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SMITE THE RIGHT: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 9, 2021 at 12:22 am

On March 2, FBI Director Christopher Wray condemned the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol as “domestic terrorism.” 

He did so while testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which was investigating how the attack happened and what could be done to prevent such future attacks.

It was the first time Wray had testified before the committee since the attempted coup by Trump supporters two months ago. 

“Unfortunately, January 6 was not an isolated event,” Wray said. “The problem of domestic terrorism has been metastasizing across the country for a long time now, and it’s not going away anytime soon.”

He said the number of FBI domestic terrorism investigations had doubled since he took office in 2017 to more than 2,000. The number of investigations into white supremacists had tripled, while the number of probes into anarchist extremists had risen significantly as well.

Wray also said the FBI had found no evidence to support the Right-wing lie that the attack on the Capitol was staged by left-wing extremists such as Antifa to try to frame Trump supporters. 

More than 300 people have been charged in connection with the insurrection. Yet Trump—who instigated the attack for two months—remains unindicted. 

FBI Reports that Hate Crimes Continue to Rise Across the Nation - SALDEF

Right-wing terrorism 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.
  • 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 City 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 that 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.

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. 

Seal of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.svg

FBI Seal

  • Creating TIT (Turn in a Traitor) 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  a minimum of at least 20 years’ imprisonment.
  • Prosecuting Right-wing leaders involved in the treasonous attempt to overthrow the United States in the Capitol Building attack.
  • Such prosecutions should include Donald Trump as the chief inciter for the treasonous attack on the Capitol Building on January 6.
  • 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.

Related image

  • 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. 

* * * * * * * * * *

Of all the reforms offered here, prosecuting Donald Trump for treason would prove the most significant. 

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. 

Senate Republicans refused to convict him in his second impeachment trial—just as they refused in the first. Their excuse: “It’s unconstitutional to impeach a former President.”

But a former President 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. 

SMITE THE RIGHT: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 8, 2021 at 1:08 am

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.

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 Al-Qaeda mastermind of 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. 

On January 6, the United States suffered another spectacular terrorist attack—this time launched by Right-wing Americans.

Thousands of Fascistic supporters of President Donald J. Trump—many of them armed—stormed and ransacked the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.  Five people—including a Capitol Hill policeman—were killed.

The insurrectionists’ 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.

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

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

After overwhelming the Capitol Police force, the Stormtrumpers damaged and occupied parts of the building for three 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 a defeated Presidential candidate violently sought to remain in office.

It should 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 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. 

It’s time for American law enforcement and Intelligence agencies to wage all-out war on Right-wing terrorism—and those Republican voters and Congressional members who support it.

On March 2, FBI Director Christopher Wray testified before the United States Senate Judiciary Committee on the Capitol attack and the growing challenges of Right-wing terrorism.

Chris Wray official photo.jpg

Christopher Wray

The hearing came as the FBI continues to make near daily arrests related to the riot. So far, more than 300 people have been hit with a variety of charges, from trespassing to conspiracy against the government.

According to PBS Newshour Correspondent Lisa Desjardins:

“[On March 1] federal prosecutors filed a revealing document in the case against Proud Boy leader Ethan Nordean, seen here with a megaphone on January 6. This charges that he and other Proud Boys raised money and collected protective gear weeks ahead.

“On January 6, prosecutors allege, they used high-tech radios to communicate and purposely dressed incognito, no Proud Boy colors or clothing. This, prosecutors say, was to help with their plan to turn others in the crowd, who they called normies or normiecons, to join them in violent attack.”

Wray was appointed FBI director in 2017, after Trump purged James Comey for refusing to become his personal KGB chief. Wray himself had been marked for dismissal because he refused to agree with Trump’s false claims of widespread voter fraud during the 2016 Presidential election.

Only Trump’s loss to Joe Biden had prevented a similar purge of Wray.

Referring to Right-wing terrorists, Wray warned: “They don’t have a formal membership in an organization. They don’t have clear command control and direction, in the way that, say, an al-Qaida sleeper cell might have. And  that’s much more challenging to pursue.” 

From Trump on down, Republicans have tried hard to convince Americans that it was Antifa—not Right-wing Stormtrumpers—who brutally attacked Capitol police and threatened the lives of Congressional lawmakers.

Their goal: To absolve Trump and put the blame on Antifa.

There are three problems with that assertion:

  1. The insurrectionists’ carried out their attack amidst a sea of red MAGA caps and blue and white “TRUMP” flags.
  2. There was not a black face to be seen in the mob—all were white.
  3. Numerous videos recorded rioters’ saying they were acting on orders from their President.

On March 2, Senator Richard Durbin (D-Illinois) asked FBI Director Christopher Wray: “Do you have any evidence that the Capitol attack was organized by—quote—‘fake Trump protesters’?”

To which Wray replied: “We have not seen evidence of that at this stage, certainly.”

CENSORING THE TRUTH TO “PROTECT” US FROM IT

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on March 5, 2021 at 12:22 am

The 1992 military courtroom drama, “A Few Good Men,” climaxes with a brutal exchange that has since become famous.

The legal combatants are Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise) and Marine Colonel Nathan R. Jessup (Jack Nicholson).

COLONEL JESSUP: You want answers?

KAFFEE: I want the truth!

COLONEL JESSUP: You can’t handle the truth!

Apparently, many of those who work in the television news business feel the same way about their audiences.

Jack Nicolson vs. Tom Cruise in “A Few Good Men”

[WARNING: The following column contains some words that some readers may find offensive.  Read on at your own risk.]

On February 18, 2012, editor Anthony Federico posted this headline on ESPN’s mobile website:

Chink in the Armor: Jeremy Lin’s 9 Turnovers

Cost Knicks in Streak-Snapping Loss to Hornets.

The headline was posted at 2:30 a.m. and quickly removed when someone realized that it might be seen as offensive. By Sunday afternoon, Federico had been fired from ESPN.

Jeremy Lin

It’s true that “Chink” is seen by Asians as a derogatory word. It’s equally true that ESPN has the right to discipline its employees when they violate its journalistic standards.

But ESPN should not have the right to treat its audience like so many school children who must be protected, at all costs, from life’s unpleasantness.

Consider ESPN’s apology:

“Last night, ESPN.com’s mobile web site posted an offensive headline referencing Jeremy Lin at 2:30 am ET. The headline was removed at 3:05 am ET.

“We are conducting a complete review of our cross-platform editorial procedures and are determining appropriate disciplinary action to ensure this does not happen again. We regret and apologize for this mistake.”

Note the words “posted an offensive headline.” If you didn’t already know what the headline had said, ESPN wasn’t going to enlighten you.

And other news networks—such as ABC and NBC—have acted similarly, referring to the “c-word” without telling viewers just what was actually posted.

Since the “c-word” is often used as a euphemism for “cunt,” it’s easy to see how many viewers could imagine the writer had used a very different expression.

The official reason given for refraining from actually saying the word that lies at the center of the story is to offending some members of the audience.

But when the use of certain words becomes central to a news story, editors and reporters should have the courage to reveal just what was said—and let the audience decide for itself.

The evening news is—supposedly—aimed at voting-age adults.  And adults need—and deserve—the hard truth about the world they live in.  Only then do they have a chance to reform it–if, in fact, they decide it needs reforming.

Examples of such censorship are legion. For instance:

In 1976, during the Republican Presidential Convention, entertainer Pat Boone asked Earl Butz, then Secretary of Agriculture: Why was the party of Lincoln having so much trouble winning black votes for its candidates?

“I’ll tell you what the coloreds want,” said Butz. “It’s three things: first, a tight pussy; second, loose shoes; and third, a warm place to shit.”

Earl L. Butz.jpg

Earl Butz

Unknown to Butz, a Rolling Stone reporter was standing nearby. When his comments became public, Butz was forced to resign.

Meanwhile, most TV and print media struggled to protect their audiences from the truth of Butz’ racism.

Many newspapers simply reported that Butz had said something too obscene to print. Some invited their readers to contact the editors if they wanted more information.

TV newsmen generally described Butz’ firing as stemming from “a racially-offensive remark,” which they refused to explain.

In short: A high-ranking government official had been fired, but adult audiences were not allowed to judge whether his language justified that termination.

Or consider this:

On February 16, 2012, Foster Friess, offered his views about the importance of legalized birth control. Friess was the wealthy investor bankrolling a super PAC for GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum.

Foster Friess by Gage Skidmore 3.jpg

Foster Friess 

Gage Skidmore [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons

“This contraceptive thing, my gosh it’s such inexpensive,” said Friess. “Back in my days, they used Bayer Aspirin for contraception. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn’t that costly.”

Many news organizations refused to share Friess’ statement, merely saying that he had made an “offensive remark about women.”

It’s understandable that women would be highly offended by this remark. But shielding them from the repressive mindset of those who support Right-wing candidates like Santorum would ill serve their interests.

Censoring the truth has always been a hallmark of dictatorships. It has no place in a democracy—no matter how well-intentioned the motives of those doing the censoring.

Some words will always be hateful—to blacks, whites, Hispanics, Asians, women, men.  In short, everybody. 

Refusing to acknowledge their use will not cause them to vanish.

The truth is the truth. If you can’t handle it, that’s your problem.

But those of us who can deserve the opportunity to learn it.  And, when necessary, to act on it.

WHAT WAS TRUE FOR THE NAZIS IS TRUE FOR TRUMP

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on March 4, 2021 at 12:19 am

On February 7, 2020, President Donald Trump told legendary 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. People don’t realize, we lose 25,000, 30,000 people a year here. Who would ever think that, right?

Yet, in public, he played down the lethality of the virus and attacked those who sought to take it seriously:

  • January 22: “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China.”
  • February 24: “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA.”
  • February 26: “The 15 cases within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero.” 
  • February 27: “One day it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.”
  • February 28: “Now the Democrats are politicizing the Coronavirus….We did one of the great jobs….One of my people came up to me and said, ‘Mr. President, they tried to beat you on Russia, Russia, Russia’….They couldn’t do it. They tried the impeachment hoax….It’s all turning, they lost….And this is their new hoax.”
  • March 6: “I think we’re doing a really good job in this country of keeping it down. A tremendous job of keeping it down.” 

Image result for Trump Corona Timeline

By April, 2020, the virus had claimed 23,000 Americans. And Trump’s fanatical defenders were desperate to rewrite history.

One of these was Republican South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham. 

On April 9, 2020, appearing on the Fox News network’s “Sean Hannity” show, Graham said: “The first thing I want to do is get the United States Senate on the record where we don’t blame Trump. We blame China.

“The Chinese government is responsible for 16,000 American deaths and 17 million Americans being unemployed. It’s the Chinese government and the way they behave that led to this pandemic. This is the third one to come out of China.

Lindsey Graham, official photo, 113th Congress.jpg

Lindsey Graham

Graham said that the “wet markets” in China should be shut down, because they have been the source of three pandemics that originated in China.  

Now, with more than 500,000 Americans dead, Trump’s fanatical defenders have decided to simply ignore history.

How else to explain the “Golden Trump” statue unveiled at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on February 25? 

But non-Fascistic Americans should not ignore that Trump:

  • Lied about the lethality of the virus.
  • Attacked masks, science and social distancing.
  • Attacked Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert.
  • Urged his followers to protest governors who championed wearing masks and socially distancing.
  • Refused to establish a central command to supply states with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
  • Seized vitally-needed medical supplies in at least seven states.
  • Promoted quack “solutions” (such as injecting bleach to ward off the virus).

 * * * * *

On July 26, 1946, Chief  United States Counsel Robert H. Jackson, prosecuting Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg, delivered his closing remarks to the court. He might as well have been speaking about Donald Trump and his cheerleading—and misleading—chorus on Coronavirus:

“Lying has always been a highly approved Nazi technique. [Adolf] Hitler, in Mein Kampf, advocated mendacity as a policy. {Foreign Minister Joachim] Von Ribbentrop admits the use of the ‘diplomatic lie.’

“….Nor is the lie direct the only means of falsehood. They all speak with a Nazi double talk with which to deceive the unwary….’Final solution’ of the Jewish problem was a phrase which meant extermination. ‘Special treatment’ of prisoners of war meant killing. ‘Protective custody’ meant concentration camp.

Roberthjackson.jpg

Robert H. Jackson

“Besides outright false statements and double talk, there are also other circumventions of truth in the nature of fantastic explanations and absurd professions.

“[Rabid anti-Semite Julius] Streicher has solemnly maintained that…his reason for destroying synagogues…was only because they were architecturally offensive….

“This was the philosophy of the National Socialists. When for years they have deceived the world, and masked falsehood with plausibilities, can anyone be surprised that they continue their habits of a lifetime in this dock? 

“It is against such a background that these defendants now ask this Tribunal to say that they are not guilty of planning, executing, or conspiring to commit this long list of crimes and wrongs.”

Citing William Shakespeare’s play about the murderous Richard III, Jackson concluded:

“They stand before the record of this trial as bloodstained Gloucester stood by the body of his slain king. He begged of the widow, as they beg of you: ‘Say I slew them not.’ And the Queen replied, ‘Then say they were not slain. But dead they are…’

“If you were to say of these men that they are not guilty, it would be as true to say that there has been no war, there are no slain, there has been no crime.” 

If Americans find Donald Trump blameless for refusing to take decisive action against the Coronavirus threat, it will be as true to say there has been no plague, there are no thousands of dead Americans, there has been no dereliction of Presidential responsibility. 

THE WHEELS ON THE BUS GO NOWHERE

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on March 3, 2021 at 12:39 am

The San Francisco Municipal Railway (MUNI) is the public transit system for the city and county of San Francisco, California.

In 2018, MUNI, with a budget of about $1.2 billion, served 46.7 square miles. It is the seventh largest transit system—in terms of ridership—in the nation.

Its bus drivers are the highest-paid bus drivers in the nation.

The average MUNI driver makes $79,617, 51% above the national average bus driver salary of $52,730.

This pay is 27% higher than the combined average salaries of drivers in Dallas, Boston and Atlanta.

Muni | SFMTA

And yet: What are San Francisco residents getting for all that money being paid out?

Far less than they deserve.

Since the arrival of the Coronavirus plague in San Francisco in early March, 2020, MUNI has:

  • Offered fewer bus routes
  • Made it impossible to guess when a bus will stop
  • Reduced the number of buses and
  • Scrapped its underground lines altogether.

What does all this mean?

It means that, of MUNI’s 89 routes, all but 17 have been eliminated.

MUNI claimed that the cuts were made to allow for increased social distancing on the most vital routes. How riders were supposed to increase social distancing on fewer buses was not explained.

Muni Service Changes 2.0 Start Saturday | SFMTA

A MUNI bus

The 38 Geary bus line—which travels east and west—is the most heavily-traveled route in the city. In pre-COVID times, these buses were packed, often with passengers standing close together in the aisles after all available seats were taken.

Loudspeakers aboard MUNI buses regularly tell passengers to socially distance from each other—that is, put at least six feet between themselves and their fellows.

But with far fewer buses running, MUNI passengers can’t be sure when—or if—the next one will arrive when they need to catch it.

So residents don’t hesitate: They scramble aboard, en masse, the first bus that shows up.

This makes social distancing impossible on most rides. 

SARS-CoV-2 without background.png

Cooronavirus

MUNI loudspeakers also tell passengers “You must wear a mask to board MUNI.”  And most passengers do wear a mask when they board.

But that doesn’t mean all of them do—especially those who board through the rear doors, out of sight of the driver way up in front. 

Even when passengers wear masks, they often do so just under their nose or chin—meaning they can sneeze or cough potentially lethal germs on anyone sitting near them.

Another drawback to riding MUNI: Buses don’t always stop when you pull the “Stop” cord. 

Suppose you board the 49 Van Ness at Sutter Street. Now suppose you’re a senior, or disabled, or have a couple of bags of groceries you need to lug up to your apartment. 

The 49 boards at Sutter, but it doesn’t stop until it reaches Jackson Street—which means you pass Bush, Pine, California, Sacramento, Washington and Clay before you reach Jackson.

And if your apartment lies somewhere between Sutter and Jackson, you’re going to have to forego riding MUNI and walk north to it, or you’re going to have to get off at Jackson and walk south to it.

Not content with making above-ground routes needlessly complicated and even dangerous, MUNI has eliminated its underground routes. 

These featured fewer stops over longer distances, thus reducing the amount of time you had to be on board.

MUNI’s official reason for this: To protect its drivers from the dangers of COVID-19.

Meanwhile, the Bay Area Transit System (BART) which serves cities well beyond San Francisco, continues to use its network of underground and above-ground stations.

No one at MUNI has yet explained why its drivers can’t do what BART’s have done for the last year.

And while all this is going on, city officials—specifically, the Mayor and Board of Supervisors—are relentlessly pushing to make San Francisco “car-unfriendly.”

San Francisco City Hall 2.JPG

San Francisco City Hall

Sanfranman59, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

This has long been their goal. And COVID-19 has made it possible for city leaders to aggressively pursue it under the guise of helping restaurants.

Countless spots that once were reserved for parking have been turned into outdoor dining sites. This seems to makes sense for restaurants, which have taken a beating since indoor dining was banned due to COVID. 

But outdoor dining isn’t as safe as many people think.

Sure, you and the person(s) you’re eating with may not be COVID-infected. But what about the people at the packed table just a couple of feet away from you?

And what about the pedestrians who often must walk between unmasked diners on either side of a sidewalk? 

Offering a mixture of incentives and deterrents has long been a preferred method for winning compliance. In Mexico, this has been famously termed “Pan o palo” (“bread or the stick”).

San Francisco has chosen to offer a sticks-only policy:

  • Allow its bus service to treat its patrons with infuriating contempt; and
  • Make it ever harder for residents and tourists to use private automobiles to reach their destinations.

It’s a recipe guaranteed to cost the city dearly—in both residents and tourists.

THE GOLDEN CALF MEETS THE GOLDEN TRUMP

In History, Politics, RELIGION, Social commentary on March 2, 2021 at 12:19 am

Let’s start with the Bible’s account of what happened when the Israelites fashioned a Golden Calf for worship.

According to Exodus 32:1-29 [New International Version]:

[Having led the Israelites from bondage in Egypt, Moses ascended Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments from God. And while he was gone….]

When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.” 

Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.”

So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool….

So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry….

Moses turned and went down the mountain with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands. They were inscribed on both sides, front and back. The tablets were the work of God; the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets.

When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain….

And he took the calf the people had made and burned it in the fire; then he ground it to powder, scattered it on the water and made the Israelites drink it….

The Adoration of the Golden Calf, Nicolas Poussain | Linda Thompson

The Adoration of the Golden Calf (Nicholas Poussin)

Moses…stood at the entrance to the camp and said, “Whoever is for the Lord, come to me.” 

And all the Levites rallied to him.

Then he said to them, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Each man strap a sword to his side. Go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, each killing his brother and friend and neighbor.’”

The Levites did as Moses commanded, and that day about three thousand of the people died.

Then Moses said, “You have been set apart to the Lord today, for you were against your own sons and brothers, and he has blessed you this day.”

Fast forward three thousand years later:

From the day he announced his candidacy for President, Donald Trump has been the favorite son of evangelicals. According to a November 8, 2020 story on NPR: 

“A notable fact in 2016 was that exit polls showed about 80% of white evangelical Christians supported Trump in spite of his unfamiliarity with the Bible, his divorces, his vulgar rhetoric and his association with porn stars. Trump’s reputation in moral terms hasn’t changed all that much during his time in office, but there is little evidence of slippage among these faith voters.

“Surveys of early voters and exit polls this year showed between 76 and 81% of white evangelical and ‘born again’ voters supporting Trump, according to the National Election Pool and AP/Votecast.”

So an intriguing question inevitably erupts: How will evangelicals react to the unveiling of a Golden Trump statue at the 2021 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC)? 

Trump allies show fealty to former president with golden statue - Japan Today

The Adoration of Donald Trump

The unveiling happened on February 25, the first day of the three-day conference in Orlando, Florida. According to CNN: 

“The more than 6-foot-tall statue turned heads as it was wheeled into the Hyatt Regency Thursday evening while CPAC attendees picked up their registration and milled about the hotel. The statue was on its way to the conference’s exhibit hall, where it found a home in a booth for a conservative nonprofit called Look Ahead America.”

Onlookers described the statue as “awesome” and “so cool.”

But the statue was heavily ridiculed online, with many making biblical references to idolizing false gods and the golden calf Moses destroys in the Old Testament.

Tommy Zegan, the California-based artist who created the Trump statue, said that every aspect of it is symbolic.

“The coat and tie is the fact that he’s a professional, he’s a businessman,” Zegan said. “The red tie symbolizes he’s a Republican. The red white and blue is that he’s a patriot. The fact that he’s wearing thongs and shorts is that he’s at the age where he should be retired. He should be at the beach right now.”

Asked if Trump should retire or run for President again in 2024, Zegan replied: “I would be, yes, ecstatic. If he wants it to happen, it will happen.”

Wrote CNN reporter Michael Warren: “The statue is perhaps the most extreme celebration at CPAC of the former president.” 

Trump was scheduled to speak on February 28, the last day of the conference. By contrast, Mike Pence, the former vice president, reportedly turned down an invitation to speak at CPAC, while Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell wasn’t invited at all.

NICCOLO MACHIAVELLI TO DONALD TRUMP: YOU’RE NO PRINCE

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on March 1, 2021 at 12:12 am

No shortage of pundits have sized up Donald Trump–first as a Presidential candidate, and then as the nation’s 45th President.  

But how does Trump measure up in the estimate of Niccolo Machiavelli, the 16th-century Florentine statesman?

It is Machiavelli who literally wrote the books—The Prince and The Discourses—that remain guides for successful politicians more than 500 years later.  

Quote by Machiavelli: “Necessity is what impels men to take action ...

Niccolo Machiavelli

Let’s start with Trump’s notoriety for hurling insults at virtually everyone, including:  

  • Latinos
  • Asians
  • Muslims
  • Blacks
  • The Disabled
  • Women

These insults delight his white, under-educated followers. But they have alienated millions of other Americans who might have voted for him.

Now consider Machiavelli’s advice on gratuitously handing out insults and threats:

  • “I hold it to be a proof of great prudence for men to abstain from threats and insulting words towards any one.
  • “For neither the one nor the other in any way diminishes the strength of the enemy–but the one makes him more cautious, and the other increases his hatred of you, and makes him more persevering in his efforts to injure you.”

For those who expected Trump to shed his propensity for constantly picking fights, Machiavelli had a stern warning:

  • “…If it happens that time and circumstances are favorable to one who acts with caution and prudence he will be successful.  But if time and circumstances change he will be ruined, because he does not change the mode of his procedure.
  • “No man can be found so prudent as to be able to adopt himself to this, either because he cannot deviate from that to which his nature disposes him, or else because, having always prospered by walking in one path, he cannot persuade himself that it is well to leave it…”

Then there is Trump’s approach to consulting advisers:

Asked on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” who he consults about foreign policy, Trump replied; “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things.”

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Donald Trump

This totally contrasts the advice given by Machiavelli:

  • “A prudent prince must [choose] for his counsel wise men, and [give] them alone full liberty to speak the truth to him, but only of those things that he asks and of nothing else.
  • “But he must be a great asker about everything and hear their opinions, and afterwards deliberate by himself in his own way, and in these counsels…comport himself so that every one may see that the more freely he speaks, the more he will be acceptable.”

And Machiavelli has potent advice on the selection of advisers:

  • “The first impression that one gets of a ruler and his brains is from seeing the men that he has about him. 
  • “When they are competent and loyal one can always consider him wise, as he has been able to recognize their ability and keep them faithful. 
  • “But when they are the reverse, one can always form an unfavorable opinion of him, because the first mistake that he makes is in making this choice.” 

Image tagged in mike pence touches nasa equipment labeled 'do not touch' - Imgflip

Consider some of the advisers Trump has relied on in his campaign for President: 

  • Founder of Latinos for Trump Marco Gutierrez told MSNBC’s Joy Reid: “My culture is a very dominant culture. And it’s imposing, and it’s causing problems. If you don’t do something about it, you’re gonna have taco trucks every corner.” 
  • At a Tea Party for Trump rally at a Harley-Davidson dealership in Festus, Missouri, former Missouri Republican Party director Ed Martin reassured the crowd that they weren’t racist for hating Mexicans.

From the outset of his Presidential campaign, Trump polled extremely poorly among Hispanic voters. Comments like these didn’t increase his popularity.

  • Wayne Root, opening speaker and master of ceremonies at many Trump campaign events, told Virginia radio host Rob Schilling: People on public assistance and women getting birth control through Obamacare should not be allowed to vote.

Comments like this are a big turn-off among the 70% of women who have an unfavorable opinion of him—and anyone who receives Medicaid, Medicare or Social Security.

  • Trump’s spokeswoman, Katrina Pierson, claimed that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were responsible for the death of Captain Humayun Khan–who was killed by a truck-bomb in Iraq in 2004.  

Obama became President in 2009–almost five years after Khan’s death. And Clinton became Secretary of State the same year.  

When your spokeswoman becomes a nationwide laughingstock, your own credibility goes down the toilet as well.

Finally, Machiavelli offers a related warning that especially applies to Trump: Unwise princes cannot be wisely advised.

  • “It is an infallible rule that a prince who is not wise himself cannot be well advised, unless by chance he leaves himself entirely in the hands of one man who rules him in everything, and happens to be a very prudent man. In this case, he may doubtless be well governed, but it would not last long, for the governor would in a short time deprive him of the state.”

All of which would lead Niccolo Machiavelli to warn, if he could witness American politics today: “This bodes ill for your Republic.”

THE NRA: GIVE ME THAT GUN-TIME RELIGON

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on February 26, 2021 at 12:07 am

On February 14, 2018, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz slaughtered two faculty members and 15 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

His weapon of choice: An AR-15 assault rifle, often favored by gun massacre killers.

Eight days later, on February 22, Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association (NRA) attacked those he held responsible for the series of massacres plaguing American schools.

And it wasn’t crazed gunmen armed with automatic weapons designed for military use. 

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Wayne LaPierre

With funerals still being planned for some of the victims, LaPierre blamed “the elites,” “saboteurs” and “new European-style socialists” for this and other gun massacres.

He did so at the Conservative Political Action Conference (C-PAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.

“They hate the NRA, they hate the Second Amendment. They hate individual freedom. In the rush of calls for more government, they have also revealed…their true selves.

“The elites do not care about America’s schoolchildren. If they truly cared, they would protect them. For them, it is not a safety issue. It is a political issue. 

“Their goal is to eliminate the Second Amendment and our firearms freedoms, so they can eradicate all individual freedoms.”

His C-PAC congregation gave him a wild ovation.

And he accused the Democratic party of being “infested with saboteurs who do not believe in capitalism, do not believe in the Constitution, do not believe in our freedom, and do not believe in America as we know it.”

These “saboteurs” were “new European-style socialists.”

Which was ironic: In 2016, the NRA spent $30 million to elect Donald Trump—who fiercely defends Russian Communist dictator Vladimir Putin against the FBI, NSA and CIA.

He then outlined his solution for protecting America’s schoolchildren: Turning schools into virtual concentration camps patrolled by heavily-armed security guards. 

The highlight of LaPierre’s speech came at its close: “And there is no greater personal, individual freedom than the right to keep and bear arms, the right to protect yourself, and the right to survive.

“It is not bestowed by man, but granted by God to all Americans as our American birthright.”

Anyone who’s seen the 1970 sci-fi movie, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, remembers the final scene: Where seemingly normal underground dwellers strip off their human face masks and reveal themselves to be radiation-scarred mutants.

They wear white robes, and stand silently during a sermon or shout “Amen!” in what is clearly a dark parody of a religious service. It’s immediately clear what they are worshiping: An atomic bomb standing upright.

Image result for Images of bomb worshipers in Beneath the Planet of the Apes

And they pay tribute to the engine of obliteration that has destroyed human civilization and brought about a world ruled by apes.

Their leader, Mendez, chants:

“Glory be to the Bomb, and to the Holy Fallout. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. World without end. Amen. 

“His sound has gone out to all lands, and his light unto the end of the world.

“Almighty and everlasting Bomb, who came down among us to make Heaven under Earth. Lighten our darkness. O instrument of God—grant us thy peace!”

Reading Wayne LaPierre’s eulogy to the Gun and his passionate invoking of God, it’s easy to re-imagine his giving a slightly altered version of the sermon offered in Beneath the Planet of the Apes. It’s also easy to imagine this taking place during an NRA convention.

WAYNE LAPIERRE: The heavens declare the Glory of the Gun. And the body-count showeth His handiwork.

NRA CONGREGATION: His sound is gone out to all lands; and his Light unto the end of the world.

WAYNE LAPIEREE: He descendeth from the outermost part of Heaven; and there is nothing hid from the lead thereof. There is neither speech nor language after His voice is heard among them.

NRA CONGREGATION: Praise Him! Praise Him! My Strength and my Redeemer!

WAYNE LAPIERRE: Glory be to the Gun, and to the Holy Bodycount! As it was in the Beginning, is now and ever shall be, massacres without end. Amen!

NRA CHORUS: Amen! Amen! Amen! Amen!

WAYNE LAPIERRE: Almighty and Everlasting Gun, who came down among us to make Heaven unto Earth. Lighten our darkness with your muzzle flashes. O instrument of God, grant us They peace.

NRA CHOIR: Almighty Gun, who destroyed all men—to create corpses! Behold His glory!

WAYNE LAPIERRE: Behold that Truth that abides in us. To reveal that Truth unto that Maker.

WAYNE LAPIERRE AND NRA CONGREGATION:  I reveal my inmost self unto my God.

NRA CHORUS (singing): Unto my God!

NRA CONGREGATION (singing):

All guns bright and beautiful. All creatures dead with lead.

The good Gun makes us what we are!

He takes out eyes to see with, and lips that might yet speak.

How great the Gun Almighty, who has made all things dead. Amen!

WAYNE LAPIERRE: May the Blessing of the Gun Almighty and the fellowship of the Holy Bodycount descend on us all, this night and forevermore! 

* * * * * *  

On December 14, 2012, a psychotic gunman using military firepower slaughtered 20 first-graders and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Since then, at least 2,654 mass shootings have erupted nationwide, with at least 2,908 killed and 11,088 wounded.

HEROES AND VILLAINS: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 25, 2021 at 12:39 am

Next hero: Marie Yovanovitch, the former United States ambassador to Ukraine (2016 – 2019). She had joined the Foreign Service in 1986, and served as ambassador to Kyrgyzstan (2005 – 2008) and Armenia (2008 – 2011).

In May 2019, on President Donald Trump’s orders, the State Department recalled Yovanovitch as ambassador to Ukraine. She had earned respect from the national security community for her efforts to encourage Ukraine to tackle corruption.

But she had been criticized by Right-wing media outlets—notably Fox News Network—and by Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani.

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Marie Yovanovitch

CNN reported that Yovanovitch stopped Giuliani from interviewing witnesses in his search for politically damaging information against former Vice President Joe Biden, whose son, Hunter, had had business dealings in Ukraine.

On October 11, 2019, she appeared before the House Intelligence Committee, chaired by Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA). She did so in defiance of orders by the White House and State Department to not attend.

“She was a hero even before she hit the hearing room,” wrote Charles Pierce for Esquire magazine.

“She told them to stuff their directives, she would answer a congressional subpoena like a citizen is supposed to do. And she didn’t sneak in through the basement. She walked into the Capitol through the front doors, and she didn’t do so to fck around.”

Testifying for nearly 10 hours, Yovanovitch said that Trump had removed her from her post owing to “unfounded and false claims” and “a concerted campaign against me.”

She believed that associates of Trump’s personal lawyer, Giuliani, might have thought “that their personal financial ambitions were stymied by our anti-corruption policy in Ukraine.”

And she warned that the State Department was being “attacked and hollowed out from within. State Department leadership, with Congress, needs to take action now to defend this great institution, and its thousands of loyal and effective employees.”

Another victim on Trump’s hate-list was Chis Krebs.

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

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

Trump didn’t win a majority of the popular vote. But he got enough help from Putin to triumph in the Electoral College.

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

And point man for this was Chris Krebs.

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

Chris Krebs official photo.jpg

Chris Krebs

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

Now he was director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency at DHS.

In preparation for the 2020 Presidential election, Krebs launched a massive effort to counter lies spread by Russians—and Americans—on social media platforms. Among his duties:

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

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

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

As a result of the vast increase in election security, Trump not only failed to win the popular vote again but couldn’t get the help he expected from Putin. 

On November 17, Trump fired Chris Krebs. 

The reason: Krebs had not only countered Russian propaganda lies—he had dared to counter Trump’s as well. For example: He rejected Trump’s claims of widespread voter fraud: There “is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.”

In a November 17 story on the CNN website, CNN reporters Kaitlan Collins and Paul LeBlanc bluntly concluded:

“[Krebs’] dismissal underscores the lengths Trump is willing to go to punish those who don’t adopt his conspiratorial view of the election.

“Since CNN and other outlets called the race for President-elect Joe Biden, Trump has refused to accept the results, instead pushing baseless conspiracies that his second term is being stolen.”

Yet, by depriving Trump of Russian help, Krebs ensured a victory for democracy.

On January 6, the House and Senate counted the Electoral Votes—and pronounced Joseph Biden the winner—bringing an end to Trump’s reign of criminality and treason.

In his 1960 poem, “Conversation With an American Writer,” the Russian poet, Yevgeney Yevtushenko spoke for those Russians who had maintained their integrity in the face of Stalinist terror:

“You have courage,” they tell me.
It’s not true. I was never courageous.
I simply felt it unbecoming
to stoop to the cowardice of my colleagues.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of Republicans in the United States Senate and House of Representatives in the face of Trump terror.

HEROES AND VILLAINS: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 24, 2021 at 12:11 am

Next up: Nikolai Sergeyvich Zhilayev (pronounced Zill-lay-ev) was a Russian musicologist and the teacher of several 20th-century Russian composers.

Among these: Dimitri Shostakovich (September 25, 1906 – August 9, 1975)

Among his friends—to his ultimate misfortune—was Mikhail Nikolayevich Tukhachevsky, the former military hero now falsely condemned and executed as a traitor by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

In 1938, Zhilayev (November 18, 1881 – January 20, 1938) also became a casualty of what has become known as The Great Terror.

In his posthumously-published memoirs, Testimony, Shostakovich, his pupil and friend, described how Zhilayev faced his end with a calmness that awed even the NKVD (the predecessor to the KGB) secret police sent to arrest him.

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Dimitri Shostakovich

“He had a large picture of Tukhachevsky in his room, and after the announcement that Tukhachevsky had been shot as a traitor to the homeland, Zhilayev did not take the picture down.

“I don’t know if I can explain how heroic a deed that was….As soon as the next poor soul was declared an enemy of the people, everyone destroyed in a panic everything connected with that person….

“And naturally, photographs flew into the fire first, because if someone informed on you, reported that you had a picture of an enemy of the people, it meant certain death.

“Zhilayev wasn’t afraid. When they came for him, Tukhachevsky’s prominently hung portrait amazed even the executioners.”

“What, it’s still up?” one of the secret police asked.

“The time will come,” Zhilayev replied, “when they’ll erect a monument to him.”

As, in fact, has happened. 

Meanwhile, Stalin has been universally condemned as one of history’s greatest tyrants.

Third hero—Brett Crozier, the former commanding officer of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt.

Graduating from the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1992, he received his Master’s Degree in National Security and Strategic Studies from the Naval War College in 2007.

From 2017 to 2018 he commanded the USS Blue Ridge. In November, 2019, he was given command of the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt.

On March 24, 2020, reports circulated that three members of the crew had tested positive for COVID-19. The next day the number of stricken sailors increased to eight. A few days later, it was “dozens.” The sailors reportedly became ill at sea, two weeks after a port call at Danang, Vietnam.

The initial cases were airlifted to a military hospital. The Roosevelt was ordered to Guam. After the ship docked on March 27, 2020, all 5,000 aboard were ordered to be tested for the virus. But only about 100 stricken sailors were allowed to leave the ship. The rest remained on board.

On March 30, Crozier emailed a four-page internal letter to multiple Naval officials, pleading to have the majority of the crew evacuated and quarantined on shore. Given the crowded sleeping quarters and narrow passageways of the vessel, Crozier wrote that it was impossible to follow social distancing and quarantine procedures: 

“This will require a political solution but it is the right thing to do. We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset—our Sailors….

“This is a necessary risk. Keeping over 4,000 young men and women on board the TR is an unnecessary risk and breaks faith with those Sailors entrusted to our care.”

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Brett Crozier

Crozier sent his letter via a non-secure, unclassified email to 20 to 30 recipients, as well as the captain’s immediate chain of command. He reportedly believed that his immediate supervisor would not allow him to send it.

And his superior later confirmed that he would not have allowed Crozier to send it.

On March 31, someone leaked the letter to the San Francisco Chronicle, which published it.

On April 1, the Navy ordered the aircraft carrier evacuated. A skeleton crew of 400 remained aboard to maintain the nuclear reactor, the fire-fighting equipment, and the ship’s galley. 

On April 2, Crozier was relieved of command by acting United States Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly.

By that time, about 114 crew members—out of a total of around 4,000—reportedly tested positive for COVID-19.  

As Crozier disembarked, sailors loudly saluted him with a standing ovation: “Cap-tain Cro-zier!”   

Modly claimed that Crozier’s letter “raised alarm bells unnecessarily. It undermines our efforts and the chain of command’s efforts to address this problem, and creates a panic and this perception that the Navy’s not on the job, that the government’s not on the job, and it’s just not true.”

Actually, the Trump administration had frittered away January and February, with President Donald Trump giving multiple—and misleading—press conferences. In these, he played down the dangers of COVID-19, saying that “we’re on top of it”—even as the virus spread across the country. 

“It was a betrayal. And I can tell you one other thing: because he did that he put it in the public’s forum and it is now a big controversy in Washington, DC,” continued Modly. [Italics added] 

This was the United States Navy under Donald Trump—who threw “betrayal” and “treason” at anyone who dared reveal the truth about institutional crimes and failures.

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