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THE PRICE OF HUBRIS

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on October 6, 2020 at 12:19 am

The ancient Greeks defined hubris as overweening pride. For them, acting as if you were equal to or more powerful than the gods—or trying to defy them—was the most serious crime you could commit. And it came with a divine punishment. 

Donald Trump has acted with hubris his entire life—but never more so than once he declared himself a Presidential candidate in 2015.

He savagely insulted his opponents. 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—including his fellow Republicans, journalists, news organizations, countries and even celebrities unconnected with politics.

Donald Trump

During debates, he belittled his Republican and Democratic opponents with insulting nicknames.

Political pundits expected that voters would reject Trump for violating long-held niceties of political discourse. But they never did.

He openly called for Russia to intervene in an American Presidential election.

On July 22, 2016, Trump said at a press conference in Doral, Florida: “Russia, if you are listening, I hope you are able to find the 33,000 emails that are missing [from Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s computer]. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” 

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Although this amounted to treason, he was never prosecuted.

He fired FBI Director James Comey. 

On May 9, 2017, Trump fired FBI Director James Comey for investigating Russia’s subversion of he 2016 Presidential race.

Although he clearly did this to subvert an FBI investigation, Republicans solidly backed him and he remained unimpeached.

He gave CIA secrets to Russia, which had intervened in the 2016 election to help Trump win.

On May 10, 2017—the day after he fired Comey—Trump met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the Oval Office—and gave them highly classified Israeli Intelligence about an Islamic State plot to turn laptops into concealable bombs.

He hypocritically claimed “I am your President of law and order” after a lifetime of law-breaking.

He has been forced to shut down a fraudulent university and a fraudulent charity. He has bragged about buying politicians. He has been impeached for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. He ordered police and military forces to attack peaceful protesters in Lafayette Park so he could stage a photo op there. 

* * * * *

Donald Trump’s rise to power has been fueled by bribery and intimidation. These methods served him well—until the advent of Coronavirus. The pandemic remains impervious to bribes or intimidation. 

He has repeatedly lied about it:

  • It’s a Democratic hoax.
  • “One day, it will disappear.”
  • There is no need for wearing masks or social distancing.
  • There is a cure for COVID-19—the malaria drug hyroxychloroquine.

Yet the deaths continue to mount—210,000 by October 5. And he has offered only one “remedy” for it: “Reopen the country!” This has resulted in asssive infection rates across the nation.

Trump planned to win re-election as the President who had created a booming economy and high employment. But businesses across the country remain shuttered because of Coronavirus fears—or likely soon will be. Nearly half of all Americans are unemployed.

To force frightened Americans back to unsafe working conditions, Trump demanded they send their children back to COVID-19-threatened schools.

Meanwhile, Trump continued to violate the health guidelines of his own Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—holding massive indoor rallies, refusing to wear a mask, refusing to socially distance himself from others.

For a time he seemed impervious to the virus that had struck down so many others.

Then, on October 3, Trump himself became a casualty of the plague he had so long derided. Rushed to Walter Reed Hospital, he was given a cocktail of experimental anti-Coronavirus drugs that are beyond the price range of most Americans.

On October 5, a still-positive Trump demanded that he be released and returned to the White House. And he got his way.

At least 18 White House staffers have tested positive—including his wife, First Lady Melania; his press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany; his personal adviser, Hope Hicks; and his longtime adviser Kelleyanne Conway.

Suddenly, Coronavirus—the issue he had sought to ignore or downplay since January—had emerged front and center. And, with it, his arrogant refusal to address it.

In his book, The World of Herodotus, Aubrey de Selincourt writes that the Greek historian filled his book, The Histories, with “stories of the perils of pride—pride of wealth, pride of power, pride of success, and, deadliest of all, the pride which leads a man to forget that he is nothing in the sight of the gods.”

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And, in the pages of The Histories lies this warning: “Look to the end, no matter what it is you are considering. Often enough, God gives a man a glimpse of happiness, and then utterly ruins him.” 

Donald Trump has spent a lifetime committing crimes. Holding the Presidency is his only defense against prosecution—since a sitting President cannot be indicted. If he is turned out of office, prosecution awaits him at the state level in New York—and possibly at the federal level as well.

Trump’s lifelong glimpse of happiness may be about to end.

IT’S THE HATRED, STUPID, THAT MOTIVATES TRUMP

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on September 11, 2020 at 12:52 am

During his 1992 Presidential campaign, Bill Clinton had “It’s the Economy, Stupid,” as his mantra for staying focused on the issue that recession-suffering Americans most cared about.

For Donald Trump in 2016, the issue he—and his base—held dearest could be summed up as: “It’s the Hatred, Stupid.”

As a Presidential candidate, Trump repeatedly used Twitter to attack hundreds of real and imagined enemies in politics, journalism, TV and films. 

From June 15, 2015, when he launched his Presidential campaign, until October 24, 2016, Trump fired almost 4,000 angry, insulting tweets at 281 people and institutions that had somehow offended him.

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Donald Trump

The New York Times needed two full pages of its print edition to showcase them.

Among his targets:

  • Hillary Clinton
  • President Barack Obama
  • Actress Meryl Streep
  • Singer Neil Young
  • Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger
  • Comedian John Oliver
  • News organizations
  • New Jersey
  • Beauty pageant contestants

Others he clearly delighted in insulting during the campaign included:

  • Women
  • Blacks
  • Hispanics
  • Asians
  • Muslims
  • The disabled
  • Prisoners-of-war

As President, he continues to insult virtually everyone, verbally and on Twitter. Among his targets: Democrats, Republicans, the media and foreign leaders.

He has even attacked members of his own administration.  Among these:

  • His press secretary, Sean Spicer, quit on July 21. The reason: He believed—correctly—hat his loyalty to Trump had become a one-way street. Trump kept him in the dark about events Spicer needed to know—such as an interview that Trump arranged with the New York Times—and which ended disastrously.
  • Trump repeatedly attacked his own Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, for not “protecting” him from agents pursuing the Russia investigation. On November 7, 2018, the day after Democrats won a majority of House seats, Trump fired Sessions.
  • Trump fired FBI Director James Comey without warning on May 9, 2017. Comey had refused to pledge his personal loyalty to Trump and turn the FBI into Trump’s secret police. He had also refused to drop the Bureau’s investigation into Russia’s efforts during the 2016 election to elect Trump.
  • Trump repeatedly humiliated his then-chief of staff, Reince Priebus—at one point ordering him to kill a fly that was buzzing about. On July 28, 2017, Priebus resigned.  
  • In October, 2016, as a Presidential candidate, Trump attacked Colin Kaepernick, then quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, who had gained notoriety by kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial injustice.  
  • On October 8, 2017, at Trump’s instigation, Vice President Mike Pence staged a walk-out during a match between the San Francisco 49ers and the Indianapolis Colts. 
  • The Trump/Pence stunt cost taxpayers about $242,500 in air fare for Air Force Two, advance personnel and Secret Service protection. On March 4, 2017, in a series of unhinged tweets,
  • Trump accused former President Barack Obama of illegally 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!”
  • After NBC News reported that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called Trump a “moron,” Tillerson publicly refused to deny it. Trump then told Forbes magazine: “I think it’s fake news, but if he did that, I guess we’ll have to compare IQ tests. And I can tell you who is going to win.”   

As Americans have watched Trump’s behavior with morbid fascination, many of them have asked:  “What makes him do the things he does?”

It’s a question asked—and answered—in the 1993 Western, Tombstone. And the answer given in that movie may just hold the answer to the question asked about Trump.

Tombstone recounts the legendary blood feud between the Ike Clanton outlaw gang and the Earp brothers—Wyatt, Morgan and Virgil—in  the famous gold-mining town in 1881 Arizona. 

 

Wyatt Earp has been challenged to a gunfight by quick-trigger gunman Johnny Ringo. Although he impulsively accepted the challenge, Wyatt now realizes he’s certain to be killed. Thus follows this exchange with his longtime friend, the pistol-packing dentist, John H. “Doc” Holliday: 

WYATT EARP:  What makes a man like Ringo, Doc? What makes him do the things he does?

JOHN H. “DOC” HOLLIDAY: A man like Ringo….got a great empty hole right through the middle of him. He can never kill enough or steal enough….or inflict enough pain to ever fill it.

EARP:  What does he need?

HOLLIDAY:  Revenge.

EARP:  For what?

HOLLIDAY: Bein’ born. 

Donald Trump was born into a world of wealth and privilege.  He has claimed to be worth a billion dollars.

He has been linked to some of the most beautiful women in the world. He has literally stamped his name on hundreds of buildings. And now he holds the Presidency of the United States, the most powerful office in the Western world. 

Yet he remains filled with a poisonous hatred that encompasses almost everyone.

Since taking office, he has offered nothing positive in his agenda. Instead, he has focused on what rights he can take from others. At the top of his list: The Affordable Care Act, providing access to medical care for millions who previously could not obtain it. 

As first-mate Starbuck says of Captain Ahab in Herman Melville’s classic novel, Moby Dick: “He is a champion of darkness.”

WHY DEMOCRATS LOSE ELECTIONS

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on August 28, 2020 at 1:47 am

Throughout 2016, Facebook posters were certain: Hillary Clinton would be the next American President! Democrats would retake the House—maybe even the Senate!

Then reality intruded.

Why do Republicans win so many elections—especially at the Presidential level?

Republicans learned long ago that most voters aren’t moved by appeals to their rationality. Instead, what counts with them is emotions.

And long ago they became experts at appealing to these—especially the baser ones.

For Republicans, the Big Three are:

Hatred

Greed

Fear  

Hatred: There can be no better example of a politician who has played successfully on the hatred of American voters than Donald Trump. If Barack Obama was the 2008 candidate of “Hope and Change,” then Trump was the 2016 candidate of “Hate and Fear.” 

From June 15, 2015, when he launched his Presidential campaign, until October 24, 2016, Trump fired almost 4,000 angry, insulting tweets at 281 people and institutions that had somehow offended him. 

Donald Trump

The New York Times needed two full pages of its print edition to showcase them. 

The message of Donald Trump’s campaign was one of hatred toward everyone who was not an avid Trump supporter.

Whites comprised the overwhelming majority of the audiences at Trump rallies. Not all were racists, but many of those who were advertised it on T-shirts: “MAKE AMERICA WHITE AGAIN.”

They resented that a black man had twice been elected President of the United States. And they were determined to put a white man back in the White House. And Hillary Clinton’s being an “uppity women’s libber” brought their hatred to a boiling point.

Greed: On August 23, 2018, Trump gave an unprecedented reason why he shouldn’t be impeached: “I tell you what, if I ever got impeached, I think the market would crash, I think everybody would be very poor.”  

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders doubtless spoke for millions of Trump supporters when she said, on June 4, 2018:

“Since taking office, the President has strengthened American leadership, security, prosperity, and accountability. And as we saw from Friday’s jobs report, our economy is stronger, Americans are optimistic, and business is booming.”

Susan Page, Washington Bureau Chief for USA TODAY, summed up the popularity of the “Greed Appeal” to voters on the March 13 edition of “Washington Week in Review”:

“USA Today has conducted a poll about the economic concerns that are out there….And Congress—you’re seeing fear in this country about the economy.

“In fact, when we did this poll this week about how Americans’ lives have been affected by the Coronavirus, people expressed more concern about the economic and financial effect than they did about the health effect. And you know, that goes to why this matters so much to President Trump.

“How many voters have you talked to who said, you know, I don’t really like President Trump’s tweets, but I like what I see happening in my 401(k)?  And when they look at their 401(k) this week, it may not look quite as bright as it did before.”

Fear: From the end of World War II in 1945 to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Enemy of Choice for Republicans was the Communists.

Millions of Americans were so pathologically frightened by “The Red Menace” that any Democratic politician libeled as a “Communist,” “Comsymp,”  “fellow traveler” was considered at least a potential traitor, if not an actual one.

Among the Republican politicians who rode to victory on a wave of Red hysteria: Richard Nixon and Joseph McCarthy 

Even as late as 1992, President George H.W. Bush and the Republican establishment charged that Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton might be a KGB plant. Their evidence: During his tenure at Oxford University in 1969-70, Clinton had briefly visited Moscow—and thus might have been turned into a “Manchurian Candidate.”

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Right-wingers had to settle for attacking their opponents as “liberals” and “soft on crime.” But these charges didn’t carry the same weight as “Communists” and “traitors.”

Then, on September 11, 2001, Republicans—and their Right-wing supporters—at last found a suitable replacement for the Red Menace: The Maniacal Muslim.

World Trade Center on September 11, 2001

Led by President George W. Bush, Republicans used fear of Muslims to con and bully the nation into a needless, bloody, budget-busting war on Iraq. Seventeen years later, that war continues.

So how can Democrats counter such appeals?  By making equally ruthless use of them.

For example—Fear: Republicans rely heavily on support from rural America—where fundamentalist religious beliefs hold sway. Instead of ridiculing those beliefs, Democrats—even those who are atheists—should make use of them.

How?

  • By recognizing that fundamentalists believe that widespread plague is a sign of God’s displeasure; and
  • Repeatedly proclaiming that the Coronavirus is God’s judgment on a sinful nation for electing Donald Trump President.

Democrats must closely study the beliefs of their sworn enemies and make skillful use of them—as the Israelis have done. 

Suicide bombers’ attacks in Israel sharply decreased after Israelis started patrolling with bomb-sniffing dogs.

Why?

Islamics believe that dogs are defiling creatures—and that if the blood of suicide bombers mingles with that of a dog, they won’t go to Heaven to claim those 72 willing virgins.

To defeat your enemy, you must learn his weaknesses—and ruthlessly attack them.

AMERICA: TRYING OUT “THE GERMAN EXPERIMENT”

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on August 24, 2020 at 12:17 am

On November 8, 2016, millions of ignorant, hate-filled, Right-wing Americans elected Donald Trump—a man reflecting their own hate and ignorance—to the Presidency. 

Yet Americans had fewer excuses for turning to a Fascistic style of government than the Germans did.

Adolf Hitler, joined the National Socialist German Workers (Nazi) Party in 1919—the year after World War 1 ended.

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Adolf Hitler

It took him 14 years to win appointment to Chancellor (the equivalent of Attorney General) of Germany in 1933.

In 1923, he staged a coup attempt in Bavaria—which was quickly and brutally put down by police. He was arrested and sentenced to less than a year in prison.

After that, Hitler decided that winning power through violence was no longer an option. He must win it through election—or appointment.

He repeatedly ran for the highest office in Germany—President—but never got a clear majority in a free election.

When the 1929 Depression struck Germany, the fortunes of Hitler’s Nazi party rose as the life savings of ordinary Germans fell. Streets echoed with bloody clashes between members of Hitler’s Nazi Stormtroopers and those of the German Communist Party.

Germany seemed on the verge of collapsing.

Germans desperately looked for a leader—a Fuhrer–who could somehow deliver them from the threat of financial ruin and Communist takeover.

In early 1933, members of his own cabinet persuaded aging German president, Paul von Hindenburg, that only Hitler’s appointment as Chancellor could do this.

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Paul von Hindenburg

Hindenburg was reluctant to do so. He considered Hitler a dangerous radical. But he allowed himself to be convinced that, by putting Hitler in the Cabinet, he could be “boxed in” and thus controlled.

So, on January 30, 1933, he appointed Adolf Hitler Chancellor of Germany.

On August 2, 1934, Hindenburg died, and Hitler immediately assumed the titles–and duties—of the offices of Chancellor and President. His rise to total power was now complete.

In 2015, Donald Trump declared his candidacy for President.

Now, consider this:

  • The country was technically at war in the Middle East–but the fate of the United States was not truly threatened, as it had been during the Civil War.
  • There was no draft; if you didn’t know someone in the military, you didn’t care about the casualties taking place.
  • Nor were these conflicts—in Iraq and Afghanistan–imposing domestic shortages on Americans, as World War II had.
  • Thanks to government loans from President Barack Obama, American capitalism had been saved from its own excesses during the George W. Bush administration.
  • Employment was up. CEOs were doing extremely well.
  • In contrast to the corruption that had plagued the administration of Ronald Reagan, whom Republicans idolize, there had been no such scandals during the Obama Presidency.
  • Nor had there been any large-scale terrorist attacks on American soil—as there had on 9/11 under President George W. Bush.

Yet—not 17 months after announcing his candidacy for President—enough Americans fervently embraced Donald Trump to give him the most powerful position in the country and the world.

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Donald Trump

The message of Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign had been one of hope—“Yes, We Can!”

That of Donald Trump’s campaign was one of hatred toward everyone who was not an avid Trump supporter: “No, You Can’t!”

Whites comprised the overwhelming majority of the audiences at Trump rallies. Not all were racists, but many of those who were advertised it on T-shirts: “MAKE AMERICA WHITE AGAIN.”

They knew that demographics were steadily working against them. Birthrates among non-whites were rising. By 2045, whites would make up less than 50 percent of the American population.

The 2008 election of the first black President had shocked these whites. His 2012 re-election had deprived them of the hope that 2008 had been an accident.

Then came 2016—and the possibility that a black President might actually be followed by a woman: Hillary Clinton. And the thought of a woman dictating to men was simply too much to bear.

On August 17, 2020, former First Lady Michelle Obama, speaking at the Democratic National Convention, summed up the legacies of the Obama and Trump administrations:

“When my husband left office with Joe Biden at his side, we had a record-breaking stretch of job creation. We’d secured the right to health care for 20,000,000 people. We were respected around the world, rallying our allies to confront climate change. And our leaders had worked hand-in-hand with scientists to help prevent an Ebola outbreak from becoming a global pandemic. 

“Four years later, the state of this nation is very different. More than [170,000] people have died, and our economy is in shambles because of a virus that this president downplayed for too long. It has left millions of people jobless. Too many have lost their health care; too many are struggling to take care of basic necessities like food and rent

“Too many communities have been left in the lurch to grapple with whether and how to open our schools safely. Internationally, we’ve turned our back, not just on agreements forged by my husband, but on alliances championed by presidents like Reagan and Eisenhower.”

All of this should be remembered the next time an American blames Germans for their lethal embrace of Adolf Hitler.

THE PRICE OF HUBRIS

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on August 3, 2020 at 12:08 am

The ancient Greeks defined hubris as overweening pride. For them, acting as if you were equal to or more powerful than the gods—or trying to defy them—was the most serious crime you could commit. And it came with a divine punishment. 

Donald Trump has acted with hubris his entire life—but never more so than once he declared himself a Presidential candidate in 2015.

He savagely insulted his opponents. 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—including his fellow Republicans, journalists, news organizations, countries and even celebrities unconnected with politics.

Donald Trump

During debates, he belittled his Republican and Democratic opponents with insulting nicknames.

Political pundits expected that voters would reject Trump for violating long-held niceties of political discourse. But they never did.

He openly called for the subversion of the American political system.

On July 22, 2016, during his Presidential campaign, Trump said at a press conference in Doral, Florida: “Russia, if you are listening, I hope you are able to find the 33,000 emails that are missing [from Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s computer]. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” 

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

He fired FBI Director James Comey. 

On May 9, 2017, Trump fired FBI Director James Comey for investigating Russia’s subversion of he 2016 Presidential race. Comey had refused to pledge his personal loyalty to Trump during a private dinner at the White House in January.

He gave CIA secrets to Russia, which had intervened in the 2016 election to help Trump win. 

On May 10, 2017—the day after he fired Comey—Trump met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the Oval Office—and gave them highly classified Israeli Intelligence about an Islamic State plot to turn laptops into concealable bombs.

He has repeatedly violated the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, which forbids Presidents to profit from office.

On January 27, 2017, Trump signed an executive order that blocked entry into the United States for 90 days for citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

But four other Middle East countries were not covered by Trump’s travel ban: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.  Why? Because they are all countries where Trump has close business ties.

He hypocritically claimed “I am your President of law and order” after a lifetime of law-breaking.

He has been forced to shut down a fraudulent university and a fraudulent charity. He has bragged about buying politicians. He has been impeached for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. He ordered police and military forces to attack peaceful protesters in Lafayette Park so he could film a photo op there. 

* * * * *

Donald Trump’s rise to power has been fueled by bribery and intimidation. These methods served him well—until the advent of Coronavirus. The pandemic remains impervious to bribes or intimidation. 

He has repeatedly lied about it:

  • It’s a Democratic hoax.
  • “One day, it will disappear.”
  • There is no need for wearing masks or social distancing.
  • There is a cure for COVID-19—the malaria drug hyroxychloroquine.

When the nation partially shut down in March and April, he offered one “solution”: It must immediately reopen. Those states which did so—mostly Red ones in the South and Midwest—are now flooded with COVID-19 cases and deaths. 

By July 30, COVID-19 cases in the United States stood at 4.6 million—and COVID-19 deaths stood at 155,333. 

Trump planned to win re-election as the President who had created a booming economy and high employment. But businesses across the country remain shuttered—or likely soon will be. Nearly half of all Americans are unemployed.

To force frightened Americans back to unsafe working conditions, Trump demands they send their children back to COVID-19-threatened schools.

Meanwhile, there is no vaccine to prevent COVID-19—and no treatment to cure it.

Trump can only falsely accuse his Democratic rival, Joe Biden, of being a socialist—even as he regularly praises Vladimir Putin, the Communist dictator of Russia.

In his book, The World of Herodotus, Aubrey de Selincourt writes that the Greek historian filled his book, The Histories, with “stories of the perils of pride—pride of wealth, pride of power, pride of success, and, deadliest of all, the pride which leads a man to forget that he is nothing in the sight of the gods.”

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And, in the pages of The Histories lies this warning: “Look to the end, no matter what it is you are considering. Often enough, God gives a man a glimpse of happiness, and then utterly ruins him.” 

Donald Trump has spent a lifetime committing crimes. Holding the Presidency is his only defense against prosecution—since a sitting President cannot be indicted. If he is turned out of office, state-level prosecution awaits him in New York and possibly at the federal level as well.

Trump’s lifelong glimpse of happiness may be about to end.

HOW ONE MAN’S ADVENT–OR ABSENCE–CAN MAKE HISTORY: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 29, 2020 at 1:19 am

On July 20, 1944, members of the Wehrmacht high command failed to assassinate Adolf Hitler with a bomb hidden in a briefcase.

Adolf Hitler

Mass arrests quickly followed. 

Among the first victims discovered and executed was the conspiracy’s leader, Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg. Standing before a makeshift firing squad at midnight, he cried: “Long live our sacred Germany!”

At least 7,000 persons were arrested by the Gestapo. According to records of the Fuehrer Conferences on Naval Affairs, 4,980 were executed.

Had the conspiracy succeeded, history would have turned out differently:

  • If Germany had surrendered in July or August, 1944, World War II would have ended eight to nine months earlier.
  • The Russians—who didn’t reach Germany until April, 1945—could not have occupied the Eastern part of the country.
  • This would have prevented many of the future conflicts between the United States and the Soviet Union over access to West Berlin and/or West Germany.
  • Untold numbers of Holocaust victims would have survived because the extermination camps would have been shut down.

Thus, history can be altered by the appearance—or disappearance—of a single individual.

Which brings us back to Donald Trump.

Donald Trump

Since becoming President on January 20, 2017, Trump has attacked or undermined one public or private institution after another, including:

  • The Justice Department: Repeatedly attacked his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, for not “protecting” him from the FBI’s investigating ties between the Trump 2016 Presidential campaign and Russian Intelligence agents. In 2018, Trump fired him.
  • Ordered 46 Obama-era prosecutors to resign and fired the Inspectors General of five cabinet departments.
  • Appointed William Barr as Attorney General in 2019 to protect him against investigations of his rampant criminality—both before and after he became President. 
  • The CIA: Refused to accept its findings—and those of the FBI and National Security Agency—that Russian Intelligence agents had intervened in the 2016 election to ensure his victory. Repeatedly defended Russian dictator Vladimir Putin’s denials of this. 
  • The FBI:  Fired FBI Director James B. Comey for refusing to serve as Trump’s private secret police chief.
  • Repeatedly violated the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution by using his position as President to further enrich himself.
  • The military: Threatened to order the U.S. Armed Forces to violate the rights of Americans protesting police brutality and the killing of George Floyd. 
  • The press: Tweeted: “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes@NBCNews@ABC@CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!”  (“Enemy of the people” was a favorite charge made by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.)
  • The judiciary: Repeatedly attacked Seattle U.S. District Judge James Robart, who halted Trump’s first Muslim travel ban.

On February 5, 2020, the Republican-dominated Senate—ignoring the overwhelming evidence against him—acquitted Donald Trump on two impeachment articles:

  • Article 1: Abuse of Power: For pressuring Ukraine to assist him in his re-election campaign by smearing former Vice President Joseph Biden, his possible Democratic rival; and
  • Article 2: Obstruction of Congress: For blocking testimony of subpoenaed witnesses and refusing to provide documents in response to House subpoenas in the impeachment inquiry.

With Republicans solidly backing Trump, that left only two other institutions capable of ending his reign of criminality and treason: The military and the Intelligence community. 

Both have access to vast amounts of secret—and highly embarrassing—-information. And both are expert in leaking choice bits of this to favored members of the media.  

If the military refused to carry out Trump’s orders, that would prove a genuine Constitutional crisis. But there would be a historical precedent for this.

In 1974, Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger feared that a Watergate-embattled President Richard M. Nixon might order the military to prevent his removal by impeachment. Schlesinger ordered all Armed Services branches to not accept any order from the White House unless countersigned by Schlesinger himself.

As for the CIA: This agency has been overthrowing heads of state for decades. 

In 1953, its coup removed Mohammad Mosaddegh, the prime minister of Iran. In 1954, another coup did the same for Guatemalan president Jacobo Árbenz.

In 1970, Chile’s president, Salvador Allende, fell victim to a CIA-instigated plot.

Seal of the Central Intelligence Agency.svg

Millions of Americans believe the CIA engineered the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy. James W. Douglass’ 2008 book, JFK and the Unspeakable, charges that the CIA murdered Kennedy because he wanted to end the Cold War after the Cuban Missile Crisis. 

* * * * *

Had Senate Republicans chosen patriotism over partisanship and convicted President Donald J. Trump for high crimes and misdemeanors—or had the military and/or the Intelligence community forced him out of office—history would have turned out differently:

  • Trump’s vicious attacks on the press, judiciary and Intelligence community would have ended immediately.
  • His efforts to subvert the Justice Department and Armed Services would have stopped.
  • He would have faced vigorous prosecution for his litany of crimes—before and during his Presidency.
  • Vladimir Putin would have lost his strongest ally in the United States. 
  • Vice President Mike Pence would have become President—but, burdened by his reputation as Trump’s #1 sycophant, might have been unable to win election in November, 2020; and
  • Tarnished by their subservience to a discredited Trump, Republicans would have almost certainly lost the White House and the Senate.

HOW ONE MAN’S ADVENT–OR ABSENCE–CAN MAKE HISTORY: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 26, 2020 at 1:23 pm

On July 20, 1944, Colonel Claus Schenk von Stuaffenberg tried to assassinate Adolf Hitler.

He had served with the Wehrmacht in Poland (1939), France (1940) and the Soviet Union (1941).

While serving in Tunisa, he was seriously wounded on April 7, 1943, when Allied fighters strafed his vehicle. He lost his left eye, right hand and two fingers of his left hand after surgery.  

Colonel Claus Schenk von Stuaffenberg

Nevertheless, he now acted as the prime mover for the conspiracy among a growing number of German high command officers to arrest or assassinate Germany’s Fuehrer.

For most of these officers, the motive was craven: The “happy time’ of German victories was over. Germany was losing the war it had launched on the world in 1939–and now they feared the worst. 

This was especially true now that the numerically superior forces of the Soviet Union had gone onto the offensive.

For Stauffenberg, there was another reason: His disgust at the horrors he had seen committed by his fellow Wehrmacht soldiers upon defenseless POW’s and civilians in Russia.

Thus, Stauffenberg—more than many Germans–knew firsthand the vengeance his country could expect if the “Thousand-Year Reich” fell.

Something must be done, he believed, to prove to the world that not all Germans—even members of the Wehrmacht—were criminals.

Most of the conspirators wanted to arrest Hitler and surrender to British and American forces—well before the much-feared Russians gained a toehold in Germany.

Stauffenberg didn’t want to arrest Hitler; he wanted to kill him. A live Hitler might eventually be rescued by his Nazi colleagues.

But Hitler was a closely-guarded target. He was surrounded by fanatical bodyguards who were expert marksmen. He often wore a bulletproof vest and a cap lined with three pounds of laminated steel. 

Adolf Hitler

Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1990-048-29A / CC-BY-SA 3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)%5D

But his single greatest protection–he claimed—was an instinct for danger. He would suddenly change his schedule—to drop in where he was least expected. Or suddenly depart an event where he was expected to stay a long time.

On November 9, 1939, this instinct saved his life. He was expected to give a long speech at a Munich beer hall before the “old Fighters” of his brown-shirted storm troopers. 

Instead, he suddenly cut short his speech and left the beer hall. Forty-five minutes later, a bomb exploded inside a pillar—before which Hitler had been speaking.

Since then, a series of other assassination attempts had been made against Hitler. All of them involved time-bombs. And all of the would-be assassins were members of the German General Staff.

In one case, a bomb secretly stashed aboard Hitler’s plane failed to explode. In another, an officer who had a bomb strapped to himself unexpectedly found his scheduled meeting with Hitler called off. He had to rush into a bathroom to defuse the bomb before it went off.

So now it was the turn of von Stauffenberg. He would carry his bomb—hidden in a briefcase—into a “Hitler conference” packed with military officers.

But Stauffenberg didn’t intend to be a suicide bomber. He meant to direct the government that would replace that of the Nazis.

His bomb—also rigged with a time-fuse—would be left in the conference room while he found an excuse to leave. After the explosion, he would phone one of his fellow conspirators with the news.

Then, the coup—“Operation Valkyrie”—would be on.

Anti-Nazi conspirators would seize control of key posts of the government. The British and Americans would then be informed of Germany’s willingness to surrender. Provided, of course, that the vengeance-seeking Russians did not have a say in its postwar future.

The Wehrmacht and Schutzstaffel (SS) had killed millions of Russians. Many had died in combat. Others had been murdered as captives. Still more had been allowed to die by starvation and exposure to the notorious Russian winter.

So the Germans—both Nazi and anti-Nazi—knew what they could expect if soldiers of the Soviet Union reached German soil.

On July 20, 1944, Stauffenberg appeared at Hitler’s well-guarded military headquarters in East Prussia.  Like all his other outposts, Hitler had named it—appropriately enough—“Wolf’s Lair.” 

“Wolf’s Lair”

Stauffenberg entered the large, concrete building while the conference was in session. He placed his yellow briefcase next to Hitler—who was standing with his generals at a heavy oaken table. Then he excused himself to take an “urgent” phone call.

After Stauffenberg left the room, Colonel Heinz Brandt, standing next to Hitler, found the briefcase blocking his legs. So he moved it—to the other side of the heavy oaken support, partially shielding Hitler from the blast.. 

At 12:42 p.m. on July 20, 1944, Stauffenberg’s briefcase bomb erupted. 

Brandt died, as did two other officers and a stenographer.  

Hitler not only survived, but the plotters failed to seize the key broadcast facilities of the Reich.  

This allowed Hitler to make a late-night speech to the nation, revealing the failed plot and assuring Germans that he was alive. And he swore to flush out the “traitorous swine” who had tried to kill him.

He soon proved as bad as his word.

AMERICA’S HATER-IN-CHIEF

In Bureaucracy, History, MOVIES, Politics, Social commentary on June 12, 2020 at 12:07 am

As both a Presidential candidate and President, Donald Trump has repeatedly used Twitter to attack hundreds of real and imagined enemies in politics, journalism, TV and films.

From June 15, 2015, when he launched his Presidential campaign, until October 24, 2016, Trump fired almost 4,000 angry, insulting tweets at 281 people and institutions that had somehow offended him. 

Donald Trump

The New York Times needed two full pages of its print edition to showcase them. 

Among his targets:

  • Former Secretary of State and Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton
  • President Barack Obama
  • Actress Meryl Streep
  • Singer Neil Young
  • Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger
  • Comedian John Oliver
  • News organizations
  • The State of New Jersey
  • Beauty pageant contestants

Others he clearly delighted in insulting during the campaign included:

  • Women
  • Blacks
  • Hispanics
  • Asians
  • Muslims
  • The disabled
  • Prisoners-of-war

As a Presidential candidate and President, he has shown outright hatred for President Barack Obama. For five years, he slandered Obama as a Kenyan-born alien who had no right to hold the Presidency. 

Related image

Barack Obama

Only on the eve of the first Presidential debate with Hillary Clinton—in September, 2016—did he finally admit that Obama had been born in the United States after all.

Then, on March 4, 2017, in a series of unhinged tweets, Trump accused Obama of illegally 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!”

Thus, without offering a shred of evidence to back it up, Trump accused his predecessor of committing an impeachable offense.

Both the FBI and Justice Department vigorously refuted this slander. 

Trump’s all-out effort to destroy the Affordable Care Act—nicknamed “Obamacare”—has been driven by his mania to erase every vestige of the Obama Presidency. 

Even attending a Boy Scout jamboree became, for Trump, a way to attack the former President.

“By the way, just a question. Did President Obama ever come to a jamboree?” Trump asked the crowd of 40,000, encouraging them to boo Obama.  And many of them did.

As President, he has bullied and insulted even his own handpicked Cabinet officers and White House officials.

  • His press secretary, Sean Spicer, quit on July 21, 2017. The reason: He believed—correctly—that his loyalty to Trump had become a one-way street. Trump kept him in the dark about events Spicer needed to know—such as an interview that Trump arranged with the New York Times—and which ended disastrously for Trump.
  • Trump waged a Twitter-laced feud against Jeff Sessions, his Attorney General. Sessions’ “crime”? Recusing himself from any decisions involving investigations into well-established ties between Russian Intelligence agents and members of Trump’s Presidential campaign. A day after Republicans lost the House of Representatives in November, 2018, Trump fired him.
  • Trump repeatedly humiliated his chief of staff, Reince Priebus—at one point ordering him to kill a fly that was buzzing about. On July 28, 2017, Priebus resigned.

**********

Americans have watched Trump’s behavior with morbid fascination, many of them asking: “What makes him do the things he does?”

It’s a question asked—and answered—in the 1993 Western, Tombstone. And the answer given in that movie may just hold the key to the question so many Americans are now asking about Trump.

Tombstone recounts the legendary blood feud between the Ike Clanton outlaw gang and the Earp brothers—Wyatt, Morgan and Virgil—in  the famous gold-mining town in 1880s Arizona.

Wyatt Earp has been challenged to a gunfight by quick-trigger gunman Johnny Ringo. Although he impulsively accepted the challenge, Wyatt now realizes he’s certain to be killed. Then follows this exchange with his longtime friend, the pistol-packing dentist, John H. “Doc” Holliday: 

WYATT EARP:  What makes a man like Ringo, Doc? What makes him do the things he does?

JOHN H. “DOC” HOLLIDAY: A man like Ringo….got a great empty hole right through the middle of him. He can never kill enough or steal enough….or inflict enough pain to ever fill it.

EARP:  What does he need?

HOLLIDAY:  Revenge.

EARP:  For what?

HOLLIDAY: Bein’ born. 

Donald Trump was born into a world of wealth and privilege. His father gave him $200 million, which he channeled into a real estate empire. He has claimed to be worth a billion dollars.

He has been linked—often by his own boasts—to some of the most beautiful women in the world. He has been a major force on TV through his “reality show,” The Apprentice. He has literally stamped his name on hundreds of buildings. 

And now he holds the Presidency of the United States, the most powerful office in the Western world. 

Yet he remains filled with a poisonous hatred that encompasses almost everyone. Since taking office, he has offered nothing positive in his agenda. 

Instead, he has focused his efforts on what he can take from others. At the top of his list: The Affordable Health Act, which provides access to medical care for millions who previously could not obtain it. 

As first-mate Starbuck says of Captain Ahab in Herman Melville’s classic novel, Moby Dick: “He is a champion of darkness.”

TWO FACES OF TERROR: 9/11 AND COVID-19: PART FOUR (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 23, 2020 at 2:00 am

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has urged Americans to keep at least six feet from their fellows. And most of the nation’s governors have issued stay-at-home orders that ban large gatherings—including visits to parks and beaches.

Yet President Donald Trump has openly encouraged defiance of those orders. On April 17 he issued a series of tweets to his supporters:

“LIBERATE MINNESOTA!”

“LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” 

“LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!”

All these states have Democratic governors. Their residents are being urged to stay indoors, wear masks when they venture outside and keep a six-feet distance between themselves and others. 

These states have been targeted for Right-wing protests—featuring large numbers of men and women standing close together, with most of them not wearing masks. They claim their “freedoms” are being infringed upon.

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, hat and outdoor

Writer Steven Pressfield summed up the immorality of these protests: “Why are we asked to wear surgical or face masks in public, to practice social distancing and to observe self-quarantining? Because these practices are not for the individual alone but for the protection of the whole [community].”

Washington Governor Jay Inslee tweeted: “The president’s statements this morning encourage illegal and dangerous acts. He is putting millions of people in danger of contracting COVID-19.

“His unhinged rantings and calls for people to ‘liberate’ states could also lead to violence. We’ve seen it before.”

After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C. President George W. Bush publicly denounced harassment of American Muslims: “Muslim Americans make an incredibly valuable contribution to our country. They need to be treated with respect.”

But Trump has openly called for public—and illegal—defiance of the nation’s governors and the health experts of his own administration. Meanwhile, the United States has 855,255 Coronavirus cases—and 47,973 deaths.

During Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign, he did—for Republicans—the unthinkable: He openly blamed Bush for 9/11.

“He was president, okay?” Trump said on Bloomberg Television. “Blame him or don’t blame him, but he was president. The World Trade Center came down during his reign.”

But now Trump holds the Presidency, with more than 47,000 Americans dead of the virus—after he spent two months dismissing as a threat. 

On March 13, PBS NewsHour’s reporter Yamiche Alcindor bluntly asked Trump if he bore any responsibility for the surge in cases. Even more embarrassing for Trump, she noted that he had gutted the White House’s Pandemic Office set up by his predecessor, Barack Obama.

Trump’s reply: “I don’t take any responsibility at all.”

No photo description available.

So much for the public side of COVID-19.  Now for the personal.

At first, it was thought that only the elderly—those 65 and older—were the targets of the virus. Nursing homes started filling with corpses.  By April 18, 6,900 nursing home occupants had died across the nation.

But then its victims started including those in their 20s to 40s—and even teenagers. An Illinois infant became the nation’s youngest casualty.

Schools closed across the country. Parents found themselves living with their children fulltime. Schools quickly moved to provide online learning via the Internet. In Colorado, computers were provided for children whose families could not afford them. But many students in other states were not so lucky.

People who must “fort up” carry a huge emotional burden—especially children, who by nature are highly sociable. They miss their friends and fear that their lives will never be normal again.

But even adults feel similar fears—especially those who have lost their jobs because their companies have shut down. Will an administration dedicated to bailing out wealthy organizations—like cruise ship companies and luxury hotels—care about providing them with life-saving subsidies?

At greatest risk are those whose jobs demand extensive contact with the public—firefighters, janitors, garbage men, police, store clerks (especially in high-volume stores).

At the top of the list are nurses and doctors who treat COVID-19 patients. Many of them do so without Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs)—thanks to Trump’s “you’re-on-your-own” attitude and feuding with governors he feels don’t appreciate him enough.

Each person who leaves home must deal with fear in his or her own way. Some, taking “the stiff upper lip” approach refuse to openly admit the fear that constantly gnaws at them. Others are entirely willing to confess it and refuse to leave home except when forced to. And there are those who seem to dare the virus to take them.

Each person knows there are countless ways to become accidentally exposed to the virus. You can:

  • Put on your face mask wrong;
  • Be forced by sheer numbers of people to violate the “six-feet-apart” rule;
  • Take off your mask when you’re home and, before thoroughly washing your hands, involuntarily touch your face; 
  • Touch, with virus-contaminated hands, doorknobs, light switches, dishware when you return home.

The last time the United States faced a pandemics was 100 years ago—the Spanish influenza. Raging from January, 1918 to December, 1920, it infected 500 million people worldwide. Estimates of those killed range from 17 to 100 million. Of these, 675,000 were Americans. 

With a vaccine for COVID-19 at least a year away, Americans—and the rest of the world—can only take the best precautions they can. 

TWO FACES OF TERROR: 9/11 AND COVID-19: PART THREE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 22, 2020 at 12:27 am

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, going to the supermarket was a routine matter.

You assumed—usually correctly—that those items you wanted would be in stock. Then you would find and load them into your car.

But post-COVID-19 shoppers face a totally different world. Much of the time store shelves are completely bare, as if a marauding army has cleaned them out.

In this case, that “army” consists of your fellow Americans. And their insatiable, fear-driven buying frenzy snapped up the following products as quickly as store clerks could restock shelves:

Week 1: Hand sanitizers, soaps and disinfectants.

Week 2: Toilet paper and paper towels.

Weeks 3 and 4: Spiral hams and baking yeast. 

Week 5: Hair clippers and hair dye. 

Those who could afford to shop at grocery stores—and find what they needed—were the lucky ones.

Increasingly, tens of thousands of Americans were forced to turn to food banks to keep their families alive.

On April 9, the San Antonio Food Bank aided about 10,000 households in a record-setting giveaway at a South Side flea market. Its drive-thru was the fourth such event for the Food Bank since March 31.

In biggest turnout yet, 10,000 hit hard by economic effects of ...

Motorists lined up to receive help from food bank

About 6,000 households preregistered for the food distribution on the Food Bank’s website. But thousands more showed up, hoping to put something on their tables.

Similar scenes occurred at food banks across the United States.

According to Feeding America, a national network of food banks, one in seven Americans relies on a local food bank to eat. Statistics from the U.S. Department of Agriculture reveal that 11.8 percent of Americans are food insecure. 

But those who don’t need food banks face a serious question: “Is it better to order groceries or go to the store?”

A March 27 article in TIME addresses this and several other issues. 

According to “Is It Safe to Go to the Grocery Store?”: “If you can afford to, it’s best to order food online, experts say. Delivery services dramatically reduce your contact with other people: you pay online, it’s packaged elsewhere and the food is left outside your door.”

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) spokesperson told TIME that “[currently] there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food or food packaging.”

About CDC

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

But Jared Baeten, the vice dean of the School of Public Health and professor of global health, medicine and epidemiology at the University of Washington, advises that “for complete risk reduction, you might want to clean off your groceries,” while making sure to not get hazardous chemicals on what you eat. 

Dr. Lauren Sauer, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, says your primary concern while shopping should be the risk of contracting the virus from other people, not surfaces. She also warns that “not everyone is going to be respectful of that six feet” of social distancing recommended by the CDC. If you see a crowded aisle, skip it or wait for people to leave.

A major casualty of COVID-19 has been the restaurant industry.

Forget about dining out at leisure: Restaurants have been closed across the country. Many of them still offer take-out—provided you can get there to pick up your order. But some that would have never dreamed of delivering their fare have hired platoons of drivers. 

Another business that’s suffering badly is taxi services.

Fewer people are out on the streets. There are two reasons for this:

  1. Many people simply fear leaving their homes; and
  2. Stay-at-home orders by governors are restricting travel except for the most urgent needs.

So taxi drivers are hurting, making only a pittance of what they formerly made.

But there are risks for those who take cabs or buses.

Some cab drivers are reportedly sick with COVID-19 but, desperate for money, continue to haul passengers in extremely close confinement.

And while the CDC has urged Americans to keep at least six feet from their fellows, it’s impossible to do this on a crowded bus. Moreover, you can’t be certain that the seat you’re occupying hasn’t been sneezed or coughed on by a COVID-19 carrying passenger.

The White House and all prominent public health officials have urged people across the country to stay at home as much as possible to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus.

But as late as March 25, governors of five states—Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota—had refused to issue lockdown orders for their residents. Three states issued only partial measures. 

And the Right—headed by President Donald Trump—has erupted in outrage at being expected to show concern for their fellow Americans.

On April 15, Trump issued a series of tweets, calling on his supporters to “LIBERATE” Minnesota, Michigan and Virginia.

It’s no coincidence that all these states are headed by Democratic governors.And have been the targets of public protests by Right-wingers against stay-at-home orders.

Asked whether those states should lift their stay-at-home orders, Trump said, “No, but elements of what they’ve done are too much. …It’s too tough.”

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