bureaucracybusters

Posts Tagged ‘OBAMACARE’

HE WHO LIVES BY THE TWEET, DIES BY IT: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on May 19, 2017 at 12:05 am

When the Senate Watergate Committee learned that President Richard M. Nixon had installed a secret taping system in the White House, they immediately subpoenaed all of his tapes.

So did Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox.

Nixon fired Cox in the infamous “Saturday Night Massacre” on October 20, 1973.  But Cox was succeeded by another Special Prosecutor, Leon Jaworski–who also pursued the tapes.

The case went to the U.S. Supreme Court–which ruled, 8-0, that Nixon must give up the tapes.

One of the tapes revealed that Nixon had ordered the FBI to abandon its investigation of the Watergate break-in. When news leaked of this, Nixon resigned to avoid the disgrace of impeachment in the House and certain conviction in the Senate.

Image result for images of Richard M. Nixon

Richard M. Nixon

Now it appears that history is about to repeat itself–in the case of President Donald J. Trump.

And it has been touched off by his repeated use of Twitter as both a Presidential candidate and President.

When it was launched on July 16, 2006, Twitter was intended to be, according to Wikipedia, “an online news and social networking service where users post and interact with messages, ‘tweets,’ restricted to 140 characters.”

It was never intended as a weapon of slander and intimidation. Yet, as both a Presidential candidate and President, Trump has repeatedly used Twitter to attack hundreds of real and imagined enemies in politics, journalism, TV and films.

Even before taking office as President, Trump was haunted by charges that members of his 2016 Presidential campaign colluded with Russian Intelligence agents to secure his election. 

Trump has furiously and repeatedly denied this.

Yet, on May 11, no fewer than six top American intelligence officials testified before Congress that Russia acted to influence last year’s election.

These officials were:

  • Dan Coats, director of National Intelligence;
  • Michael Pompeo, CIA director;
  • Michael S. Rogers, director of the National Security Agency;
  • Lieutenant-General Vincent Stewart (USMC), director of the Defense Intelligence Agency;
  • Robert Cardillo, director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency; and
  • Andrew McCabe, acting FBI director, installed after Trump fired the agency’s appointed director, James Comey.

Comey had been spearheading the FBI’s investigation into Trump’s “Russian connection.” In early May, 2017, he had asked the Justice Department to provide increased resources for the FBI’s investigation.

Image result for images of fbi building

FBI Headquarters

During a private White House dinner in January, Trump asked Comey to pledge his personal loyalty to him. Comey refused to do so.  

On May 9, Trump fired him.

Instead of doing so quietly and with dignity, Trump dispatched his longtime personal bodyguard, Keith Schiller, to FBI headquarters with the message: “You’re fired.” Comey was in the FBI’s Los Angeles field office speaking with agents when he learned of his dismissal in a TV news broadcast.

Not content with humiliating and dismissing Comey, Trump then threatened him in a May 12 tweet: “James Comey better hope that there are no “tapes” of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”

Related image

Having implied that he had secretly taped his conversation with Comey, Trump found himself besieged with the question: “Did you install a White House taping system similar to the one installed by President Richard Nixon?”

Trump has refused to answer–and so have his spokesmen and women.

Ironically, his latest use of a weaponized Twitter account may have doomed his Presidency. His threat to Comey has boxed him in with a series of dead-end scenarios.

Dead-end #1: If Trump taped the conversation without Comey’s consent, he broke the law.  (This has been explored in Part One of this series.)

Dead-end #2: If Trump admits he taped Comey, he provides Democrats–and even some Republicans–with reason to subpoena all existing White House tapes.

The House and Senate have competing investigative committees probing “the Russian connection.” And no doubt they will soon issue subpoenas for any secret tapes Trump may have made.

And so will newly-appointed Special Counsel Robert Meuller, III, who served for 12 years as FBI director under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein made the appointment on May 17, citing “the unique circumstances [of] the public interest.” 

(Attorney General Jeff Sessions has supposedly recused himself from involvement in the Russian investigation–because he lied to Congress about his past contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak during 2016.)

If he refuses to release them, Trump will touch off another Watergate-style conflict between the White House and Congress.

Dead-end #3: If he claims that he didn’t tape Comey, many people will believe he’s lying.

Dead-end #4: If he claims that he didn’t tape Comey, many people will believe he is a punk–for trying to intimidate the former FBI director with a baseless threat.

Dead-end #5: It’s impossible to prove a negative. So if Trump doesn’t have secret tapes to turn over, it will be impossible for him to prove he isn’t stonewalling in defiance of the law.

Dead-end #6: Trump’s brutal and unwarranted firing of James Comey on May 9 has infuriated the FBI’s 35,664 employees, of which 13,778 are Special Agents.

By earning the hatred of the most powerful investigative agency in the Federal Government, Trump has all-but-guaranteed his removal from office.

What began for the Bureau as a professional investigation into Russian sabotage has become a personal vendetta.

HE WHO LIVES BY THE TWEET, DIES BY IT: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on May 18, 2017 at 12:15 am

Donald Trump’s tweet-first-and-never-mind-the-consequences approach to life has been thoroughly documented.

From June 15, 2015, when he launched his Presidential campaign, until October 24, 2016, he fired nearly 4,000 angry, insulting tweets at 281 people and institutions. The New York Times needed two full pages of its print edition to showcase them.

Donald Trump

Among these targets were:

  • His Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton
  • His fellow Republican Presidential candidates
  • Actress Meryl Streep
  • News organizations
  • President Barack Obama
  • Comedian John Oliver
  • Obamacare
  • Singer Neil Young
  • The state of New Jersey
  • Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

And during his first two weeks as President, Trump attacked 22 people, places and things on his @realDonaldTrump account.

Then, on March 4, 2017, in a series of unhinged tweets, Trump accused former President Barack Obama of tapping his Trump Tower phones prior to the election:

“Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!”

“Is it legal for a sitting President to be ‘wire tapping’ a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW!”

“I’d bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!”

“How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”

Thus, without offering a shred of evidence to back it up, Trump accused his predecessor of committing an impeachable offense.

President Barack Obama

On May 9, Trump abruptly fired FBI Director James Comey.

Reports soon surfaced that his reason for doing so was that Comey had refused to pledge his personal loyalty to Trump.

Trump had made this “request” during a private dinner at the White House in January.

After refusing to make that pledge, Comey told Trump that he would always be honest with him.

But that didn’t satisfy Trump’s demand that the head of the FBI act as his personal secret police chief.

Comey-FBI-Portrait.jpg

James B. Comey

Just 72 hours after firing Comey, Trump issued a threat to him via Twitter:

“James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”

This last tweet may have proved fatal to the man who has weaponized Twitter.

Trump’s implication that he taped his conversation with Comey immediately led White House reporters to ask if he, in fact, taped conversations in the Executive Mansion.

Trump’s response: No comment.

At a White House press conference, Sean Spicer, Trump’s press secretary, was asked three times: Was tape recording occurring in the White House?

Spicer replied: “I’ve talked to the President. The President had nothing further to add on that.”

Asked on Right-wing Fox News–the only major network Trump willingly appears on–if he taped the Comey conversation, the President said: “That I can’t talk about. I won’t talk about that. All I want is for Comey to be honest. And I hope he will be. And I’m sure he will be – I hope.”

By implying on Twitter that he had illegally taped his conversation with Comey–and then refusing to say if this was true–Trump has boxed himself into a no-win situation.

Dead-end #1: If he taped the conversation without Comey’s consent, Trump broke the law.

According to a 2003 Congressional report, “Privacy: An Overview of Federal Statutes Governing Wiretapping and Electronic Eavesdropping”:

“It is a federal crime to wiretap or to use a machine to capture the communications of others without court approval, unless one of the parties has given their prior consent.

“It is likewise a federal crime to use or disclose any information acquired by illegal wiretapping or electronic eavesdropping. Violations can result in imprisonment for not more than 5 years; fines up to $250,000 (up to $500,000 for organizations); in civil liability for damages, attorneys fees and possibly punitive damages; in disciplinary action against any attorneys involved; and in suppression of any derivative evidence.”

Dead-end #2: If Trump admits he taped Comey, he provides Democrats–and even some Republicans–with reason to subpoena all existing White House tapes.

In the summer of 1973, the Senate was investigating the bugging of Democratic headquarters at the Watergate Hotel during the 1972 Presidential campaign.

In June, 1973, John W. Dean III testified before the Senate Watergate Committee. He had served as White House Counsel for Nixon from 1970 to 1973. And now he outlined a litany of crimes ordered by President Richard Nixon.

The White House adamantly denied these charges by attacking Dean as a malcontent. (He had been fired by Nixon in April.)

So–who was telling the truth: Dean or Nixon?  It was a classic case of He said/he said.

Then–unexpectedly–a way appeared to answer the question: “Who is telling the truth?”

Alexander Butterfield, who had served as the Deputy Assistant to Nixon from 1969 to 1973, was called as a witness before the Committee.

In a private meeting with Senate investigators, he unintentionally blurted out that Nixon had installed a secret taping system to record all conversations between him and Oval Office visitors.

Suddenly, the Watergate investigation took an entirely new direction–one that would prove fatal to Nixon’s Presidency.

MACHIAVELLI’S VERDICT ON TRUMP: HE’S NO PRINCE

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 27, 2017 at 12:28 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.  

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 expect Trump to shed his propensity for constantly picking fights, Machiavelli has 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.”

Related image

Donald Trump

This totally contrasts 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 has 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.”

A REPUBLICAN’S DEATH PANELS

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on March 24, 2017 at 12:47 am

During the 2008 Presidential race, Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin turned slander into an art form.

Her most poisonous charge: That Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama would make “death panels” a part of his proposed healthcare program. 

Sarah Palin

But in 2012, she supported a candidate–Mitt Romney–who made his fortune through the “death panels” of his investors. 

In 1983, Bill Bain, a management consultant, gave Romney a risky assignment: Launch Bain Capital, a private equity offshoot of his profitable consulting firm Bain & Company.

Mitt Romney

But there was a catch: Romney couldn’t raise money from Bain’s current clients. If the private equity venture failed, the consulting firm mustn’t disappear with it.

Romney and his partners considered a wide range of options.

Finally, they settled on one: A group of oligarchs from El Salvador were seeking new investment opportunities.

Romney decided to meet with them.

He flew to Miami in mid-1984 and met with the Salvadorans at a local bank. Both sides left happy with their arrangement.

The Salvadorans invested about $9 million–40% of Bain Capital’s initial outside funding. 

Among those investors: Ricardo Poma, Miguel Dueñas, Pancho Soler, Frank Kardonski, and Diego Ribadeneira.

Two other wealthy and powerful El Salvadoran families–those of de Sola and Salaverria–also became founding investors in Bain Capital.

Determined to retain their privileged status, members of these families were directly or indirectly funding right-wing death squads in El Salvador.

The squads’ targets were reformers and left-wing guerrillas. According to a United Nations study, at least 75,000 were killed in the Salvadoran civil war between 1979 and 1992.

Death squad victims

By 1982, 35,000 civilians had been murdered–with right-wing death squads responsible for most of the killings, stated El Salvador’s independent Human Rights Commission.

Much of this carnage happened during the Reagan Administration (1981-1989), when right-wingers in Washington found common cause with those in Central America.

Romney’s highly lucrative dealings with men linked to Central American death squads have been verified by such publications as the Huffington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe and the Salt Lake Tribune.

A major reason why Romney refused to release more than two years’ worth of his tax returns could have been this: He had more to hide than just how little in taxes he had paid.

Some of those financial disclosures might lead–literally–to hundreds or even thousands of bodies dumped into unmarked graves throughout El Salvador.

The most prominent victim of those right-wing death squads was Oscar Romero, the archbishop of San Salvador. A longtime champion of the poor, he was celebrating Mass on March 24, 1980, when he was shot to death before his horrified congregation.

Oscar Romero

The murder was ordered by Major Roberto D’Aubuisson, founder of the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) party.

Roberto D’Aubuisson

After Obama’s election as President in 2008, Republicans bitterly opposed his efforts to provide all Americans–and not simply the richest 1%–with healthcare insurance.  

Those efforts ultimately bore fruit as the Affordable Care Act–otherwise known as Obamacare.

As one of those Republican opponents, Sarah Palin repeatedly claimed that Obama intended to create government “death panels” to murder elderly and disabled patients.

Although she never offered a shred of evidence for this allegation, millions of American right-wingers eagerly believed it.

On the other hand, multiple and reputable sources demonstrated how Mitt Romney made money through men who either commanded death squads or were linked to others who did.

But Palin never had a single word of criticism for the man who would become the Republican nominee for President.

Little is reliably known about the full extent of Romney’s complex financial dealings. That’s why his refusal to release more than two years’ tax returns became an issue that wouldn’t go away.

Romney released only his 2010 returns and an estimate for his 2011 returns. But his own father, Michigan Governor George Romney, released 12 years of tax returns during his 1968 run for the presidency.

Perhaps Romney had nothing to hide and refused to release his tax returns out of sheer stubbornness.

But if he were truly innocent of any wrongdoing–financial or otherwise–then it would have been in his own best interests to make the returns public.  And as quickly as possible.

This is, after all, a longstanding tradition among candidates for President. And doing so would have instantly squelched rumors and accusations that he had something sinister or embarrassing to hide.

Instead, Romney and his wife, Ann, acted as though the White House belonged to them by divine right.  And that no one had the right to ask them any questions they didn’t want to answer.

During an interview with NBC News, Romney said: “We have been very transparent to what’s legally required of us. There’s going to be no more tax releases given.”

Romney could have followed the sterling example set by his father–whom he clearly admires–anytime he wished to.

But he didn’t.

Americans may never know if “the man from Bain” has the blood of Archbishop Romero–or other El Salvadoran death squad victim––on his hands.  

And if Romney does know, he isn’t saying.

IS HE CRIMINAL, CRAZY LIKE A FOX–OR JUST CRAZY?

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on March 20, 2017 at 12:53 am

On March 4, in a series of unhinged tweets, President Donald J. Trump accused former President Barack Obama of tapping his Trump Tower phones prior to the election:  

“Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!”  

“Is it legal for a sitting President to be ‘wire tapping’ a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW!”  

“I’d bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!”

“How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”  

President Barack Obama

Trump offered no proof to substantiate his libelous claims.

There are three plausible theories about what prompted Trump’s accusations.

Theory #1: They were prompted by Right-wing media outlets that had been pushing wiretapping claims in recent days. 

On March 2, Right-wing radio host Mark Levin claimed that Obama had used “powers of the federal government to surveil members of the Trump campaign.”

Referring to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his newly disclosed meetings with Russia’s ambassador in 2016, Levin asked: “Today’s reporting on Sessions having a chance meeting with the ambassador–where did that information come from? Look at the timing of it. Was Obama surveilling top Trump campaign officials during the election?”    

On March 3, the Fascist media site Breitbart News echoed that charge. Its story was based on Levin’s show and offered no evidence to back up its accusations.

Trump could have first contacted the directors of the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency–the agencies which are authorized to conduct such an operation. He could have asked them, “Did you wiretap me?”  

They could have quickly and confidentially given him an answer. And if it was “Yes,” they would have been able to provide him with the records to document it.  

That would have been the action of a rational President. But Trump chose to act like a child–or, worse, an unbalanced adult.

After reading the Breitbart story, Trump impulsively chose to go on Twitter and make libelous accusations. 

Theory #2: Trump, under scrutiny for ties between his campaign and Russia, sought to deflect attention by making an outrageous accusation.

Related image

Donald Trump

Former White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest has his own take on Trump’s motivation. Appearing on the March 5 edition of ABC’s “This Week”, he said: “We know exactly why President Trump tweeted what he tweeted.

“Because there is one page in the Trump White House crisis management playbook. And that is simply to tweet or say something outrageous to distract from the scandal, and the bigger the scandal, the more outrageous the tweet.”

Earnest served as White House Press Secretary under President Obama from 2014 to 2017.

He added: Obama could not have legally ordered a wiretap: “The President of the United States does not have the authority to unilaterally order the wiretapping of an American citizen.”

Theory #3: Trump is too mentally unbalanced to hold the Presidency–and command of America’s nuclear arsenal.  

Trump’s shoot-first-and-never-mind-the-consequences approach to life has been thoroughly documented.  

From June 15, 2015, when he launched his Presidential campaign, until October 24, 2016, he fired nearly 4,000 angry, insulting tweets at 281 people and institutions. The New York Times needed two full pages of its print edition to showcase them.

Among these targets were:

  • His Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton
  • His fellow Republican Presidential candidates
  • Actress Meryl Streep
  • News organizations
  • President Barack Obama
  • Comedian John Oliver
  • Obamacare
  • Singer Neil Young
  • The state of New Jersey 
  • Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger.  

And during his first two weeks as President, Trump attacked 22 people, places and things on his @realDonaldTrump account.  

Trump’s vindictiveness, his narcissism, his compulsive aggression, his complaints that his “enemies” in government and the press are trying to destroy him, have caused many to ask: Could the President of the United States be suffering from mental illness?

One who has dared to answer this question is John D. Gartner, a practicing psychotherapist. 

Image result for Images of Dr. John Gartner

John D. Gartner

Gartner graduated magna cum laude from Princeton University, received his Ph.D in clinical psychology from the University of Massachusetts, and served as a part time assistant professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University Medical School for 28 years.

During an interview by U.S. News & World Report (published on January 27), Gartner said: “Donald Trump is dangerously mentally ill and temperamentally incapable of being president.”

Gartner said that Trump suffers from “malignant narcissism,” whose symptoms include anti-social behavior, sadism, aggressiveness, paranoia and grandiosity. 

“We’ve seen enough public behavior by Donald Trump now that we can make this diagnosis indisputably,” says Gartner, who admits he has not personally examined Trump.  

In 1965, Fletcher Knebel, the best-selling author of Seven Days in May, raised the then-unthinkable question: “What would happen if the President of the U.S.A. went stark-raving mad?”  

He did so in his novel, Night of Camp David.  

In 1965, the idea that an American President might become insane was thought so outlandish it could only appear in a novel.  

Fifty-two years later, it’s no longer unthinkable. For millions, it’s a terrifying reality.

HITLER, THE GOP AND “SCORCHED EARTH”: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on March 15, 2017 at 12:22 am

On December 13, 2014, the U.S. Senate passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill to fund almost the entire government through the September 30 end of the fiscal year. 

But one Federal agency was pointedly exempted from full funding: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Its funding would expire on February 27, 2015.

With their new-found majorities in both houses of Congress, Republicans intended to hold the security of the United States as a hostage.

Their goal: To force President Barack Obama to rescind the changes he had made in American immigration policy.

Finally, just as DHS’ funding was about to expire, House Republicans capitulated. They approved a bill the Senate passed to fund DHS without any added conditions. 

In 2009, the top goal of the Republican party became to block passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA)–informally known as “Obamacare.”  Its purpose: To provide all Americans–and not simply the richest 1%–with healthcare insurance.  

Despite this opposition, the ACA passed the House and Senate–and was signed into law by President Obama on March 23, 2010. 

And from then on, Republicans’ foremost goal was to repeal “Obamacare”–which they damned as “fiscally irresponsible.” 

In 2003, President George W. Bush had lied the United States into a needless, bloody war in Iraq–which has cost the nation more than $2 trillion.  

But Republicans fully supported that expense–and still do. 

George W. Bush

Even after the Supreme Court affirmed its Constitutionality in 2012, House Republicans voted–unsuccessfully–more than 60 times to repeal or alter “Obamacare.”

In October, 2013, they shut down the Federal Government for 15 days. They hoped to pressure Obama into de-funding his signature piece of legislation, in return for their re-opening the government.

Facing pressure from voters unable to receive basic government services, Republicans backed down.  

Their attempted putsch had failed.

Fast forward to 2017. 

Republicans still hold the House and Senate–and now the Presidency under Donald J. Trump.

Donald J. Trump

And they are mounting an all-out effort to strip millions of poor Americans of their only access to medical care.  

On March 9, Trump met at the White House with leaders of conservative groups to push his own plan to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act.

A major provision of this plan will allow insurance companies to adhere only to the regulations of the state they’re located in. The predictable result: The majority of companies will relocate to the state with the most lax regulations.

Intriguingly, Trump–who has put his name on 268 of the 515 entities he owns–has said he does not want the “Obamacare” replacement plan named after him.

It’s possible he fears it will prove highly unpopular–and that he will be stained by its infamy.

Nevertheless, the press has already started to call it “Trumpcare.” 

At the White House meeting, Trump attacked groups–such as the Heritage Foundation and Tea Party Patriots–for calling the House GOP proposal “Obamacare lite.”  And he warned: “You are helping the other side.”  

And he made it clear to conservative leaders that he had a fallback plan: If “Trumpcare” proves a failure–that is, fails to pass Congress–he will allow the ACA to fail and blame the Democrats.

Thus, Trump admitted that he is prepared to allow the American healthcare system to collapse and let millions die for lack of medical care–all for his own political gain.  

As William Henry Harrison put it: “There is nothing more corrupting, nothing more destructive of the noblest and finest feelings of our nature, than the exercise of unlimited power.”

* * * * *

As the Third Reich came to its fiery end, Adolf Hitler sought to punish the German people for being “unworthy” of his “genius” and losing the war he had started.

His attitude was: “If I can’t rule Germany, then there won’t be a Germany.”

In his infamous “Nero Order,” he decreed the destruction of everything still remaining–industries, ships, harbors, communications, roads, mines, bridges, stores, utility plants, food stuffs.

Fortunately for Germany, one man–Albert Speer–finally broke ranks with his Fuhrer.

Albert Speer

Albert Speer

Risking death, he refused to carry out Hitler’s “scorched earth” order.  Even more important, he mounted a successful effort to block such destruction and persuade influential military and civilian leaders to disobey the order as well.

As a result, those targets slated for destruction were spared.

Since the election of America’s first black President, Republicans have waged a similar “scorched earth” campaign. 

Their avowed goal–as stated openly by Kentucky’s U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell–was “to make Barack Obama a one-term President.”

Literally during Obama’s first Inauguration, they agreed, in a secret meeting, to block every effort he made to repair the economy ruined under the George W. Bush administration.

Acting as extortionists, they repeatedly threatened to shut down the government if they didn’t get their way in legislative matters.

And they repeatedly blocked legislation to help the poor, the unemployed, the sick, women, the elderly, the disabled and the middle-class. 

Like Adolf Hitler, their attitude has been: “If I can’t rule America, there won’t be an America.”

The country is still waiting for a Republican Albert Speer to step forward and save America from the self-destructive brutalities of its own Right-wing fanatics.

HITLER, THE GOP AND “SCORCHED EARTH”: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on March 14, 2017 at 12:06 am

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

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

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

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

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

Warren Buffett

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

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

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

To prevent the government from defaulting on its loans, President Barack Obama agreed to sign the Republican-crafted Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011.

The Act provided for a Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to produce legislation by late November to decrease the deficit by $1.2 trillion over ten years.

When the so-called “Super Committee” failed to reach agreement, the second part of the BCA went into effect.

This directed automatic across-the-board cuts (known as “sequestrations”) split evenly between defense and domestic spending, beginning on January 2, 2013.

A major casualty of sequestration was the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And this threatened the safety of the Nation Republicans claim to love: 

  • In 2013, the CDC was forced to cut 5%, or more than $285 million, from its budget.
  • The sequester cut $195 million from the National Centers for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, a CDC program that tries to prevent illness and death from infectious disease.
  • For fiscal 2014, CDC’s budget was $5.9 billion, down from the $6.5 billion allotted in 2010.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 

In October, 2014, for the first time in United States history, the CDC faced an unexpected outbreak of the dreaded Ebola virus.  

To Americans’ horror, the agency initially seemed unable to deal effectively with the threat.

Moreover, the Nation was confronting the Ebola crisis without a Surgeon General–thanks to NRA-funded Republican Senators.

President Obama had nominated Dr. Vivek Murthy for the spot in November, 2013, when the previous surgeon general left the position. But the Senate still hadn’t approved Murthy.

And support for him declined since he tweeted on October 16, 2002, that “guns are a health care issue.”

At the same time, Republicans rushed to blame President Obama for the continuing Ebola menace in West Africa–and the danger it posed to Americans.

“I think this Ebola outbreak in Africa is a serious problem,” said House Speaker John Boehner. “And I’m a bit surprised the administration hasn’t acted more quickly to address what is a serious threat, not only to Africans but to others around the world.”

“The President made a lot of commitments to combat Ebola, actions which I supported,” said North Carolina U.S. Senator Richard Burr. “But it has become clear that the administration’s capacity to fulfill these promises in a timeline that sufficiently addresses this crisis does not exist.”

But then a new Republican-inspired crisis threatened America.

On December 13, 2014, the U.S. Senate passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill to fund almost the entire government through the September 30 end of the fiscal year.

But one Federal agency was pointedly exempted from full funding: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

President George W. Bush had created this agency to safeguard the country against terrorism. But he didn’t imagine that his fellow Republicans might willingly jeopardize the security of the Nation.

President Obama had requested $38.2 billion to fund DHS through fiscal year 2015. But Republicans ensured that its funding would end on February 27.

Why?

Republicans had gained control of the House of Representatives after the 2010 elections. And then they gained control of the Senate with the 2014 elections.

With their new-found majorities in both houses of Congress, they intended to hold the security of the United States as a hostage.

Their goal: To force Obama to rescind the changes he had made in American immigration policy.

It is Homeland Security that was charged with implementing those changes. And Republicans intended to strip it of funding to do so.

And if that meant allowing DHS to “twist slowly, slowly in the wind” (to use a phrase made infamous by the Nixon administration) while Republicans played out their latest power-game, so be it.

This was no small matter.

With more than 240,000 employees, DHS is the third largest Cabinet department, after the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs.

The Defense Department is charged with protecting the United States through military action abroad. DHS is responsible for safeguarding the Nation inside and outside its borders.

Its goal is to prepare for, prevent and–if prevention fails–respond to man-made accidents, natural disasters and terrorism.

HITLER, THE GOP AND “SCORCHED EARTH”: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on March 13, 2017 at 12:36 am

Albert Speer, Minister of Armaments for the Third Reich, was appalled.

His Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler–the man he had idolized for 14 years–had just passed a death sentence on Germany, the nation he claimed to love above all others.

Albert Speer and Adolf Hitler pouring over architectural plans

On March 19, 1945, facing certain defeat, Hitler had ordered a massive “scorched-earth” campaign throughout Germany.

All German agriculture, industry, ships, communications, roads, food stuffs, mines, bridges, stores and utility plants were to be destroyed.

If implemented, it would deprive the entire German population of even the barest necessities after the war.

Click here: Hitler’s “Scorched Earth” Decree and Albert Speer’s Response

Now living in a bunker 50 feet below bomb-shattered Berlin, Hitler gave full vent to his most destructive impulses.

Adolf Hitler addressing boy soldiers as the Third Reich crumbles

“If the war is lost,” Hitler told Speer, “the nation will also perish. This fate is inevitable. There is no necessity to take into consideration the basis which the people will need to continue even a most primitive existence.

“On the contrary, it will be better to destroy these things ourselves, because this nation will have proved to be the weaker one and the future will belong solely to the stronger eastern nation.

“Besides, those who will remain after the battle are only the inferior ones, for the good ones have all been killed.”

Speer argued in vain that there must be a future for the German people. But Hitler refused to back down. He gave Speer 24 hours to reconsider his opposition to the order.

The next day, Speer told Hitler: “My Fuhrer, I stand unconditionally behind you!”

“Then all is well,” said Hitler, suddenly with tears in his eyes.

“If I stand unreservedly behind you,” said Speer, “then you must entrust me rather than the Gauleiters [district Party leaders serving as provincial governors] with the implementation of your decree.”

Filled with gratitude, Hitler signed the decree Speer had thoughtfully prepared before their fateful meeting.

By doing so, Hitler unintentionally gave Speer the power to thwart his “scorched earth” decree.

Speer had been the closest thing to a friend in Hitler’s life. Trained as an architect, he had joined the Nazi Party in 1931.

He met Hitler in 1933, when he presented the Fuhrer with architectural designs for the Nuremberg Rally scheduled for that year.

From then on, Speer became Hitler’s “genius architect” assigned to create buildings meant to last for a thousand years.

In 1943, Hitler appointed him Minister of Armaments, charged with revitalizing the German war effort.

Nevertheless, Speer now crisscrossed Germany, persuading military leaders and district governors to not destroy the vital facilities that would be needed after the war.

“No other senior National Socialist could have done the job,” writes Randall Hanson, author of Disobeying Hitler: German Resistance After Valkyrie.

“Speer was one of the very few people in the Reich–perhaps even the only one–with such power to influence actors’ willingness/unwillingness to destroy.”

Despite his later conviction for war crimes at Nuremberg, Speer never regretted his efforts to save Germany from total destruction at the hands of Adolf Hitler.

Fast-forward to the United States since the 2008 election of President Barack Obama.

Republicans have adopted the same my-way-or-else “negotiating” stance as the German Fuhrer. Like him, they are determined to gain and hold absolute power–or destroy the Nation they claim to love.

During his eight years in the White House, Ronald Reagan presided over a tripling of the national debt–and raised the debt limit 17 times.

President George W. Bush nearly doubled it again.  

During the George W. Bush Presidency, Republicans in Congress raised the debt ceiling seven times–when the national debt grew to $10.627 trillion due to tax cuts for the rich and wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

But none of that mattered to Republicans–so long as one of them held the White House.

Then Barack Obama, a Democrat–worse, a black one–became President.

Suddenly, “fiscal integrity” became the byword of Republicans.  And in its name, they repeatedly threatened to shut down the government if their legislative demands weren’t met.

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

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

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

John Boehner

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

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

By refusing to raise the debt ceiling, they would force the government to default on paying the bills it owed.

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

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

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.

%d bloggers like this: