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Posts Tagged ‘RUSSIA’

OF SELF-PITY AND PRESIDENTS

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 22, 2017 at 12:10 am

On May 17, President Donald J. Trump appeared at the United States Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut. 

He was there go give the commencement remarks to a graduating class of Coast Guard cadets. 

The Coast Guard Academy website explains what it seeks in candidates: “The Coast Guard needs officers who are intellectually curious, who seek continuous improvement, and who are committed to service above self. At the Academy, our academic programs provide the intellectual foundation for developing officers with these qualities.” 

It also spells out what the Academy offers: “The Coast Guard Academy is ranked among the nation’s top undergraduate colleges. Our academic program, which awards a Bachelor of Science and a commission as an Ensign in the U.S. Coast Guard, must be completed in four years.

“It is designed to provide a superb academic foundation in a military environment. The result: future leaders of America.”

The Academy’s core requirements could not be more at odds with the realities of Donald Trump’s life:

  • “Intellectually curious”–Trump’s attention span is notoriously short, limited to about four minutes on a topic.  And he regularly confines his “writings” to the 140-character count on Twitter.
  • “Who seek continuous improvement”–asked on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” who he consults about foreign policy, Trump replied; “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things.”
  • “Committed to service above self”–Trump dodged the draft during the Vietnam war by getting five deferments. As a Presidential candidate, he said of Arizona U.S. Senator John McCain, who spent seven years as a Vietnam POW: “He’s not a war hero.  He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”

Trump’s official reason for appearing at the Academy was to pay tribute to the 195 cadets graduating that day.

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Coast Guard Academy graduating students celebrate

And, momentarily, he did: “These fine young cadets are about to take their rightful place on the front line of defense for the United States of America.

“Cadets, you deserve not only the congratulations, but the gratitude of each and every American. And we all salute you, a proud nation.” 

But, being Trump, he couldn’t praise others without also praising himself: “I won’t talk about how much I saved you on the F-35 fighter jet. I won’t even talk about it. Or how much we’re about to save you on the Gerald Ford, the aircraft carrier….

“I’ve accomplished a tremendous amount in a very short time as president….”

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Donald Trump 

Then he went on to pay further tribute to himself: “Jobs are pouring back into our country; a brand-new Supreme Court justice, who’s going to be fantastic for 45 years; a historic investment in our military; border crossings….”

Finally, he reached the climax of his address: “Now, I want to take this opportunity to give you some advice. Over the course of your life, you will find that things are not always fair.

“You will find that things happen to you that you do not deserve and that are not always warranted. But you have to put your head down and fight, fight, fight. Never, ever, ever give up. Things will work out just fine.

“Look at the way I’ve been treated lately, especially by the media. No politician in history–and I say this with great surety–has been treated worse or more unfairly. You can’t let them get you down. You can’t let the critics and the naysayers get in the way of your dreams.”

Trump was referring to the avalanche of criticism he had received for:

  • His May 9 firing of FBI Director James Comey. Comey had refused to pledge his personal loyalty to Trump. And he had recently asked the Justice Department to fund an expanded FBI investigation into contacts between Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign and Russian Intelligence agents; 
  • His meeting, the very next day in the Oval Office, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. During that meeting he gave the Russians sensitive Intelligence on ISIS that had been supplied by Israel; and
  • On May 12, Trump tweeted a threat to the fired FBI director: “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press.”

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James Comey

Kislyak is reportedly a top recruiter for Russia’s SVR foreign intelligence agency. He has been closely linked with Jeff Sessions, now Attorney General, and fired National Security Adviser Mike Flynn. A third Kislyak contact: Carter Page.

All three served as members of Trump’s Presidential campaign.

“I guess that’s why I won–thank you. I guess that’s why we won,” continued Trump.

“Adversity makes you stronger. Don’t give in, don’t back down, and never stop doing what you know is right. Nothing worth doing ever, ever, ever came easy, and the more righteous your fight, the more opposition that you will face.” 

Trump, who has never shown a sense of irony, unintentionally displayed one now. 

His self-tribute could have served as an epitaph for James Comey–a former United States Attorney, Deputy Attorney General and seventh director of the FBI.   

CHEERING ON OUR ENEMIES: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 7, 2017 at 12:10 am

Contrary to the propaganda of Republican militarists and Democratic do-gooders, Americans should be thrilled at the mutual destruction of their most dedicated enemies. Such as is now taking place in Syria.

And yet, faced with an unprecedented threat to their security, many Western leaders refuse to publicly acknowledge this fundamental truth. 

One man who predicted the ongoing Islamic-vs.-West conflicts with stunning clarity was Samuel P. Huntington. 

A political scientist, Huntington taught government at Harvard University (1950-1959, then at Columbia University (1959-1962). He returned to Harvard in 1963, and remained there until his death in 2008. 

The author of nine books, in 1996 he published his most influential one: The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order

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Its thesis was that, in the post-Cold War world, people’s cultural and religious identities would be the primary sources of conflict.

Huntington warned that the West’s future conflicts with Islamic nations would be rooted in the Islamic religion: 

The fundamental problem for the West is not Islamic fundamentalism. It is Islam, a different civilisation whose people are convinced of the superiority of their culture and are obsessed with the inferiority of their power.” 

Among his assertions:

  • Western nations should distance themselves from Islamic ones. The more both civilizations interact, the greater tensions between them will be.
  • Relations between Muslims and non-Muslims have been marked by Islamic antagonism and violence.
  • A fundamental clash of civilizations between Islam and the West is inevitable.
  • Even if Arab dictatorships fall, the new regimes won’t modernize along Western lines.
  • When the Muslim world conflicts with other civilizations, tensions and wars result.
  • Their primary attachment is to their religion, not to their nation-state.
  • Islamic civilization do not share the general ideals of the Western world–such as individualism and democracy.

Despite such realities, both Democratic and Republican politicians insist on constantly intervening in Middle East conflicts–such as the one in Syria. 

In Part One of this series, five reasons were given for why the United States should not intervene in the Syrian conflict. Here are the remaining five. 

Sixth, intervening in Syria could lead to Syrian attacks against Israel.  

An accidental or deliberate American military strike on Syrian government forces could lead the country’s dictator, Bashar al-Assad, to attack Israel–perhaps even with chemical weapons.  

If that happened, the Islamic world would rally to Syria against the United States, Israel’s chief ally.  

Seventh, committing American ground forces to Syria or just continuing to bomb targets there could lead to Islamic terrorism against the United States–at home or abroad.

Terrorists have already targeted Russia–which, on September 30, 2015, began bombing airstrikes on forces trying to overthrow Assad.

On October 31, Airbus A321, a Russian airliner, broke up in mid-air, then crashed in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, killing all 224 people on board. In Egypt, a militant group affiliated to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) claimed it had brought down the plane “in response to Russian airstrikes that killed hundreds of Muslims on Syrian land.”  

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Airbus A321

The same fate could well befall American civilians and/or soldiers.

Eighth, China and Russia are supporting the Assad dictatorship–and the brutalities it commits against its own citizens.  

This reflects badly on them–not the United States. And any move by the United States to directly attack the Assad regime could ignite an all-out war with Russia and/or China.  

What happens if a case of “friendly fire” leads Russian and American forces to start trading salvos? Or if Russian President Vladimir Putin orders an attack on America’s ally, Israel, in return for some perceived American slight of Russia’s ally, Syria?  

It was exactly that scenario–Great Powers going to war over conflicts between their small-state allies–that triggered World War I.  

Ninth, the United States cannot defeat ISIS in Syria through air power alone–thus making commitment of ground troops inevitable.

President Barack Obama authorized airstrikes against ISIS in September, 2014. The United States Air Force has since dropped thousands of bombs on ISIS convoys. This has not destroyed ISIS.

And its failure to do so has only led to demands by hawkish Republicans and Democrats for “boots on the ground.”  

Tenth–and most importantly: While Islamic nations like Syria, Iraq and Egypt wage war within their own borders, they will lack the resources–and incentive–to attack the United States.

Every dead Hezbollah and Al-Qaeda and ISIS member makes the United States that much safer. So does the death of every sympathizer of Hezbollah, Al-Qaeda and ISIS.  

When Al-Qaeda blows up civilians in Beirut, their relatives will urge Hezbollah to take brutal revenge. And Hezbollah will do so.

Al Qaeda terrorists–taking aim at Hezbollah terrorists

Similarly, when Hezbollah does, those who support Al-Qaeda will demand even more brutal reprisals against Hezbollah.  

If the West is lucky, this conflict could easily become the Islamic equivalent of “the Hundred Years War” that raged from 1337 to 1453 between England and France.

When Adolf Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, then-Senator Harry S. Truman said: “I hope the Russians kill lots of Nazis–and vice versa.”

That should be America’s position whenever its sworn enemies start killing off each other. Americans should welcome such self-slaughters, not become entrapped in them.  

CHEERING ON OUR ENEMIES: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 6, 2017 at 2:15 am

“Yesterday’s chemical attack, a chemical attack that was so horrific in Syria against innocent people, including women, small children and even beautiful little babies, their deaths were an affront to humanity.”

So spoke President Donald J. Trump at an April 5 press conference in the White House Rose Garden.  

He was referring to an April 4 chemical weapons attack in northwestern Syria that had killed scores of civilians. 

The bombing was carried out by the Syrian Air Force in an effort to put down a six-year civil war. 

The Syrian conflict began on March 15, 2011, triggered by protests demanding political reforms and the ouster of dictator Bashar al-Assad. Since then, the fighting has reportedly taken the lives of 470,000 men, women and children. 

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Bashar al-Assad

Yet, despite Trump’s rhetoric, there is an optimistic way to view this incident–and the Syrian conflict generally: As a win for the United States.  

Consider:

  • As many as 470,000 actual or potential enemies of Western civilization–and especially the United States–have chosen to slaughter one another.
  • Additional thousands are certain to follow their example.
  • The United States cannot be held in any way responsible for it.
  • And Russia–which openly supports the brutal Assad dictatorship–daily earns the hatred of the Islamic world.

Yet, Left-wing do-gooders and Right-wing militarists demand that the United States thrust itself into a conflict that doesn’t threaten America in any way. 

In fact, it’s in America’s best interests that this conflict last as long as possible and spread as widely as possible throughout the Islamic community. 

Here’s why: 

First, in Syria, two of America’s most deadly enemies are waging war on each other.

Yes, it’s Hezbollah (Party of God) vs. Al-Qaeda (The Base).  Hezbollah is comprised of Shiite Muslims. A sworn enemy of Israel, it has kidnapped scores of Americans suicidal enough to visit Lebanon and truck-bombed the Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983, killing 299 Americans. 

Flag of Hezbollah

Al Qaeda, on the other hand, is made up of Sunni Muslims. It is intolerant of Shiites and has instigated violence against them. It denounces them as takfirs–“apostates”–and thus worthy of extermination.

Flag of Al-Qaeda

Al Qaeda has attacked the mosques and gatherings of liberal Muslims, Shiites, Suffis and other non-Sunnis. Examples of sectarian attacks include the Sadr City bombings, the 2004 Ashoura massacre and the April, 2007 Baghdad bombings.

On one side of this conflict is the Ba’ath regime of Bashar al-Assad, whose allies include Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and elements of the Iraqi government.  

On the other side are a host of Syrians and thousands of foreign Sunni fighters, some of whom are affiliated with Al-Qaeda.  

Second, the United States has been at war in the Middle East for 15 years–since the terror attacks of September 11, 2001.

In October, 2001, America first committed its forces to Afghanistan, in pursuit of Osama bin Laden, the 9/11 mastermind. Failing to find him, its forces nevertheless stayed on in that country, hoping–and failing–to bring civilization to its barbaric population.

Then, in March, 2003, President George W. Bush invaded Iraq to settle a personal score with its dictator, Saddam Hussein.

After Bush’s father, George H.W. Bush, launched the 1991 Gulf War, Hussein had had the bad grace to not topple from power. When the elder Bush lost a second term as President to Bill Clinton in 1992, his son blamed Hussein.  

By contrast: America entered World War 1 in 1917–and wrapped up its fighting in Europe in 1918.  Similarly, the United States first committed forces in World War II in 1942–and saw an end to that conflict in 1945.  

Even the Vietnam war–far more divisive for Americans than either World War 1 or II–ended after eight years of fighting (1965-1973.

Third, the United States is still fighting a brutal war in Afghanistan.

America originally intended to withdraw all but a small embassy-based force of 1,000 troops by the end of 2016.  

But as the Taliban re-emerged as a threat, President Barack Obama announced he would maintain 9,800 troops there for most of 2016. Those troops are still stationed there–some of them advising local Afghan troops, others locked in deadly combat with the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.   

American soldiers in Afghanistan

Fourth, since 1979, Syria has been listed by the U.S. State Department as a sponsor of terrorism.

Among the terrorist groups it supports: Hezbollah and Hamas. For many years, Syria provided a safe-house in Damascus for Illich Ramirez Sanchez–the notorious international terrorist known as Carlos the Jackal. 

Fifth, the United States had no part in creating or supporting the decades-long dictatorship of the Assad regime–which has long been hostile to America.

After a long series of political maneuverings, Hafez al-Assad seized power in 1970 and was proclaimed “president” next year. With aid from the Soviet Union, he built up the Syrian army. Using arrest, torture and execution, he ruled Syria as a dictator until he died in 2000.  

His son, Bashar, then took command of Syria. Like his father, he has supported Palestinian and Lebanese militant groups. And, like his father, he continues to receive financial and military support from the successor to the Soviet Union, the Russian Federation.

Thus, America has no moral obligation of any kind to Syria–or Syrians. 

TURNING THE WHITE HOUSE INTO THE RED HOUSE: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 5, 2017 at 12:08 am

“We do not need a reckless President who believes she is above the law.”  

As chants of “Lock her up!” spread across the floor of the Republican National Convention, Michael T. Flynn voiced his agreement. “Lock her up–that’s right.”  

Movie-star handsome, the former United States Army lieutenant general and director of the Defense Intelligence Agency was clearly enjoying his moment as a keynote speaker.

Clapping his hands, he continued: “I’m gonna tell you what. It’s unbelievable–unbelievable.  

“I have called on Hillary Clinton to drop out of the race, because she–she–put our nation’s security at extremely high risk for their careless use of a private email server.

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Michael Flynn at the Republican convention

“Lock her up–lock her up. You guys [the audience] are good. Damn right–that’s exactly right. There’s nothing wrong with that.

“You know why we’re saying that? We’re saying that because if I–a guy who knows this business–if I did a tenth of what she did, I would be in jail today.”

That was July 18, 2016.

Six months and two days later, he was riding even higher: On January 20–the day Donald J. Trump became President–Flynn took office as the nation’s 25th National Security Adviser.

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

On February 8, Flynn flatly 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. 

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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.  

Even worse for Flynn: The same Washington Post story reported that, in December, 2015, he 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 Vladimir Putin for dinner.

Flynn did not file the required paperwork for the trip. Nor did he report the “fee” to the Pentagon.  

On March 30, The Wall Street Journal reported that Flynn had offered to testify to the FBI or the Senate and House Intelligence committees in exchange for immunity from prosecution. So far, neither the FBI nor the Congressional Intelligence committees has agreed to such a deal.

Meanwhile, as a Presidential candidate and President, Donald Trump has steadfastly denied the revelations about collaboration between members of his 2016 Presidential campaign and Russian Intelligence agents. 

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Donald Trump

He has repeatedly attacked the “fake news” media reporting these revelations. Chief among his targets: CNN, The New York Times and The Washington Post

He has also derided the Intelligence agencies responsible for America’s security.

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 March 4, Trump unleashed a series of tweets accusing former President Barack Obama of tapping his Trump Tower phones prior to the election: “How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”

One month later, Trump has offered no evidence to support that accusation. Nor have the FBI and Justice Department provided any. Yet Trump has refused to apologize or retract the libel.  

Former Obama White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest has his own take on Trump’s motivation. Appearing on the March 5 edition of ABC’s This Week, he said:

“We know exactly why President Trump tweeted what he tweeted.

“Because there is one page in the Trump White House crisis management playbook. And that is simply to tweet or say something outrageous to distract from the scandal, and the bigger the scandal, the more outrageous the tweet.”  

In time, the epitaph for the Trump administration may prove to be a bitter parody of The Muppet Movie song, “The Rainbow Connection”:  

Why are there so many
Tales about Russians
And Right-wingers taking bribes?

Russians are Commies
And have lots of rubles
For traitors with something to hide.

So I’ve been told
And some choose to believe it.
It’s clear as the old KGB.

Someday we’ll find it
The Russian Connection–
The bribers, the traitors–you’ll see.

TURNING THE WHITE HOUSE INTO THE RED HOUSE: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 4, 2017 at 12:16 am

Slightly more than two months after taking office, President Donald Trump has become haunted by “the Russian connection.”   

Throughout 2016, the CIA, FBI and National Security Agency (NSA) found numerous ties between officials of the Trump Presidential campaign and Russian Intelligence agents.  

And many of those he has appointed to office have strong ties to the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

One of these is Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. In 2013, as the chief executive of ExxonMobil, he was presented with the 2013 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.

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Rex Tillerson

Another such official is Attorney General Jeff Sessions. During the 2016 campaign, Sessions–then serving as a surrogate for Donald 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.

The discovery of numerous contacts between Trump campaign officials and Russian Intelligence agents led the FBI to launch an investigation into Russia’s efforts to influence the outcome of the 2016 Presidential election. That investigation is still ongoing.

And the House and Senate Intelligence Committees have launched their own investigations into the same.

On March 30, Clinton Watts, an expert on cyber warfare, testified before the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. As part of his testimony, he presented a prepared statement on “Disinformation: A Primer In Russian Active Measures And Influence Campaigns.” 

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FROM WATTS’ STATEMENT: 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….from the inside out [by] creating political divisions….

[Their ultimate goals are]  the dissolution of the European Union and the break up of the North American Treaty Organization (NATO).  

Achieving these two victories against the West will allow Russia to reassert its power globally and pursue its foreign policy objectives bilaterally through military, diplomatic and economic aggression.

Trump has repeatedly praised Russian President 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 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. 

At a press conference in Doral, Florida, Trump 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.

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. 

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Trump, however, has 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.”   

On October 19, 2016, Trump’s admiration of Putin became a major target for his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.  

This occurred during their third and last Presidential debate.    

CLINTON: … that the Russians have engaged in cyber attacks against the United States of America, that you encouraged espionage against our people, that you are willing to spout the Putin line, sign up for his wish list, break up NATO, do whatever he wants to do, and that you continue to get help from him, because he has a very clear favorite in this race. 

So I think that this is such an unprecedented situation. We’ve never had a foreign government trying to interfere in our election.

We have 17–17 intelligence agencies, civilian and military, who have all concluded that these espionage attacks, these cyber attacks, come from the highest levels of the Kremlin and they are designed to influence our election. I find that deeply disturbing.  And I think it’s time you take a stand…

TRUMP: She has no idea whether it’s Russia, China, or anybody else.

CLINTON: I am not quoting myself.

TRUMP: She has no idea.

CLINTON: I am quoting 17…

TRUMP: Hillary, you have no idea.

CLINTON: … 17 intelligence–do you doubt 17 military and civilian…

TRUMP: And our country has no idea.

CLINTON: … agencies.

TRUMP: Yeah, I doubt it. I doubt it. 

TURNING THE WHITE HOUSE INTO THE RED HOUSE: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 3, 2017 at 12:56 am

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

  • A U.S. Army infantry officer;
  • An FBI Special Agent on a Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF);
  • The Executive Officer of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point (CTC); and
  • As 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, he outlined cyberwarfare measures that Russia used to influence the 2016 Presidential campaign. 

He delivered this on March 30. 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.

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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.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump–as both Presidential candidate and President–has steadfastly refused to acknowledge the efforts of Vladimir Putin’s government to ensure his election. 

Consider his exchange about this with Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton during the third and final Presidential debate on October 19, 2016:

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CLINTON: So I actually think the most important question of this evening, Chris, is, finally, will Donald Trump admit and condemn that the Russians are doing this and make it clear that he will not have the help of Putin in in this election, that he rejects Russian espionage against Americans, which he actually encouraged in the past?

Those are the questions we need answered. We’ve never had anything like this happen in any of our elections before.

CHRIS WALLACE: Well?

TRUMP: That was a great pivot off the fact that she wants open borders, OK? How did we get on to Putin?

[After insisting that Clinton wants “open borders” and “people are going to pour into this country,” Trump deigned to address Wallace’s question.]

TRUMP: Now we can talk about Putin. I don’t know Putin. He said nice things about me.

If we got along well, that would be good. If Russia and the United States got along well and went after ISIS, that would be good. He has no respect for her. He has no respect for our president.

And I’ll tell you what: We’re in very serious trouble, because we have a country with tremendous numbers of nuclear warheads–1,800, by the way–where they expanded and we didn’t, 1,800 nuclear warheads. And she’s playing chicken.  

FROM WATTS’ STATEMENT: 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).  

FROM THE TRUMP-CLINTON DEBATE:

TRUMP: … from everything I see, [Putin] has no respect for this person.

CLINTON: Well, that’s because he’d rather have a puppet as president of the United States.

TRUMP: No puppet. No puppet.

CLINTON: And it’s pretty clear…

TRUMP: You’re the puppet!

CLINTON: It’s pretty clear you won’t admit…

TRUMP: No, you’re the puppet.

IS HE CRIMINAL, CRAZY LIKE A FOX–OR JUST CRAZY?

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on March 20, 2017 at 12:53 am

On March 4, in a series of unhinged tweets, President Donald J. Trump accused former President Barack Obama of tapping his Trump Tower phones prior to the election:  

“Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!”  

“Is it legal for a sitting President to be ‘wire tapping’ a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW!”  

“I’d bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!”

“How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”  

President Barack Obama

Trump offered no proof to substantiate his libelous claims.

There are three plausible theories about what prompted Trump’s accusations.

Theory #1: They were prompted by Right-wing media outlets that had been pushing wiretapping claims in recent days. 

On March 2, Right-wing radio host Mark Levin claimed that Obama had used “powers of the federal government to surveil members of the Trump campaign.”

Referring to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his newly disclosed meetings with Russia’s ambassador in 2016, Levin asked: “Today’s reporting on Sessions having a chance meeting with the ambassador–where did that information come from? Look at the timing of it. Was Obama surveilling top Trump campaign officials during the election?”    

On March 3, the Fascist media site Breitbart News echoed that charge. Its story was based on Levin’s show and offered no evidence to back up its accusations.

Trump could have first contacted the directors of the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency–the agencies which are authorized to conduct such an operation. He could have asked them, “Did you wiretap me?”  

They could have quickly and confidentially given him an answer. And if it was “Yes,” they would have been able to provide him with the records to document it.  

That would have been the action of a rational President. But Trump chose to act like a child–or, worse, an unbalanced adult.

After reading the Breitbart story, Trump impulsively chose to go on Twitter and make libelous accusations. 

Theory #2: Trump, under scrutiny for ties between his campaign and Russia, sought to deflect attention by making an outrageous accusation.

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Donald Trump

Former White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest has his own take on Trump’s motivation. Appearing on the March 5 edition of ABC’s “This Week”, he said: “We know exactly why President Trump tweeted what he tweeted.

“Because there is one page in the Trump White House crisis management playbook. And that is simply to tweet or say something outrageous to distract from the scandal, and the bigger the scandal, the more outrageous the tweet.”

Earnest served as White House Press Secretary under President Obama from 2014 to 2017.

He added: Obama could not have legally ordered a wiretap: “The President of the United States does not have the authority to unilaterally order the wiretapping of an American citizen.”

Theory #3: Trump is too mentally unbalanced to hold the Presidency–and command of America’s nuclear arsenal.  

Trump’s shoot-first-and-never-mind-the-consequences approach to life has been thoroughly documented.  

From June 15, 2015, when he launched his Presidential campaign, until October 24, 2016, he fired nearly 4,000 angry, insulting tweets at 281 people and institutions. The New York Times needed two full pages of its print edition to showcase them.

Among these targets were:

  • His Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton
  • His fellow Republican Presidential candidates
  • Actress Meryl Streep
  • News organizations
  • President Barack Obama
  • Comedian John Oliver
  • Obamacare
  • Singer Neil Young
  • The state of New Jersey 
  • Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger.  

And during his first two weeks as President, Trump attacked 22 people, places and things on his @realDonaldTrump account.  

Trump’s vindictiveness, his narcissism, his compulsive aggression, his complaints that his “enemies” in government and the press are trying to destroy him, have caused many to ask: Could the President of the United States be suffering from mental illness?

One who has dared to answer this question is John D. Gartner, a practicing psychotherapist. 

Image result for Images of Dr. John Gartner

John D. Gartner

Gartner graduated magna cum laude from Princeton University, received his Ph.D in clinical psychology from the University of Massachusetts, and served as a part time assistant professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University Medical School for 28 years.

During an interview by U.S. News & World Report (published on January 27), Gartner said: “Donald Trump is dangerously mentally ill and temperamentally incapable of being president.”

Gartner said that Trump suffers from “malignant narcissism,” whose symptoms include anti-social behavior, sadism, aggressiveness, paranoia and grandiosity. 

“We’ve seen enough public behavior by Donald Trump now that we can make this diagnosis indisputably,” says Gartner, who admits he has not personally examined Trump.  

In 1965, Fletcher Knebel, the best-selling author of Seven Days in May, raised the then-unthinkable question: “What would happen if the President of the U.S.A. went stark-raving mad?”  

He did so in his novel, Night of Camp David.  

In 1965, the idea that an American President might become insane was thought so outlandish it could only appear in a novel.  

Fifty-two years later, it’s no longer unthinkable. For millions, it’s a terrifying reality.

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.”

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.  

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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.”

HUBRIS–AMERICAN STYLE

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 7, 2017 at 4:00 pm

Donald Trump has changed Presidential campaigning–perhaps forever.

First, he routinely insulted his opponents. He made angry and brutal attacks on a wide range of persons and organizations–including his fellow Republicans, journalists, news organizations, other countries and even celebrities unconnected with politics.

Among those groups:

  • Mexicans
  • Prisoners-of-War
  • Blacks
  • Handicapped

Donald Trump

  • Muslims
  • Women
  • Asians

Second, he weaponized social media. He made Twitter an essential arm of his campaign, swiftly insulting his opponents and keeping them constantly off-balance. He proved himself a master at the tabloid news culture and thoroughly in tune with his target audience.

Third, he used the media for free publicity.  Since announcing his candidacy on June 16, 2015, he got a year’s worth of free media advertising.  This wasn’t the result of a networks’ conspiracy to favor Trump.

Instead, it owed to the media’s lust for sensational copy. And scenes of conflict–such as making brutal attacks on others–generate huge viewership.

This was most apparent in debates, during which he belittled his Republican opponents with insulting nicknames, such as:

  • “Little Marco” – Florida U.S. Senator Marco Rubio
  • “Goofy” – Massachusetts U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren
  • “Lyin’ Ted” – Texas U.S. Senator Rafael Eduardo “Ted” Cruz

And looking beyond the Republican primary cycle, he created one for his future Democratic antagonist: “Crooked Hillary”–Hillary Clinton, former First Lady, U.S. Senator from New York and Secretary of State.

Political pundits marveled at Trump’s ability to jettison long-held niceties of political discourse and not pay an electoral price for it. They kept predicting that eventually this might happen.  But it never did.

Fourth, he openly called for the subversion of the American political system.

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).

Cyber-security experts believed the hackers originated from Russia–and that Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized it.

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The emails revealed the DNC’s bias for Clinton for President. And they showed clear animosity toward her lone challenger, Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders.

Sanders’ supporters had long charged that the DNC and its chair, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, were plotting to undercut his campaign.

Five days later, on July 27, at a press conference in Doral, Florida. Trump said:

“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

Trump hoped to score points on Hillary Clinton’s using a private email server as Secretary of State. Instead, he ignited criticism–of himself–on both Left and Right.

“This has to be the first time that a major presidential candidate has actively encouraged a foreign power to conduct espionage against his political opponent,” said Jake Sullivan, Clinton’s chief foreign policy adviser. “This has gone from being a matter of curiosity, and a matter of politics, to being a national security issue.”

Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan was equally quick to react. “Russia is a global menace led by a devious thug,” said Brendan Buck, Ryan’s spokesman. “Putin should stay out of this election.”

“If he is talking about the State Department emails on her server, he is inviting a foreign intelligence service to steal sensitive American government information,” said Michael Hayden, head of the CIA under President George W. Bush.

“In addition to its implications for national security today,” wrote Benjy Sarlin, political reporter for MSNBC, “the incident raised disturbing questions about how Trump would govern as president. If a leader is willing to turn to ask foreign spy agencies to target a political opponent, what would he ask of his own spy agencies?”

The avalanche of criticism led Trump to claim: “I was only being sarcastic.”

For at least one normally conservative newspaper, Trump’s words were simply too much. In a July 27 editorial, The Dallas Morning News declared:

“Words have meaning.  The world is listening. And what the world is hearing is a man demonstrating that he is unfit to sit in the Oval Office.”

Since the end of World War II, Republicans had taken an intensely anti-Communist stance. Now their Presidential nominee had not only complimented an ex-KGB agent but had even invited him to target the American political system.

Despite the criticism, the overwhelming majority of Republicans–including Paul Ryan–continued to support Trump’s candidacy. Nor did the Obama administration investigate or indict him for treason or subversion.

The ancient Greeks believed hubris–overweening pride–to be the greatest of sins. And, they warned, it was usually punished by divine wrath.

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In his book, The World of Herodotus, Aubrey de Selincourt writes that the Greek historian filled his book, The Histories, with “stories of the perils of pride–pride of wealth, pride of power, pride of success, and, deadliest of all, the pride which leads a man to forget that he is a nothing in the sight of the gods.”

And, in the pages of The Histories lies this warning: “Look to the end, no matter what it is you are considering. Often enough, God gives a man a glimpse of happiness, and then utterly ruins him.”

Donald Trump has finally made it to the White House. But there is still time for hubris to overtake and destroy him.

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