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FORTUNE’S FOOL: OBAMA AND THE MID-TERMS: PART TWO (END)

In History, Politics, Social commentary on November 12, 2014 at 12:21 am

Barack Obama has proven extremely lucky in his past political competition.

In his 2004 race for United States Senator from Illinois, a scandal forced his chief opponent. Jack Ryan,  to withdraw from the race.

In his 2008 race for President, his opponent, Arizona U.S. Senator John McCain, chose Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate.  Her laughable ignorance persuaded millions of voters they didn’t want her “a heartbeat away” from the Presidency.

Four years later, on August 11, 2012, Mitt Romney, the expected Republican nominee for President, gave Obama another unexpected gift: He chose Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan as his vice presidential nominee.

Paul Ryan

In 2011, as Chairman of the House Budget Committee, Ryan released “The Path to Prosperity,” a 2012 budget resolution that he claimed would end “uncontrolled  government spending” and “crushing levels of taxes.”

According to economist and former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich:

“More than any other politician today, Paul Ryan exemplifies the social Darwinism at the core of today’s Republican Party: Reward the rich, penalize the poor, let everyone else fend for themselves. Dog eat dog.”

On March 12, 2012, details of Ryan’s 2013 House Budget Committee proposal were released.  Among these:

  • Repeal the Affordable Health Care Act of 2010.
  • Turn Medicare into a private health insurance system.
  • Slash funding for Medicaid, which ensures medical care for the poor, forcing states to drop coverage for 14 to 28 million low-income people, according to the non-partisan Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.
  • Reduce food stamps for poor families by 17%–$135 billion–over the decade, leading to a significant increase in hunger, especially among children.

In addition, his “H.R. 212: Sanctity of Human Life Act” would give fetuses full personhood rights from the moment of fertilization.

This would:

  • Outlaw abortion even in cases of rape and incest; and
  • Ban certain methods of birth control, such as IUDs and spermicides.

Unsurprisingly, Obama found it easy to turn Ryan’s Right-wing extremism against him–and Romney.

Fast forward to 2904–and the mid-term Congressional elections.

The 2010 mid-terms had given control of the House of Representatives to the Republicans.  For Obama and Democrats generally, it was vitally important that their party retain control of the Senate.

But throughout 2014, a series of unexpected problems arose to plague the Obama administration.

Among these:

  • Tens of thousands of women and children flooded into the United States from Central America.  Many of the children came unaccompanied by their parents.
  • The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) started blitzing Iraq, routing the American-trained Iraqi army.
  • The Secret Service allowed a White House fence jumper to penetrate the East Room through an unlocked door.  Luckily, Obama and his family had just left for Camp David.
  • Unknown to the Secret Service, an armed–and several times arrested–security guard rode in the same elevator as President Barack Obama.
  • An Ebola-infected man flew from Liberia to Dallas to visit family.  Admitted to a hospital, he died on October 8–after infecting two nurses, making them the first American victims of this deadly disease.

None of these actions was Obama’s fault:

  • The flood of illegal alien children resulted from a change in legislation during the Presidency of George W. Bush.
  • ISIS would have tried to establish an Islamic empire no matter who was President.
  • The series of foul-ups at the Secret Service were a product of longstanding neglect within the agency.
  • The series of foul-ups at the Dallas hospital were entirely a local matter, beyond the control of the White House.

Still, taken together, they convinced millions of Americans that the Federal Government was too inept or corrupt to efficiently address domestic and foreign crises.

Fortune had turned for–and on–Obama.

As Niccolo Machiavelli explained in The Prince:

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.  

Another reason for Obama’s change in fortune: Given to making inspiring speeches, he has proven consistently timid in advancing his agenda.

As Machiavelli puts it:

I certainly think that it is better to be impetuous than cautious.  For fortune is a woman, and it is necessary, if you wish to master her, to conquer her by force. 

And it can be seen that she lets herself be overcome by the bold, rather than by those who proceed coldly.  And therefore, like a woman, she is always a friend to the young, who are less cautious, fiercer, and master her with greater audacity.

With little more than two years left in office, Obama must act decisively–and ruthlessly–if he is to secure a legacy beyond being America’s first black President.

Whether he can bring himself to do so is entirely another matter.

FORTUNE’S FOOL: OBAMA AND THE MID-TERMS: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In History, Politics, Social commentary on November 11, 2014 at 12:00 pm

For most Americans, history is a collection of names, dates and places they were forced to memorize in high school.  Then, after passing their history test, they quickly forget everything they had supposedly learned.

But for those who care to understand the world they live in, history serves as an invaluable road map.

It won’t tell you precisely where you are going.  But it will tell you where others have gone, and which routes have proven the most effective–or the most ruinous.

This was the view of Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of political science.  And, luckily for those generations who came after him, he left a detailed and insightful record of what he had learned from his own study of history.

https://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.craigwilly.info/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/machiavelli.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.craigwilly.info/2013/02/24/the-wit-and-wisdom-of-niccolo-machiavelli-quotes/&docid=07xQhoC5buVsZM&tbnid=NEZhmISUVoyGxM:&w=450&h=518&ei=N59eVIrWIOGIiwL3mIDoCA&ved=0CAIQxiAwAA&iact=c

Niccolo Machiavelli

A major theme running through Machiavelli’s works–most notably The Prince and The Discourses–is the role that Fortune plays in the lives of men.

In Chapter 25 of The Prince he offers the following description of its fickleness:

I think it may be true that fortune is the ruler of half our actions, but that she allows the other half or thereabouts to be governed by us

I would compare her to an impetuous river that, when turbulent, inundates the plains, casts down trees and buildings, removes earth from this side and places it on the other; every one flees before it, and everything yields to its fury without being able to oppose it. 

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Still, when it is quiet, men can make provisions against it by dykes and banks, so that when it follows it will either go into a canal or its rush will not be so wild and dangerous. 

So it is with fortune, which shows her power where no measures have been taken to resist her, and directs her fury where she knows that no dykes or barriers have been made to hold her.

Like Machiavelli, President Barack Obama also understands the importance of luck.  He, more than most politicians, has been extremely lucky in his competition.

https://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/55/President_Barack_Obama,_2012_portrait_crop.jpg&imgrefurl=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democratic_Party_presidential_primaries,_2012&docid=3y22b6lwQDOBAM&tbnid=TLFC41WZSv8QNM:&w=1338&h=1739&ei=SZ5eVLeHH6jGiALFv4DYAQ&ved=0CAIQxiAwAA&iact=c

Barack Obama

Consider his 2004 race for United States Senator from Illinois.

In the general election, Obama faced Republican Jack Ryan.  Ryan seemed a true Golden Boy:  He was handsome,  popular and a  wealthy former Goldman-Sachs partner.

Jack Ryan

And although he was now divorced, he had been married–from 1991 to 1999–to Jeri Ryan.  The actress who was/is best-known for her role as the catsuited Borg “Seven-of-Nine” in “Star Trek: Voyager.”

Jeri Ryan as “Seven-of-Nine”

Obama’s candidacy looked doomed.  And then the unexpected happened.

The Chicago Tribune and WLS-TV, the local ABC affiliate, filed suit to have the Ryans’ divorce and child custody records released.  And they were.

In the custody files, his then-wife, Jeri, charged that Jack had pressured her to perform sexual acts with him at swinger’s clubs in New York, New Orleans, and Paris while other patrons watched.

Jeri described one as “a bizarre club with cages, whips and other apparatus hanging from the ceiling.”  And she had steadfastly refused to let Jack assimilate her in so public a setting.

Jack confirmed the trips with the actress but described them simply as “romantic getaways,” denying her claims that he sought public sex.

Ryan had been running against Obama as a clean-cut, “family values” candidate.  Suddenly, he found that image fatally tainted.

Days after the release, Ryan withdrew from the race.  As his replacement, the Republicans chose Alan Keyes, a black right-winger whom even George W. Bush found to be “a piece of work.”

Obama easily won election with 73% of the votes.

In 2008, Obama ran for President.

For starters, the incumbent holder of the White House–George W. Bush–was by then the most unpopular President since Harry S. Truman in 1953.

For those who wanted a complete change from the Bush legacy, Obama–black, young, highly educated, articulate–offered the embodiment of freshness.

His nominated opponent was Arizona’s Republican United States Senator John McCain. And, once again, Obama got electoral help from the Republican party.

McCain chose Sarah Palin, a two-year Governor of Alaska who roused the GOP’s Right-wing base–but outraged liberals and moderates.  Even worse for McCain, Palin’s moronic statements quickly became a target for parody–especially that of “Saturday Night Live” comic Tina Fey.

Obama won the election with 53% of the vote, amassing 365 electoral votes to McCain’s 173.

And then, on August 11, 2012,  Mitt Romney, the all-but-anointed Republican nominee for President, gave Obama another Ryan to run against: Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

Elected at 28 to Congress in 1998, over the next 12 years he built a reputation as a firm social and budgetary conservative.

And so Romney–thoroughly distrusted by the Rightists in the Republican party–picked Ryan to be his Vice Presidential running mate.

It would prove to be a fateful–and fatal–choice.

 

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.

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

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on September 24, 2014 at 12:15 am

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

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

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

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

Asked for Obama’s reaction, White House spokesman Frank Benenati gave this boilerplate reply: “The president has full confidence in the Secret Service and is grateful to the men and women who day in and day out protect himself, his family and the White House.”

But the blunt truth is that many of the problems now plaguing the U.S. Secret Service were on full display as early as 2009.

That was when well-known investigative reporter Ronald Kessler published his latest book, In the President’s Secret Service.

Kessler had previously pubilshed books outlining the inner workings of the White House, the CIA and the FBI.

Kessler praised the courage and integrity of Secret Service agents as a whole.  But he warned that the agency was risking the safety of many of its protectees, including President Obama.

He was particularly critical of SS management for such practices as:

  • Shutting off weapon-scanning magnetometers at rallies for Presidential candidates–and even for Presidents George W. Bush and Obama. 
  • During a speech Bush gave at Tbilisi, Georgia in 2005, an assailant threw a live hand grenade–which failed to explode–at him.  
  • Despite 9/11, Secret Service agents are still being trained to expect an attempt by a lone gunman—rather than a professional squad of terrorist assassins.
  • The Service’s Counter Assault Teams (CATs) have generally been cut back from five or six agents to tworendering them useless if a real attack occurred.
  • Salaries paid to SS agents have not kept pace with reality. Veteran SS men and women are now being offered up to four times their salary for moving to the private sector, and many are leaving the agency for that reason.

  • While Congress has greatly expanded the duties of this agency, Secret Service management has not asked for equivalent increases in funding and agents.
  • Many agents are leaving out of frustration that it takes “juice” or connections with top management to advance one’s career.
  • SS agents are being trained with weapons that are outdated (such as the MP5, developed in the 1960s) compared to those used by other law enforcement agencies and the potential assassins they face (such as the M4–with greater range and armor-piercing capabilities).
  • The Service refuses to ask for help from other agencies to meet its manpower needs. Thus, a visiting head of state at the U.N. General Assembly will usually be assigned only three agents as protection.
  • The agency tells agents to grade themselves on their physical training test forms.  
  • Agents are supposed to be evaluated on their marksmanship skills every three months.  But some agents have gone more than a year without being tested.
  • Some agents are so overweight they can’t meet the rigorous demands of the job.  As a result, they pose a danger to the people they’re supposed to be guarding.
  • The Secret Service inflates its own arrest statistics by claiming credit for arrests made by local police.
  • Congressional members who visit the agency’s Rowley Training Center in Laurel, Maryland, are treated to rehearsed scenarios of how the agency would deal with attacks. If agents were allowed to perform these exercises without rehearsals, Congressional members would see they can and do make mistakes like anyone else.

Kessler closes his book with the warning: “Without….changes, an assassination of Barack Obama or a future president is likely.

“If that happens, a new Warren Commission will be appointed to study the tragedy. It will find that the Secret Service was shockingly derelict in its duty to the American people and to its own elite corps of brave and dedicated agents.”

And the effects will be not only momentary but long-term.  As Kessler writes:

“By definition, an assassination threatens democracy.

“If Abraham Lincoln had not been assassinated, Andrew Johnson, his successor, would not have been able to undermine Lincoln’s efforts to reunite the nation and give more rights to blacks during the Reconstruction period.

“If John F. Kennedy had not been assassinated, Lyndon Johnson likely never would have become President.  If Robert F. Kennedy had not been killed and had won the presidency, Richard Nixon might never have been elected.”

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

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

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

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

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

That was it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fast forward 13 years later.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why was he even allowed outside a jail cell?

Secret Service agents standing post.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That you can easily learn by visiting its website.

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

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

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

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

National Cancer Institute

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

Their mission was two-fold:

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

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

Dr. Stanton Glantz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Figure 1.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

“What do you think?”

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

Then the site offers this in tribute to its sponsor:

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

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

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

“Vote today!”

The viewer is then given two questions to answer.

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

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

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

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

It, too, provides three possible answers:

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

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

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

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

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

President Barack Obama

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

And this smear campaign continued throughout his Presidency.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The third accusation: “The IRS scandal.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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?

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