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FINDING PEACE–FOR AMERICA–IN THE MIDDLE EAST

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 6, 2017 at 1:01 am

The United States can attain peace in the Middle East—for itself.

But to do that, Americans must radically change their approach to that part of the world.

(1) The United States must embark on a crash program to develop alternatives to oil.  

Oil consumption threatens the future of the world through global warming. And it keeps America tethered to dictatorial Islamic regimes that are fundamentally unstable and hostile to the West.

(2)  Once freed from its dependency on oil, the United States can safely end its relationship with such regimes.

America will no longer have to spend billions of dollars every year propping up regimes like those in Iraq, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.  Nor will it have to supply big-ticket military hardware (like fighter planes and missiles) to Islamic regimes.

When the Shah of Iran was overthrown in 1979, he was probably the best-armed Islamic leader in the Middle East. His army and air force bristled with sophisticated American weaponry he had bought with billions of dollars in oil revenues.

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Shah of Iran

But he had thoroughly alienated his people. Liberals thought him a tyrant, and conservatives thought him a traitor to Islam. So when Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini flew to Iran from his self-exile in Paris, no one in the Shah’s army and air force raised a hand in his defense.  The Shah fled the country in disgrace.

(3)  The United States should end its “Permanent Bodyguard” relationship with Israel.

Every nation—including Israel—has the right to defend itself from aggression.  But no nation—including Israel—should have the right to expect another nation to act as its permanent bodyguard.

Millions of Americans feel morally obligated to defend Israel owing to Nazi Germany’s slaughter of six million Jews during the Holocaust.  But America was never a party to this, and has nothing to atone for.

A second reason why millions of Americans feel committed to Israel lies in the mythology of the Christian Right.

Many fundamentalist Christians believe that, for Jesus Christ to awaken from his 2,000-year slumber, Israel must first re-conquer every inch of territory it supposedly held during the reign of Kings David and Solomon.

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Right-wing Christian fantasy: Dead man hovering

After Christ returns, they believe, the Jews will face a choice: Become Christians or go to hell. For evangelical Christians, Jews remain the eternal “Christ killers.”

And if Jews must assume temporary control of the Middle East to bring about the return of a man who died 2,000 years ago, so be it.

Many Right-wing members of the House of Representatives and Senate share this belief. That it is totally irrational and unsupported by any evidence means nothing to them.  But this does not prevent these hundreds of men and women from holding high office.

That’s because such unbalanced views are shared by millions of equally irrational evangelical Christians.

(4)  The United States and its European allies should erect a “Sand Curtain” around the Middle East.

For 44 years—1947 to 1991—the United States and the Soviet Union were locked in a Cold War. Essentially, the United States drew a ring around the Soviet Union—including those nations its armies had seized following the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945.

The United States said, in effect: “We can’t liberate the Eastern European countries you’re now occupying”—because trying to do so would have triggered a nuclear World War III. “But we won’t allow you to occupy and enslave any other countries.  And if you try to do so, it will mean total war.”

That’s why the United States did nothing to aid Hungarians when they rose up against their Soviet occupiers in 1956. That rebellion was quickly and brutally crushed.

And that’s why America stood by when Soviet tanks rolled into Prague in 1968 when Czechoslovakia dared to relax controls over its citizens.

On the other hand, the Soviet Union never seized any new countries.

(5)   A “Sand Curtain” around the Middle East would work as follows:

America would withdraw all of its forces from the Middle East—but keep a good portion stationed in Europe.

It would then publicly announce: “From now on, you are the masters of your own destinies—so long as what you do affects only those of you living in the Middle East.

“We recognize that barbarism and violence have always been a part of life in the Middle East. And we don’t expect this to change.

“So go ahead and destroy as many of your own citizens as you wish—either because they’re Jewish or Christians, or because Sunni Muslims hate Shiite Muslims and Shiite Muslims hate Sunni Muslims.

But Europe and the United States are strictly off-limits to you.

“And if you aim your aggression at either, we will consider this an act of war and use all the weapons at our disposal—including nuclear ones—to wipe you from the face of the Earth.

The United States cannot enforce peace between Islamics and Israelis. Nor between Christians and Islamics.  Nor between Islamics and Islamics.

But it can impose an embargo to confine such barbarism to only the Middle East.

A VERY MUELLER CHRISTMAS

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 4, 2017 at 12:02 am

Donald Trump was the star of the 2016 Republican National Convention. But not even he could fire up the delegates like Hillary Clinton, the former First Lady turned Democratic presidential nominee.

As chants of “Lock her up!” spread across the convention floor, Michael T. Flynn voiced his agreement. “Lock her up—that’s right.”

Movie-star handsome, the former United States Army lieutenant general and director of the Defense Intelligence Agency was clearly enjoying his moment as a keynote speaker.

Clapping his hands, he continued: “I’m gonna tell you what. It’s unbelievable—unbelievable.

“I have called on Hillary Clinton to drop out of the race, because she—she—put our nation’s security at extremely high risk for their careless use of a private email server.

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Michael Flynn at the Republican convention

“Lock her up—lock her up. You guys [the audience] are good. Damn right—-that’s exactly right. There’s nothing wrong with that.

“You know why we’re saying that? We’re saying that because if I—a guy who knows this business—if I did a tenth of what she did, I would be in jail today.”

That was July 18, 2016.

Six months and two days later, he was riding even higher: On January 20—the day Donald J. Trump became President—Flynn took office as the nation’s 25th National Security Adviser.

Two days later, The Wall Street Journal reported that Flynn was under investigation by U.S. counterintelligence agents for his communications with Russian officials.

On February 8, Flynn flatly denied having spoken to Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December, 2016, about removing the sanctions placed on Russia by the outgoing Obama administration.

The sanctions had been placed in retaliation for Russia’s efforts to manipulate the 2016 Presidential election.

On February 13, The Washington Post reported that Acting Attorney General Sally Yates had warned Trump in late January that Flynn had lied about his contacts with Kislyak—and that he could be blackmailed by Russian Intelligence.

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Sally Yates

Flynn was forced to resign that same day—after only 24 days as National Security Adviser.

Officially, the reason given was that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence. But Flynn’s deception had already been known—via the warning to Trump by Yates.

Only after Yates’ warning became known to the media was Flynn forced to resign.

Even worse for Flynn: The same Washington Post story reported that, in December, 2015, he had appeared on Russia Today, the news network that American Intelligence agencies consider “the Kremlin’s principal international propaganda outlet.”

He had also received more than $45,000 as a “speaking fee” from the network for a talk on world affairs. At the gala where Flynn received the fee, he sat next to Vladimir Putin for dinner.

Flynn had not filed the required paperwork for the trip. Nor had he reported the “fee” to the Pentagon.

Meanwhile, as a Presidential candidate and President, Donald Trump has steadfastly denied the revelations about collaboration between members of his 2016 Presidential campaign and Russian Intelligence agents.

Donald Trump

He has repeatedly attacked the “fake news” media reporting these revelations. Chief among his targets: CNN, The New York Times and The Washington Post.

He has also derided the Intelligence agencies responsible for America’s security.

On December 16, 2016, then-FBI Director James B. Comey and Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. agreed with a CIA assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election in part to help Donald Trump win the White House. 

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

On December 1, 2017, Flynn went from “Lock her up!” to “Don’t lock me up.”

He pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about conversations with then-Russian Ambassador Kislyak. And he revealed that he was cooperating with the office of Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller.

One of Flynn’s bosses was Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser. It’s certain that Flynn is in a position to “roll over” on Kushner—who, if threatened with prison, might be induced to “roll over” on Trump.

For Donald Trump, the holiday season promises to be a very Mueller Christmas.

HAVE YOURSELF A ROBERT MUELLER CHRISTMAS
(To be sung to the tune, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”)

Have yourself a Robert Mueller Christmas
Let your hearts be light.
From now on the Fascists will be filled with fright.

Have yourself a Robert Mueller Christmas
Let your hearts be gay.
I can’t wait till all the traitors go away.

Here we are as in Watergate
Traitors filled with hate feel fear.
Faithless friends now are selling out
Let us give a shout—and cheer.

Soon we hope their Fuhrer will be history
Crying Fascist tears.
When the Traitor’s gone we’ll put away our fears.
And celebrate in Robert Mueller’s name for years.

Here we are as in Watergate
Traitors filled with hate feel fear.
Faithless friends now are selling out
Let us give a shout—and cheer.

Soon we hope their Fuhrer will be history
Crying Fascist tears.
When the Traitor’s gone we’ll put away our fears.
And celebrate in Robert Mueller’s name for years.

PATRIOTISM IS OUT, GREED IS IN: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on October 25, 2017 at 12:42 am

President Donald Trump was furious.

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

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

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Donald Trump

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

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

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

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

One of these was his press secretary, Sean Spicer:

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

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Sean Spicer

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

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

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

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

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

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Kelleyanne Conway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

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

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

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

A single example will serve to illustrate: 

On January 27, Trump signed an executive order that:

  • 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 of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

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

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

Not-so-coincidentally, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Turkey are all countries where President Trump has close business ties. His properties include two luxury towers in Turkey and golf courses in the United Arab Emirates.

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

PATRIOTISM IS OUT, GREED IS IN: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on October 24, 2017 at 12:03 am

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

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John F. Kennedy Inaugural

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Melania Trump

Melania Trump

According to the complaint that her attorney filed: 

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

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

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

Melania is alleging $150 million in damages.

Enter the Emoluments Clause.

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

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

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The Founding Fathers of the United States

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Among the retailers targeted:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trump drafted other members of his administration to attack Nordstrom.

One of these was then-White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.

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

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

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

But even more was to come.

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.

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