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Posts Tagged ‘2016 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION’

WHEN AMERICANS FACE REGIME CHANGE

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 14, 2019 at 12:09 am

On June 12, during an interview with ABC News correspondent George Stephanopoulos, President Donald Trump said he would accept information on his 2020 opponents from hostile nations like Russia and China:

“It’s not an interference, they have information. I think I’d take it. If I thought there was something wrong, I’d go maybe to the FBI. If I thought there was something wrong. But when somebody comes up with oppo research, right, they come up with oppo research.

“The FBI doesn’t have enough agents to take care of it, but you go and talk honestly to congressmen, they all do it, they always have. And that’s the way it is. It’s called oppo research.”

The reaction was nationwide outrage.

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Donald Trump

Apparently, most Americans don’t like having their elections subverted by enemy nations.

Subverting the governments of other countries is a right that Americans have long reserved for themselves. For example:

  • Between 1898 and 1934, the United States repeatedly intervened with military force in Central America and the Caribbean.
  • Americans staged invasions of Honduras in 1903, 1907, 1911, 1912, 1919, 1924 and 1925 to defend U.S. interests. These were defined as Standard Oil and the United Fruit Company.
  • The United States occupied Nicaragua almost continuously from 1912 to 1933. Its legacy was the imposition of the tyrannical Somoza family, which ruled from 1936 to 1979.
  • The United States occupied Haiti from 1915 to 1934. American banks had lent money to Haiti and requested American government intervention.
  • In 1918, 13,000 American soldiers joined armies from Europe and Japan to overthrow the new Soviet government and restore the previous Tsarist regime. By 1920, the invading forces proved unsuccessful and withdrew.

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Allied troops parading in Vladivostok, 1918  

  • From 1946 to 1949, the United States provided military, logistical and other aid to the Right-wing Chinese Nationalist Party of Chiang Kai-shek. Its opponent were Communist forces led by Mao Tse-Tung, who ultimately proved victorious.
  • In 1953, the Eisenhower administration ordered the CIA to overthrew the democratically-elected government of of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh. His crime: Nationalizing the Iranian oil industry, which had been under British control since 1913.
  • He was succeeded by Mohammad-Reza Shah Phlavi. Whereas Mossadeddgh had ruled as a constitutional monarch, Phlavi was a dictator who depended on United States government support to retain power until he was overthrown in 1979 by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
  • In 1954, the CIA overthrew the democratically-elected government of Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz. His crime: Installing a series of reforms that expanded the right to vote, allowed workers to organize, legitimized political parties and allowed public debate. Most infuriating to American Right-wingers: His agrarian reform law, which expropriated parts of large land-holdings and redistributed them to agricultural laborers.
  • The United Fruit Company lobbied the United States government to overthrow him—and the CIA went into action. Arbenz was replaced by the first of a series of brutal Right-wing dictators.
  • From 1959 until 1963, the United States government was obsessed with overthrowing the revolutionary Cuban government of Fidel Castro. Although not democratically elected, Castro was wildly popular in Cuba for overthrowing the dictatorial Fulgencio Batista.
  • On April 17, 1961, over 1,400 CIA-trained Cuban exiles invaded Cuba at the Bay of Pigs. Cuban military forces crushed the invasion in three days.
  • Infuriated with the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion, President John F. Kennedy authorized “Operation Mongoose” to remove Castro through sabotage and assassination. The CIA, wanting to please Kennedy, teamed up with the Mafia, which wanted to resurrect its casinos on the island.
  • Among the tactics used: Hiring Cuban gangsters to murder police officials and Soviet technicians; sabotaging mines; using biological and chemical warfare against the Cuban sugar industry. None of these proved successful in assassinating Castro nor overturning his regime.

Ernesto “Che” Guevera and Fidel Castro

  • In 1970, President Richard M. Nixon ordered the CIA to prevent Marxist Salvador Allende from being democratically elected as president of Chile. When that failed, he ordered the CIA to overthrow Allende.
  • Allende’s crime: A series of liberal reforms, including nationalizing large-scale industries (notably copper mining and banking. In 1973, he was overthrown by Chilean army units and national police. He was followed by Right-wing dictator Augusto Pinochet, who slaughtered 3,200 political dissidents, imprisoned 30,000 and forced another 200,000 Chileans into exile.

Americans reacted to all these attempts—successful and unsuccessful—with indifference or outright support.

The popular 1960s TV series, “Mission: Impossible,” regularly depicted a CIA-type agency supporting regimes “we” liked or toppling those “we” didn’t.

Americans generally assume their Presidents and Congress know best who is a “friend” and who is an “enemy.”  America’s friends often turn out, for the most part, to be Right-wing dictators like Chiang Kai-Shek, Fulgencio Batista, Augusto Pinochet and Mohammad-Reza Shah Phlavi.

And its enemies often turn out to be liberal reformers like Augusto Sandino, Mohammad Mosaddegh and Salvador Allende. 

Americans favor intervention for the flimsiest of reasons. In 2003, President George W. Bush claimed Iraq’s dictator, Saddam Hussein, had plotted 9/11 with Osama bin Laden. There was absolutely no proof to substantiate this, yet Americans overwhelmingly supported Bush’s unprovoked invasion of Iraq. 

But now the shoe is on the other foot. 

Americans are now tasting the medicine they have dished out to so many other countries. And they find it as repugnant as those countries have found the American brand.

TRUMP: CREATING HIS OWN WEHRMACHT—PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 11, 2019 at 12:02 am

Nazi Germany’s Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler wasn’t crazy, as many of his critics charged. He knew what he wanted to achieve—and why.

He intended to strip every potential challenger to his authority—or his version of reality—of legitimacy with the public. After he succeeded, Germany became a nation where there was:

  • No independent press to reveal his failures and crimes.
  • No independent law enforcement agencies to investigate his abuses of office.
  • No independent judiciary to hold him accountable.
  • No independent military to dissent as he recklessly hurtled toward a disastrous war that would leave Germany in ruins.

Those are exactly the priorities of President Donald J. Trump. 

He has already assaulted the integrity of:

  • American Intelligence agencies: By publicly blaming the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency—instead of Russian President Vladimir Putin—for Russia’s subversion of the 2016 Presidential elections.
  • American law enforcement agencies: By firing FBI Director James Comey for pursuing ties between his 2016 Presidential campaign and Russian Intelligence agents.
  • The press: By tweeting, on February 17, 2017: “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes@NBCNews@ABC@CBS@CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!”
  • The Judiciary: By repeatedly attacking Seattle U.S. District Judge James Robart, who halted Trump’s first anti-Muslim travel ban. 

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Donald Trump

Now he’s turning his attention to the American military.

  • Trump appointed former Marine General James Mattis as Secretary of Defense. But when Trump announced his intention to withdraw American military forces from Syria, Mattis resigned in December, 2018.
  • Mattis offered to stay in office until February, 2019, to ensure a smooth transition for his successor. But Trump, his ego outraged, forced Mattis to leave by the end of December.
  • The military sees foreign commitments as essential to American security—whether against ISIS or the former Soviet Union.
  • But Trump believes that alliances like NATO are “ripping off” the United States. And he believes he was elected to end foreign entanglements.
  • Trump appointed Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster as National Security Adviser. But after Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russian nationals for interfering in the 2016 Presidential election, McMaster said: “With the FBI indictment, the evidence is now incontrovertible” of Russia cyber-meddling. 
  • This publicly contradicted Trump’s claim that reports of Russian subversion of the 2016 Presidential election were “a hoax.”
  • Six weeks later, McMaster was forced out of the administration. 

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H.R. McMaster

  • In November, 2018, Fox News Anchor Chris Wallace, during an interview with Trump, noted that retired Adm. William McRaven had said: “The President’s attack on the media is the greatest threat to our democracy in my lifetime.”
  • Trump then dismissed McRaven—who had spearheaded the operation that killed Al-Qaedar leader Osama bin Laden—as a “Hillary fan.” 
  • “He was a Navy SEAL 37 years,” said Wallace. Trump, refusing to give McRaven—one of the most highly respected men in the United States military—any credit, said: “Wouldn’t it have been nice if we got Osama bin Laden a lot sooner than that?”

Some members of the military are responding favorably to Trump.

During his 2019 trip to Japan, Trump gave a Memorial Day address aboard the USS Wasp in Yokosuka. Many of the American service attending were photographed wearing patches inspired by his campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.” 

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The matching patches showed the face of a man that’s presumably Trump (though notably more handsome) along with the text, “Make Aircrew Great Again.”

This may have violated the Pentagon’s strict rules barring soldiers from showing political preferences.

“All military personnel will avoid the inference that their political activities imply or appear to imply DoD sponsorship, approval or endorsement of a political candidate, campaign or cause,” the policy states.

Retired Army General Stanley McChrystal, during a December 30, 2018 interview on “This Week,” warned: “If the U.S. military becomes politicized, it will be something we’re not happy with.”

The incident on Memorial Day was not the first time active-duty service members displayed Trump-affiliated apparel.

In December, 2018, Trump engaged in campaign activities by by signing “Make America Great Again” caps for during an unannounced visit to Iraq. Dozens of troops were photographed bringing MAGA hats to the event for the president to sign. 

Other members of the military are responding—carefully—to Trump’s savage attacks on its members and his erratic style of government. 

According to a December 24, 2018 edition of the Palmer Report, military leaders are now going out of their way to avoid “interacting directly” with Trump. They fear that he might issue an impulsive and destructive order—which they would be legally obligated to follow.

More startling: Departing Secretary of Defense Mattis ordered them to, for the safety of the nation.

Mattis believed that Trump was dishonorable—and deranged enough to give destructive or incoherent military orders at any moment.

Columnist Bill Palmer warned that this amounted to a “soft coup.” 

But then he asked: “Then again, when the ‘President’ of the United States is merely a guy who treasonously conspired with a foreign enemy to rig the election in his favor, and was not legitimately elected to anything, can you even have a coup against him?”

TRUMP: CREATING HIS OWN WEHRMACHT—PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 10, 2019 at 12:05 am

President Donald Trump is notorious as a non-reader. Nevertheless, he seems poised to re-enact one of the most fateful events in 20th century history.

First, that event: On August 2, 1934, the aged German President Paul von Hindenburg died.

Adolf Hitler had been serving as Reich Chancellor—the equivalent of attorney general—since January 30, 1933. Within hours, the Nazi Reichstag [parliament] announced the following law, back-dated to August 1st:

“The office of Reich President will be combined with that of Reich Chancellor. The existing authority of the Reich President will consequently be transferred to the Führer and Reich Chancellor, Adolf Hitler.”

Immediately following the announcement of the new Führer law, the German Officer Corps and every individual soldier in the German Army was made to swear a brand new oath of allegiance:

“I swear by God this holy oath, that I will render to Adolf Hitler, Führer of the German Reich and People, Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, unconditional obedience, and that I am ready, as a brave soldier, to risk my life at any time for this oath.” 

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Soldiers swearing the Fuhrer Oath

In the past, German soldiers had sworn loyalty to Germany. Now they had sworn it to a single man.

For men of honor in uniform, conspiracy against the Führer now meant betrayal of the Fatherland itself. They considered this oath sacred, overriding all others. And the vast majority would fanatically obey it right to the end of the disastrous war Hitler was leading them into.

Yet even that didn’t give Hitler the absolute control over the Armed Forces that he sought. 

Since taking command of Germany in the summer of 1934, Hitler wanted to replace two high-ranking military officials: General Werner von Fritsch and Colonel General Werner von Blomberg. Both were convinced that Hitler’s increasingly aggressive foreign policy was putting Germany on a collision course with war—a war the Fatherland could not win.

Hitler, in fact, meant to go to war—and despised Fritsch’s and Blomberg’s hesitation to do so. He decided to rid himself of both men. But how? 

Accident played a part in the case of Blomberg.

On January 12, 1938, Blomberg married Erna Gruhn, with Hitler and Reichsmarshall Hermann Goring attending as witnesses. Soon afterward, Berlin police discovered that Gruhn had a criminal record as a prostitute and had posed for pornographic photographs.

Marrying a woman with such a background violated the standard of conduct expected of German officers. Hitler was infuriated at having served as a witness to the ceremony.

But he also saw the scandal as an opportunity to dispose of Blomberg—who was forced to resign.

Shortly after Blomberg was forced out in disgrace, the SS—Hitler’s private police force—presented Hitler with a file that falsely accused Werner von Fritsch of homosexuality. Fritsch angrily denied the accusation but resigned on February 4, 1938. 

From that point on, Hitler was in de facto command of the German Armed Services.

Adolf Hitler

Hitler had a timetable of conquest:

  • On March 7, 1936, he seized the Rhineland, the demilitarized zone between Germany and its arch-enemy, France.
  • On March 12, 1838, he “unified” Austria with Germany by annexing it.
  • In September, 1938, he seized a large portion of western Czechoslovakia after that nation’s British and French “allies” sold it out at the infamous Munich Conference.
  • On March 15, 1939, he ordered the Wehrmacht to occupy the rest of Czechoslovakia.
  • On September 1, 1939, he ordered the invasion of Poland—unintentionally igniting World War II and the eventual destruction of Nazi Germany.

No one yet knows if Donald Trump has a plan of conquest outside the United States. But he seems intent on attacking the top command of its armed services—and its sacred traditions.

Donald Trump

On January 1, 2019, Trump—in a tweet—declared war on retired Army General Stanley McCrystal: “‘General’ McChrystal got fired like a dog by Obama. Last assignment a total bust. Known for big, dumb mouth. Hillary lover!”

The reason for Trump’s ire: McCrystal had given a December 30, 2018 interview on ABC’s “This Week,” Asked if he thought Trump was “a liar,” he replied: “I don’t think he tells the truth.”  Asked: “Is Trump immoral, in your view?” McCrystal replied: “I think he is.”

McChrystal had become a legend among Special Warfare soldiers during the 2003 Iraq War. He had turned Joint Special Operations Command into one of the most efficient killing machines in history.  

In 2010, McChrystal resigned as the commander of the Afghan War. Some officers on his staff made disparaging remarks about top officials working for President Barack Obama. Even worse, they made them to a Rolling Stone reporter.  

Trump took office with strong support by military brass. Among his appointees:

  • Retired four-star Marine General James Mattis as Secretary of Defense.
  • Retired four-star Marine General John Kelly as, first, Secretary of Homeland Security and then Chief of Staff.
  • Retired three-star Army Lieutenant General Michael Flynn for National Security Adviser.
  • Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster succeeded Flynn as National Security Adviser after Flynn was forced out of the White House for lying about his ties to Russian oligarchs.

But now Trump is eager to tear down the generals.

“AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM” IS KILLING US: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 5, 2019 at 12:05 am

In his 2015 book, American Reckoning: The  Vietnam War and Our National Identity, Christian G. Appy describes the way Americans saw their country before the war: 

“The United States [was] a unique force for good in the world, superior not only in its military and economic power but in the quality of its government and institutions, the character and morality of its people, and its way of life….. 

“It was still unimaginable to most Americans that their own nation would wage aggressive war and justify it with unfounded claims, that it would support undemocratic governments reviled by their own people, and that American troops would be sent to fight in countries where they were widely regarded not as liberators but as imperialist invaders.”

For millions of Americans, writes Appy, the Vietnam war forever shattered that tremendously appealing self-image.

Yet for millions more, the United States remains an exemplary nation with a divine mission to lead other nations—willingly or unwillingly—to follow its example.  For these Americans, the corruption and dictatorships that plague many countries “can’t happen here.”

This refusal to accept the lessons of history blinds many Americans to the dangers posed by the Donald Trump Presidency. 

Since assuming office on January 20, 2017, Trump:

  • Repeatedly attacked the integrity of the American Intelligence community for confirming Russian subversion of the 2016 Presidential election—while siding with Russian President Vladimir Putin that this didn’t happen.
  • Fired FBI Director James Comey for investigating that subversion. 
  • Fired Acting Attorney General Sally Yates after she warned him that National Security Adviser Michael Flynn had misled the FBI about his Russian contacts.
  • Forced House Republicans to release a memo falsely accusing the FBI of pursuing a vendetta against him. 

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  • Repeatedly attacked his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, for recusing himself from investigations into ties between Russian Intelligence agents and members of Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign. On November 7, 2018, Trump fired him.
  • Repeatedly attacked the integrity of the FBI, raising the possibility of his firing more of its senior leadership for investigating that subversion.
  • Accused those who participated in that investigation of committing “treason”—as if he were the monarchical embodiment of the state.
  • (The Constitution does not define “treason” as disloyalty to the President—or a private citizen, which Trump was when he ran for President. It defines “treason” as “levying war” against the United States, or giving “aid and comfort” to countries or entities that have declared war on the United States.)

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  • Attacked and alienated America’s oldest allies, such as Canada and Great Britain.
  • Repeatedly praised brutal Communist dictators Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-Un.
  • Falsely accused former President Barack Obama of illegally “spying” on his 2016 campaign.
  • Repeatedly asked aides to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller—but was finally persuaded that this could lead to his impeachment.
  • Slandered Federal judges whose rulings displeased him.
  • Spoken admiringly of American Nazis and Ku Klux Klansmen.
  • 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.
  • “Joked” that the United States—like China—should have a “President-for-Life.”
  • Repeatedly attacked the free press as “the enemy of the people.” 
  • Encourages his followers to violently attack those he hates in the press. On July 2, 2017, he tweeted a video of himself punching a man with the CNN logo superimposed on his head during a WWE wrestling match. 

  • Used the Presidency to further enrich himself, in violation of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution.
  • By March 17, 2019, had said or tweeted 9,179 lies or misleading statements—an average of 11.6 lies a day. 
  • Requires his Cabinet members and lesser appointees to fawn over him with over-the-top flattery previously reserved for notorious dictators.
  • Appointed William Bar as Attorney General to replace William Sessions—after Barr sent a fawning 20-page memo to the Justice Department criticizing the foundation of the Special Counsel investigation.
  • Authorized Barr to investigate the Federal law enforcement and Intelligence agencies that legally investigated links between Russian Intelligence agents and members of Trump’s Presidential campaign.
  • Plans to turn the traditional nonpartisan July 4 celebration on the National Mall into a Trump campaign rally that celebrates himself. 

* * * * *

Donald Trump isn’t crazy, as many of his critics charge. Nor is he a political innocent who “simply doesn’t know better,” as his Republican allies have repeatedly claimed.

He knows exactly what he’s doing—and why.

He intends to strip every potential challenger to his authority—or his version of reality—of legitimacy with the public. 

If he succeeds, there will be:

  • No independent press to reveal his failures and crimes.
  • No independent law enforcement agencies to investigate his abuses of office.
  • No independent judiciary to hold him accountable.
  • No independent military to dissent as he recklessly hurtles toward a nuclear disaster.
  • No candidate—Democrat or Republican—to challenge him for re-election in 2020.
  • No candidate—Democrat or Republican—to challenge his remaining in office as “President-for-Life.”

The absurd faith that “America is different from other great powers” brought us the Vietnam war—and the 58,000 needless dead that will forever be its legacy.  Now that same faith threatens to bring us an absolute Right-wing dictatorship.

“AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM” IS KILLING US: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 4, 2019 at 12:05 am

“Who are we?” asks Christian G. Appy  in the opening of his 2015 book, American Reckoning: The  Vietnam War and Our National Identity.

For Appy, it’s impossible to understand the enormous impact of the Vietnam war on the United States without first understanding the image that Americans had of themselves before that conflict. And he describes that image as:

“The broad faith that the United States [was] a unique force for good in the world, superior not only in its military and economic power but in the quality of its government and institutions, the character and morality of its people, and its way of life…..

“It was still unimaginable to most Americans that their own nation would wage aggressive war and justify it with unfounded claims, that it would support undemocratic governments reviled by their own people, and that American troops would be sent to fight in countries where they were widely regarded not as liberators but as imperialist invaders.”

Appy contends that, for millions of Americans, the Vietnam war dealt a mortal blow to that tremendously appealing self-image.

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Yet for millions more, the United States remains an exemplary nation with a divine mission to lead other nations—willingly or unwillingly—to follow its example. And those Americans become furious when anyone—especially a foreigner—dares question that belief.

On September 11, 2013, the New York Times published an Op-Ed (guest editorial) from Russian President Vladimir Putin, entitled: “A Plea for Caution from Russia: What Putin Has to Say to Americans About Syria.”

To no one’s surprise, Putin strongly opposed an American air strike on Syria. Its “President” (i.e., dictator) Bashir al-Assad, is a close ally of Russia. Just as his late father and dictator, Hafez al-Assad, was a close ally of the Soviet Union.

And Putin is a former member of the KGB, the infamous secret police which ruled the Soviet Union from its birth in 1917 to its collapse in 1991.

In his September 11 guest editorial in the New York Times, Putin offered the expected Russian take on Syria:

  • Poison gas was used in Syria.
  • It wasn’t used by the Syrian Army.
  • “Opposition forces [used it] to provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons.”
  • “There are few champions of democracy in Syria. But there are more than enough [al] Qaeda fighters and extremists of all stripes battling the government.”

But it’s the concluding paragraph that enraged American politicians the most—especially Right-wing ones. In it, Putin took exception with American “exceptionalism.”

Referring to then-President Barack Obama, Putin wrote:

“And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is ‘what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.’

“It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too.

“We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.”

Vladimir Putin

Putin has never publicly shown any interest in religion. But by invoking “the Lord,” he was able to turn the Christian beliefs of his Western audience into a useful weapon.

Americans’ outrage quickly erupted.

“I was insulted,” then-House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters when asked for his blunt reaction to the editorial.

“I have to be honest with you, I was at dinner, and I almost wanted to vomit,” said U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey).

Putin had dared to question the self-righteousness of American foreign policy—and those who make it.

Making his case for war with Syria, Obama had said: “America is not the world’s policeman….But when, with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death, and thereby make our own children safer over the long run, I believe we should act.

“That’s what makes America different. That’s what makes us exceptional. With humility, but with resolve, let us never lose sight of that essential truth.”

In short: Because we consider ourselves “exceptional,” we have the divine right to do whatever we want.

It’s not necessary to see Putin as a champion of democracy (he isn’t) to see the truth in this part of his editorial:

“It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation.”

From 1938 to 1969, the House Un-American Activities Committee sought to define what was “American” and what was “Un-American.” As if “American” stood for all things virtuous.

Whoever heard of an “Un-French Activities Committee”? Or an “Un-German” or “Un-British” one?

The late S.I. Hayakawa was a professor of semantics (the study of the relationship between words and what they stand for).

In his bestselling book, Language in Thought and Action, he observed that a person has four ways of responding to a message:

  • Accept the speaker and his message.
  • Accept the speaker but reject the message.
  • Accept the message but reject the speaker.
  • Reject the message and the speaker.

Americans might want to consider #3 where “American exceptionalism” is concerned.

SOME ARE LOVED, SOME ARE FEARED, SOME ARE HATED: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on June 3, 2019 at 12:17 am

American Presidents—like politicians everywhere—strive to be loved. There are two reasons for this.

First, even the vilest dictators want to believe they are good people—and thus rewarded by the love of their subjects.

Second, a beloved leader has greater clout than one who isn’t. A Presidential candidate who wins by a landslide has a mandate to pursue his agenda—at least, for the first two years of his administration.

But Presidents—like Barack Obama—who strive to avoid conflict often get treated with contempt and hostility by their adversaries.

Image result for Images of Barack Obama giving a speech in the Oval Office

Barack Obama

In Renegade: The Making of a President, Richard Wolffe chronicled Obama’s successful 2008 bid for the White House. Among his revelations:

Obama, believing in rationality and decency, preferred to responding to attacks on his character rather than attacking the character of his enemies.

A graduate of Columbia University and Harvard Law School, Obama was one of the most academically gifted Presidents in United States history.

Yet he failed to apply this fundamental lesson taught by Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of modern political science:

A man who wishes to make a profession of goodness in everything must inevitably come to grief among so many who are not good. And therefore it is necessary for a prince, who wishes to maintain himself, to learn how not to be good, and to use this knowledge and not use it, according to the necessity of the case.

Thus, Obama found most of his legislative agenda stymied by Republicans.

For example: In 2014, Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) sought to block David Barron, Obama’s nominee to the First Circuit Court of Appeals.

Rand Paul

Paul objected to Barron’s authoring memos that justified the killing of an American citizen by a drone in Yemen on September 30, 2011.

Anwar al-Awlaki had been a radical Muslim cleric notorious on the Internet for encouraging Muslims to attack the United States.

Paul demanded that the Justice Department release the memos Barron crafted justifying the drone policy.

Anwar al-Awlaki

Imagine how Republicans would depict Paul—or any Democratic Senator—who did the same with a Republican President: “Rand Paul: A traitor who supports terrorists. He sides with America’s sworn enemies against its own lawfully elected President.”

But Obama did nothing of the kind.

(On May 22, 2014, the Senate voted 53–45 to confirm Barron to the First Circuit Court of Appeals.)

But Presidents who seek to rule primarily by fear can encounter their own limitations. Which immediately brings to mind Donald Trump.

As both a Presidential candidate and President, Trump has repeatedly used Twitter to attack hundreds of real and imagined enemies in politics, journalism, TV and films.

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.

The New York Times needed two full pages of its print edition to showcase them.

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Donald Trump

As a Presidential candidate and President, Trump has shown outright hatred for President Obama. For five years, he slandered Obama as a Kenyan-born alien who had no right to hold the Presidency. 

Then, on March 4, 2017, in a series of unhinged tweets, Trump falsely accused Obama of committing an impeachable offense: Tapping his Trump Tower phones prior to the election.

As President, Trump has refused to reach beyond the narrow base of white, racist, ignorant, hate-filled, largely rural voters who elected him.

And he has bullied and insulted even White House officials and his own handpicked Cabinet officers:

  • Trump waged a Twitter-laced feud against Jeff Sessions, his Attorney General. Sessions’ “crime”? Recusing himself from investigations into well-established ties between Russian Intelligence agents and members of Trump’s Presidential campaign. Trump fired him on November 7, 2018, the day after Democrats retook the House of Representatives in the mid-term elections.
  • Trump repeatedly humiliated Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus—at one point ordering him to kill a fly that was buzzing about. On July 28, 2017, six months after taking the job, Priebus resigned.
  • Trump similarly tongue-lashed Priebus’ replacement, former Marine Corps General John Kelly. Trump was angered by Kelly’s efforts to limit the number of advisers who had unrestricted access to him. Kelly told colleagues he had never been spoken to like that during 35 years of military service—and wouldn’t tolerate it again.
  • After Trump gave sensitive Israeli intelligence to Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, his national security advisor, H.R. McMaster, denied this had happened. Trump then contradicted McMaster in a tweet: “As president, I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled WH meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety.”

If Trump ever read Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince, he’s clearly forgotten this passage:

Cruelties ill committed are those which, although at first few, increase rather than diminish with time….Whoever acts otherwise….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….

Or, as Cambridge Professor of Divinity William Ralph Inge put it: “A man may build himself a throne of bayonets, but he can’t sit on it.”

SOME ARE LOVED, SOME ARE FEARED, SOME ARE HATED: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on May 31, 2019 at 12:04 am

Is it better to be loved or feared?

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

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—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….”

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 in himself 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.

SOME ARE LOVED, SOME ARE FEARED, SOME ARE HATED: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on May 30, 2019 at 12:04 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.”

Portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli by Santi di Tito.jpg

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 deliberately 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.

The result: Republicans believed Clinton was weak–and could be rolled.

In 1998, 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.

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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.

TRUMP: THE NATION’S CHIEF LAWBREAKER

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on April 10, 2019 at 12:15 am

A President plays many roles.  Among these:

  • Chief of State – An inspiring example to the American people.
  • Commander-in-Chief – Of America’s armed services: Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.
  • Chief Diplomat – Decides what will be the foreign policy of the United States.
  • Chief Executive – The highest-ranking employee of the Federal Government and the boss of millions of those who work in the executive branch.
  • Chief Law Enforcement Officer – Ensures that Federal laws are faithfully administered and the orders of Federal judges obeyed.

It’s with his role as the nation’s chief law enforcement officer that Donald J. Trump has jeopardized his continued role as President of the United States. 

Since taking office on January 20, 2017, Trump has fired:

  • Preet Bharara – U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York
  • Sally Yates – Assistant United States Attorney General
  • James Comey – FBI Director
  • Andrew McCabe – FBI Deputy Director 
  • Jeff Sessions – United States Attorney General
  • Randolph “Tex” Alles – Director of the United States Secret Service

Among those law enforcement officials he has forced to resign:

  • Krisjen Nielsen – Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security
  • Rob Joyce – Deputy Homeland Security Advisor
  • Elaine Duke – Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security
  • Robert P. Hayes – Under Secretary of Homeland Security (Intelligence and Analysis)
  • Thomas Homan – Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement
  • Rachel Brand – Associate United States Attorney General 

In addition, Trump has ruthlessly attacked members of the judiciary who have dared rule against him: 

  • He has repeatedly attacked Seattle U.S. District Judge James Robart, who halted Trump’s first travel ban. 
  • In one tweet, Trump claimed: “Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!”
  • When Judge John Tigar of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ordered the administration to accept asylum claims regardless of where migrants entered the country, Trump called the decision “a disgrace” and attacked Tigar as “an Obama judge.” 
  • At Trump’s bidding, White House aide Stephen Miller attacked the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals: “We have a judiciary that has taken far too much power and become, in many cases, a supreme branch of government.” 

Donald Trump

And as recently as April 5, Trump once again demonstrated his notorious contempt for rule-by-law—and his desire to replace it with “rule-by-Trump.” 

This occurred during his visit to Calexico, on the border of California and Mexico. He was there to inspect a section of fencing for his still-uncompleted border wall between the United States and Mexico.

He also attended a briefing on immigration and border security hosted by agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). 

As part of this, he read a statement addressed to Central American migrants wanting to enter the United States:

“It’s a colossal surge and it’s overwhelming our immigration system, and we can’t let that happen. So, as I say, and this is our new statement: The system is full. Can’t take you anymore. Whether it’s asylum, whether it’s anything you want, it’s illegal immigration….Our country is full….So turn around. That’s the way it is.” 

Illegal aliens entering the United States

Nor did Trump have any use for those claiming asylum:

“Asylum—you know, I look at some of these asylum people; they’re gang members. They’re not afraid of anything. They have lawyers greeting them.  They read what the lawyer tells them to read. They’re gang members. And they say, ‘I fear for my life.  I…’ They’re the ones that are causing fear for life.  It’s a scam.  Okay?  It’s a scam.”

That was for public consumption. What was not were words Trump spoke in a private meeting with Border Patrol agents.

According to CNN, “the President told border agents to not let migrants in.”

That, in fact, is illegal, especially if they are seeking asylum. And Secretary of Homeland Security Krisjen Nielsen had told Trump so two weeks earlier. 

“Tell them we don’t have the capacity,” said Trump, reported CNN. “If judges give you trouble, say, “‘Sorry, judge, I can’t do it. We don’t have the room.'”

This was clearly an order for Federal law enforcers to break the law.

It also qualifies as “obstruction of justice”—an article of impeachment filed against President Richard Nixon in 1974.

Once the President left the room, read the CNN report, “agents sought further advice from their leaders, who told them they were not giving them that direction and if they did what the President said they would take on personal liability. You have to follow the law, they were told.”

Attending that meeting was Nielsen. Early on, she thanked Trump “always for coming out to the field to listen to the men and women.  We greatly appreciate your support.”  

Kirstjen Nielsen official photo.jpg

Krisjen Nielsen

Two days later, she would be ousted by Trump as Secretary of Homeland Security.

Trump had won election in 2016 partly on promises to build a border wall and crack down on illegal immigrants. For his base, that remains the overriding issue. If Trump can’t make good on his promise, he’s unlikely to be re-elected by that base.

And Trump didn’t believe that Nielsen had been ruthless enough in stemming the tide of legal and illegal immigration from Central American countries. 

PUBLIC ENEMY #1: THE RICH (PART FOUR (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on March 20, 2019 at 12:06 am

Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of modern politics, warns in his masterwork, The Discourses:

All those who have written upon civil institutions demonstrate…that whoever desires to found a state and give it laws, must start with assuming that all men are bad and ever ready to display their vicious nature, whenever they may find occasion for it.

If their evil disposition remains concealed for a time, it must be attributed to some unknown reason; and we must assume that it lacked occasion to show itself. But time, which has been said to be the father of all truth, does not fail to bring it to light. 

Where the crimes of corporate employers are concerned, Americans need not wait for their evil disposition to reveal itself. It has been fully revealed for decades.

Niccolo Machiavelli

Increased media attention to “income inequality” has led some Democratic lawmakers to press for a long-overdue reform: Raising the stock threshold to 50%, making it harder for firms to abandon their country.

Yet a more comprehensive reform package would include legislation that mandates:

  • American companies that move their headquarters abroad would be officially declared “agents of a foreign power engaged in hostile activity against the United States.”
  • Those “foreign-owned” companies would be forbidden to sell products within the United States. 
  • Their assets would be subject to seizure by the Internal Revenue Service.
  • The citizenship of those Americans engaged in such activity would be revoked and they would be ordered to leave the United States or face criminal prosecution for treason—and face trial for this if they returned. 

Public Campaign is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to eliminating special interest money in American politics by securing publicly-funded elections at local, state and federal levels.

According to Public Campaign: “Twenty-five profitable Fortune 500 companies, some with a history of tax dodging, spent more on lobbying than they paid in federal taxes between 2008 and 2012….

“Over the past five years, these 25 corporations generated nearly $170 billion in combined profits and received $8.7 billion in tax rebates while paying their lobbyists over half a billion ($543 million), an average of nearly $300,000 a day.

“Based on newly released data by Citizens for Tax Justice, these 25 companies actually received tax refunds over all those five years.

“So most individual American families and small businesses have bigger tax bills than these corporate giants. Unfortunately, most American families and businesses do not have the lobbying operation and access these 25 companies enjoy.”

Several companies on this list are well-known—and spend millions of dollars on self-glorifying ads every year to convince consumers how wonderful they are. Among these:

  • General Electric
  • PG&E Corp
  • Verizon Communications
  • Boeing
  • Consolidated Edison
  • MetroPCS Communications

Republicans—and some Democrats—have tirelessly defended the greed of the richest and most privileged in America. For example, they have dubbed the estate tax—which affects only a tiny, rich minority—“the death tax.”  

This makes it appear to affect everyone. So millions of poor and middle-class Americans who will never have to pay a cent in estate taxes vigorously oppose it.

It’s time to recognize that a country can be sold out for other than political reasons. It can be sold out for economic ones, too.

 

Trea$on

 

The United States desperately needs a new definition of treason—one that takes into account the following:  

  • Employers who set up offshore accounts to claim their American companies are foreign-owned—and thus exempt from taxes—are traitors.
  • Employers who enrich themselves by firing American workers and moving their plants to other countries—are traitors.
  • Employers who systematically violate Federal immigration laws—to hire illegal aliens at cut-rate wages–instead of American workers–are traitors.  

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

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

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

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

The solution lies in remembering that the powerful never voluntarily surrender their privileges. Americans did not win their freedom from Great Britain—and its enslaving doctrine of the “divine right of kings”—by begging for their rights.

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

And they will most certainly never win such freedom by supporting Right-wing political candidates whose first and only allegiance is to the corporate interests who bankroll their campaigns.

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

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

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