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TAKING OFF THE GLOVES AT THE FBI:: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on August 31, 2022 at 12:12 am

On September 2, 1964, the FBI launched a full-blown counterintelligence program against the Ku Klux Klan—COINTELPRO—WHITE HATE in FBI-speak.

Tim Weiner, author of Enemies: A History of the FBI, chronicles the methods used by the Bureau:

“WHITE-HATE intensified in the fall of 1964. It involved all the techniques in the FBI’s long-running attack on the Left. Once a week….FBI agents interrogated all known members of the White Knights of the KKK, blaming other Klansmen for being snitches and naming names, sowing deep suspicion among Klan members. Few knew who was an informer and who was not. 

A Ku Klux Klan meeting

The FBI dangled small fortunes before potential Klan informers, offered outright bribes to Klansmen who could serve as double agents inside state and local police forces, planted bugs and wiretaps in Klaverns, carried out black bag jobs to steal membership lists….”   

Other tactics included:

  • Contacting the news media to publicize arrests and identify Klan leaders;
  • Informing the employers of known Klansmen of their employees’ criminal activity, resulting in the firing of untold numbers of them;
  • Breaking up the marriages of Klansmen by circulating rumors of their infidelity among their wives.

“When the Klan reached 14,000 in the mid-sixties, I asked to take over the investigation of the Klan,” recalled William C. Sullivan, who headed the FBI’s Domestic Intelligence Division in the 1960s. “When I left the Bureau in 1971, the Klan was down to a completely disorganized 4,300. It was broken.”

William C. Sullivan

According to Neil J. Welch, the retired Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the FBI’s Buffalo, New York office:

“A Klan Bureau of Investigation (KBI) was created to counter the FBI, and its members placed the wives and children of agents under surveillance, harassing them with taunts and anonymous phone calls,” wrote Welch in his memoir, Inside Hoover’s FBI.

“It was a serious miscalculation. The most dangerous members of the KBI were systematically identified and assigned to agents selected solely because they were comparatively dangerous. The agents had full discretion. 

“During the next few months, a number of men previously involved in Klan violence around the state seemed, by remarkable coincidence, to experience misfortune. Some disappeared from the area. Some were forced to leave Mississippi for health reasons. A few took unplanned trips to places like Mexico and seemed to lose all interest in the Klan upon their return.” 

A similar effort, focusing on Right-wing terrorism, could include the following:

  • The FBI’s designating Right-wing political and terrorist groups as the Nation’s #1 enemy.  
  • Reviving the FBI’s legendary COINTELPRO (“Counterintelligence Program”) that destroyed the Ku Klux Klan in the late 1960s. Among the methods that can be used:  
  • Turning the Bureau’s powerful arsenal—bugs, wiretaps, informants, SWAT teams—on them.
  • Buying the cooperation of informants within Right-wing organizations.
  • Conducting “black bag jobs” to steal membership lists of of Right-wing organizations.
  • Breaking up the marriages of prominent Right-wingers by circulating rumors of their infidelity among their wives.
  • Informing the employers of known Right-wing terrorists of their employees’ criminal activity, resulting in the firing of untold numbers of them.
  • Contacting the news media to publicize the arrests of prominent Right-wing leaders.
  • When Right-wing terrorists target Federal law enforcement agents and/or their families for harassment or worse, they can be targeted for similar intimidation or removal.

FBI SWAT Team Training - YouTube

FBI SWAT member

A revised COINTELPRO could be supplemented by the following: 

  • Creating tip hotlines for reporting illegal Right-wing activities—and offering rewards for information that leads to arrests.
  • Prosecuting militia groups for violating Federal firearms laws. 
  • Treating calls for the murder of members of Congress—as Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene has done-–as felonies punishable by lengthy imprisonment.
  • Prosecuting Right-wing leaders involved in the treasonous assault on the United States Capitol Building.
  • Prosecuting as “accessories to treason” all those Republican members of Congress who stoked Right-wing anger by lying that the 2020 Presidential election had been stolen from Donald Trump, although every objective news source proved he had lost.
  • Directing the Treasury Department’s Terrorist Finance Tracking Program (TFTP) at fundamentalist Christian churches that finance Right-wing terrorism—just as it halts the financing of Islamic terrorist groups by Islamic organizations.

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  • Using drones, planes and/or helicopters to provide security against similar Right-wing terror demonstrations—especially in Washington, D.C.
  • Using the Federal Communications Commission to ban Fox News—the Nation’s #1 Right-wing propaganda network—from representing itself as a legitimate news network, and requiring that its stories carry labels warning viewers: “This is Right-wing propaganda, NOT news.”
  • Encouraging victims of Right-wing hate-speech to file libel/slander lawsuits against their abusers—such as the parents of murdered children at Sandy Hook Elementary School successfully did against Alex Jones. 
  • Using Federal anti-terrorist laws to arrest, prosecute and imprison Right-wingers who openly carry firearms and threaten violence, even if states allow such display of firearms. 
  • Seizing the assets of individuals and organizations found guilty of Right-wing terrorism offenses. 

When you are constantly looking over your shoulder, your enemies are winning. When your enemies are constantly looking over their shoulder, you are winning.

TAKING OFF THE GLOVES AT THE FBI: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on August 30, 2022 at 12:10 am

Donald Trump’s followers are doing what even the Mafia has never dared: Threatening the lives of FBI agents and openly challenging the authority of the Justice Department.

On August 8, the FBI, under a search warrant issued by the Justice Department, seized 11 sets of classified documents from the former President’s home at Mar-a-Lago. These included four sets that were classified as “top secret,” according to the unsealed search warrant.

Since then, Trump’s legions of fanatical Right-wing followers have vented their fury at a wide range of their self-declared enemies: President Joe Biden, Democrats, Attorney General Merrick Garland, the Justice Department—-and especially the FBI.

On August 12, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security [DHS] issued a joint Intelligence bulletin warning of the increased threats aimed at federal law enforcement agencies.

Federal Bureau of Investigation's seal

FBI seal

“Since 8 August 2022, the FBI and DHS have identified multiple articulated threats and calls for the targeted killing of judicial, law enforcement, and government officials associated with the Palm Beach search, including the federal judge who approved the Palm Beach search warrant.

“The FBI and DHS have also observed the personal identifying information of possible targets of violence, such as home addresses and identification of family members, disseminated online as additional targets.”

“These threats are occurring primarily online and across multiple platforms, including social media sites, web forums, video sharing platforms, and image boards. The FBI and DHS would like to ensure that law enforcement, court, and government personnel are aware of the range of threats and criminal and violent incidents.  

“The FBI and DHS have observed an increase in violent threats posted on social media against federal officials and facilities, including a threat to place a so-called dirty bomb in front of FBI Headquarters and issuing general calls for ‘civil war’ and ‘armed rebellion.'”

Even the Mafia—with one or two exceptions—has never threatened the lives of FBI agents. And when individual mobsters did, they found the consequences frightening.

In  April, 1963, four New York mobsters knocked FBI agent John Foley to the ground, and then severely beat and kicked him.  Foley had been conducting surveillance at the Brooklyn funeral of Carmine “The Doctor” Lombardozzi, a capo in the Gambino Mafia Family. 

The FBI retaliated by launching an all-out war against the Gambinos. Agents leaned on the cartel’s boss, underboss, counselor and lieutenants. The Bureau also intensified the use of illegal electronic surveillance (wiretaps and hidden microphones) against the mobsters.

American Mafia - Wikipedia

Map of Mafia families

Angelo Bruno, the boss of the Philadelphia crime syndicate, unwittingly informed a hidden microphone about how the FBI brutally drove home the message to “boss of all bosses” Carlo Gambino: 

BRUNO: “They [the FBI] went to Carlo and named all his capos [lieutenants] to him. The FBI asked him: “Did you change the laws in your family, that you could hit FBI men, punch and kick them? Well, this is the test—that if you change the laws, and now you are going to hit FBI men, every time we pick up one of your people we are going to break their heads for them.’

“And, really, they picked up our guy, they almost killed him, the FBI. They don’t do that, you know. But they picked up one of his fellows and crippled him. They said, ‘This is an example. Now, the next time anyone lays a hand on an FBI man, that’s just a warning. There’s nothing else we have got to tell you.'”

Word traveled quickly through the nationwide organized crime network—and its leaders decreed there should be no further assaults on FBI agents.

The FBI may be gearing up to declare war on the radical Right. And it could be done the same way the FBI destroyed the Ku Klux Klan in the mid-1960s.

Klansmen had shot, lynched and bombed their way across the Deep South, especially in Alabama and Mississippi. Many Southern sheriffs and police chiefs were Klan sympathizers, if not outright members and accomplices.

On June 21, 1964, three civil rights workers disappeared in Philadelphia, Mississippi. 

President Lyndon B. Johnson called J. Edgar Hoover, the legendary director of the FBI, and ordered an all-out investigation: “I want you to have the same kind of Intelligence [on the Klan] that you have on the communists.”

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Poster for missing civil rights workers

For decades, Hoover had refused to tackle white hate groups. And, in truth, no President had been willing to give him the order to do so. But now a President had given him such an order.

In August, the FBI uncovered the bodies of the three missing civil rights activists—Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney.

On September 2, 1964, the Bureau launched a full-blown counterintelligence program against the Klan—COINTELPRO—WHITE HATE in FBI-speak. 

Tim Weiner, author of Enemies: A History of the FBI, chronicles the methods used by the Bureau:

“WHITE-HATE intensified in the fall of 1964. It involved all the techniques in the FBI’s long-running attack on the Left. Once a week….FBI agents interrogated all known members of the White Knights of the KKK, blaming other Klansmen for being snitches and naming names, sowing deep suspicion among Klan members. Few knew who was an informer and who was not.”

TAKING OFF THE GLOVES AT THE FBI: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on August 29, 2022 at 12:10 am

After taking office as President, Donald Trump openly waged war on his own Justice Department—and especially its chief investigative agency, the FBI.

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FBI headquarters

Among his attacks on federal law enforcers:

  • Fired James Comey, the FBI director pursuing an investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 Presidential race to ensure Trump’s election.     
  • Threatened to fire Independent Counsel Robert Mueller, who continued that investigation after he fired Comey.
  • Repeatedly attacked—verbally and on Twitter—his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, for recusing himself from overseeing the Russia investigation.
  • (Sessions did so after the press revealed that, during the 2016 race, he twice met secretly with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak.)
  • Repeatedly attacked the integrity of the FBI, raising the possibility of his firing more of its senior leadership for investigating his ties to Russian president Vladimir Putin.
  • Forced House Republicans to release a memo falsely accusing the FBI of pursuing a vendetta against him.

But the FBI could have refused to meekly accept such assaults.

A February 2 episode of the popular CBS police drama, “Blue Bloods,” offered a vivid lesson on bureaucratic self-defense against tyrants.

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A shootout erupts in a crowded pub between a gunman and NYPD officers. Results: One dead gunman and one wounded bystander.

Problem: The bystander is an aide to New York Governor Martin Mendez.

Mendez visits One Police Plaze, NYPD headquarters, for a private chat with Commissioner Frank Reagan (Tom Selleck). From the outset, he’s aggressive, rude and threatening.

MENDEZ:  I know you guys like to whitewash officer-involved shootings.

REAGAN: I do not.

MENDEZ: That’s not going to happen here. I want the cop who shot my guy fired and charged.

REAGAN: If the grand jury indicts, my officer could be terminated.

MENDEZ:  We all want to protect our people, but mine come first.

Governor Mendez leaves Commissioner Reagan’s office.  Later, he returns:

MENDEZ:  We’ve got a serious problem.

REAGAN:  Why? The grand jury declined to indict my officer.

MENDEZ: Your cop fired into a crowded room.

REAGAN: She returned fire, took out the shooter and likely saved lives.

MENDEZ: What are you going to do?

REAGAN: Our Internal Affairs investigation supports the grand jury’s finding, so the case is closed.

MENDEZ: Either you fire this cop, or I’ll order the Attorney General to investigate every questionable police shooting in the past 10 years and hold public hearings out loud and lights up.

REAGAN: Everybody loves a circus.

MENDEZ: Except the guy who’s got to shovel up afterwards.

At the end of the episode, a third—and final—meeting occurs in a restaurant between Reagan and Mendez.

MENDEZ: Have you dumped the cop who shot my guy?

REAGAN: No.

MENDEZ: Bad news.

REAGAN: Depends on what you compare it to. It turns out that your aide wasn’t drinking alone the night he was shot.

MENDEZ: So what? He’s single.

REAGAN: He was with a married woman.

MENDEZ: That’s on her, not on him.

REAGAN: Except she is married to his boss, your Chief of Staff.

MENDEZ: Sheesh!

REAGAN: Turns out this has been going on for over a year.

MENDEZ:  So what are we doing?

REAGAN:  If this gets out, the circus comes to Albany [where the governor has his office].

MENDEZ: Who else knows?

REAGAN:  Right now it’s safe in the notebook of my lead detective. Whether or not it finds its way into an arrest report that’s subject to a Freedom of Information Act request—that’s a judgment call.

MENDEZ: Your judgment?

REAGAN: Yes.

MENDEZ: And if my investigation goes away?

REAGAN: Neither of us is shoveling up after the circus.

MENDEZ: I have your word on that?

REAGAN: Yes.

MENDEZ: You have a good evening, Commissioner.

J. Edgar Hoover, the legendary FBI director, used Realpolitik to ensure his reign for 48 years.

J. Edgar Hoover

As William C. Sullivan, the onetime director of the FBI’s Domestic Intelligence Division, revealed after Hoover’s death in 1972:

“The moment [Hoover] would get something on a senator, he’d send one of the errand boys up and advise the senator that ‘we’re in the course of an investigation, and we by chance happened to come up with this data on your daughter.

“‘But we wanted you to know this. We realize you’d want to know it.’ Well, Jesus, what does that tell the senator? From that time on, the senator’s right in his pocket.”

Donald Trump has long pursued a strategy of intimidation. But when people have refused to be cowed by his threats, he’s backed off.

During the 2016 Presidential campaign, more than a dozen women accused Trump of sexual misconduct, ranging from inappropriate comments to assault.

Trump responded: “The events never happened. Never. All of these liars will be sued after the election is over.”

Yet he didn’t file a single slander suit.

Similarly, when New York’s Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sued Trump for running a fraudulent university, Trump initially said he would fight the charge.

Instead, he settled the case by paying $25 million to compensate the 3,700 students Trump University had defrauded.

“You never have to frame anyone,” says Governor Willie Stark in Robert Penn Warren’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1946 novel, All the King’s Men. “Because the truth is always sufficient.”

TREASON–PEOPLE WHO NEED TREASON

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on August 12, 2022 at 12:12 am

On November 3, 2020, 81,255,933 Democratic voters elected former Vice President Joseph Biden the 46th President of the United States.

President Donald J. Trump, running for a second term, got 74,196,153 votes. Biden also won decisively in the Electoral College: 306 votes to 232 for Trump.

Yet more than two months after the election, Trump refused to concede, insisting that he won—and repeatedly claiming falsely that he was the victim of massive vote fraud.

Immediately after the election, Trump ordered his attorneys to file lawsuits to overturn the election results.

Throughout November and December, cases were filed in Wisconsin, Arizona, Nevada, Michigan, Minnesota and Georgia challenging the election results. None were supported by evidence of fraud—as even Trump’s lawyers admitted when questioned by judges.

On November 13, nine cases attacking President-Elect Joe Biden’s win in key states were denied or dropped. A law firm challenging the vote count in Pennsylvania withdrew from the effort.

By November 21, more than 30 cases were withdrawn by Trump’s attorneys or dismissed by Federal judges—some of them appointed by Trump himself.

Ultimately, from November 3 to December 14, Trump and his allies lost 59 times in court, either withdrawing cases or having them dismissed by Federal and state judges.

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Donald Trump

On November 19, losing in the courts, Trump invited two Republican legislative leaders from Michigan to the White House. The reason: To persuade them to stop the state from certifying the vote.

The Michigan legislators said they would follow the law.

On December 5, Trump called Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and asked him to call a special legislative session and convince state legislators to select their own electors that would support him, thus overturning Biden’s win.

Kemp refused, saying he lacked the authority to do so.

David Perdue and Brian Kemp (cropped).jpg

Brian Kemp

On December 8, the Supreme Court refused to hear Trump’s bid to reverse Pennsylvania’s certification of Biden’s victory.

Representative Mike Kelly (R-PA), a Trump ally, argued that the state’s 2.5 million mail-in votes were unconstitutional.

The Court’s order read, “The application for injunctive relief presented to Justice [Samuel] Alito and by him referred to the Court is denied.”

Although Trump had appointed three of the Court’s Justices, not one of them dissented. 

On December 8, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed his own lawsuit at the Supreme Court. A Trump ally, Paxton has been indicted on felony securities fraud charges. 

In Texas v. Pennsylvania, he alleged that Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin violated the United States Constitution by changing election procedures through non-legislative means.

On December 10, 2020, the Supreme Court refused to hear the case. 

“Texas has not demonstrated a judicially cognizable interest in the manner in which another state conducts its elections,” the court said without further comment. It dismissed all other related claims as moot.

Seventeen Republican state Attorney Generals—and 126 Republican members of Congress—supported the lawsuit. They did so in an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief. 

They feared Trump’s fanatical base would “primary” them if they didn’t publicly declare their loyalty—to a man they knew was slated to leave office within two months.

U.S. Supreme Court building-m.jpg

The Supreme Court

Had the Court acted on Paxton’s request, the results for democracy would have been catastrophic. 

“Texas seeks to invalidate elections in four states for yielding results with which it disagrees,” Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro told the justices in legal papers. 

“Its request for this court to exercise its original jurisdiction and then anoint Texas’s preferred candidate for president is legally indefensible and is an affront to principles of constitutional democracy. 

“The court should not abide this seditious abuse of the judicial process, and should send a clear and unmistakable signal that such abuse must never be replicated,” 

The outcome of the 2020 Presidential election marked the first time a losing candidate tried to overturn the will of millions of American voters.

It also marked the first time that state Attorney Generals and members of Congress tried to overturn the results of a Presidential election.

The signers represented nearly two-thirds of the House GOP.

Among them: The House’s top two Republicans: Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.),

Only 70 Republican House members refused to sign the brief.

By December 11, 2020, only 23 Republicans in Congress—14 Representatives and nine Senators—had acknowledged Biden’s victory.

On January 6, Trump instigated an attack on the Capitol Building to stop the counting of Electoral College votes, which was certain to prove Biden the winner.

Despite this, Republican members of Congress continued trying to throw the election Trump’s way.  

Six Republicans in the Senate and 121 in the House backed objections to certifying Arizona’s electoral outcome. Seven Republicans in the Senate and 138 in the House supported an objection to certifying Pennsylvania’s electoral outcome.

Not since the American Civil War (1861-1865) has the United States seen a more blatant—and deadly—case of sedition.

In 1861, 11 Senators and three Representatives were expelled from Congress for refusing to recognize Abraham Lincoln’s election—and supporting insurrection. 

Democrats need to summon the same courage and ruthlessness against their sworn enemies.

Trump’s refusal to admit that he lost fuels the danger of another attack on Congress and/or President Biden.

He—and his Republican accomplices—must be forcibly taught there are penalties for treason.

“LAW AND ORDER” REPUBLICANS SEEK IMMUNITY FOR TRUMP

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on August 10, 2022 at 12:10 am

On Thursday, August 8, 1974, Richard M. Nixon resigned as the 37th President of the United States.

On Monday, August 8, 2022, for the first time in American history, Donald Trump became the first former President to be the subject of an FBI raid.

The raid came without warning on Trump’s residence at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida. FBI agents, armed with a search warrant, scoured the premises—reportedly for documents Trump illegally took before he left the White House on January 20, 2021.

In January, the National Archives retrieved 15 boxes of records from Mar-a-Lago, including materials that had been identified as classified. 

“I really don’t believe that the department would have taken such a significant step as pursuing a search warrant for the president’s residence about information they already had back,” said Andrew McCabe, a former FBI deputy director on CNN “Newsroom.”

The most famous members of Mar-a-Lago - YouTube

Mar-a-Lago

“There had to be a suspicion, a concern and indeed specific information that led them to believe that there were additional materials that were not turned over.”

Both the FBI and the Justice Department have refused to comment on any aspect of the raid.

But Donald Trump rushed to do so.

“These are dark times for our Nation, as my beautiful home, Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, is currently under siege, raided and occupied by a large group of FBI agents. Nothing like this has ever happened to a President of the United States before.

“After working and cooperating with the relevant government agencies, this unannounced raid on my home was not necessary or appropriate.

“What is the difference between this and Watergate, where operatives broke into the Democratic National Committee? Here, in reverse, Democrats broke into the home of the 45th President of the United States.”

Donald Trump

There are several differences between Watergate and the FBI raid on Trump’s residence—that is, for anyone who cares about enforcing the law.

First, the burglary at the Watergate hotel—on June 17, 1972—was completely illegal, carried out by a group of men working for President Richard M. Nixon. They had installed illegal bugging equipment in the suite used by the Democratic National Committee—but that had malfunctioned.

So they made a second entry to repair it.

It was during that second burglary that the burglars were arrested.

Second, the raid on Trump’s home was fully authorized by the Justice Department. 

To get judicial approval for the search, investigators had to present to a judge a detailed affidavit that established probable cause that a crime had been committed and that evidence of that crime existed at the property where the search was sought.

But before prosecutors asked a magistrate judge to approve the warrant, investigators had to obtain the approval from the highest levels of the Justice Department. Too much historical and political significance was at stake.

“Not only would the investigators have to suggest it, not only would a line prosecutor have to agree with it, but multiple layers of management would have had to approved of it—all the way up to the Attorney General,” Daren Firestone, a former DOJ attorney, told CNN.

Third, Donald Trump—before and after his Presidency—has amassed a solid record of criminality.

In 2018, Trump was forced to pay more than $2 million in court-ordered damages to eight different charities for illegally misusing charitable funds for political purposes at his Trump Foundation. The Foundation was shut down under court-supervised dissolution in 2019.

And his Trump University scammed its students, promising to teach them “the secrets of success” in the real estate industry—then delivered nothing. In 2016, a federal court approved a $25 million settlement  with many of those students.

The Controversy Surrounding Trump University - ABC News

Trump’s record of criminality during his four years in the White House is too lengthy to catalog here. To cite just two of his greatest crimes:

  1. Refusing to accept the outcome of the 2020 Presidential election, and claiming that he was “cheated” by widespread voter fraud; and
  2. Inciting the January 6, 2021 attack on the United States Capitol where Electoral College votes were being counted to determine the winner of that election.

More than a year and a half after the 2020 election, no evidence of widespread voter fraud has emerged—even though Trump continues to spread “The Big Lie.”

Meanwhile, “law-and-order” Republicans have rushed to Trump’s defense.

“The Department of Justice has reached an intolerable state of weaponized politicization,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

“There must be an immediate investigation and accountability into Joe Biden and his Administration’s weaponizing this department against their political opponents—the likely 2024 Republican candidate for President of the United States,” said New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, a member of House GOP leadership.

Missouri GOP Senator Josh Hawley—a major instigator of the January 6 attack on Congress—said that President Joseph Biden “has taken our republic into dangerous waters.” He demanded that Attorney General Merrick Garland resign or be impeached.

John Adams, America’s second President, coined the phrase “a government of laws, not of men.”

Republicans scurrying for Trump’s favor now support the opposite.

VIRUS AND VIOLENCE

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on August 2, 2022 at 12:30 am

On July 23, 2021, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene found something to celebrate in Alabama.

Alabama had the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rate of any state in the nation. 

Days later, Alabama’s health leader said officials had tossed out more than 65,000 coronavirus vaccines that expired. They had expired due to low demand. 

And that low demand had resulted from Right-wingers’ politicization of the virus.

But that wasn’t enough to satisfy Greene. 

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene official photo, 117th Congress (cropped).jpg

Marjorie Taylor Greene

“Well, what they don’t know is that in the South we all love our Second Amendment rights. And we’re not real big on strangers showing up at our front door, are we? They might not like the welcome they get.”

In short: People should shoot volunteers promoting coronavirus vaccines through door-to-door outreach.

Her audience—at the Alabama Federation of Republican Women fundraiser—applauded and laughed at the idea of such murders.

Naturally, through her spokesman, Nick Dyer, Greene denied that she suggested people shoot those promoting vaccines.

“Your colleagues in the fake news are making things up and attributing things to her that she did not say,” he wrote in an email.

This despite the fact that Greene’s words had been captured in a video—and countless people had seen it after it was shared on the Internet.

When asked if Greene herself was vaccinated, Dyer refused to answer. 

“It really gets at the heart of the public’s trust in our government and the messaging around solid public health measures based on the science,” said Lori Tremmel Freeman, CEO of the National Association of County and City Health Officials.

“Our local health officials who are working on the ground are not political. They are completely apolitical,” she told CNN.

She added that Greene’s comments were “disheartening and distressing.”

“Outrageous and violence-encouraging” would have been a more accurate description. 

Greene’s comments demonstrate the twin pillars of Right-wing orthodoxy toward COVID-19: 

  1. Ignorance and
  2. Violence.

Donald Trump, as President, vividly personified both.

The apex of his embrace of violence came on January 6, 2021, when he refused to permit an orderly transition from one administration to another.

Instead, he incited a mob of his fanatical followers to attack members of Congress who were about to count the Electoral College votes cast for the 2020 Presidential election.

Melania Trump 'disappointed' by Trump supporters' Capitol riot - ABC7 Chicago

Donald Trump addresses his Stormtrumpers 

Trump had lost that election: 81,255,933 votes had gone to former Vice President Joseph Biden, as opposed to 74,196,153 votes for himself.

Yet even before embracing that final grotesque moment of infamy, Trump had been responsible for the deaths of 400,000 Americans. 

The COVID-19 catastrophe slammed into the United States in January, 2020. It was the inevitable result of a natural disaster colliding with an evil and incompetent administration.

Trump’s “cures” for COVID-19 included

  • Denial;
  • Lies;
  • Republican subservience;
  • Chaos;
  • Extortion;
  • Propaganda as news;
  • Quackery as medicine;
  • Demands to “re-open the country”;
  • Ignoring the danger; and—finally—
  • Resignation (“Learn to live with it”)

Early on, Trump made the virus a referendum on himself. If you supported him, you didn’t wear a mask when you ventured out in public. This despite the fact that, throughout 2020, there was no vaccine available and hospitals were rapidly overwhelmed by debilitated and dying casualties of the virus.

“I think, once Donald Trump and other Republicans made it a manhood issue, or a freedom issue, or whatever kind of issue they made it, it’s hard to walk back that culture war signal,” said conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks on the PBS Newshour on July 23, 2021.

Washington Post Columnist Jonathan Capehart echoed him: “I think, if we had had a president of the United States who took this seriously when this first came on the scene, if we had a Republican party that took this seriously enough to warn everyone, their constituents saying, wash your hands, then put on a mask, then go get the vaccine, we wouldn’t be where we are right now.”

PBS NewsHour | Brooks and Capehart on voting and gun violence legislation | Season 2021 | PBS

Jonathan Capehart

But neither Trump nor the Republican party urged Americans to “wash your hands, put on a mask, then go get the vaccine.” 

By March, 2021, three vaccines—by Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson—became available. A total of 90.4 million doses of these vaccines had been given. And 30.7 million Americans had been fully vaccinated against the virus. 

But after a triumphant beginning, the pace of vaccinations slowed, then halted. By late July, 2021, only 49.6% of Americans had been fully vaccinated.

Covid-19 Vaccination Map of USA.png

COVID-19 vaccination map – July 21, 2021

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

Many of those who had gotten one shot of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines refused to get the necessary second one. These must be given almost a month apart.

(The Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires only one shot.)

And leading the way to this catastrophe of self-destruction were the states of the South and Midwest: Mississippi (47.1%,), Alabama (50.5%), Arkansas (53.2%), and Tennessee (52.9%) with the lowest rates of residents who have gotten at least one shot.

By late July, 2021, three states—Florida, Texas and Missouri—with lower vaccination rates accounted for 40% of all cases nationwide.

And colliding head-on with the refusals of millions to get vaccinated was the newer—and deadlier—Delta variant of COVID-19. 

By July 27, 2022, there were 90.8 million COVID-19 cases in the United States—and 1.03 million deaths.

BURYING TRUMP–AND STALIN: PART TWO (END)

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

Sixty years before an American congress failed to remove a ruthless dictator from its midst, a Russian congress successfully removed their own.

For almost 30 years, from 1924 to 1953, Joseph Vissarionovich Djugashvili—better known as Stalin—had ruled as absolute dictator over the Soviet Union. Hallmarks of his legacy included mass arrests, repeated purges, forced mass starvation and the imprisonment of millions.

As many as 20 million men, women and children died as his victims. 

His reign of terror ended only with his death, of a cerebral hemorrhage, on March 5, 1953, at age 74. 

Joseph Stalin

As historian Robert Payne wrote in his monumental 1965 biography The Rise and Fall of Stalin: “The son of an obscure cobbler, he had become during the last years of his life the most powerful man on earth. No emperor had ever enjoyed the power he possessed.

“He had taken the world by the throat, and forced it to do his will. He was one of the world-shakers, and when he died in 1953 it was thought proper that his remains should be exhibited as an object of reverence and worship in the Lenin mausoleum, the holy of holies of the Soviet empire.”

On February 25, 1956, his successor, Nikita Khrushchev, revealed Stalin’s litany of crimes to the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

The speech was the opening shot in Khrushchev’s “de-Stalinization” campaign. He intended to destroy the image of the late dictator as an infallible leader and rein in the infamous KGB secret police. 

The speech gave rise to a period of liberalization known as the “Khrushchev thaw” (1956-1964). During this, censorship policy was relaxed, and for the first time books and articles appeared about the huge network of forced labor camps set up by Vladimir Lenin and reaching its peak under Stalin.   

File:Khrushchov.jpg - Wikipedia

Nikita Khrushchev

Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

Thousands of political prisoners were released, and thousands more who had perished during Stalin’s reign were officially “rehabilitated.”

By 1961, Khrushchev and those seeking to reform the Soviet political system decided to condemn the horrors of the Stalinist decades in a forceful symbolic act.

On October 31, 1961, the body of Joseph Stalin was removed from its honored resting place in the Lenin mausoleum in Red Square. A new grave was dug for him—among the minor heroes of the Russian Revolution. The re-internment took place secretly—at night—without ceremonies. And his name was removed from the mausoleum. 

Historian Robert Payne described that event—and its significance: “A dead god was being transformed into a dead man, a dead emperor was being dethroned, a dead criminal was being executed….

The rise and fall of Stalin: Robert Payne: Amazon.com: Books

But more than a ritual murder was at stake. The Supreme Soviet and the Central Committee, which decreed the punishment now being inflicted on the corpse of Stalin, were now attempting to absolve themselves from responsibility for his crimes. 

“They were saying: ‘We are not responsible, we are casting him away, he is not one of us! He committed such terrible crimes that we will have none of him.’

“For nearly thirty years Stalin had ruled tyrannically over Russia. History, too, was being consigned to oblivion.” 

A series of similar events has erupted within the United States since January 6, 2021.

On that day, thousands of Right-wing supporters of President Donald Trump—ignited by his fiery, lie-riddled rhetoric—overwhelmed police guarding the United States Capitol and occupied the building.

Donald Trump

Their intention: To halt the counting of Electoral College votes that would certify former Vice President Joseph Biden as the next President of the United States.

Since then, Trump’s fortunes have sharply declined:

  • Twitter—whose platform he had used during his Presidency to ruthlessly attack hundreds of people—finally cut off his account.
  • Deutsche Bank, his business lender since the 1990s, announced that it would not continue to do business with him.
  • The PGA of America cut ties with Trump by canceling plans to hold the PGA Championship at his New Jersey golf course in 2022.
  • On May 24, David Perdue, Trump’s chosen candidate for Governor of Georgia, failed to secure the nomination over Georgia Governor Brian Kemp. 
  • A September 2020 AP poll shows that 56% of Republicans want him to run for president in 2024; 44% don’t want Trump to run.
  • A special grand jury will determine whether Trump broke the law by unsuccessfully pressuring Georgia officials to throw out President Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election.
  • New York state Attorney General Letitia James stated in a court filing that her office uncovered evidence that Trump used “fraudulent or misleading” valuations of his golf clubs, skyscrapers and other property to secure loans and tax benefits.
  • Federal prosecutors are investigating fake certificates sent to the National Archives with made-up slates of electors who wrongly declared Trump the winner in seven states he lost to Biden. 

Herodotus, the Greek historian who chronicled the Greek-Persian wars, offers a still-timely explanation of such reverses of fortune—and a warning for those who dare to ignore history:

“Look to the end, no matter what it is you are considering. Often enough God gives a man a glimpse of happiness, and then utterly ruins him.”

BURYING TRUMP–AND STALIN: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on June 9, 2022 at 12:10 am

On January 13, 2021, for the first time in its history, the United States House of Representatives voted to impeach a President—for the second time during his tenure.

On December 10, 2019, Democratic leaders in the House voted to send two Articles of Impeachment to the House Judiciary Committee.

Their purpose: To remove Donald J. Trump from office as the 45th President of the United States.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler read the charges:

Article 1: Abuse of Power: For pressuring Ukraine to assist him in his re-election campaign by damaging former Vice President Joseph Biden, his possible Democratic rival.

Article 2: Obstruction of Congress: For obstructing Congress by blocking testimony and refusing to provide documents in response to House subpoenas in the impeachment inquiry.

On January 23, 2020, House Intelligence Committee Chairman and Lead Impeachment Manager Adam Schiff (D-CA) tweeted a prophecy—and a warning: “Donald Trump must be convicted and removed from office. Because he will always choose his own personal interest over our national interest. Because in America, right matters. Truth matters. If not, no Constitution can protect us. If not, we are lost.” 

Adam Schiff official portrait.jpg

Adam Schiff

On February 5, 2020, the Republican-dominated Senate—ignoring the overwhelming evidence against him—acquitted Donald Trump on both impeachment articles: Obstruction of Congress and abuse of power.

Schiff’s prophecy came true on January 6, 2021. On that day, Trump unleashed thousands of Right-wing terrorists on the United States Capitol.

Inside, members of Congress were tabulating the Electoral College votes cast in the 2020 Presidential election.

The winner had been former Vice President Joseph Biden. Trump, seeking a second term, had lost, getting 74,196,153 votes.to 81,255,933 for Biden.

Trump had made repeated—and false—claims of electoral fraud. Yet despite filing 60 court cases seeking to overturn the election’s results, his lawyers had failed to produce any proof of it.

Trump had often “joked” about how great it would be for the United States to have a “President-for-Life”—like China.  Now his only hope of remaining in power lay in intimidating Congress into ignoring the election results.

Inspired by Trump’s violence-charged rhetoric, the Stormtrumpers marched to the United States Capitol—and quickly brushed aside outnumbered Capitol Police.

  • Members of the mob attacked police with chemical agents or lead pipes.
  • A Capitol Hill police officer was knocked off his feet, dragged into the mob surging toward the building, and beaten with the pole of an American flag.
  • Several rioters carried plastic handcuffs, possibly intending to take hostages. Others carried treasonous Confederate flags.

These are some of the high-profile figures who were seen storming the US Capitol

Stormtrumpers scaling Capitol Building walls

  • Shouts of “Hang Pence!” often rang out.
  • Improvised explosive devices were found in several locations in Washington, D.C. 
  • Members of the House and Senate huddled anxiously behind locked doors barricaded with furniture as seditionists tried to break in.
  • Many of the lawmakers’ office buildings were occupied and vandalized—including that of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a favorite Right-wing target.

More than three hours passed before police—using riot gear, shields and batons—retook control of the Capitol. 

Meeting again that evening, members of the Senate and House resumed their vote-counting. In the end, Joseph Biden and Kamala Harris were named, respectively, the President-Elect and Vice-President Elect of the United States.

By the next day, members of the House—especially Democrats—were furious at their near-brush with death. And they were ready to seek retribution on the man responsible.

Their initial hope was that Vice President Mike Pence and a majority of Trump’s cabinet would invoke the 25th Amendment. But hopes for this quickly faded.

A growing number of Cabinet officials began resigning:

  • Education Secretary Betsy DeVos
  • Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao
  • Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf

There was a very real danger there wouldn’t be enough Cabinet members left to invoke the Amendment.  

But making the use of the Amendment even more unlikely was the obvious unwillingness of Vice President Pence to invoke it.

Official White House portrait of Mike Pence smiling. He wears a black suit, red tie, and an American flag lapel pin.

Mike Pence

This despite the fact that he could have been hanged as a “traitor” by the Stormtrumpers only days ago.

(He had likely been spared this fate by his Secret Service detail, whisking him out of the Senate—and leaving other government officials to their own fates.)

On January 11, Democrats introduced a single impeachment article charging Trump with “incitement of insurrection” in urging his supporters to march on the U.S. Capitol on January 6.

They also introduced a resolution that called on Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to the Constitution to remove him from office before January 20.

On January 13, the House met to debate a single article of impeachment: “Incitement of Insurrection.” Its gist:

“Thus incited by President Trump, members of the crowd he had addressed, in an attempt to, among other objectives, interfere with the Joint Session’s solemn constitutional duty to certify the results of the 2020 Presidential election, unlawfully breached and vandalized the Capitol, injured and killed law enforcement personnel, menaced Members of Congress, the Vice President, and Congressional personnel, and engaged in other violent, deadly, destructive, and seditious acts.” 

Thus, the House sought to remove a President who intended to rule as a dictator.

Fifty-nine years earlier, a Russian congress had come face-to-face with the despotism of another tyrant.

TRUMP AND TRAGEDY: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, Entertainment, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on May 4, 2022 at 12:12 am

For historian and classicist Victor Davis Hanson, Donald Trump possesses an unappreciated self-awareness and sense of what it means to be a tragic hero.

Trump was into the first year of his Presidency when Hanson penned his article, “Donald Trump, Tragic Hero,” published on April 12, 2018. 

To make his case, Hanson cites a series of popular Western movies featuring lethal men who risk—and sometimes sacrifice—their lives on behalf of others too weak to vanquish evil on their own.

Victor Davis Hanson (@VDHanson) | Twitter

Victor Davis Hanson

Thus in the classic 1960 film, The Magnificent Seven, the Seven slaughter the outlaw Calvera and his banditos—and then ride into the sunset. As they do, Chris (Yul Brynner) tells Vin (Steve McQueen): “The old man was right. Only the farmers won. We lost. We always lose.”

Writes Hanson: “He knows that few appreciate that the tragic heroes in their midst are either tragic or heroic — until they are safely gone and what they have done in time can be attributed to someone else. Worse, he knows that the tragic hero’s existence is solitary and without the nourishing networks and affirmation of the peasant’s agrarian life.”

Chris may know this, but there is absolutely no evidence that Trump does. He has never shown even an awareness of sensitivity and self-knowledge, let alone the possession of either. Trump is at best semi-literate. The concept of tragedy—as expressed in the Greek tragedies to which Hanson refers throughout his article—means nothing to Trump.

Moreover, the Seven have risked their lives—and four of them have died doing so—on behalf of villagers who can pay them almost nothing.

It is inconceivable that Trump would risk anything—especially his life—for people he regarded as poor and thus unworthy of his concern.

The Magnificent Seven (1960 poster).jpg

Copyright © 1960 – United Artists Corporation.”, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

In their first encounter with Calvera (Eli Wallach) the bandit chief offers to make the Seven partners in his ravaging of the village. Of his intended victims, Calvera sneers: “If God had not wanted them sheared, he would not have made them sheep.”

If Trump had heard Calvera’s offer, he would have instantly accepted it.

In June 2016, USA Today published an analysis of litigation involving Trump. Over the previous 30 years, Trump and his businesses had been involved in 3,500 legal cases in U.S. Federal and state courts.

Of the 3,500 suits, Trump or one of his companies were plaintiffs in 1,900; defendants in 1,450; and bankruptcy, third party, or other in 150. Trump was named in at least 169 suits in federal court.

Many of those cases centered around his refusal to pay contractors for their finished work on his properties. Most of the contractors didn’t have the financial resources—as Trump had—to spend years in court trying to obtain the monies they were owed. As a result, they never received payment—or, at best, only a small portion of what they were owed.

When he ran for President in 2015-16, Trump repeatedly promised poor and middle-class Americans a far better plan for medical care than the Affordable Care Act. 

He spent the next four years thuggishly trying to dismantle “Obanacare,” the signature achievement of Barack Obama, America’s first black President. But never did he offer even a general outline of his own alleged plan to “replace” it. 

Hanson tries to draw a further parallel between Trump and the fictional Tom Doniphon, the unsung hero of John Ford’s 1962 movie, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962 poster).jpg

Copyright © 1962 Paramount Pictures Corporation and John Ford Productions, Inc.”, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Hanson sums up the movie thus:

“Tom Doniphon (John Wayne)…unheroically kills the thuggish Liberty Valance [Lee Marvin], births the [political] career of Ranse Stoddard [James Stewart] and his marriage to Doniphon’s girlfriend [Vera Miles] and thereby ensures civilization is Shinbone’s frontier future. His service done, he burns down his house and degenerates from feared rancher to alcoholic outcast.” 

It is inconceivable that Trump would take the risk of committing a crime on behalf of someone else—or being able to resist bragging about it if he did. It is equally inconceivable that he would give up a woman he wanted for the happiness of another man.

Most unbelievable of all is the suggestion that Trump would imitate Doniphon by quietly riding off into the sunset.

Trump has often “joked” about becoming “President-for-Life.” After losing the November 3 Presidential election to former Vice President Joe Biden, he filed 60 lawsuits to overturn the will of 80 million voters. Those failing, he tried some old-fashioned but unsuccessful arm-twisting of several state lawmakers to “find” non-existent votes for him.

Finally, on January 6, he incited a mob of his fanatical followers to attack the United States Capitol Building. Their mission: Stop the counting of Electoral College ballots certain to give Biden the victory.   

Victor Davis Hanson is a brilliant scholar and colorful writer. But his effort on Trump’s behalf is embarrassing and appalling.

In a series of bestselling books, he has eloquently chronicled the heroism of the ancient Greeks in defending their budding democracy.

It is depressing—and frightening—to discover that this same man can blatantly ignore the criminalities and even treason of the greatest and most destructive tyrant to ever attain the Presidency.

TRUMP AND TRAGEDY: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, Entertainment, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on May 3, 2022 at 12:13 am

Victor Davis Hanson has long been a distinguished historian and classicist at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.

On April 12, 2018, the year before the publication of The Case for Trump, Hanson offered a preview of its upcoming contents in an article published in the well-known conservative magazine, National Review

Its title: “Donald Trump, Tragic Hero.”

“The very idea that Donald Trump could, even in a perverse way, be heroic may appall half the country,” begins his first paragraph. 

“Nonetheless, one way of understanding both Trump’s personal excesses and his accomplishments is that his not being traditionally presidential may have been valuable in bringing long-overdue changes in foreign and domestic policy.”

Related image

Donald Trump

Having laid out his thesis, Hanson writes: “Tragic heroes, as they have been portrayed from Sophocles’ plays (e.g., AjaxAntigoneOedipus RexPhiloctetes) to the modern western film, are not intrinsically noble.”

On the contrary: A true tragic figure is a noble character with a fatal flaw, which ultimately destroys him.

To cite one from literature: Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Hamlet believes that his father, the king of Denmark, has been murdered. He believes the murderer may be his uncle, Claudius, who has seized the throne. Hamlet is brilliant, athletic, supremely eloquent and conscientious. But he’s not completely certain that Claudius is guilty, and in his hesitation to strike he lays the seeds for his own destruction. 

To cite one from history: British General Charles George Gordon, sent by the British government in 1884 to evacuate the Sudanese city of Khartoum. But instead of evacuating its citizens, he chose to stay and fight the oncoming army of Mohammed Achmed, an Islamic religious fanatic who called himself The Madhi (“The Expected One”).

Although Gordon’s dynamic leadership enabled the city to hold out for almost a year, the British relief force arrived too late. The city was overwhelmed and Gordon himself killed.

Various theories have emerged to explain his motive: He was a religious fanatic; he had a death wish; he was arrogant to believe he could hold off an entire army. Any one or more of these theories could be correct. 

Charles George Gordon - Wicipedia

Charles George Gordon

But the fact remains that for almost an entire year he kept alive about 30,000 men, women and children. It was only the failure of the British to send a relief army in time that allowed the city—and Gordon—to perish. 

Tragic heroes always have a cause that is bigger than life—something that makes giving up life worthwhile. They always recognize this, and they have the ability to put into perspective the ultimate sacrifice—giving up life—for the good of something bigger. 

Which brings us back to Trump. Apart from being a five-times draft-dodger during the Vietnam war, he has never made an act of professional or personal sacrifice for anyone.

On the contrary: he has been forced to shut down both his Trump Foundation and unaccredited Trump University.

Trump was forced to pay more than $2 million in court-ordered damages to eight different charities for illegally misusing charitable funds at the Foundation for political purposes.

And his university scammed its students, promising to teach them “the secrets of success” in the real estate industry—then delivering nothing. In 2016, a federal court approved a $25 million settlement  with many of those students.

This is hardly the stuff of which tragic heroes are made.

The Controversy Surrounding Trump University - ABC News

Hanson cites several examples from famous Western movies to make his case that Trump deserves the status of a tragic hero. 

One of these is the classic 1953 “Shane,” starring Alan Ladd as the soft-spoken gunfighter who intervenes decisively in a range war.

Writes Hanson:

“He alone possesses the violent skills necessary to free the homesteaders from the insidious threats of hired guns and murderous cattle barons. Yet by the time of his final resort to lethal violence, Shane has sacrificed all prior chances of reform and claims on reentering the civilized world of the stable ‘sodbuster’ community.”

Comparing Trump to Shane is unbelievably ludicrous. Shane doesn’t boast about his past—in fact, this remains a mystery throughout the movie. Trump constantly brags—about the money he’s made, the buildings he’s put up, the women he’s bedded, the enemies he’s crushed (or plans to).

Moreover, Shane takes the side of poor homesteaders at the mercy of a rich cattle baron, Rufus Ryker. Ryker tries to bully the homesteaders into leaving. When that fails, he hires a ruthless gunman named Jack Wilson (Jack Palance).

In the film’s climax, Shane kills Wilson, and then Ryker, in a barroom showdown. Then he rides off—much to the sadness of Joey (Brandon de Wilde), the homesteaders’ son he has befriended.

“There’s no living with a killing,” says Shane. “There’s no going back from one. Right or wrong, it’s a brand. And a brand sticks.”

And so he rides on, knowing that his gunfighter’s skills make him an outcast among those very homesteaders whose lives he’s saved.

If Trump appeared in the movie, it would be as Ryker, not Shane.

Shane empathizes with the plight of others. Ryker–like Trump–hires others to do his dirty work. 

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