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Posts Tagged ‘2020 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION’

DONALD TRUMP AS HOWARD BEALE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Peter Finch as Howard Beale in Network

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

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

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

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

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

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Donald Trump

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Republicans may soon be forced to face the following dilemma:

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

This is how Republicans define morality today.

DYING OF THE FEAR: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on March 11, 2020 at 12:06 am

There’s an Arabian myth that offers a timely commentary on the hysteria surrounding the Coronavirus. 

Mohammed is walking along the road from Medina to Mecca when he meets the Genie of Cholera. 

“Where are you going, O Cursed One?” asks Mohammed.

“To Mecca, to kill 10,000 of the faithful,” replies the genie.

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“All right,” says Mohammed. “See to it that you kill no more than 10,000.”

Six months later the two meet again—and Mohammed is furious: “You are a filthy liar!”

“Why do you say that?” demands the Genie of Cholera.

“Because when I reached Mecca, there were 30,000 dead, not the 10,000 you promised.”

“Oh, I kept by my word and killed only 10,000,” replies the genie. “But 20,000 more died of the fear.”

Fear is stalking the streets of the United States today.

Medical supply companies are rushing to turn out millions of surgical face masks—not for use by doctors but ordinary Americans.

Medical professionals warn that this will prove counter-productive for doctors and ordinary citizens.

Doctors and nurses need those masks when they’re performing surgery—or just coming in contact with patients who might be carrying the Coronavirus. They also wear them when examining patients suffering from routine illnesses.

Standard surgical masks are designed to protect against large, airborne droplets. They cannot protect against viruses. Their loose fit makes it possible for droplets to enter around the edges of the mask.

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Standard surgical mask

The N-95 respirator mask is a tight-fitting upgrade that forces inhaled air toward the mask but not its edges. It can filter out 95% of particulates—but not viral particles.

Nor has panic-buying been restricted to face masks. Hand sanitizers, bottled water, toilet paper—even rubbing alcohol—have been snapped off shelves, leaving stores empty of them.

“It’s been nuts,” says Costco’s Chief Financial Officer, Richard A. Galanti.

Businesses that rely on regular patrons—such as restaurants and movie theaters—are especially suffering.

In New York City and San Francisco, businesses in the Chinese community have been hard-hit. It was in Wuhan, China, that the Coronavirus first erupted. Millions of people continue to identify it as a peculiarly Chinese ailment.

The industries most affected are those directly connected to tourism. Cruise ship lines have proven a ready source of contagion, bringing large numbers of people together in what can amount to a floating hothouse for viruses.

Cruise ships have played a major role in the outbreak. More than 700 cases have been linked to the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which was quarantined off the coast of Japan for two weeks. At least 21 more cases were confirmed aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship that docked in Oakland, Calif., on March 9.

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Diamond Princess cruise ship

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The State Department and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have warned elderly and medically vulnerable Americans to avoid cruise ships until the outbreak ends. The CDC recommends that travelers “defer all cruise ship travel worldwide.”

During the 1980s, Kathie Lee Gifford appeared in a series of TV ads for Carnival Cruise Lines, singing an upbeat jingle: 

If they could see you now out on a Funship cruise
You’re eating fancy food and doing what you choose.
I’d like your friends back home to get a good look
At the first-rate Carnival cruise that you took.
All I can say is “Wow!” hey look at where you are.
Tonight you’re living life just like a movie star!
What a Funship, holy cow!
They’d never believe it
If your friends could see you now!

 

This ode to pure hedonism has given way to a climate of sheer panic—among those still aboard cruise liners, those thinking about embarking on cruises and—most especially—among cruise shipping line companies.

A more updated version of Kathie Lee’s song could go:

If they could see you now on a Corona cruise
You’re locked inside your room and someone took your shoes.
I’m sure your friends back home will look on with dread
As the ship docks in port and they haul off the dead.
All I can say is “Wow!”
Hey, look at where you’ll be
You’re turning blue for air
Right there upon the sea!
What a fright ship, holy cow!
They’re sure to believe it
And the doctor’s coming now!

 

And how is the cruise industry responding to the Coronavirus outbreak? By running more TV ads to sign up more passengers!

Perhaps it’s time for Americans to haul out their DVD players and watch Khartoum—a 1966 movie that offers a timely lesson in courage well-suited to the Coronavirus panic.

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It’s based on the true story of British General Charles George Gordon (Charlton Heston) sent to the Sudan in 1884 to evacuate the city of Khartoum before it’s besieged by the army of a dervish fanatic called “The Madhi”—“The Expected One” (Laurence Oliver).

But the siege starts before Gordon can evacuate its 30,000 citizens.

The Madhi orders a bombardment, and frightened townspeople rush into the public square—where Gordon is calmly seated on a camel, holding a Sudanese girl.

As they look up expectedly for guidance, Gordon gently says to the little girl: “I don’t ask you to be unafraid, merely to act unafraid.”

Americans would do well to remember those words—and act on them.

DYING OF THE FEAR: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, Entertainment, History, Politics, Social commentary on March 10, 2020 at 9:52 am

The outbreak of the Coronavirus has terrified Americans in ways not seen since the September 11, 2001 terror attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C.

For months after that horror, the two most profitable businesses in the country were video rental stores and food delivery services.

People stayed indoors—and at home, as if they believed this was the one place they would be safe. Everyone feared the next big terror attack—and didn’t want to be on hand when it exploded.

Restaurants, nightclubs, amusement parks and the airlines suffered accordingly.

World Trade Center – September 11, 2001

In the early 1980s, the AIDS epidemic had truly frightened millions of Americans. At first, no one knew what caused it—or, more importantly, how it was spread.

At first, gays were thought to be the only ones at risk. Then the list of potential victims kept expanding to

  • Intravenous drug abusers
  • Native Haitians
  • Recipients of blood transfusions
  • Those with multiple sex partners.

But with the passage of time—and the introduction of AIDS-fighting drugs that allowed victims to generally live ordinary lives—Americans’ fears gradually decreased. AIDS was seen as a disease like tuberculosis—dangerous, but unlikely to strike if you took reasonable precautions.

And now America is facing a new fear—that of the Coronavirus, otherwise known as COVID-19.

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Coronavirus

In December 2019, a pneumonia outbreak was reported in Wuhan, China. By December 31, the outbreak was traced to a novel strain of Coronavirus.

Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that affect birds and mammals. In humans, Coronaviruses cause respiratory tract infections that are typically mild, such as the common cold. Coronaviruses can cause pneumonia and may cause bronchitis.

When the virus surfaced in China, Americans didn’t worry, as it seemed confined to Wuhan. But then it began spreading.

By January 30, 2020, 9,976 cases had been reported in at least 21 countries, including the first case in the United States.

At that time, United States health authorities repeatedly assured Americans they had nothing to worry about, that “we’re on it.”

For example: On January 28, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex M. Azar II stated at a press conference: “We’ve been monitoring this virus and preparing a response since back in December, but it’s more than that. Preparing for these kinds of outbreaks is part of daily life at HHS and for America’s public health professionals.

“Preparedness is a day job around here. We are constantly making investments, training personnel at all levels, carrying out simulations and exercises, and sharing information.

“This commitment goes straight to the top: The President and I have been speaking regularly about this outbreak, and I have been speaking with the senior officials at HHS and the White House multiple times each day since the outbreak began to represent an international threat.” 

This was strictly boilerplate rhetoric. What Azar didn’t say was this:

  • Upon taking office as President,  Donald Trump had gutted the permanent epidemic monitoring and command groups set up inside the White House: The National Security Council (NSC) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). 
  • The reason:  Pathologically jealous of President Barack Obama, Trump has tried to destroy every vestige of Obama’s legacy as the first black President of the United States. And these disease-monitoring groups were set up by Obama following the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014.
  • Also: In the spring of 2018, Trump pushed Congress to cut $15 billion from national health spending—and cutting the global disease-fighting budgets of the CDC, National Security Council, Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services.
  • The Federal $30 million fund for Complex Crises was eliminated as well.
  • In April, 2018, National Security Adviser John Bolton forced Tom Bossert, director of the infectious disease unit at DHS, to resign—along with his entire team.
  • In May, 2018, Trump ordered the NSC’s global health security unit shut down.
  • Rear Admiral Timothy Ziemer, who headed the unit, was reassigned.
  • Neither the NSC nor the DHS epidemic team has been replaced.
  • The “advice” Trump has offered on the epidemic is misinformation—based on ignorance or willful lying. Example: “I think the [World Health Organization estimate of Coronavirus casualties of] 3.4 percent is really a false number—and this is just my hunch—but based on a lot of conversations with a lot of people that do this because a lot of people will have this and it’s very mild. They’ll get better very rapidly, they don’t even see a doctor, they don’t even call a doctor. You never hear about those people.”

Above all: Azar didn’t dare say that Trump doesn’t see Coronavirus as a threat to the lives of 300-plus American citizens.  Instead, he sees it as a threat to his continued reign as President.

Trump has repeatedly “joked” about how great it would be if the United States—like China—had a “President-for-Life.” And he has accused those Democrats who impeached him for obstructing Congress and abuse of power as guilty of treason.

In the Coronavirus, Trump has met his match in an enemy he cannot bribe or intimidate. The tragedy is that untold numbers of Americans will pay the price for his ignorance and narcissism. 

TWO DANGERS FACING AMERICA: TRUMP—AND THE CORONAVIRUS

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on March 9, 2020 at 12:07 am

On August 23, 2018, President Donald Trump offered an unprecedented reason why he shouldn’t be impeached. 

Appearing on “Fox and Friends,” he said:

  • “I don’t know how you can impeach somebody who’s done a great job.”
  • “I tell you what, if I ever got impeached, I think the market would crash, I think everybody would be very poor.”
  • Pointing to his head, he said: “Because without this thinking, you would see numbers that you wouldn’t believe in reverse.” 

He didn’t say: “I shouldn’t be impeached because I’m innocent. I didn’t collude with Russian Intelligence to subvert the 2016 Presidential election.” 

Instead, he appealed to the greed and fear of his voting base—and no doubt hoped to reach beyond it: “Keep me in power or you’ll all suffer for it.”

Donald Trump

On February 5, the Republican-dominated Senate acquitted him of the two charges brought by the Democratic House of Representatives on December 18, 2019: 

Article 1: Abuse of Power: For pressuring Ukraine to assist him in his re-election campaign by damaging former Vice President Joseph Biden, his possible 2020 Democratic rival; and

Article 2: Obstruction of Congress: For obstructing Congress by blocking testimony of subpoenaed witnesses and refusing to provide documents in response to House subpoenas in the impeachment inquiry. 

So Trump escaped impeachment—and the country is now suffering for it. 

On February 27, the Dow Jones Industrial Average had its single worst one-day drop in history—falling 1,191 points.

The reason can be summed up in one word: Coronavirus. Simply put, investors hate uncertainty, because it makes it hard to plan. And nothing makes uncertainty like a new and frightening virus that’s easily passed and for which there is no vaccine or cure.

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Coronavirus

CDC/ Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAM / Public domain

And that causes millions of people to change their everyday behavior in unprecedented ways–such as not attending basketball games, eating in restaurants, flying on airplanes, going on cruises—and simply going to work.

Of course, Trump didn’t create the Coronavirus. But he has made it even more of a threat to Americans than it had to be.

In 2017, nearly 700 positions remained vacant at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) because Trump imposed a hiring freeze. This affected programs supporting local and state public health emergency readiness, infectious disease control and chronic disease prevention.

Making the situation worse: The CDC’s director, Tom Friedman, stepped down in January, 2017, and it wasn’t until July that the agency got another one: Brenda Fitzgerald. But she served only until January, 2018. She was succeeded—two months later—by Robert Ray Redfield, Jr. He has been the director since then.

The post of director of the CDC is considered one of the most crucial public health positions in the government. The CDC is charged with tracking and preventing infectious disease outbreaks  in the United States and worldwide.

CDC headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia

Another way Trump has sabotaged America’s ability to respond to the Coronavirus outbreak: Gutting the permanent epidemic monitoring and command groups set up inside the White House: The National Security Council (NSC) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The reason for this: Trump’s pathological jealousy of and hatred for former President Barack Obama.

Since taking office, Trump has made an all-out effort to destroy every vestige of Obama’s legacy as the first black President of the United States. And these disease-monitoring groups were set up by Obama following the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014.

In the spring of 2018, Trump pushed Congress to cut $15 billion from national health spending—and cutting the global disease-fighting budgets of the CDC, National Security Council, Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services.

The Federal $30 million fund for Complex Crises was eliminated as well.

In April, 2018, National Security Adviser John Bolton forced Tom Bossert, director of the infectious disease unit at DHS, to resign—along with his entire team. In May, 2018, Trump ordered the NSC’s global health security unit shut down.

Rear Admiral Timothy Ziemer, who headed the unit, was reassigned.

Neither the NSC nor the DHS epidemic team has been replaced.

The global health section of the CDC was decimated, and had to reduce the number of countries it was monitoring from 49 to 10.

It’s popular to assume that Trump did all of this out of mere ignorance—and there’s plenty of proof of his ignorance in many areas (such as attributing windmills to causing cancer). But far more is at work here.

The vast majority of those who voted for Trump believe that the Federal Government is evil and its agencies that regulate business should be eliminated.

An example of this constituency is Grover Norquist, founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform, which opposes all tax increases and has forced most Republicans to publicly pledge they will as well, under any circumstances.

His most famous quote: “I’m not in favor of abolishing the government. I just want to shrink it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.” 

Under Trump, the epidemic-fighting arm of the Federal Government has become so shrunk that America itself may be the one to drown—in an epidemic of Coronavirus. 

MACHIAVELLI: STUPID LEADERS CANNOT BE WISELY ADVISED

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 24, 2020 at 12:05 am

“There is no other way of guarding oneself against flattery than by letting men understand that they will not offend you by speaking the truth.  But when every one can tell you the truth, you lose their respect.  

“A prudent prince must therefore take a third course, by choosing for his counsel wise men, and giving them alone full liberty to speak the truth to him, but only of those things that he asks and of nothing else.”

So wrote the Italian statesman Niccolo Machiavelli more than 500 years ago in his famous treatise on politics, The Prince. And he added:

“But he must be a great asker about everything and hear their opinions, and afterwards deliberate by himself in his own way, and in these counsels and with each of these men comport himself so that every one may see that the more freely he speaks, the more he will be acceptable. 

“Beyond these he should listen to no one, go about the matter deliberately, and be determined in his decisions.”

Machiavelli’s words remain as true in our day as they were in his.

Except, of course for “a very stable genius,” as President Donald J. Trump once referred to himself.

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Niccolo Machiavelli

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

Machiavelli offers a related warning that especially applies to Trump: Unwise princes cannot be wisely advised:

“It is an infallible rule that a prince who is not wise himself cannot be well advised, unless by chance he leaves himself entirely in the hands of one man who rules him in everything, and happens to be a very prudent man. In this case, he may doubtless be well governed, but it would not last long, for the governor would in a short time deprive him of the state.”

Competent executives surround themselves with experts in diverse fields and pay attention to their expertise. They don’t feel threatened by it but rely on it to implement their agenda. Advisers whose counsel proves correct are to be retained and rewarded.

Machiavelli offers practical advice on this: 

“The prince, in order to retain his fidelity, ought to think of his minister, honoring and enriching him, doing him kindnesses and conferring on him favors and responsible tasks, so that the great favors and riches bestowed on him cause him not to desire other honors and riches, and the offices he holds make him fearful of changes.”

But rewarding those who try to head off ruinous decision-making is not Trump’s way. 

Consider the case of John Rood, the Pentagon’s top policy official until February 19. That was when he resigned, saying he was leaving at Trump’s request.

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John Rood

Rood had certified last year that Ukraine had made enough anti-corruption progress to justify the release of Congressionally-authorized aid for its efforts to thwart Russian aggression.

And that totally conflicted with Trump’s attempt to extort a “favor” from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

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

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

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

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Joe Biden

But then a CIA whistleblower filed a complaint about the extortion attempt—and this led directly to impeachment proceedings by the Democratically-controlled House for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

But the Republican-dominated Senate voted to acquit him.

Since then, Trump has purged several officials he considers disloyal for cooperating with the impeachment hearings:

  • Army Lt. Col. Alex Vindman, from the National Security Council.
  • White House Attorney Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman, Vindman’s twin brother.
  • Gordon Sondland, Trump’s ambassador to the European Union.

“The truth has cost Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman his job, his career, and his privacy,” his attorney David Pressman, said in a statement.

For Trump, Rood had been “disloyal” on two occasions: 

  • He stated in a May 23, 2019 letter to Congress that the Pentagon had thoroughly assessed Ukraine’s anti-corruption actions. And he said that those reforms justified the authorized $400 million in aid.
  • He told reporters last year: “In the weeks after signing the certification I did become aware that the aid had been held. I never received a very clear explanation other than there were concerns about corruption in Ukraine.”

Asked about Rood’s resignation, chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman declined to speculate on the reason for Trump’s decision.

According to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, Rood played “a critical role” on issues such as nuclear deterrence, NATO, missile defense and the National Defense Strategy.

That did not protect him, however, from Trump’s vendetta against those who dared to reveal his crimes to Democratic impeachment committees.

All of which would lead Niccolo Machiavelli to warn, if he could witness American politics today: “This bodes ill for your Republic.”

FASCISM RISING: 1933 GERMANY, 2016 AMERICA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Adolf Hitler

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

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

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

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

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

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Paul von Hindenburg

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

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

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

It had taken him 15 years to do so.

In 2015, Donald Trump declared his candidacy for President.

Now, consider this:

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

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

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Donald Trump

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

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

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

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

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

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

Since Trump became President, he has:

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

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

TRUMP: “MY CRIMES ARE NOW YOUR CRIMES”—AGAIN

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 3, 2020 at 12:06 am

On October 4, 1943, SS Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler addressed SS officers stationed in Posen, Poland, about the ongoing campaign to exterminate the Jews of Europe.

He gave a similar speech two days later to an audience of Reichsleiters (national leaders) and Gauleiters (governors), as well as other government representatives. 

Himmler intended to alert Reich officials of the extermination campaign the Schutzstaffel (“Protective Squads”)—otherwise known as the SS—and Wehrmacht (German army) had been waging since June, 1941.

The purpose: To make his listeners accessories to his monumental crimes—and to warn them there was no turning back.

Heinrich Himmler 

Either Nazi Germany won the war that its Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler, had unintentionally unleashed on September 1, 1939—or its topmost officials would themselves face extinction as war criminals.

Said Himmler:

“I want to also mention a very difficult subject before you, with complete candor. It should be discussed amongst us, yet nevertheless, we will never speak about it in public. I am talking about the evacuation of the Jews, the extermination of the Jewish people. 

“It is one of those things that is easily said: ‘The Jewish people is being exterminated.’…Most of you will know what it means when 100 bodies lie together, when 500 are there or when there are 1000. And to have seen this through and—with the exception of human weakness—to have remained decent, has made us hard and is a page of glory never mentioned and never to be mentioned…. 

“But altogether we can say: We have carried out this most difficult task for the love of our people. And we have suffered no defect within us, in our soul, in our character.” 

Fast forward 76 years—to January, 2020. 

On December 18, 2019, the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives approved two Articles of Impeachment against President Donald Trump:

Article 1: Abuse of Power: For pressuring Ukraine to assist him in his re-election campaign by damaging former Vice President Joseph Biden, his possible 2020 Democratic rival; and

Article 2: Obstruction of Congress: For obstructing Congress by blocking testimony of subpoenaed witnesses and refusing to provide documents in response to House subpoenas in the impeachment inquiry. 

Donald Trump

Trump’s defense in the House had consisted of:

  1. Refusing to testify himself;
  2. Refusing to produce witnesses on his behalf;
  3. Refusing to turn over requested documents;
  4. Claiming that Democrats were preventing him from testifying or producing witnesses;
  5. Ordering administration officials to not testify before the six House impeachment committees investigating his behavior.

Those government employees who testified did so voluntarily—and at risk of retaliation. Among these were:

  1. Ukraine ambassador Bill Taylor;
  2. Laura Cooper, the top Pentagon official overseeing Ukraine-related U.S. policy;
  3. Former White House official Fiona Hill; and
  4. Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.

They offered damning testimony against Trump. 

When the trial began in the United States Senate on January 16, 2020, Trump’s legal team:

  1. Did not call any witnesses;
  2. Did not deny that Trump had sought to coerce Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky into interfering with the 2020 election;
  3. Attacked Joseph and Hunter Biden as if they were on trial;
  4. Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul submitted a written question to presiding Chief Justice John Roberts that included the name of the alleged whistleblower to Trump’s coercion. Roberts refused to read it aloud;
  5. Paul raced outside the Senate and gave a press conference, where he named the alleged whistleblower—whose identity is protected by law.

Perhaps even more frightening: One of Trump’s attorneys, Alan Dershowitz, offered Trump—and all future Presidents–a blanket of immunity worthy of a king: 

“If a president does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment. Every public official that I know believes that his election is of the public interest.” 

Responding to that argument, House Manager Adam Schiff (D-CA) said: “It’s been a remarkable evolution of the presidential defense. It began with, ‘none of that stuff happened here.’ It began with ‘nothing to see here.’ It migrated to, ‘OK, they did seek investigations of the president’s political rival.’ And then it became OK.” 

Meanwhile, the Senate majority of 53 Republicans vigorously supported Trump’s demand that no witnesses to his crimes be allowed to testify.

Among these: Former National Security Adviser John Bolton.

On December 29, 2019, The New York Times broke a sensational story:

In a forthcoming book, Bolton had written that Trump had told him, in August 2019, that he wanted to continue freezing aid to Ukraine until its officials began investigating the Bidens.

Despite—or because of—this bombshell report, Senate Republicans absolutely refused to admit the testimony of witnesses. 

By following the same strategy as Heinrich Himmler, Trump has entangled Republicans in his own crimes.

His infamy is now theirs.

History has brutally condemned those Germans who, knowing the full extent of Adolf Hitler’s crimes, nevertheless signed on to perpetuate and conceal them. 

History will render the same damning verdict against Senate Republicans who have provided similar cover for Donald Trump.

FIVE TRUTHS REPUBLICAN SENATORS WON’T TELL YOU: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 21, 2020 at 12:12 am

On January 16, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts administered this oath to the 100 Senators who would render judgment on the conduct of the 45th President of the United States:

“Do you solemnly swear that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of Donald John Trump, President of the United States, now pending, you will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws, so help you God?”

Truth #2: All 100 Senators pledged they would. But Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham had earlier made clear they had no such intention. 

“I’m not an impartial juror. This is a political process. There’s not anything judicial about it,” Mitch McConnell told reporters in December. “I would anticipate we will have a largely partisan outcome in the Senate. I’m not impartial about this at all.” 

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Mitch McConnell

And Lindsey Graham offered this during an interview with Fox News’s Sean Hannity: “The best thing for the American people is to end this crap as quickly as possible, to have a trial in the Senate, bipartisan acquittal of the President. And on Feb. 4, when the president comes into the House chamber to deliver the State of the Union, he will have been acquitted by the Senate.” 

If this were a criminal or civil trial, McConnell and Graham would automatically be ejected from jury service.    

Truth #3: Instead of acting as impartial witnesses, Republican Senators are conspiring to obstruct evidence through smears and intimidation. 

Senator Chuck Schumer (D-New York) has called for at least four witnesses to testify. These include: 

  • Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney;
  • Former national security adviser John Bolton;
  • Robert Blair, senior adviser to the acting White House chief;
  • Michael Duffey, an official with the Office of Management and Budget.

These are men who are in a position to testify about what they actually saw Trump do.

To prevent such testimony, Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) and other Right-wingers threaten that if Democrats subpoena Bolton, Republicans will subpoena Hunter Biden and the whistleblower at the center of the impeachment inquiry. 

Rand Paul, official portrait, 112th Congress alternate.jpg

Rand Paul

Biden is the son of former Vice President Joseph Biden—and has nothing to contribute to knowledge of Trump’s attempted extortion of Ukraine. Subpoenaing him would simply be an act of gratuitous cruelty and sensationalism.

And forcing the still-unidentified whistleblower to testify would violate Justice Department protections for those who testify to government wrongdoing. 

Truth #4: Republican Senators’ willingness to support Trunmp’s crimes cannot be divorced from the evil of their constituents.  

On August 30, 2017, an article in Salon examined why Donald Trump’s base supports him so fanatically: “Most Americans Strongly Dislike Trump, But the Angry Minority That Adores Him Controls Our Politics.”

“These are older and more conservative white people, for the most part, who believe he should not listen to other Republicans and should follow his own instincts….

“They like Trump’s coarse personality, and approve of the fact that he treats women like his personal playthings. They enjoy it when he expresses sympathy for neo-Nazis and neo-Confederate white supremacists.

“They cheer when he declares his love for torture, tells the police to rough up suspects and vows to mandate the death penalty for certain crimes. (Which of course the president cannot do.)

“…This cohort of the Republican party didn’t vote for Trump because of his supposed policies on trade or his threat to withdraw from NATO. They voted for him because he said out loud what they were thinking. A petty, sophomoric, crude bully is apparently what they want as a leader.”

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Trump supporters giving the Nazi salute

Truth #5: Republicans love Trump—but love their careers more. 

According to an August 29, 2017 survey by the Pew Research Center, 65% of Republicans are revolted by Trump’s personality and behavior. But they are being advised by GOP political consultants to vigorously support him.

“Your heart tells you that he’s bad for the country,” one anonymous consultant told a Salon reporter. “Your head looks at polling data among Republican primary voters and sees how popular he is.” 

Thus, it is not Trump who commands their ultimate loyalty—and certainly not the United States Constitution—but their desire to remain in office for life.

By supporting Trump, they guarantee that he will not “primary” them in the upcoming 2020 elections—that is, run an even more Fascistic candidate against them.

They also ensure a steady stream of “campaign contributions” (i.e., bribes) from Russian oligarchs—who, in turn, take their marching orders from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Finally: Republicans fear that if Trump is convicted and removed, they will lose their own hold on nearly absolute power in Congress and the White House. If Trump is branded a loser, his supporters will also be branded the same.

Republicans vividly remember what happened after Richard Nixon was forced to resign in disgrace on August 9, 1974: Democrats, riding a wave of reform fever, swept Republicans out of the House and Senate—and Jimmy Carter into the White House. 

If Republicans are conflicted about supporting Trump, their dilemma boils down to this:

  1. Can I hold onto my power—and all the privileges that go with it—by supporting Trump?  Or: 
  2. Can I hold onto my power—and privileges—by deserting him?

This is how Republicans define morality today.

FIVE TRUTHS REPUBLICAN SENATORS WON’T TELL YOU: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 20, 2020 at 12:05 am

On January 16, two Articles of Impeachment against President Donald Trump were submitted to the United States Senate.

Almost one month earlier—on December 18, 2019—the House of Representatives had approved those Articles for:  

Article 1: Abuse of Power: For pressuring Ukraine to assist him in his re-election campaign by damaging former Vice President Joseph Biden, his possible Democratic rival. 

Article 2: Obstruction of Congress: For obstructing Congress by blocking testimony of subpoenaed witnesses and refusing to provide documents in response to House subpoenas in the impeachment inquiry. 

One hundred Senators will now decide if Trump remains as the 45th President of the United States—or becomes the first President in history to be convicted and removed.

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The United States Senate

(The first President to be impeached, Andrew Johnson, survived in office by only one vote. The second, Richard Nixon, resigned rather than face almost certain conviction.)

Of those 100, 53 are Republicans—like Trump.

Democrats form a majority in the House—that was how they secured Trump’s impeachment. But with only 47 members in the Senate, they do not command a majority to secure conviction.

Their only hope is to convince enough Republicans to vote on the basis of the evidence—which is overwhelming. 

On September 9, 2019, the House Foreign Affairs, Intelligence and Oversight and Reform committees began investigating his attempted extortion of Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky.

On July 25, 2019, Trump had “asked” Zelensky to do him a “favor”: Find embarrassing “dirt” on former Vice President Joseph Biden and his son, Hunter.

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

To underline the seriousness of his “request,” earlier in July, Trump had told Mick Mulvaney, his White House chief of staff, to withhold $400 million in military aid Congress had approved for Ukraine, which is facing an increasingly aggressive Russia.

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Donald Trump

But then a CIA whistleblower filed a complaint about the extortion attempt—and the media and Congress soon learned of it. And ever since, the evidence linking Trump to impeachable offenses has mushroomed.

On January 16, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) announced that the Trump administration broke the law when it withheld security aid to Ukraine.

The GAO, a nonpartisan congressional watchdog, declared that the White House Budget Office violated the Impoundment Control Act, a 1974 law that limits the White House from withholding funds that Congress has appropriated.

“Faithful execution of the law does not permit the President to substitute his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law,” the GAO auditors wrote. 

Still, no one actually expects Republican Senators to uphold their Constitutional duties. The smart money is on their giving Trump a free pass on his latest act of illegality. 

There are, however, truths that these Republican Senators will not dare mention publicly. This article will do its best to cast a spotlight on them.

Truth #1: The man presiding over the Senate—Kentucky United States Senator Mitch McConnell—has received monies from Russian oligarchs linked to Russian dictator and Donald Trump sponsor Vladimir Putin.

pacAnd so have other Republicans.

Len Blavatnik is a Russian oligarch with strong ties to Putin. In 2015-16, he contributed to GOP Political Action Committees (PACs) and top Republican leaders, including McConnell.

According to Federal Election Commission:

During the 2015-16 election cycle, he proved one of the largest donors to GOP PACs..

Blavatnik’s net worth is estimated at $20 billion. In 2016, he gave $6.35 million to GOP PACs.

In 2017, he gave millions of dollars to top Republican leaders—such as Senators Mitch McConnell (Kentucky), Marco Rubio (Florida) and Lindsey Graham (South Carolina)

Specifically, Blavatnik contributed:

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

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The Kremlin

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

A third oligarch, Andrew Intrater, contributed $250,000 to Trump’s Inaugural Committee.

And a fourth, Simon Kukes, contributed a total of $283,000, much of it to the Trump Victory Fund.

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

Truth #2: At least two Republican Senators—McConnell and Graham—committed perjury when they took an oath to render impartial judgment on Trump.

All 100 Senators pledged they would “do impartial justice” in judging Trump’s actions as President.

But Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham had earlier made clear they had no such intention. 

THREE REASONS TO GO TO WAR

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

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

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

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

Qasem Soleimani with Zolfaghar Order.jpg

Qassem Soleimani

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

There are at least three reasons for this targeted killing.

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

A statement released by the Pentagon claimed: 

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

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

There are just two problems with this claim:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Donald Trump

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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