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“STAND BACK AND STAND BY”—FOR A KIDNAPPING: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on October 21, 2020 at 12:26 am

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer was born on August 23, 1971. She earned a BA degree in Communications from Michigan State University in 1993 and a Juris Doctor from Detroit College of Law at Michigan State University in 1998.

In 2000, she ran for the Michigan House of Representatives and was elected to represent the 23rd legislative district. She was reelected in 2002 and 2004. In March, 2006, Whitmer won a special election to the Michigan State Senate. She was elected to a full term in November, and reelected in 2010. Owing to term limits, she couldn’t run for reelection in 2014 and left office in 2015.

On June 21, 2016, judges of Michigan’s 30th Judicial Circuit Court unanimously selected Whtmer as Ingham County Prosecutor. Outgoing prosecutor Stuart Dunnings had been arrested on March 14, 2016, and charged with 11 counts of involvement with a prostitute. Whitmer served the remaining six months of his term, which expired in December, 2016.

On November 6, 2018, Whtmer was elected to a four-year term as Governor of Michigan. 

Standing five-feet-eight-inches tall and with a slender physique, Whitmer bears a striking resemblance to Bridget Moynahan, who plays District Attorney Erin Reagan on the CBS police drama, “Blue Bloods.”

Governor Whitmer Headshot

Gretchen Whitmer

She has two daughters from her first marriage. In 2011, she married dentist Marc P. Mallory, who has three children from his own previous marriage. They live in East Lansing, Michigan, with their children. 

From the moment Whitmer issued her stay-at-home order to stem the COVID-19 pandemic in Michigan, she became a target for President Donald Trump.

On September 29, Trump faced off with his Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden, in the first of three scheduled Presidential debates.

When Trump refused to condemn white supremacists, moderator Chris Wallace challenged him to do so. 

“What do you want me to call them?” asked Trump. “Give me a name.”

Biden suggested the Proud Boys, a violent Right-wing group.

Trump’s response: “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by. But I’ll tell you what, I’ll tell you what, somebody’s got to do something about Antifa and the Left, because this is not a Right-wing problem.” 

President Trump's Proud Boys comments stir up Kalamazoo residents | WWMT

Donald Trump

On October 8, 13 Right-wingers were charged in a terrorism plot to kidnap Whtmer. The terrorists intended to overthrow several state governments that they “believe are violating the US Constitution,” including the government of Michigan, according to a federal criminal complaint.

Interviewed on TV that afternoon, Whitmer said: “I knew this job would be hard, but I’ll be honest, I never could’ve imagined anything like this.

“Just last week, the President of the United States stood before the American people and refused to condemn white supremacists and hate groups like these two Michigan militia groups.

“‘Stand back and stand by,’ he told them….Hate groups heard the President’s words not as a rebuke, but as a rallying cry, as a call to action. When our leaders speak, their words matter. They carry weight.” 

Trump’s response to the kidnapping plot swiftly followed: “Governor Whitmer of Michigan has done a terrible job,” he tweeted. “She locked down her state for everyone, except her husband’s boating activities.”

Trump claimed credit for the arrests: It was “my Justice Department” that foiled the kidnapping. The credit actually belongs to the Michigan Justice Department, the FBI which Trump is attacking, and local police.

In an interview on CNN on October 8, Whitmer said: “You know, the fact that after a plot to kidnap and to kill me, this is what they come out with. They start attacking me, as opposed to what good, decent people would do, [which] is to check in and say, ‘Are you OK?’”

Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden telephoned her immediately after the announcement of the failed plot. “I think that tells you everything that’s at stake in this election,” Whitmer said. “It tells you everything you need to know about the character of the two people on this ballot that we have to choose from in a few weeks.”

Joe Biden's Next Big Decision: Choosing A Running Mate | Voice of America - English

Joe Biden

The plot had been known to the FBI for months. The agency arranged for a confidential informant to travel to Dublin, Ohio, on June 6 for a meeting with about 15 of the conspirators.

“Several members talked about murdering ‘tyrants’ or ‘taking’ a sitting governor,” according to the federal criminal complaint.

In several recorded conversations, plotter Adam Fox said he needed “200 men” to storm the Capitol building in Lansing and take hostages, including Whitmer. He explained they would try the governor of Michigan for “treason” and would execute the plan before the November 2020 elections. 

Immediately after discovering the plot, the FBI warned the governor’s security detail. Whitmer’s security was greatly tightened. 

In April, Right-wing protesters had rallied at the state Capitol, gridlocking the streets and demanding that Whitmer lift her stay-at-home order. Armed demonstrators entered the state capitol—where it is legal to openly carry firearms—and demanded an end to Michigan’s state of emergency.

Having learned from this near-tragedy, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced on October 16 that residents will not be allowed to open-carry firearms “in a polling place, in any hallway used by voters to enter or exit, or within 100 feet of any entrance to a building in which a polling place is located.”

“STAND BACK AND STAND BY”–FOR A KIDNAPPING: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on October 20, 2020 at 12:04 am

On April 9, Democratic Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer extended the anti-Coronavirus measures set forth in her March 10 Executive Order 2020-4. Among these:

  • No person or entity shall operate a business or conduct operations that require workers to leave their homes or places of residence unless those workers are necessary to sustain or protect life or to conduct minimum basic operations.
  • “Essential workers” were defined as those “necessary to sustain or protect life.”

KXAN Austin

Governor Gretchen Whitmer

Individuals were allowed to leave their home and travel as necessary to:

  • Engage in outdoor physical activity, so long as they stayed at least six feet from people from outside their own household.
  • Perform their jobs as critical infrastructure workers after being so designated by their employers.
  • Perform necessary government activities.
  • Obtain necessary services or supplies for themselves, their family or household members, their pets, and their vehicles.
  • Care for a family member or a family member’s pet in another household.
  • Care for minors, dependents, the elderly, persons with disabilities, or other vulnerable persons.
  • Visit an individual under the care of a health care facility, residential care facility, or congregate care facility.
  • Attend legal proceedings or hearings for essential or emergency purposes as ordered by a court.
  • Work or volunteer for businesses or operations that provide food, shelter, and other necessities of life for those who are poor, disabled, or suffering because of the COVID-19 emergency.
  • Attend a funeral, provided that no more than 10 people are in attendance.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urged Americans to wear masks and keep at least six feet from their fellows. And most of the nation’s governors issued stay-at-home orders that banned large gatherings—including visits to parks and beaches.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Yet President Donald Trump openly encouraged defiance of those orders. On April 17 he issued a series of tweets to his supporters:

“LIBERATE MINNESOTA!”

“LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” 

“LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!”

All these states had Democratic governors—and had been targeted for Right-wing protests. Large numbers of men and women stood closely together, with most of them not wearing masks. They claimed their “freedoms” were being infringed upon.

Whitmer, who had defied the Republican legislature by extending her stay-at-home order, was denounced as a Nazi, with protesters displaying signs like “Heil Whtmer.” 

(It is a hallmark of Right-wingers to accuse their opponents of being what they are themselves—Fascists.) 

On April 30, a protest at the Michigan Capitol Building featured treasonous Confederate flags and hangman’s nooses. Some signs displayed swastikas. Many of the demonstrators were armed with AK-47s.

That protest was organized by the Michigan Conservative Coalition, a group co-founded by a GOP state representative and his wife, who is on the advisory board for an official Trump campaign group called Women for Trump and is also the co-founder of Michigan Trump Republicans.

Another of the event’s promoters, Greg McNeilly, is a longtime political adviser to the wealthy DeVos family, which includes Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and her brother, Erik Prince, founder of the notorious Blackwater mercenary group.

On May 1, demonstrators—many of them heavily armed—again descended on the state capital in Lansing, protesting Whitmer’s extension of her emergency declaration that kept some businesses closed amidst the plague. And, once again, President Trump sided with the protesters.

On May 1, Trump tweeted in support of the Michigan demonstrators. Just as German Fuhrer Adolf Hitler blamed his opponents for the violence he stoked, so did Trump. Aiming his tweet at Whitmer, he wrote: “These are very good people, but they are angry. They want their lives back again, safely! See them, talk to them, make a deal.”

Writer Steven Pressfield summed up the immorality of these protests: “Why are we asked to wear surgical or face masks in public, to practice social distancing and to observe self-quarantining? Because these practices are not for the individual alone but for the protection of the whole [community].”

Washington Governor Jay Inslee tweeted: “The president’s statements this morning encourage illegal and dangerous acts. He is putting millions of people in danger of contracting COVID-19.

“His unhinged rantings and calls for people to ‘liberate’ states could also lead to violence. We’ve seen it before.”

Trump had two hidden agendas for ending “stay-at-home” orders.

First, from the moment he took office on January 20, 2017, he had claimed credit for a booming economy—even though this was largely the creation of his predecessor, Barack Obama.

Now, with thousands of businesses closed because of Coronavirus, that economy was essentially dead.

SARS-CoV-2 without background.png

Coronavirus

Trump knew that Presidents who preside over faltering economies usually don’t win a second term. And Trump not only lusted to win a second term but—as he has repeatedly “joked”—become “President-for-Life.”

Second, Trump was desperate to return to his Nuremberg-style rallies. There he could hurl insults at virtually everyone and bask in the fanatical worship of his followers. These rallies acted as fuel to his campaign.

So now he went to any lengths to “reopen” the country–including soliciting violent resistance to the laws of governors he didn’t like.

“STAND BACK AND STAND BY”–FOR A KIDNAPPING: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on October 19, 2020 at 12:08 am

It could have been the plot for a Frederick Forsythe novel.

It was Forsythe who wrote The Day of the Jackal, the fictional account of a Right-wing plot to assassinate French President Charles de Gaulle. 

Another Forsythe novel, The Dogs of War, focused on a group of mercenaries hired to overthrow the ruler of a small African country and install a brutal dictator in his place.

So Forsythe was probably not surprised when he learned, on October 8, that 13 people were charged with plotting to kidnap Michigan Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

The scheme included plans to overthrow several state governments that the suspects “believe are violating the US Constitution,” including the government of Michigan, according to a federal criminal complaint.

Six people were charged federally with conspiracy to kidnap. Seven other people, associated with the militia group “Wolverine Watchmen,” were charged by the state.  

“The individuals in (state) custody are suspected to have attempted to identify the home addresses of law enforcement officers in order to target them, made threats of violence intended to instigate a civil war, and engaged in planning and training for an operation to attack the capitol building of Michigan and to kidnap government officials, including the governor of Michigan,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said at a press conference.

Whitmer had become a major target of President Donald Trump in March, when she tried to obtain urgently-needed medical supplies for Michigan hospitals coping with a flood of Coronavirus cases.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (cropped).jpg

Gretchen Whitmer

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

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 Coronavirus 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.”

Echoing French King Louis XIV’s boast, “I am the State,” 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.”

Image result for Public domain images of Donald Trump

Donald Trump

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.”

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 was awaiting a third.

On March 10, 2020, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services identified the first two presumptive-positive cases of COVID-19 in Michigan. On that same day, Whitmer issued Executive Order 2020-4, which declared a state of emergency across the state of Michigan. 

Seal of Michigan.svg

State Seal of Michigan

In the three weeks that followed, the virus spread across Michigan, bringing deaths in the hundreds, confirmed cases in the thousands, and deep disruption to the state’s economy, homes, and educational, civic, social, and religious institutions.

On April 1, 2020, in response to the widespread calamities inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Whitmer issued Executive Order 2020-33. This declared both a state of emergency and a state of disaster across Michigan.

By April 8, 2020, COVID-19 had infected 20,346 Michigan residents and claimed 959 lives. 

As a result, on April 9, Whitmer reaffirmed and extended the measures set forth in Executive Order 2020-21. Her order stated:

  • Michigan residents must stay at home or at their place of residence.
  • All public and private gatherings of any number of people occurring among persons not part of a single household were prohibited.
  • All individuals who leave their home or place of residence must adhere to social distancing measures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), including remaining at least six feet from people from outside the individual’s household to the extent feasible under the circumstances.

CREATING A DICTATORSHIP: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on October 14, 2020 at 12:11 am

There were solid grounds for the Obama Justice Department to indict Donald Trump or invalidate the results of the 2016 election. Yet no action was taken.

Case #4: The Justice Department did not invalidate the results of the 2016 election, despite overwhelming evidence that Russia intervened to elect Trump as Vladimir Putin’s chosen candidate. 

In July, 2016, the Russians hacked the Democratic committee’s servers—but not those of the Republican National Committee.

Admiral Michael Rogers, director of the National Security Agency (NSA) and US Cyber Command, said in mid-November, 2016, that Russia made “a conscious effort” to sway the results of the Presidential election by the hacking of 20,000 emails from the Democratic National Committee.

“There shouldn’t be any doubt in anybody’s mind,” said Rogers. “This was not something that was done casually. This was not something that was done by chance. This was not a target that was selected purely arbitrarily. This was a conscious effort by a nation-state to attempt to achieve a specific effect.”

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

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Case #5: The Justice Department did not prosecute Trump for treason, even though he solicited aid from Russia, a nation hostile to the United States. And no major official of the government—including President Obama—publicly condemned him as a traitor.     

On July 9, 2016, high-ranking members of his Presidential campaign met at Trump Tower with at least two lobbyists with ties to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. The participants included: 

  • Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr.;
  • His son-in-law, Jared Kushner;
  • His then-campaign manager, Paul Manafort; 
  • Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer with ties to Putin; and 
  • Rinat Akhmetshin, a former Soviet counterintelligence officer suspected of “having ongoing ties to Russian Intelligence.”

The purpose of that meeting: To gain access to any “dirt” Russian Intelligence could supply on Democratic Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton. 

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Donald Trump

On July 22, 2016, Wikileaks released 19,252 emails and 8,034 attachments hacked from computers of the highest-ranking officials of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Early reports traced the leak to Russian hackers. 

At a news conference in Doral, Florida on July 27, 2016, Trump publicly invited “Russia”—i.e., Vladimir Putin—to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails: “I will tell you this, Russia: If you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” 

Hours later, the Main Intelligence Directorate in Moscow targeted Clinton’s personal office and hit more than 70 other Clinton campaign accounts.

This was essentially treason—calling on a hostile foreign power to interfere directly in an American Presidential election. And it was seen as such by both Democrats and even Republicans:

  • “This has to be the first time that a major presidential candidate has actively encouraged a foreign power to conduct espionage against his political opponent,” Hillary for America policy adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement. “That’s not hyperbole, those are just the facts. This has gone from being a matter of curiosity, and a matter of politics, to being a national security issue.”
  • “I find those kinds of statements to be totally outrageous because you’ve got now a presidential candidate who is, in fact, asking the Russians to engage in American politics,” said former CIA Director Leon Panetta, a Clinton surrogate. “I just think that’s beyond the pale.”
  • Brendon Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker Paul Ryan, said: “Russia is a global menace led by a devious thug. Putin should stay out of this election.”

Throughout 2016, the CIA, FBI and National Security Agency (NSA) found numerous ties between officials of the Trump Presidential campaign and Russian Intelligence agents. Among these were future Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, future National Security Adviser Michael Flynn  and future Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

The discovery of such contacts between Trump campaign officials and Russian Intelligence agents led the FBI to launch an investigation into Russia’s efforts to influence the outcome of the 2016 Presidential election. 

On October 7, 2016, The Washington Post leaked a video of Donald Trump making sexually predatory comments about women. Among his admissions: That he had aggressively tried to bed a married woman, and “when you’re a star….you can do anything. Grab them by the pussy.”

The story rocked the Trump campaign—and threatened to upend it. Then it was eclipsed by an even bigger story.

Eleven days before the November 8 election, FBI Director James Comey announced that he was re-opening an investigation he had closed on Hillary Clinton’s emails on a private server while she was Secretary of State.

That announcement erased widespread outrage over Trump’s unintended admissions of predatory behavior toward women and reversed Clinton’s growing lead in the polls.

Yet the Bureau has never issued similar statements about the continuing reports of close ties between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, and Trump’s history of investments in Russia.

To their shame, no one from the Obama administration—including the President himself—has apologized for failing to take action against these abuses.

And, to their shame, the news media has failed to indict them for their criminal negligence.

CREATING A DICTATORSHIP: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on October 13, 2020 at 1:03 am

There were at least five instances when the Obama administration could have disqualified Donald Trump as a Presidential candidate—or secured his indictment. Yet it did neither.

Case #2:  The Justice Department did not indict Trump for threats that he made—or inspired—against Republicans and Democrats throughout the 2016 campaign. 

Even Fergus Cullen, former chairman of the New Hampshire GOP, expressed fear of what might happen if Trump lost the election:

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Fergus Cullen

“That’s really scary,” Cullen said, recounting the violence at Trump rallies around the country leading up to the Republican National Convention. “In this country, we’ve always had recriminations after one side loses. But we haven’t had riots. We haven’t had mobs that act out with violence against supporters of the other side.

“There’s no telling what his supporters would be willing to do at the slightest encouragement from their candidate,” he said.

Trump even began encouraging his mostly white supporters to sign up online to be “election observers” to stop “Crooked Hillary from rigging this election.” He urged them to act as poll watchers in “other” [non-white] communities to ensure that things are “on the up and up.”

Many of his supporters promised to do so.

“Trump said to watch your precincts. I’m going to go, for sure,” said Steve Webb, a 61-year-old carpenter from Fairfield, Ohio.

“I’ll look for…well, it’s called racial profiling. Mexicans. Syrians. People who can’t speak American,” he said. “I’m going to go right up behind them. I’ll do everything legally. I want to see if they are accountable. I’m not going to do anything illegal. I’m going to make them a little bit nervous.”

Knowing that large numbers of angry—and possibly armed—Right-wingers planned to descend on polling places could only have had a chilling effect on untold numbers of Democratic voters. And this would have been especially true in heavily conservative states.

Both the USA Patriot Act and the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act have statutes dealing with making terrorist threats against government institutions to influence their members. 

Image result for Official White House photos of George W. Bush signing USA Patriot Act

President George W. Bush signing the USA Patriot Reauthorization Act of 2005

If Trump’s remarks did not violate one or both of those laws, certainly remarks made by his surrogates did.

Thus, the Justice Department could have cited the Patriot Act in indicting Trump and/or any number of his followers for “activities that…appear to be intended…to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion [and]…occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.”

The Justice Department could have also demanded that the results of the election be invalidated on the basis that widespread voter and candidate intimidation played a massive role in it.

But of course this did not happen. 

Case #3 Making threats against anyone under protection by the U.S. Secret Service is a felony. Yet Donald Trump was never held legally accountable by the Justice Department.

  • On August 9, 2016, Trump told a rally in Wilmington, North Carolina: “Hillary [Clinton] wants to abolish, essentially abolish, the Second Amendment. If she gets to pick her [Supreme Court] judges, nothing you can do folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.”
  • Reacting to Trump’s “dog-whistle” threat against Clinton, Michael Hayden, former head of the CIA and National Security Agency (NSA) said: “Well, let me say if someone else said that outside of the hall, he’d be in the back of a police wagon now, with the Secret Service questioning him.”

Seal of the United States Department of Justice.svg

Case #4: The Justice Department did not invalidate the results of the 2016 election, despite overwhelming evidence that Russia intervened to elect Trump as Vladimir Putin’s chosen candidate. 

In October, 2016, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) issued a joint statement: The Russian government had directed the effort to subvert the 2016 Presidential election.

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

CREATING A DICTATERSHIP: PART ONE (OF THREE)

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

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

So wrote Edmund Burke (1729-1797) the Irish statesman, author, orator, political theorist and philosopher. And history has repeatedly proved him right. 

One such example was the rise of Adolf Hitler as Germany’s Fuhrer.

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.” 

But that didn’t happen.

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Tried for and convicted of treason, he was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment.

At 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.

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. Disdaining armed force, he would win office by election—or intrigue. 

On January 30, 1933, those intrigues bore fruit: Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany.

Future historians may one day write that what didn’t happen played at least as great a role in electing Donald Trump President as what actually did.

There were at least five instances where the Justice Department of President Barack Obama could have utterly changed the outcome of the 2016 election. Yet, for reasons still unknown, it chose to do nothing.

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Donald Trump

Case #1:  The Obama Justice Department did not indict Trump and/or the Attorney Generals of Texas and/or Florida for their roles in the Trump University scandal.

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

But New York’s Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman, pressed fraud claims against Trump—and forced the real estate mogul to settle the case out of court for $25 million on November 18, 2016.

There have been no press reports that the Justice Department investigated these cases to determine if Trump violated the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act statutes.

If the Justice Department did not investigate these cases, it should have. And if he did violate the RICO statutes, he should have been indicted, even as a Presidential candidate or President-elect.

Even if an indictment had not produced a conviction, the mere bringing of one would have cast an unprecedented cloud over his candidacy—let alone his being sworn in as President.  

Case #2:  The Justice Department did not indict Trump for the series of threats that he made—directly and indirectly—against Republicans and Democrats throughout the 2016 campaign. 

Threatening  political opponents with violence is a crime under Federal law. Yet making threats against his Republican and Democratic opponents played a major role in Trump’s Presidential campaign.

  • On March 16, he warned Republicans that if he didn’t win the GOP nomination in July, his supporters would literally riot: “I think you’d have riots. I think you would see problems like you’ve never seen before. I think bad things would happen. I really do. I wouldn’t lead it, but I think bad things would happen.” 
  • An NBC reporter summed it up as: “The message to Republicans was clear on [March 16]: ‘Nice convention you got there, shame if something happened to it.’” 
  • That Republicans clearly saw this as a threat is undeniable. Paul Ryan, their Speaker of the House, said on March 17: “Nobody should say such things in my opinion because to even address or hint to violence is unacceptable.”
  • Philip Klein, the managing editor of the Washington Examiner, wrote on the eve of the Republican National Convention in July: “Political commentators now routinely talk about the riots that would break out in Cleveland if Trump were denied the nomination, about how his supporters have guns and all hell could break loose, that they would burn everything to the ground. It works to Trump’s advantage to not try too hard to dispel these notions.”

A JUBILEE OF HATE BECOMES A RIGHT-WING NIGHTMARE

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on October 8, 2020 at 12:16 am

What began as the gloating jubilee of an expected Right-wing triumph has turned into a COVID-19 nightmare for the Trump administration.

On September 26, President Donald Trump hosted festivities in the Rose Garden to celebrate his Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett. 

Barrett wearing a judicial robe

Amy Coney Barrett

Rachel Malehorn / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)

Trump had already put two Justices—Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh—on the Court. Gorsuch was nominated as a replacement for Justice Antonin Scalia, who had died in 2016.

President Barack Obama had sought to confirm his own nominee, Merrick Garland, to the Court. But 2016 was a Presidential election year. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked giving Garland even the courtesy of a Senate hearing.

“The Senate will appropriately revisit the matter when it considers the qualifications of the nominee the next President nominates, whoever that might be,” claimed McConnell.

When Trump won, the way was clear for him to nominate his own candidate—who turned out to be Neil Gorsuch. 

Then, in 2018, Justice Anthony Kennedy decided to retire after spending 20 years on the Court. This gave Trump the chance to replace him with Brett Kavanaugh. 

Then, on September 18, 2020, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg suddenly died of cancer. Appointed in 1993 by President Bill Clinton, she had been the first Jewish woman and the second woman to serve on the Court, after Sandra Day O’Connor.

Ginsburg seated in her robe

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Her death offered Trump his third chance to shift the Court decisively to the Right for decades to come. 

Stacking the Court with Right-wing judges has long been the goal of Republicans. And their two most important priorities:

  1. Overturning Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion in 1973; and
  2. Gutting the Affordable Care Act, the single most important achievement of the first black President of the United States. 

So on September 26, Donald Trump hosted festivities in the Rose Garden to celebrate his third Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett.

Trump assembled his guest list, and the major domos of the Right showed up. 

They knew–or should have known–that a deadly pandemic called COVID-19 was ravaging the country. They knew—or should have known—it had already killed more than 200,000 Americans.

But Trump had spent the year telling them there was nothing to worry about. The virus, he had said repeatedly, was no worse than the common flu. He had ridiculed those who wore masks, and had made not wearing one a sign of macho solidarity with himself.

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Coronavirus

So they showed up without masks, and crammed together in folding chairs. And now many of them are dropping like poisoned Tsetse flies. 

Among the casualties of the celebration so far:

  • President Donald Trump
  • First Lady Melania Trump
  • Presidential Aide Hope Hicks
  • White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany
  • United States Senator (R-UT) Mike Lee
  • United States Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC)
  • United States Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI)
  • Former Presidential adviser Kelleyanne Conway
  • White House Assistant Press Secretary Karoline Leavitt
  • Trump Presidential Campaign Manager Bill Stepien
  • Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel
  • Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie
  • White House Senior Adviser for Policy Stephen Miller

For Trump, the Rose Garden celebration has turned into a nightmare.

First, it thrust the issue of the dreaded Coronavirus—and his administration’s failure to effectively combat it—to the front of the Presidential campaign.

Image result for Public domain images of Donald Trump

Donald Trump

Trump had been desperate to avoid talking about this subject—and with good reason.

When the virus struck the United States in January, Trump quickly learned how deadly it was. As he admitted to Washington Post investigative reporter Bob Woodward: “It goes through air, Bob. That’s always tougher than the touch.

“The touch, you don’t have to touch things, right? But the air, you just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed. And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flues.”

But Trump didn’t share that warning with the American people. When Woodward published his book, Rage, in September, Trump was mortally embarrassed at having that conversation revealed.

Instead, Trump attacked the wearing of masks and maintaining social distancing. When states ordered businesses to close to halt the spread of COVID-19, Trump ordered his followers to protest in the streets. When businesses reopened, COVID rates spiked and so did unemployment rolls.

Second,  the sidelining of so many top Republicans—including Senators—threatened to at least temporarily halt Senate confirmation hearings on Amy Coney Barrett.

Third—and probably most important: Trump himself was rushed to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on October 2 after he tested positive for Coronavirus.

For the image-conscious Trump, press reports that he received oxygen and experimental drugs proved highly embarrassing. On October 5, still highly infectious, he demanded to be returned to the White House. 

With less than a month to go before the November 3 Presidential election, Trump found himself overwhelmed by media reports that the White House was now the Number One Coronavirus hotspot in the United States.

A celebration of hatred and arrogance has turned into a COVID-19 nightmare for the Trump administration. It’s a irony the ancient Greeks, with their understanding of hubris, would have appreciated.

THE NEWS MEDIA: EMBARRASSING THE FIRST AMENDMENT

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on October 5, 2020 at 12:21 am

On September 27, The New York Times broke the unprecedented story of President Donald Trump’s tax returns, which he has long held secret. 

Among the revelations: He paid no federal income taxes at all for 10 of 15 years. And he paid only $750 in taxes in 2016 and 2017.

For most newspapers and TV networks, such investigative reporting is a rarity. Most media outlets are little more than “happy news” or propaganda organs.

On April 28, 2018, comedian Michelle Wolf hosted the annual White House Correspondents Dinner in Washington, D.C. There she skewered high-ranking Trump administration officials and members of the nation’s elite media.

Most of here jokes were focused on Trump administration officials—especially then-Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

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Michelle Wolf

But Wolf threw a series of sharp-edged zingers at some of the Nation’s most prominent media. And these comments have gone largely ignored.

They are, however, well worth examining—for the uncomfortable truths they reveal about much of the “news” being served up under the guise of fearless objectivity.

On CNN—where “news” now consists of a series of “talking heads” pontificating about stories that other journalists have dug up:  We’ve got our friends at CNN here. You guys love breaking news, and you did it. You broke it. Good work. The most useful information on CNN is when Anthony Bourdain tells me where to eat noodles.

On Fox News’ sexual harassment scandals involving such prominent (and former) members as CEO Roger Ailes and commentator Bill O’Reilly:  Fox News is here. So, you know what that means, ladies: Cover your drinks. Seriously.

On Fox News’ actual role as the propaganda organ of the Republican party:  People want me to make fun of [Fox News commentator] Sean Hannity tonight, but I cannot do that; this dinner is for journalists.

News Media

On weak-rated MSNBC, which is the liberal version of Fox News:  We’ve got MSNBC here. MSNBC’s news slogan is, “This is who we are.” Guys, it’s not a good slogan. “This is who we are” is what your mom thinks the sad show on NBC is called. “Did you watch ‘This Is Who We Are’ this week? Someone left on a Crockpot, and everyone died.”

On Megyn Kelly, who rose to fame and fortune as a Right-wing propaganda shill on Fox News:  And, of course, Megyn Kelly. What would I do without Megyn Kelly? You know, probably be more proud of women. 

And, by the way, Megyn, Santa’s black. The weird old guy going through your chimney was Bill O’Reilly. You might want to put a flue on it or something.  

[This last jibe centered on Kelly’s infamous December 11, 2013 Fox broadcast where she claimed: “I kind of laughed and said this is so ridiculous.  Yet another person claiming it’s racist to have a white Santa. For all you kids watching at home, Santa just is white….Just because it makes you uncomfortable doesn’t mean it has to change. Jesus was a white man too.”]

On the continuing demise of newspapers—on which TV “news reporters” depend for their information:  There’s a lot of print media here. There’s a ton of you guys, but I’m not going to go after print media tonight because it’s illegal to attack an endangered species. Buy newspapers.

On the media’s—especially the television media’s—morbid obsession with Donald Trump:  There’s a ton of news right now; a lot is going on, and we have all these 24-hour news networks, and we could be covering everything. But, instead, we’re covering like three topics. Every hour, it’s Trump, Russia, Hillary and a panel of four people who remind you why you don’t go home for Thanksgiving.

On the media’s responsibility for the rise of a President they now detest: You guys are obsessed with Trump. Did you used to date him? Because you pretend like you hate him, but I think you love him. I think what no one in this room wants to admit is that Trump has helped all of you. He couldn’t sell steaks or vodka or water or college or ties or Eric, but he has helped you.

He’s helped you sell your papers and your books and your TV. You helped create this monster, and now you’re profiting off of him. And if you’re gonna profit off of Trump, you should at least give him some money because he doesn’t have any.

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Donald Trump

[This last joke was probably the most painful the assembled media bigwigs had to endure. Because it’s undeniably true.

Trump’s campaign was saved from spending millions on TV advertising because the major TV news networks covered his every word. This was especially true when he was attacking women, blacks, Mexicans, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama—and even beauty pageant contestants.

For the media, Trump was “good for ratings”—in the same way that Mike Tyson was “good for boxing.” Both were seen as freaks—and thus guaranteed to lure viewers eager to find out: “What outrageous thing has he done now?”] 

TRUMP: SACRIFICE YOUR CHILDREN FOR MY RE-ELECTION

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on September 29, 2020 at 12:31 am

The father of modern political science, Niccolo Machiavelli (1469 – 1527) is widely thought of as the personification of Satan.

Actually, Machiavelli was a passionate republican, who spent most of his life in the service of his beloved city-state, Florence.

Florence, despite its wealth, lacked a strong army—and lay at the mercy of powerful enemies, such as Cesare Borgia. Machiavelli often had to use his wits to keep them at bay.

Niccolo Machiavelli

In his masterwork, The Discourses, he warned that life is complex and no course of action is guaranteed safe or successful.

Donald Trump, on the other hand, is a man of simplistic “solutions” for simplistic audiences.

By early April, he refused to issue a national “stay-at-home” order to contain the spread of the Coronavirus. When states began issuing shutdown orders of their own, he railed against those orders and demanded that “we need to reopen the country.” 

Donald Trump

What lay behind this demand were two hidden agendas.  He wanted to:

  • Quickly revitalize—and take credit for—a once-booming economy—even though this was largely created by President Barack Obama.
  • Return to his Nuremberg-style rallies, where he could slander anyone he wanted while basking in the worship of thousands of his fanatical followers.

Which is why he clearly missed this warning Machiavelli offered in The Discourses:  

…I shall speak here only of those dangers to which those expose themselves who counsel a republic or a prince to undertake some grave and important enterprise in such a manner as to take upon themselves all the responsibility of the same. 

“For as men only judge of matters by the result, all the blame of failure is charged upon him who first advised it, while in case of success he receives commendations.  But the reward never equals the punishment….

“I see no other course than to take things moderately, and not to undertake to advocate any enterprise with too much zeal, but to give one’s advice calmly and modestly. 

“If either then the republic or the prince decides to follow it, they may do so, as it were, of their own will, and not as though they were drawn into it by your importunity.

“In adopting this course it is not reasonable to suppose that either the prince or republic will manifest any ill will towards you on account of a resolution not taken contrary to the wishes of the many.”

But, by May, more Americans were wary about “reopening the country” than about rushing to do so. 

On the May 15 edition of The PBS Newshour, New York Times columnist David Brooks noted:

“If you look at actual behavior, people locked themselves down before any politician took a move. And even in those states where the politicians are opening up, people are still locking down….

“And so I think the key decisions right now are not being made in statehouses and certainly not the White House. They’re being made in living rooms, as people decide, is it safe? Can I go out?”

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Coronavirus

By pushing his mantra—“America needs to reopen NOW!”—Trump was risking the lives of millions of Americans. But he was also risking the future of his Presidency.

If “reopening” the country proved disastrous, he had no back-up plan to offer.

Several states—such as Wisconsin and Pennsylvania—that re-opened saw swarms of people flooding into bars and restaurants. They didn’t wear masks or practice “social distancing.” Packed together like sardines, they offered themselves like a Right-wing sacrifice to Coronavirus.

The results were inevitable.

A new wave of COVID-19 erupted after America “reopened.” More employees were laid off—or refused to come to work for fear of Coronavirus.

The economy continued to tank.

As summer neared its end and millions of students faced returning to school, Trump offered his next “solution” to the Coronavirus pandemic: Send them back to school—-and not through virtual classes at home.

Trump wants children to return to possibly COVID-19-infected classrooms.

And he’s not asking parents to send their children back to school. He’s ordering them to.

On July 8, he tweeted that he might withhold federal funding from schools that do not resume in-person classes this fall.   

Why is he so insistent on this? 

Trump knows that before parents can return to work, their kids need to return to class, He hopes that will boost the economy—for which he can take credit.

And that will boost his chances for re-election in November. 

Just as the ancient Canaanites sacrificed their children to the god Moloch, so does Trump expect his followers—and opponents—to risk their children’s lives for him.

And the sacrifices are already coming.  On August 10, CBS News reported:

“Nearly 100,000 children tested positive for the Coronavirus in the last two weeks of July, a new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics finds. Just over 97,000 children tested positive for the Coronavirus from July 16 to July 30, according to the association.”

As a result, Trump is seen—as Machiavelli warned—as the primary instigator of that “reopening”—and the primary cause of 205,000 American deaths.

THE WHITE POOR: LOVING THOSE WHO DESPISE THEM: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on September 25, 2020 at 7:00 am

Republicans have long tried to prevent or eliminate programs that aid the poor and middle-class, including:

  • Social Security (since it began in 1935)
  • Medicare
  • National health insurance
  • Food stamps
  • WIC (Women, Infants, Children).

So why are so many poor Americans now flocking to this party’s banner?

Two reasons: Racism and greed. There are historical parallels for both.

First, race:

In 1999, historian Victor Davis Hanson noted the huge gap in wealth between the aristocratic, slave-owning minority of the pre-Civil War South and the vast majority of poor white Southerners.

Victor Davis Hanson (@VDHanson) | Twitter

Victor Davis Hanson

“Before the war in the counties [Union General William Tecumseh] Sherman would later ruin, the top 10% of the landowners controlled 40% of the assessed wealth.”

In contrast, “more than half of those who were lucky enough to own any property at all still possessed less than 15% of the area’s valuation.”

So Hanson asked: “Why did the millions of poor whites of the Confederacy fight at all?”

He supplied the answer in his brilliant work on military history, The Soul of Battle: From Ancient Times to the Present Day, How Three Great Liberators Vanquished Tyranny.

Nonfiction Book Review: The Soul of Battle: From Ancient Times to the Present Day, Three Great Liberators Vanquished Tyranny by Victor Davis Hanson, Author Free Press $30 (496p) ISBN 978-0-684-84502-9

One of those liberators was General William Tecumseh Sherman, who led 62,000 Union troops in a victorious “March to the Sea” through the Confederacy in 1864.

So why did so many poor Southern whites literally lay down their lives for the wealthy planter class, which despised them?

According to Hanson: “Behind the entire social fabric of the South lay slavery.

“If slavery eroded the economic position of the poor free citizens, if slavery encouraged a society of haves and have-nots…then it alone offered one promise to the free white man–poor, ignorant and dispirited–that he was at least not black and not a slave.”

And the planter class and its allies in government easily fobbed off their poor white countrymen with cheap flattery. Said Georgia Governor Joseph Brown:

“Among us the poor white laborer is respected as an equal. His family is treated with kindness, consideration, and respect. He does not belong to the menial class. The negro is in no sense his equal. He belongs to the only true aristocracy, the race of white men.”

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Arlington House and plantation, former home of Robert E. Lee

Similarly, poor whites now flock to the Republican Party–which holds them in equal contempt– in large part to protest the 2008 election of the first black President of the United States.

According to a Pew Research Center study released on July 22, 2011: “Notably, the GOP gains have occurred only among white voters; a 2-point Republican edge among whites in 2008 (46% to 44%) has widened to a 13-point lead today (52% to 39%).”

Since the 1960s, Republicans have pursued a campaign policy of “divide and rule”–divide the nation along racial lines and reap the benefits at election time.

  • Republicans opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
  • Republicans opposed the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
  • Republicans, with Richard Nixon as their Presidential candidate in 1968 and 1972, pursued what they called a “Southern strategy”: Use “code language” to stoke fear and hatred of blacks among whites.
  • Republicans have falsely identified welfare programs exclusively with non-whites. (Of the six million Americans receiving food stamps, about 42% are white, 32% are black, and 22% are Latino–with the growth fastest among whites during the recession.)

Thus, in voting Republican, many of these poor whites believe they are “striking a blow for the white race.”

And they can do so in a more socially acceptable way than joining a certified hate group such as the American Nazi Party or Ku Klux Klan.  

Since 2015, openly racist groups such as the Klan and the American Nazi Party have flocked to the banner of Presidential candidate Donald Trump. By enthusiastically courting their support, the real estate mogul has made it possible for Republican candidates to openly display their own racism.

Now greed:

In the hit play, 1776, on the creation and signing of the Declaration of Independence, there is a telling exchange between John Dickinson and John Hancock. It comes during the song, “Cool, Cool, Considerate Men.”

Dickinson, the delegate from Pennsylvania, urges Hancock, president of the Second Continental Congress, “to join us in our minuet.” By “us” he means his fellow conservatives who fear losing their property and exalted status by supporting American independence from Great Britain.

John Dickinson

Hancock declines, saying: “Fortunately, there are not enough men of property in America to dictate policy.”

To which Dickinson replies:  “Perhaps not. But don’t forget that most men with nothing would rather protect the possibility of becoming rich than face the reality of being poor.  And that is why they will follow us.”

Today,  poor whites generally identify with the CEOs of powerful corporations. They believe the Republican gospel that they can attain such wealth–if only the government will “get out of my way.”

They forget—or ignore—the truth that government, for all its imperfections, is sometimes all that stands between them and a wide range of predators.

In return, the CEOs despise them as the privileged have always despised their social and economic “inferiors.”

Unless the Democratic Party can find ways to directly address these bitter, Politically Incorrect truths, it will continue its decline into insignificance.

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