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Posts Tagged ‘ADOLF HITLER’

UNDERMINING DEMOCRACY–IN GERMANY AND AMERICA

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 12, 2019 at 12:13 am

On November 9, 1923, Nazi Party Fuhrer Adolf Hitler tried to overthrow the government in Munich, Bavaria.

About 2,000 Nazis marched to the center of Munich, where they confronted heavily-armed police. A shootout erupted, killing 16 Nazis and four policemen. 

Hitler was injured during the clash, but managed to escape. Two days later, he was arrested and charged with treason.

Put on trial, he found himself treated as a celebrity by a judge sympathetic to Right-wing groups. He was allowed to brutally cross-examine witnesses and even make inflammatory speeches.

At the end of the trial, he was convicted of treason and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment.

Serving time in Landsberg Prison, in Bavaria. he was given a huge cell, allowed to receive unlimited visitors and gifts, and treated with deference by guards and inmates.

Hitler used his time in prison to write his infamous book, Mein Kampf-–“My Struggle.” Part autobiography, part political treatise, it laid out his future plans—including the extermination of the Jews and the conquest of the Soviet Union.

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Adolf Hitler leaving Landsberg Prison, December, 20, 1924

Nine months later, he was released on parole—by authorities loyal to the authoritarian Right instead of the newly-created Weimar Republic.

Hitler immediately began rebuilding the shattered Nazi party—and deciding on a new strategy to gain power. Never again would he resort to armed force. He would win office by election—or intrigue.

Writes historian Volker Ullrich, in his monumental new biography, Hitler: Ascent 1889 – 1939: “Historians have perennially tried to answer the question of whether Hitler’s rise to power could have been halted….

“There were repeated opportunities to end Hitler’s run of triumphs. The most obvious one was after the failed Putsch of November 1923. Had the Munich rabble-rouser been forced to serve his full five-year term of imprisonment in Landsberg, it is extremely unlikely that he would have been able to restart his political career.”

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Thus, it isn’t just what happens that can influence the course of history. Often, it’s what doesn’t happen that has at least as great a result. 

Consider the case of Paul Manafort.

Manafort faced 18 counts brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team investigating Russian subversion of the 2016 election.

These included:

  • Filing false income tax statements.
  • Failing to file foreign bank account reports to disclose his control over his overseas accounts.
  • Bank fraud and bank fraud conspiracy—by lying about Manafort’s income, debt and the nature of his real estate properties.

Mueller believed that Manafort could provide an insider’s account of the infamous June, 2016 Trump Tower meeting. Among the attendees: Manafort, Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner—along with Russian nationals offering dirt on Hillary Clinton.

While Manafort managed Trump’s Presidential campaign—from March to September, 2016:

  • In July, the GOP gutted an amendment to its platform that advocated sending arms to Ukraine to defend against Russian aggression.
  • Later that month, WikiLeaks began dumping emails that Russia had stolen from the Democratic National Committee.
  • Manafort also received emails from Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos, offering to set up a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

Manafort refused to cooperate with Mueller, then said he would. Then he lied to the FBI. Then Mueller dumped him as a witness.

Mueller asked Federal Judge T.S. Ellis to sentence Manafort from 20 to 24 years in prison and pay a fine between $50,000 and $24 million.

Instead, the Alexandria, Virginia-based judge sentenced Manafort to only 47 months in prison—one month less than four years.

Throughout the trial, Ellis had made no secret of his sympathy for Manafort:

  • Berating prosecutors for moving too slowly through their case.
  • Attacking one prosecutor for not looking at Ellis while the judge was talking.
  • Limiting the evidence the prosecutors could present.
  • Accusing one government lawyer of crying.

During the preliminary hearing, Ellis gave away the game: “You don’t really care about Mr. Manafort You really care about what information Mr. Manafort can give you to lead you to Mr. Trump and an impeachment, or whatever.”

Thus, a former key supporter of a Right-wing President found himself saved by an equally Right-wing supporter of the same President.

The Weimar Republic in Germany faced a similar danger.

Defeat in World War I in 1918 led to the Kaiser’s abdication, a republic and a new constitution. 

Many Germans hated the Weimar Republic for signing the armistice in November, 1918. They resented the government for signing the Treaty of Versallies, which imposed harsh conditions on Germany, although the Republic had been forced to by the Allies.

Right-wing terrorists assassinated 356 government politicians in the early years of the Republic. Among these were Walter Rathenau, the Jewish foreign minister, and Matthias Erzberger who had been finance minister.

Right-wing judges in their trials, many of whom preferred the Kaiser’s government, consistently gave these terrorists light sentences, or let them go free.

Adolf Hitler drew such a judge at his trial.

By March 7, 2019, the United States Senate had confirmed 89 Right-wing, Trump-nominated judges, including two Associate Justices of the Supreme Court, 34 judges for the United States Courts of Appeals and 53 judges for the United States District Courts. 

What boded ill for the Weimar Republic bodes ill for the American Republic.

“JUST ANOTHER WEEK IN CALIGULA’S ROME”—AND TRUMP’S WASHINGTON

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on March 5, 2019 at 12:16 am

“Just another week in Caligula’s Rome.”

That was how conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks summed up President Donald Trump’s Washington, D.C. for the week of February 24 to March 1, 2019.

Every Friday Books faces off with liberal syndicated columnist Mark Shields on The PBS Newshour. And on the program for March 1, the two men found common cause in sizing up the appearance of Michael Cohen before the House Oversight Committee two days earlier.

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David Brooks and Mark Shields on “The PBS Newshour”

During that hearing, Cohen, Trump’s longtime attorney and fixer:

  • Condemned his former boss as “a racist, a conman [and] a cheat.”
  • Confirmed that Trump had instructed him to pay $130,000 in hush money to porn “star” Stormy Daniels, to buy her silence during the 2016 Presidential campaign.
  • Provided the committee with a copy of a check Trump wrote from his personal bank account—after he became President—“to reimburse me for the hush money payments I made.”
  • Produced “copies of letters I wrote at Mr. Trump’s direction that threatened his high school, colleges, and the College Board not to release his grades or SAT scores.”

But for Brooks, far more was at stake than the individual accusations:

“To me, it was more of a moral occasion, more than anything else. What it illustrates is a President and, frankly, Michael Cohen who long ago decided that celebrity and wealth is more important than being a good person. And they have dragged us all down there with us.

“And the people they have dragged most effectively are the House Republicans, a lot of them on that committee, who decided that they were completely incurious about whether Donald Trump was a good guy or a bad guy or a really awful guy, that—their own leader, they didn’t seem to care about that, but they were going to rip the skin off Michael Cohen.

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Michael Cohen testifying before Congress

“And so they attacked him. And what struck me is how moral corrosion happens, that you decide you’re going to defend or ignore Trump. And then to do that, you have to morally distance yourself from him. And then you have to morally distance yourself from him every day.

“And, eventually, you just get numb to everything. And so [Ohio Republican Representative] Jim Jordan and other people on the committee were saying, oh, we all knew this, like, it’s all unremarkable. And so that’s—that’s how moral corrosion happens.”  

During the hearing, California Representative Jackie Speier asked Cohen: How many times did Trump ask you to intimidate creditors?

Cohen estimated the number at 500. 

For Shields, this counted as especially despicable behavior: “And—but the thing about it is, when he stiffed those small business—the plumbers and the electricians who did the work in the Trump projects, and he came back, and Donald Trump loved to hear about it, I mean, reveled in it.

“Now, I mean, at what point do you say that there’s no honor here? I mean, there’s nothing to admire.” 

Shields was equally appalled by the refusal of Trump’s Republican committee defenders to condemn his moral depravity—as a businessman or President.

“If you can’t deal with the message, you shoot the messenger. And that’s what their whole strategy was.

“The very fact that not a single member of the Republican committee defended Donald Trump or what he was charged or alleged to have done, to me, was revealing. They just decided to go after Michael Cohen.”

So why have Republicans aligned themselves with such a man? 

Republicans don’t fear that Trump will trash the institutions that Americans have cherished for more than 200 years. Institutions like an independent judiciary, a free press, and an incorruptible Justice Department.

He has already attacked all of these—and Republicans have either said nothing or rushed to his defense.

What Republicans truly fear about Donald Trump is that he will finally cross one line too many—like firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller. And that the national outrage following this will force them to launch impeachment proceedings against him.

But it isn’t even Trump they fear will be destroyed.

What they most fear losing is their own hold on nearly absolute power in Congress and the White House. And the riches that go with it.

If Trump is impeached and possibly indicted, he will become a man no one any longer fears. He will be a figure held up to ridicule and condemnation. 

Like Adolf Hitler.

Like Richard Nixon. 

And his supporters will be branded as losers along with him.

Republicans vividly remember what happened after Nixon was forced to resign 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. 

House and Senate Republicans can imagine a future without Trump—but not one where they disappear.

If they are conflicted—whether to continue supporting Trump or desert him—the reason is the same: How can I hold onto my power and all the privileges that go with it?  

TRUMP VS. THE FIRST AMENDMENT: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 21, 2019 at 12:15 am

In January, 2018, the White House banned the use of personal cell phones in the West Wing. 

The official reason: National security.

The real reason: To stop staffers from leaking to reporters.

According to an anonymous White House source: “The cellphone ban is for when people are inside the West Wing, so it really doesn’t do all that much to prevent leaks. If they banned all personal cellphones from the entire [White House] grounds, all that would do is make reporters stay up later because they couldn’t talk to their sources until after 6:30 pm.”

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Other sources believe that leaks won’t end unless President Donald Trump starts firing staffers. But this could lead to his firing the wrong people. To protect themselves, those who leak might well accuse tight-lipped co-workers.

Within the Soviet Union (especially during the reign of Joseph Stalin) fear of secret police surveillance was widespread—and absolutely justified.

Among the methods used to keep conversations secret:

  • Turning on the TV or radio to full volume.
  • Turning on a water faucet at full blast.
  • Turning the dial of a rotary phone to the end—and sticking a pencil in one of the small holes for numbers.
  • Standing six to nine feet away from the hung-up receiver.
  • Going for “a walk in the woods.” 
  • Saying nothing sensitive on the phone.

The secret police (known as the Cheka, the NKVD, the MGB, the KGB, and now the FSB) operated on seven working principles:

  1. Your enemy is hiding.
  2. Start from the usual suspects.
  3. Study the young.
  4. Stop the laughing.
  5. Rebellion spreads like wildfire.
  6. Stamp out every spark.
  7. Order is created by appearance.

Trump has always ruled through bribery and fear. He’s bought off (or tried to) those who might cause him trouble—like porn actress Stormy Daniels. 

He’s never been able to poke fun at himself—and he grows livid when anybody else does.

At Christmastime, “Saturday Night Live” aired a parody of the classic movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Its title: “It’s a Wonderful Trump.”  In it, Trump (portrayed by actor Alec Baldwin) discovers what the United States would be like if he had never become President: A great deal better-off.

As usual, Trump expressed his resentment through Twitter: The Justice Department should stop investigating his administration and go after the real enemy: “SNL.”

“A REAL scandal is the one sided coverage, hour by hour, of networks like NBC & Democrat spin machines like Saturday Night Live. It is all nothing less than unfair news coverage and Dem commercials. Should be tested in courts, can’t be legal? Only defame & belittle! Collusion?” 

By saying that “SNL’s” right to parody him “should be tested in courts, can’t be legal?” Trump has chosen to ignore the role of the First Amendment in American history.

Cartoonists portrayed President Andrew Jackson wearing a king’s robes and crown, and holding a scepter. This thoroughly enraged Jackson—who had repulsed a British invasion in 1815 at the Battle of New Orleans. To call a man a monarchist in 1800s America was the same as calling him a Communist in the 1950s. 

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During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln was lampooned as an ape and a blood-stained tyrant. And Theodore Roosevelt proved a cartoonist’s delight, with attention given to his bushy mustache and thick-lensed glasses. 

Thus, the odds are slight that an American court would even hear a case brought by Trump against “SNL.” 

Such a case made its way through the courts in the late 1980s when the Reverend Jerry Falwell sued pornographer Larry Flyint over a satirical interview in Hustler magazine. In this, “Falwell” admitted that his first sexual encounter had been with his own mother.

In 1988, the United States Supreme Court, voting 8-0, ruled in Flynt’s favor, saying that the media had a First Amendment right to parody a celebrity.

“Despite their sometimes caustic nature, from the early cartoon portraying George Washington as an ass down to the present day, graphic depictions and satirical cartoons have played a prominent role in public and political debate,” Chief Justice William Rehnquist—an appointee of President Richard Nixon—wrote in his majority decision in the case.

Moreover, there is absolutely no doubt that Trump would be forced to take the stand in such a case. The powers-that-be at NBC and “SNL” would insist on it.

And recent history has shown that while Trump loves to sue those he hates, he does not relish being put on the stand himself.  

On October 12, The Palm Beach Post, The New York Times and People all published stories of women claiming to have been sexually assaulted by Trump. 

He accused the Times of inventing accusations to hurt his Presidential candidacy. And he threatened to sue for libel if the Times reported the women’s stories. He also threatened to sue the women making the accusations. 

He never sued the Times or the women.

TRUMP VS. THE FIRST AMENDMENT: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Military, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on February 20, 2019 at 12:11 am

On May 10, 2018, The Hill reported that White House Special Assistant Kelly Sadler had joked derisively about dying Arizona United States Senator John McCain.

McCain, a Navy pilot during the Vietnam war, was shot down over Hanoi on October 26, 1967, and captured. He spent five and a half years as a POW in North Vietnam—and was often brutally tortured. He wasn’t released until March 14, 1973.

Recently, he had opposed the nomination of Gina Haspel as director of the CIA.

The reason: In 2002, Haspel had operated a “black” CIA site in Thailand where Islamic terrorists were often waterboarded to make them talk. 

For John McCain, waterboarding was torture, even if it didn’t leave its victims permanently scarred and disabled. 

Aware that the 81-year-old McCain was dying of brain cancer, Sadler joked to intimates about the Senator’s opposition to Haspel: “It doesn’t matter. He’s dying anyway.”

John McCain's official Senate portrait, taken in 2009

John McCain

Leaked to CNN by an anonymous White House official, Sadler’s remark sparked fierce criticism—and demands for her firing.

South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a close friend of McCain, said: “Ms. Sadler, may I remind you that John McCain has a lot of friends in the United States Senate on both sides of the aisle. Nobody is laughing in the Senate.”

“People have wondered when decency would hit rock bottom with this administration. It happened yesterday,” said former Vice President Joe Biden. 

“John McCain makes America great. Father, grandfather, Navy pilot, POW hero bound by honor, an incomparable and irrepressible statesman. Those who mock such greatness only humiliate themselves and their silent accomplices,” tweeted former Massachusetts governor and 2012 Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Officially, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders refused to confirm or deny Sadler’s joke: “I’m not going to get into a back and forth because people want to create issues of leaked staff meetings.”

Unofficially, Sanders was furious—not at the joke about a dying man, but that someone had leaked it. After assailing the White House communications team, she pouted: “I am sure this conversation is going to leak, too. And that’s just disgusting.”

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Sarah Huckabee Sanders

No apology has been offered by any official at the White House—including President Donald Trump.

In fact, Senior White House communications adviser Mercedes Schlapp reportedly expressed her support for Sadler: “I stand with Kelly Sadler.”

On May 11—the day after Sadler’s comment was reported—reporters asked Sanders if the tone set by Trump had caused Sadler to feel comfortable in telling such a joke.

“Certainly not!” predictably replied Sanders, adding: “We have a respect for all Americans, and that is what we try to put forward in everything we do, but in word and in action, focusing on doing things that help every American in this country every single day.”

On May 14 Trump revealed his “respect” for “all Americans”—especially those working in the White House.

“The so-called leaks coming out of the White House are a massive over exaggeration put out by the Fake News Media in order to make us look as bad as possible,” Trump tweeted.

“With that being said, leakers are traitors and cowards, and we will find out who they are!” 

This from the man who, during the 2016 Presidential campaign, shouted: “WikiLeaks, I love WikiLeaks!” 

Of course, that was when Russian Intelligence agents were exposing the secrets of Hillary Clinton, his Presidential opponent.

And, in a move that Joseph Stalin would have admired, Trump ordered an all-out investigation to find the joke-leaker.

In January, 2018, the White House had banned the use of personal cell phones in the West Wing. 

The official reason: National security.

The real reason: To stop staffers from leaking to reporters.

Officials now have two choices:

  1. Leave their cell phones in their cars, or,
  2. When they arrive for work, deposit them in lockers installed at West Wing entrances. They can reclaim their phones when they leave.

Several staffers huddle around the lockers throughout the day, checking messages they have missed. The lockers buzz and chirp constantly from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

More ominously, well-suited men roam the halls of the West Wing, carrying devices that pick up signals from phones that aren’t government-issued. “Did someone forget to put their phone away?” one of the men will ask if such a device is detected. If no one says they have a phone, the detection team start searching the room.

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Phone detector

The devices can tell which type of phone is in the room.

This is the sort of behavior Americans have traditionally—and correctly—associated with dictatorships

In his memo outlining the policy, former Chief of Staff John Kelly warned that anyone who violated the phone ban could be punished, including “being indefinitely prohibited from entering the White House complex.”

Yet even these draconian methods may not end White House leaks.

White House officials still speak with reporters throughout the day and often air their grievances, whether about annoying colleagues or competing policy priorities.

Aides with private offices sometimes call reporters on their desk phones. Others get their cell phones and call or text reporters during lunch breaks. 

TRUMP VS. THE FIRST AMENDMENT: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 19, 2019 at 12:43 am

“Nothing funny about tired Saturday Night Live on Fake news NBC! Question is, how do the Networks get away with these total Republican hit jobs without retribution? Likewise for many other shows? Very unfair and should be looked into. This is the real Collusion!

So tweeted President Donald J. Trump on February 17.

Less than nine hours earlier, “SNL” had once again opened with actor Alec Baldwin mocking the 45th President. In this skit, Baldwin/Trump gave a rambling press conference declaring: “We need wall. We have a tremendous amount of drugs flowing into this country from the southern border—or The Brown Line, as many people have asked me not to call it.”

Right-wingers denounce their critics as “snowflakes”—that is, emotional, easily offended and unable to tolerate opposing views.

Yet here was Donald Trump, who prides himself on his toughness, whining like a child bully who has just been told that other people have rights, too.

The answer is simple: Trump is a tyrant—and a longtime admirer of tyrants.

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Donald Trump

He has lavishly praised Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, such as during his appearance on the December 18, 2015 edition of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”: 

“He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader, unlike what we have in this country”—a reference to then-President Barack Obama. 

During a February, 2017 interview with Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, Trump defended Putin’s killing of political opponents.  

O’Reilly: “But he’s a killer.” 

Trump: “There are a lot of killers. You think our country’s so innocent?” 

Asked by a Fox News reporter why he praised murderous North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un, he replied: “He’s a tough guy. Hey, when you take over a country, tough country, tough people, and you take it over from your father …If you could do that at 27 years old, I mean, that’s one in 10,000 that could do that.” 

In short: Kim must be doing something right because he’s in power. And it doesn’t matter how he came to power—or the price his country is paying for it.  

Actually, for all their differences in appearance and nationality, Trump shares at least two similarities with Kim.

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Kim Jong-Un

Blue House (Republic of Korea) [KOGL (http://www.kogl.or.kr/open/info/license_info/by.do)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

First, both of them got a big boost into wealth and power from their fathers.

  • Trump’s father, Fred Trump, a real estate mogul, reportedly gave Donald $200 million to enter the real estate business. It was this sum that formed the basis for Trump’s eventual rise to wealth and fame—and the Presidency. 
  • Kim’s father was Kim Jong-Il, who ruled North Korea as dictator from 1994 to 2011. When his father died in 2011, Kim Jong-Un immediately succeeded him, having been groomed for years to do so. 

Second, both Trump and Kim have brutally tried to stamp out any voices that contradict their own.

  • Trump has constantly attacked freedom of the press, even labeling it “the enemy of the American people.” He has also slandered his critics on Twitter—which has refused to enforce its “Terms of Service” and revoke his account.
  • Kim has attacked his critics with firing squads and prison camps. Amnesty International estimates that more than 200,000 North Koreans are now suffering in labor camps throughout the country.

Thus, Trump—-elected to lead the “free world”—believes, like all dictators:

  • People are evil everywhere—so who am I to judge who’s better or worse? All that counts is gaining and holding onto power. 
  • And if you can do that, it doesn’t matter how you do so.

Actually, it’s not uncommon for dictators to admire one another—as the case of Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler nicely illustrates.

Joseph Stalin

After Hitler launched a blood-purge of his own private Stormtroopers army on June 30, 1934, Stalin exclaimed: “Hitler, what a great man! That is the way to deal with your political opponents!” 

And Hitler was equally admiring of Stalin’s notorious ruthlessness: “After the victory over Russia,” he told his intimates, “it would be a good idea to get Stalin to run the country, with German oversight, of course. He knows better than anyone how to handle the Russians.”  

Adolf Hitler

Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1990-048-29A / CC-BY-SA 3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)%5D

One characteristic shared by all dictators is intolerance toward those whose opinions differ with their own. Especially those who dare to actually criticize or make fun of them.

All Presidents have thin skins. John F. Kennedy often phoned reporters and called them “sonofbitches” when he didn’t like stories they had written on him.

Richard Nixon went further, waging all-out war against the Washington Post for its stories about his criminality. 

But Donald Trump has taken his hatred of dissidents to an entirely new—and dangerous—level.

On May 10, 2018, The Hill reported that White House Special Assistant Kelly Sadler had joked derisively about dying Arizona United States Senator John McCain.

Trump was outraged—not that one of his aides had joked about a man stricken with brain cancer, but that someone in the White House had leaked it.

PRESIDENTS: WHY SOME ARE LOVED, SOME HATED, SOME FORGOTTEN

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 18, 2019 at 12:54 am

Why are some Presidents remembered with affection, while others are detested—or forgotten altogether?

Generally, Presidents who are warmly remembered are seen as making positive contributions to the lives of their fellow Americans and being “people-oriented.”

Among these:

  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Theodore Roosevelt
  • Franklin Roosevelt
  • John F. Kennedy

Among the reasons they are held in such high regard:

  • Abraham Lincoln ended slavery and restored the Union. Although he ruthlessly prosecuted the Civil War, his humanity remains engraved in stories such as his pardoning a soldier condemned to be shot for cowardice: “If Almighty God gives a man a cowardly pair of legs, how can he help their running away with him?”

An iconic photograph of a bearded Abraham Lincoln showing his head and shoulders.

Abraham Lincoln

  • Theodore Roosevelt championed an era of reform, such as creating the Food and Drug Administration and five National Parks. Popularly known as “Teddy,” he even had a toy bear—the teddy bear—named after him.
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt successfully led America through the Great Depression and World War II. He was the first President to insist that government existed to directly better the lives of its citizens: “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”

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Franklin D. Roosevelt

  • John F. Kennedy supported civil rights and called for an end to the Cold War. He challenged Americans to “ask what you can do for your country” and made government service respectable, even chic. His youth, charisma, intelligence and handsomeness led millions to mourn for “what might have been” had he lived to win a second term.

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John F. Kennedy

Presidents who remain unpopular among Americans are seen as unlikable and responsible (directly or not) for mass suffering.

Among these:

  • Herbert Hoover
  • Lyndon B. Johnson
  • Richard M. Nixon

Among the reasons they are held in such low regard:

  • Herbert Hoover is still blamed for the 1929 Great Depression. He didn’t create it, but his conservative, “small-government” philosophy led him to refuse to aid its victims. An engineer by profession, he saw the Depression as a machine that needed repair, not as a catastrophe for human beings. This lack of “emotional intelligence” cost him heavily with voters.
  • Lyndon B. Johnson is still blamed as the President “who got us into Vietnam.” John F. Kennedy had laid the groundwork by placing 16,000 American troops there by the time he died in 1963. But it was Johnson who greatly expanded the war in 1965 and kept it going—with hugely expanding casualties—for the next three years. Unlike Kennedy, whom he followed, he looked and sounded terrible on TV. Voters compared JFK’s wit and good looks with LBJ’s Texas drawl and false piety—and found him wanting.

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Lyndon B. Johnson

  • Richard M. Nixon will be remembered foremost as the President who was forced to resign under threat of impeachment and removal from office. Like Herbert Hoover, he was not a “people person” and seemed remote to even his closest associates.  Although he took office on a pledge to “bring us together” and end the Vietnam war, he attacked war protesters as traitors and kept the war going another four years. His paranoid fears of losing the 1972 election led to his creating an illegal “Plumbers” unit which bugged the Democratic offices at the Watergate Hotel. And his attempted cover-up of their illegal actions led to his being forced to resign from office in disgrace.

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Richard M. Nixon

Which brings us to the question: How is Donald J. Trump likely to be remembered?

Historian Joachim C. Fest offers an unintended answer to this question in his 1973 bestselling biography Hitler:

“The phenomenon of the great man is primarily aesthetic, very rarely moral in nature; and even if we were prepared to make allowances in the latter realm, in the former we could not.

“An ancient tenet of aesthetics holds that one who for all his remarkable traits is a repulsive human being, is unfit to be a hero.”

Among the reasons for Hitler’s being “a repulsive human being,” Fest cites the Fuhrer’s

  • “intolerance and vindictiveness”;
  • “lack of generosity”; and
  • “banal and naked materialism—power was the only motive he would recognize.”

What Fest writes about Adolf Hitler applies just as brutally to President Trump: Intolerant and vindictive. Lacking generosity. Nakedly materialistic.  

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Donald Trump

Since taking office two years ago, he has:

  • Viciously attacked the nation’s free press for daring to report his growing list of crimes and disasters, calling it “the enemy of the American people.”
  • Publicly attacked Federal judges whose rulings displeased him. 
  • Attacked the FBI and CIA for accurately reporting that Russian President Vladimir Putin had intervened in the 2016 Presidential election to ensure Trump’s victory. 
  • Fired FBI Director James Comey for pursuing an investigation into Russia’s subversion of the 2016 Presidential election.  
  • Shut down the Federal Government for 35 days because Democrats refused to fund his “border wall” between the United States and Mexico. An estimated 380,000 government employees were furloughed and another 420,000 were ordered to work without pay.

At this stage, it’s hard to imagine Trump joining that select number of Presidents Americans remember with awe and reverence.

ACCOMPLICES TO OUR OWN DESTRUCTION: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 13, 2019 at 12:10 am

On December 22, 2018, President Donald Trump shut down the Federal Government.  The reason: Democrats refused to fund his “border wall” between Mexico and the United States. 

Like Adolf Hitler, who ordered the complete destruction of Germany when he realized his dreams of conquest were over, Trump’s attitude was: “If I can’t rule America, there won’t be an America.”

An estimated 380,000 government employees were furloughed and another 420,000 were ordered to work without pay. Trump told Congressional leaders the shutdown could last months or even years

Thirty-five days passed, with each one bringing increasing stress and fear to the lives of those 800,000 Federal employees.

Meanwhile, House and Senate Democrats held firm. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi even cancelled Trump’s scheduled State of the Union address at the House of Representatives until the shutdown ended.

Finally, on January 25, 2019, Trump walked into the White House Rose Garden and said he would sign a bill to re-open the government for three weeks:

  • Lawmakers would have until February 15 to negotiate a compromise on border security.
  • Otherwise, the government would shut down again.

As the February deadline loomed ever closer, on February 11, 2019, CNN published a story under the headline: “Washington on the brink as new shutdown looms”:

The story bluntly laid out the stakes involved: “If no deal is reached and no stop-gap spending measure emerges, a new government shutdown could be triggered, again subjecting 800,000 federal workers who could be furloughed or asked to work without pay.”

Just as Germans did nothing to stop Adolf Hitler’s inexorable march toward war—and the destruction of millions of lives and Germany itself—so, too, do Americans seem paralyzed to put an end to the equally self-destructive reign of the man often dubbed “Carrot Caligula.”

Gaius Caligula was “the mad emperor” of ancient Rome. Like Trump, he lived by a philosophy of “Let them hate me, so long as they fear me.”

He ruled as the most powerful man of his time—three years, ten months and eight days. And all but the first six months of his reign were drenched in slaughter and debauchery.

The nickname “Carrot Caligula” was stuck on Trump owing to his strange orange skin color.  

So how can America’s continued slide into tyranny and destruction be stopped? 

There are basically three ways:

First, Congressional Republicans could revolt against Trump’s authority and/or agenda. They could, for example, make clear they will not accept another disastrous government shutdown.

In December, the Republican-dominated Senate unanimously passed bills to keep the government open and temporarily provide funding without Trump’s wall money. 

Then Trump said he would not sign the bills.  

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could have reopened the government by re-introducing the same funding bill that the Senate had already passed. He refused.

The odds of Republicans revolting against Trump are nearly impossible. They fear that if he is removed or rendered impotent, voters will turn on them in 2020—and end their comfortable reign of power and privileges.

Second, invoking the Twenty-Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. This allows the Vice President and a majority of the Cabinet to recommend the removal of the President in cases where he is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” It also allows the House and Senate to confirm the recommendation over the President’s objection by two-thirds vote. 

The Vice President then takes over as President. 

There are ample grounds for this—such as the continuing revelations that Trump has decades-long secret ties to Russian oligarchs linked to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.

This solution is also extremely unlikely. Most of Trump’s cabinet rightly fears him. He fired FBI Director James Comey in 2017 and publicly humiliated his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, for more than a year until firing him in 2018. 

Third, the “Caligula solution.” Like Trump, Caligula delighted in humiliating others. His fatal mistake was taunting 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.

Gaius Caligula

Among the potential enemies Trump has enraged are members of the United States Secret Service.

Among the agencies directly affected by the Trump-ordered government shutdown: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Its employees include the Secret Service agents who protect Trump.

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

And now they may face those dangers once again—for the same reason.

Besides the Secret Service, a great many Federal employees—such as FBI agents and members of the military—are armed and in close proximity of the President.

Even more ominous for Trump: By the end of the shutdown, his popularity had fallen to a historic low of 37%.

As Niccolo Machiavelli warns in The Discourses“When a prince becomes universally hated, it is likely that he’s harmed some individuals—who thus seek revenge. This desire is increased by seeing that the prince is widely loathed.”

ACCOMPLICES TO OUR OWN DESTRUCTION: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on February 12, 2019 at 12:15 am

“Why are we letting one man systematically destroy our nation before our eyes?” 

It’s a question millions of Americans have no doubt been asking themselves since Donald Trump took office as President of the United States.

And no doubt it’s the question that millions of Germans asked themselves throughout the six years of World War II.

In September, 1938, as Adolf Hitler threatened to go to war against France and England over Czechoslovakia, most Germans feared he would. They knew that Germany was not ready for war, despite all of their Fuhrer’s boasts about how invincible the Third Reich was.

A group of high-ranking German army officers was prepared to overthrow Hitler—provided that England and France held firm and handed him a major diplomatic reverse.

But then the unexpected happened: England and France—though more powerful than Germany—flinched at the thought of war.

They surrendered to Hitler’s demands that he be given the “Sudetenland”—the northern, southwest and western regions of Czechoslovakia, inhabited mostly by ethnic Germans.

Hitler’s popularity among Germans soared. He had expanded the territories of the Reich by absorbing Austria and Czechoslovakia—without a shot being fired!

The plotters in the German high command, realizing that public opinion stood overwhelmingly against them, abandoned their plans for a coup. They decided to wait for a more favorable time.

It never came.

Adolf Hitler and his generals

Less than one year after the infamous “Munich conference,” England and France were at war—and fighting for the lives of their peoples.

France would fall to Hitler’s legions in June, 1940.  England would fight on alone—until, in December, 1941, the United States finally declared war on Nazi Germany.

As for the Germans: Most of them blindly followed their Fuhrer right to the end—believing his lies (or at least wanting to believe them), serving in his legions, defending his rampant criminality.

And then, in April, 1945, with Russian armies pouring into Berlin, it was too late for conspiracies against the man who had led them to total destruction. 

Berliners paid the price for their loyalty to a murderous dictator—through countless rapes, murders and the wholesale destruction of their city. And from 1945 to 1989, Germans living in the eastern part of their country paid the price as slaves to the Soviet Union. 

Have Americans learned anything from this this warning from history about subservience to a madman? 

Apparently not.

In 2016, almost 63 million Americans elected Donald Trump—a racist, serial adulterer and longtime fraudster—as President. 

Whereas Barack Obama, in 2008, had run for President on the slogan, “Yes, We Can!” Trump ran on the themes of fear and vindictiveness. He threatened violence not only against Democrats but even his fellow Republicans.

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Donald Trump

Upon taking office in January, 2017, Trump began undermining one public or private institution after another.

  • He repeatedly and viciously attacked the nation’s free press for daring to report his growing list of crimes and disasters, calling it “the enemy of the American people.”
  • When American Intelligence agencies—such as the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency—unanimously agreed that Russia had interfered with the 2016 Presidential election, Trump disagreed. Then he publicly sided with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin against those men and women charged with protecting the security of the United States.   
  • When FBI Director James Comey refused to pledge his personal loyalty to Trump—and when he continued to investigate Russian subversion of the 2016 election—Trump fired him.  
  • Trump repeatedly attacked his own Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, for not “protecting” him from agents pursuing the Russia investigation. On November 7, 2018, the day after Democrats won a majority of House seats, Trump fired him. 
  • Trump has repeatedly attacked Seattle U.S. District Judge James Robart, who halted Trump’s first anti-Muslim travel ban.

And on December 22, 2018, Trump shut down the Federal Government because Democrats refused to fund his “border wall” between the United States and Mexico. An estimated 380,000 government employees were furloughed and another 420,000 were ordered to work without pay.

As a result:

  • For weeks, hundreds of thousands of government workers missed paychecks.
  • Smithsonian museums closed their doors.
  • Trash piled up in national parks. 
  • Increasing numbers of employees of the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA)—which provides security against airline terrorism—began refusing to come to work, claiming to be sick.
  • At the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) many air traffic controllers called in “sick.” Those who showed up to work without pay grew increasingly frazzled as they feared being evicted for being unable to make rent or house payments. 
  • Due to the shortage of air traffic controllers, many planes weren’t able to land safely at places like New York’s LaGuardia Airport.
  • Many Federal employees—such as FBI agents—were forced to rely on soup kitchens to feed their families.
  • Many workers tried to bring in money by babysitting or driving for Uber, 

Nancy Pelosi, the newly-elected Speaker of the House of Representatives, summed up Trump thus: “The impression you get from the President is he would like to not only close government, build a wall, but also abolish Congress, so the only voice that mattered was his own.”

LEARNING FROM THE MUNICH DISASTER: PART FIVE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 1, 2019 at 12:05 am

On January 25, 2019—the 35th day of the Federal Government shutdown—President Donald Trump did what no one expected. He caved.

In a White House press conference, he said:

  • Lawmakers would have until February 15 to negotiate a compromise on border security.
  • Otherwise, the government would shut down again.
  • If Democrats did not give in to his demands to fund a border wall, he might use his executive authority to command the military to build the wall instead.

Essentially, he agreed to the same deal he was offered in December, 2018—before he allowed himself to be bullied by Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh into shutting down the government.

For all of Trump’s defiant words, his action was universally seen as a serious defeat—by both his opponents and supporters.

Among the latter was Right-wing provocateur Ann Coulter. Summing up the reaction of his Hispanic-hating supporters, she tweeted: “Good news for George Herbert Walker Bush: As of today, he is no longer the biggest wimp ever to serve as president of the United States.”

On the PBS Newshour, liberal political analyst Mark Shields said: “it was a total defeat for him. And, believe me…there will not be the will among Republicans in three weeks to go back and do this again. Once it’s open, it’s going to be opened.”

His counterpart, conservative analyst David Brooks, agreed: “It is a total—a total victory for the Democrats….If Donald Trump wants bring this on again, [Democrats will be] happy.

“The Republicans are miserable. They never want to come back to where they are right now. And so the odds that we will have another shutdown strike me as low. And it would be—for Trump, it would be suicidally low to—just to try this again.”  

* * * * *

During his years as President, Bill Clinton tried to win over Republicans by supporting measures they liked—such as making it harder for the poor to get welfare via the Federal government. 

In the end, his efforts to win over Republicans convinced them that he was weak. So they tried to impeach him for getting oral sex from a White House intern.

Bill Clinton.jpg

Bill Clinton

Similarly, Barack Obama spent the first two years of his Presidency hopelessly trying to gain Republican support. This only led to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s saying that his goal was to make Obama “a one-term President.”

At least for the moment, Democrats seem to have learned that cowering before bullies only wins you their contempt. As Niccolo Machiavelli warned in The Prince, his classic work on politics:

“From this arises the question whether it is better to be loved than feared, or feared more than loved. The reply is, that one ought to be both feared and loved, but as it is difficult for the two to go together, it is much safer to be feared than loved. 

“For it may be said of men in general that they are ungrateful, voluble, dissemblers, anxious to avoid danger and covetous of gain. As long as you benefit them, they are entirely yours: they offer you their blood, their goods, their life and their children, when the necessity is remote, but when it approaches, they revolt.

“And the prince who has relied solely on their words, without making other preparations, is ruined. For the friendship which is gained by purchase and not through grandeur and nobility of spirit is bought but not secured, and at a pinch is not to be expended in your service. 

“And men have less scruple in offending one who makes himself loved than one who makes himself feared. For love is held by a chain of obligations which, men being selfish, is broken whenever it serves their purpose. But fear is maintained by a dread of punishment which never fails.” 

Portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli by Santi di Tito.jpg

Niccolo Machiavelli

At the time of the 1938 Munich conference, a group of highly-placed German army officers were preparing to overthrow Adolf Hitler in a military coup. They counted on France and England to stand firm against the Fuhrer, handing him a major foreign policy defeat.

The officers intended to use that as an excuse to remove him from power—before he could plunge Germany into a disastrous war it could not win.

But when Britain and France surrendered Czechoslovakia to Hitler, his prestige in Germany shot to unprecedented heights. Knowing that overthrowing such a popular leader would be suicidal, the army officers abandoned their plans for a coup.

Convinced of his own invincibility, Hitler recklessly plunged ahead, demanding that Britain and France agree to cede Danzig, a city in northern Poland, to him.  

This time the Allies held firm. The result was World War II.

At least for now, Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats fully understand the lesson of Munich. You must stand up to tyrants—or there will be no end to their evil demands.

The only question is: Will they continue to make use of that lesson—or once again allow themselves to be cowed by a ruthless tyrant?

LEARNING FROM THE MUNICH DISASTER: PART FOUR (OF FIVE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 31, 2019 at 12:07 am

Billionaire Wilbur Ross—the Trump administration’s Secretary of Commerce—had a suggestion for the 800,000 Federal employees made destitute by the government shutdown: Take out a loan.

“So the 30 days of pay that some people will be out, there’s no real reason why they shouldn’t be able to get a loan against it, and we’ve seen a number of ads of financial institutions doing that. 

“True, the people might have to pay a little bit of interest. But the idea that it’s ‘paycheck or zero’ is not a really valid idea.” 

Wilbur Ross Official Portrait.jpg

Wilbur Ross

It was a remark worthy of Marie Antoinette’s reported (but inaccurate) dismissal of the miseries of impoverished French citizens: “Let them eat cake.” 

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives had undergone a massive sea-change in membership. Ending two years of Republican rule, Democrats had won 27 seats in that body during the November, 2018, elections.  

And Nancy Pelosi had gone from being House Minority Leader to wielding the Speaker’s gavel as House Majority Leader on January 3.

Now she blasted Ross’ attitude during a press briefing: 

“Is this the ‘Let them eat cake,’ kind of attitude? Or ‘Call your father for money?’ Or ’This is character-building for you; it’s all going to end up very well—just as long as you don’t get your paychecks?’” 

Nancy Pelosi

Thirty-five days passed, with each one bringing increasing stress and fear to the lives of 800,000 Federal employees—those forced to not work and those forced to work for no pay.

Pelosi, meanwhile, did what many of her Democratic colleagues had long refused to do: She dared to stand up against Republicans’ “my-way-or-else” demands.

“The impression you get from the president is he would like to not only close government, build a wall, but also abolish Congress, so the only voice that mattered was his own,” Pelosi said in an interview on “CBS Sunday Morning.” 

Pelosi, unlike many Democrats, realized this was America’s version of the Munich Conference: Democrats must hold firm against a tyrant’s extortionate demands. Otherwise, every time Trump didn’t get his way, there would be no end to such shutdowns in the future.

From the start, Pelosi insisted that Democrats would not cooperate with threats to shut down the government if Trump didn’t get the $5.6 billion he wanted for a border wall. And Democrats held firm, refusing to make concessions on the wall.

Second, Pelosi publicly stated that she would not let Trump make his annual State of the Union speech in the House of Representatives until the government was re-opened.

Since both the House and Senate must jointly issue an invitation to the President to make such an address, Pelosi’s veto effectively scotched Trump’s appearance. 

For the publicity-addicted Trump, who revels in pontificating to adoring crowds, this was a major blow.

Trump refused to take “No” for an answer and dared Pelosi to deny him access. 

She took him up on his dare and issued a statement saying that the speech was off—until the government re-opened. 

Soon afterward, Trump agreed that the State of the Union address would have to be postponed.

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Donald Trump giving State of the Union address in 2018

As CNN political analyst Chris Cillizza saw it: “What Pelosi seems to understand better than past Trump political opponents is that giving ANY ground is a mistake. You have to not only stand firm, but be willing to go beyond all political norms—like canceling the SOTU—to win.” 

And Julian Zelitzer, another CNN political analyst, agreed: “Pelosi did not hesitate to use her political power aggressively. From the start of this process, she has remained steadfast in her insistence that closing the government was not a legitimate way to make demands for new forms of spending. 

“While sometimes Democrats become leery about seeming too partisan and not being civil enough, Pelosi and the Democrats stood their ground. She drew a line in the sand and stuck by it.”

As Pelosi and the Democrats held firm, Republicans began getting desperate.

  • They were being depicted in the news as extortionists while 800,000 of their fellow Americans suffered.
  • Those businesses that served Federal employees—such as grocery stores and auto repair shops—were being starved of revenue.
  • There was legitimate fear that the entire airline industry might have to shut down for lack of enough air traffic controllers to regulate air traffic. 
  • Worst of all for Republicans, chaos at airports threatened the travel plans of hundreds of thousands of people traveling to and from the upcoming Super Bowl. Most Americans might not know the name of their Senator, but they take their sports fetish seriously.

By January 25, the 35th day of the shutdown, an ABC News/Washington Post poll showed that 53% of Americans blamed Trump for the shutdown. His popularity had fallen to a historic low of 37%. And 60% disapproved of how he was handling negotiations to re-open the government. 

So, on that same date, Trump did what his Hispanic-hating base thought was impossible: He caved. 

He walked into the White House Rose Garden and said he would sign a bill to re-open the government for three weeks. 

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