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BENEDICT ARNOLD: CAPITALIST HERO – PART FOUR (END)

In Politics, History, Social commentary, Business on May 31, 2012 at 12:00 am

In a May 13 Op Ed column, Forbes magazine declared: “For De-Friending the U.S., Facebook’s Eduard Saverin is an American Hero.”

From that column by John Tamny:

The money that the rich keep for themselves will go to “today’s and tomorrow’s businessmen.”

Throughout, the editorial implies that Americans would be so much happier if only:

  • the few taxes now levied on billionaires were abolished, and
  • that money stayed firmly in their trustworthy hands.

This utterly ignores the 2008 Wall Street “meltdown,” which occurred following an eight-year period of Republican “hands-off-the-market” regulatory policies.

It also ignores the even more recent loss of at least $2 billion by JPMorgan/Chase bank, in what amounted to a case of legalized gambling.

In addition, it utterly ignores the well-documented pattern of hedonistic and corrupt behavior among the rich.  As Robert Payne (1911-1983) the respected British historian warned in his book, The Corrupt Society, in 1975:

There is no chance that the rich will behave in a socially responsible way, writes Payne.  They are far more likely to “hold on to their wealth at all costs” than allow any of it to

The rich are so self-absorbed they usually don’t sense the growing resentment of the poor.  When revolution breaks out, they call on the police and/or army to protect them.  But it’s too late.  A new government seizes private wealth and puts it to “the service of the nation.”

“A nation’s wealth is too serious a matter to be left to the wealthy.  The riches of a nation belong to us all, to be shared among all for the general welfare.”

Finally, Tamny ignores the dire warning of Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of political science, on the threats posed by the nobility to a republic.  (Today’s “nobility” consists of the richest 1% of the American population.)

In The Prince, he writes:

“…It is impossible to satisfy the nobility by fair dealing and without inflicting injury upon others, whereas it is very easy to satisfy the mass of the people in this way.

“For the aim of the people is more honest than that of the nobility, the latter desiring to oppress, and the former merely to avoid oppression….

“The worst that a prince has to expect from a hostile people is to be abandoned.  But from hostile nobles he has to fear not only desertion but their active opposition.”

The Forbes column ends with this salute:

“Let’s raise a glass to Eduard Saverin.”

Forbes‘editors might just as well have invited Americans to “raise a glass” to Benedict Arnold.

In 1778, Arnold, a trusted hero of the American Revolution, sought to “better himself” by “de-friending” America in his own way.  He offered to betray West Point and its 3,000 defenders to the British for 20,000 pounds (about $1 million today).

“He’s a true American hero.”

If this is true, America has traveled a long way from the most famous line of John F. Kennedy’s Inaugral Address:

“Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

And from these words spoken by Robert F. Kennedy on March 18, 1968, during hs brief candidacy for the Presidency:

“Too much and for too long, we seemed to have surrendered personal excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things.  Our Gross National Product now is over $800 billion a year….

“Yet the Gross National Product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play.  It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials.

“It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country.

“It measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.  And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.”

And if Eduardo Saverin is a “true American hero,” America has traveled a long way–downhill–from the patriotism of Stephen Decatur.

It was Decatur, the naval hero of the War of 1812, who famously said: “Our country, right or wrong.”

Billionaire traitors like Eduardo Saverin have coined their own motto.  And so have their traitor-loving cronies like Rush Limbaugh, Grover Norquist and the editors of Forbes:

“My wallet–first and always.”

BENEDICT ARNOLD: CAPITALIST HERO – PART THREE (OF FOUR)

In Politics, History, Social commentary, Business on May 30, 2012 at 12:20 am

Christopher Lasch was not the only author to warn of America’s coming abandonment by its privileged classes

Another was Robert Payne, the distinguished British historian.

Payne authored more than 110 books. Many of these were biographies. Among his subjects were Adolf Hitler, Ivan the Terrible, Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin, Vladimir Lenin, William Shakespeare, Leon Trotsky and Leonardo da Vinci.

In 1975, he published The Corrupt Society: From Ancient Greece to Present-Day America. It proved a summary of many of his previous works.

Among the epochs it covered were the civilizations of ancient Greece, Rome and China; Nazi Germany; the Soviet Union; and Watergate-era America.

In his chapter, “A View of the Uncorrupted Society,” Payne warned: Power and wealth are the main sources of corruption.

“The rich, simply by being rich, are infected with corruption. Their overwhelming desire is to grow richer, but they can do this only at the expense of those who are poorer than themselves.”

Their interests conflict with those of the overall society. They live sheltered from the constant anxieties of the poor, and thus cannot understand them.  Nor do they try to.

They see the poor ad alien from themselves, and thus come to fear and despise them.  And their wealth and influence enables them to buy politicians–who, in turn, write legislation that protects the rich from the poor.

But Payne foresaw an even greater danger from the rich and powerful than their mere isolation from the rest of society:

“The mere presence of the rich is corrupting. Their habits, their moral codes, their delight in conspicuous consumption are permanent affronts to the rest of humanity. Vast inequalities of wealth are intolerable in any decent society.”

Writing in 1975, Payne noted that a third of the private wealth was possessed by less than 5% of the population–while about a fifth of the populace lived at the poverty level.

By 2000, about five percent of the population would possess two-thirds of America’s wealth.  And more than half the population would be near or below the starvation level.  The result could only be catastrophe.  The only way to halt this this increasing concentration of wealth by fewer people would be through law or violent revolution.

Payne has proven to be an uncanny prophet.

On November 1, 2011, Forbes magazine reported that, in 2007, the richest 1% of the American population owned 34.6% of the country’s total wealth, and the next 19% owned 50.5%.

Thus, the top 20% of Americans owned 85% of the country’s wealth and the bottom 80% of the population owned 15%.

In its May 13Op-Ed column, Forbes magazine declared: “For De-Friending The U.S., Facebook’s Eduardo Saverin Is An American Hero.”

The editors could have been more accurately entitled it: “Let Us Now Praise Famous Traitors.”

From the editorial:

Those who demand “smaller government” should view Saverin as a “hero” for renouncing his American citizenship

Those who seek “smaller government” include mega-corporations that seek to pollute, avoid paying any taxes, market unsafe goods, gouge customers, and exploit their employees. But, by more than coincidence, this brutal truth is deftly omitted from the editorial.

The Federal Government would have almost certainly wasted the monies that Saverin would have paid in taxes. 

It is the legal responsibility of government–not private robber barons–to determine what lies in the national interest. During the Vietnam War, many anti-war protesters refused to pay taxes, claiming they wouldn’t “finance” an “immoral” conflict. But that didn’t stop the IRS from going after the monies that were legally owed.

Saverin’s decision would force Congress to create a new and fair tax code that rewards “income and investment success.”  The current one punishes both.

If it’s true, as Mitt Romney claims, that corporations are people, then they are exceptionally greedy and selfish people.

A December, 2011 report by Public Campaign makes this all too clear.

Public Campaign is a national nonpartisan organization dedicated to reforming campaign finance laws and holding elected officials accountable.

The report–which highlighted corporate abuses of the tax laws–offered the following revelations:

  • The thirty big corporations analyzed in this report paid more to lobby Congress than they paid in federal income taxes between 2008 and 2010, despite being profitable.
  • Despite making combined profits totaling $164 billion in that three-year period, the 30 companies combined received tax rebates totaling nearly $11 billion.
  • Altogether, these companies spent nearly half a billion dollars ($476 million) over three years to lobby Congress. That’s about $400,000 each day, including weekends.
  • In the three-year period beginning in 2009 through most of 2011, these large firms spent over $22 million altogether on federal campaigns.
  • These corporations have also spent lavishly on compensating their top executives ($706 million altogether in 2010).

And according to an analysis by the Associated Press, the head of a typical public company made $9.6 million in 2011.

That was up more than 6% from 2010, and was the second year in a row of increases.

BENEDICT ARNOLD: CAPITALIST HERO – PART TWO (OF FOUR)

In Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on May 29, 2012 at 12:00 am

On May 13, Forbes magazine ran an Op-Ed piece under the headline: “For De-Friending The U.S., Facebook’s Eduardo Saverin Is an American Hero.”

Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer of New York angrily disagreed.

“It is scary. It is a scary, absurd place where even a tax dodger who renounces America for his own 30 pieces of silver is celebrated as a patriot and an American hero. It is perverse. I am appalled by making heroic a man who renounces citizenship to escape a tax rate of capital gains of 15%.

“No one gets rich in America on their own,” Schumer said. “And when people do well in America, they should do well by America. I believe the vast majority of Americans believe this too.”

From that Op-Ed piece:

“Saverin’s flight from the U.S. is yet another reminder of the superiority of a national consumption tax that in a perfect world would be implemented in concert with the abolition of the I.R.S.”

It’s tempting to imagine a world without an agency to collect taxes. But it’s nightmarish to contemplate a world where there were no taxes to pay for

  • a powerful military to protect us;
  • an FBI to combat terrorism and organized crime;
  • an FAA to safely regulate airline traffic;
  • agencies to repair roads;
  • agencies to erect public buildings (such as schools, courts and libraries) and
  • agencies (such as the EPA and FDA) to protect us from predatory businessmen.

The Op-Ed piece further asserts that you cannot limit the power of the Federal Governemtn if its officials hold the power to tax incomes.

Every nation in history–whether a democracy or a dictatorship, whether capitalist, socialist or communist–has understood the absolute necessity for collecting public revenues. And it has created means by which to do so.

“When individuals resist governmental hubris, we should exalt their actions.”

We should, in short, celebrate those who come to the United States to make fortunes they could not make anywhere else–and then, when they do, turn their backs on their adopted country. We should rejoice that they have stuffed billions of dollars more into their already-fat pockets and left their supposed fellow countrymen to shift for themselves.

In an ideal world the Federal Government should implement a consumption tax.  And if, as a result, poor people suffer because they’re taxed at the same level as rich ones, fine.  Everyone should know how much it costs to run the government.

Of course we should have a “regressive” tax that “hits low incomes at the same percentage as high ones.” Of course, those who are barely able to feed their families or can’t afford medical care should pay as much in taxes as a rich parasite who, like Mitt Romney, throws out $10,000 bets like so many dimes.

If the Federal Government can’t fund all its programs because rich people like Saverin refuse to pay taxes, then “U.S. taxpayers” generally will have to make good for the missing taxes.  It’s the fault of Congress that ir cannot put an end to any program.

For billionaires like Saverin and the well-heeled types who subscribe to Forbes, it doesn’t matter that “fewer government programs will achieve funding.”

Greed-obsessed “swells” like Saverin:

  • don’t depend on Medicare–they can easily afford the best doctors money can buy;
  • don’t have to depend on Social Security to see them through old age;
  • don’t have to worry about standing in food bank lines;
  • don’t need to rely on police departments–if they’re threatened, they can easily afford round-the-clock bodybuards;
  • don’t need consume protection agencies; if they’re victimized by unscrupulous businessmen, they can hire platoons of lawyers and private detectives.

A contemporary writer who warned of America’s abandonment by its privileged classes was Christopher Lasch.  In his posthumously published last book, The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy [2005] he wrote:

The Revolt Of The Elites And The Betrayal Of Democracy

“There has always been a privileged class, even in America. But it has never been so dangerously isolated from its surroundings.

“George Bush’s [the president who served from 1989 to 1992] wonderment, when he saw for the first time an electronic scanning device at a supermarket checkout counter, revealed…the chasm that divides the privileged classes from the rest of the nation.”

Until recently, writes Lasch, American cultural and economic elites willingly shouldered civic responsibilities.  But in post-modern capitalism, a professional elite defines itself as entirely separate from civic concerns.

The new elites flourish through enterprises that operate across international borders.  Thus, the rich in America have more in common with the fellows in Europe or Asia than with the vast majority of their fellow Americans who don’t share their comfortable surroundings.

Thus, the privileged class in America–the top 1%–has separated itself from the crumbling public services and industrial cities that are used and lived in by the rest of the country’s citizens.

BENEDICT ARNOLD: CAPITALIST HERO – PART ONE (OF FOUR)

In Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on May 28, 2012 at 12:05 am

On May 15, Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin renounced his U.S. citizenship.

Born in Brazil, the 30-year-old Saverin became a U.S. citizen in 1998 but has lived in Singapore since 2009.

Giving up his citizenship allowed him to avoid paying taxes on billions of dollars on capital gains when Facebook launched its IPO n May 18.  Singapore does not have a capital gains tax.

And America’s fascist Right couldn’t be happier.

Take Rush Limbaugh, the right-wing talk-show host.  The Rush Limbaugh Show airs throughout the U.S. on over 400 stations and is the highest-rated talk-radio program in the United States. When Limbaugh speaks, his “dittohead” audience listens—and acts as he decrees.

“So if it’s a more favorable tax haven that you can find elsewhere and you go there,” asked Limbaugh, “why is it automatically that you are unpatriotic? Why is it automatically that you are a coward, that you are not paying your fair share? It’s this whole class envy thing rearing its head again.”

For Limbaugh, the villain isn’t a billionaire who turns his back on the country that gave him the opportunity to become one.  No, the villain lies in those who believe that even wealthy businessmen should behave like patriots–instead of parasites.

“But [Barack Obama is] out there demonizing successful people every day, targeting successful people every day, running a presidential campaign based on class warfare, trying to get the 99% of the country who are not in the top 1% to hate the 1%, to literally despise ‘em.”

Consider the implications of this:

On November 1, 2011, Forbes magazine reported that, in 2007, the richest 1% of the American population owned 34.6% of the country’s total wealth, and the next 19% owned 50.5%.

Thus, the top 20% of Americans owned 85% of the country’s wealth and the bottom 80% of the population owned 15%.

According to Limbaugh’s philosophy, the bottom 80% of the popularion owning 15% of the country’s wealth should pay homage to the top 20% of Americans who own 85% of the country’s wealth.

In short, they should “know their place” and not expect the moneyed few to pay their fair share of taxes.

Of course, this is to be expected of Limbaughwhose own wealth makes him a multi-millionaire.  In 2001, U.S. News & World Report noted that Limbaugh had an eight-year contract, with Clear Channel Communications, for $31.25 million a year.

And according to a July 2, 2008, Matt Drudge column, Limbaugh signed a contract extension through 2016 that is worth over $400 million.

And Limbaugh isn’t alone in his praise for Saverin.

Another right-winger who defends those who run out on their country is anti-tax activist Grover Norquist,

On May 7, two Democratic Senators—Chuck Schumer of New York and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania—introduced legislation designed to tax expatriates even after they have left the country.

Their “Ex-PATRIOT Act” would impose a mandatory 30% tax on American investments for those who renounce their citizenship and would also prohibit individuals like Saverin from re-entering the country.

“Saverin has turned his back from the country that welcomed him, kept him safe, educated him and helped him become a billionaire,” Schumer said at a press conference. He added that it was time to “de-friend” the Facebook co-founder.

Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform (ATF) said the targeting people that turn in their passports reminded him of regimes that had driven people out of the country, only to confiscate their wealth at the door. 

“I think Schumer can probably find the legislation to do this. It existed in Germany in the 1930s and Rhodesia in the ’70s and in South Africa as well,” said Norquist. “He probably just plagiarized it and translated it from the original German.”

On the floor of the Senate, Schumer denounced Norquist in return:

“I know a thing or two about what the Nazis did. Some of my relatives were killed by them.  Saying that a person who made their fortune specifically because of the positive elements in American society, in turn, has a responsibility to do right by America is not even on the same planet as comparing to what Nazis did to Jews.”

Schumer added that he found it troubling that conservatives would lionize someone like Saverin, who was called “an American hero” by Forbes magazine.

On May 13, Forbes–which describes itself as “The Capitalist Tool”–had run an Op-Ed piece under the headline: “For De-Friending The U.S., Facebook’s Eduardo Saverin Is an American Hero.”

“Can you believe it?” asked Schumer.  “An American hero? Renouncing your citizenship now qualifies as heroic for the hard right-wing?”

“This has gone so far, this idolatry they have taken to such an extreme end, they make Eduardo Saverin into their patron saint.  In the name of low taxes for the wealthy, they have lionized an inherently unpatriotic person.”

NEGOTIATING NAZI-REPUBLICAN STYLE – PART SEVEN (END)

In History, Politics on May 25, 2012 at 12:00 am

Noted MSNBC political analyst Chris Matthews summed up the sheer criminality of Republican “bargaining” tactics last summer.

He did so on July 28, 2011–five days before Congress reached its August 2 deadline to raise the debt-ceiling or plunge the Nation into bankruptcy.

“The first people to bow to the demands of those threatening to blow up the economy were the Republicans in the House, the leaders. The leaders did what the followers told them to do: meet the demands, hold up the country to get their way.

“Those followers didn’t win the Senate, or the Presidency, just the House.

“But by using the House they were able to hold up the entire United States government. They threatened to blow things up economically and it worked.

“They said they were willing to do that–just to get their way–not by persuasion, not by politics, not by democratic government, but by threatening the destruction of the country’s finances.

“Right. So what’s next? The power grid? Will they next time threaten to close down the country’s electricity and communications systems?”

President Obama could have faced down the extortionists of the Republican Party in two ways:

  1. Prosecuting them under the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act and/or the USA Patriot Act; and/or
  2. Addressing the Nation as President John F. Kennedy did during the Cuban Missile Crisis and warning his fellow citizens that the Nation faced a moment of supreme danger.

In Part Six of this series, I outlined how the President could apply the RICO Act and/or the USA Patriot Act to hold Republican extortionists criminally accountable.

In this part, I will outline his second option (which can be coupled with criminal prosecution).

Making a Cuban Missile Type Speech

During such a national address, President Obama could have revealed such blunt truths as:

  • Republicans have adopted the same my-way-or-else “negotiating” stance as Adolf Hitler.
  • Like the Nazis, they are determined to gain absolute power–or destroy the Nation they claim to love.
  • They raised the debt ceiling seven times during the eight-year Presidency of George W. Bush.
  • But now that a Democrat holds the White House, raising the debt ceiling is unacceptable.
  • Despite Republican lies, we cannot revitalize the economy by slashing taxes on the wealthy and on cash-hoarding corporations while cutting benefits for millions of average Americans.
  • We will need both tax increases and sensible entitlement cuts to regain our economic strength.

Finally, President Obama could have ended his speech by directly calling for the active support of his fellow Americans. Something like this:

“My fellow Americans, I have taken an oath to ‘preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.’

“But I cannot do this on my own. As citizens of a Republic, each of us carries that burden. We must each do our part to protect the land and the liberties we love.

“Tonight, I’m asking for your help.

“We stand on the edge of economic disaster.  Therefore, I am asking each of you to stand up for America tonight–by demanding the recall of the entire membership of the Republican Party.

“As President John F. Kennedy said:

‘In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than mine, will rest the final success or failure of our course. Since this country was founded, each generation of Americans has been summoned to give testimony to its national loyalty.’

“This is the moment when each of us must decide–whether we will survive as a Republic, or allow ruthless political fanatics to destroy what has lasted and thrived for more than 200 years.”

President Obama has taken forceful action against America’s foreign enemies—most notably Osama bin Laden.

If the Nation is to survive, he must now act just as forcefully against America’s domestic enemies.

Fortunately, there is still time for him to do so. The fact that a prosecutor chooses to not indict on one occasion doesn’t prevent him from doing so on another.

In doing so, he may find history repeating itself.

Joachim C. Fest, author of Hitler (l973), writes of the surprise that awaited Allied soldiers occupying Nazi Germany in 1945:

“Almost without transition, virtually from one moment to the next, Nazism vanished after the death of Hitler and the surrender.  It was as if National Socialism had been nothing but the motion, the state of intoxication and the catastrophe it had caused….

“Hitler’s propaganda specialists had talked constantly of invincible Alpine redoubts, nests of resistance, and swelling werewolf units, and had predicted a war beyond the war. But there was no sign of this.

“Once again it became plain that National Socialism, like Fascism in general, was dependent to the core on superior force, arrogance, triumph, and by its nature had no resources in the moment of defeat.”

With luck, the same will prove true for the extortionists and blackmailers of the Republican Party.

NEGOTIATING NAZI-REPUBLICAN STYLE – PART SIX (OF SEVEN)

In History, Politics on May 24, 2012 at 12:00 am

With the United States teetering on the brink of national bankruptcy, President Obama faced three choices:

  1. Counter Republican extortion attempts via RICO–the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act.
  2. Make a “Cuban Missile Crisis”-style address to the American people, seeking to rally them against a criminal threat to the financial security of the Nation.
  3. Cave in to Republican demands.

Unfortunately for Obama and the Nation, he chose Number Three.

Here is how he could have applied the other two options.

Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act

RICO has been applied to not only the Mafia but to individuals, businesses, political protest groups, and terrorist organizations.  In short, a RICO claim can arise in almost any context.

Such as the one President Barack Obama faced last summer when Republicans threatened to destroy the credit rating of the United States unless their budgetary demands were met.

RICO opens with a series of definitions of “racketeering activity” which can be prosecuted by Justice Department attorneys.  Among those crimes: Extortion.

Extortion is defined as “a criminal offense which occurs when a person unlawfully obtains either money, property or services from a person(s), entity, or institution, through coercion.”

The RICO Act defines “a pattern of racketeering activity” as “at least two acts of racketeering activity, one of which occurred after the effective date of this chapter and the last of which occurred within ten years…after the commission of a prior act of racketeering activity.”

And if President Obama had believed that RICO was not sufficient to deal with extortionate behavior, he could have relied on the USA Patriot Act of 2001, passed in the wake of 9/11.

In Section 802, the Act defines domestic terrorism.  Among the behavior that is defined as criminal:

“Activities that…appear to be intended…to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion [and]…occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.”

The remedies for punishing such criminal behavior are now legally in place.  President Obama need only direct the Justice Department to apply them.

  • President Obama could have directed Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate whether actions by Republican Congressman—and their Tea Party cohorts—broke Federal anti-racketeering and/or anti-terrorism laws.
  • Holder, in turn, could have ordered the FBI to conduct that investigation.
  • If the FBI found sufficient evidence that these laws had been violated, Holder could have empaneled criminal grand juries to indict those violators.

The fact that members of Congress would be criminally investigated and possibly indicted would not violate the separation-of-powers principle.  Congressmen have in the past been investigated, indicted and convicted for various criminal offenses.

Such indictments and prosecutions–and especially convictions–would serve notice on current and future members of Congress that the lives and fortunes of American citizens may not be held hostage as part of a negotiated settlement.

On August 1, Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC’s “Hardball,”  wrapped up his program with a search for “options” to avoid another round of Republican extortion tactics.

“I want to know what steps the president ‘could’ have taken to avoid this hostage-taking.

“…Is there another way than either buckling to the Republicans or letting the government and the country crash?

“How does he use the power of the presidency, the logic, emotion and basic patriotism of the people to thwart those willing to threaten, disrupt, even possibly destroy to get their way?”

The answer to his questions–then and now–is: Replace the law of fear with the rule of law.

But there was another way Obama could have stood up to Republican extortionists: By urging his fellow Americans to rally to him in a moment of supreme national danger.

President John F. Kennedy did just that–successfully–during the most dangerous crisis of his administration.

Addressing the Nation on October 22, 1962, Kennedy shocked his fellow citizens by revealing that the Soviet Union had installed offensive nuclear missiles in Cuba.

After outlining a series of steps he had taken to end the crisis, Kennedy sought to reassure and inspire his audience. His words are worth remembering today:

“The path we have chosen for the present is full of hazards, as all paths are, but it is the one most consistent with our character and courage as a nation and our commitments around the world.

“The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender or submission.”

President Obama could have sent that same message to the extortionists of the Republican Party.

NEGOTIATING NAZI-REPUBLICAN STYLE – PART FIVE (OF SEVEN)

In History, Politics, Social commentary on May 23, 2012 at 12:00 am
“Those who are willing to risk everything, even death and destruction, to attain their ends will prevail over more responsible and prudent men who have more to lose and are rational, not suicidal.”
–Ernst Casier, Chairman of Philosophy, Hamburg University

U.S. House of Representatives

In April, 2011, the United States government almost shut down over Republican demands about subsidized pap smears.

During a late-night White House meeting with President Barack Obama and key Congressional leaders, Republican House Speaker John Boehner made this threat:

His conference would not approve funding for the government if any money were allowed to flow to Planned Parenthood through Title X legislation.

Facing an April 8 deadline, negotiators worked day and night to strike a compromise–and finally reached one.

Three months later–on July 9–Republican extortionists again threatened the Nation with financial ruin and international disgrace unless their demands were met.

President Obama had offered to make historic cuts in the federal government and the social safety net–on which millions of Americans depend for their most basic needs.

But House Speaker John Boehner rejected that offer. He could not agree to the tax increases that Democrats wanted to impose on the wealthiest 1% as part of the bargain.

John Boehner

As the calendar moved ever closer to the fateful date of August 2, Republican leaders continued to insist: Any deal that includes taxes “can’t pass the House.”

One senior Republican said talks would go right up to–and maybe beyond–the brink of default.

“I think we’ll be here in August,” said Republican Representative Pete Sessions, of Texas. “We are not going to leave town until a proper deal gets done.”

President Obama had previously insisted on extending the debt ceiling through 2012. But in mid-July, he simply asked congressional leaders to review three options with their members:

  1. The “Grand Bargain” choice—favored by Obama–would cut deficits by about $4 trillion, including spending cuts and new tax revenues.
  2. A medium-range plan would aim to reduce the deficit by about $2 trillion.
  3. The smallest option would cut between $1 trillion and $1.5 trillion, without increased tax revenue or any Medicare and Medicaid cuts.

And the Republican response?

Said Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee: “Quite frankly, [Republican] members of Congress are getting tired of what the president won’t do and what the president wants.”

Noted political analyst Chris Matthews summed up the sheer criminality of what happened within the House of Representatives.

Speaking on MSNBC’s “Hardball,” on July 28–five days before Congress reached its August 2 deadline to raise the debt-ceiling–Matthews noted:

“The first people to bow to the demands of those threatening to blow up the economy were the Republicans in the House, the leaders. The leaders did what the followers told them to do: meet the demands, hold up the country to get their way.

“Those followers didn’t win the Senate, or the Presidency, just the House.

“But by using the House they were able to hold up the entire United States government. They threatened to blow things up economically and it worked.

“They said they were willing to do that–just to get their way–not by persuasion, not by politics, not by democratic government, but by threatening the destruction of the country’s finances.

“Right. So what’s next? The power grid? Will they next time threaten to close down the country’s electricity and communications systems?”

With the United States teetering on the brink of national bankruptcy, President Obama faced three choices:

  1. Counter Republican extortion attempts via RICO–the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Oganizations Act.
  2. Make a “Cuban Missile Crisis”-style address to the American people, seeking to rally them against a criminal threat to the financial security of the Nation.
  3. Cave in to Republican demands.

Unfortunately for Obama and the Nation, he chose Number Three.

Here is how he could have applied the other two options.

Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act

In 1970, Congress passed the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1961-1968.

Congress’ goal was to eliminate the ill-affects of organized crime on the nation’s economy. To put it bluntly, RICO was intended to destroy the Mafia.

In the 1980s, however, civil lawyers noticed section 1964(c) of the RICO Act.  This allows civil claims to be brought by anyone injured in their business or property by reason of a RICO violation.

Anyone who prevailed in a a civil RICO suit would automatically receive judgment of three times their actual damages and would be awarded their costs and attorneys’ fees.

Originally, the RICO Act was aimed at the Mafia and other organized crime syndicates.  But in United States v. Turkette, 452 U.S. 576 (1981), the Supreme Court held that RICO applied to both legitimate and illegitimate RICO enterprises.

Previously, many lower courts had tried to limit RICO to recognized “criminal” enterprises. After Turkette, RICO could also be used against corporations, political protest groups, labor unions and loosely knit-groups of people.

NEGOTIATING NAZI-REPUBLICAN STYLE – PART FOUR (OF SEVEN)

In History, Politics on May 22, 2012 at 12:00 am

Adolf Hitler is dead.  But his my-way-or-else “negotiating” style lives on in today’s Republican party.

During the summer of 2011, Republicans refused to raise the debt ceiling unless Democrats agreed to massively cut social programs for the elderly, poor and disabled.

If Congress failed to raise the borrowing limit of the federal government by August 2, the date when the U.S.  reached the limit of its borrowing abilities, it would have begun defaulting on its loans.

As Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, explained the looming economic catastrophe:

“If you don’t send out Social Security checks, I would hate to think about the credit meeting at S&P and Moody’s the next morning.

“If you’re not paying millions and millions and millions of people that range in age from 65 on up, money you promised them, you’re not a AAA,” said Buffett.

A triple-A credit rating is the highest possible rating that can be received.

And while Republicans demanded that the disadvantaged tighten their belts, they rejected any raising of taxes on their foremost constituency–the wealthiest 1%.

To raise taxes on the wealthy, they insisted, would be a “jobs-killer.” It would “discourage” corporate CEOs from creating tens of thousands of jobs they “want” to create.

Republicans knew this argument is a lie.  And so did the editors of Time.  The difference is, the editors of Time were willing to reveal the truth.

In its June 20, 2011  cover-story on “What U.S. Economic Recovery? Five Destructive Myths,” Rana Foroohar, the magazine’s assistant managing editor in charge of economics and business, delivered this warning:

Profit-seeking corporations can’t be relied on to ”make it all better.”

Wrote Foroohar:

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

American companies “are doing quite well,” but most American workers “are earning a lower hourly wage now than they did during the recession.”

Corporations, in short, are doing extremely well.  But they don’t spend their profits on American workers.

“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.”

In short:  Giving even greater tax breaks to mega-corporations–the standard Republican mantra–has not persuaded them to stop “outsourcing” jobs. Nor has it convinced them to start hiring Americans.

While embarrassingly overpaid CEOs squander corporate wealth on themselves, millions of Americans can’t afford medical care or must depend on charity to feed their families.

Yet there is also a disconnect between the truth of this situation and the willingness of Americans to face up to that truth.

The reason, writes Foroohar:

Republicans have convinced most Americans they can revitalize the economy by slashing “taxes on the wealthy and on cash-hoarding corporations while cutting benefits for millions of Americans.”

To restore prosperity, America will need both tax increases and cuts in entitlement programs.

According to Mein Kampf-–”My Struggle”–-Hitler’s autobiography and political treatise:

  1. The great majority of a nation is ruled by sentiment rather than by sober reasoning.
  2. This sentiment, however, is not complex, but simple and consistent. It is not highly differentiated, but has only the negative and positive notions of love and hatred, right and wrong, truth and falsehood.
  3. Propaganda must not investigate the truth objectively and must present only that aspect of the truth which is favorable to its own side.
  4. The receptive powers of the masses are very restricted, and their understanding is feeble. On the other hand, they quickly forget.
  5. All effective propaganda must be confined to a few bare essentials and those must be expressed as far as possible in stereotyped formulas.
  6. These slogans should be persistently repeated until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea that has been put forward.

Following these principles, Republicans have proved hugely successful at persuading millions that truth is whatever their party claims it to be at any given moment.

“Fascism,” said author Ernest Hemingway, “is a lie told by bullies.”  Thus, when Republicans couldn’t attain their goals by lying, they sought to do so by force–or at least the threat of it.

Republicans have repeatedly threatened to shut down the government unless their constantly escalating demands were met.

In November, 1995, Newt Gingrich, then Speaker of the House of Representatives, carried out his threat. Gingrich unwisely admitted that he did so because President Bill Clinton had put him in the back of Air Force One during a recent trip to Israel.

The shutdown proved a disaster for Republicans. Clinton was handily re-elected in 1996 and Gingrich suddenly resigned from Congress in 1998.

Still, the Republicans continued their policy of my-way-or-else. In April, 2011, the United States government almost shut down over Republican demands about subsidized pap smears.

NEGOTIATING NAZI-REPUBLICAN STYLE – PART THREE (OF SEVEN)

In History, Politics on May 21, 2012 at 12:00 am

British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain resolved to meet with Adolf Hitler, the German Fuehrer, to peacefully resolve the latest Nazi-created crisis.

Having conquered Austria, the German dictator now wanted Czechoslovakia.

And Chamberlain was determined to grant his every demand–so long as this meant avoiding a second world war.

The two European leaders met in Berchtesgaden on September 15, 1938.

During their talks, Chamberlain said he had come to discuss German grievances. But, he added, it was necessary in all circumstances to exclude the use of force.

Hitler appeared to be shocked that he could be accused of such intentions: “Force? Who speaks of force?“

Then, without warning, he switched to an aggressive mode. He accused the Czechs of having mobilized their army in May. They had mobilized—in response to the mobilization of the German army.

“I shall not put up with this any longer,” shouted Hitler. “I shall settle this question in one way or another. I shall take matters in my own hands!”

Suddenly, Chamberlain seemed alarmed—and possibly angry: “If I understood you right, you are determined to proceed against Czechoslovakia in any case. If this is so, why did you let me come to Berchtesgaden?

“In the circumstances, it is best for me to return at once. Anything else now seems pointless.”

Hitler was taken aback by the unexpected show of defiance. He realized he was about to lose his chance to bully the British into accepting his latest demands.

So he softened his tone and said they should consider the Sudetenland according to the principle of self-determination.

Chamberlain said he must immediately return to England to consult with his colleagues. Hitler appeared uneasy. But then the German translator finished the sentence: “…and then meet you again.” Hitler realized he still had a chance to attain victory without going to war.

Chamberlain agreed to the cession of the Sudetenland. Three days later, French Prime Minister Edouard Daladier did the same. No Czechoslovak representative was invited to these discussions.

Chamberlain met Hitler again in Godesberg, Germany, on September 22 to confirm the agreements. But Hitler aimed to use the crisis as a pretext for war.

He now demanded not only the annexation of the Sudetenland but the immediate military occupation of the territories. This would give the Czechoslovak army no time to adapt their defense measures to the new borders.

To achieve a solution, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini suggested a conference of the major powers in Munich.

On September 29, Hitler, Daladier and Chamberlain met and agreed to Mussolini’s proposal. They signed the Munich Agreement, which accepted the immediate occupation of the Sudetenland.

The Czechoslovak government had not been a party to the talks. Nevertheless, it promised to abide by the agreement on September 30.

It actually had no choice. It faced the threat of an immediate German invasion after being deserted by its pledged allies: Britain, France and the Soviet Union.

Chamberlain returned to England a hero.  Holding aloft a copy of the worthless agreement he had signed with Hitler, he told cheering crowds in London: “I believe it is peace for our time.”

Winston Churchill knew better, predicting: “Britain and France had to choose between war and dishonor. They chose dishonor. They will have war.”

Hitler—still planning more conquests—also knew better. In March, 1939, the German army occupied the rest of Czechoslovakia.

Chamberlain would soon be seen as a naive weakling–even before bombs started falling on London.

Hitler next turned his attention–and demands–to Poland.

When his generals balked, warning that an invasion would trigger a war with France and Britain, Hitler quickly brushed aside their fears: “Our enemies are little worms. I saw them at Munich.”

Hitler ordered the invasion of Poland on September 1–unintentionally triggering World War II.

In time, historians and statesmen would regard Munich as an object lesson in the futility—and danger—in appeasing evil and aggression.

But for the postwar Republican party, Hitler’s my-way-or-else “negotiating” methods would become standard operating procedure.

During the summer of 2011, Republicans refused to raise the debt ceiling unless Democrats agreed to massively cut social programs for the elderly, poor and disabled.

If Congress failed to raise the borrowing limit of the federal government by August 2, the date when the U.S.  reached the limit of its borrowing abilities, it would have begun defaulting on its loans.

As Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, explained the looming economic catastrophe:

“If you don’t send out Social Security checks, I would hate to think about the credit meeting at S&P and Moody’s the next morning.

“If you’re not paying millions and millions and millions of people that range in age from 65 on up, money you promised them, you’re not a AAA,” said Buffett.

A triple-A credit rating is the highest possible rating that can be received.

And while Republicans demanded that the disadvantaged tighten their belts, they rejected any raising of taxes on their foremost constituency–the wealthiest 1%.

NEGOTIATING NAZI-REPUBLICAN STYLE – PART TWO (OF SEVEN)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics on May 18, 2012 at 12:00 am

After winning the Indiana GOP United States Senate primary, Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock appeared on the May 9 edition of CNN’s “Starting Point.”

There occurred this exchange between Mourdock and the show’s host, Soledad O’Brien:

MOURDOCK: What I’ve said about compromise and bipartisanship is I hope to build a conservative majority in the United States Senate so that bipartisanship becomes Democrats joining Republicans to roll back the size of government, reduce the bureaucracy, lower taxes, and get America moving again. The stimulus plan hasn’t worked.

Richard Mourdock

O’BRIEN: So what I hear you say is that you’re not going to compromise. In fact, the only compromise you’ll do is really getting other people on the other side of the aisle to come to your side of the aisle, which, I  guess, is the definition against compromise. You said this in the New York Times–

MOURDOCK: Well, it is the definition of political effectiveness.

Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler couldn’t have phrased it better.

Anyone wanting to understand how Republicans intend to apply such a philosophy need only consult history.

On February 12, 1938, two Chancellors—Adolf Hitler of Germany, and Kurt von Schuschnigg of Austria—met at Hitler’s retreat at Obersalzberg.  At stake lay the future independence of Austria.

Although Austrian by birth, Hitler considered himself a German.  Annexing Austria, he believed, would ensure its return to “the Great German motherland.”

HITLER: “I have only to give one command and all this comic stuff on the border will be blown to pieces overnight. You don’t seriously think you could hold me up, even for half an hour, do you?

“Who knows—perhaps you will find me one morning in Vienna like a spring storm. Then you will go through something! I’d like to spare the Austrians that.

“The S.A. [Hitler's private army of Stormtroopers] and the [Condor] Legion [which had bombed much of Spain into rubble during the three-year Spanish Civil War] would come in after the troops and nobody–not even I–could stop them from wreaking vengeance.”

British historian Robert Payne noted in his 1973 biography, The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler: “Schuschnigg was not a coward, but he showed fear, and it was precisely this look of fear that Hitler was waiting for.

“He had worked out the program of intimidation very carefully. The thunder and lightning in the morning; then a period of calm, when the unsuspecting victim might believe he had relented; and then he would come in for the kill with such savage fury that there would be no resistance.”

After lunch, Hitler presented Schuschnigg with an ultimatum:

  • Austria must join in an economic union with German.
  • Austria must lift its ban on membership in the Nazi Party (which had assassinated the country’s previous Chancellor).
  • Within three days there was to be a general amnesty of Nazi prisoners.
  • Three key government ministries—of war, interior and finance—were to be given to members of the Nazi Party.

With these in their possession, the Nazis would be able to take over Austria in two to three weeks.

At first, Schuschnigg refused to sign. He explained that the Austrian constitution did not give him the power to sign it. But Hitler insisted—threatening to invade Austria otherwise.

Schuschnigg, a virtual prisoner of his host, facing the destruction of his country by a powerful and aggressive neighbor, signed. It marked—until the defeat of Germany in 1945–the end of Austria as an independent nation.

Seven months later, in September, 1938, Hitler gave another exhibition of his “negotiating” methods. This time, the target of his rage and aggression was Czechoslovakia.

So, once again, he opened “negotiations” with a lie: The Czechoslovak government was trying to exterminate 3.5 million Germans living in the “Sudetenland.”

This consisted of the northern, southwest and western regions of Czechoslovakia, inhabited mostly by ethnic Germans.

Then he followed this up with the threat of war: Germany would protect its citizens and halt such “oppression.”

For British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, the thought of another European war erupting less than 20 years after the end of World War I was simply unthinkable.

Something had to be done to prevent it.  And he believed himself to be just the man to do it.

He quickly sent Hitler a telegram, offering to help resolve the crisis: “I could come to you by air and am ready to leave tomorrow.  Please inform me of earliest time you can receive me, and tell me the place of the meeting.  I should be grateful for a very early reply.”

Once again, another head-of-state was prepared to meet Hitler on his home ground.  Again, Hitler took this concession as a sign of weakness.  And Chamberlain’s use of such words as “please” and “grateful” only further convinced Hitler of another impending triumph.

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