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Posts Tagged ‘FEDERAL GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN’

AMERICAN COWARDICE IN TIMES OF PERIL

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 3, 2019 at 12:24 am

“One man with courage,” said frontier general Andrew Jackson, “makes a majority.”

Yet many “heroes” come out of the woodwork only after the danger is safely past.

On September 25, 2019, GOP consultant Mike Murphy said that a Republican senator had told him the majority of Republican senators “would vote to impeach” President Donald Trump if they could do so anonymously.

“One Republican senator told me if it was a secret vote, 30 Republican senators would vote to impeach Trump,” he claimed during an interview on MSNBC.

Murphy—who has advised Republican politicians such as Mitt Romney, John McCain and Jeb Bush—implied that the GOP lawmakers fear that voting against Trump could harm them politically. 

Yes, a shining example of true moral courage at its finest—and just when it’s most needed: “If we just didn’t have to risk our skins, we’d be glad to do the right thing.” 

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Donald Trump

Throughout Trump’s nearly three years in office, Republicans have remained silent or vigorously supported him as he:

  • Repeatedly and viciously attacked the nation’s free press for daring to report his growing list of crimes and disasters, calling it “the enemy of the American people.”
  • Publicly siding with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin against American Intelligence agencies (FBI, CIA, National Security Agency) which unanimously agreed that Russia had subverted  the 2016 Presidential election,
  • Firing FBI Director James Comey for investigating that subversion.  
  • Allowing predatory corporations to subvert Federal regulatory protections for consumers and the environment.
  • Shutting down the Federal Government for more than a month on December 22, 2018, because Democrats refused to fund his “border wall” between the United States and Mexico.  
  • Attempting to extort a “favor” from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky: Threatening to withhold military aid unless Zelensky agreed to slander Hunter Biden, the son of Democratic Presidential candidate Joseph Biden.

“I was never courageous,” the Russian poet, Yevgeney Yevtushenko, wrote in his famous poem, “Conversation With an American Writer.” “I simply felt it unbecoming to stoop to the cowardice of my colleagues.”

For Republicans “stooping to the cowardice” of their colleagues has long been a recipe for political survival.

Yet another Republican—Wisconsin Senator Joseph R. McCarthy—terrorized the nation from 1950 to 1954, accusing anyone who disagreed with him of being a Communist, and leaving only ruined lives in his wake.

Joseph R. McCarthy

Among those civilians and government officials he slandered as Communists were:

  • President Harry S. Truman
  • President Dwight D. Eisenhower
  • Broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow
  • Secretary of State George C. Marshall
  • Columnist Drew Pearson

Finally, in 1954, McCarthy overreached himself and accused the U.S. Army of being a hotbed of Communist traitors. Joseph Welch, counsel for the Army, destroyed McCarthy’s credibility in a now-famous retort:

“Senator, may we not drop this?….You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

Later that year, the Senate censured McCarthy, and he rapidly declined in power and health.

Senatorial colleagues who had courted his support now left the Senate when he rose to speak. Reporters who had once fawned on him for his latest sensational slander now ignored him.

But cowardice isn’t confined to politicians.

Fast-forward to July 12, 2012—and the release of former FBI Director Louie Freeh’s report on serial pedophile Jerry Sandusky. As the assistant football coach at Penn State University (PSU), he had used the football facilities to sexually attack numerous young boys.

Jerry Sandusky

But Sandusky was regarded as more than a second-banana. He received Assistant Coach of the Year awards in 1986 and 1999, and authored several books about his coaching experiences.

In 1977, Sandusky founded The Second Mile, a non-profit charity serving underprivileged, at-risk youth.

“Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State,” Freeh stated.

College football is a $2.6 billion-a-year business. And Penn State is one of its premiere brands, with revenue of $70 million in 2010.

PSU’s seven-month internal investigation, headed by Freeh, revealed:

  • Joe Paterno, head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions, was aware of a 1998 criminal investigation of Sandusky.
  • So were president Graham Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz.
  • In 2001, then-graduate assistant Mike McQueary reported to Paterno that he’d seen Sandusky attacking a boy in the shower.
  • Paterno, Spanier, Curley and Schultz then conspired to cover up for Sandusky.
  • The rapes of these boys occurred in the Lasch Building—where Paterno had his office.
  • A janitor who had witnessed a rape in 2000 said he had feared losing his job if he told anyone about it. “It would be like going against the President of the United States,” Freeh said at a press conference.

In 2011, Sandusky was arrested and charged with sexually abusing young boys over a 15-year period.  On June 22, 2012, he was convicted on 45 of the 48 charges. He will likely spend the rest of his life in prison.

On the day the Freeh report was released, Nike—a longtime sponsor for Penn State—announced that it would remove Paterno’s name from the child care center at its world headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon.

DONALD TRUMP AS HOWARD BEALE

In Bureaucracy, Entertainment, History, Politics, Social commentary on September 23, 2019 at 12:04 am

Donald Trump has been compared to Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Gaius Caligula. But perhaps his counterpart lies not in history but in fiction. 

Specifically, the fictional news anchor Howard Beale in Network, the 1976 satire written by Paddy Chayefsky and directed by Sidney Lumet. It starred Faye Dunaway, William Holden, Robert Duvall Peter Finch and Beatrice Straight.

Network (1976 poster).png

Howard Beale (Finch) the longtime anchor of the UBS Evening News, is about to be fired because of declining ratings. 

So he announces on live television that he will commit suicide on next Tuesday’s broadcast.

UBS fires him, but then agrees to let Beale appear one more time to leave with dignity.

But once Beale is back on the air, he launches into a rant that contains the most famous—and most often-quoted—line in the film:

“I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It’s a depression. Everybody’s out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel’s worth, banks are going bust, shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter….

“We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat….

“So I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell, ‘I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!'”

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Peter Finch as Howard Beale in Network

Beale is clearly losing it. But his outburst causes the newscast’s ratings to spike. Instead of pulling him off the air, the top brass of UBS decide to exploit Beale’s antics.

Soon he’s hosting a new program called The Howard Beale Show, where he’s billed as “the mad prophet of the airwaves.” Ultimately, the show becomes the most highly rated program on television.

But then Beale’s ratings slide as audiences find his sermons on the dehumanization of society depressing.

To rid themselves of Beale and boost their season-opener ratings, the network’s top executives hire a band of terrorists called the Ecumenical Liberation Army to assassinate Beale—on the air!

Forty years after Network, Right-wing voters sent “reality show” host and real estate mogul Donald Trump to the White House. 

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Donald Trump

Republicans have reveled in his antics and enthusiastically supported his most heinous acts, which have included:

  • Repeatedly and viciously 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.”
  • Repeatedly “hinting” that he wants to be “President-for-Life.”  
  • Allowing predatory corporations to subvert Federal regulatory protections for consumers and the environment. 
  • Repeatedly and viciously attacking American Intelligence agencies—such as the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency—for unanimously agreeing that Russia interfered with the 2016 Presidential election.
  • Shutting down the Federal Government for more than a month on December 22, 2018, because Democrats refused to fund his “border wall” between the United States and Mexico.
  • Pressuring  Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to provide “dirt” on Hunter Biden, the son of Democratic Presidential candidate Joseph Biden—and threatening to withhold military aid if Zelensky refused.

The greed-obsessed honchos of the fictional UBS Network believed they could parley Howard Beale’s madness into greater profits.

Similarly, power-obsessed Republicans in the House and Senate believe they can parley Donald Trump’s tyrannical and unstable nature into lifetime tenure for themselves.

They have silently watched—or given their enthusiastic support—as he has attacked one cherished American institution after another:

  • A free press
  • An incorruptible Justice Department
  • An independent judiciary.

Yet, like the executives at UBS, Congressional Republicans may soon be forced to turn on their most poisonous creation.

Right-wing Fox News Network gave its enthusiastic support to Trump during the 2016 Presidential race. And it has continued to do so throughout his almost three-year Presidency.

But on September 21, its website reported the following:

“Fifty-nine percent of voters are extremely interested in the 2020 presidential election. That’s a number typically only seen right before an election.

“In addition, more Democrats (65 percent) than Republicans (60 percent) are extremely interested in the election and more Democrats (69 percent) than Republicans (63 percent) are extremely motivated about voting in 2020.  That helps Democratic candidates top President Donald Trump in potential head-to-head matchups.”

And in a September 22 story, Fox News declared: “Many voters are frustrated with how the federal government is working and a growing number are nervous about the economy….

“Fifty-one percent say the economy is in only fair or poor shape.

“His job ratings on every other issue tested are underwater: national security (45 approve-48 disapprove), immigration (42-54), international trade (38-53), foreign policy (36-54), guns (35-56), health care (34-56), and Afghanistan (31-49).

“Currently, 45 percent approve of the overall job the president’s doing, while 54 percent disapprove.

“About two-thirds (64 percent) think many people — if not nearly all people — in government are corrupt, and almost half (46 percent) say the Trump administration is more corrupt than previous ones.”

Republicans may soon be forced to face the following dilemma:

  1. Can I hold onto my power—and privileges—by supporting Trump?  Or: 
  2. Can I hold onto my power—and privileges—by deserting him?

This is how Republicans define morality today.

GERMANY’S INFAMOUS PAST IS AMERICA’S FUTURE LEGACY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Donald Trump

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This could happen by:

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

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

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

NANCY PELOSI: THE LION AND THE FOX: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on February 7, 2019 at 12:07 am

Donald Trump couldn’t believe that Nancy Pelosi meant it when she politely refused to let him give his State of the Union address in the House of Representatives until he reopened the Federal Government.

He dared her to say plainly that she would deny him access. 

THE LION

So she did—issuing a statement saying that the speech was off—until the government reopened. 

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

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Donald Trump

THE FOX:

Pelosi didn’t let herself be drawn into any Twitter slugfests with a semi-literate dictator. She could well afford to sit out the shutdown, since only the Fascistic Right truly believed she was responsible for it. 

And she capitalized on the unexpected help she received from one of Trump’s highest-ranking officials: Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

Asked on CNBC if he knew that many Federal employees had been reduced to going to food banks, Ross—a billionaire—said yes, but he didn’t understand why.

His suggestion: They could just take out a loan.   

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

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

Wilbur Ross Official Portrait.jpg

Wilbur Ross

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

And Pelosi didn’t hesitate to point it out:

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

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

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

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

When Republicans claim that Democrats aren’t being “civil,” they mean: “They’re not doing exactly as we tell them to do.”

And of course Republicans tried to convince voters that Trump had not threatened to shut down the government—and then had done so. Republicans like Texas United States Senator Rafael “Ted” Cruz repeatedly railed against the “Pelosi-Schumer shutdown.”

But the vast majority of voters weren’t having it. They had seen the original broadcast where Trump made his threat. And if they had missed the original, there were plenty of re-broadcasts of that moment on news networks to alert them.

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

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

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

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

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

And, for Pelosi, the sweetest moment was yet to come. 

Nancy Pelosi

True, Trump had said he would not give the State of the Union address on his originally scheduled date of January 29th. But eventually he would.

And when this happened, Pelosi would be sitting directly behind him—along with Vice President Mike Pence—the whole time!

Unlike Trump, who revels in bragging about how powerful and brilliant he is, she wouldn’t have to.

Simply sitting behind him, no doubt trying hard to suppress a smile of glee, she would nevertheless remind the audience that she was the one who taught this failed businessman “the art of the deal.”

NANCY PELOSI: THE LION AND THE FOX: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on February 6, 2019 at 12:12 am

It’s one of the most famous passages in The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli’s classic work on Realpolitik.

A prince…must imitate the fox and the lion, for the lion cannot protect himself from traps, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves. One must therefore be a fox to avoid traps, and a lion to frighten wolves. Those who wish to be only lions do not realize this.”

Portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli by Santi di Tito.jpg

Niccolo Machiavelli

As House Minority Leader and then Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi proved she was both.

THE FOX: 

On December 11, 2018, Pelosi—then House Minority Leader—and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, met with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office.

And, true to his love of publicity, Trump made sure the meeting was televised live on TV.

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Nancy Pelosi

Trump soon moved to the matter he truly cared about: Demanding $5.6 billion to create a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border: “And one way or the other, it’s going to get built. I’d like not to see a government closing, a shutdown. We will see what happens over the next short period of time.”

“One way or the other”—“so doer so”—was a favorite phrase of Adolf Hitler’s, meaning: If he couldn’t bully his opponents into surrendering, he would use violence.

PELOSI: I think the American people recognize that we must keep government open, that a shutdown is not worth anything, and that you should not have a Trump shutdown. You have the White House—

TRUMP: Did you say Trump—

PELOSI: A Trump shutdown. You have the White House— 

TRUMP: I was going to call it a Pelosi shutdown. 

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Charles Schumer

TRUMP: The wall is a part of border security. You can’t have very good border security without the wall.

PELOSI: That’s simply not true. That is a political promise. 

[By “political promise,” Pelosi meant this was an appeal Trump made to his hardcore base. which he expected to re-elect him.]   

SCHUMER: Twenty times you have called for, “I will shut down the government if I don’t get my wall.” None of us have said—you’ve said it. 

TRUMP: Okay, you want to put that on my—I’ll take it.  You know what I’ll say: “Yes, if we don’t get what we want, one way or the other…I will shut down the government. Absolutely.”

Trump, determined to bully Pelosi and Schumer into bending to his will, didn’t realize he had just set himself up for disaster.

Trump shut down the government on December 22. About 380,000 government employees were furloughed and another 420,000 were ordered to work without pay.

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

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

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

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

The effects of the shutdown quickly became evident:  

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

THE LION:

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

From the start, Pelosi insisted that Democrats would not surrender to threats of a government shutdown. And Democrats held firm, refusing to make concessions on the wall.

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

She politely cited as her reason that the building would not be “secure” owing to the shutdown and the nonpayment of the men and women who would be charged with its protection.

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

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

THE “NEW NORMAL” AND “THE HAPPY TIME”

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 24, 2019 at 12:17 am

On January 16, newly-elected Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) gave her maiden speech on the floor of the House of Representatives. 

“It is not normal to hold 800,000 workers’ paychecks hostage. It is not normal to shut down the government when we don’t get what we want,” said Ocasio-Cortez. “And it is certainly not normal to starve the people we serve for a proposal that is wildly unpopular among the American people.”

She was referring to the partial shutdown of the Federal Government ordered by President Donald Trump. Since December 22, an estimated 380,000 government employees have been furloughed and another 420,000 ordered to work without pay.  

The reason: Trump is demanding $5.6 billion to erect a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. And the newly-elected Democratic House of Representatives is refusing to provide it.

And Ocasio-Cortez is right: It isn’t normal behavior for a President to behave like a Mafia extortionist. 

Until, that is, Donald Trump assumed the office.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez standing

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

But, then, Donald Trump warned, during the 2016 Presidential campaign, that “I’m not like other people.”

Once again attacking the nation’s free press, he vowed that, as President, he would “open up those libel laws” so that when the New York Times or the Washington Post “write a hit piece, we can sue them and win money instead of having no chance of winning because they’re totally protected. 

“With me, they’re not protected, because I’m not like other people, but I’m not taking money, I’m not taking their money.” 

On August 23, 2018, Trump, as President, offered additional evidence that he’s “not like other people.” He did so by giving an unprecedented reason why he shouldn’t be impeached. 

Appearing on “Fox and Friends,” he said: “I tell you what, if I ever got impeached, I think the market would crash, I think everybody would be very poor.”

He didn’t say: “I shouldn’t be impeached because I’m innocent. I didn’t collude with Russian Intelligence to subvert the 2016 Presidential election.” 

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Donald Trump

Instead, he appealed to the greed and fear of his voting base—and no doubt hoped to reach beyond it: “Keep me in power or you’ll all suffer for it.” 

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders doubtless spoke for millions of Trump supporters when she said, on June 4, 2018:

“Since taking office, the President has strengthened American leadership, security, prosperity, and accountability. And as we saw from Friday’s jobs report, our economy is stronger, Americans are optimistic, and business is booming.”

Many Congressional Republicans have echoed this: The American people care only about the economy—and how well-off they are

For eight years, Nazi Germany underwent such an epoch. Germans called it “The Happy Time.”

It began on January 30, 1933, when Adolf Hitler became Chancellor—and lasted until June 22, 1941. Germans knew about the Nazis’ cruelty to the Jews, the mass arrests and concentration camps. They didn’t care.

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 Frenzied Germans greet Adolf Hitler

The Gestapo didn’t have to watch everyone: German “patriots” gladly reported their fellow citizens—especially Jews—to the secret police.

As far as everyday Germans were concerned:

  • The streets were clean and peaceful.
  • Employment was high.
  • The trouble-making unions were gone.
  • Germany was once again “taking its rightful place” among ruling nations, after its catastrophic defeat in World War 1.

The height of “The Happy Time” came in June, 1940. In just six weeks, the Wehrmacht  accomplished what the German army hadn’t in four years during World War 1: The total defeat of its longtime enemy, France.

Suddenly, French clothes, perfumes, delicacies, paintings and other “fortunes of war” came pouring into the Fatherland.  

Most Germans believed der Krieg—“the war”—was over, and only good times lay ahead.

Then, on June 22, 1941, three million Wehrmacht soldiers slashed their way into the Soviet Union. The Third Reich was now locked in a death-struggle with a nation even more powerful than itself. 

German soldiers in the Soviet Union

And then, on December 11, 1941—four days after Germany’s ally, Japan, attacked Pearl Harbor—Hitler declared war on the United States. 

“The Happy Time” for Germans was over. Only prolonged disaster lay ahead. 

Donald Trump has spent his life appealing to the greed or fear of those around him. For example: 

  • Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi personally solicited a political contribution from Donald Trump around the same time her office deliberated joining an investigation of alleged fraud at Trump University and its affiliates.
  • After Bondi dropped the Trump University case against Trump, he wrote her a $25,000 check for her re-election campaign. 
  • In 1999, Fred Trump, Donald’s father died. His deceased brother’s family sued Donald, arguing they were originally in the will, but Donald took advantage of his father’s dementia to cut them out of it. He withdrew medical benefits critical to his nephew’s infant son: “I was angry because they sued,” Trump later said in an interview.

The Germans made a devil’s-bargain with Adolf Hitler—and paid dearly for it. 

Millions of greedy Americans have embraced Donald Trump, another would-be tyrant, as America’s economic savior.

By supporting Trump—or at least not opposing him—they have also made a devil’s-bargain. 

And such bargains always end with the devil winning. 

DAMNING WASHINGTON–WHILE LUSTING TO RULE IT: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics on October 4, 2013 at 12:01 am

For a half-century, Republicans have been damning the very government they lust to control.

Consider this choice comment from Mitt Romney supporter Ted Nugent:

“I spoke at the NRA and will stand by my speech. It’s 100 percent positive. It’s about we the people taking back our American dream from the corrupt monsters in the federal government under this administration, the communist czars he [President Barack Obama] has appointed.”

Romney, of course, refused to disavow the slander Nugent cast over every man and woman working on behalf of the American people.

Romney and his fellow Republicans salivate at every vile charge they can hurl at the very government they lust to control.

As in the case of Senator Joseph McCarthy, no slander is too great if it advances their path to power.

But there are others–living or at least working in Washington, D.C.–who simply go about their jobs with quiet dedication.  And they leave slanderous, self-glorifying rhetoric to Right-wing politicians.

One of these unsung heroes was Stephen Tyrone Johns, a security guard at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

14th Street Entrance of USHMM. Large, rectangular façade with rounded opening.

On June 10, 2009, Johns, 39, was shot and killed by James Wenneker von Brunn, a white supremist and Holocaust denier.  Brunn was himself shot and wounded by two other security guards who returned fire.

While in jail awaiting his trial, von Brunn–who was 88–died on January 6, 2010.

To work in Washington, D.C., is to realize that this city ranks–with New York City–at the top of Al Qaeda’s list of targets.

No one knows this better than the agents of the United States Secret Service, who protect the President, Vice President, their families and the White House itself 24 hours a day.

Prior to 9/11, visiting the White House was assumed to be an American right.  No longer.

Today, if you want to tour the Executive Mansion, you quickly learn there are only two ways to get in:

  1. Through a special pass provided by your Congressman; or
  2. By someone connected with the incumbent administration.

Congressmen, however, have a limited number of passes to give out.  And most of these go to people who have put serious money into the Congressman’s re-election campaigns.

And the odds that you’ll know someone who works in the White House–and who’s willing to offer you an invitation–are even smaller than those of knowing a Congressman.

But even that isn’t enough to get you through the White House door.

You’ll have to undergo a Secret Service background check.  And that requires you to submit the following information in advance of your visit:

  1. Name
  2. Date of birth
  3. Birthplace
  4. Social Security Number

And be prepared to leave a great many items at your hotel room.  Among these:

  • Cameras or video recorders
  • Handbags, book bags, backpacks or purses
  • Food or beverages, tobacco products, personal grooming items (i.e. makeup, lotion, etc.)
  • Strollers
  • Cell phones
  • Any pointed objects
  • Aerosol containers
  • Guns, ammunition, fireworks, electric stun guns, mace, martial arts weapons/devices, or knives of any size

Visitors enter the White House–after showing a government-issued ID card such as a driver’s license–from the south side of East Executive Avenue.

After passing through the security screening room, they walk upstairs to the first door and through the East, Green, Blue, Red and State Dining rooms.

Secret Service agents quietly stand post in every room–unless they’re tasked with explaining the illustrious history of each section of the White House.

Like everyone else who lives/works there, the Secret Service fully appreciates the incredible sense of history that radiates throughout the building.

This is where

  • Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclomation;
  • Franklin Roosevelt directed the United States to victory in World War II;
  • John F. Kennedy stared down the Soviets during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

But even the generally unsmiling Secret Service agents have their human side.

While touring the East Wing of the White House, I asked an agent: “Is the East Room where President Nixon gave his farewell speech?” on August 9, 1974.

“I haven’t been programmed for that information,” the agent joked, inviting me to ask a question he could answer.

Another guest asked the same agent if he enjoyed being a Secret Serviceman.

To my surprise, he said that this was simply what he did for a living.  His real passion, he said, was counseling youths.

“If you love something,” he advised, “get a job where you can do it.  And if you can’t get a job you’re passionate about, get a job so you can pursue your passion.”

Of the more than 2.65 million civilian employees of the executive branch, more than 800,000 have been sent home without pay.

These men and women aren’t faceless “bureaucrats,” as Right-wingers would have people believe.  They  are hustands and wives, fathers and mothers.  They have bills to pay, just like everyone else.

Many of them, such as agents of the FBI and Secret Service, have taken an oath to defend the United States Constitution–with their lives if necessary.

And they now face the dread of going for weeks or even months without a paycheck–as pawns in another Right-wing case of: “My way or no way.”

They deserve a better break–and so do all those who cherish liberty.

DAMNING WASHINGTON–WHILE LUSTING TO RULE IT: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics on October 3, 2013 at 12:06 am

Listen to almost any Republican and you’re almost certain to hear how much he hates and despises “Washington.”

To hear Right-wingers tell it, you might believe that “Washington” is:

  • The capitol of an enemy nation;
  • A cesspool of corrupt, power-hungry men and women slavering to gain dictatorial control over the life of every American;
  • A center of lethal contagion which, like ancient Carthage, should be burned to the ground and its inhabitants destroyed or scattered.

All that prevents “Washington” from gaining absolute power–so claim Republicans–is the Republican Party.

But others who live or work in Washington, D.C. take a far different view of their city and the duties they perform.

These men and women will never call a press conference or rake in millions in “political contributions” (i.e., legalized bribes) for promising special privileges to special interests.

Many of them work for the National Park Service.  Every national monument–and Washington is speckled with monuments–has several of these employees assigned to it.

Their duties are to protect the monuments and offer historical commentary to the public.

One such employee regularly addresses visitors to Ford’s Theater–known worldwide as the scene of President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination.

George (a pseudonym) opens his lecture by raising the question every member of the audience wants answered: How much of Ford’s Theater remains intact from the night of Lincoln’s murder–April 14, 1865?

And the answer is: Only the exterior of the building.

After Lincoln’s assassination, enraged Union soldiers converted the interior of the building into a military command center.  That meant ripping out all the seats for spectators and the stage for actors.

The stage and seats–even the “Presidential Box” where Lincoln sat–have all been reproduced for a modern audience.

As George talks, you can tell that, for him, this is no typical day job.  He realizes that, renovated or not, Ford’s Theater remains saturated with history.  And he clearly feels privileged to share that history with others.

George explains that Presidential assassin John Wilkes Booth did not sneak into the theater.  He didn’t have to–as a celebrity actor, he received the sort of favored treatment now accorded Lindsay Lohan.

Another monument where you will find Park Ranger guides is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Completed in 1982, it receives about 3 million visitors a year.  Adorning the Wall, in columns that seem to reach endlessly to the sky, are the names of the 58,195 soldiers who gave their lives during the Vietnam War.

That struggle–from 1961 to 1975–proved the most divisive American conflict since the Civil War.

On the day I visited the memorial, groups of elementary schoolchildren passed by.  They were jabbering loudly, seemingly oblivious to the terrible sacrifice the Wall was meant to commemorate.

But their adult chaperones realized its significance, and ordered the children to quiet down.

I asked a nearby Park Ranger: “Do you feel people now respond differently to the Wall, as we get further away from the Vietnam war?”

“No,” he answered.  He felt that today’s visitors showed the same reverence for the monument and for the losses it had been created to honor as those who had first come in the early 1980s.

And it may well be true: I saw many tiny American flags and wreaths of flowers left at various points along the Wall, which stretches  across 250 feet of land on the Mall.

When thinking about “Washington,” it’s essential to remember that this city–along with New York City–remains at the top of Al Qaeda’s target list.

Those who choose to live and/or work here do so in the potential shadow of violent death.

Anytime you enter a Federal building, be prepared to undergo a security check.

In most agencies–such as the Department of Agriculture–you simply place your bags or purses into an X-ray machine similar to those found at airports, and walk through a magnetometer.  If no alarms sound, you collect your valuables and pass on through.

Such machines are, of course, nammed by armed security guards.  And they stand sentinel at every conceivable Federal building–such as the Supreme Court, the Department of Justice, the Smithsonian Museum, the Pentagon and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

These men and women must daily inspect the bodies and handbags of the 15 million people who visit Washington, D.C. annually, generating $5.24 billion dollar in revenues.

This means repeating the same screening gestures countless times–looking through X-ray machines at bags or coats, and running an electronic “wand” up and down those people whose clothing gives off signs of metallic objects.

It also means projecting a smiling, friendly demeanor towards those same people–many of whom are in a rush and/or resent being electronically sniffed over.

And every security guard knows this: It’s only a matter of time before the next terrorist shows up.

On June 10, 2009, just that happened at the United States Holocaust Memorial.

DAMING WASHINGTON–WHILE LUSTING TO RULE IT: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics on October 2, 2013 at 2:45 am

To hear many political pundits tell it,  the shutdown of the Federal Government is the result of “political dysfunction,” as if everybody in Congress were tripping on LSD.

This is not only untrue but misleading.

The truth is that the shutdown is the result of yet another ruthless attempt by Right-wing Republicans to obtain absolute power.

When they can obtain it at the ballot box, they rule as though by divine right.  When they can’t obtain it at election time, they try to obtain it through intimidation.

Thus, in 1992 and 1996, their Presidential candidates–President George H.W. Bush and Senator Bob Dole, respectively–couldn’t defeat Bill Clinton.

So Republicans mounted an inquisition into a failed land deal that occurred before Clinton was first elected President.  This investigation spanned the length of the Clinton Presidency and produced no evidence or indictments of criminal activity.

It did, however, turn up the salacious news that Clinton had actually enjoyed several instances of oral sex courtesy of a libidinous White House intern named Monica Lewinsky.

Unable to defeat Clinton at election time, and unable to find any actual criminal wrongdoing on his part, Right-wing Republicans tried to drive him out of office by impeachment.

The effort failed, and Clinton stayed in the White House until his term expired in 2001.

Then, as now, it was members of the House of Representatives who were the driving force.

Now, fast forward to the present: Republicans have made it their mission to deprive millions of Americans of health care.  They have voted 42 times to repeal or undermine the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.

And they have made its elimination the focus of their threats to shut down the government unless they get their way.

Yet, consider this: Whether they like it or not, the Affordable Care Act is now a law that was legally passed by both houses of Congress.  It has been certified as Constitutional by no less than a Republican Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court.

Under our system of government, that’s as legal as it gets.

But Republicans don’t care about legality when they’re pursuing absolute power over the lives of their fellow Americans.

Thus, they have carried out their threat to shut down the Federal Government since they couldn’t coerce Senate Democrats into de-funding “Obamacare.”

As a result:

  • More than 800,000 federal workers have been sent home without pay;
  • National parks and monuments have been closed;
  • Some programs have been temporarily crippled–such as WIC, which provides nutritional food to poor mothers with infants; and
  • Some members of “essential services” are still required to be on duty–such as the military and Federal law enforcement agencies–but without receiving paychecks.

Of course, this disgrace didn’t have to happen.

President Obama didn’t have to cave in to the latest Republican extortion demands to prevent such a shutdown.

He could have ordered his Attorney General, Eric Holder, to launch an FBI invesdtigation into terroristic threats made by Right-wingers to shut down the government.

Both the 1970 Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act and the USA Patriot Act provide remedies for punishing the sort of behavior engaged in by House Republicans.

RICO opens with a series of definitions of “racketeering activity” which can be prosecuted by Justice Department attorneys.  Among those crimes: Extortion.

Extortion is defined as “a criminal offense which occurs when a person unlawfully obtains either money, property or services from a person(s), entity, or institution, through coercion.”

And if President Obama believed that RICO was not sufficient to deal with extortionate behavior, he could have relied on the Patriot Act of 2001, passed in the wake of 9/11.

In Section 802, the Act defines domestic terrorism.  Among the behavior that is defined as criminal:

“Activities that…appear to be intended…to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion [and]…occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.”

Demanding that the President de-fund Obamacare or face a potentially disastrous government shutdown clearly falls within the legal definition of “activities…intended…to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion.”

If the FBI had determined that Federal laws against extortion and terrorism had been broken, the Justice Department could have convened criminal grand juries to indict those Republicans found as violators.

President Obama should have authorized this investigation as soon as Republicans started making terroristic threats.  Thus, he would have served notice on his sworn enemies that he was no one to take lightly.

Knowing that they might well face indictment and prosecution for engaging in domestic terrorism would have frightened many Republicans into backing away from such behavior.

Those who persisted would have found themselves fighting desperately to stay out of prison.  They would have had to pay huge fees to top-flight criminal attorneys.

They would have lived with, first, the threat of indictments hanging over their heads, and, once those indictments were returned, with the threat of conviction and imprisonment.

As a result, they would not have had time to make destroying the Presidency of Barack Obama their Number One priority.

But Obama forfeited all those advantages when he accused Republicans of “blackmail” and then refused to legally punish them for it.

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