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THE KKK COMES TO CPAC

In History, Politics, Social commentary on March 29, 2013 at 12:02 am

The Ku Klux Klan is rightfully despised by the overwhelming majority of Americans.

So it’s illuminating that its ideology found vigorous support at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington, D.C. in mid-March.

Ku Klux Klan

K. Carl Smith, a black discussion leader, was a member of the Frederick Douglas Republicans.  He was speaking about the role of race in the Republican Party when he was suddenly interrupted.

Scott Terry, a 30-year-old attendee from North Carolina, claimed that “young, white Southern males like myself” were being disenfranchised by Republicans.

Terry blamed the growth of diversity in the party and its outreach to black conservatives.

Smith then told how abolitionist leader Frederick Douglas wrote a letter to his former slaveowner forgiving him for having held him in bondage.

“For giving him shelter and food?” asked Terry, a member of the White Students Union at Towson University in Maryland.

Several members of the audience gasped and others laughed.

Terry later told the liberal blog, Think Progress, that he would “be fine” with an America where blacks were subservient to whites.

African-Americans, he said, should vote in Africa. He claimed the Tea Party agrees with him.

And, no doubt, many of its members privately do.

Terry claimed to be a descendent of Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy during the American Civil War (1861-1865).

As a result, he didn’t totally disagree with slavery: “I can’t make one broad statement that categorically it was evil all the time because that’s not true.”

Another attendee, White Student Union “founder and commander” Matthew Heimbach, called civil rights activist Martin Luther King “a Marxist.”

Later, he said of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which investigates extremist, racist groups: “You look at the SPLC, as fake as they are, they talk about how patriot groups are increasing in the Obama era.  With a black face in charge of the White House, of the federal government, we know it’s foreign. We know something isn’t right.”

According to the Atlantic Wire, 23 members of the White Student Union attended CPAC.

Racism is no stranger to high-ranking memers of the Republican party–and its right-wing allies.

In 2012, Inge Marler, a Tea Party leader in northern Arkansas, kicked off a rally with a joke implying that black Americans were all on welfare:

“A black kid asks his mom, ‘Mama, what’s a democracy?’

“‘Well, son, that be when white folks work every day so us po’ folks can get all our benefits.’

“‘But mama, don’t the white folk get mad about that?’

“‘They sho do, son. They sho do. And that’s called racism.’”

The joke was followed by laughter and clapping from the Tea Party audience.

Only after Marler’s remarks came to the attention of the media did the Tea Party oust her from her position.

Since November 6, Republicans have been vigorously debating about why their candidate, Mitt Romney, lost the 2012 Presidential election.

Generally, their “findings” have boiled down to: We didn’t get our message out clearly enough.

On the contrary: There was no mistaking the message that Republicans were sending.  Targeting a wide range of groups, this boiled down to: “America is for us–not you”:

  • Republicans enraged and alienated Latinos by their constant anti-immigrant rhetoric–such as their nominee Mitt Romney’s comment that illegal aliens should “self-deport.”
  • Republicans enraged and alienated blacks by their constant hate-filled and often racist attacks on President Barack Obama.  Clint Eastwood’s empty chair “comedy” act at the Republican convention pleased his right-wing audience.  But it outraged a great many others–especially blacks.
  • Republicans enraged and alienated voters generally and minorities in particular by their blatant efforts to suppress the voting rights of their fellow citizens–especially those of non-whites.  Republicans falsely claimed widespread voter fraud in areas where there was no evidence of it.  When voter fraud was found, the culprit was a get-out-the-vote consulting firm hired by Republicans.
  • Republicans allowed their party to be represented by Donald Trump, the infamous oligarch.  When he  repeatedly claimed that Obama wasn’t an American citizen, Romney refused to dump him as the hate-filled racist he was.
  • Republicans refused to distance themselves from their “de facto” leader, right-wing pundit Rush Limbaugh.  Romney refused to condemn Limbaugh for calling Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute” after she told Congress that insurance companies should cover contraceptives.
  • Republicans angered and alienated women by constantly talking about: Gutting Planned Parenthood; outlawing abortion; “legitimate rape” and banning birth control.
  • Republicans alienated gays by their blatantly anti-gay sentiments and steadfast opposition to same-sex marriage.

Ultimately, Republicans came to depend for their success on a voting group that’s constantly shrinking–-aging white males. Having alienated blacks, gays, women, Latinos and youths, the Republicans found themselves with no other sources of support.

CPAC’s website claimed the event would showcase “America’s Future: The Next Generation of Conservatives.  New Challenges, Timeless Principles.”

For many of the attending delegates, one of those “timeless principles” turned out to be old-fashioned racism.

HELL HATH NO FURY

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics on March 28, 2013 at 12:02 am

Hell hath no fury like a bureaucrat enraged.

On March 14, John Morton, the director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), admitted to Congress that, for three weeks in February, his agency had released 2,228 illegal aliens from immigration jails.

Previously, the Obama administration had claimed that only “a few hundred immigrants” had been released.

The alleged reason: Automatic budget cuts required by the Congressionally-imposed sequestration.

“We were trying to live within the budget that Congress had provided us,” Morton told lawmakers. “This was not a White House call. I take full responsibility.”

Morton and other agency officials spoke during a hearing by the House subcommittee on Homeland Security.

ICE officials had previously claimed that illegal aliens were routinely released.  But Rep. John Carter, R-Texas, the subcommittee’s chairman, didn’t buy this.

Carter pressed Morton about the claim.  And Morton admitted that the release of more than 2,000 illegal aliens was not routine.

Carter was rightly angered–more aliens were released in Texas than in any other state.

But, in hindsight, he shouldn’t be surprised.  This is usually how bureaucracies react when forced to carry out decisions they dislike.

Consider two such incidents during the Presidency of John F. Kennedy.

John F. Kennedy

In April, 1962, U.S. Steel raised its prices by $6 a ton, and other American steel companies quickly followed suit.

Convinced that the price-raise would be inflationary, Kennedy demanded that the steel companies rescind it.  When the companies refused, JFK was furious: “My father always told me all businessmen were sonsofbitches, but I never belileved him till now.”

Then he turned to his brother, Robert, then the Attorney General.  And RFK, in turn, turned to J. Edgar Hoover, the director of the FBI.

RFK had run the Justice Department since January, 1961.  Hoover had run the FBI since 1924.

And by now, he and Hoover detested each other.

J. Edgar Hoover and Robert F. Kennedy

Kennedy had been pressing the FBI to greatly expand its efforts against organized crime and violators of civil rights laws.

Hoover had long maintained there was no nationwide Mafia, only a loose assembly of hoodlums whose crimes did not fall under federal jurisdiction.

And Hoover–a staunch segregationist–wanted nothing to do with enforcing civil rights laws.

There were also differences in style between the two men which highlighted their mutual animosity.  RFK was 36 in 1962; Hoover was 67.  RFK was accustomed to showing up for work in his shirt sleeves; Hoover was always attired in a business suit.

RFK didn’t hesitate to pop into offices–including those of FBI agents–and start asking questions about cases he cared about.  Hoover demanded adherence to a rigid chain-of-command, with himself at its top.

RFK bellieved that the steel companies had illegally colluded to fix prices.  He told Hoover he wanted a full field investigation opened immediately into the steel companies.

As RFK put it: We’re going for broke…their expense accounts, where they’ve been a|nd what they’ve been doing…the FBI is to interview them all …we can’t lose this.”

He ordered the collection of evidence–both personal and professional–from the homes and offices of steel executives.

Hoover saw an opportunity to embarrass RFK while supposedly carrying out orders: He ordered FBI agents to visit the homes of steel executives in the middle of the night.  Even reporters covering the crisis got late-night calls from the Bureau.

On April 13, beginning with Inland Steel, all of the steel companies informed the White House of their decision to refrain from price increases.

But the President’s victory soon turned sour. The press assailed the “Gestapo” tactics he had used against the steel companies.  A cartoon that appeared in the New York Herald Tribune summed it up.

In it, Kennedy’s press secretary, Pierre Salinger, tells the President: “Khrushchev said he liked your style in the steel crisis.”  JFK was so outraged that he canceled the White House subscription to the Tribune.

The FBI scored another victory at the Kennedys’ expense through Robert’s pursuit of organized crime.

RFK wanted the FBI to share its vast treasury of intelligence with other Federal law enforcement agencies charged with pursuing the Mob.  But Hoover refused, claiming the FBI’s files were too sensitive to entrust to other agencies.  And he threatened to resign if pushed too far on this.

This deprived Federal organized crime “strike forces” of essential intelligence.

Hoover, desperate to make up for lost time in pursuing organizeed crime investigations, called on the same tactics he had used against the Communist Party.

He ordered his agents to secretly install wiretaps and electronic bugs in mob hangouts across the country.  This allowed the FBI to quickly learn who was who and doing what in the otherwise impenetrable world of the Mafia.

But in 1965, word leaked out that the FBI had bugged numerous casinos in Las Vegas.  The Bureau faced serious embarrassment.

Hoover, the master bureaucrat, blamed RFK.  He claimed that the Attorney General (who had retired from office in 1964 and become the junior Senator from New York) had authorized him to install bugs and wiretaps.

RFK–who was trying to remake himself as a liberal politician–was hugely embarrassed.

The antagonism between Kennedy and Hoover lasted until the day Kennedy died–on June 6, 1968, after being shot while running for President.

MIND OUR OWN BUSINESS

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics on March 27, 2013 at 12:01 am

At a joint press conference for President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on March 20, a reporter asked Obama:

“Morally, how is it possible that for the last two years, tens of thousands of innocent civilians [in Syria] are being massacred and no one–the world, the United States and you–are doing anything to stop it immediately?”

President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at press conference

United Nations officials estimate that more than 70,000 people have died in Syria’s civil war since conflict began on March 15, 2011.  The trigger: Protests demanding political reforms and the ouster of dictator Bashar al-Assad.

But Israelis aren’t the only ones demanding that America “do something” to end the carnage in Syria.  So are members of Congress and the national news media.

TV reporters from ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN and other networks are eagerly training their cameras on the carnage.  As they say in television journalism: “If it bleeds, it leads.”

And this, in turn, causes members of Congress and the Obama administration to fear for their jobs. They dread that voters will blame them for not “doing something” to end the fighting.

Like sending in American armed forces to somehow stop it.

True, most of these officials never spent a day in military service. But it’s always easier to send someone else into combat than to take that risk yourself.

And this is a risk that–emphatically–the United States has absolutely no business taking.

First, the United States just disengaged from Iraq.  On Dec. 15, 2011, the American military formally ended its mission there. The war–begun in 2003–had cost the lives of 4,487 service members, with another 32,226 wounded.

Second, the war in Iraq fell victim to the law of unintended consequences. The Bush administration invaded Iraq to turn it into a base–from which to intimidate its neighboring states: Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Turkey, Syria and Iran.

But this demanded that the United States quickly pacify Iraq. The Iraqi insurgency totally undermined that goal, forcing U.S. troops to focus all their efforts inward.

Another unintended result of the war: Whereas Saddam Hussein’s Iraq had been a counter-weight to the regional ambitions of Iran, the destruction of the Iraqi military created a power-vacumn.  Into this–eagerly–stepped the Iranian mullahs.

Third, the United States is still fighting a brutal war in Afghanistan. By early 2012, the United States had about 90,000 troops in Afghanistan, with 22,000 of them due home by the fall. There has been no schedule set for the pace of the withdrawal of the 68,000 American troops who will remain, only that all are to be out by the end of 2014.

The initial goal of this war was to quickly destroy Al Qaeda–especially its leader, Osama Bin Laden–and its Taliban protectors. But, over time, Washington policy-makers embarked on a “nation-building” effort.  And U.S. forces wound up occupying the country for the next ten years.

This increasingly brought them into conflict with primitive, xenophobic Afghans, whose mindset remains that of the sixth century.

On February 21, protests erupted throughout Afghanistan as reports emerged that NATO personnel at Bagram Air Base had burned copies of the Koran. The books had been confiscated from suspected insurgents and inadvertently marked for incineration.

The incident sparked rabid anti-American demonstrations. At least 30 people, including four American troops, were killed, and many were wounded. Two American military officers were murdered by a trusted member of the Afghan military.

As a result, American forces no longer trust their “brothers” in the Afghan army to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them against the Taliban. One American officer stated that he would no longer meet with his Afghan counterparts unless there were five armed U.S. troops in the same room.

Fourth, intervening in Syria could produce similar unintended consequences for American forces–and make the United States a target for more Islamic terrorism.

Fifth, since 1979, Syria has been listed by the U.S. State Department as a sponsor of terrorism. Among the terrorist groups it supports are Hezbollah and Hamas. For many years, Syria provided a safe-house in Damascus to Ilich Ramírez Sánchez–the notorious terrorist better known as Carlos the Jackal.

Sixth, according to U.S. defense reports, Syria has weapons of mass destruction–and the ballistic missiles to deliver them. Syria has an active chemical weapons program, including significant reserves of the deadly nerve agent sarin.

Seventh, the United States had no part in instigating revolt against the Assad regime. Thus, Americans have no moral obligation to support those Syrians trying to overthrow it.

Eighth, China and Russia are fully supporting the Assad dictatorship–and the brutalities it commits against its own citizens. This reflects badly on them–not the United States.  America should focus world outrage against these longtime Communist dictatorships for propping up another one.

Ninth, while Islamic nations like Syria and Egypt wage war within their own borders, they will lack the resources–and incentive–to launch attacks against the United States.

When Senator Harry S. Truman learned that Nazi Germany had turned on its ally, the Soviet Union, in June, 1941, he said: “I hope the Russians kill lots of Nazis and vice versa.”  We should welcome these self-slaughters, not become involved in them.

* * * * *

All of this adds up to one, overwhelming conclusion: America should mind its own business–and let the Syrians attend to their own.

BUSHITLER AND WARS OF SHAME: PART TWO (END)

In History, Politics on March 26, 2013 at 12:01 am

Naturally the common people don’t want war, neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany.  That is understood.

But, after all, it’s the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it’s always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it’s a democracy, a fascist dictatorshp, or a prliament, or a communist dictatorship….

All you have to do is tell them that they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to greater danger.  It works the same way in any country.

Rcichsmarshall Hermann Goering

March 19, 2013 marked the tenth anniversary of the start of America’s war against Iraq.  And the national news networks have been dutifully noting it.

Yet none of these networks has dared to point out there is a dark historical parallel to the events leading up to the Iraq war.  A parallel that has its roots in Nazi Germany.

ADOLF HITLER

Adolf Hitler knew that Poland’s government could never accept his demands for the Polish city of Danzig.

GEORGE W. BUSH

So, too, did George W. Bush make a demand he knew could never be accepted.  On the eve of launching war on Iraq, Bush issued a humiliating ultimatum to Saddam Hussein:

“Saddam Hussein and his sons must leave Iraq within 48 hours. Their refusal to do so will result in military conflict, commenced at a time of our choosing.”

ADOLF HITLER

Hitler never regretted his decision to invade Poland–-even asserting in his “final political testament” that: “It is untrue that I or anyone else in Germany wanted war in 1939.”

GEORGE W. BUSH

Similarly, Bush never regretted his decision to invade Iraq, which occurred on March 19, 2003.

Adolf Hitler

ADOLF HITLER

When he announced his attack on Poland before Germany’s rubber-stamp parliament, the Reichstag, Hitler–a decorated World War I veteran–said: “I am from now on just first soldier of the German Reich. I have once more put on that coat that was the most sacred and dear to me.”

GEORGE W. BUSH

On May 1, 2003, Bush–who hid out the Vietnam war in the Texas Air National Guard-–donned a flight suit and landed a Navy jet aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln.  A banner titled “Mission Accomplished” was displayed on the aircraft carrier as Bush announced–wrongly–that the war was over.

The effect–and intent–was to portray Bush as the triumphant warrior-chieftan he never was.

George W. Bush

ADOLF HITLER

In 1970, Albert Speer, Hitler’s former architect and Minister of Aramaments, published his bestselling postwar memoirs, Inside the Third Reich.  In a striking passage, he revealed how the Fuehrer really felt about German soldiers who were suffering and dying in a war he had provoked.

One evening during the middle of the war, Speer was traveling with Hitler on the Fuehrer’s private train.  Late at night, they enjoyed a lavish dinner in the elegant rosewood-paneled dining car.

As they ate, Hitler’s train slowed down and passed a freight train halted on a side track.

From their open cattle car, recalled Speer, wounded German soldiers from the Russian Front–starved, their uniforms in rags–stared across the few yards to their Fuehrer’s dining-car window.

Hitler recoiled at seeing these injured men intently watching him–and he sharply ordered an adjutant to lower the window shades.

GEORGE W. BUSH

Similarly, Bush showed his contempt for the soldiers suffering and dying in his own unprovoked war.

On March 24, 2004, at a White House Correspondents dinner, he joked publicly about the absence of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs).

To Bush, the non-existent WMDs were nothing more than the butt of a joke that night.  While an overhead projector displayed photos of a puzzled-looking Bush searching around the Oval Office, Bush recited a comedy routine.

“Those weapons of mass destruction have gotta be somewhere,” Bush laughed, while a photo showed him poking around the corners in the Oval Office.

“Nope-–no weapons over there!  Maybe they’re under here,” he said, as a photo showed him looking under a desk.

In a scene that could have occurred under the Roman emperor Nero, an assembly of wealthy, pampered men and women–-the elite of America’s media and political classes–-laughed heartily during Bush’s performance.

Click here: Bush laughs at no WMD in Iraq – YouTube

In writing about the significance of human character, the ancient historian, Plutarch, said it best:

And the most glorious exploits do not always furnish us with the clearest discoveries of virtue or vice in men.

Sometimes a matter of less moment, an expression or a jest, informs us better of their characters and inclinations, than the most famous sieges, the greatest armaments, or the bloodiest battles whatsoever.

So add it all up:

  • Two all-powerful leaders.
  • Two nations lied into unprovoked wars.
  • Hitler’s war costs the lives of 4.5 million German soldiers.
  • Bush’s war costs the lives of 4,486 Americans.
  • Germany’s war results in the deaths of millions of Europeans and Russians.
  • America’s war results in the deaths of an estimated 655,000 Iraqis, according to a 2006 study in the Lancet medical journal.
  • Hitler is literally driven underground by his enemies and commits suicide to avoid capture, trial and certain execution for war crimes.
  • Bush retires from office with a lavish pension and full Secret Service protection.  He writes his memoirs and is paid $7 million for the first 1.5 million copies.
  • Hitler is branded as a symbol of demonic evil.
  • Bush becomes a target of ridicule for comics.

Who says history is irrelevant?  Or that it doesn’t repeat itself?

BUSHITLER AND WARS OF SHAME: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In History, Politics on March 25, 2013 at 12:01 am

March 19, 2013 marked the tenth anniversary of the start of America’s war against Iraq.  And the national news networks have been dutifully noting it.

Yet none of these networks has dared to point out there is a dark historical parallel to the events leading up to the Iraq war.  A parallel that has its roots in Nazi Germany.

ADOLF HITLER

When Germany’s Fuehrer, Adolf Hitler, wanted to invade Poland in 1939, he mounted a sustained propaganda campaign to “justify” his ambitions.

Adolf Hitler

German “newspapers”-–produced by Joseph Goebbels, the club-footed Minister of Propaganda–-carried fictitious stories of how brutal Poles were beating and even murdering their helpless German citizens.

In theaters, German audiences saw phony newsreels showing Poles attacking and raping German women living in Poland.

For a time, Hitler not only deceived the Germans but the world.

Just before German tanks and troops invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, members of Hitler’s dreaded SS rounded up a number of prisoners from German concentration camps.

They inmates were dressed in Polish Army uniforms and driven to a German radio station at Gleiwitz, on the German/Polish border. There they were shot by SS men. Then Polish-speaking SS men “seized” the station and broadcast to Germany that a Polish invasion of Germany was now under way.

Hitler, addressing Germany’s rubber-stamp parliament, the Reichstag, dramatically asserted: “This night for the first time Polish regular soldiers fired on our territory. Since 5.45 a.m. we have been returning the fire, and from now on bombs will be met by bombs.”

Leaders of Britain and France were taken in by this ruse. They had pledged to go to war if Hitler attacked Poland.  But they didn’t want to take on Germany if Poland had been the aggressor.

By the time the truth became known, Poland was securely in German hands.

On August 22, Hitler had outlined his strategy to a group of high-ranking military officers:

I shall give a propagandist cause for starting the war.  Never mind whether it is plausible or not. The victor will not be asked, later on, whether he told the truth or not. In starting and waging a war, it is not Right that matters, but Victory.

GEORGE W. BUSH

American President George W. Bush followed a similar strategy while he prepared to invade Iraq: He ordered the topmost members of his administration to convince the American people of the war’s necessity.

Among those members: National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice; Vice President Dick Cheney; Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld; and Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Condaleeza Rice, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld

Among their arguments-–all eventually revealed as lies-–were:

  • Iraq’s dictator, Saddam Hussein, had worked hand-in-glove with Osama Bin Laden to plan 9/11.
  • Saddam was harboring and supporting Al Qaeda throughout Iraq.
  • Saddam, with help from Al Qaeda, was scheming to build a nuclear bomb.
  • Iraq possessed huge quantities of chemical/biological weapons, in violation of UN resolutions.
  • Saddam was preparing to use those weapons against the United States.
  • American Intelligence agencies had determined the precise locations where those weapons were stored.
  • The war would be self-financing via the oil revenues that would come from Iraq.
  • Invading American forces would be welcomed as liberators.

ADOLF HITLER

Hitler intended Poland to be only his first conquest on what became known as “the Eastern Front.”  Conquering Poland would place his powerful Wehrmacht on the border of the country that was his ultimate target: The Soviet Union.

GEORGE W. BUSH

Similarly, Vice President Dick Cheney–the “power-behind-the-throne” of the Bush Presidency–had his own ambitions for conquering Iraq.

According to former Bush speechwriter David Frum: Cheney longed for war in Iraq to gain reliable control of that nation’s vital oil resources.

ADOLF HITLER

Despite efforts by the British and French governments to resolve the crisis that Hitler had deliberately created, he refused all offers of compromise.

“I am only afraid,” Hitler told his generals at a military conference on August 22, 1939, “that some Schweinehund [pig dog] will make a proposal for mediation.”

GEORGE W. BUSH

Similarly, Bush made it clear to his closest aides that he sought a pretext for invading Iraq.

On the evening after the September 11 attacks, Bush held a private meeting with Richard Clarke, the counter-terrorism advisor to the National Security Council.

“I want you, as soon as you can, to go back over everything,” said Bush. “See if Saddam did this. See if he’s linked in any way.”

Clarke was stunned: “But, Mr. President, Al Qaeda did this.”

“I know, I know,” said Bush. “But see if Saddam was involved. I want to know.”

On September 12, 2001, Bush attended a meeting of the National Security Council.

“Why shouldn’t we go against Iraq, not just Al Qaeda?” demanded Donald Rumsfeld, the Secretary of Defense.

Vice President Dick Cheney enthusiastically agreed.

Secretary of State Colin Powell then pointed out there was absolutely no evidence that Iraq had had anything to do with 9/11 or Al Qaeda. And he added: “The American people want us to do something about Al-Qaeda”-–not Iraq.

On September 22, 2001, Bush had received a classified President’s Daily Brief intelligence report, which stated that there was no evidence linking Saddam Hussein to 9/11.

The report added that there was scant credible evidence that Iraq had any significant collaborative ties with Al Qaeda.

Yet on November 21, 2001, only 10 weeks after 9/11, Bush told Rumsfeld: It’s time to turn to Iraq.

George W. Bush

THE AGENCIES WE DESERVE

In Bureaucracy, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on March 22, 2013 at 12:13 am

The quickest way of opening the eyes of the people is to find the means of making them descend to particulars, seeing that to look at things only in a general way deceives them.…

--Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses

One morning at about 8:10, a friend of mine named Robert heard a helicopter repeatedly buzzing the San Francisco Ternderloin area, where he lives.

Thinking that a fire or police action might be in the works, he called the non-emergency number of the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD): (415) 553-0123.

Police dispatcher

And he got a recorded message.

This told him–in English–what he already knew: He had reached the San Francisco Police Department.

Then it told him this again in Spanish.  Then again in Cantonese.  Then came a series of high-pitched squeals–presumably for those who are hard-of-hearing.

Then the line went dead, and another recorded voice told Robert: “If you’d like to make a call, please hang up and try again.”

At that point, Robert decided to waste no more time trying to learn if there was an emergency going on in his area.  Or, to put it more accurately, he decided to waste no more time trying to learn this from the SFPD.

Instead, Robert turned on his TV and checked all the local news channels.  When he didn’t see anyone reporting a raging fire or police sealing off an area, he decided there probably wasn’t anything to worry about.

But later on he decided to call the SFPD once again–to complain at a level he believed would attain results.

That level was the office of its chief, Greg Suhr.

Robert didn’t expect to reach the chief himself.  But he didn’t have to: Reaching Suhr’s secretary should serve the same purpose.

The secretary he reached turned out to be a sworn officer of the agency.  She patiently heard out Robert’s complaint.  And she totally agreed with it.

She also agreed that this was a longstanding problem with the SFPD–citizens not being able to get through for help because of an ineffective communications system.

Finally, she agreed with Robert that the situation counted as a major PR disaster for her agency.  People who become disgusted and/or disallusioned with a police department’s phone system aren’t likely to trust that agency with their cooperation–or their lives.

Then she had a surprise for Robert:  Like him, she had at times been unable to reach a live dispatcher–even when calling 9-1-1.

She added that the police department did not handle its own dispatch work.  This had been farmed out long ago to the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management (SFDEM).

She said that the SFPD didn’t have any control–or even influence–over SFDEM, which operated as an independent agency.

Robert suggested that it was definitely in the best interests of the SFPD for someone at its highest level to contact SFDEM and demand major reforms.  Or to find another agency that would take its dispatcher responsibilities seriously.

The chief’s secretary said she would pass along Robert’s comments to the proper authority.

Will anything change?  Not likely, barring a miracle.

There are few events more frightening and frustrating than having to call the police, fire department or paramedics during an emergency–and get a recorded message.

Whether intended or not, the message this sends the caller can only be: “Your call is simply not important to us–and neither are you.  We’ll get to you when we feel like it.”

When people call the police or fire department, they’re usually frightened–for themselves or others.  They know that, in a fire or crime or medical emergency, literally second counts.

It’s going to take the police or fire or paramedics several minutes to arrive–assuming they don’t get caught up in a traffic snarl.

And it’s going to take them even longer to arrive if it takes the caller several minutes to reach them with a request for help.

This is the sort of bread-and-butter issue that local authorities–who operate police and fire departments–should take most seriously.

Mayors and council members should not expect to be treated with respect when their constituents are treated so disrespectfully in a time of crisis.

And citizens aren’t stupid.  They can easily tell lies from truths.

Lies such as: “We’d like to put in a new communications system, but we can’t afford it due to budget cuts.”

And truths such as: While San Francisco faced a $229 million deficit for the fiscal year, 2012, it nevertheless found untold monies to tap after the San Francisco Giants won the 2011-12 World Series, 4-0.

Monies to decorate various San Francisco buildings (such as the airport) with the orange-and-black colors of the Giants.  Or with the Giants logo.

San Francisco Airport–decked out with San Francisco Giants colors

Monies to throw a day-long party for the victorious Giants on October 31–Halloween.

So, in the end, it all comes down to a matter of priority–for both citizens and their elected leaders.  As Robert F. Kennedy once said: “Every nation gets the kind of government it deserves–and the kind of law enforcement it insists in.”

A SIGN OF UNEMPLOYMENT: PART SIX (END)

In Business, Law, Politics, Social commentary on March 21, 2013 at 12:01 am

Among the provisions of an Employers Responsibility Act:

(13)  The Justice Department and/or the Labor Department would be required to maintain a publicly-accessible database on those companies that had been cited, sued and/or convicted for such offenses as

  • discrimination,
  • harassment,
  • health and/or safety violations or
  • violating immigration laws. 

Employers would be legally required to regularly provide such information to these agencies, so that it would remain accurate and up-to-date.

Such information would arm job applicants with vital information about the employers they were approaching.  They could thus decide in advance if an employer is deserving of their skills and dedication.

As matters now stand, employers can legally demand to learn even the most private details of an applicant’s life without having to disclose even the most basic information about themselves and their history of treating employees.

(14)   CEOs whose companies employ illegal aliens would be held directly accountable for the actions of their subordinates.  Upon conviction, the CEO would be sentenced to a mandatory prison term of at least ten years.

This would prove a more effective remedy for controlling illegal immigration than stationing tens of thousands of soldiers on the U.S./ Mexican border. With CEOs forced to account for their subordinates’ actions, they would take drastic steps to ensure their companies complied with Federal immigration laws.

Without employers eager to hire illegal aliens at a fraction of the money paid to American workers, the invasions of illegal job-seekers would quickly come to an end.

(15)   A portion of employers’ existing Federal taxes would be set aside to create a national clearinghouse for placing unemployed but qualified job-seekers.

* * * * *

Right-wing capitalists and their paid shills in Congress would attack an Employers Responsibility Act as radically Communist.

But Americans need to cast aside their national obsession with Red-baiting and face up to some ugly truths about themselves–and their employers:

For thousands of years, otherwise highly intelligent men and women believed that kings ruled by divine right.  That kings held absolute power, levied extortionate taxes and sent countless millions of men off to war–all because God wanted it that way.

  • That lunacy was dealt a deadly blow in 1776 when American Revolutionaries threw off the despotic rule of King George III of England.
  • But today, millions of Americans remain imprisoned by an equally outrageous and dangerous theory: The Theory of the Divine Right of Employers.
  • Summing up this employer-as-God attitude, Calvin Coolidge still speaks for the overwhelming majority of employers and their paid shills in government: “The man who builds a factory builds a temple, and the man who works there worships there.”

America can no longer afford such a dangerous fallacy as the Theory of the Divine Right of Employers.

The solution lies in remembering that the powerful never voluntarily surrender their privileges.

Americans did not win their freedom from Great Britain–-and its enslaving doctrine of “the divine right of kings”-–by begging for their rights.

And Americans will not win their freedom from their corporate masters–-and the equally enslaving doctrine of “the divine right of employers”-–by begging for the right to work and support themselves and their families.

And they will most certainly never win such freedom by supporting right-wing political candidates whose first and only allegiance is to the corporate interests who bankroll their campaigns.

Corporations can–and do–spend millions of dollars on TV ads, selling lies–lies such as the “skills gap,” and how if the wealthy are forced to pay their fair share of taxes, jobs will inevitably disappear.

But Americans can choose to reject those lies–and demand that employers behave like patriots instead of predators.

A SIGN OF UNEMPLOYMENT: PART FIVE (OF SIX)

In Business, Law, Politics, Social commentary on March 20, 2013 at 12:01 am

A nationwide Employers Responsibility Act would ensure fulltime, productive employment for millions of capable, job-seeking Americans.  And it would achieve this goal without raising taxes or creating controversial government “make work” programs.

Two of its provisions have already been outlined.

Among its remaining provisions:

(3) Employers would receive tax credits for creating professional, well-paying, full-time jobs.

This would encourage the creation of better than the menial, dead-end, low-paying and often part-time jobs which exist in the service industry. Employers found using such tax credits for any other purpose would be prosecuted for tax fraud.

(4)  A company that acquired another—through a merger or buyout—would be forbidden to fire en masse the career employees of that acquired company.

This would be comparable to the protection existing for career civil service employees. Such a ban would prevent a return to the predatory “corporate raiding” practices of the 1980s, which left so much human and economic wreckage in their wake.

The wholesale firing of employees would trigger the prosecution of the company’s new owners. Employees could still be fired, but only for provable just cause, and only on a case-by-case basis.

(5)  Employers would be required to provide full medical and pension benefits for all employees, regardless of their full-time or part-time status.

Increasingly, employers are replacing full-time workers with part-time ones—solely to avoid paying medical and pension benefits. Requiring employers to act humanely and responsibly toward all their employees would encourage them to provide full-time positions—and hasten the death of this greed-based practice.

(6) Employers of part-time workers would be required to comply with all federal labor laws.

Under current law, part-time employees are not protected against such abuses as discrimination, sexual harassment and unsafe working conditions. Closing this loophole would immediately create two positive results:

  • Untold numbers of currently-exploited workers would be protected from the abuses of predatory employers; and
  • Even predatorily-inclined employers would be encouraged to offer permanent, fulltime jobs rather than only part-time ones—since a major incentive for offering part-time jobs would now be eliminated.

(7) Employers would be encouraged to hire to their widest possible limits, through a combination of financial incentives and legal sanctions. Among those incentives: Employers demonstrating a willingness to hire would receive substantial Federal tax credits, based on the number of new, permanent employees hired per year.

Employers claiming eligibility for such credits would be required to make their financial records available to Federal investigators. Employers found making false claims would be prosecuted for perjury and tax fraud, and face heavy fines and imprisonment if convicted.

(8) Among those sanctions: Employers refusing to hire could be required to prove, in court:

  • Their economic inability to hire further employees, and/or
  • The unfitness of the specific, rejected applicant.

Companies found guilty of unjustifiably refusing to hire would face the same penalties as now applying in cases of discrimination on the basis of age, race, sex and disability. Employers would thus fund it easier to hire than to refuse to do so. Job-seekers would no longer be prevented from even being considered for employment because of arbitrary and interminable “hiring freezes.”

(9) Employers refusing to hire would be required to pay an additional “crime tax.”

Sociologists and criminologists agree that “the best cure for crime is a job.” Thus, employers who refuse to hire contribute to a growing crime rate in this Nation. Such non-hiring employers would be required to pay an additional tax, which would be earmarked for agencies of the criminal justice system at State and Federal levels.

(10)  The seeking of “economic incentives” by companies in return for moving to or remaining in cities/states would be strictly forbidden.

Such “economic incentives” usually:

  1. allow employers to ignore existing laws protecting employees from unsafe working conditions;
  2. allow employers to ignore existing laws protecting the environment;
  3. allow employers to pay their employees the lowest acceptable wages, in return for the “privilege” of working at these companies; and/or
  4. allow employers to pay little or no business taxes, at the expense of communities who are required to make up for lost tax revenues.

(11)  Employers who continue to make such overtures would be prosecuted for attempted bribery or extortion:

  1. Bribery, if they offered to move to a city/state in return for “economic incentives,” or
  2. Extortion, if they threatened to move their companies from a city/state if they did not receive such “economic incentives.”

This would protect employees against artificially-depressed wages and unsafe working conditions; protect the environment in which these employees live; and protect cities/states from being pitted against one another at the expense of their economic prosperity.

(12)  The U.S. Departments of Justice and Labor would regularly monitor the extent of employer compliance with the provisions of this Act

Among these measures: Sending  undercover  agents, posing as highly-qualified job-seekers, to apply at companies—and then vigorously prosecuting those employers who  blatantly refused to hire despite their proven economic ability to do so.

This would be comparable to the long-time and legally-validated practice of using undercover agents to determine compliance with fair-housing laws.

A SIGN OF UNEMPLOYMENT: PART FOUR (OF SIX)

In Business, Law, Politics, Social commentary on March 19, 2013 at 12:01 am

Where there are victims, there are always predators ready to profit from their desperation.

Consider the following email sent out in July, 2012, by Steve Poizner, former Republican State Insurance Commissioner of California (2007-2011).

Dear friends,

I wanted to share with you some news before my new venture – Empowered Careers – launches around the country….I’ve started this company to help address one of the key issues we face today — jobs. Our venture aims to close the skills gap through an innovative career development program — all delivered via the iPad.

The program is called “Empowered UCLA Extension” and it combines personalized career counseling with a UCLA Extension professional education from a live instructor who is an expert in his or her field.

It’s all designed specifically for baby boomers seeking to make a career change, get ahead professionally, or get back into the workforce.

* * * * *

Now, consider this passage:

“Using our Empowered app, the iPad will transform any adult’s living room into a modern day classroom or transform a park bench into a study group while the kids are at soccer practice.”

But transforming “any adult’s living room into a modern day classroom” will not compel those employers who refuse to hire to begin doing so.

Nor will it change the behavior of employers who:

  • Will hire–but only on a part-time, no-benefits, minimum-wage basis;
  • Continue to throw hard-working American employees into the street; and
  • Move their companies to China, Mexico or Singapore.

And note that this program is aimed at those who can afford an iPad–and to shell out $9,800.  This, says the website, “includes a one-time special reduction of $3,000 from our expected 2013 total program price of $12,800.”

So if you’re poor because you’re jobless, this program has nothing to offer you.

But America can end this national disaster–and disgrace.

A policy based only on concessions–such as endless tax breaks for hugely profitable corporations–is a policy of appeasement.

And appeasement only whets the appetite of those appeased for even greater concessions.

It is past time to hold wealthy and powerful corporations accountable for their socially and financially irresponsible acts.

This solution can be summed up in three words: Employers Responsibility Act (ERA).

If passed by Congress and vigorously enforced by the U.S. Departments of Justice and Labor, an ERA would ensure full-time, permanent and productive employment for millions of capable, job-seeking Americans.

And it would achieve this without raising taxes or creating controversial government “make work” programs.

Such legislation would legally require employers to demonstrate as much initiative for hiring as job-seekers are now expected to show in searching for work.

An ERAt would simultaneously address the following evils for which employers are directly responsible:

  • The loss of jobs within the United States owing to companies’ moving their operations abroad—solely to pay substandard wages to their new employees.
  • The mass firings of employees which usually accompany corporate mergers or acquisitions.
  • The widespread victimization of part-time employees, who are not legally protected against such threats as racial discrimination, sexual harassment and unsafe working conditions.
  • The refusal of many employers to create better than menial, low-wage jobs.
  • The widespread employer practice of extorting “economic incentives” from cities or states in return for moving to or remaining in those areas. Such “incentives” usually absolve employers from complying with laws protecting the environment and/or workers’ rights.
  • The refusal of many employers to provide medical and pension benefits—nearly always in the case of part-time employees, and, increasingly, for full-time, permanent ones as well.
  • Rising crime rates, due to rising unemployment.

Among its provisions:

(1) American companies that close plants in the United States and open others abroad would be forbidden to sell products made in those foreign plants within the United States.

This would protect both American and foreign workers from employers seeking to profit at their expense. American workers would be ensured of continued employment. And foreign laborers would be protected against substandard wages and working conditions.

Companies found violating this provision would be subject to Federal criminal prosecution. Guilty verdicts would result in heavy fines and lengthy imprisonment for their owners and top managers.

(2) Large companies (those employing more than 100 persons) would be required to create entry-level training programs for new, future employees.

These would be modeled on programs now existing for public employees, such as firefighters, police officers and members of the armed services. Such programs would remove the employer excuse, “I’m sorry, but we can’t hire you because you’ve never had any experience in this line of work.” After all, the Air Force has never rejected an applicant because, “I’m sorry, but you’ve never flown a plane before.”

This Nation has greatly benefited from the humane and professional efforts of the men and women who have graduated from public-sector training programs. There is no reason for the private sector to shun programs that have succeeded so brilliantly for the public sector.

A SIGN OF UNEMPLOYMENT: PART THREE (OF SIX)

In Business, Law, Politics, Social commentary on March 18, 2013 at 12:02 am

Employers often claim that they can’t find the talent they need.  Today’s applicants, they claim, lack skills, education and even a willingness to work.

The truth is altogether different.

So says Peter Cappelli, the George W. Taylor professor of management at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.   He is also the author of Why Good People Can’t Get Jobs: The Skills Gap and What Companies Can Do About It.

Amazon.com: Why Good People Can’t Get Jobs: The Skills Gap and What Companies Can Do About It

Why Good People Can't Get Jobs: The Skills Gap and What Companies Can Do About It

According to Cappelli, when companies whine they can’t find talented employees, the fault usually lies with employers, not job-seekers:

  • Hiring managers create wildly inflated descriptions of the talents and skills needed for openings: “They ask for the moon.”
  • Computer technology eliminates many qualified people for consideration when their resumés don’t match the inflated qualifications demanded by employers.
  • Employers aren’t willing to pay for the education and skills they demand: “What they really want is someone young, cheap and experienced.”
  • Online applicants are often told to name a salary expectation.  Anyone who names a salary higher than what the company is willing to pay is automatically rejected.  There’s no chance to negotiate the matter.
  • About 10% of employers admit that the problem is that their desired candidates refuse to accept the positions at the wage level being offered.
  • Employers are not looking to hire entry-level applicants right out of school. They want experienced candidates who can contribute immediately with no training or start-up time.
  • Employers demand that a single employee perform the work of several highly skilled employees. One company wanted an employee to be an expert in (1) human resources, (2) marketing, (3) publishing, (4) project management, (5) accounting and (6) finance.
  • When employers can’t find the “perfect candidate” they leave positions open for months. But if they were willing to offer some training, they might easily hire someone who could quickly take on the job.
  • Companies have stopped hiring new college graduates and grooming them for management ranks. They no longer have their own training and development departments.  Without systems for developing people, companies must recruit outsiders.
  • Employers’ unrealistic expectations are fueled partly by their own arrogance.  With more than three jobless people for every opening, employers believe they should be able to find these “perfect people.”

According to Cappelli, the hiring system desperately needs serious reform:

  • Review job descriptions.  If they’re inflated, bring them down-to earth.
  • Don’t expect to get something for nothing–or next to it.  Offer competitive salaries.
  • Scrutinize the hiring process.  Make sure that the automated systems aren’t screening out qualified candidates simply because they don’t have all the brass buttons in a row.
  • Beef up the Human Resources section.

A 1996 cartoon by Ted Rall, the no-holds-barred cartoonist–entitled “Something for Nothing”–brilliantly sums up how most corporate “job creators” actually regard and treat their employees and applicants:2-28-96

Cappelli worries that the complaints about a labor shortage caused by an unwilling, unskilled workforce will be repeated enough that they will be accepted as truth:

“It’s a loud story … that could become pernicious if it persists.  It does have a blame-the-victim feeling to it.  It makes people feel better. You don’t have to feel so bad about people suffering if you think they are choosing it somehow.”

And where there are victims, there are always people ready to profit from their desperation.

Consider the following email recently sent out by Steve Poizner, former Republican State Insurance Commissioner of California (2007-2011).

A successful Silicon Valley high tech entrepreneur, Poizner founded SnapTrack, Inc. and Strategic Mapping, Inc.  In June, 2011, he co-founded the Encore Career Institute with the Sherry Lansing Foundation and Creative Artists Agency.

Thus, the email sent out on July 2, 2012:

Dear friends,

I wanted to share with you some news before my new venture – Empowered Careers – launches around the country….I’ve started this company to help address one of the key issues we face today — jobs.

Our venture aims to close the skills gap through an innovative career development program — all delivered via the iPad.

The program is called “Empowered UCLA Extension” and it combines personalized career counseling with a UCLA Extension professional education from a live instructor who is an expert in his or her field.

It’s all designed specifically for baby boomers seeking to make a career change, get ahead professionally, or get back into the workforce.

* * * * *

Note the line: “Our venture aims to close the skills gap,” which it assumes to be a reality.  And the ad says nothing about the ”greed gap” which exists between what employers demand from workers–and what they are willing to pay in return.

The Encore Careers Institute will offer online non-degree certificates for out of work adults and baby boomers looking to switch careers.

When did a non-degree certificate ever convince an employer to hire?  Even a hiring-inclined employer?

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