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Posts Tagged ‘CORONAVIRUS’

WHAT WAS TRUE FOR THE NAZIS IS TRUE FOR TRUMP

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on March 4, 2021 at 12:19 am

On February 7, 2020, President Donald Trump told legendary Washington Post investigative reporter Bob Woodward:

It goes through air, Bob. That’s always tougher than the touch. The touch, you don’t have to touch things, right? But the air, you just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed. And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flues. People don’t realize, we lose 25,000, 30,000 people a year here. Who would ever think that, right?

Yet, in public, he played down the lethality of the virus and attacked those who sought to take it seriously:

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

Image result for Trump Corona Timeline

By April, 2020, the virus had claimed 23,000 Americans. And Trump’s fanatical defenders were desperate to rewrite history.

One of these was Republican South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham. 

On April 9, 2020, appearing on the Fox News network’s “Sean Hannity” show, Graham said: “The first thing I want to do is get the United States Senate on the record where we don’t blame Trump. We blame China.

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

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Lindsey Graham

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

Now, with more than 500,000 Americans dead, Trump’s fanatical defenders have decided to simply ignore history.

How else to explain the “Golden Trump” statue unveiled at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on February 25? 

But non-Fascistic Americans should not ignore that Trump:

  • Lied about the lethality of the virus.
  • Attacked masks, science and social distancing.
  • Attacked Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert.
  • Urged his followers to protest governors who championed wearing masks and socially distancing.
  • Refused to establish a central command to supply states with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
  • Seized vitally-needed medical supplies in at least seven states.
  • Promoted quack “solutions” (such as injecting bleach to ward off the virus).

 * * * * *

On July 26, 1946, Chief  United States Counsel Robert H. Jackson, prosecuting Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg, delivered his closing remarks to the court. He might as well have been speaking about Donald Trump and his cheerleading—and misleading—chorus on Coronavirus:

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

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

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Robert H. Jackson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE WHEELS ON THE BUS GO NOWHERE

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on March 3, 2021 at 12:39 am

The San Francisco Municipal Railway (MUNI) is the public transit system for the city and county of San Francisco, California.

In 2018, MUNI, with a budget of about $1.2 billion, served 46.7 square miles. It is the seventh largest transit system—in terms of ridership—in the nation.

Its bus drivers are the highest-paid bus drivers in the nation.

The average MUNI driver makes $79,617, 51% above the national average bus driver salary of $52,730.

This pay is 27% higher than the combined average salaries of drivers in Dallas, Boston and Atlanta.

Muni | SFMTA

And yet: What are San Francisco residents getting for all that money being paid out?

Far less than they deserve.

Since the arrival of the Coronavirus plague in San Francisco in early March, 2020, MUNI has:

  • Offered fewer bus routes
  • Made it impossible to guess when a bus will stop
  • Reduced the number of buses and
  • Scrapped its underground lines altogether.

What does all this mean?

It means that, of MUNI’s 89 routes, all but 17 have been eliminated.

MUNI claimed that the cuts were made to allow for increased social distancing on the most vital routes. How riders were supposed to increase social distancing on fewer buses was not explained.

Muni Service Changes 2.0 Start Saturday | SFMTA

A MUNI bus

The 38 Geary bus line—which travels east and west—is the most heavily-traveled route in the city. In pre-COVID times, these buses were packed, often with passengers standing close together in the aisles after all available seats were taken.

Loudspeakers aboard MUNI buses regularly tell passengers to socially distance from each other—that is, put at least six feet between themselves and their fellows.

But with far fewer buses running, MUNI passengers can’t be sure when—or if—the next one will arrive when they need to catch it.

So residents don’t hesitate: They scramble aboard, en masse, the first bus that shows up.

This makes social distancing impossible on most rides. 

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Cooronavirus

MUNI loudspeakers also tell passengers “You must wear a mask to board MUNI.”  And most passengers do wear a mask when they board.

But that doesn’t mean all of them do—especially those who board through the rear doors, out of sight of the driver way up in front. 

Even when passengers wear masks, they often do so just under their nose or chin—meaning they can sneeze or cough potentially lethal germs on anyone sitting near them.

Another drawback to riding MUNI: Buses don’t always stop when you pull the “Stop” cord. 

Suppose you board the 49 Van Ness at Sutter Street. Now suppose you’re a senior, or disabled, or have a couple of bags of groceries you need to lug up to your apartment. 

The 49 boards at Sutter, but it doesn’t stop until it reaches Jackson Street—which means you pass Bush, Pine, California, Sacramento, Washington and Clay before you reach Jackson.

And if your apartment lies somewhere between Sutter and Jackson, you’re going to have to forego riding MUNI and walk north to it, or you’re going to have to get off at Jackson and walk south to it.

Not content with making above-ground routes needlessly complicated and even dangerous, MUNI has eliminated its underground routes. 

These featured fewer stops over longer distances, thus reducing the amount of time you had to be on board.

MUNI’s official reason for this: To protect its drivers from the dangers of COVID-19.

Meanwhile, the Bay Area Transit System (BART) which serves cities well beyond San Francisco, continues to use its network of underground and above-ground stations.

No one at MUNI has yet explained why its drivers can’t do what BART’s have done for the last year.

And while all this is going on, city officials—specifically, the Mayor and Board of Supervisors—are relentlessly pushing to make San Francisco “car-unfriendly.”

San Francisco City Hall 2.JPG

San Francisco City Hall

Sanfranman59, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

This has long been their goal. And COVID-19 has made it possible for city leaders to aggressively pursue it under the guise of helping restaurants.

Countless spots that once were reserved for parking have been turned into outdoor dining sites. This seems to makes sense for restaurants, which have taken a beating since indoor dining was banned due to COVID. 

But outdoor dining isn’t as safe as many people think.

Sure, you and the person(s) you’re eating with may not be COVID-infected. But what about the people at the packed table just a couple of feet away from you?

And what about the pedestrians who often must walk between unmasked diners on either side of a sidewalk? 

Offering a mixture of incentives and deterrents has long been a preferred method for winning compliance. In Mexico, this has been famously termed “Pan o palo” (“bread or the stick”).

San Francisco has chosen to offer a sticks-only policy:

  • Allow its bus service to treat its patrons with infuriating contempt; and
  • Make it ever harder for residents and tourists to use private automobiles to reach their destinations.

It’s a recipe guaranteed to cost the city dearly—in both residents and tourists.

HEROES AND VILLAINS: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 25, 2021 at 12:39 am

Next hero: Marie Yovanovitch, the former United States ambassador to Ukraine (2016 – 2019). She had joined the Foreign Service in 1986, and served as ambassador to Kyrgyzstan (2005 – 2008) and Armenia (2008 – 2011).

In May 2019, on President Donald Trump’s orders, the State Department recalled Yovanovitch as ambassador to Ukraine. She had earned respect from the national security community for her efforts to encourage Ukraine to tackle corruption.

But she had been criticized by Right-wing media outlets—notably Fox News Network—and by Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani.

Marie L. Yovanovitch.jpg

Marie Yovanovitch

CNN reported that Yovanovitch stopped Giuliani from interviewing witnesses in his search for politically damaging information against former Vice President Joe Biden, whose son, Hunter, had had business dealings in Ukraine.

On October 11, 2019, she appeared before the House Intelligence Committee, chaired by Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA). She did so in defiance of orders by the White House and State Department to not attend.

“She was a hero even before she hit the hearing room,” wrote Charles Pierce for Esquire magazine.

“She told them to stuff their directives, she would answer a congressional subpoena like a citizen is supposed to do. And she didn’t sneak in through the basement. She walked into the Capitol through the front doors, and she didn’t do so to fck around.”

Testifying for nearly 10 hours, Yovanovitch said that Trump had removed her from her post owing to “unfounded and false claims” and “a concerted campaign against me.”

She believed that associates of Trump’s personal lawyer, Giuliani, might have thought “that their personal financial ambitions were stymied by our anti-corruption policy in Ukraine.”

And she warned that the State Department was being “attacked and hollowed out from within. State Department leadership, with Congress, needs to take action now to defend this great institution, and its thousands of loyal and effective employees.”

Another victim on Trump’s hate-list was Chis Krebs.

During the 2016 Presidential race, Russian propaganda had played a major role in convincing millions of Americans to vote for Donald Trump. Social media platforms—especially Facebook and Twitter—were flooded with genuinely fake news to sow discord among Americans and create a pathway for Trump’s election.

And where Internet trolls left off, Russian computer hackers took over.

Trump didn’t win a majority of the popular vote. But he got enough help from Putin to triumph in the Electoral College.

So notorious was the role played by Russian trolls and hackers in winning Trump the 2016 election that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was determined to prevent a repetition in 2020.

And point man for this was Chris Krebs.

Born in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1977, Krebs had received a B.A. in environmental sciences from the University of Virginia in 1999, and a J.D. from the George Mason University School of Law in 2007.

Chris Krebs official photo.jpg

Chris Krebs

Krebs had served as Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for Infrastructure Protection, and later worked in the private sector as Director for Cybersecurity Policy for Microsoft.

Now he was director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency at DHS.

In preparation for the 2020 Presidential election, Krebs launched a massive effort to counter lies spread by Russians—and Americans—on social media platforms. Among his duties:

  • Sharing Intelligence from agencies such as the CIA and National Security Agency with local officials about foreign efforts at election interference.
  • Ensuring that domestic voting equipment was secure.
  • Attacking domestic misinformation head-on.

As a result, Krebs was widely praised for revamping the department’s cybersecurity efforts and increasing coordination with state and local governments. 

By all accounts—except Trump’s—the November 3, 2020 election went very smoothly. 

As a result of the vast increase in election security, Trump not only failed to win the popular vote again but couldn’t get the help he expected from Putin. 

On November 17, Trump fired Chris Krebs. 

The reason: Krebs had not only countered Russian propaganda lies—he had dared to counter Trump’s as well. For example: He rejected Trump’s claims of widespread voter fraud: There “is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.”

In a November 17 story on the CNN website, CNN reporters Kaitlan Collins and Paul LeBlanc bluntly concluded:

“[Krebs’] dismissal underscores the lengths Trump is willing to go to punish those who don’t adopt his conspiratorial view of the election.

“Since CNN and other outlets called the race for President-elect Joe Biden, Trump has refused to accept the results, instead pushing baseless conspiracies that his second term is being stolen.”

Yet, by depriving Trump of Russian help, Krebs ensured a victory for democracy.

On January 6, the House and Senate counted the Electoral Votes—and pronounced Joseph Biden the winner—bringing an end to Trump’s reign of criminality and treason.

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.

HEROES AND VILLAINS: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 24, 2021 at 12:11 am

Next up: Nikolai Sergeyvich Zhilayev (pronounced Zill-lay-ev) was a Russian musicologist and the teacher of several 20th-century Russian composers.

Among these: Dimitri Shostakovich (September 25, 1906 – August 9, 1975)

Among his friends—to his ultimate misfortune—was Mikhail Nikolayevich Tukhachevsky, the former military hero now falsely condemned and executed as a traitor by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

In 1938, Zhilayev (November 18, 1881 – January 20, 1938) also became a casualty of what has become known as The Great Terror.

In his posthumously-published memoirs, Testimony, Shostakovich, his pupil and friend, described how Zhilayev faced his end with a calmness that awed even the NKVD (the predecessor to the KGB) secret police sent to arrest him.

Image result for images of Dmitri Shostakovich

Dimitri Shostakovich

“He had a large picture of Tukhachevsky in his room, and after the announcement that Tukhachevsky had been shot as a traitor to the homeland, Zhilayev did not take the picture down.

“I don’t know if I can explain how heroic a deed that was….As soon as the next poor soul was declared an enemy of the people, everyone destroyed in a panic everything connected with that person….

“And naturally, photographs flew into the fire first, because if someone informed on you, reported that you had a picture of an enemy of the people, it meant certain death.

“Zhilayev wasn’t afraid. When they came for him, Tukhachevsky’s prominently hung portrait amazed even the executioners.”

“What, it’s still up?” one of the secret police asked.

“The time will come,” Zhilayev replied, “when they’ll erect a monument to him.”

As, in fact, has happened. 

Meanwhile, Stalin has been universally condemned as one of history’s greatest tyrants.

Third hero—Brett Crozier, the former commanding officer of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt.

Graduating from the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1992, he received his Master’s Degree in National Security and Strategic Studies from the Naval War College in 2007.

From 2017 to 2018 he commanded the USS Blue Ridge. In November, 2019, he was given command of the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt.

On March 24, 2020, reports circulated that three members of the crew had tested positive for COVID-19. The next day the number of stricken sailors increased to eight. A few days later, it was “dozens.” The sailors reportedly became ill at sea, two weeks after a port call at Danang, Vietnam.

The initial cases were airlifted to a military hospital. The Roosevelt was ordered to Guam. After the ship docked on March 27, 2020, all 5,000 aboard were ordered to be tested for the virus. But only about 100 stricken sailors were allowed to leave the ship. The rest remained on board.

On March 30, Crozier emailed a four-page internal letter to multiple Naval officials, pleading to have the majority of the crew evacuated and quarantined on shore. Given the crowded sleeping quarters and narrow passageways of the vessel, Crozier wrote that it was impossible to follow social distancing and quarantine procedures: 

“This will require a political solution but it is the right thing to do. We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset—our Sailors….

“This is a necessary risk. Keeping over 4,000 young men and women on board the TR is an unnecessary risk and breaks faith with those Sailors entrusted to our care.”

Brett E. Crozier (2).jpg

Brett Crozier

Crozier sent his letter via a non-secure, unclassified email to 20 to 30 recipients, as well as the captain’s immediate chain of command. He reportedly believed that his immediate supervisor would not allow him to send it.

And his superior later confirmed that he would not have allowed Crozier to send it.

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. A skeleton crew of 400 remained aboard to maintain the nuclear reactor, the fire-fighting equipment, and the ship’s galley. 

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

By that time, about 114 crew members—out of a total of around 4,000—reportedly tested positive for COVID-19.  

As Crozier disembarked, sailors loudly saluted him with a standing ovation: “Cap-tain Cro-zier!”   

Modly claimed that Crozier’s letter “raised alarm bells unnecessarily. It undermines our efforts and the chain of command’s efforts to address this problem, and creates a panic and this perception that the Navy’s not on the job, that the government’s not on the job, and it’s just not true.”

Actually, the Trump administration had frittered away January and February, with President Donald Trump giving multiple—and misleading—press conferences. In these, he played down the dangers of COVID-19, saying that “we’re on top of it”—even as the virus spread across the country. 

“It was a betrayal. And I can tell you one other thing: because he did that he put it in the public’s forum and it is now a big controversy in Washington, DC,” continued Modly. [Italics added] 

This was the United States Navy under Donald Trump—who threw “betrayal” and “treason” at anyone who dared reveal the truth about institutional crimes and failures.

HEROES AND VILLAINS: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 23, 2021 at 12:18 am

…A truly great man is ever the same under all circumstances. And if his fortune varies, exalting him at one moment and oppressing him at another, he himself never varies, but always preserves a firm courage, which is so closely interwoven with his character that everyone can readily see that the fickleness of fortune has no power over him.
The conduct of weak men is very different. Made vain and intoxicated by good fortune, they attribute their success to merits which they do not possess. And this makes them odious and insupportable to all around them. And when they have afterwards to meet a reverse of fortune, they quickly fall into the other extreme, and become abject and vile.
Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses

Four heroes, three villains.

Two of the heroes are Russians; three are Americans.

The villains: One Russian (actually, Georgian); two American.

First up—in order of disappearance: Mikhail Nikolayevich Tukhachevsky (pronounced too-ka-chev-sky).

Tukhachevsky (February 4, 1893 – June 12, 1937) was a major Soviet military leader and theoretician from 1918 to 1937. 

He commanded the Soviet Western Front during the Russian-Polish War (1920-21) and served as Chief of Staff of the Red Army (1925-1928).

He fought to modernize Soviet armament, as well as develop airborne, aviation and mechanized forces.  Almost singlehandedly, he created the theory of deep operations for Soviet forces.

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Mikhail Tukhachevsky

All of these innovations would reap huge dividends when the Soviet Union faced the lethal fury of Adolf Hitler’s Wehrmacht.

In 1936, Tukhachevsky warned Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin that Nazi Germany might attack without warning—and ignite a long and murderous war.

Stalin—the son of a Georgian cobbler—resented Tukhachevsky’s coming from a noble family. A monumental egomaniac, he also hated that Tukhachevesky’s fame rivaled his own.

Warned of the approaching German danger, Stalin shouted: “What are you trying to do—frighten Soviet authority?”

Joseph Stalin

The attack that Tukhachevsky warned against came five years later—on June 22, 1941, leaving at least 26 million Russians dead.

But Tukhachevsky wasn’t alive to command a defense.

The 1930s were a frightening and dangerous time to be alive in the Soviet Union. In 1934, Stalin, seeing imaginary enemies everywhere, ordered a series of purges that lasted right up to the German invasion.

An example of Stalin’s paranoia occurred one day while the dictator walked through the Kremlin corridors with Admiral Ivan Isakov. Officers of the NKVD (the predecessor to the KGB) stood guard at every corner. 

“Every time I walk down the corridors,” said Stalin, “I think: Which one of them is it? If it’s this one, he will shoot me in the back. But if I turn the corner, the next one can shoot me in the face.”

In 1937-38, the Red Army fell prey to Stalin’s paranoia.

Its victims included:

  • Three of five marshals (five-star generals);
  • Thirteen of 15 army commanders (three- and four-star generals);
  • Fifty of 57 army corps commanders; and
  • One hundred fifty-four out of 186 division commanders.

And heading the list of those marked for death was Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky.

Arrested on May 22, 1937, he was interrogated and tortured. As a result, he “confessed” to being a German agent plotting to overthrow Stalin and seize power. 

On his confession, which survives in the archives, his bloodstains can clearly be seen.

On June 11, 1937, the Soviet Supreme Court convened a special military tribunal to try Tukhachevsky and eight generals for treason.

It was a sham: The accused were denied defense attorneys, and could not appeal the verdict—-which was foregone: Death.

In a Russian version of poetic justice, five of the eight generals who served as Tukhachevsky’s judges were themselves later condemned and executed as traitors.

Within hours of the verdict, Tukhachevsky was summoned from his cell and shot once in the back of the head.

From 1937 until 1956, Tukhachevsky was officially declared a traitor and fifth-columnist.

Then, on February 25, 1957, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev delivered his bombshell “Secret Speech” to the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

In this, he denounced Stalin (who had died in 1953) as a ruthless tyrant responsible for the slaughter of millions of innocent men, women and children. He condemned Stalin for creating a “personality cult” around himself, and for so weakening the Red Army that Nazi Germany was able to easily overrun half of the Soviet Union from 1941 to 1943.

On January 31, 1957, Tukhachevsky and his co-defendants were declared innocent of all charges and were “rehabilitated.”

Today, he is once again—rightly—considered a Russian hero and military genius. And Stalin is universally—and rightly—seen as a blood-stained tyrant.

Image result for Images of Statues to Mikhail Tukhachevsky

Mikhail Tukhachevsky appears on a 1963 Soviet Union postage stamp

Next hero: Nikolai Sergeyvich Zhilayev (pronounced Zill-lay-ev)

Zhilayev (November 18, 1881 – January 20, 1938) was a Russian musicologist and the teacher of several 20th-century Russian composers. Among these: Dimitri Shostakovich.

Zhilayev, a member of the Russian Academy of Art-Sciences, taught at the Moscow Conservatory. Among his friends—to his ultimate misfortune—was Mikhail Tukhachevsky.

In 1938, he, too, became a casualty of what has become known as The Great Terror.

In his posthumously-published memoirs, Testimony, Shostakovich, his pupil and friend, described how Zhilayev faced his end with a calmness that awed even the NKVD secret police sent to arrest him. 

COVID-19: SNATCHING DEFEAT FROM THE JAWS OF VICTORY–PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on February 11, 2021 at 12:15 am

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, President Donald Trump scheduled his first 2020 re-election rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma on June 20. 

The Tulsa event was followed by another indoor rally in Phoenix on June 23. “Students for Trump” featured a packed crowd, with almost no one wearing masks. 

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

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

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

Image result for Images of Kristi Noem

Kristi Noem

Meanwhile, more than 135,000 Americans had died of the virus.

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

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

With the end of summer came fall.

Normally this would have meant the return of millions of children to school. But COVID-19 had already closed most of the nation’s schools—at elementary, junior high and high school levels.

Having their children constantly underfoot for most of the year no doubt grated on the nerves of many parents. But the closure of schools also prevented many infections—to students, teachers and the families of both.

That advantage, however, was quickly offset by the succession of holidays that come with the fall—Labor Day, Halloween, Veterans Day, Christmas/Hanukkah, New Year’s Day.

A December 19 story in Business Insider carried the attention-catching headline: “The Thanksgiving Surge in Coronavirus Deaths is Here. It’s ‘Horrifically Awful,’ a Hospital Chaplain Said.”

To sum up its contents:

  • More than 47,000 Americans had died from COVID-19 since Thanksgiving.
  • COVID-19 was now the country’s leading cause of death.
  • It was just the beginning of the effects of Thanksgiving travel and gatherings.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) begged Americans to forego traveling for Thanksgiving. But at least 55 million Americans ignored that warning. Their selfish, egotistical mantra—“I want to be with my family!”—overrode their supposed concern for the lives of their relatives.

As a result, untold numbers of those families would not again be sharing Thanksgiving—or anything else. 

And Dr. Fauci warned: The Christmas season would pose an even greater threat. 

People would gather not just for Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, but for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day—not to mention any parties held in-between those dates.

Image result for Images of Antony Fauci

Anthony Fauci

The virus spreads faster indoors, where large numbers of people don’t wear masks, pack closely together, and talk or laugh loudly, thus spreading the droplets across a room. 

December brought the United States over 77,400 COVID-19 deaths.

Within a year, by January 1, 2021, the virus had killed more than 350,000 Americans. 

And then, to top it off, came the Super Bowl on February 7.

Once again, Fauci advised people to avoid crowds and parties: Enjoy the Super Bowl only with members of your immediate family.

And Tampa Mayor Jane Castor ordered people to wear masks in popular outdoor areas during Super Bowl week.

She estimated that tens of thousands of people crowded the streets of Ybor City after midnight, early Sunday morning. People were packed shoulder-to-shoulder in the middle of the street.

Seventh Avenue has drawn crowds since the outbreak of the pandemic nearly a year ago, reaching a crescendo on New Year’s Eve. But Super Bowl eve trumped that, said Tampa Bay Times photographer Luis Santana. And, once again, masses of Americans—especially in Tampa, Florida—behaved as if Coronavirus never existed.  

Image result for Super Bowl

Bars and restaurants were crammed with revelers celebrating the victory of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers over the Kansas City Chiefs. Many of them wore masks—but many others didn’t.

There was plenty of drinking—which causes people to lower their guard against deadly enemies like COVID-19. And with this came plenty of loud talk and cheering—which hurtle COVID-19 droplets across a room. 

When Mayor Castor announced her “mask-up” order, she said that police might issue fines of up to $450 for repeat offenders.

Police chief Brian Dugan said he didn’t want his officers to become “mask police,” adding, “We’re hoping people will just kind of work with us when it comes to the mask compliance.” 

The police department expressed its disappointment with the behavior of Tampa citizens.

One year after the coming of Coronavirus, masks and hand sanitizers are now widely available. Vaccines are finally becoming available.

But without the full cooperation of millions, eradicating COVID-19 will take far longer—and take a great many more thousands of lives.  

COVID-19: SNATCHING DEFEAT FROM THE JAWS OF VICTORY–PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on February 10, 2021 at 12:08 am

Snatching Defeat From the Jaws of Victory could well serve as the title for a future book on Coronavirus—and the incredibly self-destructive ways Americans have responded to it.

The virus first appeared in Wuhan, China, in December, 2019. Its first reported victim became ill on December 1.

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 can cause pneumonia and may cause bronchitis.

On January 19, 2020, the first Coronavirus case appeared in the United States.

SARS-CoV-2 without background.png

Coronavirus

On February 29, the first American died of Coronavirus.

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

Typical of these false reassurances was Trump’s statement on March 10: “It will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away.” 

But the virus didn’t. 

With the Federal Government refusing to take action, states began doing so.

From March 1 to May 31, 42 states and territories issued mandatory stay-at-home orders. Those citizens who were forced to venture out were advised to wear face masks and keep a distance of six feet between themselves and others.

On April 3, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that people wear non-medical face masks in public to reduce transmission of COVID-19.  

Yet President Trump saw the stay-at-home orders as a two-fold threat to himself—and openly encouraged defiance of those orders.

  1. He couldn’t return to his hate-filled rallies until these were lifted; and
  2. The stock market wouldn’t start soaring again so long as the country was “locked down.”

Without his Nuremberg-style rallies and a roaring stock market, Trump faced the danger of being a one-term President. 

On April 17, he issued a series of tweets to his supporters, encouraging them to defy the law:

“LIBERATE MINNESOTA!”

“LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” 

“LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!”

Michigan, Minnesota and Virginia all had Democratic governors. They had urged their residents to stay indoors, wear masks when they ventured outside, and keep a six-feet distance between themselves and others. 

As a result, those governors—especially Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer—were being targeted for abuse and even death threats. And their states were facing disruptive protests by large numbers of Right-wingers standing close together, with few of them wearing masks. The protesters claimed their rights were being infringed upon.  

doonald troump (@doonaldtromp) | Twitter

Donald Trump

As a result of the shutdowns and the increased emphasis on social distancing and mask-wearing, COVID-19 rates dropped by mid-May. 

According to a May 17 story in U.S. News & World Report:

“According to The New York Times, in New York state the figure has dropped over the last month, and case counts have also plunged in hard-hit Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Some states, including Vermont, Hawaii and Alaska, are seeing hardly any new cases at all, the newspaper said.” 

Then came May Day—and after that, the start of summer. 

On July 2, Vox published a story headlined: “A likely culprit in Covid-19 surges: People hell-bent on ignoring social distancing orders.”   

“For months,” it opened, “it’s been clear that the world has separated into two camps: the rule followers, observant of social distancing and hopeful of quashing the pandemic; and the risk takers, who have been storming the nation’s beaches, bars, and burger joints in spite of the coronavirus—and public health efforts to curtail its spread.

“Some states, such as New York, have contained new cases, but others, including Texas and Arizona, brazenly reopened even as cases continued to rise, unleashing a torrent of pent-up partiers. Now, even as an illusion of normalcy has slowly returned, rates of infection are reaching new records, with cases surging in dozens of states….

“’They’re conducting themselves like it’s pre-Covid, and that’s not going to work anymore,’ Bruce Dart, director of the Tulsa Health Department, told the Washington Post. Younger people, he said, arenot social distancing, not wearing masks or paying attention to hand-washing.’ In one stunning case shortly after Memorial Day, a group of 16 friends all tested positive for the virus after visiting a newly reopened bar in Florida.”

As if this wasn’t bad enough, Trump scheduled his first 2020 re-election rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma. 

It was held on June 20 at the BOK Center. Scientists had learned that Coronavirus is more likely to be transmitted indoors than outdoors, when masses of people are packed together, and when people are loudly talking—or, worse, shouting.

Trump rallies supporters in Wis. as Democrats debate in Iowa

A Trump rally

Masks were available for those who wanted them, but Trump made it clear that his supporters shouldn’t wear masks, as a sign of support for him. Men and women were densely packed together, with none of them wearing masks.

The Trump campaign boasted that 100,000 people would turn up. To its embarrassment, fewer than 6,200 did. Even worse: At least eight event staff members, including two who were at the rally, later tested positive for COVID-19.

The Tulsa event was followed by another indoor rally in Phoenix on June 23. “Students for Trump” featured a packed crowd, with almost no one wearing masks. 

STILL COUNTING THE STUPIDS: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on February 2, 2021 at 12:12 am

With the swearing in of Joseph R. Biden as the 46th President of the United States, a new—and desperately needed—chapter in the saga of COVID-19 has finally begun.

President Donald Trump had made the wearing of masks a divisive political issue. Wearing a mask, according to him, made you a wimp and a liberal Never-Trumper. Not wearing a mask showed you’re a macho man or woman—and in solidarity with him.

In effect, he was egotistically demanding that his followers risk death to prove their loyalty to him.

Biden, from the first, has seen COVID-19 as a plague—and not as a test of personal loyalty.

During a June 26, 2020 television interview he said that, if he were elected President, he would require wearing face masks in public to prevent the spread of Coronavirus: “The one thing we do know—these masks make a gigantic difference. I would insist that everybody out in public be wearing that mask.”

Since becoming President, he has:

  • Issued a national mask mandate on federal property, airlines, trains and other public transit systems.
  • Created an office of White House COVID-19 response. Its goals: Secure more protective equipment for workers, increase testing and vaccinations and reopen schools.
  • Restored science to its rightful place in fighting the plague. “You’re going to be hearing a lot from [Infectious disease expert] Dr. [Anthony] Fauci again,” Biden promised, saying that public health officials would be “free from political interference.”
  • Promised to push for a $1.9 trillion economic relief and COVID response package. Although he has repeatedly said he wants to pass this with bipartisan support, he has also warned that he will try to do so without Republican agreement if necessary.
  • Promised to level with the country on both the progress and setbacks in his war on COVID-19. He has predicted that 100,000 Americans will die from COVID-19 during his first six weeks in office.

Joe Biden official portrait 2013 cropped.jpg

President Joseph Biden

Biden’s mask rules come as close to a national mask mandate as his federal powers allow. Only states and municipalities can require residents to wear masks at a local level.

And even in states that require wearing a mask in public, many people refuse to do so. Fights have erupted between mask-less and mask-wearing customers—and sometimes store employees—who asked them to put on a mask before entering. Even store security guards have been assaulted.

So: How should those who refuse to wear a mask—and thus threaten the lives of others—be dealt with?

Governors, mayors and business owners need to fill the leadership void. They should issue emergency orders mandating the wearing of masks in public. And these orders should be forcibly backed up by the following:

  • Stop stressing that wearing a mask will protect others from “you.” Most people don’t care about strangers. Emphasize that wearing a mask will protect “you and your family” from others. 
  • Don’t hand out tickets to mask-evaders. They will simply ignore them—or write them off as a cheap price for going without a mask. 
  • Major retailers should hire professional guards to handle mask-evaders—who should be turned over to police.
  • Police should arrest everyone not wearing a mask in public and jail them—without bond—until the plague is over or a vaccine is found.

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  • These inmates should be lodged together—and away from those who are not infected with COVID-19.
  • Police should create tip hotlines for reporting mask-evaders—and offer rewards for tips that lead to arrests.
  • The media should publicize these arrests and jailings—to warn other potential mask-evaders.  
  • Right-wingers who openly carry firearms and threaten violence should be arrested and imprisoned under State and Federal anti-terrorism laws.  

It was the failure of German police and courts to abort Right-wing violence during the Weimar Republic that led to even greater violence through the rise of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi party.

Laws are useless if citizens believe they are unfairly or unpredictably enforced. As Niccolo Machiavelli warns in his classic work, The Discourses:

…Whoever desires to found a state and give it laws, must start with assuming that all men are bad and ever ready to display their vicious nature, whenever they may find occasion for it. If their evil disposition remains concealed for a time, it must be attributed to some unknown reason; and we must assume that it lacked occasion to show itself.

This is how United States authorities dealt with “Typhoid Mary” Mallon (September 23, 1869 – November 11, 1938).

Typhoid Mary Mallon – Legends of America

Mary Mallon

An Irish-born cook, she was an asymptomatic carrier of typhoid fever and is believed to have infected 53 people, three of whom died. Because she persisted in working as a cook, she exposed others to the disease.

As a result, she was twice forcibly quarantined by authorities, and died after a total of nearly 30 years in isolation at Riverside Hospital on North Brother Island, in New York City.

It’s long past time for responsible Federal, state and local officials to get tough on those who, through sheer egotism or allegiance to a medically discredited American traitor, place others at risk of a deadly plague.

STILL COUNTING THE STUPIDS: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on February 1, 2021 at 12:21 am

Here’s a new game you can play the next time you take a walk: Count the Stupids! 

These are the people who, during a deadly pandemic: 

  • Don’t wear a mask.
  • Don’t wear a mask—and suck on a cigarette.
  • Wear a mask—just under their nose.
  • Wear a mask—around their neck like a bandanna. 

The number of people who fall into these categories will vary each day.

But they all constitute a clear and present danger to those who want to stay clear of COVID-19. Here’s why:

  • NOT WEARING A MASK exposes the non-wearer and anyone else not wearing one to the possibility of COVID-19. You can sneeze or cough into someone’s face—or someone can sneeze or cough into yours.
  • NOT WEARING A MASK WHILE SMOKING exposes the smoker to both the probability of getting COVID-19 and the almost certainty of getting lung cancer, heart disease and/or emphysema.
  • WEARING A MASK JUST UNDER THE NOSE means you can sneeze COVID-19 into someone’s face—or someone with COVID-19 can sneeze into your nose.
  • WEARING A MASK AROUND THE NECK may make you feel like a range-roving cowboy, but it offers the same degree of protection as NOT WEARING A MASK: Zero. 

N95 Respirator Masks | Bass-Mollett Publishers Inc.

N95 mask

The Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, emerged in China in December, 2019, and has since spread throughout the world.

By February 1, 2021, it had infected 102,659,554 people worldwide. Of these, 2,221,640 have died.

In the United States, case totals have reached 26,075,932. Of these, 439,536 have died.

SARS-CoV-2 without background.png

Coronavirus

For the first three months of the plague, masks were hard to come by. Top-of-the-line masks such as the N95 were quickly snapped up by hospitals filling with COVID cases. This forced many families to sew their own masks. Many of these were made of porous material, allowing the wearer to become easily infected.

But today masks are advertised—and sold—everywhere. 

Wearing a mask and “social distancing”—keeping at least six feet between yourself and others while in public—have been the Golden Rules urged by public health officials for months.

Scientists have learned, for example, that COVID-19 can be spread by those who show no symptom of the disease. And mounting evidence has proven that masks are essential for protecting people from the virus. 

Coronavirus is spread by respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks—especially if large numbers of people are packed indoors. The danger goes up if the talker is shouting or singing loudly.

If not blocked by a face covering, the droplets can travel six to 13 feet.   

Researchers at Florida Atlantic University found that some masks were more effective than others. One study showed that well-fitted homemade masks with multiple layers of fabric, as well as off-the-shelf cone style masks, were the most effective in reducing droplet dispersal.

The N95 mask—made by the 3M Company—has been rated the best. Its Chinese counterpart—the KN95—has been rated its equivalent.

Bandannas turned out to be the least effective in reducing transmission.

There are at least seven reasons why so many Americans refuse to wear a mask—even in the midst of a deadly pandemic. 

First: A feeling of solidarity. According to David Abrams, a professor of social and behavioral sciences at NYU School of Global Public Health: People who don’t wear masks may see it as a sign of solidarity, as if they are taking a stand against authority.

Second: “If liberals do it, it’s fascistic.” Many mask protesters accuse those who wear masks of being fascists. This is a hallmark of Right-wing politics—accusing their opponents of being what they are themselves.

Third: They have utterly rejected the rising death-toll caused by the virus. They claim stories of such deaths are mere “fake news”—the term Donald Trump uses to dismiss any news stories that highlight his mistakes and criminality. 

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Fourth: Republicans disdain education in general—and science in particular. In March, an NBC News poll found that only 30% of Republicans said that they would actually listen to the advice of doctors to stay away from large, crowded areas to avoid Coronavirus

Fifth: Religious Fanaticism: Many fundamentalist Christians believe that their faith in Jesus will protect them against COVID-19. They continue to attend services indoors in defiance of warnings by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that such meetings are dangerous.

A female member of the Solid Red Rock Church in Monroe, Ohio, told CNN: “I wouldn’t be anywhere else. I’m covered in Jesus’ blood. I’m covered in Jesus’ blood.”

Sixth: Hypocrisy. Since the Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973, the Right has demanded that even women who are pregnant due to rape or incest carry the fetus to term.

Yet now that Right-wingers are being asked to wear masks in public—to protect themselves and others from a deadly plague—they’ve suddenly discovered the mantra: “It’s my body!”

Seventh: Identifying with Donald Trump. The former President made it clear that his followers don’t wear masks. And they have fallen into line, refusing to mask up even in crowded, indoor arenas where infection is most likely.

REPUBLICANS PREFER TRUMP TO LINCOLN

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 21, 2021 at 12:05 am

During the week of November 24 – 26, 2019, The Economist and YouGov conducted a poll of 1,500 American adults. The purpose of that poll: To compare President Donald Trump with President Abraham Lincoln—and find out who was more popular within the Republican party. 

Lincoln served as President from 1861 to 1865, steering the United States through the Civil War and the abolition of slavery.

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Abraham Lincoln

Trump, by contrast, has largely made the United States a pariah nation throughout the world—and is now presiding over a pandemic which has killed more than 25,000 Americans.

So what was the result of the poll? 

Fifty-three percent of Republicans believe that Trump is a better President than Lincoln.

This starkly contrasts with the verdict of both Democratic and independent voters. Ninety-four percent of Democrats preferred Lincoln—and so did 78% of independents.

Overall, 75% of poll respondents picked Lincoln; only 25% picked Trump.

Some Twitter users found this sardonically hilarious.

One of these was Billy Baldwin, the brother of Alec Baldwin, who portrays Trump as a befuddled tyrant on Saturday Night Live: “53% of Republicans apparently don’t even know who Abraham Lincoln was.” 

Baldwin also posted an animated photo of the Lincoln Memorial with the Great Emancipator giving The Finger to Trump and First Lady Melania.

Toddlers & Tiaras with Tom Hanks - YouTube

“Economist/YouGov Poll: 53% of Republicans believe Donald Trump is a better president than Abraham Lincoln was while 47% believe the president that got this country through the Civil War was better,” wrote Josh Jordan. “If you were wondering what segment of the population can not be swayed by facts.”

Political commentator Ashley Pratte took a more serious view of the matter.

Describing herself in a December 9, 2019 column as “a lifelong Republican before 2016,” she wrote: “According to a 2017 C-Span survey of the nation’s top presidential historians, Lincoln sits above all other presidents as the greatest of all time. 

“The Republican party has strayed far since the days of Lincoln; it’s shameful to see how Trumpism has hijacked it. It’s truly shocking how Republicans are allowing him to carry the mantle of conservatism too with little-to-no hesitation.

“Trump’s years in office have been full of nepotism, scandal, profiting from his position as President and now he is about to become the third-ever president to be impeached.”

Donald Trump

Specifically: 

  • He gave unprecedented access to the Oval Office to unqualified members of his family and personal friends.
  • When his son-in-law Jared Kushner was denied a security clearance, Trump pushed it through anyway.
  • Republicans refused to accept the conclusion of the Mueller Report that Trump campaign officials colluded with Russian Intelligence agents to win the Presidency in 2016.
  • They also acquitted him—against overwhelming evidence—of trying to extort Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to run a smear campaign against former Vice President Joe Biden.
  • Trump personally profited from his role as President. At least 250 officials in the executive branch made 630 visits to Trump properties, and 90 members of Congress have made 180 visits. 

For Pratte, Trump’s worst offense is this: “Trump has also been the most divisive president in our nation’s history….. From his Twitter rants and off-color statements to his pursuit of a travel ban and destruction of Obamacare, he’s not even bothered to try to get support for his policies.

“Instead, he’s forged ahead, continually pressed to build an impossible wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, withdrawn from the Paris Climate Agreement and threatened to withdraw from NAFTA as a way to negotiate a slightly new version of it.

“…Republican officials should be eager to uphold the ideals of accountability, no matter which political party controls the White House. The problem is that these so-called morals are just a sham, and abandoning them is the only way to defend the occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.”

There are two major reasons why Republicans regard Trump more highly than Lincoln.

First: In 2002, Republican Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott gave away the game at the 100th birthday party for racist South Carolina Republican Senator Strom Thurmond:

”I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We’re proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn’t have had all these problems over all these years, either.”

In short: If America had elected Thurmond—who ran ran for president in 1948 as the Dixiecrat candidate on a States Rights platform supporting racial segregation—we wouldn’t be having all these problems now with “uppity” blacks.

Thus, Lincoln—who freed blacks from slavery—is for Republican voters the root cause of “all these problems over all these years.”  

Second, Lincoln waged a civil war to restore the Union—which meant sending Federal armies into the rebellious South.

Under the banner of “States’ rights,” today’s Republicans openly court millions of voters in the South who still wish the Civil War had ended differently: With a triumphant South still running its slave empire—and millions of blacks still held in bondage.

While these voters secretly regret that those “good old days” will never return, they can at least show their support for “States’ rights” by backing Trump—whose racism toward non-whites is universally known and applauded by white supremacist groups.

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