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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michael T Flynn.jpg

Michael T. Flynn

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

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

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

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

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

Image result for Image of Attorney General Sally Yates

Sally Yates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

James Comey official portrait.jpg

James B. Comey

There were four reasons for this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Director Robert S. Mueller- III.jpg

Robert S. Mueller III

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Donald Trump, Jr.

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

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

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

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

Vladimir Putin (2020-02-20).jpg

Vladimir Putin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yet the chief beneficiary of his treasonous reign turned out to be the former Soviet Union.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image result for Images of Clinton Watts

Clinton Watts

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

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

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

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

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

Secretary Tillerson in March 2017.jpg

Rex Tillerson

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

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

It was the discovery of those contacts by the news media that forced Sessions to recuse himself from any Justice Department cases involving Trump and Russia.

All of these—including the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller III—would now be handled by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WITCH HUNT BY GREGG JARRETT HARDCOVER LIKE NEW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gregg Jarrett (49286191086) (cropped).jpg

Gregg Jarrett  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Putin grinned back.

Related image

Donald Trump

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

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

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

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

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

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

PROTECT YOURSELF AGAINST COMPUTER FRAUD

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

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

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

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

Among the online scams to be alert for:

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

Here’s how to protect yourself. 

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

FBI Headquarters

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

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

DEALING WITH CORPORATE ARROGANCE

In Bureaucracy, History, Self-Help, Social commentary on June 3, 2021 at 12:41 am

So you’ve spent the last half-hour or more on the phone, listening to one recorded message after another (and probably a symphony of bad music).

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

What to do?   

  • Go on the Internet and look up the company’s/agency’s website. 
  • Look for links to their Board of Directors. Often enough you’ll get not only their names but their bios, phone numbers and even email addresses.
  • Start looking at the bottom of the website page. Many companies/agencies put this information there—and usually in small print.
  • Look for the names of officials who can help you. That means the ones at the top—or at least high enough so you can be sure that whoever responds to your call/letter/email has the necessary clout to address your problem.
  • If you call, don’t ask to speak directly with Mr. Big—that’s not going to happen. Ask to speak with Mr. Big’s secretary, who is far more accessible.
  • Keep your tone civil, and try to make your call as brief as possible. Don’t go into a lot of background about all the problems you’ve been having getting through to someone.
  • Give the gist and ask for a referral to someone who can help resolve your problem.

  • If the secretary needs more time to study the problem before referring you to someone else, be patient. Answer any questions asked—such as your name, address, phone number and/or email.
  • State—specifically—what you want the company to do to resolve your problem.  If you want a refund or repairs for your product, say so.
  • Too many consumers don’t specify what they want the company to do–they’re so caught up in their rage and frustration that this completely escapes them. 
  • Be reasonable. If you want a refund, then don’t ask for more money than you paid for the product. 
  • If you want to return a product for an exchange, don’t expect the company to give you a new one with even more bells and whistles—unless you’re willing to pay the difference in price.
  • If you want an agency to investigate your complaint, give them time to assess your information and that supplied by others.
  • Give the CEO’s secretary at least one to two days to get back to you. Resolving your problem isn’t the only task she needs to complete.
  • You can usually get one agency to sit on another—if you can make a convincing case that it’s in that secondary agency’s best interests to do so. 
  • If you’ve been roughed up by local police for no good reason, for example, you can file a complaint with that department–-and the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office (federal prosecutor) to investigate.

  • That doesn’t guarantee they will resolve your problem.  But if you can show that the cops have violated several Federal civil rights laws,  the odds are good that someone will take a serious look at your complaint.
  • If a company/agency official has acted so outrageously that the company/agency might now be sued or prosecuted, don’t be afraid to say so. 
  • But don’t threaten to sue. Just point out that the company’s/agency’s reputation for integrity/efficiency is not well-served by such behavior.
  • Whoever reads your letter/email will instantly realize the legal implications of what you’re saying—and will likely take quick action to head off a lawsuit by trying to satisfy your request. Remember: The foremost priority of every bureaucracy is to ensure its own survival..  
  • If you’re writing the CEO, make sure you use his full name and title—and that you spell both correctly. People don’t get to be CEOs without a huge sense of ego. People don’t get to be CEOs without a huge sense of ego. Nothing will turn him off faster than your failing to get his name and title exactly right.
  • As in the case with his secretary, be brief—no more than a page and a half. Outline the problem you’re having and at least some (though not necessarily all) of the steps you’re taken to get it resolved.
  • Then state what you want the company to do.  Again, be fair and reasonable.

If all of this fails, you still have the option to sue. But don’t be in a rush to go to court.  For one thing, you might not have a case that a judge would consider trying.

For another, judges and juries like to feel that you’ve behaved reasonably and done everything short of filing a lawsuit before you actually file one.

If your claim is $10,000 or less, you can file in small claims court. There you won’t need a lawyer—in fact, you’re not allowed to have one. It’s just you and the person you’re suing standing before a judge and explaining your side of the case.

For claims above $10,000, you’ll go to superior court. You aren’t required to have a lawyer, but odds are your opponent will have one. So you’d better be ready to shell out money for one—unless you can find one who’ll take your case on a contingency basis (for a portion of the fee recovered). 

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

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

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

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

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

PERCEIVED WEAKNESS INVITES CONTEMPT

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

Obama standing with his arms folded and smiling.

Barack Obama

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rand Paul

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

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

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

Anwar al-Awlaki

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

But Obama did nothing of the kind.

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

USING TOO MUCH FEAR CAN BACKFIRE

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

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

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

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

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Donald Trump

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And this one:

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on May 27, 2021 at 12:05 am

Is it better to be loved or feared?

That was the question Florentine statesman Niccolo Machiavelli raised more than 500 years ago.

Presidents have struggled to answer this question—and have come to different conclusions.

LOVE ME, FEAR MY BROTHER

Most people felt irresistibly drawn to John F. Kennedy (1961-63). Even his political foe, Henry Luce, the conservative publisher of Time, once said, “He makes me feel like a whore.”

But JFK could afford to bask in the love of others—because his younger brother, Robert, was the one who inspired fear.

Robert F. Kennedy and John F. Kennedy

He had done so as Chief Counsel for the Senate Rackets Committee (1957-59), grilling Mafia bosses and corrupt union officials—most notably Teamsters President James Hoffa.

Appointed Attorney General by JFK, he unleashed the FBI and the IRS on the Mafia. When the steel companies colluded in an inflationary rise in the price of steel in 1962, Bobby sicced the FBI on them.

In 1963, JFK’s cavorting with Ellen Rometsh threatened to destroy his Presidency. Rometsch, a Washington, D.C. call girl, was suspected by the FBI of being an East German spy.

With Republican Senators preparing to investigate the rumors, Bobby ordered Rometsch—a German citizen—deported immediately.

BEING LOVED AND FEARED

In the 1993 movie, A Bronx Tale, 17-year-old Calogero (Lillo Brancato) asks his idol, the local Mafia capo, Sonny (Chazz Palminteri): “Is it better to be loved or feared?”

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Sonny gives advice to his adopted son, Calogero

Sonny says if he had to choose, he would rather be feared. But he adds a warning straight out of Machiavelli: “The trick is not being hated. That’s why I treat my men good, but not too good.

“I give too much, then they don’t need me. I give them just enough where they need me, but they don’t hate me.”

Machiavelli, writing in The Prince, went further:

“Still a Prince should make himself feared in such a way that if he does not gain love, he at any rate avoids hatred, for fear and the absence of hatred may well go together.”

Many who quote Machiavelli in defense of being feared overlook this vital point: It’s essential to avoid becoming hated.

To establish a fearful reputation, a leader must act decisively and ruthlessly when the interests of the organization are threatened. Punitive action must be taken promptly and confidently.

One or two such actions can inspire more fear than a reign of terror.

In fact, it’s actually dangerous to constantly employ cruelties or punishments. Whoever does so, warns Machiavelli, “is always obliged to stand with knife in hand, and can never depend on his subjects, because they, owing to continually fresh injuries, are unable to depend upon him.”

The 20th century President who came closest to realizing Machiavelli’s “loved and feared” prince in himself was Ronald Reagan (1981-1989).

Always smiling, quick with a one-liner (especially at press conferences), seemingly unflappable, he projected a constantly optimistic view of his country and its citizens.

Ronald Reagan

In his acceptance speech at the 1980 Republican National Convention he declared: “[The Democrats] say that the United States…has passed its zenith. My fellow citizens, I utterly reject that view.”

But there was a steely, ruthless side to Reagan that appeared when he felt crossed.

On August 3, 1981, nearly 13,000 air traffic controllers walked out after contract talks with the Federal Aviation Administration collapsed. As a result, some 7,000 flights across the country were canceled on that day at the peak of the summer travel season.

Reagan branded the strike illegal. He threatened to fire any controller who failed to return to work within 48 hours.

On August 5, Reagan fired more than 11,000 air traffic controllers who hadn’t returned to work. The mass firing slowed commercial air travel, but it did not cripple the system as the strikers had forecast.

Reagan’s action stunned the American labor movement. Reagan was the only American President to have belonged to a union, the Screen Actors Guild. He had even been president of this—from 1947 to 1954.

There were no more strikes by Federal workers during Reagan’s tenure in office.

Similarly, Libya’s dictator, Moammar Kadaffi, learned that Reagan was not a man to cross.

On April 5, 1986, Libyan agents bombed a nightclub in West Berlin, killing three people, one a U.S. serviceman. The United States quickly learned that Libyan agents in East Germany were behind the attack.

On April 15, acting on Reagan’s orders, U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps bombers struck at several sites in Tripoli and Benghazi. Reportedly, Kaddafi himself narrowly missed becoming a casualty.

There were no more acts of Libyan terrorism against Americans for the rest of Reagan’s term.

PERCEIVED WEAKNESS INVITES CONTEMPT

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

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

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

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

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

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on May 26, 2021 at 12:25 am

In 1513, Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of political science, wrote his infamous book, The Prince. This may well be its most-quoted part:

“From this arises the question whether it is better to be loved than feared, or feared more than loved. The reply is, that one ought to be both feared and loved, but as it is difficult for the two to go together, it is much safer to be feared than loved. 

“For it may be said of men in general that they are ungrateful, voluble, dissemblers, anxious to avoid danger and covetous of gain. As long as you benefit them, they are entirely yours….when the necessity is remote, but when it approaches, they revolt.

“And the prince who has relied solely on their words, without making other preparations, is ruined. For the friendship which is gained by purchase and not through grandeur and nobility of spirit is bought but not secured, and at a pinch is not to be expended in your service. 

“And men have less scruple in offending one who makes himself loved than one who makes himself feared. For love is held by a chain of obligations which, men being selfish, is broken whenever it serves their purpose. But fear is maintained by a dread of punishment which never fails.”

Portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli by Santi di Tito.jpg

Niccolo Machiavelli

So—which is better: To be feared or loved?

In the 1993 film, A Bronx Tale, 17-year-old Calogero (Lillo Brancato) poses that question to his idol, the local Mafia capo, Sonny (Chazz Palminteri).

“That’s a good question,” Sonny replies. “It’s nice to be both, but it’s very difficult. But if I had my choice, I would rather be feared.

“Fear lasts longer than love. Friendships that are bought with money mean nothing. You see how it is around here. I make a joke, everybody laughs. I know I’m funny, but I’m not that funny. It’s fear that keeps them loyal to me.”

Presidents face the same dilemma as Mafia capos—and resolve it in their own ways.

LOVE ME BECAUSE I NEED TO BE LOVED

Bill Clinton (1993-2001) believed that he could win over his self-appointed Republican enemies through his sheer charm.

Part of this lay in self-confidence: He had won the 1992 and 1996 elections by convincing voters that “I feel your pain.”

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Bill Clinton

And part of it lay in his need to be loved. He once said that if he were in a room with 100 people and 99 of them liked him but one didn’t, he would spend all his time with that one person, trying to win him over.

But while he could charm voters, he could not bring himself to retaliate against his sworn Republican enemies.

On April 19, 1995, Right-wing terrorist Timothy McVeigh drove a truck–packed with 5,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate and nitromethane–to the front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

The explosion killed 168 people, including 19 children in the day care center on the second floor, and injured 684 others.

Suddenly, Republicans were frightened. Since the end of World War II, they had vilified the very Federal Government they belonged to. They had deliberately courted the Right-wing militia groups responsible for the bombing.

So Republicans feared Clinton would now turn their decades of hate against them.

They need not have worried. On April 23, Clinton presided over a memorial service for the victims of the bombing. He gave a moving eulogy—without condemning the hate-filled Republican rhetoric that had at least indirectly led to the slaughter.

Clinton further sought to endear himself to Republicans by:

  • Adopting NAFTA—the Republican-sponsored North American Free Trade Act, which later proved so devastating to American workers;
  • Siding with Republicans against poor Americans on welfare; and
  • Championing the gutting of the Depression-era Glass-Steagall law, which barred investment banks from commercial banking activities.

The result: Republicans believed Clinton was weak—and could be rolled.

In 1998, House Republicans moved to impeach him over a sex scandal with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. But his Presidency survived when the Senate refused to convict.

LOVE ME BECAUSE I’LL HURT YOU IF YOU DON’T

Lyndon Johnson (1963-1969) wanted desperately to be loved.

Once, he complained to Dean Acheson, the former Secretary of State under Harry S. Truman, about the ingratitude of American voters. He had passed far more legislation than his predecessor, John F. Kennedy, and yet Kennedy remained beloved, while he, Johnson, was not.

Why was that? Johnson demanded.

“You are not a very likable man,” said Acheson truthfully.

Image result for Images of Lyndon B. Johnson

Lyndon B. Johnson

Johnson tried to force his subordinates love him. He would humiliate a man, then give him an expensive gift—such a Cadillac. It was his way of binding the man to him.

He was on a first-name basis with J. Edgar Hoover, the longtime director of the FBI. He didn’t hesitate to request—and get—raw FBI files on his political opponents.

On at least one occasion, he told members of his Cabinet: No one would dare walk out on his administration—because if they did, two men would follow their ass to the end of the earth: Mr. J. Edgar Hoover and the head of the Internal Revenue Service.

DE-REGULATION: LET PREDATORS BE PREDATORS

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on May 21, 2021 at 12:09 am

This December 2 will mark the 20th anniversary of the death of a criminal empire. An empire that almost destroyed the Western United States.

The Enron Corporation.

Based in Houston, Texas, Enron had employed 22,000 staffers and was one of the world’s leading electricity, natural gas, communications and paper companies.

In 2000, it claimed revenues of nearly $101 billion. Fortune had named Enron “America’s Most Innovative Company” for six consecutive years.

But then the truth emerged in 2001: Enron’s reported profitability was based not on brilliance and innovation but on systematic and creative accounting fraud.

And, on December 2, 2001, Enron filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy  Code.

Enron’s $63.4 billion in assets made it the largest corporate bankruptcy in U.S. history—until WorldCom’s bankruptcy in 2002.

The California electricity crisis (2000-2001) was caused by extortionate market manipulations and illegal shutdowns of pipelines by Texas energy companies.

California suffered from multiple large-scale blackouts. Pacific Gas & Electric, one of the state’s largest energy companies, collapsed, and the economic fall-out greatly harmed Governor Gray Davis’ standing.

The crisis was made possible by Governor Pete Wilson, who had forced the passage of partial de-regulation legislation in 1996. 

Enron seized its opportunity to inflate prices and manipulate energy output in California’s spot markets. The crisis cost the state $40 to $45 billion.

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The true scandal of Enron was not that it was eventually destroyed by its own greed.

The true scandal was that its leaders were never Federally prosecuted for almost driving California—and the entire Western United States—into bankruptcy.

Under the pro-oil company administration of George W. Bush, no such prosecutions ever occurred. But Americans had a right to expect such redress under “liberal” President Bill Clinton.

Once the news broke that Enron had filed for bankruptcy, commentators almost universally oozed compassion for its thousands of employees who would lose their salaries and pensions.

No one, however, condemned the “profits at any cost” dedication of those same employees for pushing California to the brink of ruin.

To put this in historical perspective:

  • Imagine a historian writing about the destruction of Adolf Hitler’s Schutzstaffel (Guard Detachment), or SS, as a human interest tragedy.
  • Imagine its Reichsfuehrer, Heinrich Himmler, being blamed for failing to prevent its collapse—as CEO Kenneth Lay was blamed for Enron’s demise.
  • Imagine that same historian completely ignoring the horrific role the SS had played throughout Nazi-occupied countries—and its primary role in slaughtering six million Jews in the Holocaust.  

Nor did anyone in the media or government declare that the solution to such extortionate activity lay within the United States Department of Justice via RICO—the Federal Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act.

Seal of the United States Department of Justice.svg

Passed by Congress in 1970, this was originally aimed at the kingpins of the Mafia. Since the mid-1980s, however, RICO has been successfully applied against both terrorist groups and legitimate businesses engaged in criminal activity.

Under RICO, people financially injured by a pattern of criminal activity can bring a claim in State or Federal court, and obtain damages at three times the amount of their actual claim, plus reimbursement for their attorneys’ fees and costs.

Such prosecutions would have pitted energy-extortionists against the full investigative might of the FBI and the sweeping legal  authority of the Justice Department.

Consider this selection from the opening of the Act:

(1) “racketeering activity” means (A) any act or threat involving…extortion; (B) any act which is indictable under any of the following provisions of title 18, United States Code: sections 891-894 (relating to extortionate credit transactions), section 1343 (relating to wire fraud)Section 1344 (relating to financial institution fraud), section 1951 (relating to interference with commerce, robbery, or extortion), section 1952 (relating to racketeering)….

With the 20th anniversary of Enron’s demise coming up, the mantra of “de-regulation” should be ruthlessly turned against those who have most ardently championed it.

Republicans have ingeniously dubbed the estate tax—which affects only a tiny minority of ultra-rich—“the death tax.” This makes it appear to affect everyone.

With the 2022 midterm elections fast approaching, Democrats should recast de-regulation thus:

“Greed Relief” 

“Greed Protection” 

“Legalized Extortion” 

And here are some possible slogans: 

“The Energy Industry: Giving You the Best Congress Money Can Buy.” 

“De-regulation: Let Criminals Be Criminals.”

The coal industry has pumped millions into TV ads touting the non-existent wonders of “clean coal.” And Chevron has spent millions assuring us that all its profits go strictly toward making the world a better place for others. (Presumably not a penny is left for its altruistic executives.)

When faced with such outright lying by the most vested of financial interests, it’s well to recall the warning given by Niccolo Machiavelli more than 500 years ago:

All those who have written upon civil institutions demonstrate…that whoever desires to found a state and give it laws, must start with assuming that all men are bad and ever ready to display their vicious nature, whenever they may find occasion for it.  

If their evil disposition remains concealed for a time, it must be attributed to some unknown reason; and we must assume that it lacked occasion to show itself. But time, which has been said to be the father of all truth, does not fail to bring it to light.

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