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DONALD TRUMP: “TROOPS FOR SALE–TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER!”

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 14, 2020 at 12:05 am

Since the end of the Cold War, the American military and Intelligence communities have grown increasingly dependent on private contractors.

In his 2007 bestseller, Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA, Tim Weiner writes:

“Patriotism for profit became a $50-billion-a-year business….The [CIA] 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….” 

Seal of the Central Intelligence Agency.svg

Much of the CIA became totally dependent on mercenaries. They appeared to work for the agency, but their loyalty was actually to their private—and higher-paying—companies.

Writes Weiner: “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 counter-terrorism 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 counter-terror operations at the agency.

Future CIA hires followed suit: Serve for five years, win that prized CIA “credential” and sign up with a private security company to enrich themselves.  

This situation met with full support from Right-wing “pro-business” members of Congress and President 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. 

Now President Donald Trump is carrying the employment of mercenaries to an entirely different level.

A January 11 headline in Rolling Stone sums it up thus: “Trump Brags About Serving Up American Troops to Saudi Arabia for Nothing More Than Cash.” 

On January 10, Trump, interviewed by Fox News commentator Laura Ingraham, bragged about his positive relationship with Saudi Arabia—and how the Saudi royal family is paying to use American troops:

“Saudi Arabia is paying us for [our troops]. We have a very good relationship with Saudi Arabia. I said, ‘Listen, you’re a very rich country. You want more troops? I’m going to send them to you, but you’ve got to pay us.’

“They’re paying us. They’ve already deposited $1 billion in the bank.

“We are going to help them, but these rich countries have to pay for it. South Korea gave us $500 million… I said, ‘You gotta help us along. We have 32,000 soldiers in South Korea protecting you from North Korea. You’ve gotta pay.’”

Republicans have been silent on Trump’s plan to turn American soldiers into foreign-paid mercenaries. But at least one former Republican has dared to speak out.

Rep. Justin Amash (I-Michigan) recently tweeted: “He sells troops.”

In October, 2019, on “Meet the Press,” Amash accused Trump of breaking his campaign promise to bring troops home.

“There are people who support the president, who believe things he says, but it’s pretty clear he’s not bringing home the troops. He’s just moving them to other parts of the Middle East.” 

But there are dangers to relying on mercenaries. Recent examples include:

  • Edward Snowden deliberately joined Booz Allen Hamilton 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 warn Americans of the privacy-invading dangers posed by their own Intelligence agencies.
  • On March 7, 2017, WikiLeaks published a “data dump” of 8,761 documents code-named “Vault 7.”
  • The documents exposed that the CIA had found security flaws in software operating systems such as Microsoft Windows, Android and Apple iOS. These allowed 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.
  • According to anonymous U.S. Intelligence and law enforcement sources, the culprits were CIA contract employees. 

More ancient sources have also warned against the use of mercenaries. One of these was Niccolo Machiavelli, the Florentine statesman of the Renaissance. 

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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. 

“The cause of this is that they have no love or other motive to keep them in the field beyond a trifling wage, which is not enough to make them ready to die for you.”

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

SAN FRANCISCO: THE CITY BY THE BUM

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on January 13, 2020 at 12:08 am

The San Francisco Travel Association reported a total of 25.8 million visitors to the city in 2018, up 1.2% over 25.5 million in 2017.

Total spending by visitors was $10 billion, up 2.3% over $9.8 billion in 2017 (including spending on meetings and conventions) and creating 82,538 jobs. 

In 2012, the association conducted a survey among San Francisco residents, who named tourism the city’s most important industry.

The study found that 98% of San Franciscan respondents agreed that “tourism is very important or important to the vitality of the city’s economy.” Additionally, when directly asked if they believe tourism is “the city’s most important industry,” almost 70% agreed or strongly agreed.

Downtown San Francisco

Christian Mehlführer, User:Chmehl [CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)%5D

Yet San Francisco’s political establishment seems determined to destroy its main source of city revenues.

They do so by catering to a population euphemistically called “the homeless,” but which is more accurately described as DDMBs: Druggies, Drunks, Mentals and Bums.

Their legacies include the following:

  • The city’s sidewalks reek of human feces and urine.
  • Pedestrians must tread carefully to avoid used hypdermic needles and empty cans or bottles of alcoholic beverages.
  • Sleeping bags and tents litter sidewalks, making it hard to pass by—especially for the elderly or those using canes or wheelchairs.
  • Elevators in the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system are often unusable because “homeless” people urinate in them.
  • Restaurants have been forced to close because they’ve become havens for DDMBs. A Burger King at Civic Center Plaza recently suffered this fate. So did a McDonald’s in the Haight Ashbury district. 
  • Tourists—and residents—are daily forced to sit next to filth-encrusted men and women who reek of urine and/or feces in restaurants and movie theaters, as well as on buses.

Bum passed out near the Cable Car Turnaround on Powell

So what are San Francisco’s politicians doing to curb these offenses against public health—and the tourism industry on which the city depends?

They’re opening a series of “Navigation Centers” to invite even more DDMBs to San Francisco.

According to the city’s Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing:

  • “A Navigation Center is an asset to a community.”
  • Such Centers are “a form of Temporary shelter that are low-barrier and high-service, have 24/7 access, and connect clients to resources and services to help them exit homelessness.”
  • Services offered include: Health care, benefits counseling, mental health care, housing assistance, substance abuse treatment and employment services.

Since 2015, eight Navigation Centers have been opened throughout San Francisco; six are in operation.

Among the “amenities” they provide:

  • Meals
  • Privacy
  • Space for pets
  • Space separate from sleeping areas
  • Laundry
  • Access to benefits
  • Wi-Fi

While city officials increasingly cater to the drug addicts, alcoholics, mentally ill and outright bums who comprise most of this population, San Francisco’s reputation as a tourist mecca is increasingly threatened.

“The large homeless population in San Francisco is more of a mental health and humanitarian issue, although it has affected the tourism and related industries,” said Christian Tong, operations manager for Intrepid Urban Adventures in San Francisco.

“Whether a visitor is staying in Fisherman’s Wharf, North Beach or Union Square, they’ll most likely run into a few of the city’s homeless people, with the largest concentration in the Tenderloin neighborhood.” 

“A few?”

Current estimates peg the homeless population of San Francisco at about 7,500. And it hasn’t changed much during the last 10 years. In 2019, an estimated 2,831 members of this population were sheltered. Another 5,180 were unsheltered. This made for a total of 8,011.

Many DDMBs refuse to enter the city’s available shelters. Some claim these places are dangerous—understandably since they’re peopled with drug addicts, alcoholics, mentally ill and outright bums.

But another reason why many of these shelters go unused is they don’t allow their guests to drink up or drug up. 

The city spends about $300 million each year on DDMBs. Dividing that amount by 8,011 provides the figure of $37,448 per DDMB.

Just as roaches flock to areas where huge quantities of food is available, so will DDMBs continue to flock to San Francisco. Especially if other cities/states don’t cater to them.

And while San Francisco politicians are going all-out to provide for DDMBs, they’re fighting a war against those who feed pigeons in parks. This includes posters erected by the Department of Public Works, which read:

“Large population of pigeons is a health hazard. Our huge feral pigeon population is a health hazard and creates many problems in the city.

“Pigeon droppings dirty public spaces, do costly damage to buildings, and can spread life-threatening diseases, especially to the elderly and immune-deficient. Their nesting materials block drains and harbor parasites like bird mites. Pigeon food makes a mess and attracts rats.

“Feeding pigeons promotes over-breeding. Pigeon feeding produces over-breeding.

“Pigeons are harmed when fed. When you feed pigeons, you are not doing them a favor. They lose their natural ability to scavenge and survive on their own.

“Pigeon over population leads to overcrowded, unsanitary conditions and produces sick and injured birds. A smaller flock is healthier and does less damage.”

Substitute “DDMBs” for “pigeons” and you have an accurate description of what San Francisco’s policy toward these people should be.

CHRISTMAS NIGHT AND THE UNHOLY RIGHT

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on December 24, 2019 at 12:14 am

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

Fox launched this in 2004 with a recurring segment called “Christmas Under Siege.” Thus, aggressive Fascists cloak themselves in the garb of righteous victims.

Stirring up false controversies is a daily assignment for the alleged reporters of this company owned by Right-wing oligarch Rupert Murdoch. 

Perhaps its most outrageous example happened on December 11, 2013. Fox hostess Megyn Kelly offered this on “The Kelly File,” her then-popular Fox News program.

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Megyn Kelly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In 2015, Donald Trump claimed center-stage in “defending” Christmas. And the target of his ire? Starbucks.

In years past, its disposable coffee cups featured snowflakes, winter scenes, reindeer and Christmas ornaments.

But in 2015, Starbucks decided to go with a minimalist, all-red design, its only feature being the company’s green and white logo.

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Baked Alaska with his Trump cup

This angered some religious conservatives, who generally care more about symbols than substance. And Trump was eager to enlist evangelicals as voters.

During a campaign rally in October, Trump promised: “I guarantee if I become president, we’re going to be saying ‘Merry Christmas’ at every store.”

Donald Trump September 3 2015.jpg

Donald Trump

On November 9, 2015, addressing  a crowd of several thousands in Springfield, Illinois, Trump said: “Did you read about Starbucks? No more Merry Christmas on Starbucks.

“I have one of the most successful Starbucks, in Trump Tower. Maybe we should boycott Starbucks? I don’t know. Seriously, I don’t care. That’s the end of that lease, but who cares?

“If I become president, we’re all going to be saying Merry Christmas again, that I can tell you.”

Trump did not explain how he would coerce non-Christian Americans—-such as atheists, Jews and Muslims—into observing a Christian holiday.

Those who claim that Christmas is threatened don’t know—or deliberately ignore—-the following:

  • The Christmas shopping season can start as early as September. Some consumers begin even earlier.
  • For 2019, industry analysts expect the average American to spend $920 on holiday gifts, up from $885 in 2018 and reaching a total of more than $1 trillion.
  • For 2018, consumers spent $717.45 billion to $720.89 billion for the holiday season.
  • Holiday sales in 2017 totaled $687.87 billion
  • For many stores, holiday shopping accounts for nearly a third of annual sales.
  • In 2016, the average American spent $935.58 on holiday gifts. In 2017, s/he was expected to spend $708.81.

In short, no one is “making war” on Christmas—-except Right-wing broadcasters at Fox News to jack up ratings.  

As to the historical realities of this season:

  • There is no reference anywhere in the Bible to the month—let alone the day—of Jesus’ birth. 
  • Jesus never commanded his followers to celebrate his birth—but he did call on them to remember his death.  It’s called Easter.
  • Many of the “religious” traditions associated with Christmas stem from the pagan Roman festival, Saturnalia, which celebrated the “birthday” of the sun.
  • This was celebrated December 17-25.
  • Saturnalia traditions included feasting, gift-giving, lighting candles (to ward off evil spirits) and displaying wreaths (as a sign of coming spring).
  • Early Christians tried mightily to convince their members to stop celebrating the Saturnalia.
  • When these efforts failed, the Roman Catholic Church, in the fourth century, “Christianised” the festival by naming Saturnalia’s concluding day, December 25, as Jesus’ birthday.

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

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

It’s a lesson well-known to hucksters like Donald Trump and the men who run Fox News.

HEROES ARE REMEMBERED, THUGS ARE FORGOTTEN

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 13, 2019 at 12:04 am

March 6, 2019, marked the 183rd anniversary of the fall of the Alamo, a crumbling former Spanish mission in the heart of San Antonio, Texas.

It’s one of those battles like Thermopylae that have passed from history into legend.

It’s been the subject of novels, movies, biographies, histories and TV dramas (most notably Walt Disney’s 1955 “Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier”).

Perhaps the most extraordinary scene in any Alamo movie or book occurs in the 1993 novel, Crockett of Tennessee, by Cameron Judd. 

And it is no less affecting for its being—so far as we know—entirely fictional.  

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The Alamo

It’s March 5, 1836—the last night of life for the Alamo garrison. The night before the 2,000 men of the Mexican Army hurl themselves at the former mission and slaughter its 200 “Texian” defenders. 

The fort’s commander, William Barrett Travis, has drawn his “line in the sand” and invited the garrison to choose: To surrender, to try to escape, or to stay and fight to the death.  

And the garrison—except for one man—chooses to stay and fight. 

For the garrison, immortality lies only hours away. Or does it?  

An hour after deciding to stand and die in the Alamo, wrapped in the gloom of night, Crockett is seized with paralyzing fear. 

“We’re going to die here,” he chokes out to his longtime friend, Persius Tarr. “You understand that, Persius?  We’re going to die!”  Related image

“I know, Davy.  But there ain’t no news in that,” says Tarr. “We’re born to die. Every one of us. Only difference between us and most everybody else is we know when and where it’s going to be.” 

“But I can’t be afraid—not me. I’m Crockett. I’m Canebrake Davy. I’m half-horse, half-alligator.” 

“I know you are, Davy,” says Tarr. “So do all these men here. That’s why you’re going to get past this. 

“You’re going to put that fear behind you and walk back out there and fight like the man you are. The fear’s come and now it’s gone. This is our time, Davy.” 

“The glory-time,” says Crockett. 

“That’s right, David.  The glory-time.” 

And then Tarr delivers a sentiment wholly alien to money-obsessed men like Mitt Romney and Donald Trump—who comprise the richest and most privileged 1% of today’s Americans. 

“There’s men out there with their eyes on you.  You’re the only thing keeping the fear away from them. You’re joking and grinning and fiddling—it gives them courage they wouldn’t have had without you. 

“Maybe that’s why you’re here, Davy—to make the little men and the scared men into big and brave men. You’ve always cared about the little men, Davy. Remember who you are. 

“You’re Crockett of Tennessee, and your glory-time has come.  Don’t you miss a bit of it.”

The next morning, the Mexicans assault the Alamo. Crockett embraces his glory-time—and becomes a legend for all-time. 

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David Crockett (center) at the fall of the Alamo

David Crockett (1786-1836) lived—and died—a poor man. But this did not prevent him from trying to better the lives of his family and fellow citizens—and even his former enemies. 

During the war of 1812, he served as a scout under Andrew Jackson. His foes were the Creek Indians, who had massacred 500 settlers at Fort Mims, Alabama—and threatened to do the same to Crockett’s family and neighbors in Tennessee.

As a Congressman from Tennessee, he championed the rights of poor whites. And he opposed then-President Jackson’s efforts to force the same defeated Indians to depart the lands guaranteed them by treaty. 

To Crockett, a promise was sacred—whether given by a single man or the United States Government. 

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David Crockett

And his presence during the 13-day siege of the Alamo did cheer the spirits of the vastly outnumbered defenders. It’s a matter of historical record that he and a Scotsman named MacGregor often staged musical “duels” to see who could make the most noise. 

It was MacGregor with his bagpipes against Crockett and his fiddle. 

Contrast this devotion of Crockett to the rights of “the little men,” as Persius Tarr called them, with the attitude of Donald Trump, the alleged billionaire President of the United States. 

Donald Trump

On June 16, 2015, while announcing his candidacy, Trump said: 

  • “…I don’t need anybody’s money. It’s nice. I don’t need anybody’s money. I’m using my own money. I’m not using lobbyists, I’m not using donors. I don’t care. I’m really rich.” 
  • “I did a lot of great deals and I did them early and young, and now I’m building all over the world….” 
  • “So I have a total net worth, and now with the increase, it’ll be well over $10 billion.”  
  • “But here, a total net worth of—net worth, not assets, not—a net worth, after all debt, after all expenses, the greatest assets—Trump Tower, 1290 Avenue of the Americas, Bank of America building in San Francisco, 40 Wall Street, sometimes referred to as the Trump building right opposite the New York—many other places all over the world. So the total is $8,737,540,000.” 

Those who give their lives for others are rightly loved and remembered as heroes. Those who dedicate their lives solely to their wallets and egos are rightly soon forgotten.

ANCIENT ROME COMES TO AMERICAN POLITICS

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 10, 2019 at 12:08 am

The 1960 Kirk Douglas epic, Spartacus, has proven to be more than great entertainment. It has turned out to be a prophecy of the end of the American Republic.

In the movie, Spartacus (Douglas), a Roman slave, entertains Marcus Crassus (Laurence Oliver) the richest man in Rome. He does so by fighting to the death as a gladiator.

Poster for Spartacus

While Spartacus and his fellow gladiator/friend, Draba (Woody Strode), slash and stab at each other in the arena, Crassus idly chats with his crony, Marcus Glabrus (Jon Dall).

Crassus has just secured Glabrus’ appointment as commander of the garrison of Rome. Glabrus is grateful, but curious as to how he did it.

After all, Gaius Gracchus (Charles Laughton), the leader of the Roman Senate, hates Crassus, and vigorously opposes his every move.

“I fought fire with oil,” says Crassus. “I purchased the Senate behind his back.”  

Just as Crassus bought the Roman Senate in Spartacus, billionaires similarly bought the 2016 Presidential election.

In 2016, Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, ran as the pet candidate of casino billionaire Sheldon G. Adelson. Since 2007, Adelson had spent millions in support of Gingrich and his causes.

Newt Gingrich

Adelson put up seed money and, ultimately, $7.7 million between 2006 and 2010 for a nonprofit group that served as a precursor to Gingrich’s presidential campaign.

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Sheldon Adelson

Such a contribution is beyond the means of the average American. But Adelson is listed by Forbes as the eighth-wealthiest American, with a net worth of $21.5 billion.

Adelson denied any selfish motives for giving millions to a candidate for the most powerful office in the world:

“My motivation for helping Newt is simple and should not be mistaken for anything other than the fact that my wife Miriam and I hold our friendship with him very dear and are doing what we can as private citizens to support his candidacy.”

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney also relied heavily on a small group of millionaires and billionaires for support.

By February, 2012, a quarter of the money amassed by Romney’s campaign came from just 41 people. Each contributor gave more than $100,000, according to a Washington Post analysis of disclosure data. Nearly a dozen of the donors had contributed $1 million or more.

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Some of Romney’s biggest supporters included executives at Bain Capital, his former firm; bankers at Goldman Sachs; and a hedge fund mogul who made billions betting on the housing crash.

Four years later, in May, 2016, Adelson met privately with Republican Presidential nominee-in-waiting Donald Trump. 

Adelson promised to contribute more to secure Trump’s election than he had contributed to any previous campaign—up to and exceeding $100 million.  

Meanwhile, Trump bragged that he was “not beholden” to any “special interests” because “I’m really rich.”  This falsehood proved a main reason for his popularity as a candidate.

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Donald Trump

Fast forward another three years—and a December 4, 2019 story in Fortune: “2020 Presidential Campaign Fundraising (and Spending) Are on Track to Smash Records.”

Trump, as President, has so far raised $165.3 million.

But Democrats altogether have far outstripped him with $475.6 million raised.

Among the largest Democratic money-raisers (in millions):

  • Bernie Sanders: $74.5
  • Elizabeth Warren: $60.3
  • Pete Buttigieg: $51.5
  • Tom Steyer: $49.6
  • Joe Biden: $37.8 

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg entered the race on November 24. Within a week he paid $57 million for TV ads.

His fellow billionaire Tom Steyer has spent over $60 million since July,

All of this can be directly traced to the 2010 “Citizens United” decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that ended limits in corporate contributions to political campaigns. The decision is so named for the group that successfully sued over federal campaign finance laws.

The 5-4 decision led to the rise of Super PACs—outside groups affiliated with candidates that can take in unlimited contributions as long as they don’t directly coordinate with the candidate. The overwhelming majority of this money goes for negative ads—that slander opponents without saying anything about what a candidate proposes to do.

Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia brushed aside criticism of the corrupting role money played in politics: Change the channel or turn off the TV.

“I don’t care who is doing the speech—the more the merrier,” Scalia said. “People are not stupid. If they don’t like it, they’ll shut it off.”

On the contrary: A fundamental principle of propaganda holds that most people are stupid—or can be made to behave stupidly. If they are ceaselessly bombarded with mind-numbing lies, they will eventually substitute these for reality.  

In Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler laid out his formula for successful propaganda: “All effective propaganda must be confined to a few bare essentials.  

“These must be expressed as far as possible in stereotypical formulas. These slogans should be persistently repeated until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea that has been put forward.”

During the early 1960s a series of movies about the Roman Empire—like Spartacus and Cleopatra—hit the big screen. In these, rich criminals like Marcus Crassus openly bought the favors of ambitious politicians like Julius Caesar.

No doubt millions of moviegoers thought, “Boy, I’m glad that couldn’t happen here.”

But it has happened here—and it’s happening right now.

TREASON COMES WITH THE RUBLES

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on December 3, 2019 at 12:07 am

Once you have decided on a treason,
Sign on with a man named Donald Trump.
And when you find your hatred is a reason,
Then on your country you can take a dump.

There really isn’t any need for worry,
Just do it and then go ahead and lie.
Like giving Russians secrets in the White House,
And that avoids those pests named “F.B.I.”

President Donald J. Trump has been repeatedly accused of having a decades-long relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Russian Mafia. 

He has just as repeatedly denied it. 

But author Craig Unger vividly documents those ties in House of Trump, House of Putin: The Untold Story of Donald Trump and the Russian Mafia.

According to its dust jacket, Trump’s inauguration was “the culmination of Vladimir Putin’s long mission to undermine Western democracy, a mission that he and his hand-selected group of oligarchs and Mafia kingpins had ensnared Trump in, starting more than twenty years ago with the massive bailout of a string of sensational Trump hotel and casino failures in Atlantic City.  

House of Trump, House of Putin: The Untold Story of Donald Trump and the Russian Mafia

“…Craig Unger methodically traces the deep-rooted alliance between the highest echelons of American political operatives and the biggest players in the frightening underworld of the Russian Mafia. He traces Donald Trump’s sordid ascent from foundering real estate tycoon to leader of the free world….

“Without Trump, Russia would have lacked a key component in its attempts to return to imperial greatness. Without Russia, Trump would not be president.”

Yes, treason isn’t something that comes easy.
It’s an act that makes most people want to gag.
But you can earn those rubles that you long for
And the Right will back you up and wave the flag.

‘Cause it’s treason by numbers, 1, 2, 3,
It’s as easy to do as your G.O.P.
Treason by numbers, 1, 2, 3,
It’s as easy to do as your G.O.P.

Another book documenting the unholy alliance between Trump and Russian oligarchs is The Apprentice: Trump, Russia and the Subversion of Democracy by Greg Miller.

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Among the subjects it covers:

  • The Trump Tower meeting, where the Trump campaign sought “dirt” on Hillary Clinton from Russian Intelligence agents.
  • The penetration by Russian Intelligence of computer systems used by Democrats.
  • How Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, tried to set up a secret back channel to Moscow via Russian diplomatic facilities.
  • Trump’s giving Russian officials highly classified secrets supplied by Israeli Intelligence;
  • Trump’s clashes with the FBI and CIA.

Miller is a veteran investigative journalist and twice winner of the Pulitzer Prize. Among his stories: National security adviser Michael Flynn’s discussing U.S. sanctions with Russian officials prior to Trump’s inauguration. The story contributed to Flynn’s ouster.

Trump is the most prominent Republican to have sold out his country for Russian monies. But he’s far from being the only one.

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a rabid defender of Trump, is another.

Graham has received at least $800,000 in campaign donations from Len Blavatnik, an oil oligarch with ties to Putin.

According to the Dallas Morning News,  Blavatnik was “one of the largest donors to GOP Political Action Committees (PACs) in the 2015-16 election cycle.”

His net worth has been estimated at $20 billion.

The Federal Election Commission reveals that Blavatnik’s campaign contributions in 2009-10 were divided along party lines. During that season he contributed $53,400.

In 2011-12 his contributions remained bipartisan and increased to $135,552. In 2013-14 they rose to $273,600 and went to Democrats and Republicans

Then, in 2015-16, Blavatnik pumped $6.35 million into GOP PACs.

In 2017, he gave millions of dollars to top Republican leaders. Among his biggest recipients: Senator Mitch McConnell (KY), Senator Marco Rubio (FLA) and Lindsey Graham.

Specifically, Blavatnik contributed:

  • A total of $1.5 million to PACs associated with Rubio. 
  • $1 million to Trump’s Inaugural Committee.
  • $1 million to McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund.
  • $3.5 million to a PAC associated with McConnell. 
  • $1.1 million to Unintimidated PAC, associated with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker
  • $200,000 to the Arizona Grassroots Action PAC, associated with Arizona Senator John McCain. 
  • $250,000 to New Day for America PAC, associated with Ohio Governor John Kasich.
  • $800,000 went to the Security is Strength PAC, associated with Senator Lindsey Graham.

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The Kremlin

Graham’s PAC received $500,000 in May, 2015, from Blavatnik’s company, Access Industries. This was just before Trump declared his candidacy for President.

Blavatnik gave $300,000 more to Graham in October 2015, long after Graham had ceased to be a viable candidate for the GOP Presidential nomination.

Blavatnik donated another $57,000 to Graham’s campaign directly. The Senator’s campaign later returned $13,500.

Graham abandoned his 2016 campaign for president on December 21, 2015.

A Ukrainian food industry executive who once worked for the sanctioned Russian bank, Sberbank, also made large donations to Graham’s presidential campaign

Now you can join the list of Right-wing traitors
In history’s dark and evil hall of shame.
Their ranks are filled with greedy, racist haters.
At least the ones that we all know by name.

But if you can con you way into the White House
If you become the leader of the land,
Then treason is the sport of the elected,
And Republicans will give you a big hand.

‘Cause it’s treason by numbers,1, 2, 3,
It’s as easy to do as your G.O.P.
Treason by numbers, 1, 2, 3,
It’s as easy to do
As your God-damned G.O.P.

WANT A JOB? TAKE THE EXCUSES OUT OF THE EMPLOYER: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on November 18, 2019 at 12:30 am

Among the provisions of a nationwide Employers Responsibility Act:

(5) Employers would be required to provide full medical and pension benefits for all employees, regardless of their full-time or part-time status.

Increasingly, employers are replacing full-time workers with part-time ones—solely to avoid paying medical and pension benefits.

Requiring employers to act humanely and responsibly toward all their employees would encourage them to provide full-time positions—and hasten the death of this greed-based practice.

(6) Employers of part-time workers would be required to comply with all federal labor laws.

Under current law, part-time employees are not protected against such abuses as discrimination, sexual harassment and unsafe working conditions. Closing this loophole would immediately create two positive results:

  • Untold numbers of currently-exploited workers would be protected from the abuses of predatory employers; and
  • Even predatorily-inclined employers would be encouraged to offer permanent, fulltime jobs rather than only part-time ones—since a major incentive for offering part-time jobs would now be eliminated.

(7) Employers would be encouraged to hire to their widest possible limits,through a combination of financial incentives and legal sanctions. Among those incentives:

Employers demonstrating a willingness to hire would receive substantial Federal tax credits, based on the number of new, permanent employees hired per year.

Employers claiming eligibility for such credits would be required to make their financial records available to Federal investigators. Employers found making false claims would be prosecuted for perjury and tax fraud, and face heavy fines and imprisonment if convicted.

(8) Among those sanctions: Employers refusing to hire could be required to prove, in court:

  • Their economic inability to hire further employees, and/or
  • The unfitness of the specific, rejected applicant.

Companies found guilty of unjustifiably refusing to hire would face the same penalties as now applying in cases of discrimination on the basis of age, race, sex and disability.

Two benefits would result from this:

  1. Employers would thus fund it easier to hire than to refuse to do so; and
  2. Job-seekers would no longer be prevented from even being considered for employment because of arbitrary and interminable “hiring freeze.”

(9) Employers refusing to hire would be required to pay an additional “crime tax.”

Sociologists and criminologists agree that “the best cure for crime is a job.” Thus, employers who refuse to hire contribute to a growing crime rate in this Nation. Such non-hiring employers would be required to pay an additional tax, which would be earmarked for agencies of the criminal justice system at State and Federal levels.

(10)  The seeking of “economic incentives” by companies in return for moving to or remaining in cities/states would be strictly forbidden. 

Such “economic incentives” usually:

  1. allow employers to ignore existing laws protecting employees from unsafe working conditions;
  2. allow employers to ignore existing laws protecting the environment;
  3. allow employers to pay their employees the lowest acceptable wages, in return for the “privilege” of working at these companies; and/or
  4. allow employers to pay little or no business taxes, at the expense of communities who are required to make up for lost tax revenues.

(11)   Employers who continue to make such overtures would be criminally prosecuted for attempted bribery or extortion:  

  1. Bribery, if they offered to move to a city/state in return for “economic incentives,” or
  2. Extortion, if they threatened to move their companies from a city/state if they did not receive such “economic incentives.”

This would protect employees against artificially-depressed wages and unsafe working conditions; protect the environment in which these employees live; and protect cities/states from being pitted against one another at the expense of their economic prosperity. 

* * * * *

For thousands of years, otherwise highly intelligent men and women believed that kings ruled by divine right. That kings held absolute power, levied extortionate taxes and sent countless millions of men off to war—all because God wanted it that way.

That lunacy was dealt a deadly blow in 1776 when American Revolutionaries threw off the despotic rule of King George III of England.

But today, millions of Americans remain imprisoned by an equally outrageous and dangerous theory: The Theory of the Divine Right of Employers.

Summing up this employer-as-God attitude, Calvin Coolidge still speaks for the overwhelming majority of employers and their paid shills in government: “The man who builds a factory builds a temple, and the man who works there worships there.”

America can no longer afford such a dangerous fallacy as the Theory of the Divine Right of Employers.

Americans did not win their freedom from Great Britain—and its enslaving doctrine of “the divine right of kings”—-by begging for their rights.

And Americans will not win their freedom from their corporate masters–-and the equally enslaving doctrine of “the divine right of employers”—-by begging for the right to work and support themselves and their families.

Corporations can—and do—spend millions of dollars on TV ads, selling lies—lies such as the “skills gap,” and how if the wealthy are forced to pay their fair share of taxes, jobs will inevitably disappear.

But Americans can choose to reject those lies—and demand that employers behave like patriots instead of predators.

WANT A JOB? TAKE THE EXCUSES OUT OF THE EMPLOYER: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on November 15, 2019 at 12:36 am

Ronald Reagan, like every major Republican Presidential candidate since, promised that giving tax cuts to the wealthy would prove highly beneficial to ordinary workers.

The official name for this policy was “supply side economics.”  In reality, it was known—and functioned—as “trickle down economics.”  And among the actions Reagan took to enforce it:

  • On January 28, 1981, keeping a pledge to his financial backers in the oil industry, Reagan abolished Federal controls on the price of oil.
  • Within a week, Exxon, Texaco and Shell raised gasoline prices and prices of home heating oil.
  • Reagan saw it as his duty to put a floor under prices, not a ceiling above them.
  • Reagan believed that when government helped business it wasn’t interfering. Loaning money to bail out a financially incompetent Chrysler was “supporting the free enterprise system.”
  • But putting a high-profits tax on price-gouging corporations or filing anti-trust suits against them was “Communistic” and therefore intolerable.
  • Tax-breaks for wealthy businesses meant helping America become stronger.
  • But welfare for the poor or the victims of a predatory marketplace economy weakened America by sapping its morale.

To be unemployed in America is considered by most Americans—including the unemployed—the same as being a bum.  

And Republicans are quick to point accusing fingers at those willing-to-work Americans who can’t find willing-to-hire employers.

According to Republicans such as Mitt Romney and Herman Cain: If you can’t find a job, it’s entirely your fault. Employers, on the other hand, are not legally or even morally expected to provide jobs for those willing and able to work.

But America can put an end to this disgraceful situation.

The answer lies in three words: Employers Responsibility Act (ERA).

If passed by Congress and vigorously enforced by the U.S. Departments of Justice and Labor, an ERA would ensure full-time, permanent and productive employment for millions of capable, job-seeking Americans.

And it would achieve this without raising taxes or creating controversial government “make work” programs.

Such legislation would legally require employers to demonstrate as much initiative for hiring as job-seekers are now expected to show in searching for work. 

An ERA would simultaneously address the following evils for which employers are directly responsible:

  • The loss of jobs within the United States owing to companies’ moving their operations abroad—solely to pay substandard wages to their new employees.
  • The mass firings of employees which usually accompany corporate mergers or acquisitions.
  • The widespread victimization of part-time employees, who are not legally protected against such threats as racial discrimination, sexual harassment and unsafe working conditions.

  • The refusal of many employers to create better than menial, low-wage jobs.
  • The widespread employer practice of extorting “economic incentives” from cities or states in return for moving to or remaining in those areas. Such “incentives” usually absolve employers from complying with laws protecting the environment and/or workers’ rights.
  • The refusal of many employers to provide medical and pension benefits—nearly always in the case of part-time employees, and, increasingly, for full-time, permanent ones as well.
  • Rising crime rates, due to rising unemployment.

Among its provisions:

(1) American companies that close plants in the United States and open others abroad would be forbidden to sell products made in those foreign plants within the United States.

This would protect both American and foreign workers from employers seeking to profit at their expense. American workers would be ensured of continued employment. And foreign laborers would be protected against substandard wages and working conditions.

Companies found violating this provision would be subject to Federal criminal prosecution. Guilty verdicts would result in heavy fines and lengthy imprisonment for their owners and top managers.

(2) Large companies (those employing more than 100 persons) would be required to create entry-level training programs for new, future employees.

These would be modeled on programs now existing for public employees, such as firefighters, police officers and members of the armed services.

Such programs would remove the employer excuse, “I’m sorry, but we can’t hire you because you’ve never had any experience in this line of work.” After all, the Air Force has never rejected an applicant because, “I’m sorry, but you’ve never flown a plane before.”

This Nation has greatly benefited from the humane and professional efforts of the men and women who have graduated from public-sector training programs. There is no reason for the private sector to shun programs that have succeeded so brilliantly for the public sector.

(3) Employers would receive tax credits for creating professional, well-paying, full-time jobs.

This would encourage the creation of better than the menial, dead-end, low-paying and often part-time jobs which exist in the service industry. Employers found using such tax credits for any other purpose would be prosecuted for tax fraud.

(4) A company that acquired another—through a merger or buyout—would be forbidden to fire en masse the career employees of that acquired company.

This would be comparable to the protection existing for career civil service employees. Such a ban would prevent a return to the predatory “corporate raiding” practices of the 1980s, which left so much human and economic wreckage in their wake.

WANT A JOB? TAKE THE EXCUSES OUT OF THE EMPLOYER: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on November 14, 2019 at 12:08 am

During the 2016 Presidential campaign, Donald Trump assumed a role that utterly confounded his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.

He adopted the role of a populist, appealing to blue-collar voters. He visited “Rustbelt” states like Michigan and Pennsylvania and vowed to “bring back” jobs that had been lost to China, such as those in coal mining and manufacturing

Clinton, on the other hand, made two deadly mistakes:

First, she offered a “love-your-CEO” economic plan to the unemployed—and suffered for it. 

And, second, she didn’t deign to visit those “Rustbelt” states, assuming she had them “locked up.”

Most economists agree that, in a globalized economy, such jobs are not coming back, no matter who becomes President.

Even so, voters backed the man who came to promise them a better future, and shunned the woman who didn’t come to promise them any future at all.

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Hillary Clinton (Gage Skidmore photo)

In May, 2016, Democratic pollster CeLinda Lake had warned Clinton to revamp her economic platform. Clinton ignored the advice.

“Democrats simply have to come up with a more robust economic frame and message,” Lake said after the election. “We’re never going to win those white, blue-collar voters if we’re not better on the economy. And 27 policy papers and a list of positions is not a frame. We can laugh about it all we want, but Trump had one.” 

Had Clinton offered struggling or unemployed workers a realistic plan for turning their lives around, the 2016 election might well have had a different ending. 

But, since winning the White House, Trump has not been able to “bring back jobs” lost to corporations’ “outsourcing” to countries like China and Mexico.  

Nor have huge tax cuts for corporations resulted in large-scale hiring. He claimed that, with this extra income, CEOs would invest in their businesses and create tens of thousands of new jobs. And through his Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which Republicans rammed through Congress, the corporate income tax rate has been slashed from 35% to 21%. 

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Donald Trump

But that’s not what some of the biggest S&P 500 companies predicted they would do if they got those tax cuts. The people they wanted to please were investors, not workers.  And, least of all, those seeking work but unable to find employers willing to hire.

Darius Adamczyk, CEO of Honeywell International Inc., said “tax reform” would “offer greater flexibility for Honeywell.”  He added that the corporation would invest more cash in the United States to pay for mergers and acquisitions, share buybacks and paying down debt. 

He didn’t say anything about hiring more workers.

According to Moody’s Investors Service, American corporations have stockpiled nearly $1.8 trillion in cash overseas. 

Apple has more than $240 billion of that total.

Apple’s CEO Tim Cook said the company wanted to bring back offshore cash if tax rates for doing so were lower: “What we would do with it, let’s wait and see exactly what it is, but as I’ve said before we are always looking at acquisitions.”

Apple expected a tax windfall if Trump’s tax-cutting plan passed Congress. And analysts openly expected Apple to use those monies to boost its capital return program via buybacks, dividends and perhaps making a big acquisition.

What analysts didn’t expect Apple to do with its tax cut monies was create new American jobs.

Most of the offshore cash brought home by U.S. companies in past tax holidays was used to buy back shares or make acquisitions, not to fund investments in production capacity or jobs.

Corporations were not legally required to use those tax cut savings to hire more workers.  And Trump’s tax cut legislation has no such requirement, either.

According to John Divine, staff writer for U.S. News & World Report‘s Money section: “As long as there are no strings attached on how or where companies spend these savings, taxpayers get a raw deal.”

Tax cuts for the wealthy have been a favorite—perhaps the favorite—Republican mantra since 1980, when former California Governor Ronald Reagan ran for and became President.

Ronald Reagan

Reagan, like every major Republican Presidential candidate since, promised that giving tax cuts to the wealthy would prove highly beneficial to ordinary workers.

The official name for this policy was “supply side economics.” In reality, it was known—and functioned—as “trickle down economics.” 

“A rising tide lifts all boats,” claimed Reagan. A more realistic slogan for the results of his economics policies would have been: “A rising tide lifts some yachts.”

Among those charting Reagan’s economics legacy as President was former CBS Correspondent David Schoenbrun. In his bestselling autobiography, America Inside Out: At Home and Abroad from Roosevelt to Reagan, he wrote: 

“[According to Republicans] welfare for the rich is good for America. But welfare for the poor is bad for America, even for the poor themselves, for it encourages them to be shiftless and lazy.

“Somehow, loans to the inefficient management of American corporations would not similarly encourage them in their inefficient methods.”

To be unemployed in America is considered by most Americans—including the unemployed—the same as being a bum.  

And Republicans are quick to point accusing fingers at those willing-to-work Americans who can’t find willing-to-hire employers.

BOOING THE HEROES, CHEERING THE VILLAINS

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on September 26, 2019 at 12:04 am

It used to be a staple of dramatic movies: A lone crusader, battling heroically against the corruption of entrenched bureaucracies.

In Serpico (1973) audiences were led, frame by frame, to cheer on the lonely and dangerous efforts of incorruptible Frank Serpico (Al Pacino) to combat widespread payoffs within the NYPD.

And even though a wounded Serpico is forced to resign from the NYPD, he leaves behind the Knapp Commission to investigate widespread police corruption.

Serpico imp.jpg

At no time, though, was the audience led to root for the men who dedicated their lives to deceit and corruption.

But for Right-wingers, the opposite is the case. Supporting those who peddle lies for profit is considered a patriotic duty. And so is attacking those who dare to stand up against lies and corruption

Consider the following:

On December 14, 2012, Adam Lanza, a mentally unstable, 20-year-old gunman, slaughtered 20 school children aged six and seven and six adult staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, Connecticut.

Enter Right-wing broadcaster and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who hosts The Alex Jones Show from Austin, Texas. 

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

On August 1, 2018, families of four students and two educators who died in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre filed a defamation lawsuit against Jones.

Alex Jones Portrait (cropped).jpg

Alex Jones

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

According to the complaint: 

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

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

Typically, Jones responded to the lawsuit with more lies:  

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

Ernest Hemingway said: “Fascism is a lie told by bullies.”  More proof of this came on September 23.

On that day, 16-year-old activist Greta Thunberg indicted world leaders at the United Nations for failing to act on climate change:

“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”

Image result for greta thunberg on twitter

Greta Thunberg

Those who “talk about money”—and their Right-wing shills—were quick to strike back.

“She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!” President Donald Trump tweeted sarcastically above a link to Thunberg’s speech. 

CNN’s Chris Cillizza immediately recognized the sarcasm: “Unfortunately, it’s not at all surprising that Trump saw fit to make fun of Thunberg’s passion and emotion. This is who he is — a schoolyard bully who doesn’t differentiate between a 16-year-old girl and Joe Biden. Or a Gold Star family. Or a prisoner of war. Or white nationalists and those protesting their ideology of hate.” 

Right-wing commentator Michael Knowles called Thunberg—who suffers from Asperger’s syndrome—“a mentally ill Swedish child who is being exploited by her parents and by the international left.”

Fox News host Laura Ingraham juxtaposed Thunberg’s speech with a clip from the 1984 horror film Children of the Corn, joking, “I can’t wait for Stephen King’s sequel, Children of the Climate.”

Fox News came under fire on Twitter for these attacks.  Retreating quickly, the network issued the following statement: “The comment made by Michael Knowles, who was a guest on The Story tonight, was disgraceful—we apologize to Greta Thunberg and to our viewers.”

Ingraham’s brother, Curtis, wrote: “I can no longer apologize for a sibling who I no longer recognize.”

According to a September 23 article in Teen Vogue magazine, “Attacks on Greta Thunberg Come from a Coordinated Network of Climate Change Deniers.” 

Specifically: “A large subsection of the commentariat driving the abuse of Greta is part of an established network of radical free-marketeer lobby groups — a network that has firm ties to the fossil fuel industry and funders of climate science denial.”

Many American commentators attacking Thunberg are tied to the Heartland Institute, funded by Big Oil, and which promotes climate science denial.

Other critics of Greta owe their allegiance to the Koch family, owners of the U.S.’s largest private energy company.

Like Holocaust deniers, Right-wing shills like Alex Jones and Laura Ingraham can’t afford to admit the corruption of the causes they support.

By demanding “Prove it!” and then attacking all evidence put forward, Rightists hope to keep their critics on the defensive. 

Thus, the best course to take when a Right-winger makes a claim: Assume it’s a lie—because it is.

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