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SEPARATING THE MASK-WEARERS FROM THE STUPIDS

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on April 16, 2021 at 12:22 am

Here’s a new game you can play the next time you take a walk: Count the Stupids! 

These are the people who, during a deadly pandemic: 

  • Don’t wear a mask.
  • Don’t wear a mask—and suck on a cigarette.
  • Wear a mask—just under their nose.
  • Wear a mask—around their neck like a bandanna. 

The number of people who fall into these categories will vary each day.

But they all constitute a clear and present danger to those who want to stay clear of COVID-19. Here’s why:

  • NOT WEARING A MASK exposes the non-wearer and anyone else not wearing one to the possibility of COVID-19. You can sneeze or cough into someone’s face—or someone can sneeze or cough into yours.
  • NOT WEARING A MASK WHILE SMOKING exposes the smoker to both the probability of getting COVID-19 and the almost certainty of getting lung cancer, heart disease and/or emphysema.
  • WEARING A MASK JUST UNDER THE NOSE means you can sneeze COVID-19 into someone’s face—or someone with COVID-19 can sneeze into your nose.
  • WEARING A MASK AROUND THE NECK may make you feel like a range-roving cowboy, but it offers the same degree of protection as NOT WEARING A MASK: Zero. 

N95 Respirator Masks | Bass-Mollett Publishers Inc.

N95 mask

The Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, emerged in China in December, 2019, and has since spread throughout the world.

By April 15, 2021, it had infected 139 million people worldwide. Of these, 2.9 million have died.

In the United States, case totals have reached 31.5 million. Of these, 565,000 have died.

SARS-CoV-2 without background.png

Coronavirus

For the first three months of the plague, masks were hard to come by. Top-of-the-line masks such as the N95 were quickly snapped up by hospitals filling with COVID cases. This forced many families to sew their own masks. Many of these were made of porous material, allowing the wearer to become easily infected.

But today masks are advertised—and sold—everywhere. 

Wearing a mask and “social distancing”—keeping at least six feet between yourself and others while in public—have been the Golden Rules urged by public health officials for months.

Scientists have learned, for example, that COVID-19 can be spread by those who show no symptom of the disease. And mounting evidence has proven that masks are essential for protecting people from the virus. 

Coronavirus is spread by respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks—especially if large numbers of people are packed indoors. The danger goes up if the talker is shouting or singing loudly.

If not blocked by a face covering, the droplets can travel six to 13 feet.   

Researchers at Florida Atlantic University found that some masks were more effective than others. One study showed that well-fitted homemade masks with multiple layers of fabric, as well as off-the-shelf cone style masks, were the most effective in reducing droplet dispersal.

The N95 mask—made by the 3M Company—has been rated the best. Its Chinese counterpart—the KN95—has been rated its equivalent.

Bandannas turned out to be the least effective in reducing transmission.

There are at least seven reasons why so many Americans refuse to wear a mask—even in the midst of a deadly pandemic. 

First: A feeling of solidarity. According to David Abrams, a professor of social and behavioral sciences at NYU School of Global Public Health: People who don’t wear masks may see it as a sign of solidarity, as if they are taking a stand against authority.

Second: “If liberals do it, it’s fascistic.” Many mask protesters accuse those who wear masks of being fascists. This is a hallmark of Right-wing politics—accusing their opponents of being what they are themselves.

Third: They have utterly rejected the rising death-toll caused by the virus. They claim stories of such deaths are mere “fake news”—the term Donald Trump uses to dismiss any news stories that highlight his mistakes and criminality. 

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Fourth: Republicans disdain education in general—and science in particular. In March, an NBC News poll found that only 30% of Republicans said that they would actually listen to the advice of doctors to stay away from large, crowded areas to avoid Coronavirus

Fifth: Religious Fanaticism: Many fundamentalist Christians believe that their faith in Jesus will protect them against COVID-19. They continue to attend services indoors in defiance of warnings by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that such meetings are dangerous.

A female member of the Solid Red Rock Church in Monroe, Ohio, told CNN: “I wouldn’t be anywhere else. I’m covered in Jesus’ blood. I’m covered in Jesus’ blood.”

Sixth: Hypocrisy. Since the Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973, the Right has demanded that even women who are pregnant due to rape or incest carry the fetus to term.

Yet now that Right-wingers are being asked to wear masks in public—to protect themselves and others from a deadly plague—they’ve suddenly discovered the mantra: “It’s my body!”

Seventh: Identifying with Donald Trump. The former President made it clear that his followers don’t wear masks. And they have fallen into line, refusing to mask up even in crowded, indoor arenas where infection is most likely.

ALBERT SPEER MEETS DEBORAH BIRX: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on April 7, 2021 at 12:10 am

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

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Donald Trump

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deborah Birx

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Birx remained silent. 

The Internet—and medical experts—did not.

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

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

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

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

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

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

But she did not say this in public.

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

Birx never publicly criticized Trump for creating this divisiveness. 

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

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

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

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

By mid-March, 2021, nearly 550,000 Americans had died from COVID-19.

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

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on April 6, 2021 at 12:07 am

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

Hitler was thoroughly impressed.

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

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

Adolf Hitler

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

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

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

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

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

Albert Speer

 Albert Speer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Specifically:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Coronavirus

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

LIES TOLD BY BULLIES: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on April 1, 2021 at 12:10 am

Here’s Story #2 on how to stand up to Right-wing bullies.

In 2014, the Arizona Republican legislature passed Senate Bill 1062.

This allowed business owners to legally discriminate against gay and lesbian customers—including the right to refuse medical care to them.  

Its intent: To appease the hatred of gays and lesbians by the religious Right, a key constituency of the Republican party. 

Gays and their supporters reacted by threatening a legal business and tourism boycott of Arizona. And the business community and its supporters, alarmed, took notice.

  • Large businesses—such as Apple, American Airlines, AT&T, Delta Airlines, Verizon and Intel—publicly opposed the measure.
  • With Super Bowl XL1X scheduled to be played in 2015 at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee expressed concern.
  • Arizona’s United States Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake publicly urged Governor Jan Brewer to veto the measure, citing worries about the economic impact on the state’s businesses.

Faced with a choice between monetary greed and ideological fanaticism, Brewer chose to veto the legislation on February 26, 2014.  

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Governor Jan Brewer

Suddenly, Right-wingers who had anticipated becoming persecutors now claimed themselves to be victims. Among their rants on Twitter:

  • “CNN led full court media press to take away rights of Christians. Just the beginning. Using tolerance as weapon against us. Wake up.”  –John Nolte (@NolteNC)
  • “Not sure what the GOP stands for when it stands against religious freedom out of pure fear of political correctness.”  –Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro)
  • Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer makes Christians in her state second class citizens.” –toddstarnes (@toddstarnes)
  • “A sad day for Arizonans who cherish and understand religious liberty.” –The Center for Arizona Policy 

American Rightists believed they had a right to withhold their business services from those they hated.

But they considered it unfair and even demonic for gays and their supporters to withhold monies from discriminatory Arizona businesses.  

Story #3:

On February 14, 2018, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz slaughtered two faculty members and 15 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. His weapon of choice: An AR-15 assault rifle, often favored by gun massacre killers.

Among the students who survived the carnage: 17-year-old David Hogg. He quickly joined the student-led gun control advocacy group Never Again, becoming one of its best-known spokesmen. 

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David Hogg

He and his fellow student activists were immediately targeted for vicious insults and even death threats by the National Rifle Association and its shills—especially those in Congress and the Fox News Network. 

One of these shills was Fox News host Laura Ingraham. On March 28, not content with attacking Hogg’s efforts to ban assault weaponry, she attacked him personally, tweeting:

“David Hogg Rejected By Four Colleges To Which He Applied and whines about it. (Dinged by UCLA with a 4.1 GPA…totally predictable given acceptance rates.)” 

Hogg hadn’t been able to get into UC Los Angeles, UC San Diego, UC Santa Barbara, or UC Irvine, despite having a 4.2 grade point average. 

For many Twitter users, this was beyond the pale, and they made their anger known: 

“Laura, you’re a parent. This is pretty deplorable.”

“Can’t imagine why any adult would make fun of a kid over college rejections, let alone a kid who’s been through what the Parkland kids have.”

“What is the purpose of this tweet? What is wrong with you? Are you actually proud of this? Regardless of your political beliefs and motivations, THIS is how you choose to present yourself? You must be so sad, angry and scared.”  

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  Laura Ingraham 

But it fell to David Hogg to strike back in a way guaranteed to frighten even the most fanatical Rightists. 

“I’m not going to stoop to her level and go after her on a personal level,” he said. “I’m going to go after her advertisers.”

He posted the following tweet to his 600,000 Twitter followers: 

“Pick a number 1-12 contact the company next to that #  

“Top Laura Ingraham Advertisers 

1. @sleepnumber
2. @ATT
3. Nutrish
4. @Allstate & @esurance
5. @Bayer
6. @RocketMortgage Mortgage
7. @LibertyMutual
8. @Arbys
9. @TripAdvisor
10. @Nestle
11. @hulu
12. @Wayfair

Nutrish was the first advertiser to drop its sponsorship of Ingraham’s program.  Other brands followed.  

Suddenly alarmed, Ingraham tweeted the next day: “Any student should be proud of a 4.2 GPA —incl. @DavidHogg111. On reflection, in the spirit of Holy Week, I apologize for any upset or hurt my tweet caused him or any of the brave victims of Parkland. For the record, I believe my show was the first to feature David…”   

Hogg dismissed her statement: “She only apologized after we went after her advertisers.” He said that he would accept her apology only if she denounced “the way your network has treated my friends and I in this fight.”  

Ingraham made no such effort She stayed silent after her tweet. Meanwhile, her advertisers continued to fall off:   

  • The Atlantis
  • Bayer
  • Paradise Island Resort
  • Office Depot
  • Jenny Craig Miracle
  • Ear
  • Honda
  • Progressive
  • Hulu
  • TripAdvisor
  • Expedia
  • Wayfair
  • StitchFix
  • Jos A. Bank
  • Nestle and 
  • Johnson & Johnson.

Although only 17 at the time, David Hogg knew it’s better to stand up to tyrants than submit to them.

He sent a message that even the most hard-core Fascists could understand: Attack me and you’ll get it right back in your ugly faces.

LIES TOLD BY BULLIES: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on March 31, 2021 at 1:16 am

There are two ways to deal with bullies: Submit to them—or stand up to them.

Here are three stories of what happened when intended victims counterattacked their would-be predators.

Story #1:

Karen Handel, vice president of public affairs for Susan G. Komen for the Cure, had it all worked out.

She had fashioned what she believed was a politically viable plan for Komen to pull its grant monies from Planned Parenthood (PP).

Karen Handel

She didn’t care that this money went entirely for breast cancer screenings for poor women. What she did care about was that about 3% of all PP revenues went toward providing abortion services.

Since being hired by Komen as vice president of public affairs, in April, 2011, Handel had pushed to drop PP from grants. She had promised to de-fund PP during her failed 2010 campaign for governor of Georgia. 

So, in 2012, she made her move.

The official version, as put out by Handel and the top brass of Komen, went: “We’ve halted grants to Planned Parenthood because it’s under investigation by Congress for misuse of funds.”

Unfortunately for Komen, the public instantly saw through the lie. And the results for Komen were as devastating as those that threatened to engulf Arizona two years later.

Any crank in Congress can start an “investigation” into anything.

And PP was “under investigation” by a crank: Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), chairman of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.

Stearns, a fanatical anti-abortionist, claimed he wanted to determine whether PP had spent public money on abortions over the last decade.

But Stearns didn’t hesitate to slander the patriotism of thousands of 9/11 “first responders”–the police, firefighters, construction workers and others who risked their lives to save their fellow Americans.

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Rep. Cliff Stearns

He did so by demanding that they submit their names, birthplaces, addresses, government ID numbers and other personal data to the FBI to prove they were not terrorists. 

Only then could they receive federally-subsidized medical care for injuries caused by exposure to toxic dust and debris at the site.  

Not one terrorist was discovered in the resulting investigations.

Public outrage at Komen was immediate and overwhelming:

  • More than 50 members of Congress signed letters asking  Komen to reverse course.
  • New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg publicly rebuked Komen and pledged $250,000   to PP.
  • Approximately 37,000 people from all over the country signed a petition demanding Handel’s resignation.
  • PP raised nearly $3 million in contributions.

Reeling before this onslaught of criticism, Komen issued a statement: “We will continue to fund existing grants, including those of Planned Parenthood, and preserve their eligibility to apply for future grants.”

Having failed in their latest assault on women’s rights, the Right’s would-be predators now portrayed themselves as victims:

  • “The last time I checked,” Handel told Right-wing Fox News, “private non-profit organizations have a right and a responsibility to be able to set the highest standards and criteria on their own without interference, let alone the level of vicious attacks and coercion that has occurred by Planned Parenthood. It’s simply outrageous.”
  • “Planned Parenthood campaigns to destroy anyone who questions them,” charged Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List.
  • “Their attitude is that of an immature teenager with an enormous sense of entitlement. This is just more proof that Planned Parenthood will pulverize anyone who dares to question them,” Dannenfelser said.
  • “What Planned Parenthood did to that venerable and honorable organization [Komen Foundation] is nothing less than a Mafia-style shakedown,” said Steven H. Aden, senior counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund. The Fund bitterly opposes abortion, gay marriage, birth control and the separation of church and state.

Many conservatives correctly defended Komen’s right, as a private charitable organization, to give—or withhold—its money as it saw fit.

But these same conservatives refused to grant PP’s outraged supporters the same right: To withhold their own monies from Komen. 

National Review’s Daniel Foster called the backlash to Komen “disgusting,” attacking PP and “the Left” for their “gangsterism.”

Story #2:

Two years later, in 2014, the Right made another move to strip Americans it didn’t like of their most basic rights.  Their weapon of choice: Arizona Senate Bill 1062.

The legislation had been passed by the Republican-controlled State House of Representatives and Senate. Its intent: 

  • Allow business owners to turn away gay and lesbian customers.
  • Allow employers to deny equal pay to women.
  • Allow individuals to renege on contract obligations.  
  • Allow hospitals to refuse to provide medical care to a gay or lesbian patient.

And all of these actions would have been legally protected—so long as “sincere religious belief” was cited  as the reason.

The legislation was written by the Right-wing advocacy group Center for Arizona Policy and the Christian legal organization, Alliance Defending Freedom. 

Officially, its intent was to prevent the government from forcing business owners to act in ways contrary to strongly held religious beliefs.

Unofficially, its intent was to appease the hatred of gays and lesbians by the religious Right, a key constituency of the Republican party.

Gays and their supporters reacted by threatening a legal business and tourism boycott of Arizona.  And the business community and its supporters, alarmed, took notice. 

HEROES AND VILLAINS: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 25, 2021 at 12:39 am

Next hero: Marie Yovanovitch, the former United States ambassador to Ukraine (2016 – 2019). She had joined the Foreign Service in 1986, and served as ambassador to Kyrgyzstan (2005 – 2008) and Armenia (2008 – 2011).

In May 2019, on President Donald Trump’s orders, the State Department recalled Yovanovitch as ambassador to Ukraine. She had earned respect from the national security community for her efforts to encourage Ukraine to tackle corruption.

But she had been criticized by Right-wing media outlets—notably Fox News Network—and by Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani.

Marie L. Yovanovitch.jpg

Marie Yovanovitch

CNN reported that Yovanovitch stopped Giuliani from interviewing witnesses in his search for politically damaging information against former Vice President Joe Biden, whose son, Hunter, had had business dealings in Ukraine.

On October 11, 2019, she appeared before the House Intelligence Committee, chaired by Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA). She did so in defiance of orders by the White House and State Department to not attend.

“She was a hero even before she hit the hearing room,” wrote Charles Pierce for Esquire magazine.

“She told them to stuff their directives, she would answer a congressional subpoena like a citizen is supposed to do. And she didn’t sneak in through the basement. She walked into the Capitol through the front doors, and she didn’t do so to fck around.”

Testifying for nearly 10 hours, Yovanovitch said that Trump had removed her from her post owing to “unfounded and false claims” and “a concerted campaign against me.”

She believed that associates of Trump’s personal lawyer, Giuliani, might have thought “that their personal financial ambitions were stymied by our anti-corruption policy in Ukraine.”

And she warned that the State Department was being “attacked and hollowed out from within. State Department leadership, with Congress, needs to take action now to defend this great institution, and its thousands of loyal and effective employees.”

Another victim on Trump’s hate-list was Chis Krebs.

During the 2016 Presidential race, Russian propaganda had played a major role in convincing millions of Americans to vote for Donald Trump. Social media platforms—especially Facebook and Twitter—were flooded with genuinely fake news to sow discord among Americans and create a pathway for Trump’s election.

And where Internet trolls left off, Russian computer hackers took over.

Trump didn’t win a majority of the popular vote. But he got enough help from Putin to triumph in the Electoral College.

So notorious was the role played by Russian trolls and hackers in winning Trump the 2016 election that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was determined to prevent a repetition in 2020.

And point man for this was Chris Krebs.

Born in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1977, Krebs had received a B.A. in environmental sciences from the University of Virginia in 1999, and a J.D. from the George Mason University School of Law in 2007.

Chris Krebs official photo.jpg

Chris Krebs

Krebs had served as Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for Infrastructure Protection, and later worked in the private sector as Director for Cybersecurity Policy for Microsoft.

Now he was director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency at DHS.

In preparation for the 2020 Presidential election, Krebs launched a massive effort to counter lies spread by Russians—and Americans—on social media platforms. Among his duties:

  • Sharing Intelligence from agencies such as the CIA and National Security Agency with local officials about foreign efforts at election interference.
  • Ensuring that domestic voting equipment was secure.
  • Attacking domestic misinformation head-on.

As a result, Krebs was widely praised for revamping the department’s cybersecurity efforts and increasing coordination with state and local governments. 

By all accounts—except Trump’s—the November 3, 2020 election went very smoothly. 

As a result of the vast increase in election security, Trump not only failed to win the popular vote again but couldn’t get the help he expected from Putin. 

On November 17, Trump fired Chris Krebs. 

The reason: Krebs had not only countered Russian propaganda lies—he had dared to counter Trump’s as well. For example: He rejected Trump’s claims of widespread voter fraud: There “is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.”

In a November 17 story on the CNN website, CNN reporters Kaitlan Collins and Paul LeBlanc bluntly concluded:

“[Krebs’] dismissal underscores the lengths Trump is willing to go to punish those who don’t adopt his conspiratorial view of the election.

“Since CNN and other outlets called the race for President-elect Joe Biden, Trump has refused to accept the results, instead pushing baseless conspiracies that his second term is being stolen.”

Yet, by depriving Trump of Russian help, Krebs ensured a victory for democracy.

On January 6, the House and Senate counted the Electoral Votes—and pronounced Joseph Biden the winner—bringing an end to Trump’s reign of criminality and treason.

In his 1960 poem, “Conversation With an American Writer,” the Russian poet, Yevgeney Yevtushenko spoke for those Russians who had maintained their integrity in the face of Stalinist terror:

“You have courage,” they tell me.
It’s not true. I was never courageous.
I simply felt it unbecoming
to stoop to the cowardice of my colleagues.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of Republicans in the United States Senate and House of Representatives in the face of Trump terror.

HEROES AND VILLAINS: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 24, 2021 at 12:11 am

Next up: Nikolai Sergeyvich Zhilayev (pronounced Zill-lay-ev) was a Russian musicologist and the teacher of several 20th-century Russian composers.

Among these: Dimitri Shostakovich (September 25, 1906 – August 9, 1975)

Among his friends—to his ultimate misfortune—was Mikhail Nikolayevich Tukhachevsky, the former military hero now falsely condemned and executed as a traitor by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

In 1938, Zhilayev (November 18, 1881 – January 20, 1938) also became a casualty of what has become known as The Great Terror.

In his posthumously-published memoirs, Testimony, Shostakovich, his pupil and friend, described how Zhilayev faced his end with a calmness that awed even the NKVD (the predecessor to the KGB) secret police sent to arrest him.

Image result for images of Dmitri Shostakovich

Dimitri Shostakovich

“He had a large picture of Tukhachevsky in his room, and after the announcement that Tukhachevsky had been shot as a traitor to the homeland, Zhilayev did not take the picture down.

“I don’t know if I can explain how heroic a deed that was….As soon as the next poor soul was declared an enemy of the people, everyone destroyed in a panic everything connected with that person….

“And naturally, photographs flew into the fire first, because if someone informed on you, reported that you had a picture of an enemy of the people, it meant certain death.

“Zhilayev wasn’t afraid. When they came for him, Tukhachevsky’s prominently hung portrait amazed even the executioners.”

“What, it’s still up?” one of the secret police asked.

“The time will come,” Zhilayev replied, “when they’ll erect a monument to him.”

As, in fact, has happened. 

Meanwhile, Stalin has been universally condemned as one of history’s greatest tyrants.

Third hero—Brett Crozier, the former commanding officer of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt.

Graduating from the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1992, he received his Master’s Degree in National Security and Strategic Studies from the Naval War College in 2007.

From 2017 to 2018 he commanded the USS Blue Ridge. In November, 2019, he was given command of the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt.

On March 24, 2020, reports circulated that three members of the crew had tested positive for COVID-19. The next day the number of stricken sailors increased to eight. A few days later, it was “dozens.” The sailors reportedly became ill at sea, two weeks after a port call at Danang, Vietnam.

The initial cases were airlifted to a military hospital. The Roosevelt was ordered to Guam. After the ship docked on March 27, 2020, all 5,000 aboard were ordered to be tested for the virus. But only about 100 stricken sailors were allowed to leave the ship. The rest remained on board.

On March 30, Crozier emailed a four-page internal letter to multiple Naval officials, pleading to have the majority of the crew evacuated and quarantined on shore. Given the crowded sleeping quarters and narrow passageways of the vessel, Crozier wrote that it was impossible to follow social distancing and quarantine procedures: 

“This will require a political solution but it is the right thing to do. We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset—our Sailors….

“This is a necessary risk. Keeping over 4,000 young men and women on board the TR is an unnecessary risk and breaks faith with those Sailors entrusted to our care.”

Brett E. Crozier (2).jpg

Brett Crozier

Crozier sent his letter via a non-secure, unclassified email to 20 to 30 recipients, as well as the captain’s immediate chain of command. He reportedly believed that his immediate supervisor would not allow him to send it.

And his superior later confirmed that he would not have allowed Crozier to send it.

On March 31, someone leaked the letter to the San Francisco Chronicle, which published it.

On April 1, the Navy ordered the aircraft carrier evacuated. A skeleton crew of 400 remained aboard to maintain the nuclear reactor, the fire-fighting equipment, and the ship’s galley. 

On April 2, Crozier was relieved of command by acting United States Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly.

By that time, about 114 crew members—out of a total of around 4,000—reportedly tested positive for COVID-19.  

As Crozier disembarked, sailors loudly saluted him with a standing ovation: “Cap-tain Cro-zier!”   

Modly claimed that Crozier’s letter “raised alarm bells unnecessarily. It undermines our efforts and the chain of command’s efforts to address this problem, and creates a panic and this perception that the Navy’s not on the job, that the government’s not on the job, and it’s just not true.”

Actually, the Trump administration had frittered away January and February, with President Donald Trump giving multiple—and misleading—press conferences. In these, he played down the dangers of COVID-19, saying that “we’re on top of it”—even as the virus spread across the country. 

“It was a betrayal. And I can tell you one other thing: because he did that he put it in the public’s forum and it is now a big controversy in Washington, DC,” continued Modly. [Italics added] 

This was the United States Navy under Donald Trump—who threw “betrayal” and “treason” at anyone who dared reveal the truth about institutional crimes and failures.

HEROES AND VILLAINS: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 23, 2021 at 12:18 am

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

Four heroes, three villains.

Two of the heroes are Russians; three are Americans.

The villains: One Russian (actually, Georgian); two American.

First up—in order of disappearance: Mikhail Nikolayevich Tukhachevsky (pronounced too-ka-chev-sky).

Tukhachevsky (February 4, 1893 – June 12, 1937) was a major Soviet military leader and theoretician from 1918 to 1937. 

He commanded the Soviet Western Front during the Russian-Polish War (1920-21) and served as Chief of Staff of the Red Army (1925-1928).

He fought to modernize Soviet armament, as well as develop airborne, aviation and mechanized forces.  Almost singlehandedly, he created the theory of deep operations for Soviet forces.

Tukhachevsky.png

Mikhail Tukhachevsky

All of these innovations would reap huge dividends when the Soviet Union faced the lethal fury of Adolf Hitler’s Wehrmacht.

In 1936, Tukhachevsky warned Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin that Nazi Germany might attack without warning—and ignite a long and murderous war.

Stalin—the son of a Georgian cobbler—resented Tukhachevsky’s coming from a noble family. A monumental egomaniac, he also hated that Tukhachevesky’s fame rivaled his own.

Warned of the approaching German danger, Stalin shouted: “What are you trying to do—frighten Soviet authority?”

Joseph Stalin

The attack that Tukhachevsky warned against came five years later—on June 22, 1941, leaving at least 26 million Russians dead.

But Tukhachevsky wasn’t alive to command a defense.

The 1930s were a frightening and dangerous time to be alive in the Soviet Union. In 1934, Stalin, seeing imaginary enemies everywhere, ordered a series of purges that lasted right up to the German invasion.

An example of Stalin’s paranoia occurred one day while the dictator walked through the Kremlin corridors with Admiral Ivan Isakov. Officers of the NKVD (the predecessor to the KGB) stood guard at every corner. 

“Every time I walk down the corridors,” said Stalin, “I think: Which one of them is it? If it’s this one, he will shoot me in the back. But if I turn the corner, the next one can shoot me in the face.”

In 1937-38, the Red Army fell prey to Stalin’s paranoia.

Its victims included:

  • Three of five marshals (five-star generals);
  • Thirteen of 15 army commanders (three- and four-star generals);
  • Fifty of 57 army corps commanders; and
  • One hundred fifty-four out of 186 division commanders.

And heading the list of those marked for death was Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky.

Arrested on May 22, 1937, he was interrogated and tortured. As a result, he “confessed” to being a German agent plotting to overthrow Stalin and seize power. 

On his confession, which survives in the archives, his bloodstains can clearly be seen.

On June 11, 1937, the Soviet Supreme Court convened a special military tribunal to try Tukhachevsky and eight generals for treason.

It was a sham: The accused were denied defense attorneys, and could not appeal the verdict—-which was foregone: Death.

In a Russian version of poetic justice, five of the eight generals who served as Tukhachevsky’s judges were themselves later condemned and executed as traitors.

Within hours of the verdict, Tukhachevsky was summoned from his cell and shot once in the back of the head.

From 1937 until 1956, Tukhachevsky was officially declared a traitor and fifth-columnist.

Then, on February 25, 1957, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev delivered his bombshell “Secret Speech” to the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

In this, he denounced Stalin (who had died in 1953) as a ruthless tyrant responsible for the slaughter of millions of innocent men, women and children. He condemned Stalin for creating a “personality cult” around himself, and for so weakening the Red Army that Nazi Germany was able to easily overrun half of the Soviet Union from 1941 to 1943.

On January 31, 1957, Tukhachevsky and his co-defendants were declared innocent of all charges and were “rehabilitated.”

Today, he is once again—rightly—considered a Russian hero and military genius. And Stalin is universally—and rightly—seen as a blood-stained tyrant.

Image result for Images of Statues to Mikhail Tukhachevsky

Mikhail Tukhachevsky appears on a 1963 Soviet Union postage stamp

Next hero: Nikolai Sergeyvich Zhilayev (pronounced Zill-lay-ev)

Zhilayev (November 18, 1881 – January 20, 1938) was a Russian musicologist and the teacher of several 20th-century Russian composers. Among these: Dimitri Shostakovich.

Zhilayev, a member of the Russian Academy of Art-Sciences, taught at the Moscow Conservatory. Among his friends—to his ultimate misfortune—was Mikhail Tukhachevsky.

In 1938, he, too, became a casualty of what has become known as The Great Terror.

In his posthumously-published memoirs, Testimony, Shostakovich, his pupil and friend, described how Zhilayev faced his end with a calmness that awed even the NKVD secret police sent to arrest him. 

STILL COUNTING THE STUPIDS: PART TWO (END)

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

With the swearing in of Joseph R. Biden as the 46th President of the United States, a new—and desperately needed—chapter in the saga of COVID-19 has finally begun.

President Donald Trump had made the wearing of masks a divisive political issue. Wearing a mask, according to him, made you a wimp and a liberal Never-Trumper. Not wearing a mask showed you’re a macho man or woman—and in solidarity with him.

In effect, he was egotistically demanding that his followers risk death to prove their loyalty to him.

Biden, from the first, has seen COVID-19 as a plague—and not as a test of personal loyalty.

During a June 26, 2020 television interview he said that, if he were elected President, he would require wearing face masks in public to prevent the spread of Coronavirus: “The one thing we do know—these masks make a gigantic difference. I would insist that everybody out in public be wearing that mask.”

Since becoming President, he has:

  • Issued a national mask mandate on federal property, airlines, trains and other public transit systems.
  • Created an office of White House COVID-19 response. Its goals: Secure more protective equipment for workers, increase testing and vaccinations and reopen schools.
  • Restored science to its rightful place in fighting the plague. “You’re going to be hearing a lot from [Infectious disease expert] Dr. [Anthony] Fauci again,” Biden promised, saying that public health officials would be “free from political interference.”
  • Promised to push for a $1.9 trillion economic relief and COVID response package. Although he has repeatedly said he wants to pass this with bipartisan support, he has also warned that he will try to do so without Republican agreement if necessary.
  • Promised to level with the country on both the progress and setbacks in his war on COVID-19. He has predicted that 100,000 Americans will die from COVID-19 during his first six weeks in office.

Joe Biden official portrait 2013 cropped.jpg

President Joseph Biden

Biden’s mask rules come as close to a national mask mandate as his federal powers allow. Only states and municipalities can require residents to wear masks at a local level.

And even in states that require wearing a mask in public, many people refuse to do so. Fights have erupted between mask-less and mask-wearing customers—and sometimes store employees—who asked them to put on a mask before entering. Even store security guards have been assaulted.

So: How should those who refuse to wear a mask—and thus threaten the lives of others—be dealt with?

Governors, mayors and business owners need to fill the leadership void. They should issue emergency orders mandating the wearing of masks in public. And these orders should be forcibly backed up by the following:

  • Stop stressing that wearing a mask will protect others from “you.” Most people don’t care about strangers. Emphasize that wearing a mask will protect “you and your family” from others. 
  • Don’t hand out tickets to mask-evaders. They will simply ignore them—or write them off as a cheap price for going without a mask. 
  • Major retailers should hire professional guards to handle mask-evaders—who should be turned over to police.
  • Police should arrest everyone not wearing a mask in public and jail them—without bond—until the plague is over or a vaccine is found.

VIPERTEK Double Lock Steel Handcuffs

  • These inmates should be lodged together—and away from those who are not infected with COVID-19.
  • Police should create tip hotlines for reporting mask-evaders—and offer rewards for tips that lead to arrests.
  • The media should publicize these arrests and jailings—to warn other potential mask-evaders.  
  • Right-wingers who openly carry firearms and threaten violence should be arrested and imprisoned under State and Federal anti-terrorism laws.  

It was the failure of German police and courts to abort Right-wing violence during the Weimar Republic that led to even greater violence through the rise of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi party.

Laws are useless if citizens believe they are unfairly or unpredictably enforced. As Niccolo Machiavelli warns in his classic work, The Discourses:

…Whoever desires to found a state and give it laws, must start with assuming that all men are bad and ever ready to display their vicious nature, whenever they may find occasion for it. If their evil disposition remains concealed for a time, it must be attributed to some unknown reason; and we must assume that it lacked occasion to show itself.

This is how United States authorities dealt with “Typhoid Mary” Mallon (September 23, 1869 – November 11, 1938).

Typhoid Mary Mallon – Legends of America

Mary Mallon

An Irish-born cook, she was an asymptomatic carrier of typhoid fever and is believed to have infected 53 people, three of whom died. Because she persisted in working as a cook, she exposed others to the disease.

As a result, she was twice forcibly quarantined by authorities, and died after a total of nearly 30 years in isolation at Riverside Hospital on North Brother Island, in New York City.

It’s long past time for responsible Federal, state and local officials to get tough on those who, through sheer egotism or allegiance to a medically discredited American traitor, place others at risk of a deadly plague.

STILL COUNTING THE STUPIDS: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on February 1, 2021 at 12:21 am

Here’s a new game you can play the next time you take a walk: Count the Stupids! 

These are the people who, during a deadly pandemic: 

  • Don’t wear a mask.
  • Don’t wear a mask—and suck on a cigarette.
  • Wear a mask—just under their nose.
  • Wear a mask—around their neck like a bandanna. 

The number of people who fall into these categories will vary each day.

But they all constitute a clear and present danger to those who want to stay clear of COVID-19. Here’s why:

  • NOT WEARING A MASK exposes the non-wearer and anyone else not wearing one to the possibility of COVID-19. You can sneeze or cough into someone’s face—or someone can sneeze or cough into yours.
  • NOT WEARING A MASK WHILE SMOKING exposes the smoker to both the probability of getting COVID-19 and the almost certainty of getting lung cancer, heart disease and/or emphysema.
  • WEARING A MASK JUST UNDER THE NOSE means you can sneeze COVID-19 into someone’s face—or someone with COVID-19 can sneeze into your nose.
  • WEARING A MASK AROUND THE NECK may make you feel like a range-roving cowboy, but it offers the same degree of protection as NOT WEARING A MASK: Zero. 

N95 Respirator Masks | Bass-Mollett Publishers Inc.

N95 mask

The Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, emerged in China in December, 2019, and has since spread throughout the world.

By February 1, 2021, it had infected 102,659,554 people worldwide. Of these, 2,221,640 have died.

In the United States, case totals have reached 26,075,932. Of these, 439,536 have died.

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Coronavirus

For the first three months of the plague, masks were hard to come by. Top-of-the-line masks such as the N95 were quickly snapped up by hospitals filling with COVID cases. This forced many families to sew their own masks. Many of these were made of porous material, allowing the wearer to become easily infected.

But today masks are advertised—and sold—everywhere. 

Wearing a mask and “social distancing”—keeping at least six feet between yourself and others while in public—have been the Golden Rules urged by public health officials for months.

Scientists have learned, for example, that COVID-19 can be spread by those who show no symptom of the disease. And mounting evidence has proven that masks are essential for protecting people from the virus. 

Coronavirus is spread by respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks—especially if large numbers of people are packed indoors. The danger goes up if the talker is shouting or singing loudly.

If not blocked by a face covering, the droplets can travel six to 13 feet.   

Researchers at Florida Atlantic University found that some masks were more effective than others. One study showed that well-fitted homemade masks with multiple layers of fabric, as well as off-the-shelf cone style masks, were the most effective in reducing droplet dispersal.

The N95 mask—made by the 3M Company—has been rated the best. Its Chinese counterpart—the KN95—has been rated its equivalent.

Bandannas turned out to be the least effective in reducing transmission.

There are at least seven reasons why so many Americans refuse to wear a mask—even in the midst of a deadly pandemic. 

First: A feeling of solidarity. According to David Abrams, a professor of social and behavioral sciences at NYU School of Global Public Health: People who don’t wear masks may see it as a sign of solidarity, as if they are taking a stand against authority.

Second: “If liberals do it, it’s fascistic.” Many mask protesters accuse those who wear masks of being fascists. This is a hallmark of Right-wing politics—accusing their opponents of being what they are themselves.

Third: They have utterly rejected the rising death-toll caused by the virus. They claim stories of such deaths are mere “fake news”—the term Donald Trump uses to dismiss any news stories that highlight his mistakes and criminality. 

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Fourth: Republicans disdain education in general—and science in particular. In March, an NBC News poll found that only 30% of Republicans said that they would actually listen to the advice of doctors to stay away from large, crowded areas to avoid Coronavirus

Fifth: Religious Fanaticism: Many fundamentalist Christians believe that their faith in Jesus will protect them against COVID-19. They continue to attend services indoors in defiance of warnings by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that such meetings are dangerous.

A female member of the Solid Red Rock Church in Monroe, Ohio, told CNN: “I wouldn’t be anywhere else. I’m covered in Jesus’ blood. I’m covered in Jesus’ blood.”

Sixth: Hypocrisy. Since the Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973, the Right has demanded that even women who are pregnant due to rape or incest carry the fetus to term.

Yet now that Right-wingers are being asked to wear masks in public—to protect themselves and others from a deadly plague—they’ve suddenly discovered the mantra: “It’s my body!”

Seventh: Identifying with Donald Trump. The former President made it clear that his followers don’t wear masks. And they have fallen into line, refusing to mask up even in crowded, indoor arenas where infection is most likely.

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