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Posts Tagged ‘CIVIL RIGHTS’

PREVENTING THE COMING DICTATORSHIP: PART FOUR (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 6, 2022 at 12:12 am

On January 6, 2021, thousands of Right-wing Donald Trump supporters—many of them armed—stormed the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.

After overwhelming the Capitol Police force, they damaged and occupied parts of the building for several hours. Legislators huddled fearfully while National Guard units from several states finally evicted the insurrectionists.  

The Capitol attack marked the first time in American history when a defeated Presidential candidate violently sought to remain in office.

It may also mark a desperately-needed change in the priorities of American law enforcement, which has traditionally focused on Left-wingers—and especially blacks—as the country’s mortal enemies.

Option 2: The Justice Department could begin waging all-out war on Right-wing militia groups planning to unleash violence in 2024. 

Numerous commentators have noted the contrast between the tepid police response to the Capitol attack by white Right-wingers and the brutal crackdown on peaceful liberal blacks protesting the murder of George Floyd in Washington D.C. on June 1, 2020.

U.S. Park Police and National Guard troops used tear gas, rubber bullets, flash-bang grenades, horses, shields and batons to clear protesters from Lafayette Square—so Trump could stage a photo-op at St. John’s Episcopal Church. 

After 9/11, American law enforcement and Intelligence agencies initiated major reforms to focus on Islamic terrorism.

A similar reform effort, focusing on Right-wing terrorism, could include the following:

  • The FBI’s designating Right-wing political and terrorist groups as the Nation’s #1 enemy.  
  • Reviving the FBI’s legendary COINTELPRO (“Counterintelligence Program”) that destroyed the Ku Klux Klan in the late 1960s. Among the methods that can be used:  
  • Turning the Bureau’s powerful arsenal—bugs, wiretaps, informants, SWAT teams—on them.
  • Buying the cooperation of informants within Right-wing organizations.
  • Conducting “black bag jobs” to steal membership lists of of Right-wing organizations.
  • Breaking up the marriages of prominent Right-wingers by circulating rumors of their infidelity among their wives.
  • Informing the employers of known Right-wing terrorists of their employees’ criminal activity, resulting in the firing of untold numbers of them.
  • Contacting the news media to publicize the arrests of prominent Right-wing leaders.
  • When Right-wing terrorists target Federal law enforcement agents and/or their families for harassment or worse, they can be targeted for similar intimidation or removal.

FBI SWAT Team Training - YouTube

FBI SWAT member

A revised COINTELPRO could be supplemented by the following: 

  • Creating tip hotlines for reporting illegal Right-wing activities—and offering rewards for information that leads to arrests.
  • Prosecuting militia groups for violating Federal firearms laws. 
  • Treating calls for the murder of members of Congress—as Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene has done—as felonies punishable by lengthy imprisonment.
  • Prosecuting Right-wing leaders involved in the treasonous assault on the United States Capitol Building.
  • Prosecuting as “accessories to treason” all those Republican members of Congress who stoked Right-wing anger by lying that the 2020 Presidential election had been stolen from Donald Trump, although every objective news source proved he had lost.
  • Directing the Treasury Department’s Terrorist Finance Tracking Program (TFTP) at fundamentalist Christian churches that finance Right-wing terrorism-–just as it halts the financing of Islamic terrorist groups by Islamic organizations.

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  • Using drones, planes and/or helicopters to provide security against similar Right-wing terror demonstrations—especially in Washington, D.C.
  • Using the Federal Communications Commission to ban Fox News—the Nation’s #1 Right-wing propaganda network—from representing itself as a legitimate news network, and requiring that its stories carry labels warning viewers: “This is Right-wing propaganda, NOT news.”
  • Encouraging victims of Right-wing hate-speech to file libel/slander lawsuits against their abusers—such as the parents of murdered children at Sandy Hook Elementary School successfully did against Alex Jones. 
  • Using Federal anti-terrorist laws to arrest, prosecute and imprison Right-wingers who openly carry firearms and threaten violence, even if states allow such display of firearms. 
  • Seizing the assets of individuals and organizations found guilty of Right-wing terrorism offenses. 

Option 3: The “Caligula Solution.” 

Like Donald Trump, the Roman emperor Gaius Caligula delighted in humiliating others. His fatal mistake was taunting Cassius Chaerea, a member of his own bodyguard. 

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

Trump has similarly behaved arrogantly toward his Secret Service guards.

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

Even as an ex-President, Trump continues to insult anyone who challenges him. This includes not only Democrats but Republicans he feels don’t pay him sufficient homage—or, worse, dare to oppose him for the party’s 2024 Presidential nomination.

At the same time, he publicly exposes himself to a potential assassin virtually every day. And the mere presence of bodyguards is no guarantee against assassination. 

Presidential candidate George C. Wallace was shot and paralyzed by a gunman while mingling with supporters in a Maryland shopping center in 1972. And President Ronald Reagan was shot and almost killed in 1981 while walking to his bulletproof limousine in Washington, D.C.

Both men were under protection by the U.S. Secret Service at the time. 

PREVENTING THE COMING DICTATORSHIP: PART THREE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Military, Social commentary on January 5, 2022 at 12:16 am

Can a Republican coup—or a Republican-inspired civil war—be prevented? 

In theory, yes—if the administration of President Joseph Biden is willing to use the same methods America has applied against foreign enemies.

Option 1: The Justice Department could wage all-out war on state and Federal Republican politicians plotting to subvert American democracy. 

By December 14, 2021—11 months after the January 6 attack on the United States Capitol—more than 726 Stormtrumper rioters had been arrested and charged.

Yet no major Donald Trump supporter has been arrested, let alone criminally indicted.

  • NOT Trump’s attorney, Rudy Giuliani, who cried to the demonstrators, “Let’s have trial by combat!”
  • NOT Donald Trump, Jr., who, just hours before the Trump mob stormed Congress, threatened Republican lawmakers at a large rally outside the White House: “These guys better fight for Trump. Because if they’re not, guess what? I’m going to be in your backyard in a couple of months!”
  • And, above all, NOT Donald Trump. He not only incited his followers to attack the Capitol, he has spent the last year spreading poisonous lies that the 2020 election was “stolen” from him through “massive” voter fraud. As a result, he continues to undermine the democratic process as he terrorizes the Republican party to stand behind him.

Had anyone but a President orchestrated such an attack on Congress, the Justice Department would have come down on him with a vengeance. 

Obstructing Congressional or administrative proceedings is a Federal offense. According to 18 U.S.C 1505: It’s a felony, punishable by imprisonment of five to eight years if domestic or international terrorism is involved.

Before a prosecution can be initiated, three essential conditions must be met:

  1. There must be a proceeding pending before a department or agency of the United States.
  2. The defendant must know that a proceeding was occurring.
  3. S/he must have intentionally tried to “corruptly” influence, obstruct or impede the pending proceeding.

Every one of the men and women who stormed the Capitol Building stands guilty of violating U.S.C. 1505.

And so do those who egged them on—such as Missouri Rep. Mo Brooks and Missouri Senator Josh Hawley.

Still other Republican Congressional members played a coup-supporting role in trying to overturn the results of a legitimate Presidential election.

Hours after the Capitol attack, 147 Republicans who hid during the attempted coup returned to the House and Senate floors and voted just as Trump wanted them to: To overturn the election results in his favor, based on lies about widespread voter fraud.

The Justice Department could charge every one of these Congressional members as an accessory to terrorism under the USA Patriot Act 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.”

United States Department of Justice

Had this happened early in 2021—by March or April at the latest—this would have sent a message that even the most ardent Trump supporters would have understood.

In addition, this would have deprived Republicans of the numerical power to obstruct the legislative agenda of the Joseph Biden administration.

Those members indicted would have been forced to spend most of their time strategizing with their attorneys to stay out of prison. They would have been forced to pony up huge legal fees—which would have had to come from funds intended for re-election campaigns.

(Contrary to popular belief, indictment—or even a felony conviction—of a member of Congress does not force him to vacate his seat.)

Option 2: The Justice Department could begin waging all-out war on Right-wing militia groups planning to unleash violence in 2024. 

According to American political scientist George Michael: “Right-wing terrorism and violence has a long history in America.”

The Supreme Court’s decision, in Brown v. Board of Education (1954), striking down segregated facilities, unleashed a wave of Ku Klux Klan violence against blacks, civil rights activists and Jews. Between 1956 and 1963, an estimated 130 bombings ravaged the South. 

File:KKK-Flag.svg - Wikimedia Commons

Ku Klux Klan flag

During the 1980s, more than 75 Right-wing extremists were prosecuted in the United States for acts of terrorism, carrying out six attacks.

The April 19, 1995 attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City by Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols killed 168 people. It was the deadliest act of domestic terrorism in the history of the United States until 9/11.

By 2020, Right-wing terrorism accounted for the majority of terrorist attacks and plots in the United States. A 2017 Government Accountability Office report stated that Right-wing extremist groups were responsible for 73% of violent extremist incidents resulting in deaths since September 12, 2001.

Right-wing violence rose sharply during the Barack Obama administration and especially during the Presidency of Donald Trump. His remark after the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that there were “some very fine people on both sides” convinced white supremacists that he favored their goals, if not their methods.

On January 6, 2021, thousands of Right-wing Donald Trump supporters—many of them armed—stormed the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.

U.S. Congress Under Attack, Trump Supporters Enter Capitol Building - YouTube

Their goal: To stop members of Congress from counting Electoral Votes cast in the 2020 Presidential election, from which former Vice President Joseph R. Biden was expected to emerge the winner. 

PREVENTING THE COMING DICTATORSHIP: PART TWO (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 4, 2022 at 12:54 am

“For more than a year now, with tacit and explicit support from their party’s national leaders, state Republican operatives have been building an apparatus of election theft. Elected officials in Arizona, Texas, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, and other states have studied Donald Trump’s crusade to overturn the 2020 election.”

So opened a frightening, December 9, 2021 article in The Atlantic: “Trump’s Next Coup Has Already Begun.” 

Wrote Barton Gellman:    

“They have noted the points of failure and have taken concrete steps to avoid failure next time. Some of them have rewritten statutes to seize partisan control of decisions about which ballots to count and which to discard, which results to certify and which to reject.

“They are driving out or stripping power from election officials who refused to go along with the plot last November, aiming to replace them with exponents of the Big Lie. They are fine-tuning a legal argument that purports to allow state legislators to override the choice of the voters.”

Can this be pre-empted?  

In theory, yes—provided those in the administration of President Joseph Biden are willing to use the same methods America has applied against foreign enemies.

Option 1: The Justice Department could wage all-out war on state and Federal Republican politicians plotting to subvert American democracy.  

Seal of the United States Department of Justice.svg

Seal of the Justice Department

The place to start would be with former President Donald Trump. 

On January 6, 2021, he incited—on TV—thousands of his fanatical supporters to storm the United States Capitol Building where Electoral College votes in the 2020 Presidential election were being counted.  

Trump knew that former Vice President Joseph Biden had received more Electoral College votes than he had—306 to 232. 

And he wanted that vote-count stopped—thus allowing him to remain in office as “President-for-Life.”

For weeks Trump had ordered his legions of Right-wing Stormtrumpers to descend on Washington, D.C. on January 6. 

On December 20, 2020, he had tweeted: “Statistically impossible to have lost the 2020 Election. Big protest in DC on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!” 

In tweets, he promoted the rally again on December 27 and 30, and January 1.

Thus, through his lies, he had aroused the fury of his Right-wing supporters.

It would take only his command to send it hurtling at his perceived enemies: Those who would dare elect Joseph Biden in his place.

Melania Trump 'disappointed' by Trump supporters' Capitol riot - ABC7 Chicago

Donald Trump addresses his Stormtrumpers 

On January 6, Trump appeared at the Ellipse, a 52-acre park south of the White House fence and north of Constitution Avenue and the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

A stage had been set up for him to address tens of thousands of his supporters, who eagerly awaited him. NEXT UP: How the Justice Department can prosecute Trump-supporting Republican politicians.  

Trump ordered them to march on the Capitol building to express their anger at the voting process and to intimidate their elected officials to reject the results: 

“And after this, we’re going to walk down and I’ll be there with you. We’re going to walk down to the Capitol. And we’re going to cheer on our brave Senators and Congressmen and women and we’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them.

“Because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong. We have come to demand that Congress do the right thing and only count the electors who have been lawfully slated.”

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

  • Members of the mob attacked police with chemical agents or lead pipes. 
  • Many  of  the  lawmakers’  office buildings were occupied  and  vandalized—including  that  of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a favorite Right-wing target.
  • Shouts of “Hang Pence!” and “Hang Pelosi!” often rang out. 
  • According to CBS News, more than 150 officers were injured in the attack.
  • Several rioters carried plastic handcuffs, possibly intending to take hostages.
  • Others carried treasonous Confederate flags.  

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

Stormtrumpers scaling Capitol Building walls

After more than three hours, police—using riot gear, shields and batons—retook control of the Capitol. 

And Trump?  After giving his inflammatory speech, he returned to the White House to watch his handiwork on television. Although he received multiple pleas to publicly call for his supporter to stand down, he refused to do so.

Eleven months later—by December 14—more than 726 Stormtrumper rioters had been arrested and charged.

Yet no major Trump supporter has been arrested, let alone indicted.

  • NOT Trump’s attorney, Rudy Giuliani, who cried to the demonstrators, “Let’s have trial by combat!”
  • NOT Donald Trump, Jr., who, just hours before the Trump mob stormed Congress, threatened Republican lawmakers at a large rally outside the White House: “These guys better fight for Trump. Because if they’re not, guess what? I’m going to be in your backyard in a couple of months!”
  • And, above all, NOT Donald Trump. He not only incited his followers to attack the Capitol, he has spent the last year spreading poisonous lies that the 2020 election was “stolen” from him through “massive” voter fraud. To this day, he continues to undermine the democratic process as he terrorizes the Republican party to stand behind him.

NEXT UP: How to prosecute Trump-supporting Republican politicians.  

PREVENTING THE COMING DICTATORSHIP: PART ONE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 3, 2022 at 12:11 am

If a second American Civil War erupts, it will be vastly different from the first one.

The first one lasted from 1861 to 1865. It pitted 13 Southern states against 19 fighting for the Union. 

The Southern states consisted of: South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina, Kentucky and Missouri. 

The states fighting for the Union consisted of: Maine, New York, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, California, Nevada, and Oregon.

Map of U.S. showing two kinds of Union states, two phases of secession and territories

Civil War America

Júlio Reis, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

It’s estimated that 750,000 Americans lost their lives during the Civil War—110,000 Union soldiers died in battle as opposed to 258,000 Confederates

The overwhelming reason for the war: Slavery. Southern states wanted to preserve it. Northern ones wanted to abolish it. And, in 1860, Northern states had elected Abraham Lincoln—an anti-slavery candidate—the 16th President of the United States.

But the blunt truth remained: Lincoln had no authority to abolish slavery—which had been legally upheld by the United States Supreme Court. And, in his Inaugural Address, he said exactly that:

“I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.”

But he warned that he would not allow the Union to be peacefully dissolved. “We cannot separate. …The Union….will constitutionally defend, and maintain itself.

“In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The government will not assail you. You can have no conflict, without being yourselves the aggressors.”

A bearded Abraham Lincoln showing his head and shoulders

Abraham Lincoln

Ultimately, the South wanted to secede from the Union to preserve its “peculiar institution.” It did not seek to conquer the North and made no military moves against it—until April 12, 1861. 

That was when Confederate batteries in South Carolina’s Charleston Harbor opened fire on Union Fort Sumter. The next day, the fort surrendered. 

The attack led directly to the outbreak of the American Civil War, which lasted until April 9, 1865. Confederate general Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Union general Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House. 

A second Civil War would erupt with an entirely different goal in mind. Republican states do not want to be “left alone” by Washington and/or Democratic-controlled states. They want to rule Democratically-controlled states from Washington.

And their populations believe that, through Donald Trump, they can achieve just such control. 

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Donald Trump

To achieve victory in the 2024 Presidential election, legislators in Republican-controlled states are now working to nullify the votes of millions of Democratic voters

Thousands—or millions—of votes will be thrown away, to ensure that the Democratic winner will be declared the loser. The Republican loser will be certified president-elect.

According to a December 9, 2021 article in The Atlantic“Trump’s Next Coup Has Already Begun”-–while those who believe in democracy are blissfully ignoring the approaching threat:

Democrats, big and small D, are not behaving as if they believe the threat is real. Some of them, including President Joe Biden, have taken passing rhetorical notice, but their attention wanders. They are making a grievous mistake.”

“The democratic emergency is already here,” says Richard L. Hasen, a professor of law and political science at UC Irvine. “We face a serious risk that American democracy as we know it will come to an end in 2024, but urgent action is not happening.”

And retiring journalist Brian Williams echoes this fear:

“My biggest worry is for my country. I’m not a liberal or a conservative. I’m an institutionalist. I believe in this place. And in my love of my country I yield to no one, but the darkness on the edge of town has spread to the main roads and highways and neighborhoods. It’s now at the local bar and the bowling alley, the school broad and the grocery store. It must be acknowledged and answered for.

“Grown men and women who swore an oath to our constitution, elected by our constituents, possessing the kinds of college degrees I can only dream of, have decided to join the mob and become something they are not, while hoping we somehow forget who they were. They’ve decided to burn it all down with us inside. That should scare you to no end as much as it scares an aging volunteer fireman.” 

Brian Williams is leaving MSNBC. What's next? - CNN Video

Brian Williams

From The Atlantic

“For more than a year now, with tacit and explicit support from their party’s national leaders, state Republican operatives have been building an apparatus of election theft. Elected officials in Arizona, Texas, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, and other states have studied Donald Trump’s crusade to overturn the 2020 election.

“They have noted the points of failure and have taken concrete steps to avoid failure next time. Some of them have rewritten statutes to seize partisan control of decisions about which ballots to count and which to discard, which results to certify and which to reject.” 

NEXT UP: How the coming Donald Trump dictatorship can be prevented.

IDEALISM DIED WITH RFK: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on August 12, 2020 at 1:26 am

On March 18, 1968, Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, speaking at the University of Kansas, called on his fellow citizens to show compassion for those less fortunate and in need of relief through the Federal Government.

“If we believe that we, as Americans, are bound together by a common concern for each other, then an urgent national priority is upon us.  We must begin to end the disgrace of this other America.”

Finally, Kennedy did something almost no other politician—in his time or since—has ever done: He dared to attack that holy-of-holies, the Gross Domestic Product (then called the Gross National Product).

“If we believe that we, as Americans, are bound together by a common concern for each other, then an urgent national priority is upon us.  We must begin to end the disgrace of this other America.

“Too much and for too long, we seemed to have surrendered personal excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things.  Our Gross National Product, now, is over $800 billion dollars a year, but that Gross National Product….counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. 

“It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for the people who break them.  It counts the destruction of the redwood and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl.  It counts napalm and counts nuclear warheads and armored cars for the police to fight the riots in our cities. It counts Whitman’s rifle and Speck’s knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children. 

“Yet the Gross National Product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. 

“It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country. It measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.  And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans….

Senator Robert F. Kennedy campaigning for President

“George Bernard Shaw once wrote, ‘Some people see things as they are and say why?  I dream things that never were and say, why not?’ 

“So I come here to Kansas to ask for your help. In the difficult five months ahead, before the convention in Chicago. I ask for your help and for your assistance. 

“If you believe that the United States can do better.  If you believe that we should change our course of action.  If you believe that the United States stands for something here internally as well as elsewhere around the globe, I ask for your help and your assistance and your hand over the period of the next five months.

“And when we win in November….and we begin a new period of time for the United States of America, I want the next generation of Americans to look back upon this period and say as they said of Plato: ‘Joy was in those days, but to live.’  Thank you very much.”

At the end of Kennedy’s wildly popular speech at Kansas State University, photographer Stanley Tretick, of Look magazine, shouted, “This is Kansas, fucking Kansas! He’s going all the fucking way!” 

But he didn’t go all the way. On June 5, 1968—82 days after announcing his Presidential candidacy—an assassin’s bullet suddenly halted his short-lived campaign—and his life.  

Robert Kennedy: On One California Night, Triumph and Tragedy ...

Robert Kennedy’s funeral train

Historian William L. O’Neil delivered a poignant summary of Robert Kennedy’s legacy in his 1971 book, Coming Apart: An Informal History of America in the 1960′s:

“He aimed so high that he must be judged for what he meant to do, and through error and tragic accident, failed at…..He will also be remembered as an extraordinary human being who, though hated by some, was perhaps more deeply loved by his countrymen than any man of his time. 

“That, too, must be entered into the final account, and it is no small thing. With his death, something precious vanished from public life.”

As United States Attorney General (1961-1964) Robert F. Kennedy had the courage to wage all-out war on the Mafia. As a United States Senator (1964-1968) he had the compassion to champion aid to impoverished Americans.

Even in his own era—a half-century ago—Robert Kennedy stood out as the only major Presidential candidate who could legitimately make both claims. 

Today, most Democrats—battered by decades of Republican charges that they’re “big spenders”—fear supporting big-ticket items to help the poor.

And the Black Lives Matter movement has made any connection to law enforcement a disqualification for higher office—as former California Attorney General Kamala Harris found out as a 2020 Presidential candidate.

America may never again see a Presidential candidate who can combine a strong stand against crime with an equally strong commitment to helping the poor and disadvantaged. 

IDEALISM DIED WITH RFK: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on August 11, 2020 at 12:07 am

On March 18, 1968, Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy did what few politicians have ever done: He accepted public responsibility for a war that had since become a national disaster—the Vietnam war.

Addressing a packed audience of students and faculty at Kansas State University, he said:

“Let me begin this discussion with a note both personal and public. I was involved in many of the early decisions on Vietnam, decisions that helped set us on our present path.

“It may be that the effort was doomed from the start; that it was never really possible to bring all the people of South Vietnam under the rule of the successive governments we supported—governments, one after another, riddled with corruption, inefficiency, and greed; governments which did not and could not successfully capture and energize the national feeling of their people.

“If that is the case, as it well may be, then I am willing to bear my share of the responsibility, before history and before my fellow citizens. But past error is no excuse for its own perpetuation. Tragedy is a tool for the living to gain wisdom, not a guide by which to live.

“Now as ever, we do ourselves best justice when we measure ourselves against ancient tests, as in the Antigone of Sophocles: ‘All men make mistakes, but a good man yields when he knows his course is wrong, and repairs the evil. The only sin is pride.’ 

Sophocles pushkin.jpg

Sophocles

And he dared to attack the war as more than a military and political disaster: He saw it as a stain on America’s moral fiber: 

“Can we ordain to ourselves the awful majesty of God—to decide what cities and villages are to be destroyed, who will live and who will die, and who will join the refugees wandering in a desert of our own creation?

“If it is true that we have a commitment to the South Vietnamese people, we must ask, are they being consulted—in Hue, or Ben Tre, or in the villages from which the three million refugees have fled?

“If they believe all the death and destruction are a lesser evil than the Wet Cong, why did they not warn us when the Viet Cong came into Hue, and the dozens of other cities, before the Tet Offensive? Why did they not join the fight?

“Will it be said of us, as Tacitus said of Rome: ‘They made a desert and called it peace?'”

Appreciating Bobby Kennedy's Stunning Transformation - HISTORY

Robert F. Kennedy

The students gave him an ovation worthy of a rock star. 

Time correspondent Hays Gorey said the electricity between Kennedy and the K.S.U. students was “real and rare.” “A good part of it is John F. Kennedy’s, of course, but John Kennedy …himself couldn’t be so passionate, and couldn’t set off such sparks.”

Jim Slattery, who would later be elected to Congress from Kansas, reread the K.S.U. speech during the second Iraq war and decided it was so powerful “because Kennedy was talking about what was right!”

As Kennedy started to leave, students rushed the platform where he stood, knocking over chairs and grabbing at him. They stroked his hair and ripped his shirtsleeves.

Later that day, Kennedy addressed another wildly enthusiastic audience—at the University of Kansas, in Lawrence, Kansas.

Then he addressed the glaring disparities between rich and poor Americans—a topic now generally ignored by Democrats and turned into an attack line by Republicans:

“All around us, all around us….men have lost confidence in themselves, in each other. It is confidence which has sustained us so much in the past. Rather than answer the cries of deprivation and despair….hundreds of communities and millions of citizens are looking for their answers, to force and repression and private gun stocks— so that we confront our fellow citizen across impossible barriers of hostility and mistrust.

I Dream of a World Powered by 100% Renewable Energy | Nikola Power

Robert F. Kennedy talking with black children

“And again, I don’t believe that we have to accept that.  I don’t believe that it’s necessary in the United States of America.  I think that we can work together. I don’t think that we have to shoot at each other, to beat each other, to curse each other and criticize each other, I think that we can do better in this country.  And that is why I run for President of the United States….

“I have seen children in Mississippi starving, their bodies so crippled from hunger and their minds have been so destroyed for their whole life that they will have no future.  I have seen children in Mississippi—here in the United States—with a gross national product of $800 billion dollars.

“I have seen children in the Delta area of Mississippi with distended stomachs, whose faces are covered with sores from starvation, and we haven’t developed a policy so we can get enough food so that they can live, so that their children, so that their lives are not destroyed, I don’t think that’s acceptable in the United States of America and I think we need a change.”

IDEALISM DIED WITH RFK: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on August 10, 2020 at 1:37 am

He remains forever frozen in time—young, vigorous, with tousled hair and a high-pitched voice calling on Americans to do better for those less fortunate.

It’s been 52 years since his life was brutally cut short—yet he remains forever the age at which he died: 42. Born in 1925, he would turn 95 on November 20 if he were alive today.

And he exuded an idealism which seems totally out of place with today’s “I’ve-got-mine-so-screw-you” politics.

On March 16, 1968, from the Caucus Room of the Old Senate Office building, New York Senator Robert F. Kennedy declared his candidacy for President of the United States. 

Eight years earlier, on January 2, 1960, his brother, Massachusetts Senator John F. Kennedy had announced his own candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination from the same place.

Ten months later, on November 8, that campaign had ended in victory with his election. And that victory, in turn, ended in bitter sorrow with his assassination two years, 10 months and two days later on November 22, 1963.

Robert F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign would not last as long as his late brother’s. Nor would it end in the victory he and his supporters yearned for. 

Sen. Robert Kennedy Giving Speech During Campaign Stop | Robert ...

Robert F. Kennedy 

Eighty-two days later, he was dead—shot in the back of the head by Sirhan Sirhan, a Palestinian Arab furious at Kennedy’s avowed support for Israel.

For Kennedy, making up his mind to run for the Presidency was no easy task.

Since the assassination of his brother, millions of Americans had assumed—as his admirers or detractors—that he would one day become President.

For his admirers, there was an element of “the once and future king” about this young, intense man with tousled hair and a high-pitched voice.He—they believed—was the man who would somehow avenge his martyred brother by restoring “Camelot” and returning youth, energy and idealism to the White House.

A playwright—Barbara Garson—had even written a 1967 satire depicting then-President Lyndon B. Johnson as the MacBeth-like murderer of John Ken O-Dunc. In the end, he was confronted and killed by Robert Ken O’Dunc.

Barbara Garson - Mac Bird by Barbara Garson (2 Lp Box Set w ...

His detractors saw him as a ruthless upstart who wanted to foist too-liberal policies on the United States. They distrusted his sympathy for the downtrodden—especially blacks and Hispanics. Worse, they saw the Kennedy family as trying to found a dynasty of Presidents that could last until the mid-1980s.

But the real Robert Kennedy was long torn between running against Johnson—whom he had long personally loathed—and letting someone else do so.

Kennedy’s hatred of Johnson—and his irrational belief that LBJ was somehow responsible for his brother’s death—was well-known. And Kennedy feared that if he ran against Johnson, his many enemies would charge he was doing so out of personal animosity. 

And there was another reason: Johnson, who had won the Presidency in a landslide in 1964, was certain to seek re-election in 1968. If Kennedy challenged him for the nomination, it might well split the party and result in the election of a Republican that November. And he—Kennedy—would be blamed for it.

Throughout 1966-7, Kennedy was urged to run against Johnson. Still, he dithered.

Then, on March 12, Minnesota United States Senator Eugene McCarthy entered the New Hampshire Democratic primary against Johnson—and won a surprising 42.2% of the vote to Johnson’s 49.4%.  Four days later, Robert Kennedy announced his own candidacy.

McCarthy’s supporters were outraged: Their candidate had dared to do what Kennedy had not—directly take on Johnson. And now that he had shown it could be done, the opportunistic Kennedy had jumped in. 

On March 18—two days after announcing his candidacy—Kennedy gave his first campaign speech at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas. This was the heart of conservative country, and Kennedy didn’t know how his audience would accept many of his decidedly liberal proposals.

“Do you think they’ll boo him?” his wife, Ethel, asked a friend before the speech. “Will they hate him?” 

Arriving at the university, Kennedy ate breakfast at the student union—and told a group of university officials and student leaders: “Some of you may not like what you’re going to hear in a few minutes, but it’s what I believe; and if I’m elected President, it’s what I’m going to do.”

Anderson Hall (Manhattan, Kansas) - Wikipedia

Kansas State University

As events unfolded, he—and Ethel—had no reason to worry.

Kennedy had served as United States Attorney General from 1961 to 1964. Yet he had not limited himself to simply fighting organized crime and enforcing civil rights. He had aggressively urged his brother, the President, to take a hard line on fighting the Communist forces in Vietnam.

But now he did something almost no other politician had—or has—ever done: He publicly accepted responsibly for the disaster the war had become since 1965:

“Let me begin this discussion with a note both personal and public. I was involved in many of the early decisions on Vietnam, decisions that helped set us on our present path.

“It may be that the effort was doomed from the start; that it was never really possible to bring all the people of South Vietnam under the rule of the successive governments we supported.”

GREEN BOOK: A MOVIE WITH A TIMELESS MESSAGE

In Entertainment, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on February 12, 2020 at 12:07 am

Every year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hosts its Academy Awards ceremony, better known as “Oscar Night.”

Each year, Academy members make their choices for such categories as Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Actress.

And each year, before those selections are announced at the ceremony, there is a huge buildup of anticipation among Americans over which person or movie should win acclaim.

Then that year’s selections are quickly forgotten.

But some movies should not be quickly forgotten. Among these: Green Book, which won the Oscar for Best Picture at the 91st annual Academy Awards in 2019.

Green Book is based on the true story of a concert tour by a black classical and jazz pianist, Don Shirley, and his driver and bodyguard, Tony Vallelonga. Mahershala Ali plays Shirley and Viggo Mortensen plays Vallelonga.

The two men are polar opposites: Shirley is cultured and eloquent; Vallelonga is streetwise and volatile. Shirley is used to dealing with the cream of New York society. Vallelonga is used to dealing with its dregs—as a nightclub bouncer. 

Mahershala Ali (29953410761).jpg

Mahershala Ali as Don Shirley

Gordon Correll [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D

When his nightclub closes for renovations, he responds to an ad by Shirley for a driver for his eight-week concert tour through the Midwest and Deep South.

This is 1962, a time when a black Air Force veteran, James Meredith, must be given protection by deputy U.S. marshals when he enters the segregated University of Mississippi. White and black “Freedom Riders” are canvassing the South, sitting at segregated lunch counters and often being attacked by members of the Ku Klux Klan and equally racist Southern police.

In fact, the title of the movie—Green Book—is derived from a travel guide written for blacks venturing into the Deep South: The Negro Motorist Green Book. Written by Victor Hugo Green, its purpose is to help blacks find motels and restaurants that will accept them.

And as Shirley and Vallelonga make their odyssey through the South, they find themselves staying at separate hotels—and sometimes together, after Vallelonga slips Shirley into his own room.

Green Book (2018 poster).png

An AV Film review called Green Book “a kind of comforting liberal fantasy, a #NotAllRacists trifle that suggests that our deep, festering divisions can be sutured through some quality time on the open road, resolving differences over a bucket of KFC.”

Not so. It took far more than a bucket of KFC to cement the friendship between Shirley and Vallelonga.

At the start of the movie, Vallelonga throws away a glass after a black construction worker drinks from it. But during his tour of the South, he becomes increasingly sympathetic to the plight suffered by Shirley—and other blacks forced to daily endure a series of humiliations.

Viggo Mortensen Cannes 2016.jpg

Viggo Mortensen as Tony Vallelonga

Georges Biard [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D

According to television critic Rebecca Theodore-Vachon: “Green Book is a feel-good movie. It doesn’t really require a lot of critical thinking or self-analysis. You know, people walk out of the movie feeling that, oh, well, racism is over, we’re good.”

Actually, the film makes clear that some people will always be racists. Thus, Shirley finds himself repeatedly forced to eat in the segregated rooms of the hotels where he’s to play concerts. And he’s almost murdered by a group of racists when he makes the mistake of going into a whites’ only bar. He survives only because Vallelonga arrives in time to rescue him.

And Shirley proves just as great a friend to Vallelonga. He introduces the semi-literate bouncer to the power of the written word by helping him craft articulate, heartfelt letters to his wife.

Toward the end of the movie, Vallelonga and Shirley are pulled over by a Mississippi police officer. Shirley’s “crime”: Being black—and out at night. When the officer insults Vallelonga, Tony punches him—and he and Shirley wind up in jail.  

Shirley asks for permission to call his “lawyer”—and the man he dials is Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy.

Kennedy, in turn, calls Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett. Barnett is already having his share of troubles with the Kennedys, and he orders the police: Let those men go—now! 

This scene underscores the importance of electing people who will stand against injustice. Watching the release of Vallelonga and Shirley, it’s impossible to imagine the Trump administration intervening in such a manner.

At the end of the movie, Shirley visits Vallelonga’s home—where he’s warmly received by Tony and his family. The film’s end credits reveal that the two men remained friends until they died, within months of each other, in 2013.

In 1950, a Western called Broken Arrow-–starring James Stewart as Tom Jeffords and Jeff Chandler as Cochise—told the true story of a friendship between a white man and an Apache. For many Americans, this came as a revelation.

After decades of seeing Indians depicted as bloodthirsty savages, audiences saw that there were those—among red men and white men—who could rise above prejudice and see each other as worthy of respect.

The lesson of Green Book is exactly the same. And it’s needed now more than ever.

“GREEN BOOK” AND ITS TIMELY MESSAGE

In History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on February 26, 2019 at 12:07 am

“The [Oscar] winners included Regina King, Rami Malek, Alfonso Cuaron, Spike Lee—a group of people from very different backgrounds representing films that tell nuanced stories about diverse experiences. 

“And then the top honor is given to a film that many people have criticized for being an overly simplistic story about race told from the perspective of a white savior.”

So argued Ari Shapiro, a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR’s award-winning news magazine. He made his comments the day after Green Book won the Oscar for Best Picture at the 91st annual Academy Awards. 

Green Book is a 2018 biographical drama set in the Deep South of 1962. It’s based on the true story of a concert tour by a black classical and jazz pianist, Don Shirley, and his driver and bodyguard, Tony Vallelonga.  Mahershala Ali plays Shirley and Viggo Mortensen plays Vallelonga.

The two men are polar opposites: Shirley is cultured and eloquent; Vallelonga is streetwise and volatile. Shirley is used to dealing with the cream of New York society. Vallelonga is used to dealing with its dregs—as a nightclub bouncer. 

Mahershala Ali (29953410761).jpg

Mahershala Ali as Don Shirley

Gordon Correll [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D

When his nightclub closes for renovations, he responds to an ad by Shirley for a driver for his eight-week concert tour through the Midwest and Deep South.

This is 1962, a time when a black Air Force veteran, James Meredith, must be given protection by deputy U.S. marshals when he enters the segregated University of Mississippi. White and black “Freedom Riders” are canvassing the South, sitting at segregated lunch counters and often being attacked by members of the Ku Klux Klan and equally racist Southern police.

In fact, the title of the movie—Green Book—is derived from a travel guide written for blacks venturing into the Deep South: The Negro Motorist Green Book. Written by Victor Hugo Green, its purpose is to help blacks find motels and restaurants that will accept them.

And as Shirley and Vallelonga make their odyssey through the South, they find themselves staying at separate hotels—and sometimes together, after Vallelonga slips Shirley into his own room.

Green Book (2018 poster).png

An AV Film review called Green Book “a kind of comforting liberal fantasy, a #NotAllRacists trifle that suggests that our deep, festering divisions can be sutured through some quality time on the open road, resolving differences over a bucket of KFC.” 

At the start of the movie, Vallelonga throws away a glass after a black construction worker drinks from it. But during his tour of the South, he becomes increasingly sympathetic to the plight suffered by Shirley—and other blacks forced to daily endure a series of humiliations.

Viggo Mortensen Cannes 2016.jpg

Viggo Mortensen as Tony Vallelonga

Georges Biard [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D

According to television critic Rebecca Theodore-Vachon: “Green Book is a feel-good movie. It doesn’t really require a lot of critical thinking or self-analysis. You know, people walk out t of the movie feeling that, oh, well, racism is over, we’re good. So I think those are the things that are going on.”

Actually, the film makes clear that some people will always be racists. Thus, Shirley finds himself repeatedly forced to eat in the segregated rooms of the hotels where he’s to play concerts. And he’s almost murdered by a group of racists when he makes the mistake of going into a whites’ only bar. He survives only because Vallelonga arrives in time to rescue him.

And Shirley proves just as great a friend to Vallelonga. He introduces the semi-literate bouncer to the power of the written word by helping him craft articulate, heartfelt letters to his wife.

Toward the end of the movie, Vallelonga and Shirley are pulled over by a Mississippi police officer. Shirley’s “crime”: Being black—and out at night. When the officer insults Vallelonga, Tony punches him—and he and Shirley wind up in jail.  

Shirley asks for permission to call his “lawyer”—and the man he dials is Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy.

Kennedy, in turn, calls Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett. Barnett is already having his share of troubles with the Kennedys, and he orders the police: Let those men go—now! 

This scene underscores the importance of electing people who will stand against injustice. Watching the release of Vallelonga and Shirley, it’s impossible to imagine the Trump administration intervening in such a manner.

At the end of the movie, Shirley visits Vallelonga’s home—where he’s warmly received by Tony and his family. The film’s end credits reveal that the two men remained friends until they died, within months of each other, in 2013.

In 1950, a Western called Broken Arrow-–starring James Stewart as Tom Jeffords and Jeff Chandler as Cochise—told the true story of a friendship between a white man and an Apache. For many Americans, this came as a revelation.

After decades of seeing Indians depicted as bloodthirsty savages, audiences saw that there were those—among red men and white men—who could rise above prejudice and see each other as worthy of respect.

The lesson of Green Book is exactly the same. And it’s needed now more than ever.

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

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