Archive for October, 2013|Monthly archive page


In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Social commentary on October 31, 2013 at 2:09 am

In the 1981 police drama, “Prince of the City,” both cops and criminals use plenty of four-letter words.

But the word both groups consider the most obscene is spelled is spelled with three letters: R-a-t.

The movie is based on the true-life story of former NYPD detective Robert Leuci (“Danny Ciello” in the film, and played by Treat Williams).  It’s based on the best-selling nonfiction book, Prince of the City, by Robert Daley, a former deputy commissioner with NYPD.

Leuci/Ciello volunteers to work undercover against massive corruption among lawyers, bail bondsmen and even his fellow narcotics agents.

Along the way, the movie gives viewers numerous insights into not only how real-world cops work but how they see the world–and their role in it.

In its first scenes, “Prince” shows members of the elite Special Investigating Unit (SIU) preparing for a major raid on an apartment of Columbian drug-dealers.

Ciello, sitting in a restaurant, gets a tip on the Columbians from one of his informants.  He then phones it in to his fellow officers.  Together, they raid the apartment, assault the dealers, and confiscate their drugs and money.

The film makes it clear that even an elite detective squad can’t operate effectively without informants.  And in narcotics cases, these are either addicts willing to sell out their suppliers or other drug-dealers willing to sell out their competitors.

For the cops, the payoff is information that leads to arrests.  In the case of the SIU, that means big, headline-grabbing arrests.

With their superiors happy, the stree-level detectives are largely unsupervised–which is how they like it.  Because most of them are doing a brisk business shaking down drug-dealers for their cash.

For their informants, the payoffs come in several forms, including:

  • Allowing addicts to continue using illegal drugs.
  • Supplying addicts with drugs, such as heroin.
  • Allowing drug-dealers to continue doing business.
  • Supplying drug-dealers with information about upcoming police raids on their locations.

All of these activities are strictly against the law.  But to the men charged with enforcing anti-narcotics laws, this is the price to be paid for effective policing.

But not all police informants are criminals.  Many of them work in highly technical industries–such as  phone companies.

A “connection” such as this is truly prized.  With it, a detective can illegally eavesdrop on the conversations of those he’s targeting.

He doesn’t have to go through the hassles of getting a court-approved wiretap.  Assuming he has enough evidence to convince a judge to grant such a wiretap.

A top priority for any cop–especially a narcotics cop–is protecting the identities of his informants.

At the very least, exposing such identities could lead to embarrassment, unemployment, arrest and imprisonment.  At worst, it could lead to the murder of those informants by enraged criminals.

But there is another reason for protecting the identity of informants: The cop who amasses a roster of prized informants is seen as someone special within the police department, by colleagues and superiors alike.

He knows “something” they do not.  And that “something” allows him to make a lot of arrests–which, in turn, reflects well on the police department.

If those arrests end in convictions, his status within the department is further enhanced.

But while a cop is always on the lookout for informants against potential targets, that doesn’t prevent him from generally holding such people in contempt.

“Rats,” “finks,” “stool pigeons,” “canaries,” “informers”–these are among the more printable terms (for most media) cops use to describe those who betray the trust of others.

Such terms are never used by cops when speaking to their informants.

For cops, the most feared- and -hated part of every police department is its Internal Affairs Division (IAD).  This is the unit charged with investigating allegations of illegal behavior by police.

For most cops, IAD represents the devil incarnate.  Any officer who would be willing to “lock up” a “brother officer” is considered a traitor to the police brotherhood.

Even if that “brother officer” is engaging in behavior that completely violates his sworn oath “to protect and serve.”

In “Prince of the City,” Danny Ciello gives voice to just these feelings.

He’s preparing to betray the trust of his fellow narcotics officers by exposing the massive corruption among them.  Yet he fiercely rejects the idea that he is a “rat.”

“A rat is when they catch you and make you an informer,” he tells his wife.  “This is my game.”

Ciello has volunteered to obtain evidence of corruption; he’s not under some prosecutor’s thumb.  That, to him, makes him different from a “rat.”

Of course, once Ciello’s cover is blown and his fellow cops learn what he has done, they will forever brand him a “rat,” the worst sort of turncoat.

The movie ends with Ciello now teaching surveillance classes at the NYPD Academy.  A student asks: “Are you the Detective Ciello?”

“I’m Detective Ciello.”

“I don’t think I have anything to learn from you.”

For viewers seeking to learn the workings–and mindsets–of real-world police agencies,  “Prince of the City” has a great many lessons to teach.


In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Social commentary on October 30, 2013 at 1:36 am

It’s a movie that appeared in 1981–making it, for those born in 2000, an oldie.  And it wasn’t a blockbuster, being yanked out of theaters almost as soon as it arrived.

Yet “Prince of the City” remains that rarity–a movie about big-city police that

  • Tells a dramatic (and true) story, and
  • Offers serious truths for those who want to know how police and prosecutors really operate.

It’s based on the real-life case of NYPD Detective Robert Leuci (“Danny Ciello” in the film).

A member of the elite Special Investigating Unit (SIU) Ciello (played by Treat Williams) volunteers to work undercover against rampant corruption among narcotics agents, attorneys and bail bondsmen.

His motive appears simple: To redeem himself and the NYPD from the corruption he sees everywhere:  “These people we take from own us.”

His only condition: “I will never betray cops who’ve been my partners.”

Assistant US Attorney Rick Cappalino assures Ciello: “We’ll never make you do something you can’t live with.”

As the almost three-hour movie unfolds, Ciello finds–to his growing dismay–that there are a great many things he will have to learn to live with.

Although he doesn’t have a hand in it, he’s appalled to learn that Gino Moscone, a former buddy, is going to be arrested for taking bribes from drug dealers.

Confronted by a high-ranking agent for the Drug Enforcement Agency, Moscone refuses to “rat out” his buddies.

Instead, he puts his service revolver to his head and blows out his brains.

Prince Of The City folded.jpg

Ciello is devastated, but the investigation–and film–must go on.

Along the way, he’s suspected by a corrupt cop and bail bondsman of being a “rat” and threatened with death.  He’s about to be wasted in a back alley when his cousin–a Mafia member–suddenly intervenes.

The Mafioso tells Ciello’s would-be killers: “You’d better be sure he’s a rat, because people like him.”

At which point, the grotesquely fat bail bondsman–who has been demanding Ciello’s execution–pats Danny on the arm and says, “No hard feelings.”

It is director Sidney Lumet’s way of graphically saying: “Sometimes the bad guys can be good guys–and the good guys can be bad guys.”

Lumet makes it clear that police don’t always operate with the Godlike perfection of cops in TV and films. It’s precisely because his Federal backup agents lost him that Ciello almost became a casualty.

In the end, Ciello becomes a victim of the prosecutorial forces he has unleashed.  Although he’s vowed to  never testify against his former partners, Ciello finds this a promise he can’t keep.

Too many of the cops he’s responsible for indicting have implicated him of similar–if not worse–behavior.

He’s even suspected of being involved in the theft of 450 pounds of heroin (“the French Connection”) from the police property room.

A sympathetic prosecutor–Mario Vincente in the movie, Rudolph Giuliani in real-life–convinces Ciello that he must finally reveal everything he knows.

Ciello’s had originally claimed to have done “three things” as a corrupt narcotics agent.  By the time his true confessions are over, he’s admitted to scores of felonies.

Ciello then tries to convince his longtime SIU partners to do the same.

One of them commits suicide.  Another tells Ciello to screw himself:  “I’m not going to shoot myself and I’m not going to rat out my friends.”

To his surprise, Ciello finds himself admiring his corrupt former partner for being willing to stand up to the Federal case-agents and prosecutors demanding his head.

The movie ends with a double dose of irony.

First: Armed with Ciello’s confessions, an attorney whom Ciello had successfully testified against appeals his conviction.  But the judge rules these to be “collateral,” apart from the main evidence in the case, and affirms the conviction.

Second: Ciello is himself placed on trial–of a sort.  A large group of assistant U.S. attorneys gathers to debate whether their prize “canary” should be indicted.

If he is, his confessions will ensure his conviction.

Some prosecutors argue forcefully that Ciello is a corrupt law enforcement officer who has admitted to more than 40 cases of perjury–among other crimes.  How can the government use him to convict others and not address the criminality in his own past?

Other prosecutors argue that Ciello voluntarily risked his life–physically and professionally–to expose rampant police corruption.  He deserves a better deal than to be cast aside by those who have made so many cases through his testimony.

Eventually, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York makes his decision: “The government declines to prosecute Detective Daniel Ciello.”

It is Lumet’s way of showing that the decision to prosecute is not always an easy or objective one.

The movie ends with Ciello now teaching surveillance classes at the NYPD Academy.  A student asks: “Are you the Detective Ciello?”

“I’m Detective Ciello.”

“I don’t think I have anything to learn from you.”

Is Danny Ciello–again, Robert Leuci in real-life–a hero, a villain, or some combination of the two?  It is with this ambiguity that the film ends–an ambiguity that each viewer must resolve for himself.


In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on October 29, 2013 at 12:58 pm

Why do so many CEOs hate President Barack Obama?

It isn’t because they’re being over-taxed and -regulated,d as so many on the Right would have you believe.

According to a January 16, 2013 story published in Bloomberg:

  • U.S. corporations’ after-tax profits have grown by 171% under Obama.
  • This is more than has existed under any President since World War II.
  • Corporate profits are now at their highest level, relative to the economy, since the government began keeping records in 1947.
  • Profits are more than twice as high than during Ronald Reagan’s Presidency.
  • They are more than 50% greater than during the late-1990s Internet boom.

Click here: Corporate Profits Soar as Executives Attack Obama Policy – Bloomberg

So if money isn’t the issue, what is?

In a word: Ego.

Jonathan Alter, author of The Center Holds: Obama and His Enemies, provides some eye-opening insights into relations between the President and business leaders.

He notes, for example, that even before taking office as President in 2009, Obama pushed through Congress the second $350 billion portion of the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP)

And he stablilized the almost-wrecked American financial system with stress tests and regulatory reforms.

So Obama believed that business CEOs would be grateful for his efforts on their behalf.

And what did the President get in return?

  • The rise of the Tea Party, angered by government bailouts to mega-corporations–and the subsequent loss of a Democratic House of Representatives; and
  • Ingratitude and resentment from the very CEOs whose corporations he had saved.

CEOs visiting the White House often believed the President didn’t take them seriously.

For example, many of them wanted a tax amnesty on their overseas earnings.  And Obama would ask: How will the government make up for the lost Treasury revenues that would come from such a huge tax break?

Many CEOs thought he was not taking them seriously.

Obama was in fact being serious, and was hoping that his greed-obsessed visitors would help him find an answer that would satisfy both parties.

What the President apparently didn’t understand was this: Most CEOs weren’t used to being dealt with on an equal basis.

They were used to people cowering before them, or instantly agreeing with anything they said.

For Obama, who had taught Constitutional law at the University of Chicago from 1992 to 2004, such  intellectual querys were routine.  He had enjoyed the cut-and-thrust of such exchanges with his law students.

But his law students had not been billionaires with billionaire-sized egos.

One Wall Street CEO charged that Obama regarded intellectuals as a cut above political operatives–and two cuts above businessmen.

As Alter writes: “Being worth a billion dollars wasn’t going to get the President…to believe that your insights were better than anyone else’s.”

Obama was angered that many CEOs felt that nothing should change–even after the excesses of greed-fueled banks almost destroyed the nation’s economy in 2008.

Thus, bank CEOs had furiously opposed the Dodd-Frank bank re-regulations that had been imposed to prevent a recurrence of such abuses.

Obama felt that bankers were ungrateful for his pushing through the second part of the TARP program that had saved their corporations from the CEOs’ own self-destructive greed.

As Alter sums up: “The complex psychology of business confidence was only partly about their tax rates and the threat of regulation; the real problem was personal.

“They [businessmen] had an intuitive sense that Obama didn’t particularly like them, and they responded in kind.”

These are not the kinds of insights you’ll get by reading the highly sanitized bios of corporate chieftains.

As a result, during the 2012 Presidential race, Mitt Romney received nearly $150 million, or more than 15% of his total money raised, from New York.  Which meant mostly from Wall Street.

“We got a lot of Barack Obama’s Wall Street money,” said Spencer Zwick, Romney’s finance director, after the campaign.

A passage from Finley Hooper’s classic Roman Realities puts an ancient-world spin on Obama’s relations with wealthy businessmen.

Assessing the reasons for why so many patricians hated Julius Caesar, Hooper writes:

“Caesar…like a teacher, seemed always to be directing affairs in a world of children–chiding one, patting another–yet too far above them all to care about hurting any.

“To less gifted men, however, his aloofness, even if mixed with kindness, was thought to be patronizing.  They could not believe that in his heart he really cared about them.

“Caesar never bothered to ask for another man’s opinion.  He lacked the tact by which a talented person might reasure others that they have worth, too.

“Pardons, jobs or favors did not completely satisfy the recipients’ craving for attention….

“Caesar…was a supreme egotist wrapped up in his own sense of well-being and good service to the state.

“…For all his experience and sophistication, he had never learned how ungrateful men can be–especially those who feel ignored.”

It has been President Obama’s bad luck–like that of Julius Caesar– to find himself at odds with powerful men whose profits he has greatly expanded.


In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on October 28, 2013 at 12:00 am

In 1964, bestselling novelist Irving Wallace dared to imagine the then-unthinkable: The elevation of the first black President of the United States.

Wallace’s hero is Douglas Dilman, a moderate who tries to rule as a color-blind President.  But he is repeatedly confronted with the brutal truth about himself–and his critics: He is black, and they cannot forgive him for it.

Image result for Irving Wallace

Irving Wallace

Dilman’s fictional Presidency is marked by white racists, black political activists, and an attempted assassination. Later, he is impeached on false charges for firing the racist Secretary of State.

Wallace’s1964 novel, The Man, appeared 44 years before Barack Obama’s election.

Fast-forward to the Presidency of Barack Obama and you find:

  • In September, 2009, Joe Wilson (R-SC) yelled “You lie!” during Obama’s health care speech to Congress.
  • In January, 2010, an effigy of President Barack Obama was found hanging from a building in Plains, Georgia.
  • In December, 2011, Brent Bozell, who runs the right-wing Media Research Center, called Obama to “a skinny, ghetto crackhead.”
  • In December, 2011, Rep.  Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.), said of Michelle Obama: “She lectures us on eating right while she has a large posterior herself.”
  • In January, 2012, Mitt Romney’s son, Matt, said his father might release his tax returns “as soon as President Obama releases his grades and birth certificate and sort of a long list of things.”
  • In February, 2012, right-wing columnist Ann Coulter offered: “Voters with forty years of politically correct education are ecstatic to have the first Black president. They just love the idea even if we did get Flavor Flav instead of  Thomas Sowell.”
  • In May, 2012, a flatbed truck drove through new York holding a trailer with eight mannequin-like bodies hanging on nooses.  One of the figures resembled President Obama, with a sign on the truck reading: “Obama Is Onboard, Find Out Why.  Visit YouTube.com And Search Keyword PatriotPhipps.”

  • In May, 2012, Patrick Lanzo, a bar owner in Paulding County, Georgia, posted a sign reading: “I do not support the nigger in the White House.”  In 2009 he posted a sign that read, “Obama’s plan for health-care: nigger rig it.”  Lanzo advertises his establishment as a “Klan bar.”
  • Throughout the 2012 Presidential campaign, Newt Gingrich repeatedly called Obama “the greatest food stamp President in American history.” 
  • Obama has been portrayed as a shoeshine man, an Islamic terrorist and a chimp. The image of his altered face has been shown on a product called Obama Waffles in the manner of Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben.  He has been repeatedly depicted with a Hitler forelock and mustache.
  • Among the protest signs they have brandished by Tea Party members: “Obama’s Plan: White Slavery,” “The American Taxpayers are the Jews for Obama’s Ovens,” and “Obama was Not Bowing [to the Saudi King] He was Sucking Saudi Jewels.”
  • Other Tea Party posters: “Imam Obama Wants to Ban Pork” and “The Zoo Has An African Lion, and the White House Has a Lyin’ African.”
  • Tea Partiers have chanted at Obama: “Bye, bye, Blackbird” and “Kenyan go home!”
  • During the Republican-imposed government shutdown–October 1-17, 2013–Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) told Obama:  “I cannot even stand to look at you,”  The incident occurred when Obama met with lawmakers to try to find a resolution to the shutdown.
  • On October 13, 2013, anti-Obama protesters gathered at the World War II memorial in Washington, D.C.  They weren’t protesting the government shutdown but the President who refused to cave in to Republican demands to de-fund the Affordable Care Act.
  • One speaker was Larry Klayman of Freedom Watch, a Right-wing advocacy group.  Said Klayman: “I call upon all of you to wage a second American nonviolent revolution, to use civil disobedience, and to demand that this president leave town, to get up, to put the Quran down, to get up off his knees, and to figuratively come out with his hands up,”
  • On October 14, 2013, while Republicans were threatening to drive the country into bankruptcy by refusing to raise the debt ceiling, Sarah Palin posted on Facebook her “secret plan” to impeach President Obama:
  • “It’s time for the president to be honest with the American people for a change. Defaulting on our national debt is an impeachable offense, and any attempt by President Obama to unilaterally raise the debt limit without Congress is also an impeachable offense.”
  • In short: If the Republicans force the country into default, Obama should be impeached. And if the President finds a way to avoid default, he should be impeached.
  • In October, 2013, Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado) said that being associated with President Obama would be similar to touching a “tar baby.”  Specifically:
  • “Even if some people say, well the Republicans should have done this or they should have done that, they will hold the president responsible.  Now I don’t want to even have to be associated with him. It’s like touching a tar baby and you get, you get it, you know… you are stuck and you are part of the problem now and you can’t get away.”

Perhaps Irving Wallace believed that, by the millennium, America would be ready for a black President.  If so, he sadly proved a far better author than prophet.


In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on October 25, 2013 at 12:00 am

On March 9, 1954, Edward R. Murrow, the most respected broadcast journalist in America, assailed the “smear-and-fear” tactics of Wisconsin Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy.

The forum was Murrow’s highly-rated documentary series, “See It Now.” The truth of Murrow’s remarks has outlasted the briefness of that 30-minute program.

They could have been applied to the “lie and deny” methods of the Presidency of Richard M. Nixon.

And to the Red-baiting attacks made by Republicans against President Bill Clinton.

And to the ongoing character assaults made by right-wingers against President Barack Obama.

We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty,” warned Murrow in that broadcast. “We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law.

Edward R. Murrow

“We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men—not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular….

“We can deny our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result. There is no way for a citizen of a republic to abdicate his responsibilities….

“We proclaim ourselves, as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom, wherever it continues to exist in the world. But we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home….

“Cassius was right. ‘The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.’”

After Obama announced the death of Osama Bin Laden, most of the Republican slander-peddlers momentarily fell silent.

Still, the legacy of hate and fear-mongering goes on.

There is a good reason for this: Republicans have found, repeatedly, that attacking the patriotism of their opponents is an effective vote-getter:

  • It hurtled Dwight Eisenhower into the White House and Republicans into Congress in 1952 and 1956.
  • It elected Richard Nixon President in 1968 and 1972.
  • It gave control of the White House to Ronald Reagan in 1980 and 1984.
  • It gave it to George H.W. Bush in 1988.
  • And even though Bill Clinton won the Presidency in 1992, it gave Republicans control of the Congress in 1994.
  • It gave the White House to George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004.
  • It gave control of the House to Republicans in 2010, thus undermining the financial and healthcare reforms planned by Obama.

And since the 2008 election of Barack Obama as President, Republicans have coupled their traditional “Treason!” slander with both subtle and outright appeals to racism.

Most Republicans refuse to acknowledge this, but author Will Bunch has not been so reticent.  In his 2010 book, The Backlash, he writes:

“…The year that had [conservatives] so terrified was 2050.  In that year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. population would grow to some 399 million people–but only 49.8% would be white….”

The Backlash: Right-Wing Radicals, High-Def Hucksters, and Paranoid Politics in the Age of Obama

This was given added weight by the 2008 election of Barack Obama:

“The Democratic upstart–and his legion of supporters among the nonwhite as well as the young–was a 9/11-sized jolt to the white masses already so worried about the cultural implications of immigration.

“The year 2050 suddenly wasn’t two generations away but right here knocking on the front door, with a dark face and that scary name: Barack Hussein Obama.

“Like a fire spreading across dry sagebrush, it took no effort for fear of The Other to leap from the Mexicans in front of the Wal-Mart to the man now inside the Oval Office.”

An author who predicted this very scenario was the best-selling novelist, Irving Wallace.

His 1964 novel, The Man, positing the ascent of the first black President, appeared 44 years before Obama’s election.

The plot: The President and Speaker of the House are killed in an overseas building collapse, and the Vice-President declines the office due to age and ill-health.  As a result, Senate President pro tempore Douglas Dilman suddenly becomes the first black man to occupy the Oval Office.

His Presidency is marked by white racists, black political activists, and an attempted assassination. Later, he is impeached on false charges for firing the racist Secretary of State.

The Man

A moderate by nature, Dilman tries to rule as a color-blind President.  But he is repeatedly confronted with the brutal truth about himself–and his critics: He is black, and they cannot forgive him for it.

Southern Senator Watson, upon learning that Dilman has succeeded to the Presidency, says: “The White House isn’t going to be white enough from now on.”

And Kay Eaton, who lusts for her husband, the Secretary of State, to become President, blames him for not pushing hard enough for it: “You’re just a kingmaker to a jigaboo.”


In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on October 24, 2013 at 1:50 am

On May 7, 2012, GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney attended a  town-hall meeting in Euclid, Ohio.

“We have a president right now who is operating outside the construction of our Constitution,” a female attendee told Romney.

As the audience applauded, she continued: “And I do agree he should be tried for treason.

“But I wanna know what you are going to be able to do to help restore balance between the three branches of government and what you’re going to be able to do to restore our Constitution in this country?”

Unlike John McCain, who in 2008 memorably corrected a woman who declared Obama was “an Arab,” Romney didn’t issue such a correction.  Instead, he chose to simply address the question.

Since the end of World War 11, Republicans have regularly hurled the charge of “treason” against anyone who dared to run against them for office or think other than Republican-sponsored thoughts.

Republicans had been locked out of the White House from 1933 to 1952, during the administrations of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman.

Determined to regain the Presidency by any means, they found that attacking the integrity of their fellow Americans a highly effective tactic.

During the 1950s, Wisconsin Senator Joseph R. McCarthy rode a wave of paranoia to national prominence. On February 9, 1950, he claimed:

“The State Department is infested with communists. I have here in my hand a list of 205—a list of names that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department.”

Joseph McCarthy

After four years of such frenzied attacks on Congress, the State Department and respected journalists such as Edward R. Murrow, McCarthy finally overstepped himself. He accused the United States Army of being an active hotbed for Communists.

At the Army-McCarthy hearings, McCarthy’s credibility was forever destroyed. He was finally censured by his fellow Senators and disappeared into anonymity, alcoholism and death in 1957.

The fact that McCarthy never uncovered one actual case of treason was conveniently overlooked during his lifetime.

And today, right-wing columnists like Ann Coulter try to rehabilitate his memory–just as right-wingers in Russia still try to rehabilitate the memory of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

Nevertheless, the success of McCarthy’s treason-charged rhetoric proved too alluring for other Republicans to resist.  Among those who have greatly profited from hurling similar charges are:

  • President Richard Nixon
  • His vice president, Spiro Agnew
  • Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich
  • Former Congressman Dick Armey
  • President George W. Bush
  • Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin
  • Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann
  • Rush Limbaugh
  • Glenn Beck
  • Sean Hannity
  • Bill O’Reilly.

The election of Barack Obama pushed the “treason chorus” to new heights of infamy. With no political scandal (such as Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky) to fasten on, the bureaucracy of the Republican Party deliberately promoted the slander that Obama was not an American citizen.

From this there could be only one conclusion: That he was an illegitimate President, and should be removed from office.

During the 2008 Presidential campaign, Republicans charged that Obama was really a Muslim non-citizen who intended to sell out America’s security to his Muslim “masters.”

And this smear campaign continued throughout his Presidency.

To the dismay of his enemies, Obama–in the course of a single week–dramatically proved the falsity of both charges.

On April 27, 2011, he released the long-form of his Hawaii birth certificate.

The long-form version of President Obama’s birth certificate

“We do not have time for this kind of silliness,” said Obama at a press conference, speaking as a father might to a roomful of spiteful children. “We have better stuff to do. I have got better stuff to do. We have got big problems to solve.

“We are not going to be able to do it if we are distracted, we are not going to be able to do it if we spend time vilifying each other…if we just make stuff up and pretend that facts are not facts, we are not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by side shows and carnival barkers.”

And on May 1, he announced the solving of one of those “big problems”: Osama bin Laden, mastermind of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, had been tracked down and shot dead by elite U.S. Navy SEALS in Pakistan.

Of course, Obama was only the latest Democratic President to be attacked as “unpatriotic.”

For more than a half-century, Republicans have accused their Democratic opponents of treason to gain and retain political power in America.


In History, Military, Politics on October 21, 2013 at 10:21 pm

On October 1, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) said President Barack Obama told Congressional leaders at a White House meeting that “he will not negotiate.”

Boehner accused Democrats of being unwilling to negotiate key elements of the Affordable Care Act–in return for Republican agreement on a spending bill.

The Republicans were seeking–for now–a one-year delay in the rolling out of “Obamacare.”

Obama, in turn, said that he would not submit to Republican “extortion” and “blackmail.”

He said that the House should pass a “clean” spending bill–one without conditions–that met America’s obligations to its citizens and creditors.  Only then would be be willing to discuss possible changes in “Obamacare.”

Republicans countered with slogans such as: “If Obama will negotiate with [Russian President] Vladimir Putin, why won’t he negotiate with Congress?”

Seventy-three years ago, another democratic leader found himself accused of being unreasonable and unwilling to negotiate.

That leader was British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.  And those accusing him were among the most powerful men in the Third Reich.

Winston Churchill

This was not a favorable time for Britain.

On September 1, 1939, Adolf Hitler had ordered his Whermacht (army) to invade Poland.  In six weeks, Polish resistance vanished and Poland became the first of a series of Nazi vassal-states.

Then, on May 10, 1940, after waiting out the winter, Hitler’s army quickly overran Norway and Denmark.

And then it was the turn of France.

In six weeks, the German army accomplished what it couldn’t during the four years of World War 1.  It  bypassed the heavily defended Maginot Line and destroyed one French army after another.

The defeated French were forced to sign the armistice in the same railway car they had used in 1918 when they forced Germany to surrender after World War 1.

Although the British had committed their air force and army to defending France, both had been easily swept aside by the Wehrmact and Luftwaffe (air force).

Driven almost literally into the sea, the British evacuated about 338,226 men from the port of Dunkirk.  It was a miracle made possible by Hitler’s unexplained halt of the German advance and the arrival of a fleet of civilian and naval vessels from England.

“The battle of France is over,” Churchill warned his countrymen.  “The battle of Britain is about to begin.”

But not before Hitler offered his own version of “peace with honor.”

On July 19, the Fuehrer addressed the Reichstag, Germany’s rubber-stamp parliament:

“From Britain I now hear only a single cry–not of the people but of the politicians–that the war must go on….

Hitler addressing the Reichstag

“Mr. Churchill ought, for once, to believe me when I prophesy that a great Empire will be destroyed–an Empire which it was never my intention to destroy or even to harm.

“In this hour I feel it to be my duty before my own conscience to appeal once more to reason and common sense in Great Britain as well as elsewhere.

“I consider myself in a position to make this appeal since I am not the vanquished begging favors but the victor speaking in the name of reason.

“I see no reason why this war must go on.”

The assembled parliamentary deputies and bemedaled generals were convinced the British would accept Hitler’s “generous” offer of peace.

They took it for granted that the British would be grateful for the opportunity  Hitler was giving them to get out of the war.

The Fuehrer, they believed, had been truly magnanimous.  How could the British be insane enough to turn him down?

Soon enough, they–and the Fuehrer–got their answer.

Correspondent William L. Shirer, waiting to make a broadcast at the CBS studio in Berlin, listened as the BBC introduced one of its own correspondents.

Sefton Delmner, fluent in German, had covered Nazi Germany for years.  Although not authorized to speak for the British Government, his response could have come directly from Churchill himself.

Sefton Delmer

“Herr Hitler,” said Delmer in his most deferential German, “you have on occasion in the past consulted me as to the mood of the British public.

“So permit me to render Your Excellency this little service once again tonight.

“Let me tell you what we here in Britain think of this appeal of yours to what you are pleased to call our reason and common sense.  Herr Fuehrer and Reichskanzler [Reich Chancellor] we hurl it right back to you, right in your evil-smelling teeth.”

German officials listening to the broadcast in Shirer’s office were stunned.

“Can you make it out?” one demanded of Shirer.  “Can you understand those British fools?  To turn down peace now?  They’re crazy!”

Although devastated by the forthcoming bombing raids of Hitler’s Luftwaffe, England held out.

Months later, it gained two powerful allies: The Soviet Union (invaded by Hitler on June 22, 1941) and the United States (attacked by Japan on December 7, 1941).

In the end, by standing up to Fascist aggression, England and its democracy were saved.

Americans can only hope the same proves true for their country.


In Bureaucracy, Law Enforcement, Self-Help on October 18, 2013 at 2:15 am

Bill was visiting Daly City when he got threatening call from a stranger.

A resident of San Francisco, he filed a complaint with his local police station as soon as he returned to the city.

But then an Inspector named Jones told him: “You need to also file a report with the Daly City Police Department.  Otherwise, we can’t help you.”

So Bill called the Daly City police–and was quickly told he didn’t need to file a report, since he had already filed one with the San Francisco Police Ddepartment (SFPD)

Angered, Bill decided to make a complaint. He dialed the main number and said, “Chief’s office, please.”

Bill didn’t expect to speak with the chief, Greg Suhr.  Speaking with one of Surh’s aides would be enough.

Police departments are quasi-military organizations, where hierarchy counts for everything.

A sergeant-secretary answered the phone.  Bill outlined what had happened–and didn’t hide his anger at having been blackmailed at a time when he most needed help.

The Chief’s secretary was sympathetic, took Bill’s number, and promised to get back to him soon.  A few minutes later, he called back.

The secretary said he had spoken with Inspector Jones, who had tried to trace the phone number of the person who had threatened him.  But that hadn’t been possible.

The number went to a Google phone exchange, which could be used by callers who didn’t want to reveal their actual number.

The next time Bill spoke with the Inspector, he detected a more helpful attitude.  Still, no one in the SFPD offered Bill any advice on how to deal with an unprecedented situation.

Bill again visited a local police station.  He  brought a detailed, written account of who he suspected might be responsible for the threat.

Inspector Jones accepted it.  Bill asked what would happen next.

Jones said he would forward Bill’s report to the District Attorney’s office.  They would then decide whether to prosecute.

Bill continues to remain uncertain–of the danger he faces, of what police and prosecutors might do on his behalf.  He remains alert whenever he goes out, but that’s all he can do.

Unlike celebrities, he can’t afford bodyguards.  Unlike public officials, he can’t count on round-the-clock police protection.

When dealing with police, it’s best to remember the following:

Above everyone else, police look out for each other.

Robert Daley, a police reporter for the New York Times, spent one year as a deputy police commissioner.  He bluntly revealed this truth in his 1971 bestseller, Target Blue: An Insider’s View of the N.Y.P.D.:

“In effect, the citizen who murdered his wife’s lover was sought by a team of detectives, two men.  But he who killed a cop was sought by 32,000.”

That’s why the Mafia didn’t kill cops.  Only sucidal people took on those odds.

Don’t expect the police to do for you what they’ll do for one another.

In February, 2013, a fired LAPD cop named Christopher Dorner declared war on his former colleagues.

The LAPD assigned security and surveillance details to at least 50 threatened officers and their families.  A typical detail consists of two to five or more guards.  And those guards must be changed every eight to 12 hours.

And those details stayed in place until Dorner was killed in a firefight on February 12.

Money makes the difference.

Police claim to enforce the law impartially.  But that happens only in TV crime shows.

If you’re rich, your complaint will likely get top priority and the best service the agency can provide.

But if you’re poor or even middle-class without high-level political or police connections, your case will likely go nowhere.

Don’t expect your police department to be as efficient as those in TV police dramas.

“I want this rock [Hawaii] sealed off,” Steve McGarrett (Jack Lord) routinely ordered when pursuing criminals on “Hawaii Five-O.”

Jack Lord as Steve McGarrett

But in San Jose–a city close to bankruptcy–residents can’t get police to respond to break-ins because the police department is dangerously understaffed.

And in San Francisco, if you’re assaulted and can’t give police “a named suspect,” they won’t assign the case.  As far as they’re concerned, the solvability rate is too low.

Among the realities of real-life law enforcement:

  • Many police departments lack state-of-the-art crime labs to analyze evidence.
  • Files often get lost or accidentally destroyed.
  • Some officers are lazy, indifferent or incompetent.
  • Police are notoriously competitive, generally refusing to share information with other officers or other police departments–and thus making it easier for criminals to run amok.
  • Even when police ”solve” a crime, that simply means making an arrest.  The perpetrator may cop to a lesser offense and serve only a token sentence–or none at all.  Or he might be found not guilty by a judge or jury.

The result of all this is disillusionment with law enforcement from a deservedly–and increasingly–cynical public.


In Bureaucracy, Law Enforcement, Self-Help on October 17, 2013 at 1:50 am

On TV, if an innocent citizen is threatened by a criminal, the cops spare no expense protecting him–or her.

If s/he’s really lucky, s/he’ll get protection from no less than the Top Cop HImself–such as Steve McGarrett (on Hawaii Five-O) or Elliot Ness (on The Untouchables).

If you think that’s how real-life cops operate, you’re in for a shock.  Especially if you have to entrust your life to them.

Consider the case of a friend of mine I’ll call Bill.

Bill was shopping in a Home Depot in Daly City when his cell phone rang.  Assuming it was someone he knew, he casually answered it.

The caller proved to be someone he didn’t know.  More ominously, it was someone he wouldn’t want to know.

“You got my friend kicked out,” he said.  “And I’m going to get you.  I know who you are and where you live.”

Bill explained–truthfully–that he hadn’t gotten anyone kicked out.  For a few moments he had no idea who the caller might be talking about.

Then he remembered: About two months earlier, an aggressive psychopathic tenant had been evicted from his apartment building.  Bill hadn’t had anything to do with the eviction.

True, the property management company supervising the complex had tried to recruit him to testify in a lawsuit against the psycho-tenant.  But Bill had wanted nothing to do with the case.

There were some risks just not worth taking–especially when a man who routinely threatened others lived only two floors below.

Still, the tenant had clearly been told by someone else that Bill had played a role in his eviction.  Just days before he was to move out, he shouted at Bill: “I’m being evicted, and you’re responsible for it!”

The next day, by unfortunate coincidence, Bill again ran into the psycho-tenant, who shuted: “I’m being evicted, and I’m sure that makes you happy!”

So now, as Bill listened to the unknown caller making his threat, he felt 99% certain that even if he didn’t know the caller, he knew the man on whose behalf he was calling.

Bill stayed calm, trying to draw the caller into giving some specific information.  But the caller refused to be tempted, and Bill hung up.

Thinking it over, Bill was worried: His cell phone number was known to only a few people–and certainly not to the evicted tenant.  Someone had clearly gone to a great deal of trouble to find it.

For the moment, he took some heart in that the caller’s number showed up on his cell phone.  No doubt the police could quickly trace it, he assumed.

(He soon found out they couldn’t.  The number was to a Google phone exchange, which could be used by callers who didn’t want to reveal their actual number.)

As soon as Bill returned to San Francisco, he visited a police station and made out a report to a uniformed officer.

Later that day, he called the station to provide more information.  He was connected to an Inspector Jones (not his real name).

In the police world, an Inspector is a figure of real authority and prestige.  The word “inspector” will open doors that may well be closed to other police officers.

So Bill assumed he was dealing with the elite of the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD)

To his surprise, Jones asked if he had filed a report of the incident with the Daly City Police Department.

“No,” Bill said.  He had simply been visiting Daly City when the call came in.  No one had assaulted him in Daly City  And he believed the call had almost certainly come from San Francisco.

“Well,” said Inspector Jones, “you must file a report with the Daly City Police Department.  Otherwise, we can’t (that is, won’t) help you.”

Bill asked: ” Can I make the report over the phone?”

“No,” said Jones, “it has to be made in person.”

Bill: “I don’t have a car.  I don’t know where the Daly City Police Department is.”

“Well, we can’t help you until you do it,” said Jones.

So Bill called the Daly City Police Department.  A female officer soon came on the line.  Bill outlined the reason for his call.

“Did you file a report with the SFPD?” the officer asked.

“Yes,” said Bill.

“Then you don’t need to file one with us,” said the officer.

“Are you certain?” asked Bill.


Now Bill was not so much worried as angry.  He re-dialed the SFPD–but this time, at a far higher level: The Office of the Chief of Police.

he didn’t expect to speak with the Chief himself.  But that wasn’t necessary.  It would be enough for him to reach someone who worked directly for the Chief.

Police department are quasi-military organizations.  They are rigidly hierarchial.  At a police station, a captain wields Godlike authority over everyone beneath him–detectives, sergeants, uniformed officers.

And if a captain wields Godlike authority over his subordinates, the Chief is the uniformed version of God to everyone else in the department.


In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics on October 15, 2013 at 1:06 am

The media has given wall-to-wall coverage of the Federal Government shutdown–and the effects it has had on both Federal employees and ordinary Americans.

But there is one aspect of this story that hasn’t been covered.  In fact, it is so obvious that I can only conclude that editors are deliberately ignoring it.

President Barack Obama, a former attorney, has denounced House Republicans as guilty of “extortion” and “blackmail.”

Unless he was exaggerating, both of these are felony offenses that are punishable under the 2001 Patriot Act and the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act of 1970.

So: Why hasn’t the President acted to punish such criminal conduct?

All that he need do is to order his Attorney General, Eric Holder, to ask the FBI to investigate whether either or both of these laws have been violated.  If it’s discovered that they have, indictments could immediately follow, and then prosecutions.

The results of such action can be easily predicted.

  1. Facing lengthy prison terms, those indicted Republicans would first have to lawyer-up.  That in itself would be no small thing, since good criminal lawyers cost big bucks.
  2. Obsessed with their own personal survival, they would find little time for engaging in more of the same thuggish behavior that got them indicted.  In fact, doing so would only make their conviction more likely.
  3. Those Republicans who hadn’t (yet) been indicted would realize: “I could be next.”  This would produce a chilling effect on their willingness to engage in further acts of subversion and extortion.
  4. The effect on Right-wing Republicans would be the same as that of President Reagan’s firing of striking air traffic controllers:  “You cross me and threaten the security of this nation at your own peril.”

It would no doubt be a long time before Republicans dared to engage in such behavior–if they ever so dared again.

Had Obama done so when Republicans began threatening to shut down the government and destroy the country’s credit rating unless they got their way, this crisis would now be past.

In fact, if he had warned, months ago, that he would react to such terroristic behavior with indictments and prosecutions, it’s highly unlikely that this crisis would have occurred.

With major Republicans like House Speaker John Boehner and Senator Ted Cruz facing  prosecution and imprisonment, the rest of the party would have quickly found a way to pass a budget and ensure that the United States pays its debts.

The ancient Greeks used to say: “A man’s character is his fate.”  It is Obama’s character–and our fate–that he is by nature a conciliator, not a confronter.

Richard Wolffe chronicled Obama’s winning of the White House in his book Renegade: The Making of a President.  He noted that Obama was always more comfortable when responding to Republican attacks on his character than he was in making attacks of his own.

Obama came into office determined to find common ground with Republicans.  But they quickly made it clear to him that they only wanted his political destruction.

At that point, he should have put aside his hopes for a “Kumbaya moment” and re-read what Niccolo Machiavelli famously said in The Prince on the matter of love versus fear:

Niccolo Machiavelli

From this arises the question whether it is better to be loved than feared, or feared more than loved.  The reply is, that one ought to be both feared and loved, but as it is difficult for the two to go together, it is much safer to be feared than loved. 

For it may be said of men in general that they are ungrateful, voluble, dissemblers, anxious to avoid danger and covetous of gain. 

As long as you benefit them, they are entirely yours: they offer you their blood, their goods, their life and their children, when the necessity is remote.  But when it approaches, they revolt…. 

And men have less scruple in offending one who makes himself loved than one who makes himself feared; for love is held by a chain of obligations which, men being selfish, is broken whenever it serves their purpose; but fear is maintained by a dread of punishment which never fails.

Moreover, Machiavelli warns that even a well-intentioned leader can unintentionally bring on catastrophe.  This usually happens when, hoping to avoid conflict, he allows a threat to go unchecked.  Thus:

A man who 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.

Of course, it’s possible that some prosecuted Republicans might beat the rap.  But this wouldn’t happen until they had been forced to spend huge amounts of time and money on their defense.

And, with 75% of Americans saying they are disgusted with Congress, it’s highly likely that most of those prosecuted would wind up convicted.

And, as Andrew Jackson once said: “One man with courage makes a majority.”

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