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TEA PARTY’S “GRASSROOTS” FOUNDER: THE TOBACCO INDUSTRY: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on July 27, 2017 at 12:05 am

The Tea Party hated President Barack Obama and believed he should be impeached.

That you could have easily learned by visiting its website.

But there is a great deal about the Tea Party itself that its website won’t tell you.

Such as:

  • Despite its propaganda, it is not a “grassroots organization” comprised of “ordinary Americans.”
  • It was created with money from the tobacco industry and the billionaire Koch brothers.
  • Its purpose is to co-opt Right-wing Americans and channel their votes into legislation that benefits the 1% richest.

That’s the conclusion of a study by the National Cancer Institute of the National Institute of Health.

National Cancer Institute

The roots of the Tea Party lie in the early 1980s, when tobacco companies started pouring money into third-party groups.

Their mission was two-fold:

  • To fight excise taxes on cigarettes; and
  • To combat health studies showing a link between cancer and secondhand smoke.

Stanton Glantz, professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, has been a longtime foe of the tobacco industry.

Dr. Stanton Glantz

In 2012, he authored a study for the peer-reviewed academic journal, Tobacco Control.  Writing about the ties between the Tea Party and the tobacco industry, Glantz noted:

“The Tea Party, which gained prominence in the USA in 2009, advocates limited government and low taxes. Tea Party organisations, particularly Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks, oppose smoke-free laws and tobacco taxes.

“Rather than being a purely grassroots movement that spontaneously developed in 2009, the Tea Party has developed over time, in part through decades of work by the tobacco industry and other corporate interests.”

Click here: ‘To quarterback behind the scenes, third-party efforts’: the tobacco industry and the Tea Party — Fallin et al. –

Charles and David Koch, the real founders of the Tea Party

Most people believe the Tea Party originated as a 2009 grassroots uprising to protest taxes. But its origins can be traced to 2002.

That was when the Charles and David Koch and tobacco-backed Citizens for a Sound Economy set up the first Tea Party website.

From the National Cancer Institute’s study of the Tea Party:

  • “The Tea Party, a loosely organised network of grassroots coalitions at local and state levels, is a complex social and political movement to the right of the traditional Republican Party that promotes less government regulation and lower taxes.”
  • “David Koch was a co-founder of Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE) and Americans for Prosperity (AFP) Foundation,” both major allies of the tobacco industry.
  • “National organisations funded by corporations, particularly Americans for Prosperity (AFP) and FreedomWorks, played an important role in structuring and supporting the Tea Party in the initial stages.  They provided training, communication and materials for the earliest Tea Party activities, including the first ‘Tea Party’ on 27 February 2009.”
  • “FreedomWorks organised the nationwide Tea Party tax protests in April 2009, the town hall protests about the proposed healthcare reform in August 2009 and the Taxpayers’ March on Washington the following September 2009.”
  • “As of 2012, AFP and FreedomWorks were supporting the tobacco companies’ political agenda by mobilising local Tea Party opposition to tobacco taxes and smoke-free laws.”
  • “In many ways, the Tea Party of the late 2000s has become the ‘movement’ envisioned by Tim Hyde, RJR director of national field operations in the 1990s, which was grounded in patriotic values of ‘freedom’ and ‘choice’ to change how people see the role of ‘government’ and ‘big business’ in their lives, particularly with regard to taxes and regulation.”
  • “Many factors beyond the tobacco industry have contributed to the development of the Tea Party.  Anti-tax sentiment has been linked to notions of patriotism since the inception of the USA when the colonies were protesting against taxation by the British.”
  • “In addition, the Tea Party has origins in the ultra-right John Birch Society of the 1950s, of which Fred Koch (Charles and David Koch’s father) was a founding member.”
  • “Although the Tea Party is a social movement, it has been affiliated closely with, and somewhat incorporated into, the Republican Party. This may be due in part to the increased conservatism of politically active Republicans since 1970s and the increased polarisation of American politics.”
  • “….AFP and FreedomWorks…capitalised on the changing political realities following President Barack Obama’s election in 2008.”
  • “In particular, they harnessed anti-government sentiment arising from the confluence of the mortgage and banking bailout, President Barack Obama’s stimulus package and the Democratic push for healthcare reform, which provided them with the opportunity for more successful grassroots-level Tea Party organising.”

Figure 1.

CHART SHOWING  Connections between the tobacco industry, third-party allies and the Tea Party, from the 1980’s (top) through 2012 (bottom).

Since 2008, the Tea Party has played a major role in American politics.

Throughout 2009, its thuggish supporters sought to terrorize members of Congress into opposing passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), otherwise known as Obamacare. 

This despite the fact that the ACA offered many of them their only chance to obtain access to medical care.

And in 2010 they played a pivotal role in delivering the House of Representatives to the Republican Party. Similarly, they helped Republicans take control of the Senate in 2014.

Yet the vast majority of the Tea Party’s low-level membership probably doesn’t know the origins—or the real purposes—of their organization.

But for those for whom truth is important, “the truth”—as The X-Files tagline once went—“is out there.”

TEA PARTY’S “GRASSROOTS” FOUNDER: THE TOBACCO INDUSTRY: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on July 26, 2017 at 12:41 am

“Should Barack Obama Be Impeached?” shouted the September, 2014 headline on the Right-wing website of TeaParty.org.

“A fake birth certificate, the Benghazi attack, the IRS scandal, National Security invasions on privacy….Many are questioning Obama’s competence.  Should Congress initiate impeachment proceedings?

“What do you think?”

Then the site offered this in tribute to its sponsor:

“TeaParty.org, one of America’s leading websites and top online news sources is conducting a poll about an important issue.

“The results of these polls will be published online and are shared with major news networks and policymakers.

“Don’t miss this opportunity to let your voice be heard!  Vote today!”

The viewer was then given two questions to answer.

The first was:  “Should Barack Obama be impeached?”

The website offered three possible answers for the visitor to choose:

  1. “Yes, the events are now overwhelming.”
  2. “No, these do not meet the threshold of high crimes and misdemeanors.”
  3. “Not sure, still waiting to review the evidence.”

The second question was: “Whom do you believe has better solutions for the nation’s problems?”

It, too, provided three possible answers:

  1. “Conservatives”
  2. “Liberals”
  3. “Neither.”

The website omitted a number of truths—about both President Barack Obama and the Tea Party itself.

Slander #1: “A false birth certificate”

The election of Barack Obama pushed the Right to new heights of infamy. With no political scandal (such as Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky) to fasten on, the Republican Party deliberately promoted the slander that Obama was not an American citizen.

From this there could be only one conclusion: That he was an illegitimate President, and should be removed from office.

President Barack Obama

During the 2008 Presidential campaign, Republicans charged that Obama was really a Muslim non-citizen who intended to sell out America’s security to his Muslim “masters.”

And this smear campaign continued throughout his Presidency.

To the dismay of his enemies, Obama—in the course of a single week—dramatically proved the falsity of both charges.

On April 27, 2011, he released the long-form of his Hawaii birth certificate.

The long-form version of President Obama’s birth certificate

“We do not have time for this kind of silliness,” said Obama at a press conference, speaking as a father might to a roomful of spiteful children. “We have better stuff to do. I have got better stuff to do. We have got big problems to solve.

“We are not going to be able to do it if we are distracted, we are not going to be able to do it if we spend time vilifying each other…if we just make stuff up and pretend that facts are not facts, we are not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by side shows and carnival barkers.”

And on May 1, he announced the solving of one of those “big problems”: Osama bin Laden, mastermind of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, had been tracked down and shot dead by elite U.S. Navy SEALS in Pakistan.

Slander #2: “The Benghazi attack”

A total of four Americans died in a terrorist attack on the American diplomatic consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012.

Whereas a total of 3,000 Americans died in the Al Qaeda attacks of September 11, 2001.  But those occurred on the watch of a white Republican President, so naturally no treason charges were invoked by the Right.

Slander #3: “The IRS scandal”

In 2013, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) disclosed that it had selected political groups applying for tax-exempt status for intensive scrutiny based on their names or political themes.

Although Right-wingers have claimed that their political organizations were exclusively targeted by the IRS, the agency opened investigations based on such trigger-words as:

  • Tea Party
  • Patriots
  • 9/12 Project
  • progressive
  • occupy
  • Israel
  • medical marijuana

“While some of the IRS questions may have been overbroad, you can look at some of these groups and understand why these questions were being asked,” said Ohio State University law professor Donald Tobin.

In January, 2014, the FBI announced that it had found no evidence warranting the filing of federal criminal charges in connection with the scandal.

No evidence has come to light suggesting that President Obama was responsible for the IRS’s actions.

Slander #4: “National Security Agency (NSA) invasions on privacy”

This totally ignores that it was former President George W. Bush who, after 9/11, ordered the NSA to vastly increase its electronic-interception capabilities.

No longer would the agency be confined to spying on calls outside the United States.   From now on, it would target Americans who might be linked to international terror cells.

Slander #5: “Many are questioning Obama’s competence”

While this was true—among those on the Right and Left—it missed the essential legal point: Even if true, “incompetence” is not a legitimate impeachable offense.

And no evidence ever came forth to indict President Obama for “high crimes and misdemeanors.” 

Meanwhile, there was a great deal about the Tea Party itself that its founders didn’t reveal in their “poll”. 

Such as the truth that it was created by the tobacco industry and the billionaire Koch brothers.

ENDING GUN MASSACRES

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 25, 2017 at 12:09 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: HEALTHCARE IS FOR US, BUT NOT FOR YOU

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on July 24, 2017 at 2:44 pm

On July 14, Arizona’s United States Senator John McCain underwent a “minimally invasive” medical procedure at Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix to remove a blood clot from above his left eye.

Soon afterward, his Senate office announced:

“Senator McCain received excellent treatment at Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix, and appreciates the tremendous professionalism and care by its doctors and staff.

“He is in good spirits and recovering comfortably at home with his family. On the advice of his doctors, Senator McCain will be recovering in Arizona next week.”

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John McCain

McCain, who has a fair complexion, has repeatedly battled melanoma, a sometimes-deadly form of skin cancer. In 2000, the year he ran for President against George W. Bush, he had a particularly serious episode.

When he ran again for President in 2008, he told reporters: “Like most Americans, I go to see my doctor fairly frequently.”

He has had at least four documented cases of melanoma.

Lost in the massive publicity of McCain’s latest brush with melanoma was the sheer irony of the situation.

McCain had “received excellent treatment at Mayo Clinic Hospital” at a time when he and his fellow Republicans were vigorously trying to repeal President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA).

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Barack Obama

The Act—nicknamed “Obamacare”—has provided access to healthcare to millions of poor and middle-class Americans who had previously been unable to afford it.

Since its becoming law on March 23, 2010, Republicans have declared it Public Enemy Number One and set out to repeal it. By March 2014 they had voted against it 54 times, trying to undo or substantially change it.

In October, 2013, they shut down the Federal Government for 15 days. They hoped to extort Obama into de-funding the ACA: If he did, they would re-open Federal agencies.

But, facing pressure from voters unable to obtain basic government services, Republicans backed down. 

During the 2016 Presidential campaign, every Republican candidate pledged to repeal Obamacare if s/he were elected.

Donald Trump—who won the Republican nomination and then the election—repeatedly made this the centerpiece of his campaign. 

On October 25, he promised: “My first day in office, I am going to ask Congress to put a bill on my desk getting rid of this disastrous law and replacing it with reforms that expand choice, freedom, affordability.”

McCain himself has repeatedly tried to restrict access to healthcare by ordinary Americans.

On January 29, 2009, he voted against the Childrens Health Insurance Program Reauthorization and Expansion.

This expanded State Children’s Health Insurance Program coverage from 6.6 million children to about 11 million children.

On December 24, 2009, he voted against the ACA. 

On February 2, 2011, McCain voted to repeal the ACA.

On July 26, 2015, McCain voted to repeal the ACA and the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010.

On December 3, 2015, he voted for the “Restoring Americans’ Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act of 2015.”

This would have gutted “Obamacare” by repealing the individual mandate, the employer mandate, the medical device excise tax, and the “Cadillac tax”” on expensive employee health insurance premiums.

It also included a measure to eliminate federal Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood for one year.

And what lay behind Republican efforts to “repeal and replace” the ACA?

Americans earning $5 million or more—those in the top 0.1%—would receive an average tax cut of nearly $250,000 in 2026, according to an analysis by the Tax Policy Center. Those earning $875,000 and more—those in the top 1%—would save $45,500 in taxes a year.

Appearing on the June 23 edition of the PBS Newshour, syndicated columnist Mark Shields said: “And what it is, the only thing that the House and the Senate are consistently faithful on is that it’s a major tax cut, It is a redistribution.

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David Brooks and Mark Shields

“Obama, who was, you know, if anything, overly moderate for many tastes, did, in fact, lay it on the most advantaged among us to pay, to cover people who couldn’t afford it in his plan. And a 3.8 percent tax on unearned income for those earning over a quarter of a million dollars became the rallying cry, the organizing principle for the opposition.

“And that’s the one constant that has been through it all. Warren Buffett, to his everlasting credit, pointed out that he will get a tax cut under the Republican plan this year of $630,000. That’s the redistribution.

“And, you know, in the richest nation in the history of the world, it is a terrible indictment, a sad commentary that the most vulnerable among us, the least—the least among us are really tossed off as a political statement.”

Speaking on the same program, David Brooks, conservative columnist for the New York Times, said: “What it does—you ought to start with, what kind of country are we in? We’re in a country where—widening inequality.

“And so I think it’s possible to be a conservative and to support market mechanisms basically to redistribute wealth down to those who are suffering.

“This bill doesn’t do that. It goes the other way. So, I think, fundamentally, it doesn’t solve the basic problem our country has, which is a lot of people are extremely vulnerable.”

LIKE HITLER, LIKE TRUMP–“LET THEM DIE”: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 21, 2017 at 12:21 am

On March 6, 2017, House Republican leaders unveiled the American Health Care Act (AHCA) as their replacement for “Obamacare.”

Conservative Republicans immediately declared that it didn’t repeal and replace Obamacare. And “moderates” complained that it would leave too many people uninsured. 

Democrats, meanwhile, stayed silent. They had pushed hard in 2009-10 to provide all Americans with access to healthcare. And they weren’t going to participate in dismantling their signature legislation.

On March 13, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office released its report estimating that about 18 million people would be uninsured in 2018 if the AHCA were enacted. The number of uninsured people would reach 19 million in 2020 and 24 million in 2026.

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Still, Republicans plunged forward, with House leaders tweaking it slightly to win conservative and “moderate” votes.

Still, conservatives felt the bill helped too many people. And “moderates” feared that the millions of voters who would lose their insurance would vote them out of office at the next election. 

On March 24, President Donald Trump, knowing the AHCA couldn’t pass the House, asked Speaker Paul Ryan to pull it off the floor. 

And Ryan did so, only moments before a scheduled vote.

Finally, on May 4, House Republicans were ready to vote to pass the AHCA.

The vote was preceded by a pep rally, which featured beer, the “Rocky” theme song, the “Taking Care of Business” song, a prayer and the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance.

Some Republicans, asked whether they had read the bill they supported, refused to answer. 

That up to 24 million Americans would lose their medical insurance meant nothing to Right-wingers. 

What did matter to them was:

  • Destroying the legacy of Barack Obama, the nation’s first black President; and
  • Initiating a huge transfer of wealth from the poor and middle-class to the 1% wealthiest.

On May 4, House Republicans passed the AHCA and sent it the Senate. There it was expected to be significantly revised.

But this, too, didn’t matter to House Republicans. They had “kept faith” with their hate-filled. Right-wing constituents—and assured their own re-elections. 

Speaking in front of nearly 100 GOP lawmakers in the White House Rose Garden, Trump boasted that the AHCA would “finish off” the “catastrophe” of Obamacare.

Donald Trump

At a White House celebration, Trump boasted: “This has brought the Republican Party together.”

But then came disaster—for Republicans—in the Senate. 

With Democrats abstaining, Republicans found themselves fighting each other. 

Some wanted to gut “Obamacare” entirely, whatever the consequences for the 24 million Americans who would be left without insurance.

Others feared that slashing more than $700 billion from Medicaid—the Federal medical insurance program for the poor—would lead to millions of angry voters turning out Republicans at the polls.

(And slashing Medicaid—as opposed to expanding it, as President Obama had sought to do—was a major reason why Republicans wanted to overturn “Obamacare.”) 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) desperately tried to hammer out a compromise between the two opposing sides. When this proved impossible, it was clear the “repeal and replace” bill wouldn’t pass the Senate. 

At that point, President Trump tweeted his own solution: “Republicans should just ‘REPEAL’ failing ObamaCare now & work on a new Healthcare Plan that will start from a clean slate. Dems will join in!” 

But this proved too politically risky for some Republicans. 

On July 18, Republican Senators’ efforts to replace the ACA without a ready replacement collapsed. 

As usual, Donald Trump had a ready “solution” to offer. Like Adolf Hitler issuing his “scorched earth” order in a doomed Berlin in 1945, the President said:

“Let Obamacare fail; it’ll be a lot easier. And I think we’re probably in that position where we’ll just let Obamacare fail.

“We’re not going to own it. I’m not going to own it. I can tell you the Republicans are not going to own it. We’ll let Obamacare fail, and then the Democrats are going to come to us and they’re going to say, ‘How do we fix it? How do we fix it?’ Or, ‘How do we come up with a new plan?’” 

* * * * *

Allowing Obamacare to fail would deprive millions of Americans of healthcare. But that meant nothing to Donald Trump.

Just as destroying everything still remaining in Germany had meant nothing to Adolf Hitler.

Fortunately for Germany, one man—Albert Speer—finally broke ranks with his Fuhrer.

Albert Speer

Albert Speer

Risking death, he refused to carry out Hitler’s “scorched earth” order. Even more important, he mounted a successful effort to block such destruction and persuade influential military and civilian leaders to disobey the order as well.

As a result, those targets slated for destruction were spared.

Since the election of America’s first black President, Republicans have waged a similar “scorched earth” campaign.

Acting as extortionists, they repeatedly threatened to shut down the government if they didn’t get their way in legislative matters. And they repeatedly blocked legislation to help the poor, the unemployed, the sick, women, the elderly, the disabled and the middle-class. 

Like Adolf Hitler, their attitude has been: “If I can’t rule America, there won’t be an America.”

The country is still waiting for a Republican Albert Speer to step forward and save America from the self-destructive brutalities of its own Right-wing fanatics.

LIKE HITLER, LIKE TRUMP–“LET THEM DIE”: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 20, 2017 at 12:50 am

Albert Speer, Minister of Armaments for the Third Reich, was appalled.

His Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler—the man he had idolized for 14 years—had just passed a death sentence on Germany, the nation he claimed to love above all others.

Albert Speer and Adolf Hitler pouring over architectural plans

On March 19, 1945, facing certain defeat, Hitler had ordered a massive “scorched-earth” campaign throughout Germany.

All German agriculture, industry, ships, communications, roads, food stuffs, mines, bridges, stores and utility plants were to be destroyed.

If implemented, it would deprive the entire German population of even the barest necessities after the war.

Now living in a bunker 50 feet below bomb-shattered Berlin, Hitler gave full vent to his most destructive impulses.

Adolf Hitler addressing boy soldiers as the Third Reich crumbles

“If the war is lost,” Hitler told Speer, “the nation will also perish. This fate is inevitable. There is no necessity to take into consideration the basis which the people will need to continue even a most primitive existence.

“On the contrary, it will be better to destroy these things ourselves, because this nation will have proved to be the weaker one and the future will belong solely to the stronger eastern nation.

“Besides, those who will remain after the battle are only the inferior ones, for the good ones have all been killed.”

Speer argued in vain that there must be a future for the German people. But Hitler refused to back down. He gave Speer 24 hours to reconsider his opposition to the order.

The next day, Speer told Hitler: “My Fuhrer, I stand unconditionally behind you!”

“Then all is well,” said Hitler, suddenly with tears in his eyes.

“If I stand unreservedly behind you,” said Speer, “then you must entrust me rather than the Gauleiters [district Party leaders serving as provincial governors] with the implementation of your decree.”

Filled with gratitude, Hitler signed the decree Speer had thoughtfully prepared before their fateful meeting.

By doing so, Hitler unintentionally gave Speer the power to thwart his “scorched earth” decree.

Speer had been the closest thing to a friend in Hitler’s life. Trained as an architect, he had joined the Nazi Party in 1931.

He met Hitler in 1933, when he presented the Fuhrer with architectural designs for the Nuremberg Rally scheduled for that year.

From then on, Speer became Hitler’s “genius architect” assigned to create buildings meant to last for a thousand years.

In 1943, Hitler appointed him Minister of Armaments, charged with revitalizing the German war effort.

Nevertheless, Speer now crisscrossed Germany, persuading military leaders and district governors to not destroy the vital facilities that would be needed after the war.

“No other senior National Socialist could have done the job,” writes Randall Hanson, author of Disobeying Hitler: German Resistance After Valkyrie.

“Speer was one of the very few people in the Reich—perhaps even the only one—with such power to influence actors’ willingness/unwillingness to destroy.”

Despite his later conviction for war crimes at Nuremberg, Speer never regretted his efforts to save Germany from total destruction at the hands of Adolf Hitler.

Fast-forward to the United States and the 2008 election of the nation’s first black President. 

On March 23, 2010, President Barack Obama signed into law the Affordable Care Act (ACA), nicknamed Obamacare. Its purpose: To provide access to healthcare for millions of poor and middle-class Americans who had heretofore been unable to obtain it.

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President Barack Obama

It became—and remains—Obama’s signature legislative accomplishment. 

Republicans immediately declared “Obamacare” Public Enemy Number One and set out to repeal it. By March 2014 they had already voted against it 54 times, trying to undo or substantially change it.

In October, 2013, they shut down the Federal Government for 15 days. They hoped to extort Obama into de-funding the ACA: If he did, they would re-open Federal agencies.

But, facing pressure from voters unable to obtain basic government services, Republicans backed down. 

During the 2016 Presidential campaign, every Republican candidate pledged to repeal Obamacare if s/he were elected.

Donald Trump—who won the Republican nomination and then the election—repeatedly made this the centerpiece of his campaign. 

On October 25, he promised: “My first day in office, I am going to ask Congress to put a bill on my desk getting rid of this disastrous law and replacing it with reforms that expand choice, freedom, affordability.

“You’re going to have such great health care at a tiny fraction of the cost. And it’s going to be so easy.”

But after taking office on January 20, he found that replacing the ACA wasn’t so easy.

On March 6, 2017, House Republicans unveiled the American Health Care Act (AHCA). This was attacked by conservatives because it didn’t repeal and replace Obamacare. And “moderate” Republicans complained that it would leave too many people uninsured.

On March 13, 2017, the Congressional Budget Committee released its report estimating that about 18 million people would be uninsured in 2018 if the AHCA were enacted. The number of uninsured people would reach 19 million in 2020 and 23 million in 2026. 

Still, Republicans plunged forward, with House leaders making slight changes to win conservative and moderate votes.

“FAMILY VALUES”: A SLOGAN FOR HYPOCRITES

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 19, 2017 at 12:10 am

Dennis Hastert, the former Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, was released from Federal prison today–July 18.

He had served 13 months of a 15-month sentence.

Hastert was the Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1999 to 2007. He had been indicted on May 28, 2015, for violating federal banking laws and lying to the FBI.

He had tried to conceal $3.5 million he had paid since 2010 to a man he had molested as a high school student.

The student had been on the wrestling team that Hastert had coached as a teacher at Yorkville High School in Yorkfille, Ill.

“I felt a special bond with our wrestlers,” Hastert wrote in his 2004 memoirs, Speaker: Lessons From Forty Years of Coaching and Politics. “And I think they felt one with me.”

Apparently that “special bond” extended to activities outside the ring. In the pre-sentence  report, Justice Department prosecutors charged that Hastert had abused four young boys when he was their wrestling coach. One was only 14 years old.  

Hastert had claimed that a coach should never strip away another person’s dignity. But, said federal prosecutors, “that is exactly what defendant did to his victims. He made them feel alone, ashamed, guilty, and devoid of dignity.”

Later, in 1981, Hastert entered Congress.

Dennis Hastert

Hastert was not indicted for having had a sexual relationship with an underage student. The statute of limitations had long ago run out on that offense.

He was indicted for trying to evade federal banking laws and lying to the FBI.

The Bureau had wanted to know if Hastert was using the cash for criminal purposes or if he was the victim of a criminal extortion.

And Hastert had claimed he was storing cash because he didn’t feel safe with the banking system: “Yeah, I kept the cash. That’s what I’m doing.”

J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building

On October 28, 2015, Hastert pleaded guilty to structuring money transactions in a way to avoid requirements to report where the money was going.  

Although he escaped going to prison as a child molester, he did not escape the stigma of being labeled one.

“The defendant is a serial child molester,” pronounced Judge Thomas M. Durkin at Hastert’s sentencing. “Some actions can obliterate a lifetime of good works. Nothing is more stunning than having ‘serial child molester’ and ‘Speaker of the House’ in the same sentence.”

During his tenure as Speaker of the House, Hastert had waged all-out war on homosexual rights. This included:

  • Pushing the anti-homosexual Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) through the House. This “forbids requiring any state or any other political subdivision of the United States to credit as a marriage a same-sex relationship treated as marriage in another state or equivalent government.”
  • Proposing a Constitutional amendment to “establish that marriage shall consist of one man and one woman.”
  • Voting against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which banned companies from discriminating against employees “on the basis of sexual orientation.”

Owing to Hastert’s “deeply conservative” voting record, in 1998, he received perfect scores of 100 from

  • The National Rifle Association;
  • The Christian Coalition;
  • The National Right to Life Committee; and
  • The Chamber of Commerce.

Hastert, who concealed his past as a sexual predator while claiming to be a man of virtue, wrote in his autobiography: “I was never a very good liar. Maybe I wasn’t smart enough. I could never get away with it, so I made up my mind as a kid to tell the truth and pay the consequences.”

It would take decades before the revealing of the truth forced him to pay the consequences.

Hastert makes the third Republican “family values” Speaker of the House to become ensnared in an ethics scandal.

  • Newt Gingrich was the first Speaker (1985-1999) in the history of the House to be reprimanded and punished for ethics violations. His offense: Claiming tax-exempt status for a college course run for political purposes.
  • His successor, Bob Livingston, a supposedly happily married man and Gingrich’s presumed successor, was forced to resign when Hustler publisher Larry Flynt revealed his sexual infidelities. He had self-righteously demanded that President Bill Clinton, who had had an extramarital affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, resign his office.
  • Dennis Hastert’s conduct involved neither money nor women—but a series of male high school students.

Of course, Democrats have had their sex scandals as well. But Democrats usually don’t suffer as badly from them.

The reason: Republicans portray themselves as moral examples for the nation. So for them, being caught literally with their pants down proves a double-whammy.

They are condemned for their specific illegal/immoral acts—and for the sheer hypocrisy of their false claims of sainthood.

Ironically, Right-wingers like Hastert would fare better when caught in homosexual or extramarital affairs if they simply admitted their sexual tastes and registered as Democrats.

But in heavily Right-wing states like Texas and Oklahoma, they wouldn’t stand a chance of being elected as a Democrat. And Red-state voters, feeling themselves moral arbiters of the nation, wouldn’t elect anyone they thought was “unnatural.”

So Right-wingers will continue pretending to be moral paragons—and will continue paying the price when they’re exposed as fallible humans. 

WORDS FOR TYRANTS–AND LIBERATORS: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on July 18, 2017 at 12:22 am

On the May 27, 2016 edition of the PBS Newshour, syndicated columnist Mark Shields noted the ability of Elizabeth Warren to rattle Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump:

“Elizabeth Warren gets under Donald Trunp’s skin. And I think she’s been the most effective adversary. I think she’s done more to unite the Democratic party than either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.

“I mean, she obviously–he can’t stay away from her. He is tweeting about her.”

Donald Trump

And syndicated New York Times Columnist David Brooks said on the same program the Democrats faced two choices in combating Trump:

“And so the tactics…is either you do what Elizabeth Warren has done, like full-bore negativity, that kind of [get] under the skin, or try to ridicule him and use humor. Humor is not Hillary Clinton’s strongest point.”  

But sharp-edged humor clearly works for Warren.  

A May 12, 2016 story on CNN—“Elizabeth Warren Gives Trump a Dose of His Own Medicine on Twitter”—notes:  

“In the past week the Massachusetts Democrat has refined an aggressive anti-Trump message through a series of so-called tweetstorms. 

“Whenever Trump criticizes her, Warren fires right back at him, sometimes twice as hard.”  

Warren’s tweets, according to the article, appeared to have two goals:

  1. Challenge Trump on social media, which he had so far dominated; and
  2. Use attention-catching words like “bully” and “loser.”  

Among her tweets:

  • “But here’s the thing. You can beat a bully—not by tucking tail and running, but by holding your ground.” 
  • “You care so much about struggling American workers, @realDonaldTrump, that you want to abolish the federal minimum wage?”
  • @realDonaldTrump: Your policies are dangerous. Your words are reckless. Your record is embarrassing. And your free ride is over.”

Nor did Warren restrict herself to battling Trump on Twitter.

Elizabeth Warren--Official 113th Congressional Portrait--.jpg

Elizabeth Warren

On May 24, 2016, Warren unleashed perhaps her most devastating attack on Trump at an event hosted by the Center for Popular Democracy:

“Just yesterday, it came out that Donald Trump had said back in 2007 that he was ‘excited’ for the real estate market to crash because, quote, ‘I’ve always made more money in bad markets than in good markets.’

“That’s right. The rest of us were horrified by the 2008 financial crisis, by what happened to the millions of families…that were forced out of their homes.  

“But Donald Trump was drooling over the idea of a housing meltdown—because it meant he could buy up a bunch more property on the cheap….

“What kind of a man does that? I’ll tell you exactly what kind—a man who cares about no one but himself. A small, insecure moneygrubber who doesn’t care who gets hurt, so long as he makes some money off it….”

As a whole, Democrats have shown themselves indifferent to or ignorant of the power of effective language.

Many of them—such as former President Barack Obama—take the view: “I’m not going to get into the gutter like my opponents.” Thus, they take the “high ground” while their sworn Republican enemies undermine them via “smear and fear” tactics. 

As far back as the early 1950s, slander-hurling Wisconsin U.S. Senator Joseph R. McCarthy demonstrated the effectiveness of such tactics. Wrote Pulitzer-Prize winning author David Halberstam, in his monumental study of the origins of the Vietnam War, The Best and the Brightest:

“But if they did not actually stick, and they did not, [McCarthy’s] charges had an equally damaging effect: They poisoned. Where there was smoke, there must be fire. He wouldn’t be saying these things [voters reasoned] unless there was something to it.” 

Tyrants are conspicuously vulnerable to ridicule, yet, here, too, Democrats have proven unable or unwilling to make use of this powerful weapon. 

Donald Trump, for example, has labeled established news media as “fake news.” Yet despite his repeated assaults on the press, judiciary and Intelligence agencies such as the CIA and FBI, not one Democrat has dared to label him a “fake President.” 

Similarly, while he has branded Hillary Clinton “Crooked Hillary,” no Democrat—despite Trump’s well-established admiration for Russian dictator Vladimir Putin—has dared to call him “Red Donald.” 

Nor to charge him with using dictatorial methods via the damning barb: “TrumPutin.”

Nor, in this YouTube-obsessed age, have Democrats assailed Trump with a ridiculing video. In the hands of a creative writer, “Springtime for Hitler,” the signature tune of the hit play and movie, The Producers, could become “Springtime for Trumpland.” 

And Democrats could attack the Trump administration’s secretive ties with Russian oligarchs and Intelligence agents by turning the Muppet Song, “The Rainbow Connection,” into “The Russian Connection.” 

A possible stanza could go: 

Abraham Lincoln is watching and asking:
“How much more slime must there be?”
What’s so amazing is we just sit gazing
While traitors destroy liberty.

Someday we’ll find it
The Russian Connection—
The bribers, the traitors, you’ll see.

If Democrats continue to fight Waffen-SS tactics with those of a Shirley Temple, they will continue to decline in influence as a political party. Their only hope lies in combating the Heinz Guderians of the Republican Party with the full-force tactics of a George S. Patton.

WORDS FOR TYRANTS–AND LIBERATORS: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on July 17, 2017 at 12:41 am

Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks appear every Friday on the PBS Newshour to review the week’s major political events.

On May 27, 2016, Shields—a liberal, and Brooks, a conservative—came to some disturbingly similar conclusions about the character of Republican Presidential front-runner Donald Trump.  

With the business magnate having won the 2016 Republican Presidential nomination, both columnists appeared increasingly dismayed. 

Related image

David Brooks and Mark Shields

MARK SHIELDS: “Donald Trump gratuitously slandered Ted Cruz’s wife. He libeled Ted Cruz’s father for being potentially part of Lee Harvey Oswald’s assassination of the president of the United States, suggesting that he was somehow a fellow traveler in that.  

“This is a libel. You don’t get over it….  

“…I think this man may be addicted to the roar of the grease paint and the sound of the crowd, or however it goes, smell of the crowd.”

Donald Trump

Ironically, Rand Paul, Republican U.S. Senator from Kentucky, had reached a similar conclusion about Trump:  

“I think there is a sophomore quality that is entertaining with Mr. Trump, but I am worried. I’m very concerned of having him in charge of his nuclear weapons because his visceral response to attack people on their appearance—short, tall, fat, ugly—my goodness that happened in junior high.”

DAVID BROOKS: “Trump, for all his moral flaws, is a marketing genius. And you look at what he does. He just picks a word and he attaches it to a person. Little Marco [Rubio], Lyin’ Ted [Cruz], Crooked Hillary [Clinton].

“And that’s a word.  And that’s how marketing works. It’s a simple, blunt message, but it gets under.

“It sticks, and it diminishes. And so it has been super effective for him, because he knows how to do that.  And she [Hillary Clinton] just comes with, ‘Oh, he’s divisive.’

“These are words that are not exciting people. And her campaign style has gotten, if anything…a little more stagnant and more flat.” 

Hillary Clinton wasn’t the only Presidential candidate who proved unable to cope with Trump’s gift for insult.  His targets—and insults—included:

  • Former Texas Governor Rick Perry: “Wears glasses to seem smart.”
  • Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush: “Low Energy Jeb.” 
  • Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders: “Crazy Bernie.” 
  • Ohio Governor John Kasich: “Mathematically dead and totally desperate.”

How did American politics reach this state of affairs?  

In 1996, Newt Gingrich, then Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, wrote a memo that encouraged Republicans to “speak like Newt.”

Entitled “Language: A Key Mechanism of Control,” it urged Republicans to attack Democrats with such words as “corrupt,” “selfish,” “destructive,” “hypocrisy,” “liberal,” “sick,” and “traitors.”

Newt Gingrich

Even worse, Gingrich encouraged the news media to disseminate such accusations.  Among his suggestions:

  • “Fights make news.”
  • Create a “shield issue” to deflect criticism: “A shield issue is, just, you know, your opponent is going to attack you as lacking compassion. You better…show up in the local paper holding a baby in the neonatal center.”

In the memo, Gingrich advised:

“….In the video “We are a Majority,” Language is listed as a key mechanism of control used by a majority party, along with Agenda, Rules, Attitude and Learning. 

“As the tapes have been used in training sessions across the country and mailed to candidates we have heard a plaintive plea: ‘I wish I could speak like Newt.’

“That takes years of practice. But, we believe that you could have a significant impact on your campaign and the way you communicate if we help a little. That is why we have created this list of words and phrases….

“This list is prepared so that you might have a directory of words to use in writing literature and mail, in preparing speeches, and in producing electronic media.

“The words and phrases are powerful. Read them. Memorize as many as possible. And remember that like any tool, these words will not help if they are not used.”

Here is the list of words Gingrich urged his followers to use in describing “the opponent, their record, proposals and their party”:

  • abuse of power
  • anti- (issue): flag, family, child, jobs
  • betray
  • bizarre
  • bosses
  • bureaucracy
  • cheat
  • coercion
  • “compassion” is not enough
  • collapse(ing)
  • consequences
  • corrupt
  • corruption
  • criminal rights
  • crisis
  • cynicism
  • decay
  • deeper
  • destroy
  • destructive
  • devour
  • disgrace
  • endanger
  • excuses
  • failure (fail)
  • greed
  • hypocrisy
  • ideological
  • impose
  • incompetent
  • insecure
  • insensitive
  • intolerant
  • liberal
  • lie
  • limit(s)
  • machine
  • mandate(s)
  • obsolete
  • pathetic
  • patronage
  • permissive attitude
  • pessimistic
  • punish (poor …)
  • radical
  • red tape
  • self-serving
  • selfish
  • sensationalists
  • shallow
  • shame
  • sick
  • spend(ing)
  • stagnation
  • status quo
  • steal
  • taxes
  • they/them
  • threaten
  • traitors
  • unionized
  • urgent (cy)
  • waste
  • welfare

Yes, speaking like Newt—or Adolf Hitler or Joseph McCarthy—“takes years of practice.”  

And to the dismay of both Republicans and Democrats, Donald Trump has learned his lessons well.

Only one opponent—who was not a Presidential candidate—managed to stand up to Trump: Massachusetts U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren. 

On the May 27, 2016 edition of the PBS Newshour, syndicated columnist Mark Shields noted the ability of Elizabeth Warren to rattle Trump:

“Elizabeth Warren gets under Donald Trump’s skin.  And I think she’s been the most effective adversary. I think she’s done more to unite the Democratic party than either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.”

DATA SECURITY BREACHES: “WE DON’T CARE–WE DON’T HAVE TO”

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 14, 2017 at 1:15 am

Comedian Lily Tomlin rose to fame on the 1960s comedy hit, Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, as Ernestine, the rude, sarcastic switchboard operator for Ma Bell.

She would tap into customers’ calls, interrupt them, make snide remarks about their personal lives. And her victims included celebrities as much as run-of-the-mill customers.

Lily Tomlin as Ernestine

She introduced herself as working for “the phone company, serving everyone from presidents and kings to the scum of the earth.”

But perhaps the line for which her character is best remembered was: “We don’t care. We don’t have to. We’re the phone company.”

Watching Ernestine on Laugh-In was a blast for millions of TV viewers. But facing such corporate arrogance in real-life is no laughing matter.

Clearly, too many companies take the same attitude as Ernestine: “We don’t care. We don’t have to.”

This is especially true for companies that are supposed to safeguard their customers’ most sensitive information—such as their credit card numbers, addresses, emails and phone numbers.

An October 22, 2014 “commentary” published in Forbes magazine raised the highly disturbing question: “Cybersecurity: Does Corporate America Really Care?”

And the answer is clearly: No.

Its author is John Hering, co-founder and executive director of Lookout, which bills itself as “the world leader in mobile security for consumers and enterprises alike.”

Click here: Cybersecurity: Does corporate America really care?

October, 2014 proved a bad month for credit card-using customers of Kmart, Staples and Dairy Queen.

All these corporations reported data breeches involving the theft of credit card numbers of countless numbers of customers.

Earlier breaches had hit Target, Home Depot and JPMorgan/Chase.

And on February 5, 2015, health insurance giant Anthem Inc. announced that hackers had breached its computer system and accessed the medical records of tens of millions of its customers and employees.

Anthem, the nation’s second-largest health insurer, said the infiltrated database held records on up to 80 million people.

Among the customers’ information accessed:

  • Names
  • Birthdates
  • Social Security numbers
  • Member ID numbers
  • Addresses
  • Phone numbers
  • Email addresses and
  • Employment information.

Some of the customer data may also include details on their income.

Click here: Anthem hack exposes data on 80 million; experts warn of identity theft – LA Times

Bad as that news was, worse was to come.

A February 5 story by the Wall Street Journal revealed that Anthem stored the Social Security numbers of 80 million customers without encrypting them.

The company believes that hackers used a stolen employee password to access the database

Anthem’s alleged reason for refusing to encrypt such sensitive data: Doing so would have made it harder for the company’s employees to track health care trends or share data with state and Federal health providers.

Anthem spokeswoman Kristin Binns blamed the data breach on employers and government agencies who “require us to maintain a member’s Social Security number in our systems so that their systems can uniquely identify their members.”

She said that Anthem encrypts personal data when it moves in or out of its database–but not where it  is stored.

This is a commonplace practice in the healthcare industry.

The FBI launched an investigation into the hack.

According to an anonymous source, the hackers used malware that has been used almost exclusively by Chinese cyberspies.

Naturally, China has denied any wrongdoing. With a completely straight face, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said:

“We maintain a cooperative, open and secure cyberspace, and we hope that countries around the world will make concerted efforts to that end.”

He also said that the charge that the hackers were Chinese was “groundless.”

Click here: Health Insurer Anthem Didn’t Encrypt Stolen Data – WSJ

Meanwhile, John Hering’s complaints remain as valid today as they did last October.

“One thing is clear,” writes Hering. “CEOs need to put security on their strategic agendas alongside revenue growth and other issues given priority in boardrooms.”

Hering warns that “CEOs don’t seem to be making security a priority.” And he offers several reasons for this:

  • The sheer number of data compromises;
  • Relatively little consumer outcry;
  • Almost no impact on the companies’ standing on Wall Street;
  • Executives may consider such breaches part of the cost of doing business.

“There’s a short-term mindset and denial of convenience in board rooms,” writes Hering.

“Top executives don’t realize their systems are vulnerable and don’t understand the risks. Sales figures and new products are top of mind; shoring up IT systems aren’t.”

There are three ways corporations can be forced to start behaving responsibly on this issue.

  1. Smart attorneys need to start filing class-action lawsuits against companies that refuse to take steps to protect their customers’ private information. There is a name for such behavior: Criminal negligence. And there are laws carrying serious penalties for it.
  2. There must be Federal legislation to ensure that multi-million-dollar fines are levied against such companies—and especially their CEOs—when such data breaches occur.
  3. Congress should enact legislation allowing for the prosecution of CEOs whose companies’ negligence leads to such massive data breaches. They should be considered as accessories to crime, and, if convicted, sentenced to lengthy prison terms.

Only then will the CEO mindset of “We don’t care, we don’t have to” be replaced with: “We care, because we’ll lose our money and/or freedom if we don’t.”

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