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Posts Tagged ‘FOX & FRIENDS’

WHO WAS MORE OFFENSIVE?

In Bureaucracy, Entertainment, History, Humor, Politics, Social commentary on May 2, 2018 at 12:10 am

On April 28, comedian Michelle Wolf skewered high-ranking Trump administration officials and members of the nation’s elite media.

She did so as the host of the annual White House Correspondents Dinner in Washington, D.C.

Traditionally, it’s been an occasion where Washington’s political and media elites enjoy dinner and trade barbed quips at one another.

But President Donald Trump chose to skip the dinner in 2017 and 2018. Trump—who repeatedly  insults others—is too thin-skinned to accept even harmless jokes aimed at him.

That, however, didn’t deter Wolf. And she served up a series of barbed jokes aimed at the greed, deceit and hypocrisy of high-ranking Trump administration officials.

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Michelle Wolf

For which, she has herself been attacked by defenders of the Right-wing Trump administration and some of the nation’s most prominent media.

Tyler O’Neil, a Right-wing commentator for PJ Media, was outraged at Wolf’s comparing White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to Aunt Lydia in the Hulu series, The Handmaid’s Tale.

“The premise of The Handmaid’s Tale, and the suggestion that Trump or anyone associated with him would ever countenance such a hateful submission of women, is bad enough,” wrote O’Neil, “but Wolf arguably compared Sarah Huckabee Sanders to the worst character in the novel and show.

“Aunt Lydia, played excellently by Ann Dowd, is not just part of the oppressive regime – she is the enforcer. She patrols the quarters of the ‘handmaids’ to ensure silence, she assigns handmaids to watch one another, and she leads the handmaids to carry out brutal punishments to anyone who steps out of line.”

The Trump administration has mercilessly attacked Planned Parenthood and championed rules allowing employers to not cover birth control on their insurance plans. Trump himself has said “there has to be some form of punishment” for women who get abortions. 

“Unfortunately, I don’t think we advanced the cause of journalism tonight,” said Peter Baker, an MSNBC analyst and chief White House correspondent for The New York Times.

As Ben Bagdikian, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporter, said in arguing for the Post to publish the Pentagon Papers in 1971: “The only way to assert the right to publish is to publish.”  Freedom of the press is not advanced by sucking up to those who—like Sarah Huckabee Sanders—routinely lie to reporters.

Much of the criticism aimed at Wolf centered on her joke about Sanders: “I actually really like [Press Secretary] Sarah [Huckabee Sanders]. I think she’s very resourceful. She burns facts and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smoky eye. Like maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s lies. It’s probably lies.”

“That [Sanders] sat and absorbed intense criticism of her physical appearance, her job performance, and so forth, instead of walking out, on national television, was impressive,” the New York Times‘s Maggie Haberman tweeted.

SarahHuckabeeSanders.jpg

Sarah Huckabee Sanders

Trump himself has repeatedly attacked women, often for their physical appearance.  Among these:

  • Hillary Clinton: “If Hillary Clinton can’t satisfy her husband what makes her think she can satisfy the country?”
  • Carly Fiorina:” Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?!” 
  • Megyn Kelly: “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her wherever.” 

And Sanders has blatantly lied countless times on behalf of Trump.  Among these: 

  • “Everybody acts like President Trump is the one that came up with this idea. …There are multiple news outlets that have reported former President Barack Obama ordered wiretapping on Trump.”  [In fact, Trump started this issue with his specific and libelous tweet.
  • “I can definitely say the president is not a liar. It’s frankly insulting that question would be asked.” [In fact, by January 10, 2018, the Washington Post reported: “Since taking office, President Trump has made 2,436 false or misleading claims and flip-flops.”]

“The reason [Sanders] does that is because her job is contingent upon her being a serial congenital liar in defense of Donald Trump’s latest outrages,” said GOP strategist Rick Wilson in November, 2017.  

“She goes out and she tries to bury people in an avalanche of horseshit everyday, because this is her job.” 

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Rick Wilson

Mercedes Schlapp, a White House senior communications adviser, took to the Fox Network—the unofficial propaganda arm of the Republican party—to voice her outrage at Wolf. 

Schlapp and her husband had stormed out of the correspondents dinner in protest. She told “Fox & Friends” that Wolf’s jokes were “so incredibly disrespectful.”

Dean Obeidallah, a columnist for The Daily Beast, responded: The way I see it, a person in the Trump administration saying something was ‘disrespectful’ while defending a man who bragged on the ‘Access Hollywood’ tape about grabbing women by the pu**y, has demonized Muslims and Mexicans and mocked a disabled reporter is truly hilarious.”

And as comedy writer Nell Scovell put it: Comedians are stepping up in a way that journalists aren’t—as in Wolfe’s jokes about Sanders’ lying.

“If the job of journalism is to get at the truth,” said Scovell, “they need to do a better job.”

WHEN NEGOTIATIONS FAIL, TRY “THE KGB METHOD”

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 2, 2018 at 12:14 am

On December 1, 2015, Donald Trump laid out his approach to “hostage negotiation.”

He did so during an appearance on “Fox & Friends.”  

One of the hosts of the Fox News program asked him about minimizing civilian casualties. And Trump replied: 

“I would do my best—absolute best.  I mean, one of the problems that we have and one of the reasons we’re so ineffective is they’re using [civilians] as shields—it’s a horrible thing. They’re using them as shields. But we’re fighting a very politically correct war.

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Donald Trump

“And the other thing is with the terrorists, you have to take out their families. When you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families. They care about their lives, don’t kid yourself. But they say they don’t care about their lives. You have to take out their families.”

That was precisely the approach the KGB took in 1981 when “negotiating” with Islamic hostage-takers.

It’s in direct contrast to the methods used by American hostage-negotiators.

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, American law enforcement agencies began creating Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams. These units were armed with automatic weapons and trained to enter barricaded buildings. They were also given special training in hostage negotiation.

Their men came from the most physically and mentally fit officers of those departments.  And the police departments whose SWAT teams were universally recognized as the best were the LAPD and NYPD. 

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A SWAT team

The first commandment for American SWAT teams—local, state and Federal—is: Don’t try to enter a barricaded area unless (1) hostages’ lives are directly at risk; and (2) there is no other way to effect their rescue.

Even if hostages are murdered before a SWAT team arrives on the scene, officers will usually try to enter into negotiations with their captors. They will send in food and other comfort items in hopes of persuading the criminals to surrender peacefully.

These negotiations can last for hours or days—so long as police feel there’s a chance of success. If, however, police feel that hostages are about to be killed, they will storm the enclosure.

But there is another way agencies can try to rescue hostages. It might be called, “The KGB Method.”

The KGB served as a combination secret police/paramilitary force throughout the 74-year life of the Soviet Union. Its name (“Committee for State Security”) has changed several times since its birth in 1917: Cheka, NKVD, MGB, KGB.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the establishment of the Russian Federation, its name was officially changed to the FSB (Federal Security Service).

By any name, this is an agency known for its brutality and ruthlessness. The numbers of its victims literally run into the millions.

On September 30 1985, four attaches from the Soviet Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, were kidnapped by men linked to Hizbollah (“Party of God”), the Iranian-supported terrorist group.

The kidnappers sent photos of the four men to Western news agencies. Each captive was shown with an automatic pistol pressed to his head.

The militants demanded that Moscow pressure pro-Syrian militiamen to stop shelling the pro-Iranian militia in Lebanon’s northern port city of Tripoli.

And they threatened to execute the four Soviet captives, one by one, unless this demand was met.

The Soviet Union began negotiations with the kidnappers, but could not secure a halt to the shelling of Tripoli.

Only two days after the kidnappings, the body of Arkady Katov, a 30-year-old consular secretary, was found in a Beirut trash dump.  He had been shot through the head.

That was when the KGB took over negotiations.


Insignia of the KGB

They kidnapped a man known to be a close relative of a prominent Hizbollah leader. Then they castrated him, stuffed his testicles in his mouth, shot him in the head, and sent the body back to Hizbollah.

With the body was a note: We know the names of other close relatives of yours, and the same will happen to them if our diplomats are not released immediately.

Soon afterward, the remaining three Soviet attaches were released only 150 yards from the Soviet Embassy.

Hizbollah telephoned a statement to news agencies claiming that the release was a gesture of “goodwill.”

In Washington, D.C., then-CIA Director William Casey decided that the Soviets knew the language of Hizbollah.

Both the United States and Israel—the two nations most commonly targeted for terrorist kidnappings—have elite Special Forces units.

Military hostage-rescue units operate differently from civilian ones. They don’t care about taking alive hostage-takers for later trials. The result is usually a pile of dead hostage-takers.

These Special Forces could be ordered to similarly kidnap the relatives of whichever Islamic terrorist leaders are responsible for the latest outrages.

Ordering such action would instantly send an unmistakable message to Islamic terrorist groups: Screw with us at your own immediate peril.  And at the peril of those you most hold dear.

In the United States, such elite units as the U.S. Navy SEALS, Green Berets and Delta Force stand ready.  They require only the orders.

PUTIN OUT THE HITS?: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics on September 15, 2016 at 12:10 am

Right-wing websites and networks are gleefully buzzing with theories about the state of Hillary Clinton’s health.

The former First Lady, New York U.S. Senator and Secretary of State collapsed after briefly attending a memorial ceremony on the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

The unsubstantiated theories include stroke, brain damage, Multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.  

But there’s one theory Right-wingers scrupulously refuse to offer: That Clinton might be a victim of poisoning by Donald Trump’s well-known admirer, Vladimir Putin.

It’s a theory that has been offered by no less than Bennet Ifeakandu Omalu, the Nigerian-American physician, forensic pathologist and neuropathologist who was the first to discover and publish findings of chronic traumatic encephalopathy  (CTE) in American football players. 

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Bennet Ifeakandu Omalu

His struggle to alert the National Football League to that danger met with hostility and derision. Finally, amid growing scrutiny from Congress, the NFL was forced to take the concussion issue more seriously.

NFL owners banned players from striking opponents with the crowns of their helmets.  Meanwhile, the NFL is facing concussion lawsuits from nearly 4,000 former players.  

On September 11, a Clinton rep stated that she was suffering from pneumonia–and Omalu warned on Twitter: “I must advice the Clinton campaign to perform toxicologic analysis of Mrs. Clinton’s blood. It is possible she is being poisoned.”  

And he followed this up with a second tweet: “I do not trust Mr. Putin and Mr. Trump.  With those two all things are possible.”  

At this point, there is no evidence that Hillary Clinton is the victim of KGB “wet” methods.  And it would take lengthy, sophisticated toxicology tests to hopefully learn the truth.  

But there is plenty of evidence that Vladimir Putin has used murder–especially poison–to eliminate his opponents.

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Vladimir Putin

Putin came to power in 2000. Since then, at least 34 journalists have been murdered in Russia, according to the Moscow-based Glasnost Defense Foundation. Many of the suspected killers are military officials, government officials or political groups.

Being a political opponent of Vladimir Putin can also be dangerous.  Among the casualties:

Viktor Yushchenko: In 2004, he was running for president of the Ukraine against Putin’s chosen candidate, Victor Yanukovych.

As the campaign neared its climax, Yushchenko suddenly fell ill–with dioxin poisoning. Flown to Vienna’s Rudolfinerhaus clinic for treatment, he survived, but his face was left greatly disfigured. He went on to win the election, serving as Ukraine’s president from 2005 to 2010.

Aleksandr Litvinenko: A former KGB officer, he had accused Putin of wholesale corruption. Even worse, he charged that–as a pretext for a second war with Chechnya–Putin ordered the bombings of Moscow apartment buildings, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of people.  

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Aleksandr Litvinenko  

Litvinenko died on November 23, 2006 in London from a dose of Polonium-210 in his tea. At the time, he was meeting with two Moscow agents, one of whom is now a member of the State Duma. 

Boris Nemtsov: An official with a liberal opposition group, he had been arrested several times for speaking against Putin’s government.

Nemtsov had been scheduled to lead an opposition rally in Moscow. But on February 27, 2015, two days before the event, he was shot dead as he walked home from dinner. The killing happened a short distance from the Kremlin.

If Hillary Clinton proved to have a serious medical condition such as Parkinson’s or Multiple sclerosis, the results would be tragic but strictly national.

Mounting pressure within and outside the Democratic party would force her to drop out of the race. 

There would be a brief, furious struggle within the Democratic party for the nomination–most likely between Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders and Tim Kaine, Clinton’s choice for Vice President. The winner would face Donald Trump in the coming debates and fall election. 

And the Clintons–a force in American politics since 1992–would finally leave the national stage.

But if Hillary is a victim of a KGB assassination attempt, as Dr. Bennet Omalu suspects, then the consequences would be national and international.  

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Hillary Clinton

Nationally, such a discovery would almost certainly generate huge sympathy for Clinton–a woman singularly unable to arouse sympathy among voters. That alone could ensure her election as President.  

And even Americans who hate Clinton would never forgive Russia for daring to interfere with an American Presidential election. They would demand severe retaliation–even all-out war.

For Trump, it would prove a nightmare. He’s made too many admiring statements about Putin to disavow them now and be believed.  

National outrage followed in July when Trump invited Putin to “find the 30,000 emails that are missing” on the private server that Clinton used as Secretary of State.

If Clinton died–or was simply injured–because of a KGB plot, few would believe Trump wasn’t a party to it.

And several of Trump’s closest associates have had ties to Putin, such as his former campaign manager Paul Manafort.

Even many Republicans have already declared they can’t support Trump in abandoning NATO–much less his clear admiration for Putin, a dictator who got his start as a KGB agent. 

At his first press conference upon becoming President, Ronald Reagan harshly denounced Soviet leaders: “They reserve unto themselves the right to commit any crime, to lie, to cheat.”

A KGB plot against Hillary Clinton would convince many Americans that Republican leaders have become as corrupt as those in the Kremlin.

PUTIN OUT THE HITS?: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics on September 14, 2016 at 12:09 am

September 11 marked the 15th anniversary of the worst terrorist attack in American history.

The date when, in 2001, two highjacked, fuel-laden jetliners slammed into the “twin towers” of the World Trade Center in New York City and a third crashed into the Pentagon in  Washington, D.C. 

A fourth, intended for the White House or Capitol Building, was prevented from doing so by the heroic resistance of its passengers. The highjackers crashed it into a field in Pennsylvania.

World Trade Center on September 11, 2001

For Hillary Clinton, former First Lady and Secretary of State, and now the Democratic party’s Presidential nominee, this was to be a day of memorial events.

Instead, it turned out to be her worst nightmare as a Presidential candidate.

Scheduled to attend a 9/11 ceremony in New York City, she cut short her appearance around 9:30 a.m. because she felt “overheated,” according to campaign spokesman Nick Merrill.

Amateur video captured Clinton struggling to stand and needing help to enter her Secret Service van. A woman held Clinton’s left arm as the van approached. Then two men grabbed both of her arms as her knees buckled.

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Hillary Clinton being helped into her van

Shortly before noon, Clinton left the apartment of her daughter, Chelsea. Wearing sunglasses, she waved to diners at a nearby restaurant.

“I’m feeling great, it’s a beautiful day in New York,” she said. Then she headed to her home in Chappaqua.

The official statement given by her campaign went:

“Secretary Clinton attended the September 11th Commemoration Ceremony for just an hour and thirty minutes this morning to pay her respects and greet some of the families of the fallen. During the ceremony, she felt overheated so departed to go to her daughter’s apartment, and is feeling much better.”

Several hours later, her doctor announced that Clinton was suffering from pneumonia.

Throughout the campaign, Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump has attacked her mental and physical and fitness to be President.

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Donald Trump

The 9/11 incident has hugely amplified those questions–and concerns. She not only abruptly left the ceremony, but nobody in her campaign told reporters traveling with her about her condition or whereabouts for 90 minutes after she left the ceremony. 

In 2015, Clinton, then 67, released a two-page letter from her doctor stating that she was in good health despite a blood clot and a 2012 concussion. 

But that hasn’t prevented conspiracy theorists from flooding the Internet that she is stricken with a vast array of unsubstantiated ailments, such as:

  • Multiple sclerosis 
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Brain damage
  • Stroke
  • Brain cancer
  • Post-Concussion Syndrome

The Right has salivated over the prospect of its longtime rival being yanked off the political stage, as it were, by a shepherd’s crook of deteriorating health. 

Among these celebrations:

The National Enquirer: “Failing health and a deadly thirst for power are driving Hillary Clinton to an early grave.” The article–dated September 30, 2015–claimed she would be dead in six months.

Fox & Friends: Hosts Brian Kilmeade and Steve Doocy claimed that Clinton’s glasses proved “a sign of brain damage and other things.” 

InfoWars: “Coughing can be a symptom of so many different illnesses…it is interesting to note that it happens to be one of the symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease.”

Hannity: Fox News Medical Correspondent Dr. Marc Siegel said that a video showing Clinton laughing with reporters suggested that she might be having a “mini-seizure.” Siegel added that Clinton might still suffer from “post-concussion syndrome”–after a 2012 concussion–which could affect balance, impair memory and cause dizziness.

Yet there is one conspiracy theory that is conspicuously absent from Right-wing websites and networks.  

And this is because it points to a connection that Republicans–and especially Donald Trump–want to ignore.

The ties between Trump and Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.  

Vladimir Putin

Putin’s admiration for Trump is no secret.  

“He is a bright personality, a talented person, no doubt about it. It is not up to us to appraise his positive sides, it is up to the U.S. voters. but, as we can see, he is an absolute leader in the presidential race. 

“He is saying that he wants to move to a different level of relations with Russia, to a closer, deeper one. How can we not welcome that?  Of course, we welcome that.”

Nor is Trump’s admiration for Putin. 

“It is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond.”  

Appearing on the December 18, 2015 edition of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Trump said of Putin: “He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader. Unlike what we have in this country.” 

When Trump praised Putin as a leader–“unlike what we have in this country”–he meant President Barack Obama. 

But Putin may have serious reasons for flattering Trump.  

Trump believes the United States is paying too much of the money needed to maintain the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance. He wants other members to contribute far more. He has said that, unless they do, under a Trump Presidency, they would be on their own if attacked by Russia. 

The withdrawal of the United States from NATO would instantly render that alliance kaput.

For Putin, this clearly signals a reason to prefer Trump to Clinton. 

DONALD TRUMP AND “THE KGB METHOD”

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on December 3, 2015 at 12:05 am

Donald Trump is a staunch anti-Communist.  So it might seem surprising that he would favor a “hostage negotiation” method used by the KGB.

Yet that is what he proposed during a December 1 appearance on “Fox & Friends.”

There Trump offered his latest take on how to deal with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Donald August 19 (cropped).jpg

Donald Trump

One of the hosts of the Fox News program asked him about minimizing civilian casualties. And Trump replied:

“I would do my best–absolute best.  I mean, one of the problems that we have and one of the reasons we’re so ineffective is they’re using [civilians] as shields–it’s a horrible thing.  They’re using them as shields. But we’re fighting a very politically correct war.

“And the other thing is with the terrorists, you have to take out their families. When you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families. They care about their lives, don’t kid yourself. But they say they don’t care about their lives. You have to take out their families.”

That was precisely the approach the KGB took in 1981 when “negotiating” with Islamic hostage-takers.

It’s in direct contrast to the methods used by American hostage-negotiators.

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, American law enforcement agencies began creating Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams. These units were armed with automatic weapons and trained to enter barricaded buildings.  They were also given special training in hostage negotiation.

Their men came from the most physically and mentally fit officers of those departments.  And the police departments whose SWAT teams were universally recognized as the best were the LAPD and NYPD.

 

The first commandment for American SWAT teams–local, state and Federal–is: Don’t try to enter a barricaded area unless (1) hostages’ lives are directly at risk; and (2) there is no other way to effect their rescue.

Even if hostages are murdered before a SWAT team arrives on the scene, officers will usually try to enter into negotiations with their captors.  They will send in food and other comfort items in hopes of persuading the criminals to surrender peacefully.

These negotiations can last for hours or days–so long as police feel they have a chance of success.

But there is another way agencies can try to rescue hostages.  It might be called, “The KGB Method.”

The KGB served as a combination secret police/paramilitary force throughout the 74-year life of the Soviet Union.  Its name (“Commitee for State Security”) has changed several times since its birth in 1917: Cheka, NKVD, MGB and KGB.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the formation of the Russian Federation, its name was officially changed to the FSB (Federal Security Service).

By any name, this is an agency known for its brutality and ruthlessness.  The numbers of its victims literally run into the millions.

On September 30 1985, four attaches from the Soviet Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, were kidnapped by men linked to Hizbollah (“Party of God”), the Iranian-supported terrorist group.

The kidnappers sent photos of the four men to Western news agencies.  Each captive was shown with an automatic pistol pressed to his head.

The militants demanded that Moscow pressure pro-Syrian militiamen to stop shelling the pro-Iranian militia in Lebanon’s northern port city of Tripoli.

And they threatened to execute the four Soviet captives, one by one, unless this demand was met.

The Soviet Union began negotiations with the kidnappers, but could not secure a halt to the shelling of Tripoli.

Only two days after the kidnappings, the body of Arkady Katov, a 30-year-old consular secretary, was found in a Beirut trash dump.  He had been shot through the head.

That was when the KGB took over negotiations.


Insignia of the KGB

They kidnapped a man known to be a close relative of a prominent Hizbollah leader. Then they castrated him, stuffed his testicles in his mouth, shot him in the head, and sent the body back to Hizbollah.

With the body was a note: We know the names of other close relatives of yours, and the same will happen to them if our diplomats are not released immediately.

Soon afterward, the remaining three Soviet attaches were released only 150 yards from the Soviet Embassy.

Hizbollah telephoned a statement to news agencies claiming that the release was a gesture of “goodwill.”

In Washington, D.C., then-CIA Director William Casey decided that the Soviets knew the language of Hizbollah.

Click here: Hostages? No Problem Soviets Offer ‘How-to’ Lesson In Kidnapping – Philly.com

Both the United States and Israel–the two nations most commonly targeted for terrorist kidnappings–have elite Special Forces units.

Military hostage-rescue units operate differently from civilian ones.  They don’t care about taking alive hostage-takers for later trials.  The result is usually a pile of dead hostage-takers.

These Special Forces could be ordered to similarly kidnap the relatives of whichever Islamic terrorist leaders are responsible for the latest outrages.

Ordering such action would instantly send an unmistakable message to Islamic terrorist groups: Screw with us at your own immediate peril.

In the United States, such elite units as the U.S. Navy SEALS, Green Berets and Delta Force stand ready.  They require only the orders.

LIKE NAZIS, LIKE REPUBLICANS: PART FIVE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on October 6, 2015 at 12:18 am

In April, 2011, the United States government almost shut down over Republican demands about subsidized pap smears.

During a late-night White House meeting with President Barack Obama and key Congressional leaders, Republican House Speaker John Boehner threatened:

His conference would not approve funding for the government if any money were allowed to flow to Planned Parenthood through Title X legislation.

Facing an April 8 deadline, negotiators worked relentlessly to strike a compromise–and finally reached one.

Three months later–on July 9–Republican extortionists again threatened the Nation with financial ruin and international disgrace unless their demands were met.

Sign of the Black Hand extortion gang

President Obama had offered to make historic cuts in the federal government and the social safety net–on which millions of Americans depend for their most basic needs.

But House Speaker John Boehner rejected that offer. He could not agree to the tax increases that Democrats wanted to impose on the wealthiest 1% as part of the bargain.

Republican House Speaker John Boehner

As the calendar moved ever closer to the fateful date of August 2, Republican leaders continued to insist: Any deal that includes taxes “can’t pass the House.”

President Obama had previously insisted on extending the debt ceiling through 2012. But in mid-July, he simply asked congressional leaders to review three options with their members:

  1. The “Grand Bargain” choice—favored by Obama–would cut deficits by about $4 trillion, including spending cuts and new tax revenues.
  2. A medium-range plan would aim to reduce the deficit by about $2 trillion.
  3. The smallest option would cut between $1 trillion and $1.5 trillion, without increased tax revenue or any Medicare and Medicaid cuts.

And the Republican response?

Said Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee: “Quite frankly, [Republican] members of Congress are getting tired of what the president won’t do and what the president wants.”

Noted political analyst Chris Matthews summed up the sheer criminality of what happened within the House of Representatives.

Speaking on MSNBC’s “Hardball,” on July 28–five days before Congress reached its August 2 deadline to raise the debt-ceiling–Matthews noted:

“The first people to bow to the demands of those threatening to blow up the economy were the Republicans in the House, the leaders. The leaders did what the followers told them to do: meet the demands, hold up the country to get their way.

“Those followers didn’t win the Senate, or the Presidency, just the House.

“But by using the House they were able to hold up the entire United States government. They threatened to blow things up economically and it worked.

“They said they were willing to do that–just to get their way–not by persuasion, not by politics, not by democratic government, but by threatening the destruction of the country’s finances.

“Right. So what’s next? The power grid? Will they next time threaten to close down the country’s electricity and communications systems?”

With the United States teetering on the brink of national bankruptcy, President Obama faced two choices:

  1. Counter Republican extortion and terrorism via RICO–the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Oganizations Act–and the USA Patriot Act; or
  2. Cave in to Republican extortion/terrorist demands.

Unfortunately for Obama and the Nation, he chose Number Two.

Had President Obama chosen to prosecute Republicans for extortion, he would have found ample legal basis for this in the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.

Passed by Congress in 1970 to combat the Mafia, RICO outlines a series of crimes which can be prosecuted by the Justice Department.

Among these: Extortion, which is defined as  “a criminal offense which occurs when a person unlawfully obtains either money, property or services from a person(s), entity, or institution, through coercion.”

Threatening to destroy the Nation’s credit rating definitely qualifies as coercion.

And if President Obama had believed that RICO was not sufficient to deal with extortionate behavior, he could have relied on the USA Patriot Act of 2001, passed in the wake of 9/11.

In Section 802, the Act defines domestic terrorism as “Activities that…appear to be intended…to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion [and]…occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.”

Clearly, Right-wing members of Congress were intending “to influence the policy of a government by intimidation.” And there’s no denying that such Congressional members operate “within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.”

The remedies for punishing such criminal behavior were legally in place. President Obama needed only to direct the Justice Department to apply them.

Unfortunately, he lacked the courage to do so.

In September, 2015, Republicans threatened once again to shut down the government unless Democrats agreed to de-fund Planned Parenthood.

Disaster was averted at the last minute when Democrats joined Republicans opposed to a shutdown and voted to fund the government through December 11.

Andrew Jackson once said: “One man with courage makes a majority.” President Obama can avert disaster in December by finding the courage to prosecute those who engage in extortion and terrorism as politics-as-usual.

Such prosecutions–and especially convictions–will serve notice on current and future members of Congress: The safety–physical and economic–of American citizens may not be held hostage to gain leverage in a political settlement.

LIKE NAZIS, LIKE REPUBLICANS: PART FOUR (OF FIVE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on October 5, 2015 at 12:04 am

Adolf Hitler is dead.  But his my-way-or-else “negotiating” style lives on in today’s Republican party.

During the summer of 2011, Republicans refused to raise the debt ceiling unless Democrats agreed to massively cut social programs for the elderly, poor and disabled.

If Congress failed to raise the borrowing limit of the federal government by August 2, the date when the U.S. reached the limit of its borrowing abilities, it would have begun defaulting on its loans.

As Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, explained the looming economic catastrophe:

“If you don’t send out Social Security checks, I would hate to think about the credit meeting at S&P and Moody’s the next morning.

“If you’re not paying millions and millions and millions of people that range in age from 65 on up, money you promised them, you’re not a AAA,” said Buffett.

A triple-A credit rating is the highest possible rating that can be received.

And while Republicans demanded that the disadvantaged tighten their belts, they rejected any raising of taxes on their foremost constituency–the wealthiest 1%.

To raise taxes on the wealthy, they insisted, would be a “jobs-killer.” It would “discourage” corporate CEOs from creating tens of thousands of jobs they “want” to create.

Republicans knew this argument is a lie.  And so did the editors of Time.  The difference is, the editors of Time were willing to reveal the truth.

In its June 20, 2011  cover-story on “What U.S. Economic Recovery? Five Destructive Myths,” Rana Foroohar, the magazine’s assistant managing editor in charge of economics and business, delivered this warning:

Profit-seeking corporations can’t be relied on to ”make it all better.”

Related image

Rana Foroohar

Wrote Foroohar:

American companies “are doing quite well,” but most American workers “are earning a lower hourly wage now than they did during the recession.”

Corporations, in short, are doing extremely well.  But they don’t spend their profits on American workers.

“There may be $2 trillion sitting on the balance sheets of American corporations globally, but firms show no signs of wanting to spend it in order to hire workers at home.”

In short:  Giving even greater tax breaks to mega-corporations–the standard Republican mantra–has not persuaded them to stop “outsourcing” jobs. Nor has it convinced them to start hiring Americans.

While embarrassingly overpaid CEOs squander corporate wealth on themselves, millions of Americans can’t afford medical care or must depend on charity to feed their families.

Yet there is also a disconnect between the truth of this situation and the willingness of Americans to face up to that truth.

The reason, writes Foroohar:

Republicans have convinced most Americans they can revitalize the economy by slashing “taxes on the wealthy and on cash-hoarding corporations while cutting benefits for millions of Americans.”

To restore prosperity, America will need both tax increases and cuts in entitlement programs.

According to Mein Kampf-–”My Struggle”–-Adolf Hitler’s autobiography and political treatise:

  1. The great majority of a nation is ruled by sentiment rather than by sober reasoning.
  2. This sentiment, however, is not complex, but simple and consistent. It is not highly differentiated, but has only the negative and positive notions of love and hatred, right and wrong, truth and falsehood.
  3. Propaganda must not investigate the truth objectively and must present only that aspect of the truth which is favorable to its own side.
  4. The receptive powers of the masses are very restricted, and their understanding is feeble. On the other hand, they quickly forget.
  5. All effective propaganda must be confined to a few bare essentials and those must be expressed as far as possible in stereotyped formulas.
  6. These slogans should be persistently repeated until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea that has been put forward.

Following these principles, Republicans have proved hugely successful at persuading millions that truth is whatever their party claims it to be at any given moment.

“Fascism,” said author Ernest Hemingway, “is a lie told by bullies.”  Thus, when Republicans couldn’t attain their goals by lying, they sought to do so by force–or at least the threat of it.

Republicans have repeatedly threatened to shut down the government unless their constantly escalating demands were met.

In November, 1995, Newt Gingrich, then Speaker of the House of Representatives, carried out his threat. Gingrich unwisely admitted that he did so because President Bill Clinton had put him in the back of Air Force One during a recent trip to Israel.

The shutdown proved a disaster for Republicans. Clinton was handily re-elected in 1996 and Gingrich suddenly resigned from Congress in 1998.

Still, the Republicans continued their policy of my-way-or-else. In April, 2011, the United States government almost shut down over Republican demands about subsidized pap smears.

LIKE NAZIS, LIKE REPUBLICANS: PART THREE (OF FIVE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on October 2, 2015 at 12:36 am

British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain resolved to meet with Adolf Hitler, the German Fuehrer, to peacefully resolve the latest Nazi-created crisis.

Having conquered Austria, the German dictator now wanted Czechoslovakia.

And Chamberlain was determined to grant his every demand–so long as this meant avoiding a second world war.

The two European leaders met in Berchtesgaden on September 15, 1938.

Neville Chamberlain meeting with Adolf Hitler

During their talks, Chamberlain said he had come to discuss German grievances. But, he added, it was necessary in all circumstances to exclude the use of force.

Hitler appeared to be shocked that he could be accused of such intentions: “Force? Who speaks of force?“

Then, without warning, he switched to an aggressive mode. He accused the Czechs of having mobilized their army in May. They had mobilized—in response to the mobilization of the German army.

“I shall not put up with this any longer,” shouted Hitler. “I shall settle this question in one way or another. I shall take matters in my own hands!”

Suddenly, Chamberlain seemed alarmed—and possibly angry: “If I understood you right, you are determined to proceed against Czechoslovakia in any case. If this is so, why did you let me come to Berchtesgaden?

“In the circumstances, it is best for me to return at once. Anything else now seems pointless.”

Hitler was taken aback by the unexpected show of defiance. He realized he was about to lose his chance to bully the British into accepting his latest demands.

So he softened his tone and said they should consider the Sudetenland according to the principle of self-determination.

Chamberlain said he must immediately return to England to consult with his colleagues. Hitler appeared uneasy. But then the German translator finished the sentence: “…and then meet you again.”

Hitler realized he still had a chance to attain victory without going to war.

Chamberlain agreed to the cession of the Sudetenland. Three days later, French Prime Minister Edouard Daladier did the same. No Czechoslovak representative was invited to these discussions.

Chamberlain met Hitler again in Godesberg, Germany, on September 22 to confirm the agreements. But Hitler aimed to use the crisis as a pretext for war.

He now demanded not only the annexation of the Sudetenland but the immediate military occupation of the territories. This would give the Czechoslovak army no time to adapt their defense measures to the new borders.

To achieve a solution, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini suggested a conference of the major powers in Munich.

On September 29, Hitler, Daladier and Chamberlain met and agreed to Mussolini’s proposal. They signed the Munich Agreement, which accepted the immediate occupation of the Sudetenland.

The Czechoslovak government had not been a party to the talks. Nevertheless, it promised to abide by the agreement on September 30.

It actually had no choice. It faced the threat of an immediate German invasion after being deserted by its pledged allies: Britain, France and the Soviet Union.

Chamberlain returned to England a hero. Holding aloft a copy of the worthless agreement he had signed with Hitler, he told cheering crowds in London: “I believe it is peace for our time.”

Neville Chamberlain: “I believe it is peace in our time”

Winston Churchill knew better, predicting: “Britain and France had to choose between war and dishonor. They chose dishonor. They will have war.”

Hitler—still planning more conquests—also knew better. In March, 1939, the German army occupied the rest of Czechoslovakia.

Chamberlain would soon be seen as a naive weakling–even before bombs started falling on London.

Hitler next turned his attention–and demands–to Poland.

When his generals balked, warning that an invasion would trigger a war with France and Britain, Hitler quickly brushed aside their fears: “Our enemies are little worms. I saw them at Munich.”

Hitler ordered the invasion of Poland on September 1–unintentionally triggering World War II.

In time, historians and statesmen would regard Munich as an object lesson in the futility—and danger—in appeasing evil and aggression.

But for the postwar Republican party, Hitler’s my-way-or-else “negotiating” methods would become standard operating procedure.

During the summer of 2011, Republicans refused to raise the debt ceiling unless Democrats agreed to massive cuts in social programs for the elderly, poor and disabled.

Sign of The Black Hand extortion gang

If Congress failed to raise the borrowing limit of the federal government by August 2, the date when the U.S. reached the limit of its borrowing abilities, it would have begun defaulting on its loans.

As Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, explained the looming economic catastrophe:

“If you don’t send out Social Security checks, I would hate to think about the credit meeting at S&P and Moody’s the next morning.

“If you’re not paying millions and millions and millions of people that range in age from 65 on up, money you promised them, you’re not a AAA.”

A triple-A credit rating is the highest possible rating that can be received.

And while Republicans demanded that the disadvantaged tighten their belts, they rejected any raising of taxes on their foremost constituency–the wealthiest 1%.

LIKE NAZIS, LIKE REPUBLICANS: PART TWO (OF FIVE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on October 1, 2015 at 12:07 am

After winning the 2012 Indiana GOP United States Senate primary, Republican Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock appeared on the May 9 edition of CNN’s “Starting Point.”

There occurred this exchange between Mourdock and the show’s host, Soledad O’Brien:

MOURDOCK: What I’ve said about compromise and bipartisanship is I hope to build a conservative majority in the United States Senate so that bipartisanship becomes Democrats joining Republicans to roll back the size of government, reduce the bureaucracy, lower taxes, and get America moving again. The stimulus plan hasn’t worked.

O’BRIEN: So what I hear you say is that you’re not going to compromise. In fact, the only compromise you’ll do is really getting other people on the other side of the aisle to come to your side of the aisle, which, I  guess, is the definition against compromise. You said this in the New York Times–

MOURDOCK: Well, it is the definition of political effectiveness.

Richard Mourdock

Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler couldn’t have phrased it better.

Adolf Hitler

Anyone wanting to understand how Republicans intend to apply such a philosophy need only consult history.

On February 12, 1938, two Chancellors—Adolf Hitler of Germany, and Kurt von Schuschnigg of Austria—met at Hitler’s retreat at Obersalzberg.  At stake lay the future independence of Austria.

Although Austrian by birth, Hitler considered himself a German.  Annexing Austria, he believed, would ensure its return to “the Great German motherland.”

HITLER: “I have only to give one command and all this comic stuff on the border will be blown to pieces overnight. You don’t seriously think you could hold me up, even for half an hour, do you?

“Who knows—perhaps you will find me one morning in Vienna like a spring storm. Then you will go through something! I’d like to spare the Austrians that.

“The S.A. [Hitler’s private army of Stormtroopers] and the [Condor] Legion [which had bombed much of Spain into rubble during the three-year Spanish Civil War] would come in after the troops and nobody–not even I–could stop them from wreaking vengeance.”

British historian Robert Payne noted in his 1973 biography, The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler: “Schuschnigg was not a coward, but he showed fear, and it was precisely this look of fear that Hitler was waiting for.

“He had worked out the program of intimidation very carefully. The thunder and lightning in the morning; then a period of calm, when the unsuspecting victim might believe he had relented; and then he would come in for the kill with such savage fury that there would be no resistance.”

After lunch, Hitler presented Schuschnigg with an ultimatum:

  • Austria must join in an economic union with German.
  • Austria must lift its ban on membership in the Nazi Party (which had assassinated the country’s previous Chancellor).
  • Within three days there was to be a general amnesty of Nazi prisoners.
  • Three key government ministries—of war, interior and finance—were to be given to members of the Nazi Party.

With these in their possession, the Nazis would be able to take over Austria in two to three weeks.

At first, Schuschnigg refused to sign. He explained that the Austrian constitution did not give him the power to sign it. But Hitler insisted—threatening to invade Austria otherwise.

Schuschnigg, a virtual prisoner of his host, facing the destruction of his country by a powerful and aggressive neighbor, signed. It marked—until the defeat of Germany in 1945–the end of Austria as an independent nation.

Seven months later, in September, 1938, Hitler gave another exhibition of his “negotiating” methods. This time, the target of his rage and aggression was Czechoslovakia.

So, once again, he opened “negotiations” with a lie: The Czechoslovak government was trying to exterminate 3.5 million Germans living in the “Sudetenland.”

This consisted of the northern, southwest and western regions of Czechoslovakia, inhabited mostly by ethnic Germans.

Then he followed this up with the threat of war: Germany would protect its citizens and halt such “oppression.”

For British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, the thought of another European war erupting less than 20 years after the end of World War I was simply unthinkable.

Neville Chamberlain

Something had to be done to prevent it.  And he believed himself to be just the man to do it.

He quickly sent Hitler a telegram, offering to help resolve the crisis: “I could come to you by air and am ready to leave tomorrow.  Please inform me of earliest time you can receive me, and tell me the place of the meeting.  I should be grateful for a very early reply.”

Once again, another head-of-state was prepared to meet Hitler on his home ground.  Again, Hitler took this concession as a sign of weakness.

And Chamberlain’s use of such words as “please” and “grateful” only further convinced Hitler of another impending triumph.

LIKE NAZIS, LIKE REPUBLICANS: PART ONE (OF FIVE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on September 30, 2015 at 12:32 pm

Adolf Hitler, Germany’s Fuehrer for 12 years, had a favorite phrase: “So oder so.”

It meant: “One way or the other.”

That might sound innocuous.  But, in Hitler’s case, it carried a sinister tone–as did nearly everything else about the dictator who ruled Germany from 1933 to 1945.

Adolf Hitler

When Hitler faced what he considered a problem, he said he would solve it “one way or another.”  Which meant that if he didn’t get his way, he would apply whatever means it took until he did.

Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, who sought to become the state’s U.S. Senator in 2012, seemed to be channeling the spirit of the late Fuehrer.

Appearing on the May 9, 2012 edition of  right-wing “Fox & Friends,” Mourdock offered his definition of “compromise”:

Richard Mourdock

“I have a mindset that says bipartisanship ought to consist of Democrats coming to the Republican point of view.”

Robert Payne, author of the bestselling biography, The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler (1973), described Hitler’s “negotiating” style thusly:

“Although Hitler prized his own talents as a negotiator, a man always capable of striking a good bargain, he was totally lacking in finesse. He was incapable of bargaining.

“He was like a man who goes up to a fruit peddler and threatens to blow his brains out if he does not sell his applies at the lowest possible price.”

Mourdock: “…I hope to…help build a conservative majority in the United States Senate and continue to help the House build a Republican majority and have a Republican White House and then bipartisanship becomes having Democrats come our way.”

(Mourdock went on to lose the Senate race. A fierece opponent of abortion even in cases of rape, he lost the women’s vote with his infamous comment: “I’ve struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God.

(“And even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”)

A classic example of Hitler’s “bargaining style” occurred in 1938, when he invited Austrian Chancellor Kurt von Schuschnigg to his mountaintop retreat in Obersalzberg, Germany.

Hitler, an Austrian by birth, intended to annex his native land to Germany.

Schuschnigg was aware of Hitler’s desire, but nevertheless felt secure in accepting the invitation.  He had been assured that the question of Austrian sovereignty would not arise.

By studying Hitler’s mindset and “negotiating” methods, we can learn much about the mindset and “negotiating” style of our own Republican party.

Shuschnigg opened the discussion with a friendly compliment.  Walking over to a large window, he admired the breathtaking view of the mountains.

HITLER: We haven’t come here to talk about the lovely view or the weather!

Austria has anyway never done anything which was of help to the German Reich….I am resolutely determined to make an end to all this business.  The German Reich is a great power.  Nobody can and nobody will interfere if it restores order on its frontiers.

SCHUSCHNIGG: I am aware of your attitude toward the Austrian question and toward Austrian history….As we Austrians see it, the whole of our history is a very essential and valuable part of German history….And Austria’s contribution is a considerable one.

HITLER: It is absolutely zero—that I can assure you!  Every national impulse has been trampled underfoot by Austria….

I could call myself an Austrian with just the same right—indeed with even more right—than you, Herr Schuschnigg. Why don’t you once try a plebiscite in Austria in which you and I run against each other? Then you would see!

SCHUSCHNIGG: Well, yes, if that were possible. But your know yourself, Herr Reich Chancellor, that it just isn’t possible. We simply have to go on living alongside one another, the little state next to the big one. We have no other choice.

And that is why I ask you to tell me what your concrete complaints are. We will do all in our power to sort things out and establish a friendly relationship, as far as it is possible to do so.

HITLER: That’s what you say, Herr Schuschnigg. And I am telling you that I intend to clear up the whole of the so-called Austrian question–one way or another. Do you think I don’t know that you are fortifying Austria’s border with the Reich?

SCHUSCHNIGG: There can be no suggestion at all of that—

HITLER: Ridiculous explosive chambers are being built under bridges and roads—

This was a lie, and Hitler knew it was a lie. But it gave him an excuse to threaten to destroy Austria—as he was to destroy so many other nations during the next seven years.

* * * * *

Republicans used precisely the same “negotiating” style during the summer of 2011 to threaten the United States with financial ruin unless they got their way in budget negotiations.

And they are threatening to do the same again this fall.

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