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Posts Tagged ‘THE SS’

ALBERT SPEER MEETS DEBORAH BIRX: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on April 7, 2021 at 12:10 am

From January to early March, 2020, President Donald Trump and his allies within the Republican party and Fox News Network repeatedly assured Americans they had nothing to fear from COVID-19.

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Donald Trump

Barnstorming the country in a series of hate-filled political rallies, Trump told his supporters:

  • “We have it totally under control.”
  • “This is [the Democrats’] new hoax.”
  • “It will go away. Just stay calm.”

On February 27, 2020, Dr. Deborah Birx was appointed White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator for President Donald J. Trump.

On March 26, Birx reassured Americans in a press conference that “there is no situation in the United States right now that warrants that kind of discussion [that ventilators or ICU hospital beds might be in limited supply].”

A day earlier, The New York Times had run the headline: “Amid Desperate Need for Ventilators, Calls Grow for Federal Intervention.” 

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, took a different tack. The coronavirus could become cyclical; a vaccine was still many months away; and therapeutic treatments—which Trump had pushed as a “game changer”—were still unproven.

Deborah Birx in April 2020 face detail, from- White House Coronavirus Update Briefing (49742678236) (cropped).jpg

Deborah Birx

Trump insisted that each state was responsible for securing its needed supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) for its doctors and nurses aiding Coronavirus patients. This created ruthless competition and scarcity, with Americans not only fighting the virus but each other. But it ensured that Trump remained the final voice of authority. 

Birx did not publicly urge the Federal Government—i.e., Trump—to create a streamlined approach to providing these necessities. Nor did she protest Trump’s refusal to do so. 

On March 27, The New York Times reported: “Dr. Birx’s comments casting doubt on talk of ventilator and hospital-bed shortages, and praising Mr. Trump’s attention to detail in lavish terms, have raised questions about her independence as the number of coronavirus infections in the United States has soared past 100,000….

“Conservative commentators have praised her as a truth-teller, pushing back on coronavirus hysteria. Critics of Mr. Trump accused her of squandering the credibility she had developed as a health official in Democratic and Republican administrations.” 

In April, she asserted that COVID-19 infections had peaked and the virus was fading quickly. In fact, infections quickly surged. 

Birx helped create a reopening plan—presented by Trump on April 16, 2020—with voluntary standards for states to end coronavirus lockdowns.

On April 23, Trump, in a public press conference, recommended the use of ultraviolet light and disinfectant as possible cures for COVID-19.

Birx remained silent. 

The Internet—and medical experts—did not.

Trump’s critics—including many medical experts—believed that, by her silence, Birx forfeited her opportunity to confront the cascade of lies and crackpot theories Trump was promoting.

One of these was California’s Democratic Representative Ted Lieu: “The malicious incompetence that resulted in hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths starts at the top, with the former President and his enablers. And who was one of his enablers? Dr. Birx, who was afraid to challenge his unscientific rhetoric and wrongfully praised him.”

Political commentator Joe Scarborough said: “…And it’s been one scam idea after another, that people then promoted on other networks, scam doctors promoting these scam solutions, claiming that everybody who had taken this malaria drug had been cured in certain hospitals. This is just the sort of thing that catches up to Donald Trump.”

In July 2020, a working group convened by Birx ordered hospitals to bypass the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and send all COVID-19 patient information to a database at the Department of Health and Human Services. 

The continuing flood of alarming Coronavirus information was undermining Trump’s “everything-is-OK” assurances. Some public health officials warned that bypassing the CDC would allow Trump to politicize the findings and withhold them from the public.

In November, Birx stated in an internal report: “There is an absolute necessity of the Administration to use this moment to ask the American people to wear masks, physical distance and avoid gatherings in both public and private spaces.”

But she did not say this in public.

Trump had politicized the wearing of masks, dividing the country into his supporters, who didn’t wear masks, and “Never Trumpers” who did. He also called for the “liberation” of states that had ordered lockdowns to stop the spread of the virus.

Birx never publicly criticized Trump for creating this divisiveness. 

During Thanksgiving, Birx hosted three generations of her family from two households—after she had urged Americans to restrict such gatherings to “your immediate household.”

After her term ended on January 20, 2021, Birx said that she had often considered quitting her position due to the administration’s hyper-partisanship, especially during the 2020 Presidential election.

Perhaps the most damning verdict on Deborah Birx came from Birx herself.

On March 29, 2021, speaking with Sanjay Gupta, MD, CNN’s chief medical correspondent, she said: “The first time, we have an excuse. There were about 100,000 deaths that came from the original surge. All of the rest of them, in my mind, could have been mitigated or decreased substantially.” 

By mid-March, 2021, nearly 550,000 Americans had died from COVID-19.

ALBERT SPEER MEETS DEBORAH BIRX: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on April 6, 2021 at 12:07 am

Born on March 19, 1905 and trained as an architect, Albert Speer joined the Nazi Party in 1931. He met Adolf Hitler in 1933, when he presented the Fuhrer with architectural designs for the Nuremberg Rally scheduled for that year.

Hitler was thoroughly impressed.

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

In 1937, Hitler appointed Speer as General Building Inspector for Berlin. This made him responsible for the Central Department for Resettlement that evicted Jewish tenants from their homes in Berlin. The vast majority of these men, women and children ended up in extermination camps.

Adolf Hitler

Speer had nothing to do with their imprisonment; that was strictly the province of SS-Reichsuhrer Heinirich Himmler. Nevertheless, he knew the end results of his evictions. 

On September 1, 1939, Hitler ordered the invasion of Poland—unintentionally igniting World War II.

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

As Hitler’s architect, Speer had stayed aloof from the political intrigues of such power-driven men as Himmler, Luftwaffe chief Hermann Goering and Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels.

But as Minister of Armaments, Speer thrust himself into the currents of intrigue surrounding the Fuhrer. It was this role that earned him 20 years in Spandau Prison for war crimes.

Albert Speer

 Albert Speer

With millions of able-bodied German men drafted for his endless wars, Hitler turned to slave laborers to keep his arms factories going.

“Speer joined in planning and executing the program to dragoon prisoners of war and foreign workers into German war industries, which waxed in output while the workers waned in starvation,” charged chief United States prosecutor Robert H. Jackson during the Nuremberg war crimes trials.

Speer’s attorney, Hans Flächsner, presented Speer as an artist thrust into political life who had always remained apolitical. 

Both at Nuremberg and for the rest of his life, Speer claimed that he was unaware of Nazi extermination plans. But in a letter dated December 23, 1971, Speer wrote: “There is no doubt—I was present as Himmler announced on October 6, 1943, that all Jews would be killed.”

If Speer’s extensive involvement in the Holocaust had been known at the time of his trial he would have been sentenced to death. Twelve of his fellow defendants were so sentenced—and died by hanging. 

Speer was found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity, principally for the use of slave labor and forced labor. He was sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment, and was released from Spandau Prison on October 1, 1966. 

He spent the rest of his life portraying himself as “the good Nazi” who, as an apolitical technocrat, deeply regretted having failed to discover the monstrous crimes of the Third Reich. Out of this came his bestselling autobiography, Inside the Third Reich, published in 1969. 

He died of a heart attack on September 1, 1981—42 years to the day his Fuhrer had plunged the world into war.

British historian Hugh Trevor-Roper considered Speer an administrative genius whose basic instincts were peaceful and constructive. Nevertheless, he assailed Speer for failing to recognize the immorality of the Hitler regime—and called him “the real criminal of Nazi Germany.” 

Specifically:

“For ten years he sat at the very centre of political power; his keen intelligence diagnosed the nature and observed the mutations of Nazi government and policy; he saw and despised the personalities around him; he heard their outrageous orders and understood their fantastic ambitions; but he did nothing.

“Supposing politics to be irrelevant, he turned aside and built roads and bridges and factories, while the logical consequences of government by madmen emerged. Ultimately, when their emergence involved the ruin of all his work, Speer accepted the consequences and acted. Then it was too late; Germany had been destroyed.” 

Germans are not, however, the only ones to clinch a deal with the Devil.

Eighty-seven years after Albert Speer began his rise to power—and infamy—Deborah Birx, an American physician and diplomat, reached her own height of power—and infamy. 

Born on April 4, 1956, Deborah Birx served from 1980 to 1994 as an active duty reserve officer in the United States Army. From 1994 to 2008, Birx was on active duty regular Army, achieving the rank of Colonel.

From 1980 to 1989, Birx worked as a physician at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. In 1981, she completed a one-year internship and did a two-year residency in internal medicine. From 1983 to 1986, she completed two fellowships in clinical immunology in the areas of allergies and diagnostics.

From 1985 to 1989, Birx was the assistant chief of the Walter Reed Allergy/Immunology Service. Birx started her career as a clinician in immunology, eventually specializing on HIV/AIDS vaccine research. 

She served as the United States global AIDS coordinator for Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump (2014-2020). She also served as the country’s special representative for global health diplomacy between 2015 and 2021.

On February 27, 2020, she was appointed White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator for President Donald J. Trump.

The virus, which originated in Wuhan, China, in December, 2019, quickly spread around the world. 

Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that affect birds and mammals. In humans, they can cause pneumonia and may cause bronchitis.

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Coronavirus

On February 29, 2020, the first American died of Coronavirus. 

HOW ONE MAN’S ADVENT–OR ABSENCE–CAN MAKE HISTORY: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 29, 2020 at 1:19 am

On July 20, 1944, members of the Wehrmacht high command failed to assassinate Adolf Hitler with a bomb hidden in a briefcase.

Adolf Hitler

Mass arrests quickly followed. 

Among the first victims discovered and executed was the conspiracy’s leader, Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg. Standing before a makeshift firing squad at midnight, he cried: “Long live our sacred Germany!”

At least 7,000 persons were arrested by the Gestapo. According to records of the Fuehrer Conferences on Naval Affairs, 4,980 were executed.

Had the conspiracy succeeded, history would have turned out differently:

  • If Germany had surrendered in July or August, 1944, World War II would have ended eight to nine months earlier.
  • The Russians—who didn’t reach Germany until April, 1945—could not have occupied the Eastern part of the country.
  • This would have prevented many of the future conflicts between the United States and the Soviet Union over access to West Berlin and/or West Germany.
  • Untold numbers of Holocaust victims would have survived because the extermination camps would have been shut down.

Thus, history can be altered by the appearance—or disappearance—of a single individual.

Which brings us back to Donald Trump.

Donald Trump

Since becoming President on January 20, 2017, Trump has attacked or undermined one public or private institution after another, including:

  • The Justice Department: Repeatedly attacked his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, for not “protecting” him from the FBI’s investigating ties between the Trump 2016 Presidential campaign and Russian Intelligence agents. In 2018, Trump fired him.
  • Ordered 46 Obama-era prosecutors to resign and fired the Inspectors General of five cabinet departments.
  • Appointed William Barr as Attorney General in 2019 to protect him against investigations of his rampant criminality—both before and after he became President. 
  • The CIA: Refused to accept its findings—and those of the FBI and National Security Agency—that Russian Intelligence agents had intervened in the 2016 election to ensure his victory. Repeatedly defended Russian dictator Vladimir Putin’s denials of this. 
  • The FBI:  Fired FBI Director James B. Comey for refusing to serve as Trump’s private secret police chief.
  • Repeatedly violated the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution by using his position as President to further enrich himself.
  • The military: Threatened to order the U.S. Armed Forces to violate the rights of Americans protesting police brutality and the killing of George Floyd. 
  • The press: Tweeted: “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes@NBCNews@ABC@CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!”  (“Enemy of the people” was a favorite charge made by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.)
  • The judiciary: Repeatedly attacked Seattle U.S. District Judge James Robart, who halted Trump’s first Muslim travel ban.

On February 5, 2020, the Republican-dominated Senate—ignoring the overwhelming evidence against him—acquitted Donald Trump on two impeachment articles:

  • Article 1: Abuse of Power: For pressuring Ukraine to assist him in his re-election campaign by smearing former Vice President Joseph Biden, his possible Democratic rival; and
  • Article 2: Obstruction of Congress: For blocking testimony of subpoenaed witnesses and refusing to provide documents in response to House subpoenas in the impeachment inquiry.

With Republicans solidly backing Trump, that left only two other institutions capable of ending his reign of criminality and treason: The military and the Intelligence community. 

Both have access to vast amounts of secret—and highly embarrassing—-information. And both are expert in leaking choice bits of this to favored members of the media.  

If the military refused to carry out Trump’s orders, that would prove a genuine Constitutional crisis. But there would be a historical precedent for this.

In 1974, Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger feared that a Watergate-embattled President Richard M. Nixon might order the military to prevent his removal by impeachment. Schlesinger ordered all Armed Services branches to not accept any order from the White House unless countersigned by Schlesinger himself.

As for the CIA: This agency has been overthrowing heads of state for decades. 

In 1953, its coup removed Mohammad Mosaddegh, the prime minister of Iran. In 1954, another coup did the same for Guatemalan president Jacobo Árbenz.

In 1970, Chile’s president, Salvador Allende, fell victim to a CIA-instigated plot.

Seal of the Central Intelligence Agency.svg

Millions of Americans believe the CIA engineered the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy. James W. Douglass’ 2008 book, JFK and the Unspeakable, charges that the CIA murdered Kennedy because he wanted to end the Cold War after the Cuban Missile Crisis. 

* * * * *

Had Senate Republicans chosen patriotism over partisanship and convicted President Donald J. Trump for high crimes and misdemeanors—or had the military and/or the Intelligence community forced him out of office—history would have turned out differently:

  • Trump’s vicious attacks on the press, judiciary and Intelligence community would have ended immediately.
  • His efforts to subvert the Justice Department and Armed Services would have stopped.
  • He would have faced vigorous prosecution for his litany of crimes—before and during his Presidency.
  • Vladimir Putin would have lost his strongest ally in the United States. 
  • Vice President Mike Pence would have become President—but, burdened by his reputation as Trump’s #1 sycophant, might have been unable to win election in November, 2020; and
  • Tarnished by their subservience to a discredited Trump, Republicans would have almost certainly lost the White House and the Senate.

HOW ONE MAN’S ADVENT–OR ABSENCE–CAN MAKE HISTORY: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 26, 2020 at 1:23 pm

On July 20, 1944, Colonel Claus Schenk von Stuaffenberg tried to assassinate Adolf Hitler.

He had served with the Wehrmacht in Poland (1939), France (1940) and the Soviet Union (1941).

While serving in Tunisa, he was seriously wounded on April 7, 1943, when Allied fighters strafed his vehicle. He lost his left eye, right hand and two fingers of his left hand after surgery.  

Colonel Claus Schenk von Stuaffenberg

Nevertheless, he now acted as the prime mover for the conspiracy among a growing number of German high command officers to arrest or assassinate Germany’s Fuehrer.

For most of these officers, the motive was craven: The “happy time’ of German victories was over. Germany was losing the war it had launched on the world in 1939–and now they feared the worst. 

This was especially true now that the numerically superior forces of the Soviet Union had gone onto the offensive.

For Stauffenberg, there was another reason: His disgust at the horrors he had seen committed by his fellow Wehrmacht soldiers upon defenseless POW’s and civilians in Russia.

Thus, Stauffenberg—more than many Germans–knew firsthand the vengeance his country could expect if the “Thousand-Year Reich” fell.

Something must be done, he believed, to prove to the world that not all Germans—even members of the Wehrmacht—were criminals.

Most of the conspirators wanted to arrest Hitler and surrender to British and American forces—well before the much-feared Russians gained a toehold in Germany.

Stauffenberg didn’t want to arrest Hitler; he wanted to kill him. A live Hitler might eventually be rescued by his Nazi colleagues.

But Hitler was a closely-guarded target. He was surrounded by fanatical bodyguards who were expert marksmen. He often wore a bulletproof vest and a cap lined with three pounds of laminated steel. 

Adolf Hitler

Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1990-048-29A / CC-BY-SA 3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)%5D

But his single greatest protection–he claimed—was an instinct for danger. He would suddenly change his schedule—to drop in where he was least expected. Or suddenly depart an event where he was expected to stay a long time.

On November 9, 1939, this instinct saved his life. He was expected to give a long speech at a Munich beer hall before the “old Fighters” of his brown-shirted storm troopers. 

Instead, he suddenly cut short his speech and left the beer hall. Forty-five minutes later, a bomb exploded inside a pillar—before which Hitler had been speaking.

Since then, a series of other assassination attempts had been made against Hitler. All of them involved time-bombs. And all of the would-be assassins were members of the German General Staff.

In one case, a bomb secretly stashed aboard Hitler’s plane failed to explode. In another, an officer who had a bomb strapped to himself unexpectedly found his scheduled meeting with Hitler called off. He had to rush into a bathroom to defuse the bomb before it went off.

So now it was the turn of von Stauffenberg. He would carry his bomb—hidden in a briefcase—into a “Hitler conference” packed with military officers.

But Stauffenberg didn’t intend to be a suicide bomber. He meant to direct the government that would replace that of the Nazis.

His bomb—also rigged with a time-fuse—would be left in the conference room while he found an excuse to leave. After the explosion, he would phone one of his fellow conspirators with the news.

Then, the coup—“Operation Valkyrie”—would be on.

Anti-Nazi conspirators would seize control of key posts of the government. The British and Americans would then be informed of Germany’s willingness to surrender. Provided, of course, that the vengeance-seeking Russians did not have a say in its postwar future.

The Wehrmacht and Schutzstaffel (SS) had killed millions of Russians. Many had died in combat. Others had been murdered as captives. Still more had been allowed to die by starvation and exposure to the notorious Russian winter.

So the Germans—both Nazi and anti-Nazi—knew what they could expect if soldiers of the Soviet Union reached German soil.

On July 20, 1944, Stauffenberg appeared at Hitler’s well-guarded military headquarters in East Prussia.  Like all his other outposts, Hitler had named it—appropriately enough—“Wolf’s Lair.” 

“Wolf’s Lair”

Stauffenberg entered the large, concrete building while the conference was in session. He placed his yellow briefcase next to Hitler—who was standing with his generals at a heavy oaken table. Then he excused himself to take an “urgent” phone call.

After Stauffenberg left the room, Colonel Heinz Brandt, standing next to Hitler, found the briefcase blocking his legs. So he moved it—to the other side of the heavy oaken support, partially shielding Hitler from the blast.. 

At 12:42 p.m. on July 20, 1944, Stauffenberg’s briefcase bomb erupted. 

Brandt died, as did two other officers and a stenographer.  

Hitler not only survived, but the plotters failed to seize the key broadcast facilities of the Reich.  

This allowed Hitler to make a late-night speech to the nation, revealing the failed plot and assuring Germans that he was alive. And he swore to flush out the “traitorous swine” who had tried to kill him.

He soon proved as bad as his word.

HOW ONE MAN’S ADVENT–OR ABSENCE–CAN MAKE HISTORY: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 25, 2020 at 12:23 am

“When Fascism comes to America, it will be called anti-Fascism.”
–Huey Long, Louisiana Governor/Senator

In the Twilight Zone episode, “No Time Like the Past,” Paul Driscoll (Dana Andrews), a scientist in early 1960s America, uses a time machine to visit Nazi Germany on the eve of World War II. 

He’s rented a motel room overlooking the balcony from where the Fuehrer, Adolf Hitler will soon make a speech. And he’s eager to watch that speech—through the lens of a telescopic-sighted rifle.  

Just as he’s about to pull the trigger, there’s a knock at his door–by the maid. Driscoll hustles her out as soon as possible, then once again picks up his rifle. He—and viewers—can once again see Hitler through the cross-hairs of his weapon.  

Paul Driscoll prepares to shoot Adolf Hitler

But instead of the anticipated shot, there’s another knock at his door—his time by the black-uniformed secret police, the SS. Driscoll knows the game is up, and disappears into the present just as the thugs break down his door.  

And the audience is left to ponder how different the world would have been if Driscoll—or someone in Nazi Germany—had succeeded in assassinating the man whose wars would wipe out the lives of 50 million men, women and children around the globe.  

One 2016 Republican candidate for President dared to invoke the menace of Nazi Germany in warning of the dangers of a Donald Trump Presidency. And to argue that Americans could prevent that past from returning.  

In November, 2015, John Kasich, the governor of Ohio, was peddling a message of creating jobs, balancing the Federal budget and disdain for Washington, D.C.  

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John Kasich

But he remained far behind in the polls, dropping 50% in support in just one month—from September to October. Meanwhile, Trump, the New York billionaire developer, was being backed by 25% of Republican primary voters.  

So, with nothing to lose, Kasich decided to take off the gloves. He invoked the “N” word for Republicans: Nazi.  

He authorized the creation of a TV ad that opened with ominous music—and the face of a snarling Donald Trump.

“I would like anyone who is listening to consider some thoughts that I’ve paraphrased from the words of German pastor Martin Niemoeller.” 

The voice belonged to Tom Moe, a retired colonel in the U.S. Air Force–and a former Vietnam prisoner-of-war.

“You might not care if Donald Trump says Muslims must register with the government, because you’re not one,” continued Moe. 

“And you might not care if Donald Trump says he’s going to round up all the Hispanic immigrants, because you’re not one. 

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Donald Trump

“And you might not care if Donald Trump says it’s OK to rough up black protesters, because you’re not one. 

“And you might not care of Donald Trump wants to suppress journalists, because you’re not one.

“But think about this: 

“If he keeps going, and he actually becomes President, he might just get around to you. And you’d better hope that there’s someone left to help you.”  

Martin Niemoeller (1892–1984) was a prominent Protestant pastor who had commanded a U-boat during World War 1. He became a bitter public foe of Adolf Hitler.

A staunch anti-Communist, he had initially supported the Nazis as Germany’s only hope of salvation against the Soviet Union.

But when the Nazis made the church subordinate to State authority, Niemoeller created the Pastors’ Emergency League to defend religious freedom. 

For his opposition to the Third Reich,  Niemoeller spent seven years in concentration camps.

With the collapse of the Reich in 1945, he was freed—and elected President of the Protestant church in Hesse and Nassau in 1947. During the 1960s, he was a president of the World Council of Churches.

He is best remembered for his powerful condemnation of the failure of Germans to protest the increasing oppression of the Nazis:

First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist, so I did not speak out.

Then they came for the Socialists, but I was not a Socialist, so I did not speak out.

Then they came for the trade unionists, but I was not a trade unionist, so I did not speak out.

Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew, so I did not speak out.

And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.

Neither “Adolf Hitler” nor “Nazi Party” was mentioned during the one-minute Kassich video. But a furious Trump threatened to sue Kasich if he could find find anything “not truthful” within the ad.

Apparently he couldn’t find anything “not truthful,” because he never sued.

So threatened the man who had called Mexican immigrants “rapists” and accused President Barack Obama of being a Muslim and an illegal alien.

The Kasich ad was the darkest attack made against Trump by any candidate—Republican or Democrat. And it raises a disturbing question:

If Donald Trump proved to be America’s Adolf Hitler, would there be an American Claus von Stauffenberg? 

Colonel Claus Schenk von Stuaffenberg was the German army officer who, on July 20, 1944, tried to assassinate Adolf Hitler. 

DE-REGULATION: LET CRIMINALS BE CRIMINALS

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on November 29, 2018 at 12:05 am

A forgotten anniversary is fast approaching: This December 2 will mark the 17th anniversary of the collapse of Enron Corporation.

Based in Houston, Texas, Enron had employed 22,000 staffers and was one of the world’s leading electricity, natural gas, communications and paper companies.

In 2000, it claimed revenues of nearly $101 billion. Fortune had named Enron “America’s Most Innovative Company” for six consecutive years.

But then the truth emerged in 2001: Enron’s reported profitability was based not on brilliance and innovation but on systematic and creative accounting fraud.

And, on December 2, 2001, Enron filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy  Code.

Enron’s $63.4 billion in assets made it the largest corporate bankruptcy in U.S. history—until WorldCom’s bankruptcy in 2002.

The California electricity crisis (2000-2001) was caused by market manipulations and illegal shutdowns of pipelines by Texas energy companies.

The state suffered from multiple large-scale blackouts. Pacific Gas & Electric, one of the state’s largest energy companies, collapsed, and the economic fall-out greatly harmed Governor Gray Davis’ standing.

The crisis was made possible by Governor Pete Wilson, who had forced the passage of partial de-regulation legislation in 1996. 

Enron seized its opportunity to inflate prices and manipulate energy output in California’s spot markets. The crisis cost the state $40 to $45 billion.

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The true scandal of Enron was not that it was eventually destroyed by its own greed.

The true scandal was that its leaders were never Federally prosecuted for almost driving California—and the entire Western United States—into bankruptcy.

Under the pro-oil company administration of George W. Bush, no such prosecutions ever occurred. But Americans had a right to expect such redress under “liberal” President Bill Clinton.

Once the news broke that Enron had filed for bankruptcy, commentators almost universally oozed compassion for its thousands of employees who would lose their salaries and pensions.

No one, however, condemned the “profits at any cost” dedication of those same employees for pushing California to the brink of ruin.

To put this in historical perspective:

  • Imagine a historian writing about the destruction of Hitler’s Schutzstaffel (Guard Detachment), or SS, as a human interest tragedy.
  • Imagine its Reichsfuehrer, Heinrich Himmler, being blamed for failing to prevent its collapse—as CEO Kenneth Lay was blamed for Enron’s demise.
  • Imagine that same historian completely ignoring the horrific role the SS had played throughout Nazi-occupied countries—and its primary role in slaughtering six million Jews in the Holocaust.  

Nor did anyone in the media or government declare that the solution to such extortionate activity lay within the United States Department of Justice via RICO—the Federal Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act.

Seal of the United States Department of Justice.svg

Passed by Congress in 1970, this was originally aimed at the kingpins of the Mafia. Since the mid-1980s, however, RICO has been successfully applied against both terrorist groups and legitimate businesses engaged in criminal activity.

Under RICO, people financially injured by a pattern of criminal activity can bring a claim in State or Federal court, and obtain damages at three times the amount of their actual claim, plus reimbursement for their attorneys’ fees and costs.

Such prosecutions would have pitted energy-extortionists against the full investigative might of the FBI and the sweeping legal  authority of the Justice Department.

Consider this selection from the opening of the Act:

(1) “racketeering activity” means (A) any act or threat involving…extortion; (B) any act which is indictable under any of the following provisions of title 18, United States Code: sections 891-894 (relating to extortionate credit transactions), section 1343 (relating to wire fraud)Section 1344 (relating to financial institution fraud), section 1951 (relating to interference with commerce, robbery, or extortion), section 1952 (relating to racketeering)….

With the 17th anniversary of Enron’s demise coming up, the mantra of “de-regulation” should be ruthlessly turned against those who have most ardently championed it.

Republicans have ingeniously dubbed the estate tax—which affects only a tiny minority of ultra-rich—“the death tax.” This makes it appear to affect everyone.

Democrats should thus recast de-regulation in terms that will prove equally popular.  For example:

“Greed Relief” 

“Greed Protection” 

“Legalized Extortion” 

And here are some possible slogans: 

“The Energy Industry: Giving You the Best Congress Money Can Buy.” 

“De-regulation: Let Criminals Be Criminals.”

Today the coal industry is pumping millions into TV ads touting the non-existent wonders of “clean coal.” And Chevron spends millions assuring us that “all those profits” go strictly toward making the world a better place for others. (Presumably not a penny is left for its altruistic executives.)

When faced with such outright lying by the most vested of financial interests, it’s well to recall the warning given by Niccolo Machiavelli more than 500 years ago:

All those who have written upon civil institutions demonstrate…that whoever desires to found a state and give it laws, must start with assuming that all men are bad and ever ready to display their vicious nature, whenever they may find occasion for it.  

If their evil disposition remains concealed for a time, it must be attributed to some unknown reason; and we must assume that it lacked occasion to show itself. But time, which has been said to be the father of all truth, does not fail to bring it to light.

LET CRIMINALS BE CRIMINALS

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on November 21, 2011 at 1:11 am

A forgotten anniversary has come and gone: This December 2 marked the thirteenth anniversary of Enron’s bankruptcy.

Based in Houston, Texas, Enron had employed 22,000 staffers and was one of the world’s leading electricity, natural gas, communications and paper companies.

In 2000, it claimed revenues of nearly $101 billion.  Fortune had named Enron “America’s Most Innovative Company” for six consecutive years.

But then the truth emerged in 2001: Enron’s reported profitability was based on systematic and creative accounting fraud.

From that point on, the media behaved as if Enron’s collapse was some great tragedy.

To put this in perspective: Imagine a historian writing about the destruction of Hitler’s Schutzstaffel (Guard Detachment), or SS, as a similar tragedy.

Imagine its Reichsfuehrer, Heinrich Himmler, being blamed for failing to prevent its collapse–as CEO Kenneth Lay was blamed for Enron’s demise.

Imagine that same historian completely ignoring the horrific role the SS had played throughout Nazi-occupied countries–and its prime role in carrying out the Holocaust.

The California electricity crisis (2000-2001) was caused by market manipulations and illegal shutdowns of pipelines by Texas energy consortiums.

The state suffered from multiple large-scale blackouts.  Pacific Gas & Electric, one of the state’s largest energy companies, collapsed, and the economic fall-out greatly harmed Governor Gray Davis’ standing.

The crisis was made possible by Governor Pete Wilson, who forced the passage of partial de-regulation legislation in 1996.  Enron siezed its opportunity to inflate prices and manipulate energy output in California’s spot markets.  The crisis cost the state $40 to $45 billion.

The true scandal of Enron was not that it was eventually destroyed by its own greed.

The true scandal was that its leaders were never prosecuted for almost driving California–and the entire Western United States–into bankruptcy.

Once the news broke of Enron’s filing for bankruptcy, commentators almost universally oozed compassion for its thousands of employees who would lose their salaries and pensions.

No one, however, condemned the “profits at any cost” dedication of those same employees for pushing California to the brink of ruin.

Nor did anyone declare that the solution to such extortionate activity lay within the hands of the United States Department of Justice: RICO—the Federal Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act.

Passed by Congress in 1970, this was originally aimed at the kingpins of the Mafia.  Since the mid-1980s, however, RICO has been successfully applied against both terrorist groups and legitimate businesses engaged in criminal activity.

Under RICO, people financially injured by a pattern of criminal activity can bring a claim in State or Federal court, and obtain damages at three times the amount of their actual claim, plus reimbursement for their attorneys’ fees and costs.

Such prosecutions would have pitted energy-extortionists against the full investigative might of the FBI and the sweeping legal  authority of the Justice Department.

Consider this selection from the opening of the Act:

(1) “racketeering activity” means (A) any act or threat involving…extortion; (B) any act which is indictable under any of the following provisions of title 18, United States Code: sections 891-894 (relating to extortionate credit transactions), section 1343 (relating to wire fraud)

Section 1344 (relating to financial institution fraud), section 1951 (relating to interference with commerce, robbery, or extortion), section 1952 (relating to racketeering)….

Needless to say, under the pro-oil company administration of George W. Bush, no such prosecutions ever occurred.

With the tenth anniversary of Enron’s demise coming up, the mantra of “de-regulation” should be ruthlessly turned against those who have most ardently championed it.

Republicans have ingeniously dubbed the estate tax–which affects only a tiny minority–“the death tax.”   This makes it appear to affect everyone.  Democrats should thus recast de-regulation in terms that will prove equally popular.  For example:

“Greed Relief”
“Greed Protection”
“Legalized Extortion”

And here are some possible slogans:

“The Energy Industry: Giving You the Best Congress Money Can Buy.”

“De-regulation: Let Criminals Be Criminals.”

“De-regulating energy companies will reduce energy prices the same way that closing down prisons will reduce crime.” 

The word “Enron” can be turned into an obscenity: “E x t o r t R O N.”  Just as the corporation was in real-life.

Today the coal industry is pumping millions into TV ads touting the non-existant wonders of “clean coal.”

And Chevron spends millions more assuring us that “all those profits” go strictly toward making the world a better place for others. (Presumably not a penny is left for its altruistic executives.)

When faced with such outright lying by the most vested of financial interests, it’s well to recall the warning given by Niccolo Machiavelli more than 500 years ago:

All those who have written upon civil institutions demonstrate…that whoever desires to found a state and give it laws, must start with assuming that all men are bad and ever ready to display their vicious nature, whenever they may find occasion for it. 

 If their evil disposition remains concealed for a time, it must be attributed to some unknown reason; and we must assume that it lacked occasion to show itself.  But time, which has been said to be the father of all truth, does not fail to bring it to light.

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