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Posts Tagged ‘DEMOCRATS’

BIDEN NEEDS A LESSON FROM MACHIAVELLI

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on September 16, 2021 at 12:07 am

On June 7, The PBS Newshour examined perhaps the foremost issue of our democracy: The For the People Act.

Since November 3, 2020, when former President Donald Trump lost the 2020 Presidential election, he has spread The Big Lie: That the election was “stolen” from him.

On the basis of that lie, Republicans in 47 states have introduced 361 bills to make it harder to vote.

As of June 21, 2021, 17 states enacted 28 new laws that restrict access to the vote. 

Among those states affected: Georgia, Iowa, Arkansas and Utah.

Georgia:

  • Bans giving food and water to voters in line;
  • Severely restricts mail ballot drop boxes;
  • Allows Right-wing groups to challenge the eligibility of an unlimited number of voters; and
  • Gives the GOP-controlled legislature sweeping powers over election administration.

Arizona:

  • Wants to add new requirements for casting a mail-in ballot and make it harder to receive one. 

Florida:

  • Intends to ban mail ballot drop boxes.

Michigan:

  • Republicans introduced eight bills adding new voter ID requirements for mail voting and forbidding election officials to send out absentee ballot request forms to voters.

Congressional Democrats have countered with the For the People Act.  Among its provisions:

  • Expand early voting and registration across the country in federal elections;
  • Block states from purging their rolls of voters;
  • End partisan gerrymandering;
  • Force large donors to disclose themselves publicly.

“It is something that is obviously very critical right now,” said  PBS Newshour Correspondent Lisa Desjardins. “We see rising in this country both sides talking about democracy and voting rights and what’s happening at this moment.

“[West Virginia United States Senator] Joe Manchin…would be the 50th vote that Democrats would have for this in the Senate. They have 49.

Senator Manchin.jpg

Joe Manchin

“And here’s what he said [on] why he opposed it: ‘I believe that partisan voting legislation will destroy the already weakening binds of our democracy. And for that reason, I will vote against the For the People Act.’

“Notable, he did not have any substantive problems with the bill that he raised. Instead, he said, the issue is there are no Republicans on board. Democrats, of course, have a real problem with that. They say, we think Republicans are going to play games here and block this bill.

“This Manchin decision is a body blow to this legislation. It is not dead yet, but it is in real trouble. It’s unclear if, when [New York Senator] Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader [in the Senate] will bring it back up.”

There has been a great deal of speculation—by Democrats and political correspondents—on Manchin’s motives for opposing this legislation.

Some believe he’s a Right-winger in Democrats’ clothing. Others think he wants to increase his clout on behalf of his state, West Virginia. 

Manchin’s motives, however, are not important. Eliminating his opposition is.

And the man who has the power to do this is President Joe Biden.

Joe Biden presidential portrait.jpg

Joe Biden

All that he needs to do is invite Manchin into the Oval Office for an off-the-record talk, which could open like this:

“Your state has two Coast Guard military bases. By this time next week, it will have only one—because I’m going to close down the other. You can also forget about those highway-repair projects you’re expecting to start. And I’ve been informed we have far too many post offices in West Virginia, considering its small population….”

Suddenly, Manchin will get the clear message: “Biden is the big dog on this block, not me.”

He will also grasp that his constituents will blame him, not Biden, for the resulting chaos and hardships they face from the upcoming closures. 

This is precisely how President Lyndon B. Johnson dealt with Congressional members who dared oppose his prized legislation. And it worked.

Joe Biden has spent 44 years in Washington, D.C.—as a United States Senator from Delaware from 1973 to 2009; and then as Vice President from 2009 to 2017.

But he seems to have never read Niccolo Machiavelli’s famous warning in The Prince:

Portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli by Santi di Tito.jpg

Niccolo Machiavelli

For how we live is so far removed from how we ought to live, that he who abandons what is done for what ought to be done, will rather learn to bring about his own ruin rather than his preservation.  A man who wishes to make a profession of goodness in everything must inevitably come to grief among so many who are not good. 

And therefore it is necessary for a prince, who wishes to maintain himself, to learn how not to be good, and to use this knowledge and not use it, according to the necessity of the case.

Whatever his motives, Manchin is clearly willing to allow Republicans to suppress the voting rights of millions of non-Fascist Americans.

During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus, saying it was better to temporarily suspend some liberties than to lose the Union to a treasonous Confederate victory. 

President Joe Biden now faces a similar moment of crisis.

Republicans are working to corrupt the democratic process to reinstall a proven criminal and traitor in the Oval Office. This is no time to “fight” a party of Adolf Hitlers with the appeasement tactics of a Neville Chamberlain.

WHY REPUBLICANS ACTUALLY WANT TO GUT “OBAMACARE”

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on September 1, 2021 at 8:43 pm

On June 17, CNN ran a headlined story on its website: “Here’s Why Fighting the Affordable Care Act Means So Much to Republicans.”  

The story opened: “For the third time in the last nine years — and this time by a convincing 7-2 vote — the Supreme Court knocked out a Republican effort to invalidate” the Act.

The Justices said that the challengers of the law did not have legal “standing” to bring the case.

Opponents of the law were not harmed by the provisions they were challenging, the Justices ruled. The reason: Congressional Republicans had eliminated the penalty for failing to buy health insurance.

Republicans believed that eliminating the penalty would allow them to attack the entire law. They assumed that without the mandate—a pillar of the law when it was passed—the rest of the Act should fall, too.

Thus, the irony: Through their latest effort to destroy the Act by de-funding it, Republicans had unintentionally saved it before the Supreme Court.

U.S. Supreme Court building-m.jpg

The Supreme Court

The law is now providing access to healthcare for a record 31 million Americans, who would not otherwise be able to afford coverage.

In addition, the Act continues to:

  • Eliminate the “pre-existing condition” excuse insurance companies had used to deny coverage to those who most needed it;
  • Provide a range of no-cost preventive services;
  • Allows children to stay on their parents’ insurance up to age 26;
  • Expand the Medicaid program that insures lower-income people access to health insurance markets offering subsidized plans.

“With millions of people relying on the Affordable Care Act for coverage, it remains, as ever, a BFD. And it’s here to stay,” President Joe Biden tweeted that same day.

“BFD” referred to his remark, caught on a hot mic when he told then-President Barack Obama in 2010 the law is a “a big fucking deal.”

Why have Republicans pursued its demise so relentlessly? J.P. Morgan once said: “A man generally has two reasons for doing a thing. One that sounds good, and a real one.”

The story outlines the reasons that sound good: 

“For the GOP base, the ACA is about a view of the country that the government is the answer to all of our problems.

“It’s also tied into their lingering distaste for former President Barack Obama, whose name is literally melded with the law.

“And a belief that the media treated Obama’s ‘if you like your plan, you can keep your plan’ lie and the disastrous rollout (and repeated crashes) of the website allowing people to sign up for a plan with kid gloves because, well, bias.”

Let’s take a quick look at each of these points.

  • Millions of Right-wingers hate the Federal Government and openly call for its overthrow. This they vividly demonstrated on January 6 when they tried to illegally retain Donald Trump as President. They hoped to prevent the selection of Joe Biden as the legitimately-elected President of the United States by storming the Capitol Building.
  • Racism forms a major component of the GOP’s appeal to older, white, Right-wing voters. So having the name of the first black President unofficially stamped on the law (“Obamacare”) serves as a constant spur to their hatred.

Obama standing with his arms folded and smiling.

Barack Obama

  • Obama’s promise that “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan”: The promise backfired because the law stated that those who already had medical insurance could keep their plans—so long as those plans met the requirements of the new healthcare law. If their plans didn’t meet those requirements, they would have to obtain coverage that did
  • The “disastrous rollout (and repeated crashes) of the website”: That happened immediately after the law became effective on March 23, 2010. The sheer rush of uninsured people hoping to finally gain access to medical care proved too much for the website. But over time those bugs got ironed out.

Now for the real reason Republicans have furiously tried to destroy the Act—one that the writer did not mention. It is also one that no Republican dares admit.

And like so much else in the Republican agenda, it is rooted in the methods employed by the Third Reich.

On June 22, 1941, German Fuhrer Adolf Hitler sent three million soldiers smashing into the Soviet Union. During the first six months—June to December, 1941—German armies lured huge Soviet forces into gigantic “cauldron battles,” surrounding and exterminating them. 

An estimated 5.7 million prisoners of war fell into German hands. The Germans found themselves surprised and overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of them. But their mandate demanded that they keep marching ever forward.

So they simply imprisoned their captives behind barbed wire and wasted no food or medical care on them. Between starvation, illness and the brutal Russian cold, at least 3.5 million POWs died in custody.

Soviet prisoners of war behind barbed wire at Falstad Camp May 8th 1945. The picture is probably taken after the Norwegian prisoners left the camp. (Photographer: Unknown / The Falstad Centre)

Soviet POW’s

Republicans have learned a valuable lesson from this: If you simply deprive those you detest of food, clothing, shelter—and medical care—you don’t need gas chambers or firing squads. Or rigged vote-counts.

Most Americans—ignorant of history—cannot accept that their politicians can be as evil as those in other nations. For those needing access to affordable healthcare, voting Republican could turn out to be a fatal mistake.

TIME TO REJECT “AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM”

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 25, 2021 at 12:22 am

“Who are we?” asks Christian G. Appy  in the opening of his 2015 book, American Reckoning: The  Vietnam War and Our National Identity.

For Appy, it’s impossible to understand the enormous impact of the Vietnam war on the United States without first understanding the image that Americans had of themselves before that conflict. And he describes that image as:

“The broad faith that the United States [was] a unique force for good in the world, superior not only in its military and economic power but in the quality of its government and institutions, the character and morality of its people, and its way of life…..

“It was still unimaginable to most Americans that their own nation would wage aggressive war and justify it with unfounded claims, that it would support undemocratic governments reviled by their own people, and that American troops would be sent to fight in countries where they were widely regarded not as liberators but as imperialist invaders.”

Appy contends that, for millions of Americans, the Vietnam war dealt a mortal blow to that tremendously appealing self-image.

Related image

Yet for millions more, the United States remains an exemplary nation with a divine mission to lead other nations—willingly or unwillingly—to follow its example. And those Americans become furious when anyone—especially a foreigner—dares question that belief.

On September 11, 2013, the New York Times published an Op-Ed (guest editorial) from Russian President Vladimir Putin, entitled: “A Plea for Caution from Russia: What Putin Has to Say to Americans About Syria.

To no one’s surprise, Putin strongly opposed an American air strike on Syria. Its “President” (i.e., dictator) Bashir al-Assad, is a close ally of Russia. Just as his late father and dictator, Hafez al-Assad, was a close ally of the Soviet Union.

And Putin is a former member of the KGB, the infamous secret police which ruled the Soviet Union from its birth in 1917 to its collapse in 1991.In his September 11 guest editorial in the New York Times, Putin offered the expected Russian take on Syria:

  • Poison gas was used in Syria.
  • It wasn’t used by the Syrian Army.
  • “Opposition forces [used it] to provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons.”
  • “There are few champions of democracy in Syria. But there are more than enough [al] Qaeda fighters and extremists of all stripes battling the government.”

But it’s the concluding paragraph that enraged American politicians the most—especially Right-wing ones. In it, Putin took exception with American “exceptionalism.”

Referring to then-President Barack Obama, Putin wrote:

“And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is ‘what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.’

“It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too.

“We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.”

Vladimir Putin

Putin has never publicly shown any interest in religion. But by invoking “the Lord,” he was able to turn the Christian beliefs of his Western audience into a useful weapon.

Americans’ outrage quickly erupted.

“I was insulted,” then-House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters when asked for his blunt reaction to the editorial.

“I have to be honest with you, I was at dinner, and I almost wanted to vomit,” said U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey).Putin had dared to question the self-righteousness of American foreign policy—and those who make it.

Making his case for war with Syria, Obama had said: “America is not the world’s policeman….But when, with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death, and thereby make our own children safer over the long run, I believe we should act.

“That’s what makes America different. That’s what makes us exceptional. With humility, but with resolve, let us never lose sight of that essential truth.”

In short: Because we consider ourselves “exceptional,” we have the divine right to do whatever we want.

It’s not necessary to see Putin as a champion of democracy (he isn’t) to see the truth in this part of his editorial:

“It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation.”

From 1938 to 1969, the House Un-American Activities Committee sought to define what was “American” and what was “Un-American.”

As if “American” stood for all things virtuous.

Whoever heard of an “Un-French Activities Committee”? Or an “Un-German” or “Un-British” one?

The late S.I. Hayakawa was a professor of semantics (the study of the relationship between words and what they stand for).In his bestselling book, Language in Thought and Action, he observed that a person has four ways of responding to a message:

  • Accept the speaker and his message.
  • Accept the speaker but reject the message.
  • Accept the message but reject the speaker.
  • Reject the message and the speaker.

In this case, Americans might want to consider #3 where “American exceptionalism” is concerned.

REPUBLICANS KNOW WHAT DEMOCRATS DON’T

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 24, 2021 at 12:11 am

There’s a reason why Republicans win so many elections—especially at the Presidential level.

Republicans learned long ago that most voters aren’t moved by appeals to their rationality. Instead, what counts with them is emotions.

And Republicans long ago became experts at appealing to these—especially the baser ones.

For Republicans, the Big Three are:

Hatred

Greed

Fear  

Hatred: No candidate since the late Senator Joseph McCarthy has better capitalized on the hatred of American voters than Donald Trump .

From June 15, 2015, when he launched his Presidential campaign, until October 24, 2016, Trump fired almost 4,000 angry, insulting tweets at 281 people and institutions that had somehow offended him. 

Donald Trump

The New York Times needed two full pages of its print edition to showcase them. 

Among his targets:

  • Hillary Clinton
  • The New York Times 
  • President Barack Obama
  • CNN
  • Actress Meryl Streep
  • The Washington Post
  • Singer Neil Young
  • Democrats
  • Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger
  • Beauty pageant contestants

And his followers—older, white, fundamentalist and Fascistic—lustily cheered him on.

Others he delighted in insulting included:

  • Women
  • Blacks
  • Hispanics
  • Asians
  • Muslims
  • The disabled
  • Prisoners-of-war

Greed: On August 23, 2018, Trump, as President, openly admitted that he’s “not like other people.” Ignoring his flagrant violations the Constitution, he gave this reason why he shouldn’t be impeached: “I tell you what, if I ever got impeached, I think the market would crash, I think everybody would be very poor.”  

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders echoed this on June 4, 2018:

“Since taking office, the President has strengthened American leadership, security, prosperity, and accountability. And as we saw from Friday’s jobs report, our economy is stronger, Americans are optimistic, and business is booming.”

Susan Page, Washington Bureau Chief for USA TODAY, summed up the popularity of the “Greed Appeal” to voters on the March 13, 2020 edition of “Washington Week in Review”:

“USA Today has conducted a poll about the economic concerns that are out there….And Congress—you’re seeing fear in this country about the economy.

“In fact, when we did this poll this week about how Americans’ lives have been affected by the Coronavirus, people expressed more concern about the economic and financial effect than they did about the health effect

“How many voters have you talked to who said, you know, I don’t really like President Trump’s tweets, but I like what I see happening in my 401(k)?  And when they look at their 401(k) this week, it may not look quite as bright as it did before.”

Fear: From the end of World War II in 1945 to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Enemy of Choice for Republicans was the Communists.

Millions of Americans were so pathologically frightened by “The Red Menace” that any Democratic politician libeled as a “Communist,” “Comsymp,”  “fellow traveler” was considered at least a potential traitor, if not an actual one.

Among the Republican politicians who rode to victory on a wave of Red hysteria: Richard Nixon,  Joseph McCarthy, Spiro Agnew and Newt Gingrich.

Even as late as 1992, President George H.W. Bush and the Republican establishment charged that Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton might be a KGB plant. Their evidence: During his tenure at Oxford University in 1969-70, Clinton had briefly visited Moscow—and thus might have been turned into a “Manchurian Candidate.”

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Right-wingers had to settle for attacking their opponents as “liberals” and “soft on crime.” But these charges didn’t carry the same weight as “Communists” and “traitors.” 

Right-wing voters ignored Donald Trump’s notorious fawning embrace of Russian Communist dictator Vladimir Putin. But they eagerly bought into his attacks on “socialism.” 

Then, on September 11, 2001, Republicans—and their Right-wing supporters—at last found a suitable replacement for the Red Menace: The Maniacal Muslim.

World Trade Center on September 11, 2001

Led by President George W. Bush, Republicans used fear of Muslims to con and bully the nation into a needless, bloody, budget-busting war on Iraq. Seventeen years later, that war continues.

So how can Democrats counter such appeals? 

First, by abandoning the naive belief that “most people are rational and altruistic.”

Second, by making equally ruthless use of appeals to Hatred, Greed and Fear.

For example—Fear: Republicans rely heavily on support from rural America—where fundamentalist religious beliefs hold sway. Instead of ridiculing those beliefs, Democrats—even those who are atheists—should make use of them.

How?

  • By recognizing that fundamentalists believe that hostile weather (such as drought or tornadoes) is a sign of God’s displeasure; and
  • Repeatedly proclaiming that such weather is God’s judgment on a sinful nation for ignoring climate change.

Democrats must closely study the beliefs of their sworn enemies—and learn how to take advantage of them.

For example: Suicide bombers’ attacks in Israel sharply decreased after Israelis started patrolling with bomb-sniffing dogs.

Why?

Islamics believe that dogs are defiling creatures—and that if their blood is mingled with that of a dog, they won’t go to Heaven to claim those 72 willing virgins.

To defeat your enemy, you must learn his weaknesses—and ruthlessly attack them.

REPUBLICANS: BORROWING A PAGE FROM THE NAZIS: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 23, 2021 at 12:09 am

On June 22, 1941, three million German soldiers slashed their way into the Soviet Union. The Third Reich was now locked in a death-struggle with a nation even more powerful than itself. 

During the first six months of the invasion, the Wehrmacht took an estimated 5.7 million Russian prisoners. The Germans imprisoned their captives behind barbed wire and deprived them of food and medical care. 

Between starvation, illness and the brutal Russian cold, at least 3.5 million POWs died in custody.

June 22, 1941. Nazi SOB Hitler invaded the kingdom of the Soviet SOB Stalin. - Album on Imgur

Soviet POWs

Today’s equally Fascistic Republicans have learned a valuable lesson from this: If you simply deprive those you detest of food, clothing and shelter, you don’t need gas chambers or firing squads. 

And that is why they have fervently tried to overturn the Affordable Care Act since it went into effect in 2010.

Republicans actually have two constituencies:

  1. The 1% richest; and
  2. Millions of poor, white, mostly elderly Right-wing men and women.

The richest 1% are too smart to be fobbed off with mere appeals to their hatreds. They demand tangible benefits—such as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which became law on December 22, 2017.

This:

  • Cut the corporate tax rate from 35 to 21 percent;
  • Benefitted overwhelmingly wealthy shareholders and highly-paid executives; and
  • Left behind low- and moderate-income Americans—and in many ways hurt them.

But poor and middle-class Republican voters can be satisfied with appeals to their racism, fear and hatred.

The targets of their hatred include:

  • “Uppity” women
  • Blacks
  • Liberals
  • Hispanics
  • Democrats
  • Asians
  • Muslims
  • The news media

They see government programs as helping those they most detest—especially blacks and Hispanics.

By cutting off their access to the vital necessities of life—food, housing, medical care—the Republican base expects large numbers of them to die off. 

And Republican politicians understand this. Which is why they constantly oppose programs that provide those necessities.

Of course, Republican politicians will never admit this. Their mantra has always been they fear such programs will bankrupt the country.

That claim might have credibility—if they didn’t recklessly plunge into budget-busting wars like the 2003 Iraq war started by President George W. Bush. Not a single Republican opposed this needless, bloody conflict—which has cost the United States more than $1.1 trillion.

But the best evidence of Republicans’ desire to use illness as a weapon against those Americans they hate comes from former President Donald J. Trump. 

Image result for Public domain images of Donald Trump

Donald Trump

On March 27, 2020, during his press briefing, Trump said he told Vice President Mike Pence—then officially in charge of the White House’s Coronavirus response effort—to not call Democratic Governors Jay Inslee (WA) and Gretchen Whitmer (MI) because they weren’t “appreciative” enough of his efforts:

“I tell him—I mean I’m a different type of person—I say, ‘Mike, don’t call the governor in Washington, you’re wasting your time with him. Don’t call the woman in Michigan. If they don’t treat you right, I don’t call.”

Echoing French King Louis X1V’s infamous remark—“I am the State”—Trump added:

“When they’re [governors] not appreciative to me, they’re not appreciative to the Army Corps, they’re not appreciative to FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency]. It’s not right.”

Trump said this even as hospitals in Washington and Michigan were being overwhelmed with Coronavirus patients.

That same day—March 27—Whitmer told a Michigan radio station: “What I’ve gotten back is that vendors with whom we’ve procured contracts—they’re being told not to send stuff to Michigan. It’s really concerning. I reached out to the White House last night and asked for a phone call with the president, ironically at the time this stuff was going on.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (cropped).jpg

Gretchen Whitmer

Julia Pickett / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

A March 29, 2020 story in the Washington Monthly sheds light on what lay behind Whitmer’s inability to secure desperately-needed ventilators from her longtime vendors. Its headline ran: “What If Trump Decides to Save Republicans But Not Democrats?”

And it was followed by a sub-headline: “He’s providing vital resources to red states and ignoring blue states.”

Florida submitted a request to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on March 11 for 430,000 surgical masks, 180,000 N95 respirators, 82,000 face shields and 238,000 gloves—and received a shipment with everything three days later.

It received an identical shipment on March 23, and was soon awaiting a third.

In 2019, Trump demanded a “favor” from the embattled Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky—“dirt” on Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden—in return for releasing military aid Ukraine needed to combat an increasingly aggressive Russia.

During the COVID-19 outbreak, he demanded Democratic governors praise him and blame themselves if they waned their citizens to receive desperately-needed medical supplies.

On Fox News, Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, bluntly told governors: “Take the blame when you have to. When you play with your boss, sometimes it’s better when you don’t win the golf game. He’s the boss, he’s got all the resources.” 

This is precisely the dictatorial arrogance of which Republicans falsely accused President Barack Obama.

The Washington Monthly story concluded on an ominous note: “U.S. democracy wasn’t set up to deal with a president openly behaving like a James Bond villain while being protected by a political party behaving more like a mafia than a civic institution.”

REPUBLICANS: BORROWING A PAGE FROM THE NAZIS: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 22, 2021 at 12:15 am

On June 17, CNN ran a headlined story on its website: “Here’s Why Fighting the Affordable Care Act Means So Much to Republicans.”  

The headline could have been misinterpreted if the reader didn’t know that, for more than 10 years, Republicans had bitterly fought to destroy the Act. 

The story opened: “For the third time in the last nine years — and this time by a convincing 7-2 vote — the Supreme Court knocked out a Republican effort to invalidate” the Act.

The Justices said that the challengers of the law did not have legal “standing” to bring the case.

Opponents of the law were not harmed by the provisions they were challenging, the Justices ruled. The reason: Congressional Republicans had eliminated the penalty for failing to buy health insurance.

Republicans believed that eliminating the penalty would allow them to attack the entire law. They assumed that without the mandate—a pillar of the law when it was passed—the rest of the Act should fall, too.

Thus, the irony: Through their latest effort to destroy the Act by de-funding it, Republicans had unintentionally saved it before the Supreme Court.

U.S. Supreme Court building-m.jpg

The Supreme Court

The law is now providing access to healthcare for a record 31 million Americans, who would not otherwise be able to afford coverage.

In addition, the Act continues to:

  • Eliminate the “pre-existing condition” excuse insurance companies had used to deny coverage to those who most needed it;
  • Provide a range of no-cost preventive services;
  • Allows children to stay on their parents’ insurance up to age 26;
  • Expand the Medicaid program that insures lower-income people access to health insurance markets offering subsidized plans.

“With millions of people relying on the Affordable Care Act for coverage, it remains, as ever, a BFD. And it’s here to stay,” President Joe Biden tweeted that same day.

“BFD” referred to his remark, caught on a hot mic when he told then-President Barack Obama in 2010 the law is a “a big fucking deal.”

Why have Republicans pursued its demise so relentlessly? 

According to the story: “The law represents so much more to Republicans, politically speaking.” 

Specifically: 

“For the GOP base, the ACA is about a view of the country that the government is the answer to all of our problems.

“It’s also tied into their lingering distaste for former President Barack Obama, whose name is literally melded with the law.

“And a belief that the media treated Obama’s ‘if you like your plan, you can keep your plan’ lie and the disastrous rollout (and repeated crashes) of the website allowing people to sign up for a plan with kid gloves because, well, bias.”

Let’s take a quick look at each of these points.

  • Millions of Right-wingers hate the Federal Government and openly call for its overthrow. This they vividly demonstrated on January 6 when they tried to illegally retain Donald Trump as President. They hoped to prevent the selection of Joe Biden as the legitimately-elected President of the United States by storming the Capitol Building.
  • Racism forms a major component of the GOP’s appeal to older, white, Right-wing voters. So having the name of the first black President unofficially stamped on the law (“Obamacare”) serves as a constant spur to their hatred.

Obama standing with his arms folded and smiling.

Barack Obama

  • Obama’s promise that “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan”: The promise backfired because the law stated that those who already had medical insurance could keep their plans—so long as those plans met the requirements of the new healthcare law. If their plans didn’t meet those requirements, they would have to obtain coverage that did
  • The “disastrous rollout (and repeated crashes) of the website”: That happened immediately after the law became effective on March 23, 2010. The sheer rush of uninsured people hoping to finally gain access to medical care proved too much for the website. But over time those bugs got ironed out.

But there is another reason why Republicans lust to destroy the Act—one that the writer did not mention. It is also one that no Republican dares admit.

And like so much else in the Republican agenda, it is rooted in the methods employed by the Third Reich.

On June 22, 1941, German Fuhrer Adolf Hitler sent three million soldiers smashing into the Soviet Union. During the first six months—June to December, 1941—German armies lured huge Soviet forces into gigantic “cauldron battles,” surrounding and exterminating them. 

An estimated 5.7 million prisoners of war fell into German hands. The Germans found themselves surprised and overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of them. But their mandate demanded that they keep marching ever forward.

So they simply imprisoned their captives behind barbed wire and wasted no food or medical care on them. Between starvation, illness and the brutal Russian cold, at least 3.5 million POWs died in custody.

Soviet prisoners of war behind barbed wire at Falstad Camp May 8th 1945. The picture is probably taken after the Norwegian prisoners left the camp. (Photographer: Unknown / The Falstad Centre)

Soviet POW’s

Republicans have learned a serious lesson from this: If you simply deprive those you detest of food, clothing and shelter, you don’t need gas chambers or firing squads. 

And that is why they have fervently tried to overturn the Affordable Care Act since it went into effect in 2010.

“FOR THE PEOPLE” VS. “FOR THE TYRANNY”

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Social commentary on June 10, 2021 at 12:15 am

On June 7, The PBS Newshour examined perhaps the foremost issue of our democracy: The For the People Act.

Since November 3, when former President Donald Trump lost the 2020 Presidential election, he has spread The Big Lie: That the election was “stolen” from him.

On the basis of that lie, in the first three months of this year Republicans in 47 states have introduced 361 bills to make it harder to vote.

Five restrictive bills have already been signed into law—in Georgia, Iowa, Arkansas, and Utah.

The Georgia law:

  • Bans giving food and water to voters in line;
  • Severely restricts mail ballot drop boxes;
  • Allows Right-wing groups to challenge the eligibility of an unlimited number of voters; and
  • Gives the GOP-controlled legislature sweeping powers over election administration.

Other states include:

  • Arizona wants to add new requirements for casting a mail-in ballot and make it harder to receive one. 
  • Florida intends to ban mail ballot drop boxes.
  • Michigan Republicans introduced eight bills adding new voter ID requirements for mail voting and forbidding election officials to send out absentee ballot request forms to voters.

Congressional Democrats have countered with the For the People Act.  Among its provisions:

  • Expand early voting and registration across the country in federal elections;
  • Block states from purging their rolls of voters;
  • End partisan gerrymandering;
  • Force large donors to disclose themselves publicly.

“It is something that is obviously very critical right now,” said  PBS Newshour Correspondent Lisa Lisa Desjardins. “We see rising in this country both sides talking about democracy and voting rights and what’s happening at this moment.

“[West Virginia United States Senator] Joe Manchin…would be the 50th vote that Democrats would have for this in the Senate. They have 49.

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Joe Manchin

“And here’s what he said [on] why he opposed it: ‘I believe that partisan voting legislation will destroy the already weakening binds of our democracy. And for that reason, I will vote against the For the People Act.’

“Notable, he did not have any substantive problems with the bill that he raised. Instead, he said, the issue is there are no Republicans on board. Democrats, of course, have a real problem with that. They say, we think Republicans are going to play games here and block this bill.

“This Manchin decision is a body blow to this legislation. It is not dead yet, but it is in real trouble. It’s unclear if, when [New York Senator] Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader [in the Senate] will bring it back up.”

There has been a great deal of speculation—by Democrats and political correspondents—on Manchin’s motives for opposing this legislation.

Some believe he’s a Right-winger in Democrats’ clothing. Others think he wants to increase his clout on behalf of his state, West Virginia. 

Manchin’s motives, however, are not important. Eliminating his opposition is.

And the man who has the power to do this is President Joe Biden.

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Joe Biden

All that he needs to do is invite Manchin into the Oval Office for an off-the-record talk, which could open like this:

“Your state has two Coast Guard military bases. By this time next week, it will have only one—because I’m going to close down the other. You can also forget about those highway-repair projects you’re expecting to start. And I’ve been informed we have far too many post offices in West Virginia, considering its small population….”

Suddenly, Manchin will get the clear message: “I’m the big dog on this block, not you.”

He will also grasp that his constituents will blame him, not Biden, for the resulting chaos and hardships they face from the upcoming closures. 

This is precisely how President Lyndon B. Johnson dealt with Congressional members who dared oppose his prized legislation. And it worked.

Joe Biden has spent 44 years in Washington, D.C.—as a United States Senator from Delaware from 1973 to 2009; and then as Vice President from 2009 to 2017.

But he seems to have never read Niccolo Machiavelli’s famous warning in The Prince:

Portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli by Santi di Tito.jpg

Niccolo Machiavelli

For how we live is so far removed from how we ought to live, that he who abandons what is done for what ought to be done, will rather learn to bring about his own ruin rather than his preservation.  A man who wishes to make a profession of goodness in everything must inevitably come to grief among so many who are not good. 

And therefore it is necessary for a prince, who wishes to maintain himself, to learn how not to be good, and to use this knowledge and not use it, according to the necessity of the case.

Whatever his motives, Manchin is clearly willing to allow Republicans to suppress the voting rights of millions of non-Fascist Americans.

During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus, saying it was better to temporarily suspend some liberties than to lose the Union to a treasonous Confederate victory. 

President Joe Biden now faces a similar moment of crisis.

Republicans are working to corrupt the democratic process to reinstall a proven criminal and traitor in the Oval Office. This is no time to “fight” a party of Adolf Hitlers with the appeasement tactics of a Neville Chamberlain.

TREASON–PEOPLE WHO NEED TREASON

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on May 24, 2021 at 1:09 am

On November 3, 2020, 81,255,933 Democratic voters elected former Vice President Joseph Biden the 46th President of the United States.

President Donald J. Trump, running for a second term, got 74,196,153 votes. Biden also won decisively in the Electoral College: 306 votes to 232 for Trump.

Yet more than two months after the election, Trump refused to concede, insisting that he won—and repeatedly claiming falsely that he was the victim of massive vote fraud.

Immediately after the election, Trump ordered his attorneys to file lawsuits to overturn the election results.

Throughout November and December, cases were filed in Wisconsin, Arizona, Nevada, Michigan, Minnesota and Georgia challenging the election results. None were supported by evidence of fraud—as even Trump’s lawyers admitted when questioned by judges.

On November 13, nine cases attacking President-Elect Joe Biden’s win in key states were denied or dropped. A law firm challenging the vote count in Pennsylvania withdrew from the effort.

By November 21, more than 30 cases were withdrawn by Trump’s attorneys or dismissed by Federal judges—some of them appointed by Trump himself.

Ultimately, from November 3 to December 14, Trump and his allies lost 59 times in court, either withdrawing cases or having them dismissed by Federal and state judges.

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Donald Trump

On November 19, losing in the courts, Trump invited two Republican legislative leaders from Michigan to the White House. The reason: To persuade them to stop the state from certifying the vote.

The Michigan legislators said they would follow the law.

On December 5, Trump called Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and asked him to call a special legislative session and convince state legislators to select their own electors that would support him, thus overturning Biden’s win.

Kemp refused, saying he lacked the authority to do so.

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Brian Kemp

On December 8, the Supreme Court refused to hear Trump’s bid to reverse Pennsylvania’s certification of Biden’s victory.

Representative Mike Kelly (R-PA), a Trump ally, argued that the state’s 2.5 million mail-in votes were unconstitutional.

The Court’s order read, “The application for injunctive relief presented to Justice [Samuel] Alito and by him referred to the Court is denied.”

Although Trump had appointed three of the Court’s Justices, not one of them dissented. 

On December 8, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed his own lawsuit at the Supreme Court. A Trump ally, Paxton has been indicted on felony securities fraud charges. 

In Texas v. Pennsylvania, he alleged that Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin violated the United States Constitution by changing election procedures through non-legislative means.

On December 10, the Supreme Court refused to hear the case. 

“Texas has not demonstrated a judicially cognizable interest in the manner in which another state conducts its elections,” the court said without further comment. It dismissed all other related claims as moot.

Seventeen Republican state Attorney Generals—and 126 Republican members of Congress—supported the lawsuit. They did so in an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief. 

They feared Trump’s fanatical base would “primary” them if they didn’t publicly declare their loyalty—to a man they knew was slated to leave office within two months.

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The Supreme Court

Had the Court acted on Paxton’s request, the results for democracy would have been catastrophic. 

“Texas seeks to invalidate elections in four states for yielding results with which it disagrees,” Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro told the justices in legal papers. 

“Its request for this court to exercise its original jurisdiction and then anoint Texas’s preferred candidate for president is legally indefensible and is an affront to principles of constitutional democracy. 

“The court should not abide this seditious abuse of the judicial process, and should send a clear and unmistakable signal that such abuse must never be replicated,” 

The outcome of the 2020 Presidential election marked the first time a losing candidate tried to overturn the will of millions of American voters.

It also marked the first time that state Attorney Generals and members of Congress tried to overturn the results of a Presidential election.

The signers represented nearly two-thirds of the House GOP.

Among them: The House’s top two Republicans: Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.),

Only 70 Republican House members refused to sign the brief.

By December 11, 2020, only 23 Republicans in Congress—14 Representatives and nine Senators—had acknowledged Biden’s victory.

On January 6, Trump instigated an attack on the Capitol Building to stop the counting of Electoral College votes, which was certain to prove Biden the winner.

Despite this, Republican members of Congress continued trying to throw the election Trump’s way.  

Six Republicans in the Senate and 121 in the House backed objections to certifying Arizona’s electoral outcome. Seven Republicans in the Senate and 138 in the House supported an objection to certifying Pennsylvania’s electoral outcome.

Not since the American Civil War (1861-1865) has the United States seen a more blatant—and deadly—case of sedition.

In 1861, 11 Senators and three Representatives were expelled from Congress for refusing to recognize Abraham Lincoln’s election—and supporting insurrection. 

Democrats need to summon the same courage and ruthlessness against their sworn enemies.

Trump’s refusal to admit that he lost fuels the danger of another attack on Congress and/or President Biden.

He—and his Republican accomplices—must be forcibly taught there are penalties for treason.

DE-REGULATION: LET PREDATORS BE PREDATORS

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on May 21, 2021 at 12:09 am

This December 2 will mark the 20th anniversary of the death of a criminal empire. An empire that almost destroyed the Western United States.

The Enron Corporation.

Based in Houston, Texas, Enron had employed 22,000 staffers and was one of the world’s leading electricity, natural gas, communications and paper companies.

In 2000, it claimed revenues of nearly $101 billion. Fortune had named Enron “America’s Most Innovative Company” for six consecutive years.

But then the truth emerged in 2001: Enron’s reported profitability was based not on brilliance and innovation but on systematic and creative accounting fraud.

And, on December 2, 2001, Enron filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy  Code.

Enron’s $63.4 billion in assets made it the largest corporate bankruptcy in U.S. history—until WorldCom’s bankruptcy in 2002.

The California electricity crisis (2000-2001) was caused by extortionate market manipulations and illegal shutdowns of pipelines by Texas energy companies.

California suffered from multiple large-scale blackouts. Pacific Gas & Electric, one of the state’s largest energy companies, collapsed, and the economic fall-out greatly harmed Governor Gray Davis’ standing.

The crisis was made possible by Governor Pete Wilson, who had forced the passage of partial de-regulation legislation in 1996. 

Enron seized its opportunity to inflate prices and manipulate energy output in California’s spot markets. The crisis cost the state $40 to $45 billion.

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The true scandal of Enron was not that it was eventually destroyed by its own greed.

The true scandal was that its leaders were never Federally prosecuted for almost driving California—and the entire Western United States—into bankruptcy.

Under the pro-oil company administration of George W. Bush, no such prosecutions ever occurred. But Americans had a right to expect such redress under “liberal” President Bill Clinton.

Once the news broke that Enron had filed for bankruptcy, commentators almost universally oozed compassion for its thousands of employees who would lose their salaries and pensions.

No one, however, condemned the “profits at any cost” dedication of those same employees for pushing California to the brink of ruin.

To put this in historical perspective:

  • Imagine a historian writing about the destruction of Adolf Hitler’s Schutzstaffel (Guard Detachment), or SS, as a human interest tragedy.
  • Imagine its Reichsfuehrer, Heinrich Himmler, being blamed for failing to prevent its collapse—as CEO Kenneth Lay was blamed for Enron’s demise.
  • Imagine that same historian completely ignoring the horrific role the SS had played throughout Nazi-occupied countries—and its primary role in slaughtering six million Jews in the Holocaust.  

Nor did anyone in the media or government declare that the solution to such extortionate activity lay within the United States Department of Justice via RICO—the Federal Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act.

Seal of the United States Department of Justice.svg

Passed by Congress in 1970, this was originally aimed at the kingpins of the Mafia. Since the mid-1980s, however, RICO has been successfully applied against both terrorist groups and legitimate businesses engaged in criminal activity.

Under RICO, people financially injured by a pattern of criminal activity can bring a claim in State or Federal court, and obtain damages at three times the amount of their actual claim, plus reimbursement for their attorneys’ fees and costs.

Such prosecutions would have pitted energy-extortionists against the full investigative might of the FBI and the sweeping legal  authority of the Justice Department.

Consider this selection from the opening of the Act:

(1) “racketeering activity” means (A) any act or threat involving…extortion; (B) any act which is indictable under any of the following provisions of title 18, United States Code: sections 891-894 (relating to extortionate credit transactions), section 1343 (relating to wire fraud)Section 1344 (relating to financial institution fraud), section 1951 (relating to interference with commerce, robbery, or extortion), section 1952 (relating to racketeering)….

With the 20th anniversary of Enron’s demise coming up, the mantra of “de-regulation” should be ruthlessly turned against those who have most ardently championed it.

Republicans have ingeniously dubbed the estate tax—which affects only a tiny minority of ultra-rich—“the death tax.” This makes it appear to affect everyone.

With the 2022 midterm elections fast approaching, Democrats should recast de-regulation thus:

“Greed Relief” 

“Greed Protection” 

“Legalized Extortion” 

And here are some possible slogans: 

“The Energy Industry: Giving You the Best Congress Money Can Buy.” 

“De-regulation: Let Criminals Be Criminals.”

The coal industry has pumped millions into TV ads touting the non-existent wonders of “clean coal.” And Chevron has spent millions assuring us that all its profits go strictly toward making the world a better place for others. (Presumably not a penny is left for its altruistic executives.)

When faced with such outright lying by the most vested of financial interests, it’s well to recall the warning given by Niccolo Machiavelli more than 500 years ago:

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.

REPUBLICANS: 9/11 COMMISSION, YES; CAPITOL TREASON COMMISSION, NO: PART FOUR (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on May 20, 2021 at 6:58 pm

So why are Republicans unwilling to admit what millions saw on their TVs on January 6: That a mob of Stormtrumpers attacked and invaded the United States Capitol Building?

On the May 14 edition of the PBS program, Washington Week, Manu Raju, CNN’s Chief Congressional correspondent, provided the answer: 

“This is a party that is dominated still by the former president, that has such a strong attachment, a connection to the Republican base….There are really only a handful of Republicans who are in the same position of  [Representative Liz] Cheney [R-WY] about calling out the [former] President and calling out his lies, which is why she got ultimately pushed out.

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Liz Cheney

“The fight has caused a distraction for Republicans, because this moment she starts questioning the election and starts questioning Donald Trump’s saying that the election was stolen or rigged, then her colleagues are forced to answer questions about what they believe. 

“And what they don’t want to say is that the election was legitimate, because if they do that, then they get hammered by Donald Trump. So then they suggest that there’s some sort of irregularities, or anomalies, or variances, or something amiss in the election without really any evidence to back that up. 

“And that puts them on the opposite side of the facts, and that ultimately is a position that Republican leaders just do not want to be on.” 

Washington Week host Yamiche Alcindor: “There is this sort of deal to form this January 6th commission, but [House Minority Leader] Kevin McCarthy [R-CA] is saying he’s concerned about the scope.”  

“There was a bipartisan agreement announced [May 14] on this commission to investigate what happened on January 6th,” replied Kasie Hunt, Capitol Hill Correspondent for NBC News. 

“Cheney did an interview with ABC News…where she said that she expects….Kevin McCarthy potentially to get subpoenaed to testify during—in the course of that commission investigation….

“And there are some questions about what transpired when [McCarthy] called [Trump]—who, of course, was then in the Oval Office on January 6th—and said to him, ‘Please call off your people, they’ve invaded the Capitol.’  

“And of course, McCarthy has really changed how he has approached the narrative of January 6th in the intervening months. It didn’t actually take very long….I think it’s something that clearly many Republicans are nervous about this commission. 

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Kevin McCarthy

“They got some concessions. It’s going to be evenly split. And while they’ll have subpoena power, Republicans will effectively be able to veto subpoenas if they want to.”

Nineteen years ago, Republicans were thrilled to establish a bipartisan commission.

The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States—also known as the 9/11 Commission—was set up on November 27,2002. It consisted of five Democrats and five Republicans.

Its mission: Investigate the events that led to the worst terrorist attack in American history..

On September 11, 2001, 19 Islamic highjackers had slammed two jetliners into the World Trade Center in New York and one into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

World Trade Center – September 11, 2001

A fourth plane, headed for the White House or Capitol Building, failed to reach its target when its passengers rioted—and the highjackers dove it into a Pennsylvania field.

Three thousand Americans died in one day.

The commission’s final report blamed the CIA and FBI for their lack of aggressiveness in failing to prevent the attacks. 

Republicans eagerly joined the commission—there was no downside. America was fearful of another major attack—and anxious to beef up its security. And Osama bin Laden—the mastermind of the attack—was an exotic figure, at once menacing and alien.

Not so with a commission investigating Right-wing treason.

According to a March 30-31 Reuters/Ipsos poll:

  • About half of Republicans believe the Capitol attack was largely a non-violent protest—or the handiwork of left-wing activists “trying to make Trump look bad.”
  • Six in 10 Republicans believe Trump’s false claim that victory in the November election “was stolen” from him by widespread voter fraud.
  • The same proportion of Republicans think he should run again in 2024.
  • While 59% of all Americans say Trump bears some responsibility for the attack, only three in 10 Republicans agree.

In an interview with Fox News, Trump said the rioters posed “zero threat.”

Other prominent Republicans, such as Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson, have publicly doubted whether Trump supporters were behind the riot. They blame Antifa—despite the all-white crowd sporting “TRUMP” flags and red MAGA caps.

In March, 12 Republicans in the House of Representatives voted against a resolution honoring Capitol Police officers who defended the grounds during the attack. One lawmaker objected to using the word “insurrection” to describe the attack.

There is a reason why most Republicans refuse to admit that:

  • Joe Biden was legitimately elected; and
  • Donald Trump’s followers attacked the Capitol to prevent his certification as the winner.

They fear that if they speak the truth, it will infuriate Trump. And if he attacks them, his fanatical base will desert them at the polls.

They want to retain their positions—and all the power and perks these bring them. For that, they will sacrifice truth and betray the Constitution they have sworn to defend.

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