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John Brennan Has a Word for Trump

The Free Press WV

Former CIA chief John Brennan is lashing back at President Trump after being stripped of his security clearance. Trump’s denials of any collusion with the Russians during the 2016 election are “hogwash,“ Brennan writes in the New York Times. He uses the same word to describe Russia’s denials of meddling in the election. In his op-ed, Brennan makes the case that a sophisticated Russian scheme sought to find “gullible or unprincipled individuals” who could be easily manipulated by “Russian puppet masters.“ And Trump, he suggests, became the perfect puppet.

“The only questions that remain are whether the collusion that took place constituted criminally liable conspiracy, whether obstruction of justice occurred to cover up any collusion or conspiracy, and how many members of ‘Trump Incorporated’ attempted to defraud the government by laundering and concealing the movement of money into their pockets,“ writes Brennan. Trump’s attempts to protect himself are growing “more desperate,“ which explains the “politically motivated decision” to yank Brennan’s security clearance, argues the former CIA chief. The president is clearly trying to scare others who might come forward, he adds, making it all the more important for Robert Mueller’s investigation to be completed with no interference. Click to read the full op-ed.

Behind the Scenes, Hidden Problem

The Free Press WV

Few in the orbit of Donald Trump, American president, are so cartoonishly odious as Stephen Miller. The 32-year-old immigration hardliner from Santa Monica has steadily worked himself into the headlines in recent weeks, including when an Absolutely True, This Totally Happened story emerged where he threw $80 of sushi in the trash to own the libs. But Miller popped up Monday for a different reason: His behavior in the White House, which includes public displays as an authoritarian apparatchik who says “the powers of the president…will not be questioned,“ have roused the disgusted amazement of his own family.

In Politico magazine, Miller’s uncle illustrated the historical myopia and resentful nonsense that undergirds Miller’s whole shtick:

I have watched with dismay and increasing horror as my nephew, who is an educated man and well aware of his heritage, has become the architect of immigration policies that repudiate the very foundation of our family’s life in this country.

I shudder at the thought of what would have become of the Glossers had the same policies Stephen so coolly espouses—the travel ban, the radical decrease in refugees, the separation of children from their parents, and even talk of limiting citizenship for legal immigrants—been in effect when Wolf-Leib made his desperate bid for freedom. The Glossers came to the U.S. just a few years before the fear and prejudice of the “America First” nativists of the day closed U.S. borders to Jewish refugees. Had Wolf-Leib waited, his family would likely have been murdered by the Nazis along with all but seven of the 2,000 Jews who remained in Antopol. I would encourage Stephen to ask himself if the chanting, torch-bearing Nazis of Charlottesville, whose support his boss seems to court so cavalierly, do not envision a similar fate for him.

There is a stunning echo to the story. Miller’s ancestors sought refuge in America just before nativists—who literally used the slogan “America First”—shut the door on them. Now, Miller works in an administration with the same slogan using every mechanism available to slam the door again. In 1939, the U.S. turned away the SS St. Louis, which carried 900 of the thousands of Jewish refugees who fled the emerging Nazi Germany. Ultimately, the ship was sent back and 250 of its passengers were exterminated. What will this era be remembered for?

Pulling up the ladder behind you is a story as old as America. Every generation of immigrants is smeared and reviled until they work their way into mainstream acceptance—at which point they throw eggs at the next group off the boat. But there is a particularly trollish quality to Miller’s work, one that is quintessentially Trumpian.

He appears to be a True Believer, and a particularly sick puppy.

As a reactionary movement, Trumpism is defined almost exclusively as a negation of other things: Barack Obama’s presidency; the demographic shifts that have reshaped America’s ethnic makeup for decades; dignity; compassion; class. Miller is the perfect stormtrooper for this group, the Santa Monica Gargamel working ceaselessly to bash the most vulnerable and feed red meat to The Base while bragging to his colleagues about how much raw fish he can afford to throw in the trash.

It started young. The White House senior adviser ran for student government at his Santa Monica high school on a particular platform: “Am I the only one,“ he asked his classmates in a campaign speech, “who is sick and tired of being told to pick up my trash when we have plenty of janitors who are paid to do it for us?!“ He was roundly booed off stage.

Miller has been waging the culture wars since Santa Monica High, where he could be found in the school paper’s op-ed pages railing against catering to Spanish-speaking students, the LGBT club, and a decision to invite a local Muslim cleric to speak on campus. “Osama bin Laden would feel very welcome at Santa Monica High School,“ he said. He suggested students who opposed the war in Afghanistan shared sympathies with terrorists.

Miller went on to Duke, where white supremacist Richard Spencer claims to have “mentored” him. Miller denied this, though they did work together to organize an immigration “debate” on campus featuring Peter Brimelow, whom the Southern Poverty Law Center calls a white nationalist. Miller then worked for Michele Bachmann and Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, where he rose up the ranks and made his way into Trumplandia.

That’s where Miller has really gotten down to business, taking particular aim at the kind of refugee policies that have long defined America as a last sanctuary for the beaten and the oppressed—and which once saved his ancestors. An exhaustingly reported piece published Sunday in Vanity Fair makes clear that there are quite a few mechanisms for doing this, and Miller has found them:

Last September, Miller played a leading role in slashing the refugee admissions cap to 45,000—less than one-half the 110,000 ceiling set under President Barack Obama, and the lowest level since 1980. Now, he has reportedly revived his push for another cut, to a cap as low as 15,000 refugees. Earlier this week, the 32-year-old senior adviser was reported to be focused on an even more ambitious project: imposing strict limits on legal immigration, as well as on individuals seeking asylum from war, famine, and prosecution…

Currently, the U.S. is on pace to admit around 22,000 refugees this fiscal year. Defenders of the policies argue that the cuts offset a surge in asylum seekers, while critics dismiss the notion as a manufactured crisis. “By 2020, I would not be surprised if we just don’t have this program anymore,” said Jennifer Quigley, an advocacy strategist for refugee protection at Human Rights First. “I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s 5,000 next year and then zero.”

Apparently, Miller has done this through clever navigation of the federal government’s bureaucratic morass. He’ll install allies in federal agencies to act as “termites,“ eating the structure from within to prevent it from providing services. That’s part of a larger effort to operate in the shadows. In his dealings with the president, critics compare Miller to Wormtongue from The Lord of the Rings.

Whereas Bannon made controversy his calling card, Miller has operated in a more shadowy—and effective—manner, gradually applying leverage and using shrewd personnel decisions to implement his draconian vision on immigration policy throughout the West Wing and government agencies…

For instance, multiple sources described how Miller has worked to make the refugee cap irrelevant by bureaucratically kneecapping the refugee program—slowing down the interviews D.H.S. officials conduct with refugees overseas, undercutting the staffing at the agencies that handle resettlement in the United States, and complicating the vetting process. A current administration official told me that Miller is “having D.H.S. intentionally make sure that we don’t get anywhere close to the numbers that we agreed to.”

Miller manipulates the information flow to the president, suppressing information that undermines his nativist narrative. He has destroyed other personnel in the administration who have gotten in the way of this effort. He appears to be a True Believer, and a particularly sick puppy.

Miller championed the family separation policy at the southern border that garnered national and international outrage, and another Vanity Fair report at the time was not reassuring:

As the border crisis spirals, the absence of a coordinated policy process has allowed the most extreme administration voices to fill the vacuum. White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller has all but become the face of the issue, a development that even supporters of Trump’s “zero-tolerance” position say is damaging the White House. “Stephen actually enjoys seeing those pictures at the border,” an outside White House adviser said. “He’s a twisted guy, the way he was raised and picked on. There’s always been a way he’s gone about this. He’s Waffen-SS.”

It is unequivocally horrifying that someone this deeply disturbed is exercising this kind of power in the current regime. Trumpian kakistocracy takes many forms, from the cabinet members nakedly in bed with the industries they’re meant to regulate to those who think their appointment was an invitation to live large—and fly private—on the taxpayer dime. But Miller is a kakistocrat in a dark and depraved mold, willing to negate his own family’s American story if it means he can curb stomp the world’s most vulnerable people.

In the end, many of the true horrors of this administration may not be perpetrated through top-down direction. It may be people who can operate freely in the Wild West environment of the current regime—staffed by anti-government conservatives and a chief executive who knows nothing about anything and cares less—who will do the lasting damage. The child detention centers he helped overfill by tearing kids from their parents have become playgrounds for the worst among us. The current regime seems to be Miller’s playground.

~~  Jack Holmes ~~

Hypocrisy?

The Free Press WV

Texas prosecutor Kim Ogg once called the cash bail system a “tool to oppress the poor.”

But since being elected she has not shied away from asking for high bond amounts for relatively minor crimes.

Read More:  The Appeal

From Boston to Ferguson to Charlottesville: The Evolution of a Police State Lockdown

The Free Press WV

“It takes a remarkable force to keep nearly a million people quietly indoors for an entire day, home from work and school, from neighborhood errands and out-of-town travel. It takes a remarkable force to keep businesses closed and cars off the road, to keep playgrounds empty and porches unused across a densely populated place 125 square miles in size. This happened … not because armed officers went door-to-door, or imposed a curfew, or threatened martial law. All around the region, for 13 hours, people locked up their businesses and ‘sheltered in place’ out of a kind of collective will. The force that kept them there wasn’t external – there was virtually no active enforcement across the city of the governor’s plea that people stay indoors. Rather, the pressure was an internal one – expressed as concern, or helpfulness, or in some cases, fear – felt in thousands of individual homes.”—Journalist Emily Badger, “The Psychology of a Citywide Lockdown”

It has become way too easy to lockdown this nation.

Five years ago, the city of Boston was locked down while police carried out a military-style manhunt for suspects in the 2013 Boston Marathon explosion. 

Four years ago, the city of Ferguson, Missouri, was locked down, with government officials deploying a massive SWAT team, an armored personnel carrier, men in camouflage pointing heavy artillery at the crowd, smoke bombs and tear gas to quell citizen unrest over a police shooting of a young, unarmed black man.

Three years ago, the city of Baltimore was put under a military-enforced lockdown after civil unrest over police brutality erupted into rioting. More than 1,500 national guard troops were deployed while residents were ordered to stay inside their homes and put under a 10 pm curfew.

This year, it was my hometown of Charlottesville, Va., population 50,000, that was locked down while government officials declared a state of emergency and enacted heightened security measures tantamount to martial law, despite the absence of any publicized information about credible threats to public safety.

As Tess Owen reports for Vice:

One year after white supremacists paraded through the streets, the face of downtown Charlottesville was transformed once again – this time with checkpoints, military-style camps for National Guard, and state police on every corner. When residents woke up Saturday, all entrances to the downtown mall were blocked off, apart from two checkpoints, where police looked through people’s bags for lighters, knives or any other weapons. Up above, standing atop a building site, two national guard members photographed the individuals coming in and out… A National Guard encampment was set up in McGuffey Park, between the children’s playground and the basketball court, where about 20 military police officers in camouflage were snoozing in the shade of some trees. A similar encampment was set up a few blocks away.

More details from journalist Ned Oliver:

Downtown Charlottesville felt like the green zone of a war-torn city Saturday. More than a thousand local and state police officers barricaded 10 blocks of the city’s popular pedestrian district, the Downtown Mall, to prepare for the one-year anniversary of the white supremacist rally last year that left dozens injured and one dead. To enter, people had to submit to bag checks and searches at one of two checkpoints… Preparations aside, unlike last year, no white supremacist groups had said they were going to visit the city, and, by week’s end, none had. Instead, it was a normal day on the mall except for the heavy security, a military helicopter constantly circling overhead, and hundreds of police officers milling around.

Make no mistake, this was a militarized exercise in intimidation, and it worked only too well.

For the most part, the residents of this city—once home to Thomas Jefferson, the nation’s third president, author of the Declaration of Independence, and champion of the Bill of Rights—welcomed the city-wide lockdown, the invasion of their privacy, and the dismantling of every constitutional right intended to serve as a bulwark against government abuses.

Yet for those like myself who have studied emerging police states, the sight of any American city placed under martial law—its citizens essentially under house arrest (officials used the Orwellian phrase “shelter in place” in Boston to describe the mandatory lockdown), military-style helicopters equipped with thermal imaging devices buzzing the skies, tanks and armored vehicles on the streets, and snipers perched on rooftops, while thousands of black-garbed police swarmed the streets and SWAT teams carried out house-to-house searches—leaves us in a growing state of unease.

Watching the events of the lockdown unfold, I couldn’t help but think of Nazi Field Marshal Hermann Goering’s remarks during the Nuremberg trials. As Goering noted:

It is always a simple matter to drag people along whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. This is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in every country.

As the events in Charlottesville have made clear, it does indeed work the same in every country.

Whatever the threat to so-called security—whether it’s civil unrest, school shootings, or alleged acts of terrorism—government officials will capitalize on the nation’s heightened emotions, confusion and fear as a means of extending the reach of the police state.

These troubling developments are the outward manifestations of an inner, philosophical shift underway in how the government views not only the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, but “we the people,” as well. 

What this reflects is a move away from a government bound by the rule of law to one that seeks total control through the imposition of its own self-serving laws on the populace.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t take much for the American people to march in lockstep with the government’s dictates, even if it means submitting to martial law, having their homes searched, and being stripped of one’s constitutional rights at a moment’s notice.

In Charlottesville, most of the community fell in line, except for one gun-toting, disabled, 71-year-old war veteran who was arrested for purchasing cans of Arizona iced tea, a can of bug spray and razor blades, all of which were on the City’s list of temporarily prohibited, potentially “dangerous” items. Incidentally, the veteran’s guns (not among the list of prohibited items) caused no alarm. 

Talk about draconian.

This continual undermining of the rules that protect civil liberties will inevitably have far-reaching consequences on a populace that not only remains ignorant about their rights but is inclined to sacrifice their liberties for phantom promises of safety. 

Be warned: these lockdowns are just a precursor to full-blown martial law.

The powers-that-be want us acclimated to the sights and sounds of a city-wide lockdown with tanks in the streets, military encampments in cities, Blackhawk helicopters and armed drones patrolling overhead.

They want us to accept the fact that in the American police state, we are all potentially guilty, all potential criminals, all suspects waiting to be accused of a crime.

They want us to be meek and submissive.

They want us to report on each other.

They want us to be grateful to the standing armies for their so-called protection.

They want us to self-censor our speech, self-limit our movements, and police ourselves.

As Glenn Greenwald notes in The Intercept:

“Americans are now so accustomed to seeing police officers decked in camouflage and Robocop-style costumes, riding in armored vehicles and carrying automatic weapons first introduced during the U.S. occupation of Baghdad, that it has become normalized… The dangers of domestic militarization are both numerous and manifest. To begin with… it degrades the mentality of police forces in virtually every negative way and subjects their targeted communities to rampant brutality and unaccountable abuse… Police militarization also poses grave and direct dangers to basic political liberties, including rights of free speech, press and assembly.

Make no mistake: these are the hallmarks of a military occupation.

Militarized police. Riot squads. Camouflage gear. Black uniforms. Armored vehicles. Mass arrests. Pepper spray. Tear gas. Batons. Strip searches. Surveillance cameras. Kevlar vests. Drones. Lethal weapons. Less-than-lethal weapons unleashed with deadly force. Rubber bullets. Water cannons. Stun grenades. Arrests of journalists. Crowd control tactics. Intimidation tactics. Brutality.

We are already under martial law, held at gunpoint by a standing army.

Take a look at the pictures from Charlottesville, from Baltimore, from Ferguson and from Boston, and then try to persuade yourself that this is what freedom in America is supposed to look like.

A standing army—something that propelled the early colonists into revolution—strips the American people of any vestige of freedom.

It was for this reason that those who established America vested control of the military in a civilian government, with a civilian commander-in-chief. They did not want a military government, ruled by force. Rather, they opted for a republic bound by the rule of law: the U.S. Constitution.

Unfortunately, with the Constitution under constant attack, the military’s power, influence and authority have grown dramatically. Even the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, which makes it a crime for the government to use the military to carry out arrests, searches, seizure of evidence and other activities normally handled by a civilian police force, was greatly weakened by both Barack Obama and George W. Bush, who ushered in exemptions allowing troops to deploy domestically and arrest civilians in the wake of alleged terrorist acts.

Now we find ourselves struggling to retain some semblance of freedom in the face of police and law enforcement agencies that look and act like the military and have just as little regard for the Fourth Amendment, laws such as the NDAA that allow the military to arrest and indefinitely detain American citizens, and military drills that acclimate the American people to the sight of armored tanks in the streets, military encampments in cities, and combat aircraft patrolling overhead.

We’ve already gone too far down this road.

Add these lockdowns onto the list of other troubling developments that have taken place over the past 30 years or more, and the picture grows even more troubling: the expansion of the military industrial complex and its influence in Washington DC, the rampant surveillance, the corporate-funded elections and revolving door between lobbyists and elected officials, the militarized police, the loss of our freedoms, the injustice of the courts, the privatized prisons, the school lockdowns, the roadside strip searches, the military drills on domestic soil, the fusion centers and the simultaneous fusing of every branch of law enforcement (federal, state and local), the stockpiling of ammunition by various government agencies, the active shooter drills that are indistinguishable from actual crises, the economy flirting with near collapse, etc.

Suddenly, the overall picture seems that much more sinister.

The lesson for the rest of us is this: once a free people allows the government to make inroads into their freedoms or uses those same freedoms as bargaining chips for security, it quickly becomes a slippery slope to outright tyranny. And it doesn’t really matter whether it’s a Democrat or a Republican at the helm, because the bureaucratic mindset on both sides of the aisle now seems to embody the same philosophy of authoritarian government. 

Remember, a police state does not come about overnight.

It starts small, perhaps with a revenue-generating red light camera at an intersection.

When that is implemented without opposition, perhaps next will be surveillance cameras on public streets. License plate readers on police cruisers. More police officers on the beat. Free military equipment from the federal government. Free speech zones and zero tolerance policies and curfews. SWAT team raids. Drones flying overhead. City-wide lockdowns.

No matter how it starts, however, it always ends the same.

Remember, it’s a slippery slope from a questionable infringement justified in the name of safety to all-out tyranny. 

These are no longer warning signs of a steadily encroaching police state.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the police state has arrived.

~~  John W. Whitehead ~~

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