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PRESIDENTS RULE BY CONSENT, DICTATORS RULE BY FEAR: PART TWO (END)

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

In January, 2018, the White House banned the use of personal cell phones in the West Wing. The official reason: National security.

The real reason: To stop staffers from leaking to reporters.

More ominously, well-suited men roam the halls of the West Wing, carrying devices that pick up signals from phones that aren’t government-issued.

“Did someone forget to put their phone away?” one of the men will ask if such a device is detected. If no one says they have a phone, the detection team start searching the room.

Image result for images of cell phone detectors on Youtube

Phone detector

The devices can tell which type of phone is in the room.

This is the sort of behavior Americans have traditionally—and correctly—associated with dictatorships

In his memo outlining the policy, then-Chief of Staff John Kelly warned that anyone who violated the phone ban could be punished, including “being indefinitely prohibited from entering the White House complex.”

Yet even these draconian methods may not end White House leaks.

White House officials still speak with reporters throughout the day and often air their grievances, whether about annoying colleagues or competing policy priorities.

Aides with private offices sometimes call reporters on their desk phones. Others get their cell phones and call or text reporters during lunch breaks.

According to an anonymous White House source: “The cellphone ban is for when people are inside the West Wing, so it really doesn’t do all that much to prevent leaks. If they banned all personal cellphones from the entire [White House] grounds, all that would do is make reporters stay up later because they couldn’t talk to their sources until after 6:30 pm.”

Image result for images of no cell phones

Other sources believe that leaks won’t end unless Trump starts firing staffers. But there is always the risk of firing the wrong people. Thus, to protect themselves, those who leak might well accuse tight-lipped co-workers.

Within the Soviet Union (especially during the reign of Joseph Stalin) fear of secret police surveillance was widespread—and absolutely justified.

Among the methods used to keep conversations secret:

  • Turning on the TV or radio to full volume.
  • Turning on a water faucet at full blast.
  • Turning the dial of a rotary phone to the end—and sticking a pencil in one of the small holes for numbers.
  • Standing six to nine feet away from the hung-up receiver.
  • Going for “a walk in the woods.” 
  • Saying nothing sensitive on the phone.

The secret police (known as the Cheka, the NKVD, the MGB, the KGB, and now the FSB) operated on seven working principles:

  1. Your enemy is hiding.
  2. Start from the usual suspects.
  3. Study the young.
  4. Stop the laughing.
  5. Rebellion spreads like wildfire.
  6. Stamp out every spark.
  7. Order is created by appearance.

Trump has always ruled through bribery and fear. He’s bought off (or tried to) those who might cause him trouble—like porn actress Stormy Daniels. And he’s threatened or filed lawsuits against those he couldn’t or didn’t want to bribe—such as contractors who have worked on various Trump properties. 

But Trump can’t buy the loyalty of employees working in an atmosphere of hostility—which breeds resentment and fear. And some of them are taking revenge by sharing with reporters the latest crimes and follies of the Trump administration.

The more Trump wages war on the “cowards and traitors” who work most closely with him, the more some of them will find opportunities to strike back. This will inflame Trump even more—and lead him to seek even more repressive methods against his own staffers. 

This is a no-win situation for Trump.

The results will be twofold:

  1. Constant turnovers of staffers—with their replacements having to undergo lengthy background checks before coming on; and
  2. Continued leaking of embarrassing secrets by resentful employees who stay.

**********

As host of NBC’s “The Apprentice,” Trump became famous for booting off contestants with the phrase: “You’re fired.” In fact, he so delighted in using this that, in 2004, he tried to gain trademark ownership of it.

But  the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office rejected his application. American copyright law explicitly prohibits copyright protections for short phrases or sayings.

Since taking office as President, Trump has bullied and insulted even White House officials and his own handpicked Cabinet officers. This has resulted in an avalanche of firings and resignations. 

The first two years of Trump’s White House have seen more firings, resignations, and reassignments of top staffers than any other first-term administration in modern history. His Cabinet turnover exceeds that of any other administration in the last 100 years.

In 1934, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, seeing imaginary enemies everywhere, ordered a series of purges that lasted right up to the German invasion in 1941.

No one was safe from execution—not even the men who slaughtered as many as 20 to 60 million. 

Fittingly, for all the fear he inspired, Stalin was plagued by paranoia. He lived in constant fear of assassination. Although surrounded by bodyguards, he distrusted even them.

Thus Stalin, who had turned the Soviet Union into a vast prison, became its leading prisoner.  

Similarly, Donald Trump daily proves the truth of the age-old warning: “You can build a throne of bayonets, but you can’t sit on it.”

PRESIDENTS RULE BY CONSENT, DICTATORS RULE BY FEAR: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 11, 2019 at 12:17 am

Donald Trump has often been compared to Adolf Hitler. But his reign bears far more resemblance to that of Joseph Stalin.

Germany’s Fuhrer, for all his brutality, maintained a relatively stable government by keeping the same men in office—from the day he took power on January 30, 1933, to the day he blew out his brains on April 30, 1945.

Adolf Hitler

Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1990-048-29A / CC-BY-SA 3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)%5D

Heinrich Himmler, a former chicken farmer, remained head of the dreaded, black-uniformed Schutzstaffel, or Protection Squads, known as the SS, from 1929 until his suicide in 1945. 

In April, 1934, Himmler was appointed assistant chief of the Gestapo (Secret State Police) in Prussia, and from that position he extended his control over the police forces of the whole Reich.

Hermann Goering, an ace fighter pilot in World War 1, served as Reich commissioner for aviation and head of the newly developed Luftwaffe, the German air force, from 1935 to 1945.

And Albert Speer, Hitler’s favorite architect, held that position from 1933 until 1942, when Hitler appointed him Reich Minister of Armaments and War Production. He held that position until the Third Reich collapsed in April, 1945.

Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin, by contrast, purged his ministers constantly.  For example: From 1934 to 1953, Stalin had no fewer than three chiefs of his secret police, then named the NKVD:

  • Genrikh Yagoda – (July 10, 1934 – September 26, 1936)
  • Nikolai Yezhov (September 26, 1936 – November 25, 1938) and
  • Lavrenty Beria (November, 1938 – March, 1953).

Stalin purged Yagoda and Yezhov, with both men executed after their arrest.

Joseph Stalin

He reportedly wanted to purge Beria, too, but the latter may have acted first. There has been speculation that Beria slipped warfarin, a blood-thinner often used to kill rats, into Stalin’s drink, causing him to die of a cerebral hemorrhage.

Stalin’s record for slaughter far eclipses that of Hitler.

For almost 30 years, through purges and starvation caused by enforced collections of farmers’ crops, Stalin slaughtered 20 to 60 million people. 

The 1930s were a frightening and dangerous time to be alive in the Soviet Union. In 1934, Stalin, seeing imaginary enemies everywhere, ordered a series of purges that lasted right up to the German invasion in 1941.

An example of Stalin’s paranoia occurred one day while the dictator walked through the Kremlin corridors with Admiral Ivan Isakov. Officers of the NKVD (the predecessor to the KGB) stood guard at every corner. 

“Every time I walk down the corridors,” said Stalin, “I think: Which one of them is it? If it’s this one, he will shoot me in the back. But if I turn the corner, the next one can shoot me in the face.”

Another Russian-installed tyrant who has sought to rule by fear: President Donald J. Trump.

In fact, he admitted as much to journalist Bob Woodward during the 2016 Presidential race: “Real power is—I don’t even want to use the word—fear.” 

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Donald Trump

As a Presidential candidate, Trump repeatedly used Twitter to attack hundreds of real and imagined enemies in politics, journalism, TV and films.

As President, he continues to insult virtually everyone, verbally and on Twitter. His targets include Democrats, Republicans, the media, foreign leaders and even members of his Cabinet.

In Russian, the word for “purge” is “chistka,” for “cleansing.”  Among the victims of Trump’s recurring chistkas:

  • Sally Yates – Assistant United States Attorney General
  • James Comey – FBI Director
  • Andrew McCabe – FBI Deputy Director 
  • Jeff Sessions – United States Attorney General 
  • Rachel Brand – Associate United States Attorney General 
  • Randolph “Tex” Alles – Director of the United States Secret Service
  • Krisjen Nielsen – Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security

In his infamous political treatise, The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli, the Florentine statesman, asked: “Is it is better to be loved or feared?”  

And he answered it thus:

The reply is, that one ought to be both feared and loved, but as it is difficult for the two to go together, it is much safer to be feared than loved.

“For it may be said of men in general that they are ungrateful, voluble, dissemblers, anxious to avoid danger and covetous of gain; as long as you benefit them, they are entirely yours….

“And the prince who has relied solely on their words, without making other preparations, is ruined….

“And men have less scruple in offending one who makes himself loved than one who makes himself feared; for love is held by a chain of obligations which, men being selfish, is broken whenever it serves their purpose; but fear is maintained by a dread of punishment which never fails.” 

But Machiavelli warned about relying primarily on fear: “Still, 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.”  

**********

Donald Trump has violated that counsel throughout his life. He not only makes enemies, he revels in doing so—and in the fury he has aroused.

Filled with a poisonous hatred that encompasses almost everyone, Trump, since taking office, has repeatedly played to the hatreds of his Right-wing base.  

As first-mate Starbuck says of Captain Ahab in Herman Melville’s classic novel, Moby Dick: “He is a champion of darkness.”

“JUST ANOTHER WEEK IN CALIGULA’S ROME”—AND TRUMP’S WASHINGTON

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on March 5, 2019 at 12:16 am

“Just another week in Caligula’s Rome.”

That was how conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks summed up President Donald Trump’s Washington, D.C. for the week of February 24 to March 1, 2019.

Every Friday Books faces off with liberal syndicated columnist Mark Shields on The PBS Newshour. And on the program for March 1, the two men found common cause in sizing up the appearance of Michael Cohen before the House Oversight Committee two days earlier.

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David Brooks and Mark Shields on “The PBS Newshour”

During that hearing, Cohen, Trump’s longtime attorney and fixer:

  • Condemned his former boss as “a racist, a conman [and] a cheat.”
  • Confirmed that Trump had instructed him to pay $130,000 in hush money to porn “star” Stormy Daniels, to buy her silence during the 2016 Presidential campaign.
  • Provided the committee with a copy of a check Trump wrote from his personal bank account—after he became President—“to reimburse me for the hush money payments I made.”
  • Produced “copies of letters I wrote at Mr. Trump’s direction that threatened his high school, colleges, and the College Board not to release his grades or SAT scores.”

But for Brooks, far more was at stake than the individual accusations:

“To me, it was more of a moral occasion, more than anything else. What it illustrates is a President and, frankly, Michael Cohen who long ago decided that celebrity and wealth is more important than being a good person. And they have dragged us all down there with us.

“And the people they have dragged most effectively are the House Republicans, a lot of them on that committee, who decided that they were completely incurious about whether Donald Trump was a good guy or a bad guy or a really awful guy, that—their own leader, they didn’t seem to care about that, but they were going to rip the skin off Michael Cohen.

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Michael Cohen testifying before Congress

“And so they attacked him. And what struck me is how moral corrosion happens, that you decide you’re going to defend or ignore Trump. And then to do that, you have to morally distance yourself from him. And then you have to morally distance yourself from him every day.

“And, eventually, you just get numb to everything. And so [Ohio Republican Representative] Jim Jordan and other people on the committee were saying, oh, we all knew this, like, it’s all unremarkable. And so that’s—that’s how moral corrosion happens.”  

During the hearing, California Representative Jackie Speier asked Cohen: How many times did Trump ask you to intimidate creditors?

Cohen estimated the number at 500. 

For Shields, this counted as especially despicable behavior: “And—but the thing about it is, when he stiffed those small business—the plumbers and the electricians who did the work in the Trump projects, and he came back, and Donald Trump loved to hear about it, I mean, reveled in it.

“Now, I mean, at what point do you say that there’s no honor here? I mean, there’s nothing to admire.” 

Shields was equally appalled by the refusal of Trump’s Republican committee defenders to condemn his moral depravity—as a businessman or President.

“If you can’t deal with the message, you shoot the messenger. And that’s what their whole strategy was.

“The very fact that not a single member of the Republican committee defended Donald Trump or what he was charged or alleged to have done, to me, was revealing. They just decided to go after Michael Cohen.”

So why have Republicans aligned themselves with such a man? 

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

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

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

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

What they most fear losing is their own hold on nearly absolute power in Congress and the White House. And the riches that go with it.

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

Like Adolf Hitler.

Like Richard Nixon. 

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

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

House and Senate Republicans can imagine a future without Trump—but not one where they disappear.

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

TRUMP VS. THE FIRST AMENDMENT: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 21, 2019 at 12:15 am

In January, 2018, the White House banned the use of personal cell phones in the West Wing. 

The official reason: National security.

The real reason: To stop staffers from leaking to reporters.

According to an anonymous White House source: “The cellphone ban is for when people are inside the West Wing, so it really doesn’t do all that much to prevent leaks. If they banned all personal cellphones from the entire [White House] grounds, all that would do is make reporters stay up later because they couldn’t talk to their sources until after 6:30 pm.”

Image result for images of no cell phones

Other sources believe that leaks won’t end unless President Donald Trump starts firing staffers. But this could lead to his firing the wrong people. To protect themselves, those who leak might well accuse tight-lipped co-workers.

Within the Soviet Union (especially during the reign of Joseph Stalin) fear of secret police surveillance was widespread—and absolutely justified.

Among the methods used to keep conversations secret:

  • Turning on the TV or radio to full volume.
  • Turning on a water faucet at full blast.
  • Turning the dial of a rotary phone to the end—and sticking a pencil in one of the small holes for numbers.
  • Standing six to nine feet away from the hung-up receiver.
  • Going for “a walk in the woods.” 
  • Saying nothing sensitive on the phone.

The secret police (known as the Cheka, the NKVD, the MGB, the KGB, and now the FSB) operated on seven working principles:

  1. Your enemy is hiding.
  2. Start from the usual suspects.
  3. Study the young.
  4. Stop the laughing.
  5. Rebellion spreads like wildfire.
  6. Stamp out every spark.
  7. Order is created by appearance.

Trump has always ruled through bribery and fear. He’s bought off (or tried to) those who might cause him trouble—like porn actress Stormy Daniels. 

He’s never been able to poke fun at himself—and he grows livid when anybody else does.

At Christmastime, “Saturday Night Live” aired a parody of the classic movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Its title: “It’s a Wonderful Trump.”  In it, Trump (portrayed by actor Alec Baldwin) discovers what the United States would be like if he had never become President: A great deal better-off.

As usual, Trump expressed his resentment through Twitter: The Justice Department should stop investigating his administration and go after the real enemy: “SNL.”

“A REAL scandal is the one sided coverage, hour by hour, of networks like NBC & Democrat spin machines like Saturday Night Live. It is all nothing less than unfair news coverage and Dem commercials. Should be tested in courts, can’t be legal? Only defame & belittle! Collusion?” 

By saying that “SNL’s” right to parody him “should be tested in courts, can’t be legal?” Trump has chosen to ignore the role of the First Amendment in American history.

Cartoonists portrayed President Andrew Jackson wearing a king’s robes and crown, and holding a scepter. This thoroughly enraged Jackson—who had repulsed a British invasion in 1815 at the Battle of New Orleans. To call a man a monarchist in 1800s America was the same as calling him a Communist in the 1950s. 

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During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln was lampooned as an ape and a blood-stained tyrant. And Theodore Roosevelt proved a cartoonist’s delight, with attention given to his bushy mustache and thick-lensed glasses. 

Thus, the odds are slight that an American court would even hear a case brought by Trump against “SNL.” 

Such a case made its way through the courts in the late 1980s when the Reverend Jerry Falwell sued pornographer Larry Flyint over a satirical interview in Hustler magazine. In this, “Falwell” admitted that his first sexual encounter had been with his own mother.

In 1988, the United States Supreme Court, voting 8-0, ruled in Flynt’s favor, saying that the media had a First Amendment right to parody a celebrity.

“Despite their sometimes caustic nature, from the early cartoon portraying George Washington as an ass down to the present day, graphic depictions and satirical cartoons have played a prominent role in public and political debate,” Chief Justice William Rehnquist—an appointee of President Richard Nixon—wrote in his majority decision in the case.

Moreover, there is absolutely no doubt that Trump would be forced to take the stand in such a case. The powers-that-be at NBC and “SNL” would insist on it.

And recent history has shown that while Trump loves to sue those he hates, he does not relish being put on the stand himself.  

On October 12, The Palm Beach Post, The New York Times and People all published stories of women claiming to have been sexually assaulted by Trump. 

He accused the Times of inventing accusations to hurt his Presidential candidacy. And he threatened to sue for libel if the Times reported the women’s stories. He also threatened to sue the women making the accusations. 

He never sued the Times or the women.

TRUMP VS. THE FIRST AMENDMENT: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Military, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on February 20, 2019 at 12:11 am

On May 10, 2018, The Hill reported that White House Special Assistant Kelly Sadler had joked derisively about dying Arizona United States Senator John McCain.

McCain, a Navy pilot during the Vietnam war, was shot down over Hanoi on October 26, 1967, and captured. He spent five and a half years as a POW in North Vietnam—and was often brutally tortured. He wasn’t released until March 14, 1973.

Recently, he had opposed the nomination of Gina Haspel as director of the CIA.

The reason: In 2002, Haspel had operated a “black” CIA site in Thailand where Islamic terrorists were often waterboarded to make them talk. 

For John McCain, waterboarding was torture, even if it didn’t leave its victims permanently scarred and disabled. 

Aware that the 81-year-old McCain was dying of brain cancer, Sadler joked to intimates about the Senator’s opposition to Haspel: “It doesn’t matter. He’s dying anyway.”

John McCain's official Senate portrait, taken in 2009

John McCain

Leaked to CNN by an anonymous White House official, Sadler’s remark sparked fierce criticism—and demands for her firing.

South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a close friend of McCain, said: “Ms. Sadler, may I remind you that John McCain has a lot of friends in the United States Senate on both sides of the aisle. Nobody is laughing in the Senate.”

“People have wondered when decency would hit rock bottom with this administration. It happened yesterday,” said former Vice President Joe Biden. 

“John McCain makes America great. Father, grandfather, Navy pilot, POW hero bound by honor, an incomparable and irrepressible statesman. Those who mock such greatness only humiliate themselves and their silent accomplices,” tweeted former Massachusetts governor and 2012 Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Officially, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders refused to confirm or deny Sadler’s joke: “I’m not going to get into a back and forth because people want to create issues of leaked staff meetings.”

Unofficially, Sanders was furious—not at the joke about a dying man, but that someone had leaked it. After assailing the White House communications team, she pouted: “I am sure this conversation is going to leak, too. And that’s just disgusting.”

SarahHuckabeeSanders.jpg

Sarah Huckabee Sanders

No apology has been offered by any official at the White House—including President Donald Trump.

In fact, Senior White House communications adviser Mercedes Schlapp reportedly expressed her support for Sadler: “I stand with Kelly Sadler.”

On May 11—the day after Sadler’s comment was reported—reporters asked Sanders if the tone set by Trump had caused Sadler to feel comfortable in telling such a joke.

“Certainly not!” predictably replied Sanders, adding: “We have a respect for all Americans, and that is what we try to put forward in everything we do, but in word and in action, focusing on doing things that help every American in this country every single day.”

On May 14 Trump revealed his “respect” for “all Americans”—especially those working in the White House.

“The so-called leaks coming out of the White House are a massive over exaggeration put out by the Fake News Media in order to make us look as bad as possible,” Trump tweeted.

“With that being said, leakers are traitors and cowards, and we will find out who they are!” 

This from the man who, during the 2016 Presidential campaign, shouted: “WikiLeaks, I love WikiLeaks!” 

Of course, that was when Russian Intelligence agents were exposing the secrets of Hillary Clinton, his Presidential opponent.

And, in a move that Joseph Stalin would have admired, Trump ordered an all-out investigation to find the joke-leaker.

In January, 2018, the White House had banned the use of personal cell phones in the West Wing. 

The official reason: National security.

The real reason: To stop staffers from leaking to reporters.

Officials now have two choices:

  1. Leave their cell phones in their cars, or,
  2. When they arrive for work, deposit them in lockers installed at West Wing entrances. They can reclaim their phones when they leave.

Several staffers huddle around the lockers throughout the day, checking messages they have missed. The lockers buzz and chirp constantly from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

More ominously, well-suited men roam the halls of the West Wing, carrying devices that pick up signals from phones that aren’t government-issued. “Did someone forget to put their phone away?” one of the men will ask if such a device is detected. If no one says they have a phone, the detection team start searching the room.

Image result for images of cell phone detectors on Youtube

Phone detector

The devices can tell which type of phone is in the room.

This is the sort of behavior Americans have traditionally—and correctly—associated with dictatorships

In his memo outlining the policy, former Chief of Staff John Kelly warned that anyone who violated the phone ban could be punished, including “being indefinitely prohibited from entering the White House complex.”

Yet even these draconian methods may not end White House leaks.

White House officials still speak with reporters throughout the day and often air their grievances, whether about annoying colleagues or competing policy priorities.

Aides with private offices sometimes call reporters on their desk phones. Others get their cell phones and call or text reporters during lunch breaks. 

TRUMP VS. THE FIRST AMENDMENT: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 19, 2019 at 12:43 am

“Nothing funny about tired Saturday Night Live on Fake news NBC! Question is, how do the Networks get away with these total Republican hit jobs without retribution? Likewise for many other shows? Very unfair and should be looked into. This is the real Collusion!

So tweeted President Donald J. Trump on February 17.

Less than nine hours earlier, “SNL” had once again opened with actor Alec Baldwin mocking the 45th President. In this skit, Baldwin/Trump gave a rambling press conference declaring: “We need wall. We have a tremendous amount of drugs flowing into this country from the southern border—or The Brown Line, as many people have asked me not to call it.”

Right-wingers denounce their critics as “snowflakes”—that is, emotional, easily offended and unable to tolerate opposing views.

Yet here was Donald Trump, who prides himself on his toughness, whining like a child bully who has just been told that other people have rights, too.

The answer is simple: Trump is a tyrant—and a longtime admirer of tyrants.

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Donald Trump

He has lavishly praised Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, such as during his appearance on the December 18, 2015 edition of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”: 

“He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader, unlike what we have in this country”—a reference to then-President Barack Obama. 

During a February, 2017 interview with Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, Trump defended Putin’s killing of political opponents.  

O’Reilly: “But he’s a killer.” 

Trump: “There are a lot of killers. You think our country’s so innocent?” 

Asked by a Fox News reporter why he praised murderous North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un, he replied: “He’s a tough guy. Hey, when you take over a country, tough country, tough people, and you take it over from your father …If you could do that at 27 years old, I mean, that’s one in 10,000 that could do that.” 

In short: Kim must be doing something right because he’s in power. And it doesn’t matter how he came to power—or the price his country is paying for it.  

Actually, for all their differences in appearance and nationality, Trump shares at least two similarities with Kim.

Kim Jong-un at the Workers' Party of Korea main building.png

Kim Jong-Un

Blue House (Republic of Korea) [KOGL (http://www.kogl.or.kr/open/info/license_info/by.do)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

First, both of them got a big boost into wealth and power from their fathers.

  • Trump’s father, Fred Trump, a real estate mogul, reportedly gave Donald $200 million to enter the real estate business. It was this sum that formed the basis for Trump’s eventual rise to wealth and fame—and the Presidency. 
  • Kim’s father was Kim Jong-Il, who ruled North Korea as dictator from 1994 to 2011. When his father died in 2011, Kim Jong-Un immediately succeeded him, having been groomed for years to do so. 

Second, both Trump and Kim have brutally tried to stamp out any voices that contradict their own.

  • Trump has constantly attacked freedom of the press, even labeling it “the enemy of the American people.” He has also slandered his critics on Twitter—which has refused to enforce its “Terms of Service” and revoke his account.
  • Kim has attacked his critics with firing squads and prison camps. Amnesty International estimates that more than 200,000 North Koreans are now suffering in labor camps throughout the country.

Thus, Trump—-elected to lead the “free world”—believes, like all dictators:

  • People are evil everywhere—so who am I to judge who’s better or worse? All that counts is gaining and holding onto power. 
  • And if you can do that, it doesn’t matter how you do so.

Actually, it’s not uncommon for dictators to admire one another—as the case of Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler nicely illustrates.

Joseph Stalin

After Hitler launched a blood-purge of his own private Stormtroopers army on June 30, 1934, Stalin exclaimed: “Hitler, what a great man! That is the way to deal with your political opponents!” 

And Hitler was equally admiring of Stalin’s notorious ruthlessness: “After the victory over Russia,” he told his intimates, “it would be a good idea to get Stalin to run the country, with German oversight, of course. He knows better than anyone how to handle the Russians.”  

Adolf Hitler

Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1990-048-29A / CC-BY-SA 3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)%5D

One characteristic shared by all dictators is intolerance toward those whose opinions differ with their own. Especially those who dare to actually criticize or make fun of them.

All Presidents have thin skins. John F. Kennedy often phoned reporters and called them “sonofbitches” when he didn’t like stories they had written on him.

Richard Nixon went further, waging all-out war against the Washington Post for its stories about his criminality. 

But Donald Trump has taken his hatred of dissidents to an entirely new—and dangerous—level.

On May 10, 2018, The Hill reported that White House Special Assistant Kelly Sadler had joked derisively about dying Arizona United States Senator John McCain.

Trump was outraged—not that one of his aides had joked about a man stricken with brain cancer, but that someone in the White House had leaked it.

OUT OF EVIL, CHAOS: PART FIVE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 18, 2018 at 1:16 am

The first year of Donald Trump’s White House has seen more firings, resignations, and reassignments of top staffers than any other first-year administration in modern history. His Cabinet turnover exceeds that of any other administration in the last 100 years. 

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The White House

With the administration rapidly approaching its halfway pint—January 20, 2019—it’s time to size up its litany of casualties. 

This listing, however, does not tell the full story. Among those who resigned from the Trump administration—and the real reasons why:

  • Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald – Resigned as director of the Center of Disease Control after Politico reported that she had bought stock in Japan Tobacco while serving as CDC director.
  • Omarosa Manigault-Newman – Met Trump as a contestant on “The Apprentice,” where he fired her on three different shows. She moved into the White House with him as Director of Communications for the White House Office of Public Liaison. She became disillusioned with him during 2017 and began taping her conversations with him and other government officials. When she learned she had been fired she reportedly had to be literally dragged from the White House.
  • Tom Price – The Secretary of Health and Human Services ran up a $1 million cost to taxpayers for private planes and military jets for travel within the United States and trips to Asia, Africa and Europe. 
  • Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross – Trump told him: “I don’t trust you. I don’t want you doing any more negotiations….You’re past your prime.” 
  • Sean Spicer – Resigned in anger after Trump chose Anthony Scaramucci as White House Communications Director. The reason: Trump kept him in the dark about events Spicer needed to know—such as an interview that Trump arranged with the New York Times—and which ended disastrously for Trump.
  • Walter Shaub – Resigned as the director of the Office of Government Ethics in July after clashing with Trump over the President’s conflicts-of-interest vis-a-vis his financial holdings.
  • Hope Hicks – White House Communications Director, resigned one day after testifying before the House Intelligence Committee. She claimed she had told “white lies” for Trump but hadn’t lied about anything important relating to the investigation of Russian subversion of the 2016 election.
  • Chief of Staff Reince Priebus – Suffered repeated humiliations by Trump—such a being ordered to kill a fly that was buzzing about.
  • On another occasion, Trump told an associate that Priebus was “like a little rat. He just scurries around.”
  • On July 28, 2017, Priebus resigned.
  • Chief of Staff John Kelly – Trump similarly ridiculed Priebus’ replacement, a former Marine Corps general. Kelly tried to limit the number of advisers who had unrestricted access to Trump—and thus bring discipline to his schedule.
  • Instead of being grateful, Trump became furious. Kelly told colleagues: “He’s an idiot. It’s pointless to try to convince him of anything. He’s gone off the rails. We’re in Crazytown. I don’t even know why any of us are here. This is the worst job I’ve ever had.”

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John Kelly

On December 8, 2018, Trump announced that: “John Kelly will be leaving at the end of the year, we will be announcing who will be taking John’s place, it may be on an interim basis, in the next day or two.” 

This had been expected for months. Reportedly, Kelly and Trump were no longer on speaking terms.

Trump’s apparent first choice for Kelly’s replacement: Nick Ayers, who had served as Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff for more than a year.  

Trump pushed Ayers to commit to two years, but he declined.

Ayers told Trump he had young children, and wanted to return to his home state of Georgia. He offered to temporarily serve as chief of staff, but Trump demanded a two-year commitment, and talks fell apart.

Finally, Trump found a replacement for Kelly: Mick Mulvaney, who has served as director of the Office of Management and Budget. He intends to keep his position at OMB while serving as Trump’s chief of staff.

As 2018 rapidly comes to an end, the Trump administration will come under increased pressure on two fronts:

  1. The Special Counsel’s investigation of Russian subversion of the 2016 Presidential election: Robert Mueller is slowly closing the net on the highest-ranking members of the Trump administration—such as Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort. These will almost certainly lead to Trump himself.
  2. On January 3, the House of Representatives will become a Democratically-controlled body. Trump will face unprecedented opposition—and major investigations of his past and current actions. It’s likely that the House Intelligence Committee will go after his long-hidden tax returns—which may well prove his longstanding financial ties to Russian oligarchs.

The White House is one of the most stressful places to work. Constant deadlines keep staffers working days on end. Travel is frequent. And anyone can be dismissed in an instant, since all employees work “at the pleasure of the President.”

These events will bring increased fear and stress to those who still remain in the White House. This, in turn, will ensure increased mass firings and/or resignations from the White House.  

As aging stage actress Margo Channing (Bette Davis) warns in All About Eve:  “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.”

OUT OF EVIL, CHAOS: PART FOUR (OF FIVE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 17, 2018 at 12:26 am

The first year of Trump’s White House has seen more firings, resignations, and reassignments of top staffers than any other first-year administration in modern history. His Cabinet turnover exceeds that of any other administration in the last 100 years.

With the Trump administration rapidly approaching its halfway point—January 20, 2019—it’s time to size up its litany of casualties.

Among these: 

FIRED: 

  • Preet Bharara – U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York
  • Sally Yates – Assistant United States Attorney General
  • James Comey – FBI Director
  • Rex Tillerson – Secretary of State
  • Andrew McCabe – FBI Deputy Director 
  • Jeff Sessions – United States Attorney General 

RESIGNED:

  • Katie Walsh – Deputy White House Chief of Staff
  • Michael T. Flynn – National Security Adviser
  • Walter Shaub – Office of Government Ethics Director
  • Michael Dubke – Communications Director
  • Sean Spicer – Press Secretary
  • Reince Priebus – Chief of Staff
  • Anthony Scaramucci – Communications Director
  • Steve Bannon – Chief Strategist
  • Sebastian Gorka – Deputy Assistant to the President
  • Tom Price – Secretary of Health and Human Services
  • Omarosa Manigault-Newman – Director of Communications for White House Office of Public Liaison
  • Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald – Director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention 
  • Rob Porter – White House Staff Secretary
  • Hope Hicks – White House Communications Director
  • Gary Cohn – Director of the National Economic Council
  • H.R. McMaster – National Security Adviser 
  • Tom Bossert – Homeland Security Adviser
  • Scott Pruitt – Director, Environmental Protection Agency
  • Don McGahn – White House Counsel
  • Nikki Haley – United States Ambassador to the United Nations
  • David Shulkin – Secretary of the Veterans Administration 

This listing, however, does not tell the full story. 

Among those who were fired—and the real reasons why:

  • Jeff Sessions – Fired as Attorney General because he refused to quash Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller’s probe into proven connections between Russian Intelligence agents and high-ranking members of Trump’s Presidential campaign. 
  • On the day after the November, 2018 mid-term elections, Trump fired him. 
  • James Comey – Fired as FBI Director because he refused to pledge his personal loyalty to Trump. Trump also hoped to end the FBI’s investigation of links between Russian Intelligence agents and members of his 2016 Presidential campaign.
  • Trump later admitted to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak: “I just fired the head of the FBI….I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.” 
  • Don McGahn – Resigned as White House Counsel after repeatedly clashing with Trump about the best strategy for dealing with Mueller’s investigation. 
  • Tom Bossert – Trump’s Homeland Security Adviser, was fired by John Bolton, the new National Security Adviser.  
  • Sally Yates – Fired by Trump as Acting Attorney General for her aggressive pursuit of Michael Flynn’s treasonous contacts with Russian Intelligence officials during the 2016 Presidential campaign. She had also refused to uphold Trump’s executive order on immigration and denounced it as unlawful.
  • Preet Bharara – Fired by Trump as United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Although an Obama appointee, Trump had initially asked him to stay on—and then abruptly fired him. The possible reason: He was known as one of Wall Street’s fiercest watchdogs and a widely respected prosecutor. Trump believes that corporations should be immune from their crimes—and, as President, has worked to confer such immunity upon them.
  • Rex Tillerson – Trump’s Secretary of State, was fired without warning while on a trip to Africa. The reason: In 2017, word leaked to the press that Tillerson had called Trump “a moron.”   
  • Steve Bannon – Although he officially resigned, Trump fired his Fascistic chief strategist after Bannon heatedly clashed with other members of the White House. 
  • Anthony Scaramucci – Although he officially resigned, he was in fact fired by Trump at the urging of John Kelly. The reason: An obscenity-laced interview with The New Yorker, where he attacked members of the Trump administration—most notably Bannon.

Among those who resigned—and the real reasons why:

  • Scott Pruitt – Although he technically resigned as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, he was in effect fired. He was under several federal ethics investigation for lavish spending, conflicts of interests with corporate lobbyists, and enlisting his official government staffers to run personal errands.
  • Rob Porter – The White House Staff Secretary resigned after after two of his ex-wives accused him of physical and emotional abuse. 
  • Michael Flynn – Although he officially resigned, he was in fact fired as National Security Adviser. The reason: He had discussed, with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, ending the Obama administration’s sanctions against Russia. Then he lied about it to Vice President Mike Pence. When these facts became public, Flynn was sent packing. 

OUT OF EVIL, CHAOS: PART THREE (OF FIVE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on December 14, 2018 at 12:06 am

In January, 2018, the White House banned the use of personal cell phones in the West Wing. The official reason: National security.

The real reason: To stop staffers from leaking to reporters.

More ominously, well-suited men roam the halls of the West Wing, carrying devices that pick up signals from phones that aren’t government-issued. “Did someone forget to put their phone away?” one of the men will ask if such a device is detected. If no one says they have a phone, the detection team start searching the room.

Image result for images of cell phone detectors on Youtube

Phone detector

The devices can tell which type of phone is in the room.

This is the sort of behavior Americans have traditionally—and correctly—associated with dictatorships

In his memo outlining the policy, Chief of Staff John Kelly warned that anyone who violated the phone ban could be punished, including “being indefinitely prohibited from entering the White House complex.”

Yet even these draconian methods may not end White House leaks.

White House officials still speak with reporters throughout the day and often air their grievances, whether about annoying colleagues or competing policy priorities.

Aides with private offices sometimes call reporters on their desk phones. Others get their cell phones and call or text reporters during lunch breaks.

According to an anonymous White House source: “The cellphone ban is for when people are inside the West Wing, so it really doesn’t do all that much to prevent leaks. If they banned all personal cellphones from the entire [White House] grounds, all that would do is make reporters stay up later because they couldn’t talk to their sources until after 6:30 pm.”

Image result for images of no cell phones

Other sources believe that leaks won’t end unless Trump starts firing staffers. But there is always the risk of firing the wrong people. Thus, to protect themselves, those who leak might well accuse tight-lipped co-workers.

Within the Soviet Union (especially during the reign of Joseph Stalin) fear of secret police surveillance was widespread—and absolutely justified.

Among the methods used to keep conversations secret:

  • Turning on the TV or radio to full volume.
  • Turning on a water faucet at full blast.
  • Turning the dial of a rotary phone to the end—and sticking a pencil in one of the small holes for numbers.
  • Standing six to nine feet away from the hung-up receiver.
  • Going for “a walk in the woods.” 
  • Saying nothing sensitive on the phone.

The secret police (known as the Cheka, the NKVD, the MGB, the KGB, and now the FSB) operated on seven working principles:

  1. Your enemy is hiding.
  2. Start from the usual suspects.
  3. Study the young.
  4. Stop the laughing.
  5. Rebellion spreads like wildfire.
  6. Stamp out every spark.
  7. Order is created by appearance.

Trump has always ruled through bribery and fear. He’s bought off (or tried to) those who might cause him trouble—like porn actress Stormy Daniels. And he’s threatened or filed lawsuits against those he couldn’t or didn’t want to bribe—such as contractors who have worked on various Trump properties. 

But Trump can’t buy the loyalty of employees working in an atmosphere of hostility—which breeds resentment and fear. And some of them are taking revenge by sharing with reporters the latest crimes and follies of the Trump administration.

The more Trump wages war on the “cowards and traitors” who work most closely with him, the more some of them will find opportunities to strike back. This will inflame Trump even more—and lead him to seek even more repressive methods against his own staffers. 

This is a no-win situation for Trump.

The results will be twofold:

  1. Constant turnovers of staffers—with their replacements having to undergo lengthy background checks before coming on; and
  2. Continued leaking of embarrassing secrets by resentful employees who stay.

Trump became famous on “The Apprentice” for telling contestants: “You’re fired.”

Since taking office as President, he has bullied and insulted even White House officials and his own handpicked Cabinet officers. This has resulted in an avalanche of firings and resignations. 

The first year of Trump’s White House has seen more firings, resignations, and reassignments of top staffers than any other first-year administration in modern history. His Cabinet turnover exceeds that of any other administration in the last 100 years.

With the Trump administration rapidly approaching its halfway point—January 20, 2019—it’s time to size up its litany of casualties.

The list is impressive—but only in a negative sense.

OUT OF EVIL, CHAOS: PART TWO (OF FIVE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on December 13, 2018 at 12:36 am

In his infamous treatise, The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli warns that it is safer to be feared than loved. And he lays out his reason thusly: 

From this arises the question whether it is better to be loved than feared, or feared more than loved.  The reply is, that one ought to be both feared and loved, but as it is difficult for the two to go together, it is much safer to be feared than loved….

“And men have less scruple in offending one who makes himself loved than one who makes himself feared; for love is held by a chain of obligations which, men being selfish, is broken whenever it serves their purpose; but fear is maintained by a dread of punishment which never fails.”

But Machiavelli immediately follows this up with a warning about the abuses of fear:

“Still, 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….”

Niccolo Machiavelli

It’s a warning that someone should have given President Donald Trump long ago.

Not that he would have heeded it.

On May 10, 2018, The Hill reported that White House Special Assistant Kelly Sadler had joked derisively about Arizona United States Senator John McCain.

McCain, a Navy pilot during the Vietnam war, was shot down over Hanoi on October 26, 1967, and captured. He spent five and a half years as a POW in North Vietnam—and was often brutally tortured. He wasn’t released until March 14, 1973.

Recently, he had opposed the nomination of Gina Haspel as director of the CIA.

The reason: In 2002, Haspel had operated a “black” CIA site in Thailand where Islamic terrorists were often waterboarded to make them talk. 

For John McCain, waterboarding was torture, even if it didn’t leave its victims permanently scarred and disabled. 

Aware that the 81-year-old McCain was dying of brain cancer, Sadler joked to intimates about the Senator’s opposition to Haspel: “It doesn’t matter. He’s dying anyway.”

John McCain's official Senate portrait, taken in 2009

John McCain

Leaked to CNN by an anonymous White House official, Sadler’s remark sparked fierce criticism—and demands for her firing.

South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a close friend of McCain, said: “Ms. Sadler, may I remind you that John McCain has a lot of friends in the United States Senate on both sides of the aisle. Nobody is laughing in the Senate.”

“People have wondered when decency would hit rock bottom with this administration. It happened yesterday,” said former Vice President Joe Biden. 

“John McCain makes America great. Father, grandfather, Navy pilot, POW hero bound by honor, an incomparable and irrepressible statesman. Those who mock such greatness only humiliate themselves and their silent accomplices,” tweeted former Massachusetts governor and 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Officially, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders refused to confirm or deny Sadler’s joke: “I’m not going to get into a back and forth because people want to create issues of leaked staff meetings.”

Unofficially, Sanders was furious—not at the joke about a dying man, but that someone had leaked it. After assailing the White House communications team, she pouted: “I am sure this conversation is going to leak, too. And that’s just disgusting.”

SarahHuckabeeSanders.jpg

Sarah Huckabee Sanders

No apology has been offered by any official at the White House—including President Trump.

In fact, Senior White House communications adviser Mercedes Schlapp reportedly expressed her support for Sadler: “I stand with Kelly Sadler.”

On May 11—the day after Sadler’s comment was reported—reporters asked Sanders if the tone set by Trump had caused Sadler to feel comfortable in telling such a joke.

“Certainly not!” predictably replied Sanders, adding: “We have a respect for all Americans, and that is what we try to put forward in everything we do, but in word and in action, focusing on doing things that help every American in this country every single day.”

On May 14 Trump revealed his “respect” for “all Americans”—especially those working in the White House.

“The so-called leaks coming out of the White House are a massive over exaggeration put out by the Fake News Media in order to make us look as bad as possible,” Trump tweeted.

“With that being said, leakers are traitors and cowards, and we will find out who they are!”

In a move that Joseph Stalin would have admired, Trump ordered an all-out investigation to find the joke-leaker.

In January, 2018, the White House had banned the use of personal cell phones in the West Wing. The official reason: National security.

The real reason: To stop staffers from leaking to reporters.

Officials now have two choices:

  1. Leave their cell phones in their cars, or,
  2. When they arrive for work, deposit them in lockers installed at West Wing entrances. They can reclaim their phones when they leave.

Several staffers huddle around the lockers throughout the day, checking messages they have missed. The lockers buzz and chirp constantly from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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