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PROTECT YOURSELF AGAINST EMAIL SCAMMERS

In Business, Law Enforcement, Self-Help, Social commentary on August 26, 2016 at 12:01 am

Receiving unsolicited, get-rich-quick emails has become a regular headache for millions of Internet users.

All too often, the result is fraud for their recipients. In 2013, losses from Nigerian scams alone totaled $12.7 billion.

Here’s how to spot the warning signs of fraud:

  • Addressed Generally: “Attention!” “Dear Friend,” “Attention the owner of this email,” “Hello, Dear.” Your name is not mentioned, because this email has been mass-mailed to thousands of intended victims. 
  • Unsolicited: Unsolicited: You’re told that you’ve won a lottery you never entered, or have inherited a fortune from someone you never knew existed.
  • Appeals to religion:  Appeals to Religion: “Hello Beloved in the Lord” or “Yours in Christ” seeks to create a bond with those who deeply believe in God.
  • Misuse of English: Misuse of English: Mis-spellings and faulty grammar usually denote someone–probably a foreigner–using English as a second language. Examples: Run-on sentences; “you’re” for “your”; “except” instead of “accept”; “Dear Beneficial” instead of “Dear Beneficiary.”
  • Appeals to Sympathy: Appeals to Sympathy: “My husband just died” or “I am dying of cancer.” This is to make you feel sorry for the sender and lower your guard as an intended victim.
  • Use of Important Titles/Organizations: “Director,” ‘Barrister,” “Secretary General of the United Nations,” “Police Inspector.” This is to impress recipients and convince them that the email comes from a trusted and legitimate organization.
  • Request for Personal Information: This includes some combination of: Name / Address / Telephone Number / Bank Name / Bank Account Number / Fax Number / Driver’s License Number / Occupation / Sex / Beneficiary / Passport Number
  • Claims of Deposit: “We have deposited the check of your fund to your account” is a typical line to instantly grab your attention. Someone you’ve never heard of claims he has just put a huge amount of money into an account you know nothing about. Nor can you access it unless you first pay a “contact fee.”
  • The “Bank” is in Africa: Unless you know you have relatives there, this should be a dead giveaway to a scam. Africa is a continent kept alive by the charity of other nations. It’s not in the business of doling out large sums of money to Westerners.

  • Overseas Phone Numbers: If you call these, you’ll have a huge bill.  So many people skip calling and just send the money “required” to receive their “cash prize.”
  • Highly Personal Requests: Asking you–someone they’ve never met–to assume the burden of acting as the executor of their “Last Will and Testament.”
  • Love Scams: The scammer poses as a man or woman–usually outside the United States–seeking love.  A series of emails flows back and forth for days/weeks, until the scammer says s/he will be glad to fly to the United States to be yours. All you have to do is put up the money for the flight cost.
  • “Make Money From Home”: With most employers refusing to hire, “work from home” scams promise a way to support yourself and your family. You’re required to provide bank information or pay an up-front “registration fee.” Then you wait for job orders–that never come.
  • Debt Relief: Scammers promise to relieve most or all of your debt–for a large up-front fee. You pay the fee–and are not only out of that money but still in debt.
  • Home Repair Schemes: Huge down payments are required for home repairs that never happen.
  • “Free” Trial Offers: The service or product is free for awhile, but you must opt out later to avoid monthly billings.
  • The Email Claims to Be From the FBI: Often the “address” includes “Anti-Terrorist and Monetary Crime Division.”  One such email was addressed: “Dear Beneficiary” and offered help in obtaining a “fund.” The FBI is an investigative agency responsible to the U.S. Department of Justice. It does not resolve financial disputes or secure monies for “deserving” recipients. If the FBI wants to contact you, it will do so by letter or by sending agents to your address. The FBI’s own website states: “At this time we do not have a national e-mail address for sending or forwarding investigative information.”
  • “I Need Help”: You get an email claiming to be from someone you know–who’s “in jail here in Mexico” or some other foreign country. S/he begs you to send money for bail or bribes to win his/her freedom. If you get such an email, call the person to make certain. Don’t rush to send money–chances are it will go directly to a scammer.

FBI Headquarters: Where stopping cybercrime is now a top priority.

There are several commonsense rules to follow in protecting yourself from online scammers:

  • Don’t trust people you’ve never met to want to give you money.
  • Shop online only with well-known merchants who have a good reputation.
  • Don’t click on unknown links–especially those in emails from unknown senders.
  • If you’re required to pay an advance fee–“on faith”–to receive a big amount of money, the odds are it’s a scam.
  • If you can’t find any solid information on a company, chances are it doesn’t exist.
  • For additional information on how to protect yourself from cybercrime, check out the FBI’s page at http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/investigate/cyber.
  • If it sounds too good to be true, the odds are: It is untrue.

COMBATING SLUMLORDS: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on August 25, 2016 at 1:53 am

City agencies need to see landlords for what they truly are–as, at best, potential predators, if not actual ones. And to act on that knowledge. 

As Niccolo Machiavelli warned:

“All those who have written upon civil institutions demonstrate…that whoever desires to found a state and give it laws, must start with assuming that all men are bad and ever ready to display their vicious nature, whenever they may find occasion for it. 

“If their evil disposition remains concealed for a time, it must be attributed to some unknown reason; and we must assume that it lacked occasion to show itself.  But time, which has been said to be the father of all truth, does not fail to bring it to light.”

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Niccolo Machiavelli

The power of slumlords calls to mind the scene in 1987’s The Untouchables, where Sean Connery’s veteran cop tells Eliot Ness: “Everybody knows where the liquor is. It’s just a question of: Who wants to cross Capone?”

Many tenants have lived with rotting floors, bedbugs, nonworking toilets, mice/rats, chipping lead-based paint and other outrages for not simply months but years

This holds true across the United States. But it also holds true in San Francisco–the “renters’ paradise” where the District Attorney’s Office hasn’t prosecuted a slumlord in decades

Part Two of this series presented a series of badly-needed, long-overdue reforms for the San Francisco Department of Building Inspection (DBI). This is the agency charged to ensuring safe housing conditions for San Francisco residents.

This concluding part will cover the remainder of those needed reforms. 

  • Landlords should be required to bring all the units in a building up to existing building codes, and not just those in need of immediate repair.  
  • Landlords should be legally required to hire a certified-expert contractor to perform building repairs. To save money–that they can well afford to spend–many landlords insist on making such repairs despite their not being trained or experienced in doing so. They thereby risk the health and/or safety of their tenants. 
  • DBI should not view itself as a “mediation” agency between landlords and tenants. Most landlords hate DBI and will always do so. They believe they should be allowed to treat their tenants like serfs, if not slaves, raise extortionate rents anytime they desire, and maintain their buildings in whatever state they wish. And no efforts by DBI to persuade them of its good intentions will ever change their minds.   
  • Above all, DBI must stop viewing itself as a regulatory agency and start seeing itself as a law enforcement one. The FBI doesn’t ask criminals to comply with the law. It applies whatever amount of force is needed to force their compliance. William Tecumseh Sherman, speaking of the rebellious Southern states, said it best: “They cannot be made to love us, but they may be made to fear us.”  
  • The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office should create a special unit to investigate and prosecute  slumlords.  Prosecutors should offer rewards to citizens who provide tips on major outrages by the city’s slumlords.  

  • Install Rent Control protections for tenants on fixed incomes. San Francisco is notorious for having the highest rents in the nation. A one-bedroom apartment runs $3,448 a month. Even those in the vaunted high-tech industry spend most of their income on rent.
  • For tenants on fixed incomes–seniors, disabled, students–the predatory greed of landlords amounts to a staged-in eviction notice.  Social Security recipients did not get a cost-of-living increase this year because there had not been a rise in the price of gasoline. But the fact that many of them do not own cars doesn’t mean that the price of everything else–such as groceries–hasn’t sharply risen.  
  • Allowing landlords to jack up rents to the fullest extent possible every year will eventually drive out all tenants who are not multimillionaires. In fact, an unknown portion of this City’s homeless population doubtless stems from the ability of landlords to gradually raise rents above tenants’ ability to afford them.  
  • In 1979, San Franciscans passed a Rent Control law to protect tenants against predatory rent hikes and unfair evictions. As a result, a landlord can only raise a tenant’s rent a certain percentage every year. This is set by the set by the Rent Stabilization and Arbitration Board, more popularly known as the “Rent Board.”  
  • But there is a gaping hole in the law: Once a tenant moves out, the landlord can jack up the rent as high as he wants. This is why the average rent in San Francisco is priced beyond most middle-class wage-earners. 
  • In addition, landlords are allowed to charge tenants yearly fees to maintain the existence of the Rent Board. This is both unfair and insulting, since the Board was created to protect tenants from predatory landlords. Most tenants have far less money to pay such fees than do landlords, who are free to raise rents every year. And landlords–unlike tenants–can and do write off Rent Board fees on their taxes every year. Thus, landlords–not tenants–should be paying the fees.  

As Robert F. Kennedy wrote: “Every society gets the kind of criminal it deserves. What is equally true is that every community gets the kind of law enforcement it insists on.”

COMBATING SLUMLORDS: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on August 24, 2016 at 12:28 am

The San Francisco Department of Building Inspection (DBI) has long been outmaneuvered by predatory, law-breaking landlords.

And San Francisco renters–many of them elderly, poor and/or disabled–have been the victims of landlord greed, neglect and/or harassment.

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Among the reforms that DBI should immediately enact:

  • Hit slumlord violators with a fine–payable immediately–for at least $2,000 to $5,000 for each health/safety-code violation.The slumlord would be told he could reclaim 75-80% of the money only if he fully corrected the violation within 30 days. The remaining portion of the levied fine would go into the City coffers, to be shared among DBI and other City agencies.
  • This would put the onus on the slumlord, not DBI. Appealing to his greed would ensure his willingness to comply with the ordered actions. As matters now stand, it is DBI who must repeatedly check with the slumlord to find out if its orders have been complied with.  
  • If the landlord failed to comply with the actions ordered within 30 days, the entire fine would go into the City’s coffers–to be divided among DBI and other agencies charged with protecting San Francisco residents.  
  • In addition. he would be hit again with a fine at least twice the amount of the first one.  
  • Inspectors for DBI should be allowed to cite landlords for violations that fall under the jurisdiction of the Department of Public Health (DPH). They could then pass the information to DPH for its own investigation.  
  • If the DBI inspector later discovered that the landlord had not corrected the violation within a designated time-period, DBI should be allowed to levy its own fine for his failure to do so.
  • If DPH objects to this, DBI should propose that DPH’s own inspectors be armed with similar cross-jurisdictional authority. Each agency would thus have increased motivation for spotting and correcting health/safety violations that threaten the lives of San Francisco residents.

  • This would instantly turn DBI and DPH into allies, not competitors. And it would mean that whether a citizen called DBI or DPH, s/he could be assured of getting the necessary assistance. As matters now stand, many residents are confused by the conflicting jurisdictions of both agencies.  
  • DBI should insist that its Inspectors Division be greatly expanded. DBI can attain this by arguing that reducing the number of Inspectors cuts (1) protection for San Francisco renters–and (2) monies that could go to the general City welfare.
  • The Inspection Division should operate independently of DBI. Currently,  too many high-ranking DBI officials tilt toward landlords because they are landlords themselves.
  • DBI should create a Special Research Unit to compile records on the worst slumlord offenders. Thus, a slumlord with a repeat history of defying DBI NOVs could be treated more harshly than a landlord who was a first-time offender.
  • Turning DBI into a revenue-producing agency would enable the City to raise desperately-needed revenues–in a highly popular way. Fining delinquent slumlords would be as unpopular as raising taxes on tobacco companies. Only slumlords and their hired lackey allies would object.  
  • DBI should legally require landlords to rehabilitate a unit every time a new tenant moves in, or have it examined by a DBI inspector every two years.  A tenant can occupy a unit for ten or more years, then die or move out, and the landlord immediately rents the unit to the first person who comes along, without making any repairs or upgrades whatsoever.
  • Slumlords, unlike drug-dealers, can’t move their buildings from one street or city to another. If they want to make money in San Francisco, they will have to submit to the jurisdiction of landlord-regulating agencies.  
  • DBI should require landlords to post their Notices of Violation in public areas of their buildings–on pain of serious financial penalties for failing to do so. When DBI orders a slumlord to take correction, s/he is the only one who is notified.  If that slumlord refuses to comply with that directive, s/he is the only one who knows it. Given the pressing demands on DBI, weeks or months will pass before the agency learns about this violation of its orders. Tenants have a right to know if their landlord is complying with the law–so they can promptly notify inform DBI if a violation is occurring. 

  • Landlords should be legally required to give each tenant a list of the major city agencies (such as DBI, the Rent Board and the Department of Public Health) that exist to help tenants solve problems with their housing.
  • DBI should launch–and maintain–a citywide advertising campaign to alert residents about its services. Everyone knows the FBI pursues bank robbers. But too many San Franciscans don’t even know that DBI exists, let alone what laws it enforces. This should be an in-your-face campaign: “Do you have bedbugs in your apartment? Has your stove stopped working? Are you afraid to ride in your building elevator because it’s always malfunctioning? Have you complained to your landlord and gotten the runaround? Then call DBI at—- Or drop us an email at_____.”

COMBATING SLUMLORDS: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on August 23, 2016 at 12:04 am

To hear slumlords tell it, San Francisco is a “renters’ paradise,” where obnoxious, lazy, rent-evading tenants constantly take advantage of hard-working, put-upon landlords.

Don’t believe it.

And in case you’re inclined to anyway, consider the story of Kip and Nicole Macy, two San Francisco slumlords who recently pled guilty to felony charges of residential burglary, stalking and attempted grand theft.

Kip Macy

Nicole Macy

Determined to evict rent control-protected tenants from their apartment building in the South of Market district, they unleashed a reign of terror in 2006:

  • Cut holes in the floor of one tenant’s living room with a power saw–while he was inside his unit.
  • Cut out sections of the floor joists to make the building collapse.
  • Threatened to shoot Ricardo Cartagena, their property manager, after he refused to make the cuts himself.
  • Changed the locks to Cartagena’s apartment, removed all of his belongings and destroyed them.
  • Created fictitious email accounts to appear as a tenant who had filed a civil suit against the Macys–and used these to fire the tenant’s attorney.
  • Cut the tenants’ telephone lines and shut off their electricity, gas and water.
  • Changed the locks on all the apartments without warning.
  • Mailed death threats.
  • Kicked one of their tenants in the ribs.
  • Hired workers to board up a tenant’s windows from the outside while he still lived there.
  • Falsely reported trespassers in a tenant’s apartment, leading police to hold him and a friend at gunpoint.
  • Broke into the units of three tenants and removed all their belongings.
  • Again broke into the units of the same three victims and soaked their beds, clothes and electronics with amonia.

The Macys were arrested in April, 2008, posted a combined total of $500,000 bail and then fled the country after being indicted in early 2009.

In May, 2012, Italian police arrested them and deported them back to America a year later.

Having pled guilty, they were sentenced in September, 2013, to a prison term of four years and four months.

How could such a campaign of terror go on for two years against law-abiding San Francisco tenants?

Simple.

Even in the city misnamed as a “renter’s paradise,” slumlords are treated like gods by the very agencies that are supposed to protect tenants against their abuses.

The power of slumlords calls to mind the scene in 1987’s The Untouchables, where Sean Connery’s veteran cop tells Eliot Ness: “Everybody knows where the liquor is. It’s just a question of: Who wants to cross Capone?”  

Everybody in San Francisco knows who the slumlords are. But the District Attorney’s Office hasn’t criminally prosecuted a slumlord in decades. 

Many tenants have lived with rotting floors, bedbugs, nonworking toilets, mice/rats, chipping lead-based paint and other outrages for not simply months but years. 

Consider the situation at the San Francisco Department of Building Inspection (DBI), which is charged with ensuring that apartment buildings are in habitable condition.  

Under San Francisco law:

  • A landlord is automatically given 30 days to correct a health/safety violation. If he drags his feet on the matter, the tenant must live with that problem until it’s resolved.
  • If the landlord claims for any reason that he can’t fix the problem within one month, DBI doesn’t demand that he prove this. Instead, it automatically gives him another month.
  • A slumlord has to work at being hit with a fine—by letting a problem go uncorrected for three to six months.
  • And even then, repeat slumlord offenders often avoid the fine by pleading for leniency.
  • That’s because many DBI officials are themselves landlords.

But the situation doesn’t have to remain this way.

DBI could:

  • Vastly enhance its own prestige and authority
  • Improve living conditions  for thousands of San Francisco renters, and
  • Bring millions of desperately-needed dollars into the City’s cash-strapped coffers.

How?

By learning some valuable lessons from the “war on drugs” and applying them to regulating slumlords.

Consider:

  • At least 400,000 rape kits containing critical DNA evidence that could convict rapists sit untested in labs around the country.
  • But illegal drug kits are automatically rushed to the had of the line.

Why?

It isn’t simply because local/state/Federal lawmen universally believe that illicit drugs pose a deadly threat to the Nation’s security.

It’s because:

  • Federal asset forfeiture laws allow the Justice Department to seize properties used to “facilitate” violations of Federal anti-drug laws.
  • Local and State law enforcement agencies are allowed to keep some of the proceeds once the property has been sold.
  • Thus, financially-strapped police agencies have found that pursuing drug-law crimes is a great way to fill their own coffers.
  • Prosecutors and lawmen view the seizing of drug-related properties as crucial to eliminating the financial clout of drug-dealing operations.

It’s long past time for San Francisco agencies to apply the same attitude–and methods–toward slumlords.  

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DBI should become not merely a law enforcing agency but a revenue-creating one.  And those revenues should come from predatory slumlords who routinely violate the City’s laws protecting tenants.

By doing so, DBI could vastly:

  • Enhance its own prestige and authority;
  • Improve living conditions for thousands of San Francisco renters; and
  • Bring millions of desperately-needed dollars into the City’s cash-strapped coffers.

BOYS WILL BE BOYS–WITH BOMBS

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on August 22, 2016 at 12:04 am

Americans are suckers for children.  

Even if many of them might come wrapped in suicide vests.

On September 2, 2015, the body of a three-year old Syrian boy named Alan Kurdi washed ashore on a beach in Bodrum, Turkey.

He and his family had boarded a small rubber boat to reach Europe amid the carnage of the Syrian civil war. The boat capsized. 

The resulting photo flashed around the world and triggered international demands by humanitarian organizations that the West “do something.”

Drowned Alan Kurdi lies on a Turkish beach

Only eight days later, on September 10, 2015, the Obama administration announced that it would take in at least 10,000 displaced Syrian refugees over the next year.

That was in addition to the 2,000 Islamic refugees the United States had already accepted.

Almost one year later–on August 17, 2016–another photo captured the world’s attention.

It depicted a five-year-old Syrian boy named Omran Daqneesh sitting in an ambulance. Covered head to toe in dust, his face bloodied, he seemed dazed. He had been pulled out of a building hit by an airstrike in Aleppo, Syria.  

Once again, demands arose among liberal interventionists, especially in the United States: “We must do something.”

All of which overlooks the increasing threat posed to the United States by Islamic terrorism.

According to U.S. Census data, America legally welcomes about 100,000 Muslim immigrants each year. This represents the fastest growing segment of immigrants coming to the United States.

The Pew Research Center estimates there are 2.5 million Islamics in the United States. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) puts the figure at seven million.

The Troubling Math of Muslim Migration | National Review Online

Meanwhile, the FBI is being overwhelmed by the demands of countering Islamic terrorism against the United States.

On July 8, 2015, FBI director James Comey testified before Congress about the increasing burdens his agency faces in combating terrorism.

“We are stopping these things [Islamic terror plots] so far through tremendous hard work, the use of sources, the use of online undercovers.

“But it is incredibly difficult.  I cannot see my [agency’s] stopping these [plots] indefinitely.”

The FBI has only 35,000 agents and analysts–against seven million potential suspects. And only a portion of those agents and analysts are charged with investigating terrorism.  

And even children, for all their supposed innocence, are not to be ignored as potential weapons of Islamic terrorist organizations.  

On August 20, a suicide bomber aged between 12 and 14 attacked a Kurdish wedding party in Gaziantep, Turkey, killing at least 51 people.

Preliminary evidence indicates that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was behind the attack. 

Palestinian child suicide bomber

America may well become a similar target for child suicide bombers.

How did all of this come to be?

On March 15, 2011, protests broke out in Syria, with demonstrators demanding political reforms and the ouster of dictator Bashar al-Assad.

These protests, met with government repression, continued to grow into a wholesale civil war. 

By April 23, 2016, the United Nations estimated that 400,000 Syrians had so far died in the conflict. 

Put another way:

  • More than 400,000 potential or actual Islamic terrorists will never again pose a threat to the United States or Western Europe.  
  • Additional thousands are certain to follow their example.
  • And the United States cannot be held in any way responsible for it.

But Americans and Europeans have chosen to see these positives as negatives.

The United Nations refugee Agency, UNHCR, estimates that 366,402 refugees and migrants crossed the Mediterranean Sea to Europe in 2015.

And while the West has thrown open its doors to fleeing Syrians, the reaction of neighboring Islamic nations has been entirely different.

This was brutally but accurately depicted in a cartoon of wealthy Arab rulers looking on indifferently at the body of Alan Kurdi.

While European nations are being swamped by hundreds of thousands of these uninvited “guests,” the Arab world’s wealthiest nations are doing almost nothing for Syria’s refugees.

According to Amnesty International, the “six Gulf countries–Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain–have offered zero resettlement places to Syrian refugees.”

These nations are far closer to Syria than are Europe and the United States. And they contain some of the Arab world’s largest military budgets and its highest standards of living.

Note the contradiction: Democratic, non-Islamic countries are exposing themselves to increasing numbers of potential–if not actual–Islamic terrorists.

Meanwhile, the Arab world–awash in petrodollars and land–is closing its own doors to Syrian refugees

The Arab world’s wealthiest nations are doing next to nothing for Syria’s refugees – The Washington Post

* * * * *

During the 1980s, the United States waged a cold war against Islamic nations. Their acts of anti-American terrorism were seen as simply crimes, and not acts of war.

The September 11, 2001 terror attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center changed that. For the last 15 years, the United States military has actively fought Islamics in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. And now Syria.

To be admitting huge numbers of a population with which the United States is now waging all-out war is worse than stupid. It is a guarantee of national suicide.

SECURITY THEATER IS NOT SECURITY

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Self-Help, Social commentary on August 19, 2016 at 12:08 am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your old New York driver’s license may make it harder for you to fly in 2016 | syracuse.com

And this, in turn, carries an illogic all its own. As one soon-to-be affected New York traveler outlined:

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

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

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

Got all that?

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

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

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

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

But passengers would have felt far less reassured had they known the assault rifles they carried had no bullets.

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

What exactly does this tell the security guard?

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

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

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

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

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

Repeated showings of security theater can be seen every weekday at the San Francisco Federal Building, at 450 Golden Gate Avenue.

To enter, you must show a driver’s license or State ID card.

Then you must remove

  • Your belt;
  • Your shoes;
  • Your watch;
  • Your wallet;
  • All other objects from your pants pockets;
  • Any jacket you’re wearing;
  • Any cell phone you’re carrying.

All of these must be placed in one or more large plastic containers, which are run through an x-ray scanner.

Finally, assuming you avoid setting off any alarm system, you’re allowed to enter.

Now, suppose you want to report a crime to the San Francisco field office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

You take an elevator to the 13th floor and walk into a large room filled with several comfortable chairs that sit close to the floor. You approach a window such as you find in a bank–made of thick, presumably bulletproof glass.

A secretary on the opposite side greets you, and asks why you’ve come.

You offer your reason for wanting to speak with an agent. Assuming the secretary thinks you have a legitimate reason, she says you must first show her your driver’s license or State ID card.

You slide these through the bottom part of the glass window. Then she makes a xerox of this and hands the card back.

Then, as if that isn’t enough, you have to fill out a single-page form, which requires you to provide your:

  • Name;
  • Address;
  • Phone number;
  • Social Security Number;
  • The reason you want to speak to an agent.

Of course, you can refuse to fill out the form. But then the secretary will refuse to let you meet with an FBI agent.

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

But this demand for so much private information is almost certain to sharply decrease the number of people willing to report knowledge of a crime.

At a time when Federal law enforcement agencies need all the cooperation they can get, this is not a matter to be taken lightly.

LIKE HITLER, LIKE TRUMP: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on August 18, 2016 at 12:05 am

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

On March 25, Shields–a liberal, and Brooks, a conservative–came to some disturbingly similar conclusions about Donald Trump. 

Eerily, their conclusions echoed those reached by former Panzer General Heinz Guderian about German dictator Adolf Hitler.  

Guderian created the concept of motorized blitzkrieg warfare, whereby masses of tanks and planes moved in coordination to strike at the vital nerve centers of an enemy.  

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Heinz Guderian

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

On the PBS Newshour, moderator Judy Woodruff noted that “polls show Trump’s standing with women voters had worsened in recent months.”

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Judy Woodruff

David Brooks said that Trump had displayed “a consistent misogynistic view of women as arm candy, as pieces of meat. It’s a consistent attitude toward women which is the stuff of a diseased adolescent.” 

MARK SHIELDS: “She just asked him tough questions and was totally fair, by everybody else’s standards.”

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Donald Trump

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

MARK SHIELDS: And I don’t know at what point it becomes…politically, he’s still leading. And I would have to say he’s the overwhelming favorite for the Republican nomination.”

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

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

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

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Adolf Hitler

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

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:  

“[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.”

There is a very real danger that millions of ignorant, hate-filled, Right-wing Americans will catapult Donald Trump–a man with an “odd psychology unleavened by kindness and charity”–into the Presidency.  

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

If that happens, future historians–if there are any–may similarly condemn those Americans who stood by like “good Germans” and allowed their country to fall into the hands of a ruthless tyrant.

LIKE HITLER, LIKE TRUMP: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on August 17, 2016 at 1:00 am

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

On March 25, Shields–a liberal, and Brooks, a conservative–came to some disturbingly similar conclusions about the character of Republican Presidential front-runner Donald Trump.  

As the business magnate moved ever closer to winning the 2016 Republican Presidential nomination, both columnists appeared increasingly dismayed.  

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David Brooks and Mark Shields

Eerily, their conclusions about Trump’s character echoed those reached by former Panzer General Heinz Guderian about German dictator Adolf Hitler. 

Guderian created the concept of motorized blitzkrieg warfare, whereby masses of tanks and planes moved in coordination to strike at the vital nerve centers of an enemy.  

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

Heinz Guderian

Moderator Judy Woodruff opened the discussion by alluding to the blood feud then raging between Trump and his fellow Republican, Texas U.S. Senator Eduardo “Ted” Cruz.

Both were seeking their party’s Presidential nomination–and both were ruthlessly determined to attain it.  

Cruz accused Trump of being behind a recent National Enquirer story charging him with having a series of extramarital affairs.  

An anti-Trump Super PAC posted on Facebook a photo of a scantily-clad Melania Trump–his wife. The photo had been taken 16 years ago when, as a model, she posed for British GQ. Its publication came just ahead of the primary caucuses in sexually conservative Utah, which Cruz won.  

Trump quickly responded on Twitter, accusing the Cruz campaign of leaking the photo, warning Cruz: “Be careful or I will spill the beans on your wife.”

Cruz struck back, defending his wife, Heidi, and calling Trump a coward. The next day, Trump retweeted an unflattering image of Mrs. Cruz. 

This “war of the wives” had cost Trump dearly in his standing with American women. In March, a Washington Post/ABC News poll showed that 64% of women felt highly unfavorably disposed toward him. 

DAVID BROOKS: “The Trump comparison of the looks of the wives, he does have, over the course of his life, a consistent misogynistic view of women as arm candy, as pieces of meat.

Donald Trump

“It’s a consistent attitude toward women which is the stuff of a diseased adolescent. And so we have seen a bit of that show up again. 

“But if you go back over his past, calling into radio shows bragging about his affairs, talking about his sex life in public, he is childish in his immaturity. And his–even his misogyny is a childish misogyny…. 

“He’s of a different order than your normal candidate. And this whole week is just another reminder of that.”  

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

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

Judy Woodruff asked Mark Shields if the uproar over Donald Trump’s disdain for women could really hurt his candidacy. 

MARK SHIELDS: The ad featuring a scantily-clad Melania Trump “elicited from Donald Trump the worst of his personality, the bullying, the misogyny, as David has said, brought it out.  

“But I think it’s more than childish and juvenile and adolescent. There is something creepy about this, his attitude toward women. 

“Take Megyn Kelly of FOX News, who he just has an absolute obsession about, and he’s constantly writing about, you know, how awful she is and no talent and this and that. 

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Megyn Kelly

“And I don’t know if he’s just never had women–strong, independent women in his life who have spoken to him. It doesn’t seem that way….”  

Judy Woodruff noted that Kelly “has asked him tough questions” in a recent debate. 

MARK SHIELDS: “She just asked him tough questions and was totally fair, by everybody else’s standards.” 

HEINZ GUDERIAN:  Hitler’s most outstanding quality was his will power. It was by this that he compelled men to follow him. When Hitler spoke to a small group he closely observed each person to determine how his words were affecting each man present.   

If he noticed that some member of the group was not being swayed by his speech, he spoke directly to that person until he believed he had won him over. But if the target of his persuasive effort still remained obstinate, Hitler would exclaim: “I haven’t convinced that man!”

His immediate reaction was to get rid of such people. As he grew increasingly successful, he grew increasingly intolerant.   

THE EVIL THAT POLITICIANS DO

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on August 16, 2016 at 12:42 am

“All revolutions,” said Ernst Rohem, leader of Adolf Hitler’s brown-shirted thugs, the S.A., “devour their own children.”

Ernst Rohem

Fittingly, he said this as he sat inside a prison cell awaiting his own execution.

On June 30, 1934, Hitler had ordered a massive purge of his private army, the S.A., or Stormtroopers. The purge was carried out by Hitler’s elite army-within-an-army, the Schutzstaffel, or Protective Squads, better known as the SS.

The S.A. Brownshirts had been instrumental in securing Hitler’s rise to Chancellor of Germany on January 30, 1933. They had intimidated political opponents and organized mass rallies for the Nazi Party.

But after Hitler reached the pinnacle of power, they became a liability.

Ernst Rohem, their commander, urged Hitler to disband the regular German army, the Reichswehr, and replace it with his own legions as the nation’s defense force.

Frightened by Rohem’s ambitions, the generals of the Reichswehr gave Hitler an ultimatum: Get rid of Rohem–or they would get rid of him.

So Rohem died in a hail of SS bullets–as did several hundred of his longtime S.A. cronies.

SS firing squad

At least one member of the Republican Party has now learned that an apparently useful weapon can become a liability.

Ever since Barack 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 had been born in Kenya–and thus was not an American citizen. 

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

And this smear campaign continued after he won the election. Right-wingers like real estate billionaire Donald Trump insisted that Obama had been born in Kenya, not Honolulu.  

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 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, they re-elected Obama to a second, four-year term.

Nevertheless, for many Right-wingers, even the release of Obama’s long-form birth certificate meant nothing.  

Joseph Arpaio, the Right-wing sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, claimed that his “investigators” were certain that Obama’s birth certificate was fraudulent.

Responding to Arpaio’s claims, Joshua A. Wisch, a special assistant to Hawaii’s attorney general, said: “President Obama was born in Honolulu, and his birth certificate is valid. Regarding the latest allegations from a sheriff in Arizona, they are untrue, misinformed and misconstrue Hawaii law.”

Fast forward to 2015.

Donald Trump, who had threatened to run for President in 2012, announced his candidacy on June 16. He quickly became–and remained–the front-runner for Republican voters.

But then Texas’ United States Senator Rafael “Ted” Cruz entered the race. As radical and ruthless as Trump, he quickly became the billionaire’s most dangerous competitor.

Ted Cruz, official portrait, 113th Congress.jpg

Rafael “Ted” Cruz

What to do?

Then Trump–or someone in his campaign–had an inspiration. Why not use against Cruz the same “he’s-not-an-American” charge that had been used against Obama?  

Cruz, born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, was not a natural-born American citizen–and was thus ineligible to be President.  His mother was an American, but his father was Cuban.

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

Cruz 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.

At first, the issue seemed confined to Republican politicians and those likely to vote for them. But then others outside the Right began investigating it.

Mary McManamon, a constitutional law professor at Widener University’s Delaware Law School, concluded in an Open Editorial 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.”

Cruz got an even bigger slap in the face from Laurence Tribe, the celebrated professor of Constitutional law at Harvard University. He has argued before the United States Supreme Court 36 times.

Writing in The Boston Globe, Tribe stated:

“…The kind of judge Cruz says he admires and would appoint to the Supreme Court is an ‘originalist,’ one who claims to be bound by the narrowly historical meaning of the Constitution’s terms at the time of their adoption.

“To his kind of judge, Cruz ironically wouldn’t be eligible, because the legal principles that prevailed in the 1780s and ’90s required that someone actually be born on US soil to be a “natural born” citizen.”  [Italics added.]

So long as Cruz stayed in the race, Trump continued to use the “birther” charge against him. And it continued to dog him, as it did Obama.

Thus, the evil that politicians do lives after them.

 

ASSASSINATION IS IN VOGUE–IN POLITICS AND FILM

In Bureaucracy, Entertainment, History, Politics, Social commentary on August 15, 2016 at 1:03 am

August is the month for…assassination. Or at least for advocating–and dramatizing–it.

On August 9, Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump told a rally in Wilmington, North Carolina: “Hillary [Clinton] wants to abolish, essentially abolish, the Second Amendment.

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

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Donald Trump

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

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

“A person seeking to be the President of the United States should not suggest violence in any way,” Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook said in a statement.

The Trump campaign issued a statement denying that he had meant any such thing.    

Three days after Trump’s remarks, Operation Antrhopoid, a UK-French-Czech historical film, appeared in theaters. Directed by Sean Ellis, it stars Cillian Murphy, Jamie Dornan, Charlotte Le Bon and Bill Milner.

Its subject: The 1942 assassination of SS Obergruppenführer (General) Reinhard Heydrich.  

For Trump it was a moment of supreme, if unnoticed, irony.

“The constant violent, brutish talk from Donald Trump,” said Michael Steel, a top adviser to former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, “is unworthy of the office he seeks.” 

Political violence has long been a feature of Trump’s campaign. During the primaries, he openly endorsed retaliation against protesters who disrupted his rallies, many of whom accused him of racism.  

Reinhard Heycrich

And Heydrich–“the man with the iron heart,” as Adolf Hitler eulogized at his funeral–similarly earned a reputation for brutality and racism.  

A tall, blond-haired formal naval officer, he was both a champion fencer and talented violinist. Heydrich joined the Schutzstaffel, or Protective Squads, better known as the SS, in 1931, and quickly became head of its counterintelligence service.

In 1934, he oversaw the “Night of the Long Knives” purge of Hitler’s brown-shirted S.A., or Stormtroopers.  

The S.A. had been instrumental in securing Hitler’s rise to Chancellor of Germany in 1933.  They had intimidated political opponents and organized mass rallies for the Nazi Party.  But after Hiter attained power, he saw them as a liability.    

In September, 1941, Heydrich was appointed “Reich Protector” of Czechoslovakia, which had fallen prey to Germany in 1938 but whose citizens were growing restless under Nazi  rule.

Heydrich immediately ordered a purge, executing 92 people within the first three days of his arrival in Prague. By February, 1942, 4,000-5,000 people had been arrested.

In January, 1942, Heydrich convened a meeting of high-ranking political and military leaders to streamline “the Final Solution to the Jewish Question.”  

Up until that time, the Nazis had been unable to agree on a comprehensive anti-Jewish policy. Some had argued for the “mere” expulsion of Jews from Germany while others advocated their wholesale extermination.

At the now-infamous Wannsee conference, Heydrich decreed that, henceforth, all Jews in Reich-occupied territories would be shipped to extermination camps. No exceptions would be made for women, children or the infirm.  

An estimated six million Jews were thus slaughtered.

Returning to Prague, Heydrich continued his policy of carrot-and-stick with the Czechs–improving the social security system and requisitioning luxury hotels for middle-class workers, alternating with arrests and executions.  

The Czech government-in-exile, headquartered in London, feared that Heydrich’s incentives might lead the Czechs to passively accept domination. They decided to assassinate Heydrich.  

Two British-trained Czech commandos–Jan Kubis and Joseph Gabcik–parachuted into Prague. 

With limited intelligence on Heydrich’s movements and little equipment in a city under lockdown, they had to find a way to carry out their assignment.  

Unexpectedly, they got help from Heydrich himself. Supremely arrogant, he traveled the same route every day from home to his downtown office and refused to be escorted by armed guards, claiming no one would dare attack him.

On May 27, 1942, Kubis and Gabcik waited at a hairpin turn in the road always taken by Heydrich.  When Heydrich’s Mercedes slowed down, Gabcik raised his machinegun–which jammed.

Instead of ordering his driver to “step on it,” Heydrich ordered him to halt–so he could take aim at his would-be assassins.  

Rising in his seat, he aimed his revolver at Gabcik–as Kubis lobbed a hand grenade at the car. The explosion drove steel and leather fragments of the car’s upholstery into Heydrich’s diaphragm, spleen and lung.

Hitler dispatched doctors from Berlin to save the Reich Protector. But infection set in, and on June 4, Heydrich died at age 38.  

For Donald Trump, the timing of Operation Antrhopoid couldn’t be worse.

Trump has long been accused of being a racist and would-be dictator. Facebook routinely carries memes of him wearing a Nazi uniform, complete with Hitler forelock and toothbrush mustache.  

It is Trump who raised the issue of using assassination to attain political ends. The last thing he needs is a movie showing that Right-wingers can also be targets for death.

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