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Posts Tagged ‘GREG ABBOTT’

NAZI PAST IS REPUBLICAN PRESENT

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on June 27, 2022 at 12:10 am

You can’t appreciate the ordeal—and the heroism—of Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke on May 25 if you know nothing about Roland Freisler. 

Not that O’Rourke and Freisler have anything in common.

O’Rourke, 49, represented the Texas 16th Congressional district from 2013 to 2019. A Democrat, he ran for the United States Senate in 2018 and for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020. He is now the Democratic nominee for the 2022 Texas governorship.

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Robert “Beto” O’Rourke 

Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

Freisler (October 30, 1893 – February 3, 1945) was a German Nazi jurist, judge and politician who served as the State Secretary of the Reich Ministry of Justice from 1934 to 1942 and President of the People’s Court from 1942 to 1945.

His mastery of legal texts, verbal force and fanatical commitment to Nazi ideology made him the most-feared judge in Nazi Germany.  He was an admirer of Andrei Vyshinsky, the chief prosecutor of the Stalinist purge trials, and reportedly copied his demeanor. 

Friesler demanded strict penalties against “race defilement”—sexual relations between “Aryans” and “inferior races”—designating this as “racial treason.”

Between 1942 and 1945, Freisler ordered 5,000 people executed. These included approximately 200 people hanged for alleged involvement in the July 20, 1944, plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler. Ninety per cent of all cases brought before him resulted in death or life imprisonment.

Freisler’s treatment of these defendants was especially brutal and humiliating. During the trial of Erwin von Witzleben, the former field marshal tried to hold up his trousers because he had been given oversized and beltless clothing. Freisler yelled at him: “You dirty old man, why do you keep fiddling with your trousers?”

On February 3, 1945, an American bombing raid on Berlin forced Freisler to adjourn proceedings and order the prisoners before him be taken to an air raid shelter. But he stayed behind to gather files before leaving.

A bomb struck the court building, and while Freisler hurriedly gathered his documents, a masonry column crushed him. He died instantly, and his flattened remains were found beneath the rubble.

Bundesarchiv Bild 183-J03238, Roland Freisler.jpg

Roland Freisler 

Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-J03238 / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

Among the files he clutched was that of Fabian von Schlabrendorff, a member of the July 20 plot who faced execution. Because Freisler died, Schlabrendorff, survived the war.

When Freisler was brought to Lützow Hospital, a worker commented: “It is God’s verdict.”

Now, fast forward 77 years to a different country—but the same Fascistic mentality.

On May 24, 2022, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, armed with an AR-15 assault rifle, entered Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. He shut himself inside two adjoining classrooms and fatally shot 19 students and two teachers and wounded 17 other people. 

He remained in the school for more than an hour before members of the United States Border Patrol Tactical Unit fatally shot him.

The next day, Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott staged a press conference in Uvalde. Joining him were Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, House Speaker Dade Phelan, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Texas United States Senators John Cormyn and Ted Cruz.

As always happens after a gun massacre, the assembled Republicans blamed it on everything but the ready availability of military-style firearms to virtually anyone—including criminals, terrorists and the mentally ill.

“Inevitably when there’s a murder of this kind, you see politicians try to politicize it, you see Democrats and a lot of folks in the media whose immediate solution is to try to restrict the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens,” Ted Cruz told reporters. “That doesn’t work. It’s not effective. It doesn’t prevent crime.”

Paxton similarly rejected any effort at gun control: “I’d much rather have law-abiding citizens armed and trained so that they can respond when something like this happens because it’s not going to be the last time.”

This totally ignored the fact that armed Texas police, knowing they were facing a man armed with an AR-15 assault rifle, waited more than an hour to enter the school.

O’Rourke was having none of it. He had become outraged about gun violence after a 2019 mass shooting in his hometown, El Paso, killed 23 people.

About 15 minutes after Abbott began speaking to the media and fellow Republicans onstage, O’Rourke moved to the third row of the Uvalde High School auditorium. When Abbott concluded his comments and introduced Patrick, O’Rourke rose and walked to the stage and spoke directly to Abbott. 

Beto O'Rourke confronts Gov. Greg Abbott at news conference on Uvalde, Texas school shooting - YouTube

“The time to stop the next shooting is right now, and you are doing nothing,” O’Rourke said. “You are offering up nothing. You said this was not predictable. This was totally predictable when you choose not to do anything.” 

Republicans onstage furiously reacted.

Cruz: “Sit down and don’t play this stunt.”

Patrick: “You’re out of line and an embarrassment.”

Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin: “I can’t believe that you’re a sick son of a bitch that would come to a deal like this to make a political issue.” 

Police escorted O’Rourke out of the room. Just as some defendants had dared to warn Freisler he would face trial for war crimes, O’Rourke had a similar warning for Abbott:

“This is on you until you choose to do something different,” O’Rourke said, as he was escorted out of the room.

“This will continue to happen. Somebody needs to stand up for the children of this state or they will be continue to be killed just like they were killed in Uvalde yesterday.”

It remains to be seen whether history will hold Greg Abbott as accountable for mass deaths as it has Roland Freisler.

WANT TO FRIGHTEN DONALD TRUMP? HERE’S HOW: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on December 10, 2021 at 12:19 am

…A truly great man is ever the same under all circumstances. And if his fortune varies, exalting him at one moment and oppressing him at another, he himself never varies, but always preserves a firm courage, which is so closely interwoven with his character that everyone can readily see that the fickleness of fortune has no power over him.
The conduct of weak men is very different. Made vain and intoxicated by good fortune, they attribute their success to merits which they do not possess. And this makes them odious and insupportable to all around them. And when they have afterwards to meet a reverse of fortune, they quickly fall into the other extreme, and become abject and vile.
—N
iccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses

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Niccolo Machiavelli

Donald Trump—as a businessman and President—has relied on bribes and intimidation to attain his ends. 

But when he’s been confronted by men and women who can’t be bribed or intimidated, he has reacted with rage and frustration. 

  • Trump boasted that he “never” settled cases out of court. But New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman pressed fraud claims against the real estate mogul’s counterfeit Trump University—and Trump settled the case out of court for $25 million rather than take the stand.
  • On May 17, 2017, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed former FBI Director Robert S. Mueller to investigate links between Russian Intelligence agents and the 2016 Trump Presidential campaign. 
  • Upon learning of his appointment, Trump wailed: “Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I’m fucked.” 
  • “How could you let this happen, Jeff?” Trump demanded of Jeff Sessions, his Attorney General. “You were supposed to protect me. Everyone tells me if you get one of these independent counsels, it ruins your presidency. It takes years and years and I won’t be able to do anything. This is the worst thing that ever happened to me.”
  • Throughout Mueller’s probe, Trump hurled repeated insults at him via Twitter and press conferences. He also called on his shills within Fox News and the Republican party to attack Mueller’s integrity and investigative methods.
  • But aides convinced him that firing Mueller would be rightly seen as obstruction of justice—and thus grounds for impeachment. So he never dared go that far.

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Robert Mueller

Perhaps the key to Trump’s innermost fear can be found in a work of fiction—in this case, the 1996 historical novel, The Friends of Pancho Villa, by James Carlos Blake. 

The book depicts the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920) and its most famous revolutionary, Francisco “Pancho” Villa. it’s told from the viewpoint of Rodolfo Fierro, Villa’s most feared executioner. In one day, for example, Fierro—using two revolvers—executed 300 captured Federale soldiers.

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As in history, Blake’s Fierro presides over the execution of David Berlanga, a journalist who had dared criticize the often loutish behavior of Villa’s men in a restaurant.

On Villa’s command, Fierro approaches Berlanga in a Mexico City restaurant and orders: “Come with me.”

Standing against a barracks wall, Berlanga lights a cigar and requests permission to finish it. He then proceeds to smoke it with such a steady hand that its unbroken ash extends almost four inches.

The cigar finished, the ash still unbroken, Berlanga drops the butt to the ground and says calmly: “I’m ready.” 

Then the assembled firing squad does its work.

Later, Fierro is so shaken by Berlanga’s sheer fearlessness that he seeks an explanation for it. Sitting in a cantina, he lights a cigar and tries to duplicate Berlanga’s four-inch length.

But his hand shakes—and the best he can do is less than three inches. He concludes that Berlanga used a trick—but he can’t figure it out. 

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Rodolfo Fierro

It had to be a trick, Fierro insists, because, if it wasn’t, there were only two other explanations for such a calm demeanor in the face of impending death. 

The first was insanity. But Fierro had studied Berlanga’s eyes and found no madness there.

That leaves only one other explanation: Sheer courage. 

And Fierro can’t accept this, either—because it’s disturbing:

“The power of men like me does not come solely from our ability to kill….No, the true source of our power is so obvious it sometimes goes unnoticed for what it is: our power comes from other men’s lack of courage.

“There is even less courage in this world than there is talent for killing. Men like me rule because most men are faint of heart in the shadow of death. 

“But a man brave enough to control his fear of being killed, control it so well that no tremor reaches his fingers and no sign shows in his eyes…well. Such a man cannot be ruled, he can only be killed.”

Throughout his life, Trump has relied on bribery and intimidation. He well understands the power of greed and fear over most people.

What he doesn’t understand—and truly fears—is that some people cannot be bought or frightened. 

People like Elliot Ness. Like Robert Mueller. And like New York Attorney General Letitia James, who is now investigating the Trump Organization for both civil and criminal violations of the law.

WANT TO FRIGHTEN DONALD TRUMP? HERE’S HOW: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on December 9, 2021 at 12:24 am

On July 14, 2019, then-President Donald Trump unleashed a brutal Twitter attack on four Democratic members of the House of Representatives who had harshly criticized his anti-immigration policies:

“So interesting to see “Progressive” Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly……

“….and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how…. 

“….it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!”  

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Donald Trump

The Democrats—all female, and all non-white—were:

  • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York;
  • Rashida Tlaib of Michigan;
  • Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and
  • Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.

Of the Congresswomen that Trump singled out:

  • Cortez was born in New York City.
  • Tlaib was born in Detroit, Michigan. 
  • Pressley was born in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Only Omar was born outside the United States—in Somalia. And she became an American citizen in 2000 when she was 17 years old. 

Critics have assailed Trump as racist for implying that these women were not United States citizens. 

Moreover, as members of Congress, they had a legal right to declare “how our government is to be run.” Republicans in the House and Senate vigorously—and often viciously—asserted that right during the Presidency of Barack Obama.

Ocasio-Cortez quickly struck back on Twitter on the same day: You are angry because you don’t believe in an America where I represent New York 14, where the good people of Minnesota elected , where fights for Michigan families, where champions little girls in Boston.

“You are angry because you can’t conceive of an America that includes us. You rely on a frightened America for your plunder.

“You won’t accept a nation that sees healthcare as a right or education as a #1 priority, especially where we’re the ones fighting for it. Yet here we are.”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, official portrait, 116th Congress.jpg

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

But then followed the most significant part of Cortez’ reply:

“But you know what’s the rub of it all, Mr. President? On top of not accepting an America that elected us, you cannot accept that we don’t fear you, either.

“You can’t accept that we will call your bluff & offer a positive vision for this country. And that’s what makes you seethe.”

“You cannot accept that we don’t fear you, either.”

For all his adult life, Donald Trump—as a businessman, Presidential candidate and President—has trafficked in bribery and coercion.

Or, as they say in Mexico: “Pan o palo”—“Bread or the stick.”

First bribery: 

  • Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi personally solicited a political contribution from Donald 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, he wrote her a $25,000 check for her re-election campaign. The money came from the Donald J. Trump Foundation.
  • Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton moved to muzzle a former state regulator who says he was ordered in 2010 to drop a fraud investigation into Trump University for political reasons.
  • Paxton’s office issued a cease and desist letter to former Deputy Chief of Consumer Protection John Owens after he made public copies of a 14-page internal summary of the state’s case against Donald Trump for scamming millions from students of his now-defunct real estate seminar.
  • After the Texas case was dropped, Trump cut a $35,000 check to the gubernatorial campaign of then-attorney general and now Texas Governor Greg Abbott.

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Now coercion:

  • Throughout his career as a businessman, Trump forced his employees to sign Non-Disclosure Agreements, threatening them with lawsuits if they revealed secrets of his greed and/or criminality.
  • In 2016. USA Today found that Trump was involved in over 3,500 lawsuits during the previous 30 years: “At least 60 lawsuits, along with hundreds of liens, judgments, and other government filings” were from contractors claiming they got stiffed.
  • On March 16, 2016, as a Republican Presidential candidate, Trump warned Republicans that if he didn’t win the GOP nomination in July, his supporters would literally riot: “I think you’d have riots. I think you would see problems like you’ve never seen before. I think bad things would happen, I really do. I wouldn’t lead it, but I think bad things would happen.”
  • An NBC reporter summed it up as: “The message to Republicans was clear: ‘Nice convention you got there. Shame if something happened to it.'”
  • Speaking with Bob Woodward, the legendary Washington Post investigative reporter, Trump confessed: “Real power is—I don’t even want to use the word—fear.”
  • During his Presidential campaign he encouraged Right-wing thugs to attack dissenters at his rallies, even claiming he would pay their legal expenses. 

But when he has confronted men and women who can’t be bribed or intimidated, Trump has reacted with rage and desperation.

WHY THE FETUS FANATICS?

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on September 30, 2021 at 12:12 am

The Right’s war on freedom of choice continues.

On May 19, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed into law a measure that bans abortions in Texas as early as six weeks—before some women know they are pregnant.

It also turns Texans, who pride themselves on their love of freedom, into paid informers on those who get abortions—even in cases of rape and/or incest.

“Our Creator endowed us with the right to life and yet millions of children lose their right to life every year because of abortion,” Abbott said in a bill signing ceremony.

Utterly ignored—by him and millions of other anti-abortion Texans—is this: As of September 1, anyone who legally owns a gun is allowed to carry it in public without a license—or training—in Texas.

Shades of “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral”—Texas style!

So what’s responsible for all this fetus fanaticism?  

First, there is an energized constituency for politicians willing to wave this red flag. Every major Republican Presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan has tapped into this voting bloc. And each has found plenty of votes to be gotten from it.  

Second, many fetus fanatics simply dislike women. They fear and resent the women’s movement, which has given women the right to enter the workforce and compete directly with men.

And what they hate most is the legal right of a woman to avoid becoming pregnant via birth control—or to abort the result of a male’s sperm if they do. They see this as a personal rejection.

The Right is made up overwhelmingly of white males. And many of these men would feel entirely at home with a Christianized version of the Taliban. They long for a world where women meekly cater to their every demand and believe only what their male masters approve for them to believe.

Third, many fetus fanatics are “pro-life” when it comes to fetuses, but hypocritically refuse to support the needs of children from low-income families.

Fourth, many fetus fanatics are “family values” hypocrites.  For example: Representative Scott DesJarlais (R-TN), an anti-abortion, “family values” doctor, had an affair with a patient and later pressured her to get an abortion. He also agreed that his wife should have two abortions.

Scott DesJarlais, Official Portrait, 112th Congress.jpg

Scott DesJarlais

People like this subscribe to a philosophy of: “Do as I say, not as I do.  And if I do it, it’s in the service of a Higher Cause and therefore entirely justified.”

Fifth, many fetus fanatics feel guilty about their own past sexual transgressions—especially if these resulted in pregnancy. And they want to prevent others from living the same life they did.

Some of these people are well-intentioned.  Even so, they usurp unto themselves a God-like right to intrude on the most intimate decisions for others—regardless of what those people may need or want.  

Sixth, many fetus fanatics embrace contradictory goals. On one hand, most of them claim they want to “get government off the backs of the people.” That usually means allowing corporations to pollute, sell dangerous products and treat their employees as slaves.

On the other hand, they want to insert the government into the vagina of every woman. That means empowering State and Federal authorities to prevent women from getting birth control or an abortion—even in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother.  

Seventh, many leaders of the fetus fanatics movement are independently wealthy. This means that even if abortion could be outlawed for the vast majority, they could always bribe a willing doctor—here or abroad—to perform such an operation on their wife, daughter and/or mistress.  For them, there is always an escape clause.  

Eighth, many fetus fanatics are not truly “pro-life.”  They totally oppose abortion under most—-if not all—circumstances. But they also fully support:

  • making military-style assault weapons available to nutcases;
  • capital punishment;
  • going to war for almost any reason;
  • wholesale massacres of wildlife;
  • despoiling of the environment; and/or
  • even nuclear war.

Lucy, the famous cartoon character in Charles Schultz’ “Peanuts” series, once said: “I love humanity.  It’s people I can’t stand.” With fetus fanatics, the line runs: “I love fetuses. Everything else is expendable.”

Ninth, many fetus fanatics believe that since their religion teaches that abortion is wrong, they have a moral duty to enforce that belief on others.

This is especially true for evangelical Christians. These are the same people who condemn Muslims—such as those in Saudi Arabia—for segregating women, forbidding them to drive and forcing them to wear head scarfs or chadors—loose, usually black robes.

Taliban: Islam’s version of the “Right-to-Life” movement

But while they condemn Islamics for their general intolerance of others’ religious beliefs, they lust to impose their own upon those who belong to other churches. Or who belong to no church at all.

Tenth, many fetus fanatics are just as opposed to birth control as they are to abortion. Thus, when Georgia University law student Sandra Fluke asked Congress to require insurance companies to cover birth control, Rush Limbaugh branded her a “slut” and a “prostitute.”

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. 

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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.”

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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. 

TEXANS: GUN MASSACRES YES, ABORTIONS NO

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on June 8, 2021 at 12:14 am

As we leave high school we need to make our voices heard.”

So began the graduation speech of Lake Highlands High School Valedictorian Paxton Smith. It was not the speech she had originally intended go give.  

“Today, I was going to talk about TV and media and content because it’s something that’s very important to me. However, under light of recent events, it feels wrong to talk about anything but what is currently affecting me and millions of other women in this state.”   

Her subject couldn’t have been more timely. Eleven days before students graduated from that Dallas high school, Texas Governor Greg Abbott had signed Texas Senate Bill 8, virtually prohibiting abortions across the state. 

“Recently the heartbeat bill was passed in Texas. Starting in September, there will be a ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, regardless of whether the pregnancy was a result of rape or incest.

“Six weeks. That’s all women get. Most women don’t even realize they’re pregnant by then,” said Smith, 18.

Texas valedictorian Paxton Smith goes viral for her speech about abortion  rights - YouTube

Paxton Smith

“And so, before they have the time to decide if they are emotionally, physically, and financially stable enough to carry out a full-term pregnancy, before they have the chance to decide if they can take on the responsibility of bringing another human being into the world, that decision is made for them by a stranger.

“A decision that will affect the rest of their lives has been made by a stranger.”

Actually, a decision that has been made not only by Governor Abbott but the Republican-dominated Senate and House of Representatives.

Texas currently bans abortion after 20 weeks, but the new law makes the procedure illegal after the first heartbeat can be detected, usually at about six weeks. Most women don’t realize they are pregnant until later.

The bill, as Smith pointed out, makes no exception for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. It also allows individual citizens to sue healthcare workers and anyone else who may have helped a pregnant woman obtain an abortion.

Texans have been at the forefront of those refusing to get vaccinated. They have also been among the fiercest critics of wearing masks to prevent the spread of COVID, shouting “It’s my body!” and demanding that the state “keep your hands” off it.

They have also overwhelmingly supported the National Rifle Association (NRA)—to the extent that the NRA, fleeing a fraud case in New York, intends to reincorporate in Texas.

I have dreams and hopes and ambitions. Every girl graduating today does, and we have spent our entire lives working towards our future. And without our input, and without our consent, our control over that future has been stripped away from us.

“I am terrified that if my contraceptives fail, I am terrified that if I am raped, then my hopes and aspirations and dreams and efforts for my future will no longer matter. I hope that you can feel how gut-wrenching that is. I hope you can feel how dehumanizing it is to have the autonomy over your own body taken away from you.”

Kamala Harris: "Can you think of any laws that give the government the power to make decisions about the male body?" - Kamala Harris: "Can you think of any laws that give

Initially, Smith intended to talk about TV media and content. But the move to ban virtually all abortions in Texas weighed so heavily on her that a week and a half before graduation, she realized she had to change her speech:

“I fully anticipated that if I made the speech, there would be some negative repercussions socially. I thought that graduation was the only place where I was going to reach such a large audience and a group with so many different opinions and backgrounds that I was going to be able to make a speech like that.”

Reaction to her speech has been overwhelmingly positive: “When I gave the speech, I didn’t realize people who weren’t affiliated with LHHS would see it. I’ve been getting hundreds of messages applauding what I said. It’s been shared on almost every platform I can think of. That’s exciting.”

But not everyone was happy with Smith’s exercise of her First Amendment rights. The school district issued a statement that it would review its protocols for student speeches before next year’s graduation:

“All students had to submit their speeches in advance for approval and the principal met with them to make any necessary edits and changes.”

In the past, high school valedictorians have had their microphones cut off for addressing such issues as sexual assault.

Smith, who will continue her education at the University of Texas at Austin, concluded her speech with these words:

And I’m talking about this today, on a day as important as this, on a day honoring 12 years of hard academic work, on a day where we are all gathered together, on a day where you are most inclined to listen to a voice like mine, a woman’s voice, to tell you that this is a problem.

“And it’s a problem that cannot wait. I cannot give up this platform to promote complacency and peace, when there is a war on my body and a war on my rights. A war on the rights of your mothers, a war on the rights of your sisters, a war on the rights of your daughters. We cannot stay silent.”

WHAT FRIGHTENS DONALD TRUMP: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on June 2, 2021 at 12:14 am

…A truly great man is ever the same under all circumstances. And if his fortune varies, exalting him at one moment and oppressing him at another, he himself never varies, but always preserves a firm courage, which is so closely interwoven with his character that everyone can readily see that the fickleness of fortune has no power over him.
The conduct of weak men is very different. Made vain and intoxicated by good fortune, they attribute their success to merits which they do not possess. And this makes them odious and insupportable to all around them. And when they have afterwards to meet a reverse of fortune, they quickly fall into the other extreme, and become abject and vile.
—N
iccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses

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Niccolo Machiavelli

Donald Trump—as a businessman and President—has relied on bribes and intimidation to attain his ends. 

But when he’s been confronted by men and women who can’t be bribed or intimidated, he has reacted with rage and frustration. 

  • Trump boasted that he “never” settled cases out of court. But New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman pressed fraud claims against the real estate mogul’s counterfeit Trump University—and Trump settled the case out of court for $25 million rather than take the stand.
  • On May 17, 2017, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed former FBI Director Robert S. Mueller to investigate links between Russian Intelligence agents and the 2016 Trump Presidential campaign. 
  • Upon learning of his appointment, Trump wailed: “Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I’m fucked.” 
  • “How could you let this happen, Jeff?” Trump demanded of Jeff Sessions, his Attorney General. “You were supposed to protect me. Everyone tells me if you get one of these independent counsels, it ruins your presidency. It takes years and years and I won’t be able to do anything. This is the worst thing that ever happened to me.”
  • Throughout Mueller’s probe, Trump hurled repeated insults at him via Twitter and press conferences. He also called on his shills within Fox News and the Republican party to attack Mueller’s integrity and investigative methods.
  • But aides convinced him that firing Mueller would be rightly seen as obstruction of justice—and thus grounds for impeachment. So he never dared go that far.

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Robert Mueller

Perhaps the key to Trump’s innermost fear can be found in a work of fiction—in this case, the 1996 historical novel, The Friends of Pancho Villa, by James Carlos Blake. 

The book depicts the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920) and its most famous revolutionary, Francisco “Pancho” Villa. it’s told from the viewpoint of Rodolfo Fierro, Villa’s most feared executioner. In one day, for example, Fierro—using two revolvers—executed 300 captured Federale soldiers.

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As in history, Blake’s Fierro presides over the execution of David Berlanga, a journalist who had dared criticize the often loutish behavior of Villa’s men in a restaurant.

On Villa’s command, Fierro approaches Berlanga in a Mexico City restaurant and orders: “Come with me.”

Standing against a barracks wall, Berlanga lights a cigar and requests permission to finish it. He then proceeds to smoke it with such a steady hand that its unbroken ash extends almost four inches.

The cigar finished, the ash still unbroken, Berlanga drops the butt to the ground and says calmly: “I’m ready.” 

Then the assembled firing squad does its work.

Later, Fierro is so shaken by Berlanga’s sheer fearlessness that he seeks an explanation for it. Sitting in a cantina, he lights a cigar and tries to duplicate Berlanga’s four-inch length.

But his hand shakes—and the best he can do is less than three inches. He concludes that Berlanga used a trick—but he can’t figure it out. 

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Rodolfo Fierro

It had to be a trick, Fierro insists, because, if it wasn’t, there were only two other explanations for such a calm demeanor in the face of impending death. 

The first was insanity. But Fierro had studied Berlanga’s eyes and found no madness there.

That leaves only one other explanation: Sheer courage. 

And Fierro can’t accept this, either—because it’s disturbing:

“The power of men like me does not come solely from our ability to kill….No, the true source of our power is so obvious it sometimes goes unnoticed for what it is: our power comes from other men’s lack of courage.

“There is even less courage in this world than there is talent for killing. Men like me rule because most men are faint of heart in the shadow of death. 

“But a man brave enough to control his fear of being killed, control it so well that no tremor reaches his fingers and no sign shows in his eyes…well. Such a man cannot be ruled, he can only be killed.”

Throughout his life, Trump has relied on bribery and intimidation. He well understands the power of greed and fear over most people.

What he doesn’t understand—and truly fears—is that some people cannot be bought or frightened. 

People like Elliot Ness. Like Robert Mueller. And like New York Attorney General Letitia James, who is now investigating the Trump Organization for both civil and criminal violations of the law.

WHAT FRIGHTENS DONALD TRUMP: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on June 1, 2021 at 12:11 am

On July 14, 2019, then-President Donald Trump unleashed a brutal Twitter attack on four Democratic members of the House of Representatives who had harshly criticized his anti-immigration policies:

“So interesting to see “Progressive” Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly……

“….and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how…. 

“….it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!”  

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Donald Trump

The Democrats—all female, and all non-white—were:

  • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York;
  • Rashida Tlaib of Michigan;
  • Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and
  • Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.

Of the Congresswomen that Trump singled out:

  • Cortez was born in New York City.
  • Tlaib was born in Detroit, Michigan. 
  • Pressley was born in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Only Omar was born outside the United States—in Somalia. And she became an American citizen in 2000 when she was 17 years old. 

Critics have assailed Trump as racist for implying that these women were not United States citizens. 

Moreover, as members of Congress, they had a legal right to declare “how our government is to be run.”  Republicans in the House and Senate vigorously—and often viciously—asserted that right during the Presidency of Barack Obama.

Ocasio-Cortez quickly struck back on Twitter on the same day: You are angry because you don’t believe in an America where I represent New York 14, where the good people of Minnesota elected , where fights for Michigan families, where champions little girls in Boston.

“You are angry because you can’t conceive of an America that includes us. You rely on a frightened America for your plunder.

“You won’t accept a nation that sees healthcare as a right or education as a #1 priority, especially where we’re the ones fighting for it. Yet here we are.”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, official portrait, 116th Congress.jpg

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

But then followed the most significant part of Cortez’ reply:

“But you know what’s the rub of it all, Mr. President? On top of not accepting an America that elected us, you cannot accept that we don’t fear you, either.

“You can’t accept that we will call your bluff & offer a positive vision for this country. And that’s what makes you seethe.”

“You cannot accept that we don’t fear you, either.”

For all his adult life, Donald Trump—as a businessman, Presidential candidate and President—has trafficked in bribery and coercion.

Or, as they say in Mexico: “Pan o palo”—“Bread or the stick.”

First bribery: 

  • Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi personally solicited a political contribution from Donald 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, he wrote her a $25,000 check for her re-election campaign. The money came from the Donald J. Trump Foundation.
  • Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton moved to muzzle a former state regulator who says he was ordered in 2010 to drop a fraud investigation into Trump University for political reasons.
  • Paxton’s office issued a cease and desist letter to former Deputy Chief of Consumer Protection John Owens after he made public copies of a 14-page internal summary of the state’s case against Donald Trump for scamming millions from students of his now-defunct real estate seminar.
  • After the Texas case was dropped, Trump cut a $35,000 check to the gubernatorial campaign of then-attorney general and now Texas Governor Greg Abbott.

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Now coercion:

  • Throughout his career as a businessman, Trump forced his employees to sign Non-Disclosure Agreements, threatening them with lawsuits if they revealed secrets of his greed and/or criminality.
  • In 2016. USA Today found that Trump was involved in over 3,500 lawsuits during the previous 30 years: “At least 60 lawsuits, along with hundreds of liens, judgments, and other government filings” were from contractors claiming they got stiffed.
  • On March 16, 2016, as a Republican Presidential candidate, Trump warned Republicans that if he didn’t win the GOP nomination in July, his supporters would literally riot: “I think you’d have riots. I think you would see problems like you’ve never seen before. I think bad things would happen, I really do. I wouldn’t lead it, but I think bad things would happen.”
  • An NBC reporter summed it up as: “The message to Republicans was clear: ‘Nice convention you got there. Shame if something happened to it.'”
  • Speaking with Bob Woodward, the legendary Washington Post investigative reporter, Trump confessed: “Real power is—I don’t even want to use the word—fear.”
  • During his Presidential campaign he encouraged Right-wing thugs to attack dissenters at his rallies, even claiming he would pay their legal expenses. 

But when he has confronted men and women who can’t be bribed or intimidated, Trump has reacted with rage and desperation.

IN MICHIGAN, STUPIDITY RULES, COVID-19 REIGNS: PART FOUR (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on April 15, 2021 at 12:05 am

On October 2,  2020, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that ruled Michigan’s Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer had no authority to issue or renew executive orders relating to Covid-19 beyond April 30.

On October 12, the Republican-dominated Court denied Whitmer’s request to delay the effect of an opinion that ruled her stay-at-home executive orders on the coronavirus pandemic were unconstitutional.

In its order, the Court wrote: “Our decision today….leaves open many avenues for our Governor and Legislature to work together in a cooperative spirit and constitutional manner to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Major cases likely to be decided by Michigan Supreme Court this week | Michigan Radio

Michigan Supreme Court

This ignored the fact that Whitmer faced an openly hostile Republican legislature—whose members acted in lockstep with the agenda of President Donald Trump. 

The Court also ignored that without significant changes in popular behavior—such as those mandated by Whitmer’s stay-at-home and wear-a-mask-in-public orders—the Coronavirus would run rampant through the state.

On November 16, Whitmer accused Republican leaders in the Michigan legislature of offering no answers for how to combat a new surge in COVID-19.

“When I see the criticisms, it just doesn’t seem particularly serious because they haven’t done anything and they haven’t offered up anything. In fact, I think that they have recklessly endangered their colleagues and all of you.”  

Essential credit union employees in Mich. eligible for education perks | Credit Union Journal | American Banker

Gretchen Whitmer

“The Senate Republicans still have faith in our fellow citizens and encourage them to protect themselves and others by adhering to the practices we know can help combat the spread of this insidious virus: washing hands, maintaining distance, and wearing a mask when it’s appropriate,” said Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey. 

This ignored the reality that, without significant penalties for irresponsible behavior, those who complied with such precautions would be at the mercy of those who refused to do so.

On March 11, 2021, the Republican-controlled Michigan Senate authorized a lawsuit against Whitmer, setting up a potential legal fight over millions of dollars in COVID-19 relief funds tied to limits on the administration’s power.

The lawsuit seeks to limit the state Department of Health and Human Services’ epidemic orders to 28 days and shift decisions on school closures from the state department to local health agencies.

Whitmer opposes the bills. 

It “defies common sense that the Legislature would try to block money from going to schools to help children learn in-person safely,” said Bobby Leddy, Whitmer’s spokesman.

“Governor Whitmer will do everything she can to ensure that funding is available to families, small businesses, schools and communities across the state because we can’t afford to wait.”

Michigan’s surge is a combination of two factors: The spread of the B.1.1.7 variant combined with people refusing to “mask up,” socially distance and keep businesses closed until enough residents are vaccinated. 

It takes about two weeks after the Pfizer and Moderna second doses and about two weeks after the Johnson & Johnson vaccine before people are immune. Meanwhile, the incubation period, which is the time from when you are exposed to when you are infected with coronavirus, is four to five days.

With the administration of President Joe Biden ramping up COVID vaccinations as that of Trump never did, Whitmer has pressed for more vaccine doses.

But on April 12, 2021, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that wouldn’t solve the problem:

“When you have an acute situation, extraordinary number of cases like we have in Michigan, the answer is not necessarily to give vaccine. In fact, we know that the vaccine will have a delayed response.

“The answer to that is to really close things down, to go back to our basics, to go back to where we were last spring, last summer, and to shut things down.”

Which is precisely what the Republican-dominated Michigan legislature fervently opposes.

On January 28, 2021, House Speaker Jason Wentworth said his caucus wanted students back in classrooms as quickly as possible. And Wentworth and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey criticized a 25% capacity limit Whitmer’s administration had put in place for restaurants and bars once they reopened for indoor dining on February 1.

By January 28, 83,240 Americans had died of COVID, surpassing the previous record set in December, 2020, of 77,486 deaths.

And what is happening in Michigan—the premature re-opening of businesses and the widespread refusal of citizens  to mask-up and socially distance—is happening throughout the rest of the United States. 

As a result, “The Fourth Surge Is Upon Us. This Time, It’s Different,” warns a March 30 story in The Atlantic.  Its sub-headline states: “A deadlier and more transmissible variant has taken root, but now we have the tools to stop it if we want.”

Several governors—such as Ron DeSantis of Florida and Greg Abbott of Texas—have thrown caution to the winds and refused to mandate mask wearing and social distancing. In doing so, they have condemned untold numbers of their fellow citizens to an early death.

Other governors—such as Gretchen Whitmer and Andrew Cuomo of New York—have aggressively fought COVID-19 with all the weapons at their command. 

When the history of the COVID epidemic is written, it is the latter who will be remembered as heroes in a time of fear and loss.

IN MICHIGAN, STUPIDITY RULES, COVID-19 REIGNS: PART THREE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on April 14, 2021 at 12:23 am

From the moment Michigan’s Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued her stay-at-home order to stem the COVID-19 pandemic in Michigan, she became a target for President Donald Trump.

On September 29, Trump faced off with his Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden, in the first of three scheduled Presidential debates.

When Trump refused to condemn white supremacists, moderator Chris Wallace challenged him to do so. 

“What do you want me to call them?” asked Trump. “Give me a name.”

Biden suggested the Proud Boys, a violent Right-wing group.

Trump’s response: “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by. But I’ll tell you what, I’ll tell you what, somebody’s got to do something about Antifa and the Left, because this is not a Right-wing problem.” 

President Trump's Proud Boys comments stir up Kalamazoo residents | WWMT

Donald Trump

On October 8, 2020, 13 Right-wingers were arrested and charged in a terrorism plot to kidnap Whitmer. The terrorists intended to overthrow several state governments that they “believe are violating the US Constitution,” including the government of Michigan, according to a federal criminal complaint.

Six of the would-be kidnappers were charged federally with conspiracy to kidnap. Seven others associated with the militia group “Wolverine Watchmen,” were charged by the state. 

Interviewed on TV that afternoon, Whitmer said: “I knew this job would be hard, but I’ll be honest, I never could’ve imagined anything like this.

“Just last week, the President of the United States stood before the American people and refused to condemn white supremacists and hate groups like these two Michigan militia groups.

“‘Stand back and stand by,’ he told them….Hate groups heard the President’s words not as a rebuke, but as a rallying cry, as a call to action. When our leaders speak, their words matter. They carry weight.” 

The scheme included plans to overthrow several state governments that the suspects “believe are violating the US Constitution,” including the government of Michigan, according to a federal criminal complaint.

Bond unlikely for suspects in Whitmer kidnapping case

Right-wing suspects in Whitmer kidnapping plot

Their chief grievance: Whitmer’s stay-at-home order to control the fast-moving spread of Coronavirus throughout Michigan. By no small coincidence, that happened to be the theme of Trump’s attacks on her.

The FBI learned of the plot in early 2020 through a social media group of individuals. Agents persuaded a confidential informant to travel to Dublin, Ohio, on June 6 for a meeting with about 16 plotters.

“Several members talked about murdering ‘tyrants’ or ‘taking’ a sitting governor,” according to a complaint. 

Needing reinforcements, one of the conspirators, Adam Fox, contacted a Michigan-based militia group.

”…Fox said he needed ‘200 men’ to storm the Capitol building in Lansing and take hostages, including Whitmer, said the criminal complaint.

Fox said they would kidnap and try Whitmer for “treason” before the November 2020 elections.

The verdict could only have been death.

On June 20, the conspirators met at Fox’s business in Grand Rapids. 

FBI agent injured in fatal Dexter crash - mlive.com

The FBI seal

The attendees discussed plans for assaulting the Michigan State Capitol, countering law enforcement first responders, and using ‘Molotov cocktails’ to destroy police vehicles.

On January 6, 2021, thousands of Trump’s followers would assault the United States Capitol Building—to stop the counting of Electoral College votes certain to elect former Vice President Joe Biden over Trump.

In a video Fox live-streamed to a private Facebook group, he complained about the judicial system and the state of Michigan controlling the opening of gyms.

During one meeting, Fox said: “Snatch and grab, man. Grab the fuckin’ Governor. Just grab the bitch. Because at that point, we do that, dude—it’s over.” 

“Have one person go to her house. Knock on the door and when she answers it just cap [shoot] her,” one of the men said in an encrypted group chat.

Trump’s response to the kidnapping plot swiftly followed: “Governor Whitmer of Michigan has done a terrible job,” he tweeted. “She locked down her state for everyone, except her husband’s boating activities.”

In an interview on CNN on October 8, Whitmer said: “You know, the fact that after a plot to kidnap and to kill me, this is what they come out with. They start attacking me, as opposed to what good, decent people would do, [which] is to check in and say, ‘Are you OK?’” 

Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden telephoned her immediately to express his sympathy after the announcement of the failed plot.

“I think that tells you everything that’s at stake in this election,” Whitmer said. “It tells you everything you need to know about the character of the two people on this ballot that we have to choose from in a few weeks.”

Joe Biden presidential portrait.jpg

Joe Biden

Having escaped death, Whitmer soon suffered a major defeat.

On October 2,  the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that ruled Whitmer had no authority to issue or renew executive orders relating to Covid-19 beyond April 30.

“Today’s Supreme Court ruling, handed down by a narrow majority of Republican justices, is deeply disappointing, and I vehemently disagree with the court’s interpretation of the Michigan Constitution,” Whitmer responded in a statement.

“Right now, every state and the federal government have some form of declared emergency. With this decision, Michigan will become the sole outlier at a time when the Upper Peninsula is experiencing rates of COVID infection not seen in our state since April.”

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