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Zorro's Journal
Zorro's Journal
December 17, 2020

Trump's henchmen always end up in the shark tank

Opinion by Max Boot

Forget all of the insider accounts. To truly understand the Trump administration, you have to study the collected works of James Bond, 007.

In the Bond films, there is no more dangerous job than being the villain’s henchman. If Bond doesn’t kill you, your own boss likely will. SPECTRE doesn’t tolerate failure, and those who don’t succeed are likely to be dismissed not just from their jobs but from their lives. You would think that Ernst Stavro Blofeld, Dr. No, Le Chiffre and all the rest would show some consideration to the loyal henchmen who labor so hard to carry out their plots for world domination. But no. One mistake and you’re fed to the sharks or piranhas — or simply electrocuted in your chair.

That is pretty much the fate of Trump’s most nefarious henchmen — minus the killer fish, of course. They’re still alive, but they’re dead to Trump. It doesn’t matter how many norms or even laws you violated on the president’s behalf. If you do one thing wrong (i.e., right) by failing to carry out his latest and most dastardly plot, you are likely to wind up in the shark tank — metaphorically, of course.

Attorney General William P. Barr was dismissed more gently than most. Trump tweeted on Monday that Barr had “done an outstanding job” but was “leaving just before Christmas to spend the holidays with his family.” But otherwise Trump has made little attempt to hide his fury at his attorney general. He was irate before the election that Barr refused to indict Democrats such as Joe Biden for unspecified crimes. It was, Trump said, “a very sad, sad situation.” Barr further saddened his boss by admitting that there was no evidence of widespread election fraud. Sadness turned to “sayonara” with the news that Barr had properly refused to disclose investigations of Hunter Biden’s financial dealings. “Bill Barr should have stepped up,” Trump fumed.


December 17, 2020

Feds: This Is the Face of a Serial Predator Who Worked in U.S. Embassies

The FBI is trying to hunt down alleged victims of an embassy worker who allegedly drugged his dates, sexually assaulted them and made sickening videos.

The FBI is on the hunt for potential victims and information about Brian Jeffrey Raymond, a former U.S. embassy employee in Mexico City already accused of drugging and sexually assaulting nearly two dozen women across a decade and several countries.

A notice released this week by the bureau—which has been working with the U.S. Diplomatic Security Service’s Office of Special Investigations and Mexican law enforcement on the case—includes the first public photos of Raymond. It encourages anyone who may have dated Raymond or have information about him to provide details through an online questionnaire.

As The Daily Beast was first to report this fall, Raymond was arrested Oct. 9 outside of a gym in La Mesa, California, where he had been staying with his parents after suddenly quitting his job.

Federal prosecutors described Raymond, 44, as an “experienced sexual predator” whose alleged attacks stretch back to at least 2011. He was initially detained in May by Mexico City police who responded to reports of a “naked, hysterical woman desperately screaming for help” from the balcony of an apartment rented by the U.S. Embassy in the well-heeled neighborhood of Poblado. After claiming diplomatic immunity, Raymond—who insisted the encounter had been consensual—was released and returned to the United States the next day.

In a subsequent search of Raymond’s phone, laptop, and iCloud account, agents from the FBI and the Diplomatic Security Service found hundreds of sickening photos and videos they say showed unconscious women being sexually abused. In some, a man holds open the women’s eyelids, waves their limp arms and legs, or puts his fingers in their mouth, eliciting no response, prosecutors said. In others, Raymond can apparently be seen nude and aroused. A number of the women could be heard snoring in the footage. At least nine of the alleged attacks occurred in embassy housing.

December 17, 2020

ISIS Fanboy Applies for Job at FBI. Guess What Happens Next.

Anti-Semitic sh*tposters, believe it or not, don‘t fare particularly well in bureau background checks.

If you’re applying for a job at the FBI, it’s probably a good idea not to shitpost a heap of jihadi memes and jokes about blowing up Israelis. But if you simply must, don’t lie about your secret alt account when questioned by agents.

That’s allegedly what got Abdulwuhab Humayun in trouble, according to newly filed court records. FBI agents say Humayun posted anti-Semitic, jihadi-cheerleading memes on a Twitter account, @AmericanEmirate, for two years before he applied for a technical position at the bureau. Humayun later allegedly lied about owning the account and then tried to hide his tracks after agents questioned him about his online activities.

Humayun is now charged with one count of lying to federal agents after he allegedly covered up his association with the account.

Neither Humayun nor his attorney responded to requests for comment from The Daily Beast. Prosecutors declined to comment on the charges.

December 17, 2020

Kelly Loeffler's latest nonsense exposes the worst of GOP nihilism

Opinion by Greg Sargent

Our country confronts two of its most monumental crises of the modern era. More than 3,300 Americans died of the coronavirus on Wednesday alone. The latest weekly jobless claims are a shocker, totaling nearly 900,000. Hiring is slowing down dramatically. More than 14 million face a cutoff in pandemic-related unemployment benefits.

What is the Republican Party’s answer to this pressing and urgent state of affairs?

Broadly speaking, it runs as follows: Provide the absolute minimum in financial assistance, and only when the political pressure to offer that bare minimum becomes too overwhelming to ignore.

Meanwhile, instead of offering a serious agenda to deal with either crisis, sell the party as a check on a wholly manufactured one: the specter of an impending socialist-antifa Democratic takeover.


December 17, 2020

Trump's China policy was a fiasco -- not a triumph

Opinion by Max Boot

If you listen to President Trump’s cheering section, he is responsible for “the most significant United States foreign policy shift in a generation.” That braggadocio is from a collection of speeches by administration officials about China released by soon-to-be-former national security adviser Robert C. O’Brien. “We are no longer turning a blind eye to the People’s Republic of China’s conduct,” he writes, “nor are we hiding our criticism of its Communist Party behind closed doors.” He even absurdly compares the administration’s anti-Beijing bombast to George Kennan’s brilliant dissection of Soviet conduct in the 1946 “Long Telegram.”

No one who has not drunk the Kool-Aid would go that far, but some otherwise sober commentators are willing to give Trump credit for reorienting the U.S. approach to China. The Economist, for example, recently wrote: “The achievement of the Trump administration was to recognise the authoritarian threat from China. The task of the Biden administration will be to work out what to do about it.”

Some “achievement.” U.S. administrations have been recognizing the “authoritarian threat from China” ever since the Communist takeover in 1949. Indeed, it has long been a staple of U.S. politics to accuse one’s opponents of being soft on Beijing. As a commentator noted in 2012: “Ronald Reagan repeatedly criticized President Jimmy Carter for establishing diplomatic relations with Beijing. Bill Clinton excoriated the ‘butchers of Beijing’ in the 1992 campaign. . . . Candidate Barack Obama labeled President George W. Bush ‘a patsy’ in dealing with China and promised to go ‘to the mat’ over Beijing’s ‘unfair’ trade practices.”

Hardliners will object that previous presidents became “panda huggers” once in office. That’s unfair. Past administrations tried to strike a balance between competing with China and cooperating with it on issues of mutual concern such as trade and the environment. But even before Trump came along, the U.S. approach had been getting tougher because of China’s growing power, brutality and assertiveness since President Xi Jinping took office in 2013.


December 17, 2020

The fight against Trumpism is only beginning

Opinion by Reed Galen

Reed Galen is a co-founder of the Lincoln Project.

While President Trump will leave office as a failed, one-term president, the fight against Trumpism is just beginning.

A year ago, The Lincoln Project launched with two stated goals: First, Defeat Donald Trump at the ballot box. Second, ensure Trumpism failed alongside him. We are proud to have been a part of the broad and deep coalition that helped elect Joe Biden and Kamala D. Harris to the White House. Trumpism, however, is far from extinction.

The six weeks since Election Day have seen much of the Republican Party, the party of Abraham Lincoln, turn fully against American democracy.

Trump’s allies and abettors, including more than 100 lawmakers and 18 Republican state attorneys general, tried to poison our political system in the service of a personality cult. Theirs is a veneration driven not by high ideals but by fear, resentment and a transparent desire to maintain power for its own sake.


December 16, 2020

Ron Johnson Brands Colleague a Liar, Airs Election Conspiracies in Unhinged Senate Hearing

Numerous judges have dismantled election fraud claims but the Republican senator gave them airtime again on Wednesday.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), chair of the Senate Homeland Security committee, aired legally debunked theories of election fraud and accused his Democratic counterpart of lying during a bizarre Senate hearing on Wednesday.

“Joe Biden won our state by 20,000 votes,” Johnson told Trump’s top Wisconsin lawyer, Jim Troupis, during an exchange about a court case that the state’s majority-Republican Supreme Court rejected. “You’re talking about over 200,000 votes that are outside our law, that if the law had been followed, probably should not have been counted.”

Johnson’s position, though still shared by the president, is growing increasingly unpopular within his own party. Outgoing Attorney General William Barr stated earlier this month that the Justice Department found no evidence of widespread election fraud. Earlier this week, several Senate Republicans—including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)—acknowledged Biden as president-elect for the first time.

When Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI), the committee’s ranking member, referenced foreign interference in the 2016 presidential election, Johnson launched into a vigorous rant about disinformation. He claimed that Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and Democrats were the true “purveyors” of Russian propaganda.

December 16, 2020

Billions Spent on U.S. Cyberdefenses Failed to Detect Giant Russian Hack

The broad Russian espionage attack on the U.S. government and private companies, underway since spring and detected only a few weeks ago, is among the greatest intelligence failures of modern times.

Over the past few years, the United States government has spent tens of billions of dollars on cyberoffensive capabilities, building a giant war room at Fort Meade, Md., for United States Cyber Command, and installing sensors all around the country — a system named Einstein to give it an air of genius — to deter the nation’s enemies from picking its networks clean, again.

It now is clear that the broad Russian espionage attack on the United States government and private companies, underway since spring and detected by the private sector only a few weeks ago, ranks among the greatest intelligence failures of modern times.

Einstein missed it — because the Russian hackers brilliantly designed their attack to avoid setting it off. The National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security, which understandably focused on protecting the 2020 election, were looking elsewhere.

The new American strategy of “defend forward” — essentially, putting American “beacons” into the networks of its adversaries that would warn of oncoming attacks and provide a platform for counterstrikes — proved little to no deterrence for the Russians, who have upped their game significantly since the 1990s, when they launched an attack on the Defense Department called Midnight Maze.

December 16, 2020

Is This the Real Reason Why Trump's Freaking Out About the Defense Bill?

He keeps bringing up weird reasons to oppose a rare popular, bipartisan bill, but he hasn’t mentioned the provision that could expose his shady business practices and partners.

For 59 years, Congress has passed and the president has signed the National Defense Authorization Act. So why is Donald Trump threatening to veto this year’s $700-billion-and-change plan, which has broad bipartisan support and is widely seen as critical to national security?

Trump has objected to a provision that would change the names of military bases named after Confederate officials and to a non-defense add-on that would preserve a piece of the 1996 Telecommunications Act shielding tech companies from liability for content posted by their users.

None of that explains why he’d risk a humiliating veto override to shoot down a popular bipartisan bill. One thing that would explain his bizarre position here is another add-on: one that could expose financial arrangements that Trump would prefer to keep hidden.

That’s a bill that emanated from the House of Representatives, was folded into its Senate analog called the Corporate Transparency Act that was then attached to the NDAA after passing the Senate on a veto-proof 86-14 vote. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney started working on the Illicit Cash Act—a mouthful of an acronym for Improving Laundering Laws and Increasing Comprehensive Information Tracking for Criminal Activity in Shell Holdings—in 2007 to modernize federal money-laundering laws. It requires shell companies to report their beneficial owners, thus preventing exploitation of U.S. companies by shell companies controlled by rogue nations, terrorists, drug traffickers, weapons smugglers, sex traffickers, and other criminal operators—maybe even vainglorious tax-evading money launderers.

If this legislation had been in place in the mid-1990s, the Trump family may have been inhibited from setting up the shell company All County Building Supply & Maintenance whose main purpose, according to epic reporting by The New York Times, was “to enable Fred Trump to make large cash gifts to his children and disguise them as legitimate business transactions thus evading the 55 percent tax.” Who knows what shell companies profiting Donald Trump have yet to be exposed, and could be with the passage of this Act?

December 16, 2020

British officials identify coronavirus mutations, but significance remains unclear

Source: Washington Post

As vaccines are rolling out, the coronavirus is on the move as well, not merely spreading but also mutating, and possibly becoming more transmissible. There is no evidence that these changes are making the virus deadlier, but new research has provided evidence that the virus is not a static target of vaccines and will need to be watched closely to see how it responds to therapeutic interventions and the human immune system.

The issue of mutations sparked headlines across the United Kingdom after a top government official, Health Secretary Matt Hancock, stood in the House of Commons on Monday and announced that more than 1,000 confirmed coronavirus infections in southeast England show a suite of genetic mutations that might be driving the surge in that region.

That news was quickly followed by a striking statement from Jeremy Farrar, the head of the Wellcome Trust biomedical research foundation, saying “there is evidence to indicate a new variant of the Covid-19 virus” and calling this development “potentially serious.” He said it is unclear whether the variant is responsible for the spike in infections in parts of the U.K. or what this may or may not mean for transmission of the virus and the efficacy of vaccines.

“The pressure on the virus to evolve is increased by the fact that so many millions of people have now been infected. Most of the mutations will not be significant or cause for concern, but some may give the virus an evolutionary advantage, which may lead to higher transmission or mean it is more harmful,” Farrar said.

Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/british-officials-warn-of-possible-coronavirus-mutation-but-evidence-is-sketchy/2020/12/15/e543b658-3ef1-11eb-9453-fc36ba051781_story.html

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