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Posts Tagged ‘THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT’

FETUS FANATIC TERRORISM: PART THREE (END)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Niccolo Machiavelli

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

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

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

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

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

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

Second Option: Calling upon the American people for their support

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

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

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President John F. Kennedy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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President Barack Obama

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

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

“Tonight, I’m asking for your help.

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

* * * * *

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

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

Neville Chamberlain greets Adolf Hitler

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And so they did.

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

FETUS FANATIC TERRORISM: PART TWO (OF THREE)

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

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

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

And the Republican response?

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

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

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

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

Chris Matthews

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Option: RICO to the rescue

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

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

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

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

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

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Extortion is defined as “a criminal offense which occurs when a person unlawfully obtains either money, property or services from a person(s), entity, or institution, through coercion.”

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

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

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

“Activities that…appear to be intended…to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion [and]…occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FETUS FANATIC TERRORISM: PART ONE (OF THREE)

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

Republicans love fetuses.

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

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

The reasons are two-fold:

First, the fast-approaching 2016 Presidential election; and

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

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

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

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

Three Congressional committees are now making inquiries into PP practices.

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

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

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

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

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

Click here: Planned Parenthood

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

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

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

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

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Senator Ted Cruz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

During a late-night White House meeting with President Obama and key Congressional leaders, Republican House Speaker John Boehner made this threat:

His conference would not approve funding for the government if any money were allowed to flow to Planned Parenthood through Title X legislation.

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

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

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Sign of The Black Hand extortion group

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

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

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John Boehner

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

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

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

And the Republican response?

KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on April 14, 2015 at 12:18 am

Be careful what you ask for–especially if you’re a politician.

On March 29, Republican Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rogers, of Washington State, told her Facebook readers:

“This week marks the 5th anniversary of #‎Obamacare being signed into law. Whether it’s turned your tax filing into a nightmare, you’re facing skyrocketing premiums, or your employer has reduced your work hours, I want to hear about it.”

The response was overwhelming–but not in the way she clearly hoped it would be.

The vast majority of her respondents voiced enthusiastic support for the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Even worse for the Congresswoman, many of them furiously attacked the Republican party for its non-stop efforts to repeal healthcare coverage.

Erika Dennis My whole family now has coverage. The ACA is the cause for this, I work in health care, I have seen the increase in covered patients first hand.

The next step is universal coverage, this will truly lower costs and provide the best care.

Cathy, you barely work, spend most of your time catering to special interests so you can be re-elected. All while receiving a large wage and the best health insurance and care.

Stop telling us how it doesn’t work while enjoying your tax payer funded care and life.

President Barack Obama signing the Affordable Care Act into law

Robert Fairfax I work for cancer care northwest. We actually have more patients with insurance and fewer having to choose treatment over bankruptcy.

Cathy, I’m a die hard conservative and I’m asking you to stop just slamming Obamacare. Fix it, change it or come up with a better idea! Thanks.

Jeff Sellen This is nothing more than a talking point framed pathetically as a question. It has become the Republican way, unfortunately: Pay no attention to the evidence.

Let’s introduce a little integrity into the discussion, ok? What are the strengths and weaknesses of Obamacare?

Deanna Bax Why don’t you ask for people to tell their stories instead of just asking for the negatives? If you honestly want to help Americans you need All the stories and weigh what’s best based on the facts not based on what you want to hear.

David Smith I am outraged that a member of the US House of Representatives would have such an unscientific and slanted poll. Her website had better not be publicly funded.

Gary Downing Instead of doing all you can to tear down our Nation why don’t you start working to make it better.. Seems like Republicans have just become the real terrorists of this Nation.

Jane Marshall Whittington You can only beat a dead horse so long., Why not focus as much energy on creating jobs and cutting taxes for the working poor as you republicans have spent on the ACA and Benghazi!

Kyle Tertzag …So tell me Congresswoman, why is it that you think I don’t deserve to be healthy and have affordable health insurance? Why do you want to take that away form me and over 15 million other Americans?

Finally it looks like Governor Palin was right, there is a Death Panel and it is made up of you and people like you in the GOP that want to take health care away from millions of Americans! Shame on you! Why don’t you just go join ISIS as you seem more than happy to help harm and/or kill Americans.

* * * * *

A major reason Republicans opposed “Obamacare” from the get-go was this: They feared that, if passed, it would be forever identified with the Democratic Party–just as Social Security always has.

And like Social Security–enacted under Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt–it would forever be a powerful vote-getter for Democrats.

For Republicans, attaining–and retaining–total power over the lives of their fellow Americans is their foremost goal.

And if millions of their fellow Americans can’t afford healthcare coverage, that’s of small importance compared to depriving Democrats of a potent issue for turning out voters.

Both houses of Congress passed the ACA.  And that the Supreme Court–headed by a Republican Chief Justice–found it entirely Constitutional.

Yet that has not stopped Right-wingers from spreading infamous lies about it–such as the “death panel” charge former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin made on her Facebook page.

Nor has it stopped Republicans from repeatedly voting to repeal the ACA–at last count, no fewer than 56 times.

If the responses Congresswoman Rogers received are any indication, millions of Americans are thrilled to finally have healthcare insurance.

They can’t understand why so many members of Congress–who automatically get gold-plated medical care by virtue of their election–want to deny it to millions of their less-well-off fellow citizens.

And a recent Gallup-Healthways survey found that, because of the ACA, nearly nine out of 10 adults now say they have health insurance.

On at least one point, Republican fears appear to have been vindicated: Once people begin to receive a vital service that was long denied them, they want to preserve it.

It’s a truism that Republicans still hope to reverse.

KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on April 13, 2015 at 3:02 am

There’s a well-known saying among attorneys: When you’re cross-examining a witness, don’t ask a question you don’t know the answer to.

It’s a truism that was apparently lost on Republican Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rogers.

Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rogers

On March 23, the Washington State) representative posted the following on her Facebook page:

“This week marks the 5th anniversary of #‎Obamacare being signed into law. Whether it’s turned your tax filing into a nightmare, you’re facing skyrocketing premiums, or your employer has reduced your work hours, I want to hear about it.

“Please share your story with me so that I can better understand the challenges you’re facing:” http://mcmorris.house.gov/your-story/

The Congresswoman’s readers quickly obliged.  But the overwhelming reaction to her request must have caught her by surprise.

It was overwhelmingly negative.

Among the literally hundreds of responses:

Mitchell Wiggs The Republican solution to the Affordable Care Act? Let people drown in debt, clutter our emergency rooms, and die from lack of coverage due to pre-existing conditions. No thanks, “Congresswoman”.

Some of us care more about our fellow Americans than trying to bash the President. Keep trying to scare your followers with phony horror stories, though

Melissa Kelly 5 years of not waking up in the middle of the might panicked that my child won’t ever be able to get health insurance thanks to a brain tumor at the age of 2. Thank God for Obamacare.

Anyone who ever fought an insurance company for pediatric neurosurgery coverage knows there was NEVER a hassle-free system in place and Obamacare is light years better than what we had.

Dylan McGuire My premiums have not increased, my hours have not been reduced and I know a couple of people who were able to get medical care through insurance rather than going to an emergency room. Taxes are no more difficult than they have ever been.

William Francis Condon My story is that I once knew 7 people who couldn’t get health insurance. Now they all have it, thanks to the ACA and President Obama, and their plans are as good as the one my employer provides–and they pay less for them.

Now, that’s not the kind of story you want to hear. You want to hear made-up horror stories. I don’t know anyone with one of those stories.

Jim Reid Hello Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers!

I work as the facilitator of a task force that is overseeing the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in Washington State. I have learned that the ACA is helping people who did not previously have health insurance get it.

It is helping bring down medical costs. It is improving the quality of care. It is improving experiences of both patients and their families.

I work with doctors, nurses, hospital and clinic managers, non-profit service providers, citizens-at-large. Each of them can site an improvement they would like to make to the Act.

But whether they are Republican or Democrat, from urban or rural areas, powerful or not, they all say the ACA is working.

Can’t you and your Republican colleagues stop trying to repeal this Act and work to make it even more effective? Please?

Janet Clark My story is this: my husband and I worked to pass Obamacare because we believed all Americans should have access to quality healthcare, like we did through his workplace. We never thought it would affect us.

Then one day I came home and found my strong. apparently healthy husband dead in the backyard. He had experienced cardiac arrest. Within one week I was off his plan.

I purchased COBRA for a year and then looked for a less expensive plan. I applied for Blue Cross and was turned down due to pre-existing conditions: arthritis and bunions.

I was so happy when Obamacare went through and I had access to healthcare. Never thought it would be me who needed it, but it was. Thanks, President Obama!

Bob Wilmot Our son, diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 6, will now have healthcare coverage as an adult, thanks to the ACA. No more denials for a pre-existing condition.

No more $3000 monthly premium, as we faced some 10 years ago when I was without employer coverage for a time. Congresswoman, are you seriously prepared to tell 12million+ Americans they will now lose their coverage under the ACA?

Janice Grounds With the ACA my partner is able to FINALLY get health insurance. She has severe arthitis….you know the kind that the wealthy golfer talks about helping with the magic of humera…only this medication is $$$$. She has lived with, worked with severe pain for years.

Once she got the insurance, an MRI showed a huge tear in her hip….yep, this tear would catch and be so intensely painful she fell several times-twice breaking her wrist (which cost several thousand out of pocket).

She was pulled over by our dog two weeks ago fracturing several ribs, ambulance, er, w nights in trauma ward…..imagining what this would have done without insurance???????

You sit on your high horse talking platitudes and right wing talking points. You and all the other flaming GOP “faith and family” hypocrites make me sick.

If you truly believe this crap, you’re even worse. Thank you President Obama and Democrats for the Affordable Care Act .

DAMNING WASHINGTON–WHILE LUSTING TO RULE IT: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics on October 4, 2013 at 12:01 am

For a half-century, Republicans have been damning the very government they lust to control.

Consider this choice comment from Mitt Romney supporter Ted Nugent:

“I spoke at the NRA and will stand by my speech. It’s 100 percent positive. It’s about we the people taking back our American dream from the corrupt monsters in the federal government under this administration, the communist czars he [President Barack Obama] has appointed.”

Romney, of course, refused to disavow the slander Nugent cast over every man and woman working on behalf of the American people.

Romney and his fellow Republicans salivate at every vile charge they can hurl at the very government they lust to control.

As in the case of Senator Joseph McCarthy, no slander is too great if it advances their path to power.

But there are others–living or at least working in Washington, D.C.–who simply go about their jobs with quiet dedication.  And they leave slanderous, self-glorifying rhetoric to Right-wing politicians.

One of these unsung heroes was Stephen Tyrone Johns, a security guard at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

14th Street Entrance of USHMM. Large, rectangular façade with rounded opening.

On June 10, 2009, Johns, 39, was shot and killed by James Wenneker von Brunn, a white supremist and Holocaust denier.  Brunn was himself shot and wounded by two other security guards who returned fire.

While in jail awaiting his trial, von Brunn–who was 88–died on January 6, 2010.

To work in Washington, D.C., is to realize that this city ranks–with New York City–at the top of Al Qaeda’s list of targets.

No one knows this better than the agents of the United States Secret Service, who protect the President, Vice President, their families and the White House itself 24 hours a day.

Prior to 9/11, visiting the White House was assumed to be an American right.  No longer.

Today, if you want to tour the Executive Mansion, you quickly learn there are only two ways to get in:

  1. Through a special pass provided by your Congressman; or
  2. By someone connected with the incumbent administration.

Congressmen, however, have a limited number of passes to give out.  And most of these go to people who have put serious money into the Congressman’s re-election campaigns.

And the odds that you’ll know someone who works in the White House–and who’s willing to offer you an invitation–are even smaller than those of knowing a Congressman.

But even that isn’t enough to get you through the White House door.

You’ll have to undergo a Secret Service background check.  And that requires you to submit the following information in advance of your visit:

  1. Name
  2. Date of birth
  3. Birthplace
  4. Social Security Number

And be prepared to leave a great many items at your hotel room.  Among these:

  • Cameras or video recorders
  • Handbags, book bags, backpacks or purses
  • Food or beverages, tobacco products, personal grooming items (i.e. makeup, lotion, etc.)
  • Strollers
  • Cell phones
  • Any pointed objects
  • Aerosol containers
  • Guns, ammunition, fireworks, electric stun guns, mace, martial arts weapons/devices, or knives of any size

Visitors enter the White House–after showing a government-issued ID card such as a driver’s license–from the south side of East Executive Avenue.

After passing through the security screening room, they walk upstairs to the first door and through the East, Green, Blue, Red and State Dining rooms.

Secret Service agents quietly stand post in every room–unless they’re tasked with explaining the illustrious history of each section of the White House.

Like everyone else who lives/works there, the Secret Service fully appreciates the incredible sense of history that radiates throughout the building.

This is where

  • Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclomation;
  • Franklin Roosevelt directed the United States to victory in World War II;
  • John F. Kennedy stared down the Soviets during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

But even the generally unsmiling Secret Service agents have their human side.

While touring the East Wing of the White House, I asked an agent: “Is the East Room where President Nixon gave his farewell speech?” on August 9, 1974.

“I haven’t been programmed for that information,” the agent joked, inviting me to ask a question he could answer.

Another guest asked the same agent if he enjoyed being a Secret Serviceman.

To my surprise, he said that this was simply what he did for a living.  His real passion, he said, was counseling youths.

“If you love something,” he advised, “get a job where you can do it.  And if you can’t get a job you’re passionate about, get a job so you can pursue your passion.”

Of the more than 2.65 million civilian employees of the executive branch, more than 800,000 have been sent home without pay.

These men and women aren’t faceless “bureaucrats,” as Right-wingers would have people believe.  They  are hustands and wives, fathers and mothers.  They have bills to pay, just like everyone else.

Many of them, such as agents of the FBI and Secret Service, have taken an oath to defend the United States Constitution–with their lives if necessary.

And they now face the dread of going for weeks or even months without a paycheck–as pawns in another Right-wing case of: “My way or no way.”

They deserve a better break–and so do all those who cherish liberty.

DAMNING WASHINGTON–WHILE LUSTING TO RULE IT: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics on October 3, 2013 at 12:06 am

Listen to almost any Republican and you’re almost certain to hear how much he hates and despises “Washington.”

To hear Right-wingers tell it, you might believe that “Washington” is:

  • The capitol of an enemy nation;
  • A cesspool of corrupt, power-hungry men and women slavering to gain dictatorial control over the life of every American;
  • A center of lethal contagion which, like ancient Carthage, should be burned to the ground and its inhabitants destroyed or scattered.

All that prevents “Washington” from gaining absolute power–so claim Republicans–is the Republican Party.

But others who live or work in Washington, D.C. take a far different view of their city and the duties they perform.

These men and women will never call a press conference or rake in millions in “political contributions” (i.e., legalized bribes) for promising special privileges to special interests.

Many of them work for the National Park Service.  Every national monument–and Washington is speckled with monuments–has several of these employees assigned to it.

Their duties are to protect the monuments and offer historical commentary to the public.

One such employee regularly addresses visitors to Ford’s Theater–known worldwide as the scene of President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination.

George (a pseudonym) opens his lecture by raising the question every member of the audience wants answered: How much of Ford’s Theater remains intact from the night of Lincoln’s murder–April 14, 1865?

And the answer is: Only the exterior of the building.

After Lincoln’s assassination, enraged Union soldiers converted the interior of the building into a military command center.  That meant ripping out all the seats for spectators and the stage for actors.

The stage and seats–even the “Presidential Box” where Lincoln sat–have all been reproduced for a modern audience.

As George talks, you can tell that, for him, this is no typical day job.  He realizes that, renovated or not, Ford’s Theater remains saturated with history.  And he clearly feels privileged to share that history with others.

George explains that Presidential assassin John Wilkes Booth did not sneak into the theater.  He didn’t have to–as a celebrity actor, he received the sort of favored treatment now accorded Lindsay Lohan.

Another monument where you will find Park Ranger guides is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Completed in 1982, it receives about 3 million visitors a year.  Adorning the Wall, in columns that seem to reach endlessly to the sky, are the names of the 58,195 soldiers who gave their lives during the Vietnam War.

That struggle–from 1961 to 1975–proved the most divisive American conflict since the Civil War.

On the day I visited the memorial, groups of elementary schoolchildren passed by.  They were jabbering loudly, seemingly oblivious to the terrible sacrifice the Wall was meant to commemorate.

But their adult chaperones realized its significance, and ordered the children to quiet down.

I asked a nearby Park Ranger: “Do you feel people now respond differently to the Wall, as we get further away from the Vietnam war?”

“No,” he answered.  He felt that today’s visitors showed the same reverence for the monument and for the losses it had been created to honor as those who had first come in the early 1980s.

And it may well be true: I saw many tiny American flags and wreaths of flowers left at various points along the Wall, which stretches  across 250 feet of land on the Mall.

When thinking about “Washington,” it’s essential to remember that this city–along with New York City–remains at the top of Al Qaeda’s target list.

Those who choose to live and/or work here do so in the potential shadow of violent death.

Anytime you enter a Federal building, be prepared to undergo a security check.

In most agencies–such as the Department of Agriculture–you simply place your bags or purses into an X-ray machine similar to those found at airports, and walk through a magnetometer.  If no alarms sound, you collect your valuables and pass on through.

Such machines are, of course, nammed by armed security guards.  And they stand sentinel at every conceivable Federal building–such as the Supreme Court, the Department of Justice, the Smithsonian Museum, the Pentagon and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

These men and women must daily inspect the bodies and handbags of the 15 million people who visit Washington, D.C. annually, generating $5.24 billion dollar in revenues.

This means repeating the same screening gestures countless times–looking through X-ray machines at bags or coats, and running an electronic “wand” up and down those people whose clothing gives off signs of metallic objects.

It also means projecting a smiling, friendly demeanor towards those same people–many of whom are in a rush and/or resent being electronically sniffed over.

And every security guard knows this: It’s only a matter of time before the next terrorist shows up.

On June 10, 2009, just that happened at the United States Holocaust Memorial.

DAMING WASHINGTON–WHILE LUSTING TO RULE IT: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics on October 2, 2013 at 2:45 am

To hear many political pundits tell it,  the shutdown of the Federal Government is the result of “political dysfunction,” as if everybody in Congress were tripping on LSD.

This is not only untrue but misleading.

The truth is that the shutdown is the result of yet another ruthless attempt by Right-wing Republicans to obtain absolute power.

When they can obtain it at the ballot box, they rule as though by divine right.  When they can’t obtain it at election time, they try to obtain it through intimidation.

Thus, in 1992 and 1996, their Presidential candidates–President George H.W. Bush and Senator Bob Dole, respectively–couldn’t defeat Bill Clinton.

So Republicans mounted an inquisition into a failed land deal that occurred before Clinton was first elected President.  This investigation spanned the length of the Clinton Presidency and produced no evidence or indictments of criminal activity.

It did, however, turn up the salacious news that Clinton had actually enjoyed several instances of oral sex courtesy of a libidinous White House intern named Monica Lewinsky.

Unable to defeat Clinton at election time, and unable to find any actual criminal wrongdoing on his part, Right-wing Republicans tried to drive him out of office by impeachment.

The effort failed, and Clinton stayed in the White House until his term expired in 2001.

Then, as now, it was members of the House of Representatives who were the driving force.

Now, fast forward to the present: Republicans have made it their mission to deprive millions of Americans of health care.  They have voted 42 times to repeal or undermine the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.

And they have made its elimination the focus of their threats to shut down the government unless they get their way.

Yet, consider this: Whether they like it or not, the Affordable Care Act is now a law that was legally passed by both houses of Congress.  It has been certified as Constitutional by no less than a Republican Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court.

Under our system of government, that’s as legal as it gets.

But Republicans don’t care about legality when they’re pursuing absolute power over the lives of their fellow Americans.

Thus, they have carried out their threat to shut down the Federal Government since they couldn’t coerce Senate Democrats into de-funding “Obamacare.”

As a result:

  • More than 800,000 federal workers have been sent home without pay;
  • National parks and monuments have been closed;
  • Some programs have been temporarily crippled–such as WIC, which provides nutritional food to poor mothers with infants; and
  • Some members of “essential services” are still required to be on duty–such as the military and Federal law enforcement agencies–but without receiving paychecks.

Of course, this disgrace didn’t have to happen.

President Obama didn’t have to cave in to the latest Republican extortion demands to prevent such a shutdown.

He could have ordered his Attorney General, Eric Holder, to launch an FBI invesdtigation into terroristic threats made by Right-wingers to shut down the government.

Both the 1970 Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act and the USA Patriot Act provide remedies for punishing the sort of behavior engaged in by House Republicans.

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

Extortion is defined as “a criminal offense which occurs when a person unlawfully obtains either money, property or services from a person(s), entity, or institution, through coercion.”

And if President Obama believed that RICO was not sufficient to deal with extortionate behavior, he could have relied on the 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.”

Demanding that the President de-fund Obamacare or face a potentially disastrous government shutdown clearly falls within the legal definition of “activities…intended…to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion.”

If the FBI had determined that Federal laws against extortion and terrorism had been broken, the Justice Department could have convened criminal grand juries to indict those Republicans found as violators.

President Obama should have authorized this investigation as soon as Republicans started making terroristic threats.  Thus, he would have served notice on his sworn enemies that he was no one to take lightly.

Knowing that they might well face indictment and prosecution for engaging in domestic terrorism would have frightened many Republicans into backing away from such behavior.

Those who persisted would have found themselves fighting desperately to stay out of prison.  They would have had to pay huge fees to top-flight criminal attorneys.

They would have lived with, first, the threat of indictments hanging over their heads, and, once those indictments were returned, with the threat of conviction and imprisonment.

As a result, they would not have had time to make destroying the Presidency of Barack Obama their Number One priority.

But Obama forfeited all those advantages when he accused Republicans of “blackmail” and then refused to legally punish them for it.

TWO WAYS TO AVOID A SHUTDOWN: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on September 24, 2013 at 12:00 am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And so they did.

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

With the United States facing a disastrous government shutdown unless the President surrenders to the latest Republican extortion threats, Obama can:

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

Second Option: Calling upon the American people for their support

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Republicans have adopted the same my-way-or-else “negotiating” stance as Adolf Hitler.
  • Like the Nazis, they are determined to gain absolute power–or destroy the Nation they claim to love.
  • They raised the debt ceiling seven times during the eight-year Presidency of George W. Bush.
  • But now that a Democrat holds the White House, raising the debt ceiling is unacceptable.
  • Despite Republican lies, we cannot revitalize the economy by slashing taxes on the wealthy and  cash-hoarding corporations while cutting benefits for millions of average Americans.
  • We will need both tax increases and sensible entitlement cuts to regain our economic strength.
  • The Affordable Health Care Act frees Americans from the greed-fueled tyranny of the insurance industry.
  • Americans who could never hope to obtain medical coverage–for themselves and their families–can now do so.

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

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

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

“Tonight, I’m asking for your help.

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

“As President John F. Kennedy said:

‘In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than mine, will rest the final success or failure of our course. Since this country was founded, each generation of Americans has been summoned to give testimony to its national loyalty.’

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

President Obama has taken forceful action against America’s most ruthless foreign enemies—most notably, Osama bin Laden.

If the Nation is to survive, he must now act just as forcefully against America’s most ruthless domestic enemies.

Fortunately, there is still time for him to do so. The fact that he has not done so in the past does not rule out his doing so now.

He needs to only remember–and act on–the words of another American President–Andrew Jackson–who counseled: “One man with courage makes a majority.”

TWO WAYS TO AVOID A GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on September 23, 2013 at 12:10 am

Republicans are once again playing extortion politics–threatening to shut down the government unless they get their way.

And their way means abolishing The Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare.

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

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

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

First Option: RICO to the rescue

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

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

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

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

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

Extortion is defined as “a criminal offense which occurs when a person unlawfully obtains either money, property or services from a person(s), entity, or institution, through coercion.”

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

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

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

“Activities that…appear to be intended…to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion [and]…occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.”

Demanding that the President de-fund Obamacare or face a potentially disastrous government shutdown clearly falls within the legal definition of “activities…intended…to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion.”

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

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

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

The fact that members of Congress would be criminally investigated and possibly indicted would not violate the separation-of-powers principle.  Congressmen have in the past been investigated, indicted and convicted for various criminal offenses.

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

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

Chris Matthews

“I want to know what steps the president ‘could’ have taken to avoid this hostage-taking.

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

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

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

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

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

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

But there was another way Obama could have stood up to Republican extortionists.  And it remains available to him now–if only he has the courage to act.

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