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“NEGOTIATING” REPUBLICANAZI STYLE: PART SIX (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 30, 2023 at 12:11 am

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

President Barack Obama could have ended that threat via the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. Unfortunately for him and the Nation, he didn’t.

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.

Georgia asks judge to toss DOJ lawsuit targeting voting law

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.”

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 convened criminal grand juries to indict those violators.

Those same remedies remain available to President Joseph Biden.

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.

And 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—but he refused to do so.

That does not, however, prevent President Biden from doing so. 

Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), the newly-installed Speaker of the House of Representatives, has told CNN that Republicans would demand spending cuts in exchange for lifting the debt ceiling. Most likely, such cuts would come at the expense of the poorest American citizens, as this has been the standard Republican practice. 

Appearing on The PBS Newshour on January 17, Wendy Edelberg of the Hamilton Project, a liberal economic think tank, warned of potential disaster if Congress refuses to raise the debt ceiling: 

“It’s playing a game with the U.S. economy and people’s lives that I think is irresponsible….

“I’m very confident that the White House and Democrats in Congress stand ready to negotiate on future tax and spending laws and changes to those laws.

“What I don’t understand is why those negotiations are linked to the debt ceiling. Maybe they’re both about borrowing, and so people have gotten confused. One is about backward-looking obligations based on previous laws, tax and spending laws that were enacted, and one is about future.”

There’s no mystery: By linking the debt ceiling to tax and spending negotiations, Republicans believe they can extort any concessions they want from President Biden.

But this doesn’t have to happen. Biden can choose to invoke criminal law against criminal extortion.  

If he does so, he will save the Nation from financial extinction.

And he will send a message to future Right-wing extortionists: The lives and fortunes of American citizens may not be held hostage to gain leverage in a political settlement.

“NEGOTIATING” REPUBLICANAZI STYLE: PART FIVE (OF SIX)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 27, 2023 at 12:10 am

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

During a late-night White House meeting with President Barack 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—Republican extortionists again threatened the Nation with financial ruin and international disgrace unless their demands were met.

18,813 Handprint Stock Photos and Images - 123RF

Symbol of the Mafia “Black Hand”

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.

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.”

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 Representative Pete Sessions, of Texas. “We are not going to leave town until a proper deal gets done.”

John Boehner

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 House 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.

Chris Matthews

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.

“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.  Prosecute Republican extortionists under the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act;
  2. Seek to rally the American people 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.

A graduate of Columbia University and Harvard Law School, Obama was easily one of the most academically gifted Presidents in United States history.

But for all this, he failed—from the onset of his Presidency—to grasp and apply this fundamental lesson taught by Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of modern political science.

Quote by Machiavelli: “Necessity is what impels men to take action ...

Niccolo Machiavelli

In his classic work on politics, The Prince, Machiavelli warns:

“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…. 

“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.”

Obama failed to heed this advice. And, predictably, his sworn enemies—which is what Republicans considered themselves to be—felt free to demonize and obstruct him at every turn. 

As Ernst Casier, chairman of philosophy at Hamburg University once warned:

“Those who are willing to risk everything, even death and destruction, to attain their ends will prevail over more responsible and prudent men who have more to lose and are rational, not suicidal.”

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

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

Next up: Remedies for extortion are at hand.

“NEGOTIATING” REPUBLICANAZI STYLE: PART FOUR (OF SIX)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 26, 2023 at 12:10 am

For the postwar Republican party, Adolf Hitler’s my-way-or-else “negotiating” methods would become standard operating procedure.

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

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

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

If Congress failed to raise the borrowing limit of the federal government by August 2, 2011, the date when the U.S. reached the limit of its borrowing abilities, America would begin defaulting on its loans. 

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

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

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

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

Republicans knew their argument was a lie. And so did the editors of Time. The difference is, the editors of Time were willing to reveal the truth.

In its June 20, 2011  cover-story on “What U.S. Economic Recovery? Five Destructive Myths,” Rana Foroohar, the magazine’s assistant managing editor in charge of economics and business, delivered this warning:

Profit-seeking corporations can’t be relied on to ”make it all better.” 

American companies “are doing quite well,” but most American workers “are earning a lower hourly wage now than they did during the recession.”

Corporations, in short, were doing extremely well. But they didn’t spend their profits on American workers.

“There may be $2 trillion sitting on the balance sheets of American corporations globally, but firms show no signs of wanting to spend it in order to hire workers at home.”

In short: Giving even greater tax breaks to mega-corporations—the standard Republican mantra—had not persuaded them to stop “outsourcing” jobs. Nor had it convinced them to start hiring Americans.

Many American companies prefer opening factories in Brazil, China or India to doing so in the United States—and thus eliminating jobs for American workers.

While embarrassingly overpaid CEOs squander corporate wealth on themselves, millions of Americans can’t afford medical care or must depend on charity to feed their families.

Yet there is also a disconnect between the truth of this situation and the willingness of Americans to face up to that truth.

The reason, writes Foroohar: 

Republicans have convinced most Americans they can revitalize the economy by slashing “taxes on the wealthy and on cash-hoarding corporations while cutting benefits for millions of Americans.”

And she concludes: To restore prosperity America needs both tax increases and cuts in entitlement programs.

According to Mein Kampf-My Struggle”—Adolf Hitler’s autobiography and political treatise:

  1. Most people are ruled by sentiment, not reason.
  2. This sentiment is simple and consistent. It is rooted in notions of love and hatred, right and wrong, truth and falsehood.
  3. Propaganda isn’t based on objective truth but must present only that part of the truth that makes its own side look good.
  4. People are not intelligent, and quickly forget.
  5. Confine propaganda to a few bare essentials and express these in easily-remembered stereotyped images.
  6. Persistently repeat these slogans until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea that has been put forward.

Following these principles, Republicans have proved hugely successful at persuading millions that truth is whatever their party claims it to be at any given moment.

“Fascism,” said author Ernest Hemingway, “is a lie told by bullies.” Thus, when Republicans couldn’t attain their goals by lying, they sought to do so by force—or at least the threat of it.

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

In November, 1995, Newt Gingrich, then Speaker of the House of Representatives, carried out his threat. Gingrich unwisely admitted that he did so because President Bill 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. 

Still, the Republicans continued their policy of my-way-or-else.

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

During a late-night White House meeting with President Barack 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—Republican extortionists again threatened the Nation with financial ruin and international disgrace unless their demands were met. 

Next up: Republicans: “Stop funding pap smears for women—or we’ll shut down the government.”

“NEGOTIATING” REPUBLICANAZI STYLE: PART THREE (OF SIX)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 25, 2023 at 12:14 am

In September, 1938, seven months after seizing Austria, German Fuhrer Adolf Hitler gave another exhibition of his “negotiating” methods. This time, the target of his rage and aggression was Czechoslovakia.

Once again, he opened “negotiations” with a lie: The Czechoslovak government was trying to exterminate 3.5 million Germans living in the “Sudetenland.”

Then he followed with the threat of war: Germany would protect its citizens and halt such “oppression.”

For British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, the thought of another European war erupting less than 20 years after the end of World War I was simply unthinkable.

He quickly sent Hitler a telegram, offering to help resolve the crisis: “I could come to you by air and am ready to leave tomorrow. Please inform me of earliest time you can receive me, and tell me the place of the meeting. I should be grateful for a very early reply.”

The two European leaders met in Berchtesgaden, Germany, on September 15, 1938.

Neville Chamberlain and Adolf Hitler

During their talks, Chamberlain said he had come to discuss German grievances. But, he added, it was necessary in all circumstances to exclude the use of force.

Hitler appeared to be shocked that he could be accused of such intentions: “Force? Who speaks of force?“

Then, without warning, he switched to an aggressive mode. He accused the Czechs of having mobilized their army in May. They had mobilized–in response to the mobilization of the German army.

“I shall not put up with this any longer,” shouted Hitler.I shall settle this question in one way or another. I shall take matters in my own hands!”

Suddenly, Chamberlain seemed alarmed—and possibly angry: “If I understood you right, you are determined to proceed against Czechoslovakia in any case. If this is so, why did you let me come to Berchtesgaden?

“In the circumstances, it is best for me to return at once. Anything else now seems pointless.”

Hitler was taken aback by the unexpected show of defiance. He realized he was about to lose his chance to bully the British into accepting his latest demands.

So he softened his tone and said they should consider the Sudetenland according to the principle of self-determination.

Chamberlain said he must immediately return to England to consult with his colleagues. Hitler appeared uneasy. But then the German translator finished the sentence: “…and then meet you again.”

Hitler realized he still had a chance to attain victory without going to war.

Chamberlain agreed to the cession of the Sudetenland. Three days later, French Prime Minister Edouard Daladier did the same. No Czechoslovak representative was invited to these discussions.

Chamberlain met Hitler again in Godesberg, Germany, on September 22 to confirm the agreements. But Hitler aimed to use the crisis as a pretext for war.

He now demanded not only the annexation of the Sudetenland but the immediate military occupation of the territories. This would give the Czechoslovak army no time to adapt their defense measures to the new borders.

To achieve a solution, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini suggested a conference of the major powers in Munich.

On September 29, Hitler, Daladier and Chamberlain met and agreed to Mussolini’s proposal. They signed the Munich Agreement, which accepted the immediate occupation of the Sudetenland.

The Czechoslovak government had not been a party to the talks. Nevertheless, it promised to abide by the agreement on September 30.

It actually had no choice. It faced the threat of an immediate German invasion after being deserted by its pledged allies: Britain, France and the Soviet Union.

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.”

Neville Chamberlain

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

Hitler—still planning more conquests—also knew better. In March, 1939, the German army occupied the rest of Czechoslovakia.

Chamberlain would soon be seen as a naive weakling—even before bombs started falling on London.

Hitler next turned his attention—and demands—to Poland. 

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

Adolf Hitler and his generals

Hitler ordered the invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939—unintentionally triggering World War II.

In time, historians and statesmen would regard Munich as an object lesson in the futility—and danger—in appeasing evil and aggression.

But for the postwar Republican party, Hitler’s my-way-or-else “negotiating” methods would become standard operating procedure.

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

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

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

Next up: Republicans: “Everything for the rich—or we’ll destroy the country.”

“NEGOTIATING” REPUBLICANAZI STYLE: PART TWO (OF SIX)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 24, 2023 at 12:12 am

By studying the “negotiating” methods used by Adolf Hitler,  Americans generally—and Democrats in particular—can learn much about the mindset and “negotiating” style of today’s Republican party.

A classic example of Hitler’s “bargaining style” came in 1938, when he invited Austrian Chancellor Kurt von Schuschnigg to his mountaintop retreat in Obersalzberg, Germany. 

Hitler, an Austrian by birth, intended to annex his native land to Germany. Schuschnigg was aware of Hitler’s desire, but nevertheless felt secure in accepting the invitation. He had been assured that the question of Austrian sovereignty would not arise.

 Adolf Hitler

The meeting occurred on February 12, 1938.

Shuschnigg opened the discussion with a friendly compliment. Walking over to a large window, he admired the breathtaking view of the mountains.

HITLER: We haven’t come here to talk about the lovely view or the weather!

Austria has anyway never done anything which was of help to the German Reich….I am resolutely determined to make an end to all this business.  The German Reich is a great power.  Nobody can and nobody will interfere if it restores order on its frontiers. 

SCHUSCHNIGG: We simply have to go on living alongside one another, the little state next to the big one. We have no other choice.

And that is why I ask you to tell me what your concrete complaints are. We will do all in our power to sort things out and establish a friendly relationship, as far as it is possible to do so.

HITLER: That’s what you say, Herr Schuschnigg. And I am telling you that I intend to clear up the whole of the so-called Austrian question—one way or another. Do you think I don’t know that you are fortifying Austria’s border with the Reich? 

SCHUSCHNIGG: There can be no suggestion at all of that—

HITLER: Ridiculous explosive chambers are being built under bridges and roads—

This was a lie, and Hitler knew it was a lie. But no matter. It gave him an excuse to threaten to destroy Austria—as he was to destroy so many other nations during the next seven years. 

HITLER: I have only to give one command and all this comic stuff on the border will be blown to pieces overnight. You don’t seriously think you could hold me up, even for half an hour, do you?

Who knows—perhaps you will find me one morning in Vienna like a spring storm. Then you will go through something!  I’d like to spare the Austrians that. 

The S.A. [Hitler’s private army of Stormtroopers] and the [Condor] lLegion [which had bombed much of Spain into rubble during the three-year Spanish Civil War] would come in after the troops and nobody—not even I—could stop them from wreaking vengeance.

Schnuschigg made a cardinal mistake in dealing with Hitler: He showed fear.  And this was precisely what the Nazi dictator looked for in an opponent.

Contrary to popular belief, Hitler did not constantly rage at everyone. On the contrary: he could, when he desired, be charming, especially to women.  He used rage as a weapon, knowing that most people feel intimidated by it. 

Republicans have profited by the same strategy.

In the case of Schuschnigg, Hitler opened with insults and threats at the outset of their discussion.  Then there was a period of calm, to convince the Austrian chancellor the worst was over.

Finally, he once again attacked—this time with so much fury that Schuschnigg was terrified into submission.

With one stroke of a pen, Austria became a vassal-state to Nazi Germany.

Seven months later, in September, 1938, Hitler gave another exhibition of his “negotiating” methods. This time, the target of his rage and aggression was Czechoslovakia.

Once again, he opened “negotiations” with a lie: The Czechoslovak government was trying to exterminate 3.5 million Germans living in the “Sudetenland.”

This consisted of the northern, southwest and western regions of Czechoslovakia, inhabited mostly by ethnic Germans.

Then he followed this up with the threat of war: Germany would protect its citizens and halt such “oppression.”

For British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, the thought of another European war erupting less than 20 years after the end of World War I was simply unthinkable.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Cenotaph_Unveiling,_1920.jpg

The Cenotaph, in London, honoring the unknown British dead of World War 1

Something had to be done to prevent it.  And he believed himself to be just the man to do it.

He quickly sent Hitler a telegram, offering to help resolve the crisis: “I could come to you by air and am ready to leave tomorrow. Please inform me of earliest time you can receive me, and tell me the place of the meeting.  I should be grateful for a very early reply.”

Once again, another head-of-state was prepared to meet Hitler on his home ground. Again, Hitler took this concession as a sign of weakness. And Chamberlain’s use of such words as “please” and “grateful” only further convinced Hitler of another impending triumph.

Chamberlain was determined to grant Hitler’s every demand–so long as this meant avoiding a second world war.

As a political party, Democrats have generally copied this same “strategy” when dealing with Republicans. 

Next up: Hitler’s “negotiating” legacy lives on—among Republicans.

“NEGOTIATING” REPUBLICANAZI STYLE: PART ONE (OF SIX)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 23, 2023 at 12:10 am

Once again, Republicans are ruthlessly playing “chicken” with the nation’s financial security.

During the Presidency of Barack Obama, Republicans threatened to plunge the country into defaulting on its loans to force sharp budget cuts to non-military spending.

Seven years later, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) praised the Republicans’ massive contribution to the national debt under President Donald Trump.

On August 2, 2019, Trump signed into law a two-year budget deal that raised spending by $320 billion over existing spending caps set in a 2011 law—and boosted military and domestic spending.

The bill also lifted the debt ceiling, which is the legal limit on the amount of debt the federal government can have. 

The bill threatened to push the budget deficit to more than $1 trillion in 2019 for only the second time since the Great Recession of 2007-2008 and add $1.7 trillion to the federal debt over a decade. 

Official White House presidential portrait. Head shot of Trump smiling in front of the U.S. flag, wearing a dark blue suit jacket with American flag lapel pin, white shirt, and light blue necktie.

Donald Trump

By January, 2021, the national debt had risen by almost $7.8 trillion during Trump’s time in office. It amounted to about $23,500 in new federal debt for every person in the country.

But now, with Democrat Joseph Biden as President, Republicans have become “fiscal conservatives.”

And they are prepared to plunge the United States into financial ruin unless Democrats once again meet their extortion demands.

The debt ceiling is the legal limit for how much debt the United States can take on as a country. Once that limit is hit, the U.S. Treasury can no longer issue bonds to raise funds to pay for everything that the government does. 

In a January 13th letter, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned congressional leaders that the United States is expected to hit the debt limit on January 19th—and urged them to raise the debt limit as soon as possible.

“Once the limit is reached, the Treasury will need to start taking certain extraordinary measures to prevent the United States from defaulting on its obligations.”

Secretary Janet Yellen portrait.jpg

Janet Yellen

Congress last raised the debt ceiling in December 2021 to more than $31.3 trillion. At the time, Democrats controlled both the House and Senate.

But the 2022 mid-term elections gave Republicans control of the House. And Republicans are threatening the nation with defaulting on its loans as Congress reopens with Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) as its new Speaker. 

New York Times conservative columnist David Brooks described these Republicans on the January 6 edition of The PBS Newshour: “These are nihilists. They came here, and they’re quite open about that, especially with their friends, and they say, we just want to burn the place down.

“And so they just want to be negative, be oppositional, and then go on TV and say everyone else has screwed up. And so this is a form of nihilism that is in the Republican Party.”

Republicans, in short, are one again utilizing the same “negotiating” strategy as Nazi Germany’s Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler.

And Democrats—out of cowardice or an ignorance of history—are once again refusing to publicly make this comparison.

By studying Adolf Hitler’s mindset and “negotiating” methods, we can learn much about the mindset and “negotiating” style of today’s Republican party.

Robert Payne, author of the bestselling biography, The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler (1973), described Hitler’s “negotiating” style thus: 

“Although Hitler prized his own talents as a negotiator, a man always capable of striking a good bargain, he was totally lacking in finesse. 

“He was incapable of bargaining. He was like a man who goes up to a fruit peddler and threatens to blow his brains out if he does not sell his applies at the lowest possible price.” 

A classic example of Hitler’s “bargaining style” came in 1938, when he invited Austrian Chancellor Kurt von Schuschnigg to his mountaintop retreat in Obersalzberg, Germany. 

Hitler, an Austrian by birth, intended to annex his native land to Germany. Schuschnigg was aware of Hitler’s desire, but nevertheless felt secure in accepting the invitation. He had been assured that the question of Austrian sovereignty would not arise.

 Kurt von Schuschnigg

The meeting occurred on February 12, 1938.

Shuschnigg opened the discussion with a friendly compliment. Walking over to a large window, he admired the breathtaking view of the mountains.

HITLER: We haven’t come here to talk about the lovely view or the weather!

Austria has anyway never done anything which was of help to the German Reich….I am resolutely determined to make an end to all this business. The German Reich is a great power.  Nobody can and nobody will interfere if it restores order on its frontiers. 

SCHUSCHNIGG: I am aware of your attitude toward the Austrian question and toward Austrian history….As we Austrians see it, the whole of our history is a very essential and valuable part of German history….And Austria’s contribution is a considerable one.

HITLER: It is absolutely zero—that I can assure you!  Every national impulse has been trampled underfoot by Austria….

I could call myself an Austrian with just the same right—indeed with even more right—than you, Herr Schuschnigg. Why don’t you once try a plebiscite in Austria in which you and I run against each other? Then you would see!   

Next up: Hitler “negotiates” Austria out of existence, then turns to Czechoslovakia. 

HOW DEMOCRATS CAN DEFEAT EXTORTION: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on January 18, 2023 at 12:13 am

….A man who wishes to make a profession of goodness in everything must inevitably come to grief among so many who are not good.  And therefore it is necessary, for a prince who wishes to maintain himself, to learn how not to be good, and to use this knowledge and not use it, according to the necessity of the case.
—Niccolo Machiavelli’s advice to President Joseph Biden in “The Prince”

Related image

Niccolo Machiavelli

Republicans, having won control of the House of Representatives, are eagerly seeking to destroy whatever legacy President Joseph R. Biden hopes to leave.

Intending to abuse their new-found powers to the utmost, their topmost goals include:

  • Bringing false impeachment charges against President Biden;
  • Investigating FBI officials who rightly investigated evidence of Donald Trump’s collaboration with Russia;
  • Investigating the President’s son, Hunter, for unspecified offenses, to damage his father’s credibility; and
  • Holding America’s economy hostage by refusing to raise the debt ceiling unless Biden makes cuts in taxes and aid programs for the poor and middle class.

Yet their dictatorial ambitions—lavishly funded by Russian “campaign contributions” (i.e., bribes)—can be thwarted. 

Two methods for achieving this have already been discussed in Part one of this series: 

  1. Attack Republicans as traitors selling out the country to Vladimir Putin, and
  2. Concede NOTHING to Republicans

Here are two more: 

Counterattack Strategy #3: One Biden for Two Trumps

House Republicans will undoubtedly attack Joseph Biden’s son, Hunter, to damage the President’s  credibility.

“What’s on Hunter’s laptop?” will become their latest version of “Who promoted Peress?” Irving Peress was a New York City dentist who became a primary target for Red-baiting Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy during the 1954 Army-McCarthy hearings.

Democrats cannot prevent this attack. Republicans are too dedicated to the politics of “smear and fear” to be persuaded otherwise.

But Democrats can at least effectively blunt it: Senatorial Democrats can hold similar investigative hearings on the actions of Donald Trump, Jr., and Eric Trump during their father’s White House tenure.

Both were highly involved with President Trump’s finances during his four years in office. And Trump never hesitated to violate the Emoluments Clause of the United States Constitution. 

Constitution of the United States, page 1.jpg

United States Constitution

Article I, Section 9, Paragraph 8 prohibits federal office holders from receiving gifts, payments, or anything of value from a foreign state or its rulers, officers, or representatives.

The Founders wanted to ensure that the country’s leaders would not be corrupted, even unconsciously, through bribes. At that time, bribery was a common practice among European rulers and diplomats. 

Trump encouraged diplomats, lobbyists and insiders to stay at his Washington, D.C. hotel—which lay only a short walk from the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue.

And the prices charged there weren’t cheap:

  • Cocktails ran from $23 for a gin and tonic to $100 for a vodka concoction with raw oysters and caviar.
  • A seafood pyramid called “the Trump Tower” cost $120.
  • A salt-aged Kansas City strip steak cost $59.  

It’s a certainty that Trump’s sons, Eric and Donald, Jr., oversaw the profits sheet for this hotel—and other Trump properties across the country visited by members of foreign governments.

Thus, there are legitimate avenues for investigation open to Senatorial subcommittees—just as Robert F. Kennedy once probed financial ties between the Mafia and the International Brother of Teamsters Union. 

The Justice Department might even be persuaded to launch its own investigation—not only into possible financial corruption during the Trump administration but into widespread reports of cocaine use by Donald, Jr. 

Donald Trump, Jr. (51770696331) (cropped).jpg

Donald Trump, Jr.

Gage Skidmore from Surprise, AZ, United States of America, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

The House cannot bring criminal penalties against anyone. But the Justice Department can.

Counterattack Strategy #4: One Biden for Two Houses of Congress

After Donald Trump refused to concede the 2020 Presidential election, 17 Republican state Attorney Generals—and 126 Republican members from both houses of Congress—supported a Texas lawsuit to overturn the results in four battleground states: Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. 

This was nothing less than a Right-wing coup attempt to overturn the results of a legitimate election. As a result, every one of these men and women can be legitimately indicted for treason—provided the Biden Justice Department has has the courage to do so.

Had the Justice Department brought such indictments in 2021 or 2022, the Republican party would now be facing legal and financial ruin. 

Even if some of its members escaped conviction, they would have been forced to pony up tens of thousands of dollars in legal expenses. 

And those who were convicted and sent to prison would serve as a long-remembered lesson to the Right of the dangers of treason and abuse of power. 

For decades, Republicans have turned Carl von Clausewitz’ famous dictum—“War is the continuation of politics by other means”—on its head: “Politics is a continuation of war by other means.” 

By contrast, Democrats have too often adhered to the Michelle Obama mantra: “When they go low, we go high.”

That strategy has given the United States Richard Nixon, Spiro Agnew, George W. Bush, Donald Trump—and a Republican Congress willing to destroy the country it claims to love.

HOW DEMOCRATS CAN DEFEAT EXTORTION: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on January 17, 2023 at 12:10 am

It took 15 votes—and a series of humiliating concessions—for Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to become Speaker of the House of Representatives.

All of the concessions he made were to the most Right-wing members of the House. And all of those members are fanatically dedicated to destroying whatever legacy President Joseph R. Biden hopes to leave.

At the top of their list: Impeaching Biden. 

Republicans refused to impeach and convict Donald Trump after he incited a deadly riot against the United States Capitol Building. But they’re eager to remove Biden for what they consider the most impeachable offense of all.

He defeated a Republican candidate for President.

Joe Biden presidential portrait.jpg

President Joseph Biden

And not just any Republican candidate: The candidate who had made no secret of his desire to be “President-for-Life.”

During the mid-term elections, Republicans had expected to sweep both the House and Senate. This would have given them virtual control of the government.

For the House is the body that initiates revenue bills and impeaches federal officials. And the Senate holds the power to confirm Presidential appointments that require consent, and to provide advice and consent to ratify treaties.

But Democrats went on a rare offensive and rightly attacked Republicans as intending to gain absolute control over the lives of their fellow Americans. And voters rejected the candidates favored by Trump for local and federal offices.

Thus, Republicans had to settle for controlling the House. 

Even so, they intend to abuse their new-found powers to the utmost. Among their topmost goals:

  • Bringing false impeachment charges against President Biden;
  • Investigating FBI officials who rightly investigated evidence of Donald Trump’s collaboration with Russia;
  • Investigating the President’s son, Hunter, for unspecified offenses, to damage his father’s credibility; and
  • Holding America’s economy hostage by refusing to raise the debt ceiling unless Biden makes cuts in taxes and aid programs for the poor and middle class.

R. Hunter Biden at Center for Strategic & International Studies (1).jpg

Hunter Biden

Center for Strategic & International Studies, CC BY 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

If Democrats follow their usual mantra of “When they go low, we go high,” they will cower before Republican aggression and sacrifice their legislative agenda.

Yet they can snatch victory from the jaws of impending defeat—providing they are willing to follow the advice Robert F. Kennedy offered for combating the Mafia: “If we do not attack organized criminals with weapons and techniques as effective as their own, they will destroy us.” 

Counterattack Strategy #1: Attack Republicans as traitors selling out the country to Vladimir Putin

Numerous Republicans have taken “campaign contributions”—i.e., bribes—from Russian oligarchs linked to Putin. 

One Russian oligarch—Len Blavatnik—has given millions of dollars to top Republican leaders—such as Senators Mitch McConnell (Kentucky), Marco Rubio (Florida) and Lindsey Graham (South Carolina). 

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In just 2017, Blavatnik contributed the following to GOP Political Action Committees (PACs):

  • $1.5 million to PACs associated with Rubio.
  • $1 million to Trump’s Inaugural Committee.
  • $1 million to McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund.
  • $3.5 million to a PAC associated with McConnell
  • $1.1 million to Unintimidated PAC, associated with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker
  • $250,000 to New Day for America PAC, associated with Ohio Governor John Kasich.
  • $800,000 to the Security is Strength PAC, associated with Senator Lindsey Graham.

The Biden administration need not ask the CIA or FBI to unearth these contributions. They can be easily found within the files of the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

Putin’s monies have been well-spent: About 90 House Republicansout of a total of 213—attended Volodymyr Zelensky’s address to Congress on December 21, according to CQ Roll Call. Some who did spent much of the speech on their phones.

Many Republicans—such as House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who in 2021 received about $255,000 from Blavatnik—have openly threatened to end all funding for Ukraine’s heroic struggle against Russian aggression.

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Kevin McCarthy

This would prove an effective technique. From the end of World War II to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Republicans successfully attacked Democrats as at least potential sellouts, if not actual traitors.

The advantage of attacking Russian-bribed Republicans today is that even some “Reagan Republicans”—such as James Kirchick, a conservative reporter, foreign correspondent, author, and columnist—have openly denounced this treason.

Thus, the White House could ignite an internal conflict within the Right by pitting Republicans against each other.

Counterattack Strategy #2: Concede NOTHING to Republicans

Donald Trump shut down the Federal Government on December 22, 2018, because Democrats refused to finance his useless border wall against Mexico.

So Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi shut down his State of the Union appearance.

As CNN political analyst Chris Cillizza noted: “What Pelosi seems to understand better than past Trump political opponents is that giving ANY ground is a mistake. You have to not only stand firm, but be willing to go beyond all political norms—like canceling the SOTU—to win.”

His ego strung, Trump reopened the government.

And with Republicans threatening to not raise the debt ceiling unless their extortionate demands are met, the White House can effectively counter this danger:

Deduct from the budget every dollar directed toward Republican states. This would vastly reduce the size of the Federal budget, since subsidizing these failed economies accounts for a substantial portion of the budget. 

DEMOCRACY’S THREATS: RUSSIANS AND REPUBLICANS – PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 5, 2023 at 12:12 am

Russian President Vladimir Putin has won acclaim within American conservatives by attacking those they detest—such as gays. And he has extolled Russia’s “traditional values” and assailed the West’s “genderless and infertile” liberalism.

In 2015, Russia-–a secret police state utterly opposed to private ownership of firearms—hosted a delegation from the National Rifle Association

Both the American Right and Putin reap huge benefits from the propagandistic efforts of the Fox Network. Fox hosts Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson are big hits in Russia, routinely getting huge airtime as they attack liberalism generally and President Joe Biden in particular.

James Kirchick—a conservative American reporter, foreign correspondent, author, and columnist—has analyzed the turn-about of the Republican party from staunchly anti-Communist to rabidly pro-Putin.

James Kirchick (cropped).jpg

James Kirchick

In a July 27, 2017 essay, “How the GOP became the Party of Putin,” he wrote: 

“How did the party of Ronald Reagan’s moral clarity morph into that of Donald Trump’s moral vacuity?

Russia’s intelligence operatives are among the world’s best. I believe they made a keen study of the American political scene and realized that, during the Obama years, the conservative movement had become ripe for manipulation. Long gone was its principled opposition to the ‘evil empire.’

“What was left was an intellectually and morally desiccated carcass populated by con artists, opportunists, entertainers and grifters operating massively profitable book publishers, radio empires, websites, and a TV network whose stock-in-trade are not ideas but resentments….

Viral Trump T-shirt wearers stay defiant despite firestorm of criticism - cleveland.com

Stormtrumpers displaying their first loyalty

Surveying this lamentable scene, why wouldn’t Russia try to ‘turn’ the American right, whose ethical rot necessarily precedes its rank unscrupulousness? 

“Why wouldn’t a ‘religious right’ that embraced a boastfully immoral charlatan like Donald Trump not turn a blind eye toward—or, in the case of [evangelical pastor] Franklin Graham, embrace—an oppressive regime like that ruling Russia?

Republicans have become a party fueled by hatred and lusting for absolute control—not just of their own members but Americans who totally disagree with their methods and goals.

What Ronald Reagan once said about the leaders of the Soviet Union applies just as accurately to the leaders of his own party: “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.”

The ultimate proof of this came in the Right’s attempt to violently overturn the results of the 2020 Presidential election—and to install Donald Trump as a dictatorial “President-for-Life.”

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Donald Trump

On November 3, Joe Biden became President-elect of the United States by winning 81,283,495 votes, or 51.4% of the vote, compared to 74,223,755 votes, or 46.9% of the vote cast for President Donald Trump.

In the Electoral College—which actually determines the winner—the results were even more stunning: 306 votes for Biden, compared with 232 for Trump. It takes 270 votes to be declared the victor.

From the moment Biden was declared the winner, Trump tried to overthrow that verdict. He ordered his attorneys to file lawsuits to overturn the election results, charging electoral fraud. 

From November 3 to December 14, 2020, Trump and his allies lost 59 times in court, either withdrawing cases for lack of evidence or having them dismissed by Federal and state judges.

Even so, 17 Republican state Attorney Generals—and 126 Republican members of Congress—supported a Texas lawsuit to overturn the results in four battleground states: Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. 

The Supreme Court refused to hear the case.

The vast majority of House and Senate Republicans refused to publicly acknowledge Biden as President-Elect of the United States. They feared being turned out of office by Trump’s fanatical base. 

By January 6, 2021, Trump had run out of options for illegally staying in power for the next four years. So that day he incited a fanatical mob of his supporters to intimidate Congressional members counting Electoral College votes to reject the election’s results. 

The Stormtrumpers marched to the United States Capitol Building—and quickly brushed aside Capitol Police. More than three hours passed before police—using riot gear, shields and batons—retook control of the Capitol.

IndieWire on Twitter: "Pro-Trump Rioters Breach US Capitol Building in Unprecedented Attack on Rule of Law https://t.co/QA27RZTEWd… "

Capitol Police facing off with Stormtrumpers

Although House Democrats moved to impeach Trump for his treasonous attack on democracy, Senate Republicans refused to convict him.

Almost two years later, Trump remains free and living a privileged life at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida. He has even declared his candidacy for President in 2024.

And millions of Right-wing voters remain convinced by his lies that the 2020 election was stolen from him. During the 2022 midterms, many Republican candidates for state and federal offices campaigned on that “Stop the Steal” premise.

Republicans won the House, but their failure to win the Senate has led to a civil war within the party. Trump remains the favorite of many. But others blame him for the defeat of many candidates.

They don’t want a candidate who displays moral clarity and compassion. They want a Fuhrer who appeals to their hatreds and craving for a Fascistic dictatorship—and who can make that a reality.

They will remain a constant threat to democracy—and to those Americans who don’t want to live under a Right-wing tyranny.

DEMOCRACY’S THREATS: RUSSIANS AND REPUBLICANS – PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 4, 2023 at 12:19 am

Many Republicans have accepted “campaign contributions”—bribes—from Russian oligarchs linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin. And the Russians have clearly gotten their money’s worth.

One of these, Len Blavatnik, has already been described in Part One of this series. 

Among those Republicans he has funded: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who is expected to become House Majority Leader in January, 2023. McCarthy has publicly demanded an end to aid for Ukraine’s resistance to Russian aggression.

Another Russian oligarch, Alexander Shustorovich, contributed $1 million to Donald Trump’s Inaugural Committee

A third oligarch, Andrew Intrater, contributed $250,000 to Trump’s Inaugural Committee.

And a fourth, Simon Kukes, contributed a total of $283,000, much of it to the Trump Victory Fund.

Altogether, four Russian oligarchsBlavatnik, Shustorovich, Intrater and Kukes––contributed $10.4 million from the start of the 2015-16 election cycle through September 2017. Of this, 99% went to Republicans.

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In 2022, Republican political operative Jesse Benton was convicted in federal court of funneling $25,000 from a Russian businessman to Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Roy Douglas “Doug” Wead, a longtime conservative political commentator and author, was indicted by the Justice Department for conspiring to illegally funnel Russian money to the Trump campaign in 2016. He died of a heart attack before he could be brought to trial.

In 2022, Andrey Muraviev, a Russian oligarch, was indicted by a federal grand jury in New York for funneling contributions to other Republican politicians. Among these: Adam Laxalt, who was running for governor of Nevada in 2018.

On February 13, 2017, The Washington Post reported that Acting Attorney General Sally Yates had warned President Trump in late January that National Security Adviser Michael Flynn had lied about his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak—and that he could be blackmailed by Russian Intelligence.

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Michael Flynn

Flynn was forced to resign that same day.  

Flynn had been an Army lieutenant general and director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. A leading Trump supporter during the 2016 Presidential campaign, he was rewarded with the post of National Security Adviser when Trump took office. 

In December, 2015, he had appeared on Russia Today, the news network that serves as “the Kremlin’s principal international propaganda outlet.” For this he received more than $45,000 as a “speaking fee.” At the gala where Flynn received the fee, he sat next to Putin for dinner.

There was a time—from the end of World War II in 1945 to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991—when Republicans posed as America’s stalwart defenders against Communism.

But then many Republicans discovered they could more easily raise campaign contributions by cozying up to Vladimir Putin-–or to oligarchs linked to Putin

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The Kremlin

Of these, Donald Trump stands out predominantly as the first American President known to have colluded with a Russian dictator.

This was an open secret—most explicitly advertised by both Trump and Putin on June 28, 2019. 

That advertisement came when the two met in Osaka, Japan—their first since the March 22 release of the Mueller Report, which documented Russia’s subversion of the 2016 Presidential election.

An NBC News reporter asked: Would you tell Putin not to meddle in the 2020 Presidential election?

“Yes, of course I will,” replied Trump, grinning. “Don’t meddle in the election, please.”

And he jokingly wagged his finger at Putin: “Don’t meddle in the election.” 

Putin grinned back.

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Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin in Helsinki

On numerous occasions, Donald Trump has fiercely denied any Russian connections.

For example: July 27, 2016: “I mean I have nothing to do with Russia. I don’t have any jobs in Russia. I’m all over the world but we’re not involved in Russia.” 

Actually, Trump had a highly profitable relationship with Russia—as his son, Eric, unintentionally revealed in 2014: “Well, we don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia. We’ve got some guys that really, really love golf, and they’re really invested in our programs. We just go there all the time.” 

Conservative authority James Kirchick has indicted Republicans generally for their fervent embrace of Vladimir Putin’s Russia. As he wrote in a July 27, 2017 essay, “How the GOP Became the Party of Putin“: 

“For the past four years, I worked at a think tank, the Foreign Policy Initiative, that was bankrolled by Republican donors and regularly criticized the Obama administration….

“What I never expected was that the Republican Party—which once stood for a muscular, moralistic approach to the world, and which helped bring down the Soviet Union—would become a willing accomplice of what the previous Republican presidential nominee rightly called our No. 1 geopolitical foe: Vladimir Putin’s Russia.”

“…Four years ago, I began writing a series of articles about the growing sympathy for Russia among some American conservatives. Back then, the Putin fan club was limited to seemingly fringe figures like Pat Buchanan (‘Is Vladimir Putin a paleoconservative?’ he asked, answering in the affirmative)….

“Today, these figures are no longer on the fringe of GOP politics. According to a Morning Consult-Politico poll from May [2017], an astonishing 49 percent of Republicans consider Russia an ally. Favorable views of Putin-a career KGB officer who hates America—have nearly tripled among Republicans in the past two years, with 32 percent expressing a positive opinion.” 

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