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PAULA DEEN’S REAL LAGACY: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, Social commentary, Law, Business on April 16, 2014 at 12:38 am

In 2012, Celebrity Chef Paula Deen was sued by a former employee for sexual/racial harassment.

For Deen, the deposition she filed in May, 2013, proved to be the worst mistake of her life.

Interrogated by Matthew C. Billips, the attorney for the plaintiff, Lisa Jackson, Deen responded as follows:

Q.  Are you aware of [your brother, Earl "Bubba" Hiers] admitting that he engaged in racially and sexually inappropriate behavior in the workplace?

A.  I guess.

Q.  Okay.

A.  If I was sitting here I would have heard it.

Mistake #13:  She admits once again to having been apprised of her brother’s offensive behavior.

Earl “Bubba” Hiers

 Q.  Okay.  Well, have you done anything about what you heard him admit to doing?

A.  My brother and I have had conversations.  My brother is not a bad person.  Do humans behave inappropriately?  At times, yes.  I don’t know one person that has not. 

My brother is a good man.  Have we told jokes?  Have we said things that we should not have said, that–yes, we all have.  We all have done that, every one of us.

Mistake #14:  She admitted to having talked with her brother about his offensive behavior–but she did not say she did anything to stop it or punish him for it.

Q.  You said you have had such conversations with [your brother]. When did you do so?

A.  When Karl told me he was stealing, I addressed that with Bubba.

Q.  And as a result of Mr. Hiers stealing, he received a pay increase and the money he had taken was recharacterized as wages, is that correct?

A.  I don’t know how it was settled.  I know that Karl was paying Lisa Jackson more than my brother was being paid, so if there was a salary increase, it would have been long overdue.

Mistake #15:  She admitted that even though she learned that one of her employees was stealing from her, she had nevertheless retained him. 

Speaking of her employee, Karl Schumacher, Deen said:

A.  Karl is the most judgmental person I know.  And out of every team member on our team, he is certainly the most prejudice.

Mistake #16:  She admitted that she had retained an employee who was openly prejudiced toward a wide range of people.

MackWorks, a business consulting firm, conducted an investigation of Uncle Bubba’s, which was owned by her brother, Earl “Bubba” Hiers.

A.  I didn’t read the report.

Q.  Okay.  And what, if any, investigation have you done to determine if it is your brother who is lying, as opposed to Miss Jackson and Mr. Schumacher and the people at MackWorks?

A.  I know my brother.  I know his character.  If I ask him something, he would not lie to me, nor would I to him.  There was nothing to investigate.

Mistake #18:  After an independent consulting firm gives her a scathing report about her brother’s restaurant, she didn’t read it.  

Mistake #19:  She admitted she didn’t read it.

Mistake #20:  She admitted she took no action to discover the truth for herself: “There was nothing to investigate.”

* * * * *

The media has focused its attention on Deen’s admission to having used the “N-word.”  But clearly she was running a dysfunctional operation–replete with alcoholism, racial prejudice, sexual harassment and theft.

Much has been made of Deen’s serving as an ambassador of Southern culture and cooking.  But if only some of the accusations made against her hold up, she must also serve as an ambassador of a South decent Americans want to forget–and forever put behind them.

That was definitely an era when blacks knew their place–which was as slaves in the kitchens or fields of the Southern planter class who owned them.

According to Jackson, those are the days Deen would love to return to.

Deen has given lip service to knowing that the days of Southern racism are past.  But according to the complaint filed against her by her former employee, Lisa Jackson, that past remained very much alive:

  • Requiring black employees to use separate bathrooms and entrances from whites.
  • Holding black employees to “different, more stringent standards” than whites.
  • Allowing her brother, Earl “Bubba” Hiers, to regularly made offensive racial remarks.
  • Allowing Hiers to make inappropriate sexual comments.
  • Allowing Hiers to force the plaintiff, Lisa Jackson, to look at pornography with him.
  • Allowing Hiers to often violently shake employees.
  • Allowing Hiersto come to work in “an almost constant state of intoxication.”
  • Enabling Hiers’ behavior by ignoring Jackson’s efforts to discuss his behavior.
  • Holding “racist views herself.”

Many of Deen’s supporters have claimed she is the victim of anti-Southern prejudice.

But the truth appears that only in the South could she have run so gigantic and lucrative an empire for so long in such prejucial and dysfunctional fashion.

The wonder is not that the Food Network refused to renew her contract after June, 2013.  The wonder is that she has managed to stay in business this long.

PAULA DEEN’S REAL LAGACY: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, Business, Law, Social commentary on April 15, 2014 at 12:07 am

There are many lessons to be learned from the deposition Paula Deen gave in May, 2012, during a lawsuit filed against her for sexual/racial harassment lawsuit.

Interrogated by Matthew C. Billips, the attorney for the plaintiff, Lisa Jackson, Deen responded as follows:

Q.  Now, does [your brother's] sense of humor include telling jokes about matters of a sexual nature?

A.  We have all told off-colored jokes.

Q.  Okay.  Does his sense of humor include telling jokes of a racial nature?

A.  I’m sure those kind of jokes have been told.  Every man I’ve ever come in contact with has one.

Mistake #3:  Deen acknowledged that off-color jokes were told in her workplace, and that she was clearly aware of it.

Mistake #4:  Deen made light of the telling of jokes that the vast majority of employers would not tolerate in their workplaces.

Q.  Okay.  Miss Deen, have you told racial jokes?

A.  No, not racial.

Q.  Okay, have you ever used the N-word yourself?

A.  Yes, of course.

Mistake #5:  She knew that the charge of racial discrimination stood at the very heart of the lawsuit facing her. 

Yet, when asked if she had ever used the “N-word,” she replied, “Yes, of course,” as if this were the most natural thing in the world.

Q.  Okay.  In what context?

A.  Well, it was probably when a black man burst into the bank that I was working at and put a gun to my head.

Q. Okay, and what did you say?

A.  Well, I don’t remember, but the gun was dancing all around my temple.  I didn’t…feel real favorable towards him.

Q.  Okay.  Well, did you use the N-word to him as he pointed a gun in your head at your face?

A.  Absolutely not.

Q.  Well, then, when did you use it?

A.  Probably in telling my husband.

Mistake #6:  What is discussed between husband and wife is protected legally as marital privilege.  Her attorney should have objected and told her not to answer the question. 

If she had not admitted to using it privately with her husband, she might not have been asked if she had used it since then.

Q, Okay.  Have you used it [the "N-word"] since then?

A.  I’m sure I have, but it’s been a very long time.

Mistake #7:  Having admitted she used it in the past, she compounds her mistake by admitting she had used it since. 

Mistake #8:   There is an entirely legal way to avoid incriminating oneself–and being prosecuted for perjury.  It’s contained in the words: “Not that I can recall.”

Q. Can you remember the context in which you have used the N-word?

A.  No.

Q.  Has it occurred with sufficient frequency that you cannot recall all of the various context in which you’ve used it?

A.  No.

Q.  Well, then tell me the other context in which you’ve used the N-word.

A.  I don’t know, maybe in repeating something that was said to me.

Q.  Like a joke?

No, probably a conversation between blacks.  I don’t–I don’t know.

Mistake #9:  The vast majority of restaurant kitchens are staffed by blacks or Hispanics, whose exchanges are often obscene and homophobic. 

If Deen had said she had quoted such a conversation between employees, she could have legitimately claimed she did so entirely for the sake of accuracy. 

She could have blamed them for using the N”-word,” and cast herself strictly in the role of reporter.

Q.  Okay.

A.  But that’s just not a word that we use as time has gone on.  Things have changed since the 60s in the South.  And my children and my brother object to that word being used in any cruel or mean behavior.

Q.  Okay.

A.  As well as I do.

Q.  Are you aware that your brother has admitted to using that word at work?

A.  I don’t know about that.

Mistake #10:  She had previously admitted to attending her brother’s deposition, where he admitted to, among other offenses, using the N-word in the workplace. 

So this is a direct contradiction of her earlier admission.

Q  Okay.  Now, if you had learned of Mr. Hiers engaging in racially or sexually inappropriate behavior in the workplace, what, if any, actions would you have taken?

A.  I certainly would have addressed it.

Mistake #11:  Previously she had been asked: “Did any of the things that your brother admitted to doing, including…using the N-word in the workplace, did any of that conduct cause you to have any concerns about him continuing to operate the business?” 

And she had replied: “No.”  So this amounts to yet another contradiction.

Q.  Have you ever addressed Mr. Hiers’ racially or sexually inappropriate conduct?

A. No.

Mistake #12:  She admitted to having learned about her brother’s use of the “N-word” in the workplace–and then admitted to having never addressed it.

Q.  And you are aware of his admitting to engaging in racially and sexually inappropriate  behavior in the workplace in his deposition in this case?

A.   No.

Mistake #12:  This directly contradicts her previous admission that she had learned of his engaging in such behavior during his deposition.

PAULA DEEN’S REAL LAGACY: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, Business, Law, Social commentary on April 14, 2014 at 12:00 am

The purpose of this blog is to highlight the ways public and private bureaucracies actually operate–as opposed to how they usually want others to believe they operate.

Occasionally, a case comes along that is so filled with blatant violations of law and common sense that it offers a road map of what others should do to avoid similar disaster.

Such a case is that of celebrity chef Paula Deen.

On April 3, Uncle Bubba’s Seafood and Oyster House closed without warning.

The Savannah, Georgia, restaurant lay at the center of the infamous Paula Deen lawsuit.

And, in keeping with the mistreatment she had long tolerated against her employees, Deen closed Uncle Bubba’s without a trace of class.

Yes, Paula Deen thought so little of her employees that she didn’t even tell them beforehand.  She let them show up to work, only to find kitchen appliances being removed from the restaurant.

Employees collected their severance checks in the parking lot.

Insead, the restaurant posted the following announcement on its Facebook page:

“Since its opening in 2004, Uncle Bubba’s Oyster House has been a destination for residents and tourists in Savannah, offering the region’s freshest seafood and oysters.

“However, the restaurant’s owner and operator, Bubba Heirs, has made the decision to close the restaurant in order to explore development options for the waterfront property on which the restaurant is located.

“At this point, no specific plans have been announced and a range of uses are under consideration in order realize the highest and best use for the property.

“The closing is effective today, Thursday, April 3, 2014. Employees will be provided with severance based on position and tenure with the restaurant.

“All effort will be made to find employees comparable employment with other Savannah restaurant organizations.” 

In 2013, Deen became the subject of nationwide controversey when Lisa Jackson, a former employee of Uncle Bubba’s, filed a sexual/racial harassment lawsuit against her.

In a deposition, Deen was asked if she had used the word “nigger” and she replied: “Of course.”

Suddenly, she lost her cooking show on the Food Network.  Several of his business partners–including Sears, JC Penney and Kmart–also gave hr the heave-ho.

The lawsuit was eventually dismissed, but, by then, the damage was done.

Commentators focused obsessively on Deen’s admission that she used the word “nigger.”  Entirely ignored was the longtime mistreatment she had allowed to be dished out to her employees.

Paula Deen

Deen, her brother Earl “Bubba” Hiers, her company, and the corporations that operated a pair of restaurants she owns in Savannah, Georgia, were sued by former employee Lisa Jackson.

A complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia in November, 2012, claimed that Jackson was subjected to “violent, sexist, and racist behavior” during her five years’ employment by Deen.

It was for that reason that she left Uncle Bubba’s Oyster House, which was run by Hiers, in August, 2010.

Jackson’s complaint alleged that:

  • Black employees were required to use separate bathrooms and entrances from whites.
  • Black employees were held to “different, more stringent standards” than whites.
  • Hiers regularly made offensive racial remarks.
  • Hiers made inappropriate sexual comments.
  • Hiers forced Jackson to look at pornography with him.
  • Hiers often violently shook employees.
  • Hiers came to work in “an almost constant state of intoxication.”
  • Dean enabled Hiers’ behavior by ignoring Jackson’s efforts to discuss his behavior.
  • Deen “holds racist views herself.”

The allegation that black employees were ordered to use separate bathrooms and entrances harkens back to the ugly days of the pre-civil rights South.

That was an era where most blacks knew their place–or were murdered by the Ku Klux Klan.

In May, 2013, Deen gave her own deposition in the case.

She denied many of the allegations against Hiers-–but ended up admitting that she was aware of his offensive behaviors:

Q.  Okay.  Are you aware–-you were here during your brother’s deposition, right?

A.  Yes.

Q.  So you are aware of the things that he’s admitted to?

A.  Absolutely.

Q.  Did any of the things that your brother admitted to doing, including reviewing–-reviewing pornography in the workplace, using the N-word in the workplace, did any of that conduct cause you to have any concerns about him continuing to operate the business?

A.  No.  My brother and I, 25 years ago…each started a business and we each had $200 to start that business. 

My brother built the most successful long-service business in Albany, Georgia, with his $200.  My brother is completely capable unless he’s being sabotaged.

Mistake #1:  Deen acknowledged that, if she hadn’t known about her brother’s behavior prior to his deposition, she was present during this and thus learned about it then.

Mistake #2:  Deen acknowledged that even after she officially became aware of his behavior, she did not feel there was any reason to sever him from the company.

PRIDE GOETH BEFORE A FALL

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics on April 10, 2014 at 12:01 am

Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.
–Proverbs 16:18

People often talk about the role sex plays in motivating behavior.  But the power of ego to determine history is often more profound.

Consider the role that ego played in igniting the American Civil War (1861 – 1865).

According to The Destructive War, by Charles Royster, it wasn’t the cause of “states’ rights” that led 13 Southern states to withdraw from the Union in 1960-61.

It was their demand for “respect,” which, in reality, translates into “e-g-o.”

“The respect Southerners demanded did not consist simply of the states’ sovereignty or of the equal rights of Northern and Southern citizens, including slaveholders’ right to take their chattels into Northern territory.

“It entailed, too, respect for their assertion of the moral superiority of slaveholding society over free society,” writes Royster.

It was not enough for Southerners to claim equal standing with Northerners; Northerners must acknowledge it.

But this was something that the North was less and less willing to do.  Finally, its citizens dared to elect Abraham Lincoln in 1860.

Lincoln and his new Republican party damned slavery–and slaveholders–as morally evil, obsolete and ultimately doomed.

And they were determined to prevent slavery from spreading any further throughout the country.

Southerners found all of this intolerable.

The British author, Anthony Trollope, explained to his readers:

“It is no light thing to be told daily, by our fellow citizens…that you are guilty of the one damning sin that cannot be forgiven.

“All this [Southerners] could partly moderate, partly rebuke and partly bear as long as political power remained in their hands.

“But they have gradually felt that this was going, and were prepared to cut the rope and run as soon as it was gone.”

Only 10% of Southerners owned slaves.  The other 90% of the population “had no dog in this fight,” as Southerners liked to say.

Yet they so admired and aspired to be like their “gentleman betters” that they threw in their lot with them.

There were some Southerners who could see what was coming–and vainly warned their fellow citizens.

One of these was Sam Houston, the man who had won Texas independence at the 1836 battle of San Jacinto and later served as that state’s governor.

Sam Houston

On April 19, 1860, addressing a crowd in Galveston, he said:

“Let me tell you what is coming. After the sacrifice of countless millions of treasure and hundreds of thousands of lives, you may win Southern independence if God be not against you.

“But I doubt it.

“I tell you that, while I believe with you in the doctrine of states’ rights, the North is determined to preserve this Union. They are not a fiery, impulsive people as you are, for they live in colder climates.

“But when they begin to move in a given direction, they move with the steady momentum and perseverance of a mighty avalanche; and what I fear is, they will overwhelm the South.”

Four years later, on April 9, 1865, Houston’s warning became history.

Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse.

Huge sections of the South had been laid waste by Union troops and more than 258,000 Southerners had been killed.

The South had paid an expensive price for its fixation on ego.

Even more proved at risk a century later, when President John F. Kennedy faced off with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev.

In April, Kennedy had been humiliated at the Bay of Pigs when a CIA-sponsored invasion failed to overthrow the Cuba’s Fidel Castro.

So he was already on the defensive when he and Khrushchev met in Vienna.

Khrushchev pressed his advantage, threatening Kennedy with nuclear war unless the Americans abandoned their protection of West Berlin.

That August, faced with the embarrassment of East Berliners fleeing by the thousands into West Germany, the Soviet leader backed off from his threat.

In its place, he erected the infamous Berlin Wall, sealing off East and West Berlin.

Kennedy’s reaction: “That son of a bitch won’t pay any attention to words. He has to see you move.”

Then, most ominously: “If Khrushchev wants to rub my nose in the dirt, it’s all over.”

In short: Kennedy was prepared to incinerate the planet if he felt his almighty ego was about to get smacked.

Nuclear missile in silo

What has proved true for states and nations proves equally true for those leading every other type of institution.

Although most people like to believe they are guided by rationality and morality, all-too-often, what truly decides the course of events is their ego.

For pre-Civil War Southerners, it meant demanding that “Yankees” show respect for slave-owning society.  Otherwise, they would leave the Union.

For Kennedy, it meant playing a game of “chicken,” backed up with nuclear missiles, to show Khrushchev who Numero Uno really was.

It is well to keep these lessons from history in mind when making our own major decisions.

“A TEAM PLAYER”: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on April 9, 2014 at 12:01 am

In 1959,, J. Edgar Hoover, the legendary director of the FBI, declared war on the Mafia.

He set up a Top Hoodlum Program and encouraged his agents to use wiretapping and electronic surveillance (“bugging”) to make up for lost time and Intelligence.

But Hoover also imposed a series of restrictions that could destroy an agent’s professional and personal life.

William E. Roemer, Jr., assigned to the FBI’s Chicago field office, was one of the first agents to volunteer for such duty.

In his memoirs, Man Against the Mob, published in 1989, Roemer laid out the dangers that went with such work:

  1. If confronted by police or mobsters, agents were to try to escape without being identified.
  2. If caught by police, agents were not to identify themselves as FBI employees.
  3. They were to carry no badges, credentials or guns–or anything else connecting themselves with the FBI.
  4. If they were arrested by police and the truth emerged about their FBI employment, the Bureau would claim they were “rogue agents” acting on their own.
  5. Such agents were not to refute the FBI’s portrayal of them as “rogues.”

If he had been arrested by the Chicago Police Department and identified as an FBI agent, Roemer would have:

  1. Definitely been fired from his position as an FBI agent.
  2. Almost certainly been convicted for at least breaking and entering.
  3. Disbarred from the legal profession (Roemer was an attorney).
  4. Perhaps served a prison sentence.
  5. Been disgraced as a convicted felon.
  6. Been unable to serve in his chosen profession of law enforcement.

Given the huge risks involved, many agents, unsurprisingly, wanted nothing to do with “black bag jobs.”

The agents who took them on were so committed to penetrating the Mob that they willingly accepted Hoover’s dictates.

In 1989, Roemer speculated that former Marine Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North had fallen victim to such a “Mission: Impossible” scenario: “The secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions….”

In 1986, Ronald Reagan’s “arms-for-hostages” deal known as Iran-Contra had been exposed.

To retrieve seven Americans taken hostage in Beirut, Lebanon, Reagan had secretly agreed to sell some of America’s most sophisticated missiles to Iran.

During this operation, several Reagan officials–including North–diverted proceeds from the sale of those missiles to fund Reagan’s illegal war against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua.

In Roemer’s view: North had followed orders from his superiors without question.  But when the time came for those superiors to step forward and protect him, they didn’t.

They let him take the fall.

Roemer speculated that North had been led to believe he would be rescued from criminal prosecution.  Instead, in 1989, he was convicted for

  • accepting an illegal gratuity;
  • aiding and abetting in the obstruction of a congressional inquiry; and
  • ordering the destruction of documents via his secretary, Fawn Hall.

That is how many employers expect their employees to act: To carry out whatever assignments they are given and take the blame if anything goes wrong.

Take the case of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., the world’s biggest retailer.

In March, 2005, Wal-Mart escaped criminal charges when it agreed to pay $11 million to end a federal probe into its use of illegal aliens as janitors.

Agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raided 60 Wal-Mart stores across 21 states in October, 2003.  The raids led to the arrest of 245 illegal aliens.

Federal authorities had uncovered the cases of an estimated 345 illegal aliens contracted as janitors at Wal-Mart stores.

Many of the workers worked seven days or nights a week without overtime pay or injury compensation. Those who worked nights were often locked in the store until the morning.

According to Federal officials, court-authorized wiretaps revealed that Wal-Mart executives knew their subcontractors hired illegal aliens.

Once the raids began, Federal agents invaded the company’s headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., seizing boxes of records from the office of a mid-level executive.

Click here: Wal-Mart Settles Illegal Immigrant Case for $11M | Fox News

Of course, Wal-Mart admitted no wrongdoing in the case.  Instead, it blamed its subcontractors for hiring illegal aliens and claiming that Wal-Mart hadn’t been aware of this.

Which, of course, is nonsense.

Just as the FBI would have had no compunctions about letting its agents take the fall for following orders right from the pen of J. Edgar Hoover, Wal-Mart meant to sacrifice its subcontractors for doing precisely what the company’s executives wanted them to do.

The only reason Wal-Mart couldn’t make this work: The Feds had, for once, treated corporate executives like Mafia leaders and had tapped their phones.

Click here: Wal-Mart to review workers – Business – EVTNow

Which holds a lesson for how Federal law enforcement agencies should treat future corporate executives when their companies are found violating the law.

Instead of seeing CEOs as “captains of industry,” a far more realistic approach would be giving this term a new meaning: Corrupt Egotistical Oligarchs.

A smart investigator/prosecutor should always remember:

Widespread illegal and corrupt behavior cannot happen among the employees of a major government agency or private corporation unless:

  1. Those at the top have ordered it and are profiting from it; or
  2. Those at the top don’t want to know about it and have taken no steps to prevent or punish it.

“A TEAM PLAYER”: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on April 8, 2014 at 12:15 am

Recruiters for corporate America routinely claim they’re looking for “a team player.”

This sounds great–as though the corporation is seeking people who will get along with their colleagues and work to achieve a worthwhile objective.

And, at times, that is precisely what is being sought in a potential employee.

But, altogether too often, what the corporation means by “a team player” is what the Mafia means by “a real standup guy.”

That is: Someone willing to commit any crime for the organization–and take the fall for its leaders if anything goes wrong.

Consider this classic example from the files of America’s premier law enforcement agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

On November 14, 1957, 70 top Mafia leaders from across the country gathered at the estate of a fellow gangster, Joseph Barbara, in Apalachin, a small village in upstate New York.

The presence of so many cars with out-of-state license plates converging on an isolated mansion caught the attention of Edgar Crosswell, a sergeant in the New York State Police.

Crosswell assembled as many troopers as he could find, set up roadblocks, and swooped down on the estate.

The mobsters, panicked, fled in all directions–many of them into the surrounding woods.  Even so, more than 60 underworld bosses were arrested and indicted following the raid.

Perhaps the most significant result of the raid was the effect it had on J. Edgar Hoover, the legendary director of the FBI.

J. Edgar Hoover

Up to that point, Hoover had vigorously and vocally denied the existence of a nationwide Mafia.  He had been happy to leave pursuit of international narcotics traffickers to his hated rival, Harry Anslinger, director of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN).

But he had been careful to keep his own agency well out of the war on organized crime.

Several theories have been advanced as to why.

  1. Hoover feared that his agents–long renowned for their incorruptibility–would fall prey to the bribes  of well-heeled mobsters.
  2. Hoover feared that his allegedly homosexual relationship with his longtime associate director, Clyde Tolson, would be exposed by the Mob.  Rumors still persist that mobster Meyer Lansky came into possession of a compromising photo of Hoover and Tolson engaged in flagrante delicto.
  3. Hoover knew of the ties between moneyed mobsters and their political allies in Congress.  Hoover feared losing the goodwill of Congress for future–and ever-larger–appropriations for the FBI.
  4. Hoover preferred flashy, easily-solved cases to those requiring huge investments of manpower and money.

Whatever the reason, Hoover had, from the time he assumed directorship of the FBI in 1924, kept his agents far from the frontlines of the war against organized crime.

Suddenly, however, that was no longer possible.

The arrests of more than 60 known members of the underworld–in what the news media called “a conclave of crime”–deeply embarrassed Hoover.

It was all the more embarrassing that while the FBI had virtually nothing in its files on the leading lights of the Mafia, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics had opened its voluminous files to the Senate Labor Rackets Committee.

Heading that committee as chief legal counsel was Robert F. Kennedy–a fierce opponent of organized crime who, in 1961, would become Attorney General of the United States.

So Hoover created the Top Hoodlum Program (THP) to identify and target selected Mafiosi across the country.

Since the FBI had no networks of informants operating within the Mafia, Hoover fell back on a technique that had worked wonders against the Communist Party U.S.A.

He would wiretap the mobsters’ phones and plant electronic microphones (“bugs”) in their meeting places.

The information gained from these techniques would arm the Bureau with evidence that could be used to strongarm mobsters into “rolling over” on their colleagues in exchange for leniency.

Hoover believed he had authority to install wiretaps because more than one Attorney General had authorized their use.

But no Attorney General had given permission to install bugs–which involved breaking into the places where they were to be placed.  Such assignments were referred to within the Bureau as “black bag jobs.”

So, in making clear to his agent-force that he wanted an unprecedented war against organized crime, Hoover also made clear the following:

Before agents could install electronic surveillance (an ELSUR, in FBI-speak) devices in Mob hangouts, agents had to first request authority for a survey.  This would have to establish:

  1. That this was truly a strategic location;
  2. That the agents had a plan of attack that the Bureau could see was logical and potentially successful; and, most importantly of all
  3. That it could be done without any “embarrassment to the Bureau.”

According to former FBI agent William E. Roemer, Jr., who carried out many of these “black bag” assignments:

“The [last requirement] was always Mr. Hoover’s greatest concern: ‘Do the job, by God, but don’t ever let anything happen that might embarrass the Bureau.”

DEMOCRACY BECOMES A THUGOCRACY

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on April 7, 2014 at 12:07 am

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.

–Plutarch, Life of Alexander

In 1994, Newt Gingrich, then Speaker of the House of Representatives, shut down the Federal Government.

Officially, the reason was a budget impasse with President Bill Clinton.  Unofficially–and in reality–the reason was altogether different.

Clinton had forced him to sit in the back of Air Force One on a trip to Israel for the funeral of former prime minister Yitzhak Rabinl.

“This is petty,” Gingrich confessed to startled reporters. “I’m going to say up front it’s petty, But I think it’s human.

“When you land at Andrews [Air Force Base, in Washington, D.C.] and you’ve been on the plane for 25 hours and nobody has talked to you and they ask you to get off by the back ramp….

“You just wonder, where is their sense of manners, where is their sense of courtesy?”

Gingrich’s childish verbal tirade was a public relations disaster for the Republicans. “Cry Baby,” screamed the New York Daily News, next to a picture of Gingrich in a diaper.

When House Democrats brought a poster-sized image of the cartoon onto the floor, the Republican majority forced them to remove it.

But the damage was done, and Republicans paid a fearful price for the shutdown and Gingrich’s candor about the reason for it.

Fast forward 19 years later, and, once again, the public–and, most especially, federal employees–faced the hardships of another Republican-led government shutdown.

The official reason given by Republicans was: They wanted to save the country from the dangers of providing healthcare insurance to all Americans, not simply the wealthiest 1%.

To hear Republicans tell it, Obamacare–actually, the Affordable Care Act–would “destroy the medical system as we know it.”

The Act aims to:

  • Increase the quality and affordability of health insurance;
  • Lower the uninsured rate by expanding public and private insurance coverage;
  • Reduce the costs of healthcare for individuals and the government;
  • Forbid insurance companies the right to deny coverage for “pre-existing conditions”; and
  • Require employers with more than 50 employees to offer health insurance to their fulltime workers–or pay a large penalty.

Republicans also claimed that it would bankrupt the country–although the Congressional Budget Office stated that the ACA would lower future deficits and Medicare spending.

After passing the House and Senate, the ACA was signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 23, 2010.

On June 28, 2012, the United States Supreme Court–whose Chief Justice, John Roberts, is a Republican–upheld the constitutionality of the ACA,

Yet House Republicans continued searching for a way to stop the law from taking effect.  By September, 2013, they had voted 42 times to repeal “Obamacare.”

But their efforts achieved nothing, since the Democratic-led Senate refused to go along with such legislation.

Finally, unable to legally overturn the Act or to legislatively repeal it, House Republicans fell back on something much simpler.

Threats and fear.

Threats–of voting to shut down salaries paid to most Federal employees.

Most employees, because they themselves would continue to draw hefty salaries while they were denying them to FBI agents, air traffic controllers and members of the military, among others.

And fear–that would be generated throughout the Federal government, the United States and America’s international allies.

It was the my-way-or-else “negotiating” style of Adolf Hitler:  Do-as-I-say-or-I-will-destroy-you.

When Obama and Senate Democrats refused to knuckle under to yet another Republican extortion effort, House Republicans made good on their threat.

They shut down the government.

Republicans claimed that Obama and Senate Democrats were the ones who refused to see reason and negotiate.

By “negotiate,” they meant: Agree to Republican demands to de-fund “Obamacare.”

But then the unthinkable happened: A Republican gave away the real reason for the shutdown.

“We’re not going to be disrespected,” Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.) told the Washington Examiner. “We have to get something out of this.  And I don’t know what that even is.”

Marlin Stutzman

With Newt Gingrich, the real reason for the government shutdown was his petty ego.

A subsidiary reason was to bully President Clinton into gutting Republican-despised Federal programs to help the poor and middle-class.

Nineteen years later, Republicans–as admitted by Martlin Stutzman–were out to get “respect.”

And they were out to get it the same way a thuggish gang leader gets it: By demanding: “Do what I say or I’ll kill you.”

At the end of World War II, Americans tried to cleanse West Germany of its former Nazi leaders and their supporters.

Such thuggishness will continue unless, somehow, Americans cleanse their own government of those who “negotiate” Nazi-Republican style.

NO SENSE OF DECENCY

In Bureaucracy, Politics, Social commentary on April 4, 2014 at 12:05 am

“Senator, may we not drop this?….You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

The speaker was Joseph N. Welch, chief counsel for the United States Army–then under investigation by Joseph McCarthy’s Senate Permanent Submittee on Investigations for alleged Communist activities.

It was June 9, 1954, the 30th day of the Army-McCarthy hearings.

And it was the pivotal moment that finally destroyed the career of the Wisconsin Senator whose repeated slanders of Communist subversion had bullied and frightened Americans for four years.

Joseph R. McCarthy

When the Senate gallery erupted in applause, McCarthy–totally surprised at his sudden reverse of fortune–was finished.

Today, however, other Americans could stand to remember the question asked by Welch: “At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

Americans like Herman Cain.

Herman Cain

On January 28, 2012, he threw whatever support he might still among the radical right to GOP Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich.

Newt Gingrich

Appearing with Gingrich at a Republican fundraiser, Cain said: “Speaker Gingrich is a patriot. Speaker Gingrich is not afraid of bold ideas.

“I don’t care about where he stands in the polls.  And whether my endorsement helps him or not, that’s not the point.

“It’s to let my supporters know that he is the closest to what I represented when I was still a candidate.”

“The closest to what I represented when I was still a candidate”?  That’s hardly a compliment.

Cain withdrew from the race in December, 2011–after four women charged him with sexual harassment during his tenure as CEO of the National Restaurant Association.

Gingrich, a notorious serial adulterer, twice began affairs and issued marriage proposals while he was still married to his first and second wives.

Then there’s Donald Trump.

Donald Trump

On April 17, 2011, toying with the idea of entering the Presidential race himself, he said this about Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and GOP candidate:

“He’d buy companies. He’d close companies. He’d get rid of jobs.  I’ve built a great company.  I’m a much bigger businessman and have a much, much bigger net worth.

“I mean my net worth is many, many, many times Mitt Romney.

“Mitt Romney is a basically small-business guy, if you really think about  it. He was a hedge fund. He was a funds guy.

“He walked away with some money from a very good company that he didn’t create. He worked there. He didn’t create  it.”

Trump added that Bain Capital, the hedge fund where Romney made millions of dollars before running for governor, didn’t create any jobs.

Whereas Trump claimed that he–Trump–had created “hundreds of thousands of jobs.”

So at least some observers must have been puzzled when Trump announced, on February 2, 2012: “It’s my honor, real honor, and privilege to endorse Mitt Romney” for President.

“Mitt is tough, he’s smart, he’s sharp, he’s not going to allow bad things to continue to happen to this country that we all love. So, Governor Romney, go out and get ‘em. You can do it,” said Trump.

Mitt Romney

And Romney, in turn, had his own swooning-girl moment: “I’m so honored to have his endorsement….There are some things that you just can’t imagine in your life. This is one of them.”

Clearly, the word “hypocrisy” means nothing to men like Cain, Gingrich, Trump and Romney.  But it should mean something to the rest of us.

In samurai Japan, officials who publicly disgraced themselves knew what to do.  The samurai code of seppeku told them when they had crossed the line into eternal disgrace.

And it gave them a way to redeem their lost honor: With a small “belly-cutting” knife and the help of trusted assistant who sliced off their head to spare them the agonizing pain of disembowelment.

In the armies of America and Europe, the method was slightly different: A pistol in a private room.

Considering the ready availability of firearms among right-wing Republicans, redeeming lost honor shouldn’t be a problem for any of these men.

But of course it will be.  It takes more than a trigger-pull to “do the right thing.”  It takes insight to recognize that you’ve “done the wrong thing.”   And it takes courage to act on that insight.

In men who live only for their own egos and wallets, such insight and courage will be forever missing.   They are beyond redemption.  Their lives give proof to the warning offered in Matthew 7: 17-20:

“Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.  A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.

“Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”

THE FIRST RULE OF BUREAUCRACIES

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on April 3, 2014 at 12:09 am

After spending years of his life sexually abusing boys entrusted into his care, Jerry Sandusky will likely spend the rest of his life as a prison inmate.

On October 9, 2012, a Pennsylvania judge sentenced the 68-year-old former Penn State assistant football coach  to at least 30 years in prison.  And he may spend as many as 60 years behind bars.

Following his conviction on June 22, 2012, he had faced a maximum of 400 years’ imprisonment for his sexual abuse of 10 boys over a 15-year period.

Jerry Sandusky (middle) in police custody

After the sentencing decision was announced, Penn State University President Rodney Erickson released a statement:

“Our thoughts today, as they have been for the last year, go out to the victims of Jerry Sandusky’s abuse.

“While today’s sentence cannot erase what has happened, hopefully it will provide comfort to those affected by these horrible events and help them continue down the road to recovery.”

No doubt Erickson–and the rest of Penn State–wants to move on from this shameful page in the university’s history.  And the university has desperately tried to sweep the sordid scandal out of sight of the ticket-paying public–and of history:

  • It fired Joe Paterno, the legendary head football coach who had led Penn State to a staggering 112 victories.
  • It ousted Graham Spanier, the university’s longtime president.
  • And it removed the iconic statue of Paterno–long held in worshipful esteem by almost everyone at the football-obsessed institution.

So what remains to be learned from this sordid affair?

A great deal, it turns out.

To begin at the beginning:

In 2002, assistant coach Mike McQueary, then a Penn State graduate assistant, walked in on Sandusky anally raping a 10-year-old boy.  The next day, McQueary reported the incident to head coach Paterno.

“You did what you had to do,” said Paterno.  “It is my job now to figure out what we want to do.”

Paterno’s idea of “what we want to do” consisted of reporting the incident to three other top Penn State officials:

Their idea of “what we want to do” was to close ranks around Sandusky and engage in a diabolical “code of silence.”

As former FBI Director Louis J. Freeh summed up in an internal investigative report compiled at the request of Penn State and released on July 12:

“Four of the most powerful people at the Pennsylvania State University–President Graham B. Spanier, Senior Vice President-Finance and Business Gary C. Schultz, Athletic Director Timothy M. Curley and Head Football Coach Joseph V. Paterno–failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade.

“These men concealed Sandusky’s activities from the board of trustees, the university community and authorities.

Louis Freeh

Louis J. Freeh

“They exhibited a striking lack of empathy for Sandusky’s victims by failing to inquire as to their safety and well-being, especially by not attempting to determine the identity of the child who Sandusky assaulted in the Lasch Building in 2001.

“… In order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity, the most powerful leaders at the University….repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky’s child abuse from the authorities, the University’s Board of Trustees, the Penn State community, and the public at large.

“The avoidance of the consequences of bad publicity is the most significant, but not the only, cause for this failure to protect child victims and report to authorities.”

If there is a fundamental truth to be learned from this sordid affair, it is this: The first rule of any and every bureaucracy is:

ABOVE ALL ELSE, THE INSTITUTION MUST BE PROTECTED.

And this holds true:

  • At the level of local / state / Federal government;
  • For-profit organizations;
  • Non-profit organizations; or
  • Religious institutions

During the 48-year reign of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, agents had their own version of this: Do not embarrass the Bureau.

Thus we have seen countless Catholic priests abusing young boys entrusted to their protection–only to be repeatedly protected by high-ranking authorities within the Catholic Church.

We have seen whistleblowers who report rampant safety violations in nuclear power plants ignored by the very regulatory agencies the public counts on to prevent catastrophic accidents.

Imperfect institutions staffed by perfect men obsessed with power, money and fame–and fearful of losing one or all of these–can never be expected to act otherwise.

And those who do expect ordinary mortals to behave like extraordinary saints will be forever disappointed.

So how can we at least minimize such outrages in the future?

“Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom,” warned Thomas Jefferson.  And it remains as true today as it did more than 200 years ago.

Add to this the more recent adage: “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.”

The more we know about how our institutions actually work–as opposed to how they want us to believe they work–the more chance we have to control their behavior.  And to check their abuses when they occur.

Which they will.

COUNTERING CORPORATE THREATS: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, Entertainment, Law, Politics, Social commentary on April 2, 2014 at 12:02 am

The events unfolding in Maryland provide yet another reason why America needs a nationwide Employers Responsibility Act (ERA).

Several weeks before the second season of “House of Cards” debued online, its producers sent Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley a threatening letter.

The Netflix series focuses on an unscrupulous politician–played by Kevin Spacey–who manipulates, threatens and even murders to gain revenge and power

True to the character of that fictitious politician, Frank Underwood, the letter warned: Give us millions more dollars in tax credits, or we will “break down our stage, sets and offices and set up in another state.”

During the legislature’s hearing on March 28, the following exchange occurred:

DELEGATE C. WILLIAM FRICK: It sounds like you are suggesting that they wouldn’t film Season 3 here after we’ve given them $31 million already.

Is it possible that they would just leave after we gave them $31 million?

DOMINICK E. MURRAY, SECRETARY OF THE STATE DEPARTMENT OF BUSINESS AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: We hope that they won’t.

DELEGATE MARK N. FISHER: We’re almost being held for ransom.

Click here: ‘House of Cards’ threatens to leave if Maryland comes up short on tax credits – The Washington Post

A nationwide Employers Responsibility Act would address such behavior–and a series of other 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.

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 expected to show in seeking work.

One of its provisions would strictly forbid the seeking of “economic incentives” by companies in return for moving to moving to or remaining in cities/states.

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.

Employers who made 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.

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.

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