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DIFFERENT ENEMIES, SAME GOAL: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 3, 2018 at 4:00 pm

During the 1970s and 1980s, Republicans continue to accuse Democrats of being devious agents—or at least unwitting pawns—of “the Communist conspiracy.”

As late as 1992, President George H.W. Bush and the Republican establishment charge that Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton might be a KGB plant.

George H.W. Bush

Their “evidence”: During his tenure at Oxford University in 1969-70, Clinton had briefly visited Moscow.

In short: Clinton might have been “programmed” as a real-life “Manchurian candidate” to become, first, Governor of Arkansas—one of America’s poorest states—and then President.

Making this charge even more absurd: The Soviet Union had officially dissolved in December, 1991. 

After the Soviet Union’s collapse, Republicans find that accusing Democrats of being “Commies” doesn’t carry the same weight.

So they turn to “domestic enemies” to rail—and run—against: Liberals, blacks, Hispanics, “uppity” women, war protesters, lesbians, gays, and—after 9/11—Muslims.

From 1945 to 1991, it is unthinkable for a Republican Presidential candidate to pay tribute to a Soviet dictator.

But that utterly changes when Donald J. Trump, a “reality TV” host with longstanding financial ties to Russian oligarchs, runs for President of the United States.

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Donald Trump

Trump lavishly praises Russian President Vladimir Putin—and even invites him to directly interfere in the 2016 Presidential race.

The reason for the Trump-Putin bromance is simple: Each has something to offer the other.

Putin wants the United States to ditch the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance, which has preserved Western Europe from Russian aggression since World War II. And Trump has often attacked America’s funding of NATO as a drain on the American economy.

And Trump wants to be President. For this, Putin can supply monies, Internet trolls to confuse voters with falsified news, and even the hacking of key voting centers.

These Russian monies are officially classified as “campaign contributions,” not bribes.

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

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

This is treason—calling upon a foreign power, hostile to the United States, to interfere in its Presidential election.

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

Nor is Trump the only Republican receiving “help” from Putin. A network of Russian oligarchs—all of them answerable to Putin—has been increasingly contributing to top Republicans. 

According to the Federal Election Commission:

One such major contributor is Len Blavatnik, who holds citizenship in both the United States and the United Kingdom. During the 2015-16 election cycle, he proves one of the largest donors to GOP Political Action Committees (PACs).  

Blavatnik’s net worth is estimated at $20 billion. Before 2016, he donates to both Democrats and Republicans in meager amounts. But in 2016, he gives $6.35 million to GOP PACs

Millions of dollars go to top Republican leaders—such as Senators Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio (Florida) and Lindsey Graham (South Carolina)Specifically, he contributes:

  • A total of $1.5 million to PACs associated with Rubio.  
  • $1 million to Trump’s Inaugural Committee
  • $41,000 to both Republicans and Democrats in 2017.
  • $1 million to McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund.
  • $3.5 million to a PAC associated with McConnell
  • $1.1 million to Unintimidated PAC, associated with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. 
  • $200,000 to the Arizona Grassroots Action PAC, associated with Arizona Senator John McCain. 
  • $250,000 to New Day for America PAC, associated with Ohio Governor John Kasich
  • $800,000 went to the Security is Strength PAC, associated with Senator Lindsey Graham.

Another Russian oligarch, Alexander Shustorovich, contributes $1 million to Trump’s Inaugural Committee.   

Altogether, four Russian oligarchs—Blavatnik, Shustorovich, Andrew Intrater and Simon Kukescontribute $10.4 million from the start of the 2015-16 election cycle through September 2017. Of this, 99% went to Republicans.  

As Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell participated in high-level intelligence briefings in 2016. From agencies such as the FBI, CIA and the code-cracking National Security Agency, he learned that the Russians were trying to subvert the electoral process.  

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In October, 2016, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) issue a joint statement: The Russian government had directed the effort to subvert the 2016 Presidential election.

Two weeks later, McConnell’s PAC accepted a $1 million donation from Blavatnik.

On March 30, 2017, McConnell’s PAC accepted another $1 million from Blavatnik. This is just 10 days after former FBI Director James Comey testifies before the House Intelligence Committee about Russia’s efforts to subvert the 2016 election

So, what has changed in the Republican Party?  Essentially nothing.

Its enemies changed—from Russian Communists to American liberals—but its goal remains the same: The quest for absolute power.

When Americans feared Communism, Republicans depicted themselves as the only ones who could be trusted to protect the United States. Big contributions poured in from Right-wing billionaires like H.L. Hunt and Howard Hughes.

But when Republicans found they could enrich themselves and stay in power via Russian “campaign contributions,” they decided: Better Red than un-elected.

DIFFERENT ENEMIES, SAME GOAL: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 2, 2018 at 12:27 am

A CNN headline says it all: “Obama asked question everyone’s been wondering about GOP”

“What happened to the Republican Party?”

That’s the question former President Barack Obama asked at the University of Illinois on September 7.  And he quickly answered it:

“Its central organizing principle in foreign policy was the fight against communism, and now they’re cozying up to the former head of the KGB. Actively blocking legislation that would defend our elections from Russian attack. What happened?” 

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Barack Obama as President

On the surface, it seems the Republican Party has drastically changed. But, in reality, there has been no substantial change at all.

Let’s start at the beginning—in this case, 1932.

Democratic nominee Franklin D. Roosevelt wins election against Republican President Herbert Hoover. So popular is he that he wins an unprecedented four terms—12 years!—in the White House, seeing America through the Great Depression and World War II,

In 1945, Roosevelt suddenly dies in office, leaving Vice President Harry S. Truman in command. He lacks the imperial magnetism and eloquence of FDR, so Republicans assume that 1948 will be a cakewalk for them.

But it isn’t. Instead, Truman wins a second term—and rubs it in by holding up the now-defunct headline, “DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN” for reporters to photograph.

By 1952, Republicans have been locked out of the White House for 20 years. They’re desperate to return—and angry enough to do anything to win.  

They find attacking the integrity of their fellow Americans a highly effective tactic.

During the 1950s, Wisconsin United States Senator Joseph R. McCarthy rides a wave of paranoia to national prominence—by attacking the patriotism of anyone who disagrees with him.

Elected to the Senate in 1946, he rises to national prominence on February 9, 1950, after giving a fiery speech in Wheeling, West Virginia:

“The State Department is infested with communists. I have here in my hand a list of 205—a list of names that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department.”

Senator Joseph R. McCarthy

Americans are already growing increasingly fearful of Communism:

  • Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin has not withdrawn the Red Army from the countries it has occupied in Eastern Europe during World War II.
  • In 1948, the Soviet Union develops—and demonstrates—its own atomic bomb, an achievement U.S. scientists had claimed would not happen for at least a decade.
  • In 1949, China falls to the triumphant armies of Mao Tse Tung.  Generalissimo Chaing Kai Shek is driven from mainland China to the tiny island of Taiwan.

Anti-communism as a lever to political advancement sharply accelerates following McCarthy’s speech. 

Any American can be accused of being a Communist or a Communist sympathizer—”a Comsymp” or “fellow traveler” in the style of the era.

Among those accused:

  • Secretary of State George C. Marshall, who had overseen America’s strategy for defeating Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan
  • President Harry S. Truman
  • Playwrights Lillian Hellman and Arthur Miller
  • Actors Charlie Chaplin, Zero Mostel, Lloyd Bridges, Howard Da Silva, Edward G. Robinson and John Garfield
  • Composers Arron Copland and Elmer Bernstein
  • Physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, who presided over the creation of America’s atomic bomb
  • Actresses Lee Grant, Delores del Rio, Ruth Gordon and Lucille Ball
  • Journalists Edward R. Murrow and William L. Shirer, who had chronicled the rise of Nazi Germany
  • Folksinger Pete Seeger
  • Writers Irwin Shaw, Howard Fast, John Steinbeck and Dashiell Hammett

Even “untouchable” Republicans become targets for such slander.

The most prominent of these is President Dwight D. Eisenhower—labeled ”a conscious, dedicated agent of the Communist Conspiracy” by Robert Welch, founder of the John Birch Society in 1958.

In 1953, McCarthy attacks the leadership of the United States Army as “a hotbed of traitors” and convenes an inquiry through the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

But the hearings backfire, exposing McCarthy as a bullying demagogue. A Senate committee condemns his behavior as acting “contrary to senatorial ethics and tended to bring the Senate into dishonor and disrepute.”

Yet even without McCarthy, Republicans ride the issue of anti-Communism to victory from 1948 to 1992. “Respectable” anti-Communists—like Richard M. Nixon—depict themselves as the only ones who can be trusted to safeguard America.

Republicans hold the White House for eight years under Dwight D. Eisenhower, then lose it in 1960 to John F. Kennedy and again in 1964 to Lyndon B. Johnson.

By 1968, with the nation mired in Vietnam and convulsed by antiwar demonstrations and race riots, Americans turn once more to those who prey upon their fears and hates.

They elect Richard Nixon, who promises to end the Vietnam war and attack “uppity” blacks and antiwar demonstrators—and, above all, “the Communist menace.”

The same strategy re-elects him in 1972.

Jimmy Carter wins the Presidency in 1976 and loses it in 1980 to Ronald Reagan. Republicans hold the White House until 1992.

Reagan doesn’t want to continue the “stalemate” of “containing” Communism. He intends to roll it back. Tensions rise between the United States and the Soviet Union—the highest since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.

American proxies fight Soviet proxies in Afghanistan and Central America, but the world escapes nuclear holocaust.

THE AMERICAN AYATOLLAHS: PART FOUR (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on September 27, 2018 at 12:10 am

On February 18, 2012, Republican Presidential candidate Rick Santorum warned about the “phony theology” of President Barack Obama.

“It’s not about you,” Santorum told supporters of the Right-wing Tea Party in Columbus, Ohio. “It’s not about your quality of life. It’s not about your jobs.

“It’s about some phony ideal. Some phony theology. Oh, not a theology based on the Bible. A different theology.”

What would a Bible-based agenda mean for the country?

The death penalty would be vastly expanded to cover such “crimes” as:

  • Sabbath-breaking: Because the Lord considers it a holy day, anyone who works on the Sabbath must be put to death.  (Exodus 31:12-15)
  • Adultery:  If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife, both the man and the woman must be put to death. (Leviticus 20:10)
  • Fornication: A priest’s daughter who loses her honor by committing fornication and thereby dishonors her father also, shall be burned to death.  (Leviticus 21:9)
  • Nonbelievers: They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and soul; and everyone who would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, was to be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman. (2 Chronicles 15:12-13)
  • Homosexuality:  If a man also lies with mankind, as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death.  Their blood shall be upon them. (Leviticus 20-13)

A modern-day stoning–in Somalia

The Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution—which forbids slavery—would be repealed. 

The Bible not only permits slavery but lays out rules for its practice—such as:

  • When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed at the end of six years as the men are. (Exodus 21-7)
  • However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. (Leviticus 25:44-45)
  • Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. (1 Peter 2:18)

Almost all scientific progress would be discarded, since most of its findings conflict with the Bible:

  • One generation passes away, and another generation comes: but the earth abides forever. (Ecclesiastes 1:4). 
  • This claim is totally contradicted by what astronomers now know about the eventual fate of the Earth: In about 7.6 billion years, the sun will exhaust its nuclear fuels. This will vastly increase its heat and gravitational pull, and at least Mercury, Earth and Venus will be vaporized.

The sun

  • The Bible speaks of a world where physical laws are often violated by the will of God.  Thus, Jesus turns water into wine and raises Lazarus from the dead; Jonah lives inside a fish for three days; Noah dies at 950 years; and demons are exorcised.
  • In Biblical times, mental illness was seen as a manifestation of demonic possession.  Today we know that mental illness has nothing to do with evil spirits.

Laws guaranteeing equal rights for women would be repealed:

  • I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. (1 Timothy 12:10)
  • Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. (Ephesians 5:22)
  • A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. (1 Timothy 2:11)
  • But if…and evidence of the girl’s virginity is not found, they shall bring the girl to the entrance of her father’s house and there her townsman shall stone her to death. (Deuteronomy 22:20-21)

Military conflicts would be fought without regard to the Geneva Convention–as the Israelites did:

  • “You are my battle-ax and sword,” says the Lord. “With you I will shatter nations and destroy many kingdoms. With you I will shatter armies, destroying the horse and rider, the chariot and charioteer. With you I will shatter men and women, old people and children, young men and maidens.  With you I will shatter shepherds and flocks, farmers and oxen, captains and rulers.”  (Jeremiah 51:20-23)

Depiction of the taking of Jericho by the Israelites

  • Samuel said to Saul, “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’” (1 Samuel 15, 1-3) 

* * * * *

Yes, a nation governed by “a theology based on the Bible” would be one far different from the United States we know today.

Since a number of Old Testament practices might lend themselves to easy abuse, this is not a matter to be taken lightly.

THE AMERICAN AYATOLLAHS: PART THREE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on September 26, 2018 at 12:03 am

Bernardo Gui was the chief inquisitor of the Dominican Order during the Medieval Inquisition (1184 – 1230s). 

Gui closely studied the best methods for interrogating “heretics.” He set forth his findings in his most important and famous work, Practica Inquisitionis Heretice Pravitatis. or “Conduct of the Inquisition into Heretical Wickedness.”

Here’s how such an interrogation might go:

When a heretic is first brought up for examination, he assumes a confident air, as though secure in his innocence. I ask him why he has been brought before me. He replies, smiling and courteous, “Sir, I would be glad to learn the cause from you.”

Interrogator: You are accused as a heretic, and that you believe and teach otherwise than Holy Church believes.

Accused Heretic: (Raising his eyes to heaven, with an air of the greatest faith) Lord, thou knowest that I am innocent of this, and that I never held any faith other than that of true Christianity.

Interrogator: You call your faith Christian, for you consider ours as false and heretical. But I ask whether you have ever believed as true another faith than that which the Roman Church holds to be true?

Accused Heretic: I believe the true faith which the Roman Church believes, and which you openly preach to us.

Interrogator: Perhaps you have some of your sect at Rome whom you call the Roman Church. I, when I preach, say many things, some of which are common to us both, as that God liveth, and you believe some of what I preach. Nevertheless you may be a heretic in not believing other matters which are to be believed.

Accused Heretic: I believe all things that a Christian should believe.

Interrogator: I know your tricks….But we waste time in this fencing. Say simply, Do you believe in one God the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost?

Accused Heretic: I believe.

Interrogator: Do you believe in Christ born of the Virgin, suffered, risen, and ascended to heaven?

Accused Heretic: (Briskly) I believe.

Interrogator: Do you believe the bread and wine in the mass performed by the priests to be changed into the body and blood of Christ by divine virtue?

Accused Heretic: Ought I not to believe this?

Interrogator: I don’t ask if you ought to believe, but if you do believe.

Accused Heretic: I believe whatever you and other good doctors order me to believe.

Inquisitor: Those good doctors are the masters of your sect; if I accord with them you believe with me; if not, not.

Accused Heretic: I willingly believe with you if you teach what is good to me.

Inquisitor: You consider it good to you if I teach what your other masters teach. Say, then, do you believe the body of our Lord, Jesus Christ to be in the altar?

Accused Heretic: (Promptly) I believe that a body is there, and that all bodies are of our Lord.

Interrogator: I ask whether the body there is of the Lord who was born of the Virgin, hung on the cross, arose from the dead, ascended, etc.

Accused Heretic: And you, sir, do you not believe it?

Interrogator: I believe it wholly.

Accused Heretic: I believe likewise.

Men like Bernard Gui—and Franklin Graham—do not seek a golden future. They crave to return to a “golden” past—which includes the power Christians once held to forcibly impose their religious beliefs on others.

Among those slated for forced conversions by the Religious Right:

  • Atheists
  • Jews
  • Women
  • Homosexuals
  • Lesbians
  • Non-Christians
  • Liberals

To gain absolute secular power over the lives of their fellow Americans, the Religious Right will support any candidate, no matter how morally despicable. 

During the 2016 Presidential race, evangelicals—and their leaders such as Franklin Graham and Jerry Falwell, Jr.—fervently supported Donald Trump, despite:

  • His being twice divorced;
  • His multiple affairs (including one with porn star Stormy Daniels);
  • His documented ties to Russian oligarchs and Mafia chieftains;
  • His viciousness, greed, lying and egomania.

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Donald Trump and Jerry Falwell, Jr., at Liberty University

And they continue to fervently support him.

They expect Trump to sponsor legislation that will—-by force of law—make their brand of Christianity supreme above all other religions. 

Legislation such as The Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

This was signed into law on March 26, 2015, by Mike Pence, then Governor of Indiana.

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 violate their 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.

Thus, a bakery that doesn’t want to make a cake for a gay wedding or a restaurant that doesn’t want to serve lesbian patrons now has the legal right to refuse to do so.

And a hospital can legally turn away a gay patient if it wants to.

Islamic countries are notorious for their persecution of non-Muslims. Now the Religious Right wants to impose its own version of sharia law on American citizens.

THE AMERICAN AYATOLLAHS: PART TWO (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on September 25, 2018 at 12:23 am

American Right-wing elements relentlessly claimed that President Barack Obama was waging “a war on religion.”

GOP candidates like Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney intended to make this a major theme of their respective campaigns for President.

Obama supported a woman’s right

  • to obtain abortion—including in cases of rape and incest;
  • to obtain birth control; and
  • to obtain amniocentesis (pre-natal testing).

By promoting women’s rights, Obama was “waging a war against religion”—according to American fascists.”

Since access to such medical procedures as birth control and pre-natal testing has long been entirely legal, what’s all the fuss about?

It’s simple: The Right is not waging a “war for religious liberty.”

It’s waging a bitter struggle to establish a government that uses force or the threat of it to impose reactionary religious beliefs on religionists who do not share such religious beliefs.

And on atheists or agnostics, who share none at all.

These Rightists and their theocratic allies have less in common with Jesus Christ than with Tomas de Torquemada (1420 – 1498), the infamous Grand Inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition.

Christ never ordered the torture or death of anyone. Torquemada—claiming to act in “defense” of the Roman Catholic Church—presided over the deaths of at least 2,000 “heretics.”

Tomas de Torquemada

Nor did these unfortunate victims of religious fanaticism meet their death quickly or painlessly. They died by perhaps the cruelest means possible—by being burned alive at the stake.

Torquemada didn’t hesitate to pronounce someone a heretic. He “knew” who such people were. They were Jews, Muslims, atheists. They were “lapsed Catholics” who, in his view, failed to show fervent devotion to the religious authorities—like himself—who tyrannically ruled their lives.

For such people, Torquemada believed, the only road to salvation lay in being “cleansed” of their sins. And nothing burns away impurities like fire.

But before the fire-stakes came the fire-mindset: The arrogance of “knowing” who qualified as “saved” and who would be forever “damned.”

Unless, of course, his or her soul had been “purified” by fire.

“Heretic” burned at the stake

Fundamentalist Christians can no longer sentence “heretics” to the stake.

But the mindset that ruled the Spanish Inquisition has not disappeared. It has been vividly displayed by no less a religious authority than Franklin Graham, son of America’s most famous preacher, Billy Graham.

Franklin Graham

Appearing on the MSNBC program, “Morning Joe,” on February 21, 2012, Graham was asked if he thought that Barack Obama, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney qualified as Christians.

On Obama: “Islam sees him as a son of Islam… I can’t say categorically that [Obama is not Muslim] because Islam has gotten a free pass under Obama.”

On Santorum: “I think so. His values are so clear on moral issues. No question about it… I think he’s a man of faith.”

On Gingrich: “I think Newt Gingrich is a Christian, at least he told me he is.”

On Romney: “Most Christians would not recognize Mormons as part of the Christian faith. They believe in Jesus Christ. They have a lot of other things they believe in too, that we don’t accept, theologically.”

Thus, Graham pronounced as “saved” a notorious multiple-adulterer like Gingrich. He also gave a pass to Santorum, who married a woman who had lived “in sin” with an abortionist for six years.

But he unhesitatingly damned a longtime churchgoer like Obama or a devout Mormon like Romney (whose faith, most evangelicals like Graham believe, is actually a non-Christian cult).

Six years later, in 2018, Graham defended President Donald Trump, a notorious womanizer and multiple-adulterer, against charges that, in 2006, he had slept with porn star Stormy Daniels.  

“I believe at 70 years of age the president is a much different person today than he was four years ago, five years ago, 10 years ago. He is not President Perfect.”

This differs greatly from his position on President Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky: “If he will lie to or mislead his wife and daughter, those with whom he is most intimate, what will prevent him from doing the same to the American public?”

It’s easy to imagine Graham transported to the French city of Toulouse in the 14th century. And to imagine him wearing the robes of Bernardo Gui, the chief inquisitor of the Dominican Order during the Medieval Inquisition (1184 – 1230s).

Bernardo Gui

Gui closely studied the best methods for interrogating “heretics.” He set forth his findings in his most important and famous work, Practica Inquisitionis Heretice Pravitatis. or “Conduct of the Inquisition into Heretical Wickedness.”

In this, he offered a vivid example of how such an interrogation might go. The following is taken from that manual:

When a heretic is first brought up for examination, he assumes a confident air, as though secure in his innocence. I ask him why he has been brought before me. He replies, smiling and courteous, “Sir, I would be glad to learn the cause from you.” 

This is not a dialogue between equals. The Inquisitor literally holds the power of life or agonizing death over the man or woman he is interrogating.

THE AMERICAN AYATOLLAHS: PART ONE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on September 24, 2018 at 12:08 am

Hamza Kashgari, a 23-year-old columnist in Saudi Arabia, decided to celebrate the birthday of the Islamic prophet Muhammed in a truly unique way.

Hamza Kashgar

In early February, 2012, he posted on Twitter a series of mock conversations between himself and Muhammad:

“On your birthday, I will say that I have loved the rebel in you, that you’ve always been a source of inspiration to me, and that I do not like the halos of divinity around you. I shall not pray for you.”

“On your birthday, I find you wherever I turn. I will say that I have loved aspects of you, hated others, and could not understand many more.”

“On your birthday, I shall not bow to you. I shall not kiss your hand. Rather, I shall shake it as equals do, and smile at you as you smile at me. I shall speak to you as a friend, no more.”

“No Saudi women will go to hell, because it’s impossible to go there twice.”

The tweets sparked some 30,000 infuriated responses. Many Islamic clerics demanded that he face execution for blasphemy.

Kashgari posted an apology tweet: “I deleted my previous tweets because…I realized that they may have been offensive to the Prophet and I don’t want anyone to misunderstand.”

Soon afterward, Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, then King of Saudi Arabia, ordered his arrest.

King Abdullah bin Abdul al-Saud January 2007.jpg

Saudi King King Abdullah 

Kashgari fled to Malaysia, another majority-Muslim country. He was quickly arrested by police as he passed through Kuala Lumpur international airport. Three days later, he was deported to Saudi Arabia.

Human rights groups feared that he would be executed for blasphemy, a capitol offense in Saudi Arabia.

After nearly two years in prison, Kashgari was freed on October 29, 2013. Kashgari used Twitter to inform his supporters of his release.

Outrageous? By Western standards, absolutely.

Clearly there is no tolerence in Saudi Arabia for the freedoms of thought and expression that Americans take for granted.

Meanwhile, Right-wing American ayatollahs are working overtime to create just that sort of society—where theocratic despotism rules the most intimate aspects of our lives.

One of these is the former GOP Presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Rick Santorum. In early January, 2012, he said that states should have the right to outlaw birth control without the interference of the Supreme Court.

Rick Santorum

In an interview with ABC News, Santorum said he opposed the Supreme Court’s ruling that made birth control legal:

“The state has a right to do that [ban contraception]. I have never questioned that the state has a right to do that. It is not a Constitutional right. The state has the right to pass whatever statutes they have.

“That’s the thing I have said about the activism of the Supreme Court—they are creating rights, and it should be left up to the people to decide.”

In the landmark 1965 decision, Griswold v. Connecticut, the Court struck down a law that made it a crime to sell contraceptives to married couples. The Constitution, ruled the Justices, protected a right to privacy.

Two years later, in Eisenstadt v. Baird, the Court extended Griswold by striking down a law banning the sale of contraceptives to unmarried couples.

Santorum has left no doubt as to where he stands on contraception. On October 19, 2011, he said:

“One of the things I will talk about that no President has talked about before is I think the dangers of contraception in this country, the whole sexual libertine idea. Many in the Christian faith have said, ‘“Well, that’s okay. Contraception’s okay.’

“It’s not okay because it’s a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be. They’re supposed to be within marriage, they are supposed to be for purposes that are, yes, conjugal, but also…procreative.

“That’s the perfect way that a sexual union should happen. We take any part of that out, we diminish the act….And all of a sudden, it becomes deconstructed to the point where it’s simply pleasure.”

“How things are supposed to be”—according to Right-wing fanatics like Santorum and the evangelicals who support them.

Like the Saudi religious religious zealots who demand the death of a “blasphemer,” they demand that their religious views should govern everyone. That means Jews, Catholics, Islamics, atheists and agnostics.

American Christian fundamentalists and Islamic fundamentalists fervently agree on the following:

  • Women should have fewer rights than men.
  • Abortion should be illegal.
  • There should be no separation between church and state.
  • Religion should be taught in school.
  • Religious doctrine trumps science.
  • Government should be based on religious doctrine.
  • Homosexuality should be outlawed.

The important difference—for Americans who value their freedom—is this:

The United States has a Supreme Court that can—and does—overturn laws that threaten civil liberties. Laws that GOP Presidential candidates clearly want to revive and force on those who don’t share their peculiar religious views.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

The same holds true—in a democracy—for candidates who seek dictatorial power over their fellow citizens. Don’t give them your consent.

STALIN IN THE WHITE HOUSE: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on May 17, 2018 at 12:00 am

On May 10, The Hill reported that White House Special Assistant Kelly Sadler had joked derisively about Arizona United States Senator John McCain.

Aware that the 81-year-old McCain was dying of brain cancer, Sadler joked to intimates about the Senator’s opposition to Gina Haspel as CIA director: “It doesn’t matter. He’s dying anyway.”

Leaked to CNN by an anonymous White House official, Sadler’s remark touched off a furor of criticism—and demands for her firing.

But the Trump White House refused to apologize for the remark.

Then, on May 14, President Donald Trump registered his fury—not at Sadler but at whoever had leaked her joke to the media:

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Donald Trump

“The so-called leaks coming out of the White House are a massive over exaggeration put out by the Fake News Media in order to make us look as bad as possible,” Trump tweeted. “With that being said, leakers are traitors and cowards, and we will find out who they are!”

Then, Trump ordered an all-out investigation to find the joke-leaker.

In January, the White House had banned the use of personal cell phones in the West Wing. The official reason: National security.

The real reason: To stop staffers from leaking to reporters.

Officials now have two choices:

  1. Leave their cell phones in their cars, or,
  2. When they arrive for work, deposit them in lockers installed at West Wing entrances. They can reclaim their phones when they leave.

Several staffers huddle around the lockers throughout the day, checking messages they have missed. The lockers buzz and chirp constantly from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

More ominously, well-suited men roam the halls of the West Wing, carrying devices that pick up signals from phones that aren’t government-issued. “Did someone forget to put their phone away?” one of the men will ask if such a device is detected. If no one says they have a phone, the detection team start searching the room.

Image result for images of cell phone detectors on Youtube

Phone detector

The devices can tell which type of phone is in the room.

This is the sort of behavior Americans have traditionally—and correctly—associated with dictatorships

In his memo outlining the policy, Chief of Staff John Kelly warned that anyone who violated the phone ban could be punished, including “being indefinitely prohibited from entering the White House complex.”

Yet even these draconian methods may not end White House leaks.

White House officials still speak with reporters throughout the day and often air their grievances, whether about annoying colleagues or competing policy priorities.

Aides with private offices sometimes call reporters on their desk phones. Others get their cell phones and call or text reporters during lunch breaks.

According to an anonymous White House source: “The cellphone ban is for when people are inside the West Wing, so it really doesn’t do all that much to prevent leaks. If they banned all personal cellphones from the entire [White House] grounds, all that would do is make reporters stay up later because they couldn’t talk to their sources until after 6:30 pm.”

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Other sources believe that leaks won’t end unless Trump starts firing staffers. But there is always the risk of firing the wrong people. Thus, to protect themselves, those who leak might well accuse tight-lipped co-workers.

Within the Soviet Union (especially during the reign of Joseph Stalin) fear of secret police surveillance was widespread—and absolutely justified.

Among the methods used to keep conversations secret:

  • Turning on the TV or radio to full volume.
  • Turning on a water faucet at full blast.
  • Turning the dial of a rotary phone to the end—and sticking a pencil in one of the small holes for numbers.
  • Standing six to nine feet away from the hung-up receiver.
  • Going for “a walk in the woods.” 
  • Saying nothing sensitive on the phone.

The secret police (known as the Cheka, the NKVD, the MGB, the KGB, and now the FSB) operated on seven working principles:

  1. Your enemy is hiding.
  2. Start from the usual suspects.
  3. Study the young.
  4. Stop the laughing.
  5. Rebellion spreads like wildfire.
  6. Stamp out every spark.
  7. Order is created by appearance.

Trump has always ruled through bribery and fear. He’s bought off (or tried to) those who might cause him trouble—like porn actress Stormy Daniels. And he’s threatened or filed lawsuits against those he couldn’t or didn’t want to bribe—such as contractors who have worked on various Trump properties. 

But Trump can’t buy the loyalty of employees working in an atmosphere of hostility—which breeds resentment and fear. And some of them are taking revenge by sharing with reporters the latest crimes and follies of the Trump administration.

The more Trump wages war on the “cowards and traitors” who work most closely with him, the more some of them will find opportunities to strike back. This will inflame Trump even more—and lead him to seek even more repressive methods against his own staffers. 

This is a no-win situation for Trump.

The results will be twofold:

  1. Constant turnovers of staffers—with their replacements having to undergo lengthy background checks before coming on; and
  2. Continued leaking of embarrassing secrets by resentful employees who stay.

STALIN IN THE WHITE HOUSE: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on May 16, 2018 at 12:08 am

It’s perhaps the most famous—and most widely quoted—part of The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli’s classic work on gaining political power:

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

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

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

But Machiavelli immediately follows this up with a warning about the abuses of fear:

“Still, a prince should make himself feared in such a way that if he does not gain love, he at any rate avoids hatred: for fear and the absence of hatred may well go together….”

Niccolo Machiavelli

It’s a warning that someone should have given President Donald Trump long ago.

Not that he would have heeded it.

On May 10, The Hill reported that White House Special Assistant Kelly Sadler had joked derisively about Arizona United States Senator John McCain.

McCain, a Navy pilot during the Vietnam war, was shot down over Hanoi on October 26, 1967, and captured. He spent five and a half years as a POW in North Vietnam—and was often brutally tortured. He wasn’t released until March 14, 1973.

Recently, he had opposed the nomination of Gina Haspel as director of the CIA.

The reason: In 2002, Haspel had operated a “black” CIA site in Thailand where Islamic terrorists were often waterboarded to make them talk. 

For John McCain, waterboarding was torture, even if it didn’t leave its victims permanently scarred and disabled. 

Aware that the 81-year-old McCain was dying of brain cancer, Sadler joked to intimates about the Senator’s opposition to Haspel: “It doesn’t matter. He’s dying anyway.”

John McCain's official Senate portrait, taken in 2009

John McCain

Leaked to CNN by an anonymous White House official, Sadler’s remark sparked fierce criticism—and demands for her firing.

McCain’s daughter, Meghan, said on the ABC talk show, “The View”: “Kelly, here’s a little news flash … we’re all dying. I’m dying, you’re dying, we’re all dying. And I want to say, since my dad has been diagnosed … I really feel like I understand the meaning of life, and it is not how you die, it’s how you live.”

Others were equally outraged. South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a close friend of McCain, said: “Ms. Sadler, may I remind you that John McCain has a lot of friends in the United States Senate on both sides of the aisle. Nobody is laughing in the Senate.”

“People have wondered when decency would hit rock bottom with this administration. It happened yesterday,” said former Vice President Joe Biden.

“John McCain makes America great. Father, grandfather, Navy pilot, POW hero bound by honor, an incomparable and irrepressible statesman. Those who mock such greatness only humiliate themselves and their silent accomplices,” tweeted former Massachusetts governor and 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

And how has the Trump White House responded to this bipartisan fury?

Officially, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders refused to confirm or deny Sadler’s joke: “I’m not going to get into a back and forth because people want to create issues of leaked staff meetings.”

Unofficially, Sanders was furious—not at the joke about a dying man, but that someone had leaked it. After assailing the White House communications team, she pouted: “I am sure this conversation is going to leak, too. And that’s just disgusting.”

SarahHuckabeeSanders.jpg

Sarah Huckabee Sanders

No apology has been offered by any official at the White House—including President Trump.

In fact, Senior White House communications adviser Mercedes Schlapp reportedly expressed her support for Sadler: “I stand with Kelly Sadler.”

On May 11—the day after Sadler’s comment was reported—reporters asked Sanders if the tone set by Trump had caused Sadler to feel comfortable in telling such a joke.

“Certainly not!” predictably replied Sanders, adding: “We have a respect for all Americans, and that is what we try to put forward in everything we do, but in word and in action, focusing on doing things that help every American in this country every single day.”

On May 14 Trump revealed his “respect” for “all Americans”—especially those working in the White House.

“The so-called leaks coming out of the White House are a massive over exaggeration put out by the Fake News Media in order to make us look as bad as possible,” Trump tweeted.

“With that being said, leakers are traitors and cowards, and we will find out who they are!”

In a move that Joseph Stalin would have admired, Trump ordered an all-out investigation to find the joke-leaker.

FOR REPUBLICANS: A WARNING ABOUT CLASS WARFARE

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 26, 2018 at 12:07 am

A 2012 book offers timely advice for Republicans who believe that serving the interests of the wealthiest 1% will maintain their party in power.

It’s Confront and Conceal: Obama’s Secret Wars and Surprising use of American Power, by David E. Sanger, the chief Washington correspondent for The New York Times.

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Divided into five sections, it dramatically covers the following subjects:

Afghanistan and Pakistan – How Obama sought to disengage from the former while readying plans to occupy the latter should its growing nuclear arsenal pose a threat to America.

Iran – To prevent the Iranians from building nuclear weapons, Obama authorized a malevolent virus to be inserted into that nation’s computer system.

Drones and Cyber – American drone attacks have wiped out much of Al Qaeda’s leadership—but increasingly strained U.S. relations with Pakistan.  And while America has launched cyber attacks on Iran, it remains vulnerable to similar attacks—especially by China.

Arab Spring – America was totally surprised by the popular revolts sweeping the Arab world.  And Obama had to balance  showing support for the revolutionaries against jeopardizing America’s longtime Arab—and dictatorial—allies.

China and North Korea – The United States found itself financially strained to meet its worldwide military commitments.  This forced Obama to use a both persuasion and containment against both these potential adversaries.

And in its section on the Arab Spring, there is an unintended warning to Republicans and their Right-wing followers.

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David Sanger (Copyright, Creative Commons)

Sanger analyzes why the vast majority of Egyptians felt no solidarity with Hosni Mubarak, the general/dictator who ruled Egypt from 1981 ti 2911. 

Mubarak came to power after Islamic fundamentalists assassinated President Anwar Sadat during a military review. They believed that Sadat had committed the unpardonable crime of signing a peace treaty with Israel.

Mubarack often warned Washington that only he could prevent Egypt from being dominated by fundamentalist, anti-American groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood.

But, writes Sanger, he achieved the very opposite:

“By leaving his citizens without a social safety net, by failing to invest in the country’s crumbling infastructure…he paved the way for the Brotherhood’s success….

“In a land where the state delivers so little, even the smallest [medical] clinic” as provided by the Brotherhood “will win respect and loyalty.

“So when it came time to vote, most Egyptians decided to cast their ballots for candidates they knew could provide something—Islamist or not, it almost didn’t matter….”

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Hosni Mubarak (Copyright, Presidenza della Repubblica)

One such Brotherhood supporter, who grew up in the poor, agricultural region of Beni Suef, was quoted as saying:

“The Muslim Brotherhood came into my village, and brought lorries of fruits and vegetables,” selling them at discounted prices.  “They supported medical clinics”–and thus won the hearts of the people they served.

Fast forward to Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican Presidential nominee, and his vision for America.

As Romney saw it, questions about Wall Street scandals and income inequality were driven only by “envy.”

On January 11, 2012, after winning the New Hampshire primary, Romney appeared on NBC’s “The Today Show.”  Host Matt Lauer noted that many Americans were concerned “about the distribution of wealth and power in this country.”

“I think it’s about envy,” replied Romney, whose own fortune has been conservatively estimated at $250 million. “I think it’s about class warfare.

“I think when you have a president encouraging the idea of dividing America based on 99 percent versus one percent… you’ve opened up a whole new wave of approach in this country which is entirely inconsistent with the concept of ‘one nation under God.’”

Romney added that it wasn’t necessary to have a public debate about the inequality of wealth distribution in this country.

“I think it’s fine to talk about those things in quiet rooms and discussions about tax policy and the like,” Romney said. “But the President has made this part of his campaign rally.

“Everywhere he goes we hear him talking about millionaires and billionaires and executives and Wall Street. It’s a very envy-oriented, attack-oriented approach and I think it’ll fail.”

Romney did not mention that, in 2007, the richest 1% of the American populace—of which he is a member—owned 34.6% of the country’s total wealth, and the next 19% owned 50.5%.

Thus, the top 20% of Americans owned 85% of the country’s wealth and the bottom 80% of the population owned 15%.

Romney claimed that Obama’s focus on this issue was just “part of his campaign rally.”

Clearly, now-ousted rulers like Mubarak and Muammar Quaddaffi believed “it’s fine to talk about these things” like vast differences in wealth “in quiet rooms.”  That is, so long as they and their 1% rich supporters were doing the talking.

But over time their remoteness from the vast majority of their impoverished fellow citizens sealed their doom.  When enough people broke into open revolt, even the military decided to change sides.

Mubarack was forced to resign, and Quaddaffi—after waging war against his own people—was captured and murdered.

If Romney’s—and now Donald Trump’s—vision of “everything for the 1%” is allowed to prevail, they and their ultra-privileged supporters may truly learn the lessons of class warfare.  

ANN COULTER: HE’S NOT MY FUHRER

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on April 23, 2018 at 12:17 am

On November 6, 2012, Ann Coulter, the Right-wing activist and propagandist, was devastated by the re-election of President Barack Obama. 

“People are suffering. The country is in disarray,” she whined during an interview. “If Mitt Romney [the Republican Presidential nominee] cannot win in this economy, then the tipping point has been reached. We have more takers than makers and it’s over. There is no hope.”

Mitt Romney

So, naturally, Coulter and her fellow Rightists felt dejected.   

But by 2016, Coulter no longer felt dismayed. She felt rejuvenated—for she had found her perfect Presidential candidate: Donald Trump.

Appearing on the Right-wing radio program, “The Eric Metaxes Show,” she said: “It is like the fall of Rome but, thank God, and I am not using the Lord’s name in vain, I mean that absolutely literally, thank God for raising up Donald Trump and giving us a chance to save the country.

Donald Trump

“What is the point of talking about abortion or anything else unless you get Donald Trump in to build the wall, deport illegals, end this ‘anchor baby’ nonsense, stop importing 100,000 Muslims a year, in addition to two million Third Worlders per year. It’s madness what this country has been doing.” 

Coulter not only spoke on Trump’s behalf–she sang his praises in a 2016 book: In Trump We Trust: E Pluribus Awesome!

Ann Coulter (Gage Skidmore photo)

According to its dust jacket: “[Ann Coulter] argues that a bull in the china shop is exactly what we need to make America great again.

“In this powerful book, Coulter explains why conservatives, moderates, and even disgruntled Democrats should set aside their doubts and embrace Trump:

“He’s putting America first in our trade deals and alliances, rather than pandering to our allies and enemies.

“He’s abandoned the GOP’s decades-long commitment to a bellicose foreign policy, at a time when the entire country is sick of unnecessary wars.” 

To Coulter’s delight, Trump defeated Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton on November 9, 2016.

Although Clinton got almost 2.9 million more popular votes, he swamped her in the Electoral College–304 votes to Clinton’s 227. 

Suddenly, for Trump, the Electoral College wasn’t “phoney.”  

But by May, 2017, four months after Trump had taken office as President, Ann Coulter was ready to abandon him. Her chief complaint: He hadn’t built the wall along the United States-Mexican border he had promised to erect.

“We want the ruthless businessman we were promised,” she told the Right-wing website, The Daily Caller.

I guess we have to try to push him to keep his promises. But this isn’t North Korea, and if he doesn’t keep his promises I’m out.

“This is why we voted for him. I think everyone who voted for him knew his personality was grotesque, it was the issues.” 

And, on March 28, 2018, she had more choice words for him: “I knew he was a shallow, lazy ignoramus, and I didn’t care.  “

“I’d been waiting 30 years for someone to say all these things,” she added, referring to his promise to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. 

On April, 1, she—by her own account—had a shouting match with Trump in the Oval Office. 

On the Right-wing “Howie Carr Show,” she claimed to have told him: “You’re not doing what you promised to do. Where’s the end of NAFTA? Where’s the wall? Where are the deportations? What are you doing talking about the DREAMers?”  

Coulter (doing a Trump impersonation) claimed that Trump said: “I appointed Gorsuch.” 

“And I said that doesn’t count. Jeb, exclamation point, would have done that. Rubio would have done that. How is your Presidency different than from Rubio would have done?”

“He’s failing right now,” Coulter told Carr. “The presidency isn’t over yet, he can still come back and do it. But people who voted for him shouldn’t be cheering for him every time he betrays them and this is a total betrayal for him to sign that [government appropriations] bill. It’s a total betrayal for him not to build the wall. And to pretend like it isn’t—yeah he can come back.

“And as I told The New York Times, if he does I’ll start a committee to put him on Mount Rushmore, if he builds that wall. But, right now, if you want to make a bet I don’t think we’re getting the wall.” 

But for all her fury at Trump, she’s still peddling her 2016 book, In Trump We Trust, on her website—www.anncoulter.com.

And on April 18, she attacked former FBI Director James Comey, who has strongly criticized Trump during his nationwide tour to promote his newly-released memoir, A Higher Loyalty. 

Comey had been fired by Trump on May 9, 2017, for—by Trump’s admission—pursuing “the Russia thing”—a probe into Russian subversion of the 2016 Presidential election. 

According to Coulter: “We all owe a debt of gratitude to Comey for showing the American people why he was so badly in need of firing.”

In short: She backed a monster to wreak destruction on those she hated. And now she’s upset with him because he hasn’t acted monstrously enough.

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