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Posts Tagged ‘THE PRINCE’

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.

WHY THE RIGHT WINS AND THE LEFT LOSES

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 11, 2015 at 11:43 am

Most Americans believe that Nazi Germany was defeated because “we were the Good Guys and they were the Bad Guys.”

Not so.

The United States–and its allies, Great Britain and the Soviet Union–won the war for reasons that had nothing to do with the rightness of their cause. These included:

  • Nazi Germany–i.e, its Fuehrer, Adolf Hitler–made a series of disastrous decisions. Chief among these: Attacking its ally, the Soviet Union, and declaring war on the United States;
  • The greater material resources of the Soviet Union and the United States; and
  • The Allies waged war as brutally as the Germans.

On this last point:

  • From D-Day to the fall of Berlin, captured Waffen-SS soldiers were often shot out of hand.
  • When American troops came under fire in the German city of Aachen, Lt. Col. Derrill Daniel brought in a self-propelled 155mm artillery piece and opened up on a theater housing German soldiers.  After the city surrendered, a German colonel labeled the use of the 155 “barbarous” and demanded that it be outlawed.

German soldiers at Stalingrad

  • During the battle of Stalingrad in 1942, Wilhelm Hoffman, a young German soldier and diarist, was appalled that the Russians refused to surrender.  He wrote: “You don’t see them at all, they have established themselves in houses and cellars and are firing on all sides, including from our rear–barbarians, they use gangster methods….”

In short: The Allies won because they dared to meet the brutality of a Heinz Guderian with that of a George S. Patton.

This is a lesson that has been totally lost on the liberals of the Democratic Party. Which explains why they lost most of the Presidential elections of the 20th century.

It also explains why President Barack Obama has found most of his legislative agenda stymied by Right-wing Republicans.

Consider this example: In 2014, Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) warned then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) that he would place a hold on one of President Obama’s appellate court nominees.

Rand Paul

David Barron had been nominated to the First Circuit Court of Appeals.  And Paul objected to this because Barron authored memos justifying the killing of an American citizen by a drone in Yemen.

The September 30, 2011 drone strike killed Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical Muslim cleric notorious on the Internet for encouraging Muslims to attack the United States.

So President Obama authorized a drone stroke against him, thus removing that danger. Paul demanded that the Justice Department release the memos Barron crafted justifying the drone policy.

Anwar al-Awlaki

Imagine how Republicans would depict Paul–or a Democratic Senator–if he behaved in a similar manner with a Republican President: “Rand Paul: A traitor who supports terrorists.  He sides with America’s enemies against its own lawfully elected President.”

To Republicans, “lawfully elected” applies only to Republican Presidents. A Democrat who runs against a Republican is automatically considered a traitor.

And a Democrat who defeats a Republican is automatically considered a usurper, and thus deserves to be slandered and obstructed, if not impeached.

Unable to defeat Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996, Republicans tried in 1998 to impeach him for getting oral sex in the White House.

Similarly, 2012 Presidential candidate Herman Cain, asked in a conference call with bloggers why Republicans couldn’t just impeach President Obama, replied:

“That’s a great question and it is a great–it would be a great thing to do but because the Senate is controlled by Democrats we would never be able to get the Senate first to take up that action.”

On May 22, 2014, the Senate voted 53–45 to confirm Barron to the First Circuit Court of Appeals.

In Renegade: The Making of a President, Richard Wolffe chronicled Obama’s successful 2008 bid for the White House. Among his revelations:

Obama, a believer in rationality and decency, felt more comfortable in responding to attacks on his character than in making them on the character of his enemies.

A graduate of Columbia University and Harvard Law School, Obama is easily one of the most academically gifted Presidents in United States history.

But for all this, he failed–from the onset of his Presidency–to grasp and apply this fundamental lesson taught by Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of modern political science. In The Prince Machiavelli warns:

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….

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

On Facebook and Twitter, liberals are already celebrating the “certain” Presidency of Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders or former First Lady Hillary Clinton in 2016.

They forget that, in 1968, 1980, 1988 and 2000, liberals couldn’t believe America would elect, respectively, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.

For Democrats to win elective victories and enact their agenda, they must find their own George Patton to take on the Waffen-SS generals among Republican ranks.

PLANNED PARENTHOOD’S SAVIOR: THE NRA

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on December 7, 2015 at 12:26 am

On December 14, 2012, 20-year-old Adam Lanza fatally shot 20 children and six adult staffers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

As it usually does after a mass shooting, the National Rifle Association (NRA) remained silent for a few days.

Then on December 18, its executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, broke that silence. In doing so, he offered his suggestion for preventing further tragedies perpetrated by heavily armed criminals.

Speaking at an NRA press conference, LaPierre said: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

“Would you rather have your 911 call bring a good guy with a gun from a mile away or a minute away?”

Wayne LaPierre by Gage Skidmore 2 (cropped).jpg

Wayne LaPierre

And LaPierre demanded that armed guards be placed in every school in the United States:

“Politicians pass laws for gun-free school zones. They issue press releases bragging about them. They post signs advertising them, and in doing so, they tell every insane killer in America that schools are the safest place to inflict maximum mayhem with minimum risk.

“We care about our president, so we protect him with armed Secret Service agents. Members of Congress work in offices surrounded by Capitol Police officers.

“Yet, when it comes to our most beloved, innocent and vulnerable members of the American family–our children–we as a society leave them everyday utterly defenseless.

“And the monsters and the predators of the world know it and exploit it.”

Without knowing it, Wayne LaPierre came up with a solution to the history of attacks on Planned Parenthood clinics.

Between 1973, when the Supreme Court made abortion legal throughout the United States, and 2003, abortion providers were targeted for more than 300 acts of extreme violence, including arson, bombings, murders and butyric acid attacks.

The National Abortion Federation documents more than 176,000 instances of picketing at clinics (and nearly 34,000 arrests) since 1977. More than 16,000 hate mail or harassing phone calls, over 1,500 acts of vandalism and 400 death threats have been aimed at clinics.

The latest of these attacks came on November 27, at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado. An anti-abortionist shot and killed a police officer and two civilians.  An additional five police officers and four civilians were injured.

The arrested suspect, Robert Lewis Dear, mentioned “baby parts” as his reason for the attack. During questioning by police, Dear expressed anti-abortion and anti-government views, a police source told CNN.

Image result for Images of Robert Lewis Dear

Robert Lewis Dear, Jr.

Those on the Left were outraged at this latest attack on the reproductive rights of women.  But those on the Right offered no sympathy for the victims–or women who sought out medical care at Planned Parenthood clinics.

Colorado state Rep. JoAnn Windholz issued a statement blaming Planned Parenthood for the attack:

“The true instigator of this violence and all violence at any Planned Parenthood facility is Planned Parenthood themselves.

Joann Windholz.jpg

Rep. JoAnn Windholz 

“Violence is never the answer, but we must start pointing out who is the real culprit. The true instigator of this violence and all violence at any Planned Parenthood facility is Planned Parenthood themselves. [Italics added.]

“Violence begets violence. So Planned Parenthood: YOU STOP THE VIOLENCE INSIDE YOUR WALLS.”

Planned Parenthood offers reproductive health care, sex education to women and men and, at some clinics, abortions.

Since Planned Parenthood can’t expect help from Republican lawmakers, perhaps it’s time for its officials to consider the advice of Niccolo Machiavelli.

“For among other evils caused by being disarmed, it renders you contemptible,” he writes in Chapter 14 of The Prince, his primer on gaining political power.

“Because there is no comparison whatever between an armed and a disarmed man. It is not reasonable to suppose that one who is armed will obey willingly one who is unarmed….”

In short: Planned Parenthood should begin training its personnel in the use of automatic firearms.  And widely advertising the fate that awaits future terrorist attackers.

This would send an unmistakable message to future would-be terrorists: We will no longer be passive victims to your violent fanaticism.  Attack us–and die.

By doing so, Planned Parenthood would be following the example set by New York City after 9/11.

In 1993, Islamic terrorists unsuccessfully bombed the World Trade Center.  Six people were killed and 1,042 others were injured during escape attempts.

Eight years later, on September 11, 2001, they launched their second–and this time successful–attack on the Center, killing 2,977 New Yorkers.

On both occasions, New Yorkers had expected the Federal Government to protect them. After 9/11, the NYPD decided it could no longer rely on the FBI and CIA for protection.

The NYPD greatly expanded the ranks of its Counterterrorism Division. More than 600 officers and operatives both stateside and worldwide now stood guard over New York City.

Since 9/11, New York has not faced a similar terrorist attack.

Finally, an Aesop’s fable serves up a lesson known long ago–but repeatedly ignored by the idealistic but ineffectual Left:

A snake was stepped on by so many people that, one day, he prayed to Zeus for help. And Zeus replied: “If you had bitten the first person who stepped on you, the second would have thought twice about it.”  

SHUT DOWN THE BULLIES

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on September 29, 2015 at 12:17 pm

Fascism is a lie told by bullies.
–Ernest Hemingway

In 2011, Republicans threatened to destroy the Nation’s credit rating unless their budgetary demands were met.

Yet President Barack Obama could have ended that threat via the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.

Had he done so, he would have prevented the 2013 shutdown of the Federal Government over Republican demands that he de-fund “Obamacare.”

He would have also pre-empted current Republican demands to shut down the Government over continued funding for Planned Parenthood.

Passed by Congress in 1970, as Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1961-1968, the goal of the RICO Act was to destroy the Mafia.

Originally, RICO was aimed at the Mafia and other organized crime syndicates.  But in United States v. Turkette, 452 U.S. 576 (1981), the Supreme Court held that RICO applied as well to legitimate enterprises being operated in a criminal manner.

After Turkette, RICO could also be used against corporations, political protest groups, labor unions and loosely knit-groups of people.

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 had believed that RICO was not sufficient to deal with Republicans’ extortion attempts, he could have relied 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.”

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

  • President Obama could have directed Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate whether actions by Republican Congressman—and their Tea Party cohorts—broke Federal anti-racketeering and/or anti-terrorism laws.
  • Holder, in turn, could have ordered the FBI to conduct that investigation.
  • If the FBI found sufficient evidence that these laws had been violated, Holder could have empaneled criminal grand juries to indict those violators.

Criminally investigating and possibly 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 have served notice on current and future members of Congress: The lives and fortunes of American citizens may not be held hostage to gain leverage in a political settlement.

In short: Obama could have replaced the law of fear with the rule of law.

But Obama could have stood up to Republican extortionists in another way: By urging his fellow Americans to rally to him in a moment of supreme national danger.

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

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

John F. Kennedy

Kennedy outlined a series of steps he had taken to end the crisis–most notably, a blockade of Cuba.  Then he sought to reassure and inspire his audience:

“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.”

President Obama could have sent that same message to the extortionists of the Republican Party–by explaining to the American people:

  • 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.
  • They raised the debt ceiling seven times during the eight-year Presidency of George W. Bush.
  • But now that a Democrat holds the White House, raising the debt ceiling is unacceptable.
  • Despite Republican lies, we cannot revitalize the economy by slashing taxes on the wealthy and on cash-hoarding corporations while cutting benefits for millions of average Americans.
  • We will need both tax increases and sensible entitlement cuts to regain our economic strength.

And he could have ended his speech with a direct call for action by the American people:

“We stand on the edge of economic 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.

“This is the moment when each of us must decide–whether we will survive as a Republic, or allow ruthless political fanatics to destroy what has lasted and thrived for more than 200 years.”

To paraphrase Winston Churchill: President Obama had to choose between timidity and confrontation.

He chose timidity.

He would get contempt and obstruction at every turn.

SPOTTING EVASIONS: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on August 17, 2015 at 12:05 am

As the August 6 Republican debate wore on, so did the evasive answers.

Chris Wallace, Fox News Commentator to Businessman Donald Trump: “In 2011, you told Forbes magazine that ‘I’ve used the laws of the country to advantage.’  But at the same time, financial experts involved in those bankruptcies say that lenders to your companies lost billions of dollars.

“…With that record, why should we trust you to run the nation’s business?”

TRUMP: “Because I have used the laws of this country just like the greatest people that you read about every day in business have used the laws of this country, the chapter laws, to do a great job for my company, for myself, for my employees, for my family, et cetra.  I have never gone bankrupt, by the way.”

[Trump totally ignored the charge that “lenders to your companies lost billions of dollars.”  He bragged that he had “used the laws” to “do a great job for my company….”   He seemed to be saying that as long as he made a killing, it didn’t matter if his lenders got nothing.]  

Donald Trump

Chris Wallace persisted in his questioning: “Well, sir, let’s just talk about the latest example, which is Trump Entertainment Resorts, which went bankrupt in 2009.

“In that case alone, lenders to your company lost over $1 billion and more than $1,100 people were laid off.  Is that the way that you’d run the country?”

TRUMP: “…First of al, these lenders aren’t babies. These are total killers….And I had the good sense to leave Atlantic City….Every company virtually in Atlantic City went bankrupt.

“…Seven years ago I left Atlantic City before it totally cratered, and I made a lot of money in Atlantic City, and I’m very proud of it….”

WALLACE:  “So….”

TRUMP: “And by the way, this country right now owes $19 trillion.  And they need somebody like me to straighten out that mess.”

[Trump bragged about making “a lot of money” in Atlantic City while ignoring the jobs lost by his employees and the monies lost by his lenders.  He said that America needed “somebody like me” to straighten out its financial mess.

[But there is a difference between making a profit for yourself as a businessman and ensuring a just society for all Americans as President.]

Fox News Moderator Megyn Kelly to former Florida Governor Jeb Bush: “…A story appeared today quoting an anonymous GOP donor who said you called Mr. Trump a clown, a buffoon….”

BUSH: “None of which is true.”

Then, after saying “I want to win,” he attacked President Barack Obama:

“We’re not going to win by doing what Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton do each and every day. Dividing the country. Saying, creating a grievance kind of environment.”

[From literally the first day Obama’s Presidency, Republicans tried to block every piece of legislation he proposed. This was especially true of his efforts to provide healthcare for all Americans.

[Thus, Bush slandered the President and distorted history while denying that he had slandered Trump.]

Jeb Bush

Sometimes it is the moderator who raises non-issues, as Megyn Kelly did with Senator Rand Paul:

“In the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling on same sex marriage…what will you do to ensure Christians are not prosecuted for speaking out against gay marriage….?”

[Christians are not being “prosecuted for speaking out against gay marriage.”  The First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech, especially on controversial issues.]

Fox News Moderator Brett Baier asked Dr. Benjamin Carson: “As President, would you have used military force [in Syria, when its dictator, Bashir al-Assad, was found to have used chemical weapons against his own citizens]?”

CARSON: “…I would shore up our military first, because if you don’t get the military right, nothing else is going to work.”

[In short, Carson didn’t say whether he would have used military force in Syria.]

* * * * *

So how do you tell when a politician is evading?

First, educate yourself on the issues. If you know that President George W. Bush intended to go to war with Iraq when he took office in 2001, you won’t buy the line that he was the victim of poor intelligence two years later.

Second, pay attention to the question being asked. If it seeks a specific answer, the failure of a candidate to give one will alert you that s/he’s evading.  Be especially alert to the unwillingness of candidates to directly answer “Yes” or “No” questions.

Third, look for contradictions in the candidates’ statements. If he describes himself as “pro-life” but calls for huge increases in the nuclear arsenal, it means: He’s anti-abortion but pro-slaughter–so long as the victims aren’t fetuses.

Fourth, beware of meaningless babble.  A favorite trick of highly-polished debators–such as President John F. Kennedy–is to throw out impressive-sounding statistics which seem to answer the question but don’t.

Fifth, beware the emotion-charged story. To inflame Americans against Saddam Hussein in 1991, President George H.W. Bush clamed that Iraqi soldiers had ripped Kuwaiti babies from incubators. Only after the Gulf (oil) war did the story prove to be false.

SPOTTING EVASIONS: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on August 14, 2015 at 12:30 am

Most politicians are masters at evading questions they don’t want to answer.  And they are equally adept at giving answers that seem to be candid but in fact say nothing.

These skills were on full display during the August 6 GOP debate hosted by the Fox News Network.

For example:

Business Executive Donald Trump had just slammed the Federal Government’s failure to control illegal immigration.

And Fox News Moderator Chris Wallace wanted to know if Ohio Governor John Kasich agreed with him:

“When you say that the American government is stupid, that the Mexican government is sending criminals, that we’re being bamboozled, is that an adequate response to the question of illegal immigration?”

Related image

John Kasich

KASICH: “Now, he’s got his solutions.  Some of us have other solutions.  You know, look, I balanced the federal budget as one of the chief architects when I was in Washington.  Hasn’t been done since.

“I was a military reformer. I took the state of Ohio from an $8 billion hole and a 350,000 job loss to a $2 billion surplus and a gain of 350,000 jobs.”

[Kasich, more liberal-minded than his fellow Republicans, didn’t want to condemn Trump’s hawkish views. If he did, he would lose support from the anti-immigrant Republican base. So he changed the subject to his economic policies as governor of Ohio.]

WALLACE: “Respectfully, can we talk about illegal immigration?”

KASICH: “But the point is that we all have solutions. Mr. Trump is touching a nerve because people want the wall to be built. They want to see an end to illegal immigration.

“They want to see it, and we all do. But we all have different ways of getting there. And you’re going to hear from all of us tonight about what our ideas are.”

[Kasich totally evaded the question. He said that “we all have solutions” to illegal immigration.  But he never offered his.]

Fox News Moderator Megyn Kelly to Florida Governor Jeb Bush: “…For days on end in this campaign, you struggled to answer a question about whether knowing what we know now…we would’ve invaded Iraq….

“You finally said ‘No.'”

“To the families of those who died in that war who say they liberated and deposed a ruthless dictator, how do you look at them now and say that your brothers war was a mistake?”

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Jeb Bush

BUSH:  “Knowing what we know now, with faulty intelligence, and not having security be the first priority when — when we invaded, it was a mistake. I wouldn’t have gone in.”

[Bush’s reply totally ignored that his brother, President George W. Bush, deliberately ignored all evidence that Saddam Hussein did not pose a threat to the United States.

[He also ignored the fact that his brother provoked a needless, bloody and financially ruinous war in Iraq.]

BUSH:  “…As governor of the state of Florida, I called every one of [the families who had lost members in Iraq and expressed his condolences].

“…And, every one of them said that their child did not die in vain, or their wife, of their husband did not die in vain.  So, why it was difficult for me to do it was based on that.”

[This sounded plausible.  But then Bush moved to shift the blame from his brother to President Barack Obama.]  

BUSH: “Here’s the lesson that we should take from this, which relates to this whole subject, Barack Obama became president, and he abandoned Iraq.

“He left, and when he left Al Qaida was done for. ISIS was created because of the void that we left, and that void now exists as a caliphate the size of Indiana.”

[In fact, “ISIS was created because of the void” that emerged when Bush toppled Saddam Hussein. Hussein’s dictatorial rule had suppressed religious-based terror organizations like Al Qaeda and ISIS.]

For News Moderator Megyn Kelly asked Dr. Benjamin Carson: “Your critics say that your [foreign policy] inexperience shows.

“You’ve suggested that the Baltic States are not a part of NATO, just months ago you were unfamiliar with the major political parties and government in Israel, and domestically, you thought Alan Greenspan had been treasury secretary instead of federal reserve chair.

“Aren’t these basic mistakes, and don’t they raise legitimate questions about whether you are ready to be president?”

CARSON: “So, you know, experience comes from a large number of different arenas, and America became a great nation early on not because it was flooded with politicians, but because it was flooded with people who understood the value of personal responsibility, hard work, creativity, innovation, and that’s what will get us on the right track now, as well.”

[Carson totally evaded the question. He implied that other qualities–such as “hard work, creativity, innovation”–would make up for his lack of foreign policy experience and knowledge.]

SPOTTING EVASIONS: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on August 13, 2015 at 12:58 am

“For men in general judge more by the eyes than by the hands, for every one can see, but very few have to feel.  Everyone sees what you appear to be, few feel what you are.”

So wrote Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of modern politics, in his infamous book, The Prince.  

It’s a sentment that voters should constantly keep in mind–especially when watching televised debates between opposing candidates.

The August 6 GOP debate offered many examples of men appearing to address questions put to them. In fact, they generally refused to directly address the issues raised by the three Fox News Network commentators.

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The candidates of the Fox News GOP debate

The evasions began early.

Fox News Moderator Megyn Kelly to Media Mogul Donald Trump: “Mr. Trump…you’ve called women you don’t like “fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals.”

“Your Twitter account has several disparaging comments about women’s looks. You once told a contestant on Celebrity Apprentice it would be a pretty picture to see her on her knees.

“Does that sound to you like the temperament of a man we should elect as president, and how will you answer the charge from Hillary Clinton, who was likely to be the Democratic nominee, that you are part of the war on women?

TRUMP: “I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct.”

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Donald Trump

[Trump did not refute that he had made insulting remarks about women.  He simply claimed that he was the victim of Political Correctness. And Kelly did not call him on his evasiveness.]

Then Kelly moved on to the subject of abortion–and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

KELLY: “Governor Walker, you’ve consistently said that you want to make abortion illegal even in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother.

“You recently signed an abortion law in Wisconsin that does have an exception for the mother’s life, but you’re on the record as having objected to it.

“Would you really let a mother die rather than have an abortion, and with 83% of the American public in favor of a life exception, are you too out of the mainstream on this issue to win the general election?

WALKER: “Well, I’m pro-life, I’ve always been pro-life, and I’ve got a position that I think is consistent with many Americans out there in that…

“…in that I believe that that is an unborn child that’s in need of protection out there, and I’ve said many a time that that unborn child can be protected, and there are many other alternatives that can also protect the life of that mother. That’s been consistently proven.”

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Scott Walker 

[Clearly, Walker did not want to admit that he would allow a woman to die rather than have an abortion.  Nor did he want to admit that he would force a victim of rape or incest to carry to full term the fetus of that victimizer.

[So he simply claimed that “there are many other alternatives that can also protect the life of that mother” without offering any evidence to prove it.]

Fox News Moderator Chris Wallace to Donald Trump:

“…You have repeatedly said that you have evidence that the Mexican government is doing this, but you have evidence you have refused or declined to share.

“Why not use this first Republican presidential debate to share your proof with the American people?”

TRUMP: “Border Patrol, I was at the border last week. Border Patrol, people that I deal with, that I talk to, they say this is what’s happening….”

[Trump’s “evidence” was strictly anecdotal.  He cited unmamed “Border Patrol” sources for his general statement and offered nothing more.]

Fox News Moderator Chris Wallace to Ohio Governor John Kasich on illegal immigration:

WALLACE: “Governor Kasich, I know you don’t like to talk about Donald Trump. But I do want to ask you about the merit of what he just said.

“When you say that the American government is stupid, that the Mexican government is sending criminals, that we’re being bamboozled, is that an adequate response to the question of illegal immigration?

KASICH: “Chris, first of all, I was just saying to Chris Christie, they say we’re outspoken, we need to take lessons from Donald Trump if we’re really going to learn it. Here is the thing about Donald Trump.

“Donald Trump is hitting a nerve in this country. He is. He’s hitting a nerve. People are frustrated. They’re fed up. They don’t think the government is working for them. And for people who want to just tune him out, they’re making a mistake.

[Kasich was avoiding giving a direct answer. More liberal-minded than most Republicans, he didn’t want to alienate their Right-wing base by opposing his party’s “deport them all” position.

[He needed time to think of a response that wouldn’t cost him votes–and bought it by throwing cheap flattery at Trump.]

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.

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