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Posts Tagged ‘DRUDGE RETORT’

THE CORRUPTIONS OF THE RICH: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on April 29, 2022 at 12:11 am

The gap between rich and poor in the United States has never been greater.

A May 1, 2018 article in Forbes—which bills itself as “The Capitalist Tool”—vividly documents this truth.

“In the 1950s, a typical CEO made 20 times the salary of his or her average worker. Last year, [2017] CEO pay at an S&P 500 Index firm soared to an average of 361 times more than the average rank-and-file worker, or pay of $13,940,000 a year, according to an AFL-CIO’s Executive Paywatch news release today.”

The average CEO pay climbed six percent in 2017—while the average production worker earned just $38,613, according to Executive Paywatch.

The average wage—adjusted for inflation—has stagnated for more than 50 years. Meanwhile, CEOs’ average pay since the 1950s has risen by 1000%.

This would not have been news to Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of modern political science. In his masterwork, The Discourses, he observed the human condition as that of constant struggle: 

Portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli by Santi di Tito.jpg

Niccolo Machiavelli

“It was a saying of ancient writers, that men afflict themselves in evil, and become weary of the good, and that both these dispositions produce the same effects. 

“For when men are no longer obliged to fight from necessity, they fight from ambition, which passion is so powerful in the hearts of men that it never leaves them, no matter to what height they may rise. 

“The reason for this is that nature has created men so that they desire everything, but are unable to attain it. Desire being thus always greater than the faculty of acquiring, discontent with what they have and dissatisfaction with themselves result from it. 

“This causes the changes in their fortunes—for as some men desire to have more, while others fear to lose what they have, enmities and war are the consequences. And this brings about the ruin of one province and the elevation of another.”

Author Walter Scheidel, Dickason Professor in the Humanities, Professor of Classics and History at Stanford University, has also given this subject a great deal of thought. And, like Machiavelli, he has reached some highly disturbing conclusions.

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Walter Scheidel

World Economic Forum [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D

Scheidel gave voice to these in his 2017 book, The Great Leveler: Violence and the History of Inequality from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century. His thesis: Only violence and catastrophes have consistently reduced inequality throughout history

According to the book’s jacket blurb: Are mass violence and catastrophes the only forces that can seriously decrease economic inequality? To judge by thousands of years of history, the answer is yes.

“Tracing the global history of inequality from the Stone Age to today, Walter Scheidel shows that inequality never dies peacefully. Inequality declines when carnage and disaster strike and increases when peace and stability return.

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“The Great Leveler is the first book to chart the crucial role of violent shocks in reducing inequality over the full sweep of human history around the world.

“Ever since humans began to farm, herd livestock, and pass on their assets to future generations, economic inequality has been a defining feature of civilization. Over thousands of years, only violent events have significantly lessened inequality.

“The ‘Four Horsemen’ of leveling—mass-mobilization warfare, transformative revolutions, state collapse, and catastrophic plagues—have repeatedly destroyed the fortunes of the rich….

“Today, the violence that reduced inequality in the past seems to have diminished, and that is a good thing. But it casts serious doubt on the prospects for a more equal future.”

Revolutionaries have known the truth of Scheidel’s findings from the gladiators’ revolt of Spartacus (73 – 71 B.C.) to the French Revolution (1789 – 1799) to the overthrow of the Czarist Romanov dynasty (1917).

But American politicians serenely ignore that truth. They depend on the mega-rich for millions of dollars in “campaign contributions”—which pay for self-glorifying ads on TV.

Thus, in 2016, American voters had a “choice” between two “love-the-rich” Presidential candidates: Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. The result was that millions stayed home or voted in protest for third-party candidates who had no chance of winning.

In his 1975 book, The Corrupt Society: From Ancient Greece to Modern-day America, British historian Robert Payne warned that the predatory rich would not change their behavior: “Nor is there any likelihood that the rich will plow back their money into services to ensure the general good.

“They have rarely demonstrated social responsibility, and they are much more likely to hold on to their wealth at all costs than to renounce any part of it.

“Like the tyrant who lives in a world wholly remote from the world of the people, shielded and protected from all possible influences, the rich are usually the last to observe the social pressures rising from below, and when these social pressures reach flashpoint, it is too late to call in the police or the army.

“The tyrant dies; the police and the army go over to the revolutionaries; and the new government dispossesses the rich by decree. A single authoritative sentence suffices to expunge all private wealth and restore it to the service of the nation.”

For millions of struggling, impoverished Americans, that day cannot come soon enough.

THE CORRUPTIONS OF THE RICH: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on April 28, 2022 at 12:31 am

Americans are used to Presidential candidates telling lies (euphemistically known as “campaign promises”) to get elected.

But when a candidate actually (and usually accidentally) tells the truth, the results can be electrifying. And sometimes devastating for the candidate.

On June 18, 2019, Democratic Presidential candidate (and momentary front-runner) Joseph Biden addressed a roomful of donors in New York. 

The former Vice President believed that his message would comfort his well-heeled audience of billionaires: Don’t worry, if I’m elected, your standard of living won’t change.

Addressing the 100 or so guests at a fundraiser at the Carlyle Hotel in New York City, Biden said that he had taken heat from “some of the people on my team, on the Democratic side” because he had said that rich people were “just as patriotic as poor people.

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Joe Biden

“The truth of the matter is, you all, you all know, you all know in your gut what has to be done. We can disagree in the margins but the truth of the matter is it’s all within our wheelhouse and nobody has to be punished. No one’s standard of living will change, nothing would fundamentally change,” he said. 

And he added: “I mean, we may not want to demonize anybody who has made money.

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“When we have income inequality as large as we have in the United States today, it brews and ferments political discord and basic revolution. Not a joke. Not a joke … It allows demagogues to step in and say the reason where we are is because of the ‘other’….

“You’re not the other. I need you very badly. I hope if I win this nomination, I won’t let you down. I promise you. I have a bad reputation, I always say what I mean. The problem is I sometimes say all that I mean.”

Biden had talked about decreasing income inequality and promoting workers’ rights. But he had also taken a moderate stance when it came to taxation.

United States Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT), on the other hand, has attacked the ultra-rich as responsible for the ever-widening gap between themselves and the poor.

“I love Bernie, but I’m not Bernie Sanders. I don’t think 500 billionaires are the reason why we’re in trouble,” Biden said in March, 2019.

Instead, he proposed expanding tax credits for the poor and middle class, and making the tax code less friendly to rich investors. 

Robert Payne, the distinguished British historian, took a different—and darker—view of the rich.

Payne authored more than 110 books. Among his subjects were Adolf Hitler, Ivan the Terrible, Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin, Vladimir Lenin, William Shakespeare and Leon Trotsky.

In 1975, he published The Corrupt Society: From Ancient Greece to Present-Day America. It proved a summary of many of his previous works.Related image

Among the epochs it covered: The civilizations of ancient Greece, Rome and China; Nazi Germany; the Soviet Union; and Watergate-era America. And the massive corruption each of those epochs had spawned.

Amazon.com: Robert Payne: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle

Robert Payne

In his chapter, “A View of the Uncorrupted Society,” Payne warned: Power and wealth are the main sources of corruption.

“The rich, simply by being rich, are infected with corruption. Their overwhelming desire is to grow richer, but they can do this only at the expense of those who are poorer than themselves.

”Their interests conflict with those of the overall society. They live sheltered from the constant anxieties of the poor, and thus cannot understand them.  Nor do they try to.”

They see the poor as alien from themselves, and thus come to fear and despise them. And their wealth and influence enables them to buy politicians—who, in turn, write legislation that protects the rich from the poor.

But Payne foresaw an even greater danger from the rich and powerful than their mere isolation from the rest of society: “The mere presence of the rich is corrupting. Their habits, their moral codes, their delight in conspicuous consumption are permanent affronts to the rest of humanity. Vast inequalities of wealth are intolerable in any decent society.”

Writing in 1975, Payne noted that a third of the private wealth was possessed by less than five percent of the population—while about a fifth of the populace lived at the poverty level. By 2000, he predicted, about five percent of the population would possess two-thirds of America’s wealth. And more than half the population would be near or below the starvation level. 

The result could only be catastrophe. The only way to halt this this increasing concentration of wealth by fewer people would be through law or violent revolution.

Payne has proven to be an uncanny prophet.

On December 8, 2017, the Seattle Times noted that the wealthiest one percent of Americans owned 40% of the country’s wealth. They owned more wealth than the bottom 90% combined. 

From 2013, the share of wealth owned by the one percent increased by nearly three percentage points. Wealth owned by the bottom 90%, meanwhile, fell over the same period.

But this situation need not remain permanent.

MACHIAVELLI: STUPID LEADERS CANNOT BE WISELY ADVISED

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 15, 2022 at 12:13 am

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

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

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

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

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

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

Especially for “a very stable genius,” as ex-President Donald J. Trump once referred to himself.

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Niccolo Machiavelli

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

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

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

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

Machiavelli offers practical advice on this: 

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

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

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

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John Rood

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

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

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

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

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

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Joe Biden

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

But the Republican-dominated Senate voted to acquit him.

Afterwards, Trump purged several officials he considers disloyal for cooperating with the impeachment hearings:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GETTING HELP FROM YOUR ENEMIES 11

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 30, 2022 at 12:14 am

Sometimes your worst enemies aid you in ways you could never help yourself.

From July 10 to October 31, 1940, hundreds of badly-outnumbered pilots of the British Royal Air Force (RAF) fought off relentless attacks by Germany’s feared Luftwaffe—since known as the Battle of Britain.

But Adolf Hitler wasn’t prepared to give up. He believed he could so terrorize Britons that they would insist that their government submit to German surrender demands.

From September 7, 1940 to May 21, 1941, the Luftwaffe subjected England—and especially London—to a ruthless bombing campaign that became known as The Blitz.

The undamaged St. Paul’s Cathredal, December, 1940

More than 100 tons of high explosives were dropped on 16 British cities.  

During 267 days—almost 37 weeks—between 40,000 and 43,000 British civilians were killed. About 139,000 others were wounded.

Clearly, what Great Britain desperately needed most was a miracle.

Exactly that happened on June 22, 1941.

With 134 Divisions at full fighting strength and 73 more divisions for deployment behind the front, the German Wehrmacht invaded the Soviet Union.

World War II – Operation Barbarossa – Army Tanks

German tanks invading Russia

Joseph Stalin, the longtime Soviet dictator, was stunned. The invasion had come less than two years after Germany had signed a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union.

Now they were locked in a fight to the death.

People in England were suddenly hopeful. Britain now had a powerful ally whose resources might tip the balance against Hitler.

Fast forward to 2022.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was created in March, 1949 by the United States, Canada, Great Britain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. In 1952, Greece, Turkey and West Germany were admitted. 

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

NATO emblem

Its purpose: To provide collective security against the Soviet Union.

Following World War II, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin had refused to withdraw his occupying forces from the Eastern European countries they had entered on their way to defeating Nazi Germany.

These Soviet-dominate countries: Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania and East Germany. 

Behind NATO stood the threat of the American “nuclear umbrella”—and Article V, which states that an attack on one ally would trigger a counterattack by all of them. 

From its founding in 1949 to 2017, America’s leadership of NATO—and the importance of the alliance—remained unquestioned. 

The Presidency of Donald J. Trump (2017-2021) dramatically changed both. 

From the outset, Trump attacked NATO as being “very unfair” to the United States. He attacked its members as deadbeats who didn’t contribute an equal share of monies to the organization. 

But Trump’s disdain for NATO may well have been grounded in his “bromance” with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin press conference

He had refused to accept the unanimous conclusion of the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency that Russia had interfered in the 2016 Presidential election to put him in the White House over Hillary Clinton.

He had often praised Putin, both during the 2016 campaign and after entering the White House.

And he had publicly defended Putin against these agencies in an infamous press conference with Putin in Helsinki, Finland, on July 16, 2018. 

On January 14, 2019, the New York Times reported that, several times in 2018, Trump discussed withdrawing the United States from NATO. This would effectively doom the 29-nation alliance and empower Russia, which had spent years seeking to weaken it.

Meanwhile, Putin, intent on restoring the borders of the former Soviet Union, swept from one war to the next.

  • In 1999-2000, he waged the Second Chechen War, restoring federal control of Chechnya.
  • In 2008, he invaded the Republic of Georgia, which had declared its independence as the Soviet Union began to crumble. The war ended with 20% of Georgia’s territory under Russian military occupation.
  • In 2014, Putin invaded and subsequently annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine. 

Through all of this, NATO did nothing but launch verbal condemnations.

The reason:

  • Fear of igniting a nuclear war; and/or
  • Belief that Russia was simply acting within its own sphere of influence.

Coupled with Trump’s repeated displays of subservience, it’s likely that Putin felt he could get away with any aggression.

On February 24, Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine. And those who had thought the Cold War was over realized it wasn’t.

Suddenly, NATO came alive—with a vengeance:

  • At least 40,000 allied troops are now under direct NATO command in the eastern part of the alliance.
  • More than 130 fighter jets are on advanced high alert.
  • More than 200 allied ships are stationed at sea in the region.
  • NATO activated defense plans that would allow military commanders to deploy elements of the multinational Response Force.

Perhaps most important, the United States has a President—Joe Biden—who is not in thrall to Putin. As a result, it has led the world in imposing harsh economic sanctions on Russia:

  • Russia has become a global economic pariah. 
  • Over 30 countries, representing well over half the world’s economy, have announced sanctions and export controls targeting Russia.
  • The country’s banking system has all but collapsed.
  • On the stock market, the ruble is worth less than the penny.
  • And oligarchs linked to Putin have had their assets frozen around the world.

Seventy-nine years ago, events turned around for England when all seemed lost. The same has happened for NATO and the United States.

AMERICA’S CHOICE: FREEDOM–OR FASCISM: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 22, 2022 at 12:10 am

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

DAVID BROOKS: “What strikes me [is] that everyone was in the loop, that this was not something they tried to hide.

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

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

Nor did the GOP try to reign Trump in.

In a November 14, 2019 column, “Republicans Can’t Abandon Trump Now Because They’re All Guilty,” freelance journalist Joel Mathis warned: “Trump’s abuses of power mirror those of the GOP as a whole. Republicans can’t turn on him, because doing so would be to indict their party’s entire approach to politics.”

For example:

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

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

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

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Adam Schiff

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

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

It’s the polarization between

  • Those intent on enslaving everyone who doesn’t subscribe to their Fascistic beliefs and agenda—and those who resist being enslaved. 
  • Those who believe in reason and science—and those who believe in an infallible “strong man” who rejects both.
  • Those who cherish education—and those who celebrate ignorance.
  • Those who believe in the rule of law—and those who believe in their right to act as a law unto themselves.
  • Those who believe in treating others (especially the less fortunate) with decency—and those who believe in the triumph of intimidation and force.

Those who hoped that Republicans would choose patriotism over partisanship got their answer on February 5, 2020. That was when the Republican-dominated Senate—ignoring the overwhelming evidence against him—acquitted Donald Trump on both impeachment articles: Obstruction of Congress and abuse of power.

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

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

There is no middle ground. 

AMERICA’S CHOICE: FREEDOM–OR FASCISM: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 21, 2022 at 12:13 am

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

And it opened:

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

A series of sub-headlines summed up many of the comments reported. 

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

It’s natural to regret that the United States has become so self-destructively polarized. And to wish that its citizens could somehow reach across the chasm that divides them and find common cause with one another.

But that is to ignore the brutal truth that America now faces a choice:

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

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

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

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Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman

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

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

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

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

It was clear that unless Zelensky found “dirt” on Biden, the promised aid would not be forthcoming.

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

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

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

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

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Donald Trump

On November 15, 2019, conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks and liberal syndicated columnist Mark Shields appeared on The PBS Newshour to offer their reactions by Republicans and Democrats to Trump’s extortion attempt.

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David Brooks and Mark Shields on “The PBS Newshour”

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

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

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

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

MARK SHIELDS: This is a story of corruption, corruption not in Ukraine, corruption in the United States.

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

HUMANITY CAN PREVAIL WHEN VIOLENCE HAS FAILED

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on March 17, 2022 at 12:17 am

Two stories—one fictitious, the other historical.

Story #1: In the 1961 historical epic, “El Cid,” Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, known as “The Lord,” besieges the Spanish city of Valencia, which has been captured by the Moors.

Months have passed. The city’s population is starving and without hope.

Then, one day, El Cid (Charlton Heston) calls out over the city’s walls: “Soldiers and citizens of Valencia! We are not your enemy! Ben Yusof [the powerful emir who plans to conquer Spain with an invading army] is your enemy! 

“Join us! We bring you peace! We bring you freedom! We bring you bread!”

Amazon.com: El Cid Poster Movie 30x40 Charlton Heston Sophia Loren ...

Suddenly El Cid’s Spanish catapults spring into action—loaded not with stones but loaves of bread. The loaves land in the city’s streets, where starving citizens and soldiers greedily devour them. 

Then those citizens attack the bodyguards of the emir ruling Valencia—and throw the emir himself from a high wall. 

The army of El Cid marches peacefully into the city.

Story #2: In Book Three, Chapter 22 of his classic masterwork, The Discourses, Niccolo Machiavelli offers the following: “An Act of Humanity Prevailed More With the Falacians Than All the Power of Rome.”

Marcus Furius Camillus, a Roman general, was besieging the city of the Faliscians, and had surrounded it. A teacher charged with the education of the children of some of the noblest families of that city decided to ingratiate himself with Camillus by leading those children into the Roman camp. 

Presenting them to Camillus the teacher said to him, “By means of these children as hostages, you will be able to compel the city to surrender.”

Camillus not only declined the offer but went one step further. He ordered the teacher stripped and his hands tied behind his back. Then Camillus had a rod put into the hands of each of the children and directed them to whip the teacher all the way back to the city. 

Upon learning this, the citizens of Faliscia were so much touched by the humanity and integrity of Camillus, that they surrendered the place to him without any further defense. 

Summing up the meaning of this, Machiavelli writes: “This example shows that an act of humanity and benevolence will at all times have more influence over the minds of men than violence and ferocity.  It also proves that provinces and cities which no armies…could conquer, have yielded to an act of humanity, benevolence, chastity or generosity.

“…History also shows us how much the people desire to find such virtues in great men, and how much they are extolled by historians and biographers of princes….Amongst these, Xenophon takes great pains to show how many victories, how much honor and fame, Cyrus gained by his humanity and affability, and by his not having exhibited a single instance of pride, cruelty or luxuriousness, nor of any of the other vices that are apt to stain the lives of men.”

Quote by Machiavelli: “Necessity is what impels men to take action ...

Niccolo Machiavelli

These stories—the first the product of a movie screenwriter’s imagination, the second recorded by a master political scientist and historian—remain highly relevant today.

On May 25, 2020, George Floyd, a black unemployed restaurant security guard, was murdered by Derek Chauvin, a white Minneapolis police officer. While Floyd was handcuffed and lying face down on a city street during an arrest, Chauvin kept his knee on the right side of Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds. 

Cities across the United States erupted in mass protests over Floyd’s death—and police killings of black victims generally. Most of these demonstrations proved peaceful.

But cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York City saw stores looted, vandalized and/or burned. In response, President Donald Trump called for harsh policing, telling governors in a nationwide conference call that they must “dominate” protesters or be seen as “weak.”

To drive home his point, Trump ordered police and National Guard troops to violently remove peaceful protesters from Lafayette Square, which borders St. John’s Church near the White House.  

The purpose of the removal: To allow Trump to have a photo opportunity outside the church.

“I imposed a curfew at 7pm,” tweeted Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser. “A full 25 minutes before the curfew & w/o provocation, federal police used munitions on peaceful protestors in front of the White House, an act that will make the job of @DCPoliceDept officers more difficult. Shameful!”

Contrast that with the example of Sheriff Christopher Swanson of Genesee County, Michigan. 

Walk with us!': Sheriff in Michigan shows solidarity to protestors ...

Sheriff Christopher Swanson

Confronting a mass of aroused demonstrators in Flint Township on May 30, Swanson responded: “We want to be with you all for real.”

So Swanson took his helmet off. His deputies laid their batons down.

“I want to make this a parade, not a protest. So, you tell us what you need to do.”

“Walk with us!” the protesters shouted.

“Let’s walk, let’s walk,” said Swanson. 

Cheering and applause resounded.

“Let’s go, let’s go,” Swanson said as he and the cheering crowd proceeded. “Where do you want to walk? We’ll walk all night.”

And Swanson and his fellow officers walked in sympathy with the protesters.

No rioting followed. 

WHY SOME PEOPLE WON’T WEAR MASKS: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on January 27, 2022 at 12:47 am

There are five reasons why millions of Americans refuse to wear masks during a deadly pandemic:

  1. A feeling of solidarity against authority.
  2. “If liberals do it, it’s fascistic.”
  3. Rejection of the death-toll caused by COVID-19.
  4. Disdain for education in general—and science in particular.
  5. Religious fanaticism.

To these must be added:

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

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

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

The following states require their citizens to wear masks when in public: California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington.

The following states still refuse to order their citizens to wear masks when in public: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming.

Yet even in states where wearing a mask is mandatory when venturing out in public, many people refuse to do so. Fights have erupted before mask-less and mask-wearing customers—and sometimes store employees—who asked them to put on a mask before entering.

  • Two men were arrested for felony battery after starting a fight with employees at a Los Angeles Target store over wearing masks inside the store.
  • A woman entered Curbside Eatery in La Mesa, California, without a mask, pulling her T-shirt over her face. When the owner told her to mask up or leave, the woman yelled: “This is ridiculous! You’re discriminating against me!’ and threatened a lawsuit.
  • In a Costco in Fort Myers, Florida, a masked man asked an unmasked customer to wear a mask. The unmasked man screamed that he was being harassed: “I feel threatened!”

On February 2, 2021, the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) required all airline travelers to wear masks. By December, the TSA had logged more than 4,100 mask-related air-rage incidents. 

Refer to the following caption.

So: How should those who refuse to wear a mask—and thus present a clear and present danger to others—be dealt with?

Ideally, President Joe Biden could issue a mandatory emergency order requiring everyone to wear a mask when in public. But the President lacks the legal authority to do so.

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

  • Stop stressing that a mask will protect others from “you.” Most people don’t care about strangers. Emphasize that wearing a mask will protect “you and your family” from others. 
  • Don’t give tickets to mask-evaders. They will simply ignore them—or consider them a cheap price for going without a mask. 
  • Major retailers should hire professional guards to arrest mask-evaders—and turn them over to police.
  • Police should arrest everyone not wearing a mask in public and jail them—without bond—until the plague is over. 
  • Create tip hotlines for reporting mask-evaders.
  • Offer rewards for tips that lead to arrests.
  • Police and prosecutors should publicize these arrests and jailings—to warn other potential mask-evaders.  
  • Arrest, prosecute and imprison Right-wingers who openly display and/or threaten unarmed civilians with firearms.
  • Above all: Stop admitting the unmasked and unvaccinated to hospitals. Forcing them to pay the price for their irresponsible behavior will end hospital overcrowding.

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

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

What's The Harm?

Mary Mallon

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

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

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

All those who have written upon civil institutions demonstrate…that whoever desires to found a state and give it laws, must start with assuming that all men are bad and ever ready to display their vicious nature, whenever they may find occasion for it. 

If their evil disposition remains concealed for a time, it must be attributed to some unknown reason; and we must assume that it lacked occasion to show itself. But time, which has been said to be the father of all truth, does not fail to bring it to light.

WHY SOME PEOPLE WON’T WEAR MASKS: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on January 26, 2022 at 12:11 am

Not only did President Donald Trump refuse to wear a mask, but he suspected the loyalty of his staffers and Republican allies who didn’t follow his mask-less example.

On April 28, 2020, Vice President Mike Pence toured the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Pence, who led the White House task force on the virus, refused to wear a mask, even though all the officials and medical personnel clustered around him did. 

Pence even visited with a patient who had survived the Coronavirus and was going to give blood.

Pence lauds Minnesota's COVID-19 fight in Mayo Clinic visit

Mike Pence at the Mayo Clinic

Few White House aides wore masks, although they claimed that Trump hadn’t told them not to wear them. Some Republican allies asked Trump’s campaign how they would be seen by Trump if he saw them wearing a mask.

“It’s a vanity thing, I guess, with him,” Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House of Representatives, said. “You’d think, as the President of the United States, you would have the confidence to honor the guidance he’s giving the country.”

By refusing to wear a mask, Trump convinced untold numbers of Americans—mostly Right-wing males—that ignoring the dangers of Coronavirus was the manly thing to do.

(On July 20, 2020, he tweeted an image of himself wearing a mask and called it “patriotic” to wear one. Hours later, however, he appeared without a mask at a fundraiser at the Trump International Hotel in Washington.)

Meanwhile, former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee for President, often appeared in public wearing a mask. During a June 26 television interview he said that, if he were elected President, he would require wearing face masks in public to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. 

“The one thing we do know—these masks make a gigantic difference,” Biden said. “I would insist that everybody out in public be wearing that mask.”

Yet even in states such as California and New York, where this is required, many people still refuse to do so.  

From May 5 to May 12, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) surveyed 4,042 adults throughout the country on wearing masks. The agency found that 60.3% of respondents said they always wore a mask when out in public. Another 13.8% said they often wore a mask in public.

But 17.1% said they either rarely or never wore a mask in public.

The CDC found that women were more likely than men to say they always wore a mask in public.

CDC headquarters in Atlanta

There are several reasons why people refuse to wear masks.

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

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

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

Fourth: Republicans disdain education in general—and science in particular. In March, 2020, an NBC News poll found that only 30% of Republicans said that they would actually listen to the advice of doctors to stay away from large, crowded areas to avoid Coronavirus

These are the same people who get their version of reality from Right-wing sources like Fox News Network and radio broadcaster Rush Limbaugh. 

Rush Limbaugh

On his March 27, 2020 show, Limbaugh dismissed Coronavirus as “the common cold,” then added: “We didn’t elect a president to defer to a bunch of health experts that we don’t know

“And how do we know they’re even health experts? Well, they wear white lab coats, and they’ve been in the job for a while, and they’re at the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and they’re at the NIH [National Institutes of Health] and they’re up, well—yeah, they’ve been there, and they are there.

“But has there been any job assessment for them? They’re just assumed to be the best because they’re in government. But, these are all kinds of things that I’ve been questioning.” 

In 2015, Limbaugh said: “Firsthand smoke takes 50 years to kill people, if it does. Not everybody that smokes gets cancer. Now, it’s true that everybody who smokes dies, but so does everyone who eats carrots.”

Six years later, on February 17, 2021, Limbaugh—a longtime and heavy cigar smoker—died from Stage Four lung cancer. 

Fifth: Religious Fanaticism. Many fundamentalist Christians believe that their faith in Jesus will protect them against COVID-19. They continue to attend services indoors in defiance of CDC warnings by meeting in large numbers indoors.

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

WHY SOME PEOPLE WON’T WEAR MASKS: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on January 25, 2022 at 12:24 am

The United States is now two years into a deadly plague. More than 71.7 million Americans have become infected with COVID-19 and at least 868,000 have died.

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

And yet vast numbers of Americans still refuse to do either. Just as they refuse to get vaccinated, despite three vaccines now widely available.

Surgical Face Mask 50 Pack - Face Masks & Hand Sanitiser ...Surveys find strong support for COVID-19 mitigation measures over time | Hub

Surgical mask

In the early weeks and months of the pandemic, cloth face masks weren’t universally endorsed, even by public health experts.

“One, we didn’t know whether they were actually helpful, and two, there was a lot of concern that if people were using medical masks then people like myself, were not going to have access to them,” said Dr. Craig Spencer, director of global health in emergency medicine at Columbia University Medical Center.

No less an authority than Dr. Anthony Fauci,  the country’s leading infectious disease expert, said in March, 2020, that “people should not be walking around with masks.”

Only in early June, 2020, did the World Health Organization (WHO) urge non-healthcare workers to mask up. The WHO advised people to don masks when social distancing was not possible, such as when visiting stores and using public transportation.

world-health-organisation-logo – definearth

According to Dr. Jeremy Faust, the change in attitudes toward masks should be seen as the nature of science, and not as a flaw.

“That is what experts, in fact, do. They don’t just have an opinion and stick to it,” said Faust, an emergency physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in Boston, Massachusetts. “They actually let their opinions develop and evolve as better information becomes available.” 

Only in January, 2022, did the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urge Americans to wear N95 masks—the most effective ones available.

In 2020, the CDC had urged Americans to not use N95s. The reason: They feared this would create a shortage of these masks for doctors, nurses and paramedics working closely with COVID patients.

N95 and Other Respirators | CDC

N95 mask

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

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

If not blocked by a face covering, the droplets can travel six to 13 feet, and can remain airborne for hours in some cases.

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

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

SARS-CoV-2 without background.png

Coronavirus

So why do so many Americans refuse to wear a mask?

Start at the top: With Donald Trump, 45th President of the United States.

From the outset, Trump refused to wear a mask in public.

A colossal egotist, Trump is orange-skinned, morbidly obese and lacking a neck. Yet he still thinks of himself as dangerously handsome. And he fears that covering his face would diminish his power and appeal.

“Appearing to play it safe contradicts a core principle of masculinity: show no weakness,” wrote social sciences professor Peter Glick at Scientific American magazine. “Defying experts’ warnings about personal danger signals ‘I’m a tough guy, bring it on.’”

On May 21, 2020, Trump refused to wear a face mask as he toured a Ford facility in Michigan that was manufacturing ventilators and personal protective equipment. This violated the policies of the facility, the governor’s executive order and warnings from the state’s attorney general.

After a three-month nationwide “lockdown,” states began “reopening.” So Trump scheduled his first 2020 re-election rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma. 

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

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

Trump rallies supporters in Wis. as Democrats debate in Iowa

A Trump rally

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

After staging COVID-spreading rallies at Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Phoenix, Arizona, Trump scheduled another one for July 3 at Mount Rushmore, in Keystone, South Dakota.

Such rallies had been put on hold since March, due to the issuing of stay-at-home orders across the country by states’ mayors and governors.

Health experts expressed fears about a large gathering during the Coronavirus pandemic. But South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem said people would “not be social distancing” during the celebration—nor required to wear masks.

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