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Warning: Fake News Alert!

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Let’s get this out of the way: The Newes from America is Fake News. We are as fake as a $2 bill. Even our name, the ‘Newes’ isn’t real. It’s Olde English. I’m not John Underhill. We’re not even a real news gathering site. Our only agenda is to provide links to the stuff we like and tell the stories we want to tell while trying to make you laugh every once in a while. Donald Trump may have introduced the term Fake News into the lexicon, however, he is far from the first politician to call into question what’s real and what’s fake. Manipulation of the truth is a human trait, and Trump is correct in pointing out that sometimes, even the New York Times is Fake News and sometimes, even the National Enquirer is Real News.

Fake News is not a new thing. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams trolled each other on ‘Colonial Twitter’ – pamphlets and gazettes – before they became cordial and even friendly in old age. Bad mouthing and planting lies in the press is standard practice in American political life since before our founding – and it’s been the task of citizens ever since to sleuth out the fact from the fiction. Coherent arguments, supported by facts, are the only way to achieve a meaningful understanding and trust in our institutions. Democracy is like the social scientific method – a free and open inquiry style government.

We at the Newes from America do cite our sources with the help of links that take you to articles and information available on the big, wide, world web. Readers have always been responsible to figure out for themselves what’s true and what’s not. It’s called freedom. When your government gives you one newspaper, radio channel, blog and TV channel to watch – and tells you what to think – the true propaganda danger of Fake News comes to life.

As Fake News site Breitbart moves from it’s humble origins in the basement of Steve Bannon’s parents’ Washington townhouse, The Newes from America toils on beneath the kiosk of Out of Town News at Zero Harvard Square. On the walls of our subterranean offices adjoining the Harvard Square ‘T’ station, the portraits of Thomas Nast and Walter Lippmann oversee all of our daily activities. Our foreign desk, managed by the estimable Myron ‘Mucky’ Taylor, is supervised by an enormous portrait of emeritus editor Hubert Renfro Knickerbocker, or ‘H.R.’ to his admirers.

H.R. Knickerbocker was born in Yoakum, Texas in 1898, the son of Reverend Hubert Delancey and Julia Catherine (Nee Opdenweyer) Knickerbocker. His career in journalism began in 1920, when he became a reporter for the Newark Morning Ledger and in 1922 he worked for the New York Evening Post and the New York Sun. He went to Germany to further his study in psychiatry, but history gave him a psychotic to study in Adolph Hitler.

Fluent in German, he was witness to the Beer Hall Putsch on November 8, 1923, where he saw for himself that the only way to stop the Nazis was to confront them with greater force. He became assistant Berlin correspondent for the New York Evening Post and the Philadelphia Public Ledger and then chief Berlin correspondent from 1928 until 1941. He won a Pulitzer in 1931 for his series of articles on the Five Year Plan in Russia and later, in his book The Boiling Point: Will War Come In Europe? he correctly predicted the outbreak of World War Two.

Right up until November, 1941, Knickerbocker argued for U.S. military intervention against Nazi Germany. His stance left him an outcast among much of the New York cognoscenti. When his book, Will War Come In Europe? was published in 1934, Kirkus reviewed it with it’s nose thrust high:

Lots of personal impressions, interviews, anecdotes about people. Knickerbocker is a rabid interventionist. He writes well, but he has nothing particularly startling or new to say.

Yes, one could call Knickerbocker a ‘rabid interventionist.’ His writing had a clear agenda at moving public opinion in favor of the individual over the state. He believed in democracy and knew how to frame the tough positions of the day. He advocated that the United States needed to go to war with the Nazis as early as 1929 and his opinions made him a target of the powerful isolationist movement of the 1930’s in America. I wonder what the masthead at Kirkus Reviews might have looked like had the Nazis succeeded in their goal of world domination just ten years after their snooty review.

One of the first journalists to call out Charles Lindburgh as a Nazi sympathizer, Knickerbocker likened him and his kind to the Copperheads – Democrats prior to the Civil War who wanted to avoid conflict by offering to keep slavery in place to placate the South. U.S. soldiers’ rejection of Copperheads and their overwhelming support for Abraham Lincoln’s reelection in 1864 was decisive in securing Northern victory and preservation of the Union.

Knickerbocker died just after the war, in 1949, in the line of duty. A plane carrying a delegation of journalists on a dangerous tour of Indonesia reporting on post-colonial independence movements in Southeast Asia went down, killing all on board. I have a sneaking suspicion that H.R. was also working a story about a little known French colonial outpost called Vietnam.

Many of today’s conflicts are woven directly back to the end of World War Two. The Soviet Union, with the help of the United States, won the war against Germany and thus were entitled to enjoy some of the spoils. As Germany had in the 1930’s, The Soviet Union attempted to create, again, a centralized state based on the national pride won at the expense of millions of Soviet war casualties. It was a dream that somehow, post-war Russia would make amends with the Revolution of 1917 and move into a post-war leadership position as a fully communist government.

As Knickerbocker pointed out in his biting criticism of Stalin’s First Five Year Plan and the overall dysfunction of Communist Economics in general, the dream of 1917 was to be the nightmare of 1946 for neighbors surrounding mainland Russia. Just as Hitler and Mussolini began their careers in the ashes of World War One, Russia, or the newly minted Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, was all the rage. They went about consolidating the assets of unfortunate wealthy (and not-so wealthy) folks – and things didn’t go so well for the royal family either. The wealth and influence of most of the churches were consolidated into the state, and by the time all the big companies were owned and run by communist power brokers, Trotsky got an ice axe plunged into his head.

Forty plus years of political repression and the inevitable economic collapse that followed, the meltdown of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor indicated the meltdown of Soviet communism itself. In the blink of an eye, Reagan acolytes will tell you that America’s Strategic Defense Initiative and years of hard-line military budgets paid off and the U.S.S.R. collapsed in a heap. What they don’t tell you is that the dissolution of the Soviet Union was written during the historic 1977 Soviet Constitution, or the Brezhnev Constitution, effectively stating that the dictatorship of the people had succeeded and that the people, the true leaders of the Revolution of 1917, would finally be allowed to rule themselves – unintentionally leading to the dissolution crisis ten years later.

The original four states of the Soviet Union wanted out bad, including Russia itself, and in 1991 the Commonwealth of Independent States was born. As we remember, the old, Soviet order was supposed to be replaced with a new openness (or Glasnost) and baby steps were made toward a new Russian form of democracy, given voice in a movement called Perestroika. Moscow at this time was at a crossroads – the ‘Unions’ of the former Soviet Union decided, largely, to break away from their former Russian overseers. In heartening displays of democracy the world over, people from the former communist bloc took to the streets and demanded freedom. These ‘Breakaway Republics’ represented one of the best opportunities to spread democracy since Woodrow Wilson declared that the U.S. was making the world safe for it after The Great War.

Western democracies emerged from the wars determined to create a framework that would never again allow nations to ‘go it alone’ in the world. The hundreds of nation states that were born after the war needed a common language to allow for new cycles of peace instead of war. The strangled League of Nations and the ridiculed United Nations were created to give a voice to all nations on how each would interact with one another. The U.N. Security Council, represented by the five top nations of the world, would oversee any future conflicts and vote democratically on international declarations of war.

Russia was an important partner in the formation of the U.N., after getting up off the mat and dusting itself off after decades of devastating war. The grand plans of Soviet Communism finally flickered out during the heady days of Perestroika, when free markets, it was hoped, tightly controlled by the state, would return Russia to a functioning economy. A little known fact is that Russia retained their coveted seat on the U.N. Security Council (in negotiations leading up to the C.I.S.), still representing these newly born ‘republics’ in all international security matters.

It’s 1129 miles from Berlin to Moscow, less than a day by car. I once drove on a whim from Boston to Naples, Florida. I can’t say I’d do it again, but no Donner Party as it turned out – I grabbed a bite at South of the Border and was poolside by noon. Europe seems to Americans to be worlds away from Russia, yet Google Maps show you that a day’s drive from Moscow to Paris is some 1758 miles. New York to Denver is 1780 miles.

In 1991, the broken, former Soviet Union (and the resulting hopes of Glasnost) were dead, replaced by the bumbling Boris Yeltsin and the remnants of the old Soviet guard. I remember Boris playing tennis with Lesley Stahl on 60 Minutes back in the day. The next thing I remember was a power struggle between intelligent, liberal Dmitry Medvedev, the current Prime Minister of Russia and the KGB’s hand picked successor, Vlad (The Impaler) Putin. Fifteen years of phony Russian ‘democracy’ later, Instead of playing tennis with Anderson Cooper, Putin decides to fuck up the U. S. Presidential elections – as if the former Soviet Union didn’t have enough to concern itself with. Today, Medvedev is busy cracking down on opposition leader Alexei Navalny, arresting him along with hundreds of protesters in the latest display ‘free’ Russian elections in action. So much for hope in Medvedev. Apparently, eight years of a real democrat in the White House pissed the Russians off so much that they decided to give the NSA some serious payback: Donald John Fucking Trump.

Fifteen new nation-states, frozen in place since 1945 by communist bureaucracy, began to sprout from the edges of the former Soviet Union in the 1990’s, each created with national identity as their rallying cry (with ethnicity and religion being of primary importance). One of the breakaway republics after the fall of the Soviet Union was the country of Azerbaijan. According to the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index, Azerbaijan is among the most corrupt nations in the world. President Ilham Aliyev, the son of the former President Heydar Aliyev, has just appointed his wife Vice-President. He was first appointed, then ‘elected‘ President in 2013.

Azerbaijan is the bridge which links mainland Russia to the Middle East, and like Texas, it’s where most of the oil is found. Baku is like Dallas, only this boom town sits on the largest oil deposit on the planet. The Baku is the geological faucet for the ocean of oil that pools under Iran and Saudi Arabia. It is a never-ending gush of sweet crude that was so important to world domination that Hitler went South (in vain) to take it when he could have waltzed into Moscow instead.

The Azeris are the proud people who populate this area of the former Soviet Union, yet you would be hard pressed to find a cultural heritage museum to take in while you stay at the Trump hotel complex in Baku. Actually, the Trump International Hotel & Tower Baku has never opened. The Azerbaijanis behind the project were close relatives of Ziya Mammadov, the Transportation Minister and one of the country’s wealthiest and most powerful oligarchs. U.S. diplomats described Ziya Mammadov as “notoriously corrupt even for Azerbaijan.” After the election, The Donald reluctantly pulled the plug on the obligatory TRUMP sign atop the totally awesome Trump Baku.

Ivanka Trump, the nation’s ‘First Daughter’ as evidenced by her new West Wing digs (filling the vacant Melania Trump Anti Bullying Campaign offices) was the most senior Trump Organization official on the Baku project. In October, 2014, she visited the city and “had very strong feelings, not just about the design but about the back of the hotel—landscaping, everything.” an Azerbaijani lawyer said, “Ivanka personally approved everything.” From The New Yorker:

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On her Web site, Ivanka posted a photograph of herself wearing a hard hat inside the half-completed hotel. A caption reads, “Ivanka has overseen the development of Trump International Hotel & Tower Baku since its inception, and she recently returned from a trip to the fascinating city in Azerbaijan to check in on the project’s progress.”

Mammadov has been financially entangled with an influential Iranian family tied to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, and the year that the project was announced, in his role as Transportation Minister, Mammadov awarded a series of multimillion-dollar contracts to Azarpassillo, an Iranian construction company accused of supporting criminal activity such as drug trafficking, terrorism and money laundering.

Paul Manafort’s dealings with that other breakaway republic, the Ukraine – one of the original four of the Soviet Union – have been well documented and reveal the Trump Administration’s problem with capitalism over democracy. When companies and their officers look the other way when doing business with dictators and terrorists, and cover up their illicit financial dealings, well that’s just bad business. When the President of the United States does it? That’s an impeachable offense.

To see what the Ukraine might look like after the Russians complete their reacquisition of it, one should look no further than Azerbaijan. Like Kim’s North Korea, Azerbaijan has a dark, scary tension surrounding it that can only be described as dictatorial. Putin’s Russia has lately turned it’s attention West, to it’s lifeline of natural gas pipelines to Europe which cross the Ukraine like fractures in stone. As we find out more about Trump’s fascination with all that’s Russian, the reports of H.R. Knickerbocker sound like something you might read today in the New York Times or the Washington Post.

His example drives us to find out what’s really happening in the world and what we can do to make it a better place. We in America have chosen democracy – with all it’s capitalistic excess as a necessary evil – over kings and dictators. Our brilliant founding fathers (and mothers) – being taxed by the British without a voice in Parliament – constructed a government that limited the power and influence of any one person, or group of people, over another. A plurality of opinion, marked by fair and free elections, must be achieved in a true democracy for the will of the people to be expressed. Our government is based upon the simple idea that the masses decide important matters of state by electing representatives by popular vote (except in the case of the Electoral College).

I’m talking to you, Don John.

John Underhill
March 26, 2017


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