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YOUR FRIENDS AT THE NRA: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 21, 2018 at 12:03 am

Among the major accomplishments of the National Rifle Association:

  • The NRA has steadfastly defended the right to own Teflon-coated “cop killer” bullets,” whose only purpose is to penetrate bullet-resistant vests worn by law enforcement officers.

  • The NRA and its lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action, is responsible for the “stand-your-ground” ordinances now in effect in more than half the states. These allow for the use of deadly force in self-defense, without any obligation to attempt to retreat first.
  • In 2012, the NRA rushed to the defense of accused murderer George Zimmerman, the self-appointed “community watchman” who  ignored police orders to stop following 17-year-old Trayvon Martin and ended up shooting him.
  • Police did not initially charge Zimmerman because of Florida’s “Stand-Your-Ground” law, which the NRA had rammed through the legislature.

George Zimmerman

  • On February 26, 2012, Zimmerman shot unarmed Trayvon Martin, who was wearing a “hoodie.” In March, the NRA issued its own version of a “hoodie”–the Concealed Carry Hooded Sweatshirt, designed to hide firearms.  Selling on the NRA’s website for $60 to $65, it is advertised thusly:
  • “Inside the sweatshirt you’ll find left and right concealment pockets. The included Velcro®-backed holster and double mag pouch can be repositioned inside the pockets for optimum draw. Ideal for carrying your favorite compact to mid-size pistol, the NRA Concealed Carry Hooded Sweatshirt gives you an extra tactical edge, because its unstructured, casual design appears incapable of concealing a heavy firearm—but it does so with ease!”
  • Anyone—including convicted criminals—can buy these “hide-a-gun” sweatshirts, putting both the public and law enforcers at deadly risk.
  • The NRA often claims that law-abiding citizens defend themselves with guns millions of times every year. But the FBI has determined that, of the approximately 11,000 gun homicides every year, fewer than 300 are justifiable self-defense killings.
  • The NRA supports loopholes that allow criminals to buy guns without background checks, or allow terrorists to buy all the AK-47s they desire.
  • The NRA’s executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, tried to defeat Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. Yet the President meekly signed legislation allowing guns to be brought into national parks and onto Amtrak trains. Since becoming Chief Executive, he made no effort to curb gun violence.

  • High-capacity magazines were prohibited under the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban.  It expired in 2004. The NRA—aided by the Bush administration and Republicans generally—easily overcame efforts to renew the ban.
  • Political scientist Robert Spitzer, author of the book The Politics of Gun Control, notes that since the passage of the 1993 Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act and the assault weapons ban in 1994, state and national laws have been drifting toward more open gun access:
  • “In 1988, there were about 18 states that had state laws that made it pretty easy for civilians to carry concealed hand guns around in society. By 2011, that number is up to 39 or 40 states having liberalized laws, depending on how you count it, and the NRA has worked very diligently at the state level to win political victories there, and they’ve really been quite successful.”
  • On January 8, 2011, Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head while meeting with constituents outside a Tucson, Arizona, grocery store. Also killed was Arizona’s chief U.S. District judge, John Roll, who had just stopped by to see his friend Giffords after celebrating Mass. The total number of victims: six dead, 13 wounded. Severely brain-damaged, Giffords was forced to resign her Congressional seat.

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords after being shot

  • “The NRA’s response to the Tucson shootings has been to say as little as possible and to keep its head down,” said Spitzer.  “And their approach even more has been to say as little as possible and to simply issue a statement of condolence to the families of those who were injured or killed and to wait for the political storm to pass over and then to pick up politics as usual.” 
  • This has been the NRA’s reaction after every mass shooting.
  • In the spring of 2012, the House Oversight Committee prepared to vote on whether to hold U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt for allegedly refusing to provide documents related to “Fast and Furious.” This was an undercover operation launched by the Bush administration to track firearms being sold to Mexican drug cartels.
  • The NRA notified Congressional members that how they voted would reflect how the NRA rated them in “candidate evaluations” for the November elections. This amounted to blatant extortion, since the NRA had long accused Holder of having an “anti-gun” agenda.

Summing up the current state of gun politics in America, the April 21, 2012 edition of The Economist noted:

“The debate about guns is no longer over whether assault rifles ought to be banned, but over whether guns should be allowed in bars, churches and colleges.”

That is precisely the aim of the NRA—an America where anyplace, anytime, can be turned into the gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

Gunfight at the O.K. Corral – October 26, 1881

And that is precisely what the United States is fast becoming.

Except, so far, the vast majority of victims have not been armed gunfighters but unarmed innocents. And it’s been the “gun rights” types whom the NRA supports who have done the killing.

YOUR FRIENDS AT THE NRA: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 20, 2018 at 12:05 am

On September 11, 2001, Islamic terrorists snuffed out the lives of 3,000 Americans in New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania.

World Trade Center – September 11, 2001

But within less than a month, American warplanes began carpet-bombing Afghanistan, whose rogue Islamic “government” refused to surrender Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the attacks.

By December, the power of the Taliban was broken—and bin Laden was driven into hiding in Pakistan.

For more than 16 years, the United States—through its global military and espionage networks—has relentlessly hunted down most of those responsible for that September carnage.

On May 1, 2011, U.S. Navy SEALS invaded bin Laden’s fortified mansion in Abbottabad, Pakistan—and shot him dead.

U.S. Navy SEALs

Now, consider these statistics of death, supplied by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence:

  • One in three people in the U.S. knows someone who has been shot.
  • On average, 31 Americans are murdered with guns every day and 151 are treated for a gun assault in an emergency room.
  • Every day on average, 55 people kill themselves with a firearm.
  • Another 46 people are shot or killed in an accident with a gun.
  • U.S. firearm homicide rates are 20 times higher than the combined rates of 22 countries that are our peers in wealth and population.
  • A gun in the home is 22 times more likely to be used to kill or injure in a domestic homicide, suicide, or unintentional shooting than to be used in self-defense.
  • More than one in five U.S. teenagers (ages 14 to 17) report having witnessed a shooting.
  • An average of seven children and teens under the age of 20 are killed by guns every day.
  • American children die by guns 11 times as often as children in other high-income countries.
  • Youth (ages 0 to 19) in the most rural U.S. counties are as likely to die from a gunshot as those living in the most urban counties.
  • Rural children die of more gun suicides and unintentional shooting deaths.
  • Urban children die more often of gun homicides.
  • Firearm homicide is the second-leading cause of death (after motor vehicle crashes) for young people ages 1-19 in the U.S.
  • Medical treatment, criminal justice proceedings, new security precautions, and reductions in quality of life are estimated to cost U.S. citizens $100 billion annually.
  • The lifetime medical cost for all gun violence victims in the United States is estimated at $2.3 billion, with almost half the costs borne by taxpayers.

In short, in one year on average:

  • More than 114,994 Americans are shot in murders, assault, suicides, suicide attempts, accidents or by police intervention.31,537 people die from gun violence.
  • 11,564 are murdered.
  • 21,037 people kill themselves.
  • 544 people are killed accidentally.
  • 468 are killed by police intervention.
  • 267 die but intent is not known.
  • 81,114 people survive gun injuries.

(These statistics are based on death certificates and estimates from emergency room admissions.)

And who, more than anyone (including the actual killers themselves) has made all this carnage possible?

Your friends at the National Rifle Association (NRA).

But unlike the leadership of Al Qaeda, that of the NRA is not simply known, but celebrated.

Its director, Wayne LaPierre, is courted as a rock star by both Democrats and Republicans seeking NRA political endorsements—and campaign contributions.

Wayne LaPierre

He frequently appears as an honored guest at testimonial dinners and political conventions.

The largest of the 13 national pro-gun groups, the NRA has nearly 4 million members, who focus most of their time lobbying Congress for unlimited “gun rights.”

The NRA claims that its mission is to “protect” the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, which states:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

NRA members conveniently ignore the first half of that sentence about “a well regulated Militia….”  They simply want everyone to own a gun—and contribute to the NRA.

For the NRA, the Second Amendment is the Constitution, and the rest of the document is a mere appendage.

When Congress ratified the Constitution in 1788, the United States was not a world power.

A mere 26 years later, the British seized and burned Washington, D.C., after repeatedly defeating American armies. On the frontier, settlers had to defend themselves against hostile Indians and marauding bandits.

Only after World War II did the country maintain a powerful standing army during peacetime.

But World War II ended 72 years ago, and today the United States is a far different country than it was in 1788:

  • Its nuclear arsenal can turn any country into thermonuclear ash—anytime an American President decides to do so.
  • Its Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps can target any enemy, anywhere in the world.
  • Its Special Forces—Green Berets, Delta Force and Navy SEALS—are rightly feared by international terrorists.
  • American Intelligence has greatly improved since 9/11. The FBI’s top priority is to prevent  terrorist attacks, not simply investigate them afterward.
  • And waging war on criminals generally are about 836,787 full-time sworn local/state/Federal law enforcement officers.
  • If a criminal flees or conducts business across state lines, powerful Federal law enforcement agencies—such as the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration—can put him out of business.

But apparently the NRA hasn’t gotten the word.

STOPPING THE GUN MASSACRES

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on February 19, 2018 at 12:19 am

The victims of the violence are black and white, rich and poor, young and old, famous and unknown. They are, most important of all, human beings whom other human beings loved and needed. No one—no matter where he lives or what he does— can be certain who will suffer from some senseless act of bloodshed. And yet it goes on and on.

–Robert F. Kennedy, April 4, 1968

Senator Robert F. Kennedy announcing the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

What should the surviving victims of gun massacres do to seek redress?

And how can the relatives and friends of those who didn’t survive seek justice for those they loved?

Two things:

First, don’t count on politicians to support a ban on assault weapons.

Politicians—with rare exceptions—have only two goals:

  1. Get elected to office, and
  2. Stay in office.

And too many of them fear the economic and voting clout of the NRA to risk its wrath.

Consider Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama.

Both rushed to offer condolences to the surviving victims of the massacre at the Century 16 Theater in Aurora, Colorado, on July 20, 2012.

And both steadfastly refused to even discuss gun control—let alone support a ban on the type of assault weapons used by James Holmes, leaving 12 dead and 58 wounded.

Second, those who survived the massacre—and the relatives and friends of those who didn’t—should file wrongful death, class-action lawsuits against the NRA.

There is sound, legal precedent for this.

  • For decades, the American tobacco industry peddled death and disability to millions and reaped billions of dollars in profits.
  • The industry vigorously claimed there was no evidence that smoking caused cancer, heart disease, emphysema or any other ailment.

  • Tobacco companies spent billions on slick advertising campaigns to win new smokers and attack medical warnings about the dangers of smoking.
  • Tobacco companies spent millions to elect compliant politicians and block anti-smoking legislation.
  • From 1954 to 1994, over 800 private lawsuits were filed against tobacco companies in state courts. But only two plaintiffs prevailed, and both of those decisions were reversed on appeal.
  • In 1994, amidst great pessimism, Mississippi Attorney General Mike Moore filed a lawsuit against the tobacco industry. But other states soon followed, ultimately growing to 46.
  • Their goal: To seek monetary, equitable and injunctive relief under various consumer-protection and anti-trust laws.
  • The theory underlying these lawsuits was: Cigarettes produced by the tobacco industry created health problems among the population, which badly strained the states’ public healthcare systems.
  • In 1998, the states settled their Medicaid lawsuits against the tobacco industry for recovery of their tobacco-related, health-care costs. In return, they exempted the companies from private lawsuits for tobacco-related injuries.
  • The companies agreed to curtail or cease certain marketing practices. They also agreed to pay, forever, annual payments to the states to compensate some of the medical costs for patients with smoking-related illnesses.

The parallels with the NRA are obvious:

  • For decades, the NRA has peddled deadly weapons to millions, reaped billions of dollars in profits and refused to admit the carnage those weapons have produced: “Guns don’t kill people.  People kill people.”  With guns. 
  • The NRA has spent millions on political contributions to block gun-control legislation.

  • The NRA has bitterly fought background checks on gun-buyers, in effect granting even criminals and the mentally ill the right to own arsenals of death-dealing weaponry.
  • The NRA has spent millions on slick advertising campaigns to win new members and frighten them into buying guns.

  • The NRA has spent millions attacking political candidates and elected officials who warned about the dangers of unrestricted access to assault and/or concealed weapons.
  • The NRA has spent millions pushing “Stand Your Ground” laws in more than half the states, which potentially give every citizen a “license to kill.”
  • The NRA receives millions of dollars from online sales of ammunition, high-capacity ammunition magazines, and other accessories through its point-of-sale Round-Up Program—thus directly profiting by selling a product that kills about 30,288 people a year.

  • Firearms made indiscriminately available through NRA lobbying have filled hospitals with casualties, and have thus badly strained the states’ public healthcare systems.

It will take a series of highly expensive and well-publicized lawsuits to significantly weaken the NRA, financially and politically.

The first ones will have to be brought by the surviving victims of gun violence—and by the friends and families of those who did not survive it. Only they will have the courage and motivation to take such a risk.

As with the cases first brought against tobacco companies, there will be losses. And the NRA will rejoice with each one.

But, in time, state Attorneys General will see the clear parallels between lawsuits filed against those who peddle death by cigarette and those who peddle death by armor-piercing bullet.

And then the NRA—like the tobacco industry—will face an adversary wealthy enough to stand up for the rights of the gun industry’s own victims.

Only then will those politicians supporting reasonable gun controls dare to stand up for the victims of these  needless tragedies.

TRUMP: THE ABUSER’S FRIEND: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on February 15, 2018 at 12:02 am

In one week, two White House staffers were forced to resign after reports surfaced of their brutality toward their wives.

And President Donald Trump’s reaction was to defend the accused wife-beaters and accuse their ex-wives of lying:

“Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. Some are true and some are false. Some are old and some are new. There is no recovery for someone falsely accused – life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?”

What are the lessons to be learned from this?

First, Donald Trump has his own history of abusing women.

At least 22 women have accused Trump of sexual misconduct between the 1970s and 2013.  And Trump flat-out denies the accusations–which include ogling, harassment, groping, and rape—while attacking the women as “liars.”

“Every woman lied when they came forward to hurt my campaign,” he said during a 2016 campaign rally in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. “Total fabrication. The events never happened. Never. All of these liars will be sued after the election is over.”

The election ended on November 8, 2016. And Trump has yet to sue any of his accusers.

So it’s not surprising that when similar accusations strike men he has around him, he leaps to their defense.

Second, Trump fires women-abusing staffers only when the news media outs them.

Accused wife-abuser Rob Porter resigned from his staff secretary position at the White House only after his two ex-wives detailed their abuse to CNN.

According to CNN, White House Chief of Staff John Kelley knew for months that Porter faced claims of physically and emotionally abusing these women. But he never conducted an inquiry to find out if the claims were true or false.

It’s safe to assume that Porter would still be on the White House payroll if CNN hadn’t reported the abuses.

Third, don’t expect Trump to show any sympathy for alleged female victims.

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Donald Trump

Trump has repeatedly shown his contempt for women through abusive and humiliating language. For example:

  • During a 1990 Vanity Fair interview, he said of his then-wife, Ivana: “I would never buy Ivana any decent jewels or pictures. Why give her negotiable assets?”
  • In 1992, while watching a group of young girls going up the escalator in Trump Tower, Trump said: “I am going to be dating her in 10 years. Can you believe it?”
  • During a 1991 Esquire interview: “You know, it doesn’t really matter what [they] write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass.”
  • In 2006, during an appearance on The View: “If Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.”
  • Easily the most infamous example of Trump’s predatory attitude toward women came during his 2005 Access Hollywood interview: “You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful–I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”

Fourth, Trump has often defended men who were charged with abusing women.

  • In March, 2016, his campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was charged with misdemeanor battery by Breitbart News reporter Michelle Fields. “How do you know those bruises weren’t there before?” asked Trump.
  • When Roger Ailes resigned in July, 2016, as chairman of Fox News, owing to sexual harassment accusations leveled against him, Trump said: “It’s very sad. Because he’s a very good person. I’ve always found him to be just a very, very good person. And by the way, a very, very talented person. Look what he’s done. So I feel very badly.”
  • In October, 2017, the news broke that Bill O’Reilly and Fox News had paid almost $13 million to settle multiple sexual harassment allegations. Trump’s reaction: “I don’t believe Bill did anything wrong. I think he’s a person I know well. He is a good person.”
  • Trump vigorously defended Roy Moore, Alabama’s Republican candidate for United States Senator in 2017, against charges that he had molested a 14-year-old girl: “Well, he denies it. Look, he denies it. He says it didn’t happen. And you know, you have to listen to him also.”

Fifth, any criticism of sexual harassment—or even outright criminality—must come from outside the White House.

Trump’s defense of accused White House staffers Rob Porter and David Sorensen drew fire from prominent Washington officials.

“Women’s lives are upended every day by sexual violence and harassment. I’m going to keep standing with them, and trusting them, even if the President won’t,” tweeted U.S. Democratic Senator Patty Murray.

And Democrat Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont tweeted: “As a former prosecutor, I’ve been amazed by the bravery & sacrifice required of victims to come forward. Their lives are forever changed,. Due process is critical, but it can’t be a pretext for not believing women. We don’t need to see photos of bruises to know that.”

Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier of California tweeted: “Apparently his motto is when they go low, he goes even lower.”

Sixth, in assessing Trump’s character, two essential truths should be constantly remembered:

“Tell me whom you admire, and I will tell you who you are.”

And:

“What is past is prologue.”

TRUMP: THE ABUSER’S FRIEND: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on February 14, 2018 at 2:44 am

As absolute dictator on NBC’s “The Apprentice,” Donald Trump delighted in firing one contestant every week.

As President of the United States, he has delighted in firing such high-ranking government officials as:

  • Acting Attorney General Sally Yates
  • FBI Director James Comey
  • White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci
  • Presidential Chief Strategist Steve Bannon
  • United States Attorney Preet Bharara

But there have been some officials Trump has fought to retain.  Among these:

  • National Security Adviser Michael Flynn
  • White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter
  • White House Speechwriter David Sorensen

MICHAEL FLYNN had fervently supported Trump during his 2016 campaign for President.  He was rewarded with appointment to National Security Adviser on January 20, 2017—the same day Trump became President.

But later in January, Acting Attorney General Sally Yates warned Trump that Flynn had lied about his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak—and that he could be blackmailed by Russian Intelligence.

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Michael Flynn at the Republican convention

In December, 2016, Flynn had spoken to Kislyak about removing the sanctions placed on Russia by the outgoing Obama administration. The sanctions had been placed in retaliation for Russia’s efforts to manipulate the 2016 Presidential election.

Instead of firing Flynn, Trump fired Yates.

On February 13, The Washington Post reported these events.  Flynn was forced to resign that same day—after only 24 days as National Security Adviser.

STAFF SECRETARY ROB PORTER had the task of vetting all the information that reached Trump’s desk. He resigned February 7 after two of his ex-wives accused him of years of physical and emotional abuse.

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Rob Porter

Colbie Holderness, Porter’s first wife, told CNN that the physical abuse began almost immediately after their 2003 wedding.  During their honeymoon trip to the Canary Islands, Porter kicked her thigh during a fight.  

“The thing he would do most frequently is he would throw me down on a bed and he would just put his body weight on me and he’d be yelling at me but as he was yelling he’d me grinding an elbow or knee into my body to emphasize his anger,” she said. He also repeatedly choked her.

While the couple visited Florence, Italy, in the summer of 2005, Porter punched Holderness in the face.

Jennifer Willoughby, Porter’s second wife, married him in 2009. During their honeymoon in Myrtle Beach, he began calling her “a fucking bitch” because he felt she was not having enough sex with him.

In the spring of 2010, Porter came to the home they had previously shared and punched a glass pane in the front door, cutting his hand.

Willoughby called police, who suggested that she take out a temporary restraining order. She did so in June, 2010.

In December, 2010, according to Willoughby, “we were in a fight and I disengaged from the fight after screaming at each other. I took a shower and Rob followed me fairly shortly after and grabbed me from the shower by my shoulders up close to my neck and pulled me out to continue to yell at me.

“He immediately saw the look of shock and terror on my face and released me and apologized and attempted to make things right.”

They divorced in 2013.

SPEECHWRITER DAVID SORENSEN resigned on February 9.  His ex-wife, Jessica Corbett, told the Washington Post that he put out a cigarette on her hand, drove a car over her foot, threw her into a wall and grabbed her by the hair when they were alone on a boat off the Maine coast.

Sorensen denied the allegation in a statement he released to CNN and other news media: “I have never committed violence of any kind against any woman in my entire life.  In fact, I was the victim of repeated physical violence during our marriage, not her.”

He claimed he had spoken with an attorney about suing his ex-wife for defamation.

And how did Trump respond to these revelations?

On February 9, he told reporters that Porter’s departure was “very sad” and that “he did a very good job while he was in the White House.”

Donald Trump

Trump did not express any sympathy for the women Porter allegedly abused.

Instead, he focused on Porter’s claim of innocence: “He says he’s innocent and I think you have to remember that.  He said very strongly yesterday that he’s innocent but you’ll have to talk to him about that.”

On February 10—the day after Sorensen resigned—Trump took to Twitter to post:

“Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. Some are true and some are false. Some are old and some are new. There is no recovery for someone falsely accused – life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?”

As Chris Cillizza, CNN’s editor-at-large wrote in a February 9 opinion column:

“This is a familiar pattern for Trump. When a series of women came out during the 2016 campaign alleging that he has sexually abused them, he flatly denied it — insisting that all of the women were conspiring to hurt him for political reasons.

“When a series of women came forward and said that Alabama Senate nominee Roy Moore had pursued physical relationships with them when they were teenagers and he was in his mid 30s, Trump defended his endorsement of Moore, saying: ‘He totally denies it. He says it didn’t happen.'”

A LESSON FOR THE FBI

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on February 8, 2018 at 12:19 am

Since taking office as President, Donald Trump has openly waged war on his own Justice Department—and especially its chief investigative agency, the FBI.

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FBI headquarters

As a result, he has:

  • Fired James Comey, the FBI director pursuing an investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 Presidential race to ensure Trump’s election.
  • Threatened to fire Independent Counsel Robert Mueller, who continued that investigation after Trump fired Comey.
  • Repeatedly attacked—verbally and on Twitter—his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, for recusing himself from overseeing the Russia investigation.
  • (Sessions did so after the press revealed that, during the 2016 race, he twice met secretly with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak.)
  • Repeatedly attacked the integrity of the FBI, raising the possibility of his firing more of its senior leadership for pursuing the Russia investigation.
  • Pressured House Republicans to release a highly partisan memo falsely accusing the FBI of pursuing a vendetta against him.

But the FBI need not meekly accept such assaults.

A February 2 episode of the popular CBS police drama, “Blue Bloods,” offers a vivid lesson on bureaucratic self-defense against tyrants.

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A shootout erupts in a crowded pub between a gunman and NYPD officers. Results: One dead gunman and one wounded bystander.

Problem: The bystander is an aide to New York Governor Martin Mendez.

Mendez visits One Police Plaze, NYPD headquarters, for a private chat with Commissioner Frank Reagan (Tom Selleck). From the outset, he’s aggressive, rude and threatening.

MENDEZ:  I know you guys like to whitewash officer-involved shootings.

REAGAN: I do not.

MENDEZ: That’s not going to happen here. I want the cop who shot my guy fired and charged.

REAGAN: If the grand jury indicts, my officer could be terminated.

MENDEZ:  We all want to protect our people, but mine come first.

Governor Mendez leaves Commissioner Reagan’s office.  Later, he returns:

MENDEZ:  We’ve got a serious problem.

REAGAN:  Why? The grand jury declined to indict my officer.

MENDEZ: Your cop fired into a crowded room.

REAGAN: She returned fire, took out the shooter and likely saved lives.

MENDEZ: What are you going to do?

REAGAN: Our Internal Affairs investigation supports the grand jury’s finding, so the case is closed.

MENDEZ: Either you fire this cop, or I’ll order the Attorney General to investigate every questionable police shooting in the past 10 years and hold public hearings out loud and lights up.

REAGAN: Everybody loves a circus.

MENDEZ: Except the guy who’s got to shovel up afterwards.

At the end of the episode, a third—and final—meeting occurs in a restaurant between Reagan and Mendez.

MENDEZ: Have you dumped the cop who shot my guy?

REAGAN: No.

MENDEZ: Bad news.

REAGAN: Depends on what you compare it to. It turns out that your aide wasn’t drinking alone the night he was shot.

MENDEZ: So what? He’s single.

REAGAN: He was with a married woman.

MENDEZ: That’s on her, not on him.

REAGAN: Except she is married to his boss, your Chief of Staff.

MENDEZ: Sheesh!

REAGAN: Turns out this has been going on for over a year.

MENDEZ:  So what are we doing?

REAGAN:  If this gets out, the circus comes to Albany [where the governor has his office].

MENDEZ: Who else knows?

REAGAN:  Right now it’s safe in the notebook of my lead detective. Whether or not it finds its way into an arrest report that’s subject to a Freedom of Information Act request—that’s a judgment call.

MENDEZ: Your judgment?

REAGAN: Yes.

MENDEZ: And if my investigation goes away?

REAGAN: Neither of us is shoveling up after the circus.

MENDEZ: I have your word on that?

REAGAN: Yes.

MENDEZ: You have a good evening, Commissioner.

J. Edgar Hoover, the legendary FBI director, used Realpolitik to ensure his reign for 48 years.

As William C. Sullivan, the onetime director of the FBI’s Domestic Intelligence Division, revealed after Hoover’s death in 1972:

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

“‘But we wanted you to know this. We realize you’d want to know it.’ Well, Jesus, what does that tell the senator? From that time on, the senator’s right in his pocket.”

Donald Trump has long pursued a strategy of intimidation. But when people have refused to be cowed by his threats, he’s backed off.

During the 2016 Presidential campaign, more than a dozen women accused Trump of sexual misconduct, ranging from inappropriate comments to assault.

Trump responded: “The events never happened. Never. All of these liars will be sued after the election is over.”

Yet he hasn’t filed a single slander suit.

Similarly, when New York’s Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sued Trump for running a fraudulent university, Trump initially said he would fight the charge.

Instead, he settled the case by paying $25 million to compensate the 3,700 students Trump University had defrauded.

“You never have to frame anyone,” says Governor Willie Stark in Robert Penn Warren’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1946 novel, All the King’s Men. “Because the truth is always sufficient.”

It’s time the FBI learned—and applied—that same lesson.

BELLICOSE EVIL TRUMPS TIMID MORALITY: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on February 1, 2018 at 12:03 am

When German President Paul von Hindenburg appointed Adolf Hitler Chancellor of Germany on January 30, 1933, not all Germans rejoiced.

Millions of them, in fact, hoped that the radical Fascist would be “boxed in” by “the establishment.”

President Hindenburg was known to despise Hitler. And a Hindenburg ally, Franz von Papen, was Vice Chancellor.

Yet it was Von Papen who was largely responsible for Hitler’s coming to power.

He believed that the longtime agitator could be controlled once he was in the government. The cabinet, after all, was not under Nazi domination. And so he convinced Hindenburg to appoint Hitler as Chancellor.

Almost immediately, Hitler began to outmaneuver those who sought to restrain him.

Adolf Hitler

As part of his deal with Papan, Hitler appointed his longtime supporter, Herman Goring, interior minister of Prussia—thus arming the Nazis with the largest police force in Germany.

On February 1, 1933, Hitler presented Article 48 to the cabinet. This allowed the police to take people into “protective custody” without charges. Hindenburg signed it into law on February 4 as the “Decree for the Protection of the German People.”

In March, the Reichstag (parliament) passed the Enabling Act, which allowed Hitler to rule by decree without interference from legislators. Germany, it was claimed, needed “an iron hand” because it was supposedly threatened by a Communist revolution.

The Enabling Act was authorized to last only four years. But it was renewed in 1937 and, in 1941, extended for the rest of Hitler’s lifetime.

On August 2, the aged Hindenburg died. Hitler immediately consolidated the positions of President and Chancellor—and ordered the German Armed Forces to swear an oath of personal loyalty to him.

Hitler’s mastery of Germany was now complete.

Fast forward 84 years from Adolf Hitler’s gaining total power in Germany to January 30, 2018.

President Donald Trump can say—as truthfully as Adolf Hitler: I am the destiny of America.

Donald Trump

Among his tumultuous actions during his first year as President, Trump:

  • Fired Acting Attorney General Sally Yates after she notified him that National-Security Adviser Michael Flynn had misled the FBI.
  • Fired FBI Director James Comey for investigating the Trump Presidential campaign’s links to the Kremlin.
  • Attacked the integrity of the American Intelligence community—while praising Russian President Vladimir Putin.
  • Falsely claimed that former President Barack Obama had illegally wiretapped him during the 2016 Presidential campaign.
  • Tried to fire Independent Counsel Robert Mueller, but was talked out of it.

Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks appear every Friday on the PBS Newshour to review the week’s major political events.

On January 26, Brooks—a conservative, and Shields, a liberal—reached similar conclusions about the recent news that President Trump had tried to fire Independent Counsel Robert Mueller during the summer of 2017.

After Comey’s firing, Mueller had been assigned to oversee the previously-confirmed FBI investigation of Russian government efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election.

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David Brooks and Mark Shields

DAVID BROOKS: “First, it should be pointed out that White House staff has repeatedly said there was no effort to fire Mueller, when they clearly have been lying for months about that….

“I was in Dayton, Ohio, this morning. And a friend said, in this presidency, I’m just stunned every day. I’m stunned every hour. And at some point, you get out of stunned. There’s no more stun.

“And I found this when I saw our story. If I had seen that story seven or eight months ago, I would have been, ‘Oh, I can’t believe this is happening.’ Now I’m inured. I’m used to it. I have been numbed.

“And I came to think, even if he fired Mueller, maybe we’re all just—we’re like, we have been numbed to the things that happen and nobody gets upset anymore. I think people would get upset if he actually did try to fire Mueller, but we have defined deviancy down and gotten used to a set of behavior that would have been shocking to us a year ago.”

MARK SHIELDS: “I think there would be a firestorm at this point [if Trump fired Mueller]….

“How long and how intense, I don’t know, because I remain just perplexed at the limit of the finite limits of our outrage, or our sense of outrage….

“But I think it really comes down to, who’s going to stand with [Mueller]? And I look at the Republicans on the Hill and, you know, the lack, the tower of Jell-O that is the speaker of the House….”

JUDY WOODRUFF: “…Could this campaign…by some Republicans in the House and with support from the White House to undermine the FBI…have a long-lasting effect on the Justice Department in the end?”

DAVID BROOKS:  “Yes, I think so.

“And the FBI is filled with honest brokers….There are a lot of agencies that are filled with honest brokers, and the idea that everybody in this city is a politician is just not true.

“It’s always amazing to me that a lot of people in government, they are not actually that political. They believe in the public service and they try to do their jobs, but they’re not sort of super political people.”

BELLICOSE EVIL TRUMPS TIMID MORALITY: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 31, 2018 at 12:06 am

After Donald Trump won the 2016 election, many people feared he would embark on a radical Right-wing agenda. But others hoped that the Washington bureaucracy would “box him in.”

The same sentiments echoed throughout Germany after Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany on January 30, 1933.

The 1983 TV  mini-series, The Winds of War, offered a dramatic example of how honorable men can be overwhelmed by a ruthless dictator. 

Based on the bestselling 1971 historical novel by Herman Wouk, the mini-series factually re-created the major historical events of World War II.

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One of those events took place on November 5, 1939.

General Walther von Brauchitsch is summoned to the Chancellery in Berlin to meet with Adolf Hitler. He carries a memorandum signed by all the leaders of the German Wehrmacht asserting that Case Yellow—Hitler’s planned attack against France—is impossible.

Meanwhile, at the German army headquarters at Zossen, in Berlin, the Wehrmacht’s top command wait for word from von Brauchitsch.

CHANCELLERY:

Von Brauchitsch hands the memorandum to Hitler, who reads it.

ZOSSEN: 

Brigadier General Armin von Roon: I must confide in you on a very serious matter. I have been approached by certain army personages of the loftiest rank and prestige with a frightening proposal.

Chief of the General Staff Franz Halder:  What did you reply?

Von Roon: That they were talking high treason.

CHANCELLERY:

Adolf Hitler (slamming down the memorandum): So—what is new in all this?

Image result for Gunter Meisner as Adolf Hitler in The Winds of War

Gunter Meisner as Adolf Hitler in “The Winds of War”

Walther Von Brauchitsch:  Fuhrer, it is the army’s final position that Case Yellow cannot proceed.

Hitler: Why not?

Von Brauchitsch: Because of the military fundamentals as stated.

Hitler: Such as?

Von Brauchitsch: The meteorologists predict continuous soaking rains for weeks.

Hitler: It rains on the enemy, too.

ZOSSEN: 

Von Roon: The conspiracy has been going on that long—since Czechoslovakia [1938)?

Halder: If the British had not caved in at Munich [where France and Britain sold out their ally, Czechoslovakia]—perhaps. But they did. And ever then, ever since his big triumph, it has been hopeless. Hopeless.

Von Roon: Empty talk, talk, talk. I am staggered.

Halder: A hundred times I myself could have shot the man. I can still at any time. But what would be the result? Chaos. The people are for him. He has unified the country. We must stick to our posts and save him from making military mistakes.

Halder: But we really cannot proceed with Case Yellow.

Von Roon:  Brauchitsch will get a postponement.

Halder: And if he does not?

CHANCELLERY: 

Von Brauchitsch:  Fuhrer, even the supply of artillery shells is totally inadequate.

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Wolfgang Preiss as Walter von Brauchitsch in “The Winds of War”

Hitler: Who says so? 

Von Brauchitsch: General Thomas, my chief of economics and armament.

Hitler: Do you know how many artillery shells of all calibers we have in the staging areas—right this minute?

Von Brauchitsch: No.

Hitler: How many we have in the reserve dumps in the West?

Von Brauchitsch: No, it’s up to my staff—

Hitler:  What the monthly annual production of shells is? What the projected rise in production of the next six months is, month by month?

Von Brauchitsch: Who keeps such figures in his head?

Hitler: I do!  The supply is adequate. I tell you so. And I’m a field soldier who depended on artillery for four years to protect his life. [He hands von Brauchitsch a sheaf of armaments figures.] Check with your staff. if one of those figures is wrong, you can postpone Case Yellow. Otherwise—you march!  And next time you come to see me, know what you’re talking about!

Von Brauchitsch: If we march unprepared as we are, defeatism will run rampant. It will destroy the Wehrmacht and the Fatherland. The morale of the army was low, even in the Polish campaign.

Hitler: You question to me—to me—the courage of the German soldier?

Von Brauchitsch: I’m talking facts!

Hitler: What facts? Back up this monstrous assertion! In what units was morale low? What action was taken? How many death sentences were handed out for cowardice? Speak up! I’ll fly to the front and pass the death sentences myself. One specific instance.

Von Brauchitsch: It was common knowledge—

Hitler: Common knowledge? What is common knowledge is that army headquarters at Zossen crawls with cowards. You opposed me in rearming the Rhineland. You opposed me on the [union] with Austria. You opposed me on Czechoslovakia, until the British came crawling to me. You dirtied in your trousers, you heroes at Zossen, at the idea of marching into Poland. Well, have I once been wrong? Have you once been right? Answer me!

Von Brauchitsch: Mein Fuhrer

Hitler:  Tell everyone who signed this insubordinate Zossen rubbish to beware! I will ruthlessly crush everybody up to the rank of a Field Marshal who dares to oppose me. You don’t have to understand. You only have to obey. The German people understand me.  I am Germany.

Fast forward 79 years from Adolf Hitler’s stormy confrontation with Walter von Brauchitsch to January 26, 2018. 

President Donald Trump—having fired FBI Director James Comey, attacked the integrity of the American Intelligence community and tried to fire Independent Counsel Robert Mueller—can equally say: I am the destiny of America.

ANOTHER GOPervert BITES THE DUST

In History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on January 26, 2018 at 12:05 am

May, 2015, was a cruel month for sexual perverts posing as “family values” patriots.

On May 21, Josh Duggar resigned as director of the Family Research Council, a Right-wing organization dedicated to fighting sexually-oriented issues such as same-sex marriage, abortion and pornography.

Duggar, then 27, had owed his position to his status as the oldest son of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, of Tonitown, Arkansas.

Until his resignation, the Duggars were famous for popping out babies (20 at last count) and championing Right-wing “family values” causes.

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Josh Duggar, the “all-American” child molester

Then came the bombshell: On May 21, 2015, Josh Duggar issued a statement to People magazine explaining why he had resigned from the Family Research Council. He later published the statement on his Facebook page.

It read, in part:

“Twelve years ago, as a young teenager, I acted inexcusably for which I am extremely sorry and deeply regret. I hurt others, including my family and close friends. I confessed this to my parents who took several steps to help me address the situation.

“We spoke with the authorities where I confessed my wrongdoing, and my parents arranged for me and those affected by my actions to receive counseling. I understood that if I continued down this wrong road that I would end up ruining my life.”

What his statement didn’t say was this:

  • In 2002-3, as a 14-15 year-old, Josh Duggar had fondled the breasts and vaginas of five underage girls—four of whom were his own sisters.
  • Although his parents knew about his perverted activities, Jim Bob Duggar waited more than a year after Josh confessed before contacting the police.
  • Police began investigating the abuse in 2006 when tipped by a family friend but concluded the statute of limitations had lifted.
  • His father later took him to talk with a close family friend, an Arkansas state trooper. The trooper gave him a “stern talk,” but did not open a case. Nor was Duggar referred for criminal charges.
  • The same state trooper was later arrested on child pornography charges—and is now in prison serving a 56-year sentence.
  • His resignation wasn’t prompted by a guilty conscience but by two days of media reports on this story.

As a result of these revelations, on May 22, The Learning Channel (TLC) canceled its high-rated “reality” series, 19 Kids and Counting, which had showcased the Duggar family since 2008.

The scandalous revelations turned the reactionary, anti-abortion, anti-gay Duggars into comedic fodder for standup comedians, cartoonists and visitors to Twitter and Facebook.

One cartoon showed Josh Duggar saying, “I got a word named after me,” and holding a sign defining that word: “Duggar: To sexually abuse innocent victims while trumpeting your own moral superiority.  Example: Hold my Bible while I Duggar you.”

And on Comedy Central’s The Nightly Show, Larry Whitmore made Josh Duggar a target for dark humor:

“So you mean to tell me the family that goes around saying gay and trans people are pedophiles preying on America’s young people actually has a pedophile that preys on America’s young people?  I hate pedophiles, but I love irony.”

And on Twitter, the criticism continued:

  • “Josh Duggar says no child should feel the pain of being aborted. I say no child should feel the pain of being molested.”
  • “So daddy Duggar is ok with his son molesting his daughters, but not ok with his daughters leaving for college. Misogyny at its greatest.” 
  • “Hope no gay wedding cakes were baked while Duggar was molesting girls because that would go against his religious beliefs.”
  • “In the Duggar family, you’re reprimanded for kissing before marriage but not for assaulting your siblings.”  

The family had been a magnet for Right-wingers owing to its staunchly anti-abortion and anti-gay stance. Add to this the Duggars’ claims to religious devotion and their clear disregard for birth control—and their being stars in “reality TV.”

Josh Duggar had, in turn, shown his gratitude for the fawning attention lavished upon him by these Right-wingers.

That gratitude—captured in a series of Tweets on Twitter—proved highly embarrassing to the careers of many of these political figures.

Among those Tweets:

And still more embarrassment was to come: In August, 2015, news reports revealed that, in 2013, “happily married” Josh Duggar had maintained a secret account on Ashley Madison, a website catering to cheating spouses. 

Duggar had paid $986.76 for two different monthly Ashley Madison subscriptions from February, 2013 until May, 2015. 

His long-suffering wife, Anna, has apparently decided to stick with him.  

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.

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