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Posts Tagged ‘FBI’

LET THE SUNSHINE IN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But this totally missed the point.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein working on Watergate

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

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

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

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

W. Mark Felt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JFK’S LEGACIES: FIFTY YEARS LATER

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 20, 2014 at 10:19 am

Fifty years ago this November, John Fitzgerald Kennedy would have almost certainly won re-election as President of the United States.

But one year earlier, Lee Harvey Oswald–an embittered ex-Marine and fervent Communist who idolized Fidel Castro–picked up a sniper’s rifle and changed the course of history.

It has been said that Kennedy left his country with three great legacies:

  • The Nuclear Test Ban Treaty;
  • The Apollo moon landing; and
  • The Vietnam war.

Of these, the following can be said with certainty:

  • The Test Ban Treaty has prevented atmosphereic testing–and poisoning–by almost all the world’s nuclear powers.
  • After reaching the moon–in 1969–Americans quickly lost interest in space and have today largely abandoned plans for manned exploration.
  • Under Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, 58,000 Americans died in Vietnam; 153,303 were wounded; and billions of dollars were squandered in a hopeless effort to intervene in what was essentially a Vietnamese civil war.
  • From 1965 to 1972, the war angrily divided Americas as had no event since the Civil War.

But there was an additional legacy–and perhaps the most important of all: The belief that mankind could overcome its greatest challenges through rationality and perseverance.

 White House painting of JFK

At American University on June 10, 1963, Kennedy called upon his fellow Americans to re-examine the events and attitudes that had led to the Cold War.

And he declared that the search for peace was by no means absurd:

“Our problems are man-made; therefore, they can be solved by man.  And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings.

“Man’s reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable, and we believe they can do it again.”

Today, politicians from both parties cannot agree on solutions to even the most vital national problems.

On November 21, 2011,  the 12 members of the “Super-Committee” of Congress, tasked with finding $1.2 trillion in cuts in government spending, threw up their hands in defeat.

President Kennedy speed-read several newspapers every morning. He nourished personal relationships with the press-–and not for entirely altruistic reasons.

These journalistic relationships gave Kennedy additional sources of information and perspectives on national and international issues.

In 2012, Republican Presidential candidates celebrated their ignorance of both.

Former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain famously said, “We need a leader, not a reader.”  Thus he excused his ignorance of the reasons for President Barack Obama’s intervention in Libya.

Texas Governor Rick Perry showed similar pride in not knowing there are nine judges on the United States Supreme Court:

“Well, obviously, I know there are nine Supreme Court judges. I don’t know how eight came out my mouth. But the, uh, the fact is, I can tell you–I don’t have memorized all of those Supreme Ccourt judges. And, uh, ah–

“Here’s what I do know. That when I put an individual on the Supreme Court, just like I done in Texas, ah, we got nine Supreme Court justices in Texas, ah, they will be strict constructionists….”

In short, it’s the media’s fault if they ask you a question and your answer reveals your own ignorance, stupidity or criminality.

During the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy spoke with aides about a book he had just finished: Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August, on the events leading to World War 1.

He said that the book’s most important revelation was how European leaders had blindly rushed into war, without thought to the possible consequences.

Kennedy told his aides he did not intend to make the same mistake-–that, having read his history, he was determined to learn from it.

Contrast that with today’s woeful historical ignorance among Republican Presidential candidates-–and those who aspire to be.

Consider Sarah Palin’s rewriting of history via “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere”:

“He warned the British that they weren’t going to be taking away our arms by ringing those bells and, um, making sure as he’s riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that, uh, we were going to be secure and we were going to be free.”

In fact, Revere wasn’t warning the British about anything.  Instead, he was warning his fellow Americans about an impending British attack–as his celebrated catchphrase “The British are coming!” made clear.

Republicans have attacked President Obama for his Harvard education and articulate use of language. Among their taunts: “Hitler also gave good speeches.”

And they resent his having earned most of his income as a writer of two books: Dreams From My Father and The Audacity of Hope.  As if being a writer is somehow subversive.

When knowledge and literacy are attacked as “highfalutin’” arrogance, and ignorance and incoherence are embraced as sincerity, national decline lies just around the corner.

In retrospect, the funeral for President Kennedy marked the death of more than a rational and optimistic human being.  It marked the death of Americans’ pride in choosing reasoning and educated citizens for their leaders.

The Eternal Flame at the grave of President John F. Kennedy

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.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

Gerald Ford being hustled from danger by Secret Service agents

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

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

 

The Reagan assassination attempt

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

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

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

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

So how will the next 9/11 happen?

In all likelihood, like this:

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

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

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

They will breeze through their selected airports

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

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

And then it will be too late.

Memorial to the passengers and crew of United Flight 93

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

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

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

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

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

Now think about that–and then consider this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

World Trade Center on September 11, 2001

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

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

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

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

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

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

Consider the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Niccolo Machiavelli

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

File:Medium chicagoreflection.jpg

University of Chicago Law School

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jon Stewart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

President Barack Obama

But he made a series of deadly mistakes:

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

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

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

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

Niccolo Machiavelli

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

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

So how has Obama fared by this standard?

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

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

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

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

[Boldface in the original document.]

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

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

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

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

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

John Boehner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The results of such action can be easily predicted.

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

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

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

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

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on August 5, 2014 at 8:56 am

A majority of Americans–53%–disapprove of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), better known as Obamacare.

So says a July healthcare tracking poll of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a non-profit organization focusing on national health issues

This is clearly a plus/minus situation for President Barack Obama.

On the positive side:  According to the Department of Health and Human Services, Obamacare enrollment has cut the number of uninsured people in the nation by 10 million.

On the negative side: Obamacare has always had weak support among the American public.  Among the reasons for this:

  • Constant Republican attacks labeling the law as “socialistic” (by which they mean “communistic”).
  • Public opposition to the individual mandate that almost everyone obtain coverage.
  • Many Americans think they can’t afford the insurance sold on the Obamacare exchanges–and don’t know that financial aid is available.

Among the poll’s findings:

  • Sixty percent of the public wants Congress to improve the Affordable Care Act, not repeal and replace it.
  • Thirty-eight percent were unaware that the Act offers consumers a choice among private health plans.
  • Less than half of those polled–47%–say they have discussed the law with friends or family.
  • Of that 47%, a majority–27%–say they’ve heard more bad than good about the law in these conversations.
  • Healthcare isn’t a top priority for Americans right now–except for medical care for veterans (71%).

Among those issues the public does rate as highly important:

  • Economy and jobs (70%)
  • Federal budget deficit (68%)
  • Education (66%)
  • Social Security (65%)
  • Illegal imigration (61%)

Click here: Kaiser Health Tracking Poll: July 2014 | The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation

Barack Obama is easily one of the most highly educated Presidents in United States history.

He is a graduate of Columbia University (B.A. in political science in 1983).

In 1988, he entered Harvard Law School, graduating magna cum laude–“with great honor”–in 1991.  He was selected as an editor of the Harvard Law Review at the end of his first year, and president of the journal in his second year.

President Barack Obama

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

So where did he go so wrong?   Several ways:

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

Obama started off well when he took office.  Americans had high expectations of him.

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

Obama entered office intending to reform the American healthcare system, to make medical care available to all citizens, and not just the richest.

But that was not what the vast majority of Americans wanted him to concentrate his energies on. With the loss of 2.6 million jobs in 2008, Americans wanted Obama to find new ways to create jobs.

This was especially true for the 11.1 million unemployed, or those employed only part-time.

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

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

The results were:

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

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

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

Niccolo Machiavelli (4169-1527), the Florentine statesman and father of modern politics, could have warned him of the consequences of this–through the pages of his famous treatise on the realities of politics: The Prince.

Niccolo Machiavelli

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

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

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

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

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