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Posts Tagged ‘DICK CHENEY’

CHENEY VS. MACHIAVELLI

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics on October 9, 2014 at 1:21 am

Dick Cheney left office as co-President of the United States on January 20, 2009.  Since then, he has had time to write his memoirs and reflect on the legacies of the George W. Bush Presidency.

His book, In My Time, was published in 2012.  And, in March, 2013, Cheney appeared in the Showtime-produced documentary, “The World According to Dick Cheney.”

Dick Cheney

Throughout the program, Cheney showed no interest in introspection.

“I don’t go around thinking, ‘Gee, I wish we’d done this, or I wish I’d done that,’” said Cheney.  “The world is as you find it, and you’ve got to deal with that….You don’t get do-overs.

“I did what I did, and it’s all part of the public record and I feel very good about it.  If I had it to do over again, I’d do it in a minute.”

When the interviewer, R.J. Cutler, raised how the Bush administration had altered privacy rights, tortured detainees and pushed for an unnecessary war in Iraq, Cheney replied:

“Tell me what terrorist acts you would let go forward because you didn’t want to be a mean and nasty fella?”

Perhaps the most telling moment came when Cheney outlined his overall views on Realpolitick:

“Are you going to trade the lives of a number of people because you want to preserve your honor?” asked Cheney.  “This was a wartime situation and it was more important to be successful than it was to be loved.”

Perhaps Cheney was thinking of the famous quote about love versus fear in The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli’s primer on how to attain political power:

From this arises the question whether it is better to be loved than feared, or feared more than loved.  The reply is, that one ought to be both feared and loved.

But as it is difficult for the two to go together, it is much safer to be feared than loved. 

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

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

Niccolo Machiavelli

And men have less scruple in offending one who makes himself loved than one who makes himself feared.  

For love is held by a chain of obligations which, men being selfish, is broken whenever it serves their purpose; but fear is maintained by a dread of punishment which never fails.

Cheney appears to belileve that it’s better to be feared than loved.

In that, he has plenty of company among his fellow politicians–in the United States and elsewhere.  But there is more to Machiavelli’s teaching, and this is usually overlooked–as it most certainly was by Cheney:

Still, a prince should make himself feared in such a way that if he does not gain love, he at any rate avoids hatred.

For fear and the absence of hatred may well go together, and will always be attained by one who abstains from interfering with the property of his citizens and subjects or with their women. 

If Cheney considers himself a student of Machiavelli, then he utterly ignored this last offering of cautionary advice.

By authorizing the use of torture, the Bush administration made itself–in the eyes of its Western European allies as well as its Islamic enemies–an epicenter of evil.  “Guantanamo”–the Marine base in Cuba that had been largely forgotten over the decades–became a synonym for torture.

And after photographs emerged of the tortures and humiliataions of detainees at Abu Garib Prison in Iraq, the United States sank even lower in the world’s estimation.

Among the human rights violations committed upon prisoners held by U.S. Army military police and assorted CIA agents:

  • physical abuse
  • psychological abuse
  • torture
  • rape
  • sodomy
  • homicide.

In his 2010 book, American Caesars: Lives of the Presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt to George W. Bush, historian Nigel Hamilton wrote:

“[George Bush and Dick Cheney were] arguably the worst of all the American Caesars, who willfully and recklessly destroyed so much of the moral basis of American leadership in the modern world.”

Joseph Stalin once famously asked: “How many divisions does the Pope have?”  Stalin died in 1953.  Had he lived on into the 1980s, he would have found out.

It was then that Pope John Paul II showed the power of an aroused spirituality.

John Paul II

In 1981, the Soviet Union seemed about to invade his native Poland–as it had Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslavakia in 1968.  That was when the Pope reportedly sent the Kremlin a message:

If the Soviets invaded, he would fly to Warsaw and place himself directly in the line of fire.

The Soviets never dared launch their planned invasion.

It is a lesson utterly lost on the likes of men like Dick Cheney.

IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE–AND AN EVIL CEO

In Business, Entertainment, Politics, Social commentary on October 8, 2014 at 12:12 am

Every Christmas, TV audiences find comfort and triumph in the rerunning of a black-and-white 1946 movie: It’s a Wonderful Life.

It’s the story of George Bailey (James Stewart), a decent husband and father who hovers on the brink of suicide–until his guardian angel, Clarence, suddenly intervenes.

Its A Wonderful Life Movie Poster.jpg

Clarence reveals to George what his home town, Bedford Falls, New York, would be like if he had never been born.  George finds himself shocked to learn:

  • With no counterweight to the schemes of rapacious slumlord Henry F. Potter, Bedford Falls becomes Potterville, filled with pawn shops and sleazy nightclubs.
  • With no George Bailey to save his younger brother, Harry, from drowning in a frozen pond, Harry drowns.
  • With no Harry to live to become a Naval fighter pilot in World War II, he’s not on hand to shoot down two Japanese planes targeting an American troopship.
  • As a result, the troopship and its crew are destroyed.

George is forced to face the significant role he has played in the lives of so many others.

Armed with this knowledge, he once again embraces life, running through the snow-covered streets of Bedford Falls and shouting “Merry Christmas!” to everyone he meets.

Audiences have hailed George Bailey as an Everyman hero–and the film as a life-affirming testatment to the unique importance of each individual.

But there is another aspect of the movie that has not been so closely studied: The legacy of its villain, Henry F. Potter, who, as  played by Lionel Barrymore, bears a striking resemblance to former Vice President Dick Cheney.

Lionel Barrymore as Mr. Potter.jpg

Henry F. Potter

It is Potter–the richest man in Bedford Falls–whose insatiable greed threatens to destroy it.  And it is Potter whose criminality drives George Bailey to the brink of suicide.

The antagonism between Bailey and Potter starts early in the movie.  George dreams of leaving Bedford Falls and building skyscrapers.  Meanwhile, he works at the Bailey Building and Loan Association, which plays a vital role in the life of the community.

Potter, a member of the Building and Loan Association board, tries to persuade the board of directors to dissolve the firm. He objects to their providing home loans for the working poor.

George persuades them to reject Potter’s proposal, but they agree only on condition that George run the Building and Loan.  Reluctantly, George agrees.

Later, Potter tries to lure George away from the Building and Loan, offering him a $20,000 salary and the chance to visit Europe.  George is briefly tempted.

But then he realizes that Potter intends to close down the Building and Loan and deny financial help to those who most need it.  Angrily, he turns down Potter’s offer:

“You sit around here and you spin your little webs and you think the whole world revolves around you and your money. Well, it doesn’t, Mr. Potter!

“In the whole vast configuration of things, I’d say you were nothing but a scurvy little spider.”

It is a setback for Potter, but he’s willing to bide his time for revenge.

On Christmas Eve morning, the town prepares a hero’s welcome for George’s brother, Harry.  George’s scatter-brained Uncle Billy visits Potter’s bank to deposit $8,000 of the Building and Loan’s cash funds.

He taunts Potter by reading the newspaper headlines announcing the coming tribute.  Potter  snatches the paper, and Billy unthinkingly allows the money to be snatched with it.

When Billy leaves, Potter opens the paper and sees the money.  He keeps it, knowing that misplacement of bank money will bankrupt the Building and Loan and bring criminal charges against George.

But at the last minute, word of George’s plight reaches his wide range of grateful friends.  A flood of townspeople arrive with more than enough donations to save George and the Building and Loan.

The movie ends on a triumphant note, with George basking in the glow of love from his family and friends.

But no critic seems to have noticed that Henry Potter’s theft has gone unnoticed.  (Uncle Billy can’t recall how he lost the money.)  Potter is richer by $8,000.  And ready to go on taking advantage of others.

Perhaps it’s time to see Potter’s actions in a new light–that of America’s richest 1%, ever ready to prey upon the weaknesses of others.

Justice never catches up with Potter in the movie.  But the joke-writers at Saturday Night Live have conjured up a satisfactory punishment for his avarice.

In this version, Uncle Billy suddenly remembers that he left the money with Potter.  Enraged, George Bailey (Dana Carvey) leads his crowd of avenging friends to Potter’s office.

Potter realizes the jig is up and offers to return the money.  But George wants more than that–and he and his friends proceed to stomp and beat Potter to death.

The skit ends with with George and his friends singing “Auld Ang Syne”–as they do in the movie–as they finish off Potter with clubs.

Click here: SNL and Dana Carvey perform the “Alternate Ending of Its a Wonderful Life!

America is rapidly a divided nation–one where the richest 1% lord it over an increasingly impoverished 99%.

The time may be coming when many Americans are ready to embrace the SNL approach to economic justice.

BUSHITLER AND WARS OF SHAME: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics on June 24, 2014 at 9:35 am

Naturally the common people don’t want war, neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany.  That is understood.
But, after all, it’s the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it’s always a simple matter to drag the people along….

All you have to do is tell them that they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to greater danger.  It works the same way in any country.
–Rcichsmarshall Hermann Goering

Much of the moral basis for American leadership was destroyed by the dark parallels between Adolf Hitler’s invasion of Poland in 1939 and George W. Bush’s invasion of  Iraq in 2003.

Among these:

ADOLF HITLER

Adolf Hitler (third from left) with his generals

In 1970, Albert Speer, Adolf Hitler’s former architect and Minister of Aramaments, published his bestselling postwar memoirs, Inside the Third Reich.  In a striking passage, he revealed how the Fuehrer really felt about German soldiers who were suffering and dying in a war he had provoked.

One evening during the middle of the war, Speer was traveling with Hitler on the Fuehrer’s private train.  Late at night, they enjoyed a lavish dinner in the elegant rosewood-paneled dining car.

As they ate, Hitler’s train slowed down and passed a freight train halted on a side track.

From their open cattle car, recalled Speer, wounded German soldiers from the Russian Front–starved, their uniforms in rags–stared across the few yards to their Fuehrer’s dining-car window.

Hitler recoiled at seeing these injured men intently watching him–and he sharply ordered an adjutant to lower the window shades.

Hitler had served as a frontline soldier in World War 1 and had won the Iron Cross for bravery as a dispatch runner.

As Fuehrer, he often boasted of his affinity with the average German soldier.  He claimed that “my whole life has been one long struggle for Germany.”

Yet throughout the six years of World War II, he refused to visit German cities ravaged by British and American bombs.

Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, despaired at this.

Winston Churchill, prime minister of Great Britain, often visited cities hit by German bombers, and Goebbels knew these visits greatly boosted British morale.

Goebbels urged Hitler to make similar visits to bombed-out German cities, but the Fuehrer refused.

Albert Speer believed that Hitler couldn’t bear to see the carnage wrought by his decision to provoke a needless war.

George W. Bush “looking” for WMDs in the White House

GEORGE W. BUSH

Similarly, Bush showed his contempt for the soldiers suffering and dying in his own unprovoked war.

On March 24, 2004, at a White House Correspondents dinner, he joked publicly about the absence of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs).

To Bush, the non-existent WMDs were nothing more than the butt of a joke that night.  While an overhead projector displayed photos of a puzzled-looking Bush searching around the Oval Office, Bush recited a comedy routine.

“Those weapons of mass destruction have gotta be somewhere,” Bush laughed, while a photo showed him poking around the corners in the Oval Office.

“Nope-–no weapons over there!  Maybe they’re under here,” he said, as a photo showed him looking under a desk.

In a scene that could have occurred under the Roman emperor Nero, an assembly of wealthy, pampered men and women–-the elite of America’s media and political classes–-laughed heartily during Bush’s performance.

Only later did the criticism come, from Democrats and Iraqi war veterans–especially those veterans who had suffered grievous wounds to protect America from WMDs.

Click here: Bush laughs at no WMD in Iraq – YouTube

In his Presidential memoirs, Decision Points, Bush failed to mention his joking about the “missing WMDs” at the correspondents dinner.

In writing about discovering insights into the human character, the ancient historian, Plutarch, said it best:

And the most glorious exploits do not always furnish us with the clearest discoveries of virtue or vice in men.

Sometimes a matter of less moment, an expression or a jest, informs us better of their characters and inclinations, than the most famous sieges, the greatest armaments, or the bloodiest battles whatsoever.

* * * * *

So add it all up:

  • Two all-powerful leaders.
  • Two nations lied into unprovoked wars.
  • Adolf Hitler’s war costs the lives of 4.5 million German soldiers.
  • George W. Bush’s war costs the lives of 4,486 Americans.
  • Germany’s war results in the deaths of millions of Europeans and Russians.
  • America’s war results in the deaths of an estimated 655,000 Iraqis, according to a 2006 study in the Lancet medical journal.
  • Hitler is literally driven underground by his enemies and commits suicide to avoid capture, trial and certain execution for war crimes.
  • Bush retires from office with a lavish pension and full Secret Service protection.  He writes his memoirs and is paid $7 million for the first 1.5 million copies.
  • Hitler is branded as a symbol of demonic evil.
  • Bush becomes a target of ridicule for comics.

Who says history is irrelevant?  Or that it doesn’t repeat itself?

BUSHITLER AND WARS OF SHAME: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics on June 23, 2014 at 1:19 pm

In late April, 1975, Vietnam veterans stared in horror at their TVs as the army of North Vietnam swept toward Saigon.  The “peace with honor” that former President Richard M. Nixon had claimed to fashion had lasted no more than two years.

American news media captured the appalling sight of United States military and Intelligence personnel being frantically airlifted by helicopter from the roof of the American embassy.

The eight-year war had cost $600 billion and the lives of more than 58,000 U.S. servicemen.  Suddenly, before the eyes of American TV viewers, the longest and most divisive war in United States history was ending in shame.

And now, it’s deja vu all over again.

From 2003 to 2013, the war in Iraq cost the United States $1.7 trillion and the lives of 4,488 servicemen.

America completed its military withdrawal from Iraq in December, 2011.  And now, less than two years later, Iraq seems about to self-destruct in religious civil war.

But there is more to the United States’ tortured intervention in Iraq than most Americans know.

There is a dark historical parallel to the events leading up to the Iraq war.  A parallel that has its roots in Nazi Germany.

Among the similarities between these two conflicts, fought 64 years apart:

ADOLF HITLER

When Germany’s Fuehrer, Adolf Hitler, decided to invade Poland in 1939, he refused to consider any efforts to avert a conflict: “I want war.  I am the one who will wage war.”

Despite frantic efforts by the French and British governments to resolve the crisis that Hitler had deliberately provoked, he refused all offers of compromise.

“I am only afraid,” Hitler told his generals at a military conference on August 22, 1939, “that some Schweinehund [pig dog] will make a proposal for mediation.”

GEORGE W. BUSH

Similarly, Bush made it clear to his closest aides that he sought a pretext for invading Iraq.

On the evening after the September 11 attacks, Bush held a private meeting with Richard Clarke, the counter-terrorism advisor to the National Security Council.

“I want you, as soon as you can, to go back over everything,” said Bush. “See if Saddam did this. See if he’s linked in any way.”

Clarke was stunned: “But, Mr. President, Al Qaeda did this.”

“I know, I know,” said Bush. “But see if Saddam was involved. I want to know.”

On September 12, 2001, Bush attended a meeting of the National Security Council.

“Why shouldn’t we go against Iraq, not just Al Qaeda?” demanded Donald Rumsfeld, the Secretary of Defense.

Vice President Dick Cheney enthusiastically agreed.

Secretary of State Colin Powell then pointed out there was absolutely no evidence that Iraq had had anything to do with 9/11 or Al Qaeda. And he added: “The American people want us to do something about Al-Qaeda”-–not Iraq.

On September 22, 2001, Bush received a classified President’s Daily Brief intelligence report, which stated that there was no evidence linking Saddam Hussein to 9/11.

The report added that there was scant credible evidence that Iraq had any significant collaborative ties with Al Qaeda.

Yet on November 21, 2001, only 10 weeks after 9/11, Bush told Rumsfeld: It’s time to turn to Iraq.

ADOLF HITLER

Adolf Hitler knew that Poland’s government could never accept his demands for the Polish city of Danzig.

GEORGE W. BUSH

So, too, did George W. Bush make a demand he knew could never be accepted.  On the eve of launching war on Iraq, Bush issued a humiliating ultimatum to Saddam Hussein:

“Saddam Hussein and his sons must leave Iraq within 48 hours. Their refusal to do so will result in military conflict, commenced at a time of our choosing.”

ADOLF HITLER

Hitler never regretted his decision to invade Poland.  Only hours before committing suicide in his Berlin bunker on April 30, 1945, he asserted in his “final political testatment”: “It is untrue that I or anyone else in Germany wanted war in 1939.”

GEORGE W. BUSH

Similarly, Bush never regretted his decision to invade Iraq, which occurred on March 19, 2003.  In his 2010 memoirs, Decision Points, he wrote:

“For all the difficulties that followed, America is safer without a homicidal dictator pursuing WMD and supporting terror at the heart of the Middle East.”

And in an interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer on November 8, 2010, Bush again sought to justify his decision to go to war:

LAUER: Was there ever any consideration of apologizing to the American people?

BUSH: I mean, apologizing would basically say the decision was a wrong decision, and I don’t believe it was a wrong decision.

ADOLF HITLER

On September 1, 1939, Adolf Hitler announced his attack on Poland before Germany’s rubber-stamp parliament, the Reichstag.

Hitler–a decorated World War I veteran–said: “I am from now on just first soldier of the German Reich. I have once more put on that coat that was the most sacred and dear to me.”

GEORGE W. BUSH

On May 1, 2003, Bush–who hid out the Vietnam war in the Texas Air National Guard-–donned a flight suit and landed a Navy jet aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln.

A banner titled “Mission Accomplished” was displayed on the aircraft carrier as Bush announced–wrongly–that the war was over.

The effect–and intent–was to portray Bush as the triumphant warrior-chieftan he never was.

BUSHITLER AND WARS OF SHAME: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics on June 20, 2014 at 6:49 pm

The insurgent army known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is clearly on the military ascendency.

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

And it has steamrolled virtually unopposed from northern Iraq to towns only about 50 miles from Baghdad.

President Barack Obama has notified Congress that he will send up to 275 troops to Iraq to provide support and security for U.S. personnel and the American Embassy in Baghdad.

He is also considering the use of American air power to at least slow down the ISIS advance, if not give the regular Iraqi army a chance to halt it.

On the Right, perpetrators of the 2003 Iraq war like former Vice President Dick Cheney charge that Obama is about to “lose” Iraq.

It’s the same slander Republicans hurled at Democrats when mainland China fell to Mao Tse Tung’s Communist armies in 1948.

On the Left, those who supported Obama’s efforts to withdraw American military forces from Iraq now fear he will re-send thusands of troops back there.

The United States finished withdrawing its military personel from Iraq in December, 2011.  Now, less than two years later, America seems about to plunge again into that quagmire.

Where did this all start?

There is actually a dark historical parallel to the events leading up to the Iraq war.  A parallel that has its roots in Nazi Germany.

ADOLF HITLER

When Germany’s Fuehrer, Adolf Hitler, wanted to invade Poland in 1939, he mounted a sustained propaganda campaign to “justify” his ambitions.

Adolf Hitler

German “newspapers”-–produced by Joseph Goebbels, the club-footed Minister of Propaganda–-carried fictitious stories of how brutal Poles were beating and even murdering their helpless German citizens.

In theaters, German audiences saw phony newsreels showing Poles attacking and raping German women living in Poland.

For a time, Hitler not only deceived the Germans but the world.

Just before German tanks and troops invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, members of Hitler’s dreaded SS secret police rounded up a number of prisoners from German concentration camps.

They inmates were dressed in Polish Army uniforms and driven to a German radio station at Gleiwitz, on the German/Polish border. There they were shot by SS men.

Then Polish-speaking SS men “seized” the station and broadcast to Germany that a Polish invasion of Germany was now under way.

Hitler, addressing Germany’s rubber-stamp parliament, the Reichstag, dramatically asserted: “This night for the first time Polish regular soldiers fired on our territory. Since 5.45 a.m. we have been returning the fire, and from now on bombs will be met by bombs.”

Leaders of Britain and France were taken in by this ruse. They had pledged to go to war if Hitler attacked Poland.  But they didn’t want to take on Germany if Poland had been the aggressor.

By the time the truth became known, Poland was securely in German hands.

On August 22, 1939, Hitler had outlined his strategy to a group of high-ranking military officers:

I shall give a propagandist cause for starting the war.  Never mind whether it is plausible or not. The victor will not be asked, later on, whether he told the truth or not. In starting and waging a war, it is not Right that matters, but Victory.

GEORGE W. BUSH

American President George W. Bush followed a similar strategy while he prepared to invade Iraq: He ordered the topmost members of his administration to convince the American people of the war’s necessity.

Among those members: National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice; Vice President Dick Cheney; Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld; and Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Condaleeza Rice, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld

Among their arguments-–all eventually revealed as lies-–were:

  • Iraq’s dictator, Saddam Hussein, had worked hand-in-glove with Osama Bin Laden to plan 9/11.
  • Saddam was harboring and supporting Al Qaeda throughout Iraq.
  • Saddam, with help from Al Qaeda, was scheming to build a nuclear bomb.
  • Iraq possessed huge quantities of chemical/biological weapons, in violation of UN resolutions.
  • Saddam was preparing to use those weapons against the United States.
  • American Intelligence agencies had determined the precise locations where those weapons were stored.
  • The war would be self-financing via the oil revenues that would come from Iraq.
  • Invading American forces would be welcomed as liberators.

ADOLF HITLER

Hitler intended Poland to be only his first conquest on what became known as “the Eastern Front.”  Conquering Poland would place his powerful Wehrmacht on the border of the country that was his ultimate target: The Soviet Union.

GEORGE W. BUSH

Similarly, Vice President Dick Cheney–the “power-behind-the-throne” of the Bush Presidency–had his own ambitions for conquering Iraq.

According to former Bush speechwriter David Frum: Cheney longed for war in Iraq to gain reliable control of that nation’s vital oil resources.

A successful occupation of Iraq would also allow the United States to threaten such bordering Islamic nations as Syria, Iran and even Saudi Arabia.

A NEW LOOK AT AN OLD CLASSIC

In Business, Entertainment, Politics, Social commentary on December 30, 2013 at 12:42 am

Every Christmas, TV audiences find comfort and triumph in the rerunning of a black-and-white 1946 movie: It’s a Wonderful Life.

It’s the story of George Bailey (James Stewart), a decent husband and father who hovers on the brink of suicide–until his guardian angel, Clarence, suddenly intervenes.

Its A Wonderful Life Movie Poster.jpg

Clarence reveals to George what his home town, Bedford Falls, New York, would be like if he had never been born.  George finds himself shocked to learn:

  • With no counterweight to the schemes of rapacious slumlord Henry F. Potter, Bedford Falls becomes Potterville, filled with pawn shops and sleazy nightclubs.
  • With no George Bailey to save his younger brother, Harry, from drowning in a frozen pond, Harry drowns.
  • With no Harry to live to become a Naval fighter pilot in World War II, he’s not on hand to shoot down two Japanese planes targeting an American troopship.
  • As a result, the troopship and its crew are destroyed.

George is forced to face the significant role he has played in the lives of so many others.

Armed with this knowledge, he once again embraces life, running through the snow-covered streets of Bedford Falls and shouting “Merry Christmas!” to everyone he meets.

Audiences have hailed George Bailey as an Everyman hero–and the film as a life-affirming testatment to the unique importance of each individual.

But there is another aspect of the movie that has not been so closely studied: The legacy of its villain, Henry F. Potter, who, as  played by Lionel Barrymore, bears a striking resemblance to former Vice President Dick Cheney.

Lionel Barrymore as Mr. Potter.jpg

Henry F. Potter

It is Potter–the richest man in Bedford Falls–whose insatiable greed threatens to destroy it.  And it is Potter whose criminality drives George Bailey to the brink of suicide.

The antagonism between Bailey and Potter starts early in the movie.  George dreams of leaving Bedford Falls and building skyscrapers.  Meanwhile, he works at the Bailey Building and Loan Association, which plays a vital role in the life of the community.

Potter, a member of the Building and Loan Association board, tries to persuade the board of directors to dissolve the firm. He objects to their providing home loans for the working poor.

George persuades them to reject Potter’s proposal, but they agree only on condition that George run the Building and Loan.  Reluctantly, George agrees.

Later, Potter tries to lure George away from the Building and Loan, offering him a $20,000 salary and the chance to visit Europe.  George is briefly tempted.

But then he realizes that Potter intends to close down the Building and Loan and deny financial help to those who most need it.  Angrily, he turns down Potter’s offer:

“You sit around here and you spin your little webs and you think the whole world revolves around you and your money. Well, it doesn’t, Mr. Potter!

“In the in the whole vast configuration of things, I’d say you were nothing but a scurvy little spider.”

It is a setback for Potter, but he’s willing to bide his time for revenge.

On Christmas Eve morning, the town prepares a hero’s welcome for George’s brother, Harry.  George’s scatter-brained Uncle Billy visits Potter’s bank to deposit $8,000 of the Building and Loan’s cash funds.

He taunts Potter by reading the newspaper headlines announcing the coming tribute.  Potter  snatches the paper, and Billy unthinkingly allows the money to be snatched with it.

When Billy leaves, Potter opens the paper and sees the money.  He keeps it, knowing that misplacement of bank money will bankrupt the Building and Loan and bring criminal charges against George.

But at the last minute, word of George’s plight reaches his wide range of grateful friends.  A flood of townspeople arrive with more than enough donations to save George and the Building and Loan.

The movie ends on a triumphant note, with George basking in the glow of love from his family and friends.

But no critic seems to have noticed that Henry Potter’s theft has gone unnoticed.  (Uncle Billy can’t recall how he lost the money.)  Potter is richer by $8,000.  And ready to go on taking advantage of others.

Perhaps it’s time to see Potter’s actions in a new light–that of America’s richest 1%, ever ready to prey upon the weaknesses of others.

Justice never catches up with Potter in the movie.  But the joke-writers at Saturday Night Live have conjured up a satisfactory punishment for his avarice.

In this version, Uncle Billy suddenly remembers that he left the money with Potter.  Enraged, George Bailey (Dana Carvey) leads his crowd of avenging friends to Potter’s office.

Potter realizes the jig is up and offers to return the money.  But George wants more than that–and he and his friends proceed to stomp and beat Potter to death.

The skit ends with with George and his friends singing “Auld Ang Syne”–as they do in the movie–as they finish off Potter with clubs.

Click here: SNL and Dana Carvey perform the “Alternate Ending of Its a Wonderful Life!

America is rapidly a divided nation–one where the richest 1% lord it over an increasingly impoverished 99%.

The time may be coming when many Americans are ready to embrace the SNL approach to economic justice.

THE POLITICS OF SCAPEGOATING: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on November 28, 2013 at 12:00 am

With the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the Republican Party went into a tailspin of dismay.

For almost 50 years, Republicans had conjured up The Red Bogeyman to scare voters into sending them to Congress and the White House.

But now that the “workers’ paradise” had disappeared, Americans seemed to lose interest in the Communist Menace.

True, the People’s Republic of China remained, and its increasing economic clout would challenge the United States well into the 21st century.  But Americans didn’t seem to fear the Red Chinese as they had the Red Russians.

What was the Republican Party to do to lure voters?

On September 11, 2001, the answer arrived–in two highjacked jetliners that crashed into the World Trade Center in New York and one that struck the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

Exit The Red Bogeyman.  Enter The Maniacal Muslim.

Consider:

  • Mike Huckabee - “If the purpose of a church is to push forward the gospel of Jesus Christ, and then you have a Muslim group that says that Jesus Christ and all the people that follow him are a bunch of infidels who should be essentially obliterated, I have a hard time understanding that.”
  • Herman Cain - ”I would not” appoint a Muslim in his administration.
  • Newt Gingrich - “I am convinced that if we do not decisively win the struggle over the nature of America, by the time they [his grandchildren] are my age they will be in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists. …”
  • Rick Santorum On supporting the racial profiling of Muslims: “Obviously, Muslims would be someone you look at, absolutely.”
  • Mitt Romney - “Based on the numbers of American Muslims in our population, I cannot see that a Cabinet position [for a Muslim] would be justified.”

And on July 13, Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn.) sent letters to the Inspectors General of the Departments of

  • Defense;
  • State;
  • Justice; and
  • Homeland Security.

“The purpose of these letters,” wrote Bachmann, was to “request a multi-department investigation into potential Muslim Brotherhood infiltration into the United States Government.”

Michelle Bachmann

Bachmann further asserted in her letter to the State Department that Huma Abedin, deputy chief of staff to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, had ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.

And the evidence for this?

The Center for Security Policy’s claim that Abedin’s father (who died when she was a teenager), mother and brother are “connected” to the organization.

And what is the Center of Security Policy?  A private organization subsidized by donors to neo-conservative causes.

In a separate letter, Bachmann demanded to know how Abedin received her security clearance.

Among the co-signers of Bachmann’s letter to the Inspectors General were:

  • Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona, who has said abortion has done more harm to blacks than slavery;
  • Rep. Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia, who called presidential candidate Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, ”uppity”; and
  • Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas, who claims that terrorist organizations send pregnant women into the U.S. so that their children will be American citizens–who can enter and leave the country at will as they are trained to be terrorists abroad.

When pressed for their evidence of “a vast Muslim conspiracy,” right-wing accusers usually refuse to provide any.

An example of this occurred during an August 13, 2010 interview between Gohmert and CNN’s Anderson Cooper:

COOPER: What research? Can you tell us about the research?

GOHMERT: You are attacking the messenger, Anderson, you are better than this. You used to be good. You used to find that there was a problem and you would go after it.

COOPER: Sir, I am asking you for evidence of something that you said on the floor of the House.

GOHMERT: I did, and you listen, this is a problem. If you would spend as much time looking into the problem as you would have been trying to come after me and belittle me this week –

COOPER: Sir, do you want to offer any evidence? I’m giving you an opportunity to say what research and evidence you have. You’ve offered none, other than yelling.

Nor did Gohmert offer any evidence that evening.

Of course, the ultimate Republican Muslim slander is that President Barack Obama–a longtime Christian–is himself a Muslim.

No doubt Republicans feel totally safe in making these attacks, since Muslims comprise only 1% of the American population.

This has long been a hallmark of right-wing attacks–to go after a minority that cannot effectively defend itself.

Thus, Adolf Hitler attacked the Jews of Germany.

And Republicans have successively attacked blacks, Hispanics and gays–until each group became politically influential enough to defeat Republican candidates.

Today, most right-wing politicians at least grudgingly court all of these groups.

When Muslims become a significant political force in their own right, the Right will court them, too.  And then move on to yet another helpless scapegoat to blame for America’s troubles.

THE POLITICS OF SCAPEGOATING: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on November 27, 2013 at 12:05 am

“Judge not, that you not be judged.  For with what judgment you judged, you shall be judged, and with what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again.”

So warns the Gospel of St. Matthew, 7:1-2.  It’s advice that Right-wingers Joseph McCarthy, Robert Welch and George H.W. Bush would have done well to heed.

Joseph McCarthy, Wisconsin’s gift to the United States Senate, became infamous as the demagogue whose Red-baiting accusations terrified America from 1950 to 1954.

Joseph McCarthy

Elected to the Senate in 1946, he rose to national prominence on February 9, 1950, after giving a fiery speech in Wheeling, West Virginia:

“The State Department is infested with communists. I have here in my hand a list of 205—a list of names that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department.”

Americans were already growing increasingly fearful of Communism:

  • Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin had not withdrawn the Red Army from the countries it had occupied in Eastern Europe during World War II.
  • In 1948, the Soviet Union developed–and demonstrated–its own atomic bomb, an achievement U.S. scientists had claimed would not happen for at least a decade.
  • In 1949, China fell to the triumphant armies of Mao Tse Tung.

But anti-communism as a lever to political advancement sharply accelerated following McCarthy’s speech.  Republicans–resentful at being denied the White House since 1932–seized upon anti-communism as their passport to power.

No American–no matter how prominent–was safe from the accusation of being a Communist or a Communist sympathizer–”a Comsymp” or “fellow traveler” in the style of the era.

Among those accused:

  • Secretary of State George C. Marshall, who had overseen America’s strategy for defeating Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan
  • President Harry S. Truman
  • Playwright Lillian Hellman and Arthur Miller
  • Actors Charlie Chaplin, Zero Mostel, Lloyd Bridges, Howard Da Silva, Edward G. Robinson and John Garfield
  • Composers Arron Copland and Elmer Bernstein
  • Physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, who presided over the creation of America’s atomic bomb
  • Actressses Lee Grant, Delores del Rio, Ruth Gordon and Lucille Ball
  • Journalists Edward R. Murrow and William L. Shirer, who had chronicled the rise of Nazi Germany
  • Folksinger Pete Seeger
  • Writers Irwin Shaw, Howard Fast, John Steinbeck and Dashiell Hammett

Even “untouchable” Republicans became targets for such slander.

The most prominent of these was President Dwight D. Eisenhower–labeled ”a conscious, dedicated agent of the Communist Conspiracy” by Robert Welch, who founded the John Birth Society in 1958.

Robert Welch

Welch, an independently wealthy businessman, used his money to publicize the Society and its views.  Welch saw even hardline anti-Communists like Vice President Richard Nixon and actor Ronald Reagan as dangerously liberal.

Meanwhile, McCarthy finally overstepped himself.  In 1953, he attacked the leadership of the United States Army as “a hotbed of traitors” and convened an inquiry through the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

But the hearings backfired, exposing McCarthy as the bullying demagogue he was.  A Senate committee voted to condemn his behavior, charging that he had “acted contrary to senatorial ethics and tended to bring the Senate into dishonor and disrepute.”

Although McCarthy remained in the Senate another two and a half years, his political influence had ended.

Journalists who had raced to cover his latest slander now avoided him.  So did his Republican colleagues–many of whom had once sought his help at election time.

Yet even without McCarthy, Republicans rode the issue of anti-Communism to victory from 1948 to 1960.

After holding the White House for eight years under Eisenhower, they lost it in 1960 to John F. Kennedy and again in 1964 to Lyndon Johnson.

By 1968, with the nation mired in Vietnam and convulsed by antiwar demonstrations, Americans turned once more to those who preyed upon their fears and hates.  They elected Richard Nison–and re-elected him in 1972.

After Jimmy Carter won the Presidency in 1976 and lost it in 1980, Republicans held the White House until 1992.  Throughout that time, they continued to accuse their opponents of being devious agents–or at least unwitting pawns–of “the Communist conspiracy.”

Even as late as 1992, President George H.W. Bush and the Republican establishment charged that Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton might be a KGB plant.

Their evidence: During his tenure at Oxford University in 1969-70, Clinton had briefly visited Moscow.

Thus, the Republican charged that he might have been “programmed” as a real-life “Manchrian candidate” to become, first, Governor of Arkansas–one of America’s poorest states–and then President.

What made this charge all the more absurd: The Soviet Union had officially dissolved in December, 1991.

Although Republicans continued to hurl “Communist!” and “treason!” at their opponents, these charges no longer carried the weight they had while the Soviet Union existed.

Right-wingers had to settle for attacking their opponents as “liberals” and “soft on crime.”

Then, on September 11, 2001, Republicans–and their right-wing supporters–at last found a suitable replacement for the Red Menace.

THE POLITICS OF SCAPEGOATING: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on November 26, 2013 at 12:09 am

“All revolutions,” said Ernst Rohem, leader of Adolf Hitler’s brown-shirted thugs, the S.A., “devour their own children.”

Ernst Rohem

Fittingly, he said this as he sat inside a prison cell awaiting his own execution.

On June 30, 1934, Hitler had ordered a massive purge of his private army, the S.A., or Stormtroopers.  The purge was carried out by Hitler’s elite army-within-an-army, the Schutzstaffel, or Protective Squads, better known as the SS.

The S.A. Brownshirts had been instrumental in securing Hitler’s rise to Chancellor of Germany on January 30, 1933.  They had intimidated political opponents and organized mass rallies for the Nazi Party.

But after Hitler reached the pinnacle of power, they became a liability.

Ernst Rohem, their commander, urged Hitler to disband the regular German army, the Reichswehr, and replace it with his own legions as the nation’s defense force.

Frightened by Rohem’s ambitions, the generals of the Reichswehr gave Hitler an ultimatum: Get rid of Rohem–or they would get rid of him.

So Rohem died in a hail of SS bullets–as did several hundred of his longtime S.A. cronies.

SS firing squad

Among the SS commanders supervising those executions was Reinhard Heydrich–a tall, blond-haired formal naval officer who was both a champion fencer and talented violinist.

Ultimately, he would become the personification of the Nazi ideal–”the man with the iron heart,” as Hitler eulogized at Heydrich’s funeral just eight years later.

Reinhard Heydrich

Even so, Heydrich had a problem: He could never escape vicious rumors that his family tree contained a Jewish ancestor.

His paternal grandmother had married Reinhold Heydrich, and then Gustav Robert Suss.  For unknown reasons, she decided to call herself Suss-Heydrich.

Since “Suss” was widely believed in Germany to indicate Jewish origin, the “stigma” of Jewish heritage attached itself to the Heydrich family.

Heydrich joined the SS in 1931 and quickly became head of its counterintelligence service.  But his arrogance and overweening ambition created a great many enemies.

Only a year later, he became the target of an urgent investigation by the SS itself.

The charge: That he was part-Jewish, the ultimate sin in Hitler’s “racially pure” Nazi Germany.

The investigation cleared Heydrich, but the rumor of his “tainted” origins persisted, clearly tormenting the second most powerful man in the SS.

Even his superior, Heinrich Himmler, the Reichsfuhrer-SS, believed it.

When Heydrich was assassinated in 1942 by Czech assassins in Prague, Himmler attended his funeral.

He paid tribute to his former subordinate at the service–”You, Reinhard Heydrich, were a truly good SS-man.”  But he could not resist saying in private:

“He was an unhappy man, completely divided against himself, as often happened with those of mixed race.”

Those who dare to harshly judge others usually find themselves assailed just as harshly.

A modern-day example is Liz Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney and now a candidate for U.S. Senator from Wyoming.

Liz is positioning herself as far more right-wing than her opponent, Republican U.S. Senator Michael Bradley “Mike” Enzi.

She has her work cut out for her: In March, 2007, Enzi was ranked by National Journal as the sixth-most conservative U.S. Senator.

Among his legislative priorities:

  • Supporting partial privatization of Social Security
  • Consistently voting against expanding Medicare.
  • Voting against enrolling more children or the poor in public healthcare.

 

                     Mike Enzi

And Liz has a problem Enzi does not: Her sister, Mary, is not only a lesbian but legally married to another woman: Heather Poe.

This has led many Wyoming voters to wonder if Liz Cheney is far-Right enough to merit their support.

So Liz is going all-out to assure them that even though her sister leads a degenerate lifestyle, she, Liz, stands foursquare against legalizing gay marriage:

“I do believe it’s an issue that’s got to be left up to states. I do believe in the traditional definition of marriage.”

Liz Cheney

And, in another statement: “I am strongly pro-life and I am not pro-gay marriage.

“I believe the issue of marriage must be decided by the states, and by the people in the states, not by judges and not even by legislators, but by the people themselves.”

This stance has led to a heated rift between her and Mary.

“For the record, I love my sister, but she is dead wrong on the issue of marriage,” Mary Cheney wrote in a Facebook post in September.

“Freedom means freedom for everyone,” she continued. “That means that all families–regardless of how they look or how they are made–all families are entitled to the same rights, privileges and protections as every other.”

Adding to the complications: Their father, Dick Cheney—often ridiculed as “Darth Vader” for his own extreme Right-wing views—endorsed same-sex marriage in 2009.

But, as was true for officials in Nazi Germany, so is it true for Right-wing Republicans: It’s impossible to be too radical a Right-winger.

In the 1930s and 40s, it was politically—and personally—dangerous to be labeled “pro-Jewish” or “pro-Communist” in Hitler’s Germany.

And today it is equally dangerous—at least politically—to be labeled “pro-liberal” or “pro-gay” in the Republican Party.

POLITICS BY ORWELL: “WAR IS PEACE”: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on September 5, 2013 at 1:40 pm

A two-year civil war is raging in Syria.

United Nations officials estimate that 6,000 people have died there trying to overthrow the dictatorial regime of “President” Bashar al-Assad.

And that’s sending jitters through the Washington elite.

Not the casualties.  The fact that they’re being shown in vivid color on YouTube and CNN.

And this, in turn, has led many members of Congress and the Obama administration to fear for their jobs. They dread that voters will blame them for not “doing something” to end the fighting.

Like sending in American armed forces to somehow stop it.

Another reason driving America’s headlong rush into war: Sheer stupidity.

Start with the neocons, who lustily supported the 2003 Iraq war have been spoiling for yet another war in the Middle East.

On March 21, 2013, House Foreign Affairs ranking Democrat Eliot Engel (D-NY) and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-MI) introduced the “Free Syria Act of 2013,” calling on the Obama administration to arm the Syrian rebels.

And on May 27, Arizona U.S. Senator John McCain secretly entered Syria and met with commanders of the Free Syrian Army, who are fighting forces loyal to “President” Bashar al Assad for control of the country.

He was the first U.S. senator to travel to Syria since civil war erupted there in 2011.  And after he left, he told CNN that he was more convinced that the United States must become more involved in the country’s conflict.

President Barack Obama could have easily confronted these “give war a chance” enthusiests and put them on the defensive–had he wished to do so.

President Obama at press conference

He could have bluntly and repreatedly used the bully pulpit of his office to warn Americans:

  • Since 1979, Syria has been listed by the U.S. State Department as a sponsor of terrorism.
  • There are no “good Syrians” for the United States to support.  There is a civil war between rival terrorist groups.
  • Among the terrorist groups supporting Syrian dictator al-Assad are Hezbollah and Hamas.
  • Assad’s enemies include another terrorist group–Al Qaeda.
  • Syria has never been an ally of the United States.
  • It is, after Iran, the foremost enemy of America’s ally, Israel.
  • The United States faces a crumbling infastructure, record high unemployment and trillions of dollars in debt.  It’s time for Americans to clean up their own house before worrying about the messes in other nations–especially those wholly alien to American values.

And, most importantly, Obama could have directly challenged the macho ethic of the American Right.

Especially those members of it who, while avoiding military service themselves, are always eager to send others into harm’s way at the slightest excuse.

The President could have officially established an all-volunteer brigade for those Americans willing to fight and possibly die in yet another pointless war.  And he could have offered to fly them to the border of Syria so they could carry out their self-appointed “conquer or die” mission.

Of course, many–if not most–of these armchair strategists would have refused to put their own lives on the line in defense of a “cause” they claim to believe in.

But then Obama could have brutally–and repeatedly–pointed this out.  Hypocrisy is something Americans understand all too well–and despise.

Instead, for a man celebrated for his oratorical gifts, Obama has managed to talk himself into a no-win situation.

Theodore Roosevelt claimed to operate by a South African proverb: “Speak softly and carry a big stick, and you will go far.”

Obama spoke loudly about the “big stick” of American military power and said that if Assad’s regime used chemical weapons against its enemies, that would be “a red line in the sand.”

By doing so, he needlessly put his credibility as President on the line.

On August 21, the Assad regime was accused of using chemical weapons in Damascus suburbs to kill more than 1,400 civilians.

On August 30, the Obama administration said it had “high confidence” that Syria’s government carried out the chemical weapons attack.

Having boxed himself in, Obama felt he had to make good on his threat–even if it risked the lives of those flying combat missions over Syria’s formidable air defenses.

Yet, even at this late stage, Obama could find a face-saving reason for not intervening.  He could state that while there is apparent evidence of a chemical attack, there is no conclusive evidence that this was carried out by the Assad regime.

In short: He could shift the blame to one of the many terror groups operating in Syria–such as Hizbollah or Hammas or Al Qaeda.

This would take the United States off the hook–thus saving the lives of countless American soldiers and avoiding a potential nuclear confrontation with Russia.

But having needlessly put his own credibility–and ego–on the line, this is unlikely.

What’s more likely is Obama will continue to hurtle down the road to disaster.

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