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TBR News July 13, 2020

Jul 13 2020

The Voice of the White House
Comments:” In the entire history of the American prresidency, we have never had a President who was as corrupt and unhinged as Donald Trump. Fortunately, the American public is beginning to realize this and in spite of rump’s plans to sabotage the elections in November to boost him into a second term, he is living in a dream world. Of course any psychologist would say that Trump lives in a dream world of his own creation, a dream world where is he is God and others must recognize this.”

The Table of Contents
Trump and McConnell are the twin tribunes of America’s ruin – vote them out
George Washington Tried To Warn Americans About Foreign Policy Today
Trump’s Russian Laundromat
Encyclopedia of American Loons

 
Trump and McConnell are the twin tribunes of America’s ruin – vote them out
Under leaders as callous as these, the ravages of Covid-19, economic disaster and systemic racism can only get worse
July 12, 2020
by Robert Reich
The Guardian

Fate has been unkind to the United States. The nation is grappling simultaneously with a pandemic that has claimed the lives of more than 130,000; the most severe economic downturn since the Great Depression; and mind-numbing police brutality, which has generated the largest outpouring of grief and anger against systemic racism in memory.

Perhaps America’s greatest misfortune is that these crises have emerged at a time when its leadership is too incompetent to respond to them, if not maliciously dedicated to worsening them.

Donald Trump has not only refused to contain Covid-19 but is actively pushing Americans into harm’s way, demanding the nation “reopen” while cases and deaths continue to rise. Meanwhile, he’s siphoning federal money intended to dampen the economic crisis into the pockets of his cronies and family. And he is deliberately stoking racial tensions to energize his “base” for the upcoming election.

As if this weren’t enough, Trump continues to attack the rule of law, on which a democracy depends in order to deal with these and all other challenges.

But he could not accomplish these abhorrent feats alone. Senate Republicans are either cheering him on or maintaining a shameful silence. Trump’s biggest enabler is the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell.

McConnell’s response to Trump’s overt appeals to racism? “He is not a racist,” says McConnell. His reaction to Trump’s failure to contain Covid-19? “President Obama should have kept his mouth shut” rather than criticize Trump. McConnell’s take on Trump’s multiple attacks on the rule of law, including Friday’s commutation of former Trump campaign aide Roger Stone’s prison sentence? Utter silence.

But McConnell has been a vocal opponent of the Heroes Act – passed by the House in early May to help Americans survive the pandemic and fortify the upcoming election – calling it a “liberal wishlist”. In fact, it’s a necessary list.

McConnell and his fellow Senate Republicans don’t want to extend the bill’s extra-$600-a-week unemployment benefits, enacted in March but due to expire on 31 July. They argue the benefits are higher than what low-income workers are likely to earn on the job, so the money is a disincentive to work.

Baloney. Few jobs are available to low-income workers, and most are in so-called “essential” work rife with Covid-19. Besides, the US economy can’t be revived unless people have extra money in their pockets to buy goods and services. Even before the pandemic, nearly 80% of Americans lived paycheck to paycheck. Now many are desperate, as revealed by lengthening food lines and growing delinquencies in rent payments.

Yet McConnell and his ilk are happy to give away trillions of dollars in bailouts to Wall Street bankers and corporate executives, on the dubious premise that the rich will work harder if they receive more money while people of modest means work harder if they receive less. In reality, the rich contribute more to Republican campaigns when they get bailed out.

McConnell and Senate Republicans quietly inserted into the last Covid relief bill a $170bn windfall to Jared Kushner and other real estate moguls. Another $454bn went to backing up a Federal Reserve program that benefits big business by buying up debt.

And although that bill was also intended to help small businesses, lobbyists connected to Trump – including current donors and fundraisers for his re-election – helped their clients rake in more than $10bn, while an estimated 90% of small businesses owned by people of color and women got nothing.

McConnell’s response? He’s willing to consider more aid to “small business”.

But McConnell urges lawmakers to be “cautious”, warning that “the amount of debt that we’re adding up is a matter of genuine concern”. He seems to forget the $1.9tn tax cut he engineered in December 2017 for big corporations and the super rich. Is he willing to roll it back to provide more funding for Americans in need?

The inept and overwhelmingly corrupt reign of Trump and McConnell will come to an end next January if enough Americans vote this November. Trump’s polls are plummeting and Senate Republicans seem likely to lose at least four seats, thereby flipping the Senate to Democrats and consigning McConnell to the dustbin of Capitol Hill.

But will enough people vote during a pandemic? The Heroes Act provides $3.6bn for states to expand mail-in and early voting but McConnell isn’t interested. He’s well aware that more voters increase the likelihood Republicans will be booted out. (Which is also why Trump is claiming, with no evidence, that voting by mail will cause widespread voter fraud.)

If there is another coronavirus bill, differences between McConnell and the House will have to be resolved within two weeks after Congress returns from recess on 20 July. McConnell says his priority will be to shield businesses from Covid-related lawsuits by customers and employees who have contracted the virus.

If he had an ounce of concern for the nation, his priority would be to shield Americans from the ravages of Covid and American democracy from the ravages of Trump.

Robert Reich, a former US secretary of labor, is professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley and the author of Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few and The Common Good. His new book, The System: Who Rigged It, How We Fix It, is out now. He is a columnist for Guardian US


George Washington Tried To Warn Americans About Foreign Policy Today
July 13, 2020
by Doug Bandow
AntiWar

Ben Rhodes, Barack Obama’s deputy national security adviser, unkindly characterized the foreign policy establishment in Washington, D.C., as “the Blob.” Although policymakers sometimes disagree on peripheral subjects, membership requires an absolute commitment to U.S. “leadership,” which means a determination to micro-manage the world.

Reliance on persuasion is not enough. Vital is the willingness to bomb, invade, and, if necessary, occupy other nations to impose the Blob’s dictates on other peoples. If foreigners die, as they often do, remember the saying about eggs and omelets oft repeated by communism’s apologists. “Stuff happens” with the best-intentioned policies.

One might be inclined to forgive Blob members if their misguided activism actually benefited the American people. However, all too often the Blob’s policies instead aid other governments and interests. Washington is overrun by the representatives of and lobbyists for other nations, which constantly seek to take control of US policy for their own advantage. The result are foreign interventions in which Americans do the paying and, all too often, the dying for others.

The problem is primarily one of power. Other governments don’t spend a lot of time attempting to take over Montenegro’s foreign policy because, well, who cares? Exactly what would you do after taking over Fiji’s foreign ministry other than enjoy a permanent vacation? Seize control of international relations in Barbados and you might gain a great tax shelter.

Subvert American democracy and manipulate US foreign policy, and you can loot America’s treasury, turn the US military into your personal bodyguard, and gain Washington’s support for reckless war-mongering. And given the natural inclination of key American policymakers to intervene promiscuously abroad for the most frivolous reasons, it’s surprisingly easy for foreign interests to convince Uncle Sam that their causes are somehow “vital” and therefore require America’s attention. Indeed, it is usually easier to persuade Americans than foreign peoples in their home countries to back one or another international misadventure.

The culprits are not just autocratic regimes. Friendly democratic governments are equally ready to conspiratorially whisper in Uncle Sam’s ear. Even nominally classical liberal officials, who believe in limiting their own governments, argue that Americans are obligated to sacrifice wealth and life for everyone else. The mantra seems to be liberty, prosperity, and peace for all – except those living in the superpower tasked by heaven with protecting everyone else’s liberty, prosperity, and peace.

Although the problem has burgeoned in modern times, it is not new. Two centuries ago fans of Greek independence wanted Americans to challenge the Ottoman Empire, a fantastic bit of foolishness. Exactly how to effect an international Balkans rescue was not clear, since the president then commanded no aircraft carriers, air wings, or nuclear-tipped missiles. Still, the issue divided Americans and influenced John Quincy Adams’ famous 1821 Independence Day address.

Warned Adams:

“Wherever the standard of freedom and independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. She will commend the general cause by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example. She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom.”

“The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force…. She might become the dictatress of the world. She would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit…. [America’s] glory is not dominion, but liberty. Her march is the march of the mind. She has a spear and a shield: but the motto upon her shield is, Freedom, Independence, Peace. This has been her Declaration: this has been, as far as her necessary intercourse with the rest of mankind would permit, her practice.”

Powerful words, yet Adams was merely following in the footsteps of another great American, George Washington. Obviously, the latter was flawed as a person, general, and president. Nevertheless, his willingness to set a critical precedent by walking away from power left an extraordinary legacy. As did his insistence that the Constitution tasked Congress with deciding when America would go to war. And his warning against turning US policy over to foreign influences.

Concern over obsequious subservience to other governments and interests pervaded his famous 1796 Farewell Address. Applied today, his message indicts most of the policy currently made in the city ironically named after him. He would be appalled by what presidents and Congresses today do, supposedly for America.

Obviously, the US was very different 224 years ago. The new country was fragile, sharing the Western hemisphere with its old colonial master, which still ruled Canada and much of the Caribbean, as well as Spain and France. When later dragged into the maritime fringes of the Napoleonic wars the US could huff and puff but do no more than inconvenience France and Britain. The vastness of the American continent, not overweening national power, again frustrated London when it sought to subjugate its former colonists.

Indeed, when George Washington spoke the disparate states were not yet firmly knit into a nation. Only after the Civil War, when the national government waged four years of brutal combat, which ravaged much of the country and killed upwards of 750,000 people in the name of “union,” did people uniformly say the United States “is” rather than “are.” However, the transformation was much more than rhetorical. The federal system that originally emerged in the name of individual liberty spawned a high tax centralized government that employed one of the world’s largest militaries to kill on a mass scale to enforce the regime’s dictates. The modern American “republic” was born. It acted overseas only inconsistently until World War II, after which imperial America was a constant, adding resonance to George Washington’s message.

Today Washington, D.C.’s elites have almost uniformly decided that Russia is an enemy, irrespective of American behavior that contributed to Moscow’s hostility. And that Ukraine, a country never important for American security, is a de facto military ally, appropriately armed by the US for combat against a nuclear-armed rival. A reelection-minded president seems determined to turn China into a new Cold War adversary, an enemy for all things perhaps for all time. America remains ever entangled in the Middle East, with successive administrations in permanent thrall of Israel and Saudi Arabia, allowing foreign leaders to set US Mideast policy. Indeed, both states have avidly pressed the administration to make their enemy, Iran, America’ enemy. The resulting fixation caused the Trump administration to launch economic war against the rest of the world to essentially prevent everyone on earth from having any commercial dealing of any kind with anyone in Tehran.

Under Democrats and Republicans alike the federal government views nations that resist its dictates as adversaries at best, appropriate targets of criticism, always, sanctions, often, and even bombs and invasions, occasionally. No wonder foreign governments lobby hard to be designated as allies, partners, and special relationships. Many of these ties have become essentially permanent, unshakeable even when supposed friends act like enemies and supposed enemies are incapable of hurting America. US foreign policy increasingly has been captured and manipulated for the benefit of other governments and interests.

George Washington recognized the problem even in his day, after revolutionary France sought to win America’s support against Great Britain. He warned: “nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest.”

Is there a better description of US foreign policy today? Even when a favored nation is clearly, ostentatiously, murderously on the wrong side – consider Saudi Arabia’s unprovoked aggression against Yemen – many American policymakers refuse to allow a single word of criticism to escape their lips. The US has indeed become “a slave,” as George Washington warned.

The consequences for the US and the world are highly negative. He observed that “likewise, a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification.”

This is an almost perfect description of the current US approach. American colonists revolted against what they believed had become ever more “foreign” control, yet the US backs Israel’s occupation and mistreatment of millions of Palestinians. American policymakers parade the globe spouting the rhetoric of freedom yet subsidize Egypt as it imprisons tens of thousands and oppresses millions of people. Washington decries Chinese aggressiveness, yet provides planes, munitions, and intelligence to aid Riyadh in the slaughter of Yemeni civilians and destruction of Yemeni homes, businesses, and hospitals. In such cases, policymakers have betrayed America “into a participation in the quarrels and wars … without adequate inducement or justification.”

On the other side are the targets of “inveterate antipathies.” This also characterizes US Middle East policy. So hated are Iran and Syria that Washington, DC is making every effort to destroy their economies, ruin their people’s livelihoods, wreck their hospitals, and starve their population. The respective governments are bad, to be sure, but do not threaten the US Yet, as the nation’s first president explained to Americans, “Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable, when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur. Hence, frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and bloody contests. The nation, prompted by ill-will and resentment, sometimes impels to war the government, contrary to the best calculations of policy.”

Consider how close the US has come to foolish, unnecessary wars against both nations. There were manifold demands that the US enter the Syrian civil war, in which Americans have no stake. Short of combat the Obama administration indirectly aided the local affiliate of al-Qaeda, the terrorist group which staged 9/11 and supposedly was America’s enemy. Moreover, there was constant pressure on America to attack Iran, targeted by the US since 1953, when the CIA helped replace Tehran’s democracy with a brutal tyrant, whose rule was highlighted by corruption, torture, and a nuclear program – which then was taken over by Iran’s Islamic revolutionaries, to America’s horror.

Read George Washington and you would think he had gained a supernatural glimpse into today’s policy debates. He worried about the result when the national government “adopts through passion what reason would reject; at other times it makes the animosity of the nation subservient to projects of hostility instigated by pride, ambition, and other sinister and pernicious motives. The peace often, sometimes perhaps the liberty, of nations has been the victim.”

What better describes US policy toward China and Russia? To be sure, these are nasty regimes. Yet that has rarely bothered Uncle Sam’s relations with other states. Saudi Arabia, a corrupt and totalitarian theocracy, has been sheltered, protected, and reassured by the US even after invading its poor neighbor. Among Washington’s other best friends: Bahrain, Turkey, Egypt, and United Arab Emirates, tyrannies all.

The US now is pushing toward a Cold War redux with Russia, after successive administrations treated Moscow as if it was of no account, lying about plans to expand NATO and acting in other ways that the US would never tolerate. Imagine the Soviet Union helping to overthrow an elected, pro-American government in Mexico City, seeking to redirect all commerce to Soviet allies in South America, and proposing that Mexico join the Warsaw Pact. US policymakers would be threatening war.

Washington, DC also is treating China as a near-enemy, claiming the right to control China along its own borders – essentially attempting to apply America’s Monroe Doctrine to Asia. This is something Americans would never allow another nation, especially China, to do to the US Imagine the response if Beijing sent its navy up the East Coast, told the US how to treat Cuba, and constantly talked of the possibility of war. America’s consistently hostile, aggressive policy is the result of “projects of pride, ambition, and other sinister and pernicious motives.”

This kind of foreign policy also corrupts the American political system. It encourages officials and people to put foreign interests before that of America. As George Washington observed, this mindset: “gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation), facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes even with popularity; guiding, with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good, the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation.”

For instance, Woodrow Wilson and America’s Anglophile establishment backed Great Britain over the interests of the American people, dragging the US into World War I, a mindless imperial slugfest that this nation should have avoided. After the Cold War’s end Americans with ties to Central and Eastern Europe pushed to expand NATO to their ancestral homes, which created new defense obligations for America while inflaming Russian hostility. Ethnic Greeks and Turks constantly battle over policy toward their ethnic homelands. Taiwan has developed enduring ties with congressional Republicans, especially, ensuring US government support against Beijing. Many evangelical Christians, especially those who hold a particularly bizarre eschatology (basically, Jews must gather together in their national homeland to be slaughtered before Jesus can return), back Israel in whatever it does to assist the apparently helpless God of creation finish his job. The policies that result from such campaigns inevitably are shaped to benefit foreign interests, not Americans.

Regarding the impact of such a system on the political system George Washington also was prescient: “As avenues to foreign influence in innumerable ways, such attachments are particularly alarming to the truly enlightened and independent patriot. How many opportunities do they afford to tamper with domestic factions, to practice the arts of seduction, to mislead public opinion, to influence or awe the public council. Such an attachment of a small or weak towards a great and powerful nation dooms the former to be the satellite of the latter.”

In different ways many US policies illustrate the problem caused by “passionate attachments” – the almost routine and sometimes substantial sacrifice of US economic and security interests to benefit other governments. For instance, hysteria swept Washington at the president’s recent proposal to simply reduce troop levels in Germany, which along with so many other European nations sees little reason to do much to defend itself. There are even those who demand American subservience to the Philippines, a semi-failed state of no significant security importance to the US Saudi Arabia is a rare case where the attachment is mostly cash and lobbyists. In most instances cultural, ethnic, religious, and historical ties provide a firmer foundation for foreign political influence and manipulation.

What to do about such a long-standing problem? George Washington was neither naïf nor isolationist. He believed in what passed for globalism in those days: a commercial republic should trade widely. He didn’t oppose alliances, for limited purposes and durations. After all, support from France was necessary for the colonies to win independence.

He proposed a practical policy tied to ongoing realities. The authorities should “steer clear of permanent alliances,” have with other states “as little political connection as possible,” and not “entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils” of other nations’ “ambition, rivalship, interest, humor or caprice.” Most important, the object of US foreign policy was to serve the interests of the American people. In practice it was a matter of prudence, to be adapted to circumstance and interest. He would not necessarily foreclose defense of Israel, Saudi Arabia, or Germany, but would insist that such proposals reflect a serious analysis of current realities and be decided based on what is best for Americans. He would recognize that what might have been true a few decades ago likely isn’t true today. In reality, little of current US foreign policy would have survived his critical review.

George Washington was an eminently practical man who managed to speak through the ages. America’s recently disastrous experience of playing officious, obnoxious hegemon highlights his good judgment. The US, he argued, should “observe good faith and justice towards all nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all.”

America may still formally be a republic, but its foreign policy long ago became imperial. As John Quincy Adams warned, the US is “no longer the ruler of her own spirit.” Americans have learned at great cost that international affairs are too important to be left to the Blob and foreign policy professionals, handed off to international relations scholars, or, worst of all, subcontracted to other nations and their lobbyists. The American people should insist on their nation’s return to a true republican foreign policy.

Doug Bandow is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute. A former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan, he is author of Foreign Follies: America’s New Global Empire.

  Trump’s Russian Laundromat
How to use Trump Tower and other luxury high-rises to clean dirty money, run an international crime syndicate, and propel a failed real estate developer into the White House.
by Craig Unger
The New Republic

In 1984, a Russian émigré named David Bogatin went shopping for apartments in New York City. The 38-year-old had arrived in America seven years before, with just $3 in his pocket. But for a former pilot in the Soviet Army—his specialty had been shooting down Americans over North Vietnam—he had clearly done quite well for himself. Bogatin wasn’t hunting for a place in Brighton Beach, the Brooklyn enclave known as “Little Odessa” for its large population of immigrants from the Soviet Union. Instead, he was fixated on the glitziest apartment building on Fifth Avenue, a gaudy, 58-story edifice with gold-plated fixtures and a pink-marble atrium: Trump Tower.

A monument to celebrity and conspicuous consumption, the tower was home to the likes of Johnny Carson, Steven Spielberg, and Sophia Loren. Its brash, 38-year-old developer was something of a tabloid celebrity himself. Donald Trump was just coming into his own as a serious player in Manhattan real estate, and Trump Tower was the crown jewel of his growing empire. From the day it opened, the building was a hit—all but a few dozen of its 263 units had sold in the first few months. But Bogatin wasn’t deterred by the limited availability or the sky-high prices. The Russian plunked down $6 million to buy not one or two, but five luxury condos. The big check apparently caught the attention of the owner. According to Wayne Barrett, who investigated the deal for the Village Voice, Trump personally attended the closing, along with Bogatin.

If the transaction seemed suspicious—multiple apartments for a single buyer who appeared to have no legitimate way to put his hands on that much money—there may have been a reason. At the time, Russian mobsters were beginning to invest in high-end real estate, which offered an ideal vehicle to launder money from their criminal enterprises. “During the ’80s and ’90s, we in the U.S. government repeatedly saw a pattern by which criminals would use condos and high-rises to launder money,” says Jonathan Winer, a deputy assistant secretary of state for international law enforcement in the Clinton administration. “It didn’t matter that you paid too much, because the real estate values would rise, and it was a way of turning dirty money into clean money. It was done very systematically, and it explained why there are so many high-rises where the units were sold but no one is living in them.” When Trump Tower was built, as David Cay Johnston reports in The Making of Donald Trump, it was only the second high-rise in New York that accepted anonymous buyers.

In 1987, just three years after he attended the closing with Trump, Bogatin pleaded guilty to taking part in a massive gasoline-bootlegging scheme with Russian mobsters. After he fled the country, the government seized his five condos at Trump Tower, saying that he had purchased them to “launder money, to shelter and hide assets.” A Senate investigation into organized crime later revealed that Bogatin was a leading figure in the Russian mob in New York. His family ties, in fact, led straight to the top: His brother ran a $150 million stock scam with none other than Semion Mogilevich, whom the FBI considers the “boss of bosses” of the Russian mafia. At the time, Mogilevich—feared even by his fellow gangsters as “the most powerful mobster in the world”—was expanding his multibillion-dollar international criminal syndicate into America.

Since Trump’s election as president, his ties to Russia have become the focus of intense scrutiny, most of which has centered on whether his inner circle colluded with Russia to subvert the U.S. election. A growing chorus in Congress is also asking pointed questions about how the president built his business empire. Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, has called for a deeper inquiry into “Russian investment in Trump’s businesses and properties.”

The very nature of Trump’s businesses—all of which are privately held, with few reporting requirements—makes it difficult to root out the truth about his financial deals. And the world of Russian oligarchs and organized crime, by design, is shadowy and labyrinthine. For the past three decades, state and federal investigators, as well as some of America’s best investigative journalists, have sifted through mountains of real estate records, tax filings, civil lawsuits, criminal cases, and FBI and Interpol reports, unearthing ties between Trump and Russian mobsters like Mogilevich. To date, no one has documented that Trump was even aware of any suspicious entanglements in his far-flung businesses, let alone that he was directly compromised by the Russian mafia or the corrupt oligarchs who are closely allied with the Kremlin. So far, when it comes to Trump’s ties to Russia, there is no smoking gun.

But even without an investigation by Congress or a special prosecutor, there is much we already know about the president’s debt to Russia. A review of the public record reveals a clear and disturbing pattern: Trump owes much of his business success, and by extension his presidency, to a flow of highly suspicious money from Russia. Over the past three decades, at least 13 people with known or alleged links to Russian mobsters or oligarchs have owned, lived in, and even run criminal activities out of Trump Tower and other Trump properties. Many used his apartments and casinos to launder untold millions in dirty money. Some ran a worldwide high-stakes gambling ring out of Trump Tower—in a unit directly below one owned by Trump. Others provided Trump with lucrative branding deals that required no investment on his part. Taken together, the flow of money from Russia provided Trump with a crucial infusion of financing that helped rescue his empire from ruin, burnish his image, and launch his career in television and politics. “They saved his bacon,” says Kenneth McCallion, a former assistant U.S. attorney in the Reagan administration who investigated ties between organized crime and Trump’s developments in the 1980s.

It’s entirely possible that Trump was never more than a convenient patsy for Russian oligarchs and mobsters, with his casinos and condos providing easy pass-throughs for their illicit riches. At the very least, with his constant need for new infusions of cash and his well-documented troubles with creditors, Trump made an easy “mark” for anyone looking to launder money. But whatever his knowledge about the source of his wealth, the public record makes clear that Trump built his business empire in no small part with a lot of dirty money from a lot of dirty Russians—including the dirtiest and most feared of them all.

Trump made his first trip to Russia in 1987, only a few years before the collapse of the Soviet Union. Invited by Soviet Ambassador Yuri Dubinin, Trump was flown to Moscow and Leningrad—all expenses paid—to talk business with high-ups in the Soviet command. In The Art of the Deal, Trump recounted the lunch meeting with Dubinin that led to the trip. “One thing led to another,” he wrote, “and now I’m talking about building a large luxury hotel, across the street from the Kremlin, in partnership with the Soviet government.”

Over the years, Trump and his sons would try and fail five times to build a new Trump Tower in Moscow. But for Trump, what mattered most were the lucrative connections he had begun to make with the Kremlin—and with the wealthy Russians who would buy so many of his properties in the years to come. “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross section of a lot of our assets,” Donald Trump Jr. boasted at a real estate conference in 2008. “We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”

The money, illicit and otherwise, began to rain in earnest after the Soviet Union fell in 1991. President Boris Yeltsin’s shift to a market economy was so abrupt that cash-rich gangsters and corrupt government officials were able to privatize and loot state-held assets in oil, coal, minerals, and banking. Yeltsin himself, in fact, would later describe Russia as “the biggest mafia state in the world.” After Vladimir Putin succeeded Yeltsin as president, Russian intelligence effectively joined forces with the country’s mobsters and oligarchs, allowing them to operate freely as long as they strengthen Putin’s power and serve his personal financial interests. According to James Henry, a former chief economist at McKinsey & Company who consulted on the Panama Papers, some $1.3 trillion in illicit capital has poured out of Russia since the 1990s.

Semion Mogilevich.

At the top of the sprawling criminal enterprise was Semion Mogilevich. Beginning in the early 1980s, according to the FBI, the short, squat Ukrainian was the key money-laundering contact for the Solntsevskaya Bratva, or Brotherhood, one of the richest criminal syndicates in the world. Before long, he was running a multibillion-dollar worldwide racket of his own. Mogilevich wasn’t feared because he was the most violent gangster, but because he was reputedly the smartest. The FBI has credited the “brainy don,” who holds a degree in economics from Lviv University, with a staggering range of crimes. He ran drug trafficking and prostitution rings on an international scale; in one characteristic deal, he bought a bankrupt airline to ship heroin from Southeast Asia into Europe. He used a jewelry business in Moscow and Budapest as a front for art that Russian gangsters stole from museums, churches, and synagogues all over Europe. He has also been accused of selling some $20 million in stolen weapons, including ground-to-air missiles and armored troop carriers, to Iran. “He uses this wealth and power to not only further his criminal enterprises,” the FBI says, “but to influence governments and their economies.”

In Russia, Mogilevich’s influence reportedly reaches all the way to the top. In 2005, Alexander Litvinenko, a Russian intelligence agent who defected to London, recorded an interview with investigators detailing his inside knowledge of the Kremlin’s ties to organized crime. “Mogilevich,” he said in broken English, “have good relationship with Putin since 1994 or 1993.” A year later Litvinenko was dead, apparently poisoned by agents of the Kremlin.

Mogilevich’s greatest talent, the one that places him at the top of the Russian mob, is finding creative ways to cleanse dirty cash. According to the FBI, he has laundered money through more than 100 front companies around the world, and held bank accounts in at least 27 countries. And in 1991, he made a move that led directly to Trump Tower. That year, the FBI says, Mogilevich paid a Russian judge to spring a fellow mob boss, Vyachelsav Kirillovich Ivankov, from a Siberian gulag. If Mogilevich was the brains, Ivankov was the enforcer—a vor v zakone, or “made man,” infamous for torturing his victims and boasting about the murders he had arranged. Sprung by Mogilevich, Ivankov made the most of his freedom. In 1992, a year after he was released from prison, he headed to New York on an illegal business visa and proceeded to set up shop in Brighton Beach.

In Red Mafiya, his book about the rise of the Russian mob in America, investigative reporter Robert I. Friedman documented how Ivankov organized a lurid and violent underworld of tattooed gangsters. When Ivankov touched down at JFK, Friedman reported, he was met by a fellow vor, who handed him a suitcase with $1.5 million in cash. Over the next three years, Ivankov oversaw the mob’s growth from a local extortion racket to a multibillion-dollar criminal enterprise. According to the FBI, he recruited two “combat brigades” of Special Forces veterans from the Soviet war in Afghanistan to run the mafia’s protection racket and kill his enemies.

Like Mogilevich, Ivankov had a lot of dirty money he needed to clean up. He bought a Rolls-Royce dealership that was used, according to The New York Times, “as a front to launder criminal proceeds.” The FBI concluded that one of Ivankov’s partners in the operation was Felix Komarov, an upscale art dealer who lived in Trump Plaza on Third Avenue. Komarov, who was not charged in the case, called the allegations baseless. He acknowledged that he had frequent phone conversations with Ivankov, but insisted the exchanges were innocent. “I had no reason not to call him,” Komarov told a reporter.

Trump Taj Mahal paid the largest fine ever levied against a casino for having “willfully violated” anti-money-laundering rules.

The feds wanted to arrest Ivankov, but he kept vanishing. “He was like a ghost to the FBI,” one agent recalls. Agents spotted him meeting with other Russian crime figures in Miami, Los Angeles, Boston, and Toronto. They also found he made frequent visits to Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, which mobsters routinely used to launder huge sums of money. In 2015, the Taj Mahal was fined $10 million—the highest penalty ever levied by the feds against a casino—and admitted to having “willfully violated” anti-money-laundering regulations for years.

The FBI also struggled to figure out where Ivankov lived. “We were looking around, looking around, looking around,” James Moody, chief of the bureau’s organized crime section, told Friedman. “We had to go out and really beat the bushes. And then we found out that he was living in a luxury condo in Trump Tower.”

There is no evidence that Trump knew Ivankov personally, even if they were neighbors. But the fact that a top Russian mafia boss lived and worked in Trump’s own building indicates just how much high-level Russian mobsters came to view the future president’s properties as a home away from home. In 2009, after being extradited to Russia to face murder charges, Ivankov was gunned down in a sniper attack on the streets of Moscow. According to The Moscow Times, his funeral was a media spectacle in Russia, attracting “1,000 people wearing black leather jackets, sunglasses, and gold chains,” along with dozens of giant wreaths from the various brotherhoods.

Throughout the 1990s, untold millions from the former Soviet Union flowed into Trump’s luxury developments and Atlantic City casinos. But all the money wasn’t enough to save Trump from his own failings as a businessman. He owed $4 billion to more than 70 banks, with a mind-boggling $800 million of it personally guaranteed. He spent much of the decade mired in litigation, filing for multiple bankruptcies and scrambling to survive. For most developers, the situation would have spelled financial ruin. But fortunately for Trump, his own economic crisis coincided with one in Russia.

In 1998, Russia defaulted on $40 billion in debt, causing the ruble to plummet and Russian banks to close. The ensuing financial panic sent the country’s oligarchs and mobsters scrambling to find a safe place to put their money. That October, just two months after the Russian economy went into a tailspin, Trump broke ground on his biggest project yet. Rising to 72 stories in midtown Manhattan, Trump World Tower would be the tallest residential building on the planet. Construction got underway in 1999—just as Trump was preparing his first run for the presidency on the Reform Party ticket— and concluded in 2001. As Bloomberg Businessweek reported earlier this year, it wasn’t long before one-third of the units on the tower’s priciest floors had been snatched up—either by individual buyers from the former Soviet Union, or by limited liability companies connected to Russia. “We had big buyers from Russia and Ukraine and Kazakhstan,” sales agent Debra Stotts told Bloomberg.

Among the new tenants was Eduard Nektalov, a diamond dealer from Uzbekistan. Nektalov, who was being investigated by a Treasury Department task force for mob-connected money laundering, bought a condo on the seventy-ninth floor, directly below Trump’s future campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway. A month later he sold his unit for a $500,000 profit. The following year, after rumors circulated that Nektalov was cooperating with federal investigators, he was shot down on Sixth Avenue.

Trump had found his market. After Trump World Tower opened, Sotheby’s International Realty teamed up with a Russian real estate company to make a big sales push for the property in Russia. The “tower full of oligarchs,” as Bloomberg called it, became a model for Trump’s projects going forward. All he needed to do, it seemed, was slap the Trump name on a big building, and high-dollar customers from Russia and the former Soviet republics were guaranteed to come rushing in. Dolly Lenz, a New York real estate broker, told USA Today that she sold some 65 units in Trump World Tower to Russians. “I had contacts in Moscow looking to invest in the United States,” Lenz said. “They all wanted to meet Donald.”

To capitalize on his new business model, Trump struck a deal with a Florida developer to attach his name to six high-rises in Sunny Isles, just outside Miami. Without having to put up a dime of his own money, Trump would receive a cut of the profits. “Russians love the Trump brand,” Gil Dezer, the Sunny Isles developer, told Bloomberg. A local broker told The Washington Post that one-third of the 500 apartments he’d sold went to “Russian-speakers.” So many bought the Trump-branded apartments, in fact, that the area became known as “Little Moscow.”

“Russians love the Trump brand,” said developer Gil Dezer, (left, with Trump). One Florida tenant,

Many of the units were sold by a native of Uzbekistan who had immigrated from the Soviet Union in the 1980s; her business was so brisk that she soon began bringing Russian tour groups to Sunny Isles to view the properties. According to a Reuters investigation in March, at least 63 buyers with Russian addresses or passports spent $98 million on Trump’s properties in south Florida. What’s more, another one-third of the units—more than 700 in all—were bought by shadowy shell companies that concealed the true owners.

Trump promoted and celebrated the properties. His organization continues to advertise the units; in 2011, when they first turned a profit, he attended a ceremonial mortgage-burning in Sunny Isles to toast their success. Last October, an investigation by the Miami Herald found that at least 13 buyers in the Florida complex have been the target of government investigations, either personally or through their companies, including “members of a Russian-American organized crime group.” Two buyers in Sunny Isles, Anatoly Golubchik and Michael Sall, were convicted for taking part in a massive international gambling and money-laundering syndicate that was run out of Trump Tower in New York. The ring, according to the FBI, was operating under the protection of the Russian mafia.

The influx of Russian money did more than save Trump’s business from ruin—it set the stage for the next phase of his career. By 2004, to the outside world, it appeared that Trump was back on top after his failures in Atlantic City. That January, flush with the appearance of success, Trump launched his newly burnished brand into another medium.

“My name’s Donald Trump,” he declared in his opening narration for The Apprentice, “the largest real estate developer in New York. I own buildings all over the place. Model agencies. The Miss Universe pageant. Jetliners, golf courses, casinos, and private resorts like Mar-a-Lago, one of the most spectacular estates anywhere in the world.”

But it wouldn’t be Trump without a better story than that. “It wasn’t always so easy,” he confessed, over images of him cruising around New York in a stretch limo. “About 13 years ago, I was seriously in trouble. I was billions of dollars in debt. But I fought back, and I won. Big league. I used my brain. I used my negotiating skills. And I worked it all out. Now my company’s bigger than it ever was and stronger than it ever was.… I’ve mastered the art of the deal.”

The show, which reportedly paid Trump up to $3 million per episode, instantly revived his career. “The Apprentice turned Trump from a blowhard Richie Rich who had just gone through his most difficult decade into an unlikely symbol of straight talk, an evangelist for the American gospel of success, a decider who insisted on standards in a country that had somehow slipped into handing out trophies for just showing up,” journalists Michael Kranish and Marc Fisher observe in their book Trump Revealed. “Above all, Apprentice sold an image of the host-boss as supremely competent and confident, dispensing his authority and getting immediate results. The analogy to politics was palpable.”

Russians spent at least $98 million on Trump’s properties in Florida—and another third of the units were bought by shadowy shell companies.

But the story of Donald Trump, self-made business genius, left out any mention of the shady Russian investors who had done so much to make his comeback narrative possible. And Trump’s business, despite the hype, was hardly “stronger than it ever was”—his credit was still lousy, and two more of his prized properties in Atlantic City would soon fall into bankruptcy, even as his ratings soared.

To further enhance his brand, Trump used his prime-time perch to unveil another big project. On the 2006 season finale of The Apprentice, as 11 million viewers waited to learn which of the two finalists was going to be fired, Trump prolonged the suspense by cutting to a promotional video for his latest venture. “Located in the center of Manhattan’s chic artist enclave, the Trump International Hotel and Tower in SoHo is the site of my latest development,” he narrated over swooping helicopter footage of lower Manhattan. The new building, he added, would be nothing less than a “$370 million work of art … an awe-inspiring masterpiece.”

Trump SoHo was the brainchild of two development companies—Bayrock Group LLC and the Sapir Organization—run by a pair of wealthy émigrés from the former Soviet Union who had done business with some of Russia’s richest and most notorious oligarchs. Together, their firms made Trump an offer he couldn’t refuse: The developers would finance and build Trump SoHo themselves. In return for lending his name to the project, Trump would get 18 percent of the profits—without putting up any of his own money.

One of the developers, Tamir Sapir, had followed an unlikely path to riches. After emigrating from the Soviet Union in the 1970s, he had started out driving a cab in New York City and ended up a billionaire living in Trump Tower. His big break came when he co-founded a company that sold high-tech electronics. According to the FBI, Sapir’s partner in the firm was a “member or associate” of Ivankov’s mob in Brighton Beach. No charges were ever filed, and Sapir denied having any mob ties. “It didn’t happen,” he told The New York Times. “Everything was done in the most legitimate way.”

Trump, who described Sapir as a “great friend,” bought 200 televisions from his electronics company. In 2007, he hosted the wedding of Sapir’s daughter at Mar-a-Lago, and later attended her infant son’s bris.

Sapir also introduced Trump to Tevfik Arif, his partner in the Trump SoHo deal. On paper, at least, Arif was another heartwarming immigrant success story. He had graduated from the Moscow Institute of Trade and Economics and worked as a Soviet trade and commerce official for 17 years before moving to New York and founding Bayrock. Practically overnight, Arif became a wildly successful developer in Brooklyn. In 2002, after meeting Trump, he moved Bayrock’s offices to Trump Tower, where he and his staff of Russian émigrés set up shop on the twenty-fourth floor.

Trump worked closely with Bayrock on real estate ventures in Russia, Ukraine, and Poland. “Bayrock knew the investors,” he later testified. Arif “brought the people up from Moscow to meet with me.” He boasted about the deal he was getting: Arif was offering him a 20 to 25 percent cut on his overseas projects, he said, not to mention management fees. “It was almost like mass production of a car,” Trump testified.

But Bayrock and its deals quickly became mired in controversy. Forbes and other publications reported that the company was financed by a notoriously corrupt group of oligarchs known as The Trio. In 2010, Arif was arrested by Turkish prosecutors and charged with setting up a prostitution ring after he was found aboard a boat—chartered by one of The Trio—with nine young women, two of whom were 16 years old. The women reportedly refused to talk, and Arif was acquitted. According to a lawsuit filed that same year by two former Bayrock executives, Arif started the firm “backed by oligarchs and money they stole from the Russian people.” In addition, the suit alleges, Bayrock “was substantially and covertly mob-owned and operated.” The company’s real purpose, the executives claim, was to develop hugely expensive properties bearing the Trump brand—and then use the projects to launder money and evade taxes.

The lawsuit, which is ongoing, does not claim that Trump was complicit in the alleged scam. Bayrock dismissed the allegations as “legal conclusions to which no response is required.” But last year, after examining title deeds, bank records, and court documents, the Financial Times concluded that Trump SoHo had “multiple ties to an alleged international money-laundering network.” In one case, the paper reported, a former Kazakh energy minister is being sued in federal court for conspiring to “systematically loot hundreds of millions of dollars of public assets” and then purchasing three condos in Trump SoHo to launder his “ill-gotten funds.”

Felix Sater had a Trump business card long after his criminal past came to light.

During his collaboration with Bayrock, Trump also became close to the man who ran the firm’s daily operations—a twice-convicted felon with family ties to Semion Mogilevich. In 1974, when he was eight years old, Felix Sater and his family emigrated from Moscow to Brighton Beach. According to the FBI, his father—who was convicted for extorting local restaurants, grocery stores, and a medical clinic—was a Mogilevich boss. Sater tried making it as a stockbroker, but his career came to an abrupt end in 1991, after he stabbed a Wall Street foe in the face with a broken margarita glass during a bar fight, opening wounds that required 110 stitches. (Years later, in a deposition, Trump downplayed the incident, insisting that Sater “got into a barroom fight, which a lot of people do.”) Sater lost his trading license over the attack, and served a year in prison.

In 1998, Sater pleaded guilty to racketeering—operating a “pump and dump” stock fraud in partnership with alleged Russian mobsters that bilked investors of at least $40 million. To avoid prison time, Sater turned informer. But according to the lawsuit against Bayrock, he also resumed “his old tricks.” By 2003, the suit alleges, Sater controlled the majority of Bayrock’s shares—and proceeded to use the firm to launder hundreds of millions of dollars, while skimming and extorting millions more. The suit also claims that Sater committed fraud by concealing his racketeering conviction from banks that invested hundreds of millions in Bayrock, and that he threatened “to kill anyone at the firm he thought knew of the crimes committed there and might report it.” In court, Bayrock has denied the allegations, which Sater’s attorney characterizes as “false, fabricated, and pure garbage.”

By Sater’s account, in sworn testimony, he was very tight with Trump. He flew to Colorado with him, accompanied Donald Jr. and Ivanka on a trip to Moscow at Trump’s invitation, and met with Trump’s inner circle “constantly.” In Trump Tower, he often dropped by Trump’s office to pitch business ideas—“just me and him.”

Trump seems unable to recall any of this. “Felix Sater, boy, I have to even think about it,” he told the Associated Press in 2015. Two years earlier, testifying in a video deposition, Trump took the same line. If Sater “were sitting in the room right now,” he swore under oath, “I really wouldn’t know what he looked like.” He added: “I don’t know him very well, but I don’t think he was connected to the mafia.”

Trump and his lawyers say that he was unaware of Sater’s criminal past when he signed on to do business with Bayrock. That’s plausible, since Sater’s plea deal in the stock fraud was kept secret because of his role as an informant. But even after The New York Times revealed Sater’s criminal record in 2007, he continued to use office space provided by the Trump Organization. In 2010, he was even given an official Trump Organization business card that read: FELIX H. SATER, SENIOR ADVISOR TO DONALD TRUMP.

In 2013, police burst into Unit 63A of Trump Tower and rounded up 29 suspects in a $100 million money-laundering scheme.

Sater apparently remains close to Trump’s inner circle. Earlier this year, one week before National Security Advisor Michael Flynn was fired for failing to report meetings with Russian officials, Trump’s personal attorney reportedly hand-delivered to Flynn’s office a “back-channel plan” for lifting sanctions on Russia. The co-author of the plan, according to the Times: Felix Sater.

In the end, Trump’s deals with Bayrock, like so much of his business empire, proved to be more glitter than gold. The international projects in Russia and Poland never materialized. A Trump tower being built in Fort Lauderdale ran out of money before it was completed, leaving behind a massive concrete shell. Trump SoHo ultimately had to be foreclosed and resold. But his Russian investors had left Trump with a high-profile property he could leverage. The new owners contracted with Trump to run the tower; as of April, the president and his daughter Ivanka were still listed as managers of the property. In 2015, according to the federal financial disclosure reports, Trump made $3 million from Trump SoHo.

In April 2013, a little more than two years before Trump rode the escalator to the ground floor of Trump Tower to kick off his presidential campaign, police burst into Unit 63A of the high-rise and rounded up 29 suspects in two gambling rings. The operation, which prosecutors called “the world’s largest sports book,” was run out of condos in Trump Tower—including the entire fifty-first floor of the building. In addition, unit 63A—a condo directly below one owned by Trump—served as the headquarters for a “sophisticated money-laundering scheme” that moved an estimated $100 million out of the former Soviet Union, through shell companies in Cyprus, and into investments in the United States. The entire operation, prosecutors say, was working under the protection of Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov, whom the FBI identified as a top Russian vor closely allied with Semion Mogilevich. In a single two-month stretch, according to the federal indictment, the money launderers paid Tokhtakhounov $10 million.

Tokhtakhounov, who had been indicted a decade earlier for conspiring to fix the ice-skating competition at the 2002 Winter Olympics, was the only suspect to elude arrest. For the next seven months, the Russian crime boss fell off the radar of Interpol, which had issued a red alert. Then, in November 2013, he suddenly appeared live on international television—sitting in the audience at the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow. Tokhtakhounov was in the VIP section, just a few seats away from the pageant owner, Donald Trump.

After the pageant, Trump bragged about all the powerful Russians who had turned out that night, just to see him. “Almost all of the oligarchs were in the room,” he told Real Estate Weekly. Contacted by Mother Jones, Tokhtakhounov insisted that he had bought his own ticket and was not a VIP. He also denied being a mobster, telling The New York Times that he had been indicted in the gambling ring because FBI agents “misinterpreted his Russian slang” on their Trump Tower wiretaps, when he was merely placing $20,000 bets on soccer games.

Both the White House and the Trump Organization declined to respond to questions for this story. On the few occasions he has been questioned about his business entanglements with Russians, however, Trump has offered broad denials. “I tweeted out that I have no dealings with Russia,” he said at a press conference in January, when asked if Russia has any “leverage” over him, financial or otherwise. “I have no deals that could happen in Russia, because we’ve stayed away. And I have no loans with Russia. I have no loans with Russia at all.” In May, when he was interviewed by NBC’s Lester Holt, Trump seemed hard-pressed to think of a single connection he had with Russia. “I have had dealings over the years where I sold a house to a very wealthy Russian many years ago,” he said. “I had the Miss Universe pageant—which I owned for quite a while—I had it in Moscow a long time ago. But other than that, I have nothing to do with Russia.”

But even if Trump has no memory of the many deals that he and his business made with Russian investors, he certainly did not “stay away” from Russia. For decades, he and his organization have aggressively promoted his business there, seeking to entice investors and buyers for some of his most high-profile developments. Whether Trump knew it or not, Russian mobsters and corrupt oligarchs used his properties not only to launder vast sums of money from extortion, drugs, gambling, and racketeering, but even as a base of operations for their criminal activities. In the process, they propped up Trump’s business and enabled him to reinvent his image. Without the Russian mafia, it is fair to say, Donald Trump would not be president of the United States.

Semion Mogilevich, the Russian mob’s “boss of bosses,” also declined to respond to questions from the New Republic. “My ideas are not important to anybody,” Mogilevich said in a statement provided by his attorney. “Whatever I know, I am a private person.” Mogilevich, the attorney added, “has nothing to do with President Trump. He doesn’t believe that anybody associated with him lives in Trump Tower. He has no ties to America or American citizens.”

Back in 1999, the year before Trump staged his first run for president, Mogilevich gave a rare interview to the BBC. Living up to his reputation for cleverness, the mafia boss mostly joked and double-spoke his way around his criminal activities. (Q: “Why did you set up companies in the Channel Islands?” A: “The problem was that I didn’t know any other islands. When they taught us geography at school, I was sick that day.”) But when the exasperated interviewer asked, “Do you believe there is any Russian organized crime?” the “brainy don” turned half-serious.

“How can you say that there is a Russian mafia in America?” he demanded. “The word mafia, as far as I understand the word, means a criminal group that is connected with the political organs, the police and the administration. I don’t know of a single Russian in the U.S. Senate, a single Russian in the U.S. Congress, a single Russian in the U.S. government. Where are the connections with the Russians? How can there be a Russian mafia in America? Where are their connections?”

Two decades later, we finally have an answer to Mogilevich’s question.

Craig Unger is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and the author of several books, including House of Bush, House of Saud.

  Encyclopedia of American Loons

Thomas Lodi

Cancer woo is big business, and few things are more repugnantly ludicrous than pushing homeopathy for cancer – though we suspect that most people aren’t really aware of how amazingly ridiculous the magical pseudoscience of homeopathy actually is. Well, at the Oasis of Healing in Arizona, Thomas Lodi will offer you homeopathy for cancer. Apparently, Lodi used to be a real MD (remember that MDs aren’t necessarily trained in science and there is thus no particular reason to think that they are particularly immune to pseudoscientific nonsense), but apparently decided along the way to become a Homeopathic Medical Doctor specializing in “integrative oncology” instead (yes, the state of Arizona allows you to call yourself HMD, and they even allow you to perform surgery).

At the Oasis of Healing there are few limits on what kind of nonsense they’re willing to push (while, predictably, hinting at Big Pharma conspiracies). The guiding principle appears, predictably enough, to be a return to “nature” and natural remedies, though as far as we can tell they fail to explain precisely what makes homeopathic remedies more “natural” than conventional therapies – “natural cancer cures” is mostly an apparently effective marketing ploy. Well, cancer is itself natural, and Lodi seems to agree: “Cancer in fact, is the name that we have given to the extraordinary effort of the body to protect us against chronic irritation. Consequently, cancer has been termed, ‘the wound that wouldn’t heal’. And the term ‘cancer prevention’ is misused to include receiving vaccinations and diagnostic screening, such as mammograms. These and all others under this category of cancer prevention have nothing to do with the prevention of the development of the healing process that we have termed cancer.” Yes, according to Lodi, cancer is a “healing process”, like all disease: “It must be remembered that ‘disease’ is the body attempting to re-establish optimal functioning. Health is not the absence of disease nor is it the absence of anything. It is the presence of something. It is the ability to regenerate, rejuvenate and procreate. Health is the condition that results when one lives according to the biological laws that govern the functioning of the organism.” I hope even those with little or no medical background are able to see how insane this nonsense is (it sounds a bit like this).

So what does Lodi suggest for treating cancer? Intravenous vitamin C – a favorite among cancer quacks, and more or less completely useless – and Insulin potentiation therapy (IPT), which must rank among the crazier and more insidious types of delusional quackery out there. How IPT manages to count as “natural” is anyone’s guess – though, once again, “natural” is of course only a marketing ploy; it doesn’t really mean anything.

In short: Lodi’s suggestions won’t help cure cancer, but insofar as his patients also renounce conventional therapies that do, few of them will end up in any position to provide negative testimonials (Lodi’s got testimonials). He also recommends “massage therapy or acupuncture” to “…. assist with opening energy meridians and allowing the lymph to drain more freely reducing the toxic load on the body,” and “[f]ocusing on the power of prayer or meditation will help strengthen the spirit and mental well-being which will add another level to the success of a patient healing from cancer.” It won’t.

His main focus seems to be on cancer prevention. Lodi recommends: Living Foods, juicing, oral & IV supplements, chelation therapy, lymphatic drainage, structural integration, infrared sauna, EWOT and colon hydrotherapy. None of these will remotely protect you from cancer, but some of them, like chelation therapy, are actively harmful. Lodi’s evidence? Testimonials, of course. You really didn’t need to ask. He’s got not a shred of evidence. But lack of evidence has never stopped people like Lodi, who apparently travels around to promote his nonsense, as well; he appeared for instance at the 2013 “A Cure to Cancer Summit”, a New Age conspiracy quackfest if there ever was one – the kind of event where the organizers actually used the fact that it featured Robert O. Young in its marketing campaign; yes, that’s the kind of company Lodi keeps.

Oh, and he doesn’t like criticism, apparently, and responds to criticism in precisely the manner you’d expect from someone like him.

Diagnosis: We think it is important to emphasize that Thomas Lodi is not only a crackpot offering to treat you for serious illnesses his alternative recommendations won’t treat; he is also (for that reason) a really, truly shitty person. Apparently he is also one of the more influential characters in “natural cancer cure” schemes. Stay well away.

Deborah Lindsey & the IMU

John Lilly, patient zero for all things dolphin woo, has passed away. We cannot find explicit evidence that Deborah Lindsey is into dolphin woo, but she probably is. Lindsey is the founder of the International Metaphysical University (IMU) (Courses in Shamanic Studies) located in Vienna, West Virginia – at least that’s the postal address; the “university” seems primarily to exist online, and it’s sufficiently obscure to fail to make it even to this comprehensive list. Lindsey is also the administrative contact and technical contact for the, uh, institution. According to her own bio, “she’s the founder of the International Metaphysical University (how many people start a UNIVERSITY?);” probably not many, Lindsey, and we have some bad news for you. In any case, “[s]he is also trained and certified in more than a dozen healing protocols including Reiki (Usui, Toltec/Nagual, Ma’haeo’o), Quantum Touch, Touch for Health, Energy Kinesiology, Pranic Healing, Hypnosis, Jaffe-Mellor Technique, Kolaimni [has to do with charging one’s chakras, apparently], and more.” Also from her bio: “she’s one of those teachers who is ‘on a mission from God.’ (Yeah, it’s a Blues Brother reference in the middle of a biography.)” Why, yes; yes, it is.

None of the IMU’s (distant learning) courses are anywhere remotely close to being accredited by anything resembling any serious accrediting organization, but they are at least reasonably expensive, and one suspects that their intended target audience is precisely those who don’t have a clear grasp of the difference between those two parameters. The course catalogue is at least fascinating. Lindsey herself does Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), and the IMU will happily certify you as an EFT practitioner (hah!), but she also teaches “Consciousness studies” and “Principles of Metaphysics” (a 1912 publication called “The Kybalion” by one Thoth, “scribe of the gods”), and “Energy Anatomy” (“including how to see auras, and explore the meridian system in the body[;] [m]oreover, students will challenge their own perceptions about the causes of illness and what it takes to heal;” otherwise that course wouldn’t get very far, methinks).

Apart from these courses, the IMU course catalogue contains (e.g.) the following:

Two courses on Anatomy and Physiology for Energy Healers, $197 each, which promise to answer “[b]urning questions like if I have a stomach ache is it my stomach that hurts, or if someone is a pain in the neck is it my neck or a little lower”. It’s almost like medschool. Instructor: one Julia Ananeva,  who has “a deep understanding of biological interconnections in a physical body” and can “bring Bio-energetic healing to the higher level;” she is also an expert on the Law of Attraction.

Energy Kinesiology and Muscle Testing, on e.g. energy blockages as a cause for disease; the course comes with a version of the Quack Miranda. Instructor: John Maguire, founder and director of the LA Kinesiology Institute.

Flower of Life, Sacred Geometry, and the Merkaba. Instructor: Bruce Vinikas.

Understanding the Mayan Calendar. Instructor: the legendary Carl Johan Calleman; he also does the course “The Purposeful Universe”.

Basic Principles of the Law of One, where students are given an opportunity to “explor[e] the ways of polarity and the functions and use of the energy body”. Instructor: James A. McCarty.

Foundations of Psychic Development I & II. Instructor: Janet Decker.

Animal Communication; sounds awesome. Instructor: Georgina Cyr, who is also into iridology.

Astrology. Instructor: Susan Sheppard, “the creator of the Haunted Parkersburg Ghost Tours”, but they also list “Allison Sandblom, Proxy”.

Tarot I & II. Instructor: Terry Lively.

Foundations of Shamanism. Instructor: Mark Perkins, who also does their course on “Ho’oponopono – A Shamanic Exploration”.

Basic Shamanic Journeying. Instructor: Sandra Ingerman, a familiar name in these circles; some information here.

Toltec Nagual Reiki. Instructor: Randy Hastings, “deceased”, apparently in 2010. They still offer the course.

Fundamentals of Huna Shamanism/Advanced Huna Shaman Training. Instructor: Serge King.

Introduction to Ufology & Intermediate Ufology. Instructor: our old friend Richard Dolan, but they also list “Kelly Weary, Proxy”.

An Introduction to Sitchin Studies. No, really. Instructor: Neil Freer.

Variety of Extraterrestrial Encounters. Instructor: Barbara Lamb, whose specialty seems to be human-alien hybrids.

Mind Traveling UFOs and Extraterrestrial Civilizations I & II. Instructor: John Terry.

Introduction to Exoconsciousness & Advanced Exoconsciousness. Instructor: Rebecca Hardcastle, whom we have encountered before.

Extraterrestrials, and The Mystery Schools. Instructor: Judy Kennedy.

There are also practical courses, such as “Creating the Foundation for Your Irresistibly Authentic Metaphysical or Holistic Healing Consultancy” and “Creating Your Rapidly Saleable Business Programs and Packages”, all with one Diane Boerstler. Boerstler is probably a person to take note of for future reference; if a company has a Boerstler-number of less than, say, 3 you should probably avoid it.

Diagnosis: It actually seems that Lindsey somehow believes the stuff she peddles, but I am not sure that makes it any better. Complete, undiluted insanity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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