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Posts Tagged ‘THE WALL STREET JOURNAL’

A BRITISH HISTORY LESSON FOR AMERICA

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 22, 2015 at 10:13 am

The siege and fall of the Sudanese city of Khartoum is one of the truly epic stories of military history.

And in it lies an invaluable lesson for American policy-makers today.

Khartoum in the 1800s

From March 18, 1884 to January 26, 1885, the charisma and military genius of one man–British General Charles George Gordon–held at bay an army of thousands of fanatical Islamists intent on slaughtering everyone in the city.

At stake were the lives of Khartoum’s 30,000 residents.

Gordon’s story may seen antiquated.  But it bears close inspection as Republicans press the Obama Administration to commit ground forces to “freeing” Syria of its longtime dicator, “President” Bashar al Assad.

It’s a conflict Americans know nothing about–and where they have absolutely nothing to gain.

It’s not only a Syrian civil war but an inner-religious war between Shiite (minority) Muslims and Sunni (majority) Muslims.

The Assad regime is backed by the Iranian-supported terrorist group, Hezbollah (Party of God).  Its enemies include another terrorist group–Al Qaeda.

Hezbollah is comprised of Shiite Muslims, who form a minority of Islamics. A sworn enemy of Israel, it has kidnapped scores of Americans suicidal enough to visit Lebanon and truck-bombed the Marine Barracks in Beirut in 1983, killing 299 Americans.

Flag of Hezbollah

Al-Qaeda, on the other hand, is made up of Sunni Muslims, who form the majority of that religion. It considers Shiite Muslims to be “takfirs”–heretics–and thus worthy of extermination.

Al Qaeda has attacked the mosques and gatherings of liberal Muslims, Shias, Sufis and other non-Sunnis.  Examples of these sectarian attacks include the Sadr City bombings, the 2004 Ashoura massacre and the April, 2007 Baghdad bombings.

Flag of Al-Qaeda

It’s all very reminiscent of events in the 1966 epic film, “Khartoum,” starring Charlton Heston as British General Charles George Gordon.

Charlton Heston (left); Charles George Gordon (right)

In 1884, the British Government sends Gordon, a real-life hero of the Victorian era, to evacuate the Sudanese city of Khartoum.

Mohammed Achmed, a previously anonymous Sudanese, has proclaimed himself “The Madhi”  (The Expected One) and raised the cry of jihad.

The Madhi (played by Laurence Oliver) intends to drive all foreigners (of which the English are the largest group) out of Sudan, and exterminate all those Muslims who did not practice his “pure” version of Islam.

Gordon arrives in Khartoum to find he’s not fighting a rag-tag army of peasants.  Instead, the Madhi is a highly intelligent military strategist.

And Gordon, an evangelical Christian, also underestimates the Madhi’s religious fanaticism: “I seem to have suffered from the delusion that I had a monopoly on God.”

Laurence Oliver (left); Mohammed Achmed (“The Madhi”)

A surprised Gordon finds himself and 30,000 Sudanese trapped in Khartoum when the Madhi’s forces suddenly appear.  He sends off messengers and telegrams to the British Government, begging for a military relief force.

But the British Government wants nothing to do with the Sudan.  It had sent Gordon there as a sop to British public opion that “something” had to be done to quell the Madhist uprising.

The siege continues and tightens.

In Britain, the public hails Gordon as a Christian hero and demands that the Government send a relilef expedition to save him.

Prime Minister William Gladstone finally sends a token force–which arrives in Khartoum two days after the city has fallen to the Madhi’s forces.

Gordon, standing at the top of a staircase and coolly facing down his dervish enemies, is speared to death.

George W. Joy’s famous–and romanticized–painting of “The Death of Gordon”

(Actually, the best historical evidence indicates that Gordon fought to the last with pistol and sword before being overwhelmed by his dervish enemies.)

When the news reaches England, Britons mourn–and then demand vengeance for the death of their hero.

The Government, which had sought to wash its hands of the poor, militarily unimportant Sudan, suddenly has to send an army to avenge Gordon.

As the narrator of “Khartoum” intones at the close of the film:“For 15 years, the British paid the price with shame and war.”

There is a blunt lesson for Americans to learn from this episode–and from the 1966 movie, “Khartoum” itself.

Americans have been fighting in the Middle East since 2001–first in Afghanistan to destroy Al Qaeda, and then in Iraq, to pursue George W. Bush’s vendetta against Saddam Hussein.

The United States faces a crumbling infastructure, divided government and trillions of dollars in debt.

While Islamic nations like Syria and Egypt wage war within their own borders, they will lack the resources to launch attacks against the United States.

When Adolf Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, then-Senator Harry Truman said: “I hope the Russians kill lots of Nazis and vice versa.”

That should be America’s view whenever its sworn enemies start killing themselves off.   Americans should welcome such self-slaughters, not become entrapped in them.

DATA SECURITY BREACHES: “WE DON’T CARE, WE DON’T HAVE TO”: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Social commentary on July 21, 2015 at 9:35 am

It’s become as routine as the robbery of the corner liquor store.

Name-brand companies, trusted by millions, hit with massive data breaches that compromise their customers’ and/or employees’ most sensitive financial and personal information.

Among those companies:

  • Target
  • Kmart
  • Home Depot
  • JPMorgan/Chase
  • Staples
  • Dairy Queen
  • Anthem, Inc.
  • Sony Pictures
  • Primera Blue Cross
  • U.S. Postal Service

Click here: Data Breach Tracker: All the Major Companies That Have Been Hacked | Money.com

And as of July 15, Ashley Madison joined this list.

Ashley Madison is, of course, the notorious website for cheating wives and husbands.

Launched in 2001, its catchy slogan is: “Life is short.  Have an affair.”

One of its ads featured a photo of a woman apparently kneeling at the feet of a bare-chested man, her hand passionately clawing at his belt.  Next to her was the caption: “Join FREE & change your life today.  Guaranteed!”  

Ashley Madison - Ashley Madison Agency

Ashley Madison claims to have more than 37 million members.

Calling themselves “The Impact Team,” hackers appear to be enraged at the company’s “full delete” service, which promises to completely erase a user’s profile and all associated data for a $19 fee.

“Full Delete netted [Avid Life Media, the parent company of Ashley Madison] $1.7 million in revenue in 2014,” the hackers were quoted as saying in an online manifesto.  “It’s also a complete lie.

“Users almost always pay with credit card; their purchase details are not removed as promised, and include real names and address, which is of course the most important information the users want removed.”

On July 20, Avid Life Media defended the service, and said it would make it free.

Adultery-dating website Ashley Madison hacked

The hackers demanded: “AM [Ashley Madison] AND EM [Established Men] MUST SHUT DOWN IMMEDIATELY PERMANENTLY.

“We have taken over all systems in your entire office and production domains, all customer information databases, source code repositories, financial records, emails.

“Shutting down AM and EM will cost you, but non-compliance will cost you more.”

The hackers threatened to “release all customer records, including profiles with all the customers’ secret sexual fantasies and matching credit card transactions, real names and addresses, and employee documents and emails.”

Interestingly, the hackers did not target the company’s “CougarLife” website, which caters to female members seeking “a young stud.”

Avid Life Media assured its customers that it had hired “one of the world’s top IT security teams” to work on the breach:

“At this time, we have been able to secure our sites, and close the unauthorized access points. We are working with law enforcement agencies, which are investigating this criminal act.”

This statement gives new meaning to the phrase, “Closing the barn door after the cow has gotten out.”

It’s almost comical, except for the fact that the marriages of millions of people are likely to be threatened by the release of such information.

And it raises the question: Why wasn’t this “top IT security team” hired at the outset?

A website offering cheating services to those wealthy enough to afford high-priced fees is an obvious target for hackers. After all, its database is a blackmailer’s dream-come-true.

This latest breach comes about two months after a similar dating site, Adult FriendFinder–with an estimated 64 million members–was hit with a similar attack.

Again, it was clear that a site like this would be a prime target for those seeking information for blackmail. Yet apparently its owners didn’t care enough about the privacy of their customers to provide adequate security.

“Without question, this is incredibly valuable information,” said J.J. Thompson, founder and chief executive of Rook Security, an IT security firm.

“[Ashley Madison’s customers] are now vulnerable to a significant secret.”

As usual when a corporation’s data breach occurs, Ashley Madison issued a reassuring statement: “We are working with law enforcement agencies, which are investigating this criminal act.

“Any and all parties responsible for this act of cyber-terrorism will be held responsible.”

Brave-sounding words.  But if the hackers make good on their threat, many prominent men in business and politics may soon find themselves facing expensive divorces.

And if that happens, at least some of them may well decide to take out their anger and embarrassment on the websits that assured them that the highly private information they shared was “100% secure.”

That could set a precedent for lawsuits by other victims of such data breaches. Which, in turn, could force profit-obsessed corporations to responsibly protect the highly sensitive information entrusted to them.

There is an important lesson to be learned from this latest disaster.

“Stuff that’s online is pretty much not private, no matter what you might hope or think or wish for,” said Geoff Webb, senior director of solution strategy for security management firm NetIQ.

Old records, like transactions and account details, remain in company databases long after you’ve deleted an account, he said, because the company needs them for tax and other business purposes.

“There used to be an old saying that everybody ends up naked on the Internet at some point,” said Webb.

Although that was meant figuratively, patrons of websites like Ashley Madison could soon find it applying literally.

DATA SECURITY BREACHES: “WE DON’T CARE, WE DON’T HAVE TO”: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, Law, Law Enforcement, Social commentary on July 20, 2015 at 12:20 pm

Comedian Lily Tomlin rose to fame on the 1960s comedy hit, Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, as Ernestine, the rude, sarcastic switchboard operator for Ma Bell.

She would tap into customers’ calls, interrupt them, make snide remarks about their personal lives.  And her victims included celebrities as much as run-of-the-mill customers.

Lily Tomlin as Ernestine

She introduced herself as working for “the phone company, serving everyone from presidents and kings to the scum of the earth.”

But perhaps the line for which her character is best remembered was: “We don’t care. We don’t have to. We’re the phone company.”

Watching Ernestine on Laugh-In was a blast for millions of TV viewers.  But facing such corporate arrogance in real-life is no laughing matter.

Clearly, too many companies take the same attitude as Ernestine: “We don’t care.  We don’t have to.”

This is especially true for companies that are supposed to safeguard their customers’ most sensitive information–such as their credit card numbers, addresses, emails and phone numbers.

An October 22, 2014 “commentary” published in Forbes magazine raised the highly disturbing question: “Cybersecurity: Does Corporate America Really Care?”

And the answer is clearly: No.

Its author is John Hering, co-founder and executive director of Lookout, which bills itself as “the world leader in mobile security for consumers and enterprises alike.”

Click here: Cybersecurity: Does corporate America really care?

October, 2014 proved a bad month for credit card-using customers of Kmart, Staples and Dairy Queen.

All these corporations reported data breeches involving the theft of credit card numbers of countless numbers of customers.

Earlier breaches had hit Target, Home Depot and JPMorgan/Chase.

And on February 5, 2015, health insurance giant Anthem Inc. announced that hackers had breached its computer system and accessed the medical records of tens of millions of its customers and employees.

Anthem, the nation’s second-largest health insurer, said the infiltrated database held records on up to 80 million people.

Among the customers’ information accessed:

  • Names
  • Birthdates
  • Social Security numbers
  • Member ID numbers
  • Addresses
  • Phone numbers
  • Email addresses and
  • Employment information.

Some of the customer data may also include details on their income.

Click here: Anthem hack exposes data on 80 million; experts warn of identity theft – LA Times

Bad as that news was, worse was to come.

A February 5 story by the Wall Street Journal revealed that Anthem stored the Social Security numbers of 80 million customers without encrypting them.

The company believes that hackers used a stolen employee password to access the database

Anthem’s alleged reason for refusing to encrypt such sensitive data: Doing so would have made it harder for the company’s employees to track health care trends or share data with state and Federal health providers.

Anthem spokeswoman Kristin Binns blamed the data breach on employers and government agencies who “require us to maintain a member’s Social Security number in our systems so that their systems can uniquely identify their members.”

She said that Anthem encrypts personal data when it moves in or out of its database–but not where it  is stored.

This is a commonplace practice in the healthcare industry.

The FBI is now investigating the hack.

According to an anonymous source, the hackers used malware that has been used almost exclusively by Chinese cyberspies.

Naturally, China has denied any wrongdoing.  With a completely straight face, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said:

“We maintain a cooperative, open and secure cyberspace, and we hope that countries around the world will make concerted efforts to that end.”

He also said that the charge that the hackers were Chinese was “groundless.”

Click here: Health Insurer Anthem Didn’t Encrypt Stolen Data – WSJ

Meanwhile, John Hering’s complaints remain as valid today as they did last October.

“One thing is clear,” writes Hering. “CEOs need to put security on their strategic agendas alongside revenue growth and other issues given priority in boardrooms.”

Hering warns that “CEOs don’t seem to be making security a priority.”  And he offers several reasons for this:

  • The sheer number of data compromises;
  • Relatively little consumer outcry;
  • Almost no impact on the companies’ standing on Wall Street;
  • Executives may consider such breaches part of the cost of doing business.

“There’s a short-term mindset and denial of convenience in board rooms,” writes Hering.

“Top executives don’t realize their systems are vulnerable and don’t understand the risks. Sales figures and new products are top of mind; shoring up IT systems aren’t.”

There are three ways corporations can be forced to start behaving responsibly on this issue.

  1. Smart attorneys need to start filing class-action lawsuits against companies that refuse to take steps to protect their customers’ private information.  There is a name for such behavior: Criminal negligence.  And there are laws carrying serious penalties for it.
  2. There must be Federal legislation to ensure that multi-million-dollar fines are levied against such companies–and especially their CEOs–when such data breaches occur.
  3. Congress should enact legislation allowing for the prosecution of CEOs whose companies’ negligence leads to such massive data breaches. They should be considered as accessories to crime, and, if convicted, sentenced to lengthy prison terms.

Only then will the CEO mindset of “We don’t care, we don’t have to” be replaced with: “We care, because our heads will roll if we don’t.”

A MEXICAN APPROACH TO ILLEGAL ALLIENS

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 14, 2015 at 1:20 pm

On January 2, thousands of illegal aliens in California flocked to their local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office to do what they had previously been forbidden to do.

Apply for a driver’s license.

California thus became the 10th state–and the largest–to allow illegal aliens to drive legally in the United States.

An estimated 2.6 million illegal aliens–most of them Latino–in California will now be eligible to get a driver’s license under the new law.

Assembly Bill 60, signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in 2014, allows illegal aliens to get a license without proof of legal United States residency.

“Millions of immigrant families have been looking forward to this day,” said Democratic Assemblyman Luis Alejo, who sponsored the bill.

“It will allow them to go to work, go to school, take their kids to a doctor’s appointment without fear that they are going to have their car taken away from them, or worse, be put into immigration proceedings.”

But many American citizens believe that those violating the immigration laws of the United States should not have the privilege to drive.

“Their vehicles should be impounded and if they don’t like it, they can go home,” said Don Rosenberg. Rosenberg started a website–Unlicensedtokill.org–after his son was killed by an unlicensed and illegal alien in 2010.

Click here: UnlicensedToKill

Two decades ago, California voters tried to bar illegal aliens from public services, including education. But now the state allows college students brought into the United States as children to pay in-state tuition at California public universities to help ease the costs of higher education.

Meanwhile, Mexico takes a far different approach to illegal aliens.

On May 20, 2010, Mexico’s then-President Felipe Calderon addressed a joint session of the United States Congress–and attacked an Arizona law that allowed law enforcement officials to detain anyone suspected of being in the country illegally.

Felipe Calderon speaking before Congress

According to Calderon, the law “introduces a terrible idea: using racial profiling as a basis for law enforcement.”

The hypocrisy of Calderon’s words is staggering.

Racial profiling?  Consider the popular Latino phrase, “La Raza.”

This literally means “the race” or “the people.” Its meaning varies among Spanish-speaking peoples. In the United States, it’s sometimes used to describe people of Chicano and Mexican descent as well as other Latin American mestizos who share Native American heritage.

It rarely includes entirely European or African descended Hispanic peoples.

So when Latinos say, “The Race,” they’re not talking about “the human race.” They’re talking strictly about their own.

In his lecture, Calderon condemned the United States for doing what Mexico itself has long done: Strictly enforcing control of its borders.

Mexico has a single, streamlined law that ensures that foreign visitors and immigrants are:

  • in the country legally;
  • have the means to sustain themselves economically;
  • not destined to be burdens on society;
  • of economic and social benefit to society;
  • of good character and have no criminal records; and
  • contribute to the general well-being of the nation.

The law also ensures that:

  • immigration authorities have a record of each foreign visitor;
  • foreign visitors do not violate their visa status;
  • foreign visitors are banned from interfering in the country’s internal politics;
  • foreign visitors who enter under ralse pretenses are imprisoned or deported;
  • foreign visitors violating the terms of their entry are imprisoned are deported;
  • those who aid in illegal immigration will be sent to prison.

Calderon also ignored a second well-understood but equally unacknowledged truth:Mexico uses its American border to rid itself of those who might otherwise demand major reforms in the country’s political and economic institutions.

The Mexican Government still remembers the bloody upheaval known as the Mexican Revolution. This lasted ten years (1910-1920) and wiped out an estimated one to two million men, women and children.

Massacres were common on all sides, with men shot by the hundreds in bullrings or hung by the dozen on trees.

A Mexican Revolution firing squad

All of the major leaders of the Revolution–Francisco Madero, Emiliano Zapata, Venustiano Carranza, Francisco “Pancho” Villa, Alvaro Obregon–died in a hail of bullets.

Francisco “Pancho” Villa

Emiliano Zapata

As a result, every successive Mexican Government has lived in the shadow of another such wholesale bloodletting. These officials have thus quietly decided to turn the United States border into a safety valve.

If potential revolutionaries leave Mexico to find a better life in the United States, the Government doesn’t have to fear the rise of another “Pancho” Villa.

If somehow the United States managed to seal its southern border, all those teeming millions of “undocumented workers” who just happened to lack any documents would have to stay in “Mexico lindo.”

They would be forced to live with the rampant corruption and poverty that have forever characterized this failed nation-state. Or they would have to demand substantial reforms.

There is no guarantee that such demands would not lead to a second–and equally bloody–Mexican revolution.

So Felipe Calderon and his successors in power find it easier–and safer–to turn the United States into a dumping ground for the Mexican citizens that the Mexican Government itself doesn’t want.

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.

NO SENSE OF DECENCY

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on June 18, 2015 at 12:05 am

“Senator, may we not drop this?….You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

The speaker was Joseph N. Welch, chief counsel for the United States Army–then under investigation by Joseph McCarthy’s Senate Permanent Submittee on Investigations for alleged Communist activities.

It was June 9, 1954, the 30th day of the Army-McCarthy hearings.

And it was the pivotal moment that finally destroyed the career of the Wisconsin Senator whose repeated slanders of Communist subversion had bullied and frightened Americans for four years.

Joseph McCarthy

When the Senate gallery erupted in applause, McCarthy–totally surprised at his sudden reverse of fortune–was finished.

Today, however, other Americans could stand to remember the question asked by Welch: “At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

Americans like Rick Santorum, Republican Presidential candidate in 2016.

Rick Santorum

As a United States Senator from Pennsylvania (1997 – 2005) and 2012 Presidential candidate, Santorum fervently sought to ban legalized abortion–even in rape cases– and even birth control.  They were, he said, an affront to “the way things ought to be.”

But this did not stop him from marrying, in 1990, a woman–Karen Garver–who had spent six years as the unmarried bedmate of an OBGYN-abortionist named Tom Allen, who was 40 years her senior.

Then there’s 2016 Presidential candidate Ted Cruz.

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) 

As a Republican United States Senator from Texas, Cruz voted–three times–against federal aid for victims of Hurricane Sandy.

The October, 2012, hurricane killed about 150 people and caused an estimated $75 billion in damage across the Northeast.

But when a fertilizer plant exploded in West, McLennan County Texas, on April 17, 2013, Cruz vowed that he would seek “all available resources” to assist its victims.

The blast killed 13 people, wounded about 200 others, and caused extensive damages to surrounding homes.

It didn’t matter to Cruz that:

  • The facility hadn’t been inspected by the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) since 1985, when the company was fined $30; and
  • The plant had been storing 1,350 times the amount of ammonium nitrate that would normally trigger safety oversight by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Then there’s Donald Trump, the egocentric businessman and “reality star” of NBC’s “The Apprentice.”

Donald Trump

On April 17, 2011, toying with the idea of entering the Presidential race himself, he said this about Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and GOP candidate:

“He’d buy companies. He’d close companies. He’d get rid of jobs.  I’ve built a great company.  I’m a much bigger businessman and have a much, much bigger net worth. I mean my net worth is many, many, many times Mitt Romney.

“Mitt Romney is a basically small-business guy, if you really think about  it. He was a hedge fund. He was a funds guy. He walked away with some money from a very good company that he didn’t create. He worked there. He didn’t create it.”

Trump added that Bain Capital, the hedge fund where Romney made millions of dollars before running for governor, didn’t create any jobs.  Whereas Trump claimed that he–Trump–had created “hundreds of thousands of jobs.”

So at least some observers must have been puzzled when Trump announced, on February 2, 2012: “It’s my honor, real honor, and privilege to endorse Mitt Romney” for President.

“Mitt is tough, he’s smart, he’s sharp, he’s not going to allow bad things to continue to happen to this country that we all love. So, Governor Romney, go out and get ‘em. You can do it,” said Trump.

Mitt Romney

And Romney, in turn, had his own swooning-girl moment: “I’m so honored to have his endorsement. There are some things that you just can’t imagine in your life. This is one of them.”

Clearly, the word “hypocrisy” means nothing to Santorum, Cruz, Romney and Trump.  But it should mean something to the rest of us.

In samurai Japan, officials who publicly disgraced themselves knew what to do.  The samurai code of seppeku told them when they had crossed the line into eternal damnation.

And it gave them a way to redeem their lost honor: With a small “belly-cutting” knife and the help of a trusted assistant who sliced off their head to spare them the agonizing pain of disembowelment.

In the armies of America and Europe, the method was slightly different: A pistol in a private room.

Considering the ready availability of firearms among Right-wing Republicans, redeeming lost honor shouldn’t be a problem for any of these men.

But of course it will be.  It takes more than a trigger-pull to “do the right thing.”  It takes insight to recognize that you’ve “done the wrong thing.”   And it takes courage to act on that insight.

In men who live only for their own egos and wallets, such insight and courage will be forever missing.   They are beyond redemption.

Their lives give proof to the warning offered in Matthew 7: 17-20:

“Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.  A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.

“Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

ABORTING AMBITION: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on June 17, 2015 at 12:01 am

SS Obergruppenfuhrer (General) Reinhard Heydrich laid the foundations for the “Final Solution of the Jewish question.” This resulted in the extermination of six million Jewish men, women and children.

Nevertheless, he was dogged throughout his 11-year career in the Third Reich by rumors that he had a Jewish ancestor.

Similarly, former Pennsylvania United States Senator Rick Santorum has made banning abortion a center-piece of his political life.

Even so, he found himself accused, during his 2012 campaign for President, of being “soft” on abortion.

In January, 2012, in advance of the South Carolina primary, pink fliers attacking Santorum’s credentials as an anti-abortionist began turning up on windshields at many  political events in that state.

Their author was Elizabeth Leichert, an anti-abortion activist.

Dated January 18, 2012, the flier read:

“Like many Christians I know, I was originally very attracted to Rick Santorum’s positions – especially on the Right to Life issue.

“But that was before I began digging into his record….

“Did you know Rick Santorum’s wife, Karen, had a six-year affair with an abortionist named Tom Allen?

“…This abortion doctor was 30 years her senior! In fact, he delivered her as a baby!

“The only reason they broke up was that Karen wanted kids – while Tom was busy killing them.

Karen Garver and  Dr. Thomas Allen 

“In fact, he [Tom Allen] said, ‘Karen had no problems with what I did for a living,’ and said that Rick Santorum was ‘pro-choice and a humanist.’

“And this was only two years before Rick Santorum ran for Congress!

“After learning these facts, when it comes to Rick Santorum, I can’t help but think of him as a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

“We’ve certainly seen candidates over the years use their “faith” as a campaign issue. We’ve certainly seen candidates who tell us they’re pro-life and then act quite differently once elected.

“I’m afraid that’s describes Rick Santorum to a tee!

“You see, the attacks on him for funding Planned Parenthood are 100% true.

“He’s even stated in a TV interview that he supports Title X funding, which sends our tax dollars to Planned Parenthood! You can see for yourself on youtube.

“He’s also time and again endorsed pro-abortion Republicans who work to defeat any efforts by Congress to save the lives of the unborn.

“I’m writing you because I believe this race for President is critical. I’m worried the facts about Rick Santorum won’t get out in time for this South Carolina Primary, and pro-lifers will be fooled into voting someone like Rick Santorum who DOES NOT share our values.

“He just wants to be President so badly, he’ll say anything to be elected. Period.”

The flier was signed, “In Christ, Elizabeth Leichert.”

Click here: Rick Santorum Is Getting The Worst Of South Carolina’s Dirty Politics – Business Insider

Asked for his reaction, Santorum replied: “It’s ugly, it’s cheap, it’s tawdry. It has no relationship to the issues at hand in this race, and we’re gonna treat it just like the ridiculous stuff that you see where you treat it for the value it is, which is zero.”

The report may be “ugly, cheap and tawdry.”  But it’s also apparently true.

As Karen Garver, the future Mrs. Santorum lived with obstetrician and abortionist Dr. Thomas E. Allen in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for most of her 20s during the 1980s.

As a young nursing student, she shared his bed and liberal views on abortion, despite an age difference of 40 years.

Even more striking: Allen had delivered Karen as a baby in 1960. Her father, a pediatrician, got many client referrals through Allen.

When she moved out to go be with Rick,” Dr. Allen said in an interview in 2005, “she told me I’d like him, that he was pro-choice and a humanist.  But I don’t think there’s a humanist bone in that man’s body.”

Click here: Rick Santorum’s wife Karen had love affair with abortion doctor | Daily Mail Online

Today, as Karen Santorum, she is the Catholic mother of seven and fiercely opposes abortion and birth control.

Karen Santorum

Since Rick Santorum declared himself a candidate for President in 2016, no mention has so far been made of his wife’s unorthodox past.

But abortion is the issue within the Republican party that ignites the greatest passion and fanaticism.  There will always be those who consider themselves the most “pure” on this.  And who are willing to act even more brutally on their fanaticism.

“Fanatics can justify practically any atrocity to themselves,” wrote the author Mercedes Lackey. “The more untenable their position becomes, the harder they hold to it, and the worse the things they are willing to do to support it.”

ABORTING AMBITION: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on June 16, 2015 at 12:04 am

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

Ernst Rohem

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SS firing squad

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

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

Reinhard Heydrich

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

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

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

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

Only a year later, he became the target of an urgent investigation by the SS itself. The charge: That he was part-Jewish, the ultimate sin in Hitler’s “racially pure” Nazi Germany.

The investigation cleared Heydrich, but the rumor of his “tainted” origins persisted, clearly tormenting the second most powerful man in the SS. Even his superior, Heinrich Himmler, the Reichsfuhrer-SS, believed it.

When Heydrich was assassinated in 1942 by Czech commandos in Prague, Himmler attended his funeral. He paid tribute to his former subordinate at the service: ”You, Reinhard Heydrich, were a truly good SS-man.”

But he could not resist saying in private: “He was an unhappy man, completely divided against himself, as often happened with those of mixed race.”

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

A modern-day example is Rick Santorum, the former United States Senator from Pennsylvania (1995 – 2007) and a Republican candidate for President in 2012 and 2016.

Rick Santorum

From his entry into politics, Santorum has been a fierce opponent of legalized abortion and even birth control.  Among his comments on these issues:

  • On why abortion should be illegal even in rape cases: “I believe and I think the right approach is to accept this horribly created–in the sense of rape–but nevertheless a gift in a very broken way, the gift of human life, and accept what God has given to you.”
  • On criminal penalties for doctors who perform abortion:I believe that, that any doctor who performs an abortion–that–I would advocate that any doctor that performs an abortion should be criminally charged for doing so.”
  • On de-funding Planned Parenthood:I can’t imagine any other organization with its roots as poisonous as the roots of Planned Parenthood getting federal funding of any kind. This is an organization that was founded on the eugenics movement, founded on racism.”
  • On opposing birth control: “One of the things I will talk about [if elected President in 2012] that no President has talked about before is I think the dangers of contraception in this country, the whole sexual libertine idea.  Many in the Christian faith have said, ‘Well, that’s okay.  Contraception’s okay.’  It’s not okay, because it’s a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.”

So it no doubt came as a shock to Santorum–and his anti-abortion supporters–when he found himself accused of being “soft” on abortion.

The attack came in the form of pink fliers appearing on car windshields at many South Carolina political events in January, 2012.

They were the work of Elizabeth Leichert, an anti-abortion activist.

Dated January 18, 2012, the flier read:

“Like many Christians I know, I was originally very attracted to Rick Santorum’s positions – especially on the Right to Life issue.

“But that was before I began digging into his record….

“Did you know Rick Santorum’s wife, Karen, had a six-year affair with an abortionist named Tom Allen?”

A CLASH OF TITANS: RFK VS. HOFFA–PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on June 9, 2015 at 12:02 am

The 1983 TV mini-series, “Blood Feud,” chronicles the decade-long struggle between Robert F. Kennedy and James R. Hoffa.

As Attorney General, Kennedy declares war–for the first time in American history–on the Mafia.  He forces longtime FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover–who has long refused to tackle the Mob–to investigate and arrest mobsters throughout the nation.

He also brings new charges against Hoffa–and, once again, is outraged to see Hoffa acquitted.

But under the unrelenting pressures of being in the crosshairs of the FBI, Hoffa begins to crack.  He tells a trusted colleague, Edward Grady Partin (Brian Dennehy) how easy it would be to assassinate Kennedy with a rifle or a bomb.

Later, Partin gets into a legal jam–and is abandoned by the Teamsters.  Hoping to cut a deal, he relays word to the Justice Department of Hoffa’s threats against the Attorney General.

Now working for the Justice Department, Partin sends in reports on Hoffa’s juror-bribing efforts in yet another trial.  Hoffa again beats the rap–but now Kennedy has the insider’s proof he needs to put him away for years.

Meanwhile, the Mafia despairs of the increasing pressure of the Justice Department. At a swanky restaurant, several high-ranking members agree that “something” must be done.

[Although this scene is fictional, it’s clearly based on an infamous outburst of Carlos Marcello, the longtime Mafia boss of New Orleans.

Carlos Marcello

In 1962, Marcello–who had been deported to Guatemala by RFK, then illegally re-entered the country–flew into a rage when a business colleague mentioned Kennedy.

“Take the stone out of my shoe!” he shouted, echoing a Sicilian curse.  “Don’t you worry about that little Bobby sonofabitch.  He’s going to be taken care of!”

When his colleague warned that murdering RFK would trigger the wrath of his brother, President John F.Kennedy, Marcello replied: “In Sicily they say if you want to kill a dog you don’t cut off the tail. You go for the head.”

Marcello considered President Kennedy to be the head.  And he added that he planned to use a “nut” to do the job.]

On November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas.  “Blood Feud” clearly implies that the Mafia was responsible.

[The House Assassinations Committee investigated this possibility in 1978, and determined that Marcello had the means, motiva and opportunity to kill JFK.  But it could not find any conclusive evidence of his involvement.]

Even with the President dead, RFK’s Justice Department continues to pursue Hoffa.  In 1964, he is finally convicted of jury tampering and sentenced to 13 years’ imprisonment.

Hoping to avoid prison, Hoffa phones Robert Kennedy, offering future Teamsters support if RFK runs  for President. To prove he can deliver, he tells Kennedy that the Teamsters have even penetrated the FBI.

Kennedy confronts J. Edgar Hoover, accusing him of illegally planting wiretaps in Mob hangouts all over the country.

J. Edgar Hoover and Robert F. Kennedy 

Hoover retorts that this had been the only way to obtain the prosecution-worthy intelligence Kennedy had demanded: “You loved that flow of information.  You didn’t want it to stop.”

Kennedy: Why did you keep the FBI out of the fight against the Mob for decades?

Hoover: “Every agency that came to grips with them got corrupted by their money.”

[So far as is known, Hoover never made any such confession.  Historians continue to guess his reason for leaving the Mob alone for decades.]

RFK then mentions the CIA’s plots to employ the Mob to assassinate Cuban dictator Fidel Castro

[The agency had wanted to please President Kennedy, and the Mafia had wanted to regain its casinos lost to the Cuban Revolution.]

“The CIA, doing business with the Mob,” says Kennedy. “The FBI, leaking information to its enemies [the Teamsters].”  Then, sadly: “I guess it’s true–everyone does business with everyone.”

[So far as is known, the FBI did not pass on secrets to the Teamsters.  But during the 1970s, the Mafia  penetrated the Cleveland FBI office through bribes to a secretary. Several FBI Mob informants were  “clipped” as a result.]

In 1967, Hoffa goes to prison.  He stays there until, in 1971, President Richard Nixon commutes his sentence in hopes of gaining Teamsters support for his 1972 re-election.

Kennedy leaves the Justice Department in 1964 andis elected U.S. Senator from New York.  In 1968 he runs for President.  On June 5, after winning the California primary, he’s assassinated.

Hoffa schemes to return to the presidency of the Teamsters–a post now held by his successor, Frank Fitzsimmons.  He runs the union in a more relaxed style than Hoffa, thus giving the Mob greater control over its pension fund.

And the Mafia likes it that way.

On July 30, 1975, Hoffa disappears from the parking lot of the Machus Red Fox Restaurant near Detroit.  He had gone there to meet with two Mafia leaders.

Forty years later:

  • Labor unions are a shadow of their former power.
  • The threat they once represented to national prosperity has been replaced by that of predatory  corporations like Enron and AIG.
  • The war RFK began on the Mafia has continued, sending countless mobsters to prison.
  • Millions of Americans who once expected the Federal Government to protect them from crime now believe the Government is their biggest threat.
  • The idealism that fueled RFK’s life has virtually disappeared from politics.

A CLASH OF TITANS: RFK VS. HOFFA–PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on June 8, 2015 at 12:01 am

Forty-seven years ago today, Senator Robert Francis Kennedy was laid to rest in Arlington Cemetary, only feet away from the grave of his elder brother–President John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

Campaigning for the Presidency in 1968, he had just won the crucial California primary on June 4–when he was shot in the back of the head.  His killer: Sirhan Sirhan, a young Palestinian furious at Kennedy’s support for Israel.

Eleven years earlier, as a young, idealistic attorney, Kennedy had declared war on James Riddle Hoffa, the president of the Mafia-dominated International Brotherhood of Teamsters Union.

As chief counsel for the Senate Labor Rackets Committee, Kennedy was appalled at the corruption he discovered among high-ranking Teamster officials.  As he saw it, under Hoffa’s leadership, the union was nothing less than “a conspiracy of evil.”

Robert F. Kennedy as Chief Counsel, Senate Labor Rackets Committee

Hoffa, in turn, held an equally unflattering view of Kennedy.  “A rich punk,” said Hoffa, who didn’t know or care about “the average workingman.”

In 1983, Blood Feud, a two-part TV mini-series, depicted the 11-year animosity between Kennedy and Hoffa.  Although it took some dramatic liberties, its portrayal of the major events of that period remains essentially accurate.

Today, labor unions are a rapidly-vanishing species, commanding far less political influence than they did 50 years ago.  As a result, young viewers of this series may find it hard to believe that labor ever held such sway, or that the Teamsters posed such a threat.

James Riddle Hoffa testifying before the Senate Labor Rackets Committee

And in an age when millions see “Big Government” as the enemy by millions, they may feel strong reservations about the all-out war that Robert F. Kennedy waged against Hoffa.

The series opens in 1957, when Hoffa (Robert Blake) is a rising figure within the Teamsters. Kennedy (Cotter Smith) is chief counsel for the Senate Labor Rackets Committee.

At first, Hoffa tries to ingratiate himself with Kennedy, telling him: “I know everybody who can help me and anybody who can hurt me.”

A wily Hoffa decides to parley Kennedy’s anti-corruption zeal into a path to power for himself.  Via his attorney, Eddie Cheyfitz, he feeds Kennedy incriminating evidence against Dave Beck, president of the Teamsters.

Robert Blake as James Hoffa

Confronted with a Senate subpoena, Beck flees the country–paving the way for Hoffa to assume the top position in the union. Hoffa believes he has solved two problems at once.

With the ousting of Beck, Kennedy should now be satisfied: “He’s got his scalp.  Now he can move on to other things while I run the union.”

But Hoffa has guessed wrong–with fatal results. Realizing that he’s been “played” by Hoffa, a furious Kennedy strikes back.

Cotter Smith as Robert Kennedy

He orders increased surveillance of Hoffa and his topmost associates.  He subpoenas union records and members of both the Teamsters and Mafia to appear before his committee in public hearings.

And he tries to enlist the aid of legendary FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover (Ernest Borgnine).  But Hoover wants no part of a war against organized crime, whose existence he refuses to admit.

Meanwhile, Kennedy’s confrontations with Hoffa grow increasingly fierce. In open hearings, Kennedy accuses Hoffa of receiving kickbacks in the name of his wife. Hoffa damns him for “dirtying my wife’s name.”

Kennedy secures an indictment against Hoffa for hiring a spy to infiltrate the Senate Labor Rackets Committee. He’s so certain of a conviction that he tells the press he’ll “jump off the Capitol building” if Hoffa beats the rap.

But Hoffa’s lawyer, Edward Bennett Williams (Jose Ferrer) puts Kennedy himself on the witness stand.  There he portrays Kennedy as a spoiled rich man who’s waging a vendetta against Hoffa.

Hoffa beats the rap, and offers to send Kennedy a parachute.  But he jokingly warns reporters: “Hey, Bobby, you better have it checked.  I don’t trust myself!”

By 1959, Kennedy’s work as chief counsel for the Senate Labor Rackets Committee is over.  But not his determination to send Hoffa to prison.

Throughout 1960, he manages the Presidential campaign for his brother, John F. Kennedy (Sam Groom).  By a margin of only 100,000 votes, John wins the election.

Hoffa thinks that his troubles are over, that “Bobby” will move on to other pursuits and forget about the Teamsters.

Kennedy moves on to another job–the office of United States Attorney General.  For Hoffa, it’s a nightmare come true.

JFK, needing someone in the Cabinet he can trust completely, browbeats Robert into becoming the the nation’s top cop.

As Attorney General, Kennedy must no longer beg J. Edgar Hoover to attack organized crime.  He can–and does–order him to do so.

Throughout the country, the Mafia feels a new heat as FBI agents plant illegal electronic microphones (“bugs”) in their innermost sanctums.  Agents openly tail mobsters–and send them to prison in large numbers.

And Kennedy sets up a special unit, composed of topflight prosecutors and investigators, to go after just one man: James Riddle Hoffa.  The press comes to call it  the “Get Hoffa” squad.

Hoffa continues to beat federal prosecutors in court.  But he believes he’s under constant surveillance by the FBI, and his nerves are starting to give way.

Convinced that the FBI has bugged his office, he literally tears apart the room, hoping to find the bug.  But he fails to do so.

What he doesn’t know is he’s facing a more personal danger–from one of his closest associates.

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