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WANT A JOB? TAKE THE EXCUSES OUT OF THE EMPLOYER: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on November 15, 2019 at 12:36 am

Ronald Reagan, like every major Republican Presidential candidate since, promised that giving tax cuts to the wealthy would prove highly beneficial to ordinary workers.

The official name for this policy was “supply side economics.”  In reality, it was known—and functioned—as “trickle down economics.”  And among the actions Reagan took to enforce it:

  • On January 28, 1981, keeping a pledge to his financial backers in the oil industry, Reagan abolished Federal controls on the price of oil.
  • Within a week, Exxon, Texaco and Shell raised gasoline prices and prices of home heating oil.
  • Reagan saw it as his duty to put a floor under prices, not a ceiling above them.
  • Reagan believed that when government helped business it wasn’t interfering. Loaning money to bail out a financially incompetent Chrysler was “supporting the free enterprise system.”
  • But putting a high-profits tax on price-gouging corporations or filing anti-trust suits against them was “Communistic” and therefore intolerable.
  • Tax-breaks for wealthy businesses meant helping America become stronger.
  • But welfare for the poor or the victims of a predatory marketplace economy weakened America by sapping its morale.

To be unemployed in America is considered by most Americans—including the unemployed—the same as being a bum.  

And Republicans are quick to point accusing fingers at those willing-to-work Americans who can’t find willing-to-hire employers.

According to Republicans such as Mitt Romney and Herman Cain: If you can’t find a job, it’s entirely your fault. Employers, on the other hand, are not legally or even morally expected to provide jobs for those willing and able to work.

But America can put an end to this disgraceful situation.

The answer lies in three words: Employers Responsibility Act (ERA).

If passed by Congress and vigorously enforced by the U.S. Departments of Justice and Labor, an ERA would ensure full-time, permanent and productive employment for millions of capable, job-seeking Americans.

And it would achieve this without raising taxes or creating controversial government “make work” programs.

Such legislation would legally require employers to demonstrate as much initiative for hiring as job-seekers are now expected to show in searching for work. 

An ERA would simultaneously address the following evils for which employers are directly responsible:

  • The loss of jobs within the United States owing to companies’ moving their operations abroad—solely to pay substandard wages to their new employees.
  • The mass firings of employees which usually accompany corporate mergers or acquisitions.
  • The widespread victimization of part-time employees, who are not legally protected against such threats as racial discrimination, sexual harassment and unsafe working conditions.

  • The refusal of many employers to create better than menial, low-wage jobs.
  • The widespread employer practice of extorting “economic incentives” from cities or states in return for moving to or remaining in those areas. Such “incentives” usually absolve employers from complying with laws protecting the environment and/or workers’ rights.
  • The refusal of many employers to provide medical and pension benefits—nearly always in the case of part-time employees, and, increasingly, for full-time, permanent ones as well.
  • Rising crime rates, due to rising unemployment.

Among its provisions:

(1) American companies that close plants in the United States and open others abroad would be forbidden to sell products made in those foreign plants within the United States.

This would protect both American and foreign workers from employers seeking to profit at their expense. American workers would be ensured of continued employment. And foreign laborers would be protected against substandard wages and working conditions.

Companies found violating this provision would be subject to Federal criminal prosecution. Guilty verdicts would result in heavy fines and lengthy imprisonment for their owners and top managers.

(2) Large companies (those employing more than 100 persons) would be required to create entry-level training programs for new, future employees.

These would be modeled on programs now existing for public employees, such as firefighters, police officers and members of the armed services.

Such programs would remove the employer excuse, “I’m sorry, but we can’t hire you because you’ve never had any experience in this line of work.” After all, the Air Force has never rejected an applicant because, “I’m sorry, but you’ve never flown a plane before.”

This Nation has greatly benefited from the humane and professional efforts of the men and women who have graduated from public-sector training programs. There is no reason for the private sector to shun programs that have succeeded so brilliantly for the public sector.

(3) Employers would receive tax credits for creating professional, well-paying, full-time jobs.

This would encourage the creation of better than the menial, dead-end, low-paying and often part-time jobs which exist in the service industry. Employers found using such tax credits for any other purpose would be prosecuted for tax fraud.

(4) A company that acquired another—through a merger or buyout—would be forbidden to fire en masse the career employees of that acquired company.

This would be comparable to the protection existing for career civil service employees. Such a ban would prevent a return to the predatory “corporate raiding” practices of the 1980s, which left so much human and economic wreckage in their wake.

WANT A JOB? TAKE THE EXCUSES OUT OF THE EMPLOYER: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on November 14, 2019 at 12:08 am

During the 2016 Presidential campaign, Donald Trump assumed a role that utterly confounded his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.

He adopted the role of a populist, appealing to blue-collar voters. He visited “Rustbelt” states like Michigan and Pennsylvania and vowed to “bring back” jobs that had been lost to China, such as those in coal mining and manufacturing

Clinton, on the other hand, made two deadly mistakes:

First, she offered a “love-your-CEO” economic plan to the unemployed—and suffered for it. 

And, second, she didn’t deign to visit those “Rustbelt” states, assuming she had them “locked up.”

Most economists agree that, in a globalized economy, such jobs are not coming back, no matter who becomes President.

Even so, voters backed the man who came to promise them a better future, and shunned the woman who didn’t come to promise them any future at all.

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Hillary Clinton (Gage Skidmore photo)

In May, 2016, Democratic pollster CeLinda Lake had warned Clinton to revamp her economic platform. Clinton ignored the advice.

“Democrats simply have to come up with a more robust economic frame and message,” Lake said after the election. “We’re never going to win those white, blue-collar voters if we’re not better on the economy. And 27 policy papers and a list of positions is not a frame. We can laugh about it all we want, but Trump had one.” 

Had Clinton offered struggling or unemployed workers a realistic plan for turning their lives around, the 2016 election might well have had a different ending. 

But, since winning the White House, Trump has not been able to “bring back jobs” lost to corporations’ “outsourcing” to countries like China and Mexico.  

Nor have huge tax cuts for corporations resulted in large-scale hiring. He claimed that, with this extra income, CEOs would invest in their businesses and create tens of thousands of new jobs. And through his Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which Republicans rammed through Congress, the corporate income tax rate has been slashed from 35% to 21%. 

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Donald Trump

But that’s not what some of the biggest S&P 500 companies predicted they would do if they got those tax cuts. The people they wanted to please were investors, not workers.  And, least of all, those seeking work but unable to find employers willing to hire.

Darius Adamczyk, CEO of Honeywell International Inc., said “tax reform” would “offer greater flexibility for Honeywell.”  He added that the corporation would invest more cash in the United States to pay for mergers and acquisitions, share buybacks and paying down debt. 

He didn’t say anything about hiring more workers.

According to Moody’s Investors Service, American corporations have stockpiled nearly $1.8 trillion in cash overseas. 

Apple has more than $240 billion of that total.

Apple’s CEO Tim Cook said the company wanted to bring back offshore cash if tax rates for doing so were lower: “What we would do with it, let’s wait and see exactly what it is, but as I’ve said before we are always looking at acquisitions.”

Apple expected a tax windfall if Trump’s tax-cutting plan passed Congress. And analysts openly expected Apple to use those monies to boost its capital return program via buybacks, dividends and perhaps making a big acquisition.

What analysts didn’t expect Apple to do with its tax cut monies was create new American jobs.

Most of the offshore cash brought home by U.S. companies in past tax holidays was used to buy back shares or make acquisitions, not to fund investments in production capacity or jobs.

Corporations were not legally required to use those tax cut savings to hire more workers.  And Trump’s tax cut legislation has no such requirement, either.

According to John Divine, staff writer for U.S. News & World Report‘s Money section: “As long as there are no strings attached on how or where companies spend these savings, taxpayers get a raw deal.”

Tax cuts for the wealthy have been a favorite—perhaps the favorite—Republican mantra since 1980, when former California Governor Ronald Reagan ran for and became President.

Ronald Reagan

Reagan, like every major Republican Presidential candidate since, promised that giving tax cuts to the wealthy would prove highly beneficial to ordinary workers.

The official name for this policy was “supply side economics.” In reality, it was known—and functioned—as “trickle down economics.” 

“A rising tide lifts all boats,” claimed Reagan. A more realistic slogan for the results of his economics policies would have been: “A rising tide lifts some yachts.”

Among those charting Reagan’s economics legacy as President was former CBS Correspondent David Schoenbrun. In his bestselling autobiography, America Inside Out: At Home and Abroad from Roosevelt to Reagan, he wrote: 

“[According to Republicans] welfare for the rich is good for America. But welfare for the poor is bad for America, even for the poor themselves, for it encourages them to be shiftless and lazy.

“Somehow, loans to the inefficient management of American corporations would not similarly encourage them in their inefficient methods.”

To be unemployed in America is considered by most Americans—including the unemployed—the same as being a bum.  

And Republicans are quick to point accusing fingers at those willing-to-work Americans who can’t find willing-to-hire employers.

FROM “SAVING PRIVATE RYAN” TO “SALUTING MR. BONE SPURS”

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 13, 2019 at 12:06 am

If President Donald Trump expected a warm welcome when he attended the 100th Veterans Day Parade in Manhattan, he was rudely disappointed.

“Lock him up!” yelled many protesters, echoing chants at his own rallies against Hillary Clinton, his 2016 rival for President.

Other New Yorkers plastered their windows with large anti-Trump signs: “DUMP TRUMP!” “IMPEACH!” “CONVICT!” 

One demonstrator held up a sign: “Draft Dodger,” a reference to Trump’s avoiding military service in Vietnam through five draft deferments, including one for bone spurs.

“My grandfather fought in World War II, he was a colonel and an immigrant from Russia,” said a 52-year-old woman who only identified herself as Liz.

“He would be horrified at the corruption and hate in the White House right now. He was a Republican, but he was not a racist. He was completely committed to this country.” 

Another woman, Janet Gonzelez, 85, attacked Trump’s “upside down” foreign policy in the Middle East. Asked what she would tell Trump if she met him, she replied: “Fuck you.”

Speaking behind bullet-proof plexiglass, Trump tried to drown out a throng of protesters shouting and blowing whistles outside the west entrance of Madison Square Park.

“Our veterans risked everything for us. Now it is our duty to serve and protect them every single day of our lives,” Trump said, as a chorus of boos echoed in the distance.

What Trump did not mention was that, only four days earlier, a  New York judge had ordered him to pay $2 million in damages owing to misuse of funds by the Trump Foundation. 

In January, 2016, Trump had held a televised fundraiser for veterans. He claimed that the funds would be distributed to charities serving the needs of veterans.

But the Trump Foundation improperly used $2.82 million it received from that fundraiser to fuel his campaign for President.

Thus, the man who had ripped off American veterans was now presiding over a day created to honor them.

There is no better way to trace the decline of the United States than to compare the 2019 Manhattan Veterans’ Day celebration with the 1946 one at the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery, near the town of Nettuno.

The cemetery held about 20,000 American graves, mostly of soldiers who had died in Sicily or at Anzio, fighting Nazi Germany.

Presiding over that event was Lt. General Lucian K. Truscott, Jr., the U.S. Fifth Army Commander. 

Unlike many other generals, Truscott had shared in the dangers of combat, pouring over maps on the hood of his jeep with company commanders as bullets or shells whizzed about him.  

When it came his turn to speak, Truscott moved to the podium. Then he turned his back on the assembled visitors—which included several Congressmen. 

The audience he now faced were the graves of his fellow soldiers.

Lt. General Lucian K. Truscott, Jr.

Among those who heard Truscott’s speech was Bill Mauldin, the famous cartoonist for the Army newspaper, Stars and Stripes. Mauldin had created Willie and Joe, the unshaved, slovenly-looking “dogfaces” who came to symbolize the GI.

It’s from Mauldin that we have the fullest account of Truscott’s speech that day.  

“He apologized to the dead men for their presence there. He said that everybody tells leaders that it is not their fault that men get killed in war, but that every leader knows in his heart that this is not altogether true.

“He said he hoped anybody here through any mistake of his would forgive him, but he realized that he was asking a hell of a lot under the circumstances….   

“Truscott said he would not speak of the ‘glorious’ dead because he didn’t see much glory in getting killed in your teens or early twenties.

“He promised that if in the future he ran into anybody, especially old men, who thought death in battle was glorious, he would straighten them out. He said he thought it was the least he could do.”

Then Truscott walked away, without acknowledging his audience of celebrities.

Bill Mauldin and “Willie and Joe,” the characters he made famous

Contrast the character of Lucian Truscott with that of the man who now holds the office of President of the United States.

Donald Trump has:

  • Equated his reckless sex life during the 1970s with the risks American soldiers faced in Vietnam. 
  • Relentlessly defended Russian dictator Vladimir Putin against all criticism, even as he’s slandered literally hundreds of his fellow citizens on Twitter.   
  • Attacked the FBI and CIA for concluding that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help him win the White House.
  • Tried to extort the president of Ukraine to slander former Vice President Joe Biden, his possible rival for the White House in 2020.
  • “Joked” that it would be “great” if the United States had a “President-for-Life”—like China.

Saving Private Ryan, Steven Spielberg’s 1998 World War II epic, opens with a scene of an American flag snapping in the wind.

Except that the brilliant colors of Old Glory have been washed out, leaving only black-and-white stripes and black stars.

Small wonder that, for many Americans, Old Glory has taken on a darker, washed-out appearance—in real-life as in film.

THE WITNESS IS THE ENEMY: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on November 12, 2019 at 12:07 am

Donald Trump has a longstanding hatred of whistleblowers when they betray his crimes and follies. But he feels completely different about “flippers” when their revelations serve his interests.

On July 22, 2016, Wikileaks released 19,252 emails and 8,034 attachments hacked from computers of the highest-ranking officials of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

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The leak revealed a DNC bias for Hillary Clinton and against her lone challenger, Vermont United States Senator Bernie Sanders. Clinton, who was about to receive the Democratic nomination for President, was thoroughly embarrassed. Sanders’ supporters were enraged.

Presidential candidate Trump’s reaction:

  • “WikiLeaks, I love WikiLeaks.”
  • “This WikiLeaks stuff is unbelievable. It tells you the inner heart, you gotta read it.” 
  • This WikiLeaks is like a treasure trove.”
  • “WikiLeaks just came out with a new one just a little while ago it’s just been shown that a rigged system with more collusion, probably illegal, between the Department of Justice the Clinton campaign and the State Department, you saw that.”

But now Trump has reverted to his longtime hatred of “leakers.”

In July, 2019, he told his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, to withhold almost $400 million in promised military aid for Ukraine, which faces increasing aggression from Russia.

On July 25, Trump telephoned Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to “request” a “favor”: Investigate Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, who has had business dealings in Ukraine.

The reason for such an investigation: To find embarrassing “dirt” on Biden.

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Joe Biden

But then a CIA whistleblower filed a complaint about the extortion attempt—and the media and Congress soon learned of it. 

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) tweeted: “The transcript of the call reads like a classic mob shakedown: — We do a lot for Ukraine — There’s not much reciprocity — I have a favor to ask — Investigate my opponent — My people will be in touch — Nice country you got there. It would be a shame if something happened to her.”

On September 24, 2019, Nancy Pelosi, speaker to the House of Representatives, announced a formal impeachment inquiry into Trump.

On September 26, Trump told a private group at a midtown hotel: “I want to know who’s the person, who’s the person who gave the whistleblower the information? Because that’s close to a spy.

“You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart? Right? The spies and treason, we used to handle it a little differently than we do now.” 

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Trump can’t refute the sheer number of witnesses who have testified to his extortion attempt on Ukraine. So he now seeks to shift blame to the person who originally testified to his extortion.

On November 6, his son, Donald, Jr., tweeted out an article which might—or might not—have contained the name of the Intelligence community whistleblower.

A Trump shill later claimed that Trump hadn’t known about his son’s efforts to attack that official.

The law firm, Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto, LLP, called on Attorney General William Barr to open a criminal investigation into any leaks of the whistleblower’s identity. 

“As attorneys representing whistleblowers for over 35-years we are extremely concerned about the nation-wide ‘chilling effect’ the disclosure of the identity of any intelligence community whistleblower will necessary cause. Whistleblowers need to reassurance that the laws protecting them will be strictly enforced. 

“If the [whistleblower’s] name is revealed by any person, including Donald Trump, Jr., we hereby request that the persons engaging in this obstruction of justice be immediately arrested.” 

Yet Barr, as Trump’s handpicked Attorney General, has so far refused to take any action against those in violation of whistleblower statutes. 

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) enforces the provisions of more than 20 whistleblower statutes protecting employees from retaliation for reporting violations of various workplace-related laws.

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According to a 2002 amendment to the federal retaliation statute:

“Whoever knowingly, with intent to retaliate, takes any action harmful to any person, including interference with the lawful employment or livelihood of any person, for providing to a law enforcement officer any truthful information relating to the commission or possible commission of any Federal offense, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 10 years, or both.”

These forbid an employer to fire, lay off, threaten, reduce pay or hours, blacklist, demote, deny overtime, benefits or promotion to anyone protected by such laws.

One such witness is Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, an expert on Ukraine. A member of the National Security Council, he felt it improper for a President to ask a foreign leader to investigate an American citizen.

Trump called Vindman, a Purple Heart winner who was wounded in Iraq, “Yesterday’s Never Trumper witness.” 

Ultimately, the identity of the whistleblower doesn’t matter.

As Representative Eric Swalwell (D-CA) tweeted on November 8: “One more time for the people in the back: The whistleblower pulled the fire alarm. The 1st responders showed up and saw smoke, flames, and @realDonaldTrump holding matches. Does it matter who pulled the fire alarm?”

The truth of the original complaint about Trump’s extortion attempt has been repeatedly validated by multiple witnesses.

It now remains to be seen whether Republicans care more about the truth of that complaint—or bowing in subservience to a thoroughly corrupt President.

THE WITNESS IS THE ENEMY: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on November 11, 2019 at 12:07 am

Before 1966, witnesses who dared expose the deadly secrets of the Mafia came to a brutal end once trials ended. And sometimes before trials even began.

For example: In 1940, Abe “Kid Twist” Reles, a notorious hitman for Murder, Inc., the execution squad of the New York Mafia, turned State’s evidence against his cronies. His testimony sent his former boss, Louis “Lepke” Buchalter, to the electric chair for murder.

He was set to testify against Albert “The Executioner” Anastasia, the chief of Murder, Inc., in November, 1941. Then fate—or bribed police—intervened.

Reles was being guarded round-the-clock by a lieutenant and six detectives at the Half Moon Hotel in Coney Island. Nevertheless, he “fell” 42 feet to his death from his sixth-floor room. No one was prosecuted for his murder.

As Joseph Valachi, a future Mafia witness, later testified: “I never met anybody yet who thought Reles went out that window on purpose.”

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Abe “Kid Twist” Reles

In 1966, the United States Justice Department indicted Rhode Island Mafia Boss Raymond Patriarca. Thus, protection of its star witness, hitman Joseph “The Animal” Barboza, became a top priority.

Assigned to guard him was a small, handpicked detail of deputy U.S. marshals under the command of John Partington. For 18 months, the marshals foiled every effort by the Mafia to “clip” Barboza.

His testimony convicted a half-dozen top Mafiosi—including Patriarca. Then the marshals packed Barboza off to California under a new identity—and a new life.

Other Mafiosi—having run afoul of the Mafia and impressed by the success of the marshals in keeping Barboza alive—signed on as witnesses.

This, in turn, led the Justice Department to create an official Witness Security Program. By 2019, the Program had protected, relocated and given new identities to more than 8,600 witnesses and 9,900 of their family members.

Deputy U.S. marshals guarding a witness

Every President since John F. Kennedy has championed the vigorous prosecution of organized crime. And fueling this drive is the testimony of endangered witnesses requiring air-tight security.

Donald Trump is the first President to blatantly attack those who dare to “rat out” their former criminal associates.

On August 21, 2018, attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty in federal court in Manhattan to eight counts of campaign finance violations, tax fraud and bank fraud. He also said he had made illegal campaign contributions “in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office”—Donald Trump.  

Among his revelations:

  • Trump has repeatedly asserted that Russia didn’t interfere with the 2016 Presidential election. But Cohen said he believed it did.
  • Trump has repeatedly claimed he had “no business” in Russia. But Cohen testified that the Trump Organization had sought to “pursue a branded property in Moscow.”
  • Trump denied having had sex with and paid off porn “actress” Stormy Daniels. But Cohen confirmed that Trump had instructed him to pay her $130,000 to buy her silence during the 2016 Presidential campaign.

On August 23, on the Fox News program, “Fox and Friends,” Trump attacked Cohen for “flipping” on him: “For 30, 40 years I’ve been watching flippers. Everything’s wonderful and then they get 10 years in jail and they—they flip on whoever the next highest one is, or as high as you can go. It—it almost ought to be outlawed. It’s not fair.

“You know, campaign violations are considered not a big deal, frankly. But if somebody defrauded a bank and he’s going to get 10 years in jail or 20 years in jail but if you can say something bad about Donald Trump and you’ll go down to two years or three years, which is the deal he made.”

Making “flipping” illegal would undo decades of organized crime prosecutions—and make future ones almost impossible.

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U.S. Department of Justice

To penetrate the secrets of criminal organizations, investigators and prosecutors need the testimony of those who are parties to those secrets.  

The Organized Crime Control Act of 1970 gave Justice Department prosecutors unprecedented weapons for attacking crime syndicates across the country. One of these was the authority to give witnesses immunity from prosecution on the basis of their own testimony.

Thus, a witness to a criminal conspiracy could be forced to tell all he knew—and thus implicate his accomplices—and bosses. In turn, he wouldn’t be prosecuted on the basis of his testimony. 

Organized crime members aggressively damn such “rats.” There is no more obscene word in a mobster’s vocabulary.

But no President—until Trump—has ever attacked those who make possible a war on organized crime. 

On August 19, he tweeted: “The failing @nytimes wrote a Fake piece today implying that because White House Councel [sic] Don McGahn was giving hours of testimony to the Special Councel [sic] he must be a John Dean type ‘RAT.’

“But I allowed him and all others to testify – I didn’t have to. I have nothing to hide……” 

In 1973, former White House Counsel John Dean testified before the United States Senate on a litany of crimes committed by President Richard M. Nixon. Dean didn’t lie about Nixon—who ultimately resigned in disgrace.

For Trump, Dean’s sin is that he “flipped” on his former boss, violating the Mafia’s code of omerta, or silence. 

But Trump feels completely different abut “flippers” when their revelations serve his interests.

IN SAN FRANCISCO, CROOKS ARE COOL, COPS ARE VILLAINS

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on November 8, 2019 at 12:12 am

“I am extremely disturbed by the state of the law today, and yet I am duty bound to adhere to the law.  Under current law, police officers do not have to retreat, police officers don’t have to use the minimum force necessary.” 

So said San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón, almost in tears, on May 24, 2018.  

The reason: He could not file charges against the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) officers who shot a drugged-up, knife-slashing assailant to death on December 2, 2015. 

The dead slasher: Mario Woods, a known gang member, armed robber and car thief. 

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Mario Woods

At 26, Woods—born on July 22, 1989—had a well-documented history of criminality:

  • He was an active member of the notorious Oakdale Mob infesting the predominantly black Bayview-Hunters Point area of San Francisco.
  • His gang-related activities included armed robbery; attempted armed robbery; shooting incidents; being a felon in illegal possession of a firearm; car theft; driving a stolen car; and being involved in an automobile injury accident while fleeing from police.
  • In 2008, he pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm by a felon.
  • In 2009, he was one of six gang members added to the provisions of a 2007 gang injunction against the Oakdale Mob.
  • Under the terms of this injunction, Oakdale Mob members are forbidden to engage in gang-related conduct within a four-block safety zone.
  • Among those prohibited activities: Possessing guns or dangerous weapons; possessing illegal drugs; loitering with intent to sell drugs; intimidating witnesses or victims; using threats to recruit or retain gang members; defacing property with graffiti.
  • In 2012, he was sentenced to seven years in state prison for armed robbery. (He had already spent almost three years in County Jail.)  He was released in 2014.

On December 2, 2015, San Francisco police officers took a report from a 26-year-old Bayview man who had been slashed in the left shoulder.

He and a female friend had been eating in a car parked in front of an apartment building. They saw a man “walking back and forth on the sidewalk talking” to himself, according to the police report.

The man—wielding a knife—reached into the passenger’s side of the car. The passenger opened the door to push the assailant away.  

When he got out of the car, the man slashed him across the left shoulder. Bleeding heavily, the passenger fled to San Francisco General Hospital.  

Two officers responded to the crime scene. Police radioed in a description of the attacker, and more officers joined in the search.

Minutes later, officers spotted Mario Woods, who matched the suspect’s description. When he saw the officers get out of their car, he pulled a knife from his jeans pocket and said: “You’re not taking me today.”

The two officers drew their pistols and ordered Woods to drop the knife. 

“You better squeeze that motherfucker and kill me,” said Woods.

Still refusing to drop the knife, Woods was hit with three nonlethal beanbag rounds fired from a 12-gauge weapon.

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12-gauge Beanbag shotgun rounds

A woman repeatedly yelled to Woods: “Oh, my God, drop it!  Drop it!”

A fourth beanbag from a 40mm gun hit Woods. Although he crouched on one knee, he still held the knife. Then he quickly regained his balance and stood up.  

dose of pepper spray had no apparent effect on him.

A crowd gathered—and an officer moved toward them to warn: “Back up!”

Suddenly, Woods moved toward the crowd.

The officer stepped into Woods’ path, to keep him from reaching the bystanders.  

As Woods kept advancing, the officer fired his pistol. So did four other officers, riddling Woods with bullets. 

The autopsy revealed that Woods had methamphetamine, marijuana, anti-depressants, cough syrup, nicotine and caffeine in his system.

Two of the officers were black—as was Woods. But in Uber-liberal San Francisco, police are widely regarded with suspicion, if not outright hostility.  Especially when a black suspect is involved.

Predictably, Black Lives Matter called for a protest and vigil on December 3, 2015.

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On January 25, 2016, then-San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee requested a federal investigation into Woods’ death.

And San Francisco Supervisor David Campos introduced a resolution to name July 22—Woods’ birthday—as “Mario Woods Day.”

On January 26, 2016, the Board of Supervisors unanimously passed Campos’ resolution.

The effort sparked outrage from the San Francisco Police Officers Association (POA) which represents rank-and-file officers.  

In a letter addressed to the Board of Supervisors, POA President Martin Halloran wrote:

“It will be a hurtful day to [the families of SFPD officers killed in the line of duty] if this city’s elected officials decide to recognize and honor an individual that preyed upon our most vulnerable citizens.”

Woods’ mother, Gwen, was elated by the vote: “Sometimes you have to stand up and look life in the eye. Everyone can’t be bullied.”

Except those her son victimized.

Since December 2—the date of Woods’ shooting—blacks had demanded the firing of Greg Suhr, chief of the San Francisco Police Department and a 35-year veteran of the force.

On May 20, 2016, Shur was forced to resign at the request of then-Mayor Ed Lee. 

Thus do criminals become heroes and sworn law enforcement officers villains in San Francisco.

TWICE-RAPED CRIME VICTIMS: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on November 7, 2019 at 12:16 am

“On August 7, 2017, I witnessed a brutal assault on a friend of mine named Hal [not his real name]. I was a passenger in his car as he waited for a parking space to open in front of the apartment building where we both live.”

So opened a letter from a man named Dave [not his real name] to the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD). 

Summarizing his experience as a witness and assault victim, Dave wrote: 

  • A man commits assault and battery on another without the slightest provocation.
  • He then uses his Jeep Cherokee to twice ram his victim’s car.
  • These violations of criminal law are reported to the SFPD by two eyewitnesses/victims within an hour of their occurrence.
  • One eyewitness gives the SFPD a photo of the license plate of the car used in the vehicular assaults.
  • The SFPD doesn’t contact either witness/victim in this incident.
  • Despite being provided with all this evidence, the SFPD does NOTHING.

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Dave subsequently received a Complainant Satisfaction Survey from the SFPD’s Department of Police Accountability (DPA). After bluntly stating his disgust at the complete indifference of the SFPD to the assault, he got a letter from DPA on December 13, 2018, which stated: 

“Your Request for an Investigative Hearing in the above-captioned case has been received. We have reviewed the investigative file and have determined that the facts and circumstances supported the DPA’s findings.” 

And: “We understand that you may not agree with our finding(s), but it may be of some use to contact the investigator for better clarity and understanding in this matter.” 

In short: We aren’t going to arrest the man who assaulted you, but we’ll try to convince you that it’s all for the best.

Determined to not let the SFPD have the last word, Dave sent back a letter to David Henderson, executive director of DPA.

He noted that he had never requested an investigative hearing. Nor had he written a December 5, 2018 letter to the SFPD, as the letter claimed.

He also noted that, 16 years earlier, on May 19, 2002, the San Francisco Chronicle had published a series of devastating reports on the SFPD.  Among the newspaper’s findings:

  • Violent criminals in San Francisco’s had a better chance of getting away with their crimes than predators in any other large American city. 
  • The San Francisco Police Department solved, on average, just 28% of the city’s murders, rapes, robberies, shootings, stabbings and other serious assaults between 1996 and 2000.
  • Among the nation’s 20 largest cities, that was the lowest violent crime ‘clearance rate.
  • The large-city average clearance rate was 42 percent. 

“Judging from the results of my own experience with your agency, little—if anything—has changed within the SFPD during the last 16 years,” Dave wrote. 

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Referring to the DPA’s false claim that he had requested an investigative hearing, he ended his letter in cold fury:

“It’s a misdemeanor to file a false report with the police. It should be a felony for a police agency to write and send a letter filled with demonstrably false information. 

“It is also the height of arrogance and stupidity to believe you can convince the victim of an assault that the criminal negligence he experienced at the hands of the police department didn’t happen.

Undoubtedly this letter was written for placement in the official files of your department, as a way to cover itself against any possible legal action. No doubt this is common practice within your agency.

“It is precisely such conduct—as well as the refusal of your agency to aggressively investigate crimes of violence against San Francisco residents—that is guaranteed to produce widespread contempt for and refusal to cooperate with your police department.”

Dave didn’t receive another letter from the SFPD.     

* * * * *

Unfortunately, real-life police departments do not operate like the ones depicted in movies and on TV.  Among the realities of those departments: 

Unless you’re wealthy, a politician or—best of all—a cop, don’t expect the police to protect you if your life is threatened. You’ll simply be told: “We don’t have the resources to protect everybody.”

Above everyone else, police look out for each other. If a citizen murders his lover, he’ll be tracked by two detectives. But whoever kills a cop is sought by the entire department.

Police departments are plagued by the same problems that haunt all major bureaucracies, such as:

  • Often lacking state-of-the-art crime labs to analyze evidence.
  • Often losing or accidentally destroying important files.
  • Staffed by those who are lazy, indifferent, incompetent or even corrupt.
  • Often refusing to share information with other police agencies, thus making it easier for criminals to run amok.

The result of all this can only be increased disrespect for law enforcement from a deservedly—and increasingly—cynical public.

When citizens believe police lack the ability-–or even the will-–to protect them or avenge their victimization, that is a deadly blow to law enforcement.

When public support vanishes, so does much of that public funding for hiring more cops and buying necessary equipment.

The result can only be a return to the days of the lawless West, where citizens—as individuals or members of vigilante committees—look only to themselves for protection.

TWICE-RAPED CRIME VICTIMS: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on November 6, 2019 at 12:07 am

For countless citizens, the adage proves unfortunately true: If you become a victim of crime, you’re victimized twice—once by the criminal, and again by the criminal justice system.

And this truth proves especially apt in San Francisco.

A friend of mine named Dave [not his real name] who lives in San Francisco, offers the following case:

“On August 7, 2017, I witnessed a brutal assault on a friend of mine named Hal [not his real name]. I was a passenger in his car as he waited for a parking space to open in front of the apartment building where we both live.

“A man—clearly in an agitated state—approached the driver’s side and accused Hal of using the wrong signal. After hearing him out, Hal asked him to back away. Instead, the man quickly began striking Hal in the face at least a half dozen times.”

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Dave got out on the passenger’s side and threatened to call police. The assailant returned to his Jeep Cherokee truck, which was parked right behind Hal’s car. Dave re-entered Hal’s car and thought that the worst was over.

Suddenly the Jeep Cherokee slammed into the rear of Hal ‘s car. Then the driver pulled out.

“Hal started his car and followed the Jeep Cherokee to get a photo of its license plate. Using his iPhone, he did. The truck continued a short distance forward, then suddenly reversed and slammed into the front of Hal’s car. The driver then roared off.

“Hal and I then drove to the SFPD’s Central Station, where we both filled out statements and spoke individually with an officer. In addition, Hal provided a photo of the license plate of the vehicle that had rammed him.

“After that, Hal and I waited for a response from the SFPD. We never received one.

In early November, 2017—after waiting three months for a police response—Dave called the SFPD and arranged an appointment with a sergeant at Central Station.

“She showed me a series of photos that seemed to resemble the man who had assaulted Hal. Frankly, I had caught only a brief glimpse of the man when I exited Hal’s car and saw him heading for his Jeep. It certainly didn’t help that, three months later, I was now being asked to give an accurate description of him.

Later, Dave learned that the SFPD had chosen to not pursue criminal charges against the assailant. No reason was given for this decision. 

In January, 2018, Dave filed a complaint with the SFPD’s Department of Police Accountability (DPA), formerly known as its Internal Affairs Division.

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The investigator he met with was friendly and concerned. Even so, his complaint didn’t lead the SFPD to pursue criminal charges against the assailant. Again, no reason was offered by the agency.

“In November, 2018, I received a Complainant Satisfaction Survey from the SFPD’s Department of Police Accountability. But its Q&A format didn’t let me address the issues I thought important.”  

To do so, on November 26, he sent back a memo, offering the following summation: 

  • A man commits assault and battery on another without the slightest provocation.
  • He then uses his Jeep Cherokee to ram the rear of his victim’s car.
  • He then uses his Jeep Cherokee to ram the front of his victim’s car.
  • These violations of criminal law are reported to the SFPD within an hour of their occurrence.They are reported by not one but two eyewitnesses/victims.
  • One of those eyewitnesses provides the SFPD with a photo of the license plate of the car used in the vehicular assaults.
  • The SFPD makes no effort to contact either witness/victim in this incident.
  • Despite being provided with all this evidence, the SFPD does NOTHING.

And he concluded his indictment: 

“I have nothing but contempt for [the SFPD’s] refusal to take even a cursory interest in this case.

“If a friend of mine became the victim of a crime, I would advise him: ‘Don’t waste your time contacting the SFPD. There is simply no reason to set yourself up for a double injury—the first one inflicted by the criminal, and the second one inflicted by the criminally negligent SFPD.'”

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San Francisco Hall of Justice

Dllu [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons

To his surprise, Dave received a letter from the DPA, dated December 13, 2018:

“Your Request for an Investigative Hearing in the above-captioned case has been received. We have reviewed the investigative file and have determined that the facts and circumstances supported the DPA’s findings.  

“More specifically, we reviewed your letter dated December 5, 2018. The DPA strongly recommends that you call and make an appointment with your investigator in your case at (415) ###-#### to discuss our finding(s).

“We understand that you may not agree with our finding(s), but it may be of some use to contact the investigator for better clarity and understanding in this matter.  

“Your Request for Investigative Hearing is therefore denied. Thank you for the time you took to ensure that the DPA understood your concerns. We view this as a positive step in keeping with the goals of the DPA.”

And it was signed by Paul David Henderson, the agency’s executive director.

REPUBLICANS: “I’D RATHER BE RUSSIAN–AND STAY ELECTED”–PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 5, 2019 at 12:10 am

From 1945 to 2015, it was unthinkable for a Republican Presidential candidate to pay tribute to a Soviet dictator.

But that utterly changed when Donald J. Trump, a “reality TV” host with longstanding financial ties to Russian oligarchs, ran for President of the United States.

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Donald Trump

The reason for the Trump-Putin bromance: Each had something to offer the other.

Putin wanted the United States to ditch the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance, which had preserved Western Europe from Russian aggression since World War II. And Trump had often attacked America’s funding of NATO as a drain on the American economy.

And Trump wanted to be President. For this, Putin could supply Internet trolls to confuse voters with falsified news—and even the hacking of key voting centers. 

And monies. These Russian monies were officially classified as “campaign contributions,” not bribes.

Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III Mueller spent almost two years uncovering links between Russian Intelligence agents and members of Donald Trump’s Presidential campaign.

On July 24, he addressed Congress on Russia’s subversion of the 2016 Presidential election.

“Over the course of my career, I’ve seen a number of challenges to our democracy,” Mueller declared to members of the House Judiciary Committee.

“The Russian government’s effort to interfere in our election is among the most serious. As I said on May 29, this deserves the attention of every American.

“It wasn’t a single attempt. They’re doing it as we sit here. And they expect to do it during the next campaign.”

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Robert Mueller

In his report, Mueller documented years of meddling in American politics by the Internet Research Agency, which runs the Kremlin’s online disinformation efforts from its headquarters in St. Petersburg. 

The Agency reached 126 million Americans through fake accounts on Facebook. Its messages communicated with unaware members of the Trump campaign, and even prompted real-life rallies that mobilized crowds of unwitting voters.

Hours later that same day, Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Mississippi) blocked the passage of three bills designed to tighten election security at the federal level. She claimed that Congress had already responded to election security needs for the 2020 Presidential election.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) came to the Senate floor the next day to personally object to House-passed legislation backed by Democrats.

Nor is Trump the only Republican receiving “help” from Putin. A network of Russian oligarchs—all of them answerable to Putin—has been increasingly contributing to top Republicans. 

These Russian monies are officially classified as “campaign contributions,” not bribes—which, in fact, they are.

According to the Federal Election Commission:

One such major contributor is Len Blavatnik, who holds citizenship in both the United States and the United Kingdom. During the 2015-16 election cycle, he proved one of the largest donors to GOP Political Action Committees (PACs).  

Blavatnik’s net worth is estimated at $20 billion. Before 2016, he donated to both Democrats and Republicans in meager amounts. But in 2016, he gave $6.35 million to GOP PACs

Millions of dollars went to top Republican leaders—such as Senators Mitch McConnell (Kentucky), Marco Rubio (Florida) and Lindsey Graham (South Carolina).

Specifically, he contributed:

  • A total of $1.5 million to PACs associated with Rubio.  
  • $1 million to Trump’s Inaugural Committee
  • $41,000 to both Republicans and Democrats in 2017.
  • $1 million to McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund.
  • $3.5 million to a PAC associated with McConnell
  • $1.1 million to Unintimidated PAC, associated with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. 
  • $200,000 to the Arizona Grassroots Action PAC, associated with the late Arizona Senator John McCain. 
  • $250,000 to New Day for America PAC, associated with Ohio Governor John Kasich
  • $800,000 to the Security is Strength PAC, associated with Senator Lindsey Graham

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Another Russian oligarch, Alexander Shustorovich, contributed $1 million to Trump’s Inaugural Committee.

Altogether, four Russian oligarchs—Blavatnik, Shustorovich, Andrew Intrater and Simon Kukescontributed $10.4 million from the start of the 2015-16 election cycle through September 2017. Of this, 99% went to Republicans.

As Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell participated in high-level intelligence briefings in 2016. From agencies such as the FBI, CIA and the code-cracking National Security Agency, he learned that the Russians were trying to subvert the electoral process. 

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In October, 2016, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) issued a joint statement: The Russian government had directed the effort to subvert the 2016 Presidential election.

Two weeks later, McConnell’s PAC accepted a $1 million donation from Blavatnik.

On March 30, 2017, McConnell’s PAC accepted another $1 million from Blavatnik.

This is just 10 days after former FBI Director James Comey testified before the House Intelligence Committee about Russia’s efforts to subvert the 2016 election

So, what has changed in the Republican Party?  Essentially nothing.

Its enemies changed—from Russian Communists to American liberals. But its goal remains the same: The quest for absolute power.

When Americans feared Communism, Republicans depicted themselves as the only ones who could be trusted to protect the United States. Big contributions poured in from Right-wing billionaires like H.L. Hunt and Howard Hughes.

But then Republicans found they could enrich themselves and stay in power via Russian “campaign contributions.” So long as they did Putin’s bidding, the rubles would roll in.

So for a party of power-drunk would-be dictators, the decision was simple: Better Red than un-elected.

REPUBLICANS: “I’D RATHER BE RUSSIAN–AND STAY ELECTED”–PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 4, 2019 at 12:15 am

There was a time when Republicans saw—and portrayed—themselves as America’s foremost defenders against Communism. 

This was particularly true during the early 1950s. Case in point: Wisconsin United States Senator Joseph R. McCarthy. 

Elected to the Senate in 1946, he rose to national prominence on February 9, 1950, after giving a fiery speech in Wheeling, West Virginia: 

“The State Department is infested with communists. I have here in my hand a list of 205—a list of names that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department.”

Joseph McCarthy

Americans were already growing increasingly fearful of Communism:

  • Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin had not withdrawn the Red Army from the countries it had occupied in Eastern Europe during World War II.
  • In 1948, the Soviet Union developed—and demonstrated—its own atomic bomb, an achievement U.S. scientists had claimed would not happen for at least a decade.
  • In 1949, China fell to the triumphant armies of Mao Tse Tung.  Generalissimo Chaing Kai Shek was driven from mainland China to the tiny island of Taiwan.

Anti-communism as a lever to political advancement sharply accelerated following McCarthy’s speech. 

No American—no matter how prominent—was safe from the accusation of being a Communist or a Communist sympathizer—”a Comsymp” or “fellow traveler” in the language of the era.

Among those accused:

  • Secretary of State George C. Marshall, who had overseen America’s strategy for defeating Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.
  • President Harry S. Truman.
  • Playwrights Lillian Hellman and Arthur Miller.
  • Folksinger Pete Seeger.
  • Actors Charlie Chaplin, Zero Mostel, Lloyd Bridges, Howard Da Silva, Edward G. Robinson and John Garfield.
  • Composers Arron Copland and Elmer Bernstein.
  • Physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, who presided over the creation of America’s atomic bomb, thus forcing Japan to surrender.
  • Actresses Lee Grant, Delores del Rio, Ruth Gordon and Lucille Ball.
  • Journalists Edward R. Murrow and William L. Shirer, who had chronicled the rise of Nazi Germany.
  • Writers Irwin Shaw, Howard Fast, John Steinbeck and Dashiell Hammett

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Even prominent Republicans became targets for slanderous attacks on their patriotism. The most prominent of these: President Dwight D. Eisenhower—was labeled ”a conscious, dedicated agent of the Communist Conspiracy” by Robert Welch, founder of the John Birch Society in 1958.

In 1953, McCarthy attacked the leadership of the United States Army as “a hotbed of traitors” and convened an inquiry through the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

But the hearings exposed McCarthy as a bullying demagogue. A Senate committee condemned his behavior for “bring[ing] the Senate into dishonor and disrepute.” Shunned in disgrace by his onetime colleagues, McCarthy drowned his sorrows in alcohol, dying in 1957.

But even without McCarthy, Republicans rode the issue of anti-Communism to victory from 1948 to 1992. “Respectable” anti-Communists—like Richard M. Nixon—depicted themselves as the only ones who could be trusted to safeguard America.

Republicans held the White House for eight years under Dwight D. Eisenhower, then lost it in 1960 to John F. Kennedy and again in 1964 to Lyndon B. Johnson.

By 1968, with the nation mired in Vietnam and convulsed by antiwar demonstrations and race riots, Americans elected Richard Nixon, who preyed upon their fears and hates of blacks and “the Communist menace.”

The same strategy re-elected him in 1972.

Jimmy Carter won the Presidency in 1976 and lost it in 1980 to Ronald Reagan. And Republicans held the White House until 1992.  

Upon taking office as President in 1981, Ronald Reagan decided to end the “stalemate” of “containing” Communism. He intended to “roll it back.”

American proxies fought Soviet proxies in Afghanistan and Central America, but the world escaped nuclear holocaust.

During the 1980s and 1990s, Republicans continued to accuse Democrats of being devious agents—or at least unwitting pawns—of “the Communist conspiracy.”

In 1992, President George H.W. Bush and the Republican establishment charged that Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton might be a KGB plant.

George H.W. Bush

Their “evidence”: During his tenure at Oxford University in 1969-70, Clinton had briefly visited Moscow. 

After the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991, Republicans found that accusing Democrats of being “Commies” didn’t carry the same weight.

So they turned to “domestic enemies” to rail—and run—against: Liberals, blacks, Hispanics, “uppity” women, war protesters, lesbians, gays, and—after 9/11—Muslims.

From 1945 to 2015, it was unthinkable for a Republican Presidential candidate to pay tribute to a Soviet dictator.

But that utterly changed when Donald J. Trump, a “reality TV” host with longstanding financial ties to Russian oligarchs, ran for President of the United States.

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Donald Trump

Trump lavishly praised Russian President Vladimir Putin—and even invited him to directly interfere in the 2016 Presidential race.

The reason for the Trump-Putin bromance: Each had something to offer the other.

Putin wanted the United States to ditch the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance, which had preserved Western Europe from Russian aggression since World War II. And Trump had often attacked America’s funding of NATO as a drain on the American economy.

And Trump wanted to be President. For this, Putin could supply monies, Internet trolls to confuse voters with falsified news—and even the hacking of key voting centers.

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