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Posts Tagged ‘COVID-19’

LIFE BEGINS ANEW–AND STAYS THE SAME–EACH NEW YEAR’S EVE

In Entertainment, History, Social commentary, Uncategorized on December 31, 2020 at 12:08 am

New Year’s Eve, 2020, will soon lie behind us.

And for most people, saying “Goodbye” to 2020 can’t happen soon enough.

New Year’s Eve is traditionally a time for people to reflect on the major events of the previous 12 months. Some of these are highly personal. Others have been shared by the entire country.

Some of these remembrances inevitably bring pleasure. Others bring pain.

And 2020 has been a year of pain for millions.

Starting in January, COVID-19 swept across the globe. To date, it’s infected 82 million worldwide—and taken 1.79 million. In the United States, it’s infected 19.7 million and killed 341,000.

Coronavirus is the voice of the Earth | Schumacher College

COVID-19

But, as the year came near its end, a ray of hope suddenly dawned: Two anti-COVID vaccines finally appeared on the market.

It would take time for them to reach significant numbers of people. But now an end to the global pandemic was finally within sight.

At the heart of every New Year’s Eve celebration is the fantasy that you get to start fresh in a matter of hours. And with that fantasy comes hope—that, this time, you can put your sorrows and failures behind you. 

And for millions in 2021, life will look brighter—because Donald Trump, whose Presidency has been marked by unprecedented criminality and treason, will leave office on January 20.

True, he’s not going gently into that good night.

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Donald Trump

Ever since former Vice President Joseph Biden won the votes of 81 million Americans, Trump has refused to concede. Even worse, he’s repeatedly—and falsely—claimed that he was “cheated” of victory by massive electoral fraud. 

He’s pressed these lies as high as the Supreme Court—and has seen more than 50 cases dismissed by judges or withdrawn by his lawyers.

So he is going.

The last New Year’s Eve to be marked by worldwide fears was that of 1999:

  • Fear of Y2K—that our highly computerized, globally-interconnected world would crash when the “19″ at the start of every year was replaced with a “20″.
  • Fear of Armageddon—that Jesus, after dying 2,000 years ago, would return to destroy mankind (except for those 144,000 righteous souls He deemed worthy of salvation).
  • Fear of the Millennium itself—of ending not simply another decade and century but an entire thousand-year period of history, and thus losing our historical ties to the familiar highlights of our own (and America’s) past.

And, especially where Y2K was concerned, news commentators were quick to stoke our anxieties.

Long before New Year’s Eve, TV newscasters repeatedly warned that, when midnight struck on January 1, 2000, the three places you did not want to be were:

  • In an airplane.
  • In an elevator.
  • In a hospital.

Countless numbers of people in America and around the world stocked up on food, water, batteries and other essentials for surviving an emergency.

Merchants and police feared widespread rioting and violence. If Y2K didn’t set it off, then fears of a heaven-sent Apocalypse might.

In San Francisco, along Powell Street—a major center of tourism and commerce—store owners boarded up their doors and windows as New Year’s Eve approached. Many closed earlier than usual that day.

Fortunately, when midnight struck on January 1, 2000, the predictors of the coming Apocalypse were proven wrong.

  • Computers kept working—and civilization didn’t crash along with them.
  • Jesus didn’t miraculously return from the dead—just as he hadn’t during any previous year.
  • And those who feared that the Millennium would usher in a strange and frightening new world soon found that 2000 was not all that different from previous years.

New Year’s Eve 1999 is now 21 years distant. But some lessons may still be learned from it:   

Each year is a journey unto itself—filled with countless joys and sorrows. Many of these joys can’t be predicted. And many of these tragedies can’t be prevented.

Learn to tell real dangers from imaginary ones. Computers are real—and sometimes they crash. Men who died 2,000 years ago do not leap out of graveyards, no matter what their disciples predict.

Don’t expect any particular year to usher in the Apocalypse. In any given year there will be wars, famines, earthquakes, riots, floods and a host of other disasters. These have always been with us–and always will be. As Abraham Lincoln once said: “The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.”

Image result for Images of fireworks on New Year's Eve

Don’t expect some Great Leader to lead you to success. As Gaius Cassius says in William Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar”: “Men at some time are masters of their fate. The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in ourselves that we are underlings.”

Don’t expect any particular year or event to usher in your happiness. To again quote Lincoln: “Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

If your life seems to make no sense to you, consider this: The philosopher Soren Kierkegaard once noted: “Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.”

HITLER’S GERMANY HAD ITS RESISTENCE MOVEMENT–TRUMP’S AMERICA DID NOT: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 30, 2020 at 12:08 am

During his 12-year reign, Adolf Hitler was the target of at least 42 assassination plots. The most famous of these was the one of July 20, 1944.

  • So far as is known, Donald Trump has not been the target of even one.

In Hitler’s case, the plotters were officers of the German general staff—who believed the Fuhrer was leading Germany into a war it could not hope to win.

After the war’s outbreak (on September 1, 1939) most of the plotters were motivated by a desire to end the war before Allied—and especially Russian—soldiers reached Germany. But many plotters were motivated by sheer horror at the wholesale slaughters taking place in Poland and Russia.

Adolf Hitler

  • In Trump’s case, a non-violent method for removal existed in the Twenty-Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. This allows the Vice President and a majority of the Cabinet to recommend the removal of the President when he is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” The Vice President then becomes President.
  • No Cabinet members had the courage to invoke this.
  • Within the Senate and House of Representatives, Republicans acted as a rubber stamp for his every infamy. When he praised North Korea’s dictator Kim Jong-On or attacked Vietnam POW John McCain, they stayed silent. When he falsely charged massive voter fraud, Republicans stayed silent or loudly parroted his lies.
  • Their most notorious example of ambition-fueled cowardice occurred on February 5, 2020. That was when the Republican-dominated Senate—ignoring the overwhelming evidence against him—acquitted Trump on both impeachment articles: Obstruction of Congress and abuse of power.
  • At the Pentagon, American generals stood mute as Trump repeatedly sided with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin against the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency—and even gave classified CIA Intelligence to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
  • And just as high-ranking field marshals in Hitler’s Wehrmacht held their tongues when he insulted them, so, too, did American generals when Trump belittled their intelligence and even patriotism. 
  • When Trump arbitrarily decided to remove American forces from Syria and Afghanistan, Secretary of Defense James Mattis resigned in protest in 2018. But then he was simply replaced by Mark Esper.
  • Despite the fact that many of these men regularly came into contact with Trump, not one of them apparently plotted his removal. 
  • Similarly, Trump repeatedly attacked the integrity of the men and women of the FBI—even firing its director, James Comey, for daring to investigate Russia’s subversion of the 2016 election. If its agents—steeped in Federal criminal law—built a case for Trump’s indictment and prosecution, it has never come to light.
  • Neither did any of his Secret Service agents register the slightest protest, despite his arrogant behavior toward them. He forced them to work without pay during his 35-day government shutdown in 2018. And he forced them to accompany him to COVID-infected states—both during the Presidential campaign and afterward. Many of them became stricken with this often fatal disease as a result.

Donald Trump

On November 3, 2020, 81,255,933 Democratic voters elected former Vice President Joseph Biden the 46th President of the United States. Trump, running for a second term, got 74,196,153 votes.

Yet almost two months after the election, Trump refuses to concede, insisting that he won—and repeatedly claiming falsely that he is the victim of massive vote fraud.

This toxic lie has been feverishly embraced by millions of Right-wingers, and threatens to rob the incoming Biden administration of its deserved legitimacy.

This refusal to acknowledge the outcome initially denied Biden access to the money, information-sharing and machinery traditionally accorded the President-elect. Trump himself was the beneficiary of such assistance in 2016, after his win over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

Only on November 23 was Biden acknowledged as the winner by the General Services Administration, as the Trump administration finally began the formal transition process.

Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic rages across the country. More than 336,000 Americans have died, hospitals are filled to capacity, and millions are on the brink of starvation and/or eviction. Yet Trump remains obsessed with his loss, and has done nothing to coordinate the Federal response to the pandemic.

Trump’s refusal to accept reality poses an unprecedented danger to democracy: No presidential candidate has ever refused to concede defeat once all the votes were counted and legal challenges resolved.

By refusing to commit to a peaceful transfer of power, Trump has taken on the classic mantle of of a dictator.

Right-wing Virginia State Senator Amanda Chase has urged Trump to declare martial law and allow the military to “oversee” another election. So has disgraced ex-National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, whom Trump pardoned for lying to the FBI about private talks he had with a Russian official.

Reports have surfaced that Trump has considered doing so. Given his record as a lifelong criminal, there is no reason to doubt he is capable of this. 

History has recorded an active German resistance movement against Adolf Hitler—and has honored its members, many of whom died heroically for standing firm against a brutal tyrant.

To its eternal shame, the same cannot be said of America during the reign of Donald Trump.

HITLER’S GERMANY HAD ITS RESISTENCE MOVEMENT–TRUMP’S AMERICA DID NOT: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 29, 2020 at 12:15 am

On July 20, 1944, Colonel Claus Schenk von Stuaffenberg tried to assassinate Adolf Hitler.

He had served with the Wehrmacht in Poland (1939), France (1940) and the Soviet Union (1941).

While serving in Tunisa, he was seriously wounded on April 7, 1943, when Allied fighters strafed his vehicle. He lost his left eye, right hand and two fingers of his left hand after surgery.  

Colonel Claus Schenk von Stuaffenberg

Nevertheless, he now acted as the prime mover for the conspiracy among a growing number of German high command officers to arrest or assassinate Germany’s Fuehrer.

For most of these officers, the motive was craven: The “happy time” of German victories was over. Germany was losing the war it had unleashed on the world in 1939—and now they feared the worst. 

This was especially true now that the numerically superior forces of the Soviet Union had gone onto the offensive.

For Stauffenberg, there was another reason: His disgust at the horrors he had seen committed by his fellow Wehrmacht soldiers upon defenseless POW’s and civilians in Russia.

Thus, Stauffenberg—more than many Germans–knew firsthand the vengeance his country could expect if the “Thousand-Year Reich” fell.

Something must be done, he believed, to prove to the world that not all Germans—even members of the Wehrmacht—were criminals.

Most of the conspirators wanted to arrest Hitler and surrender to British and American forces—well before the much-feared Russians gained a toehold in Germany.

Stauffenberg didn’t want to arrest Hitler; he wanted to kill him. A live Hitler might eventually be rescued by his Nazi colleagues.

But Hitler was a closely-guarded target. He was surrounded by fanatical bodyguards who were expert marksmen. He often wore a bulletproof vest and a cap lined with three pounds of laminated steel. 

Adolf Hitler

Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1990-048-29A / CC-BY-SA 3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)%5D

But his single greatest protection—he claimed—was an instinct for danger. He would suddenly change his schedule—to drop in where he was least expected. Or suddenly depart an event where he was expected to stay a long time.

That instinct had repeatedly saved his life.

A series of assassination attempts had been made against Hitler. All of them involved time-bombs. And all of the would-be assassins were members of the German General Staff.

In one case, a bomb secretly stashed aboard Hitler’s plane failed to explode. In another, an officer who had a bomb strapped to himself unexpectedly found his scheduled meeting with Hitler called off. He had to rush into a bathroom to defuse the bomb before it exploded.

Stauffenberg intended to carry his bomb—hidden in a briefcase—into a “Hitler conference” room packed with military officers. Rigged with a time-fuse, it would be left there while he found an excuse to leave.

After the explosion, he would phone one of his fellow conspirators with the news. 

Stauffenberg intended to direct the new government that would replace that of the Nazis—and open peace talks with the British and Americans.

With Hitler dead, the coup—“Operation Valkyrie”—would be on.

Anti-Nazi conspirators would seize control of key posts of the government. The British and Americans would then be informed of Germany’s willingness to surrender. Provided, of course, that the vengeance-seeking Russians did not have a say in its postwar future.

The Wehrmacht and Schutzstaffel (SS) had killed millions of Russians. Many had died in combat. Others had been murdered as captives. Still more had been allowed to die by starvation and exposure to the notorious Russian winter.

So the Germans—both Nazi and anti-Nazi—knew what they could expect if soldiers of the Soviet Union reached German soil.

On July 20, 1944, Stauffenberg appeared at Hitler’s well-guarded military headquarters in East Prussia.  Like all his other outposts, Hitler had named it—appropriately enough—“Wolf’s Lair.” 

“Wolf’s Lair”

Stauffenberg entered the large, concrete building while the conference was in session. He placed his yellow briefcase next to Hitler—who was standing with his generals at a heavy oaken table. Then he excused himself to take an “urgent” phone call.

After Stauffenberg left the room, Colonel Heinz Brandt, standing next to Hitler, found the briefcase blocking his legs. So he moved it—to the other side of the heavy oaken support, partially shielding Hitler from the blast.. 

At 12:42 p.m. on July 20, 1944, Stauffenberg’s briefcase bomb erupted. 

Brandt died, as did two other officers and a stenographer.  

Hitler not only survived, but the plotters failed to seize the key broadcast facilities of the Reich.  

This allowed Hitler to make a late-night speech to the nation, revealing the failed plot and assuring Germans that he was still alive. And he swore to flush out the “traitorous swine” who had tried to kill him.

Mass arrests quickly followed.

Among the first victims discovered and executed was the conspiracy’s leader, Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg. Standing before a makeshift firing squad at midnight, he cried: “Long live our sacred Germany!”

At least 7,000 persons were arrested by the Gestapo. Of these, 4,980 were executed.

HITLER’S GERMANY HAD ITS RESISTENCE MOVEMENT—TRUMP’S AMERICA DID NOT: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 28, 2020 at 12:25 am

“When Fascism comes to America, it will be called anti-Fascism.”
–Huey Long, Louisiana Governor/Senator

In the Twilight Zone episode, “No Time Like the Past,” Paul Driscoll (Dana Andrews), a scientist in early 1960s America, uses a time machine to visit Nazi Germany on the eve of World War II. 

He’s rented a motel room overlooking the balcony from where the Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler will soon make a speech. And he’s eager to watch that speech—through the lens of a telescopic-sighted rifle.  

Just as he’s about to pull the trigger, there’s a knock at his door–by the maid. Driscoll hustles her out as soon as possible, then once again picks up his rifle. He—and viewers—can once again see Hitler through the cross-hairs of his weapon.  

Paul Driscoll prepares to shoot Adolf Hitler

But instead of the anticipated shot, there’s another knock at his door—his time by the black-uniformed secret police, the SS. Driscoll knows the game is up, and disappears into the present just as the thugs break down his door.  

And the audience is left to ponder how different the world would have been if Driscoll—or someone in Nazi Germany—had succeeded in assassinating the man whose wars would wipe out the lives of 50 million men, women and children around the globe.  

One 2016 Republican candidate for President dared to invoke the menace of Nazi Germany in warning of the dangers of a Donald Trump Presidency. And to argue that Americans could prevent that past from returning.  

In November, 2015, John Kasich, the governor of Ohio, was peddling a message of creating jobs, balancing the Federal budget and disdain for Washington, D.C.  

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John Kasich

But he remained far behind in the polls, dropping 50% in support in just one month—from September to October. Meanwhile, Trump, the New York billionaire developer, was being backed by 25% of Republican primary voters.  

So, with nothing to lose, Kasich decided to take off the gloves. He invoked the “N” word for Republicans: Nazi.  

He authorized the creation of a TV ad that opened with ominous music—and the face of a snarling Donald Trump.

“I would like anyone who is listening to consider some thoughts that I’ve paraphrased from the words of German pastor Martin Niemoeller.” 

The voice belonged to Tom Moe, a retired colonel in the U.S. Air Force—and a former Vietnam prisoner-of-war.

“You might not care if Donald Trump says Muslims must register with the government, because you’re not one,” continued Moe. 

“And you might not care if Donald Trump says he’s going to round up all the Hispanic immigrants, because you’re not one. 

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Donald Trump

“And you might not care if Donald Trump says it’s OK to rough up black protesters, because you’re not one. 

“And you might not care if Donald Trump wants to suppress journalists, because you’re not one.

“But think about this: 

“If he keeps going, and he actually becomes President, he might just get around to you. And you’d better hope that there’s someone left to help you.”  

Martin Niemoeller (1892–1984) was a prominent Protestant pastor who had commanded a U-boat during World War 1. He became a bitter public foe of Adolf Hitler.

A staunch anti-Communist, he had initially supported the Nazis as Germany’s only hope of salvation against the Soviet Union.

But when the Nazis made the church subordinate to State authority, Niemoeller created the Pastors’ Emergency League to defend religious freedom. 

For his opposition to the Third Reich,  Niemoeller spent seven years in concentration camps.

With the collapse of the Reich in 1945, he was freed—and elected President of the Protestant church in Hesse and Nassau in 1947. During the 1960s, he was a president of the World Council of Churches.

He is best remembered for his powerful condemnation of the failure of Germans to protest the increasing oppression of the Nazis:

First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist, so I did not speak out.

Then they came for the Socialists, but I was not a Socialist, so I did not speak out.

Then they came for the trade unionists, but I was not a trade unionist, so I did not speak out.

Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew, so I did not speak out.

And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.

Neither “Adolf Hitler” nor “Nazi Party” was mentioned during the one-minute Kassich video. But a furious Trump threatened to sue Kasich if he could find anything “not truthful” within the ad.

Apparently he couldn’t find anything “not truthful,” because he never sued.

So threatened the man who had called Mexican immigrants “rapists” and accused President Barack Obama of being a Muslim and an illegal alien.

The Kasich ad was the darkest attack made against Trump by any candidate—Republican or Democrat. And it raised a disturbing question:

If Donald Trump proved to be America’s Adolf Hitler, would there be an American Claus von Stauffenberg? 

Colonel Claus Schenk von Stuaffenberg was the German army officer who, on July 20, 1944, tried to assassinate Adolf Hitler. 

SKIP CHRISTMAS AND SAVE MONEY–AND PROBABLY YOUR LIFE

In Business, History, RELIGION, Social commentary on December 24, 2020 at 12:12 am

There are several good reasons for skipping Christmas this year—if not in years beyond 2020.

Reason #1: The historical realities behind the event.

  • There is no reference anywhere in the Bible to the month, day—or even the year—of Jesus’ birth. 
  • There are no sources outside the Bible that give a date to Jesus’ birth.
  • Jesus never commanded his followers to celebrate his birth—but he did call on them to remember his death.  It’s called Easter.
  • Many of the “religious” traditions associated with Christmas stem from the pagan Roman festival, Saturnalia, which celebrated the “birthday” of the sun.
  • This was celebrated December 17-25. 
  • Saturnalia traditions included feasting, gift-giving, lighting candles (to ward off evil spirits) and displaying wreaths (as a sign of coming spring).
  • Early Christians tried mightily to convince their members to stop celebrating the Saturnalia.
  • When these efforts failed, the Roman Catholic Church, in 336 A.D. “Christianised” the festival by naming Saturnalia’s concluding day, December 25, as Jesus’ birthday.

Reason #2: It’s based on a story that’s patently false.

The story of the Three Wise Men—or Kings—bringing gifts to the infant Jesus was added long after Jesus’ birth.

Realistically, there was no reason why anyone in Israel would have known—or cared—about the birth of yet another Jewish child.

If he had actually been born the son of a king, then his birth might have mattered to people generally. 

In his 1973 bestselling Alexander the Great, Robin Lane Fox explains that “in antiquity…life’s perspective was reversed, and youth was mostly described through a series of anecdotes which falsely mirrored the feats of the adult future; proven kings or bishops were remembered as kings or bishops when young.”

Alexander The Great: Tie In Edition | Amazon.com.br

Thus, Alexander the Great, the future conqueror of the Persian empire, has been depicted—as a boy—astonishing Persian ambassadors with precocious questions about the innermost workings of that empire.

For followers of the crucified Jesus, it was essential to establish his divinity from the outset of his birth. And what better way to do this than having not one but three Kings show up, uninvited, to declare his reign over them?

Reason #3: It’s actually blasphemous. 

Assume, for a moment, that the story of the Three Wise Men—or Kings—is true. 

The whole point of the story is to establish that Jesus’ birth was a truly special event—and a recognition of his fate to redeem humanity from sin.

No one else in that story is depicted as giving—or getting—gifts.

No matter how much a child might be loved today, almost no one expects him to be a future savior.

So giving him gifts is essentially a parody of the acknowledgement of Jesus’ divinity. 

Reason #4: Christmas is overwhelmingly a commercial—not a religious—event.

  • The Christmas shopping season can start as early as September. Some consumers begin shopping even earlier.
  • For 2019, industry analysts expected the average American to spend $920 on holiday gifts, up from $885 in 2018 and reaching a total of more than $1 trillion.
  • Santa Clause made his first appearance in Coca-Cola magazine ads in the 1920s.
  • In 2019, the average cost of Christmas was $668, up from $633 in 2018.  
  • In 2019, 20% of consumers anticipated taking on debt due to Christmas shopping, with the average amount being $720.
  • For many stores, holiday shopping accounts for nearly a third of annual sales.

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Reason #5: At least for 2020, celebrating Christmas within large families could prove fatal.

A December 19 story in Business Insider carries 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 have died from COVID-19 since Thanksgiving.
  • COVID-19 is now the country’s leading cause of death.
  • It’s just the beginning of the effects of Thanksgiving travel and gatherings,

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 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 will not again be sharing Thanksgiving—or anything else. 

And Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top expert on infectious diseases, has warned that the Christmas season will pose an even greater threat. 

What do you call the disease caused by the novel coronavirus? Covid-19

COVID-19 Virus

People will 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.

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.

There will be people who insist that Christmas is a religious event that they are commanded to celebrate—even in the midst of a deadly plague.

For those people, it’s a good time to remember the advice of 1 Corinthians 13:11: “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”

THIS WASN’T INSANITY–IT WAS TREASON: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on December 16, 2020 at 12:15 am

On December 8 and 10, the United States Supreme Court refused to hear two cases brought by supporters of President Donald Trump to overturn the results of the 2020 Presidential election.

In the first case, Representative Mike Kelly (R-PA), a Trump ally, argued that Pennsylvania’s 2.5 million mail-in ballots were unconstitutional—and should be invalidated

In the second case, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sought to overturn the results in four battleground states: Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Even worse: Seventeen Republican state Attorney Generals—and 126 Republican members of Congress—rushed to support the case.

The reason: They feared Trump’s fanatical base would turn them out of office if they didn’t.

U.S. Supreme Court building-m.jpg

The Supreme Court

Had the Court acted on either request, the results for democracy would have been catastrophic.

For the first time in American history, a President who falsely accused his victorious rival of fraud would have invalidated the votes of 80 million Americans.

Meanwhile, as Trump continues to deny the reality of Joe Biden’s win and seek ways to overturn it, a deadly pandemic rages throughout the United States.

By December 16, 16.8 million Americans have been infected with COVID-19—and 304,000 have died.

Many of these infections and deaths resulted from millions of Americans’ insistence on spending Thanksgiving with their families. And with the Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year’s celebrations fast approaching, medical experts fear there will be even greater numbers of casualties.

So what is Trump concentrating his time on during his final weeks in office?

Two things:

  1. Desperately trying to overturn the results of the 2020 election; and
  2. Taking credit for the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines. 

Donald Trump

The first one should have been grounds for his immediate removal from office. And the second should earn him everlasting contempt.

No other President has ever:

  • Tried to muscle governors to override the voters of their states.
  • Repeatedly spread a lie that his opponent had won by “stealing” the election.
  • Demanded that the Supreme Court hear—and act—on frivolous, lie-filled lawsuits challenging the results of the election.

As for the plague, he:

  • Spent most of the year ignoring the plague, and then denying it.
  • Refused to wear a mask and made its wearing a political act rather than simply the best available means to stay safe.
  • Turned his frenzied campaign rallies into “superspreader” events: Masses of mask-less men and women crammed into indoor stadiums, shouting vigorously—then taking the virus with them all over the country.
  • Did nothing to bring rival factions in Congress together to fashion a relief bill for millions of Americans made unemployed and hungry by Coronavirus.

* * * * *

Too many people have labeled the actions of Donald Trump and his political accomplices as “insanity.”

On the  contrary: It was—literally—an attempted Republican coup.

Never before in United States history has a President—or a political party—made such a blatant and unconstitutional effort to overthrow the will of the electorate.

The sheer hypocrisy of it would be stunning—if Republicans didn’t ordinarily hold to a double-standard: One that applies exclusively to its own members and another for its opponents.

For example:

During the 2016 Presidential race, members of Trump’s campaign met with Russian Intelligence agents on several occasions.

The most infamous of these meetings occurred on July 9, 2016. High-ranking representatives of Trump met at Trump Tower with at least two lobbyists with ties to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.

Reince Priebus, the incoming White House Chief of Staff for newly-elected Trump, was outraged that many Americans believed that the Russians had helped elect him. He demanded that outgoing President Barack Obama vouch for Trump’s legitimacy. 

“I think President Obama should step up,” Priebus said on January 15, 2017, on ABC’s “This Week.”

“This Week” host George Stephanopoulos replied that Trump had questioned Obama’s legitimacy as an American citizen until almost the end of the 2016 Presidential race.

“But look, George, that’s not the point!” Priebus said, visibly agitated. “The point is not where Barack Obama was born! The point is that we’ve got congressmen on the Democratic side of the aisle that are questioning the legitimacy of President-elect Trump.”  

Here was Texas—which boasts constantly of its sovereignty—trying to impose its Fascistic will on four other equally sovereign states.

And why? Because the voters in those states dared to pick a candidate Texans didn’t like.

Had New York or California tried to impose its will on Texas, the howls of Texan outrage would have resounded across the nation.

The United States has—momentarily—escaped tyranny imposed by a totally corrupt executive branch and a totally cowardly legislative one.

Every one of the 17 Republican state Attorney Generals—and the 126 Republican members of Congress—has betrayed their oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

And they have done so for the basest of reasons: Because they want to be re-elected to their current office or elected to an even higher one. And they fear they won’t be if Trump—like a Mafia capo—puts the “X” on them.

This wasn’t simply “Profiles Without Courage.” It was “Profiles in Treason.”

THIS WASN’T INSANITY–IT WAS TREASON: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on December 15, 2020 at 12:11 am

On November 3, Joe Biden became President-elect of the United States by winning 81,283,495 votes, or 51.4% of the vote, compared to 74,223,755 votes, or 46.9% of the vote cast for President Donald Trump.

In the Electoral College—which actually determines the winner—the results were even more stunning: 306 votes for Biden, compared with 232 for Trump. It takes 270 votes to be declared the victor.

From the moment Biden was declared the winner, Trump set out to overturn that verdict.

Joe Biden's Next Big Decision: Choosing A Running Mate | Voice of America - English

Joe Biden

Trump refused to accept that verdict.

Speaking from the White House in the early hours of November 4, Trump sounded like a petulant child whose planned outing has been suddenly called off:

“We were getting ready for a big celebration, we were winning everything and all of a sudden it was just called off. The results tonight have been phenomenal…I mean literally we were just all set to get outside and just celebrate something that was so beautiful, so good, such a vote such a success.” 

For the first time in American history, a President demanded a halt to the counting of votes while the outcome of an election hung in doubt. 

States ignored his demand and kept counting.

Next, Trump ordered his attorneys to file lawsuits to overturn the election results, charging electoral fraud. Specifically:

  • Illegal aliens had been allowed to vote.
  • Trump ballots were systematically destroyed.
  • A sinister computer program turned Trump votes into Biden ones.

Throughout November and December, cases were filed in Wisconsin, Arizona, Nevada, Michigan, Minnesota and Georgia challenging the election results. None were supported by evidence of fraud—as even Trump’s lawyers admitted when questioned by judges.

On November 13, nine cases meant to attack President-Elect Joe Biden’s win in key states were denied or dropped. A law firm challenging the vote count in Pennsylvania withdrew from the effort.

In Michigan, Trump’s attorneys dropped their federal suit to block the certification of Detroit-area ballots. 

By November 21, more than 30 cases were withdrawn by Trump’s attorneys or dismissed by Federal judges—some of them appointed by Trump himself.

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

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Donald Trump

On November 19, losing in the courts, Trump invited two Republican legislative leaders from Michigan to the White House. The reason: To persuade them to stop the state from certifying the vote.

The Michigan legislators said they would follow the law.

On December 5, Trump called Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and asked him to call a special legislative session and convince state legislators to select their own electors that would support him, thus overturning Biden’s win.

Kemp refused, saying he lacked the authority to do so.

On December 8, the Supreme Court refused to hear Trump’s bid to reverse Pennsylvania’s certification of Biden’s victory. Representative Mike Kelly (R-PA), a Trump ally, argued that the state’s 2.5 million mail-in were unconstitutional.

The Court’s order read, “The application for injunctive relief presented to Justice [Samuel] Alito and by him referred to the Court is denied.”

Although Trump had appointed three of the Court’s Justices, not one of them dissented.

On December 10, the Supreme Court refused to let a Texas lawsuit overturn the results in four battleground states: Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. 

The majority of their votes—cast for Biden—were critical to Trump’s defeat.

“Texas has not demonstrated a judicially cognizable interest in the manner in which another state conducts its elections,” the court said without further comment. It dismissed all other related claims as moot.

The request for their overturning came in a lawsuit brought by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. A Trump ally, Paxton has been indicted on felony securities fraud charges. He may be seeking a Presidential pardon as reward for his effort.

Seventeen Republican state Attorney Generals—and 126 Republican members of Congress—supported the lawsuit. They feared Trump’s fanatical base would “primary” them if they didn’t publicly declare their loyalty—to a man they knew was slated to leave office within two months.

Had the Court acted on Paxton’s request, the results for democracy would have been catastrophic. 

“Texas seeks to invalidate elections in four states for yielding results with which it disagrees,” Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro told the justices in legal papers. “Its request for this court to exercise its original jurisdiction and then anoint Texas’s preferred candidate for president is legally indefensible and is an affront to principles of constitutional democracy.”

Meanwhile, top Republicans—such as Vice President Mike Pence, Missouri United States Senator Roy Blunt and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell—refused to congratulate Biden as the winner. 

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Mitch McConnell

In fact, the vast majority of House and Senate Republicans refuse to publicly acknowledge Biden as President-Elect of the United States.  The reason: They are still in thrall to Trump’s fanatical base. 

They fear that if they break with the soon-to-be-ex-President, they will be voted out of office at the next election—and lose their cozy positions and the power and perks that come with them.

ONCE AGAIN, ACCOMPLICES TO OUR OWN DESTRUCTION: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 8, 2020 at 12:15 am

Once he became the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump began undermining one public or private institution after another.

On November 3, 80 million voters decided they wanted a change—and elected former Vice President Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States.

Trump refused to accept that verdict. Speaking from the White House in the early hours of November 4, he said:

“Millions and millions of people voted for us tonight, and a very sad group of people is trying to disenfranchise that group of people and we won’t stand for it.”

For the first time in American history, a President demanded a halt to the counting of votes while the outcome of an election hung in doubt.

States ignored his demand and kept counting.

Next, Trump ordered his attorneys to file lawsuits to overturn the election results, charging electoral fraud. Specifically:

  • Illegal aliens had been allowed to vote.
  • Trump ballots had been systematically destroyed.
  • Tampered voting machines had turned Trump votes into Biden ones.

Throughout November and December, cases were filed in Wisconsin, Arizona, Nevada, Michigan, Minnesota and Georgia challenging the election results. And, one by one, more than 30 cases were withdrawn by Trump’s attorneys or dismissed by Federal judges—some of them appointed by Trump himself.

For 20 days, General Services Administrator Emily Murphy refused to release $7.3 million in transition funding and Federal resources to the President-elect’s team. Under the law governing presidential transitions, Murphy was responsible for determining the winner based on publicly available information before the actual Electoral College vote. 

Finally, on November 23, Murphy released the transition funding and resources.

Losing in the courts, Trump invited two Republican legislative leaders from Michigan to the White House to persuade them to stop the state from certifying the vote.

Nothing changed. 

On December 5, Trump called Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and asked him to call a special legislative session and convince state legislators to select their own electors that would support him, thus overturning Biden’s win.

Kemp refused, saying he lacked the authority to do so.

Meanwhile, top Republicans—such as Vice President Mike Pence and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell—have refused to congratulate Biden as the winner. None of them branded Trump’s efforts to overturn the election as those of a tyrant.

Just as Germans did nothing to stop Adolf Hitler’s inexorable march toward war—and the destruction of millions of lives and Germany itself—so, too, do Americans seem paralyzed to put an end to the equally self-destructive reign of the man often dubbed “Carrot Caligula.”

Gaius Caligula was “the mad emperor” of ancient Rome. Like Trump, he lived by a philosophy of “Let them hate me, so long as they fear me.”

He ruled as the most powerful man of his time—three years, 10 months and eight days. And all but the first six months of his reign were drenched in slaughter and debauchery.

There are basically three ways America’s continuing slide into tyranny could be stopped:

First, Congressional Republicans could revolt against Trump’s authority and/or agenda. They could, for example, demand that Trump accept the verdict of the electorate—as every other past President has.

This is extremely unlikely to happen. Republicans fear that if they openly defy him, his fanatical base will turn on them in coming elections—and end their comfortable reign of power and privileges.

Second, invoking the Twenty-Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. This allows the Vice President and a majority of the Cabinet to recommend the removal of the President in cases where he is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” It also allows the House and Senate to confirm the recommendation over the President’s objection by two-thirds vote. 

The Vice President then takes over as President.

A case could easily be made that Trump, emotionally distraught over his loss and determined to circumvent the will of the electorate, has been rendered unfit to continue in office.

This is also extremely unlikely. Most of Trump’s cabinet rightly fears him. He fired FBI Director James Comey in 2017 and publicly humiliated his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, for more than a year until firing him in 2018. Vice President Mike Pence in particular has set new records for sycophancy. 

Third, the “Caligula solution.” Like Trump, Caligula delighted in humiliating others. His fatal mistake was taunting Cassius Chaerea, a member of his own bodyguard. Caligula considered Chaerea effeminate because of a weak voice and mocked him with names like “Priapus” and “Venus.”

On January 22 41 A.D. Chaerea and several other bodyguards hacked Caligula to death with swords before other guards could save him.

Trump has similarly behaved arrogantly toward his Secret Service guards. He forced them to work without pay during his 35-day government shutdown in 2018. He has also forced them to accompany him to COVID-infected states—both during the Presidential campaign and afterward. Many of them have been stricken with this often lethal disease as a result.

Gaius Caligula

As Niccolo Machiavelli warns in The Discourses“When a prince becomes universally hated, it is likely that he’s harmed some individuals—who thus seek revenge. This desire is increased by seeing that the prince is widely loathed.”

ONCE AGAIN, ACCOMPLICES TO OUR OWN DESTRUCTION: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 7, 2020 at 12:24 am

“Why are we letting one man systematically destroy our nation before our eyes?” 

It’s a question millions of Americans have asked themselves since Donald Trump became President of the United States.

Millions of Germans asked themselves the same question throughout the six years of World War II.

In September, 1938, as Adolf Hitler threatened to go to war against France and England over Czechoslovakia, most Germans feared he would. They knew that Germany was not ready for war, despite all of their Fuhrer’s boasts about how invincible the Third Reich was.

A group of high-ranking German army officers was prepared to overthrow Hitler—provided that England and France held firm and handed him a major diplomatic reverse.

But then England and France—though more powerful than Germany—flinched at the thought of war.

They surrendered to Hitler’s demands that he be given the “Sudetenland”—the northern, southwest and western regions of Czechoslovakia, inhabited mostly by ethnic Germans.

Hitler’s popularity among Germans soared. He had expanded the territories of the Reich by absorbing Austria and Czechoslovakia—without a shot being fired!

The plotters in the German high command, realizing that public opinion stood overwhelmingly against them, abandoned their plans for a coup. They decided to wait for a more favorable time.

It never came.

Adolf Hitler and his generals

Less than one year after the infamous “Munich conference,” England and France were at war—and fighting for the lives of their peoples.

As for the Germans: Most of them blindly followed their Fuhrer right to the end—believing his lies (or at least wanting to believe them), serving in his legions, defending his rampant criminality.

And then, in April, 1945, with Russian armies pouring into Berlin, it was too late for conspiracies against the man who had led them to total destruction. 

Berliners paid the price for their loyalty to a murderous dictator—through countless rapes, murders and the wholesale destruction of their city. And from 1945 to 1989, Germans living in the eastern part of their country paid the price as slaves to the Soviet Union. 

Have Americans learned anything from this this warning from history about subservience to a madman? 

The answer seems to be half-yes, half-no.

In 2016, almost 63 million Americans elected Donald Trump—a racist, serial adulterer and longtime fraudster—as President.

On November 3, 2020, 81,255,933 Democratic voters outvoted  74,196,153 Republican voters to elect former Vice President Joseph Biden as the 46th President of the United States.

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Donald Trump

Upon taking office on January 20, 2017, Trump began undermining one public or private institution after another.

  • Repeatedly 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.”
  • Siding with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin against the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency which unanimously agreed that Russia had subverted the 2016 Presidential election. 
  • Firing FBI Director James Comey for investigating that subversion.
  • Giving Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey  Kislyak highly classified CIA Intelligence about an Islamic State plot to turn laptops into concealable bombs.  
  • Shutting down the Federal Government for 35 days because Democrats refused to fund his ineffective “border wall” between the United States and Mexico. An estimated 380,000 government employees were furloughed and another 420,000 were ordered to work without pay. The shutdown ended due to public outrage—without Trump getting the funding amount he had demanded.
  • Trying to coerce Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to smear former Vice President Joe Biden, who was likely to be his Democratic opponent in the 2020 Presidential election.
  • Allowing the deadly COVID-19 virus to ravage the country, infecting (to date) 14.8 million Americans and killing 282,000.
  • Attacking medical experts and governors who urged Americans to wear masks and socially distance to protect themselves from COVID-19.
  • Ordering his Right-wing followers to defy states’ orders to citizens to “stay-at-home” and wear of masks in public to halt surging COVID-19 rates.

And throughout all those outrages, House and Senate Republican majorities remained silent or vigorously supported him.

A typical example:

On June 4, 2020, during protests over the police murder of black security guard George Floyd, a curfew was imposed on Buffalo, New York. As police swept through Niagara Square, Martin Gugino, a 75-year-old peace activist with the Catholic Worker Movement, walked into their path as if attempting to speak with them.

Two officers pushed him and he fell backwards, hitting the back of his head on the pavement and losing consciousness. 

On June 9, Trump charged that Gugino was part of a radical leftist “set up.” Trump offered no evidence to back up his slander.

Typical Republican responses included:  

  • Kentucky Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to say whether Trump’s tweet was appropriate.
  • Texas Senator Ted Cruz: “I don’t comment on the tweets.” 
  • Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson said he hadn’t seen the tweet—and didn’t want it read to him: “I would rather not hear it.”
  • Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander: “Voters can evaluate that. I’m not going to give a running commentary on the President’s tweets.”

On November 3, 2020, 80 million voters decided they wanted a change—and elected former Vice President Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States.

HOW THE TRUMP DISASTER COULD HAVE BEEN PREVENTED: PART FOUR (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on December 3, 2020 at 1:23 am

The election of Donald Trump—and the subsequent dictatorial, vindictive and even treasonous behavior that followed—was not inevitable.

There were at least six instances where the Justice Department of President Barack Obama could have utterly changed the outcome of the 2016 election. Yet, for reasons still unknown, it chose to do nothing.

The first instances has been highlighted in Parts One through Three of this series. These consisted of:

Case #1:  The Obama Justice Department did not indict Trump and/or the Attorney Generals of Texas and/or Florida for bribery in the Trump University scandal.

Case #2:  The Justice Department did not indict Trump for the series of threats that he made—directly and indirectly—against Republicans and Democrats throughout the 2016 campaign.

Case #3: The Justice Department could have indicted Trump and/or his followers for voter intimidation.

Case #4 Making threats against anyone under protection by the U.S. Secret Service is a felony. Yet Donald Trump was never held legally accountable by the Justice Department for his “dog whistle” threat against Hillary Clinton.

Case #5 The Justice Department did not invalidate the results of the 2016 election, despite overwhelming evidence that Russia intervened to elect Donald Trump as Vladimir Putin’s chosen candidate. 

And now the final—and fatal—miscarriage of justice:

Case #6: The Justice Department did not prosecute Donald Trump for treason, even though he solicited aid from Russia, a nation hostile to the United States. And no major official of the government—including President Barack Obama—publicly condemned him as a traitor.  

At a news conference in Doral, Florida on July 27, 2016. Trump publicly invited “Russia”—i.e., Vladimir Putin—to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails: “I will tell you this, Russia: If you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

Even Trump’s Trump’s Vice Presidential running mate, Mike Pence, said: “If it is Russia and they are interfering in our elections, I can assure you both parties and the United States government will ensure there are serious consequences.”

Throughout 2016, the CIA, FBI and National Security Agency (NSA) found numerous ties between officials of the Trump Presidential campaign and Russian Intelligence agents. Among these:

  • Future Secretary of State Rex Tillerson
  • Future National Security Adviser Michael Flynn  and
  • Future Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

The discovery of such contacts between Trump campaign officials and Russian Intelligence agents led the FBI to launch an investigation into Russia’s efforts to influence the outcome of the 2016 Presidential election. 

It was that investigation—totally justified by law and common sense—that Trump later claimed had been a “deep state” coup to prevent him from reaching the White House. 

To their shame, the federal agencies charged with safeguarding America failed to take action against these abuses. And, to their shame, the news media, to date, has failed to indict them for their negligence.

Future historians may well indict President Barack Obama for his failure to decisively act, and whose negligence led to the rise and destructive reign of Donald Trump.

Ninety-three years earlier, a similar series of circumstances led to the rise and reign of an even more destructive tyrant.

On November 9, 1923, Nazi Party Fuhrer Adolf Hitler tried to overthrow the government in Munich, Bavaria.

About 2,000 Nazis marched to the center of Munich, where they confronted heavily-armed police. A shootout erupted, killing 16 Nazis and four policemen. 

Hitler was injured during the clash, but managed to escape. Two days later, he was arrested and charged with treason.

Put on trial, he found himself treated as a celebrity by a judge sympathetic to Right-wing groups. He was allowed to brutally cross-examine witnesses and even make inflammatory speeches.

At the end of the trial, he was convicted of treason and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment.

Serving time in Landsberg Prison, in Bavaria. he was given a huge cell, allowed to receive unlimited visitors and gifts, and treated with deference by guards and inmates.

Hitler used his time in prison to write his infamous book, Mein Kampf-–“My Struggle.” Part autobiography, part political treatise, it laid out his future plans—including the extermination of the Jews and the conquest of the Soviet Union.

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Adolf Hitler leaving Landsberg Prison, December, 20, 1924

Nine months later, he was released on parole—by authorities loyal to the authoritarian Right instead of the newly-created Weimar Republic.

Hitler immediately began rebuilding the shattered Nazi party—and deciding on a new strategy to gain power. Never again would he resort to armed force. He would win office by election—or intrigue.

Writes historian Volker Ullrich, in his monumental new biography, Hitler: Ascent 1889 – 1939: “Historians have perennially tried to answer the question of whether Hitler’s rise to power could have been halted….

“There were repeated opportunities to end Hitler’s run of triumphs. The most obvious one was after the failed Putsch of November 1923. Had the Munich rabble-rouser been forced to serve his full five-year term of imprisonment in Landsberg, it is extremely unlikely that he would have been able to restart his political career.” [Italics added]

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Thus, it isn’t just what happens that can influence the course of history. Often, it’s what doesn’t happen that has at least as great a result.

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