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WHEN A PSYCHOPATH RULES THE WHITE HOUSE: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on May 8, 2020 at 12:09 am

Donald Trump’s appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference on March 2, 2019 was an occasion for rejoicing among his supporters.

But for those who prize rationality and decency in a President, it was a dismaying and frightening experience.

For two hours, Trump gave free reign to his anger and egomania.  

Among his unhinged commentaries:

“We have people in Congress that hate our country.” 

If you don’t agree 100% with Trump on everything, you’re a traitor. 

“He called me up. He said, ‘You’re a great President. You’re doing a great job.’ He said, ‘I just want to tell you you’re a great President and you’re one of the smartest people I’ve ever met.'”

Trump attributed these remarks to California’s liberal governor, Gavin Newsom. On February 11, 2019, Newsom had announced he was withdrawing several hundred National Guardsmen from the state’s southern border with Mexico—defying Trump’s request for support from border states.

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Donald Trump at CPAC

“You know if you remember my first major speech—you know the dishonest media they’ll say, ‘He didn’t get a standing ovation.’ You know why? Because everybody stood and nobody sat. They are the worst. They leave that out.”

Once again, he’s the persecuted victim of an unfair and totally unappreciative news media.

“And I love the First Amendment; nobody loves it better than me. Nobody. I mean, who use its more than I do? But the First Amendment gives all of us—it gives it to me, it gives it to you, it gives it to all Americans, the right to speak our minds freely. It gives you the right and me the right to criticize fake news and criticize it strongly.”

Trump has repeatedly called the nation’s free press “the enemy of the people”—a slander popularized by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. And while Trump brags about his usage of the First Amendment, he’s used Non-Disclosure agreements and threats of lawsuits to deny that right to others.

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“For too long, we’ve traded away our jobs to other countries. So terrible.”

While this remark got rousing applause, he failed to mention that his own products are made overseas:

  • Ties: Made in China 
  • Suits: Made in Indonesia 
  • Trump Vodka: Made in the Netherlands, and later in Germany
  • Crystal glasses, decanters: Made in Slovenia 
  • And the clothing and accessories line of his daughter, Ivanka, is produced entirely in factories in Bangladesh, Indonesia and China.

“By the way, you folks are in here—this place is packed, there are lines that go back six blocks and I tell you that because you won’t read about it, OK.”

He’s obsessed with fear that the media won’t make him look popular.

“So we’re all part of this very historic movement, a movement the likes of which, actually, the world has never seen before. There’s never been anything like this. There’s been some movements, but there’s never been anything like this.”

Trump sees himself as the single greatest figure in history. So anything he’s involved with must be unprecedented.

“But I always say, Obamacare doesn’t work. And these same people two years ago and a year ago were complaining about Obamacare.”

In 2010, 48 million Americans lacked health insurance. By 2016, that number had been reduced to 28.6 million. So 20 million Americans now have access to medical care they previously couldn’t get.

“But we’re taking a firm, bold and decisive measure, we have to, to turn things around [with North Korea]. The era of empty talk is over, it’s over.”

  • Trump has boasted that he and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un “fell in love.” Then he met with Kim in Vietnam—and got stiffed on a deal for North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.
  • On July 16, 2018, Trump attended a press conference in Helsinki, Finland, with Russian President Vladimir Putin. There he blamed American Intelligence agencies—such as the FBI, CIA—instead of Putin for Russia’s subversion of the 2016 Presidential election.

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“I’ll tell you what they [agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement] do, they came and endorsed me, ICE came and endorsed me. They never endorsed a presidential candidate before, they might not even be allowed to.” 

Trump can’t stop boasting about how popular he is.

“These are hard-working, great, great Americans. These are unbelievable people who have not been treated fairly. Hillary called them deplorable. They’re not deplorable.”

On the contrary: “Deplorable” is exactly the word for those who vote their racism, ignorance, superstition and hatred of their fellow citizens.

A FINAL NOTE: Trump held himself up for adoration just three days after Michael Cohen, his longtime fixer:

  • Damned him as a racist, a conman and a cheat.
  • Revealed that Trump had cheated on his taxes and bought the silence of a porn “star” to prevent her revealing a 2006 tryst before the 2016 election.
  • Estimated he had stiffed, on Trump’s behalf, hundreds of workers Trump owed money to. 

And, only two days earlier, Trump had returned from a much-ballyhooed meeting in Vietnam with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un. Trump hoped to get a Nobel Peace Prize by persuading Kim to give up his nuclear arsenal.

Instead, Trump got stiffed—and returned empty-handed. 

WHEN A PSYCHOPATH RULES THE WHITE HOUSE: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on May 7, 2020 at 12:17 am

“Is this man simply crazy, or is he crazy like a fox?”

That was the question that Bandy X. Lee, an assistant clinical psychiatry professor at the Yale School of Medicine, wanted to answer.

And she tried to do so as the editor of The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President. 

“It doesn’t take a psychiatrist to notice that our president is mentally compromised,” she and colleague Judith Lewis Herman asserted in the book’s prologue.

According to Dr. Craig Malkin, a Lecturer in Psychology for Harvard Medical School and a licensed psychologist, Trump is a pathological narcissist:

“Pathological narcissism begins,” Malkin writes, “when people become so addicted to feeling special that, just like with any drug, they’ll do anything to get their ‘high,’ including lie, steal, cheat, betray and even hurt those closest to them.

“When they can’t let go of their need to be admired or recognized, they have to bend or invent a reality in which they remain special despite all messages to the contrary. In point of fact, they become dangerously psychotic. It’s just not always obvious until it’s too late.”

Lance Dodes, a retired psychiatry professor at Harvard Medical School, believes that Trump is a sociopath: “The failure of normal empathy is central to sociopathy, which is marked by an absence of guilt, intentional manipulation and controlling or even sadistically harming others for personal power or gratification.”

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But an observer didn’t need to be a psychiatrist to feel frightened by Trump’s behavior at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on March 2, 2019.

For two hours, in National Harbor, Maryland, Trump delivered the longest address (so far) of his Presidency—and of any American President.

“You know, I’m totally off script right now,” Trump said early on. “This is how I got elected, by being off script.” 

And from the moment he embraced an American flag as though he wanted to hump it, it was clear: He was “totally off script.” 

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“How many times did you hear, for months and months, ‘There is no way to 270?’ You know what that means, right? ‘There is no way to 270.'”

Once again, Trump reveals his obsession with his win in 2016—as if no one else had ever been elected President.

“If you tell a joke, if you’re sarcastic, if you’re having fun with the audience, if you’re on live television with millions of people and 25,000 people in an arena, and if you say something like, ‘Russia, please, if you can, get us Hillary Clinton’s emails. Please, Russia, please.'”

Here he’s trying to “spin” his infamous invitation to hackers in Vladimir Putin’s Russia to intervene in an American Presidential election by obtaining the emails of  his campaign rival.  Which they did that same day.

“So now we’re waiting for a report, and we’ll find out whether or not, and who we’re dealing with. We’re waiting for a report by people that weren’t elected.”

It doesn’t matter to Trump that America’s foremost enemy—Russia—tried to influence a Presidential election. What matters to him is that the report might end his Presidency.

“Those red hats—and white ones. The key is in the color. The key is what it says. ‘Make America Great Again’ is what it says. Right? Right?”

Color matters.  Words, ideas don’t. 

“Now, Robert Mueller never received a vote, and neither did the person that appointed him. And as you know, the attorney general says, ‘I’m going to recuse myself.'”

Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller and Assistant Attorney General Rod Rosenstein were career Justice Department officials. They weren’t voted into office.

“Number one, I’m in love, and you’re in love. We’re all in love together. There’s so much love in this room, it’s easy to talk. You can talk your heart out. You really could. There’s love in this room. You can talk your heart out. It’s easy. It’s easy. It’s easy.”

Trump apparently finds it easy to fall in love—with Right-wing audiences and Communist dictators such as Kim Jong-Un.

“And from the day we came down the escalator, I really don’t believe we’ve had an empty seat at any arena, at any stadium. They did the same thing at our big inauguration speech. You take a look at those crowds.”

Once again, he must brag about how popular he is and how many people want to listen to him.

“A few days ago I called the fake news the enemy of the people. And they are. They are the enemy of the people. Because they have no sources, they just make ’em up when there are none.” 

By January 20, 2020, The Washington Post found that Trump had made “16,241 ‘false or misleading claims” in his first three years in office. He is in no position to talk about integrity.

“But we’re going to have regulation. It’s going to be really strong and really good and we’re going to protect our environment and we’re going to protect the safety of our people and our workers, OK?”

To “protect our environment,” Trump appointed Andrew R. Wheeler, a former coal company lobbyist, to head the Environmental Protection Agency.

WHEN A PSYCHOPATH RULES THE WHITE HOUSE: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on May 6, 2020 at 11:13 am

“One man in the free world has the power to launch a nuclear war that might destroy civilization: the President of the United States. What if that man were mentally unbalanced?”

That is the premise of the 1965 novel, Night at Camp David, by Fletcher Knebel. 

At the time of its release, its plot was considered so over-the-top as to be worthy of science fiction:

Iowa Democratic Senator Jim MacVeagh is summoned to Camp David, the Presidential retreat, by President Mark Hollenbach. MacVeagh is expected to become Hollenbach’s next Vice President. But he becomes alarmed that Hollenbach is clearly suffering from intense paranoia. 

He wants to develop a closer relationship between the United States and Russia—while cutting ties with American allies in Europe. Moreover, Hollenbach believes the American news media are conspiring against him with his political enemies.

Only one person possesses evidence that Hollenbach is losing his grip on sanity—his mistress, Rita.  Desperate to retain his power, Hollenbach orders the FBI to investigate both MacVeagh and Rita.

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So why was a 53-year-old novel released in 2018? The answer lies in two words: Donald Trump.

In a November 30, 2018 review of Night at Camp David, Tom McCarthy, national affairs correspondent for the British newspaper, The Guardian, writes:  

“The current president has seen crowds where none exist, deployed troops to answer no threat, attacked national institutions – the military, the justice department, the judiciary, the vote, the rule of law, the press – tried to prosecute his political enemies, elevated bigots, oppressed minorities, praised despots while insulting global allies and wreaked diplomatic havoc from North Korea to Canada.

“He stays up half the night watching TV and tweeting about it, then wakes up early to tweet some more, in what must be the most remarkable public diary of insecurity, petty vindictiveness, duplicity and scattershot focus by a major head of state in history.”

From the beginning of his Presidency, Trump aroused fear—based not only of what he might do, but that he might be mentally unbalanced.  Consider: 

On March 4, 2017, in a series of unhinged tweets, he accused former President Barack Obama of tapping his Trump Tower phones prior to the election:  

“Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!”  

“Is it legal for a sitting President to be ‘wire tapping’ a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW!”  

“I’d bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!”

“How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”  

A subsequent investigation by the Justice Department turned up no evidence to substantiate Trump’s foray into Presidential libel.

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Donald Trump

Trump’s shoot-first-and-never-mind-the-consequences approach to life has been thoroughly documented.  

From June 15, 2015, when he launched his Presidential campaign, until October 24, 2016, he fired nearly 4,000 angry, insulting tweets at 281 people and institutions. The New York Times needed two full pages of its print edition to showcase them.

Among these targets were:

  • His Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton
  • His fellow Republican Presidential candidates
  • Actress Meryl Streep
  • News organizations
  • President Barack Obama
  • Comedian John Oliver
  • The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)
  • Singer Neil Young
  • The state of New Jersey 
  • Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger.  

And during his first two weeks as President, Trump attacked 22 people, places and things on his @realDonaldTrump Twitter account.  

Trump’s vindictiveness, his narcissism, his compulsive aggression, his complaints that his “enemies” in government and the press are trying to destroy him, have caused many to ask: Could the President of the United States be suffering from mental illness?

One who has dared to answer this question is John D. Gartner, a practicing psychotherapist. 

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John D. Gartner

Gartner graduated magna cum laude from Princeton University, received his Ph.D in clinical psychology from the University of Massachusetts, and served as a part-time assistant professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University Medical School for 28 years.

During an interview by U.S. News & World Report (published on January 27, 2017), Gartner said: “Donald Trump is dangerously mentally ill and temperamentally incapable of being president.”

Gartner said that Trump suffers from “malignant narcissism,” whose symptoms include:

  • anti-social behavior
  • sadism
  • aggressiveness
  • paranoia
  • and grandiosity. 

“We’ve seen enough public behavior by Donald Trump now that we can make this diagnosis indisputably,” says Gartner, who admits he has not personally examined Trump.  

More of that behavior was on full display on March 2, 2019 at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), held at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, National Harbor, Maryland.  

For more than two hours, Trump delivered the longest speech (so far) of his Presidency to his fanatically Right-wing audience.

Facing a hostile Democratic House of Representatives and a potentially explosive report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Trump threw down the gauntlet.

REPUBLICANS: TAKING A PAGE FROM THE NAZIS

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on April 1, 2020 at 12:21 am

On June 22, 1941, German Fuhrer Adolf Hitler sent three million soldiers smashing into the Soviet Union. During the first six months—June to December, 1941—German armies lured huge Soviet forces into gigantic “cauldron battles,” surrounding and exterminating them. 

An estimated 5.7 million prisoners of war (POWs) fell into German hands. The Germans found themselves surprised and overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of them. But their mandate demanded that they keep marching forward—ever forward.

So they simply imprisoned their captives behind barbed wire and wasted no food or medical care on them. Between starvation, illness and the brutal Russian cold, at least 3.5 million POWs died in custody.

Soviet prisoners of war behind barbed wire at Falstad Camp May 8th 1945. The picture is probably taken after the Norwegian prisoners left the camp. (Photographer: Unknown / The Falstad Centre)

Soviet POW’s

Republicans have learned a serious lesson from this. If you simply deprive those you detest of food, clothing and shelter, you don’t need gas chambers or firing squads.

That has been their chief reason for opposing Social Security since President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed it into law in 1935.

That is why they opposed President Lyndon B. Johnson when he pushed Medicare through Congress in 1965.

And that is why they have fervently tried to overturn the Affordable Care Act—better known as Obamacare—since it went into effect in 2010.

Of course, Republicans will never admit this. Their mantra has always been they fear such programs will bankrupt the country.

That claim might have credibility—if they didn’t recklessly plunge into budget-busting wars like the 2003 Iraq war started by President George W. Bush. Not a single Republican opposed this needless, bloody conflict—which has cost the United States more than $1.1 trillion.

But the best evidence of Republicans’ desire to use illness as a weapon against those Americans they hate comes from President Donald J. Trump. 

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Donald Trump

On March 26, during an interview on Fox News, Trump blamed the failures of his administration’s response to Coronavirus on Democratic state governors like Andrew Cuomo (NY), Jay Inslee (WA), and Gretchen Whitmer (MI).

On March 27, during his press briefing, Trump said he told Vice President Mike Pence—who’s officially in charge of the White House’s response effort—to not call Inslee and Whitmer because they weren’t “appreciative” enough of his efforts.

Trump said this even as hospitals in each of their states were being overwhelmed with Coronavirus patients.

“I tell him—I mean I’m a different type of person— I say, ‘Mike, don’t call the governor in Washington, you’re wasting your time with him. Don’t call the woman in Michigan,’” Trump said. “If they don’t treat you right, I don’t call.”

Trump said that when people criticized him, they were criticizing the federal government: “When they’re not appreciative to me, they’re not appreciative to the Army Corps, they’re not appreciative to FEMA.  It’s not right.”

Trump also attacked Whitmer on Right-wing Fox News’ “Sean Hannity Show”: “I don’t know if she knows what’s going on, but all she does is sit there and blame the federal government.”

That same day—March 27—Whitmer told a Michigan radio station: “What I’ve gotten back is that vendors with whom we’ve procured contracts—they’re being told not to send stuff to Michigan. It’s really concerning. I reached out to the White House last night and asked for a phone call with the president, ironically at the time this stuff was going on.”

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Gretchen Whitmer

Julia Pickett / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

A March 29 story in the Washington Monthly sheds light on what lay behind Whitmer’s inability to secure desperately-needed ventilators from her longtime vendors. Its headline ran: “What If Trump Decides to Save Republicans But Not Democrats?”

And it was followed by a sub-headline: “He’s providing vital resources to red states and ignoring blue states.”

Florida submitted a request to the Federal Emergency Management Agency  on March 11 for 430,000 surgical masks, 180,000 N95 respirators, 82,000 face shields and 238,000 gloves—and received a shipment with everything three days later.

It received an identical shipment on March 23, and is awaiting a third.

In 2019, Trump demanded a “favor” from the embattled Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky—“dirt” on Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden—in return for releasing military aid Ukraine needed to combat an increasingly aggressive Russia.

Now he is apparently demanding Democratic governors praise him and blame themselves if they want their citizens to receive desperately-needed medical supplies.

On Fox News, Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, bluntly told governors: “Take the blame when you have to. When you play with your boss, sometimes it’s better when you don’t win the golf game. He’s the boss, he’s got all the resources.” 

This is precisely the dictatorial arrogance of which Republicans falsely accused President Barack Obama.

The Washington Monthly story concludes on an ominous note: “What if the White House simply gives all the masks and ventilators to red states and counties, leaving blue ones to struggle? What mechanisms of accountability are left?

“U.S. democracy wasn’t set up to deal with a president openly behaving like a James Bond villain while being protected by a political party behaving more like a mafia than a civic institution.”

YOUR CORONAVIRUS CZAR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As Governor, Pence: 

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

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

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

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

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Mike Pence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What will happen when: 

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

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

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

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

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

OBAMA VS. TRUMP—IN FICTION

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on January 10, 2020 at 12:04 am

Presidential legacies live on in unexpected ways.  

Right now, the legacies of Barack Obama and Donald Trump are vying for the attention of—fiction readers.

In Hope Never Dies: An Obama-Biden Mystery, author Andrew Shaffer has fashioned a novel that is half-mystery, half-bromance.   

Vice President Joe Biden has just left the Obama White House and doesn’t know what he wants to do with the rest of his life. Then Finn Donnelly, his favorite railroad conductor, dies in a suspicious accident, leaving behind an ailing wife and a trail of clues.

To unravel the mystery, “Amtrak Joe” calls on the skills of his former boss: The 44th President of the United States. Together they scour biker bars, cheap motels and other memorable haunts throughout Delaware.

Hope Never Dies: An Obama Biden Mystery (Obama Biden Mysteries)

Then Biden unearths a disturbing truth about his longtime—and now dead—friend. This, in turn, leads Biden and Obama to uncover the sinister forces behind America’s opioid epidemic.

The book is pure fantasy fun, as evidenced from this review by Alexandra Alter in The New York Times

“[Hope Never Dies is] a roughly 300-page work of political fanfiction, an escapist fantasy that will likely appeal to liberals pining for the previous administration, longing for the Obama-Biden team to emerge from political retirement as action heroes. But it’s also at times a surprisingly earnest story about estranged friends who are reunited under strange circumstances.”

A reader named Casey, reviewing the novel for Goodreads, writes: “While Shaffer could have leaned into nostalgia alone, he’s written a solid mystery with the characters fleshed out as more than just cliches.

“The reader really feels Biden’s longing to be helpful and his anguish over seeing 44’s legacy undone so quickly by an individual who shall remain nameless. (The presidential zings in this book are incredible, truly.)

“The tension between the two rings as true as it did when they were in office….By all means, this book shouldn’t work as well as it does. For a few hours, I got to enjoy the company of politicians who behaved like adults (mostly). It sure was nice.”

Contrasting with the relatively lighthearted fictional image of Barack Obama is the immensely darker one of Donald Trump.

Don Winslow offers Trump an extended cameo appearance in The Border, his massive, 736-page novel about America’s war on drugs—and the horrific violence it has spawned in Mexico. It’s the third of a trilogy of novels vividly portraying the violent costs of an unwinnable conflict. 

The Border: A Novel (Power of the Dog Book 3)

Art Keller is a dedicated agent of the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). For over 40 years, he has waged all-out war on Adán Barrera, the godfather of the powerful Sinaloa Cartel.

Appointed director of the DEA, Keller now faces a series of deadly enemies:

  • A heroin epidemic surging across America; 
  • Hitmen who want to kill him;
  • Politicians who want to sabotage his agenda; and
  • An incoming administration that’s allied with the very drug traffickers he’s trying to destroy.

And heading this administration is John Dennison—Donald Trump in all but name—who:

  • Gratuitously insults people on Twitter;
  • Fires a Special Counsel;
  • Gets blackmailed by a woman he once bedded; and
  • Colludes with drug traffickers for a multi-million dollar loan to finance his Presidential campaign.

Whereas the reviews for Hope Never Dies were as upbeat as the book itself, those of The Border reflect the novel’s mercilessly grim take on a war that can’t be won. 

Los Angeles Times:The Border is intricate, mean and swift, a sprawling canvass of characters including narco kingpins, a Guatemalan stowaway, a Staten Island heroin addict, a kinky hit woman, a barely veiled Donald Trump and DEA agent Art Keller, who….has been noble and merciless, a conflicted wanderer who makes America face the transgressions committed in its name.”

Rolling Stone: “Clocking in at over 700 pages, it is his most overtly political installment yet. He takes on the Trump administration directly, creating a fictional candidate, then president, who stokes racist fears of Mexicans, campaigns on ‘building the wall’ and, along with his venal son-in-law, gets caught up in a shady real estate deal involving Cartel money.”

NPR: The Border becomes a book for our times. Like Shakespeare, it makes a three-act drama of our modern moment. Like Shakespeare’s plays, it shows us a world that is our own, a history that is our own, a burden that is our own, rendered out into the rhythm of scenes and arcs, chapters and parts.”

The signature slogan of Obama’s 2008 Presidential campaign was: “Yes, We Can!” The slogan of Trump’s 2016 effort could have been: “No, You Can’t.” 

Obama concentrated the full force of his attention on reforming American healthcare—by making it available to millions whose insurance refused to provide coverage.

Trump’s top priority is to separate the United States from Mexico with an impenetrable wall—and he has even diverted $3.6 billion from Pentagon funding to pay for it. 

Like John F. Kennedy, Barack Obama will likely be positively remembered as much for what he tried to do as what he succeeded at doing.

Like Richard M. Nixon, Donald Trump will likely be remembered as a menacing stain on American history. 

“IF WE CAN’T RULE GERMANY / AMERICA, NOBODY ELSE CAN!”: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on November 22, 2019 at 12:05 am

In 2009, the top goal of the Republican party became to block passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA)—informally known as “Obamacare.”  Its purpose: To provide all Americans—and not simply the richest 1%—with healthcare insurance.  

Despite this opposition, the ACA passed the House and Senate—and was signed into law by President Obama on March 23, 2010. 

And from then on, Republicans’ foremost goal was to repeal “Obamacare”—which they damned as “fiscally irresponsible.” 

In 2003, President George W. Bush had lied the United States into a needless, bloody war in Iraq—which has cost the nation more than $2 trillion.  

But Republicans fully supported that expense—and still do. 

George W. Bush

Even after the Supreme Court affirmed its Constitutionality in 2012, House Republicans voted—unsuccessfully—more than 60 times to repeal or alter “Obamacare.”

In October, 2013, they shut down the Federal Government for 15 days. They hoped to pressure Obama into de-funding his signature piece of legislation, in return for their re-opening the government.

Facing pressure from voters denied basic government services, Republicans backed down.  

Fast forward to 2017. 

Republicans still held the House and Senate—and now the Presidency under Donald J. Trump. And they mounted an all-out effort to strip millions of poor Americans of their only access to medical care.

Related image

Donald J. Trump 

On March 9, Trump met at the White House with leaders of conservative groups to push his own plan to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act.

A major provision of this plan would allow insurance companies to adhere only to the regulations of the state they’re located in. The predictable result: The majority of companies would relocate to the state with the most lax regulations.

At the White House meeting, Trump attacked groups—such as the Heritage Foundation and Tea Party Patriots—for calling the House GOP proposal “Obamacare lite.” And he warned: “You are helping the other side.”  

And he made it clear to conservative leaders that he had a fallback plan: If “Trumpcare” proves a failure–that is, fails to pass Congress—he would allow the ACA to fail and blame the Democrats.

Thus, Trump admitted that he was prepared to allow the American healthcare system to collapse and let millions die for lack of medical care—all for his own political gain.  

However, it was not voted upon due to lack of support from Democrats.

On December 11, 2018, Nancy Pelosi—then House Minority Leader—and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, met with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office. Trump’s Number One Priority: Demanding $5.6 billion to create a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border.

And he threatened to shut down the Federal Government if he didn’t get it.

Pelosi and Schumer refused to capitulate.

Trump shut down the government on December 22. About 380,000 government employees were furloughed and another 420,000 were ordered to work without pay.

Among the effects of the shutdown:  

  • For weeks, hundreds of thousands of government workers missed paychecks.
  • Trash piled up in national parks. 
  • At the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) many air traffic controllers called in “sick.” 
  • The shortage of air traffic controllers prevented many planes from landing 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. 

By January 25, 2019, 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%. So Trump outraged his Hispanic-hating base and reopened the government.

* * * * *

As the Third Reich came to its fiery end, Adolf Hitler sought to punish the German people for being “unworthy” of his “genius” and losing the war he had started.

His attitude was: “If I can’t rule Germany, then there won’t be a Germany.”

In his infamous “Nero Order,” he decreed the destruction of everything still remaining–industries, ships, harbors, communications, roads, mines, bridges, stores, utility plants, food stuffs.

Fortunately for Germany, one man—Albert Speer—finally broke ranks with his Fuhrer.

Albert Speer

Albert Speer

Risking death, he refused to carry out Hitler’s “scorched earth” order. Even more important, he mounted a successful effort to block such destruction and persuade influential military and civilian leaders to disobey the order as well.

As a result, those targets slated for destruction were spared.

Since the election of America’s first black President, Republicans have waged a similar “scorched earth” campaign. 

Their avowed goal—as stated openly by Kentucky’s U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell—was “to make Barack Obama a one-term President.”

Literally during Obama’s first Inauguration, they agreed, in a secret meeting, to block every effort he made to repair the economy ruined under the George W. Bush administration.

Acting as extortionists, they repeatedly threatened to shut down the government if they didn’t get their way in legislative matters.

And they repeatedly blocked legislation to help the poor, the unemployed, the sick, women, the elderly, the disabled and the middle-class. 

Like Adolf Hitler, their attitude has been: “If I can’t rule America, there won’t be an America.”

The country is still waiting for a Republican Albert Speer to step forward and save America from the self-destructive brutalities of its own Right-wing fanatics.

“IF WE CAN’T RULE GERMANY / AMERICA, NOBODY ELSE CAN!”: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on November 21, 2019 at 12:13 am

During the summer of 2011, Republicans refused to raise the debt ceiling unless Democrats agreed to massively cut social programs for the elderly, poor and disabled.

If Congress failed to raise the borrowing limit of the federal government by August 2, the date when the U.S. reached the limit of its borrowing abilities, America would begin defaulting on its loans.

As Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, explained the looming economic catastrophe:

“If you don’t send out Social Security checks, I would hate to think about the credit meeting at S&P and Moody’s the next morning.

“If you’re not paying millions and millions and millions of people that range in age from 65 on up, money you promised them, you’re not a AAA.” 

Warren Buffett

A triple-A credit rating is the highest possible rating that can be achieved.

And while Republicans demanded that the disadvantaged tighten their belts, they rejected any raising of taxes on their foremost constituency—the wealthiest 1%.

As the calendar moved ever closer to the fateful date of August 2, Republican leaders continued to insist: Any deal that includes taxes “can’t pass the House.”

To prevent the government from defaulting on its loans, President Barack Obama agreed to sign the Republican-crafted Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011.

The Act provided for a Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to produce legislation by late November to decrease the deficit by $1.2 trillion over ten years.

When the so-called “Super Committee” failed to reach agreement, the second part of the BCA went into effect.

This directed automatic across-the-board cuts (known as “sequestrations”) split evenly between defense and domestic spending, beginning on January 2, 2013.

A major casualty of sequestration was the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And this threatened the safety of the Nation Republicans claim to love: 

  • In 2013, the CDC was forced to cut 5%, or more than $285 million, from its budget.
  • The sequester cut $195 million from the National Centers for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, a CDC program that tries to prevent illness and death from infectious disease.
  • For fiscal 2014, CDC’s budget was $5.9 billion, down from the $6.5 billion allotted in 2010.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 

In October, 2014, for the first time in United States history, the CDC faced an unexpected outbreak of the dreaded Ebola virus.  

To Americans’ horror, the agency initially seemed unable to deal effectively with the threat.

Moreover, the Nation was confronting the Ebola crisis without a Surgeon General—thanks to NRA-funded Republican Senators.

President Obama had nominated Dr. Vivek Murthy for the spot in November, 2013, when the previous surgeon general left the position. But the Senate still hadn’t approved Murthy.

And support for him declined since he tweeted on October 16, 2002, that “guns are a health care issue.”

(On December 15, 2014, the Senate approved Murthy as Surgeon General in a 51–43 Senate vote. He served until 2017.)

At the same time, Republicans rushed to blame President Obama for the continuing Ebola menace in West Africa—and the danger it posed to Americans.

“I think this Ebola outbreak in Africa is a serious problem,” said House Speaker John Boehner. “And I’m a bit surprised the administration hasn’t acted more quickly to address what is a serious threat, not only to Africans but to others around the world.”

“The President made a lot of commitments to combat Ebola, actions which I supported,” said North Carolina U.S. Senator Richard Burr. “But it has become clear that the administration’s capacity to fulfill these promises in a timeline that sufficiently addresses this crisis does not exist.”

But then a new Republican-inspired crisis threatened America.

On December 13, 2014, the U.S. Senate passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill to fund almost the entire government through the September 30 end of the fiscal year.

But one Federal agency was pointedly exempted from full funding: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

President George W. Bush had created this agency to safeguard the country against terrorism. But he didn’t imagine that his fellow Republicans might willingly jeopardize the security of the Nation.

President Obama had requested $38.2 billion to fund DHS through fiscal year 2015. But Republicans ensured that its funding would end on February 27.

Republicans had gained control of the House of Representatives after the 2010 elections. And then they gained control of the Senate with the 2014 elections. With their new-found majorities in both houses of Congress, they intended to hold the security of the United States as a hostage.

Their goal: To force Obama to rescind the changes he had made in American immigration policy.

Homeland Security was charged with implementing those changes. And Republicans intended to strip it of funding to do so.

With more than 240,000 employees, DHS is the third largest Cabinet department, after the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs.

The Defense Department is charged with protecting the United States through military action abroad. DHS is responsible for safeguarding the Nation inside and outside its borders.

Its goal is to prepare for, prevent and—if prevention fails—respond to man-made accidents, natural disasters and terrorism.

Finally, just as DHS’ funding was about to expire, House Republicans capitulated. They approved a bill the Senate passed to fund DHS without any added conditions. 

“IF WE CAN’T RULE GERMANY / AMERICA, NOBODY ELSE CAN!”: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on November 20, 2019 at 12:09 am

Albert Speer, Minister of Armaments for the Third Reich, was appalled.

His Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler—the man he had idolized for 14 years—had just passed a death sentence on Germany, the nation he claimed to love above all others.

Albert Speer and Adolf Hitler pouring over architectural plans

On March 19, 1945, facing certain defeat, Hitler had ordered a massive “scorched-earth” campaign throughout Germany.

All German agriculture, industry, ships, communications, roads, food stuffs, mines, bridges, stores and utility plants were to be destroyed.

If implemented, it would deprive the entire German population of even the barest necessities after the war.

Click here: Hitler’s “Scorched Earth” Decree and Albert Speer’s Response

Now living in a bunker 50 feet below bomb-shattered Berlin, Hitler gave full vent to his most destructive impulses.

Adolf Hitler addressing boy soldiers as the Third Reich crumbles

“If the war is lost,” Hitler told Speer, “the nation will also perish. This fate is inevitable. There is no necessity to take into consideration the basis which the people will need to continue even a most primitive existence.

“On the contrary, it will be better to destroy these things ourselves, because this nation will have proved to be the weaker one and the future will belong solely to the stronger eastern nation.

“Besides, those who will remain after the battle are only the inferior ones, for the good ones have all been killed.”

Speer argued in vain that there must be a future for the German people. But Hitler refused to back down. He gave Speer 24 hours to reconsider his opposition to the order.

The next day, Speer told Hitler: “My Fuhrer, I stand unconditionally behind you!”

“Then all is well,” said Hitler, suddenly with tears in his eyes.

“If I stand unreservedly behind you,” said Speer, “then you must entrust me rather than the Gauleiters [district Party leaders serving as provincial governors] with the implementation of your decree.”

Filled with gratitude, Hitler signed the decree Speer had thoughtfully prepared before their fateful meeting.

By doing so, Hitler unintentionally gave Speer the power to thwart his “scorched earth” decree.

Speer had been the closest thing to a friend in Hitler’s life. Trained as an architect, he had joined the Nazi Party in 1931.

He met Hitler in 1933, when he presented the Fuhrer with architectural designs for the Nuremberg Rally scheduled for that year.

From then on, Speer became Hitler’s “genius architect” assigned to create buildings meant to last for a thousand years.

In 1943, Hitler appointed him Minister of Armaments, charged with revitalizing the German war effort.

Nevertheless, Speer now crisscrossed Germany, persuading military leaders and district governors to not destroy the vital facilities that would be needed after the war.

“No other senior National Socialist could have done the job,” writes Randall Hanson, author of Disobeying Hitler: German Resistance After Valkyrie.

“Speer was one of the very few people in the Reich–perhaps even the only one–with such power to influence actors’ willingness/unwillingness to destroy.”

Despite his later conviction for war crimes at Nuremberg, Speer never regretted his efforts to save Germany from total destruction at the hands of Adolf Hitler.

Fast-forward to the United States since the 2008 election of President Barack Obama.

Republicans have adopted the same my-way-or-else “negotiating” stance as the German Fuhrer. Like him, they are determined to gain and hold absolute power–or destroy the Nation they claim to love.

During his eight years in the White House, Ronald Reagan presided over a tripling of the national debt—and raised the debt limit 17 times.

President George W. Bush nearly doubled it again.  

During the George W. Bush Presidency, Republicans in Congress raised the debt ceiling seven times—when the national debt grew to $10.627 trillion due to tax cuts for the rich and wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

But none of that mattered to Republicans—so long as one of them held the White House.

Then Barack Obama, a Democrat—worse, a black one—became President.

Suddenly, “fiscal integrity” became the byword of Republicans.  And in its name, they repeatedly threatened to shut down the government if their legislative demands weren’t met.

In April, 2011, the United States government almost shut down over Republican demands about subsidized pap smears.

During a late-night White House meeting with President Obama and key Congressional leaders, Republican House Speaker John Boehner made this threat:

His conference would not approve funding for the government if any money were allowed to flow to Planned Parenthood through Title X legislation.

John Boehner

Facing an April 8 deadline, negotiators worked day and night to strike a compromise–and finally reached one.

Three months later—on July 9—Republican extortionists again threatened the Nation with financial ruin and international disgrace unless their demands were met.

By refusing to raise the debt ceiling, they would force the government to default on paying the bills it owed.

President Obama had offered to make historic cuts in the federal government and the social safety net–on which millions of Americans depend for their most basic needs.

But Boehner rejected that offer. He would not agree to the tax increases that Democrats wanted to impose on the wealthiest 1% as part of the bargain.

TRUMP: “MY CRIMES ARE NOW YOUR CRIMES”

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 28, 2019 at 12:27 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, this time to an audience of Reichsleiters (national leaders) and Gauleiters (governors), as well as other government representatives. Attendees at this address included Minister of Armaments Albert Speer and Alfred Rosenberg, director of the Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories.

The purpose of those speeches: 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.

Heinrich Himmler 

Himmler wanted to make his listeners accessories to his monumental crimes—and to warn them there was no turning back: 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:

“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…. 

“We have taken away the riches that they had, and…we have delivered these riches to the Reich, to the State….

“We have the moral right, we had the duty to our people, to kill this people who would kill us. We however do not have the right to enrich ourselves with even one fur, with one Mark, with one cigarette, with one watch, with anything. 

“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 October, 2019. 

President Donald J. Trump, like Adolf Hitler, finds himself increasingly desperate to avoid the wrath of his aroused enemies. He has committed a series of outrages that, in the past, would have earned a similar President an impeachment ouster.

Donald Trump

Now he faces almost certain impeachment for trying to coerce Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to “request” a “favor”: Investigate Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, who has had business dealings in Ukraine.

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

Before making the July 25 call to Zelensky, Trump had withheld almost $400 million in promised military aid for Ukraine, which faces increasing aggression from Russia. 

So Trump, like Heinrich Himmler, has sought to entangle his fellow Republicans in his litany of crimes. On October 21, 2019, he lectured them during a meeting of his Cabinet:

“And Republicans have to get tougher and fight. We have some that are great fighters, but they have to get tougher and fight because the Democrats are trying to hurt the Republican party for the election, which is coming up, where we’re doing very well.” 

The following day, he wrote on Twitter: “All Republicans must remember what they are witnessing here – a lynching. But we will WIN!”

And on October 23, he tweeted: “Never Trumper Republicans, though on respirators with not many left, are in certain ways worse and more dangerous for our Country than the Do Nothing Democrats. Watch out for them, they are human scum!”

On October 23, about two dozen Republican members of the House of Representatives did as their embattled President had demanded.

Acting as Stormtrumpers, they barged into the Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF), a room where Congressional members can review classified information and hold private hearings. Even worse, many of them tweeted updates of the disruption from their cellphones—which are forbidden in classified areas.

They deliberately interrupted a private impeachment deposition as Laura Cooper, a top Pentagon official who oversees Ukraine policy, was preparing to testify.

They occupied the room for five hours before finally leaving.

The Republicans claimed they were being “shut out” of the impeachment inquiry. But 12 of them belong to the Oversight or Foreign Affairs committees—and were allowed to sit in on all depositions held in the SCIF in recent weeks.

Unable to refute damning testimony given against Trump by William Taylor, the former ambassador to Ukraine, Republicans now turn to outright intimidation for his defense.

For Republicans, this is a familiar tactic: During 2009-10, when Democrats held town hall meetings to discuss the proposed Affordable Care Act, Republican sent bully-boys to break up those meetings.

According to Bloomberg: President Trump knew in advance that Republicans planned to occupy the space and supported their plan, “saying he wanted the transcripts released because they will exonerate him.”

By following the same strategy as Himmler, Trump is entangling Republicans in his own crimes.

His infamy is now theirs.

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