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LIKE HITLER, LIKE TRUMP–“LET THEM DIE”: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 21, 2017 at 12:21 am

On March 6, 2017, House Republican leaders unveiled the American Health Care Act (AHCA) as their replacement for “Obamacare.”

Conservative Republicans immediately declared that it didn’t repeal and replace Obamacare. And “moderates” complained that it would leave too many people uninsured. 

Democrats, meanwhile, stayed silent. They had pushed hard in 2009-10 to provide all Americans with access to healthcare. And they weren’t going to participate in dismantling their signature legislation.

On March 13, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office released its report estimating that about 18 million people would be uninsured in 2018 if the AHCA were enacted. The number of uninsured people would reach 19 million in 2020 and 24 million in 2026.

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Still, Republicans plunged forward, with House leaders tweaking it slightly to win conservative and “moderate” votes.

Still, conservatives felt the bill helped too many people. And “moderates” feared that the millions of voters who would lose their insurance would vote them out of office at the next election. 

On March 24, President Donald Trump, knowing the AHCA couldn’t pass the House, asked Speaker Paul Ryan to pull it off the floor. 

And Ryan did so, only moments before a scheduled vote.

Finally, on May 4, House Republicans were ready to vote to pass the AHCA.

The vote was preceded by a pep rally, which featured beer, the “Rocky” theme song, the “Taking Care of Business” song, a prayer and the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance.

Some Republicans, asked whether they had read the bill they supported, refused to answer. 

That up to 24 million Americans would lose their medical insurance meant nothing to Right-wingers. 

What did matter to them was:

  • Destroying the legacy of Barack Obama, the nation’s first black President; and
  • Initiating a huge transfer of wealth from the poor and middle-class to the 1% wealthiest.

On May 4, House Republicans passed the AHCA and sent it the Senate. There it was expected to be significantly revised.

But this, too, didn’t matter to House Republicans. They had “kept faith” with their hate-filled. Right-wing constituents—and assured their own re-elections. 

Speaking in front of nearly 100 GOP lawmakers in the White House Rose Garden, Trump boasted that the AHCA would “finish off” the “catastrophe” of Obamacare.

Donald Trump

At a White House celebration, Trump boasted: “This has brought the Republican Party together.”

But then came disaster—for Republicans—in the Senate. 

With Democrats abstaining, Republicans found themselves fighting each other. 

Some wanted to gut “Obamacare” entirely, whatever the consequences for the 24 million Americans who would be left without insurance.

Others feared that slashing more than $700 billion from Medicaid—the Federal medical insurance program for the poor—would lead to millions of angry voters turning out Republicans at the polls.

(And slashing Medicaid—as opposed to expanding it, as President Obama had sought to do—was a major reason why Republicans wanted to overturn “Obamacare.”) 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) desperately tried to hammer out a compromise between the two opposing sides. When this proved impossible, it was clear the “repeal and replace” bill wouldn’t pass the Senate. 

At that point, President Trump tweeted his own solution: “Republicans should just ‘REPEAL’ failing ObamaCare now & work on a new Healthcare Plan that will start from a clean slate. Dems will join in!” 

But this proved too politically risky for some Republicans. 

On July 18, Republican Senators’ efforts to replace the ACA without a ready replacement collapsed. 

As usual, Donald Trump had a ready “solution” to offer. Like Adolf Hitler issuing his “scorched earth” order in a doomed Berlin in 1945, the President said:

“Let Obamacare fail; it’ll be a lot easier. And I think we’re probably in that position where we’ll just let Obamacare fail.

“We’re not going to own it. I’m not going to own it. I can tell you the Republicans are not going to own it. We’ll let Obamacare fail, and then the Democrats are going to come to us and they’re going to say, ‘How do we fix it? How do we fix it?’ Or, ‘How do we come up with a new plan?’” 

* * * * *

Allowing Obamacare to fail would deprive millions of Americans of healthcare. But that meant nothing to Donald Trump.

Just as destroying everything still remaining in Germany had meant nothing to Adolf Hitler.

Fortunately for Germany, one man—Albert Speer—finally broke ranks with his Fuhrer.

Albert Speer

Albert Speer

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

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

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

Acting as extortionists, they repeatedly threatened to shut down the government if they didn’t get their way in legislative matters. And they repeatedly blocked legislation to help the poor, the unemployed, the sick, women, the elderly, the disabled and the middle-class. 

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

The country is still waiting for a Republican Albert Speer to step forward and save America from the self-destructive brutalities of its own Right-wing fanatics.

LIKE HITLER, LIKE TRUMP–“LET THEM DIE”: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 20, 2017 at 12:50 am

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

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

Albert Speer and Adolf Hitler pouring over architectural plans

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

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

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

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

Adolf Hitler addressing boy soldiers as the Third Reich crumbles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fast-forward to the United States and the 2008 election of the nation’s first black President. 

On March 23, 2010, President Barack Obama signed into law the Affordable Care Act (ACA), nicknamed Obamacare. Its purpose: To provide access to healthcare for millions of poor and middle-class Americans who had heretofore been unable to obtain it.

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President Barack Obama

It became—and remains—Obama’s signature legislative accomplishment. 

Republicans immediately declared “Obamacare” Public Enemy Number One and set out to repeal it. By March 2014 they had already voted against it 54 times, trying to undo or substantially change it.

In October, 2013, they shut down the Federal Government for 15 days. They hoped to extort Obama into de-funding the ACA: If he did, they would re-open Federal agencies.

But, facing pressure from voters unable to obtain basic government services, Republicans backed down. 

During the 2016 Presidential campaign, every Republican candidate pledged to repeal Obamacare if s/he were elected.

Donald Trump—who won the Republican nomination and then the election—repeatedly made this the centerpiece of his campaign. 

On October 25, he promised: “My first day in office, I am going to ask Congress to put a bill on my desk getting rid of this disastrous law and replacing it with reforms that expand choice, freedom, affordability.

“You’re going to have such great health care at a tiny fraction of the cost. And it’s going to be so easy.”

But after taking office on January 20, he found that replacing the ACA wasn’t so easy.

On March 6, 2017, House Republicans unveiled the American Health Care Act (AHCA). This was attacked by conservatives because it didn’t repeal and replace Obamacare. And “moderate” Republicans complained that it would leave too many people uninsured.

On March 13, 2017, the Congressional Budget Committee released its report estimating that about 18 million people would be uninsured in 2018 if the AHCA were enacted. The number of uninsured people would reach 19 million in 2020 and 23 million in 2026. 

Still, Republicans plunged forward, with House leaders making slight changes to win conservative and moderate votes.

“FAMILY VALUES”: A SLOGAN FOR HYPOCRITES

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 19, 2017 at 12:10 am

Dennis Hastert, the former Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, was released from Federal prison today–July 18.

He had served 13 months of a 15-month sentence.

Hastert was the Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1999 to 2007. He had been indicted on May 28, 2015, for violating federal banking laws and lying to the FBI.

He had tried to conceal $3.5 million he had paid since 2010 to a man he had molested as a high school student.

The student had been on the wrestling team that Hastert had coached as a teacher at Yorkville High School in Yorkfille, Ill.

“I felt a special bond with our wrestlers,” Hastert wrote in his 2004 memoirs, Speaker: Lessons From Forty Years of Coaching and Politics. “And I think they felt one with me.”

Apparently that “special bond” extended to activities outside the ring. In the pre-sentence  report, Justice Department prosecutors charged that Hastert had abused four young boys when he was their wrestling coach. One was only 14 years old.  

Hastert had claimed that a coach should never strip away another person’s dignity. But, said federal prosecutors, “that is exactly what defendant did to his victims. He made them feel alone, ashamed, guilty, and devoid of dignity.”

Later, in 1981, Hastert entered Congress.

Dennis Hastert

Hastert was not indicted for having had a sexual relationship with an underage student. The statute of limitations had long ago run out on that offense.

He was indicted for trying to evade federal banking laws and lying to the FBI.

The Bureau had wanted to know if Hastert was using the cash for criminal purposes or if he was the victim of a criminal extortion.

And Hastert had claimed he was storing cash because he didn’t feel safe with the banking system: “Yeah, I kept the cash. That’s what I’m doing.”

J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building

On October 28, 2015, Hastert pleaded guilty to structuring money transactions in a way to avoid requirements to report where the money was going.  

Although he escaped going to prison as a child molester, he did not escape the stigma of being labeled one.

“The defendant is a serial child molester,” pronounced Judge Thomas M. Durkin at Hastert’s sentencing. “Some actions can obliterate a lifetime of good works. Nothing is more stunning than having ‘serial child molester’ and ‘Speaker of the House’ in the same sentence.”

During his tenure as Speaker of the House, Hastert had waged all-out war on homosexual rights. This included:

  • Pushing the anti-homosexual Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) through the House. This “forbids requiring any state or any other political subdivision of the United States to credit as a marriage a same-sex relationship treated as marriage in another state or equivalent government.”
  • Proposing a Constitutional amendment to “establish that marriage shall consist of one man and one woman.”
  • Voting against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which banned companies from discriminating against employees “on the basis of sexual orientation.”

Owing to Hastert’s “deeply conservative” voting record, in 1998, he received perfect scores of 100 from

  • The National Rifle Association;
  • The Christian Coalition;
  • The National Right to Life Committee; and
  • The Chamber of Commerce.

Hastert, who concealed his past as a sexual predator while claiming to be a man of virtue, wrote in his autobiography: “I was never a very good liar. Maybe I wasn’t smart enough. I could never get away with it, so I made up my mind as a kid to tell the truth and pay the consequences.”

It would take decades before the revealing of the truth forced him to pay the consequences.

Hastert makes the third Republican “family values” Speaker of the House to become ensnared in an ethics scandal.

  • Newt Gingrich was the first Speaker (1985-1999) in the history of the House to be reprimanded and punished for ethics violations. His offense: Claiming tax-exempt status for a college course run for political purposes.
  • His successor, Bob Livingston, a supposedly happily married man and Gingrich’s presumed successor, was forced to resign when Hustler publisher Larry Flynt revealed his sexual infidelities. He had self-righteously demanded that President Bill Clinton, who had had an extramarital affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, resign his office.
  • Dennis Hastert’s conduct involved neither money nor women—but a series of male high school students.

Of course, Democrats have had their sex scandals as well. But Democrats usually don’t suffer as badly from them.

The reason: Republicans portray themselves as moral examples for the nation. So for them, being caught literally with their pants down proves a double-whammy.

They are condemned for their specific illegal/immoral acts—and for the sheer hypocrisy of their false claims of sainthood.

Ironically, Right-wingers like Hastert would fare better when caught in homosexual or extramarital affairs if they simply admitted their sexual tastes and registered as Democrats.

But in heavily Right-wing states like Texas and Oklahoma, they wouldn’t stand a chance of being elected as a Democrat. And Red-state voters, feeling themselves moral arbiters of the nation, wouldn’t elect anyone they thought was “unnatural.”

So Right-wingers will continue pretending to be moral paragons—and will continue paying the price when they’re exposed as fallible humans. 

WORDS FOR TYRANTS–AND LIBERATORS: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on July 18, 2017 at 12:22 am

On the May 27, 2016 edition of the PBS Newshour, syndicated columnist Mark Shields noted the ability of Elizabeth Warren to rattle Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump:

“Elizabeth Warren gets under Donald Trunp’s skin. And I think she’s been the most effective adversary. I think she’s done more to unite the Democratic party than either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.

“I mean, she obviously–he can’t stay away from her. He is tweeting about her.”

Donald Trump

And syndicated New York Times Columnist David Brooks said on the same program the Democrats faced two choices in combating Trump:

“And so the tactics…is either you do what Elizabeth Warren has done, like full-bore negativity, that kind of [get] under the skin, or try to ridicule him and use humor. Humor is not Hillary Clinton’s strongest point.”  

But sharp-edged humor clearly works for Warren.  

A May 12, 2016 story on CNN—“Elizabeth Warren Gives Trump a Dose of His Own Medicine on Twitter”—notes:  

“In the past week the Massachusetts Democrat has refined an aggressive anti-Trump message through a series of so-called tweetstorms. 

“Whenever Trump criticizes her, Warren fires right back at him, sometimes twice as hard.”  

Warren’s tweets, according to the article, appeared to have two goals:

  1. Challenge Trump on social media, which he had so far dominated; and
  2. Use attention-catching words like “bully” and “loser.”  

Among her tweets:

  • “But here’s the thing. You can beat a bully—not by tucking tail and running, but by holding your ground.” 
  • “You care so much about struggling American workers, @realDonaldTrump, that you want to abolish the federal minimum wage?”
  • @realDonaldTrump: Your policies are dangerous. Your words are reckless. Your record is embarrassing. And your free ride is over.”

Nor did Warren restrict herself to battling Trump on Twitter.

Elizabeth Warren--Official 113th Congressional Portrait--.jpg

Elizabeth Warren

On May 24, 2016, Warren unleashed perhaps her most devastating attack on Trump at an event hosted by the Center for Popular Democracy:

“Just yesterday, it came out that Donald Trump had said back in 2007 that he was ‘excited’ for the real estate market to crash because, quote, ‘I’ve always made more money in bad markets than in good markets.’

“That’s right. The rest of us were horrified by the 2008 financial crisis, by what happened to the millions of families…that were forced out of their homes.  

“But Donald Trump was drooling over the idea of a housing meltdown—because it meant he could buy up a bunch more property on the cheap….

“What kind of a man does that? I’ll tell you exactly what kind—a man who cares about no one but himself. A small, insecure moneygrubber who doesn’t care who gets hurt, so long as he makes some money off it….”

As a whole, Democrats have shown themselves indifferent to or ignorant of the power of effective language.

Many of them—such as former President Barack Obama—take the view: “I’m not going to get into the gutter like my opponents.” Thus, they take the “high ground” while their sworn Republican enemies undermine them via “smear and fear” tactics. 

As far back as the early 1950s, slander-hurling Wisconsin U.S. Senator Joseph R. McCarthy demonstrated the effectiveness of such tactics. Wrote Pulitzer-Prize winning author David Halberstam, in his monumental study of the origins of the Vietnam War, The Best and the Brightest:

“But if they did not actually stick, and they did not, [McCarthy’s] charges had an equally damaging effect: They poisoned. Where there was smoke, there must be fire. He wouldn’t be saying these things [voters reasoned] unless there was something to it.” 

Tyrants are conspicuously vulnerable to ridicule, yet, here, too, Democrats have proven unable or unwilling to make use of this powerful weapon. 

Donald Trump, for example, has labeled established news media as “fake news.” Yet despite his repeated assaults on the press, judiciary and Intelligence agencies such as the CIA and FBI, not one Democrat has dared to label him a “fake President.” 

Similarly, while he has branded Hillary Clinton “Crooked Hillary,” no Democrat—despite Trump’s well-established admiration for Russian dictator Vladimir Putin—has dared to call him “Red Donald.” 

Nor to charge him with using dictatorial methods via the damning barb: “TrumPutin.”

Nor, in this YouTube-obsessed age, have Democrats assailed Trump with a ridiculing video. In the hands of a creative writer, “Springtime for Hitler,” the signature tune of the hit play and movie, The Producers, could become “Springtime for Trumpland.” 

And Democrats could attack the Trump administration’s secretive ties with Russian oligarchs and Intelligence agents by turning the Muppet Song, “The Rainbow Connection,” into “The Russian Connection.” 

A possible stanza could go: 

Abraham Lincoln is watching and asking:
“How much more slime must there be?”
What’s so amazing is we just sit gazing
While traitors destroy liberty.

Someday we’ll find it
The Russian Connection—
The bribers, the traitors, you’ll see.

If Democrats continue to fight Waffen-SS tactics with those of a Shirley Temple, they will continue to decline in influence as a political party. Their only hope lies in combating the Heinz Guderians of the Republican Party with the full-force tactics of a George S. Patton.

WORDS FOR TYRANTS–AND LIBERATORS: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on July 17, 2017 at 12:41 am

Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks appear every Friday on the PBS Newshour to review the week’s major political events.

On May 27, 2016, Shields—a liberal, and Brooks, a conservative—came to some disturbingly similar conclusions about the character of Republican Presidential front-runner Donald Trump.  

With the business magnate having won the 2016 Republican Presidential nomination, both columnists appeared increasingly dismayed. 

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David Brooks and Mark Shields

MARK SHIELDS: “Donald Trump gratuitously slandered Ted Cruz’s wife. He libeled Ted Cruz’s father for being potentially part of Lee Harvey Oswald’s assassination of the president of the United States, suggesting that he was somehow a fellow traveler in that.  

“This is a libel. You don’t get over it….  

“…I think this man may be addicted to the roar of the grease paint and the sound of the crowd, or however it goes, smell of the crowd.”

Donald Trump

Ironically, Rand Paul, Republican U.S. Senator from Kentucky, had reached a similar conclusion about Trump:  

“I think there is a sophomore quality that is entertaining with Mr. Trump, but I am worried. I’m very concerned of having him in charge of his nuclear weapons because his visceral response to attack people on their appearance—short, tall, fat, ugly—my goodness that happened in junior high.”

DAVID BROOKS: “Trump, for all his moral flaws, is a marketing genius. And you look at what he does. He just picks a word and he attaches it to a person. Little Marco [Rubio], Lyin’ Ted [Cruz], Crooked Hillary [Clinton].

“And that’s a word.  And that’s how marketing works. It’s a simple, blunt message, but it gets under.

“It sticks, and it diminishes. And so it has been super effective for him, because he knows how to do that.  And she [Hillary Clinton] just comes with, ‘Oh, he’s divisive.’

“These are words that are not exciting people. And her campaign style has gotten, if anything…a little more stagnant and more flat.” 

Hillary Clinton wasn’t the only Presidential candidate who proved unable to cope with Trump’s gift for insult.  His targets—and insults—included:

  • Former Texas Governor Rick Perry: “Wears glasses to seem smart.”
  • Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush: “Low Energy Jeb.” 
  • Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders: “Crazy Bernie.” 
  • Ohio Governor John Kasich: “Mathematically dead and totally desperate.”

How did American politics reach this state of affairs?  

In 1996, Newt Gingrich, then Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, wrote a memo that encouraged Republicans to “speak like Newt.”

Entitled “Language: A Key Mechanism of Control,” it urged Republicans to attack Democrats with such words as “corrupt,” “selfish,” “destructive,” “hypocrisy,” “liberal,” “sick,” and “traitors.”

Newt Gingrich

Even worse, Gingrich encouraged the news media to disseminate such accusations.  Among his suggestions:

  • “Fights make news.”
  • Create a “shield issue” to deflect criticism: “A shield issue is, just, you know, your opponent is going to attack you as lacking compassion. You better…show up in the local paper holding a baby in the neonatal center.”

In the memo, Gingrich advised:

“….In the video “We are a Majority,” Language is listed as a key mechanism of control used by a majority party, along with Agenda, Rules, Attitude and Learning. 

“As the tapes have been used in training sessions across the country and mailed to candidates we have heard a plaintive plea: ‘I wish I could speak like Newt.’

“That takes years of practice. But, we believe that you could have a significant impact on your campaign and the way you communicate if we help a little. That is why we have created this list of words and phrases….

“This list is prepared so that you might have a directory of words to use in writing literature and mail, in preparing speeches, and in producing electronic media.

“The words and phrases are powerful. Read them. Memorize as many as possible. And remember that like any tool, these words will not help if they are not used.”

Here is the list of words Gingrich urged his followers to use in describing “the opponent, their record, proposals and their party”:

  • abuse of power
  • anti- (issue): flag, family, child, jobs
  • betray
  • bizarre
  • bosses
  • bureaucracy
  • cheat
  • coercion
  • “compassion” is not enough
  • collapse(ing)
  • consequences
  • corrupt
  • corruption
  • criminal rights
  • crisis
  • cynicism
  • decay
  • deeper
  • destroy
  • destructive
  • devour
  • disgrace
  • endanger
  • excuses
  • failure (fail)
  • greed
  • hypocrisy
  • ideological
  • impose
  • incompetent
  • insecure
  • insensitive
  • intolerant
  • liberal
  • lie
  • limit(s)
  • machine
  • mandate(s)
  • obsolete
  • pathetic
  • patronage
  • permissive attitude
  • pessimistic
  • punish (poor …)
  • radical
  • red tape
  • self-serving
  • selfish
  • sensationalists
  • shallow
  • shame
  • sick
  • spend(ing)
  • stagnation
  • status quo
  • steal
  • taxes
  • they/them
  • threaten
  • traitors
  • unionized
  • urgent (cy)
  • waste
  • welfare

Yes, speaking like Newt—or Adolf Hitler or Joseph McCarthy—“takes years of practice.”  

And to the dismay of both Republicans and Democrats, Donald Trump has learned his lessons well.

Only one opponent—who was not a Presidential candidate—managed to stand up to Trump: Massachusetts U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren. 

On the May 27, 2016 edition of the PBS Newshour, syndicated columnist Mark Shields noted the ability of Elizabeth Warren to rattle Trump:

“Elizabeth Warren gets under Donald Trump’s skin.  And I think she’s been the most effective adversary. I think she’s done more to unite the Democratic party than either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.”

DATA SECURITY BREACHES: “WE DON’T CARE–WE DON’T HAVE TO”

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 14, 2017 at 1:15 am

Comedian Lily Tomlin rose to fame on the 1960s comedy hit, Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, as Ernestine, the rude, sarcastic switchboard operator for Ma Bell.

She would tap into customers’ calls, interrupt them, make snide remarks about their personal lives. And her victims included celebrities as much as run-of-the-mill customers.

Lily Tomlin as Ernestine

She introduced herself as working for “the phone company, serving everyone from presidents and kings to the scum of the earth.”

But perhaps the line for which her character is best remembered was: “We don’t care. We don’t have to. We’re the phone company.”

Watching Ernestine on Laugh-In was a blast for millions of TV viewers. But facing such corporate arrogance in real-life is no laughing matter.

Clearly, too many companies take the same attitude as Ernestine: “We don’t care. We don’t have to.”

This is especially true for companies that are supposed to safeguard their customers’ most sensitive information—such as their credit card numbers, addresses, emails and phone numbers.

An October 22, 2014 “commentary” published in Forbes magazine raised the highly disturbing question: “Cybersecurity: Does Corporate America Really Care?”

And the answer is clearly: No.

Its author is John Hering, co-founder and executive director of Lookout, which bills itself as “the world leader in mobile security for consumers and enterprises alike.”

Click here: Cybersecurity: Does corporate America really care?

October, 2014 proved a bad month for credit card-using customers of Kmart, Staples and Dairy Queen.

All these corporations reported data breeches involving the theft of credit card numbers of countless numbers of customers.

Earlier breaches had hit Target, Home Depot and JPMorgan/Chase.

And on February 5, 2015, health insurance giant Anthem Inc. announced that hackers had breached its computer system and accessed the medical records of tens of millions of its customers and employees.

Anthem, the nation’s second-largest health insurer, said the infiltrated database held records on up to 80 million people.

Among the customers’ information accessed:

  • Names
  • Birthdates
  • Social Security numbers
  • Member ID numbers
  • Addresses
  • Phone numbers
  • Email addresses and
  • Employment information.

Some of the customer data may also include details on their income.

Click here: Anthem hack exposes data on 80 million; experts warn of identity theft – LA Times

Bad as that news was, worse was to come.

A February 5 story by the Wall Street Journal revealed that Anthem stored the Social Security numbers of 80 million customers without encrypting them.

The company believes that hackers used a stolen employee password to access the database

Anthem’s alleged reason for refusing to encrypt such sensitive data: Doing so would have made it harder for the company’s employees to track health care trends or share data with state and Federal health providers.

Anthem spokeswoman Kristin Binns blamed the data breach on employers and government agencies who “require us to maintain a member’s Social Security number in our systems so that their systems can uniquely identify their members.”

She said that Anthem encrypts personal data when it moves in or out of its database–but not where it  is stored.

This is a commonplace practice in the healthcare industry.

The FBI launched an investigation into the hack.

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

Naturally, China has denied any wrongdoing. With a completely straight face, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said:

“We maintain a cooperative, open and secure cyberspace, and we hope that countries around the world will make concerted efforts to that end.”

He also said that the charge that the hackers were Chinese was “groundless.”

Click here: Health Insurer Anthem Didn’t Encrypt Stolen Data – WSJ

Meanwhile, John Hering’s complaints remain as valid today as they did last October.

“One thing is clear,” writes Hering. “CEOs need to put security on their strategic agendas alongside revenue growth and other issues given priority in boardrooms.”

Hering warns that “CEOs don’t seem to be making security a priority.” And he offers several reasons for this:

  • The sheer number of data compromises;
  • Relatively little consumer outcry;
  • Almost no impact on the companies’ standing on Wall Street;
  • Executives may consider such breaches part of the cost of doing business.

“There’s a short-term mindset and denial of convenience in board rooms,” writes Hering.

“Top executives don’t realize their systems are vulnerable and don’t understand the risks. Sales figures and new products are top of mind; shoring up IT systems aren’t.”

There are three ways corporations can be forced to start behaving responsibly on this issue.

  1. Smart attorneys need to start filing class-action lawsuits against companies that refuse to take steps to protect their customers’ private information. There is a name for such behavior: Criminal negligence. And there are laws carrying serious penalties for it.
  2. There must be Federal legislation to ensure that multi-million-dollar fines are levied against such companies—and especially their CEOs—when such data breaches occur.
  3. Congress should enact legislation allowing for the prosecution of CEOs whose companies’ negligence leads to such massive data breaches. They should be considered as accessories to crime, and, if convicted, sentenced to lengthy prison terms.

Only then will the CEO mindset of “We don’t care, we don’t have to” be replaced with: “We care, because we’ll lose our money and/or freedom if we don’t.”

LEGACIES OF DESTRUCTION–FOR GERMANY AND AMERICA

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 13, 2017 at 10:55 am

The ancient Greeks passionately believed that “character is destiny.”

This certainly proved true in the case of Adolf Hitler, Germany’s Fuhrer from 1933 to 1945.  And it’s proving the same for Donald J. Trump, who became President of the United States on January 20.

One of the most perceptive observers of Hitler’s character was Panzer General Heinz Guderian.

Guderian created the concept of motorized blitzkrieg warfare, enabling coordinated masses of tanks and planes to strike at the vital nerve centers of an enemy.  

As a result, Guderian enabled Hitler to conquer France in only six weeks in 1940, and to come to the brink of crushing the Soviet Union in 1941. He recounted his career as the foremost tank commander of the Third Reich in his 1950 autobiography, Panzer Leader.  

Heinz Guderian

Guderian noted, for example, Hitler’s absolute need to dominate every situation:

HEINZ GUDERIAN: As Hitler’s self-confidence grew, and as his power became more firmly established both inside and outside Germany, he became overbearing and arrogant. Everyone appeared to him unimportant compared to himself.  

Previously, Hitler had been open to practical considerations, and willing to discuss matters with others. But now he became increasingly autocratic. 

Chris Uhlmann, political editor for ABC News, has reached similar conclusions about Trump’s own authoritarian character.

Uhlmann started his journalism career at The Canberra Times in 1989 and edited The Canberra Weekly before joining the ABC in 1998.

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Chris Uhlmann

“It’s the unscripted Trump that’s real,” wrote Uhlmann in a July 9 news analysis column.  “A man who barks out bile in 140 characters, who wastes his precious days as President at war with the West’s institutions like the judiciary, independent government agencies, and the free press.”

HEINZ GUDERIAN: Once in power, Hitler quickly—and violently—eliminated his opposition. He make no attempt to disguise this aspect of his character, because the opposition was weak and divided and soon collapsed after the first violent attack. This allowed Hitler to pass laws which destroyed the safeguards enacted by the Weimar Republic against the the dangers of dictatorship.

CHRIS UHLMANN:  “Mr. Trump is a man who craves power because it burnishes his celebrity. To be constantly talking and talked about is all that really matters. And there is no value placed on the meaning of words. So what is said one day can be discarded the next.”

HEINZ GUDERIAN:  Hitler promised to “make Germany great again” both domestically and internationally. And this won him many followers. In time he controlled the largest party in the land and this allowed him, by democratic procedure, to assume power.  

CHRIS UHLMANN: “Donald Trump has a particular, and limited, skill-set. He has correctly identified an illness at the heart of the Western democracy. But he has no cure for it and seems to just want to exploit it.”

HEINZ GUDERIAN: [Hitler] was isolated as a human being. He had no real friend. There was nobody who was really close to him.  

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Adolf Hitler

There was nobody he could talk to freely and openly.  And just as he never found a true friend, he was denied the ability to deeply love a woman.  

CHRIS UHLMANN: “He was an uneasy, awkward figure at [the G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany] and you got the strong sense some other leaders were trying to find the best way to work around him.”

Another keen assessor of Donald Trump’s character is David Brooks, conservative columnist for the New York Times.

DAVID BROOKS: “The odd thing about [Trump’s] whole career and his whole language, his whole world view is there is no room for love in it. You get a sense of a man who received no love, can give no love….

“And [Trump’s] relationship toward the world is one of competition and beating, and as if he’s going to win by competition what other people get by love.”

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Donald Trump

HEINZ GUDERIAN: Everything on this earth that casts a glow of warmth over our life as mortals—friendship with fine men, the pure love for a wife, affection for one’s own children—all this was and forever remained unknown to him. 

DAVID BROOKS:  “And so you really are seeing someone who just has an odd psychology unleavened by kindness and charity, but where it’s all winners and losers, beating and being beat. And that’s part of the authoritarian personality, but it comes out in his attitude towards women.”  

HEINZ GUDERIAN: He lived alone, cherishing his loneliness, with only his gigantic plans for company.  His relationship with Eva Braun may seem to contradict what I have written. But it is obvious that she could not have had any influence over him. And this is unfortunate, for it could only have been a softening one.

Adolf Hitler’s manic desire for conquest left Germany a thoroughly destroyed and defeated nation in 1945.

Chris Uhlmann offers a similar prediction on Donald Trump’s legacy for the United States:

“…Mr Trump has pressed fast forward on the decline of the US as a global leader. He managed to diminish his nation [at the G20 Summit] and to confuse and alienate his allies.

“He will cede that power to China and Russia–two authoritarian states that will forge a very different set of rules for the 21st century.”

AMERICA UNDER BIBLICAL RULE–A DESCENT INTO HELL: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 12, 2017 at 12:04 am

On February 18, 2012, GOP Presidential candidate Rick Santorum warned about the “phony theology” of President Barack Obama.

Rick Santorum

“It’s not about you,” Santorum told supporters of the right-wing Tea Party in Columbus, Ohio. “It’s not about your quality of life.

“It’s not about your jobs. It’s about some phony ideal. Some phony theology. Oh, not a theology based on the Bible. A different theology.”

Which raises an interesting question: What would a Bible-based agenda mean for the country?

The death penalty would be vastly expanded to cover such “crimes” as:

  • Sabbath-breaking: Because the Lord considers it a holy day, anyone who works on the Sabbath must be put to death.  (Exodus 31:12-15)
  • Adultery:  If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife, both the man and the woman must be put to death. (Leviticus 20:10)
  • Fornication: A priest’s daughter who loses her honor by committing fornication and thereby dishonors her father also, shall be burned to death.  (Leviticus 21:9)

A Biblical-era stoning

  • Nonbelievers: They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and soul; and everyone who would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, was to be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman. (2 Chronicles 15:12-13)
  • Homosexuality:  If a man also lies with mankind, as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them. (Leviticus 20-13) 
  • Taking the Lord’s name in vain: Anyone who blasphemes the name of the Lord is to be put to death. The entire assembly must stone them. (Leviticus 24:16)

The Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution—which forbids slavery—would be repealed. The Bible not only permits slavery but lays out rules for its practice—such as:

  • When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed at the end of six years as the men are. (Exodus 21-7)
  • However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you.  You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. (Leviticus 25:44-45)
  • Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. (1 Peter 2:18)

Almost all scientific progress would be discarded, since most of its findings conflict with the Bible:

  • One generation passes away, and another generation comes: but the earth abides forever. (Ecclesiastes 1:4). This claim is totally contradicted by what astronomers now know about the eventual fate of the Earth: In about 7.6 billion years, the sun will exhaust its nuclear fuels.  This will vastly increase its heat and gravitational pull, and at least Mercury, Earth and Venus will be vaporized.
  • The Bible speaks of a world where physical laws are often violated by the will of God. Thus, Jesus turns water into wine and raises Lazarus from the dead; Jonah lives inside a fish for three days; Noah dies at 950 years; and demons are exorcised.
  • In Biblical times, mental illness was seen as a manifestation of demonic possession. Today we know that mental illness has nothing to do with evil spirits.

Laws guaranteeing equal rights for women would be repealed:

  • I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. (1 Timothy 12:10)
  • Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. (Ephesians 5:22)
  • A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. (1 Timothy 2:11)
  • But if…evidence of the girl’s virginity is not found, they shall bring the girl to the entrance of her father’s house and there her townsman shall stone her to death. (Deuteronomy 22:20-21)

Military conflicts would be fought without regard to the Geneva Convention–as the Israelites did:

  • “You are my battle-ax and sword,” says the Lord. “With you I will shatter nations and destroy many kingdoms….With you I will shatter men and women, old people and children, young men and maidens. With you I will shatter shepherds and flocks, farmers and oxen, captains and rulers.”  (Jeremiah 51:20-23)

Depiction of the taking of Jericho by the Israelites

  • Samuel said to Saul, “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’” (1 Samuel 15, 1-3) 

Yes, a nation governed by “a theology based on the Bible” would be one far different from the United States we know today.

Since a number of Old Testament practices might lend themselves to easy abuse, this is not a matter to be taken lightly.

AMERICA UNDER BIBLICAL RULE–A DESCENT INTO HELL: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 11, 2017 at 12:03 am

Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham, America’s most famous preacher, spends a lot of time deciding who qualifies as a Christian—and who doesn’t.

Franklin Graham

He said just that on the February 21, 2012 edition of the MSNBC show, “Morning Joe.”

First, however, he offered his views on the relative Christian dedication of the major contenders for the Presidency in 2012:

President Barack Obama: “Islam sees him as a son of Islam….I can’t say categorically that [Obama is not Muslim] because Islam has gotten a free pass under Obama.”

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich:“Newt’s been married several times… but he could make a good candidate. I think Newt is a Christian. At least he told me he is.”

Former Pennsylvania U.S. Senator Rick Santorum: “His values are so clear on moral issues. No question about it. I think he is, no question, a man of faith.”

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney: “I’m just saying most Christians would not recognize Mormonism. Of course they believe in Jesus Christ, but they have a lot of other things that they believe in, too, that we don’t accept theologically.”

Thus, Graham had no problem in pronouncing as “saved” a notorious multiple-adulterer like Gingrich, or a rights-denying religious zealot like Santorum.

But he clearly refused to pronounce as “saved” a longtime church-goer like Obama or a Mormon like Romney (whose faith, most evangelicals like Graham believe, is actually a non-Christian cult).

Toward the end of the program, Mike Barnicle, one of the panelists interviewing Graham, said: “You must spend a big part of the day checking out what you conceive to be people’s depth of faith, in terms of measuring.”

“This is my business,” replied Graham. “You guys go through newspapers every day. I look at a person’s political interest, but more importantly I look at their spiritual interests….

“You have to go by what a person says, and how they live their lives…Are they faithful church goers? Or do they just go when the cameras are on them?”

Another man who dedicated his life to judging the religious commitment of others was Bernard Gui, the chief inquisitor at Toulouse from 1308 to 1322.

Bernard Gui

His inquisition of those suspected or accused of heresy led to over 900 guilty verdicts. Of those convicted during examination by Gui, 42 were executed—by being burned at the stake.

Gui closely studied the best methods for interrogating “heretics.” He set forth his findings in his most important and famous work, Practica Inquisitionis Heretice Pravitatis. or “Conduct of the Inquisition into Heretical Wickedness.”

In this, he offered a vivid example of how such interrogations might go. The following is taken from that manual:

Interrogator: You call your faith Christian, for you consider ours as false and heretical. But I ask whether you have ever believed as true another faith than that which the Roman Church holds to be true?

Accused Heretic: I believe the true faith which the Roman Church believes, and which you openly preach to us.

Interrogator: Perhaps you have some of your sect at Rome whom you call the Roman Church. I, when I preach, say many things, some of which are common to us both, as that God liveth, and you believe some of what I preach. Nevertheless you may be a heretic in not believing other matters which are to be believed.

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“Heretic” being burned at the stake

Accused Heretic: I believe all things that a Christian should believe.

Interrogator: I know your tricks. What the members of your sect believe you hold to be that which a Christian should believe. But we waste time in this fencing. Say simply, Do you believe in one God the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost?

Accused Heretic: I believe.

Interrogator: Do you believe in Christ born of the Virgin, suffered, risen, and ascended to heaven?

Accused Heretic: (Briskly) I believe.

Interrogator: Do you believe the bread and wine in the mass performed by the priests to be changed into the body and blood of Christ by divine virtue?

Accused Heretic: Ought I not to believe this?

Interrogator: I don’t ask if you ought to believe, but if you do believe.

Accused Heretic: I believe whatever you and other good doctors order me to believe.

Inquisitor: Those good doctors are the masters of your sect; if I accord with them you believe with me; if not, not.

Accused Heretic: I willingly believe with you if you teach what is good to me.

Inquisitor: You consider it good to you if I teach what your other masters teach. Say, then, do you believe the body of our Lord, Jesus Christ to be in the altar?

Accused Heretic: (Promptly) I believe that a body is there, and that all bodies are of our Lord.

Interrogator: I ask whether the body there is of the Lord who was born of the Virgin, hung on the cross, arose from the dead, ascended, etc.

Accused Heretic: And you, sir, do you not believe it?

Interrogator: I believe it wholly.

Accused Heretic: I believe likewise.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: OUTFOXING GEORGE BUSH AND DONALD TRUMP

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 10, 2017 at 12:30 am

Since the late 1940s, Republicans have hurled the charge of “appeasement” at every Democratic President

Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson found themselves accused of “selling out” to the Soviet Union. The motive for this was usually attributed to cowardice—if not outright treason. It didn’t matter to Republicans that:

  • Truman began the policy of “containing” the Soviet Union within its World War II borders;
  • Kennedy faced down the Russians during the Cuban Missile Crisis; and
  • Johnson waged a bloody, budget-busting war against Soviet proxies in Vietnam.

Most recently, it became the turn of President Barack Obama.

On July 17, 2014, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 MH 17/MAS17 took off from Amsterdam for Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

But as the flight–and its 283 passengers and 15 crew—cruised above Hrabove in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, Russian-backed Ukrainian separatists shot it down. A Buk surface-to-air missile slammed into the aircraft, almost instantly killing everyone on board.

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President Barack Obama

“The President is afraid of provoking [Russian President] Vladimir Putin,” United States Senator John McCain told Reuters. “Vladimir Putin is on the move because he has paid no price for his aggression.”

And Texas United State Senator Ted Cruz said: “Putin fears no retribution. [Obama’s] policy has been to alienate and abandon our friends, and to coddle and appease our enemies.”

But now the United States has a Republican President who has cozied up to Putin since he entered the 2016 Presidential race.

In January, the CIA, FBI, NSA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence concluded that Russian Intelligence agents had meddled in the election via cyber-warfare to secure Donald Trump’s election.

Yet, at the G20 summit, Trump declared it was “an honor” to meet Putin.

After the meeting, Trump tweeted on July 9: “I strongly pressed President Putin twice about Russian meddling in our election. He vehemently denied it. I’ve already given my opinion…..” 

Trump’s opinion, as he famously gave it, was: “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.” 

Even more worrisome to American Intelligence officials was Trump’s accompanying tweet: “Putin & I discussed forming an impenetrable Cyber Security unit so that election hacking, & many other negative things, will be guarded.”

Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee reacted: “If that’s our best election defense, we might as well just mail our ballot boxes to Moscow.”

Even some Republicans likened the proposal to letting the fox guard the chicken coop.  Florida United States Senator Marco Rubio tweeted: “While reality & pragmatism requires that we engage Vladimir Putin, he will never be a trusted ally or a reliable constructive partner.”

Yet America’s frustrations with Russia generally—and Putin in particular—long predate those of Barack Obama.

Nor were relations between the United States and post-Soviet Russia helped by the naivety of President George W. Bush.

In June, 2001, Bush and Putin met in Slovenia. During the meeting a truly startling exchange occurred.

President George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin

Putin, a former KGB Intelligence officer, had clearly done his homework on Bush. When he mentioned that one of the sports Bush had played was rugby, Bush was highly impressed.

“I did play rugby,” gushed Bush. “Very good briefing.”

But more was to come.

BUSH:  Let me say something about what caught my attention, Mr. President, was that your mother gave you a cross which you had blessed in Israel, the Holy Land.

PUTIN:  It’s true.

BUSH:  That amazes me, that here you were a Communist, KGB operative, and yet you were willing to wear a cross.  That speaks volumes to me, Mr. President.  May I call you Vladimir?

Putin instantly sensed that Bush judged others–even world leaders–through the lens of his own fundamentalist Christian theology.

Falling back on his KGB training, Putin seized on this apparent point of commonality to build a bond. He told Bush that his dacha had once burned to the ground, and the only item that had been saved was that cross.

“Well, that’s the story of the cross as far as I’m concerned,” said Bush, clearly impressed. “Things are meant to be.”

Afterward, Bush and Putin gave an outdoor news conference.

“Is this a man that America can trust?” Associated Press correspondent Ron Foumier asked Bush.

“Yes,” said Bush. “I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy.  We had a very good dialogue.

“I was able to get a sense of his soul, a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country.  I wouldn’t have invited him to my ranch if I didn’t trust him.”

Of course, no one from the Right is now recalling such embarrassing words.

It’s far more politically profitable to pretend that all of America’s tensions with Russia began with the election of Barack Obama.

And to pretend that those tensions have vanished now that another Right-wing President occupies the White House.

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