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THE NRC: THE SPANISH INQUISITION COMES HOME–PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on February 16, 2022 at 12:11 am

The Republican National Committee (RNC) is a secular, political organization that leads the Republican party of the United States.

But on February 4, it acted as the reincarnation of the Spanish Inquisition—a judicial institution which attacked heresy in Spain from 1478 to 1834.

Under its reign of terror, countless “heretical” men and women found themselves sentenced by kangaroo courts to hideous torture and death.

Coat of arms or logo

Seal of the Spanish Inquisition

User:Di (they-them), CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

On February 4, the RNC’s chair, Ronna Romney McDaniel, “cast out” two fellow Republicans: Representtives Liz Cheney (WY) and Adam Kinzinger (IL).

Their “crime”: Being the only Republicans to serve on the United States House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol, otherwise known as the January 6 Committee.

That censure described the deadly riot, where hundreds of then-President Donald Trump’s disciples stormed the Capitol and forced lawmakers to flee their chambers for safety, as “legitimate political discourse.” 

Ronna McDaniel.jpg

Ronna Romney McDaniel

Part One of this series analyzed the first major paragraph of this censure. Part Two will analyze the remaining six.

“WHEREAS, Winning back the majority in Congress, including the United States House of Representatives, in 2022 must be the primary goal of the House Republican Conference (“Conference”) and requires all Republicans working together to accomplish the same….” 

  • Here, at least, the RNC and its chair, Ronna Romney McDaniel, offers the truth: Gaining absolute power over the legislative, executive and judicial branches of the Federal Government is this party’s “primary goal.”
  • Punishing those who engage in treasonous attacks on Constitutional government is not a priority—so long as the perpetrators are Fascistic Right-wingers.

“WHEREAS, The Conference must not be sabotaged by Representatives Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger who have demonstrated, with actions and words, that they support Democrat efforts to destroy President Trump more than they support winning back a Republican majority in 2022….

DESTROYING PRESIDENT TRUMP:

  • It was Trump who tried to destroy Constitutional government by stripping every potential challenger to his authority—or his version of reality—of legitimacy with the public. Had he succeeded, there would have been:
  • 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 candidate—Democrat or Republican—to challenge him for remaining in office in 2020—and thereafter—as “President-for-Life.”

WHEREAS, Representatives Cheney and Kinzinger have engaged in actions in their positions as members of the January 6th Select Committee not befitting Republican of Congress, which include the Committee’s disregard for minority rights, traditional checks and balances, due process, and adherence to other precedent and rules of the U.S. House and which seem intent on advancing a political agenda to buoy the Democrat bleak prospects in the upcoming midterm elections….”

WINNING BACK A REPUBLICAN MAJORITY IN 2022:

  • This, for the RNC, takes precedence over investigating a treasonous plot to overthrow democratic government and establish a one-party (Republican) state, presided over by a lifetime criminal and proven traitor.

Liz Cheney official 116th Congress portrait.jpg

Liz Cheney

Adam Kinzinger - 117th Congress.jpg

Adam Kinzinger

“WHEREAS, Congressional Republicans bear ultimate responsibility for their own success or failure and the RNC supports their efforts by denouncing those who deliberately jeopardize victory in November on which the future of our constitutional republic depends at this critical moment in history….” 

DELIBERATELY JEOPARDIZING VICTORY:

  • Once again, the RNC admits that gaining absolute power for itself takes precedence over investigating and punishing those who sought to overthrow American democracy.

“WHEREAS, Representatives Cheney and Kinzinger purport to be members of the Republican Party….” 

“PURPORT” TO BE REPUBLICANS:

  • Liz Cheney has been a Republican member of the House of Representatives from Wyoming since 2017. She voted in line with Trump’s policies 93% of the time, according to the data journalism site Five Thirty-Eight.
  • Heritage Action, a Right-wing  policy advocacy organization, gives her a “lifetime score” of 80%.
  • Adam Kinzinger has been a Republican member of the House of Representatives from Illinois since 2011.
  • According to Five Thirty-Eight, he voted in support of Trump’s agenda 90% of the time,
  • Thus, the “crime” committed by Cheney and Kinzinger was to investigate the treasonous attempted coup of a lifelong criminal and would-be tyrant.

“WHEREAS, Representatives Cheney and Kinzinger are participating in a Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse, and they are both utilizing their past professed political affiliation to mask Democrat abuse of prosecutorial power for partisan purposes, therefore, be it 

“RESOLVED, That the Republican National Committee hereby formally censures Representatives Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois and shall immediately cease any and all support of them as members of the Republican Party for their behavior which has been destructive to the institution of the U.S. House of Representatives, the Republican Party and our republic, and is inconsistent with the position of the Conference.”   

* * * * * * * * *

The RNC’s action was one worthy of the Spanish Inquisition.

And it serves as a warning to democracy-loving Americans of the fate awaiting them if Republicans’ revenge fantasies come true.

THE NRC: THE SPANISH INQUISITION COMES HOME–PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 15, 2022 at 12:10 am

On February 4, the Republican National Committee (RNC) officially endorsed the use of violence on behalf of the party.

It described the January 6, 2021 attack on the nation’s Capitol—a violent and treasonous attempt to prevent the orderly and legal transition of power from one President to another—as “legitimate political discourse.”  

This is no private opinion of a single Republican—or even a fringe group of Republicans.

The RNC is described on Wikipedia as:

“A U.S. political committee that leads the Republican party of the United States. It is responsible for developing and promoting the Republican political platform, as well as coordinating fundraising, election strategy, and a ‘party brand.’ It is also responsible for organizing and running the Republican National Convention.” 

Summer Internships at the Republican National Committee – INTA Advising Blog

The endorsement came during an official censure of two of the Committee’s fellow Republicans—Reps. Liz Cheney (WY) and Adam Kinzinger (IL).

Their “crime”: Being the only Republicans to serve on the United States House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol, otherwise known as the January 6 Committee. 

That censure described the deadly riot, where hundreds of then-President Donald Trump’s disciples stormed the Capitol and forced lawmakers to flee their chambers for safety, as “legitimate political discourse.” 

Predictably, the statement opened with a series of grotesque lies: 

“WHEREAS, The Biden Administration and Democrats in Congress have embarked on a systematic effort to replace liberty with socialism; eliminate border security in favor of lawless, open borders; create record inflation designed to steal the American dream from our children and grandchildren; neuter our national defense and a peace through strength foreign policy; replace President ‘Operation Warp Speed’ with incompetence and illegal mandates; and destroy America’s economy with the Green New Deal….” 

To address these lies:

REPLACING LIBERTY WITH SOCIALISM:

  • It was Donald Trump—not Joseph Biden—who said that he and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un “fell in love.”
  • It was Trump—not Biden—who attacked American Intelligence agencies for their unanimous conclusion that Russian dictator Vladimir Putin interfered in the 2016 Presidential election.
  • It was Trump—not Biden—who never once attacked nor even criticized Putin, although he has viciously attacked literally hundreds of others, verbally and on Twitter.

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Donald Trump

ELIMINATING BORDER SECURITY:

  • Attacking Hispanics—both those who are United States citizens and those who wish to become citizens—is a potent weapon for Republicans. It’s the single most galvanizing issue for their base, and the one guaranteed to win and retain Right-wing votes.
  • The Biden administration—like every previous administration—is trying to stem the flow of illegal aliens on the southern border. But it’s a never-ending struggle marked by legal and logistical complications.

CREATE RECORD INFLATION:

  • Biden—like every other President—has few weapons to use in controlling inflation. Much of this is now being caused by COVID-19 and the resulting slowdowns and/or shutdowns in employment it has produced.
  • As a capitalist nation, the United States does not often intervene in what is euphemistically called “the free enterprise system”—even though much of that is dominated by predatory corporations.
  • Biden could propose legislation making price-gouging a Federal crime, punishable by a lengthy prison term. But this—modeled on the anti-extortion provisions in the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act—would never gain Republican Congressional support.

NEUTER OUR NATIONAL DEFENSE: 

  • It was Trump—not Biden—who tried to extort a “favor” from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky: Investigate presumed 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidate Joseph Biden and his son, Hunter, who had had business dealings in Ukraine. 
  • Clearly implied in the call: Produce “dirt” on Biden—or you won’t get the Congressionally authorized $400 million in military aid.
  • It was Trump who repeatedly defended Vladimir Putin while attacking America’s longstanding allies, such as Canada and Great Britain.

Vladimir Putin (2018-03-01) 03 (cropped).jpg

Vladimir Putin

Kremlin.ru, CC BY 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

REPLACE “OPERATION WARP SPEED” WITH INCOMPETENCE, ILLEGAL MANDATES:

  • Trump learned how deadly the virus was in January, 2020. But he publicly denied this and attacked mask-wearing and social distancing.
  • He attacked governors who issued stay-at-home orders to contain the virus—and incited his followers to defy those orders.
  • He secretly got vaccinated before leaving office and has only reluctantly acknowledged the importance of vaccinations.
  • His legacy of defying science continues to live on in his millions of Stormtrumper followers—who refuse to mask up, social distance and, most importantly, get vaccinated. The vast majority of those now flooding hospital ER and ICU rooms—and graveyards—are unvaccinated. 
  • Biden instead launched a nationwide campaign to persuade Americans to wear masks, socially distance and, above all, get vaccinated. 

DESTROY AMERICA’S ECONOMY WITH A GREEN NEW DEAL: 

  • Despite Right-wing lies to the contrary, global warming is an established fact.
  • If there is to be any chance of halting—let alone reversing—the planet-threatening dangers this brings, it must come through the elimination of fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas.
  • But corporate CEOs—such as West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin—have a vested financial interest in continuing the sale of fossil fuels.
  • And they have the backing of corrupt Right-wing politicians and millions of their voters who refuse to accept science.

REWRITING HISTORY FOR SOVIETS AND REPUBLICANS

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics on January 21, 2022 at 12:10 am

At one time, Americans believed that the wholesale rewriting of history happened only in the Soviet Union.

“The problem with writing about history in the Soviet Union,” went the joke, “is that you never know what’s going to happen yesterday.”  

A classic example of this occurred in the Great Soviet Encyclopedia.  

Lavrenti Beria had been head of the NKVD, the dreaded secret police, from 1938 to 1953. In 1953, following the death of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, Beria was arrested and executed on orders of his fellow Communist Party leaders, who feared they were targets of a coming purge.  

Lavrenti Beria

But the Great Soviet Encyclopedia had just gone to press with a long article singing Beria’s praises.  

What to do?  

The editors of the Encyclopedia wrote an equally long article about “the Bering Straits,” which was to be pasted over the article about Beria, and sent this off to its subscribers. An unknown number of them decided it was safer to paste accordingly. 

During the 2016 Presidential election, the Republican party furiously rewrote history in a desperate attempt to win the White House. 

Specifically, its members tried to convince Americans that:

  1. President George W. Bush “kept us safe” (excluding, of course, the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, which snuffed out the lives of 3,000 Americans); and/or
  2. President Bush isn’t to blame for 9/11—it’s his predecessor, Bill Clinton (who left office more than a year and a half before 9/11). 

Joseph Stalin was depicted in Soviet “history” texts as the architect of Russia’s victory over Nazi Germany during World War II.  

No “historian” dared mention that Stalin’s wholesale purges of the Red Army in the 1930s had made the country vulnerable to the German attack in 1941. As had Stalin’s “nonaggression” pact with Germany in 1939, where he and Hitler aggressively divided Poland between them. 

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Joseph Stalin

But Russians no longer have a monopoly on rewriting history.

In 2015, Jeb Bush entered the “Rewriting History for Americans” sweepstakes.

On October 16, 2015, during an interview on Bloomberg TV, Donald Trump, the leading Republican candidate for President in 2016, dared speak (for Republicans) the unspeakable:

“When you talk about George Bush, I mean, say what you want, the World Trade Center came down during his time. He was President, OK?  Blame him, or don’t blame him, but he was President. The World Trade Center came down during his reign.” 

Bush was quick to respond on Twitter: “How pathetic for @realdonaldtrump criticize the president for 9/11. We were attacked & my brother kept us safe.”   

Jeb Bush

Trump replied: 

“At the debate you said your brother kept us safe–I wanted to be nice & did not mention the WTC came down during his watch, 9/11.”

And: “No @JebBush, you’re pathetic for saying nothing happened during your brother’s term when the World Trade Center was attacked and came down.” 

Suddenly, on February 13, another Republican Presidential candidate rushed to rewrite 9/11: Florida United States Senator Marco Rubio. 

According to Rubio: “The World Trade Center came down because Bill Clinton didn’t kill Osama bin Laden when he had the chance to kill him.” 

And on the following day, on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” he again made the charge: “If you’re going to ascribe blame, don’t blame George W. Bush, blame a decision that was made years earlier, not to take out bin Laden when the opportunity presented itself.”  

All of which ignores such embarrassing truths as: 

  • During the first eight months of the Bush Presidency, Richard Clarke, the counter-terrorism adviser on the National Security Council, was not permitted to brief President Bush, despite mounting evidence of plans for a new Al-Qaeda outrage.  
  • From January 20 to September 11, 2001, Bush was on vacation, according to the Washington Post, 42% of the time.
  • National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice initially refused to hold a cabinet-level meeting on the subject of terrorism. Then she insisted that the matter be handled only by a more junior Deputy Principals meeting.  
  • Paul Wolfowitz, the number-two man at the Department of Defense, said: “I don’t understand why we are beginning by talking about this one man, bin Laden.” 
  • Even after Clarke outlined the threat posed by Al-Qaeda, Wolfowitz—whose real target was Saddam Hussein—said: “You give bin Laden too much credit.” 
  • Finally, at a meeting with Rice on September 4, 2001, Clarke challenged her to “picture yourself at a moment when in the very near future Al-Qaeda has killed hundreds of Americans, and imagine asking yourself what you wish then that you had already done.” 
  • Seven days later, Al-Qaeda struck, and 3,000 Americans died horrifically—and needlessly. 
  • Neither Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Rice, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld nor Wolowitz ever admitted their negligence. Nor has any of them been brought to account.

People who say the Republicans are “batshit crazy” for denying responsibility for 9/11 clearly haven’t read—or understood—George Orwell’s novel, 1984.  

The unnamed Party’s slogan is: “He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.”

The same holds true for Republicans: They hope to rewrite the past, as Joseph Stalin did, to wash away their crimes and errors–and pin these on their self-declared enemies.

And thus gain—and retain—absolute power over 300 million Americans.

WHAT CRIMINALS CAN LEARN FROM “IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE”

In Business, Entertainment, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on December 7, 2021 at 12:11 am

Every Christmas, TV audiences find comfort and triumph in the rerunning of a black-and-white 1946 movie: It’s a Wonderful Life.

It’s the story of George Bailey (James Stewart), a decent husband and father who hovers on the brink of suicide—until his guardian angel, Clarence, suddenly intervenes.

It's a Wonderful Life (1946 poster).jpeg

Clarence reveals to George what his home town, Bedford Falls, New York, would be like if he had never been born. George finds himself shocked to learn:

  • With no counterweight to the schemes of rapacious slumlord Henry F. Potter, Bedford Falls becomes Potterville, filled with pawn shops and sleazy nightclubs.
  • With no George Bailey to save his younger brother, Harry, from drowning in a frozen pond, Harry drowns.
  • With no Harry to live to become a Naval fighter pilot in World War II, he’s not on hand to shoot down two Japanese planes targeting an American troopship.
  • As a result, the troopship and its crew are destroyed.

George is forced to face the significant role he has played in the lives of so many others.

Armed with this knowledge, he once again embraces life, running through the snow-covered streets of Bedford Falls and shouting “Merry Christmas!” to everyone he meets.

Audiences have hailed George Bailey as an Everyman hero—and the film as a life-affirming testament to the unique importance of each individual.

But there is another aspect of the movie that has not been so closely studied: The legacy of its villain, Henry F. Potter, who, as  played by Lionel Barrymore, bears a striking resemblance to former Vice President Dick Cheney.

Lionel Barrymore as Mr. Potter.jpg

Henry F. Potter

It is Potter—the richest man in Bedford Falls—whose insatiable greed threatens to destroy it.  And it is Potter whose criminality drives George Bailey to the brink of suicide.

The antagonism between Bailey and Potter starts early in the movie. George dreams of leaving Bedford Falls and building skyscrapers. Meanwhile, he works at the Bailey Building and Loan Association, which plays a vital role in the life of the community.

Potter, a member of the Building and Loan Association board, tries to persuade the board of directors to dissolve the firm. He objects to their providing home loans for the working poor.

George persuades them to reject Potter’s proposal, but they agree only on condition that George run the Building and Loan. Reluctantly, George agrees.

Later, Potter tries to lure George away from the Building and Loan, offering him a $20,000 salary and the chance to visit Europe. George is briefly tempted.

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But then he realizes that Potter intends to close down the Building and Loan and deny financial help to those who most need it. Angrily, he turns down Potter’s offer:

“You sit around here and you spin your little webs and you think the whole world revolves around you and your money. Well, it doesn’t, Mr. Potter!

“In the whole vast configuration of things, I’d say you were nothing but a scurvy little spider.”

It is a setback for Potter, but he’s willing to bide his time for revenge.

On Christmas Eve morning, the town prepares a hero’s welcome for George’s brother, Harry. George’s scatter-brained Uncle Billy visits Potter’s bank to deposit $8,000 of the Building and Loan’s cash funds.

He taunts Potter by reading the newspaper headlines announcing the coming tribute. Potter  snatches the paper, and Billy unthinkingly allows the money to be snatched with it.

When Billy leaves, Potter opens the paper and sees the money. He keeps it, knowing that misplacement of bank money will bankrupt the Building and Loan and bring criminal charges against George.

But at the last minute, word of George’s plight reaches his wide range of grateful friends. A flood of townspeople arrive with more than enough donations to save George and the Building and Loan.

The movie ends on a triumphant note, with George basking in the glow of love from his family and friends.

But no critic seems to have noticed that Henry Potter’s theft has gone unnoticed.  (Uncle Billy can’t recall how he lost the money.) Potter is richer by $8,000. And ready to go on taking advantage of others.

Perhaps it’s time to see Potter’s actions in a new light—that of America’s richest 1%, ever ready to prey upon the weaknesses of others.

Justice never catches up with Potter in the movie. But the joke-writers at Saturday Night Live later conjured up a satisfactory punishment for his avarice.

How “It's a Wonderful Life” Could've Ended - YouTube

In this version, Uncle Billy suddenly remembers that he left the money with Potter. Enraged, George Bailey (Dana Carvey) leads his crowd of avenging friends to Potter’s office.

Potter realizes the jig is up and offers to return the money. But George wants more than that—and he and his friends proceed to stomp and beat Potter to death.

The skit ends with with George and his friends singing “Auld Ang Syne”—as they do in the movie—as they finish off Potter with clubs.

America is rapidly a divided nation—one where the richest 1% lord it over an increasingly impoverished 99%.

The time may be coming when many Americans are ready to embrace the SNL approach to economic justice.

SALUTING THE AMERICANS WHO GAVE US 9/11

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on September 13, 2021 at 12:07 am

On October 16, 2015, then-Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump told a brutal truth to take down his opponent, Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida.

Interviewed on Bloomberg TV, Trump said what—to Republicans—had been the unsayable about former President George W. Bush: “I mean, say what you want, the World Trade Center came down during his time.”

“Hold on,” said correspondent Stephanie Ruhle, “you can’t blame George Bush for that.”

“He was President, okay? Blame him or don’t blame him, but he was President,” Trump said. “The World Trade Center came down during his reign.”

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Donald Trump

Immediately after Trump’s remarks, Jeb Bush rushed to his brother’s defense on Twitter: “How pathetic for @realdonaldtrump to criticize the president for 9/11. We were attacked & my brother kept us safe.”  

Of course, “my brother” didn’t keep safe those 3,000 Americans who died on 9/11

Nor did Jeb mention that, during his first eight months in office before September 11, “my brother” was on vacation 42% of the time.

But holding Bush accountable for the September 11, 2001 terror attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center is taboo for Right-wing Republicans.

Conversely, Republicans spent four years blaming President Barack Obama for the deaths of four Americans killed in an American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012.

The World Trade Center on September 11, 2001

Fortunately, British historian Nigel Hamilton has brutally laid bare the facts of this needless tragedy.

Hamilton is the author of several acclaimed political biographies, including JFK: Reckless Youth and Bill Clinton: Mastering the Presidency.

His book: American Caesars: The Lives of the Presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt to George W. Bush, appeared in 2010.

It was inspired by a classic work of ancient biography: The Twelve Caesars, by Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus—known as Suetonius. 

Suetonius, a Roman citizen and historian, had chronicled the lives of the first 12 Caesars of Imperial Rome: Julius Caesar, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Galba, Otho, Vitellius, Vespasian, Titus and Domitian.

Hamilton wanted to examine post-World War II United States history as Suetonius had examined that of ancient Rome: Through the lives of the 12 “emperors” who had held the power of life and death over their fellow citizens—and those of other nations.

For Hamilton, the “greatest of American emperors, the Caesar Augustus of his time,” was Franklin D. Roosevelt, who led his country through the Great Depression and World War II.

His “”great successors” were Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy—who, in turn, contained the Soviet Union abroad and presided over sustained economic prosperity at home.

By contrast, “arguably the worst of all the American Caesars” was “George W. Bush, and his deputy, Dick Cheney, who willfully and recklessly destroyed so much of the moral basis of American leadership in the modern world.”

Among the most lethal of Bush’s offenses: The appointing of officials who refused to take seriously the threat posed by Al-Qaeda.

These included:

  • Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy Secretary of Defense: “I don’t understand why we are beginning by talking about this one man, bin Laden.” 
  • National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice: Initially refused to hold a cabinet-level meeting on the subject. Then she insisted the matter be handled only by a more junior Deputy Principals meeting in April, 2001.
  • Vice President Dick Cheney: Focused his attention on fomenting a war against Iraq.
  • Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld: Repeatedly ignored American Intelligence warnings that Al-Qaeda was planning a major attack on the American mainland.

The only major administration official who did take Al-Qaeda seriously was Richard Clarke, the chief counter-terrorism adviser on the National Security Council. But Clarke’s position didn’t give him Cabinet-level rank.

Richard Clarke

This put him at a severe disadvantage when dealing with higher-ranking Bush officials—such as Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Rice.

Clarke alerted Federal Intelligence agencies that “Al-Qaeda is planning a major attack on us.” He asked the FBI and CIA to report to his office all they could learn about suspicious persons or activities at home and abroad.

Finally, at a meeting with Condoleeza Rice on September 4, 2001, Clarke challenged her to “picture yourself at a moment when in the very near future Al-Qaeda has killed hundreds of Americans, and imagine asking yourself what you wish then that you had already done.”

Apparently, that moment never came for Rice—or any other Bush officials.

Seven days later, Al-Qaeda struck, and 3,000 Americans died horrifically—and needlessly.

Neither Bush, Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld nor Wolfowitz ever apologized for their negligence. Nor has any of them ever been held accountable.

After 9/11, they wrapped themselves in the flag and posed as America’s saviors.

  • Bush retired from office with a lavish pension and full Secret Service protection.
  • He wrote his memoirs and was paid $7 million for the first 1.5 million copies.
  • Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice retired to private business, wrote their own memoirs, and lived in comfort as respected elder statesmen.

Only Richard Clarke—who had vainly argued for stepped-up security precautions and taking the fight to Al-Qaeda—gave that apology.

On March 24, 2004, Clarke testified at the public 9/11 Commission hearings. Addressing relatives of victims in the audience, he said: “Your government failed you, those entrusted with protecting you failed you, and I failed you.”

GUEST EDITORIAL: PLAYING THE BLAME GAME

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on August 23, 2021 at 12:09 am
Want to play the blame game?  Let’s see who we can blame for Afghanistan:

(1)  The Bush administration: They got us into this mess with no exit strategy and then dropped the ball, failing to get Bin Laden and starting another war in Iraq.  I hope the war profiteers’ profits were worth all the American (and other) lives lost. The war in Afghanistan was a rushed response to the events of 9/11.  Everyone in Congress supported it except for one Representative.  Barbra Lee of California voted ‘no’ because she believed we should have been cautious.  She was right.

The USA ignored what happened previously to the Russians.  And the irony is that we helped the resistance fighters (the Mujahideen) with arms and training which were later used against us.  The Mujahideen became the Taliban. 

Pin on ufghaan

Afghanistan 

(2)  The Obama administration: Obama got Bin Laden, but shortly thereafter we lost Seal Team 6 in a helicopter that was shot down by the Taliban.  After that, Obama was pretty much hands off.  He wanted to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, nut he got burned when he pulled us out of Iraq and the Iraqi army collapsed under pressure from ISIS.  He did not want to make the same mistake.  But that decision left us in limbo land.  We weren’t winning, but at least we weren’t losing.  The plan continued to be propping up the ineffective Afghan government and training their army. 

(3)  The Trump administration: Trump came into office and increased the number of troops to 14,000. But he planned to reduce the number of troops back to the level he inherited from Obama and eventually pull out entirely. They made a deal with the Taliban that did not include the Afghan government and signaled that a pullout was coming. Whatever happened to “We don’t deal with terrorists”? 

No telling how the pullout would have worked under Trump, but if the Afghans folded like they did, the result would have probably been the same.  Interestingly, the GOP pulled down a webpage that lauded Trump’s “Historic peace agreement with the Taliban”. 

Archived version of RNC page touting Trump's Taliban deal

 

And let’s not forget that Trump negotiated the release of Abdul Ghani Baradar (one of the founders of the Taliban) from a Pakistani prison.  And he’s the one who signed the peace agreement.   That peace agreement was supposed to have led to discussions between the Taliban and the Afghan government, but that never happened. 

(4) The Biden administration: They went along with the Trump agreement, basically giving the green light to the Taliban.  The Taliban would have waited us out for a hundred years if necessary. Joe gets the blame for what happens under his watch, but he should get credit for ending an occupation that should have ended many years ago. 

(5)  Pakistan:  They let Bin Laden and the Taliban hide.  We got Bin Laden, but we couldn’t get the Taliban without starting a war with Pakistan.  And they have nuclear weapons.

(6)  The Afghan people: Who let the Taliban take over in the first place? They did. Who counted on the USA and others to keep them safe? They did.  Who took advantage of our training and weapons, only to fold like a cheap suit against the Taliban when they were on their own?  They did. 

I do feel sorry for those who did what they could, but overall, there was no way they could ever defend themselves.

So, there’s plenty of blame to go around. 

Biden is getting heat from both sides.  The pullout is a mess, largely because of underestimating the speed at which the Taliban would take over and the collapse of both the Afghan government and Afghan army.  There is fear that many of the Afghans who helped the US are in danger and they may not get out. Some people have already died trying to cling to a jet as it took off. Biden is sending more troops to cover the evacuation. 

Joe Biden presidential portrait.jpg

President Joseph Biden

But Biden gave an honest speech.  He admitted that there were failures.  He took responsibility and defended his decision instead of trying to deflect.  It’s hard to imagine Trump doing the same.

Time will tell if the decision to pull out at this time was the right move. There is no denying that we have been mired in this quagmire for too long. We have wasted too many lives and too many resources. 

The spin will continue. Liz Cheney hilariously blamed Obama and Trump while conveniently forgetting to mention her dad’s involvement (along with Bush and Rumsfeld) in getting us into this mess in the first place. George Bush told a German broadcaster that Biden’s order to pull out was a grave mistake.  That’s like an arsonist blaming the firefighters for not handling the blaze he created. 

Hopefully, we will learn from this fiasco. The moral of the story is that we shouldn’t go around and mess with others’ business when we can’t even get our own shit in order.  And if we should fall into that trap again, we should at least refrain from “nation building”, which is the height of American arrogance.

__________

Ed Muurahainen is a historian, writer, and musician. He resides in Orlando, FL, where he studied psychology, political science and logic at Valencia College and the University of Central Florida. 

A MORALITY LESSON FOR LABOR DAY

In Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on September 2, 2019 at 12:13 am

Every Christmas, TV audiences find comfort and triumph in the rerunning of a black-and-white 1946 movie: It’s a Wonderful Life.

But in its depiction of the endless struggle between management and labor, it could just as well be shown on Labor Day.

It’s the story of George Bailey (James Stewart), a decent husband and father who hovers on the brink of suicide—until his guardian angel, Clarence, suddenly intervenes.

Its A Wonderful Life Movie Poster.jpg

Clarence reveals to George what his home town, Bedford Falls, New York, would be like if he had never been born. George finds himself shocked to learn:

  • With no counterweight to the schemes of rapacious slumlord Henry F. Potter, Bedford Falls becomes Potterville, filled with pawn shops and sleazy nightclubs.
  • With no George Bailey to save his younger brother, Harry, from drowning in a frozen pond, Harry drowns.
  • With no Harry to live to become a Naval fighter pilot in World War II, he’s not on hand to shoot down two Japanese planes targeting an American troopship.
  • As a result, the troopship and its crew are destroyed.

George is forced to face the significant role he has played in the lives of so many others.

Armed with this new knowledge, he once again embraces life, running through the snow-covered streets of Bedford Falls and shouting “Merry Christmas!” to everyone he meets.

Audiences have hailed George Bailey as an Everyman hero—and the film as a life-affirming testament to the unique importance of each individual.

But there is another aspect of this movie that has not been so closely studied: The legacy of its villain, Henry F. Potter, who, as  played by Lionel Barrymore, bears a striking resemblance to former Vice President Dick Cheney.

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Henry F. Potter

It is Potter—the richest man in Bedford Falls—whose insatiable greed threatens to destroy it. And it is Potter whose criminality drives George Bailey to the brink of suicide.

George dreams of leaving Bedford Falls and building skyscrapers. Meanwhile, he works at the Bailey Building and Loan Association, which plays a vital role in the life of the community.

Potter, a member of the Building and Loan Association board, tries to persuade the board of directors to dissolve the firm. He objects to their providing home loans for the working poor.

George persuades them to reject Potter’s proposal, but they agree only on condition that George run the Building and Loan. Reluctantly, George agrees.

Potter tries to lure George away from the Building and Loan, offering him a $20,000 salary and the chance to visit Europe. George is briefly tempted.

But then he realizes that Potter intends to close down the Building and Loan and deny financial help to those who most need it. Angrily, he turns down Potter’s offer: “In the whole vast configuration of things, I’d say you were nothing but a scurvy little spider.”

Momentarily defeated, Potter bides his time for revenge.

On Christmas Eve morning, the town prepares a hero’s welcome for George’s brother, Harry. George’s scatter-brained Uncle Billy visits Potter’s bank to deposit $8,000 of the Building and Loan’s cash funds.

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He taunts Potter by reading the newspaper headlines announcing the coming tribute. Potter snatches the paper, and Billy unthinkingly allows the money to be snatched with it.

When Billy leaves, Potter opens the paper and sees the money. He keeps it, knowing that misplacement of bank money will bankrupt the Building and Loan and bring criminal charges against George.

It’s at this point that George almost commits suicide—only to be saved by Clarence, his guardian angel.

Then, word of George’s plight suddenly reaches his wide range of grateful friends. A flood of townspeople arrive with more than enough donations to save George and the Building and Loan.

The movie ends on a triumphant note, with George basking in the glow of love from his family and friends.

But no critic seems to have noticed that Henry Potter’s theft has gone unnoticed.  (Uncle Billy can’t recall how he lost the money.) Potter is richer by $8,000. And ready to go on taking advantage of others.

Perhaps it’s time to see Potter’s actions in a new light—that of America’s richest 1%, ever ready to prey upon the weaknesses of others.

Justice never catches up with Potter in the movie. But the joke-writers at Saturday Night Live later conjured up a satisfactory punishment for his avarice.

In this version, Uncle Billy suddenly remembers that he left the money with Potter. Enraged, George Bailey (Dana Carvey) leads his crowd of avenging friends to Potter’s office.

Potter realizes the jig is up and offers to return the money. But George wants more than that—and he and his friends proceed to stomp and beat Potter to death.

The skit ends with with George and his friends singing “Auld Lang Syne”—as they do in the movie—as they finish off Potter with clubs.

America is rapidly a divided nation—one where the richest 1% lord it over an increasingly impoverished 99%.

The time may be coming when many Americans are ready to embrace the SNL approach to economic justice.

LEARNING FROM THE MUNICH DISASTER: PART FIVE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 1, 2019 at 12:05 am

On January 25, 2019—the 35th day of the Federal Government shutdown—President Donald Trump did what no one expected. He caved.

In a White House press conference, he said:

  • Lawmakers would have until February 15 to negotiate a compromise on border security.
  • Otherwise, the government would shut down again.
  • If Democrats did not give in to his demands to fund a border wall, he might use his executive authority to command the military to build the wall instead.

Essentially, he agreed to the same deal he was offered in December, 2018—before he allowed himself to be bullied by Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh into shutting down the government.

For all of Trump’s defiant words, his action was universally seen as a serious defeat—by both his opponents and supporters.

Among the latter was Right-wing provocateur Ann Coulter. Summing up the reaction of his Hispanic-hating supporters, she tweeted: “Good news for George Herbert Walker Bush: As of today, he is no longer the biggest wimp ever to serve as president of the United States.”

On the PBS Newshour, liberal political analyst Mark Shields said: “it was a total defeat for him. And, believe me…there will not be the will among Republicans in three weeks to go back and do this again. Once it’s open, it’s going to be opened.”

His counterpart, conservative analyst David Brooks, agreed: “It is a total—a total victory for the Democrats….If Donald Trump wants bring this on again, [Democrats will be] happy.

“The Republicans are miserable. They never want to come back to where they are right now. And so the odds that we will have another shutdown strike me as low. And it would be—for Trump, it would be suicidally low to—just to try this again.”  

* * * * *

During his years as President, Bill Clinton tried to win over Republicans by supporting measures they liked—such as making it harder for the poor to get welfare via the Federal government. 

In the end, his efforts to win over Republicans convinced them that he was weak. So they tried to impeach him for getting oral sex from a White House intern.

Bill Clinton.jpg

Bill Clinton

Similarly, Barack Obama spent the first two years of his Presidency hopelessly trying to gain Republican support. This only led to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s saying that his goal was to make Obama “a one-term President.”

At least for the moment, Democrats seem to have learned that cowering before bullies only wins you their contempt. As Niccolo Machiavelli warned in The Prince, his classic work on politics:

“From this arises the question whether it is better to be loved than feared, or feared more than loved. The reply is, that one ought to be both feared and loved, but as it is difficult for the two to go together, it is much safer to be feared than loved. 

“For it may be said of men in general that they are ungrateful, voluble, dissemblers, anxious to avoid danger and covetous of gain. As long as you benefit them, they are entirely yours: they offer you their blood, their goods, their life and their children, when the necessity is remote, but when it approaches, they revolt.

“And the prince who has relied solely on their words, without making other preparations, is ruined. For the friendship which is gained by purchase and not through grandeur and nobility of spirit is bought but not secured, and at a pinch is not to be expended in your service. 

“And men have less scruple in offending one who makes himself loved than one who makes himself feared. For love is held by a chain of obligations which, men being selfish, is broken whenever it serves their purpose. But fear is maintained by a dread of punishment which never fails.” 

Portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli by Santi di Tito.jpg

Niccolo Machiavelli

At the time of the 1938 Munich conference, a group of highly-placed German army officers were preparing to overthrow Adolf Hitler in a military coup. They counted on France and England to stand firm against the Fuhrer, handing him a major foreign policy defeat.

The officers intended to use that as an excuse to remove him from power—before he could plunge Germany into a disastrous war it could not win.

But when Britain and France surrendered Czechoslovakia to Hitler, his prestige in Germany shot to unprecedented heights. Knowing that overthrowing such a popular leader would be suicidal, the army officers abandoned their plans for a coup.

Convinced of his own invincibility, Hitler recklessly plunged ahead, demanding that Britain and France agree to cede Danzig, a city in northern Poland, to him.  

This time the Allies held firm. The result was World War II.

At least for now, Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats fully understand the lesson of Munich. You must stand up to tyrants—or there will be no end to their evil demands.

The only question is: Will they continue to make use of that lesson—or once again allow themselves to be cowed by a ruthless tyrant?

LEARNING FROM THE MUNICH DISASTER: PART FOUR (OF FIVE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 31, 2019 at 12:07 am

Billionaire Wilbur Ross—the Trump administration’s Secretary of Commerce—had a suggestion for the 800,000 Federal employees made destitute by the government shutdown: Take out a loan.

“So the 30 days of pay that some people will be out, there’s no real reason why they shouldn’t be able to get a loan against it, and we’ve seen a number of ads of financial institutions doing that. 

“True, the people might have to pay a little bit of interest. But the idea that it’s ‘paycheck or zero’ is not a really valid idea.” 

Wilbur Ross Official Portrait.jpg

Wilbur Ross

It was a remark worthy of Marie Antoinette’s reported (but inaccurate) dismissal of the miseries of impoverished French citizens: “Let them eat cake.” 

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives had undergone a massive sea-change in membership. Ending two years of Republican rule, Democrats had won 27 seats in that body during the November, 2018, elections.  

And Nancy Pelosi had gone from being House Minority Leader to wielding the Speaker’s gavel as House Majority Leader on January 3.

Now she blasted Ross’ attitude during a press briefing: 

“Is this the ‘Let them eat cake,’ kind of attitude? Or ‘Call your father for money?’ Or ’This is character-building for you; it’s all going to end up very well—just as long as you don’t get your paychecks?’” 

Nancy Pelosi

Thirty-five days passed, with each one bringing increasing stress and fear to the lives of 800,000 Federal employees—those forced to not work and those forced to work for no pay.

Pelosi, meanwhile, did what many of her Democratic colleagues had long refused to do: She dared to stand up against Republicans’ “my-way-or-else” demands.

“The impression you get from the president is he would like to not only close government, build a wall, but also abolish Congress, so the only voice that mattered was his own,” Pelosi said in an interview on “CBS Sunday Morning.” 

Pelosi, unlike many Democrats, realized this was America’s version of the Munich Conference: Democrats must hold firm against a tyrant’s extortionate demands. Otherwise, every time Trump didn’t get his way, there would be no end to such shutdowns in the future.

From the start, Pelosi insisted that Democrats would not cooperate with threats to shut down the government if Trump didn’t get the $5.6 billion he wanted for a border wall. And Democrats held firm, refusing to make concessions on the wall.

Second, Pelosi publicly stated that she would not let Trump make his annual State of the Union speech in the House of Representatives until the government was re-opened.

Since both the House and Senate must jointly issue an invitation to the President to make such an address, Pelosi’s veto effectively scotched Trump’s appearance. 

For the publicity-addicted Trump, who revels in pontificating to adoring crowds, this was a major blow.

Trump refused to take “No” for an answer and dared Pelosi to deny him access. 

She took him up on his dare and issued a statement saying that the speech was off—until the government re-opened. 

Soon afterward, Trump agreed that the State of the Union address would have to be postponed.

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Donald Trump giving State of the Union address in 2018

As CNN political analyst Chris Cillizza saw it: “What Pelosi seems to understand better than past Trump political opponents is that giving ANY ground is a mistake. You have to not only stand firm, but be willing to go beyond all political norms—like canceling the SOTU—to win.” 

And Julian Zelitzer, another CNN political analyst, agreed: “Pelosi did not hesitate to use her political power aggressively. From the start of this process, she has remained steadfast in her insistence that closing the government was not a legitimate way to make demands for new forms of spending. 

“While sometimes Democrats become leery about seeming too partisan and not being civil enough, Pelosi and the Democrats stood their ground. She drew a line in the sand and stuck by it.”

As Pelosi and the Democrats held firm, Republicans began getting desperate.

  • They were being depicted in the news as extortionists while 800,000 of their fellow Americans suffered.
  • Those businesses that served Federal employees—such as grocery stores and auto repair shops—were being starved of revenue.
  • There was legitimate fear that the entire airline industry might have to shut down for lack of enough air traffic controllers to regulate air traffic. 
  • Worst of all for Republicans, chaos at airports threatened the travel plans of hundreds of thousands of people traveling to and from the upcoming Super Bowl. Most Americans might not know the name of their Senator, but they take their sports fetish seriously.

By January 25, the 35th day of the shutdown, an ABC News/Washington Post poll showed that 53% of Americans blamed Trump for the shutdown. His popularity had fallen to a historic low of 37%. And 60% disapproved of how he was handling negotiations to re-open the government. 

So, on that same date, Trump did what his Hispanic-hating base thought was impossible: He caved. 

He walked into the White House Rose Garden and said he would sign a bill to re-open the government for three weeks. 

LEARNING FROM THE MUNICH DISASTER: PART THREE (OF FIVE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 30, 2019 at 12:08 am

“If we do not have these negotiations over border security with an open government, this president will continue to use this tool. And if we give in, if we pay the ransom now, what will happen the next time there’s a disagreement with this president and Congress?”

Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass.

Republican leaders in Congress didn’t want to be blamed for shutting down the government. They seemed to persuade President Donald Trump to back away from his threat to do so if he didn’t get funding for his border wall.

The Senate passed a short-term funding measure without his wall money. 

Vice President Mike Pence told lawmakers that Trump was open to approving it 

Then the Fox News Network stepped in

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“I think a lot of people who voted for President Trump counted on him on this particular issue,” Fox & Friends host Jedediah Bila said.

“I think their feet were to the fire. And you see a lot of people around the country saying: ‘Hold on a second. You told us that you weren’t afraid to shut down the government, that’s why we like you. What happened? You just gave in right away?’”

And Right-wing columnist Ann Coulter said: “Trump will just have been a joke presidency who scammed the American people, amused the populists for a while, but he’ll have no legacy whatsoever.

“Trump will very likely not finish his term and definitely not be elected to a second term.”

For a man who had “joked” that having a “President-for-Life” would be “great,” Coulter’s words were a nightmare.

On December 22, 2018, Trump shut down the government.

An estimated 380,000 government employees were furloughed and another 420,000 were ordered to work without pay.

And Trump told Congressional leaders the shutdown could last months or even years.

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Donald Trump

For Trump, “the wall” was absolutely necessary—but not to keep illegal aliens out. They would go over, under or around it.

The real intent of the wall was to keep Trump in—the White House. 

Trump’s fanatical base believed that a wall across the U.S.-Mexico border would stop all illegal immigration. And he knew that if he didn’t build it, they wouldn’t re-elect him.

Like Adolf Hitler, who ordered the complete destruction of Germany when he realized his dreams of conquest were over, Trump’s attitude was: “If I can’t rule America, there won’t be an America.”

Among the agencies directly affected by the shutdown: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS)—whose employees included Secret Service agents.

In short: The men and women guarding Trump were facing financial ruin—along with their families—because Trump didn’t get his way

The effects of the shutdown quickly became evident:  

  • For weeks, hundreds of thousands of government workers missed paychecks.
  • Smithsonian museums closed their doors.
  • Trash piled up in national parks. 
  • Increasing numbers of employees of the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA)—which provides security against airline terrorism—began refusing to come to work, claiming to be sick.
  • At the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) many air traffic controllers called in “sick.” Those who showed up to work without pay grew increasingly frazzled as they feared being evicted for being unable to make rent or house payments. 
  • Due to the shortage of air traffic controllers, many planes weren’t able to land safely at places like New York’s LaGuardia Airport.
  • Many Federal employees—such as FBI agents—were forced to rely on soup kitchens to feed their families.
  • Celebrity chef Jose Andres launched ChefsForFeds, which offered free hot meals for government employees and their families at restaurants across the country. 
  • Many workers tried to bring in money by babysitting or driving for Uber, 

Those employed by the government could at least expect to receive reimbursement for missed pay once the shutdown ended.

The question was: Would they be evicted, need medical care or be unable to pay for food before that happened? 

For Federal contractors, the situation was far worse. 

During the George W. Bush administration, Vice President Dick Cheney pushed to “outsource” many federal responsibilities to private contractors. This was hugely supported by Republicans and even many Democrats.

Now, in the wake of the shutdown, these employees faced a cruel reality: Since they were not Federal employees, they would not be reimbursed for the time they were forced to not work.

Adding insult to injury were the callous remarks of two Trump administration officials.  

“A huge share of government workers were going to take vacation days, say, between Christmas and New Year’s,” said Kevin Hassett, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers.

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Kevin Hassett

“And then we have a shutdown, and so they can’t go to work, and so then they have the vacation, but they don’t have to use their vacation days. And then they come back, and then they get their back pay. Then they’re—in some sense, they’re better off.”

Another equally contemptuous remark was offered by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross—a billionaire. Asked on CNBC if he knew that many Federal employees had been reduced to going to food banks, Ross said yes, but he didn’t understand why.

His suggestion: They could just take out a loan.   

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