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Posts Tagged ‘THE PENTAGON’

MACHIAVELLI: STUPID LEADERS CANNOT BE WISELY ADVISED

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 15, 2022 at 12:13 am

“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.  But when every one can tell you the truth, you lose their respect.  

“A prudent prince must therefore take a third course, by choosing for his counsel wise men, and giving them alone full liberty to speak the truth to him, but only of those things that he asks and of nothing else.”

So wrote the Italian statesman Niccolo Machiavelli more than 500 years ago in his famous treatise on politics, The Prince. And he added:

“But he must be a great asker about everything and hear their opinions, and afterwards deliberate by himself in his own way, and in these counsels and with each of these men comport himself so that every one may see that the more freely he speaks, the more he will be acceptable. 

“Beyond these he should listen to no one, go about the matter deliberately, and be determined in his decisions.”

Machiavelli’s words remain as true in our day as they were in his.

Especially for “a very stable genius,” as ex-President Donald J. Trump once referred to himself.

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Niccolo Machiavelli

Asked on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” who he consults about foreign policy, Trump replied; “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things.”

Machiavelli offers a related warning that especially applies to Trump: Unwise princes cannot be wisely advised:

“It is an infallible rule that a prince who is not wise himself cannot be well advised, unless by chance he leaves himself entirely in the hands of one man who rules him in everything, and happens to be a very prudent man. In this case, he may doubtless be well governed, but it would not last long, for the governor would in a short time deprive him of the state.”

Competent executives surround themselves with experts in diverse fields and pay attention to their expertise. They don’t feel threatened by it but rely on it to implement their agenda. Advisers whose counsel proves correct are to be retained and rewarded.

Machiavelli offers practical advice on this: 

“The prince, in order to retain his fidelity, ought to think of his minister, honoring and enriching him, doing him kindnesses and conferring on him favors and responsible tasks, so that the great favors and riches bestowed on him cause him not to desire other honors and riches, and the offices he holds make him fearful of changes.”

But rewarding those who try to head off ruinous decision-making is not Trump’s way. 

Consider the case of John Rood, the Pentagon’s top policy official until February 19. That was when he resigned, saying he was leaving at Trump’s request.

John Rood official photo.jpg

John Rood

Rood had certified last year that Ukraine had made enough anti-corruption progress to justify the release of Congressionally-authorized aid for its efforts to thwart Russian aggression.

And that totally conflicted with Trump’s attempt to extort a “favor” from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

In July, 2019, Trump told his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, to withhold almost $400 million in promised military aid for Ukraine.

On July 25, Trump telephoned Zelensky to “request” a “favor”: Investigate Democratic Presidential Candidate Joseph Biden and his son, Hunter, who has had business dealings in Ukraine.

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

Joe Biden presidential portrait.jpg

Joe Biden

But then a CIA whistleblower filed a complaint about the extortion attempt—and this led directly to impeachment proceedings by the Democratically-controlled House for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

But the Republican-dominated Senate voted to acquit him.

Afterwards, Trump purged several officials he considers disloyal for cooperating with the impeachment hearings:

  • Army Lt. Col. Alex Vindman, from the National Security Council.
  • White House Attorney Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman, Vindman’s twin brother.
  • Gordon Sondland, Trump’s ambassador to the European Union.

“The truth has cost Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman his job, his career, and his privacy,” his attorney David Pressman, said in a statement.

For Trump, Rood had been “disloyal” on two occasions: 

  • He stated in a May 23, 2019 letter to Congress that the Pentagon had thoroughly assessed Ukraine’s anti-corruption actions. And he said that those reforms justified the authorized $400 million in aid.
  • He told reporters last year: “In the weeks after signing the certification I did become aware that the aid had been held. I never received a very clear explanation other than there were concerns about corruption in Ukraine.”

Asked about Rood’s resignation, chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman declined to speculate on the reason for Trump’s decision.

According to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, Rood played “a critical role” on issues such as nuclear deterrence, NATO, missile defense and the National Defense Strategy.

That did not protect him, however, from Trump’s vendetta against those who dared to reveal his crimes to Democratic impeachment committees.

All of which would lead Niccolo Machiavelli to warn, if he could witness American politics today: “This bodes ill for your Republic.”

VIOLENCE: IT’S THE REPUBLICAN WAY: PART FOUR (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 26, 2021 at 12:14 am

Having made threats of violence an integral part of his successful 2016 campaign for President, Donald Trump continued to make violence a hallmark of his Presidency.

Throughout his run for President, Trump’s followers chanted, “Lock her up!” at Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Yet Clinton has never been tried for a crime, let alone convicted of one.

As President, Trump still encouraged his followers to shout this chant.

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

And on August 15, 2017, Trump retweeted a cartoon photo of a “Trump Train” running over a CNN reporter.

President retweeted image of Trump train running over CNN reporter ...

Summing up Trump’s legacy of hatred, longtime Republican Presidential adviser David Gergen said: 

“Trump unleashed the dogs of hatred in this country from the day he declared he was running for president, and they’ve been snarling and barking at each other ever since. It’s just inevitable there are going to be acts of violence that grow out of that.”

Gergen said this on October 24, 2018—the day that pipe bombs were mailed to:

  • Former President Barack Obama
  • Former President Bill Clinton
  • Former First Lady and United States Senator Hillary Clinton
  • Former Attorney General Eric Holder
  • Congresswoman Maxine Waters
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden
  • Actor Robert De Niro
  • Former CIA Director John Brennan

Trump had brutally and repeatedly attacked all of these intended victims. And the man who sent the bombs—Cesar Sayoc Jr. of Aventura, Florida—had plastered his van with stickers supporting Trump.

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Donald Trump

On October 8, 2020, 13 Right-wingers were arrested and charged in a terrorism plot to kidnap Democratic Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. The terrorists intended to overthrow several state governments that they “believe are violating the US Constitution,” including the government of Michigan, according to a federal criminal complaint.

Trump had repeatedly attacked Whitmer for issuing a March 23 stay-at-home order to stem the COVID-19 pandemic in that state.

After losing the 2020 Presidential election, Trump ordered his campaign to file at least 63 lawsuits contesting Joseph Biden’s victory. Upon losing all of these, Trump turned to violence as his last-ditch remedy to stay in office.

On January 6, he incited thousands of his supporters to storm the United States Capitol Building where members of the Senate were counting the electoral votes cast in the election.

The Stormtrumpers’ goal: Stop the ballot counting—and thus maintain Trump in office.

The Stormtrumpers marched to the United States Capitol—and quickly brushed aside Capitol Police.

  • Members of the mob attacked police with chemical agents, metal poles and lead pipes.
  • At least 140 police officers suffered injuries, including concussions, broken ribs, smashed spinal discs, a lost eye.
  • Many lawmakers’ offices were occupied and vandalized—including that of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a favorite Right-wing target.
  • Lawmakers huddled under desks and behind locked doors, expecting to die any minute.
  • More than three hours passed before police—using riot gear, shields and batons—retook control of the Capitol. 

These are some of the high-profile figures who were seen storming the US Capitol

  Stormtrumpers scaling Capitol Building walls

And Republicans?

Even after being forced to flee for their lives or barricade themselves in House or Senate rooms, Republicans refused to condemn Trump. On January 11, the House voted 232-197 to impeach Trump for incitement of insurrection against the United States government. 

Senate Democrats wanted to try Trump while he was still in office. But then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) refused. On February 13, after a five-day trial, Republicans acquitted Trump by a vote of 57-43, failing 10 votes short of the two-thirds majority needed to convict.

Since then, Republicans such as Paul Gosar (R-AZ) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) have recast the attempted coup as a non-violent—even patriotic—event.

“Outright propaganda and lies are being used to unleash the national security state against law-abiding U.S. citizens, especially Trump voters,” Gosar said, condemning the Justice Department’s Investigation of Capitol attackers. 

And Greene claims: “January 6 was just a riot at the Capitol and if you think about what our Declaration of Independence says, it says to overthrow tyrants.”

A party—Republican—that has made such a heavy, long-running—and successful—investment in violence is not going to voluntarily turn pacifist. 

And a party—Democratic—that has generally behaved like cowards and appeasers toward its sworn enemies isn’t going to survive, let alone preserve democracy.

In May, 1967, Israel faced a similar deadly threat.

On May 22, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser announced that the Straits of Tiran would be closed to all Israeli shipping. And Nasser mobilized the Egyptian military along the border with Israel. 

On May 30, Jordan and Egypt signed a defence pact. The next day, the Iraqi army began deploying troops and armored units in Jordan. They were reinforced by an Egyptian contingent.

Israel was being surrounded—and its sworn enemies were about to attack.

“We are being bullied,” said longtime Israeli soldier Moshe Dayan. “And the only way to handle a bully is to punch him in the face.” 

On June 5, Israel struck first, defeating its enemies and securing huge tracts of territory as a defensive barrier.

Democrats have yet to learn Dayan’s lesson. They—and the country—may not turn out to be as fortunate as Israel.

VIOLENCE: IT’S THE REPUBLICAN WAY: PART THREE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 25, 2021 at 12:05 am

With the rise of Donald Trump to Republican standard-bearer in 2015, threats of violence entered the rhetoric—and tactics—of the Republican party. 

On March 16, 2016, he warned Republicans that if he didn’t win the GOP nomination in July, his supporters would literally riot:

“I think you’d have riots. I think you would see problems like you’ve never seen before. I think bad things would happen. I really do. I wouldn’t lead it, but I think bad things would happen.”

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Donald Trump

Republicans clearly saw this as a threat is undeniable.

Paul Ryan, their Speaker of the House, said on March 17: “Nobody should say such things in my opinion because to even address or hint to violence is unacceptable.”

And Ohio governor and Republican presidential candidate John Kasich chinned in. “Leaders don’t imply violence,” Kasich told “Face the Nation” on March 20. “When he says that there could be riots, that’s inappropriate. I think you understand that, okay? Secondly, while we have our differences and disagreements, we’re Americans. Americans don’t say, ‘Let’s take to the streets and have violence.'”

But threatening his Republican and Democratic opponents with violence played a major role in Donald Trump’s campaign for President.

No other candidate—Republican or Democrat—had ever made such repeated and brutal use of threats of physical assault in pursuing the Presidency.

  • Philip Klein, the managing editor of the Washington Examiner,  wrote on the eve of the Republican National Convention in July: “Political commentators now routinely talk about the riots that would break out in Cleveland if Trump were denied the nomination, about how his supporters have guns and all hell could break loose, that they would burn everything to the ground. It works to Trump’s advantage to not try too hard to dispel these notions.
  • On August 9,  Trump told a rally in Wilmington, North Carolina: “Hillary [Clinton] wants to abolish, essentially abolish, the Second Amendment. If she gets to pick her [Supreme Court] judges, nothing you can do folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.”
  • “Don’t treat this as a political misstep,” Senator Christopher S. Murphy of Connecticut, who has called for stiffer gun laws, wrote on Twitter. “It’s an assassination threat, seriously upping the possibility of a national tragedy & crisis.”
  • “Well, let me say if someone else said that outside of the hall, he’d be in the back of a police wagon now, with the Secret Service questioning him,” said Michael Hayden, former head of the CIA and National Security Agency (NSA). 

Threats of this type continued to be made by Trump supporters right up to the day of the election.

  • On July 29, Roger Stone, a notorious Right-wing political consultant acting as a Trump strategist, told Breitbart News: “The first thing Trump needs to do is begin talking about [voter fraud] constantly. If there’s voter fraud, this election will be illegitimate, the election of the winner will be illegitimate, we will have a constitutional crisis, widespread civil disobedience, and the government will no longer be the government.”
  • At a town hall meeting where Trump’s Vice Presidential nominee Mike Pence appeared, a woman named Rhonda said: For me personally, if Hillary Clinton gets in, I myself am ready for a revolution.”
  • In Cincinnati, a Trump supporter threatened to forcibly remove Clinton from the White House if she won the race: “If she’s in office, I hope we can start a coup. She should be in prison or shot. That’s how I feel about it,”
  • Dan Bowman, a 50-year-old contractor, said of Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee: “We’re going to have a revolution and take them out of office if that’s what it takes. There’s going to be a lot of bloodshed. But that’s what it’s going to take….I would do whatever I can for my country.”

Even Fergus Cullen, former chairman of the New Hampshire GOP, expressed fear of what might happen if Trump lost the election:

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Fergus Cullen

“That’s really scary,” Cullen said, recounting the violence at Trump rallies around the country leading up to the Republican National Convention. “In this country, we’ve always had recriminations after one side loses. But we haven’t had riots. We haven’t had mobs that act out with violence against supporters of the other side.

“There’s no telling what his supporters would be willing to do at the slightest encouragement from their candidate,” he said.

Trump even began encouraging his mostly white supporters to sign up online to be “election observers” to stop “Crooked Hillary from rigging this election.” He urged them to act as poll watchers in “other” [non-white] communities to ensure that things are “on the up and up.”

Many of his supporters promised to do so.

“Trump said to watch your precincts. I’m going to go, for sure,” said Steve Webb, a 61-year-old carpenter from Fairfield, Ohio.

“I’ll look for…well, it’s called racial profiling. Mexicans. Syrians. People who can’t speak American,” he said. “I’m going to go right up behind them. I’ll do everything legally. I want to see if they are accountable. I’m not going to do anything illegal. I’m going to make them a little bit nervous.” 

VIOLENCE: IT’S THE REPUBLICAN WAY: PART TWO (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 24, 2021 at 12:17 am

Republicans in past decades tried—and often won—elections on the basis of ideology and/or appeals to racism. 

During the 1960s and 1970s, the “enemy” was blacks. The key to winning votes of racist whites without appearing racist lay in what Republicans called “the Southern Strategy”—stoking whites’ fears of blacks.

It was this that won Richard Nixon the Presidency in 1968 and 1972 and the White House for George H.W. Bush in 1988.

In a now-infamous 1981 interview, Right-wing political consultant Lee Atwater explained how this worked.   

“You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger.’ By 1968 you can’t say ‘nigger’—that hurts you, backfires.

“So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract.

“Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.…

“’We want to cut this,’ is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than ‘Nigger, nigger.’

“So anyway you look at it, race is coming on the back burner.” 

Lee Atwater 1989.jpg

Lee Atwater 

Since the end of World War II, Republicans regularly hurled the charge of “treason” against anyone who dared to run against them for office or think other than Republican-approved thoughts.

Republicans had been locked out of the White House from 1933 to 1952, during the administrations of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman.

Determined to regain the Presidency by any means, they found that attacking the integrity of their fellow Americans a highly effective tactic.

During the 1950s, Wisconsin Senator Joseph R. McCarthy rode a wave of paranoia to national prominence—by attacking the patriotism of anyone who disagreed with him.

Joseph 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.”

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 style of the era.

Republicans rode the issue of anti-Communism to victory from 1948 to 1992.

After holding the White House for eight years under Dwight D. Eisenhower, they 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 turned once more to those who preyed upon their fears and hates.

They elected Richard Nixon, who promised to end the Vietnam war and crack down on “uppity” blacks and antiwar demonstrators.

The same strategy re-elected him in 1972.

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

During the 1970s and 1980s, they continued to accuse their opponents of being devious agents—or at least unwitting pawns—of “the Communist conspiracy.”

Even as late as 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.

Thus, the Republican charged that he might have been “programmed” as a real-life “Manchurian candidate” to become, first, Governor of Arkansas—one of America’s poorest states—and then President.

What made this charge all the more absurd: The Soviet Union had officially dissolved in December, 1991.

Republicans continued to accuse their opponents of being “Communists” and “traitors.” But these charges no longer carried the weight they had while the Soviet Union existed.

Then, on September 11, 2001, Republicans—-and their right-wing supporters—at last found a suitable replacement for the Red Menace.

Two highjacked jetliners slammed into the World Trade Center in New York and one struck the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

World Trade Center on September 11, 2001

Exit The Red Bogeyman.  Enter The Maniacal Muslim.

For several years, fears of Islamic terror carried Republicans to electoral victory—most importantly in 2004, when George W. Bush won re-election as President.

But after the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011, Americans lost interest in The Maniacal Muslim as a surefire election tactic.

With the rise of Donald Trump to Republican standard-bearer in 2015, threats of violence entered the rhetoric—and tactics—of the Republican party.

For example:

  • On March 16, 2016, he warned Republicans that if he didn’t win the GOP nomination in July, his supporters would literally riot: “I think you’d have riots. I think you would see problems like you’ve never seen before. I think bad things would happen. I really do. I wouldn’t lead it, but I think bad things would happen.”
  • An NBC reporter summed it up as: “The message to Republicans was clear on [March 16]: ‘Nice convention you got there, shame if something happened to it.'”

VIOLENCE: IT’S THE REPUBLICAN WAY: PART ONE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 23, 2021 at 12:27 am

It was a moment both poignant and prophetic: Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) responding to a brutal virtual attack on her by a fellow member of Congress.

Representative Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) had tweeted a doctored anime video depicting him killing Ocasio-Cortez and then turning his sword towards President Joseph Biden.

Paul Gosar official portrait September 2016.jpg

Paul Gosar

As a result, the Democratically-controlled House of Representatives was now meeting to decide if he should be censured over that video.

“What is so hard, what is so hard about saying this is wrong?” asked Ocasio-Cortez. “This is not about me. This is not about Representative Gosar. This is about what we are willing to accept. If you believe that this behavior should not be accepted, then vote yes. It’s really that simple.”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Official Portrait.jpg

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

And the Republican response was equally telling: Of the 213 Republicans serving in the House, only two—Liz Cheney (Wyoming) and Adam Kinzinger (Illinois)—dared to support censure of Gosar. 

A censure resolution is the most severe form of punishment in the House, and stripping a member of committee assignments removes a powerful platform to influence legislation and give voice to constituent priorities.

The resolution approved by the House removed Gosar from the House Oversight and Reform Committee, which Ocasio-Cortez also serves on, and the Natural Resources Committee.

“We cannot have a member joking about murdering each other or threatening the President of the United States,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a floor speech.

“Disguising death threats as a video doesn’t make it less real. It’s a sad day for the House of Representatives, but a necessary day.”

Official photo of Speaker Nancy Pelosi in 2019.jpg

Nancy Pelosi

Before the vote which censured him, Gosar said: “I have said decisively there is no threat in the cartoon other than the threat that immigration poses to our country. And no threat was intended by my staff or me.

“I voluntarily took the cartoon down not because it was itself a threat, but because some thought it was. Out of compassion for those who generally felt offense, I self-censored.”

Yet only minutes after the House voted to censure him, Gosar retweeted the video. He also retweeted Right-wing podcaster Elijah Schaffer’s tweet of the video: “Really well done. We love @DrPaulGosar, don’t we folks?”

This marriage of violence with Right-wing ideology is not new.

Rolling Stone magazine writer Jeb Lund noted in a June 19, 2015 editorial: “The Republican Party has weaponized its supporters, made violence a virtue and, with almost every pronouncement for 50 years, given them an enemy politicized, racialized and indivisible.

“Movement conservatives have fetishized a tendentious and ahistorical reading of the Second Amendment to the point that the Constitution itself somehow paradoxically ‘legitimizes’ an armed insurrection against the government created by it. “

“This is no longer an argument about whether one party’s beliefs are beneficial or harmful, but an attitude that labels leftism so antithetical to the American idea that empowering it on any level is an act of usurpation.”

Increasingly, Republicans have repeatedly aimed violent—-and violence-arousing—-rhetoric at their Democratic opponents. This is not a case of careless language that is simply misinterpreted, with tragic results.

Republicans like Paul Gosar fully understand the constituency they are trying to reach: Those masses of alienated, uneducated Americans who live only for their guns and hardline religious beliefs—and who can be easily manipulated by perceived threats to either.

If a “nutcases” assaults a Democratic politician and misses, then the Republican establishment claims to be shocked—-shocked!—that such a thing could have happened.

And if the attempt proves successful, then Republicans weep crocodile tears for public consumption.

The difference is that, in this case, they rejoice in knowing that Democratic ranks have been thinned and their opponents are even more on the defensive, for fear of the same happening to them.

Consider the following:

  • Florida GOP Congressional candidate Allen West, referring to his Democratic opponent, Representative Ron Klein, told Tea Party activists: “You’ve got to make the fellow scared to come out of his house. That’s the only way that you’re going to win. That’s the only way you’re going to get these people’s attention.”
  • Representative Michelle Bachmann (R-MINN.) said she wanted her constituents “armed and dangerous” against the Obama administration.
  • Former Governor (R-Alaska) Sarah Palin told her supporters: “Get in their face and argue with them.  No matter how tough it gets, never retreat, instead RELOAD!”
  • Right-wing pundit Ann Coulter: “My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times building.”
  • Senator Phil Gramm (R-TEX.) “We’re going to keep building the party until we’re hunting Democrats with dogs.”

Republicans in past decades tried—and often won—elections on the basis of ideology and/or appeals to racism. 

During the 1960s and 1970s, the “enemy” was blacks. The key to winning votes of racist whites without appearing racist lay in what Republicans called “the Southern Strategy”—stoking white fears of blacks.

It was this that won Richard Nixon the Presidency in 1968 and 1972 and the White House for George H.W. Bush in 1988.

In a now-infamous 1981 interview, Right-wing political consultant Lee Atwater explained how this worked.   

HOW TO END AIR-RAGE INCIDENTS

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on November 15, 2021 at 1:15 am

Of the 4,385 air rage incidents reported by September 24, only one person has been criminally charged.  

That is Vyvianna Quinonez, who in May punched a flight attendant in the face on a Southwest flight approaching San Diego. At the time of her arrest, she claimed she was acting in self-defense.

The airlines are under Federal jurisdiction—which means legal violations can be prosecuted by the Department of Justice (DOJ). Criminal penalties can run up to 20 years in prison if convicted of interfering with the operations of an aircraft.

As a civil authority, the FAA cannot charge anyone. The agency can fine violators up to $35,000. 

Seal of the United States Department of Justice.svg

Seal of the Justice Department

There are several reasons for this huge increase in air-rage incidents.

First, coach passengers are cramped into tight places with strangers, where they have little control over what’s happening to them. This can lead to nervousness, negative feelings and anger.

Second, the political polarization that marked the Donald Trump administration has taken to the skies with the imposition of mask mandates.

Surgical Face Mask 50 Pack - Face Masks & Hand Sanitiser ...

Surgical mask

Robert Bor, a director at the UK-based Centre for Aviation Psychology, says that most air-rage incidents are about masks.

“Most people are pretty neutral on whether they have Coke or Pepsi, but they will have very strong feelings when it comes to issues relating to health, human rights, access to air and so on; it triggers people to behave in slightly more militant ways.”

By June 29, of the 3,100 air-rage incidents thus far reported, 2,350 involved people refusing to comply with the Federal mask mandate. 

Airline crew members are frightened by these attacks—and depressed at the lack of punishment for them.

“We tell them [passengers] that it is a Federal offense to not comply with crew member instructions,” said Sara Nelson, international president of the Association of Flight Attendants. “Then the plane is met by airline supervisors or airport law enforcement and the passenger gets a slap on the wrist and sent on their way.”   

FAA Administrator Steve Dickson has his own complaints: “Every week, we see situations in which law enforcement was asked to meet an aircraft at the gate following an unruly passenger incident. Many of these passengers were interviewed by local police and released without criminal charges of any kind.”             

Meanwhile, the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) has had its own serious lapses in judgment.

In March, 2013, TSA Administrator John Pistole unveiled a proposal to allow passengers to bring small knives, baseball bats, golf clubs and other sports equipment onto planes.

He explained that in light of hardened cockpit doors, armed off-duty pilots traveling on planes and other preventive measures, small folding knives could not be used by terrorists to take over a plane.

TSA dropped the proposal in June, thanks to fierce opposition from passengers, Congressional leaders and airline industry officials.

By October, 2021, the TSA had seized nearly 4,500 guns at airport security checkpoints, compared with about 4,400 in all of 2019, before the pandemic caused air travel to plummet in 2020. 

About 85% of the weapons caught were loaded. They were found on passengers or in carry-on bags across 248 U.S. airports, largely in Atlanta and Dallas-Fort Worth.

It’s worth remembering that for all the publicity given the TSA’s “Air Marshal” program, it’s been airline passengers—not Federal lawmen—who have repeatedly been the ones to subdue unruly fliers.

Prior to 9/11, commercial airline pilots and passengers were warned: If someone tries to highjack the plane, just stay calm and do what he says.

So many airplanes were directed by highjackers to land in Fidel Castro’s Cuba that these incidents became joke fodder for stand-up comedians.

And, up to 9/11, the advice to cooperate fully with highjackers and land the planes where they wanted worked.  No planes and no lives were lost.

But during 9/11, passengers and crew—with one exception—cooperated fully with the highjackers’ demands.

And all of them died horrifically when three of those jetliners were deliberately crashed into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

World Trade Center – September 11, 2001

Only on United Flight 93 did the passengers and crew fight back.

In doing so, they accomplished what soldiers, military pilots, the CIA and the FBI could not: They thwarted the terrorists, sacrificing their own lives and preventing the fourth plane from destroying the White House or the Capitol Building.

Memorial to the passengers and crew of United Flight 93

As a result, passengers are now ordered to act as their own air marshals when danger threatens.

To put an end to these outrages against public safety:

  • Violators should be taken into custody solely by the FBI.
  • Bail should be denied for all violators.
  • Every air-rage case should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
  • If this puts a strain on Federal detention centers, the accused should be shipped off to Guantanamo and other holding facilities.
  • Flight attendants and passengers should be empowered to use deadly force against anyone who poses a danger to the flight. Anyone found to have legally killed an air-rage perpetrator should be granted immunity from prosecution.
  • Anyone found illegally bringing a firearm aboard a flight should be arrested, jailed without bond, and tried under the USA Patriot Act, which counters terrorism. If convicted, s/he should spend at least 10 years in prison.

COMING: THE NEXT 9/11, BROUGHT TO YOU BY TSA: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on October 28, 2021 at 12:10 am

All security systems—including those considered the best—are created by humans. And humans are and will always be imperfect creatures.

So there will inevitably be times when security agents miss the assassin or terrorist intent on mayhem.  For example:

  • In September, 1975, two women—Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme and Sara Jane Moore—tried to assassinate President Gerald R. Ford on two separate occasions.
  • Fromme was tackled by a Secret Service agent. Moore’s aim was deflected by Oliver Sipple, a Marine and Vietnam veteran, thus saving Ford’s life.

Gerald Ford being hustled from danger by Secret Service agents

Until these incidents, the Secret Service profile of a potential assassin didn’t include a woman.

  • On March 30, 1981, John W. Hinckley, a psychotic obsessed with actress Jodie Foster, gained access to a line of reporters waiting to throw questions at President Ronald Reagan.
  • As Reagan got into his bulletproof Presidential limousine, Hinckley drew a pistol and opened fire. Wounded, Reagan escaped death by inches.

The Reagan Assassination attempt

The Secret Service Service had failed to prevent the attack because no one—until that moment—had attacked a President from the section reserved for reporters.

  • On September 11, 2001, Islamic terrorists armed with boxcutters highjacked four American jetliners and turned them into fuel-bombs.
  • Two of the airliners struck the North and South towers of the World Trade Center, destroying both structures.
  • A third hit the Pentagon.
  • The fourth—United Airlines Flight 93—crashed when it was diverted from its intended target (the White House or Congress) by passengers who resolved to fight back.
  • Three thousand Americans died that day—in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Until this day of catastrophe, no highjacker had turned a jumbo-jet into a fuel-bomb. Passengers had been advised to cooperate with highjackers, not resist them.

So how will the next 9/11 happen?  In all likelihood, like this:

  • A terrorist—or, more likely, several terrorists—will sign up for one or more airline “VIP screening” programs.
  • They will be completely clean—no arrests, no convictions.  
  • They may well be respectable citizens in their communities.
  • They will probably have amassed enough “frequent flier miles” to ingratiate themselves with the airlines and convince the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) of their integrity.
  • Then, one day, they will breeze through their selected airports—
  • Without removing their belts and shoes;
  • Without undergoing pat-down searches;
  • Without being required to remove laptops and other electronic devices from their carry-ons;
  • Without exposing their electronic devices to X-ray technology.
  • Then they will board planes—either as part of an individual terrorist effort or a coordinated one, a la 9/11.

And then it will be too late.

Memorial to the passengers and crew of United Flight 93

The TSA/airlines’ VIP programs are based on the assumption that someone who has completed a security check in the past need not be re-checked in the future.

This assumption has proven false for American Intelligence agencies such as the FBI and CIA.

  • FBI agent Robert Hanssen spied for Soviet and Russian Intelligence services for 22 years (1979-2001). He’s now serving a life sentence in Florence, Colorado.
  • CIA agent Aldrich Ames betrayed American secrets—including those Russians who had shared them—to Soviet and Russian espionage agencies from 1985 to 1994. He is likewise serving a life sentence.

Even requiring an agent to undergo repeated security checks is no guarantee of trustworthiness.

When asked about how he repeatedly passed CIA polygraph tests, Ames said: “There’s no special magic. Confidence is what does it. Confidence and a friendly relationship with the examiner. Rapport, where you smile and make him think that you like him.”

Thus, as William Shakespeare warned in Hamlet, “One may smile and smile and be a villain”—or a highjacker.

The TSA introduced its Pre-Check program during the fall of 2011. By March 2, 2020, 10 million  travelers had been found worthy of “expedited” status.

In early September, 2013, TSA announced that it would more than double its “expedited screening” program, Pre-Check, from 40 to 100 airports by the end of the year.

Nor is TSA the only organization giving big-spending fliers special treatment at potential risk to their country. For example:

Delta Air Lines offers Sky Priority, described as providing “privileged access through security checkpoints” at select airports.

Another private security program, Clear, collects several pieces of biometric data on well-heeled passengers. Once verified by a kiosk local to the security checkpoint, the passengers are allowed to skirt the security barriers that poor and middle-class folks must pass through.

Priority Access, set up by TSA and the airlines, provides “expedited service” to first-class and business passengers. To qualify, you need only possess certain credit cards—such as the United Mileage Plus Club Card.

Some critics blast this two-tier passenger check-in system as an affront to democratic principles.

“It’s stratifying consumers by class and wealth, because the people who travel a lot usually have higher incomes,” said Ralph Nader, consumer advocate and frequent business traveler.

But there is an even more important reason to immediately disband these programs and require everyone—rich and middle-class alike—to undergo the same level of security screening:

The 3,000 men and women who died horrifically on September 11, 2001, at the hands of airline passengers whom authorities thought could be trusted to board a plane.

Tribute to the vanished World Trade Center

COMING: THE NEXT 9/11, BROUGHT TO YOU BY TSA: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on October 27, 2021 at 12:08 am

More than 20 years after 9/11, America is now selling its Islamic enemies access to the very weapons—jet-fueled airplanes—they need to wage jihad against its citizens.

World Trade Center on September 11, 2001

This danger is brought to you by IdentoGO, the private security company chosen by the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) to screen airline passengers.

Consider this ad it posts:

“How many times have you stood in line at the airport watching others breeze through security with no hassle? By enrolling in TSA Pre✓® , you too can breeze through security.

“Keep your shoes, jacket and belt on; your laptop in its case; 3-1-1 compliant liquids in your bag; and enjoy a better overall travel experience.

“TSA Pre✓® allows low-risk travelers to experience faster, more efficient screening at participating U.S. airport checkpoints for domestic and international travel.”

Yes, for a one-time payment of $149.95, you, too, can apply to receive such preferential treatment. Even if it means putting the Nation’s security at risk. Travelers that are eligible for TSA Pre✓® include:

  • U.S. citizens of frequent flyer programs who meet TSA-mandated criteria and who have been invited by a participating airline;
  • U.S. citizen, U.S. national or Lawful Permanent Residents who are members of the TSA Pre✓® Application Program;
  • U.S. citizens who are members of a U.S. Customs and Border Protection Trusted Traveler program, such as Global Entry, SENTRI, and NEXUS and Canadian citizens who are members of NEXUS; and
  • Members of the U.S. Armed Forces.

To apply for TSA Pre✓®:

  1. Find an IdentoGO Center near you, including a growing number of airport locations, offering TSA Pre✓® and pre-enroll online.
  2. Schedule an appointment to come in for fingerprinting.
  3. Pay the $85 applications fee and show your proof-of-identity documents from the approved list of valid government IDs.
  4. A Known Traveler Number (KTN) will be mailed to you or can be obtained online.
  5. Once enrolled, your KTN is used when booking travel and your TSA Pre✓® approval is printed on your boarding passes.  
  6. Be sure to update your airline member profile to have the number automatically sent to the TSA when making reservations.

 Among the credit cards that will buy you such preferential treatment:

If you’re accepted, you don’t need to undergo another background check for the next five years.

In September 2021, 96% of TSA PreCheck  passengers waited less than five minutes to board.

So what difference does it make that some passengers must submit to close inspection while others do not?

  • If you’re trying to carry a metallic firearm aboard a plane, the magnetometer will likely pick it up.  But if you’ve filled your computer with plastic explosive, the magnetometer won’t pick it up.

Related image

Advanced imaging technology

  • Or maybe you want to be a shoe-bomber like Richard Reid, who tried to blow up an American Airlines flight in 2001. Being allowed to skip the requirement to remove your shoes will certainly take you a long way toward reaching your goal.

Why is America being placed at such risk?  Three reasons:

  1. The greed of American airline corporations and the TSA.
  2. Wealthy, self-entitled Americans hate waiting in long airport security lines—like ordinary citizens.
  3. The Calvinistic belief—shared by most Americans—that wealth is a sign of God’s favor, and thus proof that its holder is worthy of deference, if not awe.

On September 11, 2001, 2,996 people were killed and more than 6,000 others wounded as three highjacked airliners slammed into:

  • The North Tower of the World Trade Center;
  • The South Tower of the World Trade Center;
  • The Pentagon; and
  • A field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, after passengers and crew on United Flight 93 tried to regain control.

The attacks inflicted the worst shock and grief on America since the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

So think about how easy it is to qualify as a TSA Pre-Check passenger the next time you board an airliner.

According to Yelp! reviews of thoroughly satisfied IdentoGO customers:

  • “My TSA precheck appointment was done in 10 minutes! Plenty of free parking in their parking lot. The staff was friendly and courteous. I made an appointment thru the TSA precheck website. When I arrived, there was no wait. The office was clean, and the staff member who I met was friendly and courteous. Be sure to bring in your proper documents. $85 fee collected at the end of appointment. TSA precheck works for domestic flights only.”
  • “The friendly agent took me in right away and he proceeded to go through my application with me, just to double check that all the information in the application is correct. He took my fingerprints (all fingers) and I was pretty much done in about 10 minutes.”
  • “Going here for TSA precheck is a no-brainer.  Super easy to get an appointment, free parking, and no waiting.  Staff was friendly and efficient, explained what to expect after they submitted my information, and within less than 10 minutes I was on my way.  Went in on a Friday afternoon and by Monday evening (ok, late evening really), I had my KTN. So, so easy.”

PATRIOTISM IN A TIME OF TYRANNY: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on September 22, 2021 at 12:12 am

On January 8, 2021, General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, calls a secret meeting in his Pentagon office to review the process for military action, including launching nuclear weapons. 

It’s two days since President Donald Trump incited an attack on the United States Capitol Building to stop the certifying of Joe Biden as the next President of the United States. And Milley fears Trump intends to launch a full-fledged coup to remain in power.

He instructs his senior military officials to not take orders from anyone unless he is involved: “No matter what you are told, you do the procedure. You do the process. And I’m part of that procedure.” 

He looks each officer in the eye, and asks him to verbally confirm that he understands. 

Milley Testimony

Mark Milley

Fearful of Trump’s actions in his final weeks as President, Milley twice calls China’s top general, Li Zuocheng, of the People’s Liberation Army.

China is on high alert because of the chaos in the United States.

Milley assures Zuocheng there is no cause to fear an American attack, despite Trump’s provocative rhetoric against China. He promises that he will warn Zuocheng in the event of an American attack.

Donald Trump, in a September 14, 2021 interview on Newsmax, says Milley’s calls to the Chinese could amount to treason: “If it is actually true, which is hard to believe, that he would have called China and done these things and was willing to advise them of an attack, or in advance of an attack, that’s treason.   

“For him to say that I was going to attack China is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.”

Related image

Donald Trump

At least three Republican Senators and nine members of the House of Representatives have demanded that Milley resign or be fired. 

“He should be court-martialled if true,” Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky) writes on Twitter.

“(Milley) worked to actively undermine the sitting commander in chief of the U.S. armed forces,” Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) posts on Twitter. 

Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) disagrees. He tells reporters that Democratic lawmakers “were circumspect in our language [to Milley] but many of us made it clear that we were counting on him to avoid the disaster which we knew could happen at any moment.”

Nazi defendants at Nuremberg had reacted with similar outrage upon learning that former Minister of Armaments Albert Speer had considered assassinating Adolf Hitler. Hitler had given orders for the total destruction of Germany when he realized he had lost World War II. 

“Traitor!” they shouted at Speer in the courtroom.

Former Reichmarshall Herman Goring—who had himself been condemned to death by Hitler in the closing days of the war—vowed: “If we ever get into power again, we’ll execute you for treason!” 

Hermann Göring - Röhr.jpg

Herman Goring

Adding to the pressures on Milley is a blunt phone call from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: “What I’m saying to you is that if they couldn’t even stop him from an assault on the Capitol, who even knows what else he may do? And is there anybody in charge at the White House who was doing anything but kissing his fat butt all over this?  

“You know he’s crazy. He’s been crazy for a long time.”

Milley replied: “Madam Speaker, I agree with you on everything.” 

After that call, Milley:

  • Orders his top service chiefs to watch everything “all the time.”
  • Tells the director of the National Security Agency: “Needles up. Keep watching, scan.”
  • Tells then-CIA Director Gina Haspel: “Aggressively watch everything, 360.”   

Write Bob Woodward and Robert Costa in their forthcoming book, Peril: “Milley was overseeing the mobilization of America’s national security state without the knowledge of the American people or the rest of the world.

“Some might contend that Milley had overstepped his authority and taken extraordinary power for himself, but he believed his actions were a good faith precaution to ensure there was no historic rupture in the international order, no accidental war with China or others, and no use of nuclear weapons.”

Milley has been shocked when, immediately after losing the 2020 election, Trump signs a secret military order withdrawing all America troops from Afghanistan by January 15, 2021—five days before he is scheduled to leave the White House. 

After Trump incites the January 6 attack on the Capitol, write Woodward and Costa, Milley “felt no absolute certainty that the military could control or trust Trump and believed it was his job as the senior military officer to think the unthinkable and take any and all necessary precautions.”

Nor is Milley the only high-ranking national security official who fears Trump’s vindictiveness: CIA Director Gina Haspel warns Milley, “We are on the way to a right-wing coup. The whole thing is insanity. He is acting out like a six-year-old with a tantrum.”

Haspel also worries that Trump will try to attack Iran. 

Milley intends above all to ensure a peaceful transfer of power from Donald Trump to Joe Biden on January 20: 

“We’ve got a plane with four engines and three of them are out. We’ve got no landing gear. But we’re going to land this plane and we’re going to land it safely,” he tells Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

On January 20, 2021, that plane lands safely.

PATRIOTISM IN A TIME OF TYRANNY: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on September 21, 2021 at 12:07 am

On November 3, 2020, 81,255,933 Democratic voters elect former Vice President Joseph Biden the 46th President of the United States.

President Donald J. Trump, running for a second term, gets 74,196,153 votes. Biden also wins decisively in the Electoral College: 306 votes to 232 for Trump.

Facing the end of his Presidency, Trump desperately seeks to remain in power. Having “joked” about being “President-for-Life,” he’s now fighting to make that a reality.  

He spreads The Big Lie that he has been robbed by fraud. He summons his Stormtrumper followers to Washington, D.C. for a massive “Stop the Steal” rally set for January 6.

It is on that day that members of the House and Senate will meet in the United States Capitol Building to officially count the Electoral College votes. Since that total is known, it’s a foregone conclusion that Biden will be officially pronounced President-Elect.

Unwilling to accept this verdict, Trump demands that his vice president, Mike Pence, refuse to certify the election of Joe Biden as America’s next President.

When Pence refuses to break the law, Trump incites his followers in Washington, D.C., to storm the Capitol building on January 6 to stop the certification.

Melania Trump 'disappointed' by Trump supporters' Capitol riot - ABC7 Chicago

Donald Trump addresses his Stormtrumpers 

The Stormtrumpers march to the United States Capitol—and quickly brush aside Capitol Police.

  • Members of the mob attack police with chemical agents, metal poles and lead pipes.
  • At least 140 police officers suffer injuries, including concussions, broken ribs, smashed spinal discs, a lost eye.
  • Many of the lawmakers’ offices are occupied and vandalized—including that of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a favorite Right-wing target.
  • Lawmakers huddle under desks and behind locked doors, expecting to die any minute.
  • More than three hours pass before police—using riot gear, shields and batons—retake control of the Capitol. 

And Trump? After giving his inflammatory speech, he returns to the White House—to watch his handiwork on television. He initially rebuffs requests to mobilize the National Guard.

With the United States seemingly on the brink of a Trumpian coup, General Mark Milley—Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff—steps forward to save his country from a President he distrusts.

Appointed to that position by Trump in 2018, his career includes assignments with the 82nd Airborne Division, 5th Special Forces Group, Joint Readiness Training Center, Operations Staff of the Joint Staff, and Military Assistant to the Secretary of Defense.

Rainer Kuosmanen on Twitter: "US Army General Mark Milley will be the 20th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the nation's highest-ranking military officer, and the principal military advisor to the

Mark Milley

Two days after the treasonous January 6 attack, Milley single-handedly takes secret action to prevent Trump from potentially ordering a dangerous military strike or launching nuclear weapons.

That’s one of a series of startling revelations in Peril, a new book by legendary journalist Bob Woodward and veteran Washington Post reporter Robert Costa.

Milley, deeply shaken by the Capitol assault, “was certain that Trump had gone into a serious mental decline in the aftermath of the election, with Trump now all but manic, screaming at officials and constructing his own alternate reality about endless election conspiracies.”

“You never know what a president’s trigger point is,” Milley tells his senior staff. 

On January 8, Milley calls a secret meeting in his Pentagon office to review the process for military action, including launching nuclear weapons.

Website Informs Civilians About DOD Opportunities > U.S. Department of Defense > Defense Department News

The Pentagon

Touch Of Light, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

He instructs his senior military officials to not take orders from anyone unless he is involved: “No matter what you are told, you do the procedure. You do the process. And I’m part of that procedure.”

He looks each officer in the eye, and asks him to verbally confirm that he understands.

Fearful of Trump’s actions in his final weeks as President, Milley twice calls China’s top general, Li Zuocheng of the People’s Liberation Army to assure him that the two nations will not suddenly go to war. 

China is on high alert because of the chaos in the United States.

Milley assures him there is no cause to fear an American attack, despite Trump’s provocative rhetoric against that country. He promises Zuocheng that he will warn him in the event of an upcoming  American attack:

“General Li, I want to assure you that the American government is stable and everything is going to be okay,” Milley says in the first call on October 30, 2020. “We are not going to attack or conduct any kinetic operations against you.

“If we’re going to attack, I’m going to call you ahead of time. It’s not going to be a surprise,” Milley reportedly says.

The second call is on January 8, 2021, to assure Zuocheng the United States isn’t on the brink of collapse.

Zuocheng isn’t easily convinced, even after Milley promises him: “We are 100 percent steady. Everything’s fine. But democracy can be sloppy sometimes.”

According to the Woodward-Costa book, Milley calls the admiral overseeing the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, the military unit responsible for Asia and the Pacific region, and recommends postponing upcoming military exercises. 

He also asks senior officers to swear that Milley will be involved if Trump orders the launch of nuclear weapons.

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