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T(OBACCO) PARTY UNVEILED: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics on September 17, 2014 at 12:07 am

“Should Barack Obama Be Impeached?” shouts the headline on the Right-wing website of TeaParty.org.

“A fake birth certificate, the Benghazi attack, the IRS scandal, National Security invasions on privacy….Many are questioning Obama’s competence.  Should Congress initiate impeachment proceedings?

“What do you think?”

Click here: Teaparty.org — Should Barack Obama be Impeached?

Then the site offers this in tribute to its sponsor:

“TeaParty.org, one of America’s leading websites and top online news sources is conducting a poll about an important issue.

“The results of these polls will be published online and are shared with major news networks and policymakers.

“Don’t miss this opportunity to let your voice be heard!

“Vote today!”

The viewer is then given two questions to answer.

The first is:  “Should Barack Obama be impeached?”

The website offers three possible answers for the visitor to choose:

  1. “Yes, the events are now overwhelming.”
  2. “No, these do not meet the threshold of high crimes and misdemeanors.”
  3. “Not sure, still waiting to review the evidence.”

The second question is: “Whom do you believe has better solutions for the nation’s problems?”

It, too, provides three possible answers:

  1. “Conservatives”
  2. “Liberals”
  3. “Neither.”

The website omits a number of truths–about both President Barack Obama and the Tea Party itself.

Let’s start with its first charge against Obama: “A false birth certificate.”

The election of Barack Obama pushed the Right to new heights of infamy. With no political scandal (such as Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky) to fasten on, the Republican Party deliberately promoted the slander that Obama was not an American citizen.

From this there could be only one conclusion: That he was an illegitimate President, and should be removed from office.

President Barack Obama

During the 2008 Presidential campaign, Republicans charged that Obama was really a Muslim non-citizen who intended to sell out America’s security to his Muslim “masters.”

And this smear campaign continued throughout his Presidency.

To the dismay of his enemies, Obama–in the course of a single week–dramatically proved the falsity of both charges.

On April 27, 2011, he released the long-form of his Hawaii birth certificate.

The long-form version of President Obama’s birth certificate

“We do not have time for this kind of silliness,” said Obama at a press conference, speaking as a father might to a roomful of spiteful children. “We have better stuff to do. I have got better stuff to do. We have got big problems to solve.

“We are not going to be able to do it if we are distracted, we are not going to be able to do it if we spend time vilifying each other…if we just make stuff up and pretend that facts are not facts, we are not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by side shows and carnival barkers.”

And on May 1, he announced the solving of one of those “big problems”: Osama bin Laden, mastermind of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, had been tracked down and shot dead by elite U.S. Navy SEALS in Pakistan.

Then there’s the second Tea Party charge: “The Benghazi attack.”

A total of four Americans died in a terrorist attack on the American diplomatic consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012.

Whereas a total of 3,000 Americans died in the Al Qaeda attacks of September 11, 2001.  But those occurred on the watch of a white Republican President, so naturally no treason charges were invoked by the Right.

The third accusation: “The IRS scandal.”

In 2013, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) disclosed that it had selected political groups applying for tax-exempt status for intensive scrutiny based on their names or political themes.

Although Right-wingers have claimed that their political organizations were exclusively targeted by the IRS, the agency opened investigations based on such trigger-words as:

  • Tea Party
  • Patriots
  • 9/12 Project
  • progressive
  • occupy
  • Israel
  • medical marijuana

“While some of the IRS questions may have been overbroad, you can look at some of these groups and understand why these questions were being asked,” said Ohio State University law professor Donald Tobin.

In January, 2014, the FBI announced that it had found no evidence warranting the filing of federal criminal charges in connection with the scandal.

No evidence has come to light suggesting that President Obama was responsible for the IRS’s actions.

Finally, there is the Tea Party charge that Obama is guilty of “National Security Agency (NSA) invasions on privacy.”

This totally ignores that it was former President George W. Bush who, after 9/11, ordered the NSA to vastly increase its electronic-interception capabilities.

No longer would the agency be confined to spying on calls outside the United States.   From now on, it would target Americans who might be linked to international terror cells.

As for the website’s claim: “Many are questioning Obama’s competence”:

While this is true–among those on the Right and Left–it misses the essential legal point:  Even if true, “incompetence” is not a legitimate impeachable offense.

And no evidence has come forth to indict the President for “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE NEXT 9/11: HOW IT WILL HAPPEN: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on September 16, 2014 at 12:09 am

All security systems–including those considered the best–are manned by humans.  And humans are and will always be imperfect creatures.

So there will inevitably be times when security agents will miss the assassin or terrorist intent on mayhem.  For example:

  • In September, 1975, two women–Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme and Sara Jane Moore–tried to assassinate President Gerald Ford.
  • Fromme was tackled by a Secret Service agent.  Moore’s aim was deflected by Oliver Sipple, a Marine and Vietnam veteran, thus saving Ford’s life.

Gerald Ford being hustled from danger by Secret Service agents

Until these incidents, the Secret Service profile of a potential assassin didn’t include a woman.

  • On March 30, 1981, John W. Hinckley, a psychotic obsessed with actress Jodie Foster, gained access to a line of reporters waiting to throw questions at President Ronald Reagan.
  • As Reagan got into the Presidential limousine, Hinckley opened fire.  Wounded, Reagan escaped death by inches.

 

The Reagan assassination attempt

The Secret Service had failed to prevent the attack because no one–until that moment–had attacked a President from the section reserved for newsmen.

  • On September 11, 2001, Islamic terrorists armed with boxcutters highjacked four American jetliners and turned them into fuel-bombs.
  • Two of the airliners struck the North and South towers of the World Trade Center, destroying both structures.
  • A third hit the Pentagon.
  • The fourth–United Airlines Flight 93–crashed when it was diverted from its intended target (the White House or Congress) by passengers who resolved to fight back.
  • Three thousand Americans died that day–in New York City, Washington, D.C. and Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Until this day of catastrophes, no highjacker had turned a jumbo-jet into a fuel-bomb. Passengers had been advised to cooperate with highjackers, not resist them. 

As terrorists say, referring to anti-terrorism security services: “You have to be lucky all the time. We have to be lucky only once.”

So how will the next 9/11 happen?

In all likelihood, like this:

A terrorist–or, more likely, several terrorists–will sign up for one or more of these “VIP screening” programs.

They will be completely clean–no arrests, no convictions.  They may well be respectable citizens in their communities.

They will probably have amassed enough “frequent flier miles” to ingratiate themselves with the airlines and convince the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) of their integrity.

They will breeze through their selected airports

  • Without removing shoes and belts;
  • Without undergoing pat-downs;
  • Without being required to remove laptops and other electronic devices from their carry-ons;
  • Without exposing their electronic devices to x-ray technology.

Then they will board planes–either as part of an individual terrorist effort or a coordinated one, a la 9/11.

And then it will be too late.

Memorial to the passengers and crew of United Flight 93

The TSA/airlines’ VIP programs are based on the assumption that someone who has completed a security check in the past need not be checked in the future.

This assumption has proven false for American Intelligence agencies such as the FBI and CIA.

  • Robert Hanssen, a former FBI agent, spied for Soviet and Russian intelligence services for 22 years (1979 – 2001).  He’s now serving a life prison term in Florence, Colorado.
  • Aldrich Ames, a former CIA agent, betrayed American secrets to Soviet and Russian espionage agencies from 1985 to 1994.  He is likewise serving a life sentence.

Even requiring an agent to undergo repeated security checks is no guarantee of trustworthiness.

When asked about how he repeatedly passed CIA polygraph tests, Ames said, “There’s no special magic. Confidence is what does it. Confidence and a friendly relationship with the examiner. Rapport, where you smile and you make him think that you like him.”

Now think about that–and then consider this:

The TSA introduced its Pre-Check program during the fall of 2011.  By May, 2012, more than 820,000 travelers had received expedited security since the start of the program.

In early September, 2013, TSA announced that it would more than double its expedited screening program, PreCheck, from 40 to 100 airports by the end of the year.

Nor is TSA the only organization giving big-spending fliers special treatment at potential risk to their country.   For example:

  • Delta Air Lines offers  Sky Priority, described as providing “privileged access through security checkpoints” at select airports.
  • Another private security program, Clear, collects several pieces of biometric data on well-heeled passengers as a screening measure at the airport.  Once verified by a kiosk local to the security checkpoint, the passengers are allowed to skirt the security barriers  that poor and middle-class folks must pass through.
  • Then there is Priority Access, set up by TSA and the airlines.  This provides expedited service to first-class and business passengers.   To qualify, you need only possess certain credit cards–such as the United Mileage Plus Club Card.

Some critics blast this two-tier passenger check-in system as an affront to democratic principles.

“It’s stratifying consumers by class and wealth, because the people who travel a lot usually have higher incomes,” says Ralph Nader, consumer advocate and frequent business traveler.

But there is an even more important reason to disband these programs and require everyone–rich and middle-class alike–to undergo the same level of security screening:

The three thousand men and women who died horifically on September 11, 2001, at the hands of airline passengers whom authorities thought could be trusted to board a plane.

 

 

THE NEXT 9/11: HOW IT WILL HAPPEN: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on September 15, 2014 at 2:18 am

Thirteen years after 9/11, America is now selling its Islamic enemies access to the very weapons–jet-fueled airplanes–they need to wage jihad against us.

World Trade Center on September 11, 2001

This is happening thanks to the greed of American airline corporations and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

Essentially, it comes down to this:  Wealthy Americans hate waiting in long airport security lines.

But wealthy Americans–unlike poor and middle-class Americans–have lots of money to spend.

So they’re willing to shell out a good portion of it to the airlines and TSA so they won’t have to stand in line with the unworthy peasants.

And the airlines and TSA are happy to scoop up that money in return for giving these self-important Richie-Riches preferred treatment.

Even if this comes at the security of the nation they claim to love.

Consider the following:

TSA offers Pre-Check, a program from the Department of Homeland Security.  It’s for frequent fliers of many airlines.

According to the TSA’s website, here’s how it works:

  • An applicant must be a U.S. citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) and cannot have been convicted of certain crimes. If an applicant has a record of any of the crimes identified in the eligibility requirements, they may choose not to apply, as the application fee is nonrefundable.
  • Interested applicants must visit an application center to provide biographic information that includes name, date of birth and address. An applicant will be fingerprinted and will be required to provide valid required identity and citizenship/immigration documentation. An applicant also has the option to pre-enroll online to provide basic information and make an appointment before visiting an application center. There is a nonrefundable application processing fee of $85.
  • After completing enrollment, successful applicants will receive a Known Traveler Number (KTN) via U.S. mail approximately 2-3 weeks following the visit to the application center. An applicant also may check status online by visiting https://universalenroll.dhs.gov/ and clicking on “Service Status.” The Known Traveler Number is valid for five years.
  • Once approved as eligible for TSA Pre✓™, the enrollee must enter the provided KTN in the ‘Known Traveler Number’ field when booking travel reservations on any of the ten participating airlines.  The KTN also can be added when booking reservations online via a participating airline website, via phone call to the airline reservation center, or with the travel management company making reservations.  Additionally, the KTN can be entered in participating airline frequent flyer profiles, where it will be stored for future reservations.

Click here: TSA Pre?™ Application Program | Transportation Security Administration

The website further notes: “TSA is accepting applications at more than 300 locations nationwide, including 26 airports.”

And what does a Pre-Check passenger get in return for his $85 registration fee?

  • S/he is allowed to go through a special line at security with reduced screening.
  • Shoes, jackets and belts need not be removed.
  • Many electronics (including laptops) can be left in their carry-on.
  • Magnetometers (metal detecting scanners) are used instead of advanced imaging technology.

Here’s the difference between a scan by a magnetometer and one using advanced imaging technology:

If you’re trying to carry a metallic firearm aboard a plane, the magnetometer will likely pick it up.  But if you’ve filled your computer with plastic explosive, the magnetometer won’t pick it up.

Or maybe you want to prove a more successful shoe-bomber than Richard Reid, who tried to blow up an American Airlines flight in 2001.

Being allowed to skip the requirement to remove your shoes will certainly take you a long way toward reaching your goal.

Of course, TSA isn’t alone in wanting to make money from deep-pockets passengers.  The airlines have also been quick to get in on the act.

Most airlines make it possible for frequent-flier passengers to acquire elite status–for a price.

Passengers having any one of the following elite status are eligible for this benefit:

Delta: Gold Medallion, Platinum Medallion and Diamond Medallion members
United: Premier Silver, Premier Gold, Premier Platinum, Premier 1K members
American: AAdvantage Gold, AAdvantage Platinum, and AAdvantage Executive Platinum members
USAirways: Silver Preferred, Gold Preferred, Platinum Preferred, and Chairman’s Preferred members
Southwest: A-List and A-List Preferred members
Alaska: MVP, MVP Gold, and MVP Gold 75 members
Jetblue: TrueBlue Mosaic members and those seated in Even More Space seats
Virigin America: Elevate Silver and Elevate Gold members

Click here: Travel Tuesday Top 10: Ways To Get Through Airport Security Faster in the US | The Points Guy

Yes, the greed of corporations and government agencies is partly responsible for this disgraceful–and highly dangerous–situation.

And so is the belief among the wealthy that they are the elect, and thus deserve special consideration.

But there is another factor at work here: The Calvinistic belief–shared by most Americans–that wealth is a sign of God’s favor, and thus proof that its holder is worthy of deference, if not awe.

In combination, they are steadily moving this nation closer to the day of the next 9/11 disaster.

MOVIES: A SELF-DESTRUCTIVE INDUSTRY

In Bureaucracy, Business, Entertainment, History, Social commentary on September 4, 2014 at 11:16 pm

On August 31, the Huffington Post ran a story about trouble in Hollywood, under the headline: “Film Industry Has Worst Summer since 1997.”

Little more than one month earlier–on July 22–a headline in the Hollywood Reporter had offered this insight into moviedom’s current woes: “Average Movie Ticket Price Hits $8.33 in Second Quarter.”

Click here: Average Movie Ticket Price Hits $8.33 in Second Quarter

Movie Theater

It’s hard to think of an industry that’s created a better recipe for self-destruction than the movie business.

Consider the following:

According to Rentrak, a company that keeps tabs on box office profits:

  • Ticket sales to movie theaters in the U.S. and Canada are expected to sink to $3.9 billion.
  • In July, movie ticket sales were down 30%.
  • That’s a 15% decline in movie revenues when compared to those racked up during the summer of 2013.
  • For the first time in 13 years, no summer film netted $300 million in domestic ticket sales.

Among this summer’s films that disappointed movie studios:

  • “The Expendables 3″
  • “Planes:  Fire and Rescue”
  • “Amazing Spider Man 2″
  • “Sex Tape”
  • “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For”
  • “Edge of Tomorrow”
  • “Transformers: Age of Extinction”
  • “How to Train Your Dragon 2″

Click here: Film Industry Has Worst Summer Since 1997

Analysts had predicted a drop-off in movie attendance owing to increased use of online streaming.  They also expected major television events like the World’s Cup to keep moviegoers indoors.

But they didn’t expect the summer of 2014 to prove the worst in ticket sales since 1997.

Which is outrageous.  The wonder is that the movie business hasn’t collapsed already.

It’s hard to think of an industry more geared toward its own destruction than the movie business.

First, there’s the before-mentioned average ticket price of $8.33.  You don’t have to be an Einstein at math to multiply $8.33 by, say, a husband, wife, and two to four children.

So a couple with two children can expect to spend at least $33.32 just to get into the theater.  A couple with four children will be gouged $49.98 for a single movie’s entertainment.

And that’s not including the marked-up prices charged for candy, soda and popcorn at the concession stand.

Second, it’s almost guaranteed that even the biggest potential movie “draw” will be released on DVD or streaming within three to six months after it hits theaters.

So if you need to save enough money each month to meet the rent and other basic needs, you’re likely to wait it out for the DVD to  hit stores.  Wait even longer than six months, and you can probably buy a cheaper used DVD.

With that, you can watch your new favorite movie as many times as you want–without being charged bigtime every time you do so.

This is especially tempting to those with big-screen TVs, whose prices have steadily fallen and are now affordable by almost everyone.

Third, there used to be an unspoken agreement between theaters and moviegoers: We’ll pay a fair price to see one movie.  In return, we don’t expect to see TV-like commercials.

Naturally, that didn’t include previews of coming attractions.  These have been a widely enjoyed part of the movie experience since the 1930s.

But starting in 2003, theaters began aiming commercials at their customers before even the previews came on.  Some industry sources believe cinema advertising generates over $200 million a year in sales.

Click here: Now showing at a theatre near you – Louisville – Business First

But for those who feel they’ve already suffered enough at the ticket booth, being forced to watch TV-style ads is simply too much.

Fourth, while some theaters provide lush seating and special help for their customers (such as closed-captioning for the deaf) many others do not.

At AMC theaters, an onscreen advisory tells you to seek help if you need it.   But your chances of finding an available usher range from slim to none at most theaters.

To sum it up: What was once thought a special experience has become a jarring assault on the pocketbook and senses.

Just as airlines are now widely considered to be “flying buses,” so, too are movie theaters fast becoming expensive TV sets for moviegoers.

In the 1950s and 1960s, theaters lured customers from small-screen TVs with film spectacles like “Ben Hur” and “Spartacus”.”  Or with new “you-are-there” film experiments like Cinnemascope.

“Family-friendly” movies like “Mary Poppins” and “The Sound of Music” proved box-office champs with millions.

But now theaters have allowed their greed–for high ticket prices, quick-release DVDs and/or streaming and TV-style ads–to drive much of their audiences away.

Unless the owners of movie studios–and movie theaters–quickly smarten up, the motion picture business may ultimately became a pale shadow of its former Technicolor self.

SPHERES OF INFLUENCE: OURS AND THEIRS

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics on August 21, 2014 at 10:27 pm

It didn’t take much for American Right-wingers to start salivating–and celebrating.

All it took was for Russia to move troops into its neighboring territories of Ukraine and Crimea.

Ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the American Right has felt dejected.  Accusing Democrats of being “terrorist-lovers” just hasn’t been as profitable as accusing them of being “Communists.”

The torch had barely gone out at the much-ballyhooed Sochi Olympics when Russian President Vladimir Putin began menacing the Ukraine.

Even while the Olympics played out on television, Ukrainians had rioted in Kiev and evicted their corrupt, luxury-loving president, Victor Yanukovych.

And this, of course, didn’t sit well with his “sponsor”–Putin.

Yanukovych had rejected a pending European Union association agreement.  He had chosen instead to pursue a Russian loan bailout and closer ties with Russia.

And that had sat well with Putin.

Since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, Putin had yearned for a reestablishment of the same.  He had called that breakup “the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th century.”

So it was almost a certainty that, when his chosen puppet, Yanukovych, was sent packing, Putin would find some way to retaliate.

And since late February, he has done so, gradually moving Russian troops into Ukraine and its autonomous republic, Crimea.

By late March, it was clear that Russia had sufficient forces in both Ukraine and Crimea to wreak any amount of destruction Putin may wish to inflict.

And where there is activity by Russians, there are American Rightists eager–in Shakespeare’s words–to “cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war.”

Or at least to use such events to their own political advantage.

Right-wingers such as Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachussetts who lost the 2012 Presidential election by a wide margin to Barack Obama.

“There’s no question but that the president’s naiveté with regards to Russia,” said Romney on March 23.

“And unfortunately, not having anticipated Russia’s intentions, the president wasn’t able to shape the kinds of events that may have been able to prevent the kinds of circumstances that you’re seeing in the Ukraine, as well as the things that you’re seeing in Syria.”

All of which overlooks a number of brutal political truths.

First, all great powers have spheres of interest–and jealously guard them.

For the United States, it’s Latin and Central America, as established by the Monroe Doctrine.

And just what is the Monroe Doctrine?

It’s a statement made by President James Monroe in his 1823 annual message to Congress, which warned European powers not to interfere in the affairs of the Western Hemisphere.

It has no other legitimacy than the willingness of the United States to use armed force to back it up.  When the United States no longer has the will or resources to enforce the Doctrine, it will cease to have meaning.

For the Soviet Union, its spheres of influence include the Ukraine.  Long known as “the breadbasket of Russia,”  in 2011, it was the world’s third-largest grain exporter.

Russia will no more give up access to that breadbasket than the United States would part with the rich farming states of the Midwest.

Second, spheres of influence often prove disastrous to those smaller countries affected.

Throughout Latin and Central America, the United States remains highly unpopular for its brutal use of “gunboat diplomacy” during the 20th century.

Among those countries invaded or controlled by America: Cuba, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Columbia, Panama, the Dominican Republic.

The resulting anger has led many Latin and Central Americans to support Communist Cuba, even though its political oppression and economic failure are universally apparent.

Similarly, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.) forced many nations–such as Poland, Hungary and Czechoslavakia–to submit to the will of Moscow.

The alternative?  The threat of Soviet invasion–as occurred in Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslavakia in 1968.

Third, even “great powers” are not all-powerful.

In 1949, after a long civil war, the forces of Mao Tse-tung defeated the Nationalist armies of Chaing Kai-Shek, who withdrew to Taiwan.

China had never been a territory of the United States.  Nor could the United States have prevented Mao from defeating the corrupt, ineptly-led Nationalist forces.

Even so, Republican Senators and Representatives such as Richard Nixon and Joseph McCarthy eagerly blamed President Harry S. Truman and the Democrats for “losing China.”

The fear of being accused of “losing” another country led Presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon to tragically commit the United States to “roll back” Communism in Cuba and Vietnam.

Now Republicans–who claim the United States can’t afford to provide healthcare for its poorest citizens–want to turn the national budget over to the Pentagon.

They want the United States to “intervene” in Syria–even though this civil war pits Al Qaeda and Hezbollah, two of America’s greatest enemies, against each other.

They want the United States to “intervene” in Ukraine–even though this would mean going to war with the only nuclear power capable of turning America into an atomic graveyard.

Before plunging into conflicts that don’t concern us and where there is absolutely nothing to “win,” Americans would do well to remember the above-stated lessons of history.  And to learn from them.

HIPPOCRATIC OATH–OR JUST HYPOCRITES?

In Bureaucracy, Business, Medical, Social commentary on August 12, 2014 at 9:02 pm

A friend of mine–I’ll call him Sam–recently broke his big toe.

But Sam has a bigger problem than his big toe.  He’s on Medi-Cal, the California medical plan for the poor.

And if you think the nation’s veterans have it bad, try getting medical care when doctors refuse to honor your insurance.

After breaking his toe while tripping over a bag, Sam went to his regular doctor, a general internist at California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC) in San Francisco.

The doctor examined Sam’s toe and said he was worried.  It was a big fracture, and if the bones didn’t knit together properly, Sam could be in for big trouble.

So he advised Sam to see an orthopedic surgeon.

Luckily for Sam, said his doctor, there was one close by in the same office.  The doctor would ask him to check out Sam’s injury then and there.

Unluckily for Sam, he was on Medi-Cal--and the orthopedic surgeon refused to honor his insurance and see him.

Sam’s doctor sent him home, saying, “I’ll try to find someone as soon as I can.”

At home, Sam called Anthem Blue Cross, the private insurance company now providing coverage to the poor under the state Medi-Cal program.

The Anthem representative soon emailed Sam a list of Anthem Blue Cross orthopedic surgeons who would supposedly accept his insurance.

He then printed out the list on his computer.

Sam then made another phone call–to the office of Dr. Vernon L. Giang,  Chief Medical Executive for CPMC.

There he spoke with an assistant to Dr. Giang.  He explained his difficulties in getting medical care at CPMC.

He added that he had obtained a 14-page list of Anthem-Blue Cross-approved orthopedic surgeons who should be willing to accept his insurance.

The assistant said she would gladly check out the list for any doctors affiliated with CPMC.

But there was a problem.

Sam needed to fax her the information–and Sam didn’t have a fax machine.

Nevertheless, Sam hobbled several blocks to a nearby Kinko’s/FedEx office, which had fax machines.

The next morning, Sam called Dr. Giang’s office.  He reached the same assistant, who told him that the faxed material had come in.

The bad news: There wasn’t a single doctor on that list whom she had called who would accept Sam’s insurance.

In addition, some of the doctors were “out of our plan.”   Which meant that even if they had been willing to accept Sam’s insurance, he couldn’t have seen them.

The assistant was polite and sympathetic, but candid: CPMC’s doctors aren’t required to treat any patient whose insurance they dislike.

In fact, CPMC cannot demand that they do so, since the doctors who are practice under its name are considered “independent practitioners.”

So Sam aimed higher.  He phoned the office of Dr. Warren S. Browner, the CEO of California Pacific Medical Center.

But he didn’t reach Browner–or even a secretary.

As a rule, when you call a giant corporation and ask to speak with its CEO, this doesn’t happen.  But what usually does happen is that you’re put through to the executive offices.

You won’t speak with the CEO, but you’ll usually reach a secretary for him.  And if your message is one that poses legal or public relations disaster for the company, the odds are excellent that you’ll soon get a call back.

Not from the CEO (except in rare cases) but from someone deputized to speak in his name–and to probably address your problem.

But, in this case, there was no secretary to answer the phone for Dr. Browner.  Just a message machine.  So Sam left an urgent message, outlining his difficulties in getting medical care from CPMC.

No one from Dr. Browner’s office called him back that day.

Meanwhile, the pain in Sam’s foot was getting worse.  So, later that day, he hobbled into an emergency room of CMPC.

A doctor examined Sam’s foot and ordered several X-rays taken of the broken toe. After examining these, he told Sam what he already knew: The toe was broken.

He also warned that if it wasn’t treated properly, Sam could have great pain–such as from arthritis–in the future.

Sam explained how he had been unable to get an orthopedic surgeon to look at his toe.

The doctor said he would try to find one who would.

Sam waited in the ER for almost four hours.  When he finally saw the doctor again, the latter seemed embarrassed to give him the bad news.

He hadn’t been any more successful than Sam at finding a CPMC orthopedic surgeon willing to treat Sam’s injury.

When Sam asked what he should do, the ER doctor said that “time” would take care of the injury.

The website for CPMC boasts: “At California Pacific Medical Center, our mission is to always give each patient the personal, hands-on attention they deserve.”

Unless, of course, all of its doctors in a particular specialty refuse to honor the patient’s medical insurance.

NO “VICTORY THROUGH AIR POWER” IN IRAQ

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on August 11, 2014 at 9:02 am

With forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) launching a blitzkreig throughout Iraq, President Barack Obama seems to have caught the “Victory Through Airpower” disease.

ISIS has thrown the American-trained Iraqi Army into a panic, with soldiers dropping their rifles and running for their lives.

This has led Republicans to accuse the President of being about to “lose” Iraq.

As a result, Obama has shipped at least 300 American “advisors” to Iraq to provide support and security for U.S. personnel and the American Embassy in Baghdad.

And on August 7 he authorized “limited airstrikes” against ISIS forces in Iraq, to prevent the fall of the Kurdish capital, Erbil

“Earlier this week, one Iraqi cried that there is no one coming to help,” said Obama.  “Well, today America is coming to help.”

By August 10, the United States announced a fourth round of airstrikes Sunday against militant vehicles and mortars firing on Irbil.

Yet giving that order will not alter the balance of power in Iraq.  It didn’t work for America in the 1991 and 2003 wars against Iraq.

Both wars opened with massive barrages of American missiles and bombs.  The 1991 war saw the first use of the vaunted “stealth bomber,” which could avoid detection by enemy radar.

The 2003 war opened with an even greater bombardment to “shock and awe” the Iraqis into surrendering.  They didn’t.

Baghdad under “shock and awe” bombardment

Nor did air power prove effective on the Iraqi insurgency that erupted after American forces occupied Baghdad and much of the rest of the country.

That war had to be fought by U.S. Army regulars and Special Operations soldiers-–especially Navy SEALS.  It was a dirty and private effort, marked by nightly kidnappings of suspected Iraqi insurgents.

Here’s where fantasy became fact for America’s military–and p0liticians.

Victory Through Air Power is a 1943 Walt Disney animated Technicolor feature film released during World War II.  It’s based on the book–-of the same title–-by Alexander P. de Seversky.

Its thesis is summed up in its title: That by using bombers and fighter aircraft, the United States can attain swift, stunning victory over its Axis enemies: Germany, Italy and Japan.

Although it’s not explicitly stated, the overall impression given is that, through the use of air power, America can defeat its enemies without deploying millions of ground troops.

 The movie has long since been forgotten except by film buffs, but its message has not.  Especially by the highest officials within the U.S. Air Force.

Although the Air Force regularly boasted of the tonage of bombs its planes dropped over Nazi Germany, it failed to attain its primary goal: Break the will of the Germans to resist.

On the contrary: Just as the German bombings of England had solidified the will of the British people to resist, so, too, did Allied bombing increase the determination of the Germans to fight on.

Nor did the failure of air power end there.

On June 6, 1944–-D-Day–-the Allies launched their invasion of Nazi-occupied France.

It was the largest amphibious invasion in history.  More than 160,000 troops landed–-61,715 British, 73,000 Americans, and 21,400 Canadians.

Allied air power bombed and strafed German troops out in the open.  But it couldn’t dislodge soldiers barricaded in steel-and-concrete-reinforced bunkers or pillboxes. Those had to be dislodged, one group at a time, by Allied soldiers armed with rifles, dynamite and flamethrowers.

 This situation proved true throughout the rest of the war.

Starting in 1964, the theory of “Victory Through Air Power” once again proved a dud–in Vietnam.

From 1964 to 1975, 14 million tons of bombs were dropped on Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia–-more than five times as many as it dropped in World War II.

Yet the result proved exactly the same as it had in World War II: The bombing enraged the North Vietnamese and steeled their resolve to fight on to the end.

The belief that victory could be achieved primarily–-if not entirely–-through air power had another unforeseen result during the Vietnam war.  It gradually sucked the United States ever deeper into the conflict.

To bomb North Vietnam, the United States needed air force bases in South Vietnam.  This required that those bombers and fighters be protected.

So a force to provide round-the-clock security had to be maintained.  But there weren’t enough guards to defend themselves against a major attack by North Vietnamese forces.

So more American troops were needed–-to guard the guards.

North Vietnam continued to press greater numbers of its soldiers into attacks on American bases.  This forced America to provide greater numbers of its own soldiers to defend against such attacks.

Eventually, the United States had more than 500,000 ground troops fighting in Vietnam–with no end in sight to the conflict.

If American troops once again face off with Iraqis, “Victory Through Air Power” will prove as hollow a slogan as it has in the past.

OBAMA’S SIX “OBAMACARE” MISTAKES: PART FOUR (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on August 8, 2014 at 2:45 pm

President Obama claims to be a serious student of Realpolitick.  If this were so, he would have predicted that most businesses would seek to avoid compliance with his Affordable Care Act (ACA).

And the remedy would have been simple: Require all employers to provide insurance coverage for all of their employees, regardless of their fulltime or part-time status.

This, in turn, would have produced two substantial benefits:

  1. All employees would have been able to obtain medical coverage; and
  2. Employers would have been encouraged to provide fulltime positions rather than part-time ones.

The reason: Employers would feel: “Since I’m paying for fulltime insurance coverage, I should be getting fulltime work in return.”

If the President ever considered the merits of this, he apparently decided against pressing for such a requirement.

Obama is one of the most rational and educated men to occupy the White House.   So what accounts for this failure to expect the worst in people–especially his self-declared enemies–and prepare to counter it?

Niccolo Machiavelli’s brilliant assessments have repeatedly proven invaluable to understanding the failures of the Obama Presidency.  Once again, he provides a shrewd insight into what may be the central reason for all of them.

Niccolo Machiavelli

Writing in The Prince, his classic work on the realities of politics, Machiavelli states:

I also believe that he is happy whose mode of procedure accords with the needs of the times, and similarly, he is unfortunate whose mode of procedure is opposed to the times…. 

On this depend also the changes in prosperity, for if it happens that time and circumstances are favorable to one who acts with caution and prudence he will be successful.  But if time and circumstances change he will be ruined, because he does not change the mode of his procedure. 

No man can be found so prudent as to be able to adopt himself to this, either because he cannot deviate from that to which his nature disposes him, or else because having always prospered by walking in one path, he cannot persuade himself that it is well to leave it.

And therefore the cautious man, when it is time to act suddenly, does not know how to do so and is consequently ruined.  For if one could change one’s nature with time and circumstances, fortune would never change.

Obama is by nature a supreme rationalist and conciliator–not a confronter nor an attacker.  And his career before reaching the White House greatly strengthened this predisposition.

From 1985 to 1988, Obama worked as a community organizer–setting up a job training program, a college preparatory tutoring program, and a tenants’ rights organization.  Such activity demands skills in building consensus, not confrontation.

He then taught at the University of Chicago Law School for 12 years—as a Lecturer from 1992 to 1996, and as a Senior Lecturer from 1996 to 2004, teaching constitutional law.

File:Medium chicagoreflection.jpg

University of Chicago Law School

Law professors spend their time in clean, civil classrooms–far removed from the rough-and-tumble of criminal defense/prosecution.

If Obama had accused President George W. Bush of conspiring with Al Qaeda–as Republicans have repeatedly accused Obama–retribution would have been swift and brutal.

In short: Obama–who believes in reason and conciliation–is paying the price for allowing his sworn enemies to insult and obstruct him

Obama Mistake No. 6: Failing to closely study his proposed legislation.

Throughout his campaign to win support for the ACA, Obama had repeatedly promised:  “If you like your health insurance plan, you can keep your plan. Period.  If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.  Period.”

But, hidden in the 906 pages of the law, was a fatal catch for the President’s own credibility.

The law stated that those who already had medical insurance could keep their plans–so long as those plans met the requirements of the new healthcare law.

If their plans didn’t meet those requirements, they would have to obtain coverage that did.

It soon turned out that a great many Americans wanted to keep their current plan–even if it did not provide the fullest possible coverage.

Suddenly, the President found himself facing a PR nightmare: Charged and ridiculed as a liar.

Even Jon Stewart, who on “The Daily Show” had supported the implementation of “Obamacare,” ran footage of Obama’s “you can keep your doctor” promise.

Jon Stewart

The implication: You said we could keep our plan/doctor; since we can’t, you must be a liar.

As a result, the President now finds his reputation for integrity–long his greatest asset–shattered.

All of which takes us to the final warning offered by Niccolo Machiavelli:

Whence it may be seen that hatred is gained as much by good works as by evil…. 

OBAMA’S SIX “OBAMACARE” MISTAKES: PART THREE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on August 7, 2014 at 12:42 pm

Barack Obama is one of the most highly educated Presidents to occupy the White House.

When he took office, he intended to make healthcare available to all Americans–and not just the wealthiest 1%.

President Barack Obama

But he made a series of deadly mistakes:

  • In crafting the Affordable Care Act (better known as Obamacare);
  • In building public support for it;
  • In underestimating the venom and opposition of his Republican enemies;
  • In failing to effectively counter that Right-wing venom and opposition; and
  • In underestimating the opposition of the business community to complying with the law.

Three of those mistakes have already been outlined.  Here are the remaining three.

Obama Mistake No. 4:  He allowed himself to be cowed by his enemies.

In The Prince, Machiavelli laid out the qualities that a successful ruler must possess.  There were some to be cultivated, and others to be avoided at all costs.  For example:

Niccolo Machiavelli

He is rendered despicable by being thought changeable, frivolous, effeminate, timid and irresolute—which a prince must guard against as a rock of danger…. 

[He] must contrive that his actions show grandeur, spirit, gravity and fortitude.  As to the government of his subjects, let his sentence be irrevocable, and let him adhere to his decisions so that no one may think of deceiving or cozening him.

So how has Obama fared by this standard?

On July 2, 2013, the Treasury Department issued a press release about a major change in the applicability of the Affordable Care Act:

“Over the past several months, the Administration has been engaging in a dialogue with businesses – many of which already provide health coverage for their workers – about the new employer and insurer reporting requirements under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

“We have heard concerns about the complexity of the requirements and the need for more time to implement them effectively….We have listened to your feedback.  And we are taking action.

“The Administration is announcing that it will provide an additional year before the ACA mandatory employer and insurer reporting requirements begin.”

[Boldface in the original document.]

In short: The administration is delaying until 2015 the law’s requirement that medium and large companies provide coverage for their workers or face fines.

And how did Obama’s self-declared enemies react to this announcement?

On July 30, House Republicans voted to proceed with a lawsuit against the President, claiming that he had failed to enforce the Affordable Care Act.

“In 2013, the president changed the health care law without a vote of Congress, effectively creating his own law by literally waiving the employer mandate and the penalties for failing to comply with it,” House Speaker John A. Boehner said in a statement.

“That’s not the way our system of government was designed to work. No president should have the power to make laws on his or her own.”

John Boehner

Thus, Boehner intends to sue the President to enforce the law that the House has voted 54 times to repeal, delay or change.

Obama Mistake Nol 5:  Believing that public and private comployers would universally comply with the law.

The Affordable Care Act requires employers to provide insurance for part-time employees who work more than 30 hours per week.

Yet many government employers claim they can’t afford it–and plan to limit worker hours to 29 per week instead.  Among those states affected:

  • “Our choice was to cut the hours or give them health care, and we could not afford the latter,” Dennis Hanwell, the Republican mayor of Medina, Ohio, said in an interview with the New York Times.
  • Lawrence County, in western Pennsylvania, reduced the limit for part-time employees to 28 hours a week, from 32.
  • In Virginia, part-time state employees are generally not allowed to work more than 29 hours a week on average over a 12-month period.

President Obama and those who helped craft the Act may be surprised at what has happened.  But they shouldn’t be.

Greed-addicted officials will always seek ways to avoid complying with the law–or achieve minimum compliance with it.

And what goes for public employers goes for private ones, too.

A company isn’t penalized for failing to provide health insurance coverage for part-time employees who work fewer than 30 hours.

The result was predictable.  And its consequences are daily becoming more clear.

Increasing numbers of employers are moving fulltime workers into part-time positions–and thus avoiding

  • providing their employees with medical insurance and 
  • a fine for non-compliance with the law.

Some employers have openly shown their contempt for President Obama–and the idea that employers actually have an obligation to those who make their profits a reality.

One of these is John Schnatter, CEO of Papa John’s Pizza, who has been quoted as saying:

  1. The prices of his pizzas will go up–by eleven to fourteen cents price increase per pizza, or fifteen to twenty cents per order; and
  2. He will pass along these costs to his customers.

“If Obamacare is in fact not repealed,” Schnatter told Politico, “we will find tactics to shallow out any Obamacare costs and core strategies to pass that cost onto consumers in order to protect our shareholders’ best interests.”

After all, why should a multi-million-dollar company show any concern for those who make its profits a reality?

OBAMA’S SIX “OBAMACARE” MISTAKES: PART TWO (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on August 6, 2014 at 11:44 am

In The Prince, his classic treatise on Realpolitick, Niccolo Machiavelli, the Florentine statesman, warned:

“There is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things.”

This proved exactly the case with the proposed Affordable Care Act (ACA).  Its supporters–even when they comprised a majority of the Congress–have always shown far less fervor than its opponents.

This was true before the Act became effective on March 23, 2010.  And it has remained true since, with House Republicans voting 54 times to repeal, delay or revise the law.

So before President Barack Obama launched his signature effort to reform the American medical system, he should have taken this truism into account.

Obama Mistake No. 3: Failing to consider–and punish–the venom of his political enemies.

The ancient Greeks used to say: “A man’s character is his fate.”  It is Obama’s character–and our fate–that he is by nature a conciliator, not a confronter.

Richard Wolffe chronicled Obama’s winning of the White House in his book Renegade: The Making of a President.  He noted that Obama was always more comfortable when responding to Republican attacks on his character than he was in making attacks on his enemies.

Obama came into office determined to find common ground with Republicans.  But they quickly made it clear to him that they only wanted his political destruction.

At that point, he should have put aside his hopes for a “Kumbaya moment” and re-read what Niccolo Machiavelli famously said in The Prince on the matter of love versus fear:

From this arises the question whether it is better to be loved than feared, or feared more than loved.  The reply is, that one ought to be both feared and loved, but as it is difficult for the two to go together, it is much safer to be feared than loved. 

For it may be said of men in general that they are ungrateful, voluble, dissemblers, anxious to avoid danger and covetous of gain. 

As long as you benefit them, they are entirely yours: they offer you their blood, their goods, their life and their children, when the necessity is remote.  But when it approaches, they revolt…. 

And men have less scruple in offending one who makes himself loved than one who makes himself feared; for love is held by a chain of obligations which, men being selfish, is broken whenever it serves their purpose; but fear is maintained by a dread of punishment which never fails.

Moreover, Machiavelli warns that even a well-intentioned leader can unintentionally bring on catastrophe.  This usually happens when, hoping to avoid conflict, he allows a threat to go unchecked.  Thus:

A man who who wishes to make a profession of goodness in everything must inevitably come to grief among so many who are not good.

And therefore it is necessary, for a prince, who wishes to maintain himself, to learn how not to be good, and to use this knowledge and not use it, according to the necessity of the case.

For President Obama, such a moment came in October, 2013, when House Republicans shut down the government to force Obama to scrap Obamacare.

Obama, a former attorney, heatedly denounced House Republicans for “extortion” and “blackmail.”

Unless he was exaggerating, both of these are felony offenses that are punishable under the 2001 Patriot Act and the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act of 1970.

All that he needed do was to order his Attorney General, Eric Holder, to ask the FBI to investigate whether either or both of these laws have been violated.

If violations had been discovered, indictments could have quickly followed– and then prosecutions.

The results of such action can be easily predicted.

  1. Facing lengthy prison terms, those indicted Republicans would first have to lawyer-up.  That in itself would have been no small thing, since good criminal lawyers cost big bucks.
  2. Obsessed with their own personal survival, they would have found little time for engaging in more of the same thuggish behavior that got them indicted.  In fact, doing so would have only made their conviction more likely.
  3. Those Republicans who hadn’t (yet) been indicted would have realized: “I could be next.”  This would have produced a chilling effect on their willingness to engage in further acts of subversion and extortion.
  4. The effect on Right-wing Republicans would have been the same as that of President Ronald Reagan’s firing of striking air traffic controllers:  “You cross me and threaten the security of this nation at your own peril.”

It would no doubt be a long time before Republicans dared to engage in such behavior–if they ever so dared again.

So: Why didn’t the President act to punish such criminal conduct?

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