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Posts Tagged ‘FLORIDA’

BIDEN NEEDS A LESSON FROM MACHIAVELLI

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on September 16, 2021 at 12:07 am

On June 7, The PBS Newshour examined perhaps the foremost issue of our democracy: The For the People Act.

Since November 3, 2020, when former President Donald Trump lost the 2020 Presidential election, he has spread The Big Lie: That the election was “stolen” from him.

On the basis of that lie, Republicans in 47 states have introduced 361 bills to make it harder to vote.

As of June 21, 2021, 17 states enacted 28 new laws that restrict access to the vote. 

Among those states affected: Georgia, Iowa, Arkansas and Utah.

Georgia:

  • Bans giving food and water to voters in line;
  • Severely restricts mail ballot drop boxes;
  • Allows Right-wing groups to challenge the eligibility of an unlimited number of voters; and
  • Gives the GOP-controlled legislature sweeping powers over election administration.

Arizona:

  • Wants to add new requirements for casting a mail-in ballot and make it harder to receive one. 

Florida:

  • Intends to ban mail ballot drop boxes.

Michigan:

  • Republicans introduced eight bills adding new voter ID requirements for mail voting and forbidding election officials to send out absentee ballot request forms to voters.

Congressional Democrats have countered with the For the People Act.  Among its provisions:

  • Expand early voting and registration across the country in federal elections;
  • Block states from purging their rolls of voters;
  • End partisan gerrymandering;
  • Force large donors to disclose themselves publicly.

“It is something that is obviously very critical right now,” said  PBS Newshour Correspondent Lisa Desjardins. “We see rising in this country both sides talking about democracy and voting rights and what’s happening at this moment.

“[West Virginia United States Senator] Joe Manchin…would be the 50th vote that Democrats would have for this in the Senate. They have 49.

Senator Manchin.jpg

Joe Manchin

“And here’s what he said [on] why he opposed it: ‘I believe that partisan voting legislation will destroy the already weakening binds of our democracy. And for that reason, I will vote against the For the People Act.’

“Notable, he did not have any substantive problems with the bill that he raised. Instead, he said, the issue is there are no Republicans on board. Democrats, of course, have a real problem with that. They say, we think Republicans are going to play games here and block this bill.

“This Manchin decision is a body blow to this legislation. It is not dead yet, but it is in real trouble. It’s unclear if, when [New York Senator] Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader [in the Senate] will bring it back up.”

There has been a great deal of speculation—by Democrats and political correspondents—on Manchin’s motives for opposing this legislation.

Some believe he’s a Right-winger in Democrats’ clothing. Others think he wants to increase his clout on behalf of his state, West Virginia. 

Manchin’s motives, however, are not important. Eliminating his opposition is.

And the man who has the power to do this is President Joe Biden.

Joe Biden presidential portrait.jpg

Joe Biden

All that he needs to do is invite Manchin into the Oval Office for an off-the-record talk, which could open like this:

“Your state has two Coast Guard military bases. By this time next week, it will have only one—because I’m going to close down the other. You can also forget about those highway-repair projects you’re expecting to start. And I’ve been informed we have far too many post offices in West Virginia, considering its small population….”

Suddenly, Manchin will get the clear message: “Biden is the big dog on this block, not me.”

He will also grasp that his constituents will blame him, not Biden, for the resulting chaos and hardships they face from the upcoming closures. 

This is precisely how President Lyndon B. Johnson dealt with Congressional members who dared oppose his prized legislation. And it worked.

Joe Biden has spent 44 years in Washington, D.C.—as a United States Senator from Delaware from 1973 to 2009; and then as Vice President from 2009 to 2017.

But he seems to have never read Niccolo Machiavelli’s famous warning in The Prince:

Portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli by Santi di Tito.jpg

Niccolo Machiavelli

For how we live is so far removed from how we ought to live, that he who abandons what is done for what ought to be done, will rather learn to bring about his own ruin rather than his preservation.  A man who wishes to make a profession of goodness in everything must inevitably come to grief among so many who are not good. 

And therefore it is necessary for a prince, who wishes to maintain himself, to learn how not to be good, and to use this knowledge and not use it, according to the necessity of the case.

Whatever his motives, Manchin is clearly willing to allow Republicans to suppress the voting rights of millions of non-Fascist Americans.

During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus, saying it was better to temporarily suspend some liberties than to lose the Union to a treasonous Confederate victory. 

President Joe Biden now faces a similar moment of crisis.

Republicans are working to corrupt the democratic process to reinstall a proven criminal and traitor in the Oval Office. This is no time to “fight” a party of Adolf Hitlers with the appeasement tactics of a Neville Chamberlain.

REPUBLICANS: COUNTING ON COVID TO GET RE-ELECTED

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on September 15, 2021 at 12:20 am

A September 10 CNN headline said it all: “As Covid-19 hospitalizations spike, some overwhelmed, some hospitals are rationing care.”

Its opening paragraphs read:

“Once again, Americans who don’t even have coronavirus are suffering the consequences of Covid-19 patients filling up hospitals.

“More than 101,000 people are currently hospitalized with Covid-19, according to data Thursday from the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

“Now, some patients wanting urgent care won’t get it because so many beds are occupied by Covid-19 patients.”

In short, tens of thousands of men and women who could have gotten vaccinated against a deadly virus refused to do so. They claimed they didn’t trust the medical establishment generally or the vaccines in particular.

But now they demand that the medical establishment save them from a possible death sentence they brought on themselves. Many of them have said, while taking up space in ICU beds, that they should have gotten the vaccine but, for unexplained reasons, kept putting it off.

That means victims of heart attacks, strokes, car accidents and crimes must now go without desperately-needed medical attention owing to the egotism, ignorance and/or arrogance of anti-vaxxers and/or Stormtrumper followers of former President Donald Trump. 

SARS-CoV-2 without background.png

Covid-19

In West Virginia, hospitals are “overwhelmingly inundated with cases of people that are not vaccinated,” Governor Jim Justice said.

The state has 813 people hospitalized with Covid-19 and set a new record for Covid-19 patients in ICUs—252 on September 8.

A record 132 Covid-19 patients are on ventilators.

In Idaho, the Department of Health and Welfare activated its Crisis Standards of Care in the northern part of the state due to “a massive increase in patients with Covid-19 who require hospitalization.” 

Governor Brad Little pleaded for eligible Idahoans to get vaccinated.

Only 23 ICU beds are available In Arkansas.

As of September 11, 660,000 Americans have died of COVID-19. 

By contrast, on that day 20 years ago, nearly 3,000 Americans died at the hands of Islamic terrorists at the Pentagon, the World Trade Center and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

The World Trade Center on September 11, 2001

That works out to the equivalent of 220 9/11’s from January 1, 2020 to September 11, 2021.

So while Americans publicly mourned the victims of 9/11, those who have needlessly died from Covid-19 remain forgotten—except by those who knew and loved them. 

But this situation may soon—at last—be changing.

On September 9, President Joe Biden announced six measures to increase coronavirus vaccination rates, which have slowed in recent months, allowing the Delta variant to spread. Among these:

  • All federal employees and contractors must get vaccinated, without exemptions.
  • Companies with more than 100 employees must require their employees to get vaccinated, with some exceptions, or face weekly testing.
  • Hospitals that participate in the federal Medicaid and Medicare programs must also vaccinate their estimated 17 million employees.

“We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin,” Biden said in a speech from the White House, making clear that he blamed the unvaccinated for the current surge in the country. “And your refusal has cost all of us.”

Joe Biden presidential portrait.jpg

President Joe Biden

On the Fourth of July, Biden held a party on the South Lawn of the White House, declaring that the country was on the cusp of “independence” from the virus.

But the refusal of about 80 million Americans to get vaccinated against Covid-19 has thoroughly sabotaged that goal.

The Delta variant has surged through Florida and Texas, whose governors have taken a hardline stand against mask mandates. The vast majority of the people who have become seriously ill have not been vaccinated.

Schools are closed once again. The economic recovery is faltering.

But for the Right, this means nothing.

Fox News—which supported four years of Donald Trump’s dictatorial rule—attacked Biden as an “authoritarian.” Republican officials vowed to fight his new mandates in court. 

And former Vice President Mike Pence—who similarly supported Trump’s tyranny—said: “I mean, to have the president of the United States say that he has been patient but his patience is wearing thin—that’s not how the American people expect to be spoken to by our elected leaders.” 

There are solid reasons for this.

Governors such as Ron DeSantis (Florida) Greg Abbott (Texas) and Kristi Noem (South Dakota) are trying to inherit the constituency of former President Donald Trump.

Trump attacked public health experts such as Dr. Anthony Fauci—especially when they recommended mask mandates to stop the spread of the virus. And he urged his followers to storm state capitols of Democratic governors who were desperately trying to keep hospitals and morgues from overflowing with Covid-19 victims. 

The result: 75 million militant Right-wingers ignored the Covid-19-related deaths of 400,000 Americans and the rising ride of the pandemic and almost re-elected him President.

Republicans believe that by opposing mask and vaccination mandates, they can keep the virus going. This will depress the economy—and give them a potent issue to use against Biden in 2024.

Thus, Republicans want to look tough and champion a demented version of freedom—even as it kills huge numbers of their own constituents. 

AMERICA’S POISONED CUBAN POLICY STILL HAUNTS US: PART FOUR (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on August 20, 2021 at 12:12 am

“John and Robert Kennedy knew what they were doing. They waged a vicious war against Fidel Castro—a war someone had to lose.”

And the loser turned out to be John F. Kennedy.

So writes investigative reporter Gus Russo in Live By the Sword: The Secret War Against Castro and the Death of JFK, published in 1998.

In what is almost certainly the definitive account of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Russo reaches some startling—but highly documented—conclusions:

  • Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated Kennedy.
  • He did it alone.
  • Oswald, a former Marine, was a committed Marxist—whose hero was Castro.
  • The CIA’s ongoing campaign to overthrow and/or assassinate Castro was an open secret throughout the Gulf.
  • Oswald visited New Orleans in the spring of 1963.
  • There he learned that Castro was in the crosshairs of the CIA.
  • For this, he blamed John F. Kennedy.
  • Oswald told his Russian-born wife, Marina: “Fidel Castro needs defenders. I’m going to join his army of volunteers.”
  • Jack Ruby, a Dallas nightclub owner, murdered Oswald because he was distraught over Kennedy’s death.
  • Ruby was not part of a Mafia conspiracy to silence Oswald.
  • Skeptics of the Warren Commission—which concluded that Oswald had acted alone—asked the wrong question: “Who killed Kennedy?”
  • They should have asked: “Why was he killed?”
  • The answer—according to Russo: “The Kennedys’ relentless pursuit of Castro and Cuba backfired in tragedy on that terrible day in November, 1963.”

Another book well worth reading about America’s Cuban obsession during the early 1960s is American Tabloid, by James Ellroy.

Although a novel, it vividly captures the atmosphere of intrigue, danger and sleaziness that permeated that era in a way that dry, historical documents never can.

“The 50’s are finished,” reads its paperback dust jacket. “Zealous young lawyer Robert Kennedy has a red-hot jones to nail Jimmy Hoffa. JFK has his eyes on the Oval Office.

“J. Edgar Hoover is swooping down on the Red Menace. Howard Hughes is dodging subpoenas and digging up Kennedy dirt. And Castro is mopping up the bloody aftermath of his new Communist nation….

“Mob bosses, politicos, snitches, psychos, fall guys and femmes fatale. They’re mixing up a Molotov cocktail guaranteed to end the country’s innocence with a bang.”

Among the legacies of America’s twisted romance with anti-Castro Cubans:

  • The Cuban Missile Crisis remains the single most dangerous moment of the 50-year Cold War, when the world stood only minutes away from nuclear Armageddon.
  • That crisis stemmed from the American Right’s twisted obsession with Cuba, an obsession that continues today.
  • Following the JFK assassination, there was a cover-up.
  • Its purpose: To protect the reputation of the United States Government—and that of its newly-martyred President.
  • The CIA and FBI concealed the CIA-Mafia assassination plots from the Warren Commission assigned to investigate Kennedy’s murder.
  • Other government officials participating in the cover-up included Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and President Lyndon B. Johnson.
  • Ironically, this secrecy ignited the widespread—and false—belief that the President had died at the hands of a government conspiracy.
  • Robert Kennedy feared that his relentless pursuit of Castro might have led Castro to “take out” JFK first.
  • Fearing his own assassination if he continued Kennedy’s efforts to murder Castro, President Johnson ordered the CIA to halt its campaign to overthrow and/or assassinate the Cuban leader.
  • The huge Cuban community throughout Florida—and especially Miami—continues to exert a blackmailing influence on American politics.
  • Right-wing politicians from Richard Nixon to Donald Trump have reaped electoral rewards by catering to the demands of this hate-obsessed voting block.
  • These Cuban ex-patriots hope that the United States will launch a full-scale military invasion of the island to remove Castro. 
  • Having grown rich and soft in the United States, they fear to risk their own lives by returning to Cuba to overthrow the Castro regime—Castro he had overthrown Fulgencio Batista.
  • Only President Barack Obama had the political courage to re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba—in 2015.
  • This occurred long after the United States had done so with such former enemies as the Soviet Union, China and Vietnam.  
  • President Donald Trump. hoping to please anti-Castro voters in Florida, abandoned engagement and increased sanctions against Cuba.

So what are the lessons to be learned from America’s twisted obsession with Cuba?

  • Americans should initiate major changes in its foreign policy toward Cuba.
  • America should end the half-century contamination of American politics by those Cubans who live only for their hatred of Castro—and those political candidates who live to exploit it. 
  • (For example: Marco Rubio got elected U.S. Senator from Florida in 2010 by claiming that his parents had been forced to leave Cuba in 1959, after Fidel Castro took power. In fact, they had left Cuba in 1956—during the Batista dictatorship.)
  • America needs to end this wag-the-dog relationship. A population of about 1.53 million Cuban exiles living in Florida should not be allowed to shape the domestic and foreign policy of a nation of 333 million.
  • Those who continue to hate—or love—Fidel Castro should be left to their own private feud. But that is a feud they should settle on their own island, and not from the shores of the United States.

AMERICA’S POISONED CUBAN LEGACY STILL HAUNTS US: PART THREE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on August 19, 2021 at 12:15 am

On October 22, 1962, President John F. Kennedy went on nationwide TV to announce the discovery of the missiles and his blockade of Cuba.

He warned that any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation would be regarded as an attack on the United States by the Soviet Union—and would trigger “a full retaliatory response” upon the U.S.S.R.

President John F. Kennedy addresses the nation

And he demanded that the Soviets remove all of their offensive weapons from Cuba:

“The path we have chosen for the present is full of hazards, as all paths are, but it is the one most consistent with our character and courage as a nation and our commitments around the world.

“The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender or submission.”

On October 26,  the United States raised the readiness level of SAC forces to DEFCON 2—the step just short of war. For the only time in U.S. history, B-52 bombers were dispersed to various locations and made ready to take off, fully equipped, on 15 minutes’ notice.

Other measures taken included:

  • One-eighth of America’s 1,436 bombers were on airborne alert.
  • About 145 intercontinental ballistic missiles stood on ready alert.
  • Air Defense Command redeployed 161 nuclear-armed interceptors to 16 dispersal fields within nine hours with one-third maintaining 15-minute alert status.
  • Twenty-three nuclear-armed B-52 were sent to orbit points within striking distance of the Soviet Union.

An invasion date was set for October 29. But the Kennedy Administration–and the American military—didn’t know that the Russian soldiers guarding the missiles had been armed with tactical nuclear weapons.

Had the Marines gone in, those mini-nukes would have been used. And a full-scale nuclear exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union would have almost certainly followed.

At the height of the crisis, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy offered a solution.

Khrushchev had sent two teletypes to Kennedy. The first had agreed to remove the missiles, but the second had demanded that the United States remove its own missiles from Turkey, which bordered the Soviet Union.

Robert Kennedy’s solution: The administration should ignore the second message—and announce that it had accepted Khrushchev’s offer to remove the missiles.

After this announcement was made, President Kennedy said to his advisers: “It can go either way now.”

John F. Kennedy in the Oval Office

The crisis ended on October 28. Under enormous pressure, Khrushchev agreed to remove the missiles from Cuba.

Behind his decision lay a secret promise by the Kennedy administration to remove its obsolete nuclear missiles from Turkey, which bordered the Soviet Union. And a public pledge to not invade Cuba.

On the night the crisis ended, there occurred a prophetic exchange between the two Kennedy brothers.

JFK: “Maybe this is the night I should go to the theater”—a reference to Abraham Lincoln’s fatal attendance of Ford’s Theater at the end of the Civil War.

RFK: “If you go, I want to go with you.”

John F. and Robert F. Kennedy

But President Kennedy was not finished with Castro. While continuing the campaign of sabotage throughout Cuba, the Kennedys were preparing something far bigger: A full-scale American invasion of the island.

On October 4, 1963, the Joint Chiefs of Staff submitted its latest version of the invasion plan, known as OPLAN 380-63.  Its timetable went:

  • January, 1964:  Infiltration into Cuba by Cuban exiles.
  • July 15, 1964:  U.S. conventional forces join the fray.
  • August 3, 1964:  All-out U.S. air strikes on Cuba.
  • October 1, 1964:  Full-scale invasion to install “a government friendly to the U.S.”

During the Cuban Missile Crisis, Robert Kennedy–r-eferring to the 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor—had resisted demands for a “sneak attack” on Cuba by saying: “I don’t want my brother to be the Tojo of the 1960s.”

Now the Kennedys planned such an attack on Cuba just one month before the November, 1964 Presidential election.

Then fate—in the unlikely figure of Lee Harvey Oswald—intervened.

On November 22, 1963, while the President rode through Dallas in an open-air automobile, a rifle-wielding assassin opened fire. He scored two hits on Kennedy—in the back of the neck and head. The second wound proved instantly fatal.

The nation and the world were shocked—and plunged into deep mourning.

But for some of those who had waged a secret, lethal war against Fidel Castro for the previous two years, Kennedy’s death—at least in retrospect—didn’t come as a surprise.

Robert Kennedy, in particular, spent the remaining years of his life agonizing over the possibility that his highly personal war against Castro had backfired.

That Castro, fed up with the CIA’s assassination plots against him, had retaliated with one of his own.

Robert Kennedy’s fears and guilt were compounded by the fact that, while waging war on Castro, he had waged an equally ruthless crusade against organized crime.

He knew that some of the mobsters he had tried to send to prison had played a major role in the CIA’s efforts to “hit” Castro. Had the Mafia—believing itself the victim of a double-cross—put out a “contract” on JFK instead?  

It was a question that haunted him until the day he died.

AMERICA’S POISONED CUBAN LEGACY STILL HAUNTS US: PART TWO (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on August 18, 2021 at 12:11 am

In April, 1961, the CIA tried to overthrow the Communist regime of Cuba’s “Maximum Leader,” Fidel Castro, at the Bay of Pigs.

When that failed, President John F. Kennedy ordered Castro’s removal through a campaign of sabotage and assassination.

These covert operatives became known within the CIA as the Special Group, and were ultimately supervised by Robert F. Kennedy, the President’s brother and Attorney General.

The war against Castro became known within the CIA as Operation Mongoose.

But not everyone in the CIA was enthusiastic about the “get Castro” effort.

“Everyone at CIA was surprised at Kennedy’s obsession with Fidel,” recalled Sam Halpern, who was assigned to the Cuba Project. “They thought it was a waste of time. We all knew [Fidel] couldn’t hurt us. Most of us at CIA initially liked Kennedy, but why go after this little guy?

“One thing is for sure: Kennedy wasn’t doing it out of national security concerns. It was a personal thing. The Kennedy family felt personally burnt by the Bay of Pigs and sought revenge.”

It was all-out war. Among the tactics used:

  • Hiring Cuban gangsters to murder Cuban police officials and Soviet technicians.
  • Sabotaging mines.
  • Paying up to $100,000 per “hit” for the murder or kidnapping of Cuban officials.
  • Using biological and chemical warfare against the Cuban sugar industry.

“Bobby (Kennedy) wanted boom and bang all over the island,” recalled Halpern. “It was stupid. The pressure from the White House was very great.”

Among that “boom and bang” were a series of assassination plots against Castro, in which the Mafia was to be a key player.

Chicago Mobster Johnny Roselli proposed a simple plan: through its underworld connections in Cuba, the Mafia would recruit a Cuban in Castro’s entourage, such as a waiter or bodyguard, who would poison him.

The CIA’s Technical Services division produced a botulinus toxin which was then injected into Castro’s favorite brand of cigars. The CIA also produced simpler botulinus toxin pills that could be dissolved in his food or drink.

But the deputized Mafia contacts failed to deliver any of the poisons to Castro. 

Roselli told the CIA that the first poisoner had been discharged from Castro’s employ before he could kill him, and the back-up agent got “cold feet.” 

Other proposals or attempts included:

  • Planting colorful seashells rigged to explode at a site where Castro liked to go skindiving.
  • Trying to arrange for his being presented with a wetsuit impregnated with noxious bacteria and mold spores, or with lethal chemical agents.
  • Attempting to infect Castro’s scuba regulator with tuberculous bacilli.
  • Trying to douse his handkerchiefs, tea and coffee with other lethal bacteria.

Former members of the Kennedy Administration later insisted that neither John nor Robert Kennedy knew or approved of these assassination plots. But the sheer weight of available evidence indicates otherwise.

Bobby, in particular, was constantly pressing the CIA to “do something” about Castro. In the world of covert action, words like “Kill Castro” aren’t committed to paper. Or even spoken.

Castro, rightly seeing his life and regime threatened, appealed to Nikita Khrushchev, leader of the Soviet Union, for assistance.

1960s poster of Fidel Castro and Nikita Khrushchev

Keizers [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D

Khrushchev quickly complied: “We must not allow the communist infant to be strangled in its crib,” he told members of his inner circle.

By October, 1962, the Soviet Union had sent more than

  • 40,000 soldiers,
  • 1,300 field pieces,
  • 700 anti-aircraft guns,
  • 350 tanks and
  • 150 jets

to Cuba to deter another invasion.

Most importantly, Khrushchev began supplying Castro with nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles.

Their discovery, on October 15, 1962, ignited the single most dangerous confrontation of the 50-year Cold War.

Suddenly, the United States and the Soviet Union—bristling with nuclear weapons—found themselves on the brink of nuclear war.

At the time, Kennedy officials claimed they couldn’t understand why Khrushchev had placed nuclear missiles in Cuba. “Maybe Khrushchev’s gone mad” was a typical public musing.  

This remained the official American view for years afterward—as depicted in Robert Kennedy’s memoir, Thirteen Days: A Memoir of the Cuban Missile Crisis, published in 1969, the year after his death. 

No admission was made that JFK had been waging a no-holds-barred campaign to overthrow the Cuban government and assassinate its leader.

The same proved true for the 1974 doc-u-drama, The Missiles of October, starring William Devane as John F. Kennedy and Martin Sheen as Robert Kennedy. 

On October 16, President Kennedy was informed of the missile installations. He immediately convened a group of his 12 most important advisers, which became known as Ex-Comm, for Executive Committee.

Then followed seven days of guarded and intense debate by Kennedy and his advisers. Some of the participants—such as Air Force General Curtis LeMay—urged an all-out air strike against the missile sites.

Others—such as Adlai Stevenson, the United States delegate to the United Nations—urged a reliance on quiet diplomacy.

It was Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara who suggested a middle course: A naval blockade—a “quarantine” in Kennedy’s softened term—around Cuba. This would hopefully prevent the arrival of more Soviet offensive weapons on the island.

Finally, the President decided to to impose a naval blockade.

On October 22, Kennedy went on nationwide TV to announce the discovery of the missiles and his blockade of Cuba.

AMERICA’S POISONED CUBAN LEGACY STILL HAUNTS US: PART ONE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on August 17, 2021 at 12:12 am

On November 25, 2016, Fidel Castro, Cuba’s longtime “Maximum Leader,” died at the age of 90.

Old age and disease had finally achieved what years of CIA plotting and Mafia assassins could not.

To his supporters he was a tireless champion of the poor and a foe of American imperialism. To his enemies he was a ruthless dictator who drove his country to economic ruin in the name of a failed ideology—communism.

His reign began on January 1, 1959, when he swept triumphantly into Havana after a two-year guerrilla campaign against Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista.

Fidel Castro

Almost immediately, hundreds of thousands of Cubans began fleeing to America. The first émigrés were more than 215,000 Batista followers. The exodus increased, peaking at approximately 78,000 in 1962.

In October, 1962, Castro stopped regularly scheduled travel between the two countries, and asylum seekers began sailing from Cuba to Florida.

Between 1962 and 1979, hundreds of thousands of Cubans entered the United States under the Attorney General’s parole authority.

By 2017, more than 1.53 million Cubans were living in Florida, where the population of Miami was about one-third Cuban. Their sheer numbers transformed the state’s political, economic and cultural life.  And not entirely for the better.

Many of these Cubans viewed themselves as political exiles, rather than immigrants, hoping to eventually return to Cuba after its Communist regime fell from power.

With so many discontented immigrants concentrated in Florida, they became a potential force for politicians to court. 

And the issue guaranteed to sway their votes was unrelenting hostility to Castro. Unsurprisingly, most of their votes went to Right-wing Republicans.

John F. Kennedy was the first President to face this dilemma.

During the closing months of the administration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the CIA had begun training Cuban exiles for an invasion of their former homeland.

The exiles’ goal: To do what Castro had done–seek refuge in the mountains and launch a successful anti-Castro revolution.

But word of the coming invasion quickly leaked: The exiles were terrible secret-keepers. (A joke at the CIA went: “A Cuban thinks a secret is something you tell to only 300 people.”)

Kennedy insisted the invasion must appear to be an entirely Cuban enterprise. He refused to commit U.S. Marines and Air Force bombers.

More than 1,400 invaders landed on April 17, 1961 at the Bay of Pigs—and were quickly overwhelmed, with hundreds of the men taken prisoner.

Kennedy publicly took the blame for its failure: “Victory has a hundred fathers but defeat is an orphan.” But privately he seethed, and ordered the CIA to redouble its efforts to remove Castro at all costs.

To make certain his order was carried out, he appointed his brother, Robert—then Attorney General—to oversee the CIA’s “Castro removal” program.

Robert F. Kennedy and John F. Kennedy

It’s here that America’s obsession with Cuba entered its darkest and most disgraceful period.

The CIA and the Mafia entered into an unholy alliance to assassinate Castro—each for its own benefit: 

  • The CIA wanted to please Kennedy; 
  • The mobsters wanted to regain their casino and brothel holdings that had made Cuba their private playground in pre-Castro times; and
  • They also hoped to use their pose as patriots to win immunity from future prosecution.

The CIA supplied poisons and explosives to various members of the Mafia. It was then up to the mobsters to assassinate Castro.

The CIA asked Johnny Roselli, a mobster linked to the Chicago syndicate, to go to Florida in 1961 and 1962 to organize assassination teams of Cuban exiles. They were to infiltrate their homeland and assassinate Castro.

JohnRoselli.jpg

Johnny Roselli

Roselli called upon two other crime figures: Chicago Mafia boss Sam Giancana and Santos Trafficante, the Cosa Nostra chieftain for Tampa, for assistance.

Sam Giancana.jpg

Sam Giancana

Giancana, using the name “Sam Gold” in his dealings with the CIA, was meanwhile being hounded by the FBI on direct orders of Attorney General Robert Kennedy.

The mobsters were authorized to offer $150,000 to anyone who would kill Castro and were promised any support the Agency could yield.

Giancana was to locate someone who was close enough to Castro to be able to drop pills into his food. Trafficante would serve as courier to Cuba, helping to make arrangements for the murder on the island.

Roselli was to be the main link between all of the participants in the plot.

The available sources disagree on what actually happened. Some believe that the Mob made a genuine effort to “whack” Fidel.

Others are convinced the mobsters simply ran a scam on the government. They pretended to carry out their “patriotic duty” while in fact making no effort at all to penetrate Castro’s security.

The CIA’s war against Castro was known as Operation Mongoose—the mongoose being a traditional enemy of the cobra. And those entrusted with this assignment were known as the Special Group.

“We were hysterical about Castro at about the time of the Bay of Pigs and thereafter,” Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara later testified before Congress about these efforts. “And there was pressure from JFK and RFK to do something about Castro.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ron DeSantis 2020 (cropped).jpg

Ron DeSantis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More companies will undoubtedly follow suit.

There are two reasons for this: 

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

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

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

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

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

Katherine Wu

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

* * * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related image

Donald Trump

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

Yet they put their faith in Trump, a man who

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

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

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

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

SARS-CoV-2 without background.png

COVID-19

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

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

That is exactly what has happened.

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

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

The population of the United States stands at 328.2 million.

POD Assist | CDC

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

Among those incentives: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“FOR THE PEOPLE” VS. “FOR THE TYRANNY”

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Social commentary on June 10, 2021 at 12:15 am

On June 7, The PBS Newshour examined perhaps the foremost issue of our democracy: The For the People Act.

Since November 3, when former President Donald Trump lost the 2020 Presidential election, he has spread The Big Lie: That the election was “stolen” from him.

On the basis of that lie, in the first three months of this year Republicans in 47 states have introduced 361 bills to make it harder to vote.

Five restrictive bills have already been signed into law—in Georgia, Iowa, Arkansas, and Utah.

The Georgia law:

  • Bans giving food and water to voters in line;
  • Severely restricts mail ballot drop boxes;
  • Allows Right-wing groups to challenge the eligibility of an unlimited number of voters; and
  • Gives the GOP-controlled legislature sweeping powers over election administration.

Other states include:

  • Arizona wants to add new requirements for casting a mail-in ballot and make it harder to receive one. 
  • Florida intends to ban mail ballot drop boxes.
  • Michigan Republicans introduced eight bills adding new voter ID requirements for mail voting and forbidding election officials to send out absentee ballot request forms to voters.

Congressional Democrats have countered with the For the People Act.  Among its provisions:

  • Expand early voting and registration across the country in federal elections;
  • Block states from purging their rolls of voters;
  • End partisan gerrymandering;
  • Force large donors to disclose themselves publicly.

“It is something that is obviously very critical right now,” said  PBS Newshour Correspondent Lisa Lisa Desjardins. “We see rising in this country both sides talking about democracy and voting rights and what’s happening at this moment.

“[West Virginia United States Senator] Joe Manchin…would be the 50th vote that Democrats would have for this in the Senate. They have 49.

Senator Manchin.jpg

Joe Manchin

“And here’s what he said [on] why he opposed it: ‘I believe that partisan voting legislation will destroy the already weakening binds of our democracy. And for that reason, I will vote against the For the People Act.’

“Notable, he did not have any substantive problems with the bill that he raised. Instead, he said, the issue is there are no Republicans on board. Democrats, of course, have a real problem with that. They say, we think Republicans are going to play games here and block this bill.

“This Manchin decision is a body blow to this legislation. It is not dead yet, but it is in real trouble. It’s unclear if, when [New York Senator] Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader [in the Senate] will bring it back up.”

There has been a great deal of speculation—by Democrats and political correspondents—on Manchin’s motives for opposing this legislation.

Some believe he’s a Right-winger in Democrats’ clothing. Others think he wants to increase his clout on behalf of his state, West Virginia. 

Manchin’s motives, however, are not important. Eliminating his opposition is.

And the man who has the power to do this is President Joe Biden.

Joe Biden presidential portrait.jpg

Joe Biden

All that he needs to do is invite Manchin into the Oval Office for an off-the-record talk, which could open like this:

“Your state has two Coast Guard military bases. By this time next week, it will have only one—because I’m going to close down the other. You can also forget about those highway-repair projects you’re expecting to start. And I’ve been informed we have far too many post offices in West Virginia, considering its small population….”

Suddenly, Manchin will get the clear message: “I’m the big dog on this block, not you.”

He will also grasp that his constituents will blame him, not Biden, for the resulting chaos and hardships they face from the upcoming closures. 

This is precisely how President Lyndon B. Johnson dealt with Congressional members who dared oppose his prized legislation. And it worked.

Joe Biden has spent 44 years in Washington, D.C.—as a United States Senator from Delaware from 1973 to 2009; and then as Vice President from 2009 to 2017.

But he seems to have never read Niccolo Machiavelli’s famous warning in The Prince:

Portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli by Santi di Tito.jpg

Niccolo Machiavelli

For how we live is so far removed from how we ought to live, that he who abandons what is done for what ought to be done, will rather learn to bring about his own ruin rather than his preservation.  A man who wishes to make a profession of goodness in everything must inevitably come to grief among so many who are not good. 

And therefore it is necessary for a prince, who wishes to maintain himself, to learn how not to be good, and to use this knowledge and not use it, according to the necessity of the case.

Whatever his motives, Manchin is clearly willing to allow Republicans to suppress the voting rights of millions of non-Fascist Americans.

During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus, saying it was better to temporarily suspend some liberties than to lose the Union to a treasonous Confederate victory. 

President Joe Biden now faces a similar moment of crisis.

Republicans are working to corrupt the democratic process to reinstall a proven criminal and traitor in the Oval Office. This is no time to “fight” a party of Adolf Hitlers with the appeasement tactics of a Neville Chamberlain.

TWO VIRUSES, ONE CATASTROPHE: PART EIGHT (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 19, 2021 at 12:15 am

SACRIFICE YOUR CHILDREN FOR ME

On July 10, Paula Reid, White House correspondent for CBS News, warned on the PBS program, Washington Week.

“But one of the most significant things out of the administration this week is the fact that Dr. [Deborah] Birx [Coronavirus Response Coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force] said that we really don’t have that much data on COVID in children because the under-10 set is really the least tested.”

Just as the ancient Canaanites sacrificed their children to the god Moloch, so President Donald J. Trump expected his followers—and opponents—to risk their children’s lives for him.  

Molech: Then and Now

A child sacrifice to Moloch

On August 10, CBS News reported:

“Nearly 100,000 children tested positive for the Coronavirus in the last two weeks of July, a new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics finds. Just over 97,000 children tested positive for the Coronavirus from July 16 to July 30, according to the association.”

By October, no vaccine had been invented. Nor had a national system of testing or contact tracing. 

Hospitals began overflowing with COVID cases. Doctors and nurses were overwhelmed with fatigue. Many of them had become COVID victims.

On October 20, more than 70,450 new coronavirus cases were reported in the United States in a day for the first time.

On October 25, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union”: “We are not going to control the pandemic. We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigation areas,”

By October 28, more than 8.8 million Americans had been diagnosed with COVID, and at least 227,673 had died from it.

Meanwhile, Trump kept barnstorming the country in a relentless re-election effort. Although infected with COVID-19 in September, he refused to wear a mask in public. His rallies reflected this same contempt for public health, with most attendees refusing to wear masks and/or socially distance.

Critics dubbed these rallies: “Super-spreader events.”

DECLARING VICTORY OVER CORONAVIRUS

In an October 27 press release from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy., “Advisor to the President” and First Daughter Ivanka Trump noted her father’s signature achievement:

“ENDING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC. From the outset of the COVID019 pandemic, the Administration has taken decisive action to engage scientists and health professionals in academia, industry, and government to understand, treat and defeat the disease.” 

Ivanka Trump has absolutely no scientific or technology background.

* * * * * * * * * *

Donald Trump has spent his life trading on the greed or fear of others. For example: 

  • Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi personally solicited a political contribution from Trump around the same time her office deliberated joining an investigation of alleged fraud at Trump University and its affiliates.
  • After Bondi dropped the Trump University case against Trump, he wrote her a $25,000 check for her re-election campaign. 
  • According to an April 14, 2019 story by ABC News, a nationwide review uncovered at least 36 criminal cases where Trump was invoked in direct connection with violent acts, threats of violence or allegations of assault.
  • In nine cases, attackers hailed Trump in the midst or immediate aftermath of physically assaulting victims. In 10 more cases, perpetrators cheered or defended Trump while taunting or threatening others. And in another 10 cases, Trump and his rhetoric were cited in court to explain a defendant’s violent or threatening behavior.

But in January, 2020, Trump confronted an enemy—to his re-election—that he couldn’t bribe or intimidate.

Unable to apply his trademark solutions, he was forced to improvise one attempted remedy after another. Chief among these:

  • Denial
  • Lies
  • Extortion
  • Propaganda as news
  • Attacking science
  • Reopening the country 
  • Resignation.

Ultimately, the virus—far more than Democratic nominee Joseph Biden—proved his fatal enemy.

Millions of Americans didn’t care that Trump had criminally fired an FBI director and tried to coerce the president of Ukraine to smear Biden. Nor that he had antagonized America’s closest allies while paying homage to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.

But when COVID-19 wiped out their jobs, their children had to stay home because schools were closed, and they couldn’t pay their mortgage, Trump’s “President-for-Life” ambitions were doomed.

One of the harshest—and most poignant—attacks on Donald Trump came on August 17, 2020. It was delivered at the Democratic National Convention by Kristin Urquiza—the daughter of one of Trump’s 2016 supporters.

That supporter, Mark Anthony Urquiza, had died—from COVID-19.

Kristin Urquiza, MPA (she/her) on Twitter: "Yes, I'm boiled over. Thanks for sharing my dads obit. 💔 @MarkedByCovid… "

Kristin Urquiza

In early June, he contracted the disease, shortly after Arizona lifted its stay-at-home order. He visited a karaoke bar with friends—and died, alone, after five days on a ventilator.

“My dad, Mark Anthony Urquiza, should be here today, but he isn’t,” Kristin said during a televised segment. “He had faith in Donald Trump.

“He voted for him, listened to him, believed him and his mouthpieces when they said that Coronavirus was under control and going to disappear; that it was OK to end social distancing rules before it was safe; and that if you had no underlying health conditions, you’d probably be fine.

“My dad was a healthy 65-year-old. His only preexisting condition was trusting Donald Trump, and for that he paid with his life.”   

That, ultimately, will be the real Trump legacy to America.

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