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Posts Tagged ‘UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT’

LIKE A TYRANT: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 7, 2021 at 12:15 am

In January, 2018, the White House of President Donald Trump banned the use of personal cell phones in the West Wing. 

The official reason: National security.

The real reason: To stop staffers from leaking to reporters.

According to an anonymous White House source: “The cellphone ban is for when people are inside the West Wing, so it really doesn’t do all that much to prevent leaks. If they banned all personal cellphones from the entire [White House] grounds, all that would do is make reporters stay up later because they couldn’t talk to their sources until after 6:30 pm.”

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Other sources believed that leaks wouldn’t end unless Trump started firing staffers. But that risked firing the wrong people. To protect themselves, those who leaked might well accuse tight-lipped co-workers.

Within the Soviet Union (especially during the reign of Joseph Stalin) fear of secret police surveillance was widespread—and absolutely justified.

Among the methods used to keep conversations secret:

  • Turning on the TV or radio to full volume.
  • Turning on a water faucet at full blast.
  • Turning the dial of a rotary phone to the end—and sticking a pencil in one of the small holes for numbers.
  • Standing six to nine feet away from the hung-up receiver.
  • Going for “a walk in the woods.” 
  • Saying nothing sensitive on the phone.

The secret police (known as the Cheka, the NKVD, the MGB, the KGB, and now the FSB) operated on seven working principles:

  1. Your enemy is hiding.
  2. Start from the usual suspects.
  3. Study the young.
  4. Stop the laughing.
  5. Rebellion spreads like wildfire.
  6. Stamp out every spark.
  7. Order is created by appearance.

Trump has always ruled through bribery and fear. He’s bought off (or tried to) those who might cause him trouble—like porn actress Stormy Daniels. 

He’s never been able to poke fun at himself—and he grows livid when anybody else does.

At Christmastime, 2018, “Saturday Night Live” aired a parody of the classic movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Its title: “It’s a Wonderful Trump.” 

In it, Trump (portrayed by actor Alec Baldwin) discovers what the United States would be like if he had never become President: A great deal better-off.

As usual, Trump expressed his resentment through Twitter: The Justice Department should stop investigating his administration and go after the real enemy: “SNL.”

“A REAL scandal is the one sided coverage, hour by hour, of networks like NBC & Democrat spin machines like Saturday Night Live. It is all nothing less than unfair news coverage and Dem commercials. Should be tested in courts, can’t be legal? Only defame & belittle! Collusion?” 

By saying that “SNL’s” right to parody him “should be tested in courts, can’t be legal?” Trump chose to ignore the role of the First Amendment in American history.

Cartoonists portrayed President Andrew Jackson (1829 -1837) wearing a king’s robes and crown, and holding a scepter. This thoroughly enraged Jackson—who had repulsed a British invasion in 1815 at the Battle of New Orleans. To call a man a monarchist in 1800s America was the same as calling him a Communist in the 1950s. 

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During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln was lampooned as an ape and a blood-stained tyrant. And Theodore Roosevelt proved a cartoonist’s delight, with attention given to his bushy mustache and thick-lensed glasses. 

Thus, the odds are slight that an American court would even hear a case brought by Trump against “SNL.” 

Such a case made its way through the courts in the late 1980s when the Reverend Jerry Falwell sued pornographer Larry Flyint over a satirical interview in Hustler magazine. In this, “Falwell” admitted that his first sexual encounter had been with his own mother.

In 1988, the United States Supreme Court, voting 8-0, ruled in Flynt’s favor, saying that the media had a First Amendment right to parody a celebrity.

“Despite their sometimes caustic nature, from the early cartoon portraying George Washington as an ass down to the present day, graphic depictions and satirical cartoons have played a prominent role in public and political debate,” Chief Justice William Rehnquist—an appointee of President Richard Nixon—wrote in his majority decision in the case.

Moreover, Trump would have bene forced to take the stand in such a case. The attorneys for NBC and “SNL” would have insisted on it.

The results would have been:

  1. Unprecedented legal exposure for Trump—who would have been forced to answer virtually any questions asked or drop his lawsuit; and
  2. Unprecedented humiliation for a man who lives as much for his ego as his pocketbook. Tabloids and late-night comedians would have had a field-day with such a lawsuit.

And while Trump loves to sue those he hates, he does not relish taking the stand himself.  

On October 12, 2016, The Palm Beach Post, The New York Times and People all published stories of women claiming to have been sexually assaulted by Trump. 

He accused the Times of inventing accusations to hurt his Presidential candidacy. And he threatened to sue for libel if the Times reported the women’s stories. He also said he would sue the women making the accusations. 

He never sued the Times, The Post, People—or the women.

LIKE A TYRANT: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 6, 2021 at 12:42 am

On May 10, 2018, The Hill reported that White House Special Assistant Kelly Sadler had joked derisively about dying Arizona United States Senator John McCain.

McCain, a Navy pilot during the Vietnam war, was shot down over Hanoi on October 26, 1967, and captured. He spent five and a half years as a POW in North Vietnam—and was often brutally tortured. He wasn’t released until March 14, 1973.

Recently, he had opposed the nomination of Gina Haspel as director of the CIA.

The reason: In 2002, Haspel had operated a “black” CIA site in Thailand where Islamic terrorists were often waterboarded to make them talk. 

For John McCain, waterboarding was torture, even if it didn’t leave its victims permanently scarred and disabled. 

Aware that the 81-year-old McCain was dying of brain cancer, Sadler joked to intimates about the Senator’s opposition to Haspel: “It doesn’t matter. He’s dying anyway.”

John McCain's official Senate portrait, taken in 2009

John McCain

Leaked to CNN by an anonymous White House official, Sadler’s remark sparked fierce criticism—and demands for her firing.

South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a close friend of McCain, said: “Ms. Sadler, may I remind you that John McCain has a lot of friends in the United States Senate on both sides of the aisle. Nobody is laughing in the Senate.”

“People have wondered when decency would hit rock bottom with this administration. It happened yesterday,” said then-former Vice President Joe Biden. 

“John McCain makes America great. Father, grandfather, Navy pilot, POW hero bound by honor, an incomparable and irrepressible statesman. Those who mock such greatness only humiliate themselves and their silent accomplices,” tweeted former Massachusetts governor and 2012 Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Officially, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders refused to confirm or deny Sadler’s joke: “I’m not going to get into a back and forth because people want to create issues of leaked staff meetings.”

Unofficially, Sanders was furious—not at the joke about a dying man, but that someone had leaked it. After assailing the White House communications team, she pouted: “I am sure this conversation is going to leak, too. And that’s just disgusting.”

SarahHuckabeeSanders.jpg

Sarah Huckabee Sanders

No apology was offered by any official at the White House—including President Donald Trump.

In fact, Senior White House communications adviser Mercedes Schlapp reportedly expressed her support for Sadler: “I stand with Kelly Sadler.”

On May 11—the day after Sadler’s comment was reported—reporters asked Sanders if the tone set by Trump had caused Sadler to feel comfortable in telling such a joke.

“Certainly not!” predictably replied Sanders, adding: “We have a respect for all Americans, and that is what we try to put forward in everything we do, but in word and in action, focusing on doing things that help every American in this country every single day.”

On May 14, 2018, Trump revealed his “respect” for “all Americans”—especially those working in the White House.

“The so-called leaks coming out of the White House are a massive over exaggeration put out by the Fake News Media in order to make us look as bad as possible,” Trump tweeted.

“With that being said, leakers are traitors and cowards, and we will find out who they are!” 

This from the man who, during the 2016 Presidential campaign, shouted: WikiLeaks, I love WikiLeaks!” 

Of course, that was when Russian Intelligence agents were exposing the secrets of Hillary Clinton, his Presidential opponent.

And, in a move that Joseph Stalin would have admired, Trump ordered an all-out investigation to find the person who leaked Sadler’s “joke.”

In January, 2018, the White House had banned the use of personal cell phones in the West Wing. 

The official reason: National security.

The real reason: To stop staffers from leaking to reporters.

Officials now had two choices:

  1. Leave their cell phones in their cars, or,
  2. When they arrive for work, deposit them in lockers installed at West Wing entrances. They can reclaim their phones when they leave.

Several staffers huddled around the lockers throughout the day, checking messages they had missed. The lockers buzzed and chirped constantly from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

More ominously, well-suited men roamed the halls of the West Wing, carrying devices that pick up signals from phones that aren’t government-issued. “Did someone forget to put their phone away?” one of the men would ask if such a device was detected.

If no one said they have a phone, the detection team started searching the room.

Image result for images of cell phone detectors on Youtube

Phone detector

The devices can tell which type of phone is in the room.

This is the sort of behavior Americans have traditionally—and correctly—associated with dictatorships

In his memo outlining the policy, former Chief of Staff John Kelly warned that anyone who violated the phone ban could be punished, including “being indefinitely prohibited from entering the White House complex.”

Yet even these draconian methods did not end White House leaks.

White House officials still spoke with reporters throughout the day and often aired their grievances, whether about annoying colleagues or competing policy priorities.

Aides with private offices sometimes called reporters on their desk phones. Others used their cell phones to call or text reporters during lunch breaks. 

LIKE A TYRANT: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 5, 2021 at 12:15 am

“Nothing funny about tired Saturday Night Live on Fake news NBC! Question is, how do the Networks get away with these total Republican hit jobs without retribution? Likewise for many other shows? Very unfair and should be looked into. This is the real Collusion!”

So tweeted President Donald J. Trump on February 17, 2019.

Less than nine hours earlier, “SNL” had once again opened with actor Alec Baldwin mocking the 45th President. In this skit, Baldwin/Trump gave a rambling press conference declaring: “We need wall. We have a tremendous amount of drugs flowing into this country from the southern border—or The Brown Line, as many people have asked me not to call it.”

Right-wingers denounce their critics as “snowflakes”—that is, emotional, easily offended and unable to tolerate opposing views.

Yet here was Donald Trump, who prides himself on his toughness, whining like a child bully who has just been told that other people have rights, too.

The answer is simple: Trump is a tyrant—and a longtime admirer of tyrants.

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Donald Trump

He has lavishly praised Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, such as during his appearance on the December 18, 2015 edition of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”: 

“He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader, unlike what we have in this country”-a reference to then-President Barack Obama. 

During a February, 2017 interview with Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, Trump defended Putin’s killing of political opponents.  

O’Reilly: “But he’s a killer.” 

Trump: “There are a lot of killers. You think our country’s so innocent?” 

Asked by a Fox News reporter why he praised murderous North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un, he replied: “He’s a tough guy. Hey, when you take over a country, tough country, tough people, and you take it over from your father…If you could do that at 27 years old, I mean, that’s one in 10,000 that could do that.” 

In short: Kim must be doing something right because he’s in power. And it doesn’t matter how he came to power—or the price his country is paying for it.  

Actually, for all their differences in appearance and nationality, Trump shares at least two similarities with Kim.

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Kim Jong-Un

Blue House (Republic of Korea) [KOGL (http://www.kogl.or.kr/open/info/license_info/by.do)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

First, both of them got a big boost into wealth and power from their fathers.

  • Trump’s father, Fred Trump, a real estate mogul, reportedly gave Donald $200 million to enter the real estate business. It was this sum that formed the basis for Trump’s eventual rise to wealth and fame—and the Presidency. 
  • Kim’s father was Kim Jong-Il, who ruled North Korea as dictator from 1994 to 2011. When his father died in 2011, Kim Jong-Un immediately succeeded him, having been groomed for years to do so. 

Second, both Trump and Kim have brutally tried to stamp out any voices that contradict their own.

  • Trump has constantly attacked freedom of the press, even labeling it “the enemy of the American people.” He has also slandered his critics on Twitter—which refused to enforce its “Terms of Service” and revoke his account until he incited the January 6 attack on Congress.
  • Kim has attacked his critics with firing squads and prison camps. Amnesty International estimates that more than 200,000 North Koreans are now suffering in labor camps throughout the country.

Thus, Trump—-elected to lead the “free world”—believes, like all dictators:

  • People are evil everywhere—so who am I to judge who’s better or worse? All that counts is gaining and holding onto power. 
  • And if you can do that, it doesn’t matter how you do so.

Actually, it’s not uncommon for dictators to admire one another—as the case of Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler nicely illustrates.

Joseph Stalin

After Hitler launched a blood-purge of his own private Stormtroopers army on June 30, 1934, Stalin exclaimed: “Hitler, what a great man! That is the way to deal with your political opponents!” 

And Hitler was equally admiring of Stalin’s notorious ruthlessness: “After the victory over Russia,” he told his intimates, “it would be a good idea to get Stalin to run the country, with German oversight, of course. He knows better than anyone how to handle the Russians.”  

Adolf Hitler

Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1990-048-29A / CC-BY-SA 3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)%5D

One characteristic shared by all dictators is intolerance toward those whose opinions differ with their own. Especially those who dare to actually criticize or make fun of them.

All Presidents have thin skins. John F. Kennedy often phoned reporters and called them “sonofbitches” when he didn’t like stories they had written on him.

Richard Nixon went further, waging all-out war against the Washington Post for its stories about his criminality. 

But Donald Trump took his hatred of dissidents to an entirely new—and dangerous—level.

On May 10, 2018, The Hill reported that White House Special Assistant Kelly Sadler had joked derisively about dying Arizona United States Senator John McCain.

Trump was outraged—not that one of his aides had joked about a man stricken with brain cancer, but that someone in the White House had leaked it.

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

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

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

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

File:KKK-Flag.svg - Wikimedia Commons

Ku Klux Klan flag

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FBI SWAT Team Training - YouTube

FBI SWAT member

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bob Woodward (@realBobWoodward) | Twitter

Bob Woodward

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

World Trade Center – September 11, 2001

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Predator drone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THIS WASN’T INSANITY–IT WAS TREASON: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on December 16, 2020 at 12:15 am

On December 8 and 10, the United States Supreme Court refused to hear two cases brought by supporters of President Donald Trump to overturn the results of the 2020 Presidential election.

In the first case, Representative Mike Kelly (R-PA), a Trump ally, argued that Pennsylvania’s 2.5 million mail-in ballots were unconstitutional—and should be invalidated

In the second case, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sought to overturn the results in four battleground states: Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Even worse: Seventeen Republican state Attorney Generals—and 126 Republican members of Congress—rushed to support the case.

The reason: They feared Trump’s fanatical base would turn them out of office if they didn’t.

U.S. Supreme Court building-m.jpg

The Supreme Court

Had the Court acted on either request, the results for democracy would have been catastrophic.

For the first time in American history, a President who falsely accused his victorious rival of fraud would have invalidated the votes of 80 million Americans.

Meanwhile, as Trump continues to deny the reality of Joe Biden’s win and seek ways to overturn it, a deadly pandemic rages throughout the United States.

By December 16, 16.8 million Americans have been infected with COVID-19—and 304,000 have died.

Many of these infections and deaths resulted from millions of Americans’ insistence on spending Thanksgiving with their families. And with the Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year’s celebrations fast approaching, medical experts fear there will be even greater numbers of casualties.

So what is Trump concentrating his time on during his final weeks in office?

Two things:

  1. Desperately trying to overturn the results of the 2020 election; and
  2. Taking credit for the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines. 

Donald Trump

The first one should have been grounds for his immediate removal from office. And the second should earn him everlasting contempt.

No other President has ever:

  • Tried to muscle governors to override the voters of their states.
  • Repeatedly spread a lie that his opponent had won by “stealing” the election.
  • Demanded that the Supreme Court hear—and act—on frivolous, lie-filled lawsuits challenging the results of the election.

As for the plague, he:

  • Spent most of the year ignoring the plague, and then denying it.
  • Refused to wear a mask and made its wearing a political act rather than simply the best available means to stay safe.
  • Turned his frenzied campaign rallies into “superspreader” events: Masses of mask-less men and women crammed into indoor stadiums, shouting vigorously—then taking the virus with them all over the country.
  • Did nothing to bring rival factions in Congress together to fashion a relief bill for millions of Americans made unemployed and hungry by Coronavirus.

* * * * *

Too many people have labeled the actions of Donald Trump and his political accomplices as “insanity.”

On the  contrary: It was—literally—an attempted Republican coup.

Never before in United States history has a President—or a political party—made such a blatant and unconstitutional effort to overthrow the will of the electorate.

The sheer hypocrisy of it would be stunning—if Republicans didn’t ordinarily hold to a double-standard: One that applies exclusively to its own members and another for its opponents.

For example:

During the 2016 Presidential race, members of Trump’s campaign met with Russian Intelligence agents on several occasions.

The most infamous of these meetings occurred on July 9, 2016. High-ranking representatives of Trump met at Trump Tower with at least two lobbyists with ties to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.

Reince Priebus, the incoming White House Chief of Staff for newly-elected Trump, was outraged that many Americans believed that the Russians had helped elect him. He demanded that outgoing President Barack Obama vouch for Trump’s legitimacy. 

“I think President Obama should step up,” Priebus said on January 15, 2017, on ABC’s “This Week.”

“This Week” host George Stephanopoulos replied that Trump had questioned Obama’s legitimacy as an American citizen until almost the end of the 2016 Presidential race.

“But look, George, that’s not the point!” Priebus said, visibly agitated. “The point is not where Barack Obama was born! The point is that we’ve got congressmen on the Democratic side of the aisle that are questioning the legitimacy of President-elect Trump.”  

Here was Texas—which boasts constantly of its sovereignty—trying to impose its Fascistic will on four other equally sovereign states.

And why? Because the voters in those states dared to pick a candidate Texans didn’t like.

Had New York or California tried to impose its will on Texas, the howls of Texan outrage would have resounded across the nation.

The United States has—momentarily—escaped tyranny imposed by a totally corrupt executive branch and a totally cowardly legislative one.

Every one of the 17 Republican state Attorney Generals—and the 126 Republican members of Congress—has betrayed their oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

And they have done so for the basest of reasons: Because they want to be re-elected to their current office or elected to an even higher one. And they fear they won’t be if Trump—like a Mafia capo—puts the “X” on them.

This wasn’t simply “Profiles Without Courage.” It was “Profiles in Treason.”

THIS WASN’T INSANITY–IT WAS TREASON: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on December 15, 2020 at 12:11 am

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 set out to overturn that verdict.

Joe Biden's Next Big Decision: Choosing A Running Mate | Voice of America - English

Joe Biden

Trump refused to accept that verdict.

Speaking from the White House in the early hours of November 4, Trump sounded like a petulant child whose planned outing has been suddenly called off:

“We were getting ready for a big celebration, we were winning everything and all of a sudden it was just called off. The results tonight have been phenomenal…I mean literally we were just all set to get outside and just celebrate something that was so beautiful, so good, such a vote such a success.” 

For the first time in American history, a President demanded a halt to the counting of votes while the outcome of an election hung in doubt. 

States ignored his demand and kept counting.

Next, Trump ordered his attorneys to file lawsuits to overturn the election results, charging electoral fraud. Specifically:

  • Illegal aliens had been allowed to vote.
  • Trump ballots were systematically destroyed.
  • A sinister computer program turned Trump votes into Biden ones.

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

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

In Michigan, Trump’s attorneys dropped their federal suit to block the certification of Detroit-area ballots. 

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

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

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Donald Trump

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

The Michigan legislators said they would follow the law.

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

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

On December 8, the Supreme Court refused to hear Trump’s bid to reverse Pennsylvania’s certification of Biden’s victory. Representative Mike Kelly (R-PA), a Trump ally, argued that the state’s 2.5 million mail-in were unconstitutional.

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

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

On December 10, the Supreme Court refused to let a Texas lawsuit overturn the results in four battleground states: Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. 

The majority of their votes—cast for Biden—were critical to Trump’s defeat.

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

The request for their overturning came in a lawsuit brought by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. A Trump ally, Paxton has been indicted on felony securities fraud charges. He may be seeking a Presidential pardon as reward for his effort.

Seventeen Republican state Attorney Generals—and 126 Republican members of Congress—supported the lawsuit. They feared Trump’s fanatical base would “primary” them if they didn’t publicly declare their loyalty—to a man they knew was slated to leave office within two months.

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

“Texas seeks to invalidate elections in four states for yielding results with which it disagrees,” Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro told the justices in legal papers. “Its request for this court to exercise its original jurisdiction and then anoint Texas’s preferred candidate for president is legally indefensible and is an affront to principles of constitutional democracy.”

Meanwhile, top Republicans—such as Vice President Mike Pence, Missouri United States Senator Roy Blunt and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell—refused to congratulate Biden as the winner. 

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Mitch McConnell

In fact, the vast majority of House and Senate Republicans refuse to publicly acknowledge Biden as President-Elect of the United States.  The reason: They are still in thrall to Trump’s fanatical base. 

They fear that if they break with the soon-to-be-ex-President, they will be voted out of office at the next election—and lose their cozy positions and the power and perks that come with them.

A JUBILEE OF HATE BECOMES A RIGHT-WING NIGHTMARE

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on October 8, 2020 at 12:16 am

What began as the gloating jubilee of an expected Right-wing triumph has turned into a COVID-19 nightmare for the Trump administration.

On September 26, President Donald Trump hosted festivities in the Rose Garden to celebrate his Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett. 

Barrett wearing a judicial robe

Amy Coney Barrett

Rachel Malehorn / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)

Trump had already put two Justices—Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh—on the Court. Gorsuch was nominated as a replacement for Justice Antonin Scalia, who had died in 2016.

President Barack Obama had sought to confirm his own nominee, Merrick Garland, to the Court. But 2016 was a Presidential election year. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked giving Garland even the courtesy of a Senate hearing.

“The Senate will appropriately revisit the matter when it considers the qualifications of the nominee the next President nominates, whoever that might be,” claimed McConnell.

When Trump won, the way was clear for him to nominate his own candidate—who turned out to be Neil Gorsuch. 

Then, in 2018, Justice Anthony Kennedy decided to retire after spending 20 years on the Court. This gave Trump the chance to replace him with Brett Kavanaugh. 

Then, on September 18, 2020, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg suddenly died of cancer. Appointed in 1993 by President Bill Clinton, she had been the first Jewish woman and the second woman to serve on the Court, after Sandra Day O’Connor.

Ginsburg seated in her robe

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Her death offered Trump his third chance to shift the Court decisively to the Right for decades to come. 

Stacking the Court with Right-wing judges has long been the goal of Republicans. And their two most important priorities:

  1. Overturning Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion in 1973; and
  2. Gutting the Affordable Care Act, the single most important achievement of the first black President of the United States. 

So on September 26, Donald Trump hosted festivities in the Rose Garden to celebrate his third Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett.

Trump assembled his guest list, and the major domos of the Right showed up. 

They knew–or should have known–that a deadly pandemic called COVID-19 was ravaging the country. They knew—or should have known—it had already killed more than 200,000 Americans.

But Trump had spent the year telling them there was nothing to worry about. The virus, he had said repeatedly, was no worse than the common flu. He had ridiculed those who wore masks, and had made not wearing one a sign of macho solidarity with himself.

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Coronavirus

So they showed up without masks, and crammed together in folding chairs. And now many of them are dropping like poisoned Tsetse flies. 

Among the casualties of the celebration so far:

  • President Donald Trump
  • First Lady Melania Trump
  • Presidential Aide Hope Hicks
  • White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany
  • United States Senator (R-UT) Mike Lee
  • United States Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC)
  • United States Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI)
  • Former Presidential adviser Kelleyanne Conway
  • White House Assistant Press Secretary Karoline Leavitt
  • Trump Presidential Campaign Manager Bill Stepien
  • Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel
  • Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie
  • White House Senior Adviser for Policy Stephen Miller

For Trump, the Rose Garden celebration has turned into a nightmare.

First, it thrust the issue of the dreaded Coronavirus—and his administration’s failure to effectively combat it—to the front of the Presidential campaign.

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Donald Trump

Trump had been desperate to avoid talking about this subject—and with good reason.

When the virus struck the United States in January, Trump quickly learned how deadly it was. As he admitted to Washington Post investigative reporter Bob Woodward: “It goes through air, Bob. That’s always tougher than the touch.

“The touch, you don’t have to touch things, right? But the air, you just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed. And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flues.”

But Trump didn’t share that warning with the American people. When Woodward published his book, Rage, in September, Trump was mortally embarrassed at having that conversation revealed.

Instead, Trump attacked the wearing of masks and maintaining social distancing. When states ordered businesses to close to halt the spread of COVID-19, Trump ordered his followers to protest in the streets. When businesses reopened, COVID rates spiked and so did unemployment rolls.

Second,  the sidelining of so many top Republicans—including Senators—threatened to at least temporarily halt Senate confirmation hearings on Amy Coney Barrett.

Third—and probably most important: Trump himself was rushed to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on October 2 after he tested positive for Coronavirus.

For the image-conscious Trump, press reports that he received oxygen and experimental drugs proved highly embarrassing. On October 5, still highly infectious, he demanded to be returned to the White House. 

With less than a month to go before the November 3 Presidential election, Trump found himself overwhelmed by media reports that the White House was now the Number One Coronavirus hotspot in the United States.

A celebration of hatred and arrogance has turned into a COVID-19 nightmare for the Trump administration. It’s a irony the ancient Greeks, with their understanding of hubris, would have appreciated.

FIVE TRUTHS REPUBLICAN SENATORS WON’T TELL YOU: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 21, 2020 at 12:12 am

On January 16, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts administered this oath to the 100 Senators who would render judgment on the conduct of the 45th President of the United States:

“Do you solemnly swear that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of Donald John Trump, President of the United States, now pending, you will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws, so help you God?”

Truth #2: All 100 Senators pledged they would. But Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham had earlier made clear they had no such intention. 

“I’m not an impartial juror. This is a political process. There’s not anything judicial about it,” Mitch McConnell told reporters in December. “I would anticipate we will have a largely partisan outcome in the Senate. I’m not impartial about this at all.” 

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Mitch McConnell

And Lindsey Graham offered this during an interview with Fox News’s Sean Hannity: “The best thing for the American people is to end this crap as quickly as possible, to have a trial in the Senate, bipartisan acquittal of the President. And on Feb. 4, when the president comes into the House chamber to deliver the State of the Union, he will have been acquitted by the Senate.” 

If this were a criminal or civil trial, McConnell and Graham would automatically be ejected from jury service.    

Truth #3: Instead of acting as impartial witnesses, Republican Senators are conspiring to obstruct evidence through smears and intimidation. 

Senator Chuck Schumer (D-New York) has called for at least four witnesses to testify. These include: 

  • Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney;
  • Former national security adviser John Bolton;
  • Robert Blair, senior adviser to the acting White House chief;
  • Michael Duffey, an official with the Office of Management and Budget.

These are men who are in a position to testify about what they actually saw Trump do.

To prevent such testimony, Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) and other Right-wingers threaten that if Democrats subpoena Bolton, Republicans will subpoena Hunter Biden and the whistleblower at the center of the impeachment inquiry. 

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Rand Paul

Biden is the son of former Vice President Joseph Biden—and has nothing to contribute to knowledge of Trump’s attempted extortion of Ukraine. Subpoenaing him would simply be an act of gratuitous cruelty and sensationalism.

And forcing the still-unidentified whistleblower to testify would violate Justice Department protections for those who testify to government wrongdoing. 

Truth #4: Republican Senators’ willingness to support Trunmp’s crimes cannot be divorced from the evil of their constituents.  

On August 30, 2017, an article in Salon examined why Donald Trump’s base supports him so fanatically: “Most Americans Strongly Dislike Trump, But the Angry Minority That Adores Him Controls Our Politics.”

“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.”

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Trump supporters giving the Nazi salute

Truth #5: Republicans love Trump—but love their careers more. 

According to an August 29, 2017 survey by the Pew Research Center, 65% of Republicans are revolted by Trump’s personality and behavior. But they 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 a Salon reporter. “Your head looks at polling data among Republican primary voters and sees how popular he is.” 

Thus, it is not Trump who commands their ultimate loyalty—and certainly not the United States Constitution—but their desire to remain in office for life.

By supporting Trump, they guarantee that he will not “primary” them in the upcoming 2020 elections—that is, run an even more Fascistic candidate against them.

They also ensure a steady stream of “campaign contributions” (i.e., bribes) from Russian oligarchs—who, in turn, take their marching orders from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Finally: Republicans fear that if Trump is convicted and removed, they will lose their own hold on nearly absolute power in Congress and the White House. If Trump is branded a loser, his supporters will also be branded the same.

Republicans vividly remember what happened after Richard Nixon was forced to resign in disgrace 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. 

If Republicans are conflicted about supporting Trump, their dilemma boils down to this:

  1. Can I hold onto my power—and all the privileges that go with it—by supporting Trump?  Or: 
  2. Can I hold onto my power—and privileges—by deserting him?

This is how Republicans define morality today.

FIVE TRUTHS REPUBLICAN SENATORS WON’T TELL YOU: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 20, 2020 at 12:05 am

On January 16, two Articles of Impeachment against President Donald Trump were submitted to the United States Senate.

Almost one month earlier—on December 18, 2019—the House of Representatives had approved those Articles for:  

Article 1: Abuse of Power: For pressuring Ukraine to assist him in his re-election campaign by damaging former Vice President Joseph Biden, his possible Democratic rival. 

Article 2: Obstruction of Congress: For obstructing Congress by blocking testimony of subpoenaed witnesses and refusing to provide documents in response to House subpoenas in the impeachment inquiry. 

One hundred Senators will now decide if Trump remains as the 45th President of the United States—or becomes the first President in history to be convicted and removed.

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The United States Senate

(The first President to be impeached, Andrew Johnson, survived in office by only one vote. The second, Richard Nixon, resigned rather than face almost certain conviction.)

Of those 100, 53 are Republicans—like Trump.

Democrats form a majority in the House—that was how they secured Trump’s impeachment. But with only 47 members in the Senate, they do not command a majority to secure conviction.

Their only hope is to convince enough Republicans to vote on the basis of the evidence—which is overwhelming. 

On September 9, 2019, the House Foreign Affairs, Intelligence and Oversight and Reform committees began investigating his attempted extortion of Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky.

On July 25, 2019, Trump had “asked” Zelensky to do him a “favor”: Find embarrassing “dirt” on former Vice President Joseph Biden and his son, Hunter.

Hunter had had business dealings in Ukraine. And Joseph Biden might be Trump’s Democratic opponent for the White House in 2020.

To underline the seriousness of his “request,” earlier in July, Trump had told Mick Mulvaney, his White House chief of staff, to withhold $400 million in military aid Congress had approved for Ukraine, which is facing an increasingly aggressive Russia.

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Donald Trump

But then a CIA whistleblower filed a complaint about the extortion attempt—and the media and Congress soon learned of it. And ever since, the evidence linking Trump to impeachable offenses has mushroomed.

On January 16, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) announced that the Trump administration broke the law when it withheld security aid to Ukraine.

The GAO, a nonpartisan congressional watchdog, declared that the White House Budget Office violated the Impoundment Control Act, a 1974 law that limits the White House from withholding funds that Congress has appropriated.

“Faithful execution of the law does not permit the President to substitute his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law,” the GAO auditors wrote. 

Still, no one actually expects Republican Senators to uphold their Constitutional duties. The smart money is on their giving Trump a free pass on his latest act of illegality. 

There are, however, truths that these Republican Senators will not dare mention publicly. This article will do its best to cast a spotlight on them.

Truth #1: The man presiding over the Senate—Kentucky United States Senator Mitch McConnell—has received monies from Russian oligarchs linked to Russian dictator and Donald Trump sponsor Vladimir Putin.

And so have other Republicans.

Len Blavatnik is a Russian oligarch with strong ties to Putin. In 2015-16, he contributed to GOP Political Action Committees (PACs) and top Republican leaders, including McConnell.

According to Federal Election Commission:

During the 2015-16 election cycle, he proved one of the largest donors to GOP 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.

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The Kremlin

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

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

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

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

Truth #2: At least two Republican Senators—McConnell and Graham—committed perjury when they took an oath to render impartial judgment on Trump.

All 100 Senators pledged they would “do impartial justice” in judging Trump’s actions as President.

But Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham had earlier made clear they had no such intention. 

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