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THE FBI’S BIGGEST THREAT: THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on July 3, 2018 at 10:32 am

From 1965 to 1974, Americans watched “The FBI,” a highly fictionalized TV drama supposedly based on real stories from the files of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

J. Edgar Hoover, the legendary director of the Bureau since 1924, made certain the series reflected the image of the FBI that he wanted seen. 

FBI agents:

  • Didn’t smoke or swear, never used illegal bugs or wiretaps, and seldom fired a gun.
  • Never cheated on their wives.
  • Never planted illegal bugs or wiretaps,
  • Never suffered marital problems from the strains of an FBI career.
  • Could summon a helicopter—like the show’s hero, Inspector Lewis Erskine—with the snap of their fingers.

Yet none of this mattered to the millions who tuned in every week to make this one of the highest-rated series on TV. 

The F.B.I. (TV series).jpg

After decades of a generous self-advertising campaign, Americans generally saw the Bureau as not simply incorruptible but infallible. When agents zeroed in on a criminal—a bank robber, terrorist or member of the Mob—he was as good as caught.  

So it would have been unimaginable to such an audience that the greatest threat to the Bureau would come not from the KGB or Mafia hitmen, but from the President of the United States.

Yet, 53 years after “The FBI” premiered on the ABC network in 1965, that is exactly the case.

On May 9, 2017, FBI Director James B. Comey was brutally fired without warning by President Donald Trump. Trump has since given several explanations why he did it. But the most convincing was the one he gave in the Oval Office to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

“I just fired the head of the F.B.I.,” Trump told the two dignitaries. “He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”  

James Comey official portrait.jpg

James Comey

Trump had three reasons for firing Comey:

  1. Comey had refused to pledge his personal loyalty to Trump. Trump had made this “request” during a private dinner at the White House in January. After refusing to make that pledge, Comey told Trump that he would always be honest with him. But that didn’t satisfy Trump’s demand that the head of the FBI act as his personal secret police chief.
  2. Trump had tried to coerce him into dropping the FBI’s investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, for his secret ties to Russia and Turkey. Comey had similarly resisted that demand.
  3. Comey had recently asked the Justice Department to fund an expanded FBI investigation into contacts between Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign and Russian Intelligence agents. 

During that meeting where he disparaged Comey, Trump gave the Russian dignitaries sensitive Intelligence on ISIS that had been supplied by Israel. 

On December 16, 2016, Comey and Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. had agreed with a CIA assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election in part to help Donald Trump win the White House. 

Trump, however, has steadfastly denied any such role by Russia: “I think it’s ridiculous,” he told “Fox News Sunday.” “I think it’s just another excuse. I don’t believe it….No, I don’t believe it at all.”   

Since the FBI launched its counterintelligence investigation into collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russian Intelligence agents, Trump has repeatedly attacked the American Intelligence and law-enforcement communities. But he has yet to condemn Moscow for its election interference.

Seal of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.svg

FBI Seal

In fact, he has—at least publicly—accepted Russian dictator Vladimir Putin’s assertion that the Kremlin did not interfere in the 2016 election. 

On February 17, 2018—three days after a gunman killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida, Trump tweeted: 

“Very sad that the FBI missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter. This is not acceptable. They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign – there is no collusion. Get back to the basics and make us all proud!”

This ignored that:

  • The shooting was not a Federal crime, since it didn’t happen on Federal property nor involve Federal officials.
  • Trump has steadfastly opposed any efforts at gun control—while accepting $21 million from the NRA during the 2016 Presidential race. This was the largest contribution the NRA has ever made to a Presidential candidate.

On May 20, 2018, he tweeted: “I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes – and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!”

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Donald Trump

Trump was demanding that information about an FBI confidential source—in a probe directly relating to himself—be revealed to his cronies in the Republican party.

Trump was desperate to derail the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into proven ties between Russian Intelligence agents and members of his 2006 Presidential campaign.  So now he was creating a false charge—that he had been illegally spied upon by the FBI—to divert public attention from that investigation.

With July 4—the 242nd anniversary of America’s Declaration of Independence—fast approaching, the outcome of Trump vs. the FBI remains to be seen.

COMBATING FASCISM TODAY: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on April 2, 2018 at 12:04 am

In 2014, Arizona Republicans passed Senate Bill 1062.

This allowed business owners to legally discriminate against gay and lesbian customers—including the right to refuse medical care to them.  

Its intent: To appease the hatred of gays and lesbians by the religious Right, a key constituency of the Republican party. 

Gays and their supporters reacted by threatening a legal business and tourism boycott of Arizona. And the business community and its supporters, alarmed, took notice. 

  • Large businesses—such as Apple, American Airlines, AT&T, Delta Airlines, Verizon and Intel—publicly opposed the measure. 
  • With Super Bowl XL1X scheduled to be played in 2015 at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee expressed concern.
  • Arizona’s United States Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake publicly urged Governor Jan Brewer to veto the measure, citing worries about the economic impact on the state’s businesses.

Faced with a choice between monetary greed and ideological fanaticism, Brewer chose to veto the legislation on February 26, 2014.  

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Governor Jan Brewer

Suddenly, Right-wingers who had anticipated becoming persecutors now claimed themselves to be victims. Among their rants on Twitter:

  • “CNN led full court media press to take away rights of Christians. Just the beginning. Using tolerance as weapon against us. Wake up.”  –John Nolte(@NolteNC)
  • “Not sure what the GOP stands for when it stands against religious freedom out of pure fear of political correctness.”  –Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro)
  • “Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer makes Christians in her state second class citizens.” –toddstarnes (@toddstarnes)
  • “A sad day for Arizonans who cherish and understand religious liberty.” –The Center for Arizona Policy 

American Rightists believed they had a right to withhold their business services from those they hated.

But they considered it unfair and even demonic for gays and their supporters to withhold monies from discriminatory Arizona businesses.  

Story #3:

On February 14, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz slaughtered two faculty members and 15 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. His weapon of choice: An AR-15 assault rifle, often favored by gun massacre killers.

Among the students who survived the carnage: 17-year-old David Hogg. He quickly joined the student-led gun control advocacy group Never Again, becoming one of its best-known spokesmen. 

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David Hogg

He and his fellow student activists were immediately targeted for vicious insults and even death threats by the National Rifle Association and its shills—especially those in Congress and the Fox News Network. 

One of these shills was Fox News host Laura Ingraham. On March 28, not content with attacking Hogg’s efforts to ban assault weaponry, she attacked him personally, tweeting:

“David Hogg Rejected By Four Colleges To Which He Applied and whines about it. (Dinged by UCLA with a 4.1 GPA…totally predictable given acceptance rates.)” 

Hogg hadn’t been able to get into UC Los Angeles, UC San Diego, UC Santa Barbara, or UC Irvine, despite having a 4.2 grade point average. 

For many Twitter users, this was beyond the pale, and they made their anger known: 

“Laura, you’re a parent. This is pretty deplorable.”

“Can’t imagine why any adult would make fun of a kid over college rejections, let alone a kid who’s been through what the Parkland kids have.”

“What is the purpose of this tweet? What is wrong with you? Are you actually proud of this? Regardless of your political beliefs and motivations, THIS is how you choose to present yourself? You must be so sad, angry and scared.”  

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  Laura Ingraham 

But it fell to David Hogg to strike back in a way guaranteed to frighten even the most fanatical Rightists. 

“I’m not going to stoop to her level and go after her on a personal level,” he said. “I’m going to go after her advertisers.”

He posted the following tweet to his 600,000 Twitter followers: 

“Pick a number 1-12 contact the company next to that #  

“Top Laura Ingraham Advertisers 

1. @sleepnumber
2. @ATT
3. Nutrish
4. @Allstate & @esurance
5. @Bayer
6. @RocketMortgage Mortgage
7. @LibertyMutual
8. @Arbys
9. @TripAdvisor
10. @Nestle
11. @hulu
12. @Wayfair

Nutrish was the first advertiser to drop its sponsorship of Ingraham’s program.  Other brands followed.  

Suddenly alarmed, Ingraham tweeted the next day: “Any student should be proud of a 4.2 GPA —incl. @DavidHogg111. On reflection, in the spirit of Holy Week, I apologize for any upset or hurt my tweet caused him or any of the brave victims of Parkland. For the record, I believe my show was the first to feature David…”   

Hogg dismissed her statement: “She only apologized after we went after her advertisers.” He said that he would accept her apology only if she denounced “the way your network has treated my friends and I in this fight.”  

Ingraham isn’t likely to do that. She has stayed silent since her tweet. Meanwhile, her advertisers have continued to fall off:   

  • The Atlantis
  • Bayer
  • Paradise Island Resort
  • Office Depot
  • Jenny Craig Miracle
  • Ear
  • Honda
  • Progressive
  • Hulu
  • TripAdvisor
  • Expedia
  • Wayfair
  • StitchFix
  • Jos A. Bank
  • Nestle and 
  • Johnson & Johnson.

Although only 17, David Hogg knows it’s better to stand up to tyrants than submit to them. He is sending a message that even the most hard-core Fascists can understand: Attack me and you’ll get it right back in your ugly faces.

COMBATING FASCISM TODAY: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on March 30, 2018 at 12:24 am

There are two ways to deal with bullies: Submit to them—or stand up to them. 

Here are three stories of what happened when intended victims counterattacked their would-be predators.

Story #1:

Karen Handel, vice president of public affairs for Susan G. Komen for the Cure, had it all worked out.

She had fashioned what she believed was a politically viable plan for Komen to pull its grant monies from Planned Parenthood (PP).

Karen Handel

She didn’t care that this money went entirely for breast cancer screenings for poor women. What she did care about was that about 3% of all PP revenues went toward providing abortion services.

Since being hired by Komen as vice president of public affairs, in April, 2011, Handel had pushed to drop PP from grants. She had promised to de-fund PP during her failed 2010 campaign for governor of Georgia. 

So, in 2012, she made her move.

The official version, as put out by Handel and the top brass of Komen, went: “We’ve halted grants to Planned Parenthood because it’s under investigation by Congress for misuse of funds.”

Unfortunately for Komen, the public instantly saw through the lie. And the results for Komen were as devastating as those that threatened to engulf Arizona two years later.

Any crank in Congress can start an “investigation” into anything.

And PP was “under investigation” by a crank: Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), chairman of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.

Stearns, a fanatical anti-abortionist, claimed he wanted to determine whether PP had spent public money on abortions over the last decade.

But Stearns didn’t hesitate to slander the patriotism of thousands of 9/11 “first responders”–the police, firefighters, construction workers and others who risked their lives to save their fellow Americans.

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Rep. Cliff Stearns

He did so by demanding that they submit their names, birthplaces, addresses, government ID numbers and other personal data to the FBI to prove they were not terrorists. 

Only then could they receive federally-subsidized medical care for injuries caused by exposure to toxic dust and debris at the site.  

Not one terrorist was discovered in the resulting investigations.

Public outrage at Komen was immediate and overwhelming:

  • More than 50 members of Congress signed letters asking  Komen to reverse course.
  • New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg publicly rebuked Komen and pledged $250,000   to PP.
  • Approximately 37,000 people from all over the country signed a petition demanding Handel’s resignation.
  • PP raised nearly $3 million in contributions.

Reeling before this onslaught of criticism, Komen issued a statement: “We will continue to fund existing grants, including those of Planned Parenthood, and preserve their eligibility to apply for future grants.”

Having failed in their latest assault on women’s rights, the Right’s would-be predators now portrayed themselves as victims:

  • “The last time I checked,” Handel told Right-wing Fox News, “private non-profit organizations have a right and a responsibility to be able to set the highest standards and criteria on their own without interference, let alone the level of vicious attacks and coercion that has occurred by Planned Parenthood. It’s simply outrageous.”
  • “Planned Parenthood campaigns to destroy anyone who questions them,” charged Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List.
  • “Their attitude is that of an immature teenager with an enormous sense of entitlement. This is just more proof that Planned Parenthood will pulverize anyone who dares to question them,” Dannenfelser said.
  • “What Planned Parenthood did to that venerable and honorable organization [Komen Foundation] is nothing less than a Mafia-style shakedown,” said Steven H. Aden, senior counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund. The Fund bitterly opposes abortion, gay marriage, birth control and the separation of church and state.

Many conservatives correctly defended Komen’s right, as a private charitable organization, to give—or withhold—its money as it saw fit.

But these same conservatives refused to grant PP’s outraged supporters the same right: To withhold their own monies from Komen. 

National Review’s Daniel Foster called the backlash to Komen “disgusting,” attacking PP and “the Left” for their “gangsterism.”

Story #2:

Two years later, in 2014, the Right made another move to strip Americans it didn’t like of their most basic rights.  Their weapon of choice: Arizona Senate Bill 1062.

The legislation had been passed by the Republican-controlled State House of Representatives and Senate. Its intent: 

  • Allow business owners to turn away gay and lesbian customers.
  • Allow employers to deny equal pay to women.
  • Allow individuals to renege on contract obligations.  
  • Allow hospitals to refuse to provide medical care to a gay or lesbian patient.

And all of these actions would have been legally protected—so long as “sincere religious belief” was cited  as the reason.

The legislation was written by the Right-wing advocacy group Center for Arizona Policy and the Christian legal organization, Alliance Defending Freedom. 

Officially, its intent was to prevent the government from forcing business owners to act in ways contrary to strongly held religious beliefs.

Unofficially, its intent was to appease the hatred of gays and lesbians by the religious Right, a key constituency of the Republican party.

Gays and their supporters reacted by threatening a legal business and tourism boycott of Arizona.  And the business community and its supporters, alarmed, took notice.  

THREE VIEWS OF AN OUTRAGE: GOOD, BAD AND UGLY – PART TWO (END)

In History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on December 27, 2012 at 1:09 am

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee had a ready explanation for the slaughter of 20 six- and -seven-year-old schoolchildren and six faculty members at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Speaking on Fox News, Huckabee said: “We ask why there is violence in our schools, but we have systematically removed God from our schools.  Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage?”

This was not the first time Huckabee blamed the victims of violence rather than the National Rifle Association–which has struggled mightily to arm even hardened criminals and the mentally ill with high-powered weaponry.

Last July, immediately following the massacre at the Century 16 Theater in Aurora, Colorado, Huckabee offered the same explanation for a rampage that left 12 dead and 58 wounded.

Appearing on the right-wing TV show, “Fox and Friends,” he said:

“We don’t have a crime problem, a gun problem or even a violence problem. What we have is a sin problem.

“And since we’ve ordered God out of our schools, and communities, the military and public conversations, you know we really shouldn’t act so surprised…when all hell breaks loose.”

This totally overlooked such truths as:

  • The United States is an overwhelmingly Christian nation, with 91% of Americans saying they believe in God.
  • Long before the Supreme Court outlawed compulsory prayer in public schools in 1962, American society was filled with mindless violence.
  • Merely claiming affinity with Christianity doesn’t guarantee pacifism: The Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition were carried out by order of the highest officials of the Catholic Church.
  • Being a non-Christian doesn’t guarantee peace with one’s neighbors: The Middle East is peopled by warring Muslims and Jews who both claim a divine right to “the Holy Land.”

Stung by criticism for the insensitivity of his blame-the-victim mentality in the Sandy Hook slaughter, Huckabee tried to “clarify” his remarks.

Once again appearing on Fox News–the preferred network of American fascists–Huckabee said:

“I’m not suggesting by any stretch that if we had prayer in schools regularly as we once did that this wouldn’t have happened, because you can’t have that kind of cause and effect.  

“But we’ve created an atmosphere in this country where the only time you want to invoke God’s name is after the tragedy.”

In short: If we just prayed more, these sorts of outrages wouldn’t happen.

Addressing an enthusiastic audience at the NRA’s annual convention in 2011, Huckabee said:  “I stand here tonight as a gun-clinger and a God-clinger … unapologetically!”

For a self-proclaimed “pro-lifer” who bitterly opposes abortion, Huckabee didn’t fault the NRA for championing

  • “cop-killer” bullets which pierce bulletproof vests;
  • “concealed weapons” clothing for anyone–criminals included–who wants to buy them; or
  • “stand-your-ground” laws which give every citizen a 007 license to kill.

President Barack Obama’s reaction to the Sandy Hook slaughter was that of a father empathizing with the loss of other parents.

Huckabee’s reaction was that of a gun lobbyist seeking a way to avoid criticizing those who make high-capacity weaponry available to even the mentally ill.

The reaction of the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) can best be described as the pornography of hate and bullying.

On December 15–one day after the slaughter–its spokeswoman, Shirley Phelps-Roper, tweeted that the group would protest the vigil in Newtown, Conn., to “sing praise to God for the glory of his work in executing his judgment.”

The “church’ claims that “God hates fags” and “same-sex marriage is the doom of this evil nation.”

Its website states:

“WBC has suffered unrelieved reproach for warning you.

“Now, we will happily assist in the administration of the universal outpouring of God’s wrath, which shall imminently commence with the brightness of His coming.”

The “church” has picketed the funerals of Armed Services members killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.  It celebrates each death as proof of God’s wrath on a nation that tolerates homosexuality.

To combat these outrages, Congress passed a bill on August 2, 2012 that restricted demonstrations at military funerals. Demonstrators are not allowed to picket from two hours before the funeral service until two hours after, and must stay at least 300 feet away from grieving family members.

After WBC tweeted that it would protest the funerals in Newtown, it got a new enemy: The hacktivist group, Anonymous.

“We will not allow you to corrupt the minds of America with your seeds of hatred,” the group warned in a video posted to the Internet. “We will not allow you to inspire aggression to the social factions which you deem inferior. We will render you obsolete. We will destroy you. We are coming.”

So take your choice:

  • The mature, sympathetic parent approach of President Obama.
  • The blame-the-victim approach of Mike Huckabee.
  • The America-deserves-to-grieve-because-it-tolerates-fags approach of the Westboro Baptist Church.

Just remember this truth: “Tell me whom you admire, and I will tell you who you are.”

THREE VIEWS OF AN OUTRAGE: GOOD, BAD AND UGLY – PART ONE (OF TWO)

In History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on December 26, 2012 at 12:06 am

“Tell me who you admire,” goes the saying, “and I will tell you who you are.”

And the views of those we admire have a big impact on our own attitudes.

On December 14, Adam Lanza, a mentally deranged 20-year-old, murdered his own mother, Nancy, with her own .22 Marlin rifle, as she slept in bed.

Then, using his mother’s car, he drove to Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

Wearing black military-style gear, including a bulletproof vest and mask, he began a rampage of killing with his mother’s seni-automatic Bushmaster MX-15.

Firing between 50 and 100 rounds, he slaughtered 20 schoolchildren–eight boys and 12 girls, between six and seven years old.  His victims included six adults–all women who worked at the school.

Among these were the principal, Dawn Hochsprung, and the school psychologist, Mary Sherlach.

Then, as police rushed to the school, Lanza shot  himself in the head.

The next day, December 15, President Barack Obama gave his weekly radio address.  The United States stood on the edge of “the fiscal cliff,” with Republicans and Democrats locked in combat over raising taxes on the rich.

But there could be only one subject for the President’s address that day.

He delivered his remarks in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room, named for the former press secretary to President Ronald Reagan who was shot and critically wounded during an attempt on the then-president’s life in 1981:

“On Friday, we learned that more than two dozen people were killed when a gunman opened fire in an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.

“Most of those who died were just young children with their whole lives ahead of them.  And every parent in America has a heart heavy with hurt.

“Among the fallen were also teachers – men and women who devoted their lives to helping our children fulfill their dreams.

“So our hearts are broken today.  We grieve for the families of those we lost.  And we keep in our prayers the parents of those who survived. 

“Because as blessed as they are to have their children home, they know that their child’s innocence has been torn away far too early.

“As a nation, we have endured far too many of these tragedies in the last few years.  An elementary school in Newtown.  A shopping mall in Oregon. 

“A house of worship in Wisconsin.  A movie theater in Colorado.  Countless street corners in places like Chicago and Philadelphia.

“Any of these neighborhoods could be our own.  So we have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this. Regardless of the politics.

“This weekend, Michelle and I are doing what I know every parent is doing – holding our children as close as we can and reminding them how much we love them.

“There are families in Connecticut who can’t do that today.  And they need all of us now.

“Because while nothing can take the place of a lost child or loved one, all of us can extend a hand to those in need – to remind them that we are there for them; that we are praying for them; and that the love they felt for those they lost endures not just in their own memories, but also in their community, and their country.”

Although famous for keeping his cool, on this occasion, Obama teared up several times and had to pause, so clearly affected was he by the carnage of this latest national tragedy.

Without false histrionics or trying to guess at the motives of the killer, Obama spoke simply and directly to the hearts of the families and friends of the murdered victims.

But Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and failed Presidential candidate, had a far different view of the massacre–and what lay behind it.

“We ask why there is violence in our schools, but we have systematically removed God from our schools,” Huckabee said on Fox News. “Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage?

“We’ve made it a place where we don’t want to talk about eternity, life, what responsibility means, accountability — that we’re not just going to have be accountable to the police if they catch us, but one day we stand before, you know, a holy God in judgment.  

“If we don’t believe that, then we don’t fear that.”

He said those suffering from a crisis from faith should look to God in the community’s response to the violence.

But he added that “Maybe we ought to let [God] in on the front end and we wouldn’t have to call him to show up when it’s all said and done at the back end.”

In short, a score of six- and seven-year-olds had somehow brought this carnage onto themselves.  And so had those six unarmed adults who had tried to shield them from death.

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