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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?

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.

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

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on September 20, 2013 at 12:15 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.

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

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

That provision is a no-go for Senate Democrats and President Obama.  If the House and Senate can’t work out a compromise, many functions of the federal government will be shut down indefinitely on Oct. 1.

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 his threat. Gingrich unwisely admitted that he did so because President Bill Clinton had put him in the back of Air Force One during a recent trip to Israel.

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

Still, the Republicans continued their policy of my-way-or-else.  In April, 2011, the United States government almost shut down over Republican demands about subsidized pap smears.

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

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

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

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

esident 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.

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?

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.

“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 Oganizations 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.

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

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

  1. The President can order the Justice Department to prosecute Republican extortion attempts via RICO–the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act.
  2. The President can make a “Cuban Missile Crisis” style address to the American people, seeking to rally them against a criminal threat to the security of the Nation.
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