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FROM “CREDIBILITY GAP” TO “ORWELL LAND”: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on September 29, 2016 at 12:01 am

In 2011, Donald Trump, host of NBC’s “The Apprentice,” was thinking of running for President against Barack Obama.

Seeking to gain popularity among America’s Right-wing, Trump almost singlehandedly created the popular fiction that the President was born in Kenya–and was not an American citizen.

His motive: To convince Americans that Obama was an illegitimate President.

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Donald Trump

Among the statements Trump made:

February 10, 2011: “Our current president came out of nowhere. Came out of nowhere. In fact, I’ll go a step further: The people that went to school with him, they never saw him, they don’t know who he is. It’s crazy.”

March 23, 2011: “I want him to show his birth certificate. I want him to show his birth certificate. … There’s something on that birth certificate that he doesn’t like.”

March 28, 2011: “I am really concerned” [that Obama wasn’t born in the United States]. He said that the birth announcement for Obama in a Hawaii newspaper could have been planted “for whatever reason.”

March 30, 2011: “If you are going to be president of the United States you have to be born in this country. And there is a doubt as to whether or not he was. … He doesn’t have a birth certificate. He may have one, but there’s something on that, maybe religion, maybe it says he is a Muslim. I don’t know. Maybe he doesn’t want that. Or he may not have one. But I will tell you this. If he wasn’t born in this country, it’s one of the great scams of all time.”

April 7, 2011: “I have people that have been studying it, and they cannot believe what they’re finding. You are not allowed to be a president if you’re not born in this country. Right now I have real doubts.”

April 25, 2011: “I’ve been told very recently…that the birth certificate is missing. I’ve been told that it’s not there or it doesn’t exist. And if that’s the case, it’s a big problem.”

On April 27, President Obama released his original, long-form Hawiian 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.

SEALS attacking bin Laden’s compound in the 2012 movie, “Zero Dark Thirty”

And how did Trump respond?  With the following series of Tweets on Twitter:

May 18, 2012:  “Let’s take a closer look at that birth certificate.@BarackObama was described in 2003 as being “born in Kenya.” http://bit.ly/Klc9Uu

August 6, 2012: “An ‘extremely credible source’ has called my office and told me that @BarackObama‘s birth certificate is a fraud.”

August 27, 2012: “Why do the Republicans keep apologizing on the so called “birther” issue? No more apologies–take the offensive!”

September 13, 2012: “Wake Up America! See article: “Israeli Science: Obama Birth Certificate is a Fake” 

June 30, 2013: @davidrhythmguit: @realDonaldTrump @Chuffman48 Mark Cuban accepts the fact that the President of the United States was born here. Doubt it”

August 22, 2013: “Why are people upset w/ me over Pres Obama’s birth certificate? I got him to release it, or whatever it was, when nobody else could!”

December 12, 2013:  “How amazing, the State Health Director who verified copies of Obama’s “birth certificate” died in plane crash today. All others lived”

November 23, 2014: “@futureicon: @pinksugar61 Obama also fabricated his own birth certificate after being pressured to produce one by @realDonaldTrump

Even after declaring his candidacy for President on June 16, 2015, Trump continued to insist that Barack Obama was an illegitimate President.

Meanwhile, Trump’s popularity among blacks had steadily fallen. In June, 2016, a Quinnipiac poll revealed that Trump had 1% of support from black voters. By comparison, 91% of black voters backed Hillary Clinton.

Among the reasons for this:

  • His enthusiastic support by racist white supremacist organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party.
  • His “birther” attacks on President Obama as a non-citizen from Kenya–and thus ineligible to hold the Presidency.
  • His attacks on the Black Lives Matter movement and calling on his supporters at rallies to rough up minority protesters.

Even the managers of Trump’s campaign urged him to put the “birther” issue behind him.

And so, on September 16–10 days before his scheduled first debate with Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton–Trump made his version of a reversal.

FROM “CREDIBILITY GAP” TO “ORWELL LAND”: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on September 28, 2016 at 12:09 am

“Credibility gap” is a term that came into use during the mid-1960s to describe public and journalistic distrust of President Lyndon B. Johnson. In particular, the term was applied to his administration’s conduct of the Vietnam war.

It was, in short, a euphemism for accusing government officials of outright lying.

An example of the credibility gap in full swing appeared in Stanley Kubrick’s classic 1987 Vietnam war movie, Full Metal Jacket

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Vietnam was a war where military and political officials spewed a gung-ho version of constant American progress against a tough enemy.

And where civilian reporters like David Halberstam and Walter Cronkite saw–and labeled–the war as a brutal, wasteful and ultimately doomed effort. 

Midway through the film, there’s an editorial meeting of The Sea Tiger, the official Marine newspaper.

Lieutenant Lockhart is presiding–and he is determined to give his superiors an endless stream of “all-systems-go” propaganda reports. He reads a series of stories that have been published:

Story #1: DIPLOMATS IN DUNGAREES–MARINE ENGINEERS LEND A HELPING HAND REBUILDING DONG PHUC VILLAGES.

LOCKHART: “Chili, “if we move Vietnamese, they are evacuees. If they come to us to be evacuated, they are refugees.”

Story #2: N.V.A. SOLDIER DESERTS AFTER READING PAMPHLETS.

LOCKHART: “A young North Vietnamese Army regular, who realized his side could not win the war, deserted from his unit after reading Open Arms program pamphlets.”

Story #3: NOT WHILE WE’RE EATING: N.V.A. LEARN MARINES ON A SEARCH AND DESTROY MISSION DON’T LIKE TO BE INTERRUPTED WHILE EATING CHOW.

LOCKHART: “‘Search and destroy.’  Uh, we have a new directive on this. In the future, in place of ‘search and destroy,’ substitute the phrase ‘sweep and clear.’ Got it?” 

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Lt. Lockhart, editor of The Sea Tiger 

LOCKHART:  “And, Joker–where’s the weenie?”

JOKER:  “Sir?”

LOCKHART  “The Kill, Joker. I mean, all that fire, the grunts must’ve hit something.”

JOKER:  “Didn’t see ’em.”

LOCKHART:  “Joker, I’ve told you, we run two basic stories here: Grunts who give half their pay to buy gooks toothbrushes and deodorants–winning of hearts and Minds–okay? And combat action that results in a kill–Winning the War. Now you must have seen blood trails … drag marks?”

JOKER:  “It was raining, sir.”

LOCKHART:  “Well, that’s why God passed the law of probability. Now rewrite it and give it a happy ending–say, uh, one kill. Make it a sapper or an officer. Grunts like reading about dead officers.”

JOKER:  “Okay, an officer. How about a general?”

LOCKHART:  “Joker, maybe you’d like our guys to read the paper and feel bad. I mean, in case you didn’t know it, this is not a particularly popular war. Now, it is our job to report the news that these why-are-we-here civilian newsmen ignore.”

So great became the divide between truth and lies during military “press briefings” that reporters started calling them “The Five O’clock Follies.” And even some soldiers took to wearing buttons that said: “Ambushed at Credibility Gap.”

Reporters who dared to write truthfully about the military’s crimes and failures–like David Halberstam of the New York Times and Peter Arnett of the Associated Press–were regarded as traitors by military and political officials.

In 1963, President John F. Kennedy became enraged by Halberstam’s reporting on the corruption of the South Vietnamese government. He pressured New York Times publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger to transfer Halberstam to another locale. Sulzberger politely refused–and then extended Halberstam’s stay in Vietnam another six months.

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David Halberstam

In 1965, when CBS Correspondent Morley Safer filmed Marines setting fire to the village of Cam Ne with Zippo lighters, President Lyndon B. Johnson was similarly outraged.

He placed an early-morning call to CBS News President Frank Stanton and shouted: “Your boys shat on the American flag!”

The trail of deceit and attempted censorship continued right up to the end of the war–in April, 1975. That was when North Vietnamese forces invaded the South and quickly overwhelmed the incompetent defenses arrayed against them.

And while America was still bogged down in Vietnam, the Watergate scandal erupted on June 17, 1972.

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Watergate Hotel

Members of the Nixon administration’s secret “Plumbers Unit” burglarized the offices of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate Hotel.

Obsessed with re-electing Richard Nixon, they sought incriminating information to discredit U.S. Senator George McGovern, the Democrats’ nominee for President.

When the burglars were caught, President Richard M. Nixon and his topmost officials lied and stonewalled both reporters and investigators seeking the truth.

Nixon’s press secretary, Ronald Ziegler, repeatedly slandered the integrity of The Washington Post for its coverage of the mushrooming Watergate scandal. He called the Watergate break-in “a third-rate burglary” and attacked the Post for “shabby journalism.”

Finally, on April 17, 1973, Ziegler, announced at a press conference: “This is the operative statement. The others are inoperative.”

In short: We’ve been lying to you for the last 10 months.  But now we’re telling the truth.

Like Vietnam, the Watergate scandal destroyed the reputations of many of its chief architects. Forty government officials were indicted or jailed.

Vietnam and Watergate were seminal events for Americans coming of age in the late 1960s and early 1970s. They taught an entire generation: Don’t trust the government.  Its officials routinely lie, and their lies can be deadly.

SPHERES OF INFLUENCE: OURS AND THEIRS

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on September 27, 2016 at 12:05 am

It didn’t take much for American Right-wingers to start salivating–and celebrating.

All it took was for Russia to move troops into its neighboring territories of Ukraine and Crimea.

Ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the American Right felt dejected. Accusing Democrats of being “terrorist-lovers” just hadn’t been as profitable as accusing them of being “Communists.”

The torch had barely gone out at the much-ballyhooed 2014 Sochi Olympics when Russian President Vladimir Putin began menacing the Ukraine. 

Even while the Olympics played out on television, Ukrainians had rioted in Kiev and evicted their corrupt, luxury-loving president, Victor Yanukovych. 

And this, of course, didn’t sit well with his “sponsor”–Putin.

Yanukovych had rejected a pending European Union association agreement. He had chosen instead to pursue a Russian loan bailout and closer ties with Russia.

And that had sat well with Putin.

Since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, Putin had yearned for a reestablishment of the same.  He had called that breakup “the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th century.”

So it was almost a certainty that, when his chosen puppet, Yanukovych, was sent packing, Putin would find some way to retaliate.

And since late February, 2014, he has done so, gradually moving Russian troops into Ukraine and its autonomous republic, Crimea.

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Vladimir Putin

By late March, it was clear that Russia had sufficient forces in both Ukraine and Crimea to wreak any amount of destruction Putin may wish to inflict.

And where there is activity by Russians, there are American Rightists eager–in Shakespeare’s word–to “cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war.”

Or at least to use such events to their own political advantage.

Right-wingers such as Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachussetts who lost the 2012 Presidential election by a wide margin to Barack Obama.

“There’s no question but that the president’s naiveté with regards to Russia,” said Romney on March 23, 2014.

“And unfortunately, not having anticipated Russia’s intentions, the president wasn’t able to shape the kinds of events that may have been able to prevent the kinds of circumstances that you’re seeing in the Ukraine, as well as the things that you’re seeing in Syria.”

All of which overlooks a number of brutal political truths. 

First, all great powers have spheres of interest–and jealously guard them.

For the United States, it’s Latin and Central America, as established by the Monroe Doctrine.

And just what is the Monroe Doctrine?

It’s a statement made by President James Monroe in his 1823 annual message to Congress, which warned European powers not to interfere in the affairs of the Western Hemisphere.

It has no other legitimacy than the willingness of the United States to use armed force to back it up. When the United States no longer has the will or resources to enforce the Doctrine, it will cease to have meaning.

For the Soviet Union, its spheres of influence include the Ukraine. Long known as “the breadbasket of Russia,” in 2011, it was the world’s third-largest grain exporter.

Russia will no more give up access to that breadbasket than the United States would part with the rich farming states of the Midwest. 

Second, spheres of influence often prove disastrous to those smaller countries affected.

Throughout Latin and Central America, the United States remains highly unpopular for its brutal use of “gunboat diplomacy” during the 20th century.

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American gunboat

Among those countries invaded or controlled by America: Mexico, Cuba, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Columbia, Panama and the Dominican Republic.

The resulting anger has led many Latin and Central Americans to support Communist Cuba, even though its political oppression and economic failure are universally apparent.

Similarly, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.) forced many nations–such as Poland, Hungary and Czechoslavakia–to submit to the will of Moscow.

The alternative? The threat of Soviet invasion–as occurred in Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968.

Third, even “great powers” are not all-powerful.

In 1949, after a long civil war, the forces of Mao Tse-tung defeated the Nationalist armies of Chaing Kai-Shek, who withdrew to Taiwan.

China had never been a territory of the United States. Nor could the United States have prevented Mao from defeating the corrupt, ineptly-led Nationalist forces.

Even so, Republican Senators and Representatives such as Richard Nixon and Joseph McCarthy eagerly blamed President Harry S. Truman and the Democrats for “losing China.”

The fear of being accused of “losing” another country led Presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon to tragically commit the United States to “roll back” Communism in Cuba and Vietnam.

Now Republicans–who claim the United States can’t afford to provide healthcare for its poorest citizens–want to turn the national budget over to the Pentagon.

They want the United States to “intervene” in Syria–even though this civil war pits Al Qaeda and Hezbollah, two of America’s greatest enemies, against each other.

They want the United States to “intervene” in Ukraine–even though this would mean going to war with the only nuclear power capable of turning America into an atomic graveyard.

Before plunging into conflicts that don’t concern us and where there is absolutely nothing to “win,” Americans would do well to remember the above-stated lessons of history. And to learn from them.

WHY THE POOR VOTE REPUBLICAN: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on September 26, 2016 at 12:10 am

Republicans have long tried to prevent or eliminate programs that aid the poor and middle-class, including:

  • Social Security (since it began in 1935)
  • Medicare
  • National health insurance
  • Food stamps
  • WIC (Women, Infants, Children).

So why are so many poor Americans now flocking to this party’s banner?

Two reasons: Racism and greed. There are historical parallels for both.

First, race:

In 1999, historian Victor Davis Hanson noted the huge gap in wealth between the aristocratic, slave-owning minority of the pre-Civil War South and the vast majority of poor white Southerners.

Victor Davis Hanson

“Before the war in the counties Sherman would later ruin, the top 10% of the landowners controlled 40% of the assessed wealth.”

In contrast, “more than half of those who were lucky enough to own any property at all still possessed less than 15% of the area’s valuation.”

So Hanson asked: “Why did the millions of poor whites of the Confederacy fight at all?”

He supplied the answer in his brilliant work on military history, The Soul of Battle: From Ancient Times to the Present Day, How Three Great Liberators Vanquished Tyranny.

One of those liberators was General William Tecumseh Sherman, who led 62,000 Union troops in a victorious “March to the Sea” through the Confederacy in 1864.

So why did so many poor Southern whites literally lay down their lives for the wealthy planter class, which despised them?

According to Hanson: “Behind the entire social fabric of the South lay slavery.

“If slavery eroded the economic position of the poor free citizens, if slavery encouraged a society of haves and have-nots…then it alone offered one promise to the free white man–poor, ignorant and dispirited–that he was at least not black and not a slave.”

And the planter class and its allies in government easily fobbed off their poor white countrymen with cheap flattery. Said Georgia Governor Joseph Brown:

“Among us the poor white laborer is respected as an equal. His family is treated with kindness, consideration, and respect. He does not belong to the menial class. The negro is in no sense his equal. He belongs to the only true aristocracy, the race of white men.”

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Arlington House and plantation, former home of Robert E. Lee

Similarly, poor whites now flock to the Republican Party–which holds them in equal contempt– in large part to protest the 2008 election of the first black President of the United States.

According to a Pew Research Center study released on July 22, 2011: “Notably, the GOP gains have occurred only among white voters; a 2-point Republican edge among whites in 2008 (46% to 44%) has widened to a 13-point lead today (52% to 39%).”

Since the 1960s, Republicans have pursued a campaign policy of “divide and rule”–divide the nation along racial lines and reap the benefits at election time.

  • Republicans opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
  • Republicans opposed the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
  • Republicans, with Richard Nixon as their Presidential candidate in 1968 and 1972, pursued what they called a “Southern strategy”: Use “code language” to stoke fear and hatred of blacks among whites.
  • Republicans have falsely identified welfare programs exclusively with non-whites. (Of the six million Americans receiving food stamps, about 42% are white, 32% are black, and 22% are Latino–with the growth fastest among whites during the recession.)

Thus, in voting Republican, many of these poor whites believe they are “striking a blow for the white race.”

And they can do so in a more socially acceptable way than joining a certified hate group such as the American Nazi Party or Ku Klux Klan.  

Since 2015, openly racist groups such as the Klan and the American Nazi Party have flocked to the banner of Presidential candidate mogul Donald Trump. By enthusiastically courting their support, the real estate mogul has made it possible for Republican candidates to openly display their own racism.

Now greed:

In the hit play, 1776, on the creation and signing of the Declaration of Independence, there is a telling exchange between John Dickinson and John Hancock. It comes during the song, “Cool, Cool, Considerate Men.”

Dickinson, the delegate from Pennsylvania, urges Hancock, president of the Second Continental Congress, “to join us in our minuet.”

By “us” he means his fellow conservatives who fear losing their property and exalted status by supporting American independence from Great Britain.

John Dickinson

Hancock declines, saying: “Fortunately, there are not enough men of property in America to dictate policy.”

To which Dickinson replies:  “Perhaps not. But don’t forget that most men with nothing would rather protect the possibility of becoming rich than face the reality of being poor.  And that is why they will follow us.”

Today,  poor whites generally identify with the CEOs of powerful corporations. They believe the Republican gospel that they can attain such wealth–if only the government will “get out of my way.”

They forget–or ignore–the truth that government, for all its imperfections, is sometimes all that stands between them and a wide range of predators.

In return, the CEOs despise them as the privileged have always despised their social and economic “inferiors.”

Unless the Democratic Party can find ways to directly address these bitter, Politically Incorrect truths, it will continue its decline into insignificance.

WHY THE POOR VOTE REPUBLICAN: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on September 23, 2016 at 8:12 am

On July 22, 2011, ABC News carried the following story:

The Pew Foundation, analyzing voter identification, found “the electorate’s partisan affiliations have shifted significantly” since Barack Obama won office in 2008.

The GOP had gained strength among white voters, most specifically “the young and poor.”

A seven-point Democratic advantage among whites under age 30 three years ago had turned into an 11-point GOP advantage. And a 15-point Democratic advantage among whites earning less than $30,000 annually had swung to a slim four-point Republican edge by 2011.

In addition:

  • The GOP gains had occurred only among white voters.
  • Republicans had made sizable gains among white voters since 2008. Fifty-two percent of white voters called themselves Republicans or leaned to the GOP, compared with 39% who affiliated with the Democratic Party or leaned Democratic.
  • Democrats had lost their edge among lower income white voters.
  • In 2008, Democrats had a 15 point lead among white voters with family incomes less than $30,000.  By 2011, Republicans had a four-point edge among this group.
  • The GOP’s lead among middle income white voters had grown since 2008, and Republicans held a substantial advantage with higher income white voters.
  • Republicans have made gains among whites with a high school education or less. The GOP’s advantage over Democrats had grown from one point in 2008 to 17 points in 2011 among less educated whites.
  • Republicans had made smaller gains among whites voters who had college degrees.

What is fascinating about these findings is this: The Republicans have, since 1980, pursued a policy of gutting programs aimed at helping the poor–while repeatedly creating tax-breaks for the wealthiest 1% of the population.

For Republicans, the patron saint of this “love-the-rich-screw-the-poor” ideology remains Ronald Reagan–two-time governor of California and twice-elected President of the United States (1981-1989)

Ronald Reagan, who taught Americans to worship the wealthy

Among those charting Reagan’s legacy as President was former CBS Correspondent David Shoenbrum.

In his bestselling autobiography, America Inside Out: At Home and Abroad from Roosevelt to Reagan, he noted:

  • On January 28, 1981, keeping a pledge to his financial backers in the oil industry, Reagan abolished Federal controls on the price of oil.
  • Within a week, Exxon, Texaco and Shell raised gasoline prices and prices of home heating oil.
  • Reagan saw it as his duty to put a floor under prices, not a ceiling above them.
  • Reagan believed that when government helped business it wasn’t interfering. Loaning money to bail out a financially incompetent Chrysler was “supporting the free enterprise system.”
  • But putting a high-profits tax on price-gouging corporations or filing anti-trust suits against them was “Communistic” and therefore intolerable.
  • Tax-breaks for wealthy businesses meant helping America become stronger.
  • But welfare for the poor or the victims of a predatory marketplace economy weakened America by sapping its morale.

“In short, welfare for the rich is good for America. But welfare for the poor is bad for America, even for the poor themselves, for it encourages them to be shiftless and lazy.

“Somehow, loans to the inefficient management of American corporations would not similarly encourage them in their inefficient methods,” wrote Shoenbrun.

Republicans have sought to dismantle Social Security ever since that program began in 1935. And Republicans have furiously opposed other programs aiding the poor and middle-class—such as Medicare, food stamps and WIC (Women, Infants, Children).

In short, this is not a political party with a history of rushing to the defense of those most in need.

So the question remains: Why are so many poor Americans flocking to its banner?

The answer lies in the history of the American South–and slavery.

HITLER, THE GOP AND SCORCHED EARTH: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on September 22, 2016 at 9:23 am

With more than 240,000 employees, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is the third largest Cabinet department, after the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs.

The Defense Department is charged with military actions abroad. DHS is responsible for protecting the United States inside and outside its borders.

Its goal is to prepare for, prevent and–if prevention fails–respond to man-made accidents, natural disasters and terrorism.

Among the agencies now operating under its mandate:

  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection
  • U.S. Coast Guard
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
  • Federal Law Enforcement Training Center
  • U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
  • Transportation and Safety Administration (TSA)
  • U.S. Secret Service
  • Science and Technology Directorate
  • Domestic Nuclear Detection Office
  • Office of Intelligence and Analysis
  • Office of Operations Coordination and Planning

Some of DHS’s agencies–like FEMA and the Secret Service–are well-known. Others–such as the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center and the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office–are not.

Click here: Department Components | Homeland Security

Yet each has a vital role to play in protecting the nation. A nation whose security Republicans were willing to threaten to get their way on a matter of domestic policy.

Consider the implications if there is no

  • Secret Service to protect the President;
  • TSA to ensure the safety of airline passengers;
  • FEMA to respond to national emergencies (such as Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy);
  • Domestic Nuclear Detection Office to prevent nuclear terrorism;
  • Coast Guard to save those in ocean peril and defend our maritime borders.

Right-wing Republicans argued that even if DHS’s funding were stopped, most of its employees would stay on the job.

That’s because they perform work considered necessary to protect human life and property. But while those employees were safeguarding the country, they wouldn’t be paid until the shutdown ended.  

It’s hard to give your full attention to protecting the lives of others when you have to worry about paying a mortgage or feeding your family.

Of course, the Republicans responsible for this shutdown would continue to receive their hefty paychecks.

And there was something else to consider.

DHS is best-known for its mission to prevent terrorist attacks on America. And America seemed to be in the crosshairs of North Korean terrorism at that very moment.

On November 14, 2014, Sony Pictures came under relentless attack by cyberterrorists, who the FBI has linked to North Korea.

The reason? Sony’s production of “The Interview,” a comedy depicting the assassination of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

Calling themselves “Guardians of Peace,” or GOP, they shut down the company’s computer system and revealed employees’ personal information such as salaries, addresses, and Social Security numbers.

(Ironically, “Guardians of Peace” appropriated the same abbreviation–GOP–used by the Republicans for “Grand Old Party.”)

Warning issued by “Guardians of Peace” (GOP)

On December 17, 2014, Sony Pictures cancelled the Christmas Day premier of “The Interview” after the nation’s five largest movie chains refused to show the movie, following a terror threat posted online.

And then on February 5, 2015, Anthem Insurance announced that its database had been hacked–and sensitive medical information on up to 80 million customers and employees accessed.

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

* * * * *

As the Third Reich came to its fiery end, Adolf Hitler sought to punish the German people for being “unworthy” of his “genius” and losing the war he had started.

His attitude was: “If I can’t rule Germany, then there won’t be a Germany.”

In his infamous “Nero Order,” he decreed the destruction of everything still remaining–industries, ships, harbors, communications, roads, mines, bridges, stores, utility plants, food stuffs.

Fortunately for Germany, one man–Albert Speer–finally broke ranks with his Fuehrer.

Albert Speer

Risking death, he refused to carry out Hitler’s “scorched earth” order. Even more important, he mounted a successful effort to block such destruction or persuade influential military and civilian leaders to disobey the order as well.

As a result, those targets slated for destruction were spared.

Since the election of America’s first black President, Republicans have waged a similar “scorched earth” campaign. 

Their avowed goal–as stated openly by Kentucky’s U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell–was “to make Barack Obama a one-term President.”  

Literally during his first Inauguration, Republicans, in a secret meeting, agreed to block every effort he made to repair the economy.

Acting as extortionists, they repeatedly threatened to shut down the government if they didn’t get their way in legislative matters.

And just as repeatedly, they blocked legislation that would have helped the poor, unemployed, women, elderly, disabled or middle-class. 

At the center of their fury has been the Affordable Care Act, providing medical care to all citizens. Even after Congress passed it and the Supreme Court affirmed it, House Republicans shut down the government in October, 2013. 

By doing so, they hoped to pressure Obama into killing his signature piece of legislation. The effort failed.

Like Adolf Hitler, their attitude has been: “If I can’t rule America, there won’t be an America.”

As the Obama administration nears its end, no Republican Albert Speer has come forward to save America from the self-destructive excesses of this Nation’s own fanatics.

HITLER, THE GOP AND SCORCHED EARTH: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on September 21, 2016 at 6:06 pm

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, America would begin 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. 

Warren Buffett

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

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

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.

”To prevent the government from defaulting on its loans, President Barack Obama agreed to sign the Republican-crafted Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011.

The Act provided for a Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to produce legislation by late November to decrease the deficit by $1.2 trillion over ten years. 

When the so-called “Super Committee” failed to reach agreement, the second part of the BCA went into effect. This directed automatic across-the-board cuts (known as “sequestrations”) split evenly between defense and domestic spending, beginning on January 2, 2013.

A major casualty of sequestration has been the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  And this has threatened the safety of the Nation Republicans claim to love.

In 2013, the CDC was forced to cut 5%, or more than $285 million, from its budget. 

The sequester cut $195 million from the National Centers for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, a CDC program that tries to prevent illness and death from infectious disease. 

For fiscal 2014, CDC’s budget was $5.9 billion, down from the $6.5 billion allotted in 2010.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

In October, 2014, for the first time in United States history, the CDC faced an unexpected outbreak of the dreaded Ebola virus.  

To Americans’ horror, the agency initially seemed unable to deal effectively with the threat.

Moreover, the Nation was confronting the Ebola crisis without a Surgeon General–thanks to NRA-funded Republican Senators.   

President Obama had nominated Dr. Vivek Murthy for the spot in November, 2013, when the previous surgeon general left the position.But the Senate still hadn’t approved Murthy.

And support for him declined since he tweeted on October 16, 2002, that “guns are a health care issue.”

At the same time, Republicans rushed to blame President Obama for the continuing Ebola menace in West Africa–and the danger it posed to Americans.

“I think this Ebola outbreak in Africa is a serious problem,” said House Speaker John Boehner. “And I’m a bit surprised the administration hasn’t acted more quickly to address what is a serious threat, not only to Africans but to others around the world.”

“The President made a lot of commitments to combat Ebola, actions which I supported,” said North Carolina U.S. Senator Richard Burr. “But it has become clear that the administration’s capacity to fulfill these promises in a timeline that sufficiently addresses this crisis does not exist.”

But then a new Republican-inspired crisis threatened America.

On December 13, 2014, the U.S. Senate passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill to fund almost the entire government through the September 30 end of the fiscal year.

But one Federal agency was pointedly exempted from full funding: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

President George W. Bush had created this agency to safeguard the nation against terrorism. But he didn’t imagine that his fellow Republicans might willingly jeopardize the security of the Nation.

President Obama had requested $38.2 billion to fund DHS through fiscal year 2015. But Republicans ensured that its funding would end on February 27.

Why?

Republicans had gained control of the House of Representatives after the 2010 elections. And then they gained control of the Senate with the 2014 elections.

With their newfound majorities in both houses of Congress, they intended to hold the security of the United States as a hostage.

Their goal: To force Obama to rescind the changes he had made in American immigration policy.

Homeland Security was charged with implementing those changes. And Republicans intended to strip it of funding to do so.

And if that meant allowing DHS to “twist slowly, slowly in the wind” (to use a phrase made infamous by the Nixon administration) while Republicans played out their latest power-game, so be it.

This was no small matter.

With more than 240,000 employees, DHS is the third largest Cabinet department, after the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs.

The Defense Department is charged with protecting the United States through military action abroad.  

DHS is responsible for safeguarding the Nation inside and outside its borders. Its goal is to prepare for, prevent and–if prevention fails–respond to man-made accidents, natural disasters and terrorism.

HITLER, THE GOP AND SCORCHED EARTH: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on September 19, 2016 at 12:41 am

Albert Speer, Minister of Armaments for the Third Reich, was appalled.

His Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler–the man he had idolized for 14 years–had just passed a death sentence on Germany, the nation he claimed to love above all others.

Albert Speer and Adolf Hitler pouring over architectural plans

On March 19, 1945, facing certain defeat, Hitler had ordered a massive “scorched-earth” campaign throughout Germany.

All German agriculture, industry, ships, communications, roads, food stuffs, mines, bridges, stores and utility plants were to be destroyed.

If implemented, it would deprive the entire German population of even the barest necessities after the war.

Click here: Hitler’s “Scorched Earth” Decree and Albert Speer’s Response

Now living in a bunker 50 feet below bomb-shattered Berlin, Hitler gave full vent to his most destructive impulses.

Adolf Hitler addressing boy soldiers as the Third Reich crumbles

“If the war is lost,” Hitler told Speer, “the nation will also perish. This fate is inevitable. There is no necessity to take into consideration the basis which the people will need to continue even a most primitive existence.

“On the contrary, it will be better to destroy these things ourselves, because this nation will have proved to be the weaker one and the future will belong solely to the stronger eastern nation.

“Besides, those who will remain after the battle are only the inferior ones, for the good ones have all been killed.”

Speer argued in vain that there must be a future for the German people.  But Hitler refused to back down. He gave Speer 24 hours to reconsider his opposition to the order.

The next day, Speer told Hitler: “My Fuhrer, I stand unconditionally behind you!”

“Then all is well,” said Hitler, suddenly with tears in his eyes.

“If I stand unreservedly behind you,” said Speer, “then you must entrust me rather than the Gauleiters [district Party leaders serving as provincial governors] with the implementation of your decree.”

Filled with gratitude, Hitler signed the decree Speer had thoughtfully prepared before their fateful meeting.

By doing so, Hitler unintentionally gave Speer the power to thwart his “scorched earth” decree.

Speer had been the closest thing to a friend in Hitler’s life. Trained as an architect, he had joined the Nazi Party in 1931.

He met Hitler in 1933, when he presented the Fuhrer with architectural designs for the Nuremberg Rally scheduled for that year.

From then on, Speer became Hitler’s “genius architect” assigned to create buildings meant to last for a thousand years.

In 1943, Hitler appointed him Minister of Armaments, charged with revitalizing the German war effort.

Nevertheless, Speer now crisscrossed Germany, persuading military leaders and district governors to not destroy the vital facilities that wound be needed after the war.

“No other senior National Socialist could have done the job,” writes Randall Hanson, author of Disobeying Hitler: German Resistance After Valkyrie. 

“Speer was one of the very few people in the Reich–perhaps even the only one–with such power to influence actors willingness/unwillingness to destroy.”

Despite his later conviction for war crimes at Nuremberg, Speer never regretted his efforts to save Germany from total destruction at the hands of Adolf Hitler.

Fast-forward to the United States since the 2008 election of President Barack Obama.

Republicans have adopted the same my-way-or-else “negotiating” stance as Adolf Hitler.  Like him, they are determined to gain absolute power–or destroy the Nation they claim to love.

Ronald Reagan presided over a tripling of the national debt–and raised the debt limit 17 times–during his eight years in the White House.

President George W. Bush nearly doubled it again.

But that didn’t become an issue for Republicans–so long as one of them held the White House.

Republicans in Congress raised the debt ceiling seven times during the George W. Bush Presidency–when the national debt grew to $10.627 trillion due to tax cuts and wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Only when a Democrat–and a black one at that–became President did Congressional Republicans consider this a danger.

Suddenly, “fiscal integrity” became the byword of Republicans.  And in its name, they repeatedly threatened to shut down the government if their legislative demands weren’t met.

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.

John Boehner

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.

By refusing to raise the debt ceiling, they would force the government to default on paying the bills it owed.

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 Boehner rejected that offer. He would not agree to the tax increases that Democrats wanted to impose on the wealthiest 1% as part of the bargain.

TAKING EXCEPTION WITH “AMERICAN EXCEPTION”

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on September 16, 2016 at 12:19 am

On September 11, 2013, the New York Times published an Op-Ed (guest editorial) from Russian President Vladimir Putin, entitled: “A Plea for Caution from Russia: What Putin Has to Say to Americans About Syria.”

No one should be surprised that Putin came out strongly against an American air strike on Syria.

Its “President” (i.e., dictator) Bashir al-Assad, is, after all, a close ally of Russia.  Just as his late father and  dictator, Hafez al-Assad, was a close ally of the Soviet Union until its collapse in 1991.

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Putin, of course, is a former member of the KGB, the infamous secret police which (under various other names) ruled the Soviet Union from its birth in 1917 to its collapse in 1991.

He grew up under a Communist dictatorship and clearly wishes to return to that era, saying publicly: “First and foremost it is worth acknowledging that the demise of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.”

So it would be unrealistic to expect him to view the current “Syria crisis” the same way that President Barack Obama does.

(A “crisis” for politicians and news media is any event they believe can be exploited for their own purposes.

(In the case of media like CNN–which has devoted enormous coverage to the use of poison gas in Syria–the motive is higher ratings. “If it bleeds, it leads,” goes the saying in the news business.

(In the case of politicians–like Obama and Putin–the motive is to further their own status.  And thus power.

(Few politicians really care about the “human rights” of other nations–unless promoting this issue can empower themselves and/or their own nations.

(President Ronald Reagan, for example, often wailed about the Soviets’ oppression of the Polish union, Solidarity–while firing hundreds of unionized air traffic controllers who went on strike.)

In his September 11 guest editorial in the New York Times, Putin offered the expected Russian take on Syria:

  • Yes, poison gas was used in Syria.
  • No, it wasn’t used by the Syrian Army.
  • It was used by “opposition forces, to provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons.”
  • “There are few champions of democracy in Syria.  But there are more than enough [al] Qaeda fighters and extremists of all stripes battling the government.”

But it’s the concluding paragraph that has enraged American politicians the most–especially right-wing ones. In it, Putin takes exception with American “exceptionalism.”

Vladimir Putin

Referring to President Obama, Putin wrote:

“And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is ‘what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.’

“It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation.

“There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too.

“We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.”

Putin has never publicly shown any interest in religion.  But by invoking “the Lord,” he was able to turn the Christian beliefs of his Western audience into a useful weapon.

“I was insulted,” then-House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters when asked for his blunt reaction to the editorial.

“I have to be honest with you, I was at dinner, and I almost wanted to vomit,” said U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey).

Putin had dared to question the self-righteousness of American foreign policy–and those who make it.

Making his case for war with Syria, Obama had said: “America is not the world’s policeman….

“But when, with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death, and thereby make our own children safer over the long run, I believe we should act.

“That’s what makes America different. That’s what makes us exceptional. With humility, but with resolve, let us never lose sight of that essential truth.”

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President Barack Obama

In short: Because we consider ourselves “exceptional,” we have the divine right to do whatever we want.

It’s not necessary to see Putin as a champion of democracy (he isn’t) to see the truth in this part of his editorial: “It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation.”

From 1938 to 1969, the House Un-American Activities Committee sought to define what was “American” and what was “Un-American.”  As if “American” stood for all things virtuous.

Whoever heard of an “Un-French Activities Committee”?  Or an “Un-German” or “Un-British” one?

The late S.I. Hayakawa once made an obersation that clearly applies to this situation.

Hayakawa was a professor of semantics (the study of meaning, focusing on the relation between words and what they stand for).

In his bestselling book, Language in Thought and Action, he observed that when a person hears a message, he has four ways of responding to it:

  1. Accept the speaker and his message.
  2. Accept the speaker but reject the message.
  3. Accept the message but reject the speaker.
  4. Reject the message and the speaker.

Americans might want to consider #3 in the recent case of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

PUTIN OUT THE HITS?: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics on September 15, 2016 at 12:10 am

Right-wing websites and networks are gleefully buzzing with theories about the state of Hillary Clinton’s health.

The former First Lady, New York U.S. Senator and Secretary of State collapsed after briefly attending a memorial ceremony on the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

The unsubstantiated theories include stroke, brain damage, Multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.  

But there’s one theory Right-wingers scrupulously refuse to offer: That Clinton might be a victim of poisoning by Donald Trump’s well-known admirer, Vladimir Putin.

It’s a theory that has been offered by no less than Bennet Ifeakandu Omalu, the Nigerian-American physician, forensic pathologist and neuropathologist who was the first to discover and publish findings of chronic traumatic encephalopathy  (CTE) in American football players. 

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Bennet Ifeakandu Omalu

His struggle to alert the National Football League to that danger met with hostility and derision. Finally, amid growing scrutiny from Congress, the NFL was forced to take the concussion issue more seriously.

NFL owners banned players from striking opponents with the crowns of their helmets.  Meanwhile, the NFL is facing concussion lawsuits from nearly 4,000 former players.  

On September 11, a Clinton rep stated that she was suffering from pneumonia–and Omalu warned on Twitter: “I must advice the Clinton campaign to perform toxicologic analysis of Mrs. Clinton’s blood. It is possible she is being poisoned.”  

And he followed this up with a second tweet: “I do not trust Mr. Putin and Mr. Trump.  With those two all things are possible.”  

At this point, there is no evidence that Hillary Clinton is the victim of KGB “wet” methods.  And it would take lengthy, sophisticated toxicology tests to hopefully learn the truth.  

But there is plenty of evidence that Vladimir Putin has used murder–especially poison–to eliminate his opponents.

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Vladimir Putin

Putin came to power in 2000. Since then, at least 34 journalists have been murdered in Russia, according to the Moscow-based Glasnost Defense Foundation. Many of the suspected killers are military officials, government officials or political groups.

Being a political opponent of Vladimir Putin can also be dangerous.  Among the casualties:

Viktor Yushchenko: In 2004, he was running for president of the Ukraine against Putin’s chosen candidate, Victor Yanukovych.

As the campaign neared its climax, Yushchenko suddenly fell ill–with dioxin poisoning. Flown to Vienna’s Rudolfinerhaus clinic for treatment, he survived, but his face was left greatly disfigured. He went on to win the election, serving as Ukraine’s president from 2005 to 2010.

Aleksandr Litvinenko: A former KGB officer, he had accused Putin of wholesale corruption. Even worse, he charged that–as a pretext for a second war with Chechnya–Putin ordered the bombings of Moscow apartment buildings, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of people.  

Image result for images of Aleksandr Litvinenko

Aleksandr Litvinenko  

Litvinenko died on November 23, 2006 in London from a dose of Polonium-210 in his tea. At the time, he was meeting with two Moscow agents, one of whom is now a member of the State Duma. 

Boris Nemtsov: An official with a liberal opposition group, he had been arrested several times for speaking against Putin’s government.

Nemtsov had been scheduled to lead an opposition rally in Moscow. But on February 27, 2015, two days before the event, he was shot dead as he walked home from dinner. The killing happened a short distance from the Kremlin.

If Hillary Clinton proved to have a serious medical condition such as Parkinson’s or Multiple sclerosis, the results would be tragic but strictly national.

Mounting pressure within and outside the Democratic party would force her to drop out of the race. 

There would be a brief, furious struggle within the Democratic party for the nomination–most likely between Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders and Tim Kaine, Clinton’s choice for Vice President. The winner would face Donald Trump in the coming debates and fall election. 

And the Clintons–a force in American politics since 1992–would finally leave the national stage.

But if Hillary is a victim of a KGB assassination attempt, as Dr. Bennet Omalu suspects, then the consequences would be national and international.  

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Hillary Clinton

Nationally, such a discovery would almost certainly generate huge sympathy for Clinton–a woman singularly unable to arouse sympathy among voters. That alone could ensure her election as President.  

And even Americans who hate Clinton would never forgive Russia for daring to interfere with an American Presidential election. They would demand severe retaliation–even all-out war.

For Trump, it would prove a nightmare. He’s made too many admiring statements about Putin to disavow them now and be believed.  

National outrage followed in July when Trump invited Putin to “find the 30,000 emails that are missing” on the private server that Clinton used as Secretary of State.

If Clinton died–or was simply injured–because of a KGB plot, few would believe Trump wasn’t a party to it.

And several of Trump’s closest associates have had ties to Putin, such as his former campaign manager Paul Manafort.

Even many Republicans have already declared they can’t support Trump in abandoning NATO–much less his clear admiration for Putin, a dictator who got his start as a KGB agent. 

At his first press conference upon becoming President, Ronald Reagan harshly denounced Soviet leaders: “They reserve unto themselves the right to commit any crime, to lie, to cheat.”

A KGB plot against Hillary Clinton would convince many Americans that Republican leaders have become as corrupt as those in the Kremlin.

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