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Posts Tagged ‘DEMOCRATS’

GERMANY’S INFAMOUS PAST IS AMERICA’S FUTURE LEGACY

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on August 23, 2019 at 12:04 am

Those who have seen the classic 1960 movie, “Judgment at Nuremberg,” will remember its pivotal moment. 

That’s when Burt Lancaster, as Ernst Janning, the once distinguished German judge, confesses his guilt and that of Nazi Germany in a controlled, yet emotional, outburst. 

Addressing the court—presided over by Chief Judge Dan Haywood (Spencer Tracy)—Janning explains the forces that led to the triumph of evil.

“My counsel would have you believe we were not aware of the concentration camps. Not aware? Where were we?

“Where were we when Hitler began shrieking his hate in the Reichstag? When our neighbors were dragged out in the middle of the night to Dachau?

“Where were we when every village in Germany has a railroad terminal where cattle cars were filled with children being carried off to their extermination? Where were we when they cried out in the night to us? Were we deaf? Dumb? Blind?

“My counsel says we were not aware of the extermination of the millions. He would give you the excuse we were only aware of the extermination of the hundreds. Does that make us any the less guilty?

“Maybe we didn’t know the details, but if we didn’t know, it was because we didn’t want to know.”170592-Judgment-at-Nuremberg-Posters.jpg

It’s not hard to imagine, in the future, an equally conscience-stricken member of the Donald Trump administration, standing before the bar of justice, making a similar statement: 

“My counsel would have you believe we were not aware of the ICE concentration camps. Not aware. Where were we?

“Where were we when Trump began shrieking his hate across the country? When Trump called our free press ‘the enemy of the people’?

“Where were we when Trump openly praised Vladimir Putin and attacked those in the FBI, CIA and other Intelligence agencies sworn to protect us?

“Where were we when the victims of Trump’s hatred cried out in the night to us? Were we deaf? Dumb? Blind?

“My counsel says we were not aware of Trump’s treasonous collusion with Vladimir Putin—and his intention to betray American freedoms in exchange for the Presidency. He would give you the excuse we were misled by the lying rhetoric coming out of the White House.

“Does that make us any the less guilty? Maybe we didn’t know the details, but if we didn’t know, it was because we didn’t want to know.”

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Donald Trump

In his bestselling 1973 biography, The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler, British historian Robert Payne harshly condemned the German people for the rise of the Nazi dictator:

“[They] allowed themselves to be seduced by him and came to enjoy the experience….[They] followed him with joy and enthusiasm because he gave them license to pillage and murder to their hearts’ content. They were his servile accomplices, his willing victims.”

On November 8, 2016, millions of ignorant, hate-filled, Right-wing Americans catapulted Donald Trump—a man, charged conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks, with an “odd psychology unleavened by kindness and charity”—into the Presidency. 

Whereas Barack Obama, in 2008, ran for President on the slogan, “Yes, We Can!” Trump ran on the themes of fear and vindictiveness. He threatened violence not only against Democrats but even his fellow Republicans.

Upon taking office in January, 2017, Trump began undermining one public or private institution after another.

  • He repeatedly and viciously attacked the nation’s free press for daring to report his growing list of crimes and disasters, calling it “the enemy of the American people.”
  • He brutally attacked American Intelligence agencies—such as the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency—which unanimously agreed that Russia had interfered with the 2016 Presidential election.
  • Trump repeatedly attacked Seattle US District Judge James Robart, who halted Trump’s first travel ban. 
  • When FBI Director James Comey refused to pledge his personal loyalty to Trump—and continued to investigate Russian subversion of the 2016 election—Trump fired him.
  • Trump intended to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller in 2017, but was talked out of it by aides fearful that it would result in his impeachment.
  • Trump has lied so often—10,796 times by June 7, 2019—he’s universally distrusted, at home and abroad.
  • On December 22, 2018, Trump shut down the Federal government—because Democrats refused to fund his “border wall” between the United States and Mexico. 
  • An estimated 380,000 government employees were furloughed and another 420,000 were ordered to work without pay. This lasted until January 25, 2019, when Trump caved to public pressure.

So why have Republicans almost unanimously stood by Trump despite the wreckage he has made of American foreign and domestic policy?  Fear that they will lose their privileged positions in Congress if they don’t.

This could happen by:

  • Their being voted out of Congress by Trump’s fanatical base; or
  • Their being voted out of Congress by anti-Trump voters sensing Republican weakness if he’s impeached.

Future historians—if there are any—will similarly and harshly condemn those Americans who, like “good Germans,” joyfully embraced a regime dedicated to:

  • Celebrating Trump’s egomania;
  • Using the White House to further enrich Trump;
  • Siding with Russia and North Korea against America’s oldest allies, such as NATO;
  • Depriving America’s poor of their only source of healthcare; and
  • Further enriching the ultra-wealthy.

REPUBLICANS: LOVING AMERICA LESS–AND THEIR JOBS MORE

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on August 16, 2019 at 12:04 am

“Just another week in Caligula’s Rome.”

That was how conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks summed up President Donald Trump’s Washington, D.C. for the week of February 24 to March 1, 2019.

It could serve as the epitaph for the history of the Trump administration.

Every Friday Books faces off with liberal syndicated columnist Mark Shields on The PBS Newshour. And on the program for March 1, the two men found common cause in sizing up the appearance of Michael Cohen before the House Oversight Committee two days earlier.

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David Brooks and Mark Shields on “The PBS Newshour”

During that hearing, Cohen, Trump’s longtime attorney and fixer:

  • Condemned his former boss as “a racist, a conman [and] a cheat.”
  • Confirmed that Trump had instructed him to pay $130,000 in hush money to porn “star” Stormy Daniels, to buy her silence during the 2016 Presidential campaign.
  • Provided the committee with a copy of a check Trump wrote from his personal bank account—after he became President—“to reimburse me for the hush money payments I made.”
  • Produced “copies of letters I wrote at Mr. Trump’s direction that threatened his high school, colleges, and the College Board not to release his grades or SAT scores.”

But for Brooks, far more was at stake than the individual accusations:

“To me, it was more of a moral occasion, more than anything else. What it illustrates is a President and, frankly, Michael Cohen who long ago decided that celebrity and wealth is more important than being a good person. And they have dragged us all down there with us.

“And the people they have dragged most effectively are the House Republicans, a lot of them on that committee, who decided that they were completely incurious about whether Donald Trump was a good guy or a bad guy or a really awful guy, that—their own leader, they didn’t seem to care about that, but they were going to rip the skin off Michael Cohen.

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Michael Cohen testifying before Congress

“And so they attacked him. And what struck me is how moral corrosion happens, that you decide you’re going to defend or ignore Trump. And then to do that, you have to morally distance yourself from him. And then you have to morally distance yourself from him every day.

“And, eventually, you just get numb to everything. And so [Ohio Republican Representative] Jim Jordan and other people on the committee were saying, oh, we all knew this, like, it’s all unremarkable. And so that’s—that’s how moral corrosion happens.”  

During the hearing, California Representative Jackie Speier asked Cohen: How many times did Trump ask you to intimidate creditors?

Cohen estimated the number at 500. 

For Shields, this counted as especially despicable behavior: “And—but the thing about it is, when he stiffed those small business—the plumbers and the electricians who did the work in the Trump projects, and he came back, and Donald Trump loved to hear about it, I mean, reveled in it.

“Now, I mean, at what point do you say that there’s no honor here? I mean, there’s nothing to admire.” 

Shields was equally appalled by the refusal of Trump’s Republican committee defenders to condemn his moral depravity—as a businessman or President.

“If you can’t deal with the message, you shoot the messenger. And that’s what their whole strategy was.

“The very fact that not a single member of the Republican committee defended Donald Trump or what he was charged or alleged to have done, to me, was revealing. They just decided to go after Michael Cohen.”

So why have Republicans aligned themselves with such a man? 

Republicans don’t fear that Trump will trash the institutions that Americans have cherished for more than 200 years. Institutions like an independent judiciary, a free press, and an incorruptible Justice Department.

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

What Republicans truly fear about Donald Trump is that he will finally cross one line too many. And that the national outrage following this will force them to launch impeachment proceedings against him.

But it isn’t even Trump they fear will be destroyed.

What they most fear losing is their own hold on nearly absolute power in Congress and the White House. And the riches that go with it.

If Trump is impeached and possibly indicted, he will become a man no one any longer fears. He will be a figure held up to ridicule and condemnation. 

Like Adolf Hitler.

Like Richard Nixon. 

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

Republicans vividly remember what happened after Nixon was forced to resign 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. 

House and Senate Republicans can imagine a future without Trump—but not one where they disappear.

If they are conflicted—whether to continue supporting Trump or desert him—the reason is the same: How can I hold onto my power and all the privileges that go with it?  

“YEAH, IT’S TOO BAD YOU WERE SHOT. NOW LET’S TALK ABOUT ME”

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on August 15, 2019 at 12:04 am

On the morning of August 3, 2019, a lone gunman killed 22 people and injured 24 others in El Paso, Texas. 

On August 7, President Donald Trump flew to El Paso—allegedly to comfort the surviving victims of that massacre.

But what was officially intended to be a day of comforting the afflicted became one of Presidential egomania.

Trump initially praised the medical staff of the University Medical Center at El Paso: “The job you’ve done is incredible. They’re talking about you all over the world.”

But then he quickly pivoted to praise himself.

He said that he and his Democratic Presidential rival, Beto O’Rourke, had staged political rallies in El Paso earlier in February. And he mocked the relatively small size of the crowd that had attended the one by O’Rourke:

“I was here three months ago, we made a speech. That place was packed. …That was some crowd. And we had twice the number outside. And then you had this crazy Beto. Beto had like 400 people in a parking lot, they said his crowd was wonderful.” 

Trump did not boast that he has still not paid the $569,204.63 his campaign owes to El Paso for police and public safety fees from that rally.

Image result for Images of deadbeat

After mocking Beto O’Rourke, Trump referred to his earlier visit that day to Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, Ohio.

Three days earlier, on the morning of August 4, another gun massacre had rocked Dayton. Ten people were killed, including the gunman, and 27 others were injured.

But empathy for the victims—dead and living—was far from Trump’s mind as he spoke with medical staffers in El Paso: 

“We had an amazing day. As you know, we left Ohio. And the love and the respect for the office of the presidency, it was—I wish you could have been in there to see it. I wish you could have been in there.”

John Olilver, an English comedian, political commentator and television host, offered a scathing review of Trump’s behavior: “Look, we all know how much Trump struggles to do the bare minimum of being a president, but it’s still genuinely shocking just how much he struggles to do the bare minimum of being a fucking person.

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John Oliver

“Just consider the thought process that happened there: He visited a hospital filled with victims of a mass shooting and thought to himself: ‘Remember that other time when I was the center of attention and it was better?’ And then he thought: ‘Do you think anyone else remembers that?’ Then he thought: ‘I should remind them, right?!’ Then he thought: ‘Great idea!'”

From the outset of his Presidency, Trump has routinely made himself the center of attention on what should have been a somber occasion.

The first time this happened was on January 21, 2017—the day after his inauguration.

He visited the headquarters of the CIA in Langley, Virginia, to pay tribute to the men and women who discover—and counter—the deadly plots of America’s sworn enemies. 

Now Trump stood before what, to CIA employees, was the agency’s most sacred site: The star-studded memorial wall honoring the 117 CIA officers who had fallen in the line of duty.

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Donald Trump at the CIA

So Trump talked about—himself. 

Here are the some excerpts:

….You know, when I was young and when I was—of course, I feel young. I feel like I’m 30, 35, 39. Somebody said, are you young? I said, I think I’m young. You know, I was stopping— when we were in the final month of that campaign, four stops, five stops, seven stops. Speeches, speeches, in front of 25,000, 30,000 people, 15,000, 19,000 from stop to stop. I feel young…. 

* * * * *

And I was explaining about the numbers. We did a thing yesterday at the speech. Did everybody like the speech?  I’ve been given good reviews. But we had a massive field of people. You saw them. Packed. I get up this morning, I turn on one of the networks, and they show an empty field. 

I say, wait a minute, I made a speech. I looked out, the field was—it looked like a million, million and a half people. They showed a field where there were practically nobody standing there.

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Crowds at Obama (left) and Trump (right) Inaugurals

And they said, Donald Trump did not draw well. I said, it was almost raining, the rain should have scared them away, but God looked down and he said, we’re not going to let it rain on your speech. 

* * * * *

So a reporter for Time magazine—and I have been on their cover, like, 14 or 15 times. I think we have the all-time record in the history of Time magazine. Like, if Tom Brady is on the cover, it’s one time, because he won the Super Bowl or something, right?

I’ve been on it for 15 times this year. I don’t think that’s a record….that can ever be broken. Do you agree with that? What do you think? 

* * * * *

Former CIA director John Brennan thought Trump’s remarks were “despicable.”

That word is now widely being used to describe the man who, tweeted Beto O’Rourke, “helped create the hatred that made Saturday’s tragedy possible.”

AMERICA’S “SOCIOPATH-IN-CHIEF”: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on August 14, 2019 at 12:05 am

August 7 was supposed to be a day of mourning and comforting.

Mourning—for the 32 gun massacre victims slaughtered on August 3 and 4 in, respectively, El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. And comforting—by President Donald Trump, who planned to visit the hospitalized survivors of those shootings.

The day turned out to be one of vitriol by and self-aggrandizement for Trump. 

In El Paso, none of the patients being treated at University Medical Center agreed to meet with Trump. 

Although reporters were barred from covering Trump’s visit, a photo posted on Twitter by Melania Trump captured perhaps the most incendiary moment of his day.

It showed Trump flashing a thumb’s-up while posing with the two-month-old son of Andre and Jordan Anchondo—both of whom had been shot by the El Paso gunman, Patrick Wood Crusius. 

Image result for Images of Donald Trump posing with baby in El Paso hospital

Donald and Melania Trump posing with orphaned baby

From the smiles on the Trumps’ faces, a viewer might think the boy belonged to them.

Outrage erupted almost immediately on Twitter:

Greg Pinelo: “This is a photo of Trump grinning while Melania holds a baby orphaned by the shooting. A baby who was taken from home and forced to serve as a prop at a photo-op for the very monster whose hate killed her/his parents. I would need 280,000 characters to say how furious I am.”

Bryan William Jones: “I am genuinely confused and horrified by this image. Am I taking this the wrong way? Why is Trump and Melania posing, GRINNING, and giving a thumbs up with the infant who’s parents were murdered by the shooter in El Paso. Seriously… WTH is going on?”

What was going on was this: The orphaned child, named Paul, had been injured during the shooting, breaking his fingers when his mother, Jordan, fell on him. She died trying to protect him. Her husband, Andre, died trying to shield her from the bullets.

The baby’s uncle, Tito Anchondo, had brought Paul back to the hospital—reportedly at the request of the White House—for a photo-op with Trump.

Anchondo stands next to Donald Trump in the photo. Tito is a strong supporter of Trump.

According to him, so was his brother, Andre: “I think people are misconstruing President Trump’s ideas. My brother was very supportive of Trump.”

And so, ironically enough, so was the killer—Patrick Wood Crusius—whose victims were mostly Hispanics.

Just 27 minutes before the massacre, Crusius had posted an online manifesto warning about a “Hispanic invasion.”

Its language was similar to that used by Trump: “This attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas. They are the instigators, not me. I am simply defending my country from cultural and ethnic replacement brought about by an invasion….

“In short, America is rotting from the inside out, and peaceful means to try to stop this seem to be nearly impossible.”

Another viewer of the photo who was thoroughly outraged by it was David Brooks, conservative columnist for The New York Times. 

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David Brooks and Mark Shields

Appearing on the August 9 edition of The PBS Newshour, Brooks said: “Well, there’s a photo, a still from that visit where he’s with the orphan baby and two family members, with his wife.

“And Melania is holding the child. And he’s got this grin and the thumb up. And when I looked at that photo, I thought, the Democrats are having a debate: Is he a racist? Is he a white supremacist? And I look at that photo, I think, well, he’s a sociopath.

“He’s incapable of experiencing or showing empathy. And, politically, it’s helpful for him to target that lack of empathy and fellow feeling toward people of color. But how much have we seen him show empathy for anybody?

“And so I look at that as someone who is unloved and made himself unlovable and whose subject is himself, is his own competitive greatness. And so he doesn’t do the consoler in chief just because he doesn’t do that emotional range.” 

This wasn’t the first time that Brooks had commented on Trump’s apparent incapacity for empathy.

On March 25, 2016, Brooks, again on The PBS Newshour, said: “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, so his relationship with women, it has no love in it. It’s trophy.

“And [Trump’s] relationship toward the world is one of competition and beating, and as if he’s going to win by competition what other people get by 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, but it comes out in his attitude toward women.”

Brooks may be the first conservative columnist to describe a Republican President as a “sociopath.” Given Trump’s behavior on what was supposed to be a day of national mourning, it isn’t likely to be the last time Brooks uses that word. 

AMERICA’S “SOCIOPATH-IN-CHIEF”: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on August 13, 2019 at 12:14 am

Since 2006, 1,714 people have been killed in 311 mass shootings within the United States. This works out to about one incident per every two weeks.

From January 1 to August 5, 2019—216 days into the year—the United States has had 112 people killed in gun massacres. That comes to about one death every other day, according to an analysis by The Associated Press, USA Today and Northeastern University.

On the morning of August 3, 2019, a lone gunman killed 22 people and injured 24 others in El Paso, Texas. The killer—Patrick Wood Crusius—reportedly targeted Latinos.

Then, on the morning of August 4, another gun massacre occurred—in Dayton, Ohio. Ten people were killed, including the gunman, and 27 others were injured. 

On August 7, President Donald Trump flew first to Dayton and then to El Paso—allegedly to comfort the surviving victims of those massacres.

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Donald Trump

So what was officially intended to be a day of comforting the afflicted became one of Presidential egomania, venom and self-pity.

On the night of August 6, Trump tweeted an attack on Democratic Presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke:

“Beto (phony name to indicate Hispanic heritage) O’Rourke, who is embarrassed by my last visit to the Great State of Texas, where I trounced him, and is now even more embarrassed by polling at 1% in the Democrat Primary, should respect the victims & law enforcement – & be quiet!”

The tone was that of an all-powerful dictator addressing a rebellious subject.

O’Rourke quickly replied on Twitter: “22 people in my hometown are dead after an act of terror inspired by your racism. El Paso will not be quiet and neither will I.”

Beto O'Rourke, Official portrait, 113th Congress.jpg

Beto O’Rourke

Then Trump attacked The New York Times for changing its “Trump Urges Unity Vs. Racism” headline: “After 3 years I almost got a good headline from the Times!”

Trump next tried to tie the Dayton shooter to Democrats, no doubt because Republicans have been the party resisting gun control legislation: “Meanwhile, the Dayton, Ohio, shooter had a history of supporting political figures like [Senator] Bernie Sanders, [Senator] Elizabeth Warren, and ANTIFA.” @OANN I hope other news outlets will report this as opposed to Fake News. Thank you!”

Dayton’s mayor, Nan Whaley, and Ohio’s United States Senator, Sherrod Brown, reacted positively to Trump’s visit to Miami Valley Hospital: “They were hurting. He was comforting. He did the right things. Melania did the right things,” Brown said. “And it’s his job in part to comfort people. I’m glad he did it in those hospital rooms.”

Whaley added: “I think the victims and the first responders were grateful that the president of the United States came to Dayton.”

Nan Whaley, Mayor of Dayton, Ohio USA.jpg

Nan Whaley

Daniel E. Cleary [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D

This did not, however, prevent Trump from attacking both of them on Twitter: “Just left Dayton, Ohio, where I met with the Victims & families, Law Enforcement, Medical Staff & First Responders. It was a warm & wonderful visit. Tremendous enthusiasm & even Love.

“Then I saw failed Presidential Candidate (0%) Sherrod Brown & Mayor Whaley totally….misrepresenting what took place inside of the hospital. Their news conference after I left for El Paso was a fraud. It bore no resemblance to what took place with those incredible people that I was so lucky to meet and spend time with. They were all amazing!” 

White House Press Secretary Stephan Grisham tweeted: “President @realDonaldTrump graciously asked Sen Brown & Mayor Whaley to join as he and the First Lady visited victims, medical staff & first responders. It is genuinely sad to see them immediately hold such a dishonest press conference in the name of partisan politics.” 

White House Social Media Director Dan Scavino tweeted: “Very SAD to see Ohio Senator Brown, & Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley – LYING & completely mischaracterizing what took place w/ the President’s visit to Miami Valley Hospital today. They are disgraceful politicians, doing nothing but politicizing a mass shooting, at every turn they can.”

“The President was treated like a Rock Star inside the hospital, which was all caught on video. They all loved seeing their great President!”

Responding to Trump’s attacks, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley tweeted: “Not sure what the President thinks @SenSherrodBrown and I misrepresented. As we said, the victims and first responders were comforted by his presence. Let’s hope he’s not one of these all talk, no action politicians and actually does something on gun control. #DoSomething.” 

From Dayton it was on to El Paso—and more personal attacks via Twitter.

First target: Former Vice President and now Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden: “Watching Sleepy Joe Biden making a speech. Sooo Boring! The LameStream Media will die in the ratings and clicks with this guy. It will be over for them, not to mention the fact that our Country will do poorly with him. It will be one big crash, but at least China will be happy!”

Then he blasted Shepard Smith, one of the few anchors on Right-wing Fox News Network who’s willing to criticize him: “Watching Fake News CNN is better than watching Shepard Smith, the lowest rated show on @FoxNews. Actually, whenever possible, I turn to @OANN!” 

From Dayton, it was on to El Paso—and a photo-op that would provoke national outrage.

THE TRUTH ABOUT LIARS

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on July 5, 2019 at 12:05 am

Ernest Hemingway was right: “Fascism is a lie told by bullies.” 

Thus:

  • “The Holocaust never happened.” 
  • “The Sandy Hook massacre never happened.” 
  • “The MAGAbomber is a Democrat who’s mailing letter-bombs to make Republicans look bad.” 

These are among the lies regularly hurled by “lunatic fringe” Right-wingers—and, more importantly, “mainstream” Republicans.

Many liberals—such as those who regularly take to Facebook—believe Right-wingers simply lack correct information.

According to this viewpoint: If only Right-wingers knew the truth about such matters as:

  • The millions slaughtered during the Holocaust;
  • The horrific massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School; and
  • The pro-Trump motives of the MAGAbomber

they would be telling the truth.

There are two motives behind such blatant lying—and mere ignorance is not one of them. 

Motive #1: Right-wingers don’t want to admit the truth about events most people instinctively believe are evil.

Right-wingers intuitively know that shoving huge numbers of naked men, women and children into gas chambers is the arch-example of evil. And so is spraying scores of bullets into scores of helpless men, women and children in churches, nightclubs and schools.

They know they can’t convince decent people that such atrocities are really acts of humanity. So it’s easier (for them) to simply deny that they actually happened.

The tobacco industry paved the way for such arguments. 

The Tobacco Institute—a trade association created in 1958 to pose as a “smoking research” center—cast doubt on scientific studies linking smoking with lung cancer, emphysema and heart disease.

Tobacco Institute ad

Its premise: “We really don’t know if smoking causes cancer. We need more studies to make certain.”

And, for the Tobacco Institute, there could never be enough studies to prove that smoking was a thoroughly deadly habit—that reaped billions of dollars every year for the tobacco industry.

Motive #2: Right-wingers claim Right-wing atrocities didn’t happen to put the victims of such atrocities on the defensive.

This, too, was a major aim of the tobacco industry. By constantly demanding “Prove to us that smoking is deadly” and then arrogantly dismissing all evidence put forward, tobacco executives put the onus on their opponents.

Thus, after the MAGAbomber was arrested and his van was found plastered with pro-Trump stickers, Right-wingers reflexively seized on a series of lies to “cleanse” themselves.

Lies such as: 

  • “He’s a liberal put up to it by other liberals.”
  • “The bombs were fake, to stir up sympathy for liberals before the November elections.”  

Consider:

  • Right-wing talk-show host Rush Limbaugh: “Would it make a lot of sense for a Democrat operative or Democrat-inculcated lunatic to do it? Because things are not working out the way they thought.”
  • Right-wing propagandist Dinesh D’Souza: “I hear the FBI squeezed lemon juice on the suspicious packages and a very faint lettering revealed a single word: DEMOCRATS.”

Totally ignored was the truth that Cesar Sayoc had mailed pipe-bombs to 10 prominent Democrats—including two former Presidents and a former First Lady. 

FBI Director Christopher Wray—a Trump appointee after the firing of James Comey in May, 2017—publicly stated that the bombs were real: “Though we’re still analyzing these devices in our laboratory, these were not hoax devices.”

Chris Wray official photo.jpg

Christopher Wray

So how did Right-wingers react to Wray’s no-nonsense rebuttal of Right-wing conspiracy lies?

With more lies.

They attacked the FBI as part of the “deep state” determined to thwart and, if possible, impeach Donald Trump.

According to one Rightist theory: The FBI made the bombs and sent them out to implicate some poor Trump supporter—if not the President himself.

Fortunately, there is at least a partial solution to such lies: Lawsuits based on the truth.

On August 1, 2018, families of four students and two educators who died in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre filed a defamation lawsuit against Right-wing broadcaster and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones,

Jones hosts The Alex Jones Show from Austin, Texas. He had claimed the mass shooting was fake.  

Twenty children and six adults were killed in the December 14, 2012, attack by 20-year-old Adam Lanza. 

On his program in January, 2015, he said: “Sandy Hook is a synthetic completely fake with actors, in my view, manufactured. I couldn’t believe it at first. I knew they had actors there, clearly, but I thought they killed some real kids. And it just shows how bold they are, that they clearly used actors.”

Alex Jones Portrait (cropped).jpg

Alex Jones

Michael Zimmermann [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D

Jones has also accused the U.S. government of faking the 1969 moon landing footage and planning the Oklahoma City bombing and the September 11 attacks.

According to the complaint: 

“The Jones defendants concoct elaborate and false paranoia-tinged conspiracy theories because it moves product and they make money. Not because they truly believe what they are saying, but rather because it increases profits.” 

Thus, a reasonable person would understand that Jones meant the massacre was staged and the deaths were fabricated.

So how did Jones respond to the lawsuit?  

With more lies.

“This is all out of context….And it’s not even what I said or my intent,” he said. “I’m not going to get into the real defects of this, I’m going to wait until it’s thrown out with prejudice.”

“AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM” IS KILLING US: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 5, 2019 at 12:05 am

In his 2015 book, American Reckoning: The  Vietnam War and Our National Identity, Christian G. Appy describes the way Americans saw their country before the war: 

“The United States [was] a unique force for good in the world, superior not only in its military and economic power but in the quality of its government and institutions, the character and morality of its people, and its way of life….. 

“It was still unimaginable to most Americans that their own nation would wage aggressive war and justify it with unfounded claims, that it would support undemocratic governments reviled by their own people, and that American troops would be sent to fight in countries where they were widely regarded not as liberators but as imperialist invaders.”

For millions of Americans, writes Appy, the Vietnam war forever shattered that tremendously appealing self-image.

Yet for millions more, the United States remains an exemplary nation with a divine mission to lead other nations—willingly or unwillingly—to follow its example.  For these Americans, the corruption and dictatorships that plague many countries “can’t happen here.”

This refusal to accept the lessons of history blinds many Americans to the dangers posed by the Donald Trump Presidency. 

Since assuming office on January 20, 2017, Trump:

  • Repeatedly attacked the integrity of the American Intelligence community for confirming Russian subversion of the 2016 Presidential election—while siding with Russian President Vladimir Putin that this didn’t happen.
  • Fired FBI Director James Comey for investigating that subversion. 
  • Fired Acting Attorney General Sally Yates after she warned him that National Security Adviser Michael Flynn had misled the FBI about his Russian contacts.
  • Forced House Republicans to release a memo falsely accusing the FBI of pursuing a vendetta against him. 

Seal of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.svg

  • Repeatedly attacked his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, for recusing himself from investigations into ties between Russian Intelligence agents and members of Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign. On November 7, 2018, Trump fired him.
  • Repeatedly attacked the integrity of the FBI, raising the possibility of his firing more of its senior leadership for investigating that subversion.
  • Accused those who participated in that investigation of committing “treason”—as if he were the monarchical embodiment of the state.
  • (The Constitution does not define “treason” as disloyalty to the President—or a private citizen, which Trump was when he ran for President. It defines “treason” as “levying war” against the United States, or giving “aid and comfort” to countries or entities that have declared war on the United States.)

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  • Attacked and alienated America’s oldest allies, such as Canada and Great Britain.
  • Repeatedly praised brutal Communist dictators Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-Un.
  • Falsely accused former President Barack Obama of illegally “spying” on his 2016 campaign.
  • Repeatedly asked aides to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller—but was finally persuaded that this could lead to his impeachment.
  • Slandered Federal judges whose rulings displeased him.
  • Spoken admiringly of American Nazis and Ku Klux Klansmen.
  • Shut down the United States Government for over a month, imperiling the lives of 800,000 Federal employees, to extort money from Congress for a worthless wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
  • “Joked” that the United States—like China—should have a “President-for-Life.”
  • Repeatedly attacked the free press as “the enemy of the people.” 
  • Encourages his followers to violently attack those he hates in the press. On July 2, 2017, he tweeted a video of himself punching a man with the CNN logo superimposed on his head during a WWE wrestling match. 

  • Used the Presidency to further enrich himself, in violation of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution.
  • By March 17, 2019, had said or tweeted 9,179 lies or misleading statements—an average of 11.6 lies a day. 
  • Requires his Cabinet members and lesser appointees to fawn over him with over-the-top flattery previously reserved for notorious dictators.
  • Appointed William Bar as Attorney General to replace William Sessions—after Barr sent a fawning 20-page memo to the Justice Department criticizing the foundation of the Special Counsel investigation.
  • Authorized Barr to investigate the Federal law enforcement and Intelligence agencies that legally investigated links between Russian Intelligence agents and members of Trump’s Presidential campaign.
  • Plans to turn the traditional nonpartisan July 4 celebration on the National Mall into a Trump campaign rally that celebrates himself. 

* * * * *

Donald Trump isn’t crazy, as many of his critics charge. Nor is he a political innocent who “simply doesn’t know better,” as his Republican allies have repeatedly claimed.

He knows exactly 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 absurd faith that “America is different from other great powers” brought us the Vietnam war—and the 58,000 needless dead that will forever be its legacy.  Now that same faith threatens to bring us an absolute Right-wing dictatorship.

“AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM” IS KILLING US: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 4, 2019 at 12:05 am

“Who are we?” asks Christian G. Appy  in the opening of his 2015 book, American Reckoning: The  Vietnam War and Our National Identity.

For Appy, it’s impossible to understand the enormous impact of the Vietnam war on the United States without first understanding the image that Americans had of themselves before that conflict. And he describes that image as:

“The broad faith that the United States [was] a unique force for good in the world, superior not only in its military and economic power but in the quality of its government and institutions, the character and morality of its people, and its way of life…..

“It was still unimaginable to most Americans that their own nation would wage aggressive war and justify it with unfounded claims, that it would support undemocratic governments reviled by their own people, and that American troops would be sent to fight in countries where they were widely regarded not as liberators but as imperialist invaders.”

Appy contends that, for millions of Americans, the Vietnam war dealt a mortal blow to that tremendously appealing self-image.

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Yet for millions more, the United States remains an exemplary nation with a divine mission to lead other nations—willingly or unwillingly—to follow its example. And those Americans become furious when anyone—especially a foreigner—dares question that belief.

On September 11, 2013, the New York Times published an Op-Ed (guest editorial) from Russian President Vladimir Putin, entitled: “A Plea for Caution from Russia: What Putin Has to Say to Americans About Syria.”

To no one’s surprise, Putin strongly opposed an American air strike on Syria. Its “President” (i.e., dictator) Bashir al-Assad, is a close ally of Russia. Just as his late father and dictator, Hafez al-Assad, was a close ally of the Soviet Union.

And Putin is a former member of the KGB, the infamous secret police which ruled the Soviet Union from its birth in 1917 to its collapse in 1991.

In his September 11 guest editorial in the New York Times, Putin offered the expected Russian take on Syria:

  • Poison gas was used in Syria.
  • It wasn’t used by the Syrian Army.
  • “Opposition forces [used it] to provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons.”
  • “There are few champions of democracy in Syria. But there are more than enough [al] Qaeda fighters and extremists of all stripes battling the government.”

But it’s the concluding paragraph that enraged American politicians the most—especially Right-wing ones. In it, Putin took exception with American “exceptionalism.”

Referring to then-President Barack Obama, Putin wrote:

“And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is ‘what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.’

“It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too.

“We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.”

Vladimir Putin

Putin has never publicly shown any interest in religion. But by invoking “the Lord,” he was able to turn the Christian beliefs of his Western audience into a useful weapon.

Americans’ outrage quickly erupted.

“I was insulted,” then-House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters when asked for his blunt reaction to the editorial.

“I have to be honest with you, I was at dinner, and I almost wanted to vomit,” said U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey).

Putin had dared to question the self-righteousness of American foreign policy—and those who make it.

Making his case for war with Syria, Obama had said: “America is not the world’s policeman….But when, with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death, and thereby make our own children safer over the long run, I believe we should act.

“That’s what makes America different. That’s what makes us exceptional. With humility, but with resolve, let us never lose sight of that essential truth.”

In short: Because we consider ourselves “exceptional,” we have the divine right to do whatever we want.

It’s not necessary to see Putin as a champion of democracy (he isn’t) to see the truth in this part of his editorial:

“It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation.”

From 1938 to 1969, the House Un-American Activities Committee sought to define what was “American” and what was “Un-American.” As if “American” stood for all things virtuous.

Whoever heard of an “Un-French Activities Committee”? Or an “Un-German” or “Un-British” one?

The late S.I. Hayakawa was a professor of semantics (the study of the relationship between words and what they stand for).

In his bestselling book, Language in Thought and Action, he observed that a person has four ways of responding to a message:

  • Accept the speaker and his message.
  • Accept the speaker but reject the message.
  • Accept the message but reject the speaker.
  • Reject the message and the speaker.

Americans might want to consider #3 where “American exceptionalism” is concerned.

FASCISTIC OATHS—PAST AND PRESENT

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 14, 2019 at 12:05 am

William Kristol—a Right-wing political analyst—has been dubbed “the godfather of neoconservatism.” And with good reason. 

During the first two years of the George W. Bush administration, as the editor of the Weekly Standard, he was one of the leading instigators of the 2003 war with Iraq.

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Bill Kristol

He—like senior officials on the George W. Bush administration—falsely claimed that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and planned to use them against the United States.

Another Kristol lie: Hussein planned 9/11 with Osama bin Laden.

He has never apologized for either lie—or the resulting war that killed 4,487 American soldiers and wounded another 32,226.

But even after the disaster of the 2003 war against Iraq, Kristol wasn’t through urging the United States into another murderous quagmire.

In a September, 2013 column, Kristol called for a return to war—not only in Syria but Iran as well:

“…Soon after voting to authorize the use of force against the [Bashar al-] Assad regime, Republicans might consider moving an authorization for the use of force against the Iranian nuclear weapons program.

“They can explain that [President Barack] Obama’s dithering in the case of Syria shows the utility of unequivocally giving him the authority to act early with respect to Iran.”

So it’s no small thing that Kristol has found himself agreeing with Democratic Massachusetts United States Senator and 2020 Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren that Democrats should begin impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump.

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Elizabeth Warren

He did so on a segment of MSNBC’s “Meet the Press” on May 7, 2019. 

Earlier in the day, Elizabeth Warren had stated on the Senate floor: 

“More than 600 federal prosecutors have now said that what’s laid out in the Mueller Report would constitute obstruction of justice, and would trigger a prosecution for any human being in this country other than the President of the United States.

“Robert Mueller put all of the facts together for us, put all of the information together for us, and abided by the Trump administration declaration under the Office of Legal Counsel that a sitting president cannot be indicted for his crimes.

“We took an oath not to try and protect Donald Trump, we took an oath to protect and serve the Constitution of the United States of America, and the way we do that is we begin impeachment proceedings now against this president.” 

On February 15, 2019, Kristol had posted this tweet on Twitter: 

“Members of Congress take this oath of office (see Title 5, Section 3331 of the United States Code): “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”

On May 7, in a blistering attack on his fellow Republicans, he posted “the new GOP Congressional oath”:

“I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend Donald Trump against all oversight; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to him; that I take this obligation despite mental reservation and in the spirit of evasion of duty. So help me God.”

Hours later, Kristol appeared before a “Meet the Press” panel and attacked Democrats for being “so terrified about the word impeachment that we can’t even have hearings….I must say I agree with Elizabeth Warren. I never thought I would say this.

“Robert Mueller’s report… invited Congress to take a look for itself at the obstruction of justice charges. They have an obligation to do it. They don’t have to impeach him. They may take a look and decide there aren’t grounds for impeachment. Maybe they wanna censure him…I think Elizabeth Warren’s right. Begin the hearings.” 

Kristol’s “new GOP Congressional oath” is a deadly reminder of another oath that had fatal consequences for Nazi Germany—and the world.

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Soldiers swearing the Fuhrer Oath

On August 2, 1934, President Paul von Hindenburg died. Adolf Hitler was then serving as Reich Chancellor—the equivalent of attorney general. Within hours, the Nazi Reichstag [parliament] announced the following law, back-dated to August 1st:

“The office of Reich President will be combined with that of Reich Chancellor. The existing authority of the Reich President will consequently be transferred to the Führer and Reich Chancellor, Adolf Hitler.” 

Immediately following the announcement of the new Führer law, the German Officer Corps and every individual soldier in the German Army was made to swear a brand new oath of allegiance:

“I swear by God this holy oath, that I will render to Adolf Hitler, Führer of the German Reich and People, Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, unconditional obedience, and that I am ready, as a brave soldier, to risk my life at any time for this oath.”

No doubt Kristol, who considers himself a dyed-in-the-wool conservative, remembers all too well the fate of those old-time conservatives who dared oppose Hitler.

The lucky ones were sent to concentration camps. The unlucky ones wound up on meat hooks.

FICTION BECOMES NIGHTMARISH REALITY: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on March 8, 2019 at 12:59 pm

Donald Trump’s appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference on March 2, 2019 was an occasion for rejoicing among his supporters.

But for those who prize rationality and decency in a President, it was a dismaying and frightening experience.

For two hours, Trump gave free reign to his anger and egomania.  

Among his unhinged commentaries:

“We have people in Congress that hate our country.” 

If you don’t agree 100% with Trump on everything, you’re a traitor. 

“He called me up. He said, ‘You’re a great President. You’re doing a great job.’ He said, ‘I just want to tell you you’re a great President and you’re one of the smartest people I’ve ever met.'”

Trump attributed these remarks to California’s liberal governor, Gavin Newsom.  On February 11, 2019, Newsom announced the withdrawal of several hundred National Guardsmen from the state’s southern border with Mexico—defying Trump’s request for support from border states.

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Donald Trump at CPAC

“You know if you remember my first major speech—you know the dishonest media they’ll say, ‘He didn’t get a standing ovation.’ You know why? Because everybody stood and nobody sat. They are the worst. They leave that out.”

Once again, he’s the persecuted victim of an unfair and totally unappreciative news media.

“And I love the First Amendment; nobody loves it better than me. Nobody. I mean, who use its more than I do? But the First Amendment gives all of us—it gives it to me, it gives it to you, it gives it to all Americans, the right to speak our minds freely. It gives you the right and me the right to criticize fake news and criticize it strongly.”

Trump has repeatedly called the nation’s free press “the enemy of the people”—a slander popularized by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. And while Trump brags about his usage of the First Amendment, he’s used Non-Disclosure agreements and threats of lawsuits to deny that right to others.

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“For too long, we’ve traded away our jobs to other countries. So terrible.”

While this remark—like virtually every remark Trump made at CPAC—got rousing applause, he failed to mention that his own products are made overseas:

  • Ties: Made in China 
  • Suits: Made in Indonesia 
  • Trump Vodka: Made in the Netherlands, and later in Germany
  • Crystal glasses, decanters: Made in Slovenia 
  • And the clothing and accessories line of his daughter, Ivanka, is produced entirely in factories in Bangladesh, Indonesia and China.

“By the way, you folks are in here—this place is packed, there are lines that go back six blocks and I tell you that because you won’t read about it, OK.”

He’s obsessed with fear that the media won’t make him look popular.

“So we’re all part of this very historic movement, a movement the likes of which, actually, the world has never seen before. There’s never been anything like this. There’s been some movements, but there’s never been anything like this.”

Trump sees himself as the single greatest figure in history. So anything he’s involved with must be unprecedented.

“But I always say, Obamacare doesn’t work. And these same people two years ago and a year ago were complaining about Obamacare.”

In 2010, 48 million Americans lacked health insurance. By 2016, that number had been reduced to 28.6 million. So 20 million Americans now have access to medical care they previously couldn’t get.

“But we’re taking a firm, bold and decisive measure, we have to, to turn things around. The era of empty talk is over, it’s over.”

  • Trump has boasted that he and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un “fell in love.” Then he met with Kim in Vietnam—and got stiffed on a deal for North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.
  • On July 16, 2018, Trump attended a press conference in Helsinki, Finland, with Russian President Vladimir Putin. There he blamed American Intelligence agencies—such as the FBI, CIA—instead of Putin for Russia’s subversion of the 2016 Presidential election.

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“I’ll tell you what they [agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement] do, they came and endorsed me, ICE came and endorsed me. They never endorsed a presidential candidate before, they might not even be allowed to.” 

Trump can’t stop boasting about how popular he is.

“These are hard-working, great, great Americans. These are unbelievable people who have not been treated fairly. Hillary called them deplorable. They’re not deplorable.”

On the contrary: “Deplorable” is exactly the word for those who vote their racism, ignorance, superstition and hatred of their fellow citizens.

A FINAL NOTE: Trump held himself up for adoration just three days after Michael Cohen, his longtime fixer:

  • Damned him as a racist, a conman and a cheat.
  • Revealed that Trump had cheated on his taxes and bought the silence of a porn “star” to prevent her revealing a 2006 tryst before the 2016 election.
  • Estimated he had stiffed, on Trump’s behalf, hundreds of workers Trump owed money to. 

And, only two days earlier, Trump had returned from a much-ballyhooed meeting in Vietnam with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un. Trump hoped to get a Nobel Peace Prize by persuading Kim to give up his nuclear arsenal.

Instead, Trump got stiffed—and returned empty-handed. 

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