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THE RIGHT’S ANNUAL HOLIDAY LIE: “WAR ON CHRISTMAS”

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on November 20, 2018 at 12:17 am

It’s that time of year again—a time of

  • Christmas trees
  • Nativity scenes
  • Singing carols
  • Exchanging gifts with family and friends.

Christmas is special, so, each year, the executives at Fox News find a new way to stir up emotions by resurrecting the “war on Christmas” slander.

Stirring up false controversies is a daily assignment for the alleged reporters of this company owned by Right-wing oligarch Rupert Murdoch.

On December 11, 2013, it fell to Fox hostess Megyn Kelly to carry the ball—on “The Kelly File,” her then-popular Fox News program.

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Megyn Kelly

Referring to an article by Slate writer Aisha Harris on “Santa Claus Should Not Be a White Man Anymore,” she said:

“When I saw this headline, I kinda laughed and I said, ‘Oh, this is ridiculous. Yet another person claiming it’s racist to have a white Santa.’

“And by the way, for all you kids watching at home, Santa just is white. But this person is maybe just arguing that we should also have a black Santa. But, you know, Santa is what he is, and just so you know, we’re just debating this because someone wrote about it, kids.”

Of course, Santa Claus is a completely fictional character. Arguing about his skin color is as pointless as arguing about his weight.

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But Kelly wasn’t content to talk only about Santa. So she turned next to Jesus, a historical figure about whom we have not a single reference to his appearance, let alone a picture.

“Just because it makes you feel uncomfortable doesn’t mean it has to change. You know, I mean, Jesus was a white man, too.

“He was a historical figure; that’s a verifiable fact—as is Santa, I want you kids watching to know that—but my point is: How do you revise it, in the middle of the legacy of the story, and change Santa from white to black?”

Santa Claus a verifiable historical figure? Not even Charlie Brown, in the annually telecast “Peanuts” Christmas special, would make that claim.

In 2015, Donald Trump claimed center-stage in “defending” Christmas. And the target of his ire? Starbucks.

In years past, its disposable coffee cups featured snowflakes, winter scenes, reindeer and Christmas ornaments.

But in 2015, Starbucks decided to go with a minimalist, all-red design, its only feature being the company’s green and white logo.

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Baked Alaska with his Trump cup

This angered some religious conservatives, who generally care more about symbols than substance. And Trump was eager to enlist evangelicals as voters.

During a campaign rally in October, Trump promised: “I guarantee if I become president, we’re going to be saying ‘Merry Christmas’ at every store.”

Donald Trump September 3 2015.jpg

Donald Trump

On November 9, 2015, addressing  a crowd of several thousands in Springfield, Illinois, Trump said: “Did you read about Starbucks? No more Merry Christmas on Starbucks.

“I have one of the most successful Starbucks, in Trump Tower. Maybe we should boycott Starbucks? I don’t know. Seriously, I don’t care. That’s the end of that lease, but who cares?

“If I become president, we’re all going to be saying Merry Christmas again, that I can tell you.”

Trump did not explain how he would coerce non-Christian Americans—-such as atheists, Jews and Muslims—into observing a Christian holiday.

Those who claim that Christmas is threatened don’t know—or are ignoring—-the following:

  • The Christmas shopping season can start as early as September. Some consumers begin even earlier.
  • For 2018, the National Retail Federation expects consumers to spend $717.45 billion to $720.89 billion for the holiday season.
  • Holiday sales in 2017 totaled $687.87 billion
  • For many stores, holiday shopping accounts for nearly a third of annual sales.
  • In 2016, the average American spent $935.58 on holiday gifts. In 2017, s/he was expected to spend $708.81.

In short, no one is “making war” on Christmas—-except Right-wing broadcasters at Fox News to jack up ratings.  

As to the historical realities of this season:

  • There is no reference anywhere in the Bible to the month—-let alone the day—of Jesus’ birth.
  • Jesus never commanded his followers to celebrate his birth—-but he did call on them to remember his death.  It’s called Easter.
  • Many of the “religious” traditions associated with Christmas stem from the pagan Roman festival, Saturnalia, which celebrated the “birthday” of the sun.
  • This was celebrated December 17-25.
  • Saturnalia traditions included feasting, gift-giving, lighting candles (to ward off evil spirits) and displaying wreaths (as a sign of coming spring).
  • Early Christians tried mightily to convince their members to stop celebrating the Saturnalia.
  • When these efforts failed, the Roman Catholic Church, in the fourth century, “Christianised” the festival by naming Saturnalia’s concluding day, December 25, as Jesus’ birthday.

In George Orwell’s classic novel, 1984, Oceania is always at war with Eurasia or Eastasia. Its citizens are kept in a constant state of frenzy as they’re directed to search for endless “enemies of the state.”

This, in turn, allows the unseen rulers of Oceania to run their dictatorship without interference.

It’s a lesson well-known to hucksters like Donald Trump and the men who run Fox News.

AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM: MONEY TRUMPS MORALITY

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 18, 2018 at 12:03 am

Once again, the self-righteous cry of “American exceptionalism” is being taken up by members of the United States Congress.

That is: Americans prize morality over money in international relationships.

It’s a myth the historical record won’t support.

The reason for the self-righteous outrage: The disappearance of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi.  

He had worked in the Saudi embassies in Washington and London, establishing himself as an unofficial spokesman for the Saudi royal family.

His independent streak and empathy for the Western perspective made him a uniquely important, well-liked contact for foreign journalists and diplomats seeking to understand the royal perspective.

Then, in 2017, Mohammed bin Salman became crown prince, and quickly consolidated power over the kingdom.

Khashoggi’s independent streak made him unwelcome there, so he moved to Virginia and became a columnist for The Washington Post.  He also became the crown prince’s chief critic in the West. 

On October 2, Khashoggi walked into the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul to pick up a document.

Khashoggi’s marriage had ended under the strain of his voluntary exile from Saudi Arabia. He had since become engaged to a Turkish woman. He thus needed to obtain a document attesting to his divorce from the Saudi authorities so he could remarry in Turkey. The wedding was scheduled for the following day.  

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 Jamal Khashoggi

[GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Turkish authorities have released video footage of Khashoggi walking into the consulate; they say there is none of him leaving it. The Saudis insist that he left the consulate safely, but have not offered any evidence to support this claim.

Turkish officials speaking anonymously say their government has detailed evidence to prove the following:

  • That 15 Saudi agents flew into Istanbul on two private jets.
  • The airline company has close ties to the crown prince and Saudi Interior Ministry.
  • The agents waited for Khashoggi inside the consulate and murdered him within two hours of his arrival.
  • The assassins used a bone saw to dismember Khashoggi’s corpse. 

These reports have ignited an explosion of “American exceptionalism” among members of Congress—including Republicans.  

“I believe the Trump administration will do something,” Florida United States Senator Marco Rubio said. “The president has said that. But, if he doesn’t, Congress will. That, I can tell you with 100 percent certainty.” 

And Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders said: “I think one of the strong things that we can do is not only stop military sales, not only put sanctions on Saudi Arabia, but most importantly, get out of this terrible, terrible war in Yemen led by the Saudis.”

Fueling Republicans’ declared outrage: President Donald Trump’s heated defense of the Saudis—with whom he’s long had a financially profitable relationship. 

“They buy all sorts of my stuff,”‘ Trump said in July 2015. “All kinds of toys from Trump. They pay me millions and hundreds of millions.”

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Donald Trump

Among those “toys”: 

  • In June 2001, he sold the 45th floor of Trump World Tower to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for $4.5 million, according to a publicly filed deed for the transaction.
  • In August 2015, two months after he launched his presidential campaign, Trump registered eight limited-liability companies that appeared tied to possible deals in the country, according to public records. All of the companies contained “Jeddah,” the name of a Saudi Arabian port city, in their title. 
  • In 2015, Trump’s daughter Ivanka told Hotelier Middle East, “Dubai is a top priority city for us. We are looking at multiple opportunities in Abu Dhabi, in Qatar, in Saudi Arabia, so those are the four areas where we are seeing the most interest. We haven’t made a final decision in any of the markets but we have many very compelling deals in each of them.”

Of course, Trump is now claiming a higher motive for siding with the Saudis. He doesn’t want to scuttle a major defense deal he made with Saudi Arabia in May, 2017:

“I don’t like the concept of stopping an investment of $110 billion into the United States because you know what they’re going to do, they’re going to take that money and spend it in Russia or China,” 

And the next day, Trump said he had spoken with Saudi King Salman: “The king firmly denied any knowledge of it. … It sounded to me like these could have been rogue killers, who knows?” 

This is comparable to Trump’s refusal, during his first debate with Hillary Clinton in September, 2016, to admit Russian hacking of the 2016 Democratic National Committee: “It could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds.”

“Here we go again with you know you’re guilty until proven innocent. I don’t like that,” said Trump on October 16.

“We just went through that with [Supreme Court nominee] [Brett] Kavanaugh and he was innocent all the way as far as I’m concerned.”

Factual note: Although confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice, Kavanaugh was not proven innocent.  The FBI was not allowed to interview Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who accused him of attempted rape 36 years ago. 

THE REALITY OF REAL ID

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 5, 2018 at 12:11 am

Starting in 2016, traveling by air in the United States got more complicated. But not necessarily safer.

In 2005, Congress passed the Real ID Act as a counter-terrorism measure. Its goal was to set security standards for government-issued IDs.

The Act started to be introduced in late 2013. Now in the last phase of its implementation, its enforcers have decided that some states haven’t complied with its requirements.

As a result, driver’s licenses from those states will no longer suffice to pass through airport security. And that includes domestic flights as well as international ones.

Those states:  New York, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Louisiana and American Samoa.

The reason: Licenses issued by those states don’t contain enough identifying information to pass muster with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

So how are residents of these states supposed to cope? The Federal Government is advising them to get a passport.

But, as one New York traveler outlined:

“To get a passport I’ll first need to get a certified copy of my birth certificate.

“And to get a copy of my birth certificate I need only to submit a copy of my driver’s license. A copy, no face-to-face, is-that-really you?

“So a New York driver’s license isn’t good enough for flying but it is good enough to get a birth certificate, which gets me a passport, which allows me to fly.”  

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Sample state ID card that’s acceptable under the Real ID Act

So much of what passes for security is actually security theater.  It doesn’t actually make us safer, but it makes us feel safer. 

And it makes us feel the government is keeping us safe, even when it isn’t.

For example: In the months after 9/11, National Guard troops were stationed in American airports. They certainly looked impressive.  

What passengers didn’t know was that the Guardsmen carried unloaded assault rifles.

Consider this advice posted on the State of California Department of Motor Vehicles website:

“A valid California driver license or ID card can be used for federal purposes, including boarding a domestic flight and entering military bases or secure federal facilities, until October 1, 2020. After that date, only a REAL ID card or other federally approved documents will be accepted, such as a valid U.S. passport, passport card or military ID.”  

To apply for a REAL ID card:

  • Make an appointment (recommended) to visit a DMV field office.
  • Provide proof of identity, such as a certified copy of a U.S. birth certificate, U.S. passport, employment authorization document, permanent resident card or foreign passport with an approved form I-94.
  • Present proof of your Social Security number, such as an SSN card, W-2 or paystub with full SSN.
  • Show a California residency document, such as a rental or lease agreement, mortgage bill, utility bill or employment, medical or school document.
  • An original or certified copy of a name change document, such as a marriage certificate or divorce decree, may be required.

How does showing a “utility bill” document prove your integrity? 

No doubt Mohammed Atta—the ringleader of the September 11, 2001 attacks—faithfully paid his utility bills—right up to the day when he highjacked American Airlines Flight 11 and crashed the plane into the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

And what does a “school document” reveal about the character of the person? 

That s/he attended school? So what? 

Theodore Bundy attended the University of Puget Sound and the University of Washington—before embarking on his career as a burglar, kidnapper, rapist and serial killer.

Or take the checking of photo IDs that has become routine to enter State and Federal office buildings.

What exactly does this tell the security guard?

If you’re John Dillinger or Osama bin Laden, it tells him: “This is a very wanted man.”  

But if you’re John Q. Public, who’s not notorious as a bank robber or terrorist, showing him your ID tells him nothing.

But people watching the guard performing this security theater ritual assume: “The guard must know what he’s looking for. So we have to be safer for his checking those IDs.”

In fact, most security guards have little training and even less experience. Many of them don’t carry firearms and lack self-defense skills.

According to Salary.com: The median annual Security Guard salary is $29,204, as of July 29, 2016, with a range usually between $25,857 and $33,522. 

Not exactly a salary geared to attract “the best and the brightest,” is it?

Or suppose you want to report a crime to a field office of the FBI. 

A secretary asks why you’ve come.

If she considers your reason legitimate, she requires you to show your driver’s license or State ID card. Then she makes a xerox of this and hands the card back.

Then you must fill out a single-page form, which requires you to provide your: 

  • Name
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Social Security Number
  • Reason to speak with an FBI agent

The FBI has always encouraged Americans to report anything they consider a threat to national security or a violation of Federal law.

But demanding so much private information just to report a crime will almost certainly decrease the number of people willing to do so.

LIE CREATORS: PART ONE (OF SEVEN)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on September 13, 2018 at 12:07 am

Have you noticed how every American employer has suddenly become a “job creator”?

At least, that’s the official Republican line.

But if that’s true:

  • Why are so many employers not hiring at all?
  • Or, if they are hiring, why aren’t they hiring American workers?
  • Why are they hiring mostly part-time employees on a no-benefits basis?
  • Why are so many employers shutting down American plants but starting new ones in China, Mexico or the Philippines?

According to an August, 2018 news release by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor:

  • The unemployment rate stood at 3.9 percent in August, 2018, and the number of unemployed persons stood at 6.2 million.
  • The unemployment rates stood at the following for:
  • Adult men: (3.5 percent)
  • Adult women (3.6 percent)
  • Teenagers (12.8 percent
  • Whites (3.4 percent
  • Blacks (6.3 percent)
  • Asians (3.0 percent)
  • Hispanics (4.7 percent)
  • The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was little changed in August at 1.3 million and accounted for 21.5 percent of the unemployed. Over the year, the number of long-term unemployed has declined by 403,000.

  • The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers), at 4.4 million.
  • Among the marginally attached, there were 1.4 million discouraged workers. These individuals were not in the labor force, wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months. 
  • Among the marginally attached, there were 434,000 discouraged workers in August, essentially unchanged from a year earlier. Discouraged workers are persons not currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are available for them. 

At the same time, U.S. corporations sit on at least $2 trillion in cash.

Besides lying beyond the reach of the IRS, those monies could be used to hire those millions of qualified, willing-to-work Americans who can’t find fulltime, permanent employment.

An article in the March, 2011 issue of Reader’s Digest gives the lie to the excuses so many employers use for refusing to hire.

Entitled “22 Secrets HR Won’t Tell You About Getting a Job,” it lays bare many of the reasons why America needs to legally force employers to demonstrate as much responsibility for hiring as job-seekers are expected to show toward searching for work.

Among the truths it reveals:

TRUTH NO: 1: After you’re unemployed more than six months, employers consider you  unemployable.

TRUTH NO. 2:  It’s not what but who you know that counts.

TRUTH NO. 3: Try to avoid HR.  Find someone in the company you know. If you don’t know anyone, contact the hiring manager.

TRUTH NO. 4: Cover letters are often ignored, going directly into “the round file.”

TRUTH NO. 5: Employers judge you on the basis of your email address.  Avoid the type that reads: “Igetdrunkand party.”

TRUTH NO. 6: You’re not protected against age discrimination.  Many employers regularly ignore the law. Are you in your 50s or 60s?  Leave your year of graduation off your resume.

TRUTH NO: 7: Just because it’s illegal to discriminate against applicants who have children does not mean you’re safe.  Many employers try to screen out parents–such as by checking cars for child safety seats.

TRUTH NO. 8: It’s harder to get a job if you’re fat, since fat people are usually assumed to be lazy.

TRUTH NO. 9: Make sure you give the interviewer a firm handshake.  Or he might assume you’re a loser for giving him a weak one.

TRUTH NO. 10: The more you can get the interviewer to talk–especially about himself–the more likely you are to be hired. Ego-driven interviewers love hearing the sound of their own voices and will assume you’re better-qualified than someone who doesn’t want to listen to them prattle.

Millions of Americans blamed President Barack Obama for the nation’s high unemployment rate during his administration. And millions more believe that President Donald Trump has created an economic miracle—despite those millions of Americans still desperately searching for work.

The brutal truth is that no President can hope to turn unemployment around until employers are forced to start living up to their responsibilities.

And those responsibilities should encompass more than simply fattening their own pocketbooks and/or egos at the expense of their fellow Americans.  Such behavior used to be called treason.

Americans need to recognize that a country can be betrayed for other than political reasons. It can be sold out for economic ones, too.

Trea$on

Employers who enrich themselves by weakening their country—by throwing millions of qualified workers into the street and moving their plants to other countries—are traitors.

Employers who set up offshore accounts to claim their American companies are foreign-owned—and thus exempt from taxes—are traitors.

Employers who systematically violate Federal immigration laws—to hire illegal aliens instead of willing-to-work Americans—are traitors.

And with a new definition of treason should go new penalties—heavy fines and/or prison terms–for those who sell out their country to enrich themselves.  

DONALD TRUMP: “I’M NOT LIKE OTHER PEOPLE”–AND HERE’S PROOF

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on August 29, 2018 at 12:04 am

On February 26, 2016, Republican Presidential Candidate Donald J. Trump made an astonishing admission: “I’m not like other people.” 

He did so while revealing that, as President, he would “open up those libel laws” so that when the New York Times or the Washington Post “write a hit piece, we can sue them and win money instead of having no chance of winning because they’re totally protected. 

“With me, they’re not protected, because I’m not like other people, but I’m not taking money, I’m not taking their money.” 

On August 23, 2018, Trump, as President, offered additional evidence that he’s “not like other people.” He did so by giving an unprecedented reason why he shouldn’t be impeached. 

Appearing on “Fox and Friends,” he said:

  • “I don’t know how you can impeach somebody who’s done a great job.”
  • “I tell you what, if I ever got impeached, I think the market would crash, I think everybody would be very poor.”
  • Pointing to his head, he said: “Because without this thinking, you would see numbers that you wouldn’t believe in reverse.” 

He didn’t say: “I shouldn’t be impeached because I’m innocent. I didn’t collude with Russian Intelligence to subvert the 2016 Presidential election.” 

Image result for Images of meme "Just in, Trump predicts the earth will stop rotating..."

Instead, he appealed to the greed and fear of his voting base—and no doubt hoped to reach beyond it: “Keep me in power or you’ll all suffer for it.” 

An official White House statement entitled “American Greatness,” issued on June 4 stated:

“Nearly 3 million jobs have been created since President Trump took office. The unemployment rate has dropped to 3.8, the lowest rate since April 2000, and job openings have reached 6.6 million, the highest level recorded. President Trump has restored confidence in the American economy, with confidence among both consumers and businesses reaching historic highs.” 

Much of this jobs growth, however, was already underway during the closing years of the Obama administration. But that hasn’t stopped Trump from taking credit for it.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders doubtless spoke for millions of Trump supporters when she said, on June 4:

“Since taking office, the President has strengthened American leadership, security, prosperity, and accountability. And as we saw from Friday’s jobs report, our economy is stronger, Americans are optimistic, and business is booming.

“The American people do not believe this strong economy is fantasy or unrealistic.” 

Many Congressional Republicans have echoed this: The American people care only about the economy—and how well-off they are

For eight years, Nazi Germany underwent such an epoch. Germans called it “The Happy Time.”

It began on January 30, 1933, when Adolf Hitler became Chancellor—and lasted until June 22, 1941. Germans knew about the Nazis’ cruelty to the Jews, the mass arrests and concentration camps. They didn’t care.

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 Frenzied Germans greet Adolf Hitler

The Gestapo didn’t have to watch everyone: German “patriots” gladly reported their fellow citizens—especially Jews—to the secret police.

As far as everyday Germans were concerned:

  • The streets were clean and peaceful.
  • Employment was high.
  • The trouble-making unions were gone.
  • Germany was once again “taking its rightful place” among ruling nations, after its catastrophic defeat in World War 1.

The height of “The Happy Time” came in June, 1940. In just six weeks, the Wehrmacht  accomplished what the German army hadn’t in four years during World War 1: The total defeat of its longtime enemy, France.

Suddenly, French clothes, perfumes, delicacies, paintings and other “fortunes of war” came pouring into the Fatherland.  (Reichsmarshall Herman Goring, head of the Luftwaffe—air force—amassed his own private air collection from French museums.) 

Most Germans believed der Krieg—“the war”—was over, and only good times lay ahead.

Then, on June 22, 1941, three million Wehrmacht soldiers slashed their way into the Soviet Union. The Third Reich was now locked in a death-struggle with a nation even more powerful than itself. 

German soldiers in the Soviet Union

And then, on December 11, 1941—four days after Germany’s ally, Japan, attacked Pearl Harbor—Hitler declared war on the United States. 

“The Happy Time” for Germans was over. Only prolonged disaster lay ahead. 

Donald Trump has spent his life appealing to the greed or fear of those around him. For example: 

  • Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi personally solicited a political contribution from Donald Trump around the same time her office deliberated joining an investigation of alleged fraud at Trump University and its affiliates.
  • After Bondi dropped the Trump University case against Trump, he wrote her a $25,000 check for her re-election campaign. 
  • In 1999, Fred Trump, Donald’s father died. His deceased brother’s family sued Donald, arguing they were originally in the will, but Donald took advantage of his father’s dementia to cut them out of it.
  • Donald retaliated by withdrawing medical benefits critical to his nephew’s infant son: “I was angry because they sued,” Trump later said in an interview.

The Germans made a devil’s-bargain with Adolf Hitler—and paid dearly for it. 

Millions of greedy Americans have embraced Donald Trump, another would-be tyrant, as America’s economic savior.

By supporting Trump—or at least not opposing him—they have made a devil’s-bargain. 

And such bargains always end with the devil winning. 

MERCENARIES: “PATRIOTISM” FOR PROFIT

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on August 27, 2018 at 12:07 am

The United States has been fighting in Afghanistan for almost 17 years—with no end in sight. 

Between 2001 and 2017, America spent an estimated $714 billion on this conflict.

Now Blackwater founder Erik Prince claims he can attain a victory that has eluded the United States Air Force, Army (including Green Berets) and Navy SEALs.  

His proposed solution: His private army of mercenaries—and $3.5 billion in taxpayer monies. 

Erik Prince.jpg

Erik Prince

By Miller Center [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

In 1997, Prince created Blackwater, a private security company providing support to military and police agencies.

In August, 2003, Blackwater got the first of a series of Federal contracts to deploy its forces in Iraq. For $21 million, it would safeguard Paul Bremer, the proconsul running the American occupation in Iraq. 

Ultimately, Blackwater got $1 billion to provide security for American officials and soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

According to human rights organizations, Blackwater abused Iraqis and engaged in torture to obtain information.

In September, 2007, Blackwater guards killed 17 Iraqi civilians and injured 20 more in a Baghdad traffic circle.

Five guards were charged with murder. Three were convicted in October, 2014, of 14 manslaughter charges and in April 2015 sentenced to 30 years in prison. These sentences were deemed unfair upon appeal and await re-sentencing. 

As a result of its highly controversial activities in Iraq, Prince renamed the company Xe Services in 2009 and then Academi in 2011.

Now, against opposition by the Pentagon, Prince is pressing Trump to let Academi privatize the war in Afghanistan. 

Since the end of the Cold War, the American military and Intelligence communities have grown increasingly dependent on private contractors.

In his 2007 bestseller, Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA, Tim Weiner writes:

“Patriotism for profit became a $50-billion-a-year business….The [CIA] began contracting out thousands of jobs to fill the perceived void by the budget cuts that began in 1992. 

“A CIA officer could file his retirement papers, turn in his blue identification badge, go to work for a much better salary at a military contractor such as Lockheed Martin or Booz Allen Hamilton, then return to the CIA the next day, wearing a green badge….” 

Seal of the Central Intelligence Agency.svg

Much of the CIA became totally dependent on mercenaries. They appeared to work for the agency, but their loyalty was actually to their private–and higher-paying—companies.

Writes Weiner: “Legions of CIA veterans quit their posts to sell their services to the agency by writing analyses, creating cover for overseas officers, setting up communications networks, and running clandestine operations.”

One such company was Total Intelligence Solutions, founded in 2007 by Cofer Black, who had been the chief of the CIA’s counter-terrorism center on 9/11. His partners were Robert Richer, formerly the associate deputy director of operations at the CIA, and Enrique Prado, who had been Black’s chief of counter-terror operations at the agency.

Future CIA hires followed suit: Serve for five years, win that prized CIA “credential” and sign up with a private security company to enrich themselves.  

This situation met with full support from Right-wing “pro-business” members of Congress and President George W. Bush.

They had long championed the private sector as inherently superior to the public one. And they saw no danger that a man dedicated to enriching himself might put greed ahead of safeguarding his country.

But there are dangers to hiring men whose first love is profit. Recent examples include:

  • Edward Snowden deliberately joined Booz Allen Hamilton to secure a job as a computer systems administrator at the National Security Agency (NSA). This gave him access to thousands of highly classified documents—which, in 2013, he began publicly leaking to a wide range of news organizations. 
  • His motive, he has claimed, was to warn Americans of the privacy-invading dangers posed by their own Intelligence agencies.
  • On March 7, 2017, WikiLeaks published a “data dump” of 8,761 documents codenamed “Vault 7.”
  • The documents exposed that the CIA had found security flaws in software operating systems such as Microsoft Windows, Android and Apple iOS. These allowed an intruder—such as the CIA—to seize control of a computer or smartphone. The owner could then be photographed through his iPhone camera and have his text messages intercepted.
  • According to anonymous U.S. Intelligence and law enforcement sources, the culprits were CIA contract employees. 

But there are those who have offered a timely warning against the use of mercenaries. One of these is Niccolo Machiavelli, the Florentine statesman of the Renaissance. 

Image result for Images of Niccolo Machiavelli

Niccolo Machiavelli

In The Prince, Machiavelli writes:

“Mercenaries…are useless and dangerous. And if a prince holds on to his state by means of mercenary armies, he will never be stable or secure. For they are disunited, ambitious, without discipline, disloyal. They are brave among friends; among enemies they are cowards.

“They have neither the fear of God nor fidelity to man, and destruction is deferred only as the attack is. For in peace one is robbed by them, and in war by the enemy. 

“The cause of this is that they have no love or other motive to keep them in the field beyond a trifling wage, which is not enough to make them ready to die for you.”

Centuries after Machiavelli’s warning, Americans are realizing the bitter truth of it firsthand.

GIVING ADVICE SAFELY—THE MACHIAVELLI WAY

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on August 17, 2018 at 12:15 am

Ask the average person, “What do you think of Niccolo Machiavelli?” and he’s likely to say: “The devil.” 

In fact, “The Old Nick” became an English term used to describe Satan and slander Machiavelli at the same time.

Niccolo Machiavelli

The truth, however, is more complex. Machiavelli was a passionate Republican, who spent most of his adult life in the service of his beloved city-state, Florence.

The years he spent as a diplomat were tumultuous ones for Italy—with men like Pope Julius II and Caesare Borgia vying for power and plunging Italy into one bloodbath after another. 

Florence, for all its wealth, lacked a strong army, and thus lay at the mercy of powerful enemies, such as Borgia. Machiavelli often had to use his wits to keep them at bay.

Machiavelli is best-known for his writing of The Prince, a pamphlet on the arts of gaining and holding power. Its admirers have included Benito Mussolini and Joseph Stalin.

But his longer and more thoughtful work is The Discourses, in which he offers advice on how to maintain liberty within a republic. Among its admirers were many of the men who framed the Constitution of the United States.

Most people believe that Machiavelli advocated evil for its own sake.

Not so. Rather, he recognized that sometimes there is no perfect—or perfectly good—solution to a problem. 

Sometimes it’s necessary to take stern—even brutal—action to stop an evil (such as a riot) before it becomes widespread:

“A man who wishes to make a profession of goodness in everything must inevitably come to grief among so many who are not good.  And therefore it is necessary for a prince, who wishes to maintain himself, to learn how not to be good, and to use this knowledge and not use it, according to the necessity of the case.”

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His counsel remains as relevant today as it did during his lifetime (1469 – 1527). This is especially  true for politicians—and students of political science.

But plenty of ordinary citizens can also benefit from the advice he has to offer—such as those in business who are asked to give advice to more powerful superiors.

Machiavelli warns there is danger in urging rulers to take a particular course of action: “For men only judge of matters by the result, all the blame of failure is charged upon him who first advised it, while in case of success he receives commendations. But the reward never equals the punishment.” 

This puts would-be counselors in a difficult position: “If they do not advise what seems to them for the good of the republic or the prince, regardless of the consequences to themselves, then they fail to do their duty.  

“And if they do advise it, then it is at the risk of their position and their lives, for all men are blind in thus, that they judge of good or evil counsels only by the results.” 

Thus, Machiavelli warns that an adviser should “take things moderately, and not to undertake to advocate any enterprise with too much zeal, but to give one’s advice calmly and modestly.” 

The person who asked for the advice may follow it, or not, as of his own choice, and not because he was led or forced into it by the adviser.

Above all, the adviser must avoid the danger of urging a course of action that runs “contrary to the wishes of the many.  

“For the danger arises when your advice has caused the many to be contravened. In that case, when the result is unfortunate, they all concur in your destruction.”

Or, as President John F. Kennedy famously said after the disastrous invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs in April, 1961: “Victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan.”

John F. Kennedy

By “not advocating any enterprise with too much zeal,” the adviser gains two advantages:

“The first is, you avoid all danger.

“And the second consists in the great credit which you will have if, after having modestly advised a certain course, your counsel is rejected, and the adoption of a different course results unfortunately.”

Finally, the time to give advice is before a catastrophe occurs, not after. Machiavelli gives a vivid example of what can happen if this rule is ignored.

King Perseus of Macedon had gone to war with Paulus Aemilius—and suffered a humiliating defeat. Fleeing the battlefield with a handful of his men, he later bewailed the disaster that had overtaken him.

Suddenly, one of his lieutenants began to lecture Perseus on the many errors he had committed, which had led to his ruin.

“Traitor,” raged the king, turning upon him, “you have waited until now to tell me all this, when there is no longer any time to remedy it—” And Perseus slew him with his own hands.

Niccolo Machiavelli sums up the lesson as this:

“Thus was this man punished for having been silent when he should have spoken, and for having spoken when he should have been silent.”

Be careful that you don’t make the same mistake.

TRUMP: INSULTS FOR AMERICA’S FRIENDS, HUGS FOR ITS ENEMIES

In Business, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on June 13, 2018 at 1:24 am

“He appeared to need enemies the way other men need friends, and his conduct assured that he would always have plenty of them.” 

So wrote William Manchester about General Douglas MacArthur in his monumental 1978 biography, American Caesar. But he could have written this just as accurately about Donald Trump, both as Republican Presidential candidate and President.

As a Presidential candidate, Trump repeatedly used Twitter to attack hundreds of real and imagined enemies in politics, journalism, TV and films.  

From June 15, 2015, when he launched his Presidential campaign, until October 24, 2016, Trump fired almost 4,000 angry, insulting tweets at 281 people and institutions that had somehow offended him.  

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Donald Trump

The New York Times needed two full pages of its print edition to showcase them. Among his targets:

  • Hillary Clinton
  • President Barack Obama
  • Actress Meryl Streep
  • Comedian John Oliver
  • Singer Neil Young
  • Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger 
  • News organizations
  • Beauty pageant contestants 

Others he clearly delighted in insulting during the campaign included:

  • Women
  • Blacks
  • Hispanics
  • Asians
  • The disabled
  • Prisoners-of-war 

As President, he has continued to insult virtually everyone, verbally and on Twitter. His targets have included Democrats, Republicans, the media, foreign leaders (most notably North Korea’s “Little Rocket Man” Kim Jong On) and even members of his Cabinet. 

The one major figure that Trump has never attacked is Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

But Trump has no such hesitation about insulting leaders of nations which have been America’s traditional allies—such as Canada. 

On June 10, Larry Kudlow, Trump’s chief economic adviser, accused Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of undermining the US and its allies with comments he made at the G7 economic summit in Quebec.

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The G7 is comprised of France, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, the United States and Italy.

“It was a betrayal,” Kudlow accused Trudeau on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “He really kind of stabbed us in the back.” 

Kudlow said the allies should have been more supportive of Trump because of his scheduled June 12 meeting in Singapore with North Korean dictator Kim Jong On.

“They should have said to him, ‘God speed, you are negotiating with the crazy nuclear tyrant in North Korea, and we are behind you.'” 

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Larry Kudlow

On June 9, the prime minister had said in a press conference that Canada would “move forward with retaliatory measures” on July 1. 

The reason for this: Trump’s decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada, the European Union and Mexico

“I have made it very clear to the President that it is not something we relish doing, but it something that we absolutely will do,” Trudeau said. “Canadians, we’re polite, we’re reasonable, but we also will not be pushed around.” 

And Peter Navarro, Trump’s trade adviser, went further: “There’s a special place in hell for any foreign leader that engages in bad faith diplomacy with President Donald J. Trump and then tries to stab him in the back on the way out the door.

“And that’s what bad faith Justin Trudeau did with that stunt press conference. That’s what weak, dishonest Justin Trudeau did, and that comes right from Air Force One.”  

Given the sheer brutality of the language, there’s no reason to doubt that Navarro was absolutely reflecting Trump’s own venomous anger.    

“He [Trump[ did him [Trudeau] a favor,” Navarro said. “He was even willing to sign that socialist communique.”

On June 10, Trump tweeted: “Based on Justin’s false statements at his news conference, and the fact that Canada is charging massive Tariffs to our U.S. farmers, workers and companies, I have instructed our U.S. Reps not to endorse the Communique as we look at Tariffs on automobiles flooding the U.S. Market!,” 

But while Trump has made clear his detestation of socialism, he has no qualms about rewarding the aggression of a hardcore Communist like Vladimir Putin. On June 9, he called for Russia to be readmitted to the G7.  

“I think it would be an asset to have Russia back in,” he said during an impromptu press conference at the summit.

“I think it would be good for the world. I think it would be good for Russia. I think it would be good for the United States. I think it would be good for all of the countries of the current G7. I think the G8 would be better.”  

Russia was ousted from the group in 2014 after Putin annexed Crimea—the first violation of a European country’s borders since World War II. 

“Today crystallizes precisely why Putin was so eager to see Trump elected,” said former Obama National Security Council spokesman Ned Price.

“For Putin, this is return on his investment, and it’s safe to say that his investment has paid off beyond even his wildest dreams,” he said in a statement to CNN.   

And, in a turn of events that some might call poetic justice, moments after he arrived in Singapore for his meeting with Kim Jong On, Trump tweeted: “Our Great Larry Kudlow, who has been working so hard on trade and the economy, has just suffered a heart attack. He is now in Walter Reed Medical Center.” 

“THE HAPPY TIME” FOR HITLER’S GERMANY AND TRUMP’S AMERICA

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 12, 2018 at 12:39 am

Everyone knows how World War II ended for Nazi Germany: With its Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler, dead, and its capital city of Berlin in ruins.

Casualty figures range from 4.3 to 5.3 million dead Germans.

And for 44 years—from May 7, 1945, until November 9, 1989—Berlin was a divided city and Germany a divided nation. The Soviet Union ruled the eastern half. Germans—backed up by American military forces—ruled the western half.

Yet before all this unhappiness descended on the Fatherland, the vast majority of Germans enjoyed what they called “The Happy Time.”

This period began on January 30, 1933, when Adolf Hitler became Chancellor—and lasted until June 22, 1941.

For most Germans, those years—and especially the year between June, 1940, and June, 1941–were a time of prosperity and joy.

According to Robert Gellately’s 2002 landmark study, Backing Hitler: Consent and Coercion in Nazi Germany, the Nazis operated a highly popular dictatorship. They didn’t try to cow people into submission. Instead, they set out to win converts by building on popular images, cherished ideals and long-held phobias.

And their efforts succeeded. The Gestapo owed its fearsome success to ordinary German citizens who voluntarily reported on “enemies” within their midst. These citizens saw themselves as patriots.

Nor, as has long been believed, were Nazi atrocities carried out in secret. From the media, Germans learned about the Nazis’ brutal campaign against the Jews, the concentration camps, and the Nazis’ radical approaches to “law and order.”

But as far as everyday Germans were concerned:

  • The streets were clean and peaceful.
  • Employment was high.
  • The Communists and Jews were being locked up.
  • The trouble-making unions were gone.
  • Germany was once again “taking its rightful place” among ruling nations, after its catastrophic defeat in World War 1.

The height of “The Happy Time” came in June, 1940. In just six weeks, the Wehrmacht  accomplished what the German army hadn’t in four years during World War 1: The total defeat of its longtime enemy, France.

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Frenzied Germans greet Adolf Hitler

Suddenly, French clothes, perfumes, delicacies, paintings and other “fortunes of war” came pouring into the Fatherland.  (Reichsmarshall Herman Goring, head of the Luftwaffe—air force—amassed his own private air collection from French museums.) 

Most Germans believed der Krieg—“the war”—was over, and only good times lay ahead.

But Adolf Hitler had other plans.

On June 22, 1941, three million Wehrmacht soldiers slashed their way into the Soviet Union. The Third Reich was now locked in a death-struggle with a nation even more powerful than itself. 

German soldiers in the Soviet Union

And then, on December 11, 1941—four days after Germany’s ally, Japan, attacked Pearl Harbor—Hitler declared war on the United States. 

“The Happy Time” for Germans was over. Only prolonged disaster lay ahead. 

Now, fast forward 77 years to the America of President Donald J. Trump. According to an official White House statement entitled “American Greatness,” issued on June 4: 

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Donald Trump

“Nearly 3 million jobs have been created since President Trump took office. The unemployment rate has dropped to 3.8, the lowest rate since April 2000, and job openings have reached 6.6 million, the highest level recorded. President Trump has restored confidence in the American economy, with confidence among both consumers and businesses reaching historic highs.” 

Much of this jobs growth, however, was already underway during the closing years of the Obama administration. But that hasn’t stopped Trump from taking credit for it.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders doubtless spoke for millions of Trump supporters when she said, on June 4: “Since taking office, the President has strengthened American leadership, security, prosperity, and accountability. And as we saw from Friday’s jobs report, our economy is stronger, Americans are optimistic, and business is booming.

“The American people do not believe this strong economy is fantasy or unrealistic.” 

Many Congressional Republicans have echoed this: The American people care only about the economy—and how well-off they are.

Only five days earlier—on May 31—the Trump administration had announced it would put steel and aluminum tariffs on longtime American allies Canada, Mexico and the European Union (EU).

Mexico, Canada and the EU immediately vowed to retaliate. For Americans, this will mean higher prices on such items as beer, baseball bats and cars. The EU has threatened to impose tariffs on motorcycles, bourbon whiskey, Levi’s jeans, peanut butter and cranberries.

A disastrous global trade war could be the ultimate result.

On June 4, Trump claimed, in a tweet: “As has been stated by numerous legal scholars, I have the absolute right to PARDON myself….” 

And, making clear how far above the law he thinks Trump is, his attorney, Rudolph Giuliani, told the Huffington Post on June 3: “In no case can he be subpoenaed or indicted. I don’t know how you can indict while he’s in office. No matter what it is. 

“If he shot [former FBI director] James Comey, he’d be impeached the next day. Impeach him, and then you can do whatever you want to do to him.” 

The Germans made a similar devil’s-bargain with Hitler—and paid dearly for it. Americans, by supporting Trump—or at least not opposing him—have made a similar devil’s-bargain.

And such bargains always end with the devil winning.

THE EYE VERSUS THE HAND IN “TAKING A KNEE”

In Business, Entertainment, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on June 11, 2018 at 12:05 am

To understand the ongoing war between President Donald Trump and the National Football League, you need to first read a crucial passage in Niccolo Machiavelli’s classic work, The Prince

“…For men in general judge more by the eyes than by the hands, for every one can see, but very few have to feel.  Everyone sees what you appear to be, few feel what you are….”

What is taking place is a symbolic war—with football players literally “taking a knee” on one side and with Trump and his Republican minions symbolically waving the Stars and Stripes on the other.

For players, “taking a knee” during the playing of the National Anthem before the start of a football game means protesting against racial injustice and police brutality aimed at blacks.   

For the Right, refusing to stand for “The Star Spangled Banner” is unpatriotic, perhaps bordering on treason. They claim it’s insulting to the military—and especially those soldiers who have died in America’s wars.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first took a knee on August 14, 2016. 

During the 49ers’ first game of the pre-season, Kaepernick sat on the bench during the National Anthem both then and in their next game.  

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Colin Kaepernick

On August 26, he did so again. The next day, he explained his reason for it: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”  

The 49ers issued a statement: “We recognise the right of an individual to choose and participate, or not, in our celebration of the National Anthem.” 

On August 29, Trump—still a Presidential candidate—thrust himself into the budding controversy: “I think it’s personally not a good thing. I think it’s a terrible thing. And, you know, maybe he should find a country that works better for him. Let him try. It won’t happen.” 

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Donald Trump

One year later, on August 12, 2017, Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch sat for the anthem during preseason, on his first game back post-retirement. 

The next day, Seattle Seahawks defensive lineman Michael Bennett sat for the anthem. He gave as his reason the “Unite the Right” rally of white racists in Charlottesville, Virginia. 

On September 17, Trump—now President—told a rally in Alabama that refusing to sing the National Anthem showed “disrespect of our heritage. Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired.'” 

On September 23, Trump, on Twitter, called for NFL players who “disrespect our great American flag” to be fired. Later on in the day, he called for a boycott of the NFL. 

On September 24, infuriated by Trump’s insults, NFL players across the country linked arms, took a knee, or stayed in the changing room during the National Anthem. Every game featured some form of demonstration.

Washington Redskins Kneeling

By Keith Allison from Hanover, MD, USA (Washington Redskins National Anthem Kneeling) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Since then, the confrontation between players “taking a knee” and Trump and his Right-wing shills has mushroomed. 

Yet these protests have not led one police department to change its “use-of-deadly-force” policies. Blacks are still getting shot by trigger-happy police, often when they’re unarmed and unresisting   

During 2017, there were 987 fatal police shootings; 223 blacks were shot and killed by police (23% of all fatal shootings), and 68 of the victims were unarmed. 

In the wake of the controversy, these shootings have been largely forgotten and it is the kneeling players who are getting the media’s attention

These players’ celebrity could be put to far better use by appearing before legislative committees urging reforms in police “use-of-deadly-force” policies.

Also ignored is that Trump, for all his boasts of patriotism, was a five-deferment draft dodger during the Vietnam war. Four deferments cited academic reasons and the fifth cited bone spurs—which usually result in small pointed outgrowths of bone—in his heels. 

But there is one more factor that overshadows both of these truths:  There is no reason to play “The Star Spangled Banner” at football games—or any other sports event

The song celebrates the bombardment of Fort McHenry by British ships in Baltimore Harbor during the War of 1812. Francis Scott Key, an amateur poet, witnessed the attack and was inspired the next morning when he saw the United States flag still flying triumphantly over the fort. 

Yet there is nothing inherently patriotic about attending any sports game:

  • The country isn’t being threatened.
  • No one is risking anything in its defense.
  • There are no casualties (save those suffered by athletes earning kingly salaries).
  • No one’s life is made any better by watching the game.

And “standing for the National Anthem” is an easy and safe way to present yourself as a patriot. American history is filled with men who “wrapped themselves in the flag” only to betray the Constitutional liberties of their fellow citizens.

This conflict of symbols arouses tempers, but otherwise achieves nothing.

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