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Posts Tagged ‘BARACK OBAMA’

SECRET SERVICE PROBLEMS – A LONG HISTORY: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics on September 23, 2014 at 12:15 am

On September 11, 2001, Secret Service agents literally grabbed Vice President Dick Cheney and hauled him from the White House to a secure facility beneath the Executive Mansion.

As for everyone else who worked in the White House, agents simply threw open the White House doors and ordered: “Run!”

“Women, take off your shoes!” agents shouted–so they could run faster.  Frightened Presidential aides were told to remove their White House badges–just in case snipers were lurking nearby.

That was it.

With the World Trade Center and Pentagon in flames, and the White House seemingly next in line as a target, this was the sum total of protection offered White House staffers by the agency considered the elite in Federal law enforcement.

Not knowing what to do, some aides walked home in a daze.

Click here: Amazon.com: Days of Fire: Bush and Cheney in the White House (9780385525190): Peter Baker: Books

(President George W. Bush was not in the White House at the time.  He was reading The Pet Goat to a group of children at Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida.)

Three days later, on September 14, Andy Card, Bush’s chief of staff, addressed White House staffers in Room 450 of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, next to the West Wing.

Card said he understood that “this is not what any of you signed up for when you joined the White House staff.”  And he offered them the chance to resign without anyone–himself or the President–thinking any less of them.

When no one offered to leave, Card let a Secret Service agent offer security advice:

  • Vary your routines to and from work.
  • Watch out for any cars that might be following you.
  • Go to different restaurants for lunch.

At least one member of the audience, Bradford Berenson, an associate White House counsel, knew he wouldn’t be taking that advice.

Like most of the others at the meeting, his name was listed in the local phone book.  A terrorist wanting to kill him need only lurk outside Berenson’s home and open fire when he appeared.

Click here: 500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars: Kurt Eichenwald: 9781451669398: Amazon.com: Books

And that was it, as far as the Secret Service was concerned.

No offers of even temporary escorts by Secret Service agents.  No offers to install “panic buttons” in their homes in case of emergency.

In essence: “We’re really glad you’ve decided to serve your country.  But don’t expect us to protect you.  You’re on your own.”

Fast forward 13 years later.

On the night of September 19, an Iraq war veteran, Omar Gonzales, jumped the White House fence, ran more than 70 yards across the north lawn, and sprinted just past the north portico White House doors.

Gonzalez appeared unarmed as he ran across the lawn–possibly one reason why Secret Service agents didn’t shoot him or release their service dogs to detain him.  But he had a small folding knife with a three-and-one-half-inch serrated blade when he was apprehended.

According to a criminal complaint, when he was arrested he told Secret Service agents he was “concerned that the atmosphere was collapsing” and needed to contact the President “so he could get word out to the people.”

Even more disturbing: At the time of his arrest, Gonzalez had a machete, two hachets and 800 rounds of ammunition in his car.

In July, he had been arrested in Wythe County, Virginia, and charged with possession of a shotgun and a sniper rifle.  He was also charged with eluding and evading arrest.

In addition, police found that Gonzalez had a map with the White House circled.

Then, in late August, Gonzalez was stopped while walking along the White House fence.  He was carrying a hatchet and allowed police to search his car, where they found camping gear and two dogs.  He was not arrested then.

Why was he even allowed outside a jail cell?

Secret Service agents standing post.

Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.) has called for a “full investigation” of the incident.

“I have great respect for the Secret Service, but this is absolutely inexcusable,” King said in an appearance two days later on “Fox News Sunday.”

King said officers should have acted more quickly, as the man could have had a body bomb or vest.  He also argued that given the tensions between the United States and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) the Secret Service should have been especially alert.

King said the House Homeland Security Committee would likely hold hearings on the incident.

The Secret Service’s Office of Professional Responsibility will review the incident.

(President Barack Obama was not in the White House at the time.  He and his daughters had just left to spend the weekend at Camp David, the Presidential retreat.)

Then, less than 24 hours after Gonzalez’s arrest, a second man was apprehended after he drove up to a White House gate and refused to leave.  This triggered a search of his vehicle by bomb technicians in full gear.  Other agents shut down nearby streets.  No bombs were found.

 

T(OBACCO) PARTY UNVEILED: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on September 18, 2014 at 12:33 am

The Tea Party hates President Barack Obama and believes he should be impeached.

That you can easily learn by visiting its website.

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

But there is a great deal about the Tea Party itself that its foundeers won’t tell you.

Such as the truth that it was created by the tobacco industry and the billionaire Koch brothers.

That’s the conclusion of a study by the National Cancer Institute of the National Institute of Health.

National Cancer Institute

The roots of the Tea Party lie in the early 1980s, when tobacco companies started pouring money into third-party groups.

Their mission was two-fold:

  • To fight excise taxes on cigarettes; and
  • To combat health studies showing a link between cancer and secondhand smoke.

Stanton Glantz, professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, has been a longtime foe of the tobacco industry.

Dr. Stanton Glantz

In 2012, he authored a study for the peer-reviewed academic journal, Tobacco Control.  Writing about the ties between the Tea Party and the tobacco industry, Glantz noted:

“The Tea Party, which gained prominence in the USA in 2009, advocates limited government and low taxes. Tea Party organisations, particularly Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks, oppose smoke-free laws and tobacco taxes.

“Rather than being a purely grassroots movement that spontaneously developed in 2009, the Tea Party has developed over time, in part through decades of work by the tobacco industry and other corporate interests.”

Click here: ‘To quarterback behind the scenes, third-party efforts’: the tobacco industry and the Tea Party — Fallin et al. -

Charles and David Koch, the real founders of the Tea Party

Most people believe the Tea Party originated as a 2009 grassroots uprising to protest taxes.   But its origins can be traced to 2002.

That was when the Charles and David Koch and tobacco-backed Citizens for a Sound Economy set up the first Tea Party website:  www.usteaparty.com.

From the National Cancer Institute’s study of the Tea Party:

  • “The Tea Party, a loosely organised network of grassroots coalitions at local and state levels, is a complex social and political movement to the right of the traditional Republican Party that promotes less government regulation and lower taxes.”
  • “David Koch was a co-founder of Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE) and Americans for Prosperity (AFP) Foundation,” both major allies of the tobacco industry.
  • “National organisations funded by corporations, particularly Americans for Prosperity (AFP) and FreedomWorks, played an important role in structuring and supporting the Tea Party in the initial stages.  They provided training, communication and materials for the earliest Tea Party activities, including the first ‘Tea Party’ on 27 February 2009.”
  • “FreedomWorks organised the nationwide Tea Party tax protests in April 2009, the town hall protests about the proposed healthcare reform in August 2009 and the Taxpayers’ March on Washington the following September 2009.”
  • “As of 2012, AFP and FreedomWorks were supporting the tobacco companies’ political agenda by mobilising local Tea Party opposition to tobacco taxes and smoke-free laws.”
  • “In many ways, the Tea Party of the late 2000s has become the ‘movement’ envisioned by Tim Hyde, RJR director of national field operations in the 1990s, which was grounded in patriotic values of ‘freedom’ and ‘choice’ to change how people see the role of ‘government’ and ‘big business’ in their lives, particularly with regard to taxes and regulation.”
  • “Many factors beyond the tobacco industry have contributed to the development of the Tea Party.  Anti-tax sentiment has been linked to notions of patriotism since the inception of the USA when the colonies were protesting against taxation by the British.”
  • “In addition, the Tea Party has origins in the ultra-right John Birch Society of the 1950s, of which Fred Koch (Charles and David Koch’s father) was a founding member.”
  • “Although the Tea Party is a social movement, it has been affiliated closely with, and somewhat incorporated into, the Republican Party.  This may be due in part to the increased conservatism of politically active Republicans since 1970s and the increased polarisation of American politics.”
  • “….AFP and FreedomWorks…capitalised on the changing political realities following President Barack Obama’s election in 2008.”
  • “In particular, they harnessed anti-government sentiment arising from the confluence of the mortgage and banking bailout, President Barack Obama’s stimulus package and the Democratic push for healthcare reform, which provided them with the opportunity for more successful grassroots-level Tea Party organising.”

 

Figure 1.

CHART SHOWING  Connections between the tobacco industry, third-party allies and the Tea Party, from the 1980’s (top) through 2012 (bottom).

 Since 2008, the Tea Party has played a major role in American politics.

Throughout 2009, its thuggish supporters sought to terrorize members of Congress into opposing passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), otherwise known as Obamacare.

And in 2010 they played a pivotal role in delivering the House of Representatives to the Republican Party.

Yet the vast majority of the Tea Party’s low-level membership probably doesn’t know the origins–or the real purposes–of their organization.

But for those for whom truth is important, “the truth”–as The X-Files tagline once went–“is out there.”

 

 

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

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

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

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

“What do you think?”

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

Then the site offers this in tribute to its sponsor:

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

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

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

“Vote today!”

The viewer is then given two questions to answer.

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

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

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

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

It, too, provides three possible answers:

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

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

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

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

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

President Barack Obama

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

And this smear campaign continued throughout his Presidency.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The third accusation: “The IRS scandal.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

REAL IMMIGRATION REFORM: PART TWO (END)

In History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on September 9, 2014 at 7:43 am

If Americans decide they truly want to control access to their own borders, there is a realistic way to accomplish this.

Arrested illegal aliens in Long Island, New York

(1) The Justice Department should vigorously attack the “sanctuary movement” that officially thwarts the immigration laws of the United States.

Among the 31 “sanctuary cities” of this country: Washington, D.C.; New York City; Los Angeles; Chicago; San Francisco; Santa Ana; San Diego; Salt Lake City; Phoenix; Dallas; Houston; Austin; Detroit; Jersey City; Minneapolis; Miami; Denver; Baltimore; Seattle; Portland, Oregon; New Haven, Connecticut; and Portland, Maine.

These cities have adopted “sanctuary” ordinances that do not allow municipal funds or resources to be used to enforce federal immigration laws, usually by not allowing police or municipal employees to inquire about one’s immigration status.

(2)  The most effective way to combat this movement: Indict the highest-ranking officials of those cities who have actively violated Federal immigration laws.

In San Francisco, for example, former District Attorney Kamala Harris—who is now California’s Attorney General—created a secret program called Back on Track, which provided training for jobs that illegal aliens could not legally hold.

She also prevented Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from deporting even those illegal aliens convicted of a felony.

(3) Indicting such officials would be comparable to the way President Andrew Jackson dealt with the threat South Carolinians once made to “nullify” any Federal laws they didn’t like.

Jackson quashed that threat by making one of his own: To lead an army into that State and purge all who dared defy the laws of the Federal Government.

(4) Even if some indicted officials escaped conviction, the results would prove worthwhile. 

City officials would be forced to spend huge sums of their own money for attorneys and face months or even years of prosecution.

And this, in turn, would send a devastating warning to officials in other “sanctuary cities” that the same fate lies in store for them.

(5) CEOs whose companies–like Wal-Mart–systematically employ illegal aliens should be held directly accountable for the actions of their subordinates.

They should be indicted by the Justice Department under the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, the way Mafia bosses are prosecuted for ordering their own subordinates to commit crimes.

Upon conviction, the CEO should be sentenced to a mandatory prison term of at least twenty years.

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

Without employers luring illegal aliens at a fraction of the money paid to American workers, the flood of such illegal job-seekers would quickly dry up.

(6) The Government should stop granting automatic citizenship to “anchor babies” born to illegal aliens in the United States.

A comparable practice would be allowing bank robbers who had eluded the FBI to keep their illegally-obtained loot.

A person who violates the bank robbery laws of the United States is legally prosecutable for bank robbery, whether he’s immediately arrested or remains uncaught for years. The same should be true for those born illegally within this country.

If they’re not here legally at the time of birth, they should not be considered citizens and should–like their parents–be subject to deportation.

(7) The United States Government–from the President on down–should scrap its apologetic tone on the right to control its national borders.

The Mexican Government doesn’t hesitate to apply strict laws to those immigrating to Mexico. And it feels no need to apologize for this.

Neither should we.

(8) Voting materials and ballots should be published in one language: English. 

In Mexico, voting materials are published in one language–Spanish.

Throughout the United States, millions of Mexican illegals refuse to learn English and yet demand that voting materials and ballots be made available to them in Spanish.

(9) Those who are not legal citizens of the United States should not be allowed to vote in its elections.

In Mexico, those who are not Mexican citizens are not allowed to participate in the country’s elections. 

The Mexican Government doesn’t consider itself racist for strictly enforcing its immigration laws.

The United States Government should not consider itself racist for insisting on the right to do the same.

(10)  The United States should impose economic and even military sanctions against countries–such as China and Mexico–whose citizens make up the bulk of illegal aliens. 

Mexico, for example, uses its American border to rid itself of those who might demand major reforms in the country’s political and economic institutions.

Such nations must learn that dumping their unwanteds on the United States now comes at an unaffordably high price.  Otherwise those dumpings will continue.

REAL IMMIGRATION REFORM: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on September 8, 2014 at 9:51 am

Once again, lawbreakers–and their highly vocal supporters–are angry.

President Barack Obama has decided–at least temporarily–to delay taking any executive action on immigration until after the November congressional elections.

And millions of Hispanics–both within the United States and throughout Central and South America–are furious.

They had expected–or at least hoped–that Obama would essentially overturn all U.S. immigration laws.

In a Rose Garden speech on June 30, Obama said he had directed Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Attorney General Eric Holder to give him recommendations for executive action by the end of summer.

Obama promised to “adopt those recommendations without further delay.”

But now–suddenly–Obama has apparently had a change of heart.

There are two reasons why the President has made this decision–one that sounds good, and a real one.

The one that sounds good is this: Using executive orders to circumvent Congress on immigration during the campaign would politicize the issue and hurt future efforts to pass a broad overhaul.

The real one: Democrats fear losing their majority in the United States Senate.

With the House of Representatives already under Right-wing control, this would essentially nullify the remaining 16 months of the Obama Presidency.

And Democrats have good reason to fear having the illegal immigration issue turned against them in November.

True, Hispanics are passionately committed to turning the United States into a dumping ground for millions of poor, uneducated, non-English-speaking peons.

But they make up only one constituency of the Democratic Party.

And while millions of non-Hispanics believe that “immigration reform” is necessary, they’re more concerned with the stalled economy and the need to create jobs.

It’s different on the Right.  There, millions of “angry white males” are prepared to make illegal immigration the major issue of the election.

During the 1994 mid-term elections, Republicans made “gun control” their central issue.  Democrats lost heavily and the House of Representatives went Republican.

Newt Gingrich became Speaker of the House, and dedicated the next two years to blocking every piece of legislation put forth by President Bill Clinton.

If history repeats itself, this is the sort of history that Democrats in the Senate don’t want to repeat.

Illegal immigration has always been a highly emotional issue for conservatives.  But it’s been given added impetus this year.

Thousands–perhaps millions–of unaccompanied minors from Central America have flooded across the U.S. border with Mexico.  And there seems to be no signs of stopping this deluge.

White House officials claim that President Obama didn’t foresee how this might increase frictions with Republicans when he made his June 30 pledge.

In other words: Obama didn’t realize that offering all-out support for millions of violators of America’s immigration laws could cost Democrats bigtime in the Senate.

But if Obama didn’t realize the danger Senate Democrats faced, Senate Democrats most certainly did.

This was especially true for those in vulnerable states like Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina.  And they urged Obama to postpone any decision on immigration until after the election.

Of course, those promoting an end to all U.S. restrictions on illegal immigration are furious.

“We know where Republicans stand, and what this shows now is that Democrats are also willing to throw Latinos and immigrants under the bus,” said Cesar Vargas, director of the DREAM Action Coalition, a group of young undocumented immigrants who have encouraged voters to push for immigration reform.

During the 2012 Presidential race, Obama won big among Hispanic voters.  In large part, he was unintentionally helped by his opponent, Mitt Romney, whose use of words like “illegals” and “self-deportation” enraged Hispanics.

But what worked for Obama in a Presidential election won’t work for Democrats in midterm elections.

Democrats such as Senators Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Mark Pryor of Arkansas don’t have large masses of Hispanic voters to rely on.

And there are plenty of angry white voters prepared to vote Republican against anyone they believe is “selling out America.”

Many of them are angry at being called racists simply because they believe the United States should be able to control its own borders–the way Mexico controls its own.

Mexico has a single, streamlined law that ensures that foreign visitors and immigrants are:

  • in the country legally;
  • have the means to sustain themselves economically;
  • not destined to be burdens on society;
  • of economic and social benefit to society;
  • of good character and have no criminal records; and
  • contribute to the general well-being of the nation.

The law also ensures that:

  • immigration authorities have a record of each foreign visitor;
  • foreign visitors do not violate their visa status;
  • foreign visitors are banned from interfering in the country’s internal politics;
  • foreign visitors who enter under ralse pretenses are imprisoned or deported;
  • foreign visitors violating the terms of their entry are imprisoned are deported;
  • those who aid in illegal immigration will be sent to prison.

Meanwhile,  Mexico uses its American border to rid itself of those who might otherwise demand major reforms in the country’s political and economic institutions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HEROES: REAL AND FICTIONAL

In History, Military, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on August 22, 2014 at 8:01 pm

Steven Pressfield is the bestselling author of several novels on ancient Greece.

Steven Pressfield Focused Interview

 Steven Pressfield

In Gates of Fire (1998) he celebrated the immortal battle of Thermopylae, where 300 Spartans held at bay a vastly superior Persian army for three days.

In Tides of War (2000) he re-fought the ancient world’s 25-year version of the Cold War between the Greek city-states of Athens and Sparta.

In The Virtues of War (2004) he chronicled the military career of Alexander the Great–through the eyes of the conqueror himself.

And in The Afghan Campaign (2006) he accompanied Alexander’s army as it waged a vicious, three-year counterinsurgency war against native Afghans.

Besides being an amateur historian of armed conflict, Pressfield is a former Marine.  His novel, Gates of Fire, has been adopted by the Marine Corps as required reading.

So Pressfield knows something about the art–and horrors–of war.  And about the decline of heroism in the modern age.

Consider the events of November 9, 2012.

On that date, General David Petraeus suddenly resigned his position as director of the Central Intelligence Agency.  He had held this just slightly more than a year.

The reason: The revelation of–and his admission to–an extramarital affair with Paula Broadwell, the woman who had written an admiring biography of him called All In.

Ironically, this happened to be the same day that “Skyfall”–the latest James Bond film–opened nationwide.

Since Bond made his first onscreen appearance in 1962’s “Dr. No,” England’s most famous spy has bedded countless women.  And has become internationally famous as the ultimate ladykiller.

It seems that real-life doesn’t quite work the same way.

What is permitted–and even celebrated–in a fictional spy is not treated the same way in the real world of espionage.

Prior to this, Petraeus had been the golde            n boy of the American Army–the best-known and most revered general since Dwight D. Eisenhower.

David  Petraeus

The man who

  • had given 37 years of his life to protecting the nation;
  • had rewritten the book on how to fight counterinsurgency wars;
  • had turned around the stagnated war in Iraq;
  • had presided over the winding down of the war in Afghanistan.

As President Barack Obama put it:

“General Petraeus had an extraordinary career.  He served this country with great distinction in Iraq, in Afghanistan and as head of the CIA.

“I want to emphasize that from my perspective, at least, he has provided this country an extraordinary service.  We are safer because of the work that Dave Petraeus has done.

“And my main hope right now is that he and his family are able to move on and that this ends up being a single side note on what has otherwise been an extraordinary career.”

It’s why Pressfield candidly admits he prefers the ancient world to the present:

“If I’m pressed to really think about the question, I would answer that what appeals to me about the ancient world as opposed to the modern is that the ancient world was pre-Christian, pre-Freudian, pre-Marxist, pre-consumerist, pre-reductivist.

“It was grander, it was nobler, it was simpler. You didn’t have the notion of turn-the-other-cheek. You had Oedipus but you didn’t have the Oedipus complex. It was political but it was not politically correct.”

To illustrate what he meant, Pressfield cited this passage from Thucydides’ The Peloponnesian War, on how ancient-world politics took on its own tone of McCarthyism:

To fit in with the change of events, words, too, had to change their usual meanings. What used to be described as a thoughtless act of aggression was now regarded as the courage one would expect to find in a party member.

To think of the future and wait was merely another way of saying one was a coward. Any idea of moderation was just an attempt to disguise one’s unmanly character.

Ability to understand a question from all sides meant that one was totally unfitted for action.

As if speaking on the ongoing scandal involving David Petraeus, Pressfield states:

“Our age has been denatured. The heroic has been bled out of it.

“The callings of the past–the profession of arms, the priesthood, the medical and legal professions, politics, the arts, journalism, education, even motherhood and fatherhood–every one has been sullied and degraded by scandal after scandal.

“We’re hard up for heroes these days, and even harder up for conceiving ourselves in that light. That’s why I’m drawn to the ancient world. It’s truer, in my view, to how we really are.

“The ancient world has not been reductified and deconstructed as ours has; it has not been robbed of all dignity. They had heroes then. There was such a thing, truly, as the Heroic Age. Men like Achilles and Leonidas really did exist.

“There was such a thing, truly, as heroic leadership. Alexander the Great did not command via satellite or remote control; he rode into battle at the head of his Companion cavalry; he was the first to strike the foe.”

Today, generals stationed thousands of miles from the front command armies.  Andthey face more danger from heart attacks than from dying in the heat of battle.

SPHERES OF INFLUENCE: OURS AND THEIRS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that had sat well with Putin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All of which overlooks a number of brutal political truths.

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

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

And just what is the Monroe Doctrine?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NO “VICTORY THROUGH AIR POWER” IN IRAQ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baghdad under “shock and awe” bombardment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nor did the failure of air power end there.

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

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

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

 This situation proved true throughout the rest of the war.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Niccolo Machiavelli

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

File:Medium chicagoreflection.jpg

University of Chicago Law School

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jon Stewart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

President Barack Obama

But he made a series of deadly mistakes:

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

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

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

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

Niccolo Machiavelli

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

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

So how has Obama fared by this standard?

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

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

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

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

[Boldface in the original document.]

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

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

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

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

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

John Boehner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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