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SERVING THE LORD—OR THE DEVIL

In History, Law, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 17, 2019 at 12:06 am

Right-wingers, who support many of the same policies of Adolf Hitler, often attack liberals as Nazis.

This was especially true when President Barack Obama held office.  

But in 2016 a genuine authority on Fascism came forward to assess the front-runner for the Republican Presidential nomination.

“If Donald Trump become[s] the next president of the United States it would be a complete disaster. I think he is acting like another Hitler by inciting racism.”  

So said Eva Schloss, the stepsister of Holocaust victim Anne Frank. As a survivor of Auschwitz, Schloss knows something about Nazis.

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Eva Schloss

Then 86, Schloss met Anne in Amsterdam as a fellow refugee.  Both their families had taken refuge there after fleeing Nazi Germany.

Anne Frank spent four years hiding in an attic and keeping a diary. But in 1944 she was discovered by the Nazis and sent to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.  

She was 15 when she died there of typhus in March, 1945. After the war, Eva Schloss’ mother, Fritzi, married Otto Frank, Anne’s father.

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Anne Frank

Eva was detained at the same time as Anne and sent to Auschwitz. She survived when the camp was liberated on January 27,1945.

In a January 27, 2016 essay for Newsweek, Schloss warned of dire consequences if Donald Trump became President: 

“During his U.S. presidential campaign he has suggested the ‘total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,’ as well as pledging to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico to keep illegal immigrants out.”  

She was 11 when her family immigrated to Belgium after Hitler forcibly annexed Austria in 1938.  

“We were treated as if we had come from the moon. I felt as if I wasn’t wanted and that I was different to everybody. It is even harder for today’s Syrian refugees who have a very different culture….

“I am very upset that today again so many countries are closing their borders,” said Schloss, who lives in London. “Fewer people would have died in the Holocaust if the world had accepted more Jewish refugees.”  

And on February 18, 2016, Pope Francis also waded into the 2016 Presidential race with his own assessment of Trump.  

During a six-day trip to Mexico, a reporter asked the Pontiff: What did he think  of Trump’s campaign pledge to build a wall along the entire length of the U.S.-Mexican border and expel millions of illegal aliens now living in the United States? 

“A person who only thinks about building walls, wherever they are, and not in building bridges, is not Christian,” replied the Pope. “This is not the gospel.” 

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Pope Francis

Francis said he would “give the benefit of the doubt” to Trump because he had not heard Trump’s border plans independently.

But he added: “I say only that this man is not a Christian if he has said things like that.”

Trump, a Presbyterian, responded minutes later: “For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful.”

Trump has repeatedly accused President Barack Obama—a self-described Christian—as a secret Muslim.

Donald Trump

On February 21, 2016, for example, he tweeted: “I wonder if President Obama would have attended the funeral of [Supreme Court] Justice [Antonin] Scalia if it were held in a mosque.”  

Obama had paid tribute to Scalia at the Supreme Court on the day prior to the funeral. He declined to attend the service because his heavy security detail might disrupt the ceremony.

“I am proud to be a Christian,” added Trump, “and as president I will not allow Christianity to be consistently attacked and weakened.”  

Nor did he stop there: “If and when the Vatican is attacked by the ISIS [Islamic State of Iraq and Syria], which as everyone knows is ISIS’s ultimate trophy, I can promise you that the pope would have only wished and prayed that Donald Trump would have been president.  

“ISIS would have been eradicated, unlike what is happening now with our all talk, no action politicians.” 

Trump thus implied that the Pope’s future security depended on the United States generally—and on Trump in particular.  

And he ignored the fact that, since September, 2014, the United States Air Force had been bombing ISIS convoys in Iraq and Syria.

On Easter Sunday, 2019—more than two years into Trump’s Presidency—ISIS bombed a series of churches and hotels in Sri Lanka, killing at least 321 people.

Trump has long been critical of the Pope’s stand on immigration.

As the Pope undertook his trip to Mexico, Trump told Fox Business Network that he didn’t think Francis understood “the danger of the open border we have with Mexico.

“I think Mexico got him to do it because they want to keep the border just the way it is,” he said. “They’re making a fortune, and we’re losing.” 

A Vatican spokesman replied: “The pope always talks about migration problems all around the world, of the duties we have to solve these problems in a humane manner, of hosting those who come from other countries in search of a life of dignity and peace.”  

For millions of Jews and Christians, the election of 2016 has turned into a referendum:  Am I serving the Lord—or Satan?

POLICE: IGNORING THE CRIMES OF FASCISTS—PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on May 16, 2019 at 12:02 am

On August 11-12, 2017, white supremacists from across the country gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia, for a  “Unite the Right” rally.  Among the organizations represented:

  • The Ku Klux Klan (KKK);
  • The Alt-Knights;
  • The “Militia Movement”;
  • The American Nazi Party;
  • The Confederate League of the South.

They marched through the streets carrying flaming tiki torches, screaming racial epithets and frightening the local citizenry. Echoing Nazis in 1930s Germany, they shouted: “Blood and Soil!” and “Jews will not replace us!”

On August 13, a Nazi sympathizer rammed his car into a group of counter-protesters, killing a woman and injuring 19 other demonstrators.

President Donald Trump stated: “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides.”

But he refused to specifically denounce the Fascistic demonstrators.

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Donald Trump

White supremacists were elated.

“He didn’t attack us. He just said the nation should come together. Nothing specific against us,” wrote Andrew Anglin, founder of the neo-Nazi website, The Daily Stormer. 

“No condemnation at all. When asked to condemn, he just walked out of the room. Really, really good. God bless him.” 

Another Trump admirer: Former Ku Klux Klan Imperial Wizard David Duke. 

“Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth about #Charlottesville & condemn the leftist terrorists in BLM/Antifa,” Duke tweeted after the news conference. 

Fascistic groups make up a pivotal constituency for Trump. Without their support, he might not have become President. He can’t afford to alienate them.

But more than 50 years ago, another President was willing to declare all-out war against white supremacists: Lyndon B. Johnson. 

The reason: The murders of three civil rights workers in Philadelphia, Mississippi—Michael “Mickey” Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney—-on June 21, 1964.

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Poster for missing civil rights workers

Johnson ordered the FBI to find the missing activists.

Two hundred FBI agents interrogated 480 Klansmen. After the civil rights workers’ bodies were found buried near a dam, Johnson gave FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover a direct order: “I want you to have the same kind of intelligence [on the Klan] that you have on the communists.”

For decades, Hoover had refused to tackle white hate groups. And, in truth, there had not been any President willing to give him the order to do so. 

But now a President had given him such an order. And Hoover was approaching the mandatory retirement age of 70—which could be waived by a sympathetic President. If he wanted to stay on as director of the agency he loved, he had no choice.

So the FBI launched a counterintelligence program—in Bureau-speak, a COINTELPRO—against the Ku Klux Klan.

Klansmen had shot, lynched and bombed their way across the Deep South, especially in Alabama and Mississippi. Many Southern sheriffs and police chiefs were Klan sympathizers, if not outright members and accomplices.

Ku Klux Klansmen in a meeting

The FBI’s covert action program aimed to “expose, disrupt and otherwise neutralize” KKK groups through a wide range of legal and extra-legal methods. Seventeen KKK groups were targeted,  So were nine others, including the American Nazi and National States Rights parties.

After the Klan murdered Lemuel Penn, a black army reserve lieutenant, the FBI targeted every major Klan group in Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia.

“My father fought the Klan in Massachusetts,” recalled William C. Sullivan, who headed the FBI’s Domestic Intelligence Division in the 1960s. “I always used to be frightened when I was a kid and I saw the fiery crosses burning in the hillside near our farm.

“When the Klan reached 14,000 in the mid-sixties, I asked to take over the investigation of the Klan.  When I left the Bureau in 1971, the Klan was down to a completely disorganized 4,300.  It was broken.

William C. Sullivan

“They were dirty, rough fellows. And we went after them with rough, tough methods.” 

Among those methods:

  • Developing informants within Klans—usually by paying small fortunes for information. (“There would be a meeting of 10 Klansmen, and six of them would be reporting back to us the next day,” recalled an FBI agent.)
  • Planting electronic surveillance devices in Klan meeting places.
  • Carrying out “black bag jobs”—burglaries—to steal Klan membership lists.
  • Contacting the news media to publicize arrests and identify Klan leaders.
  • Informing the employers of known Klansmen of their employees’ criminal activity, resulting in the firing of untold numbers of them.
  • Illegally obtaining Klansmen’s tax returns.
  • Sending anonymous letters/postcards to Klansmen warning: “Someone KNOWS who you are!”
  • Falsely accusing other Klansmen of being FBI informants.
  • Breaking up the marriages of Klansmen by circulating rumors of their infidelity among their wives.
  • Beating and harassing Klansmen who threatened and harassed FBI agents.

The FBI’s counterintelligence war against the Klan ended in 1971.

Over the next 40 years, Klan membership steadily rose again. In 2017, its membership rose sharply.

By June, 2017, an estimated 3,000 Klan members belonged to 42 different Klan groups in 22 states. And the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) tracked Klan activity to 11 other states, including liberal ones like California. 

Only when America has a President who’s not beholden to the Fascistic Right can there be another COINTELPRO aimed at white hate groups.

POLICE: IGNORING THE CRIMES OF FASCISTS–PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on May 15, 2019 at 12:22 am

At the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., the following sign is prominently displayed: WARNING SIGNS OF FASCISM.

Beneath that are listed the signs to beware of an approaching Fascistic dictatorship:

  • Powerful and continuing nationalism
  • Disdain for human rights
  • Identification of enemies as a unifying cause
  • Supremacy of the military
  • Rampant sexism
  • Controlled mass media
  • Obsession with national security
  • Religion and government intertwined
  • Labor power suppressed
  • Disdain for intellectuals and the arts
  • Obsession with crime and punishment
  • Rampant cronyism and corruption
  • Fraudulent elections

During the 1930s and 1940s, Fascism was clearly on the rise, and Western democracies seemed  unable to cope with it.

U.S. Holocaust Museum and Memorial

But by April, 1945, Adolf Hitler’s Germany and Benito Mussolini’s Italy were on the ash-heap of history.

After a run of quick victories, they had out-stretched their limited resources—and found themselves overwhelmingly defeated by the combined might of England, the United States and the Soviet Union.

And at the Nuremberg war crimes trials, the infamy of Nazi extermination camps was fully revealed.

And that—believed millions of anti-Fascists throughout the world—was the end of Fascism.

But it wasn’t.

By the time Donald J. Trump took office as President of the United States, Fascism was very much alive and dangerously well.

Specifically: In January, 2019, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) found that Right-wing extremists were linked to every 2018 extremist murder—at least 50—in the United States.

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In 2017, there had been 37 such killings by Right-wing extremists.

That same year, the FBI concluded that white supremacists killed more Americans from 2000 to 2016 than “any other domestic extremist movement.” 

In 2018, Right-wing extremists killed more people than in any year since 1995, the year that Timothy McVeigh’s blew up the Oklahoma City federal building. 

According to the ADL’s Center on Extremism:

  • Every perpetrator had ties to at least one Right-wing extremist movement.
  • Firearms were used overwhelmingly in Right-wing attacks.
  • Forty-two of the 50 deaths in 2018 were caused by guns. Knives or edged weapons accounted for the rest.
  • Five of the 17 incidents involved shooting sprees that caused 38 deaths and injured 33 others.
  • Five shooting sprees resulted in 38 deaths and left 33 people injured.

Among the five major Right-wing shooting sprees in 2018:

  • Tree of Life Synagogue, Pittsburgh, PA: 11 dead;
  • Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland, FL: 17 dead;
  • Waffle House, Nashville, TN: four dead.

For nearly two decades, United States counter-terrorism strategy has focused almost exclusively on American and foreign-born jihadists, overshadowing Right-wing extremism as a legitimate national-security threat.  

Between 2002 and 2017, the United States spent $2.8 trillion—15% of discretionary spending—on counter-terrorism. Between 2008 and 2017, domestic extremists killed 387 people in the United States, according to the 2019 ADL report.

“We’re actually seeing all the same phenomena of what was happening with groups like ISIS, same tactics, but no one talks about it because it’s far-Right extremism,” says P. W. Singer, a national security strategist at the New America think tank.  

In 2017, Singer met with senior Trump administration officials to discuss creating a counter-terrorism strategy that encompassed a wider range of threats.

“They only wanted to talk about Muslim extremism,” said Singer. But even before the Trump administration, “we willingly turned the other way on white supremacy because there were real political costs to talking about white supremacy.”

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P. W. Singer

Catiline17 [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D

Among those costs:

  • Arousing the ire of Southern states, where Right-wing terrorism organizations like the Ku Klux Klan have long been tolerated, if not outright supported.
  • About 22 million Americans say it’s “acceptable” to hold neo-Nazi or white-supremacist views, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll taken in the wake of the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally in August 2017.
  • About 10% of Americans said they supported the “alt-right.”
  • Many police officers don’t see white supremacist groups as a threat. One domestic-terrorism expert who conducts hate-crimes training for police has often been asked by officers: ‘Why aren’t you calling Black Lives Matter or Antifa a hate group?’ The answer is, because they’re not hate groups!  But they didn’t see it that way.”
  • According to William Fears, one of the most dedicated foot soldiers of the alt-right: Police were far less forgiving of Antifa, whose members consist of anti-fascists, anarchists, Socialists, animal rights activists, immigration rights activists, members of the local Socialist movement and environmental protesters. 
  • Another white nationalist activist recalled a rally where police posed for pictures with members of the alt-right: “Very buddy-buddy.” 

Since taking office as President, Donald Trump has consistently shown his support for Right-wing terrorist groups.

On August 11-12, 2017, white supremacists from across the country gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia, for a  “Unite the Right” rally.  Among the organizations represented:

  • The Ku Klux Klan (KKK);
  • The Alt-Knights;
  • The “Militia Movement”;
  • The American Nazi Party;
  • The Confederate League of the South.

Like the Nazis in 1930s Germany, they marched through the streets carrying flaming torches, screaming racial epithets and frightening the local citizenry.

On August 13, a Nazi sympathizer rammed his car into a group of counter-protesters, killing a woman and injuring 19 other demonstrators.

FASCISTIC OATHS—PAST AND PRESENT

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 14, 2019 at 12:05 am

William Kristol—a Right-wing political analyst—has been dubbed “the godfather of neoconservatism.” And with good reason. 

During the first two years of the George W. Bush administration, as the editor of the Weekly Standard, he was one of the leading instigators of the 2003 war with Iraq.

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Bill Kristol

He—like senior officials on the George W. Bush administration—falsely claimed that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and planned to use them against the United States.

Another Kristol lie: Hussein planned 9/11 with Osama bin Laden.

He has never apologized for either lie—or the resulting war that killed 4,487 American soldiers and wounded another 32,226.

But even after the disaster of the 2003 war against Iraq, Kristol wasn’t through urging the United States into another murderous quagmire.

In a September, 2013 column, Kristol called for a return to war—not only in Syria but Iran as well:

“…Soon after voting to authorize the use of force against the [Bashar al-] Assad regime, Republicans might consider moving an authorization for the use of force against the Iranian nuclear weapons program.

“They can explain that [President Barack] Obama’s dithering in the case of Syria shows the utility of unequivocally giving him the authority to act early with respect to Iran.”

So it’s no small thing that Kristol has found himself agreeing with Democratic Massachusetts United States Senator and 2020 Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren that Democrats should begin impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump.

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Elizabeth Warren

He did so on a segment of MSNBC’s “Meet the Press” on May 7, 2019. 

Earlier in the day, Elizabeth Warren had stated on the Senate floor: 

“More than 600 federal prosecutors have now said that what’s laid out in the Mueller Report would constitute obstruction of justice, and would trigger a prosecution for any human being in this country other than the President of the United States.

“Robert Mueller put all of the facts together for us, put all of the information together for us, and abided by the Trump administration declaration under the Office of Legal Counsel that a sitting president cannot be indicted for his crimes.

“We took an oath not to try and protect Donald Trump, we took an oath to protect and serve the Constitution of the United States of America, and the way we do that is we begin impeachment proceedings now against this president.” 

On February 15, 2019, Kristol had posted this tweet on Twitter: 

“Members of Congress take this oath of office (see Title 5, Section 3331 of the United States Code): “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”

On May 7, in a blistering attack on his fellow Republicans, he posted “the new GOP Congressional oath”:

“I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend Donald Trump against all oversight; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to him; that I take this obligation despite mental reservation and in the spirit of evasion of duty. So help me God.”

Hours later, Kristol appeared before a “Meet the Press” panel and attacked Democrats for being “so terrified about the word impeachment that we can’t even have hearings….I must say I agree with Elizabeth Warren. I never thought I would say this.

“Robert Mueller’s report… invited Congress to take a look for itself at the obstruction of justice charges. They have an obligation to do it. They don’t have to impeach him. They may take a look and decide there aren’t grounds for impeachment. Maybe they wanna censure him…I think Elizabeth Warren’s right. Begin the hearings.” 

Kristol’s “new GOP Congressional oath” is a deadly reminder of another oath that had fatal consequences for Nazi Germany—and the world.

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Soldiers swearing the Fuhrer Oath

On August 2, 1934, President Paul von Hindenburg died. Hitler was then serving as Reich Chancellor—the equivalent of attorney general. Within hours, the Nazi Reichstag [parliament] announced the following law, back-dated to August 1st:

“The office of Reich President will be combined with that of Reich Chancellor. The existing authority of the Reich President will consequently be transferred to the Führer and Reich Chancellor, Adolf Hitler.” 

Immediately following the announcement of the new Führer law, the German Officer Corps and every individual soldier in the German Army was made to swear a brand new oath of allegiance:

“I swear by God this holy oath, that I will render to Adolf Hitler, Führer of the German Reich and People, Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, unconditional obedience, and that I am ready, as a brave soldier, to risk my life at any time for this oath.”

No doubt Kristol, who considers himself a dyed-in-the-wool conservative, remembers all too well the fate of those old-time conservatives who dared oppose Hitler.

The lucky ones were sent to concentration camps. The unlucky ones wound up on meat hooks.

NRA: FEEL FREE TO INSULT DEAD GUN VICTIMS

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on May 9, 2019 at 12:11 am

“You know the great thing about the state of Iowa is, I’m pretty sure you all define gun control the same way we do in Texas—hitting what you aim at.

“My wife, Heidi, who is a petite, 5’2 California blonde, she was standing at the tripod unloading the full machine gun with a pink baseball cap that said ‘Frmed and Fabulous.’”

Yes, it was United States Senator Rafael “Ted” Cruz (R-Texas) on the prowl for laughs–-and votes—at a town hall meeting in Iowa.

Normally, Cruz would do his vote-hunting in Texas. But now Cruz had a bigger prize on his mind than simply being re-elected a United States Senator. Cruz wanted to be President in 2016.

U.S. Senator Rafael Cruz

And Iowa held its precinct causes on February 1-2, 2016.

Cruz’ jokes about gun control came on June 19, 2015, only two days after Dylann Roof, a white high school dropout, gunned down three unarmed black men and six black women at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. 

Dylann Roof

Following his remarks, Cruz headed to a shooting range, where he fired off rounds on a semiautomatic .223-caliber Smith and Wesson M&P 15.

Cruz’ remarks no doubt appeared insensitive to those who now mourned for the latest victims of gun violence. But Charles L. Cotton took insulting the dead to a whole new level. 

Cotton is a National Rifle Association (NRA) board member who also runs TexasCHLForum.com, an online discussion forum about guns and gun owners’ rights in Texas and beyond.

In a discussion thread on June 18, 2015—one day after the church slaughter—a board member noted that Clementa C. Pinckney, one of the nine people slain, was a pastor and a state legislator in South Carolina.

Cotton responded: “And he voted against concealed-carry. Eight of his church members who might be alive if he had expressly allowed members to carry handguns in church are dead. Innocent people died because of his position on a political issue.”

#NRA boardmember Charles L. Cotton: #Charleston tragedy could've been avoided if guns allowed in Churches.

That discussion thread has since been deleted.

During a subsequent phone interview, Cotton emphasized that he had been speaking as a private citizen—and not as an NRA board member:

“It was a discussion we were having about so called gun-free zones. It’s my opinion that there should not be any gun-free zones in schools or churches or anywhere else. If we look at mass shootings that occur, most happen in gun-free zones.”

If private citizens were allowed to carry guns everywhere, Cotton says, there will be fewer mass shootings because “if armed citizens are in there, they have a chance to defend themselves and other citizens.”

Cotton’s position—“there should not be any gun-free zones”—is exactly that of the NRA itself.

Under such circumstances, America will become a nation where anyplace, anytime, can be turned into the O.K. Corral.

Another point that Cotton didn’t mention: Dylann Roof did believe in concealed-carry–and it cost the lives of nine innocent men and women.

Finally, there is this: Even highly-trained shooters—such as those assigned to the United States Secret Service–don’t always respond as expected.

On May 15, 1972, Alabama Governor George Wallace was campaigning for President in Laurel, Maryland. He gave a speech behind a bulletproof podium at the Laurel Shopping Center. Then he moved from it to mingle with the crowd.

Since the 1968 assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy, all those campaigning for President have been assigned Secret Service bodyguards. And Wallace was surrounded by them as he shook hands with his eager supporters.

Suddenly, Arthur Bremer, a fame-seeking failure in life and romance, pushed his way forward, aimed a .38 revolver at Wallace’s abdomen and opened fire. Before he could be subdued, he hit Wallace four times, leaving him paralyzed for the rest of his life. 

Arthur Bremer shoots George Wallace

Nor was he Bremer’s only victim. Three other people present were wounded unintentionally: 

  • Alabama State Trooper Captain E. C. Dothard, Wallace’s personal bodyguard, who was shot in the stomach;
  • Dora Thompson, a campaign volunteer, who was shot in the leg; and 
  • Nick Zarvos, a Secret Service agent, who was shot in the neck, severely impairing his speech.

None of Wallace’s bodyguards got off a shot at Bremer—before or after he pulled the trigger.

On October 6, 1981, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat was reviewing a military parade in Cairo when a truck apparently broke down directly across from where he was seated. 

Anwar Sadat, moments before his assassination

Suddenly, soldiers bolted from the rear of the vehicle, throwing hand grenades and firing assault rifles.  They rushed straight at Sadat—who died instantly under a hail of bullets.

Meanwhile, Sadat’s bodyguards—who had been trained by the CIA—panicked and fled.

Sadat had been assassinated by army officers who believed he had betrayed Islam by making peace with Israel in 1977.

The ultimate test of the NRA’s mantra that “there should not be any gun-free zones…anywhere” will come only when one or more heavily-armed gunmen target an NRA convention.

It will then be interesting to see if the surviving NRA members are as quick to blame themselves for being victims as they are to blame the victims of other mass gun-slaughters.

POLITICAL INSULTS: IGNORE THEM OR RESPOND?—PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on May 8, 2019 at 4:01 pm

On the May 27, 2016 edition of the PBS Newshour, New York Times columnist David Brooks noted the ability of Massachusetts U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren to rattle Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump.

But he added that this presented a dilemma for candidates who wished to retaliate against Trump’s insults with their own:

“And so the tactics…is either you do what Elizabeth Warren has done, like full-bore negativity, that kind of [get] under the skin, or try to ridicule him and use humor.” 

Humor has never been the strong point of Democrats generally. 

Tyrants are conspicuously vulnerable to ridicule. Yet Democrats have proven unable or unwilling to make use of this powerful weapon.

Donald Trump—as political candidate and President—has repeatedly assaulted the press as “fake news.” 

But no Democrat has dared to label him a “fake President.”

Similarly, Democrats have refused to capitalize on Trump’s often-publicized admiration for Russian dictator Vladimir Putin by calling him “Red Donald,” “Putin’s Puppet,” “Trumpy Traitor” or “Commissar-in-Chief.”

Had Democrats attacked him with such insults, the 2016 Presidential campaign might well have ended differently.

2018 inauguration of Vladimir Putin 51-1.jpg

Vladimir Putin

Kremlin.ru [CC BY 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)%5D

Democrats and liberals (the two are often different) have similarly failed to produce funny anti-Trump jokes. Jokes are an effective weapon because they highlight traits that people are already familiar with—such as Trump’s dictatorial nature.

  • One day, while walking down a corridor, President Trump passes Hillary Clinton. “It’s so nice to see you,” says Trump. “I thought I had you shot.”
  • What’s the difference between Donald Trump and Adolf Hitler?  Nothing—but Trump doesn’t know it.  

Or his egomania:

  • Donald Trump dies—and, to punish his blatant greed and egotism, he’s returned to Earth as a mouse. He quickly tires of raping other, mere mice—and sets his sights on something he thinks worthy of his prowess: An elephant. He spots a female elephant chewing grass at a waterhole and shimmies up her leg. Then he crawls up her backside and starts pounding away. The elephant, having eaten too much grass, gives a loud grunt. And Trump-mouse stops for a moment and says: “Did I hurt you, sweetheart?” 

Or his crudeness: 

  • Trump is so furious that he can’t send the Air Force to bomb the New York Times building, he spits on a White House carpet. A staffer promptly rebukes him: “You can’t do that—this is where Abraham Lincoln once walked.” Trump: “Yes I can. Vladimir Putin himself gave me permission. When I visited the Kremlin, I spat on the carpet there, too. And Putin said: ‘You can do whatever you want in the White House, but you can’t do that here.'”   

Incredibly for this YouTube-obsessed age, Democrats have never assailed Trump with barrages of satirical musical videos.

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Donald Trump

Trump’s notorious “bromance” with Vladimir Putin could be satirized by converting the Beatles’ hit, “With a Little Help From My Friends” into “With a Little Help From My Vlad”:

What do I do when the bank calls me in?
(Does it worry you to be in debt?)
How do I feel when I need rubles fast?
(Do you worry Vlad might say “Nyet”?)

No, I get by with a little help from my Vlad.
Mm, I can lie with a little help from my Vlad.
Mm, you’re gonna fry with a little help from my Vlad.

In the hands of a creative writer, the classic, “Love and Marriage,” could be turned into a searing attack on Trump’s infamous affair with porn “star” Stormy Daniels:  

Trump and Stormy
Trump and Stormy
When his wife’s away, Trump thinks, “Why worry?
Sex with sluts is kinky.
And they don’t mind I’m really stinky.”

Pay, pay, pay the porn star’s bill off
It’s a deduction.
Pay, pay, pay it off because for you
This is seduction.

Many Americans have wondered how so many millions of their fellow citizens could have voted for Trump.

“Springtime for Hitler,” the signature tune of the hit play and movie, The Producers, could become “Springtime for Trumpland”—and help mightily in clearing up that mystery:

America was having trouble
What a sad, sad story.
Needed a new leader
To restore its former glory.

Where oh where was he?
Who could that man be?
We looked around and then we found
The man for you and me.

And now it’s… 

Springtime for Trump goons and bigotry—
Winter for Reason and Light.
Springtime for Trumpland and infamy—
Come on, Trumpsters, let’s go pick a fight. 

Parody song-writers could easily attack the obvious racism of Trump’s hardcore base. Consider these revised lyrics for the classic folk song, “Little Boxes”:

And some go off to lynchings
Where they hang their black neighbors high.
And they all have stupid children
And the children flunk at school.
And the children go to Nazi sites
And learn their perversity.
Then they turn out like their parents
And they’re all scum just the same. 

For any of this to happen, Democrats would need to acquire two qualities they have all-too-often lacked: Creativity and courage. 

Fortunately for Trump, Democrats continue to lack both.

POLITICAL INSULTS: IGNORE THEM OR RESPOND?—PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on May 7, 2019 at 12:52 pm

Former Vice President Joe Biden has stepped into the nickname wars.

Since Biden launched his bid in late April, President Donald Trump has relentlessly insulted him, often referring to him as “Sleepy Joe.”

At a private fundraiser in Columbia, South Carolina, a supporter asked Biden if he would return Trump’s insults.

“There’s so many nicknames I’m inclined to give this guy,” Biden said to laughter in the room. “You can just start with clown.” 

Biden said he would respond to Trump if directly attacked. But he added that he believed it was part of Trump’s strategy to avoid dealing with serious issues.

“On every single issue and on every demeaning thing he says about other people, I have no problem responding directly,” Biden said. “What I’m not going to do is get into what he wants me to do. He wants this to be a mud wrestling match.” 

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Joe Biden 

The blunt truth is that neither Democrats nor Republicans have even tried to match—let alone top—Trump’s penchant for insulting his political opponents.

Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks have noted this aspect of Trump’s character

On May 27, 2016, Shields—a liberal, and Brooks, a conservative—appeared on the PBS Newshour to review the week’s major political events.

With the business magnate having won the 2016 Republican Presidential nomination, both columnists appeared increasingly dismayed. 

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David Brooks and Mark Shields

MARK SHIELDS: “Donald Trump gratuitously slandered Ted Cruz’s wife. He libeled Ted Cruz’s father for being potentially part of Lee Harvey Oswald’s assassination of the president of the United States, suggesting that he was somehow a fellow traveler in that.  

“This is a libel. You don’t get over it….  

“I cannot figure out any possible advantage to Donald Trump when he’s got a problem with Latinos and with women to go into New Mexico, where the nation’s only Latina woman Republican governor sits, who has not said anything negative about him, who endorsed one of his opponents, but has not been an attack dog on Donald Trump, and absolutely goes after her and is abusive to her.  

“And I’m just saying to myself, what is the advantage to this?

“…I think this man may be addicted to the roar of the grease paint and the sound of the crowd, or however it goes, smell of the crowd.

“And those rallies bring out something in him, and he just feels that he has to—and it’s all personal….I mean, it’s not a philosophical difference. It’s not a political difference. It’s all personal.”

DAVID BROOKS: “Trump, for all his moral flaws, is a marketing genius. And you look at what he does. He just picks a word and he attaches it to a person. Little Marco [Rubio], Lyin’ Ted [Cruz], Crooked Hillary [Clinton].

“And that’s a word.  And that’s how marketing works.  It’s a simple, blunt message, but it gets under.

“It sticks, and it diminishes.  And so it has been super effective for him, because he knows how to do that.  And she [Hillary Clinton] just comes with, ‘Oh, he’s divisive.’

“These are words that are not exciting people. And her campaign style has gotten, if anything…a little more stagnant and more flat.”  

Hillary Clinton official Secretary of State portrait crop.jpg

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton wasn’t the only Presidential candidate who proved unable to cope with Trump’s gifts for insult. His targets—and insults—included: 

  • Former Texas Governor Rick Perry: “Wears glasses to seem smart.”
  • Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush: “Low Energy Jeb.”
  • Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders: “Crazy Bernie.”
  • Ohio Governor John Kasich: “Mathematically dead and totally desperate.”

Florida U.S. Senator Marco Rubio tried to out-insult Trump at the Republican Presidential candidates’ debate on March 3, 2016.

“I call him Little Marco. Little Marco. Hello, Marco,” said Trump.

And so Rubio retaliated with “Big Donald.”

Since Americans generally believe that “bigger is better,” this was a poor choice of insult.

So far, only one opponent has managed to verbally stand up to Trump: Massachusetts U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, whom Trump has called “goofy” and “Pocahontas.”  

On the May 27, 2016 edition of the PBS Newshour, syndicated columnist Mark Shields noted the ability of Elizabeth Warren to rattle Trump:

“Elizabeth Warren gets under Donald Trunp’s skin. And I think she’s been the most effective adversary. I think she’s done more to unite the Democratic party than either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.

“I mean, she obviously—he can’t stay away from her. He is tweeting about her.” 

Elizabeth Warren--Official 113th Congressional Portrait--.jpg

Elizabeth Warren

JUDY WOODRUFF (moderator): “But whether it’s Elizabeth Warren or not, doesn’t Hillary Clinton need to come up with some approach that works, that is as effective comeback?”

DAVID BROOKS: “Yes. Well, I think she does, not that anybody else has managed to do this….

“And so the tactics…is either you do what Elizabeth Warren has done, like full-bore negativity, that kind of [get] under the skin, or try to ridicule him and use humor. Humor is not Hillary Clinton’s strongest point.”  

But sharp-edged humor clearly works for Warren.  

TRUMP’S LAST LINE OF DEFENSE: AMERICAN GREED

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on May 3, 2019 at 12:22 am

Everyone knows how World War II ended for Nazi Germany: With its Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler, dead, and its capital city of Berlin in ruins.

Casualty figures range from 4.3 to 5.3 million dead Germans.

And for 44 years—from May 7, 1945, until November 9, 1989—Berlin was a divided city and Germany a divided nation. The Soviet Union ruled the eastern half. Germans—backed up by American military forces—ruled the western half.

Yet before all this unhappiness descended on the Fatherland, the vast majority of Germans enjoyed what they called “The Happy Time.”

This period began on January 30, 1933, when Adolf Hitler became Chancellor—and lasted until June 22, 1941.

For most Germans, those years—and especially the year between June, 1940, and June, 1941–were a time of prosperity and joy.

According to Robert Gellately’s 2002 landmark study, Backing Hitler: Consent and Coercion in Nazi Germany, the Nazis operated a highly popular dictatorship. They didn’t try to cow people into submission. Instead, they set out to win converts by building on popular images, cherished ideals and long-held phobias.

And their efforts succeeded. The Gestapo owed its fearsome success to ordinary German citizens who voluntarily reported on “enemies” within their midst. These citizens saw themselves as patriots.

Nor, as has long been believed, were Nazi atrocities carried out in secret. From the media, Germans learned about the Nazis’ brutal campaign against the Jews, the concentration camps, and the Nazis’ radical approaches to “law and order.”

But as far as everyday Germans were concerned:

  • The streets were clean and peaceful.
  • Employment was high.
  • The Communists and Jews were being locked up.
  • The trouble-making unions were gone.
  • Germany was once again “taking its rightful place” among ruling nations, after its catastrophic defeat in World War 1.

The height of “The Happy Time” came in June, 1940. In just six weeks, the Wehrmacht  accomplished what the German army hadn’t in four years during World War 1: The total defeat of its longtime enemy, France.

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Frenzied Germans greet Adolf Hitler

Suddenly, French clothes, perfumes, delicacies, paintings and other “fortunes of war” came pouring into the Fatherland.  (Reichsmarshall Herman Goring, head of the Luftwaffe—air force—amassed his own private air collection from French museums.) 

Most Germans believed der Krieg—“the war”—was over, and only good times lay ahead.

But Adolf Hitler had other plans.

On June 22, 1941, three million Wehrmacht soldiers slashed their way into the Soviet Union. The Third Reich was now locked in a death-struggle with a nation even more powerful than itself. 

German soldiers in the Soviet Union

And then, on December 11, 1941—four days after Germany’s ally, Japan, attacked Pearl Harbor—Hitler declared war on the United States. 

“The Happy Time” for Germans was over. Only prolonged disaster lay ahead. 

Now, fast forward 77 years to the America of President Donald J. Trump. According to an official White House statement entitled “American Greatness,” issued on June 4, 2018: 

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Donald Trump

“Nearly 3 million jobs have been created since President Trump took office. The unemployment rate has dropped to 3.8, the lowest rate since April 2000, and job openings have reached 6.6 million, the highest level recorded. President Trump has restored confidence in the American economy, with confidence among both consumers and businesses reaching historic highs.” 

Much of this jobs growth, however, was already underway during the closing years of the Obama administration. But that hasn’t stopped Trump from taking credit for it.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders doubtless spoke for millions of Trump supporters when she said, on June 4, 2018: “Since taking office, the President has strengthened American leadership, security, prosperity, and accountability. And as we saw from Friday’s jobs report, our economy is stronger, Americans are optimistic, and business is booming.

“The American people do not believe this strong economy is fantasy or unrealistic.” 

Many Congressional Republicans have echoed this: The American people care only about the economy—and how well-off they are.

Only five days earlier—on May 31, 2018—the Trump administration had announced it would put steel and aluminum tariffs on longtime American allies Canada, Mexico and the European Union (EU).

Mexico, Canada and the EU immediately vowed to retaliate. For Americans, this will mean higher prices on such items as beer, baseball bats and cars. The EU has threatened to impose tariffs on motorcycles, bourbon whiskey, Levi’s jeans, peanut butter and cranberries.

A disastrous global trade war could be the ultimate result.

On June 4, Trump claimed, in a tweet: “As has been stated by numerous legal scholars, I have the absolute right to PARDON myself….” 

And, making clear how far above the law he thinks Trump is, his attorney, Rudolph Giuliani, told the Huffington Post on June 3: “In no case can he be subpoenaed or indicted. I don’t know how you can indict while he’s in office. No matter what it is. 

“If he shot [former FBI director] James Comey, he’d be impeached the next day. Impeach him, and then you can do whatever you want to do to him.” 

The Germans made a similar devil’s-bargain with Hitler—and paid dearly for it. Americans, by supporting Trump—or at least not opposing him—have made a similar devil’s-bargain.

And such bargains always end with the devil winning.

BILLIONS FOR BUILDINGS AND WARS, NONE FOR THE POOR

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 30, 2019 at 9:41 am

On April 15, millions across France gasped in horror at the sight of Notre Dame Cathedral going up in flames.  

The Cathedral, perhaps the most iconic building in Paris, is visited by more than 14 million people every year. Built between 1160 and 1345, it has long been one of the most important sites in Christendom. 

A law passed in 1905 classified the cathedral as a Historical Monument and thus the property of the state. But its use is dedicated exclusively to the Roman Catholic Church. Catholics are estimated to comprise between 41% and 88% of France’s population.

But by April 19, for untold numbers of French citizens, horror and sadness had been replaced by anger.  

So what had happened to arouse this? 

First, French President Emmanuel Macron addressed the nation to speak about the fire. In doing so, he totally ignored the violent protests against inequality that have erupted throughout the country since last November.

Low-paid workers and pensioners have accused Macron’s government of favoring the rich. The activists are named Yellow Vests—after the fluorescent jackets French motorists are required to keep in their cars.

Second, in just a few hours, billionaires pledged hundreds of millions of dollars (euros) to help restore the damaged cathedral.

“You’re there, looking at all these millions accumulating, after spending five months in the streets fighting social and fiscal injustice. It’s breaking my heart,” Ingrid Levavasseur, a founding leader of the movement, told The Associated Press.

“What happened at Notre Dame is obviously a deplorable tragedy. But nobody died,” Levavasseur said. “I’ve heard someone speaking of national mourning. Are they out of their minds?”

“The yellow vests will show their anger against the billion found in four days for stones, and nothing for the needy,” wrote Pierre Derrien on Facebook.

More than $1 billion has been pledged for the cathedral’s restoration, and many French citizens believe the money could be better spent elsewhere. And the billionaires’ donations entitle them to huge tax deductions.

“If they can give dozens of millions to rebuild Notre Dame, they should stop telling us there is no money to respond to the social emergency,” CGT trade union leader Philippe Martinez said.

But this is generally how the rich and powerful react to the needs of the neediest.

In 2016, returning to Congress after their traditional summer recess, House Republicans planned to cut $23 billion in food stamps for the poor. This included ending waivers that allowed some adults to get temporary assistance while they were in school or training for a job.  

The cuts were to include drug tests of applicants and tougher work rules. As Republicans see it: There’s no point in “helping” the poor if you can’t humiliate them.

The food stamp program, now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, served more than 46 million Americans and cost $74 billion in 2015. 

Meanwhile, Republicans were eager to spend billions of dollars for another project: An unnecessary war with Syria.

One of these right-wingers was Bill Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard—and one of the leading instigators of the 2003 war with Iraq.

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Bill Kristol

He—like senior officials on the George W. Bush administration—falsely claimed that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and planned to use them against the United States.

Another Kristol lie: Hussein planned 9/11 with Osama bin Laden.

He has never apologized for either lie—or the resulting war that killed 4,487 American soldiers and wounded another 32,226.

In a September, 2013 column, Kristol called for a return to slaughter—not only in Syria but Iran as well:

“…Soon after voting to authorize the use of force against the [Bashar al-] Assad regime, Republicans might consider moving an authorization for the use of force against the Iranian nuclear weapons program.

“They can explain that [President Barack] Obama’s dithering in the case of Syria shows the utility of unequivocally giving him the authority to act early with respect to Iran.”

Among Republican U.S. Senators calling for war were Arizona’s John McCain and South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham, who issued a joint statement:

“Using stand-off weapons, without boots on the ground, and at minimal risk to our men and women in uniform, we can significantly degrade Assad’s air power and ballistic missile capabilities and help to establish and defend safe areas on  the ground.”

In addition: A major weapon for “degrading Assad’s air power” would be Tomahawk Cruise missiles. A single one of these costs $1,410,000.

Firing of a Tomahawk Cruise missile

A protracted missile strike would rain literally billions of dollars’ worth of American missiles on Syria.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon was spending about $27 million a week to maintain the increased U.S. Navy presence in the Mediterranean Sea and Middle East region to keep watch over Syria and be prepared to strike.

Navy officials said it cost about $25 million a week for the carrier group and $2 million a week for each destroyer.

Is there a lesson to be learned from all this?

Yes.

Powerful people—whether generals, politicians or the wealthy—will always find abundant money and resources available for pet projects they consider important.

It’s only when it comes to projects that other people actually need that the powerful will claim there is, unfortunately, a cash shortage.

REAL ID DOESN’T MAKE FOR REAL SECURITY

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Self-Help, Social commentary on April 29, 2019 at 12:04 am

More than two million Californians got a rude Christmas gift in 2018. 

The Department of Homeland Security informed the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) that the driver’s licenses and identity cards it had issued were worthless.    

The DMV had been issuing ID cards and driver’s licenses that didn’t comply with the Federal Government’s standards. So if you’ve received such a card, you won’t be allowed to board an airplane or enter a Federal Building after October, 2020.

The Federal Government is requiring all states to upgrade to the so-called Real ID cards, which are supposedly harder to forge. The “enhancements” were ordered into place after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center.

In 2005, Congress passed the Real ID Act as a counter-terrorism measure. Its goal was to set security standards for government-issued IDs.

The Act started to be introduced in late 2013. Now in the last phase of its implementation, its enforcers have decided that licenses issued by some states don’t contain enough identifying information to pass muster with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

One of those states is California.

The others:

  • Alaska
  • Illinois
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Missouri
  • Montana 
  • New Jersey
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island 

So where did the California DMV go wrong? 

Instead of requiring two documents to prove residency, the DMV was only asking for one document from Real ID applicants. The department would then mail the ID card to the applicant’s address, which they believed constituted a second method of verifying the person’s residency.

And how are residents of states like California supposed to cope? 

The Federal Government is advising them to get a passport.

And this, in turn, carries an illogic all its own.

As one soon-to-be affected traveler outlined: “To get a passport I’ll first need to get a certified copy of my birth certificate. And to get a copy of my birth certificate I need only to submit a copy of my driver’s license.

“A copy, no face-to-face, is-that-really you?  So a New York driver’s license isn’t good enough for flying but it is good enough to get a birth certificate, which gets me a passport, which allows me to fly.”

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Sample state ID card that’s acceptable under the Real ID Act

So much of what passes for security is actually security theater.  It doesn’t actually make us safer, but it makes us feel safer.  

And it makes us feel the government is keeping us safe, even when it isn’t.

For example: In the months after 9/11, National Guard troops were stationed in American airports. They certainly looked impressive.  

But passengers would have felt far less reassured had they known the assault rifles they carried had no bullets.

Or take the checking of photo IDs that has become routine to enter State and Federal office buildings.

What exactly does this tell the security guard?

If you’re John Dillinger or Osama bin Laden, it tells him: “This is a very wanted man.”  

But if you’re John Q. Public, who’s not notorious as a bank robber or terrorist, showing him your ID tells him nothing.

But people watching the guard performing this ritual assume: “The security guard must know what he’s looking for. So we have to be safer for his checking those IDs.”

In fact, most security guards have little training and even less experience. Many of them don’t carry firearms and lack self-defense skills.

According to Salary.com: The median annual Security Guard salary is $29,204, as of July 29, 2016, with a range usually between $25,857 and $33,522.  

Repeated showings of security theater can be seen every weekday at any Federal Building.

To enter, you must show a driver’s license or State ID card.

Then you must remove

  • Your belt;
  • Your shoes;
  • Your watch;
  • Your wallet;
  • All other objects from your pants pockets;
  • Any jacket you’re wearing;
  • Any cell phone you’re carrying.

All of these must be placed in one or more large plastic containers, which are run through an x-ray scanner.

Finally, assuming you avoid setting off any alarm system, you’re allowed to enter.

If you want to report a crime to a field office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), here’s the procedure.

You take an elevator to the floor its offices are on. You tell a secretary why you want to speak with an agent. She requires you to pass her your driver’s license or State ID card. Then she makes a xerox of this and hands the card back.

Then you must list, on a single-page form, your:

  • Name;
  • Address;
  • Phone number;
  • Social Security umber;
  • The reason you want to speak to an agent.

You can refuse to fill out the form. But then the secretary will refuse to let you speak with an agent.

The FBI has always encouraged Americans to report anything they consider a threat to national security or a violation of Federal law.

But this demand for so much private information is almost certain to sharply decrease the number of people willing to report knowledge of a crime.

At a time when Federal law enforcement agencies need all the cooperation they can get, this is not a matter to be taken lightly.

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