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Posts Tagged ‘REPUBLICAN PARTY’

THE EVIL THAT POLITICIANS DO

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on August 16, 2016 at 12:42 am

“All revolutions,” said Ernst Rohem, leader of Adolf Hitler’s brown-shirted thugs, the S.A., “devour their own children.”

Ernst Rohem

Fittingly, he said this as he sat inside a prison cell awaiting his own execution.

On June 30, 1934, Hitler had ordered a massive purge of his private army, the S.A., or Stormtroopers. The purge was carried out by Hitler’s elite army-within-an-army, the Schutzstaffel, or Protective Squads, better known as the SS.

The S.A. Brownshirts had been instrumental in securing Hitler’s rise to Chancellor of Germany on January 30, 1933. They had intimidated political opponents and organized mass rallies for the Nazi Party.

But after Hitler reached the pinnacle of power, they became a liability.

Ernst Rohem, their commander, urged Hitler to disband the regular German army, the Reichswehr, and replace it with his own legions as the nation’s defense force.

Frightened by Rohem’s ambitions, the generals of the Reichswehr gave Hitler an ultimatum: Get rid of Rohem–or they would get rid of him.

So Rohem died in a hail of SS bullets–as did several hundred of his longtime S.A. cronies.

SS firing squad

At least one member of the Republican Party has now learned that an apparently useful weapon can become a liability.

Ever since Barack Obama became a Presidential candidate in 2008, Republicans have accused him of being ineligible to hold office.

Without a political scandal (such as Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky) to fasten on, the Republican Party opted for slander: Obama had been born in Kenya–and thus was not an American citizen. 

From this there could be only one conclusion: That he would be an illegitimate President–and should be removed from office if elected. 

And this smear campaign continued after he won the election. Right-wingers like real estate billionaire Donald Trump insisted that Obama had been born in Kenya, not Honolulu.  

During his first two years in office, Obama tried to ignore the charge.

But polls repeatedly showed that large segments of the country believed it. Finally, even Obama’s closest advisers warned him: You must address this and put it to rest.

So, on April 27, 2011, the President released the long-form of his Hawaii birth certificate.

The long-form version of President Obama’s birth certificate

For the vast majority of Americans, this settled the issue. In 2012, they re-elected Obama to a second, four-year term.

Nevertheless, for many Right-wingers, even the release of Obama’s long-form birth certificate meant nothing.  

Joseph Arpaio, the Right-wing sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, claimed that his “investigators” were certain that Obama’s birth certificate was fraudulent.

Responding to Arpaio’s claims, Joshua A. Wisch, a special assistant to Hawaii’s attorney general, said: “President Obama was born in Honolulu, and his birth certificate is valid. Regarding the latest allegations from a sheriff in Arizona, they are untrue, misinformed and misconstrue Hawaii law.”

Fast forward to 2015.

Donald Trump, who had threatened to run for President in 2012, announced his candidacy on June 16. He quickly became–and remained–the front-runner for Republican voters.

But then Texas’ United States Senator Rafael “Ted” Cruz entered the race. As radical and ruthless as Trump, he quickly became the billionaire’s most dangerous competitor.

Ted Cruz, official portrait, 113th Congress.jpg

Rafael “Ted” Cruz

What to do?

Then Trump–or someone in his campaign–had an inspiration. Why not use against Cruz the same “he’s-not-an-American” charge that had been used against Obama?  

Cruz, born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, was not a natural-born American citizen–and was thus ineligible to be President.  His mother was an American, but his father was Cuban.

The U.S. Constitution states specifically that “No person except a natural born Citizen …shall be eligible to the Office of President.”

Cruz argued that because his mother was an American, he became an American citizen at birth.

But courts have never ruled on the issue of what constitutes a “natural-born” citizen.

At first, the issue seemed confined to Republican politicians and those likely to vote for them. But then others outside the Right began investigating it.

Mary McManamon, a constitutional law professor at Widener University’s Delaware Law School, concluded in an Open Editorial for The Washington Post:

“Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) is not a natural-born citizen and therefore is not eligible to be president or vice president of the United States.”

Cruz got an even bigger slap in the face from Laurence Tribe, the celebrated professor of Constitutional law at Harvard University. He has argued before the United States Supreme Court 36 times.

Writing in The Boston Globe, Tribe stated:

“…The kind of judge Cruz says he admires and would appoint to the Supreme Court is an ‘originalist,’ one who claims to be bound by the narrowly historical meaning of the Constitution’s terms at the time of their adoption.

“To his kind of judge, Cruz ironically wouldn’t be eligible, because the legal principles that prevailed in the 1780s and ’90s required that someone actually be born on US soil to be a “natural born” citizen.”  [Italics added.]

So long as Cruz stayed in the race, Trump continued to use the “birther” charge against him. And it continued to dog him, as it did Obama.

Thus, the evil that politicians do lives after them.

 

REPUBLICANS: AMERICA’S STORMTROOPERS: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on August 11, 2016 at 1:05 am

Donald Trump’s “dog-whistle” solicitation for the political assassination of Hillary Clinton has been decried as unprecedented.  In fact, it is anything but.

Repeatedly, Republicans have aimed violent–and violence-arousing–rhetoric at their Democratic opponents.

This is not a case of careless language that is simply misinterpreted, with tragic results.

Republicans like former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin–and Trump–fully understand the constituency they are trying to reach: Those masses of alienated, uneducated Americans who live only for their guns and hard-line religious beliefs–and who can be easily manipulated by perceived threats to either.

Sarah Palin’s “Crosshairs” Map

If a “nutcase” assaults a Democratic politician and misses, then the Republican establishment claims to be shocked–shocked!–that such a thing could have happened.

And if the attempt proves successful, then Republicans weep crocodile tears for public consumption.

The difference is that, in the latter case, they rejoice in knowing that Democratic ranks have been thinned and their opponents are even more on the defensive, for fear of the same happening to them.

The most important target of these intended assaults has been President Barack Obama.

In August, 2009, about a dozen people carrying guns, including one with a military-style rifle, milled among protesters outside a Phoenix convention center where President Obama was giving a speech.

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Anti-Obama poster

A week earlier, during Obama’s healthcare town hall in New Hampshire, a man carrying a sign reading “It is time to water the tree of liberty” stood outside with a pistol strapped to his leg.  

Fred Solop, a Northern Arizona University political scientist, said the incidents in New Hampshire and Arizona could signal the beginning of a disturbing trend.

“When you start to bring guns to political rallies, it does layer on another level of concern and significance,” Solop said. “It actually becomes quite scary for many people. It creates a chilling effect in the ability of our society to carry on honest communication.”  

But now that Hillary Clinton has become the official Democratic Presidential nominee, Republican hatred has moved from Obama to her. Shouts of “Lock her up!” thundered at the Republican National Convention which nominated Donald Trump.  

In July, Trump called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to hack into U.S. State Department emails to “find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”

And now Trump has called on literally hair-triggered gun fanatics to remove his political rival.

The way to prevent such tragedies in the future is to hold fully accountable not just the shooters but those who deliberately point them toward their targets and repeatedly scream: “Kill the traitors!” 

Americans must shed their naive belief that “America is exempt from the political corruption of other countries.” And they must see the Republicans’ lust for absolute power at any price as the danger it presents to the future of the Republic.

Among the steps that need to be taken:

First, the families and friends of the Tucson massacre victims should file civil lawsuits against Sarah Palin and every other Republican who can be proved to have created the firestorm of hate that consumed 20 people on January 8, 2011.

A legal precedent for such lawsuits emerged 20 years ago, and still remains viable.

On November 13, 1988, in Portland, Oregon, three white supremacist members of East Side White Pride and White Aryan Resistance (WAR) beat to death Mulugeta Seraw, an Ethiopian man who came to the United States to attend college.

Morris Dees and the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a civil suit (Berhanu v. Metzger) against Tom Metzger, founder of WAR.  They argued that WAR influenced Seraw’s killers by encouraging their group, East Side White Pride, to commit violence.

At the trial, WAR national vice president Dave Mazzella testified how the Metzgers instructed WAR members to commit violence against minorities.

Tom and John Metzger were found civilly liable under the doctrine of vicarious liability, in which one can be liable for a tort committed by a subordinate or by another person who is taking instructions.

In October 1990, the jury returned the largest civil verdict in Oregon history at the time–$12.5 million–against Metzger and WAR.  The Metzgers’ house was seized, and most of WAR’s profits go to paying off the judgment.

Second, the FBI and Justice Department should launch an all-out investigation into not simply right-wing hate groups but those political leaders who openly or secretly encourage and support their activities. Those who are found doing so should be vigorously indicted and prosecuted under the anti-terrorism statutes.

Third, the Secret Service should immediately adopt the policy that no one but sworn law enforcement officers will be allowed to carry firearms within the immediate vicinity of the President.  And it should enforce that policy through its elite counter-sniper teams.

Finally, President Obama should do what President Bill Clinton refused to do at the time of the 1995 truck-bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building: He should publicly condemn those Republicans who give “aid and comfort” to the right-wing extremists whose support they openly court.

Unless such steps are taken, Right-wing candidates like Donald Trump will continue to solicit the murder of their political opponents. And those outrages will continue until a Republican version of the swastika permanently flies over the capitol dome and the White House.

REPUBLICANS: AMERICA’S STORMTROOPERS: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on August 10, 2016 at 12:12 am

“Hillary wants to abolish, essentially abolish, the Second Amendment,” Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump told a rally in Wilmington, North Carolina. 

That in itself was untrue, but what followed was worse.

“If she gets to pick her [Supreme Court] judges,” said Trump, “nothing you can do folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.”

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Donald Trump

The Clinton camp instantly saw it as a “dog-whistle” solicitation for political assassination.

Virginia U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, Clinton’s vice presidential running mate, said: “Nobody who is seeking a leadership position, especially the presidency, the leadership of the country, should do anything to countenance violence, and that’s what he was saying.”

The Trump campaign, of course, denied that he had meant any such thing.

According to a statement from the Trump campaign: “It’s called the power of unification–2nd Amendment people have amazing spirit and are tremendously unified, which gives them great political power. And this year, they will be voting in record numbers, and it won’t be for Hillary Clinton, it will be for Donald Trump.”

Increasingly, Republicans have repeatedly aimed violent–and violence-arousing–rhetoric at their Democratic opponents. This is not a case of careless language that is simply misinterpreted, with tragic results. 

Republicans like former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin fully understand the constituency they are trying to reach: Those masses of alienated, uneducated Americans who live only for their guns and hardline religious beliefs–and who can be easily manipulated by perceived threats to either.

If a “nutcases” assaults a Democratic politician and misses, then the Republican establishment claims to be shocked–shocked!–that such a thing could have happened.

And if the attempt proves successful–as the January 8, 2011 Tucson shootings of Arizona’s Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and chief U.S. District judge, John Roll did–then Republicans weep crocodile tears for public consumption.

The difference is that, in the latter case, they rejoice in knowing that Democratic ranks have been thinned and their opponents are even more on the defensive, for fear of the same happening to them.

Consider the following:

  • Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Tex.) yelled “baby killer” at Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) on the House floor.
  • Florida GOP Congressional candidate Allen West, referring to his Democratic opponent, Rep. Ron Klein, told Tea Party activists: You’ve got to make the fellow scared to come out of his house.  That’s the only way that you’re going to win.  That’s the only way you’re going to get these people’s attention.”
  • Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) said Tea Partiers had “every right” to use racist and homophobic slurs against Democrats, justifying it via Democrats’ “totalitarian tactics.”
  • Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn.) said she wanted her constituents “armed and dangerous” against the Obama administration.
  • Sarah Palin told her supporters: “Get in their face and argue with them. No matter how tough it gets, never retreat, instead RELOAD!”
  • Right-wing pundit Ann Coulter: “My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times building.”
  • Senator Phil Gramm (R-Tex.) “We’re going to keep building the party until we’re hunting Democrats with dogs.”
  • Rep. Louisa M. Slauter (D-NY) received a phone message threatening sniper attacks against lawmakers and their families.

For more than 50 years, Republicans have vilified government–except when they controlled it. They have sought to convince Americans that Democrats are at least potential traitors, if not actual ones.

Among the slanders Republicans have routinely hurled at Democrats:

  • Democrats are plotting to “take away your guns.”
  • Democrats are “anti-work” and want to turn America into a welfare-dependent society.
  • Democrats are “Godless” and want to force atheism on believing Christians.
  • Democrats will allow United Nations “black helicopters” to stage a military takeover of the United States..

During the 1992 Presidential campaign, Republicans tried to paint Bill Clinton as a brainwashed “Manchurian candidate” because he had briefly visited the Soviet Union during his college years.

After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Republicans lost their “soft on Communism” slander-line.  So they tried to persuade voters that Democrats were “soft on crime.”

When riots flared in 1992 after the acquittal of LAPD officers who had savagely beaten Rodney King, President George H.W. Bush blamed the carnage on the “Great Society” programs of the 1960s.

When President Barack Obama set out to provide healthcare for all Americans–and not simply the wealthy–Republicans tried to frighten voters with lies.

The most infamous of these was that healthcare reform would lead to wholesale murder by government “death panels,” as Sarah Palin put it.

Republicans have since encouraged right-wing groups to claim that Obama was not born in Hawaii, but in Kenya. The reason: To strip Obama of legitimacy as a leader.

Republicans–brandishing photos of President Obama bearing a Hitler forelock and toothbrush mustache–have claimed he intends to set up concentration camps for those who disagree with him.

Newt Gingrich, the former Republican Speaker of the House, charged that Obama was pursuing a socialist agenda to reform healthcare.

In his book, To Save America: Stopping Obama’s Secular-Socialist Machine, Gingrich claimed that Obama’s policy agenda was as “great a threat to America as Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.”

REWRITING THE PAST TO CONTROL THE PRESENT

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on August 4, 2016 at 12:21 am

At one time, Americans believed that the wholesale rewriting of history happened only in the Soviet Union. 

A classic example of this occurred in the Great Soviet Encyclopedia.  

Lavrenti Beria had been head of the NKVD, the dreaded secret police, from 1938 to 1953. In 1953, following the death of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, Beria was arrested and executed on orders of his fellow Communist Party leaders, who feared they were targets of a coming purge.  

Lavrenti Beria

But the Great Soviet Encyclopedia had just gone to press with a long article singing Beria’s praises.  

What to do?  

The editors of the Encyclopedia wrote an equally long article about “the Bering Straits,” which was to be pasted over the article about Beria, and sent this off to its subscribers. An unknown number of them decided it was safer to paste accordingly. 

Today, the Republican party is furiously rewriting history in a desperate attempt to win the 2016 Presidential election. 

Specifically, its members are now trying to convince Americans that:

  1. Donald Trump, their nominee for President, did not insult the parents of Captain Humayun Khan, who was killed by a truck-bomb in Iraq in 2004; and/or
  2. Barack Obama is responsible for Khan’s death. And so is Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

That is history according to Trump’s spokeswoman, Katrina Pierson.

Since July 28, Trump has found himself embroiled in a no-win war-of-words with Khan’s father, Khizr, and his mother, Ghazala.  

Khizr was a featured speaker at the Democratic National Convention, and he used the opportunity to attack Trump:

“If it was up to Donald Trump, [Humayun] never would have been in America. Donald Trump consistently smears the character of Muslims. He disrespects other minorities, women, judges, even his own party leadership. He vows to build walls and ban us from this country….You have sacrificed nothing and no one.” 

Trump predictably responded during a July 30 interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos. 

“I think I’ve made a lot of sacrifices,” said Trump. “I work very, very hard. I’ve created thousands and thousands of jobs, tens of thousands of jobs.”  

And, on Twitter, he posted: “I was viciously attacked by Mr. Khan at the Democratic Convention. Am I not allowed to respond? Hillary voted for the Iraq war, not me!”  

Trump has been bitterly attacked by veterans’ organizations for his running feud with the Khan family.  

Republicans are desperate for Trump to end the conflict and return to attacking his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.  

Presumably, that was the assignment given to Trump’s spokeswoman, Katrina Pierson.

Appearing on CNN’s The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer on August 2, Pierson said: “It was under Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton that changed the rules of engagements that probably cost his life.”

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Katrina Pierson

Totally ignored in that scenario: 

  • President George W. Bush lied the nation into a needless war that cost the lives of 4,486 Americans and wounded another 33,226.  
  • Barack Obama did not become President until 2009–almost five years after Khan’s death.
  • And Hillary Clinton did not become Secretary of State until the same year.

Pierson argued that Trump should be exempt from apologizing to the Khan family because he “never voted for the Iraq War.”  

“Hillary Clinton did,” Pierson added. “And then she didn’t support the troops to have what they need.”

It’s true that Clinton, elected U.S. Senator from New York in 2000, voted in 2002 to support Bush’s attack on Iraq.  

But Obama, elected U.S. Senator from Illinois in 2004, strongly opposed the Iraq war from the onset of his term. In fact, he made it a major issue during his 2008 Presidential race against Arizona U.S. Senator John McCain.

Pierson’s attempt to rewrite history touched off a frenzy on Twitter, leading to the creation of the hashtag #KatrinaPiersonHistory. Its purpose: To mock Pierson’s revisionist take on history.

Among the tweets offered:  

  • Hillary Clinton slashed funding for security at the Ford Theater, leading to Lincoln’s assassination. 
  • Obama introduced John Lennon to Yoko Ono, and well, you know.  
  • Obama gave Amelia Earhart directions to Kenya.  
  • Remember the Alamo? Obama and Hillary let it happen.
  • Obama and Clinton kidnapped the Lindbergh baby.  
  • Obama decided that too many lifeboats would offend radical Islamic terrorists abord the Titanic.  
  • Barack Obama convinced the serpent to tempt Eve in the Garden of Eden.  
  • Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton organized The Spanish Inquisition.

The effect has been to turn Trump’s spokeswoman into a nationwide laughingstock. And her efforts to rewrite history have not helped Trump.

On August 3, Pierson appeared on CNN’s New Day. She admitted being wrong about the timeline and said she had been trying to say that Donald Trump has no connection to the Khans.

Later on CNN, Anderson Cooper Khizr Khan to comment on Pierson’s allegation. 

“Do I need to say anything?” Khan replied. “Lack of understanding, lack of factual correctness, it’s just nothing but political vote pandering.”  

In George Orwell’s novel, 1984, the unnamed Party’s slogan is: “He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.”

The same holds true for Republicans: They hope to rewrite the past, as Joseph Stalin did, to wash away their crimes and errors–and pin these on their self-declared enemies.

And thus gain–and retain–absolute power over 300 million Americans.

RIGHT-WING TREASON: FIRST FOX, NOW TRUMP

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 28, 2016 at 12:08 am

“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.”

The speaker was Donald Trump, holding a July 27 press conference in Doral, Fla.

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Donald Trump

And he was urging a foreign leader to hack into the private email server of his Presidential rival, Hillary Clinton.

Five days earlier, Wikileaks had released 19,252 emails and 8,034 attachments hacked from computers of the highest-ranking officials of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

Cyber-security experts believe the hacking originated from Russia–and that Russian President Vladimir Putin may have authorized it.

Politicians on the Left and Right expressed outrage at Trump’s remarks.

But this is not the first time the Right has jeopardized American security.

During the 2012 Presidential campaign, supporters of Mitt Romney accused President Barack Obama of leaking top-secret details of the U.S. Navy SEALs raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

The raid, launched on May 1, 2011, resulted in the death of the 9/11 mastermind and the capture of a treasury of highly sensitive Al Qaeda documents.

According to Right-wingers, Obama wanted to provide Hollywood screenwriters with material for a movie to glorify his role in authorizing the raid.

In August, 2012, the Right found its own secrets-leakers.  And they operated under the name of the Fox News Network.

Their motive: To promote a book–No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden. It was slated to hit bookstores on September 11–the 11th anniversary of Al Qaeda’s attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center.

It had been penned under the pseudonym “Mark  Owen.” But the real name of the author–a 36-year-old former Navy SEAL Team Six member who took part in the raid–was Matt Bissonnette, of Wrangell, Alaska.

Bissonnette’s real name became public after multiple sources leaked it to Fox News–who revealed it on August 23.

The Navy SEALs who killed bin Laden had previously been left unidentified.

Fox News had repeatedly accused President Obama and members of his administration of treasonously leaking military secrets to the media to glorify the President.

Many former and current SEAL members feared that the book would release information that could compromise future missions.

U.S. Navy SEALs insignia

One Navy SEAL told Fox News, “How do we tell our guys to stay quiet when this guy won’t?”  Some SEALs called Bissonnette a “traitor.”

And Colonel Tim Nye, a Special Operations Command spokesman, said the author “put himself in danger” by writing the book.

“This individual came forward. He started the process. He had to have known where this would lead. He’s the one who started this, so he bears the ultimate responsibility for this.”

But Bissonnette placed more than his own life in jeopardy. He endangered the lives of every one of the men who participated in the bin Laden raid.

If Bissonnette fell into the hands of Al Qaeda terrorists or sympathizers, he could conceivably be tortured into revealing at least some of the names and locations of his former team members.

And Fox News not only revealed his true name but the town where he lived.

Even the liberal Nation magazine was appalled at the recklessness of this Right-wing propaganda outlet. Jeremy Scahill, a writer for Nation, tweeted:

“Why on earth would FOX News publish the alleged identity of one of the ST6 members who was in the OBL raid? Seriously.”

Millions of Right-wing Americans have been conditioned by decades of Fascistic propaganda to believe that:

  • Democrats are all traitors–or at least potential traitors.
  • Even those Democrats who aren’t traitors are too weak-kneed to protect the nation from its sworn enemies.
  • Democrats (have betrayed) (are betraying) (intend to betray) national security secrets to the Soviet/Chinese Communists.
  • Democrats have (betrayed/) (are betraying) (intend to betray) national security secrets to Islamic Jihadists.
  • Only Republicans can be trusted to protect the nation.

Republicans blamed President Harry S. Truman for “losing China” to the forces of Mao Tse Tung in 1949. America could not have prevented a corrupt and incompetent Chiang Kai-Shek from being driven off the Chinese mainland by Mao’s overwhelmingly powerful armies.

Then, in 1950, Senator “Tail Gunner Joe” McCarthy charged that the State Department was infested by Communists–and that the Truman administration knew it but refused to take action. The charges were false.

Joseph R. McCarthy

During the 2008 Presidential campaign, Republicans charged that Barack Obama was really a Muslim non-citizen who intended to sell out America’s security to his Muslim “masters.”

Attacking the patriotism of their opponents has repeatedly elected Republicans:

  • It elected Dwight Eisenhower President and turned Congress Republican in 1952 and 1956.
  • It elected Richard Nixon President in 1968 and 1972.
  • It elected Ronald Reagan President in 1980 and 1984.
  • It elected George H.W. Bush President in 1988.
  • It gave Republicans control of the Congress in 1994 (although Bill Clinton had been elected President in 1992).
  • It elected George W. Bush President in 2000 and 2004.
  • It gave control of the House to Republicans in 2010 and the Senate in 2014.

And now Republicans hope this appeal will elect a man who has openly called on Vladimir Putin to hack into American computers.

THE FIRST RULE OF CONSPIRACIES–AND COMPUTERS

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 26, 2016 at 12:15 am

On July 22, Wikileaks released 19,252 emails and 8,034 attachments hacked from computers of the highest-ranking officials of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

The emails were exchanged from January 2015 through May 2016.

These clearly reveal a bias for Hillary Clinton and against her lone challenger, Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders.

One email revealed that Brad Marshall, the chief financial officer of the DNC, suggested that Sanders, who is Jewish, could be portrayed as an atheist. 

Sanders’ supporters have long charged that the DNC and its chair, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, were plotting to undercut his campaign. Now thousands of them are expected to descend on the Democratic convention as furious protesters.  

The leak could not have come at a worse time for Hillary Clinton, the former First Lady, U.S. Senator from New York and Secretary of State under President Barack Obama.

About to receive the Democratic nomination for President, she finds herself charged with undermining the electoral process. 

Wasserman-Schultz has proven the first casualty of the leak, resigning from her position as chair of the DNC and saying she would not open the Democratic convention as previously scheduled.

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Debbie Wasserman-Schultz

As for Clinton: Her campaign manager, Bobby Mook, blamed the Russians for the leak. Their alleged motive: To help Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Cyber-security experts believe the hackers originated from Russia–and that Russian President Vladimir Putin may have authorized it.

His alleged motive: Trump has repeatedly attacked United States’ membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

He believes the United States is paying an unfairly large portion of the monies needed to maintain this alliance–and he wants other members to contribute far more. Otherwise, if he is elected President, they would be on their own if attacked by Russia.

Trump took to twitter to offer his take on the release: “How much BAD JUDGEMENT was on display by the people in DNC in writing those really dumb e-mails, using even religion, against Bernie!”  

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Bernie Sanders

Which brings up the obvious question: Why was such sensitive information entrusted to computers that could be hacked? 

This is not the first time a major corporation or government agency has fallen prey to hackers.

Name-brand companies, trusted by millions, have been hit with massive data breaches that compromised their customers’ and/or employees’ most sensitive financial and personal information.

Among those companies and agencies:

  • Target
  • Kmart
  • Home Depot
  • JPMorgan/Chase
  • Staples
  • Dairy Queen
  • Anthem, Inc.
  • Sony Pictures
  • The U.S. State Department
  • The Pentagon
  • The Office of Personnel Management

Perhaps the most notorious target so far hacked is Ashley Madison, the website for cheating wives and husbands. Launched in 2001, its catchy slogan is: “Life is short. Have an affair.”  

Ashley Madison - Ashley Madison Agency

On July 15, 2015, its more than 37 million members learned that highly embarrassing secrets they had entrusted to Ashley Madison had been compromised.

This included their sexual fantasies, matching credit card transactions, real names and addresses, and employee documents and emails.

A website offering cheating services to those wealthy enough to afford high-priced fees is an obvious target for hackers. After all, its database is a blackmailer’s dream-come-true.  

And the same is true for computers of one of the two major political parties of the United States. 

Among the secrets unearthed in the WikiLeaks document-dump: Plans by Democratic party officials to reward large donors and prominent fundraisers with lucrative appointments to federal boards and commissions.

Most of the donors listed gave to Clinton’s campaign. None gave to Sanders.

According to Ken Boehm, chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center, a government watchdog group: 

“The disclosed DNC emails sure look like the potential Clinton Administration has intertwined the appointments to federal government boards and commissions with the political and fund raising operations of the Democratic Party. That is unethical, if not illegal.”  

Centuries before the invention of computers–and the machinery needed to hack into them–Niccolo Machiavelli offered cautionary advice to those thinking of entering into a conspiracy.  He did so in his masterwork on politics, The Discourses.  

Niccolo Machiavelli

Unlike his better-known work, The Prince, which deals with how to secure power, The Discourses lays out rules for preserving liberty within a republic.

In Book Three, Chapter Six (“Of Conspiracies”) he writes:

“I have heard many wise men say that you may talk freely with any one man about everything, for unless you have committed yourself in writing, the ‘Yes’ of one man is worth as much as the ‘No’ of another. 

“And therefore one should guard most carefully against writing, as against a dangerous rock, for nothing will convict you quicker than your own handwriting.”

In 1804, Napoleon Bonaparte, then First Consul of France, ordered the execution of the popular Louis Antoine de Bourbon, Duke of Enghien, claiming that he had aided Britain and plotted against France.

The aristocracy of Europe, still recalling the slaughters of the French Revolution, was shocked. 

Asked for his opinion on the execution, Napoleon’s chief of police, Joseph Fouche, said: “It was worse than a crime; it was a blunder.”  

This may prove to be history’s verdict on the storing of so many incriminating computer files by the DNC.

MIKE PENCE’S LEGACY: BRINGING SHARIA LAW TO AMERICA

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 18, 2016 at 3:48 pm

Michael Richard “Mike” Pence served as a Republican member of the House of Representatives from 2001 to 2013. He also served as Chairman of the House Republican Conference from 2009 to 2012.  

In 2012, he ran for Governor of Indiana, won the election, and assumed this office in 2013.

On July 15, 2016, Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump announced on Twitter that he had selected Pence as his Vice Presidential running mate in the 2016 Presidential election.

As a member of Congress, Pence: 

  • Voted, in 2007, to defund Planned Parenthood because it provides abortions.
  • Opposed, in 2009, giving American citizenship to children born to illegal aliens living within the United States.
  • Compared the U.S. Supreme Court’s upholding the Constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
  • Voted to eliminate funding for climate education programs and to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions.

As Governor, Pence: 

  • Unsuccessfully pushed for a 10% income-tax rate cut.
  • Signed legislation in 2015 that repealed an 80-year-old Indiana law requiring construction companies working on publicly funded projects to pay a prevailing wage.
  • Successfully lobbied in 2013 to limit reductions in sentences for marijuana offenses.
  • Agreed, in 2015, to expand Medicaid in Indiana, in accordance with the Affordable Care Act.

But for all of Pence’s actions as Congressman and Governor, the one which may prove the most far-reaching may be this: His signing into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

As Governor of Indiana, he did this on March 26, 2015. The law allows any individual or corporation to cite its religious beliefs as a defense when sued by a private party.

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Mike Pence

Officially, its intent is to prevent the government from forcing business owners to act in ways contrary to strongly held religious beliefs. Unofficially, its purpose is to appease the hatred of gays and lesbians by the religious Right, a key constituency of the Republican party.

In short, a bakery that doesn’t want to make a cake to be used at a gay wedding or a restaurant that doesn’t want to serve lesbian patrons will have the legal right to refuse to do so.

The same applies for a hospital that doesn’t want to provide care to a gay or lesbian patient. 

The bill was passed overwhelmingly by both chambers of the Republican-controlled state legislature.  

“Today I signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, because I support the freedom of religion for every Hoosier of every faith,” Pence said in a statement on the day he signed the bill.

“The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action.”

Bill-signing ceremonies are usually highly public events. Governors–and presidents–normally want their constituents to see them creating new legislation.

Yet for all his praise for the bill, Pence signed it in a ceremony closed to the public and the press. The media were asked to leave even the waiting area of the governor’s office.

It’s almost as if Pence sensed that he was about to push open a door into a danger-filled room. And this may well be the case.

Through that door may soon march the First Church of Cannabis. The day after Pence signed the Act, church founder Bill Levin announced on his Facebook page that he had filed paperwork with the office of the Indiana Secretary of State.

Its registration had been approved–and Levin was ecstatic: “Now we begin to accomplish our goals of Love, Understanding, and Good Health.

“Donate $100 or more and become a GREEN ANGEL. Donate $500 or more and become a GOLD ANGEL. Donate $1000 or more and become a CHURCH POOHBA.”

No doubt many Indiana legislators are furious that their effort to attack gays may have brought legal marijuana to their highly conservative state. But worse may be to come.

Since 9/11, Right-wingers such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity have warned that Muslims are trying to impose Sharia (Islamic law) on America. And now Indiana’s legislators, in elevating religion above the law, may have laid the legal foundations for making that possible.

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Muslims demanding the imposition of Sharia law–on themselves and non-Muslims

Ironically, this may not be so far removed from the goals of the Republican party as many think. Both the party and adherents of Sharia agree:

  • Women should have fewer rights than men.
  • Abortion should be illegal.
  • There should be no separation between church and state.
  • Religion should be taught in school.
  • Religious doctrine trumps science.
  • Government should be based on religious doctrine.
  • Homosexuality should be outlawed.

What will happen when: 

  • Muslims in Indiana claim their right–guaranteed in Islamic religious law–to have as many as four wives?  
  • Muslims demand a taxpayer-funded “halal” non-pork food shelf at free food pantries for the poor? (Exactly this happened among Somali refugees in Minnesota in 2015.) 
  • Muslims demand that police departments cancel counter-terrorism courses by claiming that their materials are anti-Muslim? (Exactly this happened to several police departments in Illinois.)

And when they claim that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act protects those rights?  

Hang onto your hijabs–it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

NRA: “IF EVERYONE WENT ARMED, WE’D BE SAFE”

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 11, 2016 at 12:14 am

On June 17, 2015, Dylann Roof, a white high school dropout, gunned down three black men and six black women at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. 

Dylann Roof

On June 18–one day after the church slaughter–Charles L. Cotton took insulting the dead to a whole new level. 

Cotton is a National Rifle Association (NRA) board member who also runs TexasCHLForum.com, an online discussion forum about guns and gun owners’ rights in Texas and beyond.

In a discussion thread on the Forum, a board member noted that Clementa C. Pinckney, one of the nine people slain, was a pastor and a state legislator in South Carolina.

Cotton responded: “And he voted against concealed-carry. Eight of his church members who might be alive if he had expressly allowed members to carry handguns in church are dead. Innocent people died because of his position on a political issue.”

#NRA boardmember Charles L. Cotton: #Charleston tragedy could've been avoided if guns allowed in Churches.

That discussion thread was quickly deleted.

During a subsequent phone interview, Cotton emphasized that he had been speaking as a private citizen–and not as an NRA board member:

“It was a discussion we were having about so called gun-free zones. It’s my opinion that there should not be any gun-free zones in schools or churches or anywhere else. If we look at mass shootings that occur, most happen in gun-free zones.”

If private citizens were allowed to carry guns everywhere, Cotton said, there will be fewer mass shootings because “if armed citizens are in there, they have a chance to defend themselves and other citizens.”

Cotton’s position–“there should not be any gun-free zones”–is exactly that of the NRA itself.

Under such circumstances, America will become a nation where anyplace, anytime, can be turned into the O.K. Corral.

Another point that Cotton didn’t mention: Dylann Roof did believe in concealed-carry–and it cost not his life but the lives of nine innocent men and women.

Finally, there is this: Even highly-trained shooters–such as those assigned to the United States Secret Service–don’t always respond as expected.

On May 15, 1972, Alabama Governor George Wallace was campaigning for President in Laurel, Maryland. He gave a speech behind a bulletproof podium at the Laurel Shopping Center. Then he moved from it to mingle with the crowd.

Since the 1968 assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy, all those campaigning for President have been assigned Secret Service bodyguards. And Wallace was surrounded by them as he shook hands with his eager supporters.

Suddenly, Arthur Bremer, a fame-seeking failure in life and romance, pushed his way forward, aimed a .38 revolver at Wallace’s abdomen and opened fire. Before the Secret Service could subdue him, he hit Wallace four times, leaving him paralyzed for the rest of his life. 

Arthur Bremer shoots George Wallace

Nor was he Bremer’s only victim. Three other people present were wounded unintentionally: 

  • Alabama State Trooper Captain E C Dothard, Wallace’s personal bodyguard, who was shot in the stomach;
  • Dora Thompson, a campaign volunteer, who was shot in the leg; and 
  • Nick Zarvos, a Secret Service agent, who was shot in the neck, severely impairing his speech.

None of Wallace’s bodyguards got off a shot at Bremer–before or after he pulled the trigger.

On October 6, 1981, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat was reviewing a military parade in Cairo when a truck apparently broke down directly across from where he was seated. 

Anwar Sadat, moments before his assassination

Suddenly, soldiers bolted from the rear of the vehicle, throwing hand grenades and firing assault rifles. They rushed straight at Sadat–who died instantly under a hail of bullets.

Meanwhile, Sadat’s bodyguards–who had been trained by the CIA–panicked and fled.

Sadat had been assassinated by army officers who believed he had betrayed Islam by making peace with Israel in 1977.  

Most recently, the NRA mantra, “If every citizen went armed…” was put to the test in Dallas, Texas. It flunked.

On July 7, five Dallas police officers were shot and killed by a disgruntled ex-Army Reserve Afghan War veteran named Michah Xavier Johnson. Another seven officers and two civilians were wounded before the carnage ended.

The shootings erupted during a Black Lives Matter protest march in downtown Dallas.  

Texas has long been an “open carry” state for those who want to brandish rifles without fear of arrest. And about 20 people wearing “ammo gear and protective equipment [had] rifles slung over their shoulder,” said Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings.  

“When the shooting started, at different angles, [the armed protesters] started running,” Rawlings said, adding that open carry only brings confusion to a shooting scene. “What I would do [if I were a police officer] is look for the people with guns,” he said.  

“There were a number of armed demonstrators taking part,” said Max Geron, a Dallas police major. “There was confusion on the radio about the description of the suspects and whether or not one or more was in custody.”

The ultimate test of the NRA’s mantra that “there should not be any gun-free zones…anywhere” will come only when one or more heavily-armed gunmen target an NRA convention.

It will then be interesting to see if the surviving NRA members are as quick to blame themselves for being victims as they are to blame the victims of other mass slaughters.

FBI SPELLS “PC”: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 29, 2016 at 12:01 am

Even at the height of World War II, citizens of the United States could take comfort in the following:

  • Nazi Germany had a capitol–Berlin–and a single, all-powerful leader–Adolf Hitler. Once Berlin was occupied and Hitler dead or captured, the war would be over.
  • And, for all their ferocity, German soldiers were easy to recognize: They wore gray uniforms, spoke German and waved flags emblazoned with swastikas or imperial eagles.

Wehrmacht soldiers marching through conquered France

Today, Western nations under attack by Islamic “holy warriors” face none of those advantages. Islam has no single capitol city–or leader.

Nor do Islam’s jihadist legions wear uniforms. Many of them don’t speak Arabic or wear clothing associated with Arabs, such as flowing robes and headdresses.

More ominously, millions of Islam’s potential “warriors” live within the very Western nations they despise. They can get all the instruction and inspiration they need to wreck havoc simply by going to the Internet.

Or, if they have the money, by traveling overseas to such terrorist-recruiting centers as Syria or Afghanistan.

And yet, faced with an unprecedented threat to their security, many Western leaders refuse to publicly acknowledge this fundamental truth:

Even if the West isn’t at war with Islam, Islam is at war with the West.

Leaders like President Barack Obama, who insisted, at a White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism in February, 2015: “We are not at war with Islam. We are at war with people who have perverted Islam.”

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David Cameron

And leaders like British Prime Minister David Cameron, who said on August 29, 2014: “Islam is a religion observed peacefully by over a billion people. Islamist extremism is a poisonous ideology observed by a minority.”

On June 20, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) issued a censored version of gunman Omar Mateen’s call to a 9-1-1 operator. While taking a break from slaughtering 49 defenseless men and women and wounding another 53, Mateen pledged his loyalty to ISIS.

Fortunately for the United States, the Bureau hasn’t always been so craven.

Ronald Kessler, author of the 2011 book, The Secrets of the FBI, quotes Arthur M. Cummings, the Bureau’s then-executive assistant director for national security:

“I had this discussion with the director of a very prominent Muslim organization here in [Washington] D.C. And he said, ‘Why are you guys always looking at the Muslim community?’”

“I can name the homegrown cells, all of whom are Muslim, all of whom were seeking to kill Americans,” replied Cummings. “It’s not the Irish, it’s not the French, it’s not the Catholics, it’s not the Protestants. It’s the Muslims.

Occasionally, Muslims will condemn Al Qaeda. But “rarely do we have them coming to us and saying, ‘There are three guys in the community that we’re very concerned about,’” said Cummings.

“They don’t want anyone to know they have extremists in their community. Well, beautiful. Except do you read the newspapers? Everybody already knows it. The horse has left the barn.”

Cummings has no use for such Politically Correct terms as “man-caused disasters” to refer to terrorism. Nor does he shy away from terms such as “jihadists” or “Islamists.”

“Of course Islamists dominate the terrorism of today,” he says bluntly.

In May, 2014, Steven Emerson, a nationally recognized expert on terrorism, posted an ad in The New York Times, warning about the dangers of PC-imposed censorship.  And he posed the question: “How can we win the war against radical Islam if we can’t even name the enemy?”

He has a point–and a highly legitimate one.

Imagine the United States fighting World War II–and President Franklin Roosevelt banning the use of “fascist” in referring to Nazi Germany or “imperialist” in describing Imperial Japan.

Imagine CNN-like coverage of the Nazi extermination camps, with their piles of rotting corpses and smoking gas ovens, while a commentator reminds us that “Nazism is an ideology of peace.”

Then consider these Islamic terrorist outrages of our own time:

  • The 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., which snuffed out the lives of 3,000 Americans.
  • The 2004 bombing of Madrid’s commuter train system.
  • The attack on the London subway in 2005.
  • The killing of 13 U.S. Army personnel at Fort Hood, Texas, by a Muslim army major in 2009.
  • The bombing of the Boston Marathon in 2013.
  • The kidnapping of 300 Nigerian schoolgirls by Boko Haram in 2014.
  • The slaughter of 12 people at a Paris satirical magazine that had published cartoons about the Prophet Mohammed in 2015.  
  • The murders of more than 100 people in ISIS attacks across Paris in 2015.  
  • A series of deadly terrorist attacks in Brussels, killing 31 and injuring 270 in 2016.

In every one of these attacks, the perpetrators openly announced that their actions had been motivated by their Islamic beliefs.

In his groundbreaking book, The Clash of Civilizations (1996) Samuel Huntington, the noted political scientist at Harvard University, noted:

The fundamental problem for the West is not Islamic fundamentalism. It is Islam, a different civilisation whose people are convinced of the superiority of their culture and are obsessed with the inferiority of their power.”  

The West may not be at war with Islam–as countless Western politicians repeatedly assert. But Islamics have no qualms about declaring that they are at war with the West.

FBI SPELLS “PC”: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 28, 2016 at 12:06 am

On June 12, Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old former security guard, slaughtered 49 men and women and injured 53 more inside Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

Mateen was then shot to death by Orlando police after a three-hour standoff.

Omar Mateen.jpg

Omar Mateen

It was the deadliest mass shooting by a single gunman in American history–and the deadliest terrorist attack in the United States since the Al Qaeda attacks of September 11, 2001.

The massacre was widely decried as an act of Islamic terrorism. But many others insisted it was simply a hate crime.

Among those opting for the latter: Officials at the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

This despite the fact that:

  • Mateen, born in New York in 1986 to Afghan parents, praised the highjackers who carried out the September 11, 2001 attacks that slaughtered 3,000 Americans. At the time, he was attending an alternative high school for problem students.
  • He also said that Osama bin Laden was his uncle who had taught him how to shoot an AK-47–this while it was not known that bin Laden had masterminded the attacks.
  • During the night of the Orlando massacre, Mateen stopped killing long enough to call 9-1-1, take responsibility for the attack and pledge his allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

In releasing a transcript of the 9-1-1 call, the Justice Department claimed that it would withhold some details to avoid putting the victims through any more pain–and to not further the propaganda efforts of ISIS.

The Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice

“What we’re not going to do is further proclaim this man’s pledges of allegiance to terrorist groups and further his propaganda,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch told moderator Chuck Todd on the June 19 edition of Meet the Press.

“We will hear him talk about some of these things, but we are not going to hear him make his assertions of allegiance.”

On the morning of June 20, the FBI released the following edited version of the transcript:

MATEEN: Praise be to God, and prayers as well as peace be upon the prophet of God [in Arabic].  I let you know, I’m in Orlando and I did the shootings.

OPERATOR: What’s your name?

MATEEN: My name is I pledge of allegiance to [omitted].

OPERATOR: OK, what’s your name?

MATEEN: I pledge allegiance to [omitted] may God protect him [in Arabic], on behalf of [omitted].

A firestorm of protest erupted from Republican Congressional leaders, most notably Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. Since Mateen’s pledge to ISIS had become widely known, they demanded, what was the point of censoring it in the transcript of his phone call?

“We know the shooter was a radical Islamist extremist inspired by ISIS,” Ryan said in a statement. “We also know he intentionally targeted the LGBT community. The administration should release the full, unredacted transcript so the public is clear-eyed about who did this, and why.”

An additional reason for the fury aimed at the Justice Department: On June 12, ISIS had claimed responsibility for the massacre: 

“The armed attack that targeted a gay night club in the city of Orlando in the American state of Florida which left over 100 people dead or injured was carried out by an Islamic State fighter.”

AQMI Flag asymmetric.svg

Flag of ISIS

Finally, buckling to pressure, on the afternoon of June 20, the FBI released the full, uncensored transcript of Mateen’s call to 9-1-1:

OPERATOR: Emergency 911, this is being recorded.

MATEEN: In the name of God the Merciful, the beneficent [Arabic]

OPERATOR:  What?

MATEEN: Praise be to God, and prayers as well as peace be upon the prophet of God [Arabic].  I wanna let you know, I’m in Orlando and I did the shootings.

OPERATOR:  What’s your name?

MATEEN:  My name is I pledge of allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi of the Islamic State.

OPERATOR:  OK, what’s your name?

MATEEN: I pledge allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi may God protect him [Arabic], on behalf of the Islamic State.

OPERATOR:  Alright, where are you at?

MATEEN:  In Orlando.

OPERATOR:  Where in Orlando?

[End of call]

J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building 

Neither the FBI nor the Justice Department apologized for having censored the transcript.

“Unfortunately, the unreleased portions of the transcript that named the terrorist organizations and leaders have caused an unnecessary distraction from the hard work that the FBI and our law enforcement partners have been doing to investigate this heinous crime,” both the DOJ and FBI said in a statement.

Since September 11, 2001, Americans have been actively at war with Islamic nations such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

Yet high-ranking officials in the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama have repeatedly and loudly denied that America is at war with Islam.

Even if this is true, a large portion of the Islamic world is at war with the United States.

Only Donald Trump–alone of the 2016 Presidential candidates–has dared to say what the vast majority of Americans know: America is at war with Islamics who openly proclaim that their actions are motivated by their Islamic religious beliefs.

And it’s a major reason why Trump is about to receive the Republican nomination for President.

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