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THE ANNUAL “WAR ON CHRI$TMA$” IS ABOUT TO BEGIN

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on November 25, 2016 at 12:02 am

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

  • Christmas trees;
  • Nativity scenes;
  • Singing carols; and
  • 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 patriarch Rupert Murdoch.

In 2013, it fell to Fox hostess Megyn Kelly to carry the ball. And she did so on December 11 on “The Kelly File,” her 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,” Kelly said.

“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” special, would make that claim.

Two years later, 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.

This angered some religious conservatives, who generally care more about symbols than substance.

It’s the old “war on Christmas” mantra all over again. And Trump–who hoped to win evangelical votes throughout the country–was happy to become its biggest cheerleader.

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

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–to observe 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.
  • In 2013, the American retail industry generated over $3 trillion during the Christmas holidays. 
  • These holiday sales reflected about 19.2% of the retail industry’s total sales that year.
  • More than 768,000 temporary employees were hired throughout the United States to help stores cope with the holiday rush.
  • The average American will spend about $805 on on Christmas gifts

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.

BROWNSHIRTS WITHOUT UNIFORMS

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on November 23, 2016 at 12:09 am

Supporters of President-elect Donald Trump are furious at Starbucks.

For starters, the company’s CEO, Howard Schultz, endorsed Hillary Clinton for President.

Then, Starbucks “declared war on Christmas” by issuing a “less-festive” holiday paper drinking cup.

Starbucks releases its traditional red holiday cup each November. Past designs have included imagery such as snowflakes, snowmen and Christmas trees.

But in 2015, the company issued a plain red cup minus imagery, triggering a backlash among image-obsessed Christians, who saw it as an “attack” on Christmas.

[The Bible doesn’t give even a generalized date for Jesus’ birth. Nor did Jesus command his followers to celebrate his birth. At the Last Supper, he did command them to honor his death by taking the sacrament.

[Most of the traditions now associated with Christmas can be traced directly to the ancient Roman festival, Saturnalia, which celebrated the deity Saturn. These included feasting, drinking, gift-giving, hanging wreaths and decorating trees–which were not brought indoors.]

When Trump–then running for President–learned of the change in Starbucks cups, he was outraged.

“Did you read about Starbucks?” Trump asked supporters during a rally in Springfield, Ill. “No more ‘Merry Christmas’ at Starbucks. No more. Maybe we should boycott Starbucks.

“If I become president, we’re all going to be saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again,” Trump told the crowd–as if, by becoming President, he could issue such an order. “That I can tell you. That I can tell you! Unbelievable.”

Donald Trump

Now that Trump is about to become President, his legions of Trumpsters aren’t waiting for an official order.

On November 17, a Trumpster using the screen name Baked Alaska came up with a new idea to intimidate Starbucks.

Going on Twitter, he advised fellow Trumpsters to proceed with “Operation #TrumpCup.”  All they had to do was:

  1. “Go to Starbucks & tell them your name is Trump
  2. “If they refuse take video
  3. “Pls share & spread the word”

One Trumpster subsequently posted on Twitter the following: “I got my Starbucks with Trump name. he yelled Trump get your drink 

Another one proudly tweeted: “@bakedalaska did this today. They didn’t want to, said it was too political. I reminded her the campaign was over & he’s our president now. pic.twitter.com/LHgi7Vqexh

This may seem wonderful to Trumpsters, but there are five serious flaws with it:

  1. By taking on the name of the man they idolize, they are obliterating their own identities.
  2. They are trying to impose their idol’s name on others, whether they admire him or not.
  3. This is exactly what the fanatical followers of all tyrants do.
  4. If there’s more than one Trumpster in a Starbucks, how will each one know which “Trump” is being summoned to get his drink?
  5. This is actually the opposite of a boycott. They’re making a “statement”-but they’re also putting money into Starbucks’ pocket while doing so.

Baked Alaska, however, intends to stick to his campaign. “We have a culture war to win,” he said in a Periscope video. He claimed that Twitter was suspending accounts of “alt-Right” [i.e., Fascist] users and that liberals were making whites–especially men–feel guilty.

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Baked Alaska with his Trump cup

Starbucks reacted by emailing the following statement: “Over the years, writing customer names on cups and calling out their names has been a fun ritual in our stores. Rarely has it been abused or taken advantage of. We hope and trust that our customers will continue to honor that tradition. We don’t require our partners to write or call out names.”

What’s past often turns out to be prologue.

Throughout the 2016 Presidential campaign, Donald Trump relied on threats and insults. He used them against Republicans in the primaries, and against Democrats in the general election.  

On March 16, he warned his fellow Republicans that if he didn’t win the GOP nomination at the convention in July, his supporters would literally riot: “I think you’d have riots. I think you would see problems like you’ve never seen before. I think bad things would happen.”

After Trump got the nomination, his surrogates continued to raise the specter of violence. Roger Stone, one of his advisers, told the Right-wing Breitbart News website:

“I think he’s [Trump] gotta put [Democrats] on notice that their inauguration will be a rhetorical and when I mean civil disobedience, not violence, but it will be a bloodbath….We will not stand for it.”

If Clinton had won, Trump’s followers would have remained–waiting for the next champion to voice their hatred and call on their votes. Meanwhile, they would have lost their energy as a social and political force.  

But Trump did win, and now they feel emboldened. And they will continue to draw encouragement from a steady stream of attacks by Trump and his surrogates.

During the general election, many Trump supporters openly threatened to wage armed rebellion against the government if Clinton won.  

What will they do after Trump becomes President–and starts blasting tweets at those who have offended his fragile ego?

Will they stand in front of Starbucks shops and refuse entry to customers–as Adolf Hitler’s brown-shirted Stormtroopers blocked customers from entering Jewish stores?  

And will intimidated local police stand by and allow it–as they did in Hitler’s Germany?  

“Operation TrumpCup” is only the beginning.

WHY TRUMP WON: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on November 18, 2016 at 10:22 am

Donald Trump owes his victory to a wide range of circumstances. Among these:

#10 Hillary Clinton gave only one memorable speech during the campaign–and then she quashed any benefits that might have come from it.  

This was the “basket of deplorables” speech, delivered at a New York fundraiser on September 9.  It was the only Clinton speech to be widely quoted by Democrats and Republicans.

She divided Donald Trump’s supporters into two groups. The first group were the “deplorables,” for whom she showed open contempt:

“You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic –you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up.

“He has given voice to their websites that used to only have 11,000 people–now 11 million. He tweets and retweets their offensive hateful mean-spirited rhetoric. Now, some of those folks—they are irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America.”  

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Hillary Clinton (Gage Skidmore photo)

But the second group, she said, consisted of poor, alienated Americans who rightly felt abandoned by their employers and their government:

“But the other basket–and I know this because I see friends from all over America here….but that other basket of people are people who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they’re just desperate for change. It doesn’t really even matter where it comes from.

“They don’t buy everything [Trump] says, but he seems to hold out some hope that their lives will be different. They won’t wake up and see their jobs disappear, lose a kid to heroin, feel like they’re in a dead-end. Those are people we have to understand and empathize with as well.”

After giving this speech, Clinton threw away the good it might well have done her.

First, the day after making the speech, she apologized for it: “Last night I was ‘grossly generalistic,’ and that’s never a good idea. I regret saying ‘half’–that was wrong.”  

Many of Trump’s followers were racists, sexists and xenophobes–who deserved condemnation, not apologies. By apologizing, she looked weak, indecisive.

Second, having eloquently reached out to many of the men and women who were a prime constituency for Donald Trump, she made no effort to follow up.  

She could have used this moment to offer an economic package that would quickly and effectively address their vital needs for jobs and medical care. 

But that would have required her to put one together long ago. And all she had to offer now was boilerplate rhetoric, such as: “Education is the answer.”

Worst of all, Trump turned her speech against her, tweeting: “Wow, Hillary Clinton was SO INSULTING to my supporters, millions of amazing, hard working people. I think it will cost her at the Polls!”  

It did.  

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#11 Neither the Democrats nor the TV networks dared reveal the full intensity of hatred and violence that were hallmarks of Trump’s rallies–and campaign.  

Three New York Times reporters who covered Trump’s rallies for over one year routinely witnessed his supporters hurl vulgar taunts such as:

At Hillary Clinton: “Trump that bitch!” “Kill her!” “Lock her up!” “Hillary is a whore!” “Hang the bitch!”

At protesters: “Get out of here, you fag!” “Get him!” “Get the fuck out of here!”

At Latinos: “Build a wall–kill them all!” “Fuck those dirty beaners!” “Send them bastards back. I’m sure that paperwork comes in Spanish.”

At Muslims: “Fuck Islam!” “Islam is not a religion, partner. It’s an ideology.” “You don’t come and talk about America when you’re supporting Muslims.”

At President Barack Obama: “Fuck that nigger!”  

H. Allen Scott, a reporter for Fusion, attended a Trump rally and overheard conversations that startled him.

In one, a man marked Arabs as the enemy: “Those sand niggers are out to get us. We need to bomb the hell out of them.”

In the other, the supposed threat came from a different source: “The Donald will get all those Jews out of Washington.”

When protesters were ejected, Trump supporters went wild–and usually turned violent. Protesters were beaten and kicked–often with Trump’s encouragement.

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Protesters and supporters duke it out at a Donald Trump rally

Audiences at Trump rallies were overwhelmingly white. Not all were racists, but many of those who were advertised it on T-shirts: “MAKE AMERICA WHITE AGAIN.” Confederate flags were commonly displayed.

TV news networks and the Hillary Clinton campaign could have aired–repeatedly–such footage. Had they done so, Americans would have gotten a brutal, firsthand look at the anger and racism inherent in Trump’s candidacy–and followers.  

Instead, Trump was allowed to appear on late-night shows like Saturday Night Live and The Tonight Show where he was treated with kid gloves for fun and laughs. 

Thus, it is pointless to blame any one person (such as Hillary Clinton) or group (such as those who voted for third-party candidates) for Clinton’s loss. Many factors played a part–including some that, to keep this series at a reasonable length, could not be mentioned.

WHY TRUMP WON: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on November 17, 2016 at 12:05 am

Fans of Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders have loudly claimed that if he had gotten the Democratic Presidential nomination, he would have crushed Donald Trump at the polls. 

Since he didn’t get the nomination, we will never know.

But Sanders would have carried his own negatives–which the Republicans would have gleefully exploited.  Among the issues he championed:

  • Make college tuition free and debt-free.
  • Medicare for all.
  • Strengthen and expand Social Security.

Although worthy positions, they would have allowed Republicans to label him a “big-spending liberal.” 

In addition, Sanders had labeled himself a “democratic Socialist.” For millions of proudly ignorant Americans, “socialist” means “Communist.” And Fox News and the Republican party would have gladly assured them they were correct.  

Liberty Maniacs, a Minnesota-based brand that designs and sells political and satirical apparel, literally cashed in on this image with an eye-catching T-shirt.

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It depicted Sanders’ face alongside those of Karl Marx, Freidrich Engels, Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong. And underneath were the words: “Bernie IS MY COMRADE.”

No doubt Republicans would have flooded the airways with similar images.

Sanders’ partisans continue to insist he was “cheated” out of the nomination by Hillary Clinton. But this still leaves unanswered the question:

If Sanders couldn’t prevail against the alleged ruthlessness of Clinton in the primaries, how could he have done so against Trump in the general election? 

As the saying goes: “Politics ain’t beanbag.”

#5 Democrats and liberals fell prey to hubris. They dismissed Donald Trump as a bad joke: Surely voters would reject a bombastic, thrice-married “reality show” host who had filed for corporate bankruptcy four times

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If comments on Facebook are any guide, many liberals believed Clinton would bury him at the polls: Blacks, women, youth and Hispanics will turn out huge for her. Democrats will retake the Senate, and maybe even retake the House.

If many Democrats/liberals didn’t vote, one reason may be that they expected others to do it for them.

#6 The coalition that twice elected Barack Obama deserted Hillary Clinton.

Clinton did worse-than-expected among all the groups she was counting on to support her: Blacks, women, youth and Hispanics.

  • In 2012, Obama got 93% of the black vote; in 2016, Clinton got 88%.
  • In 2012, Obama got 55% of the women’s vote; in 2016, Clinton won 54%.
  • In 2012, Obama got 60% of the vote of those under 30; in 2016, Clinton got 54%
  • In 2012, Obama got 71% of the Hispanic vote; in 2016, Clinton got 65%.

Clinton proved less popular even among whites than Obama: In 2012, Obama won 39% of their votes; in 2016, Clinton won 37%.

#7 For years, Republicans had waged a vicious campaign to demonize Hillary Clinton.

This included even falsely accusing her of conspiring to murder American diplomats in Benghazi, Libya.

Kevin McCarthy, a Republican member of the House of Representatives unintentionally admitted this on Fox News on September 30, 2015:   

“Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee. A select committee. What are her [poll] numbers today?

“Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable. But no one would have known that any of that had happened had we not fought to make that happen.”

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Kevin McCarthy

Thus, McCarthy revealed that:

  • The House Select Committee on Benghazi was not a legitimate investigative body.
  • Its true purpose was not to investigate the killings of four American diplomats during a 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya.
  • It’s actual purpose: To destroy the Presidential candidacy of Hillary Clinton.

#8 Republicans attacked Clinton for using a personal email account–while ignoring that her two Republican predecessors had done the same.

General Colin Powell served as Secretary of State under President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2005. He not only used a private email account but advised Clinton to do so as she was about to move into the same job in 2009.  

Powell’s successor as Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, similarly used a private email account during her tenure (2005-2009).

Yet while Republicans hounded Clinton, accusing her of recklessly endangering national security, they totally ignored Powell’s and Rice’s uses of private email accounts.

#9 Trump, adopting the role of a populist, appealed to blue-collar voters. Clinton offered a “love-your-CEO” economic plan–and suffered for it.

Trump visited “Rustbelt” states like Michigan and Pennsylvania and vowed to “bring back” jobs that had been lost to China, such as those in coal mining and manufacturing. Clinton didn’t deign to show up, assuming she had those states “locked up.”

Most economists agree that, in a globalized economy, such jobs are not coming back, no matter who becomes President.

Even so, voters went for the man who promised them a better future, and shunned the woman who didn’t come to promise them any future at all. 

In May, Democratic pollster CeLinda Lake had warned Clinton to revamp her economic platform.

“Democrats simply have to come up with a more robust economic frame and message,” Lake said after the election. “We’re never going to win those white, blue-collar voters if we’re not better on the economy. And 27 policy papers and a list of positions is not a frame. We can laugh about it all we want, but Trump had one.”

WHY TRUMP WON: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on November 16, 2016 at 12:13 am

Since November 8, Democrats and liberals (the two are not always the same) have been in shock.

“How could this happen?” they keep asking–themselves and others. “How could the country go from electing a brilliant, sophisticated, humane man like Barack Obama to electing an ignorant, coarse, brutal man like Donald Trump?”

Efforts have been made to blame one person/group or another. But the truth is that many factors were involved, and the fallout will be felt for months–if not years–to come.

#1 Hillary Clinton was an uninspiring candidate. When Barack Obama ran for President in 2008, NBC Anchor Tom Brokaw compared his rallies to Hannah Montana concerts. Audiences were excited by his charisma, eloquence, relative youth (47) and optimism (“Yes We Can!”).

Clinton radiated none of these qualities. She was 67 when she declared her candidacy for President–and looked it. Her speaking voice grated like the proverbial fingernail on a blackboard.

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Hillary Clinton

She seemed to have been around forever–as First Lady (1993-2001), as Senator from New York (2001-2009) and as Secretary of State (2009-2013). Those born after 2000 thought of the Clinton Presidency as ancient history. She was offering a resume–and voters wanted an inspiration.

#2 Clinton brought a lot of baggage with her. In contrast to Obama, whose Presidency had been scandal-free, Clinton–rightly or wrongly–has always been dogged by charges of corruption.

During the Clinton Presidency, a failed land deal–Whitewater–while Bill Clinton was Governor of Arkansas triggered a seven-year investigation by a Republican special prosecutor. No criminality was uncovered, and no charge was brought against either Clinton.

After leaving the White House, she and her husband set up the Clinton Foundation, a public charity to bring government, businesses and social groups together to solve problems “faster, better, at lower cost.”

As Secretary of State, more than half of Clinton’s meetings with people outside government were with donors to the Clinton Foundation. If a “pay-to play” system wasn’t at work, one certainly seemed to be.

She cast further suspicion on herself by her unauthorized use of a private email server. This wasn’t revealed until March, 2015–after she was no longer Secretary of State.

She claimed she had used it to avoid carrying two cell-phones. But, as Secretary of State, she traveled with a huge entourage who carried everything she needed. Her critics believed she used a private email system to hide a “pay-for-pay” relationship with Clinton Foundation donors.

Finally,  as a candidate for President, she “secretly” worked with Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, to ensure that she would get the nomination.

As DNC chair, Wasserman-Schultz was expected to be impartial toward all Democratic candidates seeking the prize. This included Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s chief competitor.

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Bernie Sanders

So Sanders and his supporters were outraged when WikiLeaks released 19,252 emails and 8,034 attachments hacked from computers of the highest-ranking officials of the DNC.

The emails revealed a clear bias for Clinton and against Sanders. In one email, Brad Marshall, the chief financial officer of the DNC, suggested that Sanders, who is Jewish, could be portrayed as an atheist.

#3 The Obamas’ support proved a plus/minus for Clinton.  Understandably, President Obama wanted to see his legacies continued–and she was the only candidate who could do it.

So he–and his wife, Michelle–stormed the country, giving eloquent, passionate speeches and firing up crowds on Clinton’s behalf.

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President Barack Obama

So long as either Obama stood before a crowd, the magic lasted. But once the event was over, the excitement vanished. Hillary simply didn’t arouse enough passion to keep it going.

And when Obama supporters compared the President and First Lady with Clinton, they found her wanting–in attractiveness, grace, eloquence, trustworthiness and the ability to inspire.

#4 Not enough Democrats entered the Presidential race. Among those few who did:

  • Martin O’Malley, former governor of Maryland;
  • Lincoln Chaffee, former governor of Rhode Island;
  • James Webb, former U.S. Senator from Virginia;
  • Lawrence Lessig, professor at Harvard Law School;
  • Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders;
  • and former First Lady/U.S. Senator/Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Of these candidates, it’s worth noting that O’Malley withdrew during the primaries. Chaffee, Webb and Lessig withdrew before the primaries started.

Many liberals wanted Massachusetts U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren to run. As a specialist in consumer protection, she had become a leading figure in the Democratic party and a favorite among progressives.

But, without giving a reason, she declined to do so.

Thus, at least on the Democratic side, the stage was already set at the outset of the race.

No matter who the Republican nominee would be, the Democratic one would be Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.  

Sanders fans have loudly claimed that if only he had gotten the Democratic Presidential nomination, he would have crushed Trump at the polls. 

But Sanders would have carried big negatives as well–which the Republicans would have gleefully exploited.  

These will be explored in Part Two of this continuing series.

A “WALL” WON’T WORK, BUT THESE METHODS WILL

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on November 11, 2016 at 12:38 pm

According to Donald Trump, stopping illegal immigration is easy.

Just build a massive, impenetrable wall along the U.S./Mexican border to keep out Mexican immigrants.

“Building a wall is easy, and it can be done inexpensively,” Trump said in an interview. “It’s not even a difficult project if you know what you’re doing.”

Really?

Among the obstacles to erecting such a barrier:

  • The United States/Mexican border stretches for 1,954 miles–and encompasses rivers, deserts and mountains.
  • Environmental and engineering problems.
  • Squabbles with ranchers who don’t want to give up any of their land.
  • Building such a wall would cost untold billions of dollars.
  • Drug traffickers and human smugglers could easily tunnel under it into the United States–as they are now doing.

Click here: Trump says building a U.S.-Mexico wall is ‘easy.’ But is it really? – The Washington Post

There are, in fact, cheaper and more effective remedies for combating illegal immigration.

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Illegal aliens crossing into the United States

(1) The Justice Department should vigorously attack the “sanctuary movement” that officially thwarts the immigration laws of the United States.

Among the 31 “sanctuary cities” of this country: Washington, D.C.; New York City; Los Angeles; Chicago; San Francisco; Santa Ana; San Diego; Salt Lake City; Phoenix; Dallas; Houston; Austin; Detroit; Jersey City; Minneapolis; Miami; Denver; Baltimore; Seattle; Portland, Oregon; New Haven, Connecticut; and Portland, Maine.

These cities have adopted “sanctuary” ordinances that do not allow municipal funds or resources to be used to enforce federal immigration laws, usually by not allowing police or municipal employees to inquire about one’s immigration status.

(2)  The most effective way to combat this movement: Indict the highest-ranking officials of those cities who have actively violated Federal immigration laws.

As District Attorney for San Francisco (2004-2011 Kamala Harris created a secret program called Back on Track, which provided training for jobs that illegal aliens could not legally hold.

She also prevented Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from deporting even those illegal aliens convicted of a felony. It is not the duty of local law enforcement, she said, to enforce Federal immigration laws.

Harris is now California’s Attorney General and will soon be its U.S. Senator.

(3) Even if some indicted officials escaped conviction, the results would prove worthwhile.  

City officials would be forced to spend huge sums of their own money for attorneys and face months or even years of prosecution.

And this, in turn, would send a devastating warning to officials in other “sanctuary cities” that the same fate lies in store for them.

(4)  CEOs whose companies–like Wal-Mart–systematically employ illegal aliens should be held directly accountable for the actions of their subordinates.

They should be indicted by the Justice Department under the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, the way Mafia bosses are prosecuted for ordering their own subordinates to commit crimes.

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Upon conviction, the CEO should be sentenced to a mandatory prison term of at least 20 years.  

This would prove a more effective remedy for combating illegal immigration than stationing tens of thousands of soldiers on the U.S.-Mexican border. CEOs forced to account for their subordinates’ actions would take drastic steps to ensure that their companies strictly complied with Federal immigration laws.  

Without employers’ luring illegal aliens at a fraction of the money paid to American workers, the flood of such illegal job-seekers would quickly dry up.

(5)  The Government should stop granting automatic citizenship to “anchor babies” born to illegal aliens in the United States.

A comparable practice would be allowing bank robbers who had eluded the FBI to keep their illegally-obtained loot.

A person who violates the bank robbery laws of the United States is legally prosecutable for bank robbery, whether he’s immediately arrested or remains uncaught for years. The same should be true for those born illegally within this country.  

If they’re not here legally at the time of their birth, they should not be considered citizens and should–like their parents–be subject to deportation.

(6) The United States Government–from the President on down–should scrap its apologetic tone on the right to control its national borders.

The Mexican Government doesn’t hesitate to apply strict laws to those immigrating to Mexico. And it feels no need to apologize for this.

Neither should Americans.

(7)  Voting materials and ballots should be published in one language–English 

Throughout the United States, millions of Mexican illegals refuse to learn English and yet demand that voting materials and ballots be made available to them in Spanish. There is no reason to cater to their hypocrisy.  

(8) The United States should vigorously counter the argument that deporting illegal aliens “separates families.” There is absolutely no reason why this should happen. Those American citizens who wish to do so are perfectly free to accompany their illegal relatives to their home countries.

(9) The United States should impose severe economic and even military sanctions against countries–such as China and Mexico–whose citizens make up the bulk of illegal aliens.

Mexico, for example, uses its American border to rid itself of those who might demand major reforms in the country’s political and economic institutions.

Such nations must learn that dumping their unwanteds on the United States now comes at an unaffordably high price. Otherwise those dumpings will continue.

A TAXING PROBLEM

In Bureaucracy, Business, Law, Law Enforcement, Self-Help on November 4, 2016 at 12:23 am

“We’ll try to cooperate fully with the IRS, because, as citizens, we feel a strong patriotic duty not to go to jail.”
–Dave Barry

Several years ago, a private investigations agency found itself in serious trouble with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

One of its employees had suddenly quit the company–leaving behind a major financial disaster.

That employee–whom I’ll call Pete–had been tasked with sending payroll tax records to the IRS. The company’s owner, Bill, assumed he had carried out his assignment.

Until he learned from the IRS that they had never received the records.

Consider the potential consequences:

  • Failing to timely and properly pay federal payroll taxes results in an automatic penalty of 2% to 10%.
  • Similar state and local penalties apply.
  • Failing to properly file monthly or quarterly returns may result in additional penalties.
  • Failing to file W-2 Forms results in an automatic penalty of up to $50 per form not timely filed.
  • A particularly severe penalty applies where federal income tax withholding and Social Security taxes are not paid to the IRS.
  • The penalty of up to 100% of the amount not paid can be assessed against the employer entity as well as any person (such as a corporate officer) having control or custody of the funds from which payment should have been made.

About 70% of the annual revenue collected by the IRS comes from payroll taxes. Under-reported and unpaid employment taxes account for about $72 billion of the United States tax gap. So the IRS makes the collection of payroll taxes a high priority.

No doubt about it–Bill was facing serious trouble.

What to do?  

Fortunately, Steve, one of Bill’s employees, had a B.A. in Communications and had worked as a newspaper reporter.

When Bill told him of the calamity he was facing, Steve offered his best advice: Immediately contest the charge that he had been delinquent in providing the records. And explain to the IRS–in writing–what had happened.  

Bill agreed.

First,  Steve interviewed him at length to make certain he fully understood the circumstances leading up to his present crisis.

Then Steve sat down and typed up a letter–on office letterhead stationery–to the IRS. Letterhead would give it an official appearance–and Steve wanted every advantage he could get.

Steve offered a straightforward presentation of what had happened: Pete, the number-two man in the company, had been entrusted with submitting payroll tax records to the IRS.

Apparently nursing a grudge against the company, he had, in fact, done nothing of the sort.

Instead, he had dumped the records in a box and stashed this in a locked filing cabinet.

Then he had given notice and left the company. Later, an investigation of his office computer revealed that it had often been used to access pornography.

Steve emphasized that Bill’s company had previously had an unblemished record for meeting its payroll tax obligations on time. And he stated that the newly-found records had been sent to the IRS by registered mail.

Finally, Steve wrote that Bill was prepared to fully meet his financial obligations  to the IRS. But he asked that Bill not be penalized for the irresponsible actions of a single, malcontented employee.

The result? 

Bill ended up paying only those monies that he legally owed.  He was not forced to pay a penalty.

So what are the lessons to be learned from this episode?

  • In dealing with an agency as powerful as the IRS, don’t ignore its letters and/or phone calls. 
  • You have nothing to gain by pretending it will go away.  It won’t.
  • If you owe money, don’t deny it. 
  • Remain calm, even if you feel angry or afraid. 
  • Don’t use profanity or insults. 
  • Don’t try to play tough-guy with the IRS.  Even the Mafia fears this agency.

  • If you have a legitimate reason for having missed a payment, say so. 
  • Remember that everything you say to the IRS–verbally or in writing–is considered evidence given under oath. 
  • If you lie and get caught, you can face perjury charges as well as those for failing to comply with tax laws.
  • Offer to fully pay any monies that you legally owe.
  • If these amount to more than you can meet in a single payment, say so. Ask the agency to set up a plan by which you can pay it off in installments.
  • If the agency balks at cooperating with you, contact a veteran tax accountant or attorney.
  • The best accountants or attorneys for dealing with the IRS are former agents now working in private practice. They not only know the tax laws; they know the best ways to short-circuit an IRS audit and/or penalties.

PAY MORE TAXES, GET LESS FOR THEM

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on November 1, 2016 at 6:20 am

The budget for the City and County of San Francisco for 2016-17 is $9.6 billion. Its proposed budget for 2017-18 is $9.7 billion.

San Francisco occupies 46.87 miles and has a population of 837,442.

Roughly half of the budget goes toward city-related business operations–such as the Port, the bus line, the Airport and the Public Utilities Commission.

The other half of the budget goes toward such public services as Public Health, Police and Fire Services, Recreation and Parks.

As the November 8 election quickly approaches, the most controversial issue on the city ballot is Proposition V.

Specifically, this calls for a tax of one cent per ounce from the distributors of sugar-sweetened beverages.

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Currently, San Francisco does not impose a tax on the distribution of sugar-sweetened beverage.

The initiative defines “a sugar-sweetened beverage” as “a beverage that contains added sugar and 25 or more calories per 12 ounces.

“These include some soft drinks, sports drinks, iced tea, juice drinks and energy drinks. The tax would also apply to syrups and powders that can be made into sugar-sweetened beverages, for example, fountain drinks from beverage-dispensing machines.”

Supporters of the initiative are trying to sell it via the “save our kids” argument. The Vote Yes on V campaign states:

“On November 8th, the health of children in San Francisco relies on us.

“Proposition V will tax distributors of soda and other sugary drinks that have direct links to obesity and chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart and liver disease.”

Left unsaid is how putting more money into city coffers would lead children to show more restraint in buying “sugar-sweetened beverages.”

Perhaps the real reason why many city officials enthusiastically back this measure can be found in a statement by the San Francisco Controller:

“Should this ordinance be approved, in my opinion, it would result in an annual tax revenue increase to the City of approximately $7.5 million in fiscal year (FY) 2017–2018 and $15 million in FY 2018–19The tax is a general tax and proceeds would be deposited into the General Fund.”

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San Francisco Controller’s Office

San Francisco takes in more than $9 billion in taxes every year. But for many San Francisco officials this just isn’t enough.

Yet for many San Francisco residents, it is. In 2014, they defeated a similar soda tax.

Opponents of the tax have attacked it as a “grocery tax.” They argue that grocers–especially those running the mom-and-pop stores popular in San Francisco–will pass on the costs to their customers by raising prices on groceries altogether.

Proposition V supporters claim this is a lie. Rebecca Kaplan, a member of the Oakland Council, told the Huffington Post: “People worry about having to pay for their groceries. To threaten that their groceries are going to be taxed when it’s not true is a totally despicable tactic from the soda industry.”

Actually, there is nothing in the measure to prevent grocers from passing the tax on to consumers.

Meanwhile, what are San Franciscans getting for the $9 billion in taxes City Hall collects?

  • Call the general number of the police or fire department–and chances are you’ll get a recorded message telling you to wait your turn in line.

Call even 9-1-1 and the odds are great that you’ll get the same message. And if you complain to a city official about it, you’ll likely be told: “Well, we have only so many operators.”

The last thing someone calling police or the fire department in a crisis wants to hear is: “We’ll get back to you when we feel like it.”

  • Or wander into downtown Market Street, a major thoroughfare into the heart of San Francisco.

You’ll find its red-brick blocks filled with stinking, disease-ridden, drug- or alcohol-addicted, often psychotic men and women whom city officials politely call “the homeless.”

In 2016, the city spent $241 million on “homeless” services. But the population surges between 7,000 and 10,000. Of these, 3,000 to 5,000 refuse shelter.

City officials admit that San Francisco ranks second to New York in homelessness. What they won’t admit is that they are largely responsible for it.

The city’s mild climate and social programs that dole out cash payments to virtually anyone with no residency requirement draw rootless, unstable persons like a magnet.

  • The problems affecting the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) aren’t as obvious as the homeless infesting the city’s streets. But they are nevertheless real.

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In 2002, the San Francisco Chronicle found that the city’s violent criminals had a better chance of escaping punishment than predators in any other large American city.

The SFPD had the lowest violent crime “clearance rate” among the nation’s 20 largest cities. Among Federal law enforcement agencies like the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service, the SFPD is considered a joke.

  • At the San District Attorney’s Office, prosecutors often can’t decide if they want to lock up criminals–or defend them.

From 2004 to 2011, Kamala Harris served as the city’s District Attorney. In total defiance of the law, she set up a secret unit to keep even convicted illegal aliens out of prison.

Kamala Harris

Her program, called Back on Track, trained them for jobs they could not legally hold. This was a flagrant violation of Federal immigration law. It is not the duty of local law enforcement, she said, to enforce Federal immigration laws.

In San Francisco, you don’t necessarily get what you pay for.

WITH MALICE TOWARD ALL, WITH CHARITY FOR NONE

In Business, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on October 12, 2016 at 12:10 am

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

“Although Hitler prized his own talents as a negotiator, a man always capable of striking a good bargain, he was totally lacking in finesse. 

“He was incapable of bargaining. He was like a man who goes up to a fruit peddler and threatens to blow his brains out if he does not sell his applies at the lowest possible price.”

What was true for Adolf Hitler is equally true for Donald Trump, the 2016 Republican nominee for President of the United States.  

Most recently his vindictive streak was on nationwide display during his second Presidential debate with Hillary Clinton: “If I win I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation–there has never been so many lies and so much deception.”  

While this has played well with Trump’s essentially Fascistic followers, even conservatives like political columnist Charles Krauthammer have disagreed with it:

“I’m one of those who thinks there was a miscarriage of justice in not indicting her. But the problem here is the pattern from Trump. 

“He has spoken about using the powers of the government to go after other opponents like the publisher of The Washington Post 

“Do we want to invest in him all the powers of the government if he acts where he seems to want to carry out vendettas?” 

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Charles Krauthammer

But making threats against anyone who has dared to cross him or has merely roused his ire is a longtime Trump characteristic.  

In 2010, Tarla Makaeff, a former customer of Trump’s real-estate seminar business, filed a fraud lawsuit against now-defunct Trump University.  

Trump retaliated by filing a defamation suit against her. The case was dismissed by a judge. But Trump continued to attack her during his Presidential candidacy.  

During a campaign rally he assailed her as a “horrible, horrible witness,” and then posted on Twitter that she was “Disgraceful!”  

Makaeff ultimately persuaded the judge presiding over the Trump University case to let her remove her name as a plaintiff.  

Trump has long employed a series of hardball tactics against anyone who threatens his ego:

  • Countersuits, threats and personal insults against outsiders; and
  • Stringent confidentiality agreements against employees, business partners, his former spouses and now his campaign staffers.  

As an authoritarian who demands the right to craft his own image. Trump furiously denies others the right to dissent from it.  

In February, 2016, Trump said that he was “gonna open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money.”  

After the New York Times published pages from his 1995 tax return, Trump tweeted that his lawyers “want to sue the failing @nytimes so badly for irresponsible intent. I said no (for now), but they are watching. Really disgusting.”  

Trump claims the tax return was illegally obtained. The Times says it received it from an anonymous source with a return address at Trump Tower.  

Trump is a master of “dog whistle” threats. On August 9, he falsely told a rally in Wilmington, North Carolina: “Hillary [Clinton] wants to abolish, essentially abolish, the Second Amendment.  

“If she gets to pick her [Supreme Court] judges, nothing you can do folks.  Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.” 

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Hillary Clinton

The Clinton camp instantly saw it as a “dog-whistle” solicitation for political assassination.

“Don’t treat this as a political misstep,” Senator Christopher S. Murphy of Connecticut, who has called for stiffer gun laws, wrote on Twitter. “It’s an assassination threat, seriously upping the possibility of a national tragedy & crisis.”  

“This is no longer about policy, civility, decency or even temperament. This is a direct threat of violence against a political rival,” wrote longtime broadcast journalist Dan Rather in a lengthy Facebook post.  

“Many have tried to do a side-shuffle and issue statements saying they strongly disagree with his rhetoric but still support the candidate. That is becoming woefully insufficient. The rhetoric is the candidate.”

Trump–and his apologists–claimed he was simply “joking.”  

But Trump was not done with making threats against Hillary Clinton–and her husband, Bill. 

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Donald Trump

On October 7, The Washington Post leaked a video of Donald Trump making sexually predatory comments about women (“I don’t even wait. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything”).

The remarks came during a 2005 exchange with Billy Bush, then the host of Access Hollywood.

The admissions ignited a firestorm against Trump, even among many Republicans.  

Rather than accept responsibility for his actions, Trump blamed the Clintons–who had nothing to do with the release.

Speaking before a rally in Pennsylvania on October 10, Trump threatened: “If they wanna release more tapes saying inappropriate things, we’ll continue to talk about Bill and Hillary Clinton doing inappropriate things.  There are so many of them, folks.”  

In making this threat, Trump demonstrated: 

  • That there may be more evidence of his predatory actions toward women; and
  • Like a terrorist, he is willing to harm others in a fit of anger or to demonstrate his capacity for cruelty.

And this is the man millions of Right-wing Americans want to entrust with the nuclear button.  

CALIGULA’S APPRENTICE: PART TWO (END)

In Business, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 11, 2016 at 12:21 am

Gaius Caligula lived twenty-nine years and ruled Rome three years, ten months and eight days. When he died, his reign of depravity and terror died with him.  

Today, millions of Americans fear a similar fate will sweep their country if Donald Trump becomes President.  

Caligula’s life spanned August 31, 12 A.D. to January 24, 41 A.D.

Gaius Caligula

Trump was born on June 14, 1946.  

Caligula became Emperor in 37 A.D. after succeeding the Emperor Tiberius, his uncle who had adopted him as a son after his father died. 

Trump began his real estate career at his father’s real estate and construction company. His rose to wealth and fame after his father, Fred, gave him control of the business in 1971.  

Caligula’s reign began well–and popularly. He gave Tiberius a magnificent funeral–then recalled to Rome all those whom Tiberius had banished.

He gave bonuses to the military and destroyed lists of those Tiberius had declared traitors. He allowed the magistrates unrestricted jurisdiction, without appeal to himself.

Similarly, soon after acquiring the family business, Trump set out to build his own empire–hotels, golf courses, casinos, skyscrapers across North and South America, Europe and Asia. He named many of them after himself.

Donald Trump

He appeared at the Miss USA pageants, which he owned from 1996 to 2015. He hosted and co-produced The Apprentice, an NBC reality television series from 2004 to 2015.

The ancient historians describe Caligula as a noble and enlightened ruler during the first six months of his reign. But in October 37 A.D. he fell seriously ill or perhaps was poisoned.

Caligula soon recovered but emerged a changed man. He began killing or exiling those who were close to him and anyone he saw as a threat.

Trump has never been charged with murder. But during his second Presidential debate with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, he previewed the dangers of a Trump Justice Department: “If I win I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation.”  

Caligula’s egomania soon reached psychotic heights.

  • He  gave himself several surnames: “Pious,” “Child of the Camp,” “Father of the Armies,” and “Greatest and Best of Caesars.”
  • Flattered that he had risen higher than princes and kings, he began to believe himself a god.
  • He appeared at the temple of Castor and Pollux to be worshiped as Jupiter Latiaris. 
  • He also set up a special temple to his own godhead.

Trump’s egomania is literally stamped on his properties. Of the 515 entities he owns, 268 of them–52%–bear his last name. He often refers to his properties as “the swankiest,” “the most beautiful.”  

Among the references he’s made to himself: 

  • “My fingers are long and beautiful, as, it has been well documented, are various other parts of my body.” 
  • “I think the only difference between me and the other candidates is that I’m more honest and my women are more beautiful.”
  • “My Twitter has become so powerful that I can actually make my enemies tell the truth.”
  • “My IQ is one of the highest–and you all know it.”

When Caligula wasn’t ordering wholesale Stalin-like purges–ranging from Roman aristocrats to slaves–he was setting new records for debauchery.

According to the Roman historian Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus: “He lived in habitual incest with all his [three] sisters, and at a large banquet he placed each of them in turn below him, while his wife reclined above. Of these he is believed to have violated Drusilla when he was still a minor.” 

Trump has never been charged with incest, but he’s repeatedly made sexually inappropriate comments about his daughter, Ivanka:  

  • “Yeah, she’s really something, and what a beauty, that one. If I weren’t happily married and, ya know, her father …”
  • When Trump appeared on the Dr. Oz Show, he was joined on stage by Ivanka. After they kissed, Dr. Oz said: “It’s nice to see a dad kiss his daughter.” Trump: “I kiss her every chance I get.”  The remark was edited before the show aired.
  • When asked how he would react if Ivanka, a former teen model, posed for Playboy, Trump replied: “I don’t think Ivanka would do that, although she does have a very nice figure. I’ve said if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.”  
  • “You know who’s one of the great beauties of the world, according to everybody? And I helped create her. Ivanka. My daughter, Ivanka. She’s 6 feet tall, she’s got the best body.” 

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Ivanka Trump

One final trait that Caligula shared with Trump: Both relished humiliating others.  

Caligula’s fatal mistake was to taunt Cassius Chaerea, a member of his own bodyguard. Caligula considered Chaerea effeminate because of a weak voice and mocked him with names like “Priapus” and “Venus.”  

On January 22 41 A.D. Chaerea and several other bodyguards hacked Caligula to death before other guards could save him.  

The number of people, places and things Trump has insulted is so extensive The New York Times compiled a list of all 273 of them.

On October 7, Trump’s speaking insultingly about women (“I just start kissing them. I don’t even wait. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy”) threatened to derail his Presidential candidacy.  

It remains to be seen if Trump suffers the final fate of Caligula.

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