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Posts Tagged ‘THE CHICAGO SUN-TIMES’

THE COMING WAR: ZIKA VS. REPUBLICANS

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on December 15, 2017 at 12:06 am

A battle of truly cosmic proportions is about to rage.

In one corner is the dreaded Zika virus, which prevents the brain of a fetus from developing properly—and for which there is no vaccine.

And in the other corner are self-appointed Right-wing “guardians of morality” who refuse to provide abortion services—even in cases of rape and incest.

For the moment, Brazil is the epicenter of the Zika outbreak. But it is certain to expand to other nations, as the virus—carried by mosquitoes—continues to spread across the globe.  

Mosquito 

Brazil is investigating the potential link between Zika infections and more than 4,000 suspected cases of microcephaly, which causes babies to be born with abnormally small heads and a host of birth defects.    

Another affected country is Columbia. On February 7, 2016, its president, Juan Manuel Santos, announced that 25,645 Columbians were infected with Zika—of which 3,177 were pregnant women.

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Zika virus victim (left)

Zika cases have been confirmed in 73 countries and territories in the Americas.

The barest facts about this epidemic are nightmarish—especially for any woman who is pregnant.  

  • An estimated 80 percent of those infected—male and female—show no symptoms, and those that do have a mild illness, with a fever, rash and red eyes.
  • Babies so affected are born with an abnormally small head resulting in developmental problems, such as retardation, blindness and deafness.
  • The virus can be transmitted directly by mosquitoes; by mothers to fetuses; by men to their sexual partners; by saliva during deep kissing; and by blood transfusions.  
  • There is no vaccine to prevent infection with the Zika virus–and no cure for it once you’ve been infected.  

The United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has issued the following guidelines for protection against the virus: 

  • The best way to prevent diseases spread by mosquitoes is to protect yourself and your family from mosquito bites.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
  • Stay in places with air conditioning or window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
  • Use insect repellents that are registered by the Environmental Protection Agency for their effectiveness.
  • If using sunscreen, apply sunscreen before applying insect repellent.  
  • Sleep under a mosquito bed net if you are overseas or outside and can’t protect yourself from mosquito bites. 

But while mosquitoes are responsible for the first half of this nightmarish scenario, responsibility for the second half lies with Right-wing attitudes toward abortion.  

In Columbia, abortion became legal only in 2006—and only under the following circumstances:

  • The pregnancy poses a danger to the life or health of the mother.
  • The presence of life-threatening fetal malformations.
  • The pregnancy resulted from rape, incest or non-consensual artificial insemination.

Prior to 2006, abortion in Columbia was illegal without exception. 

Faced with the Zika epidemic, Columbia’s government has announced that pregnant women who carry the virus are eligible for abortion services.

Yet many Columbian women struggle to find abortion providers even when they meet strict legal requirements. The result: Illegal abortions are widespread.  

According to the CDC, by December 6, 2017:

  • 5,601 symptomatic Zika virus disease cases reported within the United States.
  • The number of Zika cases among travelers visiting or returning to the United States will likely increase. 
  • 5,324 cases resulted from travelers returning from affected areas. 
  • 226 cases were acquired through presumed local mosquito-borne transmission.
  • 51 cases were acquired via other routes, including sexual intercourse, laboratory transmission and person-to-person through an unknown route.

As the Zika toll inevitably rises within the United States, there will be increasing demands by women to obtain abortion services.

And the Republican party will increasingly strive to deny those services—as the following quotes attest: 

  • “Once a child does exist in your womb, I’m not going to assume a right to kill it just because the child’s host (some refer to them as mothers) doesn’t want it.”—Virginia U.S. Senator Steve Martin (2014).
  • “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”—Former Congressman Todd Akin (2012).  

Richard Mourdock

  • “I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God.  And I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that is something that God intended to happen.”—Former Republican U.S. Senate Candidate Richard Mourdock (2012)
  • “Texas was in a long period of drought until Governor [Rick] Perry signed the fetal pain bill. It rained that night. Now God has his hold on California.”—California Republican Assemblywoman Shannon Grove. (2015)  
  • “….We assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental right to life which cannot be infringed.”—2016 Republican Party platform  

The most important reason why Republicans oppose abortion: There is a ready source of votes for politicians wanting to ban it.

Since Ronald Reagan’s 1980 race, all major Republican Presidential candidates have appeased this voting bloc.  

But as the toll from the Zika virus continues to rise, anti-abortionists will face pressure even from within their own ranks.  

Many of their own wives and daughters (and, in some cases, mistresses) carrying Zika-infected fetuses will demand the right to terminate such pregnancies.

And then the battle over abortion rights will enter an entirely new dimension.

“IT NEVER HAPPENED”: HISTORY ACCORDING TO STALIN AND TRUMP

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 14, 2017 at 12:05 am

During the 1917 Russian Revolution, Leon Trotsky acted as a key lieutenant to Vladimir Lenin. Trotsky organized the Red Army and successfully resisted all attempts to overthrow the fledgling Communist government.

One of Trotsky’s bitterest enemies was Joseph Stalin, another intimate of Lenin’s. When Lenin died in 1924, Stalin outmaneuvered Trotsky for leadership of the Soviet Union.

Long before he ordered Trotsky’s assassination in 1940, Stalin turned his former rival into an official non-person. Trotsky was:

  • Airbrushed from photos showing him sitting or standing close to Lenin.
  • Written out of Soviet history textbooks.
  • Depicted, in print and documentary films, as seeking to overturn the Revolution—and assassinate Stalin.

Stalin made certain his image in Soviet history was entirely different.

  • In the 1930s, he was portrayed as the modest, all-wise, energetic builder of a new Communist world.
  • After 1945, he was depicted as the architect of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany during World War II.

No “historian” dared mention that:

  • For almost 30 years, through purges and starvation caused by enforced collections of farmers’ crops, he had slaughtered 20 to 60 million people.
  • His wholesale purges of the Red Army in the 1930s had made the country vulnerable to the German attack in 1941.
  • His 1939 “nonaggression” pact with Germany had almost destroyed Russia. In this he and Hitler secretly divided Poland between them. The subsequent German invasion of Poland, on September 1, 1939, directly triggered World War II.

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Joseph Stalin

After Stalin died on March 5, 1953, his status in Soviet history suddenly changed.

  • Thousands of his portraits—displayed on streets and in buildings throughout the Soviet Union—suddenly came down.
  • In 1956, his successor, Nikita Khrushchev, secretly denounced him as a psychotic butcher and bungler who had almost wrecked the country.

So those Americans with a sense of history were undoubtedly stunned at President Donald J. Trump’s reaction to the defeat of Republican Senatorial candidate Roy Moore on December 12.

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Donald Trump

Unfortunately for Trump, Moore carried heavy political baggage:

  • He had twice been removed as a Justice from the Alabama Supreme Court.
  • He had blamed 9/11 not on Islamic terrorists but on “America’s turning away from God.”
  • He had said the United States should eliminate all but the first 10 Constitutional amendments. This would remove those amendments forbidding slavery and guaranteeing civil rights for blacks and women.

Worst of all, Moore was haunted by allegations that, as a prosecutor during his 30s, he had made sexual advances toward at least eight teenage girls.

Many Republicans openly urged Moore to withdraw. They saw him as a nightmarish embarrassment to their party should he win the election.

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 Roy Moore

Even the President’s favorite daughter, Ivanka Trump, said: “There is a special place in hell for people who prey on children.”

But that didn’t stop Trump supporting Moore full-tilt against his Democratic opponent, former United States Attorney Doug Jones. Jones had convicted Ku Klux Klan members for bombing a black church in 1963.

On December 4, Trump tweeted:

“Democrats refusal to give even one vote for massive Tax Cuts is why we need Republican Roy Moore to win in Alabama. We need his vote on stopping crime, illegal immigration, Border Wall, Military, Pro Life, V.A., Judges 2nd Amendment and more. No to Jones, a Pelosi/Schumer Puppet!”

During a December 8 campaign rally in Pensacola, Florida, near the state line with Alabama, Trump said:

  • “Get out and vote for Roy Moore. Do it. Do it.  We cannot afford, the future of this country cannot afford to lose the seat.”
  • “We need somebody in that Senate seat who will vote for our Make America Great Again agenda, which involves tough on crime, strong on borders, strong on immigration.”

On December 8, Trump tweeted:

“LAST thing the Make America Great Again Agenda needs is a Liberal Democrat in Senate where we have so little margin for victory already. The Pelosi/Schumer Puppet Jones would vote against us 100% of the time. He’s bad on Crime, Life, Border, Vets, Guns & Military. VOTE ROY MOORE!”

As the December 12 election drew close, Trump made a robocall on Moore’s behalf:

“Hi, this is President Donald Trump and I need Alabama to go vote for Roy Moore. It is so important. We’re already making America great again. I’m going to make America safer, and stronger, and better than ever before, but we need that seat and we need Roy voting for us.”

Then—for Trump—the unthinkable happened: Moore lost.  Jones received 49.9% of the vote; Moore got 48.4%.

Suddenly, Trump was rewriting history.

During the Republican Senatorial primary in August, Trump had backed Moore’s opponent, Luther Strange.  Now he tweeted:

“The reason I originally endorsed Luther Strange (and his numbers went up mightily), is that I said Roy Moore will not be able to win the General Election. I was right! Roy worked hard but the deck was stacked against him!”

And, in another tweet, he stated: “Congratulations to Doug Jones on a hard fought victory. The write-in votes played a very big factor, but a win is a win. The people of Alabama are great, and the Republicans will have another shot at this seat in a very short period of time. It never ends!”   

A joke Russians once shared now applies to Donald Trump: “The trouble with writing history in the Soviet Union is you never know what’s going to happen yesterday.”

HISTORY AS A GUIDE TO MADNESS: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 13, 2017 at 1:14 am

Kim Jong-Un: Secretive, ruthless, egomaniacal, erratic at best, certifiably insane at worst. Commanding the world’s fourth-largest army—and a growing arsenal of nuclear weapons.

Given a lack of CIA “assets” within North Korea, the United States government has been forced to accept any scraps of reliable information it can get on Kim’s regime.

As a result, the White House, Pentagon and State Department may be forced to turn to another source in predicting Kim Jong-Un’s coming moves—and fate.

His name: Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus—better known as Suetonius.

Suetonius, a historian and citizen of ancient Rome, chronicled the lives of the first twelve Caesars of imperial Rome: Julius Caesar, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Galba, Otho, Vitellius, Vespasian, Titus and Domitian.

His compilation of these biographies, The Twelve Caesars, is still available today.

Gaius Caligula was the fourth Roman to assume the title of Emperor and Caesar. His reign began in 37 A.D. and ended—violently—four years later.

Gaius Caligula

His full name was Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus. “Caligula”—“Little Boots”—was a nickname bestowed on him as a child by his father’s soldiers.

Accompanying his father, Germanicus, on military campaigns, Gaius often dressed up as a soldier to “drill” the troops, who loved his enthusiasm for military life.

Tiberius, the third Roman emperor, adopted Germanicus as his heir, and many Romans considered him as Rome’s Alexander the Great because of his virtuous character and military prowess.  Many wanted him to succeed Tiberius when the emperor died.

But Germanicus died first, under mysterious circumstances. Some blamed illness, others believed he had been poisoned. Tiberius was widely suspected of having murdered a potential rival.  And few mourned when Tiberius himself died in 19 A.D.

Upon Tiberius’ death, Caligula became emperor. The Romans welcomed his ascension due to their memory of his father, Germanicus.

His reign began well. He recalled those who had been banished from Rome by Tiberius, and publicly announced that “he had no ears for informers,” according to Suetonius.

He allowed judges unrestricted jurisdiction, without appeal to himself. To lighten the duties of jurors, he added a fifth division to the previous four. He also tried to restore the suffrage to the people by reviving the custom of elections.

He completed the public works which had been half-finished under Tiberius: the temple of Augustus and the theatre of Pompey.

But then Caligula underwent a change in character.  Suetonius  claimed that he suffered from an affliction that made him suddenly fall unconscious. The historian believed that Caligula knew that something was wrong with him.

He became increasingly egomaniacal. Among the titles he gave himself: “Child of the Camp,” “Father of the Armies,” and “Greatest and Best of Caesars.”

Eventually, he came to believe himself divine.

Without warning, he ordered one of his soldiers to execute his brother Tiberius. He drove his father-in‑law, Silanus, to commit suicide by cutting his throat with a razor.

Tiberius’ “crime” had been Caligula’s suspicion that he had taken an antidote against poison. “There is no antidote against Caesar!” Caligula is said to have raged.

In fact, Tiberius had taken medicine for a chronic cough.

Silanus died because he had not followed Caligula when he put to sea in stormy weather. Caligula believed he had remained behind hoping to take possession of Rome if he perished in the storm.

Actually, Silanus suffered from sea-sickness and wanted to avoid the discomforts of the voyage.

Caligula committed incest with all his sisters, and “at a large banquet he placed each of them in turn below him, while his wife reclined above.”

When his favorite sister, Drusilla, died, he announced a season of public mourning, making it a capital crime to laugh, bathe, or dine with one’s parents, wife, or children.

Having violated his sisters, he eagerly violated the wives of others.

At one wedding, he ordered that the bride be taken to his own house, and within a few days divorced her. Two years later he banished her, suspecting that she had returned to her former husband.

At gladiatorial games, he sometimes matched decrepit gladiators against wild beasts, and had sham fights between men who were “conspicuous for some bodily infirmity.”

Objecting to the expense of cattle to feed wild beasts for a gladiatorial show, he selected criminals to be devoured.

On other occasions, he shut up the storehouses for threshed grain and condemned the people to hunger.

“Let them hate me, so long as they fear me,” he often said.  But hatred can override fear.

Just this happened among several members of his own security force, the Praetorian Guard. Caligula had repeatedly mocked Cassius Chaerea, one of its officers, for his weak voice, and assailed his masculinity.

On January 22, 41 A.D., Chaerea and other guardsmen attacked Caligula in an underground corridor of a gladiatorial arena and repeatedly stabbed him to death.

Upon hearing reports that Caligula was dead, Romans feared to rejoice: Had he started the rumor to discover who wanted him dead? Only when they were certain did they give themselves over to unbridled joy.

If history truly repeats itself, Kim Jong-Un has good reason to be afraid.

HISTORY AS A GUIDE TO MADNESS: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 12, 2017 at 1:30 am

Officials at the Pentagon and State Department constantly scramble for information that will enable them to penetrate the designs of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un.

And with good reason: His country possesses nuclear weapons, and is headed by a leader who’s erratic at best and certifiably insane at worst. 

According to the Pentagon, North Korea had enough plutonium stored up to create a minimum of six nuclear weapons. Other estimates were as high as 10 to 16 nuclear weapons. 

And since Donald Trump entered the White House, he has been engaged in an increasingly tense exchange of insults with the North Korean dictator.

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Kim Jong-Un

Kim Jong-Un is the third Kim to rule North Korea since 1948. The first was his grandfather, Kim II-sungwho seized power and ruled absolutely until his death in 1994.

By ordering  the invasion of South Korea in 1950, he provoked American intervention and ignited the Korean War (1950-1953), which ended in stalemate.

He was succeeded by his son, Kim Jong-il, who ruled from 1994 to 2011. That regime was marked by widespread famine, partially due to economic mismanagement, suppression of human rights and the export of state terrorism.

As was the case with his father, Kim Jong-il’s reign ended only with his death in 2011. He was immediately succeeded by his son, Kim Jong-Un.

At Kim Jong-il’s memorial service, the eulogy seemed as much for his son as for the departed “Dear Leader”:

“Respected Comrade Kim Jong-un is our party, military and country’s supreme leader who inherits great comrade Kim Jong-il’s ideology, leadership, character, virtues, grit and courage.”

Born on January 8, 1983, Kim Jong-Un owes everything to an act of genetics—his being the son of an absolute dictator.

This alone has enabled him to hold a series of exalted titles:

  • First Secretary of the Workers’ party of Korea; the Chairman of the Central Military Commission;
  • Chairman of the National Defense Commission;
  • The Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army; and
  • Presidium member of the Politburo of the Workers’ Party of Korea.

On December 30, 2011—only 13 days after his father died—Kim Jong-Un was formally appointed as the Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army.

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North Korean military rally

In April, 2012, the Fourth Party Conference named him to the newly-created post of First Secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea. He was promoted to the rank of Marshal in the army in July, 2012.

Given a lack of CIA “assets” within North Korea, the United States government has been forced to accept any scraps of reliable information it can get on Kim’s regime.

It’s known, for example, that he is a man of immense egomania. Following his father’s death, the cult of personality around Kim Jong-Un’s went into high gear.

He was hailed as the “great successor to the revolutionary cause of self-reliance,” “outstanding leader of the party, army and people” and “respected comrade who is identical to Supreme Commander Kim Jong-il.”

He was “a great person born of heaven,” declared the Korean Central News Agency. And, not to be outdone, the ruling Workers’ Party announced: “We vow with bleeding tears to call Kim Jong-Un our supreme commander, our leader.”

In November 2012, satellite photos revealed a half-mile-long propaganda message carved into a hillside in Ryanggang Province, reading, “Long Live General Kim Jong-Un, the Shining Sun!”

In 2013, Kim was named the world’s 46th most powerful person by the Forbes list of The World’s Most Powerful People. This derives from his commanding the fourth-largest standing army in the world–and an arsenal of nuclear weapons.

On March 7, 2013, North Korea threatened to launch a “pre-emptive nuclear attack” upon the United States. North Korea has outlined its plans for target American cities for nuclear strikes, including Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles.

Then there are the purges—the motive for which may be Kim’s desire to erase all traces of his father’s rule.

By the end of 2013, three defense ministers and four chiefs of the army’s general staff had been replaced. Among those purged was his uncle, Jang Sung-taek—who is thought to have been executed by machine gun.

Other victims of Kim’s regime reportedly include members of Jang’s family:

  • His  sister Jang Kye-sun;
  • Her husband and ambassador to Cuba, Jon Yong-jin;
  • Jang’s nephew and ambassador to Malaysia, Jang Yong-chol; and
  • The nephew’s two sons, who were also reportedly murdered.

On May 13, 2015, South Korea’s National Intelligence Service reported that Kim had ordered the execution of North Korea’s Minister of Defense, Hyon Yong Chol.

The charge: Treason. And for “showing disrespect” to Kim by talking back to him and falling asleep at a military event.

Chol was killed by anti-aircraft gunfire with hundreds watching at a shooting range at Pyongyang’s Kang Kon Military Academy in late April.

Nor has this been the only major execution for 2015.  Reports claim that earlier this year, Kim had ordered the execution of 15 senior officials for challenging his authority.

Penetrating the secrets of a ruthless dictatorship is extremely difficult.  And any information obtained can often be considered no better than gossip.

Given these limitations, the White House, Pentagon and State Department may be forced to turn to another source in predicting Kim Jong-Un’s coming moves—and fate.

His name: Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus–better known as Suetonius.

THE SS COMES TO ARIZONA

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Social commentary on December 11, 2017 at 12:04 am

It’s the sort of outrage that could have easily been committed by the SS or KGB.

But, to the shame of the United States, it was committed by the Mesa Police Department.

Even more shamefully, the officer responsible for yet another killing of an unarmed man got to walk away from it.

In January, 2016, Daniel Shaver crawled on his hands and knees and begged for his life while facing six armed Arizona police officers.

One of the officers, Philip Brailsford, was carrying an AR-15 rifle with the phrase “You’re Fucked” etched into the weapon.

Shaver couldn’t see the etching.  But the commands of Sergeant Charles Langley—captured on a police body camera—were clearly audible.

They were the type to be expected from a dictator literally holding the power of life and death over others: Humiliating and fear-inspiring.

Shaver, 26, on a work-related trip to Mesa from Granbury, Texas, had been doing rum shots with a woman he had met earlier that day.  He had also been showing off a pellet gun he used to take out rodents in his work in pest control.

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Daniel Shaver and his wife, Laney

At some point, a caller informed the Mesa Police Department that a man was pointing a rifle out of a fifth-floor window at a La Quinta Inn.

When officers arrived at the Inn, they ordered Shaver and the woman to come out of the hotel room.  They did so and immediately complied with commands from Sergeant Langley.

Then occurred this exchange:

LANGLEY:  Stop right there! Stop! Stop!  Get on the ground both of you! Lay down on the ground. Lay down on the ground.

If you make a mistake, another mistake, there is a very severe possibility that you’re both going to get shot. Do you understand?  Who else is in the room?

SHAVER: Nobody.

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Philip Brailsford

[Langley then asked if they were sober enough to understand his commands.  Both Shaver and the woman said they were.]

SHAVER: What—?

LANGLEY:  Shut up. I’m not here to be tactful or diplomatic with you. You listen, you obey. For one thing: Did I tell you to move young man?

SHAVER: No.

LANGLEY: Put both hands on the top of your head and interlace your fingers.  Take your feet and cross your left foot over your right foot. 

Young man you’re not to move you’re to put your eyes down and look down at the carpet. You’re to keep your fingers interlaced behind your head. You’re to keep your legs crossed.

If you move we’re going to consider that a threat and we’re going to deal with it and you may not survive.

[Langley ordered the woman to crawl toward him.  She did so and was handcuffed off-camera.]

LANGLEY:  Young man listen to my instructions and do not make a mistake. You are to keep your legs crossed. Do you understand me?

SHAVER: Yes, sir.

LANGLEY:  You are to put both of your hands palms down straight out in front of you push yourself up to a kneeling position. I said keep your legs crossed! I didn’t say this as a conversation.

[Shaver put his hands behind his back.]

LANGLEY (shouting): I said put your hands up hands in the air! You do that again, we’re shooting you do you understand?

SHAVER: Please do not shoot me.

LANGLEY:  Then listen to my instructions!

SHAVER: I’m trying to do what you say—

LANGLEY: Don’t talk! Listen!  Hands straight up in the air!  Do not put your hands down for any reason. You think you’re gonna fall, you better fall on your face. Your hands go back into the small of your back or down we are going to shoot you. Do you understand me?

SHAVER: Yes, sir.

LANGLEY:  Crawl towards me, crawl towards me.

Shaver started crawling toward Langley and Brailsford, sobbing. At one point, he reached back toward his pants leg—possibly to pull up his shorts.

Suddenly Brailsford opened fire so quickly it sounded like a single shot—although Shaver was struck five times.

Brailsford later claimed he believed that Shaver was reaching for a gun.

The video makes clear that Shaver was thoroughly covered by the officers.  Any of them could have approached Shaver while he was prone and handcuffed him.

No gun was found on Shaver’s body. Two pellet rifles used in Shaver’s pest-control job were later found in the hotel room.

In May, 2016, Brailsford was charged with second-degree murder.

After deliberation for less than six hours over two days, jurors found Brailsford not guilty of second degree murder as well as of a lesser charge of reckless manslaughter.

“The justice system miserably failed Daniel (Shaver) and his family,” said Mark Geragos, an attorney for Shaver’s widow, Laney Sweet.

Brailsford was fired from the Mesa Police Department two months after the shooting.

Langley retired as a police officer and moved to the Philippines—where police death squads operate under orders from the country’s president, Rodrigo Duterte.

According to a Washington Post database, there were at least 963 fatal police shootings in 2016.

HEROES VS. THUGS

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 8, 2017 at 12:14 am

March 6, 2016, marked the 180th anniversary of the fall of the Alamo, a crumbling former Spanish mission in the heart of San Antonio, Texas.

It’s one of those battles like Thermopylae that have passed from history into legend.

It’s been the subject of novels, movies, biographies, histories and TV dramas (most notably Walt Disney’s 1955 “Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier”).

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The Alamo

Perhaps the most extraordinary scene in any Alamo movie or book occurs in the 1993 novel, Crockett of Tennessee, by Cameron Judd. 

And it is no less affecting for its being—so far as we know—entirely fictional.  

It’s March 5, 1836—the last night of life for the Alamo garrison. The night before the 2,000 men of the Mexican Army hurl themselves at the former mission and slaughter its 200 “Texian” defenders. 

The fort’s commander, William Barret Travis, has drawn his “line in the sand” and invited the garrison to choose: To surrender, to try to escape, or to stay and fight to the death.  

And the garrison—except for one man—chooses to stay and fight. 

For the garrison, immortality lies only hours away. Or does it?  

An hour after deciding to stand and die in the Alamo, wrapped in the gloom of night, Crockett is seized with paralyzing fear. 

“We’re going to die here,” he chokes out to his longtime friend, Persius Tarr. “You understand that, Persius?  We’re going to die!”  Related image

“I know, Davy.  But there ain’t no news in that,” says Tarr. “We’re born to die. Every one of us. Only difference between us and most everybody else is we know when and where it’s going to be.” 

“But I can’t be afraid—not me. I’m Crockett. I’m Canebrake Davy. I’m half-horse, half-alligator.” 

“I know you are, Davy,” says Tarr. “So do all these men here. That’s why you’re going to get past this. 

“You’re going to put that fear behind you and walk back out there and fight like the man you are. The fear’s come and now it’s gone. This is our time, Davy.” 

“The glory-time,” says Crockett. 

“That’s right, David.  The glory-time.” 

And then Tarr delivers a sentiment wholly alien to money-obsessed men like Mitt Romney and Donald Trump—who comprise the richest and most privileged 1% of today’s Americans. 

“There’s men out there with their eyes on you.  You’re the only thing keeping the fear away from them. You’re joking and grinning and fiddling—it gives them courage they wouldn’t have had without you. 

Maybe that’s why you’re here, Davy—to make the little men and the scared men into big and brave men. You’ve always cared about the little men, Davy. Remember who you are. 

“You’re Crockett of Tennessee, and your glory-time has come.  Don’t you miss a bit of it.”

The next morning, the Mexicans assault the Alamo. Crockett embraces his glory-time—and becomes a legend for all-time. 

Image result for Images of Davy Crockett at the Alamo

David Crockett (center) at the fall of the Alamo

David Crockett (1786-1836) lived—and died—a poor man.  But this did not prevent him from trying to better the lives of his family and fellow citizens—and even his former enemies. 

David Crockett

During the war of 1812, he served as a scout under Andrew Jackson. His foes were the Creek Indians, who had massacred 500 settlers at Fort Mims, Alabama—and threatened to do the same to Crockett’s family and neighbors in Tennessee.

As a Congressman from Tennessee, he championed the rights of poor whites. And he opposed then-President Jackson’s efforts to force the same defeated Indians to depart the lands guaranteed them by treaty. 

To Crockett, a promise was sacred—whether given by a single man or the United States Government. 

And his presence during the 13-day siege of the Alamo did cheer the spirits of the vastly outnumbered defenders. It’s a matter of historical record that he and a Scotsman named MacGregor often staged musical “duels” to see who could make the most noise. 

It was MacGregor with his bagpipes against Crockett and his fiddle. 

Contrast this devotion of Crockett to the rights of “the little men,” as Persius Tarr called them, with the attitude of Donald Trump, the 2016 Republican Presidential nominee. 

Donald Trump

On June 16, 2015, while announcing his candidacy, Trump said: 

  • “…I don’t need anybody’s money. It’s nice. I don’t need anybody’s money. I’m using my own money. I’m not using lobbyists, I’m not using donors. I don’t care. I’m really rich.” 
  • “I did a lot of great deals and I did them early and young, and now I’m building all over the world….” 
  • “So I have a total net worth, and now with the increase, it’ll be well over $10 billion.”  
  • “But here, a total net worth of—net worth, not assets, not—a net worth, after all debt, after all expenses, the greatest assets—Trump Tower, 1290 Avenue of the Americas, Bank of America building in San Francisco, 40 Wall Street, sometimes referred to as the Trump building right opposite the New York—many other places all over the world. So the total is $8,737,540,000.” 

Those who give their lives for others are rightly loved and remembered as heroes. Those who dedicate their lives solely to their wallets and egos are rightly soon forgotten.

REPUBLICANS: EMBRACING THE MAGDA GOEBBELS DOCTRINE

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on December 7, 2017 at 12:33 am

Roy Moore wants to be United States Senator from Alabama.  And polls indicate he might well become that on December 12.

But first he has to overcome a serious obstacle: The allegation that, during his 30s, he pursued relationships with teenage girls.

At least nine women have accused him of making improper  advances toward them—ranging from harassment to sexual assault. 

In years past, such allegations would have proven fatal for any political candidate—especially one who repeatedly cited the Bible as his source of inspiration. 

But in 2016, Presidential candidate Donald Trump proved that more than a dozen women can accuse you of sexual harassment–or even assault—and you can still win office.

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Roy Moore 

Moore is hoping that what worked for Trump will work for him: Deny all the charges and accuse your accusers of lying in pursuit of a corrupt political agenda. 

And plenty of Alabama voters have said they’re willing to support him—even if the charges are true.  The reasons:

“The Lord has forgiven him.”

According to voter Dottie Finch.

“At first, I really wasn’t sure how I felt about the situation.  But then I look at it this way: I don’t have the best past, and to have it be brought up after years of speculation and never anything being said about it, I don’t know just because he’s trying to prove himself that now people want to come out of the closet and accuse him of things.

“And if it has happened, I believe the good Lord has forgiven him and he has the right to continue to prove himself.

“I would power forward and keep on supporting him, just like I have with Donald Trump as our president.”

“Yes, he acted improperly.  But so did other people in the Bible.” 

One such voter is Jim Ziegler, Alabama state auditor: “Take the Bible: Zechariah and Elizabeth, for instance. Zechariah was extremely old to marry Elizabeth and they became the parents of John the Baptist.

“Also take Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus. There’s just nothing immoral or illegal here. Maybe just a little bit unusual.”

“Other people’s sexual behavior is more important than that of my candidate.”

Moore has claimed that electing Doug Jones, a Democrat, would result in “abortion, sodomy, sexual perversion and transgender troops in our bathrooms.” 

Abortion and same-sex marriage are now legal—courtesy of the United States Supreme Court. The vast majority of sexual assaults are committed by heterosexuals, not homosexuals.  And there has been no invasion of “transgender troops in our bathrooms.”

“He didn’t do anything wrong.”

Says Alfonso Bradford: “I don’t think he’s done anything like that. Why didn’t it come up seven to eight months ago when he was running?  All of a sudden, when it’s two weeks from now, all of this stuff comes up. I believe it’s a lot of BS. I really do.”

“He may be a pedophile, but he’s my kind of political pedophile.”

Even a pedophile Republican is better, in their eyes, than any Democrat. For them, it’s strictly a matter of holding power over those they hate. And the best way to guarantee that is with a Congress stocked with only Republicans.

According to Alabama Governor Kay Ivey:

“I believe in the Republican party, what we stand for, and, most important, we need to have a Republican in the United States Senate to vote on things like the Supreme Court justices, other appointments the Senate has to confirm and make major decisions. So that’s what I plan to do, vote for Republican nominee Roy Moore.”

* * * * *

Seventy-two years ago, another fanatical, Right-wing woman concluded: “If we can’t rule the world, there’s no point in living in it.”

She was Magda Goebbels, wife of Joseph Goebbels—Propaganda Minister for the rapidly-collapsing Third Reich.

On April 30, 1945, Russian troops lay only a few blocks from the underground bunker where Adolf Hitler—and the Goebbels family—-awaited the inevitable.

That afternoon, at about 3 P.M., Hitler shot himself in the right temple while biting on a cyanide capsule.

Magda and Joseph Goebbels, with their six children and a uniformed friend

On May 1, it was the turn of his propaganda minister—and his wife.

“I do not wish to live in a world without National Socialism,” Magda Goebbels said.

Nor did she want her six children to do so: “The children are much too good for anything that will come after us.”

To make certain they escaped living in a world not governed by Nazis, she gave each of them a powerful sleeping tablet. Then she crushed a cyanide capsule between their jaws.

Finally, it was time to for Joseph and  Magda Goebbels to exit the Third Reich: He shot her in the back of the head, and then he shot himself.

That, more than anything, is the mentality at work in the upcoming Alabama election.

Those supporting Moore care, foremost, about having power over those they hate. And they will give their allegiance to any candidate, no matter how despicable, who promises to give them that.

FINDING PEACE–FOR AMERICA–IN THE MIDDLE EAST

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 6, 2017 at 1:01 am

The United States can attain peace in the Middle East—for itself.

But to do that, Americans must radically change their approach to that part of the world.

(1) The United States must embark on a crash program to develop alternatives to oil.  

Oil consumption threatens the future of the world through global warming. And it keeps America tethered to dictatorial Islamic regimes that are fundamentally unstable and hostile to the West.

(2)  Once freed from its dependency on oil, the United States can safely end its relationship with such regimes.

America will no longer have to spend billions of dollars every year propping up regimes like those in Iraq, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.  Nor will it have to supply big-ticket military hardware (like fighter planes and missiles) to Islamic regimes.

When the Shah of Iran was overthrown in 1979, he was probably the best-armed Islamic leader in the Middle East. His army and air force bristled with sophisticated American weaponry he had bought with billions of dollars in oil revenues.

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Shah of Iran

But he had thoroughly alienated his people. Liberals thought him a tyrant, and conservatives thought him a traitor to Islam. So when Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini flew to Iran from his self-exile in Paris, no one in the Shah’s army and air force raised a hand in his defense.  The Shah fled the country in disgrace.

(3)  The United States should end its “Permanent Bodyguard” relationship with Israel.

Every nation—including Israel—has the right to defend itself from aggression.  But no nation—including Israel—should have the right to expect another nation to act as its permanent bodyguard.

Millions of Americans feel morally obligated to defend Israel owing to Nazi Germany’s slaughter of six million Jews during the Holocaust.  But America was never a party to this, and has nothing to atone for.

A second reason why millions of Americans feel committed to Israel lies in the mythology of the Christian Right.

Many fundamentalist Christians believe that, for Jesus Christ to awaken from his 2,000-year slumber, Israel must first re-conquer every inch of territory it supposedly held during the reign of Kings David and Solomon.

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Right-wing Christian fantasy: Dead man hovering

After Christ returns, they believe, the Jews will face a choice: Become Christians or go to hell. For evangelical Christians, Jews remain the eternal “Christ killers.”

And if Jews must assume temporary control of the Middle East to bring about the return of a man who died 2,000 years ago, so be it.

Many Right-wing members of the House of Representatives and Senate share this belief. That it is totally irrational and unsupported by any evidence means nothing to them.  But this does not prevent these hundreds of men and women from holding high office.

That’s because such unbalanced views are shared by millions of equally irrational evangelical Christians.

(4)  The United States and its European allies should erect a “Sand Curtain” around the Middle East.

For 44 years—1947 to 1991—the United States and the Soviet Union were locked in a Cold War. Essentially, the United States drew a ring around the Soviet Union—including those nations its armies had seized following the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945.

The United States said, in effect: “We can’t liberate the Eastern European countries you’re now occupying”—because trying to do so would have triggered a nuclear World War III. “But we won’t allow you to occupy and enslave any other countries.  And if you try to do so, it will mean total war.”

That’s why the United States did nothing to aid Hungarians when they rose up against their Soviet occupiers in 1956. That rebellion was quickly and brutally crushed.

And that’s why America stood by when Soviet tanks rolled into Prague in 1968 when Czechoslovakia dared to relax controls over its citizens.

On the other hand, the Soviet Union never seized any new countries.

(5)   A “Sand Curtain” around the Middle East would work as follows:

America would withdraw all of its forces from the Middle East—but keep a good portion stationed in Europe.

It would then publicly announce: “From now on, you are the masters of your own destinies—so long as what you do affects only those of you living in the Middle East.

“We recognize that barbarism and violence have always been a part of life in the Middle East. And we don’t expect this to change.

“So go ahead and destroy as many of your own citizens as you wish—either because they’re Jewish or Christians, or because Sunni Muslims hate Shiite Muslims and Shiite Muslims hate Sunni Muslims.

But Europe and the United States are strictly off-limits to you.

“And if you aim your aggression at either, we will consider this an act of war and use all the weapons at our disposal—including nuclear ones—to wipe you from the face of the Earth.

The United States cannot enforce peace between Islamics and Israelis. Nor between Christians and Islamics.  Nor between Islamics and Islamics.

But it can impose an embargo to confine such barbarism to only the Middle East.

LIES ATTACK ONE PRESIDENT, TRUTH DAMNS ANOTHER

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on December 5, 2017 at 12:11 am

For five years, Donald Trump falsely claimed that President Barack Obama was born in Kenya—and was therefore ineligible to be President.

Now Trump finds himself haunted by something far worse than a slander: The truth.

Since taking office on January 20, Trump has been ensnared in a series of revelations about collaboration between members of his 2016 Presidential campaign and Russian Intelligence agents.

The FBI, CIA and National Security Agency have unequivocally stated that Russian Intelligence played a major role in trying to sway the election for Trump. 

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TRUMP’S DENIALS:

October 24, 2016: “I have nothing to do with Russia, folks, I’ll give you a written statement.”   

December 11, 2016 “They have no idea if it’s Russia or China or somebody. It could be somebody sitting in a bed some place. I mean, they have no idea.” 

August 3, 2017: “Most people know there were no Russians in our campaign; there never were. We didn’t win because of Russia; we won because of you,”

July 27, 2016: “I mean I have nothing to do with Russia. I don’t have any jobs in Russia. I’m all over the world but we’re not involved in Russia.”

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Donald Trump

January 11, 2017: “Russia has never tried to use leverage over me. I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA – NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!”

February 7, 2017: “I don’t know [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, have no deals in Russia, and the haters are going crazy – yet Obama can make a deal with Iran, #1 in terror, no problem!”

February 16, 2017: “The Democrats had to come up with a story as to why they lost the election, and so badly (306), so they made up a story – RUSSIA. Fake news!”

May 8, 2017: “The Russia-Trump collusion story is a total hoax, when will this taxpayer funded charade end?”

TRUMP’S BEHAVIOR:

May 9, 2017:  Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. Comey had been leading an investigation into alleged collusion between Trump advisers and Russian officials when he was fired.

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James Comey

At first, Trump claimed that he fired Comey for mishandling the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. 

May 10, 2017: But, in a meeting at the White House, Trump told Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak: “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

May 11, 2017:  In an interview with NBC reporter Lester Holt, Trump admitted:

“And, in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said: ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won.’” 

May 17, 2017: Following the uproar over Comey’s firing, the Justice Department appointed former FBI director Robert Mueller as Special Counsel to investigate any links the between Russian government and Trump campaign members.

July 8, 2017:  The New York Times reported that Donald Trump Junior met at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016, with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer who promised to offer damaging information about Clinton.

Trump Junior released a statement: “We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago and was since ended by the Russian government, but it was not a campaign issue at the time and there was no follow up.”

July 12 and July 16, 2017: Trump’s lawyer, Jay Sekulow, denied that the President was involved in drafting his son’s statement about the Trump Tower meeting.

July 20, 2017: The Washington Post reported that Trump was consulting with advisers “about his power to pardon aides, family members and even himself” in connection to the probe led by Mueller.

July 31, 2017: The Washington Post reported that, to conceal the purpose of the Trump Tower  meeting, President Trump dictated a misleading statement for his son. In this, the reason for the meeting was given as a discussion about the adoption of Russian children—and not to obtain damaging information on Clinton from Russian Intelligence agents.

August 1, 2017: White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said President Trump was involved in drafting the false statement that Trump Junior released about the Trump Tower meeting. Sanders called the matter “of no consequence.”

August 3, 2017: The Wall Street Journal reported that Mueller had convened a grand jury in Washington, D.C. to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. 

October 5, 2017: George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian government in 2016 concerning U.S.–Russia relations. He also agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s probe. Papadopoulos had been a member of Trump’s foreign policy advisory panel during the campaign. Prior to pleading guilty, he may have been wearing a hidden recorder while speaking with with various Trump officials.

December 1, 2017: Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about conversations with Russia’s ambassador. He added that he was cooperating with Mueller’s investigation. A fervent Trump supporter throughout the campaign, his immediate superior had been Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law.

For years, Trump claimed it was only a matter of time before “the truth” revealed that Barack Obama was ineligible to be President.  That never happened.

Now it seems only a matter of time before truth reveals Trump’s own unfitness to govern.

A VERY MUELLER CHRISTMAS

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 4, 2017 at 12:02 am

Donald Trump was the star of the 2016 Republican National Convention. But not even he could fire up the delegates like Hillary Clinton, the former First Lady turned Democratic presidential nominee.

As chants of “Lock her up!” spread across the convention floor, Michael T. Flynn voiced his agreement. “Lock her up—that’s right.”

Movie-star handsome, the former United States Army lieutenant general and director of the Defense Intelligence Agency was clearly enjoying his moment as a keynote speaker.

Clapping his hands, he continued: “I’m gonna tell you what. It’s unbelievable—unbelievable.

“I have called on Hillary Clinton to drop out of the race, because she—she—put our nation’s security at extremely high risk for their careless use of a private email server.

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Michael Flynn at the Republican convention

“Lock her up—lock her up. You guys [the audience] are good. Damn right—-that’s exactly right. There’s nothing wrong with that.

“You know why we’re saying that? We’re saying that because if I—a guy who knows this business—if I did a tenth of what she did, I would be in jail today.”

That was July 18, 2016.

Six months and two days later, he was riding even higher: On January 20—the day Donald J. Trump became President—Flynn took office as the nation’s 25th National Security Adviser.

Two days later, The Wall Street Journal reported that Flynn was under investigation by U.S. counterintelligence agents for his communications with Russian officials.

On February 8, Flynn flatly denied having spoken to Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December, 2016, about removing the sanctions placed on Russia by the outgoing Obama administration.

The sanctions had been placed in retaliation for Russia’s efforts to manipulate the 2016 Presidential election.

On February 13, The Washington Post reported that Acting Attorney General Sally Yates had warned Trump in late January that Flynn had lied about his contacts with Kislyak—and that he could be blackmailed by Russian Intelligence.

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Sally Yates

Flynn was forced to resign that same day—after only 24 days as National Security Adviser.

Officially, the reason given was that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence. But Flynn’s deception had already been known—via the warning to Trump by Yates.

Only after Yates’ warning became known to the media was Flynn forced to resign.

Even worse for Flynn: The same Washington Post story reported that, in December, 2015, he had appeared on Russia Today, the news network that American Intelligence agencies consider “the Kremlin’s principal international propaganda outlet.”

He had also received more than $45,000 as a “speaking fee” from the network for a talk on world affairs. At the gala where Flynn received the fee, he sat next to Vladimir Putin for dinner.

Flynn had not filed the required paperwork for the trip. Nor had he reported the “fee” to the Pentagon.

Meanwhile, as a Presidential candidate and President, Donald Trump has steadfastly denied the revelations about collaboration between members of his 2016 Presidential campaign and Russian Intelligence agents.

Donald Trump

He has repeatedly attacked the “fake news” media reporting these revelations. Chief among his targets: CNN, The New York Times and The Washington Post.

He has also derided the Intelligence agencies responsible for America’s security.

On December 16, 2016, then-FBI Director James B. Comey and Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. agreed with a CIA assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election in part to help Donald Trump win the White House. 

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Trump, however, has steadfastly denied any such role by Russia: “I think it’s ridiculous,” he told “Fox News Sunday.” “I think it’s just another excuse. I don’t believe it….No, I don’t believe it at all.”   

On December 1, 2017, Flynn went from “Lock her up!” to “Don’t lock me up.”

He pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about conversations with then-Russian Ambassador Kislyak. And he revealed that he was cooperating with the office of Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller.

One of Flynn’s bosses was Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser. It’s certain that Flynn is in a position to “roll over” on Kushner—who, if threatened with prison, might be induced to “roll over” on Trump.

For Donald Trump, the holiday season promises to be a very Mueller Christmas.

HAVE YOURSELF A ROBERT MUELLER CHRISTMAS
(To be sung to the tune, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”)

Have yourself a Robert Mueller Christmas
Let your hearts be light.
From now on the Fascists will be filled with fright.

Have yourself a Robert Mueller Christmas
Let your hearts be gay.
I can’t wait till all the traitors go away.

Here we are as in Watergate
Traitors filled with hate feel fear.
Faithless friends now are selling out
Let us give a shout—and cheer.

Soon we hope their Fuhrer will be history
Crying Fascist tears.
When the Traitor’s gone we’ll put away our fears.
And celebrate in Robert Mueller’s name for years.

Here we are as in Watergate
Traitors filled with hate feel fear.
Faithless friends now are selling out
Let us give a shout—and cheer.

Soon we hope their Fuhrer will be history
Crying Fascist tears.
When the Traitor’s gone we’ll put away our fears.
And celebrate in Robert Mueller’s name for years.

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