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ONCE AGAIN, ACCOMPLICES TO OUR OWN DESTRUCTION: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 8, 2020 at 12:15 am

Once he became the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump began undermining one public or private institution after another.

On November 3, 80 million voters decided they wanted a change—and elected former Vice President Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States.

Trump refused to accept that verdict. Speaking from the White House in the early hours of November 4, he said:

“Millions and millions of people voted for us tonight, and a very sad group of people is trying to disenfranchise that group of people and we won’t stand for it.”

For the first time in American history, a President demanded a halt to the counting of votes while the outcome of an election hung in doubt.

States ignored his demand and kept counting.

Next, Trump ordered his attorneys to file lawsuits to overturn the election results, charging electoral fraud. Specifically:

  • Illegal aliens had been allowed to vote.
  • Trump ballots had been systematically destroyed.
  • Tampered voting machines had turned Trump votes into Biden ones.

Throughout November and December, cases were filed in Wisconsin, Arizona, Nevada, Michigan, Minnesota and Georgia challenging the election results. And, one by one, more than 30 cases were withdrawn by Trump’s attorneys or dismissed by Federal judges—some of them appointed by Trump himself.

For 20 days, General Services Administrator Emily Murphy refused to release $7.3 million in transition funding and Federal resources to the President-elect’s team. Under the law governing presidential transitions, Murphy was responsible for determining the winner based on publicly available information before the actual Electoral College vote. 

Finally, on November 23, Murphy released the transition funding and resources.

Losing in the courts, Trump invited two Republican legislative leaders from Michigan to the White House to persuade them to stop the state from certifying the vote.

Nothing changed. 

On December 5, Trump called Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and asked him to call a special legislative session and convince state legislators to select their own electors that would support him, thus overturning Biden’s win.

Kemp refused, saying he lacked the authority to do so.

Meanwhile, top Republicans—such as Vice President Mike Pence and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell—have refused to congratulate Biden as the winner. None of them branded Trump’s efforts to overturn the election as those of a tyrant.

Just as Germans did nothing to stop Adolf Hitler’s inexorable march toward war—and the destruction of millions of lives and Germany itself—so, too, do Americans seem paralyzed to put an end to the equally self-destructive reign of the man often dubbed “Carrot Caligula.”

Gaius Caligula was “the mad emperor” of ancient Rome. Like Trump, he lived by a philosophy of “Let them hate me, so long as they fear me.”

He ruled as the most powerful man of his time—three years, 10 months and eight days. And all but the first six months of his reign were drenched in slaughter and debauchery.

There are basically three ways America’s continuing slide into tyranny could be stopped:

First, Congressional Republicans could revolt against Trump’s authority and/or agenda. They could, for example, demand that Trump accept the verdict of the electorate—as every other past President has.

This is extremely unlikely to happen. Republicans fear that if they openly defy him, his fanatical base will turn on them in coming elections—and end their comfortable reign of power and privileges.

Second, invoking the Twenty-Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. This allows the Vice President and a majority of the Cabinet to recommend the removal of the President in cases where he is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” It also allows the House and Senate to confirm the recommendation over the President’s objection by two-thirds vote. 

The Vice President then takes over as President.

A case could easily be made that Trump, emotionally distraught over his loss and determined to circumvent the will of the electorate, has been rendered unfit to continue in office.

This is also extremely unlikely. Most of Trump’s cabinet rightly fears him. He fired FBI Director James Comey in 2017 and publicly humiliated his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, for more than a year until firing him in 2018. Vice President Mike Pence in particular has set new records for sycophancy. 

Third, the “Caligula solution.” Like Trump, Caligula delighted in humiliating others. His fatal mistake was taunting Cassius Chaerea, a member of his own bodyguard. Caligula considered Chaerea effeminate because of a weak voice and mocked him with names like “Priapus” and “Venus.”

On January 22 41 A.D. Chaerea and several other bodyguards hacked Caligula to death with swords before other guards could save him.

Trump has similarly behaved arrogantly toward his Secret Service guards. He forced them to work without pay during his 35-day government shutdown in 2018. He has also forced them to accompany him to COVID-infected states—both during the Presidential campaign and afterward. Many of them have been stricken with this often lethal disease as a result.

Gaius Caligula

As Niccolo Machiavelli warns in The Discourses“When a prince becomes universally hated, it is likely that he’s harmed some individuals—who thus seek revenge. This desire is increased by seeing that the prince is widely loathed.”

ONCE AGAIN, ACCOMPLICES TO OUR OWN DESTRUCTION: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 7, 2020 at 12:24 am

“Why are we letting one man systematically destroy our nation before our eyes?” 

It’s a question millions of Americans have asked themselves since Donald Trump became President of the United States.

Millions of Germans asked themselves the same question throughout the six years of World War II.

In September, 1938, as Adolf Hitler threatened to go to war against France and England over Czechoslovakia, most Germans feared he would. They knew that Germany was not ready for war, despite all of their Fuhrer’s boasts about how invincible the Third Reich was.

A group of high-ranking German army officers was prepared to overthrow Hitler—provided that England and France held firm and handed him a major diplomatic reverse.

But then England and France—though more powerful than Germany—flinched at the thought of war.

They surrendered to Hitler’s demands that he be given the “Sudetenland”—the northern, southwest and western regions of Czechoslovakia, inhabited mostly by ethnic Germans.

Hitler’s popularity among Germans soared. He had expanded the territories of the Reich by absorbing Austria and Czechoslovakia—without a shot being fired!

The plotters in the German high command, realizing that public opinion stood overwhelmingly against them, abandoned their plans for a coup. They decided to wait for a more favorable time.

It never came.

Adolf Hitler and his generals

Less than one year after the infamous “Munich conference,” England and France were at war—and fighting for the lives of their peoples.

As for the Germans: Most of them blindly followed their Fuhrer right to the end—believing his lies (or at least wanting to believe them), serving in his legions, defending his rampant criminality.

And then, in April, 1945, with Russian armies pouring into Berlin, it was too late for conspiracies against the man who had led them to total destruction. 

Berliners paid the price for their loyalty to a murderous dictator—through countless rapes, murders and the wholesale destruction of their city. And from 1945 to 1989, Germans living in the eastern part of their country paid the price as slaves to the Soviet Union. 

Have Americans learned anything from this this warning from history about subservience to a madman? 

The answer seems to be half-yes, half-no.

In 2016, almost 63 million Americans elected Donald Trump—a racist, serial adulterer and longtime fraudster—as President.

On November 3, 2020, 81,255,933 Democratic voters outvoted  74,196,153 Republican voters to elect former Vice President Joseph Biden as the 46th President of the United States.

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Donald Trump

Upon taking office on January 20, 2017, Trump began undermining one public or private institution after another.

  • Repeatedly attacking the nation’s free press for daring to report his growing list of crimes and disasters, calling it “the enemy of the American people.”
  • Siding with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin against the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency which unanimously agreed that Russia had subverted the 2016 Presidential election. 
  • Firing FBI Director James Comey for investigating that subversion.
  • Giving Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey  Kislyak highly classified CIA Intelligence about an Islamic State plot to turn laptops into concealable bombs.  
  • Shutting down the Federal Government for 35 days because Democrats refused to fund his ineffective “border wall” between the United States and Mexico. An estimated 380,000 government employees were furloughed and another 420,000 were ordered to work without pay. The shutdown ended due to public outrage—without Trump getting the funding amount he had demanded.
  • Trying to coerce Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to smear former Vice President Joe Biden, who was likely to be his Democratic opponent in the 2020 Presidential election.
  • Allowing the deadly COVID-19 virus to ravage the country, infecting (to date) 14.8 million Americans and killing 282,000.
  • Attacking medical experts and governors who urged Americans to wear masks and socially distance to protect themselves from COVID-19.
  • Ordering his Right-wing followers to defy states’ orders to citizens to “stay-at-home” and wear of masks in public to halt surging COVID-19 rates.

And throughout all those outrages, House and Senate Republican majorities remained silent or vigorously supported him.

A typical example:

On June 4, 2020, during protests over the police murder of black security guard George Floyd, a curfew was imposed on Buffalo, New York. As police swept through Niagara Square, Martin Gugino, a 75-year-old peace activist with the Catholic Worker Movement, walked into their path as if attempting to speak with them.

Two officers pushed him and he fell backwards, hitting the back of his head on the pavement and losing consciousness. 

On June 9, Trump charged that Gugino was part of a radical leftist “set up.” Trump offered no evidence to back up his slander.

Typical Republican responses included:  

  • Kentucky Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to say whether Trump’s tweet was appropriate.
  • Texas Senator Ted Cruz: “I don’t comment on the tweets.” 
  • Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson said he hadn’t seen the tweet—and didn’t want it read to him: “I would rather not hear it.”
  • Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander: “Voters can evaluate that. I’m not going to give a running commentary on the President’s tweets.”

On November 3, 2020, 80 million voters decided they wanted a change—and elected former Vice President Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States.

DUELING FICTIONAL PRESIDENTS: BIDEN, OBAMA AND TRUMP

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on November 27, 2020 at 12:06 am

Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump to become the 46th President of the United States on January 20, 2021.

But before scoring that victory, he racked up a series of incredible adventures as a private investigator—in fiction.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contrasting with the relatively lighthearted fictional images of Joe Biden and Barack Obama is the immensely darker one of Donald Trump.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TWO DEADLY MISTAKES IN ONE DAY

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics on October 7, 2020 at 8:27 am

Donald Trump was in a hurry to leave Walter Reed National Military Medical Center—where he’d been taken on October 3 owing to COVID-19.

So on October 6—just three days after being hospitalized, and still highly infectious—he demanded that he be returned to the White House. 

Once ensconced in the Executive Mansion, Trump proceeded to make two deadly mistakes.

Mistake #1: He tweeted a one-minute long video from the White House balcony, saying he “learned so much about coronavirus,” and believed that he was possibly immune to the disease.

“One thing that’s for certain: Don’t let it dominate you,” he said of COVID-19. “Don’t be afraid of it. You’re going to beat it. We have the best medical equipment, we have the best medicines, all developed recently. And you’re going to beat it.

“We’re going back, we’re going back to work,” Trump said. “We’re going to be out front. As your leader, I had to do that. I knew there’s danger to it, but I had to do it..”

SARS-CoV-2 without background.png

Coronavirus

Trump’s upbeat message about COVID-19—“Don’t be afraid of it. You’re going to beat it”—alarmed and angered many infectious disease experts. 

“It’s an unconscionable message,” said Dr. Sadiya Khan of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “I would go so far as to say that it may precipitate or worsen spread.”

“We have to be realistic in this: COVID is a complete threat to the American population,” said Dr. David Nace, an expert on infectious diseases at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

“Most of the people aren’t so lucky as the president,” with an in-house medical unit and access to experimental treatments, he added.

Especially outraged by Trump’s comment was Amanda Kloots, who lost her husband, Broadway actor Nick Cordero, to the virus.

NickCordero.jpg

Nick Cordero

“Unfortunately not everyone is lucky enough to spend two days in the hospital,” she tweeted, referring to Trump’s short stay for COVID-19 treatment. “I cried next to my husband for 95 days watching what COVID did to the person I love. It IS something to be afraid of.”

Mistake #2: Always wanting to appear in command, Trump ordered his negotiators to halt talks over a new economic stimulus package, after House and Senate Republicans had struggled for months to reach a deal.

“I have instructed my representatives to stop negotiating until after the election when, immediately after I win, we will pass a major Stimulus Bill that focuses on hardworking Americans and Small Business,” Trump wrote in a series of tweets.

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Donald Trump

Trump’s message stunned lawmakers. The decision is a major blow to Americans still struggling with the fallout from the pandemic and endangers an economic recovery that for months was driven by a $2.2 trillion stimulus passed by Congress in the spring. That money has been largely spent. 

Among those stunned by Trump’s move: Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell.

At the annual meeting of the National Association for Business Economics, Powell warned: “Too little support would lead to a weak recovery, creating unnecessary hardship for households and businesses.”

Powell said that government support—expanded unemployment insurance payments, direct payments to most households and support for small businesses—has prevented a recessionary “downward spiral” where job losses would reduce spending, forcing businesses to cut even more jobs.

Jerome H. Powell.jpg

Jerome Powell

A far smarter move by Trump would have been claiming that Republicans were vigorously pursuing a stimulus package—but were facing roadblocks thrown up by spendthrift Democrats. 

That would have allowed Trump to play the part of the self-pitying underdog. And it would have put the blame squarely—if inaccurately—on the Democrats.

But Trump’s ego demands that he be the one seen to take decisive action. On December 11, 2018, it neatly tripped him up.

Nancy Pelosi—then House Minority Leader—and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, met with Trump in the Oval Office. And, true to his love of publicity, Trump made sure the meeting was televised live on TV.

Trump quickly demanded $5.6 billion to create a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border.

When Pelosi and Schumer refused to budge, Trump said: And one way or the other, it’s going to get built. I’d like not to see a government closing, a shutdown. We will see what happens over the next short period of time.”

SCHUMER: “Twenty times you have called for, ‘I will shut down the government if I don’t get my wall.’ None of us have said—you’ve said it.”

TRUMP: “Okay, you want to put that on my—I’ll take it.  You know what I’ll say: ‘Yes, if we don’t get what we want, one way or the other…I will shut down the government. Absolutely.’”

Trump did shut down the government. And because he had threatened to do so—on nationwide TV—he, not the Democrats, was blamed for it. Thirty-five days later, he caved to public pressure and reopened the government.

With the 2020 Presidential election less than a month away and himself behind former Vice President Joe Biden in the polls, it appears that Trump’s ego has once again neatly tripped himself up.

WHY DID TRUMP DO IT?

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on September 28, 2020 at 8:39 am

From December, 2019, to July, 2020, President Donald Trump granted unprecedented access to legendary Washington Post investigative reporter Bob Woodward.

That access has since spawned a bestselling book—Rage—and proven that Trump privately knew how deadly the Coronavirus was. Yet, in public, he played down the lethality of the virus and attacked those who sought to take it seriously. 

On February 7, the following telephone interview occurred between Trump and Woodward:

Bob Woodward: And so, what was [Chinese] President Xi [Jinping] saying yesterday? 

Donald Trump:  Oh, we were talking mostly about the virus, and I think he’s going to have it in good shape. But it’s a very tricky situation.

Woodward: Indeed, it is. 

Trump: It goes through air, Bob. That’s always tougher than the touch. The touch, you don’t have to touch things, right? But the air, you just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed. And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flues. People don’t realize, we lose 25,000, 30,000 people a year here. Who would ever think that, right?

SARS-CoV-2 without background.png

Coronavirus

That damning confession has since appeared not only in Woodward’s book but on millions of TV and computer screens. Not only did Woodward tape record their conversations, but Trump knew he was taping them.

And those revelations have proven explosive for Trump—possibly enough to deny him a second term as President of the United States.

Yet a central question remains so far unanswered: Why did Trump give such access to a reporter—especially the reporter whose Watergate-related journalism proved instrumental in taking down President Richard M. Nixon?

Bob Woodward (@realBobWoodward) | Twitter

Bob Woodward

There are at least three possible reasons why Trump dared to reveal to Woodward that he had blatantly lied to the American public.

Reason #1: Sheer hubris

The ancient Greeks defined “hubris” as excessive pride that led mere mortals “to think more than mortal thoughts.” 

As President, Trump has:

  • Fired FBI director James Comey for investigating Russia’s subversion of the 2016 Presidential election.
  • Threatened to cut off federal funding to cities that displeased him.
  • Shut down the Federal Government to (unsuccessfully) get full funding for his “border wall” with Mexico.
  • Attacked “the top people in the Pentagon” for not defending him against charges that he referred to soldiers killed in combat as “losers” and “suckers.”
  • Openly embraced Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.
  • Attacked members of the Federal judiciary.
  • Fired Inspectors General investigating corruption within his administration.

And earlier this year he was acquitted of impeachable offenses by a majority-Republican Senate.

So if Trump believed himself invulnerable when he confessed his lying to Woodward, he had good reason to do so.

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Donald Trump

Reason #2: Trump thought he could recruit Woodward as his cheerleader

Just as Germany’s Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler, had a love/hate relationship with England, so, too, has Donald Trump had one with the American press—especially such major organs as The New York Times and The Washington Post. 

Trump has shamelessly used the media to promote his businesses, his TV show (“The Apprentice”) and, most of all, his Presidency. But he has bristled when the press reports scandals that have often been linked with his name.

So Trump may have thought he could win over Woodward—through the flattery of Presidential access. And with Woodward singing his praises, he would win a newfound respectability among the mainstream press which has so often savaged him.

In fact, he might have been encouraged to win over Woodward by no less than South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham.

Making that accusation is Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson.

“It was Lindsey Graham who helped convince Donald Trump to talk to Bob Woodward,” Carlson said during his show, Tucker Carlson Tonight. “Lindsey Graham brokered that meeting. Lindsey Graham even sat in on the first interview between Bob Woodward and the President. How did that turn out?

“Bob Woodward dislikes Donald Trump, he’s been very clear about that. Woodward works for Jeff Bezos’ personal newspaper The Washington Post, which has made defeating Donald Trump its all-consuming mission.”

Reason #3:  Trump wanted to take down Woodward

Donald Trump has long seen himself as a tough guy.  

In 2011, at the National Achievers Congress in Sydney, Australia, he offered his audience this advice: “Get even with people. If they screw you, screw them back 10 times as hard. I really believe it.”

During the second debate of the 2016 Presidential campaign, Trump vowed that, if elected, he would prosecute and  imprison his opponent, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Days later, he threatened to imprison Clinton’s lawyers. 

So it’s entirely possible that he saw his interviews with Woodward as the verbal equivalent of a prizefight, with himself—of course—emerging as the heavyweight champ.

Whatever his reason for agreeing to those interviews, he undoubtedly regrets it now: “It’s another political hit job,” he said of the bestselling book in a September 9 press conference.

Then he turned to his “handling” of the Coronavirus pandemic: He did the best he could, he did better than anyone else would have, and his actions saved millions of lives compared to doing nothing at all.

On September 22, Coronavirus deaths in the United States topped 200,000.

DUELING PRESIDENTS: OBAMA VS. TRUMP–IN NOVELS

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

Presidential legacies live on in unexpected ways.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A NATION WATCHES–AND CRUMBLES–AS A TYRANT REIGNS

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on August 4, 2020 at 12:10 am

In September, 1938, as Adolf Hitler threatened to go to war against France and England over Czechoslovakia, most Germans feared he would. They knew that Germany was not ready for war, despite all of their Fuhrer’s boasts about how invincible the Third Reich was.

A group of high-ranking German army officers was prepared to overthrow Hitler—provided that England and France held firm and handed him a major diplomatic reverse.

But then England and France—though more powerful than Germany—surrendered to Hitler’s demands for the “Sudetenland”—the northern, southwest and western regions of Czechoslovakia, inhabited mostly by ethnic Germans.

Hitler’s popularity among Germans soared. 

The plotters in the German high command, realizing that public opinion stood overwhelmingly against them, abandoned their plans for a coup. They decided to wait for a more favorable time.

It never came.

Adolf Hitler and his generals

Less than one year after the infamous “Munich conference,” World War II erupted. 

Most Germans blindly followed their Fuhrer right to the end—believing his lies (or at least wanting to believe them), serving in his legions, defending his rampant criminality.

Germans paid the price for their loyalty to a murderous dictator—not just on the battlefield, but through countless rapes, murders and the wholesale destruction of their cities. And from 1945 to 1989, Germans living in the eastern part of their country paid the price as slaves to the Soviet Union. 

Americans have learned nothing from this warning from history about subservience to a madman.

In 2016, almost 63 million Americans elected Donald Trump—a racist, serial adulterer and longtime fraudster—as President. 

Upon taking office in January, 2017, Trump began undermining one public or private institution after another. Among his outrages:

  • Repeatedly and viciously attacked the nation’s free press for daring to report his growing list of crimes and disasters, calling it “the enemy of the American people.”
  • Publicly sided with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin against American Intelligence agencies (FBI, CIA, National Security Agency) which unanimously agreed that Russia had subverted  the 2016 Presidential election,
  • Fired FBI Director James Comey for investigating that subversion. 
  • Gave Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey  Kislyak highly classified CIA Intelligence about an Islamic State plot to turn laptops into concealable bombs.  
  • Allowed predatory corporations to subvert Federal regulatory protections for consumers and the environment.
  • Shut down the Federal Government for more than a month on December 22, 2018, because Democrats refused to fund his “border wall” between the United States and Mexico. An estimated 380,000 government employees were furloughed and another 420,000 were ordered to work without pay.
  • Threatened members of Congress with treason charges for daring to challenge him.
  • Since being acquitted of impeachable offenses by the Senate, fired the Inspectors General (IG) of five cabinet departments in six weeks. 

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Donald Trump   

Through all those outrages, House and Senate Republican majorities remained silent or vigorously supported him.

Democrats seemed unable to cope with Trump’s legislative agenda and his personal attacks on Twitter and in press conferences.

Even when the press unearthed his latest corruptions, the public didn’t care.

And now, with the 2020 Presidential election fast approaching, Trump has unleashed his latest outrage—while Americans who could stand against it do nothing: Trump now is laying the groundwork to discredit the outcome if he loses.

And it’s increasingly looking as if he will.

His tactics: Make it difficult to vote, guarantee voting is slow and complicated and raise questions about the outcome.

He wants to claim that if former Vice President Joe Biden wins, he was elected through a fraudulent mail-in vote.

Republicans have not protested any of this. Nor would they likely protest if Trump illegally occupied the White House in the face of massive vote fraud—on his part.

(His Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, won the popular vote in 2016—but lost in the Electoral College. But that didn’t prevent Trump from claiming that he would have won the popular vote except for massive fraud—which never happened.)

Whatever happens, Trump will claim he won.

In 2012, after President Barack Obama defeated his endorsed candidate, Mitt Romney, Trump tweeted:

  • Lets fight like hell and stop this great and disgusting injustice! 
  • The world is laughing at us. We can’t let this happen.  We should march on Washington and stop this travesty. 
  • Our nation is totally divided!
  • The loser one! [Trump’s spelling]
  • He lost the popular vote by a lot and won the election. We should have a revolution in this country!

And even if he’s forced to leave office, he will undercut the ability of his successor to govern. 

During World War II, scores of  high-ranking German army officers risked their lives to plot the overthrow—and even assassination—of Adolf Hitler. Their efforts culminated in the ill-fated July 20, 1944 bomb plot that left Hitler badly injured but still in total command of Germany. 

It would take only Vice President Mike Pence and eight Cabinet officers to courageously invoke the 25th Amendment and find Donald Trump “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office,”

Yet even that small a number of honorable men cannot be found within the Trump administration.

REPUBLICANS: PROFILES WITHOUT COURAGE–PART FIVE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on June 19, 2020 at 12:12 am

Throughout his Presidency, Republicans have continued to support Donald Trump despite a series of actions that would have normally resulted in impeachment.

Forgiven Crime #18: Even while being investigated by Congress for trying to extort Ukraine to investigate his 2020 Presidential rival, Joseph Biden, Trump publicly urged China to investigate Biden and his son, Hunter.

Trump repeatedly denied he had strong-armed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to smear former Vice President Joseph Biden. But on October 3, 2019, on the White House lawn, with TV cameras whirring, Trump said: “China should start an investigation into the Bidens.”

And to drive home the message, Trump warned: “I have a lot of options on China, but if they don’t do what we want, we have tremendous power.” 

Forgiven Crime #19: Since being acquitted of impeachable offenses by the Senate, Trump fired the Inspectors General (IG) of five cabinet departments in six weeks. Among these:

  • Michael K. Atkinson – The IG of the Intelligence Community. The reason: Atkinson had forwarded the whistleblower complaint which led to Trump’s impeachment.
  • Glenn Fine – Appointed to oversee funds voted by Congress to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the United States. His dismissal ensured that Trump–who had admitted to defrauding students at his notorious “Trump University”–could spend the $2 trillion in relief monies any way he wished.
  • Christi Grimm – As IG at the Department of Health and Human Services, she outraged Trump by contradicting him by agreeing—accurately—that the nation’s hospitals were suffering from severe shortages of personal protective equipment and testing supplies for COVID-19.

* * * * *

This list of 19 forgiven crimes is not meant to be all-inclusive. It would literally take a book to catalog all of Donald Trump’s offenses. And more are being committed every week—if not every day. Many of them will become known only in the future.

Why have Republicans almost unanimously stood by Donald Trump despite the wreckage he has made of American foreign and domestic policy?  

Fear—that they will lose their privileged positions in Congress if they don’t.

This could happen by:

  • Their being voted out of Congress by Trump’s fanatical base; or
  • Their being voted out of Congress by anti-Trump voters sensing Republican weakness if Trump is impeached.

As the nation reels from the Coronavirus pandemic and unprecedented racial strife, Republicans’ support for Trump hinges on one question: “Can I hold onto my power and all the privileges that accompany it by sticking—or breaking—with him?” 

On November 25, 2019, CNN political correspondent Jake Tapper interviewed Representative Adam Schiff on the coming impeachment trial.

What would it mean if Republicans uniformly oppose any articles of impeachment against Trump? asked Tapper.

“It will have very long-term consequences, if that’s where we end up,” replied Schiff.

“And if not today, I think Republican members in the future, to their children and their grandchildren, will have to explain why they did nothing in the face of this deeply unethical man who did such damage to the country.” 

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

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

Like Hitler, Trump offered his Republican voters and Congressional allies intoxicating dreams: “I will enrich all of you. And I will humiliate and destroy those Americans you most hate.”

For his white, Fascistic, largely elderly audience, those enemies included blacks, atheists, Hispanics, non-Christians, Muslims, liberals, “uppity” women, Asians.

And, again like Hitler, his audience had always possessed these dreams. Trump offered them nothing new. As a lifelong hater, he undoubtedly shared their dreams. But as a lifelong opportunist, he realized that he could use them to catapult himself into a position of supreme power.

He despised his followers—both as voters and Congressional allies—for they were merely the instruments of his will. 

For most of the first three years of his Presidency, he faced remarkably little opposition. Until November, 2018, Republicans held both the House and Senate. Democrats won the House in 2018, but remained a minority in the Senate.

Democrats cowered before Trump’s slanders—thereby ensuring more assaults.

Most of the press quailed before Trump. Only a few media outlets—notably the New York Times, CNN and the Washington Post-–dared investigate his crimes and blunders. 

In 1960, the Russian poet, Yevgeney Yevtushenko, published “Conversation With an American Writer”—a stinging indictment of the cowardly opportunists who had supported the brutal tyranny of Joseph Stalin: 

I was never courageous.

I simply felt it unbecoming to stoop to the cowardice of my colleagues.

Too many Republicans know all-too-well how it feels to stoop to the cowardice of their colleagues for a transitory hold on power and privilege.  

REPUBLICANS: PROFILES WITHOUT COURAGE–PART FOUR (OF FIVE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 18, 2020 at 12:30 am

Throughout his Presidency, Republicans have continued to support Donald Trump despite a series of actions that would have normally resulted in impeachment.

Forgiven Crime #9: On July 16, 2018, Trump attended a press conference in Helsinki, Finland, with Russian President Vladimir Putin. There he blamed American Intelligence agencies—such as the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency—instead of Putin for Russia’s subversion of the 2016 Presidential election.     

“I have President Putin,” said Trump. “He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.” 

Trump is postponing the Putin visit until after the “Russia witch ...

Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin in Helsinki

Forgiven Crime #10: Blatantly lying about the CIA’s findings in the brutal murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.  

On Thanksgiving Day, 2018, Trump said that the CIA hadn’t concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had ordered it.

This was a lie—the agency had reached such a conclusion, based on a recording provided by the Turkish government and American Intelligence. 

Forgiven Crime #11: Threatening to fire Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, who oversaw Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian subversion of the 2016 election.  

Forgiven Crime #12: Threatening to fire Independent Counsel Robert Mueller during the summer of 2017, but was talked out of it by aides fearful that it would set off calls for his impeachment.

Forgiven Crime #13:  Waging all-out war on the First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of the press.

On February 17, 2017, Trump tweeted: “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes@NBCNews@ABC@CBS@CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!”

Seven days later, appearing before the Conservative Political Action Conference on February 24, Trump said: “I want you all to know that we are fighting the fake news. It’s fake, phony, fake….I’m against the people that make up stories and make up sources. They shouldn’t be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody’s name. Let their name be put out there.”

NSA Surveillance and the First Amendment - TeachPrivacy

Forgiven Crime #14: Waging all-out war on the independent judiciary

Trump has repeatedly attacked Seattle U.S. District Judge James Robart, who halted Trump’s first anti-Islamic travel ban: “Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!”

On October 20, 2018, Trump attacked U.S. District Judge Jon S. Tigar as an “Obama judge.” Tigar had ruled that the administration must consider asylum claims no matter where migrants cross the U.S. border.

The next day, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts told the Associated Press: “We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges. What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them.” 

On Thanksgiving Day, 2018, Trump attacked Roberts—appointed by Republican President George W. Bush—on Twitter:  “Sorry Chief Justice John Roberts, but you do indeed have ‘Obama judges,’ and they have a much different point of view than the people who are charged with the safety of our country.”

Forgiven Crime #15: Threatening members of Congress with treason charges for daring to challenge him. 

Furious that Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) mocked him during a session of the House Intelligence Committee, Trump tweeted: “I want Schiff questioned at the highest level for Fraud & Treason…..”

“Rep. Adam Schiff illegally made up a FAKE & terrible statement, pretended it to be mine as the most important part of my call to the Ukrainian President, and read it aloud to Congress and the American people. It bore NO relationship to what I said on the call. Arrest for Treason?” 

Adam Schiff official portrait.jpg

Adam Schiff

He judged House Speaker Nancy Pelosi every bit as guilty as Liddle’ Adam Schiff for High Crimes and Misdemeanors, and even Treason. I guess that means that they, along with all of those that evilly ‘Colluded’ with them, must all be immediately Impeached!”   

Forgiven Crime #16: He has lied so often—18,000 times by April 14, 2020, according to the Washington Post—that he’s universally distrusted, at home and abroad.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis, French President Charles de Gaulle was offered photographs taken by American spy planes of Russian missile emplacements in Cuba. De Gaulle waved them away, saying that, for him, the word of the President of the United States was enough. 

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Charles de Gaulle and John F. Kennedy

Today, no free world leader would take Trump’s word for anything.

Forgiven Crime #17: On December 22, 2018, Trump shut down the Federal government—because Democrats refused to fund his “border wall” between the United States and Mexico. 

An estimated 380,000 government employees were furloughed and another 420,000 were ordered to work without pay.

  • For weeks, hundreds of thousands of government workers missed paychecks.
  • Increasing numbers of employees of the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA)—which provides security against airline terrorism—began refusing to come to work, claiming to be sick.
  • At the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) many air traffic controllers called in “sick.” 
  • Due to the shortage of air traffic controllers, many planes weren’t able to land safely at places like New York’s LaGuardia Airport.
  • Many Federal employees—such as FBI agents—were forced to rely on soup kitchens to feed their families.

This lasted until January 25, 2019, when Trump caved to public pressure. 

REPUBLICANS: PROFILES WITHOUT COURAGE–PART THREE (OF FIVE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 17, 2020 at 12:59 am

Republicans have a long and shameful history of excusing Donald Trump’s vicious slanders and law-breaking.

Forgiven Crime #4: Republicans refused to condemn Trump’s blatant “bromance” with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.

Since the end of World War II, no Republican Presidential candidate had repeatedly lavished fulsome praise on a foreign leader hostile to the United States. Yet that is precisely what happened between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.

Thus Putin on Trump: “He is a bright personality, a talented person, no doubt about it. It is not up to us to appraise his positive sides, it is up to the U.S. voters. but, as we can see, he is an absolute leader in the presidential race.”

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Vladimir Putin

And Trump on Putin: “It is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond. He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader. Unlike what we have in this country”—a clear attack on then-President Barack Obama.

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Donald Trump

Forgiven Crime #5: Republicans supported the treasonous meeting between Trump’s campaign managers and Russian Intelligence agents.  

On July 9, 2016, high-ranking members of Trump’s Presidential campaign met with lobbyists tied to Putin. The meeting took place at Trump tower and the participants included:

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

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

Forgiven Crime #6: Republicans supported Trump’s open—and treasonous—solicitation of Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential election.

On July 22, 2016, at a press conference in Doral, Florida, Trump said: “Russia, if you are listening, I hope you are able to find the 33,000 emails that are missing [from Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s computer]. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” 

“This has to be the first time that a major presidential candidate has actively encouraged a foreign power to conduct espionage against his political opponent,” Hillary for America policy adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement. “That’s not hyperbole, those are just the facts. This has gone from being a matter of curiosity, and a matter of politics, to being a national security issue.”

“I find those kinds of statements to be totally outrageous because you’ve got now a presidential candidate who is, in fact, asking the Russians to engage in American politics,” said former CIA Director Leon Panetta, a Clinton surrogate. “I just think that’s beyond the pale.”

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

Forgiven Crime #7: On May 9, 2017, Trump fired FBI Director James Comey for investigating Russia’s subversion of the 2016 Presidential race. 

There were four reasons for this:

  1. Comey had refused to pledge his personal loyalty to Trump. Trump had made the “request” during a private dinner at the White House in January.
  2. Comey told Trump that he would always be honest with him. But that didn’t satisfy Trump’s demand that the head of the FBI act as his personal secret police chief—as was the case in the former Soviet Union.
  3. Trump had tried to coerce Comey into dropping the FBI’s investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, for his secret ties to Russia and Turkey. Comey had similarly resisted that demand.
  4. Comey had recently asked the Justice Department to fund an expanded FBI investigation into well-documented contacts between Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign and Russian Intelligence agents. The goal of that collaboration: To elect Trump over Hillary Clinton, a longtime foe of Russian President Putin. 

James Comey official portrait.jpg

James Comey

Forgiven Crime #8: On May 10, 2017. Trump met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the Oval Office—and gave them highly classified Israeli Intelligence about an Islamic State plot to turn laptops into concealable bombs.  

Kislyak is reportedly a top recruiter for Russia’s SVR foreign intelligence agency. He has been closely linked with Jeff Sessions, then Attorney General, and fired National Security Adviser Mike Flynn. 

“I just fired the head of the FBI,” Trump told the two dignitaries. “He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”   

Then, on May 11, Trump gave away his real reason for firing Comey:

Interviewed on NBC News by reporter Lester Holt, Trump said: “And in fact when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said ‘you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.'”

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