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REPUBLICANS: “IF WE CAN CARRY GUNS, WE’LL ALL BE SAFE”

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on June 16, 2017 at 12:04 am

On June 14, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) was among five people shot during a Republican baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia.

Scalise, the U.S. House majority whip, was shot in the hip. Other victims included a member of Scalise’s security detail, U.S. Capitol Police officer Crystal Griner; Zack Barth, an aide to Rep. Roger Williams, R-TX; and lobbyist Matt Mika.

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Steve Scalise

The suspected gunman, James Hodgkinson, was shot dead by Capitol police.

And now, some GOP lawmakers think they have the answer to foiling any future such attacks: They want to carry guns themselves.

“The ability to protect ourselves individually, rather than having to rely on someone else is something that I cherish,” Rep. Jack Bergman (R-Michigan) told CNN. “I would like the opportunity to be able to protect myself as a congressman.”

Rep. Chris Collins (R-New York) told CNN: “I’ve had a carry permit for 30 years, and I would say off and on in different instances where I have, you know, felt it was appropriate, I would carry the weapon on myself.

“Certainly in the short run I’m going to go a step beyond just having it in the glove box in my car and I will be carrying.”

On the evening of June 14, Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie wrote on Facebook: “What’s always evident in these situations is: The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

That, of course, is the standard mantra of the National Rifle Association (NRA). 

But it it true? 

On July 7, 2016, five Dallas police officers were shot and killed by a disgruntled ex-Army Reserve Afghan War veteran named Michah Xavier Johnson. Another seven officers and two civilians were wounded before the carnage ended. 

The shootings erupted during a Black Lives Matter protest march in downtown Dallas.

Texas has long been an “open carry” state for those who want to brandish rifles without fear of arrest. And about 20 people wearing “ammo gear and protective equipment [had] rifles slung over their shoulder,” said Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings. 

“When the shooting started, at different angles, [the armed protesters] started running,” Rawlings said, adding that open carry only brings confusion to a shooting scene.  What I would do [if I were a police officer] is look for the people with guns,” he said. 

“There were a number of armed demonstrators taking part,” said Max Geron, a Dallas police major.  “There was confusion about the description of the suspects and whether or not one or more was in custody.”

A 2012 Mother Jones article on “More Guns, More Mass Shootings–Coincidence?” offered a striking finding. After analyzing 62 mass shootings over a 30-year period, the magazine determined: “In not a single case was the killing stopped by a civilian using a gun.” 

So much for the ability of gun-toting, untrained amateurs to “stop a bad guy with a gun.” 

But even highly-trained shooters–such as those assigned to the United States Secret Service–don’t always respond as expected. 

On May 15, 1972, Alabama Governor George C. Wallace was campaigning for President in Laurel, Maryland.  He gave a speech behind a bulletproof podium at the Laurel Shopping Center. Then he moved from it to mingle with the crowd. 

Since the 1968 assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy, all those campaigning for President have been assigned Secret Service bodyguards.  And Wallace was surrounded by them as he shook hands with his eager supporters. 

Suddenly, Arthur Bremer, a fame-seeking failure in life and romance, pushed his way forward, aimed a .38 revolver at Wallace’s abdomen and opened fire. Before the Secret Service could subdue him, he hit Wallace four times, leaving him paralyzed for the rest of his life.

 Arthur Bremer shoots George Wallace

Nor was he Bremer’s only victim. Three other people present were wounded unintentionally:

  • Alabama State Trooper Captain E C Dothard, Wallace’s personal bodyguard, who was shot in the stomach;
  • Dora Thompson, a campaign volunteer, who was shot in the leg; and
  • Nick Zarvos, a Secret Service agent, who was shot in the neck, severely impairing his speech.

None of Wallace’s bodyguards got off a shot at Bremer–before or after he pulled the trigger.

On October 6, 1981, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat was reviewing a military parade in Cairo when a truck apparently broke down directly across from where he was seated.

Anwar Sadat, moments before his assassination

Suddenly, soldiers bolted from the rear of the vehicle, throwing hand grenades and firing assault rifles. They rushed straight at Sadat–who died instantly under a hail of bullets.

Meanwhile, Sadat’s bodyguards–who had been trained by the CIA–panicked and fled.

Sadat had been assassinated by army officers who believed he had betrayed Islam by making peace with Israel in 1977.

The ultimate test of the NRA’s mantra that “there should not be any gun-free zones…anywhere” will come only when one or more heavily-armed gunmen target an NRA convention.

It will then be interesting to see if the surviving NRA members are as quick to blame themselves for being victims as they are to blame the victims of other mass slaughters.

WHAT AMERICA KNEW ABOUT TRUMP–BEFORE ELECTING HIM: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 5, 2017 at 12:01 am

Long before Donald Trump was accused of being sexually compromised by the Russians, Americans knew enough about him to decide: “You are unfit for the Oval Office.”

Almost immediately after entering the Presidential race on June 16, 2015, he began attacking one group of Americans after another:

  • Mexicans: “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” He’s also promised to “build a great, great wall on our southern border and I will have Mexico pay for that wall.”
  • Blacks: Trump retweeted an image of a masked, dark-skinned man with a handgun and a series of alleged crime statistics, including: “Blacks killed by whites – 2%”; “Whites killed by blacks – 81%.” The image cites the “Crime Statistics Bureau – San Francisco”–an agency that doesn’t exist.
  • POWs: Speaking of Arizona U.S. Senator and Vietnam veteran John McCain: He’s not a war hero because he was captured.  I like people who weren’t captured.” 

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Donald Trump

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

  • One of those persons was Tarla Makaeff, who spent more than $60,000 on Trump University classes.  In 2010, she 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.

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

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

Two of Trump’s most vicious threats were aimed at Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

  • The first occurred on October 9, 2016, during their second Presidential debate: “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.”
  • The second occurred on October 10, three days after 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”).
  • 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.”

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Hillary Clinton

Trump’s rampant egomania is literally stamped on his properties. Of the 515 entities he owns, 268 of them–52%–bear his last name. He often refers to his properties as “the swankiest,” “the most beautiful.”

Among the references he’s made to himself:

  • “My fingers are long and beautiful, as, it has been well documented, are various other parts of my body.”
  • “I think the only difference between me and the other candidates is that I’m more honest and my women are more beautiful.”
  • “My Twitter has become so powerful that I can actually make my enemies tell the truth.”
  • “My IQ is one of the highest–and you all know it.”

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Trump publicly admitted that his egomania would play a major role in his approach to consulting advisers:

  • Asked on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” who he consults about foreign policy, he replied: “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things.”

Trump has never been charged with incest, but he’s repeatedly made disturbing, sexually inappropriate comments about his daughter, Ivanka: 

  • When asked how he would react if Ivanka, a former teen model, poised for Playboy, Trump replied: “I don’t think Ivanka would do that, although she does have a very nice figure.  I’ve said if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.”

On October 7, The Washington Post leaked a video of Donald Trump making sexually predatory comments about women (“You can grab them by the pussy”).

  • Within a week, no fewer than 12 had come forward to accuse him of sexually inappropriate behavior.
  • Although he threatened to sue the New York Times if it reported the women’s claims, he has so far refused to do so.

* * * * *

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

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

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

The next four years will unveil how many of their wishes are fulfilled.

WHAT AMERICA KNEW ABOUT TRUMP–BEFORE ELECTING HIM: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on June 2, 2017 at 12:39 am

“What did the President know and when did he know it?”

It was the famous question asked by Tennessee U.S. Senator Howard Baker during the 1973 Watergate hearings.

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Howard Baker

The question cut to the core of President Richard Nixon’s litany of crimes.  And the fact that it was posed by a Republican gave it added power.

More than a year later, Americans learned its answers:

  • Nixon had learned that his own White House “Plumbers” had carried out a burglary of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate Hotel; and
  • Only days afterward, he ordered a cover-up.

With those revelations, his Presidency was finished.

America has endured four months of the Donald J. Trump Presidency. And his poll ratings have steadily fallen since he took office. As of May 22-28, it stands at 41%.

And, once again, Howard Baker’s slightly altered question resonates with force: “What did the American people know, and when did they know it?”

And the subject of that question is not Richard Nixon but Donald Trump.

Since taking office, Trump has been besieged by reports that members of his 2016 campaign staff collaborated with Russian Intelligence agents to secure his election.

One of these was retired general Mike Flynn–Trump’s choice for National Security Adviser. He was forced to resign after only 23 days in office when news broke of his collusion.

And numerous members of his Cabinet–such as Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and even Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner–have close ties to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin or those who act in his name.

Trump has attacked these charges as “fake news”–while supplying no evidence to refute them.

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

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

Donald Trump

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

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Vladimir Putin

  • He surrounded himself with men who have close ties to Putin. One of these was Paul Manafort, his former campaign manager. His longstanding ties to pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine lead directly to Putin.  
  • Another was Roger Stone, self-confessed political dirty trickster and former business partner of Paul Manafort. Stone had extensive contacts with hacker Guccifer 2.0, whom the CIA, NSA and FBI believe was actually a front for GRU, Russian military intelligence.  
  • Yet another Trump advisor, Roger Ailes, was a known sexual predator.  Hired to prepare Trump for the fall debates with Clinton, he was fired in July as CEO of Fox News on multiple charges of sexual harassment.
  • During the 2016 campaign, Trump received the enthusiastic support of the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party. 

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Ku Klux Klan emblem

  • Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi personally solicited a political contribution from Donald Trump around the same time her office deliberated joining an investigation of alleged fraud at Trump University and its affiliates.
  • After Bondi dropped the Trump University case against Trump, he wrote her a $25,000 check for her re-election campaign. The money came from the Donald J. Trump Foundation.
  • On November 18, Trump–rather than face trial–settled the case out of court for $25 million. “Today’s $25 million settlement agreement is a stunning reversal by Donald Trump,” said New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, “and a major victory for the over 6,000 victims of his fraudulent university.
  • Throughout the 2016 Presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly used threats of violence to intimidate his Republican and Democratic opponents
  • On March 16, he warned Republicans that if he didn’t win the GOP nomination in July, his supporters would literally riot: “I think you’d have riots. I think you would see problems like you’ve never seen before. I think bad things would happen. I really do. I wouldn’t lead it, but I think bad things would happen.
  • On August 9,  Trump issued a veiled solicitation for the assassination of Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton: “Hillary wants to abolish, essentially abolish, the Second Amendment. If she gets to pick her [Supreme Court] judges, nothing you can do folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.” 
  • After slandering President Barack Obama for five years as “the President from Kenya,” he blatantly lied: “Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy. I finished it.”

THE NEXT 9/11: TSA WILL MAKE IT HAPPEN: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on June 1, 2017 at 1:05 am

All security systems–including those considered the best–are manned by humans. And humans are and will always be imperfect creatures.

So there will inevitably be times when security agents miss the assassin or terrorist intent on mayhem.  For example:

  • In September, 1975, two women–Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme and Sara Jane Moore–tried to assassinate President Gerald R. Ford on two separate occasions.
  • Fromme was tackled by a Secret Service agent. Moore’s aim was deflected by Oliver Sipple, a Marine and Vietnam veteran, thus saving Ford’s life.

Gerald Ford being hustled from danger by Secret Service agents

Until these incidents, the Secret Service profile of a potential assassin didn’t include a woman.

  • On March 30, 1981, John W. Hinckley, a psychotic obsessed with actress Jodie Foster, gained access to a line of reporters waiting to throw questions at President Ronald Reagan.
  • As Reagan got into his bulletproof Presidential limousine, Hinckley drew a pistol and opened fire. Wounded, Reagan escaped death by inches.

The Reagan Assassination attempt

The Secret Service Service had failed to prevent the attack because no one–until that moment–had attacked a President from the section reserved for reporters.

  • On September 11, 2001, Islamic terrorists armed with boxcutters highjacked four American jetliners and turned them into fuel-bombs.
  • Two of the airliners struck the North and South towers of the World Trade Center, destroying both structures.
  • A third hit the Pentagon.
  • The fourth–United Airlines Flight 93–crashed when it was diverted from its intended target (the White House or Congress) by passengers who resolved to fight back.
  • Three thousand Americans died that day–in New York City, Washington, D., and Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Until this day of catastrophe, no highjacker had turned a jumbo-jet into a fuel-bomb. Passengers had been advised to cooperate with highjackers, not resist them.

So how will the next 9/11 happen?  In all likelihood, like this:

  • A terrorist–or, more likely, several terrorists–will sign up for one or more airline “VIP screening” programs.
  • They will be completely clean–no arrests, no convictions.  
  • They may well be respectable citizens in their communities.
  • They will probably have amassed enough “frequent flier miles” to ingratiate themselves with the airlines and convince the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) of their integrity.
  • Then, one day, they will breeze through their selected airports–
  • Without removing their belts and shoes;
  • Without undergoing pat-down searches;
  • Without being required to remove laptops and other electronic devices from their carry-ons;
  • Without exposing their electronic devices to X-ray technology.
  • Then they will board planes–either as part of an individual terrorist effort or a coordinated one, a la 9/11.

And then it will be too late.

Memorial to the passengers and crew of United Flight 93

The TSA/airlines’ VIP programs are based on the assumption that someone who has completed a security check in the past need not be re-checked in the future.

This assumption has proven false for American Intelligence agencies such as the FBI and CIA.

  • FBI agent Robert Hanssen spied for Soviet and Russian Intelligence services for 22 years (1979-2001). He’s now serving a life sentence in Florence, Colorado.
  • CIA agent Aldrich Ames betrayed American secrets–including those Russians who had shared them–to Soviet and Russian espionage agencies from 1985 to 1994. He is likewise serving a life sentence.

Even requiring an agent to undergo repeated security checks is no guarantee of trustworthiness.

When asked about how he repeatedly passed CIA polygraph tests, Ames said: “There’s no special magic. Confidence is what does it. Confidence and a friendly relationship with the examiner. Rapport, where you smile and make him think that you like him.”

Thus, as William Shakespeare warned in Hamlet, “one may smile and smile and be a villain”–or a highjacker.

The TSA introduced its Pre-Check program during the fall of 2011. By May, 2017, more than four million travelers had been found worthy of “expedited” status.

In early September, 2013, TSA announced that it would more than double its “expedited screening” program, Pre-Check, from 40 to 100 airports by the end of the year.

Nor is TSA the only organization giving big-spending fliers special treatment at potential risk to their country. For example:

Delta Air Lines offers Sky Priority, described as providing “privileged access through security checkpoints” at select airports.

Another private security program, Clear, collects several pieces of biometric data on well-heeled passengers. Once verified by a kiosk local to the security checkpoint, the passengers are allowed to skirt the security barriers that poor and middle-class folks must pass through.

Priority Access, set up by TSA and the airlines, provides “expedited service” to first-class and business passengers. To qualify, you need only possess certain credit cards–such as the United Mileage Plus Club Card.

Some critics blast this two-tier passenger check-in system as an affront to democratic principles.

“It’s stratifying consumers by class and wealth, because the people who travel a lot usually have higher incomes,” said Ralph Nader, consumer advocate and frequent business traveler.

But there is an even more important reason to immediately disband these programs and require everyone–rich and middle-class alike–to undergo the same level of security screening:

The 3,000 men and women who died horrifically on September 11, 2001, at the hands of airline passengers whom authorities thought could be trusted to board a plane.

Tribute to the vanished World Trade Center

THE NEXT 9/11: TSA WILL MAKE IT HAPPEN: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on May 31, 2017 at 12:01 am

Almost 16 years after 9/11, America is now selling its Islamic enemies access to the very weapons–jet-fueled airplanes–they need to wage jihad against its citizens.

World Trade Center on September 11, 2001

This danger is brought to you by IdentoGO, the private security company chosen by the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) to screen airline passengers.

Consider this ad it posts:

“How many times have you stood in line at the airport watching others breeze through security with no hassle? By enrolling in TSA Pre✓® , you too can breeze through security.

“Keep your shoes, jacket and belt on; your laptop in its case; 3-1-1 compliant liquids in your bag; and enjoy a better overall travel experience.

“TSA Pre✓® allows low-risk travelers to experience faster, more efficient screening at participating U.S. airport checkpoints for domestic and international travel.”

Yes, for a one-time payment of $85, you, too, can apply to receive such preferential treatment.  Even if it means putting the Nation’s security at risk.Travelers that are eligible for TSA Pre✓® include:

  • U.S. citizens of frequent flyer programs who meet TSA-mandated criteria and who have been invited by a participating airline;
  • U.S. citizen, U.S. national or Lawful Permanent Residents who are members of the TSA Pre✓® Application Program;
  • U.S. citizens who are members of a U.S. Customs and Border Protection Trusted Traveler program, such as Global Entry, SENTRI, and NEXUS and Canadian citizens who are members of NEXUS; and
  • Members of the U.S. Armed Forces.

To apply for TSA Pre✓®:

  1. Find an IdentoGO Center near you, including a growing number of airport locations, offering TSA Pre✓® and pre-enroll online.
  2. Schedule an appointment to come in for fingerprinting.
  3. Pay the $85 applications fee and show your proof-of-identity documents from the approved list of valid government IDs.
  4. A Known Traveler Number (KTN) will be mailed to you or can be obtained online.
  5. Once enrolled, your KTN is used when booking travel and your TSA Pre✓® approval is printed on your boarding passes.  
  6. Be sure to update your airline member profile to have the number automatically sent to the TSA when making reservations.

 Among the credit cards that will buy you such preferential treatment:

If you’re accepted, you don’t need to undergo another background check for the next five years.

In April 2017, 97% of TSA Pre’s more than four million passengers waited less than five minutes to board.

So what difference does it make that some passengers must submit to close inspection while others do not?

  • If you’re trying to carry a metallic firearm aboard a plane, the magnetometer will likely pick it up.  But if you’ve filled your computer with plastic explosive, the magnetometer won’t pick it up.

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Advanced imaging technology

  • Or maybe you want to be a shoe-bomber like Richard Reid, who tried to blow up an American Airlines flight in 2001. Being allowed to skip the requirement to remove your shoes will certainly take you a long way toward reaching your goal.

Why is America being placed at such risk?  Three reasons:

  1. The greed of American airline corporations and the TSA.
  2. Wealthy, self-entitled Americans hate waiting in long airport security lines–like ordinary citizens.
  3. The Calvinistic belief–shared by most Americans–that wealth is a sign of God’s favor, and thus proof that its holder is worthy of deference, if not awe.

On September 11, 2001, 2,996 people were killed and more than 6,000 others wounded as three highjacked airliners slammed into:

  • The North Tower of the World Trade Center;
  • The South Tower of the World Trade Center;
  • The Pentagon; and
  • A field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, after passengers and crew on United Flight 93 tried to regain control.

The attacks inflicted the worst shock and grief on America since the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

So think about how easy it is to qualify as a TSA Pre-Check passenger the next time you board an airliner.

According to Yelp! reviews of thoroughly satisfied IdentoGO customers:

  • “My TSA precheck appointment was done in 10 minutes! Plenty of free parking in their parking lot. The staff was friendly and courteous. I made an appointment thru the TSA precheck website. When I arrived, there was no wait. The office was clean, and the staff member who I met was friendly and courteous. Be sure to bring in your proper documents. $85 fee collected at the end of appointment. TSA precheck works for domestic flights only.”
  • “The friendly agent took me in right away and he proceeded to go through my application with me, just to double check that all the information in the application is correct. He took my fingerprints (all fingers) and I was pretty much done in about 10 minutes.”
  • “Going here for TSA precheck is a no-brainer.  Super easy to get an appointment, free parking, and no waiting.  Staff was friendly and efficient, explained what to expect after they submitted my information, and within less than 10 minutes I was on my way.  Went in on a Friday afternoon and by Monday evening (ok, late evening really), I had my KTN. So, so easy.”

EVIL TRIUMPHS WHEN GOOD MEN DO NOTHING: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on May 29, 2017 at 12:01 am

Future historians may one day write that it’s what didn’t happen that played at least as great a role in electing Donald Trump President as what actually did.

There were at least four instances where intervention by Federal law enforcement authorities could have utterly changed the outcome of the 2016 election.

Two of these dealt with purely domestic issues–the Trump University scandal and Trump’s repeated threats of violence against Republican and Democratic opponents.

The third and fourth ones dealt with events directly affecting the security of the United States.

It is unprecedented for an American Presidential candidate to repeatedly bestow fulsome praise on the leader of a foreign power hostile to the United States. And to receive equally fawning compliments in return from that leader.

Yet that is precisely what has 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.”

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 President Barack Obama.

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Donald Trump

Case #3: The Justice Department did not invalidate the results of the 2016 election, despite overwhelming evidence that Russia intervened to elect Trump as Vladimir Putin’s chosen candidate.

  • Admiral Michael Rogers, director of the National Security Agency (NSA) and US Cyber Command, said in mid-November that Russia made “a conscious effort” to sway the results of the Presidential election by the hacking of 20,000 emails from the Democratic National Committee.
  • “There shouldn’t be any doubt in anybody’s mind,” said Rogers. “This was not something that was done casually. This was not something that was done by chance. This was not a target that was selected purely arbitrarily. This was a conscious effort by a nation-state to attempt to achieve a specific effect.”

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  • The Russians hacked the Democratic committee’s servers–but not those of the Republican National Committee.
  • On December 16, FBI Director James B. Comey and Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. agreed with a CIA assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election in part to help Donald Trump win the White House. Related image

Trump, however, has steadfastly denied any such role by Russia: “I think it’s ridiculous,” he told “Fox News Sunday.” “I think it’s just another excuse. I don’t believe it. No, I don’t believe it at all.”   

Case #4: The Justice Department did not prosecute Trump for treason, even though he solicited aid from Russia, a nation hostile to the United States. And no major official of the government–including President Obama–publicly condemned him as a traitor. 

At a news conference in Doral, Florida, on July 27, 2016, Trump publicly exhorted “Russia”–i.e., Vladimir Putin–to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails: “I will tell you this, Russia: If you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” 

This was essentially treason–calling on a hostile foreign power to interfere directly in an American Presidential election. And it was seen as such by both Democrats and even some Republicans.

  • “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.”
  • Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker Paul Ryan, said: “Russia is a global menace led by a devious thug. Putin should stay out of this election.”
  • Trump’s Vice Presidential running mate, Mike Pence, said: “If it is Russia and they are interfering in our elections, I can assure you both parties and the United States government will ensure there are serious consequences.”

FBI Director James Comey believed that Hillary Clinton’s emails on a private server were so dangerous to national security that he announced–11 days before the election–that he was re-opening an investigation he had closed.  

That announcement erased widespread outrage over Trump’s unintended admissions of predatory behavior toward women–“Grab them by the pussy”–and reversed Clinton’s growing lead in the polls.

Yet the Bureau did not issue any such statements about the continuing reports of close ties between Trump and Putin, and Trump’s possible investments in Russia.

To their shame, the federal agencies charged with safeguarding America failed to take action against these abuses. And, to their shame, the news media, to date, has failed to indict them for their negligence.

EVIL TRIUMPHS WHEN GOOD MEN DO NOTHING: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on May 26, 2017 at 12:36 am

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

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

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

Making threats against anyone under protection by the U.S. Secret Service is a felony. Yet Donald Trump was never held legally accountable by the Justice Department. 

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Michael Hayden

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

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

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

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Fergus Cullen

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

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

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

Many of his supporters promised to do so.

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

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

Knowing that large numbers of angry–and possibly armed–Right-wingers planned to descend on polling places could only have had a chilling effect on untold numbers of Democratic voters. And this would have been especially true in heavily conservative states.

Both the USA Patriot Act and the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act have statutes dealing with making terrorist threats against government institutions to influence their members.

Image result for Official White House photos of George W. Bush signing USA Patriot Act

President George W. Bush signing the USA Patriot Reauthorization Act of 2005

Thus, the Justice Department could have cited the Patriot Act in indicting Trump and/or any number of his followers for “activities that…appear to be intended…to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion [and]…occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.”

The Justice Department could have also demanded that the results of the election be invalidated on the basis that widespread voter and candidate intimidation played a massive role in it.

But of course this did not happen.

EVIL TRIUMPHS WHEN GOOD MEN DO NOTHING: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on May 25, 2017 at 12:06 am

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” 

So wrote Edmund Burke (1729-1797) the Irish statesman, author, orator, political theorist and philosopher. And history has repeatedly proved him right. 

One such example was the rise of Adolf Hitler as Germany’s Fuhrer.

Writes historian Volker Ullrich, in his monumental new biography, Hitler: Ascent 1889–1939: “Historians have perennially tried to answer the question of whether Hitler’s rise to power could have been halted….

“There were repeated opportunities to end Hitler’s run of triumphs. The most obvious one was after the failed Putsch of November 1923. Had the Munich rabble-rouser been forced to serve his full five-year term of imprisonment in Landsberg, it is extremely unlikely that he would have been able to restart his political career.” 

But that didn’t happen.

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Tried for and convicted of treason, he was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment.

At Landsberg Prison, in Bavaria. he was given a huge cell, allowed to receive unlimited visitors and gifts, and treated with deference by guards and inmates.

Nine months later, he was released on parole–by authorities loyal to the authoritarian Right instead of the newly-created Weimar Republic.

Hitler immediately began rebuilding the shattered Nazi party–and deciding on a new strategy to gain power. Disdaining armed force, he would win office by election–or intrigue. 

On January 30, 1933, those intrigues bore fruit: Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany.

A second example: The ascent of Donald Trump to the Presidency of the United States.

Future historians may one day write that what didn’t happen played at least as great a role in electing Donald Trump President as what actually did.

There were at least four instances where intervention by Federal law enforcement authorities could have utterly changed the outcome of the 2016 election. Yet, for reasons still unknown, they chose to do nothing.

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Donald Trump

Case #1: The Justice Department did not indict Trump and/or the Attorney Generals of Texas and/or Florida for their roles in the Trump University scandal.

  • Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi personally solicited a political contribution from Donald Trump around the same time her office deliberated joining an investigation of alleged fraud at Trump University and its affiliates.
  • After Bondi dropped the Trump University case against Trump, he wrote her a check $25,000 for her re-election campaign. The money came from the Donald J. Trump Foundation.
  • Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton moved to muzzle a former state regulator who says he was ordered in 2010 to drop a fraud investigation into Trump University for political reasons.
  • Paxton’s office issued a cease and desist letter to former Deputy Chief of Consumer Protection John Owens after he made public copies of a 14-page internal summary of the state’s case against Donald Trump for scamming millions from students of his now-defunct real estate seminar.
  • After the Texas case was dropped, Trump cut a $35,000 check to the gubernatorial campaign of then attorney general and now Texas Governor Greg Abbott.

One attorney general who refused to accept money from Trump was New York’s Eric Schneiderman. His decision to press fraud claims against Trump forced the real estate mogul to settle the case out of court for $25 million.

“Today’s $25 million settlement agreement is a stunning reversal by Donald Trump,” said Schneiderman on November 18, “and a major victory for the over 6,000 victims of his fraudulent university.”

There have been no press reports that the Justice Department investigated these cases to determine if Trump violated the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act statutes.

If the Justice Department did not investigate these cases, it should have. And if he did violate the RICO statutes, he should have been indicted, even as a Presidential candidate or President-elect.

Even if an indictment had not produced a conviction, the mere bringing of one would have cast an unprecedented cloud over his candidacy–let alone his being sworn in as President.

Case #2: The Justice Department did not indict Trump for his series of threats he made–directly or indirectly–against his Republican and Democratic opponents throughout the 2016 campaign.

  • On March 16, he warned Republicans that if he didn’t win the GOP nomination in July, his supporters would literally riot: “I think you’d have riots. I think you would see problems like you’ve never seen before. I think bad things would happen. I really do. I wouldn’t lead it, but I think bad things would happen.”
  • An NBC reporter summed it up as: “The message to Republicans was clear on [March 16]: ‘Nice convention you got there, shame if something happened to it.’”
  • That Republicans clearly saw this as a threat is undeniable. Paul Ryan, their Speaker of the House, said on March 17: “Nobody should say such things in my opinion because to even address or hint to violence is unacceptable.”
  • And Ohio governor and Republican presidential candidate John Kasich chinned in. “Leaders don’t imply violence,” Kasich told “Face the Nation” on March 20. “When he says that there could be riots, that’s inappropriate. I think you understand that, okay? Secondly, while we have our differences and disagreements, we’re Americans. Americans don’t say, ‘Let’s take to the streets and have violence.’”

JFK: ONE HUNDRED YEARS LATER: PART TEN (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 17, 2017 at 12:22 am

Fifty-three years ago, on November 22, 1963, two bullets slammed into the neck and head of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

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

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

Of these, the following can be said with certainty:

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

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

 White House painting of JFK

At American University on June 10, 1963, Kennedy called upon his fellow Americans to re-examine the events and attitudes that had led to the Cold War. And he declared that the search for peace was by no means absurd:

“Our problems are man-made; therefore, they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings.

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

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

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

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

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

Former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain famously said, “We need a leader, not a reader.” Thus he excused his ignorance for why President Barack Obama had intervened in Libya.

Texas Governor Rick Perry (and now Secretary of Energy) showed similar pride in not knowing there are nine judges on the United States Supreme Court:

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

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

In short, it’s the media’s fault if they ask you a question and your answer reveals your own ignorance, stupidity or criminality. 

Sarah Palin rewrote history via “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere”: “He warned the British that they weren’t going to be taking away our arms by ringing those bells and, um, making sure as he’s riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that, uh, we were going to be secure and we were going to be free.” 

In fact, Revere wasn’t warning the British about anything. Instead, he was warning his fellow  Americans about an impending British attack–as his celebrated catchphrase “The British are coming!” made clear.

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

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

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

And they resented his having earned most of his income as a writer of two books: Dreams From My Father and The Audacity of Hope.  As if being a writer is somehow subversive.

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

Many Americans believe that decline arrived with the 2016 election of Donald Trump. In fact, they believe it was Trump who announced it after winning the Nevada Republican primary: “We won with poorly educated. I love the poorly educated.”

In retrospect, the funeral for President Kennedy marked the death of more than a rational and optimistic human being.

It marked the death of Americans’ pride in choosing reasoning and educated citizens for their leaders.

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

JFK: ONE HUNDRED YEARS LATER: PART NINE (OF TEN)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 16, 2017 at 12:05 am

Elected to the House of Representatives in 1946, John F. Kennedy served six undistinguished years before being elected U.S. Senator from Massachusetts in 1952.

In 1956, his eloquence and political skill almost won him the Vice Presidential nomination at the Democratic National Convention. But the nominee, Adlai Stevenson, chose Tennessee Senator Estes Kefauver as his running mate–fortunately for Kennedy.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower, running for re-election, easily beat Stevenson.

Had Kennedy been on the ticket, his Catholicism would have been blamed for the loss. And this would have likely prevented his getting the Presidential nomination in 1960.

In 1957, his book, Profiles in Courage, won the Pulitzer Prize for history.

From 1957 to 1960, Kennedy laid plans for a successful Presidential race.

Many voters thought him too young and inexperienced for such high office. But he used his TV debates with then-Vice President Richard Nixon to calm such fears, transforming himself overnight into a serious contender.

Many Americans identified with Kennedy as they had with film stars. Compared with normally drab politicians, he seemed exciting and glamorous.

Since 1960, for millions of Americans, mere competence in a President isn’t enough; he should be charming and movie-star handsome as well.

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John F. Kennedy after taking a swim at Santa Monica Beach, 1960

But charismatic politicians face the danger of waning enthusiasm.

Many people were growing disillusioned with Kennedy before he died. He had raised hopes that couldn’t be met–especially among blacks.

And many whites bitterly opposed his support of integration, believing that Kennedy was “moving too fast” in changing race relations.

Still, for millions of Americans, Kennedy represented a time of change.

“Let’s get this country moving again” had been his campaign slogan in 1960. He had demanded an end to the non-existent “missile gap” between the United States and Soviet Union.

And he had said that America should create full employment and re-evaluate its policies toward Africa, Latin America and Asia.

His youth, the grace and beauty of his wife and the often-reported antics of his two young children–Caroline and John–added to the atmosphere that change was under way.

But Kennedy was not so committed to reform as many believed:

  • As a Senator he had strongly opposed abolishing the Electoral College.
  • He never protested the Red-baiting tactics of Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, a frequent dinner guest at the home of his father.
  • As President, Kennedy never forgot that he had been elected by a margin of 112,881 votes. He often rationalized his refusal to tackle controversial issues by saying: “We’ll do it after I’m re-elected. So we’d better make damn sure I am re-elected.”
  • He thought the United States should recognize “Red” China, but didn’t try to change American foreign policy toward that nation.

Nevertheless, many historians believe that. by vocally supporting civil rights and healthcare for the elderly, Kennedy laid the groundwork for Lyndon Johnson’s legislative victories.

Perhaps no aspect of Kennedy’s Presidency has received closer study than his assassination.

Hundreds of books and thousands of articles have hotly debated whether he was murdered by a lone “nut” or a deadly conspiracy of powerful men.

JFK’s assassination: The moment of impact

The murder has been the subject of two government investigations. The first, by the Warren Commission in 1964, concluded that an embittered ex-Marine and Marxist, Lee Harvey Oswald, acted alone in killing Kennedy.

Similarly, the Commission determined that nightclub owner Jack Ruby had killed Oswald on impulse, and not as the result of a conspiracy.

Millions of disbelieving Americans rejected the Warren Report–and named their own villains:

  • The KGB;
  • The Mob;
  • Anti-Castro Cubans;
  • Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson;
  • Right-wing businessmen and/or military leaders;
  • Fidel Castro.

Each of these groups or persons had reason to hate Kennedy:

  • The KGB–for Kennedy’s humiliating the Soviet Union during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
  • The Mob–in retaliation for the administration’s crackdown on organized crime.
  • Anti-Castro Cubans–for JFK’s refusal to commit American military forces to overthrowing Castro at the Bay of Pigs invasion.
  • Lyndon Johnson–lusting for power, he stood to gain the most from Kennedy’s elimination.
  • Right-wing businessmen and/or military leaders–for believing that Kennedy had “sold out” the country to the Soviet Union.
  • Fidel Castro–knowing the CIA was trying to assassinate or overthrow him, he had reason to respond in kind.

The second investigation, conducted in 1977-79 by the House Assassinations Committee, determined that Oswald and a second, unknown sniper had fired at Kennedy. (Oswald was deemed the assassin; the other man’s shot had missed.)

The Chief Counsel for the Committee, G. Robert Blakey, believed New Orleans Mafia boss Carlos Marcello organized the assassination, owing to his hatred of Robert Kennedy for his war on the crime syndicates.

Still, 53 years after JFK’s assassination, no court-admissible evidence has appeared to convict anyone other than Oswald for the murder.

The impact of Kennedy’s death on popular culture remains great. Millions saw him as a brilliant, courageous hero who had worked his way to the top.

But his sudden and violent end shocked those who believed there was always a happy ending.

If so gifted–and protected–a man as John F. Kennedy could be so suddenly and brutally destroyed, no one else could depend on a secure future.

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