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Posts Tagged ‘JOHN MCCAIN’

VLADIMIR PUTIN: BRIBES FOR THE SENATE, TANKS FOR UKRAINE

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on May 16, 2022 at 12:11 am

Anyone wondering where Vladimir Putin got the idea he could invade Ukraine with impunity need look no further than the United States Senate.

On April 16, 2018, the New York Times published an editorial taking direct aim at the vast majority of Congressional Republicans.

Specifically, it noted their unwillingness to speak out against threats by President Donald Trump to fire deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and/or Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Director Robert S. Mueller- III.jpg

Robert Mueller

Its key paragraph:

“Make no mistake: If Mr. Trump takes such drastic action, he will be striking at the foundation of the American government, attempting to set a precedent that a president, alone among American citizens, is above the law. What can seem now like a political sideshow will instantly become a constitutional crisis, and history will come calling for Mr. [Orrin] Hatch and his colleagues.”

Orrin Hatch was the Republican United States Senator from Utah. He and Republican Senators Lindsey Graham (South Carolina) and Chuck Grassley (Iowa) had warned Trump not to fire  Rosenstein or Mueller. 

But most Republicans had held silent.

Why?

The Times editorial offers two reasons:

First, Republicans feared enraging an easily infuriated Trump—who might aim his Twitter account at them and cost them votes in the upcoming fall elections.

Second, Republicans feared enraging Trump’s fanatical base—which, in this instance, had two meanings:

  1. “Something (as a group of people) that reliably provides support (such as for a business or political candidate)”—Merriam Webster; and
  2. “Without moral principles; ignoble”—Oxford Living Dictionaries

On April 17, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would not allow legislation to protect Mueller’s independent investigation to reach the Senate floor.

Mitch McConnell portrait 2016.jpg

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 in the day, another 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.

But there is an additional reason why so few Republicans dared to stand up against Trump. 

Trump received help from Russian Intelligence agents during the 2016 Presidential campaign. And House and Senate Republicans have received Russian help of another kind: Bribe monies.

Of course, these are not officially classified as bribes. Officially, they are “campaign contributions.” 

In recent years, a network of Russian oligarchs—all of them answerable to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin—has been increasingly contributing to top Republicans. 

And, thanks to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010, the donations are entirely legal

The following data comes from 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 proved one of the largest donors to GOP Political Action Committees (PACs).  

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

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

  • 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, contributed $1 million to Trump’s Inaugural Committee.   

Altogether, four Russian oligarchs—Blavatnik, Shustorovich, Andrew Intrater and Simon Kukescontributed $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 participated in high-level intelligence briefings in 2016. From agencies such as the FBI, CIA and the code-cracking National Security Agency, he learned 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.

Millionaires and billionaires don’t give six- or seven-figure monetary contributions 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. 

It’s clear that the Republican party has moved from “Better Dead than Red” to “My Wallet, First and Always.”

DEMOCRACY HANGS BY A THREAD: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on February 9, 2022 at 12:12 am

In 2016, “reality show” host Donald Trump—with major assistance from Russian dictator Vladimir Putin—was elected President.

Throughout his four-year term, the Right enthusiastically supported him despite a record of unprecedented infamy—which included: 

  • Repeatedly and viciously attacking the nation’s free press for daring to report his growing list of crimes and disasters, calling it “the enemy of the American people.”
  • Publicly siding with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin against American Intelligence agencies—such as the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency—which unanimously agreed that Russia had interfered with the 2016 Presidential election.
  • Praising Nazis and Ku Klux Klansmen.
  • Using his position as President to further enrich himself, in violation of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution.
  • Attacking and alienating America’s oldest allies, such as Canada and Great Britain.
  • Firing FBI Director James Comey for refusing to pledge his personal loyalty to Trump—and continuing to investigate Russian subversion of the 2016 election.  
  • Shutting down the Federal Government on December 22, 2018, because Democrats refused to fund his “border wall” between the United States and Mexico. An estimated 380,000 government employees were furloughed and another 420,000 were ordered to work without pay.
  • Trying to coerce Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to smear former Vice President Joe Biden, who was likely to be his Democratic opponent in the 2020 Presidential election.

Meanwhile, the vast majority of Americans supported Trump’s actions or refused to actively oppose them.

On April 27, 2020, “Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough offered an important insight about why most Americans ignored Trump’s crimes and outrages for so long:

“I’ve said from the very beginning: You can lie about independent counsels, people won’t listen. You can lie about former FBI directors—“

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: “It doesn’t impact their lives.”

JOE SCARBOROUGH: “They’re still going to work, the kids are doing fine, they’ve got enough money to pay their rent, to pay their mortgage. You can even lie about the Ukraine call—they don’t really care.”

Then-White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders provided strong evidence for this when she bragged, on June 4, 2018:

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

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Donald Trump

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

But COVID-19 changed all that. Suddenly, millions of Americans found themselves stuck at home with their children. Many of them couldn’t go to work—because they were sick or their jobs had disappeared. Their 401Ks suddenly became worthless.

Had COVID-19 not intervened, Trump would still be President. And he wouldn’t have had to call on aid from Vladimir Putin. Millions of Right-wing, “I’ve-got-mine-so-screw-you” Americans would have happily returned him to office as “President-for-Life.” 

During his 12-year reign, Adolf Hitler was the target of at least 42 overthrow plots. The most famous of these occurred on July 20, 1944.

So far as is known, Donald Trump was not the target of even one.   

  • No Cabinet members dared to invoke the Twenty-Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution to remove Trump for office as “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”
  • House and Senate Republicans rubberstamped his every infamy. When he praised North Korea’s dictator Kim Jong-Un or attacked Vietnam POW John McCain or falsely charged massive voter fraud, Republicans stayed silent or loudly parroted his lies.
  • On February 5, 2020, the Republican-dominated Senate—ignoring the overwhelming evidence against him—acquitted Trump on both impeachment articles: Obstruction of Congress and abuse of power. 
  • Just hours after Trump incited the deadly January 6, 2021 coup attempt at the United States Capitol, 147 Republicans lawmakers in the House and Senate voted to overturn Trump’s 2020 election loss—following months of his baseless claims that the November election had been stolen.
  • At the Pentagon, American generals stood mute as Trump repeatedly abused their ability and  integrity, while pursuing policies calculated to aid Russia.
  • Although they regularly met with Trump, none of them plotted his removal. 
  • No FBI agents—steeped in Federal criminal law—built a case for Trump’s indictment and prosecution. This despite his attacking their integrity and even firing their director, James Comey, for investigating Russia’s subversion of the 2016 election.

Trump knows he cannot win office in a free election. 

So notorious was the role played by Russian trolls and hackers in winning Trump the 2016 election that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was determined to prevent a repetition in 2020.

Chris Krebs, the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, revamped the department’s cybersecurity efforts and increased coordination with state and local governments.

By all accounts—except Donald Trump’s—the November 3, 2020 election was virtually free of fraud. As a result, Trump lost.

That’s why legislators in Republican-controlled states are trying to corrupt election machinery at state and local levels—to nullify the votes of millions of Democrats in the 2022 and 2024 elections.

If they can restore a lifelong criminal to absolute power in 2024, Joseph Biden will be the last democratically-elected American President. 

And Donald Trump will live out his dictatorial fantasies as “President-for-Life.”

DEMOCRACY HANGS BY A THREAD: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 8, 2022 at 12:10 am

In his January 19 press conference, President Joseph Biden said: “I actually like Mitch McConnell. We like one another.”

In reality, McConnell refused to acknowledge Biden’s legitimacy as President-elect until December 15, 2020—more than one month after Biden’s election on November 3.

Additionally, at least 147 Republicans sided with Donald Trump’s lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him. And even after the treasonous attempted coup of January 6, 2021, many of them still refuse to accept the legitimacy of Biden’s win.

January 6, 2021’s attempted coup

Tyler Merbler from USA, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

Republicans have enthusiastically embraced Trump’s Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him—despite overwhelming evidence that it wasn’t.

Legislators in Republican-controlled states are now working furiously to corrupt election machinery at state and local levels so they can nullify the votes of millions of Democrats in the 2022 and 2024 elections.

Their ultimate goal: Restore a lifelong criminal and Russia-appeasing traitor to absolute power as “President-for-Life.”

In 1996, Newt Gingrich, then Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, wrote a memo entitled “Language: A Key Mechanism of Control.” It encouraged Republicans to attack Democrats with such words as “corrupt,” “selfish,” “destructive,” “hypocrisy,” “liberal,” “sick,” and “traitors.”

Republicans learned long ago that most voters aren’t moved by appeals to their rationality. Instead, what counts with them are emotions. And Republicans have become experts at appealing to these—especially the baser ones.

For Republicans, the Big Three emotions are: Hatred, Greed and Fear.

This has enabled Republicans to repeatedly score impressive electoral victories: Out of 17 Presidential elections since the end of World War II, Republicans have won 10.

But it’s not enough to see Republicans for what they are. Americans need to be seen for what they are.

Historically, the United States has always been a highly conservative nation. Going from “conservative” to “Fascist” is a relatively easy step—as millions of Donald Trump’s supporters have proven.

Since the end of World War 11, Republicans have regularly hurled the charge of “treason” against anyone who dared to run against them for office or think other than Republican-sponsored thoughts.

Republicans had been locked out of the White House from 1933 to 1952, during the administrations of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman.

Determined to regain the Presidency by any means, they found that attacking the integrity of their fellow Americans a highly effective tactic.

During the 1950s, Wisconsin Republican Senator Joseph R. McCarthy rode a wave of paranoia to national prominence—by attacking the patriotism of anyone who disagreed with him.

Joseph McCarthy

The fact that McCarthy never uncovered one actual case of treason was conveniently overlooked during his lifetime.

During the 1992 Presidential campaign, Republicans tried to paint Bill Clinton as a brainwashed “Manchurian candidate” because he had briefly visited the Soviet Union during his college years.

After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Republicans lost their “soft on Communism” slander-line. So they tried to persuade voters that Democrats were “soft on crime.”

When riots flared in 1992 after the acquittal of LAPD officers who had savagely beaten Rodney King, President George H.W. Bush blamed the carnage on the “Great Society” programs of the 1960s.

George H.W. Bush

After losing the White House to Clinton at the polls in 1992 and 1996, Republicans tried to oust him another way: By impeaching him over a tryst with a penis-loving intern named Monica Lewinsky.

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted to impeach, but the effort was defeated in the Democratically-controlled Senate.

The 2008 election of Barack Obama pushed the Republican “treason chorus” to new heights of infamy.

Barack Obama

Almost immediately after Obama took office, he came under attack by an industry of right-wing book authors such as Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh.

Consider the vocabulary Right-wingers use to describe their political adversaries:

“Liberals,” “radicals, “bankrupting,” “treason,” subversion,” “slander,” “terrorism,” “betrayal,” “catastrophe,” “shattering the American dream,” “leftists,” “Communists,” “government takeover,” “socialism,” “power grab,” “secularism,” “environmentalism.”

And while the Right lusts to constantly compare Democrats and liberals (the two aren’t always the same) to Nazis, its propaganda campaign draws heavily on Adolf Hitler’s own advice.

In Mein Kampf, the Nazi leader laid out his formula for successful propaganda: “All effective propaganda must be confined to a few bare essentials.

“Those must be expressed as far as possible in stereotypical formulas. These slogans should be persistently repeated until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea that has been put forward.

“[The masses] more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods.”

Thus, Republicans spent the eight years of Barack Obama’s Presidency repeating the lie that he was born in Kenya—not Hawaii, as the long-form version of his birth certificate attests.

The reason: To “prove” that he was an illegitimate President, and should be removed from office. 

To Republicans’ dismay, their slander campaign didn’t prevent Obama from being elected in 2008—and re-elected in 2012. 

In 2016, “reality show” host Donald Trump—with major assistance from Russian dictator Vladimir Putin—was elected President. Throughout his four-year term, the Right enthusiastically supported him—despite a record of unprecedented infamy. 

PRIORITIES OF THE POWERFUL

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 25, 2021 at 12:33 am

In the 1970 film, Patton, General George S. Patton is a man driven by his obsession to be the best field commander in the war—and to be recognized for it.

And he views similarly egotistical British General Bernard Montgomery as a rival for that latter achievement.

So, in Algeria, he conjures up a plan that will sideline “Monty” while he, Patton, defeats the Germans–and bags the glory.

The trick lies in throwing a sumptuous dinner—in the middle of the North African desert—for a visiting British general: Harold Alexander.

George C. Scott as George S. Patton

As Patton (George C. Scott, in an Oscar-winning performance) tells his aide: “I want to give a dinner for General Alexander. I want to get to him before Montgomery does.  I want the finest food and the best wine available. Everything.”

The aide pulls off the dinner–where, indeed, “the finest food and the best wine” are on full display, along with attentive waiters and a candelabra.

So think about it:

  • In the middle of the desert
  • while American and British forces are forced to subsist on C-rations
  • and are under repeated air attack by the Luftwaffe
  • and tank attack by the Afrika Korps

a handful of ultra-pampered American and British military officers find the time—and luxuries—to throw themselves a fine party.

Now, fast-forward from Algeria in 1943 to Washington, D.C. in 2016.

Returning to Congress after their traditional summer recess, House Republicans planned to cut $23 billion in food stamps for the poor. This would include include ending waivers that allow some adults to get temporary assistance, while they are in school or training for a job.  

The cuts included drug tests of applicants and tougher work rules. As Republicans see it: There’s no point in “helping” the poor if you can’t humiliate them.

The food stamp program, now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, served more than 46 million Americans and cost $74 billion in 2015. 

Republicans claimed the program was unbearably expensive at $74.1 billion a year.

Meanwhile, Republicans were eager to spend billions of dollars for another project: An unnecessary war with Syria.

One of these right-wingers was Bill Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard—and one of the leading instigators of the 2003 war with Iraq.

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Bill Kristol

He—like senior officials on the George W. Bush administration—falsely claimed that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and planned to use them against the United States.

Another Kristol lie: Hussein planned 9/11 with Osama bin Laden.

He has never apologized for either lie—or the resulting war that killed 4,487 American soldiers and wounded another 32,226.

In a September, 2013 column, Kristol called for a return to slaughter—not only in Syria but Iran as well:

“…Soon after voting to authorize the use of force against the Assad regime, Republicans might consider moving an authorization for the use of force against the Iranian nuclear weapons program.

“They can explain that Obama’s dithering in the case of Syria shows the utility of unequivocally giving him the authority to act early with respect to Iran.”

Former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice—who also lied the nation into the needless 2003 Iraq war—was another big promoter of “give war a chance:”

“My fellow Americans, we do not have a choice. We cannot be reluctant to lead–and one cannot lead from behind.”

Among Republican U.S. Senators calling for war were John McCain (Arizona) and Lindsey Graman (South Carolina), who issued a joint statement:

“Using stand-off weapons, without boots on the ground, and at minimal risk to our men and women in uniform, we can significantly degrade Assad’s air power and ballistic missile capabilities and help to establish and defend safe areas on  the ground.

“In addition, we must begin a large-scale effort to train and equip moderate, vetted elements of the Syrian opposition with the game-changing weapons they need to shift the military balance against [Syrian dictator Bashar] Assad’s forces.”

Except that there were no “moderate, vetted elements” of the Syrian opposition.  The opposition was just as murderous as the Assad regime—and eager to replace one dictator with another.

In addition: A major weapon for “degrading Assad’s air power” would be Tomahawk Cruise missiles.  A single one of these costs $1,410,000.

Firing of a Tomahawk Cruise missile

A protracted missile strike would have rained literally billions of dollars’ worth of American missiles on Syria.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon was spending about $27 million a week to maintain the increased U.S. Navy presence in the Mediterranean Sea and Middle East region to keep watch over Syria and be prepared to strike.

Navy officials said it cost about $25 million a week for the carrier group and $2 million a week for each destroyer.   

* * * * *

Is there a lesson to be learned from all this?

Yes.

Powerful people—whether generals, politicians or the wealthy—will always find abundant money and resources available for projects they consider important.

It’s only when it comes to projects that other people actually need that the powerful will claim there is, unfortunately, a cash shortage.

“AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM”: A DANGEROUS MYTH

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 1, 2021 at 12:10 am

On September 11, 2013, the New York Times published an Op-Ed (guest editorial) from Russian President Vladimir Putin, entitled: “A Plea for Caution from Russia: What Putin Has to Say to Americans About Syria.”

No one should be surprised that Putin came out strongly against an American air strike on Syria.

Its “President” (i.e., dictator) Bashir al-Assad, is, after all, a close ally of Russia. Just as his late father and  dictator, Hafez al-Assad, was a close ally of the Soviet Union until its collapse in 1991.

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Putin, of course, is a former member of the KGB, the infamous secret police which ruled the Soviet Union from its birth in 1917 to its collapse in 1991.

He grew up under a Communist dictatorship and clearly wishes to return to that era, saying publicly: “First and foremost it is worth acknowledging that the demise of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.”

So it would have been unrealistic to expect him to view the “Syria crisis” the same way that President Barack Obama did.

(A “crisis” for politicians is any event that can be exploited to increase their own status—and thus power. Few politicians really care about the “human rights” of other nations—unless promoting this issue can empower themselves and/or their own nation. 

(President Ronald Reagan, for example, often wailed about the Soviets’ oppression of the Polish union, Solidarity—while firing hundreds of unionized air traffic controllers who went on strike.)

(A “crisis” for the media is any event that can be exploited for higher ratings.)

In his September 11, 2013 guest editorial in the New York Times, Putin offered the expected Russian take on Syria:

  • Poison gas was used in Syria.
  • It wasn’t used by the Syrian Army.
  • It was used by “opposition forces, to provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons.”

But it was the concluding paragraph that enraged American politicians the most—especially Right-wing ones. In it, Putin took exception with American “exceptionalism.”

Vladimir Putin

This is the belief that the United States is unlike other nations in its innocence and steadfast dedication to human rights above all else.

Citizens of nations whose governments have been overthrown by the United States—such as Chile, Iran and Nicaragua—and replaced with brutal dictatorships would strongly disagree.

Referring to then-President Obama, Putin wrote:

“And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is ‘what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.’

“It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation.

“There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too.

“We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.”

Putin had never publicly shown any interest in religion. But by invoking “the Lord,” he was able to turn the Christian beliefs of his Western audience into a useful weapon.

“I was insulted,” then-House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters when asked for his blunt reaction to the editorial.

“I have to be honest with you, I was at dinner, and I almost wanted to vomit,” said U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey).

Putin had dared to question the self-righteousness of American foreign policy—and those who make it.

Making his case for war with Syria, Obama had said: “America is not the world’s policeman….

“But when, with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death, and thereby make our own children safer over the long run, I believe we should act.

“That’s what makes America different. That’s what makes us exceptional. With humility, but with resolve, let us never lose sight of that essential truth.”

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President Barack Obama

* * * * *

In short: Because we consider ourselves “exceptional,” we have the divine right to do whatever we want.

It’s not necessary to see Putin as a champion of democracy (he isn’t) to see the truth in this part of his editorial: “It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation.”

From 1938 to 1969, the House Un-American Activities Committee sought to define what was “American” and what was “Un-American.”  As if “American” stood for all things virtuous.

Whoever heard of an “Un-French Activities Committee”?  Or an “Un-German” or “Un-British” one?

The late S.I. Hayakawa once made an observation that clearly applies to this situation.

Hayakawa was a professor of semantics (the study of meaning, focusing on the relation between words and what they stand for).

In his bestselling book, Language in Thought and Action, he observed that when a person hears a message, he has four ways of responding to it:

  1. Accept the speaker and his message.
  2. Accept the speaker but reject the message.
  3. Accept the message but reject the speaker.
  4. Reject the message and the speaker.

Americans might want to consider #3 in the recent case of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

LIKE A TYRANT: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 7, 2021 at 12:15 am

In January, 2018, the White House of President Donald Trump 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.

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 believed that leaks wouldn’t end unless Trump started firing staffers. But that risked firing the wrong people. To protect themselves, those who leaked 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. 

He’s never been able to poke fun at himself—and he grows livid when anybody else does.

At Christmastime, 2018, “Saturday Night Live” aired a parody of the classic movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Its title: “It’s a Wonderful Trump.” 

In it, Trump (portrayed by actor Alec Baldwin) discovers what the United States would be like if he had never become President: A great deal better-off.

As usual, Trump expressed his resentment through Twitter: The Justice Department should stop investigating his administration and go after the real enemy: “SNL.”

“A REAL scandal is the one sided coverage, hour by hour, of networks like NBC & Democrat spin machines like Saturday Night Live. It is all nothing less than unfair news coverage and Dem commercials. Should be tested in courts, can’t be legal? Only defame & belittle! Collusion?” 

By saying that “SNL’s” right to parody him “should be tested in courts, can’t be legal?” Trump chose to ignore the role of the First Amendment in American history.

Cartoonists portrayed President Andrew Jackson (1829 -1837) wearing a king’s robes and crown, and holding a scepter. This thoroughly enraged Jackson—who had repulsed a British invasion in 1815 at the Battle of New Orleans. To call a man a monarchist in 1800s America was the same as calling him a Communist in the 1950s. 

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During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln was lampooned as an ape and a blood-stained tyrant. And Theodore Roosevelt proved a cartoonist’s delight, with attention given to his bushy mustache and thick-lensed glasses. 

Thus, the odds are slight that an American court would even hear a case brought by Trump against “SNL.” 

Such a case made its way through the courts in the late 1980s when the Reverend Jerry Falwell sued pornographer Larry Flyint over a satirical interview in Hustler magazine. In this, “Falwell” admitted that his first sexual encounter had been with his own mother.

In 1988, the United States Supreme Court, voting 8-0, ruled in Flynt’s favor, saying that the media had a First Amendment right to parody a celebrity.

“Despite their sometimes caustic nature, from the early cartoon portraying George Washington as an ass down to the present day, graphic depictions and satirical cartoons have played a prominent role in public and political debate,” Chief Justice William Rehnquist—an appointee of President Richard Nixon—wrote in his majority decision in the case.

Moreover, Trump would have bene forced to take the stand in such a case. The attorneys for NBC and “SNL” would have insisted on it.

The results would have been:

  1. Unprecedented legal exposure for Trump—who would have been forced to answer virtually any questions asked or drop his lawsuit; and
  2. Unprecedented humiliation for a man who lives as much for his ego as his pocketbook. Tabloids and late-night comedians would have had a field-day with such a lawsuit.

And while Trump loves to sue those he hates, he does not relish taking the stand himself.  

On October 12, 2016, The Palm Beach Post, The New York Times and People all published stories of women claiming to have been sexually assaulted by Trump. 

He accused the Times of inventing accusations to hurt his Presidential candidacy. And he threatened to sue for libel if the Times reported the women’s stories. He also said he would sue the women making the accusations. 

He never sued the Times, The Post, People—or the women.

LIKE A TYRANT: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 6, 2021 at 12:42 am

On May 10, 2018, The Hill reported that White House Special Assistant Kelly Sadler had joked derisively about dying 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 then-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 was offered by any official at the White House—including President Donald 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, 2018, 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!” 

This from the man who, during the 2016 Presidential campaign, shouted: WikiLeaks, I love WikiLeaks!” 

Of course, that was when Russian Intelligence agents were exposing the secrets of Hillary Clinton, his Presidential opponent.

And, in a move that Joseph Stalin would have admired, Trump ordered an all-out investigation to find the person who leaked Sadler’s “joke.”

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 had 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 huddled around the lockers throughout the day, checking messages they had missed. The lockers buzzed and chirped constantly from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

More ominously, well-suited men roamed 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 would ask if such a device was detected.

If no one said they have a phone, the detection team started 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, former 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 did not end White House leaks.

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

Aides with private offices sometimes called reporters on their desk phones. Others used their cell phones to call or text reporters during lunch breaks. 

LIKE A TYRANT: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 5, 2021 at 12:15 am

“Nothing funny about tired Saturday Night Live on Fake news NBC! Question is, how do the Networks get away with these total Republican hit jobs without retribution? Likewise for many other shows? Very unfair and should be looked into. This is the real Collusion!”

So tweeted President Donald J. Trump on February 17, 2019.

Less than nine hours earlier, “SNL” had once again opened with actor Alec Baldwin mocking the 45th President. In this skit, Baldwin/Trump gave a rambling press conference declaring: “We need wall. We have a tremendous amount of drugs flowing into this country from the southern border—or The Brown Line, as many people have asked me not to call it.”

Right-wingers denounce their critics as “snowflakes”—that is, emotional, easily offended and unable to tolerate opposing views.

Yet here was Donald Trump, who prides himself on his toughness, whining like a child bully who has just been told that other people have rights, too.

The answer is simple: Trump is a tyrant—and a longtime admirer of tyrants.

Related image

Donald Trump

He has lavishly praised Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, such as during his appearance on the December 18, 2015 edition of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”: 

“He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader, unlike what we have in this country”-a reference to then-President Barack Obama. 

During a February, 2017 interview with Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, Trump defended Putin’s killing of political opponents.  

O’Reilly: “But he’s a killer.” 

Trump: “There are a lot of killers. You think our country’s so innocent?” 

Asked by a Fox News reporter why he praised murderous North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un, he replied: “He’s a tough guy. Hey, when you take over a country, tough country, tough people, and you take it over from your father…If you could do that at 27 years old, I mean, that’s one in 10,000 that could do that.” 

In short: Kim must be doing something right because he’s in power. And it doesn’t matter how he came to power—or the price his country is paying for it.  

Actually, for all their differences in appearance and nationality, Trump shares at least two similarities with Kim.

Kim Jong-un at the Workers' Party of Korea main building.png

Kim Jong-Un

Blue House (Republic of Korea) [KOGL (http://www.kogl.or.kr/open/info/license_info/by.do)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

First, both of them got a big boost into wealth and power from their fathers.

  • Trump’s father, Fred Trump, a real estate mogul, reportedly gave Donald $200 million to enter the real estate business. It was this sum that formed the basis for Trump’s eventual rise to wealth and fame—and the Presidency. 
  • Kim’s father was Kim Jong-Il, who ruled North Korea as dictator from 1994 to 2011. When his father died in 2011, Kim Jong-Un immediately succeeded him, having been groomed for years to do so. 

Second, both Trump and Kim have brutally tried to stamp out any voices that contradict their own.

  • Trump has constantly attacked freedom of the press, even labeling it “the enemy of the American people.” He has also slandered his critics on Twitter—which refused to enforce its “Terms of Service” and revoke his account until he incited the January 6 attack on Congress.
  • Kim has attacked his critics with firing squads and prison camps. Amnesty International estimates that more than 200,000 North Koreans are now suffering in labor camps throughout the country.

Thus, Trump—-elected to lead the “free world”—believes, like all dictators:

  • People are evil everywhere—so who am I to judge who’s better or worse? All that counts is gaining and holding onto power. 
  • And if you can do that, it doesn’t matter how you do so.

Actually, it’s not uncommon for dictators to admire one another—as the case of Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler nicely illustrates.

Joseph Stalin

After Hitler launched a blood-purge of his own private Stormtroopers army on June 30, 1934, Stalin exclaimed: “Hitler, what a great man! That is the way to deal with your political opponents!” 

And Hitler was equally admiring of Stalin’s notorious ruthlessness: “After the victory over Russia,” he told his intimates, “it would be a good idea to get Stalin to run the country, with German oversight, of course. He knows better than anyone how to handle the Russians.”  

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

One characteristic shared by all dictators is intolerance toward those whose opinions differ with their own. Especially those who dare to actually criticize or make fun of them.

All Presidents have thin skins. John F. Kennedy often phoned reporters and called them “sonofbitches” when he didn’t like stories they had written on him.

Richard Nixon went further, waging all-out war against the Washington Post for its stories about his criminality. 

But Donald Trump took his hatred of dissidents to an entirely new—and dangerous—level.

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

Trump was outraged—not that one of his aides had joked about a man stricken with brain cancer, but that someone in the White House had leaked it.

ALL GLORY IS FLEETING–AND NOW GONE

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 31, 2021 at 12:14 am

Saving Private Ryan, Steven Spielberg’s 1998 World War II epic, opens with a scene of an American flag snapping in the wind.

Except that the vivid red, white and blue we’ve come to expect in Old Glory have been washed out, leaving only black-and-white stripes and black stars.

Robert Mapplethorpe and the tale of two American Flags | art | Phaidon

And then the movie opens—not during World War II but the present day.

Did Spielberg know that the United States—for all its military power—has become a pale shadow of its former glory?

May, 30, 1945, marked the first Memorial Day after World War II ended in Europe.

On that day, the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery became the site of just such a ceremony. The cemetery lies near the modern Italian town of Nettuno.

In 1945, it held about  20,000 graves. Most were soldiers who died in Sicily, at Salerno or Anzio.

One of the speakers at the ceremony was Lieutenant General Lucian K. Truscott, Jr., the U.S. Fifth Army Commander.

Lieutenant General Lucian K. Truscott, Jr.

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

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

When it came his turn to speak, Truscott moved to the podium—and then did something truly unexpected.

Looking at the assembled visitors—which included several Congressmen—Truscott turned his back on the living to face the graves of his fellow soldiers.  

“It was the most moving gesture I ever saw,” wrote Mauldin. “It came from a hard-boiled old man who was incapable of planned dramatics.”

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

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

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

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

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

Then Truscott walked away, without acknowledging his audience.

Fast forward 61 years—to March 24, 2004.

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

One year earlier, he had invaded Iraq on the premise that its dictator, Saddam Hussein, possessed WMDs he intended to use against the United States.

To Bush, the non-existent WMDs were now simply the butt of a joke that night.

While an overhead projector displayed photos of a puzzled-looking Bush searching around the Oval Office, Bush recited a comedy routine.

“Those weapons of mass destruction have gotta be somewhere,” Bush laughed, while a photo showed him poking around the corners in the Oval Office.

George W. Bush - jokes about weapons of mass destruction .flv - YouTube

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

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

Only later did the criticism come, from Democrats and Iraqi war veterans—especially those veterans who had lost comrades or suffered grievous wounds to protect America from non-existent WMDs.

Bush had dodged the Vietnam war by joining the 147th Fighter-Interceptor Group of the Texas Air National Guard on May 27, 1968. His military service ended on November 21, 1974—by which time the Vietnam war was safely over.

Bush Laughs at no WMD in Iraq  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SCTfEf6Rrmw

Then fast forward another 11 years—to July 18. 2015.

On July 18, then-candidate Donald Trump disparaged Arizona Senator John McCain: “He’s not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”

McCain had served in the United States Navy as an aviator during the Vietnam war. He was shot down over Hanoi in 1967 and spent five and a half years as a heroic POW. His wartime injuries left him permanently incapable of raising his arms above his head.

Nevertheless, Republican voters turned out heavily to elect Trump—a five-time Vietnam draft dodger—over Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Trump continued to attack McCain even after the Senator died of brain cancer in 2018. But the overwhelming majority of Republicans continued to rabidly support the draft-dodger.

Of the 535 members elected or re-elected to the House and Senate in November, 2020, a total of 100 have served in the U.S. military.

Small wonder that, for many people, Old Glory has taken on a darker, washed-out appearance.

HITLER’S GERMANY HAD ITS RESISTENCE MOVEMENT–TRUMP’S AMERICA DID NOT: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 30, 2020 at 12:08 am

During his 12-year reign, Adolf Hitler was the target of at least 42 assassination plots. The most famous of these was the one of July 20, 1944.

  • So far as is known, Donald Trump has not been the target of even one.

In Hitler’s case, the plotters were officers of the German general staff—who believed the Fuhrer was leading Germany into a war it could not hope to win.

After the war’s outbreak (on September 1, 1939) most of the plotters were motivated by a desire to end the war before Allied—and especially Russian—soldiers reached Germany. But many plotters were motivated by sheer horror at the wholesale slaughters taking place in Poland and Russia.

Adolf Hitler

  • In Trump’s case, a non-violent method for removal existed in the Twenty-Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. This allows the Vice President and a majority of the Cabinet to recommend the removal of the President when he is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” The Vice President then becomes President.
  • No Cabinet members had the courage to invoke this.
  • Within the Senate and House of Representatives, Republicans acted as a rubber stamp for his every infamy. When he praised North Korea’s dictator Kim Jong-On or attacked Vietnam POW John McCain, they stayed silent. When he falsely charged massive voter fraud, Republicans stayed silent or loudly parroted his lies.
  • Their most notorious example of ambition-fueled cowardice occurred on February 5, 2020. That was when the Republican-dominated Senate—ignoring the overwhelming evidence against him—acquitted Trump on both impeachment articles: Obstruction of Congress and abuse of power.
  • At the Pentagon, American generals stood mute as Trump repeatedly sided with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin against the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency—and even gave classified CIA Intelligence to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
  • And just as high-ranking field marshals in Hitler’s Wehrmacht held their tongues when he insulted them, so, too, did American generals when Trump belittled their intelligence and even patriotism. 
  • When Trump arbitrarily decided to remove American forces from Syria and Afghanistan, Secretary of Defense James Mattis resigned in protest in 2018. But then he was simply replaced by Mark Esper.
  • Despite the fact that many of these men regularly came into contact with Trump, not one of them apparently plotted his removal. 
  • Similarly, Trump repeatedly attacked the integrity of the men and women of the FBI—even firing its director, James Comey, for daring to investigate Russia’s subversion of the 2016 election. If its agents—steeped in Federal criminal law—built a case for Trump’s indictment and prosecution, it has never come to light.
  • Neither did any of his Secret Service agents register the slightest protest, despite his arrogant behavior toward them. He forced them to work without pay during his 35-day government shutdown in 2018. And he forced them to accompany him to COVID-infected states—both during the Presidential campaign and afterward. Many of them became stricken with this often fatal disease as a result.

Donald Trump

On November 3, 2020, 81,255,933 Democratic voters elected former Vice President Joseph Biden the 46th President of the United States. Trump, running for a second term, got 74,196,153 votes.

Yet almost two months after the election, Trump refuses to concede, insisting that he won—and repeatedly claiming falsely that he is the victim of massive vote fraud.

This toxic lie has been feverishly embraced by millions of Right-wingers, and threatens to rob the incoming Biden administration of its deserved legitimacy.

This refusal to acknowledge the outcome initially denied Biden access to the money, information-sharing and machinery traditionally accorded the President-elect. Trump himself was the beneficiary of such assistance in 2016, after his win over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

Only on November 23 was Biden acknowledged as the winner by the General Services Administration, as the Trump administration finally began the formal transition process.

Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic rages across the country. More than 336,000 Americans have died, hospitals are filled to capacity, and millions are on the brink of starvation and/or eviction. Yet Trump remains obsessed with his loss, and has done nothing to coordinate the Federal response to the pandemic.

Trump’s refusal to accept reality poses an unprecedented danger to democracy: No presidential candidate has ever refused to concede defeat once all the votes were counted and legal challenges resolved.

By refusing to commit to a peaceful transfer of power, Trump has taken on the classic mantle of of a dictator.

Right-wing Virginia State Senator Amanda Chase has urged Trump to declare martial law and allow the military to “oversee” another election. So has disgraced ex-National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, whom Trump pardoned for lying to the FBI about private talks he had with a Russian official.

Reports have surfaced that Trump has considered doing so. Given his record as a lifelong criminal, there is no reason to doubt he is capable of this. 

History has recorded an active German resistance movement against Adolf Hitler—and has honored its members, many of whom died heroically for standing firm against a brutal tyrant.

To its eternal shame, the same cannot be said of America during the reign of Donald Trump.

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