bureaucracybusters

Posts Tagged ‘DAVID BROOKS’

COMING: A WAR ON STUPIDS? PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on August 10, 2021 at 12:11 am

Since COVID-19 entered the United States in January, 2020, Republicans have turned it into a “culture war” issue.

President Donald Trump made wearing a mask a referendum on himself. If you were a “manly man”—and supported him-–you didn’t wear one. Even if it cost you your life.

He—and his followers—fiercely opposed “stay-at-home” orders by governors intent on suppressing rising COVID outbreaks in their states.

And when three vaccines appeared in early 2021, Republicans—again led by Trump—refused to say whether they were vaccinated. Some—like Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene—publicly celebrated low vaccination rates among their own constituents.

Others—like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis—threatened to withhold funds from public schools that required students to wear masks. (Only children 12 and older can be vaccinated.)

Ron DeSantis 2020 (cropped).jpg

Ron DeSantis

So it was, ironically, a Republican who fired the first salvo at irresponsible public behavior.

“Folks are supposed to have common sense. But it’s time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks. It’s the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down. We’ve got to get folks to take the shot. It’s the greatest weapon we have to fight COVID,”  Alabama Governor Kay Ivey told reporters in Birmingham on July 22. 

Alabama is one of the least vaccinated states in the country, with roughly 34% of residents fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC had announced in May that fully vaccinated people no longer had to wear masks

But now the even more contagious Delta variant was spreading. Experts warned that vaccinated and unvaccinated people should wear masks indoors  where COVID-19 cases were high but vaccination rates were low.

CDC on Twitter: "CDC is tracking a new variant of the virus that causes #COVID19 called Delta, or B.1.617.2. There is evidence that this variant spreads easily from person to person. Get

Meanwhile, some of the most prominent corporations in America weren’t waiting for them to do so.  

  • In May, Delta Airlines began requiring requiring newly-hired employees to show proof of vaccination.
  • On August 6, United Airlines announced that it would require its 67,000 U.S. employees to get vaccinated by October 25—or risk termination.
  • Hours later, Frontier Airlines announced that its employees must be vaccinated by October 1—or be frequently tested for COVID-19.
  • On August 4, Facebook announced that all of its employees would have to prove that they had been vaccinated to return to the office.
  • That same day, Google CEO Sundar Pichai sent a similar email to his staffers. 
  • Disney is requiring all its salaried and non-union hourly employees in America to be vaccinated. 
  • Uber announced that its U.S.-based office staff needs to be vaccinated to return to the office. It isn’t requiring the same for drivers.
  • Walgreens is requiring vaccinations for all of its corporate employees in the United States.
  • Netflix will require COVID-19 vaccinations for the casts of all its American productions, including those who come in contact with them.
  • Saks Fifth Avenue is requiring that all employees be vaccinated.
  • Walmart CEO Doug McMillon announced in a July 30 memo that all of its American-based corporate employees must be vaccinated by October 4.  
  • Tyson Foods will require that its 120,000 U.S. employees be fully vaccinated. According to the company, about 56,000 already are.
  • Ascension Health will require Covid-19 vaccinations for all of its employees.
  • On August 4, Twitter closed its offices in New York and San Francisco and paused further office reopenings. It was already requiring employees to show proof of vaccination.
  • Lyft is requiring all employees working in its offices to be vaccinated.
  • The Washington Post will require all current employees and new hires to show proof of full COVID-19 vaccinations. 
  • Morgan Stanley is barring all unvaccinated staff and clients from entering its New York headquarters office 

More companies will undoubtedly follow suit.

There are two reasons for this: 

First, across the country, hospitals are struggling to cope with the Delta variant—the most contagious strain of Coronavirus yet.  

Second, it’s clear that simply offering incentives for behaving responsibly isn’t working.

This week, New York City became the first major city to require proof of vaccination to enter restaurants and gyms.

“I do think it may be time for this to happen,” said Katherine Wu, science writer for The Atlantic, on the August 6 edition of Washington Week.

Katherine J. Wu, Ph.D. (@KatherineJWu) | Twitter

Katherine Wu

“I’ve seen more and more experts come out in support of mandates and requirements like these. You know, it’s sort of a combination of carrot and stick. If you want to keep having these privileges going out into society and being able to lead a normal life, it is probably a really good idea to [get] vaccinated to ensure not only your health but the people that you’re interacting with.”   

* * * * *

A policy only of incentives is a policy of bribery. And a policy only of deterrents is a policy of coercion. 

Some people can’t be bought and some can’t be coerced. But history shows that a policy employing both carrots and sticks usually proves highly effective in motivating behavior.

As the school season begins in September, children will be increasingly exposed to the dangers of contracting COVID. Many of them will undoubtedly die.

And as their casualties mount, there will be increased demands for punitive measures against those who put their arrogance above the public good.

COMING: A WAR ON STUPIDS? PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on August 9, 2021 at 12:10 am

When a deadly, air-borne plague is sweeping a nation, it’s medically smart to don a face mask until a vaccine is developed.

And, when it is, it’s just as medically smart to take that vaccine.

Yet, since March, 2020, millions of science-denying, government-hating Fascistic Republicans have refused to mask up in public against COVID-19. And now that not one but three vaccines have been developed, millions more have refused to get them.

Most of them are followers of former President Donald Trump. But many others have long believed that the Federal Government had a diabolical plan to enslave them.

Related image

Donald Trump

They distrust the scientists who developed the anti-COVID vaccines. They distrust the established news media, which has chronicled the destructive fury of COVID for more than a year.

Yet they put their faith in Trump, a man who

  • Derided COVID as a hoax;
  • Told 30,573 lies during his four years as President;
  • Attacked reputable medical authorities such as Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s foremost expert on infectious disease;
  • Promoted drinking bleach as a preventative or cure for COVID;
  • Ordered his millions of fanatical followers to disobey the “shelter-in-place” orders of governors who were trying to stem the rising tide of COVID in their states; and
  • Staged scores of super-spreader political rallies to promote his re-election in 2020, where tens of thousands of unmasked men and women stood shoulder-to-shoulder.

When Joseph Biden took office as President on January 20, 2021, he made eliminating COVID-19 his top priority. He publicized the launching of three new anti-COVID vaccines—by Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. He encouraged Americans to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

And he set a deadline by which 70% of Americans would be at least partially vaccinated—by July 4: Independence Day.

At first, there was a mad rush as millions of Americans flocked to vaccination sites.  But, by June, there was a marked increase in the numbers of those refusing to get vaccinated.

SARS-CoV-2 without background.png

COVID-19

On June 7, the online edition of U.S. News & World Report published a story under the headline: “Declining Vaccination Rates Threaten Biden’s July 4 Goal.”

“Plunging vaccination rates are imperiling President Joe Biden’s goal of getting COVID shots into the arms of at least 70% of American adults by July 4, while public health experts worry that Southern states, where immunization numbers are the lowest, could see a spike in cases over the summer.”

That is exactly what has happened.

The story continued: “The steep decline began in mid-April, coinciding with the temporary suspension of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine while health officials investigated rare blood-clotting reactions. That drop has continued, with only 2.4 million adults getting their first shot last week. Officials must get a first dose to 4.2 million adults per week to meet Biden’s July 4 goal, the [Washington] Post reported.” 

By August 2, 168.4 million Americans had been fully vaccinated, or 49.6% of the country’s population.

The population of the United States stands at 328.2 million.

POD Assist | CDC

Cities and states have offered a series of incentives to get vaccinated—as if doing so just to save your own life and the lives of those you love isn’t enough of an incentive.

Among those incentives: 

  • Free beer.
  • Free marijuana joints.
  • Free childcare coverage while getting shots or assistance while recovering from side effects.
  • Extended hours for pharmacies in June.
  • Thousands of pharmacies remaining open overnight on Fridays.
  • Million-dollar jackpots.
  • Full-ride scholarships.
  • A $2 million commitment from DoorDash to provide gift cards to community health centers for those who get vaccinated.
  • CVS Pharmacies launched a sweepstakes with prizes including free cruises and Super Bowl tickets.
  • Major League Baseball hosting on-site vaccine clinics and ticket giveaways at games.
  • Kroger gave $1 million to a vaccinated person each week in June and free groceries to dozens of people for the year.

Countless Americans were appalled at the selfishly irresponsible behavior of their fellow citizens.

One of these was President Biden: “All over the world people are desperate to get a shot that every American can get at their neighborhood drugstore.”

Another was Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and public health professor at George Washington University and former Baltimore health commissioner.

“It’s the height of American exceptionalism that we are having to beg people to get a life-saving vaccine, when healthcare workers and vulnerable people around the world are dying because they can’t get access to it,” said Wen. 

Yet the time may be fast approaching when the juicy carrot is replaced by the big stick.

From the coming of the virus to the United States in January, 2020, Republicans have encouraged Americans to defy health warnings by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

They have opposed wearing masks and stay-at-home orders. They have staged indoor political rallies of hundreds—or thousands—of unmasked men and women 

So it’s ironic that it was a Republican who fired the first salvo at irresponsible public behavior.

“Folks are supposed to have common sense. But it’s time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks. It’s the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down,” Alabama Governor Kay Ivey told reporters in Birmingham on July 22.

Alabama is one of the least vaccinated states in the country, with roughly 34% of residents fully vaccinated, according to the CDC. 

HANDLING CRISES: JFK VS. TRUMP

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on August 6, 2021 at 12:10 am

On March 13, 2020, President Donald Trump addressed a subject he clearly resented being asked about: His gutting of an early-warning medical system set up to confront pandemics.

In 2014, following the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, President Barack Obama created the White House Pandemic Office, run by the White House’s National Security Council (NSC).

Heading it was Rear Admiral Tim Ziemer. Under President George W. Bush, he had successfully fought malaria overseas. His topflight team of infectious disease and public health experts was creating a national bio-defense strategy.  Their goal: Coordinate agencies to make the United States more resilient to the threat of epidemics and biological warfare.

In May, 2018, Trump ordered the NSC’s global health security unit shut down. The reason: Trump’s pathological jealousy of and hatred for Obama.

On March 13, at a White House press conference, Yamiche Alcindor, the PBS Newshour’s White House Correspondent, dared to ask Trump: “My first question is: You said that you don’t take responsibility, but you did disband the White House Pandemic Office and the officials that were working in that office left this administration abruptly. So, what responsibility do you take to that?

Yamiche Alcindor 1.jpg

Yamiche Alcindor

“And the officials that worked in that office said that you—that the White House lost valuable time because that office was disbanded. What do you make of that?”

Then followed this exchange:

TRUMP: Well, I just think it’s a nasty question, because what we’ve done is—and Tony had said numerous times that we saved thousands of lives because of the quick closing. And when you say me, I didn’t do it. We have a group of people.

ALCINDOR: It’s your administration.

TRUMP: I could ask, perhaps—my administration, but I could perhaps ask Tony about that, because I don’t know anything about it. I mean, you say we did that. I don’t know anything about it.

ALCINDOR: You don’t know about the—

TRUMP: We’re spending—

ALCINDOR: — About the reorganization that happened in the National Security Council?

TRUMP: No, I don’t know. It’s the—it’s the administration, perhaps they do that. You know, people let people go. You know, you used to be with a different newspaper than you are now. You know, things like that happen.

Trump’s refusal to accept responsibility for the greatest crisis of his tenure as President flagrantly contrasts with how President John F. Kennedy responded to a similar crisis.

Jeffrey Guterman on Twitter: "Press conference by U.S. president ...

John F. Kennedy press conference

On April 17, 1961, the U.S. Navy landed 1,400 CIA-trained Cuban exiles on Cuba to overthrow the Communist government of Fidel Castro. Landing at the Bay of Pigs, they were supposed to head into the mountains—as Castro himself had done against the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista in 1956—and raise the cry of revolution.

When the invaders surged onto the beaches, they found Castro’s army waiting for them. Many of the invaders were killed on the spot. Others were captured.

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

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

Ironically, the crisis—and his taking responsibility for it—hugely increased Kennedy’s popularity. The national Gallup Poll reported that 83 percent of Americans approved of the job he was doing as President.

To a White House aide, Kennedy half-joked: “It’s just like Eisenhower—the worse I do, the more popular I get.”

By contrast, Trump’s “handling” of the Coronavirus plague brought him the worst reviews of his Presidency.

Conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks attacked Trump in terms usually reserved for serial killers. On the March 13 edition of The PBS Newshour, he said:

“This is what happens when you elect a sociopath as president, who doesn’t care, who has treated this whole thing for the past month as if it’s about him. ‘How do people like me?’ Minimizing the risks. ‘Does the stock market reflect well on me?’ And he hasn’t done the things a normal human being would do, which was to, let’s take precautions….

“And he’s incapable of that. And he’s even created an information distortion field around him.” 

And Toluse Olorunnipa, White House reporter for The Washington Post, said: “He likes having powerful people around him to praise what he’s done. He tried to get them all up to the podium to talk about how great of a response he has provided, and I think that’s—trying to get that co-signed from CEOs and powerful people is a key part of his presidency.”

Kimberly Atkins, senior Washington news correspondent for WBUR, Boston’s NPR News Station: “We have seen the president not only be all over the place but his instinct was to try to downplay it [Coronavirus] because he saw it as a political threat—to say that people would get better….

“Even today he’s saying, ‘We have everything under control. We have this website that people can go to and find out where they can get tested.’ The website isn’t even done yet.”

FOUR MAPS TO INFAMY: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on July 29, 2021 at 12:05 am

Whites comprised the overwhelming majority of the audiences at Donald Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign rallies. Not all were racists, but many of those who were advertised it on T-shirts: “MAKE AMERICA WHITE AGAIN.”

And the vast majority of the white votes Trump got were in the South.

The 2008 election of Barack Obama as the first black President had shocked whites. His 2012 re-election had deprived them of the hope that 2008 had been an accident.

Then came 2016—and the possibility that a black President might actually be followed by a woman: Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. 

And for macho, largely uneducated, anti-black Southern males, the idea of a woman dictating to men was simply too much to bear.

Thus, the third map of infamy: Southerners’ election of Donald Trump.

When Trump declared his candidacy:

  • The country was essentially at peace.
  • Thanks to government loans from President Obama, American capitalism had been saved from its own excesses during the George W. Bush administration.
  • Employment was up. CEOs were doing extremely well.
  • Unlike the administration of Ronald Reagan, there had been no corruption scandals during the Obama Presidency.
  • Nor had there been any large-scale terrorist attacks on American soil—like 9/11 under President George W. Bush.

Above all, the news was filled with reputable reports—later confirmed—that Trump’s campaign was backed by Russian oligarchs linked to Vladimir Putin, the former head of the KGB and now President of Russia.

In short: Southerners—who had long portrayed themselves as America’s most dedicated patriots—flocked to the banner of a man who publicly called on “Russia” to interfere in an American Presidential election. 

Red States voted for Donald Trump – 2016

BobWyatt07, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

Now for the South’s fourth map of infamy.

Donald Trump’s four-year Presidency produced a legacy of unprecedented racism, criminality, abuse of power and treason. 

But the crime for which he will be longest-remembered—and which finally brought him down—was his unwillingness to protect Americans from the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID-19 catastrophe slammed into the United States in January, 2020. It was the inevitable result of a natural disaster colliding with an evil and incompetent administration.

Trump’s “cures” for COVID-19 included denial, lies, Republican subservience, chaos, extortion, propaganda as news, quackery as medicine, demands to “re-open the country,” Ignoring the danger and—finally—resignation (“Learn to live with the virus”). 

Early on, Trump made the virus a referendum on himself. If you supported him, you didn’t wear a mask when you ventured out in public. This despite the fact that, throughout 2020, there was no vaccine available and hospitals were rapidly overwhelmed by debilitated and dying casualties of the virus.

“I think, once Donald Trump and other Republicans made it a manhood issue, or a freedom issue, or whatever kind of issue they made it, it’s hard to walk back that culture war signal,” said conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks on the PBS Newshour on July 23.

Washington Post Columnist Jonathan Capehart echoed him: “I think, if we had had a president of the United States who took this seriously when this first came on the scene, if we had a Republican party that took this seriously enough to warn everyone, their constituents saying, wash your hands, then put on a mask, then go get the vaccine, we wouldn’t be where we are right now.”

PBS NewsHour | Brooks and Capehart on voting and gun violence legislation | Season 2021 | PBS

Jonathan Capehart

But neither Trump nor the Republican party urged Americans to “wash your hands, put on a mask, then go get the vaccine.” 

By March, 2021, three vaccines—by Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson—became available. A total of 90.4 million doses of these vaccines had been given. And 30.7 million Americans had been fully vaccinated against the virus. 

But after a triumphant beginning, the pace of vaccinations slowed, then halted. By late July, 2021, only 49.6% of Americans had been fully vaccinated.

Covid-19 Vaccination Map of USA.png

COVID-19 vaccination map – July 21, 2021

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

Many of those who had gotten one shot of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines refused to get the necessary second one. These must be given almost a month apart.

(The Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires only one shot.)

What had happened?

“The people I know personally who are not getting the vaccine, for them, it was like, ‘They rushed this thing,'” theorized David Brooks. “‘Who knows what’s going to happen to all these people who get the shots in 10 years or 20 years?’ So, why should I take the risk?’

“And that’s not completely crazy, but it’s not—it’s based on some sense of general distrust for the establishment, including the medical establishment. And that establishment—that distrust is the core of this thing.”

Shields and Brooks on Trump's COVID-19 diagnosis and the debate | PBS NewsHour

David Brooks

And leading the way to this catastrophe of self-destruction were the states of the South and Midwest: Mississippi (47.1%,), Alabama (50.5%), Arkansas (53.2%), and Tennessee (52.9%) with the lowest rates of residents who have gotten at least one shot.

By late July, three states—Florida, Texas and Missouri—with lower vaccination rates accounted for 40 percent of all cases nationwide.

And colliding head-on with the refusals of millions to get vaccinated is the newer—and deadlier—Delta variant of COVID-19.

Just as the South unleashed the Civil War on America, it has now ignited a new wave of COVID-19 on America.

FOUR MAPS TO INFAMY: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on July 28, 2021 at 12:14 am

Throughout its history the South has been a hotbed of treason, racism and ignorance.

Today, it proudly continues holding fast to these traditions—even as it places the entire country in danger of contagion and dictatorship.

From 1860 to 1865, the South—Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia—produced the greatest case of mass treason in America’s history.

It was called the Confederate States of America—and produced the South’s first map of infamy.

Map of U.S. showing two kinds of Union states, two phases of secession and territories

Union (blue) and Confederate (red) states: 1860 – 1865

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

According to The Destructive War, by Charles Royster, it wasn’t the cause of “states’ rights” that led 13 Southern states to withdraw from the Union in 1860-61. It was their demand for “respect,” which, in reality, translates into “e-g-o.”

“The respect Southerners demanded did not consist simply of the states’ sovereignty or of the equal rights of Northern and Southern citizens, including slaveholders’ right to take their chattels into Northern territory.

“It entailed, too, respect for their assertion of the moral superiority of slaveholding society over free society,” writes Royster.

It was not enough for Southerners to claim equal standing with Northerners; Northerners must acknowledge it. But this was something that the North was less and less willing to do. 

Finally, its citizens dared to elect Abraham Lincoln in 1860.

Lincoln and his new Republican party damned slavery—and slaveholders—as morally evil, obsolete and ultimately doomed. And they were determined to prevent slavery from spreading any further throughout the country. 

Southerners found all of this intolerable.

Lincoln—during his First Inaugural Address—bluntly said that he did not intend to “directly or indirectly…interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.”

An iconic photograph of a bearded Abraham Lincoln showing his head and shoulders.

Abraham Lincoln

But that was not enough for Southerners. 

Only 10% of Southerners owned slaves. The other 90% of the population “had no dog in this fight,” as Southerners liked to say.

Yet they so admired and aspired to be like their “gentleman betters” that they threw in their lot with them.

On April 12, 1861—just over a month since Lincoln’s inauguration on March 4—Southern batteries opened fire on Union Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina.

This ignited the American Civil War, costing the lives of 750,000.Americans—at a time when the population of the United States stood at 31,443,321.

Four years later, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse.

Huge sections of the South had been laid waste by Union troops and more than 258,000 Southerners had been killed.

And slavery, the mainstay of Southern plantation life, had been ended forever.

The South had paid a high price for its investment in treason.

Infamy’s second map dates from 1964 to 2016.

In 1964, Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson pushed the Civil Rights Act through Congress, ending more than a century of blatant discrimination against blacks.

The South—which before the Civil War had been solidly Democratic—suddenly went solidly Republican.

To understand this mammoth shift, it’s vital to realize: In Lincoln’s time, the Republicans were the party of progressives

The party was founded on an anti-slavery platform. Its members were thus reviled as “Black Republicans.” And until the 1960s, the South was solidly Democratic

Democrats were the ones defending the status quo—slavery—and opposing the rights of freed blacks in the South of Reconstruction and long afterward.

When, in the early 1960s, Democrats championed the rights of blacks, Southerners bolted for the Republican party—which held to the same values that slavery/discrimination-supporting Democrats once did.  

After signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law, President Lyndon B. Johnson told an aide: “We have just lost the South for a generation.”   

Johnson was wrong: A generation lasts 20 to 30 years. It’s been 56 years since the signing of the Act, and the South is still solidly within the Republican camp.

1968 United States presidential election - Wikipedia

 1968 election (Southern states in red)

TheSouth’s third map of infamy culminates with the election of Donald Trump as President in 2016. 

Repeatedly, when asked why they supported Trump, his followers said: “He says what I’ve been thinking!” 

And what Trump appealed to, above all else, was hatred.  

From June 15, 2015, when he launched his Presidential campaign, until October 24, 2016, Trump fired almost 4,000 angry, insulting tweets at 281 people and institutions that had somehow offended him. 

Donald Trump

The New York Times needed two full pages of its print edition to showcase them. 

Among his targets:

  • Democratic Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton
  • President Barack Obama
  • Actress Meryl Streep
  • Singer Neil Young
  • Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger
  • Comedian John Oliver
  • News organizations
  • The State of New Jersey
  • Beauty pageant contestants

Others he clearly delighted in insulting during the campaign included:

  • Women
  • Blacks
  • Hispanics
  • Asians
  • Muslims
  • The disabled
  • Prisoners-of-war

Whites comprised the overwhelming majority of the audiences at Trump rallies. Not all were racists, but many of those who were advertised it on T-shirts: “MAKE AMERICA WHITE AGAIN.”

And the vast majority of the white votes Trump got were in the South.

AMERICA AS THE WORLD’S 9-1-1: TIME TO HANG UP: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 14, 2021 at 12:11 am

For America to avoid permanent military entanglements in the Middle East, it must learn to mind its own business.

Perhaps the most important reason for doing so: America’s past efforts in that region have usually gone horribly awry.

Two examples should suffice:

Iran: Mohammad Mosaddegh was the democratically elected prime minister of Iran from 1951 until 1953. His decision to nationalize the Iranian oil industry led to his overthrow in a CIA coup.

He was replaced by Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who ruled until 1979 when a national upheaval forced him to flee. Iranians have never forgiven the United States for subjecting them to the 25-year reign of a brutal despot.

Related image

Shah of Iran

Afghanistan: In 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. America began supplying shoulder-fired Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to the Afghan Mujahideen fighters. These shifted the balance of the war to the Afghans, who brought down countless Soviet airplanes and helicopters.  

Deprived of air supremacy, the Soviet Army lost 14,453 killed and 53,753 wounded, and withdrew by 1989.

Americans congratulated themselves on their Realpolitic. But many of the Stingers remained in the hands of jihadists—who decided that America was now “The Great Satan.”  

One of those jihadists: Osama bin Laden.

According to Michael Scheuer, a primary step for disengaging from the Middle East is for America to its role as Israel’s permanent bodyguard.

Scheuer is a 20-year CIA veteran—as well as an author, historian, foreign policy critic and political analyst.

Related image

Michael Scheuer

For decades, the United States has pursued two policies in the Middle East—one based on relations with the Arab world and the other based on relations with Israel.

Policy 1: Maintaining access to vast amounts of Arab oil at low prices.

Policy 2: Maintaining the security of Israel.

Since the Arabs and Israelis hate each other, each side constantly tries to sway American support in its direction.

Every step the United States takes to defend Israel—diplomatically or militarily—ignites hatred of Americans among Islamics.

And every step—diplomatically or militarily—the United States takes to improve its relations with Islamic countries convinces Israelis that they’re being “sold out.”

In short: The United States is like a giant with one foot stuck in Israel and the other stuck in the Islamic world—leaving his private parts fully exposed to both.

This is not to deny that Israel has a right to exist. Every nation—including Israel—has the absolute right to defend itself from aggression.  

But no nation—including Israel—has the right to expect another nation to act as its permanent bodyguard.

Millions of Americans believe they are morally obligated to defend Israel owing to the barbarism of the Holocaust. America, however, was never a party to this, and has nothing to atone for.

Another reason many Americans feel committed to Israel: Many fundamentalist Christians believe that, for Jesus Christ to awaken from his 2,000-year slumber, Israel must first re-conquer every inch of territory it supposedly held during the reign of Kings David and Solomon.

Related image

Right-wing Christian fantasy: Dead man hovering

After Christ returns, they believe, the Jews will face a choice: Become Christians or go to hell. For evangelical Christians, Jews remain the eternal “Christ killers.”

And if Jews must assume temporary control of the Middle East to bring about the return of a man who died 2,000 years ago, so be it.

This is also the view of many Right-wing members of the House of Representatives and Senate. 

Unfortunately, such unbalanced views are shared by millions of equally irrational evangelical Christians.

During his October 9, 2013 appearance before the House Committee on Homeland Security, Michael Scheuer absolutely rejected the conservatives’ assertion that jihadists wage war on America because they “hate us for our freedoms.”  

SCHEUER: These people are fighting for something substantive, for something religious….They are not going to fight us because we have women in the workplace.

That is an insanity. What they are fighting us about is what we do.Invariably, they attribute their motivation to U.S. and Western military intervention and support for Israel and Muslim tyrannies.

Scheuer’s take on Israel brought him into direct conflict with Rep. Peter T. King (R-New York).

Related image

Congressman Peter T. King

KING: I would just say we would have more dead Americans if we didn’t stand by our allies in the Middle East. We would just encourage al-Qaeda to take advantage of us.

SCHEUER: You know, you are presiding over a bankruptcy. What can be worse? What has been the goal of al-Qaeda since it was formed? To bankrupt the United States.  Who is winning today, sir? We are done like dinner.

KING: We are winning and we will continue to win unless we take the advice of people like you.

SCHEUER:  Sir, you are exactly wrong. We are losing. Two U.S. field armies were defeated by men in the field with weapons from the Korean War.

KING: The fact is we have not been successfully attacked since September 11.

SCHEUER: The fact is, sir, we have had two military defeats overseas, which is far more important.

And, warns Scheuer, more defeats—domestic and international—lie ahead unless the United States radically changes its policies toward the Middle East.

AMERICA AS THE WORLD’S 9-1-1: TIME TO HANG UP: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 13, 2021 at 12:10 am

According to Michael Scheuer, the United States faces a danger that threatens “the core of our social and civil institutions.”

Scheuer is a 20-year CIA veteran who, from 1996 to 1999, headed Alec Station, the CIA’s unit assigned to track Osama bin Laden at the agency’s Counterterrorism Center.

He’s also the author of two seminal works on America’s fight against terrorism: Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror (2003) and Marching Toward Hell: America and Islam After Iraq (2008).

And in Marching Toward Hell he bluntly indicts the “profound and willful ignorance” of America’s “bipartisan governing elite.”

Scheuer defines this elite as “the inbred set of individuals who have influenced…drafted and conducted U.S. foreign policy” since 1973.Within that group are:

  • Politicians
  • Journalists
  • Academics
  • Preachers
  • Civil servants
  • Military officers
  • Philanthropists.

“Some are Republicans, others Democrats; some are evangelicals, others atheists; some are militarists, others pacifists; some are purveyors of Western civilization, others are multiculturalists,” writes Scheuer.

But for all their political and/or philosophical differences, the members of this governing elite share one belief in common: “An unquenchable ardor to have the United States intervene abroad in all places, situations and times.”

And he warns that this “bipartisan governing elite” must radically change its policies–such as unconditional support for Israel and corrupt, tyrannical Muslim governments.

Otherwise, Americans will be locked in an endless “hot war” with the Islamic world.

On September 28, 2014, President Barack Obama provided an example of this “unquenchable ardor to have the United States intervene abroad in all places, situations and times.”

In an appearance on 60 Minutes, Obama spoke about his recent decision to commit American troops to fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Steve Kroft: I think everybody applauds the efforts that you’ve made and the size of the coalition that has been assembled.

But most of them are contributing money or training or policing the borders, not getting particularly close to the contact. It looks like once again we are leading the operation. We are carrying…

President Obama: Steve, that’s always the case. That’s always the case. America leads. We are the indispensable nation. We have capacity no one else has. Our military is the best in the history of the world.

And when trouble comes up anywhere in the world, they don’t call Beijing. They don’t call Moscow. They call us. That’s the deal.

Obama standing with his arms folded and smiling.

President Barack Obama

Kroft: I mean, it looks like we are doing 90%.

Obama: Steve…when there’s an earthquake in Haiti, take a look at who’s leading the charge making sure Haiti can rebuild. That’s how we roll. And that’s what makes this America.

Scheuer believed that America shouldn’t be the world’s 9-1-1 number. And that the place to start was by not deploying troops to Syria.

By the time Obama gave his 60 Minutes interview, more than 470,000 people had been killed in Syria’s uprising-turned-civil war. The conflict began on March 15, 2011, triggered by protests demanding political reforms and the ouster of dictator Bashar al-Assad. 

And cheering on America’s intervention was the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights—which was safely based in Great Britain. 

According to its website:

“The silence of the International community for the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Syria encourages the criminals to kill more and more Syrian people because they have not found anyone that deter them from continuing their crimes that cause to wound more than 1,500,000 people; some of them with permanent disabilities, make hundreds of thousands children without parents, displace more than half of Syrian people and destroy infrastructure, private and public properties.” 

In short: It’s the duty of non-Muslims to bring civilized behavior to Islamics.

In fact, there were powerful reasons why the United States should steer clear of that conflict.

First, since 1979, the U.S. State Department had listed Syria as a sponsor of terrorism.

Among the terrorist groups it supports: Hizbollah and Hamas. For years, Syria provided a safehouse in Damascus to Ilich Ramírez Sánchez–-the notorious terrorist better known as Carlos the Jackal.

Ilich Ramírez Sánchez–“Carlos the Jackal” 

Second, there were no “good Syrians” for the United States to support––only murderers who had long served a tyrant and other murderers who wished to become the next tyrant.

Third, the United States didn’t know what it wanted to do in Syria, except “send a message.”

Carl von Clausewitz, the Prussian military theorist, wrote: “War is the continuation of state policy by other means.” But President Barack Obama didn’t state his “state policy” toward Syria—or what he intended to gain by attacking it.

Obama had said he wasn’t “after regime-change.” That would leave Assad in power–-and free to go on killing those who resist his rule.

For America to avoid permanent military entanglements in the Middle East, it must learn to mind its own business.

Among Michael Scheuer’s warnings: The United States cannot defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) through air power alone.

President Barack Obama authorized airstrikes against ISIL in September, 2014.  Since then, the United States Air Force has dropped thousands of bombs on ISIL convoys.

AMERICA AS THE WORLD’S 9-1-1: TIME TO HANG UP: PART ONE (OF THREE)

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

On July 9, Conservative New York Times Columnist David Brooks offered the case for why the United States should retain its military forces in Afghanistan.

He did so in response to President Joseph Biden’s July 8 announcement that the withdrawal of United States troops from Afghanistan would conclude by August 31:

“We did not go to Afghanistan to nation build. It’s the right and the responsibility of Afghan people alone to decide their future and how they want to run their country.” 

America had attacked Afghanistan in October, 2001, in response to the September 11 attacks orchestrated by Al Quaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden was then a “guest” of the country’s ruling Taliban, which refused to turn him over.

Osama bin Laden portrait.jpg

Osama bin Laden

The initial goal of American military forces had been simple and direct: Find Bin Laden—and kill him.

But by December, 2001, Bin Laden was no longer in Afghanistan. He was thought to be living somewhere in the “no-man’s-land” between that country and Pakistan. 

At that point, American forces could—and should—have been withdrawn.  

But they weren’t.

Instead, the mission became a “civilize-the-barbarians” one. That is: Make Afghanistan a democracy where everyone—especially women—could be safe from hardline Islamic fundamentalists intent on creating a theocratic dictatorship. 

In previous years, Brooks’ argument for retaining American troops in Afghanistan would have been made by liberals—and furiously assailed by conservatives.

On the July 9 edition of The PBS Newshour, Brooks said: “I think [Biden]’s making a mistake [in withdrawing troops from Afghanistan].

“And it’s become obvious in record time that it’s a mistake. When he announced the policy initially, he said he had faith in the Afghan government to hold Afghanistan together from the Taliban. That has fallen apart.

“…Eighty-five percent of the territory has already fallen to the Taliban. The Taliban seems completely confident they will take over.

“I think it was 2014 or so, when this Pakistani young lady, Malala, won the Nobel Prize, and who was shot in the head by the Taliban for going to school. There are a lot of Afghan Malalas out there. And we were all moved by her.

“And we all sympathized and thought that was a very important cause that young women in this part of the world should be able to get an education. And we’re walking away from that. We’re walking away from the idea that Afghanistan will stay one country.

“…So, to me, what we were doing over the last year, which was like 2,500 troops, relatively low casualties, was a price worth paying for humanitarian and strategic reasons.”   

And when the United States isn’t voluntarily placing its soldiers in harm’s way, world leaders are calling for them to be placed there.

On July 7, Haiti’s President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated, plunging an always chaotic “nation” into even greater chaos. On July 10, Haiti’s interim government asked the United States to deploy troops to protect key infrastructure as it tries to stabilize the country.

Anticipating such a request, Brooks said on the July 9 edition of The PBS Newshour:

“Even the story earlier in the program on Haiti, if Haiti is asking us to come in to stabilize Haiti, is that our role anymore? It used to be you had some sense of where America’s posture was. I don’t think I have a sense of where American’s posture is right now.”

Which brings us to former CIA analyst Michael Scheuer.

According to Scheuer, for all their ideological differences, Republicans and Democrats share one belief in common: An unquenchable ardor to have the United States intervene abroad in all places, situations and times.”

Scheuer is a 20-year CIA veteran—as well as an author, historian, foreign policy critic and political analyst.

Michael Scheuer

From 1996 to 1999 he headed Alec Station, the CIA’s unit assigned to track Osama bin Laden at the agency’s Counterterrorism Center.

He has served as a news analyst for CBS News and adjunct professor at Georgetown University’s Center for Peace and Security Studies.

And he’s convinced that if America wants peace, it must learn to mind its own business.

He’s also the author of two seminal works on America’s fight against terrorism: Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror (2003) and Marching Toward Hell: America and Islam after Iraq (2008).

Scheuer argues that Islamics don’t hate Americans because of “our way of life”—with its freedoms of speech and worship and its highly secular, commercialized culture. Instead, Islamic hatred toward the United States stems from America’s six longstanding policies in the Middle East: 

  • U.S. support for apostate, corrupt, and tyrannical Muslim governments;
  • U.S. and other Western troops on the Arabian Peninsula;
  • U.S. support for Israel that keeps Palestinians in the Israelis’ thrall;
  • U.S. pressure on Arab energy producers to keep oil prices low;
  • U.S. occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan; and
  • U.S. support for Russia, India, and China against their Muslim militants.

Scheuer contends that no amount of American propaganda will win “the hearts and minds” of Islamics who can “see, hear, experience, and hate” these policies firsthand.

But there is another danger facing America, says Scheuer, one that threatens “the core of our social and civil institutions.”

REPUBLICANS: 9/11 COMMISSION, YES; CAPITOL TREASON COMMISSION, NO: PART FOUR (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on May 20, 2021 at 6:58 pm

So why are Republicans unwilling to admit what millions saw on their TVs on January 6: That a mob of Stormtrumpers attacked and invaded the United States Capitol Building?

On the May 14 edition of the PBS program, Washington Week, Manu Raju, CNN’s Chief Congressional correspondent, provided the answer: 

“This is a party that is dominated still by the former president, that has such a strong attachment, a connection to the Republican base….There are really only a handful of Republicans who are in the same position of  [Representative Liz] Cheney [R-WY] about calling out the [former] President and calling out his lies, which is why she got ultimately pushed out.

Liz Cheney official 116th Congress portrait.jpg

Liz Cheney

“The fight has caused a distraction for Republicans, because this moment she starts questioning the election and starts questioning Donald Trump’s saying that the election was stolen or rigged, then her colleagues are forced to answer questions about what they believe. 

“And what they don’t want to say is that the election was legitimate, because if they do that, then they get hammered by Donald Trump. So then they suggest that there’s some sort of irregularities, or anomalies, or variances, or something amiss in the election without really any evidence to back that up. 

“And that puts them on the opposite side of the facts, and that ultimately is a position that Republican leaders just do not want to be on.” 

Washington Week host Yamiche Alcindor: “There is this sort of deal to form this January 6th commission, but [House Minority Leader] Kevin McCarthy [R-CA] is saying he’s concerned about the scope.”  

“There was a bipartisan agreement announced [May 14] on this commission to investigate what happened on January 6th,” replied Kasie Hunt, Capitol Hill Correspondent for NBC News. 

“Cheney did an interview with ABC News…where she said that she expects….Kevin McCarthy potentially to get subpoenaed to testify during—in the course of that commission investigation….

“And there are some questions about what transpired when [McCarthy] called [Trump]—who, of course, was then in the Oval Office on January 6th—and said to him, ‘Please call off your people, they’ve invaded the Capitol.’  

“And of course, McCarthy has really changed how he has approached the narrative of January 6th in the intervening months. It didn’t actually take very long….I think it’s something that clearly many Republicans are nervous about this commission. 

Kevin McCarthy, official photo, 116th Congress.jpg

Kevin McCarthy

“They got some concessions. It’s going to be evenly split. And while they’ll have subpoena power, Republicans will effectively be able to veto subpoenas if they want to.”

Nineteen years ago, Republicans were thrilled to establish a bipartisan commission.

The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States—also known as the 9/11 Commission—was set up on November 27,2002. It consisted of five Democrats and five Republicans.

Its mission: Investigate the events that led to the worst terrorist attack in American history..

On September 11, 2001, 19 Islamic highjackers had slammed two jetliners into the World Trade Center in New York and one into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

World Trade Center – September 11, 2001

A fourth plane, headed for the White House or Capitol Building, failed to reach its target when its passengers rioted—and the highjackers dove it into a Pennsylvania field.

Three thousand Americans died in one day.

The commission’s final report blamed the CIA and FBI for their lack of aggressiveness in failing to prevent the attacks. 

Republicans eagerly joined the commission—there was no downside. America was fearful of another major attack—and anxious to beef up its security. And Osama bin Laden—the mastermind of the attack—was an exotic figure, at once menacing and alien.

Not so with a commission investigating Right-wing treason.

According to a March 30-31 Reuters/Ipsos poll:

  • About half of Republicans believe the Capitol attack was largely a non-violent protest—or the handiwork of left-wing activists “trying to make Trump look bad.”
  • Six in 10 Republicans believe Trump’s false claim that victory in the November election “was stolen” from him by widespread voter fraud.
  • The same proportion of Republicans think he should run again in 2024.
  • While 59% of all Americans say Trump bears some responsibility for the attack, only three in 10 Republicans agree.

In an interview with Fox News, Trump said the rioters posed “zero threat.”

Other prominent Republicans, such as Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson, have publicly doubted whether Trump supporters were behind the riot. They blame Antifa—despite the all-white crowd sporting “TRUMP” flags and red MAGA caps.

In March, 12 Republicans in the House of Representatives voted against a resolution honoring Capitol Police officers who defended the grounds during the attack. One lawmaker objected to using the word “insurrection” to describe the attack.

There is a reason why most Republicans refuse to admit that:

  • Joe Biden was legitimately elected; and
  • Donald Trump’s followers attacked the Capitol to prevent his certification as the winner.

They fear that if they speak the truth, it will infuriate Trump. And if he attacks them, his fanatical base will desert them at the polls.

They want to retain their positions—and all the power and perks these bring them. For that, they will sacrifice truth and betray the Constitution they have sworn to defend.

REPUBLICANS: 9/11 COMMISSION, YES; CAPITOL TREASON COMMISSION, NO: PART THREE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on May 19, 2021 at 12:11 am

Four months have passed since the January 6 attack on the United States Capitol Building.

And a small but growing number of Republicans have chosen to glorify those who participated in the greatest act of treason in modern American history. 

Now they argue that the rioters—who shouted “Hang Mike Pence!” [then Vice President] and “Where are you, Nancy?” [Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi], brutally beat Capitol police officers and turned flagpoles into weapons—were actually peaceful protesters.

Nowhere do they mention that these “peaceful protesters” were illegally trying to overturn Joe Biden’s November 3 election.

Had they succeeded, Donald Trump would have gotten another—and illegal—four years as President.

On May 12, during a House Oversight Committee hearing on the January 6 riot, Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-GA.) said the House floor was not breached, and that the supporters of former President Donald Trump who stormed the Capitol behaved “in an orderly fashion.

Andrew Clyde 117th U.S Congress.jpg

Andrew Clyde

“If you didn’t know that TV footage was a video from January the sixth, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit,” Clyde said. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) damning Clyde’s comments as “appalling” and “sick,” responded: “I don’t know of a normal day around here when people are threatening to hang the vice president of the United States or shoot the speaker, or injure so many police officers.”

Trump’s supporters broke into the Senate minutes after senators had evacuated, some carrying zip ties and tactical equipment. They clearly had hostage-taking in mind. 

They rifled through desks and hunted for lawmakers, yelling “Where are they?” They invaded Pelosi’s office, stole a laptop and shouted her name while some of her staff huddled quietly under furniture. One demonstrator carried away the Speaker’s podium.

Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) claimed that a woman who was shot and killed by a Capitol policeman as she tried to break through a door next to the House chamber was “executed.” He was referring to Ashli Babbitt, an Air Force veteran who was wearing an American flag.

The Justice Department ruled that the shooting was justified and did not charge the officer involved.

Paul Gosar 2018.jpg

Paul Gosar

Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

Gosar accused the Justice Department of “harassing peaceful patriots across the country” as federal prosecutors file charges against hundreds of people who stormed the Capitol.

The massive investigation remains ongoing. Federal agents continue to serve arrest and search warrants and try to locate dozens of other people for questioning. Charges range from disorderly conduct and conspiracy to obstruction of an official proceeding.

“It was Trump supporters who lost their lives that day, not Trump supporters who were taking the lives of others,” Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA) said. 

Hice didn’t mention than more than 140 police officers were injured during the treason-fest, and one of them–Brian Sicknick—died after being gassed with bear repellant. 

“Sixty-five MPD [Metropolitan Police Department] members sustained injuries documented in injury reports. Many more sustained injuries from the assault—scratches, bruises, eyes burning from bear mace—that they did not even bother to report,” acting MPD Chief Robert Contee testified before Congress. 

Robert J. Contee III | mpdc

Robert Contee

“People around the country and the world were shocked and moved by the video of MPD Officer Michael Fanone being beaten by a crowd of insurgents, including one wielding an American flag, and of Officer Daniel Hodges in agony as he was crushed between a door and a riot shield.”

Many officers had filed injury claims, he said, but many more had not.

After the attack, two officers—one with the Capitol Police, the other with the MPD—committed suicide.

The attempt to defend the insurrectionists came on the same day that House Republicans voted to oust Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) from their leadership team for repeatedly rebuking Trump for his lies that the election was stolen.

Trump’s lies about widespread election fraud were rebuked by numerous courts, election officials across the country and his own attorney general. 

Not all Republicans have bought into The Big Lie. And a handful have dared to speak the truth

“I was there,” said Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT). “What happened was a violent effort to interfere with and prevent the constitutional order of installing a new president. And as such, it was an insurrection against the Constitution. It resulted in severe property damage, severe injuries and death.” 

How to account for these changed memories? 

On the May 14 edition of the PBS program, Washington Week, host Yamiche Alcindor provided the answer:

“There was a violent insurrection on January 6th. But in the GOP, accepting reality has consequences: House Republicans booted [Wyoming] Representative Liz Cheney from her leadership post for calling out false claims about the election. Ahead of her removal, Cheney took a defiant last stand against the former president: 

[On video] “Millions of Americans have been misled by the former president. He continues to undermine our democratic process, sowing seeds of doubt about whether democracy really works at all.

“This is not about policy.  This is not about partisanship. This is about our duty as Americans.  Remaining silent and ignoring the lie emboldens the liar.  I will not participate in that.” 

%d bloggers like this: