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Posts Tagged ‘THE DAILY BEAST’

THE WITNESS IS THE ENEMY: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on November 11, 2019 at 12:07 am

Before 1966, witnesses who dared expose the deadly secrets of the Mafia came to a brutal end once trials ended. And sometimes before trials even began.

For example: In 1940, Abe “Kid Twist” Reles, a notorious hitman for Murder, Inc., the execution squad of the New York Mafia, turned State’s evidence against his cronies. His testimony sent his former boss, Louis “Lepke” Buchalter, to the electric chair for murder.

He was set to testify against Albert “The Executioner” Anastasia, the chief of Murder, Inc., in November, 1941. Then fate—or bribed police—intervened.

Reles was being guarded round-the-clock by a lieutenant and six detectives at the Half Moon Hotel in Coney Island. Nevertheless, he “fell” 42 feet to his death from his sixth-floor room. No one was prosecuted for his murder.

As Joseph Valachi, a future Mafia witness, later testified: “I never met anybody yet who thought Reles went out that window on purpose.”

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Abe “Kid Twist” Reles

In 1966, the United States Justice Department indicted Rhode Island Mafia Boss Raymond Patriarca. Thus, protection of its star witness, hitman Joseph “The Animal” Barboza, became a top priority.

Assigned to guard him was a small, handpicked detail of deputy U.S. marshals under the command of John Partington. For 18 months, the marshals foiled every effort by the Mafia to “clip” Barboza.

His testimony convicted a half-dozen top Mafiosi—including Patriarca. Then the marshals packed Barboza off to California under a new identity—and a new life.

Other Mafiosi—having run afoul of the Mafia and impressed by the success of the marshals in keeping Barboza alive—signed on as witnesses.

This, in turn, led the Justice Department to create an official Witness Security Program. By 2019, the Program had protected, relocated and given new identities to more than 8,600 witnesses and 9,900 of their family members.

Deputy U.S. marshals guarding a witness

Every President since John F. Kennedy has championed the vigorous prosecution of organized crime. And fueling this drive is the testimony of endangered witnesses requiring air-tight security.

Donald Trump is the first President to blatantly attack those who dare to “rat out” their former criminal associates.

On August 21, 2018, attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty in federal court in Manhattan to eight counts of campaign finance violations, tax fraud and bank fraud. He also said he had made illegal campaign contributions “in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office”—Donald Trump.  

Among his revelations:

  • Trump has repeatedly asserted that Russia didn’t interfere with the 2016 Presidential election. But Cohen said he believed it did.
  • Trump has repeatedly claimed he had “no business” in Russia. But Cohen testified that the Trump Organization had sought to “pursue a branded property in Moscow.”
  • Trump denied having had sex with and paid off porn “actress” Stormy Daniels. But Cohen confirmed that Trump had instructed him to pay her $130,000 to buy her silence during the 2016 Presidential campaign.

On August 23, on the Fox News program, “Fox and Friends,” Trump attacked Cohen for “flipping” on him: “For 30, 40 years I’ve been watching flippers. Everything’s wonderful and then they get 10 years in jail and they—they flip on whoever the next highest one is, or as high as you can go. It—it almost ought to be outlawed. It’s not fair.

“You know, campaign violations are considered not a big deal, frankly. But if somebody defrauded a bank and he’s going to get 10 years in jail or 20 years in jail but if you can say something bad about Donald Trump and you’ll go down to two years or three years, which is the deal he made.”

Making “flipping” illegal would undo decades of organized crime prosecutions—and make future ones almost impossible.

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U.S. Department of Justice

To penetrate the secrets of criminal organizations, investigators and prosecutors need the testimony of those who are parties to those secrets.  

The Organized Crime Control Act of 1970 gave Justice Department prosecutors unprecedented weapons for attacking crime syndicates across the country. One of these was the authority to give witnesses immunity from prosecution on the basis of their own testimony.

Thus, a witness to a criminal conspiracy could be forced to tell all he knew—and thus implicate his accomplices—and bosses. In turn, he wouldn’t be prosecuted on the basis of his testimony. 

Organized crime members aggressively damn such “rats.” There is no more obscene word in a mobster’s vocabulary.

But no President—until Trump—has ever attacked those who make possible a war on organized crime. 

On August 19, he tweeted: “The failing @nytimes wrote a Fake piece today implying that because White House Councel [sic] Don McGahn was giving hours of testimony to the Special Councel [sic] he must be a John Dean type ‘RAT.’

“But I allowed him and all others to testify – I didn’t have to. I have nothing to hide……” 

In 1973, former White House Counsel John Dean testified before the United States Senate on a litany of crimes committed by President Richard M. Nixon. Dean didn’t lie about Nixon—who ultimately resigned in disgrace.

For Trump, Dean’s sin is that he “flipped” on his former boss, violating the Mafia’s code of omerta, or silence. 

But Trump feels completely different abut “flippers” when their revelations serve his interests.

IN SAN FRANCISCO, CROOKS ARE COOL, COPS ARE VILLAINS

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on November 8, 2019 at 12:12 am

“I am extremely disturbed by the state of the law today, and yet I am duty bound to adhere to the law.  Under current law, police officers do not have to retreat, police officers don’t have to use the minimum force necessary.” 

So said San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón, almost in tears, on May 24, 2018.  

The reason: He could not file charges against the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) officers who shot a drugged-up, knife-slashing assailant to death on December 2, 2015. 

The dead slasher: Mario Woods, a known gang member, armed robber and car thief. 

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Mario Woods

At 26, Woods—born on July 22, 1989—had a well-documented history of criminality:

  • He was an active member of the notorious Oakdale Mob infesting the predominantly black Bayview-Hunters Point area of San Francisco.
  • His gang-related activities included armed robbery; attempted armed robbery; shooting incidents; being a felon in illegal possession of a firearm; car theft; driving a stolen car; and being involved in an automobile injury accident while fleeing from police.
  • In 2008, he pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm by a felon.
  • In 2009, he was one of six gang members added to the provisions of a 2007 gang injunction against the Oakdale Mob.
  • Under the terms of this injunction, Oakdale Mob members are forbidden to engage in gang-related conduct within a four-block safety zone.
  • Among those prohibited activities: Possessing guns or dangerous weapons; possessing illegal drugs; loitering with intent to sell drugs; intimidating witnesses or victims; using threats to recruit or retain gang members; defacing property with graffiti.
  • In 2012, he was sentenced to seven years in state prison for armed robbery. (He had already spent almost three years in County Jail.)  He was released in 2014.

On December 2, 2015, San Francisco police officers took a report from a 26-year-old Bayview man who had been slashed in the left shoulder.

He and a female friend had been eating in a car parked in front of an apartment building. They saw a man “walking back and forth on the sidewalk talking” to himself, according to the police report.

The man—wielding a knife—reached into the passenger’s side of the car. The passenger opened the door to push the assailant away.  

When he got out of the car, the man slashed him across the left shoulder. Bleeding heavily, the passenger fled to San Francisco General Hospital.  

Two officers responded to the crime scene. Police radioed in a description of the attacker, and more officers joined in the search.

Minutes later, officers spotted Mario Woods, who matched the suspect’s description. When he saw the officers get out of their car, he pulled a knife from his jeans pocket and said: “You’re not taking me today.”

The two officers drew their pistols and ordered Woods to drop the knife. 

“You better squeeze that motherfucker and kill me,” said Woods.

Still refusing to drop the knife, Woods was hit with three nonlethal beanbag rounds fired from a 12-gauge weapon.

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12-gauge Beanbag shotgun rounds

A woman repeatedly yelled to Woods: “Oh, my God, drop it!  Drop it!”

A fourth beanbag from a 40mm gun hit Woods. Although he crouched on one knee, he still held the knife. Then he quickly regained his balance and stood up.  

dose of pepper spray had no apparent effect on him.

A crowd gathered—and an officer moved toward them to warn: “Back up!”

Suddenly, Woods moved toward the crowd.

The officer stepped into Woods’ path, to keep him from reaching the bystanders.  

As Woods kept advancing, the officer fired his pistol. So did four other officers, riddling Woods with bullets. 

The autopsy revealed that Woods had methamphetamine, marijuana, anti-depressants, cough syrup, nicotine and caffeine in his system.

Two of the officers were black—as was Woods. But in Uber-liberal San Francisco, police are widely regarded with suspicion, if not outright hostility.  Especially when a black suspect is involved.

Predictably, Black Lives Matter called for a protest and vigil on December 3, 2015.

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On January 25, 2016, then-San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee requested a federal investigation into Woods’ death.

And San Francisco Supervisor David Campos introduced a resolution to name July 22—Woods’ birthday—as “Mario Woods Day.”

On January 26, 2016, the Board of Supervisors unanimously passed Campos’ resolution.

The effort sparked outrage from the San Francisco Police Officers Association (POA) which represents rank-and-file officers.  

In a letter addressed to the Board of Supervisors, POA President Martin Halloran wrote:

“It will be a hurtful day to [the families of SFPD officers killed in the line of duty] if this city’s elected officials decide to recognize and honor an individual that preyed upon our most vulnerable citizens.”

Woods’ mother, Gwen, was elated by the vote: “Sometimes you have to stand up and look life in the eye. Everyone can’t be bullied.”

Except those her son victimized.

Since December 2—the date of Woods’ shooting—blacks had demanded the firing of Greg Suhr, chief of the San Francisco Police Department and a 35-year veteran of the force.

On May 20, 2016, Shur was forced to resign at the request of then-Mayor Ed Lee. 

Thus do criminals become heroes and sworn law enforcement officers villains in San Francisco.

TWICE-RAPED CRIME VICTIMS: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on November 7, 2019 at 12:16 am

“On August 7, 2017, I witnessed a brutal assault on a friend of mine named Hal [not his real name]. I was a passenger in his car as he waited for a parking space to open in front of the apartment building where we both live.”

So opened a letter from a man named Dave [not his real name] to the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD). 

Summarizing his experience as a witness and assault victim, Dave wrote: 

  • A man commits assault and battery on another without the slightest provocation.
  • He then uses his Jeep Cherokee to twice ram his victim’s car.
  • These violations of criminal law are reported to the SFPD by two eyewitnesses/victims within an hour of their occurrence.
  • One eyewitness gives the SFPD a photo of the license plate of the car used in the vehicular assaults.
  • The SFPD doesn’t contact either witness/victim in this incident.
  • Despite being provided with all this evidence, the SFPD does NOTHING.

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Dave subsequently received a Complainant Satisfaction Survey from the SFPD’s Department of Police Accountability (DPA). After bluntly stating his disgust at the complete indifference of the SFPD to the assault, he got a letter from DPA on December 13, 2018, which stated: 

“Your Request for an Investigative Hearing in the above-captioned case has been received. We have reviewed the investigative file and have determined that the facts and circumstances supported the DPA’s findings.” 

And: “We understand that you may not agree with our finding(s), but it may be of some use to contact the investigator for better clarity and understanding in this matter.” 

In short: We aren’t going to arrest the man who assaulted you, but we’ll try to convince you that it’s all for the best.

Determined to not let the SFPD have the last word, Dave sent back a letter to David Henderson, executive director of DPA.

He noted that he had never requested an investigative hearing. Nor had he written a December 5, 2018 letter to the SFPD, as the letter claimed.

He also noted that, 16 years earlier, on May 19, 2002, the San Francisco Chronicle had published a series of devastating reports on the SFPD.  Among the newspaper’s findings:

  • Violent criminals in San Francisco’s had a better chance of getting away with their crimes than predators in any other large American city. 
  • The San Francisco Police Department solved, on average, just 28% of the city’s murders, rapes, robberies, shootings, stabbings and other serious assaults between 1996 and 2000.
  • Among the nation’s 20 largest cities, that was the lowest violent crime ‘clearance rate.
  • The large-city average clearance rate was 42 percent. 

“Judging from the results of my own experience with your agency, little—if anything—has changed within the SFPD during the last 16 years,” Dave wrote. 

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Referring to the DPA’s false claim that he had requested an investigative hearing, he ended his letter in cold fury:

“It’s a misdemeanor to file a false report with the police. It should be a felony for a police agency to write and send a letter filled with demonstrably false information. 

“It is also the height of arrogance and stupidity to believe you can convince the victim of an assault that the criminal negligence he experienced at the hands of the police department didn’t happen.

Undoubtedly this letter was written for placement in the official files of your department, as a way to cover itself against any possible legal action. No doubt this is common practice within your agency.

“It is precisely such conduct—as well as the refusal of your agency to aggressively investigate crimes of violence against San Francisco residents—that is guaranteed to produce widespread contempt for and refusal to cooperate with your police department.”

Dave didn’t receive another letter from the SFPD.     

* * * * *

Unfortunately, real-life police departments do not operate like the ones depicted in movies and on TV.  Among the realities of those departments: 

Unless you’re wealthy, a politician or—best of all—a cop, don’t expect the police to protect you if your life is threatened. You’ll simply be told: “We don’t have the resources to protect everybody.”

Above everyone else, police look out for each other. If a citizen murders his lover, he’ll be tracked by two detectives. But whoever kills a cop is sought by the entire department.

Police departments are plagued by the same problems that haunt all major bureaucracies, such as:

  • Often lacking state-of-the-art crime labs to analyze evidence.
  • Often losing or accidentally destroying important files.
  • Staffed by those who are lazy, indifferent, incompetent or even corrupt.
  • Often refusing to share information with other police agencies, thus making it easier for criminals to run amok.

The result of all this can only be increased disrespect for law enforcement from a deservedly—and increasingly—cynical public.

When citizens believe police lack the ability-–or even the will-–to protect them or avenge their victimization, that is a deadly blow to law enforcement.

When public support vanishes, so does much of that public funding for hiring more cops and buying necessary equipment.

The result can only be a return to the days of the lawless West, where citizens—as individuals or members of vigilante committees—look only to themselves for protection.

TWICE-RAPED CRIME VICTIMS: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on November 6, 2019 at 12:07 am

For countless citizens, the adage proves unfortunately true: If you become a victim of crime, you’re victimized twice—once by the criminal, and again by the criminal justice system.

And this truth proves especially apt in San Francisco.

A friend of mine named Dave [not his real name] who lives in San Francisco, offers the following case:

“On August 7, 2017, I witnessed a brutal assault on a friend of mine named Hal [not his real name]. I was a passenger in his car as he waited for a parking space to open in front of the apartment building where we both live.

“A man—clearly in an agitated state—approached the driver’s side and accused Hal of using the wrong signal. After hearing him out, Hal asked him to back away. Instead, the man quickly began striking Hal in the face at least a half dozen times.”

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Dave got out on the passenger’s side and threatened to call police. The assailant returned to his Jeep Cherokee truck, which was parked right behind Hal’s car. Dave re-entered Hal’s car and thought that the worst was over.

Suddenly the Jeep Cherokee slammed into the rear of Hal ‘s car. Then the driver pulled out.

“Hal started his car and followed the Jeep Cherokee to get a photo of its license plate. Using his iPhone, he did. The truck continued a short distance forward, then suddenly reversed and slammed into the front of Hal’s car. The driver then roared off.

“Hal and I then drove to the SFPD’s Central Station, where we both filled out statements and spoke individually with an officer. In addition, Hal provided a photo of the license plate of the vehicle that had rammed him.

“After that, Hal and I waited for a response from the SFPD. We never received one.

In early November, 2017—after waiting three months for a police response—Dave called the SFPD and arranged an appointment with a sergeant at Central Station.

“She showed me a series of photos that seemed to resemble the man who had assaulted Hal. Frankly, I had caught only a brief glimpse of the man when I exited Hal’s car and saw him heading for his Jeep. It certainly didn’t help that, three months later, I was now being asked to give an accurate description of him.

Later, Dave learned that the SFPD had chosen to not pursue criminal charges against the assailant. No reason was given for this decision. 

In January, 2018, Dave filed a complaint with the SFPD’s Department of Police Accountability (DPA), formerly known as its Internal Affairs Division.

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The investigator he met with was friendly and concerned. Even so, his complaint didn’t lead the SFPD to pursue criminal charges against the assailant. Again, no reason was offered by the agency.

“In November, 2018, I received a Complainant Satisfaction Survey from the SFPD’s Department of Police Accountability. But its Q&A format didn’t let me address the issues I thought important.”  

To do so, on November 26, he sent back a memo, offering the following summation: 

  • A man commits assault and battery on another without the slightest provocation.
  • He then uses his Jeep Cherokee to ram the rear of his victim’s car.
  • He then uses his Jeep Cherokee to ram the front of his victim’s car.
  • These violations of criminal law are reported to the SFPD within an hour of their occurrence.They are reported by not one but two eyewitnesses/victims.
  • One of those eyewitnesses provides the SFPD with a photo of the license plate of the car used in the vehicular assaults.
  • The SFPD makes no effort to contact either witness/victim in this incident.
  • Despite being provided with all this evidence, the SFPD does NOTHING.

And he concluded his indictment: 

“I have nothing but contempt for [the SFPD’s] refusal to take even a cursory interest in this case.

“If a friend of mine became the victim of a crime, I would advise him: ‘Don’t waste your time contacting the SFPD. There is simply no reason to set yourself up for a double injury—the first one inflicted by the criminal, and the second one inflicted by the criminally negligent SFPD.'”

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San Francisco Hall of Justice

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

To his surprise, Dave received a letter from the DPA, dated December 13, 2018:

“Your Request for an Investigative Hearing in the above-captioned case has been received. We have reviewed the investigative file and have determined that the facts and circumstances supported the DPA’s findings.  

“More specifically, we reviewed your letter dated December 5, 2018. The DPA strongly recommends that you call and make an appointment with your investigator in your case at (415) ###-#### to discuss our finding(s).

“We understand that you may not agree with our finding(s), but it may be of some use to contact the investigator for better clarity and understanding in this matter.  

“Your Request for Investigative Hearing is therefore denied. Thank you for the time you took to ensure that the DPA understood your concerns. We view this as a positive step in keeping with the goals of the DPA.”

And it was signed by Paul David Henderson, the agency’s executive director.

REPUBLICANS: “I’D RATHER BE RUSSIAN–AND STAY ELECTED”–PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 5, 2019 at 12:10 am

From 1945 to 2015, it was unthinkable for a Republican Presidential candidate to pay tribute to a Soviet dictator.

But that utterly changed when Donald J. Trump, a “reality TV” host with longstanding financial ties to Russian oligarchs, ran for President of the United States.

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Donald Trump

The reason for the Trump-Putin bromance: Each had something to offer the other.

Putin wanted the United States to ditch the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance, which had preserved Western Europe from Russian aggression since World War II. And Trump had often attacked America’s funding of NATO as a drain on the American economy.

And Trump wanted to be President. For this, Putin could supply Internet trolls to confuse voters with falsified news—and even the hacking of key voting centers. 

And monies. These Russian monies were officially classified as “campaign contributions,” not bribes.

Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III Mueller spent almost two years uncovering links between Russian Intelligence agents and members of Donald Trump’s Presidential campaign.

On July 24, he addressed Congress on Russia’s subversion of the 2016 Presidential election.

“Over the course of my career, I’ve seen a number of challenges to our democracy,” Mueller declared to members of the House Judiciary Committee.

“The Russian government’s effort to interfere in our election is among the most serious. As I said on May 29, this deserves the attention of every American.

“It wasn’t a single attempt. They’re doing it as we sit here. And they expect to do it during the next campaign.”

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Robert Mueller

In his report, Mueller documented years of meddling in American politics by the Internet Research Agency, which runs the Kremlin’s online disinformation efforts from its headquarters in St. Petersburg. 

The Agency reached 126 million Americans through fake accounts on Facebook. Its messages communicated with unaware members of the Trump campaign, and even prompted real-life rallies that mobilized crowds of unwitting voters.

Hours later that same day, Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Mississippi) blocked the passage of three bills designed to tighten election security at the federal level. She claimed that Congress had already responded to election security needs for the 2020 Presidential election.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) came to the Senate floor the next day to personally object to House-passed legislation backed by Democrats.

Nor is Trump the only Republican receiving “help” from Putin. A network of Russian oligarchs—all of them answerable to Putin—has been increasingly contributing to top Republicans. 

These Russian monies are officially classified as “campaign contributions,” not bribes—which, in fact, they are.

According to the Federal Election Commission:

One such major contributor is Len Blavatnik, who holds citizenship in both the United States and the United Kingdom. During the 2015-16 election cycle, he proved one of the largest donors to GOP Political Action Committees (PACs).  

Blavatnik’s net worth is estimated at $20 billion. Before 2016, he donated to both Democrats and Republicans in meager amounts. But in 2016, he gave $6.35 million to GOP PACs

Millions of dollars went to top Republican leaders—such as Senators Mitch McConnell (Kentucky), Marco Rubio (Florida) and Lindsey Graham (South Carolina).

Specifically, he contributed:

  • A total of $1.5 million to PACs associated with Rubio.  
  • $1 million to Trump’s Inaugural Committee
  • $41,000 to both Republicans and Democrats in 2017.
  • $1 million to McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund.
  • $3.5 million to a PAC associated with McConnell
  • $1.1 million to Unintimidated PAC, associated with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. 
  • $200,000 to the Arizona Grassroots Action PAC, associated with the late Arizona Senator John McCain. 
  • $250,000 to New Day for America PAC, associated with Ohio Governor John Kasich
  • $800,000 to the Security is Strength PAC, associated with Senator Lindsey Graham

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Another Russian oligarch, Alexander Shustorovich, contributed $1 million to Trump’s Inaugural Committee.

Altogether, four Russian oligarchs—Blavatnik, Shustorovich, Andrew Intrater and Simon Kukescontributed $10.4 million from the start of the 2015-16 election cycle through September 2017. Of this, 99% went to Republicans.

As Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell participated in high-level intelligence briefings in 2016. From agencies such as the FBI, CIA and the code-cracking National Security Agency, he learned that the Russians were trying to subvert the electoral process. 

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In October, 2016, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) issued a joint statement: The Russian government had directed the effort to subvert the 2016 Presidential election.

Two weeks later, McConnell’s PAC accepted a $1 million donation from Blavatnik.

On March 30, 2017, McConnell’s PAC accepted another $1 million from Blavatnik.

This is just 10 days after former FBI Director James Comey testified before the House Intelligence Committee about Russia’s efforts to subvert the 2016 election

So, what has changed in the Republican Party?  Essentially nothing.

Its enemies changed—from Russian Communists to American liberals. But its goal remains the same: The quest for absolute power.

When Americans feared Communism, Republicans depicted themselves as the only ones who could be trusted to protect the United States. Big contributions poured in from Right-wing billionaires like H.L. Hunt and Howard Hughes.

But then Republicans found they could enrich themselves and stay in power via Russian “campaign contributions.” So long as they did Putin’s bidding, the rubles would roll in.

So for a party of power-drunk would-be dictators, the decision was simple: Better Red than un-elected.

REPUBLICANS: “I’D RATHER BE RUSSIAN–AND STAY ELECTED”–PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 4, 2019 at 12:15 am

There was a time when Republicans saw—and portrayed—themselves as America’s foremost defenders against Communism. 

This was particularly true during the early 1950s. Case in point: Wisconsin United States Senator Joseph R. McCarthy. 

Elected to the Senate in 1946, he rose to national prominence on February 9, 1950, after giving a fiery speech in Wheeling, West Virginia: 

“The State Department is infested with communists. I have here in my hand a list of 205—a list of names that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department.”

Joseph McCarthy

Americans were already growing increasingly fearful of Communism:

  • Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin had not withdrawn the Red Army from the countries it had occupied in Eastern Europe during World War II.
  • In 1948, the Soviet Union developed—and demonstrated—its own atomic bomb, an achievement U.S. scientists had claimed would not happen for at least a decade.
  • In 1949, China fell to the triumphant armies of Mao Tse Tung.  Generalissimo Chaing Kai Shek was driven from mainland China to the tiny island of Taiwan.

Anti-communism as a lever to political advancement sharply accelerated following McCarthy’s speech. 

No American—no matter how prominent—was safe from the accusation of being a Communist or a Communist sympathizer—”a Comsymp” or “fellow traveler” in the language of the era.

Among those accused:

  • Secretary of State George C. Marshall, who had overseen America’s strategy for defeating Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.
  • President Harry S. Truman.
  • Playwrights Lillian Hellman and Arthur Miller.
  • Folksinger Pete Seeger.
  • Actors Charlie Chaplin, Zero Mostel, Lloyd Bridges, Howard Da Silva, Edward G. Robinson and John Garfield.
  • Composers Arron Copland and Elmer Bernstein.
  • Physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, who presided over the creation of America’s atomic bomb, thus forcing Japan to surrender.
  • Actresses Lee Grant, Delores del Rio, Ruth Gordon and Lucille Ball.
  • Journalists Edward R. Murrow and William L. Shirer, who had chronicled the rise of Nazi Germany.
  • Writers Irwin Shaw, Howard Fast, John Steinbeck and Dashiell Hammett

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Even prominent Republicans became targets for slanderous attacks on their patriotism. The most prominent of these: President Dwight D. Eisenhower—was labeled ”a conscious, dedicated agent of the Communist Conspiracy” by Robert Welch, founder of the John Birch Society in 1958.

In 1953, McCarthy attacked the leadership of the United States Army as “a hotbed of traitors” and convened an inquiry through the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

But the hearings exposed McCarthy as a bullying demagogue. A Senate committee condemned his behavior for “bring[ing] the Senate into dishonor and disrepute.” Shunned in disgrace by his onetime colleagues, McCarthy drowned his sorrows in alcohol, dying in 1957.

But even without McCarthy, Republicans rode the issue of anti-Communism to victory from 1948 to 1992. “Respectable” anti-Communists—like Richard M. Nixon—depicted themselves as the only ones who could be trusted to safeguard America.

Republicans held the White House for eight years under Dwight D. Eisenhower, then lost it in 1960 to John F. Kennedy and again in 1964 to Lyndon B. Johnson.

By 1968, with the nation mired in Vietnam and convulsed by antiwar demonstrations and race riots, Americans elected Richard Nixon, who preyed upon their fears and hates of blacks and “the Communist menace.”

The same strategy re-elected him in 1972.

Jimmy Carter won the Presidency in 1976 and lost it in 1980 to Ronald Reagan. And Republicans held the White House until 1992.  

Upon taking office as President in 1981, Ronald Reagan decided to end the “stalemate” of “containing” Communism. He intended to “roll it back.”

American proxies fought Soviet proxies in Afghanistan and Central America, but the world escaped nuclear holocaust.

During the 1980s and 1990s, Republicans continued to accuse Democrats of being devious agents—or at least unwitting pawns—of “the Communist conspiracy.”

In 1992, President George H.W. Bush and the Republican establishment charged that Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton might be a KGB plant.

George H.W. Bush

Their “evidence”: During his tenure at Oxford University in 1969-70, Clinton had briefly visited Moscow. 

After the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991, Republicans found that accusing Democrats of being “Commies” didn’t carry the same weight.

So they turned to “domestic enemies” to rail—and run—against: Liberals, blacks, Hispanics, “uppity” women, war protesters, lesbians, gays, and—after 9/11—Muslims.

From 1945 to 2015, it was unthinkable for a Republican Presidential candidate to pay tribute to a Soviet dictator.

But that utterly changed when Donald J. Trump, a “reality TV” host with longstanding financial ties to Russian oligarchs, ran for President of the United States.

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Donald Trump

Trump lavishly praised Russian President Vladimir Putin—and even invited him to directly interfere in the 2016 Presidential race.

The reason for the Trump-Putin bromance: Each had something to offer the other.

Putin wanted the United States to ditch the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance, which had preserved Western Europe from Russian aggression since World War II. And Trump had often attacked America’s funding of NATO as a drain on the American economy.

And Trump wanted to be President. For this, Putin could supply monies, Internet trolls to confuse voters with falsified news—and even the hacking of key voting centers.

TRUMP: “MY CRIMES ARE NOW YOUR CRIMES”

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 28, 2019 at 12:27 am

On October 4, 1943, SS Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler addressed SS officers stationed in Posen, Poland, about the ongoing campaign to exterminate the Jews of Europe. 

He gave a similar speech two days later, this time to an audience of Reichsleiters (national leaders) and Gauleiters (governors), as well as other government representatives. Attendees at this address included Minister of Armaments Albert Speer and Alfred Rosenberg, director of the Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories.

The purpose of those speeches: To alert Reich officials of the extermination campaign the Schutzstaffel (“Protective Squads”)—otherwise known as the SS—and Wehrmacht (German army) had been waging since June, 1941.

Heinrich Himmler 

Himmler wanted to make his listeners accessories to his monumental crimes—and to warn them there was no turning back: Either Nazi Germany won the war that its Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler, had unintentionally unleashed on September 1, 1939—or its topmost officials would themselves face extinction as war criminals:

“I want to also mention a very difficult subject before you, with complete candor. It should be discussed amongst us, yet nevertheless, we will never speak about it in public. I am talking about the evacuation of the Jews, the extermination of the Jewish people. 

“It is one of those things that is easily said: ‘The Jewish people is being exterminated.’…Most of you will know what it means when 100 bodies lie together, when 500 are there or when there are 1000. And to have seen this through and—with the exception of human weakness—to have remained decent, has made us hard and is a page of glory never mentioned and never to be mentioned…. 

“We have taken away the riches that they had, and…we have delivered these riches to the Reich, to the State….

“We have the moral right, we had the duty to our people, to kill this people who would kill us. We however do not have the right to enrich ourselves with even one fur, with one Mark, with one cigarette, with one watch, with anything. 

“But altogether we can say: We have carried out this most difficult task for the love of our people. And we have suffered no defect within us, in our soul, in our character.” 

Fast forward 76 years—to October, 2019. 

President Donald J. Trump, like Adolf Hitler, finds himself increasingly desperate to avoid the wrath of his aroused enemies. He has committed a series of outrages that, in the past, would have earned a similar President an impeachment ouster.

Donald Trump

Now he faces almost certain impeachment for trying to coerce Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to “request” a “favor”: Investigate Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, who has had business dealings in Ukraine.

The reason for such an investigation: To find embarrassing “dirt” on Biden.

Before making the July 25 call to Zelensky, Trump had withheld almost $400 million in promised military aid for Ukraine, which faces increasing aggression from Russia. 

So Trump, like Heinrich Himmler, has sought to entangle his fellow Republicans in his litany of crimes. On October 21, 2019, he lectured them during a meeting of his Cabinet:

“And Republicans have to get tougher and fight. We have some that are great fighters, but they have to get tougher and fight because the Democrats are trying to hurt the Republican party for the election, which is coming up, where we’re doing very well.” 

The following day, he wrote on Twitter: “All Republicans must remember what they are witnessing here – a lynching. But we will WIN!”

And on October 23, he tweeted: “Never Trumper Republicans, though on respirators with not many left, are in certain ways worse and more dangerous for our Country than the Do Nothing Democrats. Watch out for them, they are human scum!”

On October 23, about two dozen Republican members of the House of Representatives did as their embattled President had demanded.

Acting as Stormtrumpers, they barged into the Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF), a room where Congressional members can review classified information and hold private hearings. Even worse, many of them tweeted updates of the disruption from their cellphones—which are forbidden in classified areas.

They deliberately interrupted a private impeachment deposition as Laura Cooper, a top Pentagon official who oversees Ukraine policy, was preparing to testify.

They occupied the room for five hours before finally leaving.

The Republicans claimed they were being “shut out” of the impeachment inquiry. But 12 of them belong to the Oversight or Foreign Affairs committees—and were allowed to sit in on all depositions held in the SCIF in recent weeks.

Unable to refute damning testimony given against Trump by William Taylor, the former ambassador to Ukraine, Republicans now turn to outright intimidation for his defense.

For Republicans, this is a familiar tactic: During 2009-10, when Democrats held town hall meetings to discuss the proposed Affordable Care Act, Republican sent bully-boys to break up those meetings.

According to Bloomberg: President Trump knew in advance that Republicans planned to occupy the space and supported their plan, “saying he wanted the transcripts released because they will exonerate him.”

By following the same strategy as Himmler, Trump is entangling Republicans in his own crimes.

His infamy is now theirs.

IF AMERICA LIVED UNDER BIBLICAL RULE

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 25, 2019 at 12:07 am

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

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

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

Rick Santorum

Which raises an interesting question: What would a Bible-based agenda mean for the country?

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

  • Sabbath-breaking: Because the Lord considers it a holy day, anyone who works on the Sabbath must be put to death.  (Exodus 31:12-15)
  • Adultery:  If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife, both the man and the woman must be put to death. (Leviticus 20:10)
  • Fornication: A priest’s daughter who loses her honor by committing fornication and thereby dishonors her father also, shall be burned to death.  (Leviticus 21:9)

A Biblical-era stoning

  • Nonbelievers: They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and soul; and everyone who would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, was to be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman. (2 Chronicles 15:12-13)
  • Homosexuality:  If a man also lies with mankind, as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them. (Leviticus 20-13) 
  • Taking the Lord’s name in vain: Anyone who blasphemes the name of the Lord is to be put to death. The entire assembly must stone them. (Leviticus 24:16)

The Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution—which forbids slavery—would be repealed. The Bible not only permits slavery but lays out rules for its practice—such as:

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

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

  • One generation passes away, and another generation comes: but the earth abides forever. (Ecclesiastes 1:4). This claim is totally contradicted by what astronomers now know about the eventual fate of the Earth: In about 7.6 billion years, the sun will exhaust its nuclear fuels.  This will vastly increase its heat and gravitational pull, and at least Mercury, Venus and Earth will be vaporized.
  • The Bible speaks of a world where physical laws are often violated by the will of God. Thus, Jesus turns water into wine and raises Lazarus from the dead; Jonah lives inside a fish for three days; Noah dies at 950 years; and demons are exorcised.
  • In Biblical times, mental illness was seen as a manifestation of demonic possession. Today we know that mental illness has nothing to do with evil spirits.

Laws guaranteeing equal rights for women would be repealed:

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

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

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

Depiction of the taking of Jericho by the Israelites

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

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

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

FLATTERY: THEY NAME IS STALIN / TRUMP

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on October 24, 2019 at 12:06 am

I must not omit an important subject….And this is with regard to flatterers, of which courts are full, because men take such pleasure in their own things and deceive themselves about them that they can with difficulty guard against this plague….

Because there is no other way of guarding oneself against flattery than by letting men understand that they will not offend you by speaking  the truth.
Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses

On October 10, President Donald Trump took aim at Joe Biden, his potential Democratic rival for the White House in 2020.

Speaking at a campaign rally in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Trump spoke as if Biden’s son, Hunter, was present: “Your father was never considered smart. He was never considered a good senator. He was only a good vice president because he understood how to kiss Barack Obama’s ass.”

Trump no doubt believed he had scored a two-in-one insult—at both former President Barack Obama and his then-Vice President.

But Obama, as depicted in the memoirs of those who worked closely with him, did not demand sickeningly worshipful praise. He was, in fact, wary of sycophants, insisting on being well and honestly briefed.

It was this quality that led him to authorize—and oversee—the successful takedown of 9/11 mastermind Osama Bin Laden on May 1, 2011 by U.S. Navy SEALs.

It is actually Trump who demands not simply loyalty but constant flattery.

In this—as in his vindictiveness and coarseness—he closely resembles Joseph Stalin, the infamous dictator of the Soviet Union from 1924 to 1953.

Joseph Stalin

A third similarity unites Trump and the late Soviet premier: Raging egomania.

On December 21, 1949, Stalin turned 70. And millions of Russians feverishly competed to out-do one another in singing his praises.

These celebrations weren’t prompted by love—but fear.

He had lived up to his pseudonym: “Man of Steel.” For almost 30 years, through purges and starvation caused by enforced collections of farmers’ crops, he had slaughtered 20 to 60 million of his fellow citizens.

The British historian, Robert Payne, described these rapturous events in his classic 1965 biography, The Rise and Fall of Stalin:

“From all over the country came gifts of embroidered cloth, tapestries and carpets bearing his name or his features….Poets extolled him in verses, He was the sun, the splendor, the lord of creation.

“The novelist Leonid Lenov…foretold the day when all the peoples of the earth would celebrate his birthday; the new calendar would begin with the birth of Stalin rather than with the birth of Christ.”

Lavrenti P. Beria, Stalin’s sinister and feared secret police chief: “Millions of fighters for peace and democracy in all countries of the world are closing their ranks still firmer around Comrade Stalin.”

Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov: “The gigantic Soviet army created during [World War II] was under the direct leadership of Comrade Stalin and built on the basis of the principles of Stalinist military science.”

Defense Commissar Kliment Voroshilov: “The mighty voice of the Great Stalin, defending the peace of the world, has penetrated into all corners of the globe.”

Central Committee Secretary Georgi Malenkov: “With a feeling of great gratitude, turning their eyes to Stalin, the peoples of the Soviet Union, and hundreds of millions of peoples in all countries of the world, and all progressive mankind see in Comrade Stalin their beloved leader and teacher….”

Now, fast forward to June 12, 2017.

That was when President Donald J. Trump—also 70—convened his first full Cabinet meeting since taking office on January 20.

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Donald Trump

On June 12, polls showed that only 36% of Americans approved of his conduct. But from his Cabinet members, Trump got praise traditionally lavished on dictators like Stalin and North Korea’s Kim Jong On.

While the Cabinet members sat around a mahogany table in the West Wing of the White House, Trump instructed each one to say a few words about the good work his administration was doing.

Vice President Mike Pence: “It is the greatest privilege of my life to serve as the vice president to a president who is keeping his word to the American people.”

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Mike Pence

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue: “I just got back from Mississippi. They love you there.”

Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price: “What an incredible honor it is to lead the Department of Health and Human Services at this pivotal time under your leadership. I can’t thank you enough for the privilege that you’ve given me, and the leadership you’ve shown.”

Chief of Staff Reince Priebus:On behalf of the entire senior staff around you, Mr. President, we thank you for the opportunity and the blessing you’ve given us to serve your agenda and the American people.” 

Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao: “Thank you for coming over to the Department of Transportation. I want to thank you for getting this country moving again, and also working again.”

Politicians—both domestic and foreign—have quickly learned that the quickest way to get on Trump’s “good side” is to shamelessly and constantly praise him.

Some historians believe that Stalin was poisoned by one of his fawning yes-men—most likely Lavrenti Beria.

The time may come when Trump learns that outrageous flattery can hide murderous hatred.

LIKE FUHRER, LIKE PRESIDENT: “PROTECT ME!”

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 23, 2019 at 12:06 am

On January 27, 1944, Adolf Hitler—Nazi Germany’s Fuhrer—called an assembly of his principal generals from the Russian front.   

The war he had started on September 1, 1939, was not going well for the Fatherland. 

Germany faced the two-front war that Hitler himself had warned against in Mein Kampf: With the Americans and British closing in from the West, and the Russians inexorably closing in from the East.

Rows of generals sat before Hitler in the dining room of a converted inn, near his Wolf’s Lair military headquarters, near the East Prussian town of Rastenburg,

Hitler and his generals

Hitler spoke about the crucial role war played in the life of nations, and how important dynamic leadership and racial purity were to a nation’s morale.  He boasted that powerful new weapons would soon be available for turning the tide of the conflict: New radar equipment, new submarines, new torpedoes. 

Victory would emerge after May, 1944. Meanwhile, his armies must hold out.

And then he threw down a challenge: 

“If the worst comes to the worst and I am ever abandoned as Supreme Commander by my people, I must still expect my entire officer corps to muster around me with daggers drawn—just as every field marshal or the commander of an army, corps, division or regiment expects his subordinates to stand by him in the hour of crisis.”

Suddenly, the unbelievable happened: For the first time since he had taken command of Germany almost 11 years earlier, he was loudly interrupted. 

“And so it will be, Mein Fuhrer!”

The voice belonged to Field Marshal Erich von Manstein, the military genius who had crafted the successful conquest of France in June, 1940.

Erich von Manstein

Hitler hoped that Manstein had meant to reassure him of the generals’ loyalty.

But Martin Bormann, his toadying chief secretary, cautioned otherwise: The generals had interpreted the outburst to mean that the worst would indeed come to the worst.

As indeed it did. 

Seventy-five years later, another powerful dictator, fighting for his life, issued a similar challenge to members of his political party. 

President Donald Trump faced an impeachment inquiry from Democrats in the House of Representatives. And he believed that his fellow Republicans in the United States Senate and House were not supporting him vigorously enough. 

So, on October 21, 2019, he lectured them during a meeting of his Cabinet. The two things they [Democrats] have: They’re vicious and they stick together.  They don’t have Mitt Romney in their midst. They don’t have people like that.” 

Romney, the United States Senator from Utah, is the only Republican who has said he might be open to impeaching Trump. He has also called Trump’s calls for Ukraine and China to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, “appalling.”

Joe Biden is a potential White House rival for Trump in 2020.  

“I watched a couple of people on television today,” continued Trump. “They were talking about what a phony deal it is. What a phony investigation it is.

“And Republicans have to get tougher and fight. We have some that are great fighters, but they have to get tougher and fight because the Democrats are trying to hurt the Republican party for the election, which is coming up, where we’re doing very well.”

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Donald Trump

The following day, October 22, Trump doubled down on the unfairness of the impeachment inquiry he was facing.

Reaching out to his fanatical base, he took to Twitter: “So some day, if a Democrat becomes President and the Republicans win the House, even by a tiny margin, they can impeach the President, without due process or fairness or any legal rights.

“All Republicans must remember what they are witnessing here – a lynching. But we will WIN!”

By comparing a Constitutionally-sanctioned process to an illegal “lynching,” Trump hoped to strip the impeachment inquiry of its legitimacy.

Trump’s slander came on the same day that William Taylor, the former ambassador to Ukraine, testified before House lawmakers behind closed doors for more than nine hours.

Reading a 15-page statement, Taylor said that he had grown increasingly alarmed as American officials tried to coerce Ukraine into investigating Joe and Hunter Biden.  And he laid out a series of events that directly tied Trump to a quid pro quo with Ukraine.  

Specifically:

  • Trump insisted that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy “go to a microphone and say he is opening investigations of Biden and 2016 election interference.”  
  • Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union told Taylor that “everything was dependent on such an announcement, including security assistance.”

Trump’s White House secretary, Stephanie Graham, responded with more slanders:

“President Trump has done nothing wrong—this is a coordinated smear campaign from far-left lawmakers and radical unelected bureaucrats waging war on the Constitution. There was no quid pro quo.

“Today was just more triple hearsay and selective leaks from the Democrats’ politically-motivated, closed door, secretive hearings….

“President Trump is leading the way for the American people by delivering a safer, stronger and more secure country. The do-nothing Democrats should consider doing the same.” 

Adolf Hitler’s demands for loyalty-unto-death by his generals didn’t save him from final destruction.

There’s an increasing chance that Trump’s similar demands on Republicans may not save him, either.

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