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Posts Tagged ‘2012 PRESIDENTIAL RACE’

IGNORANCE AS A PRESIDENTIAL REQUIREMENT

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on November 24, 2016 at 12:19 am

November 22 marked 53 years since President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas by an embittered Marxist named Lee Harvey Oswald.

Historians generally agree that he left three great legacies to his country:

  • The Nuclear Test Ban Treaty;
  • The Apollo moon landing; and
  • The Vietnam war.

But there was a fourth legacy–and perhaps the most important of all: The belief that mankind could overcome its greatest challenges through rationality and perseverance.

Kennedy demanded timely, reliable information about national and international issues. He speed-read several newspapers every morning. He nourished personal relationships with reporters-–and not for entirely altruistic reasons.

These journalistic relationships gave Kennedy additional sources of information and perspectives he felt he could not get through government agencies.

When giving speeches, Kennedy–a 1940 cum laude graduate of Harvard University with a Bachelor of Arts in Government–never tried to hide his education. Nor did he talk down to his audiences.

Republicans, on the other hand, have made appealing to the ignorant and uneducated a centerpiece of their political campaigns.

During the 2016 Presidential campaign, real estate mogul Trump famously said; “I love the poorly educated.”

Trump may love “the poorly educated,” but he didn’t want to join them. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1968 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics. 

Donald Trump

And for all his notorious bragging about himself, Trump didn’t share this achievement with his audiences.

During the 2012 Presidential race, Republican candidates seemed to value ignorance as a prime requirement for entering the White House.

Former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain thus excused his ignorance of the reasons for President Barack Obama’s intervention in Libya: “We need a leader, not a reader.” 

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Herman Cain

Texas Governor Rick Perry showed similar pride in not knowing there are nine judges on the United States Supreme Court:

“Well, obviously, I know there are nine Supreme Court judges. I don’t know how eight came out my mouth. But the, uh, the fact is, I can tell you–I don’t have memorized all of those Supreme Court judges. And, uh, ah–

“Here’s what I do know. That when I put an individual on the Supreme Court, just like I done in Texas, ah, we got nine Supreme Court justices in Texas, ah, they will be strict constructionists….”

And former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin rewrote history via “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere”:

“He warned the British that they weren’t going to be taking away our arms by ringing those bells and, um, making sure as he’s riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that, uh, we were going to be secure and we were going to be free.”

Actually, Revere  was warning his fellow Americans about an impending British attack–as his celebrated catchphrase “The British are coming!” made clear.

Republicans have attacked President Obama for his Harvard education and articulate use of language. Among their taunts: “Hitler also gave good speeches.”

And they resent his having earned most of his income as a writer of two books: Dreams From My Father and The Audacity of Hope.

As if being a writer is somehow subversive.  

In that sense, Obama is a “throwback” to John F. Kennedy, who was similarly gifted with language as a writer and orator.

Kennedy was perhaps the last President to convince most Americans that they could overcome their problems through reason and open-mindedness.

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White House painting of JFK

At American University on June 10, 1963, Kennedy called upon his fellow Americans to re-examine the events and attitudes that had led to the Cold War. And he declared that the search for peace was not futile:

“Some say that it is useless to speak of peace or world law or world disarmament….But that is a dangerous, defeatist belief.

“It leads to the conclusion that war is inevitable–that mankind is doomed–that we are gripped by forces we cannot control.

“We need not accept that view. Our problems are man-made; therefore, they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings.

“Man’s reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable, and we believe they can do it again.”

Today, politicians from both parties cannot agree on solutions to even the most vital national problems.

On November 21, 2011, the 12 members of the “Super-Committee” of Congress, tasked with finding $1.2 trillion in cuts in government spending, threw up their hands in defeat.

At the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy spoke with aides about a book he had just finished: Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August, on the events leading to World War 1.

For him, the book’s most important revelation was how European leaders had blindly rushed into war, without thought to the possible consequences.

Kennedy said that he did not intend to make the same mistake. Having read his history, he was determined to learn from it.

And he did, for the world escaped all-out nuclear war.

When knowledge and literacy are attacked as “highfalutin’” arrogance, and ignorance and incoherence are embraced as sincerity, national decline and collapse lie just around the corner.

A LABOR DAY REMINDER: CEO GREED VS. EMPLOYEES NEED

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on September 5, 2016 at 12:00 am

John Schnatter, the CEO of Papa John’s Pizza, doesn’t like the Affordable Care Act (ACA), better known as Obamacare.

And Schnatter bluntly warned his employees: When the Act took effect, Papa John’s Pizza would change in two ways.

First, it would be forced to do something it hadn’t done since its founding in 1984: Offer healthcare coverage to its 16,5000 employees or pay a penalty to the government.

Second, it would raise the prices of its pizzas.

John Schnatter

How high would they go up?

By as much as eleven to fourteen cents price increase per pizza, or fifteen to twenty cents per order!

And Schnatter made it clear: He wasn’t going to take this lying down. He was determined to pass along those costs to his customers.

“If Obamacare is in fact not repealed,” Schnatter told Politico, “we will find tactics to shallow out any Obamacare costs and core strategies to pass that cost onto consumers in order to protect our shareholders’ best interests.”

After all, why should a multi-million-dollar company show any concern for those who make its profits a reality?

Consider:

  • Papa John’s is the third-largest pizza takeout and delivery chain in the United States.
  • Its full year 2014 revenues were $1.60 billion, an increase of 11.1% from 2013 revenues of $1.44 billion.
  • Its full year 2014 net income was $73.3 million, compared to 2013 net income of $69.5 million.

Click here: Papa John’s Announces Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2014 Results (NASDAQ:PZZA)

Nor should anyone expect Schnatter to take a pay cut, just so his employees can obtain medical care when they need it.

Schnatter’s total calculated compensation for 2014 came to $3,456,146.

Click here: John H. Schnatter: Executive Profile & Biography – Businessweek

“We’re not supportive of Obamacare, like most businesses in our industry,” Schnatter–a supporter of Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney–admitted in a 2012 interview with Politico.

To demonstrate his opposition to providing medical insurance for all Americans, Schnatter hosted a fundraising event for Mitt Romney at his own Louisville, Kentucky mansion in May, 2012.

The luxurious setting for the fundraiser gave Romney a rush of pure, plutocratic ecstasy.

“What a home this is,” gushed Romney. “What grounds these are, the pool, the golf course.

“You know, if a Democrat were here he’d look around and say no one should live like this. Republicans come here and say everyone should live like this.”

John Schnatter’s estate

Of course, Romney conveniently ignored a brutally ugly fact:

For the vast majority of Papa John’s minimum-wage-earning employees–many of them working only part-time–the odds of their owning a comparable estate are non-existant.

In a typical demonstration of corporate thinking, Judy Nichols, a Papa John’s franchise owner in Beaumont, Texas, said:

“I have two options, I can stop offering coverage and pay the $2,000 fine, or I could keep my number of staff under 50 so the mandate doesn’t apply,” she told Legal Newsline.

In short: Defy the law, and employee healthcare needs be damned.

In fact, that’s exactly what Schnatter announced he would do: Reduce his workers’ hours–since Obamacare mandates that only employees working more than 30 hours per week are covered under their employers’ health insurance plan.

Nichols claimed that the the law might cost her $20,000 to $30,000 in taxes: “Obamacare is making me think about cutting jobs instead,” she said.

Translation: If you force me to behave responsibly, I’ll just have to take it it out on thousands of willing-to-work Americans.

So how can America cope with behavior that destroys not only lives but the economy as well?

By passing–and vigorously enforcing–a nationwide Employers Responsibility Act.

Among its provisions:  

Employers would be required to provide full medical and pension benefits for all employees, regardless of their full-time or part-time status.

Increasingly, employers are replacing full-time workers with part-time ones–solely to avoid paying medical and pension benefits.

Requiring employers to act humanely and responsibly toward all their employees would encourage them to provide full-time positions–and hasten the death of this greed-based practice.  

The seeking of “economic incentives” by companies in return for moving to or remaining in cities/states would be strictly forbidden.

Such “economic incentives” usually:

  1. allow employers to ignore existing laws protecting employees from unsafe working conditions;
  2. allow employers to ignore existing laws protecting the environment;
  3. allow employers to pay their employees the lowest acceptable wages, in return for the “privilege” of working at these companies; and/or
  4. allow employers to pay little or no business taxes, at the expense of communities who are required to make up for lost tax revenues.  

Employers who continue to make such overtures would be prosecuted for attempted bribery or extortion:  

  1. Bribery, if they offered to move to a city/state in return for “economic incentives,” or
  2. Extortion, if they threatened to move their companies from a city/state if they did not receive such “economic incentives.”

This would

  • protect employees against artificially-depressed wages and unsafe working conditions;
  • protect the environment in which these employees live; and
  • protect cities/states from being pitted against one another at the expense of their economic prosperity.

It’s past time for America to protect employees who work for a living from CEOs who simply take credit for the work those employees do.

TRUMPING–AND DUMPING: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on March 9, 2016 at 2:14 pm

The Donald Trump-Mitt Romney bromance began with an insult, courtesy of Trump: 

“He’d buy companies, he’d close companies.  He’d get rid of jobs.  I’ve built a great company.  I’m a much bigger businessman and have a much, much bigger net worth.  I mean, my net worth is many, many, many times Mitt Romney.”  

Then Trump had a change of heart: “Mitt is tough.  He’s smart.  He’s sharp. He’s not going to allow bad things to continue to happen to this country that we all love. So, Governor Romney, go out and get ’em.  You can do it.”

And Romney swooned with delight: “I’m so honored to have his endorsement. There are some things that you just can’t imagine in your life. This is one of them.”    

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Mitt Romney and Donald Trump

But now the bromance is over, courtesy of a rousing, anti-Trump speech given by Romney at the University of Utah: 

“Mr. Trump is directing our anger for less than noble purposes. He creates scapegoats of Muslims and Mexican immigrants, he calls for the use of torture and for killing the innocent children and family members of terrorists. He cheers assaults on protesters.

“He applauds the prospect of twisting the Constitution to limit First Amendment freedom of the press. This is the very brand of anger that has led other nations into the abyss.” 

So how is Trump taking all this? “I don’t know what happened to him. You can see how loyal he is.

“He was begging for my endorsement. I could have said ‘Mitt, drop to your knees.’ He would have dropped to his knees.”  

Fortunately for Trump, as his bromance with Romney has ended, another has emerged–with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

On February 26, Christie through his (political) weight behind Trump at a hastily-announced press conference in Fort Worth, Texas.  

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Chris Christie

Christie had not always been on such wonderful terms with the egocentric businessman. In fact, for months, the two had been rivals for the Presidency.  

In a January speech before the New Hampshire primary, Christie said:

“Showtime is over. We are not electing an entertainer-in-chief. Showmanship is fun, but it is not the kind of leadership that will truly change America…. 

“If we are going to turn our frustration and anger with the D.C. insiders, the politicians of yesterday and the carnival barkers of today into something that will actually change American lives for the better, we must elect someone who has been tested.”  

Then, without warning, Christie announced a sudden change of mind at a press conference in Fort Worth, Texas.  

The previous night, Trump had been mauled by a surprisingly aggressive Marco Rubio during a CNN-hosted debate among the Presidential candidates. As a result, reporters gasped when Christie endorsed Trump and attacked Rubio:

“Part of his talking points now is to be entertaining and smile a lot now.  Listen, it’s one act after another.”

Christie obviously felt it necessary to explain why he had gone from attacking Trump to promoting him: 

“As a Republican I feel strongly about making sure that [Democratic front-runner] Hillary Clinton does not become president of the United states, and I believe Donald Trump is the best person–of those remaining–to do that.”

As for the attack made on Trump by former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney:

“I understand the things that Gov. Romney is saying, and he’s objected to. That’s his opinion, and I respect him as I always have, and he’s welcome to his view. I just happen to disagree with the conclusion that he comes to.”  

By endorsing Trump, Christie became the first major establishment figure to validate the fitness of the former “reality TV star” to serve as President.

Considering Trump’s remaining opponents, it was not hard for Christie to reach that conclusion.

Texas United States Senator Rafael Cruz is an ideologue–and totally opposed to the pragmatic approach Christie brings to politics. And Christie genuinely dislikes Rubio.  

In addition, Christie believed that Ohio Governor John Kasich–a moderate by Republican standards–could never secure his party’s Presidential nomination.  

Ditto for neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who apparently believed his Right-wing party would elect another black man to succeed President Obama.

As for Trump: “This was an endorsement that really meant a lot. Chris is an outstanding man with an outstanding family, and this is the one endorsement that I’m really happy to get.”

While Christie and Trump share an innate aggressiveness and willingness to bully, that is not all they share.

In Never Enough, auhor Michael D’Antonio portrays Trump as a man with an insatiable appetite for wealth, attention, power, and conquest. The same can be said of Christie.

By taking on the role of Trump’s attack dog, Christie positions himself for the same role as vice presidential nominee. Or for a position such as Attorney General or Secretary of Homeland Security.

For those wishing to understand the realities of American political leaders, the best insight comes in a song popularized in George Orwell’s novel, 1984

Under the spreading chestnut tree
I sold you and you sold me:
There lie they, and here lie we
Under the spreading chestnut tree.

TRUMPING–AND DUMPING: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on March 8, 2016 at 12:17 am

During the 2012 Presidential campaign, Donald Trump endorsed Mitt Romney as the Republican nominee to defeat President Barack Obama.

But that was before Trump decided to run for President in 2016. And the relationship between Trump and Romney has taken a considerably different turn.

On June 16, 2015, Trump declared his candidacy for the 2016 Republican Presidential nomination. Since then, he has been the first choice among the Republican base.  

At first, he was dismissed as a bad joke–by Republican Presidential candidates as well as Democrats. Surely voters would reject a bombastic, thrice-married “reality show” host who had filed for corporate bankruptcy four times.

Yet from the outset Trump dominated the field–and a series of Republican debates. The other Republican candidates watched him with envy–and desperately tried to steal some of his limelight.

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 Donald Trump 

Making  one inflammatory statement after another, he offended one group of potential voters after another. These insults delighted his white, under-educated followers. But they alienated millions of other Americans who might have voted for him.

Among these:  

  • Mexicans: “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” He’s also promised to “build a great, great wall on our southern border and I will have Mexico pay for that wall.”
  • Blacks: Trump retweeted an image of a masked, dark-skinned man with a handgun and a series of alleged crime statistics, including: “Blacks killed by whites – 2%”; “Whites killed by blacks – 81%.” The image cites the “Crime Statistics Bureau – San Francisco”–an agency that doesn’t exist.
  • Illegal Aliens: Trump has threatened to forcibly deport millions of mostly Mexican and Central American residents.
  • Muslims: Trump has boasted he would ban them from entering the United States–and revive waterboarding of terrorist suspects. He would require Muslims to register with the Federal Government. And he would close “some mosques” if he felt they were being used by Islamic terrorists.
  • POWs: Speaking of Arizona U.S. Senator John McCain: “He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.” [Trump avoided military service–and Vietnam]

Many Republican members of Congress share–privately–Trump’s views on Hispanics, blacks and Muslims. But they realize that giving voice to such opinions can be politically suicidal.

Increasingly, the Republican party has become the bastion of aging white males. Even former President George W. Bush worked to win over Hispanics as Republican voters.

But the party’s increasingly strident anti-immigration rhetoric has alienated millions of Hispanics. And its open contempt for the nation’s first black President drove millions of blacks to the polls, where they handed Obama the White House–first in 2008, and again in 2012.

As a result, many Republicans now fear that Trump will gain their party’s Presidential nomination–and then lose in November, most likely to Hillary Clinton.  

Even worse from their perspective: He might cost Republicans–who now dominate the House of Representatives and the Senate–one or both legislative bodies.

So many Republicans are now desperately trying to deny Trump the nomination. And one of these is Mitt Romney–the man Trump endorsed in 2012 as the best candidate to remove Obama from the White House.  

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Mitt Romney

On March 3, in a speech at the University of Utah, Romney outlined why a Trump Presidency would be a disaster for the nation (not to mention the Republicans).

Among his comments:

“If we Republicans choose Donald Trump as our nominee, the prospects for a safe and prosperous future are greatly diminished….

“If Donald Trump’s plans were ever implemented, the country would sink into prolonged recession….

“Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University….

“But you say, wait, wait, wait, isn’t he a huge business success? Doesn’t he know what he’s talking about? No, he isn’t and no he doesn’t.

“Look, his bankruptcies have crushed small businesses and the men and women who work for them. He inherited his business, he didn’t create it.

“And whatever happened to Trump Airlines? How about Trump University? And then there’s Trump Magazine and Trump Vodka and Trump Steaks and Trump Mortgage. A business genius he is not…. 

“Now let me turn to national security and the safety of our homes and loved ones. Mr. Trump’s bombast is already alarming the allies and fueling the enmity of our enemies.

“Insulting all Muslims will keep many of them from fully engaging with us in the urgent fight against ISIS, and for what purpose? Muslim terrorists would only have to lie about their religion to enter the country….

“Now, I’m far from the first to conclude that Donald Trump lacks the temperament to be president.

“After all, this is an individual who mocked a disabled reporter, who attributed a reporter’s questions to her menstrual cycle, who mocked a brilliant rival who happened to be a woman due to her appearance, who bragged about his marital affairs, and who laces his public speeches with vulgarity.

“Donald Trump says he admires Vladimir Putin, at the same time he has called George W. Bush a liar. That is a twisted example of evil trumping good.”

Thus Mitt Romney on the man who once endorsed him for President. In the next column, we’ll see what Trump thinks of the man he once endorsed for President.

THE EVIL THAT POLITICIANS DO

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on February 1, 2016 at 12:01 am

Yes, like a toxic waste plant that spews out poison every four years, it’s Presidential primary time for the Republican party.

And its two most radical and ruthless candidates for President are flinging slime with gusto.  

Rafael “Ted” Cruz, the United States Senator from Texas, has accused his rival, billionaire businessman Donald Trump, of having “New York values.”

And during the January 14th Republican Presidential debate in South Carolina, he defined these as:

“Everyone understands that the values in New York City are socially liberal, pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage and focus on money and the media.”  

Among Right-wingers, “liberal,” “pro-abortion” and “pro-gay” are the ultimate in insults.

But Donald Trump was quick to respond with an explosive charge of his own: Rafael Cruz is not an American citizen–and therefore not eligible to be President.  

What made this accusation so effective was Cruz’ having been born outside the United States–in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, to an American mother and a Cuban father.

Ted Cruz, official portrait, 113th Congress.jpg

Rafael “Ted” Cruz

The U.S. Constitution specifically states that “No person except a natural born citizen…shall be eligible to the office of President.”  

Cruz has argued that because his mother was an American, he became an American citizen at birth. But courts have never ruled on the issue of what constitutes a “natural-born” citizen.  

And, at a campaign event in Nashua, New Hampshire, Trump smacked Cruz with an even more incendiary attack:  

“Ted Cruz may not be a US citizen, right? But he’s an anchor baby. No, Ted Cruz is an anchor baby in Canada. But Canada doesn’t accept anchor babies.”  

“Anchor baby” is a Politically Incorrect term for usually poor, non-white aliens entering the United States to have a child born on American soil, which grants automatic citizenship.  

And if the child is a citizen, its parents stand an excellent chance of being allowed to stay.  

Trump asserts that children born in the United States to illegal aliens are not American citizens, as they are today considered under the law.

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Donald Trump

At first, the issue of Cruz’ eligibility seemed confined to Republican politicians and those likely to vote for them. But then others outside the Right began weighing in.  

Mary McManamon, a Constitutional law professor at Widener University’s Delaware Law School, concluded in an Op-Ed for The Washington Post:

“Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) is not a natural-born citizen and therefore is not eligible to be president or vice president of the United States.”

How did this all start? With the ultimate target of Republican hatred–Barack Obama.

Ever since Obama became a Presidential candidate in 2008, Republicans have accused him of being ineligible to hold office.

Without a political scandal (such as Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky) to fasten on, the Republican party opted for slander: Obama was born in Kenya–not Honolulu–and thus was not an American citizen.  

From this there could be only one conclusion: He would be an illegitimate President, and should be removed from office if elected.  

And this smear campaign continued after he won the 2008 election. Right-wingers like Trump insisted that Obama “prove” his citizenship fitness to hold office.  

During his first two years in office, Obama tried to ignore the charge.

But polls repeatedly showed that large segments of the country believed it. Finally, even Obama’s closest advisers warned him: You must address this and put it to rest.  

So, on April 27, 2011, the President released the long-form version of his Hawaii birth certificate.

The long-form version of President Obama’s birth certificate

For the vast majority of Americans, this settled the issue. In 2012, to the fury of Republicans, Obama won a second, four-year term.

Fast forward to the 2016 Presidential race.  

Donald Trump, seeking to destroy his foremost rival, lobs the “anchor baby” charge against Rafael Cruz. 

To most Americans, this conjures up the image of poor Mexicans flooding across the United States border to apply for welfare.

It’s a highly effective way to inflame the elderly, white voters who make up the base of the Republican party.

But it’s also guaranteed to inflame millions of Hispanic Americans–those who are here legally as well as those who are here illegally.  

The Republican party has long earned the hatred and distrust of most Hispanic Americans through its calls to “seal off the border” and deport Hispanic illegal aliens.

And, in 2012, millions of Hispanics gave President Obama a second term.  

So long as Cruz stays in the race, Trump will continue to use the “birther” issue against him. And it will continue to dog him, as it did Obama.  

But it will continue to anger most of the 55 millions Hispanics living within the United States.  

The votes of elderly whites command the attention of Republican primary candidates. But Hispanic voters will play a decisive role in the general election.

Thus, Republicans may come to regret their use of the “birther” issue as they learn the truth of Shakespeare’s line: “The evil that men do lives after them.”

THE FAULT LIES IN US

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Self-Help, Social commentary on September 25, 2015 at 12:01 am

During a GOP primary debate on June 13, 2011, CNN moderator John King noted that FEMA–the Federal Emergency Management Agency–was about to run out of money.

And so he asked Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney:

“There are some people who say do it on a case-by-case basis and some people who say, you know, maybe we’re learning a lesson here that the states should take on more of this role.

“How do you deal with something like that?”

“Absolutely,” Romney replied. “Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction.

“And if you can go even further, and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better.

“Instead of thinking in the federal budget, what we should cut–we should ask ourselves the opposite question: What should we keep?

“We should take all of what we’re doing at the federal level and say, what are the things we’re doing that we don’t have to do?

“And those things we’ve got to stop doing, because we’re borrowing $1.6 trillion more this year than we’re taking in.”

FLIP!

Mitt Romney vs. FEMA

On October 30, 2012, one day after Hurricane Sandy lashed the densely-populated East Coast of the United States, reporters wanted to know if Romney still wanted to eliminate FEMA.

And, as he had on so many other issues, Mitt Romney once again refused to answer questions.

“Governor, are you going to eliminate FEMA?” a pool eporter shouted to Romney.

Hurricane Sandy

Romney refused to answer.

The reporter asked Romney at least five times: “If you’re elected President, would you eliminate FEMA?” and “What would you do with FEMA?”

No reply.

Another reporter asked: “Governor, are you going to see some storm damage?”

Again, no answer.

“Governor,. has Chris Christie invited you to come survey storm damage?”

No answer.

“Governor, you’ve been asked 14 times, why are you refusing to answer the question?”

Again, Romney refused to reply.

Finally, under mounting public pressure, he gave this reply:

FLOP!

Mitt Romney pro-FEMA

“I believe that FEMA plays a key role in working with states and localities to prepare for and respond to natural disasters.

“As president, I will ensure FEMA has the funding it needs to fulfill its mission, while directing maximum resources to the first responders who work tirelessly to help those in need.”

In a court of law, a defendant has the right to refuse to take the witness stand and answer questions.  And jurors are told by the judge they should not assume the defendant is guilty for doing so.

Courtrooms are often places for a game of let’s-pretend:

  • Let’s pretend that a man who’s accused of rape or murder is innocent–even if he refuses to answer legitimate questions; and
  • Let’s pretend that a truly innocent man wouldn’t want to clear himself from a totally false charge

But this is the real world.

And, in it, unlike a courtroom, experience teaches that:

  • People who are honest want to testify to that truth; and
  • People who refuse to answer legitimate questions usually do have something to hide.

Think of Richard Nixon refusing to answer questions about Watergate.

Think of Ronald Reagan refusing to take questions about Iran-Contra.

Think of George W. Bush refusing to take questions about why he ignored months of terrorism warnings before 9/11.

And think of Mitt Romney refusing to answer questions on any number of subjects.

So it’s natural to distrust those who refuse to give specific answers to specific questions–especially when those questions apply to matters that direclty affect people’s lives.

For millions of Americans who profess to be deeply religious, Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:7-8 should have been instructive:

Ask, and it shall be given you.  Seek, and ye shall find.  Knock, and it shall be opened unto you.

For every one that asketh receiveth.  And he that seeketh findeth. And to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

In a democracy, those words are a call to citizen action:

Ask.

Seek.

Knock.

In the Soviet Union, the truth about the workings of government and the realities of everyday life was carefully guarded.

Only those who gained special access to the Kremlin’s hidden archives could learn at least some of that truth.

Everyone else had to settle for the official, self-serving, lie-filled pronouncements of the Soviet leadership.

But Americans have no such excuse.

They do have access to a wide range of news from differing sources–ranging from the far left to the far right.  At least 1,382 daily newspapers–both domestic and foreign– provide information on a wide range of national and international issues.

More than 20 nationwide broadcasting networks exist.  Among these: ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox, NBC, PBS, Telemundo, The CW.

Nevertheless, millions of Americans remain ignorant of the well-revealed truth about the issues that most affect their lives.

As a result, Cassius’ words to Brutus in William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar apply to them:

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in ourselves that we are underlings.”

A LABOR DAY REMINDER: CEO GREED VS. EMPLOYEES’ NEED

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on September 7, 2015 at 12:57 am

John Schnatter, the CEO of Papa John’s Pizza, doesn’t like the Affordable Care Act (ACA), better known as Obamacare.

And Schnatter bluntly warned his employees: When the Act took effect, Papa John’s Pizza would change in two ways.

First, it would be forced to do something it hadn’t done since its founding in 1984: Offer healthcare coverage to its 16,5000 employees or pay a penalty to the government.

Second, it would raise the prices of its pizzas.

John Schnatter

How high would they go up?

By as much as eleven to fourteen cents price increase per pizza, or fifteen to twenty cents per order!

And Schnatter made it clear: He wasn’t going to take this lying down.  He was determined to pass along those costs to his customers.

“If Obamacare is in fact not repealed,” Schnatter told Politico, “we will find tactics to shallow out any Obamacare costs and core strategies to pass that cost onto consumers in order to protect our shareholders’ best interests.”

After all, why should a multi-million-dollar company show any concern for those who make its profits a reality?

Consider:

  • Papa John’s is the third-largest pizza takeout and delivery chain in the United States.
  • Its full year 2014 revenues were $1.60 billion, an increase of 11.1% from 2013 revenues of $1.44 billion.
  • Its full year 2014 net income was $73.3 million, compared to 2013 net income of $69.5 million.

Click here: Papa John’s Announces Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2014 Results (NASDAQ:PZZA)

Nor should anyone expect Schnatter to take a pay cut, just so his employees can obtain medical care when they need it.

Schnatter’s total calculated compensation for 2014 came to $3,456,146.

Click here: John H. Schnatter: Executive Profile & Biography – Businessweek

“We’re not supportive of Obamacare, like most businesses in our industry,” Schnatter–a supporter of Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney–admitted in a 2012 interview with Politico.

To demonstrate his opposition to providing medical insurance for all Americans, Schnatter hosted a fundraising event for Mitt Romney at his own Louisville, Kentucky mansion in May, 2012.

The luxurious setting for the fundraiser gave Romney a rush of pure, plutocratic ecstasy.

“What a home this is,” gushed Romney. “What grounds these are, the pool, the golf course.

“You know, if a Democrat were here he’d look around and say no one should live like this. Republicans come here and say everyone should live like this.”

John Schnatter’s estate

Of course, Romney conveniently ignored a brutally ugly fact:

For the vast majority of Papa John’s minimum-wage-earning employees–many of them working only part-time–the odds of their owning a comparable estate are non-existent.

In a typical demonstration of corporate thinking, Judy Nichols, a Papa John’s franchise owner in Beaumont, Texas, said:

“I have two options, I can stop offering coverage and pay the $2,000 fine, or I could keep my number of staff under 50 so the mandate doesn’t apply,” she told Legal Newsline.

In short: Defy the law, and employee helathcare needs be damned.

In fact, that’s exactly what Schnatter announced he would do: Reduce his workers’ hours–since Obamacare mandates that only employees working more than 30 hours per week are covered under their employers’ health insurance plan.

Nichols claimed that the the law might cost her $20,000 to $30,000 in taxes: “Obamacare is making me think about cutting jobs instead,” she said.

Translation: If you force me to behave responsibly, I’ll just have to take it out on millions of willing-to-work Americans.

So how can America cope with behavior that destroys not only lives but the economy as well?

By passing–and vigorously enforcing–a nationwide Employers Responsibility Act.

Among its provisions:

Employers would be required to provide full medical and pension benefits for all employees, regardless of their full-time or part-time status.

Increasingly, employers are replacing full-time workers with part-time ones—solely to avoid paying medical and pension benefits.

Requiring employers to act humanely and responsibly toward all their employees would encourage them to provide full-time positions—and hasten the death of this greed-based practice.

The seeking of “economic incentives” by companies in return for moving to or remaining in cities/states would be strictly forbidden.

Such “economic incentives” usually:

  1. allow employers to ignore existing laws protecting employees from unsafe working conditions;
  2. allow employers to ignore existing laws protecting the environment;
  3. allow employers to pay their employees the lowest acceptable wages, in return for the “privilege” of working at these companies; and/or
  4. allow employers to pay little or no business taxes, at the expense of communities who are required to make up for lost tax revenues.

Employers who continue to make such overtures would be prosecuted for attempted bribery or extortion:

  1. Bribery, if they offered to move to a city/state in return for “economic incentives,” or
  2. Extortion, if they threatened to move their companies from a city/state if they did not receive such “economic incentives.”

This would

  • protect employees against artificially-depressed wages and unsafe working conditions;
  • protect the environment in which these employees live; and
  • protect cities/states from being pitted against one another at the expense of their economic prosperity.

It’s past time for America to protect employees who work for a living from CEOs who simply take credit for the work those employees do.

THE CASEY DOCTRINE: MINIMUM COMPLIANCE

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 24, 2015 at 12:24 pm

When William J. Casey was a young attorney during the Great Depression, he learned an important lesson.

Jobs were hard to come by, so Casey thought himself lucky to land one at the Tax Research Institute of America in New York.

His task was to closely read New Deal legislation and write reports explaining it to corporate chieftains.

At first, he thought they wanted detailed legal commentary on the meaning of the new legislation.

But then he quickly learned a blunt truth: Businessmen neither understood nor welcomed Franklin D. Roosevelt’s efforts to reform American capitalism. And they didn’t want legal commentary.

Instead, they wanted to know: “What must we do to achieve minimum compliance with the law?”

In short: How do we get by FDR’s new programs?

Fifty years later, Casey would bring a similar mindset to his duties as director of the Central Intelligence Agency for President Ronald Reagan.

William J. Casey 

Congress had banned the Reagan administration from funding the “Contras,” the Right-wing death squads of Nicaragua.

Casey gave lip service to the demands of Congress. But privately, he and Marine Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North set up an “off-the-shelf” operation to overthrow the leftist government of Daniel Ortega.

For three years the operation stayed secret. Then it blew up in November, 1986, as the Iran-Contra scandal.

But the “Casey Doctrine” of minimum compliance didn’t die with Casey (who expired of a brain tumor in 1987).

It’s very much alive among the American business community as President Barack Obama seeks to give medical coverage to all Americans, and not simply the ultra-wealthy.

The single most important provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA)–-better known as Obamacare–-requires large businesses to provide insurance to full-time employees who work more than 30 hours a week.

For part-time employees, who work fewer than 30 hours, a company isn’t penalized for failing to provide health insurance coverage.

Obama prides himself on being a tough-minded practitioner of “Chicago politics.”  So it’s easy to assume that he took the “Casey Doctrine” into account when he shepherded the ACA through Congress.

But he didn’t.

The result was predictable.  And its consequences are daily becoming more clear.

Employers feel motivated to move fulltime workers into part-time positions–-and thus avoid

  • providing their employees with medical insurance and 
  • a fine for non-compliance with the law.

Some employers have openly shown their contempt for President Obama–-and the idea that employers actually have an obligation to those who make their profits a reality.

The White Castle hamburger chain is considering hiring only part-time workers in the future to escape its obligations under Obamacare.

No less than Jamie Richardson, its vice president, admitted this in an interview.

“If we were to keep our health insurance program exactly like it is with no changes, every forecast we’ve looked at has indicated our costs will go up 24%.”

Richardson claimed the profit per employee in restaurants is only $750 per year. So, as he sees it, giving health insurance to all employees who work over 30 hours isn’t feasible.

Nor is Richardson the only corporate executive determined to shirk his responsibility to his employees.

John Schnatter, CEO of Papa John’s Pizza, has been quoted as saying:

  • The prices of his pizzas will go up–by 11 to 14 cents per pizza, or 15 to 20 cents per order; and
  • He will pass along these costs to his customers.

“If Obamacare is in fact not repealed,” Schnatter told Politico, “we will find tactics to shallow out any Obamacare costs and core strategies to pass that cost onto consumers in order to protect our shareholders’ best interests.”

Consider:

  • Papa John’s is the third-largest pizza takeout and delivery chain in the United States.
  • Its 2012 revenues were $318.6 million, an 8.5 percent increase from 2011 revenues of $293.5 million.
  • Its 2012 net income was $14.8 million, compared to its 2012 net income of $12.1 million.

Had Obama been the serious student of Realpolitick that he claims to be, he would have predicted that most businesses would seek to avoid compliance with his law.

To counter that, he need only have required all employers to provide insurance coverage for all of their employees—regardless of their fulltime or part-time status.

This, in turn, would have produced two substantial benefits:

  • All employees would have been able to obtain medical coverage; and
  • Employers would have been encouraged to provide fulltime positions rather than part-time ones; they would feel: “Since I’m paying for fulltime insurance coverage, I should be getting fulltime work in return.”

The “Casey Doctrine” needs to be kept constantly in mind when reformers try to protect Americans from predatory employers.

REPUBLICANS: IGNORANCE AS A PRESIDENTIAL REQUIREMENT

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on July 13, 2015 at 2:32 am

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush graduated Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude  from the University of Texas, where he earned a B.A. degree in Latin American affairs.

He completed his coursework in two years and is fluent in Spanish.

Jeb Bush giving commencement address at Liberty University 

So it’s interesting to contrast Bush’s educational background with a statement he made to the New Hampshire Union Leader on July 8.

Speaking about the foreign policy of President Barack Obama, Bush said:

“You don’t have to be the world’s policeman, but we have to be the world’s leader—and there’s a huge difference.

“This guy, this president and Secretary Clinton and Secretary Kerry, when someone disagrees with their nuanced approach—where it’s all kind of so sophisticated it makes no sense, you know what I’m saying?

“Big-syllable words and lots of fancy conferences and meetings—but we’re not leading, that creates chaos, it creates a more dangerous world.”

If Bush lacked a university degree, it would be reasonable to assume that his remarks were fueled by jealousy of those who did have one.

But since Bush does have a university degree, there’s another possible reason for his statement: He’s playing dumb to win votes from his largely uneducated audience among the Far Right.

In fact, appealing to the ignorant and uneducated has become a commonplace for politicians on the Right.

President John F. Kennedy speed-read several newspapers every morning. He nourished personal relationships with the press-–and not for entirely altruistic reasons.

These journalistic relationships gave Kennedy additional sources of information and perspectives on national and international issues.

But in 2012, Republican Presidential candidates celebrated their ignorance of both.

Former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain famously said, “We need a leader, not a reader.”  Thus he excused his ignorance of the reasons for President Barack Obama’s intervention in Libya.

Related image

Herman Cain

Texas Governor Rick Perry showed similar pride in not knowing there are nine judges on the United States Supreme Court:

“Well, obviously, I know there are nine Supreme Court judges. I don’t know how eight came out my mouth. But the, uh, the fact is, I can tell you–I don’t have memorized all of those Supreme Court judges. And, uh, ah–

“Here’s what I do know. That when I put an individual on the Supreme Court, just like I done in Texas, ah, we got nine Supreme Court justices in Texas, ah, they will be strict constructionists….”

In short, it’s the media’s fault if they ask you a question and your answer reveals your own ignorance, stupidity or criminality.

Then there was Sarah Palin’s rewriting of history via “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere”:

“He warned the British that they weren’t going to be taking away our arms by ringing those bells and, um, making sure as he’s riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that, uh, we were going to be secure and we were going to be free.”

In fact, Revere wasn’t warning the British about anything.  He was warning his fellow Americans about an impending British attack–as his celebrated catchphrase “The British are coming!” made clear.

Republicans have attacked President Obama for his Harvard education and articulate use of language. Among their taunts: “Hitler also gave good speeches.”

And they resent his having earned most of his income as a writer of two books: Dreams From My Father and The Audacity of Hope. As if being a writer is somehow subversive.

When President Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963, it was said that he left three great legacies to his country:

  • The Nuclear Test Ban Treaty;
  • The Apollo moon landing; and
  • The Vietnam war.

But there was a fourth legacy–and perhaps the most important of all: The belief that mankind could overcome its greatest challenges through rationality and perseverance.

White House painting of JFK

At American University on June 10, 1963, Kennedy called upon his fellow Americans to re-examine the events and attitudes that had led to the Cold War. And he declared that the search for peace was by no means absurd:

“Our problems are man-made; therefore, they can be solved by man.  And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings.

“Man’s reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable, and we believe they can do it again.”

Today, politicians from both parties cannot agree on solutions to even the most vital national problems.

On November 21, 2011, the 12 members of the “Super-Committee” of Congress, tasked with finding $1.2 trillion in cuts in government spending, threw up their hands in defeat.

During the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy spoke with aides about a book he had just finished: Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August, on the events leading to World War 1.

He said that the book’s most important revelation was how European leaders had blindly rushed into war, without thought to the possible consequences. Kennedy told his aides he did not intend to make the same mistake-–that, having read his history, he was determined to learn from it.

When knowledge and literacy are attacked as “highfalutin’” arrogance, and ignorance and incoherence are embraced as sincerity, national decline and collapse lie just around the corner.

NO SENSE OF DECENCY

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on June 18, 2015 at 12:05 am

“Senator, may we not drop this?….You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

The speaker was Joseph N. Welch, chief counsel for the United States Army–then under investigation by Joseph McCarthy’s Senate Permanent Submittee on Investigations for alleged Communist activities.

It was June 9, 1954, the 30th day of the Army-McCarthy hearings.

And it was the pivotal moment that finally destroyed the career of the Wisconsin Senator whose repeated slanders of Communist subversion had bullied and frightened Americans for four years.

Joseph McCarthy

When the Senate gallery erupted in applause, McCarthy–totally surprised at his sudden reverse of fortune–was finished.

Today, however, other Americans could stand to remember the question asked by Welch: “At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

Americans like Rick Santorum, Republican Presidential candidate in 2016.

Rick Santorum

As a United States Senator from Pennsylvania (1997 – 2005) and 2012 Presidential candidate, Santorum fervently sought to ban legalized abortion–even in rape cases– and even birth control.  They were, he said, an affront to “the way things ought to be.”

But this did not stop him from marrying, in 1990, a woman–Karen Garver–who had spent six years as the unmarried bedmate of an OBGYN-abortionist named Tom Allen, who was 40 years her senior.

Then there’s 2016 Presidential candidate Ted Cruz.

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) 

As a Republican United States Senator from Texas, Cruz voted–three times–against federal aid for victims of Hurricane Sandy.

The October, 2012, hurricane killed about 150 people and caused an estimated $75 billion in damage across the Northeast.

But when a fertilizer plant exploded in West, McLennan County Texas, on April 17, 2013, Cruz vowed that he would seek “all available resources” to assist its victims.

The blast killed 13 people, wounded about 200 others, and caused extensive damages to surrounding homes.

It didn’t matter to Cruz that:

  • The facility hadn’t been inspected by the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) since 1985, when the company was fined $30; and
  • The plant had been storing 1,350 times the amount of ammonium nitrate that would normally trigger safety oversight by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Then there’s Donald Trump, the egocentric businessman and “reality star” of NBC’s “The Apprentice.”

Donald Trump

On April 17, 2011, toying with the idea of entering the Presidential race himself, he said this about Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and GOP candidate:

“He’d buy companies. He’d close companies. He’d get rid of jobs.  I’ve built a great company.  I’m a much bigger businessman and have a much, much bigger net worth. I mean my net worth is many, many, many times Mitt Romney.

“Mitt Romney is a basically small-business guy, if you really think about  it. He was a hedge fund. He was a funds guy. He walked away with some money from a very good company that he didn’t create. He worked there. He didn’t create it.”

Trump added that Bain Capital, the hedge fund where Romney made millions of dollars before running for governor, didn’t create any jobs.  Whereas Trump claimed that he–Trump–had created “hundreds of thousands of jobs.”

So at least some observers must have been puzzled when Trump announced, on February 2, 2012: “It’s my honor, real honor, and privilege to endorse Mitt Romney” for President.

“Mitt is tough, he’s smart, he’s sharp, he’s not going to allow bad things to continue to happen to this country that we all love. So, Governor Romney, go out and get ‘em. You can do it,” said Trump.

Mitt Romney

And Romney, in turn, had his own swooning-girl moment: “I’m so honored to have his endorsement. There are some things that you just can’t imagine in your life. This is one of them.”

Clearly, the word “hypocrisy” means nothing to Santorum, Cruz, Romney and Trump.  But it should mean something to the rest of us.

In samurai Japan, officials who publicly disgraced themselves knew what to do.  The samurai code of seppeku told them when they had crossed the line into eternal damnation.

And it gave them a way to redeem their lost honor: With a small “belly-cutting” knife and the help of a trusted assistant who sliced off their head to spare them the agonizing pain of disembowelment.

In the armies of America and Europe, the method was slightly different: A pistol in a private room.

Considering the ready availability of firearms among Right-wing Republicans, redeeming lost honor shouldn’t be a problem for any of these men.

But of course it will be.  It takes more than a trigger-pull to “do the right thing.”  It takes insight to recognize that you’ve “done the wrong thing.”   And it takes courage to act on that insight.

In men who live only for their own egos and wallets, such insight and courage will be forever missing.   They are beyond redemption.

Their lives give proof to the warning offered in Matthew 7: 17-20:

“Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.  A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.

“Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

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