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AMERICA’S POISONED CUBAN LEGACY CONTINUES TO HAUNT US: PART ONE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 27, 2020 at 1:14 am

On November 25, 2016, Fidel Castro, Cuba’s longtime “Maximum Leader,” died at the age of 90.

Old age and disease finally achieved what years of plotting by CIA and Mafia assassins could not.

To his supporters he was a tireless champion of the poor and a foe of American imperialism. To his enemies he was a ruthless dictator who drove his country to economic ruin in the name of a failed ideology–communism.

His reign began on January 1, 1959, when he swept triumphantly into Havana after a two-year guerrilla campaign against Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista.

Fidel Castro

Almost immediately, hundreds of thousands of Cubans began fleeing to America. The first émigrés were more than 215,000 Batista followers. The exodus increased, peaking at approximately 78,000 in 1962.

In October, 1962, Castro stopped regularly scheduled travel between the two countries, and asylum seekers began sailing from Cuba to Florida.

Between 1962 and 1979, hundreds of thousands of Cubans entered the United States under the Attorney General’s parole authority.

By 2008, more than 1.24 million Cubans were living in the United States, mostly in South Florida, where the population of Miami was about one-third Cuban. Their sheer numbers transformed the state’s political, economic and cultural life.  And not entirely for the better.

Many of these Cubans viewed themselves as political exiles, rather than immigrants, hoping to eventually return to Cuba after its Communist regime fell from power.

The large number of Cubans in South Florida, particularly in Miami’s “Little Havana,” allowed them to preserve their culture and customs to a degree rare for immigrant groups.

With so many discontented immigrants concentrated in Florida, they became a potential force for politicians to court.

And the issue guaranteed to sway their votes was unrelenting hostility to Castro. Unsurprisingly, most of their votes went to Right-wing Republicans.

John F. Kennedy was the first President to face this dilemma.

During the closing months of the administration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the CIA had begun training Cuban exiles for an invasion of their former homeland.

The exiles’ goal: To do what Castro had done—seek refuge in the mountains and launch a successful anti-Castro revolution.

But word of the coming invasion quickly leaked: The exiles were terrible secret-keepers. (A joke at the CIA went: “A Cuban thinks a secret is something you tell to only 300 people.”)

Kennedy insisted the invasion must appear to be an entirely Cuban enterprise. He refused to commit U.S. Marines and Air Force bombers.

More than 1,400 invaders landed on April 17, 1961 at the Bay of Pigs—and were quickly overwhelmed, with hundreds of the men taken prisoner.

Kennedy publicly took the blame for its failure: “Victory has a hundred fathers but defeat is an orphan.” But privately he seethed, and ordered the CIA to redouble its efforts to remove Castro at all costs.

To make certain his order was carried out, he appointed his brother, Robert—then Attorney General–to oversee the CIA’s “Castro removal” program.

Robert F. Kennedy and John F. Kennedy

It’s here that America’s obsession with Cuba entered its darkest and most disgraceful period.

The CIA and the Mafia entered into an unholy alliance to assassinate Castro—each for its own benefit:

  • The CIA wanted to please Kennedy.
  • The mobsters wanted to regain their casino and brothel holdings that had made Cuba their private playground in pre-Castro times. They also hoped to use their pose as patriots to win immunity from future prosecution.

The CIA supplied poisons and explosives to various members of the Mafia. It was then up to the mobsters to assassinate Castro.

The CIA asked Johnny Roselli, a mobster linked to the Chicago syndicate, to go to Florida in 1961 and 1962 to organize assassination teams of Cuban exiles. They were to infiltrate their homeland and assassinate Castro.

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Johnny Roselli

Rosselli called upon two other crime figures: Chicago Mafia boss Sam Giancana and Santos Trafficante, the Costra Nostra chieftain for Tampa, for assistance.

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Sam Giancana

Giancana, using the name “Sam Gold” in his dealings with the CIA, was meanwhile being hounded by the FBI on direct orders of Attorney General Robert Kennedy.

The mobsters were authorized to offer $150,000 to anyone who would kill Castro and were promised any support the Agency could yield.

Giancana was to locate someone who was close enough to Castro to be able to drop pills into his food. Trafficante would serve as courier to Cuba, helping to make arrangements for the murder on the island.

Rosselli was to be the main link between all of the participants in the plot.

The available sources disagree on what actually happened. Some believe that the Mob made a genuine effort to “whack” Fidel.

Others are convinced the mobsters simply ran a scam on the government. They pretended to carry out their “patriotic duty” while in fact making no effort at all to penetrate Castro’s security.

The CIA’s war against Castro was known as Operation Mongoose—the mongoose being a deadly enemy of the cobra. And those entrusted with this assignment were known as the Special Group.

“We were hysterical about Castro at about the time of the Bay of Pigs and thereafter,” Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara later testified before Congress about these efforts. “And there was pressure from JFK and RFK to do something about Castro.”

RELIGION AS MUZAK

In Entertainment, History, Social commentary on February 26, 2020 at 12:11 am

According to Wikipedia: “Christianity is the most adhered to religion in the United States, with 65% of polled American adults identifying themselves as Christian in 2019.”

The United States has the largest Christian population in the world, with approximately 167 million Christian adults.

And Christianity continues to play a major role in American politics.

On August 9, 2017, The Guardian ran a story entitled: “In God We Trust: Why Americans Won’t Vote In An Atheist President.”

And it opened: “What do Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and Mark Zuckerberg have in common? They all profess to be religious. As a new study shows, people think the worst of non-believers. What does this mean for US voters?”

The study, conducted by the University of Kentucky, found that throughout the world, people distrust atheists. To them, those without faith are more capable of immorality than religious people. In fact, American voters are less willing to elect an atheist than any other category of candidate, including gay or Muslim.

In 2016, allies of Hillary Clinton considered painting her rival, Vermont United States Senator Bernie Sanders, as an atheist. They believed it could cost him votes in evangelically-populated states such as Kentucky and West Virginia.

Sanders, who is Jewish, rushed to deny he was an atheist.

And nearly every President has regularly attended the National Prayer Breakfast. This is a yearly event held in Washington, D.C., usually on the first Thursday in February. President Dwight D. Eisenhower began the tradition in 1953. 

And yet for all the reverence Americans have for the Christian religion, few of them dare to examine these two fundamental truths about the Bible:

  1. Its stories cannot be independently proven, and
  2. Many of its stories violate the most fundamental notions of common sense.

Consider these examples:

  • God creates Adam from dust. (This absolutely contradicts everything we know about how men and women reproduce. Would-be parents don’t throw dust into the air and see it instantly turn into newborn babies.)  

God creates Adam–as painted by Michelangelo

  • Adam and Eve meet a talking snake. (Presumably it spoke Hebrew. When was the last time a zoologist had a serious discussion with a serpent?)
  • Noah saves the world’s wildlife by stuffing them into an ark. (Sure—untrained wild animals are going to meekly walk, two-by-two, into a huge building. Then they’re going to let themselves be caged. And Noah and his family must store a huge variety of food for each type of animal for an indefinite period of time. And the sheer stench of all that animal urine and feces would have been horrific.)
  • Moses parts the Red Sea. (Some scholars believe “Red” has been mistranslated from “Reed,” which is like upgrading “the White Quail” in Moby Dick to “the White Whale.”)

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Moses (played by Charlton Hestono) parts the Red Sea

  • Lot’s wife becomes a pillar of salt. (A human being can be turned into ashes, but not salt.)
  • Samson kills 1,000 Philistines with the jawbone of an ass. (Even Arnold Schwarzenegger at the height of his physical strength couldn’t kill so many men—except with a machinegun.)
  • Daniel is thrown into a pit of lions—but survives because an angel closes their jaws. (This sounds inspiring—until you remember that didn’t happen when Christians were thrown to the lions by the Romans.)
  • The will of God violates physical laws. (Jesus turns water into wine and raises Lazarus from the dead; Jonah lives inside a fish for three days; Noah dies at 950 years.)
  • Jesus rises from the dead. (There have been near-death experiences, but there has never been a documented case of someone being certified as dead who came alive again.)
  • Jesus will return more than 2,000 years after he died to wipe all evil from the earth and usher in a paradise for his faithful followers. (There has never been a case in recorded history of anyone returning from the dead decades or hundreds of years later—let alone more than 2,000 years later.)

“The Transfiguration of Jesus” as painted by Carl Bloch

So why do millions of people unquestioningly accept so many stories that totally contradict the most basic truths of common sense?

Like Muzak, these stories—and other Biblical tales—have been absorbed over time through several mediums:

  • Countless parents have told them to their children.
  • So have countless pastors and priests.
  • From the 1940s to the 1960s, audiences reveled in such spectaculars as “Samson and Delilah,” “The Ten Commandments” and “King of Kings.” When people watch Biblical movies, they believe they’re seeing The Truth as it’s laid out in the Bible.
  • The gospel music scene has produced mega-hits like: “Shall We Gather at the River?” “Take Me to the King,” “Down By the Riverside.”

It is not necessary to actually be religious to run for and win public office in the United States. But it is essential to claim to be. Donald Trump—totally lacking in humility and spirituality—became the darling of evangelicals in 2016.

As Niccolo Machiavelli wrote in The Prince:For men in general judge more by the eyes than by the hands, for every one can see, but very few have to feel. Everyone sees what you appear to be, few feel what you are, and those few will not dare to oppose themselves to the many.”

IF IT SOUNDS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE, IT ISN’T TRUE

In Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Social commentary on February 25, 2020 at 12:06 am

In 2018, consumers were victimized in more “emotional romance scams” than any other category of fraud.

“That’s $143 million that consumers reported that they lost in 2018 to romance scams,” said Monica Vaca, of the Federal Trade Commission.

The average loss per victim amounted to $2,600—seven times higher than other frauds. Most of that money was wired or sent with gift cards.

But there are plenty of other online scams to be alert for:

  • Email phishing scams
  • Credit card scams
  • Bank loan scams
  • Lottery fee scams
  • Online dating scams
  • “Nigerian Prince” scams

Here’s how to protect yourself. 

  • Addressed Generally: “Attention!” “Dear Friend,” “Attention the owner of this email,” “Hello, Dear.” Your name is not mentioned, because this email has been mass-mailed to thousands of intended victims. 
  • Unsolicited:  You’re told that you’ve won a lottery you never entered, or have inherited a fortune from someone you never knew existed.
  • Appeals to Religion: “Hello Beloved in the Lord” or “Yours in Christ” seeks to create a bond with those who deeply believe in God.
  • Misuse of English: Mis-spellings and faulty grammar usually denote someone—probably a foreigner—using English as a second language. Examples: Run-on sentences; “you’re” for “your”; “except” instead of “accept”; “Dear Beneficial” instead of “Dear Beneficiary.”
  • Appeals to Sympathy: “My husband just died” or “I am dying of cancer.” This is to make you feel sorry for the sender and lower your guard as an intended victim.
  • Use of Important Titles/Organizations: “Director,” ‘Barrister,” “Secretary General of the United Nations,” “Police Inspector.” This is to impress recipients and convince them that the email comes from a trusted and legitimate organization.
  • Request for Personal Information: This includes some combination of: Name / Address / Telephone Number / Bank Name / Bank Account Number / Fax Number / Driver’s License Number / Occupation / Sex / Beneficiary / Passport Number
  • Claims of Deposit: “We have deposited the check of your fund to your account” is a typical line to instantly grab your attention. Someone you’ve never heard of claims he has just put a huge amount of money into an account you know nothing about. Nor can you access it unless you first pay a “contact fee.”
  • The “Bank” is in Africa: Unless you know you have relatives there, this should be a dead giveaway to a scam. Africa is a continent kept alive by the charity of other nations. It’s not in the business of doling out large sums of money to Westerners.
  • Overseas Phone Numbers: If you call these, you’ll have a huge bill. So many people skip calling and just send the money “required” to receive their “cash prize.”
  • Highly Personal Requests: Asking you—someone they’ve never met—to assume the burden of acting as the executor of their “Last Will and Testament.”
  • Love Scams: The scammer poses as a man or woman—usually outside the United States—seeking love. A series of emails flows back and forth for days/weeks, until the scammer says s/he will be glad to fly to the United States to be yours. All you have to do is put up the money for the flight cost.
  • “Make Money From Home”: With most employers refusing to hire, “work from home” scams promise a way to support yourself and your family. You’re required to provide bank information or pay an up-front “registration fee.” Then you wait for job orders—that never come.
  • Debt Relief: Scammers promise to relieve most or all of your debt—for a large up-front fee. You pay the fee—and are not only out of that money but still in debt.
  • Home Repair Schemes: Huge down payments are required for home repairs that never happen.
  • “Free” Trial Offers: The service or product is free for awhile, but you must opt out later to avoid monthly billings.
  • The Email Claims to Be From the FBI: The FBI is an investigative agency responsible to the U.S. Department of Justice. It does not resolve financial disputes or secure monies for “deserving” recipients. If the FBI contacts you, it does so by letter or sending agents to your address. 
  • “I Need Help”: You get an email claiming to be from someone you know—who’s “in jail here in Mexico” or some other foreign country. S/he begs you to send money for bail or bribes to win his/her freedom. If you get such an email, call the person to make certain. Don’t rush to send money—chances are it will go directly to a scammer.

FBI Headquarters

There are several commonsense rules to follow in protecting yourself from online scammers:

  • Don’t trust people you’ve never met to want to give you money.
  • Shop online only with well-known merchants who have a good reputation.
  • Don’t click on unknown links—especially those in emails from unknown senders.
  • If you’re required to pay an advance fee—“on faith”—to receive a big amount of money, the odds are it’s a scam.
  • If you can’t find any solid information on a company, chances are it doesn’t exist.
  • For additional information on how to protect yourself from cybercrime, check out the FBI’s page at https://www.fbi.gov/investigate/cyber.
  • If it sounds too good to be true, the odds are: It is untrue.

MACHIAVELLI: STUPID LEADERS CANNOT BE WISELY ADVISED

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 24, 2020 at 12:05 am

“There is no other way of guarding oneself against flattery than by letting men understand that they will not offend you by speaking the truth.  But when every one can tell you the truth, you lose their respect.  

“A prudent prince must therefore take a third course, by choosing for his counsel wise men, and giving them alone full liberty to speak the truth to him, but only of those things that he asks and of nothing else.”

So wrote the Italian statesman Niccolo Machiavelli more than 500 years ago in his famous treatise on politics, The Prince. And he added:

“But he must be a great asker about everything and hear their opinions, and afterwards deliberate by himself in his own way, and in these counsels and with each of these men comport himself so that every one may see that the more freely he speaks, the more he will be acceptable. 

“Beyond these he should listen to no one, go about the matter deliberately, and be determined in his decisions.”

Machiavelli’s words remain as true in our day as they were in his.

Except, of course for “a very stable genius,” as President Donald J. Trump once referred to himself.

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Niccolo Machiavelli

Asked on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” who he consults about foreign policy, Trump replied; “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things.”

Machiavelli offers a related warning that especially applies to Trump: Unwise princes cannot be wisely advised:

“It is an infallible rule that a prince who is not wise himself cannot be well advised, unless by chance he leaves himself entirely in the hands of one man who rules him in everything, and happens to be a very prudent man. In this case, he may doubtless be well governed, but it would not last long, for the governor would in a short time deprive him of the state.”

Competent executives surround themselves with experts in diverse fields and pay attention to their expertise. They don’t feel threatened by it but rely on it to implement their agenda. Advisers whose counsel proves correct are to be retained and rewarded.

Machiavelli offers practical advice on this: 

“The prince, in order to retain his fidelity, ought to think of his minister, honoring and enriching him, doing him kindnesses and conferring on him favors and responsible tasks, so that the great favors and riches bestowed on him cause him not to desire other honors and riches, and the offices he holds make him fearful of changes.”

But rewarding those who try to head off ruinous decision-making is not Trump’s way. 

Consider the case of John Rood, the Pentagon’s top policy official until February 19. That was when he resigned, saying he was leaving at Trump’s request.

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John Rood

Rood had certified last year that Ukraine had made enough anti-corruption progress to justify the release of Congressionally-authorized aid for its efforts to thwart Russian aggression.

And that totally conflicted with Trump’s attempt to extort a “favor” from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

In July, 2019, Trump told his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, to withhold almost $400 million in promised military aid for Ukraine.

On July 25, Trump telephoned Zelensky to “request” a “favor”: Investigate Democratic Presidential Candidate Joseph Biden and his son, Hunter, who has had business dealings in Ukraine.

The reason for such an investigation: To find embarrassing “dirt” on Biden.

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Joe Biden

But then a CIA whistleblower filed a complaint about the extortion attempt—and this led directly to impeachment proceedings by the Democratically-controlled House for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

But the Republican-dominated Senate voted to acquit him.

Since then, Trump has purged several officials he considers disloyal for cooperating with the impeachment hearings:

  • Army Lt. Col. Alex Vindman, from the National Security Council.
  • White House Attorney Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman, Vindman’s twin brother.
  • Gordon Sondland, Trump’s ambassador to the European Union.

“The truth has cost Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman his job, his career, and his privacy,” his attorney David Pressman, said in a statement.

For Trump, Rood had been “disloyal” on two occasions: 

  • He stated in a May 23, 2019 letter to Congress that the Pentagon had thoroughly assessed Ukraine’s anti-corruption actions. And he said that those reforms justified the authorized $400 million in aid.
  • He told reporters last year: “In the weeks after signing the certification I did become aware that the aid had been held. I never received a very clear explanation other than there were concerns about corruption in Ukraine.”

Asked about Rood’s resignation, chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman declined to speculate on the reason for Trump’s decision.

According to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, Rood played “a critical role” on issues such as nuclear deterrence, NATO, missile defense and the National Defense Strategy.

That did not protect him, however, from Trump’s vendetta against those who dared to reveal his crimes to Democratic impeachment committees.

All of which would lead Niccolo Machiavelli to warn, if he could witness American politics today: “This bodes ill for your Republic.”

THE RICH (LIKE THE PLAGUE) ARE WITH YOU ALWAYS: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on February 21, 2020 at 12:07 am

The gap between rich and poor in the United States has never been greater.

A May 1, 2018 article in Forbes—which bills itself as “The Capitalist Tool”—vividly documents this truth.

“In the 1950s, a typical CEO made 20 times the salary of his or her average worker. Last year, [2017] CEO pay at an S&P 500 Index firm soared to an average of 361 times more than the average rank-and-file worker, or pay of $13,940,000 a year, according to an AFL-CIO’s Executive Paywatch news release today.”

The average CEO pay climbed six percent in 2017—while the average production worker earned just $38,613, according to Executive Paywatch.

The average wage—adjusted for inflation—has stagnated for more than 50 years. Meanwhile, CEOs’ average pay since the 1950s has risen by 1000%.

This would not have been news to Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of modern political science. In his masterwork, The Discourses, he observed the human condition as that of constant struggle: 

Portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli by Santi di Tito.jpg

Niccolo Machiavelli

“It was a saying of ancient writers, that men afflict themselves in evil, and become weary of the good, and that both these dispositions produce the same effects. 

“For when men are no longer obliged to fight from necessity, they fight from ambition, which passion is so powerful in the hearts of men that it never leaves them, no matter to what height they may rise.    

“The reason for this is that nature has created men so that they desire everything, but are unable to attain it. Desire being thus always greater than the faculty of acquiring, discontent with what they have and dissatisfaction with themselves result from it. 

“This causes the changes in their fortunes—for as some men desire to have more, while others fear to lose what they have, enmities and war are the consequences. And this brings about the ruin of one province and the elevation of another.”

Author Walter Scheidel, Dickason Professor in the Humanities, Professor of Classics and History at Stanford University, has also given this subject a great deal of thought. And, like Machiavelli, he has reached some highly disturbing conclusions.

Walter Scheidel - Annual Meeting of the New Champions 2012.jpg

Walter Scheidel

World Economic Forum [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D

Scheidel gave voice to these in his 2017 book, The Great Leveler: Violence and the History of Inequality from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century. His thesis: Only violence and catastrophes have consistently reduced inequality throughout history

According to the book’s jacket blurb: “Are mass violence and catastrophes the only forces that can seriously decrease economic inequality? To judge by thousands of years of history, the answer is yes.

“Tracing the global history of inequality from the Stone Age to today, Walter Scheidel shows that inequality never dies peacefully. Inequality declines when carnage and disaster strike and increases when peace and stability return.

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“The Great Leveler is the first book to chart the crucial role of violent shocks in reducing inequality over the full sweep of human history around the world.

“Ever since humans began to farm, herd livestock, and pass on their assets to future generations, economic inequality has been a defining feature of civilization. Over thousands of years, only violent events have significantly lessened inequality.

“The ‘Four Horsemen’ of leveling—mass-mobilization warfare, transformative revolutions, state collapse, and catastrophic plagues—have repeatedly destroyed the fortunes of the rich….

“Today, the violence that reduced inequality in the past seems to have diminished, and that is a good thing. But it casts serious doubt on the prospects for a more equal future.”

Revolutionaries have known the truth of Scheidel’s findings from the gladiators’ revolt of Spartacus (73 – 71 B.C.) to the French Revolution (1789 – 1799) to the overthrow of the Czarist Romanov dynasty (1917).

But American politicians serenely ignore that truth. They depend on the mega-rich for millions of dollars in “campaign contributions”—which pay for self-glorifying ads on TV.

Thus, in 2016, American voters had a “choice” between two “love-the-rich” Presidential candidates: Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. The result was that millions stayed home or voted in protest for third-party candidates who had no chance of winning.

In his 1975 book, The Corrupt Society: From Ancient Greece to Modern-day America, British historian Robert Payne warned that the predatory rich would not change their behavior: “Nor is there any likelihood that the rich will plow back their money into services to ensure the general good.

“They have rarely demonstrated social responsibility, and they are much more likely to hold on to their wealth at all costs than to renounce any part of it.

“Like the tyrant who lives in a world wholly remote from the world of the people, shielded and protected from all possible influences, the rich are usually the last to observe the social pressures rising from below, and when these social pressures reach flashpoint, it is too late to call in the police or the army.

“The tyrant dies; the police and the army go over to the revolutionaries; and the new government dispossesses the rich by decree. A single authoritative sentence suffices to expunge all private wealth and restore it to the service of the nation.”

For millions of struggling, impoverished Americans, that day cannot come soon enough.

THE RICH (LIKE THE PLAGUE) ARE WITH YOU ALWAYS: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on February 20, 2020 at 12:10 am

Americans are used to Presidential candidates telling lies (euphemistically known as “campaign promises”) to get elected.

But when a candidate actually (and usually accidentally) tells the truth, the results can be electrifying. 

On June 18, 2019, Democratic Presidential candidate (and momentary front-runner) Joseph Biden addressed a roomful of donors in New York. 

The former Vice President believed that his message would comfort his well-heeled audience of billionaires: Don’t worry, if I’m elected, your standard of living won’t change.

Addressing the 100 or so guests at a fundraiser at the Carlyle Hotel in New York City, Biden said that he had taken heat from “some of the people on my team, on the Democratic side” because he had said that rich people were “just as patriotic as poor people.

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Joe Biden

“The truth of the matter is, you all, you all know, you all know in your gut what has to be done. We can disagree in the margins but the truth of the matter is it’s all within our wheelhouse and nobody has to be punished. No one’s standard of living will change, nothing would fundamentally change,” he said. 

And he added: “I mean, we may not want to demonize anybody who has made money.

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“When we have income inequality as large as we have in the United States today, it brews and ferments political discord and basic revolution. Not a joke. Not a joke … It allows demagogues to step in and say the reason where we are is because of the ‘other’….

“You’re not the other. I need you very badly. I hope if I win this nomination, I won’t let you down. I promise you. I have a bad reputation, I always say what I mean. The problem is I sometimes say all that I mean.”

Biden has talked about decreasing income inequality and promoting workers’ rights. But he’s taken a moderate stance when it comes to taxation.

United States Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT), on the other hand, has attacked the ultra-rich as responsible for the ever-widening gap between themselves and the poor.

“I love Bernie, but I’m not Bernie Sanders. I don’t think 500 billionaires are the reason why we’re in trouble,” Biden said in March, 2019.

Instead, he proposes expanding tax credits for the poor and middle class, and making the tax code less friendly to rich investors. 

Robert Payne, the distinguished British historian, took a different—and darker—view of the rich.

Payne authored more than 110 books. Among his subjects were Adolf Hitler, Ivan the Terrible, Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin, Vladimir Lenin, William Shakespeare and Leon Trotsky.

In 1975, he published The Corrupt Society: From Ancient Greece to Present-Day America. It proved a summary of many of his previous works.

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Among the epochs it covered: The civilizations of ancient Greece, Rome and China; Nazi Germany; the Soviet Union; and Watergate-era America. And the massive corruption each of those epochs had spawned.

In his chapter, “A View of the Uncorrupted Society,” Payne warned: Power and wealth are the main sources of corruption.

“The rich, simply by being rich, are infected with corruption. Their overwhelming desire is to grow richer, but they can do this only at the expense of those who are poorer than themselves.

”Their interests conflict with those of the overall society. They live sheltered from the constant anxieties of the poor, and thus cannot understand them.  Nor do they try to.

They see the poor as alien from themselves, and thus come to fear and despise them. And their wealth and influence enables them to buy politicians—who, in turn, write legislation that protects the rich from the poor.

But Payne foresaw an even greater danger from the rich and powerful than their mere isolation from the rest of society: “The mere presence of the rich is corrupting. Their habits, their moral codes, their delight in conspicuous consumption are permanent affronts to the rest of humanity. Vast inequalities of wealth are intolerable in any decent society.”

Writing in 1975, Payne noted that a third of the private wealth was possessed by less than five percent of the population—while about a fifth of the populace lived at the poverty level. By 2000, he predicted, about five percent of the population would possess two-thirds of America’s wealth. And more than half the population would be near or below the starvation level. 

The result could only be catastrophe. The only way to halt this this increasing concentration of wealth by fewer people would be through law or violent revolution.

Payne has proven to be an uncanny prophet.

On December 8, 2017, the Seattle Times noted that the wealthiest one percent of Americans owned 40% of the country’s wealth. They owned more wealth than the bottom 90% combined. 

From 2013, the share of wealth owned by the one percent increased by nearly three percentage points. Wealth owned by the bottom 90%, meanwhile, fell over the same period.

But this situation need not remain permanent.

WHAT “PATRIOTISM” MEANS TO RUSH

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 19, 2020 at 12:06 am

On February 4, President Donald Trump awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Right-wing propagandist Rush Limbaugh.

It was the Big Surprise on the night of his fourth annual State of the Union address to the nation.

And all that Limbaugh had had to do to earn the prestigeous medal was to spend 30 years spewing hatred at anyone who rejected a Fascistic agenda. And—oh, yes—for the longtime cigar smoker to announce the day before that he had been diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer.

Previously, Limbaugh had declared that smoking didn’t cause cancer.

Rush Limbaugh

The Medal of Freedom is supposed to be awarded “for especially meritorious contribution to

  1. the security or national interests of the United States;
  2. world peace; or
  3. cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”

So let’s take a look at one of Limbaugh’s “meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States.”

On April 8, 2009, four Somali pirates boarded the Maersk Alabama when it was located 240 miles southeast of the Somalian port city of  Eyl.

The ship, en route to Mombasa, Kenya, was carrying 17,000 tons of cargo, including 5,000 tons of relief supplies for Kenya, Somalia, and Uganda.

As the pirates boarded the ship, the crew members locked themselves in the engine room. To buy time for his crewmen, the captain, Richard Phillips, surrendered to the pirates.

Captain Richard Phillips 

The crew later overpowered one of the pirates, and sought to exchange their captive for Phillips. The crew released the  pirate, but the other three pirates refused to release Phillips.

The pirates left with Philips in a lifeboat which carried ten days of food rations, water and basic survival supplies.

On April 8, the destroyer USSS Bainbridge and the frigate USSS Halyburton were dispatched to the Gulf of Aden to deal with the hostage situation, and reached Maersk Alabama early on April 9.

On April 9, a standoff began between the Bainbridge and the pirates in the Maersk Alabama’s lifeboat, where they continued to hold Phillips hostage.

On April 12, marksmen from SEAL Team 6 simultaneously opened fire with telescopic-sighted assault rifles and killed the three pirates on the lifeboat.

The SEALS believed Phillips faced an immediate threat of execution, having received a report that one of the pirates was pointing an AK-47 at his back.

The SEALS, known for their legendary marksmanship, took out all three pirates with shots to the head.

 SEAL Team marksmen

Phillips was rescued in good condition.

The vast majority of Americans rejoiced. The Maersk Alabama had been the first American cargo ship to be hijacked in 200 years. And the encounter had ended with the ship and crew safe and its captain rescued without injury.

But not everyone was happy about the outcome. Naturally, the pirates infesting the Somali coastline were infuriated at this setback.

But, surprisingly, there were some Americans who felt more sympathetically toward the Somali pirates than the man who had ordered Phillips’ rescue: President Barack Obama.

One of these was Rush Limbaugh, the American Right’s chief propagandist. 

The Rush Limbaugh Show airs throughout the U.S. on over 400 stations and is the highest-rated talk-radio program in the United States. When Limbaugh speaks, his “dittohead” audience listens—and acts as he decrees.

On April 14, 2009, Limbaugh gave his take on the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips:

“The Somali pirates, the merchant marine organizers who took a US merchant captain hostage for five days were inexperienced youths, the defense secretary, Roberts Gates, said yesterday, adding that the hijackers were between 17 and 19 years old.

“Now, just imagine the hue and cry had a Republican president ordered the shooting of black teenagers on the high seas….

“They were kids. The story is out, I don’t know if it’s true or not, but apparently the hijackers, these kids, the merchant marine organizers, Muslim kids, were upset.

“They wanted to just give the captain back and head home because they were running out of food. They were running out of fuel, they were surrounded by all these US Navy ships, big ships, and they just wanted out of there. That’s the story.

“But then when one of them put a gun to the back of the captain, Mr. Phillips, then bam, bam, bam. There you have it, and three teenagers shot on the high seas at the order of President Obama.”

And there you have it—an American Fascist making common cause with the heirs of Blackbeard and Henry Morgan against the nation’s first black President.

The rescue of Richard Phillips has been dramatized in the 2013 movie, “Captain Phillips,” starring Tom Hanks in the title role.

Audiences cheered at the climactic moment when the three pirates met their deserved fate. But what they didn’t see depicted was Limbaugh’s Greek chorus for the Right—and the sheer hatred he and they have for anyone who doesn’t share their Fascistic views.

The ordeal of Captain Phillips and the crew of the Maersk Alabama is over. But the heirs of Blackbeard still roam the seas near Somalia.

And the heirs of Francisco Franco, Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini still conspire to remake America in their own Rightist image.

SOME WOMEN WON’T BE WEEPING

In Entertainment, History, Politics, Social commentary on February 18, 2020 at 12:06 am

On February 3, Right-wing talk radio propagandist Rush Limbaugh stunned his 20-million Fascistic followers with the news that he had been diagnosed with Stage Four lung cancer.

No doubt Limbaugh himself was even more stunned: In April, 2015, as a constant cigar smoker, he told his radio listeners that smoking was not dangerous.

“Firsthand smoke takes 50 years to kill people, if it does. Not everybody that smokes gets cancer. Now, it’s true that everybody who smokes dies, but so does everyone who eats carrots.

“I would like a medal for smoking cigars, is what I’m saying,” Limbaugh added.

On February 4, 2020, the day after he announced his cancer diagnosis, he got one: President Donald Trump awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom—the Nation’s highest civilian honor.

But while Limbaugh’s millions of Right-wing “dittoheads” are in mourning, at least two women will not be shedding tears on his behalf.

One is Sandra Fluke, an American lawyer and women’s rights activist. 

Fluke was a third-year Georgetown University law student when she testified before Congress on February 23, 2012. Her subject: The need for insurance companies to cover birth control.

Sandra Fluke

Fluke explained that many universities—such as Jesuit ones—refused to provide insurance coverage for contraception. As a result, such costs can run as high as $3,000 during the three years a woman attends law school.

On February 29 and March 1, 2012, Limbaugh—the spokesman for the American Right—called Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute.”

Rush Limbaugh

Limbaugh further charged that she couldn’t afford contraceptives because she was “having too much sex.”

Then Limbaugh—who likes to champion the glories of “family values”—closed with this salacious gem:

“So Ms. Fluke and the rest of you Feminazis, here’s the deal: If we are going to pay for your contraceptives and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it. And I’ll tell you want it is. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch.”

On March 3, 2012, President Barack Obama called Fluke to say that her parents should be proud of her for speaking out for women.

After learning of the President’s phone call during his radio show, Limbaugh made a kissing noise with his lips and mocked Obama:

“That is so compassionate. What a great guy. The President called her to make sure she’s OK. What is she, 30 years old? Thirty years old, student at Georgetown Law who admits to having so much sex she can’t afford it.”

Another woman who won’t mourn when Limbaugh croaks is Sharon Bialek. She was one of multiple women who accused 2012 Presidential candidate Herman Cain of making aggressive and unwanted sexual advances.

On November 7, 2011, she gave a press conference where she recounted the following: 

In mid-July 1997, she asked Cain—then CEO of the National Restaurant Association—for help in finding a new job or getting her old one back. Bialek had been laid off from the educational foundation of the NRA.

Sharon Bialek

Cain offered to help and she traveled to Washington to meet him.

Cain took her to an Italian restaurant for dinner. Then:

“While we were driving back to the hotel, he said that he would show me where the National Restaurant Association offices were. He parked the car down the block. I thought that we were going to go into the offices so that he could show me around.

“But instead of going into the offices, he suddenly reached over and put his hand on my leg under my skirt and reached for my genitals. He also grabbed my head and brought it toward his crotch. I was very, very surprised and very shocked.”

When she rejected his advances, he replied: “You want a job, right?”

Bialek never got her job back—or help from Cain in finding another one.

On November 7, 2011, Limbaugh attacked Bialek. Calling her a “babe” and “the blonde bombshell,” he joked about Cain’s attempt to extort sexual favors via her need for a job.

“Ha-ha-ha-ha,” laughed Limbaugh, whose net worth exceeded $400 million. “That’s it. Cain decided to provide her with his idea of a ‘stimulus package.’” 

But Limbaugh wasn’t through: “Get this now. I have been wrong in pronouncing the fourth Cain accuser’s name as “Be-allek.” Gloria Allred [Bialek’s attorney] says that her name is pronounced ‘Bye-a-lick,’ as in ‘Buy a Lick.’”

To drive home his point, he made crude slumping noises over the microphone.

Limbaugh’s attitude toward women may well be influenced by his own appearance and history with them. He was balding, grotesquely obese—weighing at least 300 pounds—and usually reeked of toxic cigar smoke.

And he may have had “trouble” in the bedroom department: In June 2006, Customs officials confiscated Viagra from Limbaugh’s luggage at Palm Beach International Airport, as he was returning from the Dominican Republic. The prescription wasn’t in Limbaugh’s name.

He has been married four times—and divorced from his first three wives:

  • Roxy Maxine McNeely (1977 – 1980).
  • Michelle Sixta (1983 – 1990).
  • Marta Fitzgerald (1994 – 2004).
  • In 2010, he married Kathryn Rogers.

When Limbaugh finally dies, the biggest regret many women may have is that his 20 million Fascistic disciples can’t be buried with him.

HITLER / TRUMP: “I AM GERMANY / AMERICA”

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 17, 2020 at 12:18 am

After Donald Trump won the 2016 election, many people feared he would embark on a radical Right-wing agenda. But others hoped that the Washington bureaucracy would “box him in.”

The same sentiments echoed throughout Germany after Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany on January 30, 1933.

The 1983 TV  mini-series, The Winds of War, offered a dramatic example of how honorable men can be overwhelmed by a ruthless dictator. 

Based on the bestselling 1971 historical novel by Herman Wouk, the mini-series factually re-created the major historical events of World War II.

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One of those events took place on November 5, 1939.

General Walther von Brauchitsch is summoned to the Chancellery in Berlin to meet with Adolf Hitler. He carries a memorandum signed by all the leaders of the German Wehrmacht asserting that Case Yellow—Hitler’s planned attack against France—is impossible.

Meanwhile, at the German army headquarters at Zossen, in Berlin, the Wehrmacht’s top command wait for word from von Brauchitsch. 

ZOSSEN: 

Brigadier General Armin von Roon: I must confide in you on a very serious matter. I have been approached by certain army personages of the loftiest rank and prestige with a frightening proposal.

Chief of the General Staff Franz Halder:  What did you reply?

Von Roon: That they were talking high treason. 

Image result for Gunter Meisner as Adolf Hitler in The Winds of War

Gunter Meisner as Adolf Hitler in “The Winds of War”

THE WHITE HOUSE:

Fast forward 79 years from Adolf Hitler’s stormy confrontation with Walter von Brauchitsch to September 5, 2018.

On September 5, 2018, The New York Times publishes an anonymous Op-Ed essay by “a senior official in the Trump administration.”  This spotlights massive dysfunction within the White House—and put the blame squarely on the President. 

Among the revelations:

  • “Many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.”
  • “We believe our first duty is to this country, and the president continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic. That is why many Trump appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office.”
  • “On Russia…the president was reluctant to expel so many of Mr. Putin’s spies as punishment for the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain….But his national security team knew better—such actions had to be taken, to hold Moscow accountable.”
  • “From the White House to executive branch departments and agencies, senior officials will privately admit their daily disbelief at the commander in chief’s comments and actions. Most are working to insulate their operations from his whims.” 

ZOSSEN: 

Von Roon: The conspiracy has been going on that long—since Czechoslovakia [1938)?

Halder: If the British had not caved in at Munich [where France and Britain sold out their ally, Czechoslovakia]—perhaps. But they did. And ever then, ever since his big triumph, it has been hopeless. Hopeless.

Von Roon: Empty talk, talk, talk. I am staggered.

Halder: A hundred times I myself could have shot the man. I can still at any time. But what would be the result? Chaos. The people are for him. He has unified the country. We must stick to our posts and save him from making military mistakes. 

THE WHITE HOUSE:

On September 11, 2018, legendary investigative reporter Bob Woodward publishes a devastating take on the Trump administration: Fear: Trump in the White House. The text features explosive revelations about the disdain Trump’s staffers have for him: 

  • Trump was about to sign a letter canceling a free-trade agreement with South Korea. To prevent this, Eric Cohn, his national economic council director, swiped it from Trump’s desk. Trump didn’t notice it missing.
  • Secretary of Defense James Mattis said Trump has the understanding of “a fifth or sixth grader.”
  • White House Chief of Staff John Kelly called Trump an “idiot” and “unhinged.” 

General Walther von Brauchitsch fails to convince Hitler to postpone “Case Yellow”—the invasion of France. Hitler insists that it commence in seven days—on November 12.

And he issues a warning to the entire German General staff: “I will ruthlessly crush everybody up to the rank of a Field Marshal who dares to oppose me. You don’t have to understand. You only have to obey. The German people understand me. I am Germany.”

Due to foul weather, Hitler is forced to postpone the invasion of France until June, 1940. But the German General staff can’t ultimately put off the war that will destroy them—and Germany.

President Donald Trump has:

  • Fired FBI Director James Comey.
  • Attacked the integrity of the American Intelligence community.
  • Attacked the free press as “the enemy of the American people.”
  • Branded America’s longtime ally, Canada, as “a national security threat.” 
  • Praised brutal Communist dictators Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un.
  • Tried to extort Ukraine into smearing former Vice President Joseph Biden, his 2020 rival for the White House, 

Like Hitler, he can equally say: I am the destiny of America.  

History has yet to record if Trump’s subordinates will prove more successful than Hitler’s at preserving “our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office.”

A “WALL” WON’T STOP ILLEGAL ALIENS, BUT THESE REMEDIES WILL

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on February 14, 2020 at 12:06 am

According to President Donald Trump, stopping illegal immigration is easy.

Just build a massive, impenetrable wall along the U.S./Mexican border to keep out Mexican immigrants.

“Building a wall is easy, and it can be done inexpensively,” Trump said in an interview. “It’s not even a difficult project if you know what you’re doing.”

Really?

Among the obstacles to erecting such a barrier:

  • The United States/Mexican border stretches for 1,954 miles—and encompasses rivers, deserts and mountains.
  • Environmental and engineering problems.
  • Squabbles with ranchers who don’t want to give up any of their land.
  • Building such a wall would cost untold billions of dollars.
  • Drug traffickers and alien smugglers could easily tunnel under it into the United States—as they are now doing.

There are, in fact, cheaper and more effective remedies for combating illegal immigration.

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Illegal aliens crossing into the United States

(1) The Justice Department should vigorously attack the “sanctuary movement” that officially thwarts the immigration laws of the United States.

Among the 31 “sanctuary cities” of this country: Washington, D.C.; New York City; Los Angeles; Chicago; San Francisco; Santa Ana; San Diego; Salt Lake City; Phoenix; Dallas; Houston; Austin; Detroit; Jersey City; Minneapolis; Miami; Denver; Baltimore; Seattle; Portland, Oregon; New Haven, Connecticut; and Portland, Maine.

These cities have adopted “sanctuary” ordinances that do not allow municipal funds or resources to be used to enforce federal immigration laws, usually by not allowing police or municipal employees to inquire about one’s immigration status.

(2)  The most effective way to combat this movement: Indict the highest-ranking officials of those cities which have actively violated Federal immigration laws.

This would include Mayors, members of the Board of Supervisors and chiefs of police, as well as any other officials who are found obstructing Federal immigration laws.

(3)  Even if some indicted officials escaped conviction, the results would prove worthwhile.

City officials would be forced to spend huge sums of their own money for attorneys and face months or even years of prosecution.

And this, in turn, would send a devastating warning to officials in other “sanctuary cities” that the same fate lies in store for them. 

(4)  CEOs whose companies—like Wal-Mart—systematically employ illegal aliens should be held directly accountable for the actions of their subordinates.

They should be indicted by the Justice Department under the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, the way Mafia bosses are prosecuted for ordering their own subordinates to commit crimes.  

Upon conviction, the CEO should be sentenced to a mandatory prison term of at least 20 years.

This would prove a more effective remedy for combating illegal immigration than stationing tens of thousands of soldiers on the U.S./Mexican border. 

CEOs forced to account for their subordinates’ actions would take drastic steps to ensure that their companies strictly complied with Federal immigration laws.

(5) The Government should stop granting automatic citizenship to “anchor babies” born to illegal aliens in the United States.

A comparable practice would be allowing bank robbers who had eluded the FBI to keep their illegally-obtained loot.

A person who violates the bank robbery laws of the United States is legally prosecutable  for bank robbery, whether he’s immediately arrested or remains uncaught for years. The same should be true for those born illegally within this country.

If they’re not here legally at the time of birth, they should not be considered citizens and should—like their parents—be subject to deportation.  

(6) The United States Government–from the President on down–should scrap its apologetic tone on the right to control its national borders.   

First Lady Michelle Obama—accompanied by Margarita Zavala, the wife of then-Mexican President Felipe Calderon—was visiting a second-grade class in Silver Spring, Maryland. 

A second-grade girl said: “My Mom, she says says that Barack Obama is taking everybody away that doesn’t have papers.” 

“Yeah, well, that’s something that we have to work on right?”

Replied Mrs. Obama. “To make sure that people can be here with the right kind of papers, right?” 

The girl then said: “But my mom doesn’t have any….”

Obama: “Well, we’ll have to work on that.  We have to fix that, and everybody’s got to work together in Congress to make sure that happens.”

The Mexican Government doesn’t consider itself racist for strictly enforcing its immigration laws. 

The United States Government should not consider itself racist for insisting on the right to do the same. 

(7) Voting materials and ballots should be published in one language: English. 

In Mexico, voting materials are published in one language—Spanish.

Throughout the United States, millions of Mexican illegals refuse to learn English and yet demand that voting materials and ballots be made available to them in Spanish.

(8)  The United States should impose economic and even military sanctions against countries–such as China and Mexico–whose citizens make up the bulk of illegal aliens. 

Mexico, for example, uses its American border to rid itself of those who might demand major reforms in the country’s political and economic institutions.

Such nations must learn that dumping their unwanted’s on the United States now comes at an unfavorably high price. Otherwise those dumpings will continue.

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