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FROM YOUR FRIENDS ON THE RIGHT: PART FOUR (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on October 29, 2020 at 12:12 am

From the beginning of his Presidency, Donald Trump has shown no interest in combating Right-wing terrorism.

“The President always wants to pick a side, and he wants to pick the side that supports him,” said Miles Taylor, a former Homeland Security official in Trump’s administration. “But Donald Trump has created, in my opinion, the favorable conditions that have allowed these domestic terrorist groups to rise.

“The White House wanted to cover its eyes and wanted to cover its ears when it heard about domestic terrorism because they didn’t want to pay attention to the Right-wing extremists that they saw as a potential base of support.

“As a consequence, the President’s rhetoric has served as a loaded gun for those groups who have since taken his words as sort of permission to do what they’re doing.”

In April, thousands of Right-wingers gathered at the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing to protest Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s executive orders shutting down most of the state. Many of them wore MAGA hats, waved Trump flags and/or brandished AK-47s and other semiautomatic weapons.

Trump and protesters pressure governors to start reopening the states

Trump-inspired Michigan protest

Some chanted “Lock her up!”-–echoing Trump’s call for the imprisonment of his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton during the 2016 Presidential campaign.

The protest was organized by the Michigan Conservative Coalition, a group founded by a pro-Trump state representative and his wife, Meshawn Maddock, who is on the advisory board for an official Trump campaign group called “Women for Trump” and is also the co-founder of Michigan Trump Republicans.

Another group that promoted the event, the Michigan Freedom Fund, is run by Greg McNeilly, a longtime political adviser to the DeVos family, who are prolific Republican donors and have funded conservative causes across the state for decades.

McNeilly was campaign manager for Dick DeVos, the husband of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, during his failed bid for governor in 2006.

Asked about the protesters, Trump said: “They’re suffering. They want to get back.” He dismissed the health risks of ignoring state orders and potentially exposing themselves to the virus.

“I think they’re listening. I think they listen to me,” he said. “They seem to be protesters that like me and respect this opinion, and my opinion’s the same as just about all of the governors. Nobody wants to stay shut.”

One such protester was Melissa Ackison, the conservative Ohio state Senate candidate.

“It enrages something inside of you,” said Ackison of the stay-at-home orders issued by her own governor, Republican Mike DeWine. She has “no fear whatsoever” of contracting the virus, dismissing it as hype.

“As patriots, we put President Trump in office for a reason,” she said. “If he’s not able to give a convincing enough argument to these governors that they need to open up, then he needs to do something to take action.”

In short: This “states’ rights” maven would be fine if Trump forced governors to bring the states back on line.

Party foul: Local pastor running for state rep sued by state senate candidate

Melissa Ackison

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urged Americans to wear masks and keep at least six feet from their fellows. And most of the nation’s governors issued stay-at-home orders that banned large gatherings—including visits to parks and beaches.

Yet President Donald Trump openly encouraged defiance of those orders. On April 17 he issued a series of tweets to his supporters:

“LIBERATE MINNESOTA!”

“LIBERATE MICHIGAN!”

“LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!”

All these states have Democratic governors—and had been targeted for Right-wing protests. Large numbers of men and women stood closely together, with most of them not wearing masks. They claimed their “freedoms” were being infringed upon.

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Donald Trump

On May 1, Trump tweeted in support of the Michigan demonstrators. Just as German Fuhrer Adolf Hitler blamed his opponents for the violence he stoked, so did Trump. Aiming his tweet at Whitmer, he wrote: “These are very good people, but they are angry. They want their lives back again, safely!  See them, talk to them, make a deal.”

In May, the protests at the Capitol continued, featuring signs with swastikas, Confederate flags and demonstrators who advocated for violence against Whitmer.

Also in May, a man was charged with threatening to kill Governor Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel.

Referring to government-ordered closures and social distancing measures, Homeland Security analysts recently warned: “Anti-government groups and anti-authority extremists could be motivated to conduct attacks in response to perceived infringement of liberties and government overreach.”

Polling places or voter registration events were “likely flash points for potential violence,” warned the analysts, adding that Right-wing extremists “have heightened their attention” to the election.

Election administrators throughout the United States are taking steps to prepare, with some directing staff to undergo training sessions on extremist group tactics and even preparing poll workers for the possibility of someone showing up armed.

Anticipating the worst, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced on October 16 that residents will not be allowed to open-carry firearms “in a polling place, in any hallway used by voters to enter or exit, or within 100 feet of any entrance to a building in which a polling place is located.”

FROM YOUR FRIENDS ON THE RIGHT: PART THREE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on October 28, 2020 at 12:05 am

On October 8, 13 Right-wing men were charged with plotting to kidnap Michigan Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

At a press conference where the arrests were announced, Whitmer said: “Just last week, the president of the United States stood before the American people and refused to condemn white supremacists and hate groups like these two Michigan militia groups.

“When our leaders speak, their words matter. They carry weight. When our leaders meet with, encourage or fraternize with domestic terrorists, they legitimize their actions. And they are complicit.”

13 charged in plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

Gretchen Whitmer

Trump campaign senior adviser Jason Miller attacked Whitmer for calling out the President.

“But why Governor Whitmer would go and start attacking President Trump, this is just—people can see right through it. They can see that Governor Whitmer is a complete phony and it is just disgusting that she would take a moment of unity to attack the President.”

In a CNN interview on October 8, Whitmer said: “You know, the fact that after a plot to kidnap and to kill me, this is what they come out with. They start attacking me, as opposed to what good, decent people would do, [which] is to check in and say, ‘Are you OK?’”

Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden telephoned her immediately after the announcement of the failed plot.

“I think that tells you everything that’s at stake in this election,” Whitmer said. “It tells you everything you need to know about the character of the two people on this ballot that we have to choose from in a few weeks.” 

Sleepy Joe : punchableface

 Joe Biden

Later on October 8—the date of the FBI arrests—Trump again attacked Whitmer in a series of tweets.

He falsely claimed she had called him a “White Supremacist” in her remarks earlier that day. And he whined that she did not thank him for saving her.

“Governor Whitmer of Michigan has done a terrible job,” tweeted Trump. “She locked down her state for everyone, except her husband’s boating activities.”

In another tweet, he demanded: “Open up your state, open up your schools, and open up your churches!”

Whitmer responded: “We know every time that this White House identifies me or takes a shot at me, we see an increase in rhetoric online, violent rhetoric, and so there’s always a connection and certainly it’s something that we’ve been watching. But this took it to a whole new level.

“I have raised this very issue with this White House and asked them to bring the heat down. I have asked leaders, Republican leaders in the state—let’s bring the heat down.”

Washington Governor Jay Inslee squarely blamed Trump as responsible for the latest threat to Whitmer: “It is very unfortunate that she has been troubled not just directly by these threats, but a constant barrage of, frankly, incendiary criticism from the president, and I think that’s been very unfortunate.” 

“This shocking development is the most disturbing of the increasingly violent threats being made against Democratic governors by some of the most extreme and violent fringes of the Right,” said New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy.

“Unless and until President Trump openly denounces such Right-wing extremism, groups like the Michigan Militia will continue to act as if they hold a permission slip from him to openly engage in such terrorist plots.”

On October 18, at a Trump campaign rally in Muskegon, Michigan, the crowd chanted “Lock her up!” against Whitmer.  Trump smiled, chuckled and said, “Lock them all up.”

“It’s incredibly disturbing that the president of the United States, 10 days after a plot to kidnap, put me on trial and execute me—10 days after that was uncovered—the President is at it again and inspiring and incentivizing and inciting this kind of domestic terrorism,” Whitmer said on NBC’s Meet the Press.

Not only has Trump refused to show any compassion for Whitmer, he has shown a total indifference to prosecuting her would-be kidnappers—or in combating Right-wing terrorism.

He blames rising crime rates on Black Lives Matter protesters and blacks who have looted and burned stores during nationwide protests against police brutality. And he claims that only he can save America from a civil war ignited by such protesters.

“Anarchy has recently beset some of our states and cities. My administration will not allow federal tax dollars to fund cities that allow themselves to deteriorate into lawless zones,” Trump claimed on September 2.

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Donald Trump

But he has shown no interest in combating Right-wing terrorism, despite warnings from the FBI, Congress and groups such as the Anti-Defamation League that track extremism. White House officials have tried to suppress use of the phrase “domestic terrorism” altogether.

Trump defended a caravan of his supporters who drove into Portland, Oregon, and fired paintball guns at Black Lives Matter protesters, calling them “peaceful protesters” and claiming they were using paintballs as “a defensive mechanism.”

And he has defended Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old accused of fatally shooting two people during another Black Lives Matters protest: “He was trying to get away from them, I guess, it looks like. I guess he was in very big trouble. He probably would have been killed.”

FROM YOUR FRIENDS ON THE RIGHT: PART TWO (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on October 27, 2020 at 12:37 am

The FBI learned of the plot to kidnap Democratic Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer in early 2020 through a social media group of individuals, according to a federal criminal complaint.

Needing reinforcements, one of the conspirators, Adam Fox, contacted a Michigan-based militia group.

”…Fox said he needed ‘200 men’ to storm the Capitol building in Lansing and take hostages, including Whitmer, said the criminal complaint.

Fox said they would kidnap and try Whitmer for “treason” before the November 2020 elections.

The verdict could only have been death.

On June 20, the conspirators met at Fox’s business in Grand Rapids. To ensure security, they entered the basement through a trap door hidden under a rug on the main floor. Attendees turned over their cell phones, which were brought upstairs to “prevent any monitoring.

Yet monitored they were—by an FBI informant among them.

FBI agent injured in fatal Dexter crash - mlive.com

The attendees discussed plans for assaulting the Michigan State Capitol, countering law enforcement first responders, and using ‘Molotov cocktails’ to destroy police vehicles.

They planned to meet again during the first weekend of July and conduct firearms and tactical training.

In a video Fox live-streamed to a private Facebook group, he complained about the judicial system and the state of Michigan controlling the opening of gyms.

Fox referred to Whitmer as “this tyrant bitch. I don’t know, boys, we gotta do something. You guys link with me on our other location system, give me some ideas of what we can do.”

The FBI monitored the kidnapping plot throughout the summer as the target narrowed to the governor’s personal vacation home.

During one meeting, Fox said: “Snatch and grab, man. Grab the fuckin’ Governor. Just grab the bitch. Because at that point, we do that, dude—it’s over.” 

“Have one person go to her house. Knock on the door and when she answers it just cap [shoot] her,” one of the men said in an encrypted group chat.

Bond unlikely for suspects in Whitmer kidnapping case

Right-wing suspects in Whitmer kidnapping plot

The group spoke of a “baker” and a “cake,” which FBI agents interpreted as code words referring to explosive devices.

“I just wanna make the world glow, dude,” the affidavit quoted Adan Fox as saying in a profanity-laced tirade. “We’re gonna topple it all, dude”

The plotters surveilled Whitmer’s vacation home on two occasions in late August and September. Barry Croft and Fox discussed detonating explosive devices to divert police from the vacation home area.

In early October, Fox told others in the group that he had bought a taser for use in the kidnapping plot.

Fox, Ty Garbin, Daniel Harris and Kaleb Franks planned to meet on October 6 to pay for explosives and swap tactical gear.

But the FBI moved in first.

At least seven FBI field offices around the country took part, owing to the complexity of the operation and the likelihood the suspects could be armed and dangerous.

Agents were dispatched to execute search or arrests warrants at approximately a dozen sites. Arrest details included SWAT agents, technical exploitation personnel and evidence technicians.

Immediately after the FBI learned of the threat to Whitmer, its agents alerted her security detail. As a result, security around the governor was greatly tightened. The FBI continued to update the governor’s security detail on the investigation’s progress.

At a press conference on October 8, Whitmer stated:

“When I put my hand on the Bible and took the oath of office 22 months ago, I knew this job would be hard. But I’ll be honest, I never could have imagined anything like this.”

US Marines charged in alleged kidnapping plot against Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer - ABC7 Chicago

Gretchen Whitmer

A week earlier, on September 29, President Donald Trump had faced off with his Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden, in the first of three scheduled Presidential debates.

When Trump refused to condemn white supremacists, moderator Chris Wallace challenged him to do so.

“What do you want me to call them?” asked Trump. “Give me a name.”

Biden suggested the Proud Boys, a violent Right-wing group.

Trump’s response: “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by. But I’ll tell you what, I’ll tell you what, somebody’s got to do something about Antifa and the Left, because this is not a Right-wing problem.”

Now, referencing Trump’s shout-out to the Proud Boys, Whitmer condemned the President’s action:

“Just last week, the president of the United States stood before the American people and refused to condemn white supremacists and hate groups like these two Michigan militia groups.

“When our leaders speak, their words matter. They carry weight. When our leaders meet with, encourage or fraternize with domestic terrorists, they legitimize their actions. And they are complicit.”

But Trump campaign senior adviser Jason Miller attacked Whitmer for calling out the President.

“We’re all united standing against anyone who would conspire to cause such hatred and violence. And there is no place for that in American society in any way, shape, or form,” he said on Fox News.

“But why Gov. Whitmer would go and start attacking President Trump, this is just—people can see right through it. They can see that Governor Whitmer is a complete phony and it is just disgusting that she would take a moment of unity to attack the President.”

FROM YOUR FRIENDS ON THE RIGHT: PART ONE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on October 26, 2020 at 12:12 am

Donald Trump rode a wave of pure hatred into the White House. 

Trump had three major goals when he sought the Presidency:

  1. Obtain nearly absolute power;
  2. Obtain constant publicity; and
  3. Enrich himself even further. 

And he knew what his future constituents craved.

An August 30, 2017, article in Salon examined the base that Trump had appealed to—and captured. And it examined why that base supported him so fanatically: “Most Americans Strongly Dislike Trump, But the Angry Minority That Adores Him Controls Our Politics.”

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Donald Trump

It described these voters as representing about one-third of the Republican party:

“These are older and more conservative white people, for the most part, who believe he should not listen to other Republicans and should follow his own instincts….

“They like Trump’s coarse personality, and approve of the fact that he treats women like his personal playthings. They enjoy it when he expresses sympathy for neo-Nazis and neo-Confederate white supremacists.

“They cheer when he declares his love for torture, tells the police to rough up suspects and vows to mandate the death penalty for certain crimes. (Which of course the president cannot do.)

“…This cohort of the Republican party didn’t vote for Trump because of his supposed policies on trade or his threat to withdraw from NATO. They voted for him because he said out loud what they were thinking. A petty, sophomoric, crude bully is apparently what they want as a leader.”

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Supporters giving the Nazi “Sieg Heil” salute to Trump

“President Trump and his supporters find community by rejoicing in the suffering of those they hate and fear,” read the theme of an October 3, 2018 story in The Atlantic: “The Cruelty Is the Point.”  

“The cruelty of the Trump administration’s policies, and the ritual rhetorical flaying of his targets before his supporters, are intimately connected,” wrote Adam Serwer. 

“We can hear the spectacle of cruel laughter throughout the Trump era. There were the border-patrol agents cracking up at the crying immigrant children separated from their families, and the Trump adviser who delighted white supremacists when he mocked a child with Down syndrome who was separated from her mother.

“There were the police who laughed uproariously when the president encouraged them to abuse suspects, and the Fox News hosts mocking a survivor of the Pulse Nightclub massacre (and in the process inundating him with threats), the survivors of sexual assault protesting to Senator Jeff Flake, the women who said the president had sexually assaulted them and the teen survivors of the Parkland school shooting.

“There was the president mocking Puerto Rican accents shortly after thousands were killed and tens of thousands displaced by Hurricane Maria, the black athletes protesting unjustified killings by the police, the women of the #MeToo movement who have come forward with stories of sexual abuse, and the disabled reporter whose crime was reporting on Trump truthfully.

“It is not just that the perpetrators of this cruelty enjoy it; it is that they enjoy it with one another. Their shared laughter at the suffering of others is an adhesive that binds them to one another, and to Trump.”

So it was inevitable that, on October 8, 13 men were charged with plotting to kidnap Michigan Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer. 

Whitmer had become a major target of Trump in March, when she tried to obtain urgently-needed medical supplies for Michigan hospitals coping with a flood of Coronavirus cases.

On March 27, Whitmer told a Michigan radio station: “What I’ve gotten back is that vendors with whom we’ve procured contracts—they’re being told not to send stuff to Michigan. It’s really concerning. I reached out to the White House last night and asked for a phone call with the president, ironically at the time” Trump was attacking her on Fox News for being “ungrateful.”

Six of the would-be kidnappers were charged federally with conspiracy to kidnap. Seven others associated with the militia group “Wolverine Watchmen,” were charged by the state. 

The scheme included plans to overthrow several state governments that the suspects “believe are violating the US Constitution,” including the government of Michigan, according to a federal criminal complaint.

Their chief grievance: Whitmer’s stay-at-home order to control the fast-moving spread of Coronavirus throughout Michigan. By no small coincidence, that happened to be the theme of Trump’s attacks on her.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (cropped).jpg

Gretchen Whitmer

Julia Pickett / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

The six charged by the federal government are Michigan residents Adam Fox, 37, Ty Garbin, 24, Kaleb Franks, 26, Daniel Harris, 23, Brandon Caserta, 32, and Delaware resident Barry Croft, 44.

The seven men charged by the state are Paul Bellar, 21, Shawn Fix, 38, Eric Molitor, 36, Michael Null, 38, William Null, 38, Pete Musico, 42, Joseph Morrison, 42.

They face a variety of firearm and terror charges. 

The FBI learned of the plot in early 2020 through a social media group of individuals, according to the federal criminal complaint.

The FBI persuaded a confidential informant to travel to Dublin, Ohio, on June 6 for a meeting with Croft, Fox and about 13 others.

“They discussed different ways of achieving this goal from peaceful endeavors to violent actions….Several members talked about murdering ‘tyrants’ or ‘taking’ a sitting governor,” according to the complaint. 

DONALD TRUMP: “TROOPS FOR SALE–TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER!”

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 14, 2020 at 12:05 am

Since the end of the Cold War, the American military and Intelligence communities have grown increasingly dependent on private contractors.

In his 2007 bestseller, Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA, Tim Weiner writes:

“Patriotism for profit became a $50-billion-a-year business….The [CIA] began contracting out thousands of jobs to fill the perceived void by the budget cuts that began in 1992. 

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

Seal of the Central Intelligence Agency.svg

Much of the CIA became totally dependent on mercenaries. They appeared to work for the agency, but their loyalty was actually to their private—and higher-paying—companies.

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

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

Future CIA hires followed suit: Serve for five years, win that prized CIA “credential” and sign up with a private security company to enrich themselves.  

This situation met with full support from Right-wing “pro-business” members of Congress and President George W. Bush.

They had long championed the private sector as inherently superior to the public one. And they saw no danger that a man dedicated to enriching himself might put greed ahead of safeguarding his country. 

Now President Donald Trump is carrying the employment of mercenaries to an entirely different level.

A January 11 headline in Rolling Stone sums it up thus: “Trump Brags About Serving Up American Troops to Saudi Arabia for Nothing More Than Cash.” 

On January 10, Trump, interviewed by Fox News commentator Laura Ingraham, bragged about his positive relationship with Saudi Arabia—and how the Saudi royal family is paying to use American troops:

“Saudi Arabia is paying us for [our troops]. We have a very good relationship with Saudi Arabia. I said, ‘Listen, you’re a very rich country. You want more troops? I’m going to send them to you, but you’ve got to pay us.’

“They’re paying us. They’ve already deposited $1 billion in the bank.

“We are going to help them, but these rich countries have to pay for it. South Korea gave us $500 million… I said, ‘You gotta help us along. We have 32,000 soldiers in South Korea protecting you from North Korea. You’ve gotta pay.’”

Republicans have been silent on Trump’s plan to turn American soldiers into foreign-paid mercenaries. But at least one former Republican has dared to speak out.

Rep. Justin Amash (I-Michigan) recently tweeted: “He sells troops.”

In October, 2019, on “Meet the Press,” Amash accused Trump of breaking his campaign promise to bring troops home.

“There are people who support the president, who believe things he says, but it’s pretty clear he’s not bringing home the troops. He’s just moving them to other parts of the Middle East.” 

But there are dangers to relying on mercenaries. Recent examples include:

  • Edward Snowden deliberately joined Booz Allen Hamilton to secure a job as a computer systems administrator at the National Security Agency (NSA). This gave him access to thousands of highly classified documents—which, in 2013, he began publicly leaking to a wide range of news organizations. 
  • His motive, he has claimed, was to warn Americans of the privacy-invading dangers posed by their own Intelligence agencies.
  • On March 7, 2017, WikiLeaks published a “data dump” of 8,761 documents code-named “Vault 7.”
  • The documents exposed that the CIA had found security flaws in software operating systems such as Microsoft Windows, Android and Apple iOS. These allowed an intruder—such as the CIA—to seize control of a computer or smartphone. The owner could then be photographed through his iPhone camera and have his text messages intercepted.
  • According to anonymous U.S. Intelligence and law enforcement sources, the culprits were CIA contract employees. 

More ancient sources have also warned against the use of mercenaries. One of these was Niccolo Machiavelli, the Florentine statesman of the Renaissance. 

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Niccolo Machiavelli

In The Prince, Machiavelli writes:

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

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

“The cause of this is that they have no love or other motive to keep them in the field beyond a trifling wage, which is not enough to make them ready to die for you.”

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

THE TYRANT WHO WOULD BE KING: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on October 8, 2019 at 12:04 am

As both a Presidential candidate and President, Donald 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. 

Donald Trump

The New York Times needed two full pages of its print edition to showcase them. 

During the 2016 Presidential campaign, Trump aimed insults at both Democratic and Republican rivals. Among these:

  • “Little Marco” – Florida U.S. Senator Marco Rubio 
  • “Goofy” – Massachusetts U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren 
  • “Lyin’ Ted” – Texas U.S. Senator Rafael Eduardo “Ted” Cruz 
  • “Crooked Hillary” – Hillary Clinton, former First Lady and Secretary of State
  • “Low Energy Jeb” – Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush
  • “Crazy Bernie” – Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders

Adam Schiff official portrait.jpg

Adam Schiff, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee

But now someone—no less than Adam Schiff (D-CA), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee—has dared give Trump a taste of his own ridicule medicine.

In July, 2019, Trump told his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, to withhold almost $400 million in promised military aid for Ukraine, which faces increasing aggression from Russia.

On July 25, Trump telephoned Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to “request” a “favor”: Investigate 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, who has had business dealings in Ukraine.

The reason for such an investigation: To find embarrassing “dirt” on Biden.

But then a CIA whistleblower filed a complaint about the extortion attempt—and the media and Congress soon learned of it. 

Schiff tweeted: “The transcript of the call reads like a classic mob shakedown: — We do a lot for Ukraine — There’s not much reciprocity — I have a favor to ask — Investigate my opponent — My people will be in touch — Nice country you got there. It would be a shame if something happened to her.”

Then, even worse for Trump’s ego, Schiff went further.

On September 26, during a session of the Intelligence Committee, Schiff gave a dramatic reading—part news summary, part parody—of the call with Zelensky.

He prefaced the reading by saying, “In not so many words, this is the essence of what the President communicates.

“President Zelensky, eager to establish himself at home as the friend of the President of the most powerful nation on earth, had at least two objectives: Get a meeting with the President and get more military help. And so what happened on that call?

“Zelensky begins by ingratiating himself, and he tries to enlist the support of the President. He expresses his interest in meeting with the President, and says his country wants to acquire more weapons from us to defend itself.

“And what is the President’s response? Well, it reads like a classic organized crime shakedown.

“Shorn of its rambling character and in not so many words, this is the essence of what the President communicates. ‘We’ve been very good to your country. Very good. No other country has done as much as we have. But you know what? I don’t see much reciprocity here.

“‘I hear what you want. I have a favor I want from you, though. And I’m going to say this only seven times, so you better listen good. I want you to make up dirt on my political opponent. Understand? Lots of it, on this and on that.

“‘I’m going to put you in touch with people, and not just any people. I’m going to put you in touch with the attorney general of the United States, my attorney general, Bill Barr. He’s got the whole weight of the American law enforcement behind him. And I’m going to put you in touch with Rudy [Trump’s personal attorney and fixer].

“‘You’re going to love him [Giuliani]. Trust me. You know what I’m asking? And so I’m only going to say this a few more times in a few more ways. And by the way, don’t call me again. I’ll call you when you’ve done what I asked.'”

Trump and his shills—in and out of Congress—were outraged.

On September 29, Trump tweeted: “….Schiff made up what I actually said by lying to Congress……

“His lies were made in perhaps the most blatant and sinister manner ever seen in the great Chamber. He wrote down and read terrible things, then said it was from the mouth of the President of the United States. I want Schiff questioned at the highest level for Fraud & Treason…..”  

Treason? 

Trump has clearly assumed for himself the mantle and power of a king—when criticizing a monarch was seen as attacking the country itself. 

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Donald Trump as Henry VIII

And Schiff’s response?

Asked about his comments by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Schiff said, “I think everyone understood—and my GOP colleagues may feign otherwise. But when I said, suggested, that it was as if the President said, ‘Listen carefully, because I’m only gonna tell you seven more times’—that I was mocking the President’s conduct.”  

Adam Schiff may not be Basil Rathbone, the British actor whose silky, flowing voice produced phonographic retellings of classics like The Jungle Books and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

But he certainly knows how to give a reading that gets under the skin of the Insulter-in-Chief.

THE TYRANT WHO WOULD BE KING: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on October 7, 2019 at 12:09 am

Reince Priebus, the incoming White House Chief of Staff for soon-to-be President Donald J. Trump, was furious.

There were three reasons for his outrage.

First, millions of Americans were questioning whether Trump was legitimately elected. Their suspicions were based on solid evidence: According to  the American Intelligence community, Russian President Vladimir Putin intervened in the 2016 Presidential election to ensure his victory over Hillary Clinton.

Second, among those Americans were members of the United States Congress—such as Georgia Democratic Representative John Lewis.

On the January 15 edition of “Meet the Press,” Lewis was asked by host Chuck Todd: “Do you plan on trying to forge a relationship with Donald Trump?”

“No,” said Lewis. “I believe in forgiveness. I believe in trying to work with people. It’s going to be hard. It’s going to be very difficult. I don’t see this President-elect as a legitimate president.”

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John Lewis

“You do not consider him a legitimate president. Why is that?”

“I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected and they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton.”

And the third reason Priebus was outraged: He believed—or at least claimed to believe—that President Barack Obama should vouch for Trump’s legitimacy.

“I think President Obama should step up,” Priebus said January 15 on ABC’s “This Week.” “We’ve had a great relationship with the White House….I think the administration can do a lot of good by telling folks that are on the Republican side of the aisle, look, we may have lost the election on the Democratic side, but it’s time to come together.”

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Reince Priebus

“You didn’t have Republicans questioning whether or not Obama legitimately beat John McCain in 2008,” Priebus added.

“This Week” host George Stephanopoulos replied that Trump had questioned Obama’s legitimacy as an American citizen until almost the end of the 2016 Presidential race.

“But look, George, that’s not the point!” Priebus said, visibly agitated. “The point is not where Barack Obama was born! The point is that we’ve got congressmen on the Democratic side of the aisle that are questioning the legitimacy of President-elect Trump.”  

In short: Let’s ignore Trump’s five-year slander campaign against the legitimacy of President Obama. What’s important is that people are questioning the legitimacy of a Republican elected with the help of Russian Communists.  

In 2011, Trump, then-host of NBC’s “The Apprentice,” was thinking of running for President against Obama.

Seeking to gain popularity among America’s Right-wing, Trump almost singlehandedly created the popular fiction that Obama was born in Kenya—and was not an American citizen.

His motive: To convince Americans that Obama was an illegitimate President.

The United States Constitution requires that the President be a natural-born citizen.

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Donald Trump

Among the statements Trump made:

February 10, 2011: “Our current president came out of nowhere. Came out of nowhere. In fact, I’ll go a step further: The people that went to school with him, they never saw him, they don’t know who he is. It’s crazy.”

March 23, 2011: “I want him to show his birth certificate. I want him to show his birth certificate. … There’s something on that birth certificate that he doesn’t like.”

March 28, 2011: “I am really concerned” [that Obama wasn’t born in the United States]. He said that the birth announcement for Obama in a Hawaii newspaper could have been planted “for whatever reason.”

March 30, 2011: “If you are going to be president of the United States you have to be born in this country. And there is a doubt as to whether or not he was. … He doesn’t have a birth certificate. He may have one, but there’s something on that, maybe religion, maybe it says he is a Muslim. I don’t know. Maybe he doesn’t want that. Or he may not have one. But I will tell you this. If he wasn’t born in this country, it’s one of the great scams of all time.”

April 7, 2011: “I have people that have been studying it, and they cannot believe what they’re finding. You are not allowed to be a president if you’re not born in this country. Right now I have real doubts.”

April 25, 2011: “I’ve been told very recently…that the birth certificate is missing. I’ve been told that it’s not there or it doesn’t exist. And if that’s the case, it’s a big problem.”

On April 27, President Obama released his original, long-form Hawiian birth certificate.

The long-form version of President Obama’s birth certificate

“We do not have time for this kind of silliness,” said Obama at a press conference, speaking as a father might to a roomful of spiteful children. “We have better stuff to do. I have got better stuff to do. We have got big problems to solve.

“We are not going to be able to do it if we are distracted, we are not going to be able to do it if we spend time vilifying each other…if we just make stuff up and pretend that facts are not facts, we are not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by side shows and carnival barkers.”

On May 1, the President announced the solving of one of those “big problems”: Osama bin Laden, mastermind of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, had been tracked down and shot dead by elite U.S. Navy SEALS in Pakistan.

FASCISTIC OATHS—PAST AND PRESENT

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 14, 2019 at 12:05 am

William Kristol—a Right-wing political analyst—has been dubbed “the godfather of neoconservatism.” And with good reason. 

During the first two years of the George W. Bush administration, as the editor of the Weekly Standard, he was 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.

But even after the disaster of the 2003 war against Iraq, Kristol wasn’t through urging the United States into another murderous quagmire.

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

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

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

So it’s no small thing that Kristol has found himself agreeing with Democratic Massachusetts United States Senator and 2020 Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren that Democrats should begin impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump.

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Elizabeth Warren

He did so on a segment of MSNBC’s “Meet the Press” on May 7, 2019. 

Earlier in the day, Elizabeth Warren had stated on the Senate floor: 

“More than 600 federal prosecutors have now said that what’s laid out in the Mueller Report would constitute obstruction of justice, and would trigger a prosecution for any human being in this country other than the President of the United States.

“Robert Mueller put all of the facts together for us, put all of the information together for us, and abided by the Trump administration declaration under the Office of Legal Counsel that a sitting president cannot be indicted for his crimes.

“We took an oath not to try and protect Donald Trump, we took an oath to protect and serve the Constitution of the United States of America, and the way we do that is we begin impeachment proceedings now against this president.” 

On February 15, 2019, Kristol had posted this tweet on Twitter: 

“Members of Congress take this oath of office (see Title 5, Section 3331 of the United States Code): “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”

On May 7, in a blistering attack on his fellow Republicans, he posted “the new GOP Congressional oath”:

“I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend Donald Trump against all oversight; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to him; that I take this obligation despite mental reservation and in the spirit of evasion of duty. So help me God.”

Hours later, Kristol appeared before a “Meet the Press” panel and attacked Democrats for being “so terrified about the word impeachment that we can’t even have hearings….I must say I agree with Elizabeth Warren. I never thought I would say this.

“Robert Mueller’s report… invited Congress to take a look for itself at the obstruction of justice charges. They have an obligation to do it. They don’t have to impeach him. They may take a look and decide there aren’t grounds for impeachment. Maybe they wanna censure him…I think Elizabeth Warren’s right. Begin the hearings.” 

Kristol’s “new GOP Congressional oath” is a deadly reminder of another oath that had fatal consequences for Nazi Germany—and the world.

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Soldiers swearing the Fuhrer Oath

On August 2, 1934, President Paul von Hindenburg died. Adolf Hitler was then serving as Reich Chancellor—the equivalent of attorney general. Within hours, the Nazi Reichstag [parliament] announced the following law, back-dated to August 1st:

“The office of Reich President will be combined with that of Reich Chancellor. The existing authority of the Reich President will consequently be transferred to the Führer and Reich Chancellor, Adolf Hitler.” 

Immediately following the announcement of the new Führer law, the German Officer Corps and every individual soldier in the German Army was made to swear a brand new oath of allegiance:

“I swear by God this holy oath, that I will render to Adolf Hitler, Führer of the German Reich and People, Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, unconditional obedience, and that I am ready, as a brave soldier, to risk my life at any time for this oath.”

No doubt Kristol, who considers himself a dyed-in-the-wool conservative, remembers all too well the fate of those old-time conservatives who dared oppose Hitler.

The lucky ones were sent to concentration camps. The unlucky ones wound up on meat hooks.

WHY OMAROSA WINS AND LIBERALS LOSE: PART FIVE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on August 24, 2018 at 12:48 am

Omarosa Manigault-Newman has struck a chord of fear in President Donald Trump that rivals the fear he has struck in others.

She has done so by using many of his own tactics against him: Deceit, intimidation, media manipulation.

Syndicated Columnist Mark Shields noted on the August 17 edition of The PBS Newshour: “In a White House where most of the people are recent acquaintances of the president, she goes back longer than anybody, except the president’s daughter. She goes back 15 years. She is a Donald Trump protege and product….

“But what she does, obviously, like Elizabeth Warren, she gets under Donald Trump’s skin. And she has said things that, you know, may be subject to fact-check, but the reality is, she has tape.

“She has tape of Donald Trump groveling before her, pretending that he didn’t know that John Kelly had the day before brought her to the Situation Room…which therefore confirms the suspicion widely held that Donald Trump doesn’t have the stomach for confronting people who work for him, that he lies.  

“And you can see that he obviously is absolutely upset by her, and she’s got everybody in the White House, every male, quaking in his Guccis about those tapes. I can tell you that.”

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David Brooks and Mark Shields

New York Times Columnist David Brooks, speaking on the same episode of The Newshour, outlined why her attacks on Trump have been so effective.

“Well, what’s interesting about her is, she plays by reality show rules. She plays by Trump rules. And most people who go against Trump don’t quite play by his rules. And she plays by his rules, which is no rules, that do whatever you can, it doesn’t matter what the norms and standards are. 

“And taping somebody in the Situation Room is a rather serious offense and, to me, a pretty great betrayal of any—how any White House should work. I mean, if we’re walking around each other in the hallway taping each other, just think about doing that.

“That’s just a betrayal of how normal life should happen….And so she said, they’re going to lie about me, they’re going to screw me, so I’m ready.”

In perhaps the most-quoted passage of The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli wrote: 

“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.”

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Niccolo Machiavelli

Donald Trump has always used fear to instill and maintain loyalty among his closest associates—and to intimidate his many enemies.

But Machiavelli offers a warning on the uses 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.

“Cruelties ill committed are those which, although at first few, increase rather than diminish with time….In taking a state, the conqueror must arrange to commit all his cruelties at once, so as not to have to recur to them very day, and so as to be able, by not making fresh changes, to reassure people and win them over by benefiting them. 

“Whoever acts otherwise, either through timidity or bad counsels,” warns 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.”

From the onset of his Presidency, Trump has violated this warning with a vengeance. And now he is “obliged to stand with knife in hand.”

Omarosa is the first former Trump loyalist to emerge as a fervent Trump critic. And she may have even worse in store for him. 

Warns David Brooks: 

“All sorts of signs are pointing in this direction, that we’re going to wind up with an election where….people are basically going to be voting, when race is a hot button issue, with a man who has a history of bigoted comments, and then voting along those lines.”

With Democratic voters—many of them blacks and Hispanics—energized, Trump’s obvious racism could sweep Republicans from the House of Representatives. 

Omarosa seems determined to make that happen.

WHY OMAROSA WINS AND LIBERALS LOSE: PART FOUR (OF FIVE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on August 23, 2018 at 12:06 am

On the August 12, 2018 edition of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Omarosa Manigault-Newman revealed that she had recorded a conversation with White House Chief of Staff John Kelly.

This had occurred on December 13, 2017, in the White House Situation Room. This is the part of the White House where the most sensitive conversations occur.

She justified her unprecedented violation of the Situation Room thus: “They take me into the Situation Room, the doors are locked, they tell me I can’t leave and they start to threaten me, put fear in me, to put me under duress.

“I protected myself because this is a White House where everybody lies; the President lies to the American people, [press secretary] Sarah Huckabee [Sanders] stands in front of the country and lies every single day.

“You have to have your own back or else you’ll look back and you’ll have 17 knives in your back. I protected myself because this is a White House where everybody lies.”

The next day, August 13, 2018, Omarosa threw an even more embarrassing bombshell at the man who had once been her mentor and promoter. 

She revealed the conversation—also taped—she had had with President Donald Trump on the day of her firing. 

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Donald Trump

TRUMP:  “Omarosa? Omarosa what’s going on? I just saw on the news that you’re thinking about leaving? What happened?”

OMAROSA:  “General Kelly came to me and said that you guys wanted me to leave.”

TRUMP: “Nobody even told me about it,”

OMAROSA:  “Wow.”

TRUMP:  “You know they run a big operation, but I didn’t know it, I didn’t know that. Goddamn it. I don’t love you leaving at all.” 

The tape reveals a duel between practiced deceivers: Trump is trying to convince Omarosa that he knew nothing about her firing—and that he can do nothing to prevent it. 

She, on the other hand, never tips her hand that she doesn’t believe him—and that she’s recording their conversation.

At least for the moment, Trump was the more deceived, tweeting that same day: “Thank you Omarosa for your service! I wish you continued success.”

Apparently he didn’t expect her to attain that success at his expense.

And on August 16, 2018, Omarosa embarrassed another member of the Trump family—Lara Trump, the wife of Donald Trump’s son, Eric. 

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Lara Trump

She did so by revealing yet another tape—of a conversation between the two—during her appearance on MSNBC. 

This had occurred on December 16—three days after Omarosa’s firing by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly.  

Lara Trump referred to a December 15 New York Times article where Omarosa had said: “I have seen things that made me uncomfortable, that have upset me, that have affected me deeply and emotionally, that has affected my community and my people. And when I can tell my story, it is a profound story that I know the world will want to hear.”  

LARA TRUMP: “It sounds a little like, obviously, that there are some things you’ve got in the back pocket to pull out. Clearly, if you come on board, like, we can’t have . . .” 

OMAROSA:  “Oh God, no.”

LAURA TRUMP: “Everything, everybody positive, right?”   

Lara Trump then offered Omarosa a speaker’s position with the 2020 Trump re-election campaign. It would pay her about $15,000 a month.

LARA TRUMP: “All the money that we raise and that pays salaries is directly from donors, small-dollar donors for the most part. So I know you, you were making 179 [$179,000 a year] at the White House, and I think we can work something out where we keep you right along those lines.”

After Omarosa played her tape of the conversation, Lara Trump released a statement. She and her “entire family was concerned” about Omarosa after her firing. 

“We still wanted her on our team because we cared so much about her personally. That’s why I reached out to offer her a position with the 2020 Trump Campaign before we knew anything about the gross violations of ethics and integrity during her White House tenure.”

Omarosa viewed the offer differently: “I saw this as an attempt to buy my silence,” she said on MSNBC.

And she issued her own statement: “I am not going anywhere. I’m not going to be bullied. I’m not intimidated. And I’m going to go toe-to-toe with him [President Trump]. Everything he throws at me—believe me, my tapes are much better than theirs.”

She threatened to release more tapes “if I need to. I’ll do what I have to do to protect myself.”

Meanwhile, President Trump has not remained silent—although he has reportedly been urged to do so by his closest aides and attorneys. 

On August 13, he attacked Omarosa on Twitter: “When you give a crazed, crying lowlife a break, and give her a job at the White House, I guess it just didn’t work out. Good work by General Kelly for quickly firing that dog!” 

Arizona United States Senator Jeff Flake objected to this use of language: “This kind of language is unbecoming of a President of the United States. There is no excuse for it, and Republicans should not be okay with it.”

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