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Posts Tagged ‘BARACK OBAMA’

TWO LIVES, TWO LEGACIES

In History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on October 28, 2014 at 1:04 am

Benjamin C. Bradlee and Richard M. Nixon.

Both men were driven to succeed.  And both achieved fame and power in doing so.

Bradlee made his name in journalism.

Benjamin C. Bradlee

Nixon made his in politics.

Richard M. Nixon

Both served in the United States Navy in the Pacific during World War II.

Both had strong connections to John F. Kennedy.

  • Bradlee knew him as a friend and reporter during JFK’s years as a Senator and President.
  • Nixon–as a Senator and later Vice President–knew Kennedy as a Senatorial colleague and as a political adversary, unsuccessfully contesting him for the Presidency in 1960.

For both, 1948 was a pivotal year.

  • Bradlee joined The Washington Post as a reporter.
  • Nixon, as a U.S. Representative, accused Algier Hiss, a former State Department official, of having been a Communist spy.  Hiss was eventually convicted of perjury and sent to prison.

Both attained their positions of maximum power in 1968.

  • Bradlee became executive editor of The Washington Post.
  • Nixon became the 37th President of the United States.

Bradlee made it his business to dig up the truth.  Nixon made it his business to distort the truth–or to conceal it when distortion wasn’t enough.

Nixon and Bradlee had their first major clash in 1971 with the Pentagon Papers, a secret government study of how the United States became enmeshed in the Vietnam war.

  • Although the Papers concerned events that had occurred during the Presidencies of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, Nixon was outraged at their release by a former Defense Department analyst named Daniel Ellsburg.
  • Nixon ordered his Attorney General, John Mitchell, to enjoin The New York Times–which had begun publishing the study–from continuing to publish its revelations.
  • Bradlee, as executive editor of The Washington Post, urged his publisher, Katherine Graham, to take over where the Times had left off.
  • The controversey ended when the Supreme Court ruled, 6–3, that the government failed to meet the burden of proof required for prior restraint of the press.

In 1972, Bradlee and Nixon squared off for their most important battle–a “third-rate burglary” of the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate Hotel.

Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein and Benjamin C. Bradlee

  • Bradlee backed two young, aggressive reporters named Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, as they probed the burglary.
  • This led to their discovering a series of illegal dirty tricks the Nixon re-election campaign had aimed at various Democratic opponents.
  • The Post’s revelations led to the formation of the Senate Watergate Committee, the discovery of Nixon’s tape-recordings of his private–and criminal–conversations, and, finally, to Nixon’s own resignation in disgrace on August 9, 1974.
  • Bradlee was one of only four men who knew the identity of “Deep Throat,” Woodward and Bernstein’s famous undercover source, then-FBI Associate Director W. Mark Felt.  Felt outed himself in 2005.
  • Nixon, who died in 1994, never learned the identity of the most famous whistleblower in history.

Bradlee became an advocate for education and the study of history.

Nixon entered history as the only American President forced to resign from office.

 Richard Nixon saying farewell at the White House

Bradlee became a media celebrity.  Nixon became a media target.

  • Bradlee was portrayed by Academy Award-winning actor Jason Robarbs in the hit 1976 film, All the President’s Men.
  • Nixon was portrayed–in Oliver Stone’s 1995 drama, Nixon–by Anthony Hopkins.

Bradlee and Nixon each published a series of books.

  • Bradlee’s: That Special Grace and Conversations With Kennedy focused on his longtime friendship with John F. Kennedy.  A Good Life: Newspapering and Other Adventures was Bradlee’s memoirs.
  • Nixon’s:  Among his 11 titles: Six Crises; RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon; The Real War; Leaders; Real Peace; No More Vietnams; Beyond Peace.

After leaving the White House, Nixon worked hard behind-the-scenes to refashion himself into an elder statesman of the Republican Party.

  • Throughout the 1980s, he traveled the lecture circuit, wrote books, and met with many foreign leaders, especially those of Third World countries.
  • He supported Ronald Reagan for president in 1980, making television appearances portraying himself as the senior statesman above the fray. 
  • For the rest of his life, he fought ferociously through the courts to prevent the release of most of the infamous “Watergate tapes” that chronicled his crimes as President.
  • Only since his death have many of these been made public.

Nixon died on April 22, 1994.

  • Eulogists at his funeral included President Bill Clinton and former Presidents Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, California Governor Pete Wilson and the Reverend Billy Graham.
  • Despite his efforts to portray himself as an elder statesman, Nixon could never erase his infamy as the only President to resign in disgrace.
  • To this day, he remains a nonperson within the Republican Party.  While numerous Republican Presidential candidates quote and identify themselves with Ronald Reagan, none has done the same with Nixon.

Bradlee remained executive editor of The Washington Post until retiring in 1991.  But he continued to serve as vice president-at-large until his death on October 21, 2014.

  • In 2007, he received the French Legion of Honor, the highest award given by the French government, at a ceremony in Paris.
  • In 2013, he was named as a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.  He was presented the medal at a White House ceremony on November 20, 2013.

LET THE SUNSHINE IN

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on October 24, 2014 at 12:06 am

President Barack Obama and Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney raised and spent millions of dollars for campaign ads. They logged thousands of miles, crisscrossing the nation, speaking to millions of Americans.

And yet, when the 2012 Presidential race finally ended on November 6, 2012, history recorded the contest was settled with a single video.

It was the infamous “47%” video of Romney speaking–for once, truthfully–at a private fundraiser:

“Well, there are 47% of the people who will vote for the President no matter what. All right? There are 47% who are with him.

“Who are dependent upon government. Who believe that–that they are victims. Who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them.

“Who believe that they’re entitled to healthcare, to food, to housing, to you name it. But that’s–it’s an entitlement.

“…These are people who pay no income tax. 47% of Americans pay no income taxes. So our message of low taxes doesn’t connect. And he’ll be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich.”

A great deal of speculation has centered on: Who filmed it?

And in April, 2013, history repeated itself–with another Republican caught telling the ugly truth behind closed doors.

In this case, it was Kentucky United States Senator Mitch McConnell.  A microphone (probably stationed outside his Senate office) caught him discussing how to attack Ashley Judd’s mental health if the actress decided to challenge him in 2014.

“She’s clearly, this sounds extreme, but she is emotionally unbalanced,” a McConnell aide said. “I mean, it’s been documented….She’s suffered some suicidal tendencies.  She was hospitalized for 42 days when she had a mental breakdown in the 90s.”

“I assume most of you have played the game Whac-A-Mole,” said McConnell.  “This is the Whac-A-Mole period of the campaign…when anybody sticks their head up, do them out.”

McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader, refused to answer reporters’ questions about whether an opponent’s mental health or religious beliefs are fair game in a political campaign.

Instead, he accused “the political left” of mounting “quite a Nixonian move.”  An ironic charge, considering that Nixon and McConnell rose to power within the same political party.

As in the case of the Mitt Romney videotape, the focus of the press quickly turned to: Who recorded it?

But this totally missed the point.

It doesn’t matter who provides vital information. What does matter is: Is that information accurate?

In Romney’s case, it opened a window into a world seldom-seen by voters: The world of big-league donors and their money-grubbing political solicitors.

In McConnell’s case, it cast light on the how entrenched politicians ruthlessly defend their turf.

It should be clear that money-grubbing politicians have two versions of campaign speaking: One for donors whose money they seek, and another for the public whose votes they seek.

Rich and greed-obsessed donors (unlike poor and ignorant voters) are too smart to be fobbed off with appeals to their fears and prejudices. They expect a tangible return for their support–namely:

  • Lower (preferably no) taxes
  • Freedom to pollute
  • Freedom to pay their employees the lowest possible wages
  • Freedom to treat their employees like serfs
  • Freedom to churn out shoddy or even dangerous goods

So what a candidate says in private, to his wealthy donors–or his campaign strategists–reflects what he really means and intends to do.

A similar frenzy of speculation centered on the identity of “Deep Throat”–the legendary source for Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward during the Watergate scandal. For decades, this proved a favorite guessing game for Washington reporters, politicians and government officials.

Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein working on Watergate

In the end, “Deep Throat” turned out to be W. Mark Felt, assistant director of the FBI.

Commentators have endlessly debated his motives for leaking crucial Watergate evidence that ultimately ended the corrupt Presidency of Richard Nixon.

And, in the end, despite all the theories, it didn’t matter.

Felt provided Washington Woodward with the evidence necessary to keep the Watergate investigations going–by both the Post and the FBI.

W. Mark Felt

Thus, the question making the rounds about the McConnell discussion shouldn’t have been: Who taped it?

It should have been: How can more private fundraisers and political strategy sessions be penetrated and recorded–so voters can learn the truth about those who would become our elected rulers?

Definitely, those who specialize in “opposition research” should be thinking hard about this.

Private investigators–who regularly unearth secrets others want to keep secret–might also take an interest in this line of work.

And news organizations should offer financial rewards to those who provide such secret information.

With the advent of billionaires trying to buy the Presidency, and the unwillingness of Congress and the Supreme Court to stop the flow of unsavory money into politics, this may be our only chance to preserve what is left of the Republic.

Anyone who’s ever turned on a light to find roaches scurrying quickly over a kitchen floor knows the truth of this.

Turn on the lights–and watch the roaches scurry away.

HITLER, THE GOP AND “SCORCHED EARTH”: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on October 15, 2014 at 12:00 am

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

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

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

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

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

Warren Buffett

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

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

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

In the end, what counted was what the House Republicans wanted.

To prevent the government from defaulting on its loans, President Barack Obama agreed to sign the Republican-crafted Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011.

The Act provided for a Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to produce legislation by late November to decrease the deficit by $1.2 trillion over ten years.

When the so-called “Super Committee” failed to reach agreement, the second part of the BCA went into effect.

This directed automatic across-the-board cuts (known as “sequestrations”) split evenly between defense and domestic spending, beginning on January 2, 2013.

A major casualty of sequestration has been the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  And this, combined with the Ebola crisis, has threatened the safety of the Nation Republicans claim to love:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

  • In 2013, the CDC was forced to cut 5%, or more than $285 million, from its budget.
  • The sequester cut $195 million from the National Centers for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, a CDC program that tries to prevent illness and death from infectious disease.
  • For fiscal 2014, CDC’s budget was $5.9 billion, down from the $6.5 billion allotted in 2010.

Moreover, the United States is now confronting the Ebola crisis without a Surgeon General–thanks to NRA-funded Republican Senators.

President Obama nominated Dr. Vivek Murthy to fill the spot in November, 2013, when the previous surgeon general left the position.

But the Senate still hasn’t approved Murthy. And support for him has declined since he tweeted on October 16, 2002, that “guns are a health care issue.”

At the same time, Republicans have rushed to blame President Obama for the continuing Ebola menace in West Africa–and the danger it poses to Americans.

“I think this Ebola outbreak in Africa is a serious problem,” said House Speaker John Boehner.  “And I’m a bit surprised the administration hasn’t acted more quickly to address what is a serious threat, not only to Africans but to others around the world.”

“The President made a lot of commitments to combat Ebola, actions which I supported,” said North Carolina U.S. Senator Richard Burr. “But it has become clear that the administration’s capacity to fulfill these promises in a timeline that sufficiently addresses this crisis does not exist.”

* * * * *

As the Third Reich came to its fiery end, Adolf Hitler sought to punish the German people for being “unworthy” of his “genius” and losing the war he had started.

His attitude was: “If I can’t rule Germany, then there won’t be a Germany.”

In his infamous “Nero Order,” he decreed the destruction of everything still remaining–industries, ships, harbors, communications, roads, mines, bridges, stores, utility plants, food stuffs.

Fortunately for Germany, one man–Albert Speer–finally broke ranks with his Fuhrer.

Albert Speer

Risking death, he refused to carry out Hitler’s “scorched earth” order.  Even more important, he mounted a successful effort to block such destruction or persuade influential military and civilian leaders to disobey the order as well.

As a result, those targets slated for destruction were spared.

Since the election of America’s first black President, Republicans have waged a similar “scorched earth” campaign. 

Their avowed goal–as stated openly by Kentucky’s U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell–was “to make Barack Obama a one-term President.”  

Literally during his first Inauguration, Republicans, in a secret meeting, agreed to block every effort he made to repair the economy.

Acting as extortionists, they have repeatedly threatened to shut down the government if they didn’t get their way in legislative matters.

And just as repeatedly, they have blocked legislation that would have helped the poor, unemployed, women, elderly, disabled or middle-class. 

At the center of their fury has been the Affordable Care Act, providing medical care to all citizens. Even after Congress passed it and the Supreme Court affirmed it, House Republicans shut down the government in October, 2013. 

By doing so, they hoped to pressure Obama into killing his signature piece of legislation. The effort failed.

Like Adolf Hitler, their attitude has been: “If I can’t rule America, there won’t be an America.”

It remains to be seen whether a Republican Albert Speer will step forward to save America from the self-destructive excesses of this Nation’s own fanatics.

HITLER, THE GOP AND “SCORCHED EARTH”: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on October 14, 2014 at 12:10 am

Albert Speer, Minister of Armaments for the Third Reich, was appalled.

His Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler–the man he had idolized for 14 years–had just passed a death sentence on Germany, the nation he claimed to love above all others.

Albert Speer and Adolf Hitler pouring over architectural plans

On March 19, 1945, facing certain defeat, Hitler had ordered a massive “scorched-earth” campaign throughout Germany.

All German agriculture, industry, ships, communications, roads, food stuffs, mines, bridges, stores and utility plants were to be destroyed.

If implemented, it would deprive the entire German population of even the barest necessities after the war.

Click here: Hitler’s “Scorched Earth” Decree and Albert Speer’s Response

Now living in a bunker 50 feet below bomb-shattered Berlin, Hitler gave full vent to his most destructive impulses.

Adolf Hitler addressing boy soldiers as the Third Reich crumbles

“If the war is lost,” Hitler told Speer, “the nation will also perish. This fate is inevitable. There is no necessity to take into consideration the basis which the people will need to continue even a most primitive existence.

“On the contrary, it will be better to destroy these things ourselves, because this nation will have proved to be the weaker one and the future will belong solely to the stronger eastern nation.

“Besides, those who will remain after the battle are only the inferior ones, for the good ones have all been killed.”

Speer argued in vain that there must be a future for the German people.  But Hitler refused to back down. He gave Speer 24 hours to reconsider his opposition to the order.

The next day, Speer told Hitler: “My Fuhrer, I stand unconditionally behind you!”

“Then all is well,” said Hitler, suddenly with tears in his eyes.

“If I stand unreservedly behind you,” said Speer, “then you must entrust me rather than the Gauleiters [district Party leaders serving as provincial governors] with the implementation of your decree.”

Filled with gratitude, Hitler signed the decree Speer had thoughtfully prepared before their fateful meeting.

By doing so, Hitler unintentionally gave Speer the power to thwart his “scorched earth” decree.

Speer had been the closest thing to a friend in Hitler’s life.  Trained as an architect, he had joined the Nazi Party in 1931.

He met Hitler in 1933, when he presented the Fuhrer with architectural designs for the Nuremberg Rally scheduled for that year.

From then on, Speer became Hitler’s “genius architect” assigned to create buildings meant to last for a thousand years.

In 1943, Hitler appointed him Minister of Armaments, charged with revitalizing the German war effort.

Nevertheless, Speer now crisscrossed Germany, persuading military leaders and district governors to not destroy the vital facilities that wound be needed after the war.

“No other senior National Socialist could have done the job,” writes Randall Hanson, author of Disobeying Hitler: German Resistance After Valkyrie.

“Speer was one of the very few people in the Reich–perhaps even the only one–with such power to influence actors willingness/unwillingness to destroy.”

Despite his later conviction for war crimes at Nuremberg, Speer never regretted his efforts to save Germany from total destruction at the hands of Adolf Hitler.

Fast-forward to the United States since the 2008 election of President Barack Obama.

Republicans have adopted the same my-way-or-else “negotiating” stance as Adolf Hitler.  Like him, they are determined to gain absolute power–or destroy the Nation they claim to love.

Ronald Reagan presided over a tripling of the national debt–and raised the debt limit 17 times–during his eight years in the White House.

President George W. Bush nearly doubled it again.

But that didn’t become an issue for Republicans–so long as one of them held the White House.

Republicans in Congress raised the debt ceiling seven times during the George W. Bush Presidency–when the national debt grew to $10.627 trillion due to tax cuts and wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Only when a Democrat–and a black one at that–became President did Congressional Republicans consider this a danger.

Suddenly, “fiscal integrity” became the byword of Republicans.  And in its name, they repeatedly threatened to shut down the government if their legislative demands weren’t met.

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

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

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

John Boehner

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

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

By refusing to raise the debt ceiling, they would force the government to default on paying the bills it owed.

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

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

LIKE AIDS, LIKE EBOLA: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 7, 2014 at 12:25 am

On October 3, a series of high-ranking officials briefed reporters at the White House on the emerging Ebola threat.

Presiding over the briefing was Lisa Monaco, assistant to the President for Homeland Security.

The assembled dignitaries repeatedly assured their audience–reporters from the national media and those tuning in around the country–that there was nothing to worry about.

Lisa Monaco speaking at White House press conference on Ebola

As explained by Monaco:

“I want to emphasize that the United States is prepared to deal with this crisis both at home and in the region. Every Ebola outbreak over the past 40 years has been stopped.

“We know how to do this and we will do it again. With America’s leadership, I am confident, and President Obama is confident, that this epidemic will also be stopped.”

A little more than 30 years ago, America was facing another deadly epidemic–that of AIDS.

Officials at all levels of government–local, state and Federal–also repeatedly assured their fellow citizens they had nothing to worry about.

Everyone knew, after all, that only homosexuals having “unprotected sex” got AIDS.

So the warning went out: If you aren’t gay, you have nothing to worry about.

But then another group of AIDS-infected patients appeared: intravenous drug users.

So the message was revised: If you’re not gay, and you don’t use IV drugs, you’re OK.

Then a third group of at-risk people began showing up in doctors’ offices: Haitians.

So, once again, the warning was revised: If you aren’t gay, don’t use IV drugs, and you’re not from Haiti, you’ll be safe.

But then a fourth group of endangered citizens emerged: hemophiliacs.

So the warning was reissued as: If you’re not gay, don’t use IV drugs, aren’t Haitian and aren’t a hemophiliac needing blood transfusions, AIDS can’t touch you.

And then a fifth category of victims emerged: heterosexual women.

And, yet again, the warning was changed: If you’re not gay, don’t use IV drugs, aren’t Haitian, aren’t a hemophilic and aren’t a heterosexual woman….

The numbers of potential AIDS victims kept expanding–and giving the lie to all the comforting boilerplate churned out by PR machines.

Apparently, someone at the White House press conference on Ebola remembered that earlier scenario.

Because, to the obvious surprise of the assembled dignitaries, an anonymous reporter stated what was clearly on the minds of his viewing/listening audience:

“So help me understand–the stuff that you’ve talked about in terms of preparedness here in this country, the conversations with hospitals, the coordination with the local authorities and all seems very dissonant.

“I think to people in the country who look at basically the first case, or one of the first cases, and see that the whole thing broke down.

“At every step of the way there were breakdowns. It broke down, as the person back there was saying, when he [Thomas Eric Duncan, the Ebola patient who flew to Dallas from Liberia] lied on the form.

“It broke down when the hospital turned him away. It broke down when the materials that were in his apartment haven’t been thrown away.

“I mean, it feels like, to Americans, like you guys are up here talking about we have this great and perfect system that’s going to be able to contain this virus because we’ve done all this preparation, and yet it doesn’t look like it’s working.

“And so how should the regular or the average person have confidence that whether it’s the case in Howard or whether it’s some case somewhere else in the country at the moment, that somebody isn’t being turned away there?

“That somebody didn’t get–their temperature got taken in Africa but didn’t get caught, and so they’re on a plane as we speak?  Square the dissonance between your confidence and the fact that things don’t seem to be working.”

It was the journalistic version of “The Emperor’s New Clothes”: The little boy’s pointing out that the emperor–for all the subservient flattery of his aides–didn’t have any clothes on.

Lisa Monaco fell back on boilerplate: “I think the American people should be confident for all the reasons that we have stated and the President has spoken to….”

She admitted that, yes, all the screw-ups the reporter had outlined had in fact happened: “And we have now seen one [Ebola] case, and as Dr. Fauci mentioned, it is entirely possible we will see another case.”

But she refused to admit that preventing other Ebola-infected Liberians from entering the United States was a commonsense approach.

She repeated what she had said earlier: “We have a public health infrastructure and medical professionals throughout this country who are capable of dealing with cases if they present themselves….”

In short, the United States can afford to be a dumping-ground for other countries’ deadly cast-offs.

And, somehow, everything would of course turn out all right.

LIKE AIDS, LIKE EBOLA: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 6, 2014 at 12:11 am

Ebola.  Another way of saying: “African nightmare.”

Its signs and symptoms typically begin abruptly within five to 10 days of infection. These include:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Severe headache
  • Joint and muscle aches
  • Chills
  • Weakness

Over time, symptoms become increasingly severe and may include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sore throat
  • Hiccups
  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Diarrhea (may be bloody)
  • Red eyes
  • Raised rash
  • Chest pain and cough
  • Stomach pain
  • Severe weight loss
  • Bleeding, usually from the eyes, and bruising (people near death may bleed from other orifices, such as ears, nose and rectum)
  • Internal bleeding

Ebola virus

The average time between contracting Ebola and the onset of symptoms is eight to 10 days, but this can vary between two and 21 days.

Its early symptoms may be similar to–and mistaken for–those of malaria, dengue fever or other tropical fevers.  When the disease reaches the bleeding phase, there can be no doubt.

Ebola-infected hand

Infection can occur through contact with

  • blood
  • sweat
  • saliva
  • mucus
  • vomit
  • feces
  • tears
  • breast milk
  • semen
  • urine

of an infected person or animal.

Fruit bats are believed to be carriers and may spread the virus without being affected.

Even surviving Ebola infection doesn’t guarantee future safety: Male survivors may be able to transmit it through semen for almost two months.

Doctors believe it can’t–as yet–be transmitted through the air, like measles or chickenpox.

Government officials–such as Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention–are quick to point out that “direct contact” must occur to cause infection.

“Direct contact” means fluids that spray or splash into your eyes, nose or mouth–as when someone sneezes or coughs on you–or enter the bloodstream through breaks or cuts in skin.

You can also become infected by touching someone’s infected fluids and then touching your eyes or mouth.

Until September, Ebola was a nightmare that plagued only Africa–especially Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

As of October 3, Ebola has killed 3,400 people in West Africa.

Then on September 21, Thomas Eric Duncan flew from Liberia to Dallas, Texas.  On September 25 he sought medical care at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital.

He was diagnosed as having a “low grade fever and abdominal pain.”  He underwent basic blood tests but wasn’t screened for Ebola. Duncan left the medical facility after being given antibiotics and a pain reliever.

Duncan lived in a Dallas apartment with his family when he got sick.  On October 3, that apartment was finally decontaminated by a hazardous-materials crew.

Duncan’s relatives were moved out to a private residence in a gated community that was offered by a volunteer.

Health officials are monitoring about 50 people who may have had contact with Duncan, including nine who are believed to be at a higher risk. Thus far none have shown symptoms. 

Meanwhile, an American freelance cameraman working for NBC in Liberia has tested positive for Ebola and will be flown back to the United States, along with the rest of the news crew.

So how is the Federal Government coping with this unprecedented crisis?

With a massive PR offensive, orchestrated at the highest level–the White House.

On October 3, reporters for national news media were briefed at the White House by no less a series of high-ranking officials than:

  • Lisa Monaco, assistant to the President for Homeland Security;
  • Sylvia Burwell, secretary of Health and Human Services;
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases;
  • Raj Shah, administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development; and
  • General David Rodriguez, commander of U.S. Forces Africa Command.

“We are not facing just a health crisis, we are facing a national security priority,” said Monaco.  And she added:

“The strategy the United States is executing has four key goals:

  • To control the epidemic at its source in West Africa;
  • To mitigate the second-order impacts of this epidemic;
  • To lead a coordinated international response;
  • And to build a robust global health security infrastructure so we are prepared over the long run to confront epidemics such as the one we’re facing today.”

But controlling “the epidemic at its source in West Africa” doesn’t mean the government will ban all flights from Ebola-ravaged Liberia.

Said Monaco: “Right now we believe those types of steps actually impede the response. They…. slow down the ability of the United States and other international partners to actually get expertise and capabilities and equipment into the affected areas.”

Monaco did not explain why preventing travelers from an infected region from entering the United States would impede the United States from shipping “capabilities and equipment into the affected areas.

But it’s easy to see how such a ban of black Africans would be seen–and attacked–as Politically Incorrect.  Especially if it were ordered by the first black President of the United States.

The assembled dignitaries repeatedly emphasized that , as Monaco put it:

“It’s very important to remind the American people that the United States has the most capable health care infrastructure and the best doctors in the world, bar none. And it’s why people travel from all over the world to receive medical care here in the United States.”

That, at least, is the official side of the story.  In the next column, we’ll explore the real side of it.

REPUBLICANS: KILLING IS GOOD, FOOD STAMPS ARE BAD

In Politics, Bureaucracy, History, Social commentary, Military on October 3, 2014 at 12:45 pm

In the 1970 film, Patton, General George S. Patton is a man driven by his obsession to be the best field commander in the war–and to be recognized for it.

George C. Scott as George S. Patton

And he sees British General Bernard Montgomery–his equally egotistical rival–as a potential obstacle to that latter ambition.

So, in Algeria, he conjures up a plan that will sideline “Monty” while he, Patton, defeats the Germans–and bags the glory.

The trick lies in throwing a sumptuous dinner-–in the middle of the African desert-–for a visiting British general: Harold Alexander.

As Patton (George C. Scott, in an Oscar-winning performance) tells his aide: “I want to give a dinner for General Alexander. I want to get to him before Montgomery does.  I want the finest food and the best wine available. Everything.”

The aide pulls off the dinner–where, indeed, “the finest food and the best wine” are on full display, along with attentive waiters and a candelabra.

So think about it:

  • In the middle of the desert
  • while American and British forces are forced to subsist on C-rations
  • and are under repeated air attack by the Luftwaffe
  • and tank attack by the Afrika Korps

a handful of ultra-pampered American and British military officers find the time–and luxuries–to throw themselves a fine party.

Now, fast-forward from Algeria in 1943 to Washington, D.C., in 2013.

Returning to Congress after their traditional summer recess, House Republicans planned to cut $40 billion in food stamps for the poor.  That’s double the amount previously sought by Right-wingers.

The cuts would include drug tests of applicants and tougher work rules.  As Republicans see it: There’s no point in “helping” the poor if you can’t humiliate them.

Food stamps, the largest U.S. anti-hunger program, are the pivotal issue for a new U.S. farm law costing $80 billion a year.

One in seven Americans–15% of U.S. households–received food stamps at latest count.  Enrollment in the program soared after the 2008-09 recession–a direct consequence of the Bush administration’s refusal to regulate powerful, greed-fueled corporations.

Republicans claim the program is unbearably expensive at $78 billion a year.

Meanwhile, as 49 million Americans have trouble putting meals on the table, Republicans are eager to spend billions of dollars for another project.

An unnecessary war with Syria.

One of these right-wingers is Bill Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard–and one of the leading instigators of the 2003 war with Iraq.

He–like senior officials on the George W. Bush administration–claimed that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and planned to use them against the United States.

That proved to be a lie.

He also pushed the lie that Hussein planned 9/11 with Osama bin Laden.

He has never apologized for either lie–or the resulting war that killed 4,487 American soldiers and wounded another 32,226.

In a recent column, Kristol called for a return to slaughter–not only in Syria but Iran as well:

“…Soon after voting to authorize the use of force against the Assad regime, Republicans might consider moving an authorization for the use of force against the Iranian nuclear weapons program.

“They can explain that Obama’s dithering in the case of Syria shows the utility of unequivocally giving him the authority to act early with respect to Iran.”

Former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice–who also helped lie the nation into the needless 2003 Iraq war–is another big promoter of “give war a chance”:

“My fellow Americans, we do not have a choice. We cannot be reluctant to lead–and one cannot lead from behind.”

Among Republican U.S. Senators calling for war are John McCain (Arizona) and Lindsey Graman (South Carolina), who issued a joint statement:

“Using stand-off weapons, without boots on the ground, and at minimal risk to our men and women in uniform, we can significantly degrade Assad’s air power and ballistic missile capabilities and help to establish and defend safe areas on  the ground.

“In addition, we must begin a large-scale effort to train and equip moderate, vetted elements of the Syrian opposition with the game-changing weapons they need to shift the military balance against [Syrian dictator Bashir] Assad’s forces.”

Except that there are no “moderate, vetted elements of the Syrian opposition.  The opposition is just as murderous as the Assad regime–and eager to replace one dictator with another.

In addition: A major weapon for “degrading Assad’s air power” would be Tomahawk Cruise missiles.  A single one of these costs $1,410,000.

Firing of a Tomahawk Cruise missile

A protracted missile strike would rain literally billions of dollars’ worth of American missiles on Syria.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon is spending about $27 million a week to maintain the increased U.S. Navy presence in the Mediterranean Sea and Middle East region to keep watch over Syria and be prepared to strike.

Navy officials say it costs about $25 million a week for the carrier group and $2 million a week for each destroyer.

Is there a lesson to be learned from all this?

Yes.

Powerful people–whether generals, politicians or the wealthy–will always find abundant money and resources available for projects they consider important.

It’s only when it comes to projects that other people actually need that such people will claim there is, unfortunately, a cash shortage.

MINDING OUR OWN BUSINESS

In Politics, Bureaucracy, History, Social commentary, Military on October 1, 2014 at 12:21 pm

On the September 28 edition of 60 Minutes, President Barack Obama spoke about his recent decision to commit American troops to fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Steve Kroft: I think everybody applauds the efforts that you’ve made and the size of the coalition that has been assembled.

But most of them are contributing money or training or policing the borders, not getting particularly close to the contact. It looks like once again we are leading the operation. We are carrying…

President Obama: Steve, that’s always the case. That’s always the case. America leads. We are the indispensable nation. We have capacity no one else has. Our military is the best in the history of the world.

And when trouble comes up anywhere in the world, they don’t call Beijing. They don’t call Moscow. They call us. That’s the deal.

President Obama

Steve Kroft: I mean, it looks like we are doing 90 percent.

President Obama: Steve, there is not an as issue … when there’s a typhoon in the Philippines, take a look at who’s helping the Philippines deal with that situation. When there’s an earthquake in Haiti, take a look at who’s leading the charge making sure Haiti can rebuild. That’s how we roll. And that’s what makes this America.

* * * * *

President Obama is right: “When trouble comes up anywhere in the world, they don’t call Beijing.  They don’t call Moscow.  They call us.”

And, according to former CIA agent Michael Scheuer, that’s the problem: America can’t learn to mind its own business.

Scheuer is a 20-year CIA veteran–as well as an author, historian, foreign policy critic and political analyst.

Michael Scheuer

From 1996 to 1999 he headed Alec Station, the CIA’s unit assigned to track Osama bin Laden at the agency’s Counterterrorism Center.

He is currently an adjunct professor at Georgetown University’s Center for Peace and Security Studies.

He’s also the author of two seminal works on America’s fight against terrorism: Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror  (2003) and Marching Toward Hell: America and Islam after Iraq (2008).

Scheuer says that Islamics don’t hate Americans because of “our way of life”–with its freedoms of speech and worship and its highly secular, commercialized culture.

Instead, Islamic hatred toward the United States stems from America’s six longstanding policies in the Middle East:

  • U.S. support for apostate, corrupt, and tyrannical Muslim governments
  • U.S. and other Western troops on the Arabian Peninsula
  • U.S. support for Israel that keeps Palestinians in the Israelis’ thrall
  • U.S. pressure on Arab energy producers to keep oil prices low
  • U.S. occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan
  • U.S. support for Russia, India, and China against their Muslim militants

Scheuer contends that no amount of American propaganda will win “the hearts and minds” of Islamics who can “see, hear, experience, and hate” these policies firsthand.

But there is another danger facing America, says Scheuer, one that threatens “the core of our social and civil institutions.”

And in Marching Toward Hell he bluntly indicts that threat: The “profound and willful ignorance” of America’s “bipartisan governing elite.”

Scheuer defines this elite as “the inbred set of individuals who have influenced…drafted and conducted U.S. foreign policy” since 1973.

Within that group are:

  • politicians
  • journalists
  • academics
  • preachers
  • civil servants
  • military officers
  • philanthropists.

“Some are Republicans, others Democrats; some are evangelicals, others atheists; some are militarists, others pacifists; some are purveyors of Western civilization, others are multiculturalists,” writes Scheuer.

But for all their political and/or philosophical differences, the members of this governing elite share one belief in common.

According to Scheuer, that belief is “an unquenchable ardor to have the United States intervene abroad in all places, situations and times.”

And he warns that this “bipartisan governing elite” must radically change its policies–such as unconditional support for Israel and corrupt, tyrannical Muslim governments.

Otherwise, Americans will be locked in an endless “hot war” with the Islamic world.

During his September 28 appearance on 60 Minutes,  President Obama admitted that the mostly Sunni-Muslim Iraqi army had refused to combat the Sunni army of ISIL.

Then followed this exchange:

Steve Kroft: What happens if the Iraqis don’t fight or can’t fight?

President Obama: Well…

Steve Kroft: What’s the end game?

President Obama: I’m not going to speculate on failure at the moment. We’re just getting started. Let’s see how they do.

It was precisely such a mindset that led the United States, step by step, into the Vietnam quagmire.

As in the case of Vietnam, the United States lacks:

  • Real or worthwhile allies in Iraq or Syria;
  • A working knowledge of the peoples it wants to influence in either country;
  • Clearly-defined goals that it seeks to accomplish in that region.

America rushed to disaster in Vietnam because its foreign policy elite felt it had to “do something” to fight Communism anywhere in the world.

And it is continuing to rush toward disaster in the Middle East because its foreign policy elite once again feel is must “do something.”

MENTALITIES, NOT PARTIES, MAKE HISTORY

In History, Politics, Social commentary on September 30, 2014 at 1:46 am

Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln is more than a mesmerizing history lesson.

It’s a timely reminder that racism and repression are not confined to any one period or political party.

At the heart of the film: Abraham Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis) wants to win ratification of what will be the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.  An amendment that will forever ban slavery.

True, Lincoln, in 1862, had issued the Emancipation Proclamation.  This–in theory–freed slaves held in the Confederate states that were in rebellion against the United States Government.

But Lincoln regards this as a temporary wartime measure.

He fears that, once the war is over, the Supreme Court may rule the Proclamation unconstitutional.  This might allow Southerners to  continue practicing slavery, even after losing the war.

To prevent this, Congress must pass an anti-slavery amendment.

But winning Congressional passage of such an amendment won’t be easy.

The Senate had ratified its passage in 1864.  But the amendment must secure approval from the House of Representatives to become law.

And the House is filled with men–there are no women menmbers during the 19th century–who seethe with hostility.

Some are hostile to Lincoln personally.  One of them dubs him a Negroid dictator: “Abraham Africanus.”  Another accuses him of shifting his positions for the sake of expediency.

Other members–white men all–are hostile to the idea of “equality between the races.”

To them, ending slavery means opening the door to interracial marriage–especially marriage between black men and white women.  Perhaps even worse, it means possibly giving blacks–or women–the right to vote.

In fact, the possibility that blacks might win voting rights arises early in the movie.  Lincoln is speaking to a couple of black Union soldiers, and one of them is unafraid to voice his discontent.

He’s upset that black soldiers are paid less than white ones–and that they’re led only by white officers.

He says that, in time, maybe this will change.  Maybe, in 100 years, he guesses, blacks will get the right to vote.

(To the shame of all Americans, that’s how long it will eventually take.  Not until the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 will blacks be guaranteed legal protection against discriminatory voting practices.)

To understand the Congressional debate over the Thirteenth Amendment, it’s necessary to remember this:  In Lincoln’s time, the Republicans were the party of progressives.

The party was founded on an anti-slavery platform.  Its members were reviled by slavery supporters as “Black Republicans.”

And until the 1960s, the South was solidly DemocraticDemocrats were the ones defending the status quo–slavery–and opposing freed blacks in the South of Reconstruction and long afterward.

In short, in the 18th century, Democrats in the South acted as Republicans do now.

The South went Republican only after a Democratic President–Lyndon B. Johnson–rammed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 through Congress.

Watching this re-enactment of the 1865 debate in Lincoln is like watching a rerun of the 2012 Presidential campaign.  The same mentalities are at work:

  • Those (slave-owners) who already have a great deal want to gain even more at the expense of others.
  • Those (slaves and freed blacks) who have little strive to gain more or at least hang onto what they still have.
  • Those who defend the privileged wealthy refuse to allow their “social inferiors” to enjoy similar privileges (such as the right to vote).

During the 2012 Presidential race, the Republicans tried to bar those likely to vote for President Barack Obama from getting into the voting booth.  But their bogus “voter ID” restrictions were struck down in courts across the nation.

Listening to those opposing the Thirteenth Amendment, one is reminded of Mitt Romney’s infamous comments about the “47%: “

If slavery is outlawed, they argue, then black men will no longer “know their place” and even dare to marry white women.

Romney, in turn, showed the same contempt for those he clearly regarded as his social inferiors:

“Well, there are 47% of the people who will vote for the president no matter what….

“Who are dependent upon government, who believe that–-that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they’re entitled to healthcare, to food, to housing, to you name it.

“But that’s-–it’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them.”

But by the end of the movie, it is Abraham Lincoln who has the final word.  Through diplomacy and backroom dealings (trading political offices for votes) he wins passage of the anti-slavery amendment.

The movie closes with a historically-correct tribute to Lincoln’s generosity toward those who opposed him–in Congress and on the battlefield.

It occurs during Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address: “With malice toward none, with charity for all….To bind up the nation’s wounds.  To care for him who shall have bourne the battle and for his widow and his orphan….”

This ending presents a vivid philosophical contrast with the sore-loser comments Romney made after the campaign: “The president’s campaign, if you will, focused on giving targeted groups a big gift.”

Watching Lincoln, you realize it is not political parties that make history.  It is the mentalities of men and women who follow their hearts to bringing liberty–or slavery–to others.

 

A REMEDY FOR TREASON: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on September 26, 2014 at 12:11 am

In 1845, Andrew Jackson, seventh President of the United States from 1829 to 1837, lay close to death.

“What act of my administration will be most severely condemned by future Americans?” he asked his doctor.

“Perhaps the removal of the bank deposits,” said the doctor–referring to Jackson’s withdrawal of U.S. Government monies from the first Bank of the United States.

That act had destroyed the bank, which Jackson had believed a source of political corruption.

“Oh, no!” said Jackson.

“Then maybe the specie circular,” said the doctor. He was referring to an 1836 executive order Jackson had issued, requiring payment for government land to be in gold and silver.

“Not at all!” said Jackson.

Then, his eyes blazing, Jackson raged: “I can tell you. Posterity will condemn me more because I was persuaded not to hang John C. Calhoun as a traitor than for any other act in my life!”

John C. Calhoun had once been Vice President under Jackson and later a United States Senator from South Carolina.

John C. Calhoun

His fiery rhetoric and radical theories of “nullification” played a major part in bringing on the Civil War (1861-1865).

Calhoun was an outspoken supporter of slavery, which he declared to be a “positive good” rather than a “necessary evil.”  He supported states’ rights and nullification–by which states could declare null and void any federal laws they disliked and deemed unconstitutional.    

Historians have not condemned Jackson for failing to hang the senator.  But perhaps he was right-–and perhaps he should have hanged Calhoun.

It might have prevented the Civil War-–or at least delayed its coming.

Over time, Southern states’ threats of “nullification” turned to threats of “secession” from the Union.

Jackson died in 1845-–16 years before the Civil War erupted.

The resulting carnage destroyed as many as 620,000 lives. More Americans died in that war than have been killed in all the major wars fought by the United States since.

When it ended, America was reinvented as a new, unified nation–-and one where slavery was now banned by the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Equally important, the Federal Government had now set a precedent for using overwhelming military power to force states to remain in the Union.

But within days of Barack Obama’s decisive winning of another four years as President, residents across the country have raised the call of treason.

They have done so by filing secession petitions to the Obama administration’s “We the People” program, which is featured on the White House website.

And how has the Obama administration responded?

By backing down when agents of the Federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) were threatened by armed militia members and states’ right protesters.

For more than 20 years, Cliven Bundy, a Nevada cattle rancher, has refused to pay fees for grazing cattle on public lands, some 80 miles north of Las Vegas.

BLM says Bundy now owes close to $1 million. He says his family has used the land since the 1870s and doesn’t recognize the federal government’s jurisdiction.

In 2013, a federal judge ordered Bundy to remove his livestock. He ignored the order, and in early April, 2014, BLM agents rounded up more than 400 of his cattle.

Over the weekend of April 12-13, armed militia members and states’ right protesters showed up to challenge the move.

BLM agents vs. armed militia members

Fearing another Waco–regarded by Right-wing Americans as a second Alamo–the BLM agents backed down and released Bundy’s cattle.  And then retreated.

Right-wing bloggers and commentators have portrayed the incident as a victory over Federal tyranny.

Abraham Lincoln dedicated his Presidency–and sacrificed his life–to ensure the preservation of a truly United States.

And Robert E. Lee—the defeated South’s greatest general—spent the last five years of his life trying to put the Civil War behind him and persuade his fellow Southerners to accept their place in the Union.

But today avowed racists, fascists and other champions of treason are working hard to destroy that union–and unleash a second Civil War.

President Obama could have chosen a different approach to dealing with armed militia groups–before treasonous talk become treasonous acts.

That of Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln–and William Tecumseh Sherman.

Sherman, whose army cut a swath of destruction through the South in 1864, said it best.  Speaking of the Southern Confederacy, he advised: “They cannot be made to love us, but they may be made to fear us.

William T. Sherman “Marching Through Georgia” with his army, 1864

“We cannot change the hearts of those people of the South.  But we can make war so terrible that they will realize the fact that ….they are still mortal and should exhaust all peaceful remedies before they fly to war.”

And Obama could have similarly warned these 21st-century traitors that he was prepared to meet treason with the full force of the United States Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.

By failing to do so, he has almost certainly encouraged Right-wing secessionists to even greater acts of treason and violence.

                                                   
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