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FOR REPUBLICANS: A WARNING ABOUT CLASS WARFARE

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 26, 2018 at 12:07 am

A 2012 book offers timely advice for Republicans who believe that serving the interests of the wealthiest 1% will maintain their party in power.

It’s Confront and Conceal: Obama’s Secret Wars and Surprising use of American Power, by David E. Sanger, the chief Washington correspondent for The New York Times.

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Divided into five sections, it dramatically covers the following subjects:

Afghanistan and Pakistan – How Obama sought to disengage from the former while readying plans to occupy the latter should its growing nuclear arsenal pose a threat to America.

Iran – To prevent the Iranians from building nuclear weapons, Obama authorized a malevolent virus to be inserted into that nation’s computer system.

Drones and Cyber – American drone attacks have wiped out much of Al Qaeda’s leadership—but increasingly strained U.S. relations with Pakistan.  And while America has launched cyber attacks on Iran, it remains vulnerable to similar attacks—especially by China.

Arab Spring – America was totally surprised by the popular revolts sweeping the Arab world.  And Obama had to balance  showing support for the revolutionaries against jeopardizing America’s longtime Arab—and dictatorial—allies.

China and North Korea – The United States found itself financially strained to meet its worldwide military commitments.  This forced Obama to use a both persuasion and containment against both these potential adversaries.

And in its section on the Arab Spring, there is an unintended warning to Republicans and their Right-wing followers.

David E. Sanger 2011 05.jpg

 

David Sanger (Copyright, Creative Commons)

Sanger analyzes why the vast majority of Egyptians felt no solidarity with Hosni Mubarak, the general/dictator who ruled Egypt from 1981 ti 2911. 

Mubarak came to power after Islamic fundamentalists assassinated President Anwar Sadat during a military review. They believed that Sadat had committed the unpardonable crime of signing a peace treaty with Israel.

Mubarack often warned Washington that only he could prevent Egypt from being dominated by fundamentalist, anti-American groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood.

But, writes Sanger, he achieved the very opposite:

“By leaving his citizens without a social safety net, by failing to invest in the country’s crumbling infastructure…he paved the way for the Brotherhood’s success….

“In a land where the state delivers so little, even the smallest [medical] clinic” as provided by the Brotherhood “will win respect and loyalty.

“So when it came time to vote, most Egyptians decided to cast their ballots for candidates they knew could provide something—Islamist or not, it almost didn’t matter….”

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Hosni Mubarak (Copyright, Presidenza della Repubblica)

One such Brotherhood supporter, who grew up in the poor, agricultural region of Beni Suef, was quoted as saying:

“The Muslim Brotherhood came into my village, and brought lorries of fruits and vegetables,” selling them at discounted prices.  “They supported medical clinics”–and thus won the hearts of the people they served.

Fast forward to Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican Presidential nominee, and his vision for America.

As Romney saw it, questions about Wall Street scandals and income inequality were driven only by “envy.”

On January 11, 2012, after winning the New Hampshire primary, Romney appeared on NBC’s “The Today Show.”  Host Matt Lauer noted that many Americans were concerned “about the distribution of wealth and power in this country.”

“I think it’s about envy,” replied Romney, whose own fortune has been conservatively estimated at $250 million. “I think it’s about class warfare.

“I think when you have a president encouraging the idea of dividing America based on 99 percent versus one percent… you’ve opened up a whole new wave of approach in this country which is entirely inconsistent with the concept of ‘one nation under God.’”

Romney added that it wasn’t necessary to have a public debate about the inequality of wealth distribution in this country.

“I think it’s fine to talk about those things in quiet rooms and discussions about tax policy and the like,” Romney said. “But the President has made this part of his campaign rally.

“Everywhere he goes we hear him talking about millionaires and billionaires and executives and Wall Street. It’s a very envy-oriented, attack-oriented approach and I think it’ll fail.”

Romney did not mention that, in 2007, the richest 1% of the American populace—of which he is a member—owned 34.6% of the country’s total wealth, and the next 19% owned 50.5%.

Thus, the top 20% of Americans owned 85% of the country’s wealth and the bottom 80% of the population owned 15%.

Romney claimed that Obama’s focus on this issue was just “part of his campaign rally.”

Clearly, now-ousted rulers like Mubarak and Muammar Quaddaffi believed “it’s fine to talk about these things” like vast differences in wealth “in quiet rooms.”  That is, so long as they and their 1% rich supporters were doing the talking.

But over time their remoteness from the vast majority of their impoverished fellow citizens sealed their doom.  When enough people broke into open revolt, even the military decided to change sides.

Mubarack was forced to resign, and Quaddaffi—after waging war against his own people—was captured and murdered.

If Romney’s—and now Donald Trump’s—vision of “everything for the 1%” is allowed to prevail, they and their ultra-privileged supporters may truly learn the lessons of class warfare.  

TREASON BY NUMBERS

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on April 25, 2018 at 12:08 am

Once you have decided on a treason,
Sign on with a man named Donald Trump.
And when you find your hatred is a reason,
Then on your country you can take a dump.

There really isn’t any need for worry,
Just do it and then go ahead and lie.
Like giving Russians secrets in the White House,
And that avoids those pests named “F.B.I.”

House and Senate Republicans have almost universally refused to to speak out against threats by President Donald Trump to fire deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and/or Special Counsel Robert Mueller. 

Or, more importantly, to take action to prevent or punish him for doing so.

On April 17, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would not allow legislation to protect Robert Mueller’s independent investigation into Russian subversion of the 2016 Presidential election to reach the Senate floor.

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Mitch McConnell

“I’m the one who decides what we take to the floor. That’s my responsibility as majority leader. We’ll not be having this on the floor of the Senate,” the Kentucky Republican said in an interview on Fox News.

Earlier in the day, another Republican, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, claimed that legislation to protect Mueller was “unnecessary.”

“It would not be in the President’s interest to [fire Mueller] and I think he knows that,” said the Wisconsin Congressman.

Why have so few Republicans dared to stand against Trump 

Because many House and Senate Republicans received millions of dollars in “campaign contributions” from Russian oligarchs who are answerable to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.

In short: Bribe monies.

And, thanks to the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, the donations are entirely legal.

‘Cause it’s treason by numbers, 1, 2, 3,
It’s as easy to do as your G.O.P.
It’s treason by numbers, 1, 2, 3,
It’s as easy to do as your G.O.P.

Now if you have a taste for selling secrets
And you find it’s really thrilling as can be,
Then pick up that phone and call the Kremlin
And soon you’ll have a bud named Vladimir P.

The following data comes from the Federal Elections Commission.

One major Russian contributor is Len Blavatnik. During the 2015-16 election cycle, he proved one of the largest donors to GOP Political Action Committees (PACs).

Blavatnik’s net worth is estimated at $20 billion. In 2016, he gave $6.35 million to GOP PACs.

In 2017, he gave millions of dollars to top Republican leaders—such as Senators Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio (Florida) and Lindsey Graham (South Carolina)Specifically, Blavatnik contributed:

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

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The Kremlin

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

A third oligarch, Andrew Intrater, contributed $250,000 to Trump’s Inaugural Committee.

And a fourth, Simon Kukes, contributed a total of $283,000, much of it to the Trump Victory Fund.

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

Yes, treason isn’t something that comes easy.
It’s an act that makes most people want to gag.
But you can earn those rubles that you long for
And the Right will back you up and wave the flag.

‘Cause it’s treason by numbers, 1, 2, 3,
It’s as easy to do as your G.O.P.
Treason by numbers, 1, 2, 3,
It’s as easy to do as your G.O.P.

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

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

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

On March 30, 2017, McConnell’s PAC accepted another $1 million from Blavatnik. This was just 10 days after former FBI Director James Comey testified before the House Intelligence Committee about Russia’s efforts to subvert the 2016 election.

Billionaires don’t give huge sums to politicians without expecting to get something in return. And this is especially true—and frightening—when the contributors are linked to a former KGB agent like Vladimir Putin, whose aggressive intentions are increasingly on display.

Now you can join the list of Right-wing traitors
In history’s dark and evil hall of shame.
Their ranks are filled with greedy, racist haters.
At least the ones that we all know by name.

But if you can con you way into the White House
If you become the leader of the land,
Then treason is the sport of the elected,
And Republicans will give you a big hand.

‘Cause it’s treason by numbers
1, 2, 3,
It’s as easy to do as your G.O.P.
Treason by numbers
1, 2, 3,
It’s as easy to do
As your God-damned G.O.P.

“MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE” COMES HOME

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 24, 2018 at 12:15 am

According to the CIA, FBI and National Security Agency (which cracks codes and listens to the telephone conversation of foreign leaders) it’s clear that Russian trolls and Intelligence agents played a major role in subverting the 2016 Presidential election.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller III, assigned in May, 2017, to investigate charges of Russian interference, believes there was collusion. He has secured criminal charges against 19 people, including five guilty pleas. And more are undoubtedly coming.

And 65% of Americans believe that Mueller should be allowed to continue his investigation.

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Robert Mueller
Apparently, most Americans don’t like having their elections subverted by enemy nations.

Subverting the governments of other countries is a right that Americans have long reserved for themselves. Among those regimes that have been toppled:

  • Between 1898 and 1934, the United States repeatedly intervened with military force in Central America and the Caribbean.
  • Americans staged invasions of Honduras in 1903, 1907, 1911, 1912, 1919, 1924 and 1925 to defend U.S. interests. These were defined as Standard Oil and the United Fruit Company.
  • The United States occupied Nicaragua almost continuously from 1912 to 1933. Its legacy was the imposition of the tyrannical Somoza family, which ruled from 1936 to 1979.
  • The United States occupied Haiti from 1915 to 1934. American banks had lent money to Haiti and requested American government intervention.
  • In 1918, 13,000 American soldiers joined armies from Europe and Japan to overthrow the new Soviet government and restore the previous Tsarist regime. By 1920, the invading forces proved unsuccessful and withdrew.

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Allied troops parading in Vladivostok, 1918  

  • From 1946 to 1949, the United States provided military, logistical and other aid to the Right-wing Chinese Nationalist Party of Chiang Kai-shek. Its opponent were Communist forces led by Mao Tse-Tung, who ultimately proved victorious.
  • In 1953, the Eisenhower administration ordered the CIA to overthrew the democratically-elected government of of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh. His crime: Nationalizing the Iranian oil industry, which had been under British control since 1913. He was succeeded by Mohammad-Reza Shah Phlavi. Whereas Mossadeddgh had ruled as a constitutional monarch, Phlavi was a dictator who depended on United States government support to retain power until he was overthrown in 1979 by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
  • In 1954, the CIA overthrew the democratically-elected government of Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz. His crime: Installing a series of reforms that expanded the right to vote, allowed workers to organize, legitimized political parties and allowed public debate. Most infuriating to American Right-wingers: His agrarian reform law, which expropriated parts of large land-holdings and redistributed them to agricultural laborers. The United Fruit Company lobbied the United States government to overthrow him—and the CIA went into action. Arbenz was replaced by the first of a series of brutal Right-wing dictators.
  • From 1959 until 1963, the United States government was obsessed with overthrowing the revolutionary Cuban government of Fidel Castro. Although not democratically elected, Castro was wildly popular in Cuba for overthrowing the dictatorial Fulgencio Batista. On April 17, 1961, over 1,400 CIA-trained Cuban exiles invaded Cuba at the Bay of Pigs. Cuban military forces crushed the invasion in three days.
  • Infuriated with the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion, President John F. Kennedy authorized “Operation Mongoose” to remove Castro through sabotage and assassination. The CIA, wanting to please Kennedy, teamed up with the Mafia, which wanted to resurrect its casinos on the island. Among the tactics used: Hiring Cuban gangsters to murder police officials and Soviet technicians; sabotaging mines; using biological and chemical warfare against the Cuban sugar industry. None of these proved successful in assassinating Castro nor overturning his regime.

Ernesto “Che” Guevera and Fidel Castro

  • In 1970, President Richard M. Nixon ordered the CIA to prevent Marxist Salvador Allende from being democratically elected as president of Chile. When that failed, he ordered the CIA to overthrow Allende. Allende’s crime: A series of liberal reforms, including nationalizing large-scale industries (notably copper mining and banking. In 1973, he was overthrown by Chilean army units and national police. He was followed by Right-wing dictator Augusto Pinochet, who slaughtered 3,200 political dissidents, imprisoned 30,000 and forced another 200,000 Chileans into exile.

And how did Americans react to all these attempts—successful and unsuccessful—at regime change?

Through indifference or outright support.

The popular 1960s TV series, “Mission: Impossible,” regularly depicted a CIA-type agency supporting regimes “we” liked or toppling those “we” didn’t.

Americans generally assume their Presidents and Congress know best who is a “friend” and who is an “enemy.”  America’s friends often turn out, for the most part, to be Right-wing dictators like Chiang Kai-Shek, Fulgencio Batista, Augusto Pinochet and Mohammad-Reza Shah Phlavi.

And its enemies often turn out to be liberal reformers like Augusto Sandino, Mohammad Mosaddegh and Salvador Allende. 

Americans tend to favor intervention for the flimsiest of reasons. In 2003, President George W. Bush claimed Iraq’s dictator, Saddam Hussein, had plotted 9/11 with Osama bin Laden. There was absolutely no proof to substantiate this, yet Americans overwhelmingly supported Bush’s unprovoked invasion of Iraq. 

But now the shoe is on the other foot. Except for President Donald Trump and his fanatical supporters, Americans are furious that a foreign power has dared to install “regime change” on them.

Americans are now tasting the medicine they have dished out to so many other countries. And they find it as repugnant as those countries have found the American brand.

ANN COULTER: HE’S NOT MY FUHRER

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on April 23, 2018 at 12:17 am

On November 6, 2012, Ann Coulter, the Right-wing activist and propagandist, was devastated by the re-election of President Barack Obama. 

“People are suffering. The country is in disarray,” she whined during an interview. “If Mitt Romney [the Republican Presidential nominee] cannot win in this economy, then the tipping point has been reached. We have more takers than makers and it’s over. There is no hope.”

Mitt Romney

So, naturally, Coulter and her fellow Rightists felt dejected.   

But by 2016, Coulter no longer felt dismayed. She felt rejuvenated—for she had found her perfect Presidential candidate: Donald Trump.

Appearing on the Right-wing radio program, “The Eric Metaxes Show,” she said: “It is like the fall of Rome but, thank God, and I am not using the Lord’s name in vain, I mean that absolutely literally, thank God for raising up Donald Trump and giving us a chance to save the country.

Donald Trump

“What is the point of talking about abortion or anything else unless you get Donald Trump in to build the wall, deport illegals, end this ‘anchor baby’ nonsense, stop importing 100,000 Muslims a year, in addition to two million Third Worlders per year. It’s madness what this country has been doing.” 

Coulter not only spoke on Trump’s behalf–she sang his praises in a 2016 book: In Trump We Trust: E Pluribus Awesome!

Ann Coulter

According to its dust jacket: “[Ann Coulter] argues that a bull in the china shop is exactly what we need to make America great again.

“In this powerful book, Coulter explains why conservatives, moderates, and even disgruntled Democrats should set aside their doubts and embrace Trump:

“He’s putting America first in our trade deals and alliances, rather than pandering to our allies and enemies.

“He’s abandoned the GOP’s decades-long commitment to a bellicose foreign policy, at a time when the entire country is sick of unnecessary wars.” 

To Coulter’s delight, Trump defeated Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton on November 9, 2016.

Although Clinton got almost 2.9 million more popular votes, he swamped her in the Electoral College–304 votes to Clinton’s 227. 

Suddenly, for Trump, the Electoral College wasn’t “phoney.”  

But by May, 2017, four months after Trump had taken office as President, Ann Coulter was ready to abandon him. Her chief complaint: He hadn’t built the wall along the United States-Mexican border he had promised to erect.

“We want the ruthless businessman we were promised,” she told the Right-wing website, The Daily Caller.

I guess we have to try to push him to keep his promises. But this isn’t North Korea, and if he doesn’t keep his promises I’m out.

“This is why we voted for him. I think everyone who voted for him knew his personality was grotesque, it was the issues.” 

And, on March 28, 2018, she had more choice words for him: “I knew he was a shallow, lazy ignoramus, and I didn’t care.  “

I’d been waiting 30 years for someone to say all these things,” she added, referring to his promise to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. 

On April, 1, she—by her own account—had a shouting match with Trump in the Oval Office. 

On the Right-wing “Howie Carr Show,” she claimed to have told him: “You’re not doing what you promised to do. Where’s the end of NAFTA? Where’s the wall? Where are the deportations? What are you doing talking about the DREAMers?”  

Coulter (doing a Trump impersonation) claimed that Trump said: “I appointed Gorsuch.”

“And I said that doesn’t count. Jeb, exclamation point, would have done that. Rubio would have done that. How is your presidency different than from Rubio would have done?”

“He’s failing right now,” Coulter told Carr. “The presidency isn’t over yet, he can still come back and do it. But people who voted for him shouldn’t be cheering for him every time he betrays them and this is a total betrayal for him to sign that [government appropriations] bill. It’s a total betrayal for him not to build the wall. And to pretend like it isn’t—yeah he can come back.

“And as I told The New York Times, if he does I’ll start a committee to put him on Mount Rushmore, if he builds that wall. But, right now, if you want to make a bet I don’t think we’re getting the wall.” 

But for all her fury at Trump, she’s still peddling her 2016 book, In Trump We Trust, on her website—www.anncoulter.com.

And on April 18, she attacked former FBI Director James Comey, who has strongly criticized Trump during his nationwide tour to promote his newly-released memoir, A Higher Loyalty. 

Comey had been fired by Trump on May 9, 2017, for—by Trump’s admission—pursuing “the Russia thing”—a probe into Russian subversion of the 2016 Presidential election. 

According to Coulter: “We all owe a debt of gratitude to Comey for showing the American people why he was so badly in need of firing.”

In short: She backed a monster to wreak destruction on those she hated. And now she’s upset with him because he hasn’t acted monstrously enough.

BRAGGING WORDS AND DEFEAT’S REALITY

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 20, 2018 at 12:07 am

By February, 1943, the tide of war had turned irrevocably for Nazi Germany.

The string of quick and easy victories that had started on September 1, 1939 was over:

  • Poland
  • Norway
  • Denmark
  • Holland
  • Belgium
  • Luxembourg
  • Greece
  • France.

All had fallen under the heel of the Nazi jackboot. The swastika flag still flew triumphantly over the capitols of these once-free nations. 

And the word—and whim—of Germany’s Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler remained law for their populations.

But by March, 1943, all except the most fanatical Nazis could see that Germany was on a collision course with disaster.

  • Under the unshakable leadership of Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Great Britain still remained a sworn enemy of the Third Reich.
  • After six months of spectacular victories against the Soviet Union, the Wehrmacht  had become hopelessly bogged down in the snow before Moscow.
  • On December 11, 1941, following the attack on Pearl Harbor by his ally, Japan, Hitler declared war on the United States—thus pitting the Reich against the world’s two most powerful nations: America and Russia.
  • In November, 1942, at El Alamein, the British Army halted the advance of General Erwin Rommel and his famed Afrika Korps across North Africa.
  • On February 2, 1943, General Friedrich von Paulus surrendered the remains of the once-powerful Sixth Army at Stalingrad. The Reich suffered 730,000 total casualties, including nearly 91,000 German prisoners taken prisoner. 
  • On June 6, 1944, American, British and Canadian armies overwhelmed German’s “impregnable wall of death” on the Normandy beaches. 
  • In February, 1945, following the Vistula-Oder Offensive, the Red Army temporarily halted 37 miles east of Berlin. 

So, by March, 1943, Germany desperately needed to hear some good news.  And Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels was eager to supply it. 

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Joseph Goebbels

He did so in one of his last public addresses, delivered to a large but carefully selected audience in Gorlitz. 

For Goebbels, the greatest challenge to the Reich lay in “the Bolshevist danger in the East.”  And, for him, the solution was clear: “Total war is the demand of the hour.” 

“Our soldiers, as soon as the great push on the Eastern Front gets under way, will ask no mercy and give no mercy.

“Already, our forces have begun softening up operations, and in the next weeks and months the big offensive will begin. They will go into battle with devotion like congregations going to a religious service.

“And when our men shoulder their weapons and climb into their tanks, there will be before their eyes the sight of their violated women and murdered children. A cry of vengeance will rise from their throats that will make the enemy tremble with fear!

“So, as the Fuhrer has overcome crises in the past, so will he triumph now.

“The other day he told me ‘I firmly believe that we shall overcome this crisis. I firmly believe that our army of millions will beat back our enemy and annihilate him. And some day our banners will be victorious. This is my life’s unshakable belief.’” 

Thunderous applause repeatedly interrupted Goebbels’ address. Yet this could not replace the enormous losses Germany had suffered since 1939. Nor could it reverse the march of the Allied armies as they closed in on the Reich from East and West. 

Now, fast-forward 74 years to November 23, 2017—Thanksgiving Day.   

Donald Trump, President of the United States, speaks by video teleconference to American forces stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

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Donald Trump

President George W. Bus had flown into Baghdad in 2003 to spend Thanksgiving with American forces. He flew into Iraq once again to visit troops in June, 2006. 

And President Barack Obama visited American soldiers in Iraq in 2009, in Afghanistan in 2010, 2012 and 2014. 

Trump’s “visit” was unique—in that he addressed American troops from his Mar-a-Lago Club and Resort in Palm Beach, Florida. 

The address started off predictably enough: “It’s an honor to speak with you all and to give God thanks for the blessings of freedom and for the heroes who really have this tremendous courage that you do to defend us and to defend freedom.” 

But, being Trump, he could not resist paying homage to himself: “We’re being talked about again as an armed forces. We’re really winning. We know how to win, but we have to let you win. They weren’t letting you win before; they we’re letting you play even. We’re letting you win….

“They say we’ve made more progress against ISIS than they did in years of the previous administration, and that’s because I’m letting you do your job….”

In short: All those sacrifices you made under Presidents Bush and Obama went for nothing.  

“A lot of things have happened with our country over the last very short period of time, and they’re really good—they’re really good. I especially like saying that companies are starting to come back.

“Now we’re working on tax cuts—big, fat, beautiful tax cuts. And hopefully we’ll get that and then you’re going to really see things happen.” 

Or, put another way: Be grateful they elected me—because you’re about to see the 1% richest get even richer.  Too bad you won’t be so lucky.

RUBLES FOR REPUBLICANS

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on April 19, 2018 at 1:36 am

On April 16, the New York Times published an editorial taking direct aim at the vast majority of Congressional Republicans.

Specifically, it noted their unwillingness to speak out against threats by President Donald Trump to fire deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and/or Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

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Robert Mueller

Its key paragraph:

“Make no mistake: If Mr. Trump takes such drastic action, he will be striking at the foundation of the American government, attempting to set a precedent that a president, alone among American citizens, is above the law. What can seem now like a political sideshow will instantly become a constitutional crisis, and history will come calling for Mr. [Orrin] Hatch and his colleagues.”

Orrin Hatch is the Republican United States Senator from Utah. He and Republican Senators Lindsey Graham (South Carolina) and Chuck Grassley (Iowa) have warned Trump not to fire  Rosenstein or Mueller.  But most Republicans have held silent.

Why?

The Times editorial offers two reasons:

First, Republicans fear enraging an easily infuriated Trump—who might aim his Twitter account at them and cost them votes in the upcoming fall elections.

Second, Republicans fear enraging Trump’s fanatical base—which, in this instance, has two meanings:

  1. “something (as a group of people) that reliably provides support (such as for a business or political candidate)”—Merriam Webster; and
  2. “Without moral principles; ignoble”—Oxford Living Dictionaries

Republicans content themselves with this rationalization:

  1. It hasn’t happened yet;
  2. It might not happen; and
  3. If it does happen, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

And how have Republicans reacted to the Times editorial?

On April 17, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would not allow legislation to protect Mueller’s independent investigation to reach the Senate floor.

Mitch McConnell portrait 2016.jpg

Mitch McConnell

“I’m the one who decides what we take to the floor. That’s my responsibility as majority leader. We’ll not be having this on the floor of the Senate,” the Kentucky Republican said in an interview on Fox News.  

Earlier in the day, another Republican, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, claimed that legislation to protect Mueller was “unnecessary.” 

“It would not be in the President’s interest to [fire Mueller] and I think he knows that,” said the Wisconsin Congressman.

But there is an additional reason why so few Republicans have dared to stand up against Trump. 

Trump received help from Russian Intelligence agents during the 2016 Presidential campaign. And House and Senate Republicans have received Russian help of another kind: Bribe monies.

Of course, these are not officially classified as bribes. Officially, they are “campaign contributions.” 

In recent years, a network of Russian oligarchs—all of them answerable to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin—has been increasingly contributing to top Republicans. 

And, thanks to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010, the donations are entirely legal

The following data comes from the Federal Election Commission.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On March 30, 2017, McConnell’s PAC accepted another $1 million from Blavatnik. This was just 10 days after former FBI Director James Comey testified before the House Intelligence Committee about Russia’s efforts to subvert the 2016 election

Millionaires and billionaires don’t give six- or seven-figure monetary contributions to politicians without expecting to get something in return. And this is especially true—and frightening—when the contributors are linked to a former KGB agent like Vladimir Putin, whose aggressive intentions are increasingly on display. 

It’s clear that the Republican party has moved from “Better dead than Red” to “My Wallet, First and Always.”

DID COMEY LOSE CLINTON THE WHITE HOUSE? PARTTWO (END)

In History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on April 18, 2018 at 12:02 am

May 9 will mark one year since James Comey was fired as FBI director by President Donald Trump.

On April 17, Comey’s memoirs, A Higher Loyalty, appeared in bookstores. The book has generated massive publicity for Comey. And it has also re-ignited the controversial charge that he cost Hillary Clinton the White House during the closing days of the 2016 election. 

But is this true?

Actually, there were at least nine reasons for Clinton’s defeat.  Part One of this series explored the first five. This part will explore the remaining four.

#6 The coalition that twice elected Barack Obama deserted Hillary Clinton.

Clinton did worse-than-expected among all the groups she was counting on to support her: Blacks, women, youth and Hispanics.

  • In 2012, Obama got 93% of the black vote; in 2016, Clinton got 88%.
  • In 2012, Obama got 55% of the women’s vote; in 2016, Clinton won 54%.
  • In 2012, Obama got 60% of the vote of those under 30; in 2016, Clinton got 54%.
  • In 2012, Obama got 71% of the Hispanic vote; in 2016, Clinton got 65%.

Clinton proved less popular even among whites than Obama: In 2012, Obama won 39% of their votes; in 2016, Clinton won 37%.

#7 Trump, adopting the role of a populist, appealed to blue-collar voters. Clinton offered a “love-your-CEO” economic plan—and suffered for it.

Trump visited “Rustbelt” states like Michigan and Pennsylvania and vowed to “bring back” jobs that had been lost to China, such as those in coal mining and manufacturing. Clinton didn’t deign to show up, assuming she had those states “locked up.”

Most economists agree that, in a globalized economy, such jobs are not coming back, no matter who becomes President.

Even so, voters backed the man who came to promise them a better future, and shunned the woman who didn’t come to promise them any future at all.

In May, 2016, Democratic pollster CeLinda Lake had warned Clinton to revamp her economic platform. Clinton ignored the advice.

“Democrats simply have to come up with a more robust economic frame and message,” Lake said after the election. “We’re never going to win those white, blue-collar voters if we’re not better on the economy. And 27 policy papers and a list of positions is not a frame. We can laugh about it all we want, but Trump had one.”

#8 Hillary Clinton gave only one memorable speech during the campaign.

This was the “basket of deplorables” speech, delivered at a New York fundraiser on September 9. It was the only Clinton speech to be widely quoted by Democrats and Republicans.

She divided Donald Trump’s supporters into two groups. The first group were the “deplorables,” for whom she showed open contempt:

“You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic—you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up.

“He has given voice to their websites that used to only have 11,000 people—now 11 million. He tweets and retweets their offensive hateful mean-spirited rhetoric. Now, some of those folks—they are irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America.”  

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Hillary Clinton (Gage Skidmore photo)

But the second group, she said, consisted of poor, alienated Americans who rightly felt abandoned by their employers and their government:

“But….that other basket of people are people who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they’re just desperate for change. It doesn’t really even matter where it comes from.

“They don’t buy everything [Trump] says, but he seems to hold out some hope that their lives will be different. They won’t wake up and see their jobs disappear, lose a kid to heroin, feel like they’re in a dead-end. Those are people we have to understand and empathize with as well.” 

#9 After giving this speech, Clinton threw away the good it might well have done her. 

First, the day after making the speech, she apologized for it: “Last night I was ‘grossly generalistic,’ and that’s never a good idea. I regret saying ‘half–that was wrong.” 

Many of Trump’s followers were racists, sexists and xenophobes—who deserved condemnation, not apologies. By apologizing, she looked weak, indecisive, even cowardly.  

Second, having eloquently reached out to many of the men and women who were a prime constituency for Trump, she failed to offer an economic package to quickly and effectively address their vital needs for jobs and medical care.

The reason: She had failed to put one together long ago.

And all she had to offer now was boilerplate rhetoric, such as: “Education is the answer.”

Worst of all, Trump turned her speech against her, tweeting: “Wow, Hillary Clinton was SO INSULTING to my supporters, millions of amazing, hard working people. I think it will cost her at the Polls!”

It did.

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Blaming people like James Comey for her defeat only proves that Hillary Clinton has learned nothing from her failed campaigns of 2008 and 2016.

As long as Democrats and their supporters blame everyone else—and refuse to correct their own weaknesses—they will continue to remain a minority political party.

DID COMEY LOSE CLINTON THE WHITE HOUSE? PART ONE (OF TWO)

In History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on April 17, 2018 at 12:10 am

“If the election had been on October 27, I would be your president,” Hillary Clinton told CNN in May, 2017.

“I was on the way to winning until a combination of Jim Comey’s letter on October 28 and Russian WikiLeaks raised doubts in the minds of people who were inclined to vote for me and got scared off.”

On October 28, 2016, then-FBI director James Comey announced that the bureau was reopening its investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server while Secretary of State.

Comey wrote in a letter to Congress that the FBI has learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation “in connection with an unrelated case.”

James Comey official portrait.jpg

James B. Comey

In national exit polls, Clinton’s use of a private email server troubled 63% of voters. Even so, 24% of those voted for her.

Up until then, Clinton had seemed on her way to winning the election. Even Comey believed she would become the first female President of the United States.

And Clinton did win the popular vote: 65,844,954 (48.2%) to Trump’s 62,979,879 (46.1%), beating him by almost 2.9 million votes.

But Trump emerged the victor in the Electoral College, which actually determines the Presidential winner—with 304 votes compared to Clinton’s 227.

Since November 8, 2016, Clinton and her infuriated allies have blamed Comey more than anyone for her loss. And Comey himself has said that the thought of him swinging the election made him “mildly nauseous.”

If Comey’s action played a role in Clinton’s loss, it was just one of several factors that sent Trump to the White House.

Among these:

#1 Hillary Clinton was an uninspiring candidate. When Barack Obama ran for President in 2008, NBC Anchor Tom Brokaw compared his rallies to Hannah Montana concerts. Audiences were excited by his charisma, eloquence, relative youth (47) and optimism (“Yes We Can!”).

Clinton radiated none of these qualities. She was 67 when she declared her candidacy for President—and looked it. Her speaking voice grated like the proverbial fingernail on a blackboard.

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Hillary Clinton

She seemed to have been around forever—as First Lady (1993-2001), as Senator from New York (2001-2009) and as Secretary of State (2009-2013). Those born after 2000 thought of the Clinton Presidency as ancient history. She was offering a resume—and voters wanted an inspiration.

#2 Clinton brought a lot of baggage with her. In contrast to Obama, whose Presidency had been scandal-free, Clinton—rightly or wrongly—has always been dogged by charges of corruption.

During the Clinton Presidency, a failed land deal—Whitewater—while Bill Clinton was Governor of Arkansas triggered a seven-year investigation by a Republican special prosecutor. No criminality was uncovered, and no charge was brought against either 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 were with donors to the Clinton Foundation. If a “pay-to play” system wasn’t at work, one certainly seemed to be.

She cast further suspicion on herself by her unauthorized use of a private email server. This wasn’t revealed until March, 2015–after she was no longer Secretary of State.

She claimed she had used it to avoid carrying two cell-phones. But, as Secretary of State, she traveled with a huge entourage who carried everything she needed. Her critics believed she used a private email system to hide a “pay-for-pay” relationship with Clinton Foundation donors.

#3 As a candidate for President, she “secretly” worked with Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, to ensure that she would get the nomination.

As DNC chair, Wasserman-Schultz was expected to be impartial toward all Democratic candidates seeking the prize. This included Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s chief competitor.

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Bernie Sanders

So Sanders and his supporters were outraged when, on July 22, WikiLeaks released 19,252 emails and 8,034 attachments hacked from computers of the highest-ranking officials of the DNC.

The emails revealed a clear bias for Clinton and against Sanders. In one email, Brad Marshall, the chief financial officer of the DNC, suggested that Sanders, who is Jewish, could be portrayed as an atheist.

#4 The Obamas’ support proved a plus/minus for Clinton. Understandably, President Obama wanted to see his legacies continued—and she was the only candidate who could do it.

So he—and his wife, Michelle—stormed the country, giving eloquent, passionate speeches and firing up crowds on Clinton’s behalf.

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President Barack Obama

So long as either Obama stood before a crowd, the magic lasted. But once the event was over, the excitement vanished. Hillary simply didn’t arouse enough passion to keep it going.

Obama’s supporters found Clinton wanting—in attractiveness, grace, eloquence, trustworthiness and the ability to inspire.

#5 Democrats and liberals fell prey to hubris. They dismissed Donald Trump as a bad joke: Surely voters would reject a bombastic, thrice-married “reality show” host who had filed for corporate bankruptcy four times.

Many liberals believed Clinton would bury him at the polls: Blacks, women, youth and Hispanics will turn out huge for her. Democrats will retake the Senate, and maybe even retake the House.

They didn’t.

A REPUBLICAN–AND RED–PRESIDENT?

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on April 16, 2018 at 4:36 pm

From the end of World War II to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, it would have been unthinkable for a Republican Presidential candidate to find common cause with a Soviet dictator.

But that utterly changed when Donald Trump won, first, the Republican Presidential nomination and, then, the White House. Trump lavishly praised Russian President Vladimir Putin—and even called on him to directly interfere in the 2016 Presidential race.

On July 22, 2016, Wikileaks released 19,252 emails and 8,034 attachments hacked from computers of the highest-ranking officials of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Early reports traced the leak to Russian hackers. 

“Russia, if you are listening,” Trump said at a press conference in Doral, Florida, “I hope you are able to find the 33,000 emails that are missing—I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

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Donald Trump

This was nothing less than treason—calling upon a foreign power, hostile to the United States, to interfere in its Presidential election.

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

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Trump, however—as both Presidential candidate and President—has steadfastly denied any such role by Russia.  An example of this occurred during his exchange with Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton during the third and final Presidential debate on October 19, 2016:  

CLINTON: So I actually think the most important question of this evening, Chris, is, finally, will Donald Trump admit and condemn that the Russians are doing this and make it clear that he will not have the help of Putin in in this election, that he rejects Russian espionage against Americans, which he actually encouraged in the past?

Those are the questions we need answered. We’ve never had anything like this happen in any of our elections before. 

CHRIS WALLACE: Well?

TRUMP: [After insisting that Clinton wanted “open borders” and “people are going to pour into this country,” Trump finally deigned to address Wallace’s question.]  Now we can talk about Putin. I don’t know Putin. He said nice things about me. 

CLINTON: … that the Russians have engaged in cyber attacks against the United States of America, that you encouraged espionage against our people, that you are willing to spout the Putin line, sign up for his wish list, break up NATO, do whatever he wants to do, and that you continue to get help from him, because he has a very clear favorite in this race.

So I think that this is such an unprecedented situation. We’ve never had a foreign government trying to interfere in our election.

We have 17–17 intelligence agencies, civilian and military, who have all concluded that these espionage attacks, these cyber attacks, come from the highest levels of the Kremlin and they are designed to influence our election. I find that deeply disturbing.  And I think it’s time you take a stand…

TRUMP: She has no idea whether it’s Russia, China, or anybody else….

CLINTON: …17 intelligence—do you doubt 17 military and civilian…

TRUMP:  And our country has no idea.

Trump has repeatedly claimed that there has been “no collusion” between himself and anyone from Russia. 

But he has tried hard to shut down any investigation of ties between members of his 2016 Presidential campaign and Russian Intelligence agents.

He has attacked reputable news organizations—such as CNN, the Washington Post and the New York Times—as “fake news” for reporting on the expanding network of proven ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.

On February 15, 2017, Trump privately asked FBI Director James Comey to drop the FBI’s investigation into fired National Security Adviser Mike Flynn, for his secret ties to Russia and Turkey. Comey resisted that demand. 

On May 9, 2017, Trump suddenly fired Comey, claiming his motive for doing so was that Comey had mistreated Hillary Clinton during the 2016 Presidential race. 

But on May 10, he unintentionally gave away the real reason. It happened during a meeting in the Oval Office with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.  

Kislyak was reportedly a top recruiter for Russia’s SVR foreign intelligence agency. He had been closely linked with Jeff Sessions, now Attorney General, and fired National Security Adviser Flynn.  

“I just fired the head of the F.B.I.,” Trump told the two dignitaries. “He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

Comey’s firing resulted in demands for a Special Counsel to investigate Russian efforts to subvert the 2016 election. On May 17, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed former FBI Director Robert Meuller III to do so. 

Since then, Trump has repeatedly threatened to fire Mueller to shut down the investigation. 

On April 15, during an interview on ABC’s “20/20” to promote his upcoming book, A Higher Loyalty, Comey was asked: Do you think the Russians have compromising material on Trump? 

And he answered: “I think it’s possible. I don’t know. These are more words I never thought I’d utter about a president of the United States, but it’s possible.”

DUMBOCRATS AND THEIR COMPUTERS

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on April 13, 2018 at 12:06 am

On July 22, 2016, Wikileaks released 19,252 emails and 8,034 attachments hacked from computers of the highest-ranking officials of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

The emails were exchanged from January 2015 through May 2016.

These clearly reveal a bias for Hillary Clinton and against her lone challenger, Vermont United States Senator Bernie Sanders.

One email revealed that Brad Marshall, the chief financial officer of the DNC, suggested that Sanders, who is Jewish, could be portrayed as an atheist. 

Sanders’ supporters had long charged that the DNC and its chair, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, were plotting to undercut his campaign. Now thousands of them were outraged to discover that their fears had been confirmed.  

The leak came at a disastrous time for Hillary Clinton, the former First Lady, United States Senator from New York and Secretary of State under President Barack Obama.

About to receive the Democratic nomination for President, she found herself charged with undermining the electoral process. 

Wasserman-Schultz proved the first casualty of the leak, resigning from her position as chair of the DNC and saying she would not open the Democratic convention as previously scheduled.

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Debbie Wasserman-Schultz

As for Clinton: Her campaign manager, Bobby Mook, blamed the Russians for the leak. Their alleged motive: To help Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Cyber-security experts believed the hackers originated from Russia—-and that Russian President Vladimir Putin may have authorized it.

His alleged motive: Trump had repeatedly attacked United States’ membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Trump believed the United States was paying an unfairly large portion of the monies needed to maintain this alliance—and he wanted other members to contribute far more. He made it clear that if they didn’t—and if he was elected President—they would be on their own if attacked by Russia.

Trump took to twitter to offer his take on the release: “How much BAD JUDGEMENT was on display by the people in DNC in writing those really dumb e-mails, using even religion, against Bernie!”  

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Bernie Sanders

Which brings up the obvious question: Why was such sensitive information entrusted to computers that could be hacked? 

This is not the first time a major corporation or government agency has fallen prey to hackers.

Name-brand companies, trusted by millions, have been hit with massive data breaches that compromised their customers’ and/or employees’ most sensitive financial and personal information.

Among those companies and agencies:

  • Target
  • Kmart
  • Home Depot
  • JPMorgan/Chase
  • Staples
  • Dairy Queen
  • Anthem, Inc.
  • Sony Pictures
  • The U.S. State Department
  • The Pentagon
  • The Office of Personnel Management

Perhaps the most notorious target hacked was Ashley Madison, the website for cheating wives and husbands. Launched in 2001, its catchy slogan was: “Life is short. Have an affair.”  

On July 15, 2015, its more than 37 million members learned that highly embarrassing secrets they had entrusted to Ashley Madison had been compromised.

This included their sexual fantasies, matching credit card transactions, real names and addresses, and employee documents and emails.

A website offering cheating services to those wealthy enough to afford high-priced fees is an obvious target for hackers. After all, its database is a blackmailer’s dream-come-true.  

And the same is true for computers of one of the two major political parties of the United States. 

Among the secrets unearthed in the WikiLeaks document-dump: Plans by Democratic party officials to reward large donors and prominent fundraisers with lucrative appointments to federal boards and commissions.

Most of the donors listed gave to Clinton’s campaign. None gave to Sanders.

According to Ken Boehm, chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center, a government watchdog group: 

“The disclosed DNC emails sure look like the potential Clinton Administration has intertwined the appointments to federal government boards and commissions with the political and fund raising operations of the Democratic Party. That is unethical, if not illegal.”  

Centuries before the invention of computers–and the machinery needed to hack into them–Niccolo Machiavelli offered cautionary advice to those thinking of entering into a conspiracy.  He did so in his masterwork on politics, The Discourses.  

Niccolo Machiavelli

Unlike his better-known work, The Prince, which deals with how to secure power, The Discourses lays out rules for preserving liberty within a republic.

In Book Three, Chapter Six (“Of Conspiracies”) he writes:

“I have heard many wise men say that you may talk freely with any one man about everything, for unless you have committed yourself in writing, the ‘Yes’ of one man is worth as much as the ‘No’ of another. 

“And therefore one should guard most carefully against writing, as against a dangerous rock, for nothing will convict you quicker than your own handwriting.”

In 1804, Napoleon Bonaparte, then First Consul of France, ordered the execution of the popular Louis Antoine de Bourbon, Duke of Enghien, claiming that he had aided Britain and plotted against France.

The aristocracy of Europe, still recalling the slaughters of the French Revolution, was shocked. 

Asked for his opinion on the execution, Napoleon’s chief of police, Joseph Fouche, said: “It was worse than a crime; it was a blunder.”  

This may prove to be history’s verdict on the storing of so many incriminating computer files by the DNC.

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