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ACCOMPLICES TO OUR OWN DESTRUCTION: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 13, 2019 at 12:10 am

On December 22, 2018, President Donald Trump shut down the Federal Government.  The reason: Democrats refused to fund his “border wall” between Mexico and the United States. 

Like Adolf Hitler, who ordered the complete destruction of Germany when he realized his dreams of conquest were over, Trump’s attitude was: “If I can’t rule America, there won’t be an America.”

An estimated 380,000 government employees were furloughed and another 420,000 were ordered to work without pay. Trump told Congressional leaders the shutdown could last months or even years

Thirty-five days passed, with each one bringing increasing stress and fear to the lives of those 800,000 Federal employees.

Meanwhile, House and Senate Democrats held firm. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi even cancelled Trump’s scheduled State of the Union address at the House of Representatives until the shutdown ended.

Finally, on January 25, 2019, Trump walked into the White House Rose Garden and said he would sign a bill to re-open the government for three weeks:

  • Lawmakers would have until February 15 to negotiate a compromise on border security.
  • Otherwise, the government would shut down again.

As the February deadline loomed ever closer, on February 11, 2019, CNN published a story under the headline: “Washington on the brink as new shutdown looms”:

The story bluntly laid out the stakes involved: “If no deal is reached and no stop-gap spending measure emerges, a new government shutdown could be triggered, again subjecting 800,000 federal workers who could be furloughed or asked to work without pay.”

Just as Germans did nothing to stop Adolf Hitler’s inexorable march toward war—and the destruction of millions of lives and Germany itself—so, too, do Americans seem paralyzed to put an end to the equally self-destructive reign of the man often dubbed “Carrot Caligula.”

Gaius Caligula was “the mad emperor” of ancient Rome. Like Trump, he lived by a philosophy of “Let them hate me, so long as they fear me.”

He ruled as the most powerful man of his time—three years, ten months and eight days. And all but the first six months of his reign were drenched in slaughter and debauchery.

The nickname “Carrot Caligula” was stuck on Trump owing to his strange orange skin color.  

So how can America’s continued slide into tyranny and destruction be stopped? 

There are basically three ways:

First, Congressional Republicans could revolt against Trump’s authority and/or agenda. They could, for example, make clear they will not accept another disastrous government shutdown.

In December, the Republican-dominated Senate unanimously passed bills to keep the government open and temporarily provide funding without Trump’s wall money. 

Then Trump said he would not sign the bills.  

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could have reopened the government by re-introducing the same funding bill that the Senate had already passed. He refused.

The odds of Republicans revolting against Trump are nearly impossible. They fear that if he is removed or rendered impotent, voters will turn on them in 2020—and end their comfortable reign of power and privileges.

Second, invoking the Twenty-Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. This allows the Vice President and a majority of the Cabinet to recommend the removal of the President in cases where he is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” It also allows the House and Senate to confirm the recommendation over the President’s objection by two-thirds vote. 

The Vice President then takes over as President. 

There are ample grounds for this—such as the continuing revelations that Trump has decades-long secret ties to Russian oligarchs linked to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.

This solution is also extremely unlikely. Most of Trump’s cabinet rightly fears him. He fired FBI Director James Comey in 2017 and publicly humiliated his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, for more than a year until firing him in 2018. 

Third, the “Caligula solution.” Like Trump, Caligula delighted in humiliating others. His fatal mistake was taunting Cassius Chaerea, a member of his own bodyguard. Caligula considered Chaerea effeminate because of a weak voice and mocked him with names like “Priapus” and “Venus.”

On January 22 41 A.D. Chaerea and several other bodyguards hacked Caligula to death with swords before other guards could save him.

Gaius Caligula

Among the potential enemies Trump has enraged are members of the United States Secret Service.

Among the agencies directly affected by the Trump-ordered government shutdown: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Its employees include the Secret Service agents who protect Trump.

In short: The men and women guarding Trump—along with their families—faced economic ruin because Trump didn’t get his way on “The Wall.” 

And now they may face those dangers once again—for the same reason.

Besides the Secret Service, a great many Federal employees—such as FBI agents and members of the military—are armed and in close proximity of the President.

Even more ominous for Trump: By the end of the shutdown, his popularity had fallen to a historic low of 37%.

As Niccolo Machiavelli warns in The Discourses“When a prince becomes universally hated, it is likely that he’s harmed some individuals—who thus seek revenge. This desire is increased by seeing that the prince is widely loathed.”

ACCOMPLICES TO OUR OWN DESTRUCTION: PART ONE (OF TWO)

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

“Why are we letting one man systematically destroy our nation before our eyes?” 

It’s a question millions of Americans have no doubt been asking themselves since Donald Trump took office as President of the United States.

And no doubt it’s the question that millions of Germans asked themselves throughout the six years of World War II.

In September, 1938, as Adolf Hitler threatened to go to war against France and England over Czechoslovakia, most Germans feared he would. They knew that Germany was not ready for war, despite all of their Fuhrer’s boasts about how invincible the Third Reich was.

A group of high-ranking German army officers was prepared to overthrow Hitler—provided that England and France held firm and handed him a major diplomatic reverse.

But then the unexpected happened: England and France—though more powerful than Germany—flinched at the thought of war.

They surrendered to Hitler’s demands that he be given the “Sudetenland”—the northern, southwest and western regions of Czechoslovakia, inhabited mostly by ethnic Germans.

Hitler’s popularity among Germans soared. He had expanded the territories of the Reich by absorbing Austria and Czechoslovakia—without a shot being fired!

The plotters in the German high command, realizing that public opinion stood overwhelmingly against them, abandoned their plans for a coup. They decided to wait for a more favorable time.

It never came.

Adolf Hitler and his generals

Less than one year after the infamous “Munich conference,” England and France were at war—and fighting for the lives of their peoples.

France would fall to Hitler’s legions in June, 1940.  England would fight on alone—until, in December, 1941, the United States finally declared war on Nazi Germany.

As for the Germans: Most of them blindly followed their Fuhrer right to the end—believing his lies (or at least wanting to believe them), serving in his legions, defending his rampant criminality.

And then, in April, 1945, with Russian armies pouring into Berlin, it was too late for conspiracies against the man who had led them to total destruction. 

Berliners paid the price for their loyalty to a murderous dictator—through countless rapes, murders and the wholesale destruction of their city. And from 1945 to 1989, Germans living in the eastern part of their country paid the price as slaves to the Soviet Union. 

Have Americans learned anything from this this warning from history about subservience to a madman? 

Apparently not.

In 2016, almost 63 million Americans elected Donald Trump—a racist, serial adulterer and longtime fraudster—as President. 

Whereas Barack Obama, in 2008, had run for President on the slogan, “Yes, We Can!” Trump ran on the themes of fear and vindictiveness. He threatened violence not only against Democrats but even his fellow Republicans.

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Donald Trump

Upon taking office in January, 2017, Trump began undermining one public or private institution after another.

  • He repeatedly and viciously attacked the nation’s free press for daring to report his growing list of crimes and disasters, calling it “the enemy of the American people.”
  • When American Intelligence agencies—such as the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency—unanimously agreed that Russia had interfered with the 2016 Presidential election, Trump disagreed. Then he publicly sided with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin against those men and women charged with protecting the security of the United States.   
  • When FBI Director James Comey refused to pledge his personal loyalty to Trump—and when he continued to investigate Russian subversion of the 2016 election—Trump fired him.  
  • Trump repeatedly attacked his own Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, for not “protecting” him from agents pursuing the Russia investigation. On November 7, 2018, the day after Democrats won a majority of House seats, Trump fired him. 
  • Trump has repeatedly attacked Seattle U.S. District Judge James Robart, who halted Trump’s first anti-Muslim travel ban.

And on December 22, 2018, Trump shut down the Federal Government because Democrats refused to fund his “border wall” between the United States and Mexico. An estimated 380,000 government employees were furloughed and another 420,000 were ordered to work without pay.

As a result:

  • For weeks, hundreds of thousands of government workers missed paychecks.
  • Smithsonian museums closed their doors.
  • Trash piled up in national parks. 
  • Increasing numbers of employees of the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA)—which provides security against airline terrorism—began refusing to come to work, claiming to be sick.
  • At the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) many air traffic controllers called in “sick.” Those who showed up to work without pay grew increasingly frazzled as they feared being evicted for being unable to make rent or house payments. 
  • Due to the shortage of air traffic controllers, many planes weren’t able to land safely at places like New York’s LaGuardia Airport.
  • Many Federal employees—such as FBI agents—were forced to rely on soup kitchens to feed their families.
  • Many workers tried to bring in money by babysitting or driving for Uber, 

Nancy Pelosi, the newly-elected Speaker of the House of Representatives, summed up Trump thus: “The impression you get from the President is he would like to not only close government, build a wall, but also abolish Congress, so the only voice that mattered was his own.”

“BLOOD FEUD”: POWER—AND IDEALISM—CORRUPT: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Entertainment, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on January 16, 2019 at 12:15 am

The 1983 TV mini-series, Blood Feud, chronicles the decade-long struggle between Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and James R. Hoffa, president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters union.  

By 1963, the Mafia despairs of the increasing pressure of the Justice Department. At a swanky restaurant, several high-ranking members agree that “something” must be done.

[Although this scene is fictional, it’s clearly based on an infamous outburst of Carlos Marcello, the longtime Mafia boss of New Orleans. 

Carlos Marcello

[In 1961, Marcello was deported to his native Guatemala on orders by RFK. After illegally re-entering the country, he swore vengeance against the Attorney General.  

[In September, 1962, during a meeting with several mob colleagues, he flew into a rage when someone mentioned Kennedy: “Don’t you worry about that little Bobby sonofabitch. He’s going to be taken care of!”

[Marcello believed that the death of President Kennedy would render the Attorney General powerless. And he added that he planned to use a “nut” to do the job.]

On November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas, Texas.  

Blood Feud clearly implies that the Mafia was responsible. 

[The House Assassinations Committee investigated this possibility in 1978, and determined that Carlos Marcello, the Mafia boss of New Orleans, had the means, motive and opportunity to kill JFK. But it could not find any conclusive evidence of his involvement.]

Even with the President dead, RFK’s Justice Department continues to pursue Hoffa. In 1964, he is finally convicted of jury tampering and sentenced to 13 years’ imprisonment.

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U.S. Department of Justice

Hoping to avoid prison, Hoffa offers future Teamsters support if RFK runs for President. To prove he can deliver, he tells Kennedy that the Teamsters have even penetrated the FBI.

[In March, 1964, Kennedy met with Hoffa on an airfield at Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C. 

[Kennedy spoke quietly with Hoffa. The Attorney General showed him a document, and Hoffa at times nodded or shook his head.

[Kennedy never revealed the reason for the meeting.  

[Gus Russo—author of Live By the Sword: The Secret War Against Castro and the Death of JFK—writes that the reason might have been Dallas.  

[Perhaps, he speculates, RFK had wanted to look into Hoffa’s eyes while asking him: Did you have anything to do with the assassination? RFK had, in fact, done this with CIA Director John McCone almost immediately after his brother’s death.]

In Blood Feud, Kennedy confronts J. Edgar Hoover (Ernest Borgnine) and accuses him of illegally planting wiretaps in Mob hangouts all over the country.

J. Edgar Hoover and Robert F. Kennedy 

Hoover retorts that this had been the only way to obtain the prosecution-worthy intelligence Kennedy had demanded: “You loved that flow of information.  You didn’t want it to stop.”

Kennedy: Why did you keep the FBI out of the fight against the Mob for decades?

Hoover: “Every agency that came to grips with them got corrupted by their money.”

[So far as is known, Hoover never made any such confession. Historians continue to guess his reason for leaving the Mob alone for decades.]

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Ernest Borgnine as J. Edgar Hoover

RFK then mentions the CIA’s plots to employ the Mob to assassinate Cuban dictator Fidel Castro

[The agency had wanted to please President Kennedy, and the Mafia had wanted to regain its casinos lost to the Cuban Revolution. The role the Kennedy brothers played in the CIA’s assassination plots remains murky, and has been the subject of endless speculation.]

“The CIA, doing business with the Mob,” says Kennedy. “The FBI, leaking information to its enemies [the Teamsters].” Then, sadly: “I guess it’s true–everyone does business with everyone.”

[So far as is known, the FBI did not pass on secrets to the Teamsters. But during the 1970s, the Mafia  penetrated the Cleveland FBI office through bribes to a secretary. Several FBI Mob informants were “clipped” as a result.

In 1967, Hoffa goes to prison.  He stays there until, in 1971, President Richard Nixon commutes his sentence in hopes of gaining Teamsters’ support for his 1972 re-election.

Kennedy leaves the Justice Department in 1964 and is elected U.S. Senator from New York. In 1968 he runs for President. On June 5, after winning the California primary, he’s assassinated.  

Hoffa schemes to return to the presidency of the Teamsters–a post now held by his successor, Frank Fitzsimmons. He runs the union in a more relaxed style than Hoffa, thus giving the Mob greater control over its pension fund.

And the Mafia likes it that way.

On July 30, 1975, Hoffa disappears from the parking lot of the Machus Red Fox Restaurant near Detroit.  He had gone there to meet with two Mafia leaders.

Forty-three years after the death of James R. Hoffa, and 50 years after that of Robert F. Kennedy:

  • Labor unions are a shadow of their former power.
  • The threat they once represented to national prosperity has been replaced by that of predatory  corporations like Enron and AIG.
  • The war RFK began on the Mafia has continued, sending countless mobsters to prison.
  • Millions of Americans who once expected the Federal Government to protect them from crime now believe the Government is their biggest threat.
  • The idealism that fueled RFK’s life has virtually disappeared from politics.

A TALE OF TWO EMPERORS—ROMAN AND AMERICAN: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 11, 2019 at 12:06 am

Unlike Gaius Caligula, Donald Trump hasn’t yet been charged with murder. But he has often boasted: “Get even with people. If they screw you, screw them back 10 times as hard. I really believe that.”

And during his rise as a business mogul, he hired mobbed-up firms to erect Trump Tower and his Trump Plaza apartment building in Manhattan. Among his business associates: Mafia bosses Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno and Paul Castellano.

If Trump hasn’t ordered rub-outs, there’s no question that many of the mobsters he’s dealt with have.

And during his second Presidential debate with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, he previewed the dangers of a Trump Justice Department: “If I win I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation.”  

Reports have since emerged that he tried to pressure Acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein into prosecuting Clinton—even though there was no evidence that she had committed a crime.

As emperor of Rome, Caligula’s egomania soon reached psychotic heights.

  • He  gave himself several surnames: “Pious,” “Child of the Camp,” “Father of the Armies,” and “Greatest and Best of Caesars.”
  • Flattered that he had risen higher than princes and kings, he began to believe himself a god.
  • He appeared at the temple of Castor and Pollux to be worshiped as Jupiter Latiaris.
  • He also set up a special temple to his own godhead.

Gaius Caligula

Trump’s egomania is literally stamped on his properties. Of the 515 entities he owns, 268 of them—52%—bear his last name. He often refers to his properties as “the swankiest,” “the most beautiful.”  

Among the references he’s made to himself: 

  • “My fingers are long and beautiful, as, it has been well documented, are various other parts of my body.” 
  • “I think the only difference between me and the other candidates is that I’m more honest and my women are more beautiful.”
  • “My Twitter has become so powerful that I can actually make my enemies tell the truth.”
  • “My IQ is one of the highest—and you all know it.”

When Caligula wasn’t ordering wholesale Stalin-like purges—ranging from Roman aristocrats to slaves—he was setting new records for debauchery.

According to the Roman historian Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus: “He lived in habitual incest with all his [three] sisters, and at a large banquet he placed each of them in turn below him, while his wife reclined above. Of these he is believed to have violated Drusilla when he was still a minor.”

Trump has never been charged with incest, but he’s repeatedly made sexually inappropriate comments about his daughter, Ivanka:  

  • “Yeah, she’s really something, and what a beauty, that one. If I weren’t happily married and, ya know, her father …”
  • When Trump appeared on the Dr. Oz Show, he was joined on stage by Ivanka. After they kissed, Dr. Oz said: “It’s nice to see a dad kiss his daughter.” Trump: “I kiss her every chance I get.”  The remark was edited before the show aired.
  • When asked how he would react if Ivanka, a former teen model, posed forPlayboy, Trump replied: “I don’t think Ivanka would do that, although she does have a very nice figure. I’ve said if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.”  

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Ivanka Trump

For all his cruelty and egomania, the trait that finally destroyed Caligula was his joy in humiliating others. 

His fatal mistake was to taunt Cassius Chaerea, a member of his own bodyguard. Caligula considered Chaerea effeminate because of a weak voice and mocked him with names like “Priapus” and “Venus.”

On January 22 41 A.D. Chaerea and several other bodyguards hacked Caligula to death with swords before other guards could save him.

Like Caligula, Trump may find that his joy in inflicting suffering on others may ultimately destroy him.

By December 28, 2018, the New York Times estimated that Trump had insulted 551 people, places and institutions since declaring his candidacy for President in 2015.  

Before taking office as President, Trump added to this list the United States Secret Service. He did so by keeping his longtime private security force, and combining its members with those of the elite federal agency.

Marginalizing the Secret Service sent a clear and insulting message: “You’re not good enough, and I don’t trust you.”

Among the agencies directly affected by the Trump-ordered government shutdown, now into its 18th day: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS)—whose employees include the Secret Service agents who protect Trump.

In short: The men and women guarding Trump are facing financial ruin—along with their families—because Trump didn’t get his way on “The Wall.” 

In the 1981 movie, Prince of the City—based on the real-life career of NYPD Detective Robert Leuci—a Mafia killer warns a cop who will soon testify against police corruption: “Anybody can be hit. You know that. All those guards have to do is look the wrong way for a second.”

Secret Service agents now face a choice: To take a bullet for a tyrant masquerading as President—or for their families threatened with ruin.

It remains to be seen if Trump suffers the same fate of Caligula.

A TALE OF TWO EMPERORS—ROMAN AND AMERICAN: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 10, 2019 at 12:06 am

Like Gaius Caligula, the “mad emperor” of ancient Rome, Donald Trump can truly say: “Let them hate me, so long as they fear me.”

In fact, he said exactly that to Bob Woodward, the legendary Washington Post investigative reporter: “Real power is—I don’t even want to use the word—fear.”

Similarities between Trump and Caligula emerged well before Trump entered the White House.

On October 7, 2016, The Washington Post leaked a video of Donald Trump making sexually predatory comments about women.

The remarks came during a 2005 exchange with Billy Bush, then the host of Access Hollywood (and now host of Today). 

Billy Bush

Daniel S.-L. [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons

The two were traveling in an Access Hollywood bus to the set of the soap opera Days of Our Lives, where Trump was to make a cameo appearance.

Neither Trump nor Bush could be seen during the exchange–the video focuses entirely on the bus. But the audio came in clearly–and, for Trump, damningly:

Donald Trump:You know and I moved on her actually. You know she was down on Palm Beach. I moved on her and I failed. I’ll admit it.  I did try and fuck her. She was married.

Unknown: That’s huge news.

Trump:No, no, Nancy. No this was—and I moved on her very heavily, in fact, I took her out furniture shopping. She wanted to get some furniture. I said I’ll show you where they have some nice furniture.

I took her out furniture. I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there, and she was married. Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phony tits and everything. She’s totally changed her look.

[At that point, they spot Arianne Zucker, the starring actress in Days in Our Lives.] 

Arianne Zucker

Greg Hernandez from California, CA, USA [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Bush: Sheesh, your girl’s hot as shit. In the purple. Yes! The Donald has scored. Whoa, my man!

Trump: Look at you. You are a pussy. Maybe it’s a different one.

Bush: It better not be the publicist. No, it’s her. It’s—

Trump: Yeah, that’s her. With the gold. I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful—I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything.

Bush: Whatever you want.

Trump: Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything. 

Gaius Caligula—who lived in open incest with his three sisters—couldn’t have said it better. 

When the Washington Post broke the story on October 7, the reaction was immediate—and explosive. 

Caligula’s life spanned August 31, 12 A.D. to January 24, 41 A.D. His chief biographer was Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus.

Gaius Caligula

Trump was born on June 14, 1946.

Caligula became Emperor in 37 A.D. after succeeding the Emperor Tiberius, his uncle who had adopted him as a son after his father died.

Trump was elected President on November 8, 2016, after winning 304 electoral votes to 227 for his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.

Trump began his real estate career at his father’s real estate and construction company. He rose to wealth and fame after his father, Fred, gave him control of the business in 1971.

Caligula’s reign began well—and popularly. He gave Tiberius a magnificent funeral—then recalled to Rome all those whom Tiberius had banished, and ignored all charges that Tiberius had leveled against them.

He gave bonuses to the military and destroyed lists of those Tiberius had declared traitors. He allowed the magistrates unrestricted jurisdiction, without appeal to himself.

Similarly, soon after acquiring the family business, Trump set out to build his own empire—hotels, golf courses, casinos, skyscrapers across North and South America, Europe and Asia. He named many of them after himself.

He appeared at the Miss USA pageants, which he owned from 1996 to 2015. He hosted and co-produced The Apprentice, an NBC reality television series from 2004 to 2015.

The ancient historians describe Caligula as a noble and enlightened ruler during the first six months of his reign. But in October 37 A.D. he fell seriously ill or perhaps was poisoned.

Caligula soon recovered but emerged a changed man. He began laying claim to divine majesty, and killing or exiling anyone he saw as a threat.  

Among his litany of crimes, according to his biographer, Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus:

“He forced parents to attend the executions of their sons, sending a litter for one man who pleaded ill health, and inviting another to dinner immediately after witnessing the death, and trying to rouse him to gaiety and jesting by a great show of affability.”

He favorite method of execution was to have a victim tortured with many slight wounds. His infamous order for this: “Strike so that he may feel that he is dying.”   

Similarly, Trump delights in personal cruelties. During his campaign he encouraged Right-wing thugs to attack dissenters, even claiming he would pay their legal expenses.

He mocked  Christine Blasey Ford, the psychology professor who accused his Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, of trying to rape her when she was a teenager. 

And he delights in belittling his own Cabinet members: “He’s like a little rat. He just scurries around,” he said of Reince Priebus, his chief of staff.

A TALE OF TWO EMPERORS—ROMAN AND AMERICAN: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 9, 2019 at 12:11 am

January 20, 2019, will mark exactly two years since Donald Trump’s took the oath of office as the 45th President of the United States. 

He’s thus held power almost as long as Gaius Caligula, who ruled the Roman empire for three years, ten months and eight days.

It was Caligula who, as the “mad emperor” of Rome, once said: “Bear in mind that I can treat anyone exactly as I please.” And Trump has made it abundantly clear he believes he has the same right. 

Latest case in point: The continuing shutdown of the Federal Government.

The reason: Trump’s demand for $5.billion to partially fund a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border—and the refusal of House Democrats to give it to him. 

As a Presidential candidate in 2016, Trump had claimed: “I would build a great wall, and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me, and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great great wall on our southern border and I’ll have Mexico pay for that wall.” 

To Trump’s rabidly anti-Mexican audiences, that sounded great. It was the most important reason most of them had—and gave—for voting for him.

But then something unexpected—at least by Trump—happened: Mexico refused to pay for it. 

That left Trump scrambling.

So that left Trump with only one way out: Forcing  Americans to pay for it.

Threatening to shut down the Federal Government if he didn’t get his way—and his wall funding.

Donald Trump

On December 11, he met in the Oval Office with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer. And, true to his love of publicity, Trump made sure it was televised live. 

He lost no time in making his demand—and threat:“And one way or the other, it’s going to get built. I’d like not to see a government closing, a shutdown. We will see what happens over the next short period of time.” 

“One way or the other”—“so doer so”—was a favorite phrase of Adolf Hitler’s, meaning: If he couldn’t bully his opponents into surrendering, he would use violence.

Pelosi responded: “I think the American people recognize that we must keep government open, that a shutdown is not worth anything, and that you should not have a Trump shutdown.”

“We do not want to shut down the government,” said Schumer, echoing her. You have called 20 times to shut down the government….We want to come to an agreement.

“If we can’t come to an agreement, we have solutions that will pass the House and Senate right now, and will not shut down the government. And that’s what we’re urging you to do. Not threaten to shut down the government because you can’t get your way.”

Trump, taking the bait, then said: “I’ll take it. You know what I’ll say: Yes, if we don’t get what we want, one way or the other…I will shut down the government. Absolutely.” 

But Republican leaders in Congress didn’t want to be blamed for shutting down the government, seemed to persuade him to back away from his threat. The Senate passed a short-term funding measure without his wall money. Vice President Mike Pence told lawmakers that Trump was open to approving it 

Then the Fox News Network stepped in.

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“I think a lot of people who voted for President Trump counted on him on this particular issue,” Fox & Friends host Jedediah Bila said.

“I think their feet were to the fire. And you see a lot of people around the country saying: ‘Hold on a second. You told us that you weren’t afraid to shut down the government, that’s why we like you. What happened? You just gave in right away?’”

And Right-wing columnist Ann Coulter said: “Trump will just have been a joke presidency who scammed the American people, amused the populists for a while, but he’ll have no legacy whatsoever.

“Trump will very likely not finish his term and definitely not be elected to a second term.”

For a man who has “joked” that having a “President-for-Life” would be “great,” Coulter’s words are a nightmare.

On December 22, 2018, Trump shut down the government.

Well, not entirely.  An estimated 380,000 government employees were furloughed and another 420,000 were ordered to work without pay.

By January 9, 2019, Trump showed no signs of backing down. 

So the Federal Office of Personnel Management (OPM) suggested that employees unable to pay rent could work for their landlords as a form of compensation! 

Seal of the United States Office of Personnel Management.svg

The OPM also tweeted a link to letter templates that could be sent to creditors, mortgage companies or landlords explaining why bills couldn’t be paid.

The message ended:  “If you need legal advice please consult with your personal attorney.” 

That assumed that Federal workers could afford a personal attorney.  A 2017 survey from CareerBuilder found that 78% of fulltime American workers lived paycheck-to-paycheck.

FROM THE NRA’S MOUTH TO TRUMP’S EAR—AND MOUTH

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on October 29, 2018 at 12:13 am

On Saturday, October 27, 11 people were killed and six injured in a shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Robert Bowers, 46, of suburban Baldwin, faces 29 charges in connection to the rampage. He is charged with 11 counts of using a firearm to commit murder. And he faces multiple counts of two hate crimes:

  1. Obstruction of exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death, and
  2. Obstruction of exercise of religious beliefs resulting in bodily injury to a public safety officer.

He could face the death penalty if convicted.

And how did President Donald Trump respond to the massacre?

Exactly as the National Rifle Association (NRA) would have him respond: “If there was an armed guard inside the temple, they would have been able to stop him,” he told reporters before boarding a flight to an Indiana campaign rally later in the afternoon. 

That, of course, is the standard mantra of the NRA, which lavishly bankrolls the GOP.

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Donald Trump

And this, of course, ignores two major truths:

  1. The killer used an AR-15 assault rifle—the go-to firearm for heavy-duty massacres. It can fire 150 rounds in 15 seconds and about 600 rounds per minute; and
  2. Four of the wounded were police officers—who did have firearms.

In 2016, the NRA spent more than $36 million on elections. Donald Trump proved the largest beneficiary—netting more than $21 million. 

The organization is certainly getting its money’s worth.

But: Is it true that “the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is for a good guy to have a gun”?

On July 7, 2016, 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 about the description of the suspects and whether or not one or more was in custody.”

A 2012 Mother Jones article on “More Guns, More Mass Shootings—Coincidence?” offered a striking finding: After analyzing 62 mass shootings over a 30-year period, the magazine determined: “In not a single case was the killing stopped by a civilian using a gun.”

So much for the ability of gun-toting, untrained amateurs to “stop a bad guy with a gun.”

But 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 C. 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 Wallace 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.

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.

SECRETS OF CONSPIRACIES: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on October 12, 2018 at 1:06 am

Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of modern political science, wrote that there are three periods of danger in a conspiracy:  

  • Dangers in organizing the plot
  • Dangers in executing the conspiracy
  • Dangers following the execution of the plot.   

The first two were covered in Part Two of this series.  Now, as to the third:

Dangers following the Execution of the Conspiracy: There is really but one—someone is left who will avenge the murdered prince. These can be brothers, sons or other relatives, who have been spared by negligence or for other reasons. 

But of all the perils that follow the execution of a conspiracy, the most certain and fearful is the attachment of the people to the murdered prince. There is no remedy against this, for the conspirators can never secure themselves against a whole people. 

An example of this occurred in the case of Julius Caesar, who, being beloved by the people, was avenged by them.  

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Julius Caesar 

Machiavelli closes his chapter “Of Conspiracies” with advice to rulers on how they should act when they find a conspiracy has been formed against them.  

If they discover that a conspiracy exists against them, they must, before punishing its authors, strive to learn its nature and extent. And they must measure the danger posed by the conspirators against their own strength.

And if they find it powerful and alarming, they must not expose it until they have amassed sufficient force to crush it. Otherwise, they will only speed their own destruction. They should try to pretend ignorance of it. If the conspirators find themselves discovered, they will be forced by necessity to act without consideration.  

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Niccolo Machiavelli

The foregoing was taken from Book Three, Chapter Six, of Machiavelli’s masterwork, The Discourses on Livy, which was published posthumously in 1531. But elsewhere in this volume, he notes how important it is for rulers to make themselves loved—or at least respected—by their fellow citizens: 

Note how much more praise those Emperors merited who, after Rome became an empire, conformed to her laws like good princes, than those who took the opposite course. 

Titus, Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus and Marcus Auelius did not require the Praetorians nor the multitudinous legions to defend them, because they were protected by their own good conduct, the good will of the people, and by the love of the Senate.

On the other hand, neither the Eastern nor the Western armies saved Caligula, Nero, Vitellius and so many other wicked Emperors from the enemies which their bad conduct and evil lives had raised up against them.  

In his better-known work, The Prince, he warns rulers who—like Donald Trump–are inclined to rule by fear:

A prince should make himself feared in such a way that if he does not gain love, he at any rate avoids hatred: for fear and the absence of hatred may well go together.

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Donald Trump

* * * * *

If Trump is aware of Machiavelli’s warnings, he has shown no signs of it.

Most Presidents have sought to make themselves seem friendly and caring toward their fellow Americans.

This held true even for Richard M. Nixon, when he made an impromptu visit to the Lincoln Memorial and engaged in a rambling dialogue with Vietnam war protesters. 

The encounter happened around 4 a.m. on May 9, 1970, shortly after the invasion of Cambodia. Nationwide outrage had exploded on college campuses, climaxing in the killing of four students at Kent State University on May 4.  

So young Vietnam antiwar protesters who had descended on Washington, D.C. were startled when Nixon suddenly appeared in their midst.

Even more startling: He had come with only a small number of Secret Service agents and his devoted White House valet, Manolo Sanchez.

Nixon, in his awkward way of trying to establish rapport, asked some of the students where they were from. When they said they attended Syracuse University, Nixon replied that it had a great football team.  

But Nixon and the protesters were separated by too many differences–in their views on sexuality, civil rights, dissent and war—to find common cause.

Still, Nixon at least made an effort to understand and reach an accommodation with his critics.

Since taking office on January 20, Donald Trump has made none.

Instead, he has:

  • Held a series of “victory rallies” with his Right-wing followers—which comedian Bill Mahrer calls “hillbilly Nurembergs.” 
  • Attacked the integrity of Federal judges who struck down his travel ban on Muslims.
  • Called the nation’s most prestigious news media “the enemy of the American people.”
  • Slandered truthful stories about his staffers’ ties to Russian Intelligence agents as “fake news.”
  • Falsely accused his predecessor, President Barack Obama, of wiretapping him.

These and other infamous actions have led to only 45% of Americans approving of his performance—while 52% disapprove. 

By Machiavelli’s standards, Trump has made himself the perfect target for a conspiracy: “When a prince becomes universally hated, it is likely that he’s harmed some individuals—who thus seek revenge. This desire is increased by seeing that the prince is widely loathed.”

SECRETS OF CONSPIRACIES: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 11, 2018 at 12:19 am

More than 500 years ago, Niccolo Machiavelli, the Florentine statesman, authored The Discourses on Livy, a work of political history and philosophy. In it, he outlined how citizens of a republic can maintain their freedoms.  

One of the longest chapters—Book Three, Chapter Six—covers “Of Conspiracies.”  In it, those who wish to conspire against a ruler will find highly useful advice.  

And so will those who wish to foil such a conspiracy.  

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Niccolo Machiavelli

Writes Machiavelli:

For conspirators, there are three ways their efforts can be foiled:

  • Discovery through denunciation;
  • Discovery through incautiousness;
  • Discovery through writings.

Discovery through Denunciation: This occurs through treachery or lack of prudence among one or more conspirators.  

Treachery is so common that you can safely tell your plans to only your most trusted friends who are willing to risk their lives for your sake.  You may find that you have only one or two of these. 

But as you are bring more people into the conspiracy, the chances of discovery greatly increase. It’s impossible to find many who can be completely trusted: For their devotion to you must be greater than their sense of danger and fear of punishment.  

Discovery through Carelessness: This happens when one of the conspirators speaks incautiously, so that a third person overhears it  Or it may occur from thoughtlessness, when a conspirator tells the secret to his wife or child, or to some other indiscreet person.  

When a conspiracy has more than three or four members, its discovery is almost certain, either through treason, imprudence or carelessness. 

If more than one conspirator is arrested, the whole plot is discovered, for it will be impossible for any two to agree perfectly as to all their statements.  

If only one is arrested, he may—through courage and stubbornness—be able to conceal the names of his accomplices. But then the others, to remain safe, must not panic and flee, since this is certain to be discovered.

If one of them becomes fearful—whether it’s the one who was arrested or is still at liberty—discovery of the conspiracy is certain. 

The best way to avoid such detection is to confide your project to your intended fellow conspirators at the moment of execution—and not sooner.  

A classic example of this occurred in ancient Persia: A group of nobles assembled to discuss overthrowing a usurper to the throne. The last one to arrive was Darius.

When one of the conspirators asked, “When should we strike?” Darius replied: “We must either go now at this very moment and carry it into execution, or I shall go and denounce you all. For I will not give any of you time to denounce me.”

At that, they went directly to the palace, assassinated the usurper and proclaimed Darius their new king.

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Discovery through Writings: You may talk freely with anyone 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. 

Thus, you should guard most carefully against writing, as against a dangerous rock, for nothing will convict you quicker than your own handwriting.

You may escape, then, from the accusation of a single individual, unless you are convicted by some writing or other pledge, which you should be careful never to give.  

If you are denounced, there are means of escaping punishment:

  • By denying the accusation and claiming that the person making it hates you; or
  • Claiming that your accuser was tortured or coerced into giving false testimony against you.

But the most prudent course is to not tell your intentions to anyone, and to carry out the attempt yourself.  

Even if you’re not discovered before you carry out your attack, there are still two dangers facing a conspirator:

Dangers in Execution: These result from:

  • An unexpected change in the routine of the intended target;
  • The lack of courage among the conspirators; or
  • An error on their part, such as leaving some of those alive whom the conspirators intended to kill.  

Adolf Hitler, who claimed to have a sixth-sense for danger, was famous for changing his routine at the last minute. 

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Adolf Hitler

On November 9, 1939, this instinct saved his life. He had been scheduled to give a long speech at a Munich beer hall before the “Old Fighters” of his storm troopers. 

But that evening he cut short his speech and left the beer hall. Forty-five minutes later, a bomb exploded inside a pillar—before which Hitler had been speaking.

Conspirators can also be doomed by their good intentions.  

In 44 B.C., Gaius Cassius, Marcus Brutus and other Roman senators decided to assassinate Julius Caesar, whose dictatorial ambitions they feared.

Cassius also intended to murder Mark Anthony, Caesar’s strongest ally. But Brutus objected, fearing the plotters would look like butchers, not saviors. Even worse, he allowed Anthony to deliver a eulogy at Caesar’s funeral.

This proved so inflammatory that the mourners rioted, driving the conspirators out of Rome. Soon afterward, they were defeated in a battle with the legions of Anthony and Octavian Caesar—and forced to commit suicide to avoid capture and execution.

SECRETS OF CONSPIRACIES: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 10, 2018 at 12:01 am

In the 1973 movie, The Day of the Jackal, a methodical assassin devises an ingenious plan to kill French President Charles de Gaulle.  

Despite the best efforts of French security forces to entrap him, he eludes them time and again—and comes within an ace of assassinating de Gaulle.

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The Day of the Jackal is fiction, based on a 1971 novel by Frederick Forsythe. In real life, most would-be political assassins lack the skills and sophistication of Forsythe’s anti-hero.

Take the case of the man who, on March 18, 2017, jumped over a bicycle rack outside the security perimeter of the White House. Within two minutes, agents of the U.S. Secret Service had tackled and arrested him.

Then, hours later, a motorist drove up to a White House checkpoint and claimed to have a bomb. Secret Service agents immediately arrested him and seized the stolen 2017 Chevrolet Impala. After a careful search, no explosives were found.

Both men will face criminal prosecution—and probably years in prison.

Even if they had been armed, President Donald J. Trump would not have faced any danger.

For the fifth time since taking office on January 20, he was in Florida, vacationing at his Mar-a-Lago resort.

That does not mean, of course, that future assassins will prove so inept.

More than 500 years ago, Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of modern political science, offered sound advice for would-be conspirators—and for rulers seeking to thwart conspiracies.

Niccolo Machiavellil

Niccolo Machiavelli: When a prince becomes universally hated, it is likely that he’s harmed some individuals—who thus seek revenge. This desire is increased by seeing the prince is widely loathed. 

A prince, then, should avoid incurring such universal hatred….

By doing this, he protects himself from such vengeance-seekers. There are two reasons for this:

(1) Men rarely risk danger to avenge a wrong; and

(2) Even if they want to avenge a wrong, they know they will face almost universal condemnation because the prince is held in such high esteem.  

So much for Machiavelli.  

Now consider some of the tweets of “White House Staffer,” a self-proclaimed member of the Trump administration who claims 160,000 Twitter followers.

Since January 27, 2017, he has blasted a series of short, information-crammed tweets about daily life in the Executive Mansion.  

[NOTE: Although I can’t confirm the legitimacy of his status or his tweets, I believe they are real. They contain too many small, intimate secrets of life in a paranoia-laced White House to not be genuine.]  

March 1, 2017: Well the good times didn’t last long here. POTUS is back to flipping out on us.

March 13: POTUS [President of the United States] is thinking about suspending daily press briefings until the media “learn to be nice.” [Steve] Bannon [a top Trump adviser] is pushing for it.

March 16: Sean Hannity was asked to be Press Secretary last week. He turned it down because he didn’t want to take the pay cut. [Sean] Spicer survives.

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Donald Trump

Niccolo Machiavelli: He who is threatened, and decides to avenge himself on the prince, becomes a truly dangerous man.

Anger is most likely aroused by injury to a a man’s property or honor. A prince should carefully avoid injuring either, for such a victim will always desire vengeance.  

White House Staffer – February 25, 2017: The President keeps saying we’re a finely tuned machine. If that’s true why has he been fricking screaming at us all week? He’s losing it.

February 27: [Steve] Bannon is the scariest person here. He’s broken so much White House stuff by throwing it in anger. Plates, phones, chairs, etc.

February 27: It’s one thing to swear but [Steve] Bannon does it in front of the women here. C**t this, c**t that. He can’t finish a sentence without it.  

Machiavelli draws a distinction between plots and conspiracies. A plot may be formed by a single individual or by many. The first isn’t a conspiracy, since that would involve at least two participants.  

A single plotter avoids the danger faced by two or more conspirators: Since no one knows his intention, he can’t be betrayed by an accomplice.  

Anyone may form a plot, whether he is prominent or insignificant, because everyone is at some time allowed to speak to the prince. And he can use this opportunity to satisfy his desire for revenge.    

On the other hand, says Machiavelli, the dangers of assassination by a trusted intimate are slight: Few people dare to assault a prince. Of those who do, few or none escapes being killed in the attempt, or immediately afterward. As a result, only a small number of people are willing to incur such certain death.  

Those who take part in a conspiracy against a ruler are “the great men of the state, or those on terms of familiar intercourse with the prince.”

These are men who have access to him. Julius Caesar, for example, was stabbed to death by members of the Roman Senate, who feared his assuming dictatorial powers.

And Adolf Hitler was conspired against by colonels and generals of the German Army. He was in fact holding a war conference when a briefcase bomb exploded, killing three officers and a stenographer, but leaving Hitler only slightly injured.

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