In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics on May 20, 2011 at 9:45 am
The quickest way of opening the eyes of the people is to find the means of making them descend to particulars, seeing that to look at things only in a general way deceives them.…
-Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses
Florida Republicans would do well to heed Machiavelli’s advice.
When he ran for Governor of Florida in 2010, venture capitalist Richard “Rick” Scott promised to focus his energies on creating jobs. 
That strongly resonated with voters–and for solid reasons:  The unemployment rate in Florida now hovers at 11.1 percent, notably higher than the 9 percent national average.
The state has about 1,029,664 unemployed citizens and one of the worst foreclosure rates since the start of the housing crisis. 
But rather than concentrate their energies on creating jobs for willing-to-work Floridians,  Scott and the Florida legislature have focused their attention on attacking the right of women to obtain a legal abortion.

In the legislative session that ended on May 16, lawmakers did not pass a single job creation bill for Scott to sign. But they did pass five bills restricting abortion rights and a state budget that cuts nearly 4,500 public sector jobs.

The five bills, which Scott is expected to sign:

  • force women to undergo ultrasounds prior to having an abortion;
  • prohibit private insurance coverage of abortion care in the new state health-insurance exchange;
  • require young women to prove the medical necessity of their abortions before a judge in order to bypass parental permission;
  • establish state-sanctioned license plates that funnel money to anti-choice “crisis pregnancy centers”; and
  • starts the process of amending the state constitution to prohibit the government funding of abortion.

Florida Republicans filed a total of 18 anti-abortion bills during the session, the third most in the country, according to the ACLU.  It was also twice the number of anti-abortion laws introduced last year in the state, according to NARAL Pro-Choice America.

During the same session, Florida lawmakers also:

  • cut jobless benefits;
  • cut Medicaid reimbursement rates;
  • strengthened gun rights; and
  • passed nearly $4 billion in budget cuts that will effectively lay off thousands of teachers and government employees.

The focus on abortion rights has caused some lawmakers –including some fellow Republicans –to question how they got so far off-track.

“I came up here to help put food on the table,” said state Sen. Evelyn Lynn (R-Ormond Beach) during debate on the ultrasound bill. “I came up here to get people jobs. I came up here to protect people from the kinds of safety issues that fire and police take care of. I came up here to protect education.”

Actually, it should not come as such a surprise.  When a bureaucracy’s leaders turn increasingly radical, their real priorities –as opposed to their stated ones–become all too obvious. 

Thus, in the final months of the Third Reich, prisoner-loaded trains rushed from Germany toward the death-camps in Poland.  So great was Adolf Hitler’s desire to leave a “Jew free” Europe as his legacy that schedules for these trains took priority over those bringing reinforcements and supplies to his desperately struggling armies.

Similarly, Florida’s Talibanistic leaders of the Republican Party have decided that gaining control over the private lives of women overrides the needs of tens of thousands of Floridians to find productive work to support themselves and their families.

It was under Hitler and the Third Reich that abortion was ruled a crime.  German mothers were encouraged to have at least four children.  A woman who gave birth to sons was especially prized–since Hitler needed all the cannonfodder he could get for the endless wars he was planning.

Which brings up another similarity between yesterday’s Original Nazis and their counterparts in the Republican Party:  Both organizations consider themselves pro-life–so long as death

(1) happens outside the womb; 

 (2) targets their political opponents and anyone who disagrees with them; and

(3) can be inflicted violently, preferably by the military.

No person is ever so rich and/or powerful that he can have everything he wants.  He must choose which of his needs/desires are most important, and which ones must be at least temporarily put on hold.

What is true for an individual is equally true for a state like Florida or a nation like our own.   So every choice made becomes a statement of what is truly most important to those making that choice.   And what they value as important is not necessarily what they claim to be important.

Ironically, Ronald Reagan–the man the Tea Party stalwarts pushing this anti-abortion drive claim to revere–might well come under their attack if he held office today. 

As Governor of California, he signed into law one of the most liberal pieces of abortion legislation in the nation in 1971.  So liberal, in fact, that it was one of the few laws not overturned by the landmark 1972 Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade, legalizing abortion.


In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics on January 10, 2011 at 10:16 pm

“The only morality they recognize is what will further their cause, meaning they reserve unto themselves the right to commit any crime, to lie, to cheat, in order to attain that.”
–President Ronald Reagan, on the leaders of the Soviet Union, January 29, 1981

Increasingly, Republicans have repeatedly aimed violent–and violence-arousing–rhetoric at their Democratic opponents. This is not a case of careless language that is simply misinterpreted, with tragic results.

Republicans like Sarah Palin 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 one of these “nutcases” types 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 the January 8 Tucson shootings did–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.

The most important target of these intended assaults is, of course, President Barack Obama.

Ominously, in August, 2009, about a dozen people carrying guns, including one with a military-style rifle, milled among protesters outside a Phoenix convention center where President Obama was giving a speech.

A week earlier, during Obama’s healthcare town hall in New Hampshire, a man carrying a sign reading “It is time to water the tree of liberty” stood outside with a pistol strapped to his leg.

Fred Solop, a Northern Arizona University political scientist, said the incidents in New Hampshire and Arizona could signal the beginning of a disturbing trend.

“When you start to bring guns to political rallies, it does layer on another level of concern and significance,” Solop said. “It actually becomes quite scary for many people. It creates a chilling effect in the ability of our society to carry on honest communication.”

The way to prevent such tragedies in the future is to hold fully accountable not just the shooters but those who deliberately point them toward their targets and repeatedly scream: “Kill the traitors!”

Americans must shed their naive belief that “America is exempt from the political corruption of other countries.” And they must see the Republicans’ lust for absolute power at any price as the danger it presents to the future of the Republic.

Among the steps that need to be taken:

First, the families and friends of the Tucson massacre victims should file civil lawsuits against Sarah Palin and every other Republican who can be proved to have created the firestorm of hate that consumed 20 people on January 8.

A legal precedent for such lawsuits emerged 21 years ago, and still remains viable.

On November 13, 1988 in Portland, Oregon, three white supremacist members of East Side White Pride and White Aryan Resistance (WAR) beat to death Mulugeta Seraw, an Ethiopian man who came to the United States to attend college.

Morris Dees and the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a civil suit (Berhanu v. Metzger) against Tom Metzger, founder of WAR. They argued that WAR influenced Seraw’s killers by encouraging their group, East Side White Pride, to commit violence.

At the trial, WAR national vice president Dave Mazzella testified how the Metzgers instructed WAR members to commit violence against minorities.

Tom and John Metzger were found civilly liable under the doctrine of vicarious liability, in which one can be liable for a tort committed by a subordinate or by another person who is taking instructions.

In October 1990, the jury returned the largest civil verdict in Oregon history at the time—$12.5 million—against Metzger and WAR. The Metzgers’ house was seized, and most of WAR’s profits go to paying off the judgment.

Second, the FBI and Justice Department should launch an all-out investigation into not simply right-wing hate groups but those political leaders who openly or secretly encourage and support their activities. Those who are found doing so should be indicted and prosecuted under the anti-terrorism statutes now aimed at Islamic terrorists.

Third, the Secret Service should immediately adopt the policy that no one but sworn law enforcement officers will be allowed to carry firearms within the immediate vicinity of the President. And it should enforce that policy through its elite countersniper teams.

Finally, President Obama should do what President Clinton failed to do at the time of the truck-bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building: He should publicly condemn those Republicans who give “aid and comfort” to the right-wing extremists whose support they openly court.

Unless such steps are taken, outrages such as the Tucson slaughter will continue to remain a needless “mystery.” And those outrages will continue until a Republican version of the swastika permanently flies over the capitol dome and the White House.


In Bureaucracy, History, Politics on January 10, 2011 at 8:58 pm

Having failed to defeat Bill Clinton in 1992, the Republicans sought to discredit him as a leader. As the first Democrat elected to the White House since 1976, he had broke an 12-year winning streak by Republicans.

This, in turn, made him a usurper in the eyes of Republicans generally. If they could not prevent him from reaching the White House, perhaps they could reduce him to impotence by destroying his legitimacy as President.

Republicans pressed for a special prosecutor to investigate a failed Arkansas land deal called Whitewater. But, over time, they kept adding new subjects for investigation, hoping at each turn to find a way to secure his indictment.

In January, 1998, news broke of Clinton’s affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Republicans saw a chance to drive him from the White House via impeachment. But their effort failed, and Clinton served out the rest of his term.

Republicans won the White House in 2000, and again in 2004. But in 2008 the prospect of a black man becoming President frightened and infuriated not only many Republican leaders but their rightist supporters.

Republicans encouraged right-wing groups to spread the word that Obama was not born in Hawaii, but in Kenya. The purpose of this was to strip Obama of legitimacy as a leader.

Republican supporters–brandishing photos of President Obama painted with 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 via his legislation to reform healthcare and provide an economic stimulus to the stalled economy.

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.”

On April 20, 2010, BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded and sank about 40 miles southeast off the Louisiana coast. The resulting oil spill pumped millions of gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

When Obama began taking a tough line with BP, Rand Paul, the Republican candidate for Senator from Kentucky, declared the President was “really un-American in his criticism of business.”

Almost immediately after Obama took the oath of office, he came in for demonization by an industry of anti-Obama books by right-wing authors. The views they sought to popularize about the President can be quickly gleamed by a review of their titles:

Conservative Victory: Defeating Obama’s Radical Agenda by Sean Hannity
The Manchurian President: Barack Obama’s Ties to Communists,Socialists and Other Anti-American Extremists by Aaron Klein
The Blueprint: Obama’s Plan to Subvert the Constitution and Build an Imperial Presidency by Ken Blackwell
Catastrophe: How Obama, Congress and the Special Interests Are Transforming…a Slump into a Crash, Freedom Into Socialism and a Disaster into a Catastrophe….And How to Fight Back by Dick Morris
The War On Success: How the Obama Agenda Is Shattering the American Dream by Tommy Newberry
Power Grab: How Obama’s Green Policicies Will Steal Your Freedom and Bankrupt America by Christopher C. Horner
How the Obama Administration Threatens to Undermine Our Elections by John Fund
Obama’s Radical Transformation of America: Year One by Joshua Muravchik
Fleeced: How Barack Obama, Media Mockery of Terrorist Threats, Liberals Who Want to Kill Talk Radio, the Self-Serving Congress, Companies That Help Iran, and Washington Lobbyists for Foreign Governments Are Scamming Us…and What to Do About It by Dick Morris

(Morris’ book, Fleeced, contains possibly the longest subtitle of any political book since Adolf Hitler wanted to call his autobiography: Four and a Half Years of Struggle Against Lies, Stupidity and Cowardice. Knowing that so long a title would be a disaster, Hitler’s publisher settled for Mein Kampf, which, in German, means “My Struggle.”)

Increasingly, Republicans have repeatedly aimed violent–and violence-arousing–rhetoric at their Democratic opponents. This is not a case of careless language that is simply misinterpreted, with tragic results.

Republicans like Sarah Palin 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.

As Adolf Hitler, the master of 20th century propaganda advised in Mein Kampf: “Such being the case, all effective propaganda must be confined to a few bare essentials and those must be expressed as far as possible in stereotyped formulas. These slogans should be persistently repeated until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea that has been put forward.”

Thus, Palin and her fellow Republicans repeatedly use code-words like, “Don’t retreat, reload,” and draw up maps showing Democrats targeted with cross-hairs. (The map, posted on her website at “SaraPAC,” was taken down only on the day of the shootings.)

They know full well that there’s a good chance those words and images will take root in the hearts of such an unacknowledged constituency. And this, in turn, gives Republicans a chance to win with the bullet what they could not win at the ballot box.


In Bureaucracy, History, Law on January 10, 2011 at 6:42 pm

Many Americans–-especially Republicans–claim they can’t understand the tragic January 8 shootings in Tuscon that claimed the lives of six people and left 14 others wounded.

Far from being a mystery, that violence is fully understandable. All we need do is accept that Republicans have spent a half-century slandering government and soliciting the support of violent extremists.

On April 19, 1993, David Koresh and 86 Branch Davidians, including up to 24 children, chose death by self-immolation rather than surrender to FBI agents who had besieged their compound in Waco, Texas, for 51 days.

High-ranking Republicans immediately sought to turn the needless mass suicide into a second Alamo. The FBI–normally revered by Republicans when they command the Justice Department–became a target for repeated Congressional hearings and slanderous attacks.

Totally ignored were the four agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms who were killed by the Davidians in the initial February 28 attempt to serve arrest and search warrants at the compound for illegal arms and ammunition. Another 20 were wounded.

The clear implication was that the FBI should have allowed the Davidians to go un-arrested for their killings and woundings of sworn Federal law enforcement officers.

Republicans used the Davidians’ self-immolation to solicit support among the heavily-armed, right-wing militia movement.

Said Newt Gingrich, then Speaker of the House: “”We have to understand that there is, in rural America, a genuine– particularly in the West–a genuine fear of the Federal Government and of Washington, D.C., as a place that doesn’t understand their way of life and doesn’t understand their values.”

Two years later, on April 19, 1995, Timothy McVeigh, a member of the militia movement, detonated a truck bomb in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people and injuring 450. It was the deadliest act of terrorism within the United States prior to the September 11, 2001 attacks. His primary motive for doing so was to “avenge” the Davidians who had died in Waco.

Suddenly, Republican leaders found themselves on the defensive. They had spent decades slandering the Federal Government–claiming, for example:

• there was a plot by Democrats to “take away your guns,”
• that flouridation was a Communist plot to “pollute our precious bodily fluids,”
• that Democrats were “Godless” and wanted to enforce athiesm on believing Christians,
• and that Democrats would allow United Nations “black helicopters” to stage a military takeover of the United States.

Now at least three members of one of their core constituency groups–the militia movement–had acted on that rhetoric. Republicans genuinely feared that President Bill Clinton would address the nation and lay blame squarely on those who had spent decades slandering government as a threat to the very liberties of those it was meant to serve.

Instead, Clinton gave a consoling address where he praised the men and women who had died in the blast. The closest he came to naming–and condemning–those truly responsible for the tragedy came near the end of his address:

“There are forces that threaten our common peace, our freedom, our way of life. Let us teach our children that the God of comfort is also the God of righteousness. Those who trouble their own house will inherit the wind. Justice will prevail.

“Let us let our own children know that we will stand against the forces of fear. When there is talk of hatred, let us stand up and talk against it. When there is talk of violence, let us stand up and talk against it. In the face of death let us honor life.”

But Clinton never blamed the Republicans for “giving aid and comfort” to the right-wing militia movement whose members carried out this slaughter.

Republicans won the White House in 2000, and again in 2004. But in 2008 the prospect of a black man becoming President frightened and infuriated not only many Republican leaders but their rightist supporters.

At one rally for Republican nominee John McCain, a woman screamed, “Obama! Osama!”–a clear reference to Republican accusations that Barack Obama was a closet Muslim, if not an outright supporter of Islamic terrorism.

Republicans encouraged right-wing groups to spread the word that Obama was not born in Hawaii, but in Kenya. The purpose of this was to strip Obama of legitimacy as a leader.

In 1988, while working as a community organizer in Chicago, Obama was formally baptized as a Christian at the Trinity United Church of Christ. Obama now worships in services at Camp David.

Despite this, Republicans and their right-wing supporters continue to assert that he is a secret Muslim. And this has led increasing numbers of Americans to believe he is.

The number of Americans who say President Obama is a Muslim has nearly doubled since March 2009, according to an August, 2010 poll from Pew. The poll finds that 18% of Americans say the president is a Muslim.


In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics on January 10, 2011 at 11:31 am

“An attack on one who serves is an attack on all who serve,” said House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) in a statement on the January 8 shooting of Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.). “Acts and threats of violence against public officials have no place in our society. …This is a sad day for our country.”

This from the man who, upon assuming the Speakership, said his first priority was repealing President Obama’s healthcare reform bill. It was this bill that Giffords had supported against bitter attacks and death threats from Republican Tea Party members.

And from former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin–whose SarahPAC page, until the day of the shooting, depicted a map featuring cross-hairs over Giffords’ district: “My sincere condolences are offered to the family of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and the other victims of today’s tragic shooting in Arizona. On behalf of Todd and my family, we all pray for the victims and their families, and for peace and justice.”

The shooting of Giffords–or some other Democratic legislator– was, in fact, entirely predictable. Among those who warned of such needless tragedy was Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.).

“When Sarah Palin uses gun analogies and gun imagery when she makes her political point, she may believe that she’s engaging in metaphor,” said Weiner, who received an envelope of suspicious powder at his office. “But there are too many people who have twisted minds who might think that she’s being literal.”

Giffords may have seen the spectre of violence closing in on her. In April, 2010, she supported Rep. Raúl Grijalva after he had to close two offices when he and his staff received threats. He had called for a boycott of Arizona businesses in opposition to the state’s controversial immigration law.

“I am deeply troubled about reports that Congressman Grijalva and members of his staff have been subjected to death threats,” Giffords said. “This is not how we, as Americans, express our political differences. Intimidation has no place in our representative democracy. Such acts only make it more difficult for us to resolve our differences.”

But intimidation–and worse–does have a place among the tactics used by influential Republicans in the pursuit of absolute power:

• Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Tex.) 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 that you’re going to win. That’s the only way you’re going to get these people’s attention.”
• Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) said Tea Partiers had “every right” to use racist and homophobic slurs against Democrats, chalking it all up to Democrats’ “totalitarian tactics.”
• Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) said she wants her constituents “armed and dangerous” against the Obama administration.
• Sarah Palin told her supporters: “Get in their face and argue with them. No matter how tough it gets, never retreat, instead RELOAD!”
• Right-wing pundit Ann Coulter: “My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is 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. Louise M. Slaughter (D-N.Y.) received a phone message threatening sniper attacks against lawmakers and their families.
• Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.) the highest-ranking black lawmaker in the House, said he received an anonymous fax showing the image of a noose.

For more than 50 years, Republicans have vilified government–except, of course, when they are running it. (Then they have demanded absolute obedience and utmost devotion. When a member of the Dixie Chicks said she was ashamed that George W. Bush came from her home state of Texas, the group found itself facing boycotts and death threats.)

They have sought to convince Americans that Democrats are at least potential traitors, if not actual ones, ready to sell out the nation to the Communist menace.

(During the 1992 Presidential election, Republicans sought to paint Bill Clinton as a brainwashed “Manchurian candidate,” owing to a visit he had taken to the Soviet Union during his college years.)

After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, they tried to persuade voters that the Democrats were “soft on crime.” When riots flared in 1992 after the acquittal of the LAPD officers who had savagely beaten Rodney King, President George H.W. Bush blamed the carnage on the “Great Society” programs of the Lyndon Johnson era.

When President Barack Obama set out to provide healthcare fo all Americans–and not simply the wealthy–Republicans tried to convince voters that he would use healthcare reform to murder vast numbers of their fellows (via “death panels,” in Sarah Palin’s infamous phrase).


In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics on January 9, 2011 at 3:45 pm

Many Americans–especially Republicans–claim they can’t understand the tragic shootings in Tucson that claimed the lives of six people and left 13 others wounded.

Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona was shot in the head on January 8 while meeting with constituents outside a grocery store. She is fighting for life at University Medical Center in Tucson.

Also killed was Arizona’s chief U.S. District judge, John Roll, who had just stopped by to see his friend Giffords after celebrating Mass.

Far from being a mystery, yesterday’s violence becomes entirely understandable–if we are willing to put aside our cherished notion that “things like this happen only in other countries; they don’t happen here.”

A good starting point is the 1968 movie “Z”, whose summary follows:

Set in Greece in 1963, the film re-creates the events surrounding the assassination of democratic Greek politician Grigoris Lambrakis, who is played by Yves Montand.

Lambrakis (who is referred to only as “the Deputy” throughout the movie) is clearly out of step with the right-wing militarists who run the country.

He is scheduled to give a night-time speech advocating nuclear disarmament. But Lambrakis’ opponents intend to prevent this. Right-wing goon squads gear up for a rally at the site where the Deputy is to appear.

Under pressure by the military and police, the site has been changed to a much smaller hall and right-wing mobsters now threaten those who call for peace. As the Deputy crosses the street from the hall after giving his speech, a delivery truck speeds past him and a man on the open truck bed crushes his head with a club.

The injury eventually proves fatal, and by that time it is already clear that the police have coerced witnesses to claim that the victim was simply run over by a drunk driver.

* * * * *

Now, fast-forward to 2011 and the tragedy in Arizona.

Giffords, 40, is a moderate Democrat who narrowly wins re-election in November against a Republican Tea Party candidate. Her support of President Obama’s health care reform law has made her a target for violent rhetoric–especially from former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.

In March, 2010, Palin releases a map featuring 20 House Democrats that uses crosshairs images to show their districts. In case her supporters don’t get the message, she later writes on Twitter: “‘Don’t Retreat, Instead – RELOAD!'”

As the campaign continues, Giffords finds her Tucson office vandalized after the House passes the overhaul in March.

Giffords senses that she has become a target for removal–in more than political terms. In an interview after the vandalizing of her office, she refers to the animosity against her by conservatives. She specifically cites Palin’s decision to list her seat as one of the top “targets” in the midterm elections.

“For example, we’re on Sarah Palin’s targeted list, but the thing is, that the way that she has it depicted has the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district. When people do that, they have to realize that there are consequences to that action,” Giffords tells MSNBC.

At one of her rallies, her aides call the police after an attendee drops a gun.

Now let’s examine the case of Federal Judge John Roll. Named Arizona’s chief federal judge in 2006, he wins wide acclaim as a respected jurist and leader who pushes to beef up the court’s strained bench to handle a growing number of border crime-related cases.

In 2009, he becomes a target for threats after allowing a $32 million civil-rights lawsuit by illegal aliens to proceed against a local rancher. The case arouses the fury of local talk radio hosts, who encourage their audiences to threaten Roll’s life.

In one afternoon, Roll logs more than 200 threatening phone calls. Callers threaten the judge and his family. They post personal information about Roll online.

Roll and his wife are placed under fulltime protection by deputy U.S. marshals. Roll finds living under security “unnerving and invasive.” Authorities identify four men believed responsible for the threats. But Roll declines to press charges on the advice of the Marshals Service.

So much for exploring the “what happened” part of the shootings in Tucson. In the next post, we will explore the “why.”

%d bloggers like this: