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JFK: FIFTY YEARS AFTER DALLAS: PART TWO (OF TEN)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on August 16, 2013 at 1:00 am

During the 1960 Presidential campaign, then-Senator John F. Kennedy promised to build a Peace Corps to train people in underdeveloped nations to help themselves.

In March, 1961, the program went into effect, with the President’s brother-in-law, Sergent Shriver, as director.

Starvation, illiteracy and disease were the three enemies of the Corps.  Any nation wanting aid could request it.  The first group of volunteers went to the Philippines, the second to Equador and the third to Tanganika.

The problems of the underdeveloped world were too great for any single organization to solve.  But the Corps lifted the spirits of many living in those countries.  And it captured the imagination of millions of Americans–especially those of the tens of thousands of idealistic youths who entered its ranks.

To combat the growing Communist threat to Latin America, Kennedy established the Alliance for Progress.  He defined the Alliance’s goal as providing “revolutionary progress through powerful, democratic means.”

Within two years he could report:

“Some 140,000 housing units have been constructed.  Slum clearance projects have begun, and 3,000 classrooms have been built.  More than 4,000,000 school books have been distributed.

“The Alliance has fired the imagination and kindled the hopes of millions of our good neighbors.  Their drive toward modernization is gaining momentum as it unleashes the energies of these millions.

“The United States is becoming increasingly identified in the minds of the people with the goal they move toward: a better life with freedom,” said Kennedy.

Critics of the program, however, charged that the President was trying to “dress up the old policies” of Franklin D. Roosevelt in new rhetoric.  Since FDR’s time, the United States has believed in giving economic aid to Latin America.

Much–if not most–of these billions of dollars has wound up in the pockets of various right-wing dictators, such as Fulgencio Batista, Anastasio Somoza and Rafael Trujillo.

Meanwhile, Kennedy was urging action on another front–that of outer space.

“This generation does not intend to founder in the backwash of the coming age of space,” declared the President.  He committed the United States to putting a man on the moon by the end of the decade.

As indeed it happened less than six years after his death–on July 20, 1969.

Kennedy’s idealistic rhetoric masked his real reason for going to the moon: To score a propaganda victory over the Soviet Union.

But the President hadn’t forgotten Cuba–and his intention to remove Fidel Castro from power at almost any cost.

Immediately after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, Kennedy appointed his brother, Robert–who was then the Attorney General–to oversee a CIA program to overthrow Castro.

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

  • The CIA wanted to please Kennedy by overthrowing the Communist leader who had nationalized American corporate holdings.
  • The Mafia wanted to regain its lucrative casino and brothel holdings that had made Cuba the playground of the rich in pre-Castro times.

The mobsters were authorized to offer $150,000 to anyone who would kill Castro and were promised any support the Agency could yield.

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

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 [Fidel] 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.
  • 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 mold spores, or with lethal chemical agents.
  • Attempting to infect Castro’s scuba regulator with tuberculous bacilli.
  • Trying to douse his handkerchiefs, cigars, tea and coffee with other lethal bacteria.

But all of these efforts failed to assassinate Castro–or overthrow the Cuban Revolution he was heading.

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

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.

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.

JFK: FIFTY YEARS AFTER DALLAS: PART ONE (OF TEN)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on August 15, 2013 at 11:16 am

November 22, 2013, will mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

It’s one of those infamous dates that its eyewitnesses will never forget–in a class with

  • December 7, 1941 (Pearl Harbor),
  • April 12, 1945 (the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and
  • September 11, 2001 (Al Qaeda’s attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center).

Some have called the Kennedy adminsitration a golden era in American history.

A time when touch football, lively White House parties, stimulus to the arts and the antics of the President’s children became national obsessions.

Others have called the Kennedy Presidency a monument to the unchecked power of wealth and ambition.  An administration staffed by young novices playing at statesmen, riddled with nepotism, and whose legacy includes the Bay of Pigs, the Vietnam war and the world’s first nuclear confrontation.

While Americans continue to disagree about the legacy of JFK, there is no disagreement that his Presidency came to a sudden and shocking end just two years, ten months and two days after it had all begun.

The opening days of the Kennedy Presidency raised hopes for a dramatic change in relations between the United States and the Soviet Union.

But detente was not possible then.  The Russians had not yet experienced their coming agricultural problems and the setback in Cuba during the Missile Crisis.  And the United States had not suffered reversals in Vietnam.

Kennedy’s first brush with international Communism came on April 17, 1961, with the invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs.  This operation had been planned and directed by the Central Intelligence Agency during the final months of the Presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower.

About 1,400 Cuban exiles were to be landed on the island to overthrow the Communist government of Fidel Castro. They were supposed to head into the mountains–as Castro himself had done against the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista in 1956–and raise the cry of revolution.

The U.S. Navy would supply transport after an American air strike had knocked out the Cuban air force.  But the airstrike failed and Kennedy, under the pressure of world opinion, called off a second try.

Even so, the invasion went ahead.  When the invaders surged onto the beaches, they found Castro’s army waiting for them.  Many of the invaders were killed on the spot.  Others were captured–to be ransomed by the United States in December, 1962, in return for medical supplies.

It was a major public relations setback for the newly-installed Kennedy administration, which has raised hopes for a change in American-Soviet relations.

Kennedy, trying to abort widespread criticism, publicly took the blame for the setback:  “There’s an old saying that victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan.  Further statements, detailed discussions, are not to conceal responsibility because I’m the responsible officer of the Government.”

The Bay of Pigs convinced Kennedy that he had been misled by the CIA and the Joint Chieifs of Staff.  Out of this came his decision that, from now on, he would rely more heavily on the counsel of his brother, Robert, whom he had installed as Attorney General.

Another consequence of the failed Cuban invasion: It convinced Soviet Premier Nikita S. Khrushchev that Kennedy was weak.

Khrushchev told an associate that he could understand if Kennedy had not decided to invade Cuba.  But once he did, Kennedy should have gone all the way and wiped out Castro.

Khrushchev attributed this to Kennedy’s youth, inexperience and timidity–and believed he could bully the President.

On June 4, 1961, Kennedy met with Khrushchev in Vienna to discuss world tensions.  Khrushchev threatened to go to nuclear war over the American presence in West Berlin–the dividing line between Western Europe, protected by the United States, and Eastern Europe, controlled by the Soviet Union.

Kennedy, who prized rationality above all else, was shaken by Knhrushchev’s unexpected rage.  Emerging from the conference, he told an associate: “It’s going to be a cold winter.”

Meanwhile, East Berliners felt the door was about to slam on their access to West Berlin, and a flood of 3,000 refugees daily poured into West Germany.

Khrushchev was clearly embarrassed at this clear showing of the unpopularity of the Communist regime. In August, he orderd that a concrete wall–backed up by barbed wire, searchlights and armed guards–be erected to seal off East Berlin.

That same year, when tensions mounted and a Soviet invasion of West Berlin seemed likely, Kennedy sent additional troops to the city in a massive demonstration of American will.

Two years later, in June, 1963, during a 10-day tour of Europe, Kennedy visited Berlin to deliver his “I am a Berlinner” speech to a frenzied crowd of thousands.

JFK adddresses crowds at the Berlin Wall

Standing within gunshot of the Berlin wall, he lashed out at the Soviet Union and praised the citizens of West Berlin for being “on the front lines of freedom” for more than 20 years.

“All free men, wherever they may live,” said Kennedy, “are citizens of Berlin.  And therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words, ‘Ich ben ein Berlinner.'”

NEGOTIATING NAZI-REPUBLICAN STYLE: PART SEVEN (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on August 14, 2013 at 9:40 am

This fall, President Barack Obama faces a rerun of Republic extortion tactics.

Republicans remain determined to destroy his signature achievement–ensuring health insurance for all Americans.  As a result, major Republican leaders are urging their members to vote against any year-end government-funding bill that includes money for “Obamacare.”

Faced with such extortion demands in 2011, Obama could have faced down his enemies in two ways:

  1. Prosecuting them under the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act and/or the USA Patriot Act; and/or
  2. Addressing the Nation as President John F. Kennedy did during the Cuban Missile Crisis and warning his fellow citizens that the Nation faced a moment of supreme danger.

Unfortunately, he chose to cave in to extortion and agree to the “sequester,” by which billions of dollars in Federal revenues were chopped across the board.

In Part Six of this series, I outlined how the President could apply the RICO Act and/or the USA Patriot Act to hold Republican extortionists criminally accountable.

In this part, I will outline his second option (which can be coupled with criminal prosecution).

Declare a National Crisis and Call for His Country’s Support

On October 22, 1962, President John F. Kennedy rallied his countrymen by warning them of the impending threat from a foreign enemy–Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba.

President Obama can attain the same result–by calling on his countrymen to rally against a threat from a domestic enemy: The extortionists of the Republican Party.

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

  • Republicans have adopted the same my-way-or-else “negotiating” stance as Adolf Hitler.
  • Like the Nazis, they are determined to gain absolute power–or destroy the Nation they claim to love.
  • They raised the debt ceiling seven times during the eight-year Presidency of George W. Bush.
  • But now that a Democrat holds the White House, raising the debt ceiling is unacceptable.
  • Despite Republican lies, we cannot revitalize the economy by slashing taxes on the wealthy and on cash-hoarding corporations while cutting benefits for millions of average Americans.
  • We will need both tax increases and sensible entitlement cuts to regain our economic strength.

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

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

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

“Tonight, I’m asking for your help.

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

“As President John F. Kennedy said:

‘In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than mine, will rest the final success or failure of our course. Since this country was founded, each generation of Americans has been summoned to give testimony to its national loyalty.’

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

President Obama has taken forceful action against America’s foreign enemies—most notably Osama bin Laden.

If the Nation is to survive, he must now act just as forcefully against America’s domestic enemies.

Fortunately, there is still time for him to do so. The fact that a prosecutor chooses to not indict on one occasion doesn’t prevent him from doing so on another.

In doing so, he may find history repeating itself.

Joachim C. Fest, author of Hitler (l973), writes of the surprise that awaited Allied soldiers occupying Nazi Germany in 1945:

“Almost without transition, virtually from one moment to the next, Nazism vanished after the death of Hitler and the surrender.  It was as if National Socialism had been nothing but the motion, the state of intoxication and the catastrophe it had caused….

“Hitler’s propaganda specialists had talked constantly of invincible Alpine redoubts, nests of resistance, and swelling werewolf units, and had predicted a war beyond the war. But there was no sign of this.

“Once again it became plain that National Socialism, like Fascism in general, was dependent to the core on superior force, arrogance, triumph, and by its nature had no resources in the moment of defeat.”

With luck, the same will prove true for the extortionists and blackmailers of the Republican Party.

NEGOTIATING NAZI-REPUBLICAN STYLE: PART SIX (OF SEVEN)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on August 13, 2013 at 12:05 am

With the United States teetering on the brink of national bankruptcy in 2011, President Obama faced three choices:

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

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

As a result, the Nation now faces a rerun of Republican extortion tactics.

Republicans remain committed to defeating President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act–otherwise known as Obamacare–which provides health insurance to all Americans, and not simply the wealthiest 1%.

Republican Senators Marco Rubio of Florida, Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Uta are urging their party to vote against any year-end bill to fund the government–unless funding is stripped from the President’s health care law.

Parts of the federal government would shut down on October 1 if Congress doesn’t approve a short-term funding bill before then.

During an August 9, 2013 press conference, Obama bluntly stated why Republicans are so determined to kill this program:

“The one unifying principle in the Republican Party at the moment is making sure that 30 million people don’t have health care and, presumably, repealing all those benefits I just mentioned — kids staying on their parents’ plan; seniors getting discounts on their prescription drugs….

“The idea that you would shut down the government unless you prevent 30 million people from getting health care is a bad idea.”

Even though President Obama refused to stand up to Republican extortion demands in 2011, he still has the opportunity to do so now.

Here is how he can do so.

Option 1: Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act

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

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

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

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

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

And if President Obama had believed that RICO was not sufficient to deal with extortionate behavior, he could have relied on the USA Patriot Act of 2001, passed in the wake of 9/11.

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

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

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

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

The fact that members of Congress would be criminally investigated and possibly indicted would not violate the separation-of-powers principle.  Congressmen have in the past been investigated, indicted and convicted for various criminal offenses.

Such indictments and prosecutions–and especially convictions–would serve notice on current and future members of Congress that the lives and fortunes of American citizens may not be held hostage as part of a negotiated settlement.

Option 2: Declare a National Crisis and Call for His Country’s Support

President John F. Kennedy did just that during the most dangerous crisis of his administration–and scored victory, nationally and internationally.

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

John F. Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis

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

“The path we have chosen for the present is full of hazards, as all paths are, but it is the one most consistent with our character and courage as a nation and our commitments around the world.

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

President Obama can send that same message to the extortionists of the Republican Party.

NEGOTIATING NAZI-REPUBLICAN STYLE: PART FIVE (OF SEVEN)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on August 12, 2013 at 12:15 am
“Those who are willing to risk everything, even death and destruction, to attain their ends will prevail over more responsible and prudent men who have more to lose and are rational, not suicidal.”
–Ernst Casier, Chairman of Philosophy, Hamburg University

U.S. House of Representatives

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Boehner

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

One senior Republican said talks would go right up to–and maybe beyond–the brink of default.

“I think we’ll be here in August,” said Republican Representative Pete Sessions, of Texas. “We are not going to leave town until a proper deal gets done.”

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

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

And the Republican response?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is how he could have applied the other two options.

Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act

In 1970, Congress passed the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1961-1968.

Congress’ goal was to eliminate the ill-affects of organized crime on the nation’s economy. To put it bluntly, RICO was intended to destroy the Mafia.

In the 1980s, however, civil lawyers noticed section 1964(c) of the RICO Act.  This allows civil claims to be brought by anyone injured in their business or property by reason of a RICO violation.

Anyone who prevailed in a a civil RICO suit would automatically receive judgment of three times their actual damages and would be awarded their costs and attorneys’ fees.

Originally, the RICO Act was aimed at the Mafia and other organized crime syndicates.  But in United States v. Turkette, 452 U.S. 576 (1981), the Supreme Court held that RICO applied to both legitimate and illegitimate RICO enterprises.

Previously, many lower courts had tried to limit RICO to recognized “criminal” enterprises. After Turkette, RICO could also be used against corporations, political protest groups, labor unions and loosely knit-groups of people.

NEGOTIATING NAZI-REPUBLICAN STYLE: PART FOUR (OF SEVEN)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on August 9, 2013 at 1:07 am

Adolf Hitler is dead.  But his my-way-or-else “negotiating” style lives on in today’s Republican party.

During the summer of 2011, Republicans refused to raise the debt ceiling unless Democrats agreed to massively cut social programs for the elderly, poor and disabled.

If Congress failed to raise the borrowing limit of the federal government by August 2, the date when the U.S.  reached the limit of its borrowing abilities, it would have begun defaulting on its loans.

As Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, explained the looming economic catastrophe:

“If you don’t send out Social Security checks, I would hate to think about the credit meeting at S&P and Moody’s the next morning.

“If you’re not paying millions and millions and millions of people that range in age from 65 on up, money you promised them, you’re not a AAA,” said Buffett.

A triple-A credit rating is the highest possible rating that can be received.

And while Republicans demanded that the disadvantaged tighten their belts, they rejected any raising of taxes on their foremost constituency–the wealthiest 1%.

To raise taxes on the wealthy, they insisted, would be a “jobs-killer.” It would “discourage” corporate CEOs from creating tens of thousands of jobs they “want” to create.

Republicans knew this argument is a lie.  And so did the editors of Time.  The difference is, the editors of Time were willing to reveal the truth.

In its June 20, 2011  cover-story on “What U.S. Economic Recovery? Five Destructive Myths,” Rana Foroohar, the magazine’s assistant managing editor in charge of economics and business, delivered this warning:

Profit-seeking corporations can’t be relied on to ”make it all better.”

Wrote Foroohar:

“There is a fundamental disconnect between the fortunes of American companies, which are doing quite well, and American workers, most of whom are earning a lower hourly wage now than they did during the recession.

“The thing is, companies make plenty of money; they just don’t spend it on workers here.

“There may be $2 trillion sitting on the balance sheets of American corporations globally, but firms show no signs of wanting to spend it in order to hire workers at home.”

Yet there is also a disconnect between the truth of this situation and the willingness of Americans to face up to that truth.

The reason:

“The Republicans have pulled off a major (some would say cynical) miracle,” writes Foroohar.

They have convinced “the majority of Americans that the way to jump-start the economy is to slash taxes on the wealthy and on cash-hoarding corporations while cutting benefits for millions of Americans.

“It’s fun-house math that can’t work. We’ll need both tax increases and sensible entitlement cuts to get back on track.

“Yet surveys show 50% of Americans think that not raising the debt ceiling is a good idea — that you can somehow starve your way to economic growth.”

How have Republicans achieved this?  By adopting the principles of propaganda laid down by no less an authority on lying than Adolf Hitler.

According to Mein Kampf-–”My Struggle”–-Hitler’s autobiography and political treatise:

  1. The great majority of a nation is ruled by sentiment rather than by sober reasoning.
  2. This sentiment, however, is not complex, but simple and consistent. It is not highly differentiated, but has only the negative and positive notions of love and hatred, right and wrong, truth and falsehood.
  3. Propaganda must not investigate the truth objectively and must present only that aspect of the truth which is favorable to its own side.
  4. The receptive powers of the masses are very restricted, and their understanding is feeble. On the other hand, they quickly forget.
  5. All effective propaganda must be confined to a few bare essentials and those must be expressed as far as possible in stereotyped formulas.
  6. These slogans should be persistently repeated until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea that has been put forward.

Following these principles, Republicans have proved hugely successful at persuading millions that truth is whatever their party claims it to be at any given moment.

“Fascism,” said author Ernest Hemingway, “is a lie told by bullies.”  Thus, when Republicans couldn’t attain their goals by lying, they sought to do so by force–or at least the threat of it.

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

In November, 1995, Newt Gingrich, then Speaker of the House of Representatives, carried out his threat. Gingrich unwisely admitted that he did so because President Bill Clinton had put him in the back of Air Force One during a recent trip to Israel.

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

Still, the Republicans continued their policy of my-way-or-else. In April, 2011, the United States government almost shut down over Republican demands about subsidized pap smears.

NEGOTIATING NAZI-REPUBLICAN STYLE: PART THREE (OF SEVEN)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on August 8, 2013 at 1:00 pm

British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain resolved to meet with Adolf Hitler, the German Fuehrer, to peacefully resolve the latest Nazi-created crisis.

Having conquered Austria, the German dictator now wanted Czechoslovakia.

And Chamberlain was determined to grant his every demand–so long as this meant avoiding a second world war.

The two European leaders met in Berchtesgaden on September 15, 1938.

Neville Chamberlain, Adolf Hitler at Munich

During their talks, Chamberlain said he had come to discuss German grievances. But, he added, it was necessary in all circumstances to exclude the use of force.

Hitler appeared to be shocked that he could be accused of such intentions: “Force? Who speaks of force?“

Then, without warning, he switched to an aggressive mode. He accused the Czechs of having mobilized their army in May. They had mobilized—in response to the mobilization of the German army.

“I shall not put up with this any longer,” shouted Hitler. “I shall settle this question in one way or another. I shall take matters in my own hands!”

Suddenly, Chamberlain seemed alarmed—and possibly angry: “If I understood you right, you are determined to proceed against Czechoslovakia in any case. If this is so, why did you let me come to Berchtesgaden?

“In the circumstances, it is best for me to return at once. Anything else now seems pointless.”

Hitler was taken aback by the unexpected show of defiance. He realized he was about to lose his chance to bully the British into accepting his latest demands.

So he softened his tone and said they should consider the Sudetenland according to the principle of self-determination.

Chamberlain said he must immediately return to England to consult with his colleagues. Hitler appeared uneasy. But then the German translator finished the sentence: “…and then meet you again.” Hitler realized he still had a chance to attain victory without going to war.

Chamberlain agreed to the cession of the Sudetenland. Three days later, French Prime Minister Edouard Daladier did the same. No Czechoslovak representative was invited to these discussions.

Chamberlain met Hitler again in Godesberg, Germany, on September 22 to confirm the agreements. But Hitler aimed to use the crisis as a pretext for war.

He now demanded not only the annexation of the Sudetenland but the immediate military occupation of the territories. This would give the Czechoslovak army no time to adapt their defense measures to the new borders.

To achieve a solution, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini suggested a conference of the major powers in Munich.

On September 29, Hitler, Daladier and Chamberlain met and agreed to Mussolini’s proposal. They signed the Munich Agreement, which accepted the immediate occupation of the Sudetenland.

The Czechoslovak government had not been a party to the talks. Nevertheless, it promised to abide by the agreement on September 30.

It actually had no choice. It faced the threat of an immediate German invasion after being deserted by its pledged allies: Britain, France and the Soviet Union.

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

Neville Chamberlain

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

Hitler—still planning more conquests—also knew better. In March, 1939, the German army occupied the rest of Czechoslovakia.

Chamberlain would soon be seen as a naive weakling–even before bombs started falling on London.

Hitler next turned his attention–and demands–to Poland.

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

Hitler ordered the invasion of Poland on September 1–unintentionally triggering World War II.

In time, historians and statesmen would regard Munich as an object lesson in the futility—and danger—in appeasing evil and aggression.

But for the postwar Republican party, Hitler’s my-way-or-else “negotiating” methods would become standard operating procedure.

During the summer of 2011, Republicans refused to raise the debt ceiling unless Democrats agreed to massively cut social programs for the elderly, poor and disabled.

If Congress failed to raise the borrowing limit of the federal government by August 2, the date when the U.S.  reached the limit of its borrowing abilities, it would have begun defaulting on its loans.

As Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, explained the looming economic catastrophe:

“If you don’t send out Social Security checks, I would hate to think about the credit meeting at S&P and Moody’s the next morning.

“If you’re not paying millions and millions and millions of people that range in age from 65 on up, money you promised them, you’re not a AAA,” said Buffett.

A triple-A credit rating is the highest possible rating that can be received.

And while Republicans demanded that the disadvantaged tighten their belts, they rejected any raising of taxes on their foremost constituency–the wealthiest 1%.

NEGOTIATING NAZI-REPUBLICAN STYLE: PART TWO (OF SEVEN)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on August 7, 2013 at 1:08 pm

After winning the Indiana GOP United States Senate primary, Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock appeared on the May 9 edition of CNN’s “Starting Point.”

There occurred this exchange between Mourdock and the show’s host, Soledad O’Brien:

MOURDOCK: What I’ve said about compromise and bipartisanship is I hope to build a conservative majority in the United States Senate so that bipartisanship becomes Democrats joining Republicans to roll back the size of government, reduce the bureaucracy, lower taxes, and get America moving again. The stimulus plan hasn’t worked.

Richard Mourdock

O’BRIEN: So what I hear you say is that you’re not going to compromise. In fact, the only compromise you’ll do is really getting other people on the other side of the aisle to come to your side of the aisle, which, I  guess, is the definition against compromise. You said this in the New York Times–

MOURDOCK: Well, it is the definition of political effectiveness.

Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler couldn’t have phrased it better.

Adolf Hitler

Anyone wanting to understand how Republicans intend to apply such a philosophy need only consult history.

On February 12, 1938, two Chancellors—Adolf Hitler of Germany, and Kurt von Schuschnigg of Austria—met at Hitler’s retreat at Obersalzberg.  At stake lay the future independence of Austria.

Although Austrian by birth, Hitler considered himself a German.  Annexing Austria, he believed, would ensure its return to “the Great German motherland.”

HITLER: “I have only to give one command and all this comic stuff on the border will be blown to pieces overnight. You don’t seriously think you could hold me up, even for half an hour, do you?

“Who knows—perhaps you will find me one morning in Vienna like a spring storm. Then you will go through something! I’d like to spare the Austrians that.

“The S.A. [Hitler’s private army of Stormtroopers] and the [Condor] Legion [which had bombed much of Spain into rubble during the three-year Spanish Civil War] would come in after the troops and nobody–not even I–could stop them from wreaking vengeance.”

British historian Robert Payne noted in his 1973 biography, The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler: “Schuschnigg was not a coward, but he showed fear, and it was precisely this look of fear that Hitler was waiting for.

“He had worked out the program of intimidation very carefully. The thunder and lightning in the morning; then a period of calm, when the unsuspecting victim might believe he had relented; and then he would come in for the kill with such savage fury that there would be no resistance.”

After lunch, Hitler presented Schuschnigg with an ultimatum:

  • Austria must join in an economic union with German.
  • Austria must lift its ban on membership in the Nazi Party (which had assassinated the country’s previous Chancellor).
  • Within three days there was to be a general amnesty of Nazi prisoners.
  • Three key government ministries—of war, interior and finance—were to be given to members of the Nazi Party.

With these in their possession, the Nazis would be able to take over Austria in two to three weeks.

At first, Schuschnigg refused to sign. He explained that the Austrian constitution did not give him the power to sign it. But Hitler insisted—threatening to invade Austria otherwise.

Schuschnigg, a virtual prisoner of his host, facing the destruction of his country by a powerful and aggressive neighbor, signed. It marked—until the defeat of Germany in 1945–the end of Austria as an independent nation.

Seven months later, in September, 1938, Hitler gave another exhibition of his “negotiating” methods. This time, the target of his rage and aggression was Czechoslovakia.

So, once again, he opened “negotiations” with a lie: The Czechoslovak government was trying to exterminate 3.5 million Germans living in the “Sudetenland.”

This consisted of the northern, southwest and western regions of Czechoslovakia, inhabited mostly by ethnic Germans.

Then he followed this up with the threat of war: Germany would protect its citizens and halt such “oppression.”

For British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, the thought of another European war erupting less than 20 years after the end of World War I was simply unthinkable.

Neville Chamberlain

Something had to be done to prevent it.  And he believed himself to be just the man to do it.

He quickly sent Hitler a telegram, offering to help resolve the crisis: “I could come to you by air and am ready to leave tomorrow.  Please inform me of earliest time you can receive me, and tell me the place of the meeting.  I should be grateful for a very early reply.”

Once again, another head-of-state was prepared to meet Hitler on his home ground.  Again, Hitler took this concession as a sign of weakness.  And Chamberlain’s use of such words as “please” and “grateful” only further convinced Hitler of another impending triumph.

NEGOTIATING NAZI-REPUBLICAN STYLE: PART ONE (OF SEVEN)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on August 6, 2013 at 10:00 pm

Adolf Hitler, Germany’s Fuehrer for 12 years, had a favorite phrase: “So oder so.”

It meant: “One way or the other.”

That might sound innocuous.  But, in Hitler’s case, it carried a sinister tone–as did nearly everything else about the dictator who ruled Germany from 1933 to 1945.

Adolf Hitler

When Hitler faced what he considered a problem, he said he would solve it “one way or another.”  Which meant that if he didn’t get his way, he would apply whatever means it took until he did.

Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, who unsuccessfully campaigned in 2012 to become the Republican U.S. Senator from Indiana, had a similar view toward compromise.

Appearing on the May 9, 2012 edition of right-wing “Fox & Friends,” Mourdock said:

Richard Mourdock

“I have a mindset that says bipartisanship ought to consist of Democrats coming to the Republican point of view.”

Robert Payne, author of the bestselling biography, The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler (1973), described Hitler’s “negotiating” style thusly:

“Although Hitler prized his own talents as a negotiator, a man always capable of striking a good bargain, he was totally lacking in finesse.  He was incapable of bargaining.  He was like a man who goes up to a fruit peddler and threatens to blow his brains out if he does not sell his applies at the lowest possible price.”

Now, consider the similarity between Payne’s description of Hitler and Mourdock’s description of what “bipartisanship” means to him:

“I’ve said many times through this campaign that one of the things I hope to do is to help build a conservative majority in the United States Senate and continue to help the House build a Republican majority and have a Republican White House and then bipartisanship becomes having Democrats come our way.”

A classic example of Hitler’s “negotiating style” occurred in 1938, when he invited Austrian Chancellor Kurt von Schuschnigg to his mountaintop retreat in Obersalzberg, Germany.  Hitler, an Austrian by birth, intended to annex his native land to Germany.

Schuschnigg was aware of Hitler’s desire, but nevertheless felt secure in accepting the invitation.  He had been assured that the question of Austrian sovereignty would not arise.

By studying Hitler’s mindset and “negotiating” methods, we can learn much about the mindset and “negotiating” style of our own Republican party.

Shuschnigg opened the discussion with a friendly compliment.  Walking over to a large window, he admired the breathtaking view of the mountains.

HITLER: We haven’t come here to talk about the lovely view or the weather!

Austria has anyway never done anything which was of help to the German Reich….I am resolutely determined to make an end to all this business.  The German Reich is a great power.  Nobody can and nobody will interfere if it restores order on its frontiers.

SCHUSCHNIGG: I am aware of your attitude toward the Austrian question and toward Austrian history….As we Austrians see it, the whole of our history is a very essential and valuable part of German history….And Austria’s contribution is a considerable one.

HITLER: It is absolutely zero—that I can assure you!  Every national impulse has been trampled underfoot by Austria….

I could call myself an Austrian with just the same right—indeed with even more right—than you, Herr Schuschnigg. Why don’t you once try a plebiscite in Austria in which you and I run against each other? Then you would see!

SCHUSCHNIGG: Well, yes, if that were possible. But your know yourself, Herr Reich Chancellor, that it just isn’t possible. We simply have to go on living alongside one another, the little state next to the big one. We have no other choice.

And that is why I ask you to tell me what your concrete complaints are. We will do all in our power to sort things out and establish a friendly relationship, as far as it is possible to do so.

HITLER: That’s what you say, Herr Schuschnigg. And I am telling you that I intend to clear up the whole of the so-called Austrian question–one way or another. Do you think I don’t know that you are fortifying Austria’s border with the Reich?

SCHUSCHNIGG: There can be no suggestion at all of that—

HITLER: Ridiculous explosive chambers are being built under bridges and roads—

This was a lie, and Hitler knew it was a lie. But no matter. It gave him an excuse to threaten to destroy Austria—as he was to destroy so many other nations during the next seven years.

* * * * *

Lest this comparison be thought an exaggeration, consider this:

Republicans used precisely the same “negotiating” style during the summer of 2011 to threaten the United States with financial ruin unless they got their way in budget negotiations.

And they are threatening to do the same again this fall.

THE CASEY DOCTRINE

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law on August 2, 2013 at 9:59 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

William J. Casey 

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

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

It was what President Ronald Reagan wanted.  So Casey felt he had a duty to get it done.

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

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

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

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

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

But he didn’t.

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

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

  • providing their employees with medical insurance and 
  • a fine for non-compliance with the law.

Some employers have openly shown their contempt for President Obama–and the idea that employers actually have an obligation to those who make their profits a reality.

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • The prices of his pizzas will go up–by eleven to fourteen cents price increase per pizza, or fifteen to twenty cents per order; and
  • He will pass along these costs to his customers.

“If Obamacare is in fact not repealed,” Schnatter told Politico, “we will find tactics to shallow out any Obamacare costs and core strategies to pass that cost onto consumers in order to protect our shareholders’ best interests.”

After all, why should a multi-million-dollar company show any concern for those who make its profits a reality?

Consider:

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

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

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

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

Of course, Romney conveniently ignored a brutally ugly fact:

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

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

To counter that, he need only have required all employers to provide insurance coverage for all of their employees—regardless of their fulltime or part-time status.

This, in turn, would have provided two substantial benefits:

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

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

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