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A DARK, UNSEEN ROOM

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on April 1, 2015 at 12:11 am

Adolf Hitler had a warning for the Indiana legislators who passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

A warning they should have heeded–but didn’t.

It all started on June 22, 1941.

On that date, Hitler ordered his powerful Wehrmacht to invade the Soviet Union.

Less than two years earlier, in August, 1939, he had signed a “non-aggression” pact with his longtime arch-enemy, Joseph Stalin.

Since then, his army had conquered Poland, Norway, Denmark, Holland, Belgium and France.

Adolf Hitler with his generals

Now, he believed, it was time to “settle accounts” with the Soviet Union.

Only there could Germany obtain the “living space” it “needed” for its expanding population.

So at 3 a.m. on June 22, 1941, Hitler once again launched an invasion.

At first, Hitler–no doubt like the Indiana legislators–felt giddy with excitement.

Turning to Alfred Jodl, his chief of operations of the Wehrmacht, he said: “We have only to kick in the door and the whole rotten structure will come crashing down.”

German soldiers marching through Russia

But soon afterward–almost as if he had just looked into the future and seen that he had none–he told an aide: “At the beginning of each campaign, one pushes a door into a dark, unseen room.  One can never know what is hiding inside.

That certainly proved true for Hitler.

Within four years, he was dead and his once-powerful army was reduced to a disorganized rabble.

And now the law of unintended consequences–what can happen when you “push a door into a dark, unseen room”–may be coming true for Indiana.

On March 26, its governor, Mike Pence, signed into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

This will allow any individual or corporation to cite its religious beliefs as a defense when sued by a private party.

Officially, its intent is to prevent the government from forcing business owners to act in ways contrary to strongly held religious beliefs.

Unofficially, its intent is to appease the hatred of gays and lesbians by the religious Right, a key constituency of the Republican party.

In short, a bakery that doesn’t want to make a cake to be used at a gay wedding or a restaurant that doesn’t want to serve lesbian patrons will have the legal right to refuse to do so.

The bill was passed overwhelmingly by both chambers of the Republican-controlled state legislature.  And signed into law by a Republican governor.

Indiana Governor Mike Pence 

“Today I signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, because I support the freedom of religion for every Hoosier of every faith,” Mike Pence said in a statement on the day he signed the bill.

“The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action.”

Bill-signing ceremonies are usually highly public events.  Governors–and presidents–normally want their constituents to see them creating new legislation.

Yet for all his praise for the bill, Pence signed it in a ceremony closed to the public and the press.  The media were asked to leave even the waiting area of the governor’s office.

It’s almost as if Pence sensed–like Hitler–that he was about to push open “a door into a dark, unseen room.” And this may well be the case.

Through that door may soon march the First Church of Cannabis.

The day after Pence signed the Act, church founder Bill Levin announced on his Facebook page that he had filed paperwork with the office of the Indiana Secretary of State.

Its registration had been approved–and Levin was ecstatic: “Now we begin to accomplish our goals of Love, Understanding, and Good Health.

“Donate $100 or more and become a GREEN ANGEL.

“Donate $500 or more and become a GOLD ANGEL.

“Donate $1000 or more and become a CHURCH POOHBA.”

Click here: Whoops: Indiana’s Anti-Gay ‘Religious Freedom’ Act Opens the Door For the First Church of Cannabis | Alternet

And Levin had a personal comment for the governor who had made it all possible:

“Dear Mikey Pence…

“DUDE!.. keep crapping all over the state.. and I will plant a seed of LOVE, UNDERSTANDING and COMPASSION in each pile you leave.. and it will grow into a big skunky cannabis tree. Crap away Mikey.. Crap Away…”

No doubt many Indiana legislators are furious that their effort to attack gays may have brought legal marijuana to their highly conservative state.

But worse may be to come.

Since 9/11, Right-wingers such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity have warned that Muslims are trying to impose Sharia (Islamic law) on America.

And now Indiana’s legislators, in elevating religion above the law, may have pushed upon that door “into a dark, unseen room.”

Ironically, this may not be so far removed from the goals of the Republican party as many think. Both the party and adherents of Sharia agree:

  • Women should have fewer rights than men.
  • Abortion should be illegal.
  • There should be no separation between church and state.
  • Religion should be taught in school.
  • Religious doctrine trumps science.
  • Government should be based on religious doctrine.
  • Homosexuality should be outlawed.

What will happen when some Muslims in Indiana claim their right–guaranteed in Islamic religious law–to have as many as four wives?

And when they claim that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act protects that right?

Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy nightmare.

YOU WILL LOVE IT–OR ELSE

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on March 31, 2015 at 2:48 am

During the 12-year insanity of the Third Reich, Nazs labeled their acts of savagery as “self-defense.”

But any nation that dared to defend itself against Nazi assault was instantly charged with “naked aggression.”

This remains the mindset and practice of American Right-wingers.

The latest example: The enactment of the so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Indiana.

Indiana Governor Mike Pence 

Officially, the Act allows any individual or corporation to cite its religious beliefs as a defense when sued by a private party.

But its opponents argue that it will unleash widespread discrimination against gays and lesbians.  And they’re now threatening or organizing boycotts of Indiana.

Among those companies and organizations publicly opposing the law:

  • Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
  • Apple Inc.
  • Yelp!
  • The National Basketball Association
  • Twitter
  • Angie’s List
  • The Disciples of Christ
  • Eli Lilly and Co.

So, in the end, economic pressures may force the Right-wingers who seek to legalize discrimination to back off.

Exactly this happened in 2012.

Karen Handel, vice president of public affairs for Susan G. Komen for the Cure, fashioned what she believed was a politically viable plan for Komen to pull its grant monies from Planned Parenthood (PP).

A fanatical anti-abortionist, she didn’t care that this money went entirely for breast cancer screenings for poor women.  She careed only that about 3% of all PP revenues went toward providing abortion services.

The official version, as put out by Handel and the top brass of Komen, went: “We’ve halted grants to Planned Parenthood because it’s under investigation by Congress for misuse of funds.”

Unfortunately for Komen, the public instantly saw through the lie.

Any crank in Congress can start an “investigation” into anything.

And PP was “under investigation” by just such a crank: Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), chairman of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.

Stearns, a fanatical anti-abortionist, claimed he wanted to determine whether PP had spent public money on abortions over the last decade.

But Stearns didn’t hesitate to slander the patriotism of thousands of 9/11 “first responders”–the police, firefighters, construction workers and others who risked their lives to save their fellow Americans.

“First responders” at work at World Trade Center

He did so by demanding that they submit their names, birthplaces, addresses, government ID numbers and other personal data to the FBI to prove they were not terrorists. 

Only then could they receive federally-subsidized medical care for injuries caused by exposure to toxic dust and debris at the site.

Public outrage at Komen was immediate and overwhelming:

  •  More than 50 members of Congress signed letters asking Komen to reverse course.
  •  New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg publicly rebuked Komen and pledged $250,000 to PP.
  • Approximately 37,000 people from all over the country signed a petition demanding Handel’s resignation.
  • PP raised nearly $3 million in contributions.

Reeling before this onslaught of criticism, Komen issued a statement: “We will continue to fund existing grants, including those of Planned Parenthood, and preserve their eligibility to apply for future grants.”

Having failed in their latest assault on women’s rights, the Right’s would-be predators now portrayed themselves as victims:

  • “The last time I checked,” Handel told Right-wing Fox News, “private non-profit organizations have a right and a responsibility to be able to set the highest standards and criteria on their own without interference, let alone the level of vicious attacks and coercion that has occurred by Planned Parenthood.  It’s simply outrageous.”
  • “Planned Parenthood campaigns to destroy anyone who questions them,” charged Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List.
  • “Their attitude is that of an immature teenager with an enormous sense of entitlement.  This is just more proof that Planned Parenthood will pulverize anyone who dares to question them,” Dannenfelser said.
  • “What Planned Parenthood did to that venerable and honorable organization [Komen Foundation] is nothing less than a Mafia-style shakedown,” said Steven H. Aden, senior counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund.  The Fund bitterly opposes abortion, gay marriage, birth control and the separation of church and state.

Many conservatives correctly defended Komen’s right, as a private charitable organization, to give–or withhold–its money as it saw fit.

But these same conservatives refused to grant PP’s outraged supporters the same right:To withhold their own contributions from Komen. 

National Review’s Daniel Foster called the backlash to Komen “disgusting,” attacking PP and “the Left” for their “gangsterism.”

During the battle for Stalingrad, in 1942, a young German soldier named Wilhelm Hoffman was appalled that the Russians refused to surrender.  In his diary he wrote:

German soldiers at Stalingrad

“September 26. Our regiment is involved in constant heavy fighting. After the elevator was taken the Russians continued to defend themselves just as stubbornly.

“You don’t see them at all, they have established themselves in houses and cellars and are firing on all sides, including from our rear–barbarians, they use gangster methods. Stalingrad is hell . . .

What held true for German Fascists holds equally true for those in America: Oppose their efforts to enslave you–and you become a gangster.

BE YOUR OWN MAR MARSHAL

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on March 30, 2015 at 9:22 am

On June 5, 2013, the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) finally came face-to-face with reality.

It announced that it was abandoning its plan to let passengers carry small knives, baseball bats, golf clubs and other sports equipment onto planes, as it had originally intended.

Of course, TSA didn’t drop this plan because it wanted to.  It did so because of fierce opposition from passengers, Congressional leaders and airline industry officials.

TSA Administrator John Pistole had unveiled the proposal in March, saying that in these days of hardened cockpit doors, armed off-duty pilots traveling on planes and other preventive measures, small folding knives could not be used by terrorists to take over a plane.

He said that intercepting them takes time that would be better used searching for explosives and other more serious threats.

TSA screeners confiscate over 2,000 small folding knives a day from passengers.

The proposal would have permitted folding knives with blades that are 2.36 inches (6 centimeters) or less in length and are less than 1/2 inch (1 centimeter) wide. The aim was to allow passengers to carry pen knives, corkscrews with small blades and other knives.

Passengers also would also have been allowed to bring onboard novelty-sized baseball bats less than 24 inches long, toy plastic bats, billiard cues, ski poles, hockey sticks, lacrosse sticks and two golf clubs.

The United States has gradually eased airline security measures that took effect after 9/11.

In 2005, TSA said it would let passengers carry on small scissors, knitting needles, tweezers, nail clippers and up to four books of matches.  The agency began focusing on keeping explosives off planes, because intelligence officials believed that was the greatest threat to commercial aviation.

With regard to the use of edged weapons as terrorist tools:

  • The terrorists who highjacked four jetliners and turned them into flying bombs on September 11, 2001, used only boxcutters to cut the throats of stewards and stewardesses; and
  • They then either forced their way into the cockpits and overpowered and murdered the pilots, or lured the pilots to leave the cabins and murdered them.

It’s also worth remembering that for all the publicity given the TSA’s “Air Marshal” program, it’s been airline passengers who have repeatedly been the ones to subdue unruly fliers.

Consider the following incidents:

  • On August 11, 2000, Jonathan Burton, a passenger aboard a Southwest Airlines flight tried to break into the cockpit was killed by other passengers who restrained him.
  • On May 9, 2011, crew members and passengers wrestled a 28-year-old man to the cabin floor after he began pounding on the cockpit door of a plane approaching San Francisco.
  • On February 21, 2012, passengers aboard a Continental Airlines flight from Portland to Houston rushed to aid a flight attendant subdue a Middle Eastern man who began shouting, “Allah is great!”
  • On March 27, 2012, a JetBlue flight from new York to Las Vegas was forced to land in Texas after the pilot started shouting about bombs and al-Qaeda and had to be subdued by passengers.
  • On January 9, 2013, passengers on board an international flight from Reykjavik to New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport subdued an unruly passenger by tying him to his seat with duct tape and zip ties after he began screaming and hitting other passengers.
  • On May 27, 2013, a passenger aboard an Alaska Airlines flight from Anchorage to Portland, Oregon, tried to open an airplane door in-flight and was subdued by passengers and crew members until the plane landed in Portland.

In every one of these incidents, it’s been passengers–not the vaunted Air Marshals–who have been the first and major line of defense against mentally unstable or terroristically inclined passengers.

In opposing TSA’s proposal to loosen security restrictions, skeptical lawmakers, airlines, labor unions and law enforcement groups argued that knives and other items could be used to injure or kill passengers and crew.

Such weapons would have increased the dangers posed by the above-cited passengers (and a pilot) who erupted in frightening behavior.

Prior to 9/11, commercial airline pilots and passengers were warned: If someone tries to highjack the plane, just stay calm and do what he says.

So many airplanes were directed by highjackers to land in Fidel Castro’s Cuba that these incidents became joke fodder for stand-up comedians.

And, up to 9/11, the advice to cooperate fully with highjackers and land the planes where they wanted worked.  No planes and no lives were lost.

But during 9/11, passengers and crew–with one exception–cooperated fully with the highjackers’ demands.

And all of them died horrifically when three of those jetliners were deliberately crashed into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

World Trade Center under airplane attack

Only on United Flight 93 did the passengers and crew fight back.

In doing so, they accomplished what soldiers, military pilots, the CIA and the FBI could not: They thwarted the terrorists, sacrificing their own lives and preventing the fourth plane from destroying the White House of the Capitol Building.

Memorial to the passengers and crew of United Flight 93

Since every airline passenger must now become his or her own Air Marshal, it seems only appropriate that the criminals they face be rendered as harmless as possible.

IS THERE A HITLER IN YOUR CEO?

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 27, 2015 at 4:19 pm

Would-be CEOs and Fuehrers, listen up: Character is destiny.

Case in point: The ultimate Fuehrer and CEO, Adolf Hitler.

Ever since he shot himself in his underground Berlin bunker on April 30, 1945, historians have fiercely debated: Was der Fuehrer a military genius or an imbecile?

With literally thousands of titles to choose, the average reader may feel overwhelmed.  But if you’re looking for an understandable, overall view of Hitler’s generalship, an excellent choice would be How Hitler Could Have Won World War II by Bevin Alexander.

Among “the fatal errors that led to Nazi defeat” (as proclaimed on the book jacket) were:

  • Wasting hundreds of Luftwaffe pilots, fighters and bombers in a half-hearted attempt to conquer England.
  • Ignoring the pleas of generals like Erwin Rommel to conquer Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia–thus giving Germany control of most of the world’s oil.
  • Attacking his ally, the Soviet Union, while still at war with Great Britain.
  • Needlessly turning millions of Russians into enemies rather than allies by his brutal and murderous policies.
  • Declaring war on the United States after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.  (Had he not done so, Americans would have focused all their attention on conquering Japan.)
  • Refusing to negotiate a separate peace with Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin–thus granting Germany a large portion of captured Russian territory in exchange for letting Stalin remain in power.
  • Insisting on a “not one step back” military “strategy” that led to the unnecessary surrounding, capture and/or deaths of hundreds of thousands of German servicemen.

As the war turned increasingly against him, Hitler became ever more rigid in his thinking.

He demanded absolute control over the smallest details of his forces.  This, in turn, led to astounding and needless losses in German soldiers.

One such incident was immortalized in the 1962 movie, The Longest Day, about the Allied invasion of France known as D-Day.

On June 6, 1944, Rommel ordered the panzer tanks to drive the Allies from the Normandy beaches.  But these could not be released except on direct order of theFuehrer.  As Hitler’s chief of staff, General Alfred Jodl, informed Rommel: The Fuehrer was asleep–and, no, he, Jodl, would not wake him. By the time Hitler awoke and issued the order, it was too late.

Nor could he accept responsibility for the policies that were clearly leading Germany to certain defeat.  Hitler blamed his generals, accused them of cowardice, and relieved many of the best ones from command.

Among those sacked was Heinz Guderian, creator of the German panzer corps–and thus responsible for its highly effective “blitzkrieg” campaign against France in 1940.

Heinz Guderian

Another was Erich von Manstein, designer of the strategy that defeated France in six weeks–something Germany couldn’t do during the four years of World War 1.

Erich von Manstein

Finally, on April 29, 1945–with the Russians only blocks from his underground bunker in Berlin–Hitler dictated his “Last Political Testament.”

Once again, he refused to accept responsibility for unleashing a war that would ultimately consume 50 million lives:

“It is untrue that I or anyone else in Germany wanted war in 1939.  It was desired and instigated exclusively by those international statesmen who either were of Jewish origin or worked for Jewish interests.”

Hitler had launched the war with a lie–that Poland had attacked Germany, rather than vice versa.  And he closed the war–and his life–with a final lie.

All of which, once again, brings us back to Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of political science.

In his classic book, The Discourses, he wrote at length on the best ways to maintain liberty within a republic.

In Book Three, Chapter 31, Machiavelli declares: “Great Men and Powerful Republics Preserve an Equal Dignity and Courage in Prosperity and Adversity.”

It is a chapter that Adolf Hitler would have done well to read.

“…A truly great man is ever the same under all circumstances.  And if his fortune varies, exalting him at one moment and oppressing him at another, he himself never varies, but always preserves a firm courage, which is so closely interwoven with his character that everyone can readily see that the fickleness of fortune has no power over him.

“The conduct of weak men is very different.  Made vain and intoxicated by good fortune, they attribute their success to merits which they do not possess, and this makes them odious and insupportable to all around them. 

And when they have afterwards to meet a reverse of fortune, they quickly fall into the other extreme, and become abject and vile.  

“Thence it comes that princes of this character think more of flying in adversity than of defending themselves, like men who, having made a bad use of prosperity, are wholly unprepared for any defense against reverses.”

Stay alert to signs of such character flaws among your own business colleagues–and especially your superiors.  They are the warning signs of a future catastrophe.

CREATING FELONS WITH A WORD

In Bureaucracy, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on March 25, 2015 at 2:54 am

New York State prisons are about to get a lot fuller.

New York State Senator Tony Avella is sponsoring a bill to create a felony charge– “aggravated resisting arrest”–for people who have been convicted of resisting arrest twice in a 10-year period.

Under current law, resisting arrest is a misdemeanor, carrying a maximum penalty of one year in prison.

If the charge became a felony, those convicted could be sentenced from four years of probation to life in prison.

The bill has its origins in a letter the Lieutenants Benevolent Association–a police union–sent to New York Police Department (NYPD) Commissioner Bill Bratton in January requesting a change in the current law.

State Senator Avella’s proposed legislation reads as follows:

“A person is guilty of aggravated resisting arrest when he or she commits the crime of resisting arrest pursuant to Section 205.30 and has previously been convicted of such crimetwo prior times within a ten-year period.

“Aggravated resisting arrest is a class E felony.”

Click here: Bills

And Bratton, in testimony before the New York State Senate in February, supported harsher penalties for those who resist arrest.

“We need to get around this idea that you can resist arrest,” Bratton said to reporters after his appearance. “One of the ways to do that is to give penalties for that.”

This legislation–if enacted–will have both local and national implications.

Police pepper-spraying non-violent protesters

Local–because the NYPD is the largest police department in the country.  Its website states that it now has “approximately 34,500″ uniformed officers.

(To put that number into historical perspective: When Alexander the Great set out in 334 B.C. to conquer the Persian empire, his army numbered 30,000.)

National–because the NYPD is one of the most respected police departments in the country.  And other police departments will almost certainly follow suit in urging their state legislatures to pass similar legislation.

So what’s wrong with that?

“Resisting arrest” is one of those terms that can mean whatever a police officer wants it to mean.

If a prosecutor accuses someone of bank robbery, he must present valid evidence–such as witnesses, camera footage and (probably) portions of stolen money in the arrested person’s possession.

But if a cop says someone “resisted arrest,” the “evidence” often consists of only his claim.

“Resisting arrest” can mean anything–including that the person merely asked, “Why am I being arrested?”

WNYC–New York’s highly respected public radio station–reported in 2014 that 40% of resisting arrest cases are brought by five percent of police officers.

If an officer routinely claims that people are resisting arrest, this might signal his being overly aggressive toward civilians.

He might even use the criminal charge to cover up his use of excessive force.

This is especially relevant in light of a series of recent cases–some caught on camera–of police savagely beating arrestees, or using forbidden chokeholds on them.

Consider how such increased penalties could have affected the life of Tyeesha Mobley.

Mobley, 29, caught her nine-year-old son stealing $10 from her purse. She called the called the NYPD.

Can you please send over an officer to explain to my kids that stealing is wrong? she asked.

The police department obliged, sending over four officers to meet Mobley and her two boys at a nearby gas station.

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Tyeesha Mobley

The meeting started off well. “Three officers was joking around with [the nine-year-old who had stolen the $10], telling him, ‘You can’t be stealing; you’ll wind up going in the police car,’” Mobley testified at a court hearing in October, 2014.

But the fourth officer apparently resented the assignment. According to a lawsuit subsequently filed by Mobley, the following happened:

“You black bitches don’t know how to take care of your kids,” said the fourth officer.  “Why are you wasting our time?  Why don’t you take your fucking kid and leave?”

Mobley decided that was a good time to do just that

But before she could do so, the cop told her she was under arrest.

“What for?” she asked. “If you’re going to say another fucking word,” the lawsuit alleges the cop warned her, “I’m going to knock your teeth down your throat.”

He then shoved her up against a car, kicked her legs, and handcuffed her.

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Mobley spent a night in jail.  Her two boys were taken away and placed in foster care for four months–with a family that spoke no English.

Finally, a judge threw out the case against her.

Mobley has since filed a lawsuit against New York City, the NYPD and the Administration for Children’s Services.

It doesn’t take a genius to see how Mobley’s life could have been turned into an even greater hell under the proposed change in “resisting arrest” laws.

POLYGRAPH BY COPIER

In History, Law Enforcement, Self-Help on March 20, 2015 at 2:43 pm

Ever heard of “polygraph by copier”? If you haven’t, here’s how it works:

A detective loads three sheets of paper into a Xerox machine.

“Truth” has been typed onto the first sheet.

“Truth” has been typed onto the seond sheet.

“Lie” has been typed onto the third sheet. Then a criminal suspect is led into the room and told to put his hand against the side of the machine. “What is your name?” asks the detective.

The suspect gives it.

The detective hits the copy button, and a page comes out: “Truth.”

“Where do you live?” asks the detective.

The suspect gives an address, the detective again hits the copy button, and a second page appears: “Truth.”

Then comes the bonus question: “Did you or did you not kill Big Jim Tate on the evening of….?”

The suspect answers.

The detective presses the copy button one last time, and the sheet appears: “Lie.”

“Well, well, well, you lying little bastard,” says the detective.

Convinced that the police have found some mysterious way to peer into the darkest recesses of his criminality, the suspect “gives it up” and makes a full confession.

Yes, contrary to what many believe, police can legally use deceit to obtain a confession.

In 1973, the Supreme Court ruled, in United States v. Russell: “Nor will the mere fact of deceit defeat a prosecution, for there are circumstances when the use of deceit is the only practicable law enforcement technique available.”

In that case, the Court narrowly upheld a conviction for methamphetamine production even though the defendant had argued entrapment.

So what types of interrogative deceit might a police officer use to develop admissible evidence of a suspect’s guilt?

The general rule is that deception can be used so long as it’s not likely to cause an innocent person to commit a crime or confess to a crime that s/he didn’t commit.

Click here: The Lawful Use of Deception – Article – POLICE Magazine

Consider the following examples:

  • A detective is interviewing a suspect in a rape case.  “Oh, that girl,” he says, thus implying that the victim was a slut and had it coming.  The suspect, thinking he’s dealing with a sympathetic listener, starts bragging about his latest conquest–only to learn, too late, that his listener isn’t so simpatico after all.
  • “We found your prints on the gun”–or on any number of other surfaces.  Actually, there are few good places on a pistol to leave prints.  And those that are left can be smeared.  The same goes for other surfaces.  But if a suspect can be led to believe the cops have his prints, a confession is often forthcoming.
  • A police officer is interrogating a suspect in a murder case.  “He came at you, didn’t he?” asks the cop.  The suspect, who murdered the victim in cold blood, thinks he has an escape route.  “Yeah, he came at me”–this confirming that, yes, he did kill the deceased.
  • “Your partner just gave you up” is a favorite police strategen when there is more than one suspect involved.  If one suspect can be made to “flip”–turn–against the other, the case is essentially wrapped up.
  • Interrogating a bank robbery suspect, a cop might say: “We know you didn’t do the shooting, that you were only the wheelman.”  This implies that the penalty for driving the getaway car is far less than that for killing someone during a robbery.  In fact, criminal law allows every member of the conspiracy to be charged as a principal.
  • “I don’t give a damn what you did,” says the detective.  “Just tell me why you did it.”  For some suspects, this offers a cathartic release, a chance to justify their guilt.
  • The “good cop/bad cop” routine is known to everyone who has ever seen a police drama.  Yet it continues to yield results so often it continues to be routinely used.  “Look, I believe you,” says the “good” cop, “but my partner’s a real asshole.  Just tell me what happened so we can clear this up and you can go.”
  • “So,” says the detective, “why do you think the police believe you did it?”  “I have no idea,” says the suspect, confident that he isn’t giving up anything that might come back to haunt him.  “Well,” says the cop, “I guess you’ll just have to make something up.”  Make something up sounds easy, but is actually a trap.  The suspect may end up giving away details that could incriminate him–or lying so brazenly that his lies can be used against him.

So is there a best way for a suspect to deal with an invitation to waive his Mirandaright to remain silent?

Yes, there is.

It’s to refuse to say anything and to ask for permission to call a lawyer.

That’s the preferred method for Mafia hitmen–and accused police officers. Any cop who finds himself under investigation by his department’s Internal Affairs unit automatically shuts up–and calls his lawyer.

Any other response–no matter how well-intentioned–may well result in a lengthy prison sentence.

VIETNAM IN THE MIDDLE EAST

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics on March 19, 2015 at 11:55 am

Michael Hastings was the Rolling Stone reporter whose article on “The Runaway General” ended the illustrious military career of General Stanley McCrystal.

In 2012, Hastings greatly expanded on his article with a vividly-written book: The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America’s War in Afghanistan.

According to its hardcover dust jacket: “General Stanley McCrystal, the innovative, forward-thinking, commanding general of international and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, was living large.  He was better known to some as Big Stan, M4, Stan, and his loyal staff liked to call him a ‘rock star.’

General Stanley A. McCrystal

“During a spring 2010 trip across Europe to garner additional allied help for the war effort, McCrystal was accompanied by journalist Michael Hastings of Rolling Stone.

“For days, Hastings looked on as McCrystal and his staff let off steam, partying and openly bashing the Obama administration for what they saw as a lack of leadership.

“When Hastings’ piece appeared a few months later, it set off a poltical firestorm: McCrystal was ordred to Washington where he was fired uncereminously.”

But there is an even deeper element to be found within Hastings’ book–that is, for anyone with even a general knowledge of the war in Vietnam.

Hastings does not make any direct parallels between the almost 14-year conflict in Afghanistan and the  conflict that raged in Vietnam from 1961 to 1975.  But those parallels are definitely there for anyone to see.

Consider:

  • Ngo Dinh Diem, the “president” of South Vietnam (1955-1963) was a Catholic mandarin who was alienated from an overwhelmingly poor, 95% Buddhist country.
  • Hamid Karzai, the “president” of Afghanistan (2001-2014t) is from a wealthy Pashtun family and is alienated from members of other Afghan tribes.
  • Diem’s authority didn’t extend far beyond Saigon.
  • Karzai’s authority didn’t extend beyond Kabul.
  • Diem didn’t believe in democracy–despite American claims to support his efforts to bring it to Vietnam.
  • Ditto for Karzai–despite American claims to support his efforts to bring democracy to Afghanistan.
  • Diem was widely regarded in Vietnam as an illegitimate leader, imposed by the Americans.
  • Ditto for Karzai.

Ngo Dinh Diem

Hamid Karzai

  • American soldiers were sent to Vietnam because America feared Communism.
  • American soldiers were sent to Afghanistan because America feared terrorism.
  • Americans were ordered to train the South Vietnamese to defend themselves against Communism.
  • American troopss were ordered to train the Afghan army to defend themselves against terrorism.
  • Americans quickly determined that the South Vietnamese army was worthless–and decided to fight the Vietcong in its place.
  • Americans quickly determined that the Afghan army was worthless–and decided to fight the Taliban in its place.

American soldiers in Vietnam

  • There was massive distrust between American and South Vietnamese soldiers.
  • Ditto for relations between American and Afghan soldiers.
  • American soldiers in Vietnam felt surrounded by enemies and hamstrung by unrealistic orders to win “hearts and minds” at the risk of their own lives.
  • Ditto for American soldiers stationed in Afghanistan.
  • President John F. Kennedy doubted that Americans could win a war in Vietnam and tried to contain the conflict.
  • President Barack Obama came into office determined to contain the Afghan conflict and withdraw American troops as soon as possible.
  • In the early 1960s, the Pentagon saw Vietnam as “the only war we’ve got” and pressed to insert greater numbers of men.
  • In 2001, the Pentagon saw Afghanistan as “the only war we’ve got” and pressed to insert greater numbers of men.

American soldiers in Afghanistan

  • The Vietcong and North Vietnamese Army (NVA) posed no threat to the security of the United States.
  • The Taliban poses no threat to the security of the United States.
  • The far Right embraced the Vietnam war as a way to assert American power in Asia.
  • The far Right embraced the Afghan war–and later the war on Iraq–as a way to assert American power in the Middle East.
  • Counterinsurgency was preached as the key to defeating the Vietcong in Vietnam–where it didn’t work.
  • Counterinsurgency is now being preached as the key to defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan–where it hasn’t worked.
  • Americans entered Vietnam without an exit strategy.
  • Americans entered Afghanistan without an exit strategy.

From this, the United States should draw several conclusions:

  • Commit forces only when American security is truly threatened.
  • Go in with overwhelming force, destroy as much of the enemy as quickly as possible, then get out.
  • Occupations are costly in lives and treasure–as Napoleon and Hitler discovered–and should be avoided.
  • Don’t try to remake the cultures of other nations–especially those of a primitive, alien nature such as Afghanistan.

Hastings’ book does not cover the Afghan war to its end.  It can’t, since there is no telling when that war will end.

But by the end of its 379 pages, it’s clear what that outcome will be: Another futile exercise in “nation-building” at an exorbitant cost in American lives and treasure.

TRUMPING DEMOCRACY–AGAIN

In Politics, Bureaucracy, History on March 18, 2015 at 11:09 am

On March 18, Right-wing businessman and “reality” television celebrity Donald Trump announced plans to form a presidential exploratory committee.

“I am the only one who can make America truly great again,” he declared.

With this in mind, it’s well to recall his behavior during the 2012 Presidential election.

On April 17, 2011, toying with the idea of entering the Presidential race, the always self-promoting Trump 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.

Donald Trump

“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 Romney himself may 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.

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.”

Mitt Romney

Throughout the 2012 Presidential race, Trump continued to “help” Romney–by repeatedly accusing President Barack Obama of not being an American citizen.

Had that been true, Obama would not have had the right to be President–since the Constitution says that only an American citizen can hold this position.

Of course, that was entirely what Trump wanted people to believe–that Obama was an illegitimate President, and deserved to be thrown out.

Come election night–and disaster for Romney.  And Trump.

When it became clear that Romney was not going to be America’s 45th President, Trump went ballistic on Twitter.  Among his tweets:

  • More votes equals a loss…revolution!
  • Lets fight like hell and stop this great and disgusting injustice!  The world is laughing at us.
  • We can’t let this happen.  We should march on Washington and stop this travesty.  Our nation is totally divided!
  • The phoney electoral college made a laughing stock out of our nation.  The loser one!
  • He lost the popular vote by a lot and won the election.  We should have a revolution in this country!

To put Trump’s rants into real-world perspective:

  • According to Trump, the electoral process works when a Republican wins the Presidency.  It only doesn’t work when a Democrat wins.
  • We should march on Washington” conjures up images of another Fascist–Benito Mussolini–marching on Rome at the head of his Blackshirts to sieze power.  Which is no doubt what Trump would love to do himself.
  • “The phoney electoral college made a laughing stock out of our nation.  The loser one!”

This is absurd on three counts (four, if you count Trump’s misspelling of “won”).

First, the 2012 Republican Platform spoke lovingly about the need for preserving the Electoral College:

“We oppose the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact or any other scheme to abolish or distort the procedures of the Electoral College.

“We recognize that an unconstitutional effort to impose ‘national popular vote’ would be a mortal threat to our federal system and a guarantee of corruption as every ballot box in every state would become a chance to steal the presidency.”

Second, the loser didn’t win: He lost.  With votes still being counted (as of November 8) Obama got 60,652,238.  Romney got 57,810,407.

Third, in 2000, Al Gore won the popular vote (50,999,897) to George W. Bush’s 50,456,002.  But Bush trounced Gore in the Electoral College (271 to 266).

Still, that meant Bush–not Gore–would head the country for the next eight years.  And that was perfectly OK with right-wingers like Trump.

It was only when Obama won the Electoral College count by 332 to 206 that this was–according to Trump–a “travesty.”

And Trump’s solution if voters dare to elect someone other than Trump’s pet choice: “Revolution!”

This comes perilously close to advocating violent overthrow of the government.  Otherwise known as treason–a crime traditionally punished by execution, or at least lengthy imprisonment.

In 2016, Americans would do well to consider the implications of this in the case of Donald Trump.

THE LEFT AND RIGHT AGREE: CENSORSHIP IS GOOD

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics on March 16, 2015 at 5:02 pm

Dictators on the Right and Left have different goals, but their tactics always remain the same. And chief among these tactics is the use of censorship–to glorify themselves and silence anyone who disagrees with them.

A dramatic example of censorship on the Left occurred in April, 1986,courtesy of Mikhail Gorbachev, recently-installed leader of the Soviet Union.

Elected General Secretary on March 11, 1985 by members of the ruling Communist Party, Gorbachev had quickly set out to revitalize the ailing empire he had inherited.

He introduced two new words to both the Soviet and Western vocabularies: “glasnost” (“openness”) and “perestroika” (“restructuring”).

It was “glasnost” that attracted immediate attention from Western scholars and journalists.  Gorbachev seemed to be promsing an end to rigid Soviet censorship of the press–for both Soviets and foreign correspondents.

The first test of this new polilcy came on April 26, 1986. An explosion blew the roof off the fourth reactor building at the Chornobyl nuclear power plant in Kiev, Ukraine. Massive quantities of radioactive particles began spewing into the air.

Explosion at Chernobyl nuclear power plant

And the Soviet government–supposedly committed to a policy of “openness”–reacted with silence.

No warnings went out to the Ukraine, to other parts of the Soviet Union, or to nations beyond the reach of the Red Army.

At 9 a.m. on April 28–more than 55 and a half hours after the explosion–an alarm sounded at the Forsmark Nuclear Power station in Sweden.

High amounts of radioactivity were being detected, but nobody knew from where.

The radiation spread to Denmark, Finland and Norway.  Scandinavian experts quickly traced the fallout to its source: The Chernobyl nuclear plant in Ukraine.

But when Swedish authorities directly asked the Soviet government for an explanation, the reply they got was: Nothing happened.

On April 28 the Kremlin issued a statement: “An accident occurred at the Chornobyl Atomic Power Plant and one of the reactors was damaged. Measures have been undertaken to eliminate the consequences of the accident.”

As Moscow tried to keep a lid on the expanding catastrophe, Ukrainians tuned in to broadcasts over Radio Free Europe, the Voice of America or Radio Liberty.

But picking up these broadcasts was hard, because the Soviets–despite “glasnost”–continued their decades-old policy of jamming foreign radio stations.

On April 29, the Kremlin finally admitted that an “accident” at Chernobyl had killed two people, but “the situation has now been stabilized” and was under control.

American spy satelliltes, however, relayed pictures of fires still burning out of control at Chernobyl while Soviet aircraft circled the plant dumping chemicals to stop the blaze.

Meanwhile, Soviet TV “news” commentators parroted the line that there was nothing to worry about.

On April 30, the “news” led with a story about spring flowers in Ukraine and preparations for the annual May Day celebration in Moscow.

But the truth finally caught up with the Soviets.

By May 1986, about a month later, all those living within a 19 mile of the plant (about 116,000 people) had been relocated. According to reports from Soviet scientists, 10,800 square miles were contaminated.

Roughly 830,000 people lived in this area. Some reports project 30,000 to 60,000 excess cancer deaths, with predicted excess cases of thyroid cancer ranging between 18,000 and 66,000 in Belarus alone, depending on the risk-projection model.

Right-wingers also embrace censorship when it suits their aims. Such as in Florida–where coastal islands face the treat of being swallowed by the ocean and daily floods create nightmares for highway travelers.

But Rick Scott–its Republican Governor and a 2916 Presidential hopeful–doesn’t believe in “climate change’ or “global warming.”  Asked by a reporter for his views on the subject, he fobbed off the question with, “Well, I’m not a scientist.”

Smiling through the coming apocalypse: Rick Scott

Accordingly, he has ordered members of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to stop using those terms “global warming” and “climate change” in official correspondence.

DEP has a $1.4 billion budget and 3,200 employees, but is forbidden to speak openly about perhaps the foremost danger now facing Floridians.

According to the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting (FCIR) the policy is “unwritten” and was “distributed verbally statewide.”

Just as the Nazis passed down many of their orders verbally, to ensure deniability, so has Scott.

Accordingly, John Tupps, Scott’s spokesman, assured The Washington Post: “There is no policy in existence. … Allegations and claims made in the [Florida investigative article] are not true. This policy, it doesn’t exist.”

But FCIR has no reservations about exposing the issue that threatens the very existence of the state.

“The irony is clearly apparent,” said Tristam Korten, one of FCIR’s writers. “Florida is a peninsula with 1,200 miles of coastline, and when it comes to climate change, we’re the canary in the coalmine. And we’re relying on the state government to protect us and to plan for these changes.”

Rising sea levels threaten Miami–and the rest of Florida

Further proof of the governor’s censorship decree comes from statements of former DEP employees.

One of these, Kristina Trotta, was told during a 2014 meeting that she couldn’t employ terms such as “climate change” and “global warming.”

“We were told that we were not allowed to discuss anything that was not a true fact. The regional administrator told us that we are the governor’s agency; this is the message from the governor’s office. And that is the message we will portray.”

HOW TO BE A SMARTER EXECUTIVE

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Self-Help on March 13, 2015 at 12:08 am

“The man who builds a factory,” said President Calvin Coolidge, “builds a temple.  And the man who works there worships there.”

Many American corporate executives still feel about themselves–nd their employees.  But those heady days of knee-jerk worship of CEOs and their oversize salaries and egos are over–at least, temporarily.

Americans have reluctantly learned that the robber barons who rule Wall Street arenot God’s own elect.

Even Ayn Rand disciple Allen Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve chairman and a longtime champion of de-regulation, has admitted he totally underestimated the role greed plays in the making of financial decisions.

It’s thus time for Americans to demand wholesale reforms in the ways corporate executives are allowed to operate. And a good place to start is with the advice of Niccolo Machiavelli.

The Florentine statesman (1469-1527) wrote extensively about how bureaucracies truly work–as opposed to how people believe they do.

Niccolo Machiavelli

Consider the following from his book, The Prince, which offers instruction on how to attain and retain power:

  • IMITATE THOSE WHO HAVE ATTAINED GREATNESS: Not always being able to follow others exactly, nor attain to the excellence of those he imitates, a prudent man should always follow in the paths trodden by great men and imitate those who are most excellent….  If he does not attain to their greatness, at any rate he will get some tinge of it.
  • DON’T RELY ON LOVE:  …I conclude, therefore, with regard to being loved and feared, that men love at their own free will, but fear at the will of the prince, and that a wise prince must rely on what is in his power and not on what is in the power of others, and he must only contrive to avoid incurring hatred….
  • NEED TO BE PRACTICAL:  A man who wishes to make a profession of goodness in everything must inevitably come to grief among so many who are not good.  And therefore it is necessary for a prince, who wishes to maintain himself, to learn how not to be good, and to use this knowledge and not use it, according to the necessity of the case.
  • CAUTION AND BOLDNESS: A [leader]…must imitate the fox and the lion, for the lion cannot protect himself from traps, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves.  One must therefore be a fox to avoid traps, and a lion to frighten wolves.  Those who wish to be only lions do not realize this.
  • SANCTIONS VS. FAVORS:  [Leaders] should let the carrying out of unfavorable duties devolve to others, and bestow favors themselves.
  • RISK AS A GIVEN: Let no [leader] believe that [he] can always follow a safe policy, rather let [he] think that all are doubtful.  This is found in the nature of things, that one never tries to avoid one difficulty without running into another, but prudence consists in being able to know the nature of the difficulties, and taking the least harmful as good.
  • A RULER’S SUBORDINATES: The first impression that one gets of a ruler and his brains is from seeing the men that he has about him.  When they are competent and loyal one can always consider him wise, as he has been able to recognize their ability and keep them faithful.
  • But when they are the reverse, one can always form an unfavorable opinion of him, because the first mistake that he makes is in making this choice.
  • EVALUATING COMPETENCE:  There are three different kinds of brains: the one understands things unassisted, the other understands things when shown by others, the third understands neither alone nor with the explanations of others.  The first kind is most excellent; the second is also excellent; but the third is useless.
  • OVERCOMING ONE’S OWN NATURE:  No man can be found so prudent as to be able to adopt himself to [time and circumstances], either because he cannot deviate from that to which his nature disposes him.
  • Or else because having always prospered by walking in one path, he cannot persuade himself that it is well to leave it; and therefore the cautious man, when it is time to act suddenly, does not know how to do so and is consequently ruined.  For if one could change one’s nature with time and circumstances, fortune would never change.
  • ENSURING LOYALTY:  A wise prince will seek means by which his subjects will always have need of his government, and then they will always be faithful to him.
  • CRUELTIES:  Well-committed may be called those…cruelties which are perpetrated once for the need of securing one’s self, and which afterward are not persisted in, but are exchanged for measures as useful to the subjects as possible.  Cruelties ill committed are those which, although at first few, increase rather than diminish with time.
  • FORTUNE: I think it may be true that fortune is the ruler of half our actions, but that she allows the other half or thereabouts to be governed by us.
  • I would compare her to an impetuous river that, when turbulent, inundates the plains, casts down trees and buildings, removes earth from this side and places it on the other; every one flees before it, and everything yields to its fury without being able to oppose it.  Still, when it is quiet, men can make provisions against it by dykes and banks, so that when it follows it will either go into a canal or its rush will not be so wild and dangerous.
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