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WHEN SCREEN CRIMINALS MEET REAL ONES: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on December 3, 2021 at 12:10 am

Sean Penn is not the first celebrity to “get close to” a gangster.

Singer Frank Sinatra set the standard as far back as the 1940s when he was often seen in the company of notorious Mafiosi such as Charles “Lucky” Luciano and Willie Moretti.

(It was Moretti who is rumored to have freed Sinatra from his financially-limiting contract with bandleader Tommy Dorsey in the early 1940s.  

His alleged method of persuasion: Jamming a pistol down Dorsey’s throat and threatening to kill him. Dorsey eventually sold the contract to Sinatra for one dollar.)

But the mobster whom Sinatra was most-often linked with—by gossip and FBI reports—was Sam “Mooney” Giancana.

Giancana started out as a “wheelman” and enforcer for the teenage “42 Gang,” then joined the Chicago mob in the late 1930s. By 1957 he had been appointed its boss.

Sam Giancana.jpg

Sam Giancana

Sinatra often partied with Giancana, both in nightclubs and at his own residence in Palm Springs, California.

In December, 1959, financier Joseph P. Kennedy summoned Sinatra to the family compound in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts. His son, Senator John F. Kennedy, was planning to run for President in 1960. And the elder Kennedy wanted Sinatra’s help.

Sinatra and the Senator were by now well-acquainted. They shared a taste for gossip, nightclubs and beautiful women.

According to Sinatra’s daughter, Tina, the Kennedy patriarch said: “I think that you can help [the campaign] in [the] West Virginia [primary] and Illinois [in the general election] with our friends.

“You understand, Frank, I can’t go. They’re my friends, too, but I can’t approach them.  But you can.”

Frank Sinatra '57.jpg

Frank Sinatra

By “our friends,” Kennedy meant the Mafia. Joseph P. Kennedy had done business with the mob as a bootlegger during Prohibition.

Now he wanted the Mafia to pressure local union members into voting for JFK—and making contributions to the Kennedy Presidential campaign.

Sinatra went to his friend, Sam Giancana, and asked for the mob’s support.  And Giancana promised to deliver it.

In return, Giancana—and other mobsters—expected to win an ally in the White House. He was later overheard on an FBI wiretap saying he had been promised by Sinatra that “if I even got a traffic ticket, none of those fuckers [the FBI] would know me.”

Since 1959, Giancana and other “Top Hoodlum” mobsters had been under increasingly heavy FBI surveillance. Giancana wanted it stopped.

And Sinatra had assured him that, under a Kennedy Presidency, it would stop.

On Election Night, 1960, John F. Kennedy carried Illinois—and won the White House by a mere 120,000 votes nationwide.

Then, to the horror of the Mafia, JFK installed his brother, Robert Francis Kennedy, as Attorney General. From 1957 to 1959, RFK had pursued gangsters as chief counsel for the Senate Rackets Committee. 

Now he declared all-out war on organized crime.  Convictions against organized crime figures rose 800% during his four years in office.

 Robert F. Kennedy

Sinatra tried to deliver for Giancana.  He sent Peter Lawford—his Rat Pack pal and brother-in-law to the President—to talk with Robert Kennedy about laying off on the Mafia don.

Kennedy bluntly told Lawford to mind his own business.

Giancana came under even greater pressure. FBI agents put a 24-hour “lockstep” surveillance on him, following him even into church and restrooms.

“I was on the road with this broad,” Giancana raged to his murderous associate, Johnny Formosa. “There must have been 20 guys [FBI agents]. They were next door, upstairs, downstairs, surrounded all the way around!

“Get in a car, somebody picks you up  I lose that tail—boom!—I get picked up someplace else!  Four or five cars, back and forth, back and forth.”

In another exchange with Formosa, Giancana’s anger at Sinatra boiled over:

“The last time I talked to [Sinatra] was at the hotel in Florida.  And he said, ‘Don’t worry about it.  If I can’t talk to the old man [Joseph P. Kennedy] I’m going to talk to the man [President Kennedy].’

“One minute he says he’s talked to Robert, and the next minute he says he hasn’t talked to him.  So he never did talk to him.”

Formosa suggested a remedy: “Let’s show ’em.  Let’s show those fuckin’ Hollywood fruitcakes that they can’t get away with it as if nothin’s happened.

“Let’s hit Sinatra. Or I could whack out a couple of those other guys, Lawford and that [Dean] Martin.  And I could take the nigger [Sammy Davis, Jr.] and put his other eye out.”

Giancana refused to issue the contract. But he seriously considered doing so, as he confessed to a Chicago associate named Tommy DiBella:

“One night I’m fucking Phyllis [McGuire, a member of the famous McGuire sisters trio], playing Sinatra songs in the background, and the whole time I’m thinking to myself, ‘Christ, how can I silence that voice?’

“It’s the most beautiful voice in the world. Frank’s lucky he’s got it.  It saved his life.”

Sinatra’s Rat Pack “pally,” Dean Martin, summed it up: “Only Frank could get away with the shit he’s got away with. Only Frank. Anybody else would’ve been dead.”

Sinatra survived the murderous anger of a mob boss.  It remains to be seen if Sean Penn can do the same.

WHEN SCREEN CRIMINALS MEET REAL ONES: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on December 2, 2021 at 12:11 am

Actor Sean Penn believes the Mexican Government wants to put him at risk by convincing Joaquin “El Chapo” (“Shorty”) Guzman that Penn played a role—deliberately or negligently—in his capture.

“We know the Mexican government, they clearly were humiliated by the notion that someone found him before they did,” Penn told interviewer Charlie Rose.

“Nobody found him before they did. We are not smarter than the DEA, or Mexican Intelligence.  We had a contact upon which we were able to facilitate an invitation.”

By “we” Penn meant himself and Mexican actress Kate del Castillo, who had actually arranged the meeting.

Kate del Castillo at the 2012 Imagen Awards.jpg

 Actress Kate del Castillo

“They wanted to encourage the cartel to put you in their crosshairs?” Rose asked.

“Yes,” Penn answered.

This is entirely possible.  Guzman’s escape from a “maximum security” prison in July, 2015, had proved internationally embarrassing for the Mexican Government

Even more embarrassing: He escaped through a mile-long tunnel that literally led to his cell.  Almost certainly this happened with the collusion of some prison guards.

Penn—and del Castillo—could face dangers from at least three groups.

Danger #1: El Chapo

Already there is evidence that “El Chapo” regrets having given an interview to Penn and del Castillo in the Mexican jungle on October 2, 2015.

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Sean Penn

Published in Rolling Stone on January 9, 2016, the article contained such Guzman boasts as:

“I supply more heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana than anyone else in the world.  I have a fleet of submarines, airplanes, trucks and boats.”

Juan Pablo Badillo, one of Guzman’s attorneys, has since claimed that the article contains falsehoods:

“It’s a lie, absurd speculation from Mr. Penn. Mr. Penn should be called to testify to respond about the stupidities he has said.

“He [Guzman] could not have made these claims. Mr. Guzman is a very serious man, very intelligent.”

This could spell danger for Penn and del Castillo. Guzman is responsible for the deaths of thousands of rivals, journalists and police.Related image

Among the witnesses to the drug cartels’ savagery is Michael Levine, a 25-year veteran of the Drug Enforcement Administration and the author of Deep Cover: Mexican Government Drug Corruption From the Inside.

“Depending on what the cartels and/or the many corrupt Mexican cops and Mexican government officials believe El Chapo divulged during the interview, Penn, and whomever else was present, may be in more physical danger than he could ever imagine,” said Levine.

An anonymous law enforcement official said that not only could Penn be in danger, but so could his entire family.

“It won’t happen now. They [the cartels] wait. Him or people close to him are in danger. They don’t single out the one person.  They go for the person’s family.

“He poked his head into a nest of vipers with an amazing global reach. He was a fool.  As public as Penn is, he will be a sitting duck.”

Danger #2: Guzman’s Competitors in the Drug Trade

“The problem with dealing with someone like Guzman on this personal basis, where one is perceived as a ‘friend’ or an aide or a business partner of sorts to Chapo, is that you have to be prepared to inherit all his enemies, and there are many,” warned Michael Levine.

“These are some very kill-crazy people. The notoriety gained by killing someone like Penn or even del Castillo will actually turn these bastards on.

“It’s a step into the dark world of the kill crazies.  Believe me it is there, and unwittingly these two may have stepped into a world where there is an actual competition to kill them,” said Levine, who has dealt face-to-face with Latin American drug lords.

Danger #3: Wannabe Cartel Members

Countless men—in Mexico and the United States—would love to “do El Chapo a favor” by gunning down Penn and/or del Castillo.

This could happen even if Guzman harbors no ill will toward either.  It would be enough for someone to simply believe that he did.

An additional motive: The fame—or infamy—that the assassin of a “big celebrity” like Penn would receive. John Lennon died at the hands of such a fame-obsessed, psychotic gunman.

This means that literally anyone could be a potential assassin—making it that much harder to defend against.

When clients enter the Justice Department’s Witness Security Program, they are quickly asked: “Who do you think poses the biggest threat to you?”

Deputy U.S. marshals, who operate the program, assume that a witness is the best judge of who poses the greatest danger to him.

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Witness Security Program protection detail

This works well when a witness is unknown and testifying against someone who is equally unknown to the public.

But when a witness is notorious—such as Sammy “The Bull” Gravano—and the defendant is equally infamous—such as John Gotti—all bets are off.

Of course, Federally-protected witnesses have two advantages going for them that Penn and del Castillo do not:

First, they are protected by the U.S. Marshals Service, which has an excellent track record in protecting its charges; and

Second, they are expected to assume a low profile, which serves as their best protection.

Sean Penn and Kate del Castillo aren’t Federally-protected witnesses. And they’re unlikely to assume a low profile by going into hiding.

WHEN SCREEN CRIMINALS MEET REAL ONES: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on December 1, 2021 at 12:24 am

Actor Sean Penn is used to being a tough guy—onscreen.

In 2006, he played real-life mobster Mickey Cohen (1913 – 1976) in Gangster Squad.  And in 2013, he played Willie Stark, a corrupt, Huey Long-type Southern governor in a remake of All the King’s Men.

As Cohen, Penn put out contracts on his enemies and even went mano-o-mano in a long-running (and fictional) fistfight with an LAPD detective.

And as Stark, he clawed his way to power and bullied both his enemies and his supporters.

Perhaps Penn should have paid more attention to the way those movies ended.

Sean Penn by Sachyn Mital (cropped).jpg

Sean Penn

Mickey Cohen goes to prison, where he is brutally waylaid by other inmates.

And Willie Stark, at the height of his power, is shot by a longtime enemy.

Had he thought about it, he might have decided it could be a mistake to meet with Joaquin “El Chapo” (“Shorty”) Guzman, the notorious Mexican drug lord.

On October 2, 2015, Penn met with Guzman in an undisclosed location in the Mexican jungle.  He was there to interview him on behalf of Rolling Stone magazine. 

Guzman wanted a movie made about him.  So he had reached out to Mexican actress Kate del Castillo, asking her to meet with him to discuss such a project.  She, in turn, referred him to Penn, whom Guzman said could come along for the meeting.

Penn had his own agenda: To write an article for Rolling Stone whose “purpose [would] contribute to this conversation on the war on drugs.”

Three months later, on January 8, 2016, Mexican Marines and Federal Police launched an early-morning raid on a house in Los Mochis, in northern Sinaloa, where Guzman’s drug cartel operated.

The Marines expected to find Guzman there, and they did—ending his almost six-month flight after escaping from prison in July.  

One day after Guzman’s capture, Rolling Stone published Penn’s 10,000-word article.  

Penn had not been allowed to bring a tape recorder or even take notes with pen and paper.  So he had been forced to memorize as much of Guzman’s tale as he could.

Penn seemed to be enraptured by Guzman:

“There is no doubt this is the real deal. He’s wearing a casual patterned silk shirt, pressed black pants, and he appears remarkably well-groomed and healthy for a man on the run.  

“He opens [actress Kate del Castillo’s] [car} door and greets her like a daughter returning from college.  

“It seems important to him to express the warm affection in person that, until now, he’d only had occasion to communicate from afar.”  

Even so, Penn quoted Guzman as bragging: “I supply more heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana than anybody else in the world.  I have a fleet of submarines, airplanes, trucks and boats.”

Booking photo of Joaquin “El Chapo“ Guzman (front).jpg

 Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman

After the interview’s publication, Penn came under fire for having allowed Guzman to approve the article.  He claimed that, despite this, Guzman had not asked for any changes.  

He also drew sharp criticism for having used his status as a movie star to play the part of a reporter. 

But worse was to come.  

Shortly after the capture of “El Chapo,” Mexico’s Attorney General Arely Gomez “credited” Penn with having played a vital role in the capture of the drug kingpin.  

The meeting between Penn, Castillo and Guzman “was an essential element, because we were following [Guzman’s] lawyer, and the lawyer took us to these people and to this meeting.”  

Suddenly, American experts on Mexican organized crime cartels began seeing Sean Penn in a new light—that of a movie star with a big target on his chest and back.

Suppose Guzman began suspecting that Penn had deliberately led Mexican authorities to him?  Or that he had done so even accidentally, through negligence in how he had traveled?

“These cartels are very violent, they do not forgive any transgression and they will respond in a most violent manner,” said Mike Vigil, a former chief of international operations with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

“These are people who have dismembered, who have decapitated individuals.  So killing Sean Penn and del Castillo means absolutely nothing to them.”

Vigil believed it was careless for the Mexican Government to publicize any ties between the Penn meeting and Guzman’s arrest:

“If Chapo Guzman perceives that they cooperated with authorities in his capture, [the cartel] will go after them.”

He argued that the risk is likely  for del Castillo because she was the one in contact with Guzman.

She was the one whom Guzman’s associates supplied with a Blackberry—the phone they believed most secure.  And it was her and Guzman’s flirtatious exchanges that led to the meeting in the jungle with Sean Penn.

“Apart from that, [del Castillo] is originally from Mexico, she has all of her family in Mexico.  One of the traditional violent methods [the cartels] use is if they can’t get to the target, they’ll go after their family members.

“If I were Kate del Castillo, I would run like the wind.”

HERE COMES TRUMP 3.0: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on November 30, 2021 at 12:10 am

As millions of Right-wingers refused to get vaccinated, the newer—and deadlier—Delta variant of COVID-19 moved in for the kill.

The result: A massive overcrowding of hospitals—where those who refused to get vaccinated are now taking up beds needed for legitimate victims of strokes, heart attacks, accidents and crime.

Covid-19 Vaccination Map of USA.png

COVID-19 vaccination map – July 21, 2021

George Karabassis, CC BY 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

Even after three COVID-19 vaccines have been developed, millions of Right-wingers refuse to get vaccinated. Although they refuse women the right to abortion, they insist “It’s my body!” when it came to mandatory vaccinations.

As a result, in states won by Trump in the 2020 Presidential election, hospitals surge with unvaccinated COVID-19 patients—and graveyards fill with them.

Every hospital bed taken by an unvaccinated Stormtrumper is a bed denied to a legitimate medical patient—such as a victim of stroke, heart attack, accident or crime. 

Yet President Joseph Biden has refused to blame those men and women who are directly responsible for this outrage.

Official Presidential Portrait of Joseph R. Biden Jr (8x10) | U.S. Government Bookstore

Joseph Biden

Doing so would not only be accurate—it would enable Biden to place blame on his sworn political enemies and thus enhance his own popularity: “We would have achieved freedom from COVID-19—but these people have sabotaged their country’s safety out of sheer selfishness and arrogance!”

Trump viciously attacked the nation’s free press as “the enemy of the American people.” But Biden and his fellow Democrats refuse to blame those most responsible for the nation’s continuing COVID-19 epidemic. 

As a result, millions of Americans believe it’s Biden’s fault for not delivering a miracle after he stated, on March 12:

“If we do this together [get vaccinated] by July 4, there is a good chance you, your family and friends can get together in your backyard or in your neighborhood and have a cookout or a barbecue and celebrate Independence Day.

“After a long, hard year, that will make this Independence Day truly special—where we not only mark our independence as a nation but we begin to mark our independence from this virus.”

Anti-vaxxers or their loved ones have filed at least two dozen lawsuits across the country to force hospitals to give them Ivermectin, a drug for de-worming cows and horses. But it remains an unproven cure for the virus. 

Many unvaccinated patients beg—or demand—to be vaccinated. But to their surprise, they’re told it’s now too late.

COVID-19 (Novel Coronavirus) | Santa Cruz County, AZ - Official Website

And as of November 9, comes Omicrom—better-named as Trump 3.0.

This marks the third wave of Coronavirus to strike the United States since Donald Trump became President. Early reports indicate that even twice-vaccinated people might not be safe from it. 

This is directly attributable to those millions of anti-vaxxers and Trump-supporting Right-wingers who have refused to wear masks and get vaccinated—even when vaccines are free and readily available.

And Trump 3.0 is arriving just in time for the coming of winter—and the advent of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. The holidays when Americans crisscross the nation in huge numbers to visit friends and relatives—and stay indoors at close quarters with them.

According to AAA Travel, for Thanksgiving alone, 48.3 million were expected to drive,4.2 million were expected to fly, and one million were expected to use other means of transit, such as busses, trains or cruises.

That will undoubtedly lead to spreading the new across the country—and in intimate settings where 

And with the holidays comes the crowd-magnet known as “Black Friday”—when giant shopping malls offer vastly reduced sales to lure tens of thousands of shoppers indoors—where the virus spreads most quickly.

**********

It’s long past time to punish the egotistical selfishness of those who refuse to protect themselves and others.

And the most effective way to do this is to turn them away from hospitals when they show up. 

They should be forcibly told: “You say it’s your right to refuse to get vaccinated? Fine. Well, it’s our right to reserve beds for patients who deserve to be treated. And you don’t.”

So long as hospitals cater to these self-indulgent Right-wingers—most of them Trump supporters—they will feel empowered to consume vital medical resources needed for legitimate victims of strokes, heart attacks, accidents and crime.   

These people need to be forcibly taught that there are consequences for irresponsibly selfish and arrogant behavior.  So long as they are catered to, they will never learn this vital lesson.

And there is an even more important reason for taking what many will see as a radical step. 

Those unvaccinated men and women who survive to 2024 will eagerly cast their votes for Donald Trump. Trump makes no secret of his desire to be “President-for-Life”—and incited a treasonous attack on the United States Capitol to overturn the free and fair election of 2020.

If he re-enters the White House in 2024, he will never voluntarily leave—and will establish a dictatorship backed up by military, police and judicial power to remain “President-for-Life.”

So the more of these unvaccinated Right-wingers who aren’t around to cast their votes in 2024, the safer democracy will be.

President Biden may not feel free to say this. But it remains brutally true nevertheless.

HERE COMES TRUMP 3.0: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on November 29, 2021 at 12:20 am

First, there was COVID-19, which slammed into the United States in early January, 2000.

Then, in June, 2021, as COVID-19 seemed on the wane, the Delta variant struck.

Now, as of November 9, the world is facing Omicron—a new variant of COVID-19.

Discovered in South Africa, Omicron would be better-described as Trump 3.0.

As President of the United States, Donald Trump bequeathed to his country two deadly legacies:

  1. A treasonous lust to overthrow democratic government; and
  2. The deadliest virus seen in America since the 1919 Spanish flu epidemic.

Throughout his Presidency, Trump “joked” about how wonderful it would be for the United States to have a “President-for-Life”—such as  Xi Jinping in China.

Trump proved that he was not joking on January 6, when he incited his followers to stop the counting of Electoral College votes in the United States Capitol Building.

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Donald Trump

This amounted to an attempted coup. Had the violent mob achieved its aims, the vote count would have ended before Joseph Biden could be officially pronounced the next President of the United States. And Trump would have remained President.

For it is the Electoral College vote—not the popular one—that determines the outcome of Presidential elections.

Biden had received 81,268,924 votes to 74,2164 for Trump. But it was Biden’s winning of 306 votes to Trump’s 232 in the Electoral College that made him President.

A year later, Trump continues to spew lies that millions of Right-wing Americans eagerly believe: “Trump won the election; Biden is an illegitimate President.”

Even worse: Trump’s followers in Republican-controlled states are working to rig the upcoming 2024 Presidential election to guarantee a Republican win—even if voters decide otherwise. 

So much for Trump’s legacy of treason and criminality. 

Now for his legacy as Coronavirus-in-Chief.

From the outset of the pandemic, Trump lied about the dangers Americans were facing.  

On February 7, 2020, he told Washington Post editor and reporter Bob Woodward: “It goes through the air, Bob. That’s always tougher than the touch. The touch, you don’t have to touch things, right? But the air, you just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed….It’s also more deadly than your strenuous flues.”

Interferon Plays Pivotal, Inflammatory Role in Severe COVID-19 Cases

COVID-19

But from January to early March, 2020, Trump and his allies within the Republican party and Fox News Network repeatedly assured Americans they had nothing to fear. 

And early on, Trump made the virus a referendum on himself. If you supported him, you didn’t wear a mask when you ventured out in public. This despite the fact that, throughout 2020, there was no vaccine available and hospitals were rapidly overwhelmed by debilitated and dying casualties of the virus.

Even worse: Trump declared open warfare on those Democratic governors—such as Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer—who imposed quarantine “stay-at-home’ orders to halt the spread of the virus. And he repeatedly ridiculed the warnings of medical experts—such as Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top expert on infectious disease. 

For Trump, assuring his own re-election in 2020 took precedence over everything. He knew that as long as Americans stayed home the economy would be depressed. And citizens in depressed economies don’t re-elect Presidents they blame for their suffering.

So for Trump, getting millions of parents back to work meant getting millions of children back to school—no matter the risk. Toward that end, Trump even threatened to cut off federal aid to schools that did not forcibly return children to classes.

Washington Post Columnist Jonathan Capehart echoed him: “I think, if we had had a president of the United States who took this seriously when this first came on the scene, if we had a Republican party that took this seriously enough to warn everyone, their constituents saying, wash your hands, then put on a mask, then go get the vaccine, we wouldn’t be where we are right now.”

PBS NewsHour | Brooks and Capehart on voting and gun violence legislation | Season 2021 | PBS

Jonathan Capehart

But neither Trump nor the Republican party urged Americans to “wash your hands, put on a mask, then go get the vaccine.” 

By March, 2021, three vaccines—by Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson—became available. A total of 90.4 million doses of these vaccines had been given. And 30.7 million Americans had been fully vaccinated against the virus. 

But after a triumphant beginning, the pace of vaccinations slowed, then halted. By late July, 2021, only 49.6% of Americans had been fully vaccinated.

Many of those who had gotten one shot of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines refused to get the necessary second one. These must be given almost a month apart.

(The Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires only one shot.)

What had happened?

“The people I know personally who are not getting the vaccine, for them, it was like, ‘They rushed this thing,'” theorized New York Times columnist David Brooks. “‘Who knows what’s going to happen to all these people who get the shots in 10 years or 20 years?’ So, why should I take the risk?'”

And leading the way to this catastrophe of self-destruction were the states of the South and Midwest: Mississippi (47.1%,), Alabama (50.5%), Arkansas (53.2%), and Tennessee (52.9%) with the lowest rates of residents who have gotten at least one shot. 

By late July, three states—Florida, Texas and Missouri—with lower vaccination rates accounted for 40% of all cases nationwide.

VIOLENCE: IT’S THE REPUBLICAN WAY: PART FOUR (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 26, 2021 at 12:14 am

Having made threats of violence an integral part of his successful 2016 campaign for President, Donald Trump continued to make violence a hallmark of his Presidency.

Throughout his run for President, Trump’s followers chanted, “Lock her up!” at Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Yet Clinton has never been tried for a crime, let alone convicted of one.

As President, Trump still encouraged his followers to shout this chant.

On July 2, 2017, Trump tweeted a video showing him punching a man with the CNN logo superimposed on his head during a WWE wrestling match.

And on August 15, 2017, Trump retweeted a cartoon photo of a “Trump Train” running over a CNN reporter.

President retweeted image of Trump train running over CNN reporter ...

Summing up Trump’s legacy of hatred, longtime Republican Presidential adviser David Gergen said: 

“Trump unleashed the dogs of hatred in this country from the day he declared he was running for president, and they’ve been snarling and barking at each other ever since. It’s just inevitable there are going to be acts of violence that grow out of that.”

Gergen said this on October 24, 2018—the day that pipe bombs were mailed to:

  • Former President Barack Obama
  • Former President Bill Clinton
  • Former First Lady and United States Senator Hillary Clinton
  • Former Attorney General Eric Holder
  • Congresswoman Maxine Waters
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden
  • Actor Robert De Niro
  • Former CIA Director John Brennan

Trump had brutally and repeatedly attacked all of these intended victims. And the man who sent the bombs—Cesar Sayoc Jr. of Aventura, Florida—had plastered his van with stickers supporting Trump.

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Donald Trump

On October 8, 2020, 13 Right-wingers were arrested and charged in a terrorism plot to kidnap Democratic Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. The terrorists intended to overthrow several state governments that they “believe are violating the US Constitution,” including the government of Michigan, according to a federal criminal complaint.

Trump had repeatedly attacked Whitmer for issuing a March 23 stay-at-home order to stem the COVID-19 pandemic in that state.

After losing the 2020 Presidential election, Trump ordered his campaign to file at least 63 lawsuits contesting Joseph Biden’s victory. Upon losing all of these, Trump turned to violence as his last-ditch remedy to stay in office.

On January 6, he incited thousands of his supporters to storm the United States Capitol Building where members of the Senate were counting the electoral votes cast in the election.

The Stormtrumpers’ goal: Stop the ballot counting—and thus maintain Trump in office.

The Stormtrumpers marched to the United States Capitol—and quickly brushed aside Capitol Police.

  • Members of the mob attacked police with chemical agents, metal poles and lead pipes.
  • At least 140 police officers suffered injuries, including concussions, broken ribs, smashed spinal discs, a lost eye.
  • Many lawmakers’ offices were occupied and vandalized—including that of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a favorite Right-wing target.
  • Lawmakers huddled under desks and behind locked doors, expecting to die any minute.
  • More than three hours passed before police—using riot gear, shields and batons—retook control of the Capitol. 

These are some of the high-profile figures who were seen storming the US Capitol

  Stormtrumpers scaling Capitol Building walls

And Republicans?

Even after being forced to flee for their lives or barricade themselves in House or Senate rooms, Republicans refused to condemn Trump. On January 11, the House voted 232-197 to impeach Trump for incitement of insurrection against the United States government. 

Senate Democrats wanted to try Trump while he was still in office. But then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) refused. On February 13, after a five-day trial, Republicans acquitted Trump by a vote of 57-43, failing 10 votes short of the two-thirds majority needed to convict.

Since then, Republicans such as Paul Gosar (R-AZ) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) have recast the attempted coup as a non-violent—even patriotic—event.

“Outright propaganda and lies are being used to unleash the national security state against law-abiding U.S. citizens, especially Trump voters,” Gosar said, condemning the Justice Department’s Investigation of Capitol attackers. 

And Greene claims: “January 6 was just a riot at the Capitol and if you think about what our Declaration of Independence says, it says to overthrow tyrants.”

A party—Republican—that has made such a heavy, long-running—and successful—investment in violence is not going to voluntarily turn pacifist. 

And a party—Democratic—that has generally behaved like cowards and appeasers toward its sworn enemies isn’t going to survive, let alone preserve democracy.

In May, 1967, Israel faced a similar deadly threat.

On May 22, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser announced that the Straits of Tiran would be closed to all Israeli shipping. And Nasser mobilized the Egyptian military along the border with Israel. 

On May 30, Jordan and Egypt signed a defence pact. The next day, the Iraqi army began deploying troops and armored units in Jordan. They were reinforced by an Egyptian contingent.

Israel was being surrounded—and its sworn enemies were about to attack.

“We are being bullied,” said longtime Israeli soldier Moshe Dayan. “And the only way to handle a bully is to punch him in the face.” 

On June 5, Israel struck first, defeating its enemies and securing huge tracts of territory as a defensive barrier.

Democrats have yet to learn Dayan’s lesson. They—and the country—may not turn out to be as fortunate as Israel.

VIOLENCE: IT’S THE REPUBLICAN WAY: PART THREE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 25, 2021 at 12:05 am

With the rise of Donald Trump to Republican standard-bearer in 2015, threats of violence entered the rhetoric—and tactics—of the Republican party. 

On March 16, 2016, 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.”

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Donald Trump

Republicans clearly saw this as a threat is undeniable.

Paul Ryan, their Speaker of the House, said on March 17: “Nobody should say such things in my opinion because to even address or hint to violence is unacceptable.”

And Ohio governor and Republican presidential candidate John Kasich chinned in. “Leaders don’t imply violence,” Kasich told “Face the Nation” on March 20. “When he says that there could be riots, that’s inappropriate. I think you understand that, okay? Secondly, while we have our differences and disagreements, we’re Americans. Americans don’t say, ‘Let’s take to the streets and have violence.'”

But threatening his Republican and Democratic opponents with violence played a major role in Donald Trump’s campaign for President.

No other candidate—Republican or Democrat—had ever made such repeated and brutal use of threats of physical assault in pursuing the Presidency.

  • Philip Klein, the managing editor of the Washington Examiner,  wrote on the eve of the Republican National Convention in July: “Political commentators now routinely talk about the riots that would break out in Cleveland if Trump were denied the nomination, about how his supporters have guns and all hell could break loose, that they would burn everything to the ground. It works to Trump’s advantage to not try too hard to dispel these notions.
  • On August 9,  Trump told a rally in Wilmington, North Carolina: “Hillary [Clinton] wants to abolish, essentially abolish, the Second Amendment. If she gets to pick her [Supreme Court] judges, nothing you can do folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.”
  • “Don’t treat this as a political misstep,” Senator Christopher S. Murphy of Connecticut, who has called for stiffer gun laws, wrote on Twitter. “It’s an assassination threat, seriously upping the possibility of a national tragedy & crisis.”
  • “Well, let me say if someone else said that outside of the hall, he’d be in the back of a police wagon now, with the Secret Service questioning him,” said Michael Hayden, former head of the CIA and National Security Agency (NSA). 

Threats of this type continued to be made by Trump supporters right up to the day of the election.

  • On July 29, Roger Stone, a notorious Right-wing political consultant acting as a Trump strategist, told Breitbart News: “The first thing Trump needs to do is begin talking about [voter fraud] constantly. If there’s voter fraud, this election will be illegitimate, the election of the winner will be illegitimate, we will have a constitutional crisis, widespread civil disobedience, and the government will no longer be the government.”
  • At a town hall meeting where Trump’s Vice Presidential nominee Mike Pence appeared, a woman named Rhonda said: For me personally, if Hillary Clinton gets in, I myself am ready for a revolution.”
  • In Cincinnati, a Trump supporter threatened to forcibly remove Clinton from the White House if she won the race: “If she’s in office, I hope we can start a coup. She should be in prison or shot. That’s how I feel about it,”
  • Dan Bowman, a 50-year-old contractor, said of Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee: “We’re going to have a revolution and take them out of office if that’s what it takes. There’s going to be a lot of bloodshed. But that’s what it’s going to take….I would do whatever I can for my country.”

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

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Fergus Cullen

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

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

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

Many of his supporters promised to do so.

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

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

VIOLENCE: IT’S THE REPUBLICAN WAY: PART TWO (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 24, 2021 at 12:17 am

Republicans in past decades tried—and often won—elections on the basis of ideology and/or appeals to racism. 

During the 1960s and 1970s, the “enemy” was blacks. The key to winning votes of racist whites without appearing racist lay in what Republicans called “the Southern Strategy”—stoking whites’ fears of blacks.

It was this that won Richard Nixon the Presidency in 1968 and 1972 and the White House for George H.W. Bush in 1988.

In a now-infamous 1981 interview, Right-wing political consultant Lee Atwater explained how this worked.   

“You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger.’ By 1968 you can’t say ‘nigger’—that hurts you, backfires.

“So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract.

“Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.…

“’We want to cut this,’ is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than ‘Nigger, nigger.’

“So anyway you look at it, race is coming on the back burner.” 

Lee Atwater 1989.jpg

Lee Atwater 

Since the end of World War II, Republicans regularly hurled the charge of “treason” against anyone who dared to run against them for office or think other than Republican-approved thoughts.

Republicans had been locked out of the White House from 1933 to 1952, during the administrations of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman.

Determined to regain the Presidency by any means, they found that attacking the integrity of their fellow Americans a highly effective tactic.

During the 1950s, Wisconsin Senator Joseph R. McCarthy rode a wave of paranoia to national prominence—by attacking the patriotism of anyone who disagreed with him.

Joseph McCarthy

Elected to the Senate in 1946, he rose to national prominence on February 9, 1950, after giving a fiery speech in Wheeling, West Virginia:

“The State Department is infested with communists. I have here in my hand a list of 205—a list of names that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department.”

Anti-communism as a lever to political advancement sharply accelerated following McCarthy’s speech. 

No American—no matter how prominent—was safe from the accusation of being a Communist or a Communist sympathizer—a “Comsymp” or “fellow traveler” in the style of the era.

Republicans rode the issue of anti-Communism to victory from 1948 to 1992.

After holding the White House for eight years under Dwight D. Eisenhower, they lost it in 1960 to John F. Kennedy and again in 1964 to Lyndon B. Johnson.

By 1968, with the nation mired in Vietnam and convulsed by antiwar demonstrations and race riots, Americans turned once more to those who preyed upon their fears and hates.

They elected Richard Nixon, who promised to end the Vietnam war and crack down on “uppity” blacks and antiwar demonstrators.

The same strategy re-elected him in 1972.

After Jimmy Carter won the Presidency in 1976 and lost it in 1980 to Ronald Reagan, Republicans held the White House until 1992.

During the 1970s and 1980s, they continued to accuse their opponents of being devious agents—or at least unwitting pawns—of “the Communist conspiracy.”

Even as late as 1992, President George H.W. Bush and the Republican establishment charged that Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton might be a KGB plant.

George H.W. Bush

Their “evidence”: During his tenure at Oxford University in 1969-70, Clinton had briefly visited Moscow.

Thus, the Republican charged that he might have been “programmed” as a real-life “Manchurian candidate” to become, first, Governor of Arkansas—one of America’s poorest states—and then President.

What made this charge all the more absurd: The Soviet Union had officially dissolved in December, 1991.

Republicans continued to accuse their opponents of being “Communists” and “traitors.” But these charges no longer carried the weight they had while the Soviet Union existed.

Then, on September 11, 2001, Republicans—-and their right-wing supporters—at last found a suitable replacement for the Red Menace.

Two highjacked jetliners slammed into the World Trade Center in New York and one struck the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

World Trade Center on September 11, 2001

Exit The Red Bogeyman.  Enter The Maniacal Muslim.

For several years, fears of Islamic terror carried Republicans to electoral victory—most importantly in 2004, when George W. Bush won re-election as President.

But after the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011, Americans lost interest in The Maniacal Muslim as a surefire election tactic.

With the rise of Donald Trump to Republican standard-bearer in 2015, threats of violence entered the rhetoric—and tactics—of the Republican party.

For example:

  • On March 16, 2016, he warned Republicans that if he didn’t win the GOP nomination in July, his supporters would literally riot: “I think you’d have riots. I think you would see problems like you’ve never seen before. I think bad things would happen. I really do. I wouldn’t lead it, but I think bad things would happen.”
  • An NBC reporter summed it up as: “The message to Republicans was clear on [March 16]: ‘Nice convention you got there, shame if something happened to it.'”

VIOLENCE: IT’S THE REPUBLICAN WAY: PART ONE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 23, 2021 at 12:27 am

It was a moment both poignant and prophetic: Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) responding to a brutal virtual attack on her by a fellow member of Congress.

Representative Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) had tweeted a doctored anime video depicting him killing Ocasio-Cortez and then turning his sword towards President Joseph Biden.

Paul Gosar official portrait September 2016.jpg

Paul Gosar

As a result, the Democratically-controlled House of Representatives was now meeting to decide if he should be censured over that video.

“What is so hard, what is so hard about saying this is wrong?” asked Ocasio-Cortez. “This is not about me. This is not about Representative Gosar. This is about what we are willing to accept. If you believe that this behavior should not be accepted, then vote yes. It’s really that simple.”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Official Portrait.jpg

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

And the Republican response was equally telling: Of the 213 Republicans serving in the House, only two—Liz Cheney (Wyoming) and Adam Kinzinger (Illinois)—dared to support censure of Gosar. 

A censure resolution is the most severe form of punishment in the House, and stripping a member of committee assignments removes a powerful platform to influence legislation and give voice to constituent priorities.

The resolution approved by the House removed Gosar from the House Oversight and Reform Committee, which Ocasio-Cortez also serves on, and the Natural Resources Committee.

“We cannot have a member joking about murdering each other or threatening the President of the United States,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a floor speech.

“Disguising death threats as a video doesn’t make it less real. It’s a sad day for the House of Representatives, but a necessary day.”

Official photo of Speaker Nancy Pelosi in 2019.jpg

Nancy Pelosi

Before the vote which censured him, Gosar said: “I have said decisively there is no threat in the cartoon other than the threat that immigration poses to our country. And no threat was intended by my staff or me.

“I voluntarily took the cartoon down not because it was itself a threat, but because some thought it was. Out of compassion for those who generally felt offense, I self-censored.”

Yet only minutes after the House voted to censure him, Gosar retweeted the video. He also retweeted Right-wing podcaster Elijah Schaffer’s tweet of the video: “Really well done. We love @DrPaulGosar, don’t we folks?”

This marriage of violence with Right-wing ideology is not new.

Rolling Stone magazine writer Jeb Lund noted in a June 19, 2015 editorial: “The Republican Party has weaponized its supporters, made violence a virtue and, with almost every pronouncement for 50 years, given them an enemy politicized, racialized and indivisible.

“Movement conservatives have fetishized a tendentious and ahistorical reading of the Second Amendment to the point that the Constitution itself somehow paradoxically ‘legitimizes’ an armed insurrection against the government created by it. “

“This is no longer an argument about whether one party’s beliefs are beneficial or harmful, but an attitude that labels leftism so antithetical to the American idea that empowering it on any level is an act of usurpation.”

Increasingly, Republicans have repeatedly aimed violent—-and violence-arousing—-rhetoric at their Democratic opponents. This is not a case of careless language that is simply misinterpreted, with tragic results.

Republicans like Paul Gosar fully understand the constituency they are trying to reach: Those masses of alienated, uneducated Americans who live only for their guns and hardline religious beliefs—and who can be easily manipulated by perceived threats to either.

If a “nutcases” assaults a Democratic politician and misses, then the Republican establishment claims to be shocked—-shocked!—that such a thing could have happened.

And if the attempt proves successful, then Republicans weep crocodile tears for public consumption.

The difference is that, in this case, they rejoice in knowing that Democratic ranks have been thinned and their opponents are even more on the defensive, for fear of the same happening to them.

Consider the following:

  • Florida GOP Congressional candidate Allen West, referring to his Democratic opponent, Representative Ron Klein, told Tea Party activists: “You’ve got to make the fellow scared to come out of his house. That’s the only way that you’re going to win. That’s the only way you’re going to get these people’s attention.”
  • Representative Michelle Bachmann (R-MINN.) said she wanted her constituents “armed and dangerous” against the Obama administration.
  • Former Governor (R-Alaska) Sarah Palin told her supporters: “Get in their face and argue with them.  No matter how tough it gets, never retreat, instead RELOAD!”
  • Right-wing pundit Ann Coulter: “My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times building.”
  • Senator Phil Gramm (R-TEX.) “We’re going to keep building the party until we’re hunting Democrats with dogs.”

Republicans in past decades tried—and often won—elections on the basis of ideology and/or appeals to racism. 

During the 1960s and 1970s, the “enemy” was blacks. The key to winning votes of racist whites without appearing racist lay in what Republicans called “the Southern Strategy”—stoking white fears of blacks.

It was this that won Richard Nixon the Presidency in 1968 and 1972 and the White House for George H.W. Bush in 1988.

In a now-infamous 1981 interview, Right-wing political consultant Lee Atwater explained how this worked.   

WHAT AMERICA LOST WITH JFK 58 YEARS AGO

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 22, 2021 at 12:07 am

Fifty-eight years ago this coming November 22, two bullets slammed into the neck and head of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

For most Americans, 1963 was over—and their lives would never be the same.

It has been said that JFK left his country with three great legacies:

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

Of these, the following can be said with certainty:

  • The Test Ban Treaty has prevented atmospheric testing—and poisoning—by almost all the world’s nuclear powers.
  • After reaching the moon—in 1969—Americans quickly lost interest in space and have today largely abandoned plans for manned exploration. For America, as for JFK, beating the Russians to the moon was the end-goal.
  • By the time JFK died, 16,000 Americans were serving in Vietnam, with more than 70 casualties.
  • Under Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, 58,000 Americans died in Vietnam; 153,303 were wounded; and billions of dollars were squandered in a hopeless effort to intervene in what was essentially a Vietnamese civil war. From 1965 to 1972, the war angrily divided Americas as had no event since the Civil 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.

 White House painting of JFK

At American University on June 10, 1963, Kennedy asked 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 by no means hopeless:

“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, Democrats and Republicans 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, couldn’t reach agreement.

President Kennedy insisted on being well-informed. He speed-read several newspapers every morning and nourished personal relationships with the press—but not for altruistic reasons. These journalistic contacts gave Kennedy additional sources of information and perspectives on national and international issues.

During the 2012 Presidential campaign, Republican candidates celebrated their ignorance of both.

  • Former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain famously said, “We need a leader, not a reader”—thus excusing his ignorance for why President Barack Obama had intervened in Libya.
  • Texas Governor Rick Perry (and Secretary of Energy under Donald Trump) didn’t know 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….”
  • In short, it’s the media’s fault if your answer reveals your ignorance, stupidity and/or criminality.
  • 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.” 
  • In fact, Revere wasn’t warning the British about anything. Instead, he was warning his fellow  Americans about an impending British attack—as his celebrated catchphrase “The British are coming!” made clear.

During 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, about the events leading to World War 1.

He said that the book’s most important revelation was how European leaders had blindly rushed into war, without thought to the possible consequences. Kennedy told his aides he did not intend to make the same mistake—that, having read his history, he was determined to learn from it.

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

And they resented 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.

Donald Trump has publicly celebrated ignorance. After winning the Nevada Republican primary in 2016, he declared: “We won with poorly educated. I love the poorly educated.”

Similarly, 58% of Republicans and Right-wingers believe that higher education has a negative effect on the country.

In retrospect, the funeral for President Kennedy marked the death of Americans’ pride in choosing reasoning and educated citizens for their leaders. And in seeking a reasoning and educated future for their children.

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

The Eternal Flame at the grave of President John F. Kennedy

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