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Posts Tagged ‘KGB’

WILL TRUMP-PUTIN GO THE WAY OF HITLER-STALIN?

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 24, 2017 at 10:29 am

The love-fest between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump certainly got off to a great start.

No doubt well-informed on Trump’s notorious egomania, Putin called a press conference to announce: “He is a bright personality, a talented person, no doubt about it. It is not up to us to appraise his positive sides, it is up to the U.S. voters. but, as we can see, he is an absolute leader in the presidential race.”

Vladimir Putin

That was on December 17, 2015.  

Trump didn’t lose any time responding. On the December 18, 2015 edition of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” he said: “Sure, when people call you ‘brilliant,’ it’s always good. Especially when the person heads up Russia. 

“He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader. Unlike what we have in this country”–yet another insult at President Barack Obama.

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Donald Trump

Both Putin and Trump are well-known for their authoritarian characteristics. But more than one dictator’s admiration for another might explain their continuing “bromance.”

Trump has repeatedly attacked United States’ membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). He believes the United States is paying an unfairly large portion of the monies needed to maintain this alliance–and he wants other members to contribute far more.  

He has also said that, if Russia attacked NATO members, he would decide whether to come to their aid only after determining whether those nations have “fulfilled their obligations to us.”

If he believed that they had not done so, he would tell them: “Congratulations, you will be defending yourself.”

For Putin, this clearly signaled a reason to prefer Trump over his 2016 rival, Hillary Clinton. Trump’s statement marked the first time that a major Presidential candidate placed conditions on the United States’ coming to the defense of its major allies.

The withdrawal of the United States from NATO would instantly render that alliance kaput. Its European members that have long hurled insults at the United States would suddenly face extinction.  

Even if their armed forces proved a match for Russia’s–which they wouldn’t–their governments would cower before the threat of Russia’s huge nuclear arsenal.  

Trump’s motives for his “bromance” with Putin are more difficult to decipher.

Some believe that Trump–a notorious egomaniac–is simply responding to an overdoses of Putin flattery.

Others think that, while visiting Moscow, Trump made himself vulnerable to Russian blackmail.

There are unconfirmed Intelligence reports that he paid–and watched–several Russian prostitutes urinate on a bed once slept on by President Obama and his wife at Moscow’s Ritz-Carlton Hotel. The alleged incident was reportedly captured by hidden microphones and cameras operated by the FSB, the successor to the KGB.

A recent “Saturday Night Live” sketch featured a Putin lookalike intimidating Alec Baldwin’s Trump at a press conference–by holding up a video tape marked “Pee-Pee Tape.”

Still others believe that Trump–who has refused to release his tax returns–is deeply in dept to Russian oligarchs.

On July 22, 2016, Wikileaks released 19,252 emails and 8,034 attachments hacked from computers of the highest-ranking officials of the DNC. And they clearly revealed a bias for Hillary Clinton and against her competitor, Bernie Sanders. 

The leak badly embarrassed Clinton. About to receive the Democratic Presidential nomination, she found herself charged with undermining the electoral process. 

Cyber-security experts believed the hacking originated from Russia–and that Putin had authorized it.

Even so, Putin is not the first Communist dictator to find common cause with an avowed Right-winger.

On August 23, 1939, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin signed a “non-aggression pact” with Nazi Germany’s Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler.

Joseph Stalin

The reason: Hitler intended to invade Poland–but feared going to war with the neighboring Soviet Union if he did so. By signing a non-aggression pact with Stalin, he avoided this danger–and gained “rights” to the western half of Poland.  

Adolf Hitler

In addition, Nazi Germany began receiving huge shipments of raw materials from the Soviet Union–as part of Stalin’s effort to placate Hitler and avoid a Nazi-Soviet clash.

And Stalin got something, too: The eastern half of Poland, which would be occupied by the Red Army.

But the Hitler-Stalin alliance lasted less than two years. It ended without warning–on June 22, 1941.

With 134 divisions at full fighting strength and 73 more for deployment behind the front–a total of three million men–the German Wehrmacht invaded the Soviet Union.

Hitler had long intended to obtain “living space” for Germany–in Russia. By 1941, having conquered most of Europe, he felt strong enough to embark on his great crusade.

There are three ways Putin may come to regret his “bromance” with Trump.  

First: Trump may be not be able to lift the sanctions imposed on Russia by President Obama for interfering in the 2016 election.  

Second: Increasing political pressure on Trump by Democrats and even Republicans for that interference may result in even tougher action against Russia.

And third: Trump is known for his egomania, not his loyalty. He may take offense at some future perceived Putin slight. In such case, he may well decide he doesn’t owe anything to the man he once called “a leader.”

CHESSMASTER PUTIN: CHECKMATING BUSH AND TRUMP

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on February 23, 2017 at 3:39 pm

The love-fest between Donald and Vladimir Putin began on December 17, 2015.

Putin made the first move: “He is a bright and talented person without any doubt. He is the absolute leader of the presidential race.

“He says he will want to reach another, deeper, level of relations (with Russia). What else can we do but to welcome it? Certainly, we welcome it. 

“That is none of our business to evaluate his accomplishments, but he remains the absolute front-runner in the presidential race. He is an outstanding and talented personality without any doubts.”

Appearing on the December 18, 2015 edition of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Trump responded in kind: “Sure, when people call you ‘brilliant,’ it’s always good. Especially when the person heads up Russia.”

“It is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond.”

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Donald Trump

The host, Joe Scarborough, was taken aback: “Well, I mean, [Putin’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.

SCARBOROUGH: I’m confused. So I mean, you obviously condemn Vladimir Putin killing journalists and political opponents, right?

TRUMP:  Oh sure, absolutely.

When Trump praised Putin as a leader–“unlike what we have in this country”–he no doubt meant President Barack Obama.

Ironically, it was not Obama but President George W. Bush to whom his insult applies.

In June 2001, Bush and Vladimir Putin met in Slovenia. During the meeting a truly startling exchange occurred.

Vladimir Putin and George W. Bush

Putin, a former KGB Intelligence officer, had clearly done his homework on Bush. When he mentioned that one of the sports Bush had played was rugby, Bush was highly impressed.

“I did play rugby,” said Bush. “Very good briefing.”

Bush knew that Putin had worked for Soviet intelligence. So he should not have been surprised that the KGB had amassed a lengthy dossier on him.

But more was to come.

BUSH: Let me say something about what caught my attention, Mr. President, was that your mother gave you a cross which you had blessed in Israel, the Holy Land.

PUTIN: It’s true.

BUSH: That amazes me, that here you were a Communist, KGB operative, and yet you were willing to wear a cross. That speaks volumes to me, Mr. President. May I call you Vladimir?

Putin instantly sensed that Bush judged others–even world leaders–through the lens of his own fundamentalist Christian theology.

Falling back on his KGB training, Putin seized on this apparent point of commonality to build a bond. He told Bush that his dacha had once burned to the ground, and the only item that had been saved was that cross.

“Well, that’s the story of the cross as far as I’m concerned,” said Bush, clearly impressed. “Things are meant to be.”

Afterward, Bush and Putin gave an outdoor news conference.

“Is this a man that Americans can trust?” Associated Press correspondent Ron Fournier asked Bush.

“Yes,” said Bush. “I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. We had a very good dialogue.

“I was able to get a sense of his soul, a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country. I wouldn’t have invited him to my ranch if I didn’t trust him.”

Now Putin is putting his KGB skills to work with another President–Trump.

At Putin’s direction, an Intelligence dossier is being prepared on Trump. According to Andrei Fedorov, former Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, a team of retired diplomats and Putin staffers are compiling a seven-page profile of Trump’s psychological state.  

Trump is depicted as a naive risk-taker who acts like a “tough guy.”

The dossier will be given to Putin before their first meeting–for which no date has been set. 

Federov said that Trump doesn’t understand Putin and should listen more to his team, “especially in the areas where he is weak.” 

Trump’s constant battles with the American press worry the Kremlim: “He’s dancing on thin ice,” said Federov. “It’s a risky game.”  

Mikhail Kasyanov, who was once prime minister under Putin, said that Putin was worried that, unless Trump is careful, he will lose the political clout he needs to improve relations with Russia.

In particular, Putin wants American economic sanctions against Russia–imposed by President Barack Obama over Russian interference in the 2016 election–lifted.

American hostility toward Russia has been increased by three major revelations:

  • Russia’s hacks against the Democratic party to sway the election in favor of Trump;
  • Members of Trump’s Presidential campaign were in regular contact with senior Russian Intelligence officials; and 
  • Trump’s being forced to fire his National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn, over his ties with Russia.

IS IT TRUMP–OR TRUMPUTIN?

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 9, 2017 at 1:44 am

On December 14, 2016, NBC News reported that “U.S. intelligence officials now believe with ‘a high level of confidence’ that Russian President Vladimir Putin became personally involved in the covert Russian campaign to interfere in the U.S. presidential election.”

According to senior Intelligence officials, Putin had several motives:

  • Waging a vendetta against Hillary Clinton, whom he has long disliked;
  • Publicly disgrace the United States by revealing corruption at the heart of its politics; and
  • “Split off key American allies by creating the image that [other countries] couldn’t depend on the U.S. to be a credible global leader anymore.” 

The CIA believed that Putin wanted to elect Donald Trump. The FBI wasn’t so certain, feeling that Putin might have simply wanted to do as much harm as possible.

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Even so, an air of unreality clung to all of this.

On June 2, 2016, before an audience in San Diego, California, Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton had noted Trump’s strange attraction to dictators:

“And I have to say, I don’t understand Donald [Trump’s] bizarre fascination with dictators and strongmen who have no love for America.

“He praised China for the Tiananmen Square massacre; he said it showed strength.

“He said, ‘You’ve got to give Kim Jong Un credit’ for taking over North Korea–something he did by murdering everyone he saw as a threat, including his own uncle, which Donald described gleefully, like he was recapping an action movie.

“And he said if he were grading Vladimir Putin as a leader, he’d give him an A. Now, I’ll leave it to the psychiatrists to explain his affection for tyrants,” said Clinton.

The Big V! Vladimir Putin. President or Dictator? Hero or villain? Charming and intelligent?

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.

SCARBOROUGH: I’m confused. So I mean, you obviously condemn Vladimir Putin killing journalists and political opponents, right?

TRUMP:  Oh sure, absolutely.  

And Trump went far beyond handing out compliments. 

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. 

And Trump’s reaction? 

At a press conference in Doral, Florida he declared: “Russia, if you are listening, I hope you are able to find the 33,000 emails that are missing–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.

As President, Trump has defended the leader of the Communist world against hostile journalists and American Intelligence agencies.  

Donald Trump official portrait.jpg

Donald Trump

On February 5, he gave an interview to Fox News host Bill O’Reilly. As startled viewers watched, there occurred this exchange: 

O’REILLY: Do you respect Putin? 

TRUMP: I do respect him but— 

O’REILLY: Do you? Why? 

TRUMP: Well, I respect a lot of people but that doesn’t mean I’m going to get along with him. He’s a leader of his country. I say it’s better to get along with Russia than not. And if Russia helps us in the fight against ISIS, which is a major fight, and Islamic terrorism all over the world —that’s a good thing. Will I get along with him? I have no idea. 

O’REILLY: But he’s a killer though. Putin’s a killer. 

TRUMP: There are a lot of killers. We’ve got a lot of killers. What do you think—our country’s so innocent? You think our country’s so innocent? 

O’REILLY: I don’t know of any government leaders that are killers. 

TRUMP: Well—take a look at what we’ve done, too. We made a lot of mistakes. I’ve been against the war in Iraq from the beginning. 

O’REILLY:  But mistakes are different than— 

TRUMP: A lot of mistakes, but a lot of people were killed. A lot of killers around, believe me.

Trump launched his Presidential campaign on June 16, 2015. According to The New York Times, by late October, 2016, he had aimed nearly 4,000 insulting tweets at 281 targets. 

Among those insulted:

  • Women
  • Blacks
  • Hispanics
  • The media
  • Muslims
  • The disabled
  • Asians
  • The Pope
  • Prisoners-of-war. 

Considering his hair-trigger temper and willingness to insult virtually anyone, Trump’s careful, even fawning attitude toward Vladimir Putin stands out.

No wonder House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said, following Trump’s February 5 remarks on Putin:

“I want to know what the Russians have on Donald Trump. I think we have to have an investigation by the FBI into his financial, personal and political connections to Russia, and we want to see his tax returns, so we can have truth in the relationship between Putin, whom he admires, and Donald Trump.”

THE PRESIDENT FROM PUTIN

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 15, 2016 at 1:20 am

Donald Trump spent five years slandering Barack Obama as “the President from Kenya.”  

And now it appears that the United States is on the brink of inaugurating him as “the President from Vladimir Putin.”

On December 14, NBC News reported that “U.S. intelligence officials now believe with ‘a high level of confidence’ that Russian President Vladimir Putin became personally involved in the covert Russian campaign to interfere in the U.S. presidential election.”

According to senior Intelligence officials, Putin had several motives:

  • Waging a vendetta against Hillary Clinton, whom he has long disliked;
  • Publicly disgrace the United States by revealing corruption at the heart of its politics; and
  • “Split off key American allies by creating the image that [other countries] couldn’t depend on the U.S. to be a credible global leader anymore.” 

The CIA believes that Putin wanted to elect Donald Trump. The FBI isn’t so certain, feeling that Putin might have simply wanted to do as much harm as possible.

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Even so, an air of unreality clings to all of this.

The bromance between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin has been well-known for more than a year.   

On June 2, Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said exactly that to an audience in San Diego, California:

“And I have to say, I don’t understand Donald [Trump’s] bizarre fascination with dictators and strongmen who have no love for America.

“He praised China for the Tiananmen Square massacre; he said it showed strength.

“He said, ‘You’ve got to give Kim Jong Un credit’ for taking over North Korea–something he did by murdering everyone he saw as a threat, including his own uncle, which Donald described gleefully, like he was recapping an action movie.

“And he said if he were grading Vladimir Putin as a leader, he’d give him an A. Now, I’ll leave it to the psychiatrists to explain his affection for tyrants,” said Clinton.

To many people, it’s the ultimate odd-couple: The lifelong Communist and former KGB officer (Putin) walking arm-in-arm with the billionaire, publicity-hungry capitalist (Trump).

First Putin:

“He is a bright personality, a talented person, no doubt about it. It is not up to us to appraise his positive sides, it is up to the U.S. voters. but, as we can see, he is an absolute leader in the presidential race.

“He is saying that he wants to move to a different level of relations with Russia, to a closer, deeper one. How can we not welcome that?  Of course, we welcome that.”

Vladimir Putin

Now Trump:

“It is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond.”

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Donald Trump

Appearing on the December 18, 2015 edition of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Trump said: “Sure, when people call you ‘brilliant,’ it’s always good. Especially when the person heads up Russia.”

The host, Joe Scarborough, was upset by Trump’s praise for Putin: “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.

SCARBOROUGH: I’m confused. So I mean, you obviously condemn Vladimir Putin killing journalists and political opponents, right?

TRUMP:  Oh sure, absolutely.

And Trump has gone well beyond handing out compliments.

On July 22, 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.  

And how did Trump react?

By declaring, at a press conference in Doral, Florida: “Russia, if you are listening, I hope you are able to find the 33,000 emails that are missing–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.

Why would Putin want to back Trump?  

Trump has repeatedly attacked United States’ membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). He believes the United States is paying an unfairly large portion of the monies needed to maintain this alliance–and he wants other members to contribute far more. 

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He has also said that, if Russia attacked NATO members, he would decide whether to come to their aid only after determining whether those nations have “fulfilled their obligations to us.” If he believed that they had not done so, he would inform them: “Congratulations, you will be defending yourself.”

For Putin, this clearly signaled a reason to prefer Trump to Clinton. The withdrawal of the United States from NATO would instantly render that alliance kaput. Its European members don’t have the armed forces to match Russia’s–nor Russia’s huge nuclear arsenal.  

As January 20, 2017, rapidly approaches, America faces a stark choice: Empower a man elected with help from a hostile power–or declare him ineligible as a result.

PUTIN OUT THE HITS?: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics on September 15, 2016 at 12:10 am

Right-wing websites and networks are gleefully buzzing with theories about the state of Hillary Clinton’s health.

The former First Lady, New York U.S. Senator and Secretary of State collapsed after briefly attending a memorial ceremony on the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

The unsubstantiated theories include stroke, brain damage, Multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.  

But there’s one theory Right-wingers scrupulously refuse to offer: That Clinton might be a victim of poisoning by Donald Trump’s well-known admirer, Vladimir Putin.

It’s a theory that has been offered by no less than Bennet Ifeakandu Omalu, the Nigerian-American physician, forensic pathologist and neuropathologist who was the first to discover and publish findings of chronic traumatic encephalopathy  (CTE) in American football players. 

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Bennet Ifeakandu Omalu

His struggle to alert the National Football League to that danger met with hostility and derision. Finally, amid growing scrutiny from Congress, the NFL was forced to take the concussion issue more seriously.

NFL owners banned players from striking opponents with the crowns of their helmets.  Meanwhile, the NFL is facing concussion lawsuits from nearly 4,000 former players.  

On September 11, a Clinton rep stated that she was suffering from pneumonia–and Omalu warned on Twitter: “I must advice the Clinton campaign to perform toxicologic analysis of Mrs. Clinton’s blood. It is possible she is being poisoned.”  

And he followed this up with a second tweet: “I do not trust Mr. Putin and Mr. Trump.  With those two all things are possible.”  

At this point, there is no evidence that Hillary Clinton is the victim of KGB “wet” methods.  And it would take lengthy, sophisticated toxicology tests to hopefully learn the truth.  

But there is plenty of evidence that Vladimir Putin has used murder–especially poison–to eliminate his opponents.

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Vladimir Putin

Putin came to power in 2000. Since then, at least 34 journalists have been murdered in Russia, according to the Moscow-based Glasnost Defense Foundation. Many of the suspected killers are military officials, government officials or political groups.

Being a political opponent of Vladimir Putin can also be dangerous.  Among the casualties:

Viktor Yushchenko: In 2004, he was running for president of the Ukraine against Putin’s chosen candidate, Victor Yanukovych.

As the campaign neared its climax, Yushchenko suddenly fell ill–with dioxin poisoning. Flown to Vienna’s Rudolfinerhaus clinic for treatment, he survived, but his face was left greatly disfigured. He went on to win the election, serving as Ukraine’s president from 2005 to 2010.

Aleksandr Litvinenko: A former KGB officer, he had accused Putin of wholesale corruption. Even worse, he charged that–as a pretext for a second war with Chechnya–Putin ordered the bombings of Moscow apartment buildings, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of people.  

Image result for images of Aleksandr Litvinenko

Aleksandr Litvinenko  

Litvinenko died on November 23, 2006 in London from a dose of Polonium-210 in his tea. At the time, he was meeting with two Moscow agents, one of whom is now a member of the State Duma. 

Boris Nemtsov: An official with a liberal opposition group, he had been arrested several times for speaking against Putin’s government.

Nemtsov had been scheduled to lead an opposition rally in Moscow. But on February 27, 2015, two days before the event, he was shot dead as he walked home from dinner. The killing happened a short distance from the Kremlin.

If Hillary Clinton proved to have a serious medical condition such as Parkinson’s or Multiple sclerosis, the results would be tragic but strictly national.

Mounting pressure within and outside the Democratic party would force her to drop out of the race. 

There would be a brief, furious struggle within the Democratic party for the nomination–most likely between Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders and Tim Kaine, Clinton’s choice for Vice President. The winner would face Donald Trump in the coming debates and fall election. 

And the Clintons–a force in American politics since 1992–would finally leave the national stage.

But if Hillary is a victim of a KGB assassination attempt, as Dr. Bennet Omalu suspects, then the consequences would be national and international.  

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Hillary Clinton

Nationally, such a discovery would almost certainly generate huge sympathy for Clinton–a woman singularly unable to arouse sympathy among voters. That alone could ensure her election as President.  

And even Americans who hate Clinton would never forgive Russia for daring to interfere with an American Presidential election. They would demand severe retaliation–even all-out war.

For Trump, it would prove a nightmare. He’s made too many admiring statements about Putin to disavow them now and be believed.  

National outrage followed in July when Trump invited Putin to “find the 30,000 emails that are missing” on the private server that Clinton used as Secretary of State.

If Clinton died–or was simply injured–because of a KGB plot, few would believe Trump wasn’t a party to it.

And several of Trump’s closest associates have had ties to Putin, such as his former campaign manager Paul Manafort.

Even many Republicans have already declared they can’t support Trump in abandoning NATO–much less his clear admiration for Putin, a dictator who got his start as a KGB agent. 

At his first press conference upon becoming President, Ronald Reagan harshly denounced Soviet leaders: “They reserve unto themselves the right to commit any crime, to lie, to cheat.”

A KGB plot against Hillary Clinton would convince many Americans that Republican leaders have become as corrupt as those in the Kremlin.

PUTIN OUT THE HITS?: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics on September 14, 2016 at 12:09 am

September 11 marked the 15th anniversary of the worst terrorist attack in American history.

The date when, in 2001, two highjacked, fuel-laden jetliners slammed into the “twin towers” of the World Trade Center in New York City and a third crashed into the Pentagon in  Washington, D.C. 

A fourth, intended for the White House or Capitol Building, was prevented from doing so by the heroic resistance of its passengers. The highjackers crashed it into a field in Pennsylvania.

World Trade Center on September 11, 2001

For Hillary Clinton, former First Lady and Secretary of State, and now the Democratic party’s Presidential nominee, this was to be a day of memorial events.

Instead, it turned out to be her worst nightmare as a Presidential candidate.

Scheduled to attend a 9/11 ceremony in New York City, she cut short her appearance around 9:30 a.m. because she felt “overheated,” according to campaign spokesman Nick Merrill.

Amateur video captured Clinton struggling to stand and needing help to enter her Secret Service van. A woman held Clinton’s left arm as the van approached. Then two men grabbed both of her arms as her knees buckled.

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Hillary Clinton being helped into her van

Shortly before noon, Clinton left the apartment of her daughter, Chelsea. Wearing sunglasses, she waved to diners at a nearby restaurant.

“I’m feeling great, it’s a beautiful day in New York,” she said. Then she headed to her home in Chappaqua.

The official statement given by her campaign went:

“Secretary Clinton attended the September 11th Commemoration Ceremony for just an hour and thirty minutes this morning to pay her respects and greet some of the families of the fallen. During the ceremony, she felt overheated so departed to go to her daughter’s apartment, and is feeling much better.”

Several hours later, her doctor announced that Clinton was suffering from pneumonia.

Throughout the campaign, Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump has attacked her mental and physical and fitness to be President.

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Donald Trump

The 9/11 incident has hugely amplified those questions–and concerns. She not only abruptly left the ceremony, but nobody in her campaign told reporters traveling with her about her condition or whereabouts for 90 minutes after she left the ceremony. 

In 2015, Clinton, then 67, released a two-page letter from her doctor stating that she was in good health despite a blood clot and a 2012 concussion. 

But that hasn’t prevented conspiracy theorists from flooding the Internet that she is stricken with a vast array of unsubstantiated ailments, such as:

  • Multiple sclerosis 
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Brain damage
  • Stroke
  • Brain cancer
  • Post-Concussion Syndrome

The Right has salivated over the prospect of its longtime rival being yanked off the political stage, as it were, by a shepherd’s crook of deteriorating health. 

Among these celebrations:

The National Enquirer: “Failing health and a deadly thirst for power are driving Hillary Clinton to an early grave.” The article–dated September 30, 2015–claimed she would be dead in six months.

Fox & Friends: Hosts Brian Kilmeade and Steve Doocy claimed that Clinton’s glasses proved “a sign of brain damage and other things.” 

InfoWars: “Coughing can be a symptom of so many different illnesses…it is interesting to note that it happens to be one of the symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease.”

Hannity: Fox News Medical Correspondent Dr. Marc Siegel said that a video showing Clinton laughing with reporters suggested that she might be having a “mini-seizure.” Siegel added that Clinton might still suffer from “post-concussion syndrome”–after a 2012 concussion–which could affect balance, impair memory and cause dizziness.

Yet there is one conspiracy theory that is conspicuously absent from Right-wing websites and networks.  

And this is because it points to a connection that Republicans–and especially Donald Trump–want to ignore.

The ties between Trump and Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.  

Vladimir Putin

Putin’s admiration for Trump is no secret.  

“He is a bright personality, a talented person, no doubt about it. It is not up to us to appraise his positive sides, it is up to the U.S. voters. but, as we can see, he is an absolute leader in the presidential race. 

“He is saying that he wants to move to a different level of relations with Russia, to a closer, deeper one. How can we not welcome that?  Of course, we welcome that.”

Nor is Trump’s admiration for Putin. 

“It is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond.”  

Appearing on the December 18, 2015 edition of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Trump said of Putin: “He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader. Unlike what we have in this country.” 

When Trump praised Putin as a leader–“unlike what we have in this country”–he meant President Barack Obama. 

But Putin may have serious reasons for flattering Trump.  

Trump believes the United States is paying too much of the money needed to maintain the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance. He wants other members to contribute far more. He has said that, unless they do, under a Trump Presidency, they would be on their own if attacked by Russia. 

The withdrawal of the United States from NATO would instantly render that alliance kaput.

For Putin, this clearly signals a reason to prefer Trump to Clinton. 

KGB AIRWAYS: PART FOUR (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Self-Help, Social commentary on June 10, 2016 at 12:21 am

The concept of “consumer rights” has not yet reached the airline industry.

Under Federal law, as enforced by the Federal Aviation Administration, airline passengers have only the following guaranteed rights:

If your flight is delayed (such as by bad weather) and you’re stuck on the tarnac:

  • Tarnac delays cannot exceed three hours. You can leave the plane if you choose after that.
  • Food and water must be available after the plane has been stuck on the tarnac for two hours.
  • The airline must service toilets, keep air conditioning on, and keep trash cans clean.

In addition, the U.S. government mandates these “rights” for air travelers:

  1. Compensation when you’re bumped due to overbooking –and for no other reason.
  2. An airline must accept lost/damaged baggage liability up to $3,000 in depreciated value per passenger for a domestic flight (limits on international flights are either about $1,700 or $635, depending on which rule applies).

Beyond those, all you can claim is what’s in each airline’s “contract of carriage.” Those contracts are–naturally–heavily biased toward airlines, not customers.

Unfortunately, the law–and the Congressmen who create it–is still largely owned by the airlines. Thus you, as a customer, are forced to make do with the weapons at hand.

These essentially boil down to two:

  1. Threatening the airlines with bad publicity; and
  2. Threatening the airlines with a private or class-action lawsuit.

In both cases, it’s best to first contact the highest-ranking officials in the airline company.

There are two reasons for this:

  1. They have the most to lose, and
  2. They have the power to redress your complaint.

You can try to reach the CEO or one of his assistants during the time of the incident.  But, most likely, this will happen afterwards.

If a mini-Hitler of an airline steward decides to eject you because s/he doesn’t like your clothes or request for help, there’s nothing you can do about it.

If you physically resist, you will almost certainly be arrested and charged with some version of domestic terrorism. You’ll be shipped off to jail and forced to defend yourself against the bogus charge.

Even if the authorities decide to not prosecute, you’ll have to spend at least several hundred dollars on legal representation.

And, of course, the airlines won’t care. They won’t be spending a dime on your prosecution–that will be paid for by the local U.S. Attorney’s (federal prosecutor’s) office.

Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of political science, wisely advised in The Prince:

“A prince…must imitate the fox and the lion, for the lion cannot protect himself from traps, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves. One must therefore be a fox to avoid traps, and a lion to frighten wolves.”

This is definitely the time to take on the trappings of a fox. However painful it is to swallow the insult at the time it’s given, don’t give the airlines an excuse to have you arrested.

Take your revenge afterward.  That’s what musician Dave Carroll did.

Carroll alleged that, in 2008, he and fellow passengers saw United Airlines’ baggage-handling crew throwing guitars on the tarmac in Chicago O’Hare. He arrived at Omaha, Nebraska, his destination to discover that the neck of his $3,500 Taylor guitar had been broken.

Carroll complained to three United employees, but they proved indifferent. He filed a claim with the airline–but was told he was ineligible for compensation.

The reason? He had not filed the claim within the company’s stipulated “standard 24-hour timeframe.”

Carroll turned to his musical roots for a remedy. He wrote a song, “United Breaks Guitars,” and turned it into a music video which he posted on YouTube and iTunes in July, 2009.

Click here: United Breaks Guitars – YouTube

The song went viral, and became a public relations nightmare for the airline.

The Sunday Times reported that, four days after the video’s posting, United Airlines’ stock price fell 10% costing stockholders about $180 million in value.

Most customers, admittedly, aren’t musicians. For them–short of suing–the weapons of choice will be:

  • The phone
  • Letters
  • The Internet
  • Consumer protection organizations that can be enlisted

Let’s start with the first: The phone.

Most customers assume the place to take their anger is the airline Customer Service desk. And the airlines encourage people to do just that.

Don’t do it.

Customer Service is staffed by people who may ooze compassion but who aren’t authorized to do anything on your behalf. And of course they’ll be well-versed in the standard airline excuses for why your request is denied.

(Think of Dave Carroll and the excuse United’s reps offered him:  You didn’t file your claim within 24 hours.)

Even if they truly want to help you, they’ll find themselves outranked at every level.

So take your complaint to someone who has the authority to resolve it. This means, preferably, the CEO of the airline, or at least one of his executive colleagues.  

The other above-mentioned remedies will be discussed in my coming series, “KGB Airways: Fighting Airline Arrogance.”

KGB AIRWAYS: PART THREE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, Business, Law, Self-Help, Social commentary on June 9, 2016 at 12:07 am

When Leisha Hailey and her girlfriend kissed aboard a Southwest Airlines flight to Los Angeles, they quickly found themselves in trouble.

Leisha Hailey

A flight attendant told them that Southwest was “a family airline.” When they argued they were targets of homophobia, the attendant ejected them from the plane.

Hailey–the star of Showtime’s The L-Word (and a lesbian)–posted her experience on Twitter. Calling for a boycott of Southwest, she tweeted:

“I want to know what Southwest Airlines considers as ‘family.’ I know plenty of wonderful same-sex families I would like to introduce them to. Boycott @SouthwestAir if you are gay. They don’t like us.”

Naturally, Southwest had its own explanation for what had happened:

“…We received several passenger complaints characterizing the behavior as excessive. Our crew, responsible for the comfort of all Customers on board, approached the passengers based solely on behavior and not gender. The conversation escalated to a level that was better resolved on the ground, as opposed to in flight.”

In short, the situation was “better resolved on the ground” by forcing two unarmed, non-threatening women to leave the plane rather than having the airline honor their high-priced tickets.

Now, a quick question: When does a camera become a dangerous weapon?

When you snap a picture of an especially rude airline employee.

  • A  Miami photographer was escorted off a US Airways plane and deemed a “security risk” after she did this at Philadelphia International Airport in July, 2011.

Sandy DeWitt believed the employee, Tonialla G., was being rude to several passengers in the boarding area of the flight to Miami.

So DeWitt, a professional photographer, used her iPhone to snap a picture of G.’s nametag.  She intended to file a complaint with US Airways and wanted the picture as evidence.

As DeWitt settled into her seat, preparing for take-off, G. entered the plane and confronted her.

She ordered DeWitt to delete the photo.

DeWitt had already turned off her iPhone, as required before take-off.  She turned the phone back on to prove that the photo hadn’t come out.  Even so, she deleted the too-dark picture.

G. then walked into the cockpit to inform the pilot that DeWitt was a “security risk.”

Suddenly, DeWitt found herself being escorted off the plane by two flight attendants. Her husband followed.

Speaking with Michael Lofton, a US Airways manager at Philadelphia International Airport, she learned that she would not be allowed back on the plane.

The reason:  She was a “security risk.”

But that didn’t keep Lofton from directing her to American Airlines for a flight back to Miami.

But that flight had already departed and it was already after 7 p.m. And there were no other flights back to Miami until the following morning.

“We were expecting to spend the night at the airport,” she said.

They eventually boarded a Southwest Airlines flight to Fort Lauderdale at 11 p.m.

Apparently, Southwest didn’t consider her to be a “security risk.”

Naturally, US Airways had a cover-story to explain what had happened.

Todd Lehmacher, a spokesman for US Airways, told msnbc.com that DeWitt was removed for being “disruptive.”

“Once onboard, she was using foul and explicit language,” Lehmacher said. “She was removed at the request of the captain.”

Apparently, “disruptive” means whatever an airline official claims it to mean.

Business Insider ranked US Airways sixth in a list of the 19 Most Hated Companies in America.

The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) is an economic indicator that measures the satisfaction of consumers across the United States. It is produced by the American Customer Satisfaction Index, a private company based in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The ACSI interviews about 80,000 Americans annually and asks about their satisfaction with the goods and services they have consumed. And Americans’ most-hated companies include large banks, airlines, power and telecom companies.

David VanAmburg, managing director at ACSI, offered a critical insight into why these companies are so detested.

“These are not terribly competitive industries, as the switching barriers for most of them are quite high,” he told Business Insider in June, 2011.

“In other industries, like the food or clothing sector, the competition is huge. They bend over backwards to make customers happy, because they have to.”

That certainly does not apply to applies to airlines–whose numbers are limited and continue to shrink due to mergers and the occasionally rising cost of fuel.

For the airline industry generally, the former slogan of United Airlines–”Fly the Friendly Skies–has unofficially been replaced with: “We don’t care. We don’t have to.”

So–when you’re facing a would-be KGB agent masquerading as an airline employee–what do you do?

First, you recognize that the concept of “consumer rights” has not yet reached the airline industry.

Then you do what you can to see that it does.

KGB AIRWAYS: PART TWO (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Self-Help, Social commentary on June 8, 2016 at 12:14 am

The First Amendment of the American Constitution guarantees freedom of speech.

But some airline employees haven’t gotten the word.

Click here: 3 Easy Ways to Tell If a Business Puts Its Customers First – DailyFinance

Yes, what you say can get you thrown off an airplane–or worse. And it doesn’t have to be anything even remotely like a threat.

  • In May, 2011, a US Airways flight was due to depart San Francisco International Airport for Charlotte, North Carolina at 1:20 p.m. But due to bad weather, passengers boarded the plane after 2 p.m.

Once on the plane, a flight attendant told customers over the intercom to hurry up and put their carry-ons in bins so they could take off and make their connecting flight in Charlotte.

One of the passengers, Luke Hazlewood, turned to the person next to him and said it was the airline’s fault they were late, “so don’t get mad at us.”

The flight attendant rushed out of the galley demanding to know who had said that. Once she determined it was Hazlewood, she told him he would have to leave for being disruptive and a threat to the plane.

Sandra Kraus, a former flight attendant, came to Hazlewood’s defense–and the flight attendant told her to get off the plane as well.

Both passengers asked to speak with the captain but he refused to speak with them.

Kraus was put on another flight. Hazlewood and his accompanying girlfriend (who had left the plane with him) found that US Airways wouldn’t compensate them for a hotel room.

The airline refused to answer questions about the matter. Its written statement said “The passengers interfered with the flight crew and in the interest of safety they had to be removed.”

It’s a truism in both journalism and police work: When people refuse to answer questions, it’s nearly always because they know they have something to hide.

And the airline’s response came in the classic voice of the all-powerful dictator: “They refused to treat me like God and so they had to be eliminated.”

Business Insider ranked US Airways #6 on a list of Click here: The 19 Most Hated Companies In America – Business Insider

  • In December, 2011, three middle-aged women were thrown off an AirTran flight at Palm Beach International Airport after a steward began roughly handling the luggage of one of them.

Marilyn Miller, a lawyer, was buckled in for takeoff when the attendant mishandled her overhead luggage. “I have breakables in that,” she said.

The attendant ignored her and kept shoving other bags into hers.

Another passenger, Carol Gray, a retired travel agent, asked the same attendant for help, saying that her seat was broken.

“I’m not talking to you,” said the attendant, and poked her in the arm. He then threatened to throw Miller and Gray off the plane.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” said Miller.

“Well, you’re getting off,” said the attendant.

Two sheriff’s deputies and airline staff arrived to remove them.

A third passenger, a therapist named Karyn Schoor, spoke up in their defense: “This is crazy, they didn’t do anything. Why are you doing this to them?”

“Throw her off too,”’ ordered the attendant.

All three women were marched off the plane and back into the terminal.

The women were offered flights on other airlines paid for by AirTran.

And the official explanation given by AirTran?

“Our employees are responsible for the safety and comfort of everyone onboard a flight. Our goal is always to mitigate any uncomfortable situation prior to departure.”

Uncomfortable for whom–the passenger who doesn’t want her luggage roughly treated?  Or the attendant whose ego gets bent out of shape at the slightest objection?

  • In July, 2010, Southwest Airlines removed a slender, five-foot-four woman from a plane to accomodate an obese passenger.

The woman was flying standby from Las Vegas to Sacramento.  She had paid full fare for the last available seat, boarded and stowed her bags–and was told she must deplane immediately.

The reason: A late-arriving, 14-year-old passenger required two seats because of her girth.

When the woman asked Southwest personnel why she was being removed her from the flight, they berated her for daring to question their decision.

The temporarily stranded passenger managed to catch the next flight out to Sacramento.

  • You don’t have to assault someone to be thrown off an airplane. Even kissing your partner will do.

Southwest Airlines kicked Leisha Hailey–who not only played a lesbian in Showtime’s The L-Word series but is one–and her girlfriend off a flight to Los Angeles.

Their crime?  Kissing.

A flight attendant told them that Southwest was “a family airline.” When they argued they were targets of homophobia, the attendant ejected them from the plane.

KGB AIRWAYS: PART ONE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, Business, Law, Self-Help, Social commentary on June 7, 2016 at 12:02 am

With the summer tourism season now on, tens of thousands of Americans will be flying across the country to visit with loved ones.

And many of them will become the victims of KGB Airways.  

In truth, many airline personnel treat passengers the way KGB agents once treated Soviet citizens–with the arrogance that comes from holding near-absolute power over the lives of others.

Consider the following:

  • From the website of American Airlines:

ESSENTIAL NEEDS DURING EXTRAORDINARY DELAYS

In the case of extraordinary events that result in very lengthy onboard delays, American will make every reasonable effort to ensure that essential needs of food (snack bar such as Nutri-Grain®), water, restroom facilities, and basic medical assistance are met.

We are not responsible for any special, incidental or consequential damages if we do not meet this commitment.

Translation:  On one hand, American promises that it will try to ensure that “essential needs of food, water, restroom facilities and basic medical assistance are met” during “very lengthy onboard delays.” On the other hand, if they “do not meet this commitment,” that’s just the passengers’ tough luck.

ACCEPTANCE OF PASSENGERS

American may refuse to transport you, or may remove you from your flight at any point, for one or several reasons, including but not limited to:  

  1. Compliance with government requisition of space.
  2. Action necessary or advisable due to weather, or other conditions beyond American’s control.
  3. Refusal to permit a search of person or property for explosives or for deadly, controlled, or dangerous weapons, articles or substances.
  4. Refusal to produce positive identification upon request.
  5. Your physical or mental condition is such that in American’s sole opinion, you are rendered or likely to be rendered incapable of comprehending or complying with safety instructions without the assistance of an attendant.
  6. Your conduct is disorderly, abusive or violent.  
  7. Appear to be intoxicated or under the influence of drugs.
  8. Attempt to interfere with any member of the flight crew.
  9. Have a communicable disease that has been determined by a federal public health authority to be transmissible to other persons in the normal course of flight.
  10. Refuse to obey instructions from any flight crew member.
  11. Have an offensive odor not caused by a disability or illness.
  12. Are clothed in a manner that would cause discomfort or offense to other passengers or are barefoot.
  13. Engage in any action, voluntary or involuntary, that might jeopardize the safety of the aircraft or any of its occupants.

Translation: “American may refuse to transport you, or may remove you from your flight at any point” for just about any reason it wants to give.

Click here: Conditions of carriage – Contract of transportation – American Airlines

DELAYS, CANCELLATIONS AND DIVERSIONS

American Airlines will provide customers at the airport and onboard an affected aircraft with timely and frequent updates regarding known delays, cancellations and diversions and will strive to provide the best available information concerning the duration of delays and to the extent available, the flight’s anticipated departure time.

We are not responsible for any special, incidental or consequential damages if we do not meet this commitment.

Translation: On one hand, American promises to give customers “timely and frequent updates regarding known delays, cancellations and diversions.” On the other hand, American absolves itself from any damages “if we do not meet this commitment.”

And how does all this translate into action?

  • In late March, 2012, a woman was barred from boarding an American Airlines flight because its staff disliked her choice of clothing. She was wearing a T-shirt bearing the words: “IF I WANTED THE GOVERNMENT IN MY WOMB, I’D F— A SENATOR.”

After taking a seat she was told by a flight attendant that she needed to speak with the captain, who found the T-shirt “offensive.”  He said she would have to change before she could re-board the plane.

The passenger claims this interaction caused her to miss her connection: Her luggage was checked and “changing shirts without spending money wasn’t an option.”

Business Insider ranked American Airlines 8th on a list of The 19 Most Hated Companies In America.

  • In July, 2011, Malinda Knowles, a 27-year-old financial consultant, was kicked off a JetBlue flight at JFK Airport in New York because of her attire–a baggy blue T-shirt and denim shorts.

A male JetBlue employee walking down the aisle noticed Knowles. He told her he didn’t think she was wearing enough clothing. An argument erupted when the employee put his walkie-talkie between her legs to see if she was wearing shorts underneath. When Knowles objected, the JetBlue worker brought her off the plane and to a hangar.

There she modeled for the employees, showing that she was wearing shorts. She returned to the plane, but the same employee once again approached her and said: “The captain is refusing to fly you today. We need to remove you from the flight.”

After waiting four hours for another flight, she arrived in Florida. Apparently the crew of that plane didn’t have any problem with her attire.

Knowles has since filed a lawsuit against JetBlue.

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