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WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY VLAD: PART FOUR (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 3, 2020 at 12:50 am

The appointment of Robert S. Mueller as Special Counsel aroused unprecedented hopes and fears.

Foes of President Donald Trump hoped that Mueller would unearth evidence of criminality—if not treason—blatant enough to guarantee his impeachment.

Supporters of Trump—starting with the President—feared that this would be the case. When Attorney General Jeff Sessions told Trump that a Special Counsel had been appointed, the President exclaimed, “Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I’m fucked.”

Yet even before the release of the long-awaited Mueller report, several deeply-researched and well-written books outlined Russia’s efforts to subvert the 2016 Presidential race. And they cast devastating light on Trump’s loyalty to the United States.  

Among these:

  • The Apprentice: Trump, Russia and the Subversion of Democracy, by Greg Miller
  • House of Trump, House of Putin: The Untold Story of Donald Trump and the Russian Mafia, by Craig Unger
  • Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump, by Michael Isikoff
  • The Plot to Destroy Democracy: How Putin and His Spies Are Undermining America and Dismantling the West, by Malcom W. Nance

According to its blurb on Amazon.com, The Apprentice is “based on interviews with hundreds of people in Trump’s inner circle, current and former government officials, individuals with close ties to the White House, members of the law enforcement and intelligence communities, foreign officials, and confidential documents.”

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Among the subjects it covers:

  • The Trump Tower meeting, where the Trump campaign sought “dirt” on Hillary Clinton from Russian Intelligence agents;
  • The penetration by Russian Intelligence of computer systems used by Democrats;
  • How Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, tried to set up a secret back channel to Moscow via Russian diplomatic facilities;
  • Trump’s giving Russian officials highly classified secrets supplied by Israeli Intelligence;
  • Trump’s clashes with the FBI and CIA.

Miller is a veteran investigative journalist and twice winner of the Pulitzer Prize. Among his stories: National security adviser Michael Flynn’s discussing U.S. sanctions with Russian officials prior to Trump’s inauguration. The story contributed to Flynn’s ouster.

Then there’s House of Trump, House of Putin, whose jacket blurb describes Trump’s inauguration as “the culmination of Vladimir Putin’s long mission to undermine Western democracy, a mission that he and his hand-selected group of oligarchs and Mafia kingpins had ensnared Trump in, starting more than twenty years ago with the massive bailout of a string of sensational Trump hotel and casino failures in Atlantic City.  

House of Trump, House of Putin: The Untold Story of Donald Trump and the Russian Mafia

“…Craig Unger methodically traces the deep-rooted alliance between the highest echelons of American political operatives and the biggest players in the frightening underworld of the Russian Mafia. He traces Donald Trump’s sordid ascent from foundering real estate tycoon to leader of the free world….

“Without Trump, Russia would have lacked a key component in its attempts to return to imperial greatness. Without Russia, Trump would not be president.”

As an appendix to the book, Unger writes: “Donald Trump has repeatedly said he has nothing to do with Russia. Below are fifty-nine Trump connections to Russia.”

Russian Roulette, according to its dust jacket, “is a story of political skullduggery unprecedented in American history. It weaves together tales of international intrigue, cyber espionage, and superpower rivalry.

“After U.S.-Russia relations soured, as Vladimir Putin moved to reassert Russian strength on the global stage, Moscow trained its best hackers and trolls on U.S. political targets and exploited WikiLeaks to disseminate information that could affect the 2016 election.

“The Russians were wildly successful and the great break-in of 2016 was no ‘third-rate burglary.’ It was far more sophisticated and sinister—a brazen act of political espionage designed to interfere with American democracy. At the end of the day, Trump, the candidate who pursued business deals in Russia, won….

“This story of high-tech spying and multiple political feuds is told against the backdrop of Trump’s strange relationship with Putin and the curious ties between members of his inner circle—including Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn—and Russia.”

Malcom Nance, the author of The Plot to Destroy Democracy, is an Intelligence and foreign policy analyst and media commentator on terrorism, intelligence, insurgency and torture. 

In his book, he outlines how “Donald Trump was made President of the United States with the assistance of a foreign power. 

The Plot to Destroy Democracy: How Putin and His Spies Are Undermining America and Dismantling the West

“[It is] the dramatic story of how blackmail, espionage, assassination, and psychological warfare were used by Vladimir Putin and his spy agencies to steal the 2016 U.S. election—and attempted to bring about the fall of NATO, the European Union, and western democracy….

“Nance has utilized top secret Russian-sourced political and hybrid warfare strategy documents to demonstrate the master plan to undermine American institutions that has been in effect from the Cold War to the present day.

“Based on original research and countless interviews with espionage experts, Nance examines how Putin’s recent hacking accomplished a crucial first step for destabilizing the West for Russia, and why Putin is just the man to do it.”

These books—combined with the findings of the Mueller report—clearly establish the damning conclusion: The man now sitting in the Oval Office is an illegitimate usurper, installed by an unholy alliance of American Fascists and Russian Communists.

WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY VLAD: PART THREE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 2, 2020 at 12:08 am

Yet another example of Donald Trump’s treason occurred on January 20, 2017—the day he became the 45th President of the United States: Michael Flynn became the nation’s 25th National Security Adviser.

Flynn was a former United States Army lieutenant general and director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

TREASON EXAMPLE #5 On February 8, Flynn denied having spoken to Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December, 2016, about removing the sanctions placed on Russia by the outgoing Obama administration.

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

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

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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.  

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 Russian President Vladimir Putin for dinner.

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

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

TREASON EXAMPLE #6 On May 9, 2017, President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey for investigating Russia’s subversion of the 2016 Presidential race. 

There were four reasons for this:

  1. Comey had refused to pledge his personal loyalty to Trump. Trump had made the “request” during a private dinner at the White House in January.
  2. Comey told Trump that he would always be honest with him. But that didn’t satisfy Trump’s demand that the head of the FBI act as his personal secret police chief—as was the case in the former Soviet Union.
  3. Trump had tried to coerce Comey into dropping the FBI’s investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, for his secret ties to Russia and Turkey. Comey had similarly resisted that demand.
  4. Comey had recently asked the Justice Department to fund an expanded FBI investigation into well-documented contacts between Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign and Russian Intelligence agents.The goal of that collaboration: To elect Trump over Hillary Clinton, a longtime foe of Russian President Putin. 

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James Comey

TREASON EXAMPLE #7 On May 10, Trump met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the Oval Office—and gave them highly classified Israeli Intelligence about an Islamic State plot to turn laptops into concealable bombs.

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

“I just fired the head of the FBI,” Trump told the two dignitaries. “He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”        

TREASON EXAMPLE #8 On July 16, 2018, Trump attended a press conference in Helsinki, Finland, with Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

There he blamed American Intelligence agencies—such as the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency—as partners in a conspiracy: “You have groups that are wondering why the FBI never took the server, why haven’t they taken the server? Why was the FBI told to leave the office of the Democratic National Committee? 

“I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.” 

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Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin in Helsinki

TREASON EXAMPLE #9  On June 9, 2018, Trump called for Russia to be readmitted to the G7.  

“I think it would be an asset to have Russia back in,” he said during an impromptu press conference at the summit.

“I think it would be good for the world. I think it would be good for Russia. I think it would be good for the United States. I think it would be good for all of the countries of the current G7. I think the G8 would be better.”  

Russia was ousted from the group in 2014 after Putin annexed Crimea—the first violation of a European country’s borders since World War II. 

“Today crystallizes precisely why Putin was so eager to see Trump elected,” said former Obama National Security Council spokesman Ned Price.

“For Putin, this is return on his investment, and it’s safe to say that his investment has paid off beyond even his wildest dreams,” he said in a statement to CNN.   

WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY VLAD: PART TWO (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 1, 2020 at 12:15 am

Donald Trump—as the Republican nominee for President—steadfastly refused to acknowledge his decades-long relationship with Russia. On October 24, 2016, he stated: “I have nothing to do with Russia, folks, I’ll give you a written statement.” 

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

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

And Trump’s son, Eric, said in 2014: “Well, we don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia.”

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

Nor did Trump have any qualms about appointing men with ties to Russian officials to high posts. One of these—Rex Tillerson, as Secretary of State—has already been mentioned.

Another was Jeff Sessions, whom he nominated as Attorney General. During the 2016 campaign, Sessions—then serving as a surrogate for Trump’s campaign—twice spoke with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

But during his Senate confirmation 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 investigate Russia’s efforts to influence the outcome of the 2016 Presidential election.

TREASON EXAMPLE #4: Trump has repeatedly praised and defended Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.

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Vladimir Putin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TREASON EXAMPLE #5 On January 20, 2017—the day Donald J. Trump became the 45th President of the United States—Michael Flynn took office as the nation’s 25th National Security Adviser.

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

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

WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY VLAD: PART ONE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 30, 2020 at 12:20 am

American Intelligence officials have told The New York Times and the Associated Press that Russia secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing American troops in Afghanistan.  

In early 2020, members of the elite SEAL Team Six raided a Taliban outpost and recovered roughly $500,000 in American cash. The recovered funds led the American intelligence community to believe that the government of Vladimir Putin had offered money to Taliban militants to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan.

Additional confirmation came from the interrogations of captured militants and criminals. 

As early as January, the SEALS in Afghanistan alerted their superiors of this danger.

President Donald Trump—who receives Intelligence from a wide range of military and civilian agencies—claims he wasn’t briefed on these Intelligence assessments. He made his denial through White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany: The information had not been “verified.” 

This despite the fact that every morning he receives the President’s Daily Briefing, a top-secret document containing highly classified Intelligence analysis.

In fact, the Intelligence assessment has been under discussion within the Trump administration since at least March.

From the outset, Trump has acted like a guilty man desperate to stop an investigation before it uncovers the full extent of his criminality and treason. 

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

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

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

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

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Donald Trump

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

On July 27, 2016, during his campaign for President, Trump said at a press conference in Doral, Florida: “Russia, if you are listening, I hope you are able to find the 33,000 emails that are missing [from Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s computer]. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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

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

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Rex Tillerson

THE TEMPTATIONS OF FLATTERY

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on June 8, 2020 at 12:52 am

I must not omit an important subject….And this is with regard to flatterers, of which courts are full, because men take such pleasure in their own things and deceive themselves about them that they can with difficulty guard against this plague….

Because there is no other way of guarding oneself against flattery than by letting men understand that they will not offend you by speaking  the truth.
Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses

On October 10, 2019, President Donald Trump took aim at Joe Biden, his potential Democratic rival for the White House in 2020. 

Speaking at a campaign rally in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Trump spoke as if Biden’s son, Hunter, was present: “Your father was never considered smart. He was never considered a good senator. He was only a good vice president because he understood how to kiss Barack Obama’s ass.”

Trump no doubt believed he had scored a two-in-one insult—at both former President Barack Obama and his then-Vice President.    

But Obama, as depicted in the memoirs of those who worked closely with him, did not demand sickeningly worshipful praise. He was, in fact, wary of sycophants, insisting on being well and honestly briefed.

It was this quality that led him to authorize—and oversee—the successful takedown of 9/11 mastermind Osama Bin Laden on May 1, 2011 by U.S. Navy SEALs.

It is actually Trump who demands not simply loyalty but constant flattery.

In this—as in his vindictiveness and coarseness—he closely resembles Joseph Stalin, the infamous dictator of the Soviet Union from 1924 to 1953.

Joseph Stalin

A third similarity unites Trump and the late Soviet premier: Raging egomania.

On December 21, 1949, Stalin turned 70. And millions of Russians feverishly competed to out-do one another in singing his praises.

These celebrations weren’t prompted by love—but fear.

He had lived up to his pseudonym: “Man of Steel.” For almost 30 years, through purges and starvation caused by enforced collections of farmers’ crops, he had slaughtered 20 to 60 million of his fellow citizens.

The British historian, Robert Payne, described these rapturous events in his classic 1965 biography, The Rise and Fall of Stalin:

“From all over the country came gifts of embroidered cloth, tapestries and carpets bearing his name or his features….Poets extolled him in verses, He was the sun, the splendor, the lord of creation.

“The novelist Leonid Lenov…foretold the day when all the peoples of the earth would celebrate his birthday; the new calendar would begin with the birth of Stalin rather than with the birth of Christ.”

Lavrenti P. Beria, Stalin’s sinister and feared secret police chief: “Millions of fighters for peace and democracy in all countries of the world are closing their ranks still firmer around Comrade Stalin.”

Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov: “The gigantic Soviet army created during [World War II] was under the direct leadership of Comrade Stalin and built on the basis of the principles of Stalinist military science.”

Defense Commissar Kliment Voroshilov: “The mighty voice of the Great Stalin, defending the peace of the world, has penetrated into all corners of the globe.”

Central Committee Secretary Georgi Malenkov: “With a feeling of great gratitude, turning their eyes to Stalin, the peoples of the Soviet Union, and hundreds of millions of peoples in all countries of the world, and all progressive mankind see in Comrade Stalin their beloved leader and teacher….”

Now, fast forward to June 12, 2017.

That was when President Donald J. Trump—also 70—convened his first full Cabinet meeting since taking office on January 20.

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Donald Trump

On June 12, polls showed that only 36% of Americans approved of his conduct. But from his Cabinet members, Trump got praise traditionally lavished on dictators like Stalin and North Korea’s Kim Jong On.

While the Cabinet members sat around a mahogany table in the West Wing of the White House, Trump instructed each one to say a few words about the good work his administration was doing.

Vice President Mike Pence: “It is the greatest privilege of my life to serve as the vice president to a president who is keeping his word to the American people.”

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Mike Pence

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue: “I just got back from Mississippi. They love you there.”

Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price: “What an incredible honor it is to lead the Department of Health and Human Services at this pivotal time under your leadership. I can’t thank you enough for the privilege that you’ve given me, and the leadership you’ve shown.”

Chief of Staff Reince Priebus:On behalf of the entire senior staff around you, Mr. President, we thank you for the opportunity and the blessing you’ve given us to serve your agenda and the American people.” 

Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao: “Thank you for coming over to the Department of Transportation. I want to thank you for getting this country moving again, and also working again.”

Politicians—both domestic and foreign—have quickly learned that the quickest way to get on Trump’s “good side” is to shamelessly and constantly praise him.

Some historians believe that Stalin was poisoned by one of his fawning yes-men—most likely Lavrenti Beria.

The time may come when Trump learns that outrageous flattery can hide murderous hatred.

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

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

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

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

“LIBERATE MINNESOTA!”

“LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Week 1: Hand sanitizers, soaps and disinfectants.

Week 2: Toilet paper and paper towels.

Weeks 3 and 4: Spiral hams and baking yeast. 

Week 5: Hair clippers and hair dye. 

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

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

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

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

Motorists lined up to receive help from food bank

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

Similar scenes occurred at food banks across the United States.

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

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

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

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

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

About CDC

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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

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

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

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

Another business that’s suffering badly is taxi services.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image result for Public domain images of Donald Trump

Donald Trump

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (cropped).jpg

Gretchen Whitmer

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

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

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

The Black Hand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

N95 mask

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

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

No longer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

World Trade Center – September 11, 2001

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SARS-CoV-2 without background.png

Coronavirus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Obam has message for pokemon nerds - YouTube

Barack Obama

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

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

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

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

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

FLATTERY: THEY NAME IS STALIN / TRUMP

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on October 24, 2019 at 12:06 am

I must not omit an important subject….And this is with regard to flatterers, of which courts are full, because men take such pleasure in their own things and deceive themselves about them that they can with difficulty guard against this plague….

Because there is no other way of guarding oneself against flattery than by letting men understand that they will not offend you by speaking  the truth.
Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses

On October 10, President Donald Trump took aim at Joe Biden, his potential Democratic rival for the White House in 2020.

Speaking at a campaign rally in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Trump spoke as if Biden’s son, Hunter, was present: “Your father was never considered smart. He was never considered a good senator. He was only a good vice president because he understood how to kiss Barack Obama’s ass.”

Trump no doubt believed he had scored a two-in-one insult—at both former President Barack Obama and his then-Vice President.

But Obama, as depicted in the memoirs of those who worked closely with him, did not demand sickeningly worshipful praise. He was, in fact, wary of sycophants, insisting on being well and honestly briefed.

It was this quality that led him to authorize—and oversee—the successful takedown of 9/11 mastermind Osama Bin Laden on May 1, 2011 by U.S. Navy SEALs.

It is actually Trump who demands not simply loyalty but constant flattery.

In this—as in his vindictiveness and coarseness—he closely resembles Joseph Stalin, the infamous dictator of the Soviet Union from 1924 to 1953.

Joseph Stalin

A third similarity unites Trump and the late Soviet premier: Raging egomania.

On December 21, 1949, Stalin turned 70. And millions of Russians feverishly competed to out-do one another in singing his praises.

These celebrations weren’t prompted by love—but fear.

He had lived up to his pseudonym: “Man of Steel.” For almost 30 years, through purges and starvation caused by enforced collections of farmers’ crops, he had slaughtered 20 to 60 million of his fellow citizens.

The British historian, Robert Payne, described these rapturous events in his classic 1965 biography, The Rise and Fall of Stalin:

“From all over the country came gifts of embroidered cloth, tapestries and carpets bearing his name or his features….Poets extolled him in verses, He was the sun, the splendor, the lord of creation.

“The novelist Leonid Lenov…foretold the day when all the peoples of the earth would celebrate his birthday; the new calendar would begin with the birth of Stalin rather than with the birth of Christ.”

Lavrenti P. Beria, Stalin’s sinister and feared secret police chief: “Millions of fighters for peace and democracy in all countries of the world are closing their ranks still firmer around Comrade Stalin.”

Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov: “The gigantic Soviet army created during [World War II] was under the direct leadership of Comrade Stalin and built on the basis of the principles of Stalinist military science.”

Defense Commissar Kliment Voroshilov: “The mighty voice of the Great Stalin, defending the peace of the world, has penetrated into all corners of the globe.”

Central Committee Secretary Georgi Malenkov: “With a feeling of great gratitude, turning their eyes to Stalin, the peoples of the Soviet Union, and hundreds of millions of peoples in all countries of the world, and all progressive mankind see in Comrade Stalin their beloved leader and teacher….”

Now, fast forward to June 12, 2017.

That was when President Donald J. Trump—also 70—convened his first full Cabinet meeting since taking office on January 20.

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Donald Trump

On June 12, polls showed that only 36% of Americans approved of his conduct. But from his Cabinet members, Trump got praise traditionally lavished on dictators like Stalin and North Korea’s Kim Jong On.

While the Cabinet members sat around a mahogany table in the West Wing of the White House, Trump instructed each one to say a few words about the good work his administration was doing.

Vice President Mike Pence: “It is the greatest privilege of my life to serve as the vice president to a president who is keeping his word to the American people.”

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Mike Pence

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue: “I just got back from Mississippi. They love you there.”

Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price: “What an incredible honor it is to lead the Department of Health and Human Services at this pivotal time under your leadership. I can’t thank you enough for the privilege that you’ve given me, and the leadership you’ve shown.”

Chief of Staff Reince Priebus:On behalf of the entire senior staff around you, Mr. President, we thank you for the opportunity and the blessing you’ve given us to serve your agenda and the American people.” 

Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao: “Thank you for coming over to the Department of Transportation. I want to thank you for getting this country moving again, and also working again.”

Politicians—both domestic and foreign—have quickly learned that the quickest way to get on Trump’s “good side” is to shamelessly and constantly praise him.

Some historians believe that Stalin was poisoned by one of his fawning yes-men—most likely Lavrenti Beria.

The time may come when Trump learns that outrageous flattery can hide murderous hatred.

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