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Archive for February, 2018

 The Hottest Places in Hell Are Reserved for Those Who in a Period of Moral Crisis Maintain Their Neutrality—Dante

Introduction

With the loss of 17 young lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida the United States is now engaged in a soul-searching mission like never before. Young people have taken to the streets and voicing their opinions with a “take no prisoners attitude.” No subject is off limits regarding gun control or other control mechanisms. And there is no shortage of ideas on what to do about the problem of mass murder in the face of opposition from the gun lobby.

Ninety years ago Will Rogers said, “America has the best politicians money can buy.” You know what? He was right. Politicians, particularly conservative Republicans, have sold their souls for the almighty dollar. Some might even say, “They’ve sold their soul to the devil by trading on the death and suffering of others.”

Influence of NRA on American Politics

Gun manufacturers, NRA lobbying groups, and Congressional and Senatorial political entities, who’ve been bought by the NRA, are all collectively—Merchants of Death.

Rationalizations from these economically-driven piranhas would suggest that it’s all done to defend the Second Amendment. Nothing could be further from the truth (more explained later). The real motivation underlying NRA actions is money, plain and simple. For them, lobbying and paying out large sums of money is an investment in future profits. How much money is the NRA worth? More than five years ago, (December 2012), the National Rifle Association had $227.8 million in revenues and $163 million in the worth of their assets.

I would estimate now that this organization has a combined (revenues and assets) in excess of ½ billion dollars.

In 2017, total lobbying expenditures paid out by the National Rifle Association were $5,122,000 on behalf of the Gun Rights industry.  This included $4,802,000 for the Parent National Rifle Association and $320,000 for its subsidiary Institute for Legislative Action.

In the 2016 election, the NRA spent $11,438,118 to support Donald Trump and they spent an additional $19,756,346 to oppose Hillary Clinton. That’s over $31 million spent on one presidential race. No organization would pony up that much money unless they expected an excellent return on their investments.

Second Amendment to the United States Constitution

The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution protects the right of the people to keep and bear arms and was adopted on December 15, 1791, as part of the first ten amendments contained in the Bill of Rights.

The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that the right belongs to individuals, while also ruling that the right is not unlimited and does not prohibit all regulation of either firearms or similar devices. State and local governments are limited to the same extent as the federal government from infringing this right, per the incorporation of the Bill of Rights.

Please note that the right to bear arms is not unlimited. This is a significant interpretation of U.S. Constitutional law. 

I mentioned earlier that the rationalization of the NRA is money, not the Second Amendment. This is because they know they can influence and buy politicians like purchasing cattle or sheep, but engaging in criminal activity and bribing federal judges at the Supreme Court, District Courts of Appeal, or lower district courts is quite a different matter. Courts are powerful. And legal interpretation and analysis is always needed. I must point out to my readers that calling a Supreme Court justice liberal or conservative may not necessarily help one predict how they analyze data or how they are going to vote. For example, I was struck by the legal reasoning of the late conservative United States Supreme Court justice Anthony Scalia.

Back in 2012 he was interviewed by Chris Wallace on Fox Sunday News. Here is the gist of what he had to say on Fox news about the Second Amendment:

The conservative justice notably authored the Supreme Court’s 2008 opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller, which ruled that the Second Amendment protects a person’s right to bear arms and struck down a D.C. ban on handguns. The court also ruled, though, that “the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited.” Scalia pointed out  that that the Second Amendment “obviously” doesn’t apply to weapons that can’t be hand-carried and modern-day weapons like “hand-held rocket launchers that can bring down airplanes” weren’t factored in at the time of the writing of the Constitution.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said that there are “undoubtedly” limits to a person’s right to bear arms under the Second Amendment, but that future court cases will have to decide where to draw the line.

Where to draw the line

I would like to say something about the logic and thinking that needs to be considered about drawing such a line between individual gun rights on the one hand, and limitations of gun rights on the other.

With respect to Anthony Scalia’s statement that future courts will have to decide where to draw the line, it tells me that sociologically speaking, legal interpretation of the law cannot completely divorce itself from making value judgments. This is why there is always a window of opportunity for both liberal and conservative justices to put forth their own political or ideological spin on any particular case.

The implication of Scalia saying future judges must decide where to draw the line suggests that the fine points of legal reasoning are, at its core, predicated on both values as well as facts in a particular case. Whenever you hear any judge use the term “reasonableness” when rendering any legal decision, that is your clue to know that values (are) were part of that decision.

What are the implications of all this? Courts don’t make laws per se; that’s what legislative branches of government do. Courts however are charged with interpreting laws. In theory it is a good system; in reality however no system is perfect. And even what a “perfect” decision-making system would be ultimately is still based on value judgments.

But the courts don’t get much help from legislative bodies. Why? Because our democratic political system doesn’t work when politicians can be bought or sold. When that happens our political system becomes tainted and stinks of undue influence. Put another way, the public’s interests and concerns matter little except at election time. And even then more is promised but little is ever delivered.

Since values are critical to decision making (legal or otherwise) think about this! What kind of insanity would exist if “right to bear arms” was interpreted to include: military tanks, RPGs, bazookas, flame throwers, or should I say it—the right to have an atomic bomb in everyone’s one’s garage. Why not, if that was ever permissible under the Second Amendment? Oh! But you’re going to say—that’s insane. Tell me folks, is that really any more insane than an AR-15, automatic weapons made into killing machines from bump stocks, or high-powered, high capacity magazine rifles used with the goal of murdering scores of people, including teenagers and children? You draw your line; I know I’ve drawn mine.

Being Upfront with my Readers

     I am not unbiased in my feelings about this issue. I’m a gun owner and a really tough old navy veteran in my 70s. Nevertheless, as emotionally strong as anyone, I totally lost it one day back in December 2012 when the events at Sandy Hook Elementary School.in Connecticut took place.

Pictures of 20 first grade students were shown on the TV. Their young faces caught my attention immediately and cut me to the core. I broke down in tears and sobbed like a young child; my tears were uncontrollable. Did I personally know any of these people? No! But it didn’t matter. I am a human being with feelings and I care about humanity as much as I care about my own family. A piece of me died that day.

If any horrific event like the Sandy Hook slaughter was ever going to bring about change it had to be this tragedy of tragedies. Nevertheless, Republicans in both houses of Congress, backed by the NRA, prevented any change at all. Republicans from the Freedom Caucus, Tea Party and some conservative Senators were still genuflecting, and bowing down in supplication before the high priests of money—those powerful merchants of death—the NRA.

Now, we have a psycho in the White House to make matters worse. Not only is he a carbon copy of his ultra-conservative stooges but he is, by his actions with the Russians, a traitor to his country. He is the Benedict Arnold of our time.

Donald Trump came to Washington to drain the swamp. Come this November we’re going to help him do that. But it won’t be what he expects. If he isn’t already impeached by then, the millennials, along with one “angry as hell” public, are going to remove every shameless, immoral, political reprobate bought and paid for by the NRA.

 

 

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Once you have money and fame, the next thing you should expect is scandal and shame

Michael Bassey Johnson

     Recent news articles have brought more attention to one of the most likely criminal activities of Donald Trump—Money Laundering. Money laundering is the concealment of the origins of illegally obtained money, typically by means of transfers involving foreign banks or legitimate businesses.

Or, said another way—It is concealment or transformation of profits from illegal activities and corruption into ostensibly “legitimate” assets.

After the money is “cleaned” it can be used in the mainstream economy for accumulation of wealth, such as acquisition of properties, or otherwise spent on things like golf courses, resorts, or a lavish lifestyle or on anything else the money launderer wishes to acquire.

 

 

The following is a recent article, titled:

Deutsche Bank: Where the Dots of Russiagate Connect

“In this week’s WhoWhatWhy podcast, Martin Sheil, a retired branch chief of the IRS Criminal Investigation Division, shows how the modern history of Deutsche Bank follows a trajectory that brought the bank to the center of worldwide money laundering operations.

In its efforts to grow rapidly, Deutsche Bank threw away traditional ideas of risk management. In their pursuit of fees and earnings, bank executives got into business with some of the world’s most shady and financially needy characters: Russian oligarchs, President Donald Trump, the Kushner’s, the Mercers, Paul Manafort, Vladimir Putin and many other key Russiagate figures are among their customers.

Time and again, Deutsche Bank brought Trump and the Russians closer together. In fact, even when the relationship with Trump almost fell apart over a lawsuit, the financial institution just moved the real estate mogul to another part of the bank that put him in even closer proximity to Russians.

According to Sheil, the Russians were and are still the world champions of money laundering, and Deutsche Bank was the major vehicle for their manipulations. Given the financial needs of Trump and his cronies, it is hardly surprising that they became part of this worldwide dark web.

If you haven’t had the chance to read Parts 1 and 2 of Sheil’s comprehensive and arresting look at Deutsche Bank and its connection to Trump and a global array of shady characters, this is an opportunity to get a full overview of the story before Part 3 appears next week.”

Deutsche Bank’s checkered Past

One of the least known aspects of the Deutsche Bank’s past was their relationship to Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich before and during World War II. In a 2015 book, Lurking in the Shadows: German Sabotage in America during WWI and its Impact on Future Legislation, author Roy V. Lewis pointed out, “It’s important to know today that Deutsche Bank had a checkered past during part of the 20th Century. After Adolf Hitler came to power, instituting The Third Reich, Deutsche Bank dismissed its three Jewish Board members in 1933.

In subsequent years, Deutsche Bank took part in the ‘aryanization’ of Jewish-owned businesses. According to its own historians, the bank was involved in 363 such confiscations by November, 1938. During the war, Deutsche Bank incorporated other banks that fell into German hands during the occupation of Eastern Europe. Deutsche Bank provided banking facilities for the Gestapo and loaned funds used to build the Auschwitz camp and the nearby IG Farben facilities.

Deutsche Bank revealed its involvement in Auschwitz in February, 1999. In December 1999 Deutsche Bank, along with other major German companies, contributed to a United States $5.2 billion compensation fund following lawsuits brought by Holocaust survivors. The history of the Deutsche Bank during the Second World War has been documented by independent historians commissioned by the Bank.”

Muller’s Investigation

In another article by Cortney O’Brien that was posted on January 30th, is of great importance. It was titled:

Former Clinton Senior Counsel Speculates the Real Reason Trump Is Nervous About Mueller Investigation

“President Trump’s blatant interruptions into the Robert Mueller investigation suggest he truly believes he’s innocent in the Russian collusion claims, according to Paul Rosenzweig, former Senior Counsel to President Bill Clinton. Were he guilty, Trump would be ‘more cautious’ than to so publicly condemn the investigation, Rosenzweig wrote in a new piece for The Atlantic. You can’t get much louder than dismissing the investigation as a ‘witch hunt.’

 

Still, something clearly has Trump unnerved, and Rosenzweig thinks it has something to do with his business dealings.

Wisps of information in the wind suggest a far different, deeper concern. The president’s finances have always been suspect. Some have thought them resting on shaky foundations. Ongoing investigations have looked to his banking and investments as well as those of his closest family. Several of the special counsel’s prosecutorial hires specialize in money-laundering cases—an odd specialty for an election fraud/computer-hacking case (which, basically, is what the Russia investigation amounts to). Perhaps, just perhaps, it is that investigation that has motivated the president’s response. (The Atlantic)

But, he even need not fear money laundering charges, because those too are not likely to get him indicted, however, Rosenzweig predicts. He sees little reason to believe anything is going to result in an indictment for Trump. At most, Mueller will create a report of his findings for Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (since Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself.)

On Monday night, the House of Representatives voted to release a memo detailing abuses at the FBI. House Speaker Paul Ryan said the memo may provide some compelling evidence for bias at the agency, but it should be considered separate from the Mueller investigation.

‘This is a completely separate matter from Bob Mueller’s investigation, and his investigation should be allowed to take his course,’ Ryan said.”

Review of Politics and Motivations of the Republican Party

Normal people may be very puzzled by the genuflecting behavior of the Republican Party in Congress toward Donald Trump. Such unwarranted servility begs the question: What in the hell is their motivation to subjugate their own honor and integrity by supporting the worst president in history?  They back a man whose behavior gives new meaning to the word degenerate.

It turns out Republicans want to shield Donald Trump because they have something to hide. And because of this they have collectively dishonored themselves and the institutions of democracy. So, what is it they are trying to hide? They are trying to cover up their intense fear that they will be destroyed in future elections because of changing population demographics and their lack of support from younger generations of voters, independents and college-educated women.

Progressive culture changes in younger citizens and other voters threaten Republicans’ very existence. Because Republicans figured this out by themselves, it reminds me of the famous quote by John Stewart Mill. That quote was “Although it is not true that all conservatives are stupid people, it is true that most stupid people are conservative.” Evidently, Republicans can make use of data on occasion when it personally suits and affects them.

In general however facts are normally the enemy for Republican survival. This applies especially to the political world of Washington, D.C. and elsewhere in Republican-held State legislatures throughout the country.

In all likelihood hope for Republicans winning any seats in the 2018 mid-term elections are slim to none. They believe this, and that is why many high level Republicans in Congress have chosen not to seek re-election in 2018 or 2020. They are bailing out like rats during a flood. The flood this time is majority opinion in the country. Why has this happened?

The reasons are simple. Republicans, for too long, have been acting as only a self-serving political party. They believe beyond all else—Party First, and let the Public be damned.

The Republicans have been in control of Congress since 2010 for just one major reason—to successfully disenfranchise  the American voter. Supporting strategies for their success have been to engage in  promoting public voter apathy through lies, voter suppression through State Legislatures, and the most colossal miscarriage of justice ever enacted—Gerrymandering. The deleterious effect of Gerrymandering (carried out at different times by both political parties in America) is a dishonest and disloyal perversion of the American democratic process. This political process is the ultimate tool in voter disenfranchisement.

For Republicans, the underlying sociological basis of their deceit is based on the social issue of race. The lily white Freedom Caucus, for example, has a psychologically terrifying fear known as White Fright/ White Flight. Such fear, of course, is totally irrational.

And the irrationality they feel exists on many levels. Rather than embrace diversity as a badge of social justice to be worn proudly; they simply fear they will become a white minority that will lose control.

The great irony is that Republicans have a tendency to misread their social environment completely. The greatest diversity of all is not groups. It is the individual where everyone is different yet similar in so many ways. The most important similarity among all of us is that (1) looking at our true origins we are all Afrikaners whose ancestors moved out of Africa some 160,000-200,000 years ago. We all share the same origin making us all truly brothers and sisters under the same sun, and (2) we are all human beings deserving of love, respect and a chance to grow.

Republicans today need to stop thinking like a mindless neophyte from the 19th Century, and start living like an intelligent and more socially relevant human being in the 21st Century. In other words, they need to see the “big picture,” not the minutia of everyday prejudice and bigotry.

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