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Posts Tagged ‘2020 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION’

AMERICA’S CHOICE: ALL FASCIST OR ALL NON-FASCIST–PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 23, 2020 at 12:07 am

On November 22, 2019, Mark Shields—a liberal syndicated columnist—and David Brooks—a conservative one for The New York Timesreached disturbingly similar conclusions about the corruption reveled by hearings of the House Intelligence Committee.

DAVID BROOKS: “I think Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani, I don’t think it ever occurred to them that this was unethical. What strikes me [is] that everyone was in the loop, that this was not something they tried to hide.

“This was just something they thought was the way politics gets done or foreign policy gets done, that there’s no division between personal gain and public service.”

MARK SHIELDS: “What I have underestimated….is the fear that Donald Trump exercises over Republicans.I mean, people talked about Lyndon Johnson being a fearsome political leader. They don’t even approach. I mean, he strikes fear into the hearts of Republicans up and down the line. And I think that….has been eye-opening in its dimensions.”

Nor is there any reason to believe that the GOP will reign Trump in.

In a November 14 column, “Republicans Can’t Abandon Trump Now Because They’re All Guilty,” freelance journalist Joel Mathis warned: “Trump’s abuses of power mirror those of the GOP as a whole. Republicans can’t turn on him, because doing so would be to indict their party’s entire approach to politics.”

For example:

  • At the state level, GOP legislatures have passed numerous voter ID laws over the last decade. Officially, the reason has been to prevent non-citizens from voting. In reality, the motive is to depress turnout among Democratic constituencies.
  • When Democrats have won elections, Republicans have tried to block them from carrying out their policies. In Utah, voters approved Medicaid expansion at the ballot box—but Republicans nullified this.
  • In North Carolina, Republican legislators prevented voters from choosing their representatives. Instead, Republican representatives chose voters through partisan sorting. In September, the state’s Supreme Court ruled the legislative gerrymandered district map unconstitutional.

The upshot of all this: “The president and his party are united in the belief that their entitlement to power allows them to manipulate and undermine the country’s democratic processes….

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“In the meantime, it is probably best to give up waiting for that impeachment-induced moment—a  Watergate—when Republicans realize their duty to country and come around to opposing him. The president and today’s GOP share the same sins. It will be difficult for them to abandon each other.”

On November 21, 2019, Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, attacked Republicans’ total rejection of the overwhelming evidence linking Trump with extortion:

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Adam Schiff

“But apparently, it’s all hearsay. Even when you actually hear the President….that’s hearsay. We can’t rely on people saying what the President said. Apparently, we can only rely on what the President says, and there, we shouldn’t even rely on that either….

“We should imagine he said something about actually fighting corruption, instead of what he actually said, which was, ‘I want you to do us a favor, though. I want you to look into this 2016 CrowdStrike conspiracy theory, and I want you to look into the Bidens.’

“I guess we’re not even supposed to rely on that because that’s hearsay….That would be like saying you can’t rely on the testimony of the burglars during Watergate because it’s only hearsay, or you can’t consider the fact that they tried to break in because they got caught. They actually didn’t get what they came for, so, you know, kind of no harm, no foul. That’s absurd.

“The difference between [Watergate and Trump’s attempted extortion of Ukraine] is not the difference between [Richard] Nixon and [Donald] Trump. It’s the difference between that Congress and this one. And so, we are asking, where is Howard Baker? Where are the people who are willing to go beyond their party to look to their duty? 

“But the other defense besides ‘It failed, the scheme failed, they got caught,’ the other defense is ‘The President denies it.’ Well, I guess that’s case closed, right?

“….This President believes he is above the law, beyond accountability. And in my view, there is nothing more dangerous than an unethical President who believes they are above the law.”

* * * * *

The United States has indeed become a polarized country. But it’s not the polarization between Republicans and Democrats, or between conservatives and liberals.

It’s the polarization between Right-wing fanatics intent on enslaving everyone who doesn’t subscribe to their Fascistic beliefs and agenda—and those who resist being enslaved.

Those who hoped that Republicans would choose patriotism over partisanship got their answer on February 5. That was when the Republican-dominated Senate—ignoring the overwhelming evidence against him—acquitted Donald Trump on both impeachment articles.

It’s natural to regret that the United States has become a sharply divided nation. But those who lament this should realize there is only one choice:

Either non-Fascist Americans will destroy the Republican party and its voters that threaten to enslave them—or they will be enslaved by Republicans and their voters who believe they are entitled to manipulate and undermine the country’s democratic processes.

There is no middle ground. 

AMERICA’S CHOICE: ALL FASCIST OR ALL NON-FASCIST–PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 22, 2020 at 12:28 am

On November 14, 2019, the CNN website showcased an opinion piece by Jane Carr and Laura Juncadella entitled: “Fractured States of America.” 

And it opened:

“Some worry that it’s already too late, that we’ve crossed a threshold of polarization from which there is no return. Others look toward a future where more moderate voices are heeded and heard, and Americans can find better ways to relate to each other. Still others look back to history for a guide—perhaps for what not to do, or at the very least for proof that while it’s been bad before, progress is still possible.”

Then followed a series of anecdotes. The sub-headlines summed up many of the comments reported. 

  • “I was starting to hate people that I have loved for years.”
  • “Voting for Trump cost me my friends.”
  • “I feel like I’m living in hostile territory.”
  • “Our children are watching this bloodsport.”
  • “A student’s Nazi-style salute reflects the mate.”
  • “Our leaders reflect the worst of us.”
  • “I truly believe I will be assaulted over a bumper sticker.”
  • “It already feels like a cold war.” 

Abraham Lincoln warned: “A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half-slave and half-free. It will become all one thing or all the other.” 

America now faces such a choice:

  1. To submit to the tyrannical aggression of a ruthless political party convinced that they are entitled to power to manipulate and undermine the country’s democratic processes; or
  2. To fiercely resist that aggression and the destruction of those democratic processes. 

Consider the face-off between President Donald J. Trump and Army Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman.

Vindman is is a United States Army officer who served as the Director for European Affairs for the United States National Security Council. He was also a witness to Trump’s efforts to extort “a favor” from the president of Ukraine.

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Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman

Адміністрація Президента України [CC BY 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)%5D

In July, 2019, Trump told his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, to withhold almost $400 million in promised military aid for Ukraine, which faces increasing aggression from Russia.

On July 25, Trump telephoned Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to “request” a “favor”: Investigate 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, who has had business dealings in Ukraine.

The reason for such an investigation: To find embarrassing “dirt” on Biden.

“I was concerned by the call,” Vindman, who had heard Trump’s phone call, testified before the House Intelligence Committee. “I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen, and I was worried about the implications for the U.S. Government’s support of Ukraine.

“I realized that if Ukraine pursued an investigation into the Bidens and Burisma, it would likely be interpreted as a partisan play which would undoubtedly result in Ukraine losing the bipartisan support it has thus far maintained. This would all undermine U.S. national security.”

Trump denounced Vindman as a “Never Trumper”—as if opposing his extortion attempt constituted a blasphemy. Republicans and their shills on the Fox News Network attacked him as well. As a result, he sought physical protection by the Army for himself and his family. 

(On February 7, 2020,  he was reassigned from the National Security Council at Trump’s order.)

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Donald Trump

On November 15, conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks and liberal syndicated columnist Mark Shields appeared on The PBS Newshour to offer their reactions by Republicans and Democrats to Trump’s extortion attempt.

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David Brooks and Mark Shields on “The PBS Newshour”

DAVID BROOKS: “The case is very solid and airtight that there was the quid pro quo. All the testimony points to that. And, mostly, you see a contrast. The first two gentlemen that testified on the first day, they were just upstanding, solid public servants.

“I felt like I was looking back in time, because I was looking at two people who are not self-centered. They cared about the country. They were serving. They had no partisan ax to grind. They were just honest men of integrity.

“And I thought we saw that again today with [former Ambassador to Ukraine] Marie Yovanovitch. And in her case, the day was more emotional, because you got to see a case of bullying against a strong, upstanding woman.

“And so I thought she expressed—like, the heavy moments of today where when she expressed her reaction to how badly she was treated. And so that introduces an element of emotion and pathos into what shouldn’t be just a legal proceeding. It should be something where people see the contrast between good people and bad people.” 

MARK SHIELDS: “There’s a sense of outrage building. This is a story of corruption, corruption not in Ukraine, corruption in the United States.

“I mean, why? Why did they go to such lengths to denigrate, to attack, to try and destroy and sabotage the career of a dedicated public servant [United States Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovich], a person who had put her life on the line? Why did they do it? What was it, money? Was it power?”

HEROES AND VILLAINS: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 10, 2020 at 12:04 am

On March 30, Captain Brett Crozier, commanding the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, sent a  four-page internal letter to multiple Naval officials, pleading to have the majority of the crew evacuated and quarantined on shore in Guam.

The reason: Dozens of his crew members had been stricken with the deadly Coronavirus. And the ship’s cramped compartments and narrow passageways made “social distancing” impossible.

On March 31, someone leaked the letter to the San Francisco Chronicle, which published it.

On April 1, the Navy ordered the aircraft carrier evacuated.

On April 2, Crozier was relieved of command by acting United States Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly.

Not content to fire Crozier, Modly visited the ship and stated over its public address system: “If he didn’t think, in my opinion, that this information wasn’t going to get out to the public, in this day and information age that we live in, then he was either (a) too naïve or too stupid to be a commanding officer of a ship like this. The alternative is that he did this on purpose. 

“It was a betrayal of trust with me, with his chain of command, with you.”

Thus, for Modly, Crozier’s “crime” was making public what everyone on the ship and countless Navy officials knew.

President Donald Trump echoed Modly’s attitude: “The letter was a five-page letter from a captain, and the letter was all over the place. That’s not appropriate.

“I thought it was terrible, what he did, to write a letter. I mean, this isn’t a class on literature. This is a captain of a massive ship that’s nuclear powered. And he shouldn’t be talking that way in a letter.” 

But Crozier wasn’t the only victim of Trump’s “integrity-is-treason” mindset that week. 

On April 3, Trump informed Congress that he was removing Michael Atkinson, the inspector general who alerted Congress to his extortion attempt against Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, on July 25, 2019.

Trump told Zelensky: Find embarrassing “dirt” on former Vice President Joseph Biden and his son, Hunter.

Hunter had had business dealings in Ukraine. And Joe Biden might be Trump’s Democratic opponent for the White House in 2020. 

To underline the seriousness of his “request,” Trump had withheld $400 million in promised military aid to Ukraine, which is facing an increasingly aggressive Russia. 

Reporters asked Congressional Republicans: “Is it appropriate for President Donald Trump to ask a foreign government to investigate his political opponent?” 

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Donald Trump

And Republicans refused to answer or condemn such behavior. Among those refusing to answer:

Iowa Senator Joni Ernst: “We don’t have all the facts, we don’t know what is accurate. We have a picture painted by the media and we don’t know if that picture is accurate.”

Arizona Senator Martha McSally: “I think what we’ve seen out of [Speaker of the House Nancy] Pelosi and [House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam] Schiff and others in the House is quite partisan and I think people want us to take a serious look at this and not have it be just partisan bickering going on.” 

North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis: “I’m going to leave it to the President to make that decision” on whether his actions were appropriate. 

The reason for Republicans’ deafening silence: They didn’t want to anger Trump or his fanatical supporters. And they feared losing their Congressional seats and the perks that go with them.  

Michael Atkinson, the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community, showed no such fear.

After the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, Atkinson left private law practice and worked for the United States Department of Justice for 15 years.

In 2017, President Trump nominated him as Inspector General of the Intelligence Community. The Senate confirmed him in 2018.

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Michael Atkinson

Atkinson, informed by an Intelligence whistleblower of Trump’s extortion attempt, was appalled. He believed that he was obligated by law to report it to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees.

Trump was ultimately impeached by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives for abusing his office for personal political gain and obstruction of Congress.

But a Republican-controlled Senate—which refused to hear witnesses or act on the overwhelming evidence—quickly exonerated him.

In his April 3 letter to the leaders of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, Trump wrote:  “This is to advise that I am exercising my power as President to remove from office the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community.

“it is vital that I have the fullest confidence in the appointees serving as Inspectors General. That is no longer the case with regard to this Inspector General.” 

Clearly, there is a reason why Trump no longer has “the fullest confidence” in Atkinson: He can’t depend on “this Inspector General” to conceal and support any future crimes he might commit.

In his 1960 poem, “Conversation With an American Writer,” the Russian poet, Yevgeney Yevtushenko spoke for those Russians who had maintained their integrity in the face of Stalinist terror:

“You have courage,” they tell me.
It’s not true. I was never courageous.
I simply felt it unbecoming
to stoop to the cowardice of my colleagues.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of Republicans in the United States Senate and House of Representatives in the face of Trump terror.

THE MIND OF A STORMTRUMPER: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on April 7, 2020 at 12:14 am

On April 3, I received the following email from a longtime friend who has become a fanatical Stormtrumper:

Steffen, WE are worlds apart on our beliefs & knowledge when it comes to political differences. Although I am astonished that I have always referred to you as “an educated & intelligent individual”, I now feel that your opinions are simply based on total hatred because of your negative references.

In other words – you are nothing more than a typical deranged democrat with nothing good to offer this Country nor the American People other than “HATRED” for a duly elected President who will undoubtedly be re-elected in a landslide of the American People..  

I felt it necessary to point out to my accuser that I was not “a typical deranged democrat”:

While I am liberal on some issues, I am CONSERVATIVE on others. Unlike you, I DON’T support a man who sides with the former head of the KGB against our own FBI and CIA. If you want an example of this, you need look no further than his dual press conference in Helsinki with Putin on July 16, 2018. 

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Vladimir Putin

Associated Press Reporter Jonathan Lemire said to Trump: “Just now President Putin denied having anything to do with the election interference in 2016. Every U.S. intelligence agency has concluded that Russia did. My first question for you, sir, is who do you believe?”

Trump responded by attacking Democrats and the FBI as partners in a conspiracy: “You have groups that are wondering why the FBI never took the server, why haven’t they taken the server? Why was the FBI told to leave the office of the Democratic National Committee?

“I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be, but I really do want to see the server.”

That, in my view, is treason.

If you choose to support such a man—and you clearly do—that, by extension, makes you an ACCESSORY to his treason.

I felt it necessary to point out that

Your “duly elected President” had the full support of Vladimir Putin and the Russian Intelligence establishment. 

[On July 9, 2016, high-ranking members of Trump’s Presidential campaign met at Trump Tower with at least two lobbyists with ties to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. The participants included:

  • Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr.;
  • His son-in-law, Jared Kushner;
  • His then-campaign manager, Paul Manafort; 
  • Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer with ties to Putin; and 
  • Rinat Akhmetshin, a former Soviet counterintelligence officer suspected of “having ongoing ties to Russian Intelligence.”

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Donald Trump

The purpose of that meeting: To gain access to any “dirt” Russian Intelligence could supply on Democratic Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton.]

But let’s not forget all those dedicated Russian bots who flooded the Internet with real “fake news.” And, as I said earlier in this email, Putin is the only world leader—in fact, the only person, period—Trump has never dared insult. 

I had urged my friend to avoid Fox News Network and Donald Trump’s press conferences as sources of reliable information on Coronavirus. He, in turn,  

asked me if we should get our updates from [Democratic Presidential candidate] Joe Biden. No—Biden is NOT a doctor. He’s a politician. And when you’re dealing with a deadly pandemic you want medically-sound advice, not political pablum….

Your most recent email follows the pattern used by Trump and his cheerleading chorus at Fox News: It’s filled with insults, but not one actual piece of evidence to back it up.

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“Fake news” is the standard response for those who don’t want to provide a rebuttal—because they don’t have the evidence for one and THEY know it most of all.

Dismissing—with insults—any news that doesn’t jibe with how you want things to be is a guaranteed recipe for disaster.

The Original Nazis kept insisting that victory was just around the corner—all the way up to the moment when the Russians were knocking at the Fuhrerbunker.  

It didn’t save the First Fuhrer and it won’t save the Second.  Nor will it save you.

* * * * *

Many liberals believe that Donald Trump’s base simply doesn’t understand the sheer evil of the man they are following. And that—if only they can be educated on this point—they will desert him.

This is to deny that human beings have a choice—to do good or evil. Following that logic, every member of the Mafia is simply a helpless ignoramus, waiting to be educated out of a lifetime of extortion, drug-trafficking and murder.

The truth is that those who support Donald Trump know exactly why they do so: Because their hatred for millions of their fellow Americans overrides everything else.

So long as Trump feeds into their hatred—of blacks, Hispanics, “uppity” women, liberals, atheists, non-Christians, among others—they will enthusiastically support him. 

One day, Donald Trump will be a despicable memory for most Americans—-as Adolf Hitler is for most Germans.

But the millions of hate-filled Right-wingers who elected him and fiercely support him will still be with us, searching for their next champion of hate.

THE MIND OF A STORMTRUMPER: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on April 6, 2020 at 12:15 am

Recently a longtime friend of mine sent me a furious and insulting email.  I hadn’t insulted or harmed him in any way, so it came as a total surprise to me—-until I read it.

He and I had long disagreed about the virtues of the Trump administration. I had assumed that politics was one of those areas where we would agree to disagree and still remain on good terms. So you can imagine my surprise when I opened his email and found this waiting for me:

Steffen, WE are worlds apart on our beliefs & knowledge when it comes to political differences. Although I am astonished that I have always referred to you as “an educated & intelligent individual”, I now feel that your opinions are simply based on total hatred because of your negative references.

In other words – you are nothing more than a typical deranged democrat with nothing good to offer this Country nor the American People other than “HATRED” for a duly elected President who will undoubtedly be re-elected in a landslide of the American People..   

At first I hesitated to reply. We had been friends for more than 20 years, and I didn’t want to risk ending such a long and otherwise enjoyable friendship. But I quickly decided that a strong reply was not simply in order, but demanded.

Too many people—especially Democrats—-allow such assaults to go unanswered—-and, even worse, unpunished. As a result, they find themselves the victims of even worse attacks.

Here, in part, is the email I sent him in return. 

I find it amazing that so many Right-wingers who preach HATRED against millions of their fellow Americans are the first to scream HATRED when those THEY hate refuse to accept their lies or aggression.  

For example: From June 15, 2015, when he launched his Presidential campaign, until October 24, 2016, Trump fired almost 4,000 angry, insulting tweets at 281 people and institutions that had somehow offended him.  That doesn’t sound like a love-filled man to me.  

Donald Trump

The Original Nazis behaved the same way: They had no hesitation about invading other people’s countries and massacring their inhabitants. But if a country dared resist their aggression, the Original Fuhrer yelled “They’re attacking me!” 

If you HONESTLY look at the way your Commie-kissing Fuhrer has handled the COVID-19 outbreak—-and NOT in the way Fox News is portraying it–then you must realize that he is responsible for its now infecting so many tens of thousands of Americans.

For starters: In 2018, he gutted the White House Pandemic Office which President Obama had set up in 2014 at the time of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The purpose of that office was to act as an early-warning system for the next epidemic.

But Trump, as a lifelong racist, has tried since taking office to destroy every vestige of Obama’s legacy. So, naturally, the White House Pandemic Office had to go. 

To put this in military terms: It was like deliberately shutting off the radar system before an enemy launched a devastating airstrike. 

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COVID-19 virus

News of the COVID-19 outbreak emerged by the end of December, 2019. But your Fuhrer frittered away the first two months of the year.

He diminished its virulence. He claimed it was no more than a version of the common cold. He didn’t take action to see that the nation’s hospitals were supplied with medical equipment for combating a mass plague.

He has blamed governors for the virus that is now sweeping the nation—-instead of doing what a LEGITIMATE President does and taking it upon himself to organize an effective, well-coordinated response to the emergency.

Why? because he didn’t want to say or do anything that might cause the almighty stock market to fall. From Day One of his Fuhrership he has bragged that the stock market owed its success entirely to him. He feared that if it fell, so would his chances to be re-elected—-which is his ONE, OVER-ARCHING OBSESSION. 

Responding to his charge that I was “nothing more than “a typical deranged democrat” I wrote: 

I have plenty of criticisms to offer the Democrats—-most importantly, their general tendency toward cowardice every time a Republican yells “boo!” at them. The Democrats, for the most part, offer the country a party of Neville Chamberlains when what it desperately needs is a party of Winston Churchills.

I AM admittedly liberal on some things—-such as the right of a woman to decide for herself whether she wants to have children. 

While I am liberal on some issues, I am CONSERVATIVE on others. Unlike you, I DON’T support a man who sides with the former head of the KGB against our own FBI and CIA.  If you want an example of this, you need look no further than his dual press conference in Helsinki with Putin on July 16, 2018. 

Associated Press Reporter Jonathan Lemire said to Trump: “Just now President Putin denied having anything to do with the election interference in 2016. Every U.S. intelligence agency has concluded that Russia did. My first question for you, sir, is who do you believe?”

Trump responded by attacking Democrats and the FBI as partners in a conspiracy.

DONALD TRUMP AS HOWARD BEALE

In Bureaucracy, Entertainment, History, Politics, Social commentary on March 13, 2020 at 12:44 am

Donald Trump has been compared to Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Gaius Caligula. But perhaps his counterpart lies not in history but in fiction. 

Specifically, the fictional news anchor Howard Beale in Network, the 1976 satire written by Paddy Chayefsky and directed by Sidney Lumet. It starred Faye Dunaway, William Holden, Robert Duvall, Peter Finch and Beatrice Straight.

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Howard Beale (Finch) the longtime anchor of the UBS Evening News, is about to be fired because of declining ratings. 

So he announces on live television that he will commit suicide on next Tuesday’s broadcast.

UBS fires him, but then agrees to let Beale appear one more time to leave with dignity.

But once Beale is back on the air, he launches into a rant that contains the most famous—and most often-quoted—line in the film:

“I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It’s a depression. Everybody’s out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel’s worth, banks are going bust, shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter….

“We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat….

“So I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell, ‘I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!'”

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Peter Finch as Howard Beale in Network

Beale is clearly losing it. But his outburst causes the newscast’s ratings to spike. Instead of pulling him off the air, the top brass of UBS decide to exploit Beale’s antics.

Soon he’s hosting a new program called The Howard Beale Show, where he’s billed as “the mad prophet of the airwaves.” Ultimately, the show becomes the most highly rated program on television.

But then Beale’s ratings slide as audiences find his sermons on the dehumanization of society depressing.

To rid themselves of Beale and boost their season-opener ratings, the network’s top executives hire a band of terrorists called the Ecumenical Liberation Army to assassinate Beale—on the air!

Forty years after Network, Right-wing voters sent “reality show” host and real estate mogul Donald Trump to the White House. 

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Donald Trump

Republicans have reveled in his antics and enthusiastically supported his most heinous acts, which have included:

  • Repeatedly and viciously attacking the nation’s free press for daring to report his growing list of crimes and disasters, calling it “the enemy of the American people.”
  • Repeatedly “hinting” that he wants to be “President-for-Life.”  
  • Allowing predatory corporations to subvert Federal regulatory protections for consumers and the environment. 
  • Repeatedly and viciously attacking American Intelligence agencies—such as the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency—for unanimously agreeing that Russia interfered with the 2016 Presidential election.
  • Shutting down the Federal Government for more than a month on December 22, 2018, because Democrats refused to fund his “border wall” between the United States and Mexico.
  • Pressuring  Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to provide “dirt” on Hunter Biden, the son of Democratic Presidential candidate Joseph Biden—and threatening to withhold military aid if Zelensky refused.

The greed-obsessed honchos of the fictional UBS Network believed they could parley Howard Beale’s madness into greater profits.

Similarly, power-obsessed Republicans in the House and Senate believe they can parley Donald Trump’s tyrannical and unstable nature into lifetime tenure for themselves.

They have silently watched—or given their enthusiastic support—as he has attacked one cherished American institution after another:

  • A free press
  • An incorruptible Justice Department
  • An independent judiciary.

Yet, like the executives at UBS, Congressional Republicans may soon be forced to turn on their most poisonous creation.

Right-wing Fox News Network gave its enthusiastic support to Trump during the 2016 Presidential race. And it has continued to do so throughout his more than three-year Presidency.

But on September 22, 2019, Fox News declared: “Many voters are frustrated with how the federal government is working and a growing number are nervous about the economy….

“Fifty-one percent say the economy is in only fair or poor shape.

“[Trump’s] job ratings on every other issue tested are underwater: national security (45 approve-48 disapprove), immigration (42-54), international trade (38-53), foreign policy (36-54), guns (35-56), health care (34-56) and Afghanistan (31-49).

“Currently, 45 percent approve of the overall job the president’s doing, while 54 percent disapprove.

“About two-thirds (64 percent) think many people — if not nearly all people — in government are corrupt, and almost half (46 percent) say the Trump administration is more corrupt than previous ones.”

This was before the Coronavirus pandemic hit the United States—and the Trump administration’s inept mishandling of it. While Trump insists that everything is under control, there aren’t enough testing kits for the ever-growing number of victims. More importantly, there is no vaccine for the virus.

Republicans may soon be forced to face the following dilemma:

  1. Can I hold onto my power—and privileges—by supporting Trump?  Or: 
  2. Can I hold onto my power—and privileges—by deserting him?

This is how Republicans define morality today.

DYING OF THE FEAR: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on March 11, 2020 at 12:06 am

There’s an Arabian myth that offers a timely commentary on the hysteria surrounding the Coronavirus. 

Mohammed is walking along the road from Medina to Mecca when he meets the Genie of Cholera. 

“Where are you going, O Cursed One?” asks Mohammed.

“To Mecca, to kill 10,000 of the faithful,” replies the genie.

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“All right,” says Mohammed. “See to it that you kill no more than 10,000.”

Six months later the two meet again—and Mohammed is furious: “You are a filthy liar!”

“Why do you say that?” demands the Genie of Cholera.

“Because when I reached Mecca, there were 30,000 dead, not the 10,000 you promised.”

“Oh, I kept by my word and killed only 10,000,” replies the genie. “But 20,000 more died of the fear.”

Fear is stalking the streets of the United States today.

Medical supply companies are rushing to turn out millions of surgical face masks—not for use by doctors but ordinary Americans.

Medical professionals warn that this will prove counter-productive for doctors and ordinary citizens.

Doctors and nurses need those masks when they’re performing surgery—or just coming in contact with patients who might be carrying the Coronavirus. They also wear them when examining patients suffering from routine illnesses.

Standard surgical masks are designed to protect against large, airborne droplets. They cannot protect against viruses. Their loose fit makes it possible for droplets to enter around the edges of the mask.

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Standard surgical mask

The N-95 respirator mask is a tight-fitting upgrade that forces inhaled air toward the mask but not its edges. It can filter out 95% of particulates—but not viral particles.

Nor has panic-buying been restricted to face masks. Hand sanitizers, bottled water, toilet paper—even rubbing alcohol—have been snapped off shelves, leaving stores empty of them.

“It’s been nuts,” says Costco’s Chief Financial Officer, Richard A. Galanti.

Businesses that rely on regular patrons—such as restaurants and movie theaters—are especially suffering.

In New York City and San Francisco, businesses in the Chinese community have been hard-hit. It was in Wuhan, China, that the Coronavirus first erupted. Millions of people continue to identify it as a peculiarly Chinese ailment.

The industries most affected are those directly connected to tourism. Cruise ship lines have proven a ready source of contagion, bringing large numbers of people together in what can amount to a floating hothouse for viruses.

Cruise ships have played a major role in the outbreak. More than 700 cases have been linked to the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which was quarantined off the coast of Japan for two weeks. At least 21 more cases were confirmed aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship that docked in Oakland, Calif., on March 9.

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Diamond Princess cruise ship

File:Diamond Princess (ship, 2004) and Port of Toba.jpg

The State Department and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have warned elderly and medically vulnerable Americans to avoid cruise ships until the outbreak ends. The CDC recommends that travelers “defer all cruise ship travel worldwide.”

During the 1980s, Kathie Lee Gifford appeared in a series of TV ads for Carnival Cruise Lines, singing an upbeat jingle: 

If they could see you now out on a Funship cruise
You’re eating fancy food and doing what you choose.
I’d like your friends back home to get a good look
At the first-rate Carnival cruise that you took.
All I can say is “Wow!” hey look at where you are.
Tonight you’re living life just like a movie star!
What a Funship, holy cow!
They’d never believe it
If your friends could see you now!

 

This ode to pure hedonism has given way to a climate of sheer panic—among those still aboard cruise liners, those thinking about embarking on cruises and—most especially—among cruise shipping line companies.

A more updated version of Kathie Lee’s song could go:

If they could see you now on a Corona cruise
You’re locked inside your room and someone took your shoes.
I’m sure your friends back home will look on with dread
As the ship docks in port and they haul off the dead.
All I can say is “Wow!”
Hey, look at where you’ll be
You’re turning blue for air
Right there upon the sea!
What a fright ship, holy cow!
They’re sure to believe it
And the doctor’s coming now!

 

And how is the cruise industry responding to the Coronavirus outbreak? By running more TV ads to sign up more passengers!

Perhaps it’s time for Americans to haul out their DVD players and watch Khartoum—a 1966 movie that offers a timely lesson in courage well-suited to the Coronavirus panic.

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It’s based on the true story of British General Charles George Gordon (Charlton Heston) sent to the Sudan in 1884 to evacuate the city of Khartoum before it’s besieged by the army of a dervish fanatic called “The Madhi”—“The Expected One” (Laurence Oliver).

But the siege starts before Gordon can evacuate its 30,000 citizens.

The Madhi orders a bombardment, and frightened townspeople rush into the public square—where Gordon is calmly seated on a camel, holding a Sudanese girl.

As they look up expectedly for guidance, Gordon gently says to the little girl: “I don’t ask you to be unafraid, merely to act unafraid.”

Americans would do well to remember those words—and act on them.

DYING OF THE FEAR: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, Entertainment, History, Politics, Social commentary on March 10, 2020 at 9:52 am

The outbreak of the Coronavirus has terrified Americans in ways not seen since the September 11, 2001 terror attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C.

For months after that horror, the two most profitable businesses in the country were video rental stores and food delivery services.

People stayed indoors—and at home, as if they believed this was the one place they would be safe. Everyone feared the next big terror attack—and didn’t want to be on hand when it exploded.

Restaurants, nightclubs, amusement parks and the airlines suffered accordingly.

World Trade Center – September 11, 2001

In the early 1980s, the AIDS epidemic had truly frightened millions of Americans. At first, no one knew what caused it—or, more importantly, how it was spread.

At first, gays were thought to be the only ones at risk. Then the list of potential victims kept expanding to

  • Intravenous drug abusers
  • Native Haitians
  • Recipients of blood transfusions
  • Those with multiple sex partners.

But with the passage of time—and the introduction of AIDS-fighting drugs that allowed victims to generally live ordinary lives—Americans’ fears gradually decreased. AIDS was seen as a disease like tuberculosis—dangerous, but unlikely to strike if you took reasonable precautions.

And now America is facing a new fear—that of the Coronavirus, otherwise known as COVID-19.

SARS-CoV-2 without background.png

 

Coronavirus

In December 2019, a pneumonia outbreak was reported in Wuhan, China. By December 31, the outbreak was traced to a novel strain of Coronavirus.

Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that affect birds and mammals. In humans, Coronaviruses cause respiratory tract infections that are typically mild, such as the common cold. Coronaviruses can cause pneumonia and may cause bronchitis.

When the virus surfaced in China, Americans didn’t worry, as it seemed confined to Wuhan. But then it began spreading.

By January 30, 2020, 9,976 cases had been reported in at least 21 countries, including the first case in the United States.

At that time, United States health authorities repeatedly assured Americans they had nothing to worry about, that “we’re on it.”

For example: On January 28, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex M. Azar II stated at a press conference: “We’ve been monitoring this virus and preparing a response since back in December, but it’s more than that. Preparing for these kinds of outbreaks is part of daily life at HHS and for America’s public health professionals.

“Preparedness is a day job around here. We are constantly making investments, training personnel at all levels, carrying out simulations and exercises, and sharing information.

“This commitment goes straight to the top: The President and I have been speaking regularly about this outbreak, and I have been speaking with the senior officials at HHS and the White House multiple times each day since the outbreak began to represent an international threat.” 

This was strictly boilerplate rhetoric. What Azar didn’t say was this:

  • Upon taking office as President,  Donald Trump had gutted the permanent epidemic monitoring and command groups set up inside the White House: The National Security Council (NSC) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). 
  • The reason:  Pathologically jealous of President Barack Obama, Trump has tried to destroy every vestige of Obama’s legacy as the first black President of the United States. And these disease-monitoring groups were set up by Obama following the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014.
  • Also: In the spring of 2018, Trump pushed Congress to cut $15 billion from national health spending—and cutting the global disease-fighting budgets of the CDC, National Security Council, Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services.
  • The Federal $30 million fund for Complex Crises was eliminated as well.
  • In April, 2018, National Security Adviser John Bolton forced Tom Bossert, director of the infectious disease unit at DHS, to resign—along with his entire team.
  • In May, 2018, Trump ordered the NSC’s global health security unit shut down.
  • Rear Admiral Timothy Ziemer, who headed the unit, was reassigned.
  • Neither the NSC nor the DHS epidemic team has been replaced.
  • The “advice” Trump has offered on the epidemic is misinformation—based on ignorance or willful lying. Example: “I think the [World Health Organization estimate of Coronavirus casualties of] 3.4 percent is really a false number—and this is just my hunch—but based on a lot of conversations with a lot of people that do this because a lot of people will have this and it’s very mild. They’ll get better very rapidly, they don’t even see a doctor, they don’t even call a doctor. You never hear about those people.”

Above all: Azar didn’t dare say that Trump doesn’t see Coronavirus as a threat to the lives of 300-plus American citizens.  Instead, he sees it as a threat to his continued reign as President.

Trump has repeatedly “joked” about how great it would be if the United States—like China—had a “President-for-Life.” And he has accused those Democrats who impeached him for obstructing Congress and abuse of power as guilty of treason.

In the Coronavirus, Trump has met his match in an enemy he cannot bribe or intimidate. The tragedy is that untold numbers of Americans will pay the price for his ignorance and narcissism. 

TWO DANGERS FACING AMERICA: TRUMP—AND THE CORONAVIRUS

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on March 9, 2020 at 12:07 am

On August 23, 2018, President Donald Trump offered an unprecedented reason why he shouldn’t be impeached. 

Appearing on “Fox and Friends,” he said:

  • “I don’t know how you can impeach somebody who’s done a great job.”
  • “I tell you what, if I ever got impeached, I think the market would crash, I think everybody would be very poor.”
  • Pointing to his head, he said: “Because without this thinking, you would see numbers that you wouldn’t believe in reverse.” 

He didn’t say: “I shouldn’t be impeached because I’m innocent. I didn’t collude with Russian Intelligence to subvert the 2016 Presidential election.” 

Instead, he appealed to the greed and fear of his voting base—and no doubt hoped to reach beyond it: “Keep me in power or you’ll all suffer for it.”

Donald Trump

On February 5, the Republican-dominated Senate acquitted him of the two charges brought by the Democratic House of Representatives on December 18, 2019: 

Article 1: Abuse of Power: For pressuring Ukraine to assist him in his re-election campaign by damaging former Vice President Joseph Biden, his possible 2020 Democratic rival; and

Article 2: Obstruction of Congress: For obstructing Congress by blocking testimony of subpoenaed witnesses and refusing to provide documents in response to House subpoenas in the impeachment inquiry. 

So Trump escaped impeachment—and the country is now suffering for it.  On February 27, the Dow Jones Industrial Average had its single worst one-day drop in history—falling 1,191 points. 

The reason can be summed up in one word: Coronavirus. Simply put, investors hate uncertainty, because it makes it hard to plan. And nothing makes uncertainty like a new and frightening virus that’s easily passed on and for which there is no vaccine or cure.

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Coronavirus

CDC/ Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAM / Public domain

And that causes millions of people to change their everyday behavior in unprecedented ways–such as not attending basketball games, eating in restaurants, flying on airplanes, going on cruises—and simply going to work.

Of course, Trump didn’t create the Coronavirus. But he has made it even more of a threat to Americans than it had to be.

In 2017, nearly 700 positions remained vacant at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) because Trump imposed a hiring freeze. This affected programs supporting local and state public health emergency readiness, infectious disease control and chronic disease prevention.

Making the situation worse: The CDC’s director, Tom Friedman, stepped down in January, 2017, and it wasn’t until July that the agency got another one: Brenda Fitzgerald. But she served only until January, 2018. She was succeeded—two months later—by Robert Ray Redfield, Jr. He has been the director since then.

The post of director of the CDC is considered one of the most crucial public health positions in the government. The CDC is charged with tracking and preventing infectious disease outbreaks  in the United States and worldwide.

CDC headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia

Another way Trump has sabotaged America’s ability to respond to the Coronavirus outbreak: Gutting the permanent epidemic monitoring and command groups set up inside the White House: The National Security Council (NSC) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The reason for this: Trump’s pathological jealousy of and hatred for former President Barack Obama.

Since taking office, Trump has made an all-out effort to destroy every vestige of Obama’s legacy as the first black President of the United States. And these disease-monitoring groups were set up by Obama following the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014.

In the spring of 2018, Trump pushed Congress to cut $15 billion from national health spending—and cutting the global disease-fighting budgets of the CDC, National Security Council, Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services.

The Federal $30 million fund for Complex Crises was eliminated as well.

In April, 2018, National Security Adviser John Bolton forced Tom Bossert, director of the infectious disease unit at DHS, to resign—along with his entire team. In May, 2018, Trump ordered the NSC’s global health security unit shut down.

Rear Admiral Timothy Ziemer, who headed the unit, was reassigned.

Neither the NSC nor the DHS epidemic team has been replaced.

The global health section of the CDC was decimated, and had to reduce the number of countries it was monitoring from 49 to 10.

It’s popular to assume that Trump did all of this out of mere ignorance—and there’s plenty of proof of his ignorance in many areas (such as attributing windmills to causing cancer). But far more is at work here.

The vast majority of those who voted for Trump believe that the Federal Government is evil and its agencies that regulate business should be eliminated.

An example of this constituency is Grover Norquist, founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform, which opposes all tax increases and has forced most Republicans to publicly pledge they will as well, under any circumstances.

His most famous quote: “I’m not in favor of abolishing the government. I just want to shrink it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.” 

Under Trump, the epidemic-fighting arm of the Federal Government has become so shrunk that America itself may be the one to drown—in an epidemic of Coronavirus. 

MACHIAVELLI: STUPID LEADERS CANNOT BE WISELY ADVISED

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 24, 2020 at 12:05 am

“There is no other way of guarding oneself against flattery than by letting men understand that they will not offend you by speaking the truth.  But when every one can tell you the truth, you lose their respect.  

“A prudent prince must therefore take a third course, by choosing for his counsel wise men, and giving them alone full liberty to speak the truth to him, but only of those things that he asks and of nothing else.”

So wrote the Italian statesman Niccolo Machiavelli more than 500 years ago in his famous treatise on politics, The Prince. And he added:

“But he must be a great asker about everything and hear their opinions, and afterwards deliberate by himself in his own way, and in these counsels and with each of these men comport himself so that every one may see that the more freely he speaks, the more he will be acceptable. 

“Beyond these he should listen to no one, go about the matter deliberately, and be determined in his decisions.”

Machiavelli’s words remain as true in our day as they were in his.

Except, of course for “a very stable genius,” as President Donald J. Trump once referred to himself.

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Niccolo Machiavelli

Asked on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” who he consults about foreign policy, Trump replied; “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things.”

Machiavelli offers a related warning that especially applies to Trump: Unwise princes cannot be wisely advised:

“It is an infallible rule that a prince who is not wise himself cannot be well advised, unless by chance he leaves himself entirely in the hands of one man who rules him in everything, and happens to be a very prudent man. In this case, he may doubtless be well governed, but it would not last long, for the governor would in a short time deprive him of the state.”

Competent executives surround themselves with experts in diverse fields and pay attention to their expertise. They don’t feel threatened by it but rely on it to implement their agenda. Advisers whose counsel proves correct are to be retained and rewarded.

Machiavelli offers practical advice on this: 

“The prince, in order to retain his fidelity, ought to think of his minister, honoring and enriching him, doing him kindnesses and conferring on him favors and responsible tasks, so that the great favors and riches bestowed on him cause him not to desire other honors and riches, and the offices he holds make him fearful of changes.”

But rewarding those who try to head off ruinous decision-making is not Trump’s way. 

Consider the case of John Rood, the Pentagon’s top policy official until February 19. That was when he resigned, saying he was leaving at Trump’s request.

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John Rood

Rood had certified last year that Ukraine had made enough anti-corruption progress to justify the release of Congressionally-authorized aid for its efforts to thwart Russian aggression.

And that totally conflicted with Trump’s attempt to extort a “favor” from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

In July, 2019, Trump told his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, to withhold almost $400 million in promised military aid for Ukraine.

On July 25, Trump telephoned Zelensky to “request” a “favor”: Investigate Democratic Presidential Candidate Joseph Biden and his son, Hunter, who has had business dealings in Ukraine.

The reason for such an investigation: To find embarrassing “dirt” on Biden.

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Joe Biden

But then a CIA whistleblower filed a complaint about the extortion attempt—and this led directly to impeachment proceedings by the Democratically-controlled House for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

But the Republican-dominated Senate voted to acquit him.

Since then, Trump has purged several officials he considers disloyal for cooperating with the impeachment hearings:

  • Army Lt. Col. Alex Vindman, from the National Security Council.
  • White House Attorney Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman, Vindman’s twin brother.
  • Gordon Sondland, Trump’s ambassador to the European Union.

“The truth has cost Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman his job, his career, and his privacy,” his attorney David Pressman, said in a statement.

For Trump, Rood had been “disloyal” on two occasions: 

  • He stated in a May 23, 2019 letter to Congress that the Pentagon had thoroughly assessed Ukraine’s anti-corruption actions. And he said that those reforms justified the authorized $400 million in aid.
  • He told reporters last year: “In the weeks after signing the certification I did become aware that the aid had been held. I never received a very clear explanation other than there were concerns about corruption in Ukraine.”

Asked about Rood’s resignation, chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman declined to speculate on the reason for Trump’s decision.

According to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, Rood played “a critical role” on issues such as nuclear deterrence, NATO, missile defense and the National Defense Strategy.

That did not protect him, however, from Trump’s vendetta against those who dared to reveal his crimes to Democratic impeachment committees.

All of which would lead Niccolo Machiavelli to warn, if he could witness American politics today: “This bodes ill for your Republic.”

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