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THREATS PAST AND FUTURE

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on February 22, 2017 at 12:31 am

Robert Payne, author of the bestselling biography, The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler (1973), described Hitler’s “negotiating” style thusly: 

“He was incapable of bargaining. He was like a man who goes up to a fruit peddler and threatens to blow his brains out if he does not sell his applies at the lowest possible price.”

What was true for Adolf Hitler was equally true for Donald Trump, the 2016 Republican nominee for President of the United States.  

Trump’s vindictive streak was evident on October 9, 2016p, during his second Presidential debate with Hillary Clinton: “If I win I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation–there has never been so many lies and so much deception.”  

This played well with Trump’s essentially Fascistic followers, but even conservatives like political columnist Charles Krauthammer disagreed with it:

“I’m one of those who thinks there was a miscarriage of justice in not indicting her. But the problem here is the pattern from Trump. 

“He has spoken about using the powers of the government to go after other opponents like the publisher of The Washington Post 

“Do we want to invest in him all the powers of the government if he acts where he seems to want to carry out vendettas?” 

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Charles Krauthammer

But making threats against anyone who has dared to cross him or has merely roused his ire is a longtime Trump characteristic.  

In 2010, Tarla Makaeff, a former customer of Trump’s real-estate seminar business, filed a fraud lawsuit against now-defunct Trump University.  

Trump retaliated by filing a defamation suit against her. The case was dismissed by a judge. But Trump continued to attack her during his Presidential candidacy.  

During a campaign rally he assailed her as a “horrible, horrible witness,” and then posted on Twitter that she was “Disgraceful!”  

Makaeff ultimately persuaded the judge presiding over the Trump University case to let her remove her name as a plaintiff.  

Trump has long employed a series of hardball tactics against anyone who threatens his ego:

  • Countersuits, threats and personal insults against outsiders; and
  • Stringent confidentiality agreements against employees, business partners, his former spouses and now his campaign staffers.  

As an authoritarian who demands the right to craft his own image. Trump furiously denies others the right to dissent from it.  

In February, 2016, Trump said that he was “gonna open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money.”  

After the New York Times published pages from his 1995 tax return, Trump tweeted that his lawyers “want to sue the failing @nytimes so badly for irresponsible intent. I said no (for now), but they are watching. Really disgusting.”   

Trump is a master of “dog whistle” threats. On August 9, 2016, he falsely 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.” 

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Hillary Clinton

“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.”  

Trump–and his apologists–claimed he was simply “joking.”  

But Trump was not done with making threats against Hillary Clinton–and her husband, Bill. 

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Donald Trump

On October 7, 2016, The Washington Post leaked a video of Donald Trump making sexually predatory comments about women (“I don’t even wait. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything”).

The remarks came during a 2005 exchange with Billy Bush, then the host of Access Hollywood.

The admissions ignited a firestorm against Trump, even among many Republicans.

Rather than accept responsibility for his actions, Trump blamed the Clintons–who had nothing to do with the release.

Speaking before a rally in Pennsylvania on October 10, Trump threatened: “If they wanna release more tapes saying inappropriate things, we’ll continue to talk about Bill and Hillary Clinton doing inappropriate things. There are so many of them, folks.”

Since being elected President, Trump has continued to lash out at a wide range of people, organizations and even countries.

Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of modern politics, offered a still-timely warning to those inclined to gratuitously hand out insults and threats:

“I hold it to be a proof of great prudence for men to abstain from threats and insulting words towards any one.

“For neither the one nor the other in any way diminishes the strength of the enemy–but the one makes him more cautions, and the other increases his hatred of you, and makes him more persevering in his efforts to injure you.”

And for those who expect Trump to stop constantly picking fights, Machiavelli has an equally stern warning:

“No man can be found so prudent as to be able to [adopt his mode of operating to changing circumstances] either because he cannot deviate from that to which his nature disposes him, or else because, having always prospered by walking in one path, he cannot persuade himself that it is well to leave it….”

CAPTAIN QUEEG AS PRESIDENT: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Entertainment, History, Politics, Social commentary on February 21, 2017 at 12:04 am

It was February 16–and Trump’s first press conference as President.

Like the climatic showdown in The Caine Mutiny, it offered an unhinged rant, full of anger, personal attacks, self-pity and self-glorification.

But the man doing the ranting was not Captain Philip Francis Queeg. It was President Donald J. Trump, speaking from the East Room of the White House.

He opened casually: “Thank you very much. I just wanted to begin by mentioning that the nominee for Secretary of the Department of Labor will be Mr. Alex Acosta….”

For the next hour and 15 minutes, Trump let raw emotion do his talking.

Among the highlights:

His hates the press:  “….The press has become so dishonest that if we don’t talk about it, we are doing a tremendous disservice to the American people. Tremendous disservice. We have to talk about it to find out what is going on, because the press, honestly, is out of control. The level of dishonesty is out of control.”

He won “bigly” in the Electoral College: “I put it out before the American people, got 306 electoral college votes. They said there’s no way to get 222. 230 is impossible. 270 which you need, that was laughable. We got 306, because people came out and voted like they’ve never seen before. So that’s the way it goes. I guess it was the biggest electoral college win since Ronald Reagan.”

[Actually, it wasn’t. He got a smaller share of the Electoral College votes–56.88%  than former presidents George H. W. Bush–79.18%; Bill Clinton–68.77% in 1992; and 70.45% in 1996; and Barack Obama–67.84% in 2008; and 61.71% in 2012.

[No other President had ever felt it necessary to brag about his Electoral College victory. And Trump didn’t mention that he lost the popular vote–with Hillary Clinton getting almost 2.9 million more votes than he did.]

He ignored the turmoil in his month-old administration:  “I turn on the TV, open the newspapers and I see stories of chaos. Chaos. Yet it is the exact opposite. This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine, despite the fact that I can’t get my Cabinet approved, and they’re outstanding people.”

[His National Security Adviser, Michael T. Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general, was forced to resign after 24 days. 

Michael T Flynn.jpg

[The reason: The media reported that Flynn had misled the vice president and other White House colleagues about a conversation with the Russian ambassador to the United States.

[In addition, Trump:

  • Had his executive order banning travel by Muslims to the United States halted by Federal courts;
  • Fired his acting attorney general for refusing to defend the ban;
  • Angered the president of Mexico into cancelling a summit meeting;
  • Bragged about the size of his electoral win to Australia’s prime minister, then hung up on him;
  • Authorized a commando raid that resulted in the death of a Navy SEAL;
  • Lied that he had been prevented from winning the popular vote by millions of illegal aliens; and
  • Attacked Nordstrom’s department store for dropping the clothing and accessories lines of his daughter, Ivanka.

[In fact, Trump’s Cabinet–with the exception of his pick for Secretary of Labor–had been steamrollered through the Senate by Republicans.]

The press persecutes him: I watch CNN. It’s so much anger and hatred and just the hatred. I don’t watch it anymore, because it’s very good….

“You look at your show [CNN Tonight] that goes on at 10 in the evening. You just take a look at that show. That is a constant hit. The panel is almost always exclusive anti-Trump. The good news is he doesn’t have good ratings, but the panel is almost exclusive anti-Trump. And the hatred and venom coming from his mouth. The hatred coming from other people on your network.”

He’s really a good, misunderstood person: “….I can handle a bad story better than anybody, as long as it is true. Over a course of time, I will make mistakes and you will write badly, and I am OK with that. But I am not OK when it is fake….

“I know when you’re telling the truth or when you’re not. I just see many, many untruthful things. And I’ll tell you what else I see, I see tone….The tone is such hatred. I’m really not a bad person, by the way. No, but the tone is such–I do get good ratings. You have to admit that.”

His campaign never colluded with Russian Intelligence: “Well, the failing New York Times wrote a big, long front-page story yesterday. And it was very much discredited, as you know. It [was] — it’s a joke. … Russia is fake news. This is fake news put out by the media.”

[Several of Trump’s high-level advisers were in constant communication during the campaign with Russian Intelligence agents. These contacts are now being investigated by the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency.]

* * * * *

By the end of The Caine Mutiny, Stephen Maryk is acquitted of mutiny. Captain Queeg is presumably relieved of future commands.

By the end of President Trump’s bizarre and frightening press conference, there is no telling what lies ahead for the United States–or the world.

CAPTAIN QUEEG AS PRESIDENT: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Entertainment, History, Politics, Social commentary on February 20, 2017 at 12:03 am

Watching President Donald Trump’s first press conference, some viewers might have flashed back to the climatic scene in the 1954 movie, The Caine Mutiny.

Based on Herman Wouk’s bestselling novel, it centers on the minesweeper USS Caine. Stationed in the Pacific during World War II, its captain is by-the-book Lt. Commander Philip Francis Queeg (Humphrey Bogart).

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Queeg is determined to bring a sense of discipline to the ship’s lax seamen. But he can’t admit mistakes, and his bullying approach to command alienates both officers and crew.

Soon after, a typhoon overtakes the Caine. Queeg becomes paralyzed with fear. His executive officer, Steve Maryk (Van Johnson), relieves the captain of command to prevent the loss of the ship. Maryk turns the Caine into the wind and rides out the storm.

Maryk is tried by court-martial for mutiny. His case looks hopeless: Queeg has been found sane by three Navy psychiatrists.

Naval Prosecutor Lt. Commander John Challee depicts Maryk as a reckless mutineer. And Queeg portrays himself as the persecuted victim of a malignant conspiracy by his own officers.

Knowing that Queeg reacts badly to stress, Maryk’s attorney, Lt. Barney Greenwald (Jose Ferrer) relentlessly cross-examines him:

GREENWALD:  Did you steam over your tow line?

QUEEG: I’m happy to dispose of this particular slander. When we were towing the target, I saw some anti-aircraft bursts. I turned to avoid them. My unreliable helmsman failed to warn me about that. But I saw it and reversed course. We didn’t steam over the tow line.

GREENWALD:  Did nothing else distract you?

QUEEG: Not that I recall.

GREENWALD: Weren’t you reprimanding a seaman for having his shirt-tail out while the ship turned?

QUEEG: That only took two seconds.

GREENWALD:  Were all your officers disloyal?

QUEEG:  I didn’t say that. Only some were disloyal.

GREENWALD: Mr Keith and Mr Maryk?

QUEEG:  Yes.

GREENWALD: Did you turn your ship upside down searching for a phantom key?

QUEEG:   I don’t know what lies have been sworn to here, but a key definitely did exist.

PROSECUTOR LT. COMMANDER JOHN CHALLEE: The witness is understandably agitated. I request a recess.

QUEEG:  I don’t want a recess. I’ll answer all questions right here and now.

GREENWALD:  Did you conduct such a search?

QUEEG:  Yes, I did.  My disloyal officers failed me, and the key couldn’t be found.

GREENWALD:  Wasn’t this whole fuss over a quart of strawberries?

QUEEG:  The pilfering of food in large amounts or small is a very serious occurrence on board a ship.

GREENWALD:  You were told that the mess boys ate the berries. There was no key.

QUEEG: The key was not imaginary. I don’t know anything about mess boys eating strawberries.

GREENWALD: Have you no recollection of a conversation with Ensign Harding? Didn’t he tell you that the mess boys ate the strawberries?

QUEEG: I remember he was grateful for his transfer. His wife was ill in the States.

GREENWALD:  Do you know where Ensign Harding is now? He’s in San Diego. He can be flown up here in three hours if necessary. Would it serve any useful purpose to have him testify?

QUEEG:  Now, there’s no need for that.

[He reaches into the pocket of his Navy coat and removes two little steel balls, which he rolls together whenever he feels under stress. He starts rolling them together now and continues to do so throughout the rest of the proceeding.]

caine-mutiny-bogart.jpg

Now that I recall, he might have said something about mess boys. I questioned many men, and Harding was not the most reliable officer.

GREENWALD: The defense has no other recourse than to produce Ensign Harding.

QUEEG:  Now, there’s no need for that. I know exactly what he’ll tell you–lies. He was no different from any other officer in the wardroom. They were all disloyal. I tried to run the ship properly, by the book, but they fought me at every turn. If the crew wanted to walk around with their shirt-tails out, let them. Take the tow line–defective equipment.

But they began spreading wild rumors about steaming in circles. And then “Old Yellowstain.” I was to blame for Maryk’s incompetence and poor seamonship. Lt. Maryk was the perfect officer, but not Queeg.

But the strawberries, ah, that’s where I had them. They laughed at me and made jokes. But I proved beyond a shadow of a doubt and with geometric logic that a duplicate key to the wardroom icebox did exist. I could have produced that key if they hadn’t pulled the Caine out of action. I know now they were only trying to protect some fellow officer.

Naturally, I can only cover these things from memory. If I’ve left anything out, just ask me specific questions and I’ll be glad to answer them one by one.

[The courtroom falls silent–except for the tinkling of the steel balls that Queeg keeps rolling in his right hand. The judges stare at him as he does so. They say nothing, but it’s clear they know they’re looking at a man at the end of his sanity–and naval career.]

GREENWALD: No further questions, sir.

Maryk is acquitted.

* * * * *

So much for fiction. Now for the terrifying reality.

TO HYPOCRISY–AND BEYOND

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on February 17, 2017 at 11:00 am

On May 20, 2010, Mexico’s then-President Felipe Calderon addressed a joint session of the United States Congress–and attacked the Arizona law that allows law enforcement officials to detain anyone suspected of being in the country illegally.

Felipe Calderon

According to Calderon, the law “introduces a terrible idea: using racial profiling as a basis for law enforcement.”  

And to make certain his audience got the point, he offered: “I have said that Mexico does not stop at its border, that wherever there is a Mexican, there is Mexico.”

The hypocrisy of Calderon’s words was staggering.

Racial profiling?  Consider the popular Latino phrase, “La Raza.”

This literally means “the race” or “the people.” Its meaning varies among Spanish-speaking peoples. In the United States, it’s sometimes used to describe people of Chicano and Mexican descent as well as other Latin American mestizos who share Native American heritage.

It rarely includes entirely European or African descended Hispanic peoples.

So when Latinos say, “The Race,” they’re not talking about “the human race.” They’re talking strictly about their own. 

Other races need not apply.

In his lecture, Calderon condemned the United States for doing what Mexico itself has long done: Strictly enforcing control of its own borders.

From a purely political viewpoint, it’s makes sense that Calderon didn’t say anything about this.

From a viewpoint of fairness and common sense, his refusal to do so smacks of the vilest hypocrisy.

Mexico has a single, streamlined law that ensures that foreign visitors and immigrants are:

  • in the country legally;
  • have the means to sustain themselves economically;
  • not destined to be burdens on society;
  • of economic and social benefit to society;
  • of good character and have no criminal records; and
  • contribute to the general well-being of the nation.

The law also ensures that:

  • immigration authorities have a record of each foreign visitor;
  • foreign visitors do not violate their visa status;
  • foreign visitors are banned from interfering in the country’s internal politics;
  • foreign visitors who enter under ralse pretenses are imprisoned or deported;
  • foreign visitors violating the terms of their entry are imprisoned are deported;
  • those who aid in illegal immigration will be sent to prison.

Calderon also ignored a second well-understood but equally unacknowledged truth: Mexico uses the American border to rid itself of those who might otherwise demand major reforms in the country’s political and economic institutions.

Anyone who doubts the overwhelming need for such reforms need only read Murder City: Ciudad Juarez and the Global Economy’s New Killing Fields.  

Written by Investigative Reporter Charles Bowden and published in 2010, Murder City offers a terrifying, almost lethally depressing portrait of what happens when a city–and a country–disintegrates.

Among the casualties of Mexico’s drug-trafficking cartels: 

  • Mexican police pay big bribes to be assigned to narcotics enforcement squads. The reason: Not to suppress the rampant drug trafficking but to enrich themselves by seizing and selling those narcotics. 
  • Residents awaken at dawn to find bodies of the drug cartels’ latest victims dumped on streets–their hands, feet and mouths bound with silver and gray duct tape. 
  • Mexican policewomen are often snatched off the streets and raped–by members of the Mexican Army. Honest policemen–and even police chiefs–are routinely gunned down by cartel members.
  • Members of drug cartels live like kings–until violence catches up with them.
  • Their bribes and violence have corrupted all branches of the Mexican government, military and police forces.
  • Ordinary Mexicans live in grinding poverty, thanks to American factories paying starvation wages

Meanwhile, the Mexican Government still remembers the bloody upheaval known as the Mexican Revolution. This lasted ten years (1910-1920) and wiped out an estimated one to two million men, women and children.

Massacres were common on all sides, with men shot by the hundreds in bullrings or hung by the dozen on trees.

A Mexican Revolution firing squad

All of the major leaders of the Revolution–Francisco Madero, Emiliano Zapata, Venustiano Carranza, Francisco “Pancho” Villa, Alvaro Obregon–died in a hail of bullets.

Francisco “Pancho” Villa

Emiliano Zapata

As a result, every successive Mexican Government has lived in the shadow of another such wholesale bloodletting. These officials have thus quietly decided to turn the United States border into a safety valve.

If potential revolutionaries leave Mexico to find a better life in the United States, the Government doesn’t have to fear the rise of another “Pancho” Villa.

If somehow the United States managed to seal its southern border, all those teeming millions of “undocumented workers” who just happened to lack any documents would have to stay in “Mexico lindo.”

They would be forced to live with the rampant corruption and poverty that have forever characterized this failed nation-state. Or they would have to demand substantial reforms.

There is no guarantee that such demands would not lead to a second–and equally bloody–Mexican revolution.

So Felipe Calderon and his successors in power have found it easier–and safer–to turn the United States into a dumping ground for the Mexican citizens that the Mexican Government itself doesn’t want.

AFGHANISTAN: DYING TO CIVILIZE THE UNCIVILIZED

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 16, 2017 at 1:02 am

On February 9, Army General John Nicholson told the Senate Armed Services Committee he had enough U.S. and NATO troops for counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan. 

But he needed more to sufficiently “train, advise and assist” the Afghan forces.

There are now 8,400 U.S. troops in Afghanistan and another 5,000 troops from NATO countries.

To put this latest troop request into human terms:

On December 21, 2015, a suicide-bomber rammed an explosives-laden motorcycle into a joint NATO-Afghan patrol.  Six American troops and an Afghan were killed.

One of the dead was Joseph Lemm, 45, a detective and 15-year veteran of the New York Police Department. A technical sergeant in the New York Air National Guard, he had been deployed three times–once to Iraq and twice to Afghanistan.

IMAGE: NYPD Detective Joseph Lemm

Joseph Lemm

Lemm left behind a daughter, Brook, 16, a son, Ryan, four, and his wife, Christine.

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo ordered that flags on all state government buildings be flown at half-staff on December 23 in Lemm’s honor.

“Staff Sergeant Joe Lemm served this nation with the selflessness and bravery that embodies the U.S. Armed Forces and the NYPD,” Cuomo said in a statement.

Lemm’s death was a double tragedy–that of a dedicated man who should not have died so needlessly.

In short: It’s long past time for the United States to quit its failed mission to civilize Afghanistan.

The history of American conflict in Afghanistan began on September 11, 2001.

On that date, 19 Islamic highjackers slammed two jetliners into the World Trade Center in New York and one into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

A fourth plane, headed for the White House or Capitol Building, failed to reach its target when its passengers rioted–and the highjackers dove it into a Pennsylvania field.

The mastermind of the attacks was Osama bin Laden, a Saudi millionaire then living in Afghanistan, under protection by its ruling thugocracy, the Taliban.

The administration of President George W. Bush demanded his immediate surrender to American justice.

The Taliban refused.

So, on October 7, 2011–less than one month from the 9/11 attacks–American bombers began pounding Taliban positions.

The whole point of the campaign was to pressure the Taliban to surrender Bin Laden.

But the Taliban held firm. Bin Laden holed up in the mountains of Tora Bora, and then ultimately escaped into Pakistan.

After December, 2001, American Intelligence completely lost track of Bin Laden.  CIA officials repeatedly said he was likely living in the “no-man’s-land” between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Thus, there was no longer any point in pressuring the Taliban to surrender Bin Laden.

Osama bin Laden

Still, the United States continued to commit forces to Afghanistan–to turn a primitive, warlord-ruled country into a modern-day democracy.

There was, admittedly, a great deal to detest about the Taliban:

  • When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, they turned soccer stadiums into execution plazas for mass beheadings or shootings.
  • Taliban “fighters” have proven their “courage” by throwing acid into the faces of women who dared to attend school.

Taliban religious police beating a woman

  • On August 8, 1989, the Taliban attacked Mazar-i-Sharif. Talibanists began shooting people in the street, then moved on to mass rapes of women. Thousands of people were locked in containers and left to suffocate.
  • The Taliban forbade women to leave their homes unless accompanied by a male relative and wearing the burqa–a traditional dress covering the entire body. Those who disobeyed were publicly beaten.

Yet, as horrific as such atrocities were, these did not obligate the United States to spend eternity trying to bring civilization to this barbaric country.

And, in pursuing that goal, both the Bush and Obama administrations have repeatedly overlooked the following realities:

  • Hamid Karzai, the “president” of Afghanistan (2001-2014) didn’t believe in democracy–despite American claims to support his efforts to bring this to Afghanistan.
  • His authority didn’t extend beyond Kabul, and he was viewed by most Afghans as an illegitimate ruler, imposed by America.
  • The same can be said for his successor, Mohammad Ashraf Ghani.
  • American soldiers in Afghanistan feel surrounded by enemies and hamstrung by unrealistic orders to win “hearts and minds” at the risk of their own lives.
  • The Taliban poses no threat to the security of the United States.
  • Afghan “insurgents” are fighting American forces because (1) they are in a civil war; and (2) they believe their country has once again been occupied by foreigners.
  • Counterinsurgency is being preached as the key to defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan–where it hasn’t worked.
  • Americans entered Afghanistan without an exit strategy.

All these truths applied just as firmly to America’s failed misadventure in Vietnam.

Almost 50 years ago, American “grunts” felt about their so-called South Vietnamese allies as American troops now feel about their Afghan “allies.”

Dr. Dennis Greenbaum, a former army medic, summed up how Americans had really felt about their supposed South Vietnamese allies.

American surgical team in Vietnam

“The highest [priority for medical treatment] was any U.S. person. The second highest was a U.S. dog from the canine corps.  The third was NVA [North Vietnamese Army].  The fourth was VC [Viet Cong].

“And the fifth was ARVIN [Army of the Republic of South Vietnam], because they had no particular value,” said Greenbaum.

When you despise the “ally” you’re spending lives and treasure to defend, it’s time to pack up.

ASK WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR YOUR PRESIDENT: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on February 15, 2017 at 1:50 pm

President Donald Trump was furious.

Nordstrom department store had just dared to drop the clothing and accessories lines of his daughter, Ivanka.

So, true to form, on February 8 he took to Twitter to vent his displeasure: “My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by @Nordstrom. She is a great person — always pushing me to do the right thing! Terrible!”

Donald Trump official portrait.jpg

Donald Trump

He used his personal Twitter account–@realDonaldTrump–to send this message. In fact, he sent it 21 minutes into his daily Intelligence briefing.

Still not satisfied, he retweeted his attack on Nordstrom on his official POTUS (President of the United States) Twitter account.  

In short, he used a taxpayer-funded account to benefit his daughter.

Not content to attack Nordstrom by himself, Trump enlisted other members of his administration as assailants.

One of these was his press secretary, Sean Spicer:

“There’s a targeting of her brand and it’s her name. She’s not directly running the company. It’s still her name on it. There are clearly efforts to undermine that name based on her father’s positions on particular policies that he’s taken. This is a direct attack on his policies and her name. Her because she is being maligned because they have a problem with his policies.”

Sean Spicer.jpg

Sean Spicer

Nordstrom retorted that its decision to drop the Ivanka Trump line was “based on performance.”

“Over the past year, and particularly in the last half of 2016, sales of the brand have steadily declined to the point where it didn’t make good business sense for us to continue with the line for now.

“We’ve had a great relationship with the Ivanka Trump team. We’ve had open conversations with them over the past year to share what we’ve seen and Ivanka was personally informed of our decision in early January.”

But for the Trumpinistas, that wasn’t the end of it.

On Februrary 9, Kelleyanne Conway, a senior adviser to Trump, became a TV shill for Ivanka.

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Kelleyanne Conway

Appearing on the Right-wing Fox News Channel program, “Fox and Friends,” Kelleyanne spoke from no less prestigious a forum than the White House itself:

“Go buy Ivanka’s stuff. I hate shopping and I’m going to go get some myself today. It’s a wonderful line. I own some of it. I’m going to give a free commercial here. Go buy it today, everybody. You can find it online.”

For Democrats and even some Republicans, Conway’s behavior was simply unacceptable.

Maryland Democratic Congressman Elijah E. Cummings, a member of the the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, sent a letter to Utah Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz, who chairs the committee.

In it, he requested a referral to the Office of Government Ethics for possible disciplinary action against Conway. 

The office does not have investigative or enforcement authority, but officials there can contact and provide guidance to other enforcement agencies.

Chaffetz told the Associated Press that Conway’s behavior was “wrong, wrong, wrong, clearly over the line, unacceptable.”

Larry Noble, the general counsel of the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan organization of election law experts, said Trump’s tweet was “totally out of line.”

“He should not be promoting his daughter’s line, he should not be attacking a company that has business dealings with his daughter, and it just shows the massive amount of problems we have with his business holdings and his family’s business holdings,” Noble said.

Kathleen Clark, a government ethics expert, said the Nordstrom tweet could make other retailers hesitate to drop the Ivanka Trump brand. They may fear being similarly attacked by the President.

“The implicit threat was that he will use whatever authority he has to retaliate against Nordstrom, or anyone who crosses his interest,” said Clark, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis.

* * * * *

In 1969, 25-year-old Joe McGinnis became famous overnight with the publication of his first book, The Selling of the President. 

At the time, Americans were shocked to learn how Presidential candidate Richard Nixon had been sold to voters like any other product. In fact, the original book jacket featured Nixon’s face on a pack of cigarettes. 

Today, Madison Avenue doesn’t simply sell Americans their Presidents. Now–with Donald J. Trump–Americans have a President determined to turn the White House into Trump, Inc. 

A single example will serve to illustrate: 

On January 27, Trump signed an executive order that:

  • Suspends entry of all refugees to the United States for 120 days;
  • Bars Syrian refugees indefinitely; and
  • Blocks entry into the United States for 90 days for citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Three countries not covered by Trump’s travel ban are Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Turkey.

Approximately 3,000 Americans have been killed by immigrants from these countries–most of them during the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Turkey are all countries where President Trump has close business ties. His properties include two luxury towers in Turkey and golf courses in the United Arab Emirates.

The full dimensions of Trump’s holdings throughout the Middle East aren’t known because he has refused to release his tax returns.

ASK WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR YOUR PRESIDENT: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on February 13, 2017 at 2:33 am

Fifty-six years after John F. Kennedy gave his first and only Inaugural Address, these words remain its single most-quoted sentence: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

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John F. Kennedy Inaugural

So millions of Americans who were alive that day–January 20, 1961–were probably shocked when they learned that Melania Trump had a very different view of government service.

On August 20, 2016, The Daily Mail, a British tabloid, published a story accusing her of having once worked as a prostitute.

The newspaper cited a Slovenian magazine’s report that a modeling agency that she worked with in New York in the 1990s also served as an escort business, linking wealthy clients with women for sexual services.

On September 1, Melania sued The Daily Mail in a state court in Montgomery County, Maryland. In early 2017, the Maryland court dismissed the case, saying it did not have jurisdiction.

On February 6, 2017, Melania filed another libel suit against The Daily Mail in the Manhattan Supreme Court.

Required to prove that she had been harmed in some way, Melania did not cite undeserved shame or how much her family and friends had been hurt.

Instead, she argued that the article had ruined her “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to cash in on the Presidency.

Melania Trump

Melania Trump

According to the complaint that her attorney filed:

”Plaintiff had the unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, as an extremely famous and well-known person…to launch a broad-based commercial brand in multiple product categories, each of which could have garnered multi-million dollar business relationships for a multi-year term during which plaintiff is one of the most photographed women in the world,” the Manhattan suit says.

“These product categories would have included, among other things, apparel, accessories, shoes, jewelry, cosmetics, hair care, skin care and fragrance.

“The [statements] also constitute defamation per se because they impugned on her fitness to perform her duties as First Lady of the United States,” the suit alleges.

Melania is alleging $150 million in damages.

Enter the Emoluments Clause.

This is a United States government law that specifically forbids any leader from using government services to “enrich” the President and his family.

Among the greatest dangers facing the newly-created American government, feared the Founding Fathers, was foreign interference. And this could be obtained through the use of bribes–money or gifts.

The Founding Fathers of the United States

To prevent this, the Founders inserted the Emoluments Clause into Article I, Section 9 of the United States Constitution:

“No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States: and no person holding any office of profit or trust under them, shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.”

This illustrates one of the dangers of bringing a libel or slander suit.

(NOTE: Libel is a written defamation; slander is a spoken one)

Whoever brings the suit must open himself to unprecedented privacy-invading questions. And, in answering them, he may unintentionally give away revelations that can prove highly damaging.

Such as the revelation–in Melania Trump’s case–that, from the outset, she intended to use her position as First Lady to enrich herself.

Another Trump seeking to find out “what the country can do for you” is the President’s daughter, Ivanka.

Starting in 2016, Shannon Coulter, a brand and digital strategist, started the Grab Your Wallet boycott aimed at more than 30 retailers who carry Ivanka’s line of fashion apparel.

Image result for Images of Grab Your Wallet campaign

Among the retailers targeted:

  • Amazon.com
  • Belk
  • Bloomingdale’s
  • Bed, Bath and Beyond
  • Burlington Coat Factory
  • Century 21
  • DSW
  • Macy’s
  • Marshalls
  • TJ Maxx
  • Neiman Marcus
  • Nordstrom
  • Overstock.com
  • Ross
  • Saks Off Fifth
  • Sears
  • Walmart
  • Zappos

During the first week of February, Nordstrom told The Seattle Times that it would no longer carry Ivanka Trump’s line of clothing and accessories.

Nordstrom said the decision to drop Ivanka Trump’s line was based on poor sales performance.

“We’ve got thousands of brands,” said a Nordstrom spokesman. “Each year we cut about 10 percent and refresh our assortment with about the same amount. In this case, based on the brand’s performance we’ve decided not to buy it for this season.”

President Trump had often boasted that he would defend the free enterprise system against an intrusive Federal government.

But for a major department store to drop his daughter’s clothing line was too much.

Turning to Twitter, his favorite weapon of insult, the President tweeted: “My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by @Nordstrom. She is a great person — always pushing me to do the right thing! Terrible!”

Trump drafted other members of his administration to attack Nordstrom.

One of these was White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.

Spicer said that the store’s decision to stop carrying Ivanka Trump’s clothing and accessories line was nothing less than an attack on the president’s policies and his daughter.

“”I think this is less about his family’s business and an attack on his daughter. He ran for President, he won, he’s leading this country.

“I think for people to take out their concern about his actions or his executive orders on members of his family, he has every right to stand up for his family and applaud their business activities, their success.”

But even more was to come.

TAKE CARE OF YOUR OWN–AND STAY ALIVE: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 13, 2017 at 12:13 am

“When trouble comes up anywhere in the world,” said President Barack Obama, “they don’t call Beijing.  They don’t call Moscow. They call us.”

And, according to former CIA agent Michael Scheuer, that’s the problem: America can’t learn to mind its own business.

Scheuer is a 20-year CIA veteran–as well as an author, historian, foreign policy critic and political analyst.

Michael Scheuer

From 1996 to 1999 he headed Alec Station, the CIA’s unit assigned to track Osama bin Laden at the agency’s Counterterrorism Center.

He is currently an adjunct professor at Georgetown University’s Center for Peace and Security Studies.

He’s also the author of two seminal works on America’s fight against terrorism: Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror (2003) and Marching Toward Hell: America and Islam after Iraq (2008).

Scheuer says that Islamics don’t hate Americans because of “our way of life”–with its–freedoms of speech and worship and its highly secular, commercialized culture.

Instead, Islamic hatred toward the United States stems from America’s six longstanding policies in the Middle East:

  • U.S. support for apostate, corrupt, and tyrannical Muslim governments
  • U.S. and other Western troops on the Arabian Peninsula
  • U.S. support for Israel that keeps Palestinians in the Israelis’ thrall
  • U.S. pressure on Arab energy producers to keep oil prices low
  • U.S. occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan
  • U.S. support for Russia, India, and China against their Muslim militants

Scheuer contends that no amount of American propaganda will win “the hearts and minds” of Islamics who can “see, hear, experience, and hate” these policies firsthand.

But there is another danger facing America, says Scheuer, one that threatens “the core of our social and civil institutions.”

And in Marching Toward Hell he bluntly indicts that threat: The “profound and willful ignorance” of America’s “bipartisan governing elite.”

Scheuer defines this elite as “the inbred set of individuals who have influenced…drafted and conducted U.S. foreign policy” since 1973.

Within that group are:

  • politicians
  • journalists
  • academics
  • preachers
  • civil servants
  • military officers
  • philanthropists.

“Some are Republicans, others Democrats; some are evangelicals, others atheists; some are militarists, others pacifists; some are purveyors of Western civilization, others are multiculturalists,” writes Scheuer.

But for all their political and/or philosophical differences, the members of this governing elite share one belief in common.

According to Scheuer, that belief is “an unquenchable ardor to have the United States intervene in all places, situations and times.”

And he warns that this “bipartisan governing elite” must radically change its policies–such as unconditional support for Israel and corrupt, tyrannical Muslim governments.

Otherwise, Americans will be locked in an endless “hot war” with the Islamic world.

During his September 28, 2014 appearance on 60 Minutes,  President Obama admitted that the mostly Sunni-Muslim Iraqi army had refused to combat the Sunni army of ISIS.

Then followed this exchange: 

Steve Kroft: What happens if the Iraqis don’t fight or can’t fight? 

President Obama: Well….

Steve Kroft: What’s the end game?  

President Obama:  I’m not going to speculate on failure at the moment. We’re just getting started. Let’s see how they do.

It was precisely such a mindset that led the United States, step by step, into the Vietnam quagmire.

As in the case of Vietnam, the United States lacks:

  • Real or worthwhile allies in Iraq or Syria;
  • A working knowledge of the peoples it wants to influence in either country;
  • Clearly-defined goals that it seeks to accomplish in that region.

America rushed to disaster in Vietnam because its foreign policy elite felt it had to “do something” to fight Communism anywhere in the world.

And it is continuing to rush toward disaster in the Middle East because its foreign policy elite once again feels is must “do something.”

During his interview with the “Today” show, Carl Mueller–the father of Kayla, who went to Syria to help Syrians caught up in their own civil war–said:

“How many mistakes have we all made in life that were naïve and didn’t get caught at? Kayla was just in a place that was more dangerous than most. And she couldn’t help herself. She had to go in there and had to help.”

But did she?

There were thousands of communities within the United States desperate for the help of a caring social activist. And thousands of organizations–such as Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), Habitat for Humanity and Catholic Relief Services–that would have been thrilled to enlist her services.

And she could have made lives better without constantly facing the dangers of kidnapping by Islamics determined to humiliate and slaughter Americans.

Michael Sheuer is right: The United States should learn to mind its own business and quit intervening in the affairs of Middle Eastern governments and peoples.

Kayla Mueller is proof of the rightness of that assertion.

TAKE CARE OF YOUR OWN–AND STAY ALIVE: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 10, 2017 at 12:13 am

The father of Kayla Jean Mueller has a bone to pick with the United States Government.

“We understand the policy about not paying ransom but on the other hand…we tried and we asked.  But they put policy in front of American citizens’ lives,” Carl Mueller told NBC’s “Today” show.

Mueller was referring to the kidnapping and death of his daughter, Kayla, who began assisting Syrian refugees in Southern Turkey in December, 2012.

The United States has a policy of not paying ransom to terrorist groups in return for hostages.

Kayla Mueller

Although Turkey lies right on the border of Syria–where a brutal civil war has raged since March 15, 2011–Mueller insisted on putting herself at even greater risk.

In December, 2012, Mueller attended a two-day international conference in Aleppo, 70 miles inside Syria.  She survived that trip without incident, and returned to Turkey.

But as the fighting intensified and casualties mounted, she wanted to return to Syria to collect stories for her blog.  She begged her Syrian boyfriend to take her along during his trips there.

Her boyfriend relented in August, 2013, and she accompanied him on another trip to Aleppo during a 10-day break from her work. But as they were leaving, this time Mueller didn’t prove so lucky.

On August 4, 2013, as they drove to the bus station in Aleppo, gunmen ambushed them. Mueller’s boyfriend was beaten and released.

He was Syrian, so his life didn’t count for propaganda material.  But Mueller was an American–and her captors were members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

According to Catherine Herridge, an American reporter, the White House learned the location of Mueller in May, 2014. But no decision was made on a rescue mission for seven weeks.

By that time, the hostages had been dispersed. On February 6, 2015, ISIS released a statement claiming that a female American hostage–Kayla Mueller–they had been holding was killed by one of a dozen Jordanian airstrikes in Raqqa, Syria.

These airstrikes had been triggered by ISIS’ release of a February 3 video showing the barbaric “execution” of a captured Jordanian fighter pilot, Lt. Muath al-Kasaesbeh.

Al-Kasaesbeh, locked in a steel cage like an animal, could only watch stoically as an ISIS member ignited a trail of flammable liquid leading directly to him.  The pilot stood upright throghout the ordeal until the flames at last consumed him.

Image result for Images of burning to death of Jordanian pilot

ISIS burning of captured Jordanian fighter pilot Muath al-Kasaesbeh 

So the Jordanians bombed a series of ISIS targets in Syria.  And Kayla Mueller, who had thrust herself into a Syrian civil war, was apparently killed in one of those raids.

Which led to the interview with Kayla’s distraught parents.

“Any parents out there would understand that you want anything and everything done to bring your child home,” said Carl Mueller.  His wife, Marsha, sitting next to him, naturally agreed.

Referring to the United States’ policy of refusing to pay ransom for hostages, Mueller said:

“And we tried. And we asked. But they put–they put policy in front of American citizens’ lives. And it didn’t get changed. So, that’s something they’re going to work on. I’m sure that’s in the works.”

Asked if his daughter hadn’t put herself in peril by jumping into the middle of a Syrian civil war, Mueller replied:

“Well, yeah, it was overenthusiastic youth and, of course, being naive.  But who wasn’t, you know?  How many mistakes have we all made in life that were naive and didn’t get caught at?

“Kayla was just in a place that was more dangerous than most.  And she couldnt’ help herself.  She had to go there and had to help.”

But did she have to go there?  There weren’t Americans she could have aided–at far less risk to herself?

On the September 28, 2014 edition of 60 Minutes, President Barack Obama spoke about his recent decision to commit American troops to fighting ISIS.

Steve Kroft: I think everybody applauds the efforts that you’ve made and the size of the coalition that has been assembled.

But most of them are contributing money or training or policing the borders, not getting particularly close to the contact. It looks like once again we are leading the operation. We are carrying…  

President Obama: Steve, that’s always the case. That’s always the case. America leads. We are the indispensable nation. We have the capacity no one else has. Our military is the best in the history of the world

And when trouble comes up anywhere in the world, they don’t call Beijing. They don’t call Moscow. They call us. That’s the deal.

President Obama

Steve Kroft: I mean, it looks like we are doing 90 percent. 

President Obama: Steve, there is not an issue…when there’s a typhoon in the Philippines, take a look at who’s helping the Philippines deal with that situation. When there’s an earthquake in Haiti, take a look at who’s leading the charge making sure Haiti can rebuild. That’s how we roll. And that’s what makes this America.

President Obama is right: “When trouble comes up anywhere in the world, they don’t call Beijing.  They don’t call Moscow.  They call us.”

And, according to former CIA agent Michael Scheuer, that’s the problem: America can’t learn to mind its own business.

IS IT TRUMP–OR TRUMPUTIN?

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 9, 2017 at 1:44 am

On December 14, 2016, NBC News reported that “U.S. intelligence officials now believe with ‘a high level of confidence’ that Russian President Vladimir Putin became personally involved in the covert Russian campaign to interfere in the U.S. presidential election.”

According to senior Intelligence officials, Putin had several motives:

  • Waging a vendetta against Hillary Clinton, whom he has long disliked;
  • Publicly disgrace the United States by revealing corruption at the heart of its politics; and
  • “Split off key American allies by creating the image that [other countries] couldn’t depend on the U.S. to be a credible global leader anymore.” 

The CIA believed that Putin wanted to elect Donald Trump. The FBI wasn’t so certain, feeling that Putin might have simply wanted to do as much harm as possible.

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Even so, an air of unreality clung to all of this.

On June 2, 2016, before an audience in San Diego, California, Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton had noted Trump’s strange attraction to dictators:

“And I have to say, I don’t understand Donald [Trump’s] bizarre fascination with dictators and strongmen who have no love for America.

“He praised China for the Tiananmen Square massacre; he said it showed strength.

“He said, ‘You’ve got to give Kim Jong Un credit’ for taking over North Korea–something he did by murdering everyone he saw as a threat, including his own uncle, which Donald described gleefully, like he was recapping an action movie.

“And he said if he were grading Vladimir Putin as a leader, he’d give him an A. Now, I’ll leave it to the psychiatrists to explain his affection for tyrants,” said Clinton.

The Big V! Vladimir Putin. President or Dictator? Hero or villain? Charming and intelligent?

Vladimir Putin

On December 18, 2015, Trump appeared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” Its host, Joe Scarborough, was upset by Trump’s praise for Putin:

SCARBOROUGH: Well, I mean, [he’s] also a person who kills journalists, political opponents, and invades countries. obviously that would be a concern, would it not?

TRUMP: He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader. Unlike what we have in this country.

SCARBOROUGH: But again: He kills journalists that don’t agree with him.

TRUMP: I think our country does plenty of killing, also, Joe, so, you know. There’s a lot of stupidity going on in the world right now, Joe. A lot of killing going on. A lot of stupidity. And that’s the way it is.

SCARBOROUGH: I’m confused. So I mean, you obviously condemn Vladimir Putin killing journalists and political opponents, right?

TRUMP:  Oh sure, absolutely.  

And Trump went far beyond handing out compliments. 

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

And Trump’s reaction? 

At a press conference in Doral, Florida he declared: “Russia, if you are listening, I hope you are able to find the 33,000 emails that are missing–I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”  

This was nothing less than treason–calling upon a foreign power, hostile to the United States, to interfere in its Presidential election.

As President, Trump has defended the leader of the Communist world against hostile journalists and American Intelligence agencies.  

Donald Trump official portrait.jpg

Donald Trump

On February 5, he gave an interview to Fox News host Bill O’Reilly. As startled viewers watched, there occurred this exchange: 

O’REILLY: Do you respect Putin? 

TRUMP: I do respect him but— 

O’REILLY: Do you? Why? 

TRUMP: Well, I respect a lot of people but that doesn’t mean I’m going to get along with him. He’s a leader of his country. I say it’s better to get along with Russia than not. And if Russia helps us in the fight against ISIS, which is a major fight, and Islamic terrorism all over the world —that’s a good thing. Will I get along with him? I have no idea. 

O’REILLY: But he’s a killer though. Putin’s a killer. 

TRUMP: There are a lot of killers. We’ve got a lot of killers. What do you think—our country’s so innocent? You think our country’s so innocent? 

O’REILLY: I don’t know of any government leaders that are killers. 

TRUMP: Well—take a look at what we’ve done, too. We made a lot of mistakes. I’ve been against the war in Iraq from the beginning. 

O’REILLY:  But mistakes are different than— 

TRUMP: A lot of mistakes, but a lot of people were killed. A lot of killers around, believe me.

Trump launched his Presidential campaign on June 16, 2015. According to The New York Times, by late October, 2016, he had aimed nearly 4,000 insulting tweets at 281 targets. 

Among those insulted:

  • Women
  • Blacks
  • Hispanics
  • The media
  • Muslims
  • The disabled
  • Asians
  • The Pope
  • Prisoners-of-war. 

Considering his hair-trigger temper and willingness to insult virtually anyone, Trump’s careful, even fawning attitude toward Vladimir Putin stands out.

No wonder House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said, following Trump’s February 5 remarks on Putin:

“I want to know what the Russians have on Donald Trump. I think we have to have an investigation by the FBI into his financial, personal and political connections to Russia, and we want to see his tax returns, so we can have truth in the relationship between Putin, whom he admires, and Donald Trump.”

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