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OUT OF EVIL, CHAOS: PART THREE (OF FIVE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on December 14, 2018 at 12:06 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.

Image result for images of cell phone detectors on Youtube

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, 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.”

Image result for images of no cell phones

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.

Trump became famous on “The Apprentice” for telling contestants: “You’re fired.”

Since taking office as President, he 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 year of Trump’s White House has seen more firings, resignations, and reassignments of top staffers than any other first-year administration in modern history. His Cabinet turnover exceeds that of any other administration in the last 100 years.

With the Trump administration rapidly approaching its halfway point—January 20, 2019—it’s time to size up its litany of casualties.

The list is impressive—but only in a negative sense.

OUT OF EVIL, CHAOS: PART TWO (OF FIVE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on December 13, 2018 at 12:36 am

In his infamous treatise, The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli warns that it is safer to be feared than loved. And he lays out his reason thusly: 

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….

“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 immediately follows this up with a warning about the abuses of 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….”

Niccolo Machiavelli

It’s a warning that someone should have given President Donald Trump long ago.

Not that he would have heeded it.

On May 10, 2018, The Hill reported that White House Special Assistant Kelly Sadler had joked derisively about Arizona United States Senator John McCain.

McCain, a Navy pilot during the Vietnam war, was shot down over Hanoi on October 26, 1967, and captured. He spent five and a half years as a POW in North Vietnam—and was often brutally tortured. He wasn’t released until March 14, 1973.

Recently, he had opposed the nomination of Gina Haspel as director of the CIA.

The reason: In 2002, Haspel had operated a “black” CIA site in Thailand where Islamic terrorists were often waterboarded to make them talk. 

For John McCain, waterboarding was torture, even if it didn’t leave its victims permanently scarred and disabled. 

Aware that the 81-year-old McCain was dying of brain cancer, Sadler joked to intimates about the Senator’s opposition to Haspel: “It doesn’t matter. He’s dying anyway.”

John McCain's official Senate portrait, taken in 2009

John McCain

Leaked to CNN by an anonymous White House official, Sadler’s remark sparked fierce criticism—and demands for her firing.

South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a close friend of McCain, said: “Ms. Sadler, may I remind you that John McCain has a lot of friends in the United States Senate on both sides of the aisle. Nobody is laughing in the Senate.”

“People have wondered when decency would hit rock bottom with this administration. It happened yesterday,” said former Vice President Joe Biden. 

“John McCain makes America great. Father, grandfather, Navy pilot, POW hero bound by honor, an incomparable and irrepressible statesman. Those who mock such greatness only humiliate themselves and their silent accomplices,” tweeted former Massachusetts governor and 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Officially, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders refused to confirm or deny Sadler’s joke: “I’m not going to get into a back and forth because people want to create issues of leaked staff meetings.”

Unofficially, Sanders was furious—not at the joke about a dying man, but that someone had leaked it. After assailing the White House communications team, she pouted: “I am sure this conversation is going to leak, too. And that’s just disgusting.”

SarahHuckabeeSanders.jpg

Sarah Huckabee Sanders

No apology has been offered by any official at the White House—including President Trump.

In fact, Senior White House communications adviser Mercedes Schlapp reportedly expressed her support for Sadler: “I stand with Kelly Sadler.”

On May 11—the day after Sadler’s comment was reported—reporters asked Sanders if the tone set by Trump had caused Sadler to feel comfortable in telling such a joke.

“Certainly not!” predictably replied Sanders, adding: “We have a respect for all Americans, and that is what we try to put forward in everything we do, but in word and in action, focusing on doing things that help every American in this country every single day.”

On May 14 Trump revealed his “respect” for “all Americans”—especially those working in the White House.

“The so-called leaks coming out of the White House are a massive over exaggeration put out by the Fake News Media in order to make us look as bad as possible,” Trump tweeted.

“With that being said, leakers are traitors and cowards, and we will find out who they are!”

In a move that Joseph Stalin would have admired, Trump ordered an all-out investigation to find the joke-leaker.

In January, 2018, the White House had 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.

Officials now have two choices:

  1. Leave their cell phones in their cars, or,
  2. When they arrive for work, deposit them in lockers installed at West Wing entrances. They can reclaim their phones when they leave.

Several staffers huddle around the lockers throughout the day, checking messages they have missed. The lockers buzz and chirp constantly from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

OUT OF EVIL, CHAOS: PART ONE (OF FIVE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 12, 2018 at 12:06 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 being arrested.

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.

Nor were these the only casualties of Stalin’s reign.

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.

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.”

In 1937-38, the Red Army fell prey to Stalin’s paranoia.

Its victims included:

  • Three of five marshals (five-star generals);
  • Thirteen of 15 army commanders (three- and four-star generals);
  • Fifty of 57 army corps commanders; and
  • One hundred fifty-four out of 186 division commanders.

And heading the list of those marked for death was Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky.

Arrested on May 22, 1937, he was interrogated and tortured. As a result, he “confessed” to being a German agent plotting to overthrow Stalin and seize power. 

On his confession, which survives in the archives, his bloodstains can clearly be seen.

On June 11, the Soviet Supreme Court convened a special military tribunal to try Tukhachevsky and eight generals for treason.

It was a sham: The accused were denied defense attorneys, and could not appeal the verdict—-which was foregone: Death.

In a Russian version of poetic justice, five of the eight generals who served as Tukhachevsky’s judges were themselves later condemned and executed as traitors.

Since taking office as the nation’s 45th President, Donald Trump has sought to rule by fear. 

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Donald Trump

In fact, he candidly shared his belief in this as a motivator to journalist Bob Woodward during the 2016 Presidential race: “Real power is—I don’t even want to use the word—fear.” 

It is unknown if Trump ever read The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli’s infamous treatise on attaining political power. If so, he doubtless is familiar with its most famous passage:

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. 

“And the prince who has relied solely on their words, without making other preparations, is ruined; for the friendship which is gained by purchase and not through grandeur and nobility of spirit is bought but not secured, and at a pinch is not to be expended in your service. 

“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.”

WHEN PRESIDENTS ACT LIKE MAFIA BOSSES: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on December 11, 2018 at 12:27 am

A reputation for being feared can be useful.

But it’s dangerous to constantly employ cruelties or punishments. 

Whoever does so, warns Niccolo Machiavelli, “is always obliged to stand with knife in hand, and can never depend on his subjects, because they, owing to continually fresh injuries, are unable to depend upon him.”

Such a President is Donald Trump, who, as a Presidential candidate in 2016, told journalist Bob Woodward: “Real power is—I don’t even want to use the word—fear.” 

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

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

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Donald Trump

The New York Times needed two full pages of its print edition to showcase them. Making one inflammatory statement after another, he offended one group of potential voters after another. Among those groups: 

  • Latinos
  • Asians
  • Blacks
  • The disabled
  • Women
  • Prisoners-of-war

Since becoming President on January 20, 2017, Trump has attacked and/or infuriated a wide array of influential agencies or groups. Among these:  

  • “Obamacare” patients: Trump authorized the directors of Federal agencies to waive requirements of the Affordable Care Act—which provides medical insurance to 22 million otherwise uninsured Americans—to the “maximum extent permitted by law.”  
  • The CIA: Appearing at CIA headquarters on his first full day in office, Trump addressed about 400 case officers. Standing before the star-studded memorial wall honoring 117 CIA officers who had fallen in the line of duty. Trump ignored their sacrifice. Instead, he boasted of the size of his Inaugural crowd and how many times he had appeared on the cover of Time.
  • Civil rights advocates: Trump signed an executive order banning Muslims from entering the United States. 
  • He also ordered the Department of Homeland Security to massively expand the number of people subject to detention and deportation.
  • Women: Trump has publicly insulted numerous women—such as Carly Fiorina, Megyn Kelly and Rosie O’Donnell—on their looks.
  • He’s been accused by 22 women of making improper sexual advances.
  • And he successfully backed Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, whom Dr. Christine Blasey Ford accused of sexually assaulting her when they were teenagers.
  • Medicare patients: During the 2016 campaign, Trump said he would allow Medicare to negotiate down the price of prescription drugs. But after meeting with pharmaceutical lobbyists on January 31, 2017,  Trump said: “I’ll oppose anything that makes it harder for smaller, younger companies to take the risk of bringing their product to a vibrantly competitive market. That includes price-fixing by the biggest dog in the market, Medicare.”  

And he has bullied and insulted even White House officials and his own handpicked Cabinet officers:

  • Jeff Sessions: Trump waged a Twitter-laced feud against his Attorney General. Sessions’ “crime”? Recusing himself from investigations into well-established ties between Russian Intelligence agents and members of Trump’s Presidential campaign.
  • On the day after the November, 2018 mid-term elections, Trump fired him.
  • Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross: Trump told him: “I don’t trust you. I don’t want you doing any more negotiations….You’re past your prime.”
  • Chief of Staff Reince Priebus: Suffered repeated humiliations by Trump—such a being ordered to kill a fly that was buzzing about.
  • On another occasion, Trump told an associate that Priebus was “like a little rat. He just scurries around.”
  • On July 28, 2017, Priebus resigned.
  • Chief of Staff John Kelly: Trump similarly ridiculed Priebus’ replacement, a former Marine Corps general. Kelly tried to limit the number of advisers who had unrestricted access to Trump—and bring discipline to his schedule.
  • Instead of being grateful, Trump became furious. Kelly told colleagues: “He’s an idiot. It’s pointless to try to convince him of anything. He’s gone off the rails. We’re in Crazytown. I don’t even know why any of us are here. This is the worst job I’ve ever had.”
  • The United States Secret Service: Before taking office as President, Trump infuriated this agency by keeping his longtime private security force—and adding its members to the elite federal agency. Thus, he clearly sent the insulting message: “You’re not good enough, and I don’t trust you.”

Trump’s repeated humiliations—and firings—of high-ranking administration officials have led to a near-paralysis of his government. Many agencies remain plagued by staff shortages. And many of the replacements are not of “top drawer” quality.

If Trump ever read Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince, he’s clearly forgotten the Florentine’s warning on the need to avoid hatred at all costs.

The new musical version of the play/movie A Bronx Tale allows Mafia capo Sonny to sing his lesson on fear versus love to Calogero, the teenager who idolizes him: 

Listen now what I tell ya
This advice is you know who’s
Love or fear—
It’s up to you kid
But you live with what you choose.

And it’s true: You live with what you choose.

Make being loved your top priority, and you risk being labeled a weakling who can be rolled—as Bill Clinton did.

But make being feared your goal, and you risk creating an atmosphere of hatred and paranoia—as Donald Trump has.

WHEN PRESIDENTS ACT LIKE MAFIA BOSSES: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on December 10, 2018 at 12:27 am

It’s probably the most-quoted passage of Niccolo Machiavelli’s infamous book, The Prince:

“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.

“And the prince who has relied solely on their words, without making other preparations, is ruined. For the friendship which is gained by purchase and not through grandeur and nobility of spirit is bought but not secured, and at a pinch is not to be expended in your service. 

“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.”

Portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli by Santi di Tito.jpg

Niccolo Machiavelli

So—which is better: To be feared or loved?

In the 1993 film, A Bronx Tale, 17-year-old Calogero (Lillo Brancato) poses that question to his idol, the local Mafia capo, Sonny (Chazz Palminteri).

“That’s a good question,” Sonny replies. “It’s nice to be both, but it’s very difficult. But if I had my choice, I would rather be feared.”

Sonny has “done 10 years in the joint.” There he got an education in power—from the works of Machiavelli. Now he wants to pass on those hard-learned lessons to Calogero.

“Fear lasts longer than love. Friendships that are bought with money mean nothing. You see how it is around here. I make a joke, everybody laughs. I know I’m funny, but I’m not that funny. It’s fear that keeps them loyal to me.”

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Sonny gives advice to his adopted son, Calogero

But Sonny warns there is a trick to being feared: “The trick is not being hated. That’s why I treat my men good, but not too good.

“I give too much, then they don’t need me. I give them just enough where they need me, but they don’t hate me.”  

Many who quote Machiavelli in defense of being feared overlook this vital point: “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.”

Presidents who desire above all to be loved risk inviting their enemies to see them as weaklings.

Case in point: Bill Clinton.

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Bill Clinton

Clinton needed to be loved. He once said that if he were in a room with 100 people and 99 of them liked him but one didn’t, he would spend all his time with that one person, trying to win him over.

But while he could charm voters, he could not bring himself to retaliate against his sworn Republican enemies.

Clinton sought to endear himself to Republicans by:

  • Adopting NAFTA–the Republican-sponsored North American Free Trade Act, which later proved so devastating to American workers;
  • Siding with Republicans against poor Americans on welfare; and
  • Championing the gutting of the Depression-era Glass-Steagall law, which barred investment banks from commercial banking activities.

In 1998, emboldened by Clinton’s refusal to stand up to them, House Republicans moved to impeach him over a sex scandal with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. But his Presidency survived when the Senate refused to convict.

To establish a fearful reputation, a leader must act decisively and ruthlessly when the interests of the organization are threatened. Punitive action must be taken promptly and confidently.

One or two harsh actions of this kind can make a leader more feared than a reign of terror.

Case in point: Ronald Reagan.

Always smiling, quick with a one-liner (especially at press conferences), seemingly unflappable, he projected a constantly optimistic view of his country and its citizens.

Ronald Reagan

But there was a steely, ruthless side to Reagan that appeared when he felt crossed.

On August 3, 1981, nearly 13,000 air traffic controllers walked out after contract talks with the Federal Aviation Administration collapsed. As a result, some 7,000 flights across the country were canceled on that day at the peak of the summer travel season.

Reagan branded the strike illegal. He threatened to fire any controller who failed to return to work within 48 hours.

On August 5, Reagan fired more than 11,000 air traffic controllers who hadn’t returned to work. The mass firing slowed commercial air travel, but it did not cripple the system as the strikers had forecast.

Reagan’s action stunned the American labor movement. Reagan was the only American President to have belonged to a union—the Screen Actors Guild. He had even been president of this, from 1947 to 1954.

There were no more strikes by Federal workers during Reagan’s tenure in office.

REVENGE OF THE “RATS”: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on December 4, 2018 at 12:06 am

Donald Trump resembles his fellow New Yorker, Mafia “Boss of all Bosses” John Gotti, in more ways than he would like to admit. Among these:

  • He craves publicity like a drug.
  • His egomania long ago reached psychotic heights: In a 1990 interview with Playboy magazine, he offered his worldview: “The show is Trump, and it is sold-out performances everywhere.” 
  • He impulsively and brutally badmouths virtually everyone—in press conferences and on Twitter. 
  • He brags constantly—about his wealth, his intelligence, his sexual prowess, his achievements: “My fingers are long and beautiful, as, it has been well documented, are various other parts of my body.”  
  • He has bought his way out of legal trouble: Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi personally solicited a political contribution from him while her office deliberated joining an investigation of alleged fraud at Trump University and its affiliates. After Bondi dropped the case against Trump, he wrote her a $25,000 check for her re-election campaign. 

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 Donald Trump

  • He repeatedly threatens violence against his opponents: On March 16, 2016, he warned Republicans that if he didn’t win the GOP nomination in July, “I think you’d have riots….I think bad things would happen.” 
  • Although not a member of the Mafia, he has often been linked—directly or indirectly—to men who are, such as “Fat Tony” Salerno and Paul Castellano.
  • He prizes being seen as a tough guy: “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.” At a Las Vegas rally in 2016, he said about a protester: “I’d like to punch him in the face.”
  • He has no loyalty to anyone. He has badmouthed—and fired—such ardent supporters as his ex-Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and former Attorney General Jeff Sessions

It is this last characteristic—his complete lack of loyalty—that may well undo him.

Consider his treatment of Michael Cohen, his personal attorney for more than 10 years.  

On April 9, 2018, the FBI, executing a federal search warrant, raided Cohen’s office at the law firm of Squire Patton Boggs, as well as his home and his hotel room in the Loews Regency Hotel in New York City. 

And Trump’s response: “Michael Cohen only handled a tiny, tiny fraction of my legal work. 

“Michael is in business—he is really a businessman, a fairly big business, as I understand it. I don’t know his business, but [the investigation] doesn’t have to do with me.” 

Thus Trump undermined the argument of Cohen’s lawyers that he was the President’s personal attorney—and therefore everything Cohen did was protected by attorney-client privilege.

Michael Cohen headshot.jpg

Michael Cohen

IowaPolitics.com [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

An April 19, 2018 headline in Esquire magazine warned: “If the Water is Rising, Donald Trump Will Throw You Overboard.” 

The article read in part:

“No matter how long or how intimately you’ve known Donald Trump, you’re one news cycle away from being tossed overboard….

“An old friend becomes a needy acquaintance; a campaign chairman becomes someone you got from the temp agency; a national security adviser becomes a ‘volunteer.'” 

But Michael Cohen wasn’t just Trump’s lawyer. He was his fixer, a man who made problems “go away” with threats and bribes. He knows many—if not most—of Trump’s darkest secrets.

And he has since made it clear he is willing to reveal them.

In an off-camera interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, Cohen warned: “I will not be a punching bag as part of anyone’s defense strategy” if Trump or his attorneys try to discredit him.

And unlike Trump—who has repeatedly asserted that Russia didn’t interfere with the 2016 Presidential election—Cohen said he believed it did.

Moreover, on November 29, Cohen pleaded guilty in federal court in Manhattan to lying to Congress about the Russia investigation. It’s part of a new deal reached with Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III.  

Cohen admitted that he lied about the “Moscow Project”—the Trump Organization’s efforts to “pursue a branded property in Moscow.”

He did so in an August 2017 letter to the House and Senate intelligence committees, which were investigating alleged collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russian Intelligence agents to subvert the 2016 Presidential election. 

Now Cohen has revealed why, throughout the campaign, Trump hid his business dealings with Russia—while Moscow intervened to elect him.

Cohen has spent more than 70 hours in interviews with Mueller’s team. There is no telling how many of Trump’s secrets he has revealed.

Mueller—unlike Trump—doesn’t vent his temper in semi-literate tweets. In a rarity for Washington institutions, there have been almost no leaks from the Office of the Special Counsel since Mueller was empowered on May 17, 2017.

Mueller has also spoken with other federal prosecutors and the New York State Attorney General’s Office. 

Shortly after news broke that Cohen had pleaded guilty to lying to Congress, Trump attacked his onetime fixer: “He’s a liar. He’s a weak person and what he’s trying to do is get a reduced sentence.” 

But shortly after news broke that Cohen had revealed Trump’s business dealings with Russia, the President canceled his scheduled meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the December 1 G20 summit in Buenos Aires.

REVENGE OF THE “RATS”: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on December 3, 2018 at 12:23 am

President Donald Trump shares many similarities with John Gotti, who, for five years, ruled as the boss of the most powerful Mafia family in the United States: The Gambino Family. 

Among those similarities: A complete lack of loyalty to anyone. 

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John Gotti

On December 12, 1989, Gotti became a victim of his own disloyalty.

Unknowingly speaking into an FBI electronic bug, Gotti charged that Sammy “The Bull” Gravano, his underboss, or second-in command, was too greedy. He also blamed him for the murders of three Mafiosi whom Gotti had ordered hit: Robert “Deebee” DiBernardo, Louis Milito and Louis DiBono.  

“Deebee, did he ever talk subversive to you?” asked Gotti.

“Never,” replied his Consigliere, or adviser, Frankie Locascio. 

“Never talked it to Angelo, never talked it to [Joseph Armone] either,” said Gotti. “I took Sammy’s word that he talked about me behind my back….I was in jail when I whacked him. I knew why it was being done. I done it anyway. I allowed it to be done anyway.” 

Gotti was determined to blame Gravano for the murders of Milito and DiBono. He claimed that both men had been killed because Gravano had asked for permission to remove his business partners.

In fact, Milito had been “whacked” for questioning Gotti’s judgment. And DiBono had been hit because he refused to answer a Gotti summons

And there was more: Gotti accused Gravano of excessive greed—and hoarding money for himself at the expense of the Family:

“That’s Sammy….Every fucking time I turn around there’s a new company poppin’ up. Building. Consulting. Concrete.  Where the hell did all these new companies come from?  Where did five new companies come from? 

“Paul [Castellano, the Gambino Family’s previous boss] sold the Family out for a fucking construction company. And that’s what Sammy’s doing now. Three, four guys will wind up with every fuckin’ thing. And the rest of the Family looks like waste.” 

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Sammy “The Bull” Gravano

He accused Gravano of creating “a fuckin’ army inside an army,” adding: “You know what I’m saying, Frankie? I saw that shit and I don’t need that shit.” 

Gotti’s effort to rewrite history soon came back to haunt him.

At a 1991 pretrial hearing following the arrests of Gotti, Gravano and Locascio, prosecutors played the FBI’s tapes of Gotti’s unintended confessions—including his badmouthing of Gravano. 

Gravano suddenly realized that his future in the Mafia was nil. 

Gravano, Gotti and Locascio were all facing life imprisonment as targets of RICO—the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act.

And if the Feds didn’t send him to prison, mob gunmen—sent by Gotti—would eventually get him. Gotti clearly planned to make him the fall guy—in court or in a coffin—for murders that Gotti himself had ordered

Only John Gotti was shocked when Gravano agreed to testify against him—and other Mafiosi—in exchange for a five-year prison sentence.

Gravano, as Gotti’s second-in-command, had literally been at the seat of power for five years. He knew the secrets of the Gambino Family—and the other four Mafia families who ruled New York.

On April 2, 1992, a jury convicted Gotti of five murders, conspiracy to murder, loansharking, illegal gambling, obstruction of justice, bribery and tax evasion. He drew a life sentence, without possibility of parole.

Gotti was incarcerated at the United States Penitentiary at Marion, Illinois, in virtual solitary confinement. He died of throat cancer on June 10, 2002, at the age of 61.    

And just as Gotti’s disloyalty ultimately destroyed him, the same may yet prove true for Donald Trump.

Consider the case of attorney Michael Cohen.

  • An executive of the Trump Organization, Cohen acted as “Trump’s pit bull.” “If somebody does something Mr. Trump doesn’t like,” he told ABC News in 2011, “I do everything in my power to resolve it to Mr. Trump’s benefit.”
  • In 2015, a reporter for The Daily Beast asked Cohen about Ivana Trump’s charge (later recanted) that Trump had raped her while they were married. Cohen: “I’m warning you, tread very fucking lightly, because what I’m going to do to you is going to be fucking disgusting.”
  • In 2016, while Trump was running for President, Cohen acted as the go-between for a $130,000 hush-money payoff to porn star Stormy Daniels. The reason: To prevent her from revealing a 2006 tryst she had had with Trump.  

In April 2018, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York began investigating Cohen. Charges reportedly included bank fraud, wire fraud and violations of campaign finance law.

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Michael Cohen

By IowaPolitics.com (Trump executive Michael Cohen 012) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

On April 9, 2018, the FBI, executing a federal search warrant, raided Cohen’s office at the law firm of Squire Patton Boggs, as well as his home and his hotel room in the Loews Regency Hotel in New York City. Agents seized emails, tax and business records and recordings of phone conversations that Cohen had made.

Trump’s response: “Michael Cohen only handled a tiny, tiny fraction of my legal work.”  

Thus Trump undermined the argument of Cohen’s lawyers that he was the President’s personal attorney—and therefore everything Cohen did was protected by attorney-client privilege.

NAZI GERMANY’S PAST MAY BE AMERICA’S FUTURE

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 27, 2018 at 12:01 am

Hans Bernd Gisevius holds a unique position in the history of the Third Reich.

He was one of the few plotters of the July 20, 1944 bomb attack on Adolf Hitler to survive the wave of arrests that followed.

A covert opponent of the Nazi regime, he served as a liaison in Zurich between the American Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and German resistance forces in Germany.

Not only did he outlive the Reich, he took revenge on it at the Nuremberg trials. In April, 1946, for three days he gave damning evidence against former Reichsmarshall Hermann Goring and his accomplices.

Hans Bernd Gisevius at Nuremberg

In 1946, he published his autobiography, To the Bitter End, sharply indicting the Reich and its leaders—many of whom Gisevius had known personally. He also condemned the German people, charging that they pretended ignorance of the atrocities being committed.

In his introduction, Gisevius notes: “This book is not intended as a history of the Third Reich. The author has selected a few prominent incidents out of the confusion of contemporaneous events and has attempted to use these as points through which to trace the broad curves of the historical process.”

To the Bitter End opens with the February 27, 1933 arson attack on the Reichstag building, home of the German parliament. By the time the fire was put out, most of the building was gutted. 

On January 30, 1933, Adolf Hitler had been appointed Chancellor of Germany. Now he used the fire to gain unprecedented control over the country. 

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Reichstag fire

The next day, at Hitler’s request, President Paul von Hindenburg signed the Reichstag Fire Decree into law. This suspended most civil liberties in Germany, including:

  • Freedom of speech, press, association and public assembly
  • Habeas corpus and
  • Secrecy of the mails and telephone.

The next major event Gisevius chronicled has since become known as “The Night of the Long Knives.”

On June 30, 1934, Hitler ordered a massive purge of his private army, the S.A., or Stormtroopers. This was carried out by Hitler’s elite army-within-an-army, the Schutzstaffel, or Protective Squads, better known as the SS.

The S.A. Brownshirts had been instrumental in securing Hitler’s rise to Chancellor of Germany. They had intimidated political opponents and organized mass rallies for the Nazi Party.

Ernst Rohem, their commander, urged Hitler to disband the regular German army, the Reichswehr, and replace it with his own legions as the nation’s defense force.

Frightened by Rohem’s ambitions, the generals of the Reichswehr warned Hitler: Get rid of Rohem—or we’ll get rid of you.

So Rohem died in a hail of SS bullets—along with several hundred of his longtime S.A. cronies.

SS firing squad

A third crisis that paved the way for Hitler’s assuming supremacy over the German armed forces came in early 1938.

Hitler had been wanting to replace two high-ranking military officials: General Werner von Fritsch and Colonel General Werner von Blomberg. He intended to go to war—and despised their hesitation to do so. 

On January 12, 1938, Blomberg married Erna Gruhn, with Hitler and Reichsmarshall Hermann Goring attending as witnesses. Soon afterward, Berlin police discovered that Gruhn had a criminal record as a prostitute and had posed for pornographic photographs.

Marrying a woman with such a background violated the standard of conduct expected of officers. Hitler was infuriated at having served as a witness, but he also saw the scandal as an opportunity to dispose of Blomberg.

Shortly after Blomberg was forced to resign in disgrace, the SS presented Hitler with a file that falsely accused Werner von Fritsch of homosexuality. Fritsch angrily denied the accusation but resigned on February 4, 1938.

From that point on, Hitler was in de facto command of the German Armed Services.

To the Bitter End vividly depicts how, step by step, Hitler gained total control of Germany—and plunged it headlong into World War II.

None of these steps, by itself, was fatal. But, taken together, they led to the deaths of 60 million men, women and children, the utter destruction of Germany and the domination of Eastern Europe (including East Germany) for 44 years after the Reich collapsed.

Since Donald Trump took office as the 45th President of the United States, Americans have seen him move, step by step, toward his goal of absolute power. Among these moves:

  • Firing FBI Director James Comey for pursuing an investigation into Russian subversion of the 2016 election.
  • Repeatedly attacking his own Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, for not “protecting” him from investigators pursuing the Russia investigation.
  • Firing Sessions and replacing him with Matthew Whittaker, who had loudly criticized the probe led by Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller.
  • Relentlessly attacking the free press as “the enemy of the American people.”
  • Brutally attacking Federal judges whose rulings displease him.
  • On multiple occasions, urging Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to vengefully prosecute Hillary Clinton, his 2016 rival for the Presidency.

The United States may yet fall victim to a nuclear war triggered by an insult-happy Trump, or a dictatorship where he turns the Justice Department into his personal SS. 

If so, a future American chronicler may, like Hans Bernd Gisevius, leave behind a record of a nation betrayed by lost opportunities and a brutal tyrant.

TRUMP: WAGING WAR ON AMERICAN INSTITUTIONS

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 26, 2018 at 12:06 am

Since taking office as the Nation’s 45th President, Donald Trump has attacked or undermined one public or private institution after another.  Among these:

  • American Intelligence: Even before taking office, Trump refused to accept the findings of the FBI, CIA and NSA that Russian Intelligence agents had intervened in the 2016 election to ensure his victory.
  • “I think it’s ridiculous,” he told “Fox News Sunday.” “I think it’s just another excuse. I don’t believe it….No, I don’t believe it at all.”   
  • And when FBI Director James Comey dared to pursue a probe into “the Russia thing,” Trump fired him without warning.
  • On Thanksgiving Day, 2018, Trump said that the CIA hadn’t concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s had ordered the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi,
  • This was a lie—the agency has reached such a conclusion, based on a recording provided by the Turkish government and American intelligence.
  • American law enforcement agencies: Trump repeatedly attacked his own Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, for not “protecting” him from agents pursuing the Russia investigation.
  • On November 7, the day after Democrats won a majority of House seats, Trump fired Sessions. 
  • He threatened to fire Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, who oversaw Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian subversion of the 2016 election. 
  • He bypassed Rosenstein to appoint Matthew Whittaker acting Attorney General—thus giving him authority over the Mueller investigation. Whittaker had often—and publicly—criticized Mueller’s probe, calling for its termination.
  • Trump intended to fire Mueller during the summer of 2017, but was talked out of it by aides fearful that it would set off calls for his impeachment.

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Donald Trump

  • American military agencies: In February, 2017, Trump approved and ordered a Special Forces raid in Yemen on an Al Qaeda stronghold. The assault cost the life of Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens.
  • Disavowing any responsibility for the failure, Trump said: “This was a mission that was started before I got here. This was something they wanted to do. They came to me, they explained what they wanted to do—the generals—who are very respected, my generals are the most respected that we’ve had in many decades, I believe. And they lost Ryan.”
  • The press: On February 17, 2017, Trump tweeted: “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes@NBCNews@ABC@CBS@CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!”
  • Seven days later, appearing before the Conservative Political Action Conference on February 24, Trump said: “I want you all to know that we are fighting the fake news. It’s fake, phony, fake….I’m against the people that make up stories and make up sources. They shouldn’t be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody’s name. Let their name be put out there.”

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  • The judiciary: On October 20, 2018, Trump attacked U.S. District Judge Jon S. Tigar as an “Obama judge.” Tigar had ruled that the administration must consider asylum claims no matter where migrants cross the U.S. border.
  • On October 21, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts told the Associated Press: “We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges. What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them.” 
  • On Thanksgiving Day, 2018, Trump attacked Roberts—appointed by Republican President George W. Bush—on Twitter: “Sorry Chief Justice John Roberts, but you do indeed have ‘Obama judges,’ and they have a much different point of view than the people who are charged with the safety of our country.”
  • Trump has repeatedly attacked Seattle US District Judge James Robart, who halted Trump’s first travel ban: “Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!”  
  • President Barack Obama: For five years, Trump, more than anyone else, popularized the slander that President Barack Obama was born in Kenya—and was therefore not an American citizen.
  • Even after Obama released the long-form version of his birth certificate—on April 27, 2011—Trump tweeted, on August 6, 2012: “An ‘extremely credible source’ has called my office and told me that @BarackObama‘s birth certificate is a fraud.”

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Barack Obama

  • On March 4, 2017, in a series of unhinged tweets, Trump accused former President 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!”   

Trump was later forced to admit he had no evidence to back up his slanderous claims.

* * * * *

Donald Trump isn’t crazy, as many of his critics charge.  He knows what he’s doing—and why.

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

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

TREASON BY NUMBERS–AGAIN

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on November 19, 2018 at 12:06 am

Once you have decided on a treason,
Sign on with a man named Donald Trump.
And when you find your hatred is a reason,
Then on your country you can take a dump.

There really isn’t any need for worry,
Just do it and then go ahead and lie.
Like giving Russians secrets in the White House,
And that avoids those pests named “F.B.I.”

House and Senate Republicans have almost universally refused to to speak out against threats by President Donald Trump to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions and/or Special Counsel Robert Mueller. 

Or to take action to prevent or punish Trump for doing so.

On April 17, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would not allow legislation to protect Mueller’s independent investigation into Russian subversion of the 2016 Presidential election to reach the Senate floor.

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Mitch McConnell

“I’m the one who decides what we take to the floor. That’s my responsibility as majority leader. We’ll not be having this on the floor of the Senate,” the Kentucky Republican said in an interview on Fox News.

Earlier that day, Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan claimed that legislation to protect Mueller was “unnecessary.”

“It would not be in the President’s interest to [fire Mueller] and I think he knows that,” said the Wisconsin Congressman.

On November 14, McConnell rejected another chance to protect the Mueller investigation.

Republican Arizona United States Senator Jeff Flake introduced a bill to make it harder for the Trump to fire Mueller—and allow the special council to appeal his firing. 

McConnell claimed such legislation was unnecessary—and that he hadn’t heard Trump or others say they want to shut down Mueller’s probe.

This, of course, totally ignored:

  • On November 7, Trump fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions—for refusing to fire Mueller; and
  • Appointed Sessions’ deputy, Matthew Whitaker, as acting Attorney General. Whitaker had publicly attacked the investigation and urged its suppression.

Why have so few Republicans dared to stand against Trump 

Because many House and Senate Republicans received millions of dollars in “campaign contributions” from Russian oligarchs who are answerable to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.

‘Cause it’s treason by numbers, 1, 2, 3,
It’s as easy to do as your G.O.P.
It’s treason by numbers, 1, 2, 3,
It’s as easy to do as your G.O.P.

Now if you have a taste for turning traitor
And you find it’s really thrilling as can be,
Then pick up that phone and call the Kremlin
And soon you’ll have a bud named Vladimir P.

The following data comes from the Federal Elections Commission.

One major Russian contributor is Len Blavatnik, whose net worth is estimated at $20 billion. In 2016, he gave $6.35 million to GOP PACs.

In 2017, he gave millions of dollars to top Republican leaders

  • A total of $1.5 million to PACs associated with Senator Marco Rubio (Florida). 
  • $1 million to Trump’s Inaugural Committee.
  • $1 million to McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund.
  • $3.5 million to a PAC associated with McConnell. 
  • $200,000 to the Arizona Grassroots Action PAC, associated with Arizona Senator John McCain. 
  • $800,000 went to the Security is Strength PAC, associated with Senator Lindsey Graham (South Carolina).

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The Kremlin

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

A third oligarch, Andrew Intrater, contributed $250,000 to Trump’s Inaugural Committee.

And a fourth, Simon Kukes, contributed a total of $283,000, much of it to the Trump Victory Fund.

Yes, treason isn’t something that comes easy.
It’s an act that makes most people want to gag.
But you can earn those rubles that you long for
And the Right will back you up and wave the flag.

‘Cause it’s treason by numbers, 1, 2, 3,
It’s as easy to do as your G.O.P.
Treason by numbers, 1, 2, 3,
It’s as easy to do as your G.O.P.

McConnell participated in high-level intelligence briefings in 2016. The FBI, CIA and the code-cracking National Security Agency, warned that the Russians were 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) issued a joint statement: The Russian government had directed the effort to subvert the 2016 Presidential election.

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

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

Billionaires don’t give huge sums to politicians without expecting to get something in return. And this is especially true—and frightening—when the contributors are linked to a former KGB agent like Vladimir Putin, whose aggressive intentions are increasingly on display.

Now you can join the list of Right-wing traitors
In history’s dark and evil hall of shame.
Their ranks are filled with greedy, racist haters.
At least the ones that we all know by name.

But if you can con you way into the White House
If you become the leader of the land,
Then treason is the sport of the elected,
And Republicans will give you a big hand.

‘Cause it’s treason by numbers, 1, 2, 3,
It’s as easy to do as your G.O.P.
Treason by numbers, 1, 2, 3,
It’s as easy to do
As your God-damned G.O.P.

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