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TRUMP VS. THE FIRST AMENDMENT: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 21, 2019 at 12:15 am

In January, 2018, the White House banned the use of personal cell phones in the West Wing. 

The official reason: National security.

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

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

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Other sources believe that leaks won’t end unless President Donald Trump starts firing staffers. But this could lead to his firing the wrong people. To protect themselves, those who leak might well accuse tight-lipped co-workers.

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

Among the methods used to keep conversations secret:

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

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

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

Trump has always ruled through bribery and fear. He’s bought off (or tried to) those who might cause him trouble—like porn actress Stormy Daniels. 

He’s never been able to poke fun at himself—and he grows livid when anybody else does.

At Christmastime, “Saturday Night Live” aired a parody of the classic movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Its title: “It’s a Wonderful Trump.”  In it, Trump (portrayed by actor Alec Baldwin) discovers what the United States would be like if he had never become President: A great deal better-off.

As usual, Trump expressed his resentment through Twitter: The Justice Department should stop investigating his administration and go after the real enemy: “SNL.”

“A REAL scandal is the one sided coverage, hour by hour, of networks like NBC & Democrat spin machines like Saturday Night Live. It is all nothing less than unfair news coverage and Dem commercials. Should be tested in courts, can’t be legal? Only defame & belittle! Collusion?” 

By saying that “SNL’s” right to parody him “should be tested in courts, can’t be legal?” Trump has chosen to ignore the role of the First Amendment in American history.

Cartoonists portrayed President Andrew Jackson wearing a king’s robes and crown, and holding a scepter. This thoroughly enraged Jackson—who had repulsed a British invasion in 1815 at the Battle of New Orleans. To call a man a monarchist in 1800s America was the same as calling him a Communist in the 1950s. 

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During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln was lampooned as an ape and a blood-stained tyrant. And Theodore Roosevelt proved a cartoonist’s delight, with attention given to his bushy mustache and thick-lensed glasses. 

Thus, the odds are slight that an American court would even hear a case brought by Trump against “SNL.” 

Such a case made its way through the courts in the late 1980s when the Reverend Jerry Falwell sued pornographer Larry Flyint over a satirical interview in Hustler magazine. In this, “Falwell” admitted that his first sexual encounter had been with his own mother.

In 1988, the United States Supreme Court, voting 8-0, ruled in Flynt’s favor, saying that the media had a First Amendment right to parody a celebrity.

“Despite their sometimes caustic nature, from the early cartoon portraying George Washington as an ass down to the present day, graphic depictions and satirical cartoons have played a prominent role in public and political debate,” Chief Justice William Rehnquist—an appointee of President Richard Nixon—wrote in his majority decision in the case.

Moreover, there is absolutely no doubt that Trump would be forced to take the stand in such a case. The powers-that-be at NBC and “SNL” would insist on it.

And recent history has shown that while Trump loves to sue those he hates, he does not relish being put on the stand himself.  

On October 12, The Palm Beach Post, The New York Times and People all published stories of women claiming to have been sexually assaulted by Trump. 

He accused the Times of inventing accusations to hurt his Presidential candidacy. And he threatened to sue for libel if the Times reported the women’s stories. He also threatened to sue the women making the accusations. 

He never sued the Times or the women.

TRUMP VS. THE FIRST AMENDMENT: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Military, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on February 20, 2019 at 12:11 am

On May 10, 2018, The Hill reported that White House Special Assistant Kelly Sadler had joked derisively about dying Arizona United States Senator John McCain.

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

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

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

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

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

John McCain's official Senate portrait, taken in 2009

John McCain

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

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

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

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

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

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

SarahHuckabeeSanders.jpg

Sarah Huckabee Sanders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This from the man who, during the 2016 Presidential campaign, shouted: “WikiLeaks, I love WikiLeaks!” 

Of course, that was when Russian Intelligence agents were exposing the secrets of Hillary Clinton, his Presidential opponent.

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

In January, 2018, the White House had banned the use of personal cell phones in the West Wing. 

The official reason: National security.

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

Officials now have two choices:

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

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

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

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Phone detector

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRUMP VS. THE FIRST AMENDMENT: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 19, 2019 at 12:43 am

“Nothing funny about tired Saturday Night Live on Fake news NBC! Question is, how do the Networks get away with these total Republican hit jobs without retribution? Likewise for many other shows? Very unfair and should be looked into. This is the real Collusion!

So tweeted President Donald J. Trump on February 17.

Less than nine hours earlier, “SNL” had once again opened with actor Alec Baldwin mocking the 45th President. In this skit, Baldwin/Trump gave a rambling press conference declaring: “We need wall. We have a tremendous amount of drugs flowing into this country from the southern border—or The Brown Line, as many people have asked me not to call it.”

Right-wingers denounce their critics as “snowflakes”—that is, emotional, easily offended and unable to tolerate opposing views.

Yet here was Donald Trump, who prides himself on his toughness, whining like a child bully who has just been told that other people have rights, too.

The answer is simple: Trump is a tyrant—and a longtime admirer of tyrants.

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Donald Trump

He has lavishly praised Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, such as during his appearance on the December 18, 2015 edition of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”: 

“He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader, unlike what we have in this country”—a reference to then-President Barack Obama. 

During a February, 2017 interview with Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, Trump defended Putin’s killing of political opponents.  

O’Reilly: “But he’s a killer.” 

Trump: “There are a lot of killers. You think our country’s so innocent?” 

Asked by a Fox News reporter why he praised murderous North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un, he replied: “He’s a tough guy. Hey, when you take over a country, tough country, tough people, and you take it over from your father …If you could do that at 27 years old, I mean, that’s one in 10,000 that could do that.” 

In short: Kim must be doing something right because he’s in power. And it doesn’t matter how he came to power—or the price his country is paying for it.  

Actually, for all their differences in appearance and nationality, Trump shares at least two similarities with Kim.

Kim Jong-un at the Workers' Party of Korea main building.png

Kim Jong-Un

Blue House (Republic of Korea) [KOGL (http://www.kogl.or.kr/open/info/license_info/by.do)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

First, both of them got a big boost into wealth and power from their fathers.

  • Trump’s father, Fred Trump, a real estate mogul, reportedly gave Donald $200 million to enter the real estate business. It was this sum that formed the basis for Trump’s eventual rise to wealth and fame—and the Presidency. 
  • Kim’s father was Kim Jong-Il, who ruled North Korea as dictator from 1994 to 2011. When his father died in 2011, Kim Jong-Un immediately succeeded him, having been groomed for years to do so. 

Second, both Trump and Kim have brutally tried to stamp out any voices that contradict their own.

  • Trump has constantly attacked freedom of the press, even labeling it “the enemy of the American people.” He has also slandered his critics on Twitter—which has refused to enforce its “Terms of Service” and revoke his account.
  • Kim has attacked his critics with firing squads and prison camps. Amnesty International estimates that more than 200,000 North Koreans are now suffering in labor camps throughout the country.

Thus, Trump—-elected to lead the “free world”—believes, like all dictators:

  • People are evil everywhere—so who am I to judge who’s better or worse? All that counts is gaining and holding onto power. 
  • And if you can do that, it doesn’t matter how you do so.

Actually, it’s not uncommon for dictators to admire one another—as the case of Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler nicely illustrates.

Joseph Stalin

After Hitler launched a blood-purge of his own private Stormtroopers army on June 30, 1934, Stalin exclaimed: “Hitler, what a great man! That is the way to deal with your political opponents!” 

And Hitler was equally admiring of Stalin’s notorious ruthlessness: “After the victory over Russia,” he told his intimates, “it would be a good idea to get Stalin to run the country, with German oversight, of course. He knows better than anyone how to handle the Russians.”  

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

One characteristic shared by all dictators is intolerance toward those whose opinions differ with their own. Especially those who dare to actually criticize or make fun of them.

All Presidents have thin skins. John F. Kennedy often phoned reporters and called them “sonofbitches” when he didn’t like stories they had written on him.

Richard Nixon went further, waging all-out war against the Washington Post for its stories about his criminality. 

But Donald Trump has taken his hatred of dissidents to an entirely new—and dangerous—level.

On May 10, 2018, The Hill reported that White House Special Assistant Kelly Sadler had joked derisively about dying Arizona United States Senator John McCain.

Trump was outraged—not that one of his aides had joked about a man stricken with brain cancer, but that someone in the White House had leaked it.

TRUMP: APPLAUD ME LIKE I’M KIM JONG-UN—OR ELSE

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on November 14, 2018 at 12:09 am

And the most glorious episodes do not always furnish us with the clearest discoveries of virtue or vice in men.  

Sometimes a matter of less moment, an expression or a jest, informs us better of their characters and inclinations than the most famous sieges, the greatest armaments, or the bloodiest battles.”  

So warned the ancient historian, Plutarch, in the introduction to his biography of Alexander the Great.

It’s well to keep this warning in mind when recalling the story of 17-year-old Tyler Linfesty, now known as “Plaid Shirt Guy.”

On September 6, Linfesty, a high school senior, attended President Donald Trump’s campaign rally in Billings, Montana. He had wanted to see the President of the United States speak in his home state.

And, much to his surprise, he was randomly chosen by the Trump campaign for “VIP status.”  He would be seated directly behind Trump.

But this came with a warning: “You have to be enthusiastic, you have to be clapping, you have to be cheering for Donald Trump.” 

Before he attended the rally, Trump staffers urged him to wear a “Make America Great Again” cap, but he refused.  

Owing to his varied facial expressions and his plaid shirt, he quickly became known on the Internet as “Plaid-Shirt Guy.”

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Tyler Linfesty

Then, while the rally was still going, Linfesty was approached by a Trump minion who said: “I’m gonna replace you.”

He hadn’t been heckling Trump. Nor had he held up an anti-Trump sign.

So why was he suddenly ejected? 

Without being given a reason, Linfesty was forced to come up with one himself. And his best guess: He didn’t cheer when Trump made statements he disagreed with.

He had applauded those parts of Trump’s speech he did agree with—such as opposition to NAFTA. He also agreed with Trump’s claim that the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination was stolen from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

But there were parts of Trump’s speech he disagreed with—such as Trump’s claim that his “tax reform law” benefits the middle class.

(It doesn’t—its foremost beneficiaries comprise the top 1%.)

Thus, Linfesty looked skeptical when Trump said it was harder to win the Electoral College than the popular vote.

(It isn’t. A candidate need only win those states with the most electoral votes. He needn’t win the popular vote—just as Trump failed to win it against Hillary Clinton by nearly three million votes.)  

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Donald Trump

And when Trump said he could have won the popular vote, Linfesty turned to several people near him and mouthed “What?”

As Linfesty explained to CNN’s Don Lemon: “I had to be real with myself. I’m not going to pretend to support something I don’t support.” 

Apparently this was too much for those staging the rally.

“I saw this woman walking toward me on the left,” Linfesty told the Billings Gazette. “She just said to me, ‘I’m going to replace you.’ I just walked off. I knew I was getting out for not being enthusiastic enough, but I decided not to fight it.”

But being removed from the Trump speech was not the end for Linfesty.

He was then detained by the United States Secret Service.

“Some Secret Service guys escorted me into this backroom area, and they just sat me down for 10 minutes,” said Linfesty.  The agents looked at his ID, then released him—and told him not to return.

The Secret Service is charged with protecting the President (and, in a lesser-known duty, protecting the national currency). It is not charged with regulating the free speech rights of Americans. 

It is, in short, not supposed to operate as the dreaded, black-uniformed SS of Nazi Germany.

Logo of the United States Secret Service.svg

Ironically, earlier that morning, Trump had tweeted a thank-you to North Korea’s brutal dictator Kim Jong-Un. 

The reason: Kim had said he had “unwavering faith in President Trump.”

Thus, a dictator who flatters Trump gets treated to praise, while an American exercising his right to free speech faces possible arrest.

Speaking to the Gazette, Linfesty said: “I didn’t really have a plan. I was just going to clap for things I agreed with and not clap for things I didn’t agree with.” 

And he insisted to CNN’s Don Lemon that his facial expressions had been honest: “I would have made those faces if anyone were to say that to me. I was not trying to protest, those were just my actual, honest reactions. 

“Each time I see one of these rallies I see somebody behind Donald Trump clapping and cheering and being super enthusiastic and I’ve always wondered myself, ‘Are those people being really genuine?’” 

Two months to the day after Linfesty’s ordeal, Democrats recaptured the House of Representatives, but failed to win a majority in the Senate. The next day, Trump fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Since May, 2017, Trump had brutally insulted Sessions for refusing to suppress Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Russia’s subversion of the 2016 Presidential election.

The Linfesty episode—coupled with the firing of Sessions—bodes ill for Americans who expect Federal law enforcement to operate in a fair and incorruptible manner.

WHAT TRUMP SHARES WITH OTHER DICTATORS

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 19, 2018 at 12:16 am

“And I have to say, I don’t understand Donald [Trump’s] bizarre fascination with dictators and strongmen who have no love for America.”  

The speaker was Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, addressing an audience in San Diego, California, on June 2, 2016.

“He praised China for the Tiananmen Square massacre; he said it showed strength.

“He said, ‘You’ve got to give Kim Jong Un credit’ for taking over North Korea—something he did by murdering everyone he saw as a threat, including his own uncle, which Donald described gleefully, like he was recapping an action movie.

“And he said if he were grading Vladimir Putin as a leader, he’d give him an A. Now, I’ll leave it to the psychiatrists to explain his affection for tyrants,” said Clinton.

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Hillary Clinton

To many people, it’s the ultimate odd-couple: The lifelong Communist and former KGB officer (Putin) walking arm-in-arm with the billionaire, publicity-hungry capitalist.

First Putin:

“He is a bright personality, a talented person, no doubt about it. It is not up to us to appraise his positive sides, it is up to the U.S. voters. but, as we can see, he is an absolute leader in the presidential race.”

Now Trump:

“It is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond.”

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Donald Trump

Actually, it’s not uncommon for dictators to admire one another—as the case of Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler nicely illustrates.

After Hitler launched a blood-purge of his own private Stormtroopers army on June 30, 1934, Stalin exclaimed: “Hitler, what a great man! That is the way to deal with your political opponents!” 

And Hitler was equally admiring of Stalin’s notorious ruthlessness: “After the victory over Russia,” he told his intimates, “it would be a good idea to get Stalin to run the country, with German oversight, of course. He knows better than anyone how to handle the Russians.”  

Appearing on the December 18, 2015 edition of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Trump said: “Sure, when people call you ‘brilliant,’ it’s always good. Especially when the person heads up Russia.” 

The host, Joe Scarborough, was upset by Trump’s praise for Putin: “Well, I mean, [he’s] also a person who kills journalists, political opponents, and invades countries. Obviously that would be a concern, would it not?”

TRUMP: He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader. Unlike what we have in this country.

When Trump praised Putin as a leader—“unlike what we have in this country”—he undoubtedly meant then-President Barack Obama. 

And, as President, Trump has continued to worship the ground dictators cover with corpses. Asked by a Fox news anchor why he praised murderous North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un, Trump replied: 

“He’s a tough guy. Hey, when you take over a country, tough country, tough people, and you take it over from your father …if you could do that at 27 years old, I mean, that’s one in 10,000 that could do that.  

“Anybody that takes over a situation like he did, at 26 years of age, and is able to run it, and run it tough—I don’t say he was nice or I don’t say anything about it—he ran it.” 

In short: Kim must be doing something right because he’s in power. And it doesn’t matter how he came to power—or the price his country is paying because of it.  

Kim Jong-un at the Workers' Party of Korea main building.png

Kim Jong-Un

Blue House (Republic of Korea) [KOGL (http://www.kogl.or.kr/open/info/license_info/by.do)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Actually, for all their differences in appearance and nationality, Trump shares at least two similarities with Kim.

First, both of them got a big boost into wealth and power from their fathers.

  • Trump’s father, Fred Trump, a real estate mogul, reportedly gave Donald $200 million to enter the real estate business. It was this sum that formed the basis for Trump’s eventual rise to wealth and fame—and the Presidency. 
  • Kim’s father was Kim Jong-Il, who ruled North Korea as dictator from 1994 to 2011. When his father died in 2011, Kim Jong-Un immediately succeeded him, having been groomed for years to do so. 

Second, both Trump and Kim have brutally tried to stamp out any voices that contradict their own.

  • Trump has constantly attacked freedom of the press, even labeling it “the enemy of the American people.” He has also slandered his critics on Twitter—which has refused to enforce its “Terms of Service” and revoke his account.
  • Kim has attacked his critics with firing squads and prison camps. (Amnesty International estimates that more than 200,000 North Koreans are now suffering in labor camps throughout the country.)   

During a February, 2017 interview with Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, Trump defended Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. 

Reilly: “But he’s a killer.” 

Trump: “There are a lot of killers. You think our country’s so innocent?” 

Thus, Trump—-elected to lead the “free world”—believes, like all dictators:

  • People are evil everywhere—so who am I to judge who’s better or worse? All that counts is gaining and holding onto power. 
  • And if you can do that, it doesn’t matter how you do so.

TRUMP: INSULTS FOR AMERICA’S FRIENDS, HUGS FOR ITS ENEMIES

In Business, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on June 13, 2018 at 1:24 am

“He appeared to need enemies the way other men need friends, and his conduct assured that he would always have plenty of them.” 

So wrote William Manchester about General Douglas MacArthur in his monumental 1978 biography, American Caesar. But he could have written this just as accurately about Donald Trump, both as Republican Presidential candidate and President.

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
  • Comedian John Oliver
  • Singer Neil Young
  • Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger 
  • News organizations
  • Beauty pageant contestants 

Others he clearly delighted in insulting during the campaign included:

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

As President, he has continued to insult virtually everyone, verbally and on Twitter. His targets have included Democrats, Republicans, the media, foreign leaders (most notably North Korea’s “Little Rocket Man” Kim Jong On) and even members of his Cabinet. 

The one major figure that Trump has never attacked is Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

But Trump has no such hesitation about insulting leaders of nations which have been America’s traditional allies—such as Canada. 

On June 10, Larry Kudlow, Trump’s chief economic adviser, accused Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of undermining the US and its allies with comments he made at the G7 economic summit in Quebec.

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Justin Trudeau

The G7 is comprised of France, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, the United States and Italy.

“It was a betrayal,” Kudlow accused Trudeau on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “He really kind of stabbed us in the back.” 

Kudlow said the allies should have been more supportive of Trump because of his scheduled June 12 meeting in Singapore with North Korean dictator Kim Jong On.

“They should have said to him, ‘God speed, you are negotiating with the crazy nuclear tyrant in North Korea, and we are behind you.'” 

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Larry Kudlow

On June 9, the prime minister had said in a press conference that Canada would “move forward with retaliatory measures” on July 1. 

The reason for this: Trump’s decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada, the European Union and Mexico

“I have made it very clear to the President that it is not something we relish doing, but it something that we absolutely will do,” Trudeau said. “Canadians, we’re polite, we’re reasonable, but we also will not be pushed around.” 

And Peter Navarro, Trump’s trade adviser, went further: “There’s a special place in hell for any foreign leader that engages in bad faith diplomacy with President Donald J. Trump and then tries to stab him in the back on the way out the door.

“And that’s what bad faith Justin Trudeau did with that stunt press conference. That’s what weak, dishonest Justin Trudeau did, and that comes right from Air Force One.”  

Given the sheer brutality of the language, there’s no reason to doubt that Navarro was absolutely reflecting Trump’s own venomous anger.    

“He [Trump[ did him [Trudeau] a favor,” Navarro said. “He was even willing to sign that socialist communique.”

On June 10, Trump tweeted: “Based on Justin’s false statements at his news conference, and the fact that Canada is charging massive Tariffs to our U.S. farmers, workers and companies, I have instructed our U.S. Reps not to endorse the Communique as we look at Tariffs on automobiles flooding the U.S. Market!,” 

But while Trump has made clear his detestation of socialism, he has no qualms about rewarding the aggression of a hardcore Communist like Vladimir Putin. On June 9, he called for Russia to be readmitted to the G7.  

“I think it would be an asset to have Russia back in,” he said during an impromptu press conference at the summit.

“I think it would be good for the world. I think it would be good for Russia. I think it would be good for the United States. I think it would be good for all of the countries of the current G7. I think the G8 would be better.”  

Russia was ousted from the group in 2014 after Putin annexed Crimea—the first violation of a European country’s borders since World War II. 

“Today crystallizes precisely why Putin was so eager to see Trump elected,” said former Obama National Security Council spokesman Ned Price.

“For Putin, this is return on his investment, and it’s safe to say that his investment has paid off beyond even his wildest dreams,” he said in a statement to CNN.   

And, in a turn of events that some might call poetic justice, moments after he arrived in Singapore for his meeting with Kim Jong On, Trump tweeted: “Our Great Larry Kudlow, who has been working so hard on trade and the economy, has just suffered a heart attack. He is now in Walter Reed Medical Center.” 

HISTORY AS A GUIDE TO MADNESS: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 13, 2017 at 1:14 am

Kim Jong-Un: Secretive, ruthless, egomaniacal, erratic at best, certifiably insane at worst. Commanding the world’s fourth-largest army—and a growing arsenal of nuclear weapons.

Given a lack of CIA “assets” within North Korea, the United States government has been forced to accept any scraps of reliable information it can get on Kim’s regime.

As a result, the White House, Pentagon and State Department may be forced to turn to another source in predicting Kim Jong-Un’s coming moves—and fate.

His name: Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus—better known as Suetonius.

Suetonius, a historian and citizen of ancient Rome, chronicled the lives of the first twelve Caesars of imperial Rome: Julius Caesar, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Galba, Otho, Vitellius, Vespasian, Titus and Domitian.

His compilation of these biographies, The Twelve Caesars, is still available today.

Gaius Caligula was the fourth Roman to assume the title of Emperor and Caesar. His reign began in 37 A.D. and ended—violently—four years later.

Gaius Caligula

His full name was Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus. “Caligula”—“Little Boots”—was a nickname bestowed on him as a child by his father’s soldiers.

Accompanying his father, Germanicus, on military campaigns, Gaius often dressed up as a soldier to “drill” the troops, who loved his enthusiasm for military life.

Tiberius, the third Roman emperor, adopted Germanicus as his heir, and many Romans considered him as Rome’s Alexander the Great because of his virtuous character and military prowess.  Many wanted him to succeed Tiberius when the emperor died.

But Germanicus died first, under mysterious circumstances. Some blamed illness, others believed he had been poisoned. Tiberius was widely suspected of having murdered a potential rival.  And few mourned when Tiberius himself died in 19 A.D.

Upon Tiberius’ death, Caligula became emperor. The Romans welcomed his ascension due to their memory of his father, Germanicus.

His reign began well. He recalled those who had been banished from Rome by Tiberius, and publicly announced that “he had no ears for informers,” according to Suetonius.

He allowed judges unrestricted jurisdiction, without appeal to himself. To lighten the duties of jurors, he added a fifth division to the previous four. He also tried to restore the suffrage to the people by reviving the custom of elections.

He completed the public works which had been half-finished under Tiberius: the temple of Augustus and the theatre of Pompey.

But then Caligula underwent a change in character.  Suetonius  claimed that he suffered from an affliction that made him suddenly fall unconscious. The historian believed that Caligula knew that something was wrong with him.

He became increasingly egomaniacal. Among the titles he gave himself: “Child of the Camp,” “Father of the Armies,” and “Greatest and Best of Caesars.”

Eventually, he came to believe himself divine.

Without warning, he ordered one of his soldiers to execute his brother Tiberius. He drove his father-in‑law, Silanus, to commit suicide by cutting his throat with a razor.

Tiberius’ “crime” had been Caligula’s suspicion that he had taken an antidote against poison. “There is no antidote against Caesar!” Caligula is said to have raged.

In fact, Tiberius had taken medicine for a chronic cough.

Silanus died because he had not followed Caligula when he put to sea in stormy weather. Caligula believed he had remained behind hoping to take possession of Rome if he perished in the storm.

Actually, Silanus suffered from sea-sickness and wanted to avoid the discomforts of the voyage.

Caligula committed incest with all his sisters, and “at a large banquet he placed each of them in turn below him, while his wife reclined above.”

When his favorite sister, Drusilla, died, he announced a season of public mourning, making it a capital crime to laugh, bathe, or dine with one’s parents, wife, or children.

Having violated his sisters, he eagerly violated the wives of others.

At one wedding, he ordered that the bride be taken to his own house, and within a few days divorced her. Two years later he banished her, suspecting that she had returned to her former husband.

At gladiatorial games, he sometimes matched decrepit gladiators against wild beasts, and had sham fights between men who were “conspicuous for some bodily infirmity.”

Objecting to the expense of cattle to feed wild beasts for a gladiatorial show, he selected criminals to be devoured.

On other occasions, he shut up the storehouses for threshed grain and condemned the people to hunger.

“Let them hate me, so long as they fear me,” he often said.  But hatred can override fear.

Just this happened among several members of his own security force, the Praetorian Guard. Caligula had repeatedly mocked Cassius Chaerea, one of its officers, for his weak voice, and assailed his masculinity.

On January 22, 41 A.D., Chaerea and other guardsmen attacked Caligula in an underground corridor of a gladiatorial arena and repeatedly stabbed him to death.

Upon hearing reports that Caligula was dead, Romans feared to rejoice: Had he started the rumor to discover who wanted him dead? Only when they were certain did they give themselves over to unbridled joy.

If history truly repeats itself, Kim Jong-Un has good reason to be afraid.

HISTORY AS A GUIDE TO MADNESS: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 12, 2017 at 1:30 am

Officials at the Pentagon and State Department constantly scramble for information that will enable them to penetrate the designs of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un.

And with good reason: His country possesses nuclear weapons, and is headed by a leader who’s erratic at best and certifiably insane at worst. 

According to the Pentagon, North Korea had enough plutonium stored up to create a minimum of six nuclear weapons. Other estimates were as high as 10 to 16 nuclear weapons. 

And since Donald Trump entered the White House, he has been engaged in an increasingly tense exchange of insults with the North Korean dictator.

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Kim Jong-Un

Kim Jong-Un is the third Kim to rule North Korea since 1948. The first was his grandfather, Kim II-sungwho seized power and ruled absolutely until his death in 1994.

By ordering  the invasion of South Korea in 1950, he provoked American intervention and ignited the Korean War (1950-1953), which ended in stalemate.

He was succeeded by his son, Kim Jong-il, who ruled from 1994 to 2011. That regime was marked by widespread famine, partially due to economic mismanagement, suppression of human rights and the export of state terrorism.

As was the case with his father, Kim Jong-il’s reign ended only with his death in 2011. He was immediately succeeded by his son, Kim Jong-Un.

At Kim Jong-il’s memorial service, the eulogy seemed as much for his son as for the departed “Dear Leader”:

“Respected Comrade Kim Jong-un is our party, military and country’s supreme leader who inherits great comrade Kim Jong-il’s ideology, leadership, character, virtues, grit and courage.”

Born on January 8, 1983, Kim Jong-Un owes everything to an act of genetics—his being the son of an absolute dictator.

This alone has enabled him to hold a series of exalted titles:

  • First Secretary of the Workers’ party of Korea; the Chairman of the Central Military Commission;
  • Chairman of the National Defense Commission;
  • The Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army; and
  • Presidium member of the Politburo of the Workers’ Party of Korea.

On December 30, 2011—only 13 days after his father died—Kim Jong-Un was formally appointed as the Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army.

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North Korean military rally

In April, 2012, the Fourth Party Conference named him to the newly-created post of First Secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea. He was promoted to the rank of Marshal in the army in July, 2012.

Given a lack of CIA “assets” within North Korea, the United States government has been forced to accept any scraps of reliable information it can get on Kim’s regime.

It’s known, for example, that he is a man of immense egomania. Following his father’s death, the cult of personality around Kim Jong-Un’s went into high gear.

He was hailed as the “great successor to the revolutionary cause of self-reliance,” “outstanding leader of the party, army and people” and “respected comrade who is identical to Supreme Commander Kim Jong-il.”

He was “a great person born of heaven,” declared the Korean Central News Agency. And, not to be outdone, the ruling Workers’ Party announced: “We vow with bleeding tears to call Kim Jong-Un our supreme commander, our leader.”

In November 2012, satellite photos revealed a half-mile-long propaganda message carved into a hillside in Ryanggang Province, reading, “Long Live General Kim Jong-Un, the Shining Sun!”

In 2013, Kim was named the world’s 46th most powerful person by the Forbes list of The World’s Most Powerful People. This derives from his commanding the fourth-largest standing army in the world–and an arsenal of nuclear weapons.

On March 7, 2013, North Korea threatened to launch a “pre-emptive nuclear attack” upon the United States. North Korea has outlined its plans for target American cities for nuclear strikes, including Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles.

Then there are the purges—the motive for which may be Kim’s desire to erase all traces of his father’s rule.

By the end of 2013, three defense ministers and four chiefs of the army’s general staff had been replaced. Among those purged was his uncle, Jang Sung-taek—who is thought to have been executed by machine gun.

Other victims of Kim’s regime reportedly include members of Jang’s family:

  • His  sister Jang Kye-sun;
  • Her husband and ambassador to Cuba, Jon Yong-jin;
  • Jang’s nephew and ambassador to Malaysia, Jang Yong-chol; and
  • The nephew’s two sons, who were also reportedly murdered.

On May 13, 2015, South Korea’s National Intelligence Service reported that Kim had ordered the execution of North Korea’s Minister of Defense, Hyon Yong Chol.

The charge: Treason. And for “showing disrespect” to Kim by talking back to him and falling asleep at a military event.

Chol was killed by anti-aircraft gunfire with hundreds watching at a shooting range at Pyongyang’s Kang Kon Military Academy in late April.

Nor has this been the only major execution for 2015.  Reports claim that earlier this year, Kim had ordered the execution of 15 senior officials for challenging his authority.

Penetrating the secrets of a ruthless dictatorship is extremely difficult.  And any information obtained can often be considered no better than gossip.

Given these limitations, the White House, Pentagon and State Department may be forced to turn to another source in predicting Kim Jong-Un’s coming moves—and fate.

His name: Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus–better known as Suetonius.

MERCENARIES: NO FEAR OF GOD, NO LOYALTY TO MAN

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 7, 2017 at 12:03 am

On October 4, four American Special Forces soldiers were ambushed and gunned down at the border of Niger and Mali.

For 12 days after the tragedy, President Donald Trump said nothing.

Then, during an October 16 press conference in the White House Rose Garden, a reporter asked him about his silence.

Donald Trump Pentagon 2017.jpg

Donald Trump

So Trump claimed—falsely—that earlier Presidents—including Barack Obama—had  never or rarely called or written family members of soldiers who died on duty.

But it was his call to Myeshia Johnson, the widow of Sergeant La David Johnson, that ignited a firestorm.

According to Florida Democratic Representative Frederica Wilson, Trump’s condolence call was brutally insensitive.  Wilson was riding in a limousine with Johnson and heard the conversation on speakerphone.

“He knew what was signing up for, but I guess it hurts anyway,” Wilson quoted Trump as telling the grieving widow.

But maybe Sergeant Johnson didn’t know what he was signing up for.

On October 19, Pentagon officials said that a private contractor airlifted some of the troops from the scene.

Trump had sent a private aviation contractor—instead of the U.S. military—to retrieve the bodies of the four soldiers killed in Niger.

Robyn Mack, an official for U.S. Africa Command, said Texas-based Berry Aviation was “on alert during the incident and conducted casualty evacuation and transport for US and partner forces.”

Sergeant Johnson’s body was left behind when the bodies of his three fellow soldiers were evacuated. His remains were recovered two days after the extraction by Nigerien troops. 

Even worse, his corpse had been so corrupted by heat that the Pentagon demanded a closed coffin for his burial service.

Contractor aircraft are typically not armed, though their crews may carry side-arms for personal protection.

It’s possible that lightly-armed private contractors were so eager to leave the danger area they did a slapdash search for bodies—and accidentally left Johnson’s behind.

Berry Aviation has also done Defense Department work in Afghanistan, Central African Republic and Burkina Faso. 

Since the end of the Cold War, the American military and Intelligence communities have grown increasingly dependent on private contractors. In the past, such groups were called mercenaries.

In his 2007 bestseller, Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA, Tim Weiner writes:

“Patriotism for profit became a $50-billion-a-year business….The [CIA] began contracting out thousands of jobs to fill the perceived void by the budget cuts that began in 1992.

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“A CIA officer could file his retirement papers, turn in his blue identification badge, go to work for a much better salary at a military contractor such as Lockheed Martin or Booz Allen Hamilton, then return to the CIA the next day, wearing a green badge….”

Much of the CIA became totally dependent on mercenaries. They appeared to work for the agency, but their loyalty was actually to their private companies. The CIA thus had two workforces-–but the private one was paid far better.

Wrote Weiner: “Legions of CIA veterans quit their posts to sell their services to the agency by writing analyses, creating cover for overseas officers, setting up communications networks, and running clandestine operations.”

One such company was Total Intelligence Solutions, founded in 2007 by Cofer Black, who had been the chief of the CIA’s counter-terrorism center on 9/11.

His partners were Robert Richer, formerly the associate deputy director of operations at the CIA, and Enrique Prado, who had been Black’s chief of counter-terror operations at the agency.

Future CIA hires followed suit: Sign up for five years, win that prized CIA “credential” and sign up for far more money with a private security company.  

This situation met with full support from Right-wing “pro-business” members of Congress and Presidents like George W. Bush.

They had long championed the private sector as inherently superior to the public one. And they saw no danger that a man dedicated to enriching himself might put greed ahead of safeguarding his country.

One of Trump’s key military advisers is Erik Prince, the former head of Blackwater. Under President George W. Bush, the now-infamous mercenary company got $1 billion to provide security for American officials and soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Blackwater was also accused of abusing Iraqis and engaging in torture.

There were, however, others who could have offered a timely warning against this use of mercenaries-–had there been leaders willing to heed it.

One of these, reaching back more than 500 years ago, was the Florentine statesman, Niccolo Machiavelli, who famously warned of the dangers of relying on mercenaries.

Image result for Images of Niccolo Machiavelli

Niccolo Machiavelli

In The Prince, Machiavelli writes:

“Mercenaries…are useless and dangerous. And if a prince holds on to his state by means of mercenary armies, he will never be stable or secure. For they are disunited, ambitious, without discipline, disloyal. They are brave among friends; among enemies they are cowards.

“They have neither the fear of God nor fidelity to man, and destruction is deferred only as the attack is. For in peace one is robbed by them, and in war by the enemy.”

Centuries after Machiavelli’s warning, Americans are realizing the bitter truth of it firsthand.

TYRANTS AND EMPATHY

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 19, 2017 at 12:21 pm

On October 4, four American Special Forces soldiers were ambushed and slain on the border of Niger and Mali. Their killers were members of an ISIS-affiliated guerrilla group.

The next day, President Donald Trump attacked one of his favorite targets—the free press—as “fake news.”

Over the weekend of October 7-8, Trump went golfing. Then he took to Twitter and let his venom flow.  His victims included:

  • The National Football League;
  • Puerto Rico;
  • North Korea;
  • Bob Corker, Republican United States Senator from Tennessee and the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

For 12 days after the tragedy, Trump said nothing.

Then, during an October 16 press conference in the White House Rose Garden, a reporter asked him about his silence.

So Trump claimed—falsely—that earlier Presidents—including Barack Obama—had  never or rarely called or written family members of soldiers who died on duty.

But it was his call to Myeshia Johnson, the widow of Sergeant La David Johnson, that ignited a firestorm.

According to Florida Democratic Representative Frederica Wilson, Trump’s condolence call was brutally insensitive.  Wilson was riding in a limousine with Johnson and heard the conversation on speakerphone.

“He knew what was signing up for, but I guess it hurts anyway,” Wilson quoted Trump as telling the grieving widow.

Cowanda Jones-Johnson, a family member who raised Johnson, told CNN that Wilson’s account of the call was “very accurate.”

Veterans such as Arizona United States Senator John McCain have expressed their outrage at Trump’s callousness. But this shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone.

On January 21, Donald Trump—on his first full day as President—visited CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia.

Officially, he was there to pay tribute to the men and women who dedicate their lives to discovering when and where America’s enemies are planning to strike.  And to countering those threats.

Image result for Images of CIA seal

And now Trump was appearing before what, to CIA employees, was the agency’s most sacred site: The star-studded memorial wall honoring the 117 CIA officers who had fallen in the line of duty.

So Trump spent much of his time talking about himself.

Among the worst examples:  

  • Somebody said, are you young?  I said, I think I’m young.  You know, I was stopping—when we were in the final months of that campaign, four stops, five stops, seven stops. Speeches, speeches, in front of 25,000, 30,000 people, 15,000, 19,000 from stop to stop. I feel young….
  • And I was explaining about the numbers. We did a thing yesterday at the speech. Did everybody like the speech? I’ve been given good reviews. But we had a massive field of people. You saw them. Packed. I get up this morning, I turn on one of the networks, and they show an empty field….
  • And they said, Donald Trump did not draw well. I said, it was almost raining, the rain should have scared them away, but God looked down and he said, we’re not going to let it rain on your speech…..
  • So a reporter for Time magazine—and I have been on their cover, like, 14 or 15 times. I think we have the all-time record in the history of Time magazine.  

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Crowds at Trump and Obama Inaugurals

In February, Trump approved and ordered a Special Forces raid in Yemen on an Al-Qaeda stronghold.

The assault resulted in the death of Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens.

Disavowing any responsibility for the failure, Trump said:

“This was a mission that was started before I got here. This was something they wanted to do. They came to me, they explained what they wanted to do—the generals—who are very respected, my generals are the most respected that we’ve had in many decades, I believe. And they lost Ryan.”

* * * * *

Seventy-four years before Donald Trump took office as President of the United States, Adolf Hitler suffered a blow from which he never recovered: The surrender of his once-powerful Sixth Army at Stalingrad.

For five months, 330,000 of the German army’s finest troops had fought to capture that city on the Volga River. Then they had been surrounded by even larger Russian armies and became the besieged. 

Finally, on February 2, 1943, their commanding general, Friedrich Paulus, surrendered.

Adolf Hitler flew into a rage.

  • Not at the loss of 150,000 Germans who had been killed.
  • Not at the agonies of the tens of thousands of others wounded.
  • Not at the suffering of the 91,000 men taken prisoner.

No, what infuriated Hitler was the refusal of General Friedrich Paulus to commit suicide rather than surrender.

Knowing that no German field marshal had ever allowed himself to be taken prisoner, Hitler had, by wireless, promoted Paulus—shortly before he chose to do so.

“When the nerves break down, there is nothing left but to admit that one can’t handle the situation and to shoot oneself,” screamed Hitler.

“This hurts me so much because the heroism of so many soldiers is nullified by one single characterless weakling.”

In April, 1945, with Russian troops about to capture Berlin, Hitler, 50 feet below ground in a fortified bunker, blamed his defeat on the Germans who had given him their unconditional loyalty for 12 years. 

For egomaniacal tyrants, blame always falls on others.

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