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ROBERT MUELLER SUFFERED FOR YOUR SINS: PART TWO (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on May 22, 2018 at 12:02 am

On November 6, 2016, millions of racist, hate-filled Americans took “revenge” on the nation’s first black President—by deliberately voting a Russian-backed egomaniac and would-be dictator into the White House.

By doing so, they set in motion events that would lead Robert S. Mueller to assume the consequences—and burdens—of their brutal, Fascistic desires.

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

By doing so, he hoped to derail the Bureau’s investigation of documented ties between Russian Intelligence agents and high-ranking officials of the 2016 Trump Presidential campaign.

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

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

On May 17, 2017, he appointed Robert S. Mueller 111 to serve as Special Counsel for the United States Department of Justice. 

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

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

Since then, Trump, his shills in Congress and Right-wing Fox News have relentlessly attacked Mueller’s integrity and investigative methods. 

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From the outset of that investigation, there have been widespread fears that Trump would fire Mueller, just as he did Comey. Those fears increased over the weekend of March 17-18, 2018, when Trump spewed a series of angry tweets on Twitter: 

  • “The Mueller probe should never have been started in that there was no collusion and there was no crime. It was based on fraudulent activities and a Fake Dossier paid for by Crooked Hillary and the DNC, and improperly used in FISA COURT for surveillance of my campaign. WITCH HUNT!” 
  • “Why does the Mueller team have 13 hardened Democrats, some big Crooked Hillary supporters, and Zero Republicans? Another Dem recently added…does anyone think this is fair? And yet, there is NO COLLUSION!”
  • “A total WITCH HUNT with massive conflicts of interest!”

In “High Noon,” Marshal Will Kane faced death at the hands of four cold-blooded killers. At least for the moment, Mueller does not seem to be facing that.

Trump presumably believes that ordering the murder of a Special Counsel—assuming he could find someone willing to carry it out—wouldn’t be tolerated, even in a country that has already accommodated Trump’s countless brutalities and corruptions.

So Mueller conducts his investigation every day under the shadow of being fired by a President who has repeatedly praised Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. And who has “joked” about how great it would be if the United States, like China, had a “President-for-Life.”

House and Senate Republicans have almost universally refused to speak out against threats by Trump to fire deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and/or Special Counsel Robert Mueller.  

Or, more importantly, to take action to prevent or punish him for doing so.

On April 17, 2018, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would not allow legislation to protect Robert Mueller’s independent investigation into Russian subversion of the 2016 Presidential election to reach the Senate floor.  

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Mitch McConnell

“I’m the one who decides what we take to the floor. That’s my responsibility as majority leader. We’ll not be having this on the floor of the Senate,” the Kntucky Republican said in an interview on Fox News.                

Earlier that day, another Republican, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, claimed that legislation to protect Mueller was “unnecessary.”

“It would not be in the President’s interest to [fire Mueller] and I think he knows that,” said the Wisconsin Congressman.

Why have so few Republicans dared to stand against Trump?  

Two major reasons:

#1: Because many House and Senate Republicans received millions of dollars in “campaign contributions” from Russian oligarchs who are answerable to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.

In short: Bribe monies

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The Kremlin

The following data comes from the Federal Elections Commission.

One major Russian contributor is Len Blavatnik. During the 2015-16 election cycle, he proved one of the largest donors to GOP Political Action Committees (PACs).

Blavatnik’s net worth is estimated at $20 billion. In 2016, he gave $6.35 million to GOP PACs.

In 2017, he gave millions of dollars to top Republican leaders—such as Senators Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio (Florida) and Lindsey Graham (South Carolina). Specifically, Blavatnik contributed:

  • A total of $1.5 million to PACs associated with Rubio. 
  • $1 million to Trump’s Inaugural Committee.
  • $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, contributed $1 million to Trump’s Inaugural Committee. 

A third oligarch, Andrew Intrater, contributed $250,000 to Trump’s Inaugural Committee.

And a fourth, Simon Kukes, contributed a total of $283,000, much of it to the Trump Victory Fund.

ROBERT MUELLER SUFFERED FOR YOUR SINS: PART ONE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 21, 2018 at 12:26 am

His face is lined and his gray hair is topped with a black hat. This is clearly not a young man. If he’s seen his share of violence, he doesn’t talk about it.

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He’s about to face four armed and vicious criminals who intend to murder him. And he’s going to do it without support from the very citizens he’s sworn to defend.

His name: Will Kane, as played by Gary Cooper. And he’s the local marshal of an anonymous Western town.

“High Noon,” the 1952 movie in which this story takes place, won a Best Actor Academy Award for its star, Cooper. It was nominated for another six Academy Awards and won four (Actor, Editing, Music-Score, and Music-Song).

Its opening tune, “Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling,” played incessantly on radios throughout the United States. President Dwight D. Eisenhower added his kudos to the movie, and often hummed its  theme in the White House.

Fast forward to an America 66 years later.

A similar morality play is now occurring—in real life, not on a movie set. At stake isn’t simply the life of one man but perhaps the future of American democracy.

Carrying that burden is Robert Swan Mueller III.

Like the Gary Cooper character in “High Noon,” he is not a young man—born on August 7, 1944. And, like Cooper’s Will Kane, he is tall, gray-haired and tight-lipped.

But while Cooper never saw military service, Mueller did. A 1966 graduate of Princeton University, he served as a Marine Corps infantry platoon commander during the Vietnam War.

Wounded in combat, among the military awards he received were:

  • The Bronze Star Medal with Combat “V” for heroism (for saving a wounded Marine while under enemy fire).
  • The Purple Heart Medal (awarded for wounds in combat).
  • Two Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals with Combat “V”.
  • Combat Action Ribbon.
  • National Defense Service Medal.

Having given three years of his life (1968-1971) to the Marines, Mueller devoted the rest of his life to law enforcement.

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Robert Mueller

A 1973 graduate of the University of Virginia Law School, Mueller served as:

  • United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts (1986-1987);
  • United States Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division (1990-1993);
  • United States Attorney for the Northern District of California (1998-2001);
  • United States Deputy Attorney General (January 20, 2001– May 10, 2001).

On September 4, 2001—seven days before Al Qaeda’s monstrous 9/11 attacks on Washington and New York—President George W. Bush appointed him director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Widely praised for his integrity and effectiveness, he served his full 10-year term—the legal maximum. 

But when President Barack Obama took office in 2009, he asked Mueller—a lifelong Republican—to stay on for an additional two years until a suitable replacement could be found.

Mueller agreed—and was succeeded by a fellow Justice Department colleague named James Comey.

Retiring from the FBI in 2013 at age 69, Mueller’s 27-year career as a dedicated law enforcer seemed at last to be over. 

Then, on May 9, 2017, President Donald Trump fired Comey as FBI director. There were three reasons for this:

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

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James Comey

On May 10—the day after firing Comey—Trump met in the Oval Office with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. 

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

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

And on May 11, Trump, interviewed on NBC News by reporter Lester Holt, said: “And in fact when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said ‘you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.'”       

FROM “BIG STICK” TO “BIG MOUTH”

In Entertainment, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 18, 2018 at 1:12 am

There is a poignant scene in the middle of John Milius’ classic 1975 adventure film, The Wind and the Lion, that Americans would do well to remember.

The movie is set in 1904 America and Morocco. An American woman, Eden Pedicaris (Candice Bergen) and her two children have been kidnapped while vacationing in Tangier.

The kidnapper is a Berber brigand named Mulai Ahmed el Raisuli (Sean Connery—then successfully trying to shed his recent James Bond image).

To Raisuli, the Sultan and his uncle, the Pasha of Tangier, are corrupt and beholden to the European powers struggling to control Morocco.

Raisuli issues an outrageous ransom demand to provoke an international incident, embarrass the Sultan and start a civil war.

In the United States, President Theodore Roosevelt (Brian Keith) is running for re-election. He sees the crisis as a way to win votes and demonstrate America’s military strength as a new power.

So he issues a demand of his own: “Pedicarus alive—or Raisuli dead!”

While events rapidly spiral out of control in the Middle East, Roosevelt decides to vacation in Yellowstone National Park.

One night, a grizzly bear attacks the camp and is shot by Roosevelt and several other campers.  The next morning, Roosevelt holds an imprumptu press conference for the reporters who have accompanied him.

Brian Keith (left) as Theodore Roosevelt

REPORTER:  Did you take part in killing the grizzly, Mr. President?

ROOSEVELT:  Yes, unfortunately.

REPORTER:  Why do you say, ‘unfortunately,’ Mr. President?

ROOSEVELT:  The American grizzly is a symbol of the American character: strength, intelligence, ferocity. Maybe a little blind and reckless at times, but courageous beyond all doubt. And one other trait that goes with all previous.

REPORTER:  And that, Mr. President?

ROOSEVELT:  Loneliness. The American grizzly lives out his life alone. Indomitable, unconquered—but always alone. He has no real allies, only enemies, but none of them as great as he.

REPORTER:  And you feel this might be an American trait?

ROOSEVELT:  Certainly. The world will never love us. They respect us—they might even grow to fear us. But they will never love us, for we have too much audacity! And, we’re a bit blind and reckless at times, too.

REPORTER:  Are you perhaps referring to the situation in Morocco and the Panama Canal.

ROOSEVELT:  If you say so. The American grizzly embodies the spirit of America. He should be our symbol! Not that ridiculous eagle—he’s nothing more than a dandified vulture.

When the Pasha of Tangier refuses to negotiate with Raisuli to secure the return of Pedecaris, the American Consul to Tangier, Samuel Gummere, decides on action. He confers with Admiral Chadwick, commanding the South Atlantic Squadron, and a Marine captain named Jerome.

Gummere then orders a company of Marines, supported by a small detachment of sailors, to seize the Pasha. But then he admits to the riskiness of the decision:

GUMMERE:  You realize, of course, that if we fail in even the slightest way, we’ll all be killed.

CHADWICK:  Yes, and the whole world will probably go to war.

JEROME: Gentlemen, if we fail and are killed, I certainly hope the world does go to war. 

CHADWICK:  A world ar war!

GUMMERE:  A world war. Now that would be something to go out on.

In just ten years, they will get their hearts’ desire when World War 1 erupts.

The Marines quickly overwhelm the Pasha’s palace guard, take the Pasha hostage and force him to negotiate.

During the hostage exchange, Raisuli is betrayed and captured by German and Moroccan troops.   His friend, the Sherif of Wazan, organizes the Berber tribe for an attack on the Europeans and their Moroccan lackeys.

Eden Pedecaris, who has grown to admire Raisuli, convinces a Marine captain and his men to rescue the Berber chieftain. She argues that President Roosevelt had promised that Raisuli would be unharmed if the Pedecarises were returned safely.

The Berbers and Marines team up to defeat the Germans and their Moroccan allies, rescuing Raisuli in the process.

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Thirteen years later—in 1917—the United States will officially take on the Germans in World War 1.  And in another 37 years—in 1941—America will again declare war on Germany.

The film ends with a confident Theodore Roosevelt expecting (accurately) to be re-elected—and telling reporters  that “the fate of Morocco will be decided tomorrow by me.”

The Wind and the Lion is set in an era when

  • Nuclear weapons did not exist;
  • Russia and China were militarily insignificant nations;
  • England was the world’s superpower;
  • America, Germany and Japan were on the rise;
  • Israel was still a distant dream in the eyes of European Jews;
  • The “Great Powers”—Germany, France and Great Britain—were struggling to carve up the Middle East to exploit its massive oil reserves; and
  • Americans did not feel threatened by Islamic radicals.

As complex and dangerous as that era often seemed to those living more than 100 years ago, it has been succeeded by one even more complex and dangerous.

In this new and even more lethal era, it is well to remember Theodore Roosevelt’s warning that “we’re a bit blind and reckless at times, too.”

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.

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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.”

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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.

HEROES, JOKERS AND LIARS

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 15, 2018 at 12:10 am

Arizona United States Senator John McCain knows firsthand about torture.

A Navy pilot during the Vietnam war, he 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.

So he had strong feelings when he learned about President Donald Trump’s pick for director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

John McCain's official Senate portrait, taken in 2009

John McCain

This was Gina Haspel, who, in 2002, had operated a “black” CIA site in Thailand where Islamic terrorists were often waterboarded to make them talk.  

After the September 11, 2001 Al-Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., no one knew if other attacks were about to occur. Or where. The FBI, CIA, National Security Agency (NSA) and other Intelligence agencies were under huge pressure to discover—and foil—any future plots.

The administration of President George W. Bush ruled that waterboarding was not a form of torture, and thus did not violate the Geneva Convention.

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Gina Haspel

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

As a result, when Haspel’s name was put up for nomination, McCain quickly made clear his opposition.

Enter White House Special Assistant Kelly Sadler, who handles surrogate communications.

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.”

Leaked to CNN by an anonymous White House official, Sadler’s remark touched off a furor of 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.”

Not to be outdone by Sadler, retired Air Force Lieutenant General Thomas McInerney went on the Right-wing Fox News Network to personally attack McCain.

Torture, he said, was effective: “The fact is, is John McCain—it worked on John. That’s why they call him ‘Songbird John.'”

“The fact is those methods can work, and they are effective, as former Vice President Cheney said. And if we have to use them to save a million American lives, we will do whatever we have to,” said McInerney.

There’s no evidence that McCain ever betrayed the United States during his captivity.

CNN correspondent Jake Tapper angrily replied to McInerney’s slander: “First of all, no one calls him ‘Songbird John’ except for crazy people and jerks—and I’m using my language carefully here.”

Meghan McCain responded to McInerney’s attack: “My father’s legacy is going to be talked about hundreds and hundreds of years. These people: Nothingburgers. Nobody is going to remember you.”

Her comment echoed a remark by former President Harry S. Truman about Indiana United States Senator William Jenner. Jenner, a Right-wing Republican, had attacked the patriotism of George C. Marshall, who, as chief of staff of the United States Army, was rightly called “the architect of Allied victory” in World War II.

Asked by biographer Merle Miller for his opinion on Jenner, Truman responded: “In my opinion, General Marshall will go down as one of the great men of his time. And, of course, people like Jenner, they aren’t even a footnote in history.”

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.”

And Meghan McCain added during her appearance on “The View”: “I don’t understand what kind of environment you’re working in when that would be acceptable and then you can come to work the next day and still have a job.”

Of course, for anyone familiar with Donald Trump and his vicious reactions to even the smallest opposition, Sadler’s jibe at McCain should come as no surprise.

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DDonald Trump

During the 2016 Presidential campaign, Trump infamously said of McCain: “He’s not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”

This from a man who sought—and got—five draft deferments during the Vietnam War. And who has compared his reckless sex-life during the 1970s to risking his life in service to his country.

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.”

For Sanders—and her boss—it’s disgusting that Trump’s White House can’t enforce the censorship that reigns in Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin.

COVERING TRUMP AS HE DESERVES

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on May 14, 2018 at 12:13 am

On June 8, 2017, James Comey testified before the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

On May 9, he had been fired as director of the FBI by President Donald Trump.

During his Congressional testimony, Comey revealed that, on February 14,  2017, Trump had ordered everyone but Comey to leave a crowded meeting in the Oval Office.

Michael Flynn had resigned the previous day from his position as National Security Adviser. The FBI was investigating him for his previously undisclosed ties to Russia.

“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” said Trump. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

This was clearly an attempt by Trump to obstruct the FBI’s investigation.

Yet Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan rushed to excuse his clearly illegal behavior: “He’s new at government, so therefore I think he’s learning as he goes.”

Paul Ryan's official Speaker photo. In the background is the American Flag.

Paul Ryan

Many reporters who undoubtedly knew better agreed with this excuse: He just didn’t understand the protocols. He’ll get it right next time.

They didn’t dare report the truth: America is being ruled by a dictator in the mold of John Gotti.

Thus, Trump didn’t meet privately with Comey because he didn’t know “how modern government operates.” He wanted a private meeting to make a request he knew was on its face illegal—and he wanted to ensure “plausible deniability” in doing so.

If Comey later told the truth about that meeting—as he later did—Trump could say—as he later did: “It’s just his word against mine. Who are you going to believe?”

Reporters covering the Trump administration need to radically change their methods for doing so.

They should start covering it the way organized crime reporters have long covered the Mafia.

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Donald Trump

First, assume that Trump—and those who serve him—are acting criminally unless they can prove otherwise.

As Niccolo Machiavelli advised in his classic work, The Discourses:

“All those who have written upon civil institutions demonstrate…that whoever desires to found a state and give it laws, must start with assuming that all men are bad and ever ready to display their vicious nature, whenever they may find occasion for it.

“If their evil disposition remains concealed for a time, it must be attributed to some unknown reason, and we must assume that it lacked occasion to show itself.”

Second, report what he and his minions say publicly—but look for well-placed sources in law enforcement for the truth.

Reporters covering John Gotti found him highly quotable copy. But they also cultivated secret sources within the FBI and NYPD to discover what crimes he had committed—and was committing.

And when they wrote stories about him, they stated—unequivocally—that he was the boss of an organized crime family.

Reporters covering Trump should similarly list his own history of conflicts with the law.

John Gotti.jpg

John Gotti

Third, news media should devote fewer resources to covering the public side of Trump—and  more to unearthing the truths he wants to suppress. 

As robber baron J.P. Morgan once admitted: “A man generally has two reasons for doing a thing. One that sounds good, and a real one.”

What’s said during a press conference—whether by Trump or any other of his officials—is strictly the version he wants stated. This could be transcribed by a single pool reporter, who shares whatever’s said with all the major news media.

This, in turn, would free legions of reporters to unearth truths that Trump doesn’t want revealed.

Fourth, recognize that Trump is fighting an all-out war on the media—and have the courage to publicly state this.

In 1976, Arizona Republic reporter and organized crime expert Don Bolles, was killed by a car bomb. Legions of reporters from across the country descended on Arizona to prove to mobsters: Attacking reporters is as dangerous as attacking cops.

Donald Trump has labeled established news media as “fake news.” He has called reporters “the enemy of America.” On at least one occasion, he told a CNN reporter: “You’re fake news.”

Yet no reporter—for CNN or any other news outlet—has called him a “fake President.” Nor has any reporter dared to call him a pathological liar with dictatorial ambitions.

CNN has started running an ad featuring a shiny red apple, while a voice-over intones:

“This is an apple. Some people might try to tell you that it’s a banana. They might scream banana, banana, banana over and over and over again. They might put BANANA in all caps. You might even start to believe that this is a banana. But it’s not. This is an apple.”

Unfortunately, many viewers might mistake the “apple” for Apple. Thus, a more effective ad could feature a picture of Trump in an SS uniform, and the following message:

“This  is a Fascist. Some people might try to tell you that he’s a Republican. They might scream Republican, Republican, Republican over and over and over again. They might put REPUBLICAN in all caps. You might even start to believe that he is a Republican. But he’s not. This is a Fascist.”

CRITICISM–AND HUMOR–AS ENDANGERED SPECIES

In History, Humor, Politics, Social commentary on May 11, 2018 at 12:23 am

What does it take for a White House correspondent to have his—or her—press credentials revoked?

According to President Donald Trump, it only takes writing a “negative” story about him.

On May 9—one year to the day since he fired FBI Director James Comey for refusing to offer a pledge of personal loyalty—Trump tweeted:

“The Fake News is working overtime. Just reported that, despite the tremendous success we are having with the economy & all things else, 91% of the Network News about me is negative (Fake). Why do we work so hard in working with the media when it is corrupt? Take away credentials?”

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Donald Trump

And how did Trump reach the conclusion that “91% of” network newscasts on ABC, CBS and NBC focused on “negative” scandals and controversies?

By watching a segment of Fox and Friends on the Right-wing Fox News Network.

Assuming Trump carries out his threat, can an attempted Presidential crackdown on criticism of any kind be far behind?

Given the rampant and constantly demonstrated egomania of this President, probably not.

So, with the week coming to a close, here are some jokes that might soon find themselves on the endangered humor species list.

Why are Donald Trump’s supporters like Adam and Eve? They are naked, they have only one apple to eat, they live in a forest, and they think they’re in Paradise.

Donald Trump on Stormy Daniels: Version #1: I know NOTHING! Version #2: Gee, I guess I DO know something.

What’s the difference between John Gotti and Donald Trump? Some people actually loved John Gotti. 

In President Donald Trump’s America, what is black and knocking at the door?  The Future.

Donald Trump, watching the “Million Man March” on TV: “Now all we need is an auctioneer!” 

A man knocks at the door of his neighbor’s apartment and shouts: “Quick, get up, get dressed.” From inside the apartment he hears screams of terror. “Don’t worry,” he says. “It’s nothing serious. I’m not with the Trump Police. I just want to tell you your flat is on fire.”

A group of friends gather in a house. Some of them start telling jokes about Donald Trump. One of the guests says, “Hey, it’s too noisy. I can’t hear the jokes. I’m writing it down, you know.” “How can you write down the jokes so fast?” asks a man. “Oh, I’m just writing down the initials.”

What’s the difference between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump? Trump DIDN’T rig an election for Putin.

People ask, “Why does Donald Trump always suck up to Vladimir Putin? What’s he so afraid of?” Can anyone say “polonium”?

Let’s resolve the Stormy Daniels scandal the old-fashioned way: A heavyweight boxing match between Melania “The Slovenian Slugger” and Stormy “Come and Get It” Daniels. The loser gets to keep Trump. THAT should make it REALLY competitive. 

What do American Fascists and Russian Communists have in common? Donald Trump.

What’s the difference between Germans and Trump supporters? Today’s Germans AREN’T Nazis.

The Trump “Sin-Eraser” Machine. Pick a sin you’re committed. Say, “I didn’t do it.” There! You didn’t do it!

Donald Trump’s next conspiracy theory: “Robert Mueller planted Rudi Giuliani on me to make me look like a stupid criminal.”

Melania Trump has unveiled her new campaign: “Be Best.” And not to be outdone, Donald has one: “Be Beast.”

It was a dark and Stormy night. Then Melania showed up with a carving knife—and all Hell broke loose.

Here’s how to make America great again in two easy steps: Step 1: Round up all Donald Trump supporters and put them on ships. Step 2: Sink the ships.

Donald Trump’s secret strategy to avoid impeachment: He’s going to blame it all on Eric.

Adolf Hitler had many faults, but at least he didn’t inflict his half-wit children on Germany.

What’s the difference between John Gotti and Donald Trump? John Gotti couldn’t fire the FBI director.

Think of Sarah Huckabee Sanders as Joseph Goebbels in a dress. Or, better yet, Hermann Goring.

REPORTER: “President Trump, you’ve been in the White house for 12 years now. Do you intend to seek a fourth term?” PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: “I’m not sure. That will be for the American people to decide.” Then Trump laughs for ten minutes.

What does Donald Trump think the Constitution is for? A substitute for toilet paper.

Trump HAS been a success if you know what MAGA really means: Make Adultery Great Again.

Donald Trump on Easter: “Jesus got a BIG resurrection when he met Mary Magdalene, but then he lost it three days later.”

It’s true that Donald Trump, Jr., met with a Russian lawyer in June, 2016. But there IS a perfectly good explanation for it. They were simply discussing how his father could adopt more foreign-born wives.

Poor Karen McDougal! If only things had gone right, SHE could NOW be the First Lady Trump cheated on.

Melania Trump is the sister that Natasha Fatale feels embarrassed to talk about.

How does every Donald Trump joke start? By looking over your shoulder.

Why do Trump supporters always travel in threes? One who can read, one who can write, and one to keep an eye on the two intellectuals.

CELEBRITIES AND TRAGEDY–GENUINE AND SELF-INFLICTED

In Entertainment, History, Medical, Social commentary on May 10, 2018 at 12:18 am

Whtney Houston drowned in her bathtub at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on February 11, 2012. 

The cause of death: Coronary artery disease—and cocaine use.  She was 48.

Ever since, reporters and commentators have repeatedly used the word “tragedy” to describe her fate. 

But there are tragedies that are brought on by events beyond human control—and tragedies that are self-inflicted.

Consider:

Julie Andrews: Whose four-octave soprano voice has delighted audiences for decades on Broadway (Camelot, My Fair Lady) and movies (Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music). 

In 1964, she won the Academy Award for Best Actress and Golden Globe Award for Best Actress (for Mary Poppins).

Her performance in The Sound of Music made it the highest-grossing film of 1965—and won her a second Golden Globe Award for Best Actress.

Julie Andrews, in her best-loved role as “Mary Poppins”

In 1997, she underwent surgery at Mount Sinai Medical Center to remove non-cancerous nodules in her throat. The nodules were removed—but so was her ability to sing.

Her husband, Blake Edwards, was widely quoted as saying that Andrews’ voice hds been all but ruined: ”If you heard it, you’d weep.”

Whitney Houston: Blessed with beauty, charm and a golden, intense singing voice that can turn even the almost-unsingable “Star Spangled Banner” into a rousing anthem.

As a beloved, internationally-recognized vocalist, she enjoyed even greater fame and wealth as a movie star (The Bodyguard, Waiting to Exhale).

Whitney Houston Welcome Home Heroes 1 cropped.jpg

Whitney Houston

Meanwhile, she took on increasingly deadly habits. She chain-smoked cigarettes. And marijuana—“a lot.” She dove into alcohol, pills, cocaine.

During a 2002 interview with Diane Sawyer, she denied using crack. Not because it’s lethal, or because it would destroy The Voice that she believed was God’s gift to her.

No, it was because “I make too much money to ever smoke crack. Let’s get that straight. OK? We don’t do crack. We don’t do that. Crack is whack.”

Image result for Images of crack cocaine crystals

Crack cocaine

In 2006, the National Enquirer ran an interview with her sister-in-law, Tina, who charged that Houston spent her days locked in her bedroom “smoking crack, using sex toys to satisfy herself and ignoring personal hygiene.”

Then, in 2009, appearing on Oprah Winfrey’s season premiere, Houston finally admitted that she used drugs with her ex-husband, Bobby Brown, who “laced marijuana with rock cocaine.” 

In other words, crack. 

So, apparently, crack wasn’t whack.

Over time, the once-magnificent instrument that was your voice started to change noticeably. She could no longer hit high notes, or hold one the way she did in her immortal hit, “I Will Always Love You.”

Her voice now sounded hoarse, raspy.

In 2010, she embarked on a “Nothing But Love World Tour.” It was a disaster. In Brisbane, she paused during singing to take a drink of water.

A critic said her performance in London was marked by a strained voice filled with coughs and wheezes.

Fans felt cheated—especially after paying $165 for a ticket—and reacted with jeers and boos.  Some walked out in mid-concert.

On the night before her death, Houston become belligerent and almost duked it out with singer Stacy Francis at the Tru Hollywood nightclub. Her boyfriend, Ray J, had to step in to prevent a fistfight.

Houston was seen leaving the club drunk, with scratches and blood-stains on her legs.

* * * * *

Whose tragedy was genuine—and which was self-inflicted?

The ugly truth is that Whitney Houston’s singing career ended long before her life did.

When people remember her monumental hits like “I Will Always Love You,” they’re recalling a time more than 20 years ago.

Another ugly truth is that each of us is responsible for our own actions.

Attorney and talk-show host Nancy Grace blamed Houston’s doctors for her death. She argued that they had kept writing prescriptions for “America’s songbird” when they knew she was an addict.

But Houston was the one who requested that they write those prescriptions. And she was the one who administered them.

The same chain of events occurred in the Michael Jackson case.

Jackson wanted his drug-of-choice: propofol, a hypnotic sedative used for general anesthesia.  And he got it.

He paid his private doctor, Conrad Murray, $150,000—a-month. For a salary that large, Jackson clearly expected to get more than the standard: “Take two aspirins and call me in the morning.”

So he got what he wanted—and it killed him.

Houston, for all her charm, was also used to getting her own way.  Once. on an airplane, she tried to light up in the bathroom.  When the pilot warned that she could be fined $2,000, she offered to write out a check that moment if she could have her smoke. The pilot refused.

No matter how famous, talented, beautiful and/or wealthy you might be, in the end, you remain a mere mortal. Even if you are allowed to flout the laws of man, you will be held accountable by your own body for bouts of deadly excess.

That, in the end, is the real legacy of Whitney Houston. And Michael Jackson. And Elvis Presley.  And Marilyn Monroe. And a great many other now-dead celebrities.

Sadly, it is a truth that both celebrities and their worshipers must re-learn—over and over.

YOUR FRIENDS AS YOUR WORST ENEMIES: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on May 9, 2018 at 12:13 am

President Donald Trump has two major legal problems.

First, he’s under investigation by Independent Counsel and former FBI director Robert Mueller, who’s armed with top-flight investigators and an unlimited budget.

And, second, his attorney, Rudolph Giuliani, is rushing from one TV talk show to another, making incriminating statements that Mueller can use against Trump.

Giuliani is a former United States Attorney and United States Associate Attorney General. So he should know that the more he speaks about Trump, the more potential leads he provides Mueller’s investigators to follow.

Rudy Giuliani.jpg

Rudolph Giuliani

Thus, he said, on Fox News’ “Sean Hannity” program, that Trump paid back his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, the $130,000 in hush money that Cohen paid porn actress Stormy Daniels.

The reason: To ensure her silence over an alleged affair with Trump.

Giuliani’s statement, on May 3, contradicted Trump, who had previously denied knowing about the payment. It also contradicted Cohen’s February statement that Trump did not reimburse the $130,000.

Not content to stop there, Giuliani added: “Imagine if that came out on October 15, 2016, in the middle of the last debate with Hillary Clinton“—thus giving a political motive to the action.

Donald Trump

Giuliani, appearing on a Right-wing Fox News show, clearly felt comfortable. After all, he wasn’t being interrogated by a reporter for CNN or The New York Times.

It’s precisely that sense of safety that experienced cross-examiners hope to instill in witnesses—just before they lower the hatchet.

But Hannity—an ardent supporter of Trump—wasn’t trying to ensnare Giuliani. 

Hannity asked if Trump would testify before Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

GIULIANI:  “Well, right now, a lot of things point in the direction of, they made up their mind that [former FBI Director James] Comey is telling the truth and not the president.

“When you look at those questions about what does the president think, what does the president feel, what does the president really desire, those are all questions intended to trap him in some way and contradicting what is in fact a very, very solid explanation of what happened.

“He fired Comey because Comey would not, among other things, say that he wasn’t a target of the investigation. He’s entitled to that. Hillary Clinton got that. Actually, he couldn’t get that. So, he fired him and he said, I’m free of the guy, and he went on Lester Holt.”

James Comey official portrait.jpg

James Comey

Later in the interview, Giuliani returned to the Cohen payment of $130,000 to Stormy Daniels:

GIULIANI: “Having something to do with paying some Stormy Daniels woman $130,000, I mean, which is going to turn out to be perfectly legal. That money was not campaign money, sorry, I’m giving you a fact now that you don’t know. It’s not campaign money. No campaign finance violation.”

HANNITY:  “They funneled it through a law firm.”

GIULIANI: “Funneled it through a law firm and the president repaid it.”

HANNITY:  “I didn’t know he did.”

GIULIANI:  “Yes. Zero.”

HANNITY:  “So the president—“

GIULIANI:  “Just like every, Sean—“

HANNITY:  “So this decision was made by—“

GIULIANI: “Sean, everybody—everybody was nervous about this from the very beginning. I wasn’t. I knew how much money Donald Trump put in to that campaign. I said $130,000. You’re going to do a couple of checks for 130,000.

“When I heard Cohen’s retainer of $35,000 when he was doing no work for the president, I said that’s how he’s repaying—that’s how he’s repaying it with a little profit and a little margin for paying taxes for Michael.”

HANNITY:  “But do you know the president didn’t know about this? I believe that’s what Michael said.”

GIULIANI:  “He didn’t know about the specifics of it as far as I know. But he did know about the general arrangement that Michael would take care of things like this. Like, I take care of things like this for my clients. I don’t burden them with every single thing that comes along. These are busy people….

A settlement payment which is a very regular thing for lawyers to do. The question there was, the only possible violation there would be wasn’t a campaign finance violation, which usually results in a fine by the way, not this big storm troopers coming in and breaking down his apartment and breaking down his office.

“That was money that was paid by his lawyer, the way I would do out of his law firm funds or whatever funds, it doesn’t matter. The president reimbursed that over a period of several months.”

HANNITY:  “But he had said he didn’t, I distinctly remember that he did it on his own—“

GIULIANI:  “He did….”

**********

So, Giuliani:

  • Admits that Trump fired FBI Director James Comey for patently illegal reasons. [Comey accuses Trump of demanding a pledge of personal loyalty; Trump denies this.]
  • Exonerates Michael Cohen for acting as a fixer to buy the silence of a porn actress about an extramarital affair.
  • Claims that arranging hush money payments is a routine practice among lawyers (“Like, I take care of things like this for my clients”).

If Trump were a reader, he might now recall the famous warning by the French philosopher Voltaire: “Lord, protect me from my friends. I can take care of my enemies.”

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