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Posts Tagged ‘THE ATLANTIC’

WHEN TYRANTS FALL, LOYALTY GOES SOUTH

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 1, 2019 at 12:04 am

In April, 1945, Berlin, capital of the Third Reich, was under siege by the British and Americans from the West—and by the Russians from the East. 

On April 20—Adolf Hitler’s 56th birthday—his two most important ministers visited him for the last time. 

One minister was Hermann Goring, who still commanded the remnants of the once-powerful German air force, the Luftwaffe

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Hermann Goring

Bundesarchiv, Bild 102-15607 / CC-BY-SA 3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 de 

The other was Heinrich Himmler, absolute ruler of the Schutzstaffel, or “Protection Squadron.” His empire encompassed the black-uniformed secret police and a network of extermination camps throughout Eastern Europe.

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Heinrich Himmler 

Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-R99621 / CC-BY-SA 3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 de 

In the ruins of the Reich Chancellery, Himmler and Goring swore unswerving loyalty to Hitler. 

Then, on April 23, Goring sent him a telegram. It proposed that, with Hitler trapped in Berlin, the Reichsmarshall, as his designated successor, should assume leadership of the Reich.

Hitler, furious, refused permission and ordered Goring’s arrest and execution. But Goring eluded the SS units and surrendered to the Americans.

Then, on April 28, the BBC reported that Himmler had tried to open surrender negotiations with the Western Allies.

Now Hitler screamed that Himmler—“the True Heinrich”—had committed the worst treachery he had ever known—and ordered his arrest. 

On April 29—one day before he committed suicide—Hitler declared Goring and Himmler traitors and stripped them of all their Nazi party and state offices.

Both would commit suicide by poison—Himmler before he could be tried as a war criminal, and Goring before being hanged as one.

Now, fast forward 73 years later.  

Attorney Michael Cohen had long been Donald Trump’s fixer. “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.”

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Michael Cohen

IowaPolitics.com [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D

Then, in April, 2018, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York began investigating Cohen. 

On April 9, 2018, the FBI, executing a federal search warrant, raided Cohen’s law office, his home and his hotel room. Agents seized emails, tax and business records and recordings of phone conversations that Cohen had made.

(On August 21, Cohen pleaded guilty to eight counts, including tax fraud, bank fraud and campaign finance violations. In December 2018, he was sentenced to three years in federal prison and ordered to pay a $50,000 fine.)

While the media speculated that Cohen was expecting a Presidential pardon, Trump washed his hands of his former fixer: “Michael Cohen only handled a tiny, tiny fraction of my legal work.”  

On July 25, Cohen offered a response in kind: A leaked tape of a phone conversation he had had with Trump before the latter became President.

It focused on buying the rights to a Playboy model’s story where she claimed to have had an affair with Trump years earlier.

Trump, furious, blasted Cohen in a tweet: “What kind of a lawyer would tape a client? So sad! Is this a first, never heard of it before? Why was the tape so abruptly terminated (cut) while I was presumably saying positive things? I hear there are other clients and many reporters that are taped – can this be so? Too bad!” 

The revelation that he had been secretly taped by his own lawyer proved especially embarrassing for Trump. On March 4, 2017, he had accused President Barack Obama of illegally wiretapping his phones during the 2016 election.

Without citing any evidence to back up his libelous claim, he tweeted: “Terrible! Just found out that [Barack] Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!” 

Subsequent investigations by the Justice Department turned up no evidence to substantiate Trump’s assertion.

But after the release of the Cohen tape, worse was to come.

Omarosa Manigault had become a Trump favorite by generating huge ratings for his “reality series” The Apprentice during its first, seventh and 13th seasons on NBC. 

Omarosa Manigault

By Glenn Francis of PacificProDigital.com

Her behavior toward other contestants was marked by insults, egomania and ruthlessness. As a result, she soon became the “woman America loved to hate.” 

TV Guide included her in its 2013 list of “The 60 Nastiest TV Villains of All Time.”

During Trump’s Presidential campaign, she was named Director of African-American Outreach.  In an interview with Frontline, she boasted: “Every critic, every detractor, will have to bow down to President Trump. It’s everyone who’s ever doubted Donald, who ever disagreed, who ever challenged him.”

In January, 2017, Omarossa moved into the White House—where she became as antagonistic toward her government colleagues as she had those on The Apprentice

On December 12, 2017, she was forcibly removed from the White House grounds.

Trump tweeted her a goodbye: “Thank you Omarosa for your service! I wish you continued success.” 

Apparently he didn’t expect her to attain that success at his expense.

On August 8, 2018, news broke that Omarosa had secretly taped Trump during several phone conversations in the White House. And that she planned to use these tapes to promote an upcoming—and highly critical—book on the President. 

The book—Unhinged-–was released on August 14, 2018.

ONE TWITTER TROLL IS MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on February 28, 2019 at 11:52 am

On May 9, 2017, President Donald Trump abruptly fired FBI Director James Comey.

Reports soon surfaced that his reason for doing so was that Comey had refused to pledge his personal loyalty to Trump. 

Just 72 hours after firing Comey, Trump issued a threat to him via Twitter: “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” 

And Twitter’s reaction to such a blatant threat?  

Silence.James Comey official portrait.jpg

James B. Comey

From the start of his Presidency, Trump has put his ambitions, excuses and rants on social media. And this has unnerved foreign leaders as well as Trump’s fellow Americans.

As CNN Political Analyst Julian Zelizer outlined in a July 3 article:

“Putting aside the specific content of the recent blasts from the Oval smart phone, the President’s ongoing Twitter storms make all leaders uneasy. The heads of government in most nations prefer a certain amount of predictability and decorum from other heads of state.

“To have one of the most powerful people in the room being someone who is willing to send out explosive and controversial statements through social media, including nasty personal attacks or an edited video of him physically assaulting the media, does not make others….feel very confident about how he will handle deliberations with them.”

On December 12, 2017, Trump used Twitter to attack New York United States Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.

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Kirsten Gillibrand

Gillibrand was among six Democratic senators who called for Trump’s resignation after sexual harassment allegations forced three Republican and Democratic members of Congress to resign.

Trump tweeted: “Lightweight Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a total flunky for Chuck Schumer and someone who would come to my office ‘begging’ for campaign contributions not so long ago (and would do anything for them), is now in the ring fighting against Trump. Very disloyal to Bill & Crooked-USED!”

“I see it as a sexist smear. I mean that’s what it is,” Gillibrand replied in a press conference. “It’s part of the President’s efforts of name calling and it’s not going to silence me, it’s not going to silence me. It’s intended to silence me.”

So how does this behavior apply to “The Twitter Rules”?

Abuse: You may not engage in the targeted harassment of someone, or incite other people to do so. We consider abusive behavior an attempt to harass, intimidate, or silence someone else’s voice. [Italics added.]

On February 17, 2017, Trump tweeted: “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!”

On July 2, 2017, Trump tweeted a video showing him punching a man with the CNN logo superimposed on his head during a WWE wrestling match.

And on August 15, the President retweeted a cartoon photo of a “Trump Train” running over a CNN reporter.

Yet Twitter’s Terms of Service state:

Hateful imagery and display names: You may not use hateful images or symbols in your profile image or profile header. You also may not use your username, display name, or profile bio to engage in abusive behavior, such as targeted harassment or expressing hate towards a person, group, or protected category. We will begin enforcing this rule on December 18, 2017. [Italics added.]

So how do Twitter’s top executives justify allowing these repeated violations of “Twitter Rules”? On September 25, the company tweeted:

“We hold all accounts to the same Rules, and consider a number of factors when assessing whether Tweets violate our Rules.

“Among the considerations is ‘newsworthiness’ and whether a Tweet is of public interest. This has long been internal policy and we’ll soon update our public-facing rules to reflect it. We need to do better on this, and will.”

Twitter has never acknowledged publicly that Trump has violated any of its guidelines. It rarely even acknowledges Trump’s tweets. 

So what gives? 

Money. 

Trump’s apologists have fiercely defended his tweetstorms, claiming they allow him to bypass the media and “communicate directly with the American people.” 

One of those apologists is former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, who said: “I believe it’s really important to have these conversations out in the open, rather than have them behind closed doors.”

Image result for Images of Jack Dorsey

Jack Dorsey

In April, 2017, Twitter announced that it had added 9,000,000 new users, its largest quarter-over-quarter jump in two years. 

“We believe Twitter is the best at showing you what’s happening in the world and what’s being talked about,” said Anthony Noto, Twitter’s chief financial officer. 

“Having political leaders of the world as well as news agencies participating and driving that is an important element to reinforcing what we’re the best at.”

In short: Trump is good at attracting more Twitter users. and if the company needs to overlook his blatant and repeated violations of its “Twitter Rules,” so be it.  

Twitter has been so plagued by trolling that potential investors like the Walt Disney Company refused to taint their own reputations by partnering with it. 

But that hasn’t led high-ranking Twitter executives to end their Faustian pact with the biggest Twitter troll of all. 

And, as all devotees of the Faust legend know, there comes a time when the Devil wins the bargain.  

ONE TWITTER TROLL IS MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on February 27, 2019 at 12:03 am

According to “The Twitter Rules,” posted on the Twitter website:

We believe in freedom of expression and open dialogue, but that means little as an underlying philosophy if voices are silenced because people are afraid to speak up.

In order to ensure that people feel safe expressing diverse opinions and beliefs, we prohibit behavior that crosses the line into abuse, including behavior that harasses, intimidates, or uses fear to silence another user’s voice.

Context matters when evaluating for abusive behavior and determining appropriate enforcement actions. Factors we may take into consideration include, but are not limited to whether:

  • the behavior is targeted at an individual or group of people;
  • the report has been filed by the target of the abuse or a bystander;
  • the behavior is newsworthy and in the legitimate public interest.

Abuse: You may not engage in the targeted harassment of someone, or incite other people to do so. We consider abusive behavior an attempt to harass, intimidate, or silence someone else’s voice.

Unwanted sexual advances: You may not direct abuse at someone by sending unwanted sexual content, objectifying them in a sexually explicit manner, or otherwise engaging in sexual misconduct.

Hateful conduct: You may not promote violence against, threaten, or harass other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease. Read more about our hateful conduct policy.

Hateful imagery and display names: You may not use hateful images or symbols in your profile image or profile header. You also may not use your username, display name, or profile bio to engage in abusive behavior, such as targeted harassment or expressing hate towards a person, group, or protected category. We will begin enforcing this rule on December 18, 2017.

So much for the official version of what Twitter users—and non-Twitter users—can expect from those charged with policing Twitter.

Which leads to the question: Why hasn’t Twitter policed—and purged—the single greatest abuser of its “Twitter Rules”: Donald Trump?

Consider:

Donald Trump’s tweet-first-and-never-mind-the-consequences approach to life has been thoroughly documented.

From June 15, 2015, when he launched his Presidential campaign, until October 24, 2016, he fired nearly 4,000 angry, insulting tweets at 281 people and institutions. The New York Times needed two full pages of its print edition to showcase them.

Donald Trump

Among these targets were:

  • His Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton
  • His fellow Republican Presidential candidates
  • Actress Meryl Streep
  • News organizations
  • President Barack Obama
  • Comedian John Oliver
  • Obamacare
  • Singer Neil Young
  • The state of New Jersey
  • Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

His Twitter assaults have often dominated entire news cycles for days on end.

As President-elect, he continued these assaults—such as the one on November 18, 2016.

On that evening, Vice President-elect Mike Pence attended a Broadway performance of the hit musical “Hamilton.”

After the curtain call, the actor Brandon Victor Dixon—who plays Aaron Burr—respectfully addressed Pence:

“We are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our friends, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights. But we truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us.”

Dixon—who is black—was rightly alarmed.

Trump had received the open and enthusiastic support of the Ku Klux Klan, American Nazi Party and other white supremacist groups. Since his election, white thugs had assaulted blacks and other non-whites across the country.

Trump’s reaction to Dixon’s plea came in two Twitter rants:

“Our wonderful future V.P. Mike Pence was harassed last night at the theater by the cast of Hamilton, cameras blazing. This should not happen!”

And: “The Theater must always be a safe and special place. The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!”

And during his first two weeks as President, Trump attacked 22 people, places and things on his @realDonaldTrump account.

Then, on March 4, 2017, in a series of unhinged tweets, Trump accused former President Barack Obama of tapping his Trump Tower phones prior to the election:

“Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!”

“Is it legal for a sitting President to be ‘wire tapping’ a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW!”

“I’d bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!”

“How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”

Thus, without offering a shred of evidence to back it up, Trump accused his predecessor—on Twitter—of committing an impeachable offense.

President Barack Obama

On May 9, 2017, Trump abruptly fired FBI Director James Comey.

Reports soon surfaced that his reason for doing so was that Comey had refused to pledge his personal loyalty to Trump.

Trump had made this “request” during a private dinner at the White House in January. 

Another unpunished violation of Twitter’s Terms-of-Service was about to occur.

“GREEN BOOK” AND ITS TIMELY MESSAGE

In History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on February 26, 2019 at 12:07 am

“The [Oscar] winners included Regina King, Rami Malek, Alfonso Cuaron, Spike Lee—a group of people from very different backgrounds representing films that tell nuanced stories about diverse experiences. 

“And then the top honor is given to a film that many people have criticized for being an overly simplistic story about race told from the perspective of a white savior.”

So argued Ari Shapiro, a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR’s award-winning news magazine. He made his comments the day after Green Book won the Oscar for Best Picture at the 91st annual Academy Awards. 

Green Book is a 2018 biographical drama set in the Deep South of 1962. It’s based on the true story of a concert tour by a black classical and jazz pianist, Don Shirley, and his driver and bodyguard, Tony Vallelonga.  Mahershala Ali plays Shirley and Viggo Mortensen plays Vallelonga.

The two men are polar opposites: Shirley is cultured and eloquent; Vallelonga is streetwise and volatile. Shirley is used to dealing with the cream of New York society. Vallelonga is used to dealing with its dregs—as a nightclub bouncer. 

Mahershala Ali (29953410761).jpg

Mahershala Ali as Don Shirley

Gordon Correll [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D

When his nightclub closes for renovations, he responds to an ad by Shirley for a driver for his eight-week concert tour through the Midwest and Deep South.

This is 1962, a time when a black Air Force veteran, James Meredith, must be given protection by deputy U.S. marshals when he enters the segregated University of Mississippi. White and black “Freedom Riders” are canvassing the South, sitting at segregated lunch counters and often being attacked by members of the Ku Klux Klan and equally racist Southern police.

In fact, the title of the movie—Green Book—is derived from a travel guide written for blacks venturing into the Deep South: The Negro Motorist Green Book. Written by Victor Hugo Green, its purpose is to help blacks find motels and restaurants that will accept them.

And as Shirley and Vallelonga make their odyssey through the South, they find themselves staying at separate hotels—and sometimes together, after Vallelonga slips Shirley into his own room.

Green Book (2018 poster).png

An AV Film review called Green Book “a kind of comforting liberal fantasy, a #NotAllRacists trifle that suggests that our deep, festering divisions can be sutured through some quality time on the open road, resolving differences over a bucket of KFC.” 

At the start of the movie, Vallelonga throws away a glass after a black construction worker drinks from it. But during his tour of the South, he becomes increasingly sympathetic to the plight suffered by Shirley—and other blacks forced to daily endure a series of humiliations.

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Viggo Mortensen as Tony Vallelonga

Georges Biard [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D

According to television critic Rebecca Theodore-Vachon: “Green Book is a feel-good movie. It doesn’t really require a lot of critical thinking or self-analysis. You know, people walk out t of the movie feeling that, oh, well, racism is over, we’re good. So I think those are the things that are going on.”

Actually, the film makes clear that some people will always be racists. Thus, Shirley finds himself repeatedly forced to eat in the segregated rooms of the hotels where he’s to play concerts. And he’s almost murdered by a group of racists when he makes the mistake of going into a whites’ only bar. He survives only because Vallelonga arrives in time to rescue him.

And Shirley proves just as great a friend to Vallelonga. He introduces the semi-literate bouncer to the power of the written word by helping him craft articulate, heartfelt letters to his wife.

Toward the end of the movie, Vallelonga and Shirley are pulled over by a Mississippi police officer. Shirley’s “crime”: Being black—and out at night. When the officer insults Vallelonga, Tony punches him—and he and Shirley wind up in jail.  

Shirley asks for permission to call his “lawyer”—and the man he dials is Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy.

Kennedy, in turn, calls Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett. Barnett is already having his share of troubles with the Kennedys, and he orders the police: Let those men go—now! 

This scene underscores the importance of electing people who will stand against injustice. Watching the release of Vallelonga and Shirley, it’s impossible to imagine the Trump administration intervening in such a manner.

At the end of the movie, Shirley visits Vallelonga’s home—where he’s warmly received by Tony and his family. The film’s end credits reveal that the two men remained friends until they died, within months of each other, in 2013.

In 1950, a Western called Broken Arrow-–starring James Stewart as Tom Jeffords and Jeff Chandler as Cochise—told the true story of a friendship between a white man and an Apache. For many Americans, this came as a revelation.

After decades of seeing Indians depicted as bloodthirsty savages, audiences saw that there were those—among red men and white men—who could rise above prejudice and see each other as worthy of respect.

The lesson of Green Book is exactly the same. And it’s needed now more than ever.

TRUMP VS. MACHIAVELLI: TRUMP 0, MACHIAVELLI 10

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on February 25, 2019 at 11:30 am

After his untimely assassination, President John F. Kennedy became the subject of a flood of adoring biographies.

Among these:

  • With Kennedy, by Pierre Salinger;
  • A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House, by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.;
  • Kennedy, by Theodore C. Sorensen;
  • The Pleasure of His Company, by Paul B. Fay;
  • My Twelve Years With John F. Kennedy, by Elvelyn Lincoln;
  • Conversations With Kennedy, by Benjamin C. Bradlee.

Many of these appeared shortly after his death. Some—such as A Thousand Days and Kennedy—were massive—totaling 1,087 pages for the first and 758 pages for the second.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy.png

John F. Kennedy

Many of these books were written by those who had worked closely with Kennedy and knew his most intimate secrets. Yet the worst of those secrets did not emerge until the early 1970s.

Among those:

  • Kennedy’s compulsive womanizing.
  • His poor health and reckless use of drugs (licit and illicit) to control it.
  • His waging a no-quarter war on Fidel Castro (including using the Mafia to try to assassinate the Cuban dictator).

Kennedy inspired loyalty by somehow making those around him feel they were valued—and partners in a great historical moment.

By contrast, Donald Trump had held office less than two years when three books highly critical of him emerged.

The first, Fire and Fury, by Michael Wolff, appeared in January, 2018. The second, Unhinged, by Omarosa Manigault-Newman, came out in August.

Among the reviews of Fire and Fury

“What makes the book significant is its sly, hilarious portrait of a hollow man, into the black hole of whose needy, greedy ego the whole world has virtually vanished.”―The Guardian

“An undeniably juicy chronicle of a presidential administration that in just one year has been beset by numerous scandals and crises….” ―The San Francisco Chronicle

Wollf is an author, essayist, journalist, and columnist. He was never a member of Trump’s inner circle—yet he was given extraordinary access to those who worked in the West Wing of the White House.

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Donald Trump

Manigault-Newman, on the other hand, had known Trump intimately since 2003, when she first appeared on his NBC “reality” series, The Apprentice. She campaigned for him in 2016 and followed him into the White House as director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison—until she was fired in December, 2017. 

After her firing, she abruptly underwent a conversion from worshiper to heretic. As a reviewer on Amazon.com put it:

“It’s a story that starts with a starry eyed younger Omarosa, and ends with her freedom from the ‘TrumpWorld cult’.

“Along the way she becomes increasingly aware that her former mentor, friend, and idol, has no empathy for others, is narcissistic to an extreme, does not read or intake new information unless it’s on a favored cable TV channel, and she also sees signs of dementia-like behavior leaving her wondering what, if anything, she can do as an insider.” 

And on September 11th, the most devastating book yet to appear on Trump made its debut: Fear: Trump in the White House.

Its author was Bob Woodward, legendary investigative reporter and Washington Post associate editor.

Woodward “made his bones” as a journalist with Carl Bernstein from 1972 to 1974. Their reporting made “Watergate” a household word—and helped bring down President Richard M. Nixon.

Perhaps the most startling secret to be found within Woodward’s book: Nearly every member of Trump’s handpicked staff considers him an idiot. 

  • His former Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson: “He’s a fucking idiot.” 
  • John Kelly, his now former chief of staff: “He’s an idiot. It’s pointless to try to convince him of anything. He’s gone off the rails. We’re in crazytown,” 
  • His now former Secretary of Defense James Mattis: Trump acted like—and had the understanding of—“a fifth- or sixth-grader. ”
  • His former lawyer, John Dowd, warned Trump not to testify before Special Counsel Robert Mueller: “It’s either that or an orange jumpsuit” for perjury. 

In The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli raised the question of “whether it is better to be loved than feared, or feared more than loved.”

And he answered it: “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.”  

But Machiavelli warned against 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.

Portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli by Santi di Tito.jpg

Niccolo Machiavelli

If Trump ever read Machiavelli, he has ignored this warning with a vengeance.

By repeatedly showing himself ignorant of—and even indifferent to—the realities of Presidential statecraft, Trump quickly forfeited the respect of his top staffers and Cabinet officials. 

As a result, Trump has produced a dysfunctional administration constantly teetering on the edge of meltdown.

And by regularly humiliating those staffers and Cabinet officials, he destroyed their ties of loyalty to him as a man and President.

This has produced legions of angry, disillusioned members seeking revenge—and they will eagerly leak Trump’s latest embarrassing secrets to the first reporter who comes asking.

SING A SONG OF TREASON

In History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on February 22, 2019 at 2:31 pm

Appearing on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 on February 19, former FBI Acting Director Andrew McCabe said it is possible that President Donald Trump is a Russian asset.

Andrew McCabe official portrait.jpg

Andrew McCabe

“This President is undermining the role of law enforcement, undermining the role of our intelligence infrastructure and negatively impacting the men and women of the FBI, and across the intelligence agencies, (and their) ability to protect this country on a daily basis,” McCabe said.  

With this in mind, it’s time for a musical salute to the country’s would-be Commissar-in-Chief—and those treason-supporting Republicans who keep him in power.   

* * * * *

ACT ONE: THE 2016 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN
WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY VLAD
(To be sung to the tune, “With a Little Help From My Friends”)
 
What would you think if I ripped off some kids?
Would you walk out and not vote for me?
Lend me your ears and I’ll feed you a line
And I’ll try not to laugh cynically.
 
Oh, I get by with a little help from my Vlad.
Mm, I can lie with a little help from my Vlad.
Mm, you’re gonna fry with a little help from my Vlad.
 
What do I do when the bank calls me in?
(Does it worry you to be in debt?)
How do I feel when I need rubles fast?
(Do you worry Vlad might say “Nyet”?)
 
No, I get by with a little help from my Vlad.
Mm, I can lie with a little help from my Vlad.
Mm, you’re gonna fry with a little help from my Vlad.
 
(Do you need anybody?)
I just need someone named me.
(Could it be anybody?)
As long as it’s me–me–me–me!
 
(Would you believe in a love at first sight?)
Yes, it happens with a mirror all the time.
(What do you see when you turn out the light?)
It stays on so that my face can shine.
 
Oh, I get by with a little help from my Vlad.
Mm, I can lie with a little help from my Vlad.
Mm, you’re gonna die with a little help from my Vlad.
 
(Do you need anybody?)
I need a Gestapo that kills.
(Could it be anybody?)
As long as it kills I get thrills.
 
Oh, I get by with a little help from my Vlad.
With a little help from my Vlad.

* * * * *

ACT TWO: THE DONALD TRUMP PRESIDENCY
THE TRUMPY SKUNKY
(To be sung to the tune of “The Hokey Pokey”)
Trump lets the Russians in,
He kicks the press corps out.
He slips Vlad secret stuff
And he gives a “Treason!” shout.
He does the Trumpy Skunky
As he sells the U.S. out.
That’s what he’s all about.
Trump loves the KGB.
He hates the FBI.
He dares not tell the truth
‘Cause his whole life’s just a lie.
He does the Trumpy Skunky
As he sells the U.S. out.
That’s what he’s all about.
Trump tells interpreters:
“Don’t let on what I do.”
He lives to spread his hate
Just like all good Fascists do.
He does the Trumpy Skunky
As he sells the U.S. out
That’s what he’s all about.
Trump lets the Russians in
He kicks his lawyers out.
He screams “I’m innocent!
And he gives a “Treason!” shout.
He does the Trumpy Skunky
As he sells the U.S. out
That’s what he’s all about.

* * * * *

ACT THREE: RETRIBUTION FOR TREASON
TRUMPY TRAITOR
(To be sung to the tune, “Rockin’ Robin”)

He Tweets in the White House all the day long
Screamin’ and a-schemin’ and a-doin’ what’s wrong.
All the Special Agents in the FBI
Hope he goes to prison till the day he’ll die.

Trumpy Traitor (tweet tweet)
Trumpy Traitor (tweet tweet)
Go Trumpy Traitor
‘Cause they’re gonna bust your ass tonight.

Every act of treason, every act of crime—
America has never seen a bigger slime.
Bob Mueller’s ready, the cops are closin’ in
To put a grand finale to your reign of sin.

Trumpy Traitor (tweet tweet)
Trumpy Traitor (tweet tweet)
Go Trumpy Traitor
‘Cause they’re gonna bust your ass tonight.

Well, Eric’s getting ready for his next big steal
While Daddy hugs Ivanka—who lets out a squeal.
Don Junior’s got the Russians coming once again—
It’s party-time for traitors and their lives of sin.

He Tweets in the White House all the day long
Screamin’ and a-schemin’ and a-doin’ what’s wrong.
Handing out secrets to the KGB
The biggest Right-wing traitor that you’ll ever see.

Trumpy Traitor (tweet tweet)
Trumpy Traitor (tweet tweet)
Go Trumpy Traitor
‘Cause they’re gonna bust your ass tonight.

Well, Eric’s getting ready for his next big steal
While Daddy hugs Ivanka—who lets out a squeal.
Don Junior’s got the Russians coming once again—
It’s party-time for traitors and their lives of sin.

He Tweets in the White House all the day long
Screamin’ and a-schemin’ and a-doin’ what’s wrong.
Handing out secrets to the KGB
The biggest Right-wing traitor that you’ll ever see.

Trumpy Traitor (tweet tweet)
Trumpy Traitor (tweet tweet)
Go Trumpy Traitor
‘Cause they’re gonna bust your ass tonight.

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.”

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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.

PRESIDENTS: WHY SOME ARE LOVED, SOME HATED, SOME FORGOTTEN

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 18, 2019 at 12:54 am

Why are some Presidents remembered with affection, while others are detested—or forgotten altogether?

Generally, Presidents who are warmly remembered are seen as making positive contributions to the lives of their fellow Americans and being “people-oriented.”

Among these:

  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Theodore Roosevelt
  • Franklin Roosevelt
  • John F. Kennedy

Among the reasons they are held in such high regard:

  • Abraham Lincoln ended slavery and restored the Union. Although he ruthlessly prosecuted the Civil War, his humanity remains engraved in stories such as his pardoning a soldier condemned to be shot for cowardice: “If Almighty God gives a man a cowardly pair of legs, how can he help their running away with him?”

An iconic photograph of a bearded Abraham Lincoln showing his head and shoulders.

Abraham Lincoln

  • Theodore Roosevelt championed an era of reform, such as creating the Food and Drug Administration and five National Parks. Popularly known as “Teddy,” he even had a toy bear—the teddy bear—named after him.
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt successfully led America through the Great Depression and World War II. He was the first President to insist that government existed to directly better the lives of its citizens: “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”

FDR 1944 Color Portrait.tif

Franklin D. Roosevelt

  • John F. Kennedy supported civil rights and called for an end to the Cold War. He challenged Americans to “ask what you can do for your country” and made government service respectable, even chic. His youth, charisma, intelligence and handsomeness led millions to mourn for “what might have been” had he lived to win a second term.

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John F. Kennedy

Presidents who remain unpopular among Americans are seen as unlikable and responsible (directly or not) for mass suffering.

Among these:

  • Herbert Hoover
  • Lyndon B. Johnson
  • Richard M. Nixon

Among the reasons they are held in such low regard:

  • Herbert Hoover is still blamed for the 1929 Great Depression. He didn’t create it, but his conservative, “small-government” philosophy led him to refuse to aid its victims. An engineer by profession, he saw the Depression as a machine that needed repair, not as a catastrophe for human beings. This lack of “emotional intelligence” cost him heavily with voters.
  • Lyndon B. Johnson is still blamed as the President “who got us into Vietnam.” John F. Kennedy had laid the groundwork by placing 16,000 American troops there by the time he died in 1963. But it was Johnson who greatly expanded the war in 1965 and kept it going—with hugely expanding casualties—for the next three years. Unlike Kennedy, whom he followed, he looked and sounded terrible on TV. Voters compared JFK’s wit and good looks with LBJ’s Texas drawl and false piety—and found him wanting.

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Lyndon B. Johnson

  • Richard M. Nixon will be remembered foremost as the President who was forced to resign under threat of impeachment and removal from office. Like Herbert Hoover, he was not a “people person” and seemed remote to even his closest associates.  Although he took office on a pledge to “bring us together” and end the Vietnam war, he attacked war protesters as traitors and kept the war going another four years. His paranoid fears of losing the 1972 election led to his creating an illegal “Plumbers” unit which bugged the Democratic offices at the Watergate Hotel. And his attempted cover-up of their illegal actions led to his being forced to resign from office in disgrace.

Richard M. Nixon, ca. 1935 - 1982 - NARA - 530679.jpg

Richard M. Nixon

Which brings us to the question: How is Donald J. Trump likely to be remembered?

Historian Joachim C. Fest offers an unintended answer to this question in his 1973 bestselling biography Hitler:

“The phenomenon of the great man is primarily aesthetic, very rarely moral in nature; and even if we were prepared to make allowances in the latter realm, in the former we could not.

“An ancient tenet of aesthetics holds that one who for all his remarkable traits is a repulsive human being, is unfit to be a hero.”

Among the reasons for Hitler’s being “a repulsive human being,” Fest cites the Fuhrer’s

  • “intolerance and vindictiveness”;
  • “lack of generosity”; and
  • “banal and naked materialism—power was the only motive he would recognize.”

What Fest writes about Adolf Hitler applies just as brutally to President Trump: Intolerant and vindictive. Lacking generosity. Nakedly materialistic.  

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Donald Trump

Since taking office two years ago, he has:

  • Viciously attacked the nation’s free press for daring to report his growing list of crimes and disasters, calling it “the enemy of the American people.”
  • Publicly attacked Federal judges whose rulings displeased him. 
  • Attacked the FBI and CIA for accurately reporting that Russian President Vladimir Putin had intervened in the 2016 Presidential election to ensure Trump’s victory. 
  • Fired FBI Director James Comey for pursuing an investigation into Russia’s subversion of the 2016 Presidential election.  
  • Shut down the Federal Government for 35 days because Democrats refused to fund his “border wall” between the United States and Mexico. An estimated 380,000 government employees were furloughed and another 420,000 were ordered to work without pay.

At this stage, it’s hard to imagine Trump joining that select number of Presidents Americans remember with awe and reverence.

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