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DICTATORS: A MUTUAL ADMIRATION SOCIETY

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 20, 2023 at 12:17 am

Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin have rightly gotten a lot of publicity—for how much they admire each other.

On the surface, this might seem surprising.  Putin spent most of his adult life as a fervent member of the Communist Party, which swore eternal warfare against capitalism.

After joining the KGB in 1975, he served as one of its officers for 16 years, eventually rising to the level of Lieutenant Colonel. In 1991, he retired to enter politics in his native St. Petersburg (formerly Leningrad).

Vladimir Putin 17-11-2021 (cropped).jpg

Vladimir Putin

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

This, in turn, brought him to the attention of Russian President Boris Yeltsin, who groomed Putin as his successor. When Yeltsin unexpectedly resigned on December 31, 1999, Putin became Acting President.

In 2000, he was elected President in his own right, despite widespread accusations of vote-rigging. He won re-election in 2004, but could not run for a third term in 2008 because of constitutionally-mandated term limits.

So Putin ran his handpicked successor, Dimitry Medvedev, as president.  When Medvedev won, he appointed Putin as prime minister.

Of course, the man who actually called the shots in Russia was not Medvedev but Putin.

In 2012, Putin again ran for president and won.

Trump, on the other hand, is the personification of capitalistic excess. He has been an investor, real estate mogul, television personality as former host of NBC’s “The Apprentice,” and alleged author.

The Trump Organization sponsored the Miss Universe, Miss USA and Miss Teen USA pageants.

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Donald Trump

He is notorious for stamping “Trump” on everything he acquires, most notably Trump Tower, a 58-story skyscraper at 725 Fifth Avenue in New York City.

On June 16, 2015, he declared himself a candidate for the Presidency in the 2016 election. Since July, he was consistently the front-runner for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination.

So it came as a surprise to many in the United States when, on December 17, 2015, Putin described Trump as “a bright and talented person without any doubt,” and “an outstanding and talented personality.”

He summed up Trump as “the absolute leader of the presidential race.”

Trump, in turn, was quick to respond: “It is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond.”

Two months earlier, in October, Trump had said of Putin: “I think that I would probably get along with him very well.”

Appearing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Trump said: “Sure, when people call you ‘brilliant’ it’s always good. Especially when the person heads up Russia.”

The conservative host, Joe Scarborough, took exception to Trump’s praise for Putin: “Well, I mean, he’s also a person who kills journalists, political opponents, and invades countries. Obviously that would be a concern, would it not?”

TRUMP: “He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader. Unlike what we have in this country.”

SCARBOROUGH: “But again: He kills journalists that don’t agree with him.”

TRUMP: “Well, I think our country does plenty of killing also, Joe. You know. there’s a lot of stuff going on in the world right now, Joe. A lot of killing going on and a lot of stupidity…”

Absolute dictators like Vladimir Putin and would-be dictators like Donald Trump often gravitate toward each other.  At least temporarily.

Adolf Hitler

On January 30, 1933, anti-Communist Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany. For the next six years, the Nazi press hurled insults at its arch-enemy, the Soviet Union.

And the Soviet press hurled insults at Nazi Germany. 

Then, on August 23, 1939, Hitler’s foreign minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop, signed the Treaty of Non-aggression between Nazi Germany and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R).

Signing for the Soviet Union was its own foreign minister, Vyachelsav Molotov.

The reason: Hitler planned to invade Poland on September 1. He needed to neutralize the military might of the U.S.S.R.  And only Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin could do that.

Democratic nations like France, Great Britain and the United States were stunned.

But there had long been a grudging respect between the two brutal dictators.

On June 30, 1934, Hitler had ordered a bloody purge throughout Germany. Privately, Stalin offered praise: “Hitler, what a great man! This is the way to deal with your political opponents.”

Joseph Stalin

Hitler was—privately—equally admiring of the series of purges Stalin inflicted on the Soviet Union. Even after he broke the non-aggression pact by invading the U.S.S.R. on June 22, 1941, he said:

“After the victory over Russia, it would be a good idea to get Stalin to run the country—with German oversight, of course.  He knows better than anyone how to handle the Russians.”

In April, 1945, as he waited for victorious Russian armies to reach his underground bunker, Hitler confided to Joseph Goebbels, his propaganda minister, his major regret:

He should have brutally purged the officer corps of the Wehrmacht, as Stalin had that of the Red Army. Stalin’s purges had cleaned “deadwood” from the Russian ranks, and a purge of the German army would have done the same.

For Adolf Hitler, the lesson was clear: “Afterward, you rue the fact that you’ve been so kind.”

It’s the sort of sentiment that dictators like Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump can appreciate.

ALBERT SPEER MEETS DEBORAH BIRX: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on December 23, 2022 at 12:10 am

From January to early March, 2020, President Donald Trump and his allies within the Republican party and Fox News Network repeatedly assured Americans they had nothing to fear from COVID-19.

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Donald Trump

Barnstorming the country in a series of hate-filled political rallies, Trump told his supporters:

  • “We have it totally under control.”
  • “This is [the Democrats’] new hoax.”
  • “It will go away. Just stay calm.”

On February 27, 2020, Dr. Deborah Birx was appointed White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator for President Donald J. Trump.

On March 26, Birx reassured Americans in a press conference that “there is no situation in the United States right now that warrants that kind of discussion [that ventilators or ICU hospital beds might be in limited supply].”

A day earlier, The New York Times had run the headline: “Amid Desperate Need for Ventilators, Calls Grow for Federal Intervention.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, took a different tack. The coronavirus could become cyclical; a vaccine was still many months away; and therapeutic treatments—which Trump had pushed as a “game changer”—were still unproven.

Deborah Birx in April 2020 face detail, from- White House Coronavirus Update Briefing (49742678236) (cropped).jpg

Deborah Birx

Trump insisted that each state was responsible for securing its needed supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) for its doctors and nurses aiding Coronavirus patients. This created ruthless competition and scarcity, with Americans not only fighting the virus but each other. But it ensured that Trump remained the final voice of authority. 

Birx did not publicly urge the Federal Government—i.e., Trump—to create a streamlined approach to providing these necessities. Nor did she protest Trump’s refusal to do so. 

On March 27, The New York Times reported: “Dr. Birx’s comments casting doubt on talk of ventilator and hospital-bed shortages, and praising Mr. Trump’s attention to detail in lavish terms, have raised questions about her independence as the number of coronavirus infections in the United States has soared past 100,000….

“Conservative commentators have praised her as a truth-teller, pushing back on coronavirus hysteria. Critics of Mr. Trump accused her of squandering the credibility she had developed as a health official in Democratic and Republican administrations.” 

In April, she asserted that COVID-19 infections had peaked and the virus was fading quickly. In fact, infections quickly surged. 

Birx helped create a reopening plan—presented by Trump on April 16, 2020—with voluntary standards for states to end coronavirus lockdowns.

On April 23, Trump, in a public press conference, recommended the use of ultraviolet light and disinfectant as possible cures for COVID-19.

Birx remained silent. 

The Internet—and medical experts—did not.

Trump’s critics—including many medical experts—believed that, by her silence, Birx forfeited her opportunity to confront the cascade of lies and crackpot theories Trump was promoting.

One of these was California’s Democratic Representative Ted Lieu: “The malicious incompetence that resulted in hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths starts at the top, with the former President and his enablers. And who was one of his enablers? Dr. Birx, who was afraid to challenge his unscientific rhetoric and wrongfully praised him.”

Political commentator Joe Scarborough said: “…And it’s been one scam idea after another, that people then promoted on other networks, scam doctors promoting these scam solutions, claiming that everybody who had taken this malaria drug had been cured in certain hospitals. This is just the sort of thing that catches up to Donald Trump.”

In July 2020, a working group convened by Birx ordered hospitals to bypass the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and send all COVID-19 patient information to a database at the Department of Health and Human Services. 

The continuing flood of alarming Coronavirus information was undermining Trump’s “everything-is-OK” assurances. Some public health officials warned that bypassing the CDC would allow Trump to politicize the findings and withhold them from the public.

In November, Birx stated in an internal report: “There is an absolute necessity of the Administration to use this moment to ask the American people to wear masks, physical distance and avoid gatherings in both public and private spaces.”

But she did not say this in public.

Trump had politicized the wearing of masks, dividing the country into his supporters, who didn’t wear masks, and “Never Trumpers” who did. He also called for the “liberation” of states that had ordered lockdowns to stop the spread of the virus.

Birx never publicly criticized Trump for creating this divisiveness. 

During Thanksgiving, Birx hosted three generations of her family from two households—after she had urged Americans to restrict such gatherings to “your immediate household.”

After her term ended on January 20, 2021, Birx said that she had often considered quitting her position due to the administration’s hyper-partisanship, especially during the 2020 Presidential election.

Perhaps the most damning verdict on Deborah Birx came from Birx herself.

On March 29, 2021, speaking with Sanjay Gupta, MD, CNN’s chief medical correspondent, she said: “The first time, we have an excuse. There were about 100,000 deaths that came from the original surge. All of the rest of them, in my mind, could have been mitigated or decreased substantially.” 

By mid-March, 2021, nearly 550,000 Americans had died from COVID-19. By the time Trump left office, 400,000 Americans would be dead of it.

ALBERT SPEER MEETS DEBORAH BIRX: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on December 22, 2022 at 12:08 am

Born on March 19, 1905 and trained as an architect, Albert Speer joined the Nazi Party in 1931. He met Adolf Hitler in 1933, when he presented the Fuhrer with architectural designs for the Nuremberg Rally scheduled for that year.

Hitler was thoroughly impressed.

From then on, Speer became Hitler’s “genius architect” assigned to create buildings for the Third Reich, meant to last for a thousand years.

In 1937, Hitler appointed Speer as General Building Inspector for Berlin. This made him responsible for the Central Department for Resettlement that evicted Jewish tenants from their homes in Berlin. The vast majority of these men, women and children ended up in extermination camps.

Adolf Hitler

Speer had nothing to do with their imprisonment; that was strictly the province of SS-Reichsuhrer Heinirich Himmler. Nevertheless, he knew the end results of his evictions. 

On September 1, 1939, Hitler ordered the invasion of Poland—unintentionally igniting World War II.

In 1943, Hitler appointed Speer Minister of Armaments, charged with revitalizing the German war effort.

As Hitler’s architect, Speer had stayed aloof from the political intrigues of such power-driven men as Himmler, Luftwaffe chief Hermann Goering and Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels.

But as Minister of Armaments, Speer thrust himself into the currents of intrigue surrounding the Fuhrer. It was this role that earned him 20 years in Spandau Prison for war crimes.

Albert Speer

 Albert Speer

With millions of able-bodied German men drafted for his endless wars, Hitler turned to slave laborers to keep his arms factories going.

“Speer joined in planning and executing the program to dragoon prisoners of war and foreign workers into German war industries, which waxed in output while the workers waned in starvation,” charged chief United States prosecutor Robert H. Jackson during the Nuremberg war crimes trials.

Speer’s attorney, Hans Flächsner, presented Speer as an artist thrust into political life who had always remained apolitical. 

Both at Nuremberg and for the rest of his life, Speer claimed that he was unaware of Nazi extermination plans. But in a letter dated December 23, 1971, Speer wrote: “There is no doubt—I was present as Himmler announced on October 6, 1943, that all Jews would be killed.”

If Speer’s extensive involvement in the Holocaust had been known at the time of his trial he would have been sentenced to death. Twelve of his fellow defendants were so sentenced—and died by hanging. 

Speer was found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity, principally for the use of slave labor and forced labor. He was sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment, and was released from Spandau Prison on October 1, 1966. 

He spent the rest of his life portraying himself as “the good Nazi” who, as an apolitical technocrat, deeply regretted having failed to discover the monstrous crimes of the Third Reich. Out of this came his bestselling autobiography, Inside the Third Reich, published in 1969. 

He died of a heart attack on September 1, 1981—42 years to the day his Fuhrer had plunged the world into war.

British historian Hugh Trevor-Roper considered Speer an administrative genius whose basic instincts were peaceful and constructive. Nevertheless, he assailed Speer for failing to recognize the immorality of the Hitler regime—and called him “the real criminal of Nazi Germany.” 

Specifically:

“For ten years he sat at the very centre of political power; his keen intelligence diagnosed the nature and observed the mutations of Nazi government and policy; he saw and despised the personalities around him; he heard their outrageous orders and understood their fantastic ambitions; but he did nothing.

“Supposing politics to be irrelevant, he turned aside and built roads and bridges and factories, while the logical consequences of government by madmen emerged. Ultimately, when their emergence involved the ruin of all his work, Speer accepted the consequences and acted. Then it was too late; Germany had been destroyed.” 

Germans are not, however, the only ones to clinch a deal with the Devil.

Eighty-seven years after Albert Speer began his rise to power—and infamy—Deborah Birx, an American physician and diplomat, reached her own height of power—and infamy. 

Born on April 4, 1956, Deborah Birx served from 1980 to 1994 as an active duty reserve officer in the United States Army. From 1994 to 2008, Birx was on active duty regular Army, achieving the rank of Colonel.

From 1980 to 1989, Birx worked as a physician at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. In 1981, she completed a one-year internship and did a two-year residency in internal medicine. From 1983 to 1986, she completed two fellowships in clinical immunology in the areas of allergies and diagnostics.

From 1985 to 1989, Birx was the assistant chief of the Walter Reed Allergy/Immunology Service. Birx started her career as a clinician in immunology, eventually specializing on HIV/AIDS vaccine research. 

She served as the United States global AIDS coordinator for Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump (2014-2020). She also served as the country’s special representative for global health diplomacy between 2015 and 2021.

On February 27, 2020, she was appointed White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator for President Donald J. Trump.

The virus, which originated in Wuhan, China, in December, 2019, quickly spread around the world. 

Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that affect birds and mammals. In humans, they can cause pneumonia and may cause bronchitis.

SARS-CoV-2 without background.png

Coronavirus

On February 29, 2020, the first American died of Coronavirus. 

THE MOST EFFECTIVE WAY TO COMBAT ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 20, 2022 at 12:10 am

Suppose the Federal Government could identify and arrest all or most of the estimated 11 to 20 million illegal aliens now living in the United States. Would deporting them to their native countries solve America’s illegal immigration crisis? 

Hardly.

Most of America’s illegals come from neighboring Hispanic countries. As soon as they are deported, most of them cross the Mexican border again.

More importantly: The governments of Central and South American countries use the United States as a dumping ground—of those citizens who might demand reforms in their political and economic institutions.

There is only one approach that could strike a meaningful blow against illegal immigration. And it might well be called “The Zanti Option.”

Viewers of the 1960s sci-fi series, The Outer Limits, will vividly recall its 1963 episode, “The Zanti Misfits.”

In this, soldiers at an American Army base in a California ghost town nervously await first-contact with an alien race that has landed a space ship nearby.

The soldiers are warned to steer clear of the ship, and they do. But then an escaped convict (Bruce Dern, in an early role) happens upon the scene—and the ship.

The Zantis, enraged, emerge—and soon the soldiers at the military base find themselves under attack.

A “Zanti”

The soldiers desperately fight back—with flamethrowers, machineguns or just rifle butts. Finally the soldiers wipe out the Zantis.

But now the base—and probably America—faces a wholesale invasion from the planet Zanti to avenge the deaths of their comrades.

So the soldiers wait anxiously for their next transmission from Zanti—which soon arrives.

To their surprise—and relief—it’s a message of thanks: “We will not retaliate. We never intended to. We knew that you could not live with such aliens in your midst.

“It was always our intention that you destroy them…We are incapable of executing our own species, but you are not. You are practiced executioners. We thank you.”

Meanwhile, the United States braces itself for a real-life onslaught of tens of thousands—if not millions—of aliens.

Illegal aliens invading the United States

The reason: On December 16, a federal appeals court denied a request by 19 Republican states to continue a Trump-era public health order to expel migrants immediately at the border.

Known as Title 42, the policy began in 2020, during the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic. It has since been used to expel 2.4.million aliens from the southern border. 

The rapid nature of the expulsions—usually taking place within hours—sharply curtail access to asylum regulations. 

On December 19, Chief Justice John Roberts, responding to an appeal by 19 states, temporarily blocked an order that would lift Title 42 while the Court considers an emergency request to keep the measure in place.

If Title 42 is overturned, there is an even more drastic step that a Republican President could take in combating illegal immigration. 

Rather than deport them to countries in Central America—from which they would easily sneak back into the United States—the Federal Government could ship them off to more distant lands.

Like Afghanistan.

Or Iraq.

Or Syria.

Such a policy change would:

  1. Close the Mexican revolving door, which keeps illegal immigration flowing; and
  2. Send an unmistakably blunt message to other would-be illegals: “The same fate awaits you.”

Although this might seem a far-fetched proposal, it could be easily carried out by the United States Air Force. According to its website: “The C-5 Galaxy is one of the largest aircraft in the world and the largest airlifter in the Air Force inventory.

“The C-5 has a greater capacity than any other airlifter. It [can] carry 36 standard pallets and 81 troops simultaneously.

C-5 transport plane 

“[It can also carry] any of the Army’s air-transportable combat equipment, including such bulky items as the 74-ton mobile scissors bridge.

“It can also carry outsize and oversize cargo over intercontinental ranges and can take off or land in relatively short distances.” 

The C-5 Galaxy’s maximum cargo weight: 281,001 pounds 

Instead of being stuffed with cargo, these planes could be stuffed wall-to-wall with illegal aliens.

The United States Air Force has a proud history of successfully providing America’s soldiers—and allies—with the supplies they need.

From June 24, 1948 to May 12, 1949, only the Berlin Airlift stood between German citizens and starvation.

The Soviet Union had blocked the railway, road, and canal access to the Berlin sectors under allied control. Their goal: Force the western powers to allow the Soviet zone to supply Berlin with food, fuel, and aid.

This would have given the Soviets control over the entire city.

Air forces from the United States, England, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa flew over 200,000 flights in one year, dropping more than 4,700 tons of necessities daily to the besieged Berliners.

The success of the Berlin Airlift raised American prestige and embarrassed the Soviets, who lifted the blockade.

The Berlin Airlift

A similar triumph came during the Yom Kippur War after Egypt and Syria attacked Israel without warning on October 6, 1973.

For 32 days, the Air Force shipped 22,325 tons of ammunition, artillery, tanks and other supplies. These proved invaluable in saving Israel from destruction.

So the mass deportation of millions of illegal aliens lies within America’s technological capability.

The only uncertainty: Is an American President willing to give that order?

“DON’T EMBARRASS THE BUREAU–OR THE BUSINESS”

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on December 19, 2022 at 1:13 am

J. Edgar Hoover, the legendary director of the FBI, has been dead for 50 years. But his rule—“Don’t embarrass the Bureau”—is very much alive and well in corporate America.

In 1959, Hoover—against his will—declared war on the Mafia.

On November 14, 1957, 70 top Mafia leaders from across the country had gathered at the estate of a fellow gangster, Joseph Barbara, in Appalachin, a small village in upstate New York.

The presence of so many cars with out-of-state license plates converging on an isolated mansion caught the attention of Sergeant Edgar Crosswell of the New York State Police.

Crosswell assembled an army of state troopers, set up roadblocks, and swooped down on the estate.

The mobsters panicked and fled—many into the surrounding woods. Even so, more than 60 underworld bosses were arrested and indicted following the raid.

Hoover had vigorously and vocally denied the existence of a nationwide Mafia. He had carefully kept the FBI well out of the war on organized crime. Among the theories advanced for this:

  1. Hoover feared that his agents—-long renowned for their incorruptibility—would fall prey to Mafia bribes.
  2. Hoover feared that his allegedly homosexual relationship with his longtime associate director, Clyde Tolson, would be exposed by the Mob. Rumors still persist that mobster Meyer Lansky came into possession of a compromising photo of Hoover and Tolson engaged in flagrante delicto.
  3. Hoover preferred flashy, easily-solved cases to those requiring huge investments of manpower and money.

Suddenly, however, ignoring the Mob was no longer possible.

J. Edgar Hoover

He set up a Top Hoodlum Program and encouraged his agents to use wiretapping and electronic surveillance (“bugging”) to make up for lost time and Intelligence.

But planting “bugs” demanded illegal trespass into mob hangouts.

Making this even more hazardous: Hoover imposed restrictions on these assignments that could destroy an agent’s professional and personal life.

William E. Roemer, Jr., assigned to the FBI’s Chicago field office, was one of the first agents to volunteer for such duty.

William Roemer | C-SPAN.org

William Roemer

In his memoirs, Man Against the Mob, published in 1989, Roemer laid out the dangers that went with such work:

  1. If confronted by police or mobsters, agents were to try to escape without being identified.
  2. If caught by police, agents were not to identify themselves as FBI employees.
  3. They were to carry no badges, credentials or guns—or anything else connecting themselves with the FBI.
  4. If they were arrested by police and the truth emerged about their FBI employment, the Bureau would claim they were “rogue agents” acting on their own.
  5. Such agents were not to refute the FBI’s portrayal of them as “rogues.”

As summed up by Roemer, Hoover’s greatest concern was always: ‘Do the job, by God, but don’t ever let anything happen that might embarrass the Bureau.”

In the business sector, Hoover’s rule still forcefully apples. Anyone who doubts this need only examine the public scandal involving Applebee’s International, Inc.

AB Brand Refresh Logo R.png

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

On March 9, 2022, Wayne Pankratz, an executive with Apple Central, a Kansas City-based company that operates Applebee’s restaurants, sent an email to managers saying high gas prices could help them cut employees’ wages.

He noted that most Applebee’s employees live “paycheck to paycheck.” But instead of suggesting a pay raise, he advocated the opposite: 

“Any increase in gas price cuts into their disposable income. As inflation continues to climb and gas prices continue to go up that means more hours employees will need to work to maintain their current level of living.”

Because workers were no longer supported by government stimulus, desperate workers would be forced back into the workforce regardless of wages, giving the company the upper hand when it came to compensation.

Pankratz said competing restaurants had been raising wages to attract more workers, leaving Applebee’s struggling to keep up.

“We all saw businesses hiring team members at $18-$20 an hour. They will no longer be able to afford to do this,” the memo said. 

Pankratz predicted that the labor market was “about to turn in our favor.”

The memo was posted to an r/antiwork forum on Reddit and then picked up on social media. At that point, it took on a life of its own. 

Twitter users expressed outrage at the memo. Some said they would spend their money at other restaurants.

At least three managers quit their jobs at a Kansas Applebee’s over the memo, CBS News reported. 

Suddenly, it was Pankratz who was desperate for employment—he was fired.

In line with Hoover’s dictum of disavowing anyone who caused embarrassment for the organization, Kevin Carroll, Dine Brands’ chief operations officer for Applebee’s, rushed to repair the damage:

“This is the opinion of an individual, not Applebee’s. We understand that the franchisee who owns and operates the restaurants in this market has placed the individual on leave.

“Our team members are the lifeblood of our restaurants, and our franchisees are always looking to reward and incentivize team members, new and current, to remain within the Applebee’s family.”

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

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on December 16, 2022 at 12:55 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.

As winter approaches, more than 80% of hospital beds in the United States are filled—with patients suffering from COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, a common virus that causes lung infections.

Nearly 26,000 people were admitted to hospitals with the flu during the week ending December 3, an increase of 32% compared with the week prior.

Hospitalizations of people with Covid have increased about 14% week over week, to more than 4,800 admissions per day on average.

Yet many people refuse to mask up.

During the initial spread of COVID-19, fights 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 December 15, 2022 at 12:10 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, 2020 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 that was required, many people still refused 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—grotesquely fat, suffering from impotence, usually wreathed in polluted cigar smoke—posed as a medical authority.

He 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 December 14, 2022 at 12:21 am

The United States is now entering its third year of COVID-19.  As of December 7, 2022, the number of cases stood at 99 million. More than one million Americans 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, the former 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 feared 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.

WHEN NEGOTIATIONS FAIL, TRY “THE KGB METHOD”

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

On December 8, the United States and Russia swapped convicted criminals.

The Americans were holding—and gave up—Victor Bout, a notorious Russian international arms dealer known as “The Merchant of Death.” 

The Russians were holding—and gave up—Britney Griner, an American professional basketball player for the Women’s National Basketball Association.

Bout had been arrested in Bangkok, Thailand, on March 6, 2008, and extradited to the United States. The Justice Department charged Bout with:

  • Conspiracy to provide material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization;
  • Conspiring to kill Americans;
  • Conspiring to kill American officers or employees; and
  • Conspiring to acquire and use an anti-aircraft missile.

Viktor Bout.jpg

Victor Bout

Bout was convicted on November 2, 2011, and sentenced to 25 years’ imprisonment

Griner was arrested on February 17 for possession of vaporizer cartridges containing hash oil. Although legal in In Arizona, “medicinal” cannabis is illegal in Russia.

On July 7, Griner pleaded guilty but said she had not intended to break the law. On August 4, the court found Griner guilty and sentenced her to nine years in prison. 

The December 8 prisoner exchange was widely attacked by Right-wing Americans, who argued that freeing Bout would lead terrorists to take countless more American hostages. 

There are three methods for securing the release of hostages. 

The first is to meet the ransom demands of the hostage-taker.

That was the method chosen in the above case. The Biden administration didn’t want to give up Bout, but the Russians–i.e., Russian president Vladimir Putin—refused to exchange Griner for anyone else.

The second is to wear down the hostage-taker(s) with patient negotiation.

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, American law enforcement agencies began creating Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams. These units were armed with automatic weapons and trained to enter barricaded buildings. They were also given special training in hostage negotiation.

Their men came from the most physically and mentally fit officers of those departments.  And the police departments whose SWAT teams were universally recognized as the best were the LAPD and NYPD. 

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A SWAT team

The third method might be called, “The KGB Method.”

This was not available to the Biden administration against a superpower armed with nuclear missiles. But against non-state terrorist groups it can reap powerful results.

The KGB served as a combination secret police/paramilitary force throughout the 74-year life of the Soviet Union. Its name (“Committee for State Security”) has changed several times since its birth in 1917: Cheka, NKVD, MGB, KGB.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the establishment of the Russian Federation, its name was officially changed to the FSB (Federal Security Service).

By any name, this is an agency known for its brutality and ruthlessness. The numbers of its victims literally run into the millions.

On September 30, 1985, four attaches from the Soviet Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, were kidnapped by men linked to Hizbollah (“Party of God”), the Iranian-supported terrorist group.

The kidnappers sent photos of the four men to Western news agencies. Each captive was shown with an automatic pistol pressed to his head.

The militants demanded that Moscow pressure pro-Syrian militiamen to stop shelling the pro-Iranian militia in Lebanon’s northern port city of Tripoli.

And they threatened to execute the four Soviet captives, one by one, unless this demand was met.

The Soviet Union began negotiations with the kidnappers, but could not secure a halt to the shelling of Tripoli.

Only two days after the kidnappings, the body of Arkady Katov, a 30-year-old consular secretary, was found in a Beirut trash dump. He had been shot through the head.

That was when the KGB took over negotiations.


Insignia of the KGB

They kidnapped a man known to be a close relative of a prominent Hizbollah leader. Then they castrated him, stuffed his testicles in his mouth, shot him in the head, and sent the body back to Hizbollah.

With the body went a note: We know the names of other close relatives of yours, and the same will happen to them if our diplomats are not released immediately.

Soon afterward, the remaining three Soviet attaches were released only 150 yards from the Soviet Embassy.

Hizbollah telephoned a statement to news agencies claiming that the release was a gesture of “goodwill.”

In his 1987 bestseller, Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA, Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward wrote that then-CIA Director William Casey “decided that the Soviets knew the language of Hizbollah.”

Both the United States and Israel—the two nations most commonly targeted for terrorist kidnappings—have elite Special Forces units.

Military hostage-rescue units operate differently from civilian ones. They don’t care about taking alive hostage-takers for later trials. The result is usually a pile of dead hostage-takers.

These Special Forces could be ordered to similarly kidnap the relatives of whichever terrorist leaders are responsible for the latest outrages.

Ordering such action would instantly send an unmistakable message to terrorist groups: Screw with us at your own immediate peril.  And at the peril of those you most hold dear.

In the United States, such elite units as the U.S. Navy SEALS, Green Berets and Delta Force stand ready. They require only the orders.

IF THERE’S A “WAR” ON CHRISTMAS, AMERICANS DON’T KNOW IT

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on December 9, 2022 at 12:10 am

Christmas is special.

That’s why, each December, the executives at Fox News find a new way to stir up emotions—and ratings—by resurrecting the “war on Christmas” slander.

Fox launched this in 2004 with a recurring segment called “Christmas Under Siege.” 

Stirring up false controversies is a daily assignment for the alleged reporters of this company owned by Right-wing oligarch Rupert Murdoch. 

Perhaps its most outrageous example happened on December 11, 2013. Fox hostess Megyn Kelly offered this on “The Kelly File,” her then-popular Fox News program.

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Megyn Kelly

Referring to an article by Slate writer Aisha Harris on “Santa Claus Should Not Be a White Man Anymore,” she said:

“When I saw this headline, I kinda laughed and I said, ‘Oh, this is ridiculous. Yet another person claiming it’s racist to have a white Santa.’

“And by the way, for all you kids watching at home, Santa just is white. But this person is maybe just arguing that we should also have a black Santa. But, you know, Santa is what he is, and just so you know, we’re just debating this because someone wrote about it, kids.”

Of course, Santa Claus is a completely fictional character. Arguing about his skin color is as pointless as arguing about his weight.

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But Kelly wasn’t content to talk only about Santa. So she turned next to Jesus, a historical figure about whom we have not a single reference to his appearance, let alone a picture.

“Just because it makes you feel uncomfortable doesn’t mean it has to change. You know, I mean, Jesus was a white man, too.

“He was a historical figure; that’s a verifiable fact—as is Santa, I want you kids watching to know that—but my point is: How do you revise it, in the middle of the legacy of the story, and change Santa from white to black?”

Santa Claus a verifiable historical figure? Not even Charlie Brown, in the annually telecast “Peanuts” Christmas special, would make that claim.

In 2015, Donald Trump claimed center-stage in “defending” Christmas. And the target of his ire? Starbucks.

In years past, its disposable coffee cups featured snowflakes, winter scenes, reindeer and Christmas ornaments.

But in 2015, Starbucks decided to go with a minimalist, all-red design, its only feature being the company’s green and white logo.

This angered some religious conservatives, who generally care more about symbols than substance. And Trump was eager to enlist evangelicals as voters.

During a campaign rally in October, Trump promised: “I guarantee if I become president, we’re going to be saying ‘Merry Christmas’ at every store.”

Donald Trump September 3 2015.jpg

Donald Trump

On November 9, 2015, addressing  a crowd of several thousands in Springfield, Illinois, Trump said: “Did you read about Starbucks? No more Merry Christmas on Starbucks.

“I have one of the most successful Starbucks, in Trump Tower. Maybe we should boycott Starbucks? I don’t know. Seriously, I don’t care. That’s the end of that lease, but who cares?

“If I become president, we’re all going to be saying Merry Christmas again, that I can tell you.”

Trump did not explain how he would coerce non-Christian Americans—-such as atheists, Jews and Muslims—into observing a Christian holiday.

Those who claim that Christmas is threatened don’t know—or deliberately ignore—-the following:

  • The Christmas shopping season can start as early as September. Some consumers begin even earlier. 
  • According to the latest data from the National Retail Federation (NRF), American consumers spend an average of $997.73 on gifts and holiday items each Christmas. 
  • Holiday sales in 2021 totaled $99 billion.
  • For 2022, industry analysts expect Americans to spend $$1,455 per household on holiday gifts.
  • Because prices are up about 10%, Americans are expected to purchase an average of nine gifts, down from 16 in 2021.
  • For many stores, holiday shopping accounts for nearly a third of annual sales.

In short, no one is “making war” on Christmas—-except Right-wing broadcasters at Fox News to jack up ratings.  

As to the historical realities of this season:

  • There is no reference anywhere in the Bible to the month—let alone the day—of Jesus’ birth. 
  • Jesus didn’t command his followers to celebrate his birth—but he did call on them to remember his death.  It’s called Easter.
  • Many of the “religious” traditions associated with Christmas stem from the pagan Roman festival, Saturnalia, which celebrated the “birthday” of the sun.
  • This was celebrated December 17-25.
  • Saturnalia traditions included feasting, gift-giving, lighting candles (to ward off evil spirits) and displaying wreaths (as a sign of coming spring).
  • Early Christians tried mightily to convince their members to stop celebrating the Saturnalia.
  • When these efforts failed, the Roman Catholic Church, in the fourth century, “Christianised” the festival by naming Saturnalia’s concluding day, December 25, as Jesus’ birthday.

In George Orwell’s classic novel, 1984, Oceania is always at war with Eurasia or Eastasia. Its citizens are kept in a constant state of frenzy as they’re directed to search for endless “enemies of the state.”

This, in turn, allows the unseen rulers of Oceania to run their dictatorship without interference.

It’s a lesson well-known to hucksters like Donald Trump and the men who run Fox News.

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