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Posts Tagged ‘BARACK OBAMA’

BENEDICT ARNOLD: CAPITALIST HERO: PART ONE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on December 7, 2016 at 12:54 am

Americans need to realize that a country can be betrayed for other than political reasons.  It can be sold out for economic ones, too

On May 15, 2012, Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin renounced his U.S. citizenship.

Born in Brazil, the 30-year-old Saverin became a U.S. citizen in 1998 but had lived in Singapore since 2009.

Eduardo Saverin 

Giving up his citizenship allowed him to avoid paying taxes on billions of dollars on capital gains when Facebook launched its IPO on May 18, 2012. Singapore does not have a capital gains tax.

And America’s extreme Right couldn’t have been happier.

Take Rush Limbaugh, the Right-wing talk-show host. The Rush Limbaugh Show airs throughout the U.S. on over 400 stations and is the highest-rated talk-radio program in the United States.

When Limbaugh speaks, his “dittohead” audience listens–and acts as he decrees.

Rush Limbaugh

“So if it’s a more favorable tax haven that you can find elsewhere and you go there,” asked Limbaugh, “why is it automatically that you are unpatriotic?

“Why is it automatically that you are a coward, that you are not paying your fair share? It’s this whole class envy thing rearing its head again.”

For Limbaugh, the villain isn’t a billionaire who turns his back on the country that gave him the opportunity to become one. No, the villain lies in those who believe that even wealthy businessmen should behave like patriots–instead of parasites.

“But [Barack Obama is] out there demonizing successful people every day,” said Limbaugh, “targeting successful people every day, running a presidential campaign based on class warfare, trying to get the 99% of the country who are not in the top 1% to hate the 1%, to literally despise ’em.”

Consider the implications of this: 

On November 1, 2011, Forbes magazine reported that, in 2007, the richest 1% of the American population owned 34.6% of the country’s total wealth, and the next 19% owned 50.5%. 

Thus, the top 20% of Americans owned 85% of the country’s wealth and the bottom 80% of the population owned 15%.

According to Limbaugh’s philosophy, the bottom 80% of the population owning 15% of the country’s wealth should pay homage to the top 20% of Americans who own 85% of the country’s wealth.

In short, they should “know their place” and not expect the moneyed few to pay their fair share of taxes.

Of course, this is to be expected of Limbaugh–whose own wealth makes him a multi-millionaire. 

In 2001, U.S. News & World Report noted that Limbaugh had an eight-year contract, with Clear Channel Communications, for $31.25 million a year.

And according to a July 2, 2008, Matt Drudge column, Limbaugh signed a contract extension through 2016 that is worth over $400 million.

And Limbaugh wasn’t alone in his praise for Saverin.

Another right-winger who defends those who run out on their country is anti-tax activist Grover Norquist.

On May 7, 2012, two Democratic Senators–Chuck Schumer of New York and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania–introduced legislation designed to tax expatriates even after they have left the country. 

Their “Ex-PATRIOT Act” would have imposed a mandatory 30% tax on American investments for those who renounce their citizenship and would also prohibit individuals like Saverin from re-entering the country.  

But the bill died in committee. 

In 2013, Schumer and two other Senators added similar provisions to a major immigration reform bill. But their amendment was not included in the version of the bill that passed the Senate. 

“Saverin has turned his back from the country that welcomed him, kept him safe, educated him and helped him become a billionaire,” Schumer said at a press conference. He added that it was time to “de-friend” the Facebook co-founder.

Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform (ATF) said the targeting people that turn in their passports reminded him of regimes that had driven people out of the country, only to confiscate their wealth at the door.

Grover Norquist

“I think Schumer can probably find the legislation to do this,” said Norquist. “It existed in Germany in the 1930s and Rhodesia in the ’70s and in South Africa as well. He probably just plagiarized it and translated it from the original German.”

On the floor of the Senate, Schumer denounced Norquist in return:

“I know a thing or two about what the Nazis did. Some of my relatives were killed by them.

“Saying that a person who made their fortune specifically because of the positive elements in American society, in turn, has a responsibility to do right by America is not even on the same planet as comparing to what Nazis did to Jews.”

Chuck Schumer

Schumer added that he found it troubling that conservatives would lionize someone like Saverin, who was called “an American hero” by Forbes magazine.

On May 13, 2012, Forbes–which describes itself as “The Capitalist Tool”–had run an Op-Ed piece under the headline: “For De-Friending The U.S., Facebook’s Eduardo Saverin Is an American Hero.”

“Can you believe it?” asked Schumer. “An American hero? Renouncing your citizenship now qualifies as heroic for the hard Right-wing?”

“This has gone so far, this idolatry they have taken to such an extreme end, they make Eduardo Saverin into their patron saint. In the name of low taxes for the wealthy, they have lionized an inherently unpatriotic person.” 

GETTING BEHIND OUR PRESIDENT: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on December 6, 2016 at 12:12 am

When Republicans say, “We need to support our President,” they don’t mean every President.

They mean: Every Republican President.  And only every Republican President.

For Republicans, Presidents elected by Democrats are to be obstructed as often as possible–and impeached whenever possible.

On October 1, 2013, Congressional Republicans shut down the government in an attempt to force President Barack Obama to de-fund his signature achievement: The Affordable Care Act (ACA).

President Obama refused, and 800,000 federal workers were furloughed.

On October 13, 2013, anti-Obama protesters gathered at the World War II memorial in Washington, D.C. They were angry because the memorial had been closed to the public.

They weren’t angry at the Republicans who had shut down the government. They were angry at the President.

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World War II Memorial

One speaker was Larry Klayman of Freedom Watch, a Right-wing advocacy group. “I call upon all of you to wage a Second Amendment nonviolent revolution, to use civil disobedience, and to demand that this president leave town, to get up, put the Koran down, to get up off his knees, and to figuratively come out with his hands up.”

On October 14, while Republicans were threatening to drive the nation into bankruptcy by refusing to raise the debt ceiling, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin posted on Facebook her “secret plan” to impeach President Obama:

“It’s time for the president to be honest with the American people for a change. Defaulting on our national debt is an impeachable offense, and any attempt by President Obama to unilaterally raise the debt limit without Congress is also an impeachable offense.” 

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Sarah Palin

In short: If the Republicans force the country into default, Obama should be impeached. And if the President finds a way to avoid default, he should be impeached.  

On October 16, the shutdown collapsed. The ACA continued to provide health insurance to millions of Americans too poor to afford to buy it.

The 2008 election of Barack Obama created a virtual overnight publishing industry for Right-wing authors. The titles of those books clearly reflected the hates, fears and ambitions of their authors–and audience: 

  • Conservative Victory: Defeating Obama’s Radical Agenda by Sean Hannity 
  • Obama Zombies: How the Liberal Machine Brainwashed My Generation by Jason Mattera 
  • How Barack Obama is Bankrupting the U.S. Economy by Stephen Moore 
  • The Manchurian President: Barack Obama’s Ties to Communists, Socialists and Other Anti-American Extremists by Aaron Klein 
  • The Blueprint: Obama’s Plan to Subvert the Constitution and Build an Imperial Presidency by Ken Blackwell    
  • Culture of Corruption: Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks, and Croniesby Michelle Malkin 
  • To Save America: Stopping Obama’s Secular-Socialist Machine by Newt Gingrich  
  • Power Grab: How Obama’s Green Policies Will Steal Your Freedom and Bankrupt America by Christopher C. Horner  
  • Obama’s Betrayal of Israel by Michael Ledeen 
  • Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right by Ann Coulter 
  • The Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality by Jerome R. Corsi 
  • The War On Success: How the Obama Agenda Is Shattering the American Dream by Tommy Newberry 
  • Liberalism is a Mental Disorder: Savage Solutions by Michael Savage 
  • Catastrophe: How Obama, Congress and the Special Interests Are Transforming…a Slump into a Crash, Freedom Into Socialism and a Disaster into a Catastrophe….And How to Fight Back by Dick Morris   
  • Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism by Ann Coulter 
  • Green Hell: How Environmentalists Plan to Control Your Life and What You Can Do to Stop Them by Steven Milloy 
  • How the Obama Administration Threatens to Undermine Our Elections by John Fund 

Liberals…catastrophe…shattering the American dream…leftists…communism…government terrorism…global warming myth…terrorism…socialism…secularism…environmentalism…takeover….corruption…betrayal…radicals…bankrupting…treason…subversion…slander…power grab.

These are the themes repeated endlessly by the American Right and its publishing industry.

Whether by accident or design, these works owe their popular success to the ultimate Right-winger of history: Adolf Hitler.

In Mein Kampf“My Struggle”–his prophetic warning of the future to come, Hitler outlined his principles for the effective use of propaganda.

These are:

“The broad masses of the people are not made up of diplomats or professors of public jurisprudence nor simply of persons who are able to form reasoned judgment in given cases, but a vacillating crowd of human children who are constantly wavering between one idea and another.

“The great majority of a nation is…ruled by sentiment rather than by sober reasoning.

“This sentiment, however, is not complex, but simple and consistent. It is not highly differentiated, but has only the negative and positive notions of love and hatred, right and wrong, truth and falsehood.

“Propaganda must not investigate the truth objectively and…must present only that aspect of the truth which is favorable to its own side….The receptive powers of the masses are very restricted, and their understanding is feeble. On the other hand, they quickly forget.

“Such being the case, all effective propaganda must be confined to a few bare essentials and those must be expressed as far as possible in stereotyped formulas. These slogans should be persistently repeated until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea that has been put forward.”

The Right has followed Hitler’s instructions to the letter.

The election of Donald Trump is the end result of it.

GETTING BEHIND OUR PRESIDENT: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on December 5, 2016 at 1:10 am

On November 8, real estate mogul and reality TV showman Donald Trump was elected as the 45th President of the United States.  

But millions of Americans are sickened that a self-confessed “pussy-grabber” will soon inherit the Oval Office.

One day after Trump’s election, thousands blocked traffic and flooded thoroughfares across the nation to protest his victory. Demonstrators clashed with police in Seattle, Berkeley, Portland, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston and Manhattan. 

Thousands more declared on social media that Trump is “never my President” or “not my President.”

Since then, Republicans and their Right-wing allies have thundered: “He’s our President now, and we must all get behind him.”  

Another often-heard Republican demand: “We need to give President Trump a chance!”  

Of course, Republicans took exactly the opposite position after Illinois’ U.S. Senator Barack Obama won the Presidency in 2008.

Even before Obama was inaugurated, on January 20, 2009, Republican Senators agreed that they would block every legislative proposal the new President offered.

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President Barack Obama

It didn’t matter whether the proposals offered concrete solutions for America’s ills. All that mattered was that they came from a Democratic President–and, worse, a black one.

Kentucky U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell summed it up: “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

Since 1945, Republicans have charged “Traitor!” against anyone who dared to run against them for office or think other than Republican-sponsored thoughts. Among the foremost members of this decades-long treason chorus:

  • Senator Joseph R. McCarthy;
  • Senator/President Richard M. Nixon;
  • Vice President Spiro Agnes;
  • Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich;
  • Broadcaster Rush Limbaugh; 

And since the 2008 election of Barack Obama, Republicans have increasingly wooed voters with subtle and outright appeals to racism.

Most Republicans refuse to acknowledge this, but author Will Bunch has not been so reticent. In his 2010 book, The Backlash, he writes:

“…The year that had [conservatives] so terrified was 2050. In that year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. population would grow to some 399 million people–but only 49.8% would be white….”

The Backlash: Right-Wing Radicals, High-Def Hucksters, and Paranoid Politics in the Age of Obama

This was given added weight by the 2008 election of Barack Obama:

“The Democratic upstart–and his legion of supporters among the nonwhite as well as the young–was a 9/11-sized jolt to the white masses already so worried about the cultural implications of immigration.

“The year 2050 suddenly wasn’t two generations away but right here knocking on the front door, with a dark face and that scary name: Barack Hussein Obama.

“Like a fire spreading across dry sagebrush, it took no effort for fear of The Other to leap from the Mexicans in front of the Wal-Mart to the man now inside the Oval Office.”

For Republicans, the Presidency of Barack Obama excited contempt and hatred:

  • In September, 2009, Joe Wilson (R-SC) yelled “You lie!” during Obama’s health care speech to Congress.
  • In January, 2010, an effigy of President Barack Obama was found hanging from a building in Plains, Georgia.
  • In December, 2011, Brent Bozell, who runs the right-wing Media Research Center, called Obama to “a skinny, ghetto crackhead.”
  • In December, 2011, Rep.  Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.), said of Michelle Obama: “She lectures us on eating right while she has a large posterior herself.”
  • In January, 2012, Mitt Romney’s son, Matt, said his father might release his tax returns “as soon as President Obama releases his grades and birth certificate and sort of a long list of things.”
  • In February, 2012, right-wing columnist Ann Coulter offered: “Voters with forty years of politically correct education are ecstatic to have the first Black president. They just love the idea even if we did get Flavor Flav instead of Thomas Sowell.”
  • In May, 2012, a flatbed truck drove through new York holding a trailer with eight mannequin-like bodies hanging on nooses. One of the figures resembled President Obama, with a sign on the truck reading: “Obama Is Onboard, Find Out Why. Visit YouTube.com And Search Keyword PatriotPhipps.”

  • In May, 2012, Patrick Lanzo, a bar owner in Paulding County, Georgia, posted a sign reading: “I do not support the nigger in the White House.”  In 2009 he posted a sign that read, “Obama’s plan for health-care: nigger rig it.” Lanzo advertises his establishment as a “Klan bar.”
  • Throughout the 2012 Presidential campaign, Newt Gingrich repeatedly called Obama “the greatest food stamp President in American history.” 
  • Obama has been portrayed as a shoeshine man, an Islamic terrorist and a chimp. The image of his altered face has been shown on a product called Obama Waffles in the manner of Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben. He has been repeatedly depicted with a Hitler forelock and mustache.
  • Among the protest signs they have brandished by Tea Party members: “Obama’s Plan: White Slavery,” “The American Taxpayers are the Jews for Obama’s Ovens,” and “Obama was Not Bowing [to the Saudi King] He was Sucking Saudi Jewels.”
  • Other Tea Party posters: “Imam Obama Wants to Ban Pork” and “The Zoo Has An African Lion, and the White House Has a Lyin’ African.”
  • Tea Partiers have chanted at Obama: “Bye, bye, Blackbird” and “Kenyan go home!”
  • During the Republican-imposed government shutdown–October 1-17, 2013–Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) told Obama: “I cannot even stand to look at you,”  The incident occurred when Obama met with lawmakers to try to find a resolution to the shutdown.

IGNORANCE AS A PRESIDENTIAL REQUIREMENT

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on November 24, 2016 at 12:19 am

November 22 marked 53 years since President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas by an embittered Marxist named Lee Harvey Oswald.

Historians generally agree that he left three great legacies to his country:

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

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

Kennedy demanded timely, reliable information about national and international issues. He speed-read several newspapers every morning. He nourished personal relationships with reporters-–and not for entirely altruistic reasons.

These journalistic relationships gave Kennedy additional sources of information and perspectives he felt he could not get through government agencies.

When giving speeches, Kennedy–a 1940 cum laude graduate of Harvard University with a Bachelor of Arts in Government–never tried to hide his education. Nor did he talk down to his audiences.

Republicans, on the other hand, have made appealing to the ignorant and uneducated a centerpiece of their political campaigns.

During the 2016 Presidential campaign, real estate mogul Trump famously said; “I love the poorly educated.”

Trump may love “the poorly educated,” but he didn’t want to join them. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1968 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics. 

Donald Trump

And for all his notorious bragging about himself, Trump didn’t share this achievement with his audiences.

During the 2012 Presidential race, Republican candidates seemed to value ignorance as a prime requirement for entering the White House.

Former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain thus excused his ignorance of the reasons for President Barack Obama’s intervention in Libya: “We need a leader, not a reader.” 

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Herman Cain

Texas Governor Rick Perry showed similar pride in not knowing there are nine judges on the United States Supreme Court:

“Well, obviously, I know there are nine Supreme Court judges. I don’t know how eight came out my mouth. But the, uh, the fact is, I can tell you–I don’t have memorized all of those Supreme Court judges. And, uh, ah–

“Here’s what I do know. That when I put an individual on the Supreme Court, just like I done in Texas, ah, we got nine Supreme Court justices in Texas, ah, they will be strict constructionists….”

And former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin rewrote history via “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere”:

“He warned the British that they weren’t going to be taking away our arms by ringing those bells and, um, making sure as he’s riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that, uh, we were going to be secure and we were going to be free.”

Actually, Revere  was warning his fellow Americans about an impending British attack–as his celebrated catchphrase “The British are coming!” made clear.

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

And they resent his having earned most of his income as a writer of two books: Dreams From My Father and The Audacity of Hope.

As if being a writer is somehow subversive.  

In that sense, Obama is a “throwback” to John F. Kennedy, who was similarly gifted with language as a writer and orator.

Kennedy was perhaps the last President to convince most Americans that they could overcome their problems through reason and open-mindedness.

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White House painting of JFK

At American University on June 10, 1963, Kennedy called upon his fellow Americans to re-examine the events and attitudes that had led to the Cold War. And he declared that the search for peace was not futile:

“Some say that it is useless to speak of peace or world law or world disarmament….But that is a dangerous, defeatist belief.

“It leads to the conclusion that war is inevitable–that mankind is doomed–that we are gripped by forces we cannot control.

“We need not accept that view. Our problems are man-made; therefore, they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings.

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

Today, politicians from both parties cannot agree on solutions to even the most vital national problems.

On November 21, 2011, the 12 members of the “Super-Committee” of Congress, tasked with finding $1.2 trillion in cuts in government spending, threw up their hands in defeat.

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

For him, the book’s most important revelation was how European leaders had blindly rushed into war, without thought to the possible consequences.

Kennedy said that he did not intend to make the same mistake. Having read his history, he was determined to learn from it.

And he did, for the world escaped all-out nuclear war.

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

OBAMA’S AGONY: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 22, 2016 at 12:01 am

A truly great man is ever the same under all circumstances. And if his fortune varies, exalting him at one moment and oppressing him at another, he himself never varies, but always preserves a firm courage, which is so closely interwoven with his character that everyone can readily see that the fickleness of fortune has no power over him.
Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses

For President Barack Obama, the last two months of his eight-year Presidency will be an agony.

Perhaps only his wife, Michelle, truly knows the torments he will so stoically endure.

For stoicism–enduring pain or hardship without complaint or showing emotions–has long been central to Obama’s character.  

In 2011, two years into his Presidency, he faced an accusation never before leveled against an American President: That he was not an American citizen–and thus not entitled to hold the office he held.  

His accuser-in-chief: Donald Trump, an egomaniacal,  thrice-married “reality-TV” host and real estate mogul who had filed for corporate bankruptcy four times.

At first Obama ignored the accusation, assuming it was so ridiculous no one could believe it. But, promoted by Right-wing Fox News and Republican leaders, millions of Fascistic Americans thought it actually might be true.

So, on April 27, 2011, the President  called a press conference–where he released the long-form version of his Hawaii birth certificate.  

President Obama’s birth certificate

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

“We are not going to be able to do it if we are distracted, if we spend time vilifying each other, if we just make stuff up and pretend that facts are not facts.”

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

To understand Obama’s agony as he ends his term, imagine the following alternate history: 

On April 14, 1865, the slavery-sympathizing actor John Wilkes Booth enters Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C.

His mission: Assassinate President Abraham Lincoln.

Armed with a knife and Derringer, he reaches the unguarded Presidential box. But just as he’s about to push open the door to his–and Lincoln’s–destiny, he halts.

He’s just thought of a more monstrous fate for the President.  

Silently, he leaves the theater–and the world never learns how close Lincoln came to death at the hands of an assassin.  

Instead, Booth waits out the next four years–until the election of 1868, when Lincoln’s second term is up.

Lincoln has chosen Andrew Johnson, his Vice President, to succeed him.

For the outgoing President, it’s more than a matter of politics. A Johnson victory will secure the legacies Lincoln has created during the last eight years:  

  • The Thirteenth Amendment, which bans slavery.
  • The stationing of Union troops in the South, to ensure that blacks are not re-enslaved. 
  • The granting of the vote to blacks.    

But Johnson is a lackluster candidate, and, after eight years of war and Reconstruction, Americans are eager for “change.”

Suddenly, an unexpected challenger steps forward: The celebrated Shakespearean actor John Wilkes Booth!  

Booth promises that, if elected, he will overturn everything Lincoln has done–most especially the Thirteenth Amendment.

He’ll tear up the surrender treaty that officially ended the Civil War and let the Southern states restore the Confederacy.

His campaign slogan: “Let America Enslave Again.”

He calls the President an ape, a buffoon, a dictator with the blood of countless Americans on his hands.  

Newspaper reporters covering Johnson often fall asleep during his speeches. Booth whips up his audiences without even trying.  

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John Wilkes Booth

On November 4, 1868, John Wilkes Booth becomes the seventeenth President of the United States. 

It won’t be until 1933 that Presidents begin taking the Oath of Office on January 20. So Abraham Lincoln will remain President until March 4, 1869.  

Meanwhile, John Wilkes Booth has never held public office. He needs to pick a cabinet and learn the basics of what it means to be President.

And only one man is qualified to teach him–the man who now holds that office.  

Lincoln knows that, in only a matter of months, everything he has worked for will be ruthlessly overturned. Like a beautiful garment pulled apart, thread by thread, until nothing is left but a pile of rubbish on the floor.  

But he is a patriot, and a believer in destiny. Fate–or God–has thrust him into the Presidency. And he will carry out the duties that go with that role, however tormenting they now are, right to the end.  

He hopes that Divine Providence will bestow a bright future on his beloved country, however bleak its present now looks.  

* * * * *

When Barack Obama entered the White House in 2009, he couldn’t imagine spending his last two months in office tutoring the man who had reviled him throughout his Presidency.

It will be his last gift as President to a nation that has often proved ungrateful for his dedicated service.

OBAMA’S AGONY: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 21, 2016 at 12:01 am

Barack Obama has known ecstasy such as few other men have known it.

In 1989, he met the love of his life, Michelle Robinson, an attorney at the Chicago law firm of Sidley Austin.

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Barack and Michelle Obama in the White House

Although she declined his initial requests to date, she finally yielded to his persuasive charm. They were married on October 3, 1992, and have since had two daughters, Malia Ann and Natasha.  

On November 2, 2004, Obama joined one of the most exclusive clubs in the world: The United States Senate. With 70% of the vote, he was elected United States Senator from Illinois. He served from 2005 to November 16, 2008, when an even greater event forced him to resign.  

That event was his election as the 44th–and first black–President of the United States. On November 4, 2008, he received 52.9% of the votes. He delivered his victory speech before hundreds of thousands of supporters in Chicago’s Grant Park.

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President Barack Obama

Then, on November 6, 2012, Obama was re-elected to a second four-year term, becoming the first Democratic President since Franklin D. Roosevelt to twice win the majority of the popular vote. 

But now those eight years are rapidly coming to an end. And just as they opened with the euphoria of joy, they are closing with an agony more horrific for the President than anyone can imagine.  

The agony of serving as tutor to Donald Trump, the man who will succeed him. Trump has personally reviled him throughout his Presidency–and intends to destroy as much of Obama’s legacy as possible.

For more than a year, Trump has boasted that he would make a far better President than Obama. But now that he’s won the 2016 election, it turns out he has at best a schoolboy’s knowledge of how government works.

Imagine a similar fate befalling another President whom Barack Obama deeply admires.

Imagine, in an alternate history universe, it’s April 14, 1865.  

The four years of carnage known as the Civil War are finally over.

Five days ago, on April 9, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Union General of the Armies Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House.  

Across the nation, 620,000 Americans lie dead–of wounds or disease. Untold thousands more are coming home as invalids, uncertain how they will care for themselves without limbs or eyes or the ability to walk.  

For Abraham Lincoln, sixteenth President of the United States, it is time to ponder the work of rebuilding a shattered nation. He wants a just peace, not vengeance: “Let ’em up easy,” is the way he puts it.  

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Abraham Lincoln

But, tonight, he needs to put aside his cares and seek a much-deserved respite at Ford’s Theater for a performance of the comedy, Our American Cousin.

At the theater, unknown to Lincoln, the Southern-sympathizing actor, John Wilkes Booth, awaits. For months he’s planned to kidnap Lincoln and hold him for ransom, to force the increasingly victorious Union armies to withdraw from the South.  

But now there’s no point in that.  

The Confederacy and slavery are dead. Lincoln has even spoken about giving the accursed blacks the right to vote.

Booth has never picked up a rifle to fight for the South, never faced death on a battlefield. Yet he will prove to the South that he is its greatest champion–by killing Lincoln.   

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John Wilkes Booth

He has already made his preparations.  

At around noon that day–April 14–he had visited Ford’s Theater, where he had a permanent mailbox. There he learned from the brother of John Ford, the owner, that the President and General Grant would be attending the theater to see Our American Cousin.  

He knows the theater well–he’s performed there as an actor. And there’s no doubt he’ll have access to it tonight–he’s a celebrity.

That evening, Abraham Lincoln arrives at Ford’s Theater with his wife, Mary. They are accompanied by Union Major Henry Rathbone and his fiancee, Clara Harris. The four settle into the Presidential Box, which overlooks the stage. 

Unlike 21st century Presidents, there are no Secret Service bodyguards for Lincoln. Presidents won’t be assigned such protection until 1901, when Theodore Roosevelt takes office. 

Tonight, only one man has been assigned to guard Lincoln–a policeman named John Frederick Parker. And during the intermission, Parker decides he needs a drink.

So he slips off to a nearby tavern with Lincoln’s footman and coachman.

Booth arrives at the theater at about 10:25 p.m. Under his coat he’s armed with a knife and an eight-ounce, single-shot Derringer.

Booth walks up the staircase leading to the first of two doors to the President’s box. At the first door he finds Lincoln’s valet, Charles Forbes.

They chat briefly, and then Booth passes through the first door and closes it behind him. 

Booth looks through the tiny peep-hole he had carved in the second door (which grants entry to the Presidential Box) earlier that day.  

All he has to do is push open the door, aim at the back of Lincoln’s head, and fire. And that’s exactly what he intends to do.  

Then–suddenly–he changes his mind.  

He has an even more monstrous fate in store for the President.

WHY TRUMP WON: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on November 18, 2016 at 10:22 am

Donald Trump owes his victory to a wide range of circumstances. Among these:

#10 Hillary Clinton gave only one memorable speech during the campaign–and then she quashed any benefits that might have come from it.  

This was the “basket of deplorables” speech, delivered at a New York fundraiser on September 9.  It was the only Clinton speech to be widely quoted by Democrats and Republicans.

She divided Donald Trump’s supporters into two groups. The first group were the “deplorables,” for whom she showed open contempt:

“You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic –you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up.

“He has given voice to their websites that used to only have 11,000 people–now 11 million. He tweets and retweets their offensive hateful mean-spirited rhetoric. Now, some of those folks—they are irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America.”  

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Hillary Clinton (Gage Skidmore photo)

But the second group, she said, consisted of poor, alienated Americans who rightly felt abandoned by their employers and their government:

“But the other basket–and I know this because I see friends from all over America here….but that other basket of people are people who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they’re just desperate for change. It doesn’t really even matter where it comes from.

“They don’t buy everything [Trump] says, but he seems to hold out some hope that their lives will be different. They won’t wake up and see their jobs disappear, lose a kid to heroin, feel like they’re in a dead-end. Those are people we have to understand and empathize with as well.”

After giving this speech, Clinton threw away the good it might well have done her.

First, the day after making the speech, she apologized for it: “Last night I was ‘grossly generalistic,’ and that’s never a good idea. I regret saying ‘half’–that was wrong.”  

Many of Trump’s followers were racists, sexists and xenophobes–who deserved condemnation, not apologies. By apologizing, she looked weak, indecisive.

Second, having eloquently reached out to many of the men and women who were a prime constituency for Donald Trump, she made no effort to follow up.  

She could have used this moment to offer an economic package that would quickly and effectively address their vital needs for jobs and medical care. 

But that would have required her to put one together long ago. And all she had to offer now was boilerplate rhetoric, such as: “Education is the answer.”

Worst of all, Trump turned her speech against her, tweeting: “Wow, Hillary Clinton was SO INSULTING to my supporters, millions of amazing, hard working people. I think it will cost her at the Polls!”  

It did.  

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#11 Neither the Democrats nor the TV networks dared reveal the full intensity of hatred and violence that were hallmarks of Trump’s rallies–and campaign.  

Three New York Times reporters who covered Trump’s rallies for over one year routinely witnessed his supporters hurl vulgar taunts such as:

At Hillary Clinton: “Trump that bitch!” “Kill her!” “Lock her up!” “Hillary is a whore!” “Hang the bitch!”

At protesters: “Get out of here, you fag!” “Get him!” “Get the fuck out of here!”

At Latinos: “Build a wall–kill them all!” “Fuck those dirty beaners!” “Send them bastards back. I’m sure that paperwork comes in Spanish.”

At Muslims: “Fuck Islam!” “Islam is not a religion, partner. It’s an ideology.” “You don’t come and talk about America when you’re supporting Muslims.”

At President Barack Obama: “Fuck that nigger!”  

H. Allen Scott, a reporter for Fusion, attended a Trump rally and overheard conversations that startled him.

In one, a man marked Arabs as the enemy: “Those sand niggers are out to get us. We need to bomb the hell out of them.”

In the other, the supposed threat came from a different source: “The Donald will get all those Jews out of Washington.”

When protesters were ejected, Trump supporters went wild–and usually turned violent. Protesters were beaten and kicked–often with Trump’s encouragement.

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Protesters and supporters duke it out at a Donald Trump rally

Audiences at Trump rallies were overwhelmingly white. Not all were racists, but many of those who were advertised it on T-shirts: “MAKE AMERICA WHITE AGAIN.” Confederate flags were commonly displayed.

TV news networks and the Hillary Clinton campaign could have aired–repeatedly–such footage. Had they done so, Americans would have gotten a brutal, firsthand look at the anger and racism inherent in Trump’s candidacy–and followers.  

Instead, Trump was allowed to appear on late-night shows like Saturday Night Live and The Tonight Show where he was treated with kid gloves for fun and laughs. 

Thus, it is pointless to blame any one person (such as Hillary Clinton) or group (such as those who voted for third-party candidates) for Clinton’s loss. Many factors played a part–including some that, to keep this series at a reasonable length, could not be mentioned.

WHY TRUMP WON: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on November 17, 2016 at 12:05 am

Fans of Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders have loudly claimed that if he had gotten the Democratic Presidential nomination, he would have crushed Donald Trump at the polls. 

Since he didn’t get the nomination, we will never know.

But Sanders would have carried his own negatives–which the Republicans would have gleefully exploited.  Among the issues he championed:

  • Make college tuition free and debt-free.
  • Medicare for all.
  • Strengthen and expand Social Security.

Although worthy positions, they would have allowed Republicans to label him a “big-spending liberal.” 

In addition, Sanders had labeled himself a “democratic Socialist.” For millions of proudly ignorant Americans, “socialist” means “Communist.” And Fox News and the Republican party would have gladly assured them they were correct.  

Liberty Maniacs, a Minnesota-based brand that designs and sells political and satirical apparel, literally cashed in on this image with an eye-catching T-shirt.

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It depicted Sanders’ face alongside those of Karl Marx, Freidrich Engels, Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong. And underneath were the words: “Bernie IS MY COMRADE.”

No doubt Republicans would have flooded the airways with similar images.

Sanders’ partisans continue to insist he was “cheated” out of the nomination by Hillary Clinton. But this still leaves unanswered the question:

If Sanders couldn’t prevail against the alleged ruthlessness of Clinton in the primaries, how could he have done so against Trump in the general election? 

As the saying goes: “Politics ain’t beanbag.”

#5 Democrats and liberals fell prey to hubris. They dismissed Donald Trump as a bad joke: Surely voters would reject a bombastic, thrice-married “reality show” host who had filed for corporate bankruptcy four times

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If comments on Facebook are any guide, many liberals believed Clinton would bury him at the polls: Blacks, women, youth and Hispanics will turn out huge for her. Democrats will retake the Senate, and maybe even retake the House.

If many Democrats/liberals didn’t vote, one reason may be that they expected others to do it for them.

#6 The coalition that twice elected Barack Obama deserted Hillary Clinton.

Clinton did worse-than-expected among all the groups she was counting on to support her: Blacks, women, youth and Hispanics.

  • In 2012, Obama got 93% of the black vote; in 2016, Clinton got 88%.
  • In 2012, Obama got 55% of the women’s vote; in 2016, Clinton won 54%.
  • In 2012, Obama got 60% of the vote of those under 30; in 2016, Clinton got 54%
  • In 2012, Obama got 71% of the Hispanic vote; in 2016, Clinton got 65%.

Clinton proved less popular even among whites than Obama: In 2012, Obama won 39% of their votes; in 2016, Clinton won 37%.

#7 For years, Republicans had waged a vicious campaign to demonize Hillary Clinton.

This included even falsely accusing her of conspiring to murder American diplomats in Benghazi, Libya.

Kevin McCarthy, a Republican member of the House of Representatives unintentionally admitted this on Fox News on September 30, 2015:   

“Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee. A select committee. What are her [poll] numbers today?

“Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable. But no one would have known that any of that had happened had we not fought to make that happen.”

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Kevin McCarthy

Thus, McCarthy revealed that:

  • The House Select Committee on Benghazi was not a legitimate investigative body.
  • Its true purpose was not to investigate the killings of four American diplomats during a 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya.
  • It’s actual purpose: To destroy the Presidential candidacy of Hillary Clinton.

#8 Republicans attacked Clinton for using a personal email account–while ignoring that her two Republican predecessors had done the same.

General Colin Powell served as Secretary of State under President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2005. He not only used a private email account but advised Clinton to do so as she was about to move into the same job in 2009.  

Powell’s successor as Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, similarly used a private email account during her tenure (2005-2009).

Yet while Republicans hounded Clinton, accusing her of recklessly endangering national security, they totally ignored Powell’s and Rice’s uses of private email accounts.

#9 Trump, adopting the role of a populist, appealed to blue-collar voters. Clinton offered a “love-your-CEO” economic plan–and suffered for it.

Trump visited “Rustbelt” states like Michigan and Pennsylvania and vowed to “bring back” jobs that had been lost to China, such as those in coal mining and manufacturing. Clinton didn’t deign to show up, assuming she had those states “locked up.”

Most economists agree that, in a globalized economy, such jobs are not coming back, no matter who becomes President.

Even so, voters went for the man who promised them a better future, and shunned the woman who didn’t come to promise them any future at all. 

In May, Democratic pollster CeLinda Lake had warned Clinton to revamp her economic platform.

“Democrats simply have to come up with a more robust economic frame and message,” Lake said after the election. “We’re never going to win those white, blue-collar voters if we’re not better on the economy. And 27 policy papers and a list of positions is not a frame. We can laugh about it all we want, but Trump had one.”

WHY TRUMP WON: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on November 16, 2016 at 12:13 am

Since November 8, Democrats and liberals (the two are not always the same) have been in shock.

“How could this happen?” they keep asking–themselves and others. “How could the country go from electing a brilliant, sophisticated, humane man like Barack Obama to electing an ignorant, coarse, brutal man like Donald Trump?”

Efforts have been made to blame one person/group or another. But the truth is that many factors were involved, and the fallout will be felt for months–if not years–to come.

#1 Hillary Clinton was an uninspiring candidate. When Barack Obama ran for President in 2008, NBC Anchor Tom Brokaw compared his rallies to Hannah Montana concerts. Audiences were excited by his charisma, eloquence, relative youth (47) and optimism (“Yes We Can!”).

Clinton radiated none of these qualities. She was 67 when she declared her candidacy for President–and looked it. Her speaking voice grated like the proverbial fingernail on a blackboard.

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Hillary Clinton

She seemed to have been around forever–as First Lady (1993-2001), as Senator from New York (2001-2009) and as Secretary of State (2009-2013). Those born after 2000 thought of the Clinton Presidency as ancient history. She was offering a resume–and voters wanted an inspiration.

#2 Clinton brought a lot of baggage with her. In contrast to Obama, whose Presidency had been scandal-free, Clinton–rightly or wrongly–has always been dogged by charges of corruption.

During the Clinton Presidency, a failed land deal–Whitewater–while Bill Clinton was Governor of Arkansas triggered a seven-year investigation by a Republican special prosecutor. No criminality was uncovered, and no charge was brought against either Clinton.

After leaving the White House, she and her husband set up the Clinton Foundation, a public charity to bring government, businesses and social groups together to solve problems “faster, better, at lower cost.”

As Secretary of State, more than half of Clinton’s meetings with people outside government were with donors to the Clinton Foundation. If a “pay-to play” system wasn’t at work, one certainly seemed to be.

She cast further suspicion on herself by her unauthorized use of a private email server. This wasn’t revealed until March, 2015–after she was no longer Secretary of State.

She claimed she had used it to avoid carrying two cell-phones. But, as Secretary of State, she traveled with a huge entourage who carried everything she needed. Her critics believed she used a private email system to hide a “pay-for-pay” relationship with Clinton Foundation donors.

Finally,  as a candidate for President, she “secretly” worked with Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, to ensure that she would get the nomination.

As DNC chair, Wasserman-Schultz was expected to be impartial toward all Democratic candidates seeking the prize. This included Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s chief competitor.

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Bernie Sanders

So Sanders and his supporters were outraged when WikiLeaks released 19,252 emails and 8,034 attachments hacked from computers of the highest-ranking officials of the DNC.

The emails revealed a clear bias for Clinton and against Sanders. In one email, Brad Marshall, the chief financial officer of the DNC, suggested that Sanders, who is Jewish, could be portrayed as an atheist.

#3 The Obamas’ support proved a plus/minus for Clinton.  Understandably, President Obama wanted to see his legacies continued–and she was the only candidate who could do it.

So he–and his wife, Michelle–stormed the country, giving eloquent, passionate speeches and firing up crowds on Clinton’s behalf.

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President Barack Obama

So long as either Obama stood before a crowd, the magic lasted. But once the event was over, the excitement vanished. Hillary simply didn’t arouse enough passion to keep it going.

And when Obama supporters compared the President and First Lady with Clinton, they found her wanting–in attractiveness, grace, eloquence, trustworthiness and the ability to inspire.

#4 Not enough Democrats entered the Presidential race. Among those few who did:

  • Martin O’Malley, former governor of Maryland;
  • Lincoln Chaffee, former governor of Rhode Island;
  • James Webb, former U.S. Senator from Virginia;
  • Lawrence Lessig, professor at Harvard Law School;
  • Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders;
  • and former First Lady/U.S. Senator/Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Of these candidates, it’s worth noting that O’Malley withdrew during the primaries. Chaffee, Webb and Lessig withdrew before the primaries started.

Many liberals wanted Massachusetts U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren to run. As a specialist in consumer protection, she had become a leading figure in the Democratic party and a favorite among progressives.

But, without giving a reason, she declined to do so.

Thus, at least on the Democratic side, the stage was already set at the outset of the race.

No matter who the Republican nominee would be, the Democratic one would be Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.  

Sanders fans have loudly claimed that if only he had gotten the Democratic Presidential nomination, he would have crushed Trump at the polls. 

But Sanders would have carried big negatives as well–which the Republicans would have gleefully exploited.  

These will be explored in Part Two of this continuing series.

AMERICA’S NOW IN THE DOCK WITH GERMANY

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on November 14, 2016 at 12:05 am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Adolf Hitler

It took him 14 years to win appointment to Chancellor (the equivalent of Attorney General) of Germany in 1933.

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

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

He repeatedly ran for the highest office in Germany–President–but never got a clear majority in a free election.

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

Germany seemed on the verge of collapsing.

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

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

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Paul von Hindenburg

Hindenburg was reluctant to do so. He considered Hitler a dangerous radical. But he allowed himself to be convinced that, by putting Hitler in the Cabinet, he could be “boxed in” and thus controlled.

So, on January 30, 1933, he appointed Adolf Hitler Chancellor of Germany.

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

It had taken him 15 years to do so.

In 2015, Donald Trump declared his candidacy for President.

Now, consider this:

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

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

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Donald Trump

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

That of Donald Trump’s campaign was one of hatred toward everyone who was not an avid Trump supporter.

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

They knew that demographics were steadily working against them. Birthrates among non-whites were rising. By 2045, whites would make up less than 50 percent of the American population.

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

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

And the idea of a woman dictating to men was strictly too much to bear.

Since Trump’s election, educators have reported a surge in bullying among students of all ages, from elementary- to high-school. Those doing the bullying are mostly whites, and the victims are mostly blacks, Muslims, Jews, Hispanics, Asians.

It even has a name: “The Trump Effect.”

And this is where matters stand more than two months before Trump takes the oath as President.

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

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