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Posts Tagged ‘REPUBLICANS’

AVOIDING OBAMA’S MISTAKES: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 22, 2016 at 12:05 am

The ancient Greeks believed: “A man’s character is his fate.” It is Barack Obama’s character–and America’s fate–that he is more inclined to conciliation than confrontation.

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

Rule #4: Be Open to Compromise–Not Capitulation

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.  

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President Barack Obama

At that point, he should have put aside his hopes for a “Kumbaya moment” and applied what Niccolo Machiavelli famously said in The Prince on the matter of love versus fear:

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

For it may be said of men in general that they are ungrateful, voluble, dissemblers, anxious to avoid danger and covetous of gain. 

As long as you benefit them, they are entirely yours: they offer you their blood, their goods, their life and their children, when the necessity is remote. But when it approaches, they revolt…. 

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.  

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Niccolo Machiavelli

By refusing to vigorously prosecute acts of Republican extortion, President Obama has encouraged Republicans to intensify their aggression against him.

Their most recent act: Refusing to meet with federal appeals court judge Merrick Garland. Obama’s designated nominee to the Supreme Court after the February 13 death of Justice Antonin Scalia.  

Kentucky United States Senator Mitch McConnell has flatly stated: There will be no Supreme Court hearing–not during regular business or a post-election lame-duck session.

Had Obama proceeded with indictments against Republican extortion in 2011 or 2013, McConnell–who supported the extortion attempts of those years–would now be desperately meeting with his lawyers.  

Rule #5: First Satisfy Your Citizens, Then Help Them  

Obama started off well. Americans had high expectations of him.

This was partly due to his being the first black elected President. And it was partly due to the legacies of needless war and financial catastrophe left by his predecessor, George W. Bush.

Obama entered office intending to reform the American healthcare system, to make medical care available to all citizens, and not just the richest.

But that was not what the vast majority of Americans wanted him to concentrate his energies on. With the loss of 2.6 million jobs in 2008, Americans wanted Obama to find new ways to create jobs.

This was especially true for the 11.1 million unemployed, or those employed only part-time.

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

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

The results were threefold:  

First, those desperately seeking employment felt the President didn’t care about them.

Second, the reform effort became a lightning rod for conservative groups like the Tea Party.

And, third, in 2010, a massive Right-wing turnout cost Democrats the House of Representatives and threatened Democratic control of the Senate.

Rule #6: Be Careful What You Promise  

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

But, hidden in the 906 pages of the law, was 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 new coverage that did.

It soon turned out that a great 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,” sarcastically 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.

As a result, the President found his reputation for integrity–long his greatest asset–tarnished.

All of which takes us to yet another warning offered by Machiavelli: Whence it may be seen that hatred is gained as much by good works as by evil….

AVOIDING OBAMA’S MISTAKES: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 21, 2016 at 12:07 am

If Hillary Clinton succeeds Barack Obama as President, can gain much by learning from his mistakes.

In 2011, Obama could have ended Republican extortion by invoking the law–that of the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act and/or the USA Patriot Act.

Or he could have faced down Republican extortionists by urging his fellow Americans to rally to him in a moment of supreme national danger.  

Rule #2: Rally Your Citizens Against a Dangerous Enemy 

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

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 path we have chosen for the present is full of hazards, as all paths are, but it is the one most consistent with our character and courage as a nation and our commitments around the world.

“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.

Yet this was another option he failed to exploit. And he and the Nation have continued to pay the price for it.  

Rule #3: Timidity Toward Aggressors Only Leads to More Aggression

In September, 2013, Republicans once again threatened to shut down the Federal Government unless the President agreed to defund the Affordable Care Act (ACA), better known as “Obamacare.

They were enraged that millions of uninsured Americans might receive medical care on a par with that given members of the House and Senate.

So on September 20, the House voted on a short-term government funding bill that included a provision to defund Obamacare.

Obama and Senate Democrats rejected that provision. If the House and Senate couldn’t reach a compromise, many functions of the federal government would be shut down indefinitely on October 1.

According to Republicans: They wanted to save the country from bankruptcy–although the Congressional Budget Office stated that the ACA would lower future deficits and Medicare spending.

After passing the House and Senate, the ACA had been signed into law by President Obama on March 23, 2010.

On June 28, 2012, the United States Supreme Court–whose Chief Justice, John Roberts, is a Republican–had upheld the constitutionality of the ACA.

Yet House Republicans still sought a way to stop the law from taking effect. By September, 2013, they had voted 42 times to repeal “Obamacare.”

But their efforts had failed; the Democratic-led Senate made it clear it would never go along with such legislation.

Finally, unable to legally overturn the Act or to legislatively repeal it, House Republicans fell back on something much simpler: Threats and fear.

Threats–of voting to shut down salaries paid to most Federal employees. Most, because they themselves would continue to draw hefty salaries while denying them to FBI agents, air traffic controllers and members of the military, among others.

And fear–that would be generated throughout the Federal government, the United States and America’s international allies.

Republicans claimed it was Obama and Senate Democrats who refused to see reason and negotiate.

But then a Republican accidentally gave away the real reason for the shutdown.

“We’re not going to be disrespected,” Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.) told the Washington Examiner. “We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.”

Martin Stutzman

In short, Republicans–as admitted by Martlin Stutzman–were out to get “respect.” A member of the Crips or Bloods couldn’t have said it better.  

The shutdown began on October 1, 2013–and ended 16 days later with even Republicans admitting it had been a failure.

President Obama, a former attorney, denounced House Republicans as guilty of “extortion” and “blackmail.” If he truly believed them to be so guilty, he could have once again invoked RICO and/or the USA Patriot Act. 

Yet he did neither.

Had the President dared to prosecute such criminal conduct, the results would have been:

  • Facing lengthy prison terms, those indicted Republicans would have been forced to lawyer-up. That in itself would have been no small thing, since good criminal attorneys cost big bucks.  
  • Obsessed with their own personal survival, they would have found little time for engaging in the same thuggish behavior that got them indicted. In fact, doing so would have only made their conviction more likely.
  • 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.” 

True, some prosecuted Republicans might have beaten the rap. But first they would have been forced to spend huge amounts of time and money on their defense.

And with 75% of Americans voicing disgust with Congress, most of those prosecuted might well have been convicted.

It would have been a long time before Republicans again dared to engage in such behavior.

AVOIDING OBAMA’S MISTAKES: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 20, 2016 at 12:11 am

If Hillary Clinton becomes the nation’s first woman President, that will certainly be as big a historical milestone as Barack Obama’s becoming the first black man to hold that office.

But simply being elected President will not guarantee her success–any more than it guarantees success to any President.  

Every President faces challenges that his (up to now) predecessor didn’t. But others can be reasonably anticipated. For Clinton, a totally predictable challenge will be the sheer hatred and ruthless opposition Republicans aimed at Obama.  

And unless she determines, early on, to confront and overcome it, she will find her agenda just as blocked and undermined as Obama so often did.  

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Hillary Clinton

For example: 

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

They 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, it 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,” said Buffett.  

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Warren Buffett 

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

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

Raising taxes on the wealthy, they insisted, would be a “jobs-killer.” It would “discourage” corporate CEOs from creating tens of thousands of jobs they “want” to create.

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

One senior Republican said talks would go right up to–and maybe beyond–the brink of default.

“I think we’ll be here in August,” said Republican Rep. Pete Sessions, of Texas. “We are not going to leave town until a proper deal gets done.”

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?

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.”

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.  

Rule #1 Ruthlessly Prosecute the Acts of Ruthless Criminals

But Obama could have countered that danger via the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.

In 1970, Congress passed RICO, Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1961-1968.  Its goal: Destroy the Mafia.

U.S. Department of Justice

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.” 

And if President Obama had believed that RICO was insufficient to deal with this crisis, he could have relied on the USA Patriot Act of 2001, passed in the wake of 9/11.  

President George W. Bush signs the USA Patriot Act into law – October 26, 2001

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 legally in place. President Obama needed only to direct the Justice Department to apply them.

“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 legally in place. President Obama needed only to direct the Justice Department to apply them.

Prosecuting members of Congress would not have violated the separation-of-powers principle. Congressmen had been investigated, indicted and convicted for various criminal offenses.

Such prosecutions–and especially convictions–would have served notice on current and future members of Congress that the lives and fortunes of American citizens may not be held hostage as part of a negotiated settlement.

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.

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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.

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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.

NRA: “IF EVERYONE WENT ARMED, WE’D BE SAFE”

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 11, 2016 at 12:14 am

On June 17, 2015, Dylann Roof, a white high school dropout, gunned down three black men and six black women at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. 

Dylann Roof

On June 18–one day after the church slaughter–Charles L. Cotton took insulting the dead to a whole new level. 

Cotton is a National Rifle Association (NRA) board member who also runs TexasCHLForum.com, an online discussion forum about guns and gun owners’ rights in Texas and beyond.

In a discussion thread on the Forum, a board member noted that Clementa C. Pinckney, one of the nine people slain, was a pastor and a state legislator in South Carolina.

Cotton responded: “And he voted against concealed-carry. Eight of his church members who might be alive if he had expressly allowed members to carry handguns in church are dead. Innocent people died because of his position on a political issue.”

#NRA boardmember Charles L. Cotton: #Charleston tragedy could've been avoided if guns allowed in Churches.

That discussion thread was quickly deleted.

During a subsequent phone interview, Cotton emphasized that he had been speaking as a private citizen–and not as an NRA board member:

“It was a discussion we were having about so called gun-free zones. It’s my opinion that there should not be any gun-free zones in schools or churches or anywhere else. If we look at mass shootings that occur, most happen in gun-free zones.”

If private citizens were allowed to carry guns everywhere, Cotton said, there will be fewer mass shootings because “if armed citizens are in there, they have a chance to defend themselves and other citizens.”

Cotton’s position–“there should not be any gun-free zones”–is exactly that of the NRA itself.

Under such circumstances, America will become a nation where anyplace, anytime, can be turned into the O.K. Corral.

Another point that Cotton didn’t mention: Dylann Roof did believe in concealed-carry–and it cost not his life but the lives of nine innocent men and women.

Finally, there is this: Even highly-trained shooters–such as those assigned to the United States Secret Service–don’t always respond as expected.

On May 15, 1972, Alabama Governor George Wallace was campaigning for President in Laurel, Maryland. He gave a speech behind a bulletproof podium at the Laurel Shopping Center. Then he moved from it to mingle with the crowd.

Since the 1968 assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy, all those campaigning for President have been assigned Secret Service bodyguards. And Wallace was surrounded by them as he shook hands with his eager supporters.

Suddenly, Arthur Bremer, a fame-seeking failure in life and romance, pushed his way forward, aimed a .38 revolver at Wallace’s abdomen and opened fire. Before the Secret Service could subdue him, he hit Wallace four times, leaving him paralyzed for the rest of his life. 

Arthur Bremer shoots George Wallace

Nor was he Bremer’s only victim. Three other people present were wounded unintentionally: 

  • Alabama State Trooper Captain E C Dothard, Wallace’s personal bodyguard, who was shot in the stomach;
  • Dora Thompson, a campaign volunteer, who was shot in the leg; and 
  • Nick Zarvos, a Secret Service agent, who was shot in the neck, severely impairing his speech.

None of Wallace’s bodyguards got off a shot at Bremer–before or after he pulled the trigger.

On October 6, 1981, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat was reviewing a military parade in Cairo when a truck apparently broke down directly across from where he was seated. 

Anwar Sadat, moments before his assassination

Suddenly, soldiers bolted from the rear of the vehicle, throwing hand grenades and firing assault rifles. They rushed straight at Sadat–who died instantly under a hail of bullets.

Meanwhile, Sadat’s bodyguards–who had been trained by the CIA–panicked and fled.

Sadat had been assassinated by army officers who believed he had betrayed Islam by making peace with Israel in 1977.  

Most recently, the NRA mantra, “If every citizen went armed…” was put to the test in Dallas, Texas. It flunked.

On July 7, five Dallas police officers were shot and killed by a disgruntled ex-Army Reserve Afghan War veteran named Michah Xavier Johnson. Another seven officers and two civilians were wounded before the carnage ended.

The shootings erupted during a Black Lives Matter protest march in downtown Dallas.  

Texas has long been an “open carry” state for those who want to brandish rifles without fear of arrest. And about 20 people wearing “ammo gear and protective equipment [had] rifles slung over their shoulder,” said Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings.  

“When the shooting started, at different angles, [the armed protesters] started running,” Rawlings said, adding that open carry only brings confusion to a shooting scene. “What I would do [if I were a police officer] is look for the people with guns,” he said.  

“There were a number of armed demonstrators taking part,” said Max Geron, a Dallas police major. “There was confusion on the radio about the description of the suspects and whether or not one or more was in custody.”

The ultimate test of the NRA’s mantra that “there should not be any gun-free zones…anywhere” will come only when one or more heavily-armed gunmen target an NRA convention.

It will then be interesting to see if the surviving NRA members are as quick to blame themselves for being victims as they are to blame the victims of other mass slaughters.

FROM THE PRESIDENT’S LIPS TO THE ASTROLOGER’S EAR

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 7, 2016 at 12:16 am

On July 6, FBI Director James Comey recommended that the Justice Department not prosecute Hillary Clinton for using a private email server during her tenure as Secretary of State.  

Almost immediately afterward, Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for President, responded on Twitter: “FBI director said Crooked Hillary compromised our national security. No charges. Wow! .”  

Paul Ryan, the Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, claimed to be similarly outraged: “Declining to prosecute Secretary Clinton for recklessly mishandling and transmitting national security information will set a terrible precedent.”

“What Director Comey’s statements made clear was that Hillary Clinton’s decision to use a personal unsecured server to send work-related emails while service as Secretary of State—including classified information—was extremely irresponsible,” said House Republican Majority leader Kevin McCarthy.  

But 28 years ago, Republicans maintained a tight-lipped silence on another matter involving sensitive national security secrets. That was when news broke that Nancy Reagan, as First Lady, had shared these with a court astrologer.  

When President Ronald Reagan wanted advice on whether to nuke the Soviet Union or meet with its leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, his most important adviser wasn’t the CIA or Pentagon.

It was Joan Quigley, a San Francisco-based astrologer.

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Ronald and Nancy Reagan

Nancy had met Quigley on “The Merve Griffin Show” in 1973.  Quigley gave Nancy–and through her, Reagan himself—astrological advice during the latter’s campaign for the Republican Presidential nomination in 1976.

That effort failed to unseat President Gerald Ford–who was defeated by Jimmy Carter. But four years later, in 1980, Reagan defeated Carter to become the 40th President of the United States.

On March 30, 1981, a mentally-disturbed loner named John W. Hinckley shot and critically wounded Reagan. Fixated on actress Jodie Foster, he believed that by shooting the President he could gain her affection.

Shortly after the shooting, Merv Griffin told Nancy that Quigley had told him: If Nancy had called her on that fateful day, she–Quigley–could have warned that the President’s astrological charts had foretold a bad day.

From that moment on, Nancy regularly consulted Quigley on virtually everything that she and the President intended to do.

When Reagan learned of Nancy’s consultations with Quigley, he warned her: Be careful, because it might look odd if it came out.

Nancy may have been speaking on a scrambler-equipped phone. But Quigley–at her San Francisco office–was on an unsecured line. Thus, foreign powers–most notably the Soviet Union and Communist China–could have been privy to President Reagan’s most secret intentions.

Joan Quigley

Nancy passed on Quigley’s suggestions as commands to Donald Regan, chief of the White House staff.

As a result, Regan kept a color-coded calendar on his desk to remember when the astrological signs were good for the President to speak, travel, or negotiate with foreign leaders: Green ink highlighted “good” days; red ink “bad” days; yellow ink “iffy” days.

Donald Regan, no fan of Nancy’s, chafed under such restrictions: “Obviously, this list of dangerous or forbidden dates left very little latitude for scheduling,” he later wrote.

Forced out of the White House in 1987 by Nancy, Regan struck back in a 1988 tell-all memoir: For the Record: From Wall Street to Washington.

Regan’s book revealed, for the first time, how Ronald Reagan had actually made his Presidential decisions.  

All–including decisions to risk nuclear war with the Soviet Union–were based on a court astrologer’s horoscopesRationality and the best military intelligence available played a lesser, secondary role.

The last major world leader to turn to the supernatural for advice had been Russian Czar Nicholas II. His adviser had been Grigori Rasputin, a Siberian peasant whom Empress Alexandra believed was the only man who could save her hemophiliac son–and heir to the throne.

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Grigori Rasputin

In 1990, Quigley confirmed the allegations in an autobiography, What Does Joan Say?: My Seven Years As White House Astrologer to Nancy and Ronald Reagan.

The title came from the question that Ronald Reagan asked Nancy before making important decisions–including those that could risk the destruction of the United States. 

Bragged Quigley: “Not since the days of the Roman emperors–and never in the history of the United States Presidency—has an astrologer played such a significant role in the nation’s affairs of State.”

Among the successes Quigley took credit for: 

  • Strategies for winning the Presidential elections of 1980 and 1984;
  • Helping Nancy Reagan overhaul her image as a spoiled rich girl;
  • Defusing the controversy over Reagan’s visiting a graveyard for SS soldiers in Bitburg, Germany;
  • Pursuing “Star Wars” as a major part of his strategy against the Soviet Union;
  • The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty;
  • Protecting Reagan from would-be assassins through timely warnings to Nancy; and
  • Moving Reagan from seeing the Soviet Union as the “Evil Empire” to accepting Mikhail Gorbachev as a peace-seeking leader.

Thirty-five years after he became President, Ronald Reagan remains the most popular figure among Republicans. His deliberately-crafted myth is held up as the example of Presidential greatness by Right-wing candidates.  

Curiously, however, none of them mention his approach to government-by-astrologer.

PRIORITIES OF THE POWERFUL

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 30, 2016 at 12:17 am

In the 1970 film, Patton, General George S. Patton is a man driven by his obsession to be the best field commander in the war–and to be recognized for it.

George C. Scott as George S. Patton

And he sees British General Bernard Montgomery–his equally egotistical rival–as a potential obstacle to that latter ambition.

So, in Algeria, he conjures up a plan that will sideline “Monty” while he, Patton, defeats the Germans–and bags the glory.

The trick lies in throwing a sumptuous dinner–in the middle of the African desert–for a visiting British general: Harold Alexander.

As Patton (George C. Scott, in an Oscar-winning performance) tells his aide: “I want to give a dinner for General Alexander. I want to get to him before Montgomery does.  I want the finest food and the best wine available. Everything.”

The aide pulls off the dinner–where, indeed, “the finest food and the best wine” are on full display, along with attentive waiters and a candelabra.

So think about it:

  • In the middle of the desert
  • while American and British forces are forced to subsist on C-rations
  • and are under repeated air attack by the Luftwaffe
  • and tank attack by the Afrika Korps

a handful of ultra-pampered American and British military officers find the time–and luxuries–to throw themselves a fine party.

Now, fast-forward from Algeria in 1943 to Washington, D.C. in 2016.

Returning to Congress after their traditional summer recess, House Republicans planned to cut $23 billion in food stamps for the poor. This would include include ending waivers that allow some adults to get temporary assistance, while they are in school or training for a job.   

The cuts could include drug tests of applicants and tougher work rules. As Republicans see it: There’s no point in “helping” the poor if you can’t humiliate them.

The food stamp program, now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, served more than 46 million Americans and cost $74 billion in 2015. 

A single person is eligible for food stamps if his total monthly income is under $1,265 ($15,180 per year).  A family of four is eligible if their total income is less than $2,584 per month ($31,008 per year).

Republicans claim the program is unbearably expensive at $74.1 billion a year.

Meanwhile, Republicans are eager to spend billions of dollars for another project: An unnecessary war with Syria.

One of these right-wingers is Bill Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard–and one of the leading instigators of the 2003 war with Iraq.

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Bill Kristol

He–like senior officials on the George W. Bush administration–falsely claimed that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and planned to use them against the United States.

Another Kristol lie: Hussein planned 9/11 with Osama bin Laden.

He has never apologized for either lie–or the resulting war that killed 4,487 American soldiers and wounded another 32,226.

In a September, 2013 column, Kristol called for a return to slaughter–not only in Syria but Iran as well:

“…Soon after voting to authorize the use of force against the Assad regime, Republicans might consider moving an authorization for the use of force against the Iranian nuclear weapons program.

“They can explain that Obama’s dithering in the case of Syria shows the utility of unequivocally giving him the authority to act early with respect to Iran.”

Former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice–who also helped lie the nation into the needless 2003 Iraq war–is another big promoter of “give war a chance:”

“My fellow Americans, we do not have a choice. We cannot be reluctant to lead–and one cannot lead from behind.”

Among Republican U.S. Senators calling for war are John McCain (Arizona) and Lindsey Graman (South Carolina), who issued a joint statement:

“Using stand-off weapons, without boots on the ground, and at minimal risk to our men and women in uniform, we can significantly degrade Assad’s air power and ballistic missile capabilities and help to establish and defend safe areas on  the ground.

“In addition, we must begin a large-scale effort to train and equip moderate, vetted elements of the Syrian opposition with the game-changing weapons they need to shift the military balance against [Syrian dictator Bashar] Assad’s forces.”

Except that there are no “moderate, vetted elements of the Syrian opposition.  The opposition is just as murderous as the Assad regime–and eager to replace one dictator with another.

In addition: A major weapon for “degrading Assad’s air power” would be Tomahawk Cruise missiles.  A single one of these costs $1,410,000.

Firing of a Tomahawk Cruise missile

A protracted missile strike would rain literally billions of dollars’ worth of American missiles on Syria.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon is spending about $27 million a week to maintain the increased U.S. Navy presence in the Mediterranean Sea and Middle East region to keep watch over Syria and be prepared to strike.

Navy officials say it costs about $25 million a week for the carrier group and $2 million a week for each destroyer.

Is there a lesson to be learned from all this?

Yes.

Powerful people–whether generals, politicians or the wealthy–will always find abundant money and resources available for projects they consider important.

It’s only when it comes to projects that other people actually need that the powerful will claim there is, unfortunately, a cash shortage.

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.

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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.

TESTING THE THEORY OF “GUN-PACKING ZONES”

In History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on June 14, 2016 at 12:06 am

“You know the great thing about the state of Iowa is, I’m pretty sure you all define gun control the same way we do in Texas–hitting what you aim at.

“My wife, Heidi, who is a petite, 5’2 California blonde, she was standing at the tripod unloading the full machine gun with a pink baseball cap that said ‘armed and fabulous.’”

Yes, it was United States Senator Rafael Cruz (R-Texas) on the prowl for laughs–and votes–at a town hall meeting in Iowa. Normally, Cruz would do his vote-hunting in Texas.

But now Cruz had a bigger prize on his mind than simply being re-elected a United States Senator. Cruz wanted to be President in 2016.

U.S. Senator Rafael Cruz

Cruz’ jokes about gun control came on June 19, 2015, only two days after Dylann Roof, a white high school dropout, gunned down three black men and six black women at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. 

Dylann Roof

Following his remarks, Cruz headed to a shooting range, where he fired off rounds on a semiautomatic .223-caliber Smith and Wesson M&P 15.

Cruz’ remarks no doubt appeared insensitive to the latest victims of gun violence and those who now mourned for them. But the comments of Charles L. Cotton took insulting the dead to a whole new level. 

Cotton is a National Rifle Association (NRA) board member who also runs TexasCHLForum.com, an online discussion forum about guns and gun owners’ rights in Texas and beyond.

In a discussion thread on June 18, 2015–one day after the church slaughter–a board member noted that Clementa C. Pinckney, one of the nine people slain, was a pastor and a state legislator in South Carolina.

Cotton responded: “And he voted against concealed-carry. Eight of his church members who might be alive if he had expressly allowed members to carry handguns in church are dead. Innocent people died because of his position on a political issue.”

#NRA boardmember Charles L. Cotton: #Charleston tragedy could've been avoided if guns allowed in Churches.

That discussion thread was quickly deleted.

During a subsequent phone interview, Cotton emphasized that he had been speaking as a private citizen–and not as an NRA board member:

“It was a discussion we were having about so called gun-free zones. It’s my opinion that there should not be any gun-free zones in schools or churches or anywhere else. If we look at mass shootings that occur, most happen in gun-free zones.”

If private citizens were allowed to carry guns everywhere, Cotton said, there will be fewer mass shootings because “if armed citizens are in there, they have a chance to defend themselves and other citizens.”

Cotton’s position–“there should not be any gun-free zones”–is exactly that of the NRA itself.

Under such circumstances, America will become a nation where anyplace, anytime, can be turned into the O.K. Corral.

Another point that Cotton didn’t mention: Dylann Roof did believe in concealed-carry–and it cost not his life but the lives of nine innocent men and women.

Finally, there is this: Even highly-trained shooters–such as those assigned to the United States Secret Service–don’t always respond as expected.

On May 15, 1972, Alabama Governor George Wallace was campaigning for President in Laurel, Maryland. He gave a speech behind a bulletproof podium at the Laurel Shopping Center. Then he moved from it to mingle with the crowd.

Since the 1968 assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy, all those campaigning for President have been assigned Secret Service bodyguards. And Wallace was surrounded by them as he shook hands with his eager supporters.

Suddenly, Arthur Bremer, a fame-seeking failure in life and romance, pushed his way forward, aimed a .38 revolver at Wallace’s abdomen and opened fire. Before the Secret Service could subdue him, he hit Wallace four times, leaving him paralyzed for the rest of his life. 

Arthur Bremer shoots George Wallace

Nor was he Bremer’s only victim. Three other people present were wounded unintentionally: 

  • Alabama State Trooper Captain E C Dothard, Wallace’s personal bodyguard, who was shot in the stomach;
  • Dora Thompson, a campaign volunteer, who was shot in the leg; and 
  • Nick Zarvos, a Secret Service agent, who was shot in the neck, severely impairing his speech.

None of Wallace’s bodyguards got off a shot at Bremer–before or after he pulled the trigger.

On October 6, 1981, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat was reviewing a military parade in Cairo when a truck apparently broke down directly across from where he was seated. 

Anwar Sadat, moments before his assassination

Suddenly, soldiers bolted from the rear of the vehicle, throwing hand grenades and firing assault rifles. They rushed straight at Sadat–who died instantly under a hail of bullets.

Meanwhile, Sadat’s bodyguards–who had been trained by the CIA–panicked and fled.

Sadat had been assassinated by army officers who believed he had betrayed Islam by making peace with Israel in 1977.

The ultimate test of the NRA’s mantra that “there should not be any gun-free zones…anywhere” will come only when one or more heavily-armed gunmen target an NRA convention.

It will then be interesting to see if the surviving NRA members are as quick to blame themselves for being victims as they are the victims of other mass slaughters.

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