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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.”

No photo description available.

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. 

Image result for Public domain images of Donald Trump

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. 

SARS-CoV-2 without background.png

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.” 

DYING OF THE FEAR: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on March 11, 2020 at 12:06 am

There’s an Arabian myth that offers a timely commentary on the hysteria surrounding the Coronavirus. 

Mohammed is walking along the road from Medina to Mecca when he meets the Genie of Cholera. 

“Where are you going, O Cursed One?” asks Mohammed.

“To Mecca, to kill 10,000 of the faithful,” replies the genie.

Image result for Images of the Grim Reaper

“All right,” says Mohammed. “See to it that you kill no more than 10,000.”

Six months later the two meet again—and Mohammed is furious: “You are a filthy liar!”

“Why do you say that?” demands the Genie of Cholera.

“Because when I reached Mecca, there were 30,000 dead, not the 10,000 you promised.”

“Oh, I kept by my word and killed only 10,000,” replies the genie. “But 20,000 more died of the fear.”

Fear is stalking the streets of the United States today.

Medical supply companies are rushing to turn out millions of surgical face masks—not for use by doctors but ordinary Americans.

Medical professionals warn that this will prove counter-productive for doctors and ordinary citizens.

Doctors and nurses need those masks when they’re performing surgery—or just coming in contact with patients who might be carrying the Coronavirus. They also wear them when examining patients suffering from routine illnesses.

Standard surgical masks are designed to protect against large, airborne droplets. They cannot protect against viruses. Their loose fit makes it possible for droplets to enter around the edges of the mask.

Image result for Images of the surgical masks

Standard surgical mask

The N-95 respirator mask is a tight-fitting upgrade that forces inhaled air toward the mask but not its edges. It can filter out 95% of particulates—but not viral particles.

Nor has panic-buying been restricted to face masks. Hand sanitizers, bottled water, toilet paper—even rubbing alcohol—have been snapped off shelves, leaving stores empty of them.

“It’s been nuts,” says Costco’s Chief Financial Officer, Richard A. Galanti.

Businesses that rely on regular patrons—such as restaurants and movie theaters—are especially suffering.

In New York City and San Francisco, businesses in the Chinese community have been hard-hit. It was in Wuhan, China, that the Coronavirus first erupted. Millions of people continue to identify it as a peculiarly Chinese ailment.

The industries most affected are those directly connected to tourism. Cruise ship lines have proven a ready source of contagion, bringing large numbers of people together in what can amount to a floating hothouse for viruses.

Cruise ships have played a major role in the outbreak. More than 700 cases have been linked to the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which was quarantined off the coast of Japan for two weeks. At least 21 more cases were confirmed aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship that docked in Oakland, Calif., on March 9.

Diamond Princess (ship, 2004) - cropped.jpg

Diamond Princess cruise ship

File:Diamond Princess (ship, 2004) and Port of Toba.jpg

The State Department and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have warned elderly and medically vulnerable Americans to avoid cruise ships until the outbreak ends. The CDC recommends that travelers “defer all cruise ship travel worldwide.”

During the 1980s, Kathie Lee Gifford appeared in a series of TV ads for Carnival Cruise Lines, singing an upbeat jingle: 

If they could see you now out on a Funship cruise
You’re eating fancy food and doing what you choose.
I’d like your friends back home to get a good look
At the first-rate Carnival cruise that you took.
All I can say is “Wow!” hey look at where you are.
Tonight you’re living life just like a movie star!
What a Funship, holy cow!
They’d never believe it
If your friends could see you now!

 

This ode to pure hedonism has given way to a climate of sheer panic—among those still aboard cruise liners, those thinking about embarking on cruises and—most especially—among cruise shipping line companies.

A more updated version of Kathie Lee’s song could go:

If they could see you now on a Corona cruise
You’re locked inside your room and someone took your shoes.
I’m sure your friends back home will look on with dread
As the ship docks in port and they haul off the dead.
All I can say is “Wow!”
Hey, look at where you’ll be
You’re turning blue for air
Right there upon the sea!
What a fright ship, holy cow!
They’re sure to believe it
And the doctor’s coming now!

 

And how is the cruise industry responding to the Coronavirus outbreak? By running more TV ads to sign up more passengers!

Perhaps it’s time for Americans to haul out their DVD players and watch Khartoum—a 1966 movie that offers a timely lesson in courage well-suited to the Coronavirus panic.

Image result for Images of "Khartoum" movie poster

It’s based on the true story of British General Charles George Gordon (Charlton Heston) sent to the Sudan in 1884 to evacuate the city of Khartoum before it’s besieged by the army of a dervish fanatic called “The Madhi”—“The Expected One” (Laurence Oliver).

But the siege starts before Gordon can evacuate its 30,000 citizens.

The Madhi orders a bombardment, and frightened townspeople rush into the public square—where Gordon is calmly seated on a camel, holding a Sudanese girl.

As they look up expectedly for guidance, Gordon gently says to the little girl: “I don’t ask you to be unafraid, merely to act unafraid.”

Americans would do well to remember those words—and act on them.

DYING OF THE FEAR: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, Entertainment, History, Politics, Social commentary on March 10, 2020 at 9:52 am

The outbreak of the Coronavirus has terrified Americans in ways not seen since the September 11, 2001 terror attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C.

For months after that horror, the two most profitable businesses in the country were video rental stores and food delivery services.

People stayed indoors—and at home, as if they believed this was the one place they would be safe. Everyone feared the next big terror attack—and didn’t want to be on hand when it exploded.

Restaurants, nightclubs, amusement parks and the airlines suffered accordingly.

World Trade Center – September 11, 2001

In the early 1980s, the AIDS epidemic had truly frightened millions of Americans. At first, no one knew what caused it—or, more importantly, how it was spread.

At first, gays were thought to be the only ones at risk. Then the list of potential victims kept expanding to

  • Intravenous drug abusers
  • Native Haitians
  • Recipients of blood transfusions
  • Those with multiple sex partners.

But with the passage of time—and the introduction of AIDS-fighting drugs that allowed victims to generally live ordinary lives—Americans’ fears gradually decreased. AIDS was seen as a disease like tuberculosis—dangerous, but unlikely to strike if you took reasonable precautions.

And now America is facing a new fear—that of the Coronavirus, otherwise known as COVID-19.

SARS-CoV-2 without background.png

 

Coronavirus

In December 2019, a pneumonia outbreak was reported in Wuhan, China. By December 31, the outbreak was traced to a novel strain of Coronavirus.

Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that affect birds and mammals. In humans, Coronaviruses cause respiratory tract infections that are typically mild, such as the common cold. Coronaviruses can cause pneumonia and may cause bronchitis.

When the virus surfaced in China, Americans didn’t worry, as it seemed confined to Wuhan. But then it began spreading.

By January 30, 2020, 9,976 cases had been reported in at least 21 countries, including the first case in the United States.

At that time, United States health authorities repeatedly assured Americans they had nothing to worry about, that “we’re on it.”

For example: On January 28, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex M. Azar II stated at a press conference: “We’ve been monitoring this virus and preparing a response since back in December, but it’s more than that. Preparing for these kinds of outbreaks is part of daily life at HHS and for America’s public health professionals.

“Preparedness is a day job around here. We are constantly making investments, training personnel at all levels, carrying out simulations and exercises, and sharing information.

“This commitment goes straight to the top: The President and I have been speaking regularly about this outbreak, and I have been speaking with the senior officials at HHS and the White House multiple times each day since the outbreak began to represent an international threat.” 

This was strictly boilerplate rhetoric. What Azar didn’t say was this:

  • Upon taking office as President,  Donald Trump had gutted the permanent epidemic monitoring and command groups set up inside the White House: The National Security Council (NSC) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). 
  • The reason:  Pathologically jealous of President Barack Obama, Trump has tried to destroy every vestige of Obama’s legacy as the first black President of the United States. And these disease-monitoring groups were set up by Obama following the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014.
  • Also: In the spring of 2018, Trump pushed Congress to cut $15 billion from national health spending—and cutting the global disease-fighting budgets of the CDC, National Security Council, Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services.
  • The Federal $30 million fund for Complex Crises was eliminated as well.
  • In April, 2018, National Security Adviser John Bolton forced Tom Bossert, director of the infectious disease unit at DHS, to resign—along with his entire team.
  • In May, 2018, Trump ordered the NSC’s global health security unit shut down.
  • Rear Admiral Timothy Ziemer, who headed the unit, was reassigned.
  • Neither the NSC nor the DHS epidemic team has been replaced.
  • The “advice” Trump has offered on the epidemic is misinformation—based on ignorance or willful lying. Example: “I think the [World Health Organization estimate of Coronavirus casualties of] 3.4 percent is really a false number—and this is just my hunch—but based on a lot of conversations with a lot of people that do this because a lot of people will have this and it’s very mild. They’ll get better very rapidly, they don’t even see a doctor, they don’t even call a doctor. You never hear about those people.”

Above all: Azar didn’t dare say that Trump doesn’t see Coronavirus as a threat to the lives of 300-plus American citizens.  Instead, he sees it as a threat to his continued reign as President.

Trump has repeatedly “joked” about how great it would be if the United States—like China—had a “President-for-Life.” And he has accused those Democrats who impeached him for obstructing Congress and abuse of power as guilty of treason.

In the Coronavirus, Trump has met his match in an enemy he cannot bribe or intimidate. The tragedy is that untold numbers of Americans will pay the price for his ignorance and narcissism. 

TWO DANGERS FACING AMERICA: TRUMP—AND THE CORONAVIRUS

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on March 9, 2020 at 12:07 am

On August 23, 2018, President Donald Trump offered an unprecedented reason why he shouldn’t be impeached. 

Appearing on “Fox and Friends,” he said:

  • “I don’t know how you can impeach somebody who’s done a great job.”
  • “I tell you what, if I ever got impeached, I think the market would crash, I think everybody would be very poor.”
  • Pointing to his head, he said: “Because without this thinking, you would see numbers that you wouldn’t believe in reverse.” 

He didn’t say: “I shouldn’t be impeached because I’m innocent. I didn’t collude with Russian Intelligence to subvert the 2016 Presidential election.” 

Instead, he appealed to the greed and fear of his voting base—and no doubt hoped to reach beyond it: “Keep me in power or you’ll all suffer for it.”

Donald Trump

On February 5, the Republican-dominated Senate acquitted him of the two charges brought by the Democratic House of Representatives on December 18, 2019: 

Article 1: Abuse of Power: For pressuring Ukraine to assist him in his re-election campaign by damaging former Vice President Joseph Biden, his possible 2020 Democratic rival; and

Article 2: Obstruction of Congress: For obstructing Congress by blocking testimony of subpoenaed witnesses and refusing to provide documents in response to House subpoenas in the impeachment inquiry. 

So Trump escaped impeachment—and the country is now suffering for it.  On February 27, the Dow Jones Industrial Average had its single worst one-day drop in history—falling 1,191 points. 

The reason can be summed up in one word: Coronavirus. Simply put, investors hate uncertainty, because it makes it hard to plan. And nothing makes uncertainty like a new and frightening virus that’s easily passed on and for which there is no vaccine or cure.

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Coronavirus

CDC/ Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAM / Public domain

And that causes millions of people to change their everyday behavior in unprecedented ways–such as not attending basketball games, eating in restaurants, flying on airplanes, going on cruises—and simply going to work.

Of course, Trump didn’t create the Coronavirus. But he has made it even more of a threat to Americans than it had to be.

In 2017, nearly 700 positions remained vacant at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) because Trump imposed a hiring freeze. This affected programs supporting local and state public health emergency readiness, infectious disease control and chronic disease prevention.

Making the situation worse: The CDC’s director, Tom Friedman, stepped down in January, 2017, and it wasn’t until July that the agency got another one: Brenda Fitzgerald. But she served only until January, 2018. She was succeeded—two months later—by Robert Ray Redfield, Jr. He has been the director since then.

The post of director of the CDC is considered one of the most crucial public health positions in the government. The CDC is charged with tracking and preventing infectious disease outbreaks  in the United States and worldwide.

CDC headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia

Another way Trump has sabotaged America’s ability to respond to the Coronavirus outbreak: Gutting the permanent epidemic monitoring and command groups set up inside the White House: The National Security Council (NSC) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The reason for this: Trump’s pathological jealousy of and hatred for former President Barack Obama.

Since taking office, Trump has made an all-out effort to destroy every vestige of Obama’s legacy as the first black President of the United States. And these disease-monitoring groups were set up by Obama following the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014.

In the spring of 2018, Trump pushed Congress to cut $15 billion from national health spending—and cutting the global disease-fighting budgets of the CDC, National Security Council, Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services.

The Federal $30 million fund for Complex Crises was eliminated as well.

In April, 2018, National Security Adviser John Bolton forced Tom Bossert, director of the infectious disease unit at DHS, to resign—along with his entire team. In May, 2018, Trump ordered the NSC’s global health security unit shut down.

Rear Admiral Timothy Ziemer, who headed the unit, was reassigned.

Neither the NSC nor the DHS epidemic team has been replaced.

The global health section of the CDC was decimated, and had to reduce the number of countries it was monitoring from 49 to 10.

It’s popular to assume that Trump did all of this out of mere ignorance—and there’s plenty of proof of his ignorance in many areas (such as attributing windmills to causing cancer). But far more is at work here.

The vast majority of those who voted for Trump believe that the Federal Government is evil and its agencies that regulate business should be eliminated.

An example of this constituency is Grover Norquist, founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform, which opposes all tax increases and has forced most Republicans to publicly pledge they will as well, under any circumstances.

His most famous quote: “I’m not in favor of abolishing the government. I just want to shrink it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.” 

Under Trump, the epidemic-fighting arm of the Federal Government has become so shrunk that America itself may be the one to drown—in an epidemic of Coronavirus. 

IF AMERICA UNITES, IT WILL BE ALL-SLAVE OR ALL-FREE: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 29, 2019 at 12:16 am

On July 25, 2019, President Donald J Trump tried to extort a “favor” from Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine: Find embarrassing “dirt” on former Vice President Joseph Biden and his son, Hunter.

Hunter had had business dealings in Ukraine. And Joe Biden might be Trump’s Democratic opponent for the White House in 2020. 

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Joseph Biden

To underline the seriousness of his “request,” Trump had withheld $400 million in promised military aid to Ukraine, which is facing an increasingly aggressive Russia. 

But then a CIA whistleblower filed a complaint about the extortion attempt—and the media and Congress soon learned of it. 

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

DAVID BROOKS: “I think Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani, I don’t think it ever occurred to them that this was unethical. What strikes me [is] that everyone was in the loop, that this was not something they tried to hide.

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

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

Nor is there any reason to hope that the GOP will reign Trump in.

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

For example:

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

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

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GOP logo.svg

“In the meantime, it is probably best to give up waiting for that impeachment-induced moment—a  Watergate—when Republicans realize their duty to country and come around to opposing him. The president and today’s GOP share the same sins. It will be difficult for them to abandon each other.”

That appears to be the judgment of Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Concluding the proceedings for November 21, Schiff attacked Republicans’ total rejection of the overwhelming evidence linking Trump with extortion:

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Adam Schiff

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

Those who lament that the United States has become a polarized nation must realize there is only one choice: Either Americans will remain free—or they will be enslaved by a ruthless political party convinced it is entitled to manipulate and undermine the country’s democratic processes;

There is no middle ground.

IF AMERICA UNITES, IT WILL BE ALL-SLAVE OR ALL-FREE: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 28, 2019 at 12:26 am

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

And it opened:

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

Then followed a series of anecdotes. The sub-headlines summed up many of the comments reported.

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

Abraham Lincoln warned: “A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half-slave and half-free. It will become all one thing or all the other.”

America now faces such a choice:

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

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

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

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Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Donald Trump

On November 15, conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks and liberal syndicated columnist Mark Shields summed up the different reactions by Republicans and Democrats to Trump’s extortion attempt.

Their forum: The PBS Newshour.  While they often reach different conclusions on the same matter, on this occasion they found themselves in virtual agreement.

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David Brooks and Mark Shields on “The PBS Newshour”

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

“I felt like I was looking back in time, because I was looking at two people who are not self-centered. They cared about the country. They were serving. They had not partisan axe to grind. They were just honest men of integrity.

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

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

MARK SHIELDS: “There’s a sense of outrage building. This is a story of corruption, corruption not in Ukraine, corruption in the United States. 

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

THE WITNESS IS THE ENEMY: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on November 12, 2019 at 12:07 am

Donald Trump has a longstanding hatred of whistleblowers when they betray his crimes and follies. But he feels completely different about “flippers” when their revelations serve his interests.

On July 22, 2016, Wikileaks released 19,252 emails and 8,034 attachments hacked from computers of the highest-ranking officials of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

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The leak revealed a DNC bias for Hillary Clinton and against her lone challenger, Vermont United States Senator Bernie Sanders. Clinton, who was about to receive the Democratic nomination for President, was thoroughly embarrassed. Sanders’ supporters were enraged.

Presidential candidate Trump’s reaction:

  • “WikiLeaks, I love WikiLeaks.”
  • “This WikiLeaks stuff is unbelievable. It tells you the inner heart, you gotta read it.” 
  • This WikiLeaks is like a treasure trove.”
  • “WikiLeaks just came out with a new one just a little while ago it’s just been shown that a rigged system with more collusion, probably illegal, between the Department of Justice the Clinton campaign and the State Department, you saw that.”

But now Trump has reverted to his longtime hatred of “leakers.”

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

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

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

Biden 2013.jpg

Joe Biden

But then a CIA whistleblower filed a complaint about the extortion attempt—and the media and Congress soon learned of it. 

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) tweeted: “The transcript of the call reads like a classic mob shakedown: — We do a lot for Ukraine — There’s not much reciprocity — I have a favor to ask — Investigate my opponent — My people will be in touch — Nice country you got there. It would be a shame if something happened to her.”

On September 24, 2019, Nancy Pelosi, speaker to the House of Representatives, announced a formal impeachment inquiry into Trump.

On September 26, Trump told a private group at a midtown hotel: “I want to know who’s the person, who’s the person who gave the whistleblower the information? Because that’s close to a spy.

“You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart? Right? The spies and treason, we used to handle it a little differently than we do now.” 

Image result for Official White House photos of Donald Trump

Trump can’t refute the sheer number of witnesses who have testified to his extortion attempt on Ukraine. So he now seeks to shift blame to the person who originally testified to his extortion.

On November 6, his son, Donald, Jr., tweeted out an article which might—or might not—have contained the name of the Intelligence community whistleblower.

A Trump shill later claimed that Trump hadn’t known about his son’s efforts to attack that official.

The law firm, Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto, LLP, called on Attorney General William Barr to open a criminal investigation into any leaks of the whistleblower’s identity. 

“As attorneys representing whistleblowers for over 35-years we are extremely concerned about the nation-wide ‘chilling effect’ the disclosure of the identity of any intelligence community whistleblower will necessary cause. Whistleblowers need to reassurance that the laws protecting them will be strictly enforced. 

“If the [whistleblower’s] name is revealed by any person, including Donald Trump, Jr., we hereby request that the persons engaging in this obstruction of justice be immediately arrested.” 

Yet Barr, as Trump’s handpicked Attorney General, has so far refused to take any action against those in violation of whistleblower statutes. 

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) enforces the provisions of more than 20 whistleblower statutes protecting employees from retaliation for reporting violations of various workplace-related laws.

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According to a 2002 amendment to the federal retaliation statute:

“Whoever knowingly, with intent to retaliate, takes any action harmful to any person, including interference with the lawful employment or livelihood of any person, for providing to a law enforcement officer any truthful information relating to the commission or possible commission of any Federal offense, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 10 years, or both.”

These forbid an employer to fire, lay off, threaten, reduce pay or hours, blacklist, demote, deny overtime, benefits or promotion to anyone protected by such laws.

One such witness is Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, an expert on Ukraine. A member of the National Security Council, he felt it improper for a President to ask a foreign leader to investigate an American citizen.

Trump called Vindman, a Purple Heart winner who was wounded in Iraq, “Yesterday’s Never Trumper witness.” 

Ultimately, the identity of the whistleblower doesn’t matter.

As Representative Eric Swalwell (D-CA) tweeted on November 8: “One more time for the people in the back: The whistleblower pulled the fire alarm. The 1st responders showed up and saw smoke, flames, and @realDonaldTrump holding matches. Does it matter who pulled the fire alarm?”

The truth of the original complaint about Trump’s extortion attempt has been repeatedly validated by multiple witnesses.

It now remains to be seen whether Republicans care more about the truth of that complaint—or bowing in subservience to a thoroughly corrupt President.

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