followers would assault the United States Capitol Building—to stop the counting of Electoral College votes certain to elect former Vice President Joe Biden over Trump.

In a video Fox live-streamed to a private Facebook group, he complained about the judicial system and the state of Michigan controlling the opening of gyms.

During one meeting, Fox said: “Snatch and grab, man. Grab the fuckin’ Governor. Just grab the bitch. Because at that point, we do that, dude—it’s over.” 

“Have one person go to her house. Knock on the door and when she answers it just cap [shoot] her,” one of the men said in an encrypted group chat.

Trump’s response to the kidnapping plot swiftly followed: “Governor Whitmer of Michigan has done a terrible job,” he tweeted. “She locked down her state for everyone, except her husband’s boating activities.”

In an interview on CNN on October 8, Whitmer said: “You know, the fact that after a plot to kidnap and to kill me, this is what they come out with. They start attacking me, as opposed to what good, decent people would do, [which] is to check in and say, ‘Are you OK?’” 

Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden telephoned her immediately to express his sympathy after the announcement of the failed plot.

“I think that tells you everything that’s at stake in this election,” Whitmer said. “It tells you everything you need to know about the character of the two people on this ballot that we have to choose from in a few weeks.”

Joe Biden presidential portrait.jpg

Joe Biden

Having escaped death, Whitmer soon suffered a major defeat.

On October 2,  the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that ruled Whitmer had no authority to issue or renew executive orders relating to Covid-19 beyond April 30.

“Today’s Supreme Court ruling, handed down by a narrow majority of Republican justices, is deeply disappointing, and I vehemently disagree with the court’s interpretation of the Michigan Constitution,” Whitmer responded in a statement.

“Right now, every state and the federal government have some form of declared emergency. With this decision, Michigan will become the sole outlier at a time when the Upper Peninsula is experiencing rates of COVID infection not seen in our state since April.”

IN MICHIGAN, STUPIDITY RULES, COVID-19 REIGNS: PART TWO (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on April 13, 2021 at 12:16 am

On April 1, 2020, in response to the widespread calamities inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued Executive Order 2020-33. This declared both a state of emergency and a state of disaster across Michigan.

By April 8, 2020, COVID-19 had infected 20,346 Michigan residents and claimed 959 lives. As a result, on April 9, Whitmer reaffirmed and extended the measures set forth in Executive Order 2020-21. Her order stated:

  • Michigan residents must stay at home or at their place of residence.
  • All public and private gatherings of any number of people occurring among persons not part of a single household were prohibited.
  • All individuals who leave their home or place of residence must adhere to social distancing measures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), including remaining at least six feet from people from outside the individual’s household to the extent feasible under the circumstances.

On April 9, Whitmer extended the anti-Coronavirus measures set forth in her March 10 Executive Order 2020-4. Among these:

  • No person or entity shall operate a business or conduct operations that require workers to leave their homes or places of residence unless those workers are necessary to sustain or protect life or to conduct minimum basic operations.
  • “Essential workers” were defined as those “necessary to sustain or protect life.”

KXAN Austin

Governor Gretchen Whitmer

Individuals were allowed to leave their home and travel as necessary to:

  • Engage in outdoor physical activity, so long as they stayed at least six feet from people from outside their own household.
  • Perform their jobs as critical infrastructure workers after being so designated by their employers.
  • Perform necessary government activities.
  • Obtain necessary services or supplies for themselves, their family or household members, their pets, and their vehicles.
  • Care for minors, dependents, the elderly, persons with disabilities, or other vulnerable persons.
  • Visit an individual under the care of a health care facility, residential care facility, or congregate care facility.
  • Attend legal proceedings or hearings for essential or emergency purposes as ordered by a court.
  • Work or volunteer for businesses or operations that provide food, shelter, and other necessities of life for those who are poor, disabled, or suffering because of the COVID-19 emergency.

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

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Yet President Donald Trump 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 had Democratic governors—and had been targeted for Right-wing protests. Large numbers of men and women stood closely together, with most of them not wearing masks. They claimed their “freedoms” were being infringed upon.

Whitmer, who had defied the Republican legislature by extending her stay-at-home order, was denounced as a Nazi, with protesters displaying signs like “Heil Whtmer.” 

SARS-CoV-2 without background.png

Coronavirus

On April 30, a protest at the Michigan Capitol Building featured treasonous Confederate flags and hangman’s nooses. Some signs displayed swastikas. Many of the demonstrators were armed with AK-47s.

That protest was organized by the Michigan Conservative Coalition, a group co-founded by a GOP state representative and his wife, who was on the advisory board for an official Trump campaign group called Women for Trump and was also the co-founder of Michigan Trump Republicans.

Another event promoter, Greg McNeilly, was a longtime political adviser to the wealthy DeVos family, which included Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and her brother, Erik Prince, founder of the notorious Blackwater mercenary group.

On May 1, Trump aimed a tweet at Whitmer: “These are very good people, but they are angry. They want their lives back again, safely! See them, talk to them, make a deal.”

Also on May 1, demonstrators—many of them heavily armed—again descended on the state capital in Lansing, protesting Whitmer’s extension of her emergency declaration that kept some businesses closed amidst the plague. And, once again, President Trump sided with the protesters.

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 see it before.”

Trump had two hidden agendas for ending “stay-at-home” orders.

First, from the moment he took office on January 20, 2017, he had claimed credit for a booming economy—even though this was largely the creation of his predecessor, Barack Obama.

Now, with thousands of businesses closed because of Coronavirus, that economy was essentially dead. 

Trump knew that Presidents who preside over faltering economies usually don’t win a second term. And Trump not only lusted to win a second term but—as he had repeatedly “joked”—become “President-for-Life.”

Second, Trump was desperate to return to his Nuremberg-style rallies. There he could hurl insults at virtually everyone and bask in the fanatical worship of his followers. These rallies acted as fuel to his campaign.

IN MICHIGAN, STUPIDITY RULES, COVID-19 REIGNS: PART ONE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on April 12, 2021 at 12:08 am

Michigan is now battling the biggest surge of new COVID-19 cases in the nation.

The state has surpassed 100,000 active COVID-19 cases in the last week, the highest number since mid-November. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Michigan’s COVID-19 infection rate as No. 1 in the country—with 492.1 positive infections per 100,000 people.

Hospitals throughout Michigan are reporting a 30% increase in hospital admissions over the past week.

The culprit seems to be the B-117 variant, also known as the U.K. variant, a more deadly and transmissible mutant comprising 70% of new coronavirus cases in Michigan, according to state and CDC data. 

The state has the highest number of U.K. variant cases in the nation, according to the CDC.

Contributing to the meltdown: The refusal of Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer to roll back already loosened regulations for reopening the state, which now allows for 50% in-door dining at restaurants and public schools to reopen for in-class learning.

Seal of Michigan.svg

State Seal of Michigan

During an April 9 news conference, Whitmer urged residents to avoid indoor dining for two weeks and for high schools to consider going back to virtual learning for two weeks.

“To be very clear, these are not orders, mandates, or requirements. A year in, we all know what works and this has to be a team effort. We have to do this together. Lives depend on it,” Whitmer said.

“There’s light at the end of this tunnel, but the recent rise in cases is a reminder that we are still in the tunnel. That’s the nature of this virus, the second we let our guard down it comes roaring back.”

Whitmer had previously issued stringent stay-at-home orders and urged Michigan residents to wear masks when they ventured out in public. This won her opposition from the Republican-dominated legislature and President Donald Trump—and even made her the target of a Right-wing kidnapping plot.

On October 8, 2020, the FBI arrested 13 people for that plot.

The scheme included plans to overthrow several state governments that the suspects “believe are violating the US Constitution,” including the government of Michigan, according to a federal criminal complaint.

Six people were charged federally with conspiracy to kidnap. Seven other people, associated with the militia group “Wolverine Watchmen,” were charged by the state.  

“The individuals in (state) custody are suspected to have attempted to identify the home addresses of law enforcement officers in order to target them, made threats of violence intended to instigate a civil war, and engaged in planning and training for an operation to attack the capitol building of Michigan and to kidnap government officials, including the governor of Michigan,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said at a press conference.

Whitmer had become a major target of President  Trump in March, 2020,. when she tried to obtain urgently-needed medical supplies for Michigan hospitals coping with a flood of Coronavirus cases.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (cropped).jpg

Gretchen Whitmer

Julia Pickett / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

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—officially in charge of the White House’s Coronavirus 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.”

Echoing French King Louis XIV’s boast, “I am the State,” 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.  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.”

Image result for Public domain images of Donald Trump

Donald Trump

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.”

On March 10, 2020, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services identified the first two presumptive-positive cases of COVID-19 in Michigan. On that same day, Whitmer issued Executive Order 2020-4, which declared a state of emergency across the state of Michigan. 

In the three weeks that followed, the virus spread across Michigan, bringing deaths in the hundreds, confirmed cases in the thousands, and deep disruption to the state’s economy, homes, and educational, civic, social, and religious institutions.

On April 1, 2020, in response to the widespread calamities inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Whitmer issued Executive Order 2020-33. This declared both a state of emergency and a state of disaster across Michigan.

“STAND BACK AND STAND BY”—FOR A KIDNAPPING: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on October 21, 2020 at 12:26 am

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer was born on August 23, 1971. She earned a BA degree in Communications from Michigan State University in 1993 and a Juris Doctor from Detroit College of Law at Michigan State University in 1998.

In 2000, she ran for the Michigan House of Representatives and was elected to represent the 23rd legislative district. She was reelected in 2002 and 2004. In March, 2006, Whitmer won a special election to the Michigan State Senate. She was elected to a full term in November, and reelected in 2010. Owing to term limits, she couldn’t run for reelection in 2014 and left office in 2015.

On June 21, 2016, judges of Michigan’s 30th Judicial Circuit Court unanimously selected Whtmer as Ingham County Prosecutor. Outgoing prosecutor Stuart Dunnings had been arrested on March 14, 2016, and charged with 11 counts of involvement with a prostitute. Whitmer served the remaining six months of his term, which expired in December, 2016.

On November 6, 2018, Whtmer was elected to a four-year term as Governor of Michigan. 

Standing five-feet-eight-inches tall and with a slender physique, Whitmer bears a striking resemblance to Bridget Moynahan, who plays District Attorney Erin Reagan on the CBS police drama, “Blue Bloods.”

Governor Whitmer Headshot

Gretchen Whitmer

She has two daughters from her first marriage. In 2011, she married dentist Marc P. Mallory, who has three children from his own previous marriage. They live in East Lansing, Michigan, with their children. 

From the moment Whitmer issued her stay-at-home order to stem the COVID-19 pandemic in Michigan, she became a target for President Donald Trump.

On September 29, Trump faced off with his Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden, in the first of three scheduled Presidential debates.

When Trump refused to condemn white supremacists, moderator Chris Wallace challenged him to do so. 

“What do you want me to call them?” asked Trump. “Give me a name.”

Biden suggested the Proud Boys, a violent Right-wing group.

Trump’s response: “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by. But I’ll tell you what, I’ll tell you what, somebody’s got to do something about Antifa and the Left, because this is not a Right-wing problem.” 

President Trump's Proud Boys comments stir up Kalamazoo residents | WWMT

Donald Trump

On October 8, 13 Right-wingers were charged in a terrorism plot to kidnap Whtmer. The terrorists intended to overthrow several state governments that they “believe are violating the US Constitution,” including the government of Michigan, according to a federal criminal complaint.

Interviewed on TV that afternoon, Whitmer said: “I knew this job would be hard, but I’ll be honest, I never could’ve imagined anything like this.

“Just last week, the President of the United States stood before the American people and refused to condemn white supremacists and hate groups like these two Michigan militia groups.

“‘Stand back and stand by,’ he told them….Hate groups heard the President’s words not as a rebuke, but as a rallying cry, as a call to action. When our leaders speak, their words matter. They carry weight.” 

Trump’s response to the kidnapping plot swiftly followed: “Governor Whitmer of Michigan has done a terrible job,” he tweeted. “She locked down her state for everyone, except her husband’s boating activities.”

Trump claimed credit for the arrests: It was “my Justice Department” that foiled the kidnapping. The credit actually belongs to the Michigan Justice Department, the FBI which Trump is attacking, and local police.

In an interview on CNN on October 8, Whitmer said: “You know, the fact that after a plot to kidnap and to kill me, this is what they come out with. They start attacking me, as opposed to what good, decent people would do, [which] is to check in and say, ‘Are you OK?’”

Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden telephoned her immediately after the announcement of the failed plot. “I think that tells you everything that’s at stake in this election,” Whitmer said. “It tells you everything you need to know about the character of the two people on this ballot that we have to choose from in a few weeks.”

Joe Biden's Next Big Decision: Choosing A Running Mate | Voice of America - English

Joe Biden

The plot had been known to the FBI for months. The agency arranged for a confidential informant to travel to Dublin, Ohio, on June 6 for a meeting with about 15 of the conspirators.

“Several members talked about murdering ‘tyrants’ or ‘taking’ a sitting governor,” according to the federal criminal complaint.

In several recorded conversations, plotter Adam Fox said he needed “200 men” to storm the Capitol building in Lansing and take hostages, including Whitmer. He explained they would try the governor of Michigan for “treason” and would execute the plan before the November 2020 elections. 

Immediately after discovering the plot, the FBI warned the governor’s security detail. Whitmer’s security was greatly tightened. 

In April, Right-wing protesters had rallied at the state Capitol, gridlocking the streets and demanding that Whitmer lift her stay-at-home order. Armed demonstrators entered the state capitol—where it is legal to openly carry firearms—and demanded an end to Michigan’s state of emergency.

Having learned from this near-tragedy, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced on October 16 that residents will not be allowed to open-carry firearms “in a polling place, in any hallway used by voters to enter or exit, or within 100 feet of any entrance to a building in which a polling place is located.”

“STAND BACK AND STAND BY”–FOR A KIDNAPPING: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on October 20, 2020 at 12:04 am

On April 9, Democratic Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer extended the anti-Coronavirus measures set forth in her March 10 Executive Order 2020-4. Among these:

  • No person or entity shall operate a business or conduct operations that require workers to leave their homes or places of residence unless those workers are necessary to sustain or protect life or to conduct minimum basic operations.
  • “Essential workers” were defined as those “necessary to sustain or protect life.”

KXAN Austin

Governor Gretchen Whitmer

Individuals were allowed to leave their home and travel as necessary to:

  • Engage in outdoor physical activity, so long as they stayed at least six feet from people from outside their own household.
  • Perform their jobs as critical infrastructure workers after being so designated by their employers.
  • Perform necessary government activities.
  • Obtain necessary services or supplies for themselves, their family or household members, their pets, and their vehicles.
  • Care for a family member or a family member’s pet in another household.
  • Care for minors, dependents, the elderly, persons with disabilities, or other vulnerable persons.
  • Visit an individual under the care of a health care facility, residential care facility, or congregate care facility.
  • Attend legal proceedings or hearings for essential or emergency purposes as ordered by a court.
  • Work or volunteer for businesses or operations that provide food, shelter, and other necessities of life for those who are poor, disabled, or suffering because of the COVID-19 emergency.
  • Attend a funeral, provided that no more than 10 people are in attendance.

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

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Yet President Donald Trump 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 had Democratic governors—and had been targeted for Right-wing protests. Large numbers of men and women stood closely together, with most of them not wearing masks. They claimed their “freedoms” were being infringed upon.

Whitmer, who had defied the Republican legislature by extending her stay-at-home order, was denounced as a Nazi, with protesters displaying signs like “Heil Whtmer.” 

(It is a hallmark of Right-wingers to accuse their opponents of being what they are themselves—Fascists.) 

On April 30, a protest at the Michigan Capitol Building featured treasonous Confederate flags and hangman’s nooses. Some signs displayed swastikas. Many of the demonstrators were armed with AK-47s.

That protest was organized by the Michigan Conservative Coalition, a group co-founded by a GOP state representative and his wife, who is on the advisory board for an official Trump campaign group called Women for Trump and is also the co-founder of Michigan Trump Republicans.

Another of the event’s promoters, Greg McNeilly, is a longtime political adviser to the wealthy DeVos family, which includes Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and her brother, Erik Prince, founder of the notorious Blackwater mercenary group.

On May 1, demonstrators—many of them heavily armed—again descended on the state capital in Lansing, protesting Whitmer’s extension of her emergency declaration that kept some businesses closed amidst the plague. And, once again, President Trump sided with the protesters.

On May 1, Trump tweeted in support of the Michigan demonstrators. Just as German Fuhrer Adolf Hitler blamed his opponents for the violence he stoked, so did Trump. Aiming his tweet at Whitmer, he wrote: “These are very good people, but they are angry. They want their lives back again, safely! See them, talk to them, make a deal.”

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.”

Trump had two hidden agendas for ending “stay-at-home” orders.

First, from the moment he took office on January 20, 2017, he had claimed credit for a booming economy—even though this was largely the creation of his predecessor, Barack Obama.

Now, with thousands of businesses closed because of Coronavirus, that economy was essentially dead.

SARS-CoV-2 without background.png

Coronavirus

Trump knew that Presidents who preside over faltering economies usually don’t win a second term. And Trump not only lusted to win a second term but—as he has repeatedly “joked”—become “President-for-Life.”

Second, Trump was desperate to return to his Nuremberg-style rallies. There he could hurl insults at virtually everyone and bask in the fanatical worship of his followers. These rallies acted as fuel to his campaign.

So now he went to any lengths to “reopen” the country–including soliciting violent resistance to the laws of governors he didn’t like.

“STAND BACK AND STAND BY”–FOR A KIDNAPPING: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on October 19, 2020 at 12:08 am

It could have been the plot for a Frederick Forsythe novel.

It was Forsythe who wrote The Day of the Jackal, the fictional account of a Right-wing plot to assassinate French President Charles de Gaulle. 

Another Forsythe novel, The Dogs of War, focused on a group of mercenaries hired to overthrow the ruler of a small African country and install a brutal dictator in his place.

So Forsythe was probably not surprised when he learned, on October 8, that 13 people were charged with plotting to kidnap Michigan Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

The scheme included plans to overthrow several state governments that the suspects “believe are violating the US Constitution,” including the government of Michigan, according to a federal criminal complaint.

Six people were charged federally with conspiracy to kidnap. Seven other people, associated with the militia group “Wolverine Watchmen,” were charged by the state.  

“The individuals in (state) custody are suspected to have attempted to identify the home addresses of law enforcement officers in order to target them, made threats of violence intended to instigate a civil war, and engaged in planning and training for an operation to attack the capitol building of Michigan and to kidnap government officials, including the governor of Michigan,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said at a press conference.

Whitmer had become a major target of President Donald Trump in March, when she tried to obtain urgently-needed medical supplies for Michigan hospitals coping with a flood of Coronavirus cases.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (cropped).jpg

Gretchen Whitmer

Julia Pickett / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

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 Coronavirus 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.”

Echoing French King Louis XIV’s boast, “I am the State,” 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.  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.”

Image result for Public domain images of Donald Trump

Donald Trump

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.”

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?”

And it was followed by a sub-headline: “He’s providing vital resources to red states and ignoring blue states.”

Florida submitted a request to the Federal Emergency Management Agency 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.

It received an identical shipment on March 23, and was awaiting a third.

On March 10, 2020, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services identified the first two presumptive-positive cases of COVID-19 in Michigan. On that same day, Whitmer issued Executive Order 2020-4, which declared a state of emergency across the state of Michigan. 

Seal of Michigan.svg

State Seal of Michigan

In the three weeks that followed, the virus spread across Michigan, bringing deaths in the hundreds, confirmed cases in the thousands, and deep disruption to the state’s economy, homes, and educational, civic, social, and religious institutions.

On April 1, 2020, in response to the widespread calamities inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Whitmer issued Executive Order 2020-33. This declared both a state of emergency and a state of disaster across Michigan.

By April 8, 2020, COVID-19 had infected 20,346 Michigan residents and claimed 959 lives. 

As a result, on April 9, Whitmer reaffirmed and extended the measures set forth in Executive Order 2020-21. Her order stated:

  • Michigan residents must stay at home or at their place of residence.
  • All public and private gatherings of any number of people occurring among persons not part of a single household were prohibited.
  • All individuals who leave their home or place of residence must adhere to social distancing measures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), including remaining at least six feet from people from outside the individual’s household to the extent feasible under the circumstances.

MARCHING TOWARD DEATH

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on May 11, 2020 at 12:06 am

On April 17, more than 100 protesters converged on Huntington Beach, California, in a demonstration against the state’s  Coronavirus stay-at-home order.

It was part of a series of national demonstrations organized by Right-wing groups.

Many of the protesters carried Trump banners and American flags. Most were not wearing masks or practicing social distancing—keeping themselves at least six feet apart from others. And they defied scientific findings and medical experts’ warnings, as if daring the virus to “come and get me.” 

“I don’t think there’s any reason for us to be on lockdown now,” said 62-year-old Paula Doyle. “We didn’t have any dangers; we have no danger in our hospitals now of overflowing.” 

Protesters in Newport Beach object to California's stay-at-home ...

That’s because California’s quick closure of businesses and its order that residents stay home has prevented Coronavirus from reaching epic proportions in the state. Many hospitals have been left largely empty, waiting for a surge that has yet to come.

On April 18, when more than 31,000 Americans lay dead of the Coronavirus, and more than 90% of the country was under stay-at-home orders. demonstrations erupted across the United States.

An estimated 400 people gathered in Concord, New Hampshire. A rally outside Maryland’s statehouse in Annapolis drew about 200 protesters.

More than 250 people showed up at Austin, Texas. Other protests occurred at the capitols of Minnesota, Michigan and Virginia.

President Donald Trump has been the primary instigator of such protests. He says he favors a quick return to normal practices and the reopening of businesses across the country.

But what he favors most of all is a return to his Nuremberg-like political rallies, where he can bask in the worship of his fanatical base and hurl slanders at virtually everyone he dislikes. And he can’t do that so long as mass demonstrations are banned—and people must stand at least six feet apart.

There are two factors to these protests that are truly astounding.

First, many of the protesters attack the governors who have issued stay-at-home orders as fascists. This is a hallmark of Right-wing politics—accusing their opponents of being what they are themselves.

One protester at the Huntington Beach demonstration carried a sign that read: “Defy Fascist Lockdown.”

And Michigan Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who has defied the Republican legislature by extending her stay-at-home order, has been denounced as a Nazi, with protesters displaying signs like “Heil Whtmer.”  

Second, the protesters have utterly rejected the rising death-toll caused by the virus. At present, this stands at 80,574. It’s a certainty to reach 100,000 before the end of May.

Medical experts universally say that stopping the chain of transmission to avoid overwhelming medical systems is the only way to buy time while treatments and vaccines are developed.

Yet for these protesters, it’s as if the rising body count isn’t happening. 

Some of the rallies are being pushed by Republican-allied groups in battleground states with Democratic governors. The April 30 protest at the Michigan Capitol Building featured treasonous Confederate flags and hangman’s nooses. Some signs displayed swastikas. Many of the demonstrators were armed with AK-47s.

That protest was organized by the Michigan Conservative Coalition, a group co-founded by a GOP state representative and his wife, who is on the advisory board for an official Trump campaign group called Women for Trump and is also the co-founder of Michigan Trump Republicans.

Another of the event’s promoters, Greg McNeilly, is a longtime political adviser to the wealthy DeVos family, which includes Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and her brother, Erik Prince, founder of the notorious Blackwater mercenary group. 

On May 1, President Trump tweeted in support of the Michigan demonstrators. Just as German Fuhrer Adolf Hitler blamed his opponents for the violence he stoked, so did Trump: “These are very good people, but they are angry. They want their lives back again, safely! See them, talk to them, make a deal.”

Wisconsinites Against Excessive Quarantine was created by Ben Dorr. He leads Minnesota Gun Rights. He has promoted Facebook groups protesting the guidelines.

Republicans’ disdain for education in general—and science in particular—has led to the following: In March, an NBC News poll found that only 30% of Republicans said that they would actually listen to the advice of doctors to stay away from large, crowded areas to avoid Coronavirus.

These are the same people who get their version of reality from Right-wing sources like Fox News Network and Rush Limbaugh. 

Rush Limbaugh

On his March 27 show, Limbaugh dismissed Coronavirus as “the common cold,” then added: “We didn’t elect a president to defer to a bunch of health experts that we don’t know

“And how do we know they’re even health experts? Well, they wear white lab coats, and they’ve been in the job for a while, and they’re at the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and they’re at the NIH [National Institutes of Health] and they’re up, well—yeah, they’ve been there, and they are there.”

In 2015, Limbaugh said: “Firsthand smoke takes 50 years to kill people, if it does. Not everybody that smokes gets cancer. Now, it’s true that everybody who smokes dies, but so does everyone who eats carrots.”

Five years later, in February, 2020, Limbaugh—a longtime and heavy cigar smoker—announced that he had Stage Four lung cancer.

MERCENARIES: “PATRIOTISM” FOR PROFIT

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on August 27, 2018 at 12:07 am

The United States has been fighting in Afghanistan for almost 17 years—with no end in sight. 

Between 2001 and 2017, America spent an estimated $714 billion on this conflict.

Now Blackwater founder Erik Prince claims he can attain a victory that has eluded the United States Air Force, Army (including Green Berets) and Navy SEALs.  

His proposed solution: His private army of mercenaries—and $3.5 billion in taxpayer monies. 

Erik Prince.jpg

Erik Prince

By Miller Center [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

In 1997, Prince created Blackwater, a private security company providing support to military and police agencies.

In August, 2003, Blackwater got the first of a series of Federal contracts to deploy its forces in Iraq. For $21 million, it would safeguard Paul Bremer, the proconsul running the American occupation in Iraq. 

Ultimately, Blackwater got $1 billion to provide security for American officials and soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

According to human rights organizations, Blackwater abused Iraqis and engaged in torture to obtain information.

In September, 2007, Blackwater guards killed 17 Iraqi civilians and injured 20 more in a Baghdad traffic circle.

Five guards were charged with murder. Three were convicted in October, 2014, of 14 manslaughter charges and in April 2015 sentenced to 30 years in prison. These sentences were deemed unfair upon appeal and await re-sentencing. 

As a result of its highly controversial activities in Iraq, Prince renamed the company Xe Services in 2009 and then Academi in 2011.

Now, against opposition by the Pentagon, Prince is pressing Trump to let Academi privatize the war in Afghanistan. 

Since the end of the Cold War, the American military and Intelligence communities have grown increasingly dependent on private contractors.

In his 2007 bestseller, Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA, Tim Weiner writes:

“Patriotism for profit became a $50-billion-a-year business….The [CIA] began contracting out thousands of jobs to fill the perceived void by the budget cuts that began in 1992. 

“A CIA officer could file his retirement papers, turn in his blue identification badge, go to work for a much better salary at a military contractor such as Lockheed Martin or Booz Allen Hamilton, then return to the CIA the next day, wearing a green badge….” 

Seal of the Central Intelligence Agency.svg

Much of the CIA became totally dependent on mercenaries. They appeared to work for the agency, but their loyalty was actually to their private–and higher-paying—companies.

Writes Weiner: “Legions of CIA veterans quit their posts to sell their services to the agency by writing analyses, creating cover for overseas officers, setting up communications networks, and running clandestine operations.”

One such company was Total Intelligence Solutions, founded in 2007 by Cofer Black, who had been the chief of the CIA’s counter-terrorism center on 9/11. His partners were Robert Richer, formerly the associate deputy director of operations at the CIA, and Enrique Prado, who had been Black’s chief of counter-terror operations at the agency.

Future CIA hires followed suit: Serve for five years, win that prized CIA “credential” and sign up with a private security company to enrich themselves.  

This situation met with full support from Right-wing “pro-business” members of Congress and President George W. Bush.

They had long championed the private sector as inherently superior to the public one. And they saw no danger that a man dedicated to enriching himself might put greed ahead of safeguarding his country.

But there are dangers to hiring men whose first love is profit. Recent examples include:

  • Edward Snowden deliberately joined Booz Allen Hamilton to secure a job as a computer systems administrator at the National Security Agency (NSA). This gave him access to thousands of highly classified documents—which, in 2013, he began publicly leaking to a wide range of news organizations. 
  • His motive, he has claimed, was to warn Americans of the privacy-invading dangers posed by their own Intelligence agencies.
  • On March 7, 2017, WikiLeaks published a “data dump” of 8,761 documents codenamed “Vault 7.”
  • The documents exposed that the CIA had found security flaws in software operating systems such as Microsoft Windows, Android and Apple iOS. These allowed an intruder—such as the CIA—to seize control of a computer or smartphone. The owner could then be photographed through his iPhone camera and have his text messages intercepted.
  • According to anonymous U.S. Intelligence and law enforcement sources, the culprits were CIA contract employees. 

But there are those who have offered a timely warning against the use of mercenaries. One of these is Niccolo Machiavelli, the Florentine statesman of the Renaissance. 

Image result for Images of Niccolo Machiavelli

Niccolo Machiavelli

In The Prince, Machiavelli writes:

“Mercenaries…are useless and dangerous. And if a prince holds on to his state by means of mercenary armies, he will never be stable or secure. For they are disunited, ambitious, without discipline, disloyal. They are brave among friends; among enemies they are cowards.

“They have neither the fear of God nor fidelity to man, and destruction is deferred only as the attack is. For in peace one is robbed by them, and in war by the enemy. 

“The cause of this is that they have no love or other motive to keep them in the field beyond a trifling wage, which is not enough to make them ready to die for you.”

Centuries after Machiavelli’s warning, Americans are realizing the bitter truth of it firsthand.

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