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Posts Tagged ‘ROBERT MUELLER’

CRITICISM–AND HUMOR–AS ENDANGERED SPECIES

In History, Humor, Politics, Social commentary on May 11, 2018 at 12:23 am

What does it take for a White House correspondent to have his—or her—press credentials revoked?

According to President Donald Trump, it only takes writing a “negative” story about him.

On May 9—one year to the day since he fired FBI Director James Comey for refusing to offer a pledge of personal loyalty—Trump tweeted:

“The Fake News is working overtime. Just reported that, despite the tremendous success we are having with the economy & all things else, 91% of the Network News about me is negative (Fake). Why do we work so hard in working with the media when it is corrupt? Take away credentials?”

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Donald Trump

And how did Trump reach the conclusion that “91% of” network newscasts on ABC, CBS and NBC focused on “negative” scandals and controversies?

By watching a segment of Fox and Friends on the Right-wing Fox News Network.

Assuming Trump carries out his threat, can an attempted Presidential crackdown on criticism of any kind be far behind?

Given the rampant and constantly demonstrated egomania of this President, probably not.

So, with the week coming to a close, here are some jokes that might soon find themselves on the endangered humor species list.

Why are Donald Trump’s supporters like Adam and Eve? They are naked, they have only one apple to eat, they live in a forest, and they think they’re in Paradise.

Donald Trump on Stormy Daniels: Version #1: I know NOTHING! Version #2: Gee, I guess I DO know something.

What’s the difference between John Gotti and Donald Trump? Some people actually loved John Gotti. 

In President Donald Trump’s America, what is black and knocking at the door?  The Future.

Donald Trump, watching the “Million Man March” on TV: “Now all we need is an auctioneer!” 

A man knocks at the door of his neighbor’s apartment and shouts: “Quick, get up, get dressed.” From inside the apartment he hears screams of terror. “Don’t worry,” he says. “It’s nothing serious. I’m not with the Trump Police. I just want to tell you your flat is on fire.”

A group of friends gather in a house. Some of them start telling jokes about Donald Trump. One of the guests says, “Hey, it’s too noisy. I can’t hear the jokes. I’m writing it down, you know.” “How can you write down the jokes so fast?” asks a man. “Oh, I’m just writing down the initials.”

What’s the difference between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump? Trump DIDN’T rig an election for Putin.

People ask, “Why does Donald Trump always suck up to Vladimir Putin? What’s he so afraid of?” Can anyone say “polonium”?

Let’s resolve the Stormy Daniels scandal the old-fashioned way: A heavyweight boxing match between Melania “The Slovenian Slugger” and Stormy “Come and Get It” Daniels. The loser gets to keep Trump. THAT should make it REALLY competitive. 

What do American Fascists and Russian Communists have in common? Donald Trump.

What’s the difference between Germans and Trump supporters? Today’s Germans AREN’T Nazis.

The Trump “Sin-Eraser” Machine. Pick a sin you’re committed. Say, “I didn’t do it.” There! You didn’t do it!

Donald Trump’s next conspiracy theory: “Robert Mueller planted Rudi Giuliani on me to make me look like a stupid criminal.”

Melania Trump has unveiled her new campaign: “Be Best.” And not to be outdone, Donald has one: “Be Beast.”

It was a dark and Stormy night. Then Melania showed up with a carving knife—and all Hell broke loose.

Here’s how to make America great again in two easy steps: Step 1: Round up all Donald Trump supporters and put them on ships. Step 2: Sink the ships.

Donald Trump’s secret strategy to avoid impeachment: He’s going to blame it all on Eric.

Adolf Hitler had many faults, but at least he didn’t inflict his half-wit children on Germany.

What’s the difference between John Gotti and Donald Trump? John Gotti couldn’t fire the FBI director.

Think of Sarah Huckabee Sanders as Joseph Goebbels in a dress. Or, better yet, Hermann Goring.

REPORTER: “President Trump, you’ve been in the White house for 12 years now. Do you intend to seek a fourth term?” PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: “I’m not sure. That will be for the American people to decide.” Then Trump laughs for ten minutes.

What does Donald Trump think the Constitution is for? A substitute for toilet paper.

Trump HAS been a success if you know what MAGA really means: Make Adultery Great Again.

Donald Trump on Easter: “Jesus got a BIG resurrection when he met Mary Magdalene, but then he lost it three days later.”

It’s true that Donald Trump, Jr., met with a Russian lawyer in June, 2016. But there IS a perfectly good explanation for it. They were simply discussing how his father could adopt more foreign-born wives.

Poor Karen McDougal! If only things had gone right, SHE could NOW be the First Lady Trump cheated on.

Melania Trump is the sister that Natasha Fatale feels embarrassed to talk about.

How does every Donald Trump joke start? By looking over your shoulder.

Why do Trump supporters always travel in threes? One who can read, one who can write, and one to keep an eye on the two intellectuals.

YOUR FRIENDS AS YOUR WORST ENEMIES: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on May 9, 2018 at 12:13 am

President Donald Trump has two major legal problems.

First, he’s under investigation by Independent Counsel and former FBI director Robert Mueller, who’s armed with top-flight investigators and an unlimited budget.

And, second, his attorney, Rudolph Giuliani, is rushing from one TV talk show to another, making incriminating statements that Mueller can use against Trump.

Giuliani is a former United States Attorney and United States Associate Attorney General. So he should know that the more he speaks about Trump, the more potential leads he provides Mueller’s investigators to follow.

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Rudolph Giuliani

Thus, he said, on Fox News’ “Sean Hannity” program, that Trump paid back his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, the $130,000 in hush money that Cohen paid porn actress Stormy Daniels.

The reason: To ensure her silence over an alleged affair with Trump.

Giuliani’s statement, on May 3, contradicted Trump, who had previously denied knowing about the payment. It also contradicted Cohen’s February statement that Trump did not reimburse the $130,000.

Not content to stop there, Giuliani added: “Imagine if that came out on October 15, 2016, in the middle of the last debate with Hillary Clinton“—thus giving a political motive to the action.

Donald Trump

Giuliani, appearing on a Right-wing Fox News show, clearly felt comfortable. After all, he wasn’t being interrogated by a reporter for CNN or The New York Times.

It’s precisely that sense of safety that experienced cross-examiners hope to instill in witnesses—just before they lower the hatchet.

But Hannity—an ardent supporter of Trump—wasn’t trying to ensnare Giuliani. 

Hannity asked if Trump would testify before Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

GIULIANI:  “Well, right now, a lot of things point in the direction of, they made up their mind that [former FBI Director James] Comey is telling the truth and not the president.

“When you look at those questions about what does the president think, what does the president feel, what does the president really desire, those are all questions intended to trap him in some way and contradicting what is in fact a very, very solid explanation of what happened.

“He fired Comey because Comey would not, among other things, say that he wasn’t a target of the investigation. He’s entitled to that. Hillary Clinton got that. Actually, he couldn’t get that. So, he fired him and he said, I’m free of the guy, and he went on Lester Holt.”

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James Comey

Later in the interview, Giuliani returned to the Cohen payment of $130,000 to Stormy Daniels:

GIULIANI: “Having something to do with paying some Stormy Daniels woman $130,000, I mean, which is going to turn out to be perfectly legal. That money was not campaign money, sorry, I’m giving you a fact now that you don’t know. It’s not campaign money. No campaign finance violation.”

HANNITY:  “They funneled it through a law firm.”

GIULIANI: “Funneled it through a law firm and the president repaid it.”

HANNITY:  “I didn’t know he did.”

GIULIANI:  “Yes. Zero.”

HANNITY:  “So the president—“

GIULIANI:  “Just like every, Sean—“

HANNITY:  “So this decision was made by—“

GIULIANI: “Sean, everybody—everybody was nervous about this from the very beginning. I wasn’t. I knew how much money Donald Trump put in to that campaign. I said $130,000. You’re going to do a couple of checks for 130,000.

“When I heard Cohen’s retainer of $35,000 when he was doing no work for the president, I said that’s how he’s repaying—that’s how he’s repaying it with a little profit and a little margin for paying taxes for Michael.”

HANNITY:  “But do you know the president didn’t know about this? I believe that’s what Michael said.”

GIULIANI:  “He didn’t know about the specifics of it as far as I know. But he did know about the general arrangement that Michael would take care of things like this. Like, I take care of things like this for my clients. I don’t burden them with every single thing that comes along. These are busy people….

A settlement payment which is a very regular thing for lawyers to do. The question there was, the only possible violation there would be wasn’t a campaign finance violation, which usually results in a fine by the way, not this big storm troopers coming in and breaking down his apartment and breaking down his office.

“That was money that was paid by his lawyer, the way I would do out of his law firm funds or whatever funds, it doesn’t matter. The president reimbursed that over a period of several months.”

HANNITY:  “But he had said he didn’t, I distinctly remember that he did it on his own—“

GIULIANI:  “He did….”

**********

So, Giuliani:

  • Admits that Trump fired FBI Director James Comey for patently illegal reasons. [Comey accuses Trump of demanding a pledge of personal loyalty; Trump denies this.]
  • Exonerates Michael Cohen for acting as a fixer to buy the silence of a porn actress about an extramarital affair.
  • Claims that arranging hush money payments is a routine practice among lawyers (“Like, I take care of things like this for my clients”).

If Trump were a reader, he might now recall the famous warning by the French philosopher Voltaire: “Lord, protect me from my friends. I can take care of my enemies.”

YOUR FRIENDS AS YOUR WORST ENEMIES: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on May 8, 2018 at 12:02 am

It’s a truth well-known to cross-examining attorneys: The best way to obtain the truth is often to “kill your opponents with kindness.”

Witnesses always expect the opposing counsel to immediately start screaming at them. But that only causes the witness to stay alert and say as little as possible.

So the smart attorney comes on as courteous, friendly, even sympathetic.

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A classic example of this: A laborer claimed to have permanently injured his shoulder in a railway accident, leaving him unable to work. He claimed he could no longer raise his arm above a point parallel with his shoulder.

The railway’s attorney asked him a few sympathetic questions about his injuries. And the witness quickly volunteered that he was in constant pain and a near-invalid.

“And, as a result of the accident, how high can you raise your arm?” asked the attorney.

The witness slowly raised his arm parallel with his shoulder.

“Oh, that’s terrible,” said the attorney.

Then: “How high could you get it up before the accident?”

Unthinkingly, the witness extended his arm to its full height above his head—to the laughter of the judge, jury and spectators.

Case dismissed.

In politics, sometimes your best friends turn out to be your worst enemies.

Kevin McCarthy proved this during his September 30, 2015 appearance on Fox News.

McCarthy, the Republican member of the House of Representatives from Bakersfield, California, was undoubtedly feeling relaxed.

After all, he wasn’t being interviewed by such “enemies” of the Right as The New York Times or MSNBC political commentator Rachel Maddow.

He was being interviewed by Sean Hannity, a Right-wing political commentator whose books included Conservative Victory: Defeating Obama’s Radical Agenda and Deliver Us From Evil: Defeating Terrorism, Despotism, and Liberalism.

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Sean Hannity

The topic under discussion: Who would be the next Republican Speaker of the House, now that John Boehner had announced his decision to leave not only the Speakership but the House itself in November?

Now Hannity wanted to know what would happen when the next Republican Speaker took office. And McCarthy—who was in the running for the position—was eager to tell him.

“What you’re going to see is a conservative Speaker, that takes a conservative Congress, that puts a strategy to fight and win.

“And let me give you one example. Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right?

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Kevin McCarthy

“But we put together a Benghazi special committee. A select committee. What are her [poll] numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable. But no one would have known that any of that had happened had we not fought to make that happen.”

In 51 words, McCarthy revealed that:

  • The House Select Committee on Benghazi was not a legitimate investigative body.
  • Its purpose was not to investigate the 2012 deaths of four American diplomats during a terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya.
  • Its real purpose was to destroy the Presidential candidacy of Hillary Clinton.
  • To accomplish this, its members spent 17 months and wasted more than $4.5 million of American taxpayers’ funds.

On October 8, 2015, Republicans were expected to choose their nominee for Speaker. On that same date, McCarthy announced that he was withdrawing his name from consideration:

“Over the last week it has become clear to me that our Conference is deeply divided and needs to unite behind one leader. I have always put this Conference ahead of myself. Therefore I am withdrawing my candidacy for Speaker of the House.”

When reporters asked McCarthy if his revelation was the reason he withdrew, he replied, “Well, that wasn’t helpful.”

But then he quickly replayed the official Republican version: “But this Benghazi committee was only created for one purpose: to find the truth on behalf of the families for the four dead Americans.”

On October 29, 2015, Republicans—holding the majority of House members–elected Paul Ryan, (Wisconsin) the 54th speaker of the United States House of Representatives.

Democrats and Republicans were united in their anger that the real reason for the Benghazi “investigation” had been revealed.

Democrats were furious that McCarthy, in an unguarded moment, had revealed that their major Presidential candidate had been the victim of a Republican smear campaign disguised as a legitimate inquiry.

And Republicans were furious that McCarthy, in an unguarded moment, had revealed that the “legitimate inquiry” had been nothing more than a Republican smear campaign.

For McCarthy, the Benghazi Committee had legitimately served the nation—not by uncovering relevant details about a terrorist act but by causing Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers to drop.

In 1981, President Ronald Reagan had attacked the leaders of the Soviet Union thusly: “They reserve unto themselves the right to commit any crime, to lie, to cheat.”

McCarthy’s comments demonstrated that the Republican Party had adopted the same mindset and tactics as the dictators of the former Soviet Union.

Two years and six months after Kevin McCarthy revealed himself and his party as ruthless hypocrites, Republicans suffered a similar outbreak of truth.

But this time, the stakes were higher—involving Donald J. Trump, the 45th President of the United States.

TREASON BY NUMBERS

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on April 25, 2018 at 12:08 am

Once you have decided on a treason,
Sign on with a man named Donald Trump.
And when you find your hatred is a reason,
Then on your country you can take a dump.

There really isn’t any need for worry,
Just do it and then go ahead and lie.
Like giving Russians secrets in the White House,
And that avoids those pests named “F.B.I.”

House and Senate Republicans have almost universally refused to to speak out against threats by President Donald Trump to fire deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and/or Special Counsel Robert Mueller. 

Or, more importantly, to take action to prevent or punish him for doing so.

On April 17, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would not allow legislation to protect Robert Mueller’s independent investigation into Russian subversion of the 2016 Presidential election to reach the Senate floor.

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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.

Why have so few Republicans dared to stand against Trump 

Because many House and Senate Republicans received millions of dollars in “campaign contributions” from Russian oligarchs who are answerable to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.

In short: Bribe monies.

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

‘Cause it’s treason by numbers, 1, 2, 3,
It’s as easy to do as your G.O.P.
It’s treason by numbers, 1, 2, 3,
It’s as easy to do as your G.O.P.

Now if you have a taste for turning traitor
And you find it’s really thrilling as can be,
Then pick up that phone and call the Kremlin
And soon you’ll have a bud named Vladimir P.

The following data comes from the Federal Elections Commission.

One major Russian contributor is Len Blavatnik. 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. In 2016, he gave $6.35 million to GOP PACs.

In 2017, he gave millions of dollars to top Republican leaders—such as Senators Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio (Florida) and Lindsey Graham (South Carolina)Specifically, Blavatnik contributed:

  • A total of $1.5 million to PACs associated with Rubio. 
  • $1 million to Trump’s Inaugural Committee.
  • $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.

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The Kremlin

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

A third oligarch, Andrew Intrater, contributed $250,000 to Trump’s Inaugural Committee.

And a fourth, Simon Kukes, contributed a total of $283,000, much of it to the Trump Victory Fund.

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

Yes, treason isn’t something that comes easy.
It’s an act that makes most people want to gag.
But you can earn those rubles that you long for
And the Right will back you up and wave the flag.

‘Cause it’s treason by numbers, 1, 2, 3,
It’s as easy to do as your G.O.P.
Treason by numbers, 1, 2, 3,
It’s as easy to do as your G.O.P.

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.

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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.

Billionaires don’t give huge sums 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.

Now you can join the list of Right-wing traitors
In history’s dark and evil hall of shame.
Their ranks are filled with greedy, racist haters.
At least the ones that we all know by name.

But if you can con you way into the White House
If you become the leader of the land,
Then treason is the sport of the elected,
And Republicans will give you a big hand.

‘Cause it’s treason by numbers
1, 2, 3,
It’s as easy to do as your G.O.P.
Treason by numbers
1, 2, 3,
It’s as easy to do
As your God-damned G.O.P.

“MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE” COMES HOME

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 24, 2018 at 12:15 am

According to the CIA, FBI and National Security Agency (which cracks codes and listens to the telephone conversation of foreign leaders) it’s clear that Russian trolls and Intelligence agents played a major role in subverting the 2016 Presidential election.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller III, assigned in May, 2017, to investigate charges of Russian interference, believes there was collusion. He has secured criminal charges against 19 people, including five guilty pleas. And more are undoubtedly coming.

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Robert Mueller

And 65% of Americans believe that Mueller should be allowed to continue his investigation.

Apparently, most Americans don’t like having their elections subverted by enemy nations.

Subverting the governments of other countries is a right that Americans have long reserved for themselves. Among those regimes that have been toppled:

  • Between 1898 and 1934, the United States repeatedly intervened with military force in Central America and the Caribbean.
  • Americans staged invasions of Honduras in 1903, 1907, 1911, 1912, 1919, 1924 and 1925 to defend U.S. interests. These were defined as Standard Oil and the United Fruit Company.
  • The United States occupied Nicaragua almost continuously from 1912 to 1933. Its legacy was the imposition of the tyrannical Somoza family, which ruled from 1936 to 1979.
  • The United States occupied Haiti from 1915 to 1934. American banks had lent money to Haiti and requested American government intervention.
  • In 1918, 13,000 American soldiers joined armies from Europe and Japan to overthrow the new Soviet government and restore the previous Tsarist regime. By 1920, the invading forces proved unsuccessful and withdrew.

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Allied troops parading in Vladivostok, 1918  

  • From 1946 to 1949, the United States provided military, logistical and other aid to the Right-wing Chinese Nationalist Party of Chiang Kai-shek. Its opponent were Communist forces led by Mao Tse-Tung, who ultimately proved victorious.
  • In 1953, the Eisenhower administration ordered the CIA to overthrew the democratically-elected government of of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh. His crime: Nationalizing the Iranian oil industry, which had been under British control since 1913. He was succeeded by Mohammad-Reza Shah Phlavi. Whereas Mossadeddgh had ruled as a constitutional monarch, Phlavi was a dictator who depended on United States government support to retain power until he was overthrown in 1979 by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
  • In 1954, the CIA overthrew the democratically-elected government of Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz. His crime: Installing a series of reforms that expanded the right to vote, allowed workers to organize, legitimized political parties and allowed public debate. Most infuriating to American Right-wingers: His agrarian reform law, which expropriated parts of large land-holdings and redistributed them to agricultural laborers. The United Fruit Company lobbied the United States government to overthrow him—and the CIA went into action. Arbenz was replaced by the first of a series of brutal Right-wing dictators.
  • From 1959 until 1963, the United States government was obsessed with overthrowing the revolutionary Cuban government of Fidel Castro. Although not democratically elected, Castro was wildly popular in Cuba for overthrowing the dictatorial Fulgencio Batista. On April 17, 1961, over 1,400 CIA-trained Cuban exiles invaded Cuba at the Bay of Pigs. Cuban military forces crushed the invasion in three days.
  • Infuriated with the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion, President John F. Kennedy authorized “Operation Mongoose” to remove Castro through sabotage and assassination. The CIA, wanting to please Kennedy, teamed up with the Mafia, which wanted to resurrect its casinos on the island. Among the tactics used: Hiring Cuban gangsters to murder police officials and Soviet technicians; sabotaging mines; using biological and chemical warfare against the Cuban sugar industry. None of these proved successful in assassinating Castro nor overturning his regime.

Ernesto “Che” Guevera and Fidel Castro

  • In 1970, President Richard M. Nixon ordered the CIA to prevent Marxist Salvador Allende from being democratically elected as president of Chile. When that failed, he ordered the CIA to overthrow Allende. Allende’s crime: A series of liberal reforms, including nationalizing large-scale industries (notably copper mining and banking. In 1973, he was overthrown by Chilean army units and national police. He was followed by Right-wing dictator Augusto Pinochet, who slaughtered 3,200 political dissidents, imprisoned 30,000 and forced another 200,000 Chileans into exile.

And how did Americans react to all these attempts—successful and unsuccessful—at regime change?

Through indifference or outright support.

The popular 1960s TV series, “Mission: Impossible,” regularly depicted a CIA-type agency supporting regimes “we” liked or toppling those “we” didn’t.

Americans generally assume their Presidents and Congress know best who is a “friend” and who is an “enemy.”  America’s friends often turn out, for the most part, to be Right-wing dictators like Chiang Kai-Shek, Fulgencio Batista, Augusto Pinochet and Mohammad-Reza Shah Phlavi.

And its enemies often turn out to be liberal reformers like Augusto Sandino, Mohammad Mosaddegh and Salvador Allende. 

Americans tend to favor intervention for the flimsiest of reasons. In 2003, President George W. Bush claimed Iraq’s dictator, Saddam Hussein, had plotted 9/11 with Osama bin Laden. There was absolutely no proof to substantiate this, yet Americans overwhelmingly supported Bush’s unprovoked invasion of Iraq. 

But now the shoe is on the other foot. Except for President Donald Trump and his fanatical supporters, Americans are furious that a foreign power has dared to install “regime change” on them.

Americans are now tasting the medicine they have dished out to so many other countries. And they find it as repugnant as those countries have found the American brand.

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.

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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.

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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.  

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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.”

UPDATING MURROW FOR OUR TIME: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on March 21, 2018 at 12:23 am

On March 9, 1954, Edward R. Murrow, the most respected broadcast journalist in America, outlined the career and demagogic tactics of Wisconsin United States Senator Joseph R. McCarthy.

He did so on his CBS news show, “See It Now,” at the height of the “Red Scare” hysteria that McCarthy had whipped up four years earlier.

Virtually any American could find himself accused of being a Communist, or a “Comsymp,” or a “fellow traveler.” Such an act could rob him of friends, family, his job, even his liberty on the flimsiest of evidence.

Meanwhile, Republicans cowered before McCarthy’s attacks on the press, the military, the judiciary and law enforcement—or joined his chorus. Protecting the nation’s social and political institutions took a distant second place to attacking Democrats as Communist traitors.

Today, 64 years later, another demagogue—Donald Trump—casts an even darker shadow across the land. As the President of the United States, he commands far more power than McCarthy ever did. 

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Donald Trump

  • He freely slanders anyone—famous or anonymous, athlete or disabled, politician or philosopher—who dares contradict him. Or for whom he simply takes a disliking to.
  • He fired FBI Director James Comey for refusing to pledge his personal loyalty—the way Joseph Stalin expected his secret police chiefs to operate.
  • He hounded Assistant FBI Director Andrew McCabe into resigning, and then fired him 24 hours before he was to receive his pension after 21 years of sterling service.
  • He fired his Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson—by tweet—while Tillerson was still on an official visit to Africa.
  • He has, in short, forced most Americans to re-think their longtime assumption that a dictatorship can’t happen here.

Today, only those Republicans who have decided to retire from Congress dare to criticize Trump. The rest fear he will aim a nasty tweet at them—and cost them Fascistic voters,  perhaps even their offices.

Meanwhile, Robert Mueller—a career prosecutor with the highest reputation for integrity—struggles to discover the truth about Russian electoral subversion and the Trump campaign’s collusion in it.

Every day he faces the danger of being fired by the very man whose criminal associates he’s investigating. And yet Republicans refuse to enact a law that would protect him against such abuse of power.

At this time, Murrow’s warnings about Joseph McCarthy need to be seriously reconsidered. Just substitute “President” for “Junior Senator” and “Trump” for “McCarthy,” and Murrow’s text could have been written yesterday.

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 Edward R. Murrow

On one thing the [President] has been consistent. Often operating as a one-man committee, he has traveled far, [defamed] many, terrorized some, accused civilian and military leaders of the past administration of a great conspiracy to turn over the country to [terrorism], [slamdered] and substantially demoralized the present State Department….

He has [slandered] a varied assortment of what he calls [“the enemy of the American people.”]

Republican Senator Flanders of Vermont said of [Trump] today: “He dons war paint; he goes into his war dance; he emits his war whoops; he goes forth to battle and proudly returns with the scalp of a pink army dentist.”

It is necessary to investigate before legislating, but the line between investigating and persecuting is a very fine one and the [President of the United States] has stepped over it repeatedly. His primary achievement has been in confusing the public mind, as between the internal and the external threats of [terrorism].

We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another.

We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men—not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular.

This is no time for men who oppose [President Trump’s] methods to keep silent, or for those who approve. We can deny our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result.

There is no way for a citizen of a republic to abdicate his responsibilities. As a nation we have come into our full inheritance at a tender age. We proclaim ourselves, as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom, wherever it continues to exist in the world, but we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home.

The actions of the [President of the United States] have caused alarm and dismay amongst our allies abroad, and given considerable comfort to our enemies. And whose fault is that? Not really his.

He didn’t create this situation of fear; he merely exploited it—and rather successfully. Cassius was right. “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”

UPDATING MURROW FOR OUR TIME: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on March 20, 2018 at 12:04 am

During the 1950s, Wisconsin United States Senator Joseph R. McCarthy rode a wave of paranoia to national prominence–by attacking the patriotism of anyone who disagreed with him.

Joseph McCarthy

Elected to the Senate in 1946, he rose to national prominence on February 9, 1950, after giving a fiery speech in Wheeling, West Virginia:

“The State Department is infested with communists. I have here in my hand a list of 205—a list of names that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department.”

No American—no matter how prominent—was safe from the accusation of being a Communist or a Communist sympathizer—”a Comsymp” or “fellow traveler” in the style of the era.

Among those accused:

  • Secretary of State George C. Marshall, who had overseen America’s strategy for defeating Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan;
  • President Harry S. Truman;
  • Playwrights Lillian Hellman and Arthur Miller;
  • Actors Charlie Chaplin, Zero Mostel, Lloyd Bridges, Howard Da Silva, Edward G. Robinson and John Garfield;
  • Composers Arron Copland and Elmer Bernstein;
  • Physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, who presided over the creation of America’s atomic bomb;
  • Actresses Lee Grant, Delores del Rio, Ruth Gordon and Lucille Ball;
  • Journalists Edward R. Murrow and William L. Shirer, who had chronicled the rise of Nazi Germany;
  • Folksinger Pete Seeger;
  • Writers Irwin Shaw, Howard Fast, John Steinbeck and Dashiell Hammett.

Even “untouchable” Republicans became targets for such slander.

The most prominent of these was President Dwight D. Eisenhower–labeled ”a conscious, dedicated agent of the Communist Conspiracy” by Robert Welch, who founded the John Birch Society in 1958.

On March 9, 1954, at the height of the McCarthy hysteria, Edward R. Murrow, the most respected broadcast journalist in America, delivered a powerful blow against the Senator’s dictatorial tactics and agenda. He did so on his high-rated CBS program, “See It Now.”

Edward R. Murrow

Today, 64 years later, Murrow’s eloquent appeal for moral courage in the face of tyranny still stands, and is still worth remembering.

This is especially true since the United States finds itself once again endangered by a fearful demagogue. But this one is even more dangerous than McCarthy.

For, unlike McCarthy, he commands the Justice Department to bludgeon his “enemies” at home and the Defense Department to literally destroy any country he dislikes abroad.

He is the President of the United States: Donald J. Trump.

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Donald Trump

Even before taking office on January 20, 2017, he was dogged by charges that Russian Intelligence agents had aided his 2016 Presidential campaign. And that members of his campaign had actively colluded with them.

The FBI, headed by James Comey, was then investigating that alleged collusion. Then, on May 8, 2017, Trump abruptly fired Comey from his position as FBI director.

A national firestorm erupted—unprecedented since President Richard M. Nixon had fired Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox on October 20, 1973.

To squelch it, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein moved quickly.

On May 17, 2017, he appointed Robert Mueller to serve as Special Counsel for the United States Department of Justice.

Mueller had dedicated almost his entire adult life to serving the Justice Department:

  • United States Attorney for Massachusetts (1986–1987);
  • United States Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division (1990–1993);
  • United States Attorney for the Northern District of California (1998–2001);
  • United States Deputy Attorney General (January 20, 2001 – May 10, 2001) and
  • Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (2001-2013);

Mueller had amassed a solid reputation for integrity and efficiency. So highly respected was he that when he planned to retire after serving out the mandatory 10-year term as FBI director, both Democrats and Republicans prevailed on him to stay on until President Barack Obama could find a suitable replacement for him.

That replacement turned out to be James Comey, Mueller’s former deputy director at the FBI.

Rosenstein now charged Mueller to investigate “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump, and any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.”

Trump has claimed from the outset that there was “no collusion” between him and members of Russia’s Intelligence community.

But he has acted like a guilty man desperate to stop the investigation before it uncovers the full extent of his criminality.

Since May, Trump, his shills in Congress and Right-wing Fox News have relentlessly attacked Mueller’s integrity and investigative methods.

From the outset of that investigation, there have been widespread fears that Trump would fire Mueller, just as he did Comey.

Those fears increased over the weekend of Marcy 17-18, when Trump spewed a series of angry tweets on Twitter:

“The Mueller probe should never have been started in that there was no collusion and there was no crime. It was based on fraudulent activities and a Fake Dossier paid for by Crooked Hillary and the DNC, and improperly used in FISA COURT for surveillance of my campaign. WITCH HUNT!”

“Why does the Mueller team have 13 hardened Democrats, some big Crooked Hillary supporters, and Zero Republicans? Another Dem recently added…does anyone think this is fair? And yet, there is NO COLLUSION!”

“A total WITCH HUNT with massive conflicts of interest!”

DONALD TRUMP’S GOAL: “PRESIDENT-FOR-LIFE”

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 5, 2018 at 12:06 am

And the most glorious exploits do not always furnish us with the clearest discoveries of virtue or vice in men; sometimes a matter of less moment, an expression or a jest, informs us better of their characters and inclinations, than the most famous sieges, the greatest armaments, or the bloodiest battles whatsoever.   

—Plutarch, “Life of Alexander”

In a closed-door speech to Republican donors on March 3, President Donald Trump proved the accuracy of Plutarch’s observation. 

He praised China’s President, Xi Jinping, for recently assuming full dictatorial powers: “He’s now president for life. President for life. No, he’s great. And look, he was able to do that. I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll have to give that a shot some day.” 

The statement was greeted with cheers and laughter by Republican donors.

And, in making that unguarded statement, Trump perhaps has revealed his ultimate intention: To overthrow America’s constitutional government.  

Since taking office as the Nation’s 45th President, Donald Trump has attacked or undermined one public or private institution after another.

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Donald Trump

Among these:

  • American Intelligence: Even before taking office, Trump refused to accept the findings of the FBI, CIA and NSA that Russian Intelligence agents had intervened in the 2016 election to ensure his victory.
  • “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.”   
  • And when FBI Director James Comey dared to pursue a probe into “the Russia thing,” Trump fired him without warning. 
  • American law enforcement agencies: Trump has repeatedly attacked his own Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, for not “protecting” him from agents pursuing the Russia investigation.
  • He repeatedly attacked the integrity of Deputy FBI Director Andrew G. McCabe until the latter resigned.
  • He has threatened to fire Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, who oversees Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian subversion of the 2016 election. 
  • He intended to fire Mueller during the summer of 2017, but was talked out of it by aides fearful that it would set off calls for his impeachment.
  • American military agencies: In February, 2017, Trump approved and ordered a Special Forces raid in Yemen on an Al Qaeda stronghold. The assault cost the life of Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens.
  • Disavowing any responsibility for the failure, Trump said: ““This was a mission that was started before I got here. This was something they wanted to do. They came to me, they explained what they wanted to do–the generals–who are very respected, my generals are the most respected that we’ve had in many decades, I believe. And they lost Ryan.”
  • The press: On February 17, 2017, Trump tweeted: “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes@NBCNews@ABC@CBS@CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!”
  • Seven days later, appearing before the Conservative Political Action Conference on February 24, Trump said: “I want you all to know that we are fighting the fake news. It’s fake, phony, fake….I’m against the people that make up stories and make up sources. They shouldn’t be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody’s name. Let their name be put out there.”
  • The judiciary: Trump has repeatedly attacked Seattle US District Judge James Robart, who halted Trump’s first travel ban. 
  • In one tweet, Trump claimed: “Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!”  
  • At Trump’s bidding, White House aide Stephen Miller attacked the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals: “We have a judiciary that has taken far too much power and become, in many cases, a supreme branch of government.”
  • President Barack Obama: For five years, Trump, more than anyone else, popularized the slander that President Barack Obama was born in Kenya—and was therefore not an American citizen.
  • Even after Obama released the long-form version of his birth certificate—on April 27, 2011—Trump tweeted, on August 6, 2012: “An ‘extremely credible source’ has called my office and told me that @BarackObama‘s birth certificate is a fraud.”

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Barack Obama

  • On March 4, 2017, in a series of unhinged tweets, Trump accused former President Obama of tapping his Trump Tower phones prior to the election: “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!”    

Trump was later forced to admit he had no evidence to back up his slanderous claims.

* * * * *

Donald Trump isn’t crazy, as many of his critics charge.  He knows what he’s doing—and why.

He intends to strip every potential challenger to his authority—or his version of reality—of legitimacy with the public.  If he succeeds, there will be:

  • No independent press to reveal his failures and crimes.
  • No independent law enforcement agencies to investigate his abuses of office.
  • No independent judiciary to hold him accountable.
  • No independent military to dissent as he recklessly hurtles toward a nuclear disaster.
  • No candidate—Democrat or Republican—to challenge  him for re-election in 2020.
  • No candidate—Democrat or Republican—to challenge his remaining in office as “President-for-Life.”

REPUBLICANS: FINDING COMMON CAUSE WITH COMMIES

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 1, 2018 at 12:08 am

There was a time when Republicans saw—and portrayed themselves—as America’s foremost defenders against Communism.

This was particularly true during the early 1950s. Case in point: Wisconsin United States Senator Joseph R. McCarthy. 

Elected to the Senate in 1946, he rose to national prominence on February 9, 1950, after giving a fiery speech in Wheeling, West Virginia: 

“The State Department is infested with communists. I have here in my hand a list of 205—a list of names that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department.”

Joseph McCarthy

No American—no matter how prominent—was safe from the accusation of being a Communist or a Communist sympathizer—”a Comsymp” or “fellow traveler” in the style of the era.

So Red-baiting Republicans like McCarthy and then-Vice President Richard M. Nixon would feel dumbfounded at the following news: 

On February 20, a purge of Russian “bots” by Twitter sparked outrage by—yes!—Right-wingers. 

Bots are fake accounts used to spread propaganda or advertising campaigns. Investigations by the House and Senate Intelligence Committees have uncovered massive efforts by Russia to throw the 2016 Presidential election to Donald Trump.

Their weapon of choice: Swamping “social media” sites like Facebook, Google and Twitter with genuinely fake news. 

The Twitter purge came a week after Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russians and three Russian companies for interfering in that election. The indictments detailed an elaborate plot to wage “information warfare” against the United States. 

Right-wingers suddenly found thousands of their Russian bot followers had disappeared—and accused Twitter of secretly deleting like-minded accounts.

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“Twitter is currently purging the followers on conservative accounts only. I just lost 3000 followers in one minute,” tweeted Candace Owens, director of urban engagement for Turning Point USA.  This is a student organization promoting limited government and free markets.  

Bill Mitchell, a Right-winger known for his controversial tweets defending President Donald Trump, claimed that he lost roughly 4,000 followers overnight.  

“This is a damn joke,” tweeted Mike Zollo. “Twitter is absolutely censoring conservative and right wing speech for no damn reason other than their disagreement with it. But, liberals can write vile comments and threaten us with no punishment.”

From the end of World War II to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, it would have been unthinkable for a Republican Presidential candidate to find common cause with a Soviet dictator.

But that utterly changed when Donald Trump won, first, the Republican Presidential nomination and, then, the White House. Trump lavishly praised Russian President Vladimir Putin—and even called on him to directly interfere in the 2016 Presidential race.

On July 22, 2016, Wikileaks released 19,252 emails and 8,034 attachments hacked from computers of the highest-ranking officials of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Early reports traced the leak to Russian hackers. 

“Russia, if you are listening,” Trump said at a press conference in Doral, Florida, “I hope you are able to find the 33,000 emails that are missing—I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

This was nothing less than treason—calling upon a foreign power, hostile to the United States, to interfere in its Presidential election.

On December 16, 2016, then-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. 

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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.”   

The last time dictator-worshiping Fascists found common cause with dictator-worshiping Communists was in August, 1939. 

Germany’s Fuhrer Adolf Hitler and the Soviet Union’s Joseph Stalin agreed to end—at least temporarily—their years of violent rivalry and personal slander. 

The reason: Hitler planned to invade Poland, and feared he would have to fight its allies, France and England, if he did.  He didn’t want to have to fight the Soviet Union, too.

And Stalin saw Hitler’s warlike ambitions as useful to his own dreams of conquest: He wanted—and got—the eastern half of Poland, while Hitler’s legions occupied the western half. 

So why would Donald Trump—the arch capitalist—find common cause with Vladimir Putin, the arch Communist?

Simple: Each had something the other wanted.

First, Putin: He wanted a President who would withdraw the United States from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)—which would instantly render that alliance kaput. And give Russia a free hand to attack Europe.

And Trump had repeatedly said the United States was paying an unfairly large portion of the monies needed to maintain that alliance. 

Then, Trump: He wanted to be President—to enrich himself and his family, to become the center of the world’s attention, and to destroy anyone who dared confront or contradict him. 

And in supporting his dictatorial agenda, his millions of Right-wing followers have found common cause with the followers of a Communist dictator’s agenda.  

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