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THE PORNOGRAPNY OF PRESIDENTIAL PERKS: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on April 29, 2021 at 12:14 am

Once Presidents leave office, they usually lead quiet—and highly prosperous–lives.

It’s become commonplace for Presidents to write—or ghostwrite—their memoirs. These usually fetch them a hefty advance, even if sales prove disappointing.

Then there’s the speaker’s circuit, where fees per speech usually run into tens of thousands of dollars.

These are activities that leave the average ex-President an extremely wealthy man—but don’t impact the public purse. 

But there are other perks—such as lifetime Secret Service protection for themselves and their spouses, as well as taxpayer-funded office expenses—that put a serious strain on the national budget.

us-presidential-seal - Nuclear Age Peace Foundation

George W. Bush, unlike his father, got two full terms (2001 – 2009).

Bush made money in the oil industry and owned the Texas Rangers professional baseball team  before he became Governor of Texas and then President. He’s made tens of millions through a book deal and speaking fees.

His net worth has been estimated at $40 million. 

Barack Hussein Obama served two terms (2009 – 2017). 

Obama has greatly profited from paid speeches and production deal with Netflix worth an estimated $50 million. He also gets a government pension of $161,000 a year. Michelle Obama got a reported $65 million advance for her memoir “Becoming.”

Obama’s net worth has been estimated from $40 to $135 million. 

Donald Trump served one term (2017 – 2021). 

Before he entered politics, Trump reportedly got $200 million from his father to enter the real estate business. He made millions as a New York City real estate mogul. Many of his other businesses have failed, but Trump’s vast property holdings make him by far the wealthiest president of all time. He has also profited from his show “The Apprentice,” which ran from 2004 to 2017.

His net worth is estimated at $3.2 billion.

 * * * * * * * * * *

It’s long past time for the re-evaluation of Presidential welfare.

By all means, Presidents deserve a pension, but it should be on a par with the time they served in office. This currently amounts to $219,200 per year for life.

Most police officers must serve 20 years before they can collect their full pension. And they are required to put their lives on the line almost every day. No police officer is allowed to retire on a fulltime pension after serving eight—or even just four—years.

Then there’s the matter of funding by the General Service Administration (GSA) to staff, set up and furnish an official office anywhere in the country. Ex-Presidents and their staffers can receive up to $1 million annually in reimbursements for costs.

Seal of the General Services Administration.svg

Ex-Presidents use these monies to propagandize their accomplishments—or what they claim were their accomplishments—while in office. This usually takes the form of self-serving autobiographies—which, in many cases, are ghostwritten efforts.

Former Presidents certainly have the right to publish their memoirs. But they should not receive public monies for doing so.

Moreover: Presidents aren’t required to submit their manuscripts to what amounts to a censorship committee to guarantee they don’t spill national security secrets.

Agents of the CIA are—and can have royalties from their books seized if they don’t allow their manuscripts to be so screened.

As for lifetime Secret Service protection: In 1965, Congress authorized the Secret Service (Public Law 89-186) to protect a former president and his/her spouse during their lifetime, unless they decline protection.  

Secret Service in action: Did 2 agents get into a drunk driving accident at the White House? - YouTube

Secret Service agents guarding Barack Obama

In 1994, as a cost-saving measure, Congress acted to limit protection for future former presidents and spouses to ten years after they left office. 

But on January 12, 2013, President Barack Obama signed a new law authorizing lifetime protection of all former Presidents and First Ladies. In addition, children of former Presidents will receive protection until they are 16 years old.

This was clearly in response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center—and America’s entry into a global war on terrorism. 

Still, this is hardly necessary. There has not been one recorded case of an attack on a former President since the Secret Service began protecting the Chief Executive in 1901.

From a national security viewpoint, it is also unnecessary. Once a President leaves office, he is essentially out of the loop of daily government business.

The protection of organized crime witnesses by the Justice Department’s Witness Security Program offers a useful remedy.

While awaiting trial, witnesses are given 24-hour protection by deputy U.S. marshals. But once the trials are over and they have received their new identities and relocation to a safe area, that protection is withdrawn. If they are once again threatened, they can request it from the Marshals Service.

And if such protection is deemed necessary for a former President, then a financial means test should be applied.

Every living ex-President is a millionaire—including even Jimmy Carter, whose wealth is estimated by USA Today at $8.2 million. 

Millionaires are not considered eligible for local, state or Federal welfare programs—unless they are former Presidents.

Thus, millionaire ex-Presidents who believe they need/deserve lifetime Secret Service protection should be required to pay for it out of pocket—or hire private security. 

Treating former Presidents as gods is not only an outrageous waste of taxpayers’ monies. It is an affront to the ideals of a democratic nation. 

THE PORNOGRAPNY OF PRESIDENTIAL PERKS: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on April 28, 2021 at 12:25 am

“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

George Orwell’s famous novella, Animal Farm, was a brutal, symbolic attack on the Soviet Union and its brand of Communism. But it applies just as accurately to the different ways poor and rich Americans are treated.

Let’s start with the poor.

According to the Social Security website: “Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a Federal income supplement program funded by general tax revenues (not Social Security taxes). It is designed to help aged, blind, and disabled people, who have little or no income; and It provides cash to meet basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter….

“One of our highest priorities is to help people with disabilities achieve independence by helping them take advantage of employment opportunities. Work incentive employment supports help disabled and blind SSI recipients go to work by minimizing the risk of losing their SSI or Medicaid benefits….

“We do not count the first $65 of earned income plus one–half of the amount over $65. Therefore, we reduce your SSI benefit only $1 for every $2 you earn over $65.”

Social Security Administration Asks for Comments on Info Collection Request

Wow! An SSI recipient can earn up to $65 dollars before that begins to affect his SSI. 

In 1960, $65 was equal to $575.88 in 2021 dollars.

That would have been great in 1960. But 1960 is now 61 years ago. 

According to Intuit, an American business that specializes in financial software: “The average cost of food per month for one person ranges from $150 to $300, depending on age. However, these national averages vary based on where you live and the quality of your food purchases.”

And according to Statista, a German company specializing in market and consumer data: In February 2021, the average monthly rent for an apartment in the United States was $1,124.

So being able to earn $65 before the Social Security Administration starts reducing your SSI monthly payment shouldn’t be considered a “work incentive.”

For despicable contrast, consider how America’s former Presidents are treated.

us-presidential-seal - Nuclear Age Peace Foundation

The Former Presidents Act of 1958 provides several benefits and perks that are available to Presidents after they leave office. Their biggest perk is an annual pension equal to the pay for a Cabinet Secretary, which is $221,400 in 2021. 

Widows of former Presidents are eligible for a $20,000 yearly pension. In addition, former Presidents and their spouses can opt to receive lifetime Secret Service protection.

According to the National Taxpayers Union Foundation, ex-Presidents are provided with:

  • Funding by the General Service Administration (GSA) to staff, set up and furnish an official office anywhere in the country.
  • Reimbursement for themselves and their staff up to $1 million annually for costs.
  • $500,000 a year for their spouses for official travel and security.
  • The guarantee of a funeral with full honors and burial, if they or their spouse wants it, at Arlington National Cemetery. 

Let’s go back 41 years–to the inauguration of Ronald Reagan, who served from 1981 to 1989.

  • Reagan believed that government should not help the impoverished.  Those who lacked wealth to buy such necessities as housing and medical insurance were written off as unimportant.
  • He claimed to be a “fiscal conservative.” But he drastically shrank the tax-base, bloated the defense budget and destroyed programs to benefit the poor and middle-class.
  • As a result, Reagan produced a $1 trillion deficit—which only the Clinton Administration eliminated.
  • Before his Presidency ended, 18 wealthy Californians contributed $156,000 apiece to buy him a 7,200 square-foot mansion overlooking Beverly Hills.
  • Reagan signed a multi-million dollar deal to write his Presidential memoirs and publish a collection of his speeches.
  • He signed an exclusive contract with a Washington lecture bureau, which paid him $50,000 per speech given in the United States and $100,000 overseas. This made him the highest-paid speaker in the country.
  • These monies came in addition to his Presidential pension of $99,500 a year for life and his $30,000 annual pension as a former governor of California.
  • At a cost to the government of $10 million annually, Reagan continued to receive lifetime Secret Service protection from 40 fulltime agents.

Ronald Reagan's presidential portrait, 1981

Ronald Reagan

According to a November 5,2020 article in USA Today:

Reagan had made money as a movie and TV actor for more than 20 years. He owned several pieces of real estate, including a 688-acre property near Santa Barbara, California. He also profited from his post-Presidential autobiography. 

Reagan had a peak net worth of $14.3 million.

After Reagan came George H.W. Bush (1989 – 1993).

Bush made his initial fortune running an offshore oil drilling company and owned millions of dollars worth of property, including an estate in Kennebunkport, Maine, which around the time of his death in November 2018, was valued at $13.5 million. Like most ex-Presidents, he authored his autobiography: All the Best.

His peak net worth: $26.6 million.

William Jefferson Clinton served from 1993 to 2001. 

Since leaving office, Clinton has made millions from his 2005 book My Life. But his wife, Hillary, provides most of his wealth. She reportedly received a $14 million advance for her 2014 memoir Hard Choices. She also made millions from paid speeches.

His peak net worth: $76.8 million. 

ARROGANT EMPLOYERS MEET LYING JOB-SEEKERS: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on April 27, 2020 at 5:51 am

Until recently, only organized crime witnesses with a price on their head could obtain falsified job histories.  But no more.

Thousands—if not millions—of job-seeking Americans are now able to obtain stellar job references to impress potential employer.  And they’re doing it the unconventional way: They’re hiring companies to create them.

One such company is CareerExcuse.

CareerExcuse runs 200 fictional companies that don’t exist, have staffs or make money.

But for a fee, you can say you worked at one of them, and they’ll confirm you were an outstanding employee.

For between $100 and $200, you’ll get:

  • One to three false—and positive—references from a company or companies you’ve never worked for.
  • A fake company address.
  • Local phone numbers to give to prospective employers.
  • A guarantee that those employers will receive positive vouchers for you.
  • “Instant” degrees.
  • Landlord reference
  • A “completely legitimate” resume-writing service.

Unlike the Federal Witness Security Program (WITSEC) the clients of CareerExcuse aren’t hardened criminals.

They are legitimate citizens trying to erase gaps in their resumes. Or they have worked for a long series of short-term employers and want to appear a stable employee.

Click here: CareerExcuse Job References

Or they’ve acquired–deservedly or not–a series of bad job references 

Image result for images of resumes

“Some people see it as unethical,” Jennifer Hatton, senior partner at CareerExcuse, said in a 2015 interview with Business Insider.

But, said Hatten, “I don’t see why you shouldn’t deserve a shot, just like the next person” if you do have the skills and experience required.

“There are many things that happen in people’s lives, with [employers] going out of business, being laid off, managers just unrightfully firing you, sexual harassment suits—-you name it, it happens in the workforce.”

And it’s true.

An article in the March, 2011 issue of Reader’s Digest gives the lie to the excuses so many employers use for refusing to hire.

Entitled “22 Secrets HR Won’t Tell You About Getting a Job,” it reveals such truths as:

  • After you’re unemployed more than six months, employers consider you unemployable—no matter your skills/experience. 
  • It’s not what but who you know that counts.
  • Cover letters are often ignored, going directly into “the round file.”
  • Many employers illegally try to screen out parents—such as by checking cars for child safety seats.
  • You’re not protected against age discrimination. Many employers regularly ignore the law. If you are in your 50s or 60s, leave your year of graduation off your resume.

And in its June 8, 2011 cover-story on “What U.S. Economic Recovery?  Five Destructive Myths,” Time magazine warned that profit-seeking corporations can’t be relied on to ”make it all better.”

Wrote Rana Foroohar, Time‘s assistant managing editor in charge of economics and business:

“There may be $2 trillion sitting on the balance sheets of American corporations globally, but firms show no signs of wanting to spend it in order to hire workers at home.”

Meanwhile, CareerExcuse claims to have more than 2,000 job-seeking clients.

“Our main clientele right now is IT executives, and they’re pretty high-level,” Hatton claimed. The average customer seeks a salary of $60,000 to $80,000.

There are areas of employment that CareerExcuse refuses to fill—medicine, government, law enforcement or government. Jobs where your employment would “put other people in danger,” said Hatten. These are also employers capable of conducting serious background investigations.

Hatton claimed that during the almost two years she had been with CareerExcuse, no one had ever discovered a faked background.

But William Schmidt, who founded the company, admitted to Motherboard that a fake reference could easily be punctured: “All it would take is one person to drive to that address and go to that office.”

And the inevitable result would be immediate termination.

For some users of CareerExcuse, the company has proven an infuriating disappointment.

Click here: 17 CAREER EXCUSE complaints and reports @ Pissed Consumer

Like many clients of the Federal Witness Security Program, they complain of promises not kept. Among their complaints on Pissed Consumer, a consumer-complaint website:

  • “When a serious job opportunity came recently, I realized alot of loop holes in their services, address of company on the website was different, email addresses weren’t valid or active.”
  • “They took my $ and never returned my calls or emails.What a joke!”
  • “Their phone go to voice mail and they dont reply back to calls after a voice mail is left for them to reply …It is easy for the employer to know that the reference is fake.”
  • “When the prospective employers called, Career excuse answered the phone with ‘Career Excuse, how can I help you.’ They were supposed to answer the phone in the name of the fake company they put together.”
  • “They only gave me a cheap looking web page and they don’t even answer the phones to GIVE the service I payed for. They are a scam and complete rip-off.”

Throughout the United States, countless numbers of lazy, greedy, arrogant and/or incompetent employers are refusing to hire. And millions of willing-to-work Americans remain trapped in unemployment or under-employment as a result.

Until this situation changes, companies like CareerExcuse will continue to function—and proliferate.

Such a change isn’t going to happen tomorrow.

ARROGANT EMPLOYERS MEET LYING JOB-SEEKERS: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on April 24, 2020 at 12:17 am

In 1966, the U.S. Department of Justice did something it had never before done: Protect a witness against the Mafia during trial, and then relocate him (and his family) to safety under a new identity.

That witness was Joseph “The Animal” Barboza.  Once the most-feared enforcer for the New England Mafia family of Raymond Patriarca, Barboza had run afoul of his boss.

With a mob contract out on him, Barboza felt he had nothing to lose by telling FBI agents and Federal prosecutors everything they wanted to know about the Boston Mafia.

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Joseph Barboza

A 16-man security detail of deputy U.S. marshals was immediately assigned to Barboza. The marshals relocated him to Thatcher’s Island, off the coast of Gloucester, Massachusetts. There they foiled two attempts by the mob to kill Barboza with a telescopic-sighted rifle.

Through a series of trials, Barboza sent the top echelons of the Patriarca family—including Patriarca himself—to prison. Then he and his wife and daughter were outfitted with new names and shipped out of New England to begin life over in safety.

The success of the Barboza detail led other Mafia witnesses to come forward. And this, in turn, led to the official creation of the Witness Security Program (WITSEC) by the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970.

To date, the U.S. Marshals Service—which runs WITSEC—has successfully protected, relocated and given new identities to more than 8,500 witnesses and 9,900 of their family members.

Click here: U.S. Marshals Service, Witness Security Program.

It’s been the “new identities” part of the Program that has always attracted the most attention from the press and movie-makers.

Staged photograph of a WITSEC detail

In the early days of WITSEC, a handful of security Inspectors created these in a totally haphazard fashion. These included legal name-changes, Social Security card, driver’s licenses and falsified job histories.

In some cases, marshals would tell prospective employers, “We can vouch for this man’s skills as a(n) ———-, but that’s all we can tell you.”

Witnesses’ children were provided with fictitious school records.  The names of schools would be changed, but the actual grades earned by the children would be retained.

These records would be “backstopped”—supported with documentation placed at those institutions where the witness (or his family) was alleged to have worked or attended school.

Similarly, medical records for witnesses and their children would be partially falsified. That is, names of hospitals they had obtained care in would be changed, but their actual medical histories would be accurately charted.

Since the 1990s, the Marshals Service has centralized its “re-documentation” program. Parents, spouses, children, siblings and even mistresses are all taken to an orientation center in a Washington suburb

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There, witnesses are debriefed by Federal agents and prosecutors.  They—and their families—are also prepared for the new lives they’ll take on under new identities.

In the early years of the program, witnesses were provided with flimsy aliases that quickly collapsed under even light scrutiny.

In 1973, Gerald Martin Zelmanowitz, a convicted stock swindler, found his new identity of Paul J. Maris easily punctured.

He got into a legal dispute with Creative Capitol, an investment firm that had loaned $2 million to his struggling new business,”The Paul Maris Company.”

Creative Capitol’s president, Milton Stewart, ordered a quiet investigation into Maris’ background.

This quickly turned up the following:

  • Maris and all five members of his family had been issued sequential Social Security numbers.
  • There was no record of Maris’ birth certificate.
  • Maris had claimed a background in Army Intelligence, but his Army service number had never been issued.
  • Maris’ resume said he had attended John Bartram High School in Philadelphia and Baldwin Wallace College in Berea, Ohio.  But officials at both schools denied that he had ever been one of their students.
  • Maris’ alleged home address in Philadelphia turned out to be a vacant lot in an all-black neighborhood.

Finally, the private investigator discovered that Maris had testified against a Angelo “Gyp” DeCarlo, a notorious New Jersey Mafia chieftain.  His testimony had convicted DeCarlo for murder conspiracy.

Fearing for his life, Maris fled with his family from San Francisco. All of them were readmitted to the Witness Security Program and relocated under new identities.

Until recently, only organized crime witnesses with a price on their head could obtain falsified job histories.  But no more.

Thousands—if not millions—of job-seeking Americans are now able to obtain stellar job references to impress potential employers.

CareerExcuse runs 200 fictional companies that don’t exist, have staffs or make money.

But for a fee, you can say you worked at one of them, and they’ll confirm you were a stellar employee while you were there.

For between $100 and $200, you’ll get

  • One to three false—and positive—references from a company or companies you’ve never worked for.
  • A fake company address.
  • Local phone numbers to give to prospective employers.
  • A guarantee that those employers will receive positive vouchers for you.
  • A “completely legitimate” resume-writing service.

Unlike WITSEC, the clients of CareerExcuse aren’t hardened criminals. They are legitimate citizens trying to erase gaps in their resumes.  Or they have worked for a long series of short-term employers and want to appear a stable employee.

CELEBRATING IGNORANCE–WITH DEATH THREATS

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on April 13, 2020 at 12:26 am

“I’ve chosen this life. I know what it is. There are things about it that sometimes are disturbing. But you just focus on the job you have to do. And just put all that other stuff aside.””

The speaker wasn’t a longtime Mafia enforcer turned-State’s-witness. He was Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

And he was speaking with an NBC News reporter about death threats he had received.

At 79, Fauci is getting the sort of protection reserved for organized crime witnesses through the Justice Department’s Witness Security Program.

NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D.

Dr. Anthony Fauci

The U.S. Marshals Service has deputized nine officers from the Department of Health and Human Services as bodyguards for Fauci.

So what has this man—who has dedicated his entire adult life to protecting Americans against infectious diseases—done to require such protection? 

He has merely spoken the hard medical truth about Coronavirus. In doing so, he has at times contradicted President Donald Trump’s statements filled with ignorance or outright lies. 

For example: Trump has been loudly touting hydroxychloroquine, used for treating malaria, as a miracle cure for the Coronavirus.

Yet Fauci has dared to point out there have been no scientific trials of the drug for its effectiveness against Coronavirus. Moreover, given the medical condition of some patients, it could even prove fatal.

Statements like this have infuriated Trump’s base of—at best—half-educated fans.

During the 2016 Presidential race, after winning the Nevada primary, Trump infamously celebrated his victory: “We won the evangelicals. We won with young. We won with old. We won with highly educated. We won with poorly educated. I love the poorly educated.”   

A February 24, 2016 USA Today story covering this event carried the headline: “Donald Trump loves the poorly educated—and they love him.”

And at the bottom of the story came this warning: “Some—journalists, mostly—noted that Trump’s proud embrace of poorly less educated voters and the resulting shock may only cause those less educated voters to embrace Trump all the more.” 

And they do.

A Colleague Admits that Support for Trump Derives from Selfishness ...

There has been a growing divide between Democrats and Republicans on the merits of higher education.

An August 20, 2019 story in Forbes noted that a Pew Research survey, conducted in July, had found that “67% of Democrats and Democrat-leaning respondents say higher education is having a positive effect on the country compared to only 33% of Republicans and Republican-leaning participants.” 

Furthermore, “the percentage of Republicans attributing a positive effect to higher education has steadily eroded from 58% (2010), 53% (2012), 54% (2015), 43% (2016), and 36% (2017). Among Republicans, 59% now say higher education has a negative effect on the U.S., compared to just 18% of Democrats.” 

This disdain for education in general—and science in particular—has led to the following: In March, an NBC News poll found that only 30% of Republicans said that they would actually listen to the advice of doctors to stay away from large, crowded areas to avoid Coronavirus.

These are the same people who get their version of reality from Right-wing sources like Fox News Network and Rush Limbaugh. 

Rush Limbaugh

On his March 27 show, Limbaugh dismissed Coronavirus as “the common cold,” then added: “We didn’t elect a president to defer to a bunch of health experts that we don’t know

“And how do we know they’re even health experts? Well, they wear white lab coats, and they’ve been in the job for a while, and they’re at the CDC and they’re at the NIH, and they’re up, well—yeah, they’ve been there, and they are there.

“But has there been any job assessment for them? They’re just assumed to be the best because they’re in government. But, these are all kinds of things that I’ve been questioning.” 

This is the same Rush Limbaugh who said, in 2015: “Firsthand smoke takes 50 years to kill people, if it does Not everybody that smokes gets cancer. Now, it’s true that everybody who smokes dies, but so does everyone who eats carrots.”

Five years later, in February, 2020, Limbaugh—a longtime and heavy cigar smoker—announced that he had Stage Four lung cancer.

And then there is President Trump—and his chorus of cheerleaders, both within his administration and on Fox News. 

On February 25, Kayleigh McEnany, his fourth press secretary in three years, said on Fox Business: “This President will always put America first. He will always protect American citizens. We will not see diseases like the Coronavirus come here.”

During February and March, she repeatedly downplayed the threat of the disease, even as it spread across the United States. 

By April 11 there were  561,103 cases of Coronavirus throughout the country, with 22,106 deaths. 

These, then, are the types of “reliable sources” that millions of Right-wingers take as gospel—while dismissing the warnings of the medical profession as erroneous or, worse, products of a liberal conspiracy. 

And by daring to contradict such blatant ignorance—if not outright lies—Dr. Anthony Fauci has made himself a target for Right-wing hatred and death threats. 

Their hatred for Fauci proves once again the correctness of Ernest Hemingway’s definition of Fascism: “Fascism is a lie told by bullies.”

THE WITNESS IS THE ENEMY: PART TWO (END)

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

Donald Trump has a longstanding hatred of whistleblowers when they betray his crimes and follies. But he feels completely different about “flippers” when their revelations serve his interests.

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

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The leak revealed a DNC bias for Hillary Clinton and against her lone challenger, Vermont United States Senator Bernie Sanders. Clinton, who was about to receive the Democratic nomination for President, was thoroughly embarrassed. Sanders’ supporters were enraged.

Presidential candidate Trump’s reaction:

  • “WikiLeaks, I love WikiLeaks.”
  • “This WikiLeaks stuff is unbelievable. It tells you the inner heart, you gotta read it.” 
  • This WikiLeaks is like a treasure trove.”
  • “WikiLeaks just came out with a new one just a little while ago it’s just been shown that a rigged system with more collusion, probably illegal, between the Department of Justice the Clinton campaign and the State Department, you saw that.”

But now Trump has reverted to his longtime hatred of “leakers.”

In July, 2019, he told his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, to withhold almost $400 million in promised military aid for Ukraine, which faces increasing aggression from Russia.

On July 25, Trump telephoned Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to “request” a “favor”: Investigate Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, who has had business dealings in Ukraine.

The reason for such an investigation: To find embarrassing “dirt” on Biden.

Biden 2013.jpg

Joe Biden

But then a CIA whistleblower filed a complaint about the extortion attempt—and the media and Congress soon learned of it. 

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) tweeted: “The transcript of the call reads like a classic mob shakedown: — We do a lot for Ukraine — There’s not much reciprocity — I have a favor to ask — Investigate my opponent — My people will be in touch — Nice country you got there. It would be a shame if something happened to her.”

On September 24, 2019, Nancy Pelosi, speaker to the House of Representatives, announced a formal impeachment inquiry into Trump.

On September 26, Trump told a private group at a midtown hotel: “I want to know who’s the person, who’s the person who gave the whistleblower the information? Because that’s close to a spy.

“You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart? Right? The spies and treason, we used to handle it a little differently than we do now.” 

Image result for Official White House photos of Donald Trump

Trump can’t refute the sheer number of witnesses who have testified to his extortion attempt on Ukraine. So he now seeks to shift blame to the person who originally testified to his extortion.

On November 6, his son, Donald, Jr., tweeted out an article which might—or might not—have contained the name of the Intelligence community whistleblower.

A Trump shill later claimed that Trump hadn’t known about his son’s efforts to attack that official.

The law firm, Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto, LLP, called on Attorney General William Barr to open a criminal investigation into any leaks of the whistleblower’s identity. 

“As attorneys representing whistleblowers for over 35-years we are extremely concerned about the nation-wide ‘chilling effect’ the disclosure of the identity of any intelligence community whistleblower will necessary cause. Whistleblowers need to reassurance that the laws protecting them will be strictly enforced. 

“If the [whistleblower’s] name is revealed by any person, including Donald Trump, Jr., we hereby request that the persons engaging in this obstruction of justice be immediately arrested.” 

Yet Barr, as Trump’s handpicked Attorney General, has so far refused to take any action against those in violation of whistleblower statutes. 

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) enforces the provisions of more than 20 whistleblower statutes protecting employees from retaliation for reporting violations of various workplace-related laws.

Image result for official seal of osha

According to a 2002 amendment to the federal retaliation statute:

“Whoever knowingly, with intent to retaliate, takes any action harmful to any person, including interference with the lawful employment or livelihood of any person, for providing to a law enforcement officer any truthful information relating to the commission or possible commission of any Federal offense, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 10 years, or both.”

These forbid an employer to fire, lay off, threaten, reduce pay or hours, blacklist, demote, deny overtime, benefits or promotion to anyone protected by such laws.

One such witness is Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, an expert on Ukraine. A member of the National Security Council, he felt it improper for a President to ask a foreign leader to investigate an American citizen.

Trump called Vindman, a Purple Heart winner who was wounded in Iraq, “Yesterday’s Never Trumper witness.” 

Ultimately, the identity of the whistleblower doesn’t matter.

As Representative Eric Swalwell (D-CA) tweeted on November 8: “One more time for the people in the back: The whistleblower pulled the fire alarm. The 1st responders showed up and saw smoke, flames, and @realDonaldTrump holding matches. Does it matter who pulled the fire alarm?”

The truth of the original complaint about Trump’s extortion attempt has been repeatedly validated by multiple witnesses.

It now remains to be seen whether Republicans care more about the truth of that complaint—or bowing in subservience to a thoroughly corrupt President.

THE WITNESS IS THE ENEMY: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on November 11, 2019 at 12:07 am

Before 1966, witnesses who dared expose the deadly secrets of the Mafia came to a brutal end once trials ended. And sometimes before trials even began.

For example: In 1940, Abe “Kid Twist” Reles, a notorious hitman for Murder, Inc., the execution squad of the New York Mafia, turned State’s evidence against his cronies. His testimony sent his former boss, Louis “Lepke” Buchalter, to the electric chair for murder.

He was set to testify against Albert “The Executioner” Anastasia, the chief of Murder, Inc., in November, 1941. Then fate—or bribed police—intervened.

Reles was being guarded round-the-clock by a lieutenant and six detectives at the Half Moon Hotel in Coney Island. Nevertheless, he “fell” 42 feet to his death from his sixth-floor room. No one was prosecuted for his murder.

As Joseph Valachi, a future Mafia witness, later testified: “I never met anybody yet who thought Reles went out that window on purpose.”

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Abe “Kid Twist” Reles

In 1966, the United States Justice Department indicted Rhode Island Mafia Boss Raymond Patriarca. Thus, protection of its star witness, hitman Joseph “The Animal” Barboza, became a top priority.

Assigned to guard him was a small, handpicked detail of deputy U.S. marshals under the command of John Partington. For 18 months, the marshals foiled every effort by the Mafia to “clip” Barboza.

His testimony convicted a half-dozen top Mafiosi—including Patriarca. Then the marshals packed Barboza off to California under a new identity—and a new life.

Other Mafiosi—having run afoul of the Mafia and impressed by the success of the marshals in keeping Barboza alive—signed on as witnesses.

This, in turn, led the Justice Department to create an official Witness Security Program. By 2019, the Program had protected, relocated and given new identities to more than 8,600 witnesses and 9,900 of their family members.

Deputy U.S. marshals guarding a witness

Every President since John F. Kennedy has championed the vigorous prosecution of organized crime. And fueling this drive is the testimony of endangered witnesses requiring air-tight security.

Donald Trump is the first President to blatantly attack those who dare to “rat out” their former criminal associates.

On August 21, 2018, attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty in federal court in Manhattan to eight counts of campaign finance violations, tax fraud and bank fraud. He also said he had made illegal campaign contributions “in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office”—Donald Trump.  

Among his revelations:

  • Trump has repeatedly asserted that Russia didn’t interfere with the 2016 Presidential election. But Cohen said he believed it did.
  • Trump has repeatedly claimed he had “no business” in Russia. But Cohen testified that the Trump Organization had sought to “pursue a branded property in Moscow.”
  • Trump denied having had sex with and paid off porn “actress” Stormy Daniels. But Cohen confirmed that Trump had instructed him to pay her $130,000 to buy her silence during the 2016 Presidential campaign.

On August 23, on the Fox News program, “Fox and Friends,” Trump attacked Cohen for “flipping” on him: “For 30, 40 years I’ve been watching flippers. Everything’s wonderful and then they get 10 years in jail and they—they flip on whoever the next highest one is, or as high as you can go. It—it almost ought to be outlawed. It’s not fair.

“You know, campaign violations are considered not a big deal, frankly. But if somebody defrauded a bank and he’s going to get 10 years in jail or 20 years in jail but if you can say something bad about Donald Trump and you’ll go down to two years or three years, which is the deal he made.”

Making “flipping” illegal would undo decades of organized crime prosecutions—and make future ones almost impossible.

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U.S. Department of Justice

To penetrate the secrets of criminal organizations, investigators and prosecutors need the testimony of those who are parties to those secrets.  

The Organized Crime Control Act of 1970 gave Justice Department prosecutors unprecedented weapons for attacking crime syndicates across the country. One of these was the authority to give witnesses immunity from prosecution on the basis of their own testimony.

Thus, a witness to a criminal conspiracy could be forced to tell all he knew—and thus implicate his accomplices—and bosses. In turn, he wouldn’t be prosecuted on the basis of his testimony. 

Organized crime members aggressively damn such “rats.” There is no more obscene word in a mobster’s vocabulary.

But no President—until Trump—has ever attacked those who make possible a war on organized crime. 

On August 19, he tweeted: “The failing @nytimes wrote a Fake piece today implying that because White House Councel [sic] Don McGahn was giving hours of testimony to the Special Councel [sic] he must be a John Dean type ‘RAT.’

“But I allowed him and all others to testify – I didn’t have to. I have nothing to hide……” 

In 1973, former White House Counsel John Dean testified before the United States Senate on a litany of crimes committed by President Richard M. Nixon. Dean didn’t lie about Nixon—who ultimately resigned in disgrace.

For Trump, Dean’s sin is that he “flipped” on his former boss, violating the Mafia’s code of omerta, or silence. 

But Trump feels completely different abut “flippers” when their revelations serve his interests.

WHEN WHITES WERE TARGETS: PART FIVE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 18, 2016 at 12:05 am

On April 22, 1974, a break finally came in the “Zebra killers” case.

Anthony Cornelius Harris, a member of the Nation of Islam–otherwise known as the Black Muslims–came forward as a police witness.

Before doing so, he visited the parents of his close friend, Larry Craig Green–who was one of the “Zebra” killers. He hoped that, through Green’s mother, he could persuade his comrade to go with him to the police as a witness against the other three Death Angels.

While at the home of Green’s parents, he called Green.

“I knew right there it was impossible to get him to admit to doing anything,” Harris later testified. “He told me to get the hell out of his house and never to come back.”

Later, Harris phoned the Black Self-Help moving and storage company where he had been working for the last six months.

One of the Muslims he spoke with was Green, who warned him: “Man, they’ve got a contract out to kill you, your wife and the baby.”

It was then that Harris realized that he, his wife, Debra, and their newborn son had been marked for death by his former friends. There was nowhere else to go but the police if he wanted to stay alive.

So, on April 22, 1974, he came forward as a police witness.

Many police believed Harris had been one of the killers himself.  He bore a strong resemblance to the suspect in a police artist’s sketch: A young black man with a short Afro and pointed chin.

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Police composite sketch of “the Zebra killer”

But Harris insisted that he hadn’t murdered anyone, and that he had resisted efforts by his friends to enlist him in their murder spree. He claimed to fear for his life at the hands of his fellow Muslims.

The police immediately placed Harris and his family under round-the-clock guard.

At 5 a.m. on the morning of May 1, 1974, more than 100 police officers assembled at the San Francisco Hall of Justice. They were heavily armed–with shotguns, submachineguns and automatic rifles.

Their assignment: Arrest seven men believed responsible for the brutal series of murders known as the “Zebra” case.

At a given signal, police charged into the various homes and apartments where the suspects lay sleeping.  None of the wanted men offered any resistance.

Three of the seven were soon release for lack of evidence.  The remaining three–Larry Craig Green, Manuel Moore and J.C. Simon–were held at high bond.

A fourth suspect, Jessie Lee Cooks, was already serving a life sentence in prison for his admitted murder of Frances Rose, a physical therapist, on October 30, 1973.

Cooks would be charged with other “Zebra” murders by a San Francisco grand jury on May 16, 1974.

Chief Assistant District Attorney W.H. Guibbini asked for high bail for three of the suspects after their indictment.  Presiding Superior Court Judge Clayton V. Horn raised it to $300,000 each.

The accused killers remained in jail before and during their trial.

The trial began on March 3, 1975, and lasted longer than any previous one in the history of California–376 days. Testimony from 181 witnesses–115 for the prosecution–filled 13,331 pages of trial transcript.

San Francisco Superior Court

The Nation of Islam paid for the legal representation of every one of the defendants except Cooks, who had admitted to murdering Frances Rose. 

During his testimony as a prosecution witness, Harris was guarded constantly by San Francisco police. 

When the SFPD’s resources began to be strained, Harris was placed on the Witness Security Program, operated by the U.S. Marshals Service for the Justice Department. Originally created to safeguard Mafia witnesses, it offers protection, relocation and new identities to those who testify against organized crime groups.  

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Deputy U.S. marshals guarding a witness while testifying before Congress

Harris was flown to Houston, Texas, and kept under the watchful eye of the local police. From there he moved to El Paso, and then on to Las Vegas.

He proved a difficult witness to protect. Refusing to take a job suitable for his menial work skills, he demanded ever-increasing amounts of subsistence money from, first, the SFPD, and, later, the U.S. Marshals Service. At times he threatened to recant his testimony unless he got more subsistence payments.

After the trial, Harris received a portion of the $30,000 reward. Eventually he turned up in Oakland, and then ultimately disappeared.

On March 13, 1976, Larry Craig Green, Manuel Moore, Jessie Lee Cooks and J.C. Simon were convicted of multiple murders. All were sentenced to life in state prison, where they remain today.

The toll of victims taken by the “Zebra” killers had been staggering:

  • Sixteen murdered
  • Five wounded
  • One raped
  • The attempted kidnapping of three children

At the time of sentencing, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Joseph Karesh turned to a wall map showing where each of the murders had taken place.

“As I look at this map and see all these dots,” said Karesh, “I hope we do not forget all these people who have been reduced to dots.”

WHEN WHITES WERE TARGETS: PART FOUR (OF FIVE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 15, 2016 at 12:05 am

The slayings of the “Zebra killers” were always proceeded by elaborate safety precautions. These included disguises, escape routes and the use of safehouses.

“In case you kill someone in that area,” Harris later testified that his Muslim friends were told, “you can automatically go to that house.  There won’t be any questions asked about it at all.

“They made that clear all the time, every Saturday, at the Fruit of Islam (FOI) meetings. The FOI was the enforcement and disciplinary arm of the Nation of Islam.

“They said that if you’re going to kill someone, come right out and say it.  Let us know ahead of time so we can set up a good alibi.”

Recruiting poster for the Fruit of Islam, the elite guard of the Nation of Islam

Non-Muslims were not to be trusted or used in any way.

“Our own attorneys,” the listeners were told at these weekend meetings, “will lie for you,” Harris quoted one of the Muslim speakers as saying.

On the night of January 28, 1974, J.C. Simon, Larry Green and Manuel Moore launched their most spectacular assault on San Francisco whites.

Shots and screams echoed throughout the city as the killers, cruising in a fast-moving black Cadillac, literally turned the streets into a shooting gallery:

  • Tana Smith, a secretary, was slain while waiting at a bus stop.
  • A derelict, John Bambic, was murdered as he rummaged in a garbage can.
  • Vincent Wollin, a pensioner, was walking down the street when one of the gunmen fatally overtook him.
  • A housewife named Jane Holly was killed in a Laundromat while she removed clothes from a dryer.
  • And Roxanne McMillan, another housewife, was critically wounded and left paralyzed from the waist down as she walked down a flight of stairs to her apartment.

Each of these victims had been shot twice in the back by a black gunman using a .32 automatic pistol.

Just hours before the murder spree, Anthony Harris had asked his friend, Larry Green, why their comrade, J.C. Simon, was so depressed and irritable.

“He’s pretty pissed off because he didn’t make lieutenant,” Green had replied. “He didn’t have enough kills on his record.”

The killings continued up to mid-April, 1974.

On April 20, 1974, San Francisco’s liberal mayor, Joseph L. Alioto, authorized a city-wide police dragnet to flush out the still-supposed lone gunman.

Throughout the city, roving squads of specially-assigned officers stopped and questioned over 600 young black men. Those stopped were thought by police to resemble a vague description of the “killer,” as given by witnesses and surviving victims.

Some blacks were stopped so many times they were issued special identification cards to prevent future police interrogations.

The dragnet failed to flush out the Zebra Killers, but it touched off an uproar within the black community. Mayor Alioto was heatedly denounced by civil rights and religious activists.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People filed a suit in federal court for the Northern District of California to halt the stops.

On April 26–six days after the dragnet began–San Francisco’s U.S. District Judge Alfonzo J. Zirpoli acted on the NAACP’s suit.  He declared the stops an unconstitutional violation of blacks’ civil rights.

In the future, ordered Zirpoli, police would need specific information leading them to believe that whoever they stopped had committed a crime or was in the process of doing so.

In San Francisco, the sudden collapse of the citywide police dragnet brought new shivers of panic to an already frightened citizenry.

Many whites stopped going outdoors after dark.  Even police officers frequently looked over their shoulders as evening approached.

Some whites–especially in the heavily Italian North Beach area–began talking about spreading vigilante terror among blacks.

And the murder-spree affected the city financially: The tourist trade–on which San Francisco depended for so much of its revenue–sharply declined.

The reaction of blacks was entirely different.

During the manhunt for the notorious “Zodiac” serial killer in the late 1960s, San Francisco police had relied heavily on dragnets and interrogations of young white men resembling a composite sketch.

But blacks charged racism when the same tactic was used to hunt for the supposed lone “Zebra” gunman. 

Many blacks blamed “unemployment” and “oppression” for the attacks. When interviewed by the San Francisco Examiner, none condemned the murders or expressed sympathy for their victims.

Then, on April 22, 1974, a break finally came in the case. 

Anthony Cornelius Harris decided to tell the police what he knew about the men responsible for the murders.

The killings, said Harris, weren’t the work of a crazed loner. They were being carried out by a group of militant Black Muslims who made use of elaborate security precautions.

Harris’ intimate knowledge of the killers stemmed from their having been among his closest friends for over six months.

Harris claimed that the killers had repeatedly tried to enlist him as an accomplice.  He insisted that he could not bring himself to commit cold-blooded murder. This led his friends to suspect that Harris might be a police informer or agent.

Harris began fearing for his life.  He also wanted the $30,000 reward being offered for the capture of the still-supposed lone gunman.

On May 1, 1974, police–acting on Harris’ information–arrested seven suspects.

WHEN WHITES WERE TARGETS: PART THREE (OF FIVE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 14, 2016 at 12:00 am

The “Zebra killers” were on a rampage–one that showed no signs of ending.

On November 25, 1973, Salem Erakat, a grocer, was found shot in the back of the head in his mom-and-pop market, which lay across the street from the San Francisco Federal Building.

On December 11, a San Francisco resident named Paul Dancik was fatally shot three times as he used a public telephone.

On December 13, Arthur Agnos, a former administrative aide to San Francisco Assemblyman Leo T. McCarthy, was shot and wounded while standing on a street corner, talking to two friends.

He would survive and later serve as Mayor of San Francisco from 1988 to 1992.

On Christmas Eve, Larry Craig Green and J.C. Simon asked Anthony Harris to help them take some packages to a nearby beach.

“When I unloaded the truck, I recall getting a lot of blood on my hands,” Harris later testified as a witness for the prosecution.  He asked Simon and Green what was in the packages.

“They said, it was probably a dog or a cat,” said Harris.  Later, he learned that the package had held a human body.  But he never learned whose.

Harris helped to dispose of similar packages “about 40-some times.”

Harris was taken along by the “Zebra” killers on several shootings.  Later, Harris reasoned: “I guess they thought that, sooner or later, I would join their little clique.”

One night, Harris, J.C. Simon and Manuel Moore parked their black Cadillac near an apartment complex.  Simon and Moore got out, leaving Harris in the vehicle.

“The next thing I knew,” said Harris, “I heard a gunshot.  Manuel started running from the same area that the gunshot came from.”

Moore and Simon jumped into the car.  As the vehicle sped off, Harris saw “what appeared to be a body” lying on the sidewalk.

On another occasion, Harris asked his comrades what had happened after he heard shots ring out.

“Just watch television or listen to the radio, and you’ll see what happened,” one of them said.

Harris learned from the news later on that “somebody had been shot and killed.”

Between killings, Harris and his friends attended regular meetings at the Black Self-Help, the Muslim-owned furniture-moving company in San Francisco.

At some of these meetings, as many as 40 to 50 or more Muslims were present.

Members of the Nation of Islam

“They were talking about killing people,” Harris later testified.  Films were shown “of the Watts riots [in 1965] and different riots taking place throughout the past, black people being beaten down by the police and shot.”

The meetings’ participants were asked, “Could we allow this to continue?  They said the only way to stop it was to act and be vicious…like the police department.

“That you had to…be able to go out and just deliberately take a baby and smash his head against the wall and kill him and, if you have to, even drink the blood to show how vicious you are.

“And they showed us a large number of pictures” on a bulletin board “of a lot of bald-headed men with little white wings on their necks, and identified each guy as being members of the Death Angels.”

Harris was told that “if I wanted to be a member of the Death Angels, that I’d have to go out and kill people to get some wings.”

Not only was the wearing of a pair of white wings a symbol of belonging to the Death Angels, so was a shaved head.

Only certified members of the Death Angels could enter Muslim temples with shaved heads. Anyone else who entered such a temple with a shaved head “can be killed or put out of the temple for coming in like that.”

“[The Death Angels] is supposed to be a pretty high branch of the Nation of Islam, supposed to be 2,000 people inside it,” Harris later testified.

“And every time you kill a person, you’re supposed to have somebody witness your killing the person for verification when you go back to Chicago,” the national headquarters for the Nation of Islam.

Chicago Headquarters of the Nation of Islam

It was there, said Harris, that the photographs or eyewitnesses had to appear before the prospective Death Angel could receive his winged badge of membership.

“And after you get to killing people,” the Death Angels “give you a pair of wings to put on your neck, and they take a picture,” testified Harris.

“They say you kill four children, you automatically become a captain, or a lieutenant.  If you kill five or six women, you become a lieutenant.  Or kill nine men, the number of completion, and they give you a rank.”

Extra status was attached to Death Angels who mutilated the bodies of their victims.

“If you cut their heads off, and cut the legs and arms off and cut them open wide with a lot of blood, it’s supposed to symbolize you’re very vicious and that you could be well trusted.

“The killing was so, if they see you do it, they know for a fact you’re not a police officer and you’re not involved” as an informer,” testified Harris.

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