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ADAM SCHIFF CHANNELS MARK ANTONY: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Entertainment, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on April 6, 2022 at 12:10 am

On March 24, 2019, Attorney General William Barr received the long-awaited report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller about Russian efforts to subvert the 2016 Presidential election.

According to Barr, the report—which no one else in the government had seen—showed no evidence that President Donald Trump had colluded with Russian Intelligence agents.

And now House Republicans—acting entirely on that claim—suddenly went on the offensive.

On March 28, all nine Republicans on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence demanded in a letter that Representative Adam Schiff (D-California) resign as its chairman.  

On the same day, President Donald Trump tweeted: “Congressman Adam Schiff, who spent two years knowingly and unlawfully lying and leaking, should be forced to resign from Congress!”

Other Republicans quickly joined the chorus:

  • House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California): Schiff owed “an apology to the American public” and should step down from his post as head of the Intelligence committee.
  • Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel: “They [Schiff and House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-New York] should be removed from their chairmanships. They owe the American people an apology. They owe this President an apology, and they have work to do to heal this democracy because this is our country we are talking about.”
  • South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham: “He’s getting into conspiracy land and he’s acting like an Oliver Stone type figure. That to me is not helpful to him but I’m not going to ask him to resign from Congress.” 
  • White House Adviser Kelleyanne Conway: “He’s been on every TV show 50 times a day for practically the last two years, promising Americans that this President would either be impeached or indicted. He has no right, as somebody who has been peddling a lie, day after day after day, unchallenged. Unchallenged and not under oath. Somebody should have put him under oath and said, ‘You have evidence, where is it?’”

On March 28, Schiff—speaking in a firm and controlled voice—addressed his critics in the House and beyond. 

It was a speech worthy of that given by Mark Antony at the funeral of Julius Caesar.

Adam Schiff official portrait.jpg

Adam Schiff

“My colleagues may think it’s okay that the Russians offered dirt on the Democratic candidate for President as part of what was described as ‘the Russian government’s effort to help the Trump campaign.’ You might think that’s okay.

“My colleagues might think it’s okay that when that was offered to the son of the President, who had a pivotal role in the campaign, that the President’s son did not call the FBI, he did not adamantly refuse that foreign help. No, instead that son said that he would ‘love’ the help of the Russians. You might think it’s okay that he took that meeting.

“You might think it’s okay that Paul Manafort, the campaign chair, someone with great experience running campaigns, also took that meeting.

“You might think it’s okay that the President’s son-in-law also took that meeting.

“You might think it’s okay that they concealed it from the public.

“You might think it’s okay that their only disappointment after that meeting was that the dirt they received on Hillary Clinton wasn’t better. You might think that’s okay.

“You might think it’s okay that when it was discovered a year later that they’d lied about that meeting and said it was about adoptions, you might think it’s okay that the President is reported to have helped dictate that lie. You might think that’s okay. I don’t. 

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“You might think it’s okay that the Presidential chairman of a campaign would offer information about that campaign to a Russian in exchange for money or debt forgiveness. You might think that’s okay.  I don’t.  

“You might think it’s okay that campaign chairman offered polling data, campaign polling data to someone linked to Russian intelligence. I don’t think that’s okay.

“You might think it’s okay that the President himself called on Russia to hack his opponent’s emails, ‘if they were listening.’

“You might think it’s okay that later that day, in fact, the Russians attempted to hack a server affiliated with that campaign. I don’t think that’s okay.

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“You might think that it’s okay that the President’s son-in-law sought to establish a secret back channel of communications with the Russians through a Russian diplomatic facility. I don’t think that’s okay.

“You might think it’s okay that an associate of the President made direct contact with the GRU  [the Russian military Intelligence agency] through Guccifer 2 and Wikileaks, that is considered a hostile Intelligence agency.

“You might think that it’s okay that a senior campaign official was instructed to reach that associate and find out what that hostile Intelligence agency had to say, in terms of dirt on his opponent.

“You might think it’s okay that the National Security Adviser-Designate [Mike Flynn] secretly conferred with the Russian ambassador about undermining U.S. sanctions, and you might think it’s okay he lied about it to the FBI. You might say that’s all okay.

“You might say that’s just what you need to do to win, but I don’t think it’s okay. I think it’s immoral. I think it’s unethical. I think it’s unpatriotic. And yes, I think it’s corrupt and evidence of collusion.” 

Not one Republican dared challenge even one accusation Schiff had made.

MACHIAVELLI WAS RIGHT: DISTRUST THE RICH

In Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on March 31, 2022 at 12:14 am

For President Donald Trump and Congressional Republicans, the single greatest achievement of their time in office was to drastically cut taxes on the wealthy (including themselves).

It’s a view that Niccolo Machiavelli would dispute.        

In 1513, Machiavelli, the Florentine statesman who has been called the father of modern political science, published his best-known work: The Prince.

Quote by Machiavelli: “Necessity is what impels men to take action ...

Niccolo Machiavelli

Among the issues he confronted was how to preserve liberty within a republic. And key to this was mediating the eternal struggle between the wealthy and the poor and middle class.

Machiavelli deeply distrusted the nobility because they stood above the law. He saw them as a major source of corruption because they could buy influence through patronage, favors or nepotism.

Successful political leaders must attain the support of the nobility or general populace. But since these groups have conflicting interests, the safest course is to choose the latter.  

Writes Machiavelli:

….He who becomes prince by help of the [wealthy] has greater difficulty in maintaining his power than he who is raised by the populace. He is surrounded by those who think themselves his equals, and is thus unable to direct or command as he pleases. 

But one who is raised to leadership by popular favor finds himself alone, and has no one, or very few, who   are not  ready  to  obey him. [And] it is impossible to satisfy the [wealthy] by fair dealing and without inflicting injury upon others, whereas it is very easy to satisfy the mass of the people in this way. 

Machiavelli warns that the general populace is more honest than the nobility—i.e., wealthy. The wealthy seek to oppress, while the populace wants to simply avoid oppression.

A political leader cannot protect himself against a hostile population, owing to their numbers, but he can against the hostility of the great, as they are but few.

The worst that a prince has to expect from a hostile people is to be abandoned, but from hostile nobles he has to fear not only desertion but their active opposition. And as they are more far seeing and more cunning, they are always in time to save themselves and take sides with the one who they expect will conquer. 

The prince is, moreover, obliged to live always with the same people, but he can easily do without the same nobility, being able to make and unmake them at any time, and improve their position or deprive them of it as he pleases.

Unfortunately, political leaders throughout the world—including the United States–have ignored this sage advice.

In 2012, Tax Justice Network, which campaigns to abolish tax havens, commissioned a study of their effect on the world’s economy.

The study was entitled, “The Price of Offshore Revisited: New Estimates for ‘Missing’ Global Private Wealth, Income, Inequality and Lost Taxes.”

http://www.taxjustice.net/cms/upload/pdf/Price_of_Offshore_Revisited_120722.pdf

The research was carried out by James Henry, former chief economist at consultants McKinsey & Co.  Among its findings:

  • By 2010, at least $21 to $32 trillion of the world’s private financial wealth had been invested virtually tax-­free through more than 80 offshore secrecy jurisdictions.
  • Since the 1970s, with eager (and often aggressive and illegal) assistance from the international private banking industry, private elites in 139 countries had accumulated $7.3 to $9.3 trillion of unrecorded offshore wealth by 2010.
  • This happened while many of those countries’ public sectors were borrowing themselves into bankruptcy, suffering painful adjustment and low growth, and holding fire sales of public assets.
  • The assets of these countries are held by a small number of wealthy individuals while the debts are shouldered by the ordinary people of these countries through their governments.
  • The offshore industry is protected by pivate bankers, lawyers and accountants, who get paid handsomely to hide their clients’ assets and identities.
  • Bank regulators and central banks of most countries allow the world’s top tax havens and banks to hide the origins and ownership of assets under their supervision.
  • Although multilateral institutions like the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), the IMF and the World Bank are supposedly insulated from politics, they have been highly compromised by the collective interests of Wall Street.
  • These regulatory bodies have never required financial institutions to fully report their cross-­border customer liabilities, deposits, customer assets under management or under custody.
  • Less than 100,000 people, .001% of the world’s population, now control over 30% of the world’s financial wealth.
  • Assuming that global offshore financial wealth of $21 trillion earns a total return of just 3% a year, and would have been taxed an average of 30% in the home country, this unrecorded wealth might have generated tax revenues of $189 billion per year.

Summing up this situation, the report noted: “We are up against one of society’s most well-­entrenched interest groups. After all, there’s no interest group more rich and powerful than the rich and powerful.”

Fortunately, Machiavelli has supplied timeless remedies to this increasingly dangerous situation:

  • Assume evil among men—and most especially among those who possess the greatest concentration of wealth and power.
  • Carefully monitor their activities—the way the FBI now regularly monitors those of the Mafia and major terrorist groups.
  • Ruthlessly prosecute the treasonous crimes of the rich and powerful—and, upon their conviction, impose severe punishment.

GETTING HELP FROM YOUR ENEMIES 11

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 30, 2022 at 12:14 am

Sometimes your worst enemies aid you in ways you could never help yourself.

From July 10 to October 31, 1940, hundreds of badly-outnumbered pilots of the British Royal Air Force (RAF) fought off relentless attacks by Germany’s feared Luftwaffe—since known as the Battle of Britain.

But Adolf Hitler wasn’t prepared to give up. He believed he could so terrorize Britons that they would insist that their government submit to German surrender demands.

From September 7, 1940 to May 21, 1941, the Luftwaffe subjected England—and especially London—to a ruthless bombing campaign that became known as The Blitz.

The undamaged St. Paul’s Cathredal, December, 1940

More than 100 tons of high explosives were dropped on 16 British cities.  

During 267 days—almost 37 weeks—between 40,000 and 43,000 British civilians were killed. About 139,000 others were wounded.

Clearly, what Great Britain desperately needed most was a miracle.

Exactly that happened on June 22, 1941.

With 134 Divisions at full fighting strength and 73 more divisions for deployment behind the front, the German Wehrmacht invaded the Soviet Union.

World War II – Operation Barbarossa – Army Tanks

German tanks invading Russia

Joseph Stalin, the longtime Soviet dictator, was stunned. The invasion had come less than two years after Germany had signed a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union.

Now they were locked in a fight to the death.

People in England were suddenly hopeful. Britain now had a powerful ally whose resources might tip the balance against Hitler.

Fast forward to 2022.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was created in March, 1949 by the United States, Canada, Great Britain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. In 1952, Greece, Turkey and West Germany were admitted. 

NATO report says Pakistan wants peace deal in Afghanistan, India against it

NATO emblem

Its purpose: To provide collective security against the Soviet Union.

Following World War II, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin had refused to withdraw his occupying forces from the Eastern European countries they had entered on their way to defeating Nazi Germany.

These Soviet-dominate countries: Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania and East Germany. 

Behind NATO stood the threat of the American “nuclear umbrella”—and Article V, which states that an attack on one ally would trigger a counterattack by all of them. 

From its founding in 1949 to 2017, America’s leadership of NATO—and the importance of the alliance—remained unquestioned. 

The Presidency of Donald J. Trump (2017-2021) dramatically changed both. 

From the outset, Trump attacked NATO as being “very unfair” to the United States. He attacked its members as deadbeats who didn’t contribute an equal share of monies to the organization. 

But Trump’s disdain for NATO may well have been grounded in his “bromance” with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin press conference

He had refused to accept the unanimous conclusion of the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency that Russia had interfered in the 2016 Presidential election to put him in the White House over Hillary Clinton.

He had often praised Putin, both during the 2016 campaign and after entering the White House.

And he had publicly defended Putin against these agencies in an infamous press conference with Putin in Helsinki, Finland, on July 16, 2018. 

On January 14, 2019, the New York Times reported that, several times in 2018, Trump discussed withdrawing the United States from NATO. This would effectively doom the 29-nation alliance and empower Russia, which had spent years seeking to weaken it.

Meanwhile, Putin, intent on restoring the borders of the former Soviet Union, swept from one war to the next.

  • In 1999-2000, he waged the Second Chechen War, restoring federal control of Chechnya.
  • In 2008, he invaded the Republic of Georgia, which had declared its independence as the Soviet Union began to crumble. The war ended with 20% of Georgia’s territory under Russian military occupation.
  • In 2014, Putin invaded and subsequently annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine. 

Through all of this, NATO did nothing but launch verbal condemnations.

The reason:

  • Fear of igniting a nuclear war; and/or
  • Belief that Russia was simply acting within its own sphere of influence.

Coupled with Trump’s repeated displays of subservience, it’s likely that Putin felt he could get away with any aggression.

On February 24, Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine. And those who had thought the Cold War was over realized it wasn’t.

Suddenly, NATO came alive—with a vengeance:

  • At least 40,000 allied troops are now under direct NATO command in the eastern part of the alliance.
  • More than 130 fighter jets are on advanced high alert.
  • More than 200 allied ships are stationed at sea in the region.
  • NATO activated defense plans that would allow military commanders to deploy elements of the multinational Response Force.

Perhaps most important, the United States has a President—Joe Biden—who is not in thrall to Putin. As a result, it has led the world in imposing harsh economic sanctions on Russia:

  • Russia has become a global economic pariah. 
  • Over 30 countries, representing well over half the world’s economy, have announced sanctions and export controls targeting Russia.
  • The country’s banking system has all but collapsed.
  • On the stock market, the ruble is worth less than the penny.
  • And oligarchs linked to Putin have had their assets frozen around the world.

Seventy-nine years ago, events turned around for England when all seemed lost. The same has happened for NATO and the United States.

ACCOMPLICES TO OUR OWN DESTRUCTION: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 29, 2022 at 12:11 am

On November 3, 80 million voters elected former Vice President Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States.

President Donald Trump had often “joked” that America needed a “President-for-Life.” Now he demanded that he be awarded that title.

Trump refused to accept that verdict. 

Speaking from the White House in the early hours of November 4, he said: “Millions and millions of people voted for us tonight, and a very sad group of people is trying to disenfranchise that group of people and we won’t stand for it.”

For the first time in American history, a President demanded a halt to the counting of votes while the outcome of an election hung in doubt.

States ignored his demand and kept counting.

Next, Trump ordered his attorneys to file lawsuits to overturn the election results, charging electoral fraud.

He claimed:

  • Illegal aliens had been allowed to vote.
  • Trump ballots had been systematically destroyed.
  • Tampered voting machines had turned Trump votes into Biden ones.

Throughout November and December, cases were filed in Wisconsin, Arizona, Nevada, Michigan, Minnesota and Georgia challenging the election results. More than 30 cases were withdrawn by Trump’s attorneys or dismissed by Federal judges—some of them appointed by Trump himself.

For 20 days, General Services Administrator Emily Murphy refused to release $7.3 million in transition funding and Federal resources to the President-elect’s team.

Under the law governing presidential transitions, Murphy was responsible for determining the winner based on publicly available information before the actual Electoral College vote. 

Finally, on November 23, Murphy released the transition funding and resources.

Trump invited two Republican legislative leaders from Michigan to the White House to persuade them to stop the state from certifying the vote.

Nothing changed. 

On December 5, Trump called Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and asked him to call a special legislative session to 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.

Top Republicans—such as Vice President Mike Pence and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell—refused to congratulate Biden as the winner. 

None of them branded Trump’s efforts to overturn the election as those of a tyrant.

Just as Germans did nothing to stop Adolf Hitler’s inexorable march toward war—and the destruction of millions of lives and Germany itself—so, too, did Americans seem paralyzed to end the equally self-destructive reign of the man often dubbed “Carrot Caligula.”

Gaius Caligula was “the mad emperor” of ancient Rome. Like Trump, he lived by a philosophy of “Let them hate me, so long as they fear me.”

He ruled as the most powerful man of his time—three years, 10 months and eight days. And all but the first six months of his reign were drenched in slaughter and debauchery.

There were basically three ways America’s slide into tyranny could have been stopped:

First, Congressional Republicans could have revolted against Trump’s authority and/or agenda.

They could have demanded that Trump accept the verdict of the electorate—as every other past President had.

But they didn’t.

Republicans feared that if they openly defied him, his fanatical base would turn on them in coming elections—and end their comfortable reign of power and privileges.

Second, invoking the Twenty-Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

This allows the Vice President and a majority of the Cabinet to recommend the removal of the President in cases where he is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” It also allows the House and Senate to confirm the recommendation over the President’s objection by two-thirds vote. 

The Vice President then takes over as President.

A case could easily have been made that Trump, emotionally distraught over his loss and determined to circumvent the will of the electorate, had been rendered unfit to continue in office.

This did not happen.

Most of Trump’s cabinet rightly feared him. He fired FBI Director James Comey in 2017 and publicly humiliated his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, for more than a year until firing him in 2018. Vice President Mike Pence in particular had set new records for sycophancy. 

Third, the “Caligula solution.” Like Trump, Caligula delighted in humiliating others. His fatal mistake was taunting Cassius Chaerea, a member of his own bodyguard. Caligula considered Chaerea effeminate owing to a weak voice and mocked him with names like “Priapus” and “Venus.”

Gaius Caligula

On January 22 41 A.D. Chaerea and several other bodyguards hacked Caligula to death with swords before other guards could save him.

Trump had similarly behaved arrogantly toward his Secret Service guards. He forced them to work without pay during his 35-day government shutdown in 2018. He also forced them to accompany him to COVID-infected states—both during the Presidential campaign and afterward. Many of them had been stricken with this often lethal disease as a result. 

During Adolf Hitler’s 12-years reign of Nazi Germany, high-ranking military officers tried to kill him at least 42 times. 

The best-known of these attempts occurred on July 20, 1944, when Colonel Count Claus Shenk von Stauffenberg planted a bomb in a conference room attended by Hitler and his generals. Hitler survived only by sheer luck. 

By contrast, no similar plot was aimed at Donald Trump.

ACCOMPLICES TO OUR OWN DESTRUCTION: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 28, 2022 at 12:10 am

“Why are we letting one man systematically destroy our nation before our eyes?”       

It’s a question millions of Americans asked themselves after Donald Trump became President of the United States.

Millions of Germans asked themselves the same question throughout the six years of World War II.

In September, 1938, as Adolf Hitler threatened to go to war against France and England over Czechoslovakia, most Germans feared he would. They knew that Germany was not ready for war, despite all of their Fuhrer’s boasts about how invincible the Third Reich was.

A group of high-ranking German army officers was prepared to overthrow Hitler—provided that England and France held firm and handed him a major diplomatic reverse.

But then England and France—though more powerful than Germany—flinched at the thought of war.

They surrendered to Hitler’s demands that he be given the “Sudetenland”—the northern, southwest and western regions of Czechoslovakia, inhabited mostly by ethnic Germans.

Hitler’s popularity among Germans soared. He had expanded the territories of the Reich by absorbing Austria and Czechoslovakia—without a shot being fired!

The plotters in the German high command, realizing that public opinion stood overwhelmingly against them, abandoned their plans for a coup. They decided to wait for a more favorable time.

It never came.

Adolf Hitler and his generals

Less than one year after the infamous “Munich conference,” England and France were at war—and fighting for the lives of their peoples.

As for the Germans: Most of them blindly followed their Fuhrer right to the end—believing his lies (or at least wanting to believe them), serving in his legions, defending his rampant criminality.

And then, in April, 1945, with Russian armies pouring into Berlin, it was too late for conspiracies against the man who had led them to total destruction. 

Germans paid the price for their loyalty to a murderous dictator—through countless rapes, murders and the wholesale destruction of their cities. And from 1945 to 1989, Germans living in the eastern part of their country paid the price as slaves to the Soviet Union. 

Have Americans learned anything from this this warning from history about subservience to a madman? 

The answer seems to be half-yes, half-no.

In 2016, almost 63 million Americans elected Donald Trump—a racist, serial adulterer and longtime fraudster—as President.

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Donald Trump

Upon taking office on January 20, 2017, Trump began undermining one public or private institution after another.

  • Repeatedly attacking the nation’s free press for daring to report his growing list of crimes and disasters, calling it “the enemy of the American people.”
  • Siding with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin against the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency which unanimously agreed that Russia had subverted the 2016 Presidential election. 
  • Firing FBI Director James Comey for investigating that subversion.
  • Giving Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey  Kislyak highly classified CIA Intelligence about an Islamic State plot to turn laptops into concealable bombs.  
  • Shutting down the Federal Government for 35 days because Democrats refused to fund his ineffective “border wall” between the United States and Mexico. An estimated 380,000 government employees were furloughed and another 420,000 were ordered to work without pay. The shutdown ended due to public outrage—without Trump getting the funding amount he had demanded.
  • Trying to coerce Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to smear former Vice President Joe Biden, who was likely to be his Democratic opponent in the 2020 Presidential election.
  • Allowing the deadly COVID-19 virus to ravage the country, infecting (to date) 14.8 million Americans and killing 282,000.
  • Attacking medical experts and governors who urged Americans to wear masks and socially distance to protect themselves from COVID-19.
  • Ordering his Right-wing followers to defy states’ orders to citizens to “stay-at-home” and wear of masks in public to halt surging COVID-19 rates.

And throughout all those outrages, House and Senate Republican majorities remained silent or vigorously supported him.

A typical example:

On June 4, 2020, during protests over the police murder of black security guard George Floyd, a curfew was imposed on Buffalo, New York. As police swept through Niagara Square, Martin Gugino, a 75-year-old peace activist with the Catholic Worker Movement, walked into their path as if attempting to speak with them.

Two officers pushed him and he fell backwards, hitting the back of his head on the pavement and losing consciousness. 

On June 9, Trump charged that Gugino was part of a radical leftist “set up.” Trump offered no evidence to back up his slander.

Typical Republican responses included:  

  • Kentucky Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to say whether Trump’s tweet was appropriate.
  • Texas Senator Ted Cruz: “I don’t comment on the tweets.” 
  • Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson said he hadn’t seen the tweet—and didn’t want it read to him: “I would rather not hear it.”
  • Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander: “Voters can evaluate that. I’m not going to give a running commentary on the President’s tweets.”

On November 3, 2020, 81,255,933 Democratic voters outvoted 74,196,153 Republican voters to elect former Vice President Joseph Biden as the 46th President of the United States.

WHEN CRIMINALS FALL OUT, AMERICA WINS

In Bureaucracy, Business, Entertainment, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on March 23, 2022 at 12:12 am

In 1972, warfare erupted the between the two most powerful Mafia families of New York.

On one side: The Corleone Family, headed by “Don Vito” Corleone. On the other: The Barzini Family, whose boss was Emilio Barzini.

Moviegoers flooded theaters across the nation to make The Godfather the highest-grossing film of 1972—and, for a time, the highest-grossing film ever made.

The Godfather written on a black background in stylized white lettering, above it a hand holds puppet strings

Audiences rooted for the Corleones and thrilled whenever a Barzini “soldier” bit the concrete.  And they moaned when Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) was shot and wounded at an outdoor market and Sonny Corleone (James Caan) got riddled by machine guns on a New Jersey causeway.

Why did so many moviegoers feel compelled to side with the Corleones?

One reason was that, early in the film, Don Corleone rejects an offer by the Barzini Family to enter the narcotics-trafficking business.

When speaking with Virgil Sollotzzo, the Turkish drug kingpin backed by the Barzinis, Corleone says: “It’s true I have a lot of friends who are judges and politicians.  And they don’t mind if people want to gamble, or drink, or even pay for a woman.  But they wouldn’t be so friendly if they knew my business was drugs.” 

In short: He simply didn’t want to go to prison.

The other reason so many viewers identified with the Corleones lay in the brilliant casting of their members.

  • Marlon Brando—considered by many the greatest actor of his time—headed the cast.
  • Al Pacino, then an unknown, aroused sympathy as Michael, the Family outsider forced by the shooting of his father to become the Boss of All Bosses.
  • James Caan (as Sonny) is handsome and the defender of his brutalized sister, Connie, against her abusive husband, Carlo Rizzi.
  • John Cazale (as Fredo) is riddled with insecurities and not very bright, won the audiences’ sympathy by his sheer helplessness when compared to his ruthless siblings.

Yet the Corleones—for all their homilies about “honor” and “loyalty”—were every bit as greedy and lethal as their Mafia competitors. They just played the game more ruthlessly—and successfully.

All of which brings us to the current Mafia-like struggle between former President Donald Trump and most of the Republican party.

On February 26, two days after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, Trump said: “The problem is not that Putin is smart, which of course he’s smart, but the real problem is that our leaders are dumb.” 

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Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin press conference

Trump has often told aides that Putin is “a brilliant strategist, and really tough, and really smart and savvy,” and that President Joe “Biden is not up for it.” 

As President, Trump had

  • Derided the value of NATO and traditional global security alliances;
  • Lavishly praised Communist tyrants such as Putin, China’s Xi Jinping and North Korea’s Kim Jon-Un;
  • Threatened to withhold $400 million in aid to Ukraine unless its president, Volodymyr Zelensky, manufactured “dirt” on 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, who had had business dealings in Ukraine; and
  • Publicly took Putin’s word over that of the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency that Russia had intervened in the 2016 Presidential race.

And House and Senate Republicans had repeatedly backed him up—even refusing to impeach him on February 5, 2020, for his attempted extortion of Zelensky.

But now Republicans are singing a different tune.

Former vice president Mike Pence, while refusing to criticize Trump, attacked Putin on Fox News. Through his longtime chief of staff, Marc Short, he said: “No one in the GOP should be praising Vladimir Putin. He’s a former KGB officer and a dictator and a thug. We should be clear about that.”

Mike Pence - Wikipedia

Mike Pence

“Number one, the Republican Party is going to rally around the idea that Putin is a thug and a crook,” Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said in an interview. “I have no doubt that the overwhelming majority of Republican senators see what’s happening to Ukraine is detrimental to our national security and well-being.”

“He’s a thug. He’s a killer,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). “He’s been on the rampage and this will not end well for him.”

Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has confronted Republicans with a series of unpleasant truths:

  • Dictators are enemies of democracy—and cannot be appeased.
  • NATO—which Trump dismissed as “obsolete”—is flexing its strength in response to Russia’s aggression.
  • Despite the wishes of isolationists, the United States can’t ignore the world’s problems. 

With polls showing that Americans overwhelmingly oppose Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine, Republicans face a stark choice:

  • Side with their continuing leader, Donald Trump, who has sucked up to Communist dictators since 2015, or
  • Face the wrath of voters outraged by Russian barbarities against a helpless Ukraine. 

Several Republicans—such as Pence—have attacked Putin without mentioning Trump. But Trump’s embrace of Putin has been so fervent for so long that any attack on Putin must be seen as a repudiation of Trump.

Which, in turn, risks Trump’s calling down the wrath of his millions of followers on those who look to him as the Once and Future “President-for-Life.”

When predatory Mafiosi wipe each other out, honest citizens win. When Fascistic Republicans wage war on each other, democracy wins.

THE WORLD SEES HORROR IN UKRAINE; ISLAMICS SEE RACISM: PART TWO (END)

In History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 8, 2022 at 12:21 am

On February 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a massive invasion of Ukraine.

To Ukrainians, it’s a matter of life-or-death.

To Americans, Europeans and Westerners in general, it’s a horrific, unfolding tragedy.

But to nonwhites—and especially Islamics—the sympathies of these nations is a sign of racism and Islamophobia. 

One reason many Westerners feel greater sympathy for Ukrainians than Arabs: Islamics have routinely blamed the West—especially Americans—for their own internal conflicts.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights—which is safely located in Great Britain—the total number of dead from the Syrian civil war [in 2016] was more than 310,000.

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights - Wikiwand

The Observatory blamed the West for this Islamic self-slaughter.

“The silence of the International community for the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Syria encourages the criminals to kill more and more Syrian people because they have not found anyone that deter them from continuing their crimes that cause to wound more than 1,500,000 people; some of them with permanent disabilities, make hundreds of thousands children without parents, displace more than half of Syrian people and destroy infrastructure, private and public properties.”

In short: It’s the duty of non-Muslims to bring civilized behavior to Islamics.

And why are all these murderers eagerly slaughtering one another? Because of a Muslim religious dispute that traces back to the fourth century.

Yes, it’s Sunni Muslims, who make up a majority of Islamics, versus Shiite Muslims, who comprise a minority.

What Are the Differences Between Sunni and Shiite Muslims?

Shiite Muslim women 

Each group considers the other takfirs—that is, “apostates.” And, in Islam, being labeled an apostate can easily get you murdered. 

This is, in short, not a conflict that can be resolved by driving an aggressor country out of another. It will never end—because both Sunnis and Shiites believe “God is on our side” in an inner-religious war that dates back centuries. 

“We are wondering, why were Ukrainians welcome in all countries while we, Syrian refugees, are still in tents and remain under the snow, facing death, and no one is looking to us?” asked Syrian refugee Ahmad al-Hariri, who fled the war in his country for nearby Lebanon 10 years ago.

In an ideal and rational world, factors like religion, economics and race would not matter when large numbers of people are threatened by war. But this is not a rational and ideal world, and human emotions and prejudices usually play a deciding role in people’s behavior. 

People identify and feel comfortable with those who most resemble themselves. In prisons, black inmates sit with blacks; whites with with whites; Hispanics with fellow Hispanics. 

The vast majority of Ukrainian refugees are highly-skilled and -educated Christians—meaning they will easily meld into the populations that make up most of Europe. Many of them already have relatives scattered throughout such countries as Poland, Hungary and Romania.  Which means they can call on those relatives for support while settling in.

Much has been made—by nonwhites—of the fact that Ukrainians are Caucasians. This is undoubtedly one factor that leads other Caucasians to identify with their plight. But when Syrians identify with Palestinians, no doubt their own shared skin color and religion apply just as much. 

Another reason why this conflict has riveted the attention of the world: Millions believed that the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 ended the Cold War.

Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin

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

But Vladimir Putin has brutally notified the world that it’s on again. Europeans—and Americans—fear that Putin’s attack on Ukraine, like Adolf Hitler’s attack on Poland, is simply the first of a series of conquests to come.

In 1935, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini set out to create a second Roman Empire by invading Ethiopia. The conflict pitted poorly-armed Ethiopian forces against Italians armed with radio, bombers and even mustard gas. Even ambulances and hospitals became targets for Mussolini’s air force.

Ethiopia’s emperor, Haile Selassie, appealed in person to the League of Nations for aid in repelling the invasion. His plea was greeted by laughter from the Italian and German delegates—and ignored by the rest of the world.

The war ended in 1937 with an Italian victory.

Haile Selassie in full dress (cropped).jpg

Haile Selassie

By contrast: The Spanish Civil War proved a magnet for international commitment. The conflict pitted Fascists under General Francisco Franco against the new Spanish Republic. Adolf Hitler and Mussolini sent troops and planes to aid Franco.  

Tens of thousands of volunteers from about 50 countries poured into Spain to support the Republican cause—among them, the Abraham Lincoln Brigade from the United States.. Writers Ernest Hemingway and John Dos Passos lent their propaganda talents to the Republic.

American liberals sensed that this civil war was a testing ground for the weapons of Fascism—as it proved to be. By 1939, the superior numbers and weapons of Franco and his allies prevailed. 

When Hemingway returned to the United States he tried to warn all who would listen that a far greater war was coming: World War II.

People see conflicts in the light of their own priorities. No two conflicts are the same—and will never be seen the same. What was true for the ones in Ethiopia and Spain remains true for the ones in Syria and Ukraine.

THE WORLD SEES HORROR IN UKRAINE; ISLAMICS SEE RACISM: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 7, 2022 at 12:10 am

On February 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a massive invasion of Ukraine. 

To Ukrainians, it’s a matter of life-or-death.

To Americans, Europeans and Westerners in general, it’s a horrific, unfolding tragedy.

But to nonwhites—and especially Islamics—throughout the world, the sympathies of these nations is a sign of racism and Islamophobia. 

The day after the invasion began, CBS News senior correspondent in Kyiv Charlie D’Agata said: “This isn’t a place, with all due respect, like Iraq or Afghanistan that has seen conflict raging for decades. This is a relatively civilised, relatively European – I have to choose those words carefully, too – city where you wouldn’t expect that, or hope that it’s going to happen.”

William Golden // CBS Logo

CBS

On social media, his comment was strongly criticized as dehumanizing non-white, non-European peoples. 

One Twitter user wrote: “Atrocities start with words and dehumanization. Atrocities unleashed upon millions in the ME, fueled by dictators labeled as reformists in the west. The racist subtext: Afghans, Iraqi & Syrian lives don’t matter, for they are deemed inferior—’uncivilized.'”

In fact, conditions in Ukraine have been relatively peaceful. Afghanistan has never actually been a nation, simply a patchwork of feuding warlords. This has been true from the time of Alexander the Great to the Taliban today. Dictators have always been the rulers of Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. 

On February 25, Sky News broadcast a video of people in the central Ukrainian city of Dnipro making Molotov cocktails, explaining how grating Styrofoam makes the incendiary device stick to vehicles better.

In the media - Positive Money

A Twitter user wrote: “If this was done by Palestinians, Afghanistan or other nations resisting occupation, it would be terrorism. And during Mandela’s anti-apartheid era, it was also dubbed terrorism. For Europeans facing similar situations, it is resistance! Western duplicity knows no bounds.”

“Terrorism” is defined as “The unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.”

Defending one’s country from attack by another country is not terrorism. In fact, from ancient times, it has been seen as the highest virtue, calling forth loyalty and courage.

Palestinians have repeatedly targeted civilians—not soldiers of the Israeli Defense Forces—for death. In Afghanistan, women and children have been routinely massacred by warring factions.

There are solid reasons for fears of Islamic terrorism.

In his 2011 book, The Secrets of the FBI, Ronald Kessler notes the refusal of the Islamic community to identify known or potential terrorists within its ranks. 

The Secrets of the FBI by Ronald Kessler

Said Arthur M. Cummings, then the Bureau’s executive assistant director for national security: “I had this discussion with the director of a very prominent Muslim organization here in [Washington] D.C. And he said, ‘Why are you guys always looking at the Muslim community?’”

“I can name the homegrown cells, all of whom are Muslim, all of whom were seeking to kill Americans,” replied Cummings. “It’s not the Irish, it’s not the French, it’s not the Catholics, it’s not the Protestants. It’s the Muslims.”

On BFM TV, France’s most-watched cable news channel, journalist Philippe Corbe said: “We’re not talking here about Syrians fleeing the bombing of the Syrian regime backed by Putin, we’re talking about Europeans leaving in cars that look like ours to save their lives.”

This was heavily criticized: “This war is just revealing the western hypocrisy and racism at its peak.”

There is a difference between a Syrian dictator waging war against his own citizens, and a nuclear-armed country waging all-out war on a smaller, democratic nation. The skin color of the peoples involved has nothing to do with either action. 

“These are not the refugees we are used to… these people are Europeans,” Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov told journalists of the Ukrainians. “These people are intelligent, they are educated people…. This is not the refugee wave we have been used to, people we were not sure about their identity, people with unclear pasts, who could have been even terrorists…

“In other words,” he added, “there is not a single European country now which is afraid of he current wave of refugees.”

Kiril Petkov 2021.jpg

Kiril Petkov 

President.bg, CC BY 2.5 BG <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/bg/deed.en&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

This was treated as racism by Islamics: “A refugee is a refugee, whether European, African or Asian,” Syrian journalist Okba Mohammad said.

In fact: By early 2021, 10 years after Syria’s civil war erupted, European Union states had taken in one million Syrian refugees and asylum seekers; Germany alone took more than half. In 2016, the European Union paid billions of euros for Turkey to continue hosting 3.7 million Syrians.

On February 6, 2016, The World Post carried this story: “Geneva III: The Stillborn Conference and the Endemic Failure of the International Community.”

The first paragraph read:

“While approaching the fifth anniversary of the Syrian civil war on March 15 — which claimed more than 300,000 lives, approximately 700,000 wounded, 4 million fled the country, and another 6 million displaced within Syria — the international community has failed to put an end to bloodshed in this war-torn country.” 

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights—which is safely located in Great Britain—the total number of dead [in 2016] was now more than 310,000.

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights - Wikiwand

And who did the Observatory—and The World Post-–blame for this Islamic self-slaughter? 

The West, of course.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: OUTFOXING BUSH AND TRUMP–PART TWO (END)

In History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 4, 2022 at 12:14 am

From June 15, 2015, when he launched his Presidential campaign, until October 24, 2016, Donald Trump fired almost 4,000 angry, insulting tweets at 281 people and institutions that had somehow offended him.

By the end of his Presidency, he had sent out thousands more, and his total of insulted people and institutions had risen to 850.

Yet there is one person Trump has never insulted: Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

And not only did Trump not insult him, he repeatedly praised and defended him.  

Perhaps his most notorious defense of Putin came on July 16, 2018, at a press conference in Helsinki, Finland, with the Russian president. 

There he rejected the findings of American Intelligence agencies—the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency—that Russia had interfered in the 2016 Presidential campaign to elect him: “You have groups that are wondering why the FBI never took the server, why haven’t they taken the server? Why was the FBI told to leave the office of the Democratic National Committee? 

“I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.” 

Related image

Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin in Helsinki

And, in an unprecedented break with every Cold War President, he even supplied Putin with highly classified CIA Intelligence. 

On May 10, 2017, Trump met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the Oval Office—and gave them highly classified Israeli Intelligence about an Islamic State plot to turn laptops into concealable bombs.

Kislyak is reportedly a top recruiter for Russia’s SVR foreign intelligence agency. 

He met with both dignitaries on May 10—the day after fired FBI Director James B. Comey for investigating Russia’s subversion—on Trump’s behalf—of the 2016 Presidential race. 

“I just fired the head of the FBI,” Trump told the two visitors. “He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”        

On June 9, 2018, Trump called for Russia to be readmitted to the G7.  

“I think it would be an asset to have Russia back in,” he said during an impromptu press conference at the summit.

“I think it would be good for the world. I think it would be good for Russia. I think it would be good for the United States. I think it would be good for all of the countries of the current G7. I think the G8 would be better.”  

Russia was ousted from the group in 2014 after Putin annexed Crimea—the first violation of a European country’s borders since World War II. 

“Today crystallizes precisely why Putin was so eager to see Trump elected,” said former Obama National Security Council spokesman Ned Price.

“For Putin, this is return on his investment, and it’s safe to say that his investment has paid off beyond even his wildest dreams,” he said in a statement to CNN. 

Appearing on the December 18, 2015 edition of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Trump had praised Putin as: “He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader. Unlike what we have in this country.”

When Trump praised Putin as a leader, he no doubt meant to insult then-President Barack Obama.

Ironically, it was not Obama but Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, to whom his insult applied.

In June 2001, Bush and Vladimir Putin met in Slovenia. During the meeting a truly startling exchange occurred.

Vladimir Putin and George W. Bush

Putin, a former KGB Intelligence officer, had clearly done his homework on Bush. When he mentioned that one of the sports Bush had played was rugby, Bush was highly impressed.

“I did play rugby,” said Bush. “Very good briefing.”

Bush knew that Putin had worked for Soviet Intelligence. So he should not have been surprised that the KGB had amassed a lengthy dossier on him. 

But more was to come. 

BUSH: Let me say something about what caught my attention, Mr. President, was that your mother gave you a cross which you had blessed in Israel, the Holy land.

PUTIN: It’s true. 

BUSH: That amazes me, that here you were a Communist, KGB operative, and yet you were willing to wear a cross. That speaks volumes to me, Mr. President. May I call you Vladimir? 

Putin instantly sensed that Bush judged others—even world leaders—through the lens of his own fundamentalist Christian ideology. Falling back on his KGB training, Putin seized on this apparent point of commonality to build a bond.

He told Bush that his dacha had once burned to the ground, and the only item that had been saved was that cross.

“Well, that’s the story of the cross as far as I’m concerned,” said Bush, clearly impressed. “Things are meant to be.”

Afterward, Bush and Putin gave an outdoor news conference.

“Is this a man that Americans can trust?” Associated Press Correspondent Ron Fourmier asked Bush.

“Yes,” said Bush. “I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. We had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul, a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country. I wouldn’t have invited him to my ranch if I didn’t trust him.” 

VLADIMIR PUTIN: OUTFOXING BUSH AND TRUMP–PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 3, 2022 at 12:12 am

On February 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an all-out assault on Ukraine. 

Two days later, former President Donald Trump appeared at the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC)—to praise Putin and attack “our leaders.”

Specifically: 

“The Ukrainian crisis is an outrage and it should never have been allowed to occur, we are praying for the proud people of Ukraine. God bless them all. The problem is not that Putin is smart, it’s that our leaders are dumb.

“They’re allowing Putin to get away with this assault on humanity. Putin is playing Biden like a drum. The real problem is that our leaders are dumb, dumb. So dumb. You could take the five worst presidents in history, and they wouldn’t have done the damage President Joe Biden has done in such a short time.”

Related image

 Donald Trump

Historians may well rate Trump among “the five worst presidents in history.” And the damage “he has done in such a short time” began with the love-fest between himself and Putin even before he entered the White House.

The starting date for this: December 17, 2015.

Putin made the first move: “He is a bright and talented person without any doubt. He is the absolute leader of the presidential race.

“He says he will want to reach another, deeper, level of relations (with Russia). What else can we do but to welcome it? Certainly, we welcome it.

“That is none of our business to evaluate his accomplishments, but he remains the absolute front-runner in the presidential race. He is an outstanding and talented personality without any doubts.”

Appearing on the December 18, 2015 edition of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Trump responded in kind: “Sure, when people call you ‘brilliant,’ it’s always good. Especially when the person heads up Russia.

“It is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond.”

The host, Joe Scarborough, was taken aback: “Well, I mean, [Putin’s] also a person who kills journalists, political opponents, and invades countries. Obviously that would be a concern, would it not?”

Joe Scarborough (NBC News).jpg

Joe Scarborough

NBC News, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0&gt;, via Wikipedia Commons

TRUMP: He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader. Unlike what we have in this country.

SCARBOROUGH: But again: He kills journalists that don’t agree with him.

TRUMP: I think our country does plenty of killing, also, Joe, so, you know. There’s a lot of stupidity going on in the world right now, Joe. A lot of killing going on. A lot of stupidity. And that’s the way it is.

SCARBOROUGH: I’m confused. So I mean, you obviously condemn Vladimir Putin killing journalists and political opponents, right?

TRUMP:  Oh sure, absolutely. 

Despite his expressed sympathy for the Ukrainian people, Trump tried to extort a “favor” from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in the face of Russian aggression.

In July, 2019, Trump told his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, to withhold almost $400 million in Congressionally promised military aid for Ukraine.

Then, on July 25, Trump telephoned Zelensky to demand: Investigate presumed 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, who had had business dealings in Ukraine.

Clearly implied in the call: Produce “dirt” on Biden—or you won’t get the military aid. 

Unfortunately for Trump, his call was overheard by Army Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, who served as the Director for European Affairs for the United States National Security Council.

Alexander Vindman on May 20, 2019.jpg

Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman

“I was concerned by the call,” Vindman testified before the House Intelligence Committee. “I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen, and I was worried about the implications for the U.S. Government’s support of Ukraine.

“I realized that if Ukraine pursued an investigation into the Bidens and Burisma, it would likely be interpreted as a partisan play which would undoubtedly result in Ukraine losing the bipartisan support it has thus far maintained. This would all undermine U.S. national security.”

Trump denounced Vindman as a “Never Trumper”—as if opposing his extortion attempt constituted a blasphemy. Republicans and their shills on the Fox News Network attacked Vindman as well. As a result, he sought physical protection by the Army for himself and his family. 

On February 7, 2020,  he was reassigned from the National Security Council at Trump’s order.

When the story broke, Ukraine got the promised military aid—and Trump found himself impeached for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

But Senate Republicans, ignoring the overwhelming evidence against him, easily acquitted Trump on February 5, 2020. 

Two years after Trump’s acquittal, Vladimir Putin massively attacked Ukraine. For which, says Vindman, the Republican Party has “blood on its hands” for emboldening Russia.

And so, says Vindman, does Trump. His refusal to criticize Putin was a factor that led Putin to attack. So did Trump’s weakening the United States internally with his divisive politics:

“The Tucker Carlsons, the Donald Trumps, the Mike Pompeos, they and other Republicans are going to have to own this issue because they are the reason that Russia launched this operation.

“Putin, like Trump, smells vulnerability and exploits it. Vladimir Putin perceived that the United States was distracted and vulnerable. He’s been testing our resolve. He’s been getting positive signals in that regard.” 

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