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AMERICA: TRYING OUT “THE GERMAN EXPERIMENT”

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on August 24, 2020 at 12:17 am

On November 8, 2016, millions of ignorant, hate-filled, Right-wing Americans elected Donald Trump—a man reflecting their own hate and ignorance—to the Presidency. 

Yet Americans had fewer excuses for turning to a Fascistic style of government than the Germans did.

Adolf Hitler, joined the National Socialist German Workers (Nazi) Party in 1919—the year after World War 1 ended.

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Adolf Hitler

It took him 14 years to win appointment to Chancellor (the equivalent of Attorney General) of Germany in 1933.

In 1923, he staged a coup attempt in Bavaria—which was quickly and brutally put down by police. He was arrested and sentenced to less than a year in prison.

After that, Hitler decided that winning power through violence was no longer an option. He must win it through election—or appointment.

He repeatedly ran for the highest office in Germany—President—but never got a clear majority in a free election.

When the 1929 Depression struck Germany, the fortunes of Hitler’s Nazi party rose as the life savings of ordinary Germans fell. Streets echoed with bloody clashes between members of Hitler’s Nazi Stormtroopers and those of the German Communist Party.

Germany seemed on the verge of collapsing.

Germans desperately looked for a leader—a Fuhrer–who could somehow deliver them from the threat of financial ruin and Communist takeover.

In early 1933, members of his own cabinet persuaded aging German president, Paul von Hindenburg, that only Hitler’s appointment as Chancellor could do this.

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Paul von Hindenburg

Hindenburg was reluctant to do so. He considered Hitler a dangerous radical. But he allowed himself to be convinced that, by putting Hitler in the Cabinet, he could be “boxed in” and thus controlled.

So, on January 30, 1933, he appointed Adolf Hitler Chancellor of Germany.

On August 2, 1934, Hindenburg died, and Hitler immediately assumed the titles–and duties—of the offices of Chancellor and President. His rise to total power was now complete.

In 2015, Donald Trump declared his candidacy for President.

Now, consider this:

  • The country was technically at war in the Middle East–but the fate of the United States was not truly threatened, as it had been during the Civil War.
  • There was no draft; if you didn’t know someone in the military, you didn’t care about the casualties taking place.
  • Nor were these conflicts—in Iraq and Afghanistan–imposing domestic shortages on Americans, as World War II had.
  • Thanks to government loans from President Barack Obama, American capitalism had been saved from its own excesses during the George W. Bush administration.
  • Employment was up. CEOs were doing extremely well.
  • In contrast to the corruption that had plagued the administration of Ronald Reagan, whom Republicans idolize, there had been no such scandals during the Obama Presidency.
  • Nor had there been any large-scale terrorist attacks on American soil—as there had on 9/11 under President George W. Bush.

Yet—not 17 months after announcing his candidacy for President—enough Americans fervently embraced Donald Trump to give him the most powerful position in the country and the world.

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Donald Trump

The message of Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign had been one of hope—“Yes, We Can!”

That of Donald Trump’s campaign was one of hatred toward everyone who was not an avid Trump supporter: “No, You Can’t!”

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

They knew that demographics were steadily working against them. Birthrates among non-whites were rising. By 2045, whites would make up less than 50 percent of the American population.

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

Then came 2016—and the possibility that a black President might actually be followed by a woman: Hillary Clinton. And the thought of a woman dictating to men was simply too much to bear.

On August 17, 2020, former First Lady Michelle Obama, speaking at the Democratic National Convention, summed up the legacies of the Obama and Trump administrations:

“When my husband left office with Joe Biden at his side, we had a record-breaking stretch of job creation. We’d secured the right to health care for 20,000,000 people. We were respected around the world, rallying our allies to confront climate change. And our leaders had worked hand-in-hand with scientists to help prevent an Ebola outbreak from becoming a global pandemic. 

“Four years later, the state of this nation is very different. More than [170,000] people have died, and our economy is in shambles because of a virus that this president downplayed for too long. It has left millions of people jobless. Too many have lost their health care; too many are struggling to take care of basic necessities like food and rent

“Too many communities have been left in the lurch to grapple with whether and how to open our schools safely. Internationally, we’ve turned our back, not just on agreements forged by my husband, but on alliances championed by presidents like Reagan and Eisenhower.”

All of this should be remembered the next time an American blames Germans for their lethal embrace of Adolf Hitler.

TWO FACES OF TERROR: 9/11 AND COVID-19: PART FOUR (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 23, 2020 at 2:00 am

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has urged Americans to keep at least six feet from their fellows. And most of the nation’s governors have issued stay-at-home orders that ban large gatherings—including visits to parks and beaches.

Yet President Donald Trump has openly encouraged defiance of those orders. On April 17 he issued a series of tweets to his supporters:

“LIBERATE MINNESOTA!”

“LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” 

“LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!”

All these states have Democratic governors. Their residents are being urged to stay indoors, wear masks when they venture outside and keep a six-feet distance between themselves and others. 

These states have been targeted for Right-wing protests—featuring large numbers of men and women standing close together, with most of them not wearing masks. They claim their “freedoms” are being infringed upon.

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, hat and outdoor

Writer Steven Pressfield summed up the immorality of these protests: “Why are we asked to wear surgical or face masks in public, to practice social distancing and to observe self-quarantining? Because these practices are not for the individual alone but for the protection of the whole [community].”

Washington Governor Jay Inslee tweeted: “The president’s statements this morning encourage illegal and dangerous acts. He is putting millions of people in danger of contracting COVID-19.

“His unhinged rantings and calls for people to ‘liberate’ states could also lead to violence. We’ve seen it before.”

After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C. President George W. Bush publicly denounced harassment of American Muslims: “Muslim Americans make an incredibly valuable contribution to our country. They need to be treated with respect.”

But Trump has openly called for public—and illegal—defiance of the nation’s governors and the health experts of his own administration. Meanwhile, the United States has 855,255 Coronavirus cases—and 47,973 deaths.

During Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign, he did—for Republicans—the unthinkable: He openly blamed Bush for 9/11.

“He was president, okay?” Trump said on Bloomberg Television. “Blame him or don’t blame him, but he was president. The World Trade Center came down during his reign.”

But now Trump holds the Presidency, with more than 47,000 Americans dead of the virus—after he spent two months dismissing as a threat. 

On March 13, PBS NewsHour’s reporter Yamiche Alcindor bluntly asked Trump if he bore any responsibility for the surge in cases. Even more embarrassing for Trump, she noted that he had gutted the White House’s Pandemic Office set up by his predecessor, Barack Obama.

Trump’s reply: “I don’t take any responsibility at all.”

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So much for the public side of COVID-19.  Now for the personal.

At first, it was thought that only the elderly—those 65 and older—were the targets of the virus. Nursing homes started filling with corpses.  By April 18, 6,900 nursing home occupants had died across the nation.

But then its victims started including those in their 20s to 40s—and even teenagers. An Illinois infant became the nation’s youngest casualty.

Schools closed across the country. Parents found themselves living with their children fulltime. Schools quickly moved to provide online learning via the Internet. In Colorado, computers were provided for children whose families could not afford them. But many students in other states were not so lucky.

People who must “fort up” carry a huge emotional burden—especially children, who by nature are highly sociable. They miss their friends and fear that their lives will never be normal again.

But even adults feel similar fears—especially those who have lost their jobs because their companies have shut down. Will an administration dedicated to bailing out wealthy organizations—like cruise ship companies and luxury hotels—care about providing them with life-saving subsidies?

At greatest risk are those whose jobs demand extensive contact with the public—firefighters, janitors, garbage men, police, store clerks (especially in high-volume stores).

At the top of the list are nurses and doctors who treat COVID-19 patients. Many of them do so without Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs)—thanks to Trump’s “you’re-on-your-own” attitude and feuding with governors he feels don’t appreciate him enough.

Each person who leaves home must deal with fear in his or her own way. Some, taking “the stiff upper lip” approach refuse to openly admit the fear that constantly gnaws at them. Others are entirely willing to confess it and refuse to leave home except when forced to. And there are those who seem to dare the virus to take them.

Each person knows there are countless ways to become accidentally exposed to the virus. You can:

  • Put on your face mask wrong;
  • Be forced by sheer numbers of people to violate the “six-feet-apart” rule;
  • Take off your mask when you’re home and, before thoroughly washing your hands, involuntarily touch your face; 
  • Touch, with virus-contaminated hands, doorknobs, light switches, dishware when you return home.

The last time the United States faced a pandemics was 100 years ago—the Spanish influenza. Raging from January, 1918 to December, 1920, it infected 500 million people worldwide. Estimates of those killed range from 17 to 100 million. Of these, 675,000 were Americans. 

With a vaccine for COVID-19 at least a year away, Americans—and the rest of the world—can only take the best precautions they can. 

TWO FACES OF TERROR: 9/11 AND COVID-19: PART THREE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 22, 2020 at 12:27 am

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, going to the supermarket was a routine matter.

You assumed—usually correctly—that those items you wanted would be in stock. Then you would find and load them into your car.

But post-COVID-19 shoppers face a totally different world. Much of the time store shelves are completely bare, as if a marauding army has cleaned them out.

In this case, that “army” consists of your fellow Americans. And their insatiable, fear-driven buying frenzy snapped up the following products as quickly as store clerks could restock shelves:

Week 1: Hand sanitizers, soaps and disinfectants.

Week 2: Toilet paper and paper towels.

Weeks 3 and 4: Spiral hams and baking yeast. 

Week 5: Hair clippers and hair dye. 

Those who could afford to shop at grocery stores—and find what they needed—were the lucky ones.

Increasingly, tens of thousands of Americans were forced to turn to food banks to keep their families alive.

On April 9, the San Antonio Food Bank aided about 10,000 households in a record-setting giveaway at a South Side flea market. Its drive-thru was the fourth such event for the Food Bank since March 31.

In biggest turnout yet, 10,000 hit hard by economic effects of ...

Motorists lined up to receive help from food bank

About 6,000 households preregistered for the food distribution on the Food Bank’s website. But thousands more showed up, hoping to put something on their tables.

Similar scenes occurred at food banks across the United States.

According to Feeding America, a national network of food banks, one in seven Americans relies on a local food bank to eat. Statistics from the U.S. Department of Agriculture reveal that 11.8 percent of Americans are food insecure. 

But those who don’t need food banks face a serious question: “Is it better to order groceries or go to the store?”

A March 27 article in TIME addresses this and several other issues. 

According to “Is It Safe to Go to the Grocery Store?”: “If you can afford to, it’s best to order food online, experts say. Delivery services dramatically reduce your contact with other people: you pay online, it’s packaged elsewhere and the food is left outside your door.”

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) spokesperson told TIME that “[currently] there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food or food packaging.”

About CDC

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

But Jared Baeten, the vice dean of the School of Public Health and professor of global health, medicine and epidemiology at the University of Washington, advises that “for complete risk reduction, you might want to clean off your groceries,” while making sure to not get hazardous chemicals on what you eat. 

Dr. Lauren Sauer, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, says your primary concern while shopping should be the risk of contracting the virus from other people, not surfaces. She also warns that “not everyone is going to be respectful of that six feet” of social distancing recommended by the CDC. If you see a crowded aisle, skip it or wait for people to leave.

A major casualty of COVID-19 has been the restaurant industry.

Forget about dining out at leisure: Restaurants have been closed across the country. Many of them still offer take-out—provided you can get there to pick up your order. But some that would have never dreamed of delivering their fare have hired platoons of drivers. 

Another business that’s suffering badly is taxi services.

Fewer people are out on the streets. There are two reasons for this:

  1. Many people simply fear leaving their homes; and
  2. Stay-at-home orders by governors are restricting travel except for the most urgent needs.

So taxi drivers are hurting, making only a pittance of what they formerly made.

But there are risks for those who take cabs or buses.

Some cab drivers are reportedly sick with COVID-19 but, desperate for money, continue to haul passengers in extremely close confinement.

And while the CDC has urged Americans to keep at least six feet from their fellows, it’s impossible to do this on a crowded bus. Moreover, you can’t be certain that the seat you’re occupying hasn’t been sneezed or coughed on by a COVID-19 carrying passenger.

The White House and all prominent public health officials have urged people across the country to stay at home as much as possible to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus.

But as late as March 25, governors of five states—Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota—had refused to issue lockdown orders for their residents. Three states issued only partial measures. 

And the Right—headed by President Donald Trump—has erupted in outrage at being expected to show concern for their fellow Americans.

On April 15, Trump issued a series of tweets, calling on his supporters to “LIBERATE” Minnesota, Michigan and Virginia.

It’s no coincidence that all these states are headed by Democratic governors.And have been the targets of public protests by Right-wingers against stay-at-home orders.

Asked whether those states should lift their stay-at-home orders, Trump said, “No, but elements of what they’ve done are too much. …It’s too tough.”

TWO FACES OF TERROR: 9/11 AND COVID-19: PART TWO (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 21, 2020 at 12:11 am

One of the biggest differences between the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the COVID-19 pandemic is this: 

After 9/11, Americans drew strength from each other.  During Coronavirus, Americans remain isolated and forced to rely on their own resources. 

This has its origins at the top—with President Donald Trump.

Like Adolf Hitler, Trump likes to pit individuals and organizations against each other. Hitler, for example, would assign several agencies to tackle the same problem: “That way, the stronger one gets the job done,” he told his architect, Albert Speer.

This creates needless duplication of efforts and wasted resources. But it ensures that Trump—like Hitler—remains the final voice of authority, since so many others are competing for his favor and direction. 

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Donald Trump

This has not, however, worked out well for the 50 states that make up the United States of America.

During the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt intervened powerfully to ensure that all Americans received the help they needed.

Trump has made it clear that each state is responsible for securing its needed supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) for its doctors and nurses aiding Coronavirus patients. This has resulted in a dog-eat-dog atmosphere of cutthroat competition and scarcity, with Americans not only fighting the virus but each other. 

Even worse: Trump and Republicans are using a deadly plague as a weapon against those Americans they hate.  

On March 26, during an interview on Fox News, Trump blamed the failures of his administration’s response to Coronavirus on Democratic state governors like Andrew Cuomo (NY), Jay Inslee (WA), and Gretchen Whitmer (MI).

On March 27, during his press briefing, Trump said he told Vice President Mike Pence—who’s officially in charge of the White House’s response effort—to not call Inslee and Whitmer because they weren’t “appreciative” enough of his efforts.

Trump said this even as hospitals in each of their states were being overwhelmed with Coronavirus patients.

“I tell him—I mean I’m a different type of person— I say, ‘Mike, don’t call the governor in Washington, you’re wasting your time with him. Don’t call the woman in Michigan,’” Trump said. “If they don’t treat you right, I don’t call.”

Trump said that when people criticized him, they were criticizing the federal government: “When they’re not appreciative to me, they’re not appreciative to the Army Corps, they’re not appreciative to FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency]. It’s not right.” 

Trump also attacked Whitmer on Right-wing Fox News’ “Sean Hannity Show”: “I don’t know if she knows what’s going on, but all she does is sit there and blame the federal government.” 

That same day—March 27—Whitmer told a Michigan radio station: “What I’ve gotten back is that vendors with whom we’ve procured contracts—they’re being told not to send stuff to Michigan. It’s really concerning. I reached out to the White House last night and asked for a phone call with the president, ironically at the time this stuff was going on.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (cropped).jpg

Gretchen Whitmer

A March 29 story in the Washington Monthly sheds light on what lay behind Whitmer’s inability to secure desperately-needed ventilators from her longtime vendors. Its headline ran: “What If Trump Decides to Save Republicans But Not Democrats?”

A sub-headline read: “He’s providing vital resources to red states and ignoring blue states.” 

Black Hand - No Racism" Art Print by AsbrinfitzTv | Redbubble

The Black Hand

Florida submitted a request to FEMA  on March 11 for 430,000 surgical masks, 180,000 N95 respirators, 82,000 face shields and 238,000 gloves—and received a shipment with everything three days later.

On Fox News, Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, bluntly told governors: “Take the blame when you have to. When you play with your boss, sometimes it’s better when you don’t win the golf game. He’s the boss, he’s got all the resources.” 

The mentality of the Black Hand has come to the Oval Office.

The Washington Monthly story concludes ominously: “What if the White House simply gives all the masks and ventilators to red states and counties, leaving blue ones to struggle? What mechanisms of accountability are left?

“U.S. democracy wasn’t set up to deal with a president openly behaving like a James Bond villain while being protected by a political party behaving more like a mafia than a civic institution.” 

But while corpses pile up and Trump wages repeated feuds with state governors, ordinary citizens daily face never-before-imagined fears and dangers. 

Coronavirus has forced people to be apart, with each one forced to face his / her own fears of something that can’t be seen and can strike anywhere, anytime, at anyone.

Smart Americans no longer venture outdoors without wearing a mask—a medically-approved N95 one if possible, but at least a homemade one. It’s not unusual to see people wearing blue rubber gloves as well. 3M N95, Disposable Respirator, Molded, Universal, PK 20 - 1AGD3 ...

N95 mask

Before COVID-19, a masked man entering a bank meant: “This is a robbery!” Today, tellers aren’t surprised when they see a customer wearing a surgical mask.

Going to the supermarket used to be a routine matter: You would assume—usually correctly—that those items you wanted would be in stock. Then you would find and load them into your car. 

No longer.

TWO FACES OF TERROR: 9/11 AND COVID-19: PART ONE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 20, 2020 at 1:01 am

COVID-19 may well change our lives more fundamentally than even 9/11.  

Yes, the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon were horrific—and costly in lives. Almost 3,000 Americans died that day. 

After decades of ignoring Islamic terrorist attacks on American lives and property throughout the Middle East and the rest of the world, America shook off its complacency.

First came a much-anticipated invasion of Afghanistan–the “nation” which had given shelter to 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden. Starting on October 7, 2001, by December American planes and ground forces swept bin Laden’s hosts, the Taliban, from power.

Bin Laden disappeared into Pakistan, but was shot to death by United States Navy SEALs on May 1, 2011. 

World Trade Center – September 11, 2001

The 9/11 attacks also resulted in unforeseen events. President George W. bush used them as an excuse to invade Iraq in 2003 and topple its dictator, Saddam Hussein, from power.

Bush had long blamed Hussein for not folding after the President’s father, George H.W. Bush, attacked Iraq in 1991 after its invasion of Kuwait. Hussein’s failure to fall from power, believed Bush Junior, had resulted in his father’s losing a second White House term in 1992 to Bill Clinton. 

But once the United States invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, it got stuck there—and remains so to this day. What started as a purely military mission became a “nation-building” one.

Yet another result of the 9/11 attacks was a complete restructuring of the United States military. In the past, Americans had excelled in set-piece battles and wars.

Americans have never forgotten their overwhelming victories over the Germany of Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1918 and Fuhrer Adolf Hitler in 1945. But when it came to fighting enemies where guerrilla warfare negated overwhelming military power, the United States had done poorly—first in Korea (1950-1953) and then in Vietnam (1960-1975). 

As a result, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfield reorganized the Pentagon’s bureaucracy, assigning highest priority to building unconventional military units such as the Army’s Green Berets and Delta Force, and the Navy’s SEALs. 

These were all major changes resulting from the 9/11 attacks. They cost billions of dollars and got huge publicity.  But they didn’t affect the lives of everyday Americans as intimately as has the advent of COVID-19, also known as Coronavirus. 

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Coronavirus

First, COVID-19 has killed far more Americans than 9/11. As before mentioned, 9/11 snuffed out the lives of almost 3,000 Americans. But as of April 20, more than 41,114 Americans have died of COVID-19. And the plague has not finished its murderous work. 

Second, while 9/11 affected two American cities—New York and Washington, D.C.—COVID-19 has spread throughout the country. As epicenters like New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago gain national attention, the virus continues to seep into rural centers—especially in the South and Midwest.

Third, the combination of evil and incompetence of the Trump administration has shaken Americans’ faith in the ability—and even the willingness—of the Federal Government to protect them.

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

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

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

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

Obam has message for pokemon nerds - YouTube

Barack Obama

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

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

Compounding that outrage: From January to early March, 2020, Trump and his allies within the Republican party and Fox News Network repeatedly assured Americans they had nothing to fear. 

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

  • January 22: “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China.”
  • February 24: “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA.”
  • February 26: “The 15 cases within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero.” 
  • February 27: “One day it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.”
  • February 28: “Now the Democrats are politicizing the Coronavirus….We did one of the great jobs….One of my people came up to me and said, ‘Mr. President, they tried to beat you on Russia, Russia, Russia’….They couldn’t do it. They tried the impeachment hoax….It’s all turning, they lost….And this is their new hoax.”
  • March 6: “I think we’re doing a really good job in this country of keeping it down. A tremendous job of keeping it down.” 

LIKE HITLER, LIKE TRUMP: BE GRATEFUL YOU HAVE ME

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 20, 2020 at 12:08 am

By February, 1943, the tide of war had turned irrevocably for Nazi Germany.

The string of quick and easy victories that had started on September 1, 1939 was over:

  • Poland
  • Norway
  • Denmark
  • Holland
  • Belgium
  • Luxembourg
  • Greece
  • France.

All had fallen under the heel of the Nazi jackboot. The swastika flag still flew triumphantly over the capitols of these once-free nations. 

Adolf Hitler

And the word—and whim—of Germany’s Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler remained law for their populations.

But by March, 1943, all except the most fanatical Nazis could see that Germany was on a collision course with disaster.

  • Under the unshakable leadership of Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Great Britain still remained a sworn enemy of the Third Reich.
  • After six months of spectacular victories against the Soviet Union, the Wehrmacht had become hopelessly bogged down in the snow before Moscow.
  • On December 11, 1941, following the attack on Pearl Harbor by his ally, Japan, Hitler declared war on the United States—thus pitting the Reich against the world’s two most powerful nations: America and Russia.
  • In November, 1942, at El Alamein, the British Army halted the advance of General Erwin Rommel and his famed Afrika Korps across North Africa.
  • On February 2, 1943, General Friedrich von Paulus surrendered the remains of the once-powerful Sixth Army at Stalingrad. The Reich suffered 730,000 total casualties, including nearly 91,000 German prisoners taken prisoner. 
  • On June 6, 1944, American, British and Canadian armies overwhelmed German’s “impregnable wall of death” on the Normandy beaches. 
  • In February, 1945, following the Vistula-Oder Offensive, the Red Army temporarily halted 37 miles east of Berlin. 

So, by March, 1943, Germany desperately needed to hear some good news.  And Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels was eager to supply it. 

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Joseph Goebbels

He did so in one of his last public addresses, delivered to a large but carefully selected audience in Gorlitz. 

For Goebbels, the greatest challenge to the Reich lay in “the Bolshevist danger in the East.”  And, for him, the solution was clear: “Total war is the demand of the hour.” 

“Our soldiers, as soon as the great push on the Eastern Front gets under way, will ask no mercy and give no mercy.

“Already, our forces have begun softening up operations, and in the next weeks and months the big offensive will begin. They will go into battle with devotion like congregations going to a religious service.

“So, as the Fuhrer has overcome crises in the past, so will he triumph now.

“The other day he told me ‘I firmly believe that we shall overcome this crisis. I firmly believe that our army of millions will beat back our enemy and annihilate him. And some day our banners will be victorious. This is my life’s unshakable belief.'” 

Thunderous applause repeatedly interrupted Goebbels’ address. Yet this could not replace the enormous losses Germany had suffered since 1939. Nor could it reverse the march of the Allied armies as they closed in on the Reich from East and West. 

Now, fast-forward 74 years to November 23, 2017—Thanksgiving Day.   

Donald Trump, President of the United States, speaks by video teleconference to American forces stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

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Donald Trump

President George W. Bush had risked his life to fly into Baghdad in 2003 to spend Thanksgiving with American forces. He flew into Iraq once again to visit troops in June, 2006. 

And President Barack Obama took a similar risk when he visited American soldiers in Iraq in 2009, in Afghanistan in 2010, 2012 and 2014.

For Trump—who had five times dodged the draft during the Vietnam war—visiting an actual combat zone was apparently out of the question. 

So he addressed American troops from the safety and comfort of his Mar-a-Lago Club and Resort in Palm Beach, Florida. 

The address started off predictably enough: “It’s an honor to speak with you all and to give God thanks for the blessings of freedom and for the heroes who really have this tremendous courage that you do to defend us and to defend freedom.” 

But, being Trump, he could not resist paying homage to himself: “We’re being talked about again as an armed forces. We’re really winning. We know how to win, but we have to let you win. They weren’t letting you win before; they we’re letting you play even. We’re letting you win….”

In short: You’re doing the grunt work, but the glory belongs to me.

“They say we’ve made more progress against ISIS than they did in years of the previous administration, and that’s because I’m letting you do your job….” 

Translation: All those sacrifices you made under Presidents Bush and Obama went for nothing.

“A lot of things have happened with our country over the last very short period of time, and they’re really good — they’re really good. I especially like saying that companies are starting to come back.

“Now we’re working on tax cuts—big, fat, beautiful tax cuts. And hopefully we’ll get that and then you’re going to really see things happen.” 

Or, put another way: Be grateful they elected me—because you’re about to see the 1% richest get even richer. Too bad you won’t be so lucky.

FASCISM RISING: 1933 GERMANY, 2016 AMERICA

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on February 13, 2020 at 12:12 am

In his bestselling 1973 biography, The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler, British historian Robert Payne harshly condemned the German people for the rise of the Nazi dictator.

“[They] allowed themselves to be seduced by him and came to enjoy the experience….[They] followed him with joy and enthusiasm because he gave them license to pillage and murder to their hearts’ content. They were his servile accomplices, his willing victims….

“If he answered their suppressed desires, it was not because he shared them, but because he could make use of them. He despised the German people, for they were merely the instruments of his will.”

On November 8, 2016, millions of ignorant, hate-filled, Right-wing Americans elected Donald Trump—a man reflecting their own hate and ignorance—to the Presidency.

Yet, in some ways, Americans had fewer excuses for turning to a Fascistic style of government than the Germans did.

Adolf Hitler, joined the National Socialist German Workers (Nazi) Party in 1919—the year after World War 1 ended.

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Adolf Hitler

In 1923, he staged a coup attempt in Bavaria—which was quickly and brutally put down by police. He was arrested and sentenced to less than a year in prison.

After that, Hitler decided that winning power through violence was no longer an option. He must win it through election—or appointment.

When the 1929 Depression struck Germany, the fortunes of Hitler’s Nazi party rose as the life savings of ordinary Germans fell. Streets echoed with bloody clashes between members of Hitler’s Nazi Stormtroopers and those of the German Communist Party.

Germans desperately looked for a leader—a Fuhrer—who could somehow deliver them from the threat of financial ruin and Communist takeover.

In early 1933, members of his own cabinet persuaded aging German president, Paul von Hindenburg, that only Hitler’s appointment as Chancellor could do this.

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Paul von Hindenburg

Hindenburg was reluctant to do so. He considered Hitler a dangerous radical. But he let himself be convinced that he could “box in” and control Hitler by putting him in the Cabinet.

So, on January 30, 1933, Hindenburg appointed Adolf Hitler Chancellor (the equivalent of Attorney General) of Germany.

On August 2, 1934, Hindenburg died. Hitler immediately assumed the titles—and duties—of the offices of Chancellor and President. His rise to total power was complete.

It had taken him 15 years to do so.

In 2015, Donald Trump declared his candidacy for President.

Now, consider this:

  • The country was technically at war in the Middle East—but the fate of the United States was not truly threatened, as it had been during the Civil War.
  • There was no draft; if you didn’t know someone in the military, you didn’t care about the casualties taking place.
  • Nor were these conflicts—in Iraq and Afghanistan—imposing domestic shortages on Americans, as World War II had.
  • Thanks to government loans from President Barack Obama, American capitalism had been saved from its own excesses during the George W. Bush administration.
  • Employment was up. CEOs were doing extremely well.
  • In contrast to the corruption that had plagued the administration of Ronald Reagan, whom Republicans idolize, no such scandals plagued the Obama Presidency.
  • Nor had there been any large-scale terrorist attacks on American soil—as there had on 9/11 under President George W. Bush.

Yet—not 17 months after announcing his candidacy for President—enough Americans fervently embraced Donald Trump to give him the most powerful position in the country and the world.

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Donald Trump

The message of Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign had been one of hope: “Yes, We Can!”

That of Donald Trump’s campaign was one of hatred toward everyone who was not an avid Trump supporter: “No, You Can’t!”

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

Birthrates among non-whites were rising. By 2045, whites would make up less than 50 percent of the American population.

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

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

Since Trump became President, he has:

  • Fired an FBI director for investigating Russia’s subversion of the 2016 Presidential election.
  • Attacked Federal judges whose rulings displeased him.
  • So tyrannized his staffers that 43% of them have abandoned him. Nearly 2,000 government positions remain vacant.
  • Repeatedly and enthusiastically defended Vladimir Putin, the dictator of Russia, America’s mortal enemy.
  • Attacked and alienated America’s oldest allies, such as Canada and Great Britain.
  • Shut down the United States Government for over a month, imperiling the lives of 800,000 Federal employees, to extort money from Congress for a worthless wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
  • Attacked the free press as “the enemy of the people.” 
  • Used his position as President to further enrich himself, in violation of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution.
  • Been impeached (but not convicted) for trying to extort Ukraine’s president into smearing former Vice President Joseph Biden, a possible rival for President in 2020.

All of this should be remembered the next time an American blames Germans for their embrace of Adolf Hitler.

A HEROIC SIEGE—AND A WARNING FOR AMERICA

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 27, 2020 at 12:04 am

January 26, 2020, marked the 135th anniversary of the fall of Khartoum, the Sudanese city that sits on the banks of the White and Blue Nile Rivers.

The siege and fall of Khartoum is one of the truly epic stories of military history.

From March 18, 1884, to January 26, 1885, the charisma and military genius of one man—British General Charles George Gordon—held at bay an army of thousands of fanatical Islamics intent on slaughtering everyone in the city.

Khartoum in 1888—four years after the siege

At stake were the lives of Khartoum’s 30,000 residents.

By comparison: The defenders of the Alamo—a far better-known battle, in 1836—numbered no more than 250.  And the siege of the San Antonio mission lasted only 13 days against an army of about 2,000 Mexicans.

The Alamo

Gordon’s story may seem antiquated.  But it resembles the efforts Republicans made to pressure the Obama administration to commit ground forces to “freeing” Syria of its longtime dictator, “President” Bashir al-Assad.

The neocons of the George W. Bush Administration plunged the United States into an unprovoked war against Iraq in 2003. After Baghdad quickly fell, Americans cheered, thinking the war was over and the troops would soon return home.

Suddenly, American soldiers found themselves waging a two-front war in the same country: Fighting an Iraqi insurgency to throw them out, while trying to suppress growing sectarian warfare between Sunni and Shia Muslims.

And then, with Syria, Americans were being urged to plunge headfirst into a conflict they knew nothing about—and in which they had absolutely no stake.

On one side was the Ba’ath regime of Bashir al-Assad, supported by Russia, Iran, Hizbollah and elements in the Iraqi government. Hizbollah is comprised of Shiite Muslims, who form a minority of Islamics.

A sworn enemy of Israel, it has kidnapped scores of Americans suicidal enough to visit Lebanon and truck-bombed the Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983, killing 299 Americans.

Flag of Hizbollah

Al-Qaeda, on the other hand, is made up of Sunni Muslims, who form the majority of that religion.

It is intolerant of non-Sunni Muslims and has instigated violence against them.  It denounces them as “takfirs”–heretics—and thus worthy of extermination.

Flag of Al-Qaeda

In short, it’s a Muslim-vs.Muslim “holy war.

It’s all very reminiscent of events in the 1966 epic film, Khartoum, starring Charlton Heston as British General Charles George Gordon. 

Charlton Heston (left); Charles George Gordon (right)

In 1884, the British government sends Gordon, a real-life hero of the Victorian era, to evacuate the Sudanese city of Khartoum.

Mohammed Achmed, a previously anonymous Sudanese, has proclaimed himself “The Madhi” (“The Expected One”) and raised the cry of jihad.

Laurence Oliver (left); Mohammed Achmed (“The Madhi”)

The Madhi (played by Lawrence Olivier) intends to drive all foreigners (of which the English are the largest group) out of Sudan and exterminate all those Muslims who do not practice his “pure” version of Islam.

Movie poster for “Khartoum”

Gordon arrives in Khartoum to find he’s not fighting a rag-tag army of peasants. Instead, the Madhi is a highly intelligent military strategist.

And Gordon, an evangelical Christian, also finds he has underestimated the Madhi’s religious fanaticism: “I seem to have suffered from the delusion that I had a monopoly on God.”

A surprised Gordon finds himself and 30,000 Sudanese trapped in Khartoum when the Madhi’s forces suddenly appear. He sends off messengers and telegrams to the British Government, begging for a military relief force.

But the British Government wants nothing to do with the Sudan. It has sent Gordon there as a sop to British public opinion that “something” had to be done to quell the Madhist uprising.

The siege continues and tightens.  

In Britain, the public hails Gordon as a Christian hero and demands that the Government send a relief expedition to save him.

Prime Minister William Gladstone finally sends a token force—which arrives in Khartoum two days after the city has fallen to the Madhi’s forces.

Gordon, standing at the top of a staircase and coolly facing down his dervish enemies, is speared to death.

George W. Joy’s famous—and romanticized—painting of “The Death of Gordon”

(Actually, the best historical evidence  indicates that Gordon fought to the last with pistol and sword before being overwhelmed by his dervish enemies.)  

When the news reaches England, Britons mourn—and then demand vengeance for the death of their hero.  

The Government, which had sought to wash its hands of the poor, military unimportant Sudan, suddenly has to send an army to avenge Gordon.

As the narrator of Khartoum intones at the close of the film: “For 15 years the British paid the price with shame and war.”  

There is a blunt lesson for Americans to learn from this episode—and from the 1966 movie Khartoum itself.   

Americans have been fighting in the Middle East since 2001—first in Afghanistan to destroy Al-Qaeda, and then in Iraq, to pursue George W. Bush’s vendetta against Saddam Hussein.

The United States faces a crumbling infrastructure, millions living in poverty and trillions of dollars in debt.

It’s time for Americans to clean up their own house before worrying about the messes in other nations—especially those wholly alien to American values.

DONALD TRUMP: “TROOPS FOR SALE–TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER!”

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 14, 2020 at 12:05 am

Since the end of the Cold War, the American military and Intelligence communities have grown increasingly dependent on private contractors.

In his 2007 bestseller, Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA, Tim Weiner writes:

“Patriotism for profit became a $50-billion-a-year business….The [CIA] began contracting out thousands of jobs to fill the perceived void by the budget cuts that began in 1992. 

“A CIA officer could file his retirement papers, turn in his blue identification badge, go to work for a much better salary at a military contractor such as Lockheed Martin or Booz Allen Hamilton, then return to the CIA the next day, wearing a green badge….” 

Seal of the Central Intelligence Agency.svg

Much of the CIA became totally dependent on mercenaries. They appeared to work for the agency, but their loyalty was actually to their private—and higher-paying—companies.

Writes Weiner: “Legions of CIA veterans quit their posts to sell their services to the agency by writing analyses, creating cover for overseas officers, setting up communications networks, and running clandestine operations.”

One such company was Total Intelligence Solutions, founded in 2007 by Cofer Black, who had been the chief of the CIA’s counter-terrorism center on 9/11. His partners were Robert Richer, formerly the associate deputy director of operations at the CIA, and Enrique Prado, who had been Black’s chief of counter-terror operations at the agency.

Future CIA hires followed suit: Serve for five years, win that prized CIA “credential” and sign up with a private security company to enrich themselves.  

This situation met with full support from Right-wing “pro-business” members of Congress and President George W. Bush.

They had long championed the private sector as inherently superior to the public one. And they saw no danger that a man dedicated to enriching himself might put greed ahead of safeguarding his country. 

Now President Donald Trump is carrying the employment of mercenaries to an entirely different level.

A January 11 headline in Rolling Stone sums it up thus: “Trump Brags About Serving Up American Troops to Saudi Arabia for Nothing More Than Cash.” 

On January 10, Trump, interviewed by Fox News commentator Laura Ingraham, bragged about his positive relationship with Saudi Arabia—and how the Saudi royal family is paying to use American troops:

“Saudi Arabia is paying us for [our troops]. We have a very good relationship with Saudi Arabia. I said, ‘Listen, you’re a very rich country. You want more troops? I’m going to send them to you, but you’ve got to pay us.’

“They’re paying us. They’ve already deposited $1 billion in the bank.

“We are going to help them, but these rich countries have to pay for it. South Korea gave us $500 million… I said, ‘You gotta help us along. We have 32,000 soldiers in South Korea protecting you from North Korea. You’ve gotta pay.’”

Republicans have been silent on Trump’s plan to turn American soldiers into foreign-paid mercenaries. But at least one former Republican has dared to speak out.

Rep. Justin Amash (I-Michigan) recently tweeted: “He sells troops.”

In October, 2019, on “Meet the Press,” Amash accused Trump of breaking his campaign promise to bring troops home.

“There are people who support the president, who believe things he says, but it’s pretty clear he’s not bringing home the troops. He’s just moving them to other parts of the Middle East.” 

But there are dangers to relying on mercenaries. Recent examples include:

  • Edward Snowden deliberately joined Booz Allen Hamilton to secure a job as a computer systems administrator at the National Security Agency (NSA). This gave him access to thousands of highly classified documents—which, in 2013, he began publicly leaking to a wide range of news organizations. 
  • His motive, he has claimed, was to warn Americans of the privacy-invading dangers posed by their own Intelligence agencies.
  • On March 7, 2017, WikiLeaks published a “data dump” of 8,761 documents code-named “Vault 7.”
  • The documents exposed that the CIA had found security flaws in software operating systems such as Microsoft Windows, Android and Apple iOS. These allowed an intruder—such as the CIA—to seize control of a computer or smartphone. The owner could then be photographed through his iPhone camera and have his text messages intercepted.
  • According to anonymous U.S. Intelligence and law enforcement sources, the culprits were CIA contract employees. 

More ancient sources have also warned against the use of mercenaries. One of these was Niccolo Machiavelli, the Florentine statesman of the Renaissance. 

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Niccolo Machiavelli

In The Prince, Machiavelli writes:

“Mercenaries…are useless and dangerous. And if a prince holds on to his state by means of mercenary armies, he will never be stable or secure. For they are disunited, ambitious, without discipline, disloyal. They are brave among friends; among enemies they are cowards.

“They have neither the fear of God nor fidelity to man, and destruction is deferred only as the attack is. For in peace one is robbed by them, and in war by the enemy. 

“The cause of this is that they have no love or other motive to keep them in the field beyond a trifling wage, which is not enough to make them ready to die for you.”

Centuries after Machiavelli’s warning, Americans are realizing the bitter truth of it firsthand.

A “SAND CURTAIN” FOR THE MIDDLE EAST

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on January 9, 2020 at 12:10 am

There can be peace—at least for the United States—in the Middle East.

But to achieve this, Western Europe and the United States will have to make radical changes in their approach to that part of the world.

First, the United States must embark on a crash program to develop alternatives to oil.  

The Islamic world offers only one reason for American concern: oil.

Yet its consumption threatens the future of the world through global warming. And it keeps America tethered to regimes that are fundamentally unstable and hostile to the West.

Second, once the United States weans itself from its dependency on fossil fuels, it can safely end its relationship with such regimes.

That means putting an end to spending billions of dollars every year to prop up dictatorial regimes like those in Iraq and Egypt. And it also means stopping the supply of big-ticket military hardware (like fighter planes and missiles) to Islamic regimes.

When the Shah of Iran was overthrown in 1979, he was probably the best-armed Islamic leader in the Middle East. His army and air force bristled with sophisticated American weaponry he had bought with billions of dollars in oil revenues.

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Shah of Iran

But he had thoroughly alienated his people. Liberals thought him a tyrant, and conservatives thought him a traitor to Islam. So when Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini flew to Iran from his self-exile in Paris, no one in the Shah’s army and air force raised a hand in his defense.

And all that sophisticated American weaponry fell into Khoemeini’s waiting hands.

Third, the United States should end its “Permanent Bodyguard” relationship with Israel.

Every nation—-including Israel—has the absolute right to defend itself from aggression.

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

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

But there is another reason many Americans feel committed to Israel. And it has nothing to do with concern for the fates of Israelis.

It lies in the mythology of the Christian Right. Millions of fundamentalist Christians believe that before Jesus Christ can awaken from his 2,000-year slumber, Israel must first re-conquer every inch of territory it supposedly held during the reign of Kings David and Solomon.

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Right-wing Christian fantasy: Dead man hovering

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

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

Many Right-wing members of the House of Representatives and Senate share this utterly irrational belief—thus proving their unfitness for public office. 

Fourth, the United States and its Western European allies should erect a “Sand Curtain” around the Middle East.

For 44 years—1947 to 1991—the United States and the Soviet Union were locked in a Cold War. Essentially, the United States drew a ring around the Soviet Union—including those nations its armies had seized following the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945.

The United States said, in effect: “We can’t liberate the countries you’re now occupying”—because that would have triggered a nuclear World War III. “But we won’t allow you to occupy and enslave any other countries.  And if you try to do so, it will mean total war.”

That’s why America did nothing to aid Hungarians when they overthrew their Soviet occupiers in 1956. That rebellion was quickly and brutally crushed.

And the United States stood by when Soviet tanks rolled into Prague in 1968 after Czechoslovakia dared to relax controls over its citizens.

Fifth, a “Sand Curtain” around the Middle East would work as follows:

America would withdraw all of its forces from the Middle East—but keep a good portion stationed in Europe.

The President would then publicly announce: “From now on, you are the masters of your own destinies—so long as what you do affects only those of you living in the Middle East.

“We recognize that barbarism and violence have always been a part of life in the Middle East. And we don’t expect this to change.

“So go ahead and destroy as many of your own citizens as you wish—either because they’re Jewish or Christians, or because Sunni Muslims hate Shiite Muslims and Shiite Muslims hate Sunni Muslims.

“Just don’t do anything that poses a threat to those living outside your barbaric lands. In short: Western Europe and the United States are strictly off-limits to you.

“If you aim your aggression at either, we will consider this an act of war and use all the weapons at our disposal—including nuclear ones—to wipe you from the face of the Earth.

The United States cannot enforce peace between Islamics and Israelis. Nor between Christians and Islamics. Nor between Islamics and Islamics.

But it can impose an embargo to confine such barbarism to only the Middle East.

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