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IF AMERICA UNITES, IT WILL BE ALL-SLAVE OR ALL-FREE: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 29, 2019 at 12:16 am

On July 25, 2019, President Donald J Trump tried to extort a “favor” from Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine: Find embarrassing “dirt” on former Vice President Joseph Biden and his son, Hunter.

Hunter had had business dealings in Ukraine. And Joe Biden might be Trump’s Democratic opponent for the White House in 2020. 

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Joseph Biden

To underline the seriousness of his “request,” Trump had withheld $400 million in promised military aid to Ukraine, which is facing an increasingly aggressive Russia. 

But then a CIA whistleblower filed a complaint about the extortion attempt—and the media and Congress soon learned of it. 

On November 22, 2019, Mark Shields—a liberal syndicated columnist—and David Brooks—a conservative one for The New York Timesreached disturbingly similar conclusions about the corruption reveled by hearings of the House Intelligence Committee.

DAVID BROOKS: “I think Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani, I don’t think it ever occurred to them that this was unethical. What strikes me [is] that everyone was in the loop, that this was not something they tried to hide.

“This was just something they thought was the way politics gets done or foreign policy gets done, that there’s no division between personal gain and public service.”

MARK SHIELDS: “What I have underestimated….is the fear that Donald Trump exercises over Republicans.I mean, people talked about Lyndon Johnson being a fearsome political leader. They don’t even approach. I mean, he strikes fear into the hearts of Republicans up and down the line. And I think that….has been eye-opening in its dimensions.”

Nor is there any reason to hope that the GOP will reign Trump in.

In a November 14 column, “Republicans Can’t Abandon Trump Now Because They’re All Guilty,” freelance journalist Joel Mathis warns: “Trump’s abuses of power mirror those of the GOP as a whole. Republicans can’t turn on him, because doing so would be to indict their party’s entire approach to politics.”

For example:

  • At the state level, GOP legislatures have passed numerous voter ID laws over the last decade. Officially, the reason has been to prevent non-citizens from voting. In reality, the motive is to depress turnout among Democratic constituencies.
  • When Democrats have won elections, Republicans have tried to make it impossible for them to carry out their policies. In Utah, voters approved Medicaid expansion at the ballot box—but Republicans nullified this.
  • In North Carolina, Republican legislators prevented voters from choosing their representatives. Instead, Republican representatives chose voters through partisan sorting. In September, the state’s Supreme Court ruled the legislative gerrymandered district map unconstitutional.

The upshot of all this: “The president and his party are united in the belief that their entitlement to power allows them to manipulate and undermine the country’s democratic processes….

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“In the meantime, it is probably best to give up waiting for that impeachment-induced moment—a  Watergate—when Republicans realize their duty to country and come around to opposing him. The president and today’s GOP share the same sins. It will be difficult for them to abandon each other.”

That appears to be the judgment of Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Concluding the proceedings for November 21, Schiff attacked Republicans’ total rejection of the overwhelming evidence linking Trump with extortion:

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Adam Schiff

“But apparently, it’s all hearsay. Even when you actually hear the president….that’s hearsay. We can’t rely on people saying what the president said. Apparently, we can only rely on what the president says, and there, we shouldn’t even rely on that either….

“We should imagine he said something about actually fighting corruption, instead of what he actually said, which was, ‘I want you to do us a favor, though. I want you to look into this 2016 CrowdStrike conspiracy theory, and I want you to look into the Bidens.’

“I guess we’re not even supposed to rely on that because that’s hearsay….That would be like saying you can’t rely on the testimony of the burglars during Watergate because it’s only hearsay, or you can’t consider the fact that they tried to break in because they got caught. They actually didn’t get what they came for, so, you know, kind of no harm, no foul. That’s absurd.

“The difference between [Watergate and Trump’s attempted extortion of Ukraine] is not the difference between [Richard] Nixon and [Donald] Trump. It’s the difference between that Congress and this one. And so, we are asking, where is Howard Baker? Where are the people who are willing to go beyond their party to look to their duty? 

“But the other defense besides ‘It failed, the scheme failed, they got caught,’ the other defense is ‘The president denies it.’ Well, I guess that’s case closed, right?

“….This president believes he is above the law, beyond accountability. And in my view, there is nothing more dangerous than an unethical president who believes they are above the law.”

* * * * *

Those who lament that the United States has become a polarized nation must realize there is only one choice: Either Americans will remain free—or they will be enslaved by a ruthless political party convinced it is entitled to manipulate and undermine the country’s democratic processes;

There is no middle ground.

IF AMERICA UNITES, IT WILL BE ALL-SLAVE OR ALL-FREE: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 28, 2019 at 12:26 am

On November 14, the CNN website showcased an opinion piece by Jane Carr and Laura Juncadella entitled: “Fractured States of America.” 

And it opened:

“Some worry that it’s already too late, that we’ve crossed a threshold of polarization from which there is no return. Others look toward a future where more moderate voices are heeded and heard, and Americans can find better ways to relate to each other. Still others look back to history for a guide—perhaps for what not to do, or at the very least for proof that while it’s been bad before, progress is still possible.”

Then followed a series of anecdotes. The sub-headlines summed up many of the comments reported.

  • “I was starting to hate people that I have loved for years.”
  • “Voting for Trump cost me my friends.”
  • “I feel like I’m living in hostile territory.”
  • “Our children are watching this bloodsport.”
  • “A student’s Nazi-style salute reflects the mate.”
  • “Our leaders reflect the worst of us.”
  • “I truly believe I will be assaulted over a bumper sticker.”
  • “It already feels like a cold war.”

Abraham Lincoln warned: “A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half-slave and half-free. It will become all one thing or all the other.”

America now faces such a choice:

  1. To submit to the tyrannical aggression of a ruthless political party convinced that they are entitled to power to manipulate and undermine the country’s democratic processes; or
  2. To fiercely resist that aggression and the destruction of those democratic processes.

Consider the face-off between President Donald J. Trump and Army Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman.

Vindman is is a United States Army officer who serves as the Director for European Affairs for the United States National Security Council. He is also a witness to Trump’s efforts to extort “a favor” from the president of Ukraine.

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Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman

Адміністрація Президента України [CC BY 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)%5D

In July, 2019, Trump told his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, to withhold almost $400 million in promised military aid for Ukraine, which faces increasing aggression from Russia.

On July 25, Trump telephoned Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to “request” a “favor”: Investigate 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, who has had business dealings in Ukraine.

The reason for such an investigation: To find embarrassing “dirt” on Biden.

“I was concerned by the call,” Vindman, having overheard Trump’s phone call, testified before the House Intelligence Committee. “I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen, and I was worried about the implications for the U.S. Government’s support of Ukraine.

“I realized that if Ukraine pursued an investigation into the Bidens and Burisma, it would likely be interpreted as a partisan play which would undoubtedly result in Ukraine losing the bipartisan support it has thus far maintained. This would all undermine U.S. national security.”

Trump denounced Vindman as a “Never Trumper”—as if opposing his extortion attempt constituted a blasphemy. Republicans and their shills on the Fox News Network attacked him as well. As a result, he sought protection by the Army for himself and his family. 

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Donald Trump

On November 15, conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks and liberal syndicated columnist Mark Shields summed up the different reactions by Republicans and Democrats to Trump’s extortion attempt.

Their forum: The PBS Newshour.  While they often reach different conclusions on the same matter, on this occasion they found themselves in virtual agreement.

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David Brooks and Mark Shields on “The PBS Newshour”

DAVID BROOKS: “The case is very solid and airtight that there was the quid pro quo. All the testimony points to that. And, mostly, you see a contrast. The first two gentlemen that testified on the first day, they were just upstanding, solid public servants.

“I felt like I was looking back in time, because I was looking at two people who are not self-centered. They cared about the country. They were serving. They had not partisan axe to grind. They were just honest men of integrity.

“And I thought we saw that again today with [former Ambassador to Ukraine] Marie Yovanovitch. And in her case, the day was more emotional, because you got to see a case of bullying against a strong, upstanding woman.

“And so I thought she expressed—like, the heavy moments of today where when she expressed her reaction to how badly she was treated. And so that introduces an element of emotion and pathos into what shouldn’t be just a legal proceeding. It should be something where people see the contrast between good people and bad people.” 

MARK SHIELDS: “There’s a sense of outrage building. This is a story of corruption, corruption not in Ukraine, corruption in the United States. 

“I mean, why? Why did they go to such lengths to denigrate, to attack, to try and destroy and sabotage the career of a dedicated public servant [United States Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovich], a person who had put her life on the line? Why did they do it? What was it, money? Was it power?”

MACHIAVELLI: TRUMP AS A PRINCE? GET REAL!

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 4, 2019 at 12:25 am

No shortage of pundits have sized up Donald Trump–first as a Presidential candidate, and now as the nation’s 45th President.  

But how does Trump measure up in the estimate of Niccolo Machiavelli, the 16th-century Florentine statesman?

It is Machiavelli whose two great works on politics—The Prince and The Discourses—remain textbooks for successful politicians more than 500 years later.  

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Niccolo Machiavelli

Let’s start with Trump’s notoriety for hurling insults at virtually everyone, including:  

  • Latinos
  • Asians
  • Muslims
  • Blacks
  • The Disabled
  • Women
  • Prisoners-of-War

These insults delight his white, under-educated followers. But they have alienated millions of other Americans who might have voted for him.

Now consider Machiavelli’s advice on gratuitously handing out insults and threats:

  • “I hold it to be a proof of great prudence for men to abstain from threats and insulting words towards any one.
  • “For neither the one nor the other in any way diminishes the strength of the enemy–but the one makes him more cautious, and the other increases his hatred of you, and makes him more persevering in his efforts to injure you.”

During the 2016 Presidential campaign, many Trump supporters claimed he would act more “Presidential” if elected. For them, Machiavelli had a stern warning:

  • “…If it happens that time and circumstances are favorable to one who acts with caution and prudence he will be successful.  But if time and circumstances change he will be ruined, because he does not change the mode of his procedure.
  • “No man can be found so prudent as to be able to adopt himself to this, either because he cannot deviate from that to which his nature disposes him, or else because, having always prospered by walking in one path, he cannot persuade himself that it is well to leave it…
  • “For if one could change one’s nature with time and circumstances, fortune would never change.”

Then consider Trump’s approach to consulting advisers:

Asked on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” who he consults about foreign policy, Trump replied; “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things.”

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Donald Trump

This totally contradicts the advice given by Machiavelli:

  • “A prudent prince must [choose] for his counsel wise men, and [give] them alone full liberty to speak the truth to him, but only of those things that he asks and of nothing else.
  • “But he must be a great asker about everything and hear their opinions, and afterwards deliberate by himself in his own way, and in these counsels…comport himself so that every one may see that the more freely he speaks, the more he will be acceptable.”

And: 

  • “The first impression that one gets of a ruler and his brains is from seeing the men that he has about him. 
  • “When they are competent and loyal one can always consider him wise, as he has been able to recognize their ability and keep them faithful. 
  • “But when they are the reverse, one can always form an unfavorable opinion of him, because the first mistake that he makes is in making this choice.” 

Using Machiavelli as a guide, we can judge Trump’s ability to select advisers:

  • Founder of Latinos for Trump Marco Gutierrez told MSNBC’s Joy Reid: “My culture is a very dominant culture. And it’s imposing, and it’s causing problems. If you don’t do something about it, you’re gonna have taco trucks every corner.” 
  • At a Tea Party for Trump rally at a Harley-Davidson dealership in Festus, Missouri, former Missouri Republican Party director Ed Martin reassured the crowd that they weren’t racist for hating Mexicans.

During the 2016 Presidential campaign, 70% of women voiced an unfavorable opinion of Trump. So comments like this one didn’t increase his popularity among women—or anyone who received Medicaid, Medicare or Social Security.

  • Wayne Root, opening speaker and master of ceremonies at many Trump campaign events, told Virginia radio host Rob Schilling: People on public assistance and women getting birth control through Obamacare should not be allowed to vote.  

George W. Bush was President in 2004. Barack Obama became President in 2009. And Hillary Clinton became Secretary of State the same year. So voters were understandably startled when:

  • Trump’s spokeswoman, Katrina Pierson, claimed that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were responsible for the death of Captain Humayun Khan—who was killed by a truck-bomb in Iraq in 2004.  

Finally, Machiavelli offers a related warning that especially applies to Trump: Unwise princes cannot be wisely advised.

  • “It is an infallible rule that a prince who is not wise himself cannot be well advised, unless by chance he leaves himself entirely in the hands of one man who rules him in everything, and happens to be a very prudent man. In this case, he may doubtless be well governed, but it would not last long, for the governor would in a short time deprive him of the state.”

All of which would lead Niccolo Machiavelli to warn, if he could witness American politics today: “This bodes ill for your Republic.”

TRUMP’S PREVIEW OF ADMINISTRATIVE INCOMPETENCE: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on August 9, 2019 at 12:09 am

In late July, 2016, Donald Trump’s new spokeswoman, Katrina Pierson, accepted an impossible mission that even “Mission: Impossible’s” Jim Phelps would have turned down:

Convince Americans that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were responsible for the death of Captain Humayun Khan, who was killed by a truck-bomb in Iraq in 2004.  

Appearing on CNN’s The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer on August 2, Pierson said: “It was under Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton that changed the rules of engagements that probably cost his life.”

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Katrina Pierson

Totally ignored in that scenario: 

  • President George W. Bush lied the nation into a needless war that cost the lives of 4,486 Americans and wounded another 33,226.
  • The war began in 2003—and Khan was killed in 2004.
  • Barack Obama became President in 2009—almost five years after Khan’s death. 
  • Hillary Clinton became Secretary of State the same year. 
  • Obama, elected Illinois U.S. Senator in 2004, vigorously opposed the Iraq war throughout his term. 

Twitter users, using the hashtag #KatrinaPiersonHistory, mocked Pierson’s revisionist take on history. Among their tweets: 

  • Hillary Clinton slashed funding for security at the Ford Theater, leading to Lincoln’s assassination. 
  • Obama gave Amelia Earhart directions to Kenya. 
  • Remember the Alamo? Obama and Hillary let it happen. 
  • Obama and Clinton kidnapped the Lindbergh baby.

Not content with blaming President Obama for the death of a man he never sent into combat, Pierson claimed that Obama started the Afghanistan war. 

Appearing again on CNN, Pierson said the Afghan war began “after 2007,” when Al Qaeda “was in ashes” following the American troop surge in Iraq.  

“Remember, we weren’t even in Afghanistan by this time,” Pierson said. “Barack Obama went into Afghanistan, creating another problem.”

In fact, President George W. Bush ordered the invasion of Afghanistan following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

When your spokeswoman becomes a nationwide laughingstock, your own credibility goes down the toilet as well.  

In July, 2016, an Associated Press/GfK poll found that half of Americans saw Donald Trump as “racist”—and only 7% of blacks viewed him favorably.

There are numerous reasons for this:

  • His enthusiastic support by racist white supremacist organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party. 
  • His “birther” attacks on President Obama as a non-citizen from Kenya–and thus ineligible to hold the Presidency. 
  • His attacks on the Black Lives Matter movement and calling on his supporters at rallies to rough up minority protesters.

Since 1964, blacks have overwhelmingly voted for Democratic Presidential candidates. President Lyndon B. Johnson’s won their loyalty with his support for and passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

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President Johnson signing the 1964 Civil Rights Act

Republican Presidential candidate Barry Goldwater opposed it—as did the majority of his party.

Since 1964, fewer than six percent of blacks have voted for Republican Presidential candidates. Whites have not only remained the majority of Republican voters but have become the single most important voting bloc among them.

To counter this, Donald Trump turned to his Director of African-American Outreach: Omarosa Manigault. 

Trump made the appointment just hours before the first night of the Republican National Convention. 

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Omarosa Manigault

Manigault is best known as the villain of Trump’s reality-TV show, “The Apprentice”—where she was fired on three different seasons. Her credentials include a Ph.D. in communications, a preacher’s license, and topping TV Guide’s list of greatest reality TV villains in 2008.  

During the Clinton administration she held four jobs in two years, and was thoroughly disliked in all of them. 

“She was asked to leave [her last job] as quickly as possible, she was so disruptive,” said Cheryl Shavers, the former Under Secretary for Technology at the Commerce Department. “One woman wanted to slug her.”  

In her role as Trump’s ambassador to blacks, Omarosa inspired others to want to slug her. Appearing on Fox Business, she ignored Fox panelist Tamera Holder’s question on why blacks should support Trump, and then mocked her “big boobs.”   

Manigault wasn’t bothered that blacks regarded Trump so poorly in polls: “My reality is that I’m surrounded by people who want to see Donald Trump as the next president of the United States who are African-American.”

Appointing as your public relations director a woman who gratuitously insults and infuriates people is not the move of a smart administrator—or Presidential candidate.

Manigault followed Trump into the White House as director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison. There her arrogance and rudeness got her fired in December, 2017. 

Although she had known Trump since 2004. But it was only in 2018, in a tell-all book, Unhinged, that she claimed she had discovered that her idol was a racist, a misogynist and in mental decline.

To make things worse for Trump, she had secretly taped conversations between herself and him. Asked to justify this, she offered: “You have to have your own back or else you’ll look back and you’ll have 17 knives in your back. I protected myself because this is a White House where everybody lies.”

Thus, after all these demonstrations of Trump’s incompetence as an administrator, millions of hate-filled Americans rushed to the polls to support him—because “he says what I’m thinking.”

TRUMP’S A PREVIEW OF ADMINISTRATIVE INCOMPETENCE: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on August 8, 2019 at 12:05 am

During the 2016 Presidential campaign, even the Secret Service couldn’t protect Donald Trump from the notoriety of his handpicked supporters. 

From August to November, 2016, the manager of Trump’s Presidential campaign was Steve Bannon, who made anti-Semitic remarks and was found to have been registered to vote at a vacant house in Florida.  

But before Bannon signed on, his predecessor was Paul Manafort, whom Trump hired to add stability to his often scattershot campaign.  

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Paul Manafort

But Manafort came with a dangerous liability: His longstanding ties to pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine—which inevitably led to Vladimir Putin.  

For years, Manafort worked for Viktor Yanukovych, a Putin protege who was deposed as Ukraine’s president in 2014 amid widespread demonstrations.  

In August, the New York Times unearthed handwritten ledgers that listed $12.7 million in cash payments to Manafort from Yanukovych’s political party between 2007 and 2012. 

In 2018, Manafort would be found guilty on eight counts:

  • Filing false tax returns
  • Bank fraud
  • Failing to disclose a foreign bank account
  • Conspiracy to defraud the United States and
  • Witness tampering.

Trump’s own ties to Putin were already facing increasing scrutiny for:

  •  His and Putin’s public expressions of admiration for each other’s toughness.
  • The removal from the Republican party platform, written at the convention in Cleveland in July, of references to arming Ukraine in its fight against pro-Russian rebels who have been armed by the Kremlin.
  • Trump’s inviting Russia to find 30,000 emails deleted from the private server used by Hillary Clinton while she was Secretary of State in the Obama administration: “I think you will probably be mightily rewarded by our press.”

Added to Manafort’s embarrassing ties to Russia was another minus: He and Trump didn’t get along. Trump had begun calling him “low energy”–a term he once aimed at his former GOP rival, Jeb Bush. 

Manafort wanted Trump to bring more self-discipline to the campaign and concentrate his fire solely on his Presidential rival, Hillary Clinton. Instead, in late July, Trump ignited a days-long feud with members of a Gold Star family, costing him support within the veterans community. 

Manafort also wanted Trump to establish a conventional chain-of-command organization typical of a Presidential campaign. But Trump resisted, preferring to improvise and rely on his instincts and the counsel of his family.  

In late August, Trump fired him.

Foreign policy nearly always plays a major role in Presidential elections. Yet Trump showed a total lack of knowledge or concern for it.

Asked on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” who he consults about foreign policy, Trump replied; “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things.” 

In late August, 2016, former Republican Congresswoman (2007-2015) Michele Bachmann claimed that she was now advising Trump on foreign policy.  

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Michele Bachmann

A member of the Right-wing Tea Party, Bachmann has said that diplomacy “is our option” in dealing with Iran—but wouldn’t rule out a nuclear strike.

Among the statements she’s made:  

  • “I don’t know how much God has to do to get the attention of the politicians. We’ve had an earthquake; we’ve had a hurricane. He said, ‘Are you going to start listening to me here?'”
  • “Carbon dioxide is portrayed as harmful. But there isn’t even one study that can be produced that shows that carbon dioxide is a harmful gas.”
  • “President Obama waived a ban on arming terrorists in order to allow weapons to go to the Syrian opposition….U.S. taxpayers are now paying to give arms to terrorists, including Al-Qaeda.”  
  • “I’m a believer in Jesus Christ.  As I look at the End Times scripture, this says to me that the leaf is on the fig tree and we are to understand the signs of the times, which is your ministry, we are to understand where we are in God’s end time history.” 

A woman who believes that God causes earthquakes and hurricanes, and that mankind has arrived at “End Times,” could hardly be a comfort to rational voters.

Another Trump adviser was former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes. His assignment: Prepare Trump for the upcoming fall debates with Clinton.

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Roger Ailes

Ailes’ appointment came shortly after he was fired, in July, 2016, from Fox News on multiple charges of sexual harassment.  

At first, only Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson dared accuse him. But then more than two dozen women came forward to accuse Ailes of sexual harassment.

On September 6, Carlson reached an out-of-court settlement with the parent company of Fox News for a reported $20 million.

At least two other women have settled with Fox, an anonymous source told the New York Times.  And others may be planning to file lawsuits.

All of which made Ailes the poster boy for sexual harassment.  

Trump has been married three times and has often boasted of his sexual conquests—including ones he believes he could have had.

Shortly after the 1997 death of Princess Diana, he told a radio interviewer he could have “nailed” her if he had wanted to.  

In a mid-March CNN/ORC poll, 73% of female voters voiced a negative view of Trump. Associating with a notorious sexual harasser like Roger Ailes could only make him even more unpopular among women.

TRUMP’S PREVIEW OF ADMINISTRATIVE INCOMPETENCE: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on August 7, 2019 at 12:05 am

“The first impression that one gets of a ruler and his brains is from seeing the men that he has about him. 

“When they are competent and loyal one can always consider him wise, as he has been able to recognize their ability and keep them faithful. 

“But when they are the reverse, one can always form an unfavorable opinion of him, because the first mistake that he makes is in making this choice.”

So wrote the Italian statesman Niccolo Machiavelli more than 500 years ago in his famous treatise on politics, The Prince.  

And his words remain as true in our day as they were in his.

In fact, he could have been writing about the ability of Donald Trump to choose subordinates.

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Niccolo Machiavelli

As a Presidential candidate, Trump repeatedly previewed his administrative incompetence—which he has continued to demonstrate as President. 

Of course, his favorite daughter, Ivanka, bitterly disagrees: “My father values talent. He recognizes real knowledge and skill when he finds it. He is color-blind and gender-neutral. He hires the best person for the job, period.”

But a close look at those he picked to run his campaign for President totally refutes this. 

From the outset of his Presidential campaign, Trump polled extremely poorly among Hispanic voters. Among the reasons for this—Trump’s verdict on Mexicans:

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

And he promised to “build a great, great wall on our southern border and I will have Mexico pay for that wall.” 

So statements like those of his supporters Marco Gutierrez and Ed Martin could only inflame Hispanic voters even more:

Founder of Latinos for Trump Marco Gutierrez told MSNBC’s Joy Reid: “My culture is a very dominant culture. And it’s imposing, and it’s causing problems. If you don’t do something about it, you’re gonna have taco trucks every corner.” 

At a Tea Party for Trump rally at a Harley-Davidson dealership in Festus, Missouri, former Missouri Republican Party director Ed Martin reassured the crowd that they weren’t not racist for hating Mexicans.

“Donald Trump is for Americans first. He’s for us first. It is not selfish to support, or to be for, your neighbor, as opposed to someone from another nation. And Mexico, Mexicans, that’s not a race. You’re not racist if you don’t like Mexicans. They’re from a nation.”  

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Donald Trump

Then there were the inflammatory words offered by Wayne Root, opening speaker and master of ceremonies at many Trump events. Root told Virginia radio host Rob Schilling that people on public assistance and women who get their birth control through Obamacare should not be allowed to vote

“If the people who paid the taxes were the only ones allowed to vote, we’d [Republicans] have landslide victories. But you’re allowing people to vote. This explains everything! People with conflict of interest shouldn’t be allowed to vote. If you collect welfare, you have no right to vote.

“The day you get off welfare, you get your voting rights back. The reality is, why are you allowed to have this conflict of interest that you vote for the politician who wants to keep your welfare checks coming and your food stamps and your aid to dependent children and your free health care and your Medicaid, your Medicare and your Social Security and everything else?” 

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Wayne Root

According to a March, 206 Gallup poll, 70% of women—or seven in 10–had an unfavorable opinion of Trump.

Such comments as Root’s could only make Trump even more unpopular with women. Not to mention anyone who received Medicaid, Medicare or Social Security. 

Donald Trump’s new campaign manager, Steve Bannon, was charged with misdemeanor domestic violence, battery, and dissuading a witness in 1996, after an altercation with his then-wife, Mary Louise Piccard,  in Santa Monica, California. 

Picard also said in a 2007 court declaration that Bannon didn’t want their twin daughters attending the Archer School for Girls in Los Angeles because many Jewish students were enrolled there.  

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Steve Bannon

This undoubtedly contributed to Trump’s unpopularity among women, it also made him unpopular among Jews—especially in heavily Jewish states like New York and Florida.

In addition: Bannon and another ex-wife, Diane Clohesy, were registered to vote at a vacant house in Florida, a possible violation of election laws in a key swing state.

Republicans have vigorously denied voting rights to tens of thousands on the pretext of “voter fraud.” More than a dozen states still have voting restrictions in place since 2012.   

A Washington Post investigation found just 31 credible cases of voter fraud from 2000 to 2014, out of an estimated 1 billion ballots cast in the U.S. during that period.  

Meanwhile, voting rights groups have been fighting back–and winning.

“Voter ID” laws in Texas, Wisconsin and North Carolina have been found discriminatory against minorities–who traditionally vote Democratic.  

With evidence of Republican fraud like that supplied by Trump’s own campaign manager, victories against “Voter ID” laws may well increase.

JUDGMENT DAY FOR AMERICA’S DEATH-DEALERS: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 27, 2019 at 12:13 am

“The victims of the violence are black and white, rich and poor, young and old, famous and unknown. They are, most important of all, human beings whom other human beings loved and needed. No one—no matter where he lives or what he does— can be certain who will suffer from some senseless act of bloodshed. And yet it goes on and on.”

–Robert F. Kennedy, April 4, 1968

Senator Robert F. Kennedy announcing the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

What should the surviving victims of gun massacres do to seek redress?

And how can the relatives and friends of those who didn’t survive seek justice for those they loved?

As far back as 2012, this writer posed those questions. And offered the following solution.

But only now has a court—the Connecticut Supreme Court—made this remedy possible.

First, don’t count on politicians to support a ban on assault weapons.

Politicians—with rare exceptions—have only two goals:

  1. Get elected to office, and
  2. Stay in office.

And too many of them fear the economic and voting clout of the National Rifle Association (NRA) to risk its wrath.

Consider Republican Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney and then-President Barack Obama.

Both rushed to offer condolences to the surviving victims of the massacre at the Century 16 Theater in Aurora, Colorado, on July 20, 2012.

And both steadfastly refused to even discuss gun control—let alone support a ban on the type of assault weapons used by James Holmes, leaving 12 dead and 58 wounded.

Second, those who survived the massacre—and the relatives and friends of those who didn’t—should file wrongful death, class-action lawsuits against the NRA.

There is sound, legal precedent for this.

  • For decades, the American tobacco industry peddled death and disability to millions and reaped billions of dollars in profits.
  • The industry vigorously claimed there was no evidence that smoking caused cancer, heart disease, emphysema or any other ailment.

  • Tobacco companies spent billions on slick advertising campaigns to win new smokers and attack medical warnings about the dangers of smoking.
  • Tobacco companies spent millions to elect compliant politicians and block anti-smoking legislation.
  • From 1954 to 1994, over 800 private lawsuits were filed against tobacco companies in state courts. But only two plaintiffs prevailed, and both of those decisions were reversed on appeal.
  • In 1994, amidst great pessimism, Mississippi Attorney General Mike Moore filed a lawsuit against the tobacco industry. But other states soon followed, ultimately growing to 46.
  • Their goal: To seek monetary, equitable and injunctive relief under various consumer-protection and anti-trust laws.
  • The theory underlying these lawsuits was: Cigarettes produced by the tobacco industry created health problems among the population, which badly strained the states’ public healthcare systems.
  • In 1998, the states settled their Medicaid lawsuits against the tobacco industry for recovery of their tobacco-related, health-care costs. In return, they exempted the companies from private lawsuits for tobacco-related injuries.
  • The companies agreed to curtail or cease certain marketing practices. They also agreed to pay, forever, annual payments to the states to compensate some of the medical costs for patients with smoking-related illnesses.

The parallels with the NRA are obvious:

  • For decades, the NRA has peddled deadly weapons to millions, reaped billions of dollars in profits and refused to admit the carnage those weapons have produced: “Guns don’t kill people.  People kill people.”  With guns.

  • The NRA has bitterly fought background checks on gun-buyers, in effect granting even criminals and the mentally ill the right to own arsenals of death-dealing weaponry.
  • The NRA has spent millions on slick advertising campaigns to win new members and frighten them into buying guns.

  • The NRA has spent millions on political contributions to block gun-control legislation.
  • The NRA has spent millions attacking political candidates and elected officials who warned about the dangers of unrestricted access to assault and/or concealed weapons.

  • The NRA has spent millions pushing “Stand Your Ground” laws in more than half the states, which potentially give every citizen a “license to kill.”
  • The NRA receives millions of dollars from online sales of ammunition, high-capacity ammunition magazines, and other accessories through its point-of-sale Round-Up Program—thus directly profiting by selling a product that kills about 30,288 people a year.

  • Firearms made indiscriminately available through NRA lobbying have filled hospitals with casualties, and have thus badly strained the states’ public healthcare systems.

It will take a series of highly expensive and well-publicized lawsuits to significantly weaken the NRA, financially and politically.

The first ones will have to be brought by the surviving victims of gun violence—and by the friends and families of those who did not survive it. Only they will have the courage and motivation to take such a risk.

As with the cases first brought against tobacco companies, there will be losses.  And the NRA will rejoice with each one.

But, in time, state Attorneys General will see the clear parallels between lawsuits filed against those who peddle death by cigarette and those who peddle death by armor-piercing bullet.

And then the NRA—like the tobacco industry—will face an adversary wealthy enough to stand up for the rights of the gun industry’s own victims.

Only then will those politicians supporting reasonable gun controls dare to stand up for the victims of these needless tragedies.

JUDGMENT DAY FOR AMERICA’S DEATH-DEALERS: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 26, 2019 at 12:11 am

Weapons manufacturers are the only companies in the United States that cannot be sued for the deaths and injuries their products cause.

This is because The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, or PLCAA, immunizes the American firearms industry against lawsuits by victims of mass shootings and gun violence.

Rammed through a Republican-dominated Congress in 2005 by the National Rifle Association (NRA), it was signed into law by President George W. Bush. 

But on March 15, 2019, the Supreme Court of Connecticut ruled that families of schoolchildren gunned down in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre could sue Remington Outdoor Co Inc., over its marketing of military-style Bushmaster weapons to civilians.

The Court ruled that the victims’ families had the right to sue Remington under the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA).

Among the ads that Remington ran to promote its military-style AR-15 Bushmaster rifle: 

  • “Truly the most versatile and adaptive rifle ever conceived, it was born of a collaborative effort between Bushmaster, Magpul and Remington to create the ultimate military combat weapons system.”
  • A photo of a Bushmaster with its barrel facing the reader, with the caption: “CONSIDER YOUR MAN CARD REISSUED.” 
  • A photo of a Bushmaster, alongside the slogan: “Forces of opposition, bow down. You are single-handedly outnumbered.”
  • “ONE RIFLE. MANY MISSIONS. THE REVOLUTIONARY, FULLY MODULAR REMINGTON ACR (ADAPTIVE COMBAT RIFLE).”

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Remington AR-15 Bushmaster

“The defendants knowingly marketed, advertised, and promoted the XM15-E2S for civilians to use to carry out offensive, military style combat missions against their perceived enemies,” alleges the Newtown lawsuit.

And the Justices ruled that, “such use of the XM15-E2S, or any weapon for that matter, would be illegal, and Connecticut law does not permit advertisements that promote or encourage violent, criminal behavior.

“We are confident… that, if there were credible allegations that a firearms seller had run explicit advertisements depicting and glorifying school shootings, and promoted its products in video games, such as ‘School Shooting,’ that glorify and reward such unlawful conduct, and if a troubled young man who watched those advertisements and played those games were inspired thereby to commit a terrible crime like the ones involved in the Sandy Hook massacre, then even the most ardent sponsors of PLCAA would not have wanted to bar a consumer protection lawsuit seeking to hold the supplier accountable for the injuries wrought by such unscrupulous marketing practices.”

Image result for Images of Connecticut Supreme Court Building

Connecticut Supreme Court Building

Said David Wheeler, father of a Sandy Hook victim: “There is a reason why this particular consumer product is the one that is used by people who want to inflict the most damage, and we have seen it time and time again since my son and his classmates were killed. That reason very likely potentially resides in the documents that we have been unable to look at until now.”

“The families’ goal has always been to shed light on Remington’s calculated and profit-driven strategy to expand the AR-15 market and court high-risk users, all at the expense of Americans’ safety,” said Josh Koskoff, one of the lawyers for the victims’ families, “Today’s decision is a critical step toward achieving that goal.” 

“This is a landmark and potentially historic ruling,” said Adam Winkler, a UCLA Law School professor who specializes in constitutional law. “While all this decision does is allow a case to go forward, in broader terms it really opens up a new avenue for holding gunmakers responsible.”

More importantly, the ruling could spur similar suits in other states. “This could prompt further such suits not only for cases of mass shootings, but individual ones as well,” Winkler said.

The decision by the Connecticut Supreme Court wasn’t unanimous. Three of its seven justices dissented.

The case now goes back to the lower court for further proceedings and a possible trial.

Opinion remains divided over its chances for success.

According to National Public Radio: “The suit is a high-stakes challenge to gun companies, which have rarely been held liable for crimes committed with their products, and could mark a new front in the battle over gun regulations and corporate accountability.

“An eventual ruling against Remington could establish legal precedent, opening doors for more lawsuits against gun manufacturers, and expose the company’s communications about its marketing plans.” 

Noted The Root: “While federal judges remain split on which laws apply to firearm manufacturers, Connecticut judges have drawn a line in the sand. While U.S. Supreme Court intervention on behalf of Remington is a distinct possibility, Connecticut’s decision could inspire lawmakers and lawyers to take a hard look at PLCAA.”  

“The larger implications of this are that the Connecticut Supreme Court has just blown a giant hole in the PLCAA and in federal immunity for firearms manufacturers,” said Timothy Lytton, a law professor at Georgia State University.

Lytton predicted that the United States Supreme Court would be likely to take up the case: “What we’re talking about here is the interpretation of a federal statute and that falls squarely in the jurisdiction of the [United States] Supreme Court.”

A spokeswoman for the National Rifle Association declined to comment. 

JUDGMENT DAY FOR AMERICA’S DEATH-DEALERS: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 25, 2019 at 1:38 am

It had happened before—all too often before:

  • Midnight vigils for the victims of yet another spree-killer.
  • Makeshift memorials of flowers, candles and teddy bears.
  • Grief counselors for students at elementary, junior high and high schools.
  • And, of course, the inevitable question: “Why?”

Americans had seen it all before—too many times before: 

  • After the San Ysidro McDonald’s shootings, 1984: 21 dead, 19 wounded.
  • After the 101 California Street shootings in San Francisco, 1993: 9 dead, 6 injured.
  • After the Columbine High School shootings in Colorado, 1999: 15 dead, 21 wounded.
  • After the Virginia Tech shootings, 2007: 32 dead, 23 wounded.
  • After the Tucson shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, 2011: 6 dead, 13 wounded.
  • After the massacre at the Century 16 Theater in Aurora, Colorado, 2012: 12 dead, 58 wounded.

And then, on December 14, 2012, Adam Lanza, a mentally unstable, 20-year-old gunman, shot and killed his sleeping mother, Nancy, as she lay in bed at home.

Then he drove his mother’s car to Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, Connecticut, and slaughtered 20 school children aged six and seven and six adult staff. 

His weapon of choice: A Remington AR-15 Bushmaster rifle, a semi-automatic civilian version of the U.S. military’s M-16.

A fanatical gun collector, Nancy Lanza had turned the house she shared with her son into a virtual arsenal:

  • Izhmash Saiga 12-gauge semiautomatic shotgun
  • Bushmaster Model XM15-E2S .223-caliber semiautomatic rifle
  • Glock 20 10mm semiautomatic handgun
  • Sig Sauer P226 9mm semiautomatic handgun 
  • Savage Mark II bolt-action .22-caliber rifle
  • Enfield Albian bolt-action .323-caliber rifle
  • Volcanic .22-caliber starter pistol. 

Of the firearms listed above, Lanza used the first four (italicized) to carry out the Sandy Hook massacre.  

Stockpiles of ammunition for all of these weapons were later found by police as they searched the house. 

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Adam Lanza

Yet Adam Lanza’s mentally unbalanced condition should have barred him from possessing even a single firearm.

A report issued by the Office of the Child Advocate in November, 2014, noted that Lanza had Asperger’s syndrome. As a teenager he had suffered from anxiety, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

The report concluded: “His severe and deteriorating internalized mental health problems…. combined with an atypical preoccupation with violence….(and) access to deadly weapons…. proved a recipe for mass murder.”

On the day of the massacre, Adam Lanza chose his firearms with care. 

He shot his defenseless mother four times in the head with a Savage Mark II .22-caliber rifle, a bolt-action firearm that can accept a 10-round magazine. But for his planned massacre at Sandy Hook, he chose semiautomatic weapons with detachable ammunition magazines. 

Of all the weapons Lanza carried to Sandy Hook, the Bushmaster XM15-E2S proved the most lethal: A semiautomatic rifle that can be equipped with 30-round magazines, which allows the shooter to cut down on the number of times he has to reload.

In the past, countless Americans had responded to the latest gun outrage with “sending thoughts and prayers.” 

But, this time, there would be a different response to this latest slaughter.

In February, 2014, nine families of the victims in the Sandy Hook massacre filed a lawsuit against the gun manufacturer, Remington Outdoor Co Inc., over its marketing of military-style Bushmaster weapons. 

In October, 2016, the Connecticut Superior Court dismissed the case based on a federal law that protects the gun industry from liability.

Rammed through a Republican-dominated Congress by the National Rifle Association (NRA), the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, or PLCAA, was signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2005. Since then, it has armed the American firearms industry with immunity against lawsuits by victims of mass shootings and gun violence.

But on March 15, 2019, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that families of Sandy Hook victims could sue Remington Outdoor Co Inc.

The families asserted that Remington, along with a gun wholesaler and local retailer, were partially responsible for the carnage because they marketed the weapon based on its militaristic appeal.

For the first time in American history, victims of gun violence have won the legal right to hold gun makers accountable for the devastation caused by their products.

“The perception for the gun industry is: ‘We can’t get sued,’” said Josh Koskoff, a Connecticut attorney representing families of the Newtown massacre. “‘We can be as unethical and as wild and aggressive in the marketing as we want.’”

The families had sued Remington by citing the legal doctrine of negligent entrustment. This has been used in such cases as when someone lends a car to a high-risk driver who then causes an accident.

But the Supreme Court rejected that theory. Instead, it ruled that the families could bring their claims under the consumer protection statute. 

The court said that state unfair-trade-practices law allows anyone who’s suffered a financial loss from such activities to sue “regardless of whether they had a business relationship with the person or entity that engaged in the prohibited practice.”

“Once we accept the premise that Congress did not intend to immunize firearms suppliers who engage in truly unethical and irresponsible marketing practices promoting criminal conduct … it falls to a jury to decide whether the promotional schemes alleged in the present case rise to the level of illegal trade practices and whether fault for the tragedy can be laid at their feet,” the judges said.

TRUMP A STATESMAN? MACHIAVELLI SAYS “NO”

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 22, 2018 at 12:06 am

No shortage of pundits have sized up Donald Trump—first as a Presidential candidate, and now as the nation’s 45th President.  

But how does Trump measure up in the estimate of Niccolo Machiavelli, the 16th-century Florentine statesman?

It is Machiavelli whose two great works on politics—The Prince and The Discourses—remain textbooks for successful politicians more than 500 years later.  

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Niccolo Machiavelli

Let’s start with Trump’s notoriety for hurling insults at virtually everyone, including:  

  • Latinos
  • Asians
  • Muslims
  • Blacks
  • The Disabled
  • Women
  • Prisoners-of-War

These insults delight his white, under-educated followers. But they have alienated millions of other Americans who might have voted for him.

Now consider Machiavelli’s advice on gratuitously handing out insults and threats:

  • “I hold it to be a proof of great prudence for men to abstain from threats and insulting words towards any one.
  • “For neither the one nor the other in any way diminishes the strength of the enemy—but the one makes him more cautious, and the other increases his hatred of you, and makes him more persevering in his efforts to injure you.”

For those who expected Trump to shed his propensity for constantly picking fights, Machiavelli had a stern warning:

  • “…If it happens that time and circumstances are favorable to one who acts with caution and prudence he will be successful. But if time and circumstances change he will be ruined, because he does not change the mode of his procedure.
  • “No man can be found so prudent as to be able to adopt himself to this, either because he cannot deviate from that to which his nature disposes him, or else because, having always prospered by walking in one path, he cannot persuade himself that it is well to leave it…
  • “For if one could change one’s nature with time and circumstances, fortune would never change.”

Then there is Trump’s approach to consulting advisers:

Asked on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” who he consults about foreign policy, Trump replied; “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things.”

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Donald Trump

This totally contrasts with the advice given by Machiavelli:

  • “A prudent prince must [choose] for his counsel wise men, and [give] them alone full liberty to speak the truth to him, but only of those things that he asks and of nothing else.
  • “But he must be a great asker about everything and hear their opinions, and afterwards deliberate by himself in his own way, and in these counsels…comport himself so that every one may see that the more freely he speaks, the more he will be acceptable.”

And Machiavelli has potent advice on the selection of advisers:

  • “The first impression that one gets of a ruler and his brains is from seeing the men that he has about him. 
  • “When they are competent and loyal one can always consider him wise, as he has been able to recognize their ability and keep them faithful. 
  • “But when they are the reverse, one can always form an unfavorable opinion of him, because the first mistake that he makes is in making this choice.” 

Consider some of the advisers Trump relied on in his campaign for President: 

  • Founder of Latinos for Trump Marco Gutierrez told MSNBC’s Joy Reid: “My culture is a very dominant culture. And it’s imposing, and it’s causing problems. If you don’t do something about it, you’re gonna have taco trucks every corner.” 
  • At a Tea Party for Trump rally at a Harley-Davidson dealership in Festus, Missouri, former Missouri Republican Party director Ed Martin reassured the crowd that they weren’t racist for hating Mexicans.

From the outset of his Presidential campaign, Trump polled extremely poorly among Hispanic voters. Comments like these didn’t increase his popularity.

  • Wayne Root, opening speaker and master of ceremonies at many Trump campaign events, told Virginia radio host Rob Schilling: People on public assistance and women getting birth control through Obamacare should not be allowed to vote.

Comments like this are a big turn-off among the 70% of women who have an unfavorable opinion of him—and anyone who receives Medicaid, Medicare or Social Security.

  • Trump’s spokeswoman, Katrina Pierson, claimed that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were responsible for the death of Captain Humayun Khan—who was killed by a truck-bomb in Iraq in 2004.  

Obama became President in 2009—-almost five years after Khan’s death. And Clinton became Secretary of State the same year.  

When your spokeswoman becomes a nationwide laughingstock, your own credibility goes down the toilet as well.

Finally, Machiavelli offers a related warning that especially applies to Trump: Unwise princes cannot be wisely advised.

  • “It is an infallible rule that a prince who is not wise himself cannot be well advised, unless by chance he leaves himself entirely in the hands of one man who rules him in everything, and happens to be a very prudent man. In this case, he may doubtless be well governed, but it would not last long, for the governor would in a short time deprive him of the state.”

All of which would lead Niccolo Machiavelli to warn, if he could witness American politics today: “This bodes ill for your Republic.”

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