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Posts Tagged ‘THE WASHINGTON POST’

FEAR WORKS: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, Law, Self-Help, Social commentary on April 20, 2015 at 12:13 am

So you’ve just bought something online, with a credit card–and the item never arrives–or proves defective.

Even worse, the online company insists on charging your credit card for the item.

What to do?

Here’s what a friend of mine–Ralph–recently did when he faced just that problem.

One night, while surfing the Internet, he saw an ad for a new computer security product.  For him, its biggest selling point was: “Make yourself invisible to the bad guys with just one click.”

An even stronger selling point for him: The product was being offered by SUX, the company whose anti-virus software he had subscribed to for the last three years.

And, so far, he had never had any trouble with the company.

SUX offered several options for subscription:

  • One month
  • One year
  • Two years

Ralph decided that one month was too short, and two years were too long.  He chose a one-year subscription, intending to renew at the end of the year if he liked it.

He typed in his credit card number and clicked on “Download.”

Soon afterward, he received an Order Confirmation email from the company, outlining the product he had just purchased and the amount he had just paid for it.

He then got into the anti-virus security item on his desk.  A few clicks later a new screen popped up–and the message: “Disconnected.”

Even worse, the screen warned: “Your license has expired.  Renew now.”

The product he had just paid $60 to download hadn’t downloaded.

So Ralph called SUX–and explained to a technician what had happened.

And the tech responded: “We don’t offer phone support for that product.”

Nothing Ralph said could elicit the help he needed.  Furious at the man’s arrogance, Ralph hung up.

To avoid accidentally reaching the same worthless technician, Ralph decided to wait several hours before again calling SUX.

When he did, he reached a technician who was willing to provide help.  The tech said that he would like to run a remote scan on Ralph’s computer to try to find out what was causing the problem.

Ralph agreed.

For the next five minutes he could see his cursor moving around his screen, as the tech checked first one file, then another.

Finally, the tech said that Ralph needed to “clean out” his computer before the SUX product he bought would work properly.

“OK, how do I do that?” asked Ralph.

“You need to buy our BS2U product,” said the tech.

Now Ralph was really steamed.

He had just spent $60 on a product he couldn’t download.  And the tech was telling him he had to spend even more money on a second product to make the first product work properly.

Ralph then said he wanted to contact someone in an executive positon at SUX.  But the rep said he would have to call outside the United States to do this.

Ralph hung up, then got back onto his computer and onto the SUX website.  He drafted a short but detailed message on the problems he was facing with one of the company’s products.

And it ended:

“Frankly:

(1) I am UNABLE to make use of the product I paid $60 for; and

(2) I am UNWILLING to pay MORE MONEY FOR ANOTHER PRODUCT in hopes that this will enable me to use the one I just purchased.

“Therefore, I am requesting that the credit card transaction I had with your company on —- be canceled.  If it is not, I will dispute this via my credit card company when I receive my next statement.

“To enable you to quickly locate this transaction in your files, I am enclosing the Order Confirmation Number:  #———-.

“I am making a copy of this email, so I can establish, if necessary, that I have notified your company that I am NOT receiving the product I paid for.

“I have already contacted my credit card company and informed them that I will contest this charge if your company does not make good on this refund.”

Six days later, Ralph called his credit card company, to see if SUX was still charging him for an item he hadn’t received.

It was.

Luckily for Ralph, he had been a longtime student of Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of political science.

Niccolo Mchiavelli

In The Prince, his treatise on how to gain and hold political power, Machiavelli raises the question: Is it better to be loved or feared?

And he answers as follows:

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….

“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.”

It was time to invoke the spirit of St. Niccolo.

A TIME OF SHAME: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 17, 2015 at 12:15 am

“John and Robert Kennedy knew what they were doing.  They waged a vicious war against Fidel Castro–a war someone had to lose.”

So writes Gus Russo in Live By the Sword: The Secret War Against Castro and the Death of JFK, published in 1998.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis, Robert Kennedy–referring to the 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor–had resisted demands for a “sneak attack” on Cuba by saying: “I don’t want my brother to be the Tojo of the 1960s.”

But in the fall of 1963, the Kennedys planned just such an attack on Cuba only one month before the November, 1964 Presidential election.

In what is almost certainly the definitive account of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Russo reaches some startling–but highly documented–conclusions:

  • Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated Kennedy.
  • He did it alone.
  • Oswald, a former Marine, was a committed Marxist–whose hero was Castro.
  • The CIA’s ongoing campaign to overthrow and/or assassinate Castro was an open secret throughout the Gulf.
  • Oswald visited New Orleans in the spring of 1963.
  • There he learned that Castro was in the crosshairs of the CIA.
  • Oswald told his Russian-born wife, Marina: “Fidel Castro needs defenders.  I’m going to join his army of volunteers.” 
  • Jack Ruby, a Dallas nightclub owner, murdered Oswald because he was distraught over Kennedy’s death. 
  • Ruby was not part of a Mafia conspiracy to silence Oswald. 
  • Skeptics of the Warren Commission–which concluded that Oswald had acted alone–asked the wrong question: “Who killed Kennedy?” 
  • They should have asked: “Why was he killed?”
  • The answer–according to Russo: “The Kennedys’ relentless pursuit of Castro and Cuba backfired in tragedy on that terrible day in November, 1963.”

Lee Harvey Oswald

Another book well worth reading about America’s Cuban obsession during the early 1960s is American Tabloid, by James Ellroy.

Although a novel, it vividly captures the atmosphere of intrigue, danger and sleaziness that permeated America’s Cuba obsession in a way that dry, historical documents never can.

“The 50s are finished,” reads its paperback dust jacket.  “Zealous young lawyer Robert Kennedy has a red-hot jones to nail Jimmy Hoffa.  JFK has his eyes on the Oval Office.

“J. Edgar Hoover is swooping down on the Red Menace.  Howard Hughes is dodging subpoenas and digging up Kennedy dirt.  And Castro is mopping up the bloody aftermath of his new Communist nation….

“Mob bosses, politicos, snitches, psychos, fall guys and femmes fatale.  They’re mixing up a Molotov cocktail guaranteed to end the country’s innocence with a bang.”

Among the legacies of America’s twisted romance with anti-Castro Cubans:

  • Following the JFK assassination, there was a coverup–to safeguard the reputation of the United States government and that of its newly-martyred President.
  • Thus, the CIA and FBI concealed the anti-Castro murder plots from the Warren Commission investigating Kennedy’s assassination.
  • Other participating officials in the cover-up included Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and President Lyndon B. Johnson.
  • This secrecy ignited the widespread–and false–belief that the President had died at the hands of a government conspiracy.
  • Robert Kennedy feared that his relentless pursuit of Castro might have backfired against JFK, leading Castro to “take out” the President first.
  • Fearing his own assassination if he continued Kennedy’s efforts to murder Castro, President Johnson ordered the CIA to halt its campaign to overthrow and/or assassinate the Cuban leader.
  • The huge Cuban community throughout Florida–and especially Miami–continues to exert a blackmail influence on American politics.
  • Right-wing politicians from Richard Nixon to Newt Gingrich have reaped electoral rewards by catering to the demands of this hate-obsessed voting block.
  • As a result, the United States still refuses to open diplomatic relations with Cuba–even though it has done so with such former enemies as the Soviet Union, China and Vietnam.
  • Cuban ex-patriots still hope that the United States will launch a full-scale military invasion of the island to remove Castro.
  • These alleged Cuban patriots fear to risk their own lives by returning to Cuba and launching an uprising against him.  

That crisis stemmed from our twisted obsession with Cuba, an obsession that continues today.

Texas Congressman Ron Paul is correct:

“But I think it’s time…to quit this isolation business of not talking to people. We talked to the Soviets. We talk to the Chinese. And we opened up trade, and we’re not killing each other now.

“We fought with the Vietnamese for a long time. We finally gave up, started talking to them, now we trade with them. I don’t know why…the Cuban people should be so intimidating.”

It’s time to end the half-century contamination of American politics by those Cubans who live for their hatred of Fidel Castro and those political candidates who live to exploit it.

It’s long past time to end this wag-the-dog relationship.  A population of about 1,700,000 Cuban exiles should not be allowed to shape the domestic and foreign policy of a nation of 300 million.

Those who continue to hate–or love–Castro should be left to their own private feud.  But that is a feud they should settle on their own island, and not from the shores of the United States.

A TIME OF SHAME: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 16, 2015 at 12:05 am

On April 17, 1961, the U.S. Navy landed 1,700 CIA-trained Cuban exiles ashore at Cuba’s Bay of Pigs.

President John F. Kennedy–wanting to disguise the role of the United States in the invasion–refused to commit U.S. Marines and Air Force bombers to the attack.

Long forewarned of the coming invasion, Fidel Castro sent in his forces to decimate the invaders.

Kennedy took responsibility for the failure.  But privately he blamed Castro for refusing to be overthrown.

As a result, Kennedy and his brother, Robert–then Attorney General–created  their own covert operation to depose Castro.

Robert and John F. Kennedy

Known as the Special Group, and overseen by Robert Kennedy, it launched a secret war against the Castro regime, code-named Operation Mongoose.

“We were hysterical about Castro at about the time of the Bay of Pigs and thereafter,” Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara later testified before Congress about these efforts.  “And there was pressure from JFK and RFK to do something about Castro.”

Robert S. McNamara

Nor was everyone in the CIA enthusiastic about the “get Castro” effort.

“Everyone at CIA was surprised at Kennedy’s obsession with Fidel,” recalled Sam Halpern, who was assigned to the Cuba Project.  “They thought it was a waste of time.  We all knew [Castro] couldn’t hurt us.  Most of us at CIA initially liked Kennedy, but why go after this little guy?

“One thing is for sure: Kennedy wasn’t doing it out of national security concerns.  It was a personal thing.  The Kennedy family felt personally burnt by the Bay of Pigs and sought revenge.”

It was all-out war.  Among the tactics used:

  • Hiring Cuban gangsters to murder Cuban police officials and Soviet technicians.
  • Sabotaging mines.
  • Paying up to $100,000 per “hit” for the murder or kidnapping of Cuban officials.
  • Using biological and chemical warfare against the Cuban sugar industry.

“Bobby (Kennedy) wanted boom and bang all over the island,” recalled Halpern. “It was stupid.  The pressure from the White House was very great.”

Among that “boom and bang” were a series of assassination plots against Castro, in which the Mafia was to be a key player.

Chicago Mobster Johnny Rosselli proposed a simple plan: through its underworld connections in Cuba, the Mafia would recruit a Cuban in Castro’s entourage, such as a waiter or bodyguard, who would poison him.

The CIA’s Technical Services division produced a botulinus toxin which was then injected into Castro’s favorite brand of cigars. The CIA also produced simpler botulinus toxin pills that could be dissolved in his food or drink.

But the deputized Mafia contacts failed to deliver any of the poisons to Castro.

Fidel Castro

As Rosselli explained to the CIA, the first poisoner had been discharged from Castro’s employ before he could kill him, while a back-up agent got “cold feet.”

Other proposals or attempts included:

  • Planting colorful seashells rigged to explode at a site where Castro liked to go skindiving.
  • Trying to arrange for his being presented with a wetsuit impregnated with noxious bacteria and mould spores, or with lethal chemical agents.
  • Attempting to infect Castro’s scuba regulator with tuberculous bacilli.
  • Trying to douse his handkerchiefs, tea and coffee with other lethal bacteria.

Americans would rightly label such methods as “terrorist” if another power used them against the United States today.  And the Cuban government saw the situation exactly the same way.

So Castro appealed to Nikita Khrushchev, leader of the Soviet Union, for assistance.

Nikita Khrushchev

Khrushchev was quick to comply:  “We must not allow the communist infant to be strangled in its crib,” he told members of his inncer circle.

By October, 1962, the Soviet Union had sent more than 40,000 soldiers, 1,300 field pieces, 700 anti-airctaft guns, 350 tanks and 150 jets to Cuba to deter another invasion.

Khrushchev also began supplying Castro with nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles–whose discovery, on October 15, 1962, ignited the single most dangerous confrontation of the Cold War.

Suddenly, the two most powerful nuclear countries–the United States and the Soviet Union–found themselves on the brink of nuclear war.

John F. Kennedy in the Oval Office

At the time, Kennedy officials claimed they couldn’t understand why Khrushchev had placed nuclear missiles in Cuba.  “Maybe Khrushchev’s gone mad” was a typical musing.

None of these officials admitted that JFK had been waging a no-holds-barred campaign to overthrow the Cuban government and assassinate its leader.

The crisis ended when, after 13 harrowing days, Khrushchev agreed to remove the missiles from Cuba.  Behind its resolution lay a  promise by the Kennedy administration to not invade Cuba.

But President Kennedy was not finished with Castro.  While continuing the campaign of sabotage throughout Cuba, the Kennedys were preparing something far bigger: A fullscale American invasion of the island.

On October 4, 1963, the Joint Chiefs of Staff submitted its latest version of the invasion plan, known as OPLAN 380-63.  Its timetable went:

  • January, 1964:  Infiltration into Cuba by Cuban exiles.
  • July 15, 1964:  U.S. conventional forces join the fray.
  • August 3, 1964:  All-out U.S. air strikes on Cuba.
  • October 1, 1964:  Full-scale invasion to install “a government friendly to the U.S.”

But then fate–in the otherwise unimpressive form of Lee Harvey Oswald–suddenly intervened.

A TIME OF SHAME: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 15, 2015 at 12:10 am

On January 23, 2012, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney and Ron Paul–all seeking the Republican nomination for President–attended a candidates’ debate in Tampa, Florida.

Gingrich, Santorum and Romney played to the huge–and influential–Cuban community in Florida, especially in Miami.

All three had carefully avoided military service.  But all three “chickenhawks” now wanted to show how eagerly they could send others into harm’s way.

Former House Speaker Gingrich spoke for all three when he said: “The policy of the United States should be aggressively to overthrow the [Castro] regime and to do everything we can to support those Cubans who want freedom.”

Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul

Only Texas Congressman Ron Paul–who had served as a flight surgeon in the U.S. Air Force from 1963 to 1968–dared to call for normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba.

But even Paul’s courage ignored a great many ugly historical truths.  Among these:

  • In 1959, Fidel Castro swept triumphantly into Havana after a two-year guerrilla campaign against Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista.
  • Before Castro’s takeover in 1959, Cuba had been a playground for wealthy American businessmen–and Mafiosi.
  • Castro quickly nationalized Cuban businesses–especially the sugar-producing ones.
  • Gangsters who had been heavily involved in running casinos were arrested, imprisoned or unofficially deported to the United States.
  • The Mob–eager to reclaim its casino investments–agreed to help the CIA assassinate Castro.
  • Among the conspirators were such powerful mobsters as Santos Trafficante, Carlos Marcello, Johnny Roselli and Sam Giancana.
  • Almost immediately, hundreds of thousands of Cubans began fleeing to America.  The first emigres were more than 215,000 Batista followers.
  • The exodus escalated, peaking at approximately 78,000 in 1962.

  • In October, 1962, Castro stopped regularly scheduled travel between the two countries, and asylum seekers began sailing from Cuba to Florida.
  • Between 1962 and 1979, hundreds of thousands of Cubans entered the United States under the Attorney General’s parole authority.
  • The overwhelming majority of Cubans who immigrated into the United States settled in Florida, whose political, economic, and cultural life they transformed.
  • By 2008, more than 1.24 million Cuban Americans were living in the United States, mostly in South Florida, where the population of Miami was about one-third Cuban.
  • Many of these Cubans viewed themselves as political exiles, rather than immigrants, hoping to return to Cuba after its communist regime fell from power.
  • The large number of Cubans in South Florida, particularly in Miami’s “Little Havana,” allowed them to preserve their culture and customs to a degree rare for immigrant groups.
  • These discontented immigrants became a potential force for politicians to court.
  • Unsurprisingly, most of their votes went to Right-wing Republicans.

John F. Kennedy was the first President to face this dilemma.

John F. Kennedy

During the closing months of the administration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the CIA had begun training Cuban exiles for an invasion of their former homeland.

The goal: To do what Castro had done–seek refuge in the mountains and launch a successful anti-Castro revolution.

But word of the coming invasion quickly leaked: The exiles were terrible secret-keepers.  (A joke at the CIA went: “A Cuban thinks a secret is something you tell to only 300 people.”)

Kennedy insisted the invasion must appear to be an entirely Cuban enterprise.  He refused to commit U.S. Marines and Air Force bombers.

The invasion force was quickly overwhelmed at the Bay of Pigs, with hundreds of its men taken prisoner.

Kennedy publicly took the blame for its failure: “Victory has a hundred fathers but defeat is an orphan.”  But privately he seethed, and ordered the CIA to redouble its efforts to remove Castro at all costs.

To make certain his order was carried out, he appointed his brother, Robert–then Attorney General–to oversee the CIA’s “Castro removal” program.

It’s here that America’s obsession with Cuba entered its darkest and most disgraceful period.

The CIA and the Mafia entered into an unholy alliance to assassinate Castro–each for its own benefit.

The CIA wanted to please Kennedy.  The Mafia wanted to regain its casino and brothel holdings that had made Cuba the playground of the rich in pre-Castro times.

The CIA supplied poisons and explosives to various members of the Mafia.  It was then up to the mobsters to assassinate Castro.

The available sources disagree on what actually happened.  Some believe that the Mob made a genuine effort to “whack” Fidel.

Others are convinced the mobsters simply ran a scam on the government.  They pretended to carry out their “patriotic duty” while in fact making no effort at all to penetrate Castro’s security.

The mobsters hoped to use their pose as patriots to win immunity from future prosecution.

The CIA asked John Roselli, a mobster linked to the Chicago syndicate, to go to Florida in 1961 and 1962 to organize assassination teams of Cuban exiles.  They were to infiltrate their homeland and assassinate Castro.

John Roselli

Rosselli called upon two other crime figures: Chicago Mafia boss Sam Giancana and Santos Trafficante, the Costra Nostra chieftain for Cuba, to help him.

Giancana, using the name “Sam Gold” in his dealings with the CIA, was being hounded by the FBI on direct orders of Attorney General Kennedy.

Sam Giancana

KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on April 14, 2015 at 12:18 am

Be careful what you ask for–especially if you’re a politician.

On March 29, Republican Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rogers, of Washington State, told her Facebook readers:

“This week marks the 5th anniversary of #‎Obamacare being signed into law. Whether it’s turned your tax filing into a nightmare, you’re facing skyrocketing premiums, or your employer has reduced your work hours, I want to hear about it.”

The response was overwhelming–but not in the way she clearly hoped it would be.

The vast majority of her respondents voiced enthusiastic support for the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Even worse for the Congresswoman, many of them furiously attacked the Republican party for its non-stop efforts to repeal healthcare coverage.

Erika Dennis My whole family now has coverage. The ACA is the cause for this, I work in health care, I have seen the increase in covered patients first hand.

The next step is universal coverage, this will truly lower costs and provide the best care.

Cathy, you barely work, spend most of your time catering to special interests so you can be re-elected. All while receiving a large wage and the best health insurance and care.

Stop telling us how it doesn’t work while enjoying your tax payer funded care and life.

President Barack Obama signing the Affordable Care Act into law

Robert Fairfax I work for cancer care northwest. We actually have more patients with insurance and fewer having to choose treatment over bankruptcy.

Cathy, I’m a die hard conservative and I’m asking you to stop just slamming Obamacare. Fix it, change it or come up with a better idea! Thanks.

Jeff Sellen This is nothing more than a talking point framed pathetically as a question. It has become the Republican way, unfortunately: Pay no attention to the evidence.

Let’s introduce a little integrity into the discussion, ok? What are the strengths and weaknesses of Obamacare?

Deanna Bax Why don’t you ask for people to tell their stories instead of just asking for the negatives? If you honestly want to help Americans you need All the stories and weigh what’s best based on the facts not based on what you want to hear.

David Smith I am outraged that a member of the US House of Representatives would have such an unscientific and slanted poll. Her website had better not be publicly funded.

Gary Downing Instead of doing all you can to tear down our Nation why don’t you start working to make it better.. Seems like Republicans have just become the real terrorists of this Nation.

Jane Marshall Whittington You can only beat a dead horse so long., Why not focus as much energy on creating jobs and cutting taxes for the working poor as you republicans have spent on the ACA and Benghazi!

Kyle Tertzag …So tell me Congresswoman, why is it that you think I don’t deserve to be healthy and have affordable health insurance? Why do you want to take that away form me and over 15 million other Americans?

Finally it looks like Governor Palin was right, there is a Death Panel and it is made up of you and people like you in the GOP that want to take health care away from millions of Americans! Shame on you! Why don’t you just go join ISIS as you seem more than happy to help harm and/or kill Americans.

* * * * *

A major reason Republicans opposed “Obamacare” from the get-go was this: They feared that, if passed, it would be forever identified with the Democratic Party–just as Social Security always has.

And like Social Security–enacted under Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt–it would forever be a powerful vote-getter for Democrats.

For Republicans, attaining–and retaining–total power over the lives of their fellow Americans is their foremost goal.

And if millions of their fellow Americans can’t afford healthcare coverage, that’s of small importance compared to depriving Democrats of a potent issue for turning out voters.

Both houses of Congress passed the ACA.  And that the Supreme Court–headed by a Republican Chief Justice–found it entirely Constitutional.

Yet that has not stopped Right-wingers from spreading infamous lies about it–such as the “death panel” charge former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin made on her Facebook page.

Nor has it stopped Republicans from repeatedly voting to repeal the ACA–at last count, no fewer than 56 times.

If the responses Congresswoman Rogers received are any indication, millions of Americans are thrilled to finally have healthcare insurance.

They can’t understand why so many members of Congress–who automatically get gold-plated medical care by virtue of their election–want to deny it to millions of their less-well-off fellow citizens.

And a recent Gallup-Healthways survey found that, because of the ACA, nearly nine out of 10 adults now say they have health insurance.

On at least one point, Republican fears appear to have been vindicated: Once people begin to receive a vital service that was long denied them, they want to preserve it.

It’s a truism that Republicans still hope to reverse.

KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on April 13, 2015 at 3:02 am

There’s a well-known saying among attorneys: When you’re cross-examining a witness, don’t ask a question you don’t know the answer to.

It’s a truism that was apparently lost on Republican Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rogers.

Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rogers

On March 23, the Washington State) representative posted the following on her Facebook page:

“This week marks the 5th anniversary of #‎Obamacare being signed into law. Whether it’s turned your tax filing into a nightmare, you’re facing skyrocketing premiums, or your employer has reduced your work hours, I want to hear about it.

“Please share your story with me so that I can better understand the challenges you’re facing:” http://mcmorris.house.gov/your-story/

The Congresswoman’s readers quickly obliged.  But the overwhelming reaction to her request must have caught her by surprise.

It was overwhelmingly negative.

Among the literally hundreds of responses:

Mitchell Wiggs The Republican solution to the Affordable Care Act? Let people drown in debt, clutter our emergency rooms, and die from lack of coverage due to pre-existing conditions. No thanks, “Congresswoman”.

Some of us care more about our fellow Americans than trying to bash the President. Keep trying to scare your followers with phony horror stories, though

Melissa Kelly 5 years of not waking up in the middle of the might panicked that my child won’t ever be able to get health insurance thanks to a brain tumor at the age of 2. Thank God for Obamacare.

Anyone who ever fought an insurance company for pediatric neurosurgery coverage knows there was NEVER a hassle-free system in place and Obamacare is light years better than what we had.

Dylan McGuire My premiums have not increased, my hours have not been reduced and I know a couple of people who were able to get medical care through insurance rather than going to an emergency room. Taxes are no more difficult than they have ever been.

William Francis Condon My story is that I once knew 7 people who couldn’t get health insurance. Now they all have it, thanks to the ACA and President Obama, and their plans are as good as the one my employer provides–and they pay less for them.

Now, that’s not the kind of story you want to hear. You want to hear made-up horror stories. I don’t know anyone with one of those stories.

Jim Reid Hello Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers!

I work as the facilitator of a task force that is overseeing the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in Washington State. I have learned that the ACA is helping people who did not previously have health insurance get it.

It is helping bring down medical costs. It is improving the quality of care. It is improving experiences of both patients and their families.

I work with doctors, nurses, hospital and clinic managers, non-profit service providers, citizens-at-large. Each of them can site an improvement they would like to make to the Act.

But whether they are Republican or Democrat, from urban or rural areas, powerful or not, they all say the ACA is working.

Can’t you and your Republican colleagues stop trying to repeal this Act and work to make it even more effective? Please?

Janet Clark My story is this: my husband and I worked to pass Obamacare because we believed all Americans should have access to quality healthcare, like we did through his workplace. We never thought it would affect us.

Then one day I came home and found my strong. apparently healthy husband dead in the backyard. He had experienced cardiac arrest. Within one week I was off his plan.

I purchased COBRA for a year and then looked for a less expensive plan. I applied for Blue Cross and was turned down due to pre-existing conditions: arthritis and bunions.

I was so happy when Obamacare went through and I had access to healthcare. Never thought it would be me who needed it, but it was. Thanks, President Obama!

Bob Wilmot Our son, diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 6, will now have healthcare coverage as an adult, thanks to the ACA. No more denials for a pre-existing condition.

No more $3000 monthly premium, as we faced some 10 years ago when I was without employer coverage for a time. Congresswoman, are you seriously prepared to tell 12million+ Americans they will now lose their coverage under the ACA?

Janice Grounds With the ACA my partner is able to FINALLY get health insurance. She has severe arthitis….you know the kind that the wealthy golfer talks about helping with the magic of humera…only this medication is $$$$. She has lived with, worked with severe pain for years.

Once she got the insurance, an MRI showed a huge tear in her hip….yep, this tear would catch and be so intensely painful she fell several times-twice breaking her wrist (which cost several thousand out of pocket).

She was pulled over by our dog two weeks ago fracturing several ribs, ambulance, er, w nights in trauma ward…..imagining what this would have done without insurance???????

You sit on your high horse talking platitudes and right wing talking points. You and all the other flaming GOP “faith and family” hypocrites make me sick.

If you truly believe this crap, you’re even worse. Thank you President Obama and Democrats for the Affordable Care Act .

THE FIRST RULE OF BUREAUCRACIES

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on April 10, 2015 at 1:18 am

After spending years of his life sexually abusing boys entrusted into his care, Jerry Sandusky will likely spend the rest of his life as a prison inmate.

On October 9, 2012, a Pennsylvania judge sentenced the 68-year-old former Penn State assistant football coach  to at least 30 years in prison.  And he may spend as many as 60 years behind bars.

Following his conviction on June 22, 2012, he had faced a maximum of 400 years’ imprisonment for his sexual abuse of 10 boys over a 15-year period.

Jerry Sandusky (middle) in police custody

After the sentencing decision was announced, Penn State University President Rodney Erickson released a statement:

“Our thoughts today, as they have been for the last year, go out to the victims of Jerry Sandusky’s abuse.

“While today’s sentence cannot erase what has happened, hopefully it will provide comfort to those affected by these horrible events and help them continue down the road to recovery.”

No doubt Erickson–and the rest of Penn State–wants to move on from this shameful page in the university’s history.  And the university has desperately tried to sweep the sordid scandal out of sight of the ticket-paying public–and of history:

  • It fired Joe Paterno, the legendary head football coach who had led Penn State to a staggering 112 victories.
  • It ousted Graham Spanier, the university’s longtime president.
  • And it removed the iconic statue of Paterno–long held in worshipful esteem by almost everyone at the football-obsessed institution.

So what remains to be learned from this sordid affair?

A great deal, it turns out.

To begin at the beginning:

In 2002, assistant coach Mike McQueary, then a Penn State graduate assistant, walked in on Sandusky anally raping a 10-year-old boy.  The next day, McQueary reported the incident to head coach Paterno.

“You did what you had to do,” said Paterno.  “It is my job now to figure out what we want to do.”

Paterno’s idea of “what we want to do” consisted of reporting the incident to three other top Penn State officials:

Their idea of “what we want to do” was to close ranks around Sandusky and engage in a diabolical “code of silence.”

As former FBI Director Louis J. Freeh summed up in an internal investigative report compiled at the request of Penn State and released on July 12:

“Four of the most powerful people at the Pennsylvania State University–President Graham B. Spanier, Senior Vice President-Finance and Business Gary C. Schultz, Athletic Director Timothy M. Curley and Head Football Coach Joseph V. Paterno–failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade.

“These men concealed Sandusky’s activities from the board of trustees, the university community and authorities.

Louis Freeh

Louis J. Freeh

“They exhibited a striking lack of empathy for Sandusky’s victims by failing to inquire as to their safety and well-being, especially by not attempting to determine the identity of the child who Sandusky assaulted in the Lasch Building in 2001.

“… In order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity, the most powerful leaders at the University….repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky’s child abuse from the authorities, the University’s Board of Trustees, the Penn State community, and the public at large.

“The avoidance of the consequences of bad publicity is the most significant, but not the only, cause for this failure to protect child victims and report to authorities.”

If there is a fundamental truth to be learned from this sordid affair, it is this: The first rule of any and every bureaucracy is: Above all else, the institution must be protected.

And this holds true:

  • At the level of local / state / Federal government;
  • For-profit organizations;
  • Non-profit organizations; or
  • Religious institutions

During the 48-year reign of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, agents had their own version of this: Do not embarrass the Bureau.

So Hoover could order agents to bug Mafia hangouts–with the understanding that if they were caught, they would be disavowed as rogue agents, fired from the Bureau, and almost certainly prosecuted for criminal trespass.

J. Edgar Hoover

Thus we have seen countless Catholic priests abusing young boys entrusted to their protection–only to be repeatedly protected by high-ranking authorities within the Catholic Church.

We have seen whistleblowers who report rampant safety violations in nuclear power plants ignored by the very regulatory agencies the public counts on to prevent catastrophic accidents.

Imperfect institutions staffed by imperfect men obsessed with power, money and fame–and fearful of losing one or all of these–can never be expected to act otherwise.

And those who do expect ordinary mortals to behave like extraordinary saints will be forever disappointed.

So how can we at least minimize such outrages in the future?

“Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom,” warned Thomas Jefferson.  And it remains as true today as it did more than 200 years ago.

Add to this the more recent adage: “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.”

The more we know about how our institutions actually work–as opposed to how they want us to believe they work–the more chance we have to control their behavior.  And to check their abuses when they occur.

Which they will.

A FADING GLORY

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics on April 9, 2015 at 12:27 am

Saving Private Ryan, Steven Spielberg’s 1998 World War II epic, opens with a scene of an American flag snapping in the wind.

Except that the vivid red, white and blue we’ve come to expect in Old Glory has been washed out, leaving only black-and-white stripes.

And then the movie opens–not during World War II but the present day.

It makes you wonder: Did Spielberg know something–such as that the United States, for all its military power, has become a pale shadow of its former glory?

Consider the following:

May, 30, 1945, marked the first Memorial Day after World War II ended in Europe.

On that day the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery became the site of just such a ceremony. The cemetery lies near the modern Italian town of Nettuno.

In 1945, it held about  20,000 graves. Most were soldiers who died in Sicily, at Salerno, or at Anzio.

One of the speakers at the ceremony was Lieutenant General Lucian K. Truscott, Jr., the US Fifth Army Commander.

Lieutenant General Lucian K. Truscott, Jr.

Unlike many other generals, Truscott had shared in the dangers of combat, often going over maps on the hood of his jeep with company commanders as bullets or shells zipped close by.

When it came his turn to speak, Truscott moved to the podium–and then did something truly unexpected.

Looking at the assembled visitors–which included a number of Congressmen–Truscott turned his back on the living to face the graves of his fellow soldiers.

Among Truscott’s audience was Bill Mauldin, the famous cartoonist for the Army newspaper, Stars and Stripes.  Mauldin had created Willie and Joe, the unshaved, slovenly-looking “dogfaces” who came to symbolize the GI.

Bill Mauldin and “Willie and Joe,” the characters he made famous

It is from Mauldin that we have the fullest account of Truscott’s speech that day.

“He apologized to the dead men for their presence there.  He said that everybody tells leaders that it is not their fault that men get killed in war, but that every leader knows in his heart that this is not altogether true.

“He said he hoped anybody here through any mistake of his would forgive him, but he realized that was asking a hell of a lot under the circumstances….

“Truscott said he would not speak of the ‘glorious’ dead because he didn’t see much glory in getting killed in your late teens or early twenties.

“He promised that if in the future he ran into anybody, especially old men, who thought death in battle was glorious, he would straighten them out.  He said he thought it was the least he could do.

“It was the most moving gesture I ever saw,” said Mauldin.

Then Truscott walked away, without acknowledging his audience.

Fast forward 61 years–to March 24, 2004.

At a White House Correspondents dinner in Washington, D.C., President George W. Bush joked publicly about the absence of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) in Iraq.

One year earlier, he had invaded Iraq on the premise that its dictator, Saddam Hussein, possessed WMDs he intended to use against the United States.

To Bush, the non-existent WMDs were nothing more than the butt of a joke that night.

While an overhead projector displayed photos of a puzzled-looking Bush searching around the Oval Office, Bush recited a comedy routine.

“Those weapons of mass destruction have gotta be somewhere,” Bush laughed, while a photo showed him poking around the corners in the Oval Office.

“Nope-–no weapons over there!  Maybe they’re under here,” he said, as a photo showed him looking under a desk.

In a scene that could have occurred under the Roman emperor Nero, an assembly of wealthy, pampered men and women–-the elite of America’s media and political classes–-laughed heartily during Bush’s performance.

Only later did the criticism come, from Democrats and Iraqi war veterans–especially those veterans who had lost comrades or suffered grievous wounds to protect America from non-existant WMDs.

Click here: Bush laughs at no WMD in Iraq – YouTube 

Then fast forward another 11 years–to February 27, 2015.

The Republican Party’s leading presidential contenders for 2016 gathered at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.

Although each candidate tried to stake his own claim to the Oval Office, all of them agreed on two points:

First, President Barack Obama had been dangerously timid in his conduct of foreign policy.

Second, they would pursue aggressive military action in the Middle East.

“Our position needs to be to re-engage with a strong military and a strong presence,” said Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida.

And Bush added that he would consider sending ground forces to fight ISIS.

Scott Walker, the current governor of Florida, equated opposing labor unions to terrorists, and said: “If I could take on 100,000 protesters (in Wisconsin), I can do the same across the world.”

Neither Bush nor Walker saw fit to enter the ranks of the military he wishes to plunge into further combat.

And Bush and Walker are typical of those who make up the United States Congress:

Of those members elected or re-elected to the House and Senate in November, 2014, 97–less than 18%–have served in the U.S. military.

Small wonder that, for many people, Old Glory has taken on a darker, washed-out appearance.

A DEVIL’S BARGAIN

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 8, 2015 at 12:01 am

The 1989 movie, Fat Man and Little Boy, provides useful insights into the real-life workings of bureaucracies.

In it, the brilliant and ambitious physicist, J. Robert Oppenheimer (played by Dwight Schultz) comes–too late–to realize he’s made a deal with the devil.

The same proved true for the J. Robert Oppenhiemer of history.

Paul Newman as General Leslie Groves and Dwight Schultz as J. Robert Oppenheimer 

Hired by Army General Leslie Groves (played by Paul Newman) to ramrod construction of an atomic bomb, Oppenheimer has no qualms about using it against Nazi Germany.

It’s believed, after all, that German scientists are furiously pursuing work on such a weapon.

The full horror of the extermination camps has not yet been revealed.  But “Oppie” and many other Jewish scientists working on the Manhattan Project can easily imagine the fate of Jews trapped within the borders of the Third Reich.

Then something unforeseen happens. On May 8, 1945, the Third Reich collapses and signs unconditional surrender terms.

Almost at the same time, the U.S. military learns that although German physicists had tried to make an atomic bomb, they never even got close to producing one.

So Oppenheimer finds himself still working to build the most devastating weapon in history–but now lacking the enemy he had originally signed on to destroy.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Government has invested nearly $2 billion in the Manhattan Project–at a time when $2 billion truly meant the equivalent of $1 trillion today. Is all that money to go for nothing?

What to do?

Oppenheimer doesn’t have to make that decision. It’s made for him—by Groves, by Groves’ superiors in the Army, and ultimately by the new President, Harry S. Truman.

The bomb will be used, after all. It will just be turned against the Japanese, who are even more hated by most Americans than the Germans. It doesn’t matter that:

  • The Japanese lack the technological skill of the Germans to produce an atomic bomb.
  • They are rapidly being pushed across the Pacific to their home islands.
  • American bombers are incinerating Japanese cities at wil.
  • The Japanese are desperately trying to find a way to surrender without losing face.

What matters is that Pearl Harbor is still fresh in the minds of Americans generally and of the American military in particular.

And that now that the Japanese are being pushed back into their home islands, they are fighting ever more fanatically to hold off certain defeat.

General Douglas MacArthur, who is scheduled to command the invasion of Japan, has estimated a million American casualties if this goes forward.

Oppenheimer, who has taught physics at the University of California at Berkeley, now finds himself being taught a lesson: That, once set in motion, bureaucracies–like objects–continue to move forward unless something intervenes to stop them.

And, in this case, there is no one willing to say: Stop.

So, on July 16, 1945, the first atomic bomb in history is detonated at Los Alamos, New Mexico.

Atomic bomb test at Los Alamos: July 16, 1945

Then, on August 6, 1945, an American B-29 bomber drops “Little Boy” on Hiroshima. An estimated 80,000 people die instantly.

By the end of the year, injury and radiation bring total casualties to 90,000-140,000.

On August 9, it’s the turn of Nagasaki. Casualty estimates for the dropping of “Fat Man” range from 40,000 to 73,884, with another 74,909 injured, and another several hundred thousand diseased and dying due to fallout and other illness caused by radiation.

For Oppenheimer, the three years he has devoted to creating an atomic bomb will prove the pivotal event of his life. He will be praised and damned as an “American Prometheus,” who brought atomic fire to man.

Countless Americans–especially those who would have been ordered to invade Japan–will revere him as the man who brought the war to a quick end.

And countless Americans–and non-Americans–will condemn him as a man whose arrogance and ambition led him to arm mankind with the means of its own destruction.

Witnessing the first successful atomic explosion, Oppenheimer had been stunned by the sheer magnitude of destructiveness he had helped unleash.

Quoting the Hindu holy book, the Bhagavad Gita, he murmured: “Now I am become Death, the shatterer of worlds.”

Faced with the massive toll of lives taken by the device he had created, Oppenheimer became convinced that the only hope for humanity lay in abolishing nuclear weapons.

He vigorously opposed the creation of a “super” hydrogen bomb. His advice was overruled, however, and construction of this went forward at the same pace that Oppenheimer had once driven others to create the atomic bomb.

The first test of this even more terrifying weapon occurred on November 1, 1952.

By 1953, just as Oppenheimer had predicted, the Soviet Union had launched its own H-bomb test.

In a famous meeting with President Truman, Oppenheimer reportedly said, “Mr. President, I have blood on my hands.”

Truman later claimed that he had offered Oppenheimer a handkerchief, saying, “Here, this will wash it off.”

It didn’t.

During the hysteria of the Joseph McCarthy witch-hunts, Oppenheimer found himself accused of being a Communist traitor. In 1954, he was stripped of his government security clearance.

Unable to prevent the military bureaucracy from moving relentlessly to use the atomic bomb, he could not halt the political bureaucracy from its own rush into cowardice and the wrecking of others’ lives.

FREEDOM OF SPEECH ISN’T FREE

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on April 7, 2015 at 1:56 am

WARNING: Believing that the First Amendment gives you the legal right to express your opinion may be hazardous to your career.

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution states:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The First Amendment

Of course, that refers only to Congress.

It says nothing about employers–and especially those self-appointed pseudo-gods who set themselves up as judges of virtue and infallibility.

If you doubt it, just ask Scott Lees, who until March had worked for four years as boys head lacrosse coach at Fryeburg Academy.

Fryeburg Academy

His crime?  Posting to his personal Facebook page an open letter to President Barack Obama that one of his friends had emailed him.

Lees posted the letter on March 17.  Two days later, he was ordered to resign from his four-year position as the academy’s lacrosse coach.

The letter had been written in response to a speech Obama gave in Cairo in 2009.  In this, Obama said, “I know, too, that Islam has always been a part of America’s history.”

Among the issues the letter raised:

Were those Muslims that were in America when the Pilgrims first landed? Funny, I thought they were Native American Indians.

“Were those Muslims that celebrated the first Thanksgiving day? Sorry again, those were Pilgrims and Native American Indians.

“Can you show me one Muslim signature on the United States Constitution? Declaration of Independence? Bill of Rights? Didn’t think so.

“Did Muslims fight for this country’s freedom from England? No. “Did Muslims fight during the Civil War to free the slaves in America? No, they did not. In fact, Muslims to this day are still the largest traffickers in human slavery.

“Your own half-brother, a devout Muslim, still advocates slavery himself, even though Muslims of Arabic descent refer to black Muslims as ‘pug nosed slaves.’ Says a lot of what the Muslim world really thinks of your family’s “rich Islamic heritage,” doesn’t it Mr. Obama?

Where were Muslims during the Civil Rights era of this country? Not present. There are no pictures or media accounts of Muslims walking side by side with Martin Luther King, Jr. or helping to advance the cause of Civil Rights.”

(The most prominent Muslim group in America at the time of the civil rights movement was the Nation of Islam.  Its onetime spokesman, Malcom X, preached a gospel of separation of the races–and condemned whites as “blue-eyed devils.”)

“Where were Muslims during this country’s Woman’s Suffrage era? Again, not present. In fact, devout Muslims demand that women are subservient to men in the Islamic culture.

“So much so, that often they are beaten for not wearing the ‘hajib’ or for talking to a man who is not a direct family member or their husband. Yep, the Muslims are all for women’s rights, aren’t they?

Click here: Women’s Rights Under Sharia

Where were Muslims during World War II? They were aligned with Adolf Hitler. The Muslim grand mufti himself met with Adolf Hitler, reviewed the troops and accepted support from the Nazis in killing Jews.

Click here: Amazon.com: Icon of Evil: Hitler’s Mufti and the Rise of Radical Islam (9781400066537): David G. Dalin, John F. Ro

“Finally, Mr. Obama, where were Muslims on Sept. 11th, 2001? If they weren’t flying planes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon or a field in Pennsylvania killing nearly 3,000 people on our own soil, they were rejoicing in the Middle East….

And THAT, Mr. Obama, is the “rich heritage” Muslims have here in America…”

Interviewed by Top Right News, Lees, 48, said he had never before been fired and had been coaching since 1992.

Click here: Just Two Days After Sharing an ‘Open Letter’ to Obama on Facebook, This Veteran Coach Was Forced to Resign | Top R

Fryeburg Academy is a private school in Fryeburg, Maine.

Lees said that he was supposed to meet with Head of Schools Erin Mayo and Dean Charlie Tryder on March 19.  But Athletic Director Sue Thurston told him a decision to fire him had already been made.

Mayo told Top Right News that “Scott Lees did post a message on Facebook regarding Muslim people last week that was negative and, of course, public in nature.”

Mayo was right on two counts about the Facebook post: It was negative and public.

What she didn’t say was: It was also entirely historically accurate. It did not urge its readers to violate the law.  It did not defame anyone (unless telling the truth about a group’s documented activities counts as defamation).

This is similar to the policies–and atmosphere–of the Joseph McCarthy “smear and fear” era of the 1950s.  You didn’t have to actually be proven an actual Communist, or even a Communist sympathizer.

All that was needed to condemn you to permanent unemployment was to become “controversial.”  That way, the employer didn’t have to actually prove the employee’s unfitness.

An employee’s right to out-of-work speech should be fully protected unless it crosses the legal line–such as committing libel or urging others to violate the law.

And employers who fire him for embracing his First Amendment right should be criminally prosecuted.

Until this happens, the workplace will continue to resemble George Orwell’s vision of 1984–a world where anyone can become a “non-person” for the most trivial of reasons.

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