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FINDING THE COURAGE TO SAY “NO”: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 18, 2017 at 3:31 pm

Long before Donald Trump was accused of being sexually compromised by the Russians, Americans knew enough about him to decide: “You are unfit for the Oval Office.”

Almost immediately after entering the Presidential race on June 16, 2015, he began attacking one group of Americans after another:

  • Mexicans: “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” He’s also promised to “build a great, great wall on our southern border and I will have Mexico pay for that wall.”
  • Blacks: Trump retweeted an image of a masked, dark-skinned man with a handgun and a series of alleged crime statistics, including: “Blacks killed by whites – 2%”; “Whites killed by blacks – 81%.” The image cites the “Crime Statistics Bureau – San Francisco”–an agency that doesn’t exist.
  • Muslims: Trump has boasted he would ban them from entering the United States–and revive waterboarding of terrorist suspects. He would require Muslims to register with the Federal Government. And he would close “some mosques” if he felt they were being used by Islamic terrorists.
  • POWs: Speaking of Arizona U.S. Senator John McCain: “He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”

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Donald Trump

The number of people, places and things Trump has insulted is so extensive The New York Times compiled a list of 273 of them.

  • One of those persons was Tarla Makaeff, who spent more than $60,000 on Trump University classes.  In 2010, she filed a fraud lawsuit against (now-defunct) Trump University.
  • Trump retaliated by filing a defamation suit against her. The case was dismissed by a judge.
  • But Trump continued to attack her during his Presidential candidacy. During a campaign rally he assailed her as a “horrible, horrible witness,” and then posted on Twitter that she was “Disgraceful!”
  • Makaeff ultimately persuaded the judge presiding over the Trump University case to let her remove her name as a plaintiff.

As an authoritarian who demands the right to craft his own image. Trump furiously denies others the right to dissent from it:

  • Counter-suits, threats and personal insults against outsiders; and
  • Stringent confidentiality agreements against employees, business partners, his former spouses and now his campaign staffers.
  • In February, 2016, Trump said that he was “gonna open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money.”

Two of Trump’s most vicious threats were aimed at Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

  • The first occurred on October 9, during their second Presidential debate: “If I win, I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation–there has never been so many lies and so much deception.”
  • The second occurred on October 10, three days after The Washington Post leaked a video of Donald Trump making sexually predatory comments about women (“I don’t even wait. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything”).
  • Rather than accept responsibility for his actions, Trump blamed the Clintons–who had nothing to do with the release.Speaking before a rally in Pennsylvania on October 10, Trump threatened: “If they wanna release more tapes saying inappropriate things, we’ll continue to talk about Bill and Hillary Clinton doing inappropriate things.  There are so many of them, folks.”

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Hillary Clinton

Trump’s rampant egomania is literally stamped on his properties. Of the 515 entities he owns, 268 of them–52%–bear his last name. He often refers to his properties as “the swankiest,” “the most beautiful.”

Among the references he’s made to himself:

  • “My fingers are long and beautiful, as, it has been well documented, are various other parts of my body.”
  • “I think the only difference between me and the other candidates is that I’m more honest and my women are more beautiful.”
  • “My Twitter has become so powerful that I can actually make my enemies tell the truth.”
  • “My IQ is one of the highest–and you all know it.”

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Trump publicly admitted that his egomania would play a major role in his approach to consulting advisers:

  • Asked on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” who he consults about foreign policy, he replied: “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things.”

Trump has never been charged with incest, but he’s repeatedly made disturbing, sexually inappropriate comments about his daughter, Ivanka:

  • When asked how he would react if Ivanka, a former teen model, posed for Playboy, Trump replied: “I don’t think Ivanka would do that, although she does have a very nice figure. I’ve said if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.

On October 7, The Washington Post leaked a video of Donald Trump making sexually predatory comments about women (“You can grab them by the pussy”).

  • Within a week, no fewer than 12 had come forward to accuse him of sexually inappropriate behavior.
  • Although he threatened to sue the New York Times if it reported the women’s claims, he has so far refused to do so.

* * * * *

Those Americans who voted for Donald Trump knew the character of the man they were supporting.

They enthusiastically followed him because he gave voice to their hatreds and prejudices.  And because they believed he would humiliate and destroy those they wanted to see humiliated and destroyed.

The next four years will unveil how many of their wishes are fulfilled.

FINDING THE COURAGE TO SAY “NO”: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 17, 2017 at 12:01 am

“What did the President know and when did he know it?”

It was the famous question asked by Tennessee U.S. Senator Howard Baker during the 1973 Watergate hearings.

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Howard Baker

The question cut to the core of President Richard Nixon’s litany of crimes.  And the fact that it was posed by a Republican gave it added power.

More than a year later, Americans learned its answers:

  • Nixon had learned that his own White House “Plumbers” had carried out the Watergate Hotel burglary; and
  • Only days afterward, he ordered a cover-up.

With those revelations, his Presidency was finished.

America now stands only days away from swearing in Donald J. Trump as the 45th President of the United States.

And, once again, Howard Baker’s slightly altered question resonates with force: “What did the American people know, and when did they know it?”

And the subject of that question is not Richard Nixon but President-elect Donald Trump.

Since January 10, Americans have been obsessed with the unproven allegation that, during a visit to Russia several years ago, Trump paid prostitutes to urinate on a bed once slept in by the Obamas at the Moscow Ritz-Carlton.

The charge was published by Buzzfeed, and given weight by reports that both Trump and President Barack Obama had been briefed by Intelligence officials about the alleged incident.

Perhaps even worse for Trump, it’s made him the butt of countless “golden shower” jokes. Saturday Night Live featured a skit with Vladimir Putin appearing at a press conference to blackmail Trump (Alec Baldwin) with a video tape labeled: “PEE PEE TAPE.”

Trump has denied the charge as “fake news.”

But long before this disturbing claim, Americans had more than enough knowledge about Donald Trump to judge him unfit for the Oval Office.

  • He unknowingly admitted to being a sexual predator of women: “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.”

Donald Trump

  • He refused to release his tax returns–unlike every other Presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan in 1980.
  • He said he was prepared to withdraw from NATO, the American-European alliance that held the Soviet Union at bay for a half-century.
  • He often and publicly praised Russian President Vladimir Putin, the absolute dictator of a foreign power hostile to the United States.
  • He publicly invited “Russia”–i.e., Putin–to interfere directly in an American Presidential election: “I will tell you this, Russia: If you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 [Hillary Clinton] emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

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Vladimir Putin

  • He surrounded himself with men who have close ties to Putin. One of these is Paul Manafort, his former campaign manager. His longstanding ties to pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine lead directly to Putin.  
  • Another–his pick for Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson–is the CEO of ExxonMobil, which has worked on major oil projects with Russia. In 2013, Putin awarded Tillerson the Order of Friendship, one of the highest honors the nation bestows on foreign citizens.  
  • Yet another Trump advisor, Roger Ailes, is a known sexual predator.  Hired to prepare Trump for the fall debates with Clinton, he was fired in July as CEO of Fox News on multiple charges of sexual harassment.
  • During the 2016 campaign, Trump received the enthusiastic support of the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party. 

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Ku Klux Klan enblem

  • Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi personally solicited a political contribution from Donald Trump around the same time her office deliberated joining an investigation of alleged fraud at Trump University and its affiliates.
  • After Bondi dropped the Trump University case against Trump, he wrote her a check $25,000 for her re-election campaign. The money came from the Donald J. Trump Foundation.
  • On November 18, Trump–rather than face trial–settled the case out of court for $25 million. “Today’s $25 million settlement agreement is a stunning reversal by Donald Trump,” said New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, “and a major victory for the over 6,000 victims of his fraudulent university.
  • Throughout the 2016 Presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly used threats of violence to intimidate his Republican and Democratic opponents. On March 16, he warned Republicans that if he didn’t win the GOP nomination in July, his supporters would literally riot: “I think you’d have riots. I think you would see problems like you’ve never seen before. I think bad things would happen. I really do. I wouldn’t lead it, but I think bad things would happen.
  • On August 9,  Trump issued a veiled solicitation for the assassination of Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton: “Hillary wants to abolish, essentially abolish, the Second Amendment. If she gets to pick her [Supreme Court] judges, nothing you can do folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.”  
  • After slandering President Barack Obama for five years as “the President from Kenya,” he blatantly lied: “Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy.  I finished it.”

“AMBUSH AT CREDIBILITY GAP”: PART FOUR (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 16, 2017 at 12:14 am

After being presented with the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award, Meryl Streep criticized Donald Trump’s mocking of disabled New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski.  

Kovaleski suffers from arthrogryposis, a congenital condition that restricts the movement of the muscles in his arms.  

At a South Carolina rally on November 24, 2015, Trump claimed that Kovaleski was backing away from an article he had written four years earlier.

Trump had earlier said the article proved that New Jersey Muslims had celebrated the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. Kovaleski had insisted there was no credible proof of such celebrations.  

Angered at being contradicted, Trump mocked Kovaleski: He flopped his right arm around with his hand held at an odd angle while imitating the reporter: “Now, the poor guy, you’ve got to see this guy: ‘Uhh, I don’t know what I said. Uhh, I don’t remember,’ he’s going like ‘I don’t remember. Maybe that’s what I said.'”

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Trump mocking Kovaleski, left; Kovaleski, right

At the Golden Globe Awards on January 8, Streep denounced this behavior that “broke my heart.”

“And this instinct to humiliate, when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life, because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing. 

“Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.”

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Meryl Streep at the Golden Globes

Streep’s words outraged Trump’s supporters–especially his mouthpiece, Kelleyanne Conway. 

Appearing on Right-wing Fox and Friends the next morning, she said: “We have to now form a government, and I’m concerned that somebody with a platform like Meryl Streep is also, I think, inciting people’s worst instincts. 

“When she won’t get up there and say, ‘I don’t like it, but let’s try to support him and see where we can find some common ground with him, which [Trump] has actually done from moment one.”

Conway didn’t say what common ground Streep should find with Trump. Perhaps agreeing on mocking the disabled? 

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Kelleyanne Conway

Then Conway visited CNN’s “New Day,” where she offered a “black-is-white” defense for Trump’s videotaped ridiculing of Kovaleski: It didn’t happen.  

The host, Chris Cuomo, having seen the video, wasn’t buying it.

CUOMO: But is [Streep] wrong? Is she wrong that it was wrong for Trump to make gestures like that about a man with disabilities?  

CONWAY: He didn’t–but that is not what he did and he has said that a thousand times. As he tweeted out today–

CUOMO: He can say it a million. Look at the video.

CONWAY: Why can’t you–wait, excuse me. Why can’t you give him the benefit of the doubt the way the benefit of the doubt was given to CNN’s polling, all of its analysts?

CUOMO: Because he’s making a disgusting gesture on video talking about Serge.

CONWAY: Not about that reporter and that’s just a fact. That is what he’s said. You should give him–

CUOMO: But how is it not about the reporter?

CONWAY: –the deference and respect if he says that it was–he was not mocking, he was mocking the groveling. He said it again this morning. He has three tweets out about it.

CUOMO: But he’s doing a gesture that goes right to the guy’s vulnerability.

CONWAY: You’re saying you don’t believe him. You’re calling him a liar and you shouldn’t.

CUOMO: Look, Kellyanne, to me that’s like you’re trying to scare me off the point and we both know it’s a waste of time.

CONWAY: I’m not going to scare you off anything.

CUOMO: He’s making a gesture that is so keenly tuned to what Serge’s vulnerability is. 

CONWAY: And now you’re giving oxygen to what Meryl Streep said.

CUOMO: Forget about Meryl Streep. This happened before her. If our kids did that, could you imagine what we would say to them?  

Conway said she would not bring her children into the discussion.

CUOMO: I will. If my kid did something like that, it’d be a really tough day.

CONWAY: You have to listen to what the president has said about that. Why don’t you believe him? 

Conway tried to change the subject to Hillary Clinton: “She was given the benefit of the doubt here constantly.”  

When Cuomo asked for specifics, she refused to give them.  Then she returned to claiming that Trump had never mocked Kovaleski:

CONWAY: You can’t give him the benefit of the doubt on this, when he’s telling you what was in his heart? You always want to go by what’s come out of his mouth, rather than look at what’s in his heart.  

* * * * *

Previously, politicians had defended themselves with arguments like: “You can see right here on the tape, I did (or, I didn’t)….”  

Trump has cast aside that logic–and the taped evidence–by demanding: “Believe what I’m telling you, not what you’ve just seen.”

By that rationale, if a security camera shows Trump robbing a bank at gunpoint, we’re supposed to believe him if he says: “No, I didn’t rob that bank. I was simply checking my bank balance.”

Such “logic” holds appeal for paid shills like Kelleyanne Conway. But most people will continue to judge by the evidence.

“AMBUSHED AT CREDIBILITY GAP”: PART THREE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 13, 2017 at 12:02 am

For five years, Donald Trump, more than anyone else, popularized the slander that Barack Obama was born in Kenya–and was therefore an illegitimate President.

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

As his popularity fell to less than 1% among blacks, the managers of his campaign urged: Put the “birther” issue behind you.

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.  

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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.  

On the evening of September 16, Hillary Clinton strongly responded to Trump’s comments: 

“For five years, he has led the birther movement to de-legitimize our first black president. His campaign was founded on this outrageous lie. There is no erasing it in history.”  

And First Lady Michelle Obama slammed Trump for his “birther” claims: 

“Then, of course, there were those who questioned, and who continue to question for the past eight years, and up to this very day, whether my husband was even born in this country.

“Well, during his time in office, I think Barack has answered those questions with the examples he set, by going high when they go low. And he’s answered these questions with the progress we’ve achieved together.” 

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Michelle Obama

But perhaps the best perspective on this event was provided by syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks. Each Friday they appear on the PBS Newshour to review the week’s major political events.

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David Brooks and Mark Shields

On September 16, Shields (a liberal) and Brooks (a conservative) addressed Trump’s about-face on birtherism.    

MARK SHIELDS: “I think it’s important to establish right at the outset that [Trump] wasn’t only the loudest and the highest-profile and the most persistent and the most well-publicized birther, he, Donald Trump. He lied. He lied consistently and persistently.

“And, today, without explanation or excuse, he just changed his position and tried to absolutely falsely shift the blame onto Hillary Clinton.

“And this was an appeal to–he debased democracy. He debased the national debate. He appealed to that which is most ignoble or least noble in all of us.”

DAVID BROOKS: “Usually, there’s some tangential relationship to the truth, but a corroding relationship to the truth, frankly, as politics has gone on over the years.

“But now we’re in a reverse, Orwellian inversion of the truth with this. And so we have a team of staffers and then the candidate himself who have taken the normal spin and smashed all the rules.

“And so we are really in Orwell land. We are in 1984. And it’s interesting that an authoritarian personality type comes in at the same time with a complete disrespect for even tangential relationship to the truth that words are unmoored.

“And so I do think this statement sort of shocked me with the purification of a lot of terrible trends that have been happening. And so what’s white is black, and what is up is down, what is down is up. And that really is something new in politics.

“And the fact that there is no penalty for it, apparently–he’s doing fantastic in the last two weeks in the polls–is just somehow where we have gotten.”  

Less than two months later, Trump won the Presidency.  

Since then, Trump has continued to inhabit what David Brooks called “Orwell land.”

The most recent example of this occurred on January 9, 2017.  

The night before, Meryl Streep had enraged Trump and his mouthpiece, Kelleyanne Conway, at the Golden Globes Awards ceremony.

While being presented with the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award, she had criticized Trump’s mocking, on November 25, 2015, of disabled New York Times reporter Serve Kovaleski:  

“There was one performance this year that stunned me. It sank its hooks in my heart. Not because it was good. There was nothing good about it. But it was effective, and it did its job. It made its intended audience laugh and show their teeth. 

“It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter. Someone he outranked in privilege, power and the capacity to fight back. It kind of broke my heart when I saw it. I still can’t get it out of my head because it wasn’t in a movie. It was real life.” 

“AMBUSHED AT CREDIBILITY GAP”: PART ONE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 11, 2017 at 12:02 am

“Credibility gap” is a term that came into use during the mid-1960s to describe public and journalistic distrust of President Lyndon B. Johnson. In particular, the term was applied to his administration’s conduct of the Vietnam war.

It was, in short, a euphemism for accusing government officials of outright lying.

An example of the credibility gap in full swing appeared in Stanley Kubrick’s classic 1987 Vietnam war movie, Full Metal Jacket

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Vietnam was a war where military and political officials spewed a gung-ho version of constant American progress against a tough enemy.

And where civilian reporters like David Halberstam and Walter Cronkite saw–and labeled–the war as a brutal, wasteful and ultimately doomed effort. 

Midway through the film, there’s an editorial meeting of The Sea Tiger, the official Marine newspaper.

Lieutenant Lockhart is presiding–and he is determined to give his superiors an endless stream of “all-systems-go” propaganda reports. He reads a series of stories that have been published:

Story #1: DIPLOMATS IN DUNGAREES–MARINE ENGINEERS LEND A HELPING HAND REBUILDING DONG PHUC VILLAGES.

LOCKHART: “Chili, “if we move Vietnamese, they are evacuees. If they come to us to be evacuated, they are refugees.”

Story #2: N.V.A. SOLDIER DESERTS AFTER READING PAMPHLETS.

LOCKHART: “A young North Vietnamese Army regular, who realized his side could not win the war, deserted from his unit after reading Open Arms program pamphlets.”

Story #3: NOT WHILE WE’RE EATING: N.V.A. LEARN MARINES ON A SEARCH AND DESTROY MISSION DON’T LIKE TO BE INTERRUPTED WHILE EATING CHOW.

LOCKHART: “‘Search and destroy.’  Uh, we have a new directive on this. In the future, in place of ‘search and destroy,’ substitute the phrase ‘sweep and clear.’ Got it?” 

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Lt. Lockhart, editor of The Sea Tiger 

LOCKHART:  “And, Joker–where’s the weenie?”

JOKER:  “Sir?”

LOCKHART  “The Kill, Joker. I mean, all that fire, the grunts must’ve hit something.”

JOKER:  “Didn’t see ’em.”

LOCKHART:  “Joker, I’ve told you, we run two basic stories here: Grunts who give half their pay to buy gooks toothbrushes and deodorants–winning of hearts and Minds–okay? And combat action that results in a kill–Winning the War. Now you must have seen blood trails … drag marks?”

JOKER:  “It was raining, sir.”

LOCKHART:  “Well, that’s why God passed the law of probability. Now rewrite it and give it a happy ending–say, uh, one kill. Make it a sapper or an officer. Grunts like reading about dead officers.”

JOKER:  “Okay, an officer. How about a general?”

LOCKHART:  “Joker, maybe you’d like our guys to read the paper and feel bad. I mean, in case you didn’t know it, this is not a particularly popular war. Now, it is our job to report the news that these why-are-we-here civilian newsmen ignore.”

So great became the divide between truth and lies during military “press briefings” that reporters started calling them “The Five O’clock Follies.” And even some soldiers took to wearing buttons that said: “Ambushed at Credibility Gap.”

Reporters who dared to write truthfully about the military’s crimes and failures–like David Halberstam of the New York Times and Peter Arnett of the Associated Press–were regarded as traitors by military and political officials.

In 1963, President John F. Kennedy became enraged by Halberstam’s reporting on the corruption of the South Vietnamese government. He pressured New York Times publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger to transfer Halberstam to another locale. Sulzberger politely refused–and then extended Halberstam’s stay in Vietnam another six months.

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David Halberstam

In 1965, when CBS Correspondent Morley Safer filmed Marines setting fire to the village of Cam Ne with Zippo lighters, President Lyndon B. Johnson was similarly outraged.

He placed an early-morning call to CBS News President Frank Stanton and shouted: “Your boys shat on the American flag!”

The trail of deceit and attempted censorship continued right up to the end of the war–in April, 1975. That was when North Vietnamese forces invaded the South and quickly overwhelmed the incompetent defenses arrayed against them.

And while America was still bogged down in Vietnam, the Watergate scandal erupted on June 17, 1972.

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Watergate Hotel

Members of the Nixon administration’s secret “Plumbers Unit” burglarized the offices of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate Hotel.

Obsessed with re-electing Richard Nixon, they sought incriminating information to discredit U.S. Senator George McGovern, the Democrats’ nominee for President.

When the burglars were caught, President Richard M. Nixon and his topmost officials lied and stonewalled both reporters and investigators seeking the truth.

Nixon’s press secretary, Ronald Ziegler, repeatedly slandered the integrity of The Washington Post for its coverage of the mushrooming Watergate scandal. He called the Watergate break-in “a third-rate burglary” and attacked the Post for “shabby journalism.”

Finally, on April 17, 1973, Ziegler, announced at a press conference: “This is the operative statement. The others are inoperative.”

In short: We’ve been lying to you for the last 10 months.  But now we’re telling the truth.

Like Vietnam, the Watergate scandal destroyed the reputations of many of its chief architects. Forty government officials were indicted or jailed.

Vietnam and Watergate were seminal events for Americans coming of age in the late 1960s and early 1970s. They taught an entire generation: Don’t trust the government.  Its officials routinely lie, and their lies can be deadly.

LOVE VS. FEAR: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 22, 2016 at 12:18 am

Is it better to be loved or feared?

That was the question Florentine statesman Niccolo Machiavelli raised more than 500 years ago.

Niccolo Machiavelli

Presidents have struggled to answer this question–and have come to different conclusions.

LOVE ME, FEAR MY BROTHER

Most people felt irresistibly drawn to John F. Kennedy–even his political foes. Henry Luce, the conservative publisher of Time, once said, “He makes me feel like a whore.”

But JFK could afford to bask in the love of others–because his younger brother, Robert, was the one who inspired fear.

Robert F. Kennedy and John F. Kennedy

He had done so as Chief Counsel for the Senate Rackets Committee (1957-59), grilling Mafia bosses and corrupt union officials–most notably Teamsters President James Hoffa.

Appointed Attorney General by JFK, he unleashed the FBI on the Mafia. When the steel companies colluded in an inflationary rise in the price of steel in 1962, Bobby sicced the FBI on them.

In 1963, JFK’s cavorting with Ellen Rometsh threatened to destroy his Presidency. Rometsch, a Washington, D.C. call girl, was suspected by the FBI of being an East German spy.

With Republican Senators preparing to investigate the rumors, Bobby ordered Rometsch deported immediately (to which, as a German citizen, she was subject).

He also ordered FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to deliver a warning to the Majority and Minority leaders of the Senate: The Bureau was fully aware of the extramarital trysts of most of its members. And an investigation into the President’s sex life could easily lead into revelations of Senatorial sleaze.

Plans for a Senatorial investigation were shelved.

BEING LOVED AND FEARED

In the 1993 movie, A Bronx Tale, 17-year-old Calogero (Lillo Brancato) asks his idol, the local Mafia capo, Sonny (Chazz Palminteri): “Is it better to be loved or feared?”

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Sonny gives advice to his adopted son, Calogero

Sonny says if he had to choose, he would rather be feared. But he adds a warning straight out of Machiavelli: “The trick is not being hated. That’s why I treat my men good, but not too good.

“I give too much, then they don’t need me. I give them just enough where they need me, but they don’t hate me.”

Machiavelli, writing in The Prince, went further:

“Still a Prince should make himself feared in such a way that if he does not gain love, he at any rate avoids hatred, for fear and the absence of hatred may well go together. And [this] will always be attained by one who abstains from interfering with the property of his citizens and subjects or with their women.”

Many who quote Machiavelli in defense of being feared overlook this vital point: It’s essential to avoid becoming hated.

To establish a fearful reputation, a leader must act decisively and ruthlessly when the interests of the organization are threatened. Punitive action must be taken promptly and confidently.

One or two harsh actions of this kind can make a leader more feared than a reign of terror.

In fact, it’s actually dangerous to constantly employ cruelties or punishments. Whoever does so, warns Machiavelli, “is always obliged to stand with knife in hand, and can never depend on his subjects, because they, owing to continually fresh injuries, are unable to depend upon him.”

The 20th century President who came closest to realizing Machiavelli’s “loved and feared” prince was Ronald Reagan.

Always smiling, quick with a one-liner (especially at press conferences), seemingly unflappable, he projected a constantly optimistic view of his country and its citizens.

Ronald Reagan

In his acceptance speech at the 1980 Republican National Convention he declared: “[The Democrats] say that the United States has had its days in the sun, that our nation has passed its zenith.… My fellow citizens, I utterly reject that view.”

And Americans enthusiastically responded to that view, twice electing him President (1980 and 1984).

But there was a steely, ruthless side to Reagan that appeared when he felt crossed.

On August 3, 1981, nearly 13,000 air traffic controllers walked out after contract talks with the Federal Aviation Administration collapsed. As a result, some 7,000 flights across the country were canceled on that day at the peak of the summer travel season.

Reagan branded the strike illegal. He threatened to fire any controller who failed to return to work within 48 hours.

On August 5, Reagan fired more than 11,000 air traffic controllers who hadn’t returned to work. The mass firing slowed commercial air travel, but it did not cripple the system as the strikers had forecast.

Reagan’s action stunned the American labor movement. Reagan was the only American President to have belonged to a union, the Screen Actors Guild. He had even been president of this–from 1947 to 1954.

There were no more strikes by Federal workers during Reagan’s tenure in office.

Similarly, Libya’s dictator, Moammar Kadaffi, learned that Reagan was not a man to cross.

On April 5, 1986, Libyan agents bombed a nightclub in West Berlin, killing three people, one a U.S. serviceman. The United States quickly learned that Libyan agents in East Germany were behind the attack.

On April 15, acting on Reagan’s orders, U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps bombers struck at several sites in Tripoli and Benghazi. Reportedly, Kaddafi himself narrowly missed becoming a casualty.

There were no more acts of Libyan terrorism against Americans for the rest of Reagan’s term.

LOVE VS. FEAR: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 21, 2016 at 12:03 am

It’s probably the most-quoted passage of Niccolo Machiavelli’s infamous book, The Prince:

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

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

“And the prince who has relied solely on their words, without making other preparations, is ruined. For the friendship which is gained by purchase and not through grandeur and nobility of spirit is bought but not secured, and at a pinch is not to be expended in your service. 

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

Niccolo Machiavelli

So–which is better: To be feared or loved?

In the 1993 film, A Bronx Tale, 17-year-old Calogero (Lillo Brancato) poses that question to his idol, the local Mafia capo, Sonny (Chazz Palminteri).

“That’s a good question,” Sonny replies. “It’s nice to be both, but it’s very difficult. But if I had my choice, I would rather be feared.

“Fear lasts longer than love. Friendships that are bought with money mean nothing. You see how it is around here. I make a joke, everybody laughs. I know I’m funny, but I’m not that funny. It’s fear that keeps them loyal to me.”

Presidents face the same dilemma as Mafia capos–and resolve it in their own ways.

LOVE ME BECAUSE I NEED TO BE LOVED

Bill Clinton believed that he could win over his self-appointed Republican enemies through his sheer charm.

Part of this lay in self-confidence: He had won the 1992 and 1996 elections by convincing voters that “I feel your pain.”

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Bill Clinton

And part of it lay in his need to be loved. He once said that if he were in a room with 100 people and 99 of them liked him but one didn’t, he would spend all his time with that one person, trying to win him over.

But while he could charm voters, he could not bring himself to retaliate against his sworn Republican enemies.

On April 19, 1995, Right-wing terrorist Timothy McVeigh drove a truck–packed with 5,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate and nitromethane–to the front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

The explosion killed 168 people, including 19 children in the day care center on the second floor, and injured 684 others.

Suddenly, Republicans were frightened. Since the end of World War II, they had vilified the very Federal Government they belonged to. They had even courted the Right-wing militia groups responsible for the bombing.

So Republicans feared Clinton would now turn their decades of hate against them.

They need not have worried. On April 23, Clinton presided over a memorial service for the victims of the bombing. He gave a moving eulogy–without condemning the hate-filled Republican rhetoric that had at least indirectly led to the slaughter.

Clinton further sought to endear himself to Republicans by:

  • Adopting NAFTA–the Republican-sponsored North American Free Trade Act, which later proved so devastating to American workers;
  • Siding with Republicans against poor Americans on welfare; and
  • Championing the gutting of the Depression-era Glass-Steagall law, which barred investment banks from commercial banking activities.

In 1998, emboldened by Clinton’s refusal to stand up to them, House Republicans moved to impeach him over a sex scandal with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. But his Presidency survived when the Senate refused to convict.

LOVE ME BECAUSE I’LL HURT YOU IF YOU DON’T

Lyndon Johnson wanted desperately to be loved.

Once, he complained to Dean Acheson, the former Secretary of State under Harry S. Truman, about the ingratitude of American voters. He had passed far more legislation than his predecessor, John F. Kennedy, and yet Kennedy remained beloved, while he, Johnson, was not.

Why was that? Johnson demanded.

“You are not a very likable man,” said Acheson truthfully.

Image result for Images of Lyndon B. Johnson

Lyndon B. Johnson

Johnson tried to make his subordinates love him. He would humiliate a man, then give him an expensive gift–such a Cadillac. It was his way of binding the man to him.

He was on a first-name basis with J. Edgar Hoover, the longtime director of the FBI. He didn’t hesitate to request–and get–raw FBI files on his political opponents.

On at least one occasion, he told members of his Cabinet: No one would dare walk out on his administration–because if they did, two men would follow their ass to the end of the earth: Mr. J. Edgar Hoover and the head of the Internal Revenue Service.

A NIGHTMARISH VISION OF “THE AMERICAN DREAM”

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 19, 2016 at 12:05 am

On August 17, 2015, Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump outlined his strategy for defeating the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

He would order American forces to take over the oil fields that ISIS has seized in Iraq.

Trump outlined his plans for future military operations against ISIS on NBC’s “Meet the Press” with Chuck Todd.

“Now we’re there, and you have ISIS….And ISIS is taking over a lot of the oil in certain areas of Iraq.

“And I said, you take away their wealth. You go and knock the hell out of the oil. Take back the oil. We take over the oil, which we should have done in the first place” during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

After taking over the Iraqi oil fields, said Trump, “we’re going to have so much money.

“And what I would do with the money that we make, which would be tremendous, I would take care of the soldiers that were killed, the families of the soldiers that were killed, the soldiers, the wounded warriors that are–see, I love them.”

Actually, Trump’s idea forms the plot of The Profession, a 2011 novel by bestselling author Steven Pressfield.

The Profession

Pressfield made his literary reputation with a series of classic novels about ancient Greece.

In Gates of Fire (1998) he explored the rigors and heroism of Spartan society–and the famous last stand of its 300 picked warriors at Thermopylae.

In The Virtues of War (2004) he entered the mind of Alexander the Great, whose armies swept across the known world, destroying all who dared oppose them.

Steven Pressfield Focused Interview

 Steven Pressfield

But in The Profession, Pressfield created a plausible world set into the future of 2032. The book’s own dust jacket offers the best summary of its plot-line:

“The third Iran-Iraq war is over. The 11/11 dirty bomb attack on the port of Long Beach, California is receding into memory. Saudi Arabia has recently quelled a coup. Russians and Turks are clashing in the Caspian Basin….

“Everywhere military force is for hire. Oil companies, multi-national corporations and banks employ powerful, cutting-edge mercenary armies to control global chaos and protect their riches.

“Even nation states enlist mercenary forces to suppress internal insurrections, hunt terrorists, and do the black bag jobs necessary to maintain the new New World Order.

“Force Insertion is the world’s merc monopoly. Its leader is the disgraced former United States Marine General James Salter, stripped of his command by the president for nuclear saber-rattling with the Chinese and banished to the Far East.’

Salter appears as a hybrid of World War II General Douglas MacArthur and Iraqi War General Stanley McCrystal. 

Douglas MacArthur (left), Stanley McCrystal (right)

Like MacArthur, Salter has butted heads with his President–and paid dearly for it. Now his ambition is no less than to become President himself–by popular acclaim. And like McCrystal, he is a pure warrior who leads from the front and is revered by his men.

Salter seizes Saudi Arabian oil fields, then offers them as a gift to America. By doing so, he makes himself the most popular man in the country–and a guaranteed occupant of the White House.

And in 2032 the United States is a far different nation from the one its Founding Fathers created in 1776.

“The United States is an empire…but the American people lack the imperial temperament. We’re not legionaries, we’re mechanics. In the end the American Dream boils down to what? ‘I’m getting mine and the hell with you.’”

Americans, asserts Salter, have come to like mercenaries: “They’ve had enough of sacrificing their sons and daughters in the name of some illusory world order. They want someone else’s sons and daughters to bear the burden….

“They want their problems to go away. They want me to to make them go away.”

And so Salter will “accept whatever crown, of paper or gold, that my country wants to press upon me.”

Returning to the United States, he is acclaimed as a hero–and the next President.

He is under no delusion that his country is on a downward spiral toward oblivion: “Any time that you have the rise of mercenaries…society has entered a twilight era, a time past the zenith of its arc.”

Nor does he believe that his Presidency will arrest that decline: “But maybe in the short run, it’s better that my hand be on the wheel…rather than some other self-aggrandizing sonofabitch whose motives might not be as well intentioned….” 

More than 500 years ago, Niccolo Machiavelli warned of the dangers of relying on mercenaries:

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

 Niccolo Machiavelli

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

Centuries ago, Niccolo Machiavelli issued a warning against relying on men whose first love is their own enrichment.

Steven Pressfield, in a work of fiction, has given us a nightmarish vision of a not-so-distant America where “Name your price” has become the byward for an age.

Both warnings are well worth heeding.

THE PIRATES OF THE RIGHT

In History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 16, 2016 at 12:02 am

As supporters of President-elect Donald Trump demand that “everyone must get behind our President,” it’s worth recalling how Right-wingers “got behind” President Barack Obama.

On April 8, 2009, four Somali pirates boarded the Maersk Alabama when it was located 240 miles southeast of the Somalian port city of  Eyl.

The ship, en route to Mombasa, Kenya, was carrying 17,000 tons of cargo, including 5,000 tons of relief supplies for Kenya, Somalia, and Uganda.

As the pirates boarded the ship, the crew members locked themselves in the engine room. To buy time for his crewmen, the captain, Richard Phillips, surrendered to the pirates.

Captain Richard Phillips

The crew later overpowered one of the pirates, and sought to exchange their captive for Phillips. The crew released the pirate, but the other three pirates refused to release Phillips.

The pirates left with Philips in a lifeboat which carried ten days of food rations, water and basic survival supplies.

On April 8, the destroyer USSS Bainbridge and the frigate USSS Halyburton were dispatched to the Gulf of Aden to deal with the hostage situation, and reached Maersk Alabama early on April 9.

On April 9, a standoff began between the Bainbridge and the pirates in the Maersk Alabama’s lifeboat, where they continued to hold Phillips hostage

On April 12, marksmen from SEAL Team 6 simultaneously opened fire with telescopic-sighted assault rifles and killed the three pirates on the lifeboat.

U.S. Navy SEALS

The SEALS believed Phillips faced an immediate threat of execution, having received a report that one of the pirates was pointing an AK-47 at his back. 

The SEALS, known for their legendary marksmanship, took out all three pirates with shots to the head.

Phillips was rescued in good condition.

The vast majority of Americans rejoiced. The Maersk Alabama had been the first American cargo ship to be hijacked in 200 years. And the encounter had ended with the ship and crew safe and its captain rescued without injury.

But not everyone was happy about the outcome. Naturally, the pirates infesting the Somali coastline were infuriated at this setback.

But, surprisingly, there were some Americans who felt more sympathetically toward the Somali pirates than the man who had ordered Phillips’ rescue: President Barack Obama.

One of these was Rush Limbaugh, the American Right’s chief spokesman.

Rush Limbaugh

The Rush Limbaugh Show airs throughout the U.S. on over 400 stations and is the highest-rated talk-radio program in the United States. When Limbaugh speaks, his “dittohead” audience listens–and acts as he decrees.

On April 14, 2009, Limbaugh gave his take on the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips:

“The Somali pirates, the merchant marine organizers who took a US merchant captain hostage for five days were inexperienced youths, the defense secretary, Roberts Gates, said yesterday, adding that the hijackers were between 17 and 19 years old.

“Now, just imagine the hue and cry had a Republican president ordered the shooting of black teenagers on the high seas….

“They were kids. The story is out, I don’t know if it’s true or not, but apparently the hijackers, these kids, the merchant marine organizers, Muslim kids, were upset.

“They wanted to just give the captain back and head home because they were running out of food. They were running out of fuel, they were surrounded by all these US Navy ships, big ships, and they just wanted out of there. That’s the story.

“But then when one of them put a gun to the back of the captain, Mr. Phillips, then bam, bam, bam. There you have it, and three teenagers shot on the high seas at the order of President Obama.”

And there you have it–an American Fascist making common cause with the heirs of Blackbeard and Henry Morgan.

Click here: President Obama Ordered the Killing of Three Black Muslim Kids – The Rush Limbaugh Show

In Julius Caesar, William Shakespeare lets Marcus Brutus give his reason for murdering Caesar, his onetime friend: “Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more.”

Limbaugh and his Rightist stooges could have said they opposed the rescue mission for a similar reasono: “Not that we loved the Somali pirates, but that we hate Obama more.”

Consider the comment then-Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn.) made on an Iowa radio program on October 3, 2011.

One caller, “Donna,” told Bachmann that the president was a “walking nightmare” who was “blowing up our country.”

“I would vote for Charles Manson before this guy,” she said. “But I’m pulling for you big time, all the way, go Michele!”

“Thank you for saying that,” Bachmann replied.

Thus, Bachmann–who supposedly represented the democratic system–chose as her hero a convicted psychopathic murderer over a legally-elected President.

The rescue of Richard Phillips has been dramatized in the 2013 movie, Captain Phillips, starring Tom Hanks in the title role.

Audiences cheered at the climatic moment when the three pirates met their deserved fate.

But what they didn’t see depicted was Limbaugh’s Greek chorus for the Right–and the sheer hatred he and they have for anyone who doesn’t share their Fascistic views.

THE PRESIDENT FROM PUTIN

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 15, 2016 at 1:20 am

Donald Trump spent five years slandering Barack Obama as “the President from Kenya.”  

And now it appears that the United States is on the brink of inaugurating him as “the President from Vladimir Putin.”

On December 14, NBC News reported that “U.S. intelligence officials now believe with ‘a high level of confidence’ that Russian President Vladimir Putin became personally involved in the covert Russian campaign to interfere in the U.S. presidential election.”

According to senior Intelligence officials, Putin had several motives:

  • Waging a vendetta against Hillary Clinton, whom he has long disliked;
  • Publicly disgrace the United States by revealing corruption at the heart of its politics; and
  • “Split off key American allies by creating the image that [other countries] couldn’t depend on the U.S. to be a credible global leader anymore.” 

The CIA believes that Putin wanted to elect Donald Trump. The FBI isn’t so certain, feeling that Putin might have simply wanted to do as much harm as possible.

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Even so, an air of unreality clings to all of this.

The bromance between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin has been well-known for more than a year.   

On June 2, Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said exactly that to an audience in San Diego, California:

“And I have to say, I don’t understand Donald [Trump’s] bizarre fascination with dictators and strongmen who have no love for America.

“He praised China for the Tiananmen Square massacre; he said it showed strength.

“He said, ‘You’ve got to give Kim Jong Un credit’ for taking over North Korea–something he did by murdering everyone he saw as a threat, including his own uncle, which Donald described gleefully, like he was recapping an action movie.

“And he said if he were grading Vladimir Putin as a leader, he’d give him an A. Now, I’ll leave it to the psychiatrists to explain his affection for tyrants,” said Clinton.

To many people, it’s the ultimate odd-couple: The lifelong Communist and former KGB officer (Putin) walking arm-in-arm with the billionaire, publicity-hungry capitalist (Trump).

First Putin:

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

“He is saying that he wants to move to a different level of relations with Russia, to a closer, deeper one. How can we not welcome that?  Of course, we welcome that.”

Vladimir Putin

Now Trump:

“It is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond.”

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Donald Trump

Appearing on the December 18, 2015 edition of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Trump said: “Sure, when people call you ‘brilliant,’ it’s always good. Especially when the person heads up Russia.”

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.

SCARBOROUGH: I’m confused. So I mean, you obviously condemn Vladimir Putin killing journalists and political opponents, right?

TRUMP:  Oh sure, absolutely.

And Trump has gone well beyond handing out compliments.

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

And how did Trump react?

By declaring, at a press conference in Doral, Florida: “Russia, if you are listening, I hope you are able to find the 33,000 emails that are missing–I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”  

This was nothing less than treason–calling upon a foreign power, hostile to the United States, to interfere in its Presidential election.

Why would Putin want to back Trump?  

Trump has repeatedly attacked United States’ membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). He believes the United States is paying an unfairly large portion of the monies needed to maintain this alliance–and he wants other members to contribute far more. 

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He has also said that, if Russia attacked NATO members, he would decide whether to come to their aid only after determining whether those nations have “fulfilled their obligations to us.” If he believed that they had not done so, he would inform them: “Congratulations, you will be defending yourself.”

For Putin, this clearly signaled a reason to prefer Trump to Clinton. The withdrawal of the United States from NATO would instantly render that alliance kaput. Its European members don’t have the armed forces to match Russia’s–nor Russia’s huge nuclear arsenal.  

As January 20, 2017, rapidly approaches, America faces a stark choice: Empower a man elected with help from a hostile power–or declare him ineligible as a result.

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