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THE AMERICAN AYATOLLAHS: PART FOUR (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on September 27, 2018 at 12:10 am

On February 18, 2012, Republican Presidential candidate Rick Santorum warned about the “phony theology” of President Barack Obama.

“It’s not about you,” Santorum told supporters of the Right-wing Tea Party in Columbus, Ohio. “It’s not about your quality of life. It’s not about your jobs.

“It’s about some phony ideal. Some phony theology. Oh, not a theology based on the Bible. A different theology.”

What would a Bible-based agenda mean for the country?

The death penalty would be vastly expanded to cover such “crimes” as:

  • Sabbath-breaking: Because the Lord considers it a holy day, anyone who works on the Sabbath must be put to death.  (Exodus 31:12-15)
  • Adultery:  If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife, both the man and the woman must be put to death. (Leviticus 20:10)
  • Fornication: A priest’s daughter who loses her honor by committing fornication and thereby dishonors her father also, shall be burned to death.  (Leviticus 21:9)
  • Nonbelievers: They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and soul; and everyone who would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, was to be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman. (2 Chronicles 15:12-13)
  • Homosexuality:  If a man also lies with mankind, as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death.  Their blood shall be upon them. (Leviticus 20-13)

A modern-day stoning–in Somalia

The Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution—which forbids slavery—would be repealed. 

The Bible not only permits slavery but lays out rules for its practice—such as:

  • When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed at the end of six years as the men are. (Exodus 21-7)
  • However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. (Leviticus 25:44-45)
  • Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. (1 Peter 2:18)

Almost all scientific progress would be discarded, since most of its findings conflict with the Bible:

  • One generation passes away, and another generation comes: but the earth abides forever. (Ecclesiastes 1:4). 
  • This claim is totally contradicted by what astronomers now know about the eventual fate of the Earth: In about 7.6 billion years, the sun will exhaust its nuclear fuels. This will vastly increase its heat and gravitational pull, and at least Mercury, Earth and Venus will be vaporized.

The sun

  • The Bible speaks of a world where physical laws are often violated by the will of God.  Thus, Jesus turns water into wine and raises Lazarus from the dead; Jonah lives inside a fish for three days; Noah dies at 950 years; and demons are exorcised.
  • In Biblical times, mental illness was seen as a manifestation of demonic possession.  Today we know that mental illness has nothing to do with evil spirits.

Laws guaranteeing equal rights for women would be repealed:

  • I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. (1 Timothy 12:10)
  • Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. (Ephesians 5:22)
  • A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. (1 Timothy 2:11)
  • But if…and evidence of the girl’s virginity is not found, they shall bring the girl to the entrance of her father’s house and there her townsman shall stone her to death. (Deuteronomy 22:20-21)

Military conflicts would be fought without regard to the Geneva Convention–as the Israelites did:

  • “You are my battle-ax and sword,” says the Lord. “With you I will shatter nations and destroy many kingdoms. With you I will shatter armies, destroying the horse and rider, the chariot and charioteer. With you I will shatter men and women, old people and children, young men and maidens.  With you I will shatter shepherds and flocks, farmers and oxen, captains and rulers.”  (Jeremiah 51:20-23)

Depiction of the taking of Jericho by the Israelites

  • Samuel said to Saul, “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’” (1 Samuel 15, 1-3) 

* * * * *

Yes, a nation governed by “a theology based on the Bible” would be one far different from the United States we know today.

Since a number of Old Testament practices might lend themselves to easy abuse, this is not a matter to be taken lightly.

THE AMERICAN AYATOLLAHS: PART THREE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on September 26, 2018 at 12:03 am

Bernardo Gui was the chief inquisitor of the Dominican Order during the Medieval Inquisition (1184 – 1230s). 

Gui closely studied the best methods for interrogating “heretics.” He set forth his findings in his most important and famous work, Practica Inquisitionis Heretice Pravitatis. or “Conduct of the Inquisition into Heretical Wickedness.”

Here’s how such an interrogation might go:

When a heretic is first brought up for examination, he assumes a confident air, as though secure in his innocence. I ask him why he has been brought before me. He replies, smiling and courteous, “Sir, I would be glad to learn the cause from you.”

Interrogator: You are accused as a heretic, and that you believe and teach otherwise than Holy Church believes.

Accused Heretic: (Raising his eyes to heaven, with an air of the greatest faith) Lord, thou knowest that I am innocent of this, and that I never held any faith other than that of true Christianity.

Interrogator: You call your faith Christian, for you consider ours as false and heretical. But I ask whether you have ever believed as true another faith than that which the Roman Church holds to be true?

Accused Heretic: I believe the true faith which the Roman Church believes, and which you openly preach to us.

Interrogator: Perhaps you have some of your sect at Rome whom you call the Roman Church. I, when I preach, say many things, some of which are common to us both, as that God liveth, and you believe some of what I preach. Nevertheless you may be a heretic in not believing other matters which are to be believed.

Accused Heretic: I believe all things that a Christian should believe.

Interrogator: I know your tricks….But we waste time in this fencing. Say simply, Do you believe in one God the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost?

Accused Heretic: I believe.

Interrogator: Do you believe in Christ born of the Virgin, suffered, risen, and ascended to heaven?

Accused Heretic: (Briskly) I believe.

Interrogator: Do you believe the bread and wine in the mass performed by the priests to be changed into the body and blood of Christ by divine virtue?

Accused Heretic: Ought I not to believe this?

Interrogator: I don’t ask if you ought to believe, but if you do believe.

Accused Heretic: I believe whatever you and other good doctors order me to believe.

Inquisitor: Those good doctors are the masters of your sect; if I accord with them you believe with me; if not, not.

Accused Heretic: I willingly believe with you if you teach what is good to me.

Inquisitor: You consider it good to you if I teach what your other masters teach. Say, then, do you believe the body of our Lord, Jesus Christ to be in the altar?

Accused Heretic: (Promptly) I believe that a body is there, and that all bodies are of our Lord.

Interrogator: I ask whether the body there is of the Lord who was born of the Virgin, hung on the cross, arose from the dead, ascended, etc.

Accused Heretic: And you, sir, do you not believe it?

Interrogator: I believe it wholly.

Accused Heretic: I believe likewise.

Men like Bernard Gui—and Franklin Graham—do not seek a golden future. They crave to return to a “golden” past—which includes the power Christians once held to forcibly impose their religious beliefs on others.

Among those slated for forced conversions by the Religious Right:

  • Atheists
  • Jews
  • Women
  • Homosexuals
  • Lesbians
  • Non-Christians
  • Liberals

To gain absolute secular power over the lives of their fellow Americans, the Religious Right will support any candidate, no matter how morally despicable. 

During the 2016 Presidential race, evangelicals—and their leaders such as Franklin Graham and Jerry Falwell, Jr.—fervently supported Donald Trump, despite:

  • His being twice divorced;
  • His multiple affairs (including one with porn star Stormy Daniels);
  • His documented ties to Russian oligarchs and Mafia chieftains;
  • His viciousness, greed, lying and egomania.

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Donald Trump and Jerry Falwell, Jr., at Liberty University

And they continue to fervently support him.

They expect Trump to sponsor legislation that will—-by force of law—make their brand of Christianity supreme above all other religions. 

Legislation such as The Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

This was signed into law on March 26, 2015, by Mike Pence, then Governor of Indiana.

This allows any individual or corporation to cite its religious beliefs as a defense when sued by a private party.

Officially, its intent is to prevent the government from forcing business owners to violate their religious beliefs.

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

Thus, a bakery that doesn’t want to make a cake for a gay wedding or a restaurant that doesn’t want to serve lesbian patrons now has the legal right to refuse to do so.

And a hospital can legally turn away a gay patient if it wants to.

Islamic countries are notorious for their persecution of non-Muslims. Now the Religious Right wants to impose its own version of sharia law on American citizens.

THE AMERICAN AYATOLLAHS: PART TWO (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on September 25, 2018 at 12:23 am

American Right-wing elements relentlessly claimed that President Barack Obama was waging “a war on religion.”

GOP candidates like Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney intended to make this a major theme of their respective campaigns for President.

Obama supported a woman’s right

  • to obtain abortion—including in cases of rape and incest;
  • to obtain birth control; and
  • to obtain amniocentesis (pre-natal testing).

By promoting women’s rights, Obama was “waging a war against religion”—according to American fascists.”

Since access to such medical procedures as birth control and pre-natal testing has long been entirely legal, what’s all the fuss about?

It’s simple: The Right is not waging a “war for religious liberty.”

It’s waging a bitter struggle to establish a government that uses force or the threat of it to impose reactionary religious beliefs on religionists who do not share such religious beliefs.

And on atheists or agnostics, who share none at all.

These Rightists and their theocratic allies have less in common with Jesus Christ than with Tomas de Torquemada (1420 – 1498), the infamous Grand Inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition.

Christ never ordered the torture or death of anyone. Torquemada—claiming to act in “defense” of the Roman Catholic Church—presided over the deaths of at least 2,000 “heretics.”

Tomas de Torquemada

Nor did these unfortunate victims of religious fanaticism meet their death quickly or painlessly. They died by perhaps the cruelest means possible—by being burned alive at the stake.

Torquemada didn’t hesitate to pronounce someone a heretic. He “knew” who such people were. They were Jews, Muslims, atheists. They were “lapsed Catholics” who, in his view, failed to show fervent devotion to the religious authorities—like himself—who tyrannically ruled their lives.

For such people, Torquemada believed, the only road to salvation lay in being “cleansed” of their sins. And nothing burns away impurities like fire.

But before the fire-stakes came the fire-mindset: The arrogance of “knowing” who qualified as “saved” and who would be forever “damned.”

Unless, of course, his or her soul had been “purified” by fire.

“Heretic” burned at the stake

Fundamentalist Christians can no longer sentence “heretics” to the stake.

But the mindset that ruled the Spanish Inquisition has not disappeared. It has been vividly displayed by no less a religious authority than Franklin Graham, son of America’s most famous preacher, Billy Graham.

Franklin Graham

Appearing on the MSNBC program, “Morning Joe,” on February 21, 2012, Graham was asked if he thought that Barack Obama, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney qualified as Christians.

On Obama: “Islam sees him as a son of Islam… I can’t say categorically that [Obama is not Muslim] because Islam has gotten a free pass under Obama.”

On Santorum: “I think so. His values are so clear on moral issues. No question about it… I think he’s a man of faith.”

On Gingrich: “I think Newt Gingrich is a Christian, at least he told me he is.”

On Romney: “Most Christians would not recognize Mormons as part of the Christian faith. They believe in Jesus Christ. They have a lot of other things they believe in too, that we don’t accept, theologically.”

Thus, Graham pronounced as “saved” a notorious multiple-adulterer like Gingrich. He also gave a pass to Santorum, who married a woman who had lived “in sin” with an abortionist for six years.

But he unhesitatingly damned a longtime churchgoer like Obama or a devout Mormon like Romney (whose faith, most evangelicals like Graham believe, is actually a non-Christian cult).

Six years later, in 2018, Graham defended President Donald Trump, a notorious womanizer and multiple-adulterer, against charges that, in 2006, he had slept with porn star Stormy Daniels.  

“I believe at 70 years of age the president is a much different person today than he was four years ago, five years ago, 10 years ago. He is not President Perfect.”

This differs greatly from his position on President Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky: “If he will lie to or mislead his wife and daughter, those with whom he is most intimate, what will prevent him from doing the same to the American public?”

It’s easy to imagine Graham transported to the French city of Toulouse in the 14th century. And to imagine him wearing the robes of Bernardo Gui, the chief inquisitor of the Dominican Order during the Medieval Inquisition (1184 – 1230s).

Bernardo Gui

Gui closely studied the best methods for interrogating “heretics.” He set forth his findings in his most important and famous work, Practica Inquisitionis Heretice Pravitatis. or “Conduct of the Inquisition into Heretical Wickedness.”

In this, he offered a vivid example of how such an interrogation might go. The following is taken from that manual:

When a heretic is first brought up for examination, he assumes a confident air, as though secure in his innocence. I ask him why he has been brought before me. He replies, smiling and courteous, “Sir, I would be glad to learn the cause from you.” 

This is not a dialogue between equals. The Inquisitor literally holds the power of life or agonizing death over the man or woman he is interrogating.

THE AMERICAN AYATOLLAHS: PART ONE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on September 24, 2018 at 12:08 am

Hamza Kashgari, a 23-year-old columnist in Saudi Arabia, decided to celebrate the birthday of the Islamic prophet Muhammed in a truly unique way.

Hamza Kashgar

In early February, 2012, he posted on Twitter a series of mock conversations between himself and Muhammad:

“On your birthday, I will say that I have loved the rebel in you, that you’ve always been a source of inspiration to me, and that I do not like the halos of divinity around you. I shall not pray for you.”

“On your birthday, I find you wherever I turn. I will say that I have loved aspects of you, hated others, and could not understand many more.”

“On your birthday, I shall not bow to you. I shall not kiss your hand. Rather, I shall shake it as equals do, and smile at you as you smile at me. I shall speak to you as a friend, no more.”

“No Saudi women will go to hell, because it’s impossible to go there twice.”

The tweets sparked some 30,000 infuriated responses. Many Islamic clerics demanded that he face execution for blasphemy.

Kashgari posted an apology tweet: “I deleted my previous tweets because…I realized that they may have been offensive to the Prophet and I don’t want anyone to misunderstand.”

Soon afterward, Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, then King of Saudi Arabia, ordered his arrest.

King Abdullah bin Abdul al-Saud January 2007.jpg

Saudi King King Abdullah 

Kashgari fled to Malaysia, another majority-Muslim country. He was quickly arrested by police as he passed through Kuala Lumpur international airport. Three days later, he was deported to Saudi Arabia.

Human rights groups feared that he would be executed for blasphemy, a capitol offense in Saudi Arabia.

After nearly two years in prison, Kashgari was freed on October 29, 2013. Kashgari used Twitter to inform his supporters of his release.

Outrageous? By Western standards, absolutely.

Clearly there is no tolerence in Saudi Arabia for the freedoms of thought and expression that Americans take for granted.

Meanwhile, Right-wing American ayatollahs are working overtime to create just that sort of society—where theocratic despotism rules the most intimate aspects of our lives.

One of these is the former GOP Presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Rick Santorum. In early January, 2012, he said that states should have the right to outlaw birth control without the interference of the Supreme Court.

Rick Santorum

In an interview with ABC News, Santorum said he opposed the Supreme Court’s ruling that made birth control legal:

“The state has a right to do that [ban contraception]. I have never questioned that the state has a right to do that. It is not a Constitutional right. The state has the right to pass whatever statutes they have.

“That’s the thing I have said about the activism of the Supreme Court—they are creating rights, and it should be left up to the people to decide.”

In the landmark 1965 decision, Griswold v. Connecticut, the Court struck down a law that made it a crime to sell contraceptives to married couples. The Constitution, ruled the Justices, protected a right to privacy.

Two years later, in Eisenstadt v. Baird, the Court extended Griswold by striking down a law banning the sale of contraceptives to unmarried couples.

Santorum has left no doubt as to where he stands on contraception. On October 19, 2011, he said:

“One of the things I will talk about that no President has talked about before is I think the dangers of contraception in this country, the whole sexual libertine idea. Many in the Christian faith have said, ‘“Well, that’s okay. Contraception’s okay.’

“It’s not okay because it’s a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be. They’re supposed to be within marriage, they are supposed to be for purposes that are, yes, conjugal, but also…procreative.

“That’s the perfect way that a sexual union should happen. We take any part of that out, we diminish the act….And all of a sudden, it becomes deconstructed to the point where it’s simply pleasure.”

“How things are supposed to be”—according to Right-wing fanatics like Santorum and the evangelicals who support them.

Like the Saudi religious religious zealots who demand the death of a “blasphemer,” they demand that their religious views should govern everyone. That means Jews, Catholics, Islamics, atheists and agnostics.

American Christian fundamentalists and Islamic fundamentalists fervently agree on the following:

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

The important difference—for Americans who value their freedom—is this:

The United States has a Supreme Court that can—and does—overturn laws that threaten civil liberties. Laws that GOP Presidential candidates clearly want to revive and force on those who don’t share their peculiar religious views.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

The same holds true—in a democracy—for candidates who seek dictatorial power over their fellow citizens. Don’t give them your consent.

LUSTING FOR POWER: EVANGELICALS AND REPUBLICANS

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on September 3, 2018 at 12:10 am

Republicans and Christian Rightists have something in common: Fear of losing their power to dominate the lives of their fellow Americans. 

The most recent proof of this came on August 27, when President Donald J. Trump met with Right-wing Christian leaders at the State Dining Room of the White House.

“This November 6 election is very much a referendum on not only me,” said Trump. “It’s a referendum on your religion, it’s a referendum on free speech and the First Amendment. It’s a referendum on so much.

“It’s not a question of like or dislike, it’s a question that they will overturn everything that we’ve done and they will do it quickly and violently. And violently.

“There is violence. When you look at Antifa—these are violent people. You have tremendous power. You were saying, in this room, you have people who preach to almost 200 million people. Depending on which Sunday we’re talking about.”

Donald Trump

Antifa is actually short for “Anti-Fascist.” It’s an amalgam of anti-Fascist groups which counter-protest white supremacists and neo-Nazis.

Republicans and Right-wing organizations have long dredged up bogeymen to frighten voters—and convince them that only Republicans can be trusted to protect them.

Antifa has emerged as the most recent of these bogeymen.

“You have to hopefully get out and get people to support us,” Trump told the evangelicals. “If you don’t, that will be the beginning of ending everything that you’ve gotten.”

Evangelicals have solidly supported Trump—despite:

  • His being twice divorced;
  • His multiple affairs (including one with porn star Stormy Daniels);
  • His documented ties to Russian oligarchs and Mafia chieftains;
  • His viciousness, greed, lying and egomania.

Related image

Donald Trump and Jerry Falwell, Jr., at Liberty University

Yet evangelicals blasted President Bill Clinton for his extramarital dalliance with Monica Lewinsky. And they greedily accepted the fiction that President Barack Obama was a Muslim born in Kenya, even though his birth certificate says Hawaii and he has always attended a Christian church. 

So why do evangelicals fervently support Trump?

First, they see their influence eroding.

“Prior to 2008, white evangelical Protestants seemed to be exempt from the waves of demographic change and disaffiliation that were eroding the membership bases of white mainline Protestants and white Catholics,” said Robert P. Jones, CEO of Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) and author of “The End of White Christian America.”

“We now see that these waves simply crested later for white evangelical Protestants.”

According to a study by PRRI:

  • White Christians comprised 81% of the population in 1976. Today only 43% of Americans identify as white Christians, and 30% as white Protestants.
  • White Christians are aging. About 1 in 10 white Catholics, evangelicals and mainline Protestants are under 30, compared with one-third of all Hindus and Buddhists.
  • Muslims and Mormons are the youngest faith groups in America. Forty-two percent of all Muslims are under 30.  So are nearly one-fourth of all Mormons.

“The young are much less likely to believe this is a ‘Christian nation’ or to give preference to Christian identity,” said Jones. “Young people and seniors are basically inhabiting different religious worlds.”  

And Trump plays into that sense of victimhood:  

“You’re one election away from losing everything that you’ve gotten,” Trump said during his meeting with evangelicals. “Little thing: Merry Christmas, right? You couldn’t say ‘Merry Christmas.'”

Evangelicals lust to control the lives of those they have long hated and despised.  

Among these:

  • Atheists
  • Jews
  • Women
  • Homosexuals
  • Lesbians
  • Non-Christians
  • Liberals

They expect Trump to sponsor legislation that will—by force of law—make their brand of Christianity supreme above all other religions. And this will give them the status of the Official Religion of the United States.

Such legislation as The Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

This was signed into law on March 26, 2015, by Mike Pence, then Governor of Indiana.

This allows any individual or corporation to cite its religious beliefs as a defense when sued by a private party.

Officially, its intent is to prevent the government from forcing business owners to violate their religious beliefs.

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

Thus, a bakery that doesn’t want to make a cake for a gay wedding or a restaurant that doesn’t want to serve lesbian patrons now has the legal right to refuse to do so.

And a hospital can legally turn away a gay patient if it wants to.

The bill passed overwhelmingly by both chambers of the Republican-controlled state legislature. And was signed into law by the governor who is now Vice President.

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Indiana Governor Mike Pence 

Both the leaders of the Republican party and those of evangelical congregations agree:

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

Evangelicals fear they are swiftly losing their once privileged place among American religious groups.

And Republicans fear they might lose control of the House of Representatives, the Senate and, ultimately, the White House to a “blue wave” this fall.

LESSONS IN DISLOYALTY—GOTTI AND TRUMP: PART TWO (END)

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

President Donald Trump shares more than a few striking similarities with John Gotti, who, for five years, ruled as the boss of the most powerful Mafia family in the United States: The Gambino Family. 

Among those similarities: A complete lack of loyalty to anyone. 

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Donald Trump

Unknowingly speaking into an FBI electronic bug, Gotti charged that Sammy “The Bull” Gravano, his underboss, or second-in command, was too greedy. He also blamed him for the murders of three Mafiosi whom Gotti had ordered hit.

When Gravano learned of these slanders at a pretrial hearing, he agreed to testify against Gotti and other Mafiosi in exchange for a five-year prison sentence. 

And just as Gotti’s disloyalty ultimately destroyed him, the same may yet prove true for Trump.

Consider the case of attorney Michael Cohen.

  • An executive of the Trump Organization, Cohen acted as “Trump’s pit bull.” “If somebody does something Mr. Trump doesn’t like,” he told ABC News in 2011, “I do everything in my power to resolve it to Mr. Trump’s benefit.”
  • In 2015, a reporter for The Daily Beast asked Cohen about Ivana Trump’s charge (later recanted) that Trump had raped her while they were married. Cohen: “I’m warning you, tread very fucking lightly, because what I’m going to do to you is going to be fucking disgusting.”
  • In 2016, while Trump was running for President, Cohen acted as the go-between for a $130,000 hush-money payoff to porn star Stormy Daniels. The reason: To prevent her from revealing a 2006 tryst she had had with Trump.  

In April 2018, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York began investigating Cohen. Charges reportedly include bank fraud, wire fraud and violations of campaign finance law.

Trump executive Michael Cohen 012 (5506031001) (cropped).jpg

Michael Cohen

By IowaPolitics.com (Trump executive Michael Cohen 012) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

On April 9, 2018, the FBI, executing a federal search warrant, raided Cohen’s office at the law firm of Squire Patton Boggs, as well as his home and his hotel room in the Loews Regency Hotel in New York City. Agents seized emails, tax and business records and recordings of phone conversations that Cohen had made.

Trump’s response: “Michael Cohen only handled a tiny, tiny fraction of my legal work.”  

Thus Trump undermined the argument of Cohen’s lawyers that he was the President’s personal attorney—and therefore everything Cohen did was protected by attorney-client privilege.

Then there’s Paul Manafort—a lobbyist, political consultant and lawyer.

  • He joined Trump’s  presidential campaign team in March 2016 and was campaign chairman from March to August 2016. He attended the Republican Convention in July, where Trump was officially nominated as the GOP candidate for President.
  • On June 9, 2016, Manafort, Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, and Donald Trump Jr. met with Russian Intelligence agents at Trump Tower. The reason: The Russians claimed to have “dirt” on Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

In March, 2017, news broke that Manafort, in his work as a lobbyist, had represented Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch and close associate of Russian president Vladimir Putin. The story fueled growing controversy over the Trump campaign’s documented ties to Russia,

Trump’s response: 

“The President was not aware of Paul’s clients from the last decade,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters.

Describing Manafort’s role as chairman of the Trump campaign, Spicer said that he “played a very limited role for a very limited amount of time.” 

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Paul Manafort

An April 19, 2018 headline in Esquire magazine warned: “If the Water is Rising, Donald Trump Will Throw You Overboard.” 

The article read in part:

“No matter how long or how intimately you’ve known Donald Trump, you’re one news cycle away from being tossed overboard….

“An old friend becomes a needy acquaintance; a campaign chairman becomes someone you got from the temp agency; a national security adviser becomes a ‘volunteer.'” 

Trump’s desertion of his former allies places them in jeopardy—but it also endangers him.

Cohen wasn’t just Trump’s lawyer. He was his fixer, a man who made problems “go away” with threats and bribes. He knows many—if not most—of Trump’s darkest secrets.

And he may be preparing to reveal them.

In a recent off-camera interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, Cohen warned: “I will not be a punching bag as part of anyone’s defense strategy” if Trump or his attorneys try to discredit him.

And unlike Trump—who has repeatedly asserted that Russia didn’t interfere with the 2016 Presidential election—Cohen said he believed it did.

As for Manafort: He resigned as Trump’s campaign manager when news broke that he had received $12.7 million from then-Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, a Puttin lackey.

Given Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s focus on Trump’s ties to Russia, Manafort—through his own ties there—can deliver a mother-lode of secrets if he so desires.

Donald Trump now faces the dilemma—and possibly the same fate—of John “Teflon Don” Gotti: Faced with increasing evidence of his blatant criminality and possibly even treason, does he:

  • Stand by those whose secrets can destroy him? or
  • Throw them to the wolves, hoping they will still not betray him?

LESSONS IN DISLOYALTY—GOTTI AND TRUMP: PART ONE (OF TWO)

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

On December 11, 1990, FBI agents and NYPD detectives raided the Ravenite Social Club in Manhattan.

They had arrest warrants for John Gotti, boss of the Gambino Mafia Family, and his two lieutenants: Sammy “The Bull” Gravano, his underboss, or second-in-command, and Frankie Locascio, his Consigliere, or adviser.

Gotti had become boss of the Gambino Family in December, 1985—by arranging the execution of its then-boss, Paul “Big Paul” Castellano, on December 16.

Since then, he had moved his headquarters from Queens to the Ravenite. And, like a king holding court, he had ordered all of his captains to report to him at the Ravenite once a week.  

Word quickly reached the FBI—and agents in vans shot video as they staked out Prince Street. 

Gotti had handed the FBI a mob organization chart.

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FBI Seal

It was only a matter of time before the FBI’s Technical Surveillance Squad (TSS) breached the security of the Ravenite. 

In 1989, the TSS planted a hidden microphone in an apartment above the Ravenite where Gotti held his secret meetings. Tape recorders were running when he bragged that he had ordered three murders—and was running a criminal enterprise: The Gambino Mafia Family.

When he wasn’t bragging, Gotti was badmouthing virtually everyone—past and present—in the Mafia: Paul Castellano, Carlo Gambino, Vincent “The Chins” Gigante. And, most fatally, his own underboss: Sammy “The Bull” Gravano.

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John Gotti

On December 12, 1989, the electronic bug picked up the following conversation between Gotti and his Consigliere, or adviser, Frankie Locascio. 

The subject: The murders of three former Gambino Family mobsters: Robert “Deebee” DiBernardo, Louis Milito and Louis DiBono.  

DiBernardo had been murdered over Gravano’s objections. A fellow mobster had told Gotti that DiBernardo had made “subversive” comments behind Gotti’s back.

But that wasn’t the way Gotti told it.

GOTTI: “Deebee, did he ever talk subversive to you?”

LOCASCIO: “Never.”

GOTTI: “Never talked it to Angelo, never talked it to [Joseph Armone] either. I took Sammy’s word that he talked about me behind my back….I was in jail when I whacked him. I knew why it was being done. I done it anyway. I allowed it to be done anyway.”

Next Gotti focused on the murders of Louis Milito and Louis DiBono. Milito had been “whacked” for questioning Gotti’s judgment. And DiBono had been hit because he refused to answer a Gotti summons

But Gotti was determined to lay the blame on Gravano. He claimed that both men had been killed because Gravano had asked for permission to remove his business partners.

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Sammy “The Bull” Gravano

GOTTI: “Every time we get a partner that don’t agree with us, we kill him. [The] boss kills him. He kills him. He okays it. Says it’s all right, good.” 

And there was more: Gotti accused Gravano of excessive greed—and hoarding money for himself at the expense of the Family. 

GOTTI: “That’s Sammy….Every fucking time I turn around there’s a new company poppin’ up. Building. Consulting. Concrete.  Where the hell did all these new companies come from?  Where did five new companies come from? 

“Paul [Castellano, the Gambino Family’s previous boss] sold the Family out for a fucking construction company. And that’s what Sammy’s doing now.  Three, four guys will wind up with every fuckin’ thing. And the rest of the Family looks like waste.” 

He accused Gravano of creating “a fuckin’ army inside an army,” adding: “You know what I’m saying, Frankie? I saw that shit and I don’t need that shit.” 

Gotti’s effort to rewrite history soon came back to haunt him.

At a pretrial hearing following the arrests of Gotti, Gravano and Locascio, prosecutors played the FBI’s tapes of Gotti’s unintended confessions—including his badmouthing of Gravano. 

Gravano suddenly realized that his future in the Mafia was nil. 

Gravano, Gotti and Locascio were all facing life imprisonment as targets of RICO—the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act.

And if the Feds didn’t send him to prison, mob gunmen—sent by Gotti—would eventually get him. Gotti clearly planned to make him the fall guy—in court or in a coffin—for murders that Gotti himself had ordered

Only John Gotti was shocked when Gravano agreed to testify against him—and other Mafiosi—in exchange for a five-year prison sentence.

Gravano, as Gotti’s second-in-command, had literally been at the seat of power for five years.  He knew the secrets of the Gambino Family—and the other four Mafia families who ruled New York.

On April 2, 1992, a jury convicted Gotti of five murders, conspiracy to murder, loansharking, illegal gambling, obstruction of justice, bribery and tax evasion. He drew a life sentence, without possibility of parole.  

Gotti was incarcerated at the United States Penitentiary at Marion, Illinois, in virtual solitary confinement. He died of throat cancer on June 10, 2002, at the age of 61.    

Donald Trump resembles his fellow New Yorker, John Gotti, in more ways than he would like to admit: In his greed, arrogance, egomania, love of publicity and vindictiveness. 

So far, he has survived his lifelong hubris.  But he may not survive his lifelong dedication to “looking out for Number One.”

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.

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