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EGO AS THE ROAD TO DISASTER

In History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 14, 2019 at 12:37 am

It’s commonplace to read about the role sex plays in motivating behavior. But the power of ego to determine history is often ignored.

Consider the role that ego played in igniting the American Civil War (1861 – 1865).

According to The Destructive War, by Charles Royster, it wasn’t the cause of “states’ rights” that led 13 Southern states to withdraw from the Union in 1960-61. It was their demand for “respect,” which, in reality, translates into “e-g-o.”

“The respect Southerners demanded did not consist simply of the states’ sovereignty or of the equal rights of Northern and Southern citizens, including slaveholders’ right to take their chattels into Northern territory.

“It entailed, too, respect for their assertion of the moral superiority of slaveholding society over free society,” writes Royster.

It was not enough for Southerners to claim equal standing with Northerners; Northerners must acknowledge it. But this was something that the North was less and less willing to do. 

Finally, its citizens dared to elect Abraham Lincoln in 1860.

An iconic photograph of a bearded Abraham Lincoln showing his head and shoulders.

Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln and his new Republican party damned slavery—and slaveholders—as morally evil, obsolete and ultimately doomed. And they were determined to prevent slavery from spreading any further throughout the country.

Southerners found all of this intolerable.

The British author, Anthony Trollope, explained to his readers: “It is no light thing to be told daily, by our fellow citizens…that you are guilty of the one damning sin that cannot be forgiven.

“All this [Southerners] could partly moderate, partly rebuke and partly bear as long as political power remained in their hands. But they have gradually felt that this was going, and were prepared to cut the rope and run as soon as it was gone.”

Only 10% of Southerners owned slaves. The other 90% of the population “had no dog in this fight,” as Southerners liked to say.

Yet they so admired and aspired to be like their “gentleman betters” that they threw in their lot with them.

There were some Southerners who could see what was coming—and vainly warned their fellow citizens against it.

One of these was Sam Houston, the man who had won Texas independence at the 1836 battle of San Jacinto and later served as that state’s governor.

Sam Houston

On April 19, 1860, addressing a crowd in Galveston, he said: “Let me tell you what is coming. After the sacrifice of countless millions of treasure and hundreds of thousands of lives, you may win Southern independence if God be not against you.

“But I doubt it. I tell you that, while I believe with you in the doctrine of states’ rights, the North is determined to preserve this Union. They are not a fiery, impulsive people as you are, for they live in colder climates.

“But when they begin to move in a given direction, they move with the steady momentum and perseverance of a mighty avalanche; and what I fear is, they will overwhelm the South.”

Four years later, on April 9, 1865, Houston’s warning became history.

Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse.

Huge sections of the South had been laid waste by Union troops and more than 258,000 Southerners had been killed.

And slavery, the mainstay of Southern plantation life, had been ended forever.

The South had paid an expensive price for its fixation on ego.

Even more proved at risk a century later, when President John F. Kennedy faced off with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev.

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John F. Kennedy

In April, Kennedy had been humiliated at the Bay of Pigs when a CIA-sponsored invasion failed to overthrow the Cuba’s Fidel Castro. So he was already on the defensive when he and Khrushchev met in Vienna.Khrushchev pressed his advantage, threatening Kennedy with nuclear war unless the Americans abandoned their protection of West Berlin.

That August, faced with the embarrassment of East Berliners fleeing by the thousands into West Germany, the Soviet leader backed off from his threat.In its place, he erected the infamous Berlin Wall, sealing off East and West Berlin.

Kennedy’s reaction: “That son of a bitch won’t pay any attention to words. He has to see you move.”

Then, most ominously: “If Khrushchev wants to rub my nose in the dirt, it’s all over.”

In short: Kennedy was prepared to incinerate the planet if he felt his almighty ego was about to get smacked.

Nuclear missile in silo

What has proved true for states and nations proves equally true for those leading every other type of institution.

Although most people like to believe they are guided by rationality and morality, all-too-often, what truly decides the course of events is their ego.

For pre-Civil War Southerners, it meant demanding that “Yankees” show respect for slave-owning society.  Otherwise, they would leave the Union.

For Kennedy, it meant playing a game of “chicken,” backed up with nuclear missiles, to show Khrushchev who Numero Uno really was. And during the Cuban Missile Crisis, in October, 1962, humankind almost disappeared as Kennedy set out to make Khrushchev “blink.”

It is well to keep these lessons from history in mind when making our own major decisions.

FICTION BECOMES NIGHTMARISH REALITY: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on March 8, 2019 at 12:59 pm

Donald Trump’s appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference on March 2, 2019 was an occasion for rejoicing among his supporters.

But for those who prize rationality and decency in a President, it was a dismaying and frightening experience.

For two hours, Trump gave free reign to his anger and egomania.  

Among his unhinged commentaries:

“We have people in Congress that hate our country.” 

If you don’t agree 100% with Trump on everything, you’re a traitor. 

“He called me up. He said, ‘You’re a great President. You’re doing a great job.’ He said, ‘I just want to tell you you’re a great President and you’re one of the smartest people I’ve ever met.'”

Trump attributed these remarks to California’s liberal governor, Gavin Newsom.  On February 11, 2019, Newsom announced the withdrawal of several hundred National Guardsmen from the state’s southern border with Mexico—defying Trump’s request for support from border states.

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Donald Trump at CPAC

“You know if you remember my first major speech—you know the dishonest media they’ll say, ‘He didn’t get a standing ovation.’ You know why? Because everybody stood and nobody sat. They are the worst. They leave that out.”

Once again, he’s the persecuted victim of an unfair and totally unappreciative news media.

“And I love the First Amendment; nobody loves it better than me. Nobody. I mean, who use its more than I do? But the First Amendment gives all of us—it gives it to me, it gives it to you, it gives it to all Americans, the right to speak our minds freely. It gives you the right and me the right to criticize fake news and criticize it strongly.”

Trump has repeatedly called the nation’s free press “the enemy of the people”—a slander popularized by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. And while Trump brags about his usage of the First Amendment, he’s used Non-Disclosure agreements and threats of lawsuits to deny that right to others.

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“For too long, we’ve traded away our jobs to other countries. So terrible.”

While this remark—like virtually every remark Trump made at CPAC—got rousing applause, he failed to mention that his own products are made overseas:

  • Ties: Made in China 
  • Suits: Made in Indonesia 
  • Trump Vodka: Made in the Netherlands, and later in Germany
  • Crystal glasses, decanters: Made in Slovenia 
  • And the clothing and accessories line of his daughter, Ivanka, is produced entirely in factories in Bangladesh, Indonesia and China.

“By the way, you folks are in here—this place is packed, there are lines that go back six blocks and I tell you that because you won’t read about it, OK.”

He’s obsessed with fear that the media won’t make him look popular.

“So we’re all part of this very historic movement, a movement the likes of which, actually, the world has never seen before. There’s never been anything like this. There’s been some movements, but there’s never been anything like this.”

Trump sees himself as the single greatest figure in history. So anything he’s involved with must be unprecedented.

“But I always say, Obamacare doesn’t work. And these same people two years ago and a year ago were complaining about Obamacare.”

In 2010, 48 million Americans lacked health insurance. By 2016, that number had been reduced to 28.6 million. So 20 million Americans now have access to medical care they previously couldn’t get.

“But we’re taking a firm, bold and decisive measure, we have to, to turn things around. The era of empty talk is over, it’s over.”

  • Trump has boasted that he and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un “fell in love.” Then he met with Kim in Vietnam—and got stiffed on a deal for North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.
  • On July 16, 2018, Trump attended a press conference in Helsinki, Finland, with Russian President Vladimir Putin. There he blamed American Intelligence agencies—such as the FBI, CIA—instead of Putin for Russia’s subversion of the 2016 Presidential election.

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“I’ll tell you what they [agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement] do, they came and endorsed me, ICE came and endorsed me. They never endorsed a presidential candidate before, they might not even be allowed to.” 

Trump can’t stop boasting about how popular he is.

“These are hard-working, great, great Americans. These are unbelievable people who have not been treated fairly. Hillary called them deplorable. They’re not deplorable.”

On the contrary: “Deplorable” is exactly the word for those who vote their racism, ignorance, superstition and hatred of their fellow citizens.

A FINAL NOTE: Trump held himself up for adoration just three days after Michael Cohen, his longtime fixer:

  • Damned him as a racist, a conman and a cheat.
  • Revealed that Trump had cheated on his taxes and bought the silence of a porn “star” to prevent her revealing a 2006 tryst before the 2016 election.
  • Estimated he had stiffed, on Trump’s behalf, hundreds of workers Trump owed money to. 

And, only two days earlier, Trump had returned from a much-ballyhooed meeting in Vietnam with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un. Trump hoped to get a Nobel Peace Prize by persuading Kim to give up his nuclear arsenal.

Instead, Trump got stiffed—and returned empty-handed. 

FICTION BECOMES NIGHTMARISH REALITY: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on March 7, 2019 at 12:10 am

“Is this man simply crazy, or is he crazy like a fox?”

That was the question that Bandy X. Lee, an assistant clinical psychiatry professor at the Yale School of Medicine, wanted to answer.

And she tried to do so as the the editor of The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President. 

“It doesn’t take a psychiatrist to notice that our president is mentally compromised,” she and colleague Judith Lewis Herman asserted in the book’s prologue.

According to Dr. Craig Malkin, a Lecturer in Psychology for Harvard Medical School and a licensed psychologist, Trump is a pathological narcissist:

“Pathological narcissism begins,” Malkin writes, “when people become so addicted to feeling special that, just like with any drug, they’ll do anything to get their ‘high,’ including lie, steal, cheat, betray and even hurt those closest to them.

“When they can’t let go of their need to be admired or recognized, they have to bend or invent a reality in which they remain special despite all messages to the contrary. In point of fact, they become dangerously psychotic. It’s just not always obvious until it’s too late.”

Lance Dodes, a retired psychiatry professor at Harvard Medical School, believes that Trump is a sociopath: “The failure of normal empathy is central to sociopathy, which is marked by an absence of guilt, intentional manipulation and controlling or even sadistically harming others for personal power or gratification.”

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But an observer didn’t need to be a psychiatrist to feel frightened by Trump’s behavior at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on March 2.

For two hours, in National Harbor, Maryland, Trump delivered the longest address (so far) of his Presidency—and of any American President.

“You know, I’m totally off script right now,” Trump said early on. “This is how I got elected, by being off script.” 

And from the moment he embraced an American flag as though he wanted to hump it, it was clear: He was “totally off script.” 

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“How many times did you hear, for months and months, ‘There is no way to 270?’ You know what that means, right? ‘There is no way to 270.'”

Once again, Trump reveales his obsession with his win in 2016—as if no one else had ever been elected President.

“If you tell a joke, if you’re sarcastic, if you’re having fun with the audience, if you’re on live television with millions of people and 25,000 people in an arena, and if you say something like, ‘Russia, please, if you can, get us Hillary Clinton’s emails. Please, Russia, please.'”

Here he’s trying to “spin” his infamous invitation to hackers in Vladimir Putin’s Russia to intervene in an American Presidential election by obtaining the emails of  his campaign rival. Which they did that same day.

“So now we’re waiting for a report, and we’ll find out whether or not, and who we’re dealing with. We’re waiting for a report by people that weren’t elected.”

It doesn’t matter to Trump that America’s foremost enemy—Russia—tried to influence a Presidential election. What matters to him is that the report may end his Presidency.

“Those red hats—and white ones. The key is in the color. The key is what it says. ‘Make America Great Again’ is what it says. Right? Right?”

Color matters.  Words, ideas don’t. 

“Now, Robert Mueller never received a vote, and neither did the person that appointed him. And as you know, the attorney general says, ‘I’m going to recuse myself.'”

Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller and Assistant Attorney General Rod Rosenstein are career Justice Department officials. They weren’t voted into office.

“Number one, I’m in love, and you’re in love. We’re all in love together. There’s so much love in this room, it’s easy to talk. You can talk your heart out. You really could. There’s love in this room. You can talk your heart out. It’s easy. It’s easy. It’s easy.”

Trump apparently finds it easy to fall in love—with Right-wing audiences and Communist dictators such as Kim Jong-Un.

“And from the day we came down the escalator, I really don’t believe we’ve had an empty seat at any arena, at any stadium. They did the same thing at our big inauguration speech. You take a look at those crowds.”

Once again, he must brag about how popular he is and how many people want to listen to him.

“A few days ago I called the fake news the enemy of the people. And they are. They are the enemy of the people. Because they have no sources, they just make ’em up when there are none.” 

By January 21, 2019, The Washington Post found that Trump had made “7,645 ‘false or misleading claims.” He is in no position to talk about integrity.

“But we’re going to have regulation. It’s going to be really strong and really good and we’re going to protect our environment and we’re going to protect the safety of our people and our workers, OK?”

To “protect our environment,” Trump appointed Andrew R. Wheeler, a former coal company lobbyist, to head the Environmental Protection Agency.

FICTION BECOMES NIGHTMARISH REALITY: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on March 6, 2019 at 1:10 pm

“One man in the free world has the power to launch a nuclear war that might destroy civilization: the President of the United States. What if that man were mentally unbalanced?”

That is the premise of the 1965 novel, Night at Camp David, by Fletcher Knebel. 

At the time of its release, its plot was considered so over-the-top as to be worthy of science fiction:

Iowa Democratic Senator Jim MacVeagh is summoned to Camp David, the Presidential retreat, by President Mark Hollenbach. MacVeagh is expected to become Hollenbach’s next Vice President. But he becomes alarmed that Hollenbach is clearly suffering from intense paranoia. 

He wants to develop a closer relationship between the United States and Russia—while cutting ties with American allies in Europe. Moreover, Hollenbach believes the American news media are conspiring against him with his political enemies.

Only one person possesses evidence that Hollenbach is losing his grip on sanity—his mistress, Rita.  Desperate to retain his power, Hollenbach orders the FBI to investigate both MacVeagh and Rita.

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So why was a 53-year-old novel released in 2018? The answer lies in two words: Donald Trump.

In a November 30, 2018 review of Night at Camp David, Tom McCarthy, national affairs correspondent for the British newspaper, The Guardian, writes:  

“The current president has seen crowds where none exist, deployed troops to answer no threat, attacked national institutions – the military, the justice department, the judiciary, the vote, the rule of law, the press – tried to prosecute his political enemies, elevated bigots, oppressed minorities, praised despots while insulting global allies and wreaked diplomatic havoc from North Korea to Canada.

“He stays up half the night watching TV and tweeting about it, then wakes up early to tweet some more, in what must be the most remarkable public diary of insecurity, petty vindictiveness, duplicity and scattershot focus by a major head of state in history.”

From the beginning of his Presidency, Trump aroused fear—based not only of what he might do, but that he might be mentally unbalanced.  Consider: 

On March 4, 2017, in a series of unhinged tweets, he accused former President Barack Obama of tapping his Trump Tower phones prior to the election:  

“Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!”  

“Is it legal for a sitting President to be ‘wire tapping’ a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW!”  

“I’d bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!”

“How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”  

A subsequent investigation by the Justice Department turned up no evidence to substantiate Trump’s foray into Presidential libel.

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Donald Trump

Trump’s shoot-first-and-never-mind-the-consequences approach to life has been thoroughly documented.  

From June 15, 2015, when he launched his Presidential campaign, until October 24, 2016, he fired nearly 4,000 angry, insulting tweets at 281 people and institutions. The New York Times needed two full pages of its print edition to showcase them.

Among these targets were:

  • His Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton
  • His fellow Republican Presidential candidates
  • Actress Meryl Streep
  • News organizations
  • President Barack Obama
  • Comedian John Oliver
  • The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)
  • Singer Neil Young
  • The state of New Jersey 
  • Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger.  

And during his first two weeks as President, Trump attacked 22 people, places and things on his @realDonaldTrump Twitter account.  

Trump’s vindictiveness, his narcissism, his compulsive aggression, his complaints that his “enemies” in government and the press are trying to destroy him, have caused many to ask: Could the President of the United States be suffering from mental illness?

One who has dared to answer this question is John D. Gartner, a practicing psychotherapist. 

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John D. Gartner

Gartner graduated magna cum laude from Princeton University, received his Ph.D in clinical psychology from the University of Massachusetts, and served as a part-time assistant professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University Medical School for 28 years.

During an interview by U.S. News & World Report (published on January 27, 2017), Gartner said: “Donald Trump is dangerously mentally ill and temperamentally incapable of being president.”

Gartner said that Trump suffers from “malignant narcissism,” whose symptoms include:

  • anti-social behavior
  • sadism
  • aggressiveness
  • paranoia
  • and grandiosity. 

“We’ve seen enough public behavior by Donald Trump now that we can make this diagnosis indisputably,” says Gartner, who admits he has not personally examined Trump.  

More of that behavior was on full display on March 2, 2019 at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), held at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, National Harbor, Maryland.  

For more than two hours, Trump delivered the longest speech (so far) of his Presidency to his fanatically Right-wing audience.

Facing a hostile Democratic House of Representatives and a potentially explosive report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Trump threw down the gauntlet.

“JUST ANOTHER WEEK IN CALIGULA’S ROME”—AND TRUMP’S WASHINGTON

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on March 5, 2019 at 12:16 am

“Just another week in Caligula’s Rome.”

That was how conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks summed up President Donald Trump’s Washington, D.C. for the week of February 24 to March 1, 2019.

Every Friday Books faces off with liberal syndicated columnist Mark Shields on The PBS Newshour. And on the program for March 1, the two men found common cause in sizing up the appearance of Michael Cohen before the House Oversight Committee two days earlier.

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David Brooks and Mark Shields on “The PBS Newshour”

During that hearing, Cohen, Trump’s longtime attorney and fixer:

  • Condemned his former boss as “a racist, a conman [and] a cheat.”
  • Confirmed that Trump had instructed him to pay $130,000 in hush money to porn “star” Stormy Daniels, to buy her silence during the 2016 Presidential campaign.
  • Provided the committee with a copy of a check Trump wrote from his personal bank account—after he became President—“to reimburse me for the hush money payments I made.”
  • Produced “copies of letters I wrote at Mr. Trump’s direction that threatened his high school, colleges, and the College Board not to release his grades or SAT scores.”

But for Brooks, far more was at stake than the individual accusations:

“To me, it was more of a moral occasion, more than anything else. What it illustrates is a President and, frankly, Michael Cohen who long ago decided that celebrity and wealth is more important than being a good person. And they have dragged us all down there with us.

“And the people they have dragged most effectively are the House Republicans, a lot of them on that committee, who decided that they were completely incurious about whether Donald Trump was a good guy or a bad guy or a really awful guy, that—their own leader, they didn’t seem to care about that, but they were going to rip the skin off Michael Cohen.

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Michael Cohen testifying before Congress

“And so they attacked him. And what struck me is how moral corrosion happens, that you decide you’re going to defend or ignore Trump. And then to do that, you have to morally distance yourself from him. And then you have to morally distance yourself from him every day.

“And, eventually, you just get numb to everything. And so [Ohio Republican Representative] Jim Jordan and other people on the committee were saying, oh, we all knew this, like, it’s all unremarkable. And so that’s—that’s how moral corrosion happens.”  

During the hearing, California Representative Jackie Speier asked Cohen: How many times did Trump ask you to intimidate creditors?

Cohen estimated the number at 500. 

For Shields, this counted as especially despicable behavior: “And—but the thing about it is, when he stiffed those small business—the plumbers and the electricians who did the work in the Trump projects, and he came back, and Donald Trump loved to hear about it, I mean, reveled in it.

“Now, I mean, at what point do you say that there’s no honor here? I mean, there’s nothing to admire.” 

Shields was equally appalled by the refusal of Trump’s Republican committee defenders to condemn his moral depravity—as a businessman or President.

“If you can’t deal with the message, you shoot the messenger. And that’s what their whole strategy was.

“The very fact that not a single member of the Republican committee defended Donald Trump or what he was charged or alleged to have done, to me, was revealing. They just decided to go after Michael Cohen.”

So why have Republicans aligned themselves with such a man? 

Republicans don’t fear that Trump will trash the institutions that Americans have cherished for more than 200 years. Institutions like an independent judiciary, a free press, and an incorruptible Justice Department.

He has already attacked all of these—and Republicans have either said nothing or rushed to his defense.

What Republicans truly fear about Donald Trump is that he will finally cross one line too many—like firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller. And that the national outrage following this will force them to launch impeachment proceedings against him.

But it isn’t even Trump they fear will be destroyed.

What they most fear losing is their own hold on nearly absolute power in Congress and the White House. And the riches that go with it.

If Trump is impeached and possibly indicted, he will become a man no one any longer fears. He will be a figure held up to ridicule and condemnation. 

Like Adolf Hitler.

Like Richard Nixon. 

And his supporters will be branded as losers along with him.

Republicans vividly remember what happened after Nixon was forced to resign on August 9, 1974: Democrats, riding a wave of reform fever, swept Republicans out of the House and Senate—and Jimmy Carter into the White House. 

House and Senate Republicans can imagine a future without Trump—but not one where they disappear.

If they are conflicted—whether to continue supporting Trump or desert him—the reason is the same: How can I hold onto my power and all the privileges that go with it?  

JIM JORDAN, TRUMP DEFENDER: I DID NOT HEAR THE SCREAMING

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on March 4, 2019 at 11:58 am

Donald Trump has a unique menagerie of friends.

Some of them are Communist dictators—such as North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

Some of them are accused pedophiles—such as billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, who, in 2008, was convicted of soliciting an underage girl for prostitution. 

And some of them apparently knew that others were being sexually abused, but did nothing to stop the assaults—like Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH).

Jordan has long defended Trump’s litany of demonstrated lies and documented criminality. Appearing on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360,” on April 16, 2018, Jordan accused Andrew McCabe, the former deputy director of the FBI, of being a liar. He accused the Washington Post of lying. He asked Cooper if he had ever lied.

But, pressed by Cooper on whether he had ever heard Trump lie, Jordan replied: “I have not. I don’t know of it. Nothing comes to mind.”

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Rep. Jim Jordan

Jordan pushed to impeach Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russia’s subversion of the 2016 Presidential election.

Jordan, a member of the House’s Right-wing Freedom Caucus, fanatically supports President Donald Trump, whose campaign received documented support from Russian Intelligence agents. 

Jordan believes there should not be any investigation into this unholy alliance. 

And on February 27, Jordan appeared at the House or Representatives’ Committee on Oversight and Reform to attack the credibility of Michael Cohen. 

Trump’s former attorney and fixer

  • Accused the President of being a racist, a conman and a cheat.
  • Testified that “Donald Trump is a man who ran for office to make his brand great, not to make our country great. He had no desire or intention to lead this nation—only to market himself and to build his wealth and power.” 
  • Produced a copy of a check Trump “wrote from his personal bank account—after he became president—to reimburse me for the hush money payments I made to cover up his affair with an adult film star and prevent damage to his campaign.” 
  • Testified that “Mr. Trump knew of and directed the Trump Moscow negotiations throughout the campaign and lied about it. He also lied about it because he stood to make hundreds of millions of dollars on the Moscow real estate project.”

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Michael Cohen

IowaPolitics.com [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D

As a result of his work for Trump, on August 21, 2018, Cohen pleaded guilty to tax fraud, bank fraud and campaign finance violations. He was sentenced in December, 2018, to three years in federal prison and ordered to pay a $50,000 fine.

Like every other Republican at the hearing, Jordan ignored Cohen’s damning allegations. He didn’t try to defend Trump. He simply indulged in character assassination.

After Jordan claimed that Cohen showed “non-existent” remorse, Cohen counterattacked: “I am remorseful. I am going to prison. I will be away from my wife and children for years.”

Meanwhile, Jordan is being haunted by a scandal of his own. 

Jordan served as an assistant coach at Ohio State University (OSU) from 1987 to 1995. Several former OSU wrestlers claim Jordan ignored sexual abuse of students by the team’s doctor. 

In April, 2018, OSU announced it was investigating charges that Richard Strauss had abused team wrestlers while he served as the team doctor from the mid-1970s to the late 1990s. Strauss died in 2005.

Jordan claims he didn’t know about the abuse.

Yet several former wrestlers assert that they told Jordan about the abuse or remember Jordan being a part of conversations about the abuse.

“I considered Jim Jordan a friend,” Mike DiSabato, a former wrestler, told NBC. It was DiSabato’s allegations against Strauss that led OSU to open the investigation. “But at the end of the day, he is absolutely lying if he says he doesn’t know what was going on.”

In an email to Ohio State’s legal counsel, DiSabato wrote: “Strauss sexually assaulted male athletes in at least fifteen varsity sports during his employment at OSU from 1978 through 1998.”

“There’s no way unless he’s got dementia or something that he’s got no recollection of what was going on at Ohio State,” former Ultimate Fighting Championship world champion Mark Coleman told the Wall Street Journal.  “I have nothing but respect for this man, I love this man, but he knew as far as I’m concerned.” 

Which immediately raises the question: How can you respect and love a man who knew that students were being sexually abused—and did nothing to stop it?

Speaking with reporters in Ohio, Jordan offered a Sergeant Schultz “I know nothing” defense: 

“We knew of no abuse, never heard of abuse. If we had, we would have reported it. If, in fact, there’s problems, we want justice for the people who were victims, obviously, and as I said, we are happy to talk with the folks who are doing the investigation. But the things they said about me just were flat-out not true.”

Trump says he believes his ally Jordan “100 percent”: “I don’t believe them at all,” Trump told reporters, referring to the wrestlers who have come forward.

Thus, a President accused of moral depravity finds himself defended by a man accused of ignoring the sexual abuse of young men.

WHEN TYRANTS FALL, LOYALTY GOES SOUTH

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 1, 2019 at 12:04 am

In April, 1945, Berlin, capital of the Third Reich, was under siege by the British and Americans from the West—and by the Russians from the East. 

On April 20—Adolf Hitler’s 56th birthday—his two most important ministers visited him for the last time. 

One minister was Hermann Goring, who still commanded the remnants of the once-powerful German air force, the Luftwaffe

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Hermann Goring

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The other was Heinrich Himmler, absolute ruler of the Schutzstaffel, or “Protection Squadron.” His empire encompassed the black-uniformed secret police and a network of extermination camps throughout Eastern Europe.

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Heinrich Himmler 

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In the ruins of the Reich Chancellery, Himmler and Goring swore unswerving loyalty to Hitler. 

Then, on April 23, Goring sent him a telegram. It proposed that, with Hitler trapped in Berlin, the Reichsmarshall, as his designated successor, should assume leadership of the Reich.

Hitler, furious, refused permission and ordered Goring’s arrest and execution. But Goring eluded the SS units and surrendered to the Americans.

Then, on April 28, the BBC reported that Himmler had tried to open surrender negotiations with the Western Allies.

Now Hitler screamed that Himmler—“the True Heinrich”—had committed the worst treachery he had ever known—and ordered his arrest. 

On April 29—one day before he committed suicide—Hitler declared Goring and Himmler traitors and stripped them of all their Nazi party and state offices.

Both would commit suicide by poison—Himmler before he could be tried as a war criminal, and Goring before being hanged as one.

Now, fast forward 73 years later.  

Attorney Michael Cohen had long been Donald Trump’s fixer. “If somebody does something Mr. Trump doesn’t like,” he told ABC News in 2011, “I do everything in my power to resolve it to Mr. Trump’s benefit.”

Trump executive Michael Cohen 012 (5506031001) (cropped).jpg

Michael Cohen

IowaPolitics.com [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D

Then, in April, 2018, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York began investigating Cohen. 

On April 9, 2018, the FBI, executing a federal search warrant, raided Cohen’s law office, his home and his hotel room. Agents seized emails, tax and business records and recordings of phone conversations that Cohen had made.

(On August 21, Cohen pleaded guilty to eight counts, including tax fraud, bank fraud and campaign finance violations. In December 2018, he was sentenced to three years in federal prison and ordered to pay a $50,000 fine.)

While the media speculated that Cohen was expecting a Presidential pardon, Trump washed his hands of his former fixer: “Michael Cohen only handled a tiny, tiny fraction of my legal work.”  

On July 25, Cohen offered a response in kind: A leaked tape of a phone conversation he had had with Trump before the latter became President.

It focused on buying the rights to a Playboy model’s story where she claimed to have had an affair with Trump years earlier.

Trump, furious, blasted Cohen in a tweet: “What kind of a lawyer would tape a client? So sad! Is this a first, never heard of it before? Why was the tape so abruptly terminated (cut) while I was presumably saying positive things? I hear there are other clients and many reporters that are taped – can this be so? Too bad!” 

The revelation that he had been secretly taped by his own lawyer proved especially embarrassing for Trump. On March 4, 2017, he had accused President Barack Obama of illegally wiretapping his phones during the 2016 election.

Without citing any evidence to back up his libelous claim, he tweeted: “Terrible! Just found out that [Barack] Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!” 

Subsequent investigations by the Justice Department turned up no evidence to substantiate Trump’s assertion.

But after the release of the Cohen tape, worse was to come.

Omarosa Manigault had become a Trump favorite by generating huge ratings for his “reality series” The Apprentice during its first, seventh and 13th seasons on NBC. 

Omarosa Manigault

By Glenn Francis of PacificProDigital.com

Her behavior toward other contestants was marked by insults, egomania and ruthlessness. As a result, she soon became the “woman America loved to hate.” 

TV Guide included her in its 2013 list of “The 60 Nastiest TV Villains of All Time.”

During Trump’s Presidential campaign, she was named Director of African-American Outreach.  In an interview with Frontline, she boasted: “Every critic, every detractor, will have to bow down to President Trump. It’s everyone who’s ever doubted Donald, who ever disagreed, who ever challenged him.”

In January, 2017, Omarossa moved into the White House—where she became as antagonistic toward her government colleagues as she had those on The Apprentice

On December 12, 2017, she was forcibly removed from the White House grounds.

Trump tweeted her a goodbye: “Thank you Omarosa for your service! I wish you continued success.” 

Apparently he didn’t expect her to attain that success at his expense.

On August 8, 2018, news broke that Omarosa had secretly taped Trump during several phone conversations in the White House. And that she planned to use these tapes to promote an upcoming—and highly critical—book on the President. 

The book—Unhinged-–was released on August 14, 2018.

“GREEN BOOK” AND ITS TIMELY MESSAGE

In History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on February 26, 2019 at 12:07 am

“The [Oscar] winners included Regina King, Rami Malek, Alfonso Cuaron, Spike Lee—a group of people from very different backgrounds representing films that tell nuanced stories about diverse experiences. 

“And then the top honor is given to a film that many people have criticized for being an overly simplistic story about race told from the perspective of a white savior.”

So argued Ari Shapiro, a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR’s award-winning news magazine. He made his comments the day after Green Book won the Oscar for Best Picture at the 91st annual Academy Awards. 

Green Book is a 2018 biographical drama set in the Deep South of 1962. It’s based on the true story of a concert tour by a black classical and jazz pianist, Don Shirley, and his driver and bodyguard, Tony Vallelonga.  Mahershala Ali plays Shirley and Viggo Mortensen plays Vallelonga.

The two men are polar opposites: Shirley is cultured and eloquent; Vallelonga is streetwise and volatile. Shirley is used to dealing with the cream of New York society. Vallelonga is used to dealing with its dregs—as a nightclub bouncer. 

Mahershala Ali (29953410761).jpg

Mahershala Ali as Don Shirley

Gordon Correll [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D

When his nightclub closes for renovations, he responds to an ad by Shirley for a driver for his eight-week concert tour through the Midwest and Deep South.

This is 1962, a time when a black Air Force veteran, James Meredith, must be given protection by deputy U.S. marshals when he enters the segregated University of Mississippi. White and black “Freedom Riders” are canvassing the South, sitting at segregated lunch counters and often being attacked by members of the Ku Klux Klan and equally racist Southern police.

In fact, the title of the movie—Green Book—is derived from a travel guide written for blacks venturing into the Deep South: The Negro Motorist Green Book. Written by Victor Hugo Green, its purpose is to help blacks find motels and restaurants that will accept them.

And as Shirley and Vallelonga make their odyssey through the South, they find themselves staying at separate hotels—and sometimes together, after Vallelonga slips Shirley into his own room.

Green Book (2018 poster).png

An AV Film review called Green Book “a kind of comforting liberal fantasy, a #NotAllRacists trifle that suggests that our deep, festering divisions can be sutured through some quality time on the open road, resolving differences over a bucket of KFC.” 

At the start of the movie, Vallelonga throws away a glass after a black construction worker drinks from it. But during his tour of the South, he becomes increasingly sympathetic to the plight suffered by Shirley—and other blacks forced to daily endure a series of humiliations.

Viggo Mortensen Cannes 2016.jpg

Viggo Mortensen as Tony Vallelonga

Georges Biard [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D

According to television critic Rebecca Theodore-Vachon: “Green Book is a feel-good movie. It doesn’t really require a lot of critical thinking or self-analysis. You know, people walk out t of the movie feeling that, oh, well, racism is over, we’re good. So I think those are the things that are going on.”

Actually, the film makes clear that some people will always be racists. Thus, Shirley finds himself repeatedly forced to eat in the segregated rooms of the hotels where he’s to play concerts. And he’s almost murdered by a group of racists when he makes the mistake of going into a whites’ only bar. He survives only because Vallelonga arrives in time to rescue him.

And Shirley proves just as great a friend to Vallelonga. He introduces the semi-literate bouncer to the power of the written word by helping him craft articulate, heartfelt letters to his wife.

Toward the end of the movie, Vallelonga and Shirley are pulled over by a Mississippi police officer. Shirley’s “crime”: Being black—and out at night. When the officer insults Vallelonga, Tony punches him—and he and Shirley wind up in jail.  

Shirley asks for permission to call his “lawyer”—and the man he dials is Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy.

Kennedy, in turn, calls Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett. Barnett is already having his share of troubles with the Kennedys, and he orders the police: Let those men go—now! 

This scene underscores the importance of electing people who will stand against injustice. Watching the release of Vallelonga and Shirley, it’s impossible to imagine the Trump administration intervening in such a manner.

At the end of the movie, Shirley visits Vallelonga’s home—where he’s warmly received by Tony and his family. The film’s end credits reveal that the two men remained friends until they died, within months of each other, in 2013.

In 1950, a Western called Broken Arrow-–starring James Stewart as Tom Jeffords and Jeff Chandler as Cochise—told the true story of a friendship between a white man and an Apache. For many Americans, this came as a revelation.

After decades of seeing Indians depicted as bloodthirsty savages, audiences saw that there were those—among red men and white men—who could rise above prejudice and see each other as worthy of respect.

The lesson of Green Book is exactly the same. And it’s needed now more than ever.

TRUMP VS. MACHIAVELLI: TRUMP 0, MACHIAVELLI 10

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on February 25, 2019 at 11:30 am

After his untimely assassination, President John F. Kennedy became the subject of a flood of adoring biographies.

Among these:

  • With Kennedy, by Pierre Salinger;
  • A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House, by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.;
  • Kennedy, by Theodore C. Sorensen;
  • The Pleasure of His Company, by Paul B. Fay;
  • My Twelve Years With John F. Kennedy, by Elvelyn Lincoln;
  • Conversations With Kennedy, by Benjamin C. Bradlee.

Many of these appeared shortly after his death. Some—such as A Thousand Days and Kennedy—were massive—totaling 1,087 pages for the first and 758 pages for the second.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy.png

John F. Kennedy

Many of these books were written by those who had worked closely with Kennedy and knew his most intimate secrets. Yet the worst of those secrets did not emerge until the early 1970s.

Among those:

  • Kennedy’s compulsive womanizing.
  • His poor health and reckless use of drugs (licit and illicit) to control it.
  • His waging a no-quarter war on Fidel Castro (including using the Mafia to try to assassinate the Cuban dictator).

Kennedy inspired loyalty by somehow making those around him feel they were valued—and partners in a great historical moment.

By contrast, Donald Trump had held office less than two years when three books highly critical of him emerged.

The first, Fire and Fury, by Michael Wolff, appeared in January, 2018. The second, Unhinged, by Omarosa Manigault-Newman, came out in August.

Among the reviews of Fire and Fury

“What makes the book significant is its sly, hilarious portrait of a hollow man, into the black hole of whose needy, greedy ego the whole world has virtually vanished.”―The Guardian

“An undeniably juicy chronicle of a presidential administration that in just one year has been beset by numerous scandals and crises….” ―The San Francisco Chronicle

Wollf is an author, essayist, journalist, and columnist. He was never a member of Trump’s inner circle—yet he was given extraordinary access to those who worked in the West Wing of the White House.

Related image

Donald Trump

Manigault-Newman, on the other hand, had known Trump intimately since 2003, when she first appeared on his NBC “reality” series, The Apprentice. She campaigned for him in 2016 and followed him into the White House as director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison—until she was fired in December, 2017. 

After her firing, she abruptly underwent a conversion from worshiper to heretic. As a reviewer on Amazon.com put it:

“It’s a story that starts with a starry eyed younger Omarosa, and ends with her freedom from the ‘TrumpWorld cult’.

“Along the way she becomes increasingly aware that her former mentor, friend, and idol, has no empathy for others, is narcissistic to an extreme, does not read or intake new information unless it’s on a favored cable TV channel, and she also sees signs of dementia-like behavior leaving her wondering what, if anything, she can do as an insider.” 

And on September 11th, the most devastating book yet to appear on Trump made its debut: Fear: Trump in the White House.

Its author was Bob Woodward, legendary investigative reporter and Washington Post associate editor.

Woodward “made his bones” as a journalist with Carl Bernstein from 1972 to 1974. Their reporting made “Watergate” a household word—and helped bring down President Richard M. Nixon.

Perhaps the most startling secret to be found within Woodward’s book: Nearly every member of Trump’s handpicked staff considers him an idiot. 

  • His former Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson: “He’s a fucking idiot.” 
  • John Kelly, his now former chief of staff: “He’s an idiot. It’s pointless to try to convince him of anything. He’s gone off the rails. We’re in crazytown,” 
  • His now former Secretary of Defense James Mattis: Trump acted like—and had the understanding of—“a fifth- or sixth-grader. ”
  • His former lawyer, John Dowd, warned Trump not to testify before Special Counsel Robert Mueller: “It’s either that or an orange jumpsuit” for perjury. 

In The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli raised the question of “whether it is better to be loved than feared, or feared more than loved.”

And he answered it: “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.”  

But Machiavelli warned against relying primarily on 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.

Portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli by Santi di Tito.jpg

Niccolo Machiavelli

If Trump ever read Machiavelli, he has ignored this warning with a vengeance.

By repeatedly showing himself ignorant of—and even indifferent to—the realities of Presidential statecraft, Trump quickly forfeited the respect of his top staffers and Cabinet officials. 

As a result, Trump has produced a dysfunctional administration constantly teetering on the edge of meltdown.

And by regularly humiliating those staffers and Cabinet officials, he destroyed their ties of loyalty to him as a man and President.

This has produced legions of angry, disillusioned members seeking revenge—and they will eagerly leak Trump’s latest embarrassing secrets to the first reporter who comes asking.

SING A SONG OF TREASON

In History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on February 22, 2019 at 2:31 pm

Appearing on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 on February 19, former FBI Acting Director Andrew McCabe said it is possible that President Donald Trump is a Russian asset.

Andrew McCabe official portrait.jpg

Andrew McCabe

“This President is undermining the role of law enforcement, undermining the role of our intelligence infrastructure and negatively impacting the men and women of the FBI, and across the intelligence agencies, (and their) ability to protect this country on a daily basis,” McCabe said.  

With this in mind, it’s time for a musical salute to the country’s would-be Commissar-in-Chief—and those treason-supporting Republicans who keep him in power.   

* * * * *

ACT ONE: THE 2016 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN
WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY VLAD
(To be sung to the tune, “With a Little Help From My Friends”)
 
What would you think if I ripped off some kids?
Would you walk out and not vote for me?
Lend me your ears and I’ll feed you a line
And I’ll try not to laugh cynically.
 
Oh, 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.
 
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.
 
(Do you need anybody?)
I just need someone named me.
(Could it be anybody?)
As long as it’s me–me–me–me!
 
(Would you believe in a love at first sight?)
Yes, it happens with a mirror all the time.
(What do you see when you turn out the light?)
It stays on so that my face can shine.
 
Oh, 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 die with a little help from my Vlad.
 
(Do you need anybody?)
I need a Gestapo that kills.
(Could it be anybody?)
As long as it kills I get thrills.
 
Oh, I get by with a little help from my Vlad.
With a little help from my Vlad.

* * * * *

ACT TWO: THE DONALD TRUMP PRESIDENCY
THE TRUMPY SKUNKY
(To be sung to the tune of “The Hokey Pokey”)
Trump lets the Russians in,
He kicks the press corps out.
He slips Vlad secret stuff
And he gives a “Treason!” shout.
He does the Trumpy Skunky
As he sells the U.S. out.
That’s what he’s all about.
Trump loves the KGB.
He hates the FBI.
He dares not tell the truth
‘Cause his whole life’s just a lie.
He does the Trumpy Skunky
As he sells the U.S. out.
That’s what he’s all about.
Trump tells interpreters:
“Don’t let on what I do.”
He lives to spread his hate
Just like all good Fascists do.
He does the Trumpy Skunky
As he sells the U.S. out
That’s what he’s all about.
Trump lets the Russians in
He kicks his lawyers out.
He screams “I’m innocent!
And he gives a “Treason!” shout.
He does the Trumpy Skunky
As he sells the U.S. out
That’s what he’s all about.

* * * * *

ACT THREE: RETRIBUTION FOR TREASON
TRUMPY TRAITOR
(To be sung to the tune, “Rockin’ Robin”)

He Tweets in the White House all the day long
Screamin’ and a-schemin’ and a-doin’ what’s wrong.
All the Special Agents in the FBI
Hope he goes to prison till the day he’ll die.

Trumpy Traitor (tweet tweet)
Trumpy Traitor (tweet tweet)
Go Trumpy Traitor
‘Cause they’re gonna bust your ass tonight.

Every act of treason, every act of crime—
America has never seen a bigger slime.
Bob Mueller’s ready, the cops are closin’ in
To put a grand finale to your reign of sin.

Trumpy Traitor (tweet tweet)
Trumpy Traitor (tweet tweet)
Go Trumpy Traitor
‘Cause they’re gonna bust your ass tonight.

Well, Eric’s getting ready for his next big steal
While Daddy hugs Ivanka—who lets out a squeal.
Don Junior’s got the Russians coming once again—
It’s party-time for traitors and their lives of sin.

He Tweets in the White House all the day long
Screamin’ and a-schemin’ and a-doin’ what’s wrong.
Handing out secrets to the KGB
The biggest Right-wing traitor that you’ll ever see.

Trumpy Traitor (tweet tweet)
Trumpy Traitor (tweet tweet)
Go Trumpy Traitor
‘Cause they’re gonna bust your ass tonight.

Well, Eric’s getting ready for his next big steal
While Daddy hugs Ivanka—who lets out a squeal.
Don Junior’s got the Russians coming once again—
It’s party-time for traitors and their lives of sin.

He Tweets in the White House all the day long
Screamin’ and a-schemin’ and a-doin’ what’s wrong.
Handing out secrets to the KGB
The biggest Right-wing traitor that you’ll ever see.

Trumpy Traitor (tweet tweet)
Trumpy Traitor (tweet tweet)
Go Trumpy Traitor
‘Cause they’re gonna bust your ass tonight.

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