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Posts Tagged ‘UNITED STATES SENATE’

HOW DEMOCRATS CAN DEFEAT EXTORTION: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on January 18, 2023 at 12:13 am

….A man who wishes to make a profession of goodness in everything must inevitably come to grief among so many who are not good.  And therefore it is necessary, for a prince who wishes to maintain himself, to learn how not to be good, and to use this knowledge and not use it, according to the necessity of the case.
—Niccolo Machiavelli’s advice to President Joseph Biden in “The Prince”

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Niccolo Machiavelli

Republicans, having won control of the House of Representatives, are eagerly seeking to destroy whatever legacy President Joseph R. Biden hopes to leave.

Intending to abuse their new-found powers to the utmost, their topmost goals include:

  • Bringing false impeachment charges against President Biden;
  • Investigating FBI officials who rightly investigated evidence of Donald Trump’s collaboration with Russia;
  • Investigating the President’s son, Hunter, for unspecified offenses, to damage his father’s credibility; and
  • Holding America’s economy hostage by refusing to raise the debt ceiling unless Biden makes cuts in taxes and aid programs for the poor and middle class.

Yet their dictatorial ambitions—lavishly funded by Russian “campaign contributions” (i.e., bribes)—can be thwarted. 

Two methods for achieving this have already been discussed in Part one of this series: 

  1. Attack Republicans as traitors selling out the country to Vladimir Putin, and
  2. Concede NOTHING to Republicans

Here are two more: 

Counterattack Strategy #3: One Biden for Two Trumps

House Republicans will undoubtedly attack Joseph Biden’s son, Hunter, to damage the President’s  credibility.

“What’s on Hunter’s laptop?” will become their latest version of “Who promoted Peress?” Irving Peress was a New York City dentist who became a primary target for Red-baiting Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy during the 1954 Army-McCarthy hearings.

Democrats cannot prevent this attack. Republicans are too dedicated to the politics of “smear and fear” to be persuaded otherwise.

But Democrats can at least effectively blunt it: Senatorial Democrats can hold similar investigative hearings on the actions of Donald Trump, Jr., and Eric Trump during their father’s White House tenure.

Both were highly involved with President Trump’s finances during his four years in office. And Trump never hesitated to violate the Emoluments Clause of the United States Constitution. 

Constitution of the United States, page 1.jpg

United States Constitution

Article I, Section 9, Paragraph 8 prohibits federal office holders from receiving gifts, payments, or anything of value from a foreign state or its rulers, officers, or representatives.

The Founders wanted to ensure that the country’s leaders would not be corrupted, even unconsciously, through bribes. At that time, bribery was a common practice among European rulers and diplomats. 

Trump encouraged diplomats, lobbyists and insiders to stay at his Washington, D.C. hotel—which lay only a short walk from the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue.

And the prices charged there weren’t cheap:

  • Cocktails ran from $23 for a gin and tonic to $100 for a vodka concoction with raw oysters and caviar.
  • A seafood pyramid called “the Trump Tower” cost $120.
  • A salt-aged Kansas City strip steak cost $59.  

It’s a certainty that Trump’s sons, Eric and Donald, Jr., oversaw the profits sheet for this hotel—and other Trump properties across the country visited by members of foreign governments.

Thus, there are legitimate avenues for investigation open to Senatorial subcommittees—just as Robert F. Kennedy once probed financial ties between the Mafia and the International Brother of Teamsters Union. 

The Justice Department might even be persuaded to launch its own investigation—not only into possible financial corruption during the Trump administration but into widespread reports of cocaine use by Donald, Jr. 

Donald Trump, Jr. (51770696331) (cropped).jpg

Donald Trump, Jr.

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

The House cannot bring criminal penalties against anyone. But the Justice Department can.

Counterattack Strategy #4: One Biden for Two Houses of Congress

After Donald Trump refused to concede the 2020 Presidential election, 17 Republican state Attorney Generals—and 126 Republican members from both houses of Congress—supported a Texas lawsuit to overturn the results in four battleground states: Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. 

This was nothing less than a Right-wing coup attempt to overturn the results of a legitimate election. As a result, every one of these men and women can be legitimately indicted for treason—provided the Biden Justice Department has has the courage to do so.

Had the Justice Department brought such indictments in 2021 or 2022, the Republican party would now be facing legal and financial ruin. 

Even if some of its members escaped conviction, they would have been forced to pony up tens of thousands of dollars in legal expenses. 

And those who were convicted and sent to prison would serve as a long-remembered lesson to the Right of the dangers of treason and abuse of power. 

For decades, Republicans have turned Carl von Clausewitz’ famous dictum—“War is the continuation of politics by other means”—on its head: “Politics is a continuation of war by other means.” 

By contrast, Democrats have too often adhered to the Michelle Obama mantra: “When they go low, we go high.”

That strategy has given the United States Richard Nixon, Spiro Agnew, George W. Bush, Donald Trump—and a Republican Congress willing to destroy the country it claims to love.

HOW DEMOCRATS CAN DEFEAT EXTORTION: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on January 17, 2023 at 12:10 am

It took 15 votes—and a series of humiliating concessions—for Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to become Speaker of the House of Representatives.

All of the concessions he made were to the most Right-wing members of the House. And all of those members are fanatically dedicated to destroying whatever legacy President Joseph R. Biden hopes to leave.

At the top of their list: Impeaching Biden. 

Republicans refused to impeach and convict Donald Trump after he incited a deadly riot against the United States Capitol Building. But they’re eager to remove Biden for what they consider the most impeachable offense of all.

He defeated a Republican candidate for President.

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President Joseph Biden

And not just any Republican candidate: The candidate who had made no secret of his desire to be “President-for-Life.”

During the mid-term elections, Republicans had expected to sweep both the House and Senate. This would have given them virtual control of the government.

For the House is the body that initiates revenue bills and impeaches federal officials. And the Senate holds the power to confirm Presidential appointments that require consent, and to provide advice and consent to ratify treaties.

But Democrats went on a rare offensive and rightly attacked Republicans as intending to gain absolute control over the lives of their fellow Americans. And voters rejected the candidates favored by Trump for local and federal offices.

Thus, Republicans had to settle for controlling the House. 

Even so, they intend to abuse their new-found powers to the utmost. Among their topmost goals:

  • Bringing false impeachment charges against President Biden;
  • Investigating FBI officials who rightly investigated evidence of Donald Trump’s collaboration with Russia;
  • Investigating the President’s son, Hunter, for unspecified offenses, to damage his father’s credibility; and
  • Holding America’s economy hostage by refusing to raise the debt ceiling unless Biden makes cuts in taxes and aid programs for the poor and middle class.

R. Hunter Biden at Center for Strategic & International Studies (1).jpg

Hunter Biden

Center for Strategic & International Studies, CC BY 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

If Democrats follow their usual mantra of “When they go low, we go high,” they will cower before Republican aggression and sacrifice their legislative agenda.

Yet they can snatch victory from the jaws of impending defeat—providing they are willing to follow the advice Robert F. Kennedy offered for combating the Mafia: “If we do not attack organized criminals with weapons and techniques as effective as their own, they will destroy us.” 

Counterattack Strategy #1: Attack Republicans as traitors selling out the country to Vladimir Putin

Numerous Republicans have taken “campaign contributions”—i.e., bribes—from Russian oligarchs linked to Putin. 

One Russian oligarch—Len Blavatnik—has given millions of dollars to top Republican leaders—such as Senators Mitch McConnell (Kentucky), Marco Rubio (Florida) and Lindsey Graham (South Carolina). 

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In just 2017, Blavatnik contributed the following to GOP Political Action Committees (PACs):

  • $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
  • $250,000 to New Day for America PAC, associated with Ohio Governor John Kasich.
  • $800,000 to the Security is Strength PAC, associated with Senator Lindsey Graham.

The Biden administration need not ask the CIA or FBI to unearth these contributions. They can be easily found within the files of the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

Putin’s monies have been well-spent: About 90 House Republicansout of a total of 213—attended Volodymyr Zelensky’s address to Congress on December 21, according to CQ Roll Call. Some who did spent much of the speech on their phones.

Many Republicans—such as House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who in 2021 received about $255,000 from Blavatnik—have openly threatened to end all funding for Ukraine’s heroic struggle against Russian aggression.

Kevin McCarthy, official photo, 116th Congress.jpg

Kevin McCarthy

This would prove an effective technique. From the end of World War II to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Republicans successfully attacked Democrats as at least potential sellouts, if not actual traitors.

The advantage of attacking Russian-bribed Republicans today is that even some “Reagan Republicans”—such as James Kirchick, a conservative reporter, foreign correspondent, author, and columnist—have openly denounced this treason.

Thus, the White House could ignite an internal conflict within the Right by pitting Republicans against each other.

Counterattack Strategy #2: Concede NOTHING to Republicans

Donald Trump shut down the Federal Government on December 22, 2018, because Democrats refused to finance his useless border wall against Mexico.

So Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi shut down his State of the Union appearance.

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

His ego strung, Trump reopened the government.

And with Republicans threatening to not raise the debt ceiling unless their extortionate demands are met, the White House can effectively counter this danger:

Deduct from the budget every dollar directed toward Republican states. This would vastly reduce the size of the Federal budget, since subsidizing these failed economies accounts for a substantial portion of the budget. 

DEMOCRACY’S THREATS: RUSSIANS AND REPUBLICANS – PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 5, 2023 at 12:12 am

Russian President Vladimir Putin has won acclaim within American conservatives by attacking those they detest—such as gays. And he has extolled Russia’s “traditional values” and assailed the West’s “genderless and infertile” liberalism.

In 2015, Russia-–a secret police state utterly opposed to private ownership of firearms—hosted a delegation from the National Rifle Association

Both the American Right and Putin reap huge benefits from the propagandistic efforts of the Fox Network. Fox hosts Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson are big hits in Russia, routinely getting huge airtime as they attack liberalism generally and President Joe Biden in particular.

James Kirchick—a conservative American reporter, foreign correspondent, author, and columnist—has analyzed the turn-about of the Republican party from staunchly anti-Communist to rabidly pro-Putin.

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James Kirchick

In a July 27, 2017 essay, “How the GOP became the Party of Putin,” he wrote: 

“How did the party of Ronald Reagan’s moral clarity morph into that of Donald Trump’s moral vacuity?

Russia’s intelligence operatives are among the world’s best. I believe they made a keen study of the American political scene and realized that, during the Obama years, the conservative movement had become ripe for manipulation. Long gone was its principled opposition to the ‘evil empire.’

“What was left was an intellectually and morally desiccated carcass populated by con artists, opportunists, entertainers and grifters operating massively profitable book publishers, radio empires, websites, and a TV network whose stock-in-trade are not ideas but resentments….

Viral Trump T-shirt wearers stay defiant despite firestorm of criticism - cleveland.com

Stormtrumpers displaying their first loyalty

Surveying this lamentable scene, why wouldn’t Russia try to ‘turn’ the American right, whose ethical rot necessarily precedes its rank unscrupulousness? 

“Why wouldn’t a ‘religious right’ that embraced a boastfully immoral charlatan like Donald Trump not turn a blind eye toward—or, in the case of [evangelical pastor] Franklin Graham, embrace—an oppressive regime like that ruling Russia?

Republicans have become a party fueled by hatred and lusting for absolute control—not just of their own members but Americans who totally disagree with their methods and goals.

What Ronald Reagan once said about the leaders of the Soviet Union applies just as accurately to the leaders of his own party: “The only morality they recognize is what will further their cause, meaning they reserve unto themselves the right to commit any crime, to lie, to cheat.”

The ultimate proof of this came in the Right’s attempt to violently overturn the results of the 2020 Presidential election—and to install Donald Trump as a dictatorial “President-for-Life.”

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Donald Trump

On November 3, Joe Biden became President-elect of the United States by winning 81,283,495 votes, or 51.4% of the vote, compared to 74,223,755 votes, or 46.9% of the vote cast for President Donald Trump.

In the Electoral College—which actually determines the winner—the results were even more stunning: 306 votes for Biden, compared with 232 for Trump. It takes 270 votes to be declared the victor.

From the moment Biden was declared the winner, Trump tried to overthrow that verdict. He ordered his attorneys to file lawsuits to overturn the election results, charging electoral fraud. 

From November 3 to December 14, 2020, Trump and his allies lost 59 times in court, either withdrawing cases for lack of evidence or having them dismissed by Federal and state judges.

Even so, 17 Republican state Attorney Generals—and 126 Republican members of Congress—supported a Texas lawsuit to overturn the results in four battleground states: Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. 

The Supreme Court refused to hear the case.

The vast majority of House and Senate Republicans refused to publicly acknowledge Biden as President-Elect of the United States. They feared being turned out of office by Trump’s fanatical base. 

By January 6, 2021, Trump had run out of options for illegally staying in power for the next four years. So that day he incited a fanatical mob of his supporters to intimidate Congressional members counting Electoral College votes to reject the election’s results. 

The Stormtrumpers marched to the United States Capitol Building—and quickly brushed aside Capitol Police. More than three hours passed before police—using riot gear, shields and batons—retook control of the Capitol.

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

Although House Democrats moved to impeach Trump for his treasonous attack on democracy, Senate Republicans refused to convict him.

Almost two years later, Trump remains free and living a privileged life at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida. He has even declared his candidacy for President in 2024.

And millions of Right-wing voters remain convinced by his lies that the 2020 election was stolen from him. During the 2022 midterms, many Republican candidates for state and federal offices campaigned on that “Stop the Steal” premise.

Republicans won the House, but their failure to win the Senate has led to a civil war within the party. Trump remains the favorite of many. But others blame him for the defeat of many candidates.

They don’t want a candidate who displays moral clarity and compassion. They want a Fuhrer who appeals to their hatreds and craving for a Fascistic dictatorship—and who can make that a reality.

They will remain a constant threat to democracy—and to those Americans who don’t want to live under a Right-wing tyranny.

DEMOCRACY’S THREATS: RUSSIANS AND REPUBLICANS – PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 4, 2023 at 12:19 am

Many Republicans have accepted “campaign contributions”—bribes—from Russian oligarchs linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin. And the Russians have clearly gotten their money’s worth.

One of these, Len Blavatnik, has already been described in Part One of this series. 

Among those Republicans he has funded: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who is expected to become House Majority Leader in January, 2023. McCarthy has publicly demanded an end to aid for Ukraine’s resistance to Russian aggression.

Another Russian oligarch, Alexander Shustorovich, contributed $1 million to Donald 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 oligarchsBlavatnik, 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.

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In 2022, Republican political operative Jesse Benton was convicted in federal court of funneling $25,000 from a Russian businessman to Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Roy Douglas “Doug” Wead, a longtime conservative political commentator and author, was indicted by the Justice Department for conspiring to illegally funnel Russian money to the Trump campaign in 2016. He died of a heart attack before he could be brought to trial.

In 2022, Andrey Muraviev, a Russian oligarch, was indicted by a federal grand jury in New York for funneling contributions to other Republican politicians. Among these: Adam Laxalt, who was running for governor of Nevada in 2018.

On February 13, 2017, The Washington Post reported that Acting Attorney General Sally Yates had warned President Trump in late January that National Security Adviser Michael Flynn had lied about his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak—and that he could be blackmailed by Russian Intelligence.

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Michael Flynn

Flynn was forced to resign that same day.  

Flynn had been an Army lieutenant general and director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. A leading Trump supporter during the 2016 Presidential campaign, he was rewarded with the post of National Security Adviser when Trump took office. 

In December, 2015, he had appeared on Russia Today, the news network that serves as “the Kremlin’s principal international propaganda outlet.” For this he received more than $45,000 as a “speaking fee.” At the gala where Flynn received the fee, he sat next to Putin for dinner.

There was a time—from the end of World War II in 1945 to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991—when Republicans posed as America’s stalwart defenders against Communism.

But then many Republicans discovered they could more easily raise campaign contributions by cozying up to Vladimir Putin-–or to oligarchs linked to Putin

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The Kremlin

Of these, Donald Trump stands out predominantly as the first American President known to have colluded with a Russian dictator.

This was an open secret—most explicitly advertised by both Trump and Putin on June 28, 2019. 

That advertisement came when the two met in Osaka, Japan—their first since the March 22 release of the Mueller Report, which documented Russia’s subversion of the 2016 Presidential election.

An NBC News reporter asked: Would you tell Putin not to meddle in the 2020 Presidential election?

“Yes, of course I will,” replied Trump, grinning. “Don’t meddle in the election, please.”

And he jokingly wagged his finger at Putin: “Don’t meddle in the election.” 

Putin grinned back.

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Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin in Helsinki

On numerous occasions, Donald Trump has fiercely denied any Russian connections.

For example: July 27, 2016: “I mean I have nothing to do with Russia. I don’t have any jobs in Russia. I’m all over the world but we’re not involved in Russia.” 

Actually, Trump had a highly profitable relationship with Russia—as his son, Eric, unintentionally revealed in 2014: “Well, we don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia. We’ve got some guys that really, really love golf, and they’re really invested in our programs. We just go there all the time.” 

Conservative authority James Kirchick has indicted Republicans generally for their fervent embrace of Vladimir Putin’s Russia. As he wrote in a July 27, 2017 essay, “How the GOP Became the Party of Putin“: 

“For the past four years, I worked at a think tank, the Foreign Policy Initiative, that was bankrolled by Republican donors and regularly criticized the Obama administration….

“What I never expected was that the Republican Party—which once stood for a muscular, moralistic approach to the world, and which helped bring down the Soviet Union—would become a willing accomplice of what the previous Republican presidential nominee rightly called our No. 1 geopolitical foe: Vladimir Putin’s Russia.”

“…Four years ago, I began writing a series of articles about the growing sympathy for Russia among some American conservatives. Back then, the Putin fan club was limited to seemingly fringe figures like Pat Buchanan (‘Is Vladimir Putin a paleoconservative?’ he asked, answering in the affirmative)….

“Today, these figures are no longer on the fringe of GOP politics. According to a Morning Consult-Politico poll from May [2017], an astonishing 49 percent of Republicans consider Russia an ally. Favorable views of Putin-a career KGB officer who hates America—have nearly tripled among Republicans in the past two years, with 32 percent expressing a positive opinion.” 

DEMOCRACY’S THREATS: RUSSIANS AND REPUBLICANS – PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 3, 2023 at 12:10 am

“Ladies and gentlemen, Americans, in two days we will celebrate Christmas. Maybe candlelit. Not because it’s more romantic, no, but because there will not be—there will be no electricity. Millions won’t have neither heating nor running water. All of these will be the result of Russian missile and drone attacks on our energy infrastructure.     

“We’ll celebrate Christmas, and even if there is no electricity, the light of our faith in ourselves will not be put out. If Russian missiles attack us, we’ll do our best to protect ourselves.

“If they attack us with Iranian drones and our people will have to go to bomb shelters on Christmas Eve, Ukrainians will still sit down at the holiday table and cheer up each other. And we don’t have to know everyone’s wish as we know that all of us, millions of Ukrainians, wish the same: Victory. only victory.”

The speaker was Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. And his audience was a joint session of the Congress of the United States.

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Volodymyr Zelensky

President Of Ukraine from Україна, PDM-owner, via Wikimedia Commons

Zelensky—a former comic elected President of Ukraine in 2019—has led his country against Russia’s unprovoked invasion of February 24.

After risking his life in a secrecy-shrouded caravan from Kiev to the Polish city of Rzeszow, Zelensky boarded a United States Air Force jet bound for Washington, D.C.

Arriving there on December 21, he met with President Joe Biden before addressing Congress—in English—that night.

Instead of the traditional business suit, Zelensky wore the famous green shirt he has worn on visits to the front as Ukrainians fiercely resist Russian assaults with troops, tanks, drones, missiles and bombs.

And his bid for additional aid from the United States—which has already committed billions to Ukraine’s defense—paid off: President Biden pledged $1.85 billion of military aid for Ukraine—including the Patriot anti-missile system to repel Russian attacks.

Commentators have compared Zelensky’s address with that of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to the House of Commons on June 4, 1940.

At that moment, Great Britain faced imminent invasion from the seemingly invincible Third Reich. British troops had been forced to evacuate from France at Dunkirk. And Adolf Hitler’s Luftwaffe (air force) was known to be many times larger than that of Britain. 

Even so, Churchill hurled only defiance at Hitler:

“Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous states have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. 

“We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be.

“We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”

Churchill, aged 67, wearing a suit, standing and holding into the back of a chair

Winston Churchill

Britain depended on the United States for material help in defending itself against an aggressive dictatorship—as Ukraine does now. But Britain enjoyed an advantage denied to Ukraine.

During Britain’s hour of maximum peril, the United States Congress was not dominated a political party in thrall to Nazi bribes.

By contrast: Many Republicans have accepted “campaign contributions”—bribes—from Russian oligarchs linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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Vladimir Putin 

Kremlin.ru, CC BY 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

Putin’s money has been well spent: About 90 House Republicansout of a total of 213—attended Zelensky’s address, according to CQ Roll Call. Some who did spent much of the speech on their phones.

In 2022, the Biden administration and Congress directed nearly $50 billion in assistance to Ukraine. A November 3 Wall Street Journal poll found that nearly half of Republicans48%—believe the country is sending too much support to Kyiv. 

But they didn’t object to the $2 trillion resulting from President George W. Bush’s needless war on Iraq. 

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA.) spoke for many of these when she promised, at a Save America rally in Sioux City, Iowa, what would happen if the GOP gained control over Congress: “Under Republicans, not another penny will go to Ukraine.” 

So did Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-ARIZ.): “Ukraine is not our ally. Russia is not our enemy.”

One major Russian contributor to Republicans 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 (Kentucky), 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.

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

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on December 29, 2022 at 12:15 am

In facing off against President Donald Trump, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi proved the embodiment of Niccolo Machiavelli’s “lion and the fox.”

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

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

THE LION

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

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Donald Trump

THE FOX:

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

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

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

His suggestion: They could just take out a loan.   

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

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

Wilbur Ross Official Portrait.jpg

Wilbur Ross

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

And Pelosi didn’t hesitate to point it out:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nancy Pelosi

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

And when this happened, Pelosi sat directly behind him—along with Vice President Mike Pence—the whole time.

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

Simply sitting behind him, probably trying hard to suppress a gleeful smile, she nevertheless reminded the audience that she was the one who had taught this failed businessman “the art of the deal.”

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

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on December 28, 2022 at 12:11 am

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

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

Portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli by Santi di Tito.jpg

Niccolo Machiavelli

As House Minority Leader (2011 – 2019) and then Speaker of the House (2007 – 2011; 2019 – 2023), Nancy Pelosi proved she was both.

But her greatest contributions to the United States almost certainly came during the last two years of the infamous Trump administration.

THE FOX: 

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

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

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Nancy Pelosi

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

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

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

TRUMP: Did you say Trump—

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

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

Chuck Schumer official photo.jpg

Charles Schumer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The effects of the shutdown quickly became evident:  

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

THE LION:

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

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

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

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

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

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

DEMOCRACY’S SAVIOR: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on November 18, 2022 at 12:13 am

As a result of the vast increase in election security, President Donald Trump failed to get the help he expected from Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.

The result: He lost the 2020 Presidential election.

Thus, Joe Biden won the popular vote by 81,268,924 to 74,216,154 for Trump—and the Electoral College by 306 to 232. 

Two days later, Trump claimed: “And this is a case where they’re trying to steal an election, they’re trying to rig an election.”  

Chris Krebs was the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) run by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). And the man most responsible for ensuring election security. 

WATCH: Ousted DHS official Christopher Krebs testifies about 2020 election security - YouTube

Chris Krebs

On November 12, to counter the growing chorus of lies from Trump and his Right-wing allies, he put out the following statement:

“The November 3rd election was the most secure in American history. There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.” 

On November 17, Trump fired Chris Krebs.

Too cowardly to confront Krebs, Trump fired him by tweet—and accompanied the outrage with yet another lie:

“The recent statement by Chris Krebs on the security of the 2020 election was highly inaccurate, in that there were massive improprieties and fraud, including dead people voting, poll watchers not allowed into polling locations, glitches in the voting machines which changed votes from Trump to Biden, late voting, and many more.

“Therefore, effective immediately, Chris Krebs has been terminated as director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.”

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Donald Trump

Asked by “60 Minutes'” Scott Pelley if he was surprised to be fired, Krebs replied: “I don’t know if I was necessarily surprised. It’s not how I wanted to go out. The thing that upsets me the most about that is I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to my team.

“And I’d worked with them for three and a half years, in the trenches. Building an agency, putting CISA on the national stage. And I love that team. And I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye, so that’s what I’m most upset about.” 

Krebs was no dyed-in-the-wool Democrat but a life-long Republican. He gave up a lucrative job as Microsoft’s head of cybersecurity policy to join the Trump administration. He wanted to serve his country by creating a dedicated cybersecurity agency for the first time.

Still, he had his reservations about taking the job. As he told the Financial Times: “The flaws of this man [Trump] were obvious to everybody that was willing to pay attention. [But] to do your job, you have to be able to compartmentalize. I was willing to do that.

“Over time, it eats away at you. It eats away at you, the other parts of the department that were doing stuff that just seemed so inhumane. I was never involved in any of those policy conversations.”

By January 6, 2021, Trump had exhausted his legal efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election. 

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.

Of these attempts to challenge the results of the 2020 election, Krebs told Pelley:

“It was upsetting because what I saw was an apparent attempt to undermine confidence in the election, to confuse people, to scare people. It’s not me, it’s not just CISA. It’s the tens of thousands of election workers out there that had been working nonstop, 18-hour days, for months.

“They’re getting death threats for trying to carry out one of our core democratic institutions, an election. And that was, again, to me, a press conference that I just– it didn’t make sense. What it was actively doing was undermining democracy. And that’s dangerous.”

On January 6, the United States Senate, with Vice President Mike Pence presiding, met to 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.

At noon, Trump appeared at the Ellipse, a 52-acre park south of the White House fence. 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 his loss—and thus intimidate Congressional officials to reject the results.

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

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

The “Jolly Roger” meets Donald Trump

Three hours passed before the mob was dispersed and order was restored.

Yet for all the terrible drama of that day, the true hero of the moment went unrecognized.

By depriving Trump of Russian help, Chris Krebs had ensured a victory for democracy.

On the evening of January 6, the House and Senate met again to count the Electoral Votes.

And as expected, the two bodies pronounced Joseph Biden the winner—bringing an end to Donald Trump’s reign of criminality and treason.

DEMOCRACY’S SAVIOR: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on November 17, 2022 at 12:10 am

TIME’s Person of the Year for 2020 proved to be two people: Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. 

On the surface, choosing Biden and Harris made sense: “Joe Biden was elected President of the United States in the midst of an existential debate over what reality we inhabit. Perhaps the only thing Americans agree on right now is that the future of the country is at stake, even as they fiercely disagree about why.”

As for the shared legacy of Biden and Harris: “If Donald Trump was a force for disruption and division over the past four years, Biden and Harris show where the nation is heading: a blend of ethnicities, lived experiences and worldviews that must find a way forward together if the American experiment is to survive.”

Time Magazine logo.svg

Yet a lesser-known but far more consequential choice for “Person of the Year” would have been Chris Krebs.

Because, without Chris Krebs, there would not now be a Biden Presidency.

During the 2016 Presidential race, Russian propaganda played a major role in convincing millions of Americans to vote for Donald Trump. Social media platforms—especially Facebook and Twitter—were flooded with genuinely fake news to sow discord among Americans and create a pathway for Trump’s election.

And where Internet trolls left off, Russian computer hackers took over.

Hillary Clinton won the popular vote—65,853,514 to 62,984,828 for Trump. But in the United States, what counts in Presidential elections is the Electoral College vote.

And there Trump won: 304 to 227. 

What put him over the top in the Electoral College was the help he got from Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.

Putin had good reason to assist Trump: Putin wanted the United States to ditch the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance, which has preserved Western Europe from Russian aggression since World War II. And Trump had often attacked America’s funding of NATO as a drain on the American economy.

As for Trump, he wanted something from Putin: He wanted to be President. For this, Putin could supply monies, Internet trolls to confuse voters with falsified news, and even the hacking of key voting centers.

So notorious was the role played by Russian trolls and hackers in winning Trump the 2016 election that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was determined to prevent a repetition in 2020.

And the point man for this was Chris Krebs, the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) run by DHS.

Born in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1977, Krebs had received a B.A. in environmental sciences from the University of Virginia in 1999, and a J.D. from the George Mason University School of Law in 2007.

Chris Krebs official photo.jpg

Chris Krebs

Krebs had served as Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for Infrastructure Protection, and later worked in the private sector as Director for Cybersecurity Policy for Microsoft.

In preparation for the 2020 Presidential election, Krebs launched a massive effort to counter lies spread by Russians—and Americans—on social media platforms. As he explained to Scott Pelley during a “60 Minutes” interview aired on November 29, 2020: 

“So we spent something on the order of three and a half years of gaming out every possible scenario for how a foreign actor could interfere with an election. Countless, countless scenarios.” 

Krebs’ to-do list included paper ballots:

“Paper ballots give you the ability to audit, to go back and check the tape and make sure that you got the count right. And that’s really one of the keys to success for a secure 2020 election. Ninety-five percent of the ballots cast in the 2020 election had a paper record associated with it. Compared to 2016, about 82%.

“That gives you the ability to prove that there was no malicious algorithm or hacked software that adjusted the tally of the vote, and just look at what happened in Georgia. Georgia has machines that tabulate the vote. They then held a hand recount and the outcome was consistent with the machine vote.”   

Krebs’ duties included:

  • Sharing intelligence from agencies such as the CIA and National Security Agency with local officials about foreign efforts at election interference.
  • Ensuring that domestic voting equipment was secure.
  • Attacking domestic misinformation head-on.

At his command lay the resources of a series of powerful Federal investigative agencies:

“We had the Department of Defense Cyber Command. We had the National Security Agency. We had the FBI. We had the Secret Service. We also had representatives from the Election Assistance Commission, which is the federal independent agency that supports the actual administration of elections.

“We had representatives from some of the election equipment vendors. And they’re critical because they’re the ones out there that know what’s going on on the ground if there’s any sort of issue with some of their systems. And we had representatives from state and local governments.”

Misinformation led CISA to create a new “Rumor Control” website ahead of the 2020 election. Its main goal was to debunk rumors surrounding the 2020 election that had been spreading throughout the country.

As a result, Krebs was widely praised for revamping the department’s cybersecurity efforts and increasing coordination with state and local governments. 

By all accounts—except Donald Trump’s—the November 3, 2020 election went very smoothly.

TAKING OFF THE GLOVES AT THE FBI:: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on August 31, 2022 at 12:12 am

On September 2, 1964, the FBI launched a full-blown counterintelligence program against the Ku Klux Klan—COINTELPRO—WHITE HATE in FBI-speak.

Tim Weiner, author of Enemies: A History of the FBI, chronicles the methods used by the Bureau:

“WHITE-HATE intensified in the fall of 1964. It involved all the techniques in the FBI’s long-running attack on the Left. Once a week….FBI agents interrogated all known members of the White Knights of the KKK, blaming other Klansmen for being snitches and naming names, sowing deep suspicion among Klan members. Few knew who was an informer and who was not. 

A Ku Klux Klan meeting

The FBI dangled small fortunes before potential Klan informers, offered outright bribes to Klansmen who could serve as double agents inside state and local police forces, planted bugs and wiretaps in Klaverns, carried out black bag jobs to steal membership lists….”   

Other tactics included:

  • Contacting the news media to publicize arrests and identify Klan leaders;
  • Informing the employers of known Klansmen of their employees’ criminal activity, resulting in the firing of untold numbers of them;
  • Breaking up the marriages of Klansmen by circulating rumors of their infidelity among their wives.

“When the Klan reached 14,000 in the mid-sixties, I asked to take over the investigation of the Klan,” recalled William C. Sullivan, who headed the FBI’s Domestic Intelligence Division in the 1960s. “When I left the Bureau in 1971, the Klan was down to a completely disorganized 4,300. It was broken.”

William C. Sullivan

According to Neil J. Welch, the retired Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the FBI’s Buffalo, New York office:

“A Klan Bureau of Investigation (KBI) was created to counter the FBI, and its members placed the wives and children of agents under surveillance, harassing them with taunts and anonymous phone calls,” wrote Welch in his memoir, Inside Hoover’s FBI.

“It was a serious miscalculation. The most dangerous members of the KBI were systematically identified and assigned to agents selected solely because they were comparatively dangerous. The agents had full discretion. 

“During the next few months, a number of men previously involved in Klan violence around the state seemed, by remarkable coincidence, to experience misfortune. Some disappeared from the area. Some were forced to leave Mississippi for health reasons. A few took unplanned trips to places like Mexico and seemed to lose all interest in the Klan upon their return.” 

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

  • The FBI’s designating Right-wing political and terrorist groups as the Nation’s #1 enemy.  
  • Reviving the FBI’s legendary COINTELPRO (“Counterintelligence Program”) that destroyed the Ku Klux Klan in the late 1960s. Among the methods that can be used:  
  • Turning the Bureau’s powerful arsenal—bugs, wiretaps, informants, SWAT teams—on them.
  • Buying the cooperation of informants within Right-wing organizations.
  • Conducting “black bag jobs” to steal membership lists of of Right-wing organizations.
  • Breaking up the marriages of prominent Right-wingers by circulating rumors of their infidelity among their wives.
  • Informing the employers of known Right-wing terrorists of their employees’ criminal activity, resulting in the firing of untold numbers of them.
  • Contacting the news media to publicize the arrests of prominent Right-wing leaders.
  • When Right-wing terrorists target Federal law enforcement agents and/or their families for harassment or worse, they can be targeted for similar intimidation or removal.

FBI SWAT Team Training - YouTube

FBI SWAT member

A revised COINTELPRO could be supplemented by the following: 

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

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

When you are constantly looking over your shoulder, your enemies are winning. When your enemies are constantly looking over their shoulder, you are winning.

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