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PRESIDENTS: THE LOVED, THE FEARED AND THE IGNORED: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on May 28, 2021 at 12:13 am

American Presidents—like politicians everywhere–strive to be loved. There are two primary reasons for this.

First, even the vilest dictators want to believe they are virtuous—and that their goodness is rewarded by the love of their subjects.

Second, it’s universally recognized that a leader who’s beloved has greater clout than one who isn’t. 

PERCEIVED WEAKNESS INVITES CONTEMPT

But those—like Barack Obama—who strive to avoid conflict often get treated with contempt and hostility by their adversaries.

Obama standing with his arms folded and smiling.

Barack Obama

In Renegade: The Making of a President, Richard Wolffe chronicled Obama’s successful 2008 bid for the White House. Among his revelations:

Obama, a believer in rationality and decency, felt more comfortable in responding to attacks on his character than in attacking the character of his enemies.

A graduate of Columbia University and Harvard Law School, Obama was one of the most academically gifted Presidents in United States history.

Yet he failed to grasp and apply this fundamental lesson taught by Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of modern political science:

A man who wishes to make a profession of goodness in everything must inevitably come to grief among so many who are not good. And therefore it is necessary for a prince, who wishes to maintain himself, to learn how not to be good, and to use this knowledge and not use it, according to the necessity of the case.

This explains why Obama found most of his legislative agenda stymied by Republicans.

For example: In 2014, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY.) sought to block David Barron, Obama’s nominee to the First Circuit Court of Appeals.

Rand Paul

Paul objected to Barron’s authoring memos that justified the killing of an American citizen by a drone in Yemen on September 30, 2011.

The target was Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical Muslim cleric notorious on the Internet for encouraging Muslims to attack the United States.

Paul demanded that the Justice Department release the memos Barron crafted justifying the drone policy.

Anwar al-Awlaki

Imagine how Republicans would depict Paul—or any Democratic Senator—who did the same with a Republican President: “Rand Paul: A traitor who supports terrorists. He sides with America’s sworn enemies against its own lawfully elected President.”

But Obama did nothing of the kind.

(On May 22, 2014, the Senate voted 53–45 to confirm Barron to the First Circuit Court of Appeals.)

USING TOO MUCH FEAR CAN BACKFIRE

But Presidents—like Donald Trump—who seek to rule primarily by fear can encounter their own limitations. 

During a 2016 interview, he told legendary Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward: “Real power is—I don’t even want to use the word—fear.”

As both a Presidential candidate and President, Trump repeatedly used Twitter to attack hundreds of real and imagined enemies in politics, journalism, TV and films.

From June 15, 2015, when he launched his Presidential campaign, until October 24, 2016, Trump fired almost 4,000 angry, insulting tweets at 281 people and institutions that had somehow offended him.

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Donald Trump

The New York Times needed two full pages of its print edition to showcase them.

As President, he aimed outright hatred at President Obama. He spent much of his Presidency trying to destroy Obama’s signature legislative achievement: The Affordable Care Act, which provides access to medical care to millions of poor and middle-class Americans.

Trump also refused to reach beyond the narrow base of white, racist, ignorant, hate-filled, largely rural voters who had elected him.

And he bullied and insulted even White House officials and his own handpicked Cabinet officers. Trump:

  • Waged a Twitter-laced feud against Jeff Sessions, his Attorney General. Sessions’ “crime”? Recusing himself from investigations into well-established ties between Russian Intelligence agents and members of Trump’s Presidential campaign.
  • Repeatedly humiliated Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus—at one point ordering him to kill a fly that was buzzing about. On July 28, 2017, Priebus resigned.
  • Tongue-lashed Priebus’ replacement, former Marine Corps General John Kelly. Trump was reportedly angered by Kelly’s efforts to limit the number of advisers who had unrestricted access to him. Kelly told colleagues he had never been spoken to like that during 35 years of military service—and would not tolerate it again.

If Trump ever read Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince, he had clearly forgotten this passage:

“Cruelties ill committed are those which, although at first few, increase rather than diminish with time….Whoever acts otherwise….is always obliged to stand with knife in hand, and can never depend on his subjects, because they, owing to continually fresh injuries, are unable to depend upon him.”

And this one:

“Still, a prince should make himself feared in such a way that if he does not gain love, he at any rate avoids hatred.”

On that point alone, Trump proved an absolute failure. He not only committed outrages, he boasted about them. He aroused both fear and hatred.

Or, as Cambridge Professor of Divinity William Ralph Inge put it: “A man may build himself a throne of bayonets, but he can’t sit on it.”

Trump nevertheless tried—and paid the price for it. On November 3, 2020, 81,255,933 fed-up voters evicted him for former Vice President Joe Biden.

And despite committing a series of illegal actions to remain in office, he stayed evicted.

PRESIDENTS: THE LOVED, THE FEARED AND THE IGNORED: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on May 27, 2021 at 12:05 am

Is it better to be loved or feared?

That was the question Florentine statesman Niccolo Machiavelli raised more than 500 years ago.

Presidents have struggled to answer this question—and have come to different conclusions.

LOVE ME, FEAR MY BROTHER

Most people felt irresistibly drawn to John F. Kennedy (1961-63). Even his political foe, Henry Luce, the conservative publisher of Time, once said, “He makes me feel like a whore.”

But JFK could afford to bask in the love of others—because his younger brother, Robert, was the one who inspired fear.

Robert F. Kennedy and John F. Kennedy

He had done so as Chief Counsel for the Senate Rackets Committee (1957-59), grilling Mafia bosses and corrupt union officials—most notably Teamsters President James Hoffa.

Appointed Attorney General by JFK, he unleashed the FBI and the IRS on the Mafia. When the steel companies colluded in an inflationary rise in the price of steel in 1962, Bobby sicced the FBI on them.

In 1963, JFK’s cavorting with Ellen Rometsh threatened to destroy his Presidency. Rometsch, a Washington, D.C. call girl, was suspected by the FBI of being an East German spy.

With Republican Senators preparing to investigate the rumors, Bobby ordered Rometsch—a German citizen—deported immediately.

BEING LOVED AND FEARED

In the 1993 movie, A Bronx Tale, 17-year-old Calogero (Lillo Brancato) asks his idol, the local Mafia capo, Sonny (Chazz Palminteri): “Is it better to be loved or feared?”

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Sonny gives advice to his adopted son, Calogero

Sonny says if he had to choose, he would rather be feared. But he adds a warning straight out of Machiavelli: “The trick is not being hated. That’s why I treat my men good, but not too good.

“I give too much, then they don’t need me. I give them just enough where they need me, but they don’t hate me.”

Machiavelli, writing in The Prince, went further:

“Still a Prince should make himself feared in such a way that if he does not gain love, he at any rate avoids hatred, for fear and the absence of hatred may well go together.”

Many who quote Machiavelli in defense of being feared overlook this vital point: It’s essential to avoid becoming hated.

To establish a fearful reputation, a leader must act decisively and ruthlessly when the interests of the organization are threatened. Punitive action must be taken promptly and confidently.

One or two such actions can inspire more fear than a reign of terror.

In fact, it’s actually dangerous to constantly employ cruelties or punishments. Whoever does so, warns Machiavelli, “is always obliged to stand with knife in hand, and can never depend on his subjects, because they, owing to continually fresh injuries, are unable to depend upon him.”

The 20th century President who came closest to realizing Machiavelli’s “loved and feared” prince in himself was Ronald Reagan (1981-1989).

Always smiling, quick with a one-liner (especially at press conferences), seemingly unflappable, he projected a constantly optimistic view of his country and its citizens.

Ronald Reagan

In his acceptance speech at the 1980 Republican National Convention he declared: “[The Democrats] say that the United States…has passed its zenith. My fellow citizens, I utterly reject that view.”

But there was a steely, ruthless side to Reagan that appeared when he felt crossed.

On August 3, 1981, nearly 13,000 air traffic controllers walked out after contract talks with the Federal Aviation Administration collapsed. As a result, some 7,000 flights across the country were canceled on that day at the peak of the summer travel season.

Reagan branded the strike illegal. He threatened to fire any controller who failed to return to work within 48 hours.

On August 5, Reagan fired more than 11,000 air traffic controllers who hadn’t returned to work. The mass firing slowed commercial air travel, but it did not cripple the system as the strikers had forecast.

Reagan’s action stunned the American labor movement. Reagan was the only American President to have belonged to a union, the Screen Actors Guild. He had even been president of this—from 1947 to 1954.

There were no more strikes by Federal workers during Reagan’s tenure in office.

Similarly, Libya’s dictator, Moammar Kadaffi, learned that Reagan was not a man to cross.

On April 5, 1986, Libyan agents bombed a nightclub in West Berlin, killing three people, one a U.S. serviceman. The United States quickly learned that Libyan agents in East Germany were behind the attack.

On April 15, acting on Reagan’s orders, U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps bombers struck at several sites in Tripoli and Benghazi. Reportedly, Kaddafi himself narrowly missed becoming a casualty.

There were no more acts of Libyan terrorism against Americans for the rest of Reagan’s term.

PERCEIVED WEAKNESS INVITES CONTEMPT

American Presidents—like politicians everywhere–strive to be loved. There are two primary reasons for this.

First, even the vilest dictators want to believe they are good people—and that their goodness is rewarded by the love of their subjects.

Second, it’s universally recognized that a leader who’s beloved has greater clout than one who isn’t. 

But those—like Barack Obama—who strive to avoid conflict often get treated with contempt and hostility by their adversaries.

PRESIDENTS: THE LOVED, THE FEARED AND THE IGNORED: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on May 26, 2021 at 12:25 am

In 1513, Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of political science, wrote his infamous book, The Prince. This may well be its most-quoted part:

“From this arises the question whether it is better to be loved than feared, or feared more than loved. The reply is, that one ought to be both feared and loved, but as it is difficult for the two to go together, it is much safer to be feared than loved. 

“For it may be said of men in general that they are ungrateful, voluble, dissemblers, anxious to avoid danger and covetous of gain. As long as you benefit them, they are entirely yours….when the necessity is remote, but when it approaches, they revolt.

“And the prince who has relied solely on their words, without making other preparations, is ruined. For the friendship which is gained by purchase and not through grandeur and nobility of spirit is bought but not secured, and at a pinch is not to be expended in your service. 

“And men have less scruple in offending one who makes himself loved than one who makes himself feared. For love is held by a chain of obligations which, men being selfish, is broken whenever it serves their purpose. But fear is maintained by a dread of punishment which never fails.”

Portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli by Santi di Tito.jpg

Niccolo Machiavelli

So—which is better: To be feared or loved?

In the 1993 film, A Bronx Tale, 17-year-old Calogero (Lillo Brancato) poses that question to his idol, the local Mafia capo, Sonny (Chazz Palminteri).

“That’s a good question,” Sonny replies. “It’s nice to be both, but it’s very difficult. But if I had my choice, I would rather be feared.

“Fear lasts longer than love. Friendships that are bought with money mean nothing. You see how it is around here. I make a joke, everybody laughs. I know I’m funny, but I’m not that funny. It’s fear that keeps them loyal to me.”

Presidents face the same dilemma as Mafia capos—and resolve it in their own ways.

LOVE ME BECAUSE I NEED TO BE LOVED

Bill Clinton (1993-2001) believed that he could win over his self-appointed Republican enemies through his sheer charm.

Part of this lay in self-confidence: He had won the 1992 and 1996 elections by convincing voters that “I feel your pain.”

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Bill Clinton

And part of it lay in his need to be loved. He once said that if he were in a room with 100 people and 99 of them liked him but one didn’t, he would spend all his time with that one person, trying to win him over.

But while he could charm voters, he could not bring himself to retaliate against his sworn Republican enemies.

On April 19, 1995, Right-wing terrorist Timothy McVeigh drove a truck–packed with 5,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate and nitromethane–to the front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

The explosion killed 168 people, including 19 children in the day care center on the second floor, and injured 684 others.

Suddenly, Republicans were frightened. Since the end of World War II, they had vilified the very Federal Government they belonged to. They had deliberately courted the Right-wing militia groups responsible for the bombing.

So Republicans feared Clinton would now turn their decades of hate against them.

They need not have worried. On April 23, Clinton presided over a memorial service for the victims of the bombing. He gave a moving eulogy—without condemning the hate-filled Republican rhetoric that had at least indirectly led to the slaughter.

Clinton further sought to endear himself to Republicans by:

  • Adopting NAFTA—the Republican-sponsored North American Free Trade Act, which later proved so devastating to American workers;
  • Siding with Republicans against poor Americans on welfare; and
  • Championing the gutting of the Depression-era Glass-Steagall law, which barred investment banks from commercial banking activities.

The result: Republicans believed Clinton was weak—and could be rolled.

In 1998, House Republicans moved to impeach him over a sex scandal with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. But his Presidency survived when the Senate refused to convict.

LOVE ME BECAUSE I’LL HURT YOU IF YOU DON’T

Lyndon Johnson (1963-1969) wanted desperately to be loved.

Once, he complained to Dean Acheson, the former Secretary of State under Harry S. Truman, about the ingratitude of American voters. He had passed far more legislation than his predecessor, John F. Kennedy, and yet Kennedy remained beloved, while he, Johnson, was not.

Why was that? Johnson demanded.

“You are not a very likable man,” said Acheson truthfully.

Image result for Images of Lyndon B. Johnson

Lyndon B. Johnson

Johnson tried to force his subordinates love him. He would humiliate a man, then give him an expensive gift—such a Cadillac. It was his way of binding the man to him.

He was on a first-name basis with J. Edgar Hoover, the longtime director of the FBI. He didn’t hesitate to request—and get—raw FBI files on his political opponents.

On at least one occasion, he told members of his Cabinet: No one would dare walk out on his administration—because if they did, two men would follow their ass to the end of the earth: Mr. J. Edgar Hoover and the head of the Internal Revenue Service.

BRING THE WAR ON TERROR HOME: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 4, 2021 at 12:08 am

According to American political scientist George Michael: “Right-wing terrorism and violence has a long history in America.”

The Supreme Court’s decision, in Brown v. Board of Education (1954), striking down segregated facilities, unleashed a wave of Ku Klux Klan violence against blacks, civil rights activists and Jews. Between 1956 and 1963, an estimated 130 bombings ravaged the South. 

File:KKK-Flag.svg - Wikimedia Commons

Ku Klux Klan flag

During the 1980s, more than 75 Right-wing extremists were prosecuted in the United States for acts of terrorism, carrying out six attacks.

The April 19, 1995 attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma by Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols killed 168 people. It was the deadliest act of domestic terrorism in the history of the United States until 9/11.

By 2020, Right-wing terrorism accounted for the majority of terrorist attacks and plots in the United States. A 2017 Government Accountability Office report stated that Right-wing extremist groups were responsible for 73% of violent extremist incidents resulting in deaths since September 12, 2001.

Right-wing violence rose sharply during the Barack Obama administration and especially during the Presidency of Donald Trump. His remark after the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that there were “some very fine people on both sides” convinced white supremacists that he favored their goals, if not their methods.

On January 6, 2021, thousands of Right-wing Trump supporters—many of them armed—stormed the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.

U.S. Congress Under Attack, Trump Supporters Enter Capitol Building - YouTube

Their goal: To stop members of Congress from counting Electoral Votes cast in the 2020 Presidential election, from which former Vice President Joseph R. Biden was expected to emerge the winner. 

After overwhelming the Capitol Police force, they damaged and occupied parts of the building for several hours. Legislators huddled fearfully while National Guard units from several states finally evicted the insurrectionists.  

The Capitol attack marked the first time in American history when a defeated Presidential candidate violently sought to remain in office.

It may also mark a desperately-needed change in the priorities of American law enforcement, which has traditionally focused on Left-wingers—and especially blacks—as the country’s mortal enemies. 

Numerous commentators have noted the contrast between the tepid police response to the Capitol attack by white Right-wingers and the brutal crackdown on peaceful liberal blacks protesting the murder of George Floyd in Washington D.C. on June 1, 2020.

U.S. Park Police and National Guard troops used tear gas, rubber bullets, flash-bang grenades, horses, shields and batons to clear protesters from Lafayette Square—so Trump could stage a photo-op at St. John’s Episcopal Church. 

After 9/11, American law enforcement and Intelligence agencies initiated major reforms to focus on Islamic terrorism.

A similar reform effort, focusing on Right-wing terrorism, could include the following:

  • The FBI’s designating Right-wing political and terrorist groups as the Nation’s #1 enemy.
  • Turning the Bureau’s powerful arsenal—bugs, wiretaps, informants, SWAT teams—on them.
  • Prosecuting militia groups for violating Federal firearms laws. 
  • Using Federal anti-terrorist laws to arrest, prosecute and imprison Right-wingers who openly carry firearms and threaten violence, even if states allow such display of firearms. 

FBI SWAT Team Training - YouTube

FBI SWAT member

  • Creating tip hotlines for reporting illegal Right-wing activities—and offering rewards for information that leads to arrests.
  • Treating calls for the murder of members of Congress—as Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene has done—as felonies punishable by lengthy imprisonment.
  • Prosecuting Right-wing leaders involved in the treasonous attempt to overthrow the United States in the Capitol Building attack.
  • Prosecuting as “accessories to treason” all those Republican members of Congress who stoked Right-wing anger by lying that the 2020 Presidential election had been stolen from Donald Trump, although every objective news source proved he had lost.
  • Directing the Treasury Department’s Terrorist Finance Tracking Program (TFTP) at fundamentalist Christian churches that finance Right-wing terrorism—just as it halts the financing of Islamic terrorist groups by Islamic organizations.

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  • Using drones, planes and/or helicopters to provide security against similar Right-wing terror demonstrations—especially in Washington, D.C.
  • Using the Federal Communications Commission to ban Fox News—the Nation’s #1 Right-wing propaganda network—from representing itself as a legitimate news network, and requiring that its stories carry labels warning viewers: “This is Right-wing propaganda, NOT news.”
  • Encouraging victims of Right-wing hate-speech—such as the parents of murdered children at Sandy Hook Elementary School—to file libel/slander lawsuits against their abusers.
  • Seizing the assets of individuals and organizations found guilty of Right-wing terrorism offenses. 

Such an overhaul would almost certainly include the Justice Department indicting and prosecuting Donald Trump for inciting the treasonous attack on the Capitol Building on January 6.

The 75,000,000 Americans who voted to give him a second term still look to him for leadership. As do the majority of Republicans in the House and Senate. 

It is a certainty that Senate Republicans will refuse to convict him in his second impeachment trial—just as they refused in the first. They have already offered their excuse: “It’s unconstitutional to impeach a former President.”

But as a former President, he can still be prosecuted for crimes he committed while in office—just as a former Senator or Supreme Court Justice can. 

Whatever the outcome, this would send an unmistakable message to Right-wing terrorists: Your days of immunity are over—and you will be held accountable for your terrorist acts, just as Islamic terrorist groups are. 

BRING THE WAR ON TERROR HOME: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 3, 2021 at 12:10 am

Before 9/11, the United States did not attack Islamic terrorism in a coordinated basis.

In the October 4, 2001 episode of the PBS investigative series, “Frontline,” legendary journalist Bob Woodward described the results that followed:

“These terrorist incidents—they used the tools that were available, but it was never in a coherent way. I know from talking to those people at the time, it was always, ‘Oh, we’ve got this crisis. We’re dealing with the Achille Lauro now,’ or ‘We’re dealing with Quaddafi,’ or ‘We’re dealing with Libyan hit squads,’ or ‘We’re dealing with Beirut.’

“And it never—they never got in a position where they said, ‘You know, this is a real serious threat,’ not just episodically, but it’s going to be a threat to this country throughout the administration, future administrations.

“We need to organize to fight it. It can’t be a back-bench operation for the FBI and the CIA. It’s got to be somebody’s issue, so it’s on their desk every day. What do we know? What’s being planned? What are the threats out there?”

Bob Woodward (@realBobWoodward) | Twitter

Bob Woodward

The 1993 attack on the World Trade Center well illustrates what Woodward was talking about. 

On February 26, 1993, a truck bomb detonated below the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. The 1,336 pound urea nitrate-hydrogen device was supposed to topple the North Tower into the South Tower, bringing down both towers and killing tens of thousands of people.

It failed to do so, but killed six people, and injured over 1,000. 

The attack was planned by a group of Islamic terrorists including Ramzi Yousef, Mohammed Salameh, Abdul Rachman Yasin, Mahmud Abouhalima, Ahmed Ajaj and Nidal A. Ayyad.

They received financing from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who later became the principal financier of the 9/11 attacks.

Instead of treating this as a declaration of Islamic war upon the United States, the newly-installed Bill Clinton administration chose to consider it a purely criminal matter.

In March 1994, four men were convicted of carrying out the bombing: Abouhalima, Ajaj, Ayyad, and Salameh. The charges included conspiracy, explosive destruction of property, and interstate transportation of explosives.

In November 1997, two more were convicted: Yousef, the organizer behind the bombings, and Eyad Ismoil, who drove the truck carrying the bomb.

On September 11, 2001, 19 Islamic terrorists snuffed out the lives of 3,000 Americans in New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania. 

They did so by turning four commercial jetliners into fuel-bombs—and crashing them into, respectively, the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City; the Pentagon, in Washington, D.C.; and—unintentionally—a field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania.

(The fourth airliner had been aimed at the White House or the Capitol Building. But its passengers, alerted by radio broadcasts of the doom awaiting them, resolved to take over the plane instead. The hijackers slammed the jet into the ground to avoid capture.)

World Trade Center – September 11, 2001

But within less than a month, American warplanes began carpet-bombing Afghanistan, whose rogue Islamic “government” refused to surrender Osama bin Laden, the had of Al-Qaeda who had masterminded the attacks.

By December, 2001, the power of the Taliban was broken—and bin Laden was driven into hiding in Pakistan.

For more than 16 years, the United States—through its global military and espionage networks—relentlessly hunted down most of those responsible for that September carnage.

On May 1, 2011, U.S. Navy SEALS invaded bin Laden’s fortified mansion in Abbottabad, Pakistan—and shot him dead.

And today—almost 20 years after the 9/11 attacks, the United States continues to wage war against Islamic terrorists. 

One by one, the leading figures of Taliban, Haqqani and Al-Qaeda have been identified, located with help from coerced or paid-off informants, and targeted for drone strikes. Taking a leadership position in any of these—or other—Islamic terrorist groups has become virtually a death-sentence.

An MQ-9 Reaper drone operated by the US military fires a Hellfire missile. Being there so you don't have to. | Military drone, Drone, Unmanned aerial vehicle

A Predator drone

Nor is the Pentagon the only agency targeting Islamic terrorism. After 9/11, the Treasury Department initiated the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program (TFTP) to identify, track, and pursue terrorists and their networks.

The program tracks terrorist money flows, assists in uncovering terrorist cells and mapping terrorist networks within the United States and abroad. 

Yet another result of 9/11 was increased cooperation between the FBI and the CIA.

The CIA’s mandate, prior to the September 11 attacks, had been to target foreign enemies. The FBI’s mandate had been to target domestic ones. 

This often brought the two agencies into bureaucratic conflict when confronting foreign-based or -financed terrorists. Neither agency was certain where its jurisdiction ended and the other one’s began.

The 9/11 attacks forced the FBI and CIA—and, even more importantly, Congress—to recognize the need for sharing information.  

Almost 20 years after the devastating attacks of September 11, no Islamic terrorist group has mounted a similar one in the United States.  

But on January 6, thousands of Right-wing supporters of President Donald J. Trump—many of them armed—stormed the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.

Inside, members of Congress were counting Electoral Votes cast in the 2020 Presidential election. Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden was expected to emerge the winner.  

For Trump—who had often “joked” about becoming “President-for-Life”—this was intolerable. And it must be prevented by any means—legal or otherwise.

POLICE: IGNORING THE CRIMES OF FASCISTS—PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on May 16, 2019 at 12:02 am

On August 11-12, 2017, white supremacists from across the country gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia, for a  “Unite the Right” rally.  Among the organizations represented:

  • The Ku Klux Klan (KKK);
  • The Alt-Knights;
  • The “Militia Movement”;
  • The American Nazi Party;
  • The Confederate League of the South.

They marched through the streets carrying flaming tiki torches, screaming racial epithets and frightening the local citizenry. Echoing Nazis in 1930s Germany, they shouted: “Blood and Soil!” and “Jews will not replace us!”

On August 13, a Nazi sympathizer rammed his car into a group of counter-protesters, killing a woman and injuring 19 other demonstrators.

President Donald Trump stated: “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides.”

But he refused to specifically denounce the Fascistic demonstrators.

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Donald Trump

White supremacists were elated.

“He didn’t attack us. He just said the nation should come together. Nothing specific against us,” wrote Andrew Anglin, founder of the neo-Nazi website, The Daily Stormer. 

“No condemnation at all. When asked to condemn, he just walked out of the room. Really, really good. God bless him.” 

Another Trump admirer: Former Ku Klux Klan Imperial Wizard David Duke. 

“Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth about #Charlottesville & condemn the leftist terrorists in BLM/Antifa,” Duke tweeted after the news conference. 

Fascistic groups make up a pivotal constituency for Trump. Without their support, he might not have become President. He can’t afford to alienate them.

But more than 50 years ago, another President was willing to declare all-out war against white supremacists: Lyndon B. Johnson. 

The reason: The murders of three civil rights workers in Philadelphia, Mississippi—Michael “Mickey” Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney—-on June 21, 1964.

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Poster for missing civil rights workers

Johnson ordered the FBI to find the missing activists.

Two hundred FBI agents interrogated 480 Klansmen. After the civil rights workers’ bodies were found buried near a dam, Johnson gave FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover a direct order: “I want you to have the same kind of intelligence [on the Klan] that you have on the communists.”

For decades, Hoover had refused to tackle white hate groups. And, in truth, there had not been any President willing to give him the order to do so. 

But now a President had given him such an order. And Hoover was approaching the mandatory retirement age of 70—which could be waived by a sympathetic President. If he wanted to stay on as director of the agency he loved, he had no choice.

So the FBI launched a counterintelligence program—in Bureau-speak, a COINTELPRO—against the Ku Klux Klan.

Klansmen had shot, lynched and bombed their way across the Deep South, especially in Alabama and Mississippi. Many Southern sheriffs and police chiefs were Klan sympathizers, if not outright members and accomplices.

Ku Klux Klansmen in a meeting

The FBI’s covert action program aimed to “expose, disrupt and otherwise neutralize” KKK groups through a wide range of legal and extra-legal methods. Seventeen KKK groups were targeted,  So were nine others, including the American Nazi and National States Rights parties.

After the Klan murdered Lemuel Penn, a black army reserve lieutenant, the FBI targeted every major Klan group in Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia.

“My father fought the Klan in Massachusetts,” recalled William C. Sullivan, who headed the FBI’s Domestic Intelligence Division in the 1960s. “I always used to be frightened when I was a kid and I saw the fiery crosses burning in the hillside near our farm.

“When the Klan reached 14,000 in the mid-sixties, I asked to take over the investigation of the Klan.  When I left the Bureau in 1971, the Klan was down to a completely disorganized 4,300.  It was broken.

William C. Sullivan

“They were dirty, rough fellows. And we went after them with rough, tough methods.” 

Among those methods:

  • Developing informants within Klans—usually by paying small fortunes for information. (“There would be a meeting of 10 Klansmen, and six of them would be reporting back to us the next day,” recalled an FBI agent.)
  • Planting electronic surveillance devices in Klan meeting places.
  • Carrying out “black bag jobs”—burglaries—to steal Klan membership lists.
  • Contacting the news media to publicize arrests and identify Klan leaders.
  • Informing the employers of known Klansmen of their employees’ criminal activity, resulting in the firing of untold numbers of them.
  • Illegally obtaining Klansmen’s tax returns.
  • Sending anonymous letters/postcards to Klansmen warning: “Someone KNOWS who you are!”
  • Falsely accusing other Klansmen of being FBI informants.
  • Breaking up the marriages of Klansmen by circulating rumors of their infidelity among their wives.
  • Beating and harassing Klansmen who threatened and harassed FBI agents.

The FBI’s counterintelligence war against the Klan ended in 1971.

Over the next 40 years, Klan membership steadily rose again. In 2017, its membership rose sharply.

By June, 2017, an estimated 3,000 Klan members belonged to 42 different Klan groups in 22 states. And the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) tracked Klan activity to 11 other states, including liberal ones like California. 

Only when America has a President who’s not beholden to the Fascistic Right can there be another COINTELPRO aimed at white hate groups.

POLICE: IGNORING THE CRIMES OF FASCISTS–PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on May 15, 2019 at 12:22 am

At the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., the following sign is prominently displayed: WARNING SIGNS OF FASCISM.

Beneath that are listed the signs to beware of an approaching Fascistic dictatorship:

  • Powerful and continuing nationalism
  • Disdain for human rights
  • Identification of enemies as a unifying cause
  • Supremacy of the military
  • Rampant sexism
  • Controlled mass media
  • Obsession with national security
  • Religion and government intertwined
  • Labor power suppressed
  • Disdain for intellectuals and the arts
  • Obsession with crime and punishment
  • Rampant cronyism and corruption
  • Fraudulent elections

During the 1930s and 1940s, Fascism was clearly on the rise, and Western democracies seemed  unable to cope with it.

U.S. Holocaust Museum and Memorial

But by April, 1945, Adolf Hitler’s Germany and Benito Mussolini’s Italy were on the ash-heap of history.

After a run of quick victories, they had out-stretched their limited resources—and found themselves overwhelmingly defeated by the combined might of England, the United States and the Soviet Union.

And at the Nuremberg war crimes trials, the infamy of Nazi extermination camps was fully revealed.

And that—believed millions of anti-Fascists throughout the world—was the end of Fascism.

But it wasn’t.

By the time Donald J. Trump took office as President of the United States, Fascism was very much alive and dangerously well.

Specifically: In January, 2019, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) found that Right-wing extremists were linked to every 2018 extremist murder—at least 50—in the United States.

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In 2017, there had been 37 such killings by Right-wing extremists.

That same year, the FBI concluded that white supremacists killed more Americans from 2000 to 2016 than “any other domestic extremist movement.” 

In 2018, Right-wing extremists killed more people than in any year since 1995, the year that Timothy McVeigh’s blew up the Oklahoma City federal building. 

According to the ADL’s Center on Extremism:

  • Every perpetrator had ties to at least one Right-wing extremist movement.
  • Firearms were used overwhelmingly in Right-wing attacks.
  • Forty-two of the 50 deaths in 2018 were caused by guns. Knives or edged weapons accounted for the rest.
  • Five of the 17 incidents involved shooting sprees that caused 38 deaths and injured 33 others.
  • Five shooting sprees resulted in 38 deaths and left 33 people injured.

Among the five major Right-wing shooting sprees in 2018:

  • Tree of Life Synagogue, Pittsburgh, PA: 11 dead;
  • Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland, FL: 17 dead;
  • Waffle House, Nashville, TN: four dead.

For nearly two decades, United States counter-terrorism strategy has focused almost exclusively on American and foreign-born jihadists, overshadowing Right-wing extremism as a legitimate national-security threat.  

Between 2002 and 2017, the United States spent $2.8 trillion—15% of discretionary spending—on counter-terrorism. Between 2008 and 2017, domestic extremists killed 387 people in the United States, according to the 2019 ADL report.

“We’re actually seeing all the same phenomena of what was happening with groups like ISIS, same tactics, but no one talks about it because it’s far-Right extremism,” says P. W. Singer, a national security strategist at the New America think tank.  

In 2017, Singer met with senior Trump administration officials to discuss creating a counter-terrorism strategy that encompassed a wider range of threats.

“They only wanted to talk about Muslim extremism,” said Singer. But even before the Trump administration, “we willingly turned the other way on white supremacy because there were real political costs to talking about white supremacy.”

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P. W. Singer

Catiline17 [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D

Among those costs:

  • Arousing the ire of Southern states, where Right-wing terrorism organizations like the Ku Klux Klan have long been tolerated, if not outright supported.
  • About 22 million Americans say it’s “acceptable” to hold neo-Nazi or white-supremacist views, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll taken in the wake of the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally in August 2017.
  • About 10% of Americans said they supported the “alt-right.”
  • Many police officers don’t see white supremacist groups as a threat. One domestic-terrorism expert who conducts hate-crimes training for police has often been asked by officers: ‘Why aren’t you calling Black Lives Matter or Antifa a hate group?’ The answer is, because they’re not hate groups!  But they didn’t see it that way.”
  • According to William Fears, one of the most dedicated foot soldiers of the alt-right: Police were far less forgiving of Antifa, whose members consist of anti-fascists, anarchists, Socialists, animal rights activists, immigration rights activists, members of the local Socialist movement and environmental protesters. 
  • Another white nationalist activist recalled a rally where police posed for pictures with members of the alt-right: “Very buddy-buddy.” 

Since taking office as President, Donald Trump has consistently shown his support for Right-wing terrorist groups.

On August 11-12, 2017, white supremacists from across the country gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia, for a  “Unite the Right” rally.  Among the organizations represented:

  • The Ku Klux Klan (KKK);
  • The Alt-Knights;
  • The “Militia Movement”;
  • The American Nazi Party;
  • The Confederate League of the South.

Like the Nazis in 1930s Germany, they marched through the streets carrying flaming torches, screaming racial epithets and frightening the local citizenry.

On August 13, a Nazi sympathizer rammed his car into a group of counter-protesters, killing a woman and injuring 19 other demonstrators.

REPUBLICANS: SOLICITING ASSASSINATION

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on October 26, 2018 at 12:06 am

“The Republican Party has weaponized its supporters, made violence a virtue and, with almost every pronouncement for 50 years, given them an enemy politicized, radicalized and indivisible.”

So wrote a Rolling Stone writer in a blistering June 19, 2017 editorial. The touchstone was the slaughter of nine black worshipers by a white supremacist at a South Carolina black church.

A little more than one year later, on October 24, 2018, 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
  • Billionaire George Soros
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden
  • Actor Robert De Niro
  • Former CIA Director John Brennan
  • Former Chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee Debbie Wasserman Schultz

All of these intended victims had one thing in common: All of them had been brutally and repeatedly attacked by President Donald Trump. 

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Donald Trump

But the proof of Republican culpability in political violence goes back much further.

Gabrille Giffords, 40, is a moderate Democrat who narrowly wins re-election in November, 2010, against a Republican Tea Party candidate.

Her support of President Barack Obama’s health care reform law has made her a target for violent rhetoric–-especially from former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.

In March, 2010, Palin releases a map featuring 20 House Democrats that uses cross-hairs images to show their districts. In case her supporters don’t get the message, she later writes on Twitter: “Don’t Retreat, Instead – RELOAD!”

As the campaign continues, Giffords finds her Tucson office vandalized after the House passes the healthcare  overhaul in March.

At one of her rallies, her aides call the police after an attendee drops a gun.

On January 8, 2011, Giffords is shot in the head while meeting with constituents outside a grocery store in Tucson, Arizona. She survives and vows to return to her former Congressional duties, but is forced to resign for health reasons in 2012.

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 Sarah Palin and Donald Trump 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 “nutcase” 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—as the January 8, 2011 Tucson shootings did—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:

  • Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Tex.) yelled “baby killer” at Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) on the House floor.
  • Florida GOP Congressional candidate Allen West, referring to his Democratic opponent, Rep. 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.”
  • Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) said Tea Partiers had “every right” to use racist and homophobic slurs against Democrats, justifying it via Democrats’ “totalitarian tactics.”
  • Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn.) said she wanted her constituents “armed and dangerous” against the Obama administration.
  • 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.”
  • Rep. Louisa M. Slauter (D-NY) received a phone message threatening sniper attacks against lawmakers and their families.

Steve Schmidt, a former Republican campaign strategist for President George W. Bush and California Governor Arnold Schwarznegger, summed up Trump’s responsibility for this latest wave of political violence.

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Steve Schmidt

In a series of tweets on the day of the attempted bombings, Schmidt wrote:

“Trump has stoked a cold civil war in this Country. His rallies brim with menace and he has labeled journalists as enemies of the people.

“That someone would seek to kill their political enemies is not aberrational but rather the inevitable consequence of Trumps incitement.

“The targets are political not coincidental. Trump, the greatest demagogue in American history has celebrated violence over and over again. It looks like someone finally took Trump both literally and seriously. The WH will feign outrage when this obvious point is made.

“No journalist or commentator should be intimidated from making this point. The stoking of hatred and sundering of the American people was always going to lead to terrible consequences. Chief amongst them would be the initiation of partisan or sectarian violence within our country.”

Schmidt is one of the few commentators to courageously lay responsibility for this latest wave of political violence on the man who instigates it: President Donald Trump

TWO ELECTION CASUALTIES AMERICANS CAN CELEBRATE

In History, Politics, Social commentary on November 9, 2016 at 11:38 am

If there is one thing Republicans, Democrats and Independents can agree on, it’s this: 2016 gave America perhaps its most divisive Presidential election in modern history.

Many pundits have correctly noted that both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump–especially Trump–brought a coarseness to the election never before seen.

Saturday Night Live brutally captured this in a series of skits featuring Alec Baldwin as Trump and Kate McKinnon as Clinton.

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But if basic civility proved a casualty of this campaign, there were two other casualties that the overwhelming majority of Americans will be glad to see finally buried: The Bush and Clinton family political dynasties.

Since 1980–36 years ago–there has been only one American Presidential election that did not feature a Bush or Clinton as a candidate.  Consider:

  • 1980: George H.W. Bush–first as a Presidential candidate; then, losing the Republican nomination to Ronald Reagan, as Reagan’s pick for Vice President.
  • 1984: Bush--as Reagan’s continued choice as Vice President.
  • 1988: Bush–as Reagan’s anointed choice for President, and then serving as President for four years.
  • 1992: Bush--as President running for a second term, only to be defeated by Bill Clinton, whose star now rises.
  • 1996: Clinton–as President, running for and winning a second term until 2001.
  • 2000: George W. Bush, son of the former President and Governor of Texas, runs for and wins the Presidency.
  • 2004: Bush, running for a second term and winning it.
  • 2008: Hillary Clinton–former First Lady and now New York Senator runs for the Democratic nomination and loses it to Barack Obama. Even so, he picks her to be his Secretary of State for the next four years.
  • 2012: The only Presidential election year since 1980 when neither a Bush nor a Clinton is a Presidential or Vice Presidential candidate.
  • 2016: Jeb Bush–son of George H.W. and brother to George W., he seeks the Republican nomination but is easily humiliated and defeated by Trump.
  • 2016: Hillary Clinton–having resigned as Secretary of State, she wins the Democratic nomination and loses the race to Republican nominee Donald Trump.

Among the “legacies” of both the Clintons and the Bushes:

  • George H.W. Bush: Sends a half-million American troops to Saudi Arabia to “liberate” Kuwait from Saddam Hussein. The real reason: To secure continued American access to Kuwaiti oil.

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George H.W. Bush

  • Presides over one of the worst recessions in American history–causing him to lose the 1992 Presidential election.
  • Bill Clinton: “Romances” White House intern Monica Lewinsky–and gets impeached (but not convicted) for it.

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Bill Clinton

  • Repeals FDR’s Glass-Steagall Act, which separated commercial and investment banking. This allows big banks to merge, becoming “too big to fail”–and sets the stage for the 2008 financial meltdown.
  • After Right-wing terrorist Timothy McVeigh blows up the Oklahoma City Federal Building, Clinton refuses to condemn Republicans’ 50-years’ demonizing of government that is largely responsible for it.
  • George W. Bush: Repeatedly ignores intelligence warnings of a coming attack by Al Qaeda, which results in the slaughter of 3,000 Americans on 9/11.

George W. Bush

  • Lies the United States into a needless war in Iraq, which costs the lives of 4,486 Americans and costs the treasury at least $2 trillion.
  • Assures his fellow Americans that he has “looked into the soul” of Vladimir Putin and found him a man “very straightforward and trustworthy.”
  • After Hurricane Katrina devastates New Orleans, his Federal Emergency Management Agency–staffed with political hacks–bungles getting desperately-needed aid to America’s stricken citizens. Bush famously congratulates FEMA Director Michael Brown: “Heck of a job, Brownie.”
  • Hillary Clinton: As First Lady, refuses to release documents about Whitewater, a failed Arkansas land deal. This brings on a needless, seven-year investigation by a Republican special prosecutor which turns up–nothing.

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Hillary Clinton

  • After leaving the White House, she and her husband set up the Clinton Foundation, a public charity to bring government, businesses and social groups together to solve problems “faster, better, at lower cost.”
  • As Secretary of State, more than half of Clinton’s meetings with people outside government are with donors to the Clinton Foundation. If there isn’t a “pay-to play” system at work, there certainly is the appearance of one.
  • Clinton casts further suspicion on herself by her unauthorized use of a private email server. She claims it’s so she doesn’t have to carry two cell-phones. But, as Secretary of State, she travels with a huge entourage who carry everything she needs.
  • As a candidate for President, she “secretly” works with Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, to ensure that she will get the nomination.
  • She wins the nomination–but is so unpopular she loses to Donald Trump by an overwhelming margin in the Electoral College.

Millions of liberals and Democrats are no doubt dismayed at the outcome of the 2016 election.

And Republicans who sided with Trump will now find themselves at odds with those who refused to do so.

But Democrats and Republicans alike can rejoice that these two embarrassing–and disastrous–family political dynasties have finally been swept into the ashcan of history.

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