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Posts Tagged ‘UNITED STATES SENATE’

BUMS AND GUNS: AN UPDATE

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on August 26, 2019 at 12:19 am

In 2018, Brian Ellison was a Libertarian candidate for United States Senator from Michigan. And unlike other political candidates, he had a unique position on homelessness.

Some politicians want to outlaw homeless encampments. Others want to spend billions on low-cost housing for this population.

Ellison, instead, wanted to arm bums with guns. Specifically, with pump-action shotguns. 

“Get us a group of 20 homeless people that we could train, help them understand how the shotgun works, how to maintain it, how to fire it,” Ellison told Newsweek. “And equip them with a shotgun, a sling and some shells so they can protect themselves.” 

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Brian Ellison

Actually, the shotgun was not Ellison’s first choice of weaponry for his intended beneficiaries.

“Frankly I think the ideal weapon would be a pistol,” he told The Guardian, “but due to the licensing requirements in the state we’re going to have a hard enough time getting homeless people shotguns as it is. 

“Getting them pistols is probably next to impossible. The pistols need to be registered, people have to have addresses.” 

But “open-carrying a long gun is completely legal. So we thought that pump-action shotguns were a suitable alternative to a pistol.”

 Winchester Model 1912-gauge pump-action shotgun

Ellison is a former Army soldier who served in Iraq.

Apparently that experience didn’t teach him that when too many people have guns, no one is safe.

Ellison also wanted to abolish the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Transportation Security Administration, and localize the Department of Education. 

“I’m basically entirely opposed to any government program,” said Ellison. 

Unless it’s a government program to arm bums with guns.

This population can be roughly divided into four categories:

  • Druggies
  • Drunks
  • Mental cases and
  • Bums.

The homeless are “constantly victims of violent crime,” said Ellison, who believes that giving them firearms would provide a deterrent.

It would also provide a real incentive for tax-paying citizens to hand over their money the moment a shotgun-carrying DDMB confronts them on the street. 

But Ellison had an answer for this: “Pre-qualify” DDMBs as suitable candidates to own firearms:

“The first thing that we’re gonna do is ask them if they think this is something that would benefit them. We’re certainly not trying to force anything on anybody.” 

Except, of course, on those citizens being hit on daily—sometimes hourly—by DDMBs for money.

Naturally, ammunition would be provided—at state expense—for the shotguns. This would come in five- or six-shell magazines.

Ellison said that more shells would be provided if the owners legitimately used their guns to defend themselves.

But if they used their ammo for “shooting cans in somebody’s private property” then they would not be given more shells.

 A potential beneficiary of Ellison’s “guns for bums” program  

Ellison wasn’t worried that his intended beneficiaries might use the guns for murder or robbery: “Well, are you worried about the police being armed with military weapons?  I am.  

“The world we live in is a scary world, where the police who used to dress in short-sleeved shirts and carry a revolver now have long rifles with scopes and bulletproof vests and armored vehicles.

“And quite frankly that scares me much more than a homeless person trying to defend themselves with a shotgun.” 

This, of course, ignores the fact that police are pre-qualified with firearms—and every shooting by officers in a big-city police department is thoroughly investigated.

Their firearms are turned in for investigation. And the officers who used them can be disciplined and even prosecuted if a police chief and/or prosecutor believes the shooting was improper or illegal.

And who would make such lethal weaponry available to street people?  

“There are a lot of charities out there that help to provide the homeless with food, housing, job training, all kinds of stuff,” said Ellison. “There’s not a charity out there that helps them learn how to protect themselves. What’s going to drive this is popular support.” 

Just how many DDMBs could receive Ellison’s special gift?  In Michigan, there are more than 56,000 of them.

Ellison remarked that the population is “constantly victims of violent crime” in his state.

His website page opened with: “LIBERTARIANISM MEANS ALL OF YOUR FREEDOMS ALL OF THE TIME.” And it outlined his core beliefs: 

“We as a people must admit that the many laws, regulations, and policies established over the years in an effort  to ‘promote social welfare’ have failed in their stated purpose. These laws and regulations now represent the greatest threat to our natural rights, and must be repealed.

“Abroad, we must change how we engage the rest of the world, leading by example, not force of arms….Imperialism was not the intent of our founders nor is it the desire of the majority of Americans.”

“In order to move forward in these beliefs,” said his website, “we must remember that while our ideology is our core, we must also be practical and reasonable in their implementation.” 

Apparently, many voters decided that arming bums with guns wasn’t “practical and reasonable.” Ellison’s opponent, Democratic incumbent Debbie Stabenow, defeated him in the general election on November 6, 2018. 

REPUBLICANS: LOVING AMERICA LESS–AND THEIR JOBS MORE

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on August 16, 2019 at 12:04 am

“Just another week in Caligula’s Rome.”

That was how conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks summed up President Donald Trump’s Washington, D.C. for the week of February 24 to March 1, 2019.

It could serve as the epitaph for the history of the Trump administration.

Every Friday Books faces off with liberal syndicated columnist Mark Shields on The PBS Newshour. And on the program for March 1, the two men found common cause in sizing up the appearance of Michael Cohen before the House Oversight Committee two days earlier.

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David Brooks and Mark Shields on “The PBS Newshour”

During that hearing, Cohen, Trump’s longtime attorney and fixer:

  • Condemned his former boss as “a racist, a conman [and] a cheat.”
  • Confirmed that Trump had instructed him to pay $130,000 in hush money to porn “star” Stormy Daniels, to buy her silence during the 2016 Presidential campaign.
  • Provided the committee with a copy of a check Trump wrote from his personal bank account—after he became President—“to reimburse me for the hush money payments I made.”
  • Produced “copies of letters I wrote at Mr. Trump’s direction that threatened his high school, colleges, and the College Board not to release his grades or SAT scores.”

But for Brooks, far more was at stake than the individual accusations:

“To me, it was more of a moral occasion, more than anything else. What it illustrates is a President and, frankly, Michael Cohen who long ago decided that celebrity and wealth is more important than being a good person. And they have dragged us all down there with us.

“And the people they have dragged most effectively are the House Republicans, a lot of them on that committee, who decided that they were completely incurious about whether Donald Trump was a good guy or a bad guy or a really awful guy, that—their own leader, they didn’t seem to care about that, but they were going to rip the skin off Michael Cohen.

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Michael Cohen testifying before Congress

“And so they attacked him. And what struck me is how moral corrosion happens, that you decide you’re going to defend or ignore Trump. And then to do that, you have to morally distance yourself from him. And then you have to morally distance yourself from him every day.

“And, eventually, you just get numb to everything. And so [Ohio Republican Representative] Jim Jordan and other people on the committee were saying, oh, we all knew this, like, it’s all unremarkable. And so that’s—that’s how moral corrosion happens.”  

During the hearing, California Representative Jackie Speier asked Cohen: How many times did Trump ask you to intimidate creditors?

Cohen estimated the number at 500. 

For Shields, this counted as especially despicable behavior: “And—but the thing about it is, when he stiffed those small business—the plumbers and the electricians who did the work in the Trump projects, and he came back, and Donald Trump loved to hear about it, I mean, reveled in it.

“Now, I mean, at what point do you say that there’s no honor here? I mean, there’s nothing to admire.” 

Shields was equally appalled by the refusal of Trump’s Republican committee defenders to condemn his moral depravity—as a businessman or President.

“If you can’t deal with the message, you shoot the messenger. And that’s what their whole strategy was.

“The very fact that not a single member of the Republican committee defended Donald Trump or what he was charged or alleged to have done, to me, was revealing. They just decided to go after Michael Cohen.”

So why have Republicans aligned themselves with such a man? 

Republicans don’t fear that Trump will trash the institutions that Americans have cherished for more than 200 years. Institutions like an independent judiciary, a free press, and an incorruptible Justice Department.

He has already attacked all of these—and Republicans have either said nothing or rushed to his defense.

What Republicans truly fear about Donald Trump is that he will finally cross one line too many. And that the national outrage following this will force them to launch impeachment proceedings against him.

But it isn’t even Trump they fear will be destroyed.

What they most fear losing is their own hold on nearly absolute power in Congress and the White House. And the riches that go with it.

If Trump is impeached and possibly indicted, he will become a man no one any longer fears. He will be a figure held up to ridicule and condemnation. 

Like Adolf Hitler.

Like Richard Nixon. 

And his supporters will be branded as losers along with him.

Republicans vividly remember what happened after Nixon was forced to resign on August 9, 1974: Democrats, riding a wave of reform fever, swept Republicans out of the House and Senate—and Jimmy Carter into the White House. 

House and Senate Republicans can imagine a future without Trump—but not one where they disappear.

If they are conflicted—whether to continue supporting Trump or desert him—the reason is the same: How can I hold onto my power and all the privileges that go with it?  

REPUBLICANS: “BETTER RED THAN UN-ELECTED”: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Entertainment, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 31, 2019 at 12:25 am

Upon taking office as President in 1981, Ronald Reagan decided to end the “stalemate” of “containing” Communism. He intended to “roll it back.”

American proxies fought Soviet proxies in Afghanistan and Central America, but the world escaped nuclear holocaust.

During the 1980s and 1990s, Republicans continued to accuse Democrats of being devious agents—or at least unwitting pawns—of “the Communist conspiracy.”

In 1992, President George H.W. Bush and the Republican establishment charged that Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton might be a KGB plant.

George H.W. Bush

Their “evidence”: During his tenure at Oxford University in 1969-70, Clinton had briefly visited Moscow. 

After the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991, Republicans found that accusing Democrats of being “Commies” didn’t carry the same weight.

So they turned to “domestic enemies” to rail—and run—against: Liberals, blacks, Hispanics, “uppity” women, war protesters, lesbians, gays, and—after 9/11—Muslims.

From 1945 to 2015, it was unthinkable for a Republican Presidential candidate to pay tribute to a Soviet dictator.

But that utterly changed when Donald J. Trump, a “reality TV” host with longstanding financial ties to Russian oligarchs, ran for President of the United States.

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Donald Trump

Trump lavishly praised Russian President Vladimir Putin—and even invited him to directly interfere in the 2016 Presidential race.

The reason for the Trump-Putin bromance: Each had something to offer the other.

Putin wanted the United States to ditch the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance, which had 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.

And Trump wanted to be President. For this, Putin could supply Internet trolls to confuse voters with falsified news—and even the hacking of key voting centers.

And monies. These Russian monies were officially classified as “campaign contributions,” not bribes.

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

On July 27, Trump said at a press conference in Doral, Florida: “Russia, if you are listening, I hope you are able to find the 33,000 emails that are missing [from Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s computer]. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

Hours later, the Main Intelligence Directorate in Moscow targeted Clinton’s personal office and hit more than 70 other Clinton campaign accounts.

This is treason—calling upon a foreign power, hostile to the United States, to interfere in its Presidential election.

Nor is Trump the only Republican receiving “help” from Putin. A network of Russian oligarchs—all of them answerable to Putin—has been increasingly contributing to top Republicans. 

According to the Federal Election Commission:

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

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

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

Specifically, he contributed:

  • A total of $1.5 million to PACs associated with Rubio.  
  • $1 million to Trump’s Inaugural Committee
  • $41,000 to both Republicans and Democrats in 2017.
  • $1 million to McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund.
  • $3.5 million to a PAC associated with McConnell
  • $1.1 million to Unintimidated PAC, associated with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. 
  • $200,000 to the Arizona Grassroots Action PAC, associated with the late Arizona Senator John McCain. 
  • $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

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

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

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

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

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

On March 30, 2017, McConnell’s PAC accepted another $1 million from Blavatnik.

This is just 10 days after former FBI Director James Comey testified before the House Intelligence Committee about Russia’s efforts to subvert the 2016 election

So, what has changed in the Republican Party?  Essentially nothing.

Its enemies changed—from Russian Communists to American liberals—but its goal remains the same: The quest for absolute power.

When Americans feared Communism, Republicans depicted themselves as the only ones who could be trusted to protect the United States. Big contributions poured in from Right-wing billionaires like H.L. Hunt and Howard Hughes.

But when Republicans found they could enrich themselves and stay in power via Russian “campaign contributions,” they decided: Better Red than un-elected.

REPUBLICANS: “BETTER RED THAN UN-ELECTED”: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Entertainment, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 30, 2019 at 12:17 am

On July 24, former Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III finally addressed Congress on Russia’s subversion of the 2016 Presidential election.

Mueller had spent almost two years uncovering links between Russian Intelligence agents and members of Donald Trump’s Presidential campaign.

“Over the course of my career, I’ve seen a number of challenges to our democracy,” Mueller declared to members of the House Judiciary Committee. “The Russian government’s effort to interfere in our election is among the most serious. As I said on May 29, this deserves the attention of every American.

“Many more countries are developing the capability to replicate what the Russians have done.

“It wasn’t a single attempt. They’re doing it as we sit here. And they expect to do it during the next campaign.”

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Robert Mueller

In his report, Mueller documented years of meddling in American politics by the Internet Research Agency, which runs the Kremlin’s online disinformation efforts from its headquarters in St. Petersburg. 

The Agency reached 126 million Americans through fake accounts on Facebook. Its messages communicated with unaware members of the Trump campaign, and even prompted real-life rallies that mobilized crowds of unwitting voters.

Hours later that same day, Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Mississippi) blocked the passage of three bills designed to tighten election security at the federal level. She claimed that Congress had already responded to election security needs for the 2020 Presidential election.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) came to the Senate floor the next day to personally object to House-passed legislation backed by Democrats.

There was a time when Republicans saw—and portrayed—themselves as America’s foremost defenders against Communism. 

This was particularly true during the early 1950s. Case in point: Wisconsin United States Senator Joseph R. McCarthy. 

Elected to the Senate in 1946, he rose to national prominence on February 9, 1950, after giving a fiery speech in Wheeling, West Virginia: 

“The State Department is infested with communists. I have here in my hand a list of 205—a list of names that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department.”

Joseph McCarthy

Americans were already growing increasingly fearful of Communism:

  • Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin had not withdrawn the Red Army from the countries it had occupied in Eastern Europe during World War II.
  • In 1948, the Soviet Union developed—and demonstrated—its own atomic bomb, an achievement U.S. scientists had claimed would not happen for at least a decade.
  • In 1949, China fell to the triumphant armies of Mao Tse Tung.  Generalissimo Chaing Kai Shek was driven from mainland China to the tiny island of Taiwan.

Anti-communism as a lever to political advancement sharply accelerated following McCarthy’s speech. 

No American—no matter how prominent—was safe from the accusation of being a Communist or a Communist sympathizer—”a Comsymp” or “fellow traveler” in the language of the era.

Among those accused:

  • Secretary of State George C. Marshall, who had overseen America’s strategy for defeating Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.
  • President Harry S. Truman.
  • Playwrights Lillian Hellman and Arthur Miller.
  • Actors Charlie Chaplin, Zero Mostel, Lloyd Bridges, Howard Da Silva, Edward G. Robinson and John Garfield.
  • Composers Arron Copland and Elmer Bernstein.
  • Physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, who presided over the creation of America’s atomic bomb.
  • Actresses Lee Grant, Delores del Rio, Ruth Gordon and Lucille Ball.
  • Journalists Edward R. Murrow and William L. Shirer, who had chronicled the rise of Nazi Germany.
  • Folksinger Pete Seeger.
  • Writers Irwin Shaw, Howard Fast, John Steinbeck and Dashiell Hammett

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Even “untouchable” Republicans became targets for such slander.

The most prominent of these: President Dwight D. Eisenhower—labeled ”a conscious, dedicated agent of the Communist Conspiracy” by Robert Welch, founder of the John Birch Society in 1958.

In 1953, McCarthy attacked the leadership of the United States Army as “a hotbed of traitors” and convened an inquiry through the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

But the hearings backfired, exposing McCarthy as a bullying demagogue. A Senate committee condemned his behavior as acting “contrary to senatorial ethics and tended to bring the Senate into dishonor and disrepute.”

Yet even without McCarthy, Republicans rode the issue of anti-Communism to victory from 1948 to 1992. “Respectable” anti-Communists—like Richard M. Nixon—depicted themselves as the only ones who could be trusted to safeguard America.

Republicans held the White House for eight years under Dwight D. Eisenhower, then lost it in 1960 to John F. Kennedy and again in 1964 to Lyndon B. Johnson.

By 1968, with the nation mired in Vietnam and convulsed by antiwar demonstrations and race riots, Americans turned once more to those who preyed upon their fears and hates.

They elected Richard Nixon, who promised to end the Vietnam war and attack “uppity” blacks and antiwar demonstrators—and, above all, “the Communist menace.”

The same strategy re-elected him in 1972.

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

THE INDISPENSABLE MAN: ROBERT MUELLER—PART FOUR (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 17, 2019 at 12:06 am

On November 8, 2016, millions of racist, hate-filled Americans took “revenge” on the nation’s first black President—by deliberately voting a Russian-backed egomaniac and would-be dictator into the White House. 

By doing so, they set in motion events that would lead Robert S. Mueller to assume the consequences—and burdens—of their brutal, Fascistic desires.

On April 27, 2018, the House Intelligence Committee, after a sham “investigation,” concluded there had been “no collusion” between Russian Intelligence agents and members of the Trump Presidential campaign.

Among the evidence ignored: The now-infamous meeting at Trump Tower, in June, 2016, between Donald Trump’s son, Donald Jr.; his son-in-law, Jared Kushner; and his then-campaign manager, Paul Manafort, with Russian Intelligence agents.

The reason for the meeting: The Russians claimed to have dirt to offer on Hillary Clinton.

The “no collusion” verdict was inevitable, since the committee was chaired by California’s Republican Representative Devin Nunes, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Trump. Nunes had even improperly shared “secret” committee documents with the President. 

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Devin Nunes

The Senate Intelligence Committee, on the other hand, agreed with the conclusions previously reached by the American Intelligence community (CIA, FBI, National Security Agency): The Russians had worked to subvert the American political process and elect Trump over Clinton.

March 17, 2018, marked one year since Special Counsel Robert Mueller began his investigation to uncover “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump, and any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.”

By October, 2018, Mueller had:

  • Indicted 31 people—including 26 Russian nationals and four former Trump campaign advisers.
  • Indicted three Russian companies. 
  • Obtained six guilty pleas.
  • Unveiled Russians’ determination to elect Trump over Hillary Clinton.
  • Revealed that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn discussed removing sanctions against Russia with then-Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, during the transition period. 
  • Discovered that Trump associates knew about Russian outreach efforts during the campaign.

By contrast:

  • Republicans spent four years investigating the 2012 attack on the United States embassy in Benghazi, Libya. Their goal: To derail the presumed 2016 Presidential candidacy of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. But no indictments followed.
  • Republicans spent two years investigating Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while Secretary of State. Again, no indictments followed.

* * * * *

It’s past time for Republicans to remember the lesson taught by High Noon, the classic 1952 Western starring Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly.

Town marshal Will Kane (Cooper) has just married Amy Fowler (Kelly) a Quaker. It should be the happiest day of his life. But shortly after the ceremony, word comes that Frank Miller—a notorious murderer Kane once sent to prison—has been released. 

High Noon poster.jpg

Even worse, Miller—joined by three other killers—is coming into town on the noon train to kill Kane.

Kane’s first instinct is to flee: He and his wife get into a buggy and dash out of town. But then his sense of duty takes over. He returns to town, intending to recruit a posse.

But this proves impossible—everyone is scared to death of Miller and his gang. And everyone Kane approaches has a reason for not backing him up.

Even Amy—a fervent believer in non-violence—threatens to leave him if he stands up to Miller. She will be on the noon train leaving town—with or without him.

When the clock strikes noon, the train arrives, and Kane—alone—faces his enemies. He shoots and kills two of them.

Then, as he’s pinned down by the third, he gets some unexpected help—from his wife: Amy shoots the would-be killer in the back—only to be taken hostage by Miller himself.

Miller tells Kane to leave his concealed position or he’ll kill Amy. Kane steps into the open—and Amy claws at Miller’s face, buying Kane the time he needs to shoot Miller down.

The townspeople rush to embrace Kane and congratulate him. But he’s disgusted with their cowardice and holds them in total contempt.

Saying nothing, he drops the marshal’s star into the dirt. He and Amy then get into a buggy and leave town.

Fred Zinnemann, the film’s director, intended the movie as an attack on those frightened into silence by Joseph McCarthy, the infamous Red-baiting Senator from Wisconsin.

Will Kane fought to protect himself and his town from a gang of murderous outlaws.

Robert Mueller fought to discover the truth behind Russian subversion of the American political system.

Kane’s fight ended—with a good man defeating evil men.

Mueller survived—professionally and personally—to deliver his report. It isn’t yet know if Congress will ultimately triumph over his—and America’s—mortal enemies. 

Robert Mueller—as a soldier, prosecutor, FBI director and now Special Counsel—took an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” 

So did Donald Trump when he was inaugurated President. And so did every member of the House of Representatives and the Senate. 

The difference between Robert Mueller, and the overwhelming majority of Republican Congressional members who continue to support Trump, is this: Mueller, like a compass always pointing True North, has always stayed faithful to that oath. 

THE INDISPENSABLE MAN: ROBERT MUELLER—PART THREE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 16, 2019 at 12:07 am

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

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

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

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

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

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

So Special Counsel Robert Mueller faced increased hostility from Republicans who no doubt fear their own ownership by Moscow would become a focus of his investigation.

But there is another powerful reason why so many Republicans closed ranks with Trump against him: 

#2: Republicans fear enraging Trump’s fanatical base.

On August 30, 2017, an article in Salon sought to explain why President Donald Trump was so popular among his supporters.

Its headline ran: “Most Americans Strongly Dislike Trump, But the Angry Minority That Adores Him Controls Our Politics.”

It described these voters as representing about one-third of the Republican party:

“These are older and more conservative white people, for the most part, who believe he should not listen to other Republicans and should follow his own instincts….

“They like Trump’s coarse personality, and approve of the fact that he treats women like his personal playthings. They enjoy it when he expresses sympathy for neo-Nazis and neo-Confederate white supremacists.

“They cheer when he declares his love for torture, tells the police to rough up suspects and vows to mandate the death penalty for certain crimes. (Which of course the president cannot do.)

“…This cohort of the Republican party didn’t vote for Trump because of his supposed policies on trade or his threat to withdraw from NATO. They voted for him because he said out loud what they were thinking. A petty, sophomoric, crude bully is apparently what they want as a leader.”

And keeping that cohort constantly stirred up is the Right-wing Fox News Network. This is not a source of legitimate news but the propaganda arm of the Fascistic Right and the Republican party.

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Donald Trump

On May 18, 2018, conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks offered this political commentary on The PBS Newshour: “I would just say, I observe politically, I do think if Trump fired Mueller tomorrow, the Republican Party would back him. 

“Because I think FOX News has created a predicate. They have done thousands of surveys and investigations about Mueller as a political operative.” 

And Brooks’ fellow political commentator, liberal syndicated columnist Mark Shields, echoed those sentiments: “At the same time, I think what we learned is that the defense of Donald Trump, led by himself and [his attorney] Rudy Giuliani, is to savage and torment, denigrate, vilify and libel Bob Mueller.

“Bob Mueller happens to be an American who turned down an eight-figure income to be a major corporate lawyer, instead became a public servant. He’s a man who volunteered and carries the wounds of battle from having been a Marine platoon leader in Vietnam.

“He is a public servant. He has not said a word. He has not given an interview. He has not leaked to anybody. And he stands vilified by Trump and Giuliani and their cohorts and their outriders. It is indefensible.

“And they are trying to exact the same damage upon the Justice Department of the country, the FBI and this country that Joe McCarthy did on the State Department, which has never fully recovered from his libelous attacks.”

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David Brooks and Mark Shields

According to a Pew Research Center survey, that one-third of Republicans who fanatically support Trump comprise only 16% of the population. That leaves 65% of Republicans who are revolted by Trump’s personality and behavior.

But that 65% of Republicans are being advised by GOP political consultants to vigorously support him.

“Your heart tells you that he’s bad for the country,” one anonymous consultant told the Salon reporter. “Your head looks at polling data among Republican primary voters and sees how popular he is.”

It’s precisely these hard-core Fascists who come out in mid-term elections—and they’re scaring the remaining 65% who make up the GOP establishment.  

The highest priority of that establishment, after all, is to hold onto their privileged positions in the House and Senate. And anything that might jeopardize that—including what’s best for the country—can go hang.  

THE INDISPENSABLE MAN: ROBERT MUELLER—PART TWO (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 15, 2019 at 12:04 am

On May 17, 2017, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Robert S. Mueller III to serve as Special Counsel for the United States Department of Justice. 

Rosenstein charged Mueller to investigate “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump, and any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.” 

Since then, Trump, his shills in Congress and Right-wing Fox News have relentlessly attacked Mueller’s integrity and investigative methods. 

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From the outset of that investigation, there were widespread fears that Trump would fire Mueller, just as he did FBI Director James Comey. Those fears increased over the weekend of March 17-18, 2018, when Trump spewed a series of angry tweets on Twitter: 

  • “The Mueller probe should never have been started in that there was no collusion and there was no crime. It was based on fraudulent activities and a Fake Dossier paid for by Crooked Hillary and the DNC, and improperly used in FISA COURT for surveillance of my campaign. WITCH HUNT!” 
  • “Why does the Mueller team have 13 hardened Democrats, some big Crooked Hillary supporters, and Zero Republicans? Another Dem recently added…does anyone think this is fair? And yet, there is NO COLLUSION!”
  • “A total WITCH HUNT with massive conflicts of interest!”

In High Noon, Marshal Will Kane faced death at the hands of four cold-blooded killers. 

For Mueller, the threat was different. Every day he conducted his investigation under the shadow of being fired by a President who had: 

  • Already fired an FBI director for investigating proven links between Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign and Russian Intelligence agents;
  • Repeatedly praised Russian dictator Vladimir Putin; and
  • Who has “joked” about how great it would be if the United States, like China, had a “President-for-Life.”

Mueller faced another distressing possibility: Even if he were allowed to complete his investigation, his final report might be suppressed by Trump under a claim of “executive privilege.”

And, on October 30, 2018, details emerged about a Right-wing plot to discredit the probe by falsely accusing Mueller of sexually abusing or harassing women. 

The Special Counsel’s office issued the following statement: “When we learned last week of allegations that women were offered money to make false claims about the Special Counsel, we immediately referred the matter to the FBI for investigation.” 

On October 29, Jacob Wohl, a Fox News contributor and Trump supporter, tweeted: “Several media sources tell me that a scandalous story about Mueller is breaking tomorrow. Should be interesting. Stay tuned!” 

Then, on October 30, Jennifer Taub, a law professor at Vermont Law School, told The Atlantic that a man working for Surefire Intelligence, a private investigative agency, had offered to pay her if she could provide dirt on Mueller.

She didn’t respond and forwarded the information to the Special Counsel’s office.

Jennifer Taub - VERMONT LAW SCHOOL

Jennifer Taub

Nor could Mueller, a lifelong Republican, count on protection from Republicans in the House and Senate.

Almost universally, they refused to speak out against threats by Trump to fire him or deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.  

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

On April 17, 2018, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would not allow legislation to protect Robert Mueller’s independent investigation into Russian subversion of the 2016 Presidential election to reach the Senate floor.  

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Mitch McConnell

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

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

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

Why have so few Republicans dared to stand against Trump?  

Two major reasons:

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

In short: Bribe monies

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The Kremlin

The following data comes from the Federal Elections Commission.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE INDISPENSABLE MAN: ROBERT MUELLER—PART ONE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 12, 2019 at 12:24 am

On March 22, 2019, Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III delivered a 448-page report of his findings about Russian subversion of the 2016 Presidential election to Attorney General William Barr.

Two days later, Barr sent a four-page letter to Republican and Democratic members of the United States Senate and House of Representatives.

Purporting to summarize the major findings of the Mueller report, Barr wrote:

  • “The Special Counsel did not find that the Trump [Presidential] campaign, or anyone associated with it, conspired or coordinated with the Russian government….”
  • “Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and I have concluded that the evidence developed during the Special Counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.”

But on May 29, Mueller gave a totally different reason for why Trump hadn’t been indicted for obstruction-of-justice: “Under long-standing department policy, a President cannot be charged with a federal crime while he is in office. That is unconstitutional.”  

On July 17, Mueller finally will explain before Congress how he reached the conclusions outlined in his report.

At the center of this controversy is a 74-year-old man who assumed the burdens created when millions of racist, hate-filled Americans deliberately sent a Russian-backed egomaniac and would-be dictator to the White House.

That man is Robert Swan Mueller III.

Like Will Kane, the embattled marshal played by Gary Cooper in High Noon, he is not a young man—born on August 7, 1944. And, like Cooper’s Will Kane, he is tall, gray-haired and tight-lipped.

But while Cooper never saw military service, Mueller did. A 1966 graduate of Princeton University, he served as a Marine Corps infantry platoon commander during the Vietnam War.

Wounded in combat, among the military awards he received were:

  • The Bronze Star Medal with Combat “V” for heroism (for saving a wounded Marine while under enemy fire).
  • The Purple Heart Medal (awarded for wounds in combat).
  • Two Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals with Combat “V”.
  • Combat Action Ribbon.
  • National Defense Service Medal.

Having given three years of his life (1968-1971) to the Marines, Mueller devoted the rest of his life to law enforcement.

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Robert Mueller

A 1973 graduate of the University of Virginia Law School, Mueller served as:

  • United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts (1986-1987);
  • United States Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division (1990-1993);
  • United States Attorney for the Northern District of California (1998-2001);
  • United States Deputy Attorney General (January 20, 2001– May 10, 2001).

On September 4, 2001—seven days before Al Qaeda’s 9/11 attacks on Washington and New York—President George W. Bush appointed him director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Widely praised for his integrity and effectiveness, he served his full 10-year term—the legal maximum. 

But when President Barack Obama took office in 2009, he asked Mueller—a lifelong Republican—to stay on for an additional two years until a suitable replacement could be found.

Mueller agreed—and was succeeded by a fellow Justice Department colleague named James Comey.

Retiring from the FBI in 2013 at age 69, Mueller’s 27-year career as a dedicated law enforcer seemed at last to be over. 

Then, on May 9, 2017, President Donald Trump fired Comey as FBI director. There were five reasons for this:

  • Comey had refused to pledge his personal loyalty to Trump. Trump had made the “request” during a private dinner at the White House in January.
  • Comey told Trump that he would always be honest with him. But that didn’t satisfy Trump’s demand that the head of the FBI act as his personal secret police chief—as was the case in the former Soviet Union.
  • Trump had tried to coerce Comey into dropping the FBI’s investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, for his secret ties to Russia and Turkey. Comey had similarly resisted that demand. 
  • Comey had recently asked the Justice Department to fund an expanded FBI investigation into well-documented contacts between Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign and Russian Intelligence agents.
  • The goal of that collaboration: To elect Trump over Hillary Clinton, a longtime foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

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James Comey

On May 10—the day after firing Comey—Trump met in the Oval Office with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. 

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

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

On May 11, Trump, interviewed on NBC News by reporter Lester Holt, said: “And in fact when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said ‘you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.'”   

A national firestorm erupted—unprecedented since President Richard M. Nixon had fired Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox on October 20, 1973.

To squelch it, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein moved quickly.

On May 17, 2017, he appointed Robert S. Mueller III to serve as Special Counsel for the United States Department of Justice. 

THE “PROGRESSIVE PROSECUTOR” WHO IGNORED THE LAW

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 4, 2019 at 12:08 am

Kamala Harris spent seven years (2004 – 2011) as District Attorney of San Francisco and another six years (2011 – 2017) as California Attorney General. Then, in 2016, she won election to the United States Senate.

Now she wants to be the first black woman President of the United States. And to tout her candidacy, she’s published her memoirs: The Truths We HoldIn these, she describes herself as a “progressive prosecutor.”  

Harris knows that law enforcement issues are a lightning rod for both liberal and conservative voters. So she’s trying to portray herself as appealing to both.

“It’s a presidential campaign, and every aspect of a candidate’s record is going to be scrutinized and they’re going to have to answer for it,” said Mo Elleithee, a longtime Democratic operative who leads Georgetown University’s Institute of Politics and Public Service. 

Former Vice President Joe Biden chaired the Senate’s Judiciary Committee when he backed the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act. This created stricter penalties for drug offenders and funneled billions of dollars toward more police and new prisons. Now he’s being accused of helping create an era of mass incarceration among blacks.

Today, with millions of illegal aliens from Central and Latin America flooding into the United States, the spotlight has shifted from the incarceration of blacks to that of Hispanics.

Illegal immigration—and what to do about it—is now the hottest political issue in the country.  And it may well undo Harris’ chances to become President.

For liberals of the Democratic party, “open borders” appears to be the solution to illegal immigration. Yet the vast majority of Americans reject this. They support legal immigration—but oppose illegal immigration.

Moreover, Donald Trump has ignited a white-hot fury against illegal aliens from Central and Latin America.

And Kamala Harris’ record as San Francisco District Attorney is hardly reassuring on this issue.  

Among the truths she holds secret: When she served as District Attorney for San Francisco, she set up a secret unit to keep even convicted illegal alien felons out of prison—and in the United States.

U.S. Senator Kamala Harris

Her program, called Back on Track, trained them for jobs they could not legally hold. This was a flagrant violation of Federal immigration law.  Completion led to the expunging of a felony conviction, making it highly popular among convicted criminals.

One such alumnus was Alexander Izaguirre, an illegal alien who had been arrested twice within eight months—for purse-snatching and selling cocaine.

In July, 2008, four months after pleading guilty to selling cocaine, Izaguirre assaulted Amanda Kiefer, a legal San Francisco resident.

Snatching her purse, he jumped into an SUV, then tried to run Kiefer down. Terrified, she leaped onto the hood and saw Izaguirre and a driver laughing.

The driver slammed on the brakes, sending Kiefer flying onto the pavement and fracturing her skull.

The program, Back on Track, became a centerpiece of Harris’ campaign for state Attorney General.

Until she was questioned by the Los Angeles Times about the Izaguirre case, Harris had never publicly admitted that the program included illegal aliens.

Harris claimed she first learned that illegal aliens were training for jobs only after Izaguirre was arrested for the Kiefer assault. Apparently not one of her fellow prosecutors ever mentioned this to her.

Harris said it was a “flaw in the design” of the program to let illegal aliens into the program. “I believe we fixed it,” she told the Times.

Harris never released statistics on how many illegal aliens were included since the program started in 2005.

She said that after Izaguirre’s arrest she never asked—or learned—how many illegal aliens were in Back on Track. A strange lapse in curiosity for a prosecutor charged with enforcing the law.

When Harris learned that illegal aliens were enrolled, she allowed those who were following the rules to finish the program and have their criminal records expunged.

 

It is not the duty of local law enforcement, she said, to enforce Federal immigration laws.

So much for her oath to faithfully defend the Constitution of the United States and that of the state of California “against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

From 2005 to 2009, 113 admitted drug dealers graduated from Back on Track. Another 99 were kicked off the program for failing to meet the requirements. They were sentenced under their guilty plea, the D.A.’s office claimed.

Harris told the Times that graduates of Back on Track were less likely than other offenders to commit crimes again.  But her spokeswoman refused to offer detailed statistics to back this up.

When Harris became San Francisco District Attorney, she vowed she would “never charge the death penalty.” 

Her opposition to capital punishment would be better-suited to a public defender.

Meanwhile, Amanda Kiefer left California. Interviewed by the Times, she said she could not understand why San Francisco police and prosecutors would allow convicted illegal aliens back onto the streets.

“If they’re committing crimes,” she said, “I think there’s something wrong that they’re not being deported.”

It’s a sentiment that law-abiding Americans agree with. And it should go double for those who are charged with enforcing the law.

FASCISTIC OATHS—PAST AND PRESENT

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 14, 2019 at 12:05 am

William Kristol—a Right-wing political analyst—has been dubbed “the godfather of neoconservatism.” And with good reason. 

During the first two years of the George W. Bush administration, as the editor of the Weekly Standard, he was one of the leading instigators of the 2003 war with Iraq.

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Bill Kristol

He—like senior officials on the George W. Bush administration—falsely claimed that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and planned to use them against the United States.

Another Kristol lie: Hussein planned 9/11 with Osama bin Laden.

He has never apologized for either lie—or the resulting war that killed 4,487 American soldiers and wounded another 32,226.

But even after the disaster of the 2003 war against Iraq, Kristol wasn’t through urging the United States into another murderous quagmire.

In a September, 2013 column, Kristol called for a return to war—not only in Syria but Iran as well:

“…Soon after voting to authorize the use of force against the [Bashar al-] Assad regime, Republicans might consider moving an authorization for the use of force against the Iranian nuclear weapons program.

“They can explain that [President Barack] Obama’s dithering in the case of Syria shows the utility of unequivocally giving him the authority to act early with respect to Iran.”

So it’s no small thing that Kristol has found himself agreeing with Democratic Massachusetts United States Senator and 2020 Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren that Democrats should begin impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump.

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Elizabeth Warren

He did so on a segment of MSNBC’s “Meet the Press” on May 7, 2019. 

Earlier in the day, Elizabeth Warren had stated on the Senate floor: 

“More than 600 federal prosecutors have now said that what’s laid out in the Mueller Report would constitute obstruction of justice, and would trigger a prosecution for any human being in this country other than the President of the United States.

“Robert Mueller put all of the facts together for us, put all of the information together for us, and abided by the Trump administration declaration under the Office of Legal Counsel that a sitting president cannot be indicted for his crimes.

“We took an oath not to try and protect Donald Trump, we took an oath to protect and serve the Constitution of the United States of America, and the way we do that is we begin impeachment proceedings now against this president.” 

On February 15, 2019, Kristol had posted this tweet on Twitter: 

“Members of Congress take this oath of office (see Title 5, Section 3331 of the United States Code): “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”

On May 7, in a blistering attack on his fellow Republicans, he posted “the new GOP Congressional oath”:

“I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend Donald Trump against all oversight; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to him; that I take this obligation despite mental reservation and in the spirit of evasion of duty. So help me God.”

Hours later, Kristol appeared before a “Meet the Press” panel and attacked Democrats for being “so terrified about the word impeachment that we can’t even have hearings….I must say I agree with Elizabeth Warren. I never thought I would say this.

“Robert Mueller’s report… invited Congress to take a look for itself at the obstruction of justice charges. They have an obligation to do it. They don’t have to impeach him. They may take a look and decide there aren’t grounds for impeachment. Maybe they wanna censure him…I think Elizabeth Warren’s right. Begin the hearings.” 

Kristol’s “new GOP Congressional oath” is a deadly reminder of another oath that had fatal consequences for Nazi Germany—and the world.

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Soldiers swearing the Fuhrer Oath

On August 2, 1934, President Paul von Hindenburg died. Adolf Hitler was then serving as Reich Chancellor—the equivalent of attorney general. Within hours, the Nazi Reichstag [parliament] announced the following law, back-dated to August 1st:

“The office of Reich President will be combined with that of Reich Chancellor. The existing authority of the Reich President will consequently be transferred to the Führer and Reich Chancellor, Adolf Hitler.” 

Immediately following the announcement of the new Führer law, the German Officer Corps and every individual soldier in the German Army was made to swear a brand new oath of allegiance:

“I swear by God this holy oath, that I will render to Adolf Hitler, Führer of the German Reich and People, Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, unconditional obedience, and that I am ready, as a brave soldier, to risk my life at any time for this oath.”

No doubt Kristol, who considers himself a dyed-in-the-wool conservative, remembers all too well the fate of those old-time conservatives who dared oppose Hitler.

The lucky ones were sent to concentration camps. The unlucky ones wound up on meat hooks.

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