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THE PORNOGRAPNY OF PRESIDENTIAL PERKS: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on April 29, 2021 at 12:14 am

Once Presidents leave office, they usually lead quiet—and highly prosperous–lives.

It’s become commonplace for Presidents to write—or ghostwrite—their memoirs. These usually fetch them a hefty advance, even if sales prove disappointing.

Then there’s the speaker’s circuit, where fees per speech usually run into tens of thousands of dollars.

These are activities that leave the average ex-President an extremely wealthy man—but don’t impact the public purse. 

But there are other perks—such as lifetime Secret Service protection for themselves and their spouses, as well as taxpayer-funded office expenses—that put a serious strain on the national budget.

us-presidential-seal - Nuclear Age Peace Foundation

George W. Bush, unlike his father, got two full terms (2001 – 2009).

Bush made money in the oil industry and owned the Texas Rangers professional baseball team  before he became Governor of Texas and then President. He’s made tens of millions through a book deal and speaking fees.

His net worth has been estimated at $40 million. 

Barack Hussein Obama served two terms (2009 – 2017). 

Obama has greatly profited from paid speeches and production deal with Netflix worth an estimated $50 million. He also gets a government pension of $161,000 a year. Michelle Obama got a reported $65 million advance for her memoir “Becoming.”

Obama’s net worth has been estimated from $40 to $135 million. 

Donald Trump served one term (2017 – 2021). 

Before he entered politics, Trump reportedly got $200 million from his father to enter the real estate business. He made millions as a New York City real estate mogul. Many of his other businesses have failed, but Trump’s vast property holdings make him by far the wealthiest president of all time. He has also profited from his show “The Apprentice,” which ran from 2004 to 2017.

His net worth is estimated at $3.2 billion.

 * * * * * * * * * *

It’s long past time for the re-evaluation of Presidential welfare.

By all means, Presidents deserve a pension, but it should be on a par with the time they served in office. This currently amounts to $219,200 per year for life.

Most police officers must serve 20 years before they can collect their full pension. And they are required to put their lives on the line almost every day. No police officer is allowed to retire on a fulltime pension after serving eight—or even just four—years.

Then there’s the matter of funding by the General Service Administration (GSA) to staff, set up and furnish an official office anywhere in the country. Ex-Presidents and their staffers can receive up to $1 million annually in reimbursements for costs.

Seal of the General Services Administration.svg

Ex-Presidents use these monies to propagandize their accomplishments—or what they claim were their accomplishments—while in office. This usually takes the form of self-serving autobiographies—which, in many cases, are ghostwritten efforts.

Former Presidents certainly have the right to publish their memoirs. But they should not receive public monies for doing so.

Moreover: Presidents aren’t required to submit their manuscripts to what amounts to a censorship committee to guarantee they don’t spill national security secrets.

Agents of the CIA are—and can have royalties from their books seized if they don’t allow their manuscripts to be so screened.

As for lifetime Secret Service protection: In 1965, Congress authorized the Secret Service (Public Law 89-186) to protect a former president and his/her spouse during their lifetime, unless they decline protection.  

Secret Service in action: Did 2 agents get into a drunk driving accident at the White House? - YouTube

Secret Service agents guarding Barack Obama

In 1994, as a cost-saving measure, Congress acted to limit protection for future former presidents and spouses to ten years after they left office. 

But on January 12, 2013, President Barack Obama signed a new law authorizing lifetime protection of all former Presidents and First Ladies. In addition, children of former Presidents will receive protection until they are 16 years old.

This was clearly in response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center—and America’s entry into a global war on terrorism. 

Still, this is hardly necessary. There has not been one recorded case of an attack on a former President since the Secret Service began protecting the Chief Executive in 1901.

From a national security viewpoint, it is also unnecessary. Once a President leaves office, he is essentially out of the loop of daily government business.

The protection of organized crime witnesses by the Justice Department’s Witness Security Program offers a useful remedy.

While awaiting trial, witnesses are given 24-hour protection by deputy U.S. marshals. But once the trials are over and they have received their new identities and relocation to a safe area, that protection is withdrawn. If they are once again threatened, they can request it from the Marshals Service.

And if such protection is deemed necessary for a former President, then a financial means test should be applied.

Every living ex-President is a millionaire—including even Jimmy Carter, whose wealth is estimated by USA Today at $8.2 million. 

Millionaires are not considered eligible for local, state or Federal welfare programs—unless they are former Presidents.

Thus, millionaire ex-Presidents who believe they need/deserve lifetime Secret Service protection should be required to pay for it out of pocket—or hire private security. 

Treating former Presidents as gods is not only an outrageous waste of taxpayers’ monies. It is an affront to the ideals of a democratic nation. 

THE PORNOGRAPNY OF PRESIDENTIAL PERKS: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on April 28, 2021 at 12:25 am

“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

George Orwell’s famous novella, Animal Farm, was a brutal, symbolic attack on the Soviet Union and its brand of Communism. But it applies just as accurately to the different ways poor and rich Americans are treated.

Let’s start with the poor.

According to the Social Security website: “Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a Federal income supplement program funded by general tax revenues (not Social Security taxes). It is designed to help aged, blind, and disabled people, who have little or no income; and It provides cash to meet basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter….

“One of our highest priorities is to help people with disabilities achieve independence by helping them take advantage of employment opportunities. Work incentive employment supports help disabled and blind SSI recipients go to work by minimizing the risk of losing their SSI or Medicaid benefits….

“We do not count the first $65 of earned income plus one–half of the amount over $65. Therefore, we reduce your SSI benefit only $1 for every $2 you earn over $65.”

Social Security Administration Asks for Comments on Info Collection Request

Wow! An SSI recipient can earn up to $65 dollars before that begins to affect his SSI. 

In 1960, $65 was equal to $575.88 in 2021 dollars.

That would have been great in 1960. But 1960 is now 61 years ago. 

According to Intuit, an American business that specializes in financial software: “The average cost of food per month for one person ranges from $150 to $300, depending on age. However, these national averages vary based on where you live and the quality of your food purchases.”

And according to Statista, a German company specializing in market and consumer data: In February 2021, the average monthly rent for an apartment in the United States was $1,124.

So being able to earn $65 before the Social Security Administration starts reducing your SSI monthly payment shouldn’t be considered a “work incentive.”

For despicable contrast, consider how America’s former Presidents are treated.

us-presidential-seal - Nuclear Age Peace Foundation

The Former Presidents Act of 1958 provides several benefits and perks that are available to Presidents after they leave office. Their biggest perk is an annual pension equal to the pay for a Cabinet Secretary, which is $221,400 in 2021. 

Widows of former Presidents are eligible for a $20,000 yearly pension. In addition, former Presidents and their spouses can opt to receive lifetime Secret Service protection.

According to the National Taxpayers Union Foundation, ex-Presidents are provided with:

  • Funding by the General Service Administration (GSA) to staff, set up and furnish an official office anywhere in the country.
  • Reimbursement for themselves and their staff up to $1 million annually for costs.
  • $500,000 a year for their spouses for official travel and security.
  • The guarantee of a funeral with full honors and burial, if they or their spouse wants it, at Arlington National Cemetery. 

Let’s go back 41 years–to the inauguration of Ronald Reagan, who served from 1981 to 1989.

  • Reagan believed that government should not help the impoverished.  Those who lacked wealth to buy such necessities as housing and medical insurance were written off as unimportant.
  • He claimed to be a “fiscal conservative.” But he drastically shrank the tax-base, bloated the defense budget and destroyed programs to benefit the poor and middle-class.
  • As a result, Reagan produced a $1 trillion deficit—which only the Clinton Administration eliminated.
  • Before his Presidency ended, 18 wealthy Californians contributed $156,000 apiece to buy him a 7,200 square-foot mansion overlooking Beverly Hills.
  • Reagan signed a multi-million dollar deal to write his Presidential memoirs and publish a collection of his speeches.
  • He signed an exclusive contract with a Washington lecture bureau, which paid him $50,000 per speech given in the United States and $100,000 overseas. This made him the highest-paid speaker in the country.
  • These monies came in addition to his Presidential pension of $99,500 a year for life and his $30,000 annual pension as a former governor of California.
  • At a cost to the government of $10 million annually, Reagan continued to receive lifetime Secret Service protection from 40 fulltime agents.

Ronald Reagan's presidential portrait, 1981

Ronald Reagan

According to a November 5,2020 article in USA Today:

Reagan had made money as a movie and TV actor for more than 20 years. He owned several pieces of real estate, including a 688-acre property near Santa Barbara, California. He also profited from his post-Presidential autobiography. 

Reagan had a peak net worth of $14.3 million.

After Reagan came George H.W. Bush (1989 – 1993).

Bush made his initial fortune running an offshore oil drilling company and owned millions of dollars worth of property, including an estate in Kennebunkport, Maine, which around the time of his death in November 2018, was valued at $13.5 million. Like most ex-Presidents, he authored his autobiography: All the Best.

His peak net worth: $26.6 million.

William Jefferson Clinton served from 1993 to 2001. 

Since leaving office, Clinton has made millions from his 2005 book My Life. But his wife, Hillary, provides most of his wealth. She reportedly received a $14 million advance for her 2014 memoir Hard Choices. She also made millions from paid speeches.

His peak net worth: $76.8 million. 

CHRISTMAS NIGHT AND THE UNHOLY RIGHT

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on December 24, 2019 at 12:14 am

Christmas is special. So, each year, the executives at Fox News find a new way to stir up emotions by resurrecting the “war on Christmas” slander.

Fox launched this in 2004 with a recurring segment called “Christmas Under Siege.” Thus, aggressive Fascists cloak themselves in the garb of righteous victims.

Stirring up false controversies is a daily assignment for the alleged reporters of this company owned by Right-wing oligarch Rupert Murdoch. 

Perhaps its most outrageous example happened on December 11, 2013. Fox hostess Megyn Kelly offered this on “The Kelly File,” her then-popular Fox News program.

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Megyn Kelly

Referring to an article by Slate writer Aisha Harris on “Santa Claus Should Not Be a White Man Anymore,” she said:

“When I saw this headline, I kinda laughed and I said, ‘Oh, this is ridiculous. Yet another person claiming it’s racist to have a white Santa.’

“And by the way, for all you kids watching at home, Santa just is white. But this person is maybe just arguing that we should also have a black Santa. But, you know, Santa is what he is, and just so you know, we’re just debating this because someone wrote about it, kids.”

Of course, Santa Claus is a completely fictional character. Arguing about his skin color is as pointless as arguing about his weight.

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But Kelly wasn’t content to talk only about Santa. So she turned next to Jesus, a historical figure about whom we have not a single reference to his appearance, let alone a picture.

“Just because it makes you feel uncomfortable doesn’t mean it has to change. You know, I mean, Jesus was a white man, too.

“He was a historical figure; that’s a verifiable fact—as is Santa, I want you kids watching to know that—but my point is: How do you revise it, in the middle of the legacy of the story, and change Santa from white to black?”

Santa Claus a verifiable historical figure? Not even Charlie Brown, in the annually telecast “Peanuts” Christmas special, would make that claim.

In 2015, Donald Trump claimed center-stage in “defending” Christmas. And the target of his ire? Starbucks.

In years past, its disposable coffee cups featured snowflakes, winter scenes, reindeer and Christmas ornaments.

But in 2015, Starbucks decided to go with a minimalist, all-red design, its only feature being the company’s green and white logo.

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Baked Alaska with his Trump cup

This angered some religious conservatives, who generally care more about symbols than substance. And Trump was eager to enlist evangelicals as voters.

During a campaign rally in October, Trump promised: “I guarantee if I become president, we’re going to be saying ‘Merry Christmas’ at every store.”

Donald Trump September 3 2015.jpg

Donald Trump

On November 9, 2015, addressing  a crowd of several thousands in Springfield, Illinois, Trump said: “Did you read about Starbucks? No more Merry Christmas on Starbucks.

“I have one of the most successful Starbucks, in Trump Tower. Maybe we should boycott Starbucks? I don’t know. Seriously, I don’t care. That’s the end of that lease, but who cares?

“If I become president, we’re all going to be saying Merry Christmas again, that I can tell you.”

Trump did not explain how he would coerce non-Christian Americans—-such as atheists, Jews and Muslims—into observing a Christian holiday.

Those who claim that Christmas is threatened don’t know—or deliberately ignore—-the following:

  • The Christmas shopping season can start as early as September. Some consumers begin even earlier.
  • For 2019, industry analysts expect the average American to spend $920 on holiday gifts, up from $885 in 2018 and reaching a total of more than $1 trillion.
  • For 2018, consumers spent $717.45 billion to $720.89 billion for the holiday season.
  • Holiday sales in 2017 totaled $687.87 billion
  • For many stores, holiday shopping accounts for nearly a third of annual sales.
  • In 2016, the average American spent $935.58 on holiday gifts. In 2017, s/he was expected to spend $708.81.

In short, no one is “making war” on Christmas—-except Right-wing broadcasters at Fox News to jack up ratings.  

As to the historical realities of this season:

  • There is no reference anywhere in the Bible to the month—let alone the day—of Jesus’ birth. 
  • Jesus never commanded his followers to celebrate his birth—but he did call on them to remember his death.  It’s called Easter.
  • Many of the “religious” traditions associated with Christmas stem from the pagan Roman festival, Saturnalia, which celebrated the “birthday” of the sun.
  • This was celebrated December 17-25.
  • Saturnalia traditions included feasting, gift-giving, lighting candles (to ward off evil spirits) and displaying wreaths (as a sign of coming spring).
  • Early Christians tried mightily to convince their members to stop celebrating the Saturnalia.
  • When these efforts failed, the Roman Catholic Church, in the fourth century, “Christianised” the festival by naming Saturnalia’s concluding day, December 25, as Jesus’ birthday.

In George Orwell’s classic novel, 1984, Oceania is always at war with Eurasia or Eastasia. Its citizens are kept in a constant state of frenzy as they’re directed to search for endless “enemies of the state.”

This, in turn, allows the unseen rulers of Oceania to run their dictatorship without interference.

It’s a lesson well-known to hucksters like Donald Trump and the men who run Fox News.

FAKE NEWS: PROTECTING TRUMP FROM THE TRUTH: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on May 29, 2019 at 12:11 am

Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed that he is a victim of “fake news.”

But future historians will note how often the media ignored the foremost reality of their time: That the United States was led by a psychopathic dictator. 

This is true even for CNN, the network that Trump clearly hates the most.

In a May 22, 2018 CNN essay on Trump vs. the press, longtime political consultant David Gergen wrote:

“Instead of raging on about ‘fake news,’ the President would do well to read Peggy Noonan [a Ronald Reagan speechwriter turned author] on Reagan and focus on building his character.”

So what’s wrong with this? 

Trump was 72 years old when this was written. George Orwell wrote that, by age 50, every man has the face he deserves. By age 72, every man has the character he has spent his life being. And Trump’s life has been dedicated to inflating his wallet and his ego.

He isn’t going to radically change at this point—especially if he believes himself “a very stable genius.”

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Donald Trump

Then there’s a July 30, 2018 story on CNN: “Trump Opens Window Into His Rage With Mueller Attack.”

This focused on a tweetstorm Trump launched against Special Counsel Robert Mueller just two days before Mueller prosecuted Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman. 

Among those tweets: 

“Is Robert Mueller ever going to release his conflicts of interest with respect to President Trump, including the fact that we had a very nasty & contentious business relationship, I turned him down to head the FBI (one day before appointment as S.C.) & Comey is his close friend.”

And: 

“…Also, why is Mueller only appointing Angry Dems, some of whom have worked for Crooked Hillary, others, including himself, have worked for Obama….And why isn’t Mueller looking at all of the criminal activity & real Russian Collusion on the Democrats side-Podesta, Dossier?”

Director Robert S. Mueller- III.jpg

Robert Mueller

CNN characterized this cascade of libels as a “trio of tweets…packed with inaccuracies and misrepresentations.” 

An accurate description would have been: “Lies.”

There were no “conflicts of interest” on Mueller’s part. And having been FBI director for 12 years (2001-2013) he had no desire to once again assume such a grueling burden at age 72.

Arthur Gregg Sulzberger, the publisher of the New York Times, described a meeting between himself and Trump: 

“I told him that although the phrase ‘fake news’ is untrue and harmful, I am far more concerned about his labeling journalists ‘the enemy of the people.’ I warned that this inflammatory language is contributing to a rise in threats against journalists and will lead to violence. 

“I repeatedly stressed that this is particularly true abroad, where the president’s rhetoric is being used by some regimes to justify sweeping crackdowns on journalists. I warned that it was putting lives at risk, that it was undermining the democratic ideals of our nation, and that it was eroding one of our country’s greatest exports: a commitment to free speech and a free press.”

Arthur Gregg Sulzberger

Appealing to Trump’s “better angels” was an exercise in futility—and insanity. 

A 2016 analysis by USA Today found that for 30 years, Trump and his businesses had been involved in 3,500 legal cases in U.S. federal and state courts. This is not a man who, at heart, is a peacemaker. 

Nor does he respect truth. The Washington Post has reported that, by March 17, 2019, Trump said or tweeted 9,179 lies or misleading statements. This makes for an average of 11.6 lies a day. 

To expect that Trump has any regard for such Constitutional niceties as freedom of the press is beyond rationality. 

He intends to strip every potential challenger to his authority—or his version of reality—of legitimacy with the public.  If he succeeds, there will be:

  • No independent press to reveal his failures and crimes.
  • No independent law enforcement agencies to investigate his abuses of office.
  • No independent judiciary to hold him accountable.
  • No independent military to dissent as he recklessly hurtles toward a nuclear disaster.
  • No candidate—Democrat or Republican—to challenge him for re-election in 2020.
  • No candidate—Democrat or Republican—to challenge his remaining in office as “President-for-Life.”

Yet the media—including CNN—refuses to brand Trump as the liar and dictator he clearly is.

Reporters who cover the White House are among the most knowledgeable their newspapers/networks have to offer. They see the President up close not only there but at campaign stops and state occasions. They quickly gain a sense of him as a man.

So it can’t be ignorance that leads so many of them to refrain from telling the truth. The answer has to be cowardice—by them and/or by their editors.

Newspapers fear Trump’s attacks on their integrity—and the loss of subscriptions. They fear the press will fall into even lower esteem than it’s now held. (An Ipsos poll shows almost a third of Americans agree the news media is “the enemy of the people.”)

For the owners of TV networks, there is an added fear of having their licenses challenged by the Federal Communications Commission, which regulates the airwaves. 

Regardless of the reason for this cowardice, it ill serves the journalism profession—and the country.

FAKE NEWS: PROTECTING TRUMP FROM THE TRUTH: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on May 28, 2019 at 12:18 am

On May 24, NBC News published a story under the headline: ‘TRUMP DOESN’T SEEM TO UNDERSTAND WHAT ‘TREASON’ MEANS.”

The article noted: “Once again on Thursday, President Donald Trump used the T-word, this time saying that former FBI officials who were involved in investigating his campaign committed treason.

“Asked at a White House event which of his adversaries he had in mind when he accused them of treason, he said, ‘A number of people. They have unsuccessfully tried to take down the wrong person.’ He then specified former FBI director James Comey, former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe, former FBI lawyer Lisa Page, and former FBI agent Peter Strzok.

“‘That’s treason. They couldn’t win the election, and that’s what happened.'”

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Donald Trump

The story goes on to point out that the Constitution does not define treason as being disloyal to the President—or a private citizen, which is what Trump was when he ran for President in 2016.

In Article III, Section 3, the United States Constitution states: “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.”

Enemy” means a country or an entity that has declared war or is in a state of open war against the United States.

United States Constitution

Although the story got its facts right, the headline gives a thoroughly misleading impression. By saying, “Trump doesn’t seem to understand….” it implies that he’s simply ignorant, and once someone explains the true meaning of treason to him, all will be well.

This is not only patently absurd, it is absolutely dangerous.

First of all, Trump considers himself “a very stable genius”—which in itself proves he’s the opposite of both. This is the sort of megalomania for which brutal dictators like Gaius Caligula were infamous.

Second, he hates being corrected, and those who have tried have been fired or quit after repeated frustration and harassment. John Kelly, his former chief of staff, said of Trump: “He’s an idiot. It’s pointless to try to convince him of anything. He’s gone off the rails. We’re in crazytown.” 

Third, he has no respect for anyone but himself, and none for the traditions that go with America’s highest office. He has called the White House “a real dump.” 

In addition, Trump has replaced Presidential dignity with infantile tantrums and personal attacks on virtually everyone on Twitter and in press conferences.

Fourth, Trump has always sought absolute control over everyone. As a private businessman, he forced his employees to sign NDAs—Non-Disclosure Agreements—to keep secret his acts of criminality and incompetence. As President, he has tried to continue that practice—even though it’s forbidden by law for Federal employees.

Fifth, he has always been a vindictive man. He and his companies have been involved in more than 3,500 lawsuits. He has openly bragged about how enjoyable it is to “get even” with those who “screw you.”  He has “joked” that it would be nice if the United States had a “president-for-life”—like China. And he accused Democrats of “treason” for not applauding his 2018 State of the Union message.

Or take the headline in a May 24 article in Politico:  “GIULIANI APPEARS TO DEFEND SHARING A DOCTORED PELOSI VIDEO.”

The story outlines how Rudolph Giuliani, a former United States Attorney and now Trump’s chief legal protector, defended sharing a video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi—one that had been doctored to make her appear drunk and slurring her words.  

Rudloph Giuliani

“Nancy Pelosi wants an apology for a caricature exaggerating her already halting speech pattern,” Giuliani wrote on Twitter. “First she should withdraw her charge which hurts our entire nation when she says the President needs an ‘intervention’. ‘People who live in a glass house shouldn’t throw stones.’”

Giuliani was referring to a remark Pelosi made on May 23.  The day before, Trump had stalked out of infrastructure talks with top congressional Democrats and railed against their investigations. 

“I wish that his family or his administration or his staff would have an intervention for the good of the country,” said Pelosi in a press conference.

Pelosi’s words could be interpreted as a slap at Trump’s lack of maturity—or as an invitation for members of his Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment. Under this, a President can be removed from office if he is mentally or physically unable to carry out his assigned duties.

Giuliani’s tweet, on the other hand, was pure slander. Including the doctored clip with his tweet, he taunted: “What is wrong with Nancy Pelosi? Her speech pattern is bizarre.”

He later deleted the message.

To assert—as the Politico headline does—that Giuliani “appears” to be defending a lying video is to refuse to tell the full truth. He was defending—and re-posting—it. 

His attitude was: “If you’re going to criticize the President, I have the right to slander you.” 

But you wouldn’t have gotten that from the headline. 

Donald Trump has relentlessly accused the mainstream media of attacking him with “fake news.”

The only “fake news” has been those stories that sugarcoat the despicable behavior of the President and his closest associates.

TOO MANY WORMS, NOT ENOUGH JOURNALISTS

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on February 14, 2019 at 12:13 am

Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed that he is a victim of “fake news.”

But future historians will note how often the media ignored the foremost reality of their time: That the United States was led by a psychopathic dictator. 

This is true even for CNN, the network that Trump clearly hates the most.

On May 22, 2018, David Gergen penned a CNN essay on Trump vs. the press.

“Instead of raging on about ‘fake news,'” wrote Gergen, “the President would do well to read Peggy Noonan [a Ronald Reagan speechwriter turned author] on Reagan and focus on building his character.”

So what’s wrong with this? 

Trump is 72 years old. George Orwell wrote that, by age 50, every man has the face he deserves. By age 72, every man has the character he has spent his life being. And Trump’s life has been dedicated to inflating his wallet and his ego.

He isn’t going to radically change at this point—especially if he believes himself “a very stable genius.”

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Donald Trump

Then there’s this July 30, 2018 CNN story: “Trump Opens Window Into His Rage With Mueller Attack.”

Two days before Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller prosecuted Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, Trump launched a tweetstorm against Mueller.

Among those tweets: 

“Is Robert Mueller ever going to release his conflicts of interest with respect to President Trump, including the fact that we had a very nasty & contentious business relationship, I turned him down to head the FBI (one day before appointment as S.C.) & Comey is his close friend.”

And: 

“…Also, why is Mueller only appointing Angry Dems, some of whom have worked for Crooked Hillary, others, including himself, have worked for Obama….And why isn’t Mueller looking at all of the criminal activity & real Russian Collusion on the Democrats side—Podesta, Dossier?”

Director Robert S. Mueller- III.jpg

Robert Mueller

CNN characterized this cascade of libel as a “trio of tweets…packed with inaccuracies and misrepresentations.” 

An accurate description would have been: “Lies.” 

After a meeting with Trump, Arthur Gregg Sulzberger, the publisher of the New York Times, publicly stated: 

“I told him that although the phrase ‘fake news’ is untrue and harmful, I am far more concerned about his labeling journalists ‘the enemy of the people.’ I warned that this inflammatory language is contributing to a rise in threats against journalists and will lead to violence. 

“I repeatedly stressed that this is particularly true abroad, where the president’s rhetoric is being used by some regimes to justify sweeping crackdowns on journalists. I warned that it was putting lives at risk, that it was undermining the democratic ideals of our nation, and that it was eroding one of our country’s greatest exports: a commitment to free speech and a free press.”

Arthur Gregg Sulzberger

So what is wrong with these comments? 

Like the saccharine that floods the airways at Christmastime, they reek of a deliberate suspension of reality.   

Appealing to Trump’s “better angels” on behalf of the news media is an exercise in futility—and insanity. 

This is a man who has said—proudly: “Get even with people. If they screw you, screw them back 10 times as hard. I really believe it.”

A 2016 analysis by USA Today found that for 30 years, Trump and his businesses had been involved in 3,500 legal cases in U.S. federal courts and state court. This is not a man who, at heart, is a peacemaker. 

Nor does he have any respect for truth. The Washington Post has reported that during his first 298 days in the White House, Trump said or tweeted 1,628 lies or misleading statements. This makes for an average of 5.5 lies a day. 

To expect—as Sulzberger apparently did—that Trump has any regard for such Constitutional niceties as freedom of the press is beyond rationality. 

Trump has furiously attacked the institutions that Americans have long cherished—such as: 

  • An independent judiciary
  • A free press
  • Intelligence agencies (such as the FBI and CIA) charged with protecting the country against subversion
  • An incorruptible Justice Department.

Donald Trump isn’t crazy. Nor does he abuse power by well-meaning accident.

He knows exactly what he’s doing—and why. 

He intends to strip every potential challenger to his authority—or his version of reality—of legitimacy with the public.  If he succeeds, there will be:

  • No independent press to reveal his failures and crimes.
  • No independent law enforcement agencies to investigate his abuses of office.
  • No independent judiciary to hold him accountable.
  • No independent military to dissent as he recklessly hurtles toward a nuclear disaster.
  • No candidate—Democrat or Republican—to challenge him for re-election in 2020.
  • No candidate—Democrat or Republican—to challenge his remaining in office as “President-for-Life.”

Yet the media—including CNN and New York Times—has refused to brand Trump as the liar and dictator he clearly is.

There can be only two motives for this:  

  1. Naivety, or 
  2. Cowardice. 

Either is totally unworthy of those claiming to defend the First Amendment.

Such reporters, editors and publishers should decide—now–to:

  1. Live up to the standards set by Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein and Benjamin Bradlee during the Watergate crisis; or
  2. Go into a profession better-suited to their character—such as worm-farming.

THE RIGHT’S ANNUAL HOLIDAY LIE: “WAR ON CHRISTMAS”

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on November 20, 2018 at 12:17 am

It’s that time of year again—a time of

  • Christmas trees
  • Nativity scenes
  • Singing carols
  • Exchanging gifts with family and friends.

Christmas is special, so, each year, the executives at Fox News find a new way to stir up emotions by resurrecting the “war on Christmas” slander.

Stirring up false controversies is a daily assignment for the alleged reporters of this company owned by Right-wing oligarch Rupert Murdoch.

On December 11, 2013, it fell to Fox hostess Megyn Kelly to carry the ball—on “The Kelly File,” her then-popular Fox News program.

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Megyn Kelly

Referring to an article by Slate writer Aisha Harris on “Santa Claus Should Not Be a White Man Anymore,” she said:

“When I saw this headline, I kinda laughed and I said, ‘Oh, this is ridiculous. Yet another person claiming it’s racist to have a white Santa.’

“And by the way, for all you kids watching at home, Santa just is white. But this person is maybe just arguing that we should also have a black Santa. But, you know, Santa is what he is, and just so you know, we’re just debating this because someone wrote about it, kids.”

Of course, Santa Claus is a completely fictional character. Arguing about his skin color is as pointless as arguing about his weight.

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But Kelly wasn’t content to talk only about Santa. So she turned next to Jesus, a historical figure about whom we have not a single reference to his appearance, let alone a picture.

“Just because it makes you feel uncomfortable doesn’t mean it has to change. You know, I mean, Jesus was a white man, too.

“He was a historical figure; that’s a verifiable fact—as is Santa, I want you kids watching to know that—but my point is: How do you revise it, in the middle of the legacy of the story, and change Santa from white to black?”

Santa Claus a verifiable historical figure? Not even Charlie Brown, in the annually telecast “Peanuts” Christmas special, would make that claim.

In 2015, Donald Trump claimed center-stage in “defending” Christmas. And the target of his ire? Starbucks.

In years past, its disposable coffee cups featured snowflakes, winter scenes, reindeer and Christmas ornaments.

But in 2015, Starbucks decided to go with a minimalist, all-red design, its only feature being the company’s green and white logo.

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Baked Alaska with his Trump cup

This angered some religious conservatives, who generally care more about symbols than substance. And Trump was eager to enlist evangelicals as voters.

During a campaign rally in October, Trump promised: “I guarantee if I become president, we’re going to be saying ‘Merry Christmas’ at every store.”

Donald Trump September 3 2015.jpg

Donald Trump

On November 9, 2015, addressing  a crowd of several thousands in Springfield, Illinois, Trump said: “Did you read about Starbucks? No more Merry Christmas on Starbucks.

“I have one of the most successful Starbucks, in Trump Tower. Maybe we should boycott Starbucks? I don’t know. Seriously, I don’t care. That’s the end of that lease, but who cares?

“If I become president, we’re all going to be saying Merry Christmas again, that I can tell you.”

Trump did not explain how he would coerce non-Christian Americans—-such as atheists, Jews and Muslims—into observing a Christian holiday.

Those who claim that Christmas is threatened don’t know—or are ignoring—-the following:

  • The Christmas shopping season can start as early as September. Some consumers begin even earlier.
  • For 2018, the National Retail Federation expects consumers to spend $717.45 billion to $720.89 billion for the holiday season.
  • Holiday sales in 2017 totaled $687.87 billion
  • For many stores, holiday shopping accounts for nearly a third of annual sales.
  • In 2016, the average American spent $935.58 on holiday gifts. In 2017, s/he was expected to spend $708.81.

In short, no one is “making war” on Christmas—-except Right-wing broadcasters at Fox News to jack up ratings.  

As to the historical realities of this season:

  • There is no reference anywhere in the Bible to the month—-let alone the day—of Jesus’ birth.
  • Jesus never commanded his followers to celebrate his birth—-but he did call on them to remember his death.  It’s called Easter.
  • Many of the “religious” traditions associated with Christmas stem from the pagan Roman festival, Saturnalia, which celebrated the “birthday” of the sun.
  • This was celebrated December 17-25.
  • Saturnalia traditions included feasting, gift-giving, lighting candles (to ward off evil spirits) and displaying wreaths (as a sign of coming spring).
  • Early Christians tried mightily to convince their members to stop celebrating the Saturnalia.
  • When these efforts failed, the Roman Catholic Church, in the fourth century, “Christianised” the festival by naming Saturnalia’s concluding day, December 25, as Jesus’ birthday.

In George Orwell’s classic novel, 1984, Oceania is always at war with Eurasia or Eastasia. Its citizens are kept in a constant state of frenzy as they’re directed to search for endless “enemies of the state.”

This, in turn, allows the unseen rulers of Oceania to run their dictatorship without interference.

It’s a lesson well-known to hucksters like Donald Trump and the men who run Fox News.

A TALE OF TWO DEFECTORS: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on August 15, 2018 at 12:03 am

On March 19, 1945, facing certain defeat, Adolf Hitler ordered a massive “scorched-earth” campaign throughout Germany.

All German agriculture, industry, ships, communications, roads, food stuffs, mines, bridges, stores and utility plants were to be destroyed.

If implemented, it would deprive the entire German population of even the barest necessities after the war.

Now living in a bunker 50 feet below bomb-shattered Berlin, Hitler gave full vent to his most destructive impulses.

Adolf Hitler addressing boy soldiers as the Third Reich crumbles

“If the war is lost,” Hitler told Albert Speer, his Minister of Armaments, “the nation will also perish. This fate is inevitable. There is no necessity to take into consideration the basis which the people will need to continue even a most primitive existence.

“On the contrary, it will be better to destroy these things ourselves, because this nation will have proved to be the weaker one and the future will belong solely to the stronger eastern nation.

“Besides, those who will remain after the battle are only the inferior ones, for the good ones have all been killed.”

Speer argued in vain that there must be a future for the German people. But Hitler refused to back down. He gave Speer 24 hours to reconsider his opposition to the order.

The next day, Speer told Hitler: “My Fuhrer, I stand unconditionally behind you!”

“Then all is well,” said Hitler, suddenly with tears in his eyes.

“If I stand unreservedly behind you,” said Speer, “then you must entrust me rather than the Gauleiters [district Party leaders serving as provincial governors] with the implementation of your decree.”

Filled with gratitude, Hitler signed the decree Speer had thoughtfully prepared before their fateful meeting.

By doing so, Hitler unintentionally gave Speer the power to thwart his “scorched earth” decree.

Speer had been the closest thing to a friend in Hitler’s life. Trained as an architect, he had joined the Nazi Party in 1931.

He met Hitler in 1933, when he presented the Fuhrer with architectural designs for the Nuremberg Rally scheduled for that year.

Albert Speer and Adolf Hitler pouring over architectural plans

From then on, Speer became Hitler’s “genius architect” assigned to create buildings meant to last for a thousand years.

In 1943, Hitler appointed him Minister of Armaments, charged with revitalizing the German war effort.

Nevertheless, Speer now crisscrossed Germany, persuading military leaders and district governors to not destroy the vital facilities that would be needed after the war.

“No other senior National Socialist could have done the job,” writes Randall Hanson, author of Disobeying Hitler: German Resistance After Valkyrie.

“Speer was one of the very few people in the Reich—perhaps even the only one—with such power to influence actors’ willingness/unwillingness to destroy.”

Despite his later conviction for war crimes at Nuremberg, Speer never regretted his efforts to save Germany from total destruction at the hands of Adolf Hitler.

Fast-forward to August, 2018, and the White House of President Donald J. Trump.

Omarosa Manigault furiously defended Donald Trump throughout the 2016 Presidential campaign. 

In an interview with Frontline, she boasted: “Every critic, every detractor, will have to bow down to President Trump. It’s everyone who’s ever doubted Donald, who ever disagreed, who ever challenged him.” 

Manigault didn’t care that she had no base or credibility within the back community—or that blacks regarded Trump so poorly: “My reality is that I’m surrounded by people who want to see Donald Trump as the next President of the United States who are African-American.”

On January 20, 2017, she entered the White House with Trump as Director of Communications for the Office of Public Liaison.

This wasn’t her first tenure at the Executive Mansion. During the Clinton administration she held four jobs in two years—and was thoroughly disliked in all of them.

“She was asked to leave [her last job] as quickly as possible, she was so disruptive,” said Cheryl Shavers, the former Under Secretary for Technology at the Commerce Department. “One woman wanted to slug her.” 

And in her work at the Trump White House, she made herself just as unpopular as she had in the Clinton one.

In her first press interview, she announced that she was a “Trumplican” and had switched her political affiliation to the Republican Party. She said Democrats took black voters for granted and  hoped blacks would leave the Democratic party.

In June, 2017, she invited the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) to visit the White House. And she signed the invitation: “The Honorable Omarosa Manigault.”  

This is not a title given to political aides. And it’s not used by those referring to themselves. The arrogance offended some members of the Caucus, which declined the invitation. 

In August, she appeared at the National Association of Black Journalists convention in New Orleans. She was a panelist on a discussion about losing loved ones to violence.

When the moderator, Ed Gordon, asked her about Trump’s policies and not her personal history with losing family members through violence, Manigault got into a shouting match with him.  

“Omarosa Manigault and Ed Gordon are literally arguing on stage right now. This is insane,” tweeted Yamiche Alcindor, the PBS Newshour White House correspondent.

THE MEDIA AND TRUMP: “LET’S PRETEND”

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on August 1, 2018 at 12:10 am

Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed that he is a victim of “fake news.”

But future historians will note how often the media ignored the foremost reality of their time: That the United States was led by a psychopathic dictator. 

This is true even for CNN, the network that Trump clearly hates the most.

Consider this line from a May 22, 2018 CNN essay on Trump vs. the press by David Gergen:

“Instead of raging on about ‘fake news,’ the President would do well to read Peggy Noonan [a Ronald Reagan speechwriter turned author] on Reagan and focus on building his character.”

So what’s wrong with this? 

Trump is 72 years old. George Orwell wrote that, by age 50, every man has the face he deserves. By age 72, every man has the character he has spent his life being. And Trump’s life has been dedicated to inflating his wallet and his ego.

He isn’t going to radically change at this point—especially if he believes himself “a very stable genius.”

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Donald Trump

Then there’s this gem from a July 30, 2018 story: “Trump Opens Window Into His Rage With Mueller Attack.”

This focused on a tweetstorm Trump launched against Special Counsel Robert Mueller just two days before Mueller prosecuted Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman. 

Among those tweets: 

“Is Robert Mueller ever going to release his conflicts of interest with respect to President Trump, including the fact that we had a very nasty & contentious business relationship, I turned him down to head the FBI (one day before appointment as S.C.) & Comey is his close friend.”

And: 

“…Also, why is Mueller only appointing Angry Dems, some of whom have worked for Crooked Hillary, others, including himself, have worked for Obama….And why isn’t Mueller looking at all of the criminal activity & real Russian Collusion on the Democrats side-Podesta, Dossier?”

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Robert Mueller

CNN characterized this cascade of libel as a “trio of tweets…packed with inaccuracies and misrepresentations.” 

An accurate description would have been: “Lies.” 

Or consider these comments from Arthur Gregg Sulzberger, the publisher of the New York Times, after a meeting between him and Trump: 

“I told him that although the phrase ‘fake news’ is untrue and harmful, I am far more concerned about his labeling journalists ‘the enemy of the people.’ I warned that this inflammatory language is contributing to a rise in threats against journalists and will lead to violence. 

“I repeatedly stressed that this is particularly true abroad, where the president’s rhetoric is being used by some regimes to justify sweeping crackdowns on journalists. I warned that it was putting lives at risk, that it was undermining the democratic ideals of our nation, and that it was eroding one of our country’s greatest exports: a commitment to free speech and a free press.”

Arthur Gregg Sulzberger

So what is wrong with these comments? 

Like the saccharine that floods the airways at Christmastime, they reek of a deliberate suspension of reality. That’s when even the most cynical TV news reporters feel compelled to ask, around the anchor desk: “Gee, Jim, do you really think there could be peace on Earth, good will to men?” 

And the answer, of course, is: Yes—in a science fiction movie.

Similarly, to appeal to Trump’s “better angels” on behalf of the news media is an exercise in futility—and insanity. 

This is a man who has said—proudly: “Get even with people. If they screw you, screw them back 10 times as hard. I really believe it.”

A 2016 analysis by USA Today found that for 30 years, Trump and his businesses had been involved in 3,500 legal cases in U.S. federal courts and state court. This is not a man who, at heart, is a peacemaker. 

Nor is he a man who has any respect for truth. The Washington Post has reported that during his first 298 days in the White House, Trump said or tweeted 1,628 lies or misleading statements. This makes for an average of 5.5 lies a day. 

To expect—as Sulzberger apparently did—that Trump has any regard for such Constitutional niceties as freedom of the press is beyond rationality. 

Trump has furiously attacked the institutions that Americans have long cherished—such as: 

  • An independent judiciary
  • A free press
  • Intelligence agencies (such as the FBI and CIA) charged with protecting the country against subversion
  • An incorruptible Justice Department.

Donald Trump isn’t crazy. Nor does he abuse power by well-meaning accident.

He knows exactly what he’s doing—and why. 

He intends to strip every potential challenger to his authority—or his version of reality—of legitimacy with the public.  If he succeeds, there will be:

  • No independent press to reveal his failures and crimes.
  • No independent law enforcement agencies to investigate his abuses of office.
  • No independent judiciary to hold him accountable.
  • No independent military to dissent as he recklessly hurtles toward a nuclear disaster.
  • No candidate—Democrat or Republican—to challenge him for re-election in 2020.
  • No candidate—Democrat or Republican—to challenge his remaining in office as “President-for-Life.”

Yet the media—including CNN—has refused to brand Trump as the liar and dictator he clearly is.

TRUMP: EVERYONE IS A LIAR–EXCEPT ME

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 30, 2018 at 1:47 am

“We don’t apologize for America anymore,” President Donald Trump said at the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) National Convention in Kansas City, Missouri. 

“We stand up for America.  We stand up for the patriots who defend America.” 

That was on July 24, 2018.  

Yet, eight days earlier, on July 16, Trump had stood before assembled reporters in a press conference in Helsinki, Finland. Standing next to him was Vladimir Putin, the absolute dictator of Russia.

It was there that Trump blamed American Intelligence agencies—such as the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency—instead of Putin for Russia’s subversion of the 2016 Presidential election.  

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Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin in Helsinki

“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.” 

So much for “we don’t apologize for America anymore.”

But worse was to come at the VFW Convention. 

“Just stick with us,” Trump told his audience. “Don’t believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news. Just remember:  What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.”

Political pundits were appalled. But Trump’s attitude was entirely predictable.

During the 2016 election, he tried to convince Americans that:

  1. He did not insult the parents of Captain Humayun Khan, who was killed by a truck-bomb in Iraq in 2004; and/or
  2. Barack Obama was responsible for Khan’s death. And so was Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

On July 28, 2016 Trump had become embroiled in a series of angry exchanges with Khan’s father, Khizr, and his mother, Ghazala.  

Khizr was a featured speaker at the Democratic National Convention, and he used the opportunity to attack Trump:

“If it was up to Donald Trump, [Humayun] never would have been in America. Donald Trump consistently smears the character of Muslims. He disrespects other minorities, women, judges, even his own party leadership. He vows to build walls and ban us from this country….You have sacrificed nothing and no one.” 

Republicans desperately wanted Trump to end the conflict and return to attacking his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.  

That was the assignment given to Trump’s spokeswoman, Katrina Pierson.

Appearing on CNN’s The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer on August 2, Pierson said: “It was under Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton that changed the rules of engagements that probably cost his life.”

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Katrina Pierson

Totally ignored in that scenario: 

  • President George W. Bush lied the nation into a needless war that cost the lives of 4,486 Americans and wounded another 33,226.  
  • Barack Obama did not become President until 2009—almost five years after Khan’s death.
  • And Hillary Clinton did not become Secretary of State until the same year.

Pierson argued that Trump should be exempt from apologizing to the Khan family because he “never voted for the Iraq War.”  

“Hillary Clinton did,” Pierson added. “And then she didn’t support the troops to have what they need.”

It’s true that Clinton, elected U.S. Senator from New York in 2000, voted in 2002 to support Bush’s attack on Iraq.  

But Obama, elected U.S. Senator from Illinois in 2004, strongly opposed the Iraq war from the onset of his term. In fact, he made it a major issue during his 2008 Presidential race against Arizona U.S. Senator John McCain.

Pierson’s attempt to rewrite history touched off a frenzy on Twitter, leading to the creation of the hashtag #KatrinaPiersonHistory. Its purpose: To mock Pierson’s revisionist take on history.

Among the tweets offered: 

  • Hillary Clinton slashed funding for security at the Ford Theater, leading to Lincoln’s assassination. 
  • Obama introduced John Lennon to Yoko Ono, and well, you know.  
  • Obama gave Amelia Earhart directions to Kenya.  
  • Remember the Alamo? Obama and Hillary let it happen. 
  • Obama and Clinton kidnapped the Lindbergh baby. 
  • Obama decided that too many lifeboats would offend radical Islamic terrorists aboard the Titanic.  
  • Barack Obama convinced the serpent to tempt Eve in the Garden of Eden.  
  • Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton organized The Spanish Inquisition.

The effect turned Trump’s spokeswoman into a nationwide laughingstock. And her efforts to rewrite history didn’t help Trump.

On August 3, 2016, Pierson appeared on CNN’s New Day. She admitted being wrong about the timeline and said she had been trying to say that Donald Trump had no connection to the Khans.

Later on CNN, Anderson Cooper asked Khizr Khan to comment on Pierson’s allegation. 

“Do I need to say anything?” Khan replied. “Lack of understanding, lack of factual correctness, it’s just nothing but political vote pandering.”  

In George Orwell’s novel, 1984, the unnamed Party’s slogan is: “He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.”

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

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

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