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FROM “BIG STICK” TO “BIG MOUTH”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brian Keith (left) as Theodore Roosevelt

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

ROOSEVELT:  Yes, unfortunately.

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

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

REPORTER:  And that, Mr. President?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CHADWICK:  A world ar war!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image result for iMAGES OF The Wind and the Lion

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

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

The Wind and the Lion is set in an era when

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

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

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

STALIN IN THE WHITE HOUSE: PART TWO (END)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Donald Trump

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

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

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

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

Officials now have two choices:

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

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

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

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Phone detector

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Among the methods used to keep conversations secret:

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is a no-win situation for Trump.

The results will be twofold:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Niccolo Machiavelli

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

Not that he would have heeded it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

John McCain's official Senate portrait, taken in 2009

John McCain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SarahHuckabeeSanders.jpg

Sarah Huckabee Sanders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HEROES, JOKERS AND LIARS

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

Arizona United States Senator John McCain knows firsthand about torture.

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

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

John McCain's official Senate portrait, taken in 2009

John McCain

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

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

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

Gina Haspel official CIA portrait.jpg

Gina Haspel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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DDonald Trump

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

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

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

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

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

COVERING TRUMP AS HE DESERVES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul Ryan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Donald Trump

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Gotti.jpg

John Gotti

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CRITICISM–AND HUMOR–AS ENDANGERED SPECIES

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

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

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

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

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

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Donald Trump

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CELEBRITIES AND TRAGEDY–GENUINE AND SELF-INFLICTED

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

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

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

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

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

Consider:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Whitney Houston

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

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

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

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Crack cocaine

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

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

In other words, crack. 

So, apparently, crack wasn’t whack.

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

Her voice now sounded hoarse, raspy.

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NEWS MEDIA: HEAL THYSELF!

In History, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on May 7, 2018 at 12:25 am

On April 28, comedian Michelle Wolf skewered high-ranking Trump administration officials and members of the nation’s elite media.

She did so as the host of the annual White House Correspondents Dinner in Washington, D.C.

As a result, she has been furiously attacked by Right-wing defenders of the Trump administration and some of the nation’s most prominent media.

Almost all of their attention has focused on the Trump officials she ridiculed—especially Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

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Michelle Wolf

But Wolf threw a series of sharp-edged zingers at some of the Nation’s most prominent media. And these comments have gone largely ignored.

They are, however, well worth examining—for the uncomfortable truths they reveal about much of the news being served up under the guise of fearless objectivity.

On little-watched C-SPAN:  This is on C-SPAN; no one watches that. Trump is president; it’s not ideal.

On liberal media’s obsession with “Russiagate”:  I know there’s a lot of people that want me to talk about Russia and Putin and collusion, but I’m not going to do that because there’s also a lot of liberal media here. And I’ve never really wanted to know what any of you look like when you orgasm.

On CNN—where “news” now consists of a series of “talking heads” pontificating about stories that other journalists have dug up:  We’ve got our friends at CNN here. You guys love breaking news, and you did it. You broke it. Good work. The most useful information on CNN is when Anthony Bourdain tells me where to eat noodles.

On Fox News’ sexual harassment scandals involving such prominent (and former) members as CEO Roger Ailes and commentator Bill O’Reilly:  Fox News is here. So, you know what that means, ladies: Cover your drinks. Seriously.

On Fox News’ actual role as the propaganda organ of the Republican party:  People want me to make fun of [Fox News commentator] Sean Hannity tonight, but I cannot do that; this dinner is for journalists.

News Media

On weak-rated MSNBC, which is the liberal version of Fox News:  We’ve got MSNBC here. MSNBC’s news slogan is, “This is who we are.” Guys, it’s not a good slogan. “This is who we are” is what your mom thinks the sad show on NBC is called. “Did you watch ‘This Is Who We Are’ this week? Someone left on a Crockpot, and everyone died.”

On Megyn Kelly, who rose to fame and fortune as a Right-wing propaganda shill on Fox News:  And, of course, Megyn Kelly. What would I do without Megyn Kelly? You know, probably be more proud of women. 

And, by the way, Megyn, Santa’s black. The weird old guy going through your chimney was Bill O’Reilly. You might want to put a flue on it or something.  

[This last jibe centered on Kelly’s infamous December 11, 2013 Fox broadcast where she claimed: “I kind of laughed and said this is so ridiculous.  Yet another person claiming it’s racist to have a white Santa. For all you kids watching at home, Santa just is white….Just because it makes you uncomfortable doesn’t mean it has to change. Jesus was a white man too.”]

On the continuing demise of newspapers—on which TV “news reporters” depend for their information:  There’s a lot of print media here. There’s a ton of you guys, but I’m not going to go after print media tonight because it’s illegal to attack an endangered species. Buy newspapers.

On the media’s—especially the television media’s—morbid obsession with Donald Trump:  There’s a ton of news right now; a lot is going on, and we have all these 24-hour news networks, and we could be covering everything. But, instead, we’re covering like three topics. Every hour, it’s Trump, Russia, Hillary and a panel of four people who remind you why you don’t go home for Thanksgiving.

On the media’s responsibility for the rise of a President they now detest:  You guys are obsessed with Trump. Did you used to date him? Because you pretend like you hate him, but I think you love him. I think what no one in this room wants to admit is that Trump has helped all of you. He couldn’t sell steaks or vodka or water or college or ties or Eric, but he has helped you.

He’s helped you sell your papers and your books and your TV. You helped create this monster, and now you’re profiting off of him. And if you’re gonna profit off of Trump, you should at least give him some money because he doesn’t have any.

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Donald Trump

[This last joke was probably the most painful the assembled media bigwigs had to endure. Because it’s undeniably true.

Trump’s campaign was saved from spending millions on TV advertising because the major TV news networks covered his every word. This was especially true when he was attacking women, blacks, Mexicans, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama—and even beauty pageant contestants.

For the media, Trump was “good for ratings”—in the same way that Mike Tyson was “good for boxing.” Both were seen as freaks—and thus guaranteed to lure viewers eager to find out: “What outrageous thing has he done now?”] 

ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION? LET THE AIR FORCE HANDLE IT

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 4, 2018 at 12:09 am

Republican Presidential candidates like Donald Trump, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum have long demanded an end to illegal immigration.

Their, now  chief proposed solution: Wholesale deportation of millions of illegal aliens from the United States. 

But even if Trump, now President, dared to take such a politically controversial step, could it actually succeed?

Suppose the Federal Government could identify and arrest all or most of the estimated 11 to 20 million illegal aliens now living in the United States. Then what?

Sending them back to their native countries would prove a colossal failure.

Most of America’s illegals come from neighboring Hispanic countries in Central and South America. Which means that as soon as they are deported, most of them cross the Mexican border again.

More importantly: The governments of those Central and South American countries use the United States as a dumping ground—of those citizens who might demand reforms in their political and economic institutions.

But there is one approach that could strike a meaningful blow against illegal immigration. It might well be called “The Zanti Option.”

Viewers of the 1960s sci-fi series, The Outer Limits, will vividly recall its classic 1963 episode, “The Zanti Misfits.”

In this, soldiers at an American Army base in a California ghost town nervously await first-contact with an alien race that has landed a space ship nearby.

The soldiers are warned to steer clear of the ship, and they do.  But then an escaped convict (Bruce Dern, in an early role) happens upon the scene—and the ship.

The Zantis, enraged, emerge—and soon the soldiers at the military base find themselves under attack.

A “Zanti”  

The soldiers desperately fight back–-with flamethrowers, machineguns or just rifle butts. Finally the soldiers  win, wiping out the Zantis.

But now the base—and probably America—faces a wholesale invasion from the planet Zanti to avenge the deaths of their comrades.

So the soldiers wait anxiously for their next transmission from Zanti—which soon arrives.

To their surprise—and relief—it’s a message of thanks: “We will not retaliate.  We never intended to.  We knew that you could not live with such aliens in your midst.

“It was always our intention that you destroy them…We are incapable of executing our own species, but you are not. You are practiced executioners. We thank you.”

A Republican President could deal with the tsunami of illegal aliens by launching what might be called “Operation Zanti.”

Rather than deport them to countries in Central America—from which they would easily sneak back into the United States—the Federal Government could ship them off to more distant lands.

Like Afghanistan. Or Iraq. Or Syria.

It’s unlikely they would sneak back across the American border from the Middle East.

Such a policy change would:

  1. Close the Mexican revolving door, which keeps illegal immigration flowing; and
  2. Send an unmistakably blunt message to other would-be illegals: “The same fate awaits you.”

Although this might seem a far-fetched proposal, it could be easily carried out by the United States Air Force.

According to this agency’s website: “The C-5 Galaxy is one of the largest aircraft in the world and the largest airlifter in the Air Force inventory.

“The C-5 has a greater capacity than any other airlifter. It [can] carry 36 standard pallets and 81 troops simultaneously.

C-5 transport plane 

“[It can also carry] any of the Army’s air-transportable combat equipment, including such bulky items as the 74-ton mobile scissors bridge.

“It can also carry outsize and oversize cargo over intercontinental ranges and can take off or land in relatively short distances.” 

The C-5 Galaxy’s maximum cargo weight: 281,001 pounds 

Click here: C-5 A/B/C Galaxy and C-5M Super Galaxy > U.S. Air Force > Fact Sheet Display

Instead of stuffing these planes with cargo, they could be stuffed wall-to-wall with illegal aliens.

The United States Air Force has a proud history of successfully providing America’s soldiers—and allies—with the supplies they need.

From June 24, 1948 to May 12, 1949, only the Berlin Airlift stood between German citizens and starvation.

The Soviet Union had blocked the railway, road, and canal access to the Berlin sectors under allied control. Their goal: Force the western powers to allow the Soviet zone to supply Berlin with food, fuel, and aid.

This would have given the Soviets control over the entire city.

Air forces from the United States, England, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa flew over 200,000 flights in one year, dropping more than 4,700 tons of necessities daily to the besiged Berliners.

The success of the Berlin Airlift raised American prestige and embarrassed the Soviets, who lifted the blockade.

The Berlin Airlift

A similar triumph came during the Yom Kippur War after Egypt and Syria attacked Israel without warning on October 6, 1973.

A Watergate-embattled President Richard Nixon ordered “Operation Nickel Grass” to deliver urgently-needed weapons and supplies to Israel.

For 32 days, the Air Force shipped 22,325 tons of ammunition, artillery, tanks and other supplies.  These proved invaluable in saving Israel from destruction.

So the mass deportation of millions of illegal aliens lies within America’s technological capability. The only uncertainty: Would any American President be willing to give that order?

WHO WAS MORE OFFENSIVE?

In Bureaucracy, Entertainment, History, Humor, Politics, Social commentary on May 2, 2018 at 12:10 am

On April 28, comedian Michelle Wolf skewered high-ranking Trump administration officials and members of the nation’s elite media.

She did so as the host of the annual White House Correspondents Dinner in Washington, D.C.

Traditionally, it’s been an occasion where Washington’s political and media elites enjoy dinner and trade barbed quips at one another.

But President Donald Trump chose to skip the dinner in 2017 and 2018. Trump—who repeatedly  insults others—is too thin-skinned to accept even harmless jokes aimed at him.

That, however, didn’t deter Wolf. And she served up a series of barbed jokes aimed at the greed, deceit and hypocrisy of high-ranking Trump administration officials.

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Michelle Wolf

For which, she has herself been attacked by defenders of the Right-wing Trump administration and some of the nation’s most prominent media.

Tyler O’Neil, a Right-wing commentator for PJ Media, was outraged at Wolf’s comparing White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to Aunt Lydia in the Hulu series, The Handmaid’s Tale.

“The premise of The Handmaid’s Tale, and the suggestion that Trump or anyone associated with him would ever countenance such a hateful submission of women, is bad enough,” wrote O’Neil, “but Wolf arguably compared Sarah Huckabee Sanders to the worst character in the novel and show.

“Aunt Lydia, played excellently by Ann Dowd, is not just part of the oppressive regime – she is the enforcer. She patrols the quarters of the ‘handmaids’ to ensure silence, she assigns handmaids to watch one another, and she leads the handmaids to carry out brutal punishments to anyone who steps out of line.”

The Trump administration has mercilessly attacked Planned Parenthood and championed rules allowing employers to not cover birth control on their insurance plans. Trump himself has said “there has to be some form of punishment” for women who get abortions. 

“Unfortunately, I don’t think we advanced the cause of journalism tonight,” said Peter Baker, an MSNBC analyst and chief White House correspondent for The New York Times.

As Ben Bagdikian, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporter, said in arguing for the Post to publish the Pentagon Papers in 1971: “The only way to assert the right to publish is to publish.”  Freedom of the press is not advanced by sucking up to those who—like Sarah Huckabee Sanders—routinely lie to reporters.

Much of the criticism aimed at Wolf centered on her joke about Sanders: “I actually really like [Press Secretary] Sarah [Huckabee Sanders]. I think she’s very resourceful. She burns facts and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smoky eye. Like maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s lies. It’s probably lies.”

“That [Sanders] sat and absorbed intense criticism of her physical appearance, her job performance, and so forth, instead of walking out, on national television, was impressive,” the New York Times‘s Maggie Haberman tweeted.

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Sarah Huckabee Sanders

Trump himself has repeatedly attacked women, often for their physical appearance.  Among these:

  • Hillary Clinton: “If Hillary Clinton can’t satisfy her husband what makes her think she can satisfy the country?”
  • Carly Fiorina:” Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?!” 
  • Megyn Kelly: “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her wherever.” 

And Sanders has blatantly lied countless times on behalf of Trump.  Among these: 

  • “Everybody acts like President Trump is the one that came up with this idea. …There are multiple news outlets that have reported former President Barack Obama ordered wiretapping on Trump.”  [In fact, Trump started this issue with his specific and libelous tweet.
  • “I can definitely say the president is not a liar. It’s frankly insulting that question would be asked.” [In fact, by January 10, 2018, the Washington Post reported: “Since taking office, President Trump has made 2,436 false or misleading claims and flip-flops.”]

“The reason [Sanders] does that is because her job is contingent upon her being a serial congenital liar in defense of Donald Trump’s latest outrages,” said GOP strategist Rick Wilson in November, 2017.  

“She goes out and she tries to bury people in an avalanche of horseshit everyday, because this is her job.” 

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Rick Wilson

Mercedes Schlapp, a White House senior communications adviser, took to the Fox Network—the unofficial propaganda arm of the Republican party—to voice her outrage at Wolf. 

Schlapp and her husband had stormed out of the correspondents dinner in protest. She told “Fox & Friends” that Wolf’s jokes were “so incredibly disrespectful.”

Dean Obeidallah, a columnist for The Daily Beast, responded: The way I see it, a person in the Trump administration saying something was ‘disrespectful’ while defending a man who bragged on the ‘Access Hollywood’ tape about grabbing women by the pu**y, has demonized Muslims and Mexicans and mocked a disabled reporter is truly hilarious.”

And as comedy writer Nell Scovell put it: Comedians are stepping up in a way that journalists aren’t—as in Wolfe’s jokes about Sanders’ lying.

“If the job of journalism is to get at the truth,” said Scovell, “they need to do a better job.”

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