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THE PERILS OF TWITTERING

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on October 9, 2017 at 12:04 am
If Donald Trump ever read The Prince, by Niccolo Machiavelli, the Florentine statesman, he’s decided he doesn’t need it. And his ever-falling popularity among Americans clearly proves his mistake. 

THE #1 THREAT TO AMERICA’S SECURITY: DONALD TRUMP

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on August 25, 2017 at 12:08 am

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper witnessed President Donald Trump’s 77-minute rant at a Phoenix campaign rally on August 22.

Trump angrily defended his refusal to condemn white supremacists for their intimidating and violent actions in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 12-13. And he continued to slander the news media as unpatriotic.

He also attacked NAFTA and the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) and threatened to shut down the government if Congress refused to pay for a border wall. (During his 2016 campaign, he had repeatedly promised that Mexico would pay for this.)

Afterward, Clapper told CNN: “I find this downright scary and disturbing….I really question his ability to be—his fitness to be—in this office, and I also am beginning to wonder about his motivation for it.  Maybe he is looking for a way out.”

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James Clapper

But the part of Clapper’s interview that most caught the attention of the media and Washington’s political establishment came when reporter Don Lemon asked: Is Trump a threat to national security?

“Well, he certainly could be,” Clapper replied.

“Again, having some understanding of the levers that a president can exercise, I worry about, frankly, you know, the access to nuclear codes,” Clapper answered.

And Clapper knows more about “the levers that a President can exercise” than most: He served no fewer than ten Presidents–from John F. Kennedy to Barack Obama.

He warned that “in a fit of pique,” Trump could order a nuclear strike against the regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“There’s actually very little to stop him,” Clapper said. “The whole system’s built to ensure rapid response if necessary. So there’s very little in the way of controls over you know, exercising a nuclear option, which is pretty damn scary.”

But long before the Clapper interview, Americans had more than enough knowledge about Trump to judge him unfit for the Oval Office.

  • He unknowingly admitted to being a sexual predator of women: “You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful—I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”

Donald Trump

  • He refused to release his tax returns—unlike every other Presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan in 1980.
  • He said he was prepared to withdraw from NATO, the American-European alliance that held the Soviet Union at bay for a half-century. 
  • He often and publicly praised Russian President Vladimir Putin, the absolute dictator of a foreign power hostile to the United States.
  • He publicly invited “Russia”—i.e., Putin—to interfere directly in an American Presidential election: “I will tell you this, Russia: If you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 [Hillary Clinton] emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

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Vladimir Putin

  • On November 18, Trump—rather than face trial—settled the Trump University case out of court for $25 million. “Today’s $25 million settlement agreement is a stunning reversal by Donald Trump,” said New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, “and a major victory for the over 6,000 victims of his fraudulent university.”
  • 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.”
  • On August 9,  Trump issued a veiled solicitation for the assassination of Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton: “Hillary 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.” 
  • After slandering President Barack Obama for five years as “the President from Kenya,” he blatantly lied: “Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy. I finished it.”

The number of people, places and things Trump has insulted is so extensive The New York Times compiled a list of 273 of them.

Trump’s rampant egomania is literally stamped on his properties. Of the 515 entities he owns, 268 of them—52%—bear his last name. Among the references he’s made to himself:

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  • “My fingers are long and beautiful, as, it has been well documented, are various other parts of my body.”
  • “I think the only difference between me and the other candidates is that I’m more honest and my women are more beautiful.”
  • “My Twitter has become so powerful that I can actually make my enemies tell the truth.”
  • “My IQ is one of the highest—and you all know it.”
  • Asked on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” who he consults about foreign policy, he replied: “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things.”

* * * * *

Those Americans who voted for Donald Trump knew the character of the man they were electing. They cannot claim ignorance of who he was and what he intended to do.

They enthusiastically supported him because he gave voice to their hatreds and prejudices. And because they believed he would humiliate and destroy those they wanted to see humiliated and destroyed.

They are as deserving of the contempt of their fellow Americans as Trump himself.

WILD BILL HICKOK VS. THE NRA: PART TWO (END)

In History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 7, 2017 at 12:16 am

After being fired as town marshal of Abilene, Kansas, James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok lived another five years. But they weren’t good ones.

Unlike William F. Cody, Hickok couldn’t adjust to the changing West.

It was becoming less wild. His scouting days were over—the Indian wars were rapidly coming to an end.

(In June, 1876, barely two months before his own death, the Sioux and Cheyenne would wipe out the other famous “Long Hair” of the plains–George Armstrong Custer—at the battle of Little Bighorn.)

And most towns, like Abilene, increasingly had little use for lead-slinging lawmen like Hickok.

James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok

Worst of all, he was going blind—either from a venereal disease he had contracted or from the glare of too many prairie sunrises.

In 1873, Hickok tried his hand as an actor in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. But he was a terrible performer—and knew it.

The fault, however, did not lie entirely with him. Even Laurence Oliver would have rebelled at spouting lines like: “Fear not, fair maiden, for you are ever safe with Will Bill, who has sworn to defend to the death your maidenly virtue.”

Not that the audiences cared. They had come to see legendary plainsmen—such as Hickok and Cody—in the flesh, not great theater.

Hickok asked Cody to release him from his contract. Cody refused. So Hickok once again turned to his guns for a solution.

In this case, it meant shooting blanks into the legs and buttocks of “dead” Indians who suddenly sprang to life and rushed off the stage. And one night, Hickok put a real bullet through a stage light that was hurting his already sensitive eyes.

That, finally, convinced Cody that Hickok’s acting days were over.

In March, 1876, he married Agnes Lake Thatcher, a circus acrobat several years his senior.

In April, he told Agnes he was heading for the gold rush country of Deadwood, South Dakota. After he made his fortune, he would send for her.

But she never saw him again.

Deadwood was the sort of town the National Rifle Association wants to see replicated across modern-day America. Everyone wore a gun, and there was no town ordinance against doing so. Nor were there any law-enforcers like Hickok to protect the public from the kill-crazy antics of liquored-up gunmen.

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Grave of “Wild Bill” Hickok

Worse for Hickok, he had two strikes against him: His reputation as a matchless gunfighter had preceded him—and his failing vision put him at a disadvantage in backing it up.

Arriving in Deadwood, he quickly decided that the strenuous life of a gold-miner was not for him. Instead, he would seek his fortune as he often had—in saloons as a gambler.

And, as he had so often, he spent more of his time losing money than making it.

On August 2, 1876, his long trail of bad luck finally ran out.

He had always sat with his back to a wall, as a precaution against ambush. On this afternoon, he found his preferred seat taken by another gambler named Charles Rich. Hickok asked Rich to trade places with him, but when the latter refused, Hickok didn’t press the matter. 

It was a sign that Hickok’s reputation had sharply fallen. Ten years earlier, had he made such a request, the other gambler would have rushed to swap chairs.

Hickok paid no attention as a whiskey bum named Jack McCall walked around to the corner of the saloon to where the ex-lawman was playing.

Jack McCall

The previous night, Hickok had won considerable money from McCall in a poker game—and had generously given him back enough to buy something to eat.

(The 1995 movie, Wild Bill, depicted McCall as Hickok’s illegitimate son seeking vengeance on the father who had abandoned him. But this was completely false, as the two were completely unrelated. The one saving grace to this otherwise absurd film was Jeff Bridges’ gritty performance as Hickok.)

Suddenly, McCall  pulled a double-action .45 from under his coat, shouted “Take that!” and shot Hickok in the back of the head.

Hickok died instantly.  He was 39.

As he slid from the table, he dropped the cards he had been holding—a pair of eights and another pair of Aces, which has ever since been known as “the dead man’s hand.”

McCall was “tried” by a mining court.  He claimed that Hickok had murdered his brother and he had sought revenge.  He was acquitted.

He headed for Wyoming, where he incessantly bragged that he had killed the famous “Wild Bill” Hickok.

McCall was arrested in Laramie and charged with murder. The trial in Deadwood was found to have been invalid—owing to the town’s being in Indian territory and outside the reach of United States law.

Once again forced to stand trial, McCall found himself convicted. On March 1, 1877, he was hanged. Later, it was discovered that McCall had never had a brother.

WILD BILL HICKOK VS. THE NRA: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 6, 2017 at 12:33 am

Almost everyone has heard of “Wild Bill” Hickok—the legendary Western scout, Indian fighter, two-gun lawman and crack shot.

And the legend, not the man, is often invoked–inaccurately—by “gun rights” advocates who seek to reduce the entire Constitution to a single amendment: The Second Amendment.

But there is a vast difference between Hickok the legend–and Hickok the actual man.

For one thing, his real name wasn’t “Bill”—or even “William.” It was James Butler Hickok.

He supposedly got the name “Wild Bill” after thwarting an attempted lynching—and a woman applauded his bravery with: “Good for you, Wild Bill!”

James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok

For another, Hickok didn’t spend most of his life as a town marshal. His gunslinging days as a lawman lasted just two years—1869 to 1871.

And they ended badly. His first stint as a lawman came at Hays City, Kansas. As sheriff, he shot and killed at least two men.

According to legend, one of these shootings occurred when Hickok, looking in a bar mirror, saw a ruffian named Strawhan pull a pistol to shoot him in the back.

Hickok, looking into the mirror, threw a “trick shot” over his shoulder–and nailed Strawhan dead.

Then Hickok’s luck ran out. On July 17, 1870, several members of the 7th U.S. Cavalry attacked him in Drum’s Saloon. Knocked to the floor and repeatedly kicked, Hickok had reason to fear death.

Drawing his pistols, he killed one private and wounded another. Although he had acted in self-defense and the shootings were entirely justifiable, Hickok now faced even greater danger from other, enraged members of the same regiment.

He decided to leave Hays before they could take their revenge.

His next posting as town marshal came in Abilene, Kansas. This stint lasted from April to December, 1871.

And, like his last one as a “town-tamer,” it ended with a deadly shootout.

A major portion of his duties lay in enforcing the “no firearms worn or used in town” edict.

Abilene was a cattle town, the end of the line for many outfits seeking a major railhead where their hundreds of beeves could be dropped off and shipped eastward.

When cowboys—most of them in their teens or early 20s—reached Abilene, they wanted to celebrate. Their long drive was over, and now they could finally get paid. And there were plenty of bars and whores waiting to pick up their newly-issued monies.

This combination of randy men and ready supplies of alcohol and women often led to trouble. One cowboy might make a pass at another’s “lady” for the night. Or an argument might erupt over a card game.

It was Hickok’s duty to make sure that such arguments were settled only with fists. And that meant demanding that all cowboys’ guns be checked at the marshal’s office until the “boys” were ready to leave Abilene.

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Replica of Hickok’s 1851 Navy Colt

This, of course, contradicts the “open carry” demands of the National Rifle Association. And most of its members—if transported to the Old West—would find themselves on the wrong side of Hickok.

And that wasn’t a good place to be—as Texas gambler Phil Coe learned to his dismay. Coe and Hickok had clashed before.

As co-owner of the Bull’s head Saloon, Coe had advertised its wares with a sign depicting a bull with oversized sexual organs. A number of citizens raged that this was obscene and demanded that the animal’s sexuality be greatly reduced.

The city fathers agreed. Hickok stood nearby with a shotgun while a painter made the necessary deletions.

On October 5, cowboys were flooding into Abilene, looking for a good time. Coe, feeling in high spirits, decided to celebrate by firing his pistol into the air several times.

The shots quickly brought Hickok to the scene.

“Did you fire that shot?” Hickok demanded.

Coe supposedly replied: “I shot at a dog—and I’ll shoot at another.”

Coe threw a shot at Hickok—which missed.

Hickok whipped out his two revolvers and put two bullets into Coe’s stomach, mortally wounding the Texan, who died three days later.

With Coe’s Texas buddies surrounding him, Hickok suddenly heard someone rushing at him from behind. Hickok whirled and fired twice more—into the chest of his own deputy, Mike Williams, who had been running to his aid.

Hickok, aghast at his mistake, gently carried Williams into a saloon and placed his body onto a billiard table. Then he raged through Abilene, ordering an end to the festivities and knocking down any cowboys foolish enough to resist.

Owing to this latest explosion in violence, the city fathers quickly reached two decision: First, they put an end to Abilene’s years as a major cattle shipping point. From now on, cattlemen were no longer welcome there.

And then they fired Hickok as city marshal in December, 1871.

POLYGRAPH BY COPIER

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 5, 2017 at 12:18 am

Ever heard of “polygraph by copier”?

If you haven’t, here’s how it works:

A detective loads three sheets of paper into a Xerox machine.

“Truth” has been typed onto the first sheet.

“Truth” has been typed onto the second sheet.

“Lie” has been typed onto the third sheet.

Then a criminal suspect is led into the room and told to put his hand against the side of the machine.

“What is your name?” asks the detective.

The suspect gives it.

The detective hits the copy button, and a page comes out: “Truth.”

“Where do you live?” asks the detective.

The suspect gives an address, the detective again hits the copy button, and a second page appears: “Truth.”

Then comes the bonus question: “Did you or did you not kill Big Jim Tate on the evening of….?”

The suspect answers. The detective presses the copy button one last time, and the sheet appears: “Lie.”

“Well, well, well, you lying little bastard,” says the detective.

Convinced that the police have found some mysterious way to peer into the darkest recesses of his criminality, the suspect “gives it up” and makes a full confession.

Yes, contrary to what many believe, police can legally use deceit to obtain a confession.

In 1973, the Supreme Court ruled, in United States v. Russell: “Nor will the mere fact of deceit defeat a prosecution, for there are circumstances when the use of deceit is the only practicable law enforcement technique available.”

In that case, the Court narrowly upheld a conviction for methamphetamine production even though the defendant had argued entrapment.

So what types of interrogative deceit might a police officer use to develop admissible evidence of a suspect’s guilt?Image result for Images of police interrogation

Police interrogation

The general rule is that deception can be used so long as it’s not likely to cause an innocent person to commit a crime or confess to a crime that s/he didn’t commit.

Click here: The Lawful Use of Deception – Article – POLICE Magazine

Consider the following examples:

  • A detective is interviewing a suspect in a rape case. “Oh, that girl,” he says, thus implying that the victim was a slut and had it coming. The suspect, thinking he’s dealing with a sympathetic listener, starts bragging about his latest conquest—only to learn, too late, that his listener isn’t so simpatico after all.
  • “We found your prints on the gun—or on any number of other surfaces.  Actually, there are few good places on a pistol to leave prints. And those that are left can be smeared.  The same goes for other surfaces. But if a suspect can be led to believe the cops have his prints, a confession is often forthcoming.
  • A police officer is interrogating a suspect in a murder case. “He came at you, didn’t he?” asks the cop. The suspect, who murdered the victim in cold blood, thinks he has an escape route. “Yeah, he came at me”—this confirming that, yes, he did kill the deceased.
  • “Your partner just gave you up” is a favorite police stratagen when there is more than one suspect involved. If one suspect can be made to “flip—turn–against the other, the case is essentially wrapped up.
  • Interrogating a bank robbery suspect, a cop might say: “We know you didn’t do the shooting, that you were only the wheelman.” This implies that the penalty for driving the getaway car is far less than that for killing someone during a robbery. In fact, criminal law allows every member of the conspiracy to be charged as a principal.
  • “I don’t give a damn what you did,” says the detective. “Just tell me why you did it.”  For some suspects, this offers a cathartic release, a chance to justify their guilt.
  • The “good cop/bad cop” routine is known to everyone who has ever seen a police drama. Yet it continues to yield results so often it continues to be routinely used. “Look, I believe you,” says the “good” cop, “but my partner’s a real asshole. Just tell me what happened so we can clear this up and you can go.”
  • “So,” says the detective, “why do you think the police believe you did it?” “I have no idea,” says the suspect, confident that he isn’t giving up anything that might come back to haunt him. “Well,” says the cop, “I guess you’ll just have to make something up.” Make something up sounds easy, but is actually a trap. The suspect may end up giving away details that could incriminate him—or lying so brazenly that his lies can be used against him.

So is there a best way for a suspect to deal with an invitation to waive his Miranda right to remain silent?

Yes, there is. It’s to refuse to say anything and to ask for permission to call a lawyer.

That’s the preferred method for Mafia hitmen—and accused police officers.

Any cop who finds himself under investigation by his department’s Internal Affairs unit automatically shuts up—and calls his lawyer.

Any other respons—no matter how well-intentioned—may well result in a lengthy prison sentence.

TWEETING AWAY HIS DIGNITY

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on July 4, 2017 at 12:30 am

If Donald Trump ever read The Prince, by Niccolo Machiavelli, the Florentine statesman, he’s decided he doesn’t need it. And his ever-falling popularity among Americans clearly proves his mistake.

First published in 1532, The Prince lays bare the qualities needed by a successful political leader. At the top of this list must be creating and preserving a sense of his own dignity. Thus, he must appear to be a combination of mercy, faith, integrity, humanity and religion. 

As Machiavelli puts it:

A prince must take great care that nothing goes out of his mouth which is not full of the above-named five qualities, and he should seem to be all mercy, faith, integrity, humanity and religion. 

Since taking office on January 20, Trump has violated Machiavelli’s injunction on integrity with a vengeance. He has been caught in repeated falsehoods–so many, in fact, that the New York Times gave over its June 23 front page to a story headlined: “Trump’s Lies.” 

According to the Times, Trump “told public falsehoods or lies every day for his first 40 days.”

“There is simply no precedent,” went the Times‘ opinion piece, “for an American president to spend so much time telling untruths. Every president has shaded the truth or told occasional whoppers.

“No other president—of either party—has behaved as Trump is behaving. He is trying to create an atmosphere in which reality is irrelevant.”

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Donald Trump

Machiavelli also advises:

[He] must contrive that his actions show grandeur, spirit, gravity and fortitude….

It’s hard to convey those qualities in a series of 140-character rants on Twitter. Yet, from the start of his Presidency, Trump has put his ambitions, excuses and rants on social media.

As CNN Political Analyst Julian Zelizer outlined in a July 3 article:

“Putting aside the specific content of the recent blasts from the Oval smart phone, the President’s ongoing Twitter storms make all leaders uneasy. The heads of government in most nations prefer a certain amount of predictability and decorum from other heads of state.

“To have one of the most powerful people in the room being someone who is willing to send out explosive and controversial statements through social media, including nasty personal attacks or an edited video of him physically assaulting the media, does not make others….feel very confident about how he will handle deliberations with them.” 

Trump’s apologists have fiercely defended his tweetstorms, claiming they allow him to bypass the media and “communicate directly with the American people.”

On June 29, Trump attacked the physical appearance of Mika Brzezinski, a frequent journalistic critic on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

Sarah Huckabee-Sanders, his deputy press secretary, excused it: “The president has been attacked mercilessly on personal accounts by members on that program. And I think he’s been very clear that when he gets attacked he’s going to hit back.”

On July 2, Trump tweeted a video showing him punching a wrestler–with a CNN logo imposed over his face.

The tweet brought Trump widespread criticism. Bruce Brown, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said the video was a “threat of physical violence against journalists” and “beneath the office of the presidency.” 

Trump’s mania for tweeting has often led him to contradict statements by his administration’s highest officials. 

In early June, Saudi Arabia cut off diplomatic ties with Qater because of its alleged support for terrorism in the Persian Gulf. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson publicly said that the United States hoped to mediate an end to the dispute. 

But the next day, Trump tweeted: “During my recent trip to the Middle East, I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology. Leaders pointed to Qatar—look!”

Machiavelli urged rulers to safeguard their reputations:

Niccolo Machiavelli

…A prince must show himself a lover of merit, give preferment to the able, and honor those who excel in every art.

Besides this, he ought, at convenient seasons of the year, to keep the people occupied with festivals and shows….mingle with them from time to time, and give them an example of his humanity and munificence, always upholding, however, the majesty of his dignity, which must never be allowed to fail in anything whatever. 

Rulers who disregard this advice do so at their peril:

A prince need trouble little about conspiracies when the people are well disposed.  But when they are hostile and hold him in hatred, then he must fear everything and everybody…. 

…[The Roman Emperor Commodus], being of a cruel and bestial disposition, in order to…exercise his rapacity on the people, he sought to favor the soldiers and render them licentious. 

On the other hand, by not maintaining his dignity, by often descending into the theater to fight with gladiators and committing other contemptible actions…he became despicable in the eyes of the soldiers. And being hated on the one hand and despised on the other, he was conspired against and killed. 

Donald Trump has repeatedly violated these lessons. It remains to be seen if he will pay a price for doing so.

COPING EFFECTIVELY WITH BLACKMAIL

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 3, 2017 at 12:10 am

J. Edgar Hoover, the legendary FBI director, was notorious in his own lifetime as a blackmailer.

“Boy, the dirt he has on those Senators,” President John F. Kennedy told his friend, Benjamin C. Bradlee, who was then head of Newsweek’s Washington bureau.

As President, Kennedy could call on Hoover to give him limited access to the private files the FBI director kept on real and potential enemies. But Kennedy had known about Hoover’s incriminating dossiers long before he reached the White House.

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J. Edgar Hoover

During 1941-42, he had enjoyed a delicious affair with Inga Arvad, a Danish journalist and notorious fan of Germany’s Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler.

Suspected of being a Nazi spy, “Inga Binga,” as JFK jokingly referred to her, came under heavy FBI surveillance—including phone taps and room bugs. These picked up Kennedy’s trysts with her.

When the Kennedy patriarch, Joseph P., learned of the affair, he demanded that his son break it off. He had political ambitious for all his sons, and he didn’t want them spoiled by Jack’s owing to an uncontrollable libido.

Richard Nixon—Kennedy’s future rival for the White House—felt the same way about Hoover: “He’s got files on everybody.” 

And this was virtually true—even if those files didn’t hold secretly-obtained information. Nixon learned this as President when he wanted “dirt” on Senator Edward M. Kennedy. In this case, the “file” turned out to be nothing more than newspaper clippings.

As William C. Sullivan, the onetime director of the FBI’s Domestic Intelligence Division, revealed after Hoover’s death in 1972:

“The moment [Hoover] would get something on a senator, he’d send one of the errand boys up and advise the senator that ‘we’re in the course of an investigation, and we by chance happened to come up with this data on your daughter.

“‘But we wanted you to know this. We realize you’d want to know it.’ Well, Jesus, what does that tell the senator? From that time on, the senator’s right in his pocket.” 

There is a lesson to be learned here: Giving in to blackmail only empowers the blackmailer even more.

The only effective way to handle blackmail was demonstrated by Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, hosts of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” a weekday news and talk show.

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Mika Brzezinski

Both have been highly critical of President Donald Trump since he took office on January 20. And Trump—through his friendship with David Pecker, the publisher of the tabloid, The National Enquirer—thought he had the ideal way of shutting them up.

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Joe Scarborough

On the June 30 edition of “Morning Joe,” Scarborough and Brezezinski offered their version of events.

Scarborough: “We got a call: ‘Hey, the National Enquirer is going to run a negative story against you guys, and Donald is friends with …the president is friends with the guy that runs National Enquirer.’ And they said: ‘If you call the president up and you apologize for your coverage, then he will pick up the phone and basically spike the story.’ 

“I had, I will just say, three people at the very top of the administration calling me. The calls kept coming, and kept coming, and they were like: ‘Come on, Joe, just pick up the phone and call him.’”

Donald Trump

One of the callers was reportedly Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law. 

In short: Grovel before the dictator and he will bestow clemency on you. 

Trump denied being a party to blackmail, but he confirmed that there had been calls between the TV journalists and members of his staff.  In a June 30 tweet, Trump wrote: “He called me to stop a National Enquirer article. I said no! Bad show”.

Scarborough and Brzezinski provided further details in a June 30 Washington Post column: “This year, top White House staff members warned that the National Enquirer was planning to publish a negative article about us unless we begged the president to have the story spiked. We ignored their desperate pleas.” 

The story, which appeared on June 5, alleged that the two, previously married, had cheated on their former spouses. The story was entitled: “Joe & Mika: TV Couple’s Sleazy Cheating Scandal: ‘Morning’ lovebirds vow to make it legal. THE ENQUIRER asks questions!” 

By rejecting Trump’s blackmail threat, Scarborough and Brzezinski accomplished what they could not have by groveling: 

First, they put Trump on notice that they can’t be cowed. This can only encourage future targets of such blackmail to stand up against abuse. 

Second, they deprived him of a potent weapon. Had they caved in to his demand for an unearned apology, they would have made themselves targets for future blackmail. 

Third, they turned the tables by making Trump the target of ugly publicity. Blackmailers are universally reviled, and branding Trump as one detracts from his dignity and influence as President.

Fourth, they forced Trump and the Enquirer on the defensive—with both denying that they ever tried to blackmail Scarborough and Brzezinski.

Considering Trump’s well-earned reputation for lying and vindictiveness, Scarborough and Brzezinski are certain to be more widely believed than the President.

THE COSTS OF TIMIDITY: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 30, 2017 at 12:03 am

During the summer of 2011, Republicans threatened to destroy the Nation’s credit rating unless Democrats agreed to massively cut social programs for the elderly, poor and disabled.

President Barack Obama could have countered this extortion through the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act.

RICO opens with a series of definitions of “racketeering activity” which can be prosecuted by Justice Department attorneys. Among those crimes: Extortion.

Extortion is defined as “a criminal offense which occurs when a person unlawfully obtains either money, property or services from a person(s), entity, or institution, through coercion.” 

The RICO Act defines “a pattern of racketeering activity” as “at least two acts of racketeering activity, one of which occurred after the effective date of this chapter and the last of which occurred within ten years…after the commission of a prior act of racketeering activity.” 

And if President Obama had believed that RICO was not sufficient to counter Republicans’ extortion attempts, he could have relied on the USA Patriot Act of 2001, passed in the wake of 9’11. 

In Section 802, the Act defines domestic terrorism. Among the behavior so defined: “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.” 

U.S. Department of Justice

The remedies for punishing such criminal behavior were now legally in place. President Obama needed only to direct the Justice Department to apply them.

Criminally investigating and possibly indicting members of Congress would not violate the separation-of-powers principle.  Congressmen have in the past been investigated, indicted and convicted for various criminal offenses. 

The indictment of large numbers of Republican extortionists would have substantially changed the course of American history while Obama held office.

Instead of raising huge sums of money for re-election battles, those Representatives and Senators would have been forced to raise monies for their legal defense. And while some might have been convicted, others almost certainly would have been.

This would have substantially depleted the ranks of Obama’s sworn enemies—and given him far greater opportunities to enact his legislative agenda.

Such indictments and prosecutions—and especially convictions—would have served notice on current and future members of Congress: The lives and fortunes of American citizens may not be held hostage to gain leverage in a political settlement.

A Cuban Missile Crisis Speech

But Obama could have stood up to Republican extortionists in another way: By urging his fellow Americans to rally to him in a moment of supreme national danger.

President John F. Kennedy did just that—successfully—during the most dangerous crisis of his administration. Addressing the Nation on October 22, 1962, Kennedy shocked his fellow citizens by revealing that the Soviet Union had installed offensive nuclear missiles in Cuba.

John F. Kennedy

Kennedy outlined a series of steps he had taken to end the crisis—most notably, a blockade of Cuba. 

Then he sought to reassure and inspire his audience: “The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender or submission.”

President Obama could have sent that same message to the extortionists of the Republican Party—by explaining to the American people: 

  • Republicans have adopted the same my-way-or-else “negotiating” stance as Adolf Hitler.
  • Like the Nazis, they are determined to gain absolute power—or destroy the Nation they claim to love.
  • They raised the debt ceiling seven times during the eight-year Presidency of George W. Bush.
  • But now that a Democrat holds the White House, raising the debt ceiling is unacceptable.
  • Despite Republican lies, we cannot revitalize the economy by slashing taxes on the wealthy and on cash-hoarding corporations while cutting benefits for millions of average Americans.
  • We will need both tax increases and sensible entitlement cuts to regain our economic strength.

And he could have ended his speech with a direct call to action by the American people:

Image result for Images of Barack Obama giving a speech in the Oval Office

President Barack Obama addressing the Nation

We stand on the edge of economic disaster. Therefore, I am asking each of you to stand up for America tonight–by demanding the recall of the entire membership of the Republican Party.

“This is the moment when each of us must decide—whether we will survive as a Republic, or allow ruthless political fanatics to destroy what has lasted and thrived for more than 200 years.”

Instead, Obama caved in to Republican extortion demands.

In September, 1939, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and French Prime Minister Edouard Daladier sold out their ally, Czechoslovakia, to Adolf Hitler at the infamous Munich Conference. 

As Winston Churchill aptly predicted: “Britain and France had to choose between war and dishonor. They chose dishonor. They will have war.”

To paraphrase Churchill: President Obama had to choose between confrontation and timidity. He chose timidity. He got contempt and obstruction in return. 

Five years later, the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency informed Obama that Russian Intelligence agents were actively working to ensure Donald Trump’s election as President. 

Obama did not publicly release this information–nor indict Trump campaign staffers who were colluding with those agents. 

Thus, Trump won the election–and gained the power to destroy Obama’s Presidential legacy.

THE COSTS OF TIMIDITY: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 29, 2017 at 11:40 am

“[Barack] Obama needs to find his voice now in ways that, during his time in the Oval Office, he was too often reluctant to do, perhaps fearing the immense power of the bully pulpit.

“But now there is a real bully in the pulpit, and Obama–like the rest of us–has no choice but to speak, and to act.” 

So writes noted author and poet Jay Parini in an Op-Ed piece for CNN. 

“[President Donald] Trump has, in fact, gone out of his way to attack Obama, as in his recent nonsensical reversal wherein he attacked Obama for his lack of response to Russian meddling in the 2016 election: ‘Obama did NOTHING,’ Trump tweeted. He went on to accuse Obama of colluding with the Russians!” 

Parini believes that Obama should have warned the American public that Russia was trying to sway the 2016 election for Trump: “There can be no sound reason for not alerting the people of this country to a major attack on their most cherished right, the right to vote.” 

But Obama didn’t issue any such warning. The findings of the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency were kept strictly confidential until after Trump won the campaign.

Parini also believes that Obama should now forcefully respond to Trump’s attacks on him and his signature legislative achievement: The Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare.”

But Obama has long refused to respond forcefully to Republican attacks. As a result, Republicans now dominate both houses of Congress–and the White House.

During the summer of 2011, Republicans threatened to destroy the Nation’s credit rating unless their budgetary demands were met. They refused to raise the debt ceiling unless Democrats agreed to massively cut social programs for the elderly, poor and disabled.

Sign of the Mafia “Black Hand”

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

As Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, explained the looming economic catastrophe: “If you don’t send out Social Security checks, I would hate to think about the credit meeting at S&P and Moody’s the next morning.

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

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

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

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

John Boehner

To raise taxes on the wealthy, Republicans insisted, would be a “jobs-killer.” It would “discourage” corporate CEOs from creating tens of thousands of jobs they allegedly “wanted” to create.

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

One senior Republican said talks would go right up to—and maybe beyond—the brink of default.

“I think we’ll be here in August,” said Republican Representative Pete Sessions, of Texas. “We are not going to leave town until a proper deal gets done.”

President Obama had previously insisted on extending the debt ceiling through 2012. But in mid-July, he simply asked congressional leaders to review three options with their members:

  1. The “Grand Bargain” choice—favored by Obama–would cut deficits by about $4 trillion, including spending cuts and new tax revenues.
  2. A medium-range plan would aim to reduce the deficit by about $2 trillion.
  3. The smallest option would cut between $1 trillion and $1.5 trillion, without increased tax revenues or any medicare and Medicaid cuts.

And the Republican response?  

Said Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee: “Quite frankly, [Republican] members of Congress are getting tired of what the president won’t do and what the president wants.” 

With the United States teetering on the brink of national bankruptcy, President Obama faced three choices:

  1. Counter Republican extortion attempts via RICO—the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization Act.
  2. Make a “Cuban Missile Crisis”-style address to the American people, seeking to rally them against a criminal threat to the fiscal security of the Nation.
  3. Cave in to Republican demands. 

Unfortunately for Obama and the Nation, he chose Number Three.

Here is how he could have applied the other two options.

Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act

In 1970, Congress passed the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1961-1968.

Congress’ goal was to eliminate the stranglehold of organized crime on the nation’s economy. To put it bluntly, RICO was intended to destroy the Mafia.

But in United States v. Turkette, 452 U.S. 576 (1981), the Supreme Court held that RICO applied as well to legitimate enterprises being operated in a criminal manner.

After Turkette, RICO could also be used against corporations, political protest groups, labor unions and loosely knit-groups of people.

In short, the stage was set to hold even Congressional extortionists accountable.

GOP: “GIVE US AMERICA–OR WE’LL DESTROY IT!”

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 28, 2017 at 9:17 am

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

But one Federal agency was pointedly exempted from full funding: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Its funding would expire on February 27.

With their newfound majorities in both houses of Congress, Republicans intended to hold the security of the United States as a hostage.

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

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

The Defense Department is charged with military actions abroad.  

DHS is responsible for protecting the United States inside and outside its borders. Its goal is to prepare for, prevent and—if prevention fails—respond to man-made accidents, natural disasters and terrorism.

Among the agencies now operating under its mandate:

  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection
  • U.S. Coast Guard
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
  • Federal Law Enforcement Training Center
  • U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
  • Transportation and Safety Administration (TSA)
  • U.S. Secret Service
  • Science and Technology Directorate
  • Domestic Nuclear Detection Office
  • Office of Intelligence and Analysis
  • Office of Operations Coordination and Planning

Yet each of these agencies has a vital role to play in protecting the nation.  A nation whose security Republicans were willing to threaten to get their way on a matter of domestic policy.

Right-wing Republicans argued that even if DHS’s funding were stopped, most of its employees would stay on the job. That’s because they perform work considered necessary to protect human life and property.

But while those employees were safeguarding the country, they wouldn’t be paid until the shutdown ended. 

It’s hard to give your full attention to protecting the lives of others when you have to worry about paying a mortgage or feeding your family.

Of course, the Republicans responsible for this shutdown would have continued to receive their hefty paychecks.

Republicans chose to act as Mafia extortionists at a time when the United States appeared to be in the crosshairs of North Korean terrorism.

On November 14, 2014, Sony Pictures came under relentless attack by cyberterrorists, whom the FBI linked to North Korea.

The reason?  Sony’s production of “The Interview,” a comedy depicting the assassination of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

Calling themselves “Guardians of Peace,” or GOP, they shut down the company’s computer system and revealed employees’ personal information such as salaries, addresses, and Social Security numbers.

(Ironically, “Guardians of Peace” appropriated the same abbreviation–GOP–used by the Republicans for “Grand Old Party.”)

Warning issued by “Guardians of Peace” (GOP)

On December 17, 2014, Sony Pictures cancelled the Christmas Day premier of “The Interview” after the nation’s five largest movie chains refused to show the movie, following a terror threat posted online.

And then on February 5, 2015, Anthem Insurance announced that its database had been hacked–and sensitive medical information on up to 80 million customers and employees accessed.

According to an anonymous source, the hackers used malware that’s been used almost exclusively by Chinese cyberspies.

* * * * *

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

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

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

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

Albert Speer

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

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

After the election of America’s first black President, Republicans waged a similar “scorched earth” campaign. Their avowed goal—as stated openly by Kentucky’s U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell—was “to make Barack Obama a one-term President.”  

Literally during his first Inauguration, Republicans, in a secret meeting, agreed to block every effort he made to repair the economy.

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

And just as repeatedly, they blocked legislation that would have helped the poor, unemployed, women, elderly, disabled or middle-class. 

At the center of their fury lay the Affordable Care Act, providing medical care to all citizens.

Even after Congress passed it and the Supreme Court affirmed it, House Republicans shut down the government in October, 2013. 

By doing so, they hoped to pressure Obama into killing his signature piece of legislation. The effort failed.

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

It remains to be seen whether a Republican Albert Speer will step forward to save America from the self-destructive excesses of this Nation’s own fanatics.

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