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LIES TOLD BY BULLIES: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on March 31, 2021 at 1:16 am

There are two ways to deal with bullies: Submit to them—or stand up to them.

Here are three stories of what happened when intended victims counterattacked their would-be predators.

Story #1:

Karen Handel, vice president of public affairs for Susan G. Komen for the Cure, had it all worked out.

She had fashioned what she believed was a politically viable plan for Komen to pull its grant monies from Planned Parenthood (PP).

Karen Handel

She didn’t care that this money went entirely for breast cancer screenings for poor women. What she did care about was that about 3% of all PP revenues went toward providing abortion services.

Since being hired by Komen as vice president of public affairs, in April, 2011, Handel had pushed to drop PP from grants. She had promised to de-fund PP during her failed 2010 campaign for governor of Georgia. 

So, in 2012, she made her move.

The official version, as put out by Handel and the top brass of Komen, went: “We’ve halted grants to Planned Parenthood because it’s under investigation by Congress for misuse of funds.”

Unfortunately for Komen, the public instantly saw through the lie. And the results for Komen were as devastating as those that threatened to engulf Arizona two years later.

Any crank in Congress can start an “investigation” into anything.

And PP was “under investigation” by a crank: Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), chairman of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.

Stearns, a fanatical anti-abortionist, claimed he wanted to determine whether PP had spent public money on abortions over the last decade.

But Stearns didn’t hesitate to slander the patriotism of thousands of 9/11 “first responders”–the police, firefighters, construction workers and others who risked their lives to save their fellow Americans.

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Rep. Cliff Stearns

He did so by demanding that they submit their names, birthplaces, addresses, government ID numbers and other personal data to the FBI to prove they were not terrorists. 

Only then could they receive federally-subsidized medical care for injuries caused by exposure to toxic dust and debris at the site.  

Not one terrorist was discovered in the resulting investigations.

Public outrage at Komen was immediate and overwhelming:

  • More than 50 members of Congress signed letters asking  Komen to reverse course.
  • New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg publicly rebuked Komen and pledged $250,000   to PP.
  • Approximately 37,000 people from all over the country signed a petition demanding Handel’s resignation.
  • PP raised nearly $3 million in contributions.

Reeling before this onslaught of criticism, Komen issued a statement: “We will continue to fund existing grants, including those of Planned Parenthood, and preserve their eligibility to apply for future grants.”

Having failed in their latest assault on women’s rights, the Right’s would-be predators now portrayed themselves as victims:

  • “The last time I checked,” Handel told Right-wing Fox News, “private non-profit organizations have a right and a responsibility to be able to set the highest standards and criteria on their own without interference, let alone the level of vicious attacks and coercion that has occurred by Planned Parenthood. It’s simply outrageous.”
  • “Planned Parenthood campaigns to destroy anyone who questions them,” charged Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List.
  • “Their attitude is that of an immature teenager with an enormous sense of entitlement. This is just more proof that Planned Parenthood will pulverize anyone who dares to question them,” Dannenfelser said.
  • “What Planned Parenthood did to that venerable and honorable organization [Komen Foundation] is nothing less than a Mafia-style shakedown,” said Steven H. Aden, senior counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund. The Fund bitterly opposes abortion, gay marriage, birth control and the separation of church and state.

Many conservatives correctly defended Komen’s right, as a private charitable organization, to give—or withhold—its money as it saw fit.

But these same conservatives refused to grant PP’s outraged supporters the same right: To withhold their own monies from Komen. 

National Review’s Daniel Foster called the backlash to Komen “disgusting,” attacking PP and “the Left” for their “gangsterism.”

Story #2:

Two years later, in 2014, the Right made another move to strip Americans it didn’t like of their most basic rights.  Their weapon of choice: Arizona Senate Bill 1062.

The legislation had been passed by the Republican-controlled State House of Representatives and Senate. Its intent: 

  • Allow business owners to turn away gay and lesbian customers.
  • Allow employers to deny equal pay to women.
  • Allow individuals to renege on contract obligations.  
  • Allow hospitals to refuse to provide medical care to a gay or lesbian patient.

And all of these actions would have been legally protected—so long as “sincere religious belief” was cited  as the reason.

The legislation was written by the Right-wing advocacy group Center for Arizona Policy and the Christian legal organization, Alliance Defending Freedom. 

Officially, its intent was to prevent the government from forcing business owners to act in ways contrary to strongly held religious beliefs.

Unofficially, its intent was to appease the hatred of gays and lesbians by the religious Right, a key constituency of the Republican party.

Gays and their supporters reacted by threatening a legal business and tourism boycott of Arizona.  And the business community and its supporters, alarmed, took notice. 

CHARACTER AS DESTINY–IN HITLER’S GERMANY AND TRUMP’S AMERICA: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on March 30, 2021 at 12:06 am

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

On March 25, 2016, Shields—a liberal, and Brooks, a conservative—came to some disturbingly similar conclusions about Donald Trump.

Eerily, their conclusions echoed those reached by former Panzer General Heinz Guderian about German dictator Adolf Hitler.

Guderian created the concept of motorized blitzkrieg warfare, whereby masses of tanks and planes moved in coordination to strike at the vital nerve centers of an enemy.

Heinz Guderian portrait.jpg

Heinz Guderian

Guderian thus enabled Hitler to conquer France in only six weeks in 1940, and to come to the brink of crushing the Soviet Union in 1941. He recounted his career as the foremost tank commander of the Third Reich in his 1950 autobiography, Panzer Leader.

On the PBS Newshour, moderator Judy Woodruff noted that “polls show Trump’s standing with women voters had worsened in recent months.”

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Judy Woodruff

Mark Shields noted that Trump clearly had an obsession with Fox News Correspondent Megyn Kelly. 

MARK SHIELDS: “But there is something really creepy about this that’s beyond locker room. It’s almost like a stalker….It actually did the impossible. It made Ted Cruz look like an honorable, tough guy on the right side of an issue.”

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Donald Trump

HEINZ GUDERIAN: Once in power, Hitler quickly—and violently—eliminated his opposition.  He make no attempt to disguise this aspect of his character, because the opposition was weak and divided and soon collapsed after the first violent attack. This allowed Hitler to pass laws which destroyed the safeguards enacted by the Weimar Republic against the dangers of dictatorship.  

MARK SHIELDS: And I don’t know at what point it becomes…politically, he’s still leading. And I would have to say he’s the overwhelming favorite for the Republican nomination.”

HEINZ GUDERIAN: Hitler promised to “make Germany great again” both domestically and internationally. And this won him many followers. In time he controlled the largest party in the land and this allowed him, by democratic procedure, to assume power.  

DAVID BROOKS: “The odd thing about [Trump’s] whole career and his whole language, his whole world view is there is no room for love in it.  You get a sense of a man who received no love, can give no love, so his relationship with women, it has no love in it. It’s trophy.”

HEINZ GUDERIAN: [Hitler] was isolated as a human being. He had no real friend. There was nobody who was really close to him.  

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Adolf Hitler

There was nobody he could talk to freely and openly.  And just as he never found a true friend, he was denied the ability to deeply love a woman.  

DAVID BROOKS: “And [Trump’s] relationship toward the world is one of competition and beating, and as if he’s going to win by competition what other people get by love.”

HEINZ GUDERIAN: Everything on this earth that casts a glow of warmth over our life as mortals–friendship with fine men, the pure love for a wife, affection for one’s own children–all this was and forever remained unknown to him. 

DAVID BROOKS:  “And so you really are seeing someone who just has an odd psychology unleavened by kindness and charity, but where it’s all winners and losers, beating and being beat. And that’s part of the authoritarian personality, but it comes out in his attitude towards women.”  

HEINZ GUDERIAN: He lived alone, cherishing his loneliness, with only his gigantic plans for company.  His relationship with Eva Braun may seem to contradict what I have written. But it is obvious that she could not have had any influence over him. And this is unfortunate, for it could only have been a softening one.

* * * * *

In his bestselling 1973 biography, The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler, British historian Robert Payne harshly condemned the German people for the rise of the Nazi dictator:  

“[They] allowed themselves to be seduced by him and came to enjoy the experience….[They] followed him with joy and enthusiasm because he gave them license to pillage and murder to their hearts’ content. They were his servile accomplices, his willing victims.”

On November 8, almost 63 million ignorant, hate-filled, Fascistic Americans catapulted Donald Trump—a man with an “odd psychology unleavened by kindness and charity”—into the Presidency.  

On November 3, 2020, 75 million equally ignorant, hate-filled, Fascistic Americans voted to give Trump another four years in office. This despite his ignoring the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic and alienating America’s longtime allies like England and Canada while clearly showing preference for its mortal enemies like Russia and North Korea.

Future historians will similarly and harshly condemn those Americans who, like “good Germans,” joyfully embraced a regime dedicated to

  • Lies
  • Censorship
  • Celebrating Trump’s egomania,
  • Depriving America’s poor of their only source of healthcare
  • Further enriching the ultra-wealthy and
  • Threatening the use of force against those who desired to live as citizens in a republic, instead of a dictatorship..

Fortunately, 80 million Americans braved the COVID-19 pandemic and efforts by Republicans to overturn their voting rights—and elected Joseph Biden President of the United States.

CHARACTER AS DESTINY IN HITLER’S GERMANY AND TRUMP’S AMERICA: PART ONE

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on March 29, 2021 at 12:14 am

Less than one week after Donald Trump became President of the United States, many of those who voted for him came to regret their decision.

A new Twitter account emerged to voice their rage and disappointment: Trump_Regrets.  By March 20, 2021, it had acquired more than 284,000 followers.

Yet many of Trump’s behaviors–his egomania and vindictiveness, his plans to gut the Affordable Care Act and give tax breaks to the wealthy—were known long before the 2016 election.

Among those who discussed them: Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks, who appeared every Friday on the PBS Newshour to review the week’s major political events.

On March 25, 2016, Shields—a liberal, and Brooks, a conservative—came to some disturbingly similar conclusions about the character of Trump, then the Republican Presidential front-runner.

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David Brooks and Mark Shields

Eerily, their conclusions echoed those reached by former Panzer General Heinz Guderian about  the character of German dictator Adolf Hitler.

Guderian created the concept of motorized blitzkrieg warfare, whereby masses of tanks and planes moved in coordination to strike at the vital nerve centers of an enemy.  

As a result, Guderian enabled Hitler to conquer France in only six weeks in 1940, and to come to the brink of crushing the Soviet Union in 1941. He recounted his career as the foremost tank commander of the Third Reich in his 1950 autobiography, Panzer Leader.  

Heinz Guderian.jpg

Heinz Guderian 

Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-139-1112-17 / Knobloch, Ludwig / CC-BY-SA [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Moderator Judy Woodruff opened the discussion by alluding to the blood feud then raging between Trump and his fellow Republican, Texas United States Senator Rafael Eduardo “Ted” Cruz.

Both were ruthlessly seeking their party’s Presidential nomination.

Cruz accused Trump of being behind a recent National Enquirer story charging him with having a series of extramarital affairs.

An anti-Trump Super PAC posted on Facebook a photo of a scantily-clad Melania Trump–his wife. The photo had been taken 16 years ago when, as a model, she posed for British GQ.

Its publication came just ahead of the primary caucuses in sexually conservative Utah, which Cruz won.

Trump quickly responded on Twitter, accusing the Cruz campaign of leaking the photo, warning Cruz: “Be careful or I will spill the beans on your wife.”

Cruz struck back, defending his wife, Heidi, and calling Trump a coward. The next day, Trump retweeted an unflattering image of Mrs. Cruz.

This “war of the wives” had cost Trump dearly in his standing with American women. In March, 2016, a Washington Post/ABC News poll showed that 64% of women felt highly unfavorably disposed toward him.

DAVID BROOKS: “The Trump comparison of the looks of the wives, he does have, over the course of his life, a consistent misogynistic view of women as arm candy, as pieces of meat.

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Donald Trump

“It’s a consistent attitude toward women which is the stuff of a diseased adolescent. And so we have seen a bit of that show up again.

“But if you go back over his past, calling into radio shows bragging about his affairs, talking about his sex life in public, he is childish in his immaturity. And his—even his misogyny is a childish misogyny….

“He’s of a different order than your normal candidate. And this whole week is just another reminder of that.”

HEINZ GUDERIAN: As Hitler’s self-confidence grew, and as his power became more firmly established both inside and outside Germany, he became overbearing and arrogant. Everyone appeared to him unimportant compared to himself.  

Previously, Hitler had been open to practical considerations, and willing to discuss matters with others. But now he became increasingly autocratic. 

Judy Woodruff asked Mark Shields if the uproar over Donald Trump’s disdain for women could really hurt his candidacy.

MARK SHIELDS: The ad featuring a scantily-clad Melania Trump “elicited from Donald Trump the worst of his personality, the bullying, the misogyny, as David has said, brought it out.  

“But I think it’s more than childish and juvenile and adolescent. There is something creepy about this, his attitude toward women.

“Take Megyn Kelly of FOX News, who he just has an absolute obsession about, and he’s constantly writing about, you know, how awful she is and no talent and this and that.

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Megyn Kelly

“And I don’t know if he’s just never had women—strong, independent women in his life who have spoken to him. It doesn’t seem that way….

“She just asked him tough questions and was totally fair, by everybody else’s standards.”

HEINZ GUDERIAN:  Hitler’s most outstanding quality was his will power. It was by this that he compelled men to follow him. When Hitler spoke to a small group he closely observed each person to determine how his words were affecting each man present.   

If he noticed that some member of the group was not being swayed by his speech, he spoke directly to that person until he believed he had won him over. But if the target of his persuasive effort still remained obstinate, Hitler would exclaim: “I haven’t convinced that man!”

His immediate reaction was to get rid of such people. As he grew increasingly successful, he grew increasingly intolerant.   

THE NEWS MEDIA: FACING SOME PAINFUL TRUTHS

In Business, History, Humor, Politics, Social commentary on March 26, 2021 at 12:10 am

On September 27, 2020, The New York Times broke the unprecedented story of President Donald Trump’s tax returns, which he has long held secret. 

Among the revelations: He paid no federal income taxes at all for 10 of 15 years. And he paid only $750 in taxes in 2016 and 2017.

For most newspapers and TV networks, such investigative reporting is a rarity. Most media outlets are little more than “happy news” or propaganda organs.

Two years earlier, on April 28, 2018, comedian Michelle Wolf had hosted the annual White House Correspondents Dinner in Washington, D.C. There she skewered high-ranking Trump administration officials and members of the nation’s elite media.

Most of here jokes were focused on Trump administration officials—especially then-Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Michelle Wolf in 2016.jpg

Michelle Wolf

Erin Nekervis, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

But Wolf threw a series of sharp-edged zingers at some of the Nation’s most prominent media. And these comments have gone largely ignored.

They are, however, well worth examining—for the uncomfortable truths they reveal about much of the “news” being served up under the guise of fearless objectivity.

On CNN—where “news” now largely consists of a series of “talking heads” pontificating about stories that other journalists have dug up:  We’ve got our friends at CNN here. You guys love breaking news, and you did it. You broke it. Good work. The most useful information on CNN is when Anthony Bourdain tells me where to eat noodles.

On Fox News’ sexual harassment scandals involving such prominent (and former) members as CEO Roger Ailes and commentator Bill O’Reilly:  Fox News is here. So, you know what that means, ladies: Cover your drinks. Seriously.

On Fox News’ actual role as the propaganda organ of the Republican party:  People want me to make fun of [Fox News commentator] Sean Hannity tonight, but I cannot do that; this dinner is for journalists.

News Media

On weak-rated MSNBC, which is the liberal version of Fox News:  We’ve got MSNBC here. MSNBC’s news slogan is, “This is who we are.” Guys, it’s not a good slogan. “This is who we are” is what your mom thinks the sad show on NBC is called. “Did you watch ‘This Is Who We Are’ this week? Someone left on a Crockpot, and everyone died.”

On Megyn Kelly, who rose to fame and fortune as a Right-wing propaganda shill on Fox News:  And, of course, Megyn Kelly. What would I do without Megyn Kelly? You know, probably be more proud of women. 

And, by the way, Megyn, Santa’s black. The weird old guy going through your chimney was Bill O’Reilly. You might want to put a flue on it or something.  

[This last jibe centered on Kelly’s infamous December 11, 2013 Fox broadcast where she claimed: “I kind of laughed and said this is so ridiculous.  Yet another person claiming it’s racist to have a white Santa. For all you kids watching at home, Santa just is white….Just because it makes you uncomfortable doesn’t mean it has to change. Jesus was a white man too.”]

On the continuing demise of newspapers—on which TV “news reporters” depend for their information:  There’s a lot of print media here. There’s a ton of you guys, but I’m not going to go after print media tonight because it’s illegal to attack an endangered species. Buy newspapers.

On the media’s—especially the television media’s—morbid obsession with Donald Trump:  There’s a ton of news right now; a lot is going on, and we have all these 24-hour news networks, and we could be covering everything. But, instead, we’re covering like three topics. Every hour, it’s Trump, Russia, Hillary and a panel of four people who remind you why you don’t go home for Thanksgiving.

On the media’s responsibility for the rise of a President they now detest: You guys are obsessed with Trump. Did you used to date him? Because you pretend like you hate him, but I think you love him. I think what no one in this room wants to admit is that Trump has helped all of you. He couldn’t sell steaks or vodka or water or college or ties or Eric, but he has helped you.

He’s helped you sell your papers and your books and your TV. You helped create this monster, and now you’re profiting off of him. And if you’re gonna profit off of Trump, you should at least give him some money because he doesn’t have any.

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Donald Trump

[This last joke was probably the most painful the assembled media bigwigs had to endure. Because it’s undeniably true.

Trump’s campaign was saved from spending millions on TV advertising because the major TV news networks covered his every word. This was especially true when he was attacking women, blacks, Mexicans, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama—and even beauty pageant contestants.

Trump was “good for the news media” in the same way that Mike Tyson was “good for boxing.” 

Both Trump and Tyson were seen as freaks—and thus guaranteed to lure viewers eager to find out: “What outrageous thing has he done now?”]  And more viewers meant higher ratings–which meant money.

SPEAKING TRUTH TO TYRANTS–RUSSIAN AND AMERICAN

In History, Humor, Politics, Social commentary on March 25, 2021 at 12:05 am

Speaking truth to tyrants is always risky. But those who do—and survive—can find consolation in knowing they have done something few others have dared to do.

Two women—one Russian, the other American—have had this experience.

Maria Veniaminovna Yudina (1899 – 1970) was a gifted pianist who joined the piano faculty of the Moscow Conservatory in 1936, where she taught until 1951.

Maria Yudina

From 1944 to 1960, Yudina taught chamber ensemble and vocal class at the Gnessin Institute. In 1960, she was fired from the Institute because of her religious beliefs and championing of modern Western music.

She continued to perform in public, but her recitals were forbidden to be recorded. At one of her recitals in Leningrad, she read Boris Pasternak’s  poetry from the stage as an encore.

For that, Yudina was banned from performing for five years. In 1966, when the ban was lifted, she gave a cycle of lectures on Romanticism at the Moscow Conservatory.

Although born into a Jewish family, she joined and remained a devout member of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Perhaps her most courageous act occurred during the last years of the reign of Joseph Stalin. The Soviet dictator was responsible for the deaths of 20 to 25 million people—through execution, famine, torture, imprisonment and deportations.

Joseph Stalin

One night in 1944, Stalin, listening to the radio, heard a performance of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23. Yudina had played the piano, backed up by a full orchestra.

Stalin, impressed, ordered that an envelope containing 20,000 rubles be sent to Yudina.

According to Russian composer and pianist Dimitri Shostakovich, Yudina then did the unthinkable.

In his posthumously-published memoirs, Testimony,  Shostakovich writes that Yudina sent Stalin a letter almost certain to result in her arrest.

The gist of the letter: “I thank you, Iosif Vissarionovich, for your aid.

“I will pray for you day and night and ask the Lord to forgive your great sins before the people and the country. The Lord is merciful and He will forgive you. I gave the money to the church that I attend.”

Stalin read the letter to his inner circle. Although he could have destroyed Yudina as easily as killing a fly, he set aside the letter and did nothing.

Yudina’s recording of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 was on Stalin’s record player when he collapsed with a cerebral hemorrhage on March 1, 1953. It was the last music he had listened to.

Shostakovich believed that Stalin was superstitious—and it was this that saved Yudina.

Throughout her life, Yudina remained an uncompromising critic of the Soviet regime. She died in Moscow in 1970.

Seventy-four years later, another woman—Michelle Wolf—dared speak truth to a tyrant in a different way.

Wolf (1985 – ) is an American comedian and writer. In 2007, she graduated from the College of William & Mary, a public research university in Williamsburg, Virginia.  Her major: Kinesiology (the scientific study of human or non-human body movement.

She decided to enter the comedy world and made her first appearance on late-night television in 2014, on Late Night with Seth Meyers. She made repeated appearances on the show,  A regular at the Comedy Cellar in New York City, she joined The Daily Show with Trevor Noah in 2016

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Michelle Wolf

In 2017, she made her HBO stand-up debut, Michelle Wolf: Nice Lady.

On April 28, 2018, she hosted the annual White House Correspondents Dinner.

Traditionally, it’s been an occasion where Washington’s political and media elites enjoy dinner and trade barbed quips at one another.

But President Donald Trump chose to skip the dinner in 2017 and 2018. Trump—who repeatedly  insults others—is too thin-skinned to accept even harmless jokes aimed at him.

That, however, didn’t deter Wolf. And she served up a series of barbed jokes aimed at the greed, deceit and hypocrisy of high-ranking Trump administration officials. Among these:

  • [Trump] loves white nationalists, which is a weird term for a Nazi. Calling a Nazi a white nationalist is like calling a pedophile a kid friend or Harvey Weinstein a ladies’ man.
  • [Vice President] Mike Pence is a weirdo, though. He’s a weird little guy. He won’t meet with other women without his wife present. When people first heard this, they were like, “That’s crazy.” But now, in this current climate, they’re like, “That’s a good witness.”
  • A tree falls in the woods is [Environmental Protection Agency director] Scott Pruitt’s definition of porn. Yeah, we all have our kinks.

But Wolf also had plenty of jabs for assembled media bigwigs.

  • The most useful information on CNN is when Anthony Bourdain tells me where to eat noodles. 
  • People want me to make fun of [Fox News host] Sean Hannity tonight, but I cannot do that; this dinner is for journalists.

Wolf’s jokes—especially those about White Hose Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee-Sanders—triggered harsh attacks in turn from Trump officials and media critics.

But Jimmy Kimmel—who has also performed at the correspondents dinner—tweeted:

“Michelle did exactly what she should do, which was [to] upset everybody. That’s the role of a commentator and a bomb thrower and a comedian. Your job is not to make people comfortable and your job is definitely not to stay within the line. Your job is to say the things that make people uncomfortable and upset.”

WANT TO STOP GUN MASSACRES? HERE’S HOW

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on March 24, 2021 at 12:12 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 National Rifle Association (NRA) to risk its wrath.

This is especially true for Republican members of Congress. They have opposed background checks on gun buyers—while allowing criminals and terrorists to own firearms. They champion the sale of assault weapons—which were designed for use by the military, not civilians.

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They speak directly to those masses of disaffected Americans for whom the Second Amendment is the Constitution. And they know they can count on those voters to give them lifetime tenure in Congress.

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.

IN MEXICO, “ILLEGAL ALIEN” IS NOW A DIRTY WORD

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on March 23, 2021 at 12:21 am

On May 20, 2010, Mexico’s then-President Felipe Calderon addressed a joint session of the United States Congress—and attacked a recently-enacted Arizona law that allowed law enforcement officials to detain anyone suspected of being in the country illegally. 

According to Calderon, the law “introduces a terrible idea: using racial profiling as a basis for law enforcement.

“I have said that Mexico does not stop at its border, that wherever there is a Mexican, there is Mexico.”

The hypocrisy of Calderon’s words was staggering. He was condemning the United States for doing what Mexico itself has long done: Strictly enforcing control of its own borders.

Felipe Calderon 20090130 (cropped).jpg

Felipe Calderon 

World Economic ForumCopyright by World Economic Forum / Photo by Remy Steinegger 

Mexico has a single, streamlined law that ensures that foreign visitors and immigrants are:

  • In the country legally;
  • Have the means to sustain themselves economically;
  • Not destined to be burdens on society;
  • Of economic and social benefit to society;
  • Of good character and have no criminal records; and
  • Contribute to the general well-being of the nation.

The law also ensures that:

  • Immigration authorities have a record of each foreign visitor;
  • Foreign visitors do not violate their visa status;
  • Foreign visitors are banned from interfering in the country’s internal politics;
  • Foreign visitors who enter under false pretenses are imprisoned or deported;
  • Foreign visitors violating the terms of their entry are imprisoned or deported;
  • Those who aid in illegal immigration are sent to prison.

Only eight years after Calderon demanded that Americans repeal their immigration laws, Mexicans suddenly discovered that “illegal alien” was no longer a dirty phrase.

On October 13, 2018, a caravan of at least 5,000 men, women and children from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras set out for the United States.

On October 18, President Donald Trump closed the U.S.-Mexico border to keep the caravan from entering the country.

By November 19, migrants had begun piling up in Tijuana, which borders San Diego.

And that’s when Tijuana residents began carrying signs reading “No illegals,” “No to the invasion” and “Mexico First.” And marching in the streets wearing Mexico’s red, white and green national soccer jersey and vigorously waving Mexican flags. 

“We want the caravan to go; they are invading us,” said Patricia Reyes, a 62-year-old protester. “They should have come into Mexico correctly, legally, but they came in like animals.” 

The El Paso Times noted the resentment of many Mexicans toward the increasing numbers of Cuban illegal aliens in Juarez, which lies across from El Paso.

“They don’t get along with Mexican people,” said a burrito seller. “They get in a little group by themselves. A lot of people don’t like them here.”

And a business consultant complained, “There are people who are coming looking for a handout, who want us to help them, when they could also look for work.”

Over the weekend of October 12-13, 2019, a National Guard commander addressed his platoon before confronting the latest caravan: “No one will come to trample our country, our land!”

In the past, Mexicans comprised the largest group of illegal aliens entering the United States.  But the Mexican economy has grown and developed to the point where fewer people see the need to emigrate. 

So most illegals are mostly from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. And there are growing numbers from Haiti, Cuba, various African countries, and even the Middle East. 

During the first eight months of 2019, the number of asylum applications submitted to Mexico’s refugee agency (COMAR) more than tripled, compared to the same period in 2018. As a result, the refugee agency has removed the how-to-apply video it once hosted on its website.

In the past, the Mexican Government refused to halt illegal immigration to the United States.

It remembered the bloody upheaval known as the Mexican Revolution. This lasted 10 years (1910-1920) and wiped out an estimated one to two million men, women and children.

Massacres were common on all sides, with men shot by the hundreds in bullrings or hung by the dozen on trees.

A Mexican Revolution firing squad

All of the major leaders of the Revolution—Francisco Madero, Emiliano Zapata, Venustiano Carranza, Francisco “Pancho” Villa, Alvaro Obregon—died in a hail of bullets.

Francisco “Pancho” Villa

Emiliano Zapata

As a result, every successive Mexican Government lived in the shadow of another such wholesale bloodletting. These officials quietly decided to turn the United States border into a safety valve.

* * * * *

Who says that everyone who wants to live in the United States has the right to do so?

No other nation has ever allowed itself to become a dumping ground for the world’s unwanteds. And no law—religious or secular—obligates the United States to do so.

An “open door” policy proved essential 200 years ago, when most of America was unsettled and largely unpopulated.

But the United States is no longer a largely unpopulated, agricultural country. Most of its population lives in coastal cities–which is where most illegal aliens tend to settle as well.

Space is limited in schools, hospitals and housing, and the more people who cram into limited spaces, the more frictions they inevitably create.

As native-born Mexicans are angrily finding out.

“HAPPY NEWS” DIDN’T SAVE HITLER–OR TRUMP

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 22, 2021 at 12:07 am

THE WHITE HOUSE IS PROPPING UP A DEPRESSED TRUMP WITH TWO FOLDERS OF PROPAGANDA A DAY

So read an August 8, 2017 headline on the PoliticusUSA website.

The story opened:

“Donald Trump receives two folders of screen grabs, transcripts, and pictures of himself looking strong each day as the White House using the communications office to compile propaganda that makes Trump feel better.”

It then quoted Vice News as stating:

Twice a day since the beginning of the Trump administration, a special folder is prepared for the president. The first document is prepared around 9:30 a.m. and the follow-up, around 4:30 p.m.

“Former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and former Press Secretary Sean Spicer both wanted the privilege of delivering the 20-to-25-page packet to President Trump personally, White House sources say.

Related image

Donald Trump

“These sensitive papers, described to VICE News by three current and former White House officials, don’t contain top-secret intelligence or updates on legislative initiatives.

“Instead, the folders are filled with screenshots of positive cable news chyrons (those lower-third headlines and crawls), admiring tweets, transcripts of fawning TV interviews, praise-filled news stories, and sometimes just pictures of Trump on TV looking powerful.”

Anonymous sources told Vice that Priebus and Spicer created this “happy news” smorgasbord to boost their own standings:

“Priebus and Spicer weren’t in a good position, and they wanted to show they could provide positive coverage. It was self-preservation.” 

But it didn’t save  Priebus and Spicer. On July 28, 2017, Priebus resigned—after suffering repeated humiliations by Trump—such as being ordered to kill a fly that was buzzing about.

And, on July 21, 2017, Spicer angrily resigned after Trump chose Anthony Scaramucci as White House Communications Director. Trump kept Spicer in the dark about events that he needed to know. 

At 6 a.m. every weekday, three staffers arrived at the Republican National Committee’s “war room.” Their mission: Scour newspapers and the Internet and monitor MSNBC, Fox News and CNN. About every 30 minutes, they sent the White House Communications Office an email with tweets, screenshots, interview transcripts and news stories.

“Maybe it’s good for the country that the President is in a good mood in the morning,” one former RNC official said.

Creating folders of “happy news” to prop up Trump’s fragile ego was a practice unique to the Trump administration.

“If we had prepared such a digest for Obama, he would have roared with laughter,” said David Axelrod, the senior adviser to Barack Obama during his first two years in the White House. “His was a reality-based presidency.”

Barack Obama

Trump devours praise like a sugar addict consumes candy. He frequently tweeted his thanks to cable television hosts like Sean Hannity, Lou Dobbs, and the hosts of “Fox & Friends” who lavishly praised his administration.  

But Trump is hardly unique among world leaders to listen only to “happy news.”

During World War II, as his armies were forced to retreat on all fronts, Adolf Hitler increasingly demanded that his ministers refrain from “defeatist talk.”

Hoping for victory and stating that it was inevitable became the key to saving one’s job—if not life—in the steadily-declining Third Reich. Countless Germans who refused to embrace Hitler’s fantasies were executed for “defeatism.”

Adolf Hitler

This was best illustrated by the case of Albert Speer. Hitler had often proclaimed him “my genius architect” before appointing him Minister of Armaments in 1942. As Speer revved up the production of military hardware, Hitler continued to hail his “genius.”

But as Allied bombing raids increasingly devastated Germany’s industrial plants, armaments production began to fall. This forced Speer to tell his Fuhrer the unpalatable truth: Germany was losing its capacity to wage war.

Hitler didn’t want to hear it, turning instead to those who fed him a diet of “happy news.”  When Speer’s deputy, Karl Otto Saur, told Hitler, “By Christmas, we’ll have air superiority!” Hitler was ecstatic.

At a meeting with his generals, the Fuhrer announced: “We have the good fortune to have a genius in our armaments ministry.  I mean Saur.”

The promised air superiority never materialized.

As even Hitler came to realize that the end was near, he blamed Germany for losing the war he had started.

“If the war is lost,” Hitler told Speer, “the nation will also perish….This nation will have proved to be the weaker one and the future will belong solely to the stronger eastern nation.”

He 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.

It would have deprived the entire German population of even the barest necessities after the war.

Fortunately for Germany, Speer dared to sabotage the “Nero Order,” thus ensuring a future for those who survived the war.

Hitler’s demands for only “happy news” did not save him—or his regime.

As the COVID-19 casualties increasingly rose among Americans, Trump demanded ever more “happy news” from Federal health officials charged with combating the disease.

It didn’t save him from the anger of 80 million voters fed up with his lies and criminality.

And it will not save those Americans who substitute wishful thinking for reality.

TWO VIRUSES, ONE CATASTROPHE: PART EIGHT (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 19, 2021 at 12:15 am

SACRIFICE YOUR CHILDREN FOR ME

On July 10, Paula Reid, White House correspondent for CBS News, warned on the PBS program, Washington Week.

“But one of the most significant things out of the administration this week is the fact that Dr. [Deborah] Birx [Coronavirus Response Coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force] said that we really don’t have that much data on COVID in children because the under-10 set is really the least tested.”

Just as the ancient Canaanites sacrificed their children to the god Moloch, so President Donald J. Trump expected his followers—and opponents—to risk their children’s lives for him.  

Molech: Then and Now

A child sacrifice to Moloch

On August 10, CBS News reported:

“Nearly 100,000 children tested positive for the Coronavirus in the last two weeks of July, a new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics finds. Just over 97,000 children tested positive for the Coronavirus from July 16 to July 30, according to the association.”

By October, no vaccine had been invented. Nor had a national system of testing or contact tracing. 

Hospitals began overflowing with COVID cases. Doctors and nurses were overwhelmed with fatigue. Many of them had become COVID victims.

On October 20, more than 70,450 new coronavirus cases were reported in the United States in a day for the first time.

On October 25, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union”: “We are not going to control the pandemic. We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigation areas,”

By October 28, more than 8.8 million Americans had been diagnosed with COVID, and at least 227,673 had died from it.

Meanwhile, Trump kept barnstorming the country in a relentless re-election effort. Although infected with COVID-19 in September, he refused to wear a mask in public. His rallies reflected this same contempt for public health, with most attendees refusing to wear masks and/or socially distance.

Critics dubbed these rallies: “Super-spreader events.”

DECLARING VICTORY OVER CORONAVIRUS

In an October 27 press release from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy., “Advisor to the President” and First Daughter Ivanka Trump noted her father’s signature achievement:

“ENDING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC. From the outset of the COVID019 pandemic, the Administration has taken decisive action to engage scientists and health professionals in academia, industry, and government to understand, treat and defeat the disease.” 

Ivanka Trump has absolutely no scientific or technology background.

* * * * * * * * * *

Donald Trump has spent his life trading on the greed or fear of others. For example: 

  • Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi personally solicited a political contribution from Trump around the same time her office deliberated joining an investigation of alleged fraud at Trump University and its affiliates.
  • After Bondi dropped the Trump University case against Trump, he wrote her a $25,000 check for her re-election campaign. 
  • According to an April 14, 2019 story by ABC News, a nationwide review uncovered at least 36 criminal cases where Trump was invoked in direct connection with violent acts, threats of violence or allegations of assault.
  • In nine cases, attackers hailed Trump in the midst or immediate aftermath of physically assaulting victims. In 10 more cases, perpetrators cheered or defended Trump while taunting or threatening others. And in another 10 cases, Trump and his rhetoric were cited in court to explain a defendant’s violent or threatening behavior.

But in January, 2020, Trump confronted an enemy—to his re-election—that he couldn’t bribe or intimidate.

Unable to apply his trademark solutions, he was forced to improvise one attempted remedy after another. Chief among these:

  • Denial
  • Lies
  • Extortion
  • Propaganda as news
  • Attacking science
  • Reopening the country 
  • Resignation.

Ultimately, the virus—far more than Democratic nominee Joseph Biden—proved his fatal enemy.

Millions of Americans didn’t care that Trump had criminally fired an FBI director and tried to coerce the president of Ukraine to smear Biden. Nor that he had antagonized America’s closest allies while paying homage to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.

But when COVID-19 wiped out their jobs, their children had to stay home because schools were closed, and they couldn’t pay their mortgage, Trump’s “President-for-Life” ambitions were doomed.

One of the harshest—and most poignant—attacks on Donald Trump came on August 17, 2020. It was delivered at the Democratic National Convention by Kristin Urquiza—the daughter of one of Trump’s 2016 supporters.

That supporter, Mark Anthony Urquiza, had died—from COVID-19.

Kristin Urquiza, MPA (she/her) on Twitter: "Yes, I'm boiled over. Thanks for sharing my dads obit. 💔 @MarkedByCovid… "

Kristin Urquiza

In early June, he contracted the disease, shortly after Arizona lifted its stay-at-home order. He visited a karaoke bar with friends—and died, alone, after five days on a ventilator.

“My dad, Mark Anthony Urquiza, should be here today, but he isn’t,” Kristin said during a televised segment. “He had faith in Donald Trump.

“He voted for him, listened to him, believed him and his mouthpieces when they said that Coronavirus was under control and going to disappear; that it was OK to end social distancing rules before it was safe; and that if you had no underlying health conditions, you’d probably be fine.

“My dad was a healthy 65-year-old. His only preexisting condition was trusting Donald Trump, and for that he paid with his life.”   

That, ultimately, will be the real Trump legacy to America.

TWO VIRUSES, ONE CATASTROPHE: PART SEVEN (OF EIGHT)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 18, 2021 at 12:13 am

Once states across the country began “reopening,” President Donald J. Trump scheduled his first 2020 re-election rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

DEFYING SCIENCE 

Then, to celebrate Independence Day, Trump scheduled yet another rally at Mount Rushmore, in Keystone, South Dakota, on July 3.

Although health experts expressed fears about large gatherings during the Coronavirus pandemic, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem said people would “not be social distancing” during the celebration:

“In South Dakota, we’ve told people to focus on personal responsibility….Those who want to come and join us, we’ll be giving out free face masks, if they choose to wear one. But we won’t be social distancing.” 

“JUST LIVE WITH IT”

According to a July 3 story by NBC News: “Eager to move forward and reopen the economy amid a recession and a looming presidential election, the White House is now pushing acceptance. ‘The virus is with us, but we need to live with it,’ is how one official said the administration plans to message on the pandemic.” 

Administration officials would promote a new study they said showed promising results on therapeutics. They would also emphasize high survival rates, particularly for Americans who were within certain age groups and didn’t have underlying conditions.

On June 30, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testified before the U.S. Senate: “We are now having 40-plus thousand new cases a day. I would not be surprised if we go up to 100,000 a day if this does not turn around.” 

Fauci warned that the infection surge across the South and West “puts the entire country at risk.” Much of that increase was being fueled by young adults testing positive for COVID-19. 

The United States had become the country worst-affected by Coronavirus—with more than 6.88 million Americans diagnosed cases and at least 200,000 deaths. 

CHILD SACRIFICES

But Trump wanted children to return to school—and not through virtual classes at home.

And he wasn’t asking parents to send their children back to school after summer. He was ordering them to.

On July 8, 2020, he tweeted that he might withhold federal funding from schools that did not resume in-person classes this fall.

“In Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and many other countries, SCHOOLS ARE OPEN WITH NO PROBLEMS. The Dems think it would be bad for them politically if U.S. schools open before the November Election, but is important for the children & families. May cut off funding if not open!” 

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Donald Trump

Most school funding in America comes from states and municipalities, not the federal government. Nonetheless, the White House was exploring ways to use the next Coronavirus relief bill to tie the slice of school funding that did come from Washington to the pace of different schools’ reopenings. 

And moments after making that threat, Trump said the guidelines of his own Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) for safely reopening schools were too expensive and impractical:

I disagree with @CDCgov on their very tough & expensive guidelines for opening schools. While they want them open, they are asking schools to do very impractical things. I will be meeting with them!!!”

Among those guidelines: 

  • Schools should have markings on sidewalks and walls, that mark off six feet, and signs reminding students of protective measures.
  • Masks should be worn by students and faculty, “as feasible,” and especially when keeping a distance isn’t possible.
  • Sharing equipment, games and supplies should be avoided. If that’s not possible, they should be cleaned after each use.
  • Playgrounds, cafeterias and dining halls should be shut. Students eat in their classrooms.
  • Rooms should be well-ventilated.
  • Schools should allow sick staff members to “stay home when they are sick, have been exposed, or caring for someone who is sick,” without being punished for staying home.

SARS-CoV-2 without background.png

Coronavirus

Many Americans asked: “How can President Trump demand that children return to school in the midst of a deadly plague? Especially when we don’t have adequate testing facilities—and, most importantly, a reliable vaccine?” 

There was an answer—and it was brutally ugly. 

On July 10, Paula Reid, White House correspondent for CBS News, provided the answer on the PBS program, Washington Week:

“Well, up until now the administration has really deferred to local leaders to determine when they want to reopen their communities based on the situation on the ground.  But then you saw this week, when it comes to schools, the president issuing this broad mandate that all schools must open in the fall or else potentially he will cut funding, when in fact we know most schools are locally funded, and he’s also made other threats. 

Paula Reid on Twitter: "President Trump told me yesterday he's heard of oleandrin as potential therapeutic for Covid, but denied pressing FDA to approve. MyPillow CEO & Trump supporter Mike Lindell is

Paula Reid

“He’s made it clear that he is putting pressure on governors, and the question is: Why is he taking this approach to schools specifically when he’s deferred to states on so many other aspects of this pandemic? 

And just speaking with White House advisers, I’m told the president knows that in order to get parents back to work you need to get kids back to class, and for the president a lot of this is about hoping that that would give an economic boost to the U.S. ahead of his reelection in November.” 

For which he could then claim credit. 

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