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TBR News February 17, 2020

Feb 17 2020

The Voice of the White House
Washington, D.C. February 17, 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 17: “”Like a small child,Trump attended a car race and then, to show the world how important he is, he had his armored-plated limo drive around the track to let the public see him in all his glory. The man may have a brain the size of a walnut but his ego is the size of the Empire State Building. His desire to hold a huge military parade in Washington to match the French Bastille Day event fell flat but he dreamed of himself, standing on alone on an eleveated platform like his ideal, Hitler, while the Army goosestepped past him. When he was frustrated in this fantasy, he fired staff members to show that he really was powerful. Very few White House staff members either like or respect him but they are all afraid of him and his childish rages.”

The Table of Contents
• The Senate Rejects Outsourcing War Powers to Trump
• Russia’s Gazprom Says It Will Complete Nord Stream 2 Alone
• Munich Security Conference reveals frayed trans-Atlantic ties
• Trump Ratings Remain Low Around Globe, While Views of U.S. Stay Mostly Favorable
• Shuteye and sleep hygiene: the truth about why you keep waking up at 3am
• The Deadly Pash Papers
• The Season of Evil
• The Encyclopedia of American Loons

The Senate Rejects Outsourcing War Powers to Trump
February 12, 2020
by John Nichols
The Nation
If senators took their oaths seriously, votes to assert Congress’s authority in matters of war and peace would be unanimous.
But, of course, in today’s Washington oaths are often disregarded. As presidents have grown increasingly imperial, the Senate has too frequently abandoned its checking and balancing role, and, since Donald Trump took office, the vast majority of Republican senators have served as this particular president’s Praetorian Guard.
So it was significant that eight Senate Republicans joined Senate Democrats on Thursday in voting for legislation crafted by Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia to limit the president’s ability to order an attack on Iran.
Concerned about Trump’s erratic approach to the Middle East and about the prospect that similar tensions might at any point escalate toward war, Senators Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Mike Lee of Utah, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Rand Paul of Kentucky, and Todd Young of Indiana broke with Trump to curb the president’s ability to wage war on Iran without express approval from Congress.
“For nearly two decades, Congress has been AWOL on certain matters of national security and attempted to pass the buck to our commander in chief when things go wrong,” said Young, a conservative who served as a US Marine and who usually sides with Trump. “It’s time for us to do our job.”
As he had done with considerably more success in this month’s impeachment trial, the president tried to rally Republican senators with a tweet declaring, “It is very important for our Country’s SECURITY that the United States Senate not vote for the Iran War Powers Resolution. We are doing very well with Iran and this is not the time to show weakness.” Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell echoed the president’s line, decrying “ill-conceived potshots at presidential authority.”
But Mike Lee, the Utah Republican who worked closely with Senator Bernie Sanders to cut US support for the Saudi Arabian military’s assault on Yemen, explicitly rejected the president’s call on senators to abdicate their constitutional responsibility. “We don’t send a message of weakness when we stand up for the rule of law,” announced Lee. “That’s a message of strength.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi plans to bring the Senate proposal up for consideration in the House, where it is all but certain to pass. Kaine’s plan would require the president to end hostilities targeting Iran within 30 days unless those hostilities have been approved by Congress. Trump’s expected to veto the measure. But that does not render this initiative irrelevant.
With a 55-45 bipartisan vote, the chamber has positioned itself in line with the majority of Americans. As Senator Tammy Baldwin explained, “The American people are sick and tired of sending young men and women to war in the Middle East.”
Baldwin, a cosponsor of the Kaine measure, argued Wednesday, “The Constitution is very clear that only Congress has the authority to declare war and I joined Democrats and Republicans to ensure that President Trump comes to Congress first before pursuing any military action against Iran and starting another war in the Middle East. Democrats and Republicans agree. We can’t let the President send more young men and women to war and repeat the mistakes of the past.”
That’s a big deal, said Trita Parsi, of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. “True, Trump will veto it and we don’t have the vote to override it. But,” said Parsi, “it shows that a majority reject [Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo’s war of choice and that is a powerful constraint on Trump.”
Erica Fein, the advocacy director for the group Win Without War, called the Senate vote “a critical step toward not only blocking a potential Trump-led war with Iran, but toward reasserting its sole constitutional power to determine when, where, and whether the United States goes to war.” This, she argues, begins a process of renewing congressional authority that has the potential to tip the balance against war. “With Congress’s continued leadership, backed by an organized and activated grass roots,” she says, “we can be the necessary counterweight to Trump’s pro-war foreign policy.”
But Congress has to play its role. As Kaine says, “An offensive war requires a congressional debate and vote. This should not be a controversial proposition.”

Russia’s Gazprom Says It Will Complete Nord Stream 2 Alone
January 29, 2020
Russia’s state-owned Gazprom says it will complete the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project under the Baltic Sea on its own without the help of foreign companies.
“The Nord Stream 2 project, which is already 94 percent complete, will be finished by the Russian side,” Gazprom deputy head Yelena Burmistrova reportedly told the European Gas Conference in Vienna on January 28.
Last month, the United States imposed sanctions in the form of a cease-and-desist order for the foreign firms working on the Russia-to-Germany natural-gas pipeline project.
That pushed back the timetable of its completion, with Russian officials having given various estimates of when it would go online — from the end of 2020 to early 2021.
It remains unclear how Gazprom would finish the project without international assistance. Options on the table, according to the Financial Times, include using vessels owned by Gazprom and other Russian pipe-laying contractors.
The foreign companies building the pipeline — all not part of Gazprom’s project consortium — were Finnish, Swedish, and Danish.
The two most crucial companies facing sanctions were Swiss pipelayer and undersea construction firm Allseas, as well as Italian pipeline contractor Saipem.
Upon completion and in addition to Gazprom’s sister Nord Stream 1 pipeline, Russia technically won’t be reliant on Ukraine’s pipeline network for transiting gas to Europe.
Both sides, however, in late December signed a five-year, $7 billion gas transmission agreement.
Under the new contract, Kyiv this year is expecting to ship a minimum of 65 billion cubic meters (bcm), or about 22 bcm less than it did in 2018. Minimum volumes will decrease further to 40 bcm in 2021-24.
With reporting by the Financial Times, Forbes, Ukraine Business News, Interfax, and Seeking Alpha

Munich Security Conference reveals frayed trans-Atlantic ties
Friend or foe? Ties between the two sides of the Atlantic are already complicated. At the Munich Security Conference, the differences were more apparent than ever
February 16, 2020
by Matthias von Hein.
Tensions had been simmering for a long time, and now they have come to the fore: At the Munich Security Conference, the deep cracks in the trans-Atlantic relationship have become more apparent than ever. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s reply to German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s opening speech showed that Europe — or at least Berlin, and even more so Paris — is further away from Washington than ever.
A common enemy?
The US delegation, surprisingly large for an election year, made every effort to close the gap between the two sides — but its approach was clearly at odds with President Donald Trump’s administration. The US Congress and government does agree on something, though: That China is the new enemy. Hopefully in the face of this threat, the Europeans and Americans might once more find common ground.
There was hardly any meeting, panel or speech in which the US did not address the upcoming 5G rollout, with repeated warnings about the involvement of Chinese communications supplier Huawei. For all their justified concerns, the constant finger pointing only served to cement resistance.
One thing is certain: There will be no return to the heyday of close trans-Atlantic ties. Rhetorically, at least, the Europeans have been shaken awake from that dream. There is much talk of Europe becoming a sovereign, strategic, political power. There are demands that Germany once again learns the language of power, which French President Emmanuel Macron has already seemed to master.
Support for European ‘independence’
With regard to future trans-Atlantic relations, three positions have emerged. Firstly, the French vision of European independence. Secondly, the prevailing position — especially in Eastern Europe — that one should be closely connected to Washington, no matter what. And thirdly, Germany’s indecision between these positions. However, one can predict with some certainty that if Donald Trump wins a second term in the White House in November, the French vision will get a massive shot in the arm — including from Berlin.
Macron energizes EU debate
The highlight of the conference was perhaps the appearance of French President Emmanuel Macron. The French president brings incredible dynamism to the European debate. He fights for European independence. He wants a common foreign and defense policy. And if that does not work for all 27 remaining EU members after Brexit, then Paris would be happy to work with those that do support the idea repeatedly advocated at the conference: to create a Europe capable of action in the face of the “rivalry of the great powers.”
Macron has come to the opinion that ambitions alone are not enough in this new world. Skills are also required. Reaction to this conclusion of Macron’s from the German delegation was broadly approving — but it remains to be seen whether that approval is reflected in action.

Trump Ratings Remain Low Around Globe, While Views of U.S. Stay Mostly Favorable
Trump foreign policies receive little support
January 30, 2020
by Richard Wike, Jacob Poushter, Janell Fetterolf and Shannon Schumacher
Pew Research
As has been the case throughout his presidency, U.S. President Donald Trump receives largely negative reviews from publics around the world. Across 32 countries surveyed by Pew Research Center, a median of 64% say they do not have confidence in Trump to do the right thing in world affairs, while just 29% express confidence in the American leader.
Anti-Trump sentiments are especially common in Western Europe: Roughly three-in-four or more lack confidence in Trump in Germany, Sweden, France, Spain and the Netherlands. He also gets especially poor reviews in Mexico, where 89% do not have confidence in him.
In nearly all nations where trends are available, Trump receives lower ratings than his predecessor, Barack Obama. As reported by the Center in 2017, international confidence in the U.S. president plummeted after Trump’s inauguration, while favorable ratings for the United States also declined.
The current survey finds an uptick in some countries since 2018 in ratings for President Trump and the U.S., though the degree of change varies from modest to solidly positive. At least two plausible factors may be behind these shifts. First, support for Trump has increased somewhat on the ideological right in many nations. Second, some of the changes could be influenced by modifications in how the 2019 survey was administered.
Again, on balance, foreign publics lack confidence in Trump to do the right thing when it comes to world affairs. The survey, conducted in spring and summer 2019, finds that the lack of confidence in the 45th U.S. president is driven in part by opposition to his policies. A median of 68% across the nations polled say they disapprove of the U.S. increasing tariffs on imported goods; a median of 66% oppose the Trump administration’s withdrawal from international climate agreements; and 60% disapprove of Trump’s proposal to build a wall on the border with Mexico.
Most also dislike the current administration’s tighter restrictions on immigration and its withdrawal from the Iran nuclear weapons agreement.1
Trump’s approach to North Korea is the only policy position tested that is viewed favorably on balance, with a median of 41% saying they approve and 36% disapproving.
Still, Trump does find pockets of support. There are six nations where roughly half or more voice confidence in his handling of world affairs. About seven-in-ten have confidence in Trump in Israel, where 74% endorse his decision to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and 66% back his withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal. In Ukraine, just under half (46%) rate the U.S. president positively.
And Trump is generally more popular among people on the political right. In 18 nations, those who place themselves on the right side of the ideological spectrum express more confidence in the U.S. president. For example, more than eight-in-ten Israelis on the ideological right have confidence in Trump, compared with just 37% of those on the left. Only 14% of Australians from the left give Trump positive marks, compared with a 55% majority among people from the right. And a significant gap between right and left exists in 12 of the 14 European Union nations polled. Yet even among respondents on the right, confidence in Trump rises to 50% or higher in only six nations.
Positive ratings for Trump have increased significantly since 2018 among those on the right in several nations. Confidence in Trump from the right is up 15 percentage points or more in Hungary, Spain, France and Brazil, and it has increased by at least 10 points in an additional six nations.
Trump gets somewhat higher marks among people who express positive views of right-wing populist European political parties. For example, in France, among those with a favorable opinion of Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (formerly National Front), 43% have confidence in Trump, compared with only 13% among people with an unfavorable view of National Rally.
Supporters of right-wing populist parties are also more likely to endorse Trump’s key policies. For instance, 67% of people who have a positive view of National Rally support Trump’s immigration policy, but just 22% say the same among those who dislike National Rally. There is a 40 percentage point gap on this question between supporters and nonsupporters of Alternative for Germany and the Sweden Democrats. Similar significant gaps between those who like and those who do not like right-wing populist parties exist in Poland, the Netherlands, UK, Italy, Spain, the Czech Republic and Hungary. Still, even among those with favorable views of these parties, support for Trump’s policies is limited.
The survey asked all respondents about four international leaders in addition to President Trump: German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Trump receives the highest negative ratings among the five leaders, though ratings for Putin and Xi are also on balance negative.
Across the 33 countries surveyed a median of 54% express a favorable opinion of the United States, while 38% have an unfavorable one. Favorable opinion of the U.S. declined dramatically when Trump took office and remains significantly lower than during the Obama era.
These are among the major findings from a Pew Research Center survey conducted among 36,923 people in 33 countries from May 18 to Oct. 2, 2019.
More negative ratings for Trump than for other world leaders
German Chancellor Angela Merkel receives the highest marks among the five leaders tested on the poll: A median of 46% express confidence in her leadership of world affairs, while 29% say they do not have confidence in the long-serving German leader. Views of Merkel vary widely within Europe. While roughly seven-in-ten or more have confidence in her in Sweden, the Netherlands, France, the UK, Germany and Spain, only 28% of Hungarians, 25% of Czechs and 22% of Greeks say the same.
By a slim margin, French President Macron receives more positive reviews (a median of 41% have confidence in him) than negative ones (a median of 36% lack confidence). Within Europe, the share of the public expressing confidence in the French leader ranges from 73% in Germany to 18% in Hungary.
Relatively few express confidence in Russian President Putin or Chinese President Xi. And U.S. President Trump receives more negative ratings than either the Russian or Chinese leader.
Ratings for U.S. mostly favorable, though low among some key allies
While overall attitudes toward the United States are favorable, there are large differences across the 33 nations in the study, especially among some of its key European Union allies. It receives its most positive reviews in the region from three Central and Eastern European nations: 79% of Poles, 70% of Lithuanians and 66% of Hungarians have a favorable opinion of the U.S.
Meanwhile, Europe’s lowest ratings for the U.S. are in the Netherlands (46% favorable), Sweden (45%) and Germany (39%). Outside of the EU, ratings for the U.S. are much more positive in Ukraine (73% favorable) than in Russia (29%).
As has been the case over time in Pew Research Center surveys, most in the sub-Saharan African nations polled express favorable opinions of the U.S. Views in Asia are also mostly positive, though 45% in U.S. ally Australia currently give the U.S. an unfavorable rating.
Israelis give the U.S. its highest rating on the survey (83% favorable). But while 94% of Israeli Jews see the U.S. positively, just 37% of Israeli Arabs agree. Elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa, attitudes are more negative. This is especially the case in Turkey, where just one-in-five have a favorable opinion of the U.S., the lowest percentage registered in the survey.
Views of the U.S. are mostly negative in Mexico, where just 36% give the U.S. a favorable rating, only 8% have confidence in Trump and fully 90% oppose the building of a wall on their country’s border with the U.S.
In many countries, there was no major change in U.S. favorability between 2018 and 2019, but 10 nations did see significant increases in the share of people with favorable views of the U.S. Most of these countries are in Europe. This nascent trend may be driven at least in part by increased favorability among supporters of right-wing populist groups in some nations, but it may also be related to changes in survey administration in the past year (see sidebar).
In five of the eight European countries where U.S. image has improved between 2018 and 2019 – France, Germany, Greece, Netherlands and Spain – there were significant increases in favorable views of the U.S. among people on the right of the ideological spectrum. For instance, 67% of Greeks who say they are on the right ideologically have a favorable opinion of the U.S., while just 40% held that view in 2018.

Trump Ratings Remain Low Around Globe, While Views of U.S. Stay Mostly Favorable
January 8, 2020
1. Little trust in Trump’s handling of international affairs
by Richard Wike, Jacob Poushter, Janell Fetterolf and Shannon Schumacher
Pew Research
Ratings for U.S. President Donald Trump’s handling of world affairs are largely negative around the world, and opinions on this matter have remained relatively stable since he took office in 2017.
A median of 29% across 32 countries surveyed express confidence in Trump to do the right thing in world affairs. As in previous years of his presidency, trust is lowest in Mexico. Argentines and Brazilians generally lack confidence in the president as well, though both countries have seen a roughly 10 percentage point increase in the share holding this opinion since 2018.
Confidence in the U.S. president is also low in every European country surveyed except one: Roughly half of Poles have faith in Trump to do what is right in international affairs. Poland is also the only European country of those consistently surveyed in the past three years to show an increase in confidence each year. In 2017, only 23% of Poles viewed Trump positively. (Polish President Andrzej Duda visited the U.S. in early June of 2019, while the survey was in the field, and the two leaders announced a plan to strengthen the military relationship between their countries.)
Perceptions of Trump are more positive in general in the Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and Africa compared with Europe, though opinions vary across the countries surveyed in these regions. Majorities in the Philippines, Israel, Kenya, Nigeria and India have confidence that the president will do the right thing in world affairs. Yet few in Japan, Australia, Lebanon, Tunisia and Turkey share this view.
Views of Trump vary by age in several of the countries surveyed, but the difference is not always in the same direction. In Australia and the Western European countries of the UK, Greece, France and Germany, adults ages 50 and older are more likely than younger adults to see Trump in a positive light. In contrast, younger adults have more confidence in the president than older adults in Slovakia, Bulgaria and Russia.
In 12 countries, men are more likely than women to rate Trump positively. For example, 28% of men in Sweden have confidence in the president, compared with only 8% of women. Significant gender differences can also be found in Brazil, Australia, Japan, the UK, Canada, the Netherlands, Argentina, Spain, South Korea, France and Germany. In Tunisia, women (15%) are more likely than men (9%) to trust Trump.
Self-placement on the ideological spectrum is also associated with views of Trump in nearly every country where ideology was measured. Those on the right are much more likely than those on the left to trust Trump’s handling of international affairs.
In some countries, this ideological divide is particularly sharp. For example, there is an almost 50 percentage point difference between those on the right in Israel – most of whom have faith in the U.S. president – and those on the left. Differences of 20 points or more can also be seen in most of the European countries surveyed, as well as Australia, South Korea and Brazil.
In several countries, people who place themselves on the right of the ideological spectrum have gained confidence in Trump since 2018.
Hungarians on the political right have shown the largest increase in trust. In 2018, only around a third of those on the right in Hungary had confidence in the U.S. president. In 2019, a majority in this group believe Trump would do the right thing in international affairs.
A similar pattern can be seen in many European countries, including Spain, France, Poland, Greece, the Netherlands and Italy. Confidence in Trump has also increased among Brazilians, Argentines and Canadians on the right of the political spectrum. Confidence has remained largely the same since 2018 among people on the left in most countries.
Consistent with broader ideological differences, people who hold a favorable view of right-wing populist parties in Europe are more likely than those with an unfavorable view to give Trump positive ratings.
Those with differing views of UKIP in the UK deviate the most in their views of Trump.3 More than three-in-five UKIP backers express confidence in the U.S. president, compared with roughly one-in-five among those who have a negative view of the party. Similarly, people with favorable views of Sweden Democrats, Vox in Spain, National Rally in France and Alternative for Germany (AfD) are at least three times as likely as others to trust Trump.
In contrast, attitudes toward center or left-wing populist parties are not associated with views of Trump. The exception is among those with differing opinions of ANO 2011 in the Czech Republic, a party that generally falls in the center politically. People who view ANO 2011 positively (34%) are significantly more likely than those with a negative view of the party (22%) to trust Trump in international affairs.
Views of the U.S. president are closely linked to attitudes toward the United States as a whole, both at an individual level and across countries. In nearly every country surveyed, people with a favorable view of the U.S. are more likely than those with an unfavorable view to have confidence in the U.S. president. Similarly, countries with a higher share who view the U.S. positively tend to have more people who trust the president to do what is right in foreign affairs. For example, the two countries with the most confidence in Trump – Israel and the Philippines – are also among the most favorable toward the U.S.
In comparison with their views of President Trump, publics generally express more confidence in German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Similar percentages express confidence in Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping, but Trump receives higher no confidence ratings and Xi is less well-known internationally.
Across the countries surveyed, many believe Merkel would do the right thing in world affairs (median of 46%). Majorities in 13 countries express confidence in the German chancellor, including 86% in Sweden, 82% in the Netherlands and 74% in both Germany and France. Publics in some other European countries hold much less positive views of Merkel, however. Only around a quarter in the Czech Republic and Greece trust her, some of the lowest shares in the survey.
As is the case with Merkel, confidence in Macron is highest in Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden. Fewer people in Macron’s home country of France say they trust their leader’s handling of world affairs (48%).
Putin garners the most positive reviews from Russians; 73% are confident that their leader would do what is right in world affairs. Roughly half or more in Bulgaria, the Philippines, Greece and Slovakia agree. Yet few in other countries express trust in the Russian leader. Only 15% in Poland and just 11% in Ukraine have confidence in Putin’s approach to international affairs.
Support for a right-wing populist party and views of European leaders are related. In 10 countries, those with favorable views of a right-wing populist party are also more likely to have confidence in Putin when it comes to world affairs. At the same time, those who dislike a right-wing group tend to hold positive views of Macron (eight countries) and Merkel (seven countries).
Publics in most of the countries surveyed lack confidence in Xi Jinping. His highest ratings come mostly from countries in Africa and the Middle East, including 61% in Nigeria, 58% in Kenya, 52% in South Africa, 44% in Tunisia and 41% in Lebanon. Filipinos and Russians generally voice confidence in the Chinese president as well.
Many publics express the least confidence in Trump of any world leader asked about. For example, four-in-ten or more in Tunisia trust Merkel, Xi, Putin and Macron to do the right thing in international affairs, but only 12% trust Trump. Similarly, roughly three-in-ten Mexicans have confidence in the leaders of China, Germany, Russia and France, compared with 8% who have confidence in the U.S. president. Overall, Trump falls at the bottom of the list in about one-third of the countries surveyed. The same is true for Presidents Putin and Xi.

Shuteye and sleep hygiene: the truth about why you keep waking up at 3am
You eschew caffeine after lunch, have stopped drinking alcohol and eat healthily. But you’re still staring at the ceiling in the small hours. Here’s why
February 17, 2020
by Elle Hunt
The Guardian
You land in your body with a start, or else it slowly comes into groggy focus: either way it’s night-time, but you are now awake. Why? Alice Gregory, a psychology professor at Goldsmiths, University of London and the author of Nodding Off, says it’s quite normal to wake up during the night.
After dropping off, we move through different stages of sleep, a cycle that takes the average adult about 90 minutes to complete and speeds up towards morning.
“The night is also punctuated by brief awakenings,” says Gregory. “Typically, people return to sleep without realising that they had ever been awake.” But sometimes we might at least be more aware of it, or pulled entirely awake. Reasons range from the fairly obvious (being too hot or cold, needing the loo, having a nightmare, a crying baby) to the medical (disordered breathing such as sleep apnoea, or nocturia: excessive night-time urination).
Waking up during the night does not necessarily mean you have insomnia, which, says Gregory, is diagnosed alongside other criteria such as the frequency of this occurrence and how long it has been happening. “If you find yourself waking regularly during the night, certainly flag this with your GP so they can consider any possible underlying causes.”
Still, sleep deprivation takes its own toll, from irritability and reduced focus in the short term, to an increased risk of obesity, heart disease and diabetes. If you do find yourself regularly waking up without any apparent reason – what can you do about it?
“It’s a misconception that we sleep the night through – nobody ever does,” says the sleep coach Katie Fischer. Waking as much as five or seven times a night is not necessarily a cause for concern – the most important thing is how you feel when you get up. “In the morning, do you feel refreshed, or groggy and unable to function, 30 minutes after waking?”
If there is nothing to suggest an underlying medical issue, Fischer will look at the bigger picture with a patient. “It’s really important to know if they have children. Do they have a partner who snores, or works shifts?” she says. “They might not have their own sleep issues but they might be sleeping next to someone who does.”
Lifestyle changes can make a big difference, even for people suffering from sleep apnoea (although that should be treated by a specialist). It is hackneyed to point the finger at caffeine, but people tend to underestimate how long its effects can last – Fischer says to stop consuming it by 2pm or 3pm. Water intake during the day is also a factor: “Even going to bed mildly dehydrated can disrupt our sleep.”
Similarly, although people commonly turn to alcohol to help them fall asleep – Fischer says one in 10 use it as a sleep aid – it has a disruptive effect beyond the initial crash, causing spikes in blood sugar and cortisol levels. Diet can function in the same way, with “anti-sleep foods” that are high in sugar or cause flatulence or heartburn (such as broccoli and cabbage).
A “pro-sleep” bedtime snack is a small amount of complex carbohydrates and protein, such as wholegrain cereal with milk, or toast with peanut butter, says Fischer. An “anti-inflammatory” diet favouring fruits, vegetables, lean protein, nuts, seeds and healthy fats (and limiting processed foods, red meats and alcohol) has been shown to improve sleep apnoea.
As for exercise, although being active during the day aids sleep, anything strenuous is to be avoided before bedtime. A lot of advice for preventing night-time “awakenings” falls under the umbrella of what has come to be known as “good sleep hygiene”: restrict the bedroom to sleep and sex, ban screens emitting blue light, keep to regular bedtimes and so on.
Our bedrooms – even our beds – have come to double as home cinemas, offices, “a dining room, maybe,” says the sleep consultant Maryanne Taylor. “You would be amazed at how significant that is for sleep. You’re training to associate your bed with wakefulness.” For that reason, if you do struggle to fall back asleep on waking up during the night, the advice is to get up for a bit. “Don’t just lie there – it’s counterproductive.”
So, too, is looking at the clock, especially if it doubles as your phone. “As soon as your brain has registered that it’s 2am, you convince yourself that that’s your lot,” says Taylor. Such worry loops might be waking you up in the first place.
For many of us, bedtime might be our first opportunity of the day to be alone with our thoughts, she says. “It’s connected to waking in the night because, if we haven’t had any processing time during the day, it’s the first time we stop and just be.” Managing stress and anxiety during waking hours and learning how to relax body and mind are key to a good night’s sleep – but ironically, fixating on getting your full eight hours can make it harder to achieve. “You get this awful self-fulfilling prophecy that’s quite hard to break,” says Fischer.
A mindset change may be what’s needed. “People might have this belief that they are a ‘bad sleeper’ and there is nothing that they can do about it. Sometimes it’s about changing people’s perceptions of what good sleep looks like.” Taylor says she “really cannot bear” fitness trackers, which monitor sleep, for focusing people’s minds on often inaccurate data. It is wrong to assume that you must sleep through the night, every night, she says. “We all have blips in our sleep – it’s never going to be that you sleep brilliantly all the time.”
But accepting that – even as you lie awake, hours before dawn – might be the first step towards it.

The Deadly Pash Papers
Who was Boris Pash and what are the Pash papers?
Boris Theodore Pash (born Boris Fedorovich Pashkovsky) 20 June 1900 – 11 May 1995) was a United States Army military intelligence officer.
He commanded the Alsos Mission during World War II and retired with the rank of colonel
Boris Theodore Pashkovsky was born in San Francisco, California, on June 20, 1900. His father was Reverend Theodore Pashkovsky (later Most Reverend Metropolitan Theophilus from 1934 to 1950), a Russian Orthodox priest who had been sent to California by the Church in 1894. His father was recalled to Russia in 1906, and the entire family returned to that country in 1912.
During the Russian Revolution of 1917, he served in the White movement navy in the Black Sea from 1918 to 1920.
Because he could speak English, he served as a translator in meetings with the British.
For his services he was awarded the Cross of St. George.
On 1 July 1920, he married Lydia Vladimirovna Ivanov, and chose to return to the United States when the Bolshevik consolidation of power became apparent. He was able to secure employment with the YMCA in Berlin, where his son Edgar Constantine Boris Pashkovsky was born on 14 June 1921.
Upon returning to the United States with his family in 1923, he attended Springfield College, in Springfield, Massachusetts, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Physical Education. It was during this time that he changed the family name from Pashkovsky to Pash.
Pash taught physical education at Hollywood High School in Los Angeles from 1924 until 1940. During this time he continued his education, receiving a Master of Science from the University of Southern California in 1939 He also joined the United States Army Reserve, and was assigned to the Infantry Intelligence Branch. As part of his training, he qualified for certification by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Pash was called to active duty with the Army in 1940, and became chief of counter-intelligence at the IX Corps Area headquarters at the Presidio of San Francisco.
In that role he became involved with the 1942 Baja Peninsula mission that investigated the possibility of the Japanese establishing a base in Mexico during World War II.
Following the end of the war in Europe, he was also the military leader of the Alsos Mission, an Allied operation established in late 1943 to determine how far the Axis had progressed toward developing nuclear weapons by seizing facilities, materiel, and scientists related to the German nuclear energy project
Post war
After the war, Pash served in various military intelligence positions. He was on the staff of General Douglas MacArthur in Japan in 1946 and 1947, and thanks to his efforts, the Soviet attempt to gain a foothold in Japan through a local Orthodox Church failed. Instead, Pash organized for the Bishop Benjamin (Basalyga) to arrive in early January 1947 to take the reins, and thus the American Metropoly, rather than the Moscow Patriarchate, secured influence in the region. As a result of this combination, Pash had had a public clash with the Soviet General Kuzma Derevyanko.
From 1948 to 1964, he served as a military representative to the Central Intelligence Agency. During this time, and subsequently, he was in charge of a controversial CIA program called PB-7, which had been formed to handle “wet affairs” like kidnappings and assassinations.
OPC’S very secret ‘Program Branch 7’ (PB – 7) was incorporated into the CIA along with the OPC. Its job, according to CIA official E. Howard Hunt of Watergate note, was “the assassination of suspected double agents and similar low-ranking officials.”
Boris Pash, as PB 7’s director, became one of the most deadly figures in U.S. intelligence history. Pash was the security man who haunted Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer during the research and development of the atomic bomb. Pash also headed the first military mission into Germany to bring back the Nazi rocket program.
And although Pash officially denied that PB-7 ever carried out a murder, he did not deny under oath before a Congresional committee investigation, that murder was a major part of its charter.
Rumors about the CIA having a secret unit to kill unwanted people had circulated for years.
President Eisenhower authorized the first CIA murder attempt on a major foreign leader’s life in April 1955. The target was Red Chinese leader Chou En-lai. The plan called for an Air India plane with Chou on board to blow up en route to a non-aligned nations conference in Bandung, Indonesia. Part of the assassination attempt worked: The freelancers employed by the CIA blew up the aircraft. Fortunately for Chou En-lai, he had switched to another flight.
Undaunted by this failure, the CIA decided to try a more focused approach against Chou. A 48-hour poison developed by Dr. Sidney Gottlieb – the man who Robert Crowley said produced the poison that killed James Speyer Kronthal, a CIA agent in charge of the CIA office in Switzerland who had recruited Heinrich Mueller, once head of the German Gestpo to work for the CIA – would be placed in his rice bowl while he was attending the Bandung conference. The poison’s delayed reaction time was just long enough for Chou to travel back to China and die there. William R. Corson, the leader of the assassination team, recalled that at the very last moment the order was rescinded. According to Corson, “It was called off in the nick of time” by General Lucien Truscott to prevent embarrassment to the president. To cover his role, Dulles sent a follow-up cable to the assassination team saying that the United States does not engage in such activity.
The development of untraceable drugs to use for assassinations started in the Technical Services Division of the CIA under Archibald Roosevelt. Dr. Gottlieb worked for Roosevelt, developing everything from mind-control drugs to very efficient exotic poisons. According to the late CIA official, Miles Copeland, in 1957 Gottlieb, again with the approval of Dulles, impregnated the favorite cigarettes of Egyptian leader Gamel Abdel Nasser with yet another toxin. Nasser apparently never smoked the spiked cigarettes. Later, Bill Harvey told associates he always believed that Gottlieb (nicknamed “Dr. Death” by his colleagues) “enjoyed his work a little too much.”
William Harvey, a former FBI agent, set up a telephone intercept in Berlin to listen to secret Russian phone conversations but unfortuinately, the Russians had been warned and their conversations were weighted with creative disinformation.
And what constitute the Pash documents?
As a top hit man for the CIA, Pash was directly responsible for the killing of number of their enemies. These were individuals who either knew too much about CIA secret operations or were political figures the CIA decided were in the way of American expansionism.
The list is stunning and includes such diverse personalities as Josef Stalin and James Forrestal.
As Pash was privy to incidents whose exposure would do terrible damage to the CIA and US policy, he was fully aware of his potential danger to the CIA should he choose to reveal his activities and so he had an “insurance policy.”
This consisted of a large box filled with commands, letters,official orders etc dealing with various murders (to include a Pope) and after boxing them gave them, and some very expensive looted art work, to Dr. Charles Burdick a retired university dean residing in the coastal town of Ferndale,California, and another CIA employee who had been sationed in Japan after the war.
Dr.Burdick developed an inoperable cancer and did not want to leave the nasty papers or valuable paintings in his home after he died so that Kay, his wife, would not have Pash trying to get them back. And if Boris thought she had looked at them he would have killed her on the spot. Ferndale is a nice, quiet town in northern California and he could have gotten away with it.
He gave the lot to a discreet and distant friend who later put them in a Swiss bank in 2000 and there they sit until it is decided what to do with them.
Without any question, the Pash papers are incandescent.
Somehow, the Russians have found out about the collection and keep mentioning how pleased they would be to buy them.
Poor Paisley, an expert on Soviet Russia and strongly suspected of changing sides, shooting himself in the back of the head and falling off his boat in 1978.
Or Olson and Duggan doing full gainers out of hotel windows.
Or a Polish Pope going for a ride in the Popemobile and being shot by a right-wing young Turkish fanatic.
Such nastiness from a good friend of both Drs Cameron and Gottleib.
And let us not forget poor Forrestal “falling out of” the 16 story Bethesda hospital window. Ah well, he was getting lunatic and starting to talk about certain naughty matters so down he went in his bathrobe. It wasn’t the fall but the sudden stop that killed him.
And JFK paying the ultimate price in Dallas for daring to fire Dulles and other top CIA leaders over the failed Cuban invasion.
And obtaining the blood poison warfarin from its Wisconsin manufacturers and passing it to Beria’s people to use in assassinating Josef Stalin in 1953.
And all of this on specific, written, orders from senior CIA officials.
Perhaps history would applaud the publishing of Pash’s savagery but the CIA would certainly not.

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 89

Now that Claude was no longer under suspicion as the Presidential assassin, he joined in the commentary.
“Chuck, if what you say about your uncle’s…or your grandfather’s…estate is right, won’t you be the one that gets all the money?”
“Of course.”
“By any chance, do you have a lawyer? Like one in Chicago?”
“No, Claude, I do not. Would you know of any useful ones there?”
“Oh yes, a number of them. There is one guy that would be really good for you. He never gets into court but he’s one of the best fixers in the state. I mean this guy knows everybody and I’ll tell you, he once saved my ass from serious trouble. Do you want his name?”
“Why not?”
“Edward Lupin. Ever heard of him?”
“No, never.”
“I could call him for you. I can tell you, Chuck, he can accomplish things you wouldn’t believe.”
“Is he OK? Do you trust him? There’s a lot of money involved as you know.”
“If I didn’t trust him, I wouldn’t recommend him.”
There was a telephone on the sideboard and Chuck pointed to it.
“Then call him, Claude, and put it on the speaker so we can all hear him. Go ahead.”
The third ring was answered by a very sleepy woman.
“Sorry to bother you so late but I have a very important matter to discuss with Mr. Lupin.”
The woman was annoyed.
“It’s one in the morning, sir, and my husband is asleep.”
“Ma’am, tell him Claude Duplessis is calling and this is so important it can’t wait. He knows me. Would you please get him for me?”
She mumbled something and a moment later a man’s voice was heard, thick with interrupted sleep.
“Claude? The art fellow? My God, it’s the middle of the night. Can’t this keep until a more civilized hour?”
The voice was deep, well modulated and had overtones of an Ivy League college.
“Ed, does the name Rush mean anything to you?”
“Charles Rush was just shot, if that’s the family you refer to.”
“Same family. The grandfather had a lot of money and left it in a trust. There were only two members left alive. One was Charles Rush and the other one is his nephew, Cyril.”
“Yes, go on,” the voice was now interested.
“Cyril Rush is sitting here with me now. He just learned of his uncle’s really sad death and as the heir to the estate, he is concerned because he has no attorney.”
“My, my! You said a friend, Claude. A good friend?”
Claude winked at Chuck.
“I think so. Would you be able to talk to him before morning, Ed?”
“Oh my, yes, of course I would. Is he there?”
“Yes, he certainly is. I’ll get him for you.”
“Thank you and Claude…”
“Yes, Ed?”
“Thank you so much for thinking of me. We can talk later.”
Chuck picked up the receiver and turned off the speaker,
“Mr. Lupin? This is Cyril Rush here.”
“Mr. Rush, please let me give you my most sincere condolences on the most tragic death of your uncle. His guiding hand will be sorely missed in so many enterprises.”
“My late uncle was an asshole, Mr. Lupin.”
“Well there are those who would agree with you, sir. How can I assist you?”
“According to the terms of my grandfather’s will, his entire estate was placed in a trust. My aunt, Caroline, my father, my uncle Charles and myself were the sole beneficiaries. No one was able to dispose of any asset in the estate while the others lived. My father fell out of his office window, my aunt drowned in the lake and now my uncle is dead. I am the sole survivor, Mr. Lupin and I believe you would agree with me that I am in need of legal counsel. Claude advises me that you are a man who washes his hands in many waters and if that is true, I am sure you can be of great assistance to me.”
Edward Lupin was in a state of instant euphoria. He was now fully awake and conscious that if he were able to land Cyril Rush as a client, he would never have to work again.
For the next hour, the lawyer asked questions and Chuck answered. Then, Chuck asked questions and Lupin answered. When they were finished, Chuck put down the receiver.
“My friends, my new lawyer is…pick up on this one! Is going to send a private plane for us tomorrow! Oh yes, he certainly is! We will be at the Duluth airport at eight in the morning with our baggage and we will all fly to Chicago. Oh yes, the heir in possession! Children, your nice friend Chuck is going to get something he has waited for long, long years. I don’t give a sweet fuck what time it is now, go and pack. All of you. And where is Lars?”
Alex snickered.
“Wanking with his kiddie tapes, probably. I’m not going to wake him up, Chuck.”
“I will, then. And I have to email the lawyer copies of various papers so I doubt if I will get any sleep tonight. Go on now and start packing. We can take the van and leave here about six. What are you all standing around looking stupid for? Get going!”

Lars did not want to go to Chicago. He explained in his slow way that he did not like big cities and that he was quite happy where he was. Could he please stay here?
There was a long discussion about this. Chuck liked Lars although he acknowledged that the latter was filled with imperfections. They had many interesting and profitable adventures together but there would be problems if Lars were left unsupervised in an urban area. Chuck would be responsible for extensive legal bills and stigma would attach to everyone.
It was finally decided that Lars could be the resident of the Minnesota house and Chuck would send up people to help him take care of it. There would also be a monthly check to defray expenses and reimburse Lars for taking care of the property.
All of that over, they shook hands warmly and when Chuck closed the door to the suite of rooms, he heard the sound start again on the videotape. The interrupted swimming lesson had resumed with splashes and giggles.
The entire house was in an uproar; bags were being packed and decisions were wrestled with. What would go and what could stay to be retrieved later?
Most of Alex’s clothes had gotten too small for him so instead of clothes, he stuffed his suitcases with music and CDs.
Chuck wanted to take as much of the good wine as he could and Gwen was having problems finding room for clothes she had bought since had left California. Because the weather was now warm, she could not wear her sable coat and it was so bulky that adjustments had to be made and other clothing abandoned.
Claude, on the other hand, had all of his luggage neatly packed and stacked by the door to the garage before three and was asleep almost immediately.
Gwen decided that three hours of sleep was better than none and she, too, had gone to sleep. Only the flickering light of the television set reflected off of the pine trees outside of his uncurtained windows showed that Lars was still functioning.
Chuck was bringing up the last box of wine to set beside the bags when Alex came into the hall. He had on a sweater that once was too big and a pair of cargo shorts.
“Alex, are those the only pants you have? This is going to be a day of some importance for me and perhaps something more dignified might do.”
“Hey, all my pants fit me around the waist but even the best one is about three inches too short at the bottom. I look like a fucking fool. Can’t we get clothes in Chicago?”
“Yes, I suppose we can. Why aren’t you in bed?”
“Hey, I packed everything I could use. What I wanted to do was to play this stuff I have been working on. I mean on the real piano. I’ve never heard it out in the open like that and I figure if everyone’s crashed, maybe I could just try it out. Do you mind?”
“No, I guess not. I can’t sleep anyway and the doors are thick so go ahead.”
As he left his room with a suit bag containing something he planned to wear on the trip, he heard the opening notes of Bach’s Goldberg variations rising up in the central hall. He listened for a moment, then came down the stairs and sat in a chair, being very careful to make no noise.
There was the opening Aria and then the beginning of the many variations.
Alex was hunched over the keyboard, frowning intently as his hands moved quickly back and forth over the keys while his bare feet worked the pedals.
Chuck had struggled through these exercises when he was young and knew every note of them but he had never heard them played with such technical brilliance or such emotion. Not even Gould, he thought, could touch this.
The music rolled on through the thirty variations and ninety minutes of intense labor on the part of Alex. He did not miss a note and there was only the briefest of pauses between each of the variations. Alex made the transition from a lyric piece to a dynamic one without effort and he played with a very firm, masculine style that spoke of a through understanding of his instrument, the composer and himself.
It was an incredible tour de force and at one point, Chuck found to his acute embarrassment that there were tears running down his face. It made no difference because Alex wouldn’t have noticed if Chuck had set himself on fire so great was his concentration.
When Alex finished the final Aria, he slumped against the piano for a moment and then pushed himself to his feet.
“Hey, Chuck! How did I do?”
“Hey Alex! Jesus, I can’t say anything at all.”
“That bad?”
“You know better than that. When we get home, I’ll buy you the best piano I can find and you have to keep up your practicing. You have to take this on, Alex, you can’t stop now.”
Alex saw the drying tears and suddenly hugged him.
“Hey, hey, it’s just me letting you see my world, that’s all. Thanks for the help, Chuck. That’s why I blew your uncle away. You got me to do this and I had to pay you back.”
Chuck put his arm around him.
“Just like the Mafia. No favor left unpaid. Alexander the Great, we have about an hour and a half before we have to leave. Aren’t you tired?”
“Yeah, but it feels good. I didn’t get any sleep on the drive up because Claude and I figured you knew something and I had to play the real piano just once before we left. You understand, don’t you?
“I do. What do we do for the next hour?”
“Well, I can make some coffee and there are some fresh rolls ready to heat up. Let’s go to the kitchen and eat something, OK?”
They were halfway through the pot of strong Columbian coffee when Chuck decided to broach a subject he had talked about with Lupin.
“Alex, you know I am about to inherit my grandfather’s estate. The lawyer has expressed some concern about my marital situation.”
“I mean, I am not married and I have no children. There is no one left on the Rush side but on my grandmother’s side is an army of cousins. You see the point? If anything happened to me, they would inherit everything unless I made a will and left it to the National Geographic Society or the dog pound. He suggested that I get married and father children as quickly as possible.”
Alex made a sour face.
“So, what I had in mind was to marry Gwen…”
The face was even sourer.
“And adopt you as my son and heir.”
“I don’t like the first part but the second is OK. Do you have to marry her?”
“Why the objections?”
“Well, will you move her in with you?”
“No, things will go on just like now.”
“Well, that’s no so bad…more coffee?…but you know I like to throw a fuck into her once in a while…”
Chuck laughed until he began to cough.
“Well, it’s true. You see, I don’t actually love her but I think she loves me. And she is good in the sack. That would be great but really gross, Chuck. My mom is two years older than me and we get it on a couple of time a week. Wouldn’t that bother you?”
“No, it would not. Better you than me. Pass the rolls, please.”
“Where is she going to sleep? With you?”
“I’ll give her my grandmother’s old rooms, I’ll take my grandfather’s and you can have my uncle’s suite. Butter please…thank you….and Claude can have the suite my dad used to have when he was young.”
“I’ll tell you, Chuck, this whole business is so weird that if I ever told anyone about it, I’d get locked up in a nut house. I mean…”
“Never mind, Alex, I’ve thought about the strangeness of it too. And if you were too truthful, you’d end up on death row so fight the desire to expose the dreadful secrets of the Rush family. Just accept things and try not to scrag your new mom with the servants around. The backstairs gossip is a bitch.”
Chuck finished off his third cup of coffee and now felt that he could get himself through the coming day.
“You know, Alex, I have a bad problem. Let me tell you about this bad problem. For some reason, it’s very difficult for me to be affectionate with people. I mean somehow sincerity sticks in the back of my throat. That having been said, Alex, let me make a sincere effort to say a few things to you. Do you think you can handle this?”
“I can sure try.”
“I am very proud of you, Alex, I really am. You’ve done two things since you’ve been living here that I will never forget. The first thing was your removal of my uncle. Claude, who is certainly not a coward, tells me that you scared him very badly because you were so cold. And the second thing was your performance tonight. I love good music, Alex, and I know a good deal about it. What you did was…I can’t think of a word now. Do you know what I’m saying?”
“I did the best I could. I knew I could do it and I made myself do it. I mean, I couldn’t just sit down and perform anything. I picked the variations out of a stack of music because they are great practice pieces. And I worked on them one at a time until I knew that I had them down perfect. Just because I did a good job on one set of pieces doesn’t make me perfect. Close to it, perhaps, Dad, but not perfect. Listen, as far as your uncle goes, I owe you for my new life. If you hadn’t come down that hall, fatass Ernie would have probably beaten me to death. Of course, I never bothered to tell you why Ernie was thumping on me.”
“Why don’t you try, now that we are both being sentimental?”
“Well, I had saved up twenty bucks to buy some used CDs. It took me three months collecting aluminum cans and bottles to scrounge the money. One day, old Ernie takes me to the mall. He wants to buy a present for my mother. Ernie had a one inch dick and a huge food bag and I don’t have any idea how he could satisfy her but he managed to. Anyway, he wanted to buy her a present. OK so far?”
“Go on.”
“So the Polack puke pile sees me looking in the window of the CD shop and when he finds out I am going to buy my CDs that I put away, he tells me to give him the money so’s he can buy my sweet mama some fancy tit covers. I tell him no, that I saved the money and it was mine and he couldn’t have it. Such a really fine man! He started twisting my arm and some old lady standing there got all bent out of shape so he gave her the finger and dragged me into the hall.”
“And that was when we caught him…”
“No. Just before that, he tried to reach in my pocket for the money and I said, ’what the shit, I ain’t giving the Warsaw Weenie my good money’ so I kicked him in the balls. That’s when you came along. And if you hadn’t, he’d of beaten me into mush.”
Chuck shook his head.
“That was stupid, Alex. You could never win against him unless you had a gun. That’s why they used to call Sam Colt’s gun the equalizer.”
“No, Chuck, it was not stupid. You get to a place in your life where you don’t care anymore and I got there then. I knew he would find the money but before he did, I was going to make him pay for it. And he sure did, didn’t he? You know, Dad, the sweetest sound I have ever heard, Bach not excepted, was when old Claudie snapped his leg. I can remember that sound even now. There are some things too wonderful to ever forget.”
Chuck looked into the bottom of his coffee cup for a few minutes.
“Alex, I’m a very rich man right now. You have no idea how rich I really am. When we get to Chicago, I am going to buy you the best piano made, a whole new wardrobe and anything else you want. A car, maybe two cars. Whatever you want. But promise me one thing, kid?”
“You don’t have to buy me anything but what do I promise?”
“Don’t kick me in the balls?”
“How can I? You don’t have any.”

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

The Encyclopedia of American Loons

Christopher Earl Strunk

Birtherism might be getting old, but since the central players are unlikely to be up to anything good these days either, we think it’s worth reminding people of who they were. Christopher Earl Strunk is a guy who files a lot of lawsuits including suing the New York State Board of Elections and others in 2011 to prevent President Obama from appearing on the 2012 presidential ballot. Strunk apparently alleged that Obama was connected to a massive conspiracy involving hundreds of people at behest of the Roman Catholic Church and especially the Jesuits. Judge Arthur Schack said of the case that “if the complaint in this action was a movie script, it would be entitled ‘The Manchurian Candidate Meets The Da Vinci Code.’” Strunk was fined some $177,000 in costs and penalties for filing “a frivolous” suit and wasting the court’s time. There are some absolutely fascinating details here.
Perhaps Strunk’s most recent suit is a 2019 lawsuit challenging New York’s new abortion law. To get a sense of where it is coming from – and possibly its likelihood of winning (update: it didn’t) – you can consult the part of the suit that contains Strunk’s thoughts on how fluoride lowers IQ.
Apart from filing lawsuits, Strunk also writes books, including Soul Envy: SCOTUS in between the I.R.S. and Antioch Ministries (apparently a deranged take on some court case, written with Ronald Dean Joling and Eric Jon Phelps, whom we have encountered before), Jesuit Social Justice versus Le droit des Gens: The Global Estate versus Nation States, and Loose Nukes: The Kursk’s Unregistered Missiles (with Phelps, one Anatoly Miranovsky and Michael Shrimpton, the former British barrister and conspiracy theorist who was convicted in 2014 for falsely reporting that Germany was planning a nuclear attack on the 2012 Summer Olympics.) In 2016 he apparently also tried to run for President. It is unclear if anyone noticed.
Diagnosis: Colorful nuisance, mostly. But it remains staggering how many of these people there are, and how many fans they’ve actually got.

John Hostettler

John Hostettler is the former U.S. Representative for Indiana’s 8th district (from 1995 to 2007, when he lost his reelection bill) and theocracy sympathizer. He is not particularly fond of the Consitution, either, in particular the separation of powers: In 2004, for instance, he at least suggested that when courts make decisions Congress (i.e. he) disagree with, then Congress should simply not enforce them: “Federal courts have no army or navy… The court can opine, decide, talk about, sing, whatever it wants to do. We’re not saying they can’t do that. At the end of the day, we’re saying the court can’t enforce its opinions.” He was also responsible for introducing the Marriage Protection Act that denied federal courts the right to hear cases challenging the Defense of Marriage Act, which used to ban same-sex marriage (it passed).
Of course, although he demonstrably and intensely dislikes the Constitution, he is very insistent about claiming otherwise (not unlike very many other people who also like to thump the Constitution). As current president of the Constitution Institute, for instance, his works to provide state legislators and others with “a greater understanding of the United States Constitution,” which of course doesn’t mean the Constitution but what Hostettler thinks it ought to have said (which, since he is evidently crazy, is equivalent to what he thinks it actually did say). Like what? Well, Hostettler has for instance complained that the “church has extracted itself from government,” creating a vacuum filled by “those adversarial to biblical truth,” and also the education system is currently controlled by “those who really don’t want our kids to understand what the Constitution has to say,” which, once again, doesn’t mean what the Constitution has to say, but what Hostettler thinks it ought to have said but demonstrably doesn’t, such as that “government is an institution that is not just a God-centered one, but it was ordained by God.” In 2008, Hostettler endorsed Chuck Baldwin, the Constitution Party’s nominee for the presidential election.
While in Congress Hostettler introduced legislation (multiple times) to prevent organizations such as the ACLU from collecting attorneys’ fees when they win lawsuits challenging religious symbols on public land or religious groups’ use of government property. Hostettler said the bill would “restore legal balance in this country, and it will protect us from being the victims of this assault on our religious liberties.” In practice, of course, it would guarantee that violations of the First Amendment – for instance teachers forcing students to pray to their particular deity – would have no actual consequences and allow only those able to pay in full for their own legal fees to challenge such practices in court. Wonder if that was an unintended consequence? But of course, it is Hostettler and his fellow Christians who are persecuted: “Like a moth to a flame the Democrats can’t help themselves when it comes to denigrating and demonizing Christians,” said Hostettler when Congress debated complaints from cadets at the US Air Force Academy over “coercive proselytizing” from evangelical superior officers who had tried to pressure them about their religious beliefs.
He has also been involved in some brouhaha around the utterly discredited abortion-breast cancer link.
Diagnosis: Oh, yes – your typical liar-for-Jesus and borderline Taliban theocrat who, instead of admitting that he really doesn’t like what the Constitution says delusionally tries to argue that it says what he wants it to say.

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