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Posts Tagged ‘2016 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION’

“MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE” COMES HOME

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 24, 2018 at 12:15 am

According to the CIA, FBI and National Security Agency (which cracks codes and listens to the telephone conversation of foreign leaders) it’s clear that Russian trolls and Intelligence agents played a major role in subverting the 2016 Presidential election.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller III, assigned in May, 2017, to investigate charges of Russian interference, believes there was collusion. He has secured criminal charges against 19 people, including five guilty pleas. And more are undoubtedly coming.

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Robert Mueller

And 65% of Americans believe that Mueller should be allowed to continue his investigation.

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. Among those regimes that have been toppled:

  • 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.

And how did Americans react to all these attempts—successful and unsuccessful—at regime change?

Through 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 tend to 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. Except for President Donald Trump and his fanatical supporters, Americans are furious that a foreign power has dared to install “regime change” on them.

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.

A REPUBLICAN–AND RED–PRESIDENT?

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on April 16, 2018 at 4:36 pm

From the end of World War II to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, it would have been unthinkable for a Republican Presidential candidate to find common cause with a Soviet dictator.

But that utterly changed when Donald Trump won, first, the Republican Presidential nomination and, then, the White House. Trump lavishly praised Russian President Vladimir Putin—and even called on him to directly interfere in the 2016 Presidential race.

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. 

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

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Donald Trump

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

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. 

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Trump, however—as both Presidential candidate and President—has steadfastly denied any such role by Russia.  An example of this occurred during his exchange with Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton during the third and final Presidential debate on October 19, 2016:  

CLINTON: So I actually think the most important question of this evening, Chris, is, finally, will Donald Trump admit and condemn that the Russians are doing this and make it clear that he will not have the help of Putin in in this election, that he rejects Russian espionage against Americans, which he actually encouraged in the past?

Those are the questions we need answered. We’ve never had anything like this happen in any of our elections before. 

CHRIS WALLACE: Well?

TRUMP: [After insisting that Clinton wanted “open borders” and “people are going to pour into this country,” Trump finally deigned to address Wallace’s question.]  Now we can talk about Putin. I don’t know Putin. He said nice things about me. 

CLINTON: … that the Russians have engaged in cyber attacks against the United States of America, that you encouraged espionage against our people, that you are willing to spout the Putin line, sign up for his wish list, break up NATO, do whatever he wants to do, and that you continue to get help from him, because he has a very clear favorite in this race.

So I think that this is such an unprecedented situation. We’ve never had a foreign government trying to interfere in our election.

We have 17–17 intelligence agencies, civilian and military, who have all concluded that these espionage attacks, these cyber attacks, come from the highest levels of the Kremlin and they are designed to influence our election. I find that deeply disturbing.  And I think it’s time you take a stand…

TRUMP: She has no idea whether it’s Russia, China, or anybody else….

CLINTON: …17 intelligence—do you doubt 17 military and civilian…

TRUMP:  And our country has no idea.

Trump has repeatedly claimed that there has been “no collusion” between himself and anyone from Russia. 

But he has tried hard to shut down any investigation of ties between members of his 2016 Presidential campaign and Russian Intelligence agents.

He has attacked reputable news organizations—such as CNN, the Washington Post and the New York Times—as “fake news” for reporting on the expanding network of proven ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.

On February 15, 2017, Trump privately asked FBI Director James Comey to drop the FBI’s investigation into fired National Security Adviser Mike Flynn, for his secret ties to Russia and Turkey. Comey resisted that demand. 

On May 9, 2017, Trump suddenly fired Comey, claiming his motive for doing so was that Comey had mistreated Hillary Clinton during the 2016 Presidential race. 

But on May 10, he unintentionally gave away the real reason. It happened during a meeting in the Oval Office with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.  

Kislyak was reportedly a top recruiter for Russia’s SVR foreign intelligence agency. He had been closely linked with Jeff Sessions, now Attorney General, and fired National Security Adviser Flynn.  

“I just fired the head of the F.B.I.,” Trump told the two dignitaries. “He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

Comey’s firing resulted in demands for a Special Counsel to investigate Russian efforts to subvert the 2016 election. On May 17, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed former FBI Director Robert Meuller III to do so. 

Since then, Trump has repeatedly threatened to fire Mueller to shut down the investigation. 

On April 15, during an interview on ABC’s “20/20” to promote his upcoming book, A Higher Loyalty, Comey was asked: Do you think the Russians have compromising material on Trump? 

And he answered: “I think it’s possible. I don’t know. These are more words I never thought I’d utter about a president of the United States, but it’s possible.”

UPDATING MURROW FOR OUR TIME: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on March 21, 2018 at 12:23 am

On March 9, 1954, Edward R. Murrow, the most respected broadcast journalist in America, outlined the career and demagogic tactics of Wisconsin United States Senator Joseph R. McCarthy.

He did so on his CBS news show, “See It Now,” at the height of the “Red Scare” hysteria that McCarthy had whipped up four years earlier.

Virtually any American could find himself accused of being a Communist, or a “Comsymp,” or a “fellow traveler.” Such an act could rob him of friends, family, his job, even his liberty on the flimsiest of evidence.

Meanwhile, Republicans cowered before McCarthy’s attacks on the press, the military, the judiciary and law enforcement—or joined his chorus. Protecting the nation’s social and political institutions took a distant second place to attacking Democrats as Communist traitors.

Today, 64 years later, another demagogue—Donald Trump—casts an even darker shadow across the land. As the President of the United States, he commands far more power than McCarthy ever did. 

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Donald Trump

  • He freely slanders anyone—famous or anonymous, athlete or disabled, politician or philosopher—who dares contradict him. Or for whom he simply takes a disliking to.
  • He fired FBI Director James Comey for refusing to pledge his personal loyalty—the way Joseph Stalin expected his secret police chiefs to operate.
  • He hounded Assistant FBI Director Andrew McCabe into resigning, and then fired him 24 hours before he was to receive his pension after 21 years of sterling service.
  • He fired his Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson—by tweet—while Tillerson was still on an official visit to Africa.
  • He has, in short, forced most Americans to re-think their longtime assumption that a dictatorship can’t happen here.

Today, only those Republicans who have decided to retire from Congress dare to criticize Trump. The rest fear he will aim a nasty tweet at them—and cost them Fascistic voters,  perhaps even their offices.

Meanwhile, Robert Mueller—a career prosecutor with the highest reputation for integrity—struggles to discover the truth about Russian electoral subversion and the Trump campaign’s collusion in it.

Every day he faces the danger of being fired by the very man whose criminal associates he’s investigating. And yet Republicans refuse to enact a law that would protect him against such abuse of power.

At this time, Murrow’s warnings about Joseph McCarthy need to be seriously reconsidered. Just substitute “President” for “Junior Senator” and “Trump” for “McCarthy,” and Murrow’s text could have been written yesterday.

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 Edward R. Murrow

On one thing the [President] has been consistent. Often operating as a one-man committee, he has traveled far, [defamed] many, terrorized some, accused civilian and military leaders of the past administration of a great conspiracy to turn over the country to [terrorism], [slamdered] and substantially demoralized the present State Department….

He has [slandered] a varied assortment of what he calls [“the enemy of the American people.”]

Republican Senator Flanders of Vermont said of [Trump] today: “He dons war paint; he goes into his war dance; he emits his war whoops; he goes forth to battle and proudly returns with the scalp of a pink army dentist.”

It is necessary to investigate before legislating, but the line between investigating and persecuting is a very fine one and the [President of the United States] has stepped over it repeatedly. His primary achievement has been in confusing the public mind, as between the internal and the external threats of [terrorism].

We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another.

We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men—not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular.

This is no time for men who oppose [President Trump’s] methods to keep silent, or for those who approve. We can deny our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result.

There is no way for a citizen of a republic to abdicate his responsibilities. As a nation we have come into our full inheritance at a tender age. We proclaim ourselves, as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom, wherever it continues to exist in the world, but we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home.

The actions of the [President of the United States] have caused alarm and dismay amongst our allies abroad, and given considerable comfort to our enemies. And whose fault is that? Not really his.

He didn’t create this situation of fear; he merely exploited it—and rather successfully. Cassius was right. “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”

UPDATING MURROW FOR OUR TIME: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on March 20, 2018 at 12:04 am

During the 1950s, Wisconsin United States Senator Joseph R. McCarthy rode a wave of paranoia to national prominence–by attacking the patriotism of anyone who disagreed with him.

Joseph McCarthy

Elected to the Senate in 1946, he rose to national prominence on February 9, 1950, after giving a fiery speech in Wheeling, West Virginia:

“The State Department is infested with communists. I have here in my hand a list of 205—a list of names that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department.”

No American—no matter how prominent—was safe from the accusation of being a Communist or a Communist sympathizer—”a Comsymp” or “fellow traveler” in the style of the era.

Among those accused:

  • Secretary of State George C. Marshall, who had overseen America’s strategy for defeating Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan;
  • President Harry S. Truman;
  • Playwrights Lillian Hellman and Arthur Miller;
  • Actors Charlie Chaplin, Zero Mostel, Lloyd Bridges, Howard Da Silva, Edward G. Robinson and John Garfield;
  • Composers Arron Copland and Elmer Bernstein;
  • Physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, who presided over the creation of America’s atomic bomb;
  • Actresses Lee Grant, Delores del Rio, Ruth Gordon and Lucille Ball;
  • Journalists Edward R. Murrow and William L. Shirer, who had chronicled the rise of Nazi Germany;
  • Folksinger Pete Seeger;
  • Writers Irwin Shaw, Howard Fast, John Steinbeck and Dashiell Hammett.

Even “untouchable” Republicans became targets for such slander.

The most prominent of these was President Dwight D. Eisenhower–labeled ”a conscious, dedicated agent of the Communist Conspiracy” by Robert Welch, who founded the John Birch Society in 1958.

On March 9, 1954, at the height of the McCarthy hysteria, Edward R. Murrow, the most respected broadcast journalist in America, delivered a powerful blow against the Senator’s dictatorial tactics and agenda. He did so on his high-rated CBS program, “See It Now.”

Edward R. Murrow

Today, 64 years later, Murrow’s eloquent appeal for moral courage in the face of tyranny still stands, and is still worth remembering.

This is especially true since the United States finds itself once again endangered by a fearful demagogue. But this one is even more dangerous than McCarthy.

For, unlike McCarthy, he commands the Justice Department to bludgeon his “enemies” at home and the Defense Department to literally destroy any country he dislikes abroad.

He is the President of the United States: Donald J. Trump.

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Donald Trump

Even before taking office on January 20, 2017, he was dogged by charges that Russian Intelligence agents had aided his 2016 Presidential campaign. And that members of his campaign had actively colluded with them.

The FBI, headed by James Comey, was then investigating that alleged collusion. Then, on May 8, 2017, Trump abruptly fired Comey from his position as FBI director.

A national firestorm erupted—unprecedented since President Richard M. Nixon had fired Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox on October 20, 1973.

To squelch it, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein moved quickly.

On May 17, 2017, he appointed Robert Mueller to serve as Special Counsel for the United States Department of Justice.

Mueller had dedicated almost his entire adult life to serving the Justice Department:

  • United States Attorney for Massachusetts (1986–1987);
  • United States Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division (1990–1993);
  • United States Attorney for the Northern District of California (1998–2001);
  • United States Deputy Attorney General (January 20, 2001 – May 10, 2001) and
  • Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (2001-2013);

Mueller had amassed a solid reputation for integrity and efficiency. So highly respected was he that when he planned to retire after serving out the mandatory 10-year term as FBI director, both Democrats and Republicans prevailed on him to stay on until President Barack Obama could find a suitable replacement for him.

That replacement turned out to be James Comey, Mueller’s former deputy director at the FBI.

Rosenstein now charged Mueller to investigate “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump, and any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.”

Trump has claimed from the outset that there was “no collusion” between him and members of Russia’s Intelligence community.

But he has acted like a guilty man desperate to stop the investigation before it uncovers the full extent of his criminality.

Since May, Trump, his shills in Congress and Right-wing Fox News have relentlessly attacked Mueller’s integrity and investigative methods.

From the outset of that investigation, there have been widespread fears that Trump would fire Mueller, just as he did Comey.

Those fears increased over the weekend of Marcy 17-18, when Trump spewed a series of angry tweets on Twitter:

“The Mueller probe should never have been started in that there was no collusion and there was no crime. It was based on fraudulent activities and a Fake Dossier paid for by Crooked Hillary and the DNC, and improperly used in FISA COURT for surveillance of my campaign. WITCH HUNT!”

“Why does the Mueller team have 13 hardened Democrats, some big Crooked Hillary supporters, and Zero Republicans? Another Dem recently added…does anyone think this is fair? And yet, there is NO COLLUSION!”

“A total WITCH HUNT with massive conflicts of interest!”

REPUBLICANS: FINDING COMMON CAUSE WITH COMMIES

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 1, 2018 at 12:08 am

There was a time when Republicans saw—and portrayed themselves—as America’s foremost defenders against Communism.

This was particularly true during the early 1950s. Case in point: Wisconsin United States Senator Joseph R. McCarthy. 

Elected to the Senate in 1946, he rose to national prominence on February 9, 1950, after giving a fiery speech in Wheeling, West Virginia: 

“The State Department is infested with communists. I have here in my hand a list of 205—a list of names that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department.”

Joseph McCarthy

No American—no matter how prominent—was safe from the accusation of being a Communist or a Communist sympathizer—”a Comsymp” or “fellow traveler” in the style of the era.

So Red-baiting Republicans like McCarthy and then-Vice President Richard M. Nixon would feel dumbfounded at the following news: 

On February 20, a purge of Russian “bots” by Twitter sparked outrage by—yes!—Right-wingers. 

Bots are fake accounts used to spread propaganda or advertising campaigns. Investigations by the House and Senate Intelligence Committees have uncovered massive efforts by Russia to throw the 2016 Presidential election to Donald Trump.

Their weapon of choice: Swamping “social media” sites like Facebook, Google and Twitter with genuinely fake news. 

The Twitter purge came a week after Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russians and three Russian companies for interfering in that election. The indictments detailed an elaborate plot to wage “information warfare” against the United States. 

Right-wingers suddenly found thousands of their Russian bot followers had disappeared—and accused Twitter of secretly deleting like-minded accounts.

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“Twitter is currently purging the followers on conservative accounts only. I just lost 3000 followers in one minute,” tweeted Candace Owens, director of urban engagement for Turning Point USA.  This is a student organization promoting limited government and free markets.  

Bill Mitchell, a Right-winger known for his controversial tweets defending President Donald Trump, claimed that he lost roughly 4,000 followers overnight.  

“This is a damn joke,” tweeted Mike Zollo. “Twitter is absolutely censoring conservative and right wing speech for no damn reason other than their disagreement with it. But, liberals can write vile comments and threaten us with no punishment.”

From the end of World War II to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, it would have been unthinkable for a Republican Presidential candidate to find common cause with a Soviet dictator.

But that utterly changed when Donald Trump won, first, the Republican Presidential nomination and, then, the White House. Trump lavishly praised Russian President Vladimir Putin—and even called on him to directly interfere in the 2016 Presidential race.

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. 

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

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

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. 

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Trump, however, has 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.”   

The last time dictator-worshiping Fascists found common cause with dictator-worshiping Communists was in August, 1939. 

Germany’s Fuhrer Adolf Hitler and the Soviet Union’s Joseph Stalin agreed to end—at least temporarily—their years of violent rivalry and personal slander. 

The reason: Hitler planned to invade Poland, and feared he would have to fight its allies, France and England, if he did.  He didn’t want to have to fight the Soviet Union, too.

And Stalin saw Hitler’s warlike ambitions as useful to his own dreams of conquest: He wanted—and got—the eastern half of Poland, while Hitler’s legions occupied the western half. 

So why would Donald Trump—the arch capitalist—find common cause with Vladimir Putin, the arch Communist?

Simple: Each had something the other wanted.

First, Putin: He wanted a President who would withdraw the United States from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)—which would instantly render that alliance kaput. And give Russia a free hand to attack Europe.

And Trump had repeatedly said the United States was paying an unfairly large portion of the monies needed to maintain that alliance. 

Then, Trump: He wanted to be President—to enrich himself and his family, to become the center of the world’s attention, and to destroy anyone who dared confront or contradict him. 

And in supporting his dictatorial agenda, his millions of Right-wing followers have found common cause with the followers of a Communist dictator’s agenda.  

BELLICOSE EVIL TRUMPS TIMID MORALITY: PART TWO (END)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adolf Hitler

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

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

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

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

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

Hitler’s mastery of Germany was now complete.

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

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

Donald Trump

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

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

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

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

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

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David Brooks and Mark Shields

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DAVID BROOKS:  “Yes, I think so.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CHANCELLERY:

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

ZOSSEN: 

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

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

Von Roon: That they were talking high treason.

CHANCELLERY:

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

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

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

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

Hitler: Why not?

Von Brauchitsch: Because of the military fundamentals as stated.

Hitler: Such as?

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

Hitler: It rains on the enemy, too.

ZOSSEN: 

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

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

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

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

Halder: But we really cannot proceed with Case Yellow.

Von Roon:  Brauchitsch will get a postponement.

Halder: And if he does not?

CHANCELLERY: 

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

Image result for wolfgang preiss as Walther von Brauchitsch

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

Hitler: Who says so? 

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

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

Von Brauchitsch: No.

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

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

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

Von Brauchitsch: Who keeps such figures in his head?

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

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

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

Von Brauchitsch: I’m talking facts!

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

Von Brauchitsch: It was common knowledge—

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

Von Brauchitsch: Mein Fuhrer

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

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

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

WELCOME TO SOCIAL MEDIA. NOW GET LOST

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on January 25, 2018 at 10:39 am

Years ago, Michael Martin, a Los Angeles-based computer repair expert, offered me some advice I have found absolutely essential.

“When you call Technical Support,” he said, “they’re accessing the same information you can get via the computer.

“Most of the time they’re going to have you put the Restore Disk back into the computer and restore it back to default.  It wipes out everything on your computer.  Technical support costs a lot of money for a company—to hell with your data.

“Be very cautious when you get on the phone with any computer company and they advise you to run the Restore Disk.”

Photo of Michael Martin the Pc Expert - Los Angeles, CA, United States

Michael Martin

What Martin said about the unwillingness of computer companies to provide technical support applies just as much to social media websites.

Consider the case of Facebook, the largest social media and networking service. According to its “Newsroom,” it had more than 1.37 billion daily active users on average for September 2017.

Such a huge audience attracts advertisers. And this, in turn, has armed Facebook with total assets of $64.961 billion (2016).  These revenues have given its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, an estimated net worth of $75.2 billion.

Yet, for all the billions pouring into Facebook’s coffers, the company refuses to provide a way for its users to directly contact Facebook headquarters.

This may not seem important. But the following case will demonstrate why it is.

A short while ago, a friend of mine (whom I’ll call Janet) sent Zuckerberg a letter, which opened:

“Today while chatting with someone on Facebook I found myself bounced from the page.  I was instructed to log in again.  When I did so, I got the following message:

  Secure Your Account

Hi Janet, we think your computer is infected with malware, and it’s spreading spam through your Facebook account. We’ll walk you through a few steps to explain more and scan your computer for malware.

“Naturally, my first reaction was to contact Facebook to find out what, exactly, was meant by Spam.  I quickly found, however, that although Facebook’s customers like me have made you a billionaire, they aren’t considered important enough to be provided with direct support for resolving problems like this.

“All that I could do was put a message on file with your ‘Report a Login Issue’ page.  I received no response, so I sent another.  This, too, has gone unanswered.

“At the bottom of the ‘Report a Login Issue’ page is this: “Thanks for taking the time to submit a report.  While we don’t reply to every report, we’ll let you know if we need more details.”

“In short, even after a customer puts a help-request on file with Facebook, s/he has no guarantee that s/he will even receive the courtesy of a reply, let alone the help needed to resolve the problem.

“Is this really what you are proud to call customer service?

“I think it’s entirely appropriate to ask people I don’t know—and who want to roam freely through my computer—exactly what it is they believe is Spam.  Because if it isn’t Spam, there’s no reason for them to be roaming freely through my computer.” 

Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg

Janet never received a reply from Zuckerberg—nor from anyone subordinate to him.

Facebook is still the most popular social platform on the Internet.  At one time,  AOL was the big dog on the block, too.  And an April 13, 2015 article on CheatSheet warned that history could repeat itself: “Three Reasons Young People Think Facebook is Lame.”

So did a second article, published in Fortune on April 7, 2016: “Facebook Users Are Sharing Fewer Personal Updates and It’s a Big Problem.”

No doubt a major reason for this is the arrogance of Facebook’s censors.

Another friend of mine—Jim—recently got kicked off Facebook after getting this notice:

We removed content you posted

We removed this content because it doesn’t follow the Facebook Community Standards

 

The offending post was a news story about Texas Congressman Joe Barton.  It described how he had sent a series of smarmy emails to numerous women—while, of course, posing as a paragon of “family values.”

Jim sent a letter to Facebook’s headquarters at 1 Hacker Way, Menlo Park, California 94025.

“If Facebook is going to hold its users to a set of standards, those standards should be clearly and specifically posted.  Certainly a legitimate news story—no matter on what the subject—should fall within allowable posting guidelines.  But apparently Facebook’s anonymous censors do not agree.

“Facebook functions the way the gods of the ancient Greeks were believed to act: In a totally arbitrary manner, whose decisions, however unwarranted, are beyond appeal.”

Many Facebook users have described—on Facebook—how they have been put in “Facebook jail.” One user offended censors by his too-frequent use of the “Like” option. How this violated Facebook’s terms of service was never explained.

During the 2016 Presidential election, Russian trolls used Facebook, Twitter and Google to post misleading articles and comments. These may well have influenced the outcome of that election.

As a result, these companies are now under widening Congressional investigation.

This is no time for social media companies to needlessly offend those who make their profits a reality.

ARROGANCE AS OUTREACH

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on December 19, 2017 at 2:34 pm

In July, 2016, an Associated Press/GfK poll found that half of Americans saw then-Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump as “racist”—and only 7% of blacks viewed him favorably.

Among the reasons for this:

  • His enthusiastic support by racist white supremacist organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party.
  • His “birther” attacks on President Barack Obama as a non-citizen from Kenya—and thus ineligible to hold the Presidency.
  • His attacks on the Black Lives Matter movement and calling on his supporters at rallies to rough up minority protesters.

To counter this, Trump appointed as his Director of African-American Outreach a woman with absolutely no credible ties to the black community: Omarosa Manigault.

He did so just hours before the opening of the first night of the Republican National Convention. 

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Donald Trump

Manigault is best known as the villain of Trump’s reality-TV show, “The Apprentice”—where she was fired on three different seasons. Her credentials include a Ph.D. in communications, a preacher’s license, and topping TV Guide’s list of greatest reality TV villains in 2008.

During the Clinton administration she held four jobs in two years, and was thoroughly disliked in all of them.

“She was asked to leave [her last job] as quickly as possible, she was so disruptive,” said Cheryl Shavers, the former Under Secretary for Technology at the Commerce Department. “One woman wanted to slug her.”

In February, 2016, she appeared on a segment on Maria Bartiromo’s Fox Business show. Fox panelist Tamera Holder said that she would like Trump more if he expressed support for Black Lives Matter or put forward a plan to improve inner cities.

Manigault argued that the topic of the discussion should be limited to Trump’s criticism of the Iraq war. In doing so, she mispronounced Holder’s first name.

Then occurred this exchange:

Holder: “It’s Tamara.”

Manigault: “It’s the same difference, boo. You want to come on with big boobs, then you deal with the pronunciation of your name.”

“Wait a second,” Bartiromo interrupted. “Why are you bringing up Tamara’s boobs?”

Manigault: “Because she started going back talking about, ‘Oh, you were a Democrat and you supported Hillary Clinton.’ If you want to get personal, we can get personal.”

Holder: “Wait, how does who you support have to do with the size of my boobs? Considering that this is how I was born. I mean, I’m sorry.”

Manigault: “I’m sorry, I should have called you a boob. Can we talk about Donald Trump?”

Manigault wasn’t bothered that blacks regarded Trump so poorly in polls: “My reality is that I’m surrounded by people who want to see Donald Trump as the next president of the United States who are African-American.”

And, in September, 2016, she famously predicted: “Every critic, every detractor will have to bow down to President Trump. It’s everyone who’s ever doubted Donald, who ever disagreed, who ever challenged him. It is the ultimate revenge to become the most powerful man in the universe.”

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Omarosa Manigault

When Trump moved into the White House on January 20, 2017, Manigault moved in with him as his director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison.

In June, she invited the Congressional Black Caucus (CBS) to visit the White House.  And she signed the invitation: “The Honorable Omarosa Manigault.”  This is not a title given to political aides. And it’s not used by those referring to themselves.

The arrogance offended some members of the CBS, which declined the invitation.

In August, Manigault appeared at the National Association of Black Journalists convention in New Orleans. She was a panelist on a discussion about losing loved ones to violence.  When the moderator, Ed Gordon, asked her about Trump’s policies and not her personal history with losing family members through violence, Manigault got into a shouting match with him.

On December 13, she was told that she would be leaving the White House on January 20, 2018–one year from the day she had arrived there. She reportedly asked Ivanka Trump to intervene on her behalf, but the request was denied.

Deciding to go right to the top, she headed for the Trump’s private quarters. There she tripped an alarm—which brought guards and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly to the scene.

An enraged Kelly ordered her ejected from the White House.

Multiple sources report that she had to be physically restrained and escorted—cursing and screaming—from the Executive Mansion.

Early reports said the Secret Service did the escorting, but the agency denied this: “Our only involvement in this matter was to deactivate the individual’s pass which grants access to the complex.”

Next day—December 14—Manigault appeared on “Good Morning America.” The woman who had been Trump’s ambassador to blacks now sang a different tune: “There were a lot of things that I observed during the last year that I was very unhappy with, that I was very uncomfortable with.

“I have seen things that made me uncomfortable, that have upset me, that have affected me deeply and emotionally, that has affected my community and my people. And when I can tell my story, it is a profound story that I know the world will want to hear.”

LIES ATTACK ONE PRESIDENT, TRUTH DAMNS ANOTHER

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on December 5, 2017 at 12:11 am

For five years, Donald Trump falsely claimed that President Barack Obama was born in Kenya—and was therefore ineligible to be President.

Now Trump finds himself haunted by something far worse than a slander: The truth.

Since taking office on January 20, Trump has been ensnared in a series of revelations about collaboration between members of his 2016 Presidential campaign and Russian Intelligence agents.

The FBI, CIA and National Security Agency have unequivocally stated that Russian Intelligence played a major role in trying to sway the election for Trump. 

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TRUMP’S DENIALS:

October 24, 2016: “I have nothing to do with Russia, folks, I’ll give you a written statement.”   

December 11, 2016 “They have no idea if it’s Russia or China or somebody. It could be somebody sitting in a bed some place. I mean, they have no idea.” 

August 3, 2017: “Most people know there were no Russians in our campaign; there never were. We didn’t win because of Russia; we won because of you,”

July 27, 2016: “I mean I have nothing to do with Russia. I don’t have any jobs in Russia. I’m all over the world but we’re not involved in Russia.”

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Donald Trump

January 11, 2017: “Russia has never tried to use leverage over me. I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA – NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!”

February 7, 2017: “I don’t know [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, have no deals in Russia, and the haters are going crazy – yet Obama can make a deal with Iran, #1 in terror, no problem!”

February 16, 2017: “The Democrats had to come up with a story as to why they lost the election, and so badly (306), so they made up a story – RUSSIA. Fake news!”

May 8, 2017: “The Russia-Trump collusion story is a total hoax, when will this taxpayer funded charade end?”

TRUMP’S BEHAVIOR:

May 9, 2017:  Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. Comey had been leading an investigation into alleged collusion between Trump advisers and Russian officials when he was fired.

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James Comey

At first, Trump claimed that he fired Comey for mishandling the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. 

May 10, 2017: But, in a meeting at the White House, Trump told Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak: “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

May 11, 2017:  In an interview with NBC reporter Lester Holt, Trump admitted:

“And, in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said: ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won.’” 

May 17, 2017: Following the uproar over Comey’s firing, the Justice Department appointed former FBI director Robert Mueller as Special Counsel to investigate any links the between Russian government and Trump campaign members.

July 8, 2017:  The New York Times reported that Donald Trump Junior met at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016, with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer who promised to offer damaging information about Clinton.

Trump Junior released a statement: “We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago and was since ended by the Russian government, but it was not a campaign issue at the time and there was no follow up.”

July 12 and July 16, 2017: Trump’s lawyer, Jay Sekulow, denied that the President was involved in drafting his son’s statement about the Trump Tower meeting.

July 20, 2017: The Washington Post reported that Trump was consulting with advisers “about his power to pardon aides, family members and even himself” in connection to the probe led by Mueller.

July 31, 2017: The Washington Post reported that, to conceal the purpose of the Trump Tower  meeting, President Trump dictated a misleading statement for his son. In this, the reason for the meeting was given as a discussion about the adoption of Russian children—and not to obtain damaging information on Clinton from Russian Intelligence agents.

August 1, 2017: White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said President Trump was involved in drafting the false statement that Trump Junior released about the Trump Tower meeting. Sanders called the matter “of no consequence.”

August 3, 2017: The Wall Street Journal reported that Mueller had convened a grand jury in Washington, D.C. to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. 

October 5, 2017: George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian government in 2016 concerning U.S.–Russia relations. He also agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s probe. Papadopoulos had been a member of Trump’s foreign policy advisory panel during the campaign. Prior to pleading guilty, he may have been wearing a hidden recorder while speaking with with various Trump officials.

December 1, 2017: Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about conversations with Russia’s ambassador. He added that he was cooperating with Mueller’s investigation. A fervent Trump supporter throughout the campaign, his immediate superior had been Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law.

For years, Trump claimed it was only a matter of time before “the truth” revealed that Barack Obama was ineligible to be President.  That never happened.

Now it seems only a matter of time before truth reveals Trump’s own unfitness to govern.

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