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LOVE THE RICH, IGNORE THE REST: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on June 25, 2019 at 12:15 am

The gap between rich and poor in the United States has never been greater.

A May 1, 2018 article in Forbes—which bills itself as “The Capitalist Tool”—vividly documents this truth.

“In the 1950s, a typical CEO made 20 times the salary of his or her average worker. Last year, [2017] CEO pay at an S&P 500 Index firm soared to an average of 361 times more than the average rank-and-file worker, or pay of $13,940,000 a year, according to an AFL-CIO’s Executive Paywatch news release today.”

The average CEO pay climbed six percent in 2017—while the average production worker earned just $38,613, according to Executive Paywatch.

The average wage—adjusted for inflation—has stagnated for more than 50 years. Meanwhile, CEOs’ average pay since the 1950s has risen by 1000%.

This would not have been news to Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of modern political science. In his masterwork, The Discourses, he observed the human condition as that of constant struggle: 

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Niccolo Machiavelli

It was a saying of ancient writers, that men afflict themselves in evil, and become weary of the good, and that both these dispositions produce the same effects. 

For when men are no longer obliged to fight from necessity, they fight from ambition, which passion is so powerful in the hearts of men that it never leaves them, no matter to what height they may rise.    

The reason for this is that nature has created men so that they desire everything, but are unable to attain it. Desire being thus always greater than the faculty of acquiring, discontent with what they have and dissatisfaction with themselves result from it. 

This causes the changes in their fortunes—for as some men desire to have more, while others fear to lose what they have, enmities and war are the consequences. And this brings about the ruin of one province and the elevation of another.

Author Walter Scheidel, Dickason Professor in the Humanities, Professor of Classics and History at Stanford University, has also given this subject a great deal of thought. And, like Machiavelli, he has reached some highly disturbing conclusions.

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Walter Scheidel

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

He gave voice to these in his 2017 book, The Great Leveler: Violence and the History of Inequality from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century. His thesis: Only violence and catastrophes have consistently reduced inequality throughout history

According to the book’s jacket blurb: “Are mass violence and catastrophes the only forces that can seriously decrease economic inequality? To judge by thousands of years of history, the answer is yes.

“Tracing the global history of inequality from the Stone Age to today, Walter Scheidel shows that inequality never dies peacefully. Inequality declines when carnage and disaster strike and increases when peace and stability return.

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“The Great Leveler is the first book to chart the crucial role of violent shocks in reducing inequality over the full sweep of human history around the world.

“Ever since humans began to farm, herd livestock, and pass on their assets to future generations, economic inequality has been a defining feature of civilization. Over thousands of years, only violent events have significantly lessened inequality.

“The ‘Four Horsemen’ of leveling–mass-mobilization warfare, transformative revolutions, state collapse, and catastrophic plagues—have repeatedly destroyed the fortunes of the rich.

“Scheidel identifies and examines these processes, from the crises of the earliest civilizations to the cataclysmic world wars and communist revolutions of the twentieth century.

“Today, the violence that reduced inequality in the past seems to have diminished, and that is a good thing. But it casts serious doubt on the prospects for a more equal future.”

Revolutionaries have known the truth of Scheidel’s findings from the gladiators’ revolt of Spartacus (73-71 B.C.) to the French Revolution (1789 – 1799) to the overthrow of the Czarist Romanov dynasty (1917).

But American politicians serenely ignore that truth. They depend on the mega-rich for millions of dollars in “campaign contributions”—which pay for self-glorifying ads on TV.

Thus, in 2016, American voters had a “choice” between two “love-the-rich” Presidential candidates: Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. The result was that millions stayed home or voted in protest for third-party candidates who had no chance of winning.

In his 1975 book, The Corrupt Society: From Ancient Greece to Modern-day America, British historian Robert Payne warned that the predatory rich would not change their behavior: “Nor is there any likelihood that the rich will plow back their money into services to ensure the general good.

“They have rarely demonstrated social responsibility, and they are much more likely to hold on to their wealth at all costs than to renounce any part of it.

“Like the tyrant who lives in a world wholly remote from the world of the people, shielded and protected from all possible influences, the rich are usually the last to observe the social pressures rising from below, and when these social pressures reach flashpoint, it is too late to call in the police or the army.

“The tyrant dies; the police and the army go over to the revolutionaries; and the new government dispossesses the rich by decree. A single authoritative sentence suffices to expunge all private wealth and restore it to the service of the nation.”

LOVE THE RICH, IGNORE THE REST: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on June 24, 2019 at 1:21 am

Americans are used to Presidential candidates telling lies (euphemistically known as “campaign promises”) to get elected.

But when a candidate actually (and usually accidentally) tells the truth, the results can be electrifying. A pointed example:

On June 18, Democratic Presidential candidate (and momentary front-runner) Joe Biden addressed a roomful of donors in New York. Money is, after all, the lifeblood of all political campaigns, and Biden wanted to guarantee he got more of it than any of his 23 Democratic rivals.

So the former vice president had a message he felt sure would appeal to his well-heeled audience of billionaires: Don’t worry, if I’m elected, your standard of living won’t change.

Addressing the 100 or so guests at a fundraiser at the Carlyle Hotel in New York City, Biden said that he had taken heat from “some of the people on my team, on the Democratic side” because he had said that rich people were “just as patriotic as poor people.

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Joe Biden

“The truth of the matter is, you all, you all know, you all know in your gut what has to be done. We can disagree in the margins but the truth of the matter is it’s all within our wheelhouse and nobody has to be punished. No one’s standard of living will change, nothing would fundamentally change,” he said. 

And he added: “I mean, we may not want to demonize anybody who has made money.

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“When we have income inequality as large as we have in the United States today, it brews and ferments political discord and basic revolution. Not a joke. Not a joke … It allows demagogues to step in and say the reason where we are is because of the ‘other’….

“You’re not the other. I need you very badly. I hope if I win this nomination, I won’t let you down. I promise you. I have a bad reputation, I always say what I mean. The problem is I sometimes say all that I mean.”

Biden has talked about decreasing income inequality and promoting workers’ rights. But he’s taken a moderate stance when it comes to taxation.

Vermont United States Senator Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, has attacked the ultra-rich as responsible for the ever-widening gap between themselves and the poor.

“I love Bernie, but I’m not Bernie Sanders. I don’t think 500 billionaires are the reason why we’re in trouble,” Biden said in March.

Instead, he proposes expanding tax credits for the poor and middle class, and making the tax code less friendly to rich investors. 

Robert Payne, the distinguished British historian, had a different—and darker—view of the rich.

Payne authored more than 110 books. Among his subjects were Adolf Hitler, Ivan the Terrible, Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin, Vladimir Lenin, William Shakespeare and Leon Trotsky.

In 1975, he published The Corrupt Society: From Ancient Greece to Present-Day America. It proved a summary of many of his previous works.

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Among the epochs it covered were the civilizations of ancient Greece, Rome and China; Nazi Germany; the Soviet Union; and Watergate-era America. And the massive corruption each of those epochs had spawned.

In his chapter, “A View of the Uncorrupted Society,” Payne warned: Power and wealth are the main sources of corruption.

“The rich, simply by being rich, are infected with corruption. Their overwhelming desire is to grow richer, but they can do this only at the expense of those who are poorer than themselves.

”Their interests conflict with those of the overall society. They live sheltered from the constant anxieties of the poor, and thus cannot understand them.  Nor do they try to.

They see the poor as alien from themselves, and thus come to fear and despise them. And their wealth and influence enables them to buy politicians—who, in turn, write legislation that protects the rich from the poor.

But Payne foresaw an even greater danger from the rich and powerful than their mere isolation from the rest of society: “The mere presence of the rich is corrupting. Their habits, their moral codes, their delight in conspicuous consumption are permanent affronts to the rest of humanity. Vast inequalities of wealth are intolerable in any decent society.”

Writing in 1975, Payne noted that a third of the private wealth was possessed by less than five percent of the population—while about a fifth of the populace lived at the poverty level. By 2000, he predicted, about five percent of the population would possess two-thirds of America’s wealth. And more than half the population would be near or below the starvation level. 

The result could only be catastrophe. The only way to halt this this increasing concentration of wealth by fewer people would be through law or violent revolution.

Payne has proven to be an uncanny prophet.

On December 8, 2017, the Seattle Times noted that the wealthiest one percent of Americans owned 40% of the country’s wealth.  They owned more wealth than the bottom 90% combined. 

From 2013, the share of wealth owned by the one percent increased by nearly three percentage points. Wealth owned by the bottom 90%, meanwhile, fell over the same period.

But this situation need not remain permanent.

“WINNING” UNDER TRUMP AND HITLER

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 21, 2019 at 12:02 am

“We will have so much winning if I get elected [President] that you may get bored with winning.”

So boasted Donald Trump at a September, 2015 Capitol Hill rally to protest President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran.

But as the 2020 Presidential race nears, President Trump is looking ever more like a loser. 

Among the victims of Trump’s “winning” streak: Several pollsters whose internal polling numbers showed him lagging behind Democratic Presidential candidates in key states.

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Donald Trump

When matched against Democratic contender and former Vice President Joe Biden, Trump’s numbers came to:

                                  Trump        Biden

VIRGINIA:                     38%           53%

MAINE                          38%           55%

MINNESOTA                 40%           54%

MICHIGAN                    40%           53%

In Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Florida and Michigan, Trump trails Biden by double-digits. These were states Trump won against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

Biden leads Trump by seven points in Iowa, by eight points in North Carolina, by 17 points in Virginia, by 14 points in Minnesota, and by 15 points in Maine.

Even worse for Trump, who cannot admit error or weakness: Some of his own pollsters dared to leak the bad news.

As a result, his Presidential campaign is cutting ties with several of his pollsters.

Predictably, Trump claimed he was doing just fine. He said his campaign had “great internal polling” and the numbers reported were from “fake polls.”

“We are winning in every single state that we’ve polled. We’re winning in Texas very big. We’re winning in Ohio very big. We’re winning in Florida very big,” he said.

Trump’s 2015 boast reflected he mindset, if not the words, of an earlier CEO whose ego carried him—and his country—to ruin: Adolf Hitler.

Among the fatal errors that led to the defeat of the Third Reich:

  • Wasting hundreds of  Luftwaffe [air force] pilots, fighters and bombers in a halfhearted attempt to conquer England.
  • Ignoring the pleas of generals like Erwin Rommel to conquer Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, which would have given Germany control of most of the world’s oil.
  • Attacking his ally, the Soviet Union, while still at war with Great Britain.
  • Turning millions of Russians into enemies rather than allies by his brutal and murderous policies.
  • Needlessly declaring war on the United States after the Japanese attacked Pearl harbor. (Had he not done so, Americans would have focused all their attention on defeating Japan.)
  • Refusing to negotiate a separate peace with Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin—thus granting Germany a large portion of captured Russian territory in exchange for letting Stalin remain in power.
  • Insisting on a “not-one-step-back” military “strategy” that led to the needless surrounding, capture and/or deaths of hundreds of thousands of German servicemen.

As the war turned increasingly against him, Hitler became ever more rigid in his thinking.

He demanded absolute control over the smallest details of his forces. This, in turn, led to astonishing and unnecessary losses among their ranks. 

On June 6, 1944, General Erwin Rommel ordered the Panzer tanks to drive the Allies from the Normandy beaches. But these could not be released except on direct orders of the Fuehrer.

Panzer tank

Hitler’s chief of staff, General Alfred Jodl, informed Rommel: The Fuhrer was asleep-–and was not to be awakened. By the time Hitler awoke and issued the order, it was too late.  

Nor could Hitler accept responsibility for the policies that were leading Germany to certain defeat. He blamed his generals, accused them of cowardice, and relieved many of the best ones from command.  

Among those sacked was Heinz Guderian, creator of the German Panzer corps—and responsible for the blitzkreig victory against France in 1940.

Heinz Guderian

Another was Erich von Manstein, designer of the strategy that defeated France in six weeks—which Germany had failed to do during four years of World War 1.

Erich von Manstein

Finally, on April 29, 1945—with the Russians only blocks from his underground Berlin bunker—Hitler dictated his “Last Political Testament.”  

Once again, he refused to accept responsibility for unleashing a war that would ultimately consume 50 million lives: 

“It is untrue that I or anyone else in Germany wanted war in 1939. It was desired and instigated exclusively by those international statesmen who either were of Jewish origin or worked for Jewish interests.” 

Hitler had launched the invasion of Poland–and World War II—with a lie: That Poland had attacked Germany.

Fittingly, he closed the war—and his life—with a final lie.   

Joachim C. Fest, author of Hitler (1973), writes of the surprise that awaited Allied soldiers occupying Nazi Germany in 1945:  “Almost without exception, virtually from one moment to the next, Nazism vanished after the death of Hitler and the surrender.

“It was as if National Socialism had been nothing but the motion, the state of intoxication and the catastrophe it had caused….

“Once again it became plain that National Socialism, like Fascism in general, was dependent to the core on superior force, arrogance, triumph, and by its nature had no resources in the moment of defeat.”

The ancient Greeks believed that “a man’s character is his destiny.” For Adolf Hitler—and the nations he ravaged—that proved fatally true.  

It remains to be seen whether the same will prove true for Donald Trump—and the United States.

D-DAY BECOMES T- (TRUMP) DAY: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 13, 2019 at 12:27 am

For most Americans, June 6th marked the 75th anniversary of D-Day. A time to remember and celebrate the more than 160,000 troops—73,000 of them Americans—who liberated France from Nazi slavery. 

But for President Donald Trump, D-Day was simply another opportunity to slander men and women he considered “enemies of the people.”

On that day, President Donald Trump was to join European leaders—such as England’s Queen Elizabeth II and France’s President Emmanuel Macron—in celebratory observance.

But for Trump, honoring the dead—and a handful of D-Day survivors present at the ceremony—was a distant priority. 

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Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial

First must come a soft-ball “interview” with Right-wing Fox News Network—even if it meant postponing the opening of D-Day ceremonies until he deigned to show up.

And conducting that interview was Right-wing Fox News host Laura Ingraham—who gave a stiff-armed Nazi salute at the 2016 Republican National Convention that nominated Trump for President.

Laura Ingraham: What could you do to unite the country at a time of great polarization, what else could you do? 

Donald Trump:  So, I think success should unite the country but I will tell you the more successful we’ve come the more angry people like Nancy Pelosi, who don’t have what it takes, if they don’t know what’s going on they get angry. They should — an example is Mexico, I said we’re going to put tariffs on because we want you to help us because they won’t pass any legislation in Congress and I have Senators and others and Pelosi coming out saying how horrible. 

What they’re doing is they’re hurting a deal, they should be saying we’re with the President, we’ll do whatever he wants to do and Mexico would fold like an umbrella. Now, I have these people and I’m saying there’s some republicans too,

[NOTE: Since becoming President, Trump has repeatedly tried—and failed—to curb illegal immigration from Central and South America. In May, he threatened to slap tariffs on goods from Mexico unless its government imposed strict controls over would-be immigrants traveling through its borders.]

On June 7, 2019, syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist Peter Wehners appeared on the PBS Newshour to review the week’s major political events.

Shields—a liberal, and Wehner, a conservative—reached disturbingly similar conclusions about the behavior of President Donald Trump on the 75th anniversary celebration of the D-Day landings.

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Peter Wehner and Mark Shields

Peter Wehner:  in terms of watching it, it reminded me of why it was the Greatest Generation. It’s been called the Greatest Generation.The more you find out about what happened 75 years ago on Normandy Beach, the more extraordinary is, the courage and the valor and selflessness…

But, for me, what was, well, frankly, sickening was this interview that Donald Trump did with Laura Ingraham on Fox News, not just what he said, but where he said it. He had thousands and thousands of gravestones behind him, these people who had been cut down in the prime of their life. And he was attacking Nancy Pelosi and Robert Mueller, who himself was a—was a war hero, in petty terms.

And to have done it then was, in my mind, a desecration at a sacred place. And it was another window into the bonfire of anger and resentments and grievances that is Donald Trump.

Mark Shields: I would just add this….that the 9,388 Americans, husbands, fathers, sons, brothers, sweethearts are buried there who either died at Normandy or in the liberation of France. And it was a time in this country, it was a we generation, not a me generation.

I mean, we had 20 million victory gardens that civilians built that provided 40 percent of the vegetables for the whole country. We rationed everything from gasoline, to liquor, to cigarettes, to butter, to meat….

And all Americans were part of the collective effort, the collective sacrifice, and it was led by those at the top….The president of the United States had four sons. Every one of them served in combat. Every one of them was awarded in combat. You take the…sickly son of a multimillionaire, who asked his father to use his contacts to get him into combat, John Kennedy, rather than stay out….

One out of four American males served in World War II. And now we have one-third—one-percent of Americans serving. And they are serving over and over and over again.

Judy Woodruff (moderator): It’s been 75 years, Peter Wehner. What remains in the American psyche from that?

Wehner:  Well, we’re an angry country, a more divided country, and a more tribalistic country than we were then. It’s important to say that, in many ways, we’re a better country too, if you’re a minority or a woman, all sorts of things where we have made progress….

The thing is that the American capacity for self-renewal can be great. And sometimes, when virtues are taken from the life of the nation and an individual, you remember why they matter to begin with. And, hopefully, commemorations like this can—can remind us that there are things that are worth fighting for and worth living for.

D-DAY BECOMES T- (TRUMP) DAY: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 12, 2019 at 12:07 am

June 6, 2019, marked the 75th anniversary of D-Day—the Allied invasion to liberate France from Nazi Germany, which proved one of the pivotal actions of World War II.

Shortly after midnight, on June 6, 1944, 24,000 American, British, Canadian and Free French troops launched an airborne assault on German positions. This was followed at 6:30 a.m. by an amphibious landing of Allied infantry and armored divisions on the French coast.

The operation was the largest amphibious invasion in history. More than 160,000 troops landed—73,000 Americans, 61,715 British and 21,400 Canadians.

Field Marshal Erwin Rommel—the legendary “Desert Fox”—commanded the German forces. For him—and the Germans—the first 24 hours of the battle would be decisive.

Initially, the Allied assault seemed likely to be stopped at the water’s edge—where Rommel had insisted it must be. 

German machine-gunners and mortarmen wreaked a fearful toll on Allied soldiers. But commanders like United States Army General Norman Cota led their men to victory through a storm of bullets and shells.

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Omaha Beach – June 6, 1944

The allied casualty figures for D-Day have been estimated at 10,000, including 4,414 dead. By nationality, the D-Day casualty figures were about

  • 2,700 British
  • 946 Canadians
  • and 6,603 Americans.

The total number of German casualties on D-Day isn’t known, but is estimated at 4,000 to 9,000.

One of those who traveled to Normandy, France, to commemorate that Allied sacrifice was President Donald J. Trump. Others included England’s Queen Elizabeth II and French President Emmanuel Macron. 

On June 6, 2019,  Trump granted an interview with Right-wing Fox News host Laura Ingraham.

With the crosses of fallen World War II heroes visible over his shoulder and aging veterans waiting for  the  D-Day commemoration ceremony to begin, Trump kept everyone waiting for him to show up.

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Donald Trump’s D-Day love-fest

In fact, he bragged about it on camera:  “Listen to those incredible people back there,” Trump said, motioning towards the ceremony stage. “These people are so amazing, and what they don’t realize is that, I’m holding them up because of this interview. But that’s because it’s you.” 

Although Trump had admitted—on air—that he was holding up the D-Day ceremony for this interview, Ingraham later told Fox viewers: “By the way, some of you may have heard or read that President Trump supposedly held up the entire D-Day ceremony in order to do this interview with me. That is patently false. Fake news.”

Ingraham opened by asking about D-Day—whose honoring ceremonies her interview was preempting. Then she moved on to topics guaranteed to arouse Trump’s bile.

Laura Ingraham: We passed Nancy Pelosi as we were walking up to the stage earlier, she said some pretty harsh things over the last 24 hours, leaked out from her caucus, she said I don’t want to impeachment, I want him in prison, meaning you. How do you work with someone like that?

Donald Trump: I think she’s a disgrace. I actually don’t think she’s a talented person, I’ve tried to be nice to her because I would have liked to have gotten some deals done. She’s incapable of doing deals, she’s a nasty, vindictive, horrible person, the Mueller report came out, it was a disaster for them.

They thought their good friend Bobby Mueller was going to give them a great report and he came out with a report with 13 horrible, angry Democrats who are totally biased against me. A couple of them worked for Hillary Clinton, they then added five more, also Democrats, with all of that two and a half years think of it, from before I even got elected they’ve been going after me and they have nothing.

[NOTE: On a day for honoring the sacrifices of America’s soldiers. Trump savaged Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who had served as a Marine Corps infantry platoon commander during the Vietnam War.

Among the military awards he received were:

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

Trump, on the other hand, is a five-time Vietnam war draft-dodger who falsely claimed he suffered from “bone spurs” in his heels.]

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Robert Mueller

Ingraham: Do you mind if he testifies still, before you said you didn’t care if Mueller testified.

Trump: Let me tell you, he made such a fool out of himself the last time she—because what people don’t report is the letter he had to do to straighten out his testimony because his testimony was wrong but Nancy Pelosi, I call her nervous Nancy, Nancy Pelosi doesn’t talk about it. Nancy Pelosi’s a disaster, OK, she’s a disaster and let her do what she wants, you know what?

[NOTE: There is a longtime tradition in American politics that no criticism is aimed at a President when he’s traveling overseas.

Nancy Pelosi, as Speaker of the House of Representatives, held to that tradition while she attended the D-Day ceremonies. Asked to respond to Trump’s attacks on her, she said: “I don’t talk about the president while I’m out of the country. That’s my principle.” 

Trump, however, did not adhere to the same principle.]

TRUMP: CREATING HIS OWN WEHRMACHT—PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 11, 2019 at 12:02 am

Nazi Germany’s Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler wasn’t crazy, as many of his critics charged. He knew what he wanted to achieve—and why.

He intended to strip every potential challenger to his authority—or his version of reality—of legitimacy with the public. After he succeeded, Germany became a nation where there was:

  • No independent press to reveal his failures and crimes.
  • No independent law enforcement agencies to investigate his abuses of office.
  • No independent judiciary to hold him accountable.
  • No independent military to dissent as he recklessly hurtled toward a disastrous war that would leave Germany in ruins.

Those are exactly the priorities of President Donald J. Trump. 

He has already assaulted the integrity of:

  • American Intelligence agencies: By publicly blaming the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency—instead of Russian President Vladimir Putin—for Russia’s subversion of the 2016 Presidential elections.
  • American law enforcement agencies: By firing FBI Director James Comey for pursuing ties between his 2016 Presidential campaign and Russian Intelligence agents.
  • The press: By tweeting, on February 17, 2017: “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes@NBCNews@ABC@CBS@CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!”
  • The Judiciary: By repeatedly attacking Seattle U.S. District Judge James Robart, who halted Trump’s first anti-Muslim travel ban. 

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Donald Trump

Now he’s turning his attention to the American military.

  • Trump appointed former Marine General James Mattis as Secretary of Defense. But when Trump announced his intention to withdraw American military forces from Syria, Mattis resigned in December, 2018.
  • Mattis offered to stay in office until February, 2019, to ensure a smooth transition for his successor. But Trump, his ego outraged, forced Mattis to leave by the end of December.
  • The military sees foreign commitments as essential to American security—whether against ISIS or the former Soviet Union.
  • But Trump believes that alliances like NATO are “ripping off” the United States. And he believes he was elected to end foreign entanglements.
  • Trump appointed Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster as National Security Adviser. But after Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russian nationals for interfering in the 2016 Presidential election, McMaster said: “With the FBI indictment, the evidence is now incontrovertible” of Russia cyber-meddling. 
  • This publicly contradicted Trump’s claim that reports of Russian subversion of the 2016 Presidential election were “a hoax.”
  • Six weeks later, McMaster was forced out of the administration. 

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H.R. McMaster

  • In November, 2018, Fox News Anchor Chris Wallace, during an interview with Trump, noted that retired Adm. William McRaven had said: “The President’s attack on the media is the greatest threat to our democracy in my lifetime.”
  • Trump then dismissed McRaven—who had spearheaded the operation that killed Al-Qaedar leader Osama bin Laden—as a “Hillary fan.” 
  • “He was a Navy SEAL 37 years,” said Wallace. Trump, refusing to give McRaven—one of the most highly respected men in the United States military—any credit, said: “Wouldn’t it have been nice if we got Osama bin Laden a lot sooner than that?”

Some members of the military are responding favorably to Trump.

During his 2019 trip to Japan, Trump gave a Memorial Day address aboard the USS Wasp in Yokosuka. Many of the American service attending were photographed wearing patches inspired by his campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.” 

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The matching patches showed the face of a man that’s presumably Trump (though notably more handsome) along with the text, “Make Aircrew Great Again.”

This may have violated the Pentagon’s strict rules barring soldiers from showing political preferences.

“All military personnel will avoid the inference that their political activities imply or appear to imply DoD sponsorship, approval or endorsement of a political candidate, campaign or cause,” the policy states.

Retired Army General Stanley McChrystal, during a December 30, 2018 interview on “This Week,” warned: “If the U.S. military becomes politicized, it will be something we’re not happy with.”

The incident on Memorial Day was not the first time active-duty service members displayed Trump-affiliated apparel.

In December, 2018, Trump engaged in campaign activities by by signing “Make America Great Again” caps for during an unannounced visit to Iraq. Dozens of troops were photographed bringing MAGA hats to the event for the president to sign. 

Other members of the military are responding—carefully—to Trump’s savage attacks on its members and his erratic style of government. 

According to a December 24, 2018 edition of the Palmer Report, military leaders are now going out of their way to avoid “interacting directly” with Trump. They fear that he might issue an impulsive and destructive order—which they would be legally obligated to follow.

More startling: Departing Secretary of Defense Mattis ordered them to, for the safety of the nation.

Mattis believed that Trump was dishonorable—and deranged enough to give destructive or incoherent military orders at any moment.

Columnist Bill Palmer warned that this amounted to a “soft coup.” 

But then he asked: “Then again, when the ‘President’ of the United States is merely a guy who treasonously conspired with a foreign enemy to rig the election in his favor, and was not legitimately elected to anything, can you even have a coup against him?”

TRUMP: CREATING HIS OWN WEHRMACHT—PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 10, 2019 at 12:05 am

President Donald Trump is notorious as a non-reader. Nevertheless, he seems poised to re-enact one of the most fateful events in 20th century history.

First, that event: On August 2, 1934, the aged German President Paul von Hindenburg died.

Adolf Hitler had been serving as Reich Chancellor—the equivalent of attorney general—since January 30, 1933. Within hours, the Nazi Reichstag [parliament] announced the following law, back-dated to August 1st:

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

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

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

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Soldiers swearing the Fuhrer Oath

In the past, German soldiers had sworn loyalty to Germany. Now they had sworn it to a single man.

For men of honor in uniform, conspiracy against the Führer now meant betrayal of the Fatherland itself. They considered this oath sacred, overriding all others. And the vast majority would fanatically obey it right to the end of the disastrous war Hitler was leading them into.

Yet even that didn’t give Hitler the absolute control over the Armed Forces that he sought. 

Since taking command of Germany in the summer of 1934, Hitler wanted to replace two high-ranking military officials: General Werner von Fritsch and Colonel General Werner von Blomberg. Both were convinced that Hitler’s increasingly aggressive foreign policy was putting Germany on a collision course with war—a war the Fatherland could not win.

Hitler, in fact, meant to go to war—and despised Fritsch’s and Blomberg’s hesitation to do so. He decided to rid himself of both men. But how? 

Accident played a part in the case of Blomberg.

On January 12, 1938, Blomberg married Erna Gruhn, with Hitler and Reichsmarshall Hermann Goring attending as witnesses. Soon afterward, Berlin police discovered that Gruhn had a criminal record as a prostitute and had posed for pornographic photographs.

Marrying a woman with such a background violated the standard of conduct expected of German officers. Hitler was infuriated at having served as a witness to the ceremony.

But he also saw the scandal as an opportunity to dispose of Blomberg—who was forced to resign.

Shortly after Blomberg was forced out in disgrace, the SS—Hitler’s private police force—presented Hitler with a file that falsely accused Werner von Fritsch of homosexuality. Fritsch angrily denied the accusation but resigned on February 4, 1938. 

From that point on, Hitler was in de facto command of the German Armed Services.

Adolf Hitler

Hitler had a timetable of conquest:

  • On March 7, 1936, he seized the Rhineland, the demilitarized zone between Germany and its arch-enemy, France.
  • On March 12, 1838, he “unified” Austria with Germany by annexing it.
  • In September, 1938, he seized a large portion of western Czechoslovakia after that nation’s British and French “allies” sold it out at the infamous Munich Conference.
  • On March 15, 1939, he ordered the Wehrmacht to occupy the rest of Czechoslovakia.
  • On September 1, 1939, he ordered the invasion of Poland—unintentionally igniting World War II and the eventual destruction of Nazi Germany.

No one yet knows if Donald Trump has a plan of conquest outside the United States. But he seems intent on attacking the top command of its armed services—and its sacred traditions.

Donald Trump

On January 1, 2019, Trump—in a tweet—declared war on retired Army General Stanley McCrystal: “‘General’ McChrystal got fired like a dog by Obama. Last assignment a total bust. Known for big, dumb mouth. Hillary lover!”

The reason for Trump’s ire: McCrystal had given a December 30, 2018 interview on ABC’s “This Week,” Asked if he thought Trump was “a liar,” he replied: “I don’t think he tells the truth.”  Asked: “Is Trump immoral, in your view?” McCrystal replied: “I think he is.”

McChrystal had become a legend among Special Warfare soldiers during the 2003 Iraq War. He had turned Joint Special Operations Command into one of the most efficient killing machines in history.  

In 2010, McChrystal resigned as the commander of the Afghan War. Some officers on his staff made disparaging remarks about top officials working for President Barack Obama. Even worse, they made them to a Rolling Stone reporter.  

Trump took office with strong support by military brass. Among his appointees:

  • Retired four-star Marine General James Mattis as Secretary of Defense.
  • Retired four-star Marine General John Kelly as, first, Secretary of Homeland Security and then Chief of Staff.
  • Retired three-star Army Lieutenant General Michael Flynn for National Security Adviser.
  • Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster succeeded Flynn as National Security Adviser after Flynn was forced out of the White House for lying about his ties to Russian oligarchs.

But now Trump is eager to tear down the generals.

JUNE 6: THE GLORY AND THE AGONY

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 6, 2019 at 12:16 am

“For it is the doom of men that they forget.”
—Merlin, in “Excalibur”

June 6—a day of glory and tragedy.

The glory came 75 years ago—on Tuesday, June 6, 1944.

On that morning, Americans awoke to learn—from radio and newspapers—that their soldiers had landed on the French coast of Normandy.

In Supreme Command of the Allied Expeditionary Force: American General Dwight D. Eisenhower. Overall command of ground forces rested with British General Bernard Law Montgomery.

Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion to liberate France from Nazi Germany, proved one of the pivotal actions of World War II.

Shortly after midnight, 24,000 American, British, Canadian and Free French troops launched an airborne assault. This was followed at 6:30 a.m. by an amphibious landing of Allied infantry and armored divisions on the French coast.

Field Marshal Erwin Rommel—the legendary “Desert Fox”—commanded the German forces. For him, the first 24 hours of the battle would be decisive.

“For the Allies as well as the Germans,” he warned his staff, “it will be the longest day.”

The operation was the largest amphibious invasion in history. More than 160,000 troops landed—73,000 Americans, 61,715 British and 21,400 Canadians.

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Omaha Beach – June 6, 1944

Initially, the Allied assault seemed likely to be stopped at the water’s edge—where Rommel had insisted it must be. He had warned that if the Allies established a beachhead, their overwhelming numbers and airpower would eventually prove irresistible.

German machine-gunners and mortarmen wreaked a fearful toll on Allied soldiers. But commanders like U.S. General Norman Cota led their men to victory through a storm of bullets and shells.

Coming upon a group of U.S. Army Rangers taking cover behind sand dunes, Cota demanded: “What outfit is this?”

“Rangers!” yelled one of the soldiers.

“Well, Goddamnit, then, Rangers, lead the way!” shouted Cota, inspiring the soldiers to rise and charge into the enemy.

The command also gave the Rangers the motto they carry to this day.

The allied casualty figures for D-Day have been estimated at 10,000, including 4,414 dead. By nationality, the D-Day casualty figures are about

  • 2,700 British
  • 946 Canadians
  • and 6,603 Americans.

The total number of German casualties on D-Day isn’t known, but is estimated at 4,000 to 9,000.

Allied and German armies continued to clash throughout France, Belgium and Germany until May 7, 1945, when Germany finally surrendered.

But Americans who had taken part in D-Day could be proud of having dealt a fatal blow to the evil ambitions of Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich.

So much for the glory of June 6.  Now for the tragedy—which occurred 51 years ago, on Thursday, June 6, 1968.

Twenty-four years after D-Day, Americans awoke to learn—mostly from TV—that New York Senator Robert F. Kennedy had died at 1:44 a.m. of an assassin’s bullet.

He had been campaigning for the Democratic Presidential nomination, and had just won the California primary on June 4.

This had been a make-or-break event for Kennedy, a fierce critic of the seemingly endless Vietnam war.

He had won the Democratic primaries in Indiana and Nebraska, but had lost the Oregon primary to Minnesota Senator Eugene McCarthy.

If he defeated McCarthy in California, Kennedy could force his rival to quit the race. That would lead to a showdown between him and Vice President Hubert Humphrey for the nomination.

(President Lyndon B. Johnson had withdrawn from the race on March 31—just 15 days after Kennedy announced his candidacy on March 16.)

After winning the California and South Dakota primaries, Kennedy gave a magnanimous victory speech in the ballroom of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles:

Robert F. Kennedy, only moments from death 

“I think we can end the divisions within the United States….We are a great country, an unselfish country, and a compassionate country. And I intend to make that my basis for running over the period of the next few months.”

Then he entered the hotel kitchen—where Sirhan Sirhan, a 24-year-old Palestinian from Jordan, opened fire with a .22 revolver.

Kennedy was hit three times—once fatally in the back of the head. Five other people were also wounded.

Kennedy’s last-known words were: “Is everybody all right?” and “Jack, Jack”—the latter clearly a reference to his beloved older brother, John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

Almost five years earlier, that brother—then President of the United States—had been assassinated in Dallas on November 22, 1963.

Then Robert Kennedy lost consciousness—forever, dying in a hospital bed 24 hours later.

Kennedy had been a U.S. Attorney General (1961-1964) and Senator (1964-1968). But it was his connection to President Kennedy for which he was best-known.

His assassination—coming so soon after that of JFK—convinced many Americans there was something “sick” about the nation’s culture.

Historian William L. O’Neil delivered a poignant summary of Robert Kennedy’s legacy in Coming Apart: An Informal History of America in the 1960′s

See the source image

“He aimed so high that he must be judged for what he meant to do, and through error and tragic accident, failed at…..He will also be remembered as an extraordinary human being who, though hated by some, was perhaps more deeply loved by his countrymen than any man of his time. 

“That, too, must be entered into the final account, and it is no small thing. With his death, something precious vanished from public life.”

SERVING THE LORD—OR THE DEVIL

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

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

This was especially true when President Barack Obama held office.  

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

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

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

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Eva Schloss

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

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

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

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Anne Frank

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Pope Francis

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

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

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

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

Donald Trump

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But he refused to specifically denounce the Fascistic demonstrators.

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Donald Trump

White supremacists were elated.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Poster for missing civil rights workers

Johnson ordered the FBI to find the missing activists.

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

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

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

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

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

Ku Klux Klansmen in a meeting

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

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

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

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

William C. Sullivan

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

Among those methods:

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

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

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

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

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

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