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Posts Tagged ‘DAILY KOS’

DEJOY OF TREASON

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on August 20, 2020 at 1:53 am

David Gergen has been a White House adviser to four presidents—Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. A graduate of Harvard Law School, he is a professor of public service at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. 

On August 18, he co-authored an Op-Ed with Caroline Cohen on the CNN website. Its subject: The efforts of President Donald J. Trump to disable or even destroy the United States Postal Service.

From that commentary:

“By opposing funding and stalling delivery, Trump — and his new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy — are interfering with an election in which some 180 million Americans are eligible to vote by mail.”

Democrats know that the Postal Service employs about 500,000 people, making it the second largest employer in the country, just behind Walmart. 

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Donald Trump

“The political surprise is why and how Republicans have allowed President Trump to once again trap them into such a boneheaded position. Their base constituencies, which tend to skew older and rural, disproportionately rely on USPS.

“Some 34% of seniors do not use the internet, meaning they must pay their bills by mail and often rely on the Postal Service for correspondence with loved ones. More than half of Americans over the age of 65 receive their medications by mail. In 2019, no less than 1.2 billion total prescriptions were delivered through the Postal Service.

“For rural Americans….the Postal Service provides access to medical, banking, and retail services that are quickly diminishing in their communities. Some 630 rural communities have lost its sole pharmacy since 2003, causing rural Americans to turn to mail to deliver medication….

“Companies like Amazon rely on the USPS to deliver to customers in rural areas. And just as is the case with seniors, the 14.5 million rural Americans without broadband service still need the Postal Service to bank, pay bills and much more.” 

Why are Republicans allowing this?

Republicans don’t fear that Trump will destroy the institutions that Americans have long cherished—such as:

  • An independent judiciary;
  • A free press;
  • An incorruptible Justice Department;
  • Intelligence agencies (such as the FBI and CIA) charged with protecting the country against subversion.

Trump has furiously attacked all of these—and Republicans have either said nothing or rushed to his defense.

An August 30, 2017 article in Salon reveals why: “Most Americans Strongly Dislike Trump, But the Angry Minority That Adores Him Controls Our Politics.”

These voters represent about one-third of the Republican party.

“These are older and more conservative white people, for the most part, who believe he should not listen to other Republicans and should follow his own instincts….

“They like Trump’s coarse personality, and approve of the fact that he treats women like his personal playthings. They enjoy it when he expresses sympathy for neo-Nazis and neo-Confederate white supremacists.

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Supporters giving the Nazi “Sieg Heil” salute to Trump

“They cheer when he declares his love for torture, tells the police to rough up suspects and vows to mandate the death penalty for certain crimes. (Which of course the president cannot do.)

“…This cohort of the Republican party didn’t vote for Trump because of his supposed policies on trade or his threat to withdraw from NATO. They voted for him because he said out loud what they were thinking. A petty, sophomoric, crude bully is apparently what they want as a leader.”

It’s precisely these hard-core Fascists who come out in mid-term elections—and they’re scaring the remaining 65% who make up the GOP establishment. 

The vast majority of Republicans fear that he will turn his hate-filled base on them.

Republicans also remember that while the Nazi Party ruled Germany from 1933 to 1945, its influence over all aspects of Germans’ lives was suffocating.

“Censorship prevailed, education was undermined, family life was idealized, but children were encouraged to turn in disloyal parents,” reads the back cover of Richard Grunberger’s classic 1971 book, The 12-Year Reich

But after the Third Reich surrendered unconditionally to the Allies on May 8, 1945, virtually no German admitted to having been a Nazi—or having even known one.

In short: Adolf Hitler had lost the war he started—making him a loser nobody wanted to be identified with.

In the decades since, the “loser” tag has stuck with those who once served the Third Reich. Mel Brooks has repeatedly turned German soldiers—once the pride of the battlefield—into idiotic comic foils.

Even the fearsome Gestapo was spoofed for laughs on the long-running TV comedy, “Hogan’s Heroes.”

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“Hogan’s Heroes”

Republicans vividly remember what happened after Richard Nixon was forced to resign in disgrace on August 9, 1974: Democrats, riding a wave of reform fever, swept Republicans out of the House and Senate—and Jimmy Carter into the White House.

Republicans fear that if Trump is defeated, he will similarly become a non-person no one any longer fears. He will be a figure held up to ridicule and condemnation. 

Like Adolf Hitler.  Like Richard M. Nixon. 

And his Congressional supporters will be branded as losers along with him.

If Republicans are conflicted about supporting Trump, their dilemma boils down to this:

  1. Can I hold onto my power—and all the privileges that go with it—by supporting Trump?  Or: 
  2. Can I hold onto my power—and privileges—by deserting him?

This is how Republicans define morality today.

“YOU WANT TO PROTEST? TELL THE FUHRER / PRESIDENT”

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on August 6, 2020 at 12:39 am

In the 1993 movie, Stalingrad, a platoon of young 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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Donald Trump

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

* * * * *

On November 8, 2016, 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 of violence and/or imprisonment against his political opponents;
  • 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 learning the meaning of the Nazi slogan: “The Fuhrer proposes and disposes for all.”

THE PRICE OF HUBRIS

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on August 3, 2020 at 12:08 am

The ancient Greeks defined hubris as overweening pride. For them, acting as if you were equal to or more powerful than the gods—or trying to defy them—was the most serious crime you could commit. And it came with a divine punishment. 

Donald Trump has acted with hubris his entire life—but never more so than once he declared himself a Presidential candidate in 2015.

He savagely insulted his opponents. From June 15, 2015, when he launched his Presidential campaign, until October 24, 2016, he fired nearly 4,000 angry, insulting tweets at 281 people and institutions—including his fellow Republicans, journalists, news organizations, countries and even celebrities unconnected with politics.

Donald Trump

During debates, he belittled his Republican and Democratic opponents with insulting nicknames.

Political pundits expected that voters would reject Trump for violating long-held niceties of political discourse. But they never did.

He openly called for the subversion of the American political system.

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

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

He fired FBI Director James Comey. 

On May 9, 2017, Trump fired FBI Director James Comey for investigating Russia’s subversion of he 2016 Presidential race. Comey had refused to pledge his personal loyalty to Trump during a private dinner at the White House in January.

He gave CIA secrets to Russia, which had intervened in the 2016 election to help Trump win. 

On May 10, 2017—the day after he fired Comey—Trump met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the Oval Office—and gave them highly classified Israeli Intelligence about an Islamic State plot to turn laptops into concealable bombs.

He has repeatedly violated the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, which forbids Presidents to profit from office.

On January 27, 2017, Trump signed an executive order that blocked entry into the United States for 90 days for citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

But four other Middle East countries were not covered by Trump’s travel ban: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.  Why? Because they are all countries where Trump has close business ties.

He hypocritically claimed “I am your President of law and order” after a lifetime of law-breaking.

He has been forced to shut down a fraudulent university and a fraudulent charity. He has bragged about buying politicians. He has been impeached for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. He ordered police and military forces to attack peaceful protesters in Lafayette Park so he could film a photo op there. 

* * * * *

Donald Trump’s rise to power has been fueled by bribery and intimidation. These methods served him well—until the advent of Coronavirus. The pandemic remains impervious to bribes or intimidation. 

He has repeatedly lied about it:

  • It’s a Democratic hoax.
  • “One day, it will disappear.”
  • There is no need for wearing masks or social distancing.
  • There is a cure for COVID-19—the malaria drug hyroxychloroquine.

When the nation partially shut down in March and April, he offered one “solution”: It must immediately reopen. Those states which did so—mostly Red ones in the South and Midwest—are now flooded with COVID-19 cases and deaths. 

By July 30, COVID-19 cases in the United States stood at 4.6 million—and COVID-19 deaths stood at 155,333. 

Trump planned to win re-election as the President who had created a booming economy and high employment. But businesses across the country remain shuttered—or likely soon will be. Nearly half of all Americans are unemployed.

To force frightened Americans back to unsafe working conditions, Trump demands they send their children back to COVID-19-threatened schools.

Meanwhile, there is no vaccine to prevent COVID-19—and no treatment to cure it.

Trump can only falsely accuse his Democratic rival, Joe Biden, of being a socialist—even as he regularly praises Vladimir Putin, the Communist dictator of Russia.

In his book, The World of Herodotus, Aubrey de Selincourt writes that the Greek historian filled his book, The Histories, with “stories of the perils of pride—pride of wealth, pride of power, pride of success, and, deadliest of all, the pride which leads a man to forget that he is nothing in the sight of the gods.”

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And, in the pages of The Histories lies this warning: “Look to the end, no matter what it is you are considering. Often enough, God gives a man a glimpse of happiness, and then utterly ruins him.” 

Donald Trump has spent a lifetime committing crimes. Holding the Presidency is his only defense against prosecution—since a sitting President cannot be indicted. If he is turned out of office, state-level prosecution awaits him in New York and possibly at the federal level as well.

Trump’s lifelong glimpse of happiness may be about to end.

WHEN JOKES REVEAL HIDDEN–AND SINISTER–INTENTIONS

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 31, 2020 at 12:06 am

And the most glorious exploits do not always furnish us with the clearest discoveries of virtue or vice in men; sometimes a matter of less moment, an expression or a jest, informs us better of their characters and inclinations, than the most famous sieges, the greatest armaments, or the bloodiest battles whatsoever.   

—Plutarch, “Life of Alexander”

In a closed-door speech to Republican donors on March 3, 2018, President Donald Trump proved the accuracy of Plutarch’s observation. 

He praised China’s President, Xi Jinping, for recently assuming full dictatorial powers: “He’s now president for life. President for life. No, he’s great. And look, he was able to do that. I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll have to give that a shot some day.” 

The statement was greeted with cheers and laughter by Republican donors.

And, in making that unguarded statement, Trump revealed his ultimate intention: To overthrow America’s constitutional government

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Donald Trump

Since then, Trump has continued to “joke” about serving more than the legal limit of eight years. 

In April, 2019, at a White House event, he said he might remain in the Oval Office “at least for 10 or 14 years.”

In May, 2019, Trump retweeted Evangelical leader Jerry Falwell Jr.’s suggestion that he’s owed “2 yrs added to his 1st term” due to distractions caused by the Robert Mueller investigation.  

Anyone who thought he was simply joking got a rude awakening on July 30, 2020, when Trump tweeted: “With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???” 

Leaders of both Republican and Democratic parties quickly attacked Trump for suggesting that the election might be delayed.

With COVID-19 ravaging the nation and many economists predicting a coming Depression, Trump is desperate to reverse his falling poll numbers. But the election is now less than 100 days away and, short of a miracle—or indefinitely postponing the vote—he looks increasingly like a one-term President.

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Coronavirus

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

Among these:

  • American Intelligence: Even before taking office, Trump refused to accept the findings of the FBI, CIA and NSA that Russian Intelligence agents had intervened in the 2016 election to ensure his victory.
  • And when FBI Director James Comey dared to pursue a probe into “the Russia thing,” Trump fired him without warning. 
  • American law enforcement agencies: Trump repeatedly attacked—and later fired—his own Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, for not “protecting” him from agents pursuing the Russia investigation.
  • He repeatedly attacked the integrity of Deputy FBI Director Andrew G. McCabe until the latter resigned.
  • He threatened to fire Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who oversaw Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian subversion of the 2016 election. 
  • The press: On February 17, 2017, Trump tweeted: “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes@NBCNews@ABC@CBS@CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!”
  • Seven days later, appearing before the Conservative Political Action Conference on February 24, Trump said: “I want you all to know that we are fighting the fake news. It’s fake, phony, fake….I’m against the people that make up stories and make up sources. They shouldn’t be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody’s name. Let their name be put out there.”
  • The judiciary: Trump repeatedly attacked Seattle U.S/ District Judge James Robart, who halted Trump’s first travel ban. 
  • At Trump’s bidding, White House aide Stephen Miller attacked the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals: “We have a judiciary that has taken far too much power and become, in many cases, a supreme branch of government.”
  • President Barack Obama: For five years, Trump, more than anyone else, popularized the slander that Barack Obama was born in Kenya—and was therefore not an American citizen.
  • 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.”

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Barack Obama

  • On March 4, 2017, in a series of unhinged tweets, Trump accused 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!”    

Trump was later forced to admit he had no evidence to back up his slanderous claims.

* * * * *

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

He has tried to strip every potential challenger to his authority–and version of reality—of legitimacy.  He intends 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.

In short: No one—ever—to challenge his remaining in office as “President-for-Life.”

THE TEMPTATIONS OF FLATTERY

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on June 8, 2020 at 12:52 am

I must not omit an important subject….And this is with regard to flatterers, of which courts are full, because men take such pleasure in their own things and deceive themselves about them that they can with difficulty guard against this plague….

Because there is no other way of guarding oneself against flattery than by letting men understand that they will not offend you by speaking  the truth.
Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses

On October 10, 2019, President Donald Trump took aim at Joe Biden, his potential Democratic rival for the White House in 2020. 

Speaking at a campaign rally in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Trump spoke as if Biden’s son, Hunter, was present: “Your father was never considered smart. He was never considered a good senator. He was only a good vice president because he understood how to kiss Barack Obama’s ass.”

Trump no doubt believed he had scored a two-in-one insult—at both former President Barack Obama and his then-Vice President.    

But Obama, as depicted in the memoirs of those who worked closely with him, did not demand sickeningly worshipful praise. He was, in fact, wary of sycophants, insisting on being well and honestly briefed.

It was this quality that led him to authorize—and oversee—the successful takedown of 9/11 mastermind Osama Bin Laden on May 1, 2011 by U.S. Navy SEALs.

It is actually Trump who demands not simply loyalty but constant flattery.

In this—as in his vindictiveness and coarseness—he closely resembles Joseph Stalin, the infamous dictator of the Soviet Union from 1924 to 1953.

Joseph Stalin

A third similarity unites Trump and the late Soviet premier: Raging egomania.

On December 21, 1949, Stalin turned 70. And millions of Russians feverishly competed to out-do one another in singing his praises.

These celebrations weren’t prompted by love—but fear.

He had lived up to his pseudonym: “Man of Steel.” For almost 30 years, through purges and starvation caused by enforced collections of farmers’ crops, he had slaughtered 20 to 60 million of his fellow citizens.

The British historian, Robert Payne, described these rapturous events in his classic 1965 biography, The Rise and Fall of Stalin:

“From all over the country came gifts of embroidered cloth, tapestries and carpets bearing his name or his features….Poets extolled him in verses, He was the sun, the splendor, the lord of creation.

“The novelist Leonid Lenov…foretold the day when all the peoples of the earth would celebrate his birthday; the new calendar would begin with the birth of Stalin rather than with the birth of Christ.”

Lavrenti P. Beria, Stalin’s sinister and feared secret police chief: “Millions of fighters for peace and democracy in all countries of the world are closing their ranks still firmer around Comrade Stalin.”

Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov: “The gigantic Soviet army created during [World War II] was under the direct leadership of Comrade Stalin and built on the basis of the principles of Stalinist military science.”

Defense Commissar Kliment Voroshilov: “The mighty voice of the Great Stalin, defending the peace of the world, has penetrated into all corners of the globe.”

Central Committee Secretary Georgi Malenkov: “With a feeling of great gratitude, turning their eyes to Stalin, the peoples of the Soviet Union, and hundreds of millions of peoples in all countries of the world, and all progressive mankind see in Comrade Stalin their beloved leader and teacher….”

Now, fast forward to June 12, 2017.

That was when President Donald J. Trump—also 70—convened his first full Cabinet meeting since taking office on January 20.

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Donald Trump

On June 12, polls showed that only 36% of Americans approved of his conduct. But from his Cabinet members, Trump got praise traditionally lavished on dictators like Stalin and North Korea’s Kim Jong On.

While the Cabinet members sat around a mahogany table in the West Wing of the White House, Trump instructed each one to say a few words about the good work his administration was doing.

Vice President Mike Pence: “It is the greatest privilege of my life to serve as the vice president to a president who is keeping his word to the American people.”

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Mike Pence

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue: “I just got back from Mississippi. They love you there.”

Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price: “What an incredible honor it is to lead the Department of Health and Human Services at this pivotal time under your leadership. I can’t thank you enough for the privilege that you’ve given me, and the leadership you’ve shown.”

Chief of Staff Reince Priebus:On behalf of the entire senior staff around you, Mr. President, we thank you for the opportunity and the blessing you’ve given us to serve your agenda and the American people.” 

Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao: “Thank you for coming over to the Department of Transportation. I want to thank you for getting this country moving again, and also working again.”

Politicians—both domestic and foreign—have quickly learned that the quickest way to get on Trump’s “good side” is to shamelessly and constantly praise him.

Some historians believe that Stalin was poisoned by one of his fawning yes-men—most likely Lavrenti Beria.

The time may come when Trump learns that outrageous flattery can hide murderous hatred.

BANKSTERS AND DRUGGIES

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on April 16, 2020 at 3:50 am

It’s a scene familiar to anyone who’s seen Scarface, the 1983 classic starring Al Pacino as a Cuban drug dealer who makes it big in the cocaine business.

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Tony Montana (Pacino) is holding court in his Florida estate.  His visitor is a WASPish banker.

Bankers as a rule don’t make house calls. But Tony is no ordinary customer—his men literally haul bags full of bills into the bank when making deposits.

Except that now the banker has some unpleasant news for Tony: We’re not a wholesale operation.  We’re a legitimate bank.  The more cash you give me……the harder it is for me to rinse. The fact is I can’t take any more of your money unless I raise the rates on you.” 

Then follows this exchange:

TONY: You gonna raise…

BANKER: I gotta do it.

BANKER: The IRS is coming….

TONY: Don’t give me that shit! Let’s talk. I’m talking. I go low, you go high. I know the game. This is business talk.

BANKER: Let me explain something. The IRS is coming down heavy on South Florida. There was a Time magazine story that didn’t help. There’s a recession. I got stockholders I got to be responsible for.  I got to do it, Tony.

TONY: We’ll go somewhere else.  That’s it.   

BANKER: There’s no place else to go. 

TONY: Fuck you, man! Fuck you! I’ll fly the cash myself to the Bahamas. 

BANKER: Once maybe. Then what? You’ll trust some monkey in a Bahamian bank with millions of your hard-earned dollars? Come on, Tony. Don’t be a schmuck. Who else can you trust? That’s why you pay us what you do. You trust us.

Stay with us. You’re a well-liked customer. You’re in good hands with us.

(At this point, movie audiences burst into laughter.  The line, “You’re in good hands with us” seemed directly lifted from the slogan used by Allstate Insurance: “You’re in good hands with Allstate.”)

Now, fast forward to 2014.

A Reuters news story dated May 21, 2014 noted that investigators from the Federal Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) were probing Charles Schwab and Bank of America Corporations Merrill Lynch brokerage.

The SEC wants to determine if these brokerages violated anti-money laundering rules that require financial institutions to know their customers.

Broker-dealers are required to establish, document and identify customers and verify their identities in compliance with the Bank Secrecy Act.

In 2012, David Cohen, the U.S. Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen, ordered regulators to guarantee that financial institutions are identifying the true beneficial owners of their accounts.

The reason: Drug cartels and terrorist groups have become highly creative in hiding and transferring their illegal funds.

According to sources close to the investigation, Charles Schwab and Merrill accepted shell companies and persons with phony addresses as clients.

In both cases, some of the accounts were eventually linked to drug cartels.  Some of those accounts held hundreds of thousands of dollars; others held millions.

A Texas rancher and Charles Schwab client transferred money to a holding company that was actually a shell company.

Most of the Schwab clients being investigated lived near the Mexican border. Some were linked to Mexican drug cartels.

Click here: Exclusive: SEC probes Schwab, Merrill, for anti-money laundering violations – sources | Reuters

In December, 2017, the  the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority fined Merrill Lynch $26 million for failing to identify suspicious money-transfer activities in customer accounts for years. 

In fact, the government should have assumed long ago that brokerage companies were engaging in such behavior.

As Niccolo Machiavelli warned in The Discourses, his landmark book on how to preserve freedom within a republic:

All those who have written upon civil institutions demonstrate…that whoever desires to found a state and give it laws, must start with assuming that all men are bad and ever ready to display their vicious nature, whenever they may find occasion for it. 

Portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli by Santi di Tito.jpg

Niccolo Machiavelli

If their evil disposition remains concealed for a time, it must be attributed to some unknown reason; and we must assume that it lacked occasion to show itself. 

But time, which has been said to be the father of all truth, does not fail to bring it to light.

Whenever the creating of wealth becomes an end in itself, all other ends are sacrificed to this.

Greed begins in the neurochemistry of the brain. A neurotransmitter called dopamine fuels our greed. The higher the dopamine levels in the brain, the greater the pleasure we experience.

Harvard researcher Hans Breiter has found, via magnetic resonance imaging studies, that the craving for money activates the same regions of the brain as the lust for sex, cocaine or any other pleasure-inducer. 

But snorting the same amount of cocaine, or earning the same sum of money, does not cause dopamine levels to increase. So the pleasure-seeker must increase the amount of stimuli to keep enjoying the euphoria.

Federal investigators need to view large concentrations of wealth as sources for at least potential corruption.

And they should ruthlessly—and routinely—investigate those sources, whether in the vaults of the Mafia or of major financial institutions.

HEROES AND VILLAINS: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 10, 2020 at 12:04 am

On March 30, Captain Brett Crozier, commanding the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, sent a  four-page internal letter to multiple Naval officials, pleading to have the majority of the crew evacuated and quarantined on shore in Guam.

The reason: Dozens of his crew members had been stricken with the deadly Coronavirus. And the ship’s cramped compartments and narrow passageways made “social distancing” impossible.

On March 31, someone leaked the letter to the San Francisco Chronicle, which published it.

On April 1, the Navy ordered the aircraft carrier evacuated.

On April 2, Crozier was relieved of command by acting United States Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly.

Not content to fire Crozier, Modly visited the ship and stated over its public address system: “If he didn’t think, in my opinion, that this information wasn’t going to get out to the public, in this day and information age that we live in, then he was either (a) too naïve or too stupid to be a commanding officer of a ship like this. The alternative is that he did this on purpose. 

“It was a betrayal of trust with me, with his chain of command, with you.”

Thus, for Modly, Crozier’s “crime” was making public what everyone on the ship and countless Navy officials knew.

President Donald Trump echoed Modly’s attitude: “The letter was a five-page letter from a captain, and the letter was all over the place. That’s not appropriate.

“I thought it was terrible, what he did, to write a letter. I mean, this isn’t a class on literature. This is a captain of a massive ship that’s nuclear powered. And he shouldn’t be talking that way in a letter.” 

But Crozier wasn’t the only victim of Trump’s “integrity-is-treason” mindset that week. 

On April 3, Trump informed Congress that he was removing Michael Atkinson, the inspector general who alerted Congress to his extortion attempt against Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, on July 25, 2019.

Trump told Zelensky: Find embarrassing “dirt” on former Vice President Joseph Biden and his son, Hunter.

Hunter had had business dealings in Ukraine. And Joe Biden might be Trump’s Democratic opponent for the White House in 2020. 

To underline the seriousness of his “request,” Trump had withheld $400 million in promised military aid to Ukraine, which is facing an increasingly aggressive Russia. 

Reporters asked Congressional Republicans: “Is it appropriate for President Donald Trump to ask a foreign government to investigate his political opponent?” 

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Donald Trump

And Republicans refused to answer or condemn such behavior. Among those refusing to answer:

Iowa Senator Joni Ernst: “We don’t have all the facts, we don’t know what is accurate. We have a picture painted by the media and we don’t know if that picture is accurate.”

Arizona Senator Martha McSally: “I think what we’ve seen out of [Speaker of the House Nancy] Pelosi and [House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam] Schiff and others in the House is quite partisan and I think people want us to take a serious look at this and not have it be just partisan bickering going on.” 

North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis: “I’m going to leave it to the President to make that decision” on whether his actions were appropriate. 

The reason for Republicans’ deafening silence: They didn’t want to anger Trump or his fanatical supporters. And they feared losing their Congressional seats and the perks that go with them.  

Michael Atkinson, the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community, showed no such fear.

After the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, Atkinson left private law practice and worked for the United States Department of Justice for 15 years.

In 2017, President Trump nominated him as Inspector General of the Intelligence Community. The Senate confirmed him in 2018.

Michael K. Atkinson official photo.jpg

Michael Atkinson

Atkinson, informed by an Intelligence whistleblower of Trump’s extortion attempt, was appalled. He believed that he was obligated by law to report it to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees.

Trump was ultimately impeached by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives for abusing his office for personal political gain and obstruction of Congress.

But a Republican-controlled Senate—which refused to hear witnesses or act on the overwhelming evidence—quickly exonerated him.

In his April 3 letter to the leaders of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, Trump wrote:  “This is to advise that I am exercising my power as President to remove from office the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community.

“it is vital that I have the fullest confidence in the appointees serving as Inspectors General. That is no longer the case with regard to this Inspector General.” 

Clearly, there is a reason why Trump no longer has “the fullest confidence” in Atkinson: He can’t depend on “this Inspector General” to conceal and support any future crimes he might commit.

In his 1960 poem, “Conversation With an American Writer,” the Russian poet, Yevgeney Yevtushenko spoke for those Russians who had maintained their integrity in the face of Stalinist terror:

“You have courage,” they tell me.
It’s not true. I was never courageous.
I simply felt it unbecoming
to stoop to the cowardice of my colleagues.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of Republicans in the United States Senate and House of Representatives in the face of Trump terror.

HEROES AND VILLAINS: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 9, 2020 at 12:09 am

Nikolai Sergeyvich Zhilayev (pronounced Zill-lay-ev) was a Russian musicologist and the teacher of several 20th-century Russian composers.

Among these: Dimitri Shostakovich (September 25, 1906 – August 9, 1975)

Among his friends—to his ultimate misfortune—was Mikhail Nikolayevich Tukhachevsky, the former military hero now falsely condemned and executed as a traitor by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

In 1938, Zhilayev (November 18, 1881 – January 20, 1938) also became a casualty of what has become known as The Great Terror.

In his posthumously-published memoirs, Testimony, Shostakovich, his pupil and friend, described how Zhilayev faced his end with a calmness that awed even the NKVD (the predecessor to the KGB) secret police sent to arrest him.

Image result for images of Dmitri Shostakovich

Dimitri Shostakovich

“He had a large picture of Tukhachevsky in his room, and after the announcement that Tukhachevsky had been shot as a traitor to the homeland, Zhilayev did not take the picture down.

“I don’t know if I can explain how heroic a deed that was….As soon as the next poor soul was declared an enemy of the people, everyone destroyed in a panic everything connected with that person….

“And naturally, photographs flew into the fire first, because if someone informed on you, reported that you had a picture of an enemy of the people, it meant certain death.

“Zhilayev wasn’t afraid. When they came for him, Tukhachevsky’s prominently hung portrait amazed even the executioners.”

“What, it’s still up?” one of the secret police asked.

“The time will come,” Zhilayev replied, “when they’ll erect a monument to him.”

As, in fact, has happened. 

Meanwhile, Stalin has been universally condemned as one of history’s greatest tyrants.

Image result for Images of Statues to Mikhail Tukhachevsky

Mikhail Tukhachevsky appears on a 1963 Soviet Union postage stamp

Third hero—Brett Crozier, the former commanding officer of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt.

Graduating from the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1992, he received his Master’s Degree in National Security and Strategic Studies from the Naval War College in 2007.

From 2017 to 2018 he commanded the USS Blue Ridge. In November, 2019, he was given command of the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt.

On March 24, 2020, reports circulated that three members of the crew had tested positive for COVID-19. The next day the number of stricken sailors increased to eight. A few days later, it was “dozens.” The sailors reportedly became ill at sea, two weeks after a port call at Danang, Vietnam.

The initial cases were airlifted to a military hospital. The Roosevelt was ordered to Guam. After the ship docked on March 27, 2020, all 5,000 aboard were ordered to be tested for the virus. But only about 100 stricken sailors were allowed to leave the ship. The rest remained on board.

On March 30, Crozier emailed a four-page internal letter to multiple Naval officials, pleading to have the majority of the crew evacuated and quarantined on shore. Given the crowded sleeping quarters and narrow passageways of the vessel, Crozier wrote that it was impossible to follow social distancing and quarantine procedures: 

“This will require a political solution but it is the right thing to do. We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset—our Sailors….

“This is a necessary risk. Keeping over 4,000 young men and women on board the TR is an unnecessary risk and breaks faith with those Sailors entrusted to our care.”

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Brett Crozier

Crozier sent his letter via a non-secure, unclassified email to 20 to 30 recipients, as well as the captain’s immediate chain of command. He reportedly believed that his immediate supervisor would not allow him to send it.

And his superior later confirmed that he would not have allowed Crozier to send it.

On March 31, someone leaked the letter to the San Francisco Chronicle, which published it.

On April 1, the Navy ordered the aircraft carrier evacuated. A a skeleton crew of 400 remained aboard to maintain the nuclear reactor, the fire-fighting equipment, and the ship’s galley. 

On April 2, Crozier was relieved of command by acting United States Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly.

By that time, about 114 crew members—out of a total of around 4,000—reportedly tested positive for COVID-19.  

As Crozier disembarked, sailors loudly saluted him with a standing ovation: “Cap-tain Cro-zier!”   

Modly claimed that Crozier’s letter “raised alarm bells unnecessarily. It undermines our efforts and the chain of command’s efforts to address this problem, and creates a panic and this perception that the Navy’s not on the job, that the government’s not on the job, and it’s just not true.”

Actually, the Trump administration had frittered away January and February, with President Donald Trump giving multiple—and misleading—press conferences. In these, he played down the dangers of COVID-19, saying that “we’re on top of it”—even as the virus spread across the country. 

“It was a betrayal. And I can tell you one other thing: because he did that he put it in the public’s forum and it is now a big controversy in Washington, DC,” continued Modly. [Italics added] 

This was the United States Navy under President Donald Trump—who throws “betrayal” and “treason” at anyone who dares reveal the truth about institutional crimes and failures.

HEROES AND VILLAINS: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 8, 2020 at 12:08 am

…A truly great man is ever the same under all circumstances. And if his fortune varies, exalting him at one moment and oppressing him at another, he himself never varies, but always preserves a firm courage, which is so closely interwoven with his character that everyone can readily see that the fickleness of fortune has no power over him.
The conduct of weak men is very different. Made vain and intoxicated by good fortune, they attribute their success to merits which they do not possess. And this makes them odious and insupportable to all around them. And when they have afterwards to meet a reverse of fortune, they quickly fall into the other extreme, and become abject and vile.
Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses

Four heroes, three villains.

Two of the heroes are Russians; two are Americans.

The villains: One Russian (actually, Georgian); two American.

First up—in order of disappearance: Mikhail Nikolayevich Tukhachevsky (pronounced too-ka-chev-sky)

Tukhachevsky (February 4, 1893 – June 12, 1937) was a leading Soviet military leader and theoretician from 1918 to 1937. 

He commanded the Soviet Western Front during the Russian-Polish War (1920-21) and served as Chief of Staff of the Red Army (1925-1928).

He fought to modernize Soviet armament, as well as develop airborne, aviation and mechanized forces.  Almost singlehandedly, he created the theory of deep operations for Soviet forces.

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Mikhail Tukhachevsky

All of these innovations would reap huge dividends when the Soviet Union faced the lethal fury of Adolf Hitler’s Wehrmacht.

In 1936, Tukhachevsky warned Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin that Nazi Germany might attack without warning—and ignite a long and murderous war.

Stalin—the son of a Georgian cobbler—resented Tukhachevsky’s coming from a noble family. A monumental egomaniac, he also hated that Tukhachevesky’s fame rivaled his own.

Warned of the approaching German danger, Stalin shouted: “What are you trying to do—frighten Soviet authority?”

Joseph Stalin

The attack that Tukhachevsky warned against came five years later—on June 22, 1941, leaving at least 26 million Russians dead.

But Tukhachevsky wasn’t alive to command a defense.

The 1930s were a frightening and dangerous time to be alive in the Soviet Union. In 1934, Stalin, seeing imaginary enemies everywhere, ordered a series of purges that lasted right up to the German invasion.

An example of Stalin’s paranoia occurred one day while the dictator walked through the Kremlin corridors with Admiral Ivan Isakov. Officers of the NKVD (the predecessor to the KGB) stood guard at every corner. 

“Every time I walk down the corridors,” said Stalin, “I think: Which one of them is it? If it’s this one, he will shoot me in the back. But if I turn the corner, the next one can shoot me in the face.”

In 1937-38, the Red Army fell prey to Stalin’s paranoia.

Its victims included:

  • Three of five marshals (five-star generals);
  • Thirteen of 15 army commanders (three- and four-star generals);
  • Fifty of 57 army corps commanders; and
  • One hundred fifty-four out of 186 division commanders.

And heading the list of those marked for death was Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky.

Arrested on May 22, 1937, he was interrogated and tortured. As a result, he “confessed” to being a German agent plotting to overthrow Stalin and seize power. 

On his confession, which survives in the archives, his bloodstains can clearly be seen.

On June 11, 1937, the Soviet Supreme Court convened a special military tribunal to try Tukhachevsky and eight generals for treason.

It was a sham: The accused were denied defense attorneys, and could not appeal the verdict—-which was foregone: Death.

In a Russian version of poetic justice, five of the eight generals who served as Tukhachevsky’s judges were themselves later condemned and executed as traitors.

Within hours of the verdict, Tukhachevsky was summoned from his cell and shot once in the back of the head.

From 1937 until 1956, Tukhachevsky was officially declared a traitor and fifth-columnist.

Then, on February 25, 1957, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev delivered his bombshell “Secret Speech” to the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

In this, he denounced Stalin (who had died in 1953) as a ruthless tyrant responsible for the slaughter of millions of innocent men, women and children. He condemned Stalin for creating a “personality cult” around himself, and for so weakening the Red Army that Nazi Germany was able to easily overrun half of the Soviet Union from 1941 to 1943.

On January 31, 1957, Tukhachevsky and his co-defendants were declared innocent of all charges and were “rehabilitated.”

Today, he is once again—rightly—considered a Russian hero and military genius. And Stalin is universally—and rightly—seen as a blood-stained tyrant.

Next hero: Nikolai Sergeyvich Zhilayev (pronounced Zill-lay-ev)

Zhilayev (November 18, 1881 – January 20, 1938) was a Russian musicologist and the teacher of several 20th-century Russian composers. Among these: Dimitri Shostakovich.

Zhilayev, a member of the Russian Academy of Art-Sciences, taught at the Moscow Conservatory. Among his friends—to his ultimate misfortune—was Mikhail Tukhachevsky.

In 1938, he, too, became a casualty of what has become known as The Great Terror.

In his posthumously-published memoirs, Testimony, Shostakovich, his pupil and friend, described how Zhilayev faced his end with a calmness that awed even the NKVD secret police sent to arrest him. 

AMERICA NEEDS TO MIND ITS OWN BUSINESS

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 3, 2020 at 12:05 am

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

So spoke President Barack Obama on the September 28, 2014 edition of 60 Minutes.

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

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

Michael Scheuer

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

He has served as an adjunct professor at Georgetown University’s Center for Peace and Security Studies.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Within that group are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then followed this exchange: 

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

President Obama: Well….

Steve Kroft: What’s the end game?  

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

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

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

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

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

In December, 2012, Kayla Mueller, an idealistic 24-year-old American woman, arrived in Syria to assist Syrians caught up in their own civil war. And on August 4, 2013, she had been kidnapped and held for ransom. In 2015, she had been killed—whether by her terrorist kidnappers or Jordanian airstrikes remains unclear.

On February 23, 2015, Carl Mueller appeared on the “Today” show, Carl Mueller to protest the refusal of the United States Government to pay ransom demands to terrorist kidnappers. 

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

But did she?

Kayla Mueller

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

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

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

Kayla Mueller is proof of the rightness of that assertion.

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