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A QUICK TEMPER, A DEADLY OUTCOME

In History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on November 28, 2016 at 12:01 am

There are many ways a Donald J. Trump Presidency could go fatally wrong. To learn just one, it’s necessary only to watch the 1964 classic, Becket.

This story of a 12th-century struggle between an English king and archbishop may seem irrelevant to the upcoming Trump Presidency.

In fact, it has a dangerous lesson to teach.

Becket (Richard Burton), a brilliant Saxon noble, is the favorite friend of England’s King Henry II (Peter O’Toole). They hunt, fight and bed women together. Henry even appoints him as Chancellor, the highest law enforcement officer in the country.

Where Becket is cold and calculating, Henry is impulsive, often explosive. Henry admires and resents Becket’s keen intelligence, knowing that Becket is better-suited for kingship than himself.

Meanwhile, the power of the Catholic Church is rising. Henry needs a highly-placed ally against its power. When the Archbishop of Canterbury dies, Henry appoints Becket in his place.

Suddenly the entirely secular Becket undergoes a religious conversion–and an unexpected change in allegiance. He insists that priests accused of criminal offenses be tried only in the church’s own courts–thus making them immune from Henry’s secular ones.

For Henry, this isn’t simply a conflict between church and state. It’s an unforgivable betrayal of friendship. And it means all-out war.

He falsely charges Becket with embezzlement during his time as Chancellor.

Becket flees to France, where he’s given asylum by King Louis VII (John Gielgud). 

From there, Becket proceeds to Rome, where he meets with the Pope.

He begs the Pope to let him renounce his position as Archbishop and retire to a monastery as an ordinary priest.

But the Pope refuses: Becket must return to England and defend the Church against civil interference in its affairs.

Becket asks Louis to arrange a meeting with Henry on the shores of Normandy to hopefully negotiate a reconciliation.

Henry grudgingly lifts all charges against Becket and allows him to return to England.

But the feud isn’t over–for Henry.

While Becket focuses on his duties as Archbishop of Canterbury, Henry drinks and broods over his lost friendship with Becket.

His barons fuel this hatred by pointing out that the returned Archbishop has become a hero to the vanquished Saxons. They resent their Norman conquerors, and see Becket as the only man brave enough to stand up against them.

Finally, in a drunken rage, Henry blurts out: “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?”

At that, four of his barons ride to Canterbury Cathedral and hack Becket to death with their swords.

When he learns the news, Henry is shocked.  He has lost more than a former friend.

His reign–his soul–are now in mortal peril.

His words have caused the murder of the highest religious official in England.

His kingdom could be torn apart in civil war between Becket-loving Saxons and the Normans who conquered them in 1066. 

Even worse, Henry could be excommunicated by the Pope and damned to eternal hellfire for this most unthinkable of crimes.

So Henry seeks redemption in the only way he can: He does penance by allowing himself to be publicly whipped by Saxon monks.  And he proclaims Thomas Becket a saint.

Like Henry II, Donald Trump is infamous for his quick temper.

According to the The New York Times, during the 2016 Presidential campaign, Trump aimed nearly 4,000 tweets at 281 different targets.

Donald Trump

His Twitter assaults have often dominated entire news cycles for days on end.

As President-elect, he has continued these assaults–the most recent one occurring on November 18.

On that evening, Vice President-elect Mike Pence attended a Broadway performance of the hit musical “Hamilton.”

After the curtain call, the actor Brandon Victor Dixon–who plays Aaron Burr–respectfully addressed Pence:

“We are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our friends, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights. But we truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us.”

Dixon–who is black–is rightly alarmed.

Trump has received the open and enthusiastic support of the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist groups. Since his election, white thugs have assaulted blacks and other non-whites across the country.

Trump’s reaction to Dixon’s plea came in two Twitter rants:

“Our wonderful future V.P. Mike Pence was harassed last night at the theater by the cast of Hamilton, cameras blazing. This should not happen!”

And: “The Theater must always be a safe and special place. The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!”

What happens if some of Trump’s 5.9 million Twitter followers decide–like Henry’s barons–to “rid” him of “this meddlesome actor”?  Or the whole “meddlesome cast” of “Hamilton”?  

And if not Dixon, then whoever next arouses the ire of this most easily-offended egomaniac?

Because he won’t stop. 

When the victims of his weaponized tweets appear in hospitals or morgues, will Congress dare to hold him accountable through impeachment?

And, if so, will a Trump Presidency suddenly become a Pence one?

It’s only a matter of time before the explosion occurs.

OBAMA’S AGONY: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 22, 2016 at 12:01 am

A truly great man is ever the same under all circumstances. And if his fortune varies, exalting him at one moment and oppressing him at another, he himself never varies, but always preserves a firm courage, which is so closely interwoven with his character that everyone can readily see that the fickleness of fortune has no power over him.
Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses

For President Barack Obama, the last two months of his eight-year Presidency will be an agony.

Perhaps only his wife, Michelle, truly knows the torments he will so stoically endure.

For stoicism–enduring pain or hardship without complaint or showing emotions–has long been central to Obama’s character.  

In 2011, two years into his Presidency, he faced an accusation never before leveled against an American President: That he was not an American citizen–and thus not entitled to hold the office he held.  

His accuser-in-chief: Donald Trump, an egomaniacal,  thrice-married “reality-TV” host and real estate mogul who had filed for corporate bankruptcy four times.

At first Obama ignored the accusation, assuming it was so ridiculous no one could believe it. But, promoted by Right-wing Fox News and Republican leaders, millions of Fascistic Americans thought it actually might be true.

So, on April 27, 2011, the President  called a press conference–where he released the long-form version of his Hawaii birth certificate.  

President Obama’s birth certificate

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

“We are not going to be able to do it if we are distracted, if we spend time vilifying each other, if we just make stuff up and pretend that facts are not facts.”

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

To understand Obama’s agony as he ends his term, imagine the following alternate history: 

On April 14, 1865, the slavery-sympathizing actor John Wilkes Booth enters Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C.

His mission: Assassinate President Abraham Lincoln.

Armed with a knife and Derringer, he reaches the unguarded Presidential box. But just as he’s about to push open the door to his–and Lincoln’s–destiny, he halts.

He’s just thought of a more monstrous fate for the President.  

Silently, he leaves the theater–and the world never learns how close Lincoln came to death at the hands of an assassin.  

Instead, Booth waits out the next four years–until the election of 1868, when Lincoln’s second term is up.

Lincoln has chosen Andrew Johnson, his Vice President, to succeed him.

For the outgoing President, it’s more than a matter of politics. A Johnson victory will secure the legacies Lincoln has created during the last eight years:  

  • The Thirteenth Amendment, which bans slavery.
  • The stationing of Union troops in the South, to ensure that blacks are not re-enslaved. 
  • The granting of the vote to blacks.    

But Johnson is a lackluster candidate, and, after eight years of war and Reconstruction, Americans are eager for “change.”

Suddenly, an unexpected challenger steps forward: The celebrated Shakespearean actor John Wilkes Booth!  

Booth promises that, if elected, he will overturn everything Lincoln has done–most especially the Thirteenth Amendment.

He’ll tear up the surrender treaty that officially ended the Civil War and let the Southern states restore the Confederacy.

His campaign slogan: “Let America Enslave Again.”

He calls the President an ape, a buffoon, a dictator with the blood of countless Americans on his hands.  

Newspaper reporters covering Johnson often fall asleep during his speeches. Booth whips up his audiences without even trying.  

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John Wilkes Booth

On November 4, 1868, John Wilkes Booth becomes the seventeenth President of the United States. 

It won’t be until 1933 that Presidents begin taking the Oath of Office on January 20. So Abraham Lincoln will remain President until March 4, 1869.  

Meanwhile, John Wilkes Booth has never held public office. He needs to pick a cabinet and learn the basics of what it means to be President.

And only one man is qualified to teach him–the man who now holds that office.  

Lincoln knows that, in only a matter of months, everything he has worked for will be ruthlessly overturned. Like a beautiful garment pulled apart, thread by thread, until nothing is left but a pile of rubbish on the floor.  

But he is a patriot, and a believer in destiny. Fate–or God–has thrust him into the Presidency. And he will carry out the duties that go with that role, however tormenting they now are, right to the end.  

He hopes that Divine Providence will bestow a bright future on his beloved country, however bleak its present now looks.  

* * * * *

When Barack Obama entered the White House in 2009, he couldn’t imagine spending his last two months in office tutoring the man who had reviled him throughout his Presidency.

It will be his last gift as President to a nation that has often proved ungrateful for his dedicated service.

OBAMA’S AGONY: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 21, 2016 at 12:01 am

Barack Obama has known ecstasy such as few other men have known it.

In 1989, he met the love of his life, Michelle Robinson, an attorney at the Chicago law firm of Sidley Austin.

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Barack and Michelle Obama in the White House

Although she declined his initial requests to date, she finally yielded to his persuasive charm. They were married on October 3, 1992, and have since had two daughters, Malia Ann and Natasha.  

On November 2, 2004, Obama joined one of the most exclusive clubs in the world: The United States Senate. With 70% of the vote, he was elected United States Senator from Illinois. He served from 2005 to November 16, 2008, when an even greater event forced him to resign.  

That event was his election as the 44th–and first black–President of the United States. On November 4, 2008, he received 52.9% of the votes. He delivered his victory speech before hundreds of thousands of supporters in Chicago’s Grant Park.

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President Barack Obama

Then, on November 6, 2012, Obama was re-elected to a second four-year term, becoming the first Democratic President since Franklin D. Roosevelt to twice win the majority of the popular vote. 

But now those eight years are rapidly coming to an end. And just as they opened with the euphoria of joy, they are closing with an agony more horrific for the President than anyone can imagine.  

The agony of serving as tutor to Donald Trump, the man who will succeed him. Trump has personally reviled him throughout his Presidency–and intends to destroy as much of Obama’s legacy as possible.

For more than a year, Trump has boasted that he would make a far better President than Obama. But now that he’s won the 2016 election, it turns out he has at best a schoolboy’s knowledge of how government works.

Imagine a similar fate befalling another President whom Barack Obama deeply admires.

Imagine, in an alternate history universe, it’s April 14, 1865.  

The four years of carnage known as the Civil War are finally over.

Five days ago, on April 9, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Union General of the Armies Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House.  

Across the nation, 620,000 Americans lie dead–of wounds or disease. Untold thousands more are coming home as invalids, uncertain how they will care for themselves without limbs or eyes or the ability to walk.  

For Abraham Lincoln, sixteenth President of the United States, it is time to ponder the work of rebuilding a shattered nation. He wants a just peace, not vengeance: “Let ’em up easy,” is the way he puts it.  

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Abraham Lincoln

But, tonight, he needs to put aside his cares and seek a much-deserved respite at Ford’s Theater for a performance of the comedy, Our American Cousin.

At the theater, unknown to Lincoln, the Southern-sympathizing actor, John Wilkes Booth, awaits. For months he’s planned to kidnap Lincoln and hold him for ransom, to force the increasingly victorious Union armies to withdraw from the South.  

But now there’s no point in that.  

The Confederacy and slavery are dead. Lincoln has even spoken about giving the accursed blacks the right to vote.

Booth has never picked up a rifle to fight for the South, never faced death on a battlefield. Yet he will prove to the South that he is its greatest champion–by killing Lincoln.   

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John Wilkes Booth

He has already made his preparations.  

At around noon that day–April 14–he had visited Ford’s Theater, where he had a permanent mailbox. There he learned from the brother of John Ford, the owner, that the President and General Grant would be attending the theater to see Our American Cousin.  

He knows the theater well–he’s performed there as an actor. And there’s no doubt he’ll have access to it tonight–he’s a celebrity.

That evening, Abraham Lincoln arrives at Ford’s Theater with his wife, Mary. They are accompanied by Union Major Henry Rathbone and his fiancee, Clara Harris. The four settle into the Presidential Box, which overlooks the stage. 

Unlike 21st century Presidents, there are no Secret Service bodyguards for Lincoln. Presidents won’t be assigned such protection until 1901, when Theodore Roosevelt takes office. 

Tonight, only one man has been assigned to guard Lincoln–a policeman named John Frederick Parker. And during the intermission, Parker decides he needs a drink.

So he slips off to a nearby tavern with Lincoln’s footman and coachman.

Booth arrives at the theater at about 10:25 p.m. Under his coat he’s armed with a knife and an eight-ounce, single-shot Derringer.

Booth walks up the staircase leading to the first of two doors to the President’s box. At the first door he finds Lincoln’s valet, Charles Forbes.

They chat briefly, and then Booth passes through the first door and closes it behind him. 

Booth looks through the tiny peep-hole he had carved in the second door (which grants entry to the Presidential Box) earlier that day.  

All he has to do is push open the door, aim at the back of Lincoln’s head, and fire. And that’s exactly what he intends to do.  

Then–suddenly–he changes his mind.  

He has an even more monstrous fate in store for the President.

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.

WHY THE RELIGIOUS REICH SUPPORTED TRUMP

In History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on November 10, 2016 at 3:34 pm

During the 2016 Presidential campaign, many pundits–and ordinary citizens–repeatedly asked: “Why are so many evangelical leaders supporting Donald Trump?”

Evangelical leaders like:

  • Jerry Falwell, Jr., president of Liberty University: “Well, I think Jesus said we’re all sinners.
  • “When they ask [if Trump’s personal life is relevant] I always talk about the story of the woman at the well who had had five husbands and she was living with somebody she wasn’t married to, and they wanted to stone her. And Jesus said he’s–he who is without sin cast the first stone. I just see how Donald Trump treats other people, and I’m impressed by that.”
  • Ralph Reed, founder and chairman of the Faith & Freedom Coalition: “People of faith are voting on issues like who will protect unborn life, defend religious freedom, grow the economy, appoint conservative judges and oppose the Iran nuclear deal.” 
  • Mike Pence, Trump’s Vice President-elect. who identifies as an evangelical Catholic.

Donald Trump

After all, evangelicals have long portrayed themselves as champions of “family values.”

And these aren’t exactly consistent with a man who brags: “You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful–I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy.”

So why are they backing Trump?

Power.

Power to control the lives of those they have long hated and despised.  

Among these:

  • Atheists
  • Jews
  • Women
  • Homosexuals
  • Lesbians
  • Non-Christians
  • Liberals

They expect Trump to sponsor legislation that will–by force of law–make their brand of Christianity supreme above all other religions.

A foretaste of what’s to come occurred on March 26, 2015.

That was when Mike Pence, then Governor of Indiana, signed into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

This allows any individual or corporation to cite its religious beliefs as a defense when sued by a private party.

Officially, its intent is to prevent the government from forcing business owners to violate their religious beliefs.

Unofficially, its intent is to appease the hatred of gays and lesbians by the religious Right, a key constituency of the Republican party.

Thus, a bakery that doesn’t want to make a cake for a gay wedding or a restaurant that doesn’t want to serve lesbian patrons now has the legal right to refuse to do so.

And a hospital can legally turn away a gay patient if it wants to.

The bill passed overwhelmingly by both chambers of the Republican-controlled state legislature. And was signed into law by the governor who is now Vice President-elect.

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Indiana Governor Mike Pence 

“Today I signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, because I support the freedom of religion for every Hoosier of every faith,” Mike Pence said in a statement on the day he signed the bill.

“The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action.”

Bill-signing ceremonies are usually highly public events. Governors–and Presidents–normally want their constituents to see them creating new legislation.

Yet for all his praise for the bill, Pence signed it in a ceremony closed to the public and the press.

On June 22, 1941, German dictator Adolf Hitler ordered the invasion of the Soviet Union. Shortly afterward, he appeared to have second thoughts.

Turning to an aide, he said: “At the beginning of each campaign, one pushes a door into a dark, unseen room. One can never know what is hiding inside.”

Maybe Pence, like Hitler, sensed that he was pushing open “a door into a dark, unseen room.”

And this may well be the case.

Through that door has already marched the First Church of Cannabis, founded by Bill Levin. Its registration has been officially approved by the Indiana Secretary of State, and the IRS has granted the church tax-exempt status.

A mural in the church in the style of “The Creation of Adam” features two hands–where one is passing a joint to the other.

No doubt many Indiana legislators are furious that their effort to attack gays may have brought legal marijuana to their highly conservative state.

But worse may be to come.

Since 9/11, Right-wingers such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity have warned that Muslims are trying to impose Sharia (Islamic law) on America.

And now Indiana’s legislators, in elevating religion above the law, have pushed upon that door “into a dark, unseen room.”

Actually, both the leaders of the Republican party and adherents of Sharia agree:

  • Women should have fewer rights than men.
  • Abortion should be illegal.
  • There should be no separation between church and state.
  • Religion should be taught in school.
  • Religious doctrine trumps science.
  • Government should be based on religious doctrine.
  • Homosexuality should be outlawed.

Eventually, some Muslims in Indiana will claim their rights–guaranteed in Islamic religious law. One of these is to have as many as four wives.

And they will claim that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act protects those rights.

Imagine this happening on a national scale–and you’ll have the America that’s swiftly approaching.

A KISSINGER-STYLE SOLUTION TO SAVE AMERICAN DEMOCRACY

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 7, 2016 at 9:19 am

On September 4, 1970, Salvador Allende, a physician and politician, became the 30th President of Chile.

More importantly, he became the first Marxist to win leadership of a Latin American country in a free election.

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Salvador Allende

Once in office, Allende began carrying out his socialist agenda. This included:

  • Nationalizing large-scale industries (notably banking and copper mining);
  • Government administration of the educational and health care systems;
  • Providing free milk for children in the schools and shanty towns of Chile;
  • Allocating 3,000 scholarships to Mapuchechildren to integrate the Indian minority into the educational system; and
  • Establishing an obligatory minimum wage for workers of all ages (including apprentices).

For staunchly anti-Communist President Richard Nixon, the rise of Allende to such power was a nightmare. In September, 1970, he authorized the CIA to spend $10 million to prevent Allende from gaining power–or to overthrow him if he did.

After failing to prevent Allende from winning a democratic election, the CIA plotted to replace him with a military junta.

Henry Kissinger, then acting as Nixon’s national security adviser, infamously said: “I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go Communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people.”

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Henry Kissinger

On September 11, 1973, the Chilean military, aided by the United States and the CIA, staged a coup against Allende.

Allende committed suicide or was shot to death (accounts vary) and a brutal military tyranny under General Augusto Pinochet Ugarte was quickly installed.

Only in 1990 was democracy restored in Chile.

So what does a Henry Kissinger remark made 43 years ago have to do with the 2016 American Presidential election?

A November 5 CNN opinion piece explains it best.

Titled, “The World Is Watching America’s Election,” the article noted: “Many months ago” people around the world “sounded a mixture of entertained and puzzled by the campaign.

“People were asking ‘Who is Donald Trump?’ ‘What are Hillary Clinton’s chances?’”

But American elections affect more than Americans–they affect millions of people in countries throughout the world.

“Increasingly, the amusement and befuddlement have given way to alarm and disgust. And in authoritarian countries where ‘democracy’ comes in quotation marks, authorities are deriving visible pleasure from describing American democracy as a chaotic sham.”

During a trip to Japan in May, President Barack Obama said he had found global leaders “rattled” by the rise of Trump.

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Donald Trump

Especially alarming to many Americans has been the mutual admiration society among Trump and foreign dictators such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin and North Korea’s Kim Jong On.

Click here: The world is watching America’s election (Opinion) – CNN.com 

In his bestselling 1973 biography, The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler, British historian Robert Payne harshly condemned the German people for the rise of the Nazi dictator.

To America’s shame, much of what he wrote about the Germans now applies to those Americans supporting Trump:

“[They] allowed themselves to be seduced by him and came to enjoy the experience….[They] followed him with joy and enthusiasm because he gave them license to pillage and murder to their hearts’ content. They were his servile accomplices, his willing victims….

“If he answered their suppressed desires, it was not because he shared them, but because he could make use of them. He despised the German people, for they were merely the instruments of his will.

“Many Germans voted against Hitler but few fought actively against him, and of these even fewer fought with clean weapons and clear consciences.”

There is a very real danger that millions of ignorant, hate-filled, Right-wing Americans will catapult Donald Trump–a man without kindness or charity–into the Presidency.

And that this man–who apparently received no love, and can give no love–will assume all the awesome power that goes with that office.

Thus, to rephrase Kissinger: “I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go Fascist due to the irresponsibility of its own people.”

A first step in that direction would be the legal abolishing of the Republican party as a threat to the American democratic system.  

For example: Several Republican Senators, including John McCain, have openly boasted that even if Hillary Clinton becomes President, they will prevent her from filling the Supreme Court seat left vacant in February by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

It’s the President’s duty to nominate Supreme Court Justices–and the Senate’s to vote Yes or No to confirm them.

Ignoring the mandate of a national election and refusing to carry out their Constitutionally-assigned duties is a flagrant violation of their oaths of office.

And that is, in itself, sufficient cause for their removal from office.

To rephrase what Robert F. Kennedy once said about the underworld-dominated Teamsters Union: “Quite literally, your life–the life of every person in the United States–is in the hands of the Republicans and their followers.”

In Germany, the Socialist Reich Party (SPR)–an heir to the Nazi party–has been banned since 1952. Yet Germany remains a strong force for democracy in Europe.

In America, it’s time to remove Right-wing totalitarians–and the dangers they represent to democratic government–from the levers of power they now hold.

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.

MARCHING THROUGH TREASON–AGAIN: PART TWO: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 27, 2016 at 12:09 am

When Andrew Jackson, seventh President of the United States from 1829 to 1837, was close to death, he asked his doctor: “What act of my administration will be most severely condemned by future Americans?”

“Perhaps the removal of the bank deposits,” said the doctor–referring to Jackson’s withdrawal of U.S. Government monies from the first Bank of the United States.

That act had destroyed the bank, which Jackson had believed was a source of political corruption.

“Oh, no!” said Jackson.

“Then maybe the specie circular,” said the doctor. He was referring to an 1836 executive order Jackson had issued, requiring payment for government land to be in gold and silver.

“Not at all!” said Jackson.

Then, his eyes blazing, Jackson raged: “I can tell you. Posterity will condemn me more because I was persuaded not to hang John C. Calhoun as a traitor than for any other act in my life!”

John C. Calhoun had once been Vice President under Jackson and later a United States Senator from South Carolina. His fiery rhetoric and radical theories of “nullification” played a major part in bringing on the Civil War (1861-1865).

John C. Calhoun

Calhoun was an outspoken proponent of slavery, which he declared to be a “positive good” rather than a “necessary evil.” He supported states’ rights and nullification–by which states could declare null and void federal laws they deemed unconstitutional.

Historians have not condemned Jackson for failing to hang the senator. But perhaps he was right–and perhaps he should have hanged Calhoun.

It might have prevented the Civil War–or at least delayed its coming.

Over time, Southern states’ threats of “nullification” turned to threats of “secession” from the Union.

Jackson died in 1845–16 years before the Civil War erupted.

The resulting carnage slaughtered as many as 620,000 lives. More Americans died in that war than have been killed in all the major wars fought by the United States since.

When it ended, America was reinvented as a new, unified nation–and one where slavery was now banned by the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Equally important, the Federal Government had now set a precedent for using overwhelming military power to force states to remain in the Union.

But in 2012, within days of Barack Obama’s decisive winning of another four years as President, residents across the country raised the call of treason.

They did done so by filing secession petitions to the Obama administration’s “We the People” program, which is featured on the White House website.

States whose residents filed secession petitions included:

Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington (state), West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

The reason: Thousands–if not millions–of Americans couldn’t abide a moderately-liberal black man winning a second term as President.

Abraham Lincoln dedicated his Presidency–and sacrificed his life–to ensure the preservation of a truly United States.

And Robert E. Lee–the defeated South’s greatest general–spent the last five years of his life trying to put the Civil War behind him and persuade his fellow Southerners to accept their place in the Union.

But today avowed racists, Fascists and other champions of treason are working hard to destroy that union–and unleash a second Civil War.  

Yet no official in Washington, D.C.–from President Obama on down–has so far dared to openly confront this menace. This failure to do so has only emboldened Trump’s Fascistic supporters and dismayed those who would oppose them.

President Obama should follow Andrew Jackson’s example–before treasonous talk becomes treasonous action.  

He should make clear that if treasonous violence erupts during his last two months in office, he will act decisively to crush it, using whatever level of force is necessary.

President Obama should warn these 21st-century would-be traitors that the FBI and U.S. Marshals Service are prepared to combat any threats to national security.

And if these agencies aren’t sufficient, the United States Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines stand ready to send modern-day counterparts of Union General William Tecumseh Sherman to wherever they are needed.  

In 1864, Sherman’s 62,000 soldiers marched more than 650 miles in less than 100 days, ravaged Georgia, burned Atlanta to the ground–and ended the Civil War.

President Obama’s attitude should be: “Let them hate me, so long as they fear me.”

Sherman’s March through Georgia

Similarly, Hillary Clinton–if she is elected–should issue a similar statement: That her coming administration will not tolerate the outbreak of widespread violence from any section of the population, whatever the excuse.

And she should bluntly warn that “Marching Through Georgia” is a song that can be played wherever treason dares to show its face:

So we made a thoroughfare for freedom and her train
Sixty miles of latitude, three hundred to the main.
Treason fled before us, for resistance was in vain
While we were marching through Georgia.

MARCHING THROUGH TREASON–AGAIN: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 26, 2016 at 12:19 am

They cannot be made to love us, but they may be made to fear us.
–William Tecumseh Sherman speaking of the Southern Confederacy

If Hillary Clinton is elected President, she may soon face the same crisis that confronted Abraham Lincoln more than a century ago: Mass treason.

Americans haven’t even voted yet. But, already, hard-core supporters of Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump believe a sinister international cabal has “rigged” the 2016 election for Clinton.  

There is absolutely no evidence for this–other than what Trump himself has loudly and repeatedly told them: That there is a massive conspiracy to take him down.  

At one town hall meeting where his Vice Presidential running mate, Mike Pence, appeared, a woman named Rhonda stood up and announced: “One of the things that I can tell you that a lot of us are scared of is this voter fraud.

“There’s a lot of out here saying that when we vote, we’re going to wear red. Our lives depend on this election. Our kids’ futures depend on this election.

“For me personally, if Hillary Clinton gets in, I myself am ready for a revolution.”  

In Cincinnati, a Trump supporter threatened to forcibly remove Clinton from the White House if she won the Presidential race: “I feel like Hillary needs to be taken out if she gets in the government. I’ll do everything in my power to take her out of power–which, if I have to be a patriot, I will.”

When asked if he was physically threatening Clinton, Dan Bowman, 50, told CNN: “I don’t know, is it?”

Officially, the Trump campaign claimed: “We reject violence in any form and will not allow it to be a part of our campaign.”

But on August 9, Trump told a rally in Wilmington, North Carolina that Clinton intended to abolish the Second Amendment: “If she gets to pick her judges, there’s nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people–maybe there is, I don’t know.”   

The Clinton camp instantly saw it as a “dog-whistle” solicitation for political assassination. The Trump campaign issued a statement denying that he had meant any such thing.  

On July 19, Trump clinched the Republican Presidential nomination. By early August, Roger Stone, a longtime Right-wing political consultant and now Trump strategist, was already predicting “widespread voter fraud” in the coming election.  

This despite the fact that a 2014 Washington Post analysis of 14 years of voter fraud found 31 possible incidents of in-person voter fraud, comprised of approximately 241 fraudulent ballots.  

In an interview with the Right-wing Breitbart News website, Stone said:

“The first thing that Trump needs to do is begin talking about [voter fraud] constantly. If there’s voter fraud, this election will be illegitimate, the election of the winner will be illegitimate, we will have a constitutional crisis, widespread civil disobedience, and the government will no longer be the government.” 

Image result for Images of Roger Stone

Roger Stone

Stone added that Trump should keep drumming up his supporters against the “rigged” system, and promise that the government would be shut down if Clinton was pronounced the victor in November.  

“I think he’s gotta put them 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.” 

Yet no official in Washington, D.C.–from President Barack Obama on down–has so far dared to openly acknowledge–let alone confront–this menace.

If Hillary Clinton is elected President, she would do well to review how Andrew Jackson, America’s seventh President from 1829 to 1837, reacted to threats of secession.

Andrew Jackson

In 1830, South Carolina was threatening to secede from the Union. A South Carolina Congressman who was returning home visited Jackson and asked: “Do you have a message you want me to give to your friends in the state?”

Jackson questioned him about the recent mass meetings in Charleston.

The friend warned him that South Carolina’s fire-eaters believed “the Army and Navy aren’t big enough to collect a penny” of Federal taxes.

“Do they realize what their words mean?” asked Jackson.

“I’m afraid they do, General.”

“Then tell them from me that they can talk and write resolutions and print threats to their hearts’ content.

“But if one drop of blood is shed there in opposition to the laws of the United States, I will hang the first man I can lay my hands on engaged in such treasonable conduct, from the first tree I can reach.”

News of Jackson’s threat quickly spread throughout Washington, D.C.

Senator Robert Hayne of South Carolina told his fellow Senator, Thomas Hart Benton, of Missouri, that he couldn’t believe that Jackson would send an army to invade a sovereign state.

Benton replied: “I tell you, Hayne, when Jackson starts talking about hanging, they can begin to look for the ropes.”

Jackson later issued a proclamation to the people of South Carolina and threatened to hang Hayne’s successor, Senator John C. Calhoun. He also warned that he would himself lead an army into the state to enforce Federal law.

The treasonous rumblings stopped–for the moment.

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