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Posts Tagged ‘DAILY KOS’

THE PERILS OF TWITTERING

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on October 9, 2017 at 12:04 am
If Donald Trump ever read The Prince, by Niccolo Machiavelli, the Florentine statesman, he’s decided he doesn’t need it. And his ever-falling popularity among Americans clearly proves his mistake. 

OUR MOST-LOVED–AND MOST-HATED–PRESIDENTS

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on September 28, 2017 at 12:06 am

Why are some Presidents remembered with affection, while others are detested—or forgotten altogether?

Generally, Presidents who are warmly remembered are seen as making positive contributions to the lives of their fellow Americans and being “people-oriented.”

Among these:

  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Theodore Roosevelt
  • Franklin Roosevelt
  • John F. Kennedy

Among the reasons they are held in such high regard:

  • Abraham Lincoln ended slavery and restored the Union. Although he ruthlessly prosecuted the Civil War, his humanity remains engraved in stories such as his pardoning a soldier condemned to be shot for cowardice: “If Almighty God gives a man a cowardly pair of legs, how can he help their running away with him?”

An iconic photograph of a bearded Abraham Lincoln showing his head and shoulders.

Abraham Lincoln

  • Theodore Roosevelt championed an era of reform, such as creating the Food and Drug Administration and five National Parks. Popularly known as “Teddy,” he even had a toy bear—the teddy bear—named after him.
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt successfully led America through the Great Depression and World War II. He was the first President to insist that government existed to directly better the lives of its citizens: “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”

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Franklin D. Roosevelt

  • John F. Kennedy supported civil rights and called for an end to the Cold War. He challenged Americans to “ask what you can do for your country” and made government service respectable, even chic. His youth, charisma, intelligence and handsomeness led millions to mourn for “what might have been” had he lived to win a second term.

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John F. Kennedy

Presidents who remain unpopular among Americans are seen as unlikable and responsible (directly or not) for mass suffering.

Among these:

  • Herbert Hoover
  • Lyndon B. Johnson
  • Richard M. Nixon

Among the reasons they are held in such low regard:

  • Herbert Hoover is still blamed for the 1929 Great Depression. He didn’t create it, but his conservative, “small-government” philosophy led him to refuse to aid its victims. An engineer by profession, he saw the Depression as a machine that needed repair, not as a catastrophe for human beings. This lack of “emotional intelligence” cost him heavily with voters.
  • Lyndon B. Johnson is still blamed as the President “who got us into Vietnam.” John F. Kennedy had laid the groundwork by placing 16,000 American troops there by the time he died in 1963. But it was Johnson who greatly expanded the war in 1965 and kept it going—with hugely expanding casualties—for the next three years. Unlike Kennedy, whom he followed, he looked and sounded terrible on TV. Voters compared LBJ’s Texas drawl and false piety with JFK’s wit and good looks—and found him wanting.

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Lyndon B. Johnson

  • Richard M. Nixon will be remembered foremost as the President who was forced to resign under threat of impeachment and removal from office. Like Herbert Hoover, he was not a “people person” and seemed remote to even his closest associates. Although he took office on a pledge to “bring us together” and end the Vietnam war, he attacked war protesters as traitors and kept the war going another four years. His paranoid fears of losing the 1972 election led to his creating an illegal “Plumbers” unit which bugged the Democratic offices at the Watergate Hotel. And his attempted cover-up of their illegal actions led to his being forced to resign from office in disgrace.

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Richard M. Nixon

Which brings us to the question: How is Donald J. Trump likely to be remembered?

Historian Joachim C. Fest offers an unintended answer to this question in his 1973 bestselling biography Hitler:

“The phenomenon of the great man is primarily aesthetic, very rarely moral in nature; and even if we were prepared to make allowances in the latter realm, in the former we could not.

“An ancient tenet of aesthetics holds that one who for all his remarkable traits is a repulsive human being, is unfit to be a hero.”

Among the reasons for Hitler’s being “a repulsive human being,” Fest cites the Fuhrer’s

  • “intolerance and vindictiveness”;
  • “lack of generosity”; and
  • “banal and naked materialism–power was the only motive he would recognize.”

Fest then quotes German chancellor Otto von Bismark on what constitutes greatness: “Impressiveness in this world is always akin to the fallen angel who is beautiful but without peace, great in his plans and efforts, but without success, proud but sad.”

And Fest concludes: “If this is true greatness, Hitler’s distance from it is immeasurable.”

What Fest writes about Adolf Hitler applies just as brutally to President Trump.

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Donald Trump

Intolerant and vindictive. Lacking generosity. Nakedly materialistic.  

He has:

  • Boasted about the politicians he’s bought and the women he’s bedded—and forced himself on.
  • Threatened his Democratic opponent—Hillary Clinton—with prosecution if he were elected.
  • Slandered entire segments of Americans—blacks, Hispanics, women, journalists, Asians, the disabled, the Gold Star parents of a fallen soldier.
  • Slandered President Barack Obama for five years as a non-citizen, finally admitting the truth only to win black votes.
  • Attacked the FBI and CIA for accurately reporting that Russian President Vladimir Putin had intervened in the 2016 Presidential election to ensure Trump’s victory. 

At this stage, it’s hard to imagine Trump joining that select number of Presidents Americans remember with awe and reverence.

DONALD TRUMP’S ULTIMATE STRATEGY

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on September 27, 2017 at 12:28 am

Since taking office as the Nation’s 45th President, Donald Trump has attacked or undermined one public or private institution after another.

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Donald Trump

Among these:

  • American Intelligence and military agencies: A Trump executive order allows the Director of National Intelligence and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to attend the Principals’ Committee only when it pertains to their “responsibilities and expertise.”
  • In February, Trump approved and ordered a Special Forces raid in Yemen on an Al Qaeda stronghold. The assault resulted in the death of Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens.
  • Disavowing any responsibility for the failure, Trump said: ““This was a mission that was started before I got here. This was something they wanted to do. They came to me, they explained what they wanted to do–the generals–who are very respected, my generals are the most respected that we’ve had in many decades, I believe. And they lost Ryan.”
  • Medicare: During the 2016 campaign, Trump said he would allow Medicare to negotiate down the price of prescription drugs. At his January 10 press conference he charged that pharmaceutical companies were “getting away with murder.”
  • But after meeting with pharmaceutical lobbyists on January 31, Trump said: “I’ll oppose anything that makes it harder for smaller, younger companies to take the risk of bringing their product to a vibrantly competitive market. That includes price-fixing by the biggest dog in the market, Medicare.”
  • The press: On February 17, Trump tweeted: “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!”
  • And, appearing before the Conservative Political Action Conference on February 24, Trump said: “I want you all to know that we are fighting the fake news. It’s fake, phony, fake….I’m against the people that make up stories and make up sources. They shouldn’t be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody’s name. Let their name be put out there.”
  • The Secret Service: Trump has kept his longtime private security force, and combined its members with those of the elite federal agency. By marginalizing the Secret Service, he has clearly sent the message: You’re not good enough, and I don’t trust you.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): Trump believes that climate change is a hoax. He didn’t offer any proof for this. Instead, he appointed an EPA director–Scott Pruitt–who claimed that climate change wasn’t caused by human activity.
     

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Seal of the CBO

  • President Barack Obama: For five years, Trump, more than anyone else, popularized the slander that President Barack Obama was born in Kenya–and was therefore not an American citizen.
  • On March 23, 2011, Trump said: “I want him to show his birth certificate. I want him to show his birth certificate. …There’s something on that birth certificate that he doesn’t like.” 
  • Even after Obama released the long-form version of his birth certificate–on April 27, 2011–Trump tweeted, on August 6, 2012: “An ‘extremely credible source’ has called my office and told me that @BarackObama‘s birth certificate is a fraud.”
  • On November 23, 2014, he tweeted this: “@futureicon@pinksugar61 Obama also fabricated his own birth certificate after being pressured to produce one by @realDonaldTrump“.
  • Then, in June, 2015, Trump declared himself a candidate for President. By September, 2016, he found his popularity steadily dropping among black voters. Even the managers of Trump’s campaign urged him to put the “birther” issue behind him. 
  • On September 16, 2016—10 days before his scheduled first debate with Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton—Trump made his version of a reversal: “Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy. “I finished it.  I finished it. You know what I mean. President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period.”

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Barack Obama

  • On March 4, 2017, in a series of unhinged tweets, Trump accused former President Obama of tapping his Trump Tower phones prior to the election: “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!”  
  • “Is it legal for a sitting President to be ‘wire tapping’ a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW!” 
  • “I’d bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!” 
  • “How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”  

Thus, without offering a shred of evidence to back it up, Trump accused his predecessor of committing an impeachable offense.

* * * * *

Donald Trump isn’t crazy, as many of his critics charge.  He knows what he’s doing—and why.

He intends to strip every potential challenger to his authority—or his version of reality–of legitimacy with the public.  If he succeeds, there will be:

  • No independent press to reveal his failures and crimes.
  • No independent law enforcement agencies to investigate his abuses of office.
  • No independent judiciary to hold him accountable.
  • No independent military to dissent as he recklessly hurtles toward a nuclear disaster.
  • No candidate—Democrat or Republican—to challenge  him for re-election in 2020.
  • No candidate—Democrat or Republican—to challenge his remaining in office as “President-for-Life.”

THE #1 THREAT TO AMERICA’S SECURITY: DONALD TRUMP

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on August 25, 2017 at 12:08 am

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper witnessed President Donald Trump’s 77-minute rant at a Phoenix campaign rally on August 22.

Trump angrily defended his refusal to condemn white supremacists for their intimidating and violent actions in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 12-13. And he continued to slander the news media as unpatriotic.

He also attacked NAFTA and the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) and threatened to shut down the government if Congress refused to pay for a border wall. (During his 2016 campaign, he had repeatedly promised that Mexico would pay for this.)

Afterward, Clapper told CNN: “I find this downright scary and disturbing….I really question his ability to be—his fitness to be—in this office, and I also am beginning to wonder about his motivation for it.  Maybe he is looking for a way out.”

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James Clapper

But the part of Clapper’s interview that most caught the attention of the media and Washington’s political establishment came when reporter Don Lemon asked: Is Trump a threat to national security?

“Well, he certainly could be,” Clapper replied.

“Again, having some understanding of the levers that a president can exercise, I worry about, frankly, you know, the access to nuclear codes,” Clapper answered.

And Clapper knows more about “the levers that a President can exercise” than most: He served no fewer than ten Presidents–from John F. Kennedy to Barack Obama.

He warned that “in a fit of pique,” Trump could order a nuclear strike against the regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“There’s actually very little to stop him,” Clapper said. “The whole system’s built to ensure rapid response if necessary. So there’s very little in the way of controls over you know, exercising a nuclear option, which is pretty damn scary.”

But long before the Clapper interview, 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

  • On November 18, Trump—rather than face trial—settled the Trump University 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.”
  • 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 number of people, places and things Trump has insulted is so extensive The New York Times compiled a list of 273 of them.

Trump’s rampant egomania is literally stamped on his properties. Of the 515 entities he owns, 268 of them—52%—bear his last name. Among the references he’s made to himself:

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  • “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.”
  • 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.”

* * * * *

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 himself.

“WORKING TOWARD THE FUHRER–UH, PRESIDENT”: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on August 4, 2017 at 12:03 am

In Stalingrad, a 1993 war movie, a platoon of German Army soldiers leaves behind the beaches and beauties of Italy and find themselves fighting desperately to stay alive in Russia. 

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Early in the film, there is an exchange that has its real-life counterpart almost 75 years later.

A young, idealistic German lieutenant, newly transferred to the Russian front, is horrified when he sees a fellow soldier from another unit sadistically beat a Russian prisoner to death.

He seeks out the man’s superior, a captain, and says: “Captain, I must protest about the behavior of your men.”

“You want to protest?” asks the captain, grinning sardonically. “Tell the Fuhrer.”

Fast forward to January 28, 2017, the day after President Donald J. Trump signed into law an executive order which:

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

The new rules—and the efforts of security personnel at major international airports to enforce them—triggered a tsunami of chaos and fear among travelers.

“We’ve gotten reports of people being detained all over the country,” said Becca Heller, the director of the International Refugee Assistance Project. “They’re literally pouring in by the minute.”

Refugees on flights when the order was signed on January 27 were detained upon arrival.

Many students attending American universities were blocked from returning to the United States from visits abroad.

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According to Homeland Security officials:

  • 109 people who were already in transit to the United States when the order was signed were denied access;
  • 173 were stopped before boarding planes heading to America;
  • 81 who were stopped were eventually given waivers to enter the United States.

Internationally, travelers were seized by panic when they were not allowed  to board flights to the United States. In Dubai and Istanbul, airport and immigration officials turned passengers away at boarding gates. At least one family was removed from a flight it had boarded.

Earlier on January 28, Trump, isolated in the White House from all the chaos he had unleashed in airports across the nation and throughout the world, said:

“It’s not a Muslim ban, but we were totally prepared. It’s working out very nicely. You see it at the airports, you see it all over.”

Then the American Civil Liberties Union intervened.

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Two Iraqi immigrants, defended by the ACLU, accused Trump of legal and constitutional overreach.

The Iraqis had been detained at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City. One had served as an interpreter for American forces in Iraq for a decade. The other was en route to reunite with his wife and son in Texas.

The interpreter, Hameed Khalid Darweesh, was released after nearly 19 hours of detention. So was the other traveler, Haider Sameer Abdulkhaleq Alshawi.

Before the two men were released, one of their lawyers, Mark Doss, a supervising attorney at the International Refugee Assistance Project, asked an official, “Who is the person we need to talk to?”

“Call Mr. Trump,” said the official, who refused to identify himself.

He might just as well have said: “You want to protest? Tell the Fuhrer.”

The ACLU action secured at least a temporary blocking of part of Trump’s order. A Brooklyn judge barred the government from deporting some arrivals who found themselves ensnared by the Presidential order.

Judge Ann M. Donnelly of the Federal District Court in Brooklyn, ruled that sending the travelers home could cause them “irreparable harm.” She said the government was “enjoined and restrained from, in any manner and by any means, removing individuals” who had arrived in the United States with valid visas or refugee status.

But she did not force the administration to let in people otherwise blocked by the executive order who have not yet traveled to the United States. Nor did she issue a broader ruling on the constitutionality of the order.

* * * * *

On November 8, millions of ignorant, hate-filled, Right-wing Americans elected Donald Trump—a man reflecting their own hate and ignorance—to the Presidency.

Summing up Trump’s character in a March 25, 2016 broadcast of The PBS Newshour, conservative political columnist David Brooks warned: “The odd thing about [Trump’s] whole career and his whole language, his whole world view is there is no room for love in it. You get a sense of a man who received no love, can give no love…. 

And so you really are seeing someone who just has an odd psychology unleavened by kindness and charity, but where it’s all winners and losers, beating and being beat. And that’s part of the authoritarian personality.”

There were countless warning signs available for Trump’s supporters to see—if they had wanted to see them:  

  • His threats against his political opponents;
  • His five-year “birtherism” slander against President Obama—which even he was forced to disavow;
  • His rampant egomania;
  • His attacks on everyone who dared to disagree with him;
  • His refusal to release his tax returns;
  • His history of bankruptcies and lawsuits filed against him;
  • His bragging about sexually abusing women (“Grab them by the pussy”).

Those who voted against Trump are now experiencing the truth of the Nazi slogan: “The Fuhrer proposes and disposes for all.”

‘WORKING TOWARDS THE FUHRER–UH, PRESIDENT”: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on August 3, 2017 at 12:02 am

When historians—and ordinary citizens—think about the Third Reich, the name of Werner Willikens doesn’t immediately spring to mind.

Adolf Hitler, Herman Goring, Joseph Goebbels, Heinrich Himmler, Adolf Eichmann—yes.

But Werner Willikens?  Why him?

Ian Kershaw has unearthed the reason.

Ian Kershaw  is a British historian and author who has written extensively about the Third Reich. He is best-known for his monumental, two-volume biography, Hitler 1889–1936: Hubris (1998) and Hitler 1936–1945: Nemesis (2000). 

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Ian Kershaw

Willikens, State Secretary in the Ministry of Food, gave a speech on February 21, 1934 that casts new light on how Hitler came to exercise vast authority over Nazi Germany:

“Everyone who has the opportunity to observe it knows that the Fuhrer can hardly dictate from above everything he intends to realize sooner or later.

“On the contrary, up till now everyone with a post in the new Germany has worked best when he has, so to speak, worked towards the Fuhrer….

“In fact, it is the duty of everybody to try to work towards the Fuhrer along the lines he would wish. Anyone who makes mistakes will notice it soon enough.

“But anyone who really works towards the Fuhrer along his lines and towards his goal will certainly both now and in the future one day have the finest reward in the form of the sudden legal confirmation of his work.”

Volker Ullrich, bestselling author of Hitler: Ascent 1889 – 1939, summed up the results of this interplay between Hitler and his subjects:

“Kershaw tried to show that in many instances Hitler didn’t need to do very much at all since German society—everyone from the underlings surrounding him to ordinary people on the street—were increasingly inclined to anticipate and fulfill the Fuhrer’s every wish, ‘working towards him.’

“…Kershaw did not minimize the historical role played by Hitler and his insane, ideological fixations, but he did illustrate that without the readiness of many people to work for the man in charge, there would have been no way he could have achieved his murderous aims.

“Kershaw’s main thesis was that the dynamics of the Nazi regime arose from the interplay of Hitler’s intentions with activism emanating from subordinate individuals and institutions. The results were ever more radical ‘solutions.’” 

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With the Third Reich dying in the flames of Berlin, at about 3:30 p.m. on April 30, 1945, Adolf Hitler simultaneously bit on a cyanide capsule and fired a pistol shot into his right temple.

The concept of “working towards the Fuhrer” seemed to have come to a literally fiery end.

Fast forward almost 72 years later—to 4:42 p.m. on January 27, 2017.

Newly inaugurated President Donald J. Trump signs into law an executive order that:

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

Trump’s executive order read: “In order to protect Americans, the United States must ensure that those admitted to this country do not bear hostile attitudes toward it and its founding principles.

“The United States cannot, and should not, admit those who do not support the Constitution, or those who would place violent ideologies over American law.” 

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President Donald Trump

But that statement excluded three extremely troubling facts.

First: Over the past four decades, there have been no fatal attacks within the United States by immigrants from any of those seven banned countries.

Second, approximately 3,000 Americans have been killed by immigrants from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Turkey. Most of those victims died during the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

In fact, 15 of the 19 highjackers who took part in those attacks came from Saudi Arabia. Osama bin Ladin, the mastermind of the attacks, was himself a Saudi from a wealthy family with strong ties to the Saudi Royal Family.

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

Trump lists companies on his FEC filing possibly related to a development project in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia’s second-biggest city, located outside Mecca: DT Jeddah Technical Services Manager LLC, DT Jeddah Technical Services Manager Member Corp., THC Jeddah Hotel Manager LLC and THC Jeddah Hotel Manager Member Corp.

Trump lists two companies on his FEC filing possibly related to business in Egypt: Trump Marks Egypt and Trump Marks Egypt LLC.

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

On January 11, Trump said that:

  • He would resign from his positions at the Trump Organization but that he would not divest his ownership.
  • The organization would be managed by his sons Eric and Don Jr. and chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg.
  • The organization would terminate pending deals and not seek new international business.

Walter Shaub, director of the Office of Government Ethics, said that these measures did not resolve the President’s conflict-of-interest problems and called them  “meaningless.”

It was after Trump signed his executive order that the true consequences of “working towards the Fuhrer”—or President—were fully revealed.

LIKE HITLER, LIKE TRUMP–“LET THEM DIE”: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 21, 2017 at 12:21 am

On March 6, 2017, House Republican leaders unveiled the American Health Care Act (AHCA) as their replacement for “Obamacare.”

Conservative Republicans immediately declared that it didn’t repeal and replace Obamacare. And “moderates” complained that it would leave too many people uninsured. 

Democrats, meanwhile, stayed silent. They had pushed hard in 2009-10 to provide all Americans with access to healthcare. And they weren’t going to participate in dismantling their signature legislation.

On March 13, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office released its report estimating that about 18 million people would be uninsured in 2018 if the AHCA were enacted. The number of uninsured people would reach 19 million in 2020 and 24 million in 2026.

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Still, Republicans plunged forward, with House leaders tweaking it slightly to win conservative and “moderate” votes.

Still, conservatives felt the bill helped too many people. And “moderates” feared that the millions of voters who would lose their insurance would vote them out of office at the next election. 

On March 24, President Donald Trump, knowing the AHCA couldn’t pass the House, asked Speaker Paul Ryan to pull it off the floor. 

And Ryan did so, only moments before a scheduled vote.

Finally, on May 4, House Republicans were ready to vote to pass the AHCA.

The vote was preceded by a pep rally, which featured beer, the “Rocky” theme song, the “Taking Care of Business” song, a prayer and the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance.

Some Republicans, asked whether they had read the bill they supported, refused to answer. 

That up to 24 million Americans would lose their medical insurance meant nothing to Right-wingers. 

What did matter to them was:

  • Destroying the legacy of Barack Obama, the nation’s first black President; and
  • Initiating a huge transfer of wealth from the poor and middle-class to the 1% wealthiest.

On May 4, House Republicans passed the AHCA and sent it the Senate. There it was expected to be significantly revised.

But this, too, didn’t matter to House Republicans. They had “kept faith” with their hate-filled. Right-wing constituents—and assured their own re-elections. 

Speaking in front of nearly 100 GOP lawmakers in the White House Rose Garden, Trump boasted that the AHCA would “finish off” the “catastrophe” of Obamacare.

Donald Trump

At a White House celebration, Trump boasted: “This has brought the Republican Party together.”

But then came disaster—for Republicans—in the Senate. 

With Democrats abstaining, Republicans found themselves fighting each other. 

Some wanted to gut “Obamacare” entirely, whatever the consequences for the 24 million Americans who would be left without insurance.

Others feared that slashing more than $700 billion from Medicaid—the Federal medical insurance program for the poor—would lead to millions of angry voters turning out Republicans at the polls.

(And slashing Medicaid—as opposed to expanding it, as President Obama had sought to do—was a major reason why Republicans wanted to overturn “Obamacare.”) 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) desperately tried to hammer out a compromise between the two opposing sides. When this proved impossible, it was clear the “repeal and replace” bill wouldn’t pass the Senate. 

At that point, President Trump tweeted his own solution: “Republicans should just ‘REPEAL’ failing ObamaCare now & work on a new Healthcare Plan that will start from a clean slate. Dems will join in!” 

But this proved too politically risky for some Republicans. 

On July 18, Republican Senators’ efforts to replace the ACA without a ready replacement collapsed. 

As usual, Donald Trump had a ready “solution” to offer. Like Adolf Hitler issuing his “scorched earth” order in a doomed Berlin in 1945, the President said:

“Let Obamacare fail; it’ll be a lot easier. And I think we’re probably in that position where we’ll just let Obamacare fail.

“We’re not going to own it. I’m not going to own it. I can tell you the Republicans are not going to own it. We’ll let Obamacare fail, and then the Democrats are going to come to us and they’re going to say, ‘How do we fix it? How do we fix it?’ Or, ‘How do we come up with a new plan?’” 

* * * * *

Allowing Obamacare to fail would deprive millions of Americans of healthcare. But that meant nothing to Donald Trump.

Just as destroying everything still remaining in Germany had meant nothing to Adolf Hitler.

Fortunately for Germany, one man—Albert Speer—finally broke ranks with his Fuhrer.

Albert Speer

Albert Speer

Risking death, he refused to carry out Hitler’s “scorched earth” order. Even more important, he mounted a successful effort to block such destruction and persuade influential military and civilian leaders to disobey the order as well.

As a result, those targets slated for destruction were spared.

Since the election of America’s first black President, Republicans have waged a similar “scorched earth” campaign.

Acting as extortionists, they repeatedly threatened to shut down the government if they didn’t get their way in legislative matters. And they repeatedly blocked legislation to help the poor, the unemployed, the sick, women, the elderly, the disabled and the middle-class. 

Like Adolf Hitler, their attitude has been: “If I can’t rule America, there won’t be an America.”

The country is still waiting for a Republican Albert Speer to step forward and save America from the self-destructive brutalities of its own Right-wing fanatics.

LIKE HITLER, LIKE TRUMP–“LET THEM DIE”: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 20, 2017 at 12:50 am

Albert Speer, Minister of Armaments for the Third Reich, was appalled.

His Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler—the man he had idolized for 14 years—had just passed a death sentence on Germany, the nation he claimed to love above all others.

Albert Speer and Adolf Hitler pouring over architectural plans

On March 19, 1945, facing certain defeat, Hitler had ordered a massive “scorched-earth” campaign throughout Germany.

All German agriculture, industry, ships, communications, roads, food stuffs, mines, bridges, stores and utility plants were to be destroyed.

If implemented, it would deprive the entire German population of even the barest necessities after the war.

Now living in a bunker 50 feet below bomb-shattered Berlin, Hitler gave full vent to his most destructive impulses.

Adolf Hitler addressing boy soldiers as the Third Reich crumbles

“If the war is lost,” Hitler told Speer, “the nation will also perish. This fate is inevitable. There is no necessity to take into consideration the basis which the people will need to continue even a most primitive existence.

“On the contrary, it will be better to destroy these things ourselves, because this nation will have proved to be the weaker one and the future will belong solely to the stronger eastern nation.

“Besides, those who will remain after the battle are only the inferior ones, for the good ones have all been killed.”

Speer argued in vain that there must be a future for the German people. But Hitler refused to back down. He gave Speer 24 hours to reconsider his opposition to the order.

The next day, Speer told Hitler: “My Fuhrer, I stand unconditionally behind you!”

“Then all is well,” said Hitler, suddenly with tears in his eyes.

“If I stand unreservedly behind you,” said Speer, “then you must entrust me rather than the Gauleiters [district Party leaders serving as provincial governors] with the implementation of your decree.”

Filled with gratitude, Hitler signed the decree Speer had thoughtfully prepared before their fateful meeting.

By doing so, Hitler unintentionally gave Speer the power to thwart his “scorched earth” decree.

Speer had been the closest thing to a friend in Hitler’s life. Trained as an architect, he had joined the Nazi Party in 1931.

He met Hitler in 1933, when he presented the Fuhrer with architectural designs for the Nuremberg Rally scheduled for that year.

From then on, Speer became Hitler’s “genius architect” assigned to create buildings meant to last for a thousand years.

In 1943, Hitler appointed him Minister of Armaments, charged with revitalizing the German war effort.

Nevertheless, Speer now crisscrossed Germany, persuading military leaders and district governors to not destroy the vital facilities that would be needed after the war.

“No other senior National Socialist could have done the job,” writes Randall Hanson, author of Disobeying Hitler: German Resistance After Valkyrie.

“Speer was one of the very few people in the Reich—perhaps even the only one—with such power to influence actors’ willingness/unwillingness to destroy.”

Despite his later conviction for war crimes at Nuremberg, Speer never regretted his efforts to save Germany from total destruction at the hands of Adolf Hitler.

Fast-forward to the United States and the 2008 election of the nation’s first black President. 

On March 23, 2010, President Barack Obama signed into law the Affordable Care Act (ACA), nicknamed Obamacare. Its purpose: To provide access to healthcare for millions of poor and middle-class Americans who had heretofore been unable to obtain it.

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President Barack Obama

It became—and remains—Obama’s signature legislative accomplishment. 

Republicans immediately declared “Obamacare” Public Enemy Number One and set out to repeal it. By March 2014 they had already voted against it 54 times, trying to undo or substantially change it.

In October, 2013, they shut down the Federal Government for 15 days. They hoped to extort Obama into de-funding the ACA: If he did, they would re-open Federal agencies.

But, facing pressure from voters unable to obtain basic government services, Republicans backed down. 

During the 2016 Presidential campaign, every Republican candidate pledged to repeal Obamacare if s/he were elected.

Donald Trump—who won the Republican nomination and then the election—repeatedly made this the centerpiece of his campaign. 

On October 25, he promised: “My first day in office, I am going to ask Congress to put a bill on my desk getting rid of this disastrous law and replacing it with reforms that expand choice, freedom, affordability.

“You’re going to have such great health care at a tiny fraction of the cost. And it’s going to be so easy.”

But after taking office on January 20, he found that replacing the ACA wasn’t so easy.

On March 6, 2017, House Republicans unveiled the American Health Care Act (AHCA). This was attacked by conservatives because it didn’t repeal and replace Obamacare. And “moderate” Republicans complained that it would leave too many people uninsured.

On March 13, 2017, the Congressional Budget Committee released its report estimating that about 18 million people would be uninsured in 2018 if the AHCA were enacted. The number of uninsured people would reach 19 million in 2020 and 23 million in 2026. 

Still, Republicans plunged forward, with House leaders making slight changes to win conservative and moderate votes.

WILD BILL HICKOK VS. THE NRA: PART TWO (END)

In History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 7, 2017 at 12:16 am

After being fired as town marshal of Abilene, Kansas, James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok lived another five years. But they weren’t good ones.

Unlike William F. Cody, Hickok couldn’t adjust to the changing West.

It was becoming less wild. His scouting days were over—the Indian wars were rapidly coming to an end.

(In June, 1876, barely two months before his own death, the Sioux and Cheyenne would wipe out the other famous “Long Hair” of the plains–George Armstrong Custer—at the battle of Little Bighorn.)

And most towns, like Abilene, increasingly had little use for lead-slinging lawmen like Hickok.

James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok

Worst of all, he was going blind—either from a venereal disease he had contracted or from the glare of too many prairie sunrises.

In 1873, Hickok tried his hand as an actor in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. But he was a terrible performer—and knew it.

The fault, however, did not lie entirely with him. Even Laurence Oliver would have rebelled at spouting lines like: “Fear not, fair maiden, for you are ever safe with Will Bill, who has sworn to defend to the death your maidenly virtue.”

Not that the audiences cared. They had come to see legendary plainsmen—such as Hickok and Cody—in the flesh, not great theater.

Hickok asked Cody to release him from his contract. Cody refused. So Hickok once again turned to his guns for a solution.

In this case, it meant shooting blanks into the legs and buttocks of “dead” Indians who suddenly sprang to life and rushed off the stage. And one night, Hickok put a real bullet through a stage light that was hurting his already sensitive eyes.

That, finally, convinced Cody that Hickok’s acting days were over.

In March, 1876, he married Agnes Lake Thatcher, a circus acrobat several years his senior.

In April, he told Agnes he was heading for the gold rush country of Deadwood, South Dakota. After he made his fortune, he would send for her.

But she never saw him again.

Deadwood was the sort of town the National Rifle Association wants to see replicated across modern-day America. Everyone wore a gun, and there was no town ordinance against doing so. Nor were there any law-enforcers like Hickok to protect the public from the kill-crazy antics of liquored-up gunmen.

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Grave of “Wild Bill” Hickok

Worse for Hickok, he had two strikes against him: His reputation as a matchless gunfighter had preceded him—and his failing vision put him at a disadvantage in backing it up.

Arriving in Deadwood, he quickly decided that the strenuous life of a gold-miner was not for him. Instead, he would seek his fortune as he often had—in saloons as a gambler.

And, as he had so often, he spent more of his time losing money than making it.

On August 2, 1876, his long trail of bad luck finally ran out.

He had always sat with his back to a wall, as a precaution against ambush. On this afternoon, he found his preferred seat taken by another gambler named Charles Rich. Hickok asked Rich to trade places with him, but when the latter refused, Hickok didn’t press the matter. 

It was a sign that Hickok’s reputation had sharply fallen. Ten years earlier, had he made such a request, the other gambler would have rushed to swap chairs.

Hickok paid no attention as a whiskey bum named Jack McCall walked around to the corner of the saloon to where the ex-lawman was playing.

Jack McCall

The previous night, Hickok had won considerable money from McCall in a poker game—and had generously given him back enough to buy something to eat.

(The 1995 movie, Wild Bill, depicted McCall as Hickok’s illegitimate son seeking vengeance on the father who had abandoned him. But this was completely false, as the two were completely unrelated. The one saving grace to this otherwise absurd film was Jeff Bridges’ gritty performance as Hickok.)

Suddenly, McCall  pulled a double-action .45 from under his coat, shouted “Take that!” and shot Hickok in the back of the head.

Hickok died instantly.  He was 39.

As he slid from the table, he dropped the cards he had been holding—a pair of eights and another pair of Aces, which has ever since been known as “the dead man’s hand.”

McCall was “tried” by a mining court.  He claimed that Hickok had murdered his brother and he had sought revenge.  He was acquitted.

He headed for Wyoming, where he incessantly bragged that he had killed the famous “Wild Bill” Hickok.

McCall was arrested in Laramie and charged with murder. The trial in Deadwood was found to have been invalid—owing to the town’s being in Indian territory and outside the reach of United States law.

Once again forced to stand trial, McCall found himself convicted. On March 1, 1877, he was hanged. Later, it was discovered that McCall had never had a brother.

WILD BILL HICKOK VS. THE NRA: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 6, 2017 at 12:33 am

Almost everyone has heard of “Wild Bill” Hickok—the legendary Western scout, Indian fighter, two-gun lawman and crack shot.

And the legend, not the man, is often invoked–inaccurately—by “gun rights” advocates who seek to reduce the entire Constitution to a single amendment: The Second Amendment.

But there is a vast difference between Hickok the legend–and Hickok the actual man.

For one thing, his real name wasn’t “Bill”—or even “William.” It was James Butler Hickok.

He supposedly got the name “Wild Bill” after thwarting an attempted lynching—and a woman applauded his bravery with: “Good for you, Wild Bill!”

James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok

For another, Hickok didn’t spend most of his life as a town marshal. His gunslinging days as a lawman lasted just two years—1869 to 1871.

And they ended badly. His first stint as a lawman came at Hays City, Kansas. As sheriff, he shot and killed at least two men.

According to legend, one of these shootings occurred when Hickok, looking in a bar mirror, saw a ruffian named Strawhan pull a pistol to shoot him in the back.

Hickok, looking into the mirror, threw a “trick shot” over his shoulder–and nailed Strawhan dead.

Then Hickok’s luck ran out. On July 17, 1870, several members of the 7th U.S. Cavalry attacked him in Drum’s Saloon. Knocked to the floor and repeatedly kicked, Hickok had reason to fear death.

Drawing his pistols, he killed one private and wounded another. Although he had acted in self-defense and the shootings were entirely justifiable, Hickok now faced even greater danger from other, enraged members of the same regiment.

He decided to leave Hays before they could take their revenge.

His next posting as town marshal came in Abilene, Kansas. This stint lasted from April to December, 1871.

And, like his last one as a “town-tamer,” it ended with a deadly shootout.

A major portion of his duties lay in enforcing the “no firearms worn or used in town” edict.

Abilene was a cattle town, the end of the line for many outfits seeking a major railhead where their hundreds of beeves could be dropped off and shipped eastward.

When cowboys—most of them in their teens or early 20s—reached Abilene, they wanted to celebrate. Their long drive was over, and now they could finally get paid. And there were plenty of bars and whores waiting to pick up their newly-issued monies.

This combination of randy men and ready supplies of alcohol and women often led to trouble. One cowboy might make a pass at another’s “lady” for the night. Or an argument might erupt over a card game.

It was Hickok’s duty to make sure that such arguments were settled only with fists. And that meant demanding that all cowboys’ guns be checked at the marshal’s office until the “boys” were ready to leave Abilene.

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Replica of Hickok’s 1851 Navy Colt

This, of course, contradicts the “open carry” demands of the National Rifle Association. And most of its members—if transported to the Old West—would find themselves on the wrong side of Hickok.

And that wasn’t a good place to be—as Texas gambler Phil Coe learned to his dismay. Coe and Hickok had clashed before.

As co-owner of the Bull’s head Saloon, Coe had advertised its wares with a sign depicting a bull with oversized sexual organs. A number of citizens raged that this was obscene and demanded that the animal’s sexuality be greatly reduced.

The city fathers agreed. Hickok stood nearby with a shotgun while a painter made the necessary deletions.

On October 5, cowboys were flooding into Abilene, looking for a good time. Coe, feeling in high spirits, decided to celebrate by firing his pistol into the air several times.

The shots quickly brought Hickok to the scene.

“Did you fire that shot?” Hickok demanded.

Coe supposedly replied: “I shot at a dog—and I’ll shoot at another.”

Coe threw a shot at Hickok—which missed.

Hickok whipped out his two revolvers and put two bullets into Coe’s stomach, mortally wounding the Texan, who died three days later.

With Coe’s Texas buddies surrounding him, Hickok suddenly heard someone rushing at him from behind. Hickok whirled and fired twice more—into the chest of his own deputy, Mike Williams, who had been running to his aid.

Hickok, aghast at his mistake, gently carried Williams into a saloon and placed his body onto a billiard table. Then he raged through Abilene, ordering an end to the festivities and knocking down any cowboys foolish enough to resist.

Owing to this latest explosion in violence, the city fathers quickly reached two decision: First, they put an end to Abilene’s years as a major cattle shipping point. From now on, cattlemen were no longer welcome there.

And then they fired Hickok as city marshal in December, 1871.

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