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REVISING–OR SCRAPPING–OBAMACARE: PART TWO (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on February 5, 2016 at 12:08 am

President Barack 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 said in The Prince on the matter of love versus fear:

From this arises the question whether it is better to be loved or feared, or feared more than love. 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 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 Obama, such a moment came in 2011, when House Republicans threatened to to destroy the credit rating of the United States unless the President agreed 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 USA Patriot Act and the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act of 1970.

RICO opens with a series of definitions of “racketeering activity” which can be prosecuted by Justice Department attorneys. Among those crimes: Extortion. 

Extortion is defined as “a criminal offense which occurs when a person unlawfully obtains either money, property or services from a person(s), entity, or institution, through coercion.” 

The RICO Act defines “a pattern of racketeering activity” as “at least two acts of racketeering activity, one of which occurred after the effective date of this chapter and the last of which occurred within ten years…after the commission of a prior act of racketeering activity.” 

And if President Obama believed that RICO was not sufficient to deal with extortionate behavior, he could have relied on the USA Patriot Act, passed in the wake of 9/11. 

In Section 802, the Act defines domestic terrorism. Among the behavior that is defined as criminal: 

“Activities that…appear to be intended…to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion [and]…occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.” 

The remedies for punishing such criminal behavior were legally in place.  President Obama could have directed the Justice Department to apply them.

If violations had been discovered, indictments could have quickly followed–and then prosecutions. The results of such action could be easily predicted:

  • Facing lengthy prison terms, those indicted Republicans would have first had to lawyer-up.
  • This would have imposed huge monetary costs on them, since good criminal attorneys don’t come cheap.  
  • Obsessed with their personal survival, they would have had little time to engage in more of the same thuggish behavior that got them indicted. In fact, doing so would have only made their convictions more likely.
  • Those Republicans who hadn’t (yet) been indicted would have feared; “I could be next.” This would have produced a chilling effect on their willingness to engage in further acts of subversion and extortion.  
  • 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 have been a long time before Republicans dared to engage in such behavior–at least, while Obama held office.  

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

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?

REVISING–OR SCRAPPING–OBAMACARE: PART ONE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on February 4, 2016 at 12:10 am

One of the major differences between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton lies in their views about what should be the future of “Obamacare.”  

Sanders, the longtime independent Senator from Vermont, wants to scrap The Affordable Care Act (ACA) and replace it with a single-payer plan.  

Clinton, the former Secretary of State, wants to make “incremental” changes in the Act.  

The Sanders plan promises greater simplicity and comprehensiveness in providing benefits to those millions of Americans who previously could not obtain medical insurance.  

The Clinton approach promises to keep the best features of “Obamacare” and improve those that need changing.  

But neither Sanders nor Clinton has directly addressed certain unpalatable truths about the ACA.  

These stem not from any intended evil on the part of its chief sponsor, President Barack Obama. Instead, they spring from his idealistic belief that reasonable men could always reach a compromise.  

As a result, much of the Act remains seriously flawed. Here are the six reasons why.  

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 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 to be 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 lost 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 would soon become 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 Koch-brothers-financed 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 displayed an incredible naivety in dealing with his political opposition.

Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527), the Florentine statesman and father of modern politics, could have warned him of the consequences of this–through the pages of The Prince, his infamous treatise on the realities of politics.

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.  

This proved exactly the case with the proposed Affordable Care Act.

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 more than 60 times to repeal, delay or revise the law.  

So before President 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 America’s fate–that he is by nature a man of conciliation, not conflict.  

Richard Wolffe chronicled Obama’s winning of the White House in his 2009 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.

THE CASEY DOCTRINE

In Bureaucracy, Business, Law, Politics on January 22, 2016 at 12:18 am

When William J. Casey was a young attorney during the Great Depression, he learned an important lesson.

Jobs were hard to come by, so Casey thought himself lucky to land one at the Tax Research Institute of America in New York.

His task was to closely read New Deal legislation and write reports explaining it to corporate chieftains.

At first, he thought they wanted detailed legal commentary on the meaning of the new legislation.

But the he quickly learned a blunt truth: Businessmen neither understood nor welcomed President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s efforts at reforming American capitalism. And they didn’t want legal commentary.

Instead, they wanted to know: “What is the minimum we have to do to achieve compliance with the law?”

In short: How do we get by FDR’s new programs?

Fifty years later, Casey would bring the same mindset to his duties as director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for President Ronald Reagan.

William J. Casey 

He was presiding over the CIA when it deliberately violated Congress’ ban on funding the “Contras,” the Right-wing death squads of Nicaragua.

Casey gave lip service to the demands of Congress.  But privately, with the help of Marine Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North, he set up an “off-the-shelf” operation to provide arms to overthrow the leftist government of Daniel Ortega.

It was what President Ronald Reagan wanted.  So Casey felt he had a duty to get it done, and Congress be damned.

When news of Casey’s–and Reagan’s–illegal behavior leaked, in November, 1986, it almost destroyed the Reagan administration.

Especially damning: Much of the funding directed to the “Contras” had come from Iran, America’s mortal enemy.

To ransom a handful of American hostages who had been kidnapped in Lebanon, Reagan sold them our most sophisticated missiles in a weak-kneed exchange for American hostages.

Then he went on television and brazenly denied that any such “arms for hostages” trade had ever happened.  

Ronald Reagan

But the “Casey Doctrine” of minimum compliance with the law didn’t die with Casey (who expired of a brain tumor in 1987).

It was very much alive within the American business community as President Barack Obama sought to bring medical coverage to all Americans, and not simply the ultra-wealthy.

The single most important provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA)–better-known as Obamacare–requires large businesses to provide insurance to fulltime employees who work more than 30 hours a week.

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

Obama’s enemies have long slandered him as a ruthless practitioner of Chicago politics.”  So it’s easy to assume that he took “the Casey Doctrine” into account when he shepherded the ACA through Congress.

But he didn’t.

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

Employers feel motivated to move fulltime workers into part-time positions, and thus avoid

  • 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 any obligation to those who make their profits a reality.  

John Schnatter, CEO of Papa John’s Pizza, has been quoted as saying:

  • The price of his pizzas will go up–by 11 to 14 cents per pizza, of 15 to 20 cents per order; and
  • 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 multimillion dollar company show any concern for those who make its profits a reality?

Consider:  

  • Papa John’s is the third-largest pizza takeout and delivery chain in the United States.  
  • Its 2014 revenues were $1.60 billion, an increase of 11.1% over 2013 revenues of $1.44 billion.  
  • Its 2014 net income was $73.3 million, compared to 2013 net income of $69.5 million.  

In May, 2012, Schnatter hosted a fundraising event for Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney at his own Louisville, Kentucky, mansion.

“What a home this is,” gushed Romney.  “What grounds these are, the pool, the golf course.

“You know, if a Democrat were here he’d look around and say no one should live like this. Republicans come here and say everyone should live like this.”

Of course, Romney conveniently ignored a brutally ugly fact:

For the vast majority of Papa John’s minimum-wage-earning employees-–many of them working only part-time-–the odds of their owning a comparable estate are non-existent.

Had  Obama been the serious student of Realpolitick that his enemies claim he is, he would have predicted that most businesses would seek to avoid compliance with his law.

To counter that, he need only have required 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:

  • All employees would have been able to obtain medical coverage; and
  • Employers would have been encouraged to provide fulltime positions rather than part-time ones, since they would feel, “I’m paying for fulltime insurance coverage, so I should be getting fulltime work in return.”

The “Casey Doctrine” needs to be kept constantly in mind when reformers try to protect Americans from predatory employers. 

 

A LABOR DAY REMINDER: CEO GREED VS. EMPLOYEES’ NEED

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on September 7, 2015 at 12:57 am

John Schnatter, the CEO of Papa John’s Pizza, doesn’t like the Affordable Care Act (ACA), better known as Obamacare.

And Schnatter bluntly warned his employees: When the Act took effect, Papa John’s Pizza would change in two ways.

First, it would be forced to do something it hadn’t done since its founding in 1984: Offer healthcare coverage to its 16,5000 employees or pay a penalty to the government.

Second, it would raise the prices of its pizzas.

John Schnatter

How high would they go up?

By as much as eleven to fourteen cents price increase per pizza, or fifteen to twenty cents per order!

And Schnatter made it clear: He wasn’t going to take this lying down.  He was determined to pass along those 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?

Consider:

  • Papa John’s is the third-largest pizza takeout and delivery chain in the United States.
  • Its full year 2014 revenues were $1.60 billion, an increase of 11.1% from 2013 revenues of $1.44 billion.
  • Its full year 2014 net income was $73.3 million, compared to 2013 net income of $69.5 million.

Click here: Papa John’s Announces Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2014 Results (NASDAQ:PZZA)

Nor should anyone expect Schnatter to take a pay cut, just so his employees can obtain medical care when they need it.

Schnatter’s total calculated compensation for 2014 came to $3,456,146.

Click here: John H. Schnatter: Executive Profile & Biography – Businessweek

“We’re not supportive of Obamacare, like most businesses in our industry,” Schnatter–a supporter of Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney–admitted in a 2012 interview with Politico.

To demonstrate his opposition to providing medical insurance for all Americans, Schnatter hosted a fundraising event for Mitt Romney at his own Louisville, Kentucky mansion in May, 2012.

The luxurious setting for the fundraiser gave Romney a rush of pure, plutocratic ecstasy.

“What a home this is,” gushed Romney. “What grounds these are, the pool, the golf course.

“You know, if a Democrat were here he’d look around and say no one should live like this. Republicans come here and say everyone should live like this.”

John Schnatter’s estate

Of course, Romney conveniently ignored a brutally ugly fact:

For the vast majority of Papa John’s minimum-wage-earning employees–many of them working only part-time–the odds of their owning a comparable estate are non-existent.

In a typical demonstration of corporate thinking, Judy Nichols, a Papa John’s franchise owner in Beaumont, Texas, said:

“I have two options, I can stop offering coverage and pay the $2,000 fine, or I could keep my number of staff under 50 so the mandate doesn’t apply,” she told Legal Newsline.

In short: Defy the law, and employee helathcare needs be damned.

In fact, that’s exactly what Schnatter announced he would do: Reduce his workers’ hours–since Obamacare mandates that only employees working more than 30 hours per week are covered under their employers’ health insurance plan.

Nichols claimed that the the law might cost her $20,000 to $30,000 in taxes: “Obamacare is making me think about cutting jobs instead,” she said.

Translation: If you force me to behave responsibly, I’ll just have to take it out on millions of willing-to-work Americans.

So how can America cope with behavior that destroys not only lives but the economy as well?

By passing–and vigorously enforcing–a nationwide Employers Responsibility Act.

Among its provisions:

Employers would be required to provide full medical and pension benefits for all employees, regardless of their full-time or part-time status.

Increasingly, employers are replacing full-time workers with part-time ones—solely to avoid paying medical and pension benefits.

Requiring employers to act humanely and responsibly toward all their employees would encourage them to provide full-time positions—and hasten the death of this greed-based practice.

The seeking of “economic incentives” by companies in return for moving to or remaining in cities/states would be strictly forbidden.

Such “economic incentives” usually:

  1. allow employers to ignore existing laws protecting employees from unsafe working conditions;
  2. allow employers to ignore existing laws protecting the environment;
  3. allow employers to pay their employees the lowest acceptable wages, in return for the “privilege” of working at these companies; and/or
  4. allow employers to pay little or no business taxes, at the expense of communities who are required to make up for lost tax revenues.

Employers who continue to make such overtures would be prosecuted for attempted bribery or extortion:

  1. Bribery, if they offered to move to a city/state in return for “economic incentives,” or
  2. Extortion, if they threatened to move their companies from a city/state if they did not receive such “economic incentives.”

This would

  • protect employees against artificially-depressed wages and unsafe working conditions;
  • protect the environment in which these employees live; and
  • protect cities/states from being pitted against one another at the expense of their economic prosperity.

It’s past time for America to protect employees who work for a living from CEOs who simply take credit for the work those employees do.

FETUS FANATIC TERRORISM: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on August 10, 2015 at 12:41 am

On August 1, 2011, Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC’s “Hardball,” wrapped up his program with a search for “options” to avoid another round of Republican extortion tactics:

“I want to know what steps the president [Barack Obama] ‘could’ have taken to avoid this hostage-taking [over raising the debt-ceiling].

“…Is there another way than either buckling to the Republicans or letting the government and the country crash?

“How does he use the power of the presidency, the logic, emotion and basic patriotism of the people to thwart those willing to threaten, disrupt, even possibly destroy to get their way?”

And the answer to his questions–then and now–is: Replace the law of fear with the rule of law.

As Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of modern politics, instructed future leaders in The Prince:

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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….

I conclude, therefore, with regard to being loved and feared, that men love at their own free will, but fear at the will of the prince, and that a wise prince must rely on what is in his power and not on what is in the power of others….”

Instead, in 2011, President Barack Obama surrendered to Republican extortion demands.  As a result, the United States suffered a massive loss to its international credit rating.

But there were two other ways Obama could have stood up to Republican extortionists:

  1. Invoke the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) and/or the USA Patriot Act;
  2. Rally the American people against this criminal threat to the security of the Nation.

And these remain available to him now–if only he has the courage to act.

Second Option: Calling upon the American people for their support

President John F. Kennedy did just that–successfully–during the most deadly crisis of his administration.

Addressing the Nation on October 22, 1962, Kennedy shocked his fellow citizens by revealing that the Soviet Union had placed offensive nuclear missiles in Cuba.

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President John F. Kennedy

After outlining a series of steps he had taken to end the crisis, Kennedy sought to reassure and inspire his audience. His words are worth remembering today:

“The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender or submission.”

Just as President Kennedy called on his fellow Americans for support against a foreign enemy, President Obama could rally his countrymen against an equally ruthless domestic enemy.

During such a national address, President Obama could reveal such blunt truths as:

  • Republicans have adopted the same my-way-or-else “negotiating” stance as Adolf Hitler.
  • Like the Nazis, they are determined to gain absolute power–or destroy the Nation they claim to love.
  • And, once again, they are threatening to shut down the government–and deny essential services to millions of Americans–unless they get their way.

Finally, President Obama could end his speech by directly calling for the active support of his fellow Americans. Something like this:

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President Barack Obama

“My fellow Americans, I have taken an oath to ‘preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.’

“But I cannot do this on my own. As citizens of a Republic, each of us carries that burden. We must each do our part to protect the land and the liberties we love.

“Tonight, I’m asking for your help.

“We stand on the edge of economic and social disaster. Therefore, I am asking each of you to stand up for America tonight–by demanding the recall of the entire membership of the Republican Party.”

* * * * *

The 1938 Munich Conference taught an invaluable lesson in foreign affairs: Caving in to the demands of insatiable thugs leads to only more demands.

That was what British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain learned when he sought to appease Adolf Hitler, Germany’s war-intent Fuehrer.

Neville Chamberlain greets Adolf Hitler

Chamberlain believed that by giving in to Hitler’s demands for the “German part” of Czechoslovakia known as the Sudetenland he could avoid war.

On September 29, Chamberlain and French Prime Minister Edouard Daladier met with Hitler and signed the Munich Agreement, resulting in the immediate German occupation of part of Czechoslovakia.

The Czechoslovakian government had not been a party to the talks. Their “allies” had sold them out.

In a matter of weeks, Hitler turned his attention–and demands–to Poland.

When his generals balked, warning that invading Poland would trigger a war with France and Britain, Hitler brushed aside their fears: “Our enemies are little worms.  I saw them at Munich.”

Chamberlain returned to England a hero. Holding aloft a copy of the worthless agreement he had signed with Hitler, he told cheering crowds in London: “I believe it is peace for our time.”

Winston Churchill knew better, predicting: “Britain and France had to choose between war and dishonor. They chose dishonor. They will have war.”

And so they did.

It is not too late for President Barack Obama to apply this lesson from history.

FETUS FANATIC TERRORISM: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on August 7, 2015 at 8:58 am

On July 9, 2011-–Republican extortionists again threatened the Nation with financial ruin and international disgrace unless their demands were met.

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

And the Republican response?

Said Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee:“Quite frankly, [Republican] members of Congress are getting tired of what the president won’t do and what the president wants.”

Noted political analyst Chris Matthews summed up the sheer criminality of what happened within the House of Representatives.

Speaking on MSNBC’s “Hardball,” on July 28–five days before Congress reached its August 2 deadline to raise the debt-ceiling–Matthews noted:

“The first people to bow to the demands of those threatening to blow up the economy were the Republicans in the House, the leaders. The leaders did what the followers told them to do: meet the demands, hold up the country to get their way.

Chris Matthews

“Those followers didn’t win the Senate, or the Presidency, just the House.

“But by using the House they were able to hold up the entire United States government. They threatened to blow things up economically and it worked.

“They said they were willing to do that–just to get their way–not by persuasion, not by politics, not by democratic government, but by threatening the destruction of the country’s finances.

“Right. So what’s next? The power grid? Will they next time threaten to close down the country’s electricity and communications systems?”

With the United States teetering on the brink of national bankruptcy, President Obama faced three choices:

  1. Counter Republican extortion attempts via RICO–the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act.
  2. Make a “Cuban Missile Crisis”-style address to the American people, seeking to rally them against a criminal threat to the financial security of the Nation.
  3. Cave in to Republican demands.

Unfortunately for Obama and the Nation, he chose Number Three.

The results were easily predictable: Emboldened by success, the extortionists continue to make even greater demands.

Such as those now being made: De-fund Planned Parenthood or we’ll destroy the country.

But this is a nightmare that doesn’t have to be.

There are, in fact, two ways to avoid it.

Assuming that President Obama doesn’t once again surrender to Republican extortion demands, he has two formidable weapons he can deploy:

First Option: RICO to the rescue

The Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act is a provision of the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970.  It authorizes prosecution for acts performed as part of an ongoing criminal organization.

It has been applied to not only the Mafia but to individuals, businesses, political protest groups, and terrorist organizations.  In short, a RICO claim can arise in almost any context.

Such as the one President Barack Obama faced in 2011 when Republicans threatened to destroy the credit rating of the United States unless their budgetary demands were met.

And such as the present case when Republicans are again threatening the security of the Nation with extortionate demands.

RICO opens with a series of definitions of “racketeering activity” which can be prosecuted by Justice Department attorneys.  Among those crimes: Extortion.

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Extortion is defined as “a criminal offense which occurs when a person unlawfully obtains either money, property or services from a person(s), entity, or institution, through coercion.”

The RICO Act defines “a pattern of racketeering activity” as “at least two acts of racketeering activity, one of which occurred after the effective date of this chapter and the last of which occurred within ten years…after the commission of a prior act of racketeering activity.”

And if President Obama believes that RICO is not sufficient to deal with extortionate behavior, he can rely on the USA Patriot Act of 2001, passed in the wake of 9/11.

In Section 802, the Act defines domestic terrorism.  Among the behavior that is defined as criminal:

“Activities that…appear to be intended…to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion [and]…occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.”

Republicans are now demanding that Democrats de-fund Planned Parenthood or be forced to shut down essential services needed by millions of Americans.

That clearly falls within the legal definition of “activities…intended…to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion.”

The remedies for punishing such criminal behavior are now legally in place.  President Obama need only direct the Justice Department to apply them.

President Obama can direct Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch to investigate whether Republican Congressman—and their Tea Party cohorts—have violated Federal anti-racketeering and/or anti-terrorism laws.

  • Lynch can order the FBI to conduct such an investigation.
  • If the FBI finds sufficient evidence that these laws had been violated, Holder can empanel criminal grand juries to indict those violators.

Criminally investigating and indicting members of Congress would not violate the separation-of-powers principle. Congressmen have in the past been investigated, indicted and convicted for various criminal offenses.

Such indictments and prosecutions–and especially convictions–would serve a truly cleansing function.

They would serve notice on current and future members of Congress that the safety and fortunes of American citizens may not be held hostage as part of a negotiated settlement.

FETUS FANATIC TERRORISM: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on August 6, 2015 at 2:04 pm

Republicans love fetuses.

In fact, they love them so much they’re willing to shut down the Federal Government and deny vital public services to millions of their fellow Americans.

That shutdown could be coming as early as September, when Congress returns from its summer break.

The reasons are two-fold:

First, the fast-approaching 2016 Presidential election; and

Second, Republicans’ long-standing desire to de-fund Planned Parenthood (PP).

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This upcoming effort will be fueled by a highly emotional charge: That PP sells fetal tissue and organs.

Anti-abortion organizations Operation Rescue and the Center for Medical Progress recently released videos purporting to show PP officials discussing such sales.

In response, PP said that they may donate fetal tissue at the request of a patient, but that fetal organs and tissues are never sold.

Three Congressional committees are now making inquiries into PP practices.

On August 3, 2015, a Republican bill to defund PP failed to pass in the Senate.   Currently, the organization receives $528 million in Federal funding each year.

Since the 1980s, Congressional Republicans have tried to de-fund PP. Their efforts almost led to a government shutdown in 2011.

PP has consistently claimed that it does not use its Federal funding to pay for abortion services.  But anti-abortionists argue that Federal monies free up other resources that are used to provide abortions.

Abortions represent three percent of total services provided by PP, and are provided to about 10% of its clients.

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The other 97% of services are for contraception, treatment and tests for sexually transmitted diseases, cancer screenings, and other women’s health services.

Click here: Planned Parenthood

PP estimates that its contraceptive services prevent approximately 612,000 unintended pregnancies–and 291,000 abortions–annually.

According to Politico, Republican Senators plan to attach a provision to the current omnibus spending bill–which funds all Federal agencies for 2015-2016.

The provision will ban funding for all Federal agencies–unless PP’s funding is cut.

Leading the call for a government shutdown is Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who tried to de-fund PP in 2013.  That attempt led to a two-week government shutdown.

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Senator Ted Cruz

Joining Cruz are Republicans in the House and Senate—not enough to defund PP, but enough to deny vitally-needed services to millions of Americans.

The reason for the 2013 government shutdown? Republicans were enraged that millions of uninsured Americans might receive medical care on a par with that given members of the House and Senate.

It was, in short, yet another Right-wing effort to eliminate the Affordable Care Act, better-known as “Obamacare.”

So on September 20, 2013, the House of Representatives voted on a short-term government funding bill that included a provision to de-fund Obamacare.

That provision was a no-go for Senate Democrats and President Barack Obama.  When the House and Senate couldn’t reach a compromise, many functions of the Federal government shut down on Oct. 1.

The shutdown lasted for 16 days and cost the United States economy $2 to $6 billion in economic output, according to the Office of Management and Budget.

It ended when President Obama and Senate Democrats refused to submit to Republican blackmail. Medical care still remained available to millions of poor and middle-class Americans.

Republicans have repeatedly threatened to shut down the government unless their constantly escalating demands were met.

In November, 1995, Newt Gingrich, then Speaker of the House of Representatives, carried out this threat.

The official reason: Republicans objected to Democratic President Bill Clinton’s budgetary requests for funding Medicare, education, the environment and public health in the 1996 Federal budget.

The real reason: Gingrich unwisely admitted that he was angry because Clinton had put him in the back of Air Force One during a recent trip to Israel.

The shutdown proved a disaster for Republicans. Clinton was handily re-elected in 1996 and Gingrich suddenly resigned from Congress in 1998.

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

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

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

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

Three months later–-on July 9, 2011-–Republican extortionists again threatened the Nation with financial ruin and international disgrace unless their demands were met.

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Sign of The Black Hand extortion group

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

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

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John Boehner

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

President Obama had previously insisted on extending the debt ceiling through 2012. But in mid-July, he simply asked congressional leaders to review three options with their members:

  1. The “Grand Bargain” choice—favored by Obama–would cut deficits by about $4 trillion, including spending cuts and new tax revenues.
  2. A medium-range plan would aim to reduce the deficit by about $2 trillion.
  3. The smallest option would cut between $1 trillion and $1.5 trillion, without increased tax revenue or any Medicare and Medicaid cuts.

And the Republican response?

THE CASEY DOCTRINE: MINIMUM COMPLIANCE

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 24, 2015 at 12:24 pm

When William J. Casey was a young attorney during the Great Depression, he learned an important lesson.

Jobs were hard to come by, so Casey thought himself lucky to land one at the Tax Research Institute of America in New York.

His task was to closely read New Deal legislation and write reports explaining it to corporate chieftains.

At first, he thought they wanted detailed legal commentary on the meaning of the new legislation.

But then he quickly learned a blunt truth: Businessmen neither understood nor welcomed Franklin D. Roosevelt’s efforts to reform American capitalism. And they didn’t want legal commentary.

Instead, they wanted to know: “What must we do to achieve minimum compliance with the law?”

In short: How do we get by FDR’s new programs?

Fifty years later, Casey would bring a similar mindset to his duties as director of the Central Intelligence Agency for President Ronald Reagan.

William J. Casey 

Congress had banned the Reagan administration from funding the “Contras,” the Right-wing death squads of Nicaragua.

Casey gave lip service to the demands of Congress. But privately, he and Marine Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North set up an “off-the-shelf” operation to overthrow the leftist government of Daniel Ortega.

For three years the operation stayed secret. Then it blew up in November, 1986, as the Iran-Contra scandal.

But the “Casey Doctrine” of minimum compliance didn’t die with Casey (who expired of a brain tumor in 1987).

It’s very much alive among the American business community as President Barack Obama seeks to give medical coverage to all Americans, and not simply the ultra-wealthy.

The single most important provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA)–-better known as Obamacare–-requires large businesses to provide insurance to full-time employees who work more than 30 hours a week.

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

Obama prides himself on being a tough-minded practitioner of “Chicago politics.”  So it’s easy to assume that he took the “Casey Doctrine” into account when he shepherded the ACA through Congress.

But he didn’t.

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

Employers feel motivated to move fulltime workers into part-time positions–-and thus avoid

  • 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.

The White Castle hamburger chain is considering hiring only part-time workers in the future to escape its obligations under Obamacare.

No less than Jamie Richardson, its vice president, admitted this in an interview.

“If we were to keep our health insurance program exactly like it is with no changes, every forecast we’ve looked at has indicated our costs will go up 24%.”

Richardson claimed the profit per employee in restaurants is only $750 per year. So, as he sees it, giving health insurance to all employees who work over 30 hours isn’t feasible.

Nor is Richardson the only corporate executive determined to shirk his responsibility to his employees.

John Schnatter, CEO of Papa John’s Pizza, has been quoted as saying:

  • The prices of his pizzas will go up–by 11 to 14 cents per pizza, or 15 to 20 cents per order; and
  • 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.”

Consider:

  • Papa John’s is the third-largest pizza takeout and delivery chain in the United States.
  • Its 2012 revenues were $318.6 million, an 8.5 percent increase from 2011 revenues of $293.5 million.
  • Its 2012 net income was $14.8 million, compared to its 2012 net income of $12.1 million.

Had Obama been the serious student of Realpolitick that he claims to be, he would have predicted that most businesses would seek to avoid compliance with his law.

To counter that, he need only have required 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:

  • All employees would have been able to obtain medical coverage; and
  • Employers would have been encouraged to provide fulltime positions rather than part-time ones; they would feel: “Since I’m paying for fulltime insurance coverage, I should be getting fulltime work in return.”

The “Casey Doctrine” needs to be kept constantly in mind when reformers try to protect Americans from predatory employers.

THE SENSUALITY OF REPUBLICAN HATRED

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on June 29, 2015 at 1:07 am

And the most glorious exploits do not always furnish us with the clearest discoveries of virtue or vice in men; sometimes a matter of less moment, an expression or a jest, informs us better of their characters and inclinations, than the most famous sieges, the greatest armaments, or the bloodiest battles whatsoever.

–Plutarch, The Life of Alexander the Great

On June 25, for the second time in three years, the United States Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), widely known as Obamacare.

Thirty-four Republican-led states have refused to set up state health insurance exchanges so their poor and medium-income residents can obtain affordable medical care.

In those Republican-governed states, citizens can obtain their health coverage only through subsidies given by the federal government.

A handful of words in the ACA suggested the subsidies were to go only to consumers using exchanges operated by the states. In its 6-3 ruling, the Supreme Court said those subsidies did not depend on where people live.

But three years earlier, Republican suffered another setback in their efforts to deprive their fellow Americans of access to healthcare.

Republicans expected June 28, 2012 to be their day.  The day when the United States Supreme Court struck down the ACA.

It would be a day to celebrate–and to revel in the sheer ecstasy of their hatred for the country’s first black President.

The United States Supreme Court

The previous President, George W. Bush, had lied the nation into a needless and destructive war with Iraq by repeatedly claiming that:

  • Saddam Hussein and Osama bin laden had teamed up to bring on 9/11;
  • Saddam was trying to get a nuclear weapon; or
  • Saddam already had a nuclear weapon and intended to use it against the United States.

That war cost the lives of 4,486 Americans and well over $1 trillion.

And Bush–taking a “hands-off-business” attitude–had presided over the 2008 Wall Street “meltdown.”  By the time Obama took office in 2009, the unchecked greed and stupidity of wealthy businessmen threatened to bankrupt the country.

But for the American Right, these weren’t crimes.  They were simply incidents to be ignored or arrogantly explained away.

Yet when President Obama sought to provide full medical coverage for all Americans, regardless of wealth, that–-for the American Right–-was a crime beyond forgiveness.

“Obamacare,” at all costs, must be discredited and destroyed.

As President Obama’s best-known achievement, its destruction by the Supreme Court would discredit the reputation of its creator. And this would arm Republicans with a potent election-time weapon for making Obama a one-term President.

Mitt Romney, the party’s presumptive nominee for President, openly boasted that the Court would overturn the Act.

Among those Right-wingers poised to celebrate on the morning of June 28 was Ohio Congresswoman Jean Schmidt.

Wearing a white dress, she stood in front of the Supreme Court waiting to hear about the healthcare ruling–-when the joyful news came:

The Court had ruled the Act was not enforceable under the interstate commerce clause of the Constitution!

Although this was in fact true–-and reported on CNN and Fox News–-it was far from the whole story.

A cell phone camera-wielding onlooker spotted Schmidt on her own cell phone.

“Yes!  Yes!” Schmidt screamed.  “Oh, what else?  Thank God!  No, they struck down the individual mandate!  They took it away!   Yes!”

Jean Schmidt

Her fascistic joy manifested itself in ear-splitting screeches and air punches.  Her entire body rocked up and down, shuddering with the ecstasy of passion. She resembled, more than anything else, a woman caught up in the frenzy of an orgasm.

In this case, an orgasm of pure, undisguised hatred–-

  • for the Affordable Healthcare Act;
  • for those millions of uninsured Americans needing healthcare coverage; and
  • above all, for the President himself.

It is a lust so demonic, so characteristic of the all-out, lethal hatred that Republicans aim at Obama, that words alone cannot fully describe it.  It must be seen for its full, revolting quality to be felt.

Click here: Rep “Mean Jean” Schmidt Wigs Out Thinking Supreme Court Struck Down Health Care Reform – YouTube 

But then came the bad news:

The Court had ruled that the Act was Constitutional under the power of the Congress to levy taxes. Thus, the hated individual mandate–-requiring the wealthy to buy insurance–-was legal after all.

And suddenly the Right saw its orgiastic fantasies disappear.

Later in the day, Schmidt posted a conventional press release: “I’m disappointed by the Supreme Court ruling….”

Some commentators mocked Schmidt’s moment of orgiastic hatred, comparing it to the famous scene in When Harry Met Sally: Seated in a diner, Meg Ryan’s Sally fakes an orgasm to show Billy Crystal’s Harry how easy it is to fool a man.

But there is a huge difference between Sally and Schmidt.

Sally was clearly faking to drive home a humorous point.  Schmidt’s joy wasn’t faked–-it was primal, and fueled by pure hatred.

On March 6, 2012, Schmidt was defeated for re-election in the GOP primary by Brad Wenstrup.

After World War II, the United States occupied West Germany and rooted out those former Nazis who had so arrogantly and brutally ruled over the lives of millions.  And America helped to set in power a government equally determined to stamp out a return to Nazism.

It remains to be seen if Americans, as a people, have the courage to do the same for themselves.

HOW TO DESTROY–AND CREATE–JOBS: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on April 24, 2015 at 12:15 am

If passed by Congress and vigorously enforced by the U.S. Departments of Justice and Labor, an Employers Responsibility Act would ensure full-time, permanent and productive employment for millions of capable, job-seeking Americans.

Among its remaining provisions:

(10)   CEOs whose companies employ illegal aliens would be held directly accountable for the actions of their subordinates.  Upon conviction, the CEO would be sentenced to a mandatory prison term of at least ten years.

This would prove a more effective remedy for controlling illegal immigration than stationing tens of thousands of soldiers on the U.S./ Mexican border.

With CEOs forced to account for their subordinates’ actions, they would take drastic steps to ensure their companies complied with Federal immigration laws.

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(11)  The seeking of “economic incentives” by companies in return for moving to or remaining in cities/states would be strictly forbidden.

Such “economic incentives” usually:

  1. allow employers to ignore existing laws protecting employees from unsafe working conditions;
  2. allow employers to ignore existing laws protecting the environment;
  3. allow employers to pay their employees the lowest acceptable wages, in return for the “privilege” of working at these companies; and/or
  4. allow employers to pay little or no business taxes, at the expense of communities who are required to make up for lost tax revenues.

(12) Employers who continue to make such overtures would be prosecuted for attempted bribery or extortion:

  1. Bribery, if they offered to move to a city/state in return for “economic incentives,” or
  2. Extortion, if they threatened to move their companies from a city/state if they did not receive such “economic incentives.”

This would protect employees against artificially-depressed wages and unsafe working conditions; protect the environment in which these employees live; and protect cities/states from being pitted against one another at the expense of their economic prosperity.

(12)   The U.S. Departments of Justice and Labor would regularly monitor the extent of employer compliance with the provisions of this Act.  

Among these measures: Sending  undercover  agents, posing as highly-qualified job-seekers, to apply at companies—and then vigorously prosecuting those employers who  blatantly refused to hire despite their proven economic ability to do so.

This would be comparable to the long-time and legally-validated practice of using undercover agents to determine compliance with fair-housing laws.

(13)   The Justice Department and/or the Labor Department would be required to maintain a publicly-accessible database on those companies that had been cited, sued and/or convicted for such offenses as

  • discrimination,
  • harassment,
  • health and/or safety violations or
  • violating immigration laws. 

Employers would be legally required to regularly provide such information to these agencies, so that it would remain accurate and up-to-date.

Such information would arm job applicants with vital information about the employers they were approaching.  They could thus decide in advance if an employer is deserving of their skills and dedication.

As matters now stand, employers can legally demand to learn even the most private details of an applicant’s life without having to disclose even the most basic information about themselves and their history of treating employees.

* * * * *

Reform starts with facing the truth–however painful–for what it is.  And with seeing one’s enemies–however powerful–for what they are.

For thousands of years, otherwise highly intelligent men and women believed that kings ruled by divine right.  That kings held absolute power, levied extortionate taxes and sent countless millions of men off to war–all because God wanted it that way.

That lunacy was dealt a deadly blow in 1776 when American Revolutionaries threw off the despotic rule of King George III of England.

But today, millions of Americans remain imprisoned by an equally outrageous and dangerous theory: The Theory of the Divine Right of Employers.

Summing up this employer-as-God attitude, Calvin Coolidge still speaks for the overwhelming majority of employers and their paid shills in government:

“The man who builds a factory builds a temple, and the man who works there worships there.”

America can no longer afford such a dangerous fallacy as the Theory of the Divine Right of Employers.

The solution lies in remembering that the powerful never voluntarily surrender their privileges.

Americans did not win their freedom from Great Britain–-and its enslaving doctrine of “the Divine Right of Kings”-–by begging for their rights.

And Americans will not win their freedom from their corporate masters–-and the equally enslaving doctrine of “the Divine Right of Employers”–by begging for the right to work and support themselves and their families.

And they will most certainly never win such freedom by supporting right-wing political candidates whose first and only allegiance is to the corporate interests who bankroll their campaigns.

Corporations can–and do–spend millions of dollars on TV ads, selling lies–lies such as the “skills gap,” and how if the wealthy are forced to pay their fair share of taxes, jobs will inevitably disappear.

But Americans can choose to reject those lies–and demand that employers behave like patriots instead of predators.

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