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DUELING PRESIDENTS: OBAMA VS. TRUMP–IN NOVELS

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on August 21, 2020 at 12:21 am

Presidential legacies live on in unexpected ways.  

Right now, the legacies of Barack Obama and Donald Trump are vying for the attention of—fiction readers.

In Hope Never Dies: An Obama-Biden Mystery, author Andrew Shaffer has fashioned a novel that is half-mystery, half-bromance.   

Vice President Joe Biden has just left the Obama White House and doesn’t know what he wants to do with the rest of his life. Then Finn Donnelly, his favorite railroad conductor, dies in a suspicious accident, leaving behind an ailing wife and a trail of clues.

To unravel the mystery, “Amtrak Joe” calls on the skills of his former boss: The 44th President of the United States. Together they scour biker bars, cheap motels and other memorable haunts throughout Delaware.

Hope Never Dies: An Obama Biden Mystery (Obama Biden Mysteries)

Then Biden unearths a disturbing truth about his longtime—and now dead—friend. This, in turn, leads Biden and Obama to uncover the sinister forces behind America’s opioid epidemic.

The book is pure fantasy fun, as evidenced from this review by Alexandra Alter in The New York Times

“[Hope Never Dies is] a roughly 300-page work of political fanfiction, an escapist fantasy that will likely appeal to liberals pining for the previous administration, longing for the Obama-Biden team to emerge from political retirement as action heroes. But it’s also at times a surprisingly earnest story about estranged friends who are reunited under strange circumstances.”

A reader named Casey, reviewing the novel for Goodreads, writes: “While Shaffer could have leaned into nostalgia alone, he’s written a solid mystery with the characters fleshed out as more than just cliches.

“The reader really feels Biden’s longing to be helpful and his anguish over seeing 44’s legacy undone so quickly by an individual who shall remain nameless. (The presidential zings in this book are incredible, truly.)

“The tension between the two rings as true as it did when they were in office….By all means, this book shouldn’t work as well as it does. For a few hours, I got to enjoy the company of politicians who behaved like adults (mostly). It sure was nice.”

Contrasting with the relatively lighthearted fictional image of Barack Obama is the immensely darker one of Donald Trump.

Don Winslow offers Trump an extended cameo appearance in The Border, his massive, 736-page novel about America’s war on drugs—and the horrific violence it has spawned in Mexico. It’s the third of a trilogy of novels vividly portraying the violent costs of an unwinnable conflict. 

The Border: A Novel (Power of the Dog Book 3)

Art Keller is a dedicated agent of the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). For over 40 years, he has waged all-out war on Adán Barrera, the godfather of the powerful Sinaloa Cartel.

Appointed director of the DEA, Keller now faces a series of deadly enemies:

  • A heroin epidemic surging across America; 
  • Hitmen who want to kill him;
  • Politicians who want to sabotage his agenda; and
  • An incoming administration that’s allied with the very drug traffickers he’s trying to destroy.

And heading this administration is John Dennison—Donald Trump in all but name—who:

  • Gratuitously insults people on Twitter;
  • Fires a Special Counsel;
  • Gets blackmailed by a woman he once bedded; and
  • Colludes with drug traffickers for a multi-million dollar loan to finance his Presidential campaign.

Whereas the reviews for Hope Never Dies were as upbeat as the book itself, those of The Border reflect the novel’s mercilessly grim take on a war that can’t be won. 

Los Angeles Times:The Border is intricate, mean and swift, a sprawling canvass of characters including narco kingpins, a Guatemalan stowaway, a Staten Island heroin addict, a kinky hit woman, a barely veiled Donald Trump and DEA agent Art Keller, who….has been noble and merciless, a conflicted wanderer who makes America face the transgressions committed in its name.”

Rolling Stone: “Clocking in at over 700 pages, it is his most overtly political installment yet. He takes on the Trump administration directly, creating a fictional candidate, then president, who stokes racist fears of Mexicans, campaigns on ‘building the wall’ and, along with his venal son-in-law, gets caught up in a shady real estate deal involving Cartel money.”

NPR: The Border becomes a book for our times. Like Shakespeare, it makes a three-act drama of our modern moment. Like Shakespeare’s plays, it shows us a world that is our own, a history that is our own, a burden that is our own, rendered out into the rhythm of scenes and arcs, chapters and parts.”

The signature slogan of Obama’s 2008 Presidential campaign was: “Yes, We Can!” The slogan of Trump’s 2016 effort could have been: “No, You Can’t.” 

Obama concentrated the full force of his attention on reforming American healthcare—by making it available to millions whose insurance refused to provide coverage.

Trump’s top priority is to separate the United States from Mexico with an impenetrable wall—and he has even diverted $3.6 billion from Pentagon funding to pay for it. 

Like John F. Kennedy, Barack Obama will likely be positively remembered as much for what he tried to do as what he succeeded at doing.

Like Richard M. Nixon, Donald Trump will likely be remembered as a menacing stain on American history. 

REPUBLICANS: PROFILES WITHOUT COURAGE–PART FIVE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on June 19, 2020 at 12:12 am

Throughout his Presidency, Republicans have continued to support Donald Trump despite a series of actions that would have normally resulted in impeachment.

Forgiven Crime #18: Even while being investigated by Congress for trying to extort Ukraine to investigate his 2020 Presidential rival, Joseph Biden, Trump publicly urged China to investigate Biden and his son, Hunter.

Trump repeatedly denied he had strong-armed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to smear former Vice President Joseph Biden. But on October 3, 2019, on the White House lawn, with TV cameras whirring, Trump said: “China should start an investigation into the Bidens.”

And to drive home the message, Trump warned: “I have a lot of options on China, but if they don’t do what we want, we have tremendous power.” 

Forgiven Crime #19: Since being acquitted of impeachable offenses by the Senate, Trump fired the Inspectors General (IG) of five cabinet departments in six weeks. Among these:

  • Michael K. Atkinson – The IG of the Intelligence Community. The reason: Atkinson had forwarded the whistleblower complaint which led to Trump’s impeachment.
  • Glenn Fine – Appointed to oversee funds voted by Congress to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the United States. His dismissal ensured that Trump–who had admitted to defrauding students at his notorious “Trump University”–could spend the $2 trillion in relief monies any way he wished.
  • Christi Grimm – As IG at the Department of Health and Human Services, she outraged Trump by contradicting him by agreeing—accurately—that the nation’s hospitals were suffering from severe shortages of personal protective equipment and testing supplies for COVID-19.

* * * * *

This list of 19 forgiven crimes is not meant to be all-inclusive. It would literally take a book to catalog all of Donald Trump’s offenses. And more are being committed every week—if not every day. Many of them will become known only in the future.

Why have Republicans almost unanimously stood by Donald Trump despite the wreckage he has made of American foreign and domestic policy?  

Fear—that they will lose their privileged positions in Congress if they don’t.

This could happen by:

  • Their being voted out of Congress by Trump’s fanatical base; or
  • Their being voted out of Congress by anti-Trump voters sensing Republican weakness if Trump is impeached.

As the nation reels from the Coronavirus pandemic and unprecedented racial strife, Republicans’ support for Trump hinges on one question: “Can I hold onto my power and all the privileges that accompany it by sticking—or breaking—with him?” 

On November 25, 2019, CNN political correspondent Jake Tapper interviewed Representative Adam Schiff on the coming impeachment trial.

What would it mean if Republicans uniformly oppose any articles of impeachment against Trump? asked Tapper.

“It will have very long-term consequences, if that’s where we end up,” replied Schiff.

“And if not today, I think Republican members in the future, to their children and their grandchildren, will have to explain why they did nothing in the face of this deeply unethical man who did such damage to the country.” 

In his bestselling 1973 biography, The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler, British historian Robert Payne harshly condemned the German people for the rise of the Nazi dictator:

“[They] allowed themselves to be seduced by him and came to enjoy the experience….[They] followed him with joy and enthusiasm because he gave them license to pillage and murder to their hearts’ content. They were his servile accomplices, his willing victims.”

Like Hitler, Trump offered his Republican voters and Congressional allies intoxicating dreams: “I will enrich all of you. And I will humiliate and destroy those Americans you most hate.”

For his white, Fascistic, largely elderly audience, those enemies included blacks, atheists, Hispanics, non-Christians, Muslims, liberals, “uppity” women, Asians.

And, again like Hitler, his audience had always possessed these dreams. Trump offered them nothing new. As a lifelong hater, he undoubtedly shared their dreams. But as a lifelong opportunist, he realized that he could use them to catapult himself into a position of supreme power.

He despised his followers—both as voters and Congressional allies—for they were merely the instruments of his will. 

For most of the first three years of his Presidency, he faced remarkably little opposition. Until November, 2018, Republicans held both the House and Senate. Democrats won the House in 2018, but remained a minority in the Senate.

Democrats cowered before Trump’s slanders—thereby ensuring more assaults.

Most of the press quailed before Trump. Only a few media outlets—notably the New York Times, CNN and the Washington Post-–dared investigate his crimes and blunders. 

In 1960, the Russian poet, Yevgeney Yevtushenko, published “Conversation With an American Writer”—a stinging indictment of the cowardly opportunists who had supported the brutal tyranny of Joseph Stalin: 

I was never courageous.

I simply felt it unbecoming to stoop to the cowardice of my colleagues.

Too many Republicans know all-too-well how it feels to stoop to the cowardice of their colleagues for a transitory hold on power and privilege.  

REPUBLICANS: PROFILES WITHOUT COURAGE–PART FOUR (OF FIVE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 18, 2020 at 12:30 am

Throughout his Presidency, Republicans have continued to support Donald Trump despite a series of actions that would have normally resulted in impeachment.

Forgiven Crime #9: On July 16, 2018, Trump attended a press conference in Helsinki, Finland, with Russian President Vladimir Putin. There he blamed American Intelligence agencies—such as the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency—instead of Putin for Russia’s subversion of the 2016 Presidential election.     

“I have President Putin,” said Trump. “He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.” 

Trump is postponing the Putin visit until after the “Russia witch ...

Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin in Helsinki

Forgiven Crime #10: Blatantly lying about the CIA’s findings in the brutal murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.  

On Thanksgiving Day, 2018, Trump said that the CIA hadn’t concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had ordered it.

This was a lie—the agency had reached such a conclusion, based on a recording provided by the Turkish government and American Intelligence. 

Forgiven Crime #11: Threatening to fire Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, who oversaw Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian subversion of the 2016 election.  

Forgiven Crime #12: Threatening to fire Independent Counsel Robert Mueller during the summer of 2017, but was talked out of it by aides fearful that it would set off calls for his impeachment.

Forgiven Crime #13:  Waging all-out war on the First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of the press.

On February 17, 2017, Trump tweeted: “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes@NBCNews@ABC@CBS@CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!”

Seven days later, appearing before the Conservative Political Action Conference on February 24, Trump said: “I want you all to know that we are fighting the fake news. It’s fake, phony, fake….I’m against the people that make up stories and make up sources. They shouldn’t be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody’s name. Let their name be put out there.”

NSA Surveillance and the First Amendment - TeachPrivacy

Forgiven Crime #14: Waging all-out war on the independent judiciary

Trump has repeatedly attacked Seattle U.S. District Judge James Robart, who halted Trump’s first anti-Islamic travel ban: “Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!”

On October 20, 2018, Trump attacked U.S. District Judge Jon S. Tigar as an “Obama judge.” Tigar had ruled that the administration must consider asylum claims no matter where migrants cross the U.S. border.

The next day, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts told the Associated Press: “We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges. What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them.” 

On Thanksgiving Day, 2018, Trump attacked Roberts—appointed by Republican President George W. Bush—on Twitter:  “Sorry Chief Justice John Roberts, but you do indeed have ‘Obama judges,’ and they have a much different point of view than the people who are charged with the safety of our country.”

Forgiven Crime #15: Threatening members of Congress with treason charges for daring to challenge him. 

Furious that Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) mocked him during a session of the House Intelligence Committee, Trump tweeted: “I want Schiff questioned at the highest level for Fraud & Treason…..”

“Rep. Adam Schiff illegally made up a FAKE & terrible statement, pretended it to be mine as the most important part of my call to the Ukrainian President, and read it aloud to Congress and the American people. It bore NO relationship to what I said on the call. Arrest for Treason?” 

Adam Schiff official portrait.jpg

Adam Schiff

He judged House Speaker Nancy Pelosi every bit as guilty as Liddle’ Adam Schiff for High Crimes and Misdemeanors, and even Treason. I guess that means that they, along with all of those that evilly ‘Colluded’ with them, must all be immediately Impeached!”   

Forgiven Crime #16: He has lied so often—18,000 times by April 14, 2020, according to the Washington Post—that he’s universally distrusted, at home and abroad.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis, French President Charles de Gaulle was offered photographs taken by American spy planes of Russian missile emplacements in Cuba. De Gaulle waved them away, saying that, for him, the word of the President of the United States was enough. 

Image result for images of charles de gaulle and john f. kennedy"

Charles de Gaulle and John F. Kennedy

Today, no free world leader would take Trump’s word for anything.

Forgiven Crime #17: On December 22, 2018, Trump shut down the Federal government—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.

  • For weeks, hundreds of thousands of government workers missed paychecks.
  • Increasing numbers of employees of the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA)—which provides security against airline terrorism—began refusing to come to work, claiming to be sick.
  • At the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) many air traffic controllers called in “sick.” 
  • Due to the shortage of air traffic controllers, many planes weren’t able to land safely at places like New York’s LaGuardia Airport.
  • Many Federal employees—such as FBI agents—were forced to rely on soup kitchens to feed their families.

This lasted until January 25, 2019, when Trump caved to public pressure. 

REPUBLICANS: PROFILES WITHOUT COURAGE–PART THREE (OF FIVE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 17, 2020 at 12:59 am

Republicans have a long and shameful history of excusing Donald Trump’s vicious slanders and law-breaking.

Forgiven Crime #4: Republicans refused to condemn Trump’s blatant “bromance” with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.

Since the end of World War II, no Republican Presidential candidate had repeatedly lavished fulsome praise on a foreign leader hostile to the United States. Yet that is precisely what happened between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.

Thus Putin on Trump: “He is a bright personality, a talented person, no doubt about it. It is not up to us to appraise his positive sides, it is up to the U.S. voters. but, as we can see, he is an absolute leader in the presidential race.”

Image result for images of vladimir putin

Vladimir Putin

And Trump on Putin: “It is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond. He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader. Unlike what we have in this country”—a clear attack on then-President Barack Obama.

Related image

Donald Trump

Forgiven Crime #5: Republicans supported the treasonous meeting between Trump’s campaign managers and Russian Intelligence agents.  

On July 9, 2016, high-ranking members of Trump’s Presidential campaign met with lobbyists tied to Putin. The meeting took place at Trump tower and the participants included:

  • Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr.;
  • His son-in-law, Jared Kushner;
  • His then-campaign manager, Paul Manafort; 
  • Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer with ties to Putin; and 
  • Rinat Akhmetshin, a former Soviet counterintelligence officer suspected of having ongoing ties to Russian Intelligence.

The purpose of that meeting: To gain access to any “dirt” Russian Intelligence could supply on Democratic Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton. 

Forgiven Crime #6: Republicans supported Trump’s open—and treasonous—solicitation of Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential election.

On July 22, 2016, at a press conference in Doral, Florida, Trump said: “Russia, if you are listening, I hope you are able to find the 33,000 emails that are missing [from Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s computer]. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” 

“This has to be the first time that a major presidential candidate has actively encouraged a foreign power to conduct espionage against his political opponent,” Hillary for America policy adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement. “That’s not hyperbole, those are just the facts. This has gone from being a matter of curiosity, and a matter of politics, to being a national security issue.”

“I find those kinds of statements to be totally outrageous because you’ve got now a presidential candidate who is, in fact, asking the Russians to engage in American politics,” said former CIA Director Leon Panetta, a Clinton surrogate. “I just think that’s beyond the pale.”

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

Forgiven Crime #7: On May 9, 2017, Trump fired FBI Director James Comey for investigating Russia’s subversion of the 2016 Presidential race. 

There were four reasons for this:

  1. Comey had refused to pledge his personal loyalty to Trump. Trump had made the “request” during a private dinner at the White House in January.
  2. Comey told Trump that he would always be honest with him. But that didn’t satisfy Trump’s demand that the head of the FBI act as his personal secret police chief—as was the case in the former Soviet Union.
  3. Trump had tried to coerce Comey into dropping the FBI’s investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, for his secret ties to Russia and Turkey. Comey had similarly resisted that demand.
  4. Comey had recently asked the Justice Department to fund an expanded FBI investigation into well-documented contacts between Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign and Russian Intelligence agents. The goal of that collaboration: To elect Trump over Hillary Clinton, a longtime foe of Russian President Putin. 

James Comey official portrait.jpg

James Comey

Forgiven Crime #8: On May 10, 2017. Trump met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the Oval Office—and gave them highly classified Israeli Intelligence about an Islamic State plot to turn laptops into concealable bombs.  

Kislyak is reportedly a top recruiter for Russia’s SVR foreign intelligence agency. He has been closely linked with Jeff Sessions, then Attorney General, and fired National Security Adviser Mike Flynn. 

“I just fired the head of the FBI,” Trump told the two dignitaries. “He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”   

Then, on May 11, Trump gave away his real reason for firing Comey:

Interviewed on NBC News by reporter Lester Holt, Trump said: “And in fact when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said ‘you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.'”

REPUBLICANS: PROFILES WITHOUT COURAGE–PART TWO (OF FIVE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on June 16, 2020 at 12:05 am

On February 5, the Republican-dominated Senate—as expected—absolved President Donald Trump from trying to extort Ukraine into smearing a possible rival for the White House. Only one Republican—Utah Senator Mitt Romney—had the moral courage to vote for conviction.  

But this was not the first time Republicans sought to excuse Trump’s litany of crimes. Those efforts go back to the 2016 Presidential election. 

Forgiven Crime #1: Not demanding that Trump quit the 2016 Presidential race—or demanding that he be indicted—for making a terrorist threat against his own party.    

On March 16, 2016, Trump, the front-runner for the Republican Presidential nomination, issued a warning to his fellow Right-wingers: If he didn’t win the GOP nomination at the convention in July, his supporters would literally riot. 

“I think we’ll win before getting to the convention. But I can tell you if we didn’t, if we’re 20 votes short or if we’re 100 short and we’re at 1,100 and somebody else is at 500 or 400…I don’t think you can say that we don’t get it automatically. I think you’d have riots.

“I think you would see problems like you’ve never seen before. I think bad things would happen. I really do. I wouldn’t lead it, but I think bad things would happen.”

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Donald Trump

An NBC reporter summed it up as follows: “As Trump indicated, there is a very real possibility he might lose the nomination if he wins only a plurality of delegates thanks to party rules that allow delegates to support different candidates after the initial ballot.

“In that context, the message to Republicans was clear on [March 16]: ‘Nice convention you got there, shame if something happened to it.’”

Threatening his Republican and Democratic opponents with violence played a major role in Donald Trump’s campaign for President.

Forgiven Crime #2: Supporting his “dog-whistle” call for the assassination of Democratic Nominee Hillary Clinton.

On August 9, 2016, at a rally in Wilmington, North Carolina, Trump said: “Hillary [Clinton] wants to abolish, essentially abolish, the Second Amendment. If she gets to pick her [Supreme Court] judges, nothing you can do folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.”

Democrats—and responsible news media—immediately saw this for the “dog-whistle” signal it was.

“Don’t treat this as a political misstep,” Senator Christopher S. Murphy of Connecticut, who has called for stiffer gun laws, wrote on Twitter. “It’s an assassination threat, seriously upping the possibility of a national tragedy & crisis.”

“Well, let me say if someone else said that outside of the hall, he’d be in the back of a police wagon now, with the Secret Service questioning him,” said Michael Hayden, former head of the CIA and National Security Agency (NSA). 

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Hillary Clinton

Threats of violence continued to be made by Trump supporters right up to the day of the election.

  • On July 29, Roger Stone, a notorious Right-wing political consultant acting as a Trump strategist, told Breitbart News: “The first thing Trump needs to do is begin talking about [voter fraud] constantly. If there’s voter fraud, this election will be illegitimate, the election of the winner will be illegitimate, we will have a constitutional crisis, widespread civil disobedience, and the government will no longer be the government.”
  • At a town hall meeting where Trump’s Vice Presidential nominee Mike Pence appeared, a woman named Rhonda said: “For me personally, if Hillary Clinton gets in, I myself am ready for a revolution.”
  • In Cincinnati, a Trump supporter threatened to forcibly remove Clinton from the White House if she won the race: “If she’s in office, I hope we can start a coup. She should be in prison or shot. That’s how I feel about it,”
  • Dan Bowman, a 50-year-old contractor, said of Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee. “We’re going to have a revolution and take them out of office if that’s what it takes. There’s going to be a lot of bloodshed. But that’s what it’s going to take….I would do whatever I can for my country.”

Forgiven Crime #3: Republicans supported Trump’s call for his followers to intimidate Democratic voters at election time.

Trump encouraged his mostly white supporters to sign up online to be “election observers” to stop “Crooked Hillary from rigging this election.” He urged them to act as poll watchers in “other” [non-white] communities to ensure that things are “on the up and up.”

Many of his supporters promised to do so.

“Trump said to watch your precincts. I’m going to go, for sure,” said Steve Webb, a 61-year-old carpenter from Fairfield, Ohio.

“I’ll look for…well, it’s called racial profiling. Mexicans. Syrians. People who can’t speak American,” he said. “I’m going to go right up behind them. I’ll do everything legally. I want to see if they are accountable. I’m not going to do anything illegal. I’m going to make them a little bit nervous.” 

REPUBLICANS: PROFILES WITHOUT COURAGE–PART ONE (OF FIVE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on June 15, 2020 at 12:16 am

Republicans have a long and shameful history of excusing Donald Trump’s vicious slanders and law-breaking.

On June 9, they gave yet another example of their cravenness.

That was when President Trump charged that a 75-year-old man who was seriously injured by police officers in Buffalo, New York, was part of a radical leftist “set up.”

The victim, Martin Gugino, is described as a peace activist associated with the Catholic Worker Movement. 

On June 4, during nationwide protests over the police murder of black security guard George Floyd, a curfew was imposed on Buffalo, New York. As police swept through Niagara Square, Gugino walked directly into their path as if attempting to speak with them.

Two officers pushed him and he fell backwards, hitting the back of his head on the pavement and losing consciousness. The line of officers walked past Gugino as he lay on the ground with blood pooling around his head. One officer tried to check on him, but another patrolman told him to move on, and he did.

Two Buffalo police officers charged with assault - CGTN

Martin Gugino falls backward

Enter Trump, who had been severely criticized for sending police and National Guardsmen to remove peaceful protesters from Lafayette Square so he could stage a photo-op at nearby St. John’s Church.

On June 9 he tweeted: “Buffalo protester shoved by Police could be an ANTIFA provocateur. 75 year old Martin Gugino was pushed away after appearing to scan police communications in order to black out the equipment. @OANN I watched, he fell harder than was pushed. Was aiming scanner. Could be a set up?”

As usual, Trump offered no evidence to back up his slander. And, as usual, Republicans refused to condemn him for his latest outrage.

Among those competing for “Most Cowardly Sycophant of the Year”:

  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY) refused to say whether Trump’s tweet was appropriate.
  • Texas Senator John Cornyn claimed he had missed it, adding:  “A lot of this stuff just goes over my head.”
  • Georgia Senator Kelly Loeffler refused to answer a question about the President’s tweet as she hopped on an elevator along with an aide in the Capitol.  
  • Texas Senator Ted Cruz: “I don’t comment on the tweets.”
  • Florida Senator Marco Rubio: “I didn’t see it. You’re telling me about it. I don’t read Twitter. I only write on it.”
  • Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan said he hadn’t seen it, and then said: “I don’t want to comment right now. I’m on my way to a meeting. I’ll see it when I see it.”
  • North Dakota Senator Kevin Cramer: “I’ll say this: I worry more about the country itself than I do about what President Trump tweets.”
  • Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson said he hadn’t seen the tweet—and didn’t want it read to him: “I would rather not hear it.”
  • Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander: “Voters can evaluate that. I’m not going to give a running commentary on the President’s tweets.”
  • Montana Senator Steve Daines refused to say whether Trump should have tweeted about the Buffalo incident.

SYCOphant

So much for Republican profiles in courage.

On December 18, 2019, the House of Representatives approved two Articles of Impeachment against President Donald Trump for: 

Article 1: Abuse of Power: For pressuring the president of Ukraine to assist his re-election campaign by smearing a potential rival for the White House. 

Article 2: Obstruction of Congress: For obstructing Congress by blocking testimony of subpoenaed witnesses and refusing to provide documents in response to House subpoenas in the impeachment inquiry. 

On July 25, 2019, Trump had “asked” Ukraine President Volodymir Zelensky to do him a “favor”: Find embarrassing “dirt” on former Vice President Joseph Biden and his son, Hunter.

Hunter had had business dealings in Ukraine. And Joseph Biden might be Trump’s Democratic opponent for the White House in 2020.

To underline the seriousness of his “request,” earlier in July Trump had told Mick Mulvaney, his White House chief of staff, to withhold $400 million in military aid Congress had approved for Ukraine, which is facing an increasingly aggressive Russia

But then a CIA whistleblower filed a complaint about the extortion attempt—and the media and Congress soon learned of it. And ever since, the evidence linking Trump to impeachable offenses had mushroomed.

On January 16, 2020, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) announced that the Trump administration broke the law when it withheld security aid to Ukraine.

Joseph Biden with Barack Obama

As Senate trial proceedings unfolded, the 53-majority Republican Senators: 

  • Refused to hear from eyewitnesses who could prove that Trump had committed impeachable offenses,
  • Refused to provide evidence on Trump’s behalf—but attacked witnesses who had testified against him in the House.
  • Attacked Joseph Biden and his son, Hunter, as if they were on trial—instead of having been the targets of Trump’s smear-attempt.

On February 5, the Republican-dominated Senate—as expected—absolved President Donald Trump from trying to extort Ukraine into smearing a possible rival for the White House. Only one Republican—Utah Senator Mitt Romney—had the moral courage to vote for conviction.  

But this was not the first time Republicans sought to excuse Trump’s litany of crimes. Those efforts go back to the 2016 Presidential election. 

THESE LIES ARE DIFFERENT: THE “HAPPY TIME” COMES TO AN END

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on April 29, 2020 at 10:29 am

On April 27, Joe Scarborough offered an important insight about why most Americans have ignored President Donald Trump’s crimes and outrages for so long:

“Back in January Joe Biden wrote an Op-Ed that the President was not prepared for this coming pandemic, and things were going to get worse. And he said ‘Let your doctors talk. Let your scientists talk. Follow their lead.’

“…And it’s been one scam idea after another, that people then promoted on other networks, scam doctors promoting these scam solutions, claiming that everybody who had taken this malaria drug had been cured in certain hospitals. This is just the sort of thing that catches up to Donald Trump.

“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.

“But all of these lies, all of these scams that he’s been pushing…have been revealed as lies—not by the people on cable news, but by their doctors. By nurses they know. If you’ve got a doctor who’s been treating your family for 20-25 years, you’re going to believe that person more than a scam artist that’s pushing propaganda for Donald Trump on talk radio.”

On August 23, 2018, Trump appearing on “Fox and Friends,” said: “I tell you what, if I ever got impeached, I think the market would crash, I think everybody would be very poor.”

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Donald Trump

Thus, he appealed to the greed and fear of his voting base—and no doubt hoped to reach beyond it: “Keep me in power or you’ll all suffer for it.” 

Then-White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders 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.”

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

For eight years, Nazi Germany underwent such an epoch. Germans called it “The Happy Time.”

It began on January 30, 1933, when Adolf Hitler became Chancellor—and lasted until June 22, 1941. Germans knew about the Nazis’ cruelty to the Jews, the mass arrests and concentration camps.

They didn’t care.

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 Frenzied Germans greet Adolf Hitler

The Gestapo didn’t have to watch everyone: German “patriots” gladly reported their fellow citizens—especially Jews—to the secret police.

As far as everyday Germans were concerned:

  • The streets were clean and peaceful.
  • Employment was high.
  • The trouble-making unions were gone.
  • Germany was once again “taking its rightful place” among ruling nations, after its catastrophic defeat in World War 1.

The height of “The Happy Time” came in June, 1940. In just six weeks, the Wehrmacht  accomplished what the German army hadn’t in four years during World War 1: The total defeat of its longtime enemy, France.

Suddenly, French clothes, perfumes, delicacies, paintings and other “fortunes of war” came pouring into the Fatherland.  

Most Germans believed der Krieg—“the war”—was over, and only good times lay ahead.

Then, on June 22, 1941, three million Wehrmacht soldiers slashed their way into the Soviet Union. The Third Reich was now locked in a death-struggle with a nation even more powerful than itself. 

German soldiers in the Soviet Union

And then, on December 11, 1941—four days after Germany’s ally, Japan, attacked Pearl Harbor—Hitler declared war on the United States. 

“The Happy Time” for Germans was over. Only prolonged disaster lay ahead. 

Donald Trump has spent his life appealing to the greed or fear of those around him. For example: 

  • Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi personally solicited a political contribution from Trump around the same time her office deliberated joining an investigation of alleged fraud at Trump University and its affiliates.
  • After Bondi dropped the Trump University case against Trump, he wrote her a $25,000 check for her re-election campaign. 
  • According to an April 14, 2019 story by ABC News, a nationwide review uncovered at least 36 criminal cases where Trump was invoked in direct connection with violent acts, threats of violence or allegations of assault.
  • In nine cases, attackers hailed Trump in the midst or immediate aftermath of physically assaulting victims. In 10 more cases, perpetrators cheered or defended Trump while taunting or threatening others. And in another 10 cases, Trump and his rhetoric were cited in court to explain a defendant’s violent or threatening behavior.

But since January, Trump has come up against an enemy—to his re-election—that he can’t intimidate or buy off. 

A deadly virus like COVID-19 doesn’t accept bribe-monies or grovel before a raging tyrant.

The Germans made a devil’s-bargain with Adolf Hitler—and paid dearly for it. 

Millions of greedy Americans have embraced Donald Trump, another would-be tyrant, as America’s economic savior.

By supporting Trump—or at least not opposing him—they have also made a devil’s-bargain. And such bargains always end with the devil winning. 

THE ALAMO: TRAGEDY AND GLORY: PART THREE (END)

In History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 6, 2020 at 12:16 am

On the night before the final Mexican assault, one man escaped the Alamo to testify to the defenders’ courage. Or so goes the most famous story of the 13-day siege.

He was Louis Rose, a veteran of the Napoleonic wars and the dreadful 1812 retreat from Moscow. Unwilling to die in a hopeless battle, he slipped over a wall and sneaked through Mexican siege lines.

At Grimes County, he found shelter at the homestead of Abraham and Mary Ann Zuber. Their son, William, later claimed that his parents told him of Rose’s visit–and his story of Travis’ “line in the sand” speech.

In 1873, he published the tale in the Texas Almanac.

But many historians believe it is a fabrication. The story comes to us third-hand—from Rose to the Zubers to their son. And it was published 37 years after the Alamo fell.  

Even if Travis didn’t draw a line in the sand, every member of the garrison, by remaining to stay, had crossed over his own line.

After a 12-day siege, Santa Anna decided to overwhelm the Alamo.

Some of his officers objected. They wanted to wait for bigger siege cannon to arrive—to knock down the Alamo’s three-feet-thick adobe walls. Without shelter, the defenders would be forced to surrender.

But Santa Anna insisted on an all-out assault: “Without blood and tears, there is no glory.”

The first assault came at about 5 a.m. on Sunday, March 6, 1836.

The fort’s riflemen—aided by 14 cannons–repulsed it. And the second assault as well.

But the third assault proved unstoppable. The Alamo covered three acres, and held at most 250 defenders—against 2,000 Mexican soldiers.

When the Mexicans reached the fort, they mounted scaling ladders and poured over the walls.

Travis was among the first defenders to fall—shot through the forehead after firing a shotgun into the Mexican soldiery below.

Death of William Barrett Travis (waving sword)

Mexicans broke into the room where the ailing James Bowie lay.

In Three Roads to the Alamo, historian William C. Davis writes that Bowie may have been unconscious or delirious. Mistaking him for a coward, the soldiers bayoneted him and blew out his brains.

But some accounts claim that Bowie died fighting—shooting two Mexicans with pistols, then plunging his famous knife into a third before being bayoneted. Nearly every Alamo movie depicts Bowie’s death this way.


James Bowie’s death

As the Mexicans poured into the fort, at least 60 Texans tried to escape over the walls into the surrounding prairie. But they were quickly dispatched by lance-bearing Mexican cavalry.

The death of David Crockett remains highly controversial.

Baby boomers usually opt for the Walt Disney version: Davy swinging “Old Betsy” as Mexicans surround him. Almost every Alamo movie depicts him fighting to the death.

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David Crockett’s Death

But Mexican Lieutenant Colonel Jose Enrique de la Pena claimed Crockett was one of seven Texans who surrendered or were captured and brought before Santa Anna after the battle. Santa Anna ordered their immediate execution, and they were hacked to death with sabers.

Only the 2004 remake of The Alamo has dared to depict this version. Although this version is now accepted by most historians, some still believe the de la Pena diary from which it comes is a forgery.

An hour after the battle erupted, it was over.

That afternoon, Santa Anna ordered the bodies of the slain defenders stacked and burned in three pyres.

Contrary to popular belief, some of the garrison survived:

  • Joe, a black slave who had belonged to William B. Travis, the Alamo’s commander;
  • Susanah Dickinson, the wife of a lieutenant killed in the Alamo, and her baby, Angelina;
  • Several Mexican women and their children.

Also contrary to legend, the bravery of the Alamo defenders did not buy time for Texas to raise an army against Santa Anna. This didn’t happen until after the battle.

But their sacrifice proved crucial in securing Texas’ independence:

  • The Alamo’s destruction warned those Texans who had not supported the revolution that they had no choice: They must win, die or flee their homes to the safety of the United States.
  • It stirred increasing numbers of Americans to enter Texas and enlist in Sam Houston’s growing army.
  • Santa Anna’s army was greatly weakened, losing 600 killed and wounded—a casualty rate of 33%.
  • The nearly two-week siege bought time for the Texas convention to meet at Washington-on-the-Brazos and declare independence from Mexico.

On April 21, 1836, Santa Anna made a crucial mistake: During his army’s afternoon siesta, he failed to post sentries around his camp.

That afternoon, Sam Houston’s 900-man army struck the 1,400-man Mexican force at San Jacinto. In 18 minutes, the Texans—shouting “Remember the Alamo!”—killed about 700 Mexican soldiers and wounded 200 others.

The next day, a Texas patrol captured Santa Anna–wearing the uniform of a Mexican private. Resisting angry demands to hang the Mexican dictator, Houston forced Santa Anna to surrender control of Texas in return for his life.

The victory at San Jacinto won the independence of Texas. But the 13-day siege and fall of the Alamo remains the most famous and celebrated part of that conflict.

In 480 B.C., 300 Spartans won immortality at Thermopylae, a narrow mountain pass in ancient Greece, by briefly holding back an invading Persian army of thousands.

Although they died to the last man, their sacrifice inspired the rest of Greece to defeat its invaders. 

Like Thermopylae, the battle of the Alamo proved both a defeat—and a victory.

THE ALAMO: TRAGEDY AND GLORY: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on March 5, 2020 at 12:26 am

Friday, March 6, 2020, marks the 184h anniversary of the most famous event in Texas history: The fall of the Alamo, a crumbling former Spanish mission in the heart of San Antonio.  

After a 12-day siege, 180 to 250 Texans were overwhelmed by 2,000 Mexican soldiers. 

Mexican troops advancing on the Alamo

Americans “remember the Alamo”–but usually for the wrong reasons.

Some historians believe the battle should have never been fought.

The Alamo was not Thermopylae—a narrow mountain pass blocking the Persian march into ancient Greece.  Santa Anna could have simply bypassed it.

In fact, several of Santa Anna’s generals urged the Mexican dictator to do just that—leave a small guard to hold down the fort’s defenders and wipe out the undefended, widely-separated Texas settlements.

But pride held Santa Anna fast to the Alamo. His brother-in-law, General Perfecto de Cos, had been forced to surrender the old mission to revolting Texans in December, 1835. 

Santa Anna meant to redeem the fort—and his family honor—by force.

In virtually every Alamo movie, its two co-commanders, James Bowie and William Barret Travis, are portrayed as on the verge of all-out war—with each other.

In John Wayne’s heavily fictionalized 1960 film, The Alamo, Bowie and Travis agree to fight a duel as soon as they’ve whipped the Mexicans besieging them.

James Bowie

William B. Travis

In fact, the frictions between the two lasted only a short while. Just before the siege, some of Bowie’s volunteers—a far larger group than Travis’ regulars—got drunk. 

Travis ordered them jailed—and Bowie ordered his men to release them. Bowie then went on a roaring drunk. The next day, a sober Bowie apologized to Travis and agreed they should share command. 

This proved a wise decision, for just as the siege started, Bowie was felled by worsening illness—typhoid-pneumonia or tuberculosis.

In almost every Alamo movie, Bowie repeatedly leaves the fort to ambush unsuspecting Mexicans.

In reality, he stayed bed-ridden and lay close to death throughout the 13-day siege.

The Texans intended to make a suicidal stand.

False.

From the first day of the siege-–February 23, almost to the last, March 6, 1836—messengers rode out of the Alamo seeking help. The defenders believed that if they could cram enough men into the three-acre former mission, they could hold Santa Anna at bay.

No reinforcements reached the Alamo.

False. On March 1, 32 men from Gonzalez—the only ones to answer Travis’ call—sneaked through the Mexican lines to enter the Alamo.

Meanwhile, the largest Texan force lay at Fort Deviance in Goliad, 85 miles away. This consisted of 500 men commanded by James Walker Fannin, a West Point dropout.  

Fannin was better-suited for the role of Hamlet than military commander.

Upon receiving a plea of help from Travis, he set out in a halfhearted attempt to reach the mission. But when a supply wagon broke down, he returned to Fort Defiance and sat out the rest of the siege.  

When the Mexican army approached Fort Defiance, Fannin and 400 of his men panicked and fled into the desert. They were surrounded, forced to surrender, and massacred on March 27

The Alamo garrison was fully prepared to confront the Mexican army.

False.  When the Mexicans suddenly arrived in San Antonio on the morning of February 23, 1836, they caught the Texans completely by surprise.

The previous night, they had been celebrating the birthday of George Washington. The Texans rushed headlong into the Alamo, hauling all the supplies they could hastily scrounge.

Santa Anna sent a courier under a flag of truce to the Alamo, demanding unconditional surrender. In effect, the Texans were being given the choice of later execution.

Travis replied with a shot from the fort’s biggest cannon, the 18-pounder (so named for the weight of its cannonball).

Santa Anna ordered the hoisting of a blood-red flag and the opening of an artillery salvo. The siege of the Alamo was on.

San Houston, who was elected general of the non-existent army of Texas, desperately tried to relieve the siege.

False. 

At Washington-on-the-Brazos, 169 miles east of San Antonio, Texan delegates assembled to form a new government. When news reached the delegates that Travis desperately needed reinforcements, many of them wanted to rush to his defense.  

But Houston and others declared they must first declare Texas’ independence. On March 2, 1836, they did just that. Houston spent a good deal of the time drunk.

Sam Houston

Did Travis draw a line?

Easily the most famous Alamo story is that of “the line in the sand.”

On the night of March 5—just prior to the final assault—there was a lull in the near-constant Mexican bombardment. Travis assembled his men and gave them a choice:

They could try to surrender and hope that Santa Anna would be merciful. They could try to escape. Or they could stay and fight.  

With his sword, Travis drew a line in the dirt and invited those who would stay to cross over to him.  

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The entire garrison did—except for two men.  

One of these was bed-ridden James Bowie. He asked that his sick-bed be carried over to Travis. The other was a veteran of the Napoleonic wars–Louis Rose.

THE ALAMO: TRAGEDY AND GLORY: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 4, 2020 at 12:22 am

On March 2, 1836–184 years ago this year—Texas formally declared its independence from Mexico, of which it was then a province.-

Sixty-one delegates took part in the convention held at Washington-on-the-Brazos.

Their signed statement proclaimed that the Mexican government had “ceased to protect the lives, liberty, and property of the people, from whom its legitimate powers are derived.” 

Meanwhile, 169 miles away, the siege of the Alamo–a crumbling former Spanish mission in the heart of San Antonio–had entered its ninth day. The Alamo.

The mission that became a fortress. The fortress that has since become a shrine. 

By Daniel Schwen – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

The Alamo Chapel 

The combatants: 180 to 250 Texans (or “Texians,” as many of them preferred to be called) vs. 2,000 Mexican soldiers. 

On the Texan side three names predominate: David Crockett, James Bowie and William Barret Travis. “The Holy Trinity,” as some historians ironically refer to them. 

Crockett, at 49, was the most famous man in the Alamo. He had been a bear hunter, Indian fighter and Congressman. Rare among the men of his time, he sympathized with the Indian tribes he had helped subdue in the War of 1812.

David Crockett

He believed Congress should honor the treaties made with the former hostiles and opposed President Andrew Jackson’s effort to move the tribes further West.Largely because of this, his constituents turned him out of office in November, 1835. He told them they could go to hell; he would go to Texas.

James Bowie, at 40, had been a slave trader with pirate Jean Lafitte and a land swindler. But his claim to fame lay in his skill as a knife-fighter.

James Bowie

This grew out of his participating in an 1827 duel on a sandbar in Natchez, Mississippi. Bowie was acting as a second to one of the duelists who had arranged the event.

After the two duelists exchanged pistol shots without injury, they called it a draw. But those who had come as their seconds had scores to settle among themselves–and decided to do so. A bloody melee erupted.

Bowie was shot in the hip and then impaled on a sword cane wielded by Major Norris Wright, a longtime enemy. Drawing a large butcher knife he wore at his belt, he gutted Wright, who died instantly.

The brawl became famous as the Sandbar Fight, and cemented Bowie’s reputation across the South as a deadly knife fighter.

William Barret Travis had been an attorney and militia member. Burdened by debts and pursued by creditors, he fled Alabama in 1831 to start over in Texas. Behind him he left a wife, son, and unborn daughter.

William Barret Travis

From the first, Travis burned to free Texas from Mexico and see it become a part of the United States.

In January, 1836, he was sent by the American provisional governor of Texas to San Antonio, to fortify the Alamo. He arrived there with a small party of regular soldiers and the title of lieutenant colonel in the state militia.

On the Mexican side, only one name matters: Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, president (i.e., absolute dictator) of Mexico. After backing first one general and would-be “president” after another, Santa Anna maneuvered himself into the office in 1833.

Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna

Texas was then legally a part of Mexico. Stephen F. Austin, “the father of Texas,” had received a grant from Spain—which ruled Mexico until 1821–to bring in 300 American families to settle there.

The Spaniards wanted to establish a buffer between themselves and warring Indian tribes like the Comanches. This immigration continued after Mexico threw off Spanish rule and obtained its independence.

But as Americans kept flooding into Texas, the character of its population changed, alarming its Mexican rulers.

The new arrivals did not see themselves as Mexican citizens but as transplanted Americans. They were largely Protestant, as opposed to the Catholic Mexicans. And many of them not only owned slaves but demanded the expansion of slavery—a practice illegal under Mexican law.

In October, 1835, fighting erupted between American settlers and Mexican soldiers.

In November, Mexican forces took shelter in the Alamo, which had been built in 1718 as a mission to convert Indians to Christianity. Since then it had been used as a fort—by Spanish and then Mexican troops.

Texans lay siege to the Alamo from October 16 to December 10, 1835. With his men exhausted, and facing certain defeat, General Perfecto de Cos, Santa Anna’s brother-in-law, surrendered. He gave his word to leave Texas and never take up arms again against its settlers.

Most Texans rejoiced. They believed they had won their “war” against Mexico. But others knew better.

One was Bowie. Another was Sam Houston, a former Indian fighter, Congressman and protégé of Andrew Jackson.

Still another was Santa Anna, who styled himself “The Napoleon of the West.”  In January, 1836, he set out from Mexico City at the head of an army totaling about 7,000.

He planned the 18th century version of a blitzkrieg, intending to arrive in Texas and take its “rebellious foreigners” by surprise.

His forced march proved costly in lives, but met his objective. He arrived in San Antonio with several hundred soldiers on February 23, 1836.

The siege of the Alamo—the most famous event in Texas history—was about to begin.

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