bureaucracybusters

A REMEDY AGAINST TYRANTS

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on November 16, 2018 at 12:04 am

Since taking office as President, Donald Trump has openly waged war on his own Justice Department—and especially its chief investigative agency, the FBI.

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FBI headquarters

For example, he has:

  • Fired James Comey, the FBI director pursuing an investigation into Russia’s subversion of the 2016 Presidential race to ensure Trump’s election.
  • Threatened to fire Independent Counsel Robert S. Mueller, who continued that investigation after Trump fired Comey.
  • Repeatedly attacked—verbally and on Twitter—his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, for recusing himself from overseeing the Russia investigation. On November 7, Trump fired him.
  • (Sessions did so after the press revealed that, during the 2016 race, he twice met secretly with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak.)
  • Repeatedly attacked the integrity of the FBI, raising the possibility of his firing more of its senior leadership for pursuing the Russia investigation.
  • Forced House Republicans to release a memo falsely accusing the FBI of pursuing a vendetta against him.

But the FBI need not meekly accept such assaults.

A February 2, 2018 episode of the popular CBS police drama, “Blue Bloods,” offers a vivid lesson on bureaucratic self-defense against tyrants.

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A shootout erupts in a crowded pub between a gunman and NYPD officers. Results: One dead gunman and one wounded bystander.

Problem: The bystander is an aide to New York Governor Martin Mendez.

Mendez visits One Police Plaze, NYPD headquarters, for a private chat with Commissioner Frank Reagan (Tom Selleck). From the outset, he’s aggressive, rude and threatening.

MENDEZ:  I know you guys like to whitewash officer-involved shootings. That’s not going to happen here. I want the cop who shot my guy fired and charged.

REAGAN: If the grand jury indicts, my officer could be terminated.

MENDEZ:  We all want to protect our people, but mine come first.

Governor Mendez leaves Commissioner Reagan’s office.  Later, he returns:

MENDEZ:  We’ve got a serious problem.

REAGAN:  Why? The grand jury declined to indict my officer.

MENDEZ: Your cop fired into a crowded room.

REAGAN: She returned fire, took out the shooter and likely saved lives.

MENDEZ: What are you going to do?

REAGAN: Our Internal Affairs investigation supports the grand jury’s finding, so the case is closed.

MENDEZ: Either you fire this cop, or I’ll order the Attorney General to investigate every questionable police shooting in the past 10 years and hold public hearings out loud and lights up.

REAGAN: Everybody loves a circus.

MENDEZ: Except the guy who’s got to shovel up afterwards.

At the end of the episode, a third—and final—meeting occurs in a restaurant between Reagan and Mendez.

MENDEZ: Have you dumped the cop who shot my guy?

REAGAN: No.

MENDEZ: Bad news.

REAGAN: Depends on what you compare it to. It turns out that your aide wasn’t drinking alone the night he was shot.

MENDEZ: So what? He’s single.

REAGAN: He was with a married woman.

MENDEZ: That’s on her, not on him.

REAGAN: Except she is married to his boss, your Chief of Staff.

MENDEZ: Sheesh!

REAGAN: Turns out this has been going on for over a year.

MENDEZ:  So what are we doing?

REAGAN:  If this gets out, the circus comes to Albany [where the Governor has his office].

MENDEZ: Who else knows?

REAGAN:  Right now it’s safe in the notebook of my lead detective. Whether or not it finds its way into an arrest report that’s subject to a Freedom of Information Act request—that’s a judgment call.

MENDEZ: Your judgment?

REAGAN: Yes.

MENDEZ: And if my investigation goes away?

REAGAN: Neither of us is shoveling up after the circus.

MENDEZ: I have your word on that?

REAGAN: Yes.

MENDEZ: You have a good evening, Commissioner.

J. Edgar Hoover, the legendary FBI director, used Realpolitik to ensure his reign for 48 years.

As William C. Sullivan, the onetime director of the FBI’s Domestic Intelligence Division, revealed after Hoover’s death in 1972:

“The moment [Hoover] would get something on a Senator, he’d send one of the errand boys up and advise the senator that ‘we’re in the course of an investigation, and we by chance happened to come up with this data on your daughter.

“‘But we wanted you to know this. We realize you’d want to know it.’ Well, Jesus, what does that tell the senator? From that time on, the senator’s right in his pocket.”

Donald Trump has long pursued a strategy of intimidation. But when people have refused to be cowed by his threats, he’s backed off.

During the 2016 Presidential campaign, more than a dozen women accused Trump of sexual misconduct, ranging from inappropriate comments to assault.

Trump responded: “The events never happened. Never. All of these liars will be sued after the election is over.”

Yet he hasn’t filed a single slander suit.

Similarly, when New York’s Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sued Trump for running a fraudulent university, Trump initially said he would fight the charge.

Instead, he settled the case by paying $25 million to compensate the 3,700 students Trump University had defrauded.

“You never have to frame anyone,” says Governor Willie Stark in Robert Penn Warren’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1946 novel, All the King’s Men. “Because the truth is always sufficient.”

It’s time the FBI re-learned—and applied—that same lesson.

LIES TOLD BY BULLIES

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on November 15, 2018 at 12:03 am

Ernest Hemingway was right: “Fascism is a lie told by bullies.” 

Thus:

  • “The Holocaust never happened.” 
  • “The Sandy Hook massacre never happened.” 
  • “The MAGAbomber is a Democrat who’s mailing letter-bombs to make Republicans look bad.” 

These are among the lies regularly hurled by “lunatic fringe” Right-wingers—and, more importantly, “mainstream” Republicans.

Many liberals—such as those who regularly take to Facebook—believe Right-wingers simply lack correct information.

According to this viewpoint: If only Right-wingers knew the truth about such matters as:

  • The millions slaughtered during the Holocaust;
  • The horrific massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School; and
  • The pro-Trump motives of the MAGAbomber

they would be telling the truth.

There are two motives behind such blatant lying—and mere ignorance is not one of them. 

Motive #1: Right-wingers don’t want to admit the truth about events most people instinctively believe are evil.

Right-wingers intuitively know that shoving huge numbers of naked men, women and children into gas chambers is the arch-example of evil. And so is spraying scores of bullets into scores of helpless men, women and children in churches, nightclubs and schools.

They know they can’t convince decent people that such atrocities are really acts of humanity. So it’s easier (for them) to simply deny that they actually happened.

The tobacco industry paved the way for such arguments. 

The Tobacco Institute—a trade association created in 1958 to pose as a “smoking research” center—cast doubt on scientific studies linking smoking with lung cancer, emphysema and heart disease.

Tobacco Institute ad

Its premise: “We really don’t know if smoking causes cancer. We need more studies to make certain.”

And, for the Tobacco Institute, there could never be enough studies to prove that smoking was a thoroughly deadly habit—that reaped billions of dollars every year for the tobacco industry.

Motive #2: Right-wingers claim Right-wing atrocities didn’t happen to put the victims of such atrocities on the defensive.

This, too, was a major aim of the tobacco industry. By constantly demanding “Prove to us that smoking is deadly” and then arrogantly dismissing all evidence put forward, tobacco executives put the onus on their opponents.

Thus, after the MAGAbomber was arrested and his van was found plastered with pro-Trump stickers, Right-wingers reflexively seized on a series of lies to “cleanse” themselves.

Lies such as: 

  • “He’s a liberal put up to it by other liberals.”
  • “The bombs were fake, to stir up sympathy for liberals before the November elections.”  

Consider:

  • Right-wing talk-show host Rush Limbaugh: “Would it make a lot of sense for a Democrat operative or Democrat-inculcated lunatic to do it? Because things are not working out the way they thought.”
  • Right-wing propagandist Dinesh D’Souza: “I hear the FBI squeezed lemon juice on the suspicious packages and a very faint lettering revealed a single word: DEMOCRATS.”

Totally ignored was the truth that Cesar Sayoc had mailed pipe-bombs to 10 prominent Democrats—including two former Presidents and a former First Lady. 

FBI Director Christopher Wray—a Trump appointee after the firing of James Comey in May, 2017—publicly stated that the bombs were real: “Though we’re still analyzing these devices in our laboratory, these were not hoax devices.”

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Christopher Wray

So how did Right-wingers react to Wray’s no-nonsense rebuttal of Right-wing conspiracy lies?

With more lies.

They attacked the FBI as part of the “deep state” determined to thwart and, if possible, impeach Donald Trump.

According to one Rightist theory: The FBI made the bombs and sent them out to implicate some poor Trump supporter—if not the President himself.

Fortunately, there is at least a partial solution to such lies: Lawsuits based on the truth.

On August 1, 2018, families of four students and two educators who died in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre filed a defamation lawsuit against Right-wing broadcaster and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones,

Jones hosts The Alex Jones Show from Austin, Texas. He had claimed the mass shooting was fake.  

Twenty children and six adults were killed in the December 14, 2012, attack by 20-year-old Adam Lanza. 

On his program in January, 2015, he said: “Sandy Hook is a synthetic completely fake with actors, in my view, manufactured. I couldn’t believe it at first. I knew they had actors there, clearly, but I thought they killed some real kids. And it just shows how bold they are, that they clearly used actors.”

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Alex Jones

Michael Zimmermann [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D

Jones has also accused the U.S. government of faking the 1969 moon landing footage and planning the Oklahoma City bombing and the September 11 attacks.

According to the complaint: 

“The Jones defendants concoct elaborate and false paranoia-tinged conspiracy theories because it moves product and they make money. Not because they truly believe what they are saying, but rather because it increases profits.” 

Thus, a reasonable person would understand that Jones meant the massacre was staged and the deaths were fabricated.

So how did Jones respond to the lawsuit?  

With more lies.

“This is all out of context….And it’s not even what I said or my intent,” he said. “I’m not going to get into the real defects of this, I’m going to wait until it’s thrown out with prejudice.”

TRUMP: APPLAUD ME LIKE I’M KIM JONG-UN—OR ELSE

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on November 14, 2018 at 12:09 am

And the most glorious episodes do not always furnish us with the clearest discoveries of virtue or vice in men.  

Sometimes a matter of less moment, an expression or a jest, informs us better of their characters and inclinations than the most famous sieges, the greatest armaments, or the bloodiest battles.”  

So warned the ancient historian, Plutarch, in the introduction to his biography of Alexander the Great.

It’s well to keep this warning in mind when recalling the story of 17-year-old Tyler Linfesty, now known as “Plaid Shirt Guy.”

On September 6, Linfesty, a high school senior, attended President Donald Trump’s campaign rally in Billings, Montana. He had wanted to see the President of the United States speak in his home state.

And, much to his surprise, he was randomly chosen by the Trump campaign for “VIP status.”  He would be seated directly behind Trump.

But this came with a warning: “You have to be enthusiastic, you have to be clapping, you have to be cheering for Donald Trump.” 

Before he attended the rally, Trump staffers urged him to wear a “Make America Great Again” cap, but he refused.  

Owing to his varied facial expressions and his plaid shirt, he quickly became known on the Internet as “Plaid-Shirt Guy.”

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Tyler Linfesty

Then, while the rally was still going, Linfesty was approached by a Trump minion who said: “I’m gonna replace you.”

He hadn’t been heckling Trump. Nor had he held up an anti-Trump sign.

So why was he suddenly ejected? 

Without being given a reason, Linfesty was forced to come up with one himself. And his best guess: He didn’t cheer when Trump made statements he disagreed with.

He had applauded those parts of Trump’s speech he did agree with—such as opposition to NAFTA. He also agreed with Trump’s claim that the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination was stolen from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

But there were parts of Trump’s speech he disagreed with—such as Trump’s claim that his “tax reform law” benefits the middle class.

(It doesn’t—its foremost beneficiaries comprise the top 1%.)

Thus, Linfesty looked skeptical when Trump said it was harder to win the Electoral College than the popular vote.

(It isn’t. A candidate need only win those states with the most electoral votes. He needn’t win the popular vote—just as Trump failed to win it against Hillary Clinton by nearly three million votes.)  

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Donald Trump

And when Trump said he could have won the popular vote, Linfesty turned to several people near him and mouthed “What?”

As Linfesty explained to CNN’s Don Lemon: “I had to be real with myself. I’m not going to pretend to support something I don’t support.” 

Apparently this was too much for those staging the rally.

“I saw this woman walking toward me on the left,” Linfesty told the Billings Gazette. “She just said to me, ‘I’m going to replace you.’ I just walked off. I knew I was getting out for not being enthusiastic enough, but I decided not to fight it.”

But being removed from the Trump speech was not the end for Linfesty.

He was then detained by the United States Secret Service.

“Some Secret Service guys escorted me into this backroom area, and they just sat me down for 10 minutes,” said Linfesty.  The agents looked at his ID, then released him—and told him not to return.

The Secret Service is charged with protecting the President (and, in a lesser-known duty, protecting the national currency). It is not charged with regulating the free speech rights of Americans. 

It is, in short, not supposed to operate as the dreaded, black-uniformed SS of Nazi Germany.

Logo of the United States Secret Service.svg

Ironically, earlier that morning, Trump had tweeted a thank-you to North Korea’s brutal dictator Kim Jong-Un. 

The reason: Kim had said he had “unwavering faith in President Trump.”

Thus, a dictator who flatters Trump gets treated to praise, while an American exercising his right to free speech faces possible arrest.

Speaking to the Gazette, Linfesty said: “I didn’t really have a plan. I was just going to clap for things I agreed with and not clap for things I didn’t agree with.” 

And he insisted to CNN’s Don Lemon that his facial expressions had been honest: “I would have made those faces if anyone were to say that to me. I was not trying to protest, those were just my actual, honest reactions. 

“Each time I see one of these rallies I see somebody behind Donald Trump clapping and cheering and being super enthusiastic and I’ve always wondered myself, ‘Are those people being really genuine?’” 

Two months to the day after Linfesty’s ordeal, Democrats recaptured the House of Representatives, but failed to win a majority in the Senate. The next day, Trump fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Since May, 2017, Trump had brutally insulted Sessions for refusing to suppress Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Russia’s subversion of the 2016 Presidential election.

The Linfesty episode—coupled with the firing of Sessions—bodes ill for Americans who expect Federal law enforcement to operate in a fair and incorruptible manner.

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