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“STAND BACK AND STAND BY”–FOR A KIDNAPPING: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on October 20, 2020 at 12:04 am

On April 9, Democratic Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer extended the anti-Coronavirus measures set forth in her March 10 Executive Order 2020-4. Among these:

  • No person or entity shall operate a business or conduct operations that require workers to leave their homes or places of residence unless those workers are necessary to sustain or protect life or to conduct minimum basic operations.
  • “Essential workers” were defined as those “necessary to sustain or protect life.”

KXAN Austin

Governor Gretchen Whitmer

Individuals were allowed to leave their home and travel as necessary to:

  • Engage in outdoor physical activity, so long as they stayed at least six feet from people from outside their own household.
  • Perform their jobs as critical infrastructure workers after being so designated by their employers.
  • Perform necessary government activities.
  • Obtain necessary services or supplies for themselves, their family or household members, their pets, and their vehicles.
  • Care for a family member or a family member’s pet in another household.
  • Care for minors, dependents, the elderly, persons with disabilities, or other vulnerable persons.
  • Visit an individual under the care of a health care facility, residential care facility, or congregate care facility.
  • Attend legal proceedings or hearings for essential or emergency purposes as ordered by a court.
  • Work or volunteer for businesses or operations that provide food, shelter, and other necessities of life for those who are poor, disabled, or suffering because of the COVID-19 emergency.
  • Attend a funeral, provided that no more than 10 people are in attendance.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urged Americans to wear masks and keep at least six feet from their fellows. And most of the nation’s governors issued stay-at-home orders that banned large gatherings—including visits to parks and beaches.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Yet President Donald Trump openly encouraged defiance of those orders. On April 17 he issued a series of tweets to his supporters:

“LIBERATE MINNESOTA!”

“LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” 

“LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!”

All these states had Democratic governors—and had been targeted for Right-wing protests. Large numbers of men and women stood closely together, with most of them not wearing masks. They claimed their “freedoms” were being infringed upon.

Whitmer, who had defied the Republican legislature by extending her stay-at-home order, was denounced as a Nazi, with protesters displaying signs like “Heil Whtmer.” 

(It is a hallmark of Right-wingers to accuse their opponents of being what they are themselves—Fascists.) 

On April 30, a protest at the Michigan Capitol Building featured treasonous Confederate flags and hangman’s nooses. Some signs displayed swastikas. Many of the demonstrators were armed with AK-47s.

That protest was organized by the Michigan Conservative Coalition, a group co-founded by a GOP state representative and his wife, who is on the advisory board for an official Trump campaign group called Women for Trump and is also the co-founder of Michigan Trump Republicans.

Another of the event’s promoters, Greg McNeilly, is a longtime political adviser to the wealthy DeVos family, which includes Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and her brother, Erik Prince, founder of the notorious Blackwater mercenary group.

On May 1, demonstrators—many of them heavily armed—again descended on the state capital in Lansing, protesting Whitmer’s extension of her emergency declaration that kept some businesses closed amidst the plague. And, once again, President Trump sided with the protesters.

On May 1, Trump tweeted in support of the Michigan demonstrators. Just as German Fuhrer Adolf Hitler blamed his opponents for the violence he stoked, so did Trump. Aiming his tweet at Whitmer, he wrote: “These are very good people, but they are angry. They want their lives back again, safely! See them, talk to them, make a deal.”

Writer Steven Pressfield summed up the immorality of these protests: “Why are we asked to wear surgical or face masks in public, to practice social distancing and to observe self-quarantining? Because these practices are not for the individual alone but for the protection of the whole [community].”

Washington Governor Jay Inslee tweeted: “The president’s statements this morning encourage illegal and dangerous acts. He is putting millions of people in danger of contracting COVID-19.

“His unhinged rantings and calls for people to ‘liberate’ states could also lead to violence. We’ve seen it before.”

Trump had two hidden agendas for ending “stay-at-home” orders.

First, from the moment he took office on January 20, 2017, he had claimed credit for a booming economy—even though this was largely the creation of his predecessor, Barack Obama.

Now, with thousands of businesses closed because of Coronavirus, that economy was essentially dead.

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Coronavirus

Trump knew that Presidents who preside over faltering economies usually don’t win a second term. And Trump not only lusted to win a second term but—as he has repeatedly “joked”—become “President-for-Life.”

Second, Trump was desperate to return to his Nuremberg-style rallies. There he could hurl insults at virtually everyone and bask in the fanatical worship of his followers. These rallies acted as fuel to his campaign.

So now he went to any lengths to “reopen” the country–including soliciting violent resistance to the laws of governors he didn’t like.

“STAND BACK AND STAND BY”–FOR A KIDNAPPING: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on October 19, 2020 at 12:08 am

It could have been the plot for a Frederick Forsythe novel.

It was Forsythe who wrote The Day of the Jackal, the fictional account of a Right-wing plot to assassinate French President Charles de Gaulle. 

Another Forsythe novel, The Dogs of War, focused on a group of mercenaries hired to overthrow the ruler of a small African country and install a brutal dictator in his place.

So Forsythe was probably not surprised when he learned, on October 8, that 13 people were charged with plotting to kidnap Michigan Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

The scheme included plans to overthrow several state governments that the suspects “believe are violating the US Constitution,” including the government of Michigan, according to a federal criminal complaint.

Six people were charged federally with conspiracy to kidnap. Seven other people, associated with the militia group “Wolverine Watchmen,” were charged by the state.  

“The individuals in (state) custody are suspected to have attempted to identify the home addresses of law enforcement officers in order to target them, made threats of violence intended to instigate a civil war, and engaged in planning and training for an operation to attack the capitol building of Michigan and to kidnap government officials, including the governor of Michigan,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said at a press conference.

Whitmer had become a major target of President Donald Trump in March, when she tried to obtain urgently-needed medical supplies for Michigan hospitals coping with a flood of Coronavirus cases.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (cropped).jpg

Gretchen Whitmer

Julia Pickett / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

On March 26, during an interview on Fox News, Trump blamed the failures of his administration’s response to Coronavirus on Democratic state governors like Andrew Cuomo (NY), Jay Inslee (WA), and Gretchen Whitmer (MI).

On March 27, during his press briefing, Trump said he told Vice President Mike Pence—who’s officially in charge of the White House’s Coronavirus response effort—to not call Inslee and Whitmer because they weren’t “appreciative” enough of his efforts.

Trump said this even as hospitals in each of their states were being overwhelmed with Coronavirus patients.

“I tell him—I mean I’m a different type of person. I say, ‘Mike, don’t call the governor in Washington, you’re wasting your time with him. Don’t call the woman in Michigan,’” Trump said. “If they don’t treat you right, I don’t call.”

Echoing French King Louis XIV’s boast, “I am the State,” Trump said that when people criticized him, they were criticizing the federal government: “When they’re not appreciative to me, they’re not appreciative to the Army Corps, they’re not appreciative to FEMA.  It’s not right.”

Trump also attacked Whitmer on Right-wing Fox News’ “Sean Hannity Show”: “I don’t know if she knows what’s going on, but all she does is sit there and blame the federal government.”

Image result for Public domain images of Donald Trump

Donald Trump

That same day—March 27—Whitmer told a Michigan radio station: “What I’ve gotten back is that vendors with whom we’ve procured contracts—they’re being told not to send stuff to Michigan. It’s really concerning. I reached out to the White House last night and asked for a phone call with the president, ironically at the time this stuff was going on.”

A March 29 story in the Washington Monthly sheds light on what lay behind Whitmer’s inability to secure desperately-needed ventilators from her longtime vendors. Its headline ran: “What If Trump Decides to Save Republicans But Not Democrats?”

And it was followed by a sub-headline: “He’s providing vital resources to red states and ignoring blue states.”

Florida submitted a request to the Federal Emergency Management Agency on March 11 for 430,000 surgical masks, 180,000 N95 respirators, 82,000 face shields and 238,000 gloves—and received a shipment with everything three days later.

It received an identical shipment on March 23, and was awaiting a third.

On March 10, 2020, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services identified the first two presumptive-positive cases of COVID-19 in Michigan. On that same day, Whitmer issued Executive Order 2020-4, which declared a state of emergency across the state of Michigan. 

Seal of Michigan.svg

State Seal of Michigan

In the three weeks that followed, the virus spread across Michigan, bringing deaths in the hundreds, confirmed cases in the thousands, and deep disruption to the state’s economy, homes, and educational, civic, social, and religious institutions.

On April 1, 2020, in response to the widespread calamities inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Whitmer issued Executive Order 2020-33. This declared both a state of emergency and a state of disaster across Michigan.

By April 8, 2020, COVID-19 had infected 20,346 Michigan residents and claimed 959 lives. 

As a result, on April 9, Whitmer reaffirmed and extended the measures set forth in Executive Order 2020-21. Her order stated:

  • Michigan residents must stay at home or at their place of residence.
  • All public and private gatherings of any number of people occurring among persons not part of a single household were prohibited.
  • All individuals who leave their home or place of residence must adhere to social distancing measures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), including remaining at least six feet from people from outside the individual’s household to the extent feasible under the circumstances.

COUNT THE STUPIDS: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on October 16, 2020 at 12:18 am

There are at least seven reasons why so many Americans refuse to wear a mask.

First: A feeling of solidarity. According to David Abrams, a professor of social and behavioral sciences at NYU School of Global Public Health: People who don’t wear masks may see it as a sign of solidarity, as if they are taking a stand against authority.

Second: If liberals do it, it’s fascistic. Many mask protesters accuse those who wear masks of being fascists. This is a hallmark of Right-wing politics—accusing their opponents of being what they are themselves.

Third: They have utterly rejected the rising death-toll caused by the virus. They claim stories of such deaths are mere “fake news”—the term Donald Trump uses to dismiss any news stories that highlight his mistakes and criminality. 

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Fourth: Republicans disdain education in general—and science in particular. In March, an NBC News poll found that only 30% of Republicans said that they would actually listen to the advice of doctors to stay away from large, crowded areas to avoid Coronavirus

Fifth: Religious Fanaticism: Many fundamentalist Christians believe that their faith in Jesus will protect them against COVID-19. They continue to attend services indoors in defiance of warnings by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that such meetings are dangerous.

A female member of the Solid Red Rock Church in Monroe, Ohio, told CNN: “I wouldn’t be anywhere else. I’m covered in Jesus’ blood. I’m covered in Jesus’ blood.”

Sixth: Hypocrisy. Since the Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973, the Right has demanded that even women who are pregnant due to rape or incest carry the fetus to term.

Yet now that Right-wingers are being asked to wear masks in public—to protect themselves and others from a deadly plague—they’ve suddenly discovered the mantra: “It’s my body!”

Seventh: Identifying with Donald Trump. The President has made it clear that his followers don’t wear masks. And they have fallen into line, refusing to mask up even in crowded, indoor arenas where infection is most likely.

Yet even in states where wearing a mask is mandatory when venturing out in public, many people refuse to do so. Fights have erupted before mask-less and mask-wearing customers—and sometimes store employees—who asked them to put on a mask before entering.

  • Two men were arrested for felony battery after starting a fight with employees at a Los Angeles Target store over wearing masks inside the store.
  • A woman entered Curbside Eatery in La Mesa, California, without a mask, pulling her T-shirt over her face. When the owner told her to mask up or leave, the woman yelled: “This is ridiculous! You’re discriminating against me!’ and threatened a lawsuit.
  • In a Costco in Fort Myers, Florida, a masked man asked an unmasked customer to wear a mask. The unmasked man screamed that he was being harassed: “I feel threatened!”

So: How should those who refuse to wear a mask—and thus threaten the lives of others—be dealt with?

Ideally, President Trump should issue a mandatory emergency order requiring everyone to wear a mask when out in public. But Trump cannot admit to error—let alone one that could cost him votes among his most fanatical followers. So that’s not going to happen.

Governors, mayors and business owners need to fill the leadership void. They should issue emergency orders mandating the wearing of masks in public. And these orders should be forcibly backed up by the following:

  • Stop stressing that wearing a mask will protect others from “you.” Most people don’t care about strangers. Emphasize that wearing a mask will protect “you and your family” from others. 
  • Don’t hand out tickets to mask-evaders. They will simply ignore them—or write them off as a cheap price for going without a mask. 
  • Major retailers should hire professional guards to handle mask-evaders—who should be turned over to police.
  • Police should arrest everyone not wearing a mask in public and jail them—without bond—until the plague is over or a vaccine is found.
  • These inmates should be lodged together—and away from those who are not infected with COVID-19.
  • Police should create tip hotlines for reporting mask-evaders—and offer rewards for tips that lead to arrests.
  • The media should publicize these arrests and jailings—to warn other potential mask-evaders.  
  • Right-wingers who openly carry firearms and threaten violence should be arrested and imprisoned under State and Federal anti-terrorism laws.  

It was the failure of German police and courts to abort Right-wing violence during the Weimar Republic that led to even greater violence through the rise of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi party.

Laws are useless if citizens believe they are unfairly or unpredictably enforced. As Niccolo Machiavelli warns in his classic work, The Discourses:

…Whoever desires to found a state and give it laws, must start with assuming that all men are bad and ever ready to display their vicious nature, whenever they may find occasion for it. If their evil disposition remains concealed for a time, it must be attributed to some unknown reason; and we must assume that it lacked occasion to show itself.

COUNT THE STUPIDS!: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on October 15, 2020 at 12:05 am

Here’s a new game you can play the next time you take a walk: Count the Stupids! 

These are the people who, during a deadly pandemic: 

  • Don’t wear a mask.
  • Don’t wear a mask—and suck on a cigarette.
  • Wear a mask—just under their nose.
  • Wear a mask—around their neck like a bandanna. 

The number of people who fall into these categories will vary each day.

But they all constitute a clear and present danger to those who want to stay clear of COVID-19. Here’s why:

  • NOT WEARING A MASK exposes the non-wearer and anyone else not wearing one to the possibility of COVID-19. You can sneeze or cough into someone’s face—or someone can sneeze or cough into yours.
  • NOT WEARING A MASK WHILE SMOKING exposes the smoker to both the possibility of getting COVID-19 and the almost certainty of getting lung cancer, heart disease and/or emphysema.
  • WEARING A MASK JUST UNDER THE NOSE means you can sneeze COVID-19 into someone’s face—or someone with COVID-19 can sneeze into your nose.
  • WEARING A MASK AROUND THE NECK may make you feel like a range-roving cowboy, but it offers the same degree of protection as NOT WEARING A MASK: Zero. 

N95 Respirator Masks | Bass-Mollett Publishers Inc.

N95 mask

President Donald Trump has made the wearing of masks a divisive political issue. Wearing a mask, according to him, makes you a wimp and a liberal Never-Trumper.  NOT wearing a mask shows you’re a macho man or woman—and in solidarity with him.

The Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, emerged in China in December, 2019, and has since spread throughout the world. By October 12, 2020, it had infected 38.1 million people worldwide. Of these, 1.09 million have died.

In the United States, case totals reached 7.9 million. Of these, 216,000 have died.

But in his public appearances Trump has repeatedly downplayed the lethality of the virus—even though, in February, he admitted to Washington Post investigative reporter Bob Woodward that it was “deadly.”

“It goes through air, Bob,” said Trump. “That’s always tougher than the touch. The touch, you don’t have to touch things, right? But the air, you just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed. And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flues.”

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Coronavirus

Trump has:

  • Disregarded the warnings of his own health experts.
  • Said he knew better.
  • Held indoor campaign mega-rallies where his followers don’t wear masks and sit or stand literally shoulder-to-shoulder.
  • Touted an anti-malarial drug (hydroxychloroquine) as a Coronavirus cure, even though its effectiveness against COVID-19 remains unproven.
  • Even suggested injecting bleach as a treatment.

Above all, he has repeatedly mocked the wearing of masks.

On April 3, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention first recommended Americans wear face coverings in public. Trump announced at a task force briefing that the practice was “voluntary” and that “you do not have to do it.”

Four months later, in August, Trump said of masks: “Maybe they’re great, and maybe they’re just good. Maybe they’re not so good.” 

On September 26, Trump hosted festivities in the Rose Garden to celebrate his third Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett. All the major domos of the Right showed up—without masks, and crammed together in folding chairs. And soon many of them tested positive for COVID-19. 

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Donald Trump

Among the most important casualties:

  • Trump
  • First Lady Melania Trump
  • White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany
  • Three Republican United States Senators
  • White House Senior Adviser for Policy Stephen Miller
  • Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie
  • Trump Presidential Campaign Manager Bill Stepien

For the first three months of the plague, masks were hard to come by. Top-of-the-line masks such as the N95 were quickly snapped up by hospitals filling with COVID cases. This forced many families to sew their own masks. Many of these were made of porous material, allowing the wearer to become easily infected.

But today masks are advertised—and sold—everywhere. 

Wearing a mask and “social distancing”—keeping at least six feet between yourself and others while in public—have been the Golden Rules urged by public health officials for months.

Scientists have learned, for example, that COVID-19 can be spread by those who show no symptom of the disease. And mounting evidence has proven that masks are essential for protecting people from the virus. 

Coronavirus is spread by respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks—especially if large numbers of people are packed indoors. The danger goes up if the talker is shouting or singing loudly.

If not blocked by a face covering, the droplets can travel six to 13 feet.   

Researchers at Florida Atlantic University found that some masks were more effective than others. One study showed that well-fitted homemade masks with multiple layers of fabric, as well as off-the-shelf cone style masks, were the most effective in reducing droplet dispersal.

Bandannas turned out to be the least effective in reducing transmission.

There are at least seven reasons why so many Americans refuse to wear a mask—even in the midst of a deadly pandemic. And these will be explored in the second part of this series. 

CREATING A DICTATORSHIP: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on October 14, 2020 at 12:11 am

There were solid grounds for the Obama Justice Department to indict Donald Trump or invalidate the results of the 2016 election. Yet no action was taken.

Case #4: 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. 

In July, 2016, the Russians hacked the Democratic committee’s servers—but not those of the Republican National Committee.

Admiral Michael Rogers, director of the National Security Agency (NSA) and US Cyber Command, said in mid-November, 2016, 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.”

On December 16, 2016, 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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Case #5: 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.     

On July 9, 2016, high-ranking members of his Presidential campaign met at Trump Tower with at least two lobbyists with ties to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. The participants included: 

  • Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr.;
  • His son-in-law, Jared Kushner;
  • His then-campaign manager, Paul Manafort; 
  • Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer with ties to Putin; and 
  • Rinat Akhmetshin, a former Soviet counterintelligence officer suspected of “having ongoing ties to Russian Intelligence.”

The purpose of that meeting: To gain access to any “dirt” Russian Intelligence could supply on Democratic Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton. 

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Donald Trump

On July 22, 2016, Wikileaks released 19,252 emails and 8,034 attachments hacked from computers of the highest-ranking officials of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Early reports traced the leak to Russian hackers. 

At a news conference in Doral, Florida on July 27, 2016, 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.” 

Hours later, the Main Intelligence Directorate in Moscow targeted Clinton’s personal office and hit more than 70 other Clinton campaign accounts.

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.”
  • Brendon 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.”

Throughout 2016, the CIA, FBI and National Security Agency (NSA) found numerous ties between officials of the Trump Presidential campaign and Russian Intelligence agents. Among these were future Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, future National Security Adviser Michael Flynn  and future Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

The discovery of such contacts between Trump campaign officials and Russian Intelligence agents led the FBI to launch an investigation into Russia’s efforts to influence the outcome of the 2016 Presidential election. 

On October 7, 2016, The Washington Post leaked a video of Donald Trump making sexually predatory comments about women. Among his admissions: That he had aggressively tried to bed a married woman, and “when you’re a star….you can do anything. Grab them by the pussy.”

The story rocked the Trump campaign—and threatened to upend it. Then it was eclipsed by an even bigger story.

Eleven days before the November 8 election, FBI Director James Comey announced that he was re-opening an investigation he had closed on Hillary Clinton’s emails on a private server while she was Secretary of State.

That announcement erased widespread outrage over Trump’s unintended admissions of predatory behavior toward women and reversed Clinton’s growing lead in the polls.

Yet the Bureau has never issued similar statements about the continuing reports of close ties between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, and Trump’s history of investments in Russia.

To their shame, no one from the Obama administration—including the President himself—has apologized for failing to take action against these abuses.

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

CREATING A DICTATORSHIP: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on October 13, 2020 at 1:03 am

There were at least five instances when the Obama administration could have disqualified Donald Trump as a Presidential candidate—or secured his indictment. Yet it did neither.

Case #2:  The Justice Department did not indict Trump for threats that he made—or inspired—against Republicans and Democrats throughout the 2016 campaign. 

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. 

Image result for Official White House photos of George W. Bush signing USA Patriot Act

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. 

Case #3 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.

  • 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.”

Seal of the United States Department of Justice.svg

Case #4: 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. 

In October, 2016, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) issued a joint statement: The Russian government had directed the effort to subvert the 2016 Presidential election.

On December 16, 2016, 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. 

CREATING A DICTATERSHIP: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on October 12, 2020 at 12:05 am

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

So wrote Edmund Burke (1729-1797) the Irish statesman, author, orator, political theorist and philosopher. And history has repeatedly proved him right. 

One such example was the rise of Adolf Hitler as Germany’s Fuhrer.

Writes historian Volker Ullrich, in his monumental new biography, Hitler: Ascent 1889–1939: “Historians have perennially tried to answer the question of whether Hitler’s rise to power could have been halted….

“There were repeated opportunities to end Hitler’s run of triumphs. The most obvious one was after the failed Putsch of November, 1923. Had the Munich rabble-rouser been forced to serve his full five-year term of imprisonment in Landsberg, it is extremely unlikely that he would have been able to restart his political career.” 

But that didn’t happen.

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Tried for and convicted of treason, he was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment.

At Landsberg Prison, in Bavaria. he was given a huge cell, allowed to receive unlimited visitors and gifts, and treated with deference by guards and inmates.

Nine months later, he was released on parole—by authorities loyal to the authoritarian Right instead of the newly-created Weimar Republic.

Hitler immediately began rebuilding the shattered Nazi party—and deciding on a new strategy to gain power. Disdaining armed force, he would win office by election—or intrigue. 

On January 30, 1933, those intrigues bore fruit: Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany.

Future historians may one day write that what didn’t happen played at least as great a role in electing Donald Trump President as what actually did.

There were at least five instances where the Justice Department of President Barack Obama could have utterly changed the outcome of the 2016 election. Yet, for reasons still unknown, it chose to do nothing.

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Donald Trump

Case #1:  The Obama 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 $25,000 check 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.

But New York’s Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman, pressed fraud claims against Trump—and forced the real estate mogul to settle the case out of court for $25 million on November 18, 2016.

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 the series of threats that he made—directly and indirectly—against Republicans and Democrats throughout the 2016 campaign. 

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

DONALD TRUMP: AMERICA’S CORONAVIRUS-VIRUS-IN-CHIEF

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on October 9, 2020 at 12:32 am

By January, 2020, President Donald Trump knew how deadly Coronavirus was.

On February 7, during a taped interview with Washington Post investigative reporter Bob Woodward, he said: “It goes through air, Bob. That’s always tougher than the touch. The touch, you don’t have to touch things, right? But the air, you just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed….It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flues.”

Even worse, he repeatedly downplayed the virus in a series of public appearances.

  • January 22: “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China.”
  • February 24: “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA.”
  • February 26: “The 15 cases within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero.” 
  • February 27: “One day it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.”
  • February 28: “Now the Democrats are politicizing the Coronavirus….We did one of the great jobs….One of my people came up to me and said, ‘Mr. President, they tried to beat you on Russia, Russia, Russia’….They couldn’t do it. They tried the impeachment hoax….It’s all turning, they lost….And this is their new hoax.”
  • March 6: “I think we’re doing a really good job in this country of keeping it down. A tremendous job of keeping it down.” 

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Now, with more than 212,000 Americans dead and 7.58 million infected—Trump’s fanatical defenders are desperate to rewrite history.

The outbreak of Coronavirus, first detected in Wuhan, China, in late December, 2019, has taken more American lives in the 21st century than any other disaster—natural or man-made.

Consider: 

  • 9/11:  2,977 deaths
  • Hurricane Katrina (2005): 1,836 deaths 
  • Benghazi Embassy attack (2012):  4
  • Ebola (2013):
  • Hurricane Maria (2017):  2,982,
  • Coronavirus (2020):  212,000 (by October 8, 2020)

One of these defenders is Republican South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham. 

On April 9, appearing on the Fox News network’s “Sean Hannity” show, Graham said: “The first thing I want to do is get the United States Senate on the record where we don’t blame Trump. We blame China.

“The Chinese government is responsible for 16,000 American deaths and 17 million Americans being unemployed. It’s the Chinese government and the way they behave that led to this pandemic. This is the third one to come out of China.

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Lindsey Graham

“I want to make our response to this so overwhelming that China will change its behavior. I want to get the medical supply chain back into the United States, and I want to stop cancelling some debt that we owe to China because they should be paying us, not us paying China.”

Graham said that the “wet markets” in China should be shut down, because they have been the source of three pandemics that originated in China.  

[As for “getting the medical supply chain back into the United States”: In 2018, China accounted for 95% of American imports of ibuprofen, 91% off hydrocortisone, 70% of acetaminophen, 40% to 45% of penicillin and 40% of heparin, according to Commerce Department data. Eighty percent of the American supply of antibiotics are made in China.]

Seventy-three years earlier, Chief United States Counsel Robert H. Jackson had been assigned to prosecute the major Nazi defendants for war crimes at Nuremberg. 

On July 26, 1946, Jackson delivered his closing remarks to the court. He might as well have been speaking about Donald Trump and his cheerleading—and misleading—chorus on Coronavirus:

“Lying has always been a highly approved Nazi technique. [Adolf] Hitler, in Mein Kampf, advocated mendacity as a policy. {Foreign Minister Joachim] Von Ribbentrop admits the use of the ‘diplomatic lie.’

“….Nor is the lie direct the only means of falsehood. They all speak with a Nazi double talk with which to deceive the unwary….’Final solution’ of the Jewish problem was a phrase which meant extermination. ‘Special treatment’ of prisoners of war meant killing. ‘Protective custody’ meant concentration camp.

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Robert H. Jackson

“Besides outright false statements and double talk, there are also other circumventions of truth in the nature of fantastic explanations and absurd professions.

“[Rabid anti-Semite Julius] Streicher has solemnly maintained that…his reason for destroying synagogues…was only because they were architecturally offensive….

“This was the philosophy of the National Socialists. When for years they have deceived the world, and masked falsehood with plausibilities, can anyone be surprised that they continue their habits of a lifetime in this dock? 

“It is against such a background that these defendants now ask this Tribunal to say that they are not guilty of planning, executing, or conspiring to commit this long list of crimes and wrongs.”

Citing William Shakespeare’s play about the murderous Richard III, Jackson concluded:

“They stand before the record of this trial as bloodstained Gloucester stood by the body of his slain king. He begged of the widow, as they beg of you: ‘Say I slew them not.’ And the Queen replied, ‘Then say they were not slain. But dead they are…’

“If you were to say of these men that they are not guilty, it would be as true to say that there has been no war, there are no slain, there has been no crime.” 

If Americans find Donald Trump blameless, it will be as true to say:

  • There has been no plague
  • There are no hundreds of thousands of dead Americans
  • There has been no dereliction of Presidential responsibility. 

A JUBILEE OF HATE BECOMES A RIGHT-WING NIGHTMARE

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on October 8, 2020 at 12:16 am

What began as the gloating jubilee of an expected Right-wing triumph has turned into a COVID-19 nightmare for the Trump administration.

On September 26, President Donald Trump hosted festivities in the Rose Garden to celebrate his Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett. 

Barrett wearing a judicial robe

Amy Coney Barrett

Rachel Malehorn / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)

Trump had already put two Justices—Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh—on the Court. Gorsuch was nominated as a replacement for Justice Antonin Scalia, who had died in 2016.

President Barack Obama had sought to confirm his own nominee, Merrick Garland, to the Court. But 2016 was a Presidential election year. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked giving Garland even the courtesy of a Senate hearing.

“The Senate will appropriately revisit the matter when it considers the qualifications of the nominee the next President nominates, whoever that might be,” claimed McConnell.

When Trump won, the way was clear for him to nominate his own candidate—who turned out to be Neil Gorsuch. 

Then, in 2018, Justice Anthony Kennedy decided to retire after spending 20 years on the Court. This gave Trump the chance to replace him with Brett Kavanaugh. 

Then, on September 18, 2020, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg suddenly died of cancer. Appointed in 1993 by President Bill Clinton, she had been the first Jewish woman and the second woman to serve on the Court, after Sandra Day O’Connor.

Ginsburg seated in her robe

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Her death offered Trump his third chance to shift the Court decisively to the Right for decades to come. 

Stacking the Court with Right-wing judges has long been the goal of Republicans. And their two most important priorities:

  1. Overturning Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion in 1973; and
  2. Gutting the Affordable Care Act, the single most important achievement of the first black President of the United States. 

So on September 26, Donald Trump hosted festivities in the Rose Garden to celebrate his third Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett.

Trump assembled his guest list, and the major domos of the Right showed up. 

They knew–or should have known–that a deadly pandemic called COVID-19 was ravaging the country. They knew—or should have known—it had already killed more than 200,000 Americans.

But Trump had spent the year telling them there was nothing to worry about. The virus, he had said repeatedly, was no worse than the common flu. He had ridiculed those who wore masks, and had made not wearing one a sign of macho solidarity with himself.

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Coronavirus

So they showed up without masks, and crammed together in folding chairs. And now many of them are dropping like poisoned Tsetse flies. 

Among the casualties of the celebration so far:

  • President Donald Trump
  • First Lady Melania Trump
  • Presidential Aide Hope Hicks
  • White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany
  • United States Senator (R-UT) Mike Lee
  • United States Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC)
  • United States Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI)
  • Former Presidential adviser Kelleyanne Conway
  • White House Assistant Press Secretary Karoline Leavitt
  • Trump Presidential Campaign Manager Bill Stepien
  • Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel
  • Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie
  • White House Senior Adviser for Policy Stephen Miller

For Trump, the Rose Garden celebration has turned into a nightmare.

First, it thrust the issue of the dreaded Coronavirus—and his administration’s failure to effectively combat it—to the front of the Presidential campaign.

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Donald Trump

Trump had been desperate to avoid talking about this subject—and with good reason.

When the virus struck the United States in January, Trump quickly learned how deadly it was. As he admitted to Washington Post investigative reporter Bob Woodward: “It goes through air, Bob. That’s always tougher than the touch.

“The touch, you don’t have to touch things, right? But the air, you just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed. And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flues.”

But Trump didn’t share that warning with the American people. When Woodward published his book, Rage, in September, Trump was mortally embarrassed at having that conversation revealed.

Instead, Trump attacked the wearing of masks and maintaining social distancing. When states ordered businesses to close to halt the spread of COVID-19, Trump ordered his followers to protest in the streets. When businesses reopened, COVID rates spiked and so did unemployment rolls.

Second,  the sidelining of so many top Republicans—including Senators—threatened to at least temporarily halt Senate confirmation hearings on Amy Coney Barrett.

Third—and probably most important: Trump himself was rushed to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on October 2 after he tested positive for Coronavirus.

For the image-conscious Trump, press reports that he received oxygen and experimental drugs proved highly embarrassing. On October 5, still highly infectious, he demanded to be returned to the White House. 

With less than a month to go before the November 3 Presidential election, Trump found himself overwhelmed by media reports that the White House was now the Number One Coronavirus hotspot in the United States.

A celebration of hatred and arrogance has turned into a COVID-19 nightmare for the Trump administration. It’s a irony the ancient Greeks, with their understanding of hubris, would have appreciated.

TWO DEADLY MISTAKES IN ONE DAY

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics on October 7, 2020 at 8:27 am

Donald Trump was in a hurry to leave Walter Reed National Military Medical Center—where he’d been taken on October 3 owing to COVID-19.

So on October 6—just three days after being hospitalized, and still highly infectious—he demanded that he be returned to the White House. 

Once ensconced in the Executive Mansion, Trump proceeded to make two deadly mistakes.

Mistake #1: He tweeted a one-minute long video from the White House balcony, saying he “learned so much about coronavirus,” and believed that he was possibly immune to the disease.

“One thing that’s for certain: Don’t let it dominate you,” he said of COVID-19. “Don’t be afraid of it. You’re going to beat it. We have the best medical equipment, we have the best medicines, all developed recently. And you’re going to beat it.

“We’re going back, we’re going back to work,” Trump said. “We’re going to be out front. As your leader, I had to do that. I knew there’s danger to it, but I had to do it..”

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Coronavirus

Trump’s upbeat message about COVID-19—“Don’t be afraid of it. You’re going to beat it”—alarmed and angered many infectious disease experts. 

“It’s an unconscionable message,” said Dr. Sadiya Khan of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “I would go so far as to say that it may precipitate or worsen spread.”

“We have to be realistic in this: COVID is a complete threat to the American population,” said Dr. David Nace, an expert on infectious diseases at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

“Most of the people aren’t so lucky as the president,” with an in-house medical unit and access to experimental treatments, he added.

Especially outraged by Trump’s comment was Amanda Kloots, who lost her husband, Broadway actor Nick Cordero, to the virus.

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Nick Cordero

“Unfortunately not everyone is lucky enough to spend two days in the hospital,” she tweeted, referring to Trump’s short stay for COVID-19 treatment. “I cried next to my husband for 95 days watching what COVID did to the person I love. It IS something to be afraid of.”

Mistake #2: Always wanting to appear in command, Trump ordered his negotiators to halt talks over a new economic stimulus package, after House and Senate Republicans had struggled for months to reach a deal.

“I have instructed my representatives to stop negotiating until after the election when, immediately after I win, we will pass a major Stimulus Bill that focuses on hardworking Americans and Small Business,” Trump wrote in a series of tweets.

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Donald Trump

Trump’s message stunned lawmakers. The decision is a major blow to Americans still struggling with the fallout from the pandemic and endangers an economic recovery that for months was driven by a $2.2 trillion stimulus passed by Congress in the spring. That money has been largely spent. 

Among those stunned by Trump’s move: Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell.

At the annual meeting of the National Association for Business Economics, Powell warned: “Too little support would lead to a weak recovery, creating unnecessary hardship for households and businesses.”

Powell said that government support—expanded unemployment insurance payments, direct payments to most households and support for small businesses—has prevented a recessionary “downward spiral” where job losses would reduce spending, forcing businesses to cut even more jobs.

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Jerome Powell

A far smarter move by Trump would have been claiming that Republicans were vigorously pursuing a stimulus package—but were facing roadblocks thrown up by spendthrift Democrats. 

That would have allowed Trump to play the part of the self-pitying underdog. And it would have put the blame squarely—if inaccurately—on the Democrats.

But Trump’s ego demands that he be the one seen to take decisive action. On December 11, 2018, it neatly tripped him up.

Nancy Pelosi—then House Minority Leader—and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, met with Trump in the Oval Office. And, true to his love of publicity, Trump made sure the meeting was televised live on TV.

Trump quickly demanded $5.6 billion to create a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border.

When Pelosi and Schumer refused to budge, Trump said: And one way or the other, it’s going to get built. I’d like not to see a government closing, a shutdown. We will see what happens over the next short period of time.”

SCHUMER: “Twenty times you have called for, ‘I will shut down the government if I don’t get my wall.’ None of us have said—you’ve said it.”

TRUMP: “Okay, you want to put that on my—I’ll take it.  You know what I’ll say: ‘Yes, if we don’t get what we want, one way or the other…I will shut down the government. Absolutely.’”

Trump did shut down the government. And because he had threatened to do so—on nationwide TV—he, not the Democrats, was blamed for it. Thirty-five days later, he caved to public pressure and reopened the government.

With the 2020 Presidential election less than a month away and himself behind former Vice President Joe Biden in the polls, it appears that Trump’s ego has once again neatly tripped himself up.

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