bureaucracybusters

Posts Tagged ‘PLANNED PARENTHOOD’

MIKE PENCE’S LEGACY: BRINGING SHARIA LAW TO AMERICA

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 18, 2016 at 3:48 pm

Michael Richard “Mike” Pence served as a Republican member of the House of Representatives from 2001 to 2013. He also served as Chairman of the House Republican Conference from 2009 to 2012.  

In 2012, he ran for Governor of Indiana, won the election, and assumed this office in 2013.

On July 15, 2016, Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump announced on Twitter that he had selected Pence as his Vice Presidential running mate in the 2016 Presidential election.

As a member of Congress, Pence: 

  • Voted, in 2007, to defund Planned Parenthood because it provides abortions.
  • Opposed, in 2009, giving American citizenship to children born to illegal aliens living within the United States.
  • Compared the U.S. Supreme Court’s upholding the Constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
  • Voted to eliminate funding for climate education programs and to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions.

As Governor, Pence: 

  • Unsuccessfully pushed for a 10% income-tax rate cut.
  • Signed legislation in 2015 that repealed an 80-year-old Indiana law requiring construction companies working on publicly funded projects to pay a prevailing wage.
  • Successfully lobbied in 2013 to limit reductions in sentences for marijuana offenses.
  • Agreed, in 2015, to expand Medicaid in Indiana, in accordance with the Affordable Care Act.

But for all of Pence’s actions as Congressman and Governor, the one which may prove the most far-reaching may be this: His signing into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

As Governor of Indiana, he did this on March 26, 2015. The law allows any individual or corporation to cite its religious beliefs as a defense when sued by a private party.

Related image

Mike Pence

Officially, its intent is to prevent the government from forcing business owners to act in ways contrary to strongly held religious beliefs. Unofficially, its purpose is to appease the hatred of gays and lesbians by the religious Right, a key constituency of the Republican party.

In short, a bakery that doesn’t want to make a cake to be used at a gay wedding or a restaurant that doesn’t want to serve lesbian patrons will have the legal right to refuse to do so.

The same applies for a hospital that doesn’t want to provide care to a gay or lesbian patient. 

The bill was passed overwhelmingly by both chambers of the Republican-controlled state legislature.  

“Today I signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, because I support the freedom of religion for every Hoosier of every faith,” Pence said in a statement on the day he signed the bill.

“The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action.”

Bill-signing ceremonies are usually highly public events. Governors–and presidents–normally want their constituents to see them creating new legislation.

Yet for all his praise for the bill, Pence signed it in a ceremony closed to the public and the press. The media were asked to leave even the waiting area of the governor’s office.

It’s almost as if Pence sensed that he was about to push open a door into a danger-filled room. And this may well be the case.

Through that door may soon march the First Church of Cannabis. The day after Pence signed the Act, church founder Bill Levin announced on his Facebook page that he had filed paperwork with the office of the Indiana Secretary of State.

Its registration had been approved–and Levin was ecstatic: “Now we begin to accomplish our goals of Love, Understanding, and Good Health.

“Donate $100 or more and become a GREEN ANGEL. Donate $500 or more and become a GOLD ANGEL. Donate $1000 or more and become a CHURCH POOHBA.”

No doubt many Indiana legislators are furious that their effort to attack gays may have brought legal marijuana to their highly conservative state. But worse may be to come.

Since 9/11, Right-wingers such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity have warned that Muslims are trying to impose Sharia (Islamic law) on America. And now Indiana’s legislators, in elevating religion above the law, may have laid the legal foundations for making that possible.

Related image

Muslims demanding the imposition of Sharia law–on themselves and non-Muslims

Ironically, this may not be so far removed from the goals of the Republican party as many think. Both the party and adherents of Sharia agree:

  • Women should have fewer rights than men.
  • Abortion should be illegal.
  • There should be no separation between church and state.
  • Religion should be taught in school.
  • Religious doctrine trumps science.
  • Government should be based on religious doctrine.
  • Homosexuality should be outlawed.

What will happen when: 

  • Muslims in Indiana claim their right–guaranteed in Islamic religious law–to have as many as four wives?  
  • Muslims demand a taxpayer-funded “halal” non-pork food shelf at free food pantries for the poor? (Exactly this happened among Somali refugees in Minnesota in 2015.) 
  • Muslims demand that police departments cancel counter-terrorism courses by claiming that their materials are anti-Muslim? (Exactly this happened to several police departments in Illinois.)

And when they claim that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act protects those rights?  

Hang onto your hijabs–it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

LOVING FETUSES, DESTROYING PEOPLE: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on June 21, 2016 at 12:01 am

Since the Supreme Court legalized abortion on January 22, 1973, the Republican Party has been committed to saving fetuses.

Even if this puts the lives of adult men and women in jeopardy.

In 2015, the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) released several videos that had been secretly recorded.  These purported to show that Planned Parenthood (PP) was engaging in the illegal sale of fetal tissue. 

The videos attracted massive media coverage.  Congressional Republicans immediately started pushing bills to strip PP of Federal family planning funding. 

Officials in Indiana, South Dakota, Kansas, Missouri, Georgia and Massachusetts investigated the charges and found no evidence that Planned Parenthood had broken any state laws concerning the collection of fetal tissues.

On October 8, 2015, Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), stated that the GOP investigation found no evidence of any wrongdoing.

In fact, all of the videos were found to be altered, according to an analysis by Fusion GPS, a Washington-based research company. Members of CMP have since been indicted by a Texas grand jury on felony charges for tampering with governmental records.

None of this, however, prevented Republican candidates for President from claiming that the videos were, in fact, legitimate. 

Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, falsely claimed in the second GOP Presidential debate that the videos showed “a fully formed fetus on the table…while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.”

Although Fiorina claimed to have seen that footage, she never produced any copy of it.  Nor has anyone else found evidence to sustain her claim.

Carly Fiorina (21317198176) (cropped).jpg

 Carly Fiorina

Nor was Fiorina the only Republican candidate making this false claim.  Others included Texas U.S. Senator Eduardo “Ted” Cruz, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and Florida U.S. Senator Marco Rubio.

On November 27, 2015, Robert L. Dear, armed with a rifle, attacked a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado.  He killed one police officer and two civilians, and wounded five more officers and four civilians. 

After a five-hour standoff, SWAT teams crashed an armored vehicle into the lobby and rescued several people trapped inside. At that point, Dear surrendered. 

After his arrest, he gave a rambling interview to police. At one point, he said, “No more baby parts”–a direct reference to the false and inflammatory charges made by GOP members.

The latest case of Republican irresponsibility on the abortion issue came in March.

That was when the House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives subpoenaed a list of names of doctors and researchers involved in fetal tissue research.  

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), who chairs the panel, claimed that her investigation had uncovered evidence that StemExpress, a bio-medical company, and three abortion clinics, violated the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

In early June, Blackburn sent two public letters to the Obama administration.

Related image

Rep. Marsha Blackburn

These contained the names and contact information of researchers at StemExpress, university and hospital researchers, and Planned Parenthood staffers.

The unredacted letters were also posted on the select panel’s website. In an interview with Rewire, a representative for Blackburn said that the “staff just made a mistake.”

At the panel’s first hearing on March 2,  Rep. Jerrod Nadler (D-NY) had warned Blackburn: 

“The committee has no rules in place to protect the names of those subpoenaed–raising the possibility of Congress effectively painting targets on the backs of scientists and researchers for no particular reason other than the Republicans’ desire for a culture war.”

In another letter sent to Blackburn, House Democrats charged that Republicans on the panel may be feeding sensitive information to anti-abortion groups who wish to harm members of the reproductive rights community.

They noted that the panel had publicly released the name of a doctor who had previously been threatened by anti-abortion groups, along with the specific information about when he would appear before the panel.  

“Assurances that you take seriously individual privacy and security concerns are insufficient,” the letter read.

“You reneged on promises to protect the individual privacy and security of a deposition witness. Just last week, Panel Republicans leaked letters to FOX News and posted documents on your website that contained names, contact information, and other personally identifiable information of doctors and researchers.”  

Initially, some schools and organizations blacked out the names of researchers in documents provided to the committee to protect their researchers’ safety. But recent subpoenas issued by the committee didn’t allow for that security measure.

Scientists have warned that targeting fetal tissue research–and the researchers who work in that field–poses national security risks.

Fetal tissue research is invaluable for developing cures to diseases like Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis. It could lead to a vaccine for the Zika virus, which poses a serious risk to pregnant women.  

Yet it is “desire for a culture war” that takes top priority for Republicans.  

And Republicans know exactly what constituency they are arousing: Those masses of alienated, uneducated Americans who can be easily manipulated by inflammatory rhetoric. 

Those men and women who stockpile weapons–and believe that God has empowered them to use violence to enforce their religious beliefs on others.  

Essentially, Republicans are calling upon this constituency to achieve with bullets what the party hasn’t been able to achieve in court or at the ballot box.

LOVING FETUSES, DESTROYING PEOPLE: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on June 20, 2016 at 1:00 am

Intimidation–physical as well as political–has increasingly become the weapon of choice for influential Republicans in the pursuit of absolute power.

This consists of aiming violent–and violence-arousing–rhetoric at their Democratic opponents. This is not a case of careless language that is simply misinterpreted, with tragic results.

Hate-mongers like Sarah Palin and Ann Coulter fully understand the constituency they are trying to reach: Those masses of alienated, uneducated Americans who live only for their guns and hardline religious beliefs–and who can be easily manipulated by perceived threats to either.

If a “nutcase” assaults a Democratic politician and misses, then the Republican establishment claims to be shocked–shocked!–that such a thing could have happened.

And if the attempt proves successful–as in the January 8, 2011 Tucson shooting of Rep. Gabrille Giffords–then Republicans weep crocodile tears for public consumption.

The difference is that, in this case, they rejoice in knowing that Democratic ranks have been thinned and their opponents are even more on the defensive, for fear of the same happening to them.  

Consider the following:

  • Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas) yelled “baby killer” at Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) on the House Floor.  
  • Florida GOP Congressional candidate Allen West, referring to his Democratic opponent, Rep. Ron Klein, told Tea Party activists: “You’ve got to make the fellow scared to come out of his house. That’s the only way you’re going to win. That’s the only way you’re going to get these people’s attention.”  
  • Rep. Devin Nuines (R-CA) said Tea Partiers had “every right” to use racist and homophobic slurs against Democrats, justifying it via Democrats’ “totalitarian tactics.”
  • Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn.) said she wanted her constituents “armed and dangerous” against the Obama administration.  
  • Right-wing pundit Ann Coulter: “My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is that he did not go to the New York Times building.”  
  • Senator Phil Gramm (R-Tex.): “We’re going to keep building the party until we’re hunting Democrats with dogs.”  
  • Rep. Louisa M. Slauter (D-NY) received a phone message threatening sniper attacks against lawmakers and their families. 
  • In 2010 former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin posted a “crosshairs map” targeting Democratic members of Congress who had voted for President Barack Obama’s healthcare bill. Sarah Palin told her supporters: “Get in their face and argue with them.  No matter how tough it gets, never retreat, instead RELOAD!”

Sarah Palin’s “Crosshairs” Map

For more than 50 years, Republicans have vilified government–except when they controlled it. They have sought to convince Americans that Democrats are at least potential traitors, if not actual ones.

Among the slanders Republicans have routinely hurled at Democrats:  

  • Democrats are plotting to “take away your guns.”
  • Democrats are “anti-work” and want to turn America into a welfare-dependent society.
  • Democrats are “Godless” and want to force atheism on believing Christians.  
  • Democrats will allow United Nations “black helicopters” to stage a military takeover of the United States.

During the 1992 Presidential campaign, Republicans slandered Bill Clinton as a brainwashed “Manchurian candidate” because he had briefly visited the Soviet Union during his college years.

After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Republicans lost their “soft on Communism” slander-line. So they tried to persuade voters that Democrats were “soft on crime.”

When riots flared in 1992 after the acquittal of LAPD officers who had savagely beaten Rodney King, President George H.W. Bush blamed the carnage on the “Great Society” programs of the 1960s.

When President Barack Obama set out to provide healthcare for all Americans–and not simply the wealthy–Republicans tried to frighten voters with lies. The most infamous of these was that healthcare reform would lead to wholesale murder by government “death panels,” as Sarah Palin put it.  

That insurance companies had functioned for decades as “death panels” in denying healthcare to patients was totally ignored.

Republicans have since encouraged right-wing groups to claim that Obama was not born in Hawaii, but in Kenya. The reason for this is to strip Obama of legitimacy as a leader.

Republicans–brandishing photos of President Obama bearing a Hitler forelock and toothbrush mustache–have claimed he intends to set up concentration camps for those who disagree with him.

Newt Gingrich, the former Republican Speaker of the House, charged that Obama was pursuing a socialist agenda to reform healthcare.

Newt Gingrich

In his book, To Save America: Stopping Obama’s Secular-Socialist Machine, Gingrich claimed that Obama’s policy agenda was as “great a threat to America as Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.”

Almost immediately after Obama took office, he came under attack by an industry of right-wing book authors such as Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh.

Among the terms they have used to demonize Obama:

  • radical
  • Socialist
  • anti-American
  • extremist
  • subversive
  • imperial

As Adolf Hitler, the master of 20th century propaganda advised in Mein Kampf: “All effective propaganda must be confined to a few bare essentials.

“Those must be expressed as far as possible in stereotypical formulas. These slogans should be persistently repeated until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea that has been put forward.”  

Nowhere has Republican fanaticism proven greater than on the issue of abortion.  

Since the Supreme Court legalized abortion on January 22, 1973, the Republican Party has been committed to saving fetuses.

Even if this puts the lives of adult men and women in jeopardy.

A LIE TOLD BY BULLIES

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on March 14, 2016 at 3:41 pm

Ernest Hemingway knew his Fascists. He fought against them in 1930s Spain, where Right-wing general Francisco Franco–aided by Adolf Hitler–ultimately overthrew the Spanish Republic in 1939.  

And he fought against them in France after American forces landed in Normandy. He was one of the first Americans to reach Paris and help “liberate” the bar of the Ritz Hotel.

In the 1950s, he opposed the growing plague of anti-Red hysteria as represented by Wisconsin U.S. Senator Joseph R. McCarthy.  

Addressing a 1937 Writers Congress in a rare public speech, Hemingway said: “There is only one form of government that cannot produce good writers, and that system is fascism. For fascism is a lie told by bullies. A writer who will not lie cannot live and work under fascism.”  

ErnestHemingway.jpg

Ernest Hemingway

It’s thus clear what the Nobel-Prize winning author would think of a Missouri state senator’s efforts at censorship. 

Lindsay Ruhr, a graduate student in the School of Social Work at the University of Missouri, chose to write her doctoral dissertation on the effects of the state’s recently imposed 72-hour waiting period for abortions.  

Lindsay Ruhr

And this has drawn the ire of Missouri State Senator Kurt Schaefer, a Republican from Columbia, Missouri, who chairs the Missouri state senate’s interim Committee on the Sanctity of Life.

In late October, Schaefer sent a letter to the University of Missouri calling Ruhr’s dissertation “a marketing aid for Planned Parenthood — one that is funded, in part or in whole, by taxpayer dollars.”

Related image

Kurt Schaefer 

Schaefer demanded that the university hand over documents regarding the project’s approval and said that, because the University of Missouri is a public university, it should not fund research that he said would promote elective abortions.

Missouri law prohibits the use of public funds to promote non-life-saving abortions. 

In September, 2014, Missouri enacted a 72-hour wait for abortions. Reproductive rights advocates believed this is an effort to deny women access to legal abortion as established by the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision in 1973.

Other Missouri legal restrictions require women seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound scan and receive informational material that aims to persuade them from obtaining an abortion.  

Lindsay Ruhr wants to find out “how this policy [the 72-hour waiting limit] affects women. Whether this policy is having a harmful or beneficial effect, we don’t know.”  

Schaefer claims that Ruhr is biased in favor of abortions because her adviser is affiliated with Planned Parenthood of Kansas. 

“This is a concerning revelation considering the University’s recent troubling connections to Planned Parenthood,” wrote Schaefer in a letter to University of Missouri officials.

Schaefer argued that Ruhr is illegally using public funds to conduct her dissertation research. 

“It is difficult to understand how a research study approved by the University, conducted by a University student, and overseen by the Director of the School of Social Work at the University can be perceived as anything but an expenditure of public funds to aid Planned Parenthood.”

Under Missouri law, it is illegal for public employees and facilities to use state money towards “encouraging or counseling” a woman to have an abortion not necessary to save her life. 

Even though Ruhr is seeking a PhD at the university, she is employed by Planned Parenthood and the university is not paying for her research. 

Abortions in Missouri aren’t the only scientific subject that Republicans have made it forbidden to study.  Among these: 

  • A federal ban on studying gun-related deaths and the results of gun control. This followed aggressive efforts by the National Rifle Association to stop finding data that contradicted its “more guns are better” narrative. It’s prevented crucial research into how best to combat mass shootings and prevent gun accidents in the home.
  • Harassment of climate scientists. Republicans have increasingly sought to cut funding to scientists studying the Earth’s climate because they keep finding more data to suggest the planet is actually warming. If the public demands an end to the use of fossil fuels–which are responsible for the warming–this will threaten Republicans’ ties to–and funding from–the oil and gas industries.
  • The House Science Committee has demanded climate scientists working for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration turn over all emails and documents–personal and professional–they wrote on this subject during the last seven years.

Related image

  • Preventing scientists from studying Right-wing terrorism in the United States. The foremost expert on this subject–Daryl Johnson, a counter-terrorism analyst working at the Department of Homeland Security–was forced out of his job.
  • Johnson had spent six years with the agency amassing a wealth of data on far-Right extremist groups–like the Ku Klux Klan and militia movement–that threaten the safety of American citizens. Republicans’ objection: The facts his research was finding on their constituents made conservatives look bad.

As Harrison E. Salisbury, former New York Times bureau chief in Moscow, observed: “…The message was always the same: Shut up! Don’t rock the boat. Keep those unpleasant truths to yourself. The truth, I was ultimately to learn, is the most dangerous thing.  There are no ends to which men of power will not go to put out its eyes.”

PLANNED PARENTHOOD’S SAVIOR: THE NRA

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on December 7, 2015 at 12:26 am

On December 14, 2012, 20-year-old Adam Lanza fatally shot 20 children and six adult staffers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

As it usually does after a mass shooting, the National Rifle Association (NRA) remained silent for a few days.

Then on December 18, its executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, broke that silence. In doing so, he offered his suggestion for preventing further tragedies perpetrated by heavily armed criminals.

Speaking at an NRA press conference, LaPierre said: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

“Would you rather have your 911 call bring a good guy with a gun from a mile away or a minute away?”

Wayne LaPierre by Gage Skidmore 2 (cropped).jpg

Wayne LaPierre

And LaPierre demanded that armed guards be placed in every school in the United States:

“Politicians pass laws for gun-free school zones. They issue press releases bragging about them. They post signs advertising them, and in doing so, they tell every insane killer in America that schools are the safest place to inflict maximum mayhem with minimum risk.

“We care about our president, so we protect him with armed Secret Service agents. Members of Congress work in offices surrounded by Capitol Police officers.

“Yet, when it comes to our most beloved, innocent and vulnerable members of the American family–our children–we as a society leave them everyday utterly defenseless.

“And the monsters and the predators of the world know it and exploit it.”

Without knowing it, Wayne LaPierre came up with a solution to the history of attacks on Planned Parenthood clinics.

Between 1973, when the Supreme Court made abortion legal throughout the United States, and 2003, abortion providers were targeted for more than 300 acts of extreme violence, including arson, bombings, murders and butyric acid attacks.

The National Abortion Federation documents more than 176,000 instances of picketing at clinics (and nearly 34,000 arrests) since 1977. More than 16,000 hate mail or harassing phone calls, over 1,500 acts of vandalism and 400 death threats have been aimed at clinics.

The latest of these attacks came on November 27, at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado. An anti-abortionist shot and killed a police officer and two civilians.  An additional five police officers and four civilians were injured.

The arrested suspect, Robert Lewis Dear, mentioned “baby parts” as his reason for the attack. During questioning by police, Dear expressed anti-abortion and anti-government views, a police source told CNN.

Image result for Images of Robert Lewis Dear

Robert Lewis Dear, Jr.

Those on the Left were outraged at this latest attack on the reproductive rights of women.  But those on the Right offered no sympathy for the victims–or women who sought out medical care at Planned Parenthood clinics.

Colorado state Rep. JoAnn Windholz issued a statement blaming Planned Parenthood for the attack:

“The true instigator of this violence and all violence at any Planned Parenthood facility is Planned Parenthood themselves.

Joann Windholz.jpg

Rep. JoAnn Windholz 

“Violence is never the answer, but we must start pointing out who is the real culprit. The true instigator of this violence and all violence at any Planned Parenthood facility is Planned Parenthood themselves. [Italics added.]

“Violence begets violence. So Planned Parenthood: YOU STOP THE VIOLENCE INSIDE YOUR WALLS.”

Planned Parenthood offers reproductive health care, sex education to women and men and, at some clinics, abortions.

Since Planned Parenthood can’t expect help from Republican lawmakers, perhaps it’s time for its officials to consider the advice of Niccolo Machiavelli.

“For among other evils caused by being disarmed, it renders you contemptible,” he writes in Chapter 14 of The Prince, his primer on gaining political power.

“Because there is no comparison whatever between an armed and a disarmed man. It is not reasonable to suppose that one who is armed will obey willingly one who is unarmed….”

In short: Planned Parenthood should begin training its personnel in the use of automatic firearms.  And widely advertising the fate that awaits future terrorist attackers.

This would send an unmistakable message to future would-be terrorists: We will no longer be passive victims to your violent fanaticism.  Attack us–and die.

By doing so, Planned Parenthood would be following the example set by New York City after 9/11.

In 1993, Islamic terrorists unsuccessfully bombed the World Trade Center.  Six people were killed and 1,042 others were injured during escape attempts.

Eight years later, on September 11, 2001, they launched their second–and this time successful–attack on the Center, killing 2,977 New Yorkers.

On both occasions, New Yorkers had expected the Federal Government to protect them. After 9/11, the NYPD decided it could no longer rely on the FBI and CIA for protection.

The NYPD greatly expanded the ranks of its Counterterrorism Division. More than 600 officers and operatives both stateside and worldwide now stood guard over New York City.

Since 9/11, New York has not faced a similar terrorist attack.

Finally, an Aesop’s fable serves up a lesson known long ago–but repeatedly ignored by the idealistic but ineffectual Left:

A snake was stepped on by so many people that, one day, he prayed to Zeus for help. And Zeus replied: “If you had bitten the first person who stepped on you, the second would have thought twice about it.”  

SHUT DOWN THE BULLIES

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on September 29, 2015 at 12:17 pm

Fascism is a lie told by bullies.
–Ernest Hemingway

In 2011, Republicans threatened to destroy the Nation’s credit rating unless their budgetary demands were met.

Yet President Barack Obama could have ended that threat via the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.

Had he done so, he would have prevented the 2013 shutdown of the Federal Government over Republican demands that he de-fund “Obamacare.”

He would have also pre-empted current Republican demands to shut down the Government over continued funding for Planned Parenthood.

Passed by Congress in 1970, as Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1961-1968, the goal of the RICO Act was to destroy the Mafia.

Originally, RICO was aimed at the Mafia and other organized crime syndicates.  But in United States v. Turkette, 452 U.S. 576 (1981), the Supreme Court held that RICO applied as well to legitimate enterprises being operated in a criminal manner.

After Turkette, RICO could also be used against corporations, political protest groups, labor unions and loosely knit-groups of people.

RICO opens with a series of definitions of “racketeering activity” which can be prosecuted by Justice Department attorneys.  Among those crimes: 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.”

The RICO Act defines “a pattern of racketeering activity” as “at least two acts of racketeering activity, one of which occurred after the effective date of this chapter and the last of which occurred within ten years…after the commission of a prior act of racketeering activity.”

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

In Section 802, the Act defines domestic terrorism.  Among the behavior that is defined as criminal:

“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.”

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

  • President Obama could have directed Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate whether actions by Republican Congressman—and their Tea Party cohorts—broke Federal anti-racketeering and/or anti-terrorism laws.
  • Holder, in turn, could have ordered the FBI to conduct that investigation.
  • If the FBI found sufficient evidence that these laws had been violated, Holder could have empaneled criminal grand juries to indict those violators.

Criminally investigating and possibly indicting members of Congress would not violate the separation-of-powers principle.  Congressmen have in the past been investigated, indicted and convicted for various criminal offenses.

Such indictments and prosecutions–and especially convictions–would have served notice on current and future members of Congress: The lives and fortunes of American citizens may not be held hostage to gain leverage in a political settlement.

In short: Obama could have replaced the law of fear with the rule of law.

But Obama could have stood up to Republican extortionists in another way: By urging his fellow Americans to rally to him in a moment of supreme national danger.

President John F. Kennedy did just that–successfully–during the most dangerous crisis of his administration.

Addressing the Nation on October 22, 1962, Kennedy shocked his fellow citizens by revealing that the Soviet Union had installed offensive nuclear missiles in Cuba.

John F. Kennedy

Kennedy outlined a series of steps he had taken to end the crisis–most notably, a blockade of Cuba.  Then he sought to reassure and inspire his audience:

“The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender or submission.”

President Obama could have sent that same message to the extortionists of the Republican Party–by explaining to the American people:

  • Republicans have adopted the same my-way-or-else “negotiating” stance as Adolf Hitler.
  • Like the Nazis, they are determined to gain absolute power–or destroy the Nation they claim to love.
  • They raised the debt ceiling seven times during the eight-year Presidency of George W. Bush.
  • But now that a Democrat holds the White House, raising the debt ceiling is unacceptable.
  • Despite Republican lies, we cannot revitalize the economy by slashing taxes on the wealthy and on cash-hoarding corporations while cutting benefits for millions of average Americans.
  • We will need both tax increases and sensible entitlement cuts to regain our economic strength.

And he could have ended his speech with a direct call for action by the American people:

“We stand on the edge of economic disaster.  Therefore, I am asking each of you to stand up for America tonight–by demanding the recall of the entire membership of the Republican Party.

“This is the moment when each of us must decide–whether we will survive as a Republic, or allow ruthless political fanatics to destroy what has lasted and thrived for more than 200 years.”

To paraphrase Winston Churchill: President Obama had to choose between timidity and confrontation.

He chose timidity.

He would get contempt and obstruction at every turn.

FETUS FANATIC TERRORISM: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on August 10, 2015 at 12:41 am

On August 1, 2011, Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC’s “Hardball,” wrapped up his program with a search for “options” to avoid another round of Republican extortion tactics:

“I want to know what steps the president [Barack Obama] ‘could’ have taken to avoid this hostage-taking [over raising the debt-ceiling].

“…Is there another way than either buckling to the Republicans or letting the government and the country crash?

“How does he use the power of the presidency, the logic, emotion and basic patriotism of the people to thwart those willing to threaten, disrupt, even possibly destroy to get their way?”

And the answer to his questions–then and now–is: Replace the law of fear with the rule of law.

As Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of modern politics, instructed future leaders in The Prince:

Related image

Niccolo Machiavelli

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

I conclude, therefore, with regard to being loved and feared, that men love at their own free will, but fear at the will of the prince, and that a wise prince must rely on what is in his power and not on what is in the power of others….”

Instead, in 2011, President Barack Obama surrendered to Republican extortion demands.  As a result, the United States suffered a massive loss to its international credit rating.

But there were two other ways Obama could have stood up to Republican extortionists:

  1. Invoke the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) and/or the USA Patriot Act;
  2. Rally the American people against this criminal threat to the security of the Nation.

And these remain available to him now–if only he has the courage to act.

Second Option: Calling upon the American people for their support

President John F. Kennedy did just that–successfully–during the most deadly crisis of his administration.

Addressing the Nation on October 22, 1962, Kennedy shocked his fellow citizens by revealing that the Soviet Union had placed offensive nuclear missiles in Cuba.

Related image

President John F. Kennedy

After outlining a series of steps he had taken to end the crisis, Kennedy sought to reassure and inspire his audience. His words are worth remembering today:

“The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender or submission.”

Just as President Kennedy called on his fellow Americans for support against a foreign enemy, President Obama could rally his countrymen against an equally ruthless domestic enemy.

During such a national address, President Obama could reveal such blunt truths as:

  • Republicans have adopted the same my-way-or-else “negotiating” stance as Adolf Hitler.
  • Like the Nazis, they are determined to gain absolute power–or destroy the Nation they claim to love.
  • And, once again, they are threatening to shut down the government–and deny essential services to millions of Americans–unless they get their way.

Finally, President Obama could end his speech by directly calling for the active support of his fellow Americans. Something like this:

Related image

President Barack Obama

“My fellow Americans, I have taken an oath to ‘preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.’

“But I cannot do this on my own. As citizens of a Republic, each of us carries that burden. We must each do our part to protect the land and the liberties we love.

“Tonight, I’m asking for your help.

“We stand on the edge of economic and social disaster. Therefore, I am asking each of you to stand up for America tonight–by demanding the recall of the entire membership of the Republican Party.”

* * * * *

The 1938 Munich Conference taught an invaluable lesson in foreign affairs: Caving in to the demands of insatiable thugs leads to only more demands.

That was what British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain learned when he sought to appease Adolf Hitler, Germany’s war-intent Fuehrer.

Neville Chamberlain greets Adolf Hitler

Chamberlain believed that by giving in to Hitler’s demands for the “German part” of Czechoslovakia known as the Sudetenland he could avoid war.

On September 29, Chamberlain and French Prime Minister Edouard Daladier met with Hitler and signed the Munich Agreement, resulting in the immediate German occupation of part of Czechoslovakia.

The Czechoslovakian government had not been a party to the talks. Their “allies” had sold them out.

In a matter of weeks, Hitler turned his attention–and demands–to Poland.

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

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

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

And so they did.

It is not too late for President Barack Obama to apply this lesson from history.

FETUS FANATIC TERRORISM: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on August 7, 2015 at 8:58 am

On July 9, 2011-–Republican extortionists again threatened the Nation with financial ruin and international disgrace unless their demands were met.

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.

And the Republican response?

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

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

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

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

Chris Matthews

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Counter Republican extortion attempts via RICO–the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act.
  2. Make a “Cuban Missile Crisis”-style address to the American people, seeking to rally them against a criminal threat to the financial security of the Nation.
  3. Cave in to Republican demands.

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

The results were easily predictable: Emboldened by success, the extortionists continue to make even greater demands.

Such as those now being made: De-fund Planned Parenthood or we’ll destroy the country.

But this is a nightmare that doesn’t have to be.

There are, in fact, two ways to avoid it.

Assuming that President Obama doesn’t once again surrender to Republican extortion demands, he has two formidable weapons he can deploy:

First Option: RICO to the rescue

The Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act is a provision of the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970.  It authorizes prosecution for acts performed as part of an ongoing criminal organization.

It has been applied to not only the Mafia but to individuals, businesses, political protest groups, and terrorist organizations.  In short, a RICO claim can arise in almost any context.

Such as the one President Barack Obama faced in 2011 when Republicans threatened to destroy the credit rating of the United States unless their budgetary demands were met.

And such as the present case when Republicans are again threatening the security of the Nation with extortionate demands.

RICO opens with a series of definitions of “racketeering activity” which can be prosecuted by Justice Department attorneys.  Among those crimes: Extortion.

Related image

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.”

The RICO Act defines “a pattern of racketeering activity” as “at least two acts of racketeering activity, one of which occurred after the effective date of this chapter and the last of which occurred within ten years…after the commission of a prior act of racketeering activity.”

And if President Obama believes that RICO is not sufficient to deal with extortionate behavior, he can rely on the USA Patriot Act of 2001, passed in the wake of 9/11.

In Section 802, the Act defines domestic terrorism.  Among the behavior that is defined as criminal:

“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.”

Republicans are now demanding that Democrats de-fund Planned Parenthood or be forced to shut down essential services needed by millions of Americans.

That clearly falls within the legal definition of “activities…intended…to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion.”

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

President Obama can direct Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch to investigate whether Republican Congressman—and their Tea Party cohorts—have violated Federal anti-racketeering and/or anti-terrorism laws.

  • Lynch can order the FBI to conduct such an investigation.
  • If the FBI finds sufficient evidence that these laws had been violated, Holder can empanel criminal grand juries to indict those violators.

Criminally investigating and indicting members of Congress would not violate the separation-of-powers principle. Congressmen have in the past been investigated, indicted and convicted for various criminal offenses.

Such indictments and prosecutions–and especially convictions–would serve a truly cleansing function.

They would serve notice on current and future members of Congress that the safety and fortunes of American citizens may not be held hostage as part of a negotiated settlement.

FETUS FANATIC TERRORISM: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on August 6, 2015 at 2:04 pm

Republicans love fetuses.

In fact, they love them so much they’re willing to shut down the Federal Government and deny vital public services to millions of their fellow Americans.

That shutdown could be coming as early as September, when Congress returns from its summer break.

The reasons are two-fold:

First, the fast-approaching 2016 Presidential election; and

Second, Republicans’ long-standing desire to de-fund Planned Parenthood (PP).

Related image

This upcoming effort will be fueled by a highly emotional charge: That PP sells fetal tissue and organs.

Anti-abortion organizations Operation Rescue and the Center for Medical Progress recently released videos purporting to show PP officials discussing such sales.

In response, PP said that they may donate fetal tissue at the request of a patient, but that fetal organs and tissues are never sold.

Three Congressional committees are now making inquiries into PP practices.

On August 3, 2015, a Republican bill to defund PP failed to pass in the Senate.   Currently, the organization receives $528 million in Federal funding each year.

Since the 1980s, Congressional Republicans have tried to de-fund PP. Their efforts almost led to a government shutdown in 2011.

PP has consistently claimed that it does not use its Federal funding to pay for abortion services.  But anti-abortionists argue that Federal monies free up other resources that are used to provide abortions.

Abortions represent three percent of total services provided by PP, and are provided to about 10% of its clients.

Related image

The other 97% of services are for contraception, treatment and tests for sexually transmitted diseases, cancer screenings, and other women’s health services.

Click here: Planned Parenthood

PP estimates that its contraceptive services prevent approximately 612,000 unintended pregnancies–and 291,000 abortions–annually.

According to Politico, Republican Senators plan to attach a provision to the current omnibus spending bill–which funds all Federal agencies for 2015-2016.

The provision will ban funding for all Federal agencies–unless PP’s funding is cut.

Leading the call for a government shutdown is Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who tried to de-fund PP in 2013.  That attempt led to a two-week government shutdown.

Related image

Senator Ted Cruz

Joining Cruz are Republicans in the House and Senate—not enough to defund PP, but enough to deny vitally-needed services to millions of Americans.

The reason for the 2013 government shutdown? Republicans were enraged that millions of uninsured Americans might receive medical care on a par with that given members of the House and Senate.

It was, in short, yet another Right-wing effort to eliminate the Affordable Care Act, better-known as “Obamacare.”

So on September 20, 2013, the House of Representatives voted on a short-term government funding bill that included a provision to de-fund Obamacare.

That provision was a no-go for Senate Democrats and President Barack Obama.  When the House and Senate couldn’t reach a compromise, many functions of the Federal government shut down on Oct. 1.

The shutdown lasted for 16 days and cost the United States economy $2 to $6 billion in economic output, according to the Office of Management and Budget.

It ended when President Obama and Senate Democrats refused to submit to Republican blackmail. Medical care still remained available to millions of poor and middle-class Americans.

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

In November, 1995, Newt Gingrich, then Speaker of the House of Representatives, carried out this threat.

The official reason: Republicans objected to Democratic President Bill Clinton’s budgetary requests for funding Medicare, education, the environment and public health in the 1996 Federal budget.

The real reason: Gingrich unwisely admitted that he was angry because Clinton had put him in the back of Air Force One during a recent trip to Israel.

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

In April, 2011, the United States government almost shut down again 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.

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

Three months later–-on July 9, 2011-–Republican extortionists again threatened the Nation with financial ruin and international disgrace unless their demands were met.

Image result for Images of the Black Hand

Sign of The Black Hand extortion group

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

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

Related image

John Boehner

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

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

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

And the Republican response?

REPUBLICANS AS VOYEURS

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on May 8, 2015 at 12:01 am

Adolf Hitler had greater respect for the privacy of women than Republican members of the Arizona legislature.

At the height of World War II, Dr. Hans Lammers, legal advisor to Adolf Hitler, issued this legal directive at the enraged order of his Fuhrer:

“In many [criminal] cases it will undoubtedly be necessary to determine whether there were sexual relations between two people or not.

“But if this much is known, it is wholly superfluous to probe for closer particulars as to how and where such sexual intercourse took place.  The cross-examination of women in particular should cease!

“Every time that cross-examining police officials or judges keep probing for details as to the how and where of the sexual intercourse, the Fuhrer has gained the very clear impression that this is done for the same reason that the same intimate questions are asked in the Confessional box

“The Fuhrer wants clear instructions issued for the abolition of unnecessary cross-examination.”1

Adolf Hitler 

By contrast, the Arizona legislature has introduced a bill that:

  • Requires women who want their contraception covered by their health insurance to prove to their employers that they are taking it to treat medical conditions—not to prevent pregnancy; and
  • Makes it legal for employers to fire a woman for using birth control to prevent pregnancy.

“The bill goes beyond guaranteeing a person’s rights to express and practice their faith,” Anjali Abraham, a lobbyist for the ACLU, told the Senate panel.

Instead, the legislation “lets employers prioritize their beliefs over the beliefs, the interests, the needs of their employees, in this case, particularly, female employees.”

Current Arizona law states that health plans covering other prescription medications must include contraception.

To override this requirement, the State House of Representatives passed House Bill 2625 in early March, 2012.  The Senate Judiciary Committee endorsed it on March 12.

The full Senate has yet to vote on the legislation.

House Bill 2625 allows any employer to refuse to cover contraception that will be used “for contraceptive, abortifacient, abortion or sterilization purposes.”

If a woman wants the cost of her contraception covered, she must “submit a claim” to her employer providing evidence of a medical condition, such as endometriosis or polycystic ovarian syndrome, that can be treated with birth control.

Even more invasive, the law allows Arizona employers to fire a woman upon finding out that she took birth control to prevent pregnancy.

In short: While Adolf Hitler was outraged at public officials taking what he considered a prurient interest in a woman’s sex life, Arizona’s Republican legislators feel no such restraint.

“I believe we live in America,” said Majority Whip Debbie Lesko (R-Glendale), who sponsored the bill.

“We don’t live in the Soviet Union. So, government should not be telling the organizations or mom-and-pop employers to do something against their moral beliefs.”

In short, employers should be allowed to have Ayatollah-like power over the private sex-lives of their female employees.

The United States is not the Soviet Union. But if this bill is enacted, Arizona will bear a striking resemblance to Iran.

Debbie Lesko

This latest Republican effort should come as no surprise to anyone–least of all women.

Throughout 2011, Republicans attacked women’s reproductive rights–not simply access to legal abortion but even birth control.

The sheer number of laws proposed or enacted by Republicans at state and Federal levels–-to control the sex lives of American women–-is staggering.

At the state level:

  • State legislators introduced more than 1,100 anti-abortion provisions and had enacted 135 of them by year’s end.
  • Seven states either fully defunded or tried to defund Planned Parenthood, which provides basic health care, contraception, breast cancer and STD screenings to millions of low-income women each year.

At the Congressional level:

  • Republicans used abortion and Planned Parenthood funding to extort Democratic concessions during budget negotiations and threatened to shut down the government.
  • Republicans introduced mandatory ultrasound bills.
  • Republicans tried to narrow the definition of rape to include only “forcible rape.”  Under this change, a woman who was coerced, drugged or otherwise incapacitated by a rapist, would not be legally counted as a rape victim.
  • Republicans barred the District of Columbia from using its own locally raised funds to help low-income women pay for abortions.

During the first two months of 2012:

  • Virginia Republicans introduced a bill whose original language required women to undergo an invasive trans-vaginal ultrasound procedure 24 hours before having an abortion.
  • A modified version of the bill–requiring women to receive trans-abdominal ultrasounds, was signed into law instead.
  • With the connivance of House Republicans, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the nation’s largest breast cancer charity, tried to pull cancer-screening grants from Planned Parenthood because some of its clinics provide abortions.
  • The House Oversight Committee convened a hearing to deny contraceptive insurance coverage under the guise of “protecting religious liberty.” The Democrats’ one female witness, Sandra Fluke, was forbidden to speak at it.
  • Right-wing broadcaster Rush Limbaugh and Foster Friess–Rick Santorum’s chief financial backer–publicly equated birth control use to sexual promiscuity.
  • During his 2012 campaign for the Presidency, Rick Santorum pledged that, if elected, he would wage an all-out war on birth control: “It’s not okay. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.”

And yet Republicans like Rush Limbaugh insist they are not waging a “war on women.”

The situation calls to mind a famous joke:  A wife unexpectedly returns home and catches her husband in bed with another woman.  Before she can speak, her husband demands: “Now, what are you going to believe–your own eyes, or what I’m telling you?”

__________

  1. David Irving, The War Path, Viking Press, 1978.
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,657 other followers

%d bloggers like this: