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Posts Tagged ‘UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES’

AN OPEN LETTER TO ATTORNEY GENERAL MERRICK GARLAND: PART ONE (OF TWO)

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

TO: Merrick Brian Garland – United States Attorney General

I hold the highest regard for your personal integrity. After graduating from Harvard Law School, you served as a special assistant to Attorney General Benjamin Civviletti from 1979 to 1981. 

As a federal prosecutor, you played a leading role in the investigation and prosecution of the Oklahoma City bombers.

You served as judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (1997 – 2021) and then as Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (2013 – 2020).

In 2016, President Barack Obama nominated you to serve as an associate Justice of the Supreme Court to fill the vacancy created by the death of Antonin Scalia. But Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to hold a hearing or vote on your nomination. 

Attorney General Merrick Garland.jpg

Merrick Garland

Yet, with due regard for your years of dedicated service to the rule of law, I am forced to say: You are now presiding over the closing days of the American Republic.

As the bestselling book, Peril, makes clear, there was a detailed plan by Republicans to illegally retain President Donald Trump in office. The votes of 81 million Americans who had voted for former Vice President Joseph Biden would have been scrapped in what was intended to be a Right-wing coup.

According to authors Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, attorney John Eastman first proposed the plan to Vice President Mike Pence on January 4 in the Oval Office with Trump in attendance. The memo called for throwing out the election results in seven states under the false claim that those states had used alternate electors.

Eastman’s memo was sent to Senator Mile Lee (R-Utah) and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who served as one of Trump’s attorneys at the time. They tried to convince Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) that there was rampant fraud in the 2020 election.

Both Graham and Lee reportedly argued that the fraud claims had no merit.

On January 6, the United States Senate, with Vice President Mike Pence presiding, would certify states’ Electoral College results of that election.

Since Biden had gotten 306 votes compared to 232 for Trump, the outcome was already known.

On that morning, Trump tried to convince Pence to reject the electoral votes that had been cast for Biden. This would mean flipping the results of the 2020 Presidential election to give him a win.

Pence replied that he lacked the power to overturn those results.

But as Pence went off to the Capitol Building housing the Senate and House of Representatives, Trump had one last card to play.

Mike Pence - Wikipedia

Mike Pence

For weeks Trump had ordered his legions of Right-wing Stormtrumpers to descend on Washington, D.C. by January 6. 

On December 20, he had tweeted: “Statistically impossible to have lost the 2020 Election. Big protest in DC on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!” 

In tweets, he promoted the rally again on December 27 and 30, and January 1.

On January 6, Trump appeared at the Ellipse, a 52-acre park south of the White House fence and north of Constitution Avenue and the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

A stage had been set up for him to address tens of thousands of his supporters, who eagerly awaited him.  

Trump ordered them to march on the Capitol building to express their anger at the voting process and to intimidate their elected officials to reject the results. 

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

Donald Trump addresses his Stormtrumpers 

“All of us here today do not want to see our election victory stolen by a bold and radical left Democrats which is what they are doing and stolen by the fake news media.

“Our country has had enough. We will not take it anymore, and that is what this is all about. And to use a favorite term that all of you people really came up with, we will stop the steal….

“Republicans are constantly fighting like a boxer with his hands tied behind his back….And we’re going to have to fight much harder….

“And after this, we’re going to walk down and I’ll be there with you. We’re going to walk down to the Capitol. And we’re going to cheer on our brave Senators and Congressmen and women and we’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them.

“Because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong. We have come to demand that Congress do the right thing and only count the electors who have been lawfully slated.”

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

IndieWire on Twitter: "Pro-Trump Rioters Breach US Capitol Building in Unprecedented Attack on Rule of Law https://t.co/QA27RZTEWd… "

Capitol Police facing off with Stormtrumpers

Among their outrages:

  • Members of the mob attacked police with chemical agents and lead pipes.
  • A Capitol Hill police officer was knocked off his feet, dragged into the mob surging toward the building, and beaten with the pole of an American flag. 
  • One attacker was shot as protesters forced their way toward the House Chamber where members of Congress were sheltering in place.

THE REPUBLICANS’ HORST WESSEL

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on August 11, 2021 at 12:12 am

Republicans—including those who pursue a Fascistic agenda—are quick to accuse their opponents of being “Nazis.”

Yet similarities abound between the tactics—and often the goals—between yesterday’s Nazis and today’s Republicans.

One of these is the need for martyrs by both parties. 

The Nazis found theirs in Horst Wessel.

As a teenager growing up in the Weimar Republic of Germany, he joined the Viking Liga (“Viking League”), a Right-wing paramilitary group. Its goal, wrote Wessel, was “the “establishment of a national dictatorship.”

He soon became a local leader, engaging in street battles with rival Leftist groups such as the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the Communist Party (KPD). In 1926, he joined the paramilitary Sturmabteilung (“Storm Detachment” or SA) of Adolf Hitler’s National Socialist German Workers Party (Nazi Party).

Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1978-043-14, Horst Wessel.jpg

Horst Wessel

Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1978-043-14 / Heinrich Hoffmann / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

His unit had a reputation as “a band of thugs, a brutal squad.” One of his men described the way they fought against the Communists: “Horst made Adolf Hitler’s principle his own: Terror can be destroyed only by counterterror.”

In September 1929, Wessel met Erna Jänicke, a 23-year-old ex-prostitute, in a tavern. Some sources claim Wessel acted as Jänicke’s pimp. She soon moved into his room. 

Wessel’s landlady, Elisabeth Salm, wanted Jänicke to leave. But Jänicke refused to do so.

Salm appealed to Communist friends of her late husband to evict Jänicke, They agreed to beat Wessel up and evict him from Salm’s flat. They recruited Albrecht Höhler, an armed pimp, perjurer and petty criminal, to handle the evicting.

On February 23, 1930, Höhler knocked at the front door of the room where Wessel and Jänicke lived. When Wessel opened the door, Höhler shot him at point-blank range.

He was 22 when he died.

Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels quickly turned Wessel into a Nazi martyr. Wessel had written the lyrics for a new Nazi fight song: “The Unknown SA-Man.” It later became known as “Raise the Flag” and finally the “Horst Wessel Lied.” 

Its opening stanza.

Raise the flag! The ranks tightly closed!
The SA marches with calm, steady step.
Comrades shot by the Red Front and reactionaries
March in spirit within our ranks.

“The Horst Wessel Lied” became the official anthem of the Nazi Party from 1930 to 1945.

Fast forward to January 6, 2021—when the Republican Party got its own martyr: Ashli Babbitt.

A veteran of the United States Air Force, she served two tours in Afghanistan and Iraq before later deploying with the National Guard to Kuwait and Qatar.

Originally from San Diego, California, by 2020 she had recently remarried and was working at a pool service company. 

On social media, she described herself as a libertarian and a patriot. She often expressed ardent support for President Donald Trump.

On November 3, 2020, Trump lost the Presidential election to former Vice President Joseph Biden. 

Biden won the popular vote—81,268,924 to 74,216,154 for Trump—and, more importantly, in the Electoral College: 306 to 232.

But Babbitt accepted wholesale Trump’s lie that the election had been stolen from him by massive voter fraud.

On January 6, 2021, members of the United States Senate and House of Representatives would meet in the United States Capitol Building. They would count the Electoral College votes received by Trump and Biden—and pronounce Biden the President-elect.

Babbitt was determined to “Stop the Steal” by assaulting the Capitol Building on January 6. 

Inside right-wing efforts to make Ashli Babbitt into a martyr | wusa9.com

Ashli Babbitt

On January 5, she posted on social media: “Nothing will stop us. They can try and try and try but the storm is here and it is descending upon DC in less than 24 hours.”

On January 6, she was among hundreds of Right-wing men and women who breached the Capitol. She was also the mob’s only casualty.

As lawmakers were being evacuated by Capitol Police, Babbitt tried to climb through a shattered window in a barricaded door. She was warned to back off several times by a policeman standing on the other side.

Babbitt defied the orders—and was shot in the neck/shoulder. She died of the wound—at age 35,

The shooting was later ruled justified by the Justice Department. 

Almost a century ago Nazis extolled Horst Wessel as a virtuous martyr. Today, members of Right-wing groups—and even Congressional Republicans—portray Ashli Babbitt as a fallen Joan of Arc.

During a hearing with former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen in April, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ.) claimed Babbitt was “executed.” 

Fox News host Tucker Carlson has made the same charge.

And, not to be outdone, so has Donald Trump himself.

“Who was the person who shot an innocent, wonderful, incredible woman?” Trump asked Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo  on July 11. “I will tell you, they know who shot Ashley Babbitt. They’re protecting that person. I’ve heard also that it was the head of security for a certain high official—a Democrat.”

The Nazis found in Horst Wessel a hero to inspire their followers. So, too, have Republicans generally and Trump enthusiasts specifically found the same in Ashli Babbitt.

The only question remaining to be answered: Will an “Ashli Babbitt Lied” culminate in a similar tyranny for the United States?

COMING: A WAR ON STUPIDS? PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on August 10, 2021 at 12:11 am

Since COVID-19 entered the United States in January, 2020, Republicans have turned it into a “culture war” issue.

President Donald Trump made wearing a mask a referendum on himself. If you were a “manly man”—and supported him-–you didn’t wear one. Even if it cost you your life.

He—and his followers—fiercely opposed “stay-at-home” orders by governors intent on suppressing rising COVID outbreaks in their states.

And when three vaccines appeared in early 2021, Republicans—again led by Trump—refused to say whether they were vaccinated. Some—like Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene—publicly celebrated low vaccination rates among their own constituents.

Others—like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis—threatened to withhold funds from public schools that required students to wear masks. (Only children 12 and older can be vaccinated.)

Ron DeSantis 2020 (cropped).jpg

Ron DeSantis

So it was, ironically, a Republican who fired the first salvo at irresponsible public behavior.

“Folks are supposed to have common sense. But it’s time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks. It’s the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down. We’ve got to get folks to take the shot. It’s the greatest weapon we have to fight COVID,”  Alabama Governor Kay Ivey told reporters in Birmingham on July 22. 

Alabama is one of the least vaccinated states in the country, with roughly 34% of residents fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC had announced in May that fully vaccinated people no longer had to wear masks

But now the even more contagious Delta variant was spreading. Experts warned that vaccinated and unvaccinated people should wear masks indoors  where COVID-19 cases were high but vaccination rates were low.

CDC on Twitter: "CDC is tracking a new variant of the virus that causes #COVID19 called Delta, or B.1.617.2. There is evidence that this variant spreads easily from person to person. Get

Meanwhile, some of the most prominent corporations in America weren’t waiting for them to do so.  

  • In May, Delta Airlines began requiring requiring newly-hired employees to show proof of vaccination.
  • On August 6, United Airlines announced that it would require its 67,000 U.S. employees to get vaccinated by October 25—or risk termination.
  • Hours later, Frontier Airlines announced that its employees must be vaccinated by October 1—or be frequently tested for COVID-19.
  • On August 4, Facebook announced that all of its employees would have to prove that they had been vaccinated to return to the office.
  • That same day, Google CEO Sundar Pichai sent a similar email to his staffers. 
  • Disney is requiring all its salaried and non-union hourly employees in America to be vaccinated. 
  • Uber announced that its U.S.-based office staff needs to be vaccinated to return to the office. It isn’t requiring the same for drivers.
  • Walgreens is requiring vaccinations for all of its corporate employees in the United States.
  • Netflix will require COVID-19 vaccinations for the casts of all its American productions, including those who come in contact with them.
  • Saks Fifth Avenue is requiring that all employees be vaccinated.
  • Walmart CEO Doug McMillon announced in a July 30 memo that all of its American-based corporate employees must be vaccinated by October 4.  
  • Tyson Foods will require that its 120,000 U.S. employees be fully vaccinated. According to the company, about 56,000 already are.
  • Ascension Health will require Covid-19 vaccinations for all of its employees.
  • On August 4, Twitter closed its offices in New York and San Francisco and paused further office reopenings. It was already requiring employees to show proof of vaccination.
  • Lyft is requiring all employees working in its offices to be vaccinated.
  • The Washington Post will require all current employees and new hires to show proof of full COVID-19 vaccinations. 
  • Morgan Stanley is barring all unvaccinated staff and clients from entering its New York headquarters office 

More companies will undoubtedly follow suit.

There are two reasons for this: 

First, across the country, hospitals are struggling to cope with the Delta variant—the most contagious strain of Coronavirus yet.  

Second, it’s clear that simply offering incentives for behaving responsibly isn’t working.

This week, New York City became the first major city to require proof of vaccination to enter restaurants and gyms.

“I do think it may be time for this to happen,” said Katherine Wu, science writer for The Atlantic, on the August 6 edition of Washington Week.

Katherine J. Wu, Ph.D. (@KatherineJWu) | Twitter

Katherine Wu

“I’ve seen more and more experts come out in support of mandates and requirements like these. You know, it’s sort of a combination of carrot and stick. If you want to keep having these privileges going out into society and being able to lead a normal life, it is probably a really good idea to [get] vaccinated to ensure not only your health but the people that you’re interacting with.”   

* * * * *

A policy only of incentives is a policy of bribery. And a policy only of deterrents is a policy of coercion. 

Some people can’t be bought and some can’t be coerced. But history shows that a policy employing both carrots and sticks usually proves highly effective in motivating behavior.

As the school season begins in September, children will be increasingly exposed to the dangers of contracting COVID. Many of them will undoubtedly die.

And as their casualties mount, there will be increased demands for punitive measures against those who put their arrogance above the public good.

COMING: A WAR ON STUPIDS? PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on August 9, 2021 at 12:10 am

When a deadly, air-borne plague is sweeping a nation, it’s medically smart to don a face mask until a vaccine is developed.

And, when it is, it’s just as medically smart to take that vaccine.

Yet, since March, 2020, millions of science-denying, government-hating Fascistic Republicans have refused to mask up in public against COVID-19. And now that not one but three vaccines have been developed, millions more have refused to get them.

Most of them are followers of former President Donald Trump. But many others have long believed that the Federal Government had a diabolical plan to enslave them.

Related image

Donald Trump

They distrust the scientists who developed the anti-COVID vaccines. They distrust the established news media, which has chronicled the destructive fury of COVID for more than a year.

Yet they put their faith in Trump, a man who

  • Derided COVID as a hoax;
  • Told 30,573 lies during his four years as President;
  • Attacked reputable medical authorities such as Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s foremost expert on infectious disease;
  • Promoted drinking bleach as a preventative or cure for COVID;
  • Ordered his millions of fanatical followers to disobey the “shelter-in-place” orders of governors who were trying to stem the rising tide of COVID in their states; and
  • Staged scores of super-spreader political rallies to promote his re-election in 2020, where tens of thousands of unmasked men and women stood shoulder-to-shoulder.

When Joseph Biden took office as President on January 20, 2021, he made eliminating COVID-19 his top priority. He publicized the launching of three new anti-COVID vaccines—by Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. He encouraged Americans to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

And he set a deadline by which 70% of Americans would be at least partially vaccinated—by July 4: Independence Day.

At first, there was a mad rush as millions of Americans flocked to vaccination sites.  But, by June, there was a marked increase in the numbers of those refusing to get vaccinated.

SARS-CoV-2 without background.png

COVID-19

On June 7, the online edition of U.S. News & World Report published a story under the headline: “Declining Vaccination Rates Threaten Biden’s July 4 Goal.”

“Plunging vaccination rates are imperiling President Joe Biden’s goal of getting COVID shots into the arms of at least 70% of American adults by July 4, while public health experts worry that Southern states, where immunization numbers are the lowest, could see a spike in cases over the summer.”

That is exactly what has happened.

The story continued: “The steep decline began in mid-April, coinciding with the temporary suspension of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine while health officials investigated rare blood-clotting reactions. That drop has continued, with only 2.4 million adults getting their first shot last week. Officials must get a first dose to 4.2 million adults per week to meet Biden’s July 4 goal, the [Washington] Post reported.” 

By August 2, 168.4 million Americans had been fully vaccinated, or 49.6% of the country’s population.

The population of the United States stands at 328.2 million.

POD Assist | CDC

Cities and states have offered a series of incentives to get vaccinated—as if doing so just to save your own life and the lives of those you love isn’t enough of an incentive.

Among those incentives: 

  • Free beer.
  • Free marijuana joints.
  • Free childcare coverage while getting shots or assistance while recovering from side effects.
  • Extended hours for pharmacies in June.
  • Thousands of pharmacies remaining open overnight on Fridays.
  • Million-dollar jackpots.
  • Full-ride scholarships.
  • A $2 million commitment from DoorDash to provide gift cards to community health centers for those who get vaccinated.
  • CVS Pharmacies launched a sweepstakes with prizes including free cruises and Super Bowl tickets.
  • Major League Baseball hosting on-site vaccine clinics and ticket giveaways at games.
  • Kroger gave $1 million to a vaccinated person each week in June and free groceries to dozens of people for the year.

Countless Americans were appalled at the selfishly irresponsible behavior of their fellow citizens.

One of these was President Biden: “All over the world people are desperate to get a shot that every American can get at their neighborhood drugstore.”

Another was Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and public health professor at George Washington University and former Baltimore health commissioner.

“It’s the height of American exceptionalism that we are having to beg people to get a life-saving vaccine, when healthcare workers and vulnerable people around the world are dying because they can’t get access to it,” said Wen. 

Yet the time may be fast approaching when the juicy carrot is replaced by the big stick.

From the coming of the virus to the United States in January, 2020, Republicans have encouraged Americans to defy health warnings by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

They have opposed wearing masks and stay-at-home orders. They have staged indoor political rallies of hundreds—or thousands—of unmasked men and women 

So it’s ironic that it was a Republican who fired the first salvo at irresponsible public behavior.

“Folks are supposed to have common sense. But it’s time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks. It’s the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down,” Alabama Governor Kay Ivey told reporters in Birmingham on July 22.

Alabama is one of the least vaccinated states in the country, with roughly 34% of residents fully vaccinated, according to the CDC. 

REPUBLICANS: LOOKING FOR “THE REAL TRAITORS”: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 26, 2021 at 12:05 am

On July 21, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected two Republicans tapped by House GOP Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to sit on a committee investigating the January 6 Capitol attempted coup.

The two Congressional members Pelosi rejected were Jim Banks (R-Indiana) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio). Both are outspoken allies of former President Donald Trump.

On January 6, Trump’s supporters attacked the Capitol. Their mission: Stop the certification of Joe Biden’s winning of the 2020 Presidential election—to maintain Trump in office.

Image result for Images of hangman's noose outside Capitol Building riot

The “Jolly Roger” meets Donald Trump

In the hours after the attack, Banks and Jordan voted to overturn the election results.

“With respect for the integrity of the investigation, with an insistence on the truth and with concern about statements made and actions taken by these members, I must reject the recommendations of Representatives Banks and Jordan to the Select Committee,” Pelosi said in a statement.

McCarthy’s response: “Unless Speaker Pelosi reverses course and seats all five Republican nominees, Republicans will not be party to their sham process and will instead pursue our own investigation of the facts.”    

Kevin McCarthy, official photo, 116th Congress.jpg

Kevin McCarthy

Republicans had already signaled their unwillingness to investigate the unprecedented attack on democracy by their most fanatical followers.

On May 28, Senate Republicans blocked creation of a bipartisan panel to investigate the attack on the Capitol. For them, two goals were paramount:

  • Displaying continuing party loyalty to former President Donald Trump; and
  • Shifting the political focus away from the violent—and treasonous—action by his GOP supporters.

The Senate vote came a day after emotional appeals for the commission from police who fought the mob, the family of an officer who died and Republican and Democratic lawmakers.

The vote was 54-35—six short of the 60 needed—to take up a House-passed bill that would have formed an independent 10-member commission evenly split between the two parties. 

Pelosi accepted McCarthy’s three other picks:

  • Rodney Davis (R-Illinois),
  • Kelly Armstrong (R-North Dakota) and
  • Troy Nehls (R-Texas).

But McCarthy said that all five or none would participate. 

Even after the attempted coup, Nehls voted to overturn Biden’s victory. Armstrong and Davis voted to certify the election.

In a statement after McCarthy tapped him for the panel, Banks had attacked Pelosi: “Make no mistake, Nancy Pelosi created this committee solely to malign conservatives and to justify the Left’s authoritarian agenda.”

Banks’ statement enraged Democrats—as did his two recent visits with Trump. One of these occurred at the U.S.-Mexico border and the other at Trump’s New Jersey golf course. 

Jordan has long defended Trump’s litany of demonstrated lies and documented criminality.

Appearing on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360,” on April 16, 2018, Jordan accused Andrew McCabe, the former deputy director of the FBI, of being a liar. He accused the Washington Post of lying. He asked Cooper if he had ever lied.

But, pressed by Cooper on whether he had ever heard Trump lie, Jordan replied: “I have not. I don’t know of it. Nothing comes to mind.”

Jim Jordan official photo, 114th Congress.jpg

Rep. Jim Jordan

According to the Washington Post, Trump made 30,573 false or misleading claims during his four years as President.

Jordan pushed to impeach Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversaw Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russia’s subversion of the 2016 Presidential election.

Jordan, a member of the House’s Right-wing Freedom Caucus, fanatically supported Trump, whose 2016 campaign received documented support from Russian Intelligence agents. 

Jordan opposed any investigation into this unholy alliance. 

Meanwhile, Jordan is being haunted by a scandal of his own. 

Jordan served as an assistant coach at Ohio State University (OSU) from 1987 to 1995. Several former OSU wrestlers claim Jordan ignored sexual abuse of students by the team’s doctor. 

In April, 2018, OSU announced it was investigating charges that Richard Strauss had abused team wrestlers while he served as the team doctor from the mid-1970s to the late 1990s. Strauss died in 2005.

Jordan claims he didn’t know about the abuse.

Yet several former wrestlers assert that they told Jordan about the abuse or remember Jordan being a part of conversations about the abuse.

“I considered Jim Jordan a friend,” Mike DiSabato, a former wrestler, told NBC. It was DiSabato’s allegations against Strauss that led OSU to open the investigation. “But at the end of the day, he is absolutely lying if he says he doesn’t know what was going on.”

In an email to Ohio State’s legal counsel, DiSabato wrote: “Strauss sexually assaulted male athletes in at least fifteen varsity sports during his employment at OSU from 1978 through 1998.”

“There’s no way unless he’s got dementia or something that he’s got no recollection of what was going on at Ohio State,” former Ultimate Fighting Championship world champion Mark Coleman told the Wall Street Journal.  “I have nothing but respect for this man, I love this man, but he knew as far as I’m concerned.” 

Which immediately raises the question: How can you respect and love a man who knew that students were being sexually abused—and did nothing to stop it?

ALL GLORY IS FLEETING–AND NOW GONE

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 31, 2021 at 12:14 am

Saving Private Ryan, Steven Spielberg’s 1998 World War II epic, opens with a scene of an American flag snapping in the wind.

Except that the vivid red, white and blue we’ve come to expect in Old Glory have been washed out, leaving only black-and-white stripes and black stars.

Robert Mapplethorpe and the tale of two American Flags | art | Phaidon

And then the movie opens—not during World War II but the present day.

Did Spielberg know that the United States—for all its military power—has become a pale shadow of its former glory?

May, 30, 1945, marked the first Memorial Day after World War II ended in Europe.

On that day, the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery became the site of just such a ceremony. The cemetery lies near the modern Italian town of Nettuno.

In 1945, it held about  20,000 graves. Most were soldiers who died in Sicily, at Salerno or Anzio.

One of the speakers at the ceremony was Lieutenant General Lucian K. Truscott, Jr., the U.S. Fifth Army Commander.

Lieutenant General Lucian K. Truscott, Jr.

Unlike many other generals, Truscott had shared in the dangers of combat, often pouring over maps on the hood of his jeep with company commanders as bullets or shells zipped close by.

Among Truscott’s audience was Bill Mauldin, the famous cartoonist for the Army newspaper, Stars and Stripes. Mauldin had created Willie and Joe, the unshaved, slovenly-looking “dogfaces” who came to symbolize the GI.

When it came his turn to speak, Truscott moved to the podium—and then did something truly unexpected.

Looking at the assembled visitors—which included several Congressmen—Truscott turned his back on the living to face the graves of his fellow soldiers.  

“It was the most moving gesture I ever saw,” wrote Mauldin. “It came from a hard-boiled old man who was incapable of planned dramatics.”

  Bill Mauldin and “Willie and Joe,” the characters he made famous

“He apologized to the dead men for their presence there. He said that everybody tells leaders that it is not their fault that men get killed in war, but that every leader knows in his heart that this is not altogether true.

“He said he hoped anybody here through any mistake of his would forgive him, but he realized that was asking a hell of a lot under the circumstances….

“Truscott said he would not speak of the ‘glorious’ dead because he didn’t see much glory in getting killed in your late teens or early twenties.

“He promised that if in the future he ran into anybody, especially old men, who thought death in battle was glorious, he would straighten them out. He said he thought it was the least he could do.”

Then Truscott walked away, without acknowledging his audience.

Fast forward 61 years—to March 24, 2004.

At a White House Correspondents dinner in Washington, D.C., President George W. Bush joked publicly about the absence of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) in Iraq.

One year earlier, he had invaded Iraq on the premise that its dictator, Saddam Hussein, possessed WMDs he intended to use against the United States.

To Bush, the non-existent WMDs were now simply the butt of a joke that night.

While an overhead projector displayed photos of a puzzled-looking Bush searching around the Oval Office, Bush recited a comedy routine.

“Those weapons of mass destruction have gotta be somewhere,” Bush laughed, while a photo showed him poking around the corners in the Oval Office.

George W. Bush - jokes about weapons of mass destruction .flv - YouTube

“Nope-–no weapons over there!  Maybe they’re under here,” he said, as a photo showed him looking under a desk.

In a scene that could have occurred under the Roman emperor Nero, an assembly of wealthy, pampered men and women—the elite of America’s media and political classes—-laughed heartily during Bush’s performance. 

Only later did the criticism come, from Democrats and Iraqi war veterans—especially those veterans who had lost comrades or suffered grievous wounds to protect America from non-existent WMDs.

Bush had dodged the Vietnam war by joining the 147th Fighter-Interceptor Group of the Texas Air National Guard on May 27, 1968. His military service ended on November 21, 1974—by which time the Vietnam war was safely over.

Bush Laughs at no WMD in Iraq  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SCTfEf6Rrmw

Then fast forward another 11 years—to July 18. 2015.

On July 18, then-candidate Donald Trump disparaged Arizona Senator John McCain: “He’s not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”

McCain had served in the United States Navy as an aviator during the Vietnam war. He was shot down over Hanoi in 1967 and spent five and a half years as a heroic POW. His wartime injuries left him permanently incapable of raising his arms above his head.

Nevertheless, Republican voters turned out heavily to elect Trump—a five-time Vietnam draft dodger—over Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Trump continued to attack McCain even after the Senator died of brain cancer in 2018. But the overwhelming majority of Republicans continued to rabidly support the draft-dodger.

Of the 535 members elected or re-elected to the House and Senate in November, 2020, a total of 100 have served in the U.S. military.

Small wonder that, for many people, Old Glory has taken on a darker, washed-out appearance.

TREASON–PEOPLE WHO NEED TREASON

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on May 24, 2021 at 1:09 am

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

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

Yet more than two months after the election, Trump refused to concede, insisting that he won—and repeatedly claiming falsely that he was the victim of massive vote fraud.

Immediately after the election, Trump ordered his attorneys to file lawsuits to overturn the election results.

Throughout November and December, cases were filed in Wisconsin, Arizona, Nevada, Michigan, Minnesota and Georgia challenging the election results. None were supported by evidence of fraud—as even Trump’s lawyers admitted when questioned by judges.

On November 13, nine cases attacking President-Elect Joe Biden’s win in key states were denied or dropped. A law firm challenging the vote count in Pennsylvania withdrew from the effort.

By November 21, more than 30 cases were withdrawn by Trump’s attorneys or dismissed by Federal judges—some of them appointed by Trump himself.

Ultimately, from November 3 to December 14, Trump and his allies lost 59 times in court, either withdrawing cases or having them dismissed by Federal and state judges.

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Donald Trump

On November 19, losing in the courts, Trump invited two Republican legislative leaders from Michigan to the White House. The reason: To persuade them to stop the state from certifying the vote.

The Michigan legislators said they would follow the law.

On December 5, Trump called Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and asked him to call a special legislative session and convince state legislators to select their own electors that would support him, thus overturning Biden’s win.

Kemp refused, saying he lacked the authority to do so.

David Perdue and Brian Kemp (cropped).jpg

Brian Kemp

On December 8, the Supreme Court refused to hear Trump’s bid to reverse Pennsylvania’s certification of Biden’s victory.

Representative Mike Kelly (R-PA), a Trump ally, argued that the state’s 2.5 million mail-in votes were unconstitutional.

The Court’s order read, “The application for injunctive relief presented to Justice [Samuel] Alito and by him referred to the Court is denied.”

Although Trump had appointed three of the Court’s Justices, not one of them dissented. 

On December 8, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed his own lawsuit at the Supreme Court. A Trump ally, Paxton has been indicted on felony securities fraud charges. 

In Texas v. Pennsylvania, he alleged that Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin violated the United States Constitution by changing election procedures through non-legislative means.

On December 10, the Supreme Court refused to hear the case. 

“Texas has not demonstrated a judicially cognizable interest in the manner in which another state conducts its elections,” the court said without further comment. It dismissed all other related claims as moot.

Seventeen Republican state Attorney Generals—and 126 Republican members of Congress—supported the lawsuit. They did so in an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief. 

They feared Trump’s fanatical base would “primary” them if they didn’t publicly declare their loyalty—to a man they knew was slated to leave office within two months.

U.S. Supreme Court building-m.jpg

The Supreme Court

Had the Court acted on Paxton’s request, the results for democracy would have been catastrophic. 

“Texas seeks to invalidate elections in four states for yielding results with which it disagrees,” Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro told the justices in legal papers. 

“Its request for this court to exercise its original jurisdiction and then anoint Texas’s preferred candidate for president is legally indefensible and is an affront to principles of constitutional democracy. 

“The court should not abide this seditious abuse of the judicial process, and should send a clear and unmistakable signal that such abuse must never be replicated,” 

The outcome of the 2020 Presidential election marked the first time a losing candidate tried to overturn the will of millions of American voters.

It also marked the first time that state Attorney Generals and members of Congress tried to overturn the results of a Presidential election.

The signers represented nearly two-thirds of the House GOP.

Among them: The House’s top two Republicans: Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.),

Only 70 Republican House members refused to sign the brief.

By December 11, 2020, only 23 Republicans in Congress—14 Representatives and nine Senators—had acknowledged Biden’s victory.

On January 6, Trump instigated an attack on the Capitol Building to stop the counting of Electoral College votes, which was certain to prove Biden the winner.

Despite this, Republican members of Congress continued trying to throw the election Trump’s way.  

Six Republicans in the Senate and 121 in the House backed objections to certifying Arizona’s electoral outcome. Seven Republicans in the Senate and 138 in the House supported an objection to certifying Pennsylvania’s electoral outcome.

Not since the American Civil War (1861-1865) has the United States seen a more blatant—and deadly—case of sedition.

In 1861, 11 Senators and three Representatives were expelled from Congress for refusing to recognize Abraham Lincoln’s election—and supporting insurrection. 

Democrats need to summon the same courage and ruthlessness against their sworn enemies.

Trump’s refusal to admit that he lost fuels the danger of another attack on Congress and/or President Biden.

He—and his Republican accomplices—must be forcibly taught there are penalties for treason.

REPUBLICANS: 9/11 COMMISSION, YES; CAPITOL TREASON COMMISSION, NO: PART FOUR (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on May 20, 2021 at 6:58 pm

So why are Republicans unwilling to admit what millions saw on their TVs on January 6: That a mob of Stormtrumpers attacked and invaded the United States Capitol Building?

On the May 14 edition of the PBS program, Washington Week, Manu Raju, CNN’s Chief Congressional correspondent, provided the answer: 

“This is a party that is dominated still by the former president, that has such a strong attachment, a connection to the Republican base….There are really only a handful of Republicans who are in the same position of  [Representative Liz] Cheney [R-WY] about calling out the [former] President and calling out his lies, which is why she got ultimately pushed out.

Liz Cheney official 116th Congress portrait.jpg

Liz Cheney

“The fight has caused a distraction for Republicans, because this moment she starts questioning the election and starts questioning Donald Trump’s saying that the election was stolen or rigged, then her colleagues are forced to answer questions about what they believe. 

“And what they don’t want to say is that the election was legitimate, because if they do that, then they get hammered by Donald Trump. So then they suggest that there’s some sort of irregularities, or anomalies, or variances, or something amiss in the election without really any evidence to back that up. 

“And that puts them on the opposite side of the facts, and that ultimately is a position that Republican leaders just do not want to be on.” 

Washington Week host Yamiche Alcindor: “There is this sort of deal to form this January 6th commission, but [House Minority Leader] Kevin McCarthy [R-CA] is saying he’s concerned about the scope.”  

“There was a bipartisan agreement announced [May 14] on this commission to investigate what happened on January 6th,” replied Kasie Hunt, Capitol Hill Correspondent for NBC News. 

“Cheney did an interview with ABC News…where she said that she expects….Kevin McCarthy potentially to get subpoenaed to testify during—in the course of that commission investigation….

“And there are some questions about what transpired when [McCarthy] called [Trump]—who, of course, was then in the Oval Office on January 6th—and said to him, ‘Please call off your people, they’ve invaded the Capitol.’  

“And of course, McCarthy has really changed how he has approached the narrative of January 6th in the intervening months. It didn’t actually take very long….I think it’s something that clearly many Republicans are nervous about this commission. 

Kevin McCarthy, official photo, 116th Congress.jpg

Kevin McCarthy

“They got some concessions. It’s going to be evenly split. And while they’ll have subpoena power, Republicans will effectively be able to veto subpoenas if they want to.”

Nineteen years ago, Republicans were thrilled to establish a bipartisan commission.

The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States—also known as the 9/11 Commission—was set up on November 27,2002. It consisted of five Democrats and five Republicans.

Its mission: Investigate the events that led to the worst terrorist attack in American history..

On September 11, 2001, 19 Islamic highjackers had slammed two jetliners into the World Trade Center in New York and one into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

World Trade Center – September 11, 2001

A fourth plane, headed for the White House or Capitol Building, failed to reach its target when its passengers rioted—and the highjackers dove it into a Pennsylvania field.

Three thousand Americans died in one day.

The commission’s final report blamed the CIA and FBI for their lack of aggressiveness in failing to prevent the attacks. 

Republicans eagerly joined the commission—there was no downside. America was fearful of another major attack—and anxious to beef up its security. And Osama bin Laden—the mastermind of the attack—was an exotic figure, at once menacing and alien.

Not so with a commission investigating Right-wing treason.

According to a March 30-31 Reuters/Ipsos poll:

  • About half of Republicans believe the Capitol attack was largely a non-violent protest—or the handiwork of left-wing activists “trying to make Trump look bad.”
  • Six in 10 Republicans believe Trump’s false claim that victory in the November election “was stolen” from him by widespread voter fraud.
  • The same proportion of Republicans think he should run again in 2024.
  • While 59% of all Americans say Trump bears some responsibility for the attack, only three in 10 Republicans agree.

In an interview with Fox News, Trump said the rioters posed “zero threat.”

Other prominent Republicans, such as Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson, have publicly doubted whether Trump supporters were behind the riot. They blame Antifa—despite the all-white crowd sporting “TRUMP” flags and red MAGA caps.

In March, 12 Republicans in the House of Representatives voted against a resolution honoring Capitol Police officers who defended the grounds during the attack. One lawmaker objected to using the word “insurrection” to describe the attack.

There is a reason why most Republicans refuse to admit that:

  • Joe Biden was legitimately elected; and
  • Donald Trump’s followers attacked the Capitol to prevent his certification as the winner.

They fear that if they speak the truth, it will infuriate Trump. And if he attacks them, his fanatical base will desert them at the polls.

They want to retain their positions—and all the power and perks these bring them. For that, they will sacrifice truth and betray the Constitution they have sworn to defend.

REPUBLICANS: 9/11 COMMISSION, YES; CAPITOL TREASON COMMISSION, NO: PART THREE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on May 19, 2021 at 12:11 am

Four months have passed since the January 6 attack on the United States Capitol Building.

And a small but growing number of Republicans have chosen to glorify those who participated in the greatest act of treason in modern American history. 

Now they argue that the rioters—who shouted “Hang Mike Pence!” [then Vice President] and “Where are you, Nancy?” [Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi], brutally beat Capitol police officers and turned flagpoles into weapons—were actually peaceful protesters.

Nowhere do they mention that these “peaceful protesters” were illegally trying to overturn Joe Biden’s November 3 election.

Had they succeeded, Donald Trump would have gotten another—and illegal—four years as President.

On May 12, during a House Oversight Committee hearing on the January 6 riot, Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-GA.) said the House floor was not breached, and that the supporters of former President Donald Trump who stormed the Capitol behaved “in an orderly fashion.

Andrew Clyde 117th U.S Congress.jpg

Andrew Clyde

“If you didn’t know that TV footage was a video from January the sixth, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit,” Clyde said. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) damning Clyde’s comments as “appalling” and “sick,” responded: “I don’t know of a normal day around here when people are threatening to hang the vice president of the United States or shoot the speaker, or injure so many police officers.”

Trump’s supporters broke into the Senate minutes after senators had evacuated, some carrying zip ties and tactical equipment. They clearly had hostage-taking in mind. 

They rifled through desks and hunted for lawmakers, yelling “Where are they?” They invaded Pelosi’s office, stole a laptop and shouted her name while some of her staff huddled quietly under furniture. One demonstrator carried away the Speaker’s podium.

Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) claimed that a woman who was shot and killed by a Capitol policeman as she tried to break through a door next to the House chamber was “executed.” He was referring to Ashli Babbitt, an Air Force veteran who was wearing an American flag.

The Justice Department ruled that the shooting was justified and did not charge the officer involved.

Paul Gosar 2018.jpg

Paul Gosar

Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

Gosar accused the Justice Department of “harassing peaceful patriots across the country” as federal prosecutors file charges against hundreds of people who stormed the Capitol.

The massive investigation remains ongoing. Federal agents continue to serve arrest and search warrants and try to locate dozens of other people for questioning. Charges range from disorderly conduct and conspiracy to obstruction of an official proceeding.

“It was Trump supporters who lost their lives that day, not Trump supporters who were taking the lives of others,” Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA) said. 

Hice didn’t mention than more than 140 police officers were injured during the treason-fest, and one of them–Brian Sicknick—died after being gassed with bear repellant. 

“Sixty-five MPD [Metropolitan Police Department] members sustained injuries documented in injury reports. Many more sustained injuries from the assault—scratches, bruises, eyes burning from bear mace—that they did not even bother to report,” acting MPD Chief Robert Contee testified before Congress. 

Robert J. Contee III | mpdc

Robert Contee

“People around the country and the world were shocked and moved by the video of MPD Officer Michael Fanone being beaten by a crowd of insurgents, including one wielding an American flag, and of Officer Daniel Hodges in agony as he was crushed between a door and a riot shield.”

Many officers had filed injury claims, he said, but many more had not.

After the attack, two officers—one with the Capitol Police, the other with the MPD—committed suicide.

The attempt to defend the insurrectionists came on the same day that House Republicans voted to oust Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) from their leadership team for repeatedly rebuking Trump for his lies that the election was stolen.

Trump’s lies about widespread election fraud were rebuked by numerous courts, election officials across the country and his own attorney general. 

Not all Republicans have bought into The Big Lie. And a handful have dared to speak the truth

“I was there,” said Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT). “What happened was a violent effort to interfere with and prevent the constitutional order of installing a new president. And as such, it was an insurrection against the Constitution. It resulted in severe property damage, severe injuries and death.” 

How to account for these changed memories? 

On the May 14 edition of the PBS program, Washington Week, host Yamiche Alcindor provided the answer:

“There was a violent insurrection on January 6th. But in the GOP, accepting reality has consequences: House Republicans booted [Wyoming] Representative Liz Cheney from her leadership post for calling out false claims about the election. Ahead of her removal, Cheney took a defiant last stand against the former president: 

[On video] “Millions of Americans have been misled by the former president. He continues to undermine our democratic process, sowing seeds of doubt about whether democracy really works at all.

“This is not about policy.  This is not about partisanship. This is about our duty as Americans.  Remaining silent and ignoring the lie emboldens the liar.  I will not participate in that.” 

REPUBLICANS: 9/11 COMMISSION, YES; CAPITOL TREASON COMMISSION, NO: PART TWO (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on May 18, 2021 at 12:11 am

By January 6, 2021, President Donald J. Trump had almost run out of options for illegally staying in power for the next four years.

That morning, the United States Senate, with Vice President Mike Pence presiding, would certify states’ Electoral College results of the 2020 election. 

That morning, Trump urged Pence to flip the results of the election to give him a win.

Pence replied that he lacked the power to overturn those results.

But as Pence went off to the Capitol Building housing the Senate and House of Representatives, Trump had one last card to play.

Mike Pence - Wikipedia

Mike Pence

For weeks Trump had ordered his legions of Right-wing Stormtrumpers to descend on Washington, D.C. on January 6. 

On December 20, he had tweeted: “Statistically impossible to have lost the 2020 Election. Big protest in DC on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!” 

In tweets, he promoted the rally again on December 27 and 30, and January 1.

On January 6, Trump appeared at the Ellipse, a 52-acre park south of the White House fence and north of Constitution Avenue and the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

A stage had been set up for him to address tens of thousands of his supporters, who eagerly awaited him.  

Trump ordered them to march on the Capitol building to express their anger at the voting process and to intimidate their elected officials to reject the results. 

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

Donald Trump addresses his Stormtrumpers 

“All of us here today do not want to see our election victory stolen by a bold and radical left Democrats, which is what they are doing and stolen by the fake news media.

“Our country has had enough. We will not take it anymore, and that is what this is all about. And to use a favorite term that all of you people really came up with, we will stop the steal….

“Republicans are constantly fighting like a boxer with his hands tied behind his back….And we’re going to have to fight much harder….

“And after this, we’re going to walk down and I’ll be there with you. We’re going to walk down to the Capitol. And we’re going to cheer on our brave Senators and Congressmen and women and we’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them.

“Because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong. We have come to demand that Congress do the right thing and only count the electors who have been lawfully slated.”

The Stormtrumpers marched to the United States Capitol—and quickly brushed aside Capitol Police, who made little effort to arrest or shoot them.

IndieWire on Twitter: "Pro-Trump Rioters Breach US Capitol Building in Unprecedented Attack on Rule of Law https://t.co/QA27RZTEWd… "

Capitol Police facing off with Stormtrumpers

  • Members of the mob attacked police with chemical agents or lead pipes.
  • A Capitol Hill police officer was knocked off his feet, dragged into the mob surging toward the building, and beaten with the pole of an American flag. 
  • One attacker was shot as protesters forced their way toward the House Chamber where members of Congress were sheltering in place.

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

Stormtrumpers scaling Capitol Building walls

  • Several rioters carried plastic handcuffs, possibly intending to take hostages.
  • Others carried treasonous Confederate flags.
  • Shouts of “Hang Pence!” often rang out.
  • Improvised explosive devices were found in several locations in Washington, D.C.
  • Many of the lawmakers’ office buildings were occupied and vandalized—including that of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a favorite Right-wing target.

Trump to Pardon 'Patriots' Involved in Capitol Attack? Truth About WH Pardons Attorney Seeking Names in Viral Post

Stormtrumpers inside the Capitol Building

More than three hours passed before police—using riot gear, shields and batons—retook control of the Capitol. 

After giving his inflammatory speech, Trump had returned to the White House—to watch his handiwork on television. 

Four months have since passed. And Republicans have chosen to develop collective amnesia about the greatest act of treason in modern American history.

On May 12, during a House Oversight Committee hearing on the January 6 riot, Rep. Andrew Clyde, (R-GA) said the House floor was not breached and that the supporters of former President Donald Trump who stormed the Capitol behaved “in an orderly fashion.

“As one of the members who stayed in the Capitol, and on the House floor, who with other Republican colleagues helped barricade the door until almost 3 p.m. from the mob who tried to enter, I can tell you the House floor was never breached and it was not an insurrection. This is the truth.”

The Stormtrumpers almost breached the House floor but failed. But they did invade the Senate floor.

“There was an undisciplined mob,” said Clyde. “There were some rioters, and some who committed acts of vandalism. But let me be clear, there was no insurrection and to call it an insurrection in my opinion, is a bold faced lie.

“Watching the TV footage of those who entered the Capitol, and walk through Statuary Hall showed people in an orderly fashion staying between the stanchions and ropes taking videos and pictures, you know.

“If you didn’t know that TV footage was a video from January the sixth, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit,” Clyde said. 

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