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TBR News February 15, 2020

Feb 15 2020

The Voice of the White House
Washington, D.C. February 15, 2020:“Working in the White House as a junior staffer is an interesting experience.
When I was younger, I worked as a summer-time job in a clinic for people who had moderate to severe mental problems and the current work closely, at times, echos the earlier one.
I am not an intimate of the President but I have encountered him from time to time and I daily see manifestations of his growing psychological problems.
He insults people, uses foul language, is frantic to see his name mentioned on main-line television and pays absolutely no attention to any advice from his staff that runs counter to his strange ideas.
He lies like a rug to everyone, eats like a hog, makes lewd remarks to female staffers and flies into rages if anyone dares to contradict him.
It is becoming more and more evident to even the least intelligent American voter that Trump is vicious, corrupt and amoral. He has stated often that even if he loses the
election in 2020, he will not leave the White House. I have news for Donald but this is not the place to discuss it.
Commentary for February 15: “Trump thinks, in error, that because the Republican Senate rejected the House impeachment that he won a stunning victory over his perceived enemies and that he now had license to rule the nation as he, and he alone, saw fit. He has said things like this in the presence of people I work with and I believe them. Now he is actually talking about arresting Pelosi and charging her with treason! Political analysts might find this behavior bizarre but a good psychologist would see it in quite a different way.”

“Trump aches from his head to his toes
His sphincters have gone where who knows
And his love life has ended
By a paunch so distended
That all he can use is his nose”

The Table of Contents
Donald Trump After Hours
• Emboldened, Trump defends right to interfere in criminal cases
• Trump seems to confirm campaign of ‘grievance, persecution and resentment’
• World War III’s Newest Battlefield
• The Season of Evil
• The Encyclopedia of American Loons

Donald Trump After Hours
From where the 45th President works, eats and sleeps, everything is going just great. Now if only everyone else would see it that way.
by Michael Scherer and Zeke J. Miller
In a few minutes, President Donald Trump will release a new set of tweets, flooding social-media accounts with his unique brand of digital smelling salts—words that will jolt his supporters and provoke his adversaries.
Nearly a dozen senior aides stand in the Oval Office, crowding behind couches or near door-length windows. This is the way he likes to work, more often than not: in a crowd. He sits behind his desk finishing the tasks of the day, which have included watching new Senate testimony about Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election, by signing orders in red folders with a black Sharpie.
When he held the job, Barack Obama tended to treat the Oval Office like a sanctum sanctorum, accessible only for a small circle of advisers to break its silence on a tightly regulated schedule. For Trump, the room functions as something like a royal court or meeting hall, with open doors that senior aides and ­distinguished visitors flock through when he is in the building.
In practice, it feels much like his old corner office on the 26th floor of Trump Tower, minus all the clutter of memorabilia, a place to convene an audience, to broadcast his exceptionalism, to entertain, take photos, amaze and make deals. Some aides still call him “Mr. Trump,” and everyone turns to listen when he speaks. His presence always seems to consume the room.
And the stream of visitors is constant. Just a few hours earlier, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster had stopped by with a foreign military delegation. Vice President Mike Pence brought by the Prime Minister of Georgia unscheduled for a photo. The New England ­Patriots got to take pictures behind the desk recently, and the President says the billionaire Ronald Lauder, a great collector of art, went crazy when he saw the painting of George Washington above the fireplace. “Never had people,” Trump likes to say of Obama’s use of the space. “I use the room. I use it a lot. I had the biggest people in the country here.”
But right now, there is something else he wants to show. It’s down the hall, in his private dining room in the West Wing, a few steps away. As is often the case when reporters come through, he has a plan, a story he wants to tell. Tonight, at dusk on May 8, he invites three TIME correspondents for a tour of his home and office, followed by a four-course dinner in the Blue Room, the oval-shaped parlor on the first floor of the executive mansion. The first three months of his presidency have been unsettling, a blur of confrontation, policy pivots and regulatory revolution. Financial markets have climbed, cruise missiles have fallen, and the world has watched with trepidation and confusion. In less than 24 hours, Trump will roil the nation again by announcing the firing of his FBI Director, James Comey, who is leading an investigation of his campaign’s ties to Russia. It will set off yet another firestorm. But for now, it’s showtime once again.
“You’ll see something that is amazing. It just happened,” he says as he stands up from the desk. “Come on, I’ll show you.”
Each president leaves his mark on the building, and Trump has wasted little time making his. The modern art favored by the Obama family is mostly gone, replaced with classic oils, including portraits of Trump’s favorite predecessors, like Andrew Jackson and Teddy Roosevelt. Gold curtains have replaced the maroon ones in the Oval Office, and military-service flag stands have been added around the room, topped by battle ribbons and held in place by heavy brass bases that Trump praises to visitors.
But few rooms have changed so much so fast as his dining room, where he often eats his lunch amid stacks of newspapers and briefing sheets. A few weeks back, the President ordered a gutting of the room. “We found gold behind the walls, which I always knew. Renovations are grand,” he says, boasting that contractors from the General Services Administration resurfaced the walls and redid the moldings in two days. “Remember how hard they worked? They wanted to make me happy.”
Trump says he used his own money to pay for the enormous crystal chandelier that now hangs from the ceiling. “I made a contribution to the White House,” he jokes. But the thing he wants to show is on the opposite wall, above the fireplace, a new 60-plus-inch flat-screen television that he has cued up with clips from the day’s Senate hearing on Russia. Since at least as far back as Richard Nixon, Presidents have kept televisions in this room, usually small ones, no larger than a bread box, tucked away on a sideboard shelf. That’s not the Trump way.
A clutch of aides follow him, including McMaster, Pence and press secretary Sean Spicer. The President raises a remote and flicks on the screen, sorting through old recordings of cable news shows, until he comes to what he is after: a clip from the Senate hearing earlier in the day, as broadcast on Fox News. The first clip he shows is of South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham speaking to former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Graham asks if Clapper stands by his statement that he knows of no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Trump waits quietly, until Clapper admits that nothing has changed. Trump pantomimes a sort of victory.
“Yes. He was choking on that,” the President chortles. “Is there any record at all of collusion? He was the head of the whole thing. He said no. That’s a big statement.” Trump leaves unmentioned the fact that there is an ongoing FBI counter­intelligence investigation into possible collusion, which has not yet reached any conclusions. Nor does he note that Clapper, out of government for nearly four months, could not possibly know everything the FBI has learned, and likely would have not known all even when he was in office. Trump also leaves unmentioned that he had a meeting that day with his new Deputy Attorney General about firing Comey, the director of that investigation.
But for now, Trump is focused on his TV. He watches the screen like a coach going over game tape, studying the opposition, plotting next week’s plays. “This is one of the great inventions of all time—TiVo,” he says as he fast-forwards through the hearing.
The next clip starts to play, this time showing Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley asking Clapper and former acting Attorney General Sally Yates if they ever requested that the names of Trump, his associates or members of Congress be identified by name, or unmasked, in a legal intelligence intercept. “Watch them start to choke like dogs,” Trump says, having fun. “Watch what happens. They are desperate for breath.”
Clapper, on the screen, pauses several beats to search his memory. “Ah, he’s choking. Ah, look,” the President says. After a delay, Clapper finally answers, admitting that he had requested an unmasking, which would have been a routine occurrence in his former job. The running Trump commentary continues. “See the people in the back, people are gasping,” he says, though it’s unclear who he is referring to on the screen. He also mentions the sound of photographers’ cameras clicking on the television.
Moments later, the President watches as both Clapper and Yates testify that they had reviewed intercepts containing the unmasked identities of Trump, his associates and members of Congress. This, to Trump, is yet another victory, the lead-lined proof of his still unproven claim that Obama surveilled him before he was sworn in. “So they surveilled me,” he says. “You guys don’t write that—wiretapped in quotes. They surveilled me.”
The powers of the presidency are vast, but Trump has discovered in these first months in office that they do not include­ much influence over how his words and actions are consumed by the American people. Among the many frustrations, none seems to burn quite as much as the disrespect he feels he has received from the press, which has steadily failed to reflect his version of reality. The story he wants told is not the one the nation reads and sees.
In his view, the past months have included a steady string of successes, broken only by occasional missteps, which are invariably overplayed and misinterpreted. After a rough start, an Obamacare replacement passed the House. A red line against the use of chemical weapons has been re-established in Syria. Political prisoners have been released from Egypt.
China has offered new cooperation to prevent the further development of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal. American companies have been arm-twisted into staying in the country, while Trump has personally inserted himself into a handful of negotiations over weapons systems and trade agreements to try to get Americans a better deal.
But the turmoil of his presidency has so far dominated the headlines, pushing out much of what he considers to be the good news he thinks he deserves. The press has focused on the disruption; his false statements in office; the fear and dislocation in immigrant communities; the many campaign promises, from eliminating the export-import bank to declaring China a currency manipulator, on which Trump has equivocated.
Of the many firestorms he has had to fight, none has burned as brightly as the tweets he sent accusing Obama of wiretapping him at Trump Tower. The head of the FBI, Comey, whom he had discussed firing earlier that day, had testified that there is no evidence that this happened. So he has been arguing that the wiretapping he alleged could include routine surveillance, which was not directed by the White House, of legal surveillance targets who spoke with people in his campaign. That’s why he cares so much about the “unmasking” testimony. He seeks vindication.
“The truth is, I got a raw deal,” he says later in the evening, the frustration unmistakable for a man who has spent so much of his life grading himself by headlines. The détente with the press after the election that he had hoped for never came. “It’s gotten worse,” he says. “It’s one of the things that surprises me.”
To cope with this new reality, the President says he is trying a mindfulness trick: he has tried to tune out the bad news about himself. “I’ve been able to do something that I never thought I had the ability to do. I’ve been able not to watch or read things that aren’t pleasant,” he will say later in the night, listing off the networks he tries to tune out and the newspapers he struggles to skim. Of course, as his public outbursts indicate, he does not always succeed, but he says he no longer feels a need to know everything said about him. “In terms of your own self, it’s a very, very good thing,” he says. “The equilibrium is much better.”
The following day, the news of the Senate hearings will once again fail to comport with the meaning he derived from his TiVo. The focus instead will be on Yates’ description of how she warned the White House about the apparent duplicity of Trump’s first National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn, who misled the Vice President about his contacts with Russia. Flynn is now facing an investigation into foreign payments that officials say he failed to report.
Trump can’t do anything about that, for the most part. But he can still tweet. So now he walks out of his dining room, followed by the same substantial entourage of senior aides. Back in the Oval Office, he checks in with his waiting staff. “Did you get that stuff out?” the President asks of the tweets he had prepared. “The Russia-Trump collusion story is a total hoax,” one reads, “when will the taxpayer funded charade end?” Dan Scavino, his social-media director, is sitting on the couch. “Yes, sir. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter. It’s everywhere,” he says.
“The real story is the surveillance,” the President responds, before ribbing his staff. “But my comms people can’t get it out.” They start laughing. But there are even more pressing matters. Trump turns to McMaster, who was the subject of a column on Bloomberg earlier in the day, quoting anonymous sources saying the President was unhappy with his performance. It’s another story that Trump declares false. The President thinks he knows where the leak is coming from, which provides some comfort. But for now, he will counterprogram: “I’m so happy with him,” Trump says. “I think he’s wonderful.” And with that, he decides, it is time to go home.
All Presidents must contain multitudes. But for Trump, the situation is, as usual, bigger, bolder and more complex. At core, he has always been a transactional person. That means he reacts, often in the moment, to the information and people around him. He comes to office with no well-formed ideology and with an evolving understanding of history and government, and a clear goal of using his business acumen to help his most fervent supporters. He is extremely confident in his own judgment, often willing to act alone, to take risks, even when those around him plead caution.
During the campaign, this proved to be an enormous asset, allowing him to dispatch more than a dozen opponents and remake the rules of presidential politics. Life in the White House, he has found, is somewhat more restrictive, with far greater stakes. Escalating conflict, which works so well on the campaign trail, has not always yielded results now that he is governing. And at several points, he has had to absorb the fact that the President isn’t all-powerful, with his orders blocked by the courts, his wish lists discarded by Congress, a steady stream of leaks from the intelligence community sparking turmoil in his Administration and a media that writes and broadcasts as it pleases.
From the Oval Office, it’s a 60-yard stroll down the sloped colonnade to the Palm Room doors that lead into his ­government-funded mansion. An elevator operator is waiting for him off the ground-floor hallway. “Stop up at the second floor, would you?” asks the President. Then he turns to his guests. “Did you ever see the Lincoln Bedroom?” The Vice President, who has walked over as well, takes the stairs. As a matter of protocol, to ensure continuity of government, the two men do not share the same airplane or ride the same lift.
Trump has lived most of these first months alone in his upstairs palace, inhabiting 20,000 square feet of the residence by himself most weeknights, catered to by a household staff that totals nearly 100, including a couple of valets and a handful of butlers. During the Obama years, the second and third floors of the executive mansion were treated as private housing, not a governing space. Obama’s daughters and mother-in-law lived in a few of the extra bedrooms. The first time most staff ever got to see the place was the night Obamacare passed in March 2010, when the Obamas decided to throw a party.
The current President has taken a different tack, inviting staff up regularly for meetings; hosting dinners for old friends, staff and supporters; giving tours; calling foreign leaders from Lincoln’s old desk in the Treaty Room, where he will also stay late into the night doing work with his longtime personal aide and bodyguard Keith Schiller. “The phone system is so amazing here,” Trump confides as he enters the space. “This one phone, it splits the words”—a reference to scrambling technology meant to disrupt eavesdropping.
The space is far larger than it looks from outside, with a long great hall, appointed with freshly cut yellow flowers. “This is the kitchen here, a beautiful kitchen,” he says. “This is the dining room. Here is a room where we have a guest room.” Trump shows off the Presidential Seal over the closed door to his suite and the Yellow Oval Room, which opens out onto the Truman Balcony, where Trump’s security detail has discouraged him from spending too much time.
It is the Lincoln Bedroom, however, that for him holds the most symbolic value, with its display of the Gettysburg Address. “Isn’t this incredible?” Trump asks. “He was very tall, and this bureau was built for him, with a tall mirror.” If there is a pressure from the office that he feels in this building, this is where it manifests. The current President talks sympathetically about Lincoln’s struggles, the death of his 11-year-old son in this building, the ghosts that haunted him afterward. “He was a great genius, but he had some difficulty,” Trump explains. “He was very distressed after his son died. They say melancholy.”
But this is not something to dwell on. A few moments later he is back downstairs, gazing at the East Room. Presidents from Bill Clinton to Harry Truman have joked that the White House was a sort of prison. He doesn’t feel that way, he says. “You have to be a certain type of person,” he explains. “People have no idea the beauty of the White House. The real beauty of the White House.”
In about four weeks, Trump expects his wife and youngest son to join him in the mansion, and when they arrive, life is almost certain to change. But tonight, it’s all business, and the Blue Room has been lit with nearly a dozen votive candles, the table is set with yellow roses, and the Washington Monument is neatly framed in the South window.
The waiters know well Trump’s personal preferences. As he settles down, they bring him a Diet Coke, while the rest of us are served water, with the Vice President sitting at one end of the table. With the salad course, Trump is served what appears to be Thousand Island dressing instead of the creamy vinaigrette for his guests. When the chicken arrives, he is the only one given an extra dish of sauce. At the dessert course, he gets two scoops of vanilla ice cream with his chocolate cream pie, instead of the single scoop for everyone else. The tastes of Pence are also tended to. Instead of the pie, he gets a fruit plate.
Trump sees the dinner with TIME as a pitch meeting as much as anything else, with an audience that he does not entirely trust. He wants to go through his many accomplishments, regularly deflecting questions to keep on task. “The big story is that we are doing a good job for the country,” the President says. “We’re cutting costs, big, big costs.” He runs through the tales of his renegotiations with Lockheed and Boeing on the F-35 and F/A-18 Super Hornet fighters. He speaks of asking Apple’s Tim Cook to build new manufacturing plants in the U.S. He talks of his plans to renegotiate any future military contracts to make sure they have fixed prices.
At length, he discusses the small details of military procurement, including the reasons why the more costly digital catapult systems on new aircraft carriers don’t work as well as the old steam-driven systems. “Time and material means you’re going to get your ass kicked,” he says of the common government contracting method, which often leads to cost overruns. “Who ever heard of time and material?” He marvels at the technology behind the cruise missiles he launched on an airfield in Syria, noting their ability to maneuver to destroy planes hiding under concrete shelters. He even brings up his efforts to ensure that an African leader, from a country he declines to name, can buy American military equipment despite decades-old human rights concerns.
This is the part of the job that he has clearly come to enjoy, playing businessman for the American people. He brags about the close relationships he believes he has formed with foreign leaders, complimenting Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel on inviting his daughter Ivanka to speak overseas. He boasts of convincing Egypt’s leader, General Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, to release several political prisoners, including an American­. He even runs through the many ways he has revised the rules of engagement in the war on the Islamic State. “They keep coming to me, at weird times too,” he says of requests for approval for drone strikes and Special Forces raids in his earliest days in office.
His priority was ensuring that the military didn’t wait long for the operations to commence. “I authorized the generals to do the fighting,” he says. Trump has shifted the authority for final approvals from the White House back to combatant commanders. Other Obama-era restrictions, like strict force-management levels in Syria, proscribing the number of troops or vehicles that can be used at any one time, have been relaxed. As a result, the reliance on foreign contractors to support U.S. forces has ebbed. He mentions the recent death of a high-ranking Islamic State fighter and promises more to come.
As the dinner goes on, he loosens up, but only a little. He admits a few small mistakes, including a misstep in the fight in the House to repeal Obamacare. “There was a mistake. We set a date,” he says of the first deadline by which he hoped to get a vote on the floor in mid-March. “And when we didn’t vote, everyone says, ‘Trump fails on health care.’”
He joins Pence in describing the hours he spent on the phone with dozens of lawmakers, cajoling them from no to yes. Asked if dealmaking is any different in Washington than in real estate or entertainment, he has a quick answer. “It’s always the same,” he says. “You have to know your subject.”
Then there are the emotional costs of the job, he says. He describes his visit last month to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, just outside of Washington, where he met with wounded service members from Iraq and Afghanistan, as “incredible and terrible.” He met one wounded warrior who lost his leg but is learning to walk again with a prosthesis. “All he wants to do is go back. It’s amazing,” Trump says. “The spirit is so incredible.”
And for the man who centered his campaign around the notion of “America first,” he explains that he is deeply moved by the violence against children in Syria, particularly Bashar Assad’s use of chemical weapons on his people. “I mean, when he actually said they were child actors, who would even think of that?” Trump says with disgust of the young bodies that were shown on television. “I felt something had to be done.”
It would be wrong to say that the presidency has softened Trump. His willingness to fight is unabated and unfiltered. But he is no longer tethered to a one-way strategy of disruption and conflict. He is willing to back down at times, to adjust course. His chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, who has argued for a dark, generational clearing away of old institutions, found himself effectively demoted, though he remains an important player. On a wide variety of policy issues, Trump has edged toward the center, most notably allowing Congress to negotiate a spending bill that left out a number of his priorities.
When asked directly if he feels his Administration has been too combative, he makes a brief allowance. “It could be my fault,” he says. “I don’t want to necessarily blame, but there’s a great meanness out there that I’m surprised at.” The inner conflict is clearly evident. This is the same man who just a couple hours earlier had joked about former federal officials choking “like dogs.”
One senior White House official recently outlined the three rules of Trump for a group of reporters: When you’re right, you fight. Controversy elevates message. And never apologize. All of these rules have survived his time in office, if in slightly more modest forms. After bringing new levels of combativeness to the political process, “the only way you survive is to be combative,” Trump says now. “I’ll read stories in the New York Times that are so one-sided. Hey, I know when I am successful. I know victory.”
But that is not all he has to say. Before the dinner breaks up, the President begins to muse about an alternative world to the one he has helped create. “It never made sense to me, the level of animosity,” Trump says. “All you want to do is, like, Let’s have a great military. Let’s have low taxes. Let’s have good health care. Let’s have good education.”
For a moment, he seems to be proposing a more civil public space in American democracy, one the Trump campaign did little to foster and which the Trump Administration is unlikely to experience.
Is this real introspection or just more performance for his guests? The answer isn’t long in coming. Within a day of the plates being cleared away, Trump takes to Twitter to attack “Cryin’ Chuck Schumer,” the Democratic Senate leader. He belittles Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal for once misrepresenting his military service—“he cried like a baby and begged for forgiveness.”
No truce is around the corner. President Trump fights on.

Emboldened, Trump defends right to interfere in criminal cases
February 14, 2020
by Steve Holland and Mark Hosenball
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday said he has “the legal right” to interfere in criminal cases, capping a tumultuous week that raised questions about whether he is eroding the independence of the U.S. legal system.
Trump’s criticism of the judge, jury and prosecutors in the criminal case of his longtime adviser Roger Stone prompted an unusual rebuke from Attorney General William Barr, his top law enforcement official, and spurred new demands for investigation from the Democrats who unsuccessfully tried to remove the Republican president from office.
It was the latest in a string of aggressive actions by Trump since the Republican-controlled Senate acquitted him of impeachment charges last week.
Trump has transferred or fired government officials who testified about his efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate a potential political rival in November’s presidential election.
He also dropped his nomination of former U.S. Attorney Jessie Liu, who oversaw the Stone case, for another government post in the Treasury Department.
Sources close to the president said Trump has a greater sense of freedom following his Senate acquittal.
“You have to remember, he’s not ‘of’ government. He gets frustrated when people tell him something can’t get done. He’s like: ‘Just get it done,’” said one administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Barr has privately told Trump for “some time” that his public statements were making it hard for him to run the Justice Department effectively, according to a source familiar with the matter.
He went public on Thursday, telling ABC News that Trump’s attacks made it “impossible” for him to do his job. “It’s time to stop the tweeting,” he said.
Trump “has never asked me to do anything in a criminal case,” Barr added.
The president responded on Friday morning. “This doesn’t mean that I do not have, as President, the legal right to do so, I do, but I have so far chosen not to!” he wrote on Twitter.
Administration officials said Barr did not clear his remarks with Trump. They said Trump shrugged them off when told about them by aides.
Trump’s insistence that he has the right to interfere in criminal cases runs counter to the practice of previous U.S. presidents, who have generally kept an arms-length distance from the Justice Department since the Watergate scandal of the 1970s that led then-President Richard Nixon to resign from office.
“Trump goes farther than Nixon, though. He’s proud to openly corrupt the justice system and use it to target his enemies and protect his friends,” Democratic Senator Ron Wyden said in a prepared statement.
Trump’s running commentary on the Stone case calls into question whether Barr can oversee U.S. law enforcement in an independent manner, said Bruce Green, a former federal prosecutor who now teaches at Fordham School of Law.
“Given the sequence of events, it’s doubtful that Barr’s effort to distance himself from the president’s tweets will be enough of a cure,” Green told Reuters.
Barr has been an outspoken defender of the president and has aggressively sought to implement his agenda, frequently drawing charges from Democrats and former Justice Department officials that he is politicizing the rule of law.
The Justice Department on Tuesday asked for a lighter sentence for Stone, scaling back prosecutors’ initial request that he serve 7 to 9 years after being found guilty of lying to Congress, obstruction and witness tampering. That prompted all four prosecutors to resign from the case in apparent protest.
On Friday, Barr appointed an outside prosecutor to review the criminal case against Michael Flynn, another former Trump adviser who awaits sentencing after pleading guilty to lying to the FBI.
Barr has also ordered an investigation into the Obama administration’s activities in 2016 as it examined possible ties between Moscow and the Trump campaign, and has gone after states and cities that have adopted “sanctuary” policies to protect unauthorized immigrants from deportation.
Barr’s Justice Department sought to quash the whistleblower complaint about Trump’s effort to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Democratic Vice President Joe Biden, which led to the president’s impeachment.
He confirmed earlier this week that the department is taking evidence from Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who has been seeking information in Ukraine about Biden.
Democrats who control the House of Representatives called for Barr to testify next month over the matter and asked the department’s watchdog to investigate but have little other recourse.
Like Barr, Trump’s Republican allies in Congress have said they wish he would be less outspoken on Twitter, even as they have consistently defended his actions.
The Senate on Thursday sought to impose some restrictions on Trump, voting to limit his ability to wage war with Iran and questioning whether one of his nominees is qualified to serve on the board of the Federal Reserve.
Meanwhile, the president has moved to rebuild his staff with those he sees as loyalists, including former communication director Hope Hicks, who worked closely with Trump in his business before serving as his 2016 campaign press secretary.
He also rehired his former personal assistant Johnny McEntee to lead his personnel office, who sources say will be tasked with ensuring that new hires are loyal to the president.
Trump is about to launch a week of re-election activities, starting with a fundraising dinner on Saturday at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.
On Sunday, he will seek to appeal to blue-collar voters by attending the Daytona 500 NASCAR race, where he will be named the grand marshal, the first president to have that distinction.
On Tuesday he goes on a three-day swing through California, Nevada, Arizona and Colorado.
Additional reporting by Susan Heavey and Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Andy Sullivan, Alistair Bell and Daniel Wallis

Trump seems to confirm campaign of ‘grievance, persecution and resentment’
President retweets Times article as well as viral video
• Daytona visit to rev up base could include lap in limousine
February 15, 2020
by Martin Pengelly in New York
The Guardian
Retweeting a New York Times piece which quoted Ralph Waldo Emerson – shortly after retweeting footage of a small-town mayor inadvertently live-broadcasting a visit to the toilet, thereby mixing low culture with high – Donald Trump seemed to confirm on Saturday that his campaign for re-election will be fuelled by “grievance, persecution and resentment”.Quoting Times White House correspondent Peter Baker, Trump wrote: “Ralph Waldo Emerson seemed to foresee the lesson of the Senate Impeachment Trial of President Trump. ‘When you strike at the King, Emerson famously said, ‘you must kill him.’
“Mr Trump’s foes struck at him but did not take him down. A triumphant Mr Trump emerges from the biggest test of his presidency emboldened, ready to claim exoneration, and take his case of grievance, persecution and resentment to the campaign trail.”
Trump chose to pass his own comment only with a familiar claim about his impeachment and the Russia investigation before it, writing: “The Greatest Witch Hunt In American History!”
Baker’s piece was published on 1 February, four days before Trump’s acquittal in the third impeachment trial in US history. It was headlined: While stained in history, Trump will emerge from trial triumphant and unshackled.
Two weeks later, that prediction seems to have been born out.
Trump faced two articles of impeachment, concerning abuse of power in his attempts to have Ukraine investigate political rivals and obstruction of Congress in its own investigation of the matter.
The Republican-held Senate rejected attempts to hear testimony from witnesses and acquitted the president with only one GOP vote against, that of Mitt Romney of Utah, a longtime Trump opponent.
Since then, the president has called his impeachment “bullshit”; criticised Romney; fired a White House aide and an ambassador who gave testimony in the impeachment inquiry; and admitted sending Rudy Giuliani to Ukraine to dig up dirt on Joe and Hunter Biden, the matter at the heart of his impeachment which he previously denied.
Trump has also seemed to interfere in the sentencing of Roger Stone, his adviser who was convicted under special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian election interference, links between Trump aides and Moscow and possible obstruction of justice by the president.
Stoking fears of a constitutional crisis, Trump has claimed the “absolute right” to interfere in justice department affairs.
Critics have said that indicates he thinks presidents are essentially kings, above the law, a view arguably reinforced by his attorney general although William Barr was moved this week to put at least tactical distance between himself and his raging president.
Emerson, a great American essayist of the 19th century, wrote his line about striking at kings when a pupil, the future supreme court justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, attempted to refute Plato.
Trump’s other early retweet on Saturday was of a message which said: “THIS IS HILARIOUS Mayor of Georgetown in the US excused himself to go & use the washroom in the middle of a meeting & forgot to switch off his mic on his tie & this is what happened.”
The event in question, replete with farting noises and giggling council members, happened in Georgetown, Texas in 2016. The mayor, Dale Ross, pronounced himself “not particularly embarrassed”.
Trump was in Florida on Saturday, due to attend the Daytona 500 motor race and act as grand marshal and starter in a play to his political base. It was reported that the president was planning a lap of the circuit in the Beast, his heavily armoured limousine.
Former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer indicated one motivation for attending the famous Daytona race, as his boss George W Bush did in 2004, another election year.
“There’s a real sense of positive, overwhelming affirmation to hear the roar of the crowd,” Fleischer told the Associated Press. “What politician doesn’t want that?
“Secondly, there’s what I call the reverberation effect. People watching at home, who hear the roar of the crowd for a president, that can drive them toward some sense of approval or fondness or liking for the president.”
On Saturday morning, Trump also repeated Fox News criticism of the decision not to pursue charges against Andrew McCabe, who the president fired as deputy director of the FBI in March 2018, two days before his scheduled retirement.

World War III’s Newest Battlefield
U.S. Troops Head for the Far North
by Michael T. Klare
In early March, an estimated 7,500 American combat troops will travel to Norway to join thousands of soldiers from other NATO countries in a massive mock battle with imagined invading forces from Russia. In this futuristic simulated engagement — it goes by the name of Exercise Cold Response 2020 — allied forces will “conduct multinational joint exercises with a high-intensity combat scenario in demanding winter conditions,” or so claims the Norwegian military anyway. At first glance, this may look like any other NATO training exercise, but think again. There’s nothing ordinary about Cold Response 2020. As a start, it’s being staged above the Arctic Circle, far from any previous traditional NATO battlefield, and it raises to a new level the possibility of a great-power conflict that might end in a nuclear exchange and mutual annihilation. Welcome, in other words, to World War III’s newest battlefield.
For the soldiers participating in the exercise, the potentially thermonuclear dimensions of Cold Response 2020 may not be obvious. At its start, Marines from the United States and the United Kingdom will practice massive amphibious landings along Norway’s coastline, much as they do in similar exercises elsewhere in the world. Once ashore, however, the scenario becomes ever more distinctive. After collecting tanks and other heavy weaponry “prepositioned” in caves in Norway’s interior, the Marines will proceed toward the country’s far-northern Finnmark region to help Norwegian forces stave off Russian forces supposedly pouring across the border. From then on, the two sides will engage in — to use current Pentagon terminology — high-intensity combat operations under Arctic conditions (a type of warfare not seen on such a scale since World War II).
And that’s just the beginning. Unbeknownst to most Americans, the Finnmark region of Norway and adjacent Russian territory have become one of the most likely battlegrounds for the first use of nuclear weapons in any future NATO-Russian conflict. Because Moscow has concentrated a significant part of its nuclear retaliatory capability on the Kola Peninsula, a remote stretch of land abutting northern Norway — any U.S.-NATO success in actual combat with Russian forces near that territory would endanger a significant part of Russia’s nuclear arsenal and so might precipitate the early use of such munitions. Even a simulated victory — the predictable result of Cold Response 2020 — will undoubtedly set Russia’s nuclear controllers on edge.
To appreciate just how risky any NATO-Russian clash in Norway’s far north would be, consider the region’s geography and the strategic factors that have led Russia to concentrate so much military power there. And all of this, by the way, will be playing out in the context of another existential danger: climate change. The melting of the Arctic ice cap and the accelerated exploitation of Arctic resources are lending this area ever greater strategic significance.
Energy Extraction in the Far North
Look at any map of Europe and you’ll note that Scandinavia widens as it heads southward into the most heavily populated parts of Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden. As you head north, however, it narrows and becomes ever less populated. At its extreme northern reaches, only a thin band of Norway juts east to touch Russia’s Kola Peninsula. To the north, the Barents Sea, an offshoot of the Arctic Ocean, bounds them both. This remote region — approximately 800 miles from Oslo and 900 miles from Moscow — has, in recent years, become a vortex of economic and military activity.
Once prized as a source of vital minerals, especially nickel, iron ore, and phosphates, this remote area is now the center of extensive oil and natural gas extraction. With temperatures rising in the Arctic twice as fast as anywhere else on the planet and sea ice retreating ever farther north every year, offshore fossil-fuel exploration has become increasingly viable. As a result, large reserves of oil and natural gas — the very fuels whose combustion is responsible for those rising temperatures — have been discovered beneath the Barents Sea and both countries are seeking to exploit those deposits. Norway has taken the lead, establishing at Hammerfest in Finnmark the world’s first plant above the Arctic Circle to export liquified natural gas. In a similar fashion, Russia has initiated efforts to exploit the mammoth Shtokman gas field in its sector of the Barents Sea, though it has yet to bring such plans to fruition.
For Russia, even more significant oil and gas prospects lie further east in the Kara and Pechora Seas and on the Yamal Peninsula, a slender extension of Siberia. Its energy companies have, in fact, already begun producing oil at the Prirazlomnoye field in the Pechora Sea and the Novoportovskoye field on that peninsula (and natural gas there as well). Such fields hold great promise for Russia, which exhibits all the characteristics of a petro-state, but there’s one huge problem: the only practical way to get that output to market is via specially-designed icebreaker-tankers sent through the Barents Sea past northern Norway.
The exploitation of Arctic oil and gas resources and their transport to markets in Europe and Asia has become a major economic priority for Moscow as its hydrocarbon reserves below the Arctic Circle begin to dry up. Despite calls at home for greater economic diversity, President Vladimir Putin’s regime continues to insist on the centrality of hydrocarbon production to the country’s economic future. In that context, production in the Arctic has become an essential national objective, which, in turn, requires assured access to the Atlantic Ocean via the Barents Sea and Norway’s offshore waters. Think of that waterway as vital to Russia’s energy economy in the way the Strait of Hormuz, connecting the Persian Gulf to the Indian Ocean, is to the Saudis and other regional fossil-fuel producers.
The Military Dimension
No less than Russia’s giant energy firms, its navy must be able to enter the Atlantic via the Barents Sea and northern Norway. Aside from its Baltic and Black Sea ports, accessible to the Atlantic only via passageways easily obstructed by NATO, the sole Russian harbor with unfettered access to the Atlantic Ocean is at Murmansk on the Kola Peninsula. Not surprisingly then, that port is also the headquarters for Russia’s Northern Fleet — its most powerful — and the site of numerous air, infantry, missile, and radar bases along with naval shipyards and nuclear reactors. In other words, it’s among the most sensitive military regions in Russia today.
Given all this, President Putin has substantially rebuilt that very fleet, which fell into disrepair after the collapse of the Soviet Union, equipping it with some of the country’s most advanced warships. In 2018, according to The Military Balance, a publication of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, it already possessed the largest number of modern cruisers and destroyers (10) of any Russian fleet, along with 22 attack submarines and numerous support vessels. Also in the Murmansk area are dozens of advanced MiG fighter planes and a wide assortment of anti-aircraft defense systems. Finally, as 2019 ended, Russian military officials indicated for the first time that they had deployed to the Arctic the Kinzhal air-launched ballistic missile, a weapon capable of hypersonic velocities (more than five times the speed of sound), again presumably to a base in the Murmansk region just 125 miles from Norway’s Finnmark, the site of the upcoming NATO exercise.
More significant yet is the way Moscow has been strengthening its nuclear forces in the region. Like the United States, Russia maintains a “triad” of nuclear delivery systems, including intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), long-range “heavy” bombers, and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs). Under the terms of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), signed by the two countries in 2010, the Russians can deploy no more than 700 delivery systems capable of carrying no more than 1,550 warheads. (That pact will, however, expire in February 2021 unless the two sides agree to an extension, which appears increasingly unlikely in the age of Trump.) According to the Arms Control Association, the Russians are currently believed to be deploying the warheads they are allowed under New START on 66 heavy bombers, 286 ICBMs, and 12 submarines with 160 SLBMs. Eight of those nuclear-armed subs are, in fact, assigned to the Northern Fleet, which means about 110 missiles with as many as 500 warheads — the exact numbers remain shrouded in secrecy — are deployed in the Murmansk area.
For Russian nuclear strategists, such nuclear-armed submarines are considered the most “survivable” of the country’s retaliatory systems. In the event of a nuclear exchange with the United States, the country’s heavy bombers and ICBMs could prove relatively vulnerable to pre-emptive strikes as their locations are known and can be targeted by American bombs and missiles with near-pinpoint accuracy. Those subs, however, can leave Murmansk and disappear into the wide Atlantic Ocean at the onset of any crisis and so presumably remain hidden from U.S. spying eyes. To do so, however, requires that they pass through the Barents Sea, avoiding the NATO forces lurking nearby. For Moscow, in other words, the very possibility of deterring a U.S. nuclear strike hinges on its ability to defend its naval stronghold in Murmansk, while maneuvering its submarines past Norway’s Finnmark region. No wonder, then, that this area has assumed enormous strategic importance for Russian military planners — and the upcoming Cold Response 2020 is sure to prove challenging to them.
Washington’s Arctic Buildup
During the Cold War era, Washington viewed the Arctic as a significant strategic arena and constructed a string of military bases across the region. Their main aim: to intercept Soviet bombers and missiles crossing the North Pole on their way to targets in North America. After the Soviet Union imploded in 1991, Washington abandoned many of those bases. Now, however, with the Pentagon once again identifying “great power competition” with Russia and China as the defining characteristic of the present strategic environment, many of those bases are being reoccupied and new ones established. Once again, the Arctic is being viewed as a potential site of conflict with Russia and, as a result, U.S. forces are being readied for possible combat there.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was the first official to explain this new strategic outlook at the Arctic Forum in Finland last May. In his address, a kind of “Pompeo Doctrine,” he indicated that the United States was shifting from benign neglect of the region to aggressive involvement and militarization. “We’re entering a new age of strategic engagement in the Arctic,” he insisted, “complete with new threats to the Arctic and its real estate, and to all of our interests in that region.” To better protect those interests against Russia’s military buildup there, “we are fortifying America’s security and diplomatic presence in the area… hosting military exercises, strengthening our force presence, rebuilding our icebreaker fleet, expanding Coast Guard funding, and creating a new senior military post for Arctic Affairs inside of our own military.”
The Pentagon has been unwilling to provide many details, but a close reading of the military press suggests that this activity has been particularly focused on northern Norway and adjacent waters. To begin with, the Marine Corps has established a permanent presence in that country, the first time foreign forces have been stationed there since German troops occupied it during World War II. A detachment of about 330 Marines were initially deployed near the port of Trondheim in 2017, presumably to help guard nearby caves that contain hundreds of U.S. tanks and combat vehicles. Two years later, a similarly sized group was then dispatched to the Troms region above the Arctic Circle and far closer to the Russian border.
From the Russian perspective, even more threatening is the construction of a U.S. radar station on the Norwegian island of Vardø about 40 miles from the Kola Peninsula. To be operated in conjunction with the Norwegian intelligence service, the focus of the facility will evidently be to snoop on those Russian missile-carrying submarines, assumedly in order to target them and take them out in the earliest stages of any conflict. That Moscow fears just such an outcome is evident from the mock attack it staged on the Vardø facility in 2018, sending 11 Su-24 supersonic bombers on a direct path toward the island. (They turned aside at the last moment.) It has also moved a surface-to-surface missile battery to a spot just 40 miles from Vardø.
In addition, in August 2018, the U.S. Navy decided to reactivate the previously decommissioned Second Fleet in the North Atlantic. “A new Second Fleet increases our strategic flexibility to respond — from the Eastern Seaboard to the Barents Sea,” said Chief of Naval Operations John Richardson at the time. As last year ended, that fleet was declared fully operational.
Deciphering Cold Response 2020
Exercise Cold Response 2020 must be viewed in the context of all these developments. Few details about the thinking behind the upcoming war games have been made public, but it’s not hard to imagine what at least part of the scenario might be like: a U.S.-Russian clash of some sort leading to Russian attacks aimed at seizing that radar station at Vardø and Norway’s defense headquarters at Bodø on the country’s northwestern coast. The invading troops will be slowed but not stopped by Norwegian forces (and those U.S. Marines stationed in the area), while thousands of reinforcements from NATO bases elsewhere in Europe begin to pour in. Eventually, of course, the tide will turn and the Russians will be forced back.
No matter what the official scenario is like, however, for Pentagon planners the situation will go far beyond this. Any Russian assault on critical Norwegian military facilities would presumably be preceded by intense air and missile bombardment and the forward deployment of major naval vessels. This, in turn, would prompt comparable moves by the U.S. and NATO, probably resulting in violent encounters and the loss of major assets on all sides. In the process, Russia’s key nuclear retaliatory forces would be at risk and quickly placed on high alert with senior officers operating in hair-trigger mode. Any misstep might then lead to what humanity has feared since August 1945: a nuclear apocalypse on Planet Earth.
There is no way to know to what degree such considerations are incorporated into the classified versions of the Cold Response 2020 scenario, but it’s unlikely that they’re missing. Indeed, a 2016 version of the exercise involved the participation of three B-52 nuclear bombers from the U.S. Strategic Air Command, indicating that the American military is keenly aware of the escalatory risks of any large-scale U.S.-Russian encounter in the Arctic.
In short, what might otherwise seem like a routine training exercise in a distant part of the world is actually part of an emerging U.S. strategy to overpower Russia in a critical defensive zone, an approach that could easily result in nuclear war. The Russians are, of course, well aware of this and so will undoubtedly be watching Cold Response 2020 with genuine trepidation. Their fears are understandable — but we should all be concerned about a strategy that seemingly embodies such a high risk of future escalation.
Ever since the Soviets acquired nuclear weapons of their own in 1949, strategists have wondered how and where an all-out nuclear war — World War III — would break out. At one time, that incendiary scenario was believed most likely to involve a clash over the divided city of Berlin or along the East-West border in Germany. After the Cold War, however, fears of such a deadly encounter evaporated and few gave much thought to such possibilities. Looking forward today, however, the prospect of a catastrophic World War III is again becoming all too imaginable and this time, it appears, an incident in the Arctic could prove the spark for Armageddon

The Season of Evil
by Gregory Douglas

This is in essence a work of fiction, but the usual disclaimers notwithstanding, many of the horrific incidents related herein are based entirely on factual occurrences.
None of the characters or the events in this telling are invented and at the same time, none are real. And certainly, none of the participants could be considered by any stretch of the imagination to be either noble, self-sacrificing, honest, pure of motive or in any way socially acceptable to anything other than a hungry crocodile, a professional politician or a tax collector.
In fact, the main characters are complex, very often unpleasant, destructive and occasionally, very entertaining.
To those who would say that the majority of humanity has nothing in common with the characters depicted herein, the response is that mirrors only depict the ugly, evil and deformed things that peer into them
There are no heroes here, only different shapes and degrees of villains and if there is a moral to this tale it might well be found in a sentence by Jonathan Swift, a brilliant and misanthropic Irish cleric who wrote in his ‘Gulliver’s Travels,”
“I cannot but conclude the bulk of your natives to be the most odious race of little pernicious vermin that Nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth.”
Swift was often unkind in his observations but certainly not inaccuratre.

Frienze, Italy
July 2018-August 2019

Chapter 87

Amos Peasley Wirtz was forty-three years old and had spent at least half of his life in various Illinois and Kentucky mental institutions. He believed that the CIA was trying to kill him by secret radio waves and when he was not confined, he liked to roam the woods, dressed in old military camouflage and carrying an ancient shotgun that had been plugged years before.
It was found out later that Wirtz had written vaguely threatening, semi-literate letters to various members of the government, to include the President, complaining about the secret radio waves. He was in the files of the Secret Service but they were still under the impression Wirtz was in an Illinois institution and so made no effort to round him up in advance of the Presidential visit.
The unfortunate Wirtz had stepped out of a heavy copse of trees right in front of a local sheriff’s car and was promptly challenged by two Secret Service agents riding in the back seat. He was hard of hearing and ignored the shouted commands to drop his gun so the agents riddled him with bullets in spite of the shouts of the sheriff’s deputy who knew Wirtz to be a harmless eccentric.
The government immediately took charge of the body and within an hour, the old plugged shotgun had changed into a modern hunting rifle. This was immediately shown to the press along with a picture of the late Mr. Wirtz dressed in camouflage clothing.
The six state manhunt for the vanished killer was quickly canceled and Wirtz’ remains were flown, under heavy guard, to Washington.
No one closely connected with the investigation believed that Wirtz was the killer but it was imperative that the American public had answers as quickly as possible and in positively identifying the man as the assassin and producing a plausible weapon, the authorities had locked themselves into a position they could not ever abandon.
Soon enough, the American media was deluged with official government press releases, all designed to reinforce their firmly stated conviction that Wirtz was a lone operator, a madman with a history of threatening authority and a man who had been found in the area of the Presidential assassination, complete with a weapon which government experts quickly proved was the only gun that could have shot the President and the unfortunate Charles Rush.
The dead billionaire press lord was always depicted as having been accidentally shot by Wirtz because he was standing so close to his real target.
With the killing of Wirtz, all the police efforts to seal off the entire southern tip of Illinois were immediately halted and newly established roadblocks were dismantled.
Concurrent with the coverage of Wirtz, there were various movements organized that were intended to further extend government control over what Washington always viewed as a potentially fractious and unfortunately well-armed population. The wave of assassinations in the last half of the Twentieth century had created havoc with owners, manufacturers and users of handguns and now the same forces moved against any kind of rifle, semi-automatic or single shot.
There was also a movement set in train to keep all mental patients that could even marginally be considered dangerous under permanent lockup. It was already mandatory in most states that convicted criminals viewed dangerous to children could be kept in prison theoretically until they died, regardless of the length of their original sentence.

When Chuck had heard the news that the actual assassin had been shot, he laughed.
“Well, Gwen, they couldn’t catch the real shooter so they found themselves another Oswald. Thank God for governmental stupidity. You know, I’ve always said that all of the conspiracy theories floating around have their origins in governmental stupidity and the strong compulsion to cover it up. All we can do now is to wait for the return of the prodigals.”
“But you think Claude actually did it?”
“Dear, the gun is gone. Maybe Claude wanted to do it but Wirtz beat him to it. Who knows? But if he intended to do it, I have every intention of going after him because he took Alex with him.”
“Oh, I agree with that entirely.”
They had been watching television coverage which now consisted of long opinion pieces by former governmental officials, psychologists, retread historians who had new books in print, occasional local law enforcement personnel who could be counted on to give inflammatory personal accounts about the assassin and all of this interspersed with occasional reruns of the assassination footage, views of the White House, file footage of the elevated Vice President (the new President had spent a good part of the day visiting his wife who was confined in a Washington clinic for what the press was told was “exhaustion” brought on, no doubt, by her nude run through the streets of the District of Columbia.)
Many of his staff and supporters were now contemplating an improvement in their official positions and, even more pleasant, in their salaries.
The former President’s staff were now busily either cleaning out their desks or making advances to the staff of the new President in the hopes of being able to remain near the seat of power.
In Minnesota, the electric gate opened and Chuck turned off the television.
They could hear the garage door open and close and a few minutes later, the door into the house rattled and opened.
Alex was the first into the house. He was much tanner than before, his clothes were dirty and he needed a haircut but he was filled with high spirits. He tossed a paper bag with a half-eaten hamburger onto a table and came happily into the living room.
“Hey Chuck!”
“Hey, Alex,” came the response and they met in the middle of the rug. They began to hug each other and Chuck noted that Alex needed to bathe. The smell of stale sweat reminded him of the day Alex had first entered their company.
“Hey, Chuck, it’s good to be back. Hey, Gwen!”
He grinned at her and she made a small gesture with her hand and smiled.
Claude came in a minute later carrying the two suitcases. Chuck did not see the aluminum gun case.
“Good evening, Claude,” Chuck said in his dry, formal way.
“Same to you, Charlie, glad to be back.”
He set the suitcases down on the rug and they both shook hands very briefly.
There was a short silence and Chuck turned to Alex.
“Alex, why don’t you take your bag to your room and have a nice shower?”
“Do I smell bad?”
“A little. And when you get through, come back here and tell us all about the fishing, OK?”
“Sure. I’ll be back in a few minutes people.”
And he vanished down the hall to his room.
There was a moment of silence and Chuck started in but in a much lower voice than he had been using over the past hour and a half.
“Claude, I have to ask you a question or two. Would you be kind enough to sit down over there?”
Claude shrugged and lowered himself into a leather armchair.
“I don’t…let’s keep this low-key for now, OK?”
“Claude, the rifle I got from LeBec, you know what I am talking about, is missing from the attic. I put it back there before you and Alex left for your fishing trip. From what Alex has said, you were down somewhere in southern Illinois. I would have thought that there was much better fishing in Minnesota or Wisconsin, wouldn’t you?”
Claude smiled and spread out his hands.
“I wouldn’t really know, Chuck. I don’t fish.”
“Right. Well, you know where I’m going, don’t you?”
“Sure. You want to know if I shot the President and your uncle. Right?”
“Oh absolutely right.”
This was from Gwen who had perched on the arm of another chair.
“So, I can tell you that I did not shoot anybody.”
Chuck began to raise his voice again.
“Fine. Then what happened to LeBec’s goddam gun, Claude? Did the squirrels break into the attic and run off with it to build a fucking nest?”
“Now calm down, Charlie. I did not take the gun and I did not use the gun.”
Gwen cut in very quickly.
“You’re saying you know nothing about the President? About Chuck’s uncle?”
“No, I’m not saying that at all. I’m saying I did not take the gun and I never shot anybody. And that’s all I will say.”
Chuck jumped up out of his chair.
“And that’s all you are going to say?”
“Yes, Chuck, that’s all I am going to say.”
“Do you know anything at all about the President and my uncle?”
“Yeah. Someone shot them. That’s what I know.”
“Listen, I don’t give a rat fuck if you killed both of them. What I certainly do care about is Alex being involved in all of this. He’s only fifteen and if you dragged him along as some kind of a cover for your activities, I swear to God…”
Gwen cut in.
“Claude, you see what we are really worried sick about, don’t you?”
“Sure. You don’t want the kid involved in dirty business. I mean, that’s very clear to all of us, isn’t it?”
Chuck advanced on Claude’s chair, fists balled.
“Goddam it, Claude, tell me you did not shoot those people!”
“Yes, Claudie, tell them the truth.”


This is also an e-book, available from Amazon:

The Encyclopedia of American Loons

William Campbell Douglass

Fundies do say the darndest things, but the whereabouts of the “Lee Douglas” supposedly associated with the Christian Coalition and described here cannot be determined and he probably doesn’t exist.
William Campbell Douglass II unfortunately does. Douglass is a doctor, woo peddler, hardcore conspiracy theorist and president of the Douglass Center for Nutrition and Preventive Medicine. In particular, Douglass believes that the WHO developed AIDS as a strategic element in their evil plan to usher in the New World Order by depopulating the Earth.
As for woo, well, Douglass has quite a number of … unusual ideas. He has been caught claiming that a little bit of tobacco smoking is good for you – in fact, he has written a book about that: The Health Benefits of Tobacco (I suppose “editor and researcher Tracy T. Douglass” is a relative), which seeks to rebut all those studies linking smoking to negative health effects and concluding that it’s a conspiracy. Probably by the government. The purpose of the conspiracy is left unclear. The quality of the rebuttals are well exemplified by his observation that even according to CDC studies, only 0.5% of the smoking population died at ages less than 35 – but 8% of the general population is dead before age 35; which prompts him to ask “does smoking prevent death in the relatively young – from murder, automobile and other accidents, infection or boredom?” No prize for spotting the rather obvious flaw in the reasoning (I haven’t even doublechecked the number).
Apart from his defense of smoking, Douglass has argued that exercise is overrated and that vegetarianism is bad. He has moreover promoted the idiotic raw milk fad (he is the author of The Milk of Human Kindness-Is Not Pasteurized – the title gives you a glimpse of the mind of W.C. Douglass methinks). Fluoride, however, is really bad and water fluoridation is yet another element in a grand conspiracy, as is aspartame. And sunlight, according to Douglass, prevents melanoma. Gary Null apparently really liked that claim.
Douglass has been most widely noticed, perhaps, for his anti-vaccine views. Vaccines don’t really prevent anything, according to Douglass (and the diseases they are meant to prevent aren’t really big deals anyways). Instead, vaccines are – you guessed it – a conspiracy. For instance, in his article “Pandemic Panic Hits World Health Organization”, published in the positively deranged pseudojournal Medical Voices (it’s actually a somewhat useful journal – anyone who has published anything in that journal can be safely dismissed as an insane crank), he claimed the H1N1 flu epidemic was faked by the WHO to sell drugs and vaccines. After all, according to Douglass the epidemic was “no more than a sniffle”, killing only a from a World War I battle commander standpoint insignificant number of people.
His relationship to critical thinking and evidence is, in other words, a matter of pick-and-choose. For instance, Douglass is – unusually for woo promoters – critical of the use of anecdotes in assessing a hypothesis. Of course, to Douglass, “anecdotal evidence” means any well-controlled, large study that yields results he don’t like. Personal anecdotes are, however, really valuable when they support his own, science-contrary beliefs.
Unsurprisingly, Douglass also runs a webstore that sells his special brand of supplements, and pushes at least two “periodicals” that have succeeded in making this list, Real Health and Second Opinion.
Diagnosis: A critical-thinking disaster that makes Mercola look positively wise (ok, so that’s an exaggeration). And though Douglass doesn’t quite enjoy Mercola’s level of influence, he is far from negligible.

Jock Doubleday

A standard ploy among denialists is to offer pseudo-challenges to scientists to prove that the scientific fact they deny is true or that their pseudoscientific delusions are false – where the protocol for testing or standards of proof are set by them, of course, to ensure that they will (with some exceptions) never be satisfied. Kent Hovind’s $250,000 challenge is probably the most famous, but Ray Comfort’s $10,000 prize to anyone who can present a “genuine living transitional form” has received its share of scorn as well (Comfort defines a transitional form as “a lizard that produced a bird, or a dog that produced kittens, or a sheep that produced a chicken, or even as Archaeopteryx–a dinosaur that produced a bird,” which is not what a transitional form is, making the challenge an impossible one). Deepak Chopra’s “explain consciousness” challenge is arguably even dumber.
Jock Doubleday, also known as the director or Natural Woman, Natural Man, Inc. and the author of such intriguing works as ‘The Burning Time (Stories of the Modern-day Persecution of Midwives)’ and ‘Lolita Shrugged (THE MYTH OF AGE-SPECIFIC MATURITY )’ has, in the same vein, gained himself some ridicule for his offer of “$75,000.00 to the first medical doctor or pharmaceutical company CEO who publicly drinks a mixture of standard vaccine additives ingredients in the same amount as a six-year-old child is recommended to receive under the year-2005 guidelines of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (In the event that thimerosal has recently been removed from a particular vaccine, the thimerosal-containing version of that vaccine will be used.)” The mixture will be body weight calibrated. By 2006 Doubleday claimed that “14 doctors, or persons claiming to be doctors, have contacted me about publicly drinking the vaccine additives mixture. None have followed through.” And to ensure that no one actually follows through with the challenge, Doubleday has created a pretty substantial list of criteria to be satisfied: Any participant must go through a psychiatric evaluation, a history of any mental health based counseling, an email exam of 10 questions regarding vaccine theory and history, compulsory purchase and reading of at last five altmed anti-vaccine books, a 20 question written exam, a certificate of good health, and so on and so forth. In short: You’re not going to pass; just forget it. In fact, several doctors have approached Doubleday, but they have all been rejected by him because of various details with regard to their application or because Doubleday just rejected them – it is, after all, up to him to determine whether the challenger is eligible). Of course, the test itself has been passed with flying colors: In 1996 a German guy ingested a dose of at least 1500 times the maximum dose of thimerosal a 6-year old with a complete vaccine history would theoretically have received in one go (weight adjusted!). It seems to have been unpleasant, but the guy recovered completely and did not develop autism.
Doubleday is, of course, a hardcore anti-vaxx loon. Not only are vaccines dangerous, “vaccines have never been shown by science to prevent any disease (you’d need a long-term controlled study for that).” Yeah, it’s kind of precisely like claiming that no one has shown that falling to the ground from 9000 feet is harmful. And no, Doubleday doesn’t understand science, or how evidence is measured, at all. Not that it would matter; all the science in the world wouldn’t change Doubleday’s mind, since it is all a conspiracy. Writes Doubleday: “There is a dark force working to undermine all ecosystems on Earth. This force is a trans-century cult that calls itself the Illuminati – because its members believe that one day they will be ‘illuminated’ and become gods on Earth. Illuminati members have infiltrated all world politics and control all financial systems. They have engineered the present financial crisis and they are responsible for the events of 9/11 and for the majority of false-flag events in recent history. Through war and other means, they are responsible for the hyper-poisoning of the planet.” Why they would be deliberately trying to undermine “all ecosystems” is a bit unclear, but Morgoth and Ungoliant, Skynet, the Harkonnens and the aliens in the classic documentary “They Live” have all been up to stuff like that before.
Diagnosis: Mike Adams, Sherri Tenpenny and Ken Adachi all rolled into one, only dumber (well … less influential, at least). A joke, really.

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