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Posts Tagged ‘MIKE PENCE’

THE DISCRIMINATION DOOR SWINGS BOTH WAYS

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 24, 2018 at 9:23 pm

On June 19, Kirstjen Nielsen, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, was heckled by protesters while dining at a Mexican restaurant in Washington, D.C. 

The reason: To protest the Trump administration’s separation of illegal alien parents from their children in detention centers.

Then, three nights later, on June 22, the owner of a Lexington, Virginia, restaurant asked White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave. 

The reason: To protest the Trump’s discrimination against transgenders’ entering the military. 

Those verbally assailing Nielsen shouted:

  • “Do you hear the babies crying?”
  • “If kids don’t eat in peace, you don’t eat in peace.”
  • “Shame! Shame! Shame!”  
  • “In a Mexican restaurant of all places. The fucking gall.”
  • “No borders, no wall, sanctuaries for all.”

On June 23, Sanders tweeted her version of her requested exit: “Last night I was told by the owner of Red Hen in Lexington, VA to leave because I work for @POTUS and I politely left. Her actions say far more about her than about me. I always do my best to treat people, including those I disagree with, respectfully and will continue to do so.”

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Sarah Huckabee Sanders

According to The Washington Post, the Red Hen’s co-owner, Stephanie Wilkinson, got a call from her staff, reporting that Sanders was at the restaurant. Several employees are gay and knew Sanders had defended Trump’s efforts to bar transgenders from the military.

She added that her restaurant has “certain standards that I feel it has to uphold, such as honesty, and compassion and cooperation.”

From her statement, Wilkinson clearly believed Sanders was dishonest, inhumane and uncooperative.

On June 25, President Trump tweeted: “The Red Hen Restaurant should focus more on cleaning its filthy canopies, doors and windows (badly needs a paint job) rather than refusing to serve a fine person like Sarah Huckabee Sanders. I always had a rule, if a restaurant is dirty on the outside, it is dirty on the inside!” 

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Donald Trump

[Trump’s charge that the Red Hen is “dirty on the inside” was—as usual for him—false. 

[According to its most recent state health inspection in February, the Red Hen restaurant had zero violations.

[On the other hand: Florida health inspectors cited Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach with 15 violations in late January, 2017, days before Trump hosted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe there for a diplomatic visit

Nor was this an exception. From 2014-2017, records show the club was cited 78 times for such violations as:

  • Chefs handling food without washing their hands
  • Dirty cutting boards
  • A slicer “soiled with old food debris” and
  • The “accumulation of black/green mold-like substance” in the ice machine.]

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Mar-a-Lago

Ironically, Trump and his followers are responsible for Nielsen’s and Sanders’ evictions. They have pushed legislation allowing businesses to discriminate against anyone they dislike on the basis of “religious freedom.”

On March 26, 2015, Mike Pence, then Governor of Indiana before accepting Trump’s invitation to become his Vice Presidential nominee, 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.

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.

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. Or a hospital can legally refuse to treat gay patients.

Although he praised the bill, Pence signed it in a ceremony closed to the public and the press. 

On the eve of invading the Soviet Union, Adolf Hitler 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.”

Maybe Pence—like Hitler—sensed that he, too, was about to push open “a door into a dark, unseen room.” 

On the day after Pence signed the Act, Bill Levin filed paperwork with the Indiana Secretary of State to register the First Church of Cannabis as a legitimate religious institution. The registration was approved.

By elevating religion above the law, Indiana’s legislators may have enabled Indiana’s Muslims to:

  • 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. (As happened among Somali refugees in Minnesota in 2015.)
  • Demand that police departments cancel counter-terrorism courses by claiming that their materials are anti-Muslim. (As happened to several police departments in Illinois.)

And it was the Trump administration that supported the Supreme Court’s June 4 ruling 7-2 on behalf of a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple. He had claimed that doing so would violate his religious beliefs against homosexuality. 

By championing the rights of businesses to legally discriminate against anyone they dislike—under the guise of “religious freedom”—Trump and his followers have opened a door that they themselves may now be forced to walk through.

IMMUNITY FOR ONE TWITTER TROLL, NO IMMUNITY FOR OTHERS: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, Entertainment, History, Politics, Social commentary on June 1, 2018 at 12:29 am

With one tweet, Roseanne Barr blew her newly-revised TV sitcom to bits—and made herself an outcast from the American Broadcasting Company.

Her mistake: Thinking that she could get away with the same racist, hate-filled insults that her idol, President Donald Trump, has long gotten away with on Twitter.

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.

During his first two weeks as President, Trump attacked 22 people, places and institutions on his @realDonaldTrump account.

Then, on March 4, 2017, 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!”

“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—for pursuing an investigation into Russian subversion of the 2016 election.

Just 72 hours after firing Comey, Trump threatened 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?  Silence.

Trump had no such tapes.

James Comey official portrait.jpg

James B. Comey

On February 17, 2017, Trump used Twitter to attack the Constitutionally-protected free press:

“The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNNis 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.]

Even foreign leaders have been unnerved by Trump’s obsession with Twitter. 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 September 25, 2017, Twitter, Twitter’s top executives justified allowing these repeated violations of “Twitter Rules,” tweeting:

“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.

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 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 have refused to taint their own reputations by partnering with it.

But Twiter executives refuse to end their Faustian pact with the biggest Twitter troll of all.

IMMUNITY FOR ONE TWITTER TROLL, NO IMMUNITY FOR OTHERS: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, Entertainment, History, Politics, Social commentary on May 31, 2018 at 12:09 am

Behind the racism
And the tweet
Behind the venom
And the act
Lies the Hatred.

In less than 12 hours, Roseanne Barr demolished her hit show, Roseanne, and threw the lives of dozens of men and women into unemployed chaos.

A short timeline is instructive:

May 28, 2018  – 1:45 a.m.

Roseanne Barr takes to Twitter and tweets: “muslim brotherhood and planet of the apes had a baby = vj”

[“vj” stands for “Valerie Jarrett,” a former senior adviser and assistant for public engagement and intergovernmental affairs for President Barack Obama. The reference to “planet of the apes” is Barr’s way of comparing Jarrett—who is black—to an ape.]

PHOTO: Roseanne Barr posted a tweet on May 29, 2018 that read, muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj.

May 29 – 6:29 a.m.

“It’s a joke.”

[Apparently, Barr has suddenly realized that posting such a racist, poisonous tweet just might not be a good career move. So she’s trying to defuse the bomb before it can explode on her.]

May 29 – 9:28 a.m.

“I apologize. I am now leaving Twitter.”

[Obviously, she’s really worried now.]

May 29 – 7:33 a.m.

“I apologize to Valerie Jarrett and to all Americans.  I am truly sorry for making a bad joke about her politics and her looks. I should have known better.  Forgive me–my joke was in bad taste.”

[This looks like standard boiletplate, perhaps crafted by someone familiar with corporate-speak.  It’s clear that Barr or someone close to her not only recognizes the public relations dangers of her tweet but made an “I was only joking” effort to deflect those dangers. Barr’s idol, President Donald Trump, has often hurled despicable insults at people—and then claimed: “I was only joking.”  Perhaps Barr believes—or at least hopes—the same tactic will work for her.]

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Roseanne Barr (Pinterest)

May 29 – 9:15 a.m.

Channing Dungey, entertainment president of the American Broadcasting Company (ABC), issues the following announcement: “Roseanne’s Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values, and we have decided to cancel her show.”

Robert Iger, CEO of Disney (which owns ABC) tweets:  “There was only one thing to do here, and that was the right thing.”

This was, of course, not the first time that Roseanne Barr had starred in her own series.  From 1988 to 1997, she had portrayed Roseanne Conner, wife and mother of an Illinois working-class American family.  John Goodman had played her husband.

Their three children (Becky, Darlene, and DJ) were played by, respectively, Lecy Goranson (and, later, Sarah Chalke); Sarah Gilbert; and Michael Fishman.

The series reached No. 1 in the Nielsen ratings, and became the most watched television show in the United States from 1989 to 1990.

The show remained in the top four for six of its nine seasons, and in the top 20 for eight seasons.  In 2002, Roseanne was ranked No. 35 on TV Guide’s 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time

So when Roseanne pitched an updated version of her show to ABC in 2017, the network was naturally excited.

On May 16, 2017, ABC announced that it would revive Roseanne as a mid-season replacement in 2018, with the original cast returning. Eight episodes were ordered. In November, ABC ordered a ninth episode.

The rebooted version premiered on March 27, 2018, to an initial audience of 27.26 million viewers. On March 30, thrilled by the success of its premiere, ABC renewed Roseanne for another 13 episodes.

Thirteen new episodes of Roseanne represented steady work for dozens of men and women:

  • Actors portraying the Conner family.
  • Actors in minor roles.
  • Costume designers.
  • Writers
  • Editors
  • Makeup artists.
  • Caterers.
  • Sound techs.
  • Lighting techs.
  • Production assistants.

Then came Roseanne Barr’s tweet.

And, suddenly, all of these people found themselves unemployed—and uncertain about their futures in the fickle and often unforgiving entertainment industry.

Of course, the person most immediately—and rightly—blamed was Roseanne Barr herself. But she was by no means the only one worthy of condemnation.

A major portion of blame is owed the men who run Twitter.

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….

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.

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

A CHOICE OF MORALITIES

In Bureaucracy, Entertainment, History, Humor, Politics, Social commentary on May 3, 2018 at 12:09 am

Call it a case of dueling offensives.

One took place at the White House Correspondents Dinner at the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C.

The other occurred in a political rally at Washington Township, in Washington, Michigan.

One starred a female comedian known for obscenity-laced humor.

The other starred a President known for brutal, coarse speech.

What both events had in common: Both featured speakers guaranteed to arouse highly partisan emotions.

The comedian, Michelle Wolf, cracked a joke:Of course, Trump isn’t here, if you haven’t noticed.  And I know, I would drag him here myself. But it turns out the president of the United States is the one pussy you’re not allowed to grab. He said it first. Yeah, he did. Do you remember? Good.”

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Michelle Wolf

The President, Donald Trump, had previously made a similar remark: “You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful—I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”

Michelle Wolf:Now, I know people really want me to go after Trump tonight, but I think we should give the president credit when he deserves it. Like, he pulled out the Paris agreement, and I think he should get credit for that because he said he was going to pull out and then he did. And that’s a refreshing quality in a man.”

Donald Trump: “The Democrats don’t care about our military. They don’t. They don’t care about our borders or crime.” 

[This is patently untrue. Democrats routinely vote for increasing the military budget.]

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Donald Trump

Wolf: Trump is racist, though. He 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.”

Trump: “They were saying, ‘What you think President Trump had to do with it?’ I will do you what. How about, everything?”

[Trump is claiming he deserved credit for making possible the April 27  meeting between the leaders of North and South Korea. His only “contribution”: Threatening North Korea with the “fire and fury of nuclear war.]

Wolf: Mike Pence is the kind of guy that brushes his teeth and then drinks orange juice and thinks, ‘Mmm.’ Mike Pence is also very anti-choice. He thinks abortion is murder, which, first of all, don’t knock it till you try it. And when you do try it, really knock it. You know, you got to get that baby out of there.”

Trump: “I know things about the senator I can say, too. If I said them, he would never be elected again.”

[Trump is insinuating he has “dirt” on Montana United States Senator Jon Tester, who opposed the nomination of White House physician Ronny Jackson as Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

[For the record: Trump also claimed to have proof that President Barack Obama was not a United States citizen—a claim he was forced to retract. He also claimed that Obama had illegally wiretapped him during the 2016 Presidential campaign—another charge for which he offered no proof.]

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Barack Obama

Wolf: And, yes, sure, you can groan all you want. I know a lot of you are very antiabortion. You know, unless it’s the one you got for your secret mistress. It’s fun how values can waiver. But good for you.”

Trump: “A woman lawyer, she said, ‘I know nothing.’ Now, she supposedly — you know why? Putin and the group said, ‘Trump is killing us. Why don’t you say you are involved with government so that we can go and make their life in the United States even more chaotic?'”

[Trump is making light of a documented meeting in Trump Tower in June, 2016, starring his son, Donald, Jr., his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and his campaign manager, Paul Manafort—and several Russian Intelligence agents who offered to provide “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, in exchange for—what?]

Wolf: Which, of course, brings me to the Me Too movement; it’s probably the reason I’m here. They were like, ‘A woman’s probably not going to jerk off in front of anyone, right?’ And to that, I say, ”Don’t count your chickens.'”

Trump: “The only collusion is the Democrats colluding with the Russians, the Democrats colluding with lots of other people.”

[Ties between Russian Intelligence agents and members of the Trump Presidential campaign have been well-documented. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is now investigating those contacts. To date, there has not been one documented instance of collusion between any Democrat and Russian Intelligence.]

* * * * *

So take your choice.

Right-wingers have universally branded Michelle Wolf as thoroughly disgusting. They profess to be especially upset by jokes she made about White Hose Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Liberals have chosen Donald Trump as the more repulsively obscene—for his attacks on women, the media, the judiciary, the FBI and Justice Department and the Intelligence community.

The winner of the title Mr./Miss Obscene depends on what you hold most sacred: Words or actions?

SPEAKING TRUTH TO TYRANTS

In Bureaucracy, History, Humor, Politics, Social commentary on May 1, 2018 at 12:04 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, 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.”

REPUBLICANS: KISSIN’ COMMIES: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 7, 2018 at 12:28 am

One year and almost two months after taking office, President Donald Trump remains haunted by “the Russian connection.”   

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 has appointed to office have strong ties to the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

One of these is Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. In 2013, as the chief executive of ExxonMobil, he was presented with the 2013 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.

Secretary Tillerson in March 2017.jpg

Rex Tillerson

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

But during his Senate nomination hearings, Sessions denied that he had had “communications with the Russians” during the campaign. Following this disclosure after he became Attorney General, Sessions removed himself from oversight of the investigation into Russian subversion of the election.

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. That investigation is still ongoing.

And the House and Senate Intelligence Committees launched their own investigations into the same.

On March 30, 2017, Clinton Watts, an expert on cyber warfare, testified before the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. As part of his testimony, he presented a prepared statement on “Disinformation: A Primer In Russian Active Measures And Influence Campaigns.” 

Image result for Images of the seal of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence

FROM WATTS’ STATEMENT: Russia certainly seeks to promote Western candidates sympathetic to their worldview and foreign policy objectives. But winning a single election is not their end goal.

Russian Active Measures hope to topple democracies….from the inside out [by] creating political divisions….

[Their ultimate goals are]  the dissolution of the European Union and the break up of the North American Treaty Organization (NATO).  

Achieving these two victories against the West will allow Russia to reassert its power globally and pursue its foreign policy objectives bilaterally through military, diplomatic and economic aggression.

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. 

On July 22, 2016, Wikileaks released 19,252 emails and 8,034 attachments hacked from computers of the highest-ranking officials of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Early reports traced the leak to Russian hackers. 

At a press conference in Doral, Florida, Trump declared: “Russia, if you are listening, I hope you are able to find the 33,000 emails that are missing—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.

On December 16, 2016, then-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, has 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.”   

On October 19, 2016, Trump’s admiration of Putin became a major target for his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.  

This occurred during their third and last Presidential debate.    

CLINTON: … that the Russians have engaged in cyber attacks against the United States of America, that you encouraged espionage against our people, that you are willing to spout the Putin line, sign up for his wish list, break up NATO, do whatever he wants to do, and that you continue to get help from him, because he has a very clear favorite in this race. 

So I think that this is such an unprecedented situation. We’ve never had a foreign government trying to interfere in our election.

We have 17–17 intelligence agencies, civilian and military, who have all concluded that these espionage attacks, these cyber attacks, come from the highest levels of the Kremlin and they are designed to influence our election. I find that deeply disturbing.  And I think it’s time you take a stand…

TRUMP: She has no idea whether it’s Russia, China, or anybody else.

CLINTON: I am not quoting myself.

TRUMP: She has no idea.

CLINTON: I am quoting 17…

TRUMP: Hillary, you have no idea.

CLINTON: … 17 intelligence–do you doubt 17 military and civilian…

TRUMP: And our country has no idea.

CLINTON: … agencies.

TRUMP: Yeah, I doubt it. I doubt it. 

REPUBLICANS: KISSIN’ COMMIES: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 6, 2018 at 12:17 am

Clinton Watts is a consultant and researcher on cyberwarfare. He has served as

  • A U.S. Army infantry officer;
  • An FBI Special Agent on a Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF);
  • The Executive Officer of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point (CTC); and
  • As a consultant to the FBI’s Counter Terrorism Division (CTD) and National Security Branch (NSB). 

In a statement he prepared for the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, he outlined cyberwarfare measures that Russia used to influence the 2016 Presidential campaign. 

He delivered this on March 30, 2017. Part of this reads as follows: 

Through the end of 2015 and start of 2016, the Russian influence system….began pushing themes and messages seeking to influence the outcome of the U.S. Presidential election.

Russia’s overt media outlets and covert trolls sought to sideline opponents on both sides of the political spectrum with adversarial views toward the Kremlin. The final months leading up to the election have been the predominate focus of Russian influence discussions to date.

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Clinton Watts

However, Russian Active Measures were in full swing during both the Republican and Democratic primary season and may have helped sink the hopes of candidates more hostile to Russian interests long before the field narrowed. 

The final piece of Russia’s modern Active Measures surfaced in the summer of 2016 as hacked materials from previous months were strategically leaked.

On 22 July 2016, Wikileaks released troves of stolen communications from the Democratic National Committee and later batches of campaign emails. Guccifer 2.0 and DC Leaks revealed hacked information from a host of former U.S. government officials throughout July and August 2016.

For the remainder of the campaign season, this compromising material powered the influence system Russia successfully constructed in the previous two years.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump—as both Presidential candidate and President—has steadfastly refused to acknowledge the efforts of Vladimir Putin’s government to ensure his election. 

Consider his exchange about this with Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton during the third and final Presidential debate on October 19, 2016:

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CLINTON: So I actually think the most important question of this evening, Chris, is, finally, will Donald Trump admit and condemn that the Russians are doing this and make it clear that he will not have the help of Putin in in this election, that he rejects Russian espionage against Americans, which he actually encouraged in the past?

Those are the questions we need answered. We’ve never had anything like this happen in any of our elections before.

CHRIS WALLACE: Well?

TRUMP: That was a great pivot off the fact that she wants open borders, OK? How did we get on to Putin?

[After insisting that Clinton wants “open borders” and “people are going to pour into this country,” Trump deigned to address Wallace’s question.]

TRUMP: Now we can talk about Putin. I don’t know Putin. He said nice things about me.

If we got along well, that would be good. If Russia and the United States got along well and went after ISIS, that would be good. He has no respect for her. He has no respect for our president.

And I’ll tell you what: We’re in very serious trouble, because we have a country with tremendous numbers of nuclear warheads—1,800, by the way—where they expanded and we didn’t, 1,800 nuclear warheads. And she’s playing chicken.  

FROM WATTS’ STATEMENT: This pattern of Russian falsehoods and social media manipulation of the American electorate continued through Election Day and persists today.

Many of the accounts we watched push the false Incirlik story in July now focus their efforts on shaping the upcoming European elections, promoting fears of immigration or false claims of refugee criminality.  

They’ve not forgotten about the United States either. This past week, we observed social media campaigns targeting Speaker of the House Paul Ryan hoping to foment further unrest amongst U.S. democratic institutions, their leaders and their constituents. 

As we noted two days before the Presidential election in our article describing Russian influence operations, Russia certainly seeks to promote Western candidates sympathetic to their worldview and foreign policy objectives.

But winning a single election is not their end goal. Russian Active Measures hope to topple democracies through the pursuit of five complementary objectives: 

  1. Undermine citizen confidence in democratic governance;
  2. Foment and exacerbate divisive political fractures;
  3. Erode trust between citizens and elected officials and democratic institutions;
  4. Popularize Russian policy agendas within foreign populations;
  5. Create general distrust or confusion over information sources by blurring the lines between fact and fiction.

From these objectives, the Kremlin can crumble democracies from the inside out creating political divisions resulting in two key milestones:

  1. The dissolution of the European Union and 
  2. The break up of the North American Treaty Organization (NATO).  

FROM THE TRUMP-CLINTON DEBATE:

TRUMP: … from everything I see, [Putin] has no respect for this person.

CLINTON: Well, that’s because he’d rather have a puppet as president of the United States.

TRUMP: No puppet. No puppet.

CLINTON: And it’s pretty clear…

TRUMP: You’re the puppet!

CLINTON: It’s pretty clear you won’t admit…

TRUMP: No, you’re the puppet.

TWITTER ME SOME HATE: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on January 24, 2018 at 12:07 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.  

TWITTER ME SOME HATE: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on January 23, 2018 at 12:04 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.

THE ALLURE—AND PERILS—OF FLATTERY

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on January 16, 2018 at 12:10 am

According to CNN, Arizona United States Senator Jeff Flake will deliver a speech on the floor of the Senate comparing President Donald Trump to former Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

The subject of that speech—to be delivered on January 17—will be Trump’s attacks on the news media.

Among those attacks:

  • On February 17, 2017, Trump called the press “the enemy of the American people.”“The FAKE NEWS media,” he tweeted, “(failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!”
  • On July 2, 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.

“Mr. President,” says an excerpt of Flake’s upcoming speech made available to CNN, “it is a testament to the condition of our democracy that our own President uses words infamously spoken by Joseph Stalin to describe his enemies.

“It bears noting that so fraught with malice was the phrase ‘enemy of the people,’ that even Nikita Khrushchev forbade its use, telling the Soviet Communist Party that the phrase had been introduced by Stalin for the purpose of ‘annihilating such individuals’ who disagreed with the supreme leader.”

Joseph Stalin ordered his critics executed in prison or exiled to Siberia. It’s clear that Donald Trump would like to have that same power.

Joseph Stalin

But that’s not the only similarity that unites the current President and the late Soviet premier.

A second one: Raging egomania.

On December 21, 1949, Stalin turned 70. And millions of Russians feverishly competed to out-do one another in singing his praises.

These celebrations weren’t prompted by love—but fear.

He had lived up to his pseudonym: “Man of Steel.” For almost 30 years, through purges and starvation caused by enforced collections of farmers’ crops, he had slaughtered 20 to 60 million of his fellow citizens.

The British historian, Robert Payne, described these rapturous events in his classic 1965 biography, The Rise and Fall of Stalin:

“From all over the country came gifts of embroidered cloth, tapestries and carpets bearing his name or his features….Poets extolled him in verses, He was the sun, the splendor, the lord of creation.

“The novelist Leonid Lenov…foretold the day when all the peoples of the earth would celebrate his birthday; the new calendar would begin with the birth of Stalin rather than with the birth of Christ.”

Lavrenti P. Beria, Stalin’s sinister and feared secret police chief: “Millions of fighters for peace and democracy in all countries of the world are closing their ranks still firmer around Comrade Stalin.”

Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov: “The gigantic Soviet army created during [World War II] was under the direct leadership of Comrade Stalin and built on the basis of the principles of Stalinist military science.”

Defense Commissar Kliment Voroshilov: “The mighty voice of the Great Stalin, defending the peace of the world, has penetrated into all corners of the globe.”

Central Committee Secretary Georgi Malenkov: “With a feeling of great gratitude, turning their eyes to Stalin, the peoples of the Soviet Union, and hundreds of millions of peoples in all countries of the world, and all progressive mankind, see in Comrade Stalin their beloved leader and teacher….”

Now, fast forward to June 12, 2017.

That was when President Donald J. Trump—also 70—convened his first full Cabinet meeting since taking office on January 20.

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Donald Trump

On June 12, polls showed that only 36% of Americans approved of his conduct. But from his Cabinet members, Trump got praise traditionally lavished on dictators like Stalin and North Korea’s Kim Jong On.

While the Cabinet members sat around a mahogany table in the West Wing of the White House, Trump instructed each one to say a few words about the good work his administration was doing.

Vice President Mike Pence: “It is the greatest privilege of my life to serve as the vice president to a president who is keeping his word to the American people.”

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Mike Pence

Attorney General Jeff Sessions: “It’s an honor to be able to serve you.”

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue: “I just got back from Mississippi. They love you there.”

Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price: “What an incredible honor it is to lead the Department of Health and Human Services at this pivotal time under your leadership. I can’t thank you enough for the privilege that you’ve given me, and the leadership you’ve shown.”

Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao: “Thank you for coming over to the Department of Transportation. I want to thank you for getting this country moving again, and also working again.”

Politicians—both domestic and foreign—have quickly learned that the quickest way to get on Trump’s “good side” is to shamelessly and constantly praise him.

As Trump infamously said during a 2016 interview: “If [Vladimir] Putin says nice things about me, I’ll say nice things about him.”

Some historians believe that Stalin was poisoned by one of his fawning yes-men—most likely Lavrenti Beria.

The time may come when Trump learns that outrageous flattery can hide murderous hatred.

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