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Posts Tagged ‘PAUL RYAN’

RUBLES FOR REPUBLICANS

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on April 19, 2018 at 1:36 am

On April 16, the New York Times published an editorial taking direct aim at the vast majority of Congressional Republicans.

Specifically, it noted their unwillingness to speak out against threats by President Donald Trump to fire deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and/or Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Director Robert S. Mueller- III.jpg

Robert Mueller

Its key paragraph:

“Make no mistake: If Mr. Trump takes such drastic action, he will be striking at the foundation of the American government, attempting to set a precedent that a president, alone among American citizens, is above the law. What can seem now like a political sideshow will instantly become a constitutional crisis, and history will come calling for Mr. [Orrin] Hatch and his colleagues.”

Orrin Hatch is the Republican United States Senator from Utah. He and Republican Senators Lindsey Graham (South Carolina) and Chuck Grassley (Iowa) have warned Trump not to fire  Rosenstein or Mueller.  But most Republicans have held silent.

Why?

The Times editorial offers two reasons:

First, Republicans fear enraging an easily infuriated Trump—who might aim his Twitter account at them and cost them votes in the upcoming fall elections.

Second, Republicans fear enraging Trump’s fanatical base—which, in this instance, has two meanings:

  1. “something (as a group of people) that reliably provides support (such as for a business or political candidate)”—Merriam Webster; and
  2. “Without moral principles; ignoble”—Oxford Living Dictionaries

Republicans content themselves with this rationalization:

  1. It hasn’t happened yet;
  2. It might not happen; and
  3. If it does happen, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

And how have Republicans reacted to the Times editorial?

On April 17, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would not allow legislation to protect Mueller’s independent investigation to reach the Senate floor.

Mitch McConnell portrait 2016.jpg

Mitch McConnell

“I’m the one who decides what we take to the floor. That’s my responsibility as majority leader. We’ll not be having this on the floor of the Senate,” the Kentucky Republican said in an interview on Fox News.  

Earlier in the day, another Republican, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, claimed that legislation to protect Mueller was “unnecessary.” 

“It would not be in the President’s interest to [fire Mueller] and I think he knows that,” said the Wisconsin Congressman.

But there is an additional reason why so few Republicans have dared to stand up against Trump. 

Trump received help from Russian Intelligence agents during the 2016 Presidential campaign. And House and Senate Republicans have received Russian help of another kind: Bribe monies.

Of course, these are not officially classified as bribes. Officially, they are “campaign contributions.” 

In recent years, a network of Russian oligarchs—all of them answerable to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin—has been increasingly contributing to top Republicans. 

And, thanks to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010, the donations are entirely legal

The following data comes from the Federal Election Commission.

One such major contributor is Len Blavatnik, who holds citizenship in both the United States and the United Kingdom. During the 2015-16 election cycle, he proved one of the largest donors to GOP Political Action Committees (PACs).  

Blavatnik’s net worth is estimated at $20 billion. Before 2016, he donated to both Democrats and Republicans in meager amounts. But in 2016, he gave $6.35 million to GOP PACs. 

Millions of dollars went to top Republican leaders—such as Senators Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio (Florida) and Lindsey Graham (South Carolina)Specifically, he contributed

  • A total of $1.5 million to PACs associated with Rubio.  
  • $1 million to Trump’s Inaugural Committee
  • $41,000 to both Republicans and Democrats in 2017.
  • $1 million to McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund.
  • $3.5 million to a PAC associated with McConnell
  • $1.1 million to Unintimidated PAC, associated with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. 
  • $200,000 to the Arizona Grassroots Action PAC, associated with Arizona Senator John McCain. 
  • $250,000 to New Day for America PAC, associated with Ohio Governor John Kasich
  • $800,000 went to the Security is Strength PAC, associated with Senator Lindsey Graham.

Another Russian oligarch, Alexander Shustorovich, contributed $1 million to Trump’s Inaugural Committee.   

Altogether, four Russian oligarchs—Blavatnik, Shustorovich, Andrew Intrater and Simon Kukes–contributed $10.4 million from the start of the 2015-16 election cycle through September 2017. Of this, 99% went to Republicans.  

As Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell participated in high-level intelligence briefings in 2016. From agencies such as the FBI, CIA and the code-cracking National Security Agency, he learned that the Russians were trying to subvert the electoral process.  

Related image

In October, 2016, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) issued a joint statement: The Russian government had directed the effort to subvert the 2016 Presidential election.

Two weeks later, McConnell’s PAC accepted a $1 million donation from Blavatnik.

On March 30, 2017, McConnell’s PAC accepted another $1 million from Blavatnik. This was just 10 days after former FBI Director James Comey testified before the House Intelligence Committee about Russia’s efforts to subvert the 2016 election

Millionaires and billionaires don’t give six- or seven-figure monetary contributions to politicians without expecting to get something in return. And this is especially true—and frightening—when the contributors are linked to a former KGB agent like Vladimir Putin, whose aggressive intentions are increasingly on display. 

It’s clear that the Republican party has moved from “Better dead than Red” to “My Wallet, First and Always.”

WHY REPUBLICANS REALLY SUPPORT TRUMP

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 12, 2018 at 12:05 am

As President Donald Trump lurches daily from one crisis to another—most of them of his own making—many Americans ask: “Why do Republicans continue to support him?” 

The answer lies in what happened 73 years ago in Berlin—when the “Thousand-Year” Third Reich collapsed after little more than 12 years.

While the Nazi Party ruled Germany from 1933 to 1945, its influence over all aspects of Germans’ lives was suffocating.

“Censorship prevailed, education was undermined, family life was idealized, but children were encouraged to turn in disloyal parents,” reads the back cover of Richard Grunberger’s classic 1971 book, The 12-Year Reich

“‘Volk’ festivals, party rallies, awards, uniforms, pageantry all played a part in the massive effort to shape the mind of a nation.” 

Image result for Images of "The 12-Year Reich"

And yet, after the Reich surrendered unconditionally to the Allies on May 8, 1945, a strange thing happened: Virtually no German admitted to having been a Nazi—or having even known one.

American and British soldiers couldn’t find any German veterans willing to admit they had ever fought against Western, democratic nations. All the once-proud legionaries of the Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS swore they had been fighting “the real enemy”—the Russians—on the Eastern front.

Countless Germans claimed to have hidden Jews in their attics. If so, how had six million Jews died horrifically before the Reich fell? 

And almost universally, they blamed the conflict on the man they had embraced as their Fuhrer.

In short: Adolf Hitler had lost the war he started—making him a loser nobody wanted to be identified with.

In the decades since, the “loser” tag has continued to stick with those who once served the Third Reich. Mel Brooks has repeatedly turned German soldiers—once the pride of the battlefield—into idiotic comic foils.

Even the fearsome Gestapo was spoofed for laughs on the long-running TV comedy, “Hogan’s Heroes.”

Related image

“Hogan’s Heroes”

“Americans love a winner,” George C. Scott as George S. Patton says at the outset of the classic 1970 movie. “And will not tolerate a loser.” 

And that is why Republicans have stuck so closely with President Donald J. Trump.

A typical example of this occurred on June 8, 2017 after former FBI director James Comey testified before the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul Ryan

David Brooks, the conservative New York Times columnist, offered a more accurate explanation of Trump’s motives. Speaking on The PBS Newshour, Brooks said:

“We are a nation of laws. Donald Trump lives in an entirely different cultural universe. He is more clannist, believing in clan, believing in family, believing in loyalty, not recognizing objective law, not recognizing the procedures that is really how modern government operates….

“It’s not only that he doesn’t know the rules, but at all along and throughout his presidency, he has sort of trampled on the rules almost as a matter of policy, as a matter of character, because he doesn’t believe in that kind of relationships. It’s all personal loyalty, not about laws and norms and standards.”

Republicans don’t fear that Trump will trash the institutions that Americans have cherished for more than 200 years. Institutions like an independent judiciary, a free press, and an incorruptible Justice Department.

He has already attacked all of these—and Republicans have either said nothing or rushed to his defense.

What Republicans truly fear about Donald Trump is that he will finally cross one line too many—like firing Special Counsel Robert Meuller. And that the national outrage following this will force them to launch impeachment proceedings against him.

But it isn’t even Trump they fear will be destroyed.

What they most fear losing is their own hold on nearly absolute power in Congress and the White House.

If Trump is impeached and possibly indicted, he will become a man no one any longer fears. He will be a figure held up to ridicule and condemnation.

Like Adolf Hitler. Like Richard Nixon. 

And his Congressional supporters will be branded as losers along with him.

Republicans vividly remember what happened after Nixon was forced to resign on August 9, 1974: Democrats, riding a wave of reform fever, swept Republicans out of the House and Senate—and Jimmy Carter into the White House.

If they are conflicted—whether to continue supporting Trump or desert him—the reason is the same: How can I hold onto my power and all the privileges that go with it?  

HOW TRUMP CAN BE IMPEACHED

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on March 19, 2018 at 1:18 am

While Adolf Hitler ruled Germany from 1933 to 1945, “the persuasive influence of the Nazi regime reached into every corner of everyday life in Germany.”

So reads the paperback cover of Richard Grunberger’s classic 1971 book, The 12-Year Reich.

“Censorship prevailed, education was undermined, family life was idealized, but children were encouraged to turn in disloyal parents.

“‘Volk’ festivals, party rallies, awards, uniforms, pageantry all played a part in the massive effort to shape the mind of a nation.”

Image result for Images of "The 12-Year Reich"

And yet, after the Reich surrendered unconditionally to the Allies on May 8, 1945, a strange thing happened: Virtually no one in Germany admitted to having been a Nazi—or having even known one.

As for who was responsible for losing the war itself: As far as most Germans were concerned, that blame fell entirely on the man they had once worshiped as Der Fuhrer. If he had just let his brilliant generals run operations, Germany would have triumphed.

In short: Adolf Hitler had lost the war he started—making him a loser nobody wanted to be identified with.

In the decades since, the “loser” tag has continued to stick with those who once served the Third Reich. Mel Brooks has repeatedly turned German soldiers—once the pride of the battlefield—into idiotic comic foils.

Even the fearsome Gestapo was spoofed for laughs on the long-running TV comedy, “Hogan’s Heroes.”

Related image

“Hogan’s Heroes”

“Americans love a winner,” George C. Scott as George S. Patton says at the outset of the classic 1970 movie. “And will not tolerate a loser.”

And that is why Republicans have stuck so closely with President Donald J. Trump.

A typical example of this occurred on June 8, 2017, after former FBI director James Comey testified before the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

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

“I want to talk about Mike Flynn,” said Trump.

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

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

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

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

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

Paul Ryan

Republicans don’t fear that Trump will trash the institutions that Americans have cherished for more than 200 years. Institutions like an independent judiciary, a free press, and an incorruptible Justice Department.

He has already attacked all of these—and Republicans have either said nothing or rushed to his defense.

And despite Trump’s repeated threats to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Republicans have refused to enact any safeguards to prevent this. In fact, if Trump did so, it’s doubtful that most Republicans would vote to impeach and convict him.

The reason: They fear losing the support of his fanatical base—even if it constitutes only 36% of all registered voters.

At the same time, Republicans fear that Trump will finally cross one line too many. And that the national outrage following this will force them to launch impeachment proceedings against him.

But it isn’t even Trump they fear will be destroyed.

What they most fear losing is their own hold on nearly absolute power in Congress and the White House.

If Trump is impeached and possibly indicted, he will become a man no one any longer fears. He will be a figure held up to ridicule and condemnation.

Like Adolf Hitler. Like Richard Nixon.

And his Congressional supporters will be branded as losers along with him.

Republicans vividly remember what happened after Nixon was forced to resign on August 9, 1974: Democrats, riding a wave of reform fever, swept Republicans out of the House and Senate—and Jimmy Carter into the White House.

Thus, Americans who are fed up with the chaos and cruelties of the Trump administration must find a way to separate Trump from his knee-jerk supporters in Congress. 

And here it is: 

American voters need not wait until the fall elections to “send a message” to Republicans in the House and Senate. Instead, they can immediately launch recall campaigns against all Republicans in both houses of Congress. 

That would have a far greater impact on Republicans than sending mere letters of outrage. Or even rejecting individual Republican candidates, such as Roy Moore in Alabama and Rick Saccone in Pennsylvania.

And this is where the Democratic party must finally show some backbone.

Democrats must launch an unceasing advertising campaign to persuade voters to force a nationwide recall of all Republicans. 

Republicans must be forced to realize they will lose their privileged positions for supporting a vicious, unstable President who sells out the Nation to a hostile foreign power—Russia. 

Only then will they sweep him out of the White House like a dead rat on the kitchen floor.

WHY REPUBLICANS SUPPORT TRUMP

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on December 27, 2017 at 2:10 am

While the Nazi Party ruled Germany from 1933 to 1945, its influence over all aspects of Germans’ lives was suffocating.

“The persuasive influence of the Nazi regime reached into every corner of everyday life in Germany,” reads the back cover of Richard Grunberger’s classic 1971 book, The 12-Year Reich

“Censorship prevailed, education was undermined, family life was idealized, but children were encouraged to turn in disloyal parents.

“‘Volk’ festivals, party rallies, awards, uniforms, pageantry all played a part in the massive effort to shape the mind of a nation.” 

Image result for Images of "The 12-Year Reich"

And yet, after the Reich surrendered unconditionally to the Allies on May 8, 1945, a strange thing happened: Virtually no one in Germany admitted to having been a Nazi—or having even known one.

American and British soldiers couldn’t find any German veterans willing to admit they had ever fought against Western, democratic nations. All the once-proud legionaries of the Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS swore they had been fighting “the real enemy”—the Russians—on the Eastern front. 

And then there were all the stories of Germans who, at great risk to themselves, had hidden Jews in their attics. Which left unanswered the question: If so many “good Germans” had saved so many Jews, how had six million Jews died horrifically before the Reich fell? 

In short: Adolf Hitler had lost the war he started—making him a loser nobody wanted to be identified with.

In the decades since, the “loser” tag has continued to stick with those who once served the Third Reich. Mel Brooks has repeatedly turned German soldiers—once the pride of the battlefield—into idiotic comic foils.

Even the fearsome Gestapo was spoofed for laughs on the long-running TV comedy, “Hogan’s Heroes.”

Related image

“Hogan’s Heroes”

“Americans love a winner,” George C. Scott as George S. Patton says at the outset of the classic 1970 movie. “And will not tolerate a loser.” 

And that is why Republicans have stuck so closely with President Donald J. Trump.

A typical example of this occurred on June 8 after former FBI director James Comey testified before the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

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

“I want to talk about Mike Flynn,” said Trump.

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

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

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

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

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

Paul Ryan

David Brooks, the conservative New York Times columnist, offered a more accurate explanation of Trump’s motives. Speaking on The PBS Newshour, Brooks said:

“We are a nation of laws. Donald Trump lives in an entirely different cultural universe. He is more clannist, believing in clan, believing in family, believing in loyalty, not recognizing objective law, not recognizing the procedures that is really how modern government operates….

“It’s not only that he doesn’t know the rules, but at all along and throughout his presidency, he has sort of trampled on the rules almost as a matter of policy, as a matter of character, because he doesn’t believe in that kind of relationships. It’s all personal loyalty, not about laws and norms and standards.”

Republicans don’t fear that Trump will trash the institutions that Americans have cherished for more than 200 years. Institutions like an independent judiciary, a free press, and an incorruptible Justice Department.

He has already attacked all of these—and Republicans have either said nothing or rushed to his defense.

What Republicans truly fear about Donald Trump is that he will finally cross one line too many—like firing Special Counsel Robert Meuller. And that the national outrage following this will force them to launch impeachment proceedings against him.

But it isn’t even Trump they fear will be destroyed.

What they most fear losing is their own hold on nearly absolute power in Congress and the White House.

If Trump is impeached and possibly indicted, he will become a man no one any longer fears. He will be a figure held up to ridicule and condemnation.

Like Adolf Hitler. Like Richard Nixon. 

And his Congressional supporters will be branded as losers along with him.

Republicans vividly remember what happened after Nixon was forced to resign on August 9, 1974: Democrats, riding a wave of reform fever, swept Republicans out of the House and Senate—and Jimmy Carter into the White House. 

What Ronald Reagan once said about the leadership of the Soviet Union now literally applies to that of the Republican Party:

“They…have openly and publicly declared that the only morality they recognize is what will further their cause, meaning they reserve unto themselves the right to commit any crime, to lie, to cheat, in order to attain that.”

REPUBLICANS: IF WE CAN’T OWN IT, WE’LL DESTROY IT

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on December 26, 2017 at 3:26 pm

On March 19, 1945, facing certain defeat, German Fuhrer Adolf Hitler ordered a massive “scorched-earth” campaign throughout Germany. 

Albert Speer, Minister of Armaments for the Third Reich, was appalled. All German agriculture, industry, ships, communications, roads, food stuffs, mines, bridges, stores and utility plants were to be destroyed.

Albert Speer and Adolf Hitler pouring over architectural plans

If implemented, it would deprive the entire German population of even the barest necessities after the war.

Now living in a bunker 50 feet below bomb-shattered Berlin, Hitler gave full vent to his most destructive impulses.

Adolf Hitler addressing boy soldiers as the Third Reich crumbles

“If the war is lost,” Hitler told Speer, “the nation will also perish. This fate is inevitable. There is no necessity to take into consideration the basis which the people will need to continue even a most primitive existence.

“On the contrary, it will be better to destroy these things ourselves, because this nation will have proved to be the weaker one and the future will belong solely to the stronger eastern nation.

“Besides, those who will remain after the battle are only the inferior ones, for the good ones have all been killed.”

Republicans have adopted the same “my-way-or-else” stance as Hitler. Like him, they are determined to gain and hold absolute power—or destroy the Nation they claim to love.

Take their current attitude toward—and attacks on—the U.S.Department of Justice and its chief investigative agency, the FBI.

On May 9, 2017,  President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. Comey had been leading an investigation into alleged collusion between Trump advisers and Russian officials when he was fired.   

At first, Trump claimed that he fired Comey for mishandling the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. 

Related image

James Comey

But, during a May 10 meeting at the White House, Trump admitted to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak: “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.” 

Following the uproar over Comey’s firing, on May 17, the Justice Department appointed former FBI director Robert Mueller as Special Counsel to investigate any links the between Russian government and Trump campaign members.  

Congressional Republicans joined Democrats in praising the appointment.  

  • House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, who had relentlessly pursued Hillary Clinton, said: “Mueller is a great selection. Impeccable credentials. Should be widely accepted.”  
  • “I commend (Department of Justice) for bringing in an independent voice to help bring clarity to this situation,” said Senator Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. 
  • House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said, “My priority has been to ensure thorough and independent investigations are allowed to follow the facts wherever they may lead. That is what we’ve been doing here in the House. The addition of Robert Mueller as special counsel is consistent with this goal, and I welcome his role at the Department of Justice.” 

Yet, since May, Trump, his shills in Congress and Right-wing Fox News have relentlessly attacked Mueller’s integrity and investigative methods. This despite the fact that Mueller was appointed by Republican President George W. Bush and served with an impeccable reputation for 12 years as FBI director (2001-2013).

The attacks grew increasingly vicious as Mueller uncovered evidence linking former high-ranking members of the Trump Presidential campaign to Russian Intelligence officials:

  • Former  national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty in December to lying to the FBI about his private conversations with Russian ambassador Kislyak. He is now cooperating with Mueller’s office.
  • Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates were indicted in October. They have pleaded not guilty and ordered under house arrest. 
  • George Papadopoulos, the former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, pleaded guilty in October to lying to the FBI about his dealings with two Russians who had ties to the Russian government. 

And the Republican response? 

  • “A witch hunt continues against the president with tremendous bias, no purpose and no end in sight,” charged Rep. Matthew Gaets (R-Florida).  
  • Gaetz joined Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Arizona) and Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) in demanding that Mueller resign because he was the FBI director in 2010 when Federal agencies approved the sale of Uranium One, a Canadian energy company, to a Russian nuclear-energy firm.  
  • “I think the public trust in this whole thing is gone,” said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a founder of the Right-wing Freedom Caucus. 
  • “Let’s start off with the head of the snake,” said Sean Hannity, the Fascistic commentator on Right-wing Fox News. “Mueller’s credibility is in the gutter tonight with these new discoveries, his conflicts of interests, his clear bias, the corruption are on full display. Mueller is frankly a disgrace to the American justice system and has put the country now on the brink of becoming a banana republic.”

There are three reasons for these attacks:

First, Republicans fear that Trump’s followers—the hard-core Fascists who turn out in mid-term elections—will reject them if they reject Trump.

Second, they fear that if Mueller’s investigation leads to Trump’s impeachment, they will be turned out of Congress—as many were after Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace.

Third, reports have circulated that many Congressional Republicans have received financial (and possibly intelligence) support from the Kremlin.

WHEN CRIMINALS FALL OUT, AMERICA WINS

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on November 16, 2017 at 12:17 am

In 1972, warfare erupted the between the two most powerful Mafia families of New York.

On one side: The Corleone Family, headed by “Don Vito” Corleone.  On the other: The Barzini Family, whose boss was Emilio Barzini.

Moviegoers flooded theaters across the nation to make The Godfather the highest-grossing film of 1972—and, for a time, the highest-grossing film ever made.

The Godfather written on a black background in stylized white lettering, above it a hand holds puppet strings

Audiences rooted for the Corleones and thrilled whenever a Barzini “soldier” bit the concrete.  And they moaned when Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) was shot and wounded at an outdoor market and Sonny Corleone (James Caan) got riddled by machine guns on a New Jersey causeway.

Why did so many moviegoers feel compelled to side with the Corleones?

One reason was that, early in the film, Don Corleone rejects an offer by the Barzini Family to enter the narcotics-trafficking business.

Many viewers saw this as proof that “Don Vito” was more honest than other Mafia chiefs who did enter the drug trade.  In fact, Corleone made it clear that he wanted to stay out for completely practical reasons.

When speaking with Virgil Sollotzzo, the Turkish drug kingpin backed by the Barzinis, Corleone says: “It makes no difference to me what a man does for a living.  But your business is a little dangerous.

“It’s true I have a lot of friends who are judges and politicians.  And they don’t mind if people want to gamble, or drink, or even pay for a woman.  But they wouldn’t be so friendly if they knew my business was drugs.”

In short, it wasn’t morality that led him to steer clear of narcotics trafficking.  He simply didn’t want to go to prison.

The other reason so many viewers identified with the Corleones lay in the brilliant casting of their members.

  • Marlon Brando—considered by many the greatest actor of his time—headed the cast.
  • Al Pacino, then an unknown, aroused sympathy as Michael, the Family outsider forced by the shooting of his father to become the Boss of All Bosses.
  • James Caan (as Sonny) is handsome and the defender of his brutalized sister, Connie, against her abusive husband, Carlo Rizzi.
  • John Cazale (as Fredo) is riddled with insecurities and not very bright, won the audiences’ sympathy by his sheer helplessness when compared to his ruthless siblings.

But the fact remained that the Corleones—for all their homilies about “honor” and “loyalty”—were every bit as greedy and lethal as their Mafia competitors.  They just played the game more ruthlessly—and successfully.

All of which brings us to the current Mafia-like struggle within the Republican party in Alabama. 

On one side: Roy Moore, the twice-ousted former chief justice of the Alabama supreme court, who is running for U.S. Senator.

Judge Roy Moore.jpg

Roy Moore

On the other: “Establishment” Republicans like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan. 

The uproar started when four women, in a Washington Post story, accused Moore of seeking romantic relationships with four teenage girls while he was in his 30s, and even trolling malls for such dates.

The worst of these charges came from Leigh Corfman, who said that, when she was 14, Moore took off her “shirt and pants and removed his clothes,” touched her “over her bra and underpants” and “guided her hand to touch him over his underwear.”

One of Moore’s defenders is Steve Bannon, executive chairman of Breitbart News, an online Right-wing news, opinion and commentary website. 

“This is nothing less than the politics of personal destruction,” he told Bloomberg News. “And they need to destroy him by any means necessary.”

Another is Sean Hannity, a talk show host on Fascistic Fox News. Interviewed on Hannity’s program, Moore said he did “not generally” remember dating teenagers when he was in his 30s.

Many Republicans want President Donald Trump to publicly urge Moore to step aside. But Trump is extremely reluctant to do so—and for good reason.  

On October 12, 2016, The Palm Beach Post, The New York Times and People all published stories of women claiming to have been sexually assaulted by Trump. By October 14, at least 12 women had publicly accused Trump of sexually inappropriate behavior. 

Trump, having become the poster boy of sexual harassment—if not predators—does not want the public once again reminded of his own repellent behavior. 

There are several possible outcomes here—all of them disastrous for the Republican party. 

  • Moore could win—thus becoming a national embarrassment to Republicans.
  • Moore could lose to his Democratic challenger, Doug Jones—thus giving Democrats one more Senator to oppose the Trump agenda.
  • Moore could win—and be expelled from the Senate by his fellow Republicans. This would require a two-thirds majority vote. It would ignite a civil war among “establishment” Republicans like McConnell and “anti-establishment” Right-wingers like Bannon, Hannity and even Trump.
  • No matter what Trump does, it will prove a lose/lose issue for Republicans. If he condemns Moore, he will be accused of hypocrisy. If he doesn’t, he will be accused of silently condoning sexually predatory behavior.

When predatory Mafiosi wipe each other out, honest citizens win. When Fascistic Republicans wage war on each other, democracy wins.

FROM GOEBBELS TO TRUMP IN ONE EASY MEMO

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on August 17, 2017 at 12:01 am

It was a memo that could have been written by Joseph Goebbels—Adolf Hitler’s brilliant and fanatical Minister of Propaganda.

The only difference: This memo was written in English, not German.

Related image

Joseph Goebbels

The memo was released by the White House on the evening of August 15. Earlier that day,  President Donald Trump had given a fiery, impromptu press conference defending white extremist groups.

This, in turn, had been prompted by Ku Klux Klan and Nazi violence that exploded in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend of August 12-13.

Trump’s incendiary remarks laying blame on both violent Fascists and non-violent protesters had ignited anger throughout the nation. And they caused many Republicans—in a rare show of claimed moral outrage—to publicly break with the President.

Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan of Wisconsin tweeted: “We must be clear. White supremacy is repulsive. This bigotry is counter to all this country stands for. There can be no moral ambiguity.”

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Paul Ryan

Arizona’s Republican United States Senator, Jeff Flake, released a statement on August 15: “We cannot accept excuses for white supremacy and acts of domestic terrorism. We must condemn them. Period.”

And John McCain, Arizona’s other Republican Senator, took to twitter on the same evening: “There is no moral equivalency between racists & Americans standing up to defy hate& bigotry.  The President of the United States should say so.”

Faced with such overwhelming condemnation, Donald Trump did what he always does when faced with criticism: He leaned on others to defend him.

On the evening of August 15, the White House sent out official “talking points” to Republican members of Congress.

The memo urged them to say that Trump was “entirely correct” that “both sides of the violence in Charlottesville acted inappropriately, and bear some responsibility.”

With unintended irony, the memo claimed that Trump “has been a voice for unity and calm, encouraging the country to ‘rediscover the bonds of love and loyalty that brings us together as Americans.'”

Left out of this statement were the following truths:

Love has nothing to do with:

  • Nazis and Ku Klux Klansmen who march down streets—as they did in Charlottesville—shouting: “Jews will not replace us!” and “Blood and soil!”
  • Columns of angry-faced men strutting down streets, yelling, “Whose streets?  Our streets!”
  • Hordes of heavily armed men—carrying shields, clubs, pistols and even automatic rifles—terrorizing the local citizenry.

And loyalty does not have anything to do with:

  • Those who proudly brandish Nazi swastika flags. Of the Nazis’ ultimate legacy, historian Klaus Fischer writes: “The Nazis’ New Order was little more than a slave empire, a vast system of organized oppression, exploitation, and extermination.”

  • People who proudly carry flags of the Confederacy, which gave the United States its greatest case of mass treason. From 1861 to 1865, members of this group waged war against a legitimately-elected government. And the reason for that Confederacy: To maintain and expand a slave empire of millions of black men, women and children.

Here is the White House memo:

NEWS OF THE DAY

Charlottesville

  • The President was entirely correct — both sides of the violence in Charlottesville acted inappropriately, and bear some responsibility.
  • Despite the criticism, the President reaffirmed some of our most important Founding principles: We are equal in the eyes of our Creator, equal under the law, and equal under our Constitution.
    • He has been a voice for unity and calm, encouraging the country to “rediscover the bonds of love and loyalty that brings us together as Americans.”
    • He called for the end of violence on all sides so that no more innocent lives would be lost.
  • The President condemned – with no ambiguity – the hate groups fueled by bigotry and racism over the weekend, and did so by name yesterday, but for the media that will never be enough.
    • The media reacted with hysteria to the notion that counter-protesters showed up with clubs spoiling for a fight, a fact that reporters on the ground have repeatedly stated.
    • Even a New York Times reporter tweeted that she “saw club-wielding “antifa” beating white nationalists being led out of the park.”
    • The local ACLU chapter also tweeted that
  • We should not overlook the facts just because the media finds them inconvenient:
    • From cop killing and violence at political rallies, to shooting at Congressmen at a practice baseball game, extremists on the left have engaged in terrible acts of violence.
    • The President is taking swift action to hold violent hate groups accountable.
      • The DOJ has opened a civil rights investigation into this weekend’s deadly car attack.
      • Last Thursday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced it had completed the largest prosecution of white supremacists in the nation’s history.
  • Leaders and the media in our country should join the president in trying to unite and heal our country rather than incite more division.

* * * * *

Many of those who oppose the goals of the Trump administration are now taking partial comfort in the sheer incompetence of the President.

He has always felt free to display his hatred, egomania and dictatorial nature. He has never been able to apologize or admit error.

As a real estate mogul, he could get away with such behavior in relative privacy. As President, these traits have turned into his worst enemies.

WHY TRUMP SCARES REPUBLICANS

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 20, 2017 at 12:05 am

While the Nazi Party ruled Germany from 1933 to 1945, its influence over all aspects of Germans’ lives was suffocating.

“The persuasive influence of the Nazi regime reached into every corner of everyday life in Germany,” reads the back cover of Richard Grunberger’s classic 1971 book, The 12-Year Reich

“Censorship prevailed, education was undermined, family life was idealized, but children were encouraged to turn in disloyal parents.

“‘Volk’ festivals, party rallies, awards, uniforms, pageantry all played a part in the massive effort to shape the mind of a nation.” 

Image result for Images of "The 12-Year Reich"

And yet, after the Reich surrendered unconditionally to the Allies on May 8, 1945, a strange thing happened: Virtually no one in Germany admitted to having been a Nazi—or having even known one.

American and British soldiers couldn’t find any German veterans willing to admit they had ever fought against Western, democratic nations. All the once-proud legionaries of the Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS swore they had been fighting “the real enemy”—the Russians—on the Eastern front. 

And then there were all the stories of Germans who, at great risk to themselves, had hidden Jews in their attics. Which left unanswered the question: If so many “good Germans” had saved so many Jews, how had six million Jews died horrifically before the Reich fell? 

In short: Adolf Hitler had lost the war he started—making him a loser nobody wanted to be identified with.

In the decades since, the “loser” tag has continued to stick with those who once served the Third Reich. Mel Brooks has repeatedly turned German soldiers—once the pride of the battlefield—into idiotic comic foils.

Even the fearsome Gestapo was spoofed for laughs on the long-running TV comedy, “Hogan’s Heroes.”

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“Hogan’s Heroes”

“Americans love a winner,” George C. Scott as George S. Patton says at the outset of the classic 1970 movie. “And will not tolerate a loser.” 

And that is why Republicans have stuck so closely with President Donald J. Trump.

A typical example of this occurred on June 8 after former FBI director James Comey testified before the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

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

“I want to talk about Mike Flynn,” said Trump.

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

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

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

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

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

Paul Ryan

David Brooks, the conservative New York Times columnist, offered a more accurate explanation of Trump’s motives. Speaking on The PBS Newshour, Brooks said:

“We are a nation of laws. Donald Trump lives in an entirely different cultural universe. He is more clannist, believing in clan, believing in family, believing in loyalty, not recognizing objective law, not recognizing the procedures that is really how modern government operates….

“It’s not only that he doesn’t know the rules, but at all along and throughout his presidency, he has sort of trampled on the rules almost as a matter of policy, as a matter of character, because he doesn’t believe in that kind of relationships. It’s all personal loyalty, not about laws and norms and standards.”

Republicans don’t fear that Trump will trash the institutions that Americans have cherished for more than 200 years. Institutions like an independent judiciary, a free press, and an incorruptible Justice Department.

He has already attacked all of these—and Republicans have either said nothing or rushed to his defense.

What Republicans truly fear about Donald Trump is that he will finally cross one line too many—like firing Special Counsel Robert Meuller. And that the national outrage following this will force them to launch impeachment proceedings against him.

But it isn’t even Trump they fear will be destroyed.

What they most fear losing is their own hold on nearly absolute power in Congress and the White House.

If Trump is impeached and possibly indicted, he will become a man no one any longer fears. He will be a figure held up to ridicule and condemnation.

Like Adolf Hitler. Like Richard Nixon. 

And his Congressional supporters will be branded as losers along with him.

Republicans vividly remember what happened after Nixon was forced to resign on August 9, 1974: Democrats, riding a wave of reform fever, swept Republicans out of the House and Senate—and Jimmy Carter into the White House. 

What Ronald Reagan once said about the leadership of the Soviet Union now literally applies to that of the Republican Party:

“They…have openly and publicly declared that the only morality they recognize is what will further their cause, meaning they reserve unto themselves the right to commit any crime, to lie, to cheat, in order to attain that.”

EVIL TRIUMPHS WHEN GOOD MEN DO NOTHING: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on May 29, 2017 at 12:01 am

Future historians may one day write that it’s what didn’t happen that played at least as great a role in electing Donald Trump President as what actually did.

There were at least four instances where intervention by Federal law enforcement authorities could have utterly changed the outcome of the 2016 election.

Two of these dealt with purely domestic issues–the Trump University scandal and Trump’s repeated threats of violence against Republican and Democratic opponents.

The third and fourth ones dealt with events directly affecting the security of the United States.

It is unprecedented for an American Presidential candidate to repeatedly bestow fulsome praise on the leader of a foreign power hostile to the United States. And to receive equally fawning compliments in return from that leader.

Yet that is precisely what has happened between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.

Thus Putin on Trump: “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.”

Vladimir Putin

And Trump on Putin: “It is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond.  He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader. Unlike what we have in this country”–a clear attack on President Barack Obama.

Donald Trump

Case #3: The Justice Department did not invalidate the results of the 2016 election, despite overwhelming evidence that Russia intervened to elect Trump as Vladimir Putin’s chosen candidate.

  • Admiral Michael Rogers, director of the National Security Agency (NSA) and US Cyber Command, said in mid-November that Russia made “a conscious effort” to sway the results of the Presidential election by the hacking of 20,000 emails from the Democratic National Committee.
  • “There shouldn’t be any doubt in anybody’s mind,” said Rogers. “This was not something that was done casually. This was not something that was done by chance. This was not a target that was selected purely arbitrarily. This was a conscious effort by a nation-state to attempt to achieve a specific effect.”

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  • The Russians hacked the Democratic committee’s servers–but not those of the Republican National Committee.
  • On December 16, FBI Director James B. Comey and Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. agreed with a CIA assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election in part to help Donald Trump win the White House. Related image

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.”   

Case #4: The Justice Department did not prosecute Trump for treason, even though he solicited aid from Russia, a nation hostile to the United States. And no major official of the government–including President Obama–publicly condemned him as a traitor. 

At a news conference in Doral, Florida, on July 27, 2016, Trump publicly exhorted “Russia”–i.e., Vladimir Putin–to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails: “I will tell you this, Russia: If you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” 

This was essentially treason–calling on a hostile foreign power to interfere directly in an American Presidential election. And it was seen as such by both Democrats and even some Republicans.

  • “This has to be the first time that a major presidential candidate has actively encouraged a foreign power to conduct espionage against his political opponent,” Hillary for America policy adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement. “That’s not hyperbole, those are just the facts. This has gone from being a matter of curiosity, and a matter of politics, to being a national security issue.”
  • “I find those kinds of statements to be totally outrageous because you’ve got now a presidential candidate who is, in fact, asking the Russians to engage in American politics,” said former CIA Director Leon Panetta, a Clinton surrogate. “I just think that’s beyond the pale.”
  • Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker Paul Ryan, said: “Russia is a global menace led by a devious thug. Putin should stay out of this election.”
  • Trump’s Vice Presidential running mate, Mike Pence, said: “If it is Russia and they are interfering in our elections, I can assure you both parties and the United States government will ensure there are serious consequences.”

FBI Director James Comey believed that Hillary Clinton’s emails on a private server were so dangerous to national security that he announced–11 days before the election–that he was re-opening an investigation he had closed.  

That announcement erased widespread outrage over Trump’s unintended admissions of predatory behavior toward women–“Grab them by the pussy”–and reversed Clinton’s growing lead in the polls.

Yet the Bureau did not issue any such statements about the continuing reports of close ties between Trump and Putin, and Trump’s possible investments in Russia.

To their shame, the federal agencies charged with safeguarding America failed to take action against these abuses. And, to their shame, the news media, to date, has failed to indict them for their negligence.

EVIL TRIUMPHS WHEN GOOD MEN DO NOTHING: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on May 26, 2017 at 12:36 am

Threatening his Republican and Democratic opponents with violence played a major role in Donald Trump’s campaign for President.

No other candidate–Republican or Democrat–had ever made such repeated and brutal use of threats of physical assault in pursuing the Presidency.

  • Philip Klein, the managing editor of the Washington Examiner,  wrote on the eve of the Republican National Convention in July: “Political commentators now routinely talk about the riots that would break out in Cleveland if Trump were denied the nomination, about how his supporters have guns and all hell could break loose, that they would burn everything to the ground. It works to Trump’s advantage to not try too hard to dispel these notions.”
  • On August 9,  Trump told a rally in Wilmington, North Carolina: “Hillary [Clinton] wants to abolish, essentially abolish, the Second Amendment. If she gets to pick her [Supreme Court] judges, nothing you can do folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.”
  • “Don’t treat this as a political misstep,” Senator Christopher S. Murphy of Connecticut, who has called for stiffer gun laws, wrote on Twitter. “It’s an assassination threat, seriously upping the possibility of a national tragedy & crisis.”
  • “Well, let me say if someone else said that outside of the hall, he’d be in the back of a police wagon now, with the Secret Service questioning him,” said Michael Hayden, former head of the CIA and National Security Agency (NSA).

Making threats against anyone under protection by the U.S. Secret Service is a felony. Yet Donald Trump was never held legally accountable by the Justice Department. 

Michael Hayden, CIA official portrait.jpg

Michael Hayden

Threats of this type continued to be made by Trump supporters right up to the day of the election.

  • On July 29, Roger Stone, a notorious Right-wing political consultant acting as a Trump strategist, told Breitbart News: “The first thing Trump needs to do is begin talking about [voter fraud] constantly. If there’s voter fraud, this election will be illegitimate, the election of the winner will be illegitimate, we will have a constitutional crisis, widespread civil disobedience, and the government will no longer be the government.”
  • At a town hall meeting where Trump’s Vice Presidential nominee Mike Pence appeared, a woman named Rhonda said: “For me personally, if Hillary Clinton gets in, I myself am ready for a revolution.”
  • In Cincinnati, a Trump supporter threatened to forcibly remove Clinton from the White House if she won the race: “If she’s in office, I hope we can start a coup. She should be in prison or shot. That’s how I feel about it,” Dan Bowman, a 50-year-old contractor, said of Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee. “We’re going to have a revolution and take them out of office if that’s what it takes. There’s going to be a lot of bloodshed. But that’s what it’s going to take….I would do whatever I can for my country.”

Even Fergus Cullen, former chairman of the New Hampshire GOP, expressed fear of what might happen if Trump lost the election:

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Fergus Cullen

“That’s really scary,” Cullen said, recounting the violence at Trump rallies around the country leading up to the Republican National Convention. “In this country, we’ve always had recriminations after one side loses. But we haven’t had riots. We haven’t had mobs that act out with violence against supporters of the other side.

“There’s no telling what his supporters would be willing to do at the slightest encouragement from their candidate,” he said.

Trump even began encouraging his mostly white supporters to sign up online to be “election observers” to stop “Crooked Hillary from rigging this election.” He urged them to act as poll watchers in “other” [non-white] communities to ensure that things are “on the up and up.”

Many of his supporters promised to do so.

“Trump said to watch your precincts. I’m going to go, for sure,” said Steve Webb, a 61-year-old carpenter from Fairfield, Ohio.

“I’ll look for…well, it’s called racial profiling. Mexicans. Syrians. People who can’t speak American,” he said. “I’m going to go right up behind them. I’ll do everything legally. I want to see if they are accountable. I’m not going to do anything illegal. I’m going to make them a little bit nervous.”

Knowing that large numbers of angry–and possibly armed–Right-wingers planned to descend on polling places could only have had a chilling effect on untold numbers of Democratic voters. And this would have been especially true in heavily conservative states.

Both the USA Patriot Act and the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act have statutes dealing with making terrorist threats against government institutions to influence their members.

Image result for Official White House photos of George W. Bush signing USA Patriot Act

President George W. Bush signing the USA Patriot Reauthorization Act of 2005

Thus, the Justice Department could have cited the Patriot Act in indicting Trump and/or any number of his followers for “activities that…appear to be intended…to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion [and]…occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.”

The Justice Department could have also demanded that the results of the election be invalidated on the basis that widespread voter and candidate intimidation played a massive role in it.

But of course this did not happen.

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