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Posts Tagged ‘MIKE PENCE’

BURYING TRUMP–AND STALIN: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on June 10, 2022 at 12:15 am

Sixty years before an American congress failed to remove a ruthless dictator from its midst, a Russian congress successfully removed their own.

For almost 30 years, from 1924 to 1953, Joseph Vissarionovich Djugashvili—better known as Stalin—had ruled as absolute dictator over the Soviet Union. Hallmarks of his legacy included mass arrests, repeated purges, forced mass starvation and the imprisonment of millions.

As many as 20 million men, women and children died as his victims. 

His reign of terror ended only with his death, of a cerebral hemorrhage, on March 5, 1953, at age 74. 

Joseph Stalin

As historian Robert Payne wrote in his monumental 1965 biography The Rise and Fall of Stalin: “The son of an obscure cobbler, he had become during the last years of his life the most powerful man on earth. No emperor had ever enjoyed the power he possessed.

“He had taken the world by the throat, and forced it to do his will. He was one of the world-shakers, and when he died in 1953 it was thought proper that his remains should be exhibited as an object of reverence and worship in the Lenin mausoleum, the holy of holies of the Soviet empire.”

On February 25, 1956, his successor, Nikita Khrushchev, revealed Stalin’s litany of crimes to the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

The speech was the opening shot in Khrushchev’s “de-Stalinization” campaign. He intended to destroy the image of the late dictator as an infallible leader and rein in the infamous KGB secret police. 

The speech gave rise to a period of liberalization known as the “Khrushchev thaw” (1956-1964). During this, censorship policy was relaxed, and for the first time books and articles appeared about the huge network of forced labor camps set up by Vladimir Lenin and reaching its peak under Stalin.   

File:Khrushchov.jpg - Wikipedia

Nikita Khrushchev

Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

Thousands of political prisoners were released, and thousands more who had perished during Stalin’s reign were officially “rehabilitated.”

By 1961, Khrushchev and those seeking to reform the Soviet political system decided to condemn the horrors of the Stalinist decades in a forceful symbolic act.

On October 31, 1961, the body of Joseph Stalin was removed from its honored resting place in the Lenin mausoleum in Red Square. A new grave was dug for him—among the minor heroes of the Russian Revolution. The re-internment took place secretly—at night—without ceremonies. And his name was removed from the mausoleum. 

Historian Robert Payne described that event—and its significance: “A dead god was being transformed into a dead man, a dead emperor was being dethroned, a dead criminal was being executed….

The rise and fall of Stalin: Robert Payne: Amazon.com: Books

But more than a ritual murder was at stake. The Supreme Soviet and the Central Committee, which decreed the punishment now being inflicted on the corpse of Stalin, were now attempting to absolve themselves from responsibility for his crimes. 

“They were saying: ‘We are not responsible, we are casting him away, he is not one of us! He committed such terrible crimes that we will have none of him.’

“For nearly thirty years Stalin had ruled tyrannically over Russia. History, too, was being consigned to oblivion.” 

A series of similar events has erupted within the United States since January 6, 2021.

On that day, thousands of Right-wing supporters of President Donald Trump—ignited by his fiery, lie-riddled rhetoric—overwhelmed police guarding the United States Capitol and occupied the building.

Donald Trump

Their intention: To halt the counting of Electoral College votes that would certify former Vice President Joseph Biden as the next President of the United States.

Since then, Trump’s fortunes have sharply declined:

  • Twitter—whose platform he had used during his Presidency to ruthlessly attack hundreds of people—finally cut off his account.
  • Deutsche Bank, his business lender since the 1990s, announced that it would not continue to do business with him.
  • The PGA of America cut ties with Trump by canceling plans to hold the PGA Championship at his New Jersey golf course in 2022.
  • On May 24, David Perdue, Trump’s chosen candidate for Governor of Georgia, failed to secure the nomination over Georgia Governor Brian Kemp. 
  • A September 2020 AP poll shows that 56% of Republicans want him to run for president in 2024; 44% don’t want Trump to run.
  • A special grand jury will determine whether Trump broke the law by unsuccessfully pressuring Georgia officials to throw out President Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election.
  • New York state Attorney General Letitia James stated in a court filing that her office uncovered evidence that Trump used “fraudulent or misleading” valuations of his golf clubs, skyscrapers and other property to secure loans and tax benefits.
  • Federal prosecutors are investigating fake certificates sent to the National Archives with made-up slates of electors who wrongly declared Trump the winner in seven states he lost to Biden. 

Herodotus, the Greek historian who chronicled the Greek-Persian wars, offers a still-timely explanation of such reverses of fortune—and a warning for those who dare to ignore history:

“Look to the end, no matter what it is you are considering. Often enough God gives a man a glimpse of happiness, and then utterly ruins him.”

BURYING TRUMP–AND STALIN: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on June 9, 2022 at 12:10 am

On January 13, 2021, for the first time in its history, the United States House of Representatives voted to impeach a President—for the second time during his tenure.

On December 10, 2019, Democratic leaders in the House voted to send two Articles of Impeachment to the House Judiciary Committee.

Their purpose: To remove Donald J. Trump from office as the 45th President of the United States.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler read the charges:

Article 1: Abuse of Power: For pressuring Ukraine to assist him in his re-election campaign by damaging former Vice President Joseph Biden, his possible Democratic rival.

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

On January 23, 2020, House Intelligence Committee Chairman and Lead Impeachment Manager Adam Schiff (D-CA) tweeted a prophecy—and a warning: “Donald Trump must be convicted and removed from office. Because he will always choose his own personal interest over our national interest. Because in America, right matters. Truth matters. If not, no Constitution can protect us. If not, we are lost.” 

Adam Schiff official portrait.jpg

Adam Schiff

On February 5, 2020, the Republican-dominated Senate—ignoring the overwhelming evidence against him—acquitted Donald Trump on both impeachment articles: Obstruction of Congress and abuse of power.

Schiff’s prophecy came true on January 6, 2021. On that day, Trump unleashed thousands of Right-wing terrorists on the United States Capitol.

Inside, members of Congress were tabulating the Electoral College votes cast in the 2020 Presidential election.

The winner had been former Vice President Joseph Biden. Trump, seeking a second term, had lost, getting 74,196,153 votes.to 81,255,933 for Biden.

Trump had made repeated—and false—claims of electoral fraud. Yet despite filing 60 court cases seeking to overturn the election’s results, his lawyers had failed to produce any proof of it.

Trump had often “joked” about how great it would be for the United States to have a “President-for-Life”—like China.  Now his only hope of remaining in power lay in intimidating Congress into ignoring the election results.

Inspired by Trump’s violence-charged rhetoric, the Stormtrumpers marched to the United States Capitol—and quickly brushed aside outnumbered Capitol Police.

  • Members of the mob attacked police with chemical agents or lead pipes.
  • A Capitol Hill police officer was knocked off his feet, dragged into the mob surging toward the building, and beaten with the pole of an American flag.
  • Several rioters carried plastic handcuffs, possibly intending to take hostages. Others carried treasonous Confederate flags.

These are some of the high-profile figures who were seen storming the US Capitol

Stormtrumpers scaling Capitol Building walls

  • Shouts of “Hang Pence!” often rang out.
  • Improvised explosive devices were found in several locations in Washington, D.C. 
  • Members of the House and Senate huddled anxiously behind locked doors barricaded with furniture as seditionists tried to break in.
  • Many of the lawmakers’ office buildings were occupied and vandalized—including that of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a favorite Right-wing target.

More than three hours passed before police—using riot gear, shields and batons—retook control of the Capitol. 

Meeting again that evening, members of the Senate and House resumed their vote-counting. In the end, Joseph Biden and Kamala Harris were named, respectively, the President-Elect and Vice-President Elect of the United States.

By the next day, members of the House—especially Democrats—were furious at their near-brush with death. And they were ready to seek retribution on the man responsible.

Their initial hope was that Vice President Mike Pence and a majority of Trump’s cabinet would invoke the 25th Amendment. But hopes for this quickly faded.

A growing number of Cabinet officials began resigning:

  • Education Secretary Betsy DeVos
  • Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao
  • Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf

There was a very real danger there wouldn’t be enough Cabinet members left to invoke the Amendment.  

But making the use of the Amendment even more unlikely was the obvious unwillingness of Vice President Pence to invoke it.

Official White House portrait of Mike Pence smiling. He wears a black suit, red tie, and an American flag lapel pin.

Mike Pence

This despite the fact that he could have been hanged as a “traitor” by the Stormtrumpers only days ago.

(He had likely been spared this fate by his Secret Service detail, whisking him out of the Senate—and leaving other government officials to their own fates.)

On January 11, Democrats introduced a single impeachment article charging Trump with “incitement of insurrection” in urging his supporters to march on the U.S. Capitol on January 6.

They also introduced a resolution that called on Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to the Constitution to remove him from office before January 20.

On January 13, the House met to debate a single article of impeachment: “Incitement of Insurrection.” Its gist:

“Thus incited by President Trump, members of the crowd he had addressed, in an attempt to, among other objectives, interfere with the Joint Session’s solemn constitutional duty to certify the results of the 2020 Presidential election, unlawfully breached and vandalized the Capitol, injured and killed law enforcement personnel, menaced Members of Congress, the Vice President, and Congressional personnel, and engaged in other violent, deadly, destructive, and seditious acts.” 

Thus, the House sought to remove a President who intended to rule as a dictator.

Fifty-nine years earlier, a Russian congress had come face-to-face with the despotism of another tyrant.

DON’T SAY YOU WEREN’T WARNED: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 2, 2022 at 12:11 am

Next to the American flag, Republicans have loudly pledged their loyalty to the nuclear family. 

And Florida United States Senator Rick Scott, in his “11 Point Plan to Rescue America,” is no exception.

Point 8:  We will protect, defend, and promote the American Family at all costs. The nuclear family is crucial to civilization, it is God’s design for humanity, and it must be protected and celebrated. To say otherwise is to deny science. 

In two succeeding sentences, Scott manages to ludicrously contradict himself. First he claims that the nuclear family is “God’s design for humanity.” In the next, he says that to contradict him is to “deny science.”

Here are the facts:

First of all, there is no scientific proof for the existence of God. It is simply a belief.

Second, the nuclear family—a married couple and their dependent children under the age of 18—is a fast-disappearing species. 

A man, woman, and two children smiling outside of a house

Nuclear family – 1955 

Seattle Municipal Archives from Seattle, WA, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

There are currently just 23.1 million American homes with those ‘nuclear families,’ which is the fewest since 1959. So much for “God’s design for humanity.”

Point 9: Men are men, women are women, and unborn babies are babies. 

“Men are men, women are women”: Republicans seek to frighten voters into voting for them by appealing to the fear that “Gays and transgenders are coming for your children.”

Without offering proof, they slander their opponents as “groomers”—pedophiles who befriend children and build their trust, leading to their sexual abuse.  

The truth is that gays don’t prey on heterosexuals but seek out others of their own sexual persuasion. The same is true for transgenders.

Meanwhile, the Republican party has had its own share of closeted pedophiles.

Among them:

  • Josh (“18 Kids and Counting”) Duggar, recently sentenced to 12 years for possession of child pornography;
  • Dennis Hastert, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, who sexually molested four young boys when he was their high school wrestling coach.

Josh Duggar

As for “Unborn babies are babies”: Those who have not yet been born are fetuses. 

While Republicans have waged an almost 50-year war against legalized abortion, they have waged an equally aggressive war against Social Security, Medicare, the Affordable Care Act, food stamps, affordable housing, and aid to the blind and disabled.

In short: They oppose all those programs intended to help those who have been born.

Point 10: Americans will be free to welcome God into all aspects of our lives, and we will stop all government efforts to deny our religious freedom and freedom of speech. 

The Democratic party is not trying to “deny our religious freedom and freedom of speech.” 

On the contrary: It’s Republicans who have crafted laws to turn claimed religious beliefs into a weapon of discrimination.

A classic example: On March 26, 2015, Indiana’s then-Governor Mike Pence signed into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. 

Mike Pence - Wikipedia

Mike Pence

This allows any individual or corporation to cite its religious beliefs as a defense when sued by a private party.

Thus, a bakery that doesn’t want to make a cake to be used at a gay wedding or a restaurant that doesn’t want to serve lesbian patrons can legally refuse to do so.

Republicans have introduced similar “right-to-discriminate” legislation in other states as well—such as Kansas, Arizona and South Dakota. So far, all have failed to win passage.

Republicans claim they want to “get the government off the backs of the people.” But their fixation on regulating the sexual lives of Americans ensures government intrusions of the most intimate kind.

Point 11: We are Americans, not globalists. America will be dependent on NO other country. We will conduct no trade that takes away jobs or displaces American workers. 

This would be laughable except for the bitter truth: Countless numbers of Americans have lost their jobs because their companies deserted the United States for Third World nations like China, Vietnam or Mexico.

There are three reasons for this:

  1. To pay their employees far less than they would be paid in the United States;
  2. To avoid American restrictions on how employees can be treated; and
  3. To avoid enforcement of quality control regulations which ensure that products are safe and effective for use.

Republicans have loudly proclaimed themselves anti-globalists.

But when Donald Trump was President, the Chinese government granted 18 trademarks to companies linked to him and his daughter, Ivanka, within two months. 

In addition, Trump won approval to register three dozen trademarks in China covering everything from bars and hotels to child-care and massage services, raising further concerns over potential conflicts of interest.

From 2005 to 2017, Trump filed for 126 trademarks in China for his business empire. 

Rick Scott is a fierce defender of the former President and his policies. 

As for Scott’s claim, America will be dependent on NO other country”:

Like it or not, the United States can no longer separate itself from the rest of the world.

The ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine has badly affected American imports of grain products from Ukraine.

And the Coronavirus pandemic has led to crucial shortages in goods America has long imported: Medicines, electronics, auto parts, solar panels, toys, air conditioners. 

Thus, this provision—like the rest of Scott’s plan—runs head-on into the ugliness of sheer reality.

DON’T SAY YOU WEREN’T WARNED: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 1, 2022 at 12:10 am

Among the goals of Republican Senator Rick Scott’s “11 Point Plan to Rescue America” are:

Point 4: We will secure our border, finish building the wall, and name it after President Donald Trump. 

There are multiple ways to illegally enter the United States—and thus circumvent a wall on its Southern border with Mexico. 

The United States is surrounded by water on three sides—East, West and South. So anyone with a boat can smuggle illegal aliens into the country at any point along its 12,383 miles of coastline.   

For those who get seasick, there’s a land route available—not across burning Mexican deserts but under them. 

Over the years, officials have found at least 200 tunnels along the 2,000-mile-long U.S.-Mexico border, mostly in Arizona and California. They range from rudimentary crawlspaces to “super tunnels” that cost more than a million dollars and are equipped with elevators, ventilation shafts electric lights, and disguised exits and entrances.

Smuggling tunnel - Wikipedia

Drug tunnel 

U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Many of those who want to infiltrate the United States can simply fly in.

Wealthy and pregnant Chinese women often fly to the United States to “anchor” themselves via a baby born on American soil. The same is true for many Russian women.

And the Number One cause of illegal immigration: Foreigners’ overstaying their visas. In 2017, more than 600,000 foreigners who legally entered the United States overstayed their visas and remained in the country by the end of the year, according to the Department of Homeland Security. 

So a wall is not going to solve America’s problem with illegal immigration.

Point 5: We will grow America’s economy, starve Washington’s economy, and stop Socialism. 

When Republicans promise to “grow America’s economy,” they mean: Remove all government controls from business.

In real-world terms, this means corporations will be legally allowed to: 

  1. Ignore existing laws protecting employees from unsafe working conditions;
  2. Ignore existing laws protecting the environment;
  3. Produce unsafe goods and fraudulent services;
  4. Pay their employees the lowest acceptable wages, in return for the “privilege” of working at these companies; 
  5. Discriminate on the basis of race, sex, religion or sexual orientation; and/or
  6. Pay little or no business taxes, at the expense of communities who are required to make up for lost tax revenues.

Anyone who doubts this need only look at the living standards in “Red”, Republican-governed states such as Florida and Texas.

“Starve Washington’s economy” means: Eliminating programs that Republicans don’t like—starting with Social Security, Medicare and the Affordable Care Act. Anything that benefits ordinary Americans and not multi-billion dollar corporations will be slated for scrapping.

“Stopping socialism” is ludicrous: During his Presidency, Donald Trump’s best friends were Communist dictators: Vladimir Putin (Russia), Kim Jong-Un (North Korea) and Xi Jinping (China).

Trump actually bragged that, after an exchange of letters between himself and the murderous Kim Jong-Un, “We fell in love.”

Kim Jong-Un and Donald Trump

Had a Democratic President made a similar statement, Republicans would have screamed “Treason!” In Trump’s case, they said nothing. 

Point 6: We will eliminate all federal programs that can be done locally, and enact term limits for federal bureaucrats and Congress.  

As for “enacting term limits for federal bureaucrats and Congress”: This is the party that tried to illegally and treasonously overturn the results of a legitimate Presidential election so its candidate—Donald Trump—could remain in office as “President-for-Life” after losing the vote.

Point 7: We will protect the integrity of American Democracy and stop left-wing efforts to rig elections.

Scott’s platform is worth quoting in full on this issue: 

Today’s Democrat Party is trying to rig elections and pack the courts because they have given up on Democracy. They don’t believe they can win based on their ideas, so they want to game the system and legalize voter fraud to stay in power. In true Orwellian fashion, Democrats refer to their election rigging plans as “voting rights”. We won’t allow the radical left to destroy our democracy by institutionalizing dishonesty and fraud.  

Immediately after the verdict of the November 3, 2020 Presidential election was announced, President Donald Trump ordered his attorneys to file lawsuits overturning the results. 

Related image

Donald Trump

  • Throughout November and December, 2020, cases were filed in Wisconsin, Arizona, Nevada, Michigan, Minnesota and Georgia challenging the election results. None were supported by evidence of fraud—as even Trump’s lawyers admitted when questioned by judges. 
  • On November 13, nine cases meant to attack President-Elect Joe Biden’s win in key states were denied or dropped. A law firm challenging the vote count in Pennsylvania withdrew from the effort.
  • In Michigan, Trump’s attorneys dropped their federal suit to block the certification of Detroit-area ballots.
  • By November 21, more than 30 cases were withdrawn by Trump’s attorneys or dismissed by Federal judges—some of them appointed by Trump himself.

Ultimately, from November 3 to December 14, 2020, Trump and his allies lost 59 times in court, either withdrawing cases or having them dismissed by Federal and state judges. 

This is the party that, since November, 2020, has sold a lie to millions of Right-wing Americans that the election was “stolen” from Donald trump.

It is Republicans—not Democrats—who have stopped trying to win elections based on their ideas and are now trying to win them by massive voter suppression. It’s hardly a party to be entrusted with election security. 

DON’T SAY YOU WEREN’T WARNED: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 31, 2022 at 12:10 am

“The militant left now controls the entire federal government, the news media, academia, Hollywood, and most corporate boardrooms—but they want more. They are redefining America and silencing their opponents.

“Among the things they plan to change or destroy are: American history, patriotism, border security, the nuclear family, gender, traditional morality, capitalism, fiscal responsibility, opportunity, rugged individualism, Judeo-Christian values, dissent, free speech, color blindness, law enforcement, religious liberty, parental involvement in public schools, and private ownership of firearms.

“Is this the beginning of the end of America? Only if we allow it to be.”

So accuses Rick Scott, former governor of Florida and now a United States Senator from that state. With the next Presidential election approaching in less than two years, Scott is positioning himself to be the next Republican nominee for that office.

Official Portrait of Senator Rick Scott (R-FL).jpg

Rick Scott

For decades, many dissatisfied voters have argued there’s no real difference between the Democratic and Republican parties.

Obviously smarting from that criticism, Scott aims to show that even if there’s no difference between the parties, there is a difference between him and every other Presidential candidate.

That’s why Scott has crafted “An 11 Point Plan to Rescue America.”

It merits close inspection—because if Scott or someone else with his agenda becomes President of the United States with a united Republican House and Senate behind him, this country will become  entirely different from the one that exists today.

Point 1: Our kids will say the pledge of allegiance, salute the Flag, learn that America is a great country, and choose the school that best fits them. 

Like so many Right-wingers, Scott is apparently unaware that the Pledge of Allegiance was written in August, 1892, by the socialist minister Francis Bellamy. He hoped that the pledge would be used by citizens in any country, not just the United States.

Francis Bellamy

In its original form it read:

“I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

In 1923, the words, “the Flag of the United States of America” were added.

In 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower encouraged Congress to add the words “under God,” to distinguish Americans from “Godless” Communists.

“Learn that America is a great country” conjures up images of the propaganda force-fed to students of the former Soviet Union—and now in Russia. Just as Russians are taught that their military has never fought an aggressive war, so, too, do Republicans want to erase the subject of slavery and its long-term effects on society from American classrooms

Point 2: Government will never again ask American citizens to disclose their race, ethnicity, or skin color on any government forms. 

Republicans have made race—as a source of friction between voters—a crucial part of their electoral campaigns. As far back as 1968, Richard Nixon campaigned on a “Southern strategy”—of stoking white fears of blacks. 

It was this that won Nixon the Presidency in 1968 and 1972 and the White House for George H.W. Bush in 1988.

As blacks have gained in population and political clout, they have been succeeded by Hispanics as the Great Enemy for Republicans.

The top priority for Donald Trump—both as a Presidential candidate and President—was building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. That this would not have stopped illegal immigration meant nothing to him—or his millions of Right-wing followers.

Without a way to track the growth rates of nonwhites, Republicans won’t know how to target their self-declared enemies.

Point 3: The soft-on-crime days of coddling criminal behavior will end. We will re-fund and respect the police because they, not the criminals, are the good guys. 

On January 6, 2021, “law and order” President Donald Trump incited a mob to attack the United States Capitol Building. Inside, members of Congress were meeting to count and certify Electoral College votes for the 2020 Presidential election.

Trump had clearly lost that election in November, yet for the previous two months he had repeatedly and falsely claimed he was the victim of a “rigged” election. His followers, believing that lie, intended to overturn the results of a legitimate election. 

After more than three hours, police—using riot gear, shields and batons—retook control of the Capitol. More than 150 officers were injured in the attack by “law and order” Republicans.

January 6, 2021 coup attempt 

TapTheForwardAssist, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

Even after the failed coup, 147 House and Senate Republicans voted to overturn the election.

Not the sort of behavior calculated to instill respect for the rule of law.

Point 4: We will secure our border, finish building the wall, and name it after President Donald Trump. 

For the vast majority of Republican voters, “building the wall” means achieving 100% border security against illegal immigration.  This is absurd. 

Among the obstacles to erecting such a barrier:

  • The United States/Mexican border stretches for 1,954 miles—and encompasses rivers, deserts and mountains;
  • Environmental and engineering problems;
  • Ranchers who refuse to give up any of their land;
  • Building such a wall would cost untold billions of dollars.

Another problem: The United States is surrounded by water on three sides—East, West and South. So anyone with a boat can smuggle illegal aliens into the country at any point along its 12,383 miles of coastline. 

A DARK, UNSEEN ROOM

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on April 18, 2022 at 12:10 am

Adolf Hitler had a warning for the Indiana legislators who passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

A warning they should have heeded—but didn’t.

It all started on June 22, 1941.

On that date, Hitler ordered his powerful Wehrmacht to invade the Soviet Union.

Less than two years earlier, in August, 1939, he had signed a “non-aggression” pact with his longtime arch-enemy, Joseph Stalin, dictator of the Soviet Union.

Since then, his army had conquered Poland, Norway, Denmark, Holland, Belgium and France.

Adolf Hitler with his generals

Now, he believed, it was time to “settle accounts” with the Soviet Union.

Only there could Germany obtain the “living space” it “needed” for its expanding population.

So at 3 a.m. on June 22, 1941, Hitler once again launched an invasion.

At first, Hitler—no doubt like the Indiana legislators—felt giddy with excitement.

Turning to Alfred Jodl, his chief of operations for the Wehrmacht,  he said: “We have only to kick in the door and the whole rotten structure will come crashing down.”

German soldiers marching through Russia

But soon afterward—almost as if he had just looked into the future and seen that he had none—he told an aide: “At the beginning of each campaign, one pushes a door into a dark, unseen room. One can never know what is hiding inside.”

That certainly proved true for Hitler.

Within four years, he was dead and the Red Army occupied Berlin.

And now the law of unintended consequences may be coming true for Indiana.

On March 26, 2015, its then-governor, Mike Pence, signed into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

This allows any individual or corporation to cite its religious beliefs as a defense when sued by a private party.

In short, a bakery that doesn’t want to make a cake to be used at a gay wedding or a restaurant that doesn’t want to serve lesbian patrons can legally refuse to do so.

Officially, its intent is to prevent the government from forcing business owners to act in ways contrary to strongly held religious beliefs.

Unofficially, its intent is to appease the hatred of gays and lesbians by the religious Right, a key constituency of the Republican party.

The bill was passed overwhelmingly by both chambers of the Republican-controlled state legislature.  And signed into law by a Republican governor.

Indiana Governor Mike Pence 

“Today I signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, because I support the freedom of religion for every Hoosier of every faith,” Mike Pence said in a statement on the day he signed the bill.

“The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action.”

Bill-signing ceremonies are usually highly public events. Governors—and presidents—normally want their constituents to see them creating new legislation.

Yet for all his praise for the bill, Pence signed it in a ceremony closed to the public and the press. The media were asked to leave even the waiting area of the governor’s office.

It’s almost as if Pence sensed—like Hitler—that he was about to push open “a door into a dark, unseen room.” And this may well be the case.

Through that door has marched the First Church of Cannabis. 

The day after Pence signed the Act, church founder Bill Levin announced on his Facebook page that he had filed paperwork with the office of the Indiana Secretary of State.

Its registration had been approved—and Levin was ecstatic: “Now we begin to accomplish our goals of Love, Understanding, and Good Health.

“Donate $100 or more and become a GREEN ANGEL.

“Donate $500 or more and become a GOLD ANGEL.

“Donate $1000 or more and become a CHURCH POOHBA.”

And Levin had a personal comment for the governor who had made it all possible:

“Dear Mikey Pence…

“DUDE!.. keep crapping all over the state.. and I will plant a seed of LOVE, UNDERSTANDING and COMPASSION in each pile you leave.. and it will grow into a big skunky cannabis tree. Crap away Mikey.. Crap Away…”

No doubt many Indiana legislators are furious that their effort to attack gays may have brought legal marijuana to their highly conservative state.

But worse may yet come.

Since 9/11, Right-wingers such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity have warned that Muslims are trying to impose Sharia (Islamic law) on America.

And now Indiana’s legislators, in elevating religion above the law, may have pushed upon that door “into a dark, unseen room.” 

What will happen when Indiana Muslims

  • Claim their right—guaranteed in Islamic religious law—to have as many as four wives?  
  • Demand a taxpayer-funded “halal” non-pork food shelf at free food pantries for the poor? (Exactly this happened among Somali refugees in Minnesota in 2015.)
  • Demand that police departments cancel counter-terrorism courses by claiming that their materials are anti-Muslim? (Exactly this happened to several police departments in Illinois.)

And when they cite the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as the basis for their demands?  

Fasten your seatbelts.  It’s going to be a bumpy nightmare.

SHOWING AMAZING COURAGE–ONCE DANGER IS SAFELY PAST

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

Many “heroes” come out of the woodwork only after the danger is safely past.

First up: Today’s Republicans in the United States Senate and House of Representatives.

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

Yet more than two months after the election, Trump refused to concede, insisting that he won—and repeatedly claiming falsely that he was the victim of massive vote fraud.

Donald Trump

With the Senate due to certify states’ Electoral College results on January 6, Trump pressed Vice President Mike Pence to illegally flip the results of the election to give him a win. Pence refused.

For weeks Trump called upon his legions of Right-wing followers to descend on Washington, D.C. on that day. On December 20, he tweeted: “Big protest in DC on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!”

On January 6, 2021, tens of thousands of Stormtrumpers heard Trump denounce the election. Then they stormed and breached the United States Capitol. They easily brushed aside Capitol Police, who made no effort to arrest or shoot them.

Many of the lawmakers’ office buildings were occupied and vandalized—including that of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a favorite target of Trump and the Right.

Not until nightfall—hours later—did police finally restore order to the capitol.

Missouri Republican Senator Josh Hawley had intended to dispute the results of the 2020 election. As many as 25 Senators and 140 House Republicans had intended to join him. 

But now most of Trump’s longtime Congressional supporters feared they would be tarred—rightly—as his accessories to that day’s outrage. They might even be voted out of office!

Suddenly, many of them found reasons to reject a challenge to the Electoral College votes. 

In addition: 

  • Many of them piously claimed they were shocked—shocked!—by that day’s violence—carefully omitting that by their overt or covert support of Trump’s lies they had helped create the climate for its ignition.
  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell—who had refused to condemn Trump’s efforts to overturn the election result—called the invasion a “failed insurrection.”
  • Senator Lindsey Graham, who had relentlessly defended Trump’s lies and outrages for four years, now dared to admit: “Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are lawfully elected.”
  • Twitter, which for years had ignored Trump’s flagrant violations of its rules against threats and harassment, now found it possible to ban Trump from its website.

Something similar happened in Washington, D.C., in 1954.

From 1950 to 1954, Wisconsin Republican Senator Joseph R. McCarthy terrorized the nation, accusing anyone who disagreed with him of being a Communist—and leaving ruined lives in his wake.

Joseph R. McCarthy

Among those civilians and government officials he slandered as Communists were:

  • President Harry S. Truman
  • President Dwight D. Eisenhower
  • Broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow
  • Secretary of State George C. Marshall
  • Columnist Drew Pearson

Finally, in 1954, McCarthy overreached himself and accused the U.S. Army of being a hotbed of Communist traitors. Joseph Welch, counsel for the Army, destroyed McCarthy’s credibility in a now-famous retort:

“Senator, may we not drop this?….You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

Later that year, the Senate censured McCarthy and he rapidly declined in power and health.

  • Senatorial colleagues who had once courted his support now avoided him.
  • They left the Senate when he rose to speak.
  • Reporters who had once fawned on him for his latest sensational slander now ignored him.
  • Eisenhower—who had sought McCarthy’s support during his 1952 race for President—joked that “McCarthyism” was now “McCarthywasm.”

Fast-forward to July 12, 2012—and the release of former FBI Director Louie Freeh’s report on serial pedophile Jerry Sandusky. As the assistant football coach at Penn State University (PSU), he had used the football facilities to sexually attack numerous young boys.

Jerry Sandusky

But Sandusky was regarded as more than a second-banana. He received Assistant Coach of the Year awards in 1986 and 1999, and authored several books about his coaching experiences.

In 1977, Sandusky founded The Second Mile, a non-profit charity serving underprivileged, at-risk youth.

College football is a $2.6 billion-a-year business. And Penn State is one of its premiere brands, with revenue of $70 million in 2010.

PSU’s seven-month internal investigation, headed by Freeh, revealed:

  • Joe Paterno, head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions, was aware of a 1998 criminal investigation of Sandusky.
  • So was president Graham Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz.
  • In 2001, then-graduate assistant Mike McQueary reported to Paterno that he’d seen Sandusky attacking a boy in the shower.
  • Paterno, Spanier, Curley and Schultz then conspired to cover up for Sandusky.
  • The rapes of these boys occurred in the Lasch Building—where Paterno had his office.

In 2011, Sandusky was arrested and charged with sexually abusing young boys over a 15-year period. 

On June 22, 2012, he was convicted on 45 of the 48 charges. He will likely spend the rest of his life in prison.

On the day the Freeh report was released, Nike—a longtime sponsor for Penn State—announced that it would remove Paterno’s name from the child care center at its world headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon.

ACCOMPLICES TO OUR OWN DESTRUCTION: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 29, 2022 at 12:11 am

On November 3, 80 million voters elected former Vice President Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States.

President Donald Trump had often “joked” that America needed a “President-for-Life.” Now he demanded that he be awarded that title.

Trump refused to accept that verdict. 

Speaking from the White House in the early hours of November 4, he said: “Millions and millions of people voted for us tonight, and a very sad group of people is trying to disenfranchise that group of people and we won’t stand for it.”

For the first time in American history, a President demanded a halt to the counting of votes while the outcome of an election hung in doubt.

States ignored his demand and kept counting.

Next, Trump ordered his attorneys to file lawsuits to overturn the election results, charging electoral fraud.

He claimed:

  • Illegal aliens had been allowed to vote.
  • Trump ballots had been systematically destroyed.
  • Tampered voting machines had turned Trump votes into Biden ones.

Throughout November and December, cases were filed in Wisconsin, Arizona, Nevada, Michigan, Minnesota and Georgia challenging the election results. More than 30 cases were withdrawn by Trump’s attorneys or dismissed by Federal judges—some of them appointed by Trump himself.

For 20 days, General Services Administrator Emily Murphy refused to release $7.3 million in transition funding and Federal resources to the President-elect’s team.

Under the law governing presidential transitions, Murphy was responsible for determining the winner based on publicly available information before the actual Electoral College vote. 

Finally, on November 23, Murphy released the transition funding and resources.

Trump invited two Republican legislative leaders from Michigan to the White House to persuade them to stop the state from certifying the vote.

Nothing changed. 

On December 5, Trump called Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and asked him to call a special legislative session to convince state legislators to select their own electors that would support him, thus overturning Biden’s win.

Kemp refused, saying he lacked the authority to do so.

Top Republicans—such as Vice President Mike Pence and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell—refused to congratulate Biden as the winner. 

None of them branded Trump’s efforts to overturn the election as those of a tyrant.

Just as Germans did nothing to stop Adolf Hitler’s inexorable march toward war—and the destruction of millions of lives and Germany itself—so, too, did Americans seem paralyzed to end the equally self-destructive reign of the man often dubbed “Carrot Caligula.”

Gaius Caligula was “the mad emperor” of ancient Rome. Like Trump, he lived by a philosophy of “Let them hate me, so long as they fear me.”

He ruled as the most powerful man of his time—three years, 10 months and eight days. And all but the first six months of his reign were drenched in slaughter and debauchery.

There were basically three ways America’s slide into tyranny could have been stopped:

First, Congressional Republicans could have revolted against Trump’s authority and/or agenda.

They could have demanded that Trump accept the verdict of the electorate—as every other past President had.

But they didn’t.

Republicans feared that if they openly defied him, his fanatical base would turn on them in coming elections—and end their comfortable reign of power and privileges.

Second, invoking the Twenty-Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

This allows the Vice President and a majority of the Cabinet to recommend the removal of the President in cases where he is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” It also allows the House and Senate to confirm the recommendation over the President’s objection by two-thirds vote. 

The Vice President then takes over as President.

A case could easily have been made that Trump, emotionally distraught over his loss and determined to circumvent the will of the electorate, had been rendered unfit to continue in office.

This did not happen.

Most of Trump’s cabinet rightly feared him. He fired FBI Director James Comey in 2017 and publicly humiliated his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, for more than a year until firing him in 2018. Vice President Mike Pence in particular had set new records for sycophancy. 

Third, the “Caligula solution.” Like Trump, Caligula delighted in humiliating others. His fatal mistake was taunting Cassius Chaerea, a member of his own bodyguard. Caligula considered Chaerea effeminate owing to a weak voice and mocked him with names like “Priapus” and “Venus.”

Gaius Caligula

On January 22 41 A.D. Chaerea and several other bodyguards hacked Caligula to death with swords before other guards could save him.

Trump had similarly behaved arrogantly toward his Secret Service guards. He forced them to work without pay during his 35-day government shutdown in 2018. He also forced them to accompany him to COVID-infected states—both during the Presidential campaign and afterward. Many of them had been stricken with this often lethal disease as a result. 

During Adolf Hitler’s 12-years reign of Nazi Germany, high-ranking military officers tried to kill him at least 42 times. 

The best-known of these attempts occurred on July 20, 1944, when Colonel Count Claus Shenk von Stauffenberg planted a bomb in a conference room attended by Hitler and his generals. Hitler survived only by sheer luck. 

By contrast, no similar plot was aimed at Donald Trump.

ACCOMPLICES TO OUR OWN DESTRUCTION: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 28, 2022 at 12:10 am

“Why are we letting one man systematically destroy our nation before our eyes?”       

It’s a question millions of Americans asked themselves after Donald Trump became President of the United States.

Millions of Germans asked themselves the same question throughout the six years of World War II.

In September, 1938, as Adolf Hitler threatened to go to war against France and England over Czechoslovakia, most Germans feared he would. They knew that Germany was not ready for war, despite all of their Fuhrer’s boasts about how invincible the Third Reich was.

A group of high-ranking German army officers was prepared to overthrow Hitler—provided that England and France held firm and handed him a major diplomatic reverse.

But then England and France—though more powerful than Germany—flinched at the thought of war.

They surrendered to Hitler’s demands that he be given the “Sudetenland”—the northern, southwest and western regions of Czechoslovakia, inhabited mostly by ethnic Germans.

Hitler’s popularity among Germans soared. He had expanded the territories of the Reich by absorbing Austria and Czechoslovakia—without a shot being fired!

The plotters in the German high command, realizing that public opinion stood overwhelmingly against them, abandoned their plans for a coup. They decided to wait for a more favorable time.

It never came.

Adolf Hitler and his generals

Less than one year after the infamous “Munich conference,” England and France were at war—and fighting for the lives of their peoples.

As for the Germans: Most of them blindly followed their Fuhrer right to the end—believing his lies (or at least wanting to believe them), serving in his legions, defending his rampant criminality.

And then, in April, 1945, with Russian armies pouring into Berlin, it was too late for conspiracies against the man who had led them to total destruction. 

Germans paid the price for their loyalty to a murderous dictator—through countless rapes, murders and the wholesale destruction of their cities. And from 1945 to 1989, Germans living in the eastern part of their country paid the price as slaves to the Soviet Union. 

Have Americans learned anything from this this warning from history about subservience to a madman? 

The answer seems to be half-yes, half-no.

In 2016, almost 63 million Americans elected Donald Trump—a racist, serial adulterer and longtime fraudster—as President.

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Donald Trump

Upon taking office on January 20, 2017, Trump began undermining one public or private institution after another.

  • Repeatedly attacking the nation’s free press for daring to report his growing list of crimes and disasters, calling it “the enemy of the American people.”
  • Siding with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin against the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency which unanimously agreed that Russia had subverted the 2016 Presidential election. 
  • Firing FBI Director James Comey for investigating that subversion.
  • Giving Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey  Kislyak highly classified CIA Intelligence about an Islamic State plot to turn laptops into concealable bombs.  
  • Shutting down the Federal Government for 35 days because Democrats refused to fund his ineffective “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. The shutdown ended due to public outrage—without Trump getting the funding amount he had demanded.
  • Trying to coerce Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to smear former Vice President Joe Biden, who was likely to be his Democratic opponent in the 2020 Presidential election.
  • Allowing the deadly COVID-19 virus to ravage the country, infecting (to date) 14.8 million Americans and killing 282,000.
  • Attacking medical experts and governors who urged Americans to wear masks and socially distance to protect themselves from COVID-19.
  • Ordering his Right-wing followers to defy states’ orders to citizens to “stay-at-home” and wear of masks in public to halt surging COVID-19 rates.

And throughout all those outrages, House and Senate Republican majorities remained silent or vigorously supported him.

A typical example:

On June 4, 2020, during 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, Martin Gugino, a 75-year-old peace activist with the Catholic Worker Movement, walked 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. 

On June 9, Trump charged that Gugino was part of a radical leftist “set up.” Trump offered no evidence to back up his slander.

Typical Republican responses included:  

  • Kentucky Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to say whether Trump’s tweet was appropriate.
  • Texas Senator Ted Cruz: “I don’t comment on the 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.”

On November 3, 2020, 81,255,933 Democratic voters outvoted 74,196,153 Republican voters to elect former Vice President Joseph Biden as the 46th President of the United States.

WHEN CRIMINALS FALL OUT, AMERICA WINS

In Bureaucracy, Business, Entertainment, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on March 23, 2022 at 12:12 am

In 1972, warfare erupted the between the two most powerful Mafia families of New York.

On one side: The Corleone Family, headed by “Don Vito” Corleone. On the other: The Barzini Family, whose boss was Emilio Barzini.

Moviegoers flooded theaters across the nation to make The Godfather the highest-grossing film of 1972—and, for a time, the highest-grossing film ever made.

The Godfather written on a black background in stylized white lettering, above it a hand holds puppet strings

Audiences rooted for the Corleones and thrilled whenever a Barzini “soldier” bit the concrete.  And they moaned when Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) was shot and wounded at an outdoor market and Sonny Corleone (James Caan) got riddled by machine guns on a New Jersey causeway.

Why did so many moviegoers feel compelled to side with the Corleones?

One reason was that, early in the film, Don Corleone rejects an offer by the Barzini Family to enter the narcotics-trafficking business.

When speaking with Virgil Sollotzzo, the Turkish drug kingpin backed by the Barzinis, Corleone says: “It’s true I have a lot of friends who are judges and politicians.  And they don’t mind if people want to gamble, or drink, or even pay for a woman.  But they wouldn’t be so friendly if they knew my business was drugs.” 

In short: He simply didn’t want to go to prison.

The other reason so many viewers identified with the Corleones lay in the brilliant casting of their members.

  • Marlon Brando—considered by many the greatest actor of his time—headed the cast.
  • Al Pacino, then an unknown, aroused sympathy as Michael, the Family outsider forced by the shooting of his father to become the Boss of All Bosses.
  • James Caan (as Sonny) is handsome and the defender of his brutalized sister, Connie, against her abusive husband, Carlo Rizzi.
  • John Cazale (as Fredo) is riddled with insecurities and not very bright, won the audiences’ sympathy by his sheer helplessness when compared to his ruthless siblings.

Yet the Corleones—for all their homilies about “honor” and “loyalty”—were every bit as greedy and lethal as their Mafia competitors. They just played the game more ruthlessly—and successfully.

All of which brings us to the current Mafia-like struggle between former President Donald Trump and most of the Republican party.

On February 26, two days after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, Trump said: “The problem is not that Putin is smart, which of course he’s smart, but the real problem is that our leaders are dumb.” 

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Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin press conference

Trump has often told aides that Putin is “a brilliant strategist, and really tough, and really smart and savvy,” and that President Joe “Biden is not up for it.” 

As President, Trump had

  • Derided the value of NATO and traditional global security alliances;
  • Lavishly praised Communist tyrants such as Putin, China’s Xi Jinping and North Korea’s Kim Jon-Un;
  • Threatened to withhold $400 million in aid to Ukraine unless its president, Volodymyr Zelensky, manufactured “dirt” on 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, who had had business dealings in Ukraine; and
  • Publicly took Putin’s word over that of the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency that Russia had intervened in the 2016 Presidential race.

And House and Senate Republicans had repeatedly backed him up—even refusing to impeach him on February 5, 2020, for his attempted extortion of Zelensky.

But now Republicans are singing a different tune.

Former vice president Mike Pence, while refusing to criticize Trump, attacked Putin on Fox News. Through his longtime chief of staff, Marc Short, he said: “No one in the GOP should be praising Vladimir Putin. He’s a former KGB officer and a dictator and a thug. We should be clear about that.”

Mike Pence - Wikipedia

Mike Pence

“Number one, the Republican Party is going to rally around the idea that Putin is a thug and a crook,” Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said in an interview. “I have no doubt that the overwhelming majority of Republican senators see what’s happening to Ukraine is detrimental to our national security and well-being.”

“He’s a thug. He’s a killer,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). “He’s been on the rampage and this will not end well for him.”

Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has confronted Republicans with a series of unpleasant truths:

  • Dictators are enemies of democracy—and cannot be appeased.
  • NATO—which Trump dismissed as “obsolete”—is flexing its strength in response to Russia’s aggression.
  • Despite the wishes of isolationists, the United States can’t ignore the world’s problems. 

With polls showing that Americans overwhelmingly oppose Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine, Republicans face a stark choice:

  • Side with their continuing leader, Donald Trump, who has sucked up to Communist dictators since 2015, or
  • Face the wrath of voters outraged by Russian barbarities against a helpless Ukraine. 

Several Republicans—such as Pence—have attacked Putin without mentioning Trump. But Trump’s embrace of Putin has been so fervent for so long that any attack on Putin must be seen as a repudiation of Trump.

Which, in turn, risks Trump’s calling down the wrath of his millions of followers on those who look to him as the Once and Future “President-for-Life.”

When predatory Mafiosi wipe each other out, honest citizens win. When Fascistic Republicans wage war on each other, democracy wins.

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