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Posts Tagged ‘THE NATION’

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

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

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

So tweeted President Donald J. Trump on February 17.

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

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

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

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

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Donald Trump

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

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

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

O’Reilly: “But he’s a killer.” 

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

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

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

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

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Kim Jong-Un

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joseph Stalin

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

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

Adolf Hitler

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Among these:

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

Among the reasons they are held in such high regard:

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

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

Abraham Lincoln

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

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Franklin D. Roosevelt

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

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John F. Kennedy

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

Among these:

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

Among the reasons they are held in such low regard:

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

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Lyndon B. Johnson

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

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Richard M. Nixon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Donald Trump

Since taking office two years ago, he has:

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

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

TOO MANY WORMS, NOT ENOUGH JOURNALISTS

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on February 14, 2019 at 12:13 am

Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed that he is a victim of “fake news.”

But future historians will note how often the media ignored the foremost reality of their time: That the United States was led by a psychopathic dictator. 

This is true even for CNN, the network that Trump clearly hates the most.

On May 22, 2018, David Gergen penned a CNN essay on Trump vs. the press.

“Instead of raging on about ‘fake news,'” wrote Gergen, “the President would do well to read Peggy Noonan [a Ronald Reagan speechwriter turned author] on Reagan and focus on building his character.”

So what’s wrong with this? 

Trump is 72 years old. George Orwell wrote that, by age 50, every man has the face he deserves. By age 72, every man has the character he has spent his life being. And Trump’s life has been dedicated to inflating his wallet and his ego.

He isn’t going to radically change at this point—especially if he believes himself “a very stable genius.”

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Donald Trump

Then there’s this July 30, 2018 CNN story: “Trump Opens Window Into His Rage With Mueller Attack.”

Two days before Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller prosecuted Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, Trump launched a tweetstorm against Mueller.

Among those tweets: 

“Is Robert Mueller ever going to release his conflicts of interest with respect to President Trump, including the fact that we had a very nasty & contentious business relationship, I turned him down to head the FBI (one day before appointment as S.C.) & Comey is his close friend.”

And: 

“…Also, why is Mueller only appointing Angry Dems, some of whom have worked for Crooked Hillary, others, including himself, have worked for Obama….And why isn’t Mueller looking at all of the criminal activity & real Russian Collusion on the Democrats side—Podesta, Dossier?”

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Robert Mueller

CNN characterized this cascade of libel as a “trio of tweets…packed with inaccuracies and misrepresentations.” 

An accurate description would have been: “Lies.” 

After a meeting with Trump, Arthur Gregg Sulzberger, the publisher of the New York Times, publicly stated: 

“I told him that although the phrase ‘fake news’ is untrue and harmful, I am far more concerned about his labeling journalists ‘the enemy of the people.’ I warned that this inflammatory language is contributing to a rise in threats against journalists and will lead to violence. 

“I repeatedly stressed that this is particularly true abroad, where the president’s rhetoric is being used by some regimes to justify sweeping crackdowns on journalists. I warned that it was putting lives at risk, that it was undermining the democratic ideals of our nation, and that it was eroding one of our country’s greatest exports: a commitment to free speech and a free press.”

Arthur Gregg Sulzberger

So what is wrong with these comments? 

Like the saccharine that floods the airways at Christmastime, they reek of a deliberate suspension of reality.   

Appealing to Trump’s “better angels” on behalf of the news media is an exercise in futility—and insanity. 

This is a man who has said—proudly: “Get even with people. If they screw you, screw them back 10 times as hard. I really believe it.”

A 2016 analysis by USA Today found that for 30 years, Trump and his businesses had been involved in 3,500 legal cases in U.S. federal courts and state court. This is not a man who, at heart, is a peacemaker. 

Nor does he have any respect for truth. The Washington Post has reported that during his first 298 days in the White House, Trump said or tweeted 1,628 lies or misleading statements. This makes for an average of 5.5 lies a day. 

To expect—as Sulzberger apparently did—that Trump has any regard for such Constitutional niceties as freedom of the press is beyond rationality. 

Trump has furiously attacked the institutions that Americans have long cherished—such as: 

  • An independent judiciary
  • A free press
  • Intelligence agencies (such as the FBI and CIA) charged with protecting the country against subversion
  • An incorruptible Justice Department.

Donald Trump isn’t crazy. Nor does he abuse power by well-meaning accident.

He knows exactly what he’s doing—and why. 

He intends to strip every potential challenger to his authority—or his version of reality—of legitimacy with the public.  If he succeeds, there will be:

  • No independent press to reveal his failures and crimes.
  • No independent law enforcement agencies to investigate his abuses of office.
  • No independent judiciary to hold him accountable.
  • No independent military to dissent as he recklessly hurtles toward a nuclear disaster.
  • No candidate—Democrat or Republican—to challenge him for re-election in 2020.
  • No candidate—Democrat or Republican—to challenge his remaining in office as “President-for-Life.”

Yet the media—including CNN and New York Times—has refused to brand Trump as the liar and dictator he clearly is.

There can be only two motives for this:  

  1. Naivety, or 
  2. Cowardice. 

Either is totally unworthy of those claiming to defend the First Amendment.

Such reporters, editors and publishers should decide—now–to:

  1. Live up to the standards set by Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein and Benjamin Bradlee during the Watergate crisis; or
  2. Go into a profession better-suited to their character—such as worm-farming.

ACCOMPLICES TO OUR OWN DESTRUCTION: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 13, 2019 at 12:10 am

On December 22, 2018, President Donald Trump shut down the Federal Government.  The reason: Democrats refused to fund his “border wall” between Mexico and the United States. 

Like Adolf Hitler, who ordered the complete destruction of Germany when he realized his dreams of conquest were over, Trump’s attitude was: “If I can’t rule America, there won’t be an America.”

An estimated 380,000 government employees were furloughed and another 420,000 were ordered to work without pay. Trump told Congressional leaders the shutdown could last months or even years

Thirty-five days passed, with each one bringing increasing stress and fear to the lives of those 800,000 Federal employees.

Meanwhile, House and Senate Democrats held firm. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi even cancelled Trump’s scheduled State of the Union address at the House of Representatives until the shutdown ended.

Finally, on January 25, 2019, Trump walked into the White House Rose Garden and said he would sign a bill to re-open the government for three weeks:

  • Lawmakers would have until February 15 to negotiate a compromise on border security.
  • Otherwise, the government would shut down again.

As the February deadline loomed ever closer, on February 11, 2019, CNN published a story under the headline: “Washington on the brink as new shutdown looms”:

The story bluntly laid out the stakes involved: “If no deal is reached and no stop-gap spending measure emerges, a new government shutdown could be triggered, again subjecting 800,000 federal workers who could be furloughed or asked to work without pay.”

Just as Germans did nothing to stop Adolf Hitler’s inexorable march toward war—and the destruction of millions of lives and Germany itself—so, too, do Americans seem paralyzed to put an end to the equally self-destructive reign of the man often dubbed “Carrot Caligula.”

Gaius Caligula was “the mad emperor” of ancient Rome. Like Trump, he lived by a philosophy of “Let them hate me, so long as they fear me.”

He ruled as the most powerful man of his time—three years, ten months and eight days. And all but the first six months of his reign were drenched in slaughter and debauchery.

The nickname “Carrot Caligula” was stuck on Trump owing to his strange orange skin color.  

So how can America’s continued slide into tyranny and destruction be stopped? 

There are basically three ways:

First, Congressional Republicans could revolt against Trump’s authority and/or agenda. They could, for example, make clear they will not accept another disastrous government shutdown.

In December, the Republican-dominated Senate unanimously passed bills to keep the government open and temporarily provide funding without Trump’s wall money. 

Then Trump said he would not sign the bills.  

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could have reopened the government by re-introducing the same funding bill that the Senate had already passed. He refused.

The odds of Republicans revolting against Trump are nearly impossible. They fear that if he is removed or rendered impotent, voters will turn on them in 2020—and end their comfortable reign of power and privileges.

Second, invoking the Twenty-Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. This allows the Vice President and a majority of the Cabinet to recommend the removal of the President in cases where he is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” It also allows the House and Senate to confirm the recommendation over the President’s objection by two-thirds vote. 

The Vice President then takes over as President. 

There are ample grounds for this—such as the continuing revelations that Trump has decades-long secret ties to Russian oligarchs linked to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.

This solution is also extremely unlikely. Most of Trump’s cabinet rightly fears him. He fired FBI Director James Comey in 2017 and publicly humiliated his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, for more than a year until firing him in 2018. 

Third, the “Caligula solution.” Like Trump, Caligula delighted in humiliating others. His fatal mistake was taunting Cassius Chaerea, a member of his own bodyguard. Caligula considered Chaerea effeminate because of a weak voice and mocked him with names like “Priapus” and “Venus.”

On January 22 41 A.D. Chaerea and several other bodyguards hacked Caligula to death with swords before other guards could save him.

Gaius Caligula

Among the potential enemies Trump has enraged are members of the United States Secret Service.

Among the agencies directly affected by the Trump-ordered government shutdown: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Its employees include the Secret Service agents who protect Trump.

In short: The men and women guarding Trump—along with their families—faced economic ruin because Trump didn’t get his way on “The Wall.” 

And now they may face those dangers once again—for the same reason.

Besides the Secret Service, a great many Federal employees—such as FBI agents and members of the military—are armed and in close proximity of the President.

Even more ominous for Trump: By the end of the shutdown, his popularity had fallen to a historic low of 37%.

As Niccolo Machiavelli warns in The Discourses“When a prince becomes universally hated, it is likely that he’s harmed some individuals—who thus seek revenge. This desire is increased by seeing that the prince is widely loathed.”

ACCOMPLICES TO OUR OWN DESTRUCTION: PART ONE (OF TWO)

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

“Why are we letting one man systematically destroy our nation before our eyes?” 

It’s a question millions of Americans have no doubt been asking themselves since Donald Trump took office as President of the United States.

And no doubt it’s the question that millions of Germans asked themselves throughout the six years of World War II.

In September, 1938, as Adolf Hitler threatened to go to war against France and England over Czechoslovakia, most Germans feared he would. They knew that Germany was not ready for war, despite all of their Fuhrer’s boasts about how invincible the Third Reich was.

A group of high-ranking German army officers was prepared to overthrow Hitler—provided that England and France held firm and handed him a major diplomatic reverse.

But then the unexpected happened: England and France—though more powerful than Germany—flinched at the thought of war.

They surrendered to Hitler’s demands that he be given the “Sudetenland”—the northern, southwest and western regions of Czechoslovakia, inhabited mostly by ethnic Germans.

Hitler’s popularity among Germans soared. He had expanded the territories of the Reich by absorbing Austria and Czechoslovakia—without a shot being fired!

The plotters in the German high command, realizing that public opinion stood overwhelmingly against them, abandoned their plans for a coup. They decided to wait for a more favorable time.

It never came.

Adolf Hitler and his generals

Less than one year after the infamous “Munich conference,” England and France were at war—and fighting for the lives of their peoples.

France would fall to Hitler’s legions in June, 1940.  England would fight on alone—until, in December, 1941, the United States finally declared war on Nazi Germany.

As for the Germans: Most of them blindly followed their Fuhrer right to the end—believing his lies (or at least wanting to believe them), serving in his legions, defending his rampant criminality.

And then, in April, 1945, with Russian armies pouring into Berlin, it was too late for conspiracies against the man who had led them to total destruction. 

Berliners paid the price for their loyalty to a murderous dictator—through countless rapes, murders and the wholesale destruction of their city. And from 1945 to 1989, Germans living in the eastern part of their country paid the price as slaves to the Soviet Union. 

Have Americans learned anything from this this warning from history about subservience to a madman? 

Apparently not.

In 2016, almost 63 million Americans elected Donald Trump—a racist, serial adulterer and longtime fraudster—as President. 

Whereas Barack Obama, in 2008, had run for President on the slogan, “Yes, We Can!” Trump ran on the themes of fear and vindictiveness. He threatened violence not only against Democrats but even his fellow Republicans.

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Donald Trump

Upon taking office in January, 2017, Trump began undermining one public or private institution after another.

  • He repeatedly and viciously attacked the nation’s free press for daring to report his growing list of crimes and disasters, calling it “the enemy of the American people.”
  • When American Intelligence agencies—such as the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency—unanimously agreed that Russia had interfered with the 2016 Presidential election, Trump disagreed. Then he publicly sided with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin against those men and women charged with protecting the security of the United States.   
  • When FBI Director James Comey refused to pledge his personal loyalty to Trump—and when he continued to investigate Russian subversion of the 2016 election—Trump fired him.  
  • Trump repeatedly attacked his own Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, for not “protecting” him from agents pursuing the Russia investigation. On November 7, 2018, the day after Democrats won a majority of House seats, Trump fired him. 
  • Trump has repeatedly attacked Seattle U.S. District Judge James Robart, who halted Trump’s first anti-Muslim travel ban.

And on December 22, 2018, Trump shut down the Federal Government because Democrats refused to fund his “border wall” between the United States and Mexico. An estimated 380,000 government employees were furloughed and another 420,000 were ordered to work without pay.

As a result:

  • For weeks, hundreds of thousands of government workers missed paychecks.
  • Smithsonian museums closed their doors.
  • Trash piled up in national parks. 
  • Increasing numbers of employees of the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA)—which provides security against airline terrorism—began refusing to come to work, claiming to be sick.
  • At the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) many air traffic controllers called in “sick.” Those who showed up to work without pay grew increasingly frazzled as they feared being evicted for being unable to make rent or house payments. 
  • Due to the shortage of air traffic controllers, many planes weren’t able to land safely at places like New York’s LaGuardia Airport.
  • Many Federal employees—such as FBI agents—were forced to rely on soup kitchens to feed their families.
  • Many workers tried to bring in money by babysitting or driving for Uber, 

Nancy Pelosi, the newly-elected Speaker of the House of Representatives, summed up Trump thus: “The impression you get from the President is he would like to not only close government, build a wall, but also abolish Congress, so the only voice that mattered was his own.”

FOR ELITE MEDIA, THE TRUTH IS UNWELCOME NEWS

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on February 8, 2019 at 12:16 am

On April 28, 2018, comedian Michelle Wolf skewered high-ranking Trump administration officials and members of the nation’s elite media.

She did so as the host of the annual White House Correspondents Dinner in Washington, D.C.

As a result, she found herself furiously attacked by Right-wing defenders of the Trump administration and some of the nation’s most prominent media.

Most all of their attention was focused on the Trump officials she ridiculed—especially Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

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Michelle Wolf

But Wolf threw a series of sharp-edged zingers at some of the Nation’s most prominent media. And these comments have gone largely ignored.

They are, however, well worth examining—for the uncomfortable truths they reveal about much of the news being served up under the guise of fearless objectivity.

On little-watched C-SPAN:  This is on C-SPAN; no one watches that. Trump is president; it’s not ideal.

On liberal media’s obsession with “Russiagate”:  I know there’s a lot of people that want me to talk about Russia and Putin and collusion, but I’m not going to do that because there’s also a lot of liberal media here. And I’ve never really wanted to know what any of you look like when you orgasm.

On CNN—where “news” now consists of a series of “talking heads” pontificating about stories that other journalists have dug up:  We’ve got our friends at CNN here. You guys love breaking news, and you did it. You broke it. Good work. The most useful information on CNN is when Anthony Bourdain tells me where to eat noodles.

On Fox News’ sexual harassment scandals involving such prominent (and former) members as CEO Roger Ailes and commentator Bill O’Reilly:  Fox News is here. So, you know what that means, ladies: Cover your drinks. Seriously.

On Fox News’ actual role as the propaganda organ of the Republican party:  People want me to make fun of [Fox News commentator] Sean Hannity tonight, but I cannot do that; this dinner is for journalists.

News Media

On weak-rated MSNBC, which is the liberal version of Fox News:  We’ve got MSNBC here. MSNBC’s news slogan is, “This is who we are.” Guys, it’s not a good slogan. “This is who we are” is what your mom thinks the sad show on NBC is called. “Did you watch ‘This Is Who We Are’ this week? Someone left on a Crockpot, and everyone died.”

On Megyn Kelly, who rose to fame and fortune as a Right-wing propaganda shill on Fox News:  And, of course, Megyn Kelly. What would I do without Megyn Kelly? You know, probably be more proud of women. 

And, by the way, Megyn, Santa’s black. The weird old guy going through your chimney was Bill O’Reilly. You might want to put a flue on it or something.  

[This last jibe centered on Kelly’s infamous December 11, 2013 Fox broadcast where she claimed: “I kind of laughed and said this is so ridiculous.  Yet another person claiming it’s racist to have a white Santa. For all you kids watching at home, Santa just is white….Just because it makes you uncomfortable doesn’t mean it has to change. Jesus was a white man too.”]

On the continuing demise of newspapers—on which TV “news reporters” depend for their information:  There’s a lot of print media here. There’s a ton of you guys, but I’m not going to go after print media tonight because it’s illegal to attack an endangered species. Buy newspapers.

On the media’s—especially the television media’s—morbid obsession with Donald Trump:  There’s a ton of news right now; a lot is going on, and we have all these 24-hour news networks, and we could be covering everything. But, instead, we’re covering like three topics. Every hour, it’s Trump, Russia, Hillary and a panel of four people who remind you why you don’t go home for Thanksgiving.

On the media’s responsibility for the rise of a President they now detest: You guys are obsessed with Trump. Did you used to date him? Because you pretend like you hate him, but I think you love him. I think what no one in this room wants to admit is that Trump has helped all of you. He couldn’t sell steaks or vodka or water or college or ties or Eric, but he has helped you.

He’s helped you sell your papers and your books and your TV. You helped create this monster, and now you’re profiting off of him. And if you’re gonna profit off of Trump, you should at least give him some money because he doesn’t have any.

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Donald Trump

[This last joke was probably the most painful the assembled media bigwigs had to endure. Because it’s undeniably true.

Trump’s campaign was saved from spending millions on TV advertising because the major TV news networks covered his every word. This was especially true when he was attacking women, blacks, Mexicans, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama—and even beauty pageant contestants.

For the media, Trump was “good for ratings”—in the same way that Mike Tyson was “good for boxing.” Both were seen as freaks—and thus guaranteed to lure viewers eager to find out: “What outrageous thing has he done now?”] 

NANCY PELOSI: THE LION AND THE FOX: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on February 7, 2019 at 12:07 am

Donald Trump couldn’t believe that Nancy Pelosi meant it when she politely refused to let him give his State of the Union address in the House of Representatives until he reopened the Federal Government.

He dared her to say plainly that she would deny him access. 

THE LION

So she did—issuing a statement saying that the speech was off—until the government reopened. 

Soon afterward, Trump agreed that the State of the Union address would have to be postponed.

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Donald Trump

THE FOX:

Pelosi didn’t let herself be drawn into any Twitter slugfests with a semi-literate dictator. She could well afford to sit out the shutdown, since only the Fascistic Right truly believed she was responsible for it. 

And she capitalized on the unexpected help she received from one of Trump’s highest-ranking officials: Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

Asked on CNBC if he knew that many Federal employees had been reduced to going to food banks, Ross—a billionaire—said yes, but he didn’t understand why.

His suggestion: They could just take out a loan.   

“So the 30 days of pay that some people will be out, there’s no real reason why they shouldn’t be able to get a loan against it, and we’ve seen a number of ads of financial institutions doing that. 

“True, the people might have to pay a little bit of interest. But the idea that it’s ‘paycheck or zero’ is not a really valid idea.” 

Wilbur Ross Official Portrait.jpg

Wilbur Ross

It was a remark worthy of Marie Antoinette’s reported (but inaccurate) dismissal of the miseries of impoverished French citizens: “Let them eat cake.”

And Pelosi didn’t hesitate to point it out:

“Is this the ‘Let them eat cake,’ kind of attitude? Or ‘Call your father for money?’ Or ’This is character-building for you; it’s all going to end up very well—just as long as you don’t get your paychecks?’” 

As CNN political analyst Chris Cillizza saw it: “What Pelosi seems to understand better than past Trump political opponents is that giving ANY ground is a mistake. You have to not only stand firm, but be willing to go beyond all political norms—like canceling the SOTU—to win.” 

And Julian Zelitzer, another CNN political analyst, agreed: “Pelosi did not hesitate to use her political power aggressively. From the start of this process, she has remained steadfast in her insistence that closing the government was not a legitimate way to make demands for new forms of spending. 

“While sometimes Democrats become leery about seeming too partisan and not being civil enough, Pelosi and the Democrats stood their ground. She drew a line in the sand and stuck by it.” 

When Republicans claim that Democrats aren’t being “civil,” they mean: “They’re not doing exactly as we tell them to do.”

And of course Republicans tried to convince voters that Trump had not threatened to shut down the government—and then had done so. Republicans like Texas United States Senator Rafael “Ted” Cruz repeatedly railed against the “Pelosi-Schumer shutdown.”

But the vast majority of voters weren’t having it. They had seen the original broadcast where Trump made his threat. And if they had missed the original, there were plenty of re-broadcasts of that moment on news networks to alert them.

As Pelosi and Democrats held firm, Republicans began getting desperate.

  • They were being depicted in the news as extortionists while 800,000 of their fellow Americans suffered.
  • Those businesses that served them—such as grocery stores and auto repair shops—were being starved of revenue.
  • There was legitimate fear that the entire airline industry might have to shut down for lack of enough air traffic controllers to regulate air traffic. 
  • Worst of all for Republicans, chaos at airports threatened the travel plans of hundreds of thousands of people traveling to and from the upcoming Super Bowl. Most Americans might not know the name of their Senator, but they take their sports fetish seriously.

By January 25, the 35th day of the shutdown, an ABC News/Washington Post poll showed that 53% of Americans blamed Trump for the shutdown. His popularity had fallen to a historic low of 37%. And 60% disapproved of how he was handling negotiations to reopen the government. 

So, on that same date, Trump did what his Hispanic-hating base thought was impossible: He caved. 

He walked into the White House Rose Garden and said he would sign a bill to reopen the government for three weeks.

And, for Pelosi, the sweetest moment was yet to come. 

Nancy Pelosi

True, Trump had said he would not give the State of the Union address on his originally scheduled date of January 29th. But eventually he would.

And when this happened, Pelosi would be sitting directly behind him—along with Vice President Mike Pence—the whole time!

Unlike Trump, who revels in bragging about how powerful and brilliant he is, she wouldn’t have to.

Simply sitting behind him, no doubt trying hard to suppress a smile of glee, she would nevertheless remind the audience that she was the one who taught this failed businessman “the art of the deal.”

NANCY PELOSI: THE LION AND THE FOX: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on February 6, 2019 at 12:12 am

It’s one of the most famous passages in The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli’s classic work on Realpolitik.

A prince…must imitate the fox and the lion, for the lion cannot protect himself from traps, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves. One must therefore be a fox to avoid traps, and a lion to frighten wolves. Those who wish to be only lions do not realize this.”

Portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli by Santi di Tito.jpg

Niccolo Machiavelli

As House Minority Leader and then Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi proved she was both.

THE FOX: 

On December 11, 2018, Pelosi—then House Minority Leader—and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, met with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office.

And, true to his love of publicity, Trump made sure the meeting was televised live on TV.

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Nancy Pelosi

Trump soon moved to the matter he truly cared about: Demanding $5.6 billion to create a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border: “And one way or the other, it’s going to get built. I’d like not to see a government closing, a shutdown. We will see what happens over the next short period of time.”

“One way or the other”—“so doer so”—was a favorite phrase of Adolf Hitler’s, meaning: If he couldn’t bully his opponents into surrendering, he would use violence.

PELOSI: I think the American people recognize that we must keep government open, that a shutdown is not worth anything, and that you should not have a Trump shutdown. You have the White House—

TRUMP: Did you say Trump—

PELOSI: A Trump shutdown. You have the White House— 

TRUMP: I was going to call it a Pelosi shutdown. 

Chuck Schumer official photo.jpg

Charles Schumer

TRUMP: The wall is a part of border security. You can’t have very good border security without the wall.

PELOSI: That’s simply not true. That is a political promise. 

[By “political promise,” Pelosi meant this was an appeal Trump made to his hardcore base. which he expected to re-elect him.]   

SCHUMER: Twenty times you have called for, “I will shut down the government if I don’t get my wall.” None of us have said—you’ve said it. 

TRUMP: Okay, you want to put that on my—I’ll take it.  You know what I’ll say: “Yes, if we don’t get what we want, one way or the other…I will shut down the government. Absolutely.”

Trump, determined to bully Pelosi and Schumer into bending to his will, didn’t realize he had just set himself up for disaster.

Trump shut down the government on December 22. About 380,000 government employees were furloughed and another 420,000 were ordered to work without pay.

And Trump told Congressional leaders the shutdown could last months or even years.

For Trump, “the wall” was absolutely necessary—but not to keep illegal aliens out. They would go over, under or around it.

The real intent of the wall was to keep Trump in—the White House. 

Trump’s fanatical base believed that a wall across the U.S.-Mexico border would stop all illegal immigration. And he knew that if he didn’t build it, they wouldn’t re-elect him.

The effects of the shutdown quickly became evident:  

  • For weeks, hundreds of thousands of government workers missed paychecks.
  • Smithsonian museums closed their doors.
  • Trash piled up in national parks. 
  • Increasing numbers of employees of the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA)—which provides security against airline terrorism—began refusing to come to work, claiming to be sick.
  • At the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) many air traffic controllers called in “sick.” Those who showed up to work without pay grew increasingly frazzled as they feared being evicted for being unable to make rent or house payments. 
  • Due to the shortage of air traffic controllers, many planes weren’t able to land safely at places like New York’s LaGuardia Airport.
  • Many Federal employees—such as FBI agents—were forced to rely on soup kitchens to feed their families.
  • Celebrity chef Jose Andres launched ChefsForFeds, which offered free hot meals for government employees and their families at restaurants across the country. 
  • Many workers tried to bring in money by babysitting or driving for Uber, 

THE LION:

Pelosi, unlike many Democrats, realized this was America’s version of the Munich Conference: Democrats must hold firm against a tyrant’s extortionate demands. Otherwise, every time Trump didn’t get his way, there would be no end to such shutdowns in the future.

From the start, Pelosi insisted that Democrats would not surrender to threats of a government shutdown. And Democrats held firm, refusing to make concessions on the wall.

Second, Pelosi publicly stated that Trump could not make his annual State of the Union speech in the House of Representatives until the government was re-opened.

She politely cited as her reason that the building would not be “secure” owing to the shutdown and the nonpayment of the men and women who would be charged with its protection.

Since both the House and Senate must jointly issue an invitation to the President to make such an address, Pelosi’s veto effectively scotched Trump’s appearance. 

For the publicity-addicted Trump, who revels in pontificating to adoring crowds, this was a major blow. 

THE WORST POLICE DEPARTMENT IN THE NATION: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on February 5, 2019 at 12:09 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.

THE WORST POLICE DEPARTMENT IN THE NATION: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on February 4, 2019 at 12:09 am

Officers of the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) wear a shoulder patch bearing the motto, “Oro en Paz, Fierro en Guerra”—“Gold in peace, Iron in war.”

But for many San Franciscans, the true motto of the SFPD should be “You’re on your own.”

CA - San Francisco Police.png

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.”

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.

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