Tag Archives: Corruption

The Circus that Never Leaves Town

The circus that is called U.S. governance continues to entertain with its bizarre acts. This week, an awestruck public witnessed yet another one, this time with the Cohen clown testifying before Congress.

Yes, President Donald Trump’s former lawyer and ‘fixer’ (is that really a thing?) Michael Cohen stood before a Congressional committee and swore to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. This is the same man who, in May, will begin a prison sentence for, among other things, lying to Congress.

And what did we learn? Let’s look at just a few tidbits of information; we won’t call them facts, due to Cohen’s known record of lying to Congress.

+ Trump ordered Cohen to pay porn star and alleged former mistress (or perhaps one-night stand) Stormy Daniels, and then reimbursed him for that payment. Cohen claimed that his initial statements about that payment were not lies; he never said Trump didn’t reimburse him. He carefully said that no one from the Trump campaign reimbursed him. So there.

+ Cohen threatened people and organizations 500 times in ten years, under Trump’s direction.

+ Trump never tells people to lie, break the law, or even skirt it. He simply tells them what he expects as results. If achieving those results means his underlings must lie, or break or skirt the law, so be it. But Trump never tells them to do so.

+ When the infamous Billy Bush tape was made public, Cohen was immediately contacted by Trump aide Hope Hicks (a one-time member of his staff who, like so many others, became a victim of Trump’s employee revolving door), who told him to position Trump’s disgraceful, misogynist remarks as ‘locker room talk.’

Democrats on and off the House Oversight Committee, the hosts of this week’s spectacle, were gleeful; despite there being no actual smoking gun, there was enough innuendo for any normal person to conclude that Trump probably broke all kinds of laws, not only during his campaign for the presidency, but throughout his life as a real estate mogul.

These Democrats seem to forget that they were listening to testimony from someone who has been convicted of lying to them previously. Cohen may have been telling the truth, or he may not have been. His record in such things is not exemplary.

The Republicans, on the other hand, were filled with righteous indignation that anyone would dare to impugne the good name of St. Donald the Great. They were so outraged that they even arranged for one Matt Gaetz, a representative from Florida, to sit in the gallery, despite the fact that he isn’t a member of the House Oversight Committee. Gaetz, an ardent worshipper at the Trump altar, gained notoriety for threatening to expose Cohen’s extra-marital affairs, an accusation he made without any corroborating evidence. When asked for evidence, Gaetz replied: “As the President loves to say, ‘We’ll see.’“ One newscaster compared Gaetz presence in the gallery as akin to trials of organized crime figures, when enemies of witnesses were brought in to sit in the courtroom to intimidate the witness just by their very presence.

Today, some Republicans are referring Cohen and his testimony to the Justice Department, saying they have evidence that he committed perjury during his appearance this week. Whether or not their evidence falls into the Trump-Gaetz category of ‘we’ll see’, remains, ahem, to be seen.

Trump, meanwhile, was visiting his good friend Kim Jung-un, North Korea’s leader, to discuss nuclear disarmament. We must understand that this disarmament only applied to North Korea; Trump and most, if not all, of the U.S.’s elected officials only want the ‘bad guys’ (as they define them) to get rid of nuclear weapons, while the ‘good guys’ (again, by their twisted definition), can keep theirs. In U.S. parlance, the one nation that has ever used nuclear weapons, and on a civilian population no less, falls into the ‘good guys’ category. Go figure.

That this endeavor wasn’t successful, and that the world’s self-proclaimed best deal-maker wasn’t able to make any progress, isn’t too surprising. Additionally, while in Vietnam, Trump limited press access, because those pesky reporters wanted to ask about Cohen’s testimony. Why waste the president’s time with such trivia? Who cares about his relationships with porn stars, or his threats against people and companies? How dare that Cohen upstart attempt to upstage him? No wonder he fell into disfavor. The former ‘fixer’ better not expect a presidential pardon now!

This writer, watching such happenings from the relative safety of the U.S.’s neighbor to the north, is continually astounded. Republicans in Congress rally around their incompetent, petulant president, despite his erratic behavior and the fact they he can barely string two words together coherently. They attempt to explain away his behaviors or, worse yet, justify them.

On the other side of the aisle, the reality-show buffoon is universally despised, as the Democrats react in horror to each of his shocking behaviors, conveniently forgetting their own, and those of their past leaders. Democratic stars in the polluted firmament slowly announce to a world that hardly wants to hear the news, that they have decided to seek the party’s nomination for president, thus offering a viable alternative to the Great Orange one. Sadly, they seem to be stuck in the rut of believing that the voters will choose anyone other the current incumbent, as they hesitate to make any bold proposals, not wanting to alienate any voting bloc, and content not to please any, either. There are some exceptions, but most of them try to ride in the middle of the road, some being PEP (Progressive Except for Palestine), but mainly presenting themselves as the anti-Trump candidate.

Can neither member of either party learn nothing? Must they put party over principle? Why is this writer even asking? Of course they must! That is how they get re-elected, and for them, that is the highest goal. Statesmanship, integrity, the good of the people and other such lofty principles don’t have powerful lobby groups, and so such things are beneath notice.

The 2020 election is still a long way off; Trump may still be president by then, but his vice-president, Michael Pence, could assume that office if The Donald is found guilty of criminal activity and is removed from office. Pence, a conservative Christian, would probably be worse than Trump, if such a thing can be imagined. But in 2020, this writer, still a U.S. citizen despite his fourteen years living in Canada, will probably vote for a third-party candidate. That is where one looks for integrity, honesty and real caring for the people.

Originally published by Counterpunch.

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Political Corruption and the U.S. Government

It is almost astounding what the United States populace is willing to tolerate in those that call the shots and make the rules by which they – the plebeian populace – must live. The rule-makers, of course, are exempt from such concerns, but recoil in horror if anyone not a member of the 1% violates them. They are even willing to condemn others of their own class, for violations they, themselves, are guilty of.

The list is nearly endless.

This writer, a charter member of the 99%, with no aspirations to leave it, and no possibility of doing so anyway, must respect and live by certain laws. For example, if he wants to build an addition onto his house, and the local zoning board nixes the plan, he cannot grease the palm of a zoning board member, in order to get a different ruling. Such behavior would result in his arrest, and any of a variety of penalties, not to mention life-long damage to his reputation.

This is not so for members of Congress. Israel wants to ignore international law? Just have Israeli lobbies, the Apartheid Israel Political Affairs Committee (AIPAC) chief among them, donate large sums to Congress members’ campaigns. What does it get in return? Laws preventing the boycott of Israel (forget about the fact that such boycotts are protected by the Constitution; who needs that old thing when campaigns need to be financed?); protection from accountability in the United Nations for war crimes; $4 billion of taxpayer money annually, and a blind eye to the horrific human rights violations committed against the Palestinians.

The gun industry doesn’t want any regulations, whatsoever? Just get the National Rifle Association (NRA) to add their buckets of money to those of AIPAC. In return, anyone, even people who are legally blind, and people who are not allowed on U.S. airplanes because of suspected terrorist ties or activities, can purchase any gun or multiple guns that they choose. This includes semi-automatic weapons, designed to kill many people very quickly. Want to take your gun into a church? No problem!  Kill an unarmed person because you felt ‘threatened’? You have a right to protect yourself! Also, if someone is injured because of a faulty gun, he/she cannot sue the gun manufacturer. There are more laws in the U.S. regulating the manufacture of Teddy bears, than there are of guns.

For us little people, we must respect the personal boundaries of people to whom we may be physically attracted, but only marginally acquainted. Not so for the movers and shakers of the U.S; President Donald Trump has said that, if one is a celebrity, one can do anything they want to any unsuspecting woman who happens to pass by. Democratic Senator Al Franken took pictures of himself, grinning like the idiot that he is, fondling a sleeping woman. Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, when in his thirties, trolled malls and high school football games, seeking teenage girls. Former Republican Congressman Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania, a married, family-values arch-conservative, encouraged his mistress to have an abortion, while he championed the ‘pro-life’ movement. He did, however, resign as a result.

War and Peace.

If one were to ask the average person on the street if war is a good thing, one would probably be told that it is a ‘necessary evil’, and that the U.S. only wages war for the good of the U.S. and the world (no, that doesn’t make any sense, but U.S. politicians are ace snake-oil salespeople). One would probably find that such persons don’t believe U.S. government officials only seek power and wealth for themselves and their already-wealthy cronies, and don’t care about the soldiers they send to kill and die, or the innocent victims in faraway nations. These lemmings-like citizens will not listen to stories of neglect of injured veterans, or consider the possibility that the U.S. government is lying to them (see: weapons of mass destruction; Iraq), but will always show up for Veterans’ Day parades, equipped with a flag to wave and a handkerchief with which to wipe away the tears that begin to flow as the national anthem is played. They will say it is sad that children die, but, they will be quick to add, that is the fault of the victim nation, not the mighty U.S.

Political Prisoners.

Somehow, inexplicitly, the U.S. citizenry seems content that their vaunted ‘land of the free and home of the brave’ operates a torture chamber in Cuba, and utilizes the services of various other nations to house and torture other U.S. political prisoners, including U.S. citizens. The fact that many have been released and exonerated after years of unspeakable torture is not something that concerns them; the U.S., they will say, only tortures people for the good of society. So there.

And didn’t the aged Republican Senator from Arizona, John McCain, during his failed campaign for the presidency in 2008, say that there are some ‘really bad people’ in Guantanamo? As long as he decrees it to be so, what are things like due process? Who cares about the right to an attorney? They are ‘bad people’, as judged by McCain. That is all that is important to know.

It’s bad enough that the inmates are running the asylum, but why must the rest of the inmates tolerate it all? The answer, one supposes, is clear: they have lost sight, thanks to government officials, of who really has the power. They have successfully been made to believe that the power lies in Congress, the courts and the presidency, the three branches of government that activist Dahlia Wasfi correctly refers to as terrorist cells. Yet it is the populace who could, at the very least, vote en masse to rid the country of its current government officials. It is the populace who could take to the streets in numbers so large that there aren’t sufficient police to arrest them all, or cells to hold them. And if they did, it is possible that some of the police would join them. If the National Guard were called out, many Guard members might also join them. It is the populace who could refuse to pay taxes, swarm Congressional offices with their demands, refuse (males who are 18 years of age) to register for the draft, withdraw their money from banks that support terrorism, or hold a nationwide workers strike. This last action would, at least temporarily, cripple the economy, hurting the oligarchs exactly where it most matters to them.

In the 1960s, the phrase ‘Power to the People’ was often chanted at rallies protesting the U.S. war in Vietnam. But the people have always had the power; they simply choose not to use it.

Originally published by Counterpunch.

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