bureaucracybusters

ROBERT MUELLER SUFFERED FOR YOUR SINS: PART ONE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 21, 2018 at 12:26 am

His face is lined and his gray hair is topped with a black hat. This is clearly not a young man. If he’s seen his share of violence, he doesn’t talk about it.

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He’s about to face four armed and vicious criminals who intend to murder him. And he’s going to do it without support from the very citizens he’s sworn to defend.

His name: Will Kane, as played by Gary Cooper. And he’s the local marshal of an anonymous Western town.

“High Noon,” the 1952 movie in which this story takes place, won a Best Actor Academy Award for its star, Cooper. It was nominated for another six Academy Awards and won four (Actor, Editing, Music-Score, and Music-Song).

Its opening tune, “Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling,” played incessantly on radios throughout the United States. President Dwight D. Eisenhower added his kudos to the movie, and often hummed its  theme in the White House.

Fast forward to an America 66 years later.

A similar morality play is now occurring—in real life, not on a movie set. At stake isn’t simply the life of one man but perhaps the future of American democracy.

Carrying that burden is Robert Swan Mueller III.

Like the Gary Cooper character in “High Noon,” he is not a young man—born on August 7, 1944. And, like Cooper’s Will Kane, he is tall, gray-haired and tight-lipped.

But while Cooper never saw military service, Mueller did. A 1966 graduate of Princeton University, he served as a Marine Corps infantry platoon commander during the Vietnam War.

Wounded in combat, among the military awards he received were:

  • The Bronze Star Medal with Combat “V” for heroism (for saving a wounded Marine while under enemy fire).
  • The Purple Heart Medal (awarded for wounds in combat).
  • Two Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals with Combat “V”.
  • Combat Action Ribbon.
  • National Defense Service Medal.

Having given three years of his life (1968-1971) to the Marines, Mueller devoted the rest of his life to law enforcement.

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Robert Mueller

A 1973 graduate of the University of Virginia Law School, Mueller served as:

  • United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts (1986-1987);
  • United States Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division (1990-1993);
  • United States Attorney for the Northern District of California (1998-2001);
  • United States Deputy Attorney General (January 20, 2001– May 10, 2001).

On September 4, 2001—seven days before Al Qaeda’s monstrous 9/11 attacks on Washington and New York—President George W. Bush appointed him director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Widely praised for his integrity and effectiveness, he served his full 10-year term—the legal maximum. 

But when President Barack Obama took office in 2009, he asked Mueller—a lifelong Republican—to stay on for an additional two years until a suitable replacement could be found.

Mueller agreed—and was succeeded by a fellow Justice Department colleague named James Comey.

Retiring from the FBI in 2013 at age 69, Mueller’s 27-year career as a dedicated law enforcer seemed at last to be over. 

Then, on May 9, 2017, President Donald Trump fired Comey as FBI director. There were three reasons for this:

  • Comey had refused to pledge his personal loyalty to Trump. Trump had made the “request” during a private dinner at the White House in January.
  • Comey told Trump that he would always be honest with him. But that didn’t satisfy Trump’s demand that the head of the FBI act as his personal secret police chief—as was the case in the former Soviet Union.
  • Trump had tried to coerce Comey into dropping the FBI’s investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, for his secret ties to Russia and Turkey. Comey had similarly resisted that demand. 
  • Comey had recently asked the Justice Department to fund an expanded FBI investigation into well-documented contacts between Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign and Russian Intelligence agents.
  • The goal of that collaboration: To elect Trump over Hillary Clinton, a longtime foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

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James Comey

On May 10—the day after firing Comey—Trump met in the Oval Office with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. 

Kislyak is reportedly a top recruiter for Russia’s SVR foreign intelligence agency. He has been closely linked with Jeff Sessions, now Attorney General, and fired National Security Adviser Mike Flynn. 

“I just fired the head of the F.B.I.,” Trump told the two dignitaries. “He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.” 

And on May 11, Trump, interviewed on NBC News by reporter Lester Holt, said: “And in fact when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said ‘you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.'”       

FROM “BIG STICK” TO “BIG MOUTH”

In Entertainment, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 18, 2018 at 1:12 am

There is a poignant scene in the middle of John Milius’ classic 1975 adventure film, The Wind and the Lion, that Americans would do well to remember.

The movie is set in 1904 America and Morocco. An American woman, Eden Pedicaris (Candice Bergen) and her two children have been kidnapped while vacationing in Tangier.

The kidnapper is a Berber brigand named Mulai Ahmed el Raisuli (Sean Connery—then successfully trying to shed his recent James Bond image).

To Raisuli, the Sultan and his uncle, the Pasha of Tangier, are corrupt and beholden to the European powers struggling to control Morocco.

Raisuli issues an outrageous ransom demand to provoke an international incident, embarrass the Sultan and start a civil war.

In the United States, President Theodore Roosevelt (Brian Keith) is running for re-election. He sees the crisis as a way to win votes and demonstrate America’s military strength as a new power.

So he issues a demand of his own: “Pedicarus alive—or Raisuli dead!”

While events rapidly spiral out of control in the Middle East, Roosevelt decides to vacation in Yellowstone National Park.

One night, a grizzly bear attacks the camp and is shot by Roosevelt and several other campers.  The next morning, Roosevelt holds an imprumptu press conference for the reporters who have accompanied him.

Brian Keith (left) as Theodore Roosevelt

REPORTER:  Did you take part in killing the grizzly, Mr. President?

ROOSEVELT:  Yes, unfortunately.

REPORTER:  Why do you say, ‘unfortunately,’ Mr. President?

ROOSEVELT:  The American grizzly is a symbol of the American character: strength, intelligence, ferocity. Maybe a little blind and reckless at times, but courageous beyond all doubt. And one other trait that goes with all previous.

REPORTER:  And that, Mr. President?

ROOSEVELT:  Loneliness. The American grizzly lives out his life alone. Indomitable, unconquered—but always alone. He has no real allies, only enemies, but none of them as great as he.

REPORTER:  And you feel this might be an American trait?

ROOSEVELT:  Certainly. The world will never love us. They respect us—they might even grow to fear us. But they will never love us, for we have too much audacity! And, we’re a bit blind and reckless at times, too.

REPORTER:  Are you perhaps referring to the situation in Morocco and the Panama Canal.

ROOSEVELT:  If you say so. The American grizzly embodies the spirit of America. He should be our symbol! Not that ridiculous eagle—he’s nothing more than a dandified vulture.

When the Pasha of Tangier refuses to negotiate with Raisuli to secure the return of Pedecaris, the American Consul to Tangier, Samuel Gummere, decides on action. He confers with Admiral Chadwick, commanding the South Atlantic Squadron, and a Marine captain named Jerome.

Gummere then orders a company of Marines, supported by a small detachment of sailors, to seize the Pasha. But then he admits to the riskiness of the decision:

GUMMERE:  You realize, of course, that if we fail in even the slightest way, we’ll all be killed.

CHADWICK:  Yes, and the whole world will probably go to war.

JEROME: Gentlemen, if we fail and are killed, I certainly hope the world does go to war. 

CHADWICK:  A world ar war!

GUMMERE:  A world war. Now that would be something to go out on.

In just ten years, they will get their hearts’ desire when World War 1 erupts.

The Marines quickly overwhelm the Pasha’s palace guard, take the Pasha hostage and force him to negotiate.

During the hostage exchange, Raisuli is betrayed and captured by German and Moroccan troops.   His friend, the Sherif of Wazan, organizes the Berber tribe for an attack on the Europeans and their Moroccan lackeys.

Eden Pedecaris, who has grown to admire Raisuli, convinces a Marine captain and his men to rescue the Berber chieftain. She argues that President Roosevelt had promised that Raisuli would be unharmed if the Pedecarises were returned safely.

The Berbers and Marines team up to defeat the Germans and their Moroccan allies, rescuing Raisuli in the process.

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Thirteen years later—in 1917—the United States will officially take on the Germans in World War 1.  And in another 37 years—in 1941—America will again declare war on Germany.

The film ends with a confident Theodore Roosevelt expecting (accurately) to be re-elected—and telling reporters  that “the fate of Morocco will be decided tomorrow by me.”

The Wind and the Lion is set in an era when

  • Nuclear weapons did not exist;
  • Russia and China were militarily insignificant nations;
  • England was the world’s superpower;
  • America, Germany and Japan were on the rise;
  • Israel was still a distant dream in the eyes of European Jews;
  • The “Great Powers”—Germany, France and Great Britain—were struggling to carve up the Middle East to exploit its massive oil reserves; and
  • Americans did not feel threatened by Islamic radicals.

As complex and dangerous as that era often seemed to those living more than 100 years ago, it has been succeeded by one even more complex and dangerous.

In this new and even more lethal era, it is well to remember Theodore Roosevelt’s warning that “we’re a bit blind and reckless at times, too.”

STALIN IN THE WHITE HOUSE: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on May 17, 2018 at 12:00 am

On May 10, The Hill reported that White House Special Assistant Kelly Sadler had joked derisively about Arizona United States Senator John McCain.

Aware that the 81-year-old McCain was dying of brain cancer, Sadler joked to intimates about the Senator’s opposition to Gina Haspel as CIA director: “It doesn’t matter. He’s dying anyway.”

Leaked to CNN by an anonymous White House official, Sadler’s remark touched off a furor of criticism—and demands for her firing.

But the Trump White House refused to apologize for the remark.

Then, on May 14, President Donald Trump registered his fury—not at Sadler but at whoever had leaked her joke to the media:

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Donald Trump

“The so-called leaks coming out of the White House are a massive over exaggeration put out by the Fake News Media in order to make us look as bad as possible,” Trump tweeted. “With that being said, leakers are traitors and cowards, and we will find out who they are!”

Then, Trump ordered an all-out investigation to find the joke-leaker.

In January, the White House had banned the use of personal cell phones in the West Wing. The official reason: National security.

The real reason: To stop staffers from leaking to reporters.

Officials now have two choices:

  1. Leave their cell phones in their cars, or,
  2. When they arrive for work, deposit them in lockers installed at West Wing entrances. They can reclaim their phones when they leave.

Several staffers huddle around the lockers throughout the day, checking messages they have missed. The lockers buzz and chirp constantly from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

More ominously, well-suited men roam the halls of the West Wing, carrying devices that pick up signals from phones that aren’t government-issued. “Did someone forget to put their phone away?” one of the men will ask if such a device is detected. If no one says they have a phone, the detection team start searching the room.

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Phone detector

The devices can tell which type of phone is in the room.

This is the sort of behavior Americans have traditionally—and correctly—associated with dictatorships

In his memo outlining the policy, Chief of Staff John Kelly warned that anyone who violated the phone ban could be punished, including “being indefinitely prohibited from entering the White House complex.”

Yet even these draconian methods may not end White House leaks.

White House officials still speak with reporters throughout the day and often air their grievances, whether about annoying colleagues or competing policy priorities.

Aides with private offices sometimes call reporters on their desk phones. Others get their cell phones and call or text reporters during lunch breaks.

According to an anonymous White House source: “The cellphone ban is for when people are inside the West Wing, so it really doesn’t do all that much to prevent leaks. If they banned all personal cellphones from the entire [White House] grounds, all that would do is make reporters stay up later because they couldn’t talk to their sources until after 6:30 pm.”

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Other sources believe that leaks won’t end unless Trump starts firing staffers. But there is always the risk of firing the wrong people. Thus, to protect themselves, those who leak might well accuse tight-lipped co-workers.

Within the Soviet Union (especially during the reign of Joseph Stalin) fear of secret police surveillance was widespread—and absolutely justified.

Among the methods used to keep conversations secret:

  • Turning on the TV or radio to full volume.
  • Turning on a water faucet at full blast.
  • Turning the dial of a rotary phone to the end—and sticking a pencil in one of the small holes for numbers.
  • Standing six to nine feet away from the hung-up receiver.
  • Going for “a walk in the woods.” 
  • Saying nothing sensitive on the phone.

The secret police (known as the Cheka, the NKVD, the MGB, the KGB, and now the FSB) operated on seven working principles:

  1. Your enemy is hiding.
  2. Start from the usual suspects.
  3. Study the young.
  4. Stop the laughing.
  5. Rebellion spreads like wildfire.
  6. Stamp out every spark.
  7. Order is created by appearance.

Trump has always ruled through bribery and fear. He’s bought off (or tried to) those who might cause him trouble—like porn actress Stormy Daniels. And he’s threatened or filed lawsuits against those he couldn’t or didn’t want to bribe—such as contractors who have worked on various Trump properties. 

But Trump can’t buy the loyalty of employees working in an atmosphere of hostility—which breeds resentment and fear. And some of them are taking revenge by sharing with reporters the latest crimes and follies of the Trump administration.

The more Trump wages war on the “cowards and traitors” who work most closely with him, the more some of them will find opportunities to strike back. This will inflame Trump even more—and lead him to seek even more repressive methods against his own staffers. 

This is a no-win situation for Trump.

The results will be twofold:

  1. Constant turnovers of staffers—with their replacements having to undergo lengthy background checks before coming on; and
  2. Continued leaking of embarrassing secrets by resentful employees who stay.
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