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JFK: ONE HUNDRED YEARS LATER: PART ONE (OF TEN)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 4, 2022 at 11:55 am

This October 16 – 28 will mark 60 years since the world hovered on the brink of nuclear oblivion.

It was the most dangerous moment of the Cold War. And it was the supreme test of John F. Kennedy’s leadership as the 35th President of the United States.

He served as President for only two years, ten months and two days.

Yet today—-61 years since he took office, and 59 years since his assassination—millions of Americans still remember Kennedy with reverence, even awe. This despite decades of highly embarrassing revelations about his scandalous private life.

Some have called the Kennedy administration a golden era in American history. A time when touch football, lively White House parties, stimulus to the arts and the antics of the President’s children became national obsessions.

John F. Kennedy

Others have called the Kennedy Presidency a monument to the unchecked power of wealth and ambition. An administration staffed by young novices playing at statesmen, riddled with nepotism, and whose legacy includes the Bay of Pigs, the Vietnam war and the world’s first nuclear confrontation.

The opening days of the Kennedy Presidency raised hopes for a dramatic change in relations between the United States and the Soviet Union.

But detente was not possible then. The Russians had not yet experienced their coming agricultural problems and the setback in Cuba during the Missile Crisis. And the United States had not suffered defeat in Vietnam.

Kennedy’s first brush with international Communism came on April 17, 1961, with the invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs. This operation had been planned and directed by the Central Intelligence Agency during the final months of Dwight D. Eisenhower’s term as President.

The U.S. Navy was to land about 1,400 Cuban exiles on the island to overthrow the Communist government of Fidel Castro. They were supposed to head into the mountains—as Castro himself had done against the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista in 1956—and raise the cry of revolution.

The  invasion would occur after an American air strike had knocked out the Cuban air force. But the airstrike failed and Kennedy, under the pressure of world opinion, called off a second try.

Even so, the invasion went ahead. When the invaders surged onto the beaches, they found Castro’s army waiting for them. Many of the invaders were killed on the spot. Others were captured—to be ransomed by the United States in December, 1962, in return for medical supplies.

It was a major public relations setback for the newly-installed Kennedy administration, which had raised hopes for a change in American-Soviet relations.

Kennedy, trying to abort widespread criticism, publicly took the blame for the setback: “There’s an old saying that victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan….I’m the responsible officer of the Government.”

The Bay of Pigs convinced Kennedy that he had been misled by the CIA and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Out of this came his decision to rely heavily on the counsel of his brother, Robert, whom he had installed as Attorney General.

The failed Cuban invasion—unfortunately for Kennedy—convinced Soviet Premier Nikita S. Khrushchev that the President was weak.

Khrushchev told an associate that he could understand if Kennedy had not decided to invade Cuba. But once he did, Kennedy should have pressed on and wiped out Castro.

Khrushchev attributed this to Kennedy’s youth, inexperience and timidity—and believed he could bully the President.

On June 4, 1961, Kennedy met with Khrushchev in Vienna to discuss world tensions. Khrushchev threatened to go to nuclear war over the American presence in West Berlin—the dividing line between Western Europe, protected by the United States, and Eastern Europe, controlled by the Soviet Union.

Kennedy, who prized rationality, was shaken by Khrushchev’s unexpected rage. After the conference, he told an associate: “It’s going to be a cold winter.”

Meanwhile, East Berliners felt they were about to be denied access to West Berlin. A flood of 3,000 refugees daily poured into West Germany.

Khrushchev was embarrassed at this clear showing of the unpopularity of the Communist regime. In August, he ordered that a concrete wall—backed up by barbed wire, searchlights and armed guards—be erected to seal off East Berlin.

As tensions mounted and a Soviet invasion of West Berlin seemed likely, Kennedy sent additional troops to the city in a massive demonstration of American will.

Two years later, on June 26, 1963, during a 10-day tour of Europe, Kennedy visited Berlin to deliver his “I am a Berliner” speech to a frenzied crowd of thousands.

JFK addresses crowds at the Berlin Wall

“There are many people in the world who really don’t understand, or say they don’t, what is the great issue between the free world and the Communist world,” orated Kennedy. “Let them come to Berlin.”

Standing within gunshot of the Berlin wall, he lashed out at the Soviet Union and praised the citizens of West Berlin for being “on the front lines of freedom” for more than 20 years.

“All free men, wherever they may live,” said Kennedy, “are citizens of Berlin.  And therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words, ‘Ich ben ein Berliner.’”

THE WILD CARD IN THE ABORTION RIGHTS BATTLE

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on June 28, 2022 at 12:10 am

On June 24, the Supreme Court did what millions of Right-wing Americans had wanted it to do for 49 years: Strike down Roe v. Wade, holding there is no longer a Constitutional right to abortion.

The opinion was the one that almost every American recognized, and set a huge precedent for revoking a right that had been enshrined in law since 1973.

It will unleash seismic changes in the United States unseen since, on May 17, 1954, the Court declared segregation illegal in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka.

From now on, abortion rights will be determined by states. Half of these have already passed or will soon pass laws that ban abortion. Other states have enacted measures strictly regulating under what circumstances it can be legally performed.

Still other states have moved to strengthen their laws allowing the procedure.  

Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in his majority opinion. “Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences. And far from bringing about a national settlement of the abortion issue, Roe and Casey have enflamed debate and deepened division.” 

U.S. Supreme Court building-m.jpg

The Supreme Court

Actually, it was not Roe that “enflamed debate and deepened divisions” but the nearly 50-year campaign by the (largely Christian) Right to deny women control of their bodies.

For abortion foes, the Millennium has arrived. For its defenders, the United States has entered a new Dark Ages. Yet the war over abortion may well be far from over. 

The states certain to ban or severely restrict the right to abortion are: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming. 

Those states guaranteeing a woman’s right to abortion: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington. 

The following states do not ban or protect the right to abortion in their constitution: Indiana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia. 

At present, both abortion supporters and opponents assume that:

  • Women seeking abortion in states where it is banned will have to flee to states where it is legally allowed; and
  • Those states where it is banned will aggressively try to prevent those women from leaving to obtain an abortion, or punish them when they return.

Both of these assumptions—in many cases—may turn out to be wrong. 

Why?

Because they both leave out the wild card in this ongoing war over reproductive rights: The 326 Indian reservations in the United States.  

A Bureau of Indian Affairs map of Indian reservations belonging to federally recognized tribes in the continental United States

Reservations exist in states that ban abortion—and in those that permit it. For women seeking abortions in states where it is banned, these reservations may play a pivotal role in their ability to obtain that service.

The reason: The United States Constitution recognizes that tribal nations are sovereign governments, just like Canada or California.

That means that tribal governments can determine their own governance structures, pass laws, and enforce laws through police departments and tribal courts.

There are Indian reservations in the following states that will ban or severely restrict the right to abortion: Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Wisconsin, Wyoming.

Consider the implications of this for abortion-banning states:

  • Arizona has 18 Indian reservations. One spans into Utah.
  • Colorado has two, one of which spreads into Utah
  • Florida has two.
  • Idaho has eight.
  • Louisiana has three. 
  • Michigan has seven.
  • Mississippi has one.
  • Nevada has two which spread into Idaho and Utah..
  • North Dakota has six.
  • South Dakota has ten.
  • Utah has seven.

A foretaste of what may be coming can be glimpsed in the history of gambling (euphemistically called “Indian gaming”) on Indian reservations.

The first Indian casino was built in Florida by the Seminole tribe, which opened a successful high-stakes bingo parlor in 1979. Other tribes quickly followed suit, and by 2000 more than 150 tribes in 24 states had opened casino or bingo operations on their reservations.

By 2005, annual revenues had reached more than $22 billion, and Indian gambling accounted for about 25% of all legal gambling receipts in the United States. 

Millions of women are now threatened with forced pregnancy. And many lack the money to travel out-of-state to obtain an abortion. Thus, they will have strong incentive to travel within their home states—so long as there is an abortion-providing clinic on a nearby Indian reservations.

And there will be enormous financial incentives for reservations to provide such services. 

Estimates of the number of illegal abortions in the 1950s and 1960s range between 200,000 and 1.2 million. Thanks to five Right-wing Supreme Court Justices, there will be no shortage of candidates for this procedure.

And the Constitutional status of Indian reservations as sovereign nations will protect clinics operating on their lands.

Of course, some states are moving aggressively to punish women who leave their borders to seek abortion elsewhere.

That is a topic to be dealt with in an upcoming column.

SURVIVING “FACEBOOK JAIL”: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, Entertainment, History, Politics, Social commentary on June 16, 2022 at 12:10 am

Facebook likes to promote itself as a place for “more than three billion people around the world to share ideas, offer support and make a difference.”

But there are limits to the ideas that can be shared on Facebook. And while Facebook likes to boast about its “Community Standards,” these are enforced in a totally arbitrary way.

There is simply no predicting what will trigger Facebook’s ire and land a post—and its poster—in “Facebook Jail.” 

Facebook doesn’t restrict itself to banning posts that are libelous and/or harassing. Its definition of “Hate speech” is so all-encompassing it can be stretched to cover anything—including historically valid statements. 

Our Favourite Banned Facebook Memes - The Inappropriate Gift Co

In Part One I laid out the reason for my sending a letter of protest to Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s longtime Chief Operating Officer.

In this part, I will offer specific steps Facebook can take to keep faith with its stated mission to be a place where people can “share ideas.” 

Noting that I had been banned from Facebook for seven days for posting “Americans are historical illiterates,” I cited the noted historian, David McCullough, and an article from the Smithsonian Institute to support my statement. 

At the 2015 National Book Festival

David McCullough 

fourandsixty, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

I then quoted my offending paragraph in full:

“Tyrants cannot be appeased by giving into their demands–it just convinces them that they can demand even more from their victims. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain tried that approach at Munich in September, 1938, giving Adolf Hitler a big chunk of Czechoslovakia. The reason: To prevent a war with Nazi Germany. Less than a year later, war broke out anyway.” 

This referred to yet another act of cowardice by Democrats in refusing to stand up to the aggression of the Republican Right.

There are serious historical parallels between the closing days of the German Weimar Republic and the rise of Adolf Hitler—and what is happening today in the United States.

Example: In the Weimar Republic, all that stood between Hitler and total power was a frail old man—President Paul von Hindenburg. In the United States, all that stands between Donald Trump and absolute power is a frail old man: President Joe Biden.

Revelan elogios de expresidente Donald Trump a Hitler | Cuba Si

Adolf Hitler and Donald Trump

Too many Americans remain ignorant of their own history—not to mention that of other countries.

That was the point of my post. But on Facebook, it’s “Hate speech” to point out the ignorance of criminally ignorant people.

Then came my third and last point.

Third: Facebook claimed: “You can disagree with the decision if you think we got it wrong.” That implied that I would be given the opportunity to state why I believed the decision was wrong and have that objection carefully reviewed. 

But, immediately afterward, Facebook stated: “We usually offer the chance to request a review and follow up if we got decisions wrong.

“We have fewer reviewers available right now because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. We’re trying hard to prioritize reviewing content with the most potential for harm. This means we may not be able to follow up with you, though your feedback helps us do better in the future.” 

Using COVID as an excuse to avoid responsible behavior is despicable. If Facebook is  going to ban people for supposedly violating its “Community Standards,” it has a moral obligation—if not a legal one—-to give them a chance to share their side of the story.

That is how a court in a democracy behaves. Making a decision based on whim and secrecy, with no appeal possible, is the behavior of a star chamber.

Facebook jail Memes

I then noted two ways by which Facebook could avoid such disgraceful episodes in the future:

  1. Providing its users with an 800 number whereby they can interact directly with the Censorship Committee and share their reasons for posting the comment(s) they did;
  2. Providing its users with at least an Instant Messaging capability, so they can do so.

My letter to Sheryl Sandberg closed as follows: 

Im aware that Facebook is a private company and thus can do whatever it likes. But it is also—supposedly—a market for the airing of competing ideas. And to behave in the despicable manner I have described is as much a disservice to the reputation Facebook wishes to have as to those who are negatively affected by its censorship decisions. 

Frankly, I don’t expect to get an answer from Sandberg, any more than I expected one from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. 

Still, there is this:

On August 23, 1968, Russian poet Yevgeney Yevtushenko sent a telegram to Communist Party Boss Leonid Brezhnev and Premier Aleksei Kosygin, protesting their invasion of Czechoslovakia. 

No doubt, Yevtushenko didn’t expect his protest to change Soviet policy—just as I don’t expect any major changes—for the good—from Facebook.

These will come about only if:

  1. Enough Facebook users get so fed up with arbitrary bullying that they seek another social media format to speak their minds; and/or
  2. Enough members of Congress demand major changes in the way Facebook regularly makes a mockery of the First Amendment. 

Neither of these is likely to happen anytime soon.

SURVIVING “FACEBOOK JAIL”: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, Entertainment, History, Politics, Social commentary on June 15, 2022 at 12:10 am

Facebook likes to promote itself as a place for “more than three billion people around the world to share ideas, offer support and make a difference.”

But there are limits to the ideas that can be shared on Facebook. And while Facebook likes to boast about its “Community Standards,” these are enforced in a totally arbitrary way.

There is simply no predicting what will trigger Facebook’s ire and land a post—and its poster—in “Facebook Jail.” 

50+ Funny Facebook Jail Memes to Avoid Being Blocked / Get Out of It

It’s true that standards against libel and harassment are absolutely essential.

Twitter has earned an unsavory reputation for refusing to take action against those guilty of one or both. As a result, the Disney company has refused to partner with this company.

But Facebook doesn’t restrict itself to banning posts that are libelous and/or harassing. Its definition of “Hate speech” is so all-encompassing it can be stretched to cover anything. 

For example: On June 3, I received the following message from Facebook: “You can’t post or comment for 7 days. This is because you previously posted something that didn’t follow our Community Standards.

“This comment goes against our standards on hate speech and inferiority, so only you and the admins of Private Liberal Group can see it.

“If your content goes against our Community Standards again, your account may be restricted or disabled.” 

Meta Platforms Headquarters Menlo Park California.jpg

Facebook / Meta headquarters in Menlo Park, California 

LPS.1, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

And just what was my comment that qualified as “hate speech”?

Facebook refused to publish the comment or news story to which I responded. So I can only assume that I was referring to yet another act of cowardice by Democrats in standing up to the Fascistic Right:

“Americans are historical illiterates, and this is just another example proving it. Tyrants cannot be appeased by giving into their demands–it just convinces them that they can demand even more from their victims. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain tried that approach at Munich in September, 1938, giving Adolf Hitler a big chunk of Czechoslovakia. The reason: To prevent a war with Nazi Germany. Less than a year later, war broke out anyway.”

Apparently, for Facebook, “Americans are historical illiterates” qualifies as “hate speech.”  

When Donald Trump boasted, during his 2016 campaign for President, “I love the poorly educated!” he was not alone. The leadership of Facebook apparently feels the same way. 

Making a decision based on whim and secrecy, with no appeal possible—as Facebook routinely does—is the behavior of a star chamber.

In the past, I had sent letters to Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, protesting Facebook’s star chamber approach to justice. Zuckerberg’s life features two accomplishments that dwarf all others:

  1. He’s worth $71.5 billion, courtesy of Facebook’s revenues; and
  2. In multiple appearances before Congress, he’s managed to unite Right-wing Republicans and Liberal Democrats—in their rage at his perceived arrogance and stonewalling.

I didn’t expect Zuckerberg to show the courtesy of a fair-minded CEO by replying to my letters—and I wasn’t disappointed.

Mark Zuckerberg F8 2019 Keynote (32830578717) (cropped).jpg

Mark Zuckerberg

Anthony Quintano from Westminster, United States, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

So, this time, on June 3, I decided to write someone else: Sheryl Sandberg, longtime Chief Operating Officer for Facebook. (She will be stepping down from that position in the fall of 2022, She will, however, remain a member of Facebook’s board of directors.)

Early on in my letter I quickly laid out my case:  Apparently what aroused the ire of Facebook’s Censorship Committee was my statement that “Americans are historical illiterates,” and this was interpreted as “hate speech and inferiority.” Taken to its logical conclusion, only comments celebrating the ignorance of ignorant people will be considered acceptable on Facebook.

Facebook Jail Memes - Geeks + Gamers

Then I offered three reasons why I strongly objected to the decision to ban my post—and me—from Facebook:

First: What I said about Americans’ historical illiteracy was entirely accurate. No less an authority than the acclaimed historian David McCullough has said: “I think we are raising a generation of young Americans who are, to a very large degree, historically illiterate.” 

Nor is he alone. A May 5, 2015 article by the Smithsonian Institute asks: “How Much U.S. History Do Americans Actually Know?” And it answers the question: “Less Than You Think.”

Comedians have long gained laughs at Americans’ historical illiteracy. When Jay Leno hosted The Tonight Show, he often did “Jaywalking Tours” where he would ask people about seemingly well-known historical events. It was common to see people say the Civil War happened in the 1940s (instead of 1861-1865) or to believe that the Texans won at the battle of the Alamo. 

Second:  I quoted the rest of my paragraph: “Tyrants cannot be appeased by giving into their demands–it just convinces them that they can demand even more from their victims. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain tried that approach at Munich in September, 1938, giving Adolf Hitler a big chunk of Czechoslovakia. The reason: To prevent a war with Nazi Germany. Less than a year later, war broke out anyway.”

I challenge you—and anyone else who reads this letter—to refute one line of that paragraph.

“THE TWILIGHT ZONE” AS COVID-19 PROPHECY

In Business, Entertainment, History, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on June 3, 2022 at 12:14 am

On November 8, 1963—57 years before COVID-19 invaded the United States—Rod Serling’s “The Twilight Zone” offered a prophecy of future disaster for the country.

“The Old Man in the Cave” is set in a post-apocalyptic rural town in 1974, 10 years after a nuclear war has devastated the United States. 

A nuclear explosion

The townspeople have discovered a supply of canned food. However, they are waiting for Mr. Goldsmith [John Anderson], their leader, to return with a message from the mysterious and unseen “old man in the cave.” Then they will learn whether the food is contaminated with radiation.

When Goldsmith returns, he informs them that the old man has declared the food is contaminated and that it should be destroyed.

Shortly thereafter, three soldiers led by Major French [James Coburn] enter the town and clash with Goldsmith as they try to establish their authority.

French is clearly a precursor of Donald Trump: Demanding instant obedience and threatening death to anyone who disobeys him, he claims he will organize the region to rebuild society..

President Trump tests positive for COVID-19 | KRCR

Donald Trump

However, Goldsmith believes that French and his men simply want to strip the town of its food.

French attacks the townspeople’s belief in the seemingly infallible “old man in the cave.” He tells them they have survived these past 10 years—but they haven’t lived. 

Fifty-seven years later, Donald Trump will furiously attack not COVID-19 but the medical advice of his own Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—especially that provided by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top expert on infectious disease.

He will disdain the wearing of masks and social distancing, and attack those Democratic governors who impose stay-at-home orders to contain the virus. He will offer a series of rosy predictions—none of which come true—that the virus will soon end.

His “cures” include ingesting Clorox bleach and/or having UV light shined up one’s anus.

Interferon Plays Pivotal, Inflammatory Role in Severe COVID-19 Cases

COVID-19 virus

And French holds himself out as the man who can deliver them a wonderful new future.

Fifty-seven years later, Donald Trump will similarly declare: “I have joined the political arena so that the powerful can no longer beat up on people that cannot defend themselves. Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.”

French tempts the townspeople to eat the food Goldsmith warned was contaminated. There is a wild orgy of gluttony as they greedily consume it. 

Only Goldsmith refuses to partake in the food orgy.

The townspeople turn on Goldsmith and threaten him with death unless he reveals the identity of “the old man in the cave.” Goldsmith finally takes the assembly to the cave to reveal his source: A computer.

French incites the townspeople to stone the computer with rocks and canned goods until it explodes. Then French leads the people into celebrating their new-found freedom from this “tyranny”. 

Fifty-seven years later, Trump will similarly incite his followers to attack the United States Capitol building to halt the legal transfer of Presidential power from himself to Joe Biden. 

But as Goldsmith had insisted, the “old man” was correct: The canned goods were contaminated with radiation. All the townspeople—including French and the soldiers—die, their bodies left lying throughout the streets.

Trump will similarly tempt millions of Americans to ignore the deaths of tens of thousands of their fellow citizens from COVID-19 and the overwhelming of the nation’s hospitals. The result will be a vast increase in deaths.

Many of the businesses Trump hoped to keep open—to ensure his own re-election—will be shuttered.

Only one man survives—Goldsmith, who has refused to eat the forbidden food and somberly walks out of the now-dead town.  

As always in a “Twilight Zone” episode, it is Rod Serling who gets the final word: “Mr. Goldsmith, survivor. An eyewitness to man’s imperfection. An observer of the very human trait of greed. And a chronicler of the last chapter—the one reading ‘suicide’. Not a prediction of what is to be, just a projection of what could be. This has been The Twilight Zone.”

Dark-haired man holding a lit cigarette

Rod Serling

Except that Serling was wrong: “The Old Man in the Cave” has proven an uncanny prediction of what did happen in America.

* * * * *

The chief lesson to be learned from the COVID-19 epidemic is that catastrophe inevitably results when natural disaster collides with an evil and incompetent administration.

And the man who stands most responsible for the deaths of 400,000 Americans in 2020 is Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States.

Under his tyrannical rule, the United States suffered not simply from a lethal virus but a combination of denial, lies, Republican subservience, chaos, extortion, propaganda as news, quackery as medicine, premature demands to “re-open the country,” ignoring the danger and—finally—resignation (“Learn to live with the virus”). 

Even now, when three vaccines have been produced, millions of Americans—almost all of them Right-wing Trump supporters—refuse to protect themselves and the families and friends they claim to love. 

Mark Anthony—in William Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar”—had it right: “The evil that men do lives after them.”

DON’T SAY YOU WEREN’T WARNED: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 2, 2022 at 12:11 am

Next to the American flag, Republicans have loudly pledged their loyalty to the nuclear family. 

And Florida United States Senator Rick Scott, in his “11 Point Plan to Rescue America,” is no exception.

Point 8:  We will protect, defend, and promote the American Family at all costs. The nuclear family is crucial to civilization, it is God’s design for humanity, and it must be protected and celebrated. To say otherwise is to deny science. 

In two succeeding sentences, Scott manages to ludicrously contradict himself. First he claims that the nuclear family is “God’s design for humanity.” In the next, he says that to contradict him is to “deny science.”

Here are the facts:

First of all, there is no scientific proof for the existence of God. It is simply a belief.

Second, the nuclear family—a married couple and their dependent children under the age of 18—is a fast-disappearing species. 

A man, woman, and two children smiling outside of a house

Nuclear family – 1955 

Seattle Municipal Archives from Seattle, WA, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

There are currently just 23.1 million American homes with those ‘nuclear families,’ which is the fewest since 1959. So much for “God’s design for humanity.”

Point 9: Men are men, women are women, and unborn babies are babies. 

“Men are men, women are women”: Republicans seek to frighten voters into voting for them by appealing to the fear that “Gays and transgenders are coming for your children.”

Without offering proof, they slander their opponents as “groomers”—pedophiles who befriend children and build their trust, leading to their sexual abuse.  

The truth is that gays don’t prey on heterosexuals but seek out others of their own sexual persuasion. The same is true for transgenders.

Meanwhile, the Republican party has had its own share of closeted pedophiles.

Among them:

  • Josh (“18 Kids and Counting”) Duggar, recently sentenced to 12 years for possession of child pornography;
  • Dennis Hastert, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, who sexually molested four young boys when he was their high school wrestling coach.

Josh Duggar

As for “Unborn babies are babies”: Those who have not yet been born are fetuses. 

While Republicans have waged an almost 50-year war against legalized abortion, they have waged an equally aggressive war against Social Security, Medicare, the Affordable Care Act, food stamps, affordable housing, and aid to the blind and disabled.

In short: They oppose all those programs intended to help those who have been born.

Point 10: Americans will be free to welcome God into all aspects of our lives, and we will stop all government efforts to deny our religious freedom and freedom of speech. 

The Democratic party is not trying to “deny our religious freedom and freedom of speech.” 

On the contrary: It’s Republicans who have crafted laws to turn claimed religious beliefs into a weapon of discrimination.

A classic example: On March 26, 2015, Indiana’s then-Governor Mike Pence signed into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. 

Mike Pence - Wikipedia

Mike Pence

This allows any individual or corporation to cite its religious beliefs as a defense when sued by a private party.

Thus, a bakery that doesn’t want to make a cake to be used at a gay wedding or a restaurant that doesn’t want to serve lesbian patrons can legally refuse to do so.

Republicans have introduced similar “right-to-discriminate” legislation in other states as well—such as Kansas, Arizona and South Dakota. So far, all have failed to win passage.

Republicans claim they want to “get the government off the backs of the people.” But their fixation on regulating the sexual lives of Americans ensures government intrusions of the most intimate kind.

Point 11: We are Americans, not globalists. America will be dependent on NO other country. We will conduct no trade that takes away jobs or displaces American workers. 

This would be laughable except for the bitter truth: Countless numbers of Americans have lost their jobs because their companies deserted the United States for Third World nations like China, Vietnam or Mexico.

There are three reasons for this:

  1. To pay their employees far less than they would be paid in the United States;
  2. To avoid American restrictions on how employees can be treated; and
  3. To avoid enforcement of quality control regulations which ensure that products are safe and effective for use.

Republicans have loudly proclaimed themselves anti-globalists.

But when Donald Trump was President, the Chinese government granted 18 trademarks to companies linked to him and his daughter, Ivanka, within two months. 

In addition, Trump won approval to register three dozen trademarks in China covering everything from bars and hotels to child-care and massage services, raising further concerns over potential conflicts of interest.

From 2005 to 2017, Trump filed for 126 trademarks in China for his business empire. 

Rick Scott is a fierce defender of the former President and his policies. 

As for Scott’s claim, America will be dependent on NO other country”:

Like it or not, the United States can no longer separate itself from the rest of the world.

The ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine has badly affected American imports of grain products from Ukraine.

And the Coronavirus pandemic has led to crucial shortages in goods America has long imported: Medicines, electronics, auto parts, solar panels, toys, air conditioners. 

Thus, this provision—like the rest of Scott’s plan—runs head-on into the ugliness of sheer reality.

DON’T SAY YOU WEREN’T WARNED: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 1, 2022 at 12:10 am

Among the goals of Republican Senator Rick Scott’s “11 Point Plan to Rescue America” are:

Point 4: We will secure our border, finish building the wall, and name it after President Donald Trump. 

There are multiple ways to illegally enter the United States—and thus circumvent a wall on its Southern border with Mexico. 

The United States is surrounded by water on three sides—East, West and South. So anyone with a boat can smuggle illegal aliens into the country at any point along its 12,383 miles of coastline.   

For those who get seasick, there’s a land route available—not across burning Mexican deserts but under them. 

Over the years, officials have found at least 200 tunnels along the 2,000-mile-long U.S.-Mexico border, mostly in Arizona and California. They range from rudimentary crawlspaces to “super tunnels” that cost more than a million dollars and are equipped with elevators, ventilation shafts electric lights, and disguised exits and entrances.

Smuggling tunnel - Wikipedia

Drug tunnel 

U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Many of those who want to infiltrate the United States can simply fly in.

Wealthy and pregnant Chinese women often fly to the United States to “anchor” themselves via a baby born on American soil. The same is true for many Russian women.

And the Number One cause of illegal immigration: Foreigners’ overstaying their visas. In 2017, more than 600,000 foreigners who legally entered the United States overstayed their visas and remained in the country by the end of the year, according to the Department of Homeland Security. 

So a wall is not going to solve America’s problem with illegal immigration.

Point 5: We will grow America’s economy, starve Washington’s economy, and stop Socialism. 

When Republicans promise to “grow America’s economy,” they mean: Remove all government controls from business.

In real-world terms, this means corporations will be legally allowed to: 

  1. Ignore existing laws protecting employees from unsafe working conditions;
  2. Ignore existing laws protecting the environment;
  3. Produce unsafe goods and fraudulent services;
  4. Pay their employees the lowest acceptable wages, in return for the “privilege” of working at these companies; 
  5. Discriminate on the basis of race, sex, religion or sexual orientation; and/or
  6. Pay little or no business taxes, at the expense of communities who are required to make up for lost tax revenues.

Anyone who doubts this need only look at the living standards in “Red”, Republican-governed states such as Florida and Texas.

“Starve Washington’s economy” means: Eliminating programs that Republicans don’t like—starting with Social Security, Medicare and the Affordable Care Act. Anything that benefits ordinary Americans and not multi-billion dollar corporations will be slated for scrapping.

“Stopping socialism” is ludicrous: During his Presidency, Donald Trump’s best friends were Communist dictators: Vladimir Putin (Russia), Kim Jong-Un (North Korea) and Xi Jinping (China).

Trump actually bragged that, after an exchange of letters between himself and the murderous Kim Jong-Un, “We fell in love.”

Kim Jong-Un and Donald Trump

Had a Democratic President made a similar statement, Republicans would have screamed “Treason!” In Trump’s case, they said nothing. 

Point 6: We will eliminate all federal programs that can be done locally, and enact term limits for federal bureaucrats and Congress.  

As for “enacting term limits for federal bureaucrats and Congress”: This is the party that tried to illegally and treasonously overturn the results of a legitimate Presidential election so its candidate—Donald Trump—could remain in office as “President-for-Life” after losing the vote.

Point 7: We will protect the integrity of American Democracy and stop left-wing efforts to rig elections.

Scott’s platform is worth quoting in full on this issue: 

Today’s Democrat Party is trying to rig elections and pack the courts because they have given up on Democracy. They don’t believe they can win based on their ideas, so they want to game the system and legalize voter fraud to stay in power. In true Orwellian fashion, Democrats refer to their election rigging plans as “voting rights”. We won’t allow the radical left to destroy our democracy by institutionalizing dishonesty and fraud.  

Immediately after the verdict of the November 3, 2020 Presidential election was announced, President Donald Trump ordered his attorneys to file lawsuits overturning the results. 

Related image

Donald Trump

  • Throughout November and December, 2020, cases were filed in Wisconsin, Arizona, Nevada, Michigan, Minnesota and Georgia challenging the election results. None were supported by evidence of fraud—as even Trump’s lawyers admitted when questioned by judges. 
  • On November 13, nine cases meant to attack President-Elect Joe Biden’s win in key states were denied or dropped. A law firm challenging the vote count in Pennsylvania withdrew from the effort.
  • In Michigan, Trump’s attorneys dropped their federal suit to block the certification of Detroit-area ballots.
  • By November 21, more than 30 cases were withdrawn by Trump’s attorneys or dismissed by Federal judges—some of them appointed by Trump himself.

Ultimately, from November 3 to December 14, 2020, Trump and his allies lost 59 times in court, either withdrawing cases or having them dismissed by Federal and state judges. 

This is the party that, since November, 2020, has sold a lie to millions of Right-wing Americans that the election was “stolen” from Donald trump.

It is Republicans—not Democrats—who have stopped trying to win elections based on their ideas and are now trying to win them by massive voter suppression. It’s hardly a party to be entrusted with election security. 

DON’T SAY YOU WEREN’T WARNED: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 31, 2022 at 12:10 am

“The militant left now controls the entire federal government, the news media, academia, Hollywood, and most corporate boardrooms—but they want more. They are redefining America and silencing their opponents.

“Among the things they plan to change or destroy are: American history, patriotism, border security, the nuclear family, gender, traditional morality, capitalism, fiscal responsibility, opportunity, rugged individualism, Judeo-Christian values, dissent, free speech, color blindness, law enforcement, religious liberty, parental involvement in public schools, and private ownership of firearms.

“Is this the beginning of the end of America? Only if we allow it to be.”

So accuses Rick Scott, former governor of Florida and now a United States Senator from that state. With the next Presidential election approaching in less than two years, Scott is positioning himself to be the next Republican nominee for that office.

Official Portrait of Senator Rick Scott (R-FL).jpg

Rick Scott

For decades, many dissatisfied voters have argued there’s no real difference between the Democratic and Republican parties.

Obviously smarting from that criticism, Scott aims to show that even if there’s no difference between the parties, there is a difference between him and every other Presidential candidate.

That’s why Scott has crafted “An 11 Point Plan to Rescue America.”

It merits close inspection—because if Scott or someone else with his agenda becomes President of the United States with a united Republican House and Senate behind him, this country will become  entirely different from the one that exists today.

Point 1: Our kids will say the pledge of allegiance, salute the Flag, learn that America is a great country, and choose the school that best fits them. 

Like so many Right-wingers, Scott is apparently unaware that the Pledge of Allegiance was written in August, 1892, by the socialist minister Francis Bellamy. He hoped that the pledge would be used by citizens in any country, not just the United States.

Francis Bellamy

In its original form it read:

“I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

In 1923, the words, “the Flag of the United States of America” were added.

In 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower encouraged Congress to add the words “under God,” to distinguish Americans from “Godless” Communists.

“Learn that America is a great country” conjures up images of the propaganda force-fed to students of the former Soviet Union—and now in Russia. Just as Russians are taught that their military has never fought an aggressive war, so, too, do Republicans want to erase the subject of slavery and its long-term effects on society from American classrooms

Point 2: Government will never again ask American citizens to disclose their race, ethnicity, or skin color on any government forms. 

Republicans have made race—as a source of friction between voters—a crucial part of their electoral campaigns. As far back as 1968, Richard Nixon campaigned on a “Southern strategy”—of stoking white fears of blacks. 

It was this that won Nixon the Presidency in 1968 and 1972 and the White House for George H.W. Bush in 1988.

As blacks have gained in population and political clout, they have been succeeded by Hispanics as the Great Enemy for Republicans.

The top priority for Donald Trump—both as a Presidential candidate and President—was building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. That this would not have stopped illegal immigration meant nothing to him—or his millions of Right-wing followers.

Without a way to track the growth rates of nonwhites, Republicans won’t know how to target their self-declared enemies.

Point 3: The soft-on-crime days of coddling criminal behavior will end. We will re-fund and respect the police because they, not the criminals, are the good guys. 

On January 6, 2021, “law and order” President Donald Trump incited a mob to attack the United States Capitol Building. Inside, members of Congress were meeting to count and certify Electoral College votes for the 2020 Presidential election.

Trump had clearly lost that election in November, yet for the previous two months he had repeatedly and falsely claimed he was the victim of a “rigged” election. His followers, believing that lie, intended to overturn the results of a legitimate election. 

After more than three hours, police—using riot gear, shields and batons—retook control of the Capitol. More than 150 officers were injured in the attack by “law and order” Republicans.

January 6, 2021 coup attempt 

TapTheForwardAssist, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

Even after the failed coup, 147 House and Senate Republicans voted to overturn the election.

Not the sort of behavior calculated to instill respect for the rule of law.

Point 4: We will secure our border, finish building the wall, and name it after President Donald Trump. 

For the vast majority of Republican voters, “building the wall” means achieving 100% border security against illegal immigration.  This is absurd. 

Among the obstacles to erecting such a barrier:

  • The United States/Mexican border stretches for 1,954 miles—and encompasses rivers, deserts and mountains;
  • Environmental and engineering problems;
  • Ranchers who refuse to give up any of their land;
  • Building such a wall would cost untold billions of dollars.

Another problem: The United States is surrounded by water on three sides—East, West and South. So anyone with a boat can smuggle illegal aliens into the country at any point along its 12,383 miles of coastline. 

STOPPING THE GUN MASSACRES

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on May 26, 2022 at 12:13 am

The victims of the violence are black and white, rich and poor, young and old, famous and unknown. They are, most important of all, human beings whom other human beings loved and needed. No one—no matter where he lives or what he does— can be certain who will suffer from some senseless act of bloodshed. And yet it goes on and on.

–Robert F. Kennedy, April 4, 1968

Senator Robert F. Kennedy announcing the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

What should the surviving victims of gun massacres do to seek redress?

And how can the relatives and friends of those who didn’t survive seek justice for those they loved?

Two things:

First, don’t count on politicians to support a ban on assault weapons.

Politicians—with rare exceptions—have only two goals:

  1. Get elected to office, and
  2. Stay in office.

And too many of them fear the economic and voting clout of the NRA to risk its wrath.

Consider Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama.

Both rushed to offer condolences to the surviving victims of the massacre at the Century 16 Theater in Aurora, Colorado, on July 20, 2012.

And both steadfastly refused to even discuss gun control—let alone support a ban on the type of assault weapons used by James Holmes, leaving 12 dead and 58 wounded.

Second, those who survived the massacre—and the relatives and friends of those who didn’t—should file wrongful death, class-action lawsuits against the NRA.

There is sound, legal precedent for this.

  • For decades, the American tobacco industry peddled death and disability to millions and reaped billions of dollars in profits.
  • The industry vigorously claimed there was no evidence that smoking caused cancer, heart disease, emphysema or any other ailment.

  • Tobacco companies spent billions on slick advertising campaigns to win new smokers and attack medical warnings about the dangers of smoking.
  • Tobacco companies spent millions to elect compliant politicians and block anti-smoking legislation.
  • From 1954 to 1994, over 800 private lawsuits were filed against tobacco companies in state courts. But only two plaintiffs prevailed, and both of those decisions were reversed on appeal.
  • In 1994, amidst great pessimism, Mississippi Attorney General Mike Moore filed a lawsuit against the tobacco industry. But other states soon followed, ultimately growing to 46.
  • Their goal: To seek monetary, equitable and injunctive relief under various consumer-protection and anti-trust laws.
  • The theory underlying these lawsuits was: Cigarettes produced by the tobacco industry created health problems among the population, which badly strained the states’ public healthcare systems.
  • In 1998, the states settled their Medicaid lawsuits against the tobacco industry for recovery of their tobacco-related, health-care costs. In return, they exempted the companies from private lawsuits for tobacco-related injuries.
  • The companies agreed to curtail or cease certain marketing practices. They also agreed to pay, forever, annual payments to the states to compensate some of the medical costs for patients with smoking-related illnesses.

The parallels with the NRA are obvious:

  • For decades, the NRA has peddled deadly weapons to millions, reaped billions of dollars in profits and refused to admit the carnage those weapons have produced: “Guns don’t kill people.  People kill people.”  With guns. 
  • The NRA has spent millions on political contributions to block gun-control legislation.

  • 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 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.

DICTATORS AND THEIR HUBRIS

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 23, 2022 at 1:06 am

On February 28, CNN’s website published the following headline: Russia faces financial meltdown as sanctions slam its economy.

The story opened:

“Russia was scrambling to prevent financial meltdown Monday as its economy was slammed by a broadside of crushing Western sanctions imposed over the weekend in response to the invasion of Ukraine.”  

That unprovoked attack opened on February 24, with missile and artillery attacks, striking major Ukrainian cities, including Kiev. 

Russia 'threatening Ukraine With Destruction', Kyiv Says | Conflict News - Newzpick

Ukraine vs. Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin had every reason to believe that the conquest of Ukraine would be a cakewalk. Intent on restoring the borders of the former Soviet Union, he had swept from one successful war to the next:

  • In 1999-2000, he waged the Second Chechen War, restoring federal control of Chechnya.
  • In 2008, he invaded the Republic of Georgia, which had declared its independence as the Soviet Union began to crumble. By war’s end, Russia occupied 20% of Georgia’s territory.
  • In 2014, Putin invaded and annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine. 

Meanwhile, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) launched only verbal condemnations.

The reasons:

  • Fear of igniting a nuclear war; 
  • Belief that Russia was simply acting within its own sphere of influence; and/or
  • Then-President Donald Trump’s repeated attacks on NATO and displays of subservience to Putin.

NATO report says Pakistan wants peace deal in Afghanistan, India against it

NATO emblem

Russia had began massing troops on the Ukrainian border in 2021. 

When the invasion came, the United States and its Western European allies retaliated with unprecedented economic sanctions. 

Among the resulting casualties: 

  • The ruble crashed.
  • Russia’s central bank more than doubled interest rates to 20%.
  • The Moscow stock closed for the day.
  • The European subsidiary of Russia’s biggest bank was about to collapse in a massive Depression-era run by savers. 
  • Economists predicted the Russian economy could decline by five percent. 
  • The West—especially the United States—has frozen at least half of the $630 billion in international reserves that Putin had amassed to stave off tough sanctions.

On the battlefield, the war has bogged down for Russia:

  • Kiev remains unconquered. 
  • Ukrainian forces have driven Russians from the second-largest Ukrainian city of Kharkov.  
  • The Moskva, the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, was sunk on April 14 after being struck by two Ukrainian Neptune anti-ship missiles.

In short: The war is not going the way Putin assumed it would.

Vladimir Putin 17-11-2021 (cropped).jpg

Vladimir Putin 

Kremlin.ru, CC BY 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

This is not the first time a dictator has guessed wrong about the results of his actions.

On September 1, 1939, German Fuhrer Adolf Hitler ordered his armies to invade Poland. 

Almost a year earlier—on September 29, 1938—he had bullied British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and French Prime Minister Edouard Daladier into surrendering the northern, southwest and western regions of Czechoslovakia, inhabited mostly by ethnic Germans.

The Munich Agreement—which Chamberlain boasted meant “peace in our time—only whetted Hitler’s appetite for greater conquests.

It also led him to hold France and England in contempt: “Our enemies are little worms,” he said in a conference with his generals. “I saw them at Munich.”

He believed he could conquer Poland, and Chamberlain and Daladier would meekly ratify his latest acquisition. 

Adolf Hitler

So he was stunned when, on September 3, 1939, Britain and France—however reluctantly—honored their pledged word to Poland and declared war on Germany.

“What now?” Hitler furiously asked his Foreign Minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop.

Ribbentrop had no answer.

Hitler knew that Germany didn’t have the resources for a long war. He had intended to fight a series of quick, small wars, gobbling up one country at a time. Now he found himself locked in an endless war with heavyweights France and England.

In time, he would fatally add the Soviet Union and the United States to his list of enemies.

And he stayed locked into that war until he committed suicide on April 30, 1945, and the Third Reich officially collapsed on May 7.

Fast forward to March 21, 2003 and President George W. Bush’s launching of an attack on Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. 

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George W. Bush

The war got off to an impressive start with 1,700 air sorties and 504 Cruise missiles. 

Within roughly two weeks, American ground forces entered Baghdad, and after four days of intense fighting, the Iraqi regime fell. By April 14, the Pentagon reported that major military operations had ended.

On May 1, 2003, Bush declared that the war was won.

But then American forces became embroiled in an endless, nationwide guerrilla war. Eighteen years later, the United States was still fighting in Iraq. 

The war that Bush had deliberately provoked:

  • Took the lives of 4,484 Americans.
  • Cost the United States Treasury at least $2 trillion.
  • Created a Middle East power vacuum.
  • Allowed Iran—Iraq’s arch enemy—to eagerly fill it.
  • Frightened and repelled even America’s closest allies.
  • Killed at least 655,000 Iraqis. 
  • Frightened China and Russia into expanding the size of their militaries. 

Bush came to a better end than Adolf Hitler: He retired from office with a lavish pension and full Secret Service protection.

And Putin? 

His attack on Ukraine was reportedly motivated, in part, to ensure that Ukrainians did not join NATO. 

If true, he must be enraged and disturbed that his invasion has frightened Sweden and Finland into joining NATO.

And NATO is now fully revitalized to meet future Russian threats.

Thus can the worst intentions of hubristic dictators come undone.

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