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EVEN WITHOUT MUELLER’S REPORT, TRUMP’S TREASON IS CLEAR: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 24, 2019 at 12:10 am

The appointment of Robert S. Mueller as Special Counsel aroused unprecedented hopes and fears.

Foes of President Donald Trump hoped that Mueller would unearth evidence of criminality—if not treason—blatant enough to guarantee his impeachment.

Supporters of Trump—starting with the President—feared that this would be the case. When Attorney General Jeff Sessions told Trump that a Special Counsel had been appointed, the President exclaimed, “Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I’m fucked.”

Yet even before the release of the long-awaited Mueller report, several deeply-researched and well-written books outlined Russia’s efforts to subvert the 2016 Presidential race. And they cast devastating light on Trump’s loyalty to the United States.  

Among these:

  • The Apprentice: Trump, Russia and the Subversion of Democracy, by Greg Miller
  • House of Trump, House of Putin: The Untold Story of Donald Trump and the Russian Mafia, by Craig Unger
  • Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump, by Michael Isikoff
  • The Plot to Destroy Democracy: How Putin and His Spies Are Undermining America and Dismantling the West, by Malcom W. Nance

According to its blurb on Amazon.com, The Apprentice is “based on interviews with hundreds of people in Trump’s inner circle, current and former government officials, individuals with close ties to the White House, members of the law enforcement and intelligence communities, foreign officials, and confidential documents.”

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Among the subjects it covers:

  • The Trump Tower meeting, where the Trump campaign sought “dirt” on Hillary Clinton from Russian Intelligence agents;
  • The penetration by Russian Intelligence of computer systems used by Democrats;
  • How Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, tried to set up a secret back channel to Moscow via Russian diplomatic facilities;
  • Trump’s giving Russian officials highly classified secrets supplied by Israeli Intelligence;
  • Trump’s clashes with the FBI and CIA.

Miller is a veteran investigative journalist and twice winner of the Pulitzer Prize. Among his stories: National security adviser Michael Flynn’s discussing U.S. sanctions with Russian officials prior to Trump’s inauguration. The story contributed to Flynn’s ouster.

Then there’s House of Trump, House of Putin, whose jacket blurb describes Trump’s inauguration as “the culmination of Vladimir Putin’s long mission to undermine Western democracy, a mission that he and his hand-selected group of oligarchs and Mafia kingpins had ensnared Trump in, starting more than twenty years ago with the massive bailout of a string of sensational Trump hotel and casino failures in Atlantic City.  

House of Trump, House of Putin: The Untold Story of Donald Trump and the Russian Mafia

“…Craig Unger methodically traces the deep-rooted alliance between the highest echelons of American political operatives and the biggest players in the frightening underworld of the Russian Mafia. He traces Donald Trump’s sordid ascent from foundering real estate tycoon to leader of the free world….

“Without Trump, Russia would have lacked a key component in its attempts to return to imperial greatness. Without Russia, Trump would not be president.”

As an appendix to the book, Unger writes: “Donald Trump has repeatedly said he has nothing to do with Russia. Below are fifty-nine Trump connections to Russia.”

Russian Roulette, according to its dust jacket, “is a story of political skullduggery unprecedented in American history. It weaves together tales of international intrigue, cyber espionage, and superpower rivalry.

“After U.S.-Russia relations soured, as Vladimir Putin moved to reassert Russian strength on the global stage, Moscow trained its best hackers and trolls on U.S. political targets and exploited WikiLeaks to disseminate information that could affect the 2016 election.

“The Russians were wildly successful and the great break-in of 2016 was no ‘third-rate burglary.’ It was far more sophisticated and sinister—a brazen act of political espionage designed to interfere with American democracy. At the end of the day, Trump, the candidate who pursued business deals in Russia, won….

“This story of high-tech spying and multiple political feuds is told against the backdrop of Trump’s strange relationship with Putin and the curious ties between members of his inner circle—including Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn—and Russia.”

Malcom Nance, the author of The Plot to Destroy Democracy, is an Intelligence and foreign policy analyst and media commentator on terrorism, intelligence, insurgency and torture. 

In his book, he outlines how “Donald Trump was made President of the United States with the assistance of a foreign power. 

“[It is] the dramatic story of how blackmail, espionage, assassination, and psychological warfare were used by Vladimir Putin and his spy agencies to steal the 2016 U.S. election—and attempted to bring about the fall of NATO, the European Union, and western democracy….

“Nance has utilized top secret Russian-sourced political and hybrid warfare strategy documents to demonstrate the master plan to undermine American institutions that has been in effect from the Cold War to the present day.

“Based on original research and countless interviews with espionage experts, Nance examines how Putin’s recent hacking accomplished a crucial first step for destabilizing the West for Russia, and why Putin is just the man to do it.”

These books—combined with the recently released Mueller report—clearly establish the damning conclusion: The man now sitting in the Oval Office is an illegitimate usurper, installed by an unholy alliance of American Fascists and Russian Communists.

EVEN WITHOUT MUELLER’S REPORT, TRUMP’S TREASON IS CLEAR: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 23, 2019 at 12:04 am

In the first installment of this series, four examples were listed of Donald Trump’s treason against the United States. Here are four more:

EXAMPLE #5: On January 20, 2017—the day Donald J. Trump became the 45th President of the United States—Michael Flynn took office as the nation’s 25th National Security Adviser.

Flynn, a former United States Army lieutenant general and director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, seemed the perfect choice for safeguarding the country’s security.

Two days later, The Wall Street Journal reported that Flynn was under investigation by U.S. counterintelligence agents for his secret communications with Russian officials. 

On February 8, Flynn flatly denied having spoken to Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December, 2016, about removing the sanctions placed on Russia by the outgoing Obama administration.

The sanctions had been placed in retaliation for Russia’s efforts to manipulate the 2016 Presidential election.

On February 13, The Washington Post reported that Acting Attorney General Sally Yates had warned Trump in late January that Flynn had lied about his contacts with Kislyak—and that he could be blackmailed by Russian Intelligence. 

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Sally Yates

Flynn was forced to resign that same day—after only 24 days as National Security Adviser.

Officially, the reason given was that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence. But Flynn’s deception had already been known—via the warning to Trump by Yates.

Only after Yates’ warning became known to the media was Flynn forced to resign.  

Even worse for Flynn: The same Washington Post story reported that, in December, 2015, he had appeared on Russia Today, the news network that American Intelligence agencies consider “the Kremlin’s principal international propaganda outlet.” 

He had also received more than $45,000 as a “speaking fee” from the network for a talk on world affairs. At the gala where Flynn received the fee, he sat next to Russian President Vladimir Putin for dinner.

Flynn did not file the required paperwork for the trip. Nor did he report the “fee” to the Pentagon.

On December 1, 2017, Flynn appeared in federal court to formalize a deal with Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III.  He plead guilty to a felony count of “willfully and knowingly” making “false, fictitious and fraudulent statements” to the FBI

EXAMPLE #6: On May 9, 2017, as President, 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. 

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James Comey

EXAMPLE #7: On May 10, 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.” 

On May 11, Trump, interviewed on NBC News by reporter Lester Holt, 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.'”       

A national firestorm erupted—unprecedented since President Richard M. Nixon had fired Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox on October 20, 1973.

To squelch it, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein moved quickly.

On May 17, 2017, he appointed Robert S. Mueller III to serve as Special Counsel for the United States Department of Justice. 

Rosenstein charged Mueller to investigate “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump, and any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.” 

EXAMPLE #8: 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. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.”

But instead of attacking Trump for his treasonous behavior, Republicans in Congress and Right-wing Fox News relentlessly attacked Robert Mueller’s integrity and investigative methods. 

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EVEN WITHOUT MUELLER’S REPORT, TRUMP’S TREASON IS CLEAR: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 22, 2019 at 12:05 am

In late March, 2019, Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III finished writing a 448-page report of his findings about Russian subversion of the 2016 Presidential election.

On March 22, he delivered this to Attorney General William Barr.

Two days later, Barr sent a four-page letter to United States Senators Lindsey Graham and Dianne Feinstein, and Representatives Jerrold Nadler and Doug Collins.

Purporting to summarize the major findings of the Mueller report, Barr wrote:

  • “The Special Counsel did not find that the Trump [Presidential] campaign, or anyone associated with it, conspired or coordinated with the Russian government….”
  • “Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and I have concluded that the evidence developed during the Special Counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.”

But that is not what Donald Trump’s behavior demonstrates, both before and after he became the 45th President of the United States.

On April 18, Barr released the Mueller report. Its title: “Report on the Investigation Into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election.” 

Trump has claimed from the outset that there was “no collusion” between him and members of Russia’s Intelligence community. But from the outset he has acted like a guilty man desperate to stop the investigation before it uncovers the full extent of his criminality. 

EXAMPLE #1 On July 9, 2016, high-ranking members of his Presidential campaign met at Trump Tower with at least two lobbyists with ties to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. 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. 

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Donald Trump

EXAMPLE #2: On July 22, 2016, during his campaign for President, Trump said at a press conference in Doral, Florida: “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 was nothing less than treason—calling upon a foreign power, hostile to the United States, to interfere in its Presidential election.

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

EXAMPLE #3: Throughout 2016, the CIA, FBI and National Security Agency (NSA) found numerous ties between officials of the Trump Presidential campaign and Russian Intelligence agents.  

And many of those he appointed to office had strong ties to the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

One of these was Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. In 2013, as the chief executive of ExxonMobil, he was presented with Russia’s Order of Friendship award. He had just signed deals with the state-owned Russian oil company Rosneft. Its chief, Igor Sechin, is a loyal Putin lieutenant.

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Rex Tillerson

Another such official was Attorney General Jeff Sessions. During the 2016 campaign, Sessions—then serving as a surrogate for Donald Trump’s campaign—twice spoke with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

But during his Senate confirmation hearings, Sessions denied that he had had “communications with the Russians” during the campaign.

The discovery of numerous contacts between Trump campaign officials and Russian Intelligence agents led the FBI to launch an investigation into Russia’s efforts to influence the outcome of the 2016 Presidential election.

EXAMPLE #4: Trump has repeatedly praised Russian President Vladimir Putin.

On December 18, 2015, Trump appeared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” Its host, Joe Scarborough, was upset by Trump’s praise for Putin: 

SCARBOROUGH: Well, I mean, [he’s] also a person who kills journalists, political opponents, and invades countries. Obviously that would be a concern, would it not?

TRUMP: He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader. Unlike what we have in this country.

SCARBOROUGH: But again: He kills journalists that don’t agree with him.

TRUMP: I think our country does plenty of killing, also, Joe, so, you know. There’s a lot of stupidity going on in the world right now, Joe. A lot of killing going on. A lot of stupidity. And that’s the way it is.

On October 7, 2016, the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a joint statement blaming the Russian government for the hacking of Democratic National Committee emails. Its motive: “To interfere with the US election process.”

Two days later, Trump publicly stated: “But I notice, anytime anything wrong happens, they like to say the Russians are—Maybe there is no hacking. But they always blame Russia.”

On December 16, 2016, FBI Director James B. Comey and Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. agreed with a CIA assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election in part to help Donald Trump win the White House. 

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Trump, however, steadfastly denied any such role by Russia: “I think it’s ridiculous,” he told “Fox News Sunday.” “I think it’s just another excuse. I don’t believe it….No, I don’t believe it at all.” 

TRUMP CHANNELS STALIN FOR AN UPCOMING PURGE

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on April 3, 2019 at 12:10 am

For Donald Trump, American history begins and ends with himself.  To hear him tell it:

  • “It is much easier to act presidential than what we are doing here tonight, believe me. With the exception of the late, great Abraham Lincoln, I can be more presidential than any president that’s ever held this office.”
  • “Almost everyone agrees that my administration has done more in less than two years than any other Administration in the history of our Country. I’m tough as hell on people & if I weren’t, nothing would get done. Also, I question everybody and everything—which is why I got elected!”    
  • “Never has there been a President with few exceptions—case of FDR, he had a major Depression to handle—who has passed more legislation and who has done more things than what we’ve done.”   

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President Donald Trump

  • “The amazing thing is that you have certain people who are conservative Republicans that if my name weren’t Trump, if it were John Smith, they would say I’m the greatest president in history and I blow Ronald Reagan away,”
  • “How do you impeach a President who has won perhaps the greatest election of all time, done nothing wrong (no Collusion with Russia, it was the Dems that Colluded), had the most successful first two years of any president, and is the most popular Republican in party history 93%?” 

Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin couldn’t tolerate criticism or dissent. He dubbed those who disagreed with him “enemies of the people.” And for 30 years, he unleashed a series of purges that slaughtered 20-25 million of his fellow Russians. 

Joseph Stalin

President Donald Trump also can’t abide disagreement or criticism. He’s repeatedly called the media who report his crimes and follies “the enemy of the people.” And he’s used insults, lawsuits and threats of violence to intimidate and/or injure his perceived enemies. 

Now Trump may be moving on to a new and even more dangerous phase.

Trump has repeatedly claimed to be “cleared” by the report of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. This despite the fact that it’s been seen only by William Barr, his handpicked Attorney General.

Trump is now acting like a king who feels himself the victim of a failed overthrow. In fact, he has said as much:

“There are a lot of people out there that have done some very, very evil things, very bad things—I would say treasonous things against our country. Those people will certainly be looked at. I’ve been looking at them for a long time.”

And: “This was an illegal takedown that failed and hopefully somebody’s going to be looking at the other side.”

On March 25,  Trump’s re-election campaign sent a memo to television producers instructing them to “employ basic journalistic standards when booking” six current or former government officials that the campaign accused of making “outlandish, false claims, without evidence” about Trump’s collusion with Russia while on air.

Specifically:

  • Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut)
  • Representative Jerry Nadler (D-New York), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee
  • Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez
  • John Brennan, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency
  • Representative Adam Schiff (D-California), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee
  • Representative Eric Swalwell (D-California), who has indicated he might run for President

Rudolph Giuliani, Trump’s private attorney and a former Federal prosecutor, offered a chilling threat: “If there are people who contrived this investigation, who made up this collusion, maybe they themselves should be investigated.”

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) warned: “I believe that Donald Trump got scrutiny like nobody else in the history of the presidency, since Nixon probably ….To those who were abusive of the process in 2016 on the other side, you haven’t had much scrutiny, but that’s coming.” 

And since Graham heads the Senate Judiciary Committee, which oversees the Justice Department, that is no idle threat.

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Lindsey Graham

Hurling an insult and threat at Adam Schiff, Donald Trump, Jr., tweeted: “#fullofSchiff has been flagrantly lying to the American people & slandering POTUS & me for years for airtime. Should he not face any repercussions for the lies?” 

There was, of course, nothing illegal about a legitimate Justice Department investigation of proven links between Russian Intelligence agents and members of Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign.

What is almost certainly coming is an illegal purge worthy of Joseph Stalin.  

And Americans who believe “it can’t happen here” also once couldn’t imagine that:

  • Trump would demand that FBI Director James Comey pledge his loyalty to Trump. When he refused, Trump fired him.
  • Andrew McCabe, the FBI’s deputy director, would open an investigation to determine if Trump “had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests.” When this became known, Trump forced him out of the Bureau.
  • Trump would repeatedly demand that then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions prosecute his former Presidential rival, Hillary Clinton, although the FBI had not found her guilty of a crime.

Trump commands the FBI and the Justice Department, and is backed by a compliant Republican Senate. He has appointed 92 Federal judges—and can expect at least some of them to uphold convictions against his real and imagined enemies.

In short: Trump is poised to “get even” with his critics in the media—and Congress.

TYRANTS AND TRUTH

In Bureaucracy, History, Humor, Politics, Social commentary on March 11, 2019 at 12:13 am

Speaking truth to tyrants is always risky. But those who do—and survive—can find consolation in knowing they have done something few others have dared to do.

Two women—one Russian, the other American—have had this experience.

Maria Veniaminovna Yudina (1899 – 1970) was a gifted pianist who joined the piano faculty of the Moscow Conservatory in 1936, where she taught until 1951.

Maria Yudina

From 1944 to 1960, Yudina taught chamber ensemble and vocal class at the Gnessin Institute. In 1960, she was fired from the Institute because of her religious beliefs and championing of modern Western music.

She continued to perform in public, but her recitals were forbidden to be recorded. At one of her recitals in Leningrad, she read Boris Pasternak’s poetry from the stage as an encore.

For that, Yudina was banned from performing for five years. In 1966, when the ban was lifted, she gave a cycle of lectures on Romanticism at the Moscow Conservatory.

Although born into a Jewish family, she joined and remained a devout member of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Perhaps her most courageous act occurred during the last years of the reign of Joseph Stalin. The Soviet dictator was responsible for the deaths of 20 to 25 million people—through execution, famine, torture, imprisonment and deportations.

Joseph Stalin

One night in 1944, Stalin, listening to the radio, heard a performance of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23. Yudina had played the piano, backed up by a full orchestra.

Stalin, impressed, ordered that an envelope containing 20,000 rubles be sent to Yudina.

According to Russian composer and pianist Dimitri Shostakovich, Yudina then did the unthinkable.

In his posthumously-published memoirs, Testimony,  Shostakovich writes that Yudina sent Stalin a letter almost certain to result in her arrest.

The gist of the letter: “I thank you, Iosif Vissarionovich, for your aid.

“I will pray for you day and night and ask the Lord to forgive your great sins before the people and the country. The Lord is merciful and He will forgive you. I gave the money to the church that I attend.”

Stalin read the letter to his inner circle. Although he could have destroyed Yudina as easily as killing a fly, he set aside the letter and did nothing.

Yudina’s recording of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 was on Stalin’s record player when he collapsed with a cerebral hemorrhage on March 1, 1953. It was the last music he had listened to.

Shostakovich believed that Stalin was superstitious—and it was this that saved Yudina.

Throughout her life, Yudina remained an uncompromising critic of the Soviet regime. She died in Moscow in 1970.

Seventy-four years later, another woman—Michelle Wolf—dared speak truth to a tyrant in a different way.

Wolf (1985 – ) is an American comedian and writer. In 2007, she graduated from the College of William & Mary, a public research university in Williamsburg, Virginia.  Her major: Kinesiology (the scientific study of human or non-human body movement).

She decided to enter the comedy world and made her first appearance on late-night television in 2014, on Late Night with Seth Meyers. She made repeated appearances on the show,  A regular at the Comedy Cellar in New York City, she joined The Daily Show with Trevor Noah in 2016

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Michelle Wolf

In 2017, she made her HBO stand-up debut, Michelle Wolf: Nice Lady.

On April 28, 2018, she hosted the annual White House Correspondents Dinner.

Traditionally, it’s been an occasion where Washington’s political and media elites enjoy dinner and trade barbed quips at one another.

But President Donald Trump chose to skip the dinner in 2017 and 2018. Trump—who repeatedly  insults others—is too thin-skinned to accept even harmless jokes aimed at him.

That, however, didn’t deter Wolf. And she served up a series of barbed jokes aimed at the greed, deceit and hypocrisy of high-ranking Trump administration officials. Among these:

  • [Trump] loves white nationalists, which is a weird term for a Nazi. Calling a Nazi a white nationalist is like calling a pedophile a kid friend or Harvey Weinstein a ladies’ man.
  • [Vice President] Mike Pence is a weirdo, though. He’s a weird little guy. He won’t meet with other women without his wife present. When people first heard this, they were like, “That’s crazy.” But now, in this current climate, they’re like, “That’s a good witness.”
  • A tree falls in the woods is [Environmental Protection Agency director] Scott Pruitt’s definition of porn. Yeah, we all have our kinks.

But Wolf also had plenty of jabs for assembled media bigwigs.

  • The most useful information on CNN is when Anthony Bourdain tells me where to eat noodles. 
  • People want me to make fun of [Fox News host] Sean Hannity tonight, but I cannot do that. This dinner is for journalists.

Wolf’s jokes—especially those about White Hose Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee-Sanders—triggered harsh attacks in turn from Trump officials and media critics.

But Jimmy Kimmel—who has also performed at the correspondents dinner—tweeted:

“Michelle did exactly what she should do, which was [to] upset everybody. That’s the role of a commentator and a bomb thrower and a comedian. Your job is not to make people comfortable and your job is definitely not to stay within the line. Your job is to say the things that make people uncomfortable and upset.”

ONE TWITTER TROLL IS MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on February 28, 2019 at 11:52 am

On May 9, 2017, President Donald Trump abruptly fired FBI Director James Comey.

Reports soon surfaced that his reason for doing so was that Comey had refused to pledge his personal loyalty to Trump. 

Just 72 hours after firing Comey, Trump issued a threat to him via Twitter: “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” 

And Twitter’s reaction to such a blatant threat?  

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James B. Comey

From the start of his Presidency, Trump has put his ambitions, excuses and rants on social media. And this has unnerved foreign leaders as well as Trump’s fellow Americans.

As CNN Political Analyst Julian Zelizer outlined in a July 3 article:

“Putting aside the specific content of the recent blasts from the Oval smart phone, the President’s ongoing Twitter storms make all leaders uneasy. The heads of government in most nations prefer a certain amount of predictability and decorum from other heads of state.

“To have one of the most powerful people in the room being someone who is willing to send out explosive and controversial statements through social media, including nasty personal attacks or an edited video of him physically assaulting the media, does not make others….feel very confident about how he will handle deliberations with them.”

On December 12, 2017, Trump used Twitter to attack New York United States Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.

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Kirsten Gillibrand

Gillibrand was among six Democratic senators who called for Trump’s resignation after sexual harassment allegations forced three Republican and Democratic members of Congress to resign.

Trump tweeted: “Lightweight Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a total flunky for Chuck Schumer and someone who would come to my office ‘begging’ for campaign contributions not so long ago (and would do anything for them), is now in the ring fighting against Trump. Very disloyal to Bill & Crooked-USED!”

“I see it as a sexist smear. I mean that’s what it is,” Gillibrand replied in a press conference. “It’s part of the President’s efforts of name calling and it’s not going to silence me, it’s not going to silence me. It’s intended to silence me.”

So how does this behavior apply to “The Twitter Rules”?

Abuse: You may not engage in the targeted harassment of someone, or incite other people to do so. We consider abusive behavior an attempt to harass, intimidate, or silence someone else’s voice. [Italics added.]

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!”

On July 2, 2017, Trump tweeted a video showing him punching a man with the CNN logo superimposed on his head during a WWE wrestling match.

And on August 15, the President retweeted a cartoon photo of a “Trump Train” running over a CNN reporter.

Yet Twitter’s Terms of Service state:

Hateful imagery and display names: You may not use hateful images or symbols in your profile image or profile header. You also may not use your username, display name, or profile bio to engage in abusive behavior, such as targeted harassment or expressing hate towards a person, group, or protected category. We will begin enforcing this rule on December 18, 2017. [Italics added.]

So how do Twitter’s top executives justify allowing these repeated violations of “Twitter Rules”? On September 25, the company tweeted:

“We hold all accounts to the same Rules, and consider a number of factors when assessing whether Tweets violate our Rules.

“Among the considerations is ‘newsworthiness’ and whether a Tweet is of public interest. This has long been internal policy and we’ll soon update our public-facing rules to reflect it. We need to do better on this, and will.”

Twitter has never acknowledged publicly that Trump has violated any of its guidelines. It rarely even acknowledges Trump’s tweets. 

So what gives? 

Money. 

Trump’s apologists have fiercely defended his tweetstorms, claiming they allow him to bypass the media and “communicate directly with the American people.” 

One of those apologists is former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, who said: “I believe it’s really important to have these conversations out in the open, rather than have them behind closed doors.”

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Jack Dorsey

In April, 2017, Twitter announced that it had added 9,000,000 new users, its largest quarter-over-quarter jump in two years. 

“We believe Twitter is the best at showing you what’s happening in the world and what’s being talked about,” said Anthony Noto, Twitter’s chief financial officer. 

“Having political leaders of the world as well as news agencies participating and driving that is an important element to reinforcing what we’re the best at.”

In short: Trump is good at attracting more Twitter users. and if the company needs to overlook his blatant and repeated violations of its “Twitter Rules,” so be it.  

Twitter has been so plagued by trolling that potential investors like the Walt Disney Company refused to taint their own reputations by partnering with it. 

But that hasn’t led high-ranking Twitter executives to end their Faustian pact with the biggest Twitter troll of all. 

And, as all devotees of the Faust legend know, there comes a time when the Devil wins the bargain.  

ONE TWITTER TROLL IS MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on February 27, 2019 at 12:03 am

According to “The Twitter Rules,” posted on the Twitter website:

We believe in freedom of expression and open dialogue, but that means little as an underlying philosophy if voices are silenced because people are afraid to speak up.

In order to ensure that people feel safe expressing diverse opinions and beliefs, we prohibit behavior that crosses the line into abuse, including behavior that harasses, intimidates, or uses fear to silence another user’s voice.

Context matters when evaluating for abusive behavior and determining appropriate enforcement actions. Factors we may take into consideration include, but are not limited to whether:

  • the behavior is targeted at an individual or group of people;
  • the report has been filed by the target of the abuse or a bystander;
  • the behavior is newsworthy and in the legitimate public interest.

Abuse: You may not engage in the targeted harassment of someone, or incite other people to do so. We consider abusive behavior an attempt to harass, intimidate, or silence someone else’s voice.

Unwanted sexual advances: You may not direct abuse at someone by sending unwanted sexual content, objectifying them in a sexually explicit manner, or otherwise engaging in sexual misconduct.

Hateful conduct: You may not promote violence against, threaten, or harass other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease. Read more about our hateful conduct policy.

Hateful imagery and display names: You may not use hateful images or symbols in your profile image or profile header. You also may not use your username, display name, or profile bio to engage in abusive behavior, such as targeted harassment or expressing hate towards a person, group, or protected category. We will begin enforcing this rule on December 18, 2017.

So much for the official version of what Twitter users—and non-Twitter users—can expect from those charged with policing Twitter.

Which leads to the question: Why hasn’t Twitter policed—and purged—the single greatest abuser of its “Twitter Rules”: Donald Trump?

Consider:

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

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

Donald Trump

Among these targets were:

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

His Twitter assaults have often dominated entire news cycles for days on end.

As President-elect, he continued these assaults—such as the one on November 18, 2016.

On that evening, Vice President-elect Mike Pence attended a Broadway performance of the hit musical “Hamilton.”

After the curtain call, the actor Brandon Victor Dixon—who plays Aaron Burr—respectfully addressed Pence:

“We are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our friends, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights. But we truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us.”

Dixon—who is black—was rightly alarmed.

Trump had received the open and enthusiastic support of the Ku Klux Klan, American Nazi Party and other white supremacist groups. Since his election, white thugs had assaulted blacks and other non-whites across the country.

Trump’s reaction to Dixon’s plea came in two Twitter rants:

“Our wonderful future V.P. Mike Pence was harassed last night at the theater by the cast of Hamilton, cameras blazing. This should not happen!”

And: “The Theater must always be a safe and special place. The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thus, without offering a shred of evidence to back it up, Trump accused his predecessor—on Twitter—of committing an impeachable offense.

President Barack Obama

On May 9, 2017, Trump abruptly fired FBI Director James Comey.

Reports soon surfaced that his reason for doing so was that Comey had refused to pledge his personal loyalty to Trump.

Trump had made this “request” during a private dinner at the White House in January. 

Another unpunished violation of Twitter’s Terms-of-Service was about to occur.

LEARNING FROM THE MUNICH DISASTER: PART FIVE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 1, 2019 at 12:05 am

On January 25, 2019—the 35th day of the Federal Government shutdown—President Donald Trump did what no one expected. He caved.

In a White House press conference, he said:

  • Lawmakers would have until February 15 to negotiate a compromise on border security.
  • Otherwise, the government would shut down again.
  • If Democrats did not give in to his demands to fund a border wall, he might use his executive authority to command the military to build the wall instead.

Essentially, he agreed to the same deal he was offered in December, 2018—before he allowed himself to be bullied by Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh into shutting down the government.

For all of Trump’s defiant words, his action was universally seen as a serious defeat—by both his opponents and supporters.

Among the latter was Right-wing provocateur Ann Coulter. Summing up the reaction of his Hispanic-hating supporters, she tweeted: “Good news for George Herbert Walker Bush: As of today, he is no longer the biggest wimp ever to serve as president of the United States.”

On the PBS Newshour, liberal political analyst Mark Shields said: “it was a total defeat for him. And, believe me…there will not be the will among Republicans in three weeks to go back and do this again. Once it’s open, it’s going to be opened.”

His counterpart, conservative analyst David Brooks, agreed: “It is a total—a total victory for the Democrats….If Donald Trump wants bring this on again, [Democrats will be] happy.

“The Republicans are miserable. They never want to come back to where they are right now. And so the odds that we will have another shutdown strike me as low. And it would be—for Trump, it would be suicidally low to—just to try this again.”  

* * * * *

During his years as President, Bill Clinton tried to win over Republicans by supporting measures they liked—such as making it harder for the poor to get welfare via the Federal government. 

In the end, his efforts to win over Republicans convinced them that he was weak. So they tried to impeach him for getting oral sex from a White House intern.

Bill Clinton.jpg

Bill Clinton

Similarly, Barack Obama spent the first two years of his Presidency hopelessly trying to gain Republican support. This only led to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s saying that his goal was to make Obama “a one-term President.”

At least for the moment, Democrats seem to have learned that cowering before bullies only wins you their contempt. As Niccolo Machiavelli warned in The Prince, his classic work on politics:

“From this arises the question whether it is better to be loved than feared, or feared more than loved. The reply is, that one ought to be both feared and loved, but as it is difficult for the two to go together, it is much safer to be feared than loved. 

“For it may be said of men in general that they are ungrateful, voluble, dissemblers, anxious to avoid danger and covetous of gain. As long as you benefit them, they are entirely yours: they offer you their blood, their goods, their life and their children, when the necessity is remote, but when it approaches, they revolt.

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

“And men have less scruple in offending one who makes himself loved than one who makes himself feared. For love is held by a chain of obligations which, men being selfish, is broken whenever it serves their purpose. But fear is maintained by a dread of punishment which never fails.” 

Portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli by Santi di Tito.jpg

Niccolo Machiavelli

At the time of the 1938 Munich conference, a group of highly-placed German army officers were preparing to overthrow Adolf Hitler in a military coup. They counted on France and England to stand firm against the Fuhrer, handing him a major foreign policy defeat.

The officers intended to use that as an excuse to remove him from power—before he could plunge Germany into a disastrous war it could not win.

But when Britain and France surrendered Czechoslovakia to Hitler, his prestige in Germany shot to unprecedented heights. Knowing that overthrowing such a popular leader would be suicidal, the army officers abandoned their plans for a coup.

Convinced of his own invincibility, Hitler recklessly plunged ahead, demanding that Britain and France agree to cede Danzig, a city in northern Poland, to him.  

This time the Allies held firm. The result was World War II.

At least for now, Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats fully understand the lesson of Munich. You must stand up to tyrants—or there will be no end to their evil demands.

The only question is: Will they continue to make use of that lesson—or once again allow themselves to be cowed by a ruthless tyrant?

LEARNING FROM THE MUNICH DISASTER: PART FOUR (OF FIVE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 31, 2019 at 12:07 am

Billionaire Wilbur Ross—the Trump administration’s Secretary of Commerce—had a suggestion for the 800,000 Federal employees made destitute by the government shutdown: Take out a loan.

“So the 30 days of pay that some people will be out, there’s no real reason why they shouldn’t be able to get a loan against it, and we’ve seen a number of ads of financial institutions doing that. 

“True, the people might have to pay a little bit of interest. But the idea that it’s ‘paycheck or zero’ is not a really valid idea.” 

Wilbur Ross Official Portrait.jpg

Wilbur Ross

It was a remark worthy of Marie Antoinette’s reported (but inaccurate) dismissal of the miseries of impoverished French citizens: “Let them eat cake.” 

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives had undergone a massive sea-change in membership. Ending two years of Republican rule, Democrats had won 27 seats in that body during the November, 2018, elections.  

And Nancy Pelosi had gone from being House Minority Leader to wielding the Speaker’s gavel as House Majority Leader on January 3.

Now she blasted Ross’ attitude during a press briefing: 

“Is this the ‘Let them eat cake,’ kind of attitude? Or ‘Call your father for money?’ Or ’This is character-building for you; it’s all going to end up very well—just as long as you don’t get your paychecks?’” 

Nancy Pelosi

Thirty-five days passed, with each one bringing increasing stress and fear to the lives of 800,000 Federal employees—those forced to not work and those forced to work for no pay.

Pelosi, meanwhile, did what many of her Democratic colleagues had long refused to do: She dared to stand up against Republicans’ “my-way-or-else” demands.

“The impression you get from the president is he would like to not only close government, build a wall, but also abolish Congress, so the only voice that mattered was his own,” Pelosi said in an interview on “CBS Sunday Morning.” 

Pelosi, unlike many Democrats, realized this was America’s version of the Munich Conference: Democrats must hold firm against a tyrant’s extortionate demands. Otherwise, every time Trump didn’t get his way, there would be no end to such shutdowns in the future.

From the start, Pelosi insisted that Democrats would not cooperate with threats to shut down the government if Trump didn’t get the $5.6 billion he wanted for a border wall. And Democrats held firm, refusing to make concessions on the wall.

Second, Pelosi publicly stated that she would not let Trump make his annual State of the Union speech in the House of Representatives until the government was re-opened.

Since both the House and Senate must jointly issue an invitation to the President to make such an address, Pelosi’s veto effectively scotched Trump’s appearance. 

For the publicity-addicted Trump, who revels in pontificating to adoring crowds, this was a major blow.

Trump refused to take “No” for an answer and dared Pelosi to deny him access. 

She took him up on his dare and issued a statement saying that the speech was off—until the government re-opened. 

Soon afterward, Trump agreed that the State of the Union address would have to be postponed.

Related image

Donald Trump giving State of the Union address in 2018

As CNN political analyst Chris Cillizza saw it: “What Pelosi seems to understand better than past Trump political opponents is that giving ANY ground is a mistake. You have to not only stand firm, but be willing to go beyond all political norms—like canceling the SOTU—to win.” 

And Julian Zelitzer, another CNN political analyst, agreed: “Pelosi did not hesitate to use her political power aggressively. From the start of this process, she has remained steadfast in her insistence that closing the government was not a legitimate way to make demands for new forms of spending. 

“While sometimes Democrats become leery about seeming too partisan and not being civil enough, Pelosi and the Democrats stood their ground. She drew a line in the sand and stuck by it.”

As Pelosi and the Democrats held firm, Republicans began getting desperate.

  • They were being depicted in the news as extortionists while 800,000 of their fellow Americans suffered.
  • Those businesses that served Federal employees—such as grocery stores and auto repair shops—were being starved of revenue.
  • There was legitimate fear that the entire airline industry might have to shut down for lack of enough air traffic controllers to regulate air traffic. 
  • Worst of all for Republicans, chaos at airports threatened the travel plans of hundreds of thousands of people traveling to and from the upcoming Super Bowl. Most Americans might not know the name of their Senator, but they take their sports fetish seriously.

By January 25, the 35th day of the shutdown, an ABC News/Washington Post poll showed that 53% of Americans blamed Trump for the shutdown. His popularity had fallen to a historic low of 37%. And 60% disapproved of how he was handling negotiations to re-open the government. 

So, on that same date, Trump did what his Hispanic-hating base thought was impossible: He caved. 

He walked into the White House Rose Garden and said he would sign a bill to re-open the government for three weeks. 

LEARNING FROM THE MUNICH DISASTER: PART THREE (OF FIVE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 30, 2019 at 12:08 am

“If we do not have these negotiations over border security with an open government, this president will continue to use this tool. And if we give in, if we pay the ransom now, what will happen the next time there’s a disagreement with this president and Congress?”

Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass.

Republican leaders in Congress didn’t want to be blamed for shutting down the government. They seemed to persuade President Donald Trump to back away from his threat to do so if he didn’t get funding for his border wall.

The Senate passed a short-term funding measure without his wall money. 

Vice President Mike Pence told lawmakers that Trump was open to approving it 

Then the Fox News Network stepped in

Related image

“I think a lot of people who voted for President Trump counted on him on this particular issue,” Fox & Friends host Jedediah Bila said.

“I think their feet were to the fire. And you see a lot of people around the country saying: ‘Hold on a second. You told us that you weren’t afraid to shut down the government, that’s why we like you. What happened? You just gave in right away?’”

And Right-wing columnist Ann Coulter said: “Trump will just have been a joke presidency who scammed the American people, amused the populists for a while, but he’ll have no legacy whatsoever.

“Trump will very likely not finish his term and definitely not be elected to a second term.”

For a man who had “joked” that having a “President-for-Life” would be “great,” Coulter’s words were a nightmare.

On December 22, 2018, Trump shut down the government.

An estimated 380,000 government employees were furloughed and another 420,000 were ordered to work without pay.

And Trump told Congressional leaders the shutdown could last months or even years.

Related image

Donald Trump

For Trump, “the wall” was absolutely necessary—but not to keep illegal aliens out. They would go over, under or around it.

The real intent of the wall was to keep Trump in—the White House. 

Trump’s fanatical base believed that a wall across the U.S.-Mexico border would stop all illegal immigration. And he knew that if he didn’t build it, they wouldn’t re-elect him.

Like Adolf Hitler, who ordered the complete destruction of Germany when he realized his dreams of conquest were over, Trump’s attitude was: “If I can’t rule America, there won’t be an America.”

Among the agencies directly affected by the shutdown: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS)—whose employees included Secret Service agents.

In short: The men and women guarding Trump were facing financial ruin—along with their families—because Trump didn’t get his way

The effects of the shutdown quickly became evident:  

  • For weeks, hundreds of thousands of government workers missed paychecks.
  • Smithsonian museums closed their doors.
  • Trash piled up in national parks. 
  • 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.” Those who showed up to work without pay grew increasingly frazzled as they feared being evicted for being unable to make rent or house payments. 
  • 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.
  • Celebrity chef Jose Andres launched ChefsForFeds, which offered free hot meals for government employees and their families at restaurants across the country. 
  • Many workers tried to bring in money by babysitting or driving for Uber, 

Those employed by the government could at least expect to receive reimbursement for missed pay once the shutdown ended.

The question was: Would they be evicted, need medical care or be unable to pay for food before that happened? 

For Federal contractors, the situation was far worse. 

During the George W. Bush administration, Vice President Dick Cheney pushed to “outsource” many federal responsibilities to private contractors. This was hugely supported by Republicans and even many Democrats.

Now, in the wake of the shutdown, these employees faced a cruel reality: Since they were not Federal employees, they would not be reimbursed for the time they were forced to not work.

Adding insult to injury were the callous remarks of two Trump administration officials.  

“A huge share of government workers were going to take vacation days, say, between Christmas and New Year’s,” said Kevin Hassett, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers.

Kevin Hassett official photo.jpg

Kevin Hassett

“And then we have a shutdown, and so they can’t go to work, and so then they have the vacation, but they don’t have to use their vacation days. And then they come back, and then they get their back pay. Then they’re—in some sense, they’re better off.”

Another equally contemptuous remark was offered by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross—a billionaire. Asked on CNBC if he knew that many Federal employees had been reduced to going to food banks, Ross said yes, but he didn’t understand why.

His suggestion: They could just take out a loan.   

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