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TWEET AT YOUR OWN RISK

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Self-Help, Social commentary on December 29, 2017 at 12:29 am
If Donald Trump ever read The Prince, by Niccolo Machiavelli, the Florentine statesman, he’s decided he doesn’t need it. And his ever-falling popularity among Americans clearly proves his mistake. 

THE “WAR ON CHRISTMAS” IS OVER—FOR THIS YEAR

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on December 28, 2017 at 12:22 am

The annual “war on Christmas” is over—for now. 

Every December, Americans relive the traditions of the Christmas holiday season:

  • Christmas trees
  • Nativity scenes
  • Singing carols
  • Exchanging gifts with family and friends.

And if you’re an employee of Fox News, creating fresh ways to stir up controversy over a non-existent “war on Christmas.”  

Stirring up false controversies is a daily assignment for the alleged reporters of Fox News, which is owned by Right-wing oligarch Rupert Murdoch.

But Christmas is special, so, each year, the executives at Fox find a new way to stir up emotions by resurrecting the “war on Christmas” slander.

In 2013, it fell to Fox hostess Megyn Kelly to carry the ball. And she did so on December 11 on “The Kelly File,” her then-popular Fox News program.

Referring to an article by Slate writer Aisha Harris on “Santa Claus Should Not Be a White Man Anymore,” she said:

“When I saw this headline, I kinda laughed and I said, ‘Oh, this is ridiculous. Yet another person claiming it’s racist to have a white Santa.’

“And by the way, for all you kids watching at home, Santa just is white. But this person is maybe just arguing that we should also have a black Santa. But, you know, Santa is what he is, and just so you know, we’re just debating this because someone wrote about it, kids.”

Of course, Santa Claus is a completely fictional character. Arguing about his skin color is as pointless as arguing about his weight.

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But Kelly wasn’t content to talk only about Santa. So she turned next to Jesus, a historical figure about whom we have not a single reference to his appearance, let alone a picture.

“Just because it makes you feel uncomfortable doesn’t mean it has to change. You know, I mean, Jesus was a white man, too,” Kelly said.

“He was a historical figure; that’s a verifiable fact—as is Santa, I want you kids watching to know that—but my point is: How do you revise it, in the middle of the legacy of the story, and change Santa from white to black?”

Santa Claus a verifiable historical figure? Not even Charlie Brown, in the annually telecast “Peanuts” Christmas special, would make that claim. 

Like Fox News, Donald Trump has found there’s a lot of support to be gained by claiming there’s a “war on Christmas.”

In 2015, Starbucks issued a plain red cup minus imagery, triggering a backlash among image-obsessed Christians, who saw it as an “attack” on Christmas.  

When Trump—then running for President—learned of the change in Starbucks cups, he was outraged. Or claimed to be.

“Did you read about Starbucks?” Trump asked supporters during a rally in Springfield, Ill. “No more ‘Merry Christmas’ at Starbucks. No more. Maybe we should boycott Starbucks. 

“If I become president, we’re all going to be saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again,” Trump told the crowd—as if, by becoming President, he could, like a king, issue such an order. “That I can tell you. That I can tell you! Unbelievable.”

Donald Trump

On November 17, 2016, a Trumpster using the screen name Baked Alaska came up with a new idea to intimidate Starbucks. 

Going on Twitter, he advised fellow Trumpsters to proceed with “Operation #TrumpCup.” All they had to do was:

  1. Go to Starbucks & tell them your name is Trump.
  2. If they refuse take video
  3. Pls share and spread the word.

One Trumpster subsequently posted on Twitter the following: “I got my Starbucks with Trump name. He yelled Trump get your drink 

Another one proudly tweeted: @bakedalaska did this today. They didn’t want to, said it was too political. I reminded her the campaign was over & he’s our president now. pic.twitter.com/LHgi7Vqexh.”   

And after Trump became President, his fanatical followers were quick to thank him for “allowing us to say ‘Merry Christmas’ again.”

They did so in a $1 million ad that began running after Christmas Day.

Sponsored by the pro-Trump political action committee, America First Policies, the ad features several “average Americans” thanking Trump in the style of a king’s subjects paying homage to an absolute monarch:

Narrator: “Every day, Americans are standing up to thank President Trump for making America great again.” 

Man: “Thank you for cutting my taxes.”

Man: “Thank you for fixing our economy.”

Woman: “Thank you for keeping my family safe.”

Man: “Thank you for putting America first.”

And, at the end, a little girl says, “Thank you, President Trump, for letting us say ‘Merry Christmas’ again.”

In George Orwell’s classic novel, 1984, Oceania is always at war with Eurasia or Eastasia. Its citizens are kept in a constant state of frenzy as they’re directed to search for endless “enemies of the state.” 

This, in turn, allows the unseen rulers of Oceania to run their dictatorship without interference.  

It’s a blueprint for power not lost on the men who run Fox News. 

Or on Donald Trump

WHY REPUBLICANS SUPPORT TRUMP

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on December 27, 2017 at 2:10 am

While the Nazi Party ruled Germany from 1933 to 1945, its influence over all aspects of Germans’ lives was suffocating.

“The persuasive influence of the Nazi regime reached into every corner of everyday life in Germany,” reads the back cover of Richard Grunberger’s classic 1971 book, The 12-Year Reich

“Censorship prevailed, education was undermined, family life was idealized, but children were encouraged to turn in disloyal parents.

“‘Volk’ festivals, party rallies, awards, uniforms, pageantry all played a part in the massive effort to shape the mind of a nation.” 

Image result for Images of "The 12-Year Reich"

And yet, after the Reich surrendered unconditionally to the Allies on May 8, 1945, a strange thing happened: Virtually no one in Germany admitted to having been a Nazi—or having even known one.

American and British soldiers couldn’t find any German veterans willing to admit they had ever fought against Western, democratic nations. All the once-proud legionaries of the Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS swore they had been fighting “the real enemy”—the Russians—on the Eastern front. 

And then there were all the stories of Germans who, at great risk to themselves, had hidden Jews in their attics. Which left unanswered the question: If so many “good Germans” had saved so many Jews, how had six million Jews died horrifically before the Reich fell? 

In short: Adolf Hitler had lost the war he started—making him a loser nobody wanted to be identified with.

In the decades since, the “loser” tag has continued to stick with those who once served the Third Reich. Mel Brooks has repeatedly turned German soldiers—once the pride of the battlefield—into idiotic comic foils.

Even the fearsome Gestapo was spoofed for laughs on the long-running TV comedy, “Hogan’s Heroes.”

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“Hogan’s Heroes”

“Americans love a winner,” George C. Scott as George S. Patton says at the outset of the classic 1970 movie. “And will not tolerate a loser.” 

And that is why Republicans have stuck so closely with President Donald J. Trump.

A typical example of this occurred on June 8 after former FBI director James Comey testified before the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Comey revealed that, on February 14, Trump had ordered everyone but Comey to leave a crowded meeting in the Oval Office.

“I want to talk about Mike Flynn,” said Trump.

Flynn had resigned the previous day from his position as National Security Adviser. The FBI was investigating him for his previously undisclosed ties to Russia.

“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” said Trump. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

This was clearly an attempt by Trump to obstruct the FBI’s investigation.

Yet Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan rushed to excuse his clearly illegal behavior: “He’s new at government, so therefore I think he’s learning as he goes.”

Paul Ryan's official Speaker photo. In the background is the American Flag.

Paul Ryan

David Brooks, the conservative New York Times columnist, offered a more accurate explanation of Trump’s motives. Speaking on The PBS Newshour, Brooks said:

“We are a nation of laws. Donald Trump lives in an entirely different cultural universe. He is more clannist, believing in clan, believing in family, believing in loyalty, not recognizing objective law, not recognizing the procedures that is really how modern government operates….

“It’s not only that he doesn’t know the rules, but at all along and throughout his presidency, he has sort of trampled on the rules almost as a matter of policy, as a matter of character, because he doesn’t believe in that kind of relationships. It’s all personal loyalty, not about laws and norms and standards.”

Republicans don’t fear that Trump will trash the institutions that Americans have cherished for more than 200 years. Institutions like an independent judiciary, a free press, and an incorruptible Justice Department.

He has already attacked all of these—and Republicans have either said nothing or rushed to his defense.

What Republicans truly fear about Donald Trump is that he will finally cross one line too many—like firing Special Counsel Robert Meuller. And that the national outrage following this will force them to launch impeachment proceedings against him.

But it isn’t even Trump they fear will be destroyed.

What they most fear losing is their own hold on nearly absolute power in Congress and the White House.

If Trump is impeached and possibly indicted, he will become a man no one any longer fears. He will be a figure held up to ridicule and condemnation.

Like Adolf Hitler. Like Richard Nixon. 

And his Congressional supporters will be branded as losers along with him.

Republicans vividly remember what happened after Nixon was forced to resign on August 9, 1974: Democrats, riding a wave of reform fever, swept Republicans out of the House and Senate—and Jimmy Carter into the White House. 

What Ronald Reagan once said about the leadership of the Soviet Union now literally applies to that of the Republican Party:

“They…have openly and publicly declared that the only morality they recognize is what will further their cause, meaning they reserve unto themselves the right to commit any crime, to lie, to cheat, in order to attain that.”

REPUBLICANS: IF WE CAN’T OWN IT, WE’LL DESTROY IT

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on December 26, 2017 at 3:26 pm

On March 19, 1945, facing certain defeat, German Fuhrer Adolf Hitler ordered a massive “scorched-earth” campaign throughout Germany. 

Albert Speer, Minister of Armaments for the Third Reich, was appalled. All German agriculture, industry, ships, communications, roads, food stuffs, mines, bridges, stores and utility plants were to be destroyed.

Albert Speer and Adolf Hitler pouring over architectural plans

If implemented, it would deprive the entire German population of even the barest necessities after the war.

Now living in a bunker 50 feet below bomb-shattered Berlin, Hitler gave full vent to his most destructive impulses.

Adolf Hitler addressing boy soldiers as the Third Reich crumbles

“If the war is lost,” Hitler told Speer, “the nation will also perish. This fate is inevitable. There is no necessity to take into consideration the basis which the people will need to continue even a most primitive existence.

“On the contrary, it will be better to destroy these things ourselves, because this nation will have proved to be the weaker one and the future will belong solely to the stronger eastern nation.

“Besides, those who will remain after the battle are only the inferior ones, for the good ones have all been killed.”

Republicans have adopted the same “my-way-or-else” stance as Hitler. Like him, they are determined to gain and hold absolute power—or destroy the Nation they claim to love.

Take their current attitude toward—and attacks on—the U.S.Department of Justice and its chief investigative agency, the FBI.

On May 9, 2017,  President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. Comey had been leading an investigation into alleged collusion between Trump advisers and Russian officials when he was fired.   

At first, Trump claimed that he fired Comey for mishandling the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. 

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James Comey

But, during a May 10 meeting at the White House, Trump admitted to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak: “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.” 

Following the uproar over Comey’s firing, on May 17, the Justice Department appointed former FBI director Robert Mueller as Special Counsel to investigate any links the between Russian government and Trump campaign members.  

Congressional Republicans joined Democrats in praising the appointment.  

  • House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, who had relentlessly pursued Hillary Clinton, said: “Mueller is a great selection. Impeccable credentials. Should be widely accepted.”  
  • “I commend (Department of Justice) for bringing in an independent voice to help bring clarity to this situation,” said Senator Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. 
  • House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said, “My priority has been to ensure thorough and independent investigations are allowed to follow the facts wherever they may lead. That is what we’ve been doing here in the House. The addition of Robert Mueller as special counsel is consistent with this goal, and I welcome his role at the Department of Justice.” 

Yet, since May, Trump, his shills in Congress and Right-wing Fox News have relentlessly attacked Mueller’s integrity and investigative methods. This despite the fact that Mueller was appointed by Republican President George W. Bush and served with an impeccable reputation for 12 years as FBI director (2001-2013).

The attacks grew increasingly vicious as Mueller uncovered evidence linking former high-ranking members of the Trump Presidential campaign to Russian Intelligence officials:

  • Former  national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty in December to lying to the FBI about his private conversations with Russian ambassador Kislyak. He is now cooperating with Mueller’s office.
  • Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates were indicted in October. They have pleaded not guilty and ordered under house arrest. 
  • George Papadopoulos, the former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, pleaded guilty in October to lying to the FBI about his dealings with two Russians who had ties to the Russian government. 

And the Republican response? 

  • “A witch hunt continues against the president with tremendous bias, no purpose and no end in sight,” charged Rep. Matthew Gaets (R-Florida).  
  • Gaetz joined Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Arizona) and Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) in demanding that Mueller resign because he was the FBI director in 2010 when Federal agencies approved the sale of Uranium One, a Canadian energy company, to a Russian nuclear-energy firm.  
  • “I think the public trust in this whole thing is gone,” said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a founder of the Right-wing Freedom Caucus. 
  • “Let’s start off with the head of the snake,” said Sean Hannity, the Fascistic commentator on Right-wing Fox News. “Mueller’s credibility is in the gutter tonight with these new discoveries, his conflicts of interests, his clear bias, the corruption are on full display. Mueller is frankly a disgrace to the American justice system and has put the country now on the brink of becoming a banana republic.”

There are three reasons for these attacks:

First, Republicans fear that Trump’s followers—the hard-core Fascists who turn out in mid-term elections—will reject them if they reject Trump.

Second, they fear that if Mueller’s investigation leads to Trump’s impeachment, they will be turned out of Congress—as many were after Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace.

Third, reports have circulated that many Congressional Republicans have received financial (and possibly intelligence) support from the Kremlin.

IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE (FOR A CRIMINAL)

In Business, Entertainment, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on December 25, 2017 at 12:01 am

Every Christmas, TV audiences find comfort and triumph in the rerunning of a black-and-white 1946 movie: It’s a Wonderful Life.

It’s the story of George Bailey (James Stewart), a decent husband and father who hovers on the brink of suicide—until his guardian angel, Clarence, suddenly intervenes.

Its A Wonderful Life Movie Poster.jpg

Clarence reveals to George what his home town, Bedford Falls, New York, would be like if he had never been born. George finds himself shocked to learn:

  • With no counterweight to the schemes of rapacious slumlord Henry F. Potter, Bedford Falls becomes Potterville, filled with pawn shops and sleazy nightclubs.
  • With no George Bailey to save his younger brother, Harry, from drowning in a frozen pond, Harry drowns.
  • With no Harry to live to become a Naval fighter pilot in World War II, he’s not on hand to shoot down two Japanese planes targeting an American troopship.
  • As a result, the troopship and its crew are destroyed.

George is forced to face the significant role he has played in the lives of so many others.

Armed with this knowledge, he once again embraces life, running through the snow-covered streets of Bedford Falls and shouting “Merry Christmas!” to everyone he meets.

Audiences have hailed George Bailey as an Everyman hero—and the film as a life-affirming testament to the unique importance of each individual.

But there is another aspect of the movie that has not been so closely studied: The legacy of its villain, Henry F. Potter, who, as  played by Lionel Barrymore, bears a striking resemblance to former Vice President Dick Cheney.

Lionel Barrymore as Mr. Potter.jpg

Henry F. Potter

It is Potter—the richest man in Bedford Falls—whose insatiable greed threatens to destroy it.  And it is Potter whose criminality drives George Bailey to the brink of suicide.

The antagonism between Bailey and Potter starts early in the movie. George dreams of leaving Bedford Falls and building skyscrapers. Meanwhile, he works at the Bailey Building and Loan Association, which plays a vital role in the life of the community.

Potter, a member of the Building and Loan Association board, tries to persuade the board of directors to dissolve the firm. He objects to their providing home loans for the working poor.

George persuades them to reject Potter’s proposal, but they agree only on condition that George run the Building and Loan. Reluctantly, George agrees.

Later, Potter tries to lure George away from the Building and Loan, offering him a $20,000 salary and the chance to visit Europe. George is briefly tempted.

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But then he realizes that Potter intends to close down the Building and Loan and deny financial help to those who most need it. Angrily, he turns down Potter’s offer:

“You sit around here and you spin your little webs and you think the whole world revolves around you and your money. Well, it doesn’t, Mr. Potter!

“In the whole vast configuration of things, I’d say you were nothing but a scurvy little spider.”

It is a setback for Potter, but he’s willing to bide his time for revenge.

On Christmas Eve morning, the town prepares a hero’s welcome for George’s brother, Harry. George’s scatter-brained Uncle Billy visits Potter’s bank to deposit $8,000 of the Building and Loan’s cash funds.

He taunts Potter by reading the newspaper headlines announcing the coming tribute. Potter  snatches the paper, and Billy unthinkingly allows the money to be snatched with it.

When Billy leaves, Potter opens the paper and sees the money. He keeps it, knowing that misplacement of bank money will bankrupt the Building and Loan and bring criminal charges against George.

But at the last minute, word of George’s plight reaches his wide range of grateful friends. A flood of townspeople arrive with more than enough donations to save George and the Building and Loan.

The movie ends on a triumphant note, with George basking in the glow of love from his family and friends.

But no critic seems to have noticed that Henry Potter’s theft has gone unnoticed.  (Uncle Billy can’t recall how he lost the money.) Potter is richer by $8,000. And ready to go on taking advantage of others.

Perhaps it’s time to see Potter’s actions in a new light—that of America’s richest 1%, ever ready to prey upon the weaknesses of others.

Justice never catches up with Potter in the movie. But the joke-writers at Saturday Night Live have conjured up a satisfactory punishment for his avarice.

In this version, Uncle Billy suddenly remembers that he left the money with Potter. Enraged, George Bailey (Dana Carvey) leads his crowd of avenging friends to Potter’s office.

Potter realizes the jig is up and offers to return the money. But George wants more than that—and he and his friends proceed to stomp and beat Potter to death.

The skit ends with with George and his friends singing “Auld Ang Syne”—as they do in the movie—as they finish off Potter with clubs.

America is rapidly a divided nation—one where the richest 1% lord it over an increasingly impoverished 99%.

The time may be coming when many Americans are ready to embrace the SNL approach to economic justice.

STALIN AND TRUMP: BROTHERS-IN-EGOS

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on December 22, 2017 at 12:02 am

On December 21, 1949, Joseph Vissarionovich Djugashvili turned 70. And millions of Russians feverishly competed to out-do one another in singing his praises. 

These celebrations weren’t prompted by love—but fear.

For the man being so honored was internationally known by a far different name: Stalin, which in Russian means: “Man of Steel.”

He had lived up to it: For almost 30 years, through purges and starvation caused by enforced collections of farmers’ crops, he had slaughtered 20 to 60 million people.

Joseph Stalin

The British historian, Robert Payne, described these rapturous events in his classic 1965 biography, The Rise and Fall of Stalin:

“The guns blazed in salute, the processions marched across the Red Square, and huge balloons bearing the features of a younger Stalin climbed into the wintry sky. 

“The official buildings were draped in red, the color of happiness. From all over the country came gifts of embroidered cloth, tapestries and carpets bearing his name or his features.

“Ornamental swords, cutlasses, tankards, cups, everything that might conceivably please him, were sent to the Kremlin, and then displayed in the State Museum of the Revolution….Poets extolled him in verses, He was the sun, the splendor, the lord of creation. 

“The novelist Leonid Lenov…foretold the day when all the peoples of the earth would celebrate his birthday; the new calendar would begin with the birth of Stalin rather than with the birth of Christ.”

Lavrenti P. Beria, Stalin’s sinister and feared secret police chief, oozed: “Millions of fighters for peace and democracy in all countries of the world are closing their ranks still firmer around Comrade Stalin.”

Lavrenti P. Beria

“With a feeling of great gratitude, turning their eyes to Stalin,” gushed Central Committee Secretary Georgi Malenkov, “the peoples of the Soviet Union, and hundreds of millions of peoples in all countries of the world, and all progressive mankind, see in Comrade Stalin their beloved leader and teacher….”

“The mighty voice of the Great Stalin, defending the peace of the world, has penetrated into all corners of the globe,” enthused Defense Commissar Kliment Voroshilov. 

“Without Comrade Stalin’s special care,” extolled Trade and Supply Minister Anastas Mikoyan, “we would have never have had a network of meat combines equipped with the latest machinery, canneries and sugar refineries, a fishing industry….” 

Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov: “The gigantic Soviet army created during [World War II] was under the direct leadership of Comrade Stalin and built on the basis of the principles of Stalinist military science.” 

So those Americans with a sense of history were alarmed and disgusted upon watching President Donald J. Trump—also 70—convene his first full Cabinet meeting since taking office on January 20. 

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Donald Trump

On June 12, polls showed that only 36% of Americans approved of his conduct. But from his Cabinet members, Trump got praise traditionally lavished on dictators like Stalin and North Korea’s Kim Jong On.

While the Cabinet members sat around a mahogany table in the West Wing of the White House, Trump instructed each one to say a few words about the good work his administration was doing.

“Start with Mike,” ordered Trump, referring to Vice President Mike Pence.

“It is the greatest privilege of my life to serve as the vice president to a president who is keeping his word to the American people,” Pence dutifully said.

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Mike Pence

Then Attorney General Jeff Sessions gushed: “It’s an honor to be able to serve you.”

“My hat’s off to you,” oozed Energy Secretary Rick Perry, referring to Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement.

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue flattered: “I just got back from Mississippi. They love you there.”

“What an incredible honor it is to lead the Department of Health and Human Services at this pivotal time under your leadership,” fawned Tom Price. “I can’t thank you enough for the privilege that you’ve given me, and the leadership you’ve shown.”

Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta raved: “I’m deeply honored and I want to thank you for keeping your commitment to the American workers.”

“Thank you for coming over to the Department of Transportation,” eulogized Elaine Chao, its secretary. “I want to thank you for getting this country moving again, and also working again.”

“On behalf of the entire senior staff around you, Mr. President,” brown-nosed Reince Prebus, Trump’s chief of staff, “we thank you for the opportunity and the blessing you’ve given us to serve your agenda and the American people, and we’re continuing to work very hard every day to accomplish those goals.” 

Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, groveled: “At your direction, we were able to also focus on the forgotten men and women who are paying taxes, so I appreciate your support on pulling that budget together.”

On June 8, former FBI Director James Comey had testified before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Among the charges he aimed at Trump: The President had demanded a pledge of personal loyalty in return for Comey’s keeping his job.

This would have made Comey his secret police chief.

Comey had refused to give this.  And Trump had fired him.

Trump publicly denied this. 

Then came the June 12 Cabinet meeting—and all the proof anyone needed.

HUMANITY AS A FORM OF HARDBALL: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 21, 2017 at 3:12 am

In June, 1948, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin was determined to drive the Western occupying powers out of Berlin—and of West Germany.

On June 19, the Soviet Union blocked the Western Allies’ railway, road, and canal access to the sectors of Berlin under Western control.

At that time, West Berlin had only 36 days’ worth of food and 45 days’ worth of coal. And the United States had only 8,973 Americans stationed in Berlin. British forces totaled 7,606, and French forces 6,100.

Russian forces in Berlin and East Germany outnumbered them 62 to 1.

The United States seemed to face a choice between all-out war with the Soviet Union—or appeasing its growing aggression in Eastern Europe.

Fortunately, a third choice was found. It became known as the Berlin Airlift.

This was carried out primarily by the United States and Great Britain. Other Western powers taking part in this operation included France, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa.

Starting on June 24, 1948, the Berlin Airlift aimed to supply the city’s two and a half million residents with food and energy supplies.

There was no guarantee that such an operation could succeed–at least, not in the long run. Since 1903, airplanes had been used to carry out surveillance, engage in dogfights or bomb cities. But airlifts—flying supplies to stranded people—had proven dismal failures.

At first, the Berlin Airlift worked haphazardly. Pilots flew themselves to exhaustion to meet the needs of those they had relentlessly bombed just three years ago.

Then Major General William “Willie the Whip” Tunner took charge—and brought a totally mechanized approach to the drops:

  • Pilots must fly strictly by instruments, even when visibility was excellent.
  • Planes could no longer circle over Berlin. Each plane would have only one chance to land in Berlin—or must return to its base if it missed its approach.
  • Every 90 seconds, a plane was to take off or land.

Just keeping Berliners alive demanded 4,000 tons of supplies each day. Each plane was thus overloaded by 10 tons. Pilots flew literally round the clock. When fog rolled in that winter, visibility was reduced to zero. Twenty-eight Americans died in crashes.

A Douglas C-54 Skymaster lands at Berlin’s Templehof Airport

Germans were impressed with American efficiency, but knew that, in the eyes of most of their American occupiers, they were pariahs. They had waged an aggressive war and exterminated millions of helpless men, women and children in concentration camps.

They were glad the Allies were keeping them alive, but felt they were pawns in a global chess game between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Then fate took a hand.

An Army Air Force pilot named Gail “Hal” Halvorsen impulsively decided to drop a series of small, hand-made parachutes of candies to Berlin’s children.

When General Tunner learned of this, he instantly realized its worth as a morale booster to Berliners. He ordered Halvorsen to continue the drops.

Gail “Hal” Halvorsen

Other pilots followed Halvorsen’s example. Soon Berlin’s children were lining up by the thousands, hoping to grab one of the candy-filled parachutes made from handkerchiefs or strips of clothing.

When the press learned of the drops, the story became a worldwide sensation. Back in the United States, Americans mailed literally tons of candy to Germany for distribution to Berlin’s children.

“The candy bombers” became the most beloved Americans in Berlin.  And Halvorsen became the most beloved of them all.  On October 3, 1948, when his plane landed in Berlin during a pouring storm, 700 children greeted him on the tarmac for “Lieutenant Gail Halvorsen Day.”

Among the letters he received from Berlin’s children:

Dear Uncle Wiggly Wings,

When yesterday I came from school, I had the happiness to get one of your sweet gifts….You cannot think how big the joy was….My brother and parents stood about me when I opened the strings and fetched out all the chocolate.

Dear Candy Bomber,

…How lucky I was last Sunday. I played at a ruin with some friends of mine opposite our house. Suddenly we saw about ten white parachutes coming out of the sky! One of them set down on the roof of our house. There were three stripes chocolate in the parachute….I want to thank you for your love to the German kids….

From 10-year-old Helma Lurch came this tribute:

Take care of yourself, and remember us children and we will remember you our whole life.

Adults as well as children responded emotionally to the candy drops—and “the candy bombers” responsible for them. When a plane crashed, killing two American lieutenants, residents of the neighborhood memorialized them with a plaque: “Once we were enemies yet you now gave your lives for us. We are doubly in your debt.”

The Airlift ended on May 12, 1949, when Stalin finally accepted defeat and ended the blockade.

“As [Halvorsen] came to represent the Airlift and America to the Berliners,” writes Andrei Cherney in his definitive book, The Candy Bombers, “through him America became a country that cared enough about the defeated Germans to…deliver candy to children, an act without any…ulterior motive, a gift of plain compassion.”

In 1948, that act forged a solid bond—which still exists—between Germany and the United States.

HUMANITY AS A FORM OF HARDBALL: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 20, 2017 at 12:40 am

Once again, it falls to Niccolo Machiavelli to reveal truths long forgotten—especially by those who subscribe only to the darkest arts.

In his most important book, The Discourses, he outlines the methods by which citizens of a republic can maintain their freedom.

In Book Three, Chapter 20, he offers this example of the power of humanity to win over even the most stubborn opponents:

Niccolo Machiavelli

“Camillus was besieging the city of the Faliscians, and had surrounded it….A teacher charged with the education of the children of some of the noblest families of that city [to ingratiate himself] with Camillus and the Romans, led these children…into the Roman camp.

“And presenting them to Camillus [the teacher] said to him, ‘By means of these children as hostages, you will be able to compel the city to surrender.’

“Camillus not only declined the offer but had the teacher stripped and his hands tied behind his back….[Then Camillus] had a rod put into the hands of each of the children…[and] directed them to whip [the teacher] all the way back to the city.

“Upon learning this fact, the citizens of Faliscia were so much touched by the humanity and integrity of Camillus, that they surrendered the place to him without any further defense.

“This example shows that an act of humanity and benevolence will at all times have more influence over the minds of men than violence and ferocity.  It also proves that provinces and cities which no armies…could conquer, have yielded to an act of humanity, benevolence, chastity or generosity.”

Americans put this lesson to use in 1948 in the skies over Berlin.

When Nazi Germany fell to the Allies in May, 1945, the country was divided into four zones of occupation—one for each of the occupying powers: The United States, Great Britain, France and the Soviet Union.

Within the fledgling administration of President Harry S. Truman, many believed that a new era of peace had dawned between America and Russia.

But then grim reality intruded.

Adolf Hitler had invaded the Soviet Union in 1941.  As a result, at least 20 million Soviet men, women and children died violently.

To expel the invasion and destroy Nazi Germany, Russian armies had advanced across a series of Eastern European countries.  With the war over, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin decided to protect the Soviet Union from a future German invasion.

Joseph Stalin

His solution: Occupy Eastern Europe with Red Army units as a buffer between Germany and the Soviet Union. Poland, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Albania and Yugoslavia.

Stalin had promised President Franklin Roosevelt that he would withdraw his armies from these countries once Germany was defeated.  And he would allow them to choose whatever form of government they desired.

But Stalin had no intention of living up to his promises.  And backing him up were 10 to 13 million Red Army soldiers.  The entire United States Army had been reduced to 552,000 men by February 1948.

Liberating the captive nations of Eastern Europe—as General George S. Patton wanted to do—would have plunged the United States into full-scale war against its World War II ally.

And by 1945, the Red Army was a formidable enemy: Of the 4.3 million dead and missing casualties suffered by the Wehrmacht, 85% of them occurred on the dreaded “Eastern front.”

So there was nothing the United States could do—short of all-out war—to “roll back” the “Iron Curtain” that had swept over Eastern Europe.

Image result for Images of maps of Soviet control of Eastern Europe

But Americans could—and did—draw a line in the sand.  That line became known as the policy of “containment.”

And nowhere was the collision between the U.S.A and the U.S.S.R. more likely to ignite into full-scale war than in Berlin.

Between 1945 and 1948, the Soviets increased their pressure on Western forces occupying Berlin to leave the city. The Soviets already controlled East Germany; gaining control of the Western-held part of Berlin would likely be their first step toward overwhelming the rest of Germany.

And, after Germany, probably France—and as many other European countries as possible.

During the first two years of occupation the occupying powers of France, United Kingdom, United States, and the Soviet Union were not able to successfully negotiate a possible currency reform in Germany.  Each of the Allies printed its own occupation currency.

Then, on June 20, 1948, the Bizonal Economic Council introduced the Deutsche mark to West Germany.

On June 24, 1945, the Soviet Union blocked the Western Allies’ railway, road, and canal access to the sectors of Berlin under Western control.  This meant a cutoff of food and energy supplies to Berlin’s two and a half million residents.

The United States faced a monumental crisis:

  • Should it abandon West Berlin—and thus tempt the Soviet Union into further aggression?
  • Should it match the puny Western military forces—outnumbered 62 to 1—against the massive Soviet military presence?
  • If it chose to fight in Berlin, would this lead to nuclear war?

Fortunately for the Allies—and West Germany—a third choice was available besides war and appeasement.

It became known as the Berlin Airlift.

ARROGANCE AS OUTREACH

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on December 19, 2017 at 2:34 pm

In July, 2016, an Associated Press/GfK poll found that half of Americans saw then-Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump as “racist”—and only 7% of blacks viewed him favorably.

Among the reasons for this:

  • His enthusiastic support by racist white supremacist organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party.
  • His “birther” attacks on President Barack Obama as a non-citizen from Kenya—and thus ineligible to hold the Presidency.
  • His attacks on the Black Lives Matter movement and calling on his supporters at rallies to rough up minority protesters.

To counter this, Trump appointed as his Director of African-American Outreach a woman with absolutely no credible ties to the black community: Omarosa Manigault.

He did so just hours before the opening of the first night of the Republican National Convention. 

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Donald Trump

Manigault is best known as the villain of Trump’s reality-TV show, “The Apprentice”—where she was fired on three different seasons. Her credentials include a Ph.D. in communications, a preacher’s license, and topping TV Guide’s list of greatest reality TV villains in 2008.

During the Clinton administration she held four jobs in two years, and was thoroughly disliked in all of them.

“She was asked to leave [her last job] as quickly as possible, she was so disruptive,” said Cheryl Shavers, the former Under Secretary for Technology at the Commerce Department. “One woman wanted to slug her.”

In February, 2016, she appeared on a segment on Maria Bartiromo’s Fox Business show. Fox panelist Tamera Holder said that she would like Trump more if he expressed support for Black Lives Matter or put forward a plan to improve inner cities.

Manigault argued that the topic of the discussion should be limited to Trump’s criticism of the Iraq war. In doing so, she mispronounced Holder’s first name.

Then occurred this exchange:

Holder: “It’s Tamara.”

Manigault: “It’s the same difference, boo. You want to come on with big boobs, then you deal with the pronunciation of your name.”

“Wait a second,” Bartiromo interrupted. “Why are you bringing up Tamara’s boobs?”

Manigault: “Because she started going back talking about, ‘Oh, you were a Democrat and you supported Hillary Clinton.’ If you want to get personal, we can get personal.”

Holder: “Wait, how does who you support have to do with the size of my boobs? Considering that this is how I was born. I mean, I’m sorry.”

Manigault: “I’m sorry, I should have called you a boob. Can we talk about Donald Trump?”

Manigault wasn’t bothered that blacks regarded Trump so poorly in polls: “My reality is that I’m surrounded by people who want to see Donald Trump as the next president of the United States who are African-American.”

And, in September, 2016, she famously predicted: “Every critic, every detractor will have to bow down to President Trump. It’s everyone who’s ever doubted Donald, who ever disagreed, who ever challenged him. It is the ultimate revenge to become the most powerful man in the universe.”

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Omarosa Manigault

When Trump moved into the White House on January 20, 2017, Manigault moved in with him as his director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison.

In June, she invited the Congressional Black Caucus (CBS) to visit the White House.  And she signed the invitation: “The Honorable Omarosa Manigault.”  This is not a title given to political aides. And it’s not used by those referring to themselves.

The arrogance offended some members of the CBS, which declined the invitation.

In August, Manigault appeared at the National Association of Black Journalists convention in New Orleans. She was a panelist on a discussion about losing loved ones to violence.  When the moderator, Ed Gordon, asked her about Trump’s policies and not her personal history with losing family members through violence, Manigault got into a shouting match with him.

On December 13, she was told that she would be leaving the White House on January 20, 2018–one year from the day she had arrived there. She reportedly asked Ivanka Trump to intervene on her behalf, but the request was denied.

Deciding to go right to the top, she headed for the Trump’s private quarters. There she tripped an alarm—which brought guards and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly to the scene.

An enraged Kelly ordered her ejected from the White House.

Multiple sources report that she had to be physically restrained and escorted—cursing and screaming—from the Executive Mansion.

Early reports said the Secret Service did the escorting, but the agency denied this: “Our only involvement in this matter was to deactivate the individual’s pass which grants access to the complex.”

Next day—December 14—Manigault appeared on “Good Morning America.” The woman who had been Trump’s ambassador to blacks now sang a different tune: “There were a lot of things that I observed during the last year that I was very unhappy with, that I was very uncomfortable with.

“I have seen things that made me uncomfortable, that have upset me, that have affected me deeply and emotionally, that has affected my community and my people. And when I can tell my story, it is a profound story that I know the world will want to hear.”

IT’S MUELLER TIME FOR THE GHOST OF J. EDGAR

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on December 18, 2017 at 2:41 am

J. Edgar Hoover was appointed director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1924.  His 48-year reign ended only with his death on May 2, 1972.

Niccolo Machiavelli advised would-be princes to be both loved and feared.  Hoover took this to heart—and ensured that he was both.

To gain love, he shamelessly advertised himself as the Nation’s foremost guardian against crime and espionage–especially the Communist variety.

He did so through

  • A relentless series of interviews with favored journalists and book authors;
  • “Authoring” several ghostwritten books; and
  • Sponsoring comic books, radio programs and even a high-rated TV series to tout the glories of the FBI.

Millions of Americans believed that only Hoover and his ace G-men stood between them and the threat of crime and/or Communist subversion.

J. Edgar Hoover

Members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees supposedly oversee the operations of the Justice Department—of which the FBI is the biggest part. Yet they competed with one another to fawn over Hoover and his agency and to give him even greater appropriations than he asked for.

But it wasn’t just popularity that kept Hoover in power for almost a half-century. While he reveled in feeling loved by the public, he did not rely entirely on this as a guarantee of longevity.

“In large measure, Hoover’s power rested on the information he had squirreled away in his secret files,” wrote investigative journalist David Wise in his 1976 bestseller, The American Police State.

“Put simply, the famous Director of the FBI, the cereal boxtop, G-man hero of generations of American youth, was a blackmailer. Hoover collected and filed away facts, tidbits, gossip, scandal and dark secrets that gave him leverage over members of Congress, the Cabinet, even Presidents.”

“He has a file on everybody,” a terrified President Richard Nixon told White House Counsel John Dean.

It was the major reason why Nixon—and Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson—never dared fire him.

Hoover learned, for example, of the sexual relationship between JFK and “party girl” Judith Campbell.  Aside from the politically explosive matter of Kennedy’s adultery, Campbell was also bedding Sam Giancana, the most notorious Mafia boss in Chicago.

Fearing that his superior, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, meant to fire him, Hoover, in 1962, let President Kennedy know that he was in on the secret.  Hoover quit worrying about involuntary retirement after that.

John F. Kennedy, J. Edgar Hoover and Robert F. Kennedy

Similarly, LBJ told aides he would never fire Hoover: “It’s better to have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in.”

Now, fast forward to Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s assignment to investigate well-documented links between Russian Intelligence agents and members of Donald Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign.

On May 9, President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey for doing the same thing.  When Mueller was appointed to continue that investigation, Trump made clear his anger at the decision.

Since May, Trump, his shills in Congress and Right-wing Fox News have relentlessly attacked Mueller’s integrity and investigative methods.

This despite the fact that Mueller was appointed by Republican President George W. Bush and served with an impeccable reputation for 12 years as FBI director (2001-2013).

From the outset of Mueller’s investigation, there have been widespread fears that Trump would fire him, just as he did Comey.

On December 15, Rep. Jackie Spier (D-Calif.) said: “The rumor on the Hill when I left yesterday was that the President was going to make a significant speech at the end of next week. And on December 22, when we are out of D.C., he was going to fire Robert Mueller.”

A member of the House Intelligence Committee, Spier said that Trump was trying to shut down Congress’ own investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

So: How should Robert Mueller respond?

Two methods are open to him.

The first is to follow the straight-arrow path he has always traveled: Keep pressing on with his investigation and wait to see what happens.  And if Trump fires him, hope that, somehow, the probe goes on.

The second is to summon up the ghost of J. Edgar Hoover.

As described by William C. Sullivan, Hoover’s one-time number-three man and the director of his Intelligence Division:

William C. Sullivan

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

“But we wanted you to know know—we realize you would want to know it. But don’t have any concern—no one will ever learn about it. Well, Jesus, what does that tell the Senator?  From that time on, the Senator’s right in his pocket.”

Reports have circulated that many of those Congress members now demanding Mueller’s firing are recipients of financial (and possibly intelligence) support from the Kremlin.

Perhaps it’s time for Mueller to send one of his own “errand boys” up to Capitol Hill for a quiet exchange with such leaders.

Once they realize how much they stand to lose by backing a Kremlin-owned President, they may well change their tunes.

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