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The Caligula Presidency: a Weekly Ovi Column - Week 4 The Caligula Presidency: a Weekly Ovi Column - Week 4
by Dr. Emanuel Paparella
2017-07-08 10:16:50
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 lino1

Week 4 (Columns 22-28 (1 July-8 July, 2017))
(Columns written on a daily basis from Feb.28 to March 6, 2017)
On:  22) The puppet in the White House, 23) The Trump budget plan, 24) Fresh lies from the Trump Administration, 25) More lies from the Caligula presidency, 26) Witch hunt or fake news? 27) An initial assessment of the Caligula presidency, 28) Trump’s Russian dealings going back 30 years.

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Column 22 (28 Feb. 2017)
Who is Pulling the Strings of the Puppet in the White House?

 lino22_400

A satirical scene: Trump’s Advisor Steve Bannon as the Grim Reaper on Saturday Night Live

Aides to President Trump have leaked that he often looks unfocused and unhinged. He yells like a madman when he gets information he does not much like, or when the level of adulation is not deemed adequate. “We walk on eggshells,” one aide says.  “The slightest little thing can set him off.”

Some describe him as boorish and angry, especially toward those who fail to recognize his self-perceived “brilliance and greatness,” those who do not understand him. Others say that Trump always wants “superlative phrases” used to describe his actions and insists on words that describe anything he does as “great” or “tremendous” or “stupendous.” or the like. It’s a world of hyperbole, and woe to those who dare question it.

Since his wife and son live in New York, he spends much of his time alone in the White House, retires around 6:30 PM to his residence, watches cable TV news shows (he doesn’t relish reading), sometimes covered with an overflowing bathrobe, and then sends out angry tweets. He often screams for someone to tend to minor necessities.

Actually we have seen this movie before, albeit a long time ago, during the times of the unhinged Roman emperor Caligula. The second view comes as no great surprise to those who know even a modicum of ancient history.

The more disturbing revelation from those who are willing to talk off the record, however, is that he may be that this unstable, mentally-challenged man, who somehow has managed to become President of the US, with some help from another unstable man named Putin, may ultimately be a puppet to a nefarious behind the scene smooth operator, namely his chief strategist, Steve Bannon. He works mostly into the night in a mostly empty West Wing, for as much as 16 hours per day, planning new lines of attack.

It is Bannon, the “white supremacist nationalist,” who is the real master pulling the strings of the puppet named Trump. Many of Trump’s actions are controlled by the manipulating mind of Bannon who in turn is influenced, to the point of obsession, by some rather bizarre historical theories of wars of civilizations and the fours cycles of history (already examined in another column).

The question arises, since Trump is no intellectual, has the mind set of a nine year old child, and the span of attention necessary to write 140 characters, how does Bannon accomplish his disproportionate influence on Trump, thus succeeding in controlling his actions? Simply by stroking his massive ego.

Some aides therefore logically concur that Bannon is the real threat to America. Trump is merely the loud angry puppet whose strings are being pulled and manipulated by Bannon. So, don’t focus on the puppet, as entertaining as he may be in his derangement, focus on the puppet master and you may come closer to the reality of this bizarre situation.

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Column 23 (1 March 2017)
The Trump Budget Plan: Populism or Elitism?

 lino23_400

We don’t have all the details yet, but the broad outlines of Trump’s Budget Plan have already surfaced. As it was to be expected it enlarges the pie for the rich, for the military, for corporations, and shrinks it for the poor and the underprivileged.

The CDFI (Community Development Financial Institutions Fund), which is an arm of the Treasury Department created for the purpose of helping economically distressed places, has had its founding slashed to practically nothing.

The CDFI Fund’s budget of $258 million budget, then, is only a fraction of an already small portion of all federal dollars. It only costs about $0.79 taxation per American per year.

The CDFI Fund runs a number of different programs that encourage investment in poor communities around the country. For instance, the program has doled out $120 million in awards and assistance to various credit unions and loan funds through “Native Initiatives,” which helps Native Americans get a mortgage or a small business loan.

Another effort is the New Market Tax Credit Program (NMTCP), which provides tax credits to investors who provide capital organizations in low-income communities. Every $1 in tax credits generates $8 in private investment, and the program has helped create or save almost 200,000 jobs since 2003, according to the CDFI Fund.

In order to pay for increased military spending, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Internal Revenue Service will have their budget reduced. Foxes in charge of the chicken coops are well placed on top of those agencies. There will be little push back from them.

The overall purpose of those cuts is to eventually eliminate discretionary spending over the next decade to the tune of $ 10.5 trillion. The federal government spent $3.9 trillion in 2016, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office—about $600 billion more than it took in.

Mandatory spending, which includes entitlement programs and interest on the federal debt, consumed about $2.7 trillion. That means the largest share of government spending (69%) will be left alone. Discretionary spending accounted for the other $1.2 trillion, about $600 billion of which was spent on defense, which Trump wants to increase.  The rest—roughly $600 billion, or 15% of all spending—is where the Trump administration is wants to draw blood.

The ultimate goal, however, is becoming more and more apparent: to cut entitlements such as Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security (programs that provide health care and monthly income to the nation’s poor and elderly) as Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has repeatedly declared, albeit Trump has promised not to touch them. It’s like having the cake and eating it too.

So much for concern for the poor and the disadvantaged, populism and the championing of fairness and equal opportunity. As the con-man of the art of the deal now occupying the White House has repeatedly proclaimed: “you will be happy.”

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Column 24 (2 March 2017)
Fresh lies from a Disarrayed Trump Administration

 lino24_400

As it was to be expected, President Trump has characterized the first military aid he ordered, which turned deadly for a US seal Ryan Owens, and resulted in injury to a number of other Americans and a number of Yemen civilians, including children, as “a great success.”

Then, when voice got around that “almost everything went wrong” as confirmed by none other than Senator McCain and other military experts, that the mission was approved “without sufficient intelligence, ground support and adequate backup preparations,” we began hearing that the mission had been given the green light by the previous administration and Trump was merely carrying it out as planned. We also heard comments by Trump such as “Well, this was a mission that was started before I got here. This was something that was, you know, just, they wanted to do. And they came to see me, they explained what they wanted to do, the generals…. And they lost Ryan.”

In other words, this president is ready and willing to take the credit for any success but not at all willing to take responsibility for any failure. Others are blamed for the failures. This is the pattern of a juvenile’s conduct. It has become a familiar pattern by now.

Owen’s father, Bill, has refused to meet Trump and wants an investigation into the mission. At this point in time we know that no decision had been taken by the Obama administration. The one who approved the mission was not Obama but Trump, over dinner with political adviser Steve Bannon. Moreover, while the raid was underway, the president did not bother to go to the situation room to monitor it in real time. In other words, Trump lied about the approval of the mission.

What about its great success in the sense that it gathered a “tremendous amounts of information”? Consider this: one navy seal died, three others were injured, civilians were killed, a US airstrike had to destroy an Osprey to prevent it from falling into enemy hands. The Yemen government soon after put in place new restrictions on US military operations in that country. Several competent military analysts have already gone on record to declare that the mission has yielded nothing of value.

Trump gets awarded another well-deserved Pinocchio nose. Let’s keep that in mind when compiling a list of recent events in the White House in need of an investigation. Events such as Kellyanne’s charge that Congresswoman Wesserman Schultz did not stand up during the ovation to the widow of the fallen seal Owen during the president’s speech to Congress, or Attorney General Sessions’ denial that he met with the Russian ambassador as a Trump surrogate to discuss some deal or other. I predict that in the future the Pinocchio nose will be getting longer and longer.

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Column 25 (3 March 2017)
More Lies from the Caligula Presidency:
Jeff Session’s Russian Debacle

 lino25_400

One of the greatest scandals within the Trump Administration is that of the double meetings of the Attorney General Jeff Sessions with the Russian ambassador during the election while he was a campaign surrogate for Donald Trump. He failed to disclose those meetings to Congress during his confirmation hearing.

Sessions did not even remember what he and Kislyak discussed. Sessions had  asserted: "I have never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign. I have no idea what this allegation is about. It is false."

The FBI was investigating Attorney General Jeff Sessions' contacts with Russian officials before Trump nominated him in December. Sessions is now in control of the Justice Department and the FBI, both of which are investigating Russia's cyberattacks against the US. The House and Senate Intelligence Committees are also looking into the matter.

Meanwhile Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham commented on the Post's report during a CNN event saying "for sure you need a special prosecutor" if Sessions indeed spoke with the Kremlin. Also, Richard Painter, chief White House Ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush also said that "Misleading the Senate in sworn testimony about one's own contacts with the Russians is a good way to go to jail."

Sessions and Kislyak spoke as Russia was ramping up its hacking campaign against prominent Democrats, including the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman, John Podesta.

The Trump administration has repeatedly denied all suggestions that it colluded with Russia's interference activities. But The New York Times and CNN reported last month, citing US intelligence officials, that Russian operatives and people in Trump's inner circle communicated frequently before the election. The Times meanwhile has reported that the communications between people in Trump's orbit and Russia was substantial and ran deep on both sides. And on the Russian side, people within the country's government — in addition to intelligence officials — were also involved, according to The Times' sources.

The plot thickens and gets more interesting by the day. The two principal antagonists in the plot are clearly those who wish to uncover the truth vs. those who wish to hide it. Time will tell who will eventually prevail, but if the Nixon episode of American History offers any reliable guide, it can safely be predicted how this latest imbroglio will end.

The omens right now do not appear very good for Trump and Company, not to speak of Vladimir Putin who may be slowly coming to the realization that he may have hitched his cart to the wrong star in finding allies and surrogates for his strategy of divide and conquer and the Greater Russia.

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Column 26 (4 March 2017)
Witch Hunt or Fake News?

 lino26_400

It is quite puzzling to reflect on the fact that both in Moscow and Washington the reaction to ambassador Kislyak’s imbroglios are exactly the same, at least at first sight. Both governments are both trying to minimize the importance of the revelations: it is a witch hunt fueled by fake news. It is all motivated by resentful Democrats and the liberal media who have not resigned themselves to having lost an election, they claim.

Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov has declared that “all this is very much reminiscent of a witch hunt and the McCarthyism era which we all thought was long gone.” Trump too has invoked the specter of McCarthyism alleging that President Obama had his phone tapped during the presidential campaign. Something denied by the FBI and all the other intelligence agencies. Really?

This similar reaction coming, mind you, after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from any investigations into alleged Russian interference in the presidential election. The same can be said for those geo-politics’ experts who continue to characterize the Trump-Russia relationship as “fake news” fueling a “new fake cold war.”

But if we take a second hard look we may detect a fundamental difference. In the United States, the suggestion that Sessions was not forthcoming with the Senate hearing was enough to force him to step aside from potential probes, regardless of what he and Kislyak discussed. In Moscow, on the other hand, the accusation by the US intelligence community that Russia has interfered in the presidential election, has never been acknowledged. Moscow regards all questions about Trump’s ties to Russia as symptoms of hysteria, bias and Russophobia by the American political establishment. As they see it, that’s what has caused the ouster of Mike Flynn and the recusal of Jeff Sessions.

But the suspicions that something more sinister is going on persist. Trump and his administration have so far refused to acknowledge the US intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia helped Trump with his election to the presidency, that Russia favored him over Clinton and actively acted on that preference.

In Moscow, the suggestion of collusion between Trump and Russia, or that of a possible blackmailing into cozying up to Putin, is regarded as a hangover from the Obama administration which was attempting to relegate Russia to the humiliating role of a powerless subservient nation.

Be that as it may, and eventually it will all come out in wash, the logical question persists: which is it, fake news or witch hunt? If it is fake news, then witch hunt makes no sense because there is nothing there to begin with and go hunting about; it’s a road to nowhere. If it is witch hunt, then fake-news makes no sense; there must be something on which the charges, false or true, are hanging. But it seems that common sense and logic is not a strong suit within the Orwellian world of both Moscow and Washington nowadays. It’s an alternate reality based on alternate facts.

The alternate facts work thus: you throw out an hypothetical criminal fact which in fact has not happened, then you say that if in fact it had happened, and we don’t know that, we then ought to urgently investigate it. So a distraction is created, the press goes chasing after the rabbit that is the hypothetical fact and forgets about the real investigation originally being  pursued, i.e., the Russian connection. This rather deranged clever by half mode of thinking seems to have worked well for Trump, so far and the press has fallen for it. He is hoping, of course, that it will continue working for him, proving that he and Putin are the most brilliant men on earth. It remains to be seen if the whole US population is so naïve, and has been infected by the virus of a post-truth era, to the point that they will continue believing such a ruse. History will eventually render its verdict. Stay tuned.

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Column 27 (7 March 2017)
An Initial Assessment of the Caligula Presidency

 lino27_400

For five months now we all have been observing, mystified and incredulous, the spectacle of a deranged president and his administration, whom I have dubbed “The Caligula Presidency,” ready to “deconstruct” the world structure that has governed the Western world for seventy years or so after World War II. The very survival of democracy seems at stake. Perhaps it’s time to make a preliminary assessment and ask ourselves what do we really know for sure by now.

Well, we know this: that a number of Trump’s campaign aides have links to Russia, that Trump habitually lies about everything (crowd size, the weather, about things he has said and what others have said), that his word is not trustworthy, that he has said he does not know Putin but at the same time has stated that he does know him, that Russia almost certainly interfered with the US presidential election.

The first question that arises is this: if Putin is indeed blackmailing Trump, is that by itself enough to brand Trump a traitor of sorts? Yes, if the evidence comes up that he was working with the Russians to rig the election, then he’ll be in trouble no matter how much he cries “fake news.” He may be led out of the White House in handcuffs. To be sure, that has never happened before in American history, and he will continue to be considered innocent till proven guilty, but there is always a first time. We never thought we would see a sitting president resign in disgrace in 1973.

Meanwhile his approval rating sits at 38%, the lowest of any beginning president in memory. Proportionally, and as expected from a psychopathic liar and narcissist, the paranoia increases by the day and insults via tweet have become more frequent. Consequently, he has made numerous enemies, all those whom he can least afford to have as enemies at the moment: the press, the New York Times, The Washington Post, the CIA, just to mention a few.

The second urgent question that arises is this: will all this damaging stuff, not excluding the psychiatric one, move enough politicians in Congress, in both parties but especially within the Republican party, to initiate an impeachment procedure, or perhaps a forced removal? Pence would take over, Ryan would become vice-president, and Trump is put to pasture. Almost an idyllic scenario, but perhaps too idyllic; we need to keep in mind the “tremendous” ego of the king of the deal and reality shows galore.

Let’s look briefly at the charges that could be levelled to impeach Trump or force him to resign. In the first place he would have to be deemed incompetent to carry on the functions of his office. We are getting quite close to that. Then there is the above mentioned suggestion that he may have committed treason via collusion with Russia. Those ties are both political and financial. So he could be charged with enriching himself while holding office. What increases the suspicion that such may be the case is that he has already violated the emolument clause which forbids sitting presidents to have conflict of interests and retain financial interests with foreign powers in order to enrich themselves. Based on that single charge, an impeachment procedure could be started tomorrow.

The method of impeachment is actually rather simple: the House impeaches or brings forth the charges, the Senate conducts the trial. Two presidents have been impeached by the House but acquitted by the Senate: Andrew Johnson, (who followed Lincoln), and Bill Clinton. The charges have to be considered “High Crimes and Misdemeanors,” a rather non specific reference, assuming that one knows what a crime or misdemeanor is when one sees one.

As things stand now Congress, which is controlled by Republicans, is in no hurry to start any impeachment procedure. The House Judiciary committee has blocked calls for an independent inquire. Congress are happy to pass bills pleasing to their sponsors and are using the chaos in the White House as a convenient cover for the disservice they are doing to the country and the people as a whole. But that could change with the next congressional elections in two years.

Perhaps things will change sooner than we think if the “alternate enemy,” the press, say the “Failing New York Times” of the “Overrated Washington Post,” as Trump dubs them, uncover something salacious and the GOP turns on him. In ancient times, even the Praetorian guards and the Senate turned rather viciously on a couple of emperors. For example leaked video of a sitting president being urinated upon when conducting his Beauty Pageant in Russia, may start things rolling. He will continue to deny it, as he has already done, but it will not be the being urinated upon that will bring about the impeachment, but the lie about it. At that point the Republicans may relent and let the Democrats do the dirty work they are so reluctant to initiate. After all, they created the Frankenstein.

So, which will bring Trump down: treason, conflict of interests, unpopularity, sheer incompetence, derangement? Hard to say. Historical events are hard to predict. He may engineer a war to gain a long-term boost, or at least have Bannon think of a good one, one involving civilizations and continents, one for which he will take credit, if not responsibility. In that case his sycophantic Congress may hold on to him a bit longer, till he has destroyed and “deconstructed” the whole traditional US government apparatus. The danger, of course, is that once a deranged president has started a third world war, replacing him will be an exercise in futility. It will be too little too late. Then we shall see the return of the gods. Meanwhile stay tuned.

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Column 28 (8 March 2017)
Trump’s Russian Dealings Go Back Thirty Years

 lino28_400

Trump’s visits to Russia date back to 1987, the times of Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika reform program, when he paid three visits to the country in search of real estate deals. Those deals never materialized.

Nine years later, in 1996, he was there again, looking for a site for a super luxury residential tower. He visited construction sites, met with city officials, was wined and dined at banquets by the deputy mayor of the city. Hotel projects were discussed for possible investment deals. One such hotel was the Mosvka, next to Red Square, needing renovations to the tune of $ 200 million. Nothing came of these explorations.

He was there again a few years ago as co-owner of the Miss Universe beauty pageant. At that time he signed an agreement with Azerbaijan born billionaire Aras Agalorov, with whom he became friendly, to hold the pageant’s event in Moscow in November 2013.

Agalorov spent $20 million on that pageant. Trump, once again explored potential real estate deals but those deals came to nothing too. The Russians soon realized that what Trump was offering was licensing his name rather than in investing in real estate projects.

Lately Agalorov has come forward to offer a detailed itinerary of Trump’s November 7-9 visit to Moscow. The itinerary shows, among other things, that on Nov. 9, the final day of the pageant, Trump was a guest of Agalarov at an after-party to the unveiling of Trump’s star on a “walk of fame” after midnight. Indeed, those were two very busy men…

This is apparently an attempt to show that Trump was too busy to have time for the activities described in British spy Christopher Steele’s dossier which surfaced in January of this year. Although what the dossier reveals remains to be confirmed and proven, it alleges close coordination between Trump’s inner circle and the Russian hacking of Democratic email accounts, not to speak of claims of compromising sexual activities by Trump, all promptly dismissed as “fake news” and “phony stuff” by Trump.

When he arrived home on November 10 Trump, as is his custom, tweeted that “I just got back from Russia—learned lots & lots. Moscow is a very interesting and amazing place! US MUST BE VERY SMART AND VERY STRATEGIC.”

Meanwhile White House spokeswoman Hope Hicks and Trump Organization Amanda Miller go around saying that Trump “has never had anything to do with Russia.” The president himself is on record as saying that he “never made a business deal or taken out a loan in Russia.” Really? It appears that Pinocchio’s nose is growing again by the minute.

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End of Week 4

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The "CALIGULA PRESIDENCY" Columns

Week 1 -Week 2 - Week 3 - Week 4

*************************************************************************

Check Dr Emanuel Paparella's EBOOKS
Aesthetic Theories of Great Western Philosophers
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