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Posts Tagged ‘2016 PRESIDENTIAL RACE’

YOUR CORONAVIRUS CZAR

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on March 16, 2020 at 12:09 am

On February 26, President Donald Trump appointed Vice President Mike Pence to lead a task force to combat the spread of the Coronavirus. 

In doing so, he rejected calls to appoint an outside medical expert.

This put the Federal medical establishment under a trusted sycophant—and gave Trump a convenient scapegoat if something went wrong.

So here’s what America is getting as its medical savior.

Michael Richard “Mike” Pence served as a Republican member of the House of Representatives from 2001 to 2013. He also served as Chairman of the House Republican Conference from 2009 to 2012.  His record included:

  • Voted, in 2007, to defund Planned Parenthood because it provides abortions.
  • Opposed, in 2009, giving American citizenship to children born to illegal aliens living within the United States.
  • Compared the U.S. Supreme Court’s upholding the Constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
  • Voted to eliminate funding for climate education programs and to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2012, he ran for Governor of Indiana, won the election, and assumed this office in 2013.

As Governor, Pence: 

  • Signed legislation in 2015 that repealed an 80-year-old Indiana law requiring construction companies working on publicly funded projects to pay a prevailing wage.
  • Successfully lobbied in 2013 to limit reductions in sentences for marijuana offenses.

On July 15, 2016, Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump announced on Twitter that he had selected Pence as his Vice Presidential running mate in the 2016 Presidential election.

But for all of Pence’s actions as Congressman and Governor, the one which may prove the most far-reaching may be this: His signing into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

As Governor of Indiana, he did this on March 26, 2015. The law allows any individual or corporation to cite its religious beliefs as a defense when sued by a private party.

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Mike Pence

Officially, its intent is to prevent the government from forcing business owners to act in ways contrary to strongly held religious beliefs. Unofficially, its purpose is to appease the hatred of gays and lesbians by the religious Right, a key constituency of the Republican party.

Thus, a bakery can legally refuse to make a cake for a gay wedding or a restaurant can refuse to serve lesbian patrons.

And a hospital can refuse to provide care to a gay or lesbian patient. 

The bill was passed overwhelmingly by both chambers of the Republican-controlled state legislature.  

“Today I signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, because I support the freedom of religion for every Hoosier of every faith,” Pence said in a statement on the day he signed the bill.

“The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action.”

Yet for all his praise for the bill, Pence signed it in a ceremony closed to the public and the press. The media were asked to leave even the waiting area of the governor’s office.

At least one unintended consequence of that legislation has already surfaced: The First Church of Cannabis.

The day after Pence signed the Act, church founder Bill Levin announced on his Facebook page that he had filed paperwork with the office of the Indiana Secretary of State.

Its registration had been approved—and Levin was ecstatic: “Now we begin to accomplish our goals of Love, Understanding, and Good Health.

“Donate $100 or more and become a GREEN ANGEL. Donate $500 or more and become a GOLD ANGEL. Donate $1000 or more and become a CHURCH POOHBA.”

This legislation has not only brought legal marijuana to Indiana. It may bring Sharia law as well.

Since 9/11, Right-wingers such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity have warned that Muslims are trying to impose Sharia (Islamic law) on America. And now Indiana’s legislators, in elevating religion above the law, may have laid the legal foundations for making that possible.

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Muslims demanding the imposition of Sharia law–on themselves and non-Muslims

What will happen when: 

  • Muslims in Indiana claim their right—guaranteed in Islamic religious law—to have as many as four wives?  
  • Muslims demand a taxpayer-funded “halal” non-pork food shelf at free food pantries for the poor? (Exactly this happened among Somali refugees in Minnesota in 2015.) 
  • Muslims demand that police departments cancel counter-terrorism courses by claiming that their materials are anti-Muslim? (Exactly this happened to several police departments in Illinois.)

And when they claim that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act protects those rights? 

Now that Pence is Coronizavirus Czar, it’s essential to remember:

  • In 2001, when he ran for Congress, he posted on his campaign website: “Despite the hysteria from the political class and the media, smoking doesn’t kill.”
  • As a Congressman, Pence voted against legislation allowing the Food and Drug Administration to regulate the tobacco industry.
  • During a CNN panel in 2002 about abstinence education, Pence said: “Frankly, condoms are a very, very poor protection against sexually transmitted diseases.”
  • In 2015, Indiana had an unprecedented HIV outbreak. Although the Centers for Disease Control recommended clean needle exchanges, Pence, as governor, opposed this.

As the Coronavirus threatens to overwhelm the United States as it has Italy, the appointment of Mike Pence as America’s Dr. Marcus Welby is not an event to celebrate.

WHY TYRANTS FEAR COURAGE: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on January 1, 2020 at 12:18 am

…A truly great man is ever the same under all circumstances. And if his fortune varies, exalting him at one moment and oppressing him at another, he himself never varies, but always preserves a firm courage, which is so closely interwoven with his character that everyone can readily see that the fickleness of fortune has no power over him.
The conduct of weak men is very different. Made vain and intoxicated by good fortune, they attribute their success to merits which they do not possess. And this makes them odious and insupportable to all around them. And when they have afterwards to meet a reverse of fortune, they quickly fall into the other extreme, and become abject and vile.
—N
iccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses

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Niccolo Machiavelli

When Donald Trump—as a businessman and President—has been confronted by men and women who can’t be bribed or intimidated, he has reacted with rage and frustration.

  • Trump boasted that he “never” settled cases out of court. But New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman pressed fraud claims against the real estate mogul’s counterfeit Trump University—and Trump settled the case out of court rather than take the stand.
  • “Today’s $25 million settlement agreement is a stunning reversal by Donald Trump,” said Schneiderman on November 18, 2016, “and a major victory for the over 6,000 victims of his fraudulent university.”
  • On May 17, 2017, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed former FBI Director Robert S. Mueller to investigate links between Russian Intelligence agents and the 2016 Trump Presidential campaign. 
  • Upon learning of his appointment, Trump wailed: “Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I’m fucked.” 
  • “How could you let this happen, Jeff?” Trump demanded of Jeff Sessions, his Attorney General. “You were supposed to protect me. Everyone tells me if you get one of these independent counsels, it ruins your presidency. It takes years and years and I won’t be able to do anything. This is the worst thing that ever happened to me.”
  • Throughout Mueller’s probe, Trump hurled repeated insults at him via Twitter and press conferences. He also called on his shills within Fox News and the Republican party to attack Mueller’s integrity and investigative methods.
  • But aides convinced him that firing Mueller would be rightly seen as obstruction of justice—and thus grounds for impeachment. So he never dared go that far.

Director Robert S. Mueller- III.jpg

Robert Mueller

Perhaps the key to Trump’s innermost fear can be found in a work of fiction—in this case, the 1996 historical novel, The Friends of Pancho Villa, by James Carlos Blake. 

The book depicts the Mexican Revolution (1910 – 1920) and its most famous revolutionary, Francisco “Pancho” Villa. it’s told from the viewpoint of Rodolfo Fierro, Villa’s most feared executioner. In one day, for example, Fierro—using two revolvers—executed 300 captured Federale soldiers.

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As in history, Blake’s Fierro presides over the execution of David Berlanga, a journalist who had dared criticize the often loutish behavior of Villa’s men.

On Villa’s command, Fierro approaches Berlanga in a Mexico City restaurant and orders: “Come with me.”

Standing against a barracks wall, Berlanga lights a cigar and requests permission to finish it. He then proceeds to smoke it with such a steady hand that its unbroken ash extends almost four inches.

The cigar finished, the ash still unbroken, Berlanga drops the butt to the ground and says calmly: “I’m ready.” 

Then the assembled firing squad does its work.

Later, Fierro is so shaken by Berlanga’s sheer fearlessness that he seeks an explanation for it. Sitting in a cantina, he lights a cigar and tries to duplicate Berlanga’s four-inch length.

But the best he can do is less than three inches. He concludes that Berlanga used a trick—but he can’t figure it out. 

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Rodolfo Fierro

It had to be a trick, Fierro insists, because, if it wasn’t, there were only two other explanations for such a calm demeanor in the face of impending death. 

The first was insanity. But Fierro rules this out: He had studied Berlanga’s eyes and found no madness there.

That leaves only one other explanation (other than a trick): Sheer courage. 

And Fierro can’t accept this, either—because it’s disturbing.  

“The power of men like me does not come solely from our ability to kill….No, the true source of our power is so obvious it sometimes goes unnoticed for what it is: our power comes from other men’s lack of courage.

“There is even less courage in this world than there is talent for killing. Men like me rule because most men are faint of heart in the shadow of death. 

“But a man brave enough to control his fear of being killed, control it so well that no tremor reaches his fingers and no sign shows in his eyes…well. Such a man cannot be ruled, he can only be killed.”

Throughout his life, Trump has relied on bribery and intimidation. He well understands the power of greed and fear over most people.

What he doesn’t understand—and truly fears—is that some people cannot be bought or frightened. 

People like Elliot Ness. Like Robert Mueller. And like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

WHY TYRANTS FEAR COURAGE: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on December 31, 2019 at 12:07 am

On July 14, President Donald Trump unleashed a brutal Twitter attack on four Democratic members of the House of Representatives who had harshly criticized his anti-immigration policies:

“So interesting to see “Progressive” Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly……

“….and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how….

“….it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!”  

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Donald Trump

The Democrats—all female, and all non-white—were:

  • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York;
  • Rashida Tlaib of Michigan;
  • Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and
  • Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.

Of the Congresswomen that Trump singled out:

  • Cortez was born in New York City.
  • Tlaib was born in Detroit, Michigan. 
  • Pressley was born in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Only Omar was born outside the United States—in Somalia. And she became an American citizen in 2000 when she was 17 years old. 

Critics have assailed Trump as racist for implying that these women were not United States citizens. 

Moreover, as members of Congress, they had a legal right to declare “how our government is to be run.”  Republicans in the House and Senate vigorously—and often viciously—asserted that right during the Presidency of Barack Obama.

Ocasio-Cortez quickly struck back on Twitter on the same day: “You are angry because you don’t believe in an America where I represent New York 14, where the good people of Minnesota elected , where fights for Michigan families, where champions little girls in Boston.

“You are angry because you can’t conceive of an America that includes us. You rely on a frightened America for your plunder.

“You won’t accept a nation that sees healthcare as a right or education as a #1 priority, especially where we’re the ones fighting for it. Yet here we are.”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, official portrait, 116th Congress.jpg

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

But then followed the most significant part of Cortez’ reply:

“But you know what’s the rub of it all, Mr. President? On top of not accepting an America that elected us, you cannot accept that we don’t fear you, either.

“You can’t accept that we will call your bluff & offer a positive vision for this country. And that’s what makes you seethe.”

“You cannot accept that we don’t fear you, either.”

For all his adult life, Donald Trump—as a businessman, Presidential candidate and now President—has trafficked in bribery and coercion.

First bribery: 

  • Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi personally solicited a political contribution from Donald Trump around the same time her office deliberated joining an investigation of alleged fraud at Trump University and its affiliates. 
  • After Bondi dropped the Trump University case, he wrote her a $25,000 check for her re-election campaign. The money came from the Donald J. Trump Foundation.
  • Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton moved to muzzle a former state regulator who says he was ordered in 2010 to drop a fraud investigation into Trump University for political reasons.
  • Paxton’s office issued a cease and desist letter to former Deputy Chief of Consumer Protection John Owens after he made public copies of a 14-page internal summary of the state’s case against Donald Trump for scamming millions from students of his now-defunct real estate seminar.
  • After the Texas case was dropped, Trump cut a $35,000 check to the gubernatorial campaign of then-attorney general and now Texas Governor Greg Abbott.

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Now coercion:

  • Throughout his career as a businessman, Trump forced his employees to sign Non-Disclosure Agreements, threatening them with lawsuits if they revealed secrets of his greed and/or criminality.
  • In 2016. USA Today found that Trump was involved in over 3,500 lawsuits during the previous 30 years: “At least 60 lawsuits, along with hundreds of liens, judgments, and other government filings” were from contractors claiming they got stiffed.
  • On March 16, 2016, as a Republican Presidential candidate, Trump warned Republicans that if he didn’t win the GOP nomination in July, his supporters would literally riot: “I think you’d have riots. I think you would see problems like you’ve never seen before. I think bad things would happen, I really do. I wouldn’t lead it, but I think bad things would happen.”
  • An NBC reporter summed it up as: “The message to Republicans was clear: ‘Nice convention you got there. Shame if something happened to it.'”
  • Speaking with Bob Woodward, the legendary Washington Post investigative reporter, Trump confessed: “Real power is—I don’t even want to use the word—fear.”
  • During his Presidential campaign he encouraged Right-wing thugs to attack dissenters at his rallies, even claiming he would pay their legal expenses. 

But when he has confronted men and women who can’t be bribed or intimidated, Trump has reacted with rage and desperation.

IS IT TRUMP? OR IS IT CALIGULA?: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 9, 2019 at 12:06 am

Unlike Gaius Caligula, Donald Trump hasn’t yet been charged with murder. But he has often boasted: “Get even with people. If they screw you, screw them back 10 times as hard. I really believe that.”

And during his rise as a business mogul, he hired mobbed-up firms to erect Trump Tower and his Trump Plaza apartment building in Manhattan. Among his business associates: Mafia bosses Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno and Paul Castellano.

If Trump hasn’t ordered rub-outs, there’s no question that many of the mobsters he’s dealt with have.

And during his second Presidential debate with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, he previewed the dangers of a Trump Justice Department: “If I win I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation.”  

Reports have since emerged that he tried to pressure Acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein into prosecuting Clinton—even though there was no evidence that she had committed a crime.

As emperor of Rome, Caligula’s egomania soon reached psychotic heights.

  • He  gave himself several surnames: “Pious,” “Child of the Camp,” “Father of the Armies,” and “Greatest and Best of Caesars.”
  • Flattered that he had risen higher than princes and kings, he began to believe himself a god.
  • He appeared at the temple of Castor and Pollux to be worshiped as Jupiter Latiaris.
  • He also set up a special temple to his own godhead.

Gaius Caligula

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

Among the references he’s made to himself: 

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

When Caligula wasn’t ordering wholesale Stalin-like purges—ranging from Roman aristocrats to slaves—he was setting new records for debauchery.

According to the Roman historian Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus: “He lived in habitual incest with all his [three] sisters, and at a large banquet he placed each of them in turn below him, while his wife reclined above. Of these he is believed to have violated Drusilla when he was still a minor.”

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

  • “Yeah, she’s really something, and what a beauty, that one. If I weren’t happily married and, ya know, her father …”
  • When Trump appeared on the Dr. Oz Show, he was joined on stage by Ivanka. After they kissed, Dr. Oz said: “It’s nice to see a dad kiss his daughter.” Trump: “I kiss her every chance I get.”  The remark was edited before the show aired.
  • When asked how he would react if Ivanka, a former teen model, posed forPlayboy, Trump replied: “I don’t think Ivanka would do that, although she does have a very nice figure. I’ve said if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.”  

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Ivanka Trump

For all his cruelty and egomania, the trait that finally destroyed Caligula was his joy in humiliating others. 

His fatal mistake was to taunt Cassius Chaerea, a member of his own bodyguard. Caligula considered Chaerea effeminate because of a weak voice and mocked him with names like “Priapus” and “Venus.”

On January 22 41 A.D. Chaerea and several other bodyguards hacked Caligula to death with swords before other guards could save him.

Like Caligula, Trump may find that his joy in inflicting suffering on others may ultimately destroy him.

By December 28, 2018, the New York Times estimated that Trump had insulted 551 people, places and institutions since declaring his candidacy for President in 2015.  

Before taking office as President, Trump added to this list the United States Secret Service. He did so by keeping his longtime private security force, and combining its members with those of the elite federal agency.

Marginalizing the Secret Service sent a clear and insulting message: “You’re not good enough, and I don’t trust you.”

Among the agencies directly affected by the Trump-ordered government shutdown, now into its 18th day: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS)—whose employees include the Secret Service agents who protect Trump.

In short: The men and women guarding Trump are facing financial ruin—along with their families—because Trump didn’t get his way on “The Wall.” 

In the 1981 movie, Prince of the City—based on the real-life career of NYPD Detective Robert Leuci—a Mafia killer warns a cop who will soon testify against police corruption: “Anybody can be hit. You know that. All those guards have to do is look the wrong way for a second.”

Secret Service agents now face a choice: To take a bullet for a tyrant masquerading as President—or for their families threatened with ruin.

It remains to be seen if Trump suffers the same fate of Caligula.

IS IT TRUMP? OR IS IT CALIGULA?: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 6, 2019 at 12:09 am

Like Gaius Caligula, the “mad emperor” of ancient Rome, Donald Trump can truly say: “Let them hate me, so long as they fear me.”

In fact, he said exactly that to Bob Woodward, the legendary Washington Post investigative reporter: “Real power is—I don’t even want to use the word—fear.”

Similarities between Trump and Caligula emerged well before Trump entered the White House.

On October 7, 2016, The Washington Post leaked a video of Donald Trump making sexually predatory comments about women.

The remarks came during a 2005 exchange with Billy Bush, then the host of Access Hollywood (and now host of Today). 

Billy Bush

Daniel S.-L. [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons

The two were traveling in an Access Hollywood bus to the set of the soap opera Days of Our Lives, where Trump was to make a cameo appearance.

Neither Trump nor Bush could be seen during the exchange–the video focuses entirely on the bus. But the audio came in clearly–and, for Trump, damningly:

Donald Trump:You know and I moved on her actually. You know she was down on Palm Beach. I moved on her and I failed. I’ll admit it.  I did try and fuck her. She was married.

Unknown: That’s huge news.

Trump:No, no, Nancy. No this was—and I moved on her very heavily, in fact, I took her out furniture shopping. She wanted to get some furniture. I said I’ll show you where they have some nice furniture.

I took her out furniture. I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there, and she was married. Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phony tits and everything. She’s totally changed her look.

[At that point, they spot Arianne Zucker, the starring actress in Days in Our Lives.] 

Arianne Zucker

Greg Hernandez from California, CA, USA [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Bush: Sheesh, your girl’s hot as shit. In the purple. Yes! The Donald has scored. Whoa, my man!

Trump: Look at you. You are a pussy. Maybe it’s a different one.

Bush: It better not be the publicist. No, it’s her. It’s—

Trump: Yeah, that’s her. With the gold. I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful—I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything.

Bush: Whatever you want.

Trump: Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything. 

Gaius Caligula—who lived in open incest with his three sisters—couldn’t have said it better. 

When the Washington Post broke the story on October 7, the reaction was immediate—and explosive. 

Caligula’s life spanned August 31, 12 A.D. to January 24, 41 A.D. His chief biographer was Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus.

Gaius Caligula

Trump was born on June 14, 1946.

Caligula became Emperor in 37 A.D. after succeeding the Emperor Tiberius, his uncle who had adopted him as a son after his father died.

Trump was elected President on November 8, 2016, after winning 304 electoral votes to 227 for his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.

Trump began his real estate career at his father’s real estate and construction company. He rose to wealth and fame after his father, Fred, gave him control of the business in 1971.

Caligula’s reign began well—and popularly. He gave Tiberius a magnificent funeral—then recalled to Rome all those whom Tiberius had banished, and ignored all charges that Tiberius had leveled against them.

He gave bonuses to the military and destroyed lists of those Tiberius had declared traitors. He allowed the magistrates unrestricted jurisdiction, without appeal to himself.

Similarly, soon after acquiring the family business, Trump set out to build his own empire—hotels, golf courses, casinos, skyscrapers across North and South America, Europe and Asia. He named many of them after himself.

He appeared at the Miss USA pageants, which he owned from 1996 to 2015. He hosted and co-produced The Apprentice, an NBC reality television series from 2004 to 2015.

The ancient historians describe Caligula as a noble and enlightened ruler during the first six months of his reign. But in October 37 A.D. he fell seriously ill or perhaps was poisoned.

Caligula soon recovered but emerged a changed man. He began laying claim to divine majesty, and killing or exiling anyone he saw as a threat.  

Among his litany of crimes, according to his biographer, Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus:

“He forced parents to attend the executions of their sons, sending a litter for one man who pleaded ill health, and inviting another to dinner immediately after witnessing the death, and trying to rouse him to gaiety and jesting by a great show of affability.”

He favorite method of execution was to have a victim tortured with many slight wounds. His infamous order for this: “Strike so that he may feel that he is dying.”   

Similarly, Trump delights in personal cruelties. During his campaign he encouraged Right-wing thugs to attack dissenters, even claiming he would pay their legal expenses.

He mocked  Christine Blasey Ford, the psychology professor who accused his Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, of trying to rape her when she was a teenager. 

And he delights in belittling his own Cabinet members: “He’s like a little rat. He just scurries around,” he said of Reince Priebus, his chief of staff.

A LEGACY LOST WITH JFK

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 25, 2019 at 12:17 am

Fifty-six years ago, on November 22, 1963, two bullets slammed into the neck and head of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

It has been said that JFK left his country with three great legacies:

  • The Nuclear Test Ban Treaty;
  • The Apollo moon landing; and
  • The Vietnam war.

Of these, the following can be said with certainty:

  • The Test Ban Treaty has prevented atmospheric testing—and poisoning—by almost all the world’s nuclear powers.
  • After reaching the moon—in 1969—Americans quickly lost interest in space and have today largely abandoned plans for manned exploration. For America, as for JFK, beating the Russians to the moon was the end-goal.
  • By the time JFK died, 16,000 Americans were serving in Vietnam, with more than 70 casualties.
  • Under Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, 58,000 Americans died in Vietnam; 153,303 were wounded; and billions of dollars were squandered in a hopeless effort to intervene in what was essentially a Vietnamese civil war. From 1965 to 1972, the war angrily divided Americas as had no event since the Civil War.

But there was a fourth legacy—and perhaps the most important of all: The belief that mankind could overcome its greatest challenges through rationality and perseverance.

 White House painting of JFK

At American University on June 10, 1963, Kennedy asked his fellow Americans to re-examine the events and attitudes that had led to the Cold War. And he declared that the search for peace was by no means hopeless:

“Our problems are man-made; therefore, they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings.

“Man’s reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable, and we believe they can do it again.”

Today, Democrats and Republicans cannot agree on solutions to even the most vital national problems.

On November 21, 2011, the 12 members of the “Super-Committee” of Congress, tasked with finding $1.2 trillion in cuts in government spending, couldn’t reach agreement.

President Kennedy insisted on being well-informed. He speed-read several newspapers every morning and nourished personal relationships with the press—but not for altruistic reasons. These journalistic contacts gave Kennedy additional sources of information and perspectives on national and international issues.

During the 2012 Presidential campaign, Republican candidates celebrated their ignorance of both.

  • Former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain famously said, “We need a leader, not a reader”—thus excusing his ignorance for why President Barack Obama had intervened in Libya.
  • Texas Governor Rick Perry (and now Secretary of Energy) didn’t know there are nine judges on the United States Supreme Court: “Well, obviously, I know there are nine Supreme Court judges. I don’t know how eight came out my mouth. But the, uh, the fact is, I can tell you—I don’t have memorized all of those Supreme Court judges. And, uh, ah—
  • “Here’s what I do know. That when I put an individual on the Supreme Court, just like I done in Texas, ah, we got nine Supreme Court justices in Texas, ah, they will be strict constructionists….”
  • In short, it’s the media’s fault if your answer reveals your ignorance, stupidity and/or criminality.
  • Sarah Palin rewrote history via “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere”: “He warned the British that they weren’t going to be taking away our arms by ringing those bells and, um, making sure as he’s riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that, uh, we were going to be secure and we were going to be free.” 
  • In fact, Revere wasn’t warning the British about anything. Instead, he was warning his fellow  Americans about an impending British attack–as his celebrated catchphrase “The British are coming!” made clear.

During the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy spoke with aides about a book he had just finished: Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August, about the events leading to World War 1.

He said that the book’s most important revelation was how European leaders had blindly rushed into war, without thought to the possible consequences. Kennedy told his aides he did not intend to make the same mistake—that, having read his history, he was determined to learn from it.

Republicans attacked President Obama for his Harvard education and articulate use of language. Among their taunts: “Hitler also gave good speeches.”

And they resented his having earned most of his income as a writer of two books: Dreams From My Father and The Audacity of Hope.  As if being a writer is somehow subversive.

Donald Trump has publicly celebrated ignorance. After winning the Nevada Republican primary in 2016, he declared: “We won with poorly educated. I love the poorly educated.”

Similarly, 58% of Republicans and Right-wingers believe that higher education has a negative effect on the country.

In retrospect, the funeral for President Kennedy marked the death of Americans’ pride in choosing reasoning and educated citizens for their leaders. And in seeking a reasoning and educated future for their children.

When knowledge and literacy are attacked as “highfalutin’” arrogance, and ignorance and incoherence are embraced as sincerity, national decline lies just around the corner.

The Eternal Flame at the grave of President John F. Kennedy

THE TYRANT WHO WOULD BE KING: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on October 8, 2019 at 12:04 am

As both a Presidential candidate and President, Donald 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. 

Donald Trump

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

During the 2016 Presidential campaign, Trump aimed insults at both Democratic and Republican rivals. Among these:

  • “Little Marco” – Florida U.S. Senator Marco Rubio 
  • “Goofy” – Massachusetts U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren 
  • “Lyin’ Ted” – Texas U.S. Senator Rafael Eduardo “Ted” Cruz 
  • “Crooked Hillary” – Hillary Clinton, former First Lady and Secretary of State
  • “Low Energy Jeb” – Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush
  • “Crazy Bernie” – Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders

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Adam Schiff, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee

But now someone—no less than Adam Schiff (D-CA), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee—has dared give Trump a taste of his own ridicule medicine.

In July, 2019, Trump told his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, to withhold almost $400 million in promised military aid for Ukraine, which faces increasing aggression from Russia.

On July 25, Trump telephoned Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to “request” a “favor”: Investigate 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, who has had business dealings in Ukraine.

The reason for such an investigation: To find embarrassing “dirt” on Biden.

But then a CIA whistleblower filed a complaint about the extortion attempt—and the media and Congress soon learned of it. 

Schiff tweeted: “The transcript of the call reads like a classic mob shakedown: — We do a lot for Ukraine — There’s not much reciprocity — I have a favor to ask — Investigate my opponent — My people will be in touch — Nice country you got there. It would be a shame if something happened to her.”

Then, even worse for Trump’s ego, Schiff went further.

On September 26, during a session of the Intelligence Committee, Schiff gave a dramatic reading—part news summary, part parody—of the call with Zelensky.

He prefaced the reading by saying, “In not so many words, this is the essence of what the President communicates.

“President Zelensky, eager to establish himself at home as the friend of the President of the most powerful nation on earth, had at least two objectives: Get a meeting with the President and get more military help. And so what happened on that call?

“Zelensky begins by ingratiating himself, and he tries to enlist the support of the President. He expresses his interest in meeting with the President, and says his country wants to acquire more weapons from us to defend itself.

“And what is the President’s response? Well, it reads like a classic organized crime shakedown.

“Shorn of its rambling character and in not so many words, this is the essence of what the President communicates. ‘We’ve been very good to your country. Very good. No other country has done as much as we have. But you know what? I don’t see much reciprocity here.

“‘I hear what you want. I have a favor I want from you, though. And I’m going to say this only seven times, so you better listen good. I want you to make up dirt on my political opponent. Understand? Lots of it, on this and on that.

“‘I’m going to put you in touch with people, and not just any people. I’m going to put you in touch with the attorney general of the United States, my attorney general, Bill Barr. He’s got the whole weight of the American law enforcement behind him. And I’m going to put you in touch with Rudy [Trump’s personal attorney and fixer].

“‘You’re going to love him [Giuliani]. Trust me. You know what I’m asking? And so I’m only going to say this a few more times in a few more ways. And by the way, don’t call me again. I’ll call you when you’ve done what I asked.'”

Trump and his shills—in and out of Congress—were outraged.

On September 29, Trump tweeted: “….Schiff made up what I actually said by lying to Congress……

“His lies were made in perhaps the most blatant and sinister manner ever seen in the great Chamber. He wrote down and read terrible things, then said it was from the mouth of the President of the United States. I want Schiff questioned at the highest level for Fraud & Treason…..”  

Treason? 

Trump has clearly assumed for himself the mantle and power of a king—when criticizing a monarch was seen as attacking the country itself. 

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Donald Trump as Henry VIII

And Schiff’s response?

Asked about his comments by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Schiff said, “I think everyone understood—and my GOP colleagues may feign otherwise. But when I said, suggested, that it was as if the President said, ‘Listen carefully, because I’m only gonna tell you seven more times’—that I was mocking the President’s conduct.”  

Adam Schiff may not be Basil Rathbone, the British actor whose silky, flowing voice produced phonographic retellings of classics like The Jungle Books and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

But he certainly knows how to give a reading that gets under the skin of the Insulter-in-Chief.

THE TYRANT WHO WOULD BE KING: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on October 7, 2019 at 12:09 am

Reince Priebus, the incoming White House Chief of Staff for soon-to-be President Donald J. Trump, was furious.

There were three reasons for his outrage.

First, millions of Americans were questioning whether Trump was legitimately elected. Their suspicions were based on solid evidence: According to  the American Intelligence community, Russian President Vladimir Putin intervened in the 2016 Presidential election to ensure his victory over Hillary Clinton.

Second, among those Americans were members of the United States Congress—such as Georgia Democratic Representative John Lewis.

On the January 15 edition of “Meet the Press,” Lewis was asked by host Chuck Todd: “Do you plan on trying to forge a relationship with Donald Trump?”

“No,” said Lewis. “I believe in forgiveness. I believe in trying to work with people. It’s going to be hard. It’s going to be very difficult. I don’t see this President-elect as a legitimate president.”

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John Lewis

“You do not consider him a legitimate president. Why is that?”

“I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected and they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton.”

And the third reason Priebus was outraged: He believed—or at least claimed to believe—that President Barack Obama should vouch for Trump’s legitimacy.

“I think President Obama should step up,” Priebus said January 15 on ABC’s “This Week.” “We’ve had a great relationship with the White House….I think the administration can do a lot of good by telling folks that are on the Republican side of the aisle, look, we may have lost the election on the Democratic side, but it’s time to come together.”

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Reince Priebus

“You didn’t have Republicans questioning whether or not Obama legitimately beat John McCain in 2008,” Priebus added.

“This Week” host George Stephanopoulos replied that Trump had questioned Obama’s legitimacy as an American citizen until almost the end of the 2016 Presidential race.

“But look, George, that’s not the point!” Priebus said, visibly agitated. “The point is not where Barack Obama was born! The point is that we’ve got congressmen on the Democratic side of the aisle that are questioning the legitimacy of President-elect Trump.”  

In short: Let’s ignore Trump’s five-year slander campaign against the legitimacy of President Obama. What’s important is that people are questioning the legitimacy of a Republican elected with the help of Russian Communists.  

In 2011, Trump, then-host of NBC’s “The Apprentice,” was thinking of running for President against Obama.

Seeking to gain popularity among America’s Right-wing, Trump almost singlehandedly created the popular fiction that Obama was born in Kenya—and was not an American citizen.

His motive: To convince Americans that Obama was an illegitimate President.

The United States Constitution requires that the President be a natural-born citizen.

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Donald Trump

Among the statements Trump made:

February 10, 2011: “Our current president came out of nowhere. Came out of nowhere. In fact, I’ll go a step further: The people that went to school with him, they never saw him, they don’t know who he is. It’s crazy.”

March 23, 2011: “I want him to show his birth certificate. I want him to show his birth certificate. … There’s something on that birth certificate that he doesn’t like.”

March 28, 2011: “I am really concerned” [that Obama wasn’t born in the United States]. He said that the birth announcement for Obama in a Hawaii newspaper could have been planted “for whatever reason.”

March 30, 2011: “If you are going to be president of the United States you have to be born in this country. And there is a doubt as to whether or not he was. … He doesn’t have a birth certificate. He may have one, but there’s something on that, maybe religion, maybe it says he is a Muslim. I don’t know. Maybe he doesn’t want that. Or he may not have one. But I will tell you this. If he wasn’t born in this country, it’s one of the great scams of all time.”

April 7, 2011: “I have people that have been studying it, and they cannot believe what they’re finding. You are not allowed to be a president if you’re not born in this country. Right now I have real doubts.”

April 25, 2011: “I’ve been told very recently…that the birth certificate is missing. I’ve been told that it’s not there or it doesn’t exist. And if that’s the case, it’s a big problem.”

On April 27, President Obama released his original, long-form Hawiian birth certificate.

The long-form version of President Obama’s birth certificate

“We do not have time for this kind of silliness,” said Obama at a press conference, speaking as a father might to a roomful of spiteful children. “We have better stuff to do. I have got better stuff to do. We have got big problems to solve.

“We are not going to be able to do it if we are distracted, we are not going to be able to do it if we spend time vilifying each other…if we just make stuff up and pretend that facts are not facts, we are not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by side shows and carnival barkers.”

On May 1, the President announced the solving of one of those “big problems”: Osama bin Laden, mastermind of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, had been tracked down and shot dead by elite U.S. Navy SEALS in Pakistan.

WHAT TYRANTS MOST FEAR: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 19, 2019 at 12:08 am

…A truly great man is ever the same under all circumstances. And if his fortune varies, exalting him at one moment and oppressing him at another, he himself never varies, but always preserves a firm courage, which is so closely interwoven with his character that everyone can readily see that the fickleness of fortune has no power over him.
The conduct of weak men is very different. Made vain and intoxicated by good fortune, they attribute their success to merits which they do not possess. And this makes them odious and insupportable to all around them. And when they have afterwards to meet a reverse of fortune, they quickly fall into the other extreme, and become abject and vile.
—N
iccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses

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Niccolo Machiavelli

When Donald Trump—as a businessman and President—has been confronted by men and women who can’t be bribed or intimidated, he has reacted with rage and frustration.

  • Trump boasted that he “never” settled cases out of court. But New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman pressed fraud claims against the real estate mogul’s counterfeit Trump University—and Trump settled the case out of court rather than take the stand.
  • “Today’s $25 million settlement agreement is a stunning reversal by Donald Trump,” said Schneiderman on November 18, 2016, “and a major victory for the over 6,000 victims of his fraudulent university.”
  • On May 17, 2017, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed former FBI Director Robert S. Mueller to investigate links between Russian Intelligence agents and the 2016 Trump Presidential campaign. 
  • Upon learning of his appointment, Trump wailed: “Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I’m fucked.” 
  • “How could you let this happen, Jeff?” Trump demanded of Jeff Sessions, his Attorney General. “You were supposed to protect me. Everyone tells me if you get one of these independent counsels, it ruins your presidency. It takes years and years and I won’t be able to do anything. This is the worst thing that ever happened to me.”
  • Throughout Mueller’s probe, Trump hurled repeated insults at him via Twitter and press conferences. He also called on his shills within Fox News and the Republican party to attack Mueller’s integrity and investigative methods.
  • But aides convinced him that firing Mueller would be rightly seen as obstruction of justice—and thus grounds for impeachment. So he never dared go that far.

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Robert Mueller

Perhaps the key to Trump’s innermost fear can be found in a work of fiction—in this case, the 1996 historical novel, The Friends of Pancho Villa, by James Carlos Blake. 

The book depicts the Mexican Revolution (1910 – 1920) and its most famous revolutionary, Francisco “Pancho” Villa. it’s told from the viewpoint of Rodolfo Fierro, Villa’s most feared executioner. In one day, for example, Fierro—using two revolvers—executed 300 captured Federale soldiers.

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As in history, Blake’s Fierro presides over the execution of David Berlanga, a journalist who had dared criticize the often loutish behavior of Villa’s men.

On Villa’s command, Fierro approaches Berlanga in a Mexico City restaurant and orders: “Come with me.”

Standing against a barracks wall, Berlanga lights a cigar and requests permission to finish it. He then proceeds to smoke it with such a steady hand that its unbroken ash extends almost four inches.

The cigar finished, the ash still unbroken, Berlanga drops the butt to the ground and says calmly: “I’m ready.” 

Then the assembled firing squad does its work.

Later, Fierro is so shaken by Berlanga’s sheer fearlessness that he seeks an explanation for it. Sitting in a cantina, he lights a cigar and tries to duplicate Berlanga’s four-inch length.

But the best he can do is less than three inches. He concludes that Berlanga used a trick—but he can’t figure it out. 

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Rodolfo Fierro

It had to be a trick, Fierro insists, because, if it wasn’t, there were only two other explanations for such a calm demeanor in the face of impending death. 

The first was insanity. But Fierro rules this out: He had studied Berlanga’s eyes and found no madness there.

That leaves only one other explanation (other than a trick): Sheer courage. 

And Fierro can’t accept this, either—because it’s disturbing.  

“The power of men like me does not come solely from our ability to kill….No, the true source of our power is so obvious it sometimes goes unnoticed for what it is: our power comes from other men’s lack of courage.

“There is even less courage in this world than there is talent for killing. Men like me rule because most men are faint of heart in the shadow of death.

“But a man brave enough to control his fear of being killed, control it so well that no tremor reaches his fingers and no sign shows in his eyes…well. Such a man cannot be ruled, he can only be killed.”

Throughout his life, Trump has relied on bribery and intimidation. He well understands the power of greed and fear over most people.

What he doesn’t understand—and truly fears—is that some people cannot be bought or frightened. 

People like Elliot Ness. Like Robert Mueller. And like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

WHAT TYRANTS MOST FEAR: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 18, 2019 at 12:06 am

On July 14, President Donald Trump unleashed a brutal Twitter attack on four Democratic members of the House of Representatives who had harshly criticized his anti-immigration policies:

“So interesting to see “Progressive” Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly……

“….and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how….

“….it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!”  

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Donald Trump

The Democrats—all female, and all non-white—were:

  • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York;
  • Rashida Tlaib of Michigan;
  • Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and
  • Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.

Of the Congresswomen that Trump singled out:

  • Cortez was born in New York City.
  • Tlaib was born in Detroit, Michigan. 
  • Pressley was born in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Only Omar was born outside the United States—in Somalia. And she became an American citizen in 2000 when she was 17 years old. 

Critics have assailed Trump as racist for implying that these women were not United States citizens. 

Moreover, as members of Congress, they had a legal right to declare “how our government is to be run.”  Republicans in the House and Senate vigorously—and often viciously—asserted that right during the Presidency of Barack Obama.

Ocasio-Cortez quickly struck back on Twitter on the same day: “You are angry because you don’t believe in an America where I represent New York 14, where the good people of Minnesota elected , where fights for Michigan families, where champions little girls in Boston.

“You are angry because you can’t conceive of an America that includes us. You rely on a frightened America for your plunder.

“You won’t accept a nation that sees healthcare as a right or education as a #1 priority, especially where we’re the ones fighting for it. Yet here we are.”

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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

But then followed the most significant part of Cortez’ reply:

“But you know what’s the rub of it all, Mr. President? On top of not accepting an America that elected us, you cannot accept that we don’t fear you, either.

“You can’t accept that we will call your bluff & offer a positive vision for this country. And that’s what makes you seethe.”

“You cannot accept that we don’t fear you, either.”

For all his adult life, Donald Trump—as a businessman, Presidential candidate and now President—has trafficked in bribery and coercion.  First bribery: 

  • Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi personally solicited a political contribution from Donald Trump around the same time her office deliberated joining an investigation of alleged fraud at Trump University and its affiliates.
  • After Bondi dropped the Trump University case, he wrote her a $25,000 check for her re-election campaign. The money came from the Donald J. Trump Foundation.
  • Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton moved to muzzle a former state regulator who says he was ordered in 2010 to drop a fraud investigation into Trump University for political reasons.
  • Paxton’s office issued a cease and desist letter to former Deputy Chief of Consumer Protection John Owens after he made public copies of a 14-page internal summary of the state’s case against Donald Trump for scamming millions from students of his now-defunct real estate seminar.
  • After the Texas case was dropped, Trump cut a $35,000 check to the gubernatorial campaign of then-attorney general and now Texas Governor Greg Abbott.
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Now coercion:
  • Throughout his career as a businessman, Trump forced his employees to sign Non-Disclosure Agreements, threatening them with lawsuits if they revealed secrets of his greed and/or criminality.
  • In 2016. USA Today found that Trump was involved in over 3,500 lawsuits during the previous 30 years: “At least 60 lawsuits, along with hundreds of liens, judgments, and other government filings” were from contractors claiming they got stiffed.
  • On March 16, 2016, as a Republican Presidential candidate, Trump warned Republicans that if he didn’t win the GOP nomination in July, his supporters would literally riot: “I think you’d have riots. I think you would see problems like you’ve never seen before. I think bad things would happen, I really do. I wouldn’t lead it, but I think bad things would happen.”
  • An NBC reporter summed it up as: “The message to Republicans was clear: ‘Nice convention you got there. Shame if something happened to it.'”
  • Speaking with Bob Woodward, the legendary Washington Post investigative reporter, Trump confessed: “Real power is—I don’t even want to use the word—fear.”
  • During his Presidential campaign he encouraged Right-wing thugs to attack dissenters at his rallies, even claiming he would pay their legal expenses. 

But when he has confronted men and women who can’t be bribed or intimidated, Trump has reacted with rage and desperation.

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