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Posts Tagged ‘GEORGE W. BUSH’

VLADIMIR PUTIN: OUTFOXING GEORGE BUSH AND DONALD TRUMP

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 10, 2017 at 12:30 am

Since the late 1940s, Republicans have hurled the charge of “appeasement” at every Democratic President

Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson found themselves accused of “selling out” to the Soviet Union. The motive for this was usually attributed to cowardice—if not outright treason. It didn’t matter to Republicans that:

  • Truman began the policy of “containing” the Soviet Union within its World War II borders;
  • Kennedy faced down the Russians during the Cuban Missile Crisis; and
  • Johnson waged a bloody, budget-busting war against Soviet proxies in Vietnam.

Most recently, it became the turn of President Barack Obama.

On July 17, 2014, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 MH 17/MAS17 took off from Amsterdam for Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

But as the flight–and its 283 passengers and 15 crew—cruised above Hrabove in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, Russian-backed Ukrainian separatists shot it down. A Buk surface-to-air missile slammed into the aircraft, almost instantly killing everyone on board.

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President Barack Obama

“The President is afraid of provoking [Russian President] Vladimir Putin,” United States Senator John McCain told Reuters. “Vladimir Putin is on the move because he has paid no price for his aggression.”

And Texas United State Senator Ted Cruz said: “Putin fears no retribution. [Obama’s] policy has been to alienate and abandon our friends, and to coddle and appease our enemies.”

But now the United States has a Republican President who has cozied up to Putin since he entered the 2016 Presidential race.

In January, the CIA, FBI, NSA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence concluded that Russian Intelligence agents had meddled in the election via cyber-warfare to secure Donald Trump’s election.

Yet, at the G20 summit, Trump declared it was “an honor” to meet Putin.

After the meeting, Trump tweeted on July 9: “I strongly pressed President Putin twice about Russian meddling in our election. He vehemently denied it. I’ve already given my opinion…..” 

Trump’s opinion, as he famously gave it, was: “It could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds.” 

Even more worrisome to American Intelligence officials was Trump’s accompanying tweet: “Putin & I discussed forming an impenetrable Cyber Security unit so that election hacking, & many other negative things, will be guarded.”

Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee reacted: “If that’s our best election defense, we might as well just mail our ballot boxes to Moscow.”

Even some Republicans likened the proposal to letting the fox guard the chicken coop.  Florida United States Senator Marco Rubio tweeted: “While reality & pragmatism requires that we engage Vladimir Putin, he will never be a trusted ally or a reliable constructive partner.”

Yet America’s frustrations with Russia generally—and Putin in particular—long predate those of Barack Obama.

Nor were relations between the United States and post-Soviet Russia helped by the naivety of President George W. Bush.

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

President George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin

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

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

But more was to come.

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

PUTIN:  It’s true.

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

Putin instantly sensed that Bush judged others–even world leaders–through the lens of his own fundamentalist Christian theology.

Falling back on his KGB training, Putin seized on this apparent point of commonality to build a bond. He told Bush that his dacha had once burned to the ground, and the only item that had been saved was that cross.

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

Afterward, Bush and Putin gave an outdoor news conference.

“Is this a man that America can trust?” Associated Press correspondent Ron Foumier asked Bush.

“Yes,” said Bush. “I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy.  We had a very good dialogue.

“I was able to get a sense of his soul, a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country.  I wouldn’t have invited him to my ranch if I didn’t trust him.”

Of course, no one from the Right is now recalling such embarrassing words.

It’s far more politically profitable to pretend that all of America’s tensions with Russia began with the election of Barack Obama.

And to pretend that those tensions have vanished now that another Right-wing President occupies the White House.

A FAST-FADING GLORY

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 30, 2017 at 12:23 am

Donald Trump repeatedly boasted that, if elected President, he would “make America great again.”  

He would do well to re-watch Saving Private Ryan, Steven Spielberg’s 1998 World War II epic.

This opens with a scene of an American flag snapping in the wind. Except that the brilliant colors of Old Glory have been washed out, leaving only black-and-white stripes and black stars.

And then the movie opens–not during World war II but the present day.  

Did Spielberg know something that his audience could only sense? Such as that the United States, for all its military power, has become a pale shadow of its former glory?

May 30, 1945, marked the first Memorial Day after World War II ended in Europe. On that day, the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery, near the town of Nettuno, held about 20,000 graves.  

Most were soldiers who had died in Sicily, at Salerno, or at Anzio. One of the speakers at the ceremony was Lieutenant General Lucian K. Truscott, Jr., the U.S. Fifth Army Commander. 

Lieutenant General Lucian K. Truscott, Jr.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It was the most moving gesture I ever saw,” wrote Mauldin.  

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

Fast forward 61 years later–to March 24, 2004. 

At a White House Correspondents dinner in Washington, D.C., President George W. Bush joked publicly about the absence of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) in Iraq.  

One year earlier, he had ordered the invasion of Iraq, claiming that its dictator, Saddam Hussein, possessed WMDs he intended to use against the United States.  

To Bush, the non-existent WMDs were simply the butt of a joke that night. While an overhead projector displayed photos of a puzzled-looking Bush searching around the Oval Office, Bush recited a comedy routine.  

“Those Weapons of Mass Destruction have gotta be here somewhere,” Bush laughed, while a photo showed him poking around the corners of the Oval Office.  

“Nope–no weapons over there! Maybe there’s under here,” he said, as a photo showed him looking under a desk.  

In a scene that could have occurred under the Roman emperor Nero, an assembly of wealthy, pampered men and women–the elite of America’s media and political classes–laughed heartily during Bush’s performance.  

Only later did the criticism come, from Democrats and Iraqi war veterans–especially those veterans who had lost comrades or suffered horrific wounds to protect America from a threat that had never existed.  

Then fast forward another 11 years–to February 27, 2015.  

The Republican party’s leading Presidential contenders for 2016 gathered at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.  

Although each candidate tried to stake his own claim to the Oval Office, all of them agreed on two points:

First, President Barack Obama had been dangerously timid in his conduct of foreign policy; and

Second, they would pursue aggressive military action in the Middle East. 

Neither Bush nor Walker had seen fit to enter the ranks of the military he wished to plunge into further combat. And Donald Trump, who would win the Republican nomination and the Presidency, was a five-time draft dodger while the Vietnam war raged.

Bush, Walker and Trump are typical of those who make up the United States Congress:

Of those members elected to the House and Senate in November, 2016, only 102–less than 19%–have served in the U.S. military.

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

NO HANKIES FOR HILLARY: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In History, Politics, Social commentary on April 24, 2017 at 1:29 am

If author Susan Bordo has her way, Americans will be sopping up tears with handkerchiefs for the next four years–if not longer.

Bordo is the author of a new book, The Destruction of Hillary Clinton. You need not read its full text to discover its thesis. Its dust jacket offers this in a Q and A format.

Question: “How did an extraordinarily well-qualified, experienced, and admired candidate—whose victory would have been as historic as Barack Obama’s—come to be seen as a tool of the establishment, a chronic liar, and a talentless politician?”

Answer:  “In this masterful narrative of the 2016 campaign year and the events that led up to it, Susan Bordo unpacks the Rights’ assault on Clinton and her reputation, the way the left provoked suspicion and indifference among the youth vote, the inescapable presence of [FBI Director] James Comey, questions about Russian influence, and the media’s malpractice in covering the candidate.”

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Susan Bordo

Others who come in for blame: WikiLeaks; Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders; younger women; and even Monica Lewinsky.

Yes, it was

  • Bernie Sanders’ fault for daring to challenge Clinton for the Democratic nomination–and refusing to accept that it was “Hillary’s turn” to become President.
  • WikiLeaks’ fault for publishing emails sent by members of the Democratic National Commitee–which proved the supposedly impartial DNC was working to secure the nomination for Clinton.
  • Younger women’s fault for not identifying with a woman old enough to be their grandmother–and who has lived an extraordinarily privileged life since she became First Lady in 1993.
  • Monica Lewinsky’s fault for being a reminder to voters that Hillary’s husband had disgraced the Presidency in an oral sex scandal.

All of these factors certainly played a part in why Clinton lost the White House for the second time in eight years.  But they are not all the factors behind her loss.

There were plenty of others–that are not mentioned in Bordo’s book.

Among these:

#1 Hillary Clinton was an uninspiring candidate. When Barack Obama ran for President in 2008, NBC Anchor Tom Brokaw compared his rallies to Hannah Montana concerts. Audiences were excited by his charisma, eloquence, relative youth (47) and optimism (“Yes We Can!”).

Clinton radiated none of these qualities. She was 67 when she declared her candidacy for President–and looked it. Her speaking voice grated like the proverbial fingernail on a blackboard.

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Hillary Clinton

She seemed to have been around forever–as First Lady (1993-2001), as Senator from New York (2001-2009) and as Secretary of State (2009-2013). Those born after 2000 thought of the Clinton Presidency as ancient history. She was offering a resume–and voters wanted an inspiration.

#2 Clinton brought a lot of baggage with her. In contrast to Obama, whose Presidency had been scandal-free, Clinton–rightly or wrongly–has always been dogged by charges of corruption.

During the Clinton Presidency, a failed land deal–Whitewater–while Bill Clinton was Governor of Arkansas triggered a seven-year investigation by a Republican special prosecutor. No criminality was uncovered, and no charge was brought against either Clinton.

After leaving the White House, she and her husband set up the Clinton Foundation, a public charity to bring government, businesses and social groups together to solve problems “faster, better, at lower cost.”

As Secretary of State, more than half of Clinton’s meetings with people outside government were with donors to the Clinton Foundation. If a “pay-to play” system wasn’t at work, one certainly seemed to be.

She cast further suspicion on herself by her unauthorized use of a private email server. This wasn’t revealed until March, 2015–after she was no longer Secretary of State.

She claimed she had used it to avoid carrying two cell-phones. But, as Secretary of State, she traveled with a huge entourage who carried everything she needed. Her critics believed she used a private email system to hide a “pay-for-pay” relationship with Clinton Foundation donors.

#3 As a candidate for President, she “secretly” worked with Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, to ensure that she would get the nomination.

As DNC chair, Wasserman-Schultz was expected to be impartial toward all Democratic candidates seeking the prize. This included Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s chief competitor.

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Bernie Sanders

So Sanders and his supporters were outraged when, on July 22, WikiLeaks released 19,252 emails and 8,034 attachments hacked from computers of the highest-ranking officials of the DNC.

The emails revealed a clear bias for Clinton and against Sanders. In one email, Brad Marshall, the chief financial officer of the DNC, suggested that Sanders, who is Jewish, could be portrayed as an atheist.

#4 The Obamas’ support proved a plus/minus for Clinton. Understandably, President Obama wanted to see his legacies continued–and she was the only candidate who could do it.

So he–and his wife, Michelle–stormed the country, giving eloquent, passionate speeches and firing up crowds on Clinton’s behalf.

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President Barack Obama

So long as either Obama stood before a crowd, the magic lasted. But once the event was over, the excitement vanished. Hillary simply didn’t arouse enough passion to keep it going.

Obama’s supporters found Clinton wanting–in attractiveness, grace, eloquence, trustworthiness and the ability to inspire. 

CHEERING ON OUR ENEMIES: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 7, 2017 at 12:10 am

Contrary to the propaganda of Republican militarists and Democratic do-gooders, Americans should be thrilled at the mutual destruction of their most dedicated enemies. Such as is now taking place in Syria.

And yet, faced with an unprecedented threat to their security, many Western leaders refuse to publicly acknowledge this fundamental truth. 

One man who predicted the ongoing Islamic-vs.-West conflicts with stunning clarity was Samuel P. Huntington. 

A political scientist, Huntington taught government at Harvard University (1950-1959, then at Columbia University (1959-1962). He returned to Harvard in 1963, and remained there until his death in 2008. 

The author of nine books, in 1996 he published his most influential one: The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order

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Its thesis was that, in the post-Cold War world, people’s cultural and religious identities would be the primary sources of conflict.

Huntington warned that the West’s future conflicts with Islamic nations would be rooted in the Islamic religion: 

The fundamental problem for the West is not Islamic fundamentalism. It is Islam, a different civilisation whose people are convinced of the superiority of their culture and are obsessed with the inferiority of their power.” 

Among his assertions:

  • Western nations should distance themselves from Islamic ones. The more both civilizations interact, the greater tensions between them will be.
  • Relations between Muslims and non-Muslims have been marked by Islamic antagonism and violence.
  • A fundamental clash of civilizations between Islam and the West is inevitable.
  • Even if Arab dictatorships fall, the new regimes won’t modernize along Western lines.
  • When the Muslim world conflicts with other civilizations, tensions and wars result.
  • Their primary attachment is to their religion, not to their nation-state.
  • Islamic civilization do not share the general ideals of the Western world–such as individualism and democracy.

Despite such realities, both Democratic and Republican politicians insist on constantly intervening in Middle East conflicts–such as the one in Syria. 

In Part One of this series, five reasons were given for why the United States should not intervene in the Syrian conflict. Here are the remaining five. 

Sixth, intervening in Syria could lead to Syrian attacks against Israel.  

An accidental or deliberate American military strike on Syrian government forces could lead the country’s dictator, Bashar al-Assad, to attack Israel–perhaps even with chemical weapons.  

If that happened, the Islamic world would rally to Syria against the United States, Israel’s chief ally.  

Seventh, committing American ground forces to Syria or just continuing to bomb targets there could lead to Islamic terrorism against the United States–at home or abroad.

Terrorists have already targeted Russia–which, on September 30, 2015, began bombing airstrikes on forces trying to overthrow Assad.

On October 31, Airbus A321, a Russian airliner, broke up in mid-air, then crashed in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, killing all 224 people on board. In Egypt, a militant group affiliated to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) claimed it had brought down the plane “in response to Russian airstrikes that killed hundreds of Muslims on Syrian land.”  

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Airbus A321

The same fate could well befall American civilians and/or soldiers.

Eighth, China and Russia are supporting the Assad dictatorship–and the brutalities it commits against its own citizens.  

This reflects badly on them–not the United States. And any move by the United States to directly attack the Assad regime could ignite an all-out war with Russia and/or China.  

What happens if a case of “friendly fire” leads Russian and American forces to start trading salvos? Or if Russian President Vladimir Putin orders an attack on America’s ally, Israel, in return for some perceived American slight of Russia’s ally, Syria?  

It was exactly that scenario–Great Powers going to war over conflicts between their small-state allies–that triggered World War I.  

Ninth, the United States cannot defeat ISIS in Syria through air power alone–thus making commitment of ground troops inevitable.

President Barack Obama authorized airstrikes against ISIS in September, 2014. The United States Air Force has since dropped thousands of bombs on ISIS convoys. This has not destroyed ISIS.

And its failure to do so has only led to demands by hawkish Republicans and Democrats for “boots on the ground.”  

Tenth–and most importantly: While Islamic nations like Syria, Iraq and Egypt wage war within their own borders, they will lack the resources–and incentive–to attack the United States.

Every dead Hezbollah and Al-Qaeda and ISIS member makes the United States that much safer. So does the death of every sympathizer of Hezbollah, Al-Qaeda and ISIS.  

When Al-Qaeda blows up civilians in Beirut, their relatives will urge Hezbollah to take brutal revenge. And Hezbollah will do so.

Al Qaeda terrorists–taking aim at Hezbollah terrorists

Similarly, when Hezbollah does, those who support Al-Qaeda will demand even more brutal reprisals against Hezbollah.  

If the West is lucky, this conflict could easily become the Islamic equivalent of “the Hundred Years War” that raged from 1337 to 1453 between England and France.

When Adolf Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, then-Senator Harry S. Truman said: “I hope the Russians kill lots of Nazis–and vice versa.”

That should be America’s position whenever its sworn enemies start killing off each other. Americans should welcome such self-slaughters, not become entrapped in them.  

CHEERING ON OUR ENEMIES: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 6, 2017 at 2:15 am

“Yesterday’s chemical attack, a chemical attack that was so horrific in Syria against innocent people, including women, small children and even beautiful little babies, their deaths were an affront to humanity.”

So spoke President Donald J. Trump at an April 5 press conference in the White House Rose Garden.  

He was referring to an April 4 chemical weapons attack in northwestern Syria that had killed scores of civilians. 

The bombing was carried out by the Syrian Air Force in an effort to put down a six-year civil war. 

The Syrian conflict began on March 15, 2011, triggered by protests demanding political reforms and the ouster of dictator Bashar al-Assad. Since then, the fighting has reportedly taken the lives of 470,000 men, women and children. 

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Bashar al-Assad

Yet, despite Trump’s rhetoric, there is an optimistic way to view this incident–and the Syrian conflict generally: As a win for the United States.  

Consider:

  • As many as 470,000 actual or potential enemies of Western civilization–and especially the United States–have chosen to slaughter one another.
  • Additional thousands are certain to follow their example.
  • The United States cannot be held in any way responsible for it.
  • And Russia–which openly supports the brutal Assad dictatorship–daily earns the hatred of the Islamic world.

Yet, Left-wing do-gooders and Right-wing militarists demand that the United States thrust itself into a conflict that doesn’t threaten America in any way. 

In fact, it’s in America’s best interests that this conflict last as long as possible and spread as widely as possible throughout the Islamic community. 

Here’s why: 

First, in Syria, two of America’s most deadly enemies are waging war on each other.

Yes, it’s Hezbollah (Party of God) vs. Al-Qaeda (The Base).  Hezbollah is comprised of Shiite Muslims. A sworn enemy of Israel, it has kidnapped scores of Americans suicidal enough to visit Lebanon and truck-bombed the Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983, killing 299 Americans. 

Flag of Hezbollah

Al Qaeda, on the other hand, is made up of Sunni Muslims. It is intolerant of Shiites and has instigated violence against them. It denounces them as takfirs–“apostates”–and thus worthy of extermination.

Flag of Al-Qaeda

Al Qaeda has attacked the mosques and gatherings of liberal Muslims, Shiites, Suffis and other non-Sunnis. Examples of sectarian attacks include the Sadr City bombings, the 2004 Ashoura massacre and the April, 2007 Baghdad bombings.

On one side of this conflict is the Ba’ath regime of Bashar al-Assad, whose allies include Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and elements of the Iraqi government.  

On the other side are a host of Syrians and thousands of foreign Sunni fighters, some of whom are affiliated with Al-Qaeda.  

Second, the United States has been at war in the Middle East for 15 years–since the terror attacks of September 11, 2001.

In October, 2001, America first committed its forces to Afghanistan, in pursuit of Osama bin Laden, the 9/11 mastermind. Failing to find him, its forces nevertheless stayed on in that country, hoping–and failing–to bring civilization to its barbaric population.

Then, in March, 2003, President George W. Bush invaded Iraq to settle a personal score with its dictator, Saddam Hussein.

After Bush’s father, George H.W. Bush, launched the 1991 Gulf War, Hussein had had the bad grace to not topple from power. When the elder Bush lost a second term as President to Bill Clinton in 1992, his son blamed Hussein.  

By contrast: America entered World War 1 in 1917–and wrapped up its fighting in Europe in 1918.  Similarly, the United States first committed forces in World War II in 1942–and saw an end to that conflict in 1945.  

Even the Vietnam war–far more divisive for Americans than either World War 1 or II–ended after eight years of fighting (1965-1973.

Third, the United States is still fighting a brutal war in Afghanistan.

America originally intended to withdraw all but a small embassy-based force of 1,000 troops by the end of 2016.  

But as the Taliban re-emerged as a threat, President Barack Obama announced he would maintain 9,800 troops there for most of 2016. Those troops are still stationed there–some of them advising local Afghan troops, others locked in deadly combat with the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.   

American soldiers in Afghanistan

Fourth, since 1979, Syria has been listed by the U.S. State Department as a sponsor of terrorism.

Among the terrorist groups it supports: Hezbollah and Hamas. For many years, Syria provided a safe-house in Damascus for Illich Ramirez Sanchez–the notorious international terrorist known as Carlos the Jackal. 

Fifth, the United States had no part in creating or supporting the decades-long dictatorship of the Assad regime–which has long been hostile to America.

After a long series of political maneuverings, Hafez al-Assad seized power in 1970 and was proclaimed “president” next year. With aid from the Soviet Union, he built up the Syrian army. Using arrest, torture and execution, he ruled Syria as a dictator until he died in 2000.  

His son, Bashar, then took command of Syria. Like his father, he has supported Palestinian and Lebanese militant groups. And, like his father, he continues to receive financial and military support from the successor to the Soviet Union, the Russian Federation.

Thus, America has no moral obligation of any kind to Syria–or Syrians. 

THE RUSSIANS AREN’T COMING–THEY’RE HERE: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 30, 2017 at 12:10 am

On March 28, a White House press conference turned into a battlefield.  

The contestants: White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer vs. April D. Ryan, the White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief for American Urban Radio Network.  

Ryan noted that President Donald J. Trump would soon receive a visit from Condoleeza Rice, the former Secretary of State under President George W. Bush. She also noted that, in 2006, Trump had “called her a negative name.”  

Although she didn’t utter the word, it was “bitch.”

Spicer: But at some point, the reality is that this president continues to reach out to individuals who’ve supported him, who didn’t support him, Republicans, Democrats, to try to bring the country together and move forward on an agenda that’s gonna help every American. That’s it. Plain and simple. 

Donald Trump

[Actually, it isn’t “plain and simple.”  Since taking office, Trump has made no effort to “reach out to individuals…who didn’t support him.” Nor has he tried “to bring the country together.”  

[On March 4, he libeled Barack Obama in a series of tweets, accusing the former President of illegally wiretapping his phones at Trump Tower. Since making that accusation, Trump has offered absolutely no proof to back it up.

[Nor has the Justice Department or FBI come forward with such evidence.] 

So, if you’re asking what we’re doing, I think we continue to do it. Which is to bring groups together that have been supportive of him, that haven’t been supportive of him, but that to share a goal which is finding common ground on areas of national security, of personal security, of economic security, of job creation, of safer communities, of education, of healthcare, that can unite us as a country and make the country stronger.

[It’s ironic that Spicer would say the administration’s goal is “finding common ground on areas” such as “healthcare.” Trump’s version of “repeal and replace” for “Obamacare” totally ignored any input by Democrats. On March 23, the House failed to pass Trumpcare because Republicans couldn’t agree to support it.

[Following her face-off with Spicer, Ryan had a message of her own for The Washington Post: “This is just par for the course, unfortunately. But I’ll be back. I’ll be back.”]  

* * * * *

Trump’s admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin has been well-established–by himself.  

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

The program’s host, Joe Scarborough, noted: “Well, I mean, [he’s] also a person who kills journalists, political opponents, and invades countries. obviously that would be a concern, would it not?” 

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

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Vladimir Putin

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

At a press conference in Doral, Florida, Trump declared: “Russia, if you are listening, I hope you are able to find the 33,000 emails that are missing–I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”  

This was nothing less than treason—calling upon a foreign power, hostile to the United States, to interfere in its Presidential election. 

As President, Trump has defended the leader of the Communist world against hostile journalists and American Intelligence agencies.

On February 5, he gave an interview to Fox News host Bill O’Reilly. As startled viewers watched, there occurred this exchange: 

O’REILLY: “Do you respect Putin?”

TRUMP: “I do respect him but—” 

O’REILLY: “Do you? Why?” 

TRUMP: “Well, I respect a lot of people but that doesn’t mean I’m going to get along with him. He’s a leader of his country. I say it’s better to get along with Russia than not.

“And if Russia helps us in the fight against ISIS, which is a major fight, and Islamic terrorism all over the world —that’s a good thing. Will I get along with him? I have no idea.”

O’REILLY: “But he’s a killer though. Putin’s a killer.” 

TRUMP: “There are a lot of killers. We’ve got a lot of killers. What do you think—our country’s so innocent? You think our country’s so innocent?” 

Trump launched his Presidential campaign on June 16, 2015.

According to The New York Times, by late October, 2016, he had aimed nearly 4,000 insulting tweets at 281 targets. 

Among those insulted:

  • Women
  • Blacks
  • Hispanics
  • The news media
  • Asians
  • Muslims
  • The disabled
  • Prisoners-of-war
  • The Pope 

Considering his hair-trigger temper and willingness to insult virtually anyone, Trump’s careful, even fawning attitude toward Vladimir Putin stands out. 

Following Trump’s February 5 remarks on Putin, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said it best:

“I want to know what the Russians have on Donald Trump. I think we have to have an investigation by the FBI into his financial, personal and political connections to Russia, and we want to see his tax returns, so we can have truth in the relationship between Putin, whom he admires, and Donald Trump.”

THE RUSSIANS AREN’T COMING–THEY’RE HERE: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 29, 2017 at 12:05 am

It was the verbal equivalent of a prizefight.  

In one corner was April D. Ryan, the longtime White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief for American Urban Radio Network.

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April D. Ryan

In the other corner was Sean Spicer, White House press secretary for President Donald J. Trump.  

Since taking office on January 20, Trump has been ensnared in a series of revelations about collaboration between members of his 2016 Presidential campaign and Russian Intelligence agents.

The FBI, CIA and National Security Agency have officially stated that Russian Intelligence played a major role in trying to sway the election for Trump.

Trump has repeatedly attacked the “fake news” media reporting these revelations. Chief among his targets: CNN, The New York Times and The Washington Post

On March 28, disgusted with the administration’s stonewalling and outright lying, reporter April Ryan directly confronted Sean Spicer at a White House press conference.  

The result was explosive.

April Ryan: With all of these investigations, questions of what is, is? How does this administration try to revamp its image two and a half months in? You’ve got this Yates story today, you’ve got other things going on. You’ve got Russia. You’ve got, you’ve got wiretapping. You’ve got —

Sean Spicer: No, we don’t have that. You’ve …

Ryan: There are investigations on Capitol Hill– 

Spicer: No, no, no. I get it. But you keep — I’ve said it from the day that I got here until whatever that there is no connection. You’ve got Russia. If the president puts Russian salad dressing on his salad tonight, somehow that’s a Russian connection.

Sean Spicer

But every single person. No. Well, no, that’s … I appreciate your agenda here. But the reality is … oh no, no. Hold on, no, at some point, report the facts. The facts are that every single person who has been briefed on this subject has come away with the same conclusion. Republican, Democrat.

[This is a lie. In fact, the more digging that goes on, the more embarrassing revelations turn up of collusion between high-ranking administration officials and Russian agents or monies.]

So, I’m sorry that that disgusts you. You’re shaking your head. I appreciate it. But, but …

Ryan: … I’m trying to understand …

Spicer: But understand this. At some point, the facts are what they are. And every single person who has been briefed on this situation with respect to the situation with Russia, Republican, Democrat, Obama-appointee, career, have all come to the same conclusion.

[Another lie.  The FBI is now investigating contacts between Russian Intelligence agents and members of the Trump Presidential campaign.]

At some point, April, you’re gonna have to take no for an answer with respect to whether or not there was collusion.

Ryan: How do you change the perception of, of…

Spicer: We’re going to keep doing everything we’re doing to make sure that the president’s — that what the president told the American people he was going to do, to fulfill those pledges and promises that he made, to bring back jobs, to grow the economy, to keep our nation safe.

That’s what he’s been focused on since day one. We’re going to keep focusing on that every single day.

[In short: We’re going to continue to lie and deny.]

Ryan: Condi Rice [Secretary of State under President George W. Bush] comes Friday. Condi Rice did not support this president. She did not go to the convention. She comes, what is on the agenda?

And how is their relationship? Has it healed since 2006 when he used a very negative word to describe her?  

Image result for images of Condoleezza Rice

Condoleeza Rice

[The word was “bitch.” In 2006, Trump told an audience at a Learning Annex convention speech: “Condoleezza Rice, she’s a lovely woman, but I think she’s a bitch. She goes around to other countries and other nations, negotiates with their leaders, comes back and nothing ever happens.”] 

Spicer: So here’s what I’ll tell you. It’s interesting that you ask those two questions back to back. On the one hand you’re saying what’re we doing to improve our image? And then here he is, once again, meeting somebody that hasn’t been a big supporter of his. Hold on ...

Ryan: He called her a negative name in 2006.

Spicer: But, April, hold on. It seems like you’re hellbent on trying to make sure that whatever image that you want to tell about this White House stays, because at the end of the day.  Let me answ ….

Ryan: … call her that name. I am just reporting what —

Spicer: Okay, but, you know what, you’re asking me a question and I’m going to answer it. Which is, the president, I’m sorry, please stop shaking your head again.

But at some point, the reality is that this president continues to reach out to individuals who’ve supported him, who didn’t support him, Republicans, Democrats, to try to bring the country together and move forward on an agenda that’s gonna help every American. That’s it. Plain and simple.

[Actually, it isn’t “plain and simple.” And additional proof of this will be offered in Part Two of this series.]

FEAR–AND ITS POLITICAL LEGACY

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on March 10, 2017 at 10:38 am

Dick Cheney left office as co-President of the United States on January 20, 2009. During the last four years, he has had time to write his memoirs and reflect on the legacies of the George W. Bush Presidency.

His book, In My Time, was published in 2012. And, in March, 2013, Cheney appeared in the Showtime-produced documentary, “The World According to Dick Cheney.”

Dick Cheney

Throughout the program, Cheney showed no interest in introspection.

“I don’t go around thinking, ‘Gee, I wish we’d done this, or I wish I’d done that,’” said Cheney. “The world is as you find it, and you’ve got to deal with that….You don’t get do-overs.

“I did what I did, and it’s all part of the public record and I feel very good about it.  If I had it to do over again, I’d do it in a minute.”

When the interviewer, R.J. Cutler, raised how the administration altered privacy rights, tortured detainees and pushed for an unnecessary war in Iraq, Cheney replied:

“Tell me what terrorist acts you would let go forward because you didn’t want to be a mean and nasty fella?”

Perhaps the most telling moment came when Cheney outlined his overall views on Realpolitick:

“Are you going to trade the lives of a number of people because you want to preserve your honor?” asked Cheney. “This was a wartime situation and it was more important to be successful than it was to be loved.”

Perhaps Cheney was thinking of Niccolo Machiavelli’s famous quote about love versus fear in The Prince, his primer on how to attain political power:

From this arises the question whether it is better to be loved than feared, or feared more than loved.  The reply is, that one ought to be both feared and loved, but as it is difficult for the two to go together, it is much safer to be feared than loved. 

For it may be said of men in general that they are ungrateful, voluble, dissemblers, anxious to avoid danger and covetous of gain; as long as you benefit them, they are entirely yours: they offer you their blood, their goods, their life and their children, when the necessity is remote, but when it approaches, they revolt….

Niccolo Machiavelli

And men have less scruple in offending one who makes himself loved than one who makes himself feared; for love is held by a chain of obligations which, men being selfish, is broken whenever it serves their purpose; but fear is maintained by a dread of punishment which never fails.

Cheney appears to belileve that it’s better to be feared than loved.

In that, he has plenty of company among his fellow politicians–in the United States and elsewhere. But there is more to Machiavelli’s teaching, and this is usually overlooked–as it most certainly was by Cheney:

Still, a prince should make himself feared in such a way that if he does not gain love, he at any rate avoids hatred: for fear and the absence of hatred may well go together…. 

If Cheney considers himself a student of Machiavelli, then he utterly ignored this last offering of cautionary advice.

By authorizing the use of torture, the administration made itself–in the eyes of its Western European allies as well as its Islamic enemies–an epicenter of evil. “Guantanamo”–the Marine base in Cuba that had been largely forgotten over the decades–became a synonym for Auschwitz.

And after photographs emerged of the tortures and humiliations of detainees at Abu Garib Prison in Iraq, the United States sank even lower in the world’s estimation.

Among the human rights violations committed upon prisoners held by U.S. Army military police and assorted CIA agents:

  • physical abuse
  • psychological abuse
  • torture
  • rape
  • sodomy
  • homicide.

Of the ultimate legacy of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, historian Nigel Hamilton wrote in his 2010 book, American Caesars: Lives of the Presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt to George W. Bush:

“…arguably the worst of all the American Caesars, who willfully and recklessly destroyed so much of the moral basis of American leadership in the modern world.”

Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin believed, above all, in the brutal use of force–whether applied by prison torturers or legions of soldiers unrestrained by the Geneva Convention.

Once, when told that a certain policy he wanted to pursue would be heavily criticized by the Pope, he famously asked: “How many divisions does the Pope have?”

Stalin died in 1953. Had he lived on into the 1980s, he would have found out.

It was then that Pope John Paul II showed the power of an aroused spirituality.

John Paul II

When the Soviet Union seemed about to invade his native Poland as it had Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968, the Pope reportedly sent the Kremlin a message: He would fly to Warsaw and place himself directly in the line of fire.

The Soviets never dared launch their planned invasion.

It is a lesson utterly lost on the likes of men like Dick Cheney.

SECRETS AND MERCENARIES

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 9, 2017 at 4:37 pm

On March 7, WikiLeaks published a “data dump” of 8,761 documents codenamed “Vault 7.”

According to WikiLeaks, it represents “the majority of [the CIA’s] hacking arsenal, including malware, viruses, trojans, weaponized ‘zero day’ exploits, malware remote control systems and associated documentation.”

The documents expose that the CIA found security flaws in software operating systems such as Microsoft Windows, Android and Apple iOS. These allow an intruder–such as the CIA–to seize control of a computer or smartphone.

The owner could then be photographed through his iPhone camera and have his text messages intercepted.

Through a program called Weeping Angel, CIA operatives could–and did–spy on targets through their Samsung F8000 Smart TV sets.  Even when these were turned off, they could be transformed into a 1984-type “telescreen.”

The published documents covered CIA hacking techniques used between 2013 and 2016.

“This is CIA’s Edward Snowden,” former CIA acting director Michael Morrell told CBS News, referring to the former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor who leaked millions of documents in 2013.

“This is huge, in terms of what it will tell the adversaries,” Morrell said. “We’ll have to essentially start over in building tools to get information from our adversaries, just like we did with Snowden.”

So who made it possible for WikiLeaks to so thoroughly compromise United States security?

According to anonymous U.S. Intelligence and law enforcement sources, the culprits were CIA contractors. Contractors are suspected because there is no evidence that Russian Intelligence agencies tried to exploit any of the leaked material before it was published.

Companies that work with the CIA are checking their records for evidence of who might have had access to the leaked information.  They will then scour those employees’ computer logs, emails and other communications for incriminating evidence.

In his 2007 bestseller, Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA, Tim Weiner outlined the dangers of the agency’s increasing dependence on outside contractors.

“Patriotism for profit became a $50-billion-a-year business….After the cold war, the agency began contracting out thousands of jobs to fill the perceived void by the budget cuts that began in 1992.

“A CIA officer could file his retirement papers, turn in his blue identification badge, go to work for a much better salary at a military contractor such as Lockheed Martin or Booz Allen Hamilton, then return to the CIA the next day, wearing a green badge….”

(Edward Snowden deliberately became a Booz Allen Hamilton contract employee to secure a job as a computer systems administrator at the National Security Agency (NSA). This gave him access to thousands of highly classified documents–which, in 2013, he began publicly leaking to a wide range of news organizations.

(His motive, he has claimed, was to alert his fellow Americans to the privacy-invading dangers posed by their own Intelligence agencies.)

Continues Weiner: “Great chunks of the clandestine service became wholly dependent on contractors who looked like they were in the CIA’s chain of command, but who worked for their corporate masters. In effect, the agency had two workforces–and the private one was paid far better….

“Legions of CIA veterans quit their posts to sell their services to the agency by writing analyses, creating cover for overseas officers, setting up communications networks, and running clandestine operations.” 

One such company was Total Intelligence Solutions, founded in 2007 by Cofer Black, who had been the chief of the CIA’s counterrorism center on 9/11. His partners were Robert Richer, formerly the associate deputy director of operations at the CIA, and Enrique Prado, who had been Black’s chief of counterterror operations at the agency.

“Following their example,” writes Weiner, “new CIA hires adopted their own five-year plan: get in, get out, and get paid.  A top secret security clearance and a green badge were golden tickets for a new breed of Beltway bandits.”

This situation met with full support from Right-wing “pro-business” members of Congress and Presidents like George W. Bush. They had long championed the private sector as inherently superior to the public one. And they saw no danger that a man dedicated to enriching himself might put greed ahead of safeguarding his country.

There were, however, others who could have offered a timely warning against this–had there been leaders willing to heed it.

One of these, reaching back more than 500 years ago, was the Florentine statesman, Niccolo Machiavelli, who famously warned of the dangers of relying on mercenaries.

Niccolo Machiavelli 

In The Prince, Machiavelli writes:

“Mercenaries…are useless and dangerous. And if a prince holds on to his state by means of mercenary armies, he will never be stable or secure. For they are disunited, ambitious, without discipline, disloyal. They are brave among friends; among enemies they are cowards.

“They have neither the fear of God nor fidelity to man, and destruction is deferred only as the attack is. For in peace one is robbed by them, and in war by the enemy.”

Centuries after Machiavelli’s warning, Americans are realizing the bitter truth of it firsthand.

THE SIX DEADLY FLAWS IN “OBAMACARE”: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on March 2, 2017 at 12:11 am

President Barack Obama was often accused of playing ruthless “Chicago politics” by his Republican enemies. But Obama’s biggest mistake lay not in cynicism but misplaced idealism.

Obama Mistake No. 5: Believing that public and private employers would voluntarily comply with the law.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires employers to provide insurance for part-time employees who work more than 30 hours per week. Yet many employers claimed–without having to offer proof–that they couldn’t afford it.

So they limited part-time workers’ hours to 29 per week instead.

Obama was clearly surprised at this. But he shouldn’t have been.

Greed-fueled businessmen always try to avoid complying with the law–or achieve minimum compliance with it.

The Act doesn’t penalize companies for not providing health insurance coverage for part-time employees who work fewer than 30 hours.

Predictably, employers:

  • Moved fulltime workers into part-time positions;
  • Refused to provide their employees with medical insurance; and
  • Avoided fines for non-compliance with the law.

Some employers openly showed their contempt for President Obama–and the idea that employers have any obligation to those who make their profits a reality.

One was John Schnatter, CEO of Papa John’s Pizza, who said:

  • The prices of his pizzas would go up–by 11 to 14 cents per pizza, or 15 to 20 cents per order; and
  • He would pass along these costs to his customers.

 John Schnatter

“If Obamacare is in fact not repealed,” he told Politico, “we will find tactics to shallow out any Obamacare costs and core strategies to pass that cost onto consumers in order to protect our shareholders’ best interests.”

Thus, President Obama should have required all employers to provide insurance coverage for all of their employees, regardless of their fulltime or part-time status.  

This would have produced two substantial benefits:

  1. All employees would have been able to obtain medical coverage; and
  2. Employers would have been encouraged to provide fulltime positions rather than part-time ones.

Employers would thus feel: “I’m paying for fulltime insurance coverage, so I should be getting fulltime work in return.”

If Obama considered this option, he decided against pressing for it.

Obama Mistake No. 6: Failing to closely study his proposed legislation.

Throughout his campaign to win support for the ACA, Obama had repeatedly promised: “If you like your health insurance plan, you can keep your plan. If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. Period.”

But the 906 pages of the law held a fatal catch for the President’s own credibility.

The law stated that those who already had medical insurance could keep their plans–so long as those plans met the requirements of the new healthcare law.

If their plans didn’t meet those requirements, they would have to obtain coverage that did.

But many Americans wanted to keep their current plan–even if it did not provide the fullest possible coverage.

Suddenly, the President found himself facing a PR nightmare–charged and ridiculed as a liar.

Even Jon Stewart, who on “The Daily Show,” had supported the implementation of “Obamacare,” ran footage of Obama’s “you can keep your doctor” promise.

Jon Stewart

The implication: You said we could keep our plan/doctor. Since we can’t, you must be a liar.

All of which points to a final warning offered by Niccolo Machiavelli: Whence it may be seen that hatred is gained as much by good works as by evil….  

Former Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton said that, if she were elected, she would seek incremental changes in the ACA. That possibility became moot when she lost the 2016 election to Donald Trump.

Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, wants a single-payer plan.

A single-payer plan would prove simpler and more comprehensive than the ACA. But the chances of its passing a Republican-dominated Congress are absolutely zero.

The election of Donald Trump seems to have finally doomed the ACA–except for one thing: Since it became law, in 2010, 22 million Americans who had never before obtained healthcare insurance now have it.

This includes even Republicans who voted for Trump–without realizing they would be losing their only tie to medical care.  And now many of them are finally realizing this truth.

Thus, Republicans in the House and Senate now find themselves besieged by angry constituents at town hall meetings.

These Republicans care nothing for Americans who would be left without medical care. But they do care about their own futures–as members of Congress.

This has led to three schisms among Republicans:

  • Those who still demand the complete repeal of “Obamacare.”
  • Those who want the Act repealed and then replaced with an entirely different healthcare plan–which Republicans have yet to agree on. Developing this could literally take years–during which time former ACA members would have no insurance.
  • Those who want Republicans to first create an alternative healthcare plan, win its Congressional approval, and then repeal the Act.

Republicans expect Democrats to sign on with their “Obamacare replacement plan.” But Democrats have made it clear: “You repeal it, you’re on your own in replacing it.”

Republicans spent eight years demanding the repeal of “Obamacare.” But now they fear that its repeal will lead to the repeal of their own political ambitions.

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