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TBR News August 20, 2020

Aug 20 2020

The Voice of the White House

Comments for August 20, 2020; In these times, as earlier, many of the public thrive on conspiracy theories because it gives them a feeling of being part of something large and thrilling.

I have studied conspiracy stories for years and have come to the conclusion that 99% of them are the result of stupidity and the attempts to cover it up.

“But the birds were seen flying the other way! Isn’t that significant? Daily Kos has an excellent article on these suspicious birds, written by a Famous Scientist (who doesn’t want his name used, of course)”

Bureaucracies are filled with people who couldn’t get a real job and whose government paychecks ought to be gift-wrapped.

Governments are desperate to prevent any kind of a public uproar that might disturb the status quo so they lie, not to cover up plots but to cover theirs, and others, political asses.

The underlying cause of this is gross neglect and criminal carelessness not only on the part of the cost-cutting owners but the lax, and under Bush, criminally negligant pro-business regulatory agencies.

And how will they accomplish this? By use of the friendly media and, most important, by having their pet “bloggers” and paid website managers concoct weird stories about death rays, missing cell phones, secret gas leaks, alQuadea trained gophers intent on industrial sabotage and on and on.

The credulous public, ever frantic for more and increasingly thrilling conspiracies to nurture their small egos, will get their hands on these inventions, water and fertilize them and send them around to others with their own little invented additions.

In the end, the criminal stupidity is effectively masked by the created images and management and government can prepare for the next disinformation campaign.

Those who believe in mysterious conspiracies ought to recognize that they have become unknowing parts of a real conspiracy, the conspiracy of obfuscation, lies and official disinformation.

This applies, equally, to the Katrina disaster, the SEA tsunami, 911, the Kennedy assassination, severe weather events, ship sinkings and on and on. Pick one of the above and Google it to see that the number of breathless conspiracy sites proliferate like fungus after a good rain.

 

 The Table of Contents

  • Obama delivers searing attack on Trump and warns of grave threat to democracy
  • Trump Disapproval Rating At New High In New Poll As Americans Are Embarrassed By Coronavirus Response
  • Organized Official Crime
  • Putin wants Belarus in Moscow’s orbit — with or without Lukashenko
  • Trump must give his tax returns to NY prosecutor, judge rules
  • Gina Haspel hangs on at CIA, with little support from Trump or Democrats
  • Trump urges Goodyear tire boycott after company bars political attire
  • The Encyclopedia of American Loons

Obama delivers searing attack on Trump and warns of grave threat to democracy

  • Ex-president says Trump will try to ‘tear our democracy down’
  • Vice-presidential nominee Harris pledges to fight with hope

August 20, 2020

by David Smith in Washington and Lauren Gambino in Wilmington

The Guardian

Barack Obama has delivered his most scathing attack on Donald Trump, accusing the US president and his enablers of trying to suppress the vote in November’s election and making the heartfelt plea: “Don’t let them take away your democracy.”

In the most withering critique by a former president on his successor in modern times, Obama made the case that Trump, a billionaire businessman and celebrity, has not grown into the job of president because he cannot, and instead treats it as a reality TV show.

His grave address mentioned the word “democracy” 18 times and offered a stark warning: “This administration has shown it will tear our democracy down if that’s what it takes to win. So we have to get busy building it up.”

Obama, the country’s first Black president, spoke on the third night of the virtual Democratic national convention just before Senator Kamala Harris of California became the first Black person to be formally nominated for vice-president by a major party and promised to fight with conviction and hope.

Obama spoke from the symbolic location of the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia. The words “Writing the constitution” were displayed on an exhibit wall behind him. The absence of cheering crowds that greeted him at past conventions, including two successful presidential nominations, fitted the sombre occasion.

This time, Obama argued, the election is not merely a battle of blue versus red but for the survival of democracy itself. “What we do these next 76 days will echo through generations to come,” he said.

Obama noted that he had sat in the Oval Office with both men who are running for president and said sardonically he had hoped that Trump might “show some interest in taking the job seriously … But he never did.

“For close to four years now, he’s shown no interest in putting in the work; no interest in finding common ground; no interest in using the awesome power of his office to help anyone but himself and his friends; no interest in treating the presidency as anything but one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves. Donald Trump hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t.”

The consequences, he continued, were 170,000 Americans killed by the coronavirus pandemic, millions of jobs lost while the rich get richer, “our worst impulses unleashed, our proud reputation around the world badly diminished, and our democratic institutions threatened like never before”.

Obama also lavished praise on Trump’s challenger Joe Biden, his vice-president, “friend” and “brother”, as well as Biden’s running mate, Harris.

“Joe and Kamala have concrete policies that will turn their vision of a better, fairer, stronger country into reality,” he said. “But more than anything, what I know about Joe and Kamala is that they actually care about every American. And they care deeply about this democracy.”

Even as Obama spoke, Trump tweeted angry retorts in all caps.

Obama said he understood why many people were feeling down on government and were wondering what the point was.

“Well, here’s the point,” he said. “This president and those in power – those who benefit from keeping things the way they are – they are counting on your cynicism. They know they can’t win you over with their policies. So they’re hoping to make it as hard as possible for you to vote, and to convince you that your vote doesn’t matter.

“That’s how they win. That’s how they get to keep making decisions that affect your life, and the lives of the people you love. That’s how the economy will keep getting skewed to the wealthy and well-connected, how our health systems will let more people fall through the cracks. That’s how a democracy withers, until it’s no democracy at all.”

He urged: “We can’t let that happen. Do not let them take away your power. Don’t let them take away your democracy.”

He called on Americans to make plan now on how to get involved and how to vote: “What we do echoes through the generations.”

Obama apart, the night belonged to Democratic women across generations, from host Kerry Washington to singer Billie Eilish, from House speaker Nancy Pelosi to former congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who was shot in the head in Tucson, Arizona, nearly a decade ago yet survived and now found the courage, grit and determination to speak about resilience and even play a French horn.

In a sign of how much has changed in the pandemic, Harris introduced herself to the nation in a sparsely attended auditorium in Wilmington, Delaware. She was applauded by supporters on a giant video screen. When nominee Joe Biden walked out, he remained physically distanced and could not embrace her.

Harris, the daughter of immigrants from Jamaica and India, sketched out her personal biography. “My mother taught me that service to others gives life purpose and meaning. And, oh, how I wish she were here tonight. But I know she’s looking down on me from above. I keep thinking about that 25-year-old Indian woman – all of five feet tall – who gave birth to me at Kaiser Hospital in Oakland, California.

She went on: “On that day, she probably could have never imagined that I would be standing before you now speaking these words: I accept your nomination for vice-president of the United States of America.”

She, too, lambasted Trump but also offered hope. “There’s something happening, all across the country,” she said. “It’s not about Joe or me. It’s about you. It’s about us. People of all ages and colors and creeds who are, yes, taking to the streets, and also persuading our family members, rallying our friends, organizing our neighbors, and getting out the vote.”

Democrats are seeking to capitalise on a “gender chasm” between the parties. Women support Biden by 56% to 40%, roughly the same as their margin for Hillary Clinton over Trump in 2016, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll. Wednesday night’s programme seemed calculated to ram home that advantage.

Harris’ nomination also marks the elevation of Black women in a Democratic party that has for decades relied on their electoral power but whose loyalty was rarely reflected in leadership. In the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd in May, which sparked a national reckoning on racism, Biden faced pressure to choose a Black woman as his running mate.

But there was also a rueful look in the rearview mirror. Clinton wore suffragette white just as she did at her triumphant convention in 2016. Instead of the wildly enthusiastic crowds in Philadelphia anointing her as a likely future president, now she was alone at her home in Chappaqua, New York.

She said of Trump: “For four years, people have said to me, ‘I didn’t realise how dangerous he was.’ ‘I wish I could go back and do it over.’ ‘I should have voted.’ This can’t be another woulda-coulda-shoulda election.”

Clinton made reference to her own defeat in the electoral college, in spite of winning the popular vote, and fears that Trump will sow chaos and distrust in the process in a bid to claim victory again. “Remember: Joe and Kamala can win three million more votes and still lose. Take it from me. We need numbers so overwhelming Trump can’t sneak or steal his way to victory.”

Senator Elizabeth Warren, who finished third in the Democratic primary, spoke from the Early Childhood Education Center in Springfield, Massachusetts, which has been closed for months due to the coronavirus pandemic. In another display of party unity, she said: “Joe and Kamala will make high-quality child care affordable for every family, make pre-school universal, and raise the wages for every childcare worker.”

Videos produced for the third of the virtual convention included 11-year-old Estela Juarez from Florida, reading a letter she wrote to Trump after her mother – who married a US American marine with whom she had two American children – was deported to Mexico in an indictment of the president’s harsh immigration policies.

Another montage celebrated this week’s centenary of women winning the right to vote, weaving together footage of women marching throughout American history, including the historic women’s march that came a day after Trump’s inauguration.

 

Trump Disapproval Rating At New High In New Poll As Americans Are Embarrassed By Coronavirus Response

August 19, 2020

by Tommy Beer

Forbes

          TOPLINE A majority (68%) of Americans said they feel embarrassed by the United States’ haphazard response to the coronavirus outbreak, according to a new CNN poll released Wednesday, which also found that a majority of respondents are “very angry” about the state of the country—as President Trump’s approval ratings hit a new low.

Election 2020 Trump

KEY FACTS

58% of Americans say they don’t approve of the way President Donald Trump has responded to the pandemic, according to the CNN survey, which is a new high.

Unsurprisingly, there was a sharp partisan divide among the respondents, with 93% of Democrats saying they’re embarrassed by the U.S. response, compared to just 33% of Republicans who agreed (and 61% of Republicans saying they are “proud”).

About eight in ten Americans say they are at least somewhat angry with how “things are going in the country today,” including a remarkable 51% who say they are very angry.

According to CNN, the previous high for the share who said they were “very angry” was 35%, reached in 2008 and 2016.

In June, 40% of Americans said they knew someone diagnosed with the coronavirus, but that number had increased significantly, to 67%, by August.

The poll was conducted for CNN via telephone by SSRS, an independent research company, with interviews conducted from August 12-15 among 1,108 adults (including an oversample of 305 respondents living in 15 battleground states).

KEY BACKGROUND:

Most experts expect the Trump Administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic to be a critical factor in citizens’ decisions as they enter voting booths this November. As of Wednesday morning, more than 5,498,300 people in the U.S. have been infected with Covid-19, and at least 171,800 have died, according to a New York Times database. Trump has consistently claimed that the case count is higher in the U.S. due to more testing. On Monday, the U.S. reported 35,112 new coronavirus cases, the fewest since June 24. Hospitalizations are also declining in most states. However, according to the CNN poll, when asked where the country stands as it relates to the pandemic, 55% of Americans said they feel the “worst is yet to come.” A slim majority (52%) say they are uncomfortable about returning to their normal prepandemic lives, given the country’s current level of new infections. Yet, again, there was an enormous gap (64 points) between the percentages of Republicans (82%) and Democrats (18%)

BIG NUMBER:

75: That’s how many days remain until Election Day, November 3.

 

Organized Official Crime    

 

After the fall of Gorbachev and his replacement by Boris Yeltsin, a known CIA connection, the Russian criminal mob was encouraged by the CIA to move into the potentially highly lucrative Russian natural resource field.

By 1993 almost all banks in Russia were owned by the mafia, and 80% of businesses were paying protection money. In that year, 1400 people were murdered in Moscow, crime members killed businessmen who would not pay money to them, as well as reporters, politicians, bank owners and others opposed to them. The new criminal class of Russia took on a more Westernized and businesslike approach to organized crime as the more code-of-honor based Vory faded into extinction.

The Izmaylovskaya gang was considered one of the country’s most important and oldest Russian Mafia groups in Moscow and also had a presence in Tel Aviv, Berlin, Paris, Toronto, Miami and New York City. It was founded during the 1980s under the leadership of Oleg Ivanov and was estimated to consist of about 200 active members (according to other data of 300–500 people). In principle, the organization was divided into two separate bodies—Izmailovskaya and Gol’yanovskaya  which utilized quasi-military ranks and strict internal discipline. It was involved extensively in murder-for-hire, extortions, and infiltration of legitimate businesses.

The gangs were termed the Oligarchy and were funded by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Israeli-owned Bank of New York all with the assisance of the American government.

The arrival of Vladimir Putin as the new leader of Russia was at first ignored in Washington. A former KGB Lt. Colonel who had been stationed in East Germany, Putin was viewed as inconsequential, bland and colorless by the purported Russian experts in both the Department of State and the CIA.

Putin, however, proved to be a dangerous opponent who blocked the Oligarchs attempt to control the oil fields and other assets, eventual control of which had been promised to both American and British firms.

The Oligarchs were allowed to leave the country and those remaining behind were forced to follow Putin’s policies. Foreign control over Russian natural resources ceased and as both the CIA, various foreign firms and the American government had spent huge sums greasing the skids, there was now considerable negative feelings towards Putin.

The next serious moves against Russia came with a plan conceived by the CIA and fully approved by President George W. Bush, whose father had once been head of the CIA.

This consisted of ‘Operation Sickle’ which was designed to surround the western and southern borders of Russia with states controlled by the United States through the guise of NATO membership. Included in this encirclement program were the Baltic States, Poland, the Czech Republic, Georgia and a number of Asiatic states bordering southern Russia. It was the stated intention of the NATO leadership to put military missiles in all these countries. The so-called “Orange Revolution” funded and directed by the CIA, overthrew the pro-Moscow government in the Ukraine, giving the United States theoretical control over the heavy industrialized Donetz Basin and most importantly, the huge former Soviet naval base at Sebastopol.

The Georgia Train and Equip Program (GTEP) was an American-sponsored 18-month, $64-million program aimed at increasing the capabilities of the Georgian armed forces by training and equipping four 600-man battalions with light weapons, vehicles and communications. The program enabled the US to expedite funding for the Georgian military for Operation Enduring Freedom.

On February 27, 2002, the US media reported that the U.S. would send approximately two hundred United States Army Special Forces soldiers to Georgia to train Georgian troops. The program implemented President Bush’s decision to respond to the Government of Georgia’s request for assistance to enhance its counter-terrorism capabilities and addressed the situation in the Pankisi Gorge.

The program began in May 2002 when American special forces soldiers began training select units of the Georgian Armed Forces, including the 12th Commando Light Infantry Battalion, the 16th Mountain-Infantry Battalion, the 13th “Shavnabada” Light Infantry Battalion, the 11th Light Infantry Battalion, a mechanized company and small numbers of Interior Ministry troops and border guards.

Eventually, responsibility for training Georgian forces was turned over to the US Marine Corps in conjunction with the British Army. British and American teams worked as part of a joint effort to train each of the four infantry battalion staffs and their organic rifle companies. This training began with the individual soldier and continued through fire team, squad, platoon, company, and battalion level tactics as well as staff planning and organization. Upon completing training, each of the new Georgian infantry battalions began preparing for deployment rotations in support of the Global War on Terrorism

The CIA were instrumental in getting Mikheil Saakashvili, an erratic policician, pro-West, into the presidency of Georgia but although he allowed the country to be flooded with American arms and “military trainers” he was not a man easily controlled and under the mistaken belief that Ameriacn military might supported him, commenced to threaten Moscow. Two Georgian provinces were heavily populated by Russians and objected to the inclusion in Georgia and against them, Saakashvili began to make threatening moves.

The 2008 South Ossetia War or Russo-Georgian War (in Russia also known as the Five-Day War) was an armed conflict in August 2008 between Georgia on one side, and Russia and separatist governments of South Ossetia and Abkhazia on the other.

During the night of 7 to 8 August 2008, Georgia launched a large-scale military offensive against South Ossetia, in an attempt to reclaim the territory. Georgia claimed that it was responding to attacks on its peacekeepers and villages in South Ossetia, and that Russia was moving non-peacekeeping units into the country. The Georgian attack caused casualties among Russian peacekeepers, who resisted the assault along with Ossetian militia. Georgia successfully captured most of Tskhinvali within hours. Russia reacted by deploying units of the Russian 58th Army and Russian Airborne Troops in South Ossetia, and launching airstrikes against Georgian forces in South Ossetia and military and logistical targets in Georgia proper. Russia claimed these actions were a necessary humanitarian intervention and peace enforcement.

When the Russian incursion was seen as massive and serious, U.S. president George W. Bush’s statement to Russia was: “Bullying and intimidation are not acceptable ways to conduct foreign policy in the 21st century.” The US Embassy in Georgia, describing the Matthew Bryza press-conference, called the war an “incursion by one of the world’s strongest powers to destroy the democratically elected government of a smaller neighbor”.

Initially the Bush Administration seriously considered a military response to defend Georgia, but such an intervention was ruled out by the Pentagon due to the inevitable conflict it would lead to with Russia. Instead, Bush opted for a softer option by sending humanitarian supplies to Georgia by military, rather than civilian, aircraft. And he ordered the immediate evacuation of all American military units from Georgia. The huge CIA contingent in the Georgian capital fled by aircraft and the American troops, mostly U.S. Marines, evacuated quickly to the Black Sea where they were evacuated by the U.S. Navy. British and Israeli military units also fled the country and all of them had to leave behind an enormous amount of military equipment to include tanks, light armored  vehicles, small arms, radio equipment, and trucks full of intelligence data they had neither the time nor foresight to destroy.

The immediate result of this demarche was the defection of the so-called “NATO Block” eastern Europeans from the Bush/CIA project who saw the United States as a paper tiger that would not, and could not, defend them against the Russians. In a sense, the Russian incursion into Georgia was a massive political, not a military, victory.

The CIA was not happy with the actions of Vladimir Putin and when he ran for reelection, they poured money into the hands of Putin’s enemies, hoping to reprise the Ukrainian Orange Revolution but the effort was in vain.

And when the Poles, nervous about the apparent speed with which the US forces had abandoned their bases in Georgia, were in the progress of establishing a rapprochement with Vladimir Putin, the CIA moved to prevent this. The top Polish government was slated to fly into Smolensk for a ceremony to mark the killing by Stalin of many Polish officer prisoners of war. Someone, the Russians are sure was CIA, tampered with the landing signals on the airfield so that the foggy landing strip appeared to be at a lower altitude. The plane, with the entire upper level of the Polish government, slammed into the ground, killing all of the passengers.

Elegant diplomacy executed by true gentlemen!  And never let your children anywhere near any of them.

 

Putin wants Belarus in Moscow’s orbit — with or without Lukashenko

Russian President Vladimir Putin may not send tanks to Belarus. But he will strive to bail out its embattled leader Alexander Lukashenko — on Moscow’s terms.

August 20, 2020

by Konstantin Eggert

DW

While EU leaders held a special summit on the situation in Belarus and refused to recognize the election result, Alexander Lukashenko suddenly sprung into action.

Now that the EU has denied him legitimacy, he is free to behave as he likes. There is no more need for him to pretend that the voice of Brussels matters. At the meeting of his security council, he demanded that police “suppress” opposition rallies in the capital Minsk — “disturbances” as he called them.

Somewhat predictably, Lukashenko also blamed “foreign interference” for the anti-government protests and ordered his diplomats to warn Western leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, that he will hold them “responsible for meddling” in Belarus.

His rediscovered assertiveness may be the result of four telephone conversations Lukashenko has held with Vladimir Putin. The Russian president is the only real ally the strongman in Minsk still has. Despite their perceived personal dislike of each other, Putin will do everything in his power to help Lukashenko survive — politically and, if need be, on the ground. From his intervention in Syria to bail out Bashar Assad, his staunch support for Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro, to the revolution in Belarus — Putin sees himself as the champion of the world’s besieged authoritarian regimes. However, nothing in his eyes compares to Belarus.

The country is nearly totally dependent on Russia economically and is tied to it by a multitude of treaties. The two states have a common external border control system as well as a joint air defense system. Most Russians see Belarussians (erroneously, as most Belarussians would point out) as their ethnic kin with a similar mindset

If Lukashenko falls at the hands of a popular revolution it would deal a severe blow to Putin’s prestige. The idea of “people power” is alien to him. He is worried his own people may pick up on the idea that revolting against authoritarian rule is OK and that the West would use the discontent to remove him. He is also concerned that Russia’s so far servile political class might well see Lukashenko’s overthrow as a sign of political decline and weakness, something he abhors. He can ill afford a change of leadership in Belarus which he hasn’t sanctioned.

The Kremlin will make Lukashenko pay for help

The Kremlin will probably refrain for now from sending in Russian troops to provide “brotherly assistance” to Belarus although it cannot be ruled out completely. The risk of civilian resistance and bloodshed is too high.

Moreover, the idea is not popular with Russians, of which the Kremlin is very aware. But it has a lot of other instruments at hand — electronic warfare and surveillance resources, money and a gigantic propaganda machine, all to be put at Lukashenko’s disposal. Moscow can help Belarussian security services and call it an “advisory mission.”

If Lukashenko survives with Moscow’s help, he will have to pay the price and cave in to Moscow’s old demands: From recognizing the annexation of Crimea, to granting Moscow the right to build military bases in Belarus, and unifying fiscal policies with Russia.

Should that happen, it would make Belarus a de facto Russian province. However, should Lukashenko be forced out of office, Putin will probably resort to his plan B. When new presidential elections are held, the Kremlin will pick and push hard for a pliant pro-Russian candidate, whoever this may be.

Putin’s worst fear is the emergence of a democratic, Western-oriented, EU-friendly Belarus. This may seem not very likely, but he doesn’t want to take any chances. Putin’s best hope is that the EU and the US will not dare to challenge him on what he considers his home turf and that if he hangs on long enough, with or without Lukashenko, the Europeans and the Americans will eventually become distracted by other problems and leave Belarus to him.

With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing, the US presidential elections approaching and ongoing differences on Russian policy between Eastern and Western EU members, these hopes are not completely unfounded.

 

Trump must give his tax returns to NY prosecutor, judge rules

August 20, 2020

by Karen Freifeld and Jonathan Stempel

Reuters

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Donald Trump cannot block a prosecutor’s subpoena for eight years of his tax returns, a federal judge ruled on Thursday, in the latest setback in the U.S. president’s longstanding effort to keep his finances under wraps.

U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero in Manhattan rejected Trump’s claims that the grand jury subpoena from Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance to the president’s accounting firm Mazars USA was “wildly overbroad” and issued in bad faith.

In a 103-page decision, Marrero also said letting Trump block the subpoena would amount to an “undue expansion” of presidential immunity.

Trump quickly appealed the decision and filed an emergency motion to delay turning over his tax returns, saying enforcing the subpoena would cause him irreparable harm by disclosing his “private, confidential information.”

The litigation and grand jury secrecy rules make it unlikely Trump’s financial records will become public before Nov. 3, when the president is seeking reelection.

A spokesman for Vance declined to comment.

Trump has long fought efforts by lawmakers and prosecutors to obtain those records, and by withholding his tax returns has departed from the decades-long practice of his predecessors.

The case concerns an August 2019 subpoena related to Vance’s criminal probe into Trump and his Trump Organization.

In a court filing this month, Vance suggested the subpoena was related to “possibly extensive and protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization,” including alleged insurance and bank fraud.

Marrero rejected Republican Trump’s accusations that the subpoena would let Vance, a Democrat, go on an improper “fishing expedition” into finances.

He also accepted Vance’s argument that letting Trump delay the subpoena’s enforcement would effectively give the president “absolute temporary immunity” from the probe while in the White House.

Unless enforcing the subpoena would affect his constitutional duties, “the President is entitled to claim no greater shield from judicial process than any other person,” Marrero wrote. “Justice requires an end to this controversy.”

On July 9, the Supreme Court rejected Trump’s earlier argument he was immune from state criminal probes while in the White House.

Vance’s probe began after reports that Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen paid pornographic film actress Stormy Daniels $130,000 to buy her silence before the 2016 election about claimed sexual encounters with Trump, which he has denied.

The case is Trump v Vance et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 19-08694.

Reporting by Karen Freifeld and Jonathan Stempel; Editing by Alistair Bell

 

Gina Haspel hangs on at CIA, with little support from Trump or Democrats

“She has dodged the bullet” for now, said one former official, but may not survive beyond the election.

August 20, 2020

by James Risen, Matthew Cole

The Intercept

Central Intelligence Agency Director Gina Haspel is a rarity in the Trump administration’s national security apparatus: a career professional who has beaten the odds and survived repeated personnel purges. The president is on his fourth director of national intelligence and sixth national security adviser, including all the “acting” officials to hold those positions. But while he traffics in conspiracy theories about the so-called deep state and often says the U.S. intelligence community is out to get him, Trump has never fired a CIA director.

Still, Haspel’s hold on her job now appears tenuous. Until recently, in fact, several current and former government officials suggested that Trump was likely to fire her sometime before the election, adding that Haspel privately shared those fears. Earlier this summer, Haspel confided to a former colleague that she wouldn’t be surprised if Trump replaced her by September, according to the person who spoke with her.

Haspel has apparently angered Trump by being unwilling to publicly dispute reports about intelligence and national security matters that have made him look bad, including refusing to deny reports that Russia paid bounties to the Taliban to kill American troops in Afghanistan, the current and former officials said. She has also upset the president by failing to publicly discredit intelligence reports showing that Russia has interfered in the U.S. electoral system to help him win reelection in 2020, a repeat of Moscow’s 2016 intervention.

Haspel has no significant support among Democrats either, because of her involvement in the CIA’s torture program during the George W. Bush administration. Sen. Kamala Harris was one of her biggest critics during her 2018 confirmation hearings, and if Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and Harris, now his vice presidential running mate, win the election, Haspel will certainly be out.

As a result, Haspel is a CIA director without any base of political support, and she must walk a tightrope every day.

Haspel, 64, has led the CIA since May 2018, a century in Trump time. But her inability to sufficiently placate the president fueled discussions at the White House as recently as mid-July about whether Trump should replace Haspel or FBI Director Christopher Wray, according to a former intelligence official familiar with the matter.

Despite the questions swirling in the national security community about her status, Haspel now appears likely to remain in her job at least until the November election. One former senior intelligence official said that may be thanks to the intervention of key Republican senators, who, apparently worried that the president was about to fire both Haspel and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, have urged Trump not to oust either one before the election. Esper angered Trump in June by resisting the deployment of the military across the country during racial justice protests in the wake of George Floyd’s killing by Minneapolis police.

The senators advised Trump that getting rid of two top officials in such sensitive posts so close to the election would damage him politically, noting that the Senate would be unlikely to confirm replacements before November, said the former senior intelligence official, who asked not to be identified in order to discuss confidential conversations.

“Haspel was anxious [that she was about to lose her job] for like two months,” the former official said. “Now she thinks she has dodged the bullet, but she is still laying low. I think she is probably in there until the election.”

The president is, of course, volatile and unpredictable when it comes to personnel matters. “With Trump, you never know, he could change his mind again,” the former senior official said.

Wray, for example, was once again in the hot seat last week, when Trump publicly criticized him for failing to be sufficiently cooperative with federal prosecutor John Durham’s inquiry into the FBI’s investigation of alleged Russian involvement in Trump’s 2016 campaign. And last weekend, Trump publicly mocked Esper in response to reports that he plans to fire him after the election, adding that he “considers firing everybody.”

“[Haspel] thinks she has dodged the bullet, but she is still laying low.”

If Trump wins in November, Haspel, like Esper, is likely to be removed, the current and former officials said. Once she is gone, Trump will be free to place a partisan loyalist in charge of the CIA.

“There’s so much wrong with this story, I don’t even know where to begin,” said Nicole de Haay, a CIA spokesperson, who declined further comment. The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

Trump has already elevated a political supporter to be director of national intelligence, installing John Ratcliffe, a former Republican congressman from Texas. The president initially tried to give Ratcliffe the DNI job last year but backed off because even some Senate Republicans thought Ratcliffe — who misrepresented his role in an anti-terrorism case that he cited among his credentials — lacked experience and would politicize intelligence. In February, Trump tried again, and the Senate finally gave in and confirmed Ratcliffe in May by a vote of 49 to 44, the narrowest margin in a confirmation vote for any DNI since the post was created.

Haspel is only the Trump administration’s second CIA director; the first, Mike Pompeo, was promoted to secretary of state.

At first, she seemed like the perfect choice to lead the agency under Trump. Before he tapped her for the job, she was best known for her connections to the CIA’s torture regime, when she briefly oversaw a secret CIA prison in Thailand. During the 2016 campaign, Trump repeatedly expressed support for the use of torture against terrorism suspects, and after he won, there was widespread concern that he planned to revive the long-shuttered CIA torture program. While he stopped short of that, his decision to name Haspel deputy CIA director in 2017 was seen as a rebuke to Democrats and human rights advocates who had opposed the use of torture.

When Pompeo was named secretary of state in 2018, Trump’s nomination of Haspel to succeed him stirred such an outcry that she considered withdrawing until White House officials persuaded her to stick with the confirmation process. Her nomination ultimately made it through the Republican-controlled Senate, but she had to endure an intense grilling from Harris, which helped raise Harris’s national profile and establish her as one of the most effective interrogators of Trump administration officials in Congress.

Throughout her tenure, Haspel has faced conflicting objectives: convincing Trump that she is a team player, while at the same time trying to insulate the CIA from the potential for excessive politicization.

Interviews with several former CIA officials reveal that Haspel has relied on Pompeo — one of the only people in the national security arena who has the president’s trust — to help her try to ingratiate herself with Trump and stay out of his erratic line of fire.

“Pompeo taught Gina how to interact with Trump. He taught her how not to antagonize the president, how not to ruffle Trump’s feathers.”

“Pompeo taught Gina how to interact with Trump,” said Douglas London, a former senior CIA officer who retired last year. “He taught her how not to antagonize the president, how not to ruffle Trump’s feathers. Gina adopted Pompeo’s style of messaging to the White House, which focuses on not upsetting the president and making this better for the CIA, rather than worse. That has become her litmus test in dealing with the president.”

Early in Haspel’s tenure as director, Pompeo introduced her to Sean Hannity, the Fox News pundit and ardent Trump supporter, according to a former Trump White House official and a current White House adviser. Hannity has been viewed by Trump administration officials as something of a shadow chief of staff to the president: in frequent contact with him and host of a nightly show that serves as a feedback loop for Trump and Republican talking points. A spokesperson for Hannity confirmed that he and Haspel met, but described it as a chance encounter.

But Haspel’s efforts to appease Trump while shielding the CIA have come at a high cost. Critics say that the agency, like the rest of the U.S. intelligence community, has become increasingly risk-averse and reluctant to disseminate intelligence that might be viewed as politically dangerous and likely to anger Trump and the White House.

Despite Trump’s public hectoring, the CIA has continued to collect useful intelligence about Russia’s efforts to intervene in the 2020 election, according to the former senior intelligence official. But the political danger begins once those findings are shared with the White House and the rest of the Trump administration.

“Nobody has been told to stand down,” said a former senior intelligence official, referring to CIA officers in the field working on sensitive targets like Russia. “But nobody is really all that eager to go up the chain of command with it.”

Haspel’s efforts to appease Trump while shielding the CIA have come at a high cost.

The CIA’s caution and bureaucratic inertia under Haspel’s leadership have at times irritated other officials in the intelligence community. Last year, a senior intelligence official in the Defense Department expressed frustration that the CIA had not acted on several proposals from the Pentagon, according to another former senior intelligence official who discussed the matter with him.

The Covid-19 pandemic has added another layer of complexity for the CIA. At headquarters, CIA personnel have altered their work schedules to reduce the spread of the virus, while the agency’s strict procedures for dealing with classified information make it difficult for CIA employees to work from home.

In some cases, the agency’s intelligence work overseas has also been disrupted. One active-duty intelligence officer recently told a former colleague that he had returned from his overseas assignment because of the pandemic.

Despite Haspel’s attempts to placate Trump, she has nonetheless angered him because she has been unwilling to cross certain lines. She has sought to maintain her credibility inside the CIA by largely avoiding public statements that actively support Trump’s lies.

One glaring example has been Haspel’s handling of the fallout from the June 26 New York Times story disclosing that Russia paid bounties to the Taliban to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan. Facing intense criticism for having failed to do anything to protect American troops, Trump falsely claimed both that he was never briefed on the matter and that the story was “fake news” and a “hoax.”

Senior U.S. intelligence officials were soon under pressure to support Trump’s falsehoods, while congressional Democrats demanded classified briefings to force those same officials to tell them the truth.

There was a subtle but noticeable difference between the way Haspel and Ratcliffe, the pro-Trump DNI, handled these competing demands.

Within days of the Russian bounties story, Ratcliffe reportedly arranged for a memo to be generated by the National Intelligence Council, which reports to him. The memo, which claimed that the intelligence about the bounties wasn’t conclusive, was not made public but still seemed designed to placate Trump by raising doubts about the story.

Haspel, by contrast, issued a vague statement in late June that complained about leaks of classified information but did not deny the bounty story. “Hostile states’ use of proxies in war zones to inflict damage on U.S. interests and troops is a constant, longstanding concern,” Haspel said in the statement. “CIA will continue to pursue every lead; analyze the information we collect with critical, objective eyes; and brief reliable intelligence to protect U.S. forces deployed around the world.”  Meanwhile, Haspel privately confirmed that the intelligence was shared with the White House, according to a person who spoke with her about the bounties.

Haspel’s refusal to raise doubts about the Russian bounty story may have angered Trump, but the current and former officials say her public statement represented a search for some elusive middle ground. “She would have a lot of unhappy people in her building if she said that was a hoax,” a former senior intelligence official said.

In recent weeks, U.S. intelligence officials have also given a series of classified briefings to Congress about Russian election meddling that have angered congressional Democrats with their vagueness and for failing to emphasize that Russia is interfering with the specific aim of helping Trump win.

Democratic congressional leaders have also been frustrated that top intelligence officials, including Haspel, have said little in public to raise the alarm about threats to the upcoming election from Russia and other adversaries. During a classified briefing on July 31, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other House Democrats accused William Evanina, director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, of failing to adequately warn the American public, Politico reported.

Under pressure, Evanina responded on August 7 with a public statement about foreign election interference that once again appeared to downplay evidence that Russia is trying to help Trump win. The statement also repeated anti-Biden disinformation from pro-Russian figures in Ukraine without making it clear that the information was false or that the disinformation campaign had its roots in the Trump camp.

Evanina’s statement further sought to muddy the waters by adding passages devoted to election meddling by China and Iran. The statement said that China wants Trump to lose but acknowledged that China’s efforts were “largely rhetorical,” and that Beijing has not engaged in intensive election intervention like Russia. Pelosi and House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff immediately blasted Evanina’s latest statement, saying that it “treats three actors of differing intent and capability as equal threats to our democratic elections.”

For now, Haspel seems to be trying to let Evanina and Ratcliffe take the lead in public statements on Russian election interference. But as the presidential campaign enters its closing days, it will be increasingly difficult for the CIA director to maintain her silence.

 

Trump urges Goodyear tire boycott after company bars political attire

August 19, 2020

by David Shepardson, Andrea Shalal

Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday called for a boycott of Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co (GT.O), accusing the Ohio-based company of “playing politics” by forbidding workers from donning the “Make America Great Again” caps favored by his supporters.

The Republican president, who is seeking a second term in office, told reporters he would swap out the Goodyear tires on his presidential limousine if there were an alternative.

“Don’t buy GOODYEAR TIRES – They announced a BAN ON MAGA HATS,” he wrote on Twitter, referring to his slogan “Make America Great Again” often emblazoned on baseball caps.

“I’m not happy with Goodyear because what they’re doing is playing politics,” Trump said at a White House briefing.

He said it was “disgraceful” that the company would prevent employees from wearing attire supporting the ‘Blue Lives Matter’ movement that supports law enforcement, while allowing support for other causes which he described as “Marxist” in nature.

His press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany told reporters earlier that support for police officers was just as much an equity issue as the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement, citing the targeting of police officers in cities around the country.

Trump’s tweet followed a news report by WIBW, a CBS affiliate television station in Kansas, about a training session at Goodyear’s headquarters that discussed political attire.

Goodyear, which had nearly $15 billion in revenue last year, said a widely circulated image that triggered the controversy was not created or distributed by the company’s corporate group.

The image spelled out appropriate and inappropriate displays, with ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride’ deemed acceptable, while ‘Blue Lives Matter’ and ‘MAGA Attire’ were not.

“To be clear on our longstanding corporate policy, Goodyear has zero tolerance for any form of harassment or discrimination,” the company said in a statement.

To enforce that policy, Goodyear said, it asks employees to avoid “workplace expressions in support of political campaigning for any candidate or political party as well as similar forms of advocacy that fall outside the scope of racial justice and equality issues.”

Shares in Goodyear fell as much as 6% on Wednesday after the president’s tweet, but later pared some of the losses to close down trade down 2.4% at $9.50, with volume at four times the 10-day moving average.

Goodyear is the largest tire company in North America. Its branded tires were on 24% of new vehicles in the United States in 2018, according to Tire Business, an industry publication.

Democratic challenger Joe Biden said Trump’s comments showed that he viewed thousands of jobs at Goodyear as “collateral damage” in another of his “petty political grievances.”

U.S. Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown, who represents Goodyear’s home state of Ohio, also criticized Trump’s comment.

“It’s absolutely despicable that the President would call for a boycott of an American company, based in Akron, that employs thousands of U.S. workers,” he wrote in a tweet.

Trump, who is trailing Biden in opinion polls, will accept the Republican Party’s presidential nomination at the White House next week after a flurry of campaign stops this week.

Trump dismissed the chance of any political or business fallout from his comments. He said he was confident that he was polling “very well” among Goodyear workers, adding, “I think you’ll be able to get another good job.”

The tweet caught at least three senior Trump advisers by surprise. Kellyanne Conway told reporters on Wednesday she had not seen the tweet, but did not view it as a political mistep.

“I think he’s done plenty for companies in Ohio and elsewhere, far more than Joe Biden ever did,” she said.

Boycotts, like tariffs, are a favorite in Trump’s political and economic toolkit.

In early 2016, before winning the last election, Trump called for a boycott of Apple (AAPL.O) products until the tech giant agreed to U.S. government demands that it unlock the cellphone of one of the killers in an attack in California.

Reporting by David Shepardson and Andrea Shalal in Washington; Additional reporting by Jan Wolfe in Washington and Trevor Hunnicutt in Wilmington, Delware; Writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Will Dunham, Rosalba O’Brien and Richard Pullin

 

The Encyclopedia of American Loons 

Suzanne Venker

Suzanne Venker is an anti-feminist journalist who writes articles for Fox News. Venker is also the niece of Phyllis Schlafly, and has even co-written books with Phyllis (The Flipside of Feminism: What Conservative Women Know – and Men Can’t Say) published by WND Books. Her style, topics and approach are pretty much what you’d expect from a wingnut member of the Schlafly family, and she is, in particular, profoundly confused – even admitting so herself – about what feminism actually is.

Anti-feminism

A sympathizer with MRA causes, Venker was a central part of Fox News’s 2012 coverage of “War on Men”, their MRA-style attempt to rebrand the War on Women. She wrote a book with that title, and the ideas presented in that book constitute a recurring theme in her more recent writings, including lamenting how Mad Men is a thing of the past and women only have themselves to blame. Well, media is to blame, too, for instance through insidious feminist tools like Everybody loves Raymond. She is, however, remarkably vague on what reversing the trend would actually amount to.

A defender of some version of complementarianism, Venker has also asserted that in order to be happy in marriage, one must admit that men and women are not equal, defending the claim with your typical patriarchal heteronormative nonsense – for instance in her book 7 Myths of Working Mothers: Why Children and (Most) Careers Just Don’t Mix (the qualifier matters since Venker herself has both children and a career), which of course takes it for granted that women, when faced with the choice, should choose the latter – Venker is the kind of anti-feminist that would right away tell a young daughter not to become a brain surgeon because it would inferfere with her baby-making (her example). As such, it is, according to Venker, a problem that society has bred “alpha women incapable of love”; as she sees it, “women have become too much like men. They’re too competitive. Too masculine. Too alpha.” Her attempts at slut-shaming must almost be seen to be believed.

Her book How to Choose a Husband is superbly reviewed here. She had a follow-up interview on the book and the breakdown of marriage in America with a highly sympathetic Rush Limbaugh, who has been married at least four times. They did not appear to grasp why some people would perceive a certain irony here. Meanwhile, Beyoncé, for instance (wingnut fundies are remarkable obsessed with Beyoncé), is, according to Venker, “a poor excuse for a wife” given her “slutty behavior”, and she will never be able to find a “quality husband” that way

Diagnosis: Now, we suppose most readers would groan at such hateful silliness, but keep in mind that Venker’s position e.g. with the Eagle Forum makes her quite influential in certain wingnut circles.

 

Greg Howard

 

Greg Howard is a wingnut Christian financial planner and blogger perhaps best known for his role as lead theorist in Twittergate: when some Tea Partiers were trolled on Twitter back in 2010 they responded by launching a twitter militia and – of course – creating an elaborate an utterly unhingedly insane conspiracy theory, according to which Democrats must have hired a cadre of “E-thugs” (led by a social media consultant named Neal Rauhauser) to identify and harass prominent Tea party Twitter users and fool them into tweeting offensive things which could then be used to smear the Tea Party.        “Democratic campaign funds are being used to front this,” said Howard, offering as evidence the observation that the “links between these people are very clear.” Of course, what really happened was that some people realized that it was incredibly easy to get some Tea Partiers to say stupid and offensive stuff if you prodded them a little, which is not exactly a novel discovery; that Howard and his followers responded with paranoid conspiracy theories is rather telling.

Of course, Howard really is a professional conspiracy theorist. He is, for instance, a birther: Obama is “not American” and not a natural born citizen, and his primary goal is to sow “the seeds of racial hatred; we were healing quite well as a nation on racial issues until Obama came along and now we have a lot of racial discord.” Oh, and he wants to take your guns, too. He may begin “wiping out a few hundred people who own guns, pull a large scale Waco or a Ruby Ridge type incident” and have it “tinged … with racial overtones,” and may even be building a black army to fight the white insurgents who will fight the impending attempt to seize our guns. Indeed, he might even go through with his plans to “take down” the Internet, although – Howard assures us – “people are setting up phone-trees all over the place” to stop Obama in his tracks. But be warned: “If Obama can take your guns away he can take your car, he can take your home, he can take your bank account, he can take your very life,” said Howard.

Diagnosis: Yeah, that kind of guy. He’s been called “The Glenn Beck of Twitter”, and I don’t think we can come up with a better diagnosis than that

 Brian Hooker

The 2004 study “Age at first measles-mumps-rubella vaccination in children with autism and school-matched control subjects: a population-based study in metropolitan Atlanta” is one of an almost endless string of solid studies refuting the delusional idea that there is an association between vaccines and autism. Antivaxx conspiracy theorists, on their side, naturally want the evidence to fit what they have convinced themselves is true for non-evidence-based reasons and are accordingly very interested in anything that can be used to discredit such studies. Enter enter William Thompson, one of the coauthors of that study. The original study couldn’t do a comparison of certain subgroups of subjects based on race since the data on race were incomplete (that’s a simplification; you can read the complete explanation here). Well, Thompson was unhappy with that decision, so he suggested Brian Hooker take a look at andd analyze the data (and let’s be clear; the CDC did not “hide” any data as conspiracy theorists claim; they are and have always been available – instructions here – in fact Hooker himself got the data he used from the CDC.) And that was the start of what has later been called “the CDC whistleblower affair”, and it really, truly is a whole lot of nothing (even Thompson has been careful to avoid endorsing the antivaxx spin – Hooker thinks that’s because the powers that be have gotten to him).

But who is Brian Hooker? Hooker has a degree in biochemistry, but has no formal training in statistics, epidemiology, or any field pertinent to the study of vaccines or autism. But he is a hardcore anti-vaccine conspiracy theorist. Hooker also has a son with autism and an open case claiming vaccine injury before the Vaccine Court. He is also a board member of an anti-vaccine organization called Focus Autism. When the quackery-friendly journal Health Impact News got Hooker to comment on a 2013 DiStefano et al. study that for the nth time undermined the idea behind the antivaxx conspiracy theorist rally cry “too many too soon”, they introduced him, audaciously, as follows: “There are probably very few people in the world who have spent as much time looking at CDC studies related to vaccines and autism as Dr. Hooker. Dr. Brian Hooker, a PhD scientist, has been fighting the CDC since 2004 in trying to get them to comply with Freedom of Information Acts to see the CDC research that supposedly shows there is no link between mercury in vaccines and autism.” Well, yeah. That’s what cranks do. It’s quite a bit like getting Jim Fetzer to talk about 9/11 and terrorism, I suppose (Hooker has himself participated inseveral “conspiracy realist” conferences and movements to talk about how the CDC covers up the data that would vindicate what Hooker has convinced himself into believing without accessing those data). Health Impact News elegantly sidestepped the question of whether Hooker has anything resembling any competence on or education or training related to the issue. At least Hooker’s comment amply displayed his lack of relevant competence.

Anyways, Hooker reanalazyed the CDC data. If the data had been reanalyzed properly they would have made no difference, but Hooker’s goal wasn’t proper analysis but to force a conclusion that supported his ideological stance, and by mangling the data – he basically treated data for a case control study as data for a cohort study (he doesn’t really understand what a case control study is), and then used inappropriate statistical methods to analyze them (Hookeradmitted in a presentation at an anti-vaccine conference that he used a very simple technique, that “simplicity is elegance”, and that he prefers to do simple things rather than intellectually challenging things; that’s, to put it bluntly, not how statistics work). Well, to make a long story short (full story here) he managed to make it look as if there was a slight association between vaccines and autism for African American boys given their first MMR vaccine between 24 and 31 months of age: no one else! – so even if you ignore all of the flaws in the study and assume that his findings are accurate, Hooker’s study actually shows that the MMR is not associated with autism. Thus, even Hooker’s analysis disproves the conclusions of Andrew Wakefield’s debunked and retracted 1998 study – often cited as the main instigator of the modern antivaxx movement – though Wakefield nevertheless and absurdly took Hooker’s analysis to vindicate him, which is not surprising in light of recent research on conspiracy thinking.

The results were published in the journal Translational Neurodegeneration, though when the incompetency of the analysis was exposed the paper was retracted, and the anti-vaxx community screamed ‘conspiracy’: if you can game the system and get your pseudoscience published, you won, and it is unfair for the referees to change their mind later and disqualify the victory just because the results were false and the methodology disastrously flawed. Actually, the journal retracted the study because inappropriate and incompetent statistical methods and analysis, and because Hooker had dishonestly failed to disclose glaring conflicts of interest: though he admitted that he “has been involved in vaccine/biologic litigation,” which implies that he is no longer involved in such litigation, he failed to mention that he was at the time of submitting the paper involved in a case involving his own son, and hence that he stood to benefit greatly from studies that could support a connection between vaccines and autism. Makes a bit of a difference with regard to conflicts of interest, don’t you think? We don’t wish to imply that Hooker was lying, but he was.

Nor did he mention that he is board member of Focus Autism, the anti-vaxx organization that funded the study. Nor did he mention an email he sent to former director of the CDC, Julie Gerberding, in which he wrote, that “I would personally urge you to review the Book of Matthew 18:6 and consider your own responsibility to all children of the U.S. including my own son” (But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea), but I suppose he might have dropped that just because he didn’t want to up the word count of the paper.

Hooker seems otherwise to be one of the fringe lunatics who still thinks thimerosal, which is safe (and not the same as the unsafe methylmercury, a point lost on the chemistry challenged) in vaccines causes autism. The MMR vaccine never contained thimerosal. He also really, truly thinks that the CDC knows this but is desperately trying to cover up the truth for nefarious reasons (though, of course, you cannot really be a vaccine skeptic and not be a conspiracy theorist). Hooker and Focus Autism have no qualms about extending their conspiracy mongering beyond the CDC, either. In 2014 they attacked a high school student film (!) “Invisible Threat” that investigated the vaccine/autism link from a reasonable point of view. Suffice to say that Focus Autism’s (and it’s founder Barry Segal’s) response cannot be called “reasonable”: They accused the film of being scripted by Big Pharma and “approved by Common Core” (no less) and even put out a press release “encouraging citizens to contact their legislators to counter ECBT’s public relations effort targeting legislators”. Idiots.

The Hooker-Thompson affair is the basis for the “documentary” Vaxxed, produced by Del Bigtree and featuring e.g. anti-vaxx activist Jim Sears (who, like most anti-vaxxers, claims to be “not anti-vaccine”), Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL), and anti-GMO activist Stephanie Seneff (who has absolutely no expertise in epidemiology but who thinks that GMOs are gonna make us all autistic), which was initially supposed to be shown at the Tribeca film festival (because it was endorsed by Robert De Niro, one of the founders of the festival and a celebrity anti-vaccine loon). Actually, the Thompson-Hooker link doesn’t figure very prominently in the movie (review here) since even a cursory glance reveals it to be nothing; instead, the movie explores a range of anti-vaxx tropes and conspiracy theories.

Diagnosis: Strictly an Infowars-style conspiracy theorist, nothing else, and we believe most minimally reasonable people realize that. While he has managed to create some noise, it seems to be mostly the old, merry band of insane conspiracy theorists who buy his shit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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