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SCRAPPING–OR REVISING–OBAMACARE: PART FOUR (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on February 9, 2016 at 12:04 am

Barack Obama is one of 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 Right-wing enemies;
  • In underestimating the opposition of the business community in complying with the law; and
  • In allowing himself to be cowed by his political enemies.

Obama is by nature a supreme rationalist and conciliator–not a rough-and-tumble street fighter.  

And his career before becoming President in 2008–or even the United States Senator from Illinois in 2004–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 activities demand 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.  

(On March 10, 2003, nine days before Bush ordered the unprovoked invasion of Iraq, Natalie Maines, the lead singer of the country music band, the Dixie Chicks, told a London concert audience: “We don’t want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.”  

(A Republican-approved boycott of Dixie Chicks music followed, as well as death threats  DJs refused to play their music, and President Bush refused to criticize the KGB-like tactics of his Right-wing supporters.) 

 Natalie Maines, left, of the Dixie Chicks 

But Obama could not–or would not–bring himself to attack his sworn enemies by attacking their own patriotism or invoking Federal criminal statutes against their extortionate and terrorist threats.  

In short: Obama–who believes in reason and conciliation–paid 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 Affordable Care Act (ACA) Obama had repeatedly promised: “If you like your health insurance plan, you can keep your plan. 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 soon turned out that 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 found his reputation for integrity–long his greatest asset–shattered.  

All of which points to a final warning offered by Niccolo Machiavelli:

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

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says that, if she’s elected President, she will push for incremental changes in the ACA.  

Vermont United States Senator Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, has called for the implementation of a single-payer plan. This, in effect, would accomplish what Republicans have spent the last seven years trying to do: Repeal “Obamacare.”  

A single-payer plan would prove simpler and more comprehensive than the ACA. But the chances of its passing a Republican-dominated Congress are absolutely zero.  

The passage of the ACA was–as the Duke of Wellington said of Waterloo–“a damned, close-run thing.”

Right-wingers like former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin flat-out lied that the ACA would create “death panels.” And millions of reactionaries, furious that a black man now occupied the Oval Office, eagerly believed it.

When Democratic politicians organized town meetings for public discussion of the Act, Rightist hooligans often used violence to break them up.

Republicans remained silent while President George W. Bush lied the nation into a bloody, budget-busting war in Iraq. But they have repeatedly damned the ACA as a lethal drain on the American taxpayer.  

Thus, any changes to come in the ACA will have to come as Hillary Clinton proposes, on an incremental basis.

The only thing that can be said with certainty about the ACA is this:

If any Republican wins the Presidency in 2016, the Republican-dominated House and Senate will send him legislation decreeing the death of affordable healthcare for all Americans.  And he will of course sign it.

REVISING–OR SCRAPPING–OBAMACARE: PART THREE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics on February 8, 2016 at 12:15 am

On July 2, 2013, the Treasury Department announced a major change in the application of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), more popularly known as “Obamacare”:  

“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 allowed employers an additional year to refuse providing healthcare to their employees–or to face fines for not doing so.  

And how did Obama’s self-declared enemies react to this effort at compromise?

On July 30, 2013, House Republicans voted to proceed with a lawsuit against the President–for failing 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 intended to sue the President to enforce the law that the House had voted 54 times to repeal, delay or change.

Obama Mistake No. 5: Believing that public and private employers would voluntarily comply with the law.  

The ACA 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 have thus limited part-time workers’ hours to 29 per week instead.  

Among those states affected:

  • “Our choice was to cut the hours or give [employees] 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 crafted the Act may have been surprised at what happened.  But they shouldn’t have been.

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.

The Act doesn’t penalize a company 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; 
  • Refusing to provide their employees with medical insurance; and
  • Avoiding fines for non-compliance with the law.

Some employers have openly shown their contempt for President Obama–and the idea that employers 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:

  • The prices of his pizzas will go up–by 11 to 14 cents per pizza, or 15 to 20 cents per order; and
  • He will pass along these costs to his customers.  

 John Schnatter

“If Obamacare is in fact not repealed,” he 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.”  

If President Obama were truly a student of Realpolitick, he would have predicted that most businesses would try to avoid compliance with the 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 decided against pressing for such a requirement.

Obama is one of the most rational and educated men to occupy the White House. So why did he fail to expect the worst in people–especially his self-declared enemies–and arrange to counter it?

Niccolo Machiavelli provides a shrewd insight into the repeated failures of the Obama Presidency.

Niccolo Machiavelli

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

…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….

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 this procedure. 

Put another way: A conciliator will prosper so long as he works with others willing to compromise. But facing uncompromising fanatics, he will be defeated–unless he can exchange conciliation for confrontation. 

REVISING–OR SCRAPPING–OBAMACARE: PART TWO (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on February 5, 2016 at 12:08 am

President Barack 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 said in The Prince on the matter of love versus fear:

From this arises the question whether it is better to be loved or feared, or feared more than love. 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 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 Obama, such a moment came in 2011, when House Republicans threatened to to destroy the credit rating of the United States unless the President agreed 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 USA Patriot Act and the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act of 1970.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The remedies for punishing such criminal behavior were legally in place.  President Obama could have directed the Justice Department to apply them.

If violations had been discovered, indictments could have quickly followed–and then prosecutions. The results of such action could be easily predicted:

  • Facing lengthy prison terms, those indicted Republicans would have first had to lawyer-up.
  • This would have imposed huge monetary costs on them, since good criminal attorneys don’t come cheap.  
  • Obsessed with their personal survival, they would have had little time to engage in more of the same thuggish behavior that got them indicted. In fact, doing so would have only made their convictions more likely.
  • Those Republicans who hadn’t (yet) been indicted would have feared; “I could be next.” This would have produced a chilling effect on their willingness to engage in further acts of subversion and extortion.  
  • 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 have been a long time before Republicans dared to engage in such behavior–at least, while Obama held office.  

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

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?

REVISING–OR SCRAPPING–OBAMACARE: PART ONE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on February 4, 2016 at 12:10 am

One of the major differences between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton lies in their views about what should be the future of “Obamacare.”  

Sanders, the longtime independent Senator from Vermont, wants to scrap The Affordable Care Act (ACA) and replace it with a single-payer plan.  

Clinton, the former Secretary of State, wants to make “incremental” changes in the Act.  

The Sanders plan promises greater simplicity and comprehensiveness in providing benefits to those millions of Americans who previously could not obtain medical insurance.  

The Clinton approach promises to keep the best features of “Obamacare” and improve those that need changing.  

But neither Sanders nor Clinton has directly addressed certain unpalatable truths about the ACA.  

These stem not from any intended evil on the part of its chief sponsor, President Barack Obama. Instead, they spring from his idealistic belief that reasonable men could always reach a compromise.  

As a result, much of the Act remains seriously flawed. Here are the six reasons why.  

Barack Obama is easily one of the most highly educated Presidents in United States history. He is a graduate of Columbia University (B.A. in political science in 1983).  

In 1988, he entered Harvard Law School, graduating magna cum laude–“with great honor”–in 1991.  

He was selected as an editor of the Harvard Law Review at the end of his first year, and president of the journal in his second year.

President Barack Obama

He then taught Constitutional law 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.  

So where did he go wrong? Several ways:

Obama Mistake No. 1: Putting off what people wanted while concentrating on what they didn’t.

Obama started off well when he took office. Americans had high expectations of him. This was partly due to his being the first black to be elected President.

And it was partly due to the disastrous legacies of needless war and financial catastrophe left by his predecessor, George W. Bush.

Obama entered office intending to reform the American healthcare system, to make medical care available to all citizens, and not just the richest.  But that was not what the vast majority of Americans wanted him to concentrate his energies on.  

With the lost of 2.6 million jobs in 2008, Americans wanted Obama to find new ways to create jobs. This was especially true for the 11.1 million unemployed, or those employed only part-time.  

Jonathan Alter, who writes sympathetically about the President in The Center Holds: Obama and His Enemies, candidly states this.  

But Obama chose to spend most of his first year as President pushing the Affordable Care Act (ACA)–which would soon become known as Obamacare–through Congress.  

The results were:

  • Those desperately seeking employment felt the President didn’t care about them.  
  • The reform effort became a lightning rod for Right-wing groups like the Koch-brothers-financed Tea Party.  
  • In 2010, a massive Rightist turnout cost the Democrats the House of Representatives, and threatened Democratic control of the Senate.  

Obama Mistake No. 2: He underestimated the amount of opposition he would face to the ACA.

For all of Obama’s academic brilliance and supposed ruthlessness as a “Chicago politician,” he displayed an incredible naivety in dealing with his political opposition.

Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527), the Florentine statesman and father of modern politics, could have warned him of the consequences of this–through the pages of The Prince, his infamous treatise on the realities of politics.

Niccolo Machiavelli

And either Obama skipped those chapters or ignored their timeless advice for political leaders.

He should have started with Chapter Six: “Of New Dominions Which Have Been Acquired By One’s Own Arms and Ability”:

…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.  

For the reformer has enemies in all those who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order, this lukewarmness arising partly from fear of their adversaries, who have the laws in their favor, and partly from the incredulity of mankind, who do not truly believe in anything new until they have had actual experience of it.  

This proved exactly the case with the proposed Affordable Care Act.

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 more than 60 times to repeal, delay or revise the law.  

So before President 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 America’s fate–that he is by nature a man of conciliation, not conflict.  

Richard Wolffe chronicled Obama’s winning of the White House in his 2009 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.

A WARNING FOR TRUMP–AND AMERICA

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 3, 2016 at 12:01 am

“We will have so much winning if I get elected [President] that you may get bored with winning.”

It was vintage Donald Trump, speaking at a September, 2015 Capitol Hill rally to protest President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran.

(That was before February 1, 2016, when Trump learned he had been beaten by Texas U.S. Senator Rafael Cruz in the Iowa caucuses for the Republican Presidential nomination.   

(The man who had boasted, “No one remembers who came in second” found himself in exactly that place. And tens of thousands of Twitter users gleefully retweeted the quote to celebrate a defeat that Trump had said was impossible.)

“Believe me, I agree, you’ll never get bored with winning. We never get bored. We are going to turn this country around. We are going to start winning big on trade.

“Militarily, we’re going to build up our military. We’re going to have such a strong military that nobody, nobody is going to mess with us. We’re not going to have to use it.”

Related image

Donald Trump

Trump’s boast reflected he mindset–if not the words–of an earlier CEO whose ego carried him–and his country–to ruin.  

Ever since Adolf Hitler shot himself in his underground Berlin Bunker on April 30, 1945, historians have fiercely debated: Was der Fuehrer a military genius or a disastrous imbecile?  

Literally thousands of books have been written on Hitler’s six-year stint as a field commander. But for an overall view of Hitler’s generalship, an excellent choice is How Hitler Could have Won World War II by Bevin Alexander.

How Hitler Could Have Won World War II

Among the fatal errors that led to the defeat of the defeat of the Third Reich:

  • Wasting hundreds of  Luftwaffe [air force] pilots, fighters and bombers in a halfhearted attempt to conquer England.
  • Ignoring the please of generals like Erwin Rommel to conquer Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, thus giving Germany control of most of the world’s oil.
  • Attacking his ally, the Soviet Union, while still at war with Great Britain.
  • Turning millions of Russians into enemies rather than allies by his brutal and murderous policies
  • Needlessly declaring war on the United States after the Japanese attacked Pearl harbor.  (Had he not done so, Americans would have focused all their attention on defeating Japan.)
  • Refusing to negotiate a separate peace with Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin–thus granting Germany a large portion of captured Russian territory in exchange for letting Stalin remain in power.
  • Insisting on a “not-one-step-back” military “strategy” that led to the needless surrounding, capture and/or deaths of hundreds of thousands of German servicemen.

As the war turned increasingly against him, Hitler became ever more rigid in his thinking. He demanded absolute control over the smallest details of his forces.  

This, in turn, led to astonishing and unnecessary losses among their ranks.  

One such incident was immortalized in the 1962 movie, The Longest Day, about the Allied invasion of France known as D-Day.  

On June 6, 1944, General Erwin Rommel ordered the panzer tanks to drive the Allies from the Normandy beaches. But these could not be released except on direct orders of the Fuehrer.

As Hitler’s chief of staff, General Alfred Jodl, informed Rommel: The Fuehrer was asleep–and was not to be awakened. By the time Hitler awoke and issued the order, it was too late.  

Nor could Hitler accept responsibility for the policies that were leading Germany to certain defeat.  

He blamed his generals, accused them of cowardice, and relieved many of the best ones from command.  

Among those sacked was Heinz Guderian, creator of the German panzer corps–and responsible for the blitzkreig victory against France in 1940.

Another was Erich von Manstein, designer of the strategy that defeated France in six weeks–which Germany had failed to do during four years of World War 1.

Finally, on April 29, 1945–with the Russians only blocks from his underground Berlin bunker–Hitler dictated his “Last Political Testament.”  

Once again, he refused to accept responsibility for unleashing a war that would ultimately consume 50 million lives: 

“It is untrue that I or anyone else in Germany wanted war in 1939.  It was desired and instigated exclusively by those international statesmen who either were of Jewish origin or worked for Jewish interests.” 

Hitler had launched the invasion of Poland–and World War II–with a lie: That Poland had attacked Germany. Fittingly, he closed the war–and his life–with a final lie.   

Joachim C. Fest, author of Hitler (1973), writes of the surprise that awaited Allied soldiers occupying Nazi Germany in 1945:  

“Almost without exception, virtually from one moment to the next, Nazism vanished after the death of Hitler and the surrender.  

“It was as if National Socialism had been nothing but the motion, the state of intoxication and the catastrophe it had caused….

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

The ancient Greeks believed “A man’s character is his destiny.”  For Adolf Hitler–and the nations he ravaged–that proved fatally true.  

It’s to be seen whether the same will prove true for Donald Trump–and the United States.

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

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Social commentary on January 26, 2016 at 12:06 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 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 R. Ford on two separate occasions.
  • 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 his bulletproof Presidential limousine, Hinckley drew a pistol and opened fire. Wounded, Reagan escaped death by inches. 

 

The Reagan assassination attempt

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

  • 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., and Shanksville, Pennsylvania.  

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

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 airline “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 Safety Administration (TSA) of their integrity.

Then, one day, they will breeze through their selected airports

  • Without removing their belts and shoes;
  • Without undergoing pat-down searches;
  • 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 re-checked in the future.

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

  • FBI agent Robert Hanssen spied for Soviet and Russian Intelligence services for 22 years (1979-2001). He’s now serving a life sentence in Florence, Colorado.
  • CIA agent Aldrich Ames betrayed American secrets–including those Russians who had shared them–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 make him think that you like him.”

Thus, as William Shakespeare warned in Hamlet, “one may smile and smile and be a villain”–or a highjacker.

The TSA introduced its Pre-Check program during the fall of 2011. By May, 2012, more than 820,000 travlers 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, Pre-Check, 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.  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.
  • Priority Access, set up by TSA and the airlines, 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 last 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,” said Ralph Nader, consumer advocate and frequent business traveler.

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

The 3,000 men and women who died horrifically on September 11, 2001, at the hands of airline passengers whom authorities thought could be trusted to board a plane.

Tribute to the vanished World Trade Center

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

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Social commentary on January 25, 2016 at 12:07 am

Fourteen 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 its citizens.

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, self-entitled Americans hate waiting in long airport security lines.

But wealthy Americans–unlike poor and middle-class ones–have plenty 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 all that money in return for giving these self-important Richie-Riches preferential treatment.

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

Consider the following:

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

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

  • An applicant must be a U.S. citizen Penn 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 requires 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 Universal Enrollment Services (UES) and clicking on “Service Status.” The Known Traveler’s 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 participating airlines. The KTN can also 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 storedfor 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 cases.
  • 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.

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Advanced imaging technology

Or maybe you want to be 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 airline 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 status memberships 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

Virgin 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.

How this will happen will be explained in Part Two of this series.

THE CASEY DOCTRINE

In Bureaucracy, Business, Law, Politics on January 22, 2016 at 12:18 am

When William J. Casey was a young attorney during the Great Depression, he learned an important lesson.

Jobs were hard to come by, so Casey thought himself lucky to land one at the Tax Research Institute of America in New York.

His task was to closely read New Deal legislation and write reports explaining it to corporate chieftains.

At first, he thought they wanted detailed legal commentary on the meaning of the new legislation.

But the he quickly learned a blunt truth: Businessmen neither understood nor welcomed President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s efforts at reforming American capitalism. And they didn’t want legal commentary.

Instead, they wanted to know: “What is the minimum we have to do to achieve compliance with the law?”

In short: How do we get by FDR’s new programs?

Fifty years later, Casey would bring the same mindset to his duties as director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for President Ronald Reagan.

William J. Casey 

He was presiding over the CIA when it deliberately violated Congress’ ban on funding the “Contras,” the Right-wing death squads of Nicaragua.

Casey gave lip service to the demands of Congress.  But privately, with the help of Marine Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North, he set up an “off-the-shelf” operation to provide arms to overthrow the leftist government of Daniel Ortega.

It was what President Ronald Reagan wanted.  So Casey felt he had a duty to get it done, and Congress be damned.

When news of Casey’s–and Reagan’s–illegal behavior leaked, in November, 1986, it almost destroyed the Reagan administration.

Especially damning: Much of the funding directed to the “Contras” had come from Iran, America’s mortal enemy.

To ransom a handful of American hostages who had been kidnapped in Lebanon, Reagan sold them our most sophisticated missiles in a weak-kneed exchange for American hostages.

Then he went on television and brazenly denied that any such “arms for hostages” trade had ever happened.  

Ronald Reagan

But the “Casey Doctrine” of minimum compliance with the law didn’t die with Casey (who expired of a brain tumor in 1987).

It was very much alive within the American business community as President Barack Obama sought to bring medical coverage to all Americans, and not simply the ultra-wealthy.

The single most important provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA)–better-known as Obamacare–requires large businesses to provide insurance to fulltime employees who work more than 30 hours a week.

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

Obama’s enemies have long slandered him as a ruthless practitioner of Chicago politics.”  So it’s easy to assume that he took “the Casey Doctrine” into account when he shepherded the ACA through Congress.

But he didn’t.

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

Employers feel motivated to move fulltime workers into part-time positions, and thus avoid

  • 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 any obligation to those who make their profits a reality.  

John Schnatter, CEO of Papa John’s Pizza, has been quoted as saying:

  • The price of his pizzas will go up–by 11 to 14 cents per pizza, of 15 to 20 cents per order; and
  • 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 multimillion dollar company show any concern for those who make its profits a reality?

Consider:  

  • Papa John’s is the third-largest pizza takeout and delivery chain in the United States.  
  • Its 2014 revenues were $1.60 billion, an increase of 11.1% over 2013 revenues of $1.44 billion.  
  • Its 2014 net income was $73.3 million, compared to 2013 net income of $69.5 million.  

In May, 2012, Schnatter hosted a fundraising event for Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney at his own Louisville, Kentucky, mansion.

“What a home this is,” gushed Romney.  “What grounds these are, the pool, the golf course.

“You know, if a Democrat were here he’d look around and say no one should live like this. Republicans come here and say everyone should live like this.”

Of course, Romney conveniently ignored a brutally ugly fact:

For the vast majority of Papa John’s minimum-wage-earning employees-–many of them working only part-time-–the odds of their owning a comparable estate are non-existent.

Had  Obama been the serious student of Realpolitick that his enemies claim he is, he would have predicted that most businesses would seek to avoid compliance with his law.

To counter that, he need only have required 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:

  • All employees would have been able to obtain medical coverage; and
  • Employers would have been encouraged to provide fulltime positions rather than part-time ones, since they would feel, “I’m paying for fulltime insurance coverage, so I should be getting fulltime work in return.”

The “Casey Doctrine” needs to be kept constantly in mind when reformers try to protect Americans from predatory employers. 

 

A “NEW IDENTITIES” PROGRAM FOR JOB-SEEKERS: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law Enforcement, Social commentary on January 8, 2016 at 10:42 am

Until recently, only organized crime witnesses with a price on their head could obtain falsified job histories.  But no more.

Thousands–if not millions–of job-seeking Americans are now able to obtain stellar job references to impress potential employer.  And they’re doing it the old-fashioned way: They’re hiring companies to create them.

One such company is CareerExcuse.

CareerExcuse runs 200 fictional companies that don’t exist, have staffs or make money.

But for a fee, you can say you worked at one of them, and they’ll confirm you were an outstanding employee.

For between $100 and $200, you’ll get:

  • One to three false–and positive–references from a company or companies you’ve never worked for.
  • A fake company address.
  • Local phone numbers to give to prospective employers.
  • A guarantee that those employers will receive positive vouchers for you.
  • “Instant” degrees.
  • Landlord reference
  • A “completely legitimate” resume-writing service.

Unlike the Federal Witness Security Program (WITSEC) the clients of CareerExcuse aren’t hardened criminals.

They are legitimate citizens trying to erase gaps in their resumes.  Or they have worked for a long series of short-term employers and want to appear a stable employee.

Click here: CareerExcuse Job References

Or they’ve acquired–deservedly or not–a series of bad job references  

“Some people see it as unethical,” Jennifer Hatton, senior partner at CareerExcuse, said in a 2015 interview with Business Insider.

But, said Hatten, “I don’t see why you shouldn’t deserve a shot, just like the next person” if you do have the skills and experience required.

“There are many things that happen in people’s lives, with [employers] going out of business, being laid off, managers just unrightfully firing you, sexual harassment suits–you name it, it happens in the workforce.”

And it’s true.

An article in the March, 2011 issue of Reader’s Digest gives the lie to the excuses so many employers use for refusing to hire.

Entitled “22 Secrets HR Won’t Tell You About Getting a Job,” it reveals such truths as:

  • After you’re unemployed more than six months, employers consider you unemployable–no matter your skills/experience. 
  • It’s not what but who you know that counts.
  • Cover letters are often ignored, going directly into “the round file.”
  • Many employers illegally try to screen out parents–such as by checking cars for child safety seats.
  • You’re not protected against age discrimination. Many employers regularly ignore the law. If you are in your 50s or 60s, leave your year of graduation off your resume.

And in its June 8, 2011 cover-story on “What U.S. Economic Recovery?  Five Destructive Myths,” Time magazine warned that profit-seeking corporations can’t be relied on to ”make it all better.”

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

“There may be $2 trillion sitting on the balance sheets of American corporations globally, but firms show no signs of wanting to spend it in order to hire workers at home.”

Meanwhile, CareerExcuse claims to have more than 2,000 job-seeking clients.

“Our main clientele right now is IT executives, and they’re pretty high-level,” Hatton claimed. The average customer seeks a salary of $60,000 to $80,000.

There are areas of employment that CareerExcuse refuses to fill–medicine, government, law enforcement or government.  Jobs where your employment would “put other people in danger,” said Hatten.

Hatton claimed that during the almost two years she had been with CareerExcuse, no one had ever discovered a faked background.

But William Schmidt, who founded the company, admitted to Motherboard that a fake reference could easily be punctured: “All it would take is one person to drive to that address and go to that office.”

And the inevitable result would be immediate termination.

For some users of CareerExcuse, the company has proven an infuriating disappointment.

Click here: 17 CAREER EXCUSE complaints and reports @ Pissed Consumer

Like many clients of the Federal Witness Security Program, they complain of promises not kept. Among their complaints on Pissed Consumer, a consumer-complaint website:

  • “When a serious job opportunity came recently, I realized alot of loop holes in their services, address of company on the website was different, email addresses weren’t valid or active.”
  • “They took my $ and never returned my calls or emails.What a joke!”
  • “Their phone go to voice mail and they dont reply back to calls after a voice mail is left for them to reply …It is easy for the employer to know that the reference is fake.”
  • “When the prospective employers called, Career excuse answered the phone with ‘Career Excuse, how can I help you.’ They were supposed to answer the phone in the name of the fake company they put together.”
  • “They only gave me a cheap looking web page and they don’t even answer the phones to GIVE the service I payed for. They are a scam and complete rip-off.”

Throughout the United States, countless numbers of lazy, greedy, arrogant and/or incompetent employers are refusing to hire. And millions of willing-to-work Americans remain trapped in unemployment or under-employment as a result.

Until this situation changes, companies like CareerExcuse will continue to function–and proliferate.

Such a change isn’t going to happen tomorrow.

A “NEW IDENTITIES” PROGRAM FOR JOB-SEEKERS: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law Enforcement, Social commentary on January 7, 2016 at 1:07 am

In 1966, the U.S. Department of Justice did something it had never before done: Protect a witness against the Mafia during trial, and then relocate him (and his family) to safety under a new identity.

That witness was Joseph “The Animal” Barboza.  Once the most-feared enforcer for the New England Mafia family of Raymond Patriarca, Barboza had run afoul of his boss.

With a mob contract out on him, Barboza felt he had nothing to lose by telling FBI agents and Federal prosecutors everything they wanted to know about the Boston Mafia.

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Joseph Barboza

A 16-man security detail of deputy U.S. marshals was immediately assigned to Barboza. The marshals relocated him to Thatcher’s Island, off the coast of Gloucester, Massachusetts. There they foiled two attempts by the mob to kill Barboza with a telescopic-sighted rifle.

Through a series of trials, Barboza sent the top echelons of the Patriarca family–including Patriarca himself–to prison. Then he and his wife and daughter were outfitted with new names and shipped out of New England to begin life over in safety.

The success of the Barboza detail led other Mafia witnesses to come forward. And this, in turn, led to the official creation of the Witness Security Program (WITSEC) by the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970.

To date, the U.S. Marshals Service–which runs WITSEC–has successfully protected, relocated and given new identities to more than 8,500 witnesses and 9,900 of their family members.

Click here: U.S. Marshals Service, Witness Security Program.

It’s been the “new identities” part of the Program that has always attracted the most attention from the press and movie-makers.

Staged photograph of a WITSEC detail

In the early days of WITSEC, a handful of security Inspectors created these in a totally haphazard fashion. These included legal name-changes, Social Security card, driver’s licenses and falsified job histories.

In some cases, marshals would tell prospective employers, “We can vouch for this man’s skills as a(n) ———-, but that’s all we can tell you.”

Witnesses’ children were provided with fictitious school records.  The names of schools would be changed, but the actual grades earned by the children would be retained.

These records would be “backstopped”–supported with documentation placed at those institutions where the witness (or his family) was alleged to have worked or attended school.

Similarly, medical records for witnesses and their children would be partially falsified.  That is, names of hospitals they had obtained care in would be changed, but their actual medical histories would be accurately charted.

Since the 1990s, the Marshals Service has centralized its “re-documentation” program. Parents, spouses, children, siblings and even mistresses are all taken to an orientation center in a Washington suburb

Related image

There, witnesses are debriefed by Federal agents and prosecutors.  They–and their families–are also prepared for the new lives they’ll take on under new identities.

In the early years of the program, witnesses were provided with flimsy aliases that quickly collapsed under even light scrutiny.

In 1973, Gerald Martin Zelmanowitz, a convicted stock swindler, found his new identity of Paul J. Maris easily punctured.

He got into a legal dispute with Creative Capitol, an investment firm that had loaned $2 million to his struggling new business,”The Paul Maris Company.”

Creative Capitol’s president, Milton Stewart, ordered a quiet investigation into Maris’ background.

This quickly turned up the following:

  • Maris and all five members of his family had been issued sequential Social Security numbers.
  • There was no record of Maris’ birth certificate.
  • Maris had claimed a background in Army Intelligence, but his Army service number had never been issued.
  • Maris’ resume said he had attended John Bartram High School in Philadelphia and Baldwin Wallace College in Berea, Ohio.  But officials at both schools denied that he had ever been one of their students.
  • Maris’ alleged home address in Philadelphia turned out to be a vacant lot in an all-black neighborhood.

Finally, the private investigator discovered that Maris had testified against a Angelo “Gyp” DeCarlo, a notorious New Jersey Mafia chieftain.  His testimony had convicted DeCarlo for murder conspiracy.

Fearing for his life, Maris fled with his family from San Francisco. All of them were readmitted to the Witness Security Program and relocated under identities.

Until recently, only organized crime witnesses with a price on their head could obtain falsified job histories.  But no more.

Thousands–if not millions–of job-seeking Americans are now able to obtain stellar job references to impress potential employers.

CareerExcuse runs 200 fictional companies that don’t exist, have staffs or make money.

But for a fee, you can say you worked at one of them, and they’ll confirm you were a stellar employee while you were there.

For between $100 and $200, you’ll get

  • One to three false–and positive–references from a company or companies you’ve never worked for.
  • A fake company address.
  • Local phone numbers to give to prospective employers.
  • A guarantee that those employers will receive positive vouchers for you.
  • A “completely legitimate” resume-writing service.

Unlike WITSEC, the clients of CareerExcuse aren’t hardened criminals. They are legitimate citizens trying to erase gaps in their resumes.  Or they have worked for a long series of short-term employers and want to appear a stable employee.

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