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Posts Tagged ‘THE NATION’

TYRANTS AND EMPATHY

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 19, 2017 at 12:21 pm

On October 4, four American Special Forces soldiers were ambushed and slain on the border of Niger and Mali. Their killers were members of an ISIS-affiliated guerrilla group.

The next day, President Donald Trump attacked one of his favorite targets—the free press—as “fake news.”

Over the weekend of October 7-8, Trump went golfing. Then he took to Twitter and let his venom flow.  His victims included:

  • The National Football League;
  • Puerto Rico;
  • North Korea;
  • Bob Corker, Republican United States Senator from Tennessee and the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

For 12 days after the tragedy, Trump said nothing.

Then, during an October 16 press conference in the White House Rose Garden, a reporter asked him about his silence.

So Trump claimed—falsely—that earlier Presidents—including Barack Obama—had  never or rarely called or written family members of soldiers who died on duty.

But it was his call to Myeshia Johnson, the widow of Sergeant La David Johnson, that ignited a firestorm.

According to Florida Democratic Representative Frederica Wilson, Trump’s condolence call was brutally insensitive.  Wilson was riding in a limousine with Johnson and heard the conversation on speakerphone.

“He knew what was signing up for, but I guess it hurts anyway,” Wilson quoted Trump as telling the grieving widow.

Cowanda Jones-Johnson, a family member who raised Johnson, told CNN that Wilson’s account of the call was “very accurate.”

Veterans such as Arizona United States Senator John McCain have expressed their outrage at Trump’s callousness. But this shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone.

On January 21, Donald Trump—on his first full day as President—visited CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia.

Officially, he was there to pay tribute to the men and women who dedicate their lives to discovering when and where America’s enemies are planning to strike.  And to countering those threats.

Image result for Images of CIA seal

And now Trump was appearing before what, to CIA employees, was the agency’s most sacred site: The star-studded memorial wall honoring the 117 CIA officers who had fallen in the line of duty.

So Trump spent much of his time talking about himself.

Among the worst examples:  

  • Somebody said, are you young?  I said, I think I’m young.  You know, I was stopping—when we were in the final months of that campaign, four stops, five stops, seven stops. Speeches, speeches, in front of 25,000, 30,000 people, 15,000, 19,000 from stop to stop. I feel young….
  • And I was explaining about the numbers. We did a thing yesterday at the speech. Did everybody like the speech? I’ve been given good reviews. But we had a massive field of people. You saw them. Packed. I get up this morning, I turn on one of the networks, and they show an empty field….
  • And they said, Donald Trump did not draw well. I said, it was almost raining, the rain should have scared them away, but God looked down and he said, we’re not going to let it rain on your speech…..
  • So a reporter for Time magazine—and I have been on their cover, like, 14 or 15 times. I think we have the all-time record in the history of Time magazine.  

File:Inauguration crowd size comparison between Trump 2017 and Obama 2009.jpg

Crowds at Trump and Obama Inaugurals

In February, Trump approved and ordered a Special Forces raid in Yemen on an Al-Qaeda stronghold.

The assault resulted in the death of Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens.

Disavowing any responsibility for the failure, Trump said:

“This was a mission that was started before I got here. This was something they wanted to do. They came to me, they explained what they wanted to do—the generals—who are very respected, my generals are the most respected that we’ve had in many decades, I believe. And they lost Ryan.”

* * * * *

Seventy-four years before Donald Trump took office as President of the United States, Adolf Hitler suffered a blow from which he never recovered: The surrender of his once-powerful Sixth Army at Stalingrad.

For five months, 330,000 of the German army’s finest troops had fought to capture that city on the Volga River. Then they had been surrounded by even larger Russian armies and became the besieged. 

Finally, on February 2, 1943, their commanding general, Friedrich Paulus, surrendered.

Adolf Hitler flew into a rage.

  • Not at the loss of 150,000 Germans who had been killed.
  • Not at the agonies of the tens of thousands of others wounded.
  • Not at the suffering of the 91,000 men taken prisoner.

No, what infuriated Hitler was the refusal of General Friedrich Paulus to commit suicide rather than surrender.

Knowing that no German field marshal had ever allowed himself to be taken prisoner, Hitler had, by wireless, promoted Paulus—shortly before he chose to do so.

“When the nerves break down, there is nothing left but to admit that one can’t handle the situation and to shoot oneself,” screamed Hitler.

“This hurts me so much because the heroism of so many soldiers is nullified by one single characterless weakling.”

In April, 1945, with Russian troops about to capture Berlin, Hitler, 50 feet below ground in a fortified bunker, blamed his defeat on the Germans who had given him their unconditional loyalty for 12 years. 

For egomaniacal tyrants, blame always falls on others.

AOL: WORKING HARD TO COMMIT SUICIDE

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Social commentary on October 18, 2017 at 12:06 am

When the movie, You’ve Got Mail appeared in 1998, no one needed to be told that America Online (AOL) would be prominently featured.

It was through AOL that the two main characters in this romantic comedy—Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan—found offline happiness through an online romance.

You've Got Mail.jpg

The film was aptly timed to boost AOL’s popularity. By 1997, about half of all American homes with Internet access had it through AOL.

Founded in 1983, AOL began  began as a short-lived venture called Control Video Corporation (or CVC). Its sole product was an online service called GameLine for the Atari 2600 video game console.

Subscribers bought a modem from the company for $50 and paid a one-time $15 setup fee.

On May 24, 1985, Quantum Computer Services, an online services company, was founded by Jim Kimsey from the remnants of Control Video.

Kimsey changed the company’s strategy, and in 1985, launched a dedicated online service.

During the early 1990s, the average subscription lasted for about 25 months and accounted for $350 in total revenue.  AOL greatly expanded its customer rolls by distributing free AOL trial disks through companies like The Good Guys and Circuit City. At one point, 50% of the CDs produced worldwide had an AOL logo.

By 1997, about half of all U.S. homes with Internet access had it through AOL.  

AOL’s Silicon Valley branch office

Over the next several years, AOL launched services with the a wide range of educational organizations, including:

  • The National Education Association
  • NPR
  • The American Federation of Teachers
  • National Geographic
  • The Library of Congress.

A big draw for AOL customers was its “Instant Messenger” service. Launched in 1997, it allowed AOL members to “chat” with each other. No other online service had anything like it, and AOL refused to share the technology that made this possible.

(Eventually, an anti-monopoly lawsuit by the Justice Department forced AOL to share its “Instant Messenger” technology with its online rivals.)  

By 1998, anyone with an Internet-connected computer could access AOL for free.  Its revenues were now driven by ads companies eagerly paid to showcase their services or products.

In January 2000, AOL and Time Warner announced plans to merge, forming AOL Time Warner, Inc.  AOL shareholders would own 55% of the new, combined company. The deal closed on January 11, 2001.

At the time, it seemed a merger made in heaven.  It would supposedly allow Time Warner to digitise its content and reach out to a new online audience.  And AOL would gain access to Time Warner’s cable systems, innovative broadband capability and additional content to provide to its 27 million customers.

Yet by 2002 the merger resulted in a net loss of $99 billion, the largest loss ever reported by a company.  By 2009, the merger-marriage was over. Time Warner Chief Jeff Bawkes called it “the biggest mistake in corporate history.”

In June, 2017, AOL warned its customers that, starting in August, they would have to pay about $5 a month to access its services. The company was switching to a “new, improved” version called AOL Gold.

As usually happens when new software is launched, there were bugs all around in it. A complainant to the Pissed Consumer website wrote:

“If I have to pay I don’t want to see ads all over my mail, reading or when I’m writing. Send to later folder is all messed up. It seems to crash more & runs slower….

“I read an email & clicked on ‘mark unread’ when I tried to pull it back up I only got the heading but NOT the info. Trying to send email to a group of friends & being told there is a problem, but no idea what is wrong.  I always used this group in my 9.8 desktop with no problems.”

And another customer wrote: “Aol gold sucks.90% of the time I get error to load account.”

A third customer: “Spent 4.5 hours waiting for aol gold to import my old pfc [Private Filing Cabinet–where emails are stored] only to find it imported the wrong version of my favorites…. Then spent 3.5 hours on a remote tech call where he repeatedly uninstalled and reinstalled gold with the same results.”

Other problems include:

  • AOL shutting off immediately after sending an email
  • The lack of a “Clear Toolbar History” function (as was available on the “old” AOL)
  • The inability to transfer an image from the Internet (such as a beautiful seascape) to the desktop (another feature that was also available previously)

Customers who call AOL’ at (888) 265-3733 and press “1” for “support on your existing AOL account” automatically get transferred to the billing department.  So anyone seeking technical help needs to press “2”.

But AOL apparently doesn’t have enough techs trained in its new Gold technology.  So there is usually a long wait before one of them comes on the phone.  This means that if you’re calling on a cell phone, you can easily run out of battery time before your problem is resolved.

Then, in early October, AOL announced that, on December 15, it would shut down its Instant Messenger service.

The reason: Competing “chat” systems—such as texting, Gchat and Facebook—have replaced Instant Messenger as go-to forms of communication.

Nor does AOL plan to replace its Instant Messenger service.

Perhaps only the movie business can rival AOL for sheer self-destructiveness. Once “the big dog on the block,” AOL now risks the fate of dogs sent to the pound.

WHY FASCISTS WIN AND LIBERALS LOSE

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on October 16, 2017 at 10:32 pm

It was September 26, 1960. The date of the first—and now legendary—Presidential debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon.

Robert F. Kennedy, who was managing his brother’s campaign, offered some blunt but effective debate-prep advice: “Kick him in the balls, Jack.”

John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy

As a result, Kennedy came out fighting—and stayed on the offensive throughout the debate. At one point, he said flat-out that the United States should overthrow the year-old Cuban regime of Fidel Castro.

Nixon knew there was a secret CIA plan under way to do just that, but couldn’t afford to say so in public. So he came out hard against such a proposal, saying it would alienate American allies throughout the Caribbean.

Nixon had been warned by Henry Cabot Lodge, his Vice Presidential running mate, to tone down his “assassin image.”

During the 1950s, as a colleague of Red-baiting Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, Nixon had made himself immune from the damning charge of “soft on Communism.”

And yet, pitted against a surprisingly aggressive Kennedy, he came off as decidedly second-best in standing up to the successor of Joseph Stalin.

The Kennedy-Nixon Debate

Commentators generally agreed that Nixon lost that first debate—the most-watched of the four. And it may have proved fatal to his electoral chances that year.  

Kick him in the balls, Jack.

It’s advice that someone should have given to President Barack Obama. Not just before his October 3, 2012 debate with Mitt Romney, the Republican Presidential candidate, but at the start of his Presidency.

Romney came on strong from the outset and never let up.  He attacked the President relentlessly. And he repeatedly ignored calls by the alleged moderator, Jim Lehrer, to stop because he had exceeded his time-limit.

The Obama-Romney Debate

But, surprisingly, Obama:  

  • Never called out Romney on any of the lies he had aimed at the President throughout more than a year’s worth of campaigning.  
  • Never demanded that Romney produce specifics about the programs he would cut.
  • Never mentioned Bain Capitol, Romney’s private equity firm, as a job-killing corporate predator.  
  • Never attacked Romney for having personal assets in Swiss bank accounts.
  • Never mentioned the infamous “47%” videotape in which Romney contemptuously wrote off almost half of the electorate.

Obama was a supremely decent and rational man. He seemed to believe that if he was decent and reasonable toward his sworn enemies, they, in turn, would treat him the same way.

They didn’t. And Obama repeatedly failed to learn the only possible lesson from it.

As a result, he endured relentless personal insults and the stonewalling of his legislation by Republicans in the House and Senate.

But it did not have to be that way.

More than 500 years ago, Niccolo Machiavelli, the Florentine patriot and statesman, offered this advice in The Prince, his primer on political science:

Niccolo Machiavelli

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

For it may be said of men in general that they are ungrateful, voluble, dissemblers, anxious to avoid danger and covetous of gain. As long as you benefit them they are entirely yours.  

They offer you their blood, their goods, their life and their children, when the necessity is remote. But when it approaches, they revolt.

And the prince who has relied solely on their words, without making other preparations, is ruined….

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.

Obama should have put this truth into practice at the start of his administration, through the example of South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson. 

It was Wilson who yelled “You lie!” at the President during his September 9, 2009 health care speech to Congress.

Wilson later apologized, and Rahm Emannuel, Obama’s Chief of Staff, accepted the apology on the President’s behalf.

Instead, Obama could—and should—have sent this directive to all Federal agencies: “If you have to make cutbacks, make them first in the Congressional district of Joe Wilson.” 

When military bases and hospitals and highway projects started disappearing from Wilson’s district, word would have quickly gotten around: Don’t screw with Obama. 

And Republicans would have behaved accordingly.

During the Civil War, General William Tecumseh Sherman said of his Confederate enemies: “They cannot be made to love us, but they may be made to fear us.”

General William Texumseh Sherman

Obama won the election. But, for all his brilliance as a Harvard graduate, he failed to learn and apply this most essential lesson.  

And that failure haunted him throughout his eight-year term.

MACHIAVELLI WARNED AMERICA ABOUT TRUMP

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 13, 2017 at 2:37 am

On July 30, 2016, Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump attacked the integrity of the parents of an Army captain who died heroically in Iraq in 2004.

For this, he took heavy fire from Democrats, veterans organizations and even his fellow Republicans.

But an even more damning assessment came from Niccolo Machiavelli, the 16th-century Florentine statesman whose two great works on politics—The Prince and The Discourses—remain textbooks for successful politicians more than 500 years later.   

Niccolo Machiavelli

Throughout his campaign for President, Trump hurled insults at virtually every major segment of American society, including:  

  • Latinos
  • Asians
  • Muslims
  • Blacks
  • The Disabled
  • Women
  • Prisoners-of-War

These insults delighted his white, under-educated followers. But they alienated millions of other Americans who might have voted for him. 

 

Donald Trump

Machiavelli, on the other hand, advised leaders to refrain from gratuitous insults: 

  • “I hold it to be a proof of great prudence for men to abstain from threats and insulting words towards any one.
  • For neither the one nor the other in any way diminishes the strength of the enemy–but the one makes him more cautious, and the other increases his hatred of you, and makes him more persevering in his efforts to injure you.”  

And Trump’s reaction to the criticism he’s received? 

“I can be Presidential, but if I was Presidential I would only have—about 20% of you would be here because it would be boring as hell, I will say,” Trump told supporters at a rally in Superior, Wisconsin. 

For those who expected Trump to shed his propensity for constantly picking fights, Machiavelli had a stern warning: 

  • “…If it happens that time and circumstances are favorable to one who acts with caution and prudence he will be successful. But if time and circumstances change he will be ruined, because he does not change the mode of his procedure. 
  • “No man can be found so prudent as to be able to adopt himself to this, either because he cannot deviate from that to which his nature disposes him, or else because, having always prospered by walking in one path, he cannot persuade himself that it is well to leave it… 
  • “For if one could change one’s nature with time and circumstances, fortune would never change.” 

Then there was Trump’s approach to consulting advisers:

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.”

This totally contrasts with the advice given by Machiavelli:

  • “A prudent prince must [choose] for his counsel wise men, and [give] them alone full liberty to speak the truth to him, but only of those things that he asks and of nothing else. 
  • “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…comport himself so that every one may see that the more freely he speaks, the more he will be acceptable.”

And Machiavelli offered a related warning on the advising of rulers: Unwise princes cannot be wisely advised.   

During the fifth GOP debate in the Presidential sweepstakes, host Hugh Hewitt asked Trump this question: 

“Mr. Trump, Dr. [Ben] Carson just referenced the single most important job of the president, the command and the care of our nuclear forces. And he mentioned the triad. 

“The B-52s are older than I am. The missiles are old. The submarines are aging out. It’s an executive order. It’s a commander-in-chief decision. 

“What’s your priority among our nuclear triad?” 

[The triad refers to America’s land-, sea- and air-based systems for delivering nuclear missiles and bombs.] 

Nuclear missile in silo

Trump’s reply: “Well, first of all, I think we need somebody absolutely that we can trust, who is totally responsible, who really knows what he or she is doing. That is so powerful and so important.”  

He then digressed to his having called the Iraq invasion a mistake in 2003 and 2004. Finally he came back on topic:

“But we have to be extremely vigilant and extremely careful when it comes to nuclear. Nuclear changes the whole ballgame. 

“The biggest problem we have today is nuclear–nuclear proliferation and having some maniac, having some madman go out and get a nuclear weapon. I think to me, nuclear, is just the power, the devastation is very important to me.”

Which brings us back to Machiavelli:  

  • “…Some think that a prince who gains the reputation of being prudent [owes this to] the good counselors he has about him; they are undoubtedly deceived.
  • “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.” 

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

COWARDS AS HEROES

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on October 10, 2017 at 3:25 pm

“One man with courage,” said frontier general Andrew Jackson, “makes a majority.”

Yet it’s amazing how many “heroes” come out of the woodwork only after the danger is safely past.

Joseph Stalin dominated the Soviet Union from 1928 to 1953.  He held absolute power twice as long as Adolf Hitler–whose Third Reich lasted only 12 years.

Joseph Stalin

Above all, he was responsible for the deaths of at least 20,000,000 men, women and children:

  • At the hands of the executioners of the NKVD (later named the KGB).
  • In exile—usually in Siberia—in Soviet penal camps.
  • Of man-made starvation brought on by Stalin’s forced “collective-farm” policies.

Then, the unthinkable happened: Stalin finally died on March 5, 1953.

Almost three years later—on February 25, 1956—Stalin’s successor, Nikita Khrushchev, shocked the 20th Party Congress of the Soviet Union with a bombshell announcement:

Stalin—the “Wise Leader and Teacher”—had been a murderous despot.

Among his crimes:

  • He had created a regime based on “suspicion, fear and terror.”
  • His massive purges of the officer corps had almost destroyed the Red Army–thus inviting Hitler’s 1941 invasion, which killed at least 20 million Soviet citizens.
  • He had allied himself with Hitler in 1939 and ignored repeated warnings of the coming Nazi invasion.

Naturally, Khrushchev didn’t advertise the role he had played as one of Stalin’s most trusted and brutal henchmen.

Over the ensuing years, many of the statues and portraits of Stalin that had dotted the Soviet Union like smallpox scars were quietly taken down. The city of Stalingrad—which Stalin had renamed from its original name of Tsaritsyn—became Volgograd.

Then, in 1961, Stalin’s corpse was removed from its prominent spot in the Lenin mausoleum and reburied in a place for lesser heroes of the Russian Revolution.

The young poet, Yevgeney Yevtushenko, noted the occasion in his famous poem, “The Heirs of Stalin.” Its gist: Stalin the tyrant was dead, but his followers still walked the earth—and lusted for a return to power.

Something similar happened in the United States around the same time.

From 1950 to 1954, Wisconsin Republican Senator Joseph R. McCarthy terrorized the nation, accusing anyone who disagreed with him of being a Communist—and leaving ruined lives in his wake.

Joseph R. McCarthy

Among those civilians and government officials he slandered as Communists were:

  • President Harry S. Truman
  • President Dwight D. Eisenhower
  • Broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow
  • Secretary of State George C. Marshall
  • Columnist Drew Pearson

Finally, in 1954, McCarthy overreached himself and accused the U.S. Army of being a hotbed of Communist traitors. Joseph Welch, counsel for the Army, destroyed McCarthy’s credibility in a now-famous retort:

“Senator, may we not drop this?….You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

Later that year, the Senate censured McCarthy, and he rapidly declined in power and health.

Senatorial colleagues who had once courted his support now avoided him.

They left the Senate when he rose to speak. Reporters who had once fawned on him for his latest sensational slander now ignored him.

Eisenhower—who had sought McCarthy’s support during his 1952 race for President—joked that “McCarthyism” was now “McCarthywasm.”

Fast-forward to October 9, 2017—and the current blood-feud between President Donald Trump and Tennessee’s United States Senator, Bob Corker.  

During Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign, Corker—a highly-respected figure within the Republican establishment—threw his support behind Trump. Even more importantly, he did so when few other Republican establishment figures were willing to do so.  

Bob Corker

As a result, when Trump won the election, he was reported to be considering Corker for Secretary of State.  

But then Corker committed the unthinkable sin against Trump: He actually criticized him.

“They are in a downward spiral right now and have got to figure out a way to come to grips with all that’s happening,” Corker told reporters in May, amid a series of administration scandals.  

And, on August 17, Corker said: “The President has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful.”

Then, on September 27, 2017, Corker announced he was considering retiring from the Senate—to which he had been elected in 2006.  

On October 4, Corker told reporters: “I think Secretary Tillerson, Secretary Mattis and Chief of Staff Kelly are those people that help separate our country from chaos, and I support them very much.”

Trump then attacked Corker via Twitter: “Senator Bob Corker ‘begged’ me to endorse him for re-election in Tennessee. I said ‘NO’ and he dropped out (said he could not win without…”

To which Corker—also via Twitter—responded: “It’s a shame the White House has become an adult day care center. Someone obviously missed their shift this morning.”

According to widespread news reports, many other Republicans share Corker’s low opinion of Trump. And they fear—like Corker—that Trump—through his repeated insults to North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un—is catapulting America toward World War III.

But they haven’t been willing to share those views publicly—because they fear that Trump—and his legions of fanatical voters—will turn on them.

As the Russian poet Yevgeney Yevtushenko put it: Our descendants will be ashamed to recall a time when simple honesty was labeled courage.

WHAT AMERICA OWES THE NRA: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 6, 2017 at 12:08 am

In peace, sons bury fathers, but in war fathers bury sons.
—Herodotus

Among the major accomplishments of the National Rifle Association:

  • The NRA has steadfastly defended the right to own Teflon-coated “cop killer” bullets,” whose only purpose is to penetrate bullet-resistant vests worn by law enforcement officers or those under protection.

  • The NRA and its lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action, is responsible for the “stand-your-ground” ordinances now in effect in more than half the states. These allow for the use of deadly force in self-defense, without any obligation to attempt to retreat first.
  • In 2012, the NRA rushed to the defense of accused murderer George Zimmerman, the self-appointed “community watchman” who ignored police orders to stop following 17-year-old Trayvon Martin and ended up shooting him.
  • Police did not initially charge Zimmerman because of Florida’s “Stand-Your-Ground” law, which the NRA had rammed through the legislature.

George Zimmerman

  • On February 26, 2012, Zimmerman shot unarmed Trayvon Martin, who was wearing a “hoodie.” In March, the NRA issued its own version of a “hoodie”—the Concealed Carry Hooded Sweatshirt, designed to hide firearms. Selling on the NRA’s website for $60 to $65, it is advertised thusly:
  • “Inside the sweatshirt you’ll find left and right concealment pockets. The included Velcro®-backed holster and double mag pouch can be repositioned inside the pockets for optimum draw. Ideal for carrying your favorite compact to mid-size pistol, the NRA Concealed Carry Hooded Sweatshirt gives you an extra tactical edge, because its unstructured, casual design appears incapable of concealing a heavy firearm – but it does so with ease!”     http://www.nrastore.com/nrastore/ProductDetail.aspx?c=11&p=CO+635&ct=e

  • Anyone—including convicted criminals—can buy these “hide-a-gun” sweatshirts, putting both the public and law enforcers at deadly risk.
  • The NRA often claims that millions of  law-abiding citizens defend themselves with guns  every year. But the FBI has determined that, of the approximately 11,000 gun homicides every year, fewer than 300 are justifiable self-defense killings.
  • The NRA supports loopholes that allow criminals to buy guns without background checks and allow terrorists to buy all the AK-47s they desire.
  • The NRA’s executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, tried to defeat Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. Yet the President had meekly signed legislation allowing guns to be brought into national parks and onto Amtrak trains. Since becoming Chief Executive, he made no effort to curb gun violence.

  • High-capacity magazines were prohibited under the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban. It expired in 2004. The NRA—aided by the George W. Bush administration and Republicans generally—easily overcame efforts to renew the ban.
  • Political scientist Robert Spitzer, author of the book The Politics of Gun Control, notes that since the passage of the 1993 Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act and the assault weapons ban in 1994, state and national laws have been drifting toward more open gun access:
  • “In 1988, there were about 18 states that had state laws that made it pretty easy for civilians to carry concealed hand guns around in society. By 2011, that number [was] up to 39 or 40 states having liberalized laws, depending on how you count it, and the NRA has worked very diligently at the state level to win political victories there, and they’ve really been quite successful.”
  • On January 8, 2011, Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head while meeting with constituents outside a Tucson, Arizona,  grocery store. Also killed was Arizona’s chief U.S. District judge, John Roll, who had just stopped by to see his friend Giffords after celebrating Mass. The total number of victims: six dead, 13 wounded. Severely brain-damaged, Giffords was forced to resign her Congressional seat.

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords after being shot

  • “The NRA’s response to the Tucson shootings has been to say as little as possible and to keep its head down,” said Spitzer. “And their approach even more has been to say as little as possible and to simply issue a statement of condolence to the families of those who were injured or killed and to wait for the political storm to pass over and then to pick up politics as usual.” 
  • This has, in fact, been the NRA’s response to every subsequent mass shooting—including the October 1 massacre of 59 concertgoers and the wounding of more than 500 others.
  • In the spring of 2012, the House Oversight Committee prepared to vote on whether to hold U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt for allegedly refusing to provide documents related to “Fast and Furious.” This was an undercover operation launched by the Bush administration to track firearms being sold to Mexican drug cartels.
  • The NRA notified Congressional members that how they voted would reflect how the NRA rated them in “candidate evaluations” for the November elections. This amounted to blatant extortion—a crime under Federal law—since the NRA had long accused Holder of having an “anti-gun” agenda.

Ultimately, the aim of the NRA is an America where any place, anytime, can be turned into the gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

Gunfight at the O.K. Corral – October 26, 1881

And that is precisely what the United States is fast becoming.

Except, so far, the vast majority of victims have not been armed gunfighters but unarmed innocents. And it’s been the “gun rights” types whom the NRA supports who have done the killing.

WHAT AMERICA OWES THE NRA: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 5, 2017 at 12:20 am

On September 11, 2001, Islamic terrorists snuffed out the lives of 3,000 Americans in New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania.

World Trade Center – September 11, 2001

But within less than a month, American warplanes began carpet-bombing Afghanistan, whose rogue Islamic “government” refused to surrender Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the attacks.

By December, the power of the Taliban was broken—and bin Laden was driven into hiding in Pakistan.

For more than ten years, the United States—through its global military and espionage networks—has relentlessly hunted down most of those responsible for that September carnage.

On May 1, 2011, U.S. Navy SEALS invaded bin Laden’s fortified mansion in Abbottabad, Pakistan—and shot him dead.

U.S. Navy SEALs

Now, consider these statistics of death, supplied by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence:

  • Every day, 315 people in America are shot in murders, assaults, suicides & suicide attempts, unintentional shootings, and police intervention.
  • Every day, 46 children and teens are shot in murders, assaults, suicides and suicide attempts, unintentional shootings and police interventions.
  • Every day, 222 people are shot and survive.
  • U.S. firearm homicide rates are 20 times higher than the combined rates of 22 countries that are our peers in wealth and population.
  • A gun in the home is 22 times more likely to be used to kill or injure in a domestic homicide, suicide, or unintentional shooting than to be used in self-defense.
  • More than one in five U.S. teenagers (ages 14 to 17) report having witnessed a shooting.
  • An average of eight children and teens under the age of 20 are killed by guns every day.
  • American children die by guns 11 times as often as children in other high-income countries.
  • Youth (ages 0 to 19) in the most rural U.S. counties are as likely to die from a gunshot as those living in the most urban counties.
  • Rural children die of more gun suicides and unintentional shooting deaths.
  • Urban children die more often of gun homicides.
  • Firearm homicide is the second-leading cause of death (after motor vehicle crashes) for young people ages 1-19 in the U.S.
  • In 2007, more pre-school-aged children (85) were killed by guns than police officers were killed in the line of duty.
  • Medical treatment, criminal justice proceedings, new security precautions, and reductions in quality of life are estimated to cost U.S. citizens $100 billion annually.
  • The lifetime medical cost for all gun violence victims in the United States is estimated at $2.3 billion, with almost half the costs borne by taxpayers.

In short, in one year on average:

  • On average, 33,880 Americans die from gun violence every year.
  • More than 114,994 Americans are shot in murders, assault, suicides, suicide attempts, accidents or by police intervention.
  • 11,564 are murdered.
  • 21,037 die from suicide.
  • 544 people are killed accidentally.
  • 468 are killed by police intervention.
  • 267 die but intent is not known.
  • 81,114 people survive gun injuries.

(These statistics are based on death certificates and estimates from emergency room admissions.)

And who, more than anyone (including the actual killers themselves) has made all this carnage possible?

The National Rifle Association (NRA), of course.

But unlike the leadership of Al Qaeda, that of the NRA is not simply known, but celebrated.

Its director, Wayne LaPierre, is courted as a rock star by both Democrats and Republicans seeking NRA political endorsements—and campaign contributions.

Wayne LaPierre

He frequently appears as an honored guest at testimonial dinners and political conventions.

The largest of the 13 national pro-gun groups, the NRA has nearly four million members, who focus most of their time lobbying Congress for unlimited “gun rights.”

The NRA claims that its mission is to “protect” the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, which states:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

NRA members conveniently ignore the first half of that sentence: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State….”

For the NRA, the Second Amendment is the Constitution, and the rest of the document is a mere appendage.

At the time Congress ratified the Constitution in 1788, the United States was not a world power.

A mere 26 years later, the British seized and burned Washington, D.C., after repeatedly defeating American armies. On the frontier, settlers had to defend themselves against hostile Indians and marauding bandits.

Only after World War II did the country maintain a powerful standing army during peacetime.

But World War II ended 72 years ago, and today the United States is a far different country than it was in 1788:

  • It boasts a nuclear arsenal that can turn any country into thermonuclear ash–anytime an American President decides to do so.
  • It boasts an Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps that can target any enemy, anywhere in the world.
  • Its Special Forces—Green Berets, Delta Force and Navy SEALS—are rightly feared by international terrorists.
  • And waging war on criminals generally, state and local law enforcement agencies employ more than 1.1 million personnel, including about 765,980 full-time sworn  law enforcement officers. 
  • If a criminal flees or conducts business across state lines, powerful Federal law enforcement agencies—such as the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration—can put him out of business. These agencies employee about 120,000 sworn law enforcement officers.

But apparently the NRA hasn’t gotten the word.

FINDING COMMON CAUSE WITH BULLYING

In Bureaucracy, Entertainment, History, Politics, Social commentary on October 4, 2017 at 12:05 am

Every year, the 93 members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) bestow Golden Globe awards to recognize excellence in television and film, both inside and outside the United States.

And on Sunday, January 8, the presenters honored actress Meryl Streep with the Cecil B Demille lifetime achievement Award.

Since 1979, she’s been nominated for more Academy Awards than any other actor—15 nominations for Best Actress and four for Best Supporting Actress.

She won Best Supporting Actress in 1980 for Kramer vs. Kramer, Best Actress in 1983 for Sophie’s Choice and again in 2012 for The Iron Lady.

But when Streep appeared to accept her latest award, she had a nomination of her own to present: One for a performance that “broke my heart.”

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Meryl Streep at the Golden Globes

It had come in real life, not a movie. And the performer she nominated was Donald Trump, for his mockery of a disabled New York Times reporter in 2015.

The reporter, Serge Kovaleski, suffers from arthrogryposis, a congenital condition that restricts the movement of the muscles in his arms.

Since declaring his Presidential candidacy on June 16, 2015, Trump had attacked the patriotism of America’s Islamic population. He claimed that he had seen Muslims in New Jersey celebrating the collapse of the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001.

To prove this, Trump cited a September 18, 2001 article written by Kovaleski when he was a reporter for The Washington Post.

In this, Kovaleski wrote that police “detained and questioned a number of people who were allegedly seen celebrating the attacks and holding tailgate-style parties.”

After Trump mentioned the story, Kovaleski said that the key word in it was “allegedly,” adding that there were no credible reports of such celebrations.

At a South Carolina rally on November 24, 2015, Trump claimed that Kovaleski was backing away from his article.

To mock Kovaleski, he flopped his right arm around with his hand held at an odd angle while imitating the reporter: “Now, the poor guy, you’ve got to see this guy: ‘Uhh, I don’t know what I said. Uhh, I don’t remember,’ he’s going like ‘I don’t remember. Maybe that’s what I said.’”

Attacked for mocking Kovaleski’s disability, Trump claimed: “Serge Kovaleski must think a lot of himself if he thinks I remember him from decades ago–if I ever met him at all, which I doubt I did.”

Image result for Images of Serge Kovaleski

Trump mocking Kovaleski, left; Kovaleski, right

But Kovaleski quickly contradicted Trump: He had covered Trump as a reporter for the New York Daily News and had met him face-to-face on at least a dozen occasions.

So Meryl Streep knew what she was talking about when she said:

“There was one performance this year that stunned me. It sank its hooks in my heart. Not because it was good. There was nothing good about it. But it was effective, and it did its job. It made its intended audience laugh and show their teeth.

“It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter. Someone he outranked in privilege, power and the capacity to fight back. It kind of broke my heart when I saw it. I still can’t get it out of my head because it wasn’t in a movie. It was real life.

“And this instinct to humiliate, when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life, because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing.

“Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.”

Kelleyanne Conway served as Trump’s mouthpiece during the 2016 Presidential campaign. She continued in that rule as he prepared to take office as President on January 20.

And she was thoroughly upset with Streep’s remarks.

Appearing on Right-wing Fox and Friends the next morning, she said: “We have to now form a government, and I’m concerned that somebody with a platform like Meryl Streep is also, I think, inciting people’s worst instincts.

“When she won’t get up there and say, ‘I don’t like it, but let’s try to support him and see where we can find some common ground with him, which [Trump] has actually done from moment one.”  

What common ground she didn’t say. Agreeing on mocking the disabled?

Not to be outdone in “inciting people’s worst instincts,” President-elect Trump quickly took to Twitter—his preferred mode of communication.

Since Twitter allows only 140 characters, Trump couldn’t say all he wanted in one tweet. So it took three:

Meryl Streep, one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood, doesn’t know me but attacked last night at the Golden Globes. She is a…..

Hillary flunky who lost big. For the 100th time, I never “mocked” a disabled reporter (would never do that) but simply showed him…….

“groveling” when he totally changed a 16 year old story that he had written in order to make me look bad. Just more very dishonest media!

In 2015—before she insulted him—Trump told The Hollywood Reporter: “Julia Roberts is terrific, and many others. Meryl Streep is excellent; she’s a fine person, too.” 

HOW TO END GUN MASSACRES

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on October 3, 2017 at 12:02 am

The victims of the violence are black and white, rich and poor, young and old, famous and unknown. They are, most important of all, human beings whom other human beings loved and needed. No one—no matter where he lives or what he does—can be certain who will suffer from some senseless act of bloodshed. And yet it goes on and on.

–Robert F. Kennedy, April 4, 1968

Senator Robert F. Kennedy announcing the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

What should the surviving victims of gun massacres do to seek redress?

And how can the relatives and friends of those who didn’t survive seek justice for those they loved?

Two things:

First, don’t count on politicians to support a ban on assault weapons.

Politicians—with rare exceptions—have only two goals:

  1. Get elected to office, and
  2. Stay in office.

And too many of them fear the economic and voting clout of the NRA to risk its wrath.

Consider Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama.

Both rushed to offer condolences to the surviving victims of the massacre at the Century 16 Theater in Aurora, Colorado, on July 20, 2012.

And both steadfastly refused to even discuss gun control—let alone support a ban on the type of assault weapons used by James Holmes, leaving 12 dead and 58 wounded.

Second, those who survived the massacre—and the relatives and friends of those who didn’t—should file wrongful death, class-action lawsuits against the NRA.

There is sound, legal precedent for this.

  • For decades, the American tobacco industry peddled death and disability to millions and reaped billions of dollars in profits.
  • The industry vigorously claimed there was no evidence that smoking caused cancer, heart disease, emphysema or any other ailment.

  • Tobacco companies spent billions on slick advertising campaigns to win new smokers and attack medical warnings about the dangers of smoking.
  • Tobacco companies spent millions to elect compliant politicians and block anti-smoking legislation.
  • From 1954 to 1994, over 800 private lawsuits were filed against tobacco companies in state courts. But only two plaintiffs prevailed, and both of those decisions were reversed on appeal.
  • In 1994, amidst great pessimism, Mississippi Attorney General Mike Moore filed a lawsuit against the tobacco industry. But other states soon followed, ultimately growing to 46.
  • Their goal: To seek monetary, equitable and injunctive relief under various consumer-protection and anti-trust laws.
  • The theory underlying these lawsuits was: Cigarettes produced by the tobacco industry created health problems among the population, which badly strained the states’ public healthcare systems.
  • In 1998, the states settled their Medicaid lawsuits against the tobacco industry for recovery of their tobacco-related, health-care costs. In return, they exempted the companies from private lawsuits for tobacco-related injuries.
  • The companies agreed to curtail or cease certain marketing practices. They also agreed to pay, forever, annual payments to the states to compensate some of the medical costs for patients with smoking-related illnesses.

The parallels with the NRA are obvious:

  • For decades, the NRA has peddled deadly weapons to millions, reaped billions of dollars in profits and refused to admit the carnage those weapons have produced: “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.”  With guns.

  • The NRA has bitterly fought background checks on gun-buyers, in effect granting even criminals and the mentally ill the right to own arsenals of death-dealing weaponry.
  • The NRA has spent millions on slick advertising campaigns to win new members and frighten them into buying guns.

  • The NRA has spent millions on political contributions to block gun-control legislation.
  • The NRA has spent millions attacking political candidates and elected officials who warned about the dangers of unrestricted access to assault and/or concealed weapons.

  • The NRA has spent millions pushing “Stand Your Ground” laws in more than half the states, which potentially give every citizen a “license to kill.”
  • The NRA receives millions of dollars from online sales of ammunition, high-capacity ammunition magazines, and other accessories through its point-of-sale Round-Up Program—thus directly profiting by selling a product that kills about 30,288 people a year.

  • Firearms made indiscriminately available through NRA lobbying have filled hospitals with casualties, and have thus badly strained the states’ public healthcare systems.

It will take a series of highly expensive and well-publicized lawsuits to significantly weaken the NRA, financially and politically.

The first ones will have to be brought by the surviving victims of gun violence—and by the friends and families of those who did not survive it. Only they will have the courage and motivation to take such a risk.

As with the cases first brought against tobacco companies, there will be losses.  And the NRA will rejoice with each one.

But, in time, state Attorneys General will see the clear parallels between lawsuits filed against those who peddle death by cigarette and those who peddle death by armor-piercing bullet.

And then the NRA—like the tobacco industry—will face an adversary wealthy enough to stand up for the rights of the gun industry’s own victims.

Only then will those politicians supporting reasonable gun controls dare to stand up for the victims of these needless tragedies.

REPUBLICANS: LEGITIMACY IS FOR US, BUT NOT FOR YOU: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on October 2, 2017 at 12:16 am

For five years, Donald Trump, more than anyone else, popularized the slander that President Barack Obama was born in Kenya–and was therefore not an American citizen.

For more than a year during his 2016 Presidential campaign, Trump continued doing so.

Meanwhile, Trump’s popularity steadily fell among blacks–to 1%, compared to the 91% of black voters who backed Hillary Clinton.

Even the managers of Trump’s campaign urged him to put the “birther” issue behind him.

And so, on September 16, 2016–10 days before his scheduled first debate with Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton–Trump made his version of a reversal.

Image result for Images of Donald Trump's birther press conference

Donald Trump: “President Barack Obama was born in the United States.”

He did so in about seven seconds and 40 words–after spending a half hour paying tribute to the military and promoting his new upscale hotel in Washington, D.C.:

“Now, not to mention her in the same breath, but Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy.

“I finished it.  I finished it.  You know what I mean.

“President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period. Now we all want to get back to making America strong and great again.”

His tone made it clear that he felt uneasy making that statement–and wanted to get it over with as fast as possible.

He refused to take questions from reporters covering the event. Nor did he apologize for his five-year campaign of slander.

Nor did any Republican apologize for the eight-year campaign of slander and obstruction their party had waged against the Nation’s first black President.

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President Barack Obama

Among its highlights:

  • In September, 2009, Joe Wilson (R-SC) yelled “You lie!” during Obama’s health care speech to Congress.
  • In January, 2010, an effigy of President Barack Obama was found hanging from a building in Plains, Georgia.
  • In December, 2011, Brent Bozell, who runs the right-wing Media Research Center, called Obama to “a skinny, ghetto crackhead.”
  • In December, 2011, Rep.  Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.), said of Michelle Obama: “She lectures us on eating right while she has a large posterior herself.”
  • In January, 2012, Mitt Romney’s son, Matt, said his father might release his tax returns “as soon as President Obama releases his grades and birth certificate and sort of a long list of things.”
  • In February, 2012, right-wing columnist Ann Coulter offered: “Voters with forty years of politically correct education are ecstatic to have the first Black president. They just love the idea even if we did get Flavor Flav instead of Thomas Sowell.”
  • In May, 2012, a flatbed truck drove through new York holding a trailer with eight mannequin-like bodies hanging on nooses. One of the figures resembled President Obama, with a sign on the truck reading: “Obama Is Onboard, Find Out Why. Visit YouTube.com And Search Keyword PatriotPhipps.”

  • In May, 2012, Patrick Lanzo, a bar owner in Paulding County, Georgia, posted a sign reading: “I do not support the nigger in the White House.”  In 2009 he posted a sign that read, “Obama’s plan for health-care: nigger rig it.” Lanzo advertises his establishment as a “Klan bar.”
  • Throughout the 2012 Presidential campaign, Newt Gingrich repeatedly called Obama “the greatest food stamp President in American history.” 
  • Obama has been portrayed as a shoeshine man, an Islamic terrorist and a chimp. The image of his altered face has been shown on a product called Obama Waffles in the manner of Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben. He has been repeatedly depicted with a Hitler forelock and mustache.
  • Among the protest signs they have brandished by Tea Party members: “Obama’s Plan: White Slavery,” “The American Taxpayers are the Jews for Obama’s Ovens,” and “Obama was Not Bowing [to the Saudi King] He was Sucking Saudi Jewels.”
  • Other Tea Party posters: “Imam Obama Wants to Ban Pork” and “The Zoo Has An African Lion, and the White House Has a Lyin’ African.”
  • Tea Partiers have chanted at Obama: “Bye, bye, Blackbird” and “Kenyan go home!”
  • During the Republican-imposed government shutdown–October 1-17, 2013–Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) told Obama: “I cannot even stand to look at you,”  The incident occurred when Obama met with lawmakers to try to find a resolution to the shutdown.
  • On October 1, 2013, Congressional Republicans shut down the government in an attempt to force President Barack Obama to de-fund his signature achievement: The Affordable Care Act (ACA). President Obama refused, and 800,000 federal workers were furloughed.
  • On October 14, while Republicans were threatening to drive the nation into bankruptcy by refusing to raise the debt ceiling, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin posted on Facebook her “secret plan” to impeach President Obama:
  • “It’s time for the president to be honest with the American people for a change. Defaulting on our national debt is an impeachable offense, and any attempt by President Obama to unilaterally raise the debt limit without Congress is also an impeachable offense.”
  • In short: If the Republicans force the country into default, Obama should be impeached. And if the President finds a way to avoid default, he should be impeached.

* * * * * 

When Republicans say, “We need to support our President,” they don’t mean every President.

They mean: Every Republican President.  And only every Republican President.

For Republicans, Presidents elected by Democrats are usurpers: They are to be obstructed as often as possible–and impeached whenever possible.

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