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TRUST ONLY ME–EVEN WHEN I’M LYING: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 17, 2017 at 12:16 am

Since taking office as the Nation’s 45th President, Donald Trump has attacked or undermined one public or private institution after another.

Among these:

  • The Secret Service: Trump has kept his longtime private security force, and combined its members with those of the elite federal agency. By marginalizing the Secret Service, he has clearly sent the message: You’re not good enough, and I don’t trust you.
  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS):  As a Presidential candidate Trump slammed the agency’s employment numbers that showed the economy improving under the Obama administration.  His response on March 12, 2016: “The numbers are phony. These are all phony numbers. Numbers given to politicians to look good. These are phony numbers.”
  • In February, 2017, the BLS said  that American  businesses had added 235,000 workers to their payrolls.
  • On March 10, a reporter asked Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, whether, given his past statements, Trump thought this jobs report was “accurate.” Spicer replied: “I talked to the president prior to this, and he said to quote him very clearly: ‘They may have been phony in the past, but it’s very real now.’”
  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): Trump believes that climate change is a hoax. He didn’t offer any proof for this. Instead, he appointed an EPA director–Scott Pruitt–who claimed that climate change wasn’t caused by human activity. 
  • Pruitt ordered EPA staffers to remove pages from the agency’s website concerning climate change, threatened to review all of the agency’s data and publications, and cut the budgets of all scientific research in government.
  • The Congressional Budget Office (CBO): Fearing the CBO’s verdict on the costs and coverage of his proposed Trumpcare replacement for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Trump ordered a preemptive strike on the agency’s credibility. Said Sean Spicer to assembled reporters: “If you’re looking at the CBO for accuracy, you’re looking in the wrong place.”
  • The director of the CBO is a Republican economist and former George W. Bush administration official who was chosen for his position by the Republican Congress in 2015. 
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  • President Barack Obama: For five years, Trump, more than anyone else, popularized the slander that President Barack Obama was born in Kenya–and was therefore not an American citizen.
  • On March 23, 2011, Trump said: “I want him to show his birth certificate. I want him to show his birth certificate. …There’s something on that birth certificate that he doesn’t like.” 
  • Even after Obama released the long-form version of his birth certificate–on April 27, 2011–Trump tweeted, on August 6, 2012: “An ‘extremely credible source’ has called my office and told me that @BarackObama‘s birth certificate is a fraud.”
  • On November 23, 2014, he tweeted this: “@futureicon@pinksugar61 Obama also fabricated his own birth certificate after being pressured to produce one by @realDonaldTrump“.
  • Then, in June, 2015, Trump declared himself a candidate for President. By September, 2016, he found his popularity steadily dropping among black voters. Even the managers of Trump’s campaign urged him to put the “birther” issue behind him. 
  • On September 16, 2016–10 days before his scheduled first debate with Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton–Trump made his version of a reversal: “Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy. “I finished it.  I finished it. You know what I mean. President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period.” 

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Barack Obama

  • On March 4, 2017, in a series of unhinged tweets, Trump accused former President Obama of tapping his Trump Tower phones prior to the election: “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!”  
  • “Is it legal for a sitting President to be ‘wire tapping’ a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW!” 
  • “I’d bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!” 
  • “How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”  

Thus, without offering a shred of evidence to back it up, Trump accused his predecessor of committing an impeachable offense. 

* * * * *

Donald Trump isn’t crazy, as many of his critics charge. He knows what he’s doing. His strategy is two-fold–both immediate and long-term.

In the short-term, he’s attacking anyone who dares to disagree with him. Much of this is driven by his own natural aggression–he can’t tolerate criticism or dissent.  

The long-term reason for his assaults on public and private institutions is far more sinister.

He intends to strip every potential challenger to his authority–or his version of reality–of any credibility with the public.  

If he succeeds, there will be:

  • No independent press to reveal his failures and crimes.
  • No independent law enforcement agencies to investigate his abuses of office.
  • No independent judiciary to hold him accountable.  
  • No independent military authorities to dissent as he recklessly hurtles toward potential nuclear showdowns.
  • No candidate–Democrat or Republican–to challenge him for re-election in 2010.
  • No candidate–Democrat or Republican–to challenge his remaining in office as “President-for-Life.”

TRUST ONLY ME–EVEN WHEN I’M LYING: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 16, 2017 at 12:28 am

On February 19, Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor under President Bill Clinton, posted a scathing–and accurate–attack on Donald Trump.

Writing on his Facebook page, Reich pointed out a series of statements Trump made during the 2016 Presidential campaign–and how each of them has proven to be a lie [italics in blue are added]:

Robert Reich at the UT Liz Carpenter Lecture 2015.JPG

Robert Reich

1.  He called Hillary Clinton a crook.  

You bought it.  

Then he paid $25 million to settle a fraud lawsuit.

2. He said he’d release his tax returns, eventually. 

You bought it. 

He hasn’t, and says he never will.

3. He said he’d divest himself from his financial empire, to avoid any conflicts of interest. 

You bought it. 

He is still heavily involved in his businesses, manipulates the stock market on a daily basis, and has more conflicts of interest than can even be counted.

4. He said Clinton was in the pockets of Goldman Sachs, and would do whatever they said.  

You bought it.  

He then proceeded to put half a dozen Goldman Sachs executives in positions of power in his administration.

5. He said he’d surround himself with all the best and smartest people.

You bought it.

He nominated theocratic loon Mike Pence for Vice President. A white supremacist named Steve Bannon is his most trusted confidant. Dr. Ben Carson, the world’s greatest idiot savant brain surgeon, is in charge of HUD. Russian quisling Rex Tillerson is Secretary of State.

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Steve Bannon

6. He said he’d be his own man, beholden to no one.

You bought it.

He then appointed Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, whose only “qualifications” were the massive amounts of cash she donated to his campaign.

7. He said he would “drain the swamp” of Washington insiders.

You bought it.

He then admitted that was just a corny slogan he said to fire up the rubes during the rallies, and that he didn’t mean it.

8. He said he knew more about strategy and terrorism than the Generals did.

You bought it.

He promptly gave the green light to a disastrous raid in Yemen- even though all his Generals said it would be a terrible idea. This raid resulted in the deaths of a Navy SEAL, an 8-year old American girl, and numerous civilians. The actual target of the raid escaped, and no useful intel was gained.

9. He said Hillary Clinton couldn’t be counted on in times of crisis.

You bought it.

He didn’t even bother overseeing that raid in Yemen; and instead spent the time hate-tweeting the New York Times, and sleeping.

10. He called CNN, the Washington Post and the New York Times “fake news” and said they were his enemy.

You bought it.

He now gets all his information from Breitbart, Gateway Pundit, and InfoWars.

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Donald Trump

11. He called Barack Obama “the vacationer-in-Chief” and accused him of playing more rounds of golf than Tiger Woods. He promised to never be the kind of president who took cushy vacations on the taxpayer’s dime, not when there was so much important work to be done.

You bought it.

He took his first vacation after 11 days in office. On the taxpayer’s dime. And went golfing. And that’s just the first month.  

* * * * *

Since taking office as the Nation’s 45th President, Trump has attacked or undermined one public or private institution after another.  

Among these: 

  • American Intelligence and military agencies: A Trump executive order allows the Director of National Intelligence and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to attend the Principals’ Committee only when it pertains to their “responsibilities and expertise.” 
  • Senior Adviser and Chief Strategist Steve Bannon–an anti-Semitic white supremacist–will now wield influence over the National Security Council.  
  • In February, Trump approved and ordered a Special Forces raid in Yemen on an Al Qaeda stronghold. The assault resulted in the death of Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens.
  • Disavowing any responsibility for the failure, Trump said: ““This was a mission that was started before I got here. This was something they wanted to do. They came to me, they explained what they wanted to do–the generals–who are very respected, my generals are the most respected that we’ve had in many decades, I believe. And they lost Ryan.”
  • Medicare: During the 2016 campaign, Trump said he would allow Medicare to negotiate down the price of prescription drugs. At his January 10 press conference he charged that pharmaceutical companies were “getting away with murder.”
  • But after meeting with pharmaceutical lobbyists on January 31, Trump said: “I’ll oppose anything that makes it harder for smaller, younger companies to take the risk of bringing their product to a vibrantly competitive market. That includes price-fixing by the biggest dog in the market, Medicare.”
  • The press: On February 17, Trump tweeted: “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews,@ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!”
  • And, appearing before the Conservative Political Action Conference on February 24, Trump said: “I want you all to know that we are fighting the fake news. It’s fake, phony, fake….I’m against the people that make up stories and make up sources. They shouldn’t be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody’s name. Let their name be put out there.” 

HITLER, THE GOP AND “SCORCHED EARTH”: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on March 15, 2017 at 12:22 am

On December 13, 2014, the U.S. Senate passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill to fund almost the entire government through the September 30 end of the fiscal year. 

But one Federal agency was pointedly exempted from full funding: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Its funding would expire on February 27, 2015.

With their new-found majorities in both houses of Congress, Republicans intended to hold the security of the United States as a hostage.

Their goal: To force President Barack Obama to rescind the changes he had made in American immigration policy.

Finally, just as DHS’ funding was about to expire, House Republicans capitulated. They approved a bill the Senate passed to fund DHS without any added conditions. 

In 2009, the top goal of the Republican party became to block passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA)–informally known as “Obamacare.”  Its purpose: To provide all Americans–and not simply the richest 1%–with healthcare insurance.  

Despite this opposition, the ACA passed the House and Senate–and was signed into law by President Obama on March 23, 2010. 

And from then on, Republicans’ foremost goal was to repeal “Obamacare”–which they damned as “fiscally irresponsible.” 

In 2003, President George W. Bush had lied the United States into a needless, bloody war in Iraq–which has cost the nation more than $2 trillion.  

But Republicans fully supported that expense–and still do. 

George W. Bush

Even after the Supreme Court affirmed its Constitutionality in 2012, House Republicans voted–unsuccessfully–more than 60 times to repeal or alter “Obamacare.”

In October, 2013, they shut down the Federal Government for 15 days. They hoped to pressure Obama into de-funding his signature piece of legislation, in return for their re-opening the government.

Facing pressure from voters unable to receive basic government services, Republicans backed down.  

Their attempted putsch had failed.

Fast forward to 2017. 

Republicans still hold the House and Senate–and now the Presidency under Donald J. Trump.

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Donald J. Trump

And they are mounting an all-out effort to strip millions of poor Americans of their only access to medical care.  

On March 9, Trump met at the White House with leaders of conservative groups to push his own plan to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act.

A major provision of this plan will allow insurance companies to adhere only to the regulations of the state they’re located in. The predictable result: The majority of companies will relocate to the state with the most lax regulations.

Intriguingly, Trump–who has put his name on 268 of the 515 entities he owns–has said he does not want the “Obamacare” replacement plan named after him.

It’s possible he fears it will prove highly unpopular–and that he will be stained by its infamy.

Nevertheless, the press has already started to call it “Trumpcare.” 

At the White House meeting, Trump attacked groups–such as the Heritage Foundation and Tea Party Patriots–for calling the House GOP proposal “Obamacare lite.”  And he warned: “You are helping the other side.”  

And he made it clear to conservative leaders that he had a fallback plan: If “Trumpcare” proves a failure–that is, fails to pass Congress–he will allow the ACA to fail and blame the Democrats.

Thus, Trump admitted that he is prepared to allow the American healthcare system to collapse and let millions die for lack of medical care–all for his own political gain.  

As William Henry Harrison put it: “There is nothing more corrupting, nothing more destructive of the noblest and finest feelings of our nature, than the exercise of unlimited power.”

* * * * *

As the Third Reich came to its fiery end, Adolf Hitler sought to punish the German people for being “unworthy” of his “genius” and losing the war he had started.

His attitude was: “If I can’t rule Germany, then there won’t be a Germany.”

In his infamous “Nero Order,” he decreed the destruction of everything still remaining–industries, ships, harbors, communications, roads, mines, bridges, stores, utility plants, food stuffs.

Fortunately for Germany, one man–Albert Speer–finally broke ranks with his Fuhrer.

Albert Speer

Albert Speer

Risking death, he refused to carry out Hitler’s “scorched earth” order.  Even more important, he mounted a successful effort to block such destruction and persuade influential military and civilian leaders to disobey the order as well.

As a result, those targets slated for destruction were spared.

Since the election of America’s first black President, Republicans have waged a similar “scorched earth” campaign. 

Their avowed goal–as stated openly by Kentucky’s U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell–was “to make Barack Obama a one-term President.”

Literally during Obama’s first Inauguration, they agreed, in a secret meeting, to block every effort he made to repair the economy ruined under the George W. Bush administration.

Acting as extortionists, they repeatedly threatened to shut down the government if they didn’t get their way in legislative matters.

And they repeatedly blocked legislation to help the poor, the unemployed, the sick, women, the elderly, the disabled and the middle-class. 

Like Adolf Hitler, their attitude has been: “If I can’t rule America, there won’t be an America.”

The country is still waiting for a Republican Albert Speer to step forward and save America from the self-destructive brutalities of its own Right-wing fanatics.

HITLER, THE GOP AND “SCORCHED EARTH”: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on March 14, 2017 at 12:06 am

During the summer of 2011, Republicans refused to raise the debt ceiling unless Democrats agreed to massively cut social programs for the elderly, poor and disabled.

If Congress failed to raise the borrowing limit of the federal government by August 2, the date when the U.S. reached the limit of its borrowing abilities, America would begin defaulting on its loans.

As Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, explained the looming economic catastrophe:

“If you don’t send out Social Security checks, I would hate to think about the credit meeting at S&P and Moody’s the next morning.

“If you’re not paying millions and millions and millions of people that range in age from 65 on up, money you promised them, you’re not a AAA.” 

Warren Buffett

A triple-A credit rating is the highest possible rating that can be achieved.

And while Republicans demanded that the disadvantaged tighten their belts, they rejected any raising of taxes on their foremost constituency–the wealthiest 1%.

As the calendar moved ever closer to the fateful date of August 2, Republican leaders continued to insist: Any deal that includes taxes “can’t pass the House.”

To prevent the government from defaulting on its loans, President Barack Obama agreed to sign the Republican-crafted Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011.

The Act provided for a Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to produce legislation by late November to decrease the deficit by $1.2 trillion over ten years.

When the so-called “Super Committee” failed to reach agreement, the second part of the BCA went into effect.

This directed automatic across-the-board cuts (known as “sequestrations”) split evenly between defense and domestic spending, beginning on January 2, 2013.

A major casualty of sequestration was the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And this threatened the safety of the Nation Republicans claim to love: 

  • In 2013, the CDC was forced to cut 5%, or more than $285 million, from its budget.
  • The sequester cut $195 million from the National Centers for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, a CDC program that tries to prevent illness and death from infectious disease.
  • For fiscal 2014, CDC’s budget was $5.9 billion, down from the $6.5 billion allotted in 2010.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 

In October, 2014, for the first time in United States history, the CDC faced an unexpected outbreak of the dreaded Ebola virus.  

To Americans’ horror, the agency initially seemed unable to deal effectively with the threat.

Moreover, the Nation was confronting the Ebola crisis without a Surgeon General–thanks to NRA-funded Republican Senators.

President Obama had nominated Dr. Vivek Murthy for the spot in November, 2013, when the previous surgeon general left the position. But the Senate still hadn’t approved Murthy.

And support for him declined since he tweeted on October 16, 2002, that “guns are a health care issue.”

At the same time, Republicans rushed to blame President Obama for the continuing Ebola menace in West Africa–and the danger it posed to Americans.

“I think this Ebola outbreak in Africa is a serious problem,” said House Speaker John Boehner. “And I’m a bit surprised the administration hasn’t acted more quickly to address what is a serious threat, not only to Africans but to others around the world.”

“The President made a lot of commitments to combat Ebola, actions which I supported,” said North Carolina U.S. Senator Richard Burr. “But it has become clear that the administration’s capacity to fulfill these promises in a timeline that sufficiently addresses this crisis does not exist.”

But then a new Republican-inspired crisis threatened America.

On December 13, 2014, the U.S. Senate passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill to fund almost the entire government through the September 30 end of the fiscal year.

But one Federal agency was pointedly exempted from full funding: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

President George W. Bush had created this agency to safeguard the country against terrorism. But he didn’t imagine that his fellow Republicans might willingly jeopardize the security of the Nation.

President Obama had requested $38.2 billion to fund DHS through fiscal year 2015. But Republicans ensured that its funding would end on February 27.

Why?

Republicans had gained control of the House of Representatives after the 2010 elections. And then they gained control of the Senate with the 2014 elections.

With their new-found majorities in both houses of Congress, they intended to hold the security of the United States as a hostage.

Their goal: To force Obama to rescind the changes he had made in American immigration policy.

It is Homeland Security that was charged with implementing those changes. And Republicans intended to strip it of funding to do so.

And if that meant allowing DHS to “twist slowly, slowly in the wind” (to use a phrase made infamous by the Nixon administration) while Republicans played out their latest power-game, so be it.

This was no small matter.

With more than 240,000 employees, DHS is the third largest Cabinet department, after the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs.

The Defense Department is charged with protecting the United States through military action abroad. DHS is responsible for safeguarding the Nation inside and outside its borders.

Its goal is to prepare for, prevent and–if prevention fails–respond to man-made accidents, natural disasters and terrorism.

HITLER, THE GOP AND “SCORCHED EARTH”: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on March 13, 2017 at 12:36 am

Albert Speer, Minister of Armaments for the Third Reich, was appalled.

His Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler–the man he had idolized for 14 years–had just passed a death sentence on Germany, the nation he claimed to love above all others.

Albert Speer and Adolf Hitler pouring over architectural plans

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

All German agriculture, industry, ships, communications, roads, food stuffs, mines, bridges, stores and utility plants were to be destroyed.

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

Click here: Hitler’s “Scorched Earth” Decree and Albert Speer’s Response

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.”

Speer argued in vain that there must be a future for the German people. But Hitler refused to back down. He gave Speer 24 hours to reconsider his opposition to the order.

The next day, Speer told Hitler: “My Fuhrer, I stand unconditionally behind you!”

“Then all is well,” said Hitler, suddenly with tears in his eyes.

“If I stand unreservedly behind you,” said Speer, “then you must entrust me rather than the Gauleiters [district Party leaders serving as provincial governors] with the implementation of your decree.”

Filled with gratitude, Hitler signed the decree Speer had thoughtfully prepared before their fateful meeting.

By doing so, Hitler unintentionally gave Speer the power to thwart his “scorched earth” decree.

Speer had been the closest thing to a friend in Hitler’s life. Trained as an architect, he had joined the Nazi Party in 1931.

He met Hitler in 1933, when he presented the Fuhrer with architectural designs for the Nuremberg Rally scheduled for that year.

From then on, Speer became Hitler’s “genius architect” assigned to create buildings meant to last for a thousand years.

In 1943, Hitler appointed him Minister of Armaments, charged with revitalizing the German war effort.

Nevertheless, Speer now crisscrossed Germany, persuading military leaders and district governors to not destroy the vital facilities that would be needed after the war.

“No other senior National Socialist could have done the job,” writes Randall Hanson, author of Disobeying Hitler: German Resistance After Valkyrie.

“Speer was one of the very few people in the Reich–perhaps even the only one–with such power to influence actors’ willingness/unwillingness to destroy.”

Despite his later conviction for war crimes at Nuremberg, Speer never regretted his efforts to save Germany from total destruction at the hands of Adolf Hitler.

Fast-forward to the United States since the 2008 election of President Barack Obama.

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

During his eight years in the White House, Ronald Reagan presided over a tripling of the national debt–and raised the debt limit 17 times.

President George W. Bush nearly doubled it again.  

During the George W. Bush Presidency, Republicans in Congress raised the debt ceiling seven times–when the national debt grew to $10.627 trillion due to tax cuts for the rich and wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

But none of that mattered to Republicans–so long as one of them held the White House.

Then Barack Obama, a Democrat–worse, a black one–became President.

Suddenly, “fiscal integrity” became the byword of Republicans.  And in its name, they repeatedly threatened to shut down the government if their legislative demands weren’t met.

In April, 2011, the United States government almost shut down over Republican demands about subsidized pap smears.

During a late-night White House meeting with President Obama and key Congressional leaders, Republican House Speaker John Boehner made this threat:

His conference would not approve funding for the government if any money were allowed to flow to Planned Parenthood through Title X legislation.

John Boehner

Facing an April 8 deadline, negotiators worked day and night to strike a compromise–and finally reached one.

Three months later–on July 9–Republican extortionists again threatened the Nation with financial ruin and international disgrace unless their demands were met.

By refusing to raise the debt ceiling, they would force the government to default on paying the bills it owed.

President Obama had offered to make historic cuts in the federal government and the social safety net–on which millions of Americans depend for their most basic needs.

But Boehner rejected that offer. He would not agree to the tax increases that Democrats wanted to impose on the wealthiest 1% as part of the bargain.

FEAR–AND ITS POLITICAL LEGACY

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on March 10, 2017 at 10:38 am

Dick Cheney left office as co-President of the United States on January 20, 2009. During the last four years, he has had time to write his memoirs and reflect on the legacies of the George W. Bush Presidency.

His book, In My Time, was published in 2012. And, in March, 2013, Cheney appeared in the Showtime-produced documentary, “The World According to Dick Cheney.”

Dick Cheney

Throughout the program, Cheney showed no interest in introspection.

“I don’t go around thinking, ‘Gee, I wish we’d done this, or I wish I’d done that,’” said Cheney. “The world is as you find it, and you’ve got to deal with that….You don’t get do-overs.

“I did what I did, and it’s all part of the public record and I feel very good about it.  If I had it to do over again, I’d do it in a minute.”

When the interviewer, R.J. Cutler, raised how the administration altered privacy rights, tortured detainees and pushed for an unnecessary war in Iraq, Cheney replied:

“Tell me what terrorist acts you would let go forward because you didn’t want to be a mean and nasty fella?”

Perhaps the most telling moment came when Cheney outlined his overall views on Realpolitick:

“Are you going to trade the lives of a number of people because you want to preserve your honor?” asked Cheney. “This was a wartime situation and it was more important to be successful than it was to be loved.”

Perhaps Cheney was thinking of Niccolo Machiavelli’s famous quote about love versus fear in The Prince, his primer on how to attain political power:

From this arises the question whether it is better to be loved than feared, or feared more than loved.  The reply is, that one ought to be both feared and loved, but as it is difficult for the two to go together, it is much safer to be feared than loved. 

For it may be said of men in general that they are ungrateful, voluble, dissemblers, anxious to avoid danger and covetous of gain; as long as you benefit them, they are entirely yours: they offer you their blood, their goods, their life and their children, when the necessity is remote, but when it approaches, they revolt….

Portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli by Santi di Tito.jpg

Niccolo Machiavelli

And men have less scruple in offending one who makes himself loved than one who makes himself feared; for love is held by a chain of obligations which, men being selfish, is broken whenever it serves their purpose; but fear is maintained by a dread of punishment which never fails.

Cheney appears to belileve that it’s better to be feared than loved.

In that, he has plenty of company among his fellow politicians–in the United States and elsewhere. But there is more to Machiavelli’s teaching, and this is usually overlooked–as it most certainly was by Cheney:

Still, a prince should make himself feared in such a way that if he does not gain love, he at any rate avoids hatred: for fear and the absence of hatred may well go together…. 

If Cheney considers himself a student of Machiavelli, then he utterly ignored this last offering of cautionary advice.

By authorizing the use of torture, the administration made itself–in the eyes of its Western European allies as well as its Islamic enemies–an epicenter of evil. “Guantanamo”–the Marine base in Cuba that had been largely forgotten over the decades–became a synonym for Auschwitz.

And after photographs emerged of the tortures and humiliations of detainees at Abu Garib Prison in Iraq, the United States sank even lower in the world’s estimation.

Among the human rights violations committed upon prisoners held by U.S. Army military police and assorted CIA agents:

  • physical abuse
  • psychological abuse
  • torture
  • rape
  • sodomy
  • homicide.

Of the ultimate legacy of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, historian Nigel Hamilton wrote in his 2010 book, American Caesars: Lives of the Presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt to George W. Bush:

“…arguably the worst of all the American Caesars, who willfully and recklessly destroyed so much of the moral basis of American leadership in the modern world.”

Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin believed, above all, in the brutal use of force–whether applied by prison torturers or legions of soldiers unrestrained by the Geneva Convention.

Once, when told that a certain policy he wanted to pursue would be heavily criticized by the Pope, he famously asked: “How many divisions does the Pope have?”

Stalin died in 1953. Had he lived on into the 1980s, he would have found out.

It was then that Pope John Paul II showed the power of an aroused spirituality.

John Paul II on 12 August 1993 in Denver, Colorado

John Paul II

When the Soviet Union seemed about to invade his native Poland as it had Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968, the Pope reportedly sent the Kremlin a message: He would fly to Warsaw and place himself directly in the line of fire.

The Soviets never dared launch their planned invasion.

It is a lesson utterly lost on the likes of men like Dick Cheney.

SECRETS AND MERCENARIES

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 9, 2017 at 4:37 pm

On March 7, WikiLeaks published a “data dump” of 8,761 documents codenamed “Vault 7.”

According to WikiLeaks, it represents “the majority of [the CIA’s] hacking arsenal, including malware, viruses, trojans, weaponized ‘zero day’ exploits, malware remote control systems and associated documentation.”

The documents expose that the CIA found security flaws in software operating systems such as Microsoft Windows, Android and Apple iOS. These allow an intruder–such as the CIA–to seize control of a computer or smartphone.

The owner could then be photographed through his iPhone camera and have his text messages intercepted.

Through a program called Weeping Angel, CIA operatives could–and did–spy on targets through their Samsung F8000 Smart TV sets.  Even when these were turned off, they could be transformed into a 1984-type “telescreen.”

The published documents covered CIA hacking techniques used between 2013 and 2016.

“This is CIA’s Edward Snowden,” former CIA acting director Michael Morrell told CBS News, referring to the former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor who leaked millions of documents in 2013.

“This is huge, in terms of what it will tell the adversaries,” Morrell said. “We’ll have to essentially start over in building tools to get information from our adversaries, just like we did with Snowden.”

So who made it possible for WikiLeaks to so thoroughly compromise United States security?

According to anonymous U.S. Intelligence and law enforcement sources, the culprits were CIA contractors. Contractors are suspected because there is no evidence that Russian Intelligence agencies tried to exploit any of the leaked material before it was published.

Companies that work with the CIA are checking their records for evidence of who might have had access to the leaked information.  They will then scour those employees’ computer logs, emails and other communications for incriminating evidence.

In his 2007 bestseller, Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA, Tim Weiner outlined the dangers of the agency’s increasing dependence on outside contractors.

“Patriotism for profit became a $50-billion-a-year business….After the cold war, the agency began contracting out thousands of jobs to fill the perceived void by the budget cuts that began in 1992.

“A CIA officer could file his retirement papers, turn in his blue identification badge, go to work for a much better salary at a military contractor such as Lockheed Martin or Booz Allen Hamilton, then return to the CIA the next day, wearing a green badge….”

(Edward Snowden deliberately became a Booz Allen Hamilton contract employee to secure a job as a computer systems administrator at the National Security Agency (NSA). This gave him access to thousands of highly classified documents–which, in 2013, he began publicly leaking to a wide range of news organizations.

(His motive, he has claimed, was to alert his fellow Americans to the privacy-invading dangers posed by their own Intelligence agencies.)

Continues Weiner: “Great chunks of the clandestine service became wholly dependent on contractors who looked like they were in the CIA’s chain of command, but who worked for their corporate masters. In effect, the agency had two workforces–and the private one was paid far better….

“Legions of CIA veterans quit their posts to sell their services to the agency by writing analyses, creating cover for overseas officers, setting up communications networks, and running clandestine operations.” 

One such company was Total Intelligence Solutions, founded in 2007 by Cofer Black, who had been the chief of the CIA’s counterrorism center on 9/11. His partners were Robert Richer, formerly the associate deputy director of operations at the CIA, and Enrique Prado, who had been Black’s chief of counterterror operations at the agency.

“Following their example,” writes Weiner, “new CIA hires adopted their own five-year plan: get in, get out, and get paid.  A top secret security clearance and a green badge were golden tickets for a new breed of Beltway bandits.”

This situation met with full support from Right-wing “pro-business” members of Congress and Presidents like George W. Bush. They had long championed the private sector as inherently superior to the public one. And they saw no danger that a man dedicated to enriching himself might put greed ahead of safeguarding his country.

There were, however, others who could have offered a timely warning against this–had there been leaders willing to heed it.

One of these, reaching back more than 500 years ago, was the Florentine statesman, Niccolo Machiavelli, who famously warned of the dangers of relying on mercenaries.

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Niccolo Machiavelli 

In The Prince, Machiavelli writes:

“Mercenaries…are useless and dangerous. And if a prince holds on to his state by means of mercenary armies, he will never be stable or secure. For they are disunited, ambitious, without discipline, disloyal. They are brave among friends; among enemies they are cowards.

“They have neither the fear of God nor fidelity to man, and destruction is deferred only as the attack is. For in peace one is robbed by them, and in war by the enemy.”

Centuries after Machiavelli’s warning, Americans are realizing the bitter truth of it firsthand.

ABORTING TRUMP’S CANDIDACY–WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on March 8, 2017 at 12:06 am

President Donald Trump claims that, as a Presidential candidate, he was a victim of illegal wiretapping ordered by President Barack Obama.

In fact, even without wiretaps, there were at least four instances where Federal law enforcement authorities could have utterly changed the outcome of the 2016 election.

Two of these dealt with purely domestic issues–

  • The Trump University scandal; and
  • Trump’s repeated threats of violence against Republican and Democratic opponents.

The third and fourth ones dealt with issues directly affecting the security of the United States.

It is unprecedented for an American Presidential candidate to repeatedly bestow fulsome praise on the leader of a foreign power hostile to the United States. And to receive equally fawning compliments in return from that leader.

Yet that is precisely what has happened between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.

Thus Putin on Trump: “He is a bright personality, a talented person, no doubt about it. It is not up to us to appraise his positive sides, it is up to the U.S. voters. but, as we can see, he is an absolute leader in the presidential race.”

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Vladimir Putin

And Trump on Putin: “It is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond.  He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader. Unlike what we have in this country”–a clear attack on President Barack Obama.

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Donald Trump

Case #3: The Justice Department did not invalidate the results of the 2016 election, despite overwhelming evidence that Russia intervened to elect Trump as Vladimir Putin’s chosen candidate.

  • Admiral Michael Rogers, director of the National Security Agency (NSA) and US Cyber Command, said in mid-November that Russia made “a conscious effort” to sway the results of the Presidential election by the hacking of 20,000 emails from the Democratic National Committee.
  • “There shouldn’t be any doubt in anybody’s mind,” said Rogers. “This was not something that was done casually. This was not something that was done by chance. This was not a target that was selected purely arbitrarily. This was a conscious effort by a nation-state to attempt to achieve a specific effect.”

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  • The Russians hacked the Democratic committee’s servers–but not those of the Republican National Committee.
  • On December 16, FBI Director James B. Comey and Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. agreed with a CIA assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election in part to help Donald Trump win the White House. 

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Trump, however, has steadfastly denied any such role by Russia: “I think it’s ridiculous,” he told “Fox News Sunday.” “I think it’s just another excuse. I don’t believe it….No, I don’t believe it at all.”   

Case #4: The Justice Department did not prosecute Trump for treason, even though he solicited aid from Russia, a nation hostile to the United States. And no major official of the government–including President Obama–publicly condemned him as a traitor.     

At a news conference in Doral, Florida on July 27, Trump publicly invited “Russia”–i.e., Vladimir Putin–to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails: “I will tell you this, Russia: If you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

This was essentially treason–calling on a hostile foreign power to interfere directly in an American Presidential election. And it was seen as such by both Democrats and even Republicans.

  • “This has to be the first time that a major presidential candidate has actively encouraged a foreign power to conduct espionage against his political opponent,” Hillary for America policy adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement. “That’s not hyperbole, those are just the facts. This has gone from being a matter of curiosity, and a matter of politics, to being a national security issue.”
  • “I find those kinds of statements to be totally outrageous because you’ve got now a presidential candidate who is, in fact, asking the Russians to engage in American politics,” said former CIA Director Leon Panetta, a Clinton surrogate. “I just think that’s beyond the pale.”
  • Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker Paul Ryan, said: “Russia is a global menace led by a devious thug. Putin should stay out of this election.”
  • Even Trump’s Vice Presidential running mate, Mike Pence, said: “If it is Russia and they are interfering in our elections, I can assure you both parties and the United States government will ensure there are serious consequences.”

FBI Director James Comey believed that Hillary Clinton’s emails on a private server were so dangerous to national security that he announced–11 days before the election–that he was re-opening an investigation he had closed.  

That announcement erased widespread outrage over Trump’s unintended admissions of predatory behavior toward women–“Grab them by the pussy”–and reversed Clinton’s growing lead in the polls.

Yet the Bureau has not issued any such statements about the continuing reports of close ties between Trump and Putin, and Trump’s possible investments in Russia.

To their shame, the federal agencies charged with safeguarding America failed to take action against these abuses.

And, to their shame, the news media, to date, has failed to indict them for their negligence.

ABORTING TRUMP’S CANDIDACY–WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on March 7, 2017 at 12:35 am

Even without wiretaps, there were at least four instances when Federal law enforcement authorities could have disqualified Donald Trump as a Presidential candidate–or secured his indictment.

Threatening your political opponents with violence is a crime under Federal law. Yet such threats against his Republican and Democratic opponents played a major role in Trump’s Presidential campaign.

  • Philip Klein, the managing editor of the Washington Examiner,  wrote on the eve of the Republican National Convention in July: “Political commentators now routinely talk about the riots that would break out in Cleveland if Trump were denied the nomination, about how his supporters have guns and all hell could break loose, that they would burn everything to the ground. It works to Trump’s advantage to not try too hard to dispel these notions.”
  • On August 9, 2016, Trump told a rally in Wilmington, North Carolina: “Hillary [Clinton] wants to abolish, essentially abolish, the Second Amendment. If she gets to pick her [Supreme Court] judges, nothing you can do folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.”
  • Reacting to Trump’s “dog-whistle” threat against Clinton, Michael Hayden, former head of the CIA and National Security Agency (NSA) said: “Well, let me say if someone else said that outside of the hall, he’d be in the back of a police wagon now, with the Secret Service questioning him.”

Making threats  against anyone under protection by the U.S. Secret Service is a felony. Yet Donald Trump was never held legally accountable by the Justice Department.

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Threats of violence continued to be made by Trump supporters right up to the day of the election.

Even Fergus Cullen, former chairman of the New Hampshire GOP, expressed fear of what might happen if Trump lost the election:

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Fergus Cullen

“That’s really scary,” Cullen said, recounting the violence at Trump rallies around the country leading up to the Republican National Convention. “In this country, we’ve always had recriminations after one side loses. But we haven’t had riots. We haven’t had mobs that act out with violence against supporters of the other side.

“There’s no telling what his supporters would be willing to do at the slightest encouragement from their candidate,” he said.

Trump even began encouraging his mostly white supporters to sign up online to be “election observers” to stop “Crooked Hillary from rigging this election.” He urged them to act as poll watchers in “other” [non-white] communities to ensure that things are “on the up and up.”

Many of his supporters promised to do so.

“Trump said to watch your precincts. I’m going to go, for sure,” said Steve Webb, a 61-year-old carpenter from Fairfield, Ohio.

“I’ll look for…well, it’s called racial profiling. Mexicans. Syrians. People who can’t speak American,” he said. “I’m going to go right up behind them. I’ll do everything legally. I want to see if they are accountable. I’m not going to do anything illegal. I’m going to make them a little bit nervous.”

Knowing that large numbers of angry–and possibly armed–Right-wingers planned to descend on polling places could only have had a chilling effect on untold numbers of Democratic voters. And this would have been especially true in heavily conservative states.

Both the USA Patriot Act and the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act have statutes dealing with making terrorist threats against government institutions to influence their members.

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President George W. Bush signing the USA Patriot Reauthorization Act of 2005

If Trump’s remarks did not violate one or both of those laws, certainly remarks made by his surrogates did.

Thus, the Justice Department could have cited the Patriot Act in indicting Trump and/or any number of his followers for “activities that…appear to be intended…to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion [and]…occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.”

The Justice Department could have also demanded that the results of the election be invalidated on the basis that widespread voter and candidate intimidation played a massive role in it.

But of course this did not happen.

ABORTING TRUMP’S CANDIDACY–WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on March 6, 2017 at 12:56 am

Future historians–if there are any–may one day write that it’s what didn’t happen that played at least as great a role in electing Donald Trump President as what actually did.

There were at least four instances where intervention by Federal law enforcement authorities could have utterly changed the outcome of the 2016 election.  

And Trump’s completely unsupported accusations that he was illegally wiretapped were not one of those instances.  

On March 4, in a series of unhinged tweets, Trump accused former President Barack Obama of tapping his Trump Tower phones prior to the election:  

“Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!”  

“Is it legal for a sitting President to be ‘wire tapping’ a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW!”  

“I’d bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!”

“How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”

There are two theories about what prompted Trump’s accusations.

Theory #1: They were prompted by Right-wing media outlets that had been pushing wiretapping claims in recent days. 

On March 2, Right-wing radio host Mark Levin claimed that Obama had used “powers of the federal government to surveil members of the Trump campaign.”

Referring to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his newly disclosed meetings with Russia’s ambassador last year, Levin asked: “Today’s reporting on Sessions having a chance meeting with the ambassador–where did that information come from? Look at the timing of it. Was Obama surveilling top Trump campaign officials during the election?”  

On March 3, the Fascist media site Breitbart News echoed the charge. Its story was based on Levin’s show and offered no evidence to back up its accusations.

Theory #2: Trump, under scrutiny for ties between his campaign and Russia, sought to deflect attention by making an outrageous accusation.

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Donald Trump

Even without wiretaps, there were at least four instances where intervention by Federal law enforcement authorities could have disqualified Trump as a Presidential candidate and/or secured his indictment.

Case #1:  The Justice Department did not indict Trump and/or the Attorney Generals of Texas and/or Florida for their roles in the Trump University scandal.

  • Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi personally solicited a political contribution from Donald Trump around the same time her office deliberated joining an investigation of alleged fraud at Trump University and its affiliates.
  • After Bondi dropped the Trump University case against Trump, he wrote her a check $25,000 for her re-election campaign. The money came from the Donald J. Trump Foundation.
  • Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton moved to muzzle a former state regulator who says he was ordered in 2010 to drop a fraud investigation into Trump University for political reasons.
  • Paxton’s office issued a cease and desist letter to former Deputy Chief of Consumer Protection John Owens after he made public copies of a 14-page internal summary of the state’s case against Donald Trump for scamming millions from students of his now-defunct real estate seminar.
  • After the Texas case was dropped, Trump cut a $35,000 check to the gubernatorial campaign of then attorney general and now Texas Governor Greg Abbott.

One attorney general who refused to accept money from Trump was New York’s Eric Schneiderman. His decision to press fraud claims against Trump forced the real estate mogul to settle the case out of court for $25 million.

“Today’s $25 million settlement agreement is a stunning reversal by Donald Trump,” said Schneiderman on November 18, “and a major victory for the over 6,000 victims of his fraudulent university.”

There have been no press reports that the Justice Department investigated these cases to determine if Trump violated the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act statutes.

If the Justice Department did not investigate these cases, it should have. And if he did violate the RICO statutes, he should have been indicted, even as a Presidential candidate or President-elect.

Even if an indictment had not produced a conviction, the mere bringing of one would have cast an unprecedented cloud over his candidacy–let alone his being sworn in as President. 

Case #2:  The Justice Department did not indict Trump for his series of threats that he made–directly and indirectly–against Republicans and Democrats throughout the 2016 campaign. 

  • On March 16, he warned Republicans that if he didn’t win the GOP nomination in July, his supporters would literally riot: “I think you’d have riots. I think you would see problems like you’ve never seen before. I think bad things would happen. I really do. I wouldn’t lead it, but I think bad things would happen.” 
  • An NBC reporter summed it up as: “The message to Republicans was clear on [March 16]: ‘Nice convention you got there, shame if something happened to it.’” 
  • That Republicans clearly saw this as a threat is undeniable. Paul Ryan, their Speaker of the House, said on March 17: “Nobody should say such things in my opinion because to even address or hint to violence is unacceptable.”
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