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Posts Tagged ‘2016 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION’

HEROES AND VILLAINS: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 10, 2020 at 12:04 am

On March 30, Captain Brett Crozier, commanding the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, sent a  four-page internal letter to multiple Naval officials, pleading to have the majority of the crew evacuated and quarantined on shore in Guam.

The reason: Dozens of his crew members had been stricken with the deadly Coronavirus. And the ship’s cramped compartments and narrow passageways made “social distancing” impossible.

On March 31, someone leaked the letter to the San Francisco Chronicle, which published it.

On April 1, the Navy ordered the aircraft carrier evacuated.

On April 2, Crozier was relieved of command by acting United States Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly.

Not content to fire Crozier, Modly visited the ship and stated over its public address system: “If he didn’t think, in my opinion, that this information wasn’t going to get out to the public, in this day and information age that we live in, then he was either (a) too naïve or too stupid to be a commanding officer of a ship like this. The alternative is that he did this on purpose. 

“It was a betrayal of trust with me, with his chain of command, with you.”

Thus, for Modly, Crozier’s “crime” was making public what everyone on the ship and countless Navy officials knew.

President Donald Trump echoed Modly’s attitude: “The letter was a five-page letter from a captain, and the letter was all over the place. That’s not appropriate.

“I thought it was terrible, what he did, to write a letter. I mean, this isn’t a class on literature. This is a captain of a massive ship that’s nuclear powered. And he shouldn’t be talking that way in a letter.” 

But Crozier wasn’t the only victim of Trump’s “integrity-is-treason” mindset that week. 

On April 3, Trump informed Congress that he was removing Michael Atkinson, the inspector general who alerted Congress to his extortion attempt against Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, on July 25, 2019.

Trump told Zelensky: Find embarrassing “dirt” on former Vice President Joseph Biden and his son, Hunter.

Hunter had had business dealings in Ukraine. And Joe Biden might be Trump’s Democratic opponent for the White House in 2020. 

To underline the seriousness of his “request,” Trump had withheld $400 million in promised military aid to Ukraine, which is facing an increasingly aggressive Russia. 

Reporters asked Congressional Republicans: “Is it appropriate for President Donald Trump to ask a foreign government to investigate his political opponent?” 

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Donald Trump

And Republicans refused to answer or condemn such behavior. Among those refusing to answer:

Iowa Senator Joni Ernst: “We don’t have all the facts, we don’t know what is accurate. We have a picture painted by the media and we don’t know if that picture is accurate.”

Arizona Senator Martha McSally: “I think what we’ve seen out of [Speaker of the House Nancy] Pelosi and [House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam] Schiff and others in the House is quite partisan and I think people want us to take a serious look at this and not have it be just partisan bickering going on.” 

North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis: “I’m going to leave it to the President to make that decision” on whether his actions were appropriate. 

The reason for Republicans’ deafening silence: They didn’t want to anger Trump or his fanatical supporters. And they feared losing their Congressional seats and the perks that go with them.  

Michael Atkinson, the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community, showed no such fear.

After the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, Atkinson left private law practice and worked for the United States Department of Justice for 15 years.

In 2017, President Trump nominated him as Inspector General of the Intelligence Community. The Senate confirmed him in 2018.

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Michael Atkinson

Atkinson, informed by an Intelligence whistleblower of Trump’s extortion attempt, was appalled. He believed that he was obligated by law to report it to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees.

Trump was ultimately impeached by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives for abusing his office for personal political gain and obstruction of Congress.

But a Republican-controlled Senate—which refused to hear witnesses or act on the overwhelming evidence—quickly exonerated him.

In his April 3 letter to the leaders of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, Trump wrote:  “This is to advise that I am exercising my power as President to remove from office the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community.

“it is vital that I have the fullest confidence in the appointees serving as Inspectors General. That is no longer the case with regard to this Inspector General.” 

Clearly, there is a reason why Trump no longer has “the fullest confidence” in Atkinson: He can’t depend on “this Inspector General” to conceal and support any future crimes he might commit.

In his 1960 poem, “Conversation With an American Writer,” the Russian poet, Yevgeney Yevtushenko spoke for those Russians who had maintained their integrity in the face of Stalinist terror:

“You have courage,” they tell me.
It’s not true. I was never courageous.
I simply felt it unbecoming
to stoop to the cowardice of my colleagues.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of Republicans in the United States Senate and House of Representatives in the face of Trump terror.

THE MIND OF A STORMTRUMPER: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on April 7, 2020 at 12:14 am

On April 3, I received the following email from a longtime friend who has become a fanatical Stormtrumper:

Steffen, WE are worlds apart on our beliefs & knowledge when it comes to political differences. Although I am astonished that I have always referred to you as “an educated & intelligent individual”, I now feel that your opinions are simply based on total hatred because of your negative references.

In other words – you are nothing more than a typical deranged democrat with nothing good to offer this Country nor the American People other than “HATRED” for a duly elected President who will undoubtedly be re-elected in a landslide of the American People..  

I felt it necessary to point out to my accuser that I was not “a typical deranged democrat”:

While I am liberal on some issues, I am CONSERVATIVE on others. Unlike you, I DON’T support a man who sides with the former head of the KGB against our own FBI and CIA. If you want an example of this, you need look no further than his dual press conference in Helsinki with Putin on July 16, 2018. 

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Vladimir Putin

Associated Press Reporter Jonathan Lemire said to Trump: “Just now President Putin denied having anything to do with the election interference in 2016. Every U.S. intelligence agency has concluded that Russia did. My first question for you, sir, is who do you believe?”

Trump responded by attacking Democrats and the FBI as partners in a conspiracy: “You have groups that are wondering why the FBI never took the server, why haven’t they taken the server? Why was the FBI told to leave the office of the Democratic National Committee?

“I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be, but I really do want to see the server.”

That, in my view, is treason.

If you choose to support such a man—and you clearly do—that, by extension, makes you an ACCESSORY to his treason.

I felt it necessary to point out that

Your “duly elected President” had the full support of Vladimir Putin and the Russian Intelligence establishment. 

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

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

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Donald Trump

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

But let’s not forget all those dedicated Russian bots who flooded the Internet with real “fake news.” And, as I said earlier in this email, Putin is the only world leader—in fact, the only person, period—Trump has never dared insult. 

I had urged my friend to avoid Fox News Network and Donald Trump’s press conferences as sources of reliable information on Coronavirus. He, in turn,  

asked me if we should get our updates from [Democratic Presidential candidate] Joe Biden. No—Biden is NOT a doctor. He’s a politician. And when you’re dealing with a deadly pandemic you want medically-sound advice, not political pablum….

Your most recent email follows the pattern used by Trump and his cheerleading chorus at Fox News: It’s filled with insults, but not one actual piece of evidence to back it up.

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“Fake news” is the standard response for those who don’t want to provide a rebuttal—because they don’t have the evidence for one and THEY know it most of all.

Dismissing—with insults—any news that doesn’t jibe with how you want things to be is a guaranteed recipe for disaster.

The Original Nazis kept insisting that victory was just around the corner—all the way up to the moment when the Russians were knocking at the Fuhrerbunker.  

It didn’t save the First Fuhrer and it won’t save the Second.  Nor will it save you.

* * * * *

Many liberals believe that Donald Trump’s base simply doesn’t understand the sheer evil of the man they are following. And that—if only they can be educated on this point—they will desert him.

This is to deny that human beings have a choice—to do good or evil. Following that logic, every member of the Mafia is simply a helpless ignoramus, waiting to be educated out of a lifetime of extortion, drug-trafficking and murder.

The truth is that those who support Donald Trump know exactly why they do so: Because their hatred for millions of their fellow Americans overrides everything else.

So long as Trump feeds into their hatred—of blacks, Hispanics, “uppity” women, liberals, atheists, non-Christians, among others—they will enthusiastically support him. 

One day, Donald Trump will be a despicable memory for most Americans—-as Adolf Hitler is for most Germans.

But the millions of hate-filled Right-wingers who elected him and fiercely support him will still be with us, searching for their next champion of hate.

THE MIND OF A STORMTRUMPER: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on April 6, 2020 at 12:15 am

Recently a longtime friend of mine sent me a furious and insulting email.  I hadn’t insulted or harmed him in any way, so it came as a total surprise to me—-until I read it.

He and I had long disagreed about the virtues of the Trump administration. I had assumed that politics was one of those areas where we would agree to disagree and still remain on good terms. So you can imagine my surprise when I opened his email and found this waiting for me:

Steffen, WE are worlds apart on our beliefs & knowledge when it comes to political differences. Although I am astonished that I have always referred to you as “an educated & intelligent individual”, I now feel that your opinions are simply based on total hatred because of your negative references.

In other words – you are nothing more than a typical deranged democrat with nothing good to offer this Country nor the American People other than “HATRED” for a duly elected President who will undoubtedly be re-elected in a landslide of the American People..   

At first I hesitated to reply. We had been friends for more than 20 years, and I didn’t want to risk ending such a long and otherwise enjoyable friendship. But I quickly decided that a strong reply was not simply in order, but demanded.

Too many people—especially Democrats—-allow such assaults to go unanswered—-and, even worse, unpunished. As a result, they find themselves the victims of even worse attacks.

Here, in part, is the email I sent him in return. 

I find it amazing that so many Right-wingers who preach HATRED against millions of their fellow Americans are the first to scream HATRED when those THEY hate refuse to accept their lies or aggression.  

For example: From June 15, 2015, when he launched his Presidential campaign, until October 24, 2016, Trump fired almost 4,000 angry, insulting tweets at 281 people and institutions that had somehow offended him.  That doesn’t sound like a love-filled man to me.  

Donald Trump

The Original Nazis behaved the same way: They had no hesitation about invading other people’s countries and massacring their inhabitants. But if a country dared resist their aggression, the Original Fuhrer yelled “They’re attacking me!” 

If you HONESTLY look at the way your Commie-kissing Fuhrer has handled the COVID-19 outbreak—-and NOT in the way Fox News is portraying it–then you must realize that he is responsible for its now infecting so many tens of thousands of Americans.

For starters: In 2018, he gutted the White House Pandemic Office which President Obama had set up in 2014 at the time of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The purpose of that office was to act as an early-warning system for the next epidemic.

But Trump, as a lifelong racist, has tried since taking office to destroy every vestige of Obama’s legacy. So, naturally, the White House Pandemic Office had to go. 

To put this in military terms: It was like deliberately shutting off the radar system before an enemy launched a devastating airstrike. 

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COVID-19 virus

News of the COVID-19 outbreak emerged by the end of December, 2019. But your Fuhrer frittered away the first two months of the year.

He diminished its virulence. He claimed it was no more than a version of the common cold. He didn’t take action to see that the nation’s hospitals were supplied with medical equipment for combating a mass plague.

He has blamed governors for the virus that is now sweeping the nation—-instead of doing what a LEGITIMATE President does and taking it upon himself to organize an effective, well-coordinated response to the emergency.

Why? because he didn’t want to say or do anything that might cause the almighty stock market to fall. From Day One of his Fuhrership he has bragged that the stock market owed its success entirely to him. He feared that if it fell, so would his chances to be re-elected—-which is his ONE, OVER-ARCHING OBSESSION. 

Responding to his charge that I was “nothing more than “a typical deranged democrat” I wrote: 

I have plenty of criticisms to offer the Democrats—-most importantly, their general tendency toward cowardice every time a Republican yells “boo!” at them. The Democrats, for the most part, offer the country a party of Neville Chamberlains when what it desperately needs is a party of Winston Churchills.

I AM admittedly liberal on some things—-such as the right of a woman to decide for herself whether she wants to have children. 

While I am liberal on some issues, I am CONSERVATIVE on others. Unlike you, I DON’T support a man who sides with the former head of the KGB against our own FBI and CIA.  If you want an example of this, you need look no further than his dual press conference in Helsinki with Putin on July 16, 2018. 

Associated Press Reporter Jonathan Lemire said to Trump: “Just now President Putin denied having anything to do with the election interference in 2016. Every U.S. intelligence agency has concluded that Russia did. My first question for you, sir, is who do you believe?”

Trump responded by attacking Democrats and the FBI as partners in a conspiracy.

EVERYTHING TRUMP DOESN’T LIKE IS A HOAX

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on April 2, 2020 at 12:05 am

As the United States braces for the loss of as many as 200,000 of its citizens, President Donald Trump continues to attack anything he dislikes as a “hoax”—and to attack anyone who dares pose legitimate questions to him. 

On March 27, this exchange occurred between Trump and ABC News reporter Jonathan Karl.

Karl asked Trump what the President could do to assure “these states, these hospitals, that everybody who needs a ventilator will get a ventilator.” 

TRUMP:  “I think we’re in really good shape. This is a pandemic, the likes of which nobody’s seen before.” 

KARL: “But everybody who needs one will be able to get a ventilator?” 

TRUMP: “Look, don’t be a cutie pie, okay? Nobody’s done what we’ve been able to do.”

One week earlier, on March 20, Trump had blown up when NBC reporter Peter Alexander dared to pose a question about Coronavirus that the President didn’t want to answer. 

After citing the latest pandemic statistics showing that thousands of Americans are now infected and millions are scared, Alexander asked, “What do you say to Americans who are scared?”

TRUMP: “I say that you’re a terrible reporter.  That’s what I say. I think it’s a very nasty question, and I think it’s a very bad signal that you’re putting out to the American people. You’re doing sensationalism. And the same with NBC and Comcast [the parent company of NBC]. I don’t call it Comcast. I call it ‘Con-Cast. Let me just tell you something. That’s really bad reporting. And you ought to get back to reporting instead of sensationalism.”

Alexander said in a statement: “The bottom line is, this is a president whose experiences in life are very different than most Americans across this country right now. Not a person who likely worries about finances or had, not a person who in the course of his life is worried about his future.

“Not a person who is worried about where to find a paycheck for his bills or for his rent and as evidenced by the president suggesting that an opportunity to provide for American some reassurance about how they should feel right now, the president instead took it out on me.” 

That’s why this is a good time to remember the closing remarks of Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) before the House of Representatives turned over its Articles of Impeachment against Trump to the United States Senate.

Schiff was addressing the unwillingness of Trump—and his defenders—to accept any evidence, no matter how damning, against him. 

ADAM SCHIFF: “Anyone watching these proceedings, anyone reading the deposition transcripts would have the same impression that you evidently had from hearing my colleagues talk about the Russia hoax, that the whole idea that Russia had gotten involved in the 2016 election was a hoax put out by the Democrats.

“And of course, they’re not alone in pushing out this idea; it is trumpeted by no one other than the President of the United States who, almost on a daily basis at times, would comment and tweet and propagate the idea that Russia’s interference in our election was a hoax….

“The impression they would have you take from ‘It’s all hearsay’ is, because we in this committee were not in that Ward Room with you, Dr. Hill, we were not in that meeting earlier with Dr. Bolton, that because we’re not in the room, it’s all hearsay.

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Adam Schiff

“After all, you’re relating what you heard, and you’re saying it, so it must be hearsay, and therefore, we don’t really have to think about it, do we? We don’t have to consider that you have direct evidence that this meeting in the White House was being withheld because the president wanted these meetings, these investigations. We can’t accept that.

“Well, if that were true, you could never present any evidence in court unless the jury was also in the Ward Room. That’s absurd. They don’t accept the documentary evidence, all the text messages about quid pro quos, and ‘Are we really saying,’ and ‘That’s crazy,’ and ‘My worst nightmare is the Russians will get it, and I’ll quit.’

“…But apparently, it’s all hearsay. Even when you actually hear the president, Mr. Holmes, that’s hearsay. We can’t rely on people saying what the president said. Apparently, we can only rely on what the president says, and there, we shouldn’t even rely on that either.

“We shouldn’t really rely on what the president said in the call record. We should imagine he said something else. We should imagine he said something about actually fighting corruption, instead of what he actually said, which was, “’I want you to do us a favor, though. I want you to look into this 2016 CrowdStrike conspiracy theory, and I want you to look into the Bidens.’” 

For those who want to understand Trump’s behavior—and to predict how he will react the next time he’s faced with truths he doesn’t want to acknowledge—the key lies in seeing how he had reacted to bad tidings in the past.

NO SHAME, ONLY ARROGANCE

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 27, 2020 at 12:09 am

“Senator, may we not drop this?…You’ve done enough.  Have you no sense of decency, sir?  At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

The speaker was Joseph N. Welch, chief counsel for the United States Army—then under investigation by Joseph McCarthy’s Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations for alleged Communist activities.

It was June 9, 1954, the 30th day of the Army-McCarthy hearings.

And it was the pivotal moment that finally destroyed the career of the Wisconsin Senator whose repeated slanders of Communist subversion had bullied and frightened Americans for four years.

Joseph McCarthy

When the Senate gallery erupted in applause, McCarthy—totally surprised at his sudden reversal of fortune—was finished.

Today, however, other Americans should be asking themselves the question asked by Welch: “At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

Americans like Rick Santorum, former United States Senator from Pennsylvania (1997 – 2007) and Republican Presidential candidate in 2012.

Rick Santorum

Santorum has fervently sought to ban legalized abortion—even in rape cases.

He also wants to ban birth control: “It’s not okay. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.”

But this did not stop him from marrying, in 1990, a woman—Karen Garver—who had spent six years as the unmarried bedmate of an OBGYN-abortionist named Tom Allen, who was 40 years her senior.

Today, as Mrs. Santorum, she has totally reversed her view on abortion and wants to see it banned.

Then there’s President Donald Trump.

Donald Trump

On July 15, 2018, Trump tweeted: “Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!” 

He was, of course, referring to Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller, charged by the Justice Department with investigating the subversion of the 2016 Presidential election by Russian Intelligence agents.

The next day, Trump attended a press conference in Helsinki, Finland, with Russian President Vladimir Putin.   

Addressing a question to Trump, Jeff Mason, a reporter from Reuters, asked: “Mr. President, do you hold Russia at all accountable for anything in particular?”

Trump, refusing to condemn Russia, blasted the Mueller probe: “I think that the probe is a disaster for our country. I think it’s kept us apart. It’s kept us separated. There was no collusion at all. Everybody knows it.

“People are being brought out to the fore. So far that I know, virtually, none of it related to the campaign. They will have to try really hard to find something that did relate to the campaign.”

Associated Press Reporter Jonathan Lemire said to Trump: “Just now President Putin denied having anything to do with the election interference in 2016. Every U.S. intelligence agency has concluded that Russia did. My first question for you, sir, is who do you believe?”

Trump responded by attacking Democrats and the FBI as partners in a conspiracy:

“You have groups that are wondering why the FBI never took the server, why haven’t they taken the server? Why was the FBI told to leave the office of the Democratic National Committee?

“I’ve been wondering that. I’ve been asking that for months and months and I’ve been tweeting it out and calling it out on social media. Where is the server? I want to know where is the server and what is the server saying. With that being said, all I can do is ask the question.

“I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be, but I really do want to see the server.”

Clearly, the word “hypocrisy” meant nothing to McCarthy—just as it means nothing to Santorum and Trump.

But it should mean something to the rest of us.

In samurai Japan, officials who publicly disgraced themselves knew what to do. The samurai code of Bushido told them when they had crossed the line into eternal damnation.

And it gave them a way to redeem their lost honor—seppuku. With a small “belly-cutting” knife and the help of a trusted assistant who sliced off their head to spare them the agonizing pain of disembowelment.

In the armies of America and Europe, the method was slightly different: A pistol in a private room.

Considering the ready availability of firearms among Right-wing Republicans, redeeming lost honor shouldn’t be a problem for either man.

But of course it will be. It takes more than a trigger pull to “do the right thing.”

It takes insight to recognize that you’ve “done the wrong thing.” And it takes courage to act on that insight.

In men who live only for their own egos and wallets, such insight and courage will be forever lacking.They are beyond redemption.

Their lives give proof to the warning offered in Matthew 7:17-20:

“Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.

“Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”

DONALD TRUMP AS HOWARD BEALE

In Bureaucracy, Entertainment, History, Politics, Social commentary on March 13, 2020 at 12:44 am

Donald Trump has been compared to Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Gaius Caligula. But perhaps his counterpart lies not in history but in fiction. 

Specifically, the fictional news anchor Howard Beale in Network, the 1976 satire written by Paddy Chayefsky and directed by Sidney Lumet. It starred Faye Dunaway, William Holden, Robert Duvall, Peter Finch and Beatrice Straight.

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Howard Beale (Finch) the longtime anchor of the UBS Evening News, is about to be fired because of declining ratings. 

So he announces on live television that he will commit suicide on next Tuesday’s broadcast.

UBS fires him, but then agrees to let Beale appear one more time to leave with dignity.

But once Beale is back on the air, he launches into a rant that contains the most famous—and most often-quoted—line in the film:

“I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It’s a depression. Everybody’s out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel’s worth, banks are going bust, shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter….

“We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat….

“So I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell, ‘I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!'”

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Peter Finch as Howard Beale in Network

Beale is clearly losing it. But his outburst causes the newscast’s ratings to spike. Instead of pulling him off the air, the top brass of UBS decide to exploit Beale’s antics.

Soon he’s hosting a new program called The Howard Beale Show, where he’s billed as “the mad prophet of the airwaves.” Ultimately, the show becomes the most highly rated program on television.

But then Beale’s ratings slide as audiences find his sermons on the dehumanization of society depressing.

To rid themselves of Beale and boost their season-opener ratings, the network’s top executives hire a band of terrorists called the Ecumenical Liberation Army to assassinate Beale—on the air!

Forty years after Network, Right-wing voters sent “reality show” host and real estate mogul Donald Trump to the White House. 

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Donald Trump

Republicans have reveled in his antics and enthusiastically supported his most heinous acts, which have included:

  • Repeatedly and viciously attacking the nation’s free press for daring to report his growing list of crimes and disasters, calling it “the enemy of the American people.”
  • Repeatedly “hinting” that he wants to be “President-for-Life.”  
  • Allowing predatory corporations to subvert Federal regulatory protections for consumers and the environment. 
  • Repeatedly and viciously attacking American Intelligence agencies—such as the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency—for unanimously agreeing that Russia interfered with the 2016 Presidential election.
  • Shutting down the Federal Government for more than a month on December 22, 2018, because Democrats refused to fund his “border wall” between the United States and Mexico.
  • Pressuring  Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to provide “dirt” on Hunter Biden, the son of Democratic Presidential candidate Joseph Biden—and threatening to withhold military aid if Zelensky refused.

The greed-obsessed honchos of the fictional UBS Network believed they could parley Howard Beale’s madness into greater profits.

Similarly, power-obsessed Republicans in the House and Senate believe they can parley Donald Trump’s tyrannical and unstable nature into lifetime tenure for themselves.

They have silently watched—or given their enthusiastic support—as he has attacked one cherished American institution after another:

  • A free press
  • An incorruptible Justice Department
  • An independent judiciary.

Yet, like the executives at UBS, Congressional Republicans may soon be forced to turn on their most poisonous creation.

Right-wing Fox News Network gave its enthusiastic support to Trump during the 2016 Presidential race. And it has continued to do so throughout his more than three-year Presidency.

But on September 22, 2019, Fox News declared: “Many voters are frustrated with how the federal government is working and a growing number are nervous about the economy….

“Fifty-one percent say the economy is in only fair or poor shape.

“[Trump’s] job ratings on every other issue tested are underwater: national security (45 approve-48 disapprove), immigration (42-54), international trade (38-53), foreign policy (36-54), guns (35-56), health care (34-56) and Afghanistan (31-49).

“Currently, 45 percent approve of the overall job the president’s doing, while 54 percent disapprove.

“About two-thirds (64 percent) think many people — if not nearly all people — in government are corrupt, and almost half (46 percent) say the Trump administration is more corrupt than previous ones.”

This was before the Coronavirus pandemic hit the United States—and the Trump administration’s inept mishandling of it. While Trump insists that everything is under control, there aren’t enough testing kits for the ever-growing number of victims. More importantly, there is no vaccine for the virus.

Republicans may soon be forced to face the following dilemma:

  1. Can I hold onto my power—and privileges—by supporting Trump?  Or: 
  2. Can I hold onto my power—and privileges—by deserting him?

This is how Republicans define morality today.

HITLER / TRUMP: “I AM GERMANY / AMERICA”

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 17, 2020 at 12:18 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. 

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. 

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

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

THE WHITE HOUSE:

Fast forward 79 years from Adolf Hitler’s stormy confrontation with Walter von Brauchitsch to September 5, 2018.

On September 5, 2018, The New York Times publishes an anonymous Op-Ed essay by “a senior official in the Trump administration.”  This spotlights massive dysfunction within the White House—and put the blame squarely on the President. 

Among the revelations:

  • “Many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.”
  • “We believe our first duty is to this country, and the president continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic. That is why many Trump appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office.”
  • “On Russia…the president was reluctant to expel so many of Mr. Putin’s spies as punishment for the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain….But his national security team knew better—such actions had to be taken, to hold Moscow accountable.”
  • “From the White House to executive branch departments and agencies, senior officials will privately admit their daily disbelief at the commander in chief’s comments and actions. Most are working to insulate their operations from his whims.” 

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. 

THE WHITE HOUSE:

On September 11, 2018, legendary investigative reporter Bob Woodward publishes a devastating take on the Trump administration: Fear: Trump in the White House. The text features explosive revelations about the disdain Trump’s staffers have for him: 

  • Trump was about to sign a letter canceling a free-trade agreement with South Korea. To prevent this, Eric Cohn, his national economic council director, swiped it from Trump’s desk. Trump didn’t notice it missing.
  • Secretary of Defense James Mattis said Trump has the understanding of “a fifth or sixth grader.”
  • White House Chief of Staff John Kelly called Trump an “idiot” and “unhinged.” 

General Walther von Brauchitsch fails to convince Hitler to postpone “Case Yellow”—the invasion of France. Hitler insists that it commence in seven days—on November 12.

And he issues a warning to the entire German General staff: “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.”

Due to foul weather, Hitler is forced to postpone the invasion of France until June, 1940. But the German General staff can’t ultimately put off the war that will destroy them—and Germany.

President Donald Trump has:

  • Fired FBI Director James Comey.
  • Attacked the integrity of the American Intelligence community.
  • Attacked the free press as “the enemy of the American people.”
  • Branded America’s longtime ally, Canada, as “a national security threat.” 
  • Praised brutal Communist dictators Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un.
  • Tried to extort Ukraine into smearing former Vice President Joseph Biden, his 2020 rival for the White House, 

Like Hitler, he can equally say: I am the destiny of America.  

History has yet to record if Trump’s subordinates will prove more successful than Hitler’s at preserving “our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office.”

FASCISM RISING: 1933 GERMANY, 2016 AMERICA

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on February 13, 2020 at 12:12 am

In his bestselling 1973 biography, The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler, British historian Robert Payne harshly condemned the German people for the rise of the Nazi dictator.

“[They] allowed themselves to be seduced by him and came to enjoy the experience….[They] followed him with joy and enthusiasm because he gave them license to pillage and murder to their hearts’ content. They were his servile accomplices, his willing victims….

“If he answered their suppressed desires, it was not because he shared them, but because he could make use of them. He despised the German people, for they were merely the instruments of his will.”

On November 8, 2016, millions of ignorant, hate-filled, Right-wing Americans elected Donald Trump—a man reflecting their own hate and ignorance—to the Presidency.

Yet, in some ways, Americans had fewer excuses for turning to a Fascistic style of government than the Germans did.

Adolf Hitler, joined the National Socialist German Workers (Nazi) Party in 1919—the year after World War 1 ended.

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Adolf Hitler

In 1923, he staged a coup attempt in Bavaria—which was quickly and brutally put down by police. He was arrested and sentenced to less than a year in prison.

After that, Hitler decided that winning power through violence was no longer an option. He must win it through election—or appointment.

When the 1929 Depression struck Germany, the fortunes of Hitler’s Nazi party rose as the life savings of ordinary Germans fell. Streets echoed with bloody clashes between members of Hitler’s Nazi Stormtroopers and those of the German Communist Party.

Germans desperately looked for a leader—a Fuhrer—who could somehow deliver them from the threat of financial ruin and Communist takeover.

In early 1933, members of his own cabinet persuaded aging German president, Paul von Hindenburg, that only Hitler’s appointment as Chancellor could do this.

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Paul von Hindenburg

Hindenburg was reluctant to do so. He considered Hitler a dangerous radical. But he let himself be convinced that he could “box in” and control Hitler by putting him in the Cabinet.

So, on January 30, 1933, Hindenburg appointed Adolf Hitler Chancellor (the equivalent of Attorney General) of Germany.

On August 2, 1934, Hindenburg died. Hitler immediately assumed the titles—and duties—of the offices of Chancellor and President. His rise to total power was complete.

It had taken him 15 years to do so.

In 2015, Donald Trump declared his candidacy for President.

Now, consider this:

  • The country was technically at war in the Middle East—but the fate of the United States was not truly threatened, as it had been during the Civil War.
  • There was no draft; if you didn’t know someone in the military, you didn’t care about the casualties taking place.
  • Nor were these conflicts—in Iraq and Afghanistan—imposing domestic shortages on Americans, as World War II had.
  • Thanks to government loans from President Barack Obama, American capitalism had been saved from its own excesses during the George W. Bush administration.
  • Employment was up. CEOs were doing extremely well.
  • In contrast to the corruption that had plagued the administration of Ronald Reagan, whom Republicans idolize, no such scandals plagued the Obama Presidency.
  • Nor had there been any large-scale terrorist attacks on American soil—as there had on 9/11 under President George W. Bush.

Yet—not 17 months after announcing his candidacy for President—enough Americans fervently embraced Donald Trump to give him the most powerful position in the country and the world.

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Donald Trump

The message of Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign had been one of hope: “Yes, We Can!”

That of Donald Trump’s campaign was one of hatred toward everyone who was not an avid Trump supporter: “No, You Can’t!”

Whites comprised the overwhelming majority of the audiences at Trump rallies. Not all were racists, but many of those who were advertised it on T-shirts: “MAKE AMERICA WHITE AGAIN.”

Birthrates among non-whites were rising. By 2045, whites would make up less than 50 percent of the American population.

The 2008 election of the first black President had shocked whites. His 2012 re-election had deprived them of the hope that 2008 had been an accident.

Then came 2016—and the possibility that a black President might actually be followed by a woman: Hillary Clinton.

Since Trump became President, he has:

  • Fired an FBI director for investigating Russia’s subversion of the 2016 Presidential election.
  • Attacked Federal judges whose rulings displeased him.
  • So tyrannized his staffers that 43% of them have abandoned him. Nearly 2,000 government positions remain vacant.
  • Repeatedly and enthusiastically defended Vladimir Putin, the dictator of Russia, America’s mortal enemy.
  • Attacked and alienated America’s oldest allies, such as Canada and Great Britain.
  • Shut down the United States Government for over a month, imperiling the lives of 800,000 Federal employees, to extort money from Congress for a worthless wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
  • Attacked the free press as “the enemy of the people.” 
  • Used his position as President to further enrich himself, in violation of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution.
  • Been impeached (but not convicted) for trying to extort Ukraine’s president into smearing former Vice President Joseph Biden, a possible rival for President in 2020.

All of this should be remembered the next time an American blames Germans for their embrace of Adolf Hitler.

RED IS THE COLOR OF REPUBLICAN RUBLES

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on January 31, 2020 at 12:05 am

On July 24, 2019, former Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III finally addressed Congress on Russia’s subversion of the 2016 Presidential election.

Mueller had spent almost two years uncovering links between Russian Intelligence agents and members of Donald Trump’s Presidential campaign.

In his report, Mueller documented years of meddling in American politics by the Internet Research Agency, which runs the Kremlin’s online disinformation efforts from its headquarters in St. Petersburg.

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Robert Mueller

During the 2016 Presidential campaign, the Agency reached 126 million Americans through fake accounts on Facebook. 

Hours later that same day, Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Mississippi) blocked the passage of three bills designed to tighten election security at the federal level. She claimed that Congress had already responded to election security needs for the 2020 Presidential election.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) came to the Senate floor the next day to personally object to House-passed legislation backed by Democrats. 

From 1945 to 2015, it was unthinkable for a Republican Presidential candidate to pay tribute to a Soviet dictator.

But that utterly changed when Donald J. Trump, a “reality TV” host with longstanding financial ties to Russian oligarchs, ran for President of the United States.

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Donald Trump

Trump lavishly praised Russian President Vladimir Putin—and even invited him to directly interfere in the 2016 Presidential race.

The reason for the Trump-Putin bromance: Each had something to offer the other.

Putin wanted the United States to ditch the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance, which had preserved Western Europe from Russian aggression since World War II. And Trump had often attacked America’s funding of NATO as a drain on the American economy.

And Trump wanted to be President. For this, Putin could supply Internet trolls to confuse voters with falsified news—and even the hacking of key voting centers.

And monies. These Russian monies were officially classified as “campaign contributions,” not bribes.

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

On July 27, Trump said 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 [from Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s computer]. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

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

This is treason—calling upon a foreign power, hostile to the United States, to interfere in its Presidential election.

Nor is Trump the only Republican receiving “help” from Putin. A network of Russian oligarchs—all of them answerable to Putin—has been increasingly contributing to top Republicans. 

According to the Federal Election Commission:

One such major contributor is Len Blavatnik, who holds citizenship in both the United States and the United Kingdom. During the 2015-16 election cycle, he proved one of the largest donors to GOP Political Action Committees (PACs).  

Blavatnik’s net worth is estimated at $20 billion. Before 2016, he donated to both Democrats and Republicans in meager amounts. But in 2016, he gave $6.35 million to GOP PACs

Millions of dollars went to top Republican leaders—such as Senators Mitch McConnell (Kentucky), Marco Rubio (Florida) and Lindsey Graham (South Carolina).

Specifically, he contributed:

  • A total of $1.5 million to PACs associated with Rubio.  
  • $1 million to Trump’s Inaugural Committee
  • $41,000 to both Republicans and Democrats in 2017.
  • $1 million to McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund.
  • $3.5 million to a PAC associated with McConnell
  • $1.1 million to Unintimidated PAC, associated with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. 
  • $200,000 to the Arizona Grassroots Action PAC, associated with the late Arizona Senator John McCain. 
  • $250,000 to New Day for America PAC, associated with Ohio Governor John Kasich
  • $800,000 to the Security is Strength PAC, associated with Senator Lindsey Graham

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Another Russian oligarch, Alexander Shustorovich, contributed $1 million to Trump’s Inaugural Committee.

Altogether, four Russian oligarchs—Blavatnik, Shustorovich, Andrew Intrater and Simon Kukescontributed $10.4 million from the start of the 2015-16 election cycle through September 2017. Of this, 99% went to Republicans.

As Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell participated in high-level intelligence briefings in 2016. From agencies such as the FBI, CIA and the code-cracking National Security Agency, he learned that the Russians were trying to subvert the electoral process. 

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

Two weeks later, McConnell’s PAC accepted a $1 million donation from Blavatnik.

On March 30, 2017, McConnell’s PAC accepted another $1 million from Blavatnik.

This is just 10 days after former FBI Director James Comey testified before the House Intelligence Committee about Russia’s efforts to subvert the 2016 election

So, what has changed in the Republican Party?  Essentially nothing.

Its enemies changed—from Russian Communists to American liberals—but its goal remains the same: The quest for absolute power.

When Americans feared Communism, Republicans depicted themselves as the only ones who could be trusted to protect the United States. Big contributions poured in from Right-wing billionaires like H.L. Hunt and Howard Hughes.

But when Republicans found they could enrich themselves and stay in power via Russian “campaign contributions,” they decided: Better Red than un-elected.

THREE REASONS TO GO TO WAR

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 6, 2020 at 1:10 am

Major General Qassem Soleimani commanded Iran’s elite Quds Force, which oversees and carries out intelligence operations, terrorist plots and unconventional warfare outside of Iran.

On January 3, he was killed by an American Predator drone near Baghdad International Airport. Another casualty of the attack was Jafar Ibrahimi, a leader of Hezbollah (“Party of God”).

A 2013 profile of Soleimani in The New Yorker referred to him as “the shadow commander” who was “reshaping the Middle East.” The Washington Post called him Iran’s “most revered military leader.” 

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Qassem Soleimani

 http://farsi.khamenei.ir/photo-album?id=41944#i [CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)%5D

There are at least three reasons for this targeted killing.

Reason #1: According to President Donald Trump, the strike was ordered because Soleimani was “actively developing plans” to attack American troops and officials within the Middle East.

A statement released by the Pentagon claimed: 

“General Soleimani was developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region. General Soleimani and his Quds Force were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more….

“This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans.” 

There are just two problems with this claim:

First, from the day he took office—January 20, 2017—to October 14, 2019, Trump had made 13,435 false or misleading claims, according to the Washington Post. To foreign leaders as well as Americans who aren’t his fanatical followers, his word means nothing.

Second, Trump has repeatedly insulted America’s top Intelligence agencies and rejected their unanimous findings when he didn’t like the news.

On December 16, 2016, then-FBI Director James B. Comey and Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. agreed with a CIA assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election in part to help Donald Trump win the White House.

Trump, however, steadfastly denied any such role by Russia: “I think it’s ridiculous,” he told “Fox News Sunday.” “I think it’s just another excuse. I don’t believe it….No, I don’t believe it at all.” 

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Reason #2: Killing Soleimani served to distract Americans from the fact that, on December 18, the House of Representatives had impeached Donald Trump along party lines.

In July, 2019, Trump had tried to extort a “favor” from Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine: Find embarrassing “dirt” on former Vice President Joseph Biden and his son, Hunter.

Hunter had had business dealings in Ukraine. And Joe Biden might be Trump’s Democratic opponent for the White House in 2020. 

Since then, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has become enraged at Republicans’ bragging that their majority in the Senate would acquit Trump no matter how much evidence of his criminality was submitted. So she had refused to submit the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate, in hopes of pressuring Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to craft a more objective trial procedure.

Thus, the Soleimani killing served, for Trump, as the ultimate “wag the dog” event. 

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Donald Trump

Reason #3: Trump is taking his revenge on the United States for his impeachment. 

On November 5, Kentucky voters refused to re-elect Republican Governor Matt Bevin. To get revenge, he issued hundreds of pardons before he left office on December 9.

Among those pardoned: Convicted killer Patrick Baker, whose family held a fundraiser for Bevin in 2018, and a convicted sex offender whose mother was married to a millionaire road contractor.

These hardened criminals will be preying on Kentuckians for decades to come.

Donald Trump is furious at being impeached. Taking his cue from Bevin, he has decided to punish the country because a handful of Democrats dared to oppose his criminality.

So he has provoked a war with Iran to ensure that thousands of Americans—soldiers and civilians—die in decades to come.

In his bestselling 1973 biography, The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler, British historian Robert Payne harshly condemned the German people for the rise of the Nazi dictator.

“[They] allowed themselves to be seduced by him and came to enjoy the experience….[They] followed him with joy and enthusiasm because he gave them license to pillage and murder to their hearts’ content. They were his servile accomplices, his willing victims….

“If he answered their suppressed desires, it was not because he shared them, but because he could make use of them. He despised the German people, for they were merely the instruments of his will.”

Americans have long smugly condemned those Germans who fanatically supported Hitler or stood by impassively while he ordered horrendous crimes and unleashed a world war that claimed 50 million lives.

One American who has learned from the lessons of history is Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

On November 25, Schiff warned what would happen if Republicans opposed any articles of impeachment against Trump:

“It will have very long-term consequences, if that’s where we end up. And if not today, I think Republican members in the future, to their children and their grandchildren, will have to explain why they did nothing in the face of this deeply unethical man who did such damage to the country.”   

The harm that Trump has so far done to the United States is nothing compared to the devastation coming from a needless war with a country fast gaining a nuclear arsenal.

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