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THE WHITE POOR: LOVING THOSE WHO DESPISE THEM: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on September 24, 2020 at 12:35 am

On July 22, 2011, ABC News carried the following story:

The Pew Foundation, analyzing voter identification, found “the electorate’s partisan affiliations have shifted significantly” since Barack Obama won office in 2008.

The GOP had gained strength among white voters, most specifically “the young and poor.”

Whitehead Institute - News - 2011 - Whitehead Member Mary Gehring named a Pew Scholar

A seven-point Democratic advantage among whites under age 30 three years ago had turned into an 11-point GOP advantage. And a 15-point Democratic advantage among whites earning less than $30,000 annually had swung to a slim four-point Republican edge by 2011.

In addition:

  • The GOP gains had occurred only among white voters.
  • Republicans had made sizable gains among white voters since 2008. Fifty-two percent of white voters called themselves Republicans or leaned to the GOP, compared with 39% who affiliated with the Democratic Party or leaned Democratic.
  • Democrats had lost their edge among lower income white voters.
  • In 2008, Democrats had a 15 point lead among white voters with family incomes less than $30,000.  By 2011, Republicans had a four-point edge among this group.
  • The GOP’s lead among middle income white voters had grown since 2008, and Republicans held a substantial advantage with higher income white voters.
  • Republicans have made gains among whites with a high school education or less. The GOP’s advantage over Democrats had grown from one point in 2008 to 17 points in 2011 among less educated whites.
  • Republicans had made smaller gains among whites voters who had college degrees.

Five years later, in 2016, these masses of disaffected white men would overwhelmingly vote for Donald Trump, a real estate mogul-turned-celebrity-TV-host of “The Apprentice.”

Trump had been born into a life of luxury. He began his real estate career at his father’s real estate and construction company. He rose to wealth and fame after his father, Fred, gave him control of the business in 1971.

Similarly, soon after acquiring the family business, Trump set out to build his own empire—hotels, golf courses, casinos, skyscrapers across North and South America, Europe and Asia. Of the 515 entities he owns, 268 of them—52%—bear his last name. He often refers to his properties as “the swankiest,” “the most beautiful.” 

During the Vietnam war, his father reportedly paid a doctor to claim that Trump suffered from “bone spurs” in his foot—thus enabling him to escape the draft.

Donald Trump

In short, Trump has literally nothing in common with the masses of poor whites who worship him. 

Howard Stern, the notorious radio host, has known Trump many years. Commenting on the appeal Trump has for his followers, Stern says: “The oddity of all this is the people Trump despises most, love him the most.

“The people who are voting for Trump for the most part …he wouldn’t even let them in his fucking hotel. He’d be disgusted by them. Go to Mar-a-Lago. See if there’s any people who look like you. I’m talking to you in the audience.”

Yet, while the poor worship Trump and Republicans generally, there is a disconnect between them: Since 1980, Republicans have,pursued a policy of gutting programs aimed at helping the poor—while repeatedly creating tax-breaks for the wealthiest 1% of the population.

For Republicans, the patron saint of this “love-the-rich-screw-the-poor” ideology remains Ronald Reagan–two-time governor of California and twice-elected President of the United States (1981-1989)

Ronald Reagan, who taught Americans to worship the wealthy

Among those charting Reagan’s legacy as President was former CBS Correspondent David Shoenbrum.

In his bestselling autobiography, America Inside Out: At Home and Abroad from Roosevelt to Reagan, he noted:

  • On January 28, 1981, keeping a pledge to his financial backers in the oil industry, Reagan abolished Federal controls on the price of oil.
  • Within a week, Exxon, Texaco and Shell raised gasoline prices and prices of home heating oil.
  • Reagan saw it as his duty to put a floor under prices, not a ceiling above them.
  • Reagan believed that when government helped business it wasn’t interfering. Loaning money to bail out a financially incompetent Chrysler was “supporting the free enterprise system.”
  • But putting a high-profits tax on price-gouging corporations or filing anti-trust suits against them was “Communistic” and therefore intolerable.
  • Tax-breaks for wealthy businesses meant helping America become stronger.
  • But welfare for the poor or the victims of a predatory marketplace economy weakened America by sapping its morale.

“In short, welfare for the rich is good for America. But welfare for the poor is bad for America, even for the poor themselves, for it encourages them to be shiftless and lazy.

“Somehow, loans to the inefficient management of American corporations would not similarly encourage them in their inefficient methods,” wrote Shoenbrun.

Republicans have sought to dismantle Social Security ever since that program began in 1935. And Republicans have furiously opposed other programs aiding the poor and middle-class—such as Medicare, food stamps and WIC (Women, Infants, Children).

In short, this is not a political party with a history of rushing to the defense of those most in need.

So the question remains: Why are so many poor Americans flocking to its banner?

The answer lies in the history of the American South—and slavery.

MACHIAVELLI VS. THE IRS

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on August 7, 2020 at 12:10 am

More than 500 years ago, the Florentine statesman, Niccolo Machiavelli, warned: A prince…must imitate the fox and the lion, for the lion cannot protect himself from traps, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves.  One must therefore be a fox to avoid traps, and a lion to frighten wolves. Those who wish to be only lions do not realize this. 

And never is the need greater to imitate the fox than when dealing with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Several years ago, a private investigative agency found itself in serious trouble with that agency.

One of its employees had suddenly quit the company—leaving behind a major financial disaster.

That employee—whom I’ll call Pete—had been tasked with sending payroll tax records to the IRS. The company’s owner, Bill, assumed he had carried out his assignment.

Until he learned from the IRS that they had never received the records.

Consider the potential consequences:

  • Failing to timely and properly pay federal payroll taxes results in an automatic penalty of 2% to 10%.
  • Similar state and local penalties apply.
  • Failing to properly file monthly or quarterly returns may result in additional penalties.
  • Failing to file W-2 Forms results in an automatic penalty of up to $50 per form not timely filed.
  • A particularly severe penalty applies where federal income tax withholding and Social Security taxes are not paid to the IRS.
  • The penalty of up to 100% of the amount not paid can be assessed against the employer entity as well as any person (such as a corporate officer) having control or custody of the funds from which payment should have been made.

About 70% of the annual revenue collected by the IRS comes from payroll taxes. Under-reported and unpaid employment taxes account for about $72 billion of the United States tax gap. So the IRS makes the collection of payroll taxes a high priority.

No doubt about it—Bill was facing serious trouble.

Sales/Use Tax Alert | Green NRG Institute

What to do?  

Fortunately, Steve, one of Bill’s employees, had a B.A. in Communications and had worked as a newspaper reporter.

When Bill told him of the calamity he was facing, Steve offered his best advice: Immediately contest the charge that he had been delinquent in providing the records. And explain to the IRS—in writing—what had happened.  

Bill agreed.

First,  Steve interviewed him at length to make certain he fully understood the circumstances leading up to his present crisis. 

Then Steve sat down and typed up a letter—on office letterhead stationery—-to the IRS. Letterhead would give it an official appearance—and Steve wanted every advantage he could get.

Steve offered a straightforward presentation of what had happened: Pete, the number-two man in the company, had been entrusted with submitting payroll tax records to the IRS. But, nursing a grudge against his employer, he had dumped the records in a box and stashed this in a locked filing cabinet.

Then he had given notice and left the company.  Later, an investigation of the office turned up the records—as well as the revelation that Pete had often used his office computer to access pornography.

In his letter, Steve emphasized that Bill’s company had previously had an unblemished record for meeting its payroll tax obligations on time. And he stated that the newly-found records had been sent to the IRS by registered mail.

Finally, Steve wrote that Bill was prepared to fully meet his financial obligations  to the IRS. But he asked that Bill not be penalized for the irresponsible actions of a single, disgruntled employee.

The result? 

Bill ended up paying only those monies that he legally owed.  He was not forced to pay a penalty.

So what are the lessons to be learned from this episode?

  • In dealing with an agency as powerful as the IRS, don’t ignore its letters. 
  • You have nothing to gain by pretending it will go away.  It won’t.
  • If you owe money, don’t deny it. 
  • Remain calm, even if you feel angry or afraid. 
  • Don’t use profanity or insults. 
  • Don’t try to play tough-guy with the IRS.  Even the Mafia fears this agency.
  • And with good reason: Al Capone didn’t go to prison for murder or bootlegging. He went away for income tax evasion.

  • If you have a legitimate reason for having missed a payment, say so. 
  • Remember that everything you say to the IRS—verbally or in writing—is considered evidence given under oath. 
  • If you lie and get caught, you can face perjury charges as well as those for failing to comply with tax laws.
  • Offer to fully pay any monies that you legally owe.
  • If these amount to more than you can meet in a single payment, say so. Ask the agency to set up a plan by which you can pay it off in installments.
  • If the agency balks at cooperating with you, contact a veteran tax accountant or attorney.
  • The best accountants or attorneys for dealing with the IRS are former agents now working in private practice. They not only know the tax laws; they know the best ways to short-circuit an IRS audit and/or penalties.

THE LIVES OF CHICKENS—AND AMERICANS

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Medical, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 21, 2020 at 12:31 am

It was the night of March 5, 1836. For the roughly 200 men inside the surrounded Alamo, death lay only hours away. 

Inside a house in San Antonio, Texas, Mexican dictator Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna was holding a council of war with his generals.

For 12 days, his army had bombarded the old mission. Still, the Texians—whose numbers included the legendary bear hunter and Congressman David Crockett and knife fighter James Bowie—held out.

Now Santa Anna was in a hurry to take the makeshift fortress. Once its defenders were dead, he could march on to sweep all American settlers from Texas.

One of his generals, Manuel Castrillón, urged Santa Anna to wait just a few more days. By then, far bigger cannon would be available. When the Alamo’s three-feet-thick walls had been knocked down, the defenders would be forced to surrender.

The lives of countless Mexican soldiers would thus be spared.

Santa Anna was eating a late-night chicken dinner. He held up a chicken leg and said: “What are the lives of soldiers but those of so many chickens?”

Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna

Santa Anna ordered his generals to prepare an all-out attack on the Alamo, to be launched the next morning—March 6, 1836—at 5 a.m.

Hours later, the attack went forward. Within 90 minutes, every Alamo defender was dead—and so were at least 600 Mexican soldiers. 

“What are the lives of Americans but those of so many chickens?”

That could well be the slogan of President Donald Trump in his approach to COVID-19. 

The United States has become the country worst-affected by Coronavirus—with more than 3.9 million diagnosed cases and more than 143,000 deaths. 

SARS-CoV-2 without background.png

Coronavirus

Americans are living through their seventh month with the virus, and still the Trump administration cannot—or will not—design a coordinated plan to combat it.

Trump started out 2020 by dismissing COVID-19 as a threat. On January 22 he said: “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China.”

By February 28, he had termed the disease the Democrats’ “new hoax.”

By March, he was making it clear that each state was responsible for securing its needed supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) for its doctors and nurses aiding Coronavirus patients.

This has resulted in a dog-eat-dog atmosphere of cutthroat competition and scarcity, with Americans not only fighting the virus but each other.

Even worse: Trump didn’t simply refuse to provide states with vitally-needed medical supplies—he ordered the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to illegally seize those supplies that states had ordered.

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Donald Trump

When states’ governors issued stay-at-home orders, Trump was forced to cancel his campaign rallies. Starting Easter weekend, he held almost 50 daily press briefings at the White House.

Their official purpose: To update the country on the administration’s ongoing response to the Coronavirus pandemic. Their real purpose: To serve as a substitute for Trump’s hate-filled political rallies, which have been likened to those staged by Germany’s Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler, at Nuremberg. 

Eager to return to his mass rallies and reignite his support from Right-wingers, he began furiously campaigning to end social distancing and the wearing of masks. Both of these had been mandated by such governors as California’s Gavin Newsom and New York’s Andrew Cuomo.

He also demanded the reopening of businesses across the nation—although there was no vaccine nor even adequate testing and contact-tracing facilities. This led many states—especially in the South and Midwest—to reopen prematurely—with a resulting rise in COVID infections and deaths.

He urged his Right-wing supporters to flood into the capitols of such states as Michigan, Minnesota and Virginia—whose governors were Democrats—and demand an end to mask-wearing and social distancing. This was in direct defiance of the laws legally in force in those states.

And they did as he ordered—massing shoulder-to-shoulder, most of them not wearing masks, and with many of them carrying automatic rifles.

On April 23, at a White House press briefing, he suggested that UV light and disinfectant—such as Clorox—might prove an effective preventative or cure for Coronavirus. This prompted alarm from medical professionals—even as some Americans believed him and swallowed disinfectant to prevent COVID-19.

Unable—or unwilling—to effectively attack the virus, Trump chose to attack the medical professionals desperately trying to save lives. He accused them of hoarding scarce medical supplies and lying about the number of COVID cases they were treating. 

His chief target: Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. There were two reasons for this:

  1. Fauci repeatedly warned about the dangers of the virus—and criticized the failure of the Federal Government to  effectively combat it; and
  2. His warnings and criticisms repeatedly proved correct, while Trump’s rosy predictions proved wrong.

Now Trump demands that Americans put their children at risk by sending them back to school in the fall—so their parents can return to work. Then he can claim he’s “saved” the American economy—and be re-elected.

Donald Trump’s ultimate “strategy” on COVID-19: “Pretend it’s over and re-elect me. Then drop dead for all I care.”

“TWITTER RULES” MEAN NOTHING TO TRUMP–OR TWITTER: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on May 28, 2020 at 12:05 am

On December 12, 2017, President Donald Trump used Twitter to attack New York United States Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.

Gillibrand was among six Democratic Senators who called for Trump’s resignation after sexual harassment allegations forced three Republican and Democratic members of Congress to resign.

Trump tweeted: “Lightweight Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a total flunky for Chuck Schumer and someone who would come to my office ‘begging’ for campaign contributions not so long ago (and would do anything for them), is now in the ring fighting against Trump. Very disloyal to Bill & Crooked-USED!”

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Kirsten Gillibrand

“I see it as a sexist smear. I mean that’s what it is,” Gillibrand replied in a press conference. “It’s part of the President’s efforts of name calling and it’s not going to silence me, it’s not going to silence me. It’s intended to silence me.”

So how does this behavior apply to “The Twitter Rules”? 

Abuse/harassment: You may not engage in the targeted harassment of someone, or incite other people to do so. This includes wishing or hoping that someone experiences physical harm.

On February 17, 2017, Trump tweeted: “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!”

On July 2, 2017, Trump tweeted a video showing him punching a man with the CNN logo superimposed on his head during a WWE wrestling match.

And on August 15, 2017, the President retweeted a cartoon photo of a “Trump Train” running over a CNN reporter.

President retweeted image of Trump train running over CNN reporter ...

Yet Twitter’s Terms of Service state: 

Violence: You may not threaten violence against an individual or a group of people. We also prohibit the glorification of violence. 

In May, 2020, Trump tweeted six times about a decades-old conspiracy theory about MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough. Scarborough has been highly critical of Trump’s actions as President—such as his pushing “scam solutions” to Coronavirus instead of relying on scientific experts.

Trump’s smears about Scarborough center on the 2001 death of Lori Klausutis, who worked in his Florida office when he served in Congress. Scarborough’s opponents and a bevy of internet trolls have tried to blame him for her death, even though he was in Washington at the time.  

Trump tweeted that Comcast—which owns MSNBC—“should open up a long overdue Florida Cold Case against Psycho Joe Scarborough.” Since then, he has essentially accused Scarborough of murder. 

On May 21, Timothy Klausutis, Lori’s widowed husband, wrote Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s CEO, asking him to delete Trump’s tweets, 

Image result for Images of Jack Dorsey

Jack Dorsey

“Nearly 19 years ago, my wife, who had an undiagnosed heart condition, fell and hit her head on her desk at work. She was found dead the next morning,” wrote Klausutis. “Her passing is the single most painful thing that I have ever had to deal with in my 52 years and continues to haunt her parents and sister. 

“The President’s tweet that suggests that Lori was murdered—without evidence (and contrary to the official autopsy)—is a violation of Twitter’s community rules and terms of service.”

Twitter has refused to delete the tweets.

CNN Business asked Twitter if Trump’s “cold case” tweets violated its rules and if any action would be taken. Twitter refused to comment.

So how do Twitter’s top executives justify allowing these repeated violations of “Twitter Rules”?

On September 25, 2018, the company tweeted:

“We hold all accounts to the same Rules, and consider a number of factors when assessing whether Tweets violate our Rules.

“Among the considerations is ‘newsworthiness’ and whether a Tweet is of public interest. This has long been internal policy and we’ll soon update our public-facing rules to reflect it. We need to do better on this, and will.”

Twitter has never acknowledged publicly that Trump has violated any of its guidelines. It rarely even acknowledges Trump’s tweets. 

So what gives? 

Money. 

Trump’s apologists have fiercely defended his tweetstorms, claiming they allow him to bypass the media and “communicate directly with the American people.” 

One of those apologists is Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, who said: “I believe it’s really important to have these conversations out in the open, rather than have them behind closed doors.”

In April, 2017, Twitter announced that it had added 9,000,000 new users, its largest quarterly jump in two years. 

“We believe Twitter is the best at showing you what’s happening in the world and what’s being talked about,” said Anthony Noto, Twitter’s chief financial officer. 

“Having political leaders of the world as well as news agencies participating and driving that is an important element to reinforcing what we’re the best at.”

In short: Trump is good at attracting more Twitter users. and if the company needs to overlook his blatant and repeated violations of its “Twitter Rules,” so be it.  

Twitter has been so plagued by trolling that potential investors like the Walt Disney Company refused to taint their own reputations by partnering with it. 

But high-ranking Twitter executives refuse to end their Faustian pact with the biggest Twitter troll of all. 

And, as all devotees of the Faust legend know, there comes a time when the Devil wins the bargain.  

“TWITTER RULES” MEAN NOTHING TO TRUMP–OR TWITTER: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on May 27, 2020 at 12:30 am

According to “The Twitter Rules,” posted on the Twitter website:

“Twitter’s purpose is to serve the public conversation. Violence, harassment and other similar types of behavior discourage people from expressing themselves, and ultimately diminish the value of global public conversation. Our rules are to ensure all people can participate in the public conversation freely and safely.”

Among these:

  • Violence: You may not threaten violence against an individual or a group of people. We also prohibit the glorification of violence. 
  • Terrorism/violent extremism: You may not threaten or promote terrorism or violent extremism. 
  • Abuse/harassment: You may not engage in the targeted harassment of someone, or incite other people to do so. This includes wishing or hoping that someone experiences physical harm. 
  • Hateful conduct: You may not promote violence against, threaten, or harass other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, caste, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease. 

That’s the official version of what Twitter users can expect from those charged with policing Twitter.

So why hasn’t Twitter policed—and purged—the single greatest abuser of its “Twitter Rules”: Donald Trump?

Consider:

Donald Trump’s tweet-first-and-never-mind-the-consequences approach to life has been thoroughly documented.

From June 15, 2015, when he launched his Presidential campaign, until October 24, 2016, he fired nearly 4,000 angry, insulting tweets at 281 people and institutions. The New York Times needed two full pages of its print edition to showcase them.

Donald Trump

Among these targets were:

  • His Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton
  • His fellow Republican Presidential candidates
  • Actress Meryl Streep
  • News organizations
  • President Barack Obama
  • Comedian John Oliver
  • Obamacare
  • Singer Neil Young
  • The state of New Jersey
  • Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

His Twitter assaults have often dominated entire news cycles for days on end.

As President-elect, he continued these assaults—such as the one on November 18, 2016.

On that evening, Vice President-elect Mike Pence attended a Broadway performance of the hit musical “Hamilton.”

After the curtain call, the actor Brandon Victor Dixon—who played Aaron Burr—respectfully addressed Pence:

“We are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our friends, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights. But we truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us.”

Dixon—who is black—was rightly alarmed.

Trump had received the open and enthusiastic support of the Ku Klux Klan, American Nazi Party and other white supremacist groups. Since his election, white thugs had assaulted blacks and other non-whites across the country.

Trump’s reaction to Dixon’s plea came in two Twitter rants:

“Our wonderful future V.P. Mike Pence was harassed last night at the theater by the cast of Hamilton, cameras blazing. This should not happen!”

And: “The Theater must always be a safe and special place. The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!”

And during his first two weeks as President, Trump attacked 22 people, places and things on his @realDonaldTrump account.

Then, on March 4, 2017, in a series of unhinged tweets, Trump accused former President Barack Obama of tapping his Trump Tower phones prior to the election.

President Barack Obama

“Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!”

“Is it legal for a sitting President to be ‘wire tapping’ a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW!”

“I’d bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!”

“How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”

Thus, without offering a shred of evidence to back it up, Trump accused his predecessor—on Twitter—of committing an impeachable offense.

On May 9, 2017, Trump abruptly fired FBI Director James Comey.

Reports soon surfaced that his reason for doing so was that Comey had refused to pledge his personal loyalty to Trump.    James Comey official portrait.jpg

James B. Comey

Just 72 hours after firing Comey, Trump issued a threat to him via Twitter: “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”

And Twitter’s reaction to such a blatant threat?  Silence.

From the start of his Presidency, Trump has put his ambitions, excuses and rants on social media. And this has unnerved foreign leaders as well as Trump’s fellow Americans.As CNN Political Analyst Julian Zelizer outlined in a July 3, 2018 article: 

“…The President’s ongoing Twitter storms make all leaders uneasy. The heads of government in most nations prefer a certain amount of predictability and decorum from other heads of state.

“To have one of the most powerful people in the room being someone who is willing to send out explosive and controversial statements through social media, including nasty personal attacks or an edited video of him physically assaulting the media, does not make others….feel very confident about how he will handle deliberations with them.”

“SAY TRUMP IS BLAMELESS. SAY THERE ARE NO DEAD.”

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on April 14, 2020 at 12:30 am

President Donald Trump frittered away two vital months—January and February—by refusing to take Coronavirus seriously. Even worse, he repeatedly downplayed the virus in a series of public appearances.

Consider:

  • January 22: “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China.”
  • February 24: “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA.”
  • February 26: “The 15 cases within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero.” 
  • February 27: “One day it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.”
  • February 28: “Now the Democrats are politicizing the Coronavirus….We did one of the great jobs….One of my people came up to me and said, ‘Mr. President, they tried to beat you on Russia, Russia, Russia’….They couldn’t do it. They tried the impeachment hoax….It’s all turning, they lost….And this is their new hoax.”
  • March 6: “I think we’re doing a really good job in this country of keeping it down. A tremendous job of keeping it down.” 

Image result for Trump Corona Timeline

Now, with more than 23,000 Americans dead—10,000 of them alone in New York—Trump’s fanatical defenders are desperate to rewrite history.

The outbreak of Coronavirus, first detected in Wuhan, China, in late December, 2019, has taken more American lives in the 21st century than any other disaster—natural or man-made.

Consider: 

  • 9/11:  2,977 deaths
  • Hurricane Katrina: 1,836 deaths 
  • Benghazi Embassy attack:  4
  • Ebola:
  • Hurricane Maria:  2,982,
  • Coronavirus:  23,604 (by April 14, 2020)

One of these defenders is Republican South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham. 

On April 9, appearing on the Fox News network’s “Sean Hannity” show, Graham said: “The first thing I want to do is get the United States Senate on the record where we don’t blame Trump. We blame China.

“The Chinese government is responsible for 16,000 American deaths and 17 million Americans being unemployed. It’s the Chinese government and the way they behave that led to this pandemic. This is the third one to come out of China.

Lindsey Graham, official photo, 113th Congress.jpg

Lindsey Graham

“I want to make our response to this so overwhelming that China will change its behavior. I want to get the medical supply chain back into the United States, and I want to stop cancelling some debt that we owe to China because they should be paying us, not us paying China.”

Graham said that the “wet markets” in China should be shut down, because they have been the source of three pandemics that originated in China.  

“So, I think you’re going to see a bipartisan push back against China to punish them so severely to deter them in the future.”   

[As for “getting the medical supply chain back into the United States”: In 2018, China accounted for 95% of American imports of ibuprofen, 91% off hydrocortisone, 70% of acetaminophen, 40% to 45% of penicillin and 40% of heparin, according to Commerce Department data. Eighty percent of the American supply of antibiotics are made in China.]

Seventy-three years earlier, Chief United States Counsel Robert H. Jackson had been assigned to prosecute the major Nazi defendants for war crimes at Nuremberg. 

On July 26, 1946, Jackson delivered his closing remarks to the court. He might as well have been speaking about Donald Trump and his cheerleading—and misleading—chorus on Coronavirus:

“Lying has always been a highly approved Nazi technique. [Adolf] Hitler, in Mein Kampf, advocated mendacity as a policy. {Foreign Minister Joachim] Von Ribbentrop admits the use of the ‘diplomatic lie.’

“….Nor is the lie direct the only means of falsehood. They all speak with a Nazi double talk with which to deceive the unwary….’Final solution’ of the Jewish problem was a phrase which meant extermination. ‘Special treatment’ of prisoners of war meant killing. ‘Protective custody’ meant concentration camp.

Roberthjackson.jpg

Robert H. Jackson

“Besides outright false statements and double talk, there are also other circumventions of truth in the nature of fantastic explanations and absurd professions.

“[Rabid anti-Semite Julius] Streicher has solemnly maintained that…his reason for destroying synagogues…was only because they were architecturally offensive….

“This was the philosophy of the National Socialists. When for years they have deceived the world, and masked falsehood with plausibilities, can anyone be surprised that they continue their habits of a lifetime in this dock? 

“It is against such a background that these defendants now ask this Tribunal to say that they are not guilty of planning, executing, or conspiring to commit this long list of crimes and wrongs.”

Citing William Shakespeare’s play about the murderous Richard III, Jackson concluded:

“They stand before the record of this trial as bloodstained Gloucester stood by the body of his slain king. He begged of the widow, as they beg of you: ‘Say I slew them not.’ And the Queen replied, ‘Then say they were not slain. But dead they are…’

“If you were to say of these men that they are not guilty, it would be as true to say that there has been no war, there are no slain, there has been no crime.” 

If Americans find Donald Trump blameless for refusing to take decisive action against the Coronavirus threat, it will be as true to say there has been no plague, there are no thousands of dead Americans, there has been no dereliction of Presidential responsibility. 

AMERICA’S WEALTH CLUB: “GO TO WORK–AND DIE FOR ME”

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on March 31, 2020 at 12:09 am

“Capitalism Kills” could have been a headline in Pravda, the official “newspaper” of the former Soviet Union.

Instead, it’s billionaires themselves who are responsible for such a sentiment. They are doing their level best to persuade workers: “I regret that I have only one life to give for my CEO.”

Richard Kovacevich is the former CEO of Norwest Bank (1966 – 1998) and Wells Fargo (1998 – 2007). He wants healthy people under age 55 to return to work in late April if the outbreak is contained enough.

There are two major problems with this:

  1. There aren’t enough test kits to screen everyone for possible signs of the Coronavirus.
  2. Many of those who carry the virus show no signs of infection.

“We’ll gradually bring those people back and see what happens. Some of them will get sick, some may even die. I don’t know,” said Kovacevich.

He might just as well have added: “I don’t care.”

I think Trump is wrong on rates, we need to get to neutral, says ...

“Do you want to suffer more economically or take some risk that you’ll get flu-like symptoms and a flu-like experience? Do you want to take an economic risk or a health risk? You get to choose.”

If President Donald Trump gets to choose, the nationwide social distancing practices that health professionals say are essential to saving lives during the Coronavirus outbreak will end on April 30.

He originally chose Easter as a pretext for doing this: “You’ll have packed churches all over our country. I think it would be a beautiful time.”

The real reason: He wants to return to return to holding his mass public rallies—which some have compared to the Nuremberg rallies hosted by Adolf Hitler. There he can spew hatred at everyone he dislikes and bask in the worshipful glow of his fanatical base.

Fortunately, the rising tide of COVID-19 cases forced him to abandon his original April 12 date. 

And many highly-paid executives in American corporations are itching to put their employees back at work—and on the Coronavirus firing line. 

“The damages of keeping the economy closed as it is could be worse than losing a few more people,” Tom Golisano, the founder and chairman of the payroll processor Paychex Inc. told Bloomberg. “I have a very large concern that if businesses keep going along the way they’re going then so many of them will have to fold.” 

Forbes estimates Golisano’s net worth to be $3 billion.  

Like Richard Kovacevich, he wants states that haven’t been hit hard by the virus to return to normalcy.

Tom Golisano.JPG

Tom Golisano

Penale52 / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

Lloyd Blankfein, the former head of Goldman Sachs, wrote on Twitter: “Crushing the economy, jobs and morale is also a health issue—and beyond. Within a very few weeks let those with a lower risk to the disease return to work.”

There’s no question that keeping businesses closed across the country—as scientists and health professionals are urging—will inflict large-scale economic damage.

But rushing people back to work would prolong the outbreak and overwhelm the healthcare system. And it would certainly increase—perhaps exponentially—the number of dead and infected casualties of the pandemic. Economists from Northwestern University calculated that keeping social distancing practices in place until cases decline could save 600,000 lives nationwide.

Meanwhile, Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warns that the United States could experience 100,000 deaths and millions of viral infections from the Coronavirus pandemic.

Ignoring these facts is Right-wing TV and radio host Glenn Beck, who, according to Forbes, was worth $90 million in 2014.

“I would rather have my children stay home and all of us who are over 50 go in and keep this economy going and working.  Even if we all get sick, I’d rather die than kill the country,” Beck, 56, said on his show “The Blaze.”

Of course, Beck works alone in his own studio—and is thus highly unlikely to come in contact with an infected carrier.

Glenn Beck (25030472253) (cropped).jpg

Glenn Beck

George Skidmore photo

Like Beck, millionaires and billionaires can afford to socially distance themselves from others and still accumulate huge piles of wealth.

“I think what we are doing with the shutdown is good but in a few weeks people will need to be around people,” said billionaire Tilman Fertitta, owner of a casino, hotel and restaurant empire.

He certainly needs “people to be around people.” His businesses depend heavily on huge numbers of customers willing to spend money.

And, in this case, to risk their lives doing so.

Adds Fertotta: “Otherwise you are going to go into an economic crisis that is going to take us years to dig ourselves out of.”

Fertitta’s income is estimated at $4.4 billion, according to Forbes.

For men like Richard Kovacevich, Tom Golisano, Lloyd Blankfein, Glenn Beck and Tilman Fertitta,, the words of President Franklin D. Roosevelt have no meaning: “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have little.”

For Republicans and their wealthy benefactors, “pro-life” means strictly anti-abortion. Any other form of life—the elderly, the ill, victims of pollution, those slaughtered with military-style weaponry used by criminals—are totally expendable.

EVEN FASCISM HAS ITS LIMITS

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on March 23, 2020 at 12:29 am

Apparently some lies are off-limits on the Fox News Network. That is, if they provoke enough angry audience response.

COVID-19 had stricken 1,016 Americans and caused 31 deaths. The virus was raging in 33 states.The stock market had had its worst week of trading since the “Wall Street meltdown” of 2008. 

But on March 9, Trish Regan, host of Trish Regan Primetime on the Fox Business Network, attacked not the virus but those who do not share her fervent embrace of Donald Trump.

“We’ve reached a tipping point,” said Regan. “The hate is boiling. Many in the liberal media are using Coronavirus in an attempt to demonize and destroy the President, despite the virus originating halfway around the world.

“This is yet another attempt to impeach the President. And sadly, it seems the left cares little for any of the destruction they leave in their wake, including losses in the stock market. This, unfortunately, is all just part of the political casualties for them.”

Trish Regan

To make certain no one in the television audience missed the point, an electronically generated caption read: “Coronavirus Impeachment Scam.”

On the same day that Regan accused Trump’s critics of being haters, Trump himself was directing hate through his weapon of choice: Twitter: 

“The Fake News Media and their partner, the Democrat Party, is doing everything within its semi-considerable power (it used to be greater!) to inflame the CoronaVirus situation, far beyond what the facts would warrant. Surgeon General, ‘The risk is low to the average American.’”

Actually, with the virus spreading quickly throughout all 50 states, the risk is not low to the average American. It is not the news that’s fake, but the lies and ignorance Trump is spouting.

SARS-CoV-2 without background.png

Coronavirus

On March 14, Fox Business Network announced that Regan’s program would be on “hiatus” until further notice. 

The reason: Using one of the favorite words of the Right, her comments had “triggered” an avalanche of criticism. Some of this came from Coronavirus victims. Some came from those related to those victims. And some came simply from people who didn’t appreciate being so blatantly lied to.

On March 13, perhaps warned of her coming suspension, Regan took a more conciliatory tone: “Our path forward right now is together, the left and the right united to fight this crisis. We’re all in this together, and we need to stay safe.”

Trying to put the best spin on her humiliating suspension, she tweeted that same evening: “I want to let everyone know that Trish Regan Primetime is now on hiatus. FBN has taken prudent steps to limit staffing levels and is prioritizing its coverage during market hours. I fully support this decision — we all must to do our part to keep our colleagues safe.”

Thus—at least according to Regan—her leaving the air was not an act of punishment but a “prudent step” to “limit staffing levels” at the station.

Is there a lesson to be learned here? Yes.

And it comes, fittingly enough, from Nazi Germany—the regime which has provided so much unacknowledged inspiration for America’s Right-wing demagogues. 

On February 27, 1943, a battalion of SS men, Gestapo agents and regular policemen fanned out across Berlin to arrest the city’s last remaining Jews. Jews still working in armaments factories, as well as Jews married to non-Jews, were the main targets.

Intermarried Jews were jailed, under SS guard, at Rosenstrasse 2-4, the Jewish community’s administration building.

As rumors of the mass arrests stirred through Berlin, the German wives of those arrested flocked to Rosenstrasse. Arriving alone or in pairs, they formed a crowd that rapidly kept expanding. One woman, accompanied by her brother—a Wehrmacht soldier in full uniform—approached an SS guard. “If my brother-in-law is not released,” the soldier told the guard, “I will not return to the front.”

As night fell, the demonstrators refused to end their protest. They demanded the return of their husbands. Several approached the SS guards and loudly complained. For a whole week, day and night, the protest continued, with the crowd often shouting: “Let our husbands go! We want our husbands back!” 

Memorial commemorating the protest 

Niki Sublime from Boston, USA / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0

As many as 600 protesters gathered at one time, and thousands had joined in by the protest’s end. Several times the SS guards shouted: “Clear the streets—or we’ll shoot!” At this, the women scattered—only to quickly return.

Even some hardened Nazis were impressed. A Gestapo guard told one of the Jewish prisoners: “Your relatives are out there protesting for you. This is German loyalty.”

On March 6, 1943, Joseph Goebbels in his capacity as the Gauleiter (Governor) of Berlin, ordered all of the people imprisoned at Rosenstrasse 2-4 released.

According to Leopold Gutterer, Goebbels’s deputy at the Propaganda Ministry, Goebbels said if force was used to crush the demonstrations, it would prompt wider protests all over Berlin, which might soon become political, and could possibly even lead to the overthrow of the Nazi regime.

So the lesson is clear, and it is this: If average citizens, even in the heart of a brutal dictatorship, can show courage against lies and injustice, so can Americans living in what is supposed to be a democracy.

YOUR CORONAVIRUS CZAR

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on March 16, 2020 at 12:09 am

On February 26, President Donald Trump appointed Vice President Mike Pence to lead a task force to combat the spread of the Coronavirus. 

In doing so, he rejected calls to appoint an outside medical expert.

This put the Federal medical establishment under a trusted sycophant—and gave Trump a convenient scapegoat if something went wrong.

So here’s what America is getting as its medical savior.

Michael Richard “Mike” Pence served as a Republican member of the House of Representatives from 2001 to 2013. He also served as Chairman of the House Republican Conference from 2009 to 2012.  His record included:

  • Voted, in 2007, to defund Planned Parenthood because it provides abortions.
  • Opposed, in 2009, giving American citizenship to children born to illegal aliens living within the United States.
  • Compared the U.S. Supreme Court’s upholding the Constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
  • Voted to eliminate funding for climate education programs and to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2012, he ran for Governor of Indiana, won the election, and assumed this office in 2013.

As Governor, Pence: 

  • Signed legislation in 2015 that repealed an 80-year-old Indiana law requiring construction companies working on publicly funded projects to pay a prevailing wage.
  • Successfully lobbied in 2013 to limit reductions in sentences for marijuana offenses.

On July 15, 2016, Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump announced on Twitter that he had selected Pence as his Vice Presidential running mate in the 2016 Presidential election.

But for all of Pence’s actions as Congressman and Governor, the one which may prove the most far-reaching may be this: His signing into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

As Governor of Indiana, he did this on March 26, 2015. The law allows any individual or corporation to cite its religious beliefs as a defense when sued by a private party.

Related image

Mike Pence

Officially, its intent is to prevent the government from forcing business owners to act in ways contrary to strongly held religious beliefs. Unofficially, its purpose is to appease the hatred of gays and lesbians by the religious Right, a key constituency of the Republican party.

Thus, a bakery can legally refuse to make a cake for a gay wedding or a restaurant can refuse to serve lesbian patrons.

And a hospital can refuse to provide care to a gay or lesbian patient. 

The bill was passed overwhelmingly by both chambers of the Republican-controlled state legislature.  

“Today I signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, because I support the freedom of religion for every Hoosier of every faith,” Pence said in a statement on the day he signed the bill.

“The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action.”

Yet for all his praise for the bill, Pence signed it in a ceremony closed to the public and the press. The media were asked to leave even the waiting area of the governor’s office.

At least one unintended consequence of that legislation has already surfaced: The First Church of Cannabis.

The day after Pence signed the Act, church founder Bill Levin announced on his Facebook page that he had filed paperwork with the office of the Indiana Secretary of State.

Its registration had been approved—and Levin was ecstatic: “Now we begin to accomplish our goals of Love, Understanding, and Good Health.

“Donate $100 or more and become a GREEN ANGEL. Donate $500 or more and become a GOLD ANGEL. Donate $1000 or more and become a CHURCH POOHBA.”

This legislation has not only brought legal marijuana to Indiana. It may bring Sharia law as well.

Since 9/11, Right-wingers such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity have warned that Muslims are trying to impose Sharia (Islamic law) on America. And now Indiana’s legislators, in elevating religion above the law, may have laid the legal foundations for making that possible.

Related image

Muslims demanding the imposition of Sharia law–on themselves and non-Muslims

What will happen when: 

  • Muslims in Indiana claim their right—guaranteed in Islamic religious law—to have as many as four wives?  
  • Muslims demand a taxpayer-funded “halal” non-pork food shelf at free food pantries for the poor? (Exactly this happened among Somali refugees in Minnesota in 2015.) 
  • Muslims demand that police departments cancel counter-terrorism courses by claiming that their materials are anti-Muslim? (Exactly this happened to several police departments in Illinois.)

And when they claim that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act protects those rights? 

Now that Pence is Coronizavirus Czar, it’s essential to remember:

  • In 2001, when he ran for Congress, he posted on his campaign website: “Despite the hysteria from the political class and the media, smoking doesn’t kill.”
  • As a Congressman, Pence voted against legislation allowing the Food and Drug Administration to regulate the tobacco industry.
  • During a CNN panel in 2002 about abstinence education, Pence said: “Frankly, condoms are a very, very poor protection against sexually transmitted diseases.”
  • In 2015, Indiana had an unprecedented HIV outbreak. Although the Centers for Disease Control recommended clean needle exchanges, Pence, as governor, opposed this.

As the Coronavirus threatens to overwhelm the United States as it has Italy, the appointment of Mike Pence as America’s Dr. Marcus Welby is not an event to celebrate.

WHEN HATERS BECOME WHINERS

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on March 12, 2020 at 12:23 am

COVID-19 has so far stricken 1,016 Americans and caused 31 deaths. The virus is raging in 33 states. The stock market has had its worst week of trading since the “Wall Street meltdown” of 2008. 

But on March 9, Trish Regan, host of Trish Regan Primetime on the Fox Business Network, attacked not the virus but those who do not share her fervent embrace of Donald Trump.

“We’ve reached a tipping point,” said Regan. “The hate is boiling. Many in the liberal media are using Coronavirus in an attempt to demonize and destroy the President, despite the virus originating halfway around the world.

“This is yet another attempt to impeach the President. And sadly, it seems the left cares little for any of the destruction they leave in their wake, including losses in the stock market. This, unfortunately, is all just part of the political casualties for them.

“This is impeachment all over again. And like with the Mueller investigation, like with Ukraine-gate, they don’t care who they hurt. Whether it be their need to create mass hysteria to encourage a market sell-off unlike anything we’ve seen recently, or whether it be to create mass hysteria to stop our economy dead in its tracks, don’t kid yourself. They told us how much they crave a recession as a way to get rid of Donald Trump.”

Trish Regan

To make certain no one in the television audience missed the point, an electronically generated caption read: “Coronavirus Impeachment Scam.”

On the same day that Regan accused Trump’s critics of being haters, Trump himself was directing hate through his weapon of choice: Twitter: 

“The Fake News Media and their partner, the Democrat Party, is doing everything within its semi-considerable power (it used to be greater!) to inflame the CoronaVirus situation, far beyond what the facts would warrant. Surgeon General, ‘The risk is low to the average American.’”

Actually, with the virus spreading quickly throughout at least 33 states, the risk is not low to the average American. It is not the news that’s fake, but the lies and ignorance Trump is spouting.

SARS-CoV-2 without background.png

Coronavirus

And: “Now the Democrats are trying to smear Bernie with Russia, Russia, Russia. They are driving him Crazy!”

This was a reference to warnings by national security officials that Russia—through its state-owned media—is trying to sow social media agitation and disinformation within the United States. The goal: To ensure that Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders wins the Democratic nomination for President. 

According to these officials, Russian President Vladimir Putin believes Sanders would be far easier for Trump—his preferred candidate—to beat in November.

During the 2016 Presidential race, Trump openly called on “Russia”—i.e., Vladimir Putin—to “find the 33,000 emails that are missing [from Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s computer]. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” Hours later, the Main Intelligence Directorate in Moscow targeted Clinton’s personal office and hit more than 70 other Clinton campaign accounts. 

Vladimir Putin (2020-02-20).jpg

Vladimir Putin

Kremlin.ru / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)  

And still more from Trump: “The Obama/Biden Administration is the most corrupt Administration in the history of our Country!”

This is a flat-out lie. President Barack Obama was never the subject of a Congressional or Special Prosecutor investigation—unlike Trump, who was impeached last December by the House of Representatives but acquitted by a majority-Republican Senate.

Perhaps what’s most upsetting Trump is that, since coming into office, he has touted the success of the stock market and claimed to be responsible for it. And now the market—owing to fears of Coronavirus and the Trump administration’s failures to stem it—is tanking.

On August 28, 2018, appearing on “Fox and Friends,” Trump had boasted: “I tell you what, if I ever got impeached, I think the market would crash, I think everybody would be very poor.” 

So now Trump is coming under attack in the only area where he could once claim success—even if he had nothing to do with it.

On Facebook, a NYMAG.COM story on Trish Regan’s rant ignited the following reactions:

Are these Fox News people asses or what? The entire country of Italy is shut down because of this virus. The virus doesn’t give a fat rat’s ass about Trump or impeachment. Just about spreading and infecting.” 

And: “OMG. Someone needs to sue Fox News. News is supposed to be factual reported events. I saw a news clip from Fox suggesting this is blown out of proportion by the democrats just to hurt Trump. Idiots, I used to work for the CDC (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention). Better listen to what they say. The President lies…. Sue Fox News for libel.”  

The truth is that people like Trish Regan are not asses. Assuming they are allows them to skirt responsibility for what they do and the consequences it brings. They know what they’re doing—and that is to keep in power a Russian-supported tyrant by any means at hand.

And since the truth won’t help them they resort to lies—even if untold numbers of trusting Americans follow their “advice” and become victims of a raging and deadly virus.

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