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REPUBLICANS: FROM “BETTER DEAD THAN RED” TO “BETTER RED THAN UN-ELECTED”–PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 13, 2019 at 12:07 am

During the 1970s and 1980s, Republicans continue to accuse Democrats of being acting agents—or at least unwitting pawns—of “the Communist conspiracy.”

As late as 1992, President George H.W. Bush and the Republican establishment charge that Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton might be a KGB plant.

George H.W. Bush

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

In short: Clinton might have been “programmed” as a real-life “Manchurian candidate” to become, first, Governor of Arkansas—one of America’s poorest states—and then President.

Making this charge even more absurd: The Soviet Union had officially dissolved in December, 1991. 

After the Soviet Union’s collapse, Republicans find that accusing Democrats of being “Commies” doesn’t carry the same weight.

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

From 1945 to 1991, it is unthinkable for a Republican Presidential candidate to pay tribute to a Soviet dictator.

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

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Donald Trump

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

The reason for the Trump-Putin bromance is simple: Each has something to offer the other.

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

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

These Russian monies are officially classified as “campaign contributions”—not bribes.

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

“Russia, if you are listening,” Trump says at a press conference in Doral, Florida, “I hope you are able to find the 33,000 emails that are missing [from Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s computer]. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

This is treason—calling upon a foreign power, hostile to the United States, to interfere in its Presidential election.

Hours later, the Main Intelligence Directorate in Moscow targets Clinton’s personal office and hits more than 70 other Clinton campaign accounts.

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

According to the Federal Election Commission:

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

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

Millions of dollars go to top Republican leaders—such as Senators Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio (Florida) and Lindsey Graham (South Carolina)Specifically, he contributes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

On March 30, 2017, McConnell’s PAC accepts another $1 million from Blavatnik. This is just 10 days after former FBI Director James Comey testifies before the House Intelligence Committee about Russia’s efforts to subvert the 2016 election

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

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

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

But when Republicans found they could enrich themselves and stay in power via Russian “campaign contributions,” they decided: Better Red than un-elected.

REPUBLICANS: FROM “BETTER DEAD THAN RED” TO “BETTER RED THAN UN-ELECTED”–PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 10, 2019 at 12:07 am

On September 7, 2018, former President Barack Obama asked: “What happened to the Republican Party?”

He did so as a guest speaker at the University of Illinois.  And he quickly answered it:

“Its central organizing principle in foreign policy was the fight against communism, and now they’re cozying up to the former head of the KGB. Actively blocking legislation that would defend our elections from Russian attack.  What happened?” 

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Barack Obama as President

On the surface, it seems the Republican Party has drastically changed.  But, in reality, there has been no substantial change at all.

In 1932, Democratic nominee Franklin D. Roosevelt wins election against Republican President Herbert Hoover. So popular is he that he wins an unprecedented four terms—12 years!—in the White House, seeing America through the Great Depression and World War II,

In 1945, Roosevelt suddenly dies in office, leaving Vice President Harry S. Truman in command. He lacks the imperial magnetism and eloquence of FDR, so Republicans assume that 1948 will be a cakewalk for them.

But it isn’t. Instead, Truman wins a second term—and rubs it in by holding up the now-defunct headline, “DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN” for reporters to photograph.

By 1952, Republicans have been locked out of the White House for 20 years.  They’re desperate to return—and angry enough to do anything to win.  

They find attacking the integrity of their fellow Americans a highly effective tactic.

During the 1950s, Wisconsin United States Senator Joseph R. McCarthy rides a wave of paranoia to national prominence—by attacking the patriotism of anyone who disagrees with him.

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

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

Senator Joseph R. McCarthy

Americans are already growing increasingly fearful of Communism:

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

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

Any American can be accused of being a Communist or a Communist sympathizer—”a Comsymp” or “fellow traveler” in the style of the era.

Among those accused:

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

Even “untouchable” Republicans become targets for such slander.

The most prominent of these is President Dwight D. Eisenhower—labeled ”a conscious, dedicated agent of the Communist Conspiracy” by Robert Welch, founder of the John Birch Society in 1958.

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

But the hearings backfire, exposing McCarthy as a bullying demagogue. A Senate committee condemns his behavior as acting “contrary to senatorial ethics and tended to bring the Senate into dishonor and disrepute.”

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

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

By 1968, with the nation mired in Vietnam and convulsed by antiwar demonstrations and race riots, Americans turn once more to those who prey upon their fears and hates.

They elect Richard Nixon, who promises to end the Vietnam war and attack “uppity” blacks and antiwar demonstrators—and, above all, “the Communist menace.”

The same strategy re-elects him in 1972.

Jimmy Carter wins the Presidency in 1976 and loses it in 1980 to Ronald Reagan. 

Reagan doesn’t want to continue the “stalemate” of “containing” Communism. He intends to roll it back. Tensions rise between the United States and the Soviet Union—the highest since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.

American proxies fight Soviet proxies in Afghanistan and Central America, but the world escapes nuclear holocaust.

PRESIDENTS RULE BY CONSENT, DICTATORS RULE BY FEAR: PART TWO (END)

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

In January, 2018, the White House banned the use of personal cell phones in the West Wing. The official reason: National security.

The real reason: To stop staffers from leaking to reporters.

More ominously, well-suited men roam the halls of the West Wing, carrying devices that pick up signals from phones that aren’t government-issued.

“Did someone forget to put their phone away?” one of the men will ask if such a device is detected. If no one says they have a phone, the detection team start searching the room.

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Phone detector

The devices can tell which type of phone is in the room.

This is the sort of behavior Americans have traditionally—and correctly—associated with dictatorships

In his memo outlining the policy, then-Chief of Staff John Kelly warned that anyone who violated the phone ban could be punished, including “being indefinitely prohibited from entering the White House complex.”

Yet even these draconian methods may not end White House leaks.

White House officials still speak with reporters throughout the day and often air their grievances, whether about annoying colleagues or competing policy priorities.

Aides with private offices sometimes call reporters on their desk phones. Others get their cell phones and call or text reporters during lunch breaks.

According to an anonymous White House source: “The cellphone ban is for when people are inside the West Wing, so it really doesn’t do all that much to prevent leaks. If they banned all personal cellphones from the entire [White House] grounds, all that would do is make reporters stay up later because they couldn’t talk to their sources until after 6:30 pm.”

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Other sources believe that leaks won’t end unless Trump starts firing staffers. But there is always the risk of firing the wrong people. Thus, to protect themselves, those who leak might well accuse tight-lipped co-workers.

Within the Soviet Union (especially during the reign of Joseph Stalin) fear of secret police surveillance was widespread—and absolutely justified.

Among the methods used to keep conversations secret:

  • Turning on the TV or radio to full volume.
  • Turning on a water faucet at full blast.
  • Turning the dial of a rotary phone to the end—and sticking a pencil in one of the small holes for numbers.
  • Standing six to nine feet away from the hung-up receiver.
  • Going for “a walk in the woods.” 
  • Saying nothing sensitive on the phone.

The secret police (known as the Cheka, the NKVD, the MGB, the KGB, and now the FSB) operated on seven working principles:

  1. Your enemy is hiding.
  2. Start from the usual suspects.
  3. Study the young.
  4. Stop the laughing.
  5. Rebellion spreads like wildfire.
  6. Stamp out every spark.
  7. Order is created by appearance.

Trump has always ruled through bribery and fear. He’s bought off (or tried to) those who might cause him trouble—like porn actress Stormy Daniels. And he’s threatened or filed lawsuits against those he couldn’t or didn’t want to bribe—such as contractors who have worked on various Trump properties. 

But Trump can’t buy the loyalty of employees working in an atmosphere of hostility—which breeds resentment and fear. And some of them are taking revenge by sharing with reporters the latest crimes and follies of the Trump administration.

The more Trump wages war on the “cowards and traitors” who work most closely with him, the more some of them will find opportunities to strike back. This will inflame Trump even more—and lead him to seek even more repressive methods against his own staffers. 

This is a no-win situation for Trump.

The results will be twofold:

  1. Constant turnovers of staffers—with their replacements having to undergo lengthy background checks before coming on; and
  2. Continued leaking of embarrassing secrets by resentful employees who stay.

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As host of NBC’s “The Apprentice,” Trump became famous for booting off contestants with the phrase: “You’re fired.” In fact, he so delighted in using this that, in 2004, he tried to gain trademark ownership of it.

But  the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office rejected his application. American copyright law explicitly prohibits copyright protections for short phrases or sayings.

Since taking office as President, Trump has bullied and insulted even White House officials and his own handpicked Cabinet officers. This has resulted in an avalanche of firings and resignations. 

The first two years of Trump’s White House have seen more firings, resignations, and reassignments of top staffers than any other first-term administration in modern history. His Cabinet turnover exceeds that of any other administration in the last 100 years.

In 1934, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, seeing imaginary enemies everywhere, ordered a series of purges that lasted right up to the German invasion in 1941.

No one was safe from execution—not even the men who slaughtered as many as 20 to 60 million. 

Fittingly, for all the fear he inspired, Stalin was plagued by paranoia. He lived in constant fear of assassination. Although surrounded by bodyguards, he distrusted even them.

Thus Stalin, who had turned the Soviet Union into a vast prison, became its leading prisoner.  

Similarly, Donald Trump daily proves the truth of the age-old warning: “You can build a throne of bayonets, but you can’t sit on it.”

PRESIDENTS RULE BY CONSENT, DICTATORS RULE BY FEAR: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 11, 2019 at 12:17 am

Donald Trump has often been compared to Adolf Hitler. But his reign bears far more resemblance to that of Joseph Stalin.

Germany’s Fuhrer, for all his brutality, maintained a relatively stable government by keeping the same men in office—from the day he took power on January 30, 1933, to the day he blew out his brains on April 30, 1945.

Adolf Hitler

Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1990-048-29A / CC-BY-SA 3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)%5D

Heinrich Himmler, a former chicken farmer, remained head of the dreaded, black-uniformed Schutzstaffel, or Protection Squads, known as the SS, from 1929 until his suicide in 1945. 

In April, 1934, Himmler was appointed assistant chief of the Gestapo (Secret State Police) in Prussia, and from that position he extended his control over the police forces of the whole Reich.

Hermann Goering, an ace fighter pilot in World War 1, served as Reich commissioner for aviation and head of the newly developed Luftwaffe, the German air force, from 1935 to 1945.

And Albert Speer, Hitler’s favorite architect, held that position from 1933 until 1942, when Hitler appointed him Reich Minister of Armaments and War Production. He held that position until the Third Reich collapsed in April, 1945.

Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin, by contrast, purged his ministers constantly.  For example: From 1934 to 1953, Stalin had no fewer than three chiefs of his secret police, then named the NKVD:

  • Genrikh Yagoda – (July 10, 1934 – September 26, 1936)
  • Nikolai Yezhov (September 26, 1936 – November 25, 1938) and
  • Lavrenty Beria (November, 1938 – March, 1953).

Stalin purged Yagoda and Yezhov, with both men executed after their arrest.

Joseph Stalin

He reportedly wanted to purge Beria, too, but the latter may have acted first. There has been speculation that Beria slipped warfarin, a blood-thinner often used to kill rats, into Stalin’s drink, causing him to die of a cerebral hemorrhage.

Stalin’s record for slaughter far eclipses that of Hitler.

For almost 30 years, through purges and starvation caused by enforced collections of farmers’ crops, Stalin slaughtered 20 to 60 million people. 

The 1930s were a frightening and dangerous time to be alive in the Soviet Union. In 1934, Stalin, seeing imaginary enemies everywhere, ordered a series of purges that lasted right up to the German invasion in 1941.

An example of Stalin’s paranoia occurred one day while the dictator walked through the Kremlin corridors with Admiral Ivan Isakov. Officers of the NKVD (the predecessor to the KGB) stood guard at every corner. 

“Every time I walk down the corridors,” said Stalin, “I think: Which one of them is it? If it’s this one, he will shoot me in the back. But if I turn the corner, the next one can shoot me in the face.”

Another Russian-installed tyrant who has sought to rule by fear: President Donald J. Trump.

In fact, he admitted as much to journalist Bob Woodward during the 2016 Presidential race: “Real power is—I don’t even want to use the word—fear.” 

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Donald Trump

As a Presidential candidate, Trump repeatedly used Twitter to attack hundreds of real and imagined enemies in politics, journalism, TV and films.

As President, he continues to insult virtually everyone, verbally and on Twitter. His targets include Democrats, Republicans, the media, foreign leaders and even members of his Cabinet.

In Russian, the word for “purge” is “chistka,” for “cleansing.”  Among the victims of Trump’s recurring chistkas:

  • Sally Yates – Assistant United States Attorney General
  • James Comey – FBI Director
  • Andrew McCabe – FBI Deputy Director 
  • Jeff Sessions – United States Attorney General 
  • Rachel Brand – Associate United States Attorney General 
  • Randolph “Tex” Alles – Director of the United States Secret Service
  • Krisjen Nielsen – Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security

In his infamous political treatise, The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli, the Florentine statesman, asked: “Is it is better to be loved or feared?”  

And he answered it thus:

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….

“And the prince who has relied solely on their words, without making other preparations, is ruined….

“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.” 

But Machiavelli warned about relying primarily on fear: “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.”  

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Donald Trump has violated that counsel throughout his life. He not only makes enemies, he revels in doing so—and in the fury he has aroused.

Filled with a poisonous hatred that encompasses almost everyone, Trump, since taking office, has repeatedly played to the hatreds of his Right-wing base.  

As first-mate Starbuck says of Captain Ahab in Herman Melville’s classic novel, Moby Dick: “He is a champion of darkness.”

ADAM SCHIFF CHANNELS MARK ANTONY: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Entertainment, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on April 2, 2019 at 12:10 am

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

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

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

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

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

Other Republicans quickly joined the chorus:

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

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

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

Adam Schiff official portrait.jpg

Adam Schiff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ADAM SCHIFF CHANNELS MARK ANTONY: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Entertainment, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on April 1, 2019 at 12:07 am

“Friends, Romans, countrymen—lend me your ears!”

It’s the opening line of a speech once widely memorized by schoolboys in English literature classes. It’s from William Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” and it’s a far more sophisticated piece of writing than most people realize.

Mark Antony, addressing a crowd of Romans at the funeral of his former patron, Julius Caesar, faces a serious problem.

Caesar has been murdered by a band of conspirators who feared he intended to make himself king.  The chief conspirator, Marcus Brutus, is one of the most honored men in ancient Rome.  And he has just addressed the same crowd.

As a result, they are now convinced that the assassination was fully justified.  They assume that Antony intends to attack the conspirators.  And they are ready to attack him—maybe physically—if he does.

But Antony is too smart to do that—at least initially.  

Instead, he assures the crowd: “I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.” 

And he praises the chief conspirator: “The noble Brutus hath told you Caesar was ambitious. If so, it was a grievous fault—and grievously hath Caesar answered it.”

Then he introduces a line he will repeat with great effectiveness throughout the rest of his speech: “For Brutus is an honorable man—so are they all, all honorable men.”

The “Death of Julius Caesar”, as depicted by Vincenzo Camuccini.

For Antony, the line is ironic. But it serves his purpose to appease the crowd.  Later, he will wield it like a sword against the same conspirators.

“He was my friend, faithful and just to me.” And then: “But Brutus says he was ambitious, and Brutus is an honorable man.”

Antony then goes on to extol Caesar as the foremost Roman of his time:

  • As a military victor: “You all do know this mantle. I remember the first time ever Caesar put it on. ‘Twas on…that day he overcame the Nervii.”
  • As a humanitarian: “When that the poor hath cried, Caesar hath wept.”

And then, as if against his better judgment, he says: “But here’s a parchment with the seal of Caesar. I found it in his closet—’tis his will. Let but the commons hear this testament—which, pardon me, I do not mean to read—and they would go and kiss dead Caesar’s wounds.” 

This inflames the crowd’s curiosity and greed: What has Caesar left them? And Antony’s refusing to read the alleged will only makes them determined to hear it.

Now the crowd is entirely at Antony’s disposal. They hurl abuse at the conspirators: “They were traitors!”  “They were villains, murderers!”

So Antony, claiming to read Caesar’s will, pronounces: “To every Roman citizen he gives…seventy-five drachmas.” 

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Marlon Brando as Mark Antony in the 1953 film, “Julius Caesar”

Is this truly Caesar’s will?  And, if so, does it really make this bequest?  No one knows.

In addition, claims Antony, Caesar has left his fellow citizens “his private arbours and new-planted orchards on this side Tiber. He hath left them you, and to your heirs forever, common pleasures, to walk abroad, and recreate yourselves.”

By now the crowd is fired up—against the conspirators.

“Here was a Caesar!” cries Antony.  “When comes such another?”

A citizen shouts: “We’ll burn [Caesar’s] body in the holy place. And with the brands fire the traitors’ houses.”

The crowd disperses—to pay fiery homage to Caesar and burn the houses of Brutus and the other conspirators.

Caesar’s assassins flee Rome for their lives. In time, they will face the legions of Antony and Octavian, the young nephew of Caesar—and choose suicide over capture and execution.

Apparently Rep. Adam Schiff (D-California) is familiar with Shakespeare’s play.

Because, on March 28, he used the same repetitive technique in addressing his “Republican colleagues” on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Days earlier, Attorney General William Barr had claimed to summarize the long-awaited report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller about Russian efforts to subvert the 2016 Presidential election.

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

And now House Republicans—acting entirely on that claim—were going on the offensive.

On March 28, Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) and all other eight Republicans on the Committee demanded in a letter that Schiff resign as its chairman. 

“Mr. Chairman,” the letter read, “since prior to the inauguration of President Trump in January 2017, you’ve been at the center of a well-orchestrated media campaign claiming, among other things, that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government.

“On March 24, 2019, the special counsel delivered his findings to the Department of Justice….The special counsel’s investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 election….

“Despite these findings, you continue to proclaim to the media that there is ‘significant evidence of collusion.’

“The findings of the Special Counsel conclusively refute your past and present conclusions and have exposed you as having abused your position to knowingly promote false information, having damaged the integrity of this Committee, and undermined faith in U.S. Government institutions.”

FICTION BECOMES NIGHTMARISH REALITY: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on March 8, 2019 at 12:59 pm

Donald Trump’s appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference on March 2, 2019 was an occasion for rejoicing among his supporters.

But for those who prize rationality and decency in a President, it was a dismaying and frightening experience.

For two hours, Trump gave free reign to his anger and egomania.  

Among his unhinged commentaries:

“We have people in Congress that hate our country.” 

If you don’t agree 100% with Trump on everything, you’re a traitor. 

“He called me up. He said, ‘You’re a great President. You’re doing a great job.’ He said, ‘I just want to tell you you’re a great President and you’re one of the smartest people I’ve ever met.'”

Trump attributed these remarks to California’s liberal governor, Gavin Newsom.  On February 11, 2019, Newsom announced the withdrawal of several hundred National Guardsmen from the state’s southern border with Mexico—defying Trump’s request for support from border states.

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Donald Trump at CPAC

“You know if you remember my first major speech—you know the dishonest media they’ll say, ‘He didn’t get a standing ovation.’ You know why? Because everybody stood and nobody sat. They are the worst. They leave that out.”

Once again, he’s the persecuted victim of an unfair and totally unappreciative news media.

“And I love the First Amendment; nobody loves it better than me. Nobody. I mean, who use its more than I do? But the First Amendment gives all of us—it gives it to me, it gives it to you, it gives it to all Americans, the right to speak our minds freely. It gives you the right and me the right to criticize fake news and criticize it strongly.”

Trump has repeatedly called the nation’s free press “the enemy of the people”—a slander popularized by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. And while Trump brags about his usage of the First Amendment, he’s used Non-Disclosure agreements and threats of lawsuits to deny that right to others.

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“For too long, we’ve traded away our jobs to other countries. So terrible.”

While this remark—like virtually every remark Trump made at CPAC—got rousing applause, he failed to mention that his own products are made overseas:

  • Ties: Made in China 
  • Suits: Made in Indonesia 
  • Trump Vodka: Made in the Netherlands, and later in Germany
  • Crystal glasses, decanters: Made in Slovenia 
  • And the clothing and accessories line of his daughter, Ivanka, is produced entirely in factories in Bangladesh, Indonesia and China.

“By the way, you folks are in here—this place is packed, there are lines that go back six blocks and I tell you that because you won’t read about it, OK.”

He’s obsessed with fear that the media won’t make him look popular.

“So we’re all part of this very historic movement, a movement the likes of which, actually, the world has never seen before. There’s never been anything like this. There’s been some movements, but there’s never been anything like this.”

Trump sees himself as the single greatest figure in history. So anything he’s involved with must be unprecedented.

“But I always say, Obamacare doesn’t work. And these same people two years ago and a year ago were complaining about Obamacare.”

In 2010, 48 million Americans lacked health insurance. By 2016, that number had been reduced to 28.6 million. So 20 million Americans now have access to medical care they previously couldn’t get.

“But we’re taking a firm, bold and decisive measure, we have to, to turn things around. The era of empty talk is over, it’s over.”

  • Trump has boasted that he and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un “fell in love.” Then he met with Kim in Vietnam—and got stiffed on a deal for North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.
  • On July 16, 2018, Trump attended a press conference in Helsinki, Finland, with Russian President Vladimir Putin. There he blamed American Intelligence agencies—such as the FBI, CIA—instead of Putin for Russia’s subversion of the 2016 Presidential election.

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“I’ll tell you what they [agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement] do, they came and endorsed me, ICE came and endorsed me. They never endorsed a presidential candidate before, they might not even be allowed to.” 

Trump can’t stop boasting about how popular he is.

“These are hard-working, great, great Americans. These are unbelievable people who have not been treated fairly. Hillary called them deplorable. They’re not deplorable.”

On the contrary: “Deplorable” is exactly the word for those who vote their racism, ignorance, superstition and hatred of their fellow citizens.

A FINAL NOTE: Trump held himself up for adoration just three days after Michael Cohen, his longtime fixer:

  • Damned him as a racist, a conman and a cheat.
  • Revealed that Trump had cheated on his taxes and bought the silence of a porn “star” to prevent her revealing a 2006 tryst before the 2016 election.
  • Estimated he had stiffed, on Trump’s behalf, hundreds of workers Trump owed money to. 

And, only two days earlier, Trump had returned from a much-ballyhooed meeting in Vietnam with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un. Trump hoped to get a Nobel Peace Prize by persuading Kim to give up his nuclear arsenal.

Instead, Trump got stiffed—and returned empty-handed. 

FICTION BECOMES NIGHTMARISH REALITY: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on March 7, 2019 at 12:10 am

“Is this man simply crazy, or is he crazy like a fox?”

That was the question that Bandy X. Lee, an assistant clinical psychiatry professor at the Yale School of Medicine, wanted to answer.

And she tried to do so as the the editor of The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President. 

“It doesn’t take a psychiatrist to notice that our president is mentally compromised,” she and colleague Judith Lewis Herman asserted in the book’s prologue.

According to Dr. Craig Malkin, a Lecturer in Psychology for Harvard Medical School and a licensed psychologist, Trump is a pathological narcissist:

“Pathological narcissism begins,” Malkin writes, “when people become so addicted to feeling special that, just like with any drug, they’ll do anything to get their ‘high,’ including lie, steal, cheat, betray and even hurt those closest to them.

“When they can’t let go of their need to be admired or recognized, they have to bend or invent a reality in which they remain special despite all messages to the contrary. In point of fact, they become dangerously psychotic. It’s just not always obvious until it’s too late.”

Lance Dodes, a retired psychiatry professor at Harvard Medical School, believes that Trump is a sociopath: “The failure of normal empathy is central to sociopathy, which is marked by an absence of guilt, intentional manipulation and controlling or even sadistically harming others for personal power or gratification.”

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But an observer didn’t need to be a psychiatrist to feel frightened by Trump’s behavior at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on March 2.

For two hours, in National Harbor, Maryland, Trump delivered the longest address (so far) of his Presidency—and of any American President.

“You know, I’m totally off script right now,” Trump said early on. “This is how I got elected, by being off script.” 

And from the moment he embraced an American flag as though he wanted to hump it, it was clear: He was “totally off script.” 

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“How many times did you hear, for months and months, ‘There is no way to 270?’ You know what that means, right? ‘There is no way to 270.'”

Once again, Trump reveales his obsession with his win in 2016—as if no one else had ever been elected President.

“If you tell a joke, if you’re sarcastic, if you’re having fun with the audience, if you’re on live television with millions of people and 25,000 people in an arena, and if you say something like, ‘Russia, please, if you can, get us Hillary Clinton’s emails. Please, Russia, please.'”

Here he’s trying to “spin” his infamous invitation to hackers in Vladimir Putin’s Russia to intervene in an American Presidential election by obtaining the emails of  his campaign rival. Which they did that same day.

“So now we’re waiting for a report, and we’ll find out whether or not, and who we’re dealing with. We’re waiting for a report by people that weren’t elected.”

It doesn’t matter to Trump that America’s foremost enemy—Russia—tried to influence a Presidential election. What matters to him is that the report may end his Presidency.

“Those red hats—and white ones. The key is in the color. The key is what it says. ‘Make America Great Again’ is what it says. Right? Right?”

Color matters.  Words, ideas don’t. 

“Now, Robert Mueller never received a vote, and neither did the person that appointed him. And as you know, the attorney general says, ‘I’m going to recuse myself.'”

Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller and Assistant Attorney General Rod Rosenstein are career Justice Department officials. They weren’t voted into office.

“Number one, I’m in love, and you’re in love. We’re all in love together. There’s so much love in this room, it’s easy to talk. You can talk your heart out. You really could. There’s love in this room. You can talk your heart out. It’s easy. It’s easy. It’s easy.”

Trump apparently finds it easy to fall in love—with Right-wing audiences and Communist dictators such as Kim Jong-Un.

“And from the day we came down the escalator, I really don’t believe we’ve had an empty seat at any arena, at any stadium. They did the same thing at our big inauguration speech. You take a look at those crowds.”

Once again, he must brag about how popular he is and how many people want to listen to him.

“A few days ago I called the fake news the enemy of the people. And they are. They are the enemy of the people. Because they have no sources, they just make ’em up when there are none.” 

By January 21, 2019, The Washington Post found that Trump had made “7,645 ‘false or misleading claims.” He is in no position to talk about integrity.

“But we’re going to have regulation. It’s going to be really strong and really good and we’re going to protect our environment and we’re going to protect the safety of our people and our workers, OK?”

To “protect our environment,” Trump appointed Andrew R. Wheeler, a former coal company lobbyist, to head the Environmental Protection Agency.

FICTION BECOMES NIGHTMARISH REALITY: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on March 6, 2019 at 1:10 pm

“One man in the free world has the power to launch a nuclear war that might destroy civilization: the President of the United States. What if that man were mentally unbalanced?”

That is the premise of the 1965 novel, Night at Camp David, by Fletcher Knebel. 

At the time of its release, its plot was considered so over-the-top as to be worthy of science fiction:

Iowa Democratic Senator Jim MacVeagh is summoned to Camp David, the Presidential retreat, by President Mark Hollenbach. MacVeagh is expected to become Hollenbach’s next Vice President. But he becomes alarmed that Hollenbach is clearly suffering from intense paranoia. 

He wants to develop a closer relationship between the United States and Russia—while cutting ties with American allies in Europe. Moreover, Hollenbach believes the American news media are conspiring against him with his political enemies.

Only one person possesses evidence that Hollenbach is losing his grip on sanity—his mistress, Rita.  Desperate to retain his power, Hollenbach orders the FBI to investigate both MacVeagh and Rita.

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So why was a 53-year-old novel released in 2018? The answer lies in two words: Donald Trump.

In a November 30, 2018 review of Night at Camp David, Tom McCarthy, national affairs correspondent for the British newspaper, The Guardian, writes:  

“The current president has seen crowds where none exist, deployed troops to answer no threat, attacked national institutions – the military, the justice department, the judiciary, the vote, the rule of law, the press – tried to prosecute his political enemies, elevated bigots, oppressed minorities, praised despots while insulting global allies and wreaked diplomatic havoc from North Korea to Canada.

“He stays up half the night watching TV and tweeting about it, then wakes up early to tweet some more, in what must be the most remarkable public diary of insecurity, petty vindictiveness, duplicity and scattershot focus by a major head of state in history.”

From the beginning of his Presidency, Trump aroused fear—based not only of what he might do, but that he might be mentally unbalanced.  Consider: 

On March 4, 2017, in a series of unhinged tweets, he accused former President Barack Obama of tapping his Trump Tower phones prior to the election:  

“Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!”  

“Is it legal for a sitting President to be ‘wire tapping’ a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW!”  

“I’d bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!”

“How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”  

A subsequent investigation by the Justice Department turned up no evidence to substantiate Trump’s foray into Presidential libel.

Donald Trump official portrait.jpg

Donald Trump

Trump’s shoot-first-and-never-mind-the-consequences approach to life has been thoroughly documented.  

From June 15, 2015, when he launched his Presidential campaign, until October 24, 2016, he fired nearly 4,000 angry, insulting tweets at 281 people and institutions. The New York Times needed two full pages of its print edition to showcase them.

Among these targets were:

  • His Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton
  • His fellow Republican Presidential candidates
  • Actress Meryl Streep
  • News organizations
  • President Barack Obama
  • Comedian John Oliver
  • The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)
  • Singer Neil Young
  • The state of New Jersey 
  • Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger.  

And during his first two weeks as President, Trump attacked 22 people, places and things on his @realDonaldTrump Twitter account.  

Trump’s vindictiveness, his narcissism, his compulsive aggression, his complaints that his “enemies” in government and the press are trying to destroy him, have caused many to ask: Could the President of the United States be suffering from mental illness?

One who has dared to answer this question is John D. Gartner, a practicing psychotherapist. 

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John D. Gartner

Gartner graduated magna cum laude from Princeton University, received his Ph.D in clinical psychology from the University of Massachusetts, and served as a part-time assistant professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University Medical School for 28 years.

During an interview by U.S. News & World Report (published on January 27, 2017), Gartner said: “Donald Trump is dangerously mentally ill and temperamentally incapable of being president.”

Gartner said that Trump suffers from “malignant narcissism,” whose symptoms include:

  • anti-social behavior
  • sadism
  • aggressiveness
  • paranoia
  • and grandiosity. 

“We’ve seen enough public behavior by Donald Trump now that we can make this diagnosis indisputably,” says Gartner, who admits he has not personally examined Trump.  

More of that behavior was on full display on March 2, 2019 at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), held at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, National Harbor, Maryland.  

For more than two hours, Trump delivered the longest speech (so far) of his Presidency to his fanatically Right-wing audience.

Facing a hostile Democratic House of Representatives and a potentially explosive report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Trump threw down the gauntlet.

“JUST ANOTHER WEEK IN CALIGULA’S ROME”—AND TRUMP’S WASHINGTON

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on March 5, 2019 at 12:16 am

“Just another week in Caligula’s Rome.”

That was how conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks summed up President Donald Trump’s Washington, D.C. for the week of February 24 to March 1, 2019.

Every Friday Books faces off with liberal syndicated columnist Mark Shields on The PBS Newshour. And on the program for March 1, the two men found common cause in sizing up the appearance of Michael Cohen before the House Oversight Committee two days earlier.

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David Brooks and Mark Shields on “The PBS Newshour”

During that hearing, Cohen, Trump’s longtime attorney and fixer:

  • Condemned his former boss as “a racist, a conman [and] a cheat.”
  • Confirmed that Trump had instructed him to pay $130,000 in hush money to porn “star” Stormy Daniels, to buy her silence during the 2016 Presidential campaign.
  • Provided the committee with a copy of a check Trump wrote from his personal bank account—after he became President—“to reimburse me for the hush money payments I made.”
  • Produced “copies of letters I wrote at Mr. Trump’s direction that threatened his high school, colleges, and the College Board not to release his grades or SAT scores.”

But for Brooks, far more was at stake than the individual accusations:

“To me, it was more of a moral occasion, more than anything else. What it illustrates is a President and, frankly, Michael Cohen who long ago decided that celebrity and wealth is more important than being a good person. And they have dragged us all down there with us.

“And the people they have dragged most effectively are the House Republicans, a lot of them on that committee, who decided that they were completely incurious about whether Donald Trump was a good guy or a bad guy or a really awful guy, that—their own leader, they didn’t seem to care about that, but they were going to rip the skin off Michael Cohen.

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Michael Cohen testifying before Congress

“And so they attacked him. And what struck me is how moral corrosion happens, that you decide you’re going to defend or ignore Trump. And then to do that, you have to morally distance yourself from him. And then you have to morally distance yourself from him every day.

“And, eventually, you just get numb to everything. And so [Ohio Republican Representative] Jim Jordan and other people on the committee were saying, oh, we all knew this, like, it’s all unremarkable. And so that’s—that’s how moral corrosion happens.”  

During the hearing, California Representative Jackie Speier asked Cohen: How many times did Trump ask you to intimidate creditors?

Cohen estimated the number at 500. 

For Shields, this counted as especially despicable behavior: “And—but the thing about it is, when he stiffed those small business—the plumbers and the electricians who did the work in the Trump projects, and he came back, and Donald Trump loved to hear about it, I mean, reveled in it.

“Now, I mean, at what point do you say that there’s no honor here? I mean, there’s nothing to admire.” 

Shields was equally appalled by the refusal of Trump’s Republican committee defenders to condemn his moral depravity—as a businessman or President.

“If you can’t deal with the message, you shoot the messenger. And that’s what their whole strategy was.

“The very fact that not a single member of the Republican committee defended Donald Trump or what he was charged or alleged to have done, to me, was revealing. They just decided to go after Michael Cohen.”

So why have Republicans aligned themselves with such a man? 

Republicans don’t fear that Trump will trash the institutions that Americans have cherished for more than 200 years. Institutions like an independent judiciary, a free press, and an incorruptible Justice Department.

He has already attacked all of these—and Republicans have either said nothing or rushed to his defense.

What Republicans truly fear about Donald Trump is that he will finally cross one line too many—like firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller. And that the national outrage following this will force them to launch impeachment proceedings against him.

But it isn’t even Trump they fear will be destroyed.

What they most fear losing is their own hold on nearly absolute power in Congress and the White House. And the riches that go with it.

If Trump is impeached and possibly indicted, he will become a man no one any longer fears. He will be a figure held up to ridicule and condemnation. 

Like Adolf Hitler.

Like Richard Nixon. 

And his supporters will be branded as losers along with him.

Republicans vividly remember what happened after Nixon was forced to resign on August 9, 1974: Democrats, riding a wave of reform fever, swept Republicans out of the House and Senate—and Jimmy Carter into the White House. 

House and Senate Republicans can imagine a future without Trump—but not one where they disappear.

If they are conflicted—whether to continue supporting Trump or desert him—the reason is the same: How can I hold onto my power and all the privileges that go with it?  

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