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A RECIPE FOR CONSPIRACY: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 22, 2018 at 12:02 am

Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of modern political science, wrote that there are three periods of danger in a conspiracy:  

  • Dangers in organizing the plot
  • Dangers in executing the conspiracy
  • Dangers following the execution of the plot.   

The first two dangers were covered in Part One of this series.  Now, as to the third danger.

Dangers following the Execution of the Conspiracy: There is really but one—someone is left who will avenge the murdered prince. These can be brothers, sons or other relatives, who have been spared by negligence or for other reasons. 

But of all the perils that follow the execution of a conspiracy, the most certain and fearful is the attachment of the people to the murdered prince. There is no remedy against this, for the conspirators can never secure themselves against a whole people. 

An example of this occurred in the case of Julius Caesar, who, being beloved by the people, was avenged by them.  

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Julius Caesar 

Machiavelli closes his chapter “Of Conspiracies” with advice to rulers on how they should act when they find a conspiracy has been formed against them.  

If they discover that a conspiracy exists against them, they must, before punishing its authors, strive to learn its nature and extent. And they must measure the danger posed by the conspirators against their own strength.

And if they find it powerful and alarming, they must not expose it until they have amassed sufficient force to crush it. Otherwise, they will only speed their own destruction. They should try to pretend ignorance of it. If the conspirators find themselves discovered, they will be forced by necessity to act without consideration.  

The foregoing was taken from Book Three, Chapter Six, of Machiavelli’s masterwork, The Discourses on Livy, which was published posthumously in 1531. But elsewhere in this volume, he notes how important it is for rulers to make themselves loved—or at least respected—by their fellow citizens: 

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Niccolo Machiavelli

Note how much more praise those Emperors merited who, after Rome became an empire, conformed to her laws like good princes, than those who took the opposite course. 

Titus, Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus and Marcus Auelius did not require the Praetorians nor the multitudinous legions to defend them, because they were protected by their own good conduct, the good will of the people, and by the love of the Senate.

On the other hand, neither the Eastern nor the Western armies saved Caligula, Nero, Vitellius and so many other wicked Emperors from the enemies which their bad conduct and evil lives had raised up against them.  

In his better-known work, The Prince, he warns rulers who—like Donald Trump—are inclined to rule by fear:

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

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Donald Trump

If Trump is aware of Machiavelli’s warnings, he has shown no signs of it.

Presidents have universally tried to seem friendly and caring toward their fellow Americans.

This held true even for Richard M. Nixon, when he made an impromptu visit to the Lincoln Memorial and engaged in a rambling dialogue with Vietnam war protesters. 

The encounter happened around 4 a.m. on May 9, 1970, shortly after the invasion of Cambodia. Nationwide outrage had exploded on college campuses, climaxing in the killing of four students at Kent State University on May 4.  

So young Vietnam antiwar protesters who had descended on Washington, D.C. were startled when Nixon suddenly appeared in their midst.

Nixon, in his awkward way of trying to establish rapport, asked some of the students where they were from. When they said they attended Syracuse University, Nixon replied that it had a great football team.  

But Nixon and the protesters were separated by too many differences—in their views on sexuality, civil rights, dissent and war—to find common cause.

Still, Nixon at least made an effort to understand and reach an accommodation with his critics.

Since taking office on January 20, 2017, Donald Trump has made none.

Instead, he has:

  • Defended white supremacists who sparked violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.
  • Fired James Comey, the director of the FBI, for investigating ties between his 2016 Presidential campaign and Russian Intelligence agents.  
  • Attacked the integrity of Federal judges who struck down his travel ban on Muslims.
  • Called the nation’s most prestigious news media “the enemy of the American people.”
  • Rammed through Congress a massive tax cut for the wealthy, at the expense of ordinary Americans.
  • Attacked the integrity of American Intelligence agencies, such as the FBI and CIA.
  • Falsely accused his predecessor, President Barack Obama, of wiretapping him.

These and other infamous actions have led to only 36% of Americans approving of his performance—while 58% disapprove. 

Trump’s approval rating is now lower than that of any other President at this point in modern polling at this point. 

By Machiavelli’s standards, Trump has made himself the perfect target for a conspiracy: “When a prince becomes universally hated, it is likely that he’s harmed some individuals—who thus seek revenge. This desire is increased by seeing that the prince is widely loathed.”

A RECIPE FOR CONSPIRACY: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 19, 2018 at 1:50 am

More than 500 years ago, Niccolo Machiavelli, the Florentine statesman, authored The Discourses on Livy, a work of political history and philosophy. In it, he outlined how citizens of a republic can maintain their freedoms.  

One of the longest chapters—Book Three, Chapter Six—covers “Of Conspiracies.”  In it, those who wish to conspire against a ruler will find highly useful advice.  

And so will those who wish to foil such a conspiracy.  

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Niccolo Machiavelli

Writes Machiavelli:

For conspirators, there are three ways their efforts can be foiled:

  • Discovery through denunciation;
  • Discovery through incautiousness;
  • Discovery through writings.

Discovery through Denunciation: This occurs through treachery or lack of prudence among one or more conspirators.  

Treachery is so common that you can safely tell your plans to only your most trusted friends who are willing to risk their lives for your sake.  You may find that you have only one or two of these. 

But as you are bring more people into the conspiracy, the chances of discovery greatly increase. It’s impossible to find many who can be completely trusted: For their devotion to you must be greater than their sense of danger and fear of punishment.  

Discovery through Carelessness: This happens when one of the conspirators speaks incautiously, so that a third person overhears it  Or it may occur from thoughtlessness, when a conspirator tells the secret to his wife or child, or to some other indiscreet person.  

When a conspiracy has more than three or four members, its discovery is almost certain, either through treason, imprudence or carelessness. 

If more than one conspirator is arrested, the whole plot is discovered, for it will be impossible for any two to agree perfectly as to all their statements.  

If only one is arrested, he may–through courage and stubbornness–be able to conceal the names of his accomplices. But then the others, to remain safe, must not panic and flee, since this is certain to be discovered.

If one of them becomes fearful—whether it’s the one who was arrested or is still at liberty—discovery of the conspiracy is certain. 

The best way to avoid such detection is to confide your project to your intended fellow conspirators at the moment of execution—and not sooner.  

A classic example of this occurred in ancient Persia: A group of nobles assembled to discuss overthrowing a usurper to the throne. The last one to arrive was Darius.

When one of the conspirators asked, “When should we strike?” Darius replied: “We must either go now at this very moment and carry it into execution, or I shall go and denounce you all.  For I will not give any of you time to denounce me.”

At that, they went directly to the palace, assassinated the usurper and proclaimed Darius their new king.

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Discovery through Writings: You may talk freely with anyone man about everything, for unless you have committed yourself in writing, the “Yes” of one man is worth as much as the “No” of another. 

Thus, you should guard most carefully against writing, as against a dangerous rock, for nothing will convict you quicker than your own handwriting.

You may escape, then, from the accusation of a single individual, unless you are convicted by some writing or other pledge, which you should be careful never to give.  

If you are denounced, there are means of escaping punishment:

  • By denying the accusation and claiming that the person making it hates you; or
  • Claiming that your accuser was tortured or coerced into giving false testimony against you.

But the most prudent course is to not tell your intentions to anyone, and to carry out the attempt yourself.  

Even if you’re not discovered before you carry out your attack, there are still two dangers facing a conspirator:

Dangers in Execution: These result from:

  • An unexpected change in the routine of the intended target;
  • The lack of courage among the conspirators; or
  • An error on their part, such as leaving some of those alive whom the conspirators intended to kill.  

Adolf Hitler, who claimed to have a sixth-sense for danger, was famous for changing his routine at the last minute. 

Adolf Hitler

On November 9, 1939, this instinct saved his life. He had been scheduled to give a long speech at a Munich beer hall before the “Old Fighters” of his storm troopers. 

But that evening he cut short his speech and left the beer hall. Forty-five minutes later, a bomb exploded inside a pillar—before which Hitler had been speaking.

Conspirators can also be doomed by their good intentions.  

In 44 B.C., Gaius Cassius, Marcus Brutus and other Roman senators decided to assassinate Julius Caesar, whose dictatorial ambitions they feared.

Cassius also intended to murder Mark Anthony, Caesar’s strongest ally. But Brutus objected, fearing the plotters would look like butchers, not saviors. Even worse, he allowed Anthony to deliver a eulogy at Caesar’s funeral.

This proved so inflammatory that the mourners rioted, driving the conspirators out of Rome. Soon afterward, they were defeated in a battle with the legions of Anthony and Octavian Caesar—and forced to commit suicide to avoid capture and execution.

TRUMP’S STRATEGY: ILLEGAL ALIENS VS. LEGAL AMERICANS

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on January 18, 2018 at 1:38 pm

Democrats and Republicans are heading for a showdown.  And the Federal Government is heading for a shutdown.

Democrats are demanding a “fix” for DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that expires in March. Nearly 800,000 men and women—the sons and daughters of illegal aliens who entered the United States decades ago—stand to be deported if a “fix” isn’t found.  

DACA, which began in 2012, protects these people from deportation and allows them to work legally.

In September, 2017, President Donald Trump stripped protections from these “Dreamers” and gave Congress six months to write a law to resolve their plight. 

Republicans, in turn, want a stopgap bill to fund the Federal Government through February 16 to avert a shutdown. But they don’t want to provide protections for “Dreamers.”  

Illegal aliens crossing into the United States

President Trump is pushing his own solution to illegal immigration: A massive, impenetrable wall along the U.S.-Mexican border.  The cost: Billions of dollars.

But there is a more effective—and cheaper—way to attack illegal immigration: Attack the “sanctuary cities” across the nation that illegally shield violators of Federal immigration laws from arrest. 

Among the 31 “sanctuary cities” of this country: Washington, D.C.; New York City; Los Angeles; Chicago; San Francisco; Santa Ana; San Diego; Salt Lake City; Phoenix; Dallas; Houston; Austin; Detroit; Jersey City; Minneapolis; Miami; Denver; Baltimore; Seattle; Portland, Oregon; New Haven, Connecticut; and Portland, Maine.

These cities have adopted “sanctuary” ordinances that forbid municipal funds or resources to be used to enforce federal immigration laws.  This usually translates into not allowing police or municipal employees to inquire about one’s immigration status.  

Trump simply needs to cut off Federal funding to those cities which systematically defy the immigration laws of the United States. 

And on March 27, 2017, his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, threatened to do just that.  

“The Department of Justice will require that jurisdictions seeking or applying for DOJ grants to certify compliance with [U.S. Code 1373] as a condition of receiving those awards,” said Sessions in a surprise appearance at the White House Briefing Room. 

His reference was to Federal laws which state that cities cannot prevent federal authorities from enforcing immigration laws. 

Immigration is regulated at the federal level, chiefly under the 1952 Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). And in 1986, Congress passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), to curb illegal immigration, deny welfare benefits to illegal aliens and strengthen penalize employers who hire them.

“Block funding for sanctuary cities. We block the funding. No more funding,” Trump said in August, 2016, when he laid out his immigration plans at a rally in Phoenix. “Cities that refuse to cooperate with federal authorities will not receive taxpayer dollars.”

New York City, for example, could lose up to $10.4 billion in Federal funding. Its agencies that receive the biggest share of these monies: The Housing Authority, the Administration for Children’s Services and the Department of Social Services.

Mayors from “sanctuary cities” such as New York, Chicago, Baltimore and San Francisco have threatened to resist Trump’s threat.

Trump has never before held public office. But, as a businessman, he well knows how to appeal to people’s greed and selfishness. 

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By blocking monies to “sanctuary cities,” Trump will quickly drive a wedge between ardent liberals such as Bill de Blazio and their constituents who depend on those infusions of Federal monies.

In New York, for example, once Federal monies are cut off:

  • Legal American citizens won’t be able to obtain assistance for low- and moderate-income families to rent housing in the private market.
  • American children needing care for their emotional or medical needs will be denied it.
  • Americans wanting to adopt a foster care child will be unable to do so–because there won’t be monies to pay the officials who now staff these agencies.

In short: The beautiful “every-man-is-my-brother” theories of liberal politicians are about to slam head-on into the ugliness of real-world needs and wants.

And when legal citizens can’t obtain the government services they have been used to getting, they will quickly become enraged. 

At first, many—perhaps most—of the people living in “sanctuary cities” will rush to support their elected officials in refusing to knuckle under.

But as time passes, public needs will go unmet while Federal monies continue to be blocked. 

First they will aim their rage at the local—and elected—officials of these cities responsible for “sanctuary” policies. And then they will focus their anger on the illegal aliens being protected by civic officials.

This will be followed by increasing demands by legal—and law-abiding—American citizens for their elected officials to cooperate with Federal immigration agents.

As tensions rise, so will demands for the election of new mayors and supervisors. And the chief demand of those voters will be: “Turn over the illegal aliens and restore our public services!” 

Some citizens will almost certainly take out their anger on anyone who even looks Hispanic, let alone speaks only Spanish.

And those citizens who feel conscience-torn by demanding an end to “sanctuary cities” will console themselves with this literal truth: Illegal immigration is against the law—and local officials have a sworn duty to obey the law at all levels—including those laws they don’t agree with.

STOPPING ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION—WITHOUT A WALL

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on January 17, 2018 at 12:56 am

The Federal Government is heading for a shutdown by January 19.

A major reason for this is Presidential Donald Trump’s demand that Congress fund a massive, impenetrable wall along the U.S.-Mexican border.

Its purpose: To end illegal immigration from Mexico. 

And Democrats—seeing this as an election-year issue—are totally opposed to the wall.

During his 2016 Presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly boasted: “I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall.”

But there are serious obstacles to erecting such a barrier:

  • The United States/Mexican border stretches for 1,954 miles—and encompasses rivers, deserts and mountains.
  • Environmental and engineering problems.
  • Squabbles with ranchers who don’t want to give up any of their land.
  • Building such a wall would cost untold billions of dollars.
  • Drug traffickers and alien smugglers could easily tunnel under it into the United States—as they are now doing.

There are, in fact, cheaper and more effective remedies for combating illegal immigration.

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Illegal aliens crossing into the United States

(1) The Justice Department should vigorously attack the “sanctuary movement” that officially thwarts the immigration laws of the United States.

Among the 31 “sanctuary cities” of this country: Washington, D.C.; New York City; Los Angeles; Chicago; San Francisco; Santa Ana; San Diego; Salt Lake City; Phoenix; Dallas; Houston; Austin; Detroit; Jersey City; Minneapolis; Miami; Denver; Baltimore; Seattle; Portland, Oregon; New Haven, Connecticut; and Portland, Maine.

These cities have passed ordinances that ban municipal funds or resources from being used to enforce federal immigration laws. As a result, police or municipal employees are not allowed to inquire about citizens’ immigration status.

(2)  Indict the highest-ranking officials of those cities who have actively violated Federal immigration laws.

In San Francisco, for example, former San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris—who is now California’s United States Senator—created a secret and illegal program called Back on Track, which provided training for jobs that illegal aliens could not legally hold.

(3) Even if some indicted officials escaped conviction, the results would prove worthwhile.  

City officials would be forced to spend huge sums of their own money for attorneys and face months or even years of prosecution.

And this would send a devastating warning to officials in other “sanctuary cities” that the same fate lies in store for them.

(4) CEOs whose companies—like Wal-Mart—systematically employ illegal aliens should be held directly accountable for the actions of their subordinates.

They should be indicted by the Justice Department under the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, the way Mafia bosses are prosecuted for ordering their own subordinates to commit crimes.  

Upon conviction, the CEO should be sentenced to a mandatory prison term of at least 20 years.

Convicting a score of CEOs would prove a more effective remedy for combating illegal immigration than stationing tens of thousands of soldiers on the U.S./Mexican border. 

Word would quickly get around—and CEOs across the nation would take drastic steps to ensure that their companies strictly complied with Federal immigration laws.

(5) The Government should stop granting automatic citizenship to “anchor babies” born to illegal aliens in the United States.

A comparable practice would be allowing bank robbers who had eluded the FBI to keep their illegally-obtained loot.

A person who violates the bank robbery laws of the United States can be prosecuted for bank robbery, whether he’s immediately arrested or remains uncaught for years. The same should be true for those born illegally within this country.

If they’re not here legally at the time of birth, they should not be considered citizens and should—like their parents—be subject to deportation.

(6) The United States Government—from the President on down—should scrap its apologetic tone on the right to control its national borders.

In 2010, Michelle Obama visited New Hampshire Estates Elementary School in Silver Spring, Maryland.  

A second-grader said: “My mom, she says that Barack Obama is taking everybody away that doesn’t have papers.”  

“Yeah, well, that’s something that we have to work on right?” replied Mrs. Obama. “To make sure that people can be here with the right kind of papers, right?”  

The girl then said: “But my mom doesn’t have any….”

Obama: “Well, we’ll have to work on that.  We have to fix that, and everybody’s got to work together in Congress to make sure that happens.”

Mexico doesn’t consider itself racist for strictly enforcing its immigration laws. Neither should the United States.

(7) Voting materials and ballots should be published in one language: English. 

In Mexico, voting materials are published in one language—Spanish.

Throughout the United States, millions of Mexican illegals refuse to learn English and yet demand that voting materials and ballots be made available to them in Spanish.

(8) The United States should impose economic and even military sanctions against countries—such as China and Mexico—whose citizens make up the bulk of illegal aliens. 

Mexico, for example, uses its American border to rid itself of those who might demand major reforms in the country’s political and economic institutions.

Such nations must learn that dumping their unwanted’s on the United States now comes at an unfavorably high price. Otherwise those dumpings will continue.

THE ALLURE—AND PERILS—OF FLATTERY

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on January 16, 2018 at 12:10 am

According to CNN, Arizona United States Senator Jeff Flake will deliver a speech on the floor of the Senate comparing President Donald Trump to former Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

The subject of that speech—to be delivered on January 17—will be Trump’s attacks on the news media.

Among those attacks:

  • On February 17, 2017, Trump called the press “the enemy of the American people.”“The FAKE NEWS media,” he tweeted, “(failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!”
  • On July 2, Trump tweeted a video showing him punching a man with the CNN logo superimposed on his head during a WWE wrestling match.
  • And on August 15, the President retweeted a cartoon photo of a “Trump Train” running over a CNN reporter.

“Mr. President,” says an excerpt of Flake’s upcoming speech made available to CNN, “it is a testament to the condition of our democracy that our own President uses words infamously spoken by Joseph Stalin to describe his enemies.

“It bears noting that so fraught with malice was the phrase ‘enemy of the people,’ that even Nikita Khrushchev forbade its use, telling the Soviet Communist Party that the phrase had been introduced by Stalin for the purpose of ‘annihilating such individuals’ who disagreed with the supreme leader.”

Joseph Stalin ordered his critics executed in prison or exiled to Siberia. It’s clear that Donald Trump would like to have that same power.

Joseph Stalin

But that’s not the only similarity that unites the current President and the late Soviet premier.

A second one: Raging egomania.

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

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

He had lived up to his pseudonym: “Man of Steel.” For almost 30 years, through purges and starvation caused by enforced collections of farmers’ crops, he had slaughtered 20 to 60 million of his fellow citizens.

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

“From all over the country came gifts of embroidered cloth, tapestries and carpets bearing his name or his features….Poets extolled him in verses, He was the sun, the splendor, the lord of creation.

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

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

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

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

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

Now, fast forward to June 12, 2017.

That was when President Donald J. Trump—also 70—convened his first full Cabinet meeting since taking office on January 20.

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Donald Trump

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

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

Vice President Mike Pence: “It is the greatest privilege of my life to serve as the vice president to a president who is keeping his word to the American people.”

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Mike Pence

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

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

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

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

Politicians—both domestic and foreign—have quickly learned that the quickest way to get on Trump’s “good side” is to shamelessly and constantly praise him.

As Trump infamously said during a 2016 interview: “If [Vladimir] Putin says nice things about me, I’ll say nice things about him.”

Some historians believe that Stalin was poisoned by one of his fawning yes-men—most likely Lavrenti Beria.

The time may come when Trump learns that outrageous flattery can hide murderous hatred.

WHY SETTLE FOR PRESIDENT WHEN YOU CAN BE COMMISSAR?

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on January 15, 2018 at 1:07 am

On January 17, Arizona United States Senator Jeff Flake is expected to do the unthinkable.

According to CNN, he will deliver a speech on the floor of the Senate where he will compare President Donald Trump’s attacks on the news media to the poisonous rhetoric of former Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

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U.S. Senator Jeff Flake

In one of those attacks—on February 17, 2017—Trump had called the press “the enemy of the American people.”

“The FAKE NEWS media,” he tweeted, “(failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!”

A day earlier, during a press conference in the East Room of the White House, Trump had delivered an unhinged rant, full of anger, personal attacks, self-pity and self-glorification.

Among the topics he covered was his all-out hatred for the press: “….The press has become so dishonest that if we don’t talk about it, we are doing a tremendous disservice to the American people. Tremendous disservice. We have to talk about it to find out what is going on, because the press, honestly, is out of control. The level of dishonesty is out of control.”

Both during his 2016 Presidential campaign and since his inauguration, Trump has called for “opening up” the libel laws to penalize reporters and authors with draconian fines. He has repeatedly attacked any story he dislikes as coming from the “fake media.”

Donald Trump

On the other hand, he has lavishly praised such Right-wing media as Breitbart and Fox News Network. These have steadfastly supported him despite overwhelming evidence that his 2016 Presidential campaign received subversive support from Russian Intelligence officials.

“Mr. President,” says an excerpt of Flake’s upcoming speech made available to CNN, “it is a testament to the condition of our democracy that our own President uses words infamously spoken by Joseph Stalin to describe his enemies.

“It bears noting that so fraught with malice was the phrase ‘enemy of the people,’ that even Nikita Khrushchev forbade its use, telling the Soviet Communist Party that the phrase had been introduced by Stalin for the purpose of ‘annihilating such individuals’ who disagreed with the supreme leader.

Joseph Stalin

“This alone should be a source of great shame for us in this body, especially for those of us in the president’s party. For they are shameful, repulsive statements.

“And, of course, the president has it precisely backward—despotism is the enemy of the people. The free press is the despot’s enemy, which makes the free press the guardian of democracy.

“When a figure in power reflexively calls any press that doesn’t suit him ‘fake news,’ it is that person who should be the figure of suspicion, not the press.”

Flake—or someone acting on his orders—had clearly leaked an advance text of the speech to the media.

On the January 14 edition of “This Week,” ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos already knew about Flake’s plan to deliver the speech.

“What are you trying to do?” Stephanopoulos asked.

“What I’m trying to say,” replied Flake, “is you can talk about crowd size, and that is pretty innocuous if there is a falsehood there. But when you reflexively refer to the press as the ‘enemy of the people’ or ‘fake news,’ that has real damage. It has real damage to our standing in the world.”

This will be part of a series of speeches Flake intends to give about Trump’s relationship with the truth and the press.

It is especially ironic that a Republican should condemn another Republican as following in the footsteps of an infamous Soviet dictator.

From the end of World War 11 to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Republicans slandered every Democratic Presidential candidate as a witting or unwitting agent of “the Communist conspiracy.”

Trump, however, has repeatedly praised Russian President Vladimir Putin, both during his Presidential candidacy and since taking office. In fact, Putin remains the only major public figure that Trump has never criticized.

Perhaps his most infamous defense of Putin came on the December 18, 2015 edition of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

The host, Joe Scarborough, was upset by Trump’s praise for Putin: “Well, I mean, [he’s] also a person who kills journalists, political opponents, and invades countries. Obviously that would be a concern, would it not?”

TRUMP: He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader. Unlike what we have in this country.

SCARBOROUGH: But again: He kills journalists that don’t agree with him.

TRUMP: I think our country does plenty of killing, also, Joe, so, you know. There’s a lot of stupidity going on in the world right now, Joe. A lot of killing going on. A lot of stupidity. And that’s the way it is.

There may be more than a little envy on Trump’s part for how Putin has dealt with his media.

On July 2, 2017, Trump tweeted a video showing him punching a man with the CNN logo superimposed on his head during a WWE wrestling match.

And on August 15, the President retweeted a cartoon photo of a “Trump Train” running over a CNN reporter.

Joseph Stalin ordered his critics executed in prison or exiled to Siberia. It’s clear that Donald Trump would like to have that same power.

CAPTAIN QUEEG COMES TO WASHINGTON: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on January 12, 2018 at 12:03 am

It was February 16, 2017—and Donald Trump’s first press conference as President.

Like the climatic showdown in The Caine Mutiny, it offered an unhinged rant, full of anger, personal attacks, self-pity and self-glorification.

But the man doing the ranting was not Captain Philip Francis Queeg. It was President Donald J. Trump, speaking from the East Room of the White House.

He opened casually: “Thank you very much. I just wanted to begin by mentioning that the nominee for Secretary of the Department of Labor will be Mr. Alex Acosta….”

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 Donald Trump

For the next hour and 15 minutes, Trump let raw emotion do his talking.

Among the highlights:

His hated the press:  “….The press has become so dishonest that if we don’t talk about it, we are doing a tremendous disservice to the American people. Tremendous disservice. We have to talk about it to find out what is going on, because the press, honestly, is out of control. The level of dishonesty is out of control.”

He won “bigly” in the Electoral College: “I put it out before the American people, got 306 electoral college votes. They said there’s no way to get 222. 230 is impossible. 270 which you need, that was laughable. We got 306, because people came out and voted like they’ve never seen before. So that’s the way it goes. I guess it was the biggest electoral college win since Ronald Reagan.”

[Actually, it wasn’t. He got a smaller share of the Electoral College votes—56.88%  than former presidents George H. W. Bush—79.18% in 1988; Bill Clinton—68.77% in 1992 and 70.45% in 1996; and Barack Obama—67.84% in 2008 and 61.71% in 2012.

[No other President had ever felt it necessary to brag about his Electoral College victory. And Trump didn’t mention that he lost the popular vote—with Hillary Clinton getting almost 2.9 million more votes than he did.]

He ignored the turmoil in his month-old administration: “I turn on the TV, open the newspapers and I see stories of chaos. Chaos. Yet it is the exact opposite. This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine, despite the fact that I can’t get my Cabinet approved, and they’re outstanding people.”

[His National Security Adviser, Michael T. Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general, was forced to resign after 24 days. On December 1, he would plead guilty to lying to the FBI and agree to cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian subversion of the 2016 Presidential election.

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Mike Flynn

[In addition, Trump:

  • Had his executive order banning travel by Muslims to the United States halted by Federal courts;
  • Fired his acting attorney general for refusing to defend the ban;
  • Angered the president of Mexico into cancelling a summit meeting;
  • Bragged about the size of his electoral win to Australia’s prime minister, then hung up on him;
  • Authorized a commando raid that resulted in the death of a Navy SEAL;
  • Lied that he had been prevented from winning the popular vote by millions of illegal aliens; and
  • Attacked Nordstrom’s department store for dropping the clothing and accessories lines of his daughter, Ivanka.

[In fact, Trump’s Cabinet—with the exception of his pick for Secretary of Labor—had been steamrollered through the Senate by Republicans.]

The press persecuted him: I watch CNN. It’s so much anger and hatred and just the hatred. I don’t watch it anymore, because it’s very good….

“You look at your show [CNN Tonight] that goes on at 10 in the evening. You just take a look at that show. That is a constant hit. The panel is almost always exclusive anti-Trump. The good news is he doesn’t have good ratings, but the panel is almost exclusive anti-Trump. And the hatred and venom coming from his mouth. The hatred coming from other people on your network.”

He was truly a good, misunderstood person: “….I can handle a bad story better than anybody, as long as it is true. Over a course of time, I will make mistakes and you will write badly, and I am OK with that. But I am not OK when it is fake….

“I know when you’re telling the truth or when you’re not. I just see many, many untruthful things. And I’ll tell you what else I see, I see tone….The tone is such hatred. I’m really not a bad person, by the way. No, but the tone is such—I do get good ratings. You have to admit that.”

His campaign never colluded with Russian Intelligence: “Well, the failing New York Times wrote a big, long front-page story yesterday. And it was very much discredited, as you know. It [was]— it’s a joke. … Russia is fake news. This is fake news put out by the media.”

[Several of Trump’s high-level advisers were in constant communication during the campaign with Russian Intelligence agents. These contacts are now being investigated by House and Senate subcommittees and the office of the Special Counsel.]

* * * * *

By the end of The Caine Mutiny, Stephen Maryk was acquitted of mutiny. Captain Queeg was presumably relieved of future commands.

By the end of President Trump’s bizarre and frightening press conference, there was no telling what lay ahead for the United States—or the world.

CAPTAIN QUEEG COMES TO WASHINGTON: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on January 11, 2018 at 12:01 am

Americans eager—or anxious—to discover what the Presidency of Donald Trump would be like only needed to watch his first press conference on February 16, 2017.

For many, it resembled the climatic scene in the 1954 movie, The Caine Mutiny.

Based on Herman Wouk’s bestselling novel, it centers on the minesweeper USS Caine. Stationed in the Pacific during World War II, its captain is by-the-book Lt. Commander Philip Francis Queeg (Humphrey Bogart).

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Queeg is determined to bring a sense of discipline to the ship’s lax seamen. But he can’t admit mistakes, and his bullying approach to command alienates both officers and crew.

Soon after, a typhoon overtakes the Caine. Queeg becomes paralyzed with fear. His executive officer, Steve Maryk (Van Johnson), relieves the captain of command to prevent the loss of the ship. Maryk turns the Caine into the wind and rides out the storm.

Maryk is tried by court-martial for mutiny. His case looks hopeless: Queeg has been found sane by three Navy psychiatrists.

Naval Prosecutor Lt. Commander John Challee depicts Maryk as a reckless mutineer. And Queeg portrays himself as the persecuted victim of a malignant conspiracy by his own officers.

Knowing that Queeg reacts badly to stress, Maryk’s attorney, Lt. Barney Greenwald (Jose Ferrer) relentlessly cross-examines him:

GREENWALD:  Did you steam over your tow line?

QUEEG: When we were towing the target, I saw some anti-aircraft bursts. I turned to avoid them. My unreliable helmsman failed to warn me about that. But I saw it and reversed course. We didn’t steam over the tow line.

GREENWALD:  Did nothing else distract you?

QUEEG: Not that I recall.

GREENWALD: Weren’t you reprimanding a seaman for having his shirt-tail out while the ship turned?

QUEEG: That only took two seconds.

GREENWALD: Did you turn your ship upside down searching for a phantom key?

QUEEG:   I don’t know what lies have been sworn to here, but a key definitely did exist.

PROSECUTOR LT. COMMANDER JOHN CHALLEE: The witness is understandably agitated. I request a recess.

QUEEG:  I don’t want a recess. I’ll answer all questions right here and now.

GREENWALD:  Did you conduct such a search?

QUEEG:  Yes, I did. My disloyal officers failed me, and the key couldn’t be found.

GREENWALD: Wasn’t this whole fuss over a quart of strawberries?

QUEEG:  The pilfering of food in large amounts or small is a very serious occurrence on board a ship.

GREENWALD:  You were told that the mess boys ate the berries. There was no key.

QUEEG: The key was not imaginary. I don’t know anything about mess boys eating strawberries.

GREENWALD: Have you no recollection of a conversation with Ensign Harding? Didn’t he tell you that the mess boys ate the strawberries?

QUEEG: I remember he was grateful for his transfer. His wife was ill in the States.

GREENWALD:  Do you know where Ensign Harding is now? He’s in San Diego. He can be flown up here in three hours if necessary. Would it serve any useful purpose to have him testify?

QUEEG:  Now, there’s no need for that.

[He reaches into the pocket of his Navy coat and removes two little steel balls, which he rolls together whenever he feels under stress. He starts rolling them together now and continues to do so throughout the rest of the proceeding.]

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Now that I recall, he might have said something about mess boys. I questioned many men, and Harding was not the most reliable officer.

GREENWALD: The defense has no other recourse than to produce Ensign Harding.

QUEEG:  Now, there’s no need for that. I know exactly what he’ll tell you—lies. He was no different from any other officer in the wardroom. They were all disloyal. I tried to run the ship properly, by the book, but they fought me at every turn. If the crew wanted to walk around with their shirt-tails out, let them. Take the tow line—defective equipment.

But they began spreading wild rumors about steaming in circles. And then “Old Yellowstain.” I was to blame for Maryk’s incompetence and poor seamanship. Lt. Maryk was the perfect officer, but not Queeg.

But the strawberries, ah, that’s where I had them. They laughed at me and made jokes. But I proved beyond a shadow of a doubt and with geometric logic that a duplicate key to the wardroom icebox did exist. I could have produced that key if they hadn’t pulled the Caine out of action. I know now they were only trying to protect some fellow officer.

Naturally, I can only cover these things from memory. If I’ve left anything out, just ask me specific questions and I’ll be glad to answer them one by one.

[The courtroom falls silent—except for the tinkling of the steel balls that Queeg keeps rolling in his right hand. The judges stare at him as he does so. They say nothing, but it’s clear they know they’re looking at a man at the end of his sanity—and naval career.]

GREENWALD: No further questions, sir.

Maryk is acquitted.

* * * * *

So much for fiction. Now for the terrifying reality.

REPUBLICANS: “SUPPORT YOUR (REPUBLICAN) PRESIDENT”: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on January 10, 2018 at 12:02 am

For five years, Donald Trump, more than anyone else, popularized the slander that President Barack Obama was born in Kenya—and was therefore not an American citizen.

For more than a year during his 2016 Presidential campaign, Trump continued doing so.

Meanwhile, Trump’s popularity steadily fell among blacks—to 1%, compared to the 91% of black voters who backed Hillary Clinton.

Even the managers of Trump’s campaign urged him to put the “birther” issue behind him.

And so, on September 16, 2016—10 days before his scheduled first debate with Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton—Trump made his version of a reversal.

Image result for Images of Donald Trump's birther press conference

Donald Trump: “President Barack Obama was born in the United States.”

He did so in about seven seconds and 40 words—after spending a half hour paying tribute to the military and promoting his new upscale hotel in Washington, D.C.:

“Now, not to mention her in the same breath, but Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy.

“I finished it.  I finished it.  You know what I mean.

“President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period. Now we all want to get back to making America strong and great again.”

His tone made it clear that he felt uneasy making that statement—and wanted to get it over with as fast as possible.

He refused to take questions from reporters covering the event. Nor did he apologize for his five-year campaign of slander.

Nor did any Republican apologize for the eight-year campaign of slander and obstruction their party had waged against the Nation’s first black President.

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President Barack Obama

Among its highlights:

  • In September, 2009, Joe Wilson (R-SC) yelled “You lie!” during Obama’s health care speech to Congress.
  • In January, 2010, an effigy of President Barack Obama was found hanging from a building in Plains, Georgia.
  • In December, 2011, Brent Bozell, who runs the right-wing Media Research Center, called Obama to “a skinny, ghetto crackhead.”
  • In December, 2011, Rep.  Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.), said of Michelle Obama: “She lectures us on eating right while she has a large posterior herself.”
  • In January, 2012, Mitt Romney’s son, Matt, said his father might release his tax returns “as soon as President Obama releases his grades and birth certificate and sort of a long list of things.”
  • In February, 2012, right-wing columnist Ann Coulter offered: “Voters with forty years of politically correct education are ecstatic to have the first Black president. They just love the idea even if we did get Flavor Flav instead of Thomas Sowell.”
  • In May, 2012, a flatbed truck drove through new York holding a trailer with eight mannequin-like bodies hanging on nooses. One of the figures resembled President Obama, with a sign on the truck reading: “Obama Is Onboard, Find Out Why. Visit YouTube.com And Search Keyword PatriotPhipps.”

  • Throughout the 2012 Presidential campaign, Newt Gingrich repeatedly called Obama “the greatest food stamp President in American history.” 
  • Obama has been portrayed as a shoeshine man, an Islamic terrorist and a chimp. The image of his altered face has been shown on a product called Obama Waffles in the manner of Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben. He has been repeatedly depicted with a Hitler forelock and mustache.
  • Among the protest signs they have brandished by Tea Party members: “Obama’s Plan: White Slavery,” “The American Taxpayers are the Jews for Obama’s Ovens,” and “Obama was Not Bowing [to the Saudi King] He was Sucking Saudi Jewels.”
  • Other Tea Party posters: “Imam Obama Wants to Ban Pork” and “The Zoo Has An African Lion, and the White House Has a Lyin’ African.”
  • Tea Partiers have chanted at Obama: “Bye, bye, Blackbird” and “Kenyan go home!”
  • During the Republican-imposed government shutdown—October 1-17, 2013—Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) told Obama: “I cannot even stand to look at you,” The incident occurred when Obama met with lawmakers to try to find a resolution to the shutdown.
  • On October 1, 2013, Congressional Republicans shut down the government in an attempt to force President Barack Obama to de-fund his signature achievement: The Affordable Care Act (ACA). President Obama refused, and 800,000 federal workers were furloughed.
  • On October 14, while Republicans were threatening to drive the nation into bankruptcy by refusing to raise the debt ceiling, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin posted on Facebook her “secret plan” to impeach President Obama:
  • “It’s time for the president to be honest with the American people for a change. Defaulting on our national debt is an impeachable offense, and any attempt by President Obama to unilaterally raise the debt limit without Congress is also an impeachable offense.”
  • In short: If the Republicans force the country into default, Obama should be impeached. And if the President finds a way to avoid default, he should be impeached.

* * * * * 

When Republicans say, “We need to support our President,” they don’t mean every President.

They mean: Every Republican President.  And only every Republican President.

For Republicans, Presidents of their party carry the status of Fuhrers: To be obeyed instantly and without question.

And for Republicans, Presidents elected by Democrats are usurpers: They must be obstructed as often as possible—and impeached whenever possible.  

REPUBLICANS: “SUPPORT YOUR (REPUBLICAN) PRESIDENT”: PART ONE OF TWO

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on January 9, 2018 at 10:31 pm

Reince Priebus, the incoming White House Chief of Staff for soon-to-be President Donald J. Trump, was furious.

There were three reasons for his outrage.

First, millions of Americans were questioning whether Trump was legitimately elected. Their suspicions were based on solid evidence, supplied by the American Intelligence community, that Russian President Vladimir Putin intervened in the 2016 Presidential election to help him defeat Hillary Clinton.

Second, among those Americans were members of the United States Congress—such as Georgia Democratic Representative John Lewis.

On the January 15, 2017 edition of “Meet the Press,” Lewis was asked by host Chuck Todd: “Do you plan on trying to forge a relationship with Donald Trump?”

“No,” said Lewis. “I believe [in] forgiveness. I believe in trying to work with people. It’s going to be hard. It’s going to be very difficult. I don’t see this president-elect as a legitimate president.”

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John Lewis

“You do not consider him a legitimate president. Why is that?” asked Todd.

“I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected and they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton.”

And the third reason Priebus was outraged: He believed—or at least claimed to believe—that President Barack Obama should vouch for Trump’s legitimacy.

“I think President Obama should step up,” Priebus said on the January 15 edition of ABC’s “This Week.” “We’ve had a great relationship with the White House….I think the administration can do a lot of good by telling folks that are on the Republican side of the aisle, look, we may have lost the election on the Democratic side, but it’s time to come together.”

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Reince Priebus

“You didn’t have Republicans questioning whether or not Obama legitimately beat John McCain in 2008,” Priebus added.

“This Week” host George Stephanopoulos replied that Trump had questioned Obama’s legitimacy as an American citizen until almost the end of the 2016 Presidential race.

“But look, George, that’s not the point!” Priebus said, visibly agitated. “The point is not where Barack Obama was born! The point is that we’ve got congressmen on the Democratic side of the aisle that are questioning the legitimacy of President-elect Trump.”  

In short: Let’s ignore Trump’s five-year slander campaign against the legitimacy of President Obama. What’s important is that people are questioning the legitimacy of a Republican elected with the help of Russian Communists.

In 2011, Trump, then-host of NBC’s “The Apprentice,” was thinking of running for President against Obama.

Seeking to gain popularity among America’s Right-wing, Trump almost singlehandedly created the popular fiction that the President was born in Kenya—and was not an American citizen.

His motive: To convince Americans that Obama was an illegitimate President.

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Donald Trump

Among the statements Trump made:

February 10, 2011: “Our current president came out of nowhere. Came out of nowhere. In fact, I’ll go a step further: The people that went to school with him, they never saw him, they don’t know who he is. It’s crazy.”

March 23, 2011: “I want him to show his birth certificate. I want him to show his birth certificate. … There’s something on that birth certificate that he doesn’t like.”

March 28, 2011: “I am really concerned” [that Obama wasn’t born in the United States]. He said that the birth announcement for Obama in a Hawaii newspaper could have been planted “for whatever reason.”

March 30, 2011: “If you are going to be president of the United States you have to be born in this country. And there is a doubt as to whether or not he was. … He doesn’t have a birth certificate. He may have one, but there’s something on that, maybe religion, maybe it says he is a Muslim. I don’t know. Maybe he doesn’t want that. Or he may not have one. But I will tell you this. If he wasn’t born in this country, it’s one of the great scams of all time.”

April 7, 2011: “I have people that have been studying it, and they cannot believe what they’re finding. You are not allowed to be a president if you’re not born in this country. Right now I have real doubts.”

April 25, 2011: “I’ve been told very recently…that the birth certificate is missing. I’ve been told that it’s not there or it doesn’t exist. And if that’s the case, it’s a big problem.”

On April 27, President Obama released his original, long-form Hawiian birth certificate.

The long-form version of President Obama’s birth certificate

“We do not have time for this kind of silliness,” said Obama at a press conference, speaking as a father might to a roomful of spiteful children. “We have better stuff to do. I have got better stuff to do. We have got big problems to solve.

“We are not going to be able to do it if we are distracted, we are not going to be able to do it if we spend time vilifying each other…if we just make stuff up and pretend that facts are not facts, we are not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by side shows and carnival barkers.”  

Trump responded with a series of tweets on Twitter–all of them attacking the legitimacy of the birth certificate that President Obama had released.

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