TBR News February 23, 2020

Feb 23 2020

The Voice of the White House
Washington, D.C. February 23, 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 23: “This coronavirus hype is nothing but a sleazy fraud, There is such a virus rampant and it is easily transmitted from person to person. It is nothing but a low-grade flu and the health and government agencies are well aware of it. In spite of this, we see endless breathless headlines in the world media such as:
‘Terrible outbreak in Italy! Six victims are in hospital! Soccer games are now banned!
‘Man in Los Angeles believed to have the dread coronavirus! Two dead in Hong Kong!’
‘Coronavirus sweeps the world! Dozen have died already!’
‘Annual Virgin’s Day Parade cancelled in New York! One of the virgins is believed to have the dread coronavirus and the other does not want to march alone.’”

Trump Approval Rating
source                                 date               approve    disapprove
American Research Group   Feb. 20, 2020      37%       59%

The Table of Contents
• So the west is winning, is it? Only if you’re a delusional Trump toady, Mr Pompeo
• How the internet fosters far-right radicalization
• Woodward and Bernstein: 40 years after Watergate, Nixon was far worse than we thought
• Fake Facts Are Flying About Coronavirus. Now There’s A…
• The Season of Evil
• The Encyclopedia of American Loons

So the west is winning, is it? Only if you’re a delusional Trump toady, Mr Pompeo
The special relationship has ended in tears for Britain and other allies have no reason to trust America
February 22, 2020
by Simon Tisdall
The Guardian
When was the last time a British prime minister cancelled a White House summit with a US president? Possibly never. Yet that’s what Boris Johnson did after a livid, cursing Donald Trump slammed the phone down on him in a row over the Chinese firm, Huawei.
Now a planned tête-à-tête in Washington next month, already twice delayed, is off. Not postponed. Not rescheduled. Off. So much for “Britain Trump”, the servile moniker the president pinned on Johnson last year. So much for the “special relationship”. Perhaps it was always doomed to end in tears.
Imperious, bullying American behaviour, political arm-twisting and shameless economic blackmail over a post-Brexit trade deal pose big problems for Britain in a time of deep uncertainty. But other US partners are in the same boat.
If a reminder were needed, it came in the form of Mike Pompeo, US secretary of state and Trump’s most influential adviser, who pompously lectured fractious European leaders at last weekend’s Munich security conference.
Pompeo reassured mutinous allies that, despite unilateralist, isolationist appearances, America remained committed to global leadership. “The death of the transatlantic alliance is grossly over-exaggerated. The west is winning. We are collectively winning. We’re doing it together,” he declared.
This is utter hogwash. And almost everyone outside a dishonest, self-deceiving circle of Republican stooges and Trump toadies knows it. Together? In many respects, the US and Europe are further apart than at any time since 1941.
Pompeo’s speech revealed a cold war mindset that crudely divides the world into friends and foes, separated by walls, missiles, sanctions, insults, and mutually assured dysfunction. For Pompeo, who referenced his formative experience as a soldier patrolling “freedom’s frontier” in West Berlin in the 1980s, there is no middle way. It’s a black-and-white world ruled by fear and force. It’s pure regression.
Pompeo laid into China over military expansionism, debt diplomacy and cyber threats. Fair enough. But if he wants things to change, he needs to talk calmly. The coronavirus epidemic, like Huawei’s controversial G5 networks and Beijing’s HS2 bid, shows how inescapably interdependent China and western countries already are. When Jaguar Land Rover runs short of parts, Apple iPhones grow scarce and Lake District B&Bs bemoan missing tourists, all because Hubei is stricken by a virus, it’s plain the global die is cast. Whether for security, trade, political, or public health reasons, it’s too late to isolate China.
Pompeo had it in for Russia and Iran, too – another evil empire, in his telling, that wages “campaigns of terror in the Middle East and right here in Europe”. Strange, then, that Europeans mostly believe Trump’s Iran vendetta to be dangerous and foolish. Stranger still how Trump sucks up to Vladimir Putin.
Pompeo’s broader theme – that the west, representing freedom and democracy, is winning – is no less daft. Only people with their heads stuck in the self-congratulatory, delusional cloud that frequently envelops Washington could seriously make such a ridiculous claim about the world in 2020.
What kind of foggy thinking or wilful blindness allows a senior politician to indulge such complacency when, as he speaks, not so far away, hundreds of thousands of refugees are being mercilessly bombed on Idlib’s freezing hillsides?
Almost 10 years ago, Syrians rose up in search of the freedom and democracy Pompeo lauds. But they got precious little help from the west. The story of the war, in part, is the story of how the west lost Syria, lost other Arab spring countries – and lost credibility everywhere.
Or let’s look at nuclear disarmament as the 1970 non-proliferation treaty’s (NPT) review conference approaches in April. While the climate emergency dominates the news, nuclear weapons remain the fast-track route to Armageddon. Is non-proliferation a battle the west is winning? Hardly. Trump tore up a key medium-range missile agreement with Russia last year. Now experts fear the 2010 New Start strategic weapons treaty is headed the same way.
Contrary to the spirit of the NPT, both the US and Russia are deploying new weapons, including low-yield, tactical warheads that increase the risk of nuclear warfare. Meanwhile, Trump’s blundering, hypocritical efforts to force North Korea and Iran to forsake nukes altogether are a bust.
Putin’s Russia seizes territory in Ukraine, subverts other people’s elections, and assassinates opponents in foreign cities without effective western punishment. The more China’s brutal repression of its Muslim minority is documented, the more European governments look away. About this, at least, Pompeo is right.
But he is dead wrong about Palestine and the Israeli land-grab recently endorsed by Trump. Such blatant theft overturns decades of binding UN resolutions. It makes a mockery of the “international rules-based order” – and any semblance of justice. Might these and many other unaddressed crises, including Yemen, Kashmir and Myanmar’s ethnically cleansed Rohingyas, reasonably be called “wins” for western values? Of course not.
And away from conflict zones, new technologies, far from bolstering free societies, deliver ever more pervasive, pernicious means of monitoring, controlling and censoring citizens.
Across the globe, the battlements of open governance are under attack while its defenders are betrayed from within. Authoritarian regimes are on the up. Intolerant rightwing populists and ultra-nationalist mini-Trumps are on the march.
No, Mr Pompeo. “America First” may work for some in your country. But “the west”, meaning a multinational, democratic alliance that champions shared principles, aims and laws, is not winning.
If this were a movie, it would be called ‘How The West Was Lost’ – with Trump as outlaw-in-chief.

How the internet fosters far-right radicalization
Researchers still know relatively little about far-right lone wolf terrorists. But many, it seems, become radicalized online.
February 21, 2020
by Kay-Alexander Scholz
We now know that Tobias R., the man behind Wednesday’s bloody terror attack in Hanau, western Germany, disseminated racist online videos. These, and his so-called manifesto, echo some of the far-right conspiracy theories circulating on the web today. He is evidently one of the many individuals to have been radicalized online.
A 2019 analysis by Germany’s domestic intelligence agency states that it struggles to keep track of extremist lone wolves. Many of them, it claims, are radicalized not by engaging with known far-right groups, but on their own. Last summer, the agency subsequently launched a task force to monitor extremist behavior on social media to counter the threat of online radicalization.
Far-right scene highly active online
The Berlin-based Amadeu Antonio Foundation, which works to counter far-right extremism, also believes that individuals can easily become radicalized via the internet. Miro Dittrich, who oversaw a two-year study of extremist social media content, says there is “a network of online content that appeals to different target groups that lures them into an alternative (extremist) world.”
He says since the birth of the internet, far-right activists had learned, though “trial and error,” to frame and curate content to appeal to radicals. Dittrich says these activists have been quick to experiment with and adopt new online platforms, as well as to generate income, for instance though YouTube ads, donation drives and crowdfunding campaigns. He argues that increasingly, social media users are networking and communicating with each other on “dark social,” which is difficult to monitor.
Messenger apps and social media can aid radicalization
There are numerous factors, according to the Amadeu Antonio Foundation study, that increase the risk of online radicalization. One of them is YouTube’s autoplay algorithm, which, although it has been adjusted somewhat, still tends to promote divisive content.
Another is the ability to create a group chats with 200,000 individuals on the Telegram messenger service. WhatsApp, by contrast, limits such chats to 256 people at most. The Telegram app also allows user to find other, nearby users. Both features can provide a big platform to spread extremist content.
The study also reports that extremists on Instagram have begun spreading their ideology by linking them to popular hashtags. The Identitarian Movement in particular, it states, has started disseminating far-right extremist content though seemingly innocuous pictures of parties and sports events. Moreover, extremists have begun creating their very own online platforms which effectively shut out anyone who does not share their worldview. This echo chamber, the study finds, emboldens them in their thinking. Many of those who gather on these platforms, the study says, consider themselves modern-day crusaders, who must save the “Western world.”
Toxic narratives
The study reports that toxic narratives, such as the one claiming Germans are being displaced by foreigners, can and do spread with ease online. As users come across more dubious online content that confirms such narratives, they feel increasingly under threat and become open to radical solutions.
The study reports that far-right milieus in different countries are using the internet to connect with each other. On well-known extremist platforms, English is the lingua franca. And far-right terrorists, it states, learn and drawn inspiration from each other, thereby motivating others to commit similar crimes.
Ever since Anders Brevik’s 2011 terror attack, it has become common for right-wing extremist terrorists to leave behind a manifesto. And since the 2019 Christchurch attacks, many extremists have livestreamed their crimes. The study reports that by broadcasting their acts, such terrorists seek to attract media and online attention. And while they appeared “like lone wolves,” they are in reality connected to a broad network of like-minded radicals.

Woodward and Bernstein: 40 years after Watergate, Nixon was far worse than we thought
by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward
The Washington Post
As Sen. Sam Ervin completed his 20-year Senate career in 1974 and issued his final report as chairman of the Senate Watergate committee, he posed the question: “What was Watergate?”
Countless answers have been offered in the 40 years since June 17, 1972, when a team of burglars wearing business suits and rubber gloves was arrested at 2:30 a.m. at the headquarters of the Democratic Party in the Watergate office building in Washington. Four days afterward, the Nixon White House offered its answer: “Certain elements may try to stretch this beyond what it was,” press secretary Ronald Ziegler scoffed, dismissing the incident as a “third-rate burglary.”
History proved that it was anything but. Two years later, Richard Nixon would become the first and only U.S. president to resign, his role in the criminal conspiracy to obstruct justice — the Watergate coverup — definitively established.
Another answer has since persisted, often unchallenged: the notion that the coverup was worse than the crime. This idea minimizes the scale and reach of Nixon’s criminal actions.
Ervin’s answer to his own question hints at the magnitude of Watergate: “To destroy, insofar as the presidential election of 1972 was concerned, the integrity of the process by which the President of the United States is nominated and elected.” Yet Watergate was far more than that. At its most virulent, Watergate was a brazen and daring assault, led by Nixon himself, against the heart of American democracy: the Constitution, our system of free elections, the rule of law.
Today, much more than when we first covered this story as young Washington Post reporters, an abundant record provides unambiguous answers and evidence about Watergate and its meaning. This record has expanded continuously over the decades with the transcription of hundreds of hours of Nixon’s secret tapes, adding detail and context to the hearings in the Senate and House of Representatives; the trials and guilty pleas of some 40 Nixon aides and associates who went to jail; and the memoirs of Nixon and his deputies. Such documentation makes it possible to trace the president’s personal dominance over a massive campaign of political espionage, sabotage and other illegal activities against his real or perceived opponents.
In the course of his five-and-a-half-year presidency, beginning in 1969, Nixon launched and managed five successive and overlapping wars — against the anti-Vietnam War movement, the news media, the Democrats, the justice system and, finally, against history itself. All reflected a mind-set and a pattern of behavior that were uniquely and pervasively Nixon’s: a willingness to disregard the law for political advantage, and a quest for dirt and secrets about his opponents as an organizing principle of his presidency.
Long before the Watergate break-in, gumshoeing, burglary, wiretapping and political sabotage had become a way of life in the Nixon White House.
What was Watergate? It was Nixon’s five wars.
1. The war against the antiwar movement
Nixon’s first war was against the anti-Vietnam War movement. The president considered it subversive and thought it constrained his ability to prosecute the war in Southeast Asia on his terms. In 1970, he approved the top-secret Huston Plan, authorizing the CIA, the FBI and military intelligence units to intensify electronic surveillance of individuals identified as “domestic security threats.” The plan called for, among other things, intercepting mail and lifting restrictions on “surreptitious entry” — that is, break-ins or “black bag jobs.”
Thomas Charles Huston, the White House aide who devised the plan, informed Nixon that it was illegal, but the president approved it regardless. It was not formally rescinded until FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover objected — not on principle, but because he considered those types of activities the FBI’s turf. Undeterred, Nixon remained fixated on such operations.
In a memorandum dated March 3, 1970, presidential aide Patrick Buchanan wrote to Nixon about what he called the “institutionalized power of the left concentrated in the foundations that succor the Democratic Party.” Of particular concern was the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank with liberal leanings.
On June 17, 1971 — exactly one year before the Watergate break-in — Nixon met in the Oval Office with his chief of staff, H.R. “Bob” Haldeman, and national security adviser Henry Kissinger. At issue was a file about former president Lyndon Johnson’s handling of the 1968 bombing halt in Vietnam.
“You can blackmail Johnson on this stuff, and it might be worth doing,” Haldeman said, according to the tape of the meeting.
“Yeah,” Kissinger said, “but Bob and I have been trying to put the damn thing together for three years.” They wanted the complete story of Johnson’s actions.
“Huston swears to God there’s a file on it at Brookings,” Haldeman said.
“Bob,” Nixon said, “now you remember Huston’s plan? Implement it. . . . I mean, I want it implemented on a thievery basis. God damn it, get in and get those files. Blow the safe and get it.”
Nixon would not let the matter drop. Thirteen days later, according to another taped discussion with Haldeman and Kissinger, the president said: “Break in and take it out. You understand?”
The next morning, Nixon said: “Bob, get on the Brookings thing right away. I’ve got to get that safe cracked over there.” And later that morning, he persisted, “Who’s gonna break in the Brookings Institution?”
For reasons that have never been made clear, the break-in apparently was not carried out.
2. The war on the news media
Nixon’s second war was waged ceaselessly against the press, which was reporting more insistently on the faltering Vietnam War and the effectiveness of the antiwar movement. Although Hoover thought he had shut down the Huston Plan, it was in fact implemented by high-level Nixon deputies. A “Plumbers” unit and burglary team were set up under the direction of White House counsel John Ehrlichman and an assistant, Egil Krogh, and led by the operational chiefs of the future Watergate burglary, ex-CIA operative Howard Hunt and former FBI agent G. Gordon Liddy. Hunt was hired as a consultant by Nixon political aide Charles Colson, whose take-no-prisoners sensibility matched the president’s.
An early assignment was to destroy the reputation of Daniel Ellsberg, who had provided the Pentagon Papers, a secret history of the Vietnam War, to the news media in 1971. Publication of the documents in the New York Times, the Washington Post and eventually other newspapers had sent Nixon into rants and rages, recorded on his tapes, about Ellsberg, the antiwar movement, the press, Jews, the American left and liberals in Congress — all of whom he conflated. Though Ellsberg was already under indictment and charged with espionage, the team headed by Hunt and Liddy broke into the office of his psychiatrist, seeking information that might smear Ellsberg and undermine his credibility in the antiwar movement.
“You can’t drop it, Bob,” Nixon told Haldeman on June 29, 1971. “You can’t let the Jew steal that stuff and get away with it. You understand?”
He went on: “People don’t trust these Eastern establishment people. He’s Harvard. He’s a Jew. You know, and he’s an arrogant intellectual.”
Nixon’s anti-Semitic rages were well-known to those who worked most closely with him, including some aides who were Jewish. As we reported in our 1976 book, “The Final Days,” he would tell his deputies, including Kissinger, that “the Jewish cabal is out to get me.” In a July 3, 1971, conversation with Haldeman, he said: “The government is full of Jews. Second, most Jews are disloyal. You know what I mean? You have a Garment [White House counsel Leonard Garment] and a Kissinger and, frankly, a Safire [presidential speechwriter William Safire], and, by God, they’re exceptions. But Bob, generally speaking, you can’t trust the bastards. They turn on you.”
Ellsberg’s leak seemed to feed his prejudice and paranoia.
In response to suspected leaks to the press about Vietnam, Kissinger had ordered FBI wiretaps in 1969 on the telephones of 17 journalists and White House aides, without court approval. Many news stories based on the purported leaks questioned progress in the American war effort, further fueling the antiwar movement. In a tape from the Oval Office on Feb. 22, 1971, Nixon said, “In the short run, it would be so much easier, wouldn’t it, to run this war in a dictatorial way, kill all the reporters and carry on the war.”
“The press is your enemy,” Nixon explained five days later in a meeting with Adm. Thomas H. Moorer, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, according to another tape. “Enemies. Understand that? . . . Now, never act that way . . . give them a drink, you know, treat them nice, you just love it, you’re trying to be helpful. But don’t help the bastards. Ever. Because they’re trying to stick the knife right in our groin.”
3. The war against the Democrats
In Nixon’s third war, he took the weapons in place — the Plumbers, wiretapping and burglary — and deployed them against the Democrats challenging his reelection.
John N. Mitchell, Nixon’s campaign manager and confidante, met with Liddy at the Justice Department in early 1972, when Mitchell was attorney general. Liddy presented a $1 million plan, code-named “Gemstone,” for spying and sabotage during the upcoming presidential campaign.
According to the Senate Watergate report and Liddy’s 1980 autobiography, he used multicolored charts prepared by the CIA to describe elements of the plan. Operation Diamond would neutralize antiwar protesters with mugging squads and kidnapping teams; Operation Coal would funnel cash to Rep. Shirley Chisholm, a black congresswoman from Brooklyn seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, in an effort to sow racial and gender discord in the party; Operation Opal would use electronic surveillance against various targets, including the headquarters of Democratic presidential candidates Edmund Muskie and George McGovern; Operation Sapphire would station prostitutes on a yacht, wired for sound, off Miami Beach during the Democratic National Convention.
Mitchell rejected the plans and told Liddy to burn the charts. At a second meeting, less than three weeks later, Liddy presented a scaled-back, $500,000 version of the plan; Mitchell turned it down again. But soon after, Mitchell approved a $250,000 version, according to Jeb Magruder, the deputy campaign manager. It included intelligence-gathering on the Democrats through wiretaps and burglaries.
Under oath, Mitchell later denied approving the plan. He testified that he told Magruder: “We don’t need this. I’m tired of hearing it.” By his own account, he did not object on the grounds that the plan was illegal.
On Oct. 10, 1972, we wrote a story in The Post outlining the extensive sabotage and spying operations of the Nixon campaign and White House, particularly against Muskie, and stating that the Watergate burglary was not an isolated event. The story said that at least 50 operatives had been involved in the espionage and sabotage, many of them under the direction of a young California lawyer named Donald Segretti; several days later, we reported that Segretti had been hired by Dwight Chapin, Nixon’s appointments secretary. (The Senate Watergate committee later found more than 50 saboteurs, including 22 who were paid by Segretti.) Herbert Kalmbach, Nixon’s personal attorney, paid Segretti more than $43,000 from leftover campaign funds for these activities. Throughout the operation, Segretti was contacted regularly by Howard Hunt.
The Senate investigation provided more detail about the effectiveness of the covert efforts against Muskie, who in 1971 and early 1972 was considered by the White House to be the Democrat most capable of beating Nixon. The president’s campaign paid Muskie’s chauffeur, a campaign volunteer named Elmer Wyatt, $1,000 a month to photograph internal memos, position papers, schedules and strategy documents, and deliver copies to Mitchell and Nixon’s campaign staff.
Other sabotage directed at Muskie included bogus news releases and allegations of sexual improprieties against other Democratic candidates — produced on counterfeit Muskie stationery. A favored dirty trick that caused havoc at campaign stops involved sweeping up the shoes that Muskie aides left in hotel hallways to be polished, and then depositing them in a dumpster.
Haldeman, the White House chief of staff, advised Nixon of the Chapin-Segretti sabotage plan in May 1971, according to one of the president’s tapes. In a memo to Haldeman and Mitchell dated April 12, 1972, Patrick Buchanan and another Nixon aide wrote: “Our primary objective, to prevent Senator Muskie from sweeping the early primaries, locking up the convention in April, and uniting the Democratic Party behind him for the fall, has been achieved.”
The tapes also reveal Nixon’s obsession with another Democrat: Sen. Edward Kennedy. One of Hunt’s earliest undertakings for the White House was to dig up dirt on Kennedy’s sex life, building on a 1969 auto accident at Chappaquiddick, Mass., that resulted in the death of a young Kennedy aide, Mary Jo Kopechne. Though Kennedy had vowed not to seek the presidency in 1972, he was certain to play a big role in the campaign and had not ruled out a 1976 run.
“I’d really like to get Kennedy taped,” Nixon told Haldeman in April 1971. According to Haldeman’s 1994 book, “The Haldeman Diaries,” the president also wanted to have Kennedy photographed in compromising situations and leak the images to the press.
And when Kennedy received Secret Service protection as he campaigned for McGovern, the Democratic presidential nominee, Nixon and Haldeman discussed a novel plan to keep him under surveillance: They would insert a retired Secret Service agent, Robert Newbrand, who had been part of Nixon’s protection detail when he was vice president, into the team protecting Kennedy.
“I’ll talk to Newbrand and tell him how to approach it,” Haldeman said, “because Newbrand will do anything that I tell him.”
“We just might get lucky and catch this son of a bitch and ruin him for ’76,” replied the president, adding, “That’s going to be fun.”
On Sept. 8, 1971, Nixon ordered Ehrlichman to direct the Internal Revenue Service to investigate the tax returns of all the likely Democratic presidential candidates, as well as Kennedy. “Are we going after their tax returns?” Nixon asked. “You know what I mean? There’s a lot of gold in them thar hills.”
4. The war on justice
The arrest of the Watergate burglars set in motion Nixon’s fourth war, against the American system of justice. It was a war of lies and hush money, a conspiracy that became necessary to conceal the roles of top officials and to hide the president’s campaign of illegal espionage and political sabotage, including the covert operations that Mitchell described as “the White House horrors” during the Watergate hearings: the Huston Plan, the Plumbers, the Ellsberg break-in, Liddy’s Gemstone plan and the proposed break-in at Brookings.
In a June 23, 1972, tape recording, six days after the arrests at the Watergate, Haldeman warned Nixon that “on the investigation, you know, the Democratic break-in thing, we’re back in the problem area, because the FBI is not under control . . . their investigation is now leading into some productive areas, because they’ve been able to trace the money.”
Haldeman said Mitchell had come up with a plan for the CIA to claim that national security secrets would be compromised if the FBI did not halt its Watergate investigation.
Nixon approved the scheme and ordered Haldeman to call in CIA Director Richard Helms and his deputy Vernon Walters. “Play it tough,” the president directed. “That’s the way they play it, and that’s the way we are going to play it.”
The contents of the tape were made public on Aug. 5, 1974. Four days later, Nixon resigned.
Another tape captured discussions in the Oval Office on Aug. 1, 1972, six weeks after the burglars’ arrest, and the day on which The Post published our first story showing that Nixon campaign funds had gone into the bank account of one of the burglars.
Nixon and Haldeman discussed paying off the burglars and their leaders to keep them from talking to federal investigators. “They have to be paid,” Nixon said. “That’s all there is to that.”
On March 21, 1973, in one of the most memorable Watergate exchanges caught on tape, Nixon met with his counsel, John W. Dean, who since the break-in had been tasked with coordinating the coverup.
“We’re being blackmailed” by Hunt and the burglars, Dean reported, and more people “are going to start perjuring themselves.”
“How much money do you need?” Nixon asked.
“I would say these people are going to cost a million dollars over the next two years,” Dean replied.
“And you could get it in cash,” the president said. “I, I know where it could be gotten. I mean, it’s not easy, but it could be done.”
Hunt was demanding $120,000 immediately. They discussed executive clemency for him and the burglars.
“I am not sure that you will ever be able to deliver on the clemency,” Dean said. “It may just be too hot.”
“You can’t do it till after the ’74 election, that’s for sure,” Nixon declared.
Haldeman then entered the room, and Nixon led the search for ways “to take care of the jackasses who are in jail.”
They discussed a secret $350,000 stash of cash kept in the White House, the possibility of using priests to help hide payments to the burglars, “washing” the money though Las Vegas or New York bookmakers, and empaneling a new grand jury so everyone could plead the Fifth Amendment or claim memory failure. Finally, they decided to send Mitchell on an emergency fundraising mission.
The president praised Dean’s efforts. “You handled it just right. You contained it. Now after the election, we’ve got to have another plan.”
5. The war on history
Nixon’s final war, waged even to this day by some former aides and historical revisionists, aims to play down the significance of Watergate and present it as a blip on the president’s record. Nixon lived for 20 years after his resignation and worked tirelessly to minimize the scandal.
Though he accepted a full pardon from President Gerald Ford, Nixon insisted that he had not participated in any crimes. In his 1977 television interviews with British journalist David Frost, he said that he had “let the American people down” but that he had not obstructed justice. “I didn’t think of it as a coverup. I didn’t intend a coverup. Let me say, if I intended the coverup, believe me, I would have done it.”
In his 1978 memoir “RN,” Nixon addressed his role in Watergate: “My actions and omissions, while regrettable and possibly indefensible, were not impeachable.” Twelve years later, in his book “In the Arena,” he decried a dozen “myths” about Watergate and claimed that he was innocent of many of the charges made against him. One myth, he said, was that he ordered the payment of hush money to Hunt and others. Yet, the March 21, 1973, tape shows that he ordered Dean to get the money 12 times.
Even now, there are old Nixon hands and defenders who dismiss the importance of Watergate or claim that key questions remain unanswered. This year, Thomas Mallon, director of the creative writing program at George Washington University, published a novel called “Watergate,” a sometimes witty and entirely fictional story featuring many of the real players. Frank Gannon, a former Nixon White House aide who now works for the Nixon Foundation, reviewed the book for the Wall Street Journal.
“What emerges from ‘Watergate’ is an acute sense of how much we still don’t know about the events of June 17, 1972,” Gannon wrote. “Who ordered the break-in? . . . What was its real purpose? Was it purposely botched? How much was the CIA involved? . . . And how did a politician as tough and canny as Richard Nixon allow himself to be brought down by a ‘third rate burglary?’
“Your guess is as good as mine.”
Of course, Gannon is correct in noting that there are some unanswered questions — but not the big ones. By focusing on the supposed paucity of details concerning the burglary of June 17, 1972, he would divert us from the larger story.
And about that story, there is no need to guess.
In the summer of 1974, it was neither the press nor the Democrats who rose up against Nixon, but the president’s own Republican Party.
On July 24, the Supreme Court ruled 8 to 0 that Nixon would have to turn over the secret tapes demanded by the Watergate special prosecutor. Three of the president’s appointees to the court — Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, Justice Harry Blackmun and Justice Lewis Powell — joined that opinion. The other Nixon appointee, Justice William Rehnquist, recused himself.
Three days later, six Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee joined the Democrats in voting, 27 to 11, to recommend Nixon’s impeachment for nine acts of obstruction of justice in the Watergate coverup.
By August, Nixon’s impending impeachment in the House was a certainty, and a group of Republicans led by Sen. Barry Goldwater banded together to declare his presidency over. “Too many lies, too many crimes,” Goldwater said.
On Aug. 7, the group visited Nixon at the White House.
How many votes would he have in a Senate trial? the president asked.
“I took kind of a nose count today,” Goldwater replied, “and I couldn’t find more than four very firm votes, and those would be from older Southerners. Some are very worried about what’s been going on, and are undecided, and I’m one of them.”
The next day, Nixon went on national television and announced that he would resign.
In his last remarks about Watergate as a senator, 77-year-old Sam Ervin, a revered constitutionalist respected by both parties, posed a final question: “Why was Watergate?”
The president and his aides, Ervin answered, had “a lust for political power.” That lust, he explained, “blinded them to ethical considerations and legal requirements; to Aristotle’s aphorism that the good of man must be the end of politics.”
Nixon had lost his moral authority as president. His secret tapes — and what they reveal — will probably be his most lasting legacy. On them, he is heard talking almost endlessly about what would be good for him, his place in history and, above all, his grudges, animosities and schemes for revenge. The dog that never seems to bark is any discussion of what is good and necessary for the well-being of the nation.
The Watergate that we wrote about in The Washington Post from 1972 to 1974 is not Watergate as we know it today. It was only a glimpse into something far worse. By the time he was forced to resign, Nixon had turned his White House, to a remarkable extent, into a criminal enterprise.
On the day he left, Aug. 9, 1974, Nixon gave an emotional farewell speech in the East Room to his staff, his friends and his Cabinet. His family stood with him. Near the end of his remarks, he waved his arm, as if to highlight the most important thing he had to say.
“Always remember,” he said, “others may hate you, but those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them, and then you destroy yourself.”
His hatred had brought about his downfall. Nixon apparently grasped this insight, but it was too late. He had already destroyed himself.
Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward are the co-authors of two Watergate books, “All the President’s Men,” published in 1974, and “The Final Days,” published in 1976. This is their first joint byline in 36 years.

Fake Facts Are Flying About Coronavirus. Now There’s A...
February 21, 2020
by Malaka Gharib
NPR News
The coronavirus outbreak has sparked what the World Health Organization is calling an “infodemic” — an overwhelming amount of information on social media and websites. Some of it’s accurate. And some is downright untrue.
The false statements range from a conspiracy theory that the virus is a man-made bioweapon to the claim that more than 100,000 have died from the disease (as of this week, the number of reported fatalities is reported at 2,200-plus).
WHO is fighting back. In early January, a few weeks after China reported the first cases, the U.N. agency launched a pilot program to make sure the facts about the newly identified virus are communicated to the public. The project is called EPI-WIN — short for WHO Information Network for Epidemics.
“We need a vaccine against misinformation,” said Dr. Mike Ryan, head of WHO’s health emergencies program, at a WHO briefing on the virus earlier this month.
While this is not the first health crisis that has been characterized by online misinformation — it happened with Ebola, for example — researchers are especially concerned because this outbreak is centered in China. The world’s most populous country has the largest market of Internet users globally: 21% of the world’s 3.8 billion Internet users are in China.
And fake news can spread quickly online. A 2018 study from Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that “false news spreads more rapidly on the social network Twitter than real news does.” The reason, say the researchers, may be that the untrue statements inspire strong feelings such as fear, disgust and surprise.
This dynamic could cause fake coronavirus cures and treatments to fan out widely on social media — and as a result, worsen the impact of the outbreak, says Bhaskar Chakravorti, dean of global business at the Fletcher School at Tufts University. Over the past decade, he has been tracking the effect of digital technology on issues such as global health and economic development.
The rumors offer remedies that have no basis in science. One untrue statement suggests that rubbing sesame oil on the skin will block the coronavirus.
If segments of the public turn to false treatments rather than follow the advice of trusted sources for avoiding illness (like frequent hand-washing with soap and water), it could cause “the disease to travel further and faster than it ordinarily would have,” says Chakravorti.
There could be a political agenda behind the fake coronavirus news as well. Countries that are antagonistic toward China could try to hijack the conversation in hopes of creating chaos and eroding trust in the authorities, says Dr. Margaret Bourdeaux, research director for Harvard Belfer Center’s Security and Global Health Project.
“Disinformation that specifically targets your health system or your leaders who are trying to manage an emergency is a way of destroying, undermining, disrupting your health system,” she says.
In the instance of vaccines, Russian bots have been identified as fueling skepticism about the effectiveness of vaccination for childhood diseases in the U.S.
The World Health Organization’s EPI-WIN team believes that the countermeasure for misinformation and disinformation is simply to tell the truth.
It works rapidly to debunk unjustified medical claims on social media. In a series of bright blue graphics posted on Instagram, EPI-WIN states categorically that neither sesame oil nor breathing in the smoke of fire or fireworks will kill the new coronavirus.
Part of this truth-telling strategy involves enlisting large-scale employers.
The approach, says Melinda Frost, an officer on the EPI-WIN team, is based on the idea that employers are the most trusted institution in society, a finding reflected in a 2020 study on global trust from the public relations firm Edelman: “People tend to trust their employers more than they trust several other sources of information.”
Over the past few weeks, Frost and her team have been organizing rounds of conference calls with representatives from Fortune 500 companies and other multinational corporations in sectors such as health, travel and tourism, food and agriculture, and business.
The company representatives share questions that their employees might have about the coronavirus outbreak — for example, is it safe to go to conferences? The EPI-WIN team gathers the frequently asked questions, has their experts answer them within a few days, and then sends the responses back to the companies to distribute in internal newsletters and other communication.
Because the information is coming from their employer, says Frost, the hope is that people will be more likely to believe what they hear and pass the information on to their family and community.
Bourdeaux at Harvard calls this approach a “smart move.”
It borrows from “advertising techniques from the 1950s,” she adds. “They’re establishing the narrative before anybody else can. They are going on offense, saying, ‘Here are the facts.’ ”
WHO is also collaborating with tech giants like Google, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and TikTok to limit the spread of harmful rumors. It’s pursuing a similar tactic with Chinese digital companies such as Baidu, Tencent and Weibo.
“We are asking them to filter out false information and promote accurate information from credible sources like WHO, CDC [the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and others. And we thank them for their efforts so far,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of WHO, in a briefing earlier this month.
Google and Twitter, for example, now actively bump up credible sources such as WHO and the CDC in search results for the term “coronavirus.” And Facebook has deployed fact-checkers to remove content with false claims or conspiracy theories about the outbreak. Kang-Xing Jin, head of health at Facebook, wrote in a statement about one such rumor that it has eliminated from its platform: that drinking bleach cures coronavirus.
Chakravorti applauds WHO’s coordination with the digital companies — but says he’s particularly impressed with Facebook’s efforts. “This is a radical departure from Facebook’s past record, including its controversial insistence on permitting false political ads,” he wrote in an op-ed in Bloomberg News.
[Facebook and Twitter did not respond to requests from NPR for comments. Facebook is one of NPR’s financial sponsors.]
Still, there is no silver bullet to fighting health misinformation. It has become “very, very difficult to fight effectively,” says Chakravorti of Tufts University.
A post making a false claim about coronavirus can just “jump platforms,” he says. “So you might have Facebook taking down a post, but then the post finds its way on Twitter, then it jumps from Twitter to YouTube.”
In addition to efforts by WHO and other organizations, individuals are doing their part.
On Wednesday, The Lancet published a statement from 27 public health scientists addressing rumors that the coronavirus had been engineered in a Wuhan lab: “We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin …. Conspiracy theories do nothing but create fear, rumors and prejudice that jeopardize our global collaboration in the fight against this virus.”
Dr. Deliang Tang, a molecular epidemiologist at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, says his friends from medical school and his research colleagues in China find it difficult to trust Chinese health authorities, especially after police reprimanded the eight Chinese doctors who warned others about a pneumonialike disease in December.
As a result, Tang’s network in China has been looking to him and others in the scientific community to share information.
Since the outbreak began, Tamg says he has been answering “30 to 50 questions a night.” Many want to fact-check rumors or learn about clinical trials for a potential cure.
“My real work starts at 7 p.m.,” he says — morning in China.

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 95

Earlier in the afternoon, Chuck had called Lupin and made arrangements to have a housekeeping staff sent up to Minnesota and now that supper was over, he went to his room and called Lars.
Lars was alive and functioning. He had just finished a dinner of toasted cheese sandwiches and potato salad. That having been done, he was now going to vacuum the living room and clean the ashes out of the fireplaces. One of the doors had not closed and there were flies in the house but he had hunted most of them down. When told that Chuck was now a married father, Lars thought the news interesting although not particularly important but when told that a housekeeping staff was slated to arrive in Minnesota within the week, he was annoyed.
Lars liked privacy but secretly hoped that if he had to put up with bothersome strangers, they at least might bring their family with them. Nubile daughters would be more than welcome.
Chuck knew better than to argue with him
The couple he was sending to maintain his house were stolid Swedes, middle-aged and childless. They would feel right at home in the Viking palace Chuck decided when Lupin had mentioned their background.
What Lupin did not know was that the Swensons were members of an obscure religious cult that believed in instant ascension to some vaguely defined celestial playground when certain major planets were in alignment. It was their belief that one day the elect would all ascend upwards like so many intercontinental rockets while Catholics, Unitarian unbelievers, devil-worshippers, apostates and Norwegians would all be left behind to be eaten by grotesque versions of the Apocalyptic beast.
Over the years since their arrival in the United States, they had a number of unpleasant problems with landlords because of their annoying habit of chopping holes in the roofs of their dwelling places to facilitate takeoffs. These holes permitted a good deal of rainwater, snow, leaves, small birds and occasional bats to enter their apartments or houses, creating not unreasonable ill-will on the part of landlords. When they were hired through a careless employment agency, the Swensons were still earth-bound but hopeful. After many harrowing and unfortunate experiences with the authorities over the years, the couple decided they now preferred to be employed in houses with very large fireplaces.
They found it soothing to sleep in or near these funnels to heaven but a number of their employers objected to this practice. In Lars they would find an ideal employer. He had no problem if the Swensons slept near the large fireplace in the living room provided there was no fire in it at the time.
The thought of flaming Swedes clogging the fireplace would have been repugnant to him.

Mark Mitnik did not have a pleasant day. He had mixed emotions about the sudden death of Charles Rush. On the one hand, he knew that his embezzlements from the late billionaire could never be uncovered now but on the other, the future of his connections with the Rush interests was speculative at best. Still, it all depended on the heir and he now knew that Cyril Rush was in Chicago to claim his inheritance.
An informant in the superior court system had informed him of the visit to JudgeTorkelson but the actual results of the visit were unknown to him. The name of Edward Lupin had come up but Mitnik only laughed. Lupin was well known in Chicago legal circles as a greedy attorney with political connections who worked on a much lower level than did Mark Mitnik.
At three in the afternoon, Mitnik nearly developed Cheyne-Stokes breathing when another informant advised him that his firm was about to lose the Rush patronage
It was going to McGowan, Thrush and Bennington according to his source and Mitnik reacted by making a series of frantic calls to his friends, a drug dealer and his psychiatrist. A change of firm would inevitably result in an audit of the firm’s accounts and this could never happen. Mitnik also learned that the contemptible Edward Lupin was now the personal attorney of Cyril Rush and Lupin had the reputation of being very vicious in dealing with people who got in his way.
Mitnik also made another call to one of his connections, attempting to find some way, finally, of removing Cyril Rush permanently. There was the unfortunate fact that he seemed to have a wife and son but plane crashes involving an entire family, and, possibly, their attorney, could be arraigned if enough money was involved. He began to wonder, in a very vague way, if somehow Cyril had done to his uncle Charles what Charles had been trying so unsuccessfully to do to Cyril.
At four, he made a call to an assistant United States Attorney in Chicago and very carefully mentioned his suspicions. The assistant attorney was interested but uncommunicative. At four forty seven, Mitnik received a call from the office of the Attorney General of the United States concerning his earlier conversation with their Chicago office. When the conversation ended, Mitnik went into his private lavatory and vomited into the washbasin.
There would be no investigation into the activities of Cyril Rush for two very clear reasons. The first one was that the assassin of the President and Charles Rush was known and a man who had just inherited a very large empire which included a significant number of newspapers, computer systems and television networks was certainly not an individual the government had any interest in unduly antagonizing
The second reason was that the new President, who would have to stand for office in November, was interested in securing the assistance of the Rush media in his campaign and would not stand for any sort of investigation into a man who might well become an Ambassador or perhaps even a Cabinet member in the new Administration.
It was strongly suggested that Mark Mitnik radically and promptly alter his completely unacceptable views. Failure to do so could result in all manner of officially instigated difficulties.
Mitnik quickly called the putative assassin back and canceled his request for possible action.

It was raining but it was more of a heavy drizzle than anything else and after supper, Alex had wandered around the family wing for a few minutes and then went out into the main building. He was barefoot and had pulled his sweater back on because he felt that Chuck would be upset if he discovered him outside the private quarters in his shorts.
He walked down the long marble staircase, sliding his hand down the wrought iron banister as he went. There were only a few lights on in the main hall and great shadows engulfed the magnificence. At the bottom of the steps, Alex turned right and walked down a long hall, trying the different doors as he went.
The state rooms were large and dark and he decided not to go into any of them for fear of breaking something valuable but one room, which appeared to be a library, had a small lamp burning on a table.
Alex looked around and suddenly was confronted by a life-sized oil portrait over the marble fireplace. It showed a very fierce looking old man, almost bald, with a thin, hooked nose and penetrating eyes. It was not a friendly face and Alex felt that the portrait was staring at him with very hostile intent. He could recognize something of Chuck’s own face in that of the old man, so this must, then, be the famous grandfather.
He couldn’t understand why Chuck seemed to have so much affection for the man’s memory but perhaps the old man was actually warm and caring underneath his imperious facade.
Probably not, but the money makes all the difference Alex thought as he went back upstairs.
He rapped on Chuck’s door and walked in without waiting for an answer.
His recently acquired father was sitting on the end of the bed, a pensive look on his face. Yes, Alex thought, he does look like the old bastard.
“Hey, Chuck.”
“Hey, Alex. Why aren’t you in bed?”
“It’s only eleven. I like to stay up late and I would like to practice the music but I haven’t gotten used to this barn yet. Do you have to tie a string to your door so you can find your way back here?”
“You haven’t been walking around the house dressed like that, have you?”
“No, I’m just bored. Can I sit down?”
“Why not?”
Alex folded himself down onto a leather armchair and put his bare feet up on the ottoman.
“You look sad, Papa. Is everything OK?”
Chuck sighed and shrugged.
“I suppose so, kid. I used to live here, see, when I was young, and I loved the place. Someone said…who? Thomas Wolfe. He said that you can’t go home again and he’s right. You dream about the happy childhood and are absolutely positive that if you can only go back in time and space everything will be as it once was. Doesn’t work and Wolfe was right. My grandfather was the soul of this place and now it’s empty. I could never fill his shoes and I know it. Still, it feels good to be home again, even if the music has stopped. Do you like this place?”
“Chuck, ever since I was a tiny baby, I lived in tiny, cheap and dirty apartments, rooms in old rooming houses and fat Ernie’s ten foot square house. I slept on the couches, on the floor in a nasty old sleeping bag and sometimes in the back of a car. The food was lousy and not much of it and I must tell you that my life was not worth very much. Except for the music. One time I thought I might just walk out into the lake and drown myself but the water was too cold and I gave it up. Small, nasty places. Now, it’s large, empty places that look something out of a book I once saw in the library about palaces in Europe.”
“You’ll get used to it, Alexander.”
“I guess so. Lars would not be happy here and I’m glad he’s not coming down. Poor Claudie has been staring at all the fancy stuff and drooling. I mean, it’s like turning a fat pig like Ernie loose in a sausage factory.”
“Ernie’s dead. Don’t you have any respect for the dead, Alex?”
“Does that include your uncle?”
“Never mind, I’m sorry I brought it up. Listen, let me talk at you just a little. I would like to know if you were always such a nasty person or did you just become that way recently?”
“I don’t know what I was like when I was a baby. I probably shit my diapers like other babies. I was quiet when I was young because I was tiny, skinny and afraid of everybody. Now I’m not tiny or skinny and I’m not afraid of anybody anymore. That’s why I’m a badass. Besides, that deal downstate didn’t make me any smaller. I’m all over TV and the papers and that makes me feel important. It’s not every fifteen year old former wimp that can ice the Prez and get clean away with it.”
“Be careful, Alex. Let’s not discuss that, OK?”
“OK. Question. Your uncle doesn’t have much of a head left anymore. They can’t leave the box open, can they? Maybe they could put a pumpkin in there or something?”
“Alex, try to be civilized for once.”
“Well, it was just a thought. When is the funeral over?”
“I have no idea how long those things take, Alex. A few hours and then we can get back here and mourn for my poor uncle. The next day we have a reception for the various CEOs of the establishment and after that, you and I have quite a bit of work to do.”
“Such as?”
“Such as starting to break you in on the organization of the Rush holdings. If you are going to be my heir, you have to be a hands-on one and not a musical playboy.”
Alex moaned.
“I don’t know anything about business, Chuck. Can’t I just do my music?”
“You can lift weights, swim in the pool, sail one of the boats….”
“Wow, we got a boat here?”
“Better to say, ‘do we have a boat here?’ Yes there are two boats here down in the cove and you and I can go out on one of them if you behave yourself. And I said you can sail on the lake, learn to drive, do your music, read books, boff your mother and whatever else you want but at least two hours a day you will spend with me learning the holdings.”
“Oh and when I was looking out towards the lake, I could see some kind
of a tower sticking up. It looked big. What is it? A water tower?”
“No, that’s a sort of private place Grandfather built for his wife. She had a
thing about the medieval period. He had it built out of steel-reinforced concrete
and faced it with original stones he had bought from some old place in Austria. I
was I it once and it is filled with old tapestries, suits of armor, old funiture and
the like. Grandmother used to play the lute and loved the place and when she died, he closed it off. We can go out there sometime and you can have a look-see.”
“That sounds like great fun. A drawbridge?”
“No, but the place would be very hard to just walk into. A high stone wall between this place and then a thick belt of old woods. And gates and so on. And down below is a small harbor where Grandfather kept some of the boats I was talking about. We get cleared around here and I will take you on the grand tour.”
“Shit, I’d rather do something more interesting.”
“Money and power are always interesting, Alex. Two hours a day.”
“I will. Besides, I learn quick.”
“You learn quickly.”
“That’s what I said.”
“You said ‘quick.’
“OK, OK I get the message Daddy. We were talking about music. About my music. If I get good enough, do you think I could go public with it?”
“If the Goldberg exercise is an example of your ability, you could go public now.”
“No, not now. I was thinking about doing a concerto. I don’t know which one but I’ll figure it out later. And I’ve been working on the Italian Concerto too. It’s not too bad now. Could I go public in a few months?”
“You want to perform in public?”
“Yeah, I would really like that.” He leaned back in his chair, closed his eyes and smiled.
“Oh that would be fine, Chuck, really fine. Then everyone would know that I’m not just the son of a rich man but I can be my own self on my own terms. Does that sound too queer?”
“Not queer but strange. Be careful how you use that word. Christ, you’ll offend half the people at the reception.
“Hey, Gwen said I should come by later and say hello to her. I think not.”
“There are locks on the doors here and you can always say you couldn’t hear her pathetic moans as she scratched at your door.”
“When can we see the boats?”
“In the morning, after the tailor brings your new clothes.”
“What if we get up early, like about six, and go look at the boats then?”
“Jesus, Alex, I would like to sleep in for once.”
“Well, how about seven?”
“Fine. Now go to bed and let me sleep. I’m very tired now.”
“Counting your money?”
“No, listening to your grammatical slips.”
“Well, screw you too, Dad, and I’ll make up a tray and be in here at seven.”
“Alex, we have servants here to do things like that.”
“I said I’ll make up a tray and be up here at seven. Maybe I can teach the cook how to make really good croissants. Good night and don’t wet the bed.”


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

The Encyclopedia of American Loons

Christy Mack

If you know of one person called “Christy Mack”, it may not be this entry’s Christy Mack, but this entry’s Christy Mack (this Christy Mack) is far more powerful and dangerous. This entry’s Christy Mack, the wife of a wealthy investment banker, is the founder of the Bravewell Collaborative, an organization whose goal has been to promote the study and use of CAM (or “integrative medicine” as it is currently known, or “quackery” as it was previously known) in medical academia. In other words, Mack has been one of the most important figures in the marketing of and attempts to legitimize pseudoscience and woo, attempts that have thus far been dismayingly successful – there has been a proliferation of quack departments in medical centers in North America (part of the Consortium of Academic Health Centers for Integrative Medicine), including many of the most prestigious medical schools in the US (one example of Bravewell’s efforts here; another one here; a general discussion of Bravewell is here).
Bravewell has done major investigations themselves to justify their push for alternative medicine – not into whether such treatments work, of course, but into how popular they are (and in the process rebrands “food/nutrition” and “massage” as “alternative medicine” to boost their numbers.) Actually, in 2012 they also investigated how “successful” the treatments have been … by asking the various quack centers to report how successful they feel that the various treatments defined as “complementary” has been for various conditions (boosted by the centers’ own “customer satisfaction” reports). Best to stay away from, you know, actual records and data, since that would be unlikely to yield the conclusions they want. Oh, and we just have to quote the conclusion from that report: “One of the most striking, though perhaps predictable, conclusions of this study is that integrative medicine is, in fact, integrative. It integrates conventional care with non-conventional or non-Western therapies; ancient healing wisdom with modern science; and the whole person – mind, body, and spirit in the context of community.” Inanity hardly comes dafter than this.
The Bravewell Collaborative shut down in 2015, according to Mack, because “our principal strategies had achieved our goals, and when integrative medicine had become part of the national conversation on healthcare, our members collectively decided that it was time to sunset the organization,” a justification that certainly seemed believable at the time (though one should perhaps not exaggerate the success of Trojan horse efforts from the CAM community). A discussion of its achievments is here. Note that improved health outcomes for patients was apparently never part of their agenda.
An interview with Mack and some of her collaborators – including Ralph Snyderman, former dean of Duke University Medical School and now devout promoter of pseudoscience – is reported on here.
Diagnosis: Bravewell has been one of the most influential and powerful forces of pseudoscience and woo in the US, and Mack is one of many extremely wealthy people who has ample time and resources to realize themselves by claiming to have quasi-magical powers and insight, and use those to justify efforts to ruin their societies. Most of these are harmless, but Mack is certainly not.

Christopher Macosko

Christopher Macosko is a Professor at the University of Minnesota most famous for receiving Templeton funding (apparently) to “study” intelligent design. Macosko has a PhD in Chemical Engineering, and no expertise in any field related to evolution, but promoters of intelligent design creationism take what they can get; the purpose of funds for studies in any case not scientific inquiry but outreach.
Macosko apparently became a born-again Christian as an assistant professor after a falling-out with a business partner, and for many years he taught the freshman seminar “Life: By Chance or By Design?” According to Macosko “[a]ll the students who finish my course say, ‘Gee, I didn’t realize how shaky evolution is’,” which tells you quite a bit about Macosko’s course and nothing about the foundations for the theory of evolution (the title, though, tells you a bit about how poorly Macosko understands that theory).
Since he does possess a PhD, in an unrelated field, Macosko is also a signatory to the Discovery Institute’s sad and ridiculous petition A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism.
Diagnosis: Pseudoscientist, but unlike most pseudoscientists, Macosko is affiliated with a real university, which might give a sheen of legitimacy to his efforts to those who don’t know better. Still pseudoscience.

Fred Luter

As former president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and senior minister of the Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, Fred Luter is not primarily renowned for his tolerance, humanity and critical thinking skills. The SBC, of course, is massively homophobic and sexist (it subscribes to complementarianism), and Luter is certainly no exception. For instance, Luter agreed in 2013 with Rick Wiles that gay rights activists are partially to blame for North Korea’s threats to launch a nuclear strike against the US: “I would not be surprised that at the time when we are debating same-sex marriage, at a time when we are debating whether or not we should have gays leading the Boy Scout movement, I don’t think it’s just a coincidence that we have a mad man in Asia who is saying some of the things that he’s saying,” said Luter. Elaborating further, Luter critized American Christians for their apathy while “their nation is transformed into a socialist, homosexual, anti-God, anti-biblical morality cesspool,” fearing that “the moral decay has accelerated and worsened to such a degree that it is now impossible to halt the decline without a major catastrophe crippling the nation.” You see, when you disagree with Luter, God will come and beat you up: “The Bible is full of examples to what happens to a nation that goes into idolatry and witchcraft and sexual sin, it always ends in disaster, always. So why aren’t we telling the American people that if you allow the Supreme Court to rule that homosexuals can marry, you have just committed national suicide. Why isn’t anybody standing up?” Of course, slobbering lunatics like Luter and Wiles are standing up all the time, but when you’re insane and stupid it is apparently hard to comprehend that others are not and are therefore not backing your lunatic bigotry. He later backpedalled on the North Korea connection – not by apologizing, of course, but by claiming, despite recordings, that he never said it – though we don’t think that gets him off the loon charge. (Wiles, meanwhile, called Luter a coward for backpedaling).
Diagnosis: Hateful, evil bigot. Yes, he too.

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