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Posts Tagged ‘GEORGE W. BUSH’

THE RUSSIANS AREN’T COMING–THEY’RE HERE: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 29, 2017 at 12:05 am

It was the verbal equivalent of a prizefight.  

In one corner was April D. Ryan, the longtime White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief for American Urban Radio Network.

Image result for images of April D. Ryan

April D. Ryan

In the other corner was Sean Spicer, White House press secretary for President Donald J. Trump.  

Since taking office on January 20, Trump has been ensnared in a series of revelations about collaboration between members of his 2016 Presidential campaign and Russian Intelligence agents.

The FBI, CIA and National Security Agency have officially stated that Russian Intelligence played a major role in trying to sway the election for Trump.

Trump has repeatedly attacked the “fake news” media reporting these revelations. Chief among his targets: CNN, The New York Times and The Washington Post

On March 28, disgusted with the administration’s stonewalling and outright lying, reporter April Ryan directly confronted Sean Spicer at a White House press conference.  

The result was explosive.

April Ryan: With all of these investigations, questions of what is, is? How does this administration try to revamp its image two and a half months in? You’ve got this Yates story today, you’ve got other things going on. You’ve got Russia. You’ve got, you’ve got wiretapping. You’ve got —

Sean Spicer: No, we don’t have that. You’ve …

Ryan: There are investigations on Capitol Hill– 

Spicer: No, no, no. I get it. But you keep — I’ve said it from the day that I got here until whatever that there is no connection. You’ve got Russia. If the president puts Russian salad dressing on his salad tonight, somehow that’s a Russian connection.

Related image

Sean Spicer

But every single person. No. Well, no, that’s … I appreciate your agenda here. But the reality is … oh no, no. Hold on, no, at some point, report the facts. The facts are that every single person who has been briefed on this subject has come away with the same conclusion. Republican, Democrat.

[This is a lie. In fact, the more digging that goes on, the more embarrassing revelations turn up of collusion between high-ranking administration officials and Russian agents or monies.]

So, I’m sorry that that disgusts you. You’re shaking your head. I appreciate it. But, but …

Ryan: … I’m trying to understand …

Spicer: But understand this. At some point, the facts are what they are. And every single person who has been briefed on this situation with respect to the situation with Russia, Republican, Democrat, Obama-appointee, career, have all come to the same conclusion.

[Another lie.  The FBI is now investigating contacts between Russian Intelligence agents and members of the Trump Presidential campaign.]

At some point, April, you’re gonna have to take no for an answer with respect to whether or not there was collusion.

Ryan: How do you change the perception of, of…

Spicer: We’re going to keep doing everything we’re doing to make sure that the president’s — that what the president told the American people he was going to do, to fulfill those pledges and promises that he made, to bring back jobs, to grow the economy, to keep our nation safe.

That’s what he’s been focused on since day one. We’re going to keep focusing on that every single day.

[In short: We’re going to continue to lie and deny.]

Ryan: Condi Rice [Secretary of State under President George W. Bush] comes Friday. Condi Rice did not support this president. She did not go to the convention. She comes, what is on the agenda?

And how is their relationship? Has it healed since 2006 when he used a very negative word to describe her?  

Image result for images of Condoleezza Rice

Condoleeza Rice

[The word was “bitch.” In 2006, Trump told an audience at a Learning Annex convention speech: “Condoleezza Rice, she’s a lovely woman, but I think she’s a bitch. She goes around to other countries and other nations, negotiates with their leaders, comes back and nothing ever happens.”] 

Spicer: So here’s what I’ll tell you. It’s interesting that you ask those two questions back to back. On the one hand you’re saying what’re we doing to improve our image? And then here he is, once again, meeting somebody that hasn’t been a big supporter of his. Hold on ...

Ryan: He called her a negative name in 2006.

Spicer: But, April, hold on. It seems like you’re hellbent on trying to make sure that whatever image that you want to tell about this White House stays, because at the end of the day.  Let me answ ….

Ryan: … call her that name. I am just reporting what —

Spicer: Okay, but, you know what, you’re asking me a question and I’m going to answer it. Which is, the president, I’m sorry, please stop shaking your head again.

But at some point, the reality is that this president continues to reach out to individuals who’ve supported him, who didn’t support him, Republicans, Democrats, to try to bring the country together and move forward on an agenda that’s gonna help every American. That’s it. Plain and simple.

[Actually, it isn’t “plain and simple.” And additional proof of this will be offered in Part Two of this series.]

FEAR–AND ITS POLITICAL LEGACY

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on March 10, 2017 at 10:38 am

Dick Cheney left office as co-President of the United States on January 20, 2009. During the last four years, he has had time to write his memoirs and reflect on the legacies of the George W. Bush Presidency.

His book, In My Time, was published in 2012. And, in March, 2013, Cheney appeared in the Showtime-produced documentary, “The World According to Dick Cheney.”

Dick Cheney

Throughout the program, Cheney showed no interest in introspection.

“I don’t go around thinking, ‘Gee, I wish we’d done this, or I wish I’d done that,’” said Cheney. “The world is as you find it, and you’ve got to deal with that….You don’t get do-overs.

“I did what I did, and it’s all part of the public record and I feel very good about it.  If I had it to do over again, I’d do it in a minute.”

When the interviewer, R.J. Cutler, raised how the administration altered privacy rights, tortured detainees and pushed for an unnecessary war in Iraq, Cheney replied:

“Tell me what terrorist acts you would let go forward because you didn’t want to be a mean and nasty fella?”

Perhaps the most telling moment came when Cheney outlined his overall views on Realpolitick:

“Are you going to trade the lives of a number of people because you want to preserve your honor?” asked Cheney. “This was a wartime situation and it was more important to be successful than it was to be loved.”

Perhaps Cheney was thinking of Niccolo Machiavelli’s famous quote about love versus fear in The Prince, his primer on how to attain political power:

From this arises the question whether it is better to be loved than feared, or feared more than loved.  The reply is, that one ought to be both feared and loved, but as it is difficult for the two to go together, it is much safer to be feared than loved. 

For it may be said of men in general that they are ungrateful, voluble, dissemblers, anxious to avoid danger and covetous of gain; as long as you benefit them, they are entirely yours: they offer you their blood, their goods, their life and their children, when the necessity is remote, but when it approaches, they revolt….

Niccolo Machiavelli

And men have less scruple in offending one who makes himself loved than one who makes himself feared; for love is held by a chain of obligations which, men being selfish, is broken whenever it serves their purpose; but fear is maintained by a dread of punishment which never fails.

Cheney appears to belileve that it’s better to be feared than loved.

In that, he has plenty of company among his fellow politicians–in the United States and elsewhere. But there is more to Machiavelli’s teaching, and this is usually overlooked–as it most certainly was by Cheney:

Still, a prince should make himself feared in such a way that if he does not gain love, he at any rate avoids hatred: for fear and the absence of hatred may well go together…. 

If Cheney considers himself a student of Machiavelli, then he utterly ignored this last offering of cautionary advice.

By authorizing the use of torture, the administration made itself–in the eyes of its Western European allies as well as its Islamic enemies–an epicenter of evil. “Guantanamo”–the Marine base in Cuba that had been largely forgotten over the decades–became a synonym for Auschwitz.

And after photographs emerged of the tortures and humiliations of detainees at Abu Garib Prison in Iraq, the United States sank even lower in the world’s estimation.

Among the human rights violations committed upon prisoners held by U.S. Army military police and assorted CIA agents:

  • physical abuse
  • psychological abuse
  • torture
  • rape
  • sodomy
  • homicide.

Of the ultimate legacy of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, historian Nigel Hamilton wrote in his 2010 book, American Caesars: Lives of the Presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt to George W. Bush:

“…arguably the worst of all the American Caesars, who willfully and recklessly destroyed so much of the moral basis of American leadership in the modern world.”

Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin believed, above all, in the brutal use of force–whether applied by prison torturers or legions of soldiers unrestrained by the Geneva Convention.

Once, when told that a certain policy he wanted to pursue would be heavily criticized by the Pope, he famously asked: “How many divisions does the Pope have?”

Stalin died in 1953. Had he lived on into the 1980s, he would have found out.

It was then that Pope John Paul II showed the power of an aroused spirituality.

John Paul II

When the Soviet Union seemed about to invade his native Poland as it had Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968, the Pope reportedly sent the Kremlin a message: He would fly to Warsaw and place himself directly in the line of fire.

The Soviets never dared launch their planned invasion.

It is a lesson utterly lost on the likes of men like Dick Cheney.

SECRETS AND MERCENARIES

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 9, 2017 at 4:37 pm

On March 7, WikiLeaks published a “data dump” of 8,761 documents codenamed “Vault 7.”

According to WikiLeaks, it represents “the majority of [the CIA’s] hacking arsenal, including malware, viruses, trojans, weaponized ‘zero day’ exploits, malware remote control systems and associated documentation.”

The documents expose that the CIA found security flaws in software operating systems such as Microsoft Windows, Android and Apple iOS. These allow an intruder–such as the CIA–to seize control of a computer or smartphone.

The owner could then be photographed through his iPhone camera and have his text messages intercepted.

Through a program called Weeping Angel, CIA operatives could–and did–spy on targets through their Samsung F8000 Smart TV sets.  Even when these were turned off, they could be transformed into a 1984-type “telescreen.”

The published documents covered CIA hacking techniques used between 2013 and 2016.

“This is CIA’s Edward Snowden,” former CIA acting director Michael Morrell told CBS News, referring to the former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor who leaked millions of documents in 2013.

“This is huge, in terms of what it will tell the adversaries,” Morrell said. “We’ll have to essentially start over in building tools to get information from our adversaries, just like we did with Snowden.”

So who made it possible for WikiLeaks to so thoroughly compromise United States security?

According to anonymous U.S. Intelligence and law enforcement sources, the culprits were CIA contractors. Contractors are suspected because there is no evidence that Russian Intelligence agencies tried to exploit any of the leaked material before it was published.

Companies that work with the CIA are checking their records for evidence of who might have had access to the leaked information.  They will then scour those employees’ computer logs, emails and other communications for incriminating evidence.

In his 2007 bestseller, Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA, Tim Weiner outlined the dangers of the agency’s increasing dependence on outside contractors.

“Patriotism for profit became a $50-billion-a-year business….After the cold war, the agency began contracting out thousands of jobs to fill the perceived void by the budget cuts that began in 1992.

“A CIA officer could file his retirement papers, turn in his blue identification badge, go to work for a much better salary at a military contractor such as Lockheed Martin or Booz Allen Hamilton, then return to the CIA the next day, wearing a green badge….”

(Edward Snowden deliberately became a Booz Allen Hamilton contract employee to secure a job as a computer systems administrator at the National Security Agency (NSA). This gave him access to thousands of highly classified documents–which, in 2013, he began publicly leaking to a wide range of news organizations.

(His motive, he has claimed, was to alert his fellow Americans to the privacy-invading dangers posed by their own Intelligence agencies.)

Continues Weiner: “Great chunks of the clandestine service became wholly dependent on contractors who looked like they were in the CIA’s chain of command, but who worked for their corporate masters. In effect, the agency had two workforces–and the private one was paid far better….

“Legions of CIA veterans quit their posts to sell their services to the agency by writing analyses, creating cover for overseas officers, setting up communications networks, and running clandestine operations.” 

One such company was Total Intelligence Solutions, founded in 2007 by Cofer Black, who had been the chief of the CIA’s counterrorism center on 9/11. His partners were Robert Richer, formerly the associate deputy director of operations at the CIA, and Enrique Prado, who had been Black’s chief of counterterror operations at the agency.

“Following their example, new CIA hires adopted their own five-year plan: get in, get out, and get paid.  A top secret security clearance and a green badge were golden tickets for a new breed of Beltway bandits.”

This situation met with full support from Right-wing “pro-business” members of Congress and Presidents like George W. Bush. They had long championed the private sector as inherently superior to the public one. And they saw no danger that a man dedicated to enriching himself might put greed ahead of safeguarding his country.

There were, however, others who could have offered a timely warning against this–had there been leaders willing to heed it.

One of these, reaching back more than 500 years ago, was the Florentine statesman, Niccolo Machiavelli, who famously warned of the dangers of relying on mercenaries.

Niccolo Machiavelli 

In The Prince, Machiavelli writes:

“Mercenaries…are useless and dangerous. And if a prince holds on to his state by means of mercenary armies, he will never be stable or secure. For they are disunited, ambitious, without discipline, disloyal. They are brave among friends; among enemies they are cowards.

“They have neither the fear of God nor fidelity to man, and destruction is deferred only as the attack is. For in peace one is robbed by them, and in war by the enemy.”

Centuries after Machiavelli’s warning, Americans are realizing the bitter truth of it firsthand.

THE SIX DEADLY FLAWS IN “OBAMACARE”: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on March 2, 2017 at 12:11 am

President Barack Obama was often accused of playing ruthless “Chicago politics” by his Republican enemies. But Obama’s biggest mistake lay not in cynicism but misplaced idealism.

Obama Mistake No. 5: Believing that public and private employers would voluntarily comply with the law.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires employers to provide insurance for part-time employees who work more than 30 hours per week. Yet many employers claimed–without having to offer proof–that they couldn’t afford it.

So they limited part-time workers’ hours to 29 per week instead.

Obama was clearly surprised at this. But he shouldn’t have been.

Greed-fueled businessmen always try to avoid complying with the law–or achieve minimum compliance with it.

The Act doesn’t penalize companies for not providing health insurance coverage for part-time employees who work fewer than 30 hours.

Predictably, employers:

  • Moved fulltime workers into part-time positions;
  • Refused to provide their employees with medical insurance; and
  • Avoided fines for non-compliance with the law.

Some employers openly showed their contempt for President Obama–and the idea that employers have any obligation to those who make their profits a reality.

One was John Schnatter, CEO of Papa John’s Pizza, who said:

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

 John Schnatter

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

Thus, President Obama should have required all employers to provide insurance coverage for all of their employees, regardless of their fulltime or part-time status.  

This would have produced two substantial benefits:

  1. All employees would have been able to obtain medical coverage; and
  2. Employers would have been encouraged to provide fulltime positions rather than part-time ones.

Employers would thus feel: “I’m paying for fulltime insurance coverage, so I should be getting fulltime work in return.”

If Obama considered this option, he decided against pressing for it.

Obama Mistake No. 6: Failing to closely study his proposed legislation.

Throughout his campaign to win support for the ACA, Obama had repeatedly promised: “If you like your health insurance plan, you can keep your plan. If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. Period.”

But the 906 pages of the law held a fatal catch for the President’s own credibility.

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.

But many Americans wanted to keep their current plan–even if it did not provide the fullest possible coverage.

Suddenly, the President found himself facing a PR nightmare–charged and ridiculed as a liar.

Even Jon Stewart, who on “The Daily Show,” had supported the implementation of “Obamacare,” ran footage of Obama’s “you can keep your doctor” promise.

Jon Stewart

The implication: You said we could keep our plan/doctor. Since we can’t, you must be a liar.

All of which points to a final warning offered by Niccolo Machiavelli: Whence it may be seen that hatred is gained as much by good works as by evil….  

Former Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton said that, if she were elected, she would seek incremental changes in the ACA. That possibility became moot when she lost the 2016 election to Donald Trump.

Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, wants a single-payer plan.

A single-payer plan would prove simpler and more comprehensive than the ACA. But the chances of its passing a Republican-dominated Congress are absolutely zero.

The election of Donald Trump seems to have finally doomed the ACA–except for one thing: Since it became law, in 2010, 22 million Americans who had never before obtained healthcare insurance now have it.

This includes even Republicans who voted for Trump–without realizing they would be losing their only tie to medical care.  And now many of them are finally realizing this truth.

Thus, Republicans in the House and Senate now find themselves besieged by angry constituents at town hall meetings.

These Republicans care nothing for Americans who would be left without medical care. But they do care about their own futures–as members of Congress.

This has led to three schisms among Republicans:

  • Those who still demand the complete repeal of “Obamacare.”
  • Those who want the Act repealed and then replaced with an entirely different healthcare plan–which Republicans have yet to agree on. Developing this could literally take years–during which time former ACA members would have no insurance.
  • Those who want Republicans to first create an alternative healthcare plan, win its Congressional approval, and then repeal the Act.

Republicans expect Democrats to sign on with their “Obamacare replacement plan.” But Democrats have made it clear: “You repeal it, you’re on your own in replacing it.”

Republicans spent eight years demanding the repeal of “Obamacare.” But now they fear that its repeal will lead to the repeal of their own political ambitions.

THE SIX DEADLY FLAWS IN “OBAMACARE”: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on March 1, 2017 at 12:26 am

President Barack Obama came into office determined to find common ground with Republicans.

But they quickly made it clear to him that they only wanted his political destruction. At that point, he should have put aside his hopes for a “Kumbaya moment” and re-read what Niccolo Machiavelli said in The Prince on the matter of love versus fear:

From this arises the question whether it is better to be loved or feared, or feared more than love. The reply is, that one ought to be both feared and loved, but as it is difficult for the two to go together, it is much safer to be feared than loved….

And men have less scruple in offending one who makes himself loved than one who makes himself feared; for love is held by a chain of obligations which, men being selfish, is broken whenever it serves their purpose; but fear is maintained by a dread of punishment which never fails.

Finally, warns Machiavelli, a leader should not allow a threat to go unchecked. The motive for this is usually the hope of avoiding conflict  And the result is usually catastrophe.

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.

For Obama, such a moment came in 2011, when House Republicans threatened to to destroy the credit rating of the United States unless the President agreed to scrap Obamacare.

Obama, a former attorney, heatedly denounced House Republicans for “extortion” and “blackmail.”

Unless he was exaggerating, both of these are felony offenses that are punishable under the 2001 USA Patriot Act and the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act of 1970.

Among the crimes that can be prosecuted by Justice Department attorneys under RICO: Extortion.  

Extortion 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.”  

And if President Obama didn’t believe that RICO was sufficient to deal with extortionate behavior, he could have ordered the Justice Department to cite the USA Patriot Act, passed in the wake of 9/11.

In Section 802, among the behaviors that are defined as domestic terrorism: “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.”

Activities such as threatening to destroy the financial stability of the United States.

The remedies for punishing such criminal behavior were legally in place. President Obama could have directed the Justice Department to apply them.

If violations had been discovered, indictments could have quickly followed–and then prosecutions. The results of such action could be easily predicted:

  • Facing lengthy prison terms, those indicted Republicans would have first had to lawyer-up.
  • This would have imposed huge monetary costs on them, since good criminal attorneys don’t come cheap.
  • Obsessed with their personal survival, they would have had little time to engage in more of the same thuggish behavior that got them indicted. In fact, doing so would have only made their convictions more likely.
  • Those Republicans who hadn’t (yet) been indicted would have feared; “I could be next.” This would have produced a chilling effect on their willingness to engage in further acts of subversion and extortion.
  • The effect on Right-wing Republicans would have been the same as that of President Ronald Reagan’s firing of striking air traffic controllers: “You cross me and threaten the security of this nation at your own peril.”

It would no doubt have been a long time before Republicans dared to engage in such behavior–at least, while Obama held office.

So: Why didn’t President Obama act to punish such criminal conduct?

Obama Mistake No. 4: He allowed himself to be cowed by his enemies.

In The Prince, Machiavelli laid out the qualities that a successful ruler should avoid–

He is rendered despicable by being thought changeable, frivolous, effeminate, timid and irresolute–which a prince must guard against as a rock of danger….  

–and possess: 

As to the government of his subjects, let his sentence be irrevocable, and let him adhere to his decisions so that no one may think of deceiving or cozening him.

Niccolo Machiavelli

On July 2, 2013, the Treasury Department announced a major change in the application of the Affordable Care Act:

“We have heard concerns about the complexity of the requirements and the need for more time to implement them effectively…We have listened to your feedback.  And we are taking action.

“The Administration is announcing that it will provide an additional year before the ACA mandatory employer and insurer reporting requirements begin.”  

And the Republican response?

On July 30, 2013, House Republicans voted to sue the President for failing to enforce the Affordable Care Act–which they had voted 54 times to repeal, delay or change.

As Machiavelli warned: Timidity invites contempt–and aggression.

THE SIX DEADLY FLAWS IN “OBAMACARE”: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on February 28, 2017 at 12:13 am

Barack Obama was easily one of the most highly educated Presidents in United States history. He is a graduate of Columbia University (B.A. in political science in 1983).

In 1988, he entered Harvard Law School, graduating magna cum laude–“with great honor”–in 1991.

He was selected as an editor of the Harvard Law Review at the end of his first year, and president of the journal in his second year.

President Barack Obama

He then taught Constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School for 12 years–as a Lecturer from 1992 to 1996, and as a Senior Lecturer from 1996 to 2004.

Yet, his signature plan to give every American access to healthcare, the Affordable Care Act–universally known as “Obamacare”–remains stricken with dangerous flaws.

So where did he go wrong?

Several ways–in all, at least six.

Obama Mistake No. 1: Putting off what people wanted while concentrating on what they didn’t.

Obama started off well when he took office. Americans had high expectations of him. This was partly due to his being the first black to be elected President.

And it was partly due to the disastrous legacies of needless war and financial catastrophe left by his predecessor, George W. Bush.

Obama entered office intending to reform the American healthcare system, to make medical care available to all citizens, and not just the richest.  But that was not what the vast majority of Americans wanted him to concentrate his energies on.

With the lost of 2.6 million jobs in 2008, Americans wanted Obama to find new ways to create jobs. This was especially true for the 11.1 million unemployed, or those employed only part-time.

Jonathan Alter, who writes sympathetically about the President in The Center Holds: Obama and His Enemies, candidly states this.

But Obama chose to spend most of his first year as President pushing the Affordable Care Act (ACA)–which would soon become known as Obamacare–through Congress.

The results were:

  • Those desperately seeking employment felt the President didn’t care about them.
  • The reform effort became a lightning rod for Right-wing groups like the Koch-brothers-financed Tea Party.
  • In 2010, a massive Rightist turnout cost the Democrats the House of Representatives, and threatened Democratic control of the Senate.

Obama Mistake No. 2: He underestimated the amount of opposition he would face to the ACA.

For all of Obama’s academic brilliance and supposed ruthlessness as a “Chicago politician,” he displayed an incredible naivety in dealing with his political opposition.

Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527), the Florentine statesman and father of modern politics, could have warned him of the consequences of this–through the pages ofThe Prince, his infamous treatise on the realities of politics.

Niccolo Machiavelli

And either Obama skipped those chapters or ignored their timeless advice for political leaders.

He should have started with Chapter Six: “Of New Dominions Which Have Been Acquired By One’s Own Arms and Ability”:

…There is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle than to initiate a new order of things.  

For the reformer has enemies in all those who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order, this lukewarmness arising partly from fear of their adversaries, who have the laws in their favor, and partly from the incredulity of mankind, who do not truly believe in anything new until they have had actual experience of it.  

This proved exactly the case with the proposed Affordable Care Act.

Its supporters–even when they comprised a majority of the Congress–have always shown far less fervor than its opponents.

This was true before the Act became effective on March 23, 2010. And it has remained true since, with House Republicans voting more than 60 times to repeal, delay or revise the law.

So before President Obama launched his signature effort to reform the American medical system, he should have taken this truism into account.

Obama Mistake No. 3: Failing to consider–and punish–the venom of his political enemies.  

The ancient Greeks used to say: “A man’s character is his fate.”  It was Obama’s character–and America’s fate–that he was by nature a man of conciliation, not conflict.

Richard Wolffe chronicled Obama’s winning of the White House in his 2009 book, Renegade: The Making of a President. He noted that Obama was always more comfortable when responding to Republican attacks on his character than he was in making attacks on his enemies.

President Obama came into office determined to find common ground with Republicans.

But they quickly made it clear to him that they only wanted his political destruction. At that point, he should have put aside his hopes for a “Kumbaya moment” and re-read what Niccolo Machiavelli said in The Prince on the matter of love versus fear:

From this arises the question whether it is better to be loved or feared, or feared more than love. The reply is, that one ought to be both feared and loved, but as it is difficult for the two to go together, it is much safer to be feared than loved.

CHESSMASTER PUTIN: CHECKMATING BUSH AND TRUMP

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on February 23, 2017 at 3:39 pm

The love-fest between Donald and Vladimir Putin began on December 17, 2015.

Putin made the first move: “He is a bright and talented person without any doubt. He is the absolute leader of the presidential race.

“He says he will want to reach another, deeper, level of relations (with Russia). What else can we do but to welcome it? Certainly, we welcome it. 

“That is none of our business to evaluate his accomplishments, but he remains the absolute front-runner in the presidential race. He is an outstanding and talented personality without any doubts.”

Appearing on the December 18, 2015 edition of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Trump responded in kind: “Sure, when people call you ‘brilliant,’ it’s always good. Especially when the person heads up Russia.”

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

Related image

Donald Trump

The host, Joe Scarborough, was taken aback: “Well, I mean, [Putin’s] also a person who kills journalists, political opponents, and invades countries. obviously that would be a concern, would it not?”

TRUMP: He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader. Unlike what we have in this country.

SCARBOROUGH: But again: He kills journalists that don’t agree with him.

TRUMP: I think our country does plenty of killing, also, Joe, so, you know. There’s a lot of stupidity going on in the world right now, Joe. A lot of killing going on. A lot of stupidity. And that’s the way it is.

SCARBOROUGH: I’m confused. So I mean, you obviously condemn Vladimir Putin killing journalists and political opponents, right?

TRUMP:  Oh sure, absolutely.

When Trump praised Putin as a leader–“unlike what we have in this country”–he no doubt meant President Barack Obama.

Ironically, it was not Obama but President George W. Bush to whom his insult applies.

In June 2001, Bush and Vladimir Putin met in Slovenia. During the meeting a truly startling exchange occurred.

Vladimir Putin and George W. Bush

Putin, a former KGB Intelligence officer, had clearly done his homework on Bush. When he mentioned that one of the sports Bush had played was rugby, Bush was highly impressed.

“I did play rugby,” said Bush. “Very good briefing.”

Bush knew that Putin had worked for Soviet intelligence. So he should not have been surprised that the KGB had amassed a lengthy dossier on him.

But more was to come.

BUSH: Let me say something about what caught my attention, Mr. President, was that your mother gave you a cross which you had blessed in Israel, the Holy Land.

PUTIN: It’s true.

BUSH: That amazes me, that here you were a Communist, KGB operative, and yet you were willing to wear a cross. That speaks volumes to me, Mr. President. May I call you Vladimir?

Putin instantly sensed that Bush judged others–even world leaders–through the lens of his own fundamentalist Christian theology.

Falling back on his KGB training, Putin seized on this apparent point of commonality to build a bond. He told Bush that his dacha had once burned to the ground, and the only item that had been saved was that cross.

“Well, that’s the story of the cross as far as I’m concerned,” said Bush, clearly impressed. “Things are meant to be.”

Afterward, Bush and Putin gave an outdoor news conference.

“Is this a man that Americans can trust?” Associated Press correspondent Ron Fournier asked Bush.

“Yes,” said Bush. “I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. We had a very good dialogue.

“I was able to get a sense of his soul, a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country. I wouldn’t have invited him to my ranch if I didn’t trust him.”

Now Putin is putting his KGB skills to work with another President–Trump.

At Putin’s direction, an Intelligence dossier is being prepared on Trump. According to Andrei Fedorov, former Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, a team of retired diplomats and Putin staffers are compiling a seven-page profile of Trump’s psychological state.  

Trump is depicted as a naive risk-taker who acts like a “tough guy.”

The dossier will be given to Putin before their first meeting–for which no date has been set. 

Federov said that Trump doesn’t understand Putin and should listen more to his team, “especially in the areas where he is weak.” 

Trump’s constant battles with the American press worry the Kremlim: “He’s dancing on thin ice,” said Federov. “It’s a risky game.”  

Mikhail Kasyanov, who was once prime minister under Putin, said that Putin was worried that, unless Trump is careful, he will lose the political clout he needs to improve relations with Russia.

In particular, Putin wants American economic sanctions against Russia–imposed by President Barack Obama over Russian interference in the 2016 election–lifted.

American hostility toward Russia has been increased by three major revelations:

  • Russia’s hacks against the Democratic party to sway the election in favor of Trump;
  • Members of Trump’s Presidential campaign were in regular contact with senior Russian Intelligence officials; and 
  • Trump’s being forced to fire his National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn, over his ties with Russia.

AFGHANISTAN: DYING TO CIVILIZE THE UNCIVILIZED

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 16, 2017 at 1:02 am

On February 9, Army General John Nicholson told the Senate Armed Services Committee he had enough U.S. and NATO troops for counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan. 

But he needed more to sufficiently “train, advise and assist” the Afghan forces.

There are now 8,400 U.S. troops in Afghanistan and another 5,000 troops from NATO countries.

To put this latest troop request into human terms:

On December 21, 2015, a suicide-bomber rammed an explosives-laden motorcycle into a joint NATO-Afghan patrol.  Six American troops and an Afghan were killed.

One of the dead was Joseph Lemm, 45, a detective and 15-year veteran of the New York Police Department. A technical sergeant in the New York Air National Guard, he had been deployed three times–once to Iraq and twice to Afghanistan.

IMAGE: NYPD Detective Joseph Lemm

Joseph Lemm

Lemm left behind a daughter, Brook, 16, a son, Ryan, four, and his wife, Christine.

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo ordered that flags on all state government buildings be flown at half-staff on December 23 in Lemm’s honor.

“Staff Sergeant Joe Lemm served this nation with the selflessness and bravery that embodies the U.S. Armed Forces and the NYPD,” Cuomo said in a statement.

Lemm’s death was a double tragedy–that of a dedicated man who should not have died so needlessly.

In short: It’s long past time for the United States to quit its failed mission to civilize Afghanistan.

The history of American conflict in Afghanistan began on September 11, 2001.

On that date, 19 Islamic highjackers slammed two jetliners into the World Trade Center in New York and one into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

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.

The mastermind of the attacks was Osama bin Laden, a Saudi millionaire then living in Afghanistan, under protection by its ruling thugocracy, the Taliban.

The administration of President George W. Bush demanded his immediate surrender to American justice.

The Taliban refused.

So, on October 7, 2011–less than one month from the 9/11 attacks–American bombers began pounding Taliban positions.

The whole point of the campaign was to pressure the Taliban to surrender Bin Laden.

But the Taliban held firm. Bin Laden holed up in the mountains of Tora Bora, and then ultimately escaped into Pakistan.

After December, 2001, American Intelligence completely lost track of Bin Laden.  CIA officials repeatedly said he was likely living in the “no-man’s-land” between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Thus, there was no longer any point in pressuring the Taliban to surrender Bin Laden.

Osama bin Laden

Still, the United States continued to commit forces to Afghanistan–to turn a primitive, warlord-ruled country into a modern-day democracy.

There was, admittedly, a great deal to detest about the Taliban:

  • When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, they turned soccer stadiums into execution plazas for mass beheadings or shootings.
  • Taliban “fighters” have proven their “courage” by throwing acid into the faces of women who dared to attend school.

Taliban religious police beating a woman

  • On August 8, 1989, the Taliban attacked Mazar-i-Sharif. Talibanists began shooting people in the street, then moved on to mass rapes of women. Thousands of people were locked in containers and left to suffocate.
  • The Taliban forbade women to leave their homes unless accompanied by a male relative and wearing the burqa–a traditional dress covering the entire body. Those who disobeyed were publicly beaten.

Yet, as horrific as such atrocities were, these did not obligate the United States to spend eternity trying to bring civilization to this barbaric country.

And, in pursuing that goal, both the Bush and Obama administrations have repeatedly overlooked the following realities:

  • Hamid Karzai, the “president” of Afghanistan (2001-2014) didn’t believe in democracy–despite American claims to support his efforts to bring this to Afghanistan.
  • His authority didn’t extend beyond Kabul, and he was viewed by most Afghans as an illegitimate ruler, imposed by America.
  • The same can be said for his successor, Mohammad Ashraf Ghani.
  • American soldiers in Afghanistan feel surrounded by enemies and hamstrung by unrealistic orders to win “hearts and minds” at the risk of their own lives.
  • The Taliban poses no threat to the security of the United States.
  • Afghan “insurgents” are fighting American forces because (1) they are in a civil war; and (2) they believe their country has once again been occupied by foreigners.
  • Counterinsurgency is being preached as the key to defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan–where it hasn’t worked.
  • Americans entered Afghanistan without an exit strategy.

All these truths applied just as firmly to America’s failed misadventure in Vietnam.

Almost 50 years ago, American “grunts” felt about their so-called South Vietnamese allies as American troops now feel about their Afghan “allies.”

Dr. Dennis Greenbaum, a former army medic, summed up how Americans had really felt about their supposed South Vietnamese allies.

American surgical team in Vietnam

“The highest [priority for medical treatment] was any U.S. person. The second highest was a U.S. dog from the canine corps.  The third was NVA [North Vietnamese Army].  The fourth was VC [Viet Cong].

“And the fifth was ARVIN [Army of the Republic of South Vietnam], because they had no particular value,” said Greenbaum.

When you despise the “ally” you’re spending lives and treasure to defend, it’s time to pack up.

HUBRIS–AMERICAN STYLE

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 7, 2017 at 4:00 pm

Donald Trump has changed Presidential campaigning–perhaps forever.

First, he routinely insulted his opponents. He made angry and brutal attacks on a wide range of persons and organizations–including his fellow Republicans, journalists, news organizations, other countries and even celebrities unconnected with politics.

Among those groups:

  • Mexicans
  • Prisoners-of-War
  • Blacks
  • Handicapped

Donald Trump

  • Muslims
  • Women
  • Asians

Second, he weaponized social media. He made Twitter an essential arm of his campaign, swiftly insulting his opponents and keeping them constantly off-balance. He proved himself a master at the tabloid news culture and thoroughly in tune with his target audience.

Third, he used the media for free publicity.  Since announcing his candidacy on June 16, 2015, he got a year’s worth of free media advertising.  This wasn’t the result of a networks’ conspiracy to favor Trump.

Instead, it owed to the media’s lust for sensational copy. And scenes of conflict–such as making brutal attacks on others–generate huge viewership.

This was most apparent in debates, during which he belittled his Republican opponents with insulting nicknames, such as:

  • “Little Marco” – Florida U.S. Senator Marco Rubio
  • “Goofy” – Massachusetts U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren
  • “Lyin’ Ted” – Texas U.S. Senator Rafael Eduardo “Ted” Cruz

And looking beyond the Republican primary cycle, he created one for his future Democratic antagonist: “Crooked Hillary”–Hillary Clinton, former First Lady, U.S. Senator from New York and Secretary of State.

Political pundits marveled at Trump’s ability to jettison long-held niceties of political discourse and not pay an electoral price for it. They kept predicting that eventually this might happen.  But it never did.

Fourth, he openly called for the subversion of the American political system.

On July 22, 2016, Wikileaks released 19,252 emails and 8,034 attachments hacked from computers of the highest-ranking officials of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

Cyber-security experts believed the hackers originated from Russia–and that Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized it.

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The emails revealed the DNC’s bias for Clinton for President. And they showed clear animosity toward her lone challenger, Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders.

Sanders’ supporters had long charged that the DNC and its chair, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, were plotting to undercut his campaign.

Five days later, on July 27, at a press conference in Doral, Florida. Trump said:

“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

Trump hoped to score points on Hillary Clinton’s using a private email server as Secretary of State. Instead, he ignited criticism–of himself–on both Left and Right.

“This has to be the first time that a major presidential candidate has actively encouraged a foreign power to conduct espionage against his political opponent,” said Jake Sullivan, Clinton’s chief foreign policy adviser. “This has gone from being a matter of curiosity, and a matter of politics, to being a national security issue.”

Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan was equally quick to react. “Russia is a global menace led by a devious thug,” said Brendan Buck, Ryan’s spokesman. “Putin should stay out of this election.”

“If he is talking about the State Department emails on her server, he is inviting a foreign intelligence service to steal sensitive American government information,” said Michael Hayden, head of the CIA under President George W. Bush.

“In addition to its implications for national security today,” wrote Benjy Sarlin, political reporter for MSNBC, “the incident raised disturbing questions about how Trump would govern as president. If a leader is willing to turn to ask foreign spy agencies to target a political opponent, what would he ask of his own spy agencies?”

The avalanche of criticism led Trump to claim: “I was only being sarcastic.”

For at least one normally conservative newspaper, Trump’s words were simply too much. In a July 27 editorial, The Dallas Morning News declared:

“Words have meaning.  The world is listening. And what the world is hearing is a man demonstrating that he is unfit to sit in the Oval Office.”

Since the end of World War II, Republicans had taken an intensely anti-Communist stance. Now their Presidential nominee had not only complimented an ex-KGB agent but had even invited him to target the American political system.

Despite the criticism, the overwhelming majority of Republicans–including Paul Ryan–continued to support Trump’s candidacy. Nor did the Obama administration investigate or indict him for treason or subversion.

The ancient Greeks believed hubris–overweening pride–to be the greatest of sins. And, they warned, it was usually punished by divine wrath.

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In his book, The World of Herodotus, Aubrey de Selincourt writes that the Greek historian filled his book, The Histories, with “stories of the perils of pride–pride of wealth, pride of power, pride of success, and, deadliest of all, the pride which leads a man to forget that he is a nothing in the sight of the gods.”

And, in the pages of The Histories lies this warning: “Look to the end, no matter what it is you are considering. Often enough, God gives a man a glimpse of happiness, and then utterly ruins him.”

Donald Trump has finally made it to the White House. But there is still time for hubris to overtake and destroy him.

DR. STRANGEVELOVE COMES TO THE WHITE HOUSE: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on December 14, 2016 at 12:01 am

Americans like to believe they make rational choices for their Presidents.

But this has not always been the case.

One such example was Richard M. Nixon, elected in 1968 and re-elected in 1972.

In 1970, while deciding whether to widen the Vietnam war by bombing Cambodia, he repeatedly watched the movie “Patton.”  Then he ordered the bombing to begin.

Richard Nixon

In 1974, as Justice Department investigations of Watergate increasingly threatened his Presidency, his behavior grew increasingly erratic.

He drank heavily, took pills by the handful, and, on at least one occasion, was seen talking to pictures of Presidents that adorned the walls of the White House.

In the final weeks of his administration, as impeachment for his Watergate abuses seemed increasingly certain, Nixon inspired fears of a military coup in his Secretary of Defense.

James Schlesinger warned all military commands to ignore any direct orders from the White House–or any other source–without the counter-signature of the SecDef himself.

On his last night in the White House–August 8, 1974–Nixon summoned Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to the Oval Office.

Half-rambling, half-crying, Nixon asked Kissinger to kneel with him on the White House rug and pray for God’s forgiveness. Kissinger, though Jewish, had never shown any interest in religion. Nevertheless, he reluctantly did so.

Later that night, Nixon called Kissinger and pleaded with him to never tell anyone “that I cried, and I was not strong.” Kissinger promised to keep his secret–and then promptly leaked it.  It soon became the most talked-about revelation of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s blockbuster, The Final Days.

Nixon, however, was not the only President whose irrationality played havoc with history. 

In June, 2001, George W. Bush met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Slovenia. Bush judged others–even world leaders–through the lens of his own fundamentalist Christian theology.

And Putin was quick to take advantage of it.

George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin  

BUSH:  Let me say something about what caught my attention, Mr. President, was that your mother gave you a cross which you had blessed in Israel, the Holy Land. 

PUTIN:  It’s true.

BUSH:  That amazes me, that here you were a Communist, KGB operative, and yet you were willing to wear a cross.  That speaks volumes to me, Mr. President. May I call you Vladimir?

Falling back on his KGB training, Putin seized on this apparent point of commonality to build a bond. He told Bush that his dacha had once burned to the ground, and the only item that had been saved was that cross. 

BUSH:  Well, that’s the story of the cross as far as I’m concerned. Things are meant to be.

Afterward, Bush and Putin gave an outdoor news conference.

“Is this a man that Americans can trust?” Associated Press correspondent Ron Fournier asked Bush.

“Yes,” said Bush. “I was able to get a sense of his soul, a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country. I wouldn’t have invited him to my ranch if I didn’t trust him.” 

Of course, no one from the Right is now recalling such embarrassing words.

In early 2003, Bush telephoned French President Jaques Chirac, hoping to enlist his support–and troops–for his long-planned invasion of Iraq.

Failing to convince Chirac that overthrowing Saddam Hussein was politically advantageous, Bush took a different tack.

BUSH: Jaques, you and I share a common faith. You’re Roman Catholic, I’m Methodist, but we’re both Christians committed to the teachings of the Bible. We share one common Lord. 

Gog and Magog are at work in the Middle East.  Biblical prophecies are being fulfilled.

This confrontation is willed by God, who wants to use this conflict to erase His people’s enemies before a new age begins.

When the call ended, Chirac asked his advisers: “Gog and Magog–do any of you know what he’s talking about?”

When no one did, Chirac ordered: Find out.

The answer came from Thomas Roemer, a professor of theology at the University of Lausanne.

Romer explained that the Old Testament book of Ezekiel contains two chapters (38 and 39) in which God rages against Gog and Magog, sinister and mysterious forces menacing Israel.

Jehovah vows to slaughter them ruthlessly. In the New Testament book of Revelation (20:8) Gog and Magog are depicted as gathering nations for battle: “And fire came down from God out of Heaven, and devoured them.”

Chirac decided to oppose joining the upcoming invasion of Iraq.  France, he said, would not fight a war based on an American Presient’s interpretation of the Bible.

Click here: 500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars: Kurt Eichenwald

Bush’s war cost the lives of 4,486 Americans–and an estimated 655,000 Iraqis. And the United States remains mired in Iraq, with more than 4,400 troops stationed there.

Bush, however, was not the first President to invoke Gog and Magog.

Ronald Reagan predicted that this Biblical confrontation would pit the United States against the Soviet Union–which had abandoned God at the time of the Russian Revolution.

Evangelical Christians twice elected Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush to the Presidency.

In light of this, voters should think carefully before choosing candidates who accept superstitious beliefs over rational inquiry.

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