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Posts Tagged ‘SMOKING’

IDIOCRACY: IT’S MORE THAN A MOVIE–IT’S AMERICAN REALITY

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on November 25, 2022 at 12:36 am

“I’ve chosen this life. I know what it is. There are things about it that sometimes are disturbing. But you just focus on the job you have to do. And just put all that other stuff aside.”” 

The speaker wasn’t a longtime Mafia enforcer turned-State’s-witness. He was Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

And he was speaking with an NBC News reporter about death threats he had received.

At 81, Fauci is getting the sort of protection reserved for organized crime witnesses through the Justice Department’s Witness Security Program.

NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D.

Dr. Anthony Fauci

The U.S. Marshals Service has deputized nine officers from the Department of Health and Human Services as bodyguards for Fauci.

So what has this man—who has dedicated his entire adult life to protecting Americans against infectious diseases—done to require such protection? 

He has merely spoken the hard medical truth about Coronavirus. In doing so, he has at times contradicted former President Donald Trump’s ignorance- and lie-riddled statements. 

For example: Trump has loudly touted hydroxychloroquine, used for treating malaria, as a miracle cure for the Coronavirus.

Yet Fauci has dared to point out there have been no scientific trials of the drug for its effectiveness against Coronavirus. Moreover, given the medical condition of some patients, it could even prove fatal.

Statements like this have infuriated Trump’s base of—at best—half-educated fans.

During the 2016 Presidential race, after winning the Nevada primary, Trump infamously celebrated his victory: “We won the evangelicals. We won with young. We won with old. We won with highly educated. We won with poorly educated. I love the poorly educated.”   

A February 24, 2016 USA Today story covering this event carried the headline: “Donald Trump loves the poorly educated—and they love him.”

And at the bottom of the story came this warning: “Some—journalists, mostly—noted that Trump’s proud embrace of poorly less educated voters and the resulting shock may only cause those less educated voters to embrace Trump all the more.” 

And they do.

A Colleague Admits that Support for Trump Derives from Selfishness ...

There has been a growing divide between Democrats and Republicans on the merits of higher education.

An August 20, 2019 story in Forbes noted that a Pew Research survey, conducted in July, had found that “67% of Democrats and Democrat-leaning respondents say higher education is having a positive effect on the country compared to only 33% of Republicans and Republican-leaning participants.” 

Furthermore, “the percentage of Republicans attributing a positive effect to higher education has steadily eroded from 58% (2010), 53% (2012), 54% (2015), 43% (2016), and 36% (2017). Among Republicans, 59% now say higher education has a negative effect on the U.S., compared to just 18% of Democrats.” 

This disdain for education in general—and science in particular—has led to the following: In March, 2020, 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.

These are the same people who get their version of reality from Right-wing sources like Fox News Network and Rush Limbaugh. 

Rush Limbaugh

On his March 27, 2020 show, Limbaugh dismissed Coronavirus as “the common cold,” then added: “We didn’t elect a president to defer to a bunch of health experts that we don’t know

“And how do we know they’re even health experts? Well, they wear white lab coats, and they’ve been in the job for a while, and they’re at the CDC and they’re at the NIH, and they’re up, well—yeah, they’ve been there, and they are there.

“But has there been any job assessment for them? They’re just assumed to be the best because they’re in government. But, these are all kinds of things that I’ve been questioning.” 

This is the same Rush Limbaugh who said, in 2015: “Firsthand smoke takes 50 years to kill people, if it does. Not everybody that smokes gets cancer. Now, it’s true that everybody who smokes dies, but so does everyone who eats carrots.”

Five years later, in February, 2020, Limbaugh—a longtime and heavy cigar smoker—announced that he had Stage Four lung cancer. He died on February 17, 2021.

And then there is former President Trump—and his chorus of cheerleaders.

On February 25, 2020, Kayleigh McEnany, his fourth press secretary in three years, said on Fox Business: “This President will always put America first. He will always protect American citizens. We will not see diseases like the Coronavirus come here.” 

During February and March, she repeatedly downplayed the threat of the disease, even as it spread across the United States. 

These, then, are the types of “reliable sources” that millions of Right-wingers take as gospel—while dismissing the warnings of the medical profession as erroneous or, worse, products of a liberal conspiracy.

And by daring to contradict such blatant ignorance—if not outright lies—Dr. Anthony Fauci has made himself a target for Right-wing hatred and death threats.

Their hatred for Fauci proves once again the correctness of Ernest Hemingway’s definition of Fascism: “Fascism is a lie told by bullies.” 

By the time Trump left office—on January 20, 2021—more than 400,000 Americans had died of COVID-19.

THE TRUTH ABOUT LIARS

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on August 18, 2022 at 12:10 am

“The Holocaust never happened.” 

“The Sandy Hook massacre never happened.” 

“The MAGAbomber is a Democrat who’s mailing letter-bombs to make Republicans look bad.” 

These are among the lies regularly hurled by “lunatic fringe” Right-wingers—and, more importantly, “mainstream” Republicans.

Many liberals believe Right-wingers simply lack correct information.

They assume that, if only Right-wingers knew the truth about such matters as:

  • The millions slaughtered during the Holocaust;
  • The horrific massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School; and
  • The pro-Trump motives of the MAGAbomber

they would be telling the truth.

There are two motives behind such blatant lying—and mere ignorance is not one of them. 

Motive #1: Right-wingers don’t want to admit the truth about events most people instinctively believe are evil.

Right-wingers intuitively know that shoving huge numbers of naked men, women and children into gas chambers is the arch-example of evil. And so is spraying scores of bullets into scores of helpless men, women and children in churches, nightclubs and schools.

They know they can’t convince decent people that such atrocities are really acts of humanity. So it’s easier (for them) to simply deny that they actually happened.

The tobacco industry paved the way for such arguments. 

The Tobacco Institute—a trade association created in 1958 to pose as a “smoking research” center—cast doubt on scientific studies linking smoking with lung cancer, emphysema and heart disease.

Tobacco Institute ad

Its premise: “We really don’t know if smoking causes cancer. We need more studies to make certain.”

And, for the Tobacco Institute, there could never be enough studies to prove that smoking was a thoroughly deadly habit—that reaped billions of dollars every year for the tobacco industry.

The longer they could convince the public of their lies, the less likely they were to be regulated.

Motive #2: Right-wingers claim Right-wing atrocities didn’t happen to put the victims of such atrocities on the defensive.

This, too, was a major aim of the tobacco industry. By constantly demanding “Prove to us that smoking is deadly” and then arrogantly dismissing all evidence put forward, tobacco executives put the onus on their opponents.

From October 22 to November 1, 2018, Cesar Sayoc mailed pipe-bombs to 10 prominent Democrats—including former President Barack Obama,  former Vice President Joe Biden and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

After Sayoc was arrested and his van was found plastered with pro-Donald Trump stickers, Right-wingers reflexively seized on a series of lies to “cleanse” themselves:

  • “He’s a liberal put up to it by other liberals.”
  • “The bombs were fake, to stir up sympathy for liberals before the November elections.”  
  • Right-wing talk-show host Rush Limbaugh: “Would it make a lot of sense for a Democrat operative or Democrat-inculcated lunatic to do it? Because things are not working out the way they thought.”
  • Right-wing propagandist Dinesh D’Souza: “I hear the FBI squeezed lemon juice on the suspicious packages and a very faint lettering revealed a single word: DEMOCRATS.”

Totally ignored was that FBI Director Christopher Wray—a Trump appointee after the firing of James Comey in May, 2017—publicly stated that the bombs were real: “Though we’re still analyzing these devices in our laboratory, these were not hoax devices.”

Chris Wray official photo.jpg

Christopher Wray

So how did Right-wingers react to Wray’s no-nonsense rebuttal of Right-wing conspiracy lies?

They attacked the FBI as part of the “deep state” determined to thwart and, if possible, impeach Donald Trump.

According to one Rightist theory: The FBI made the bombs and sent them out to implicate some poor Trump supporter—if not the President himself.

So how can such liars be defeated? Lawsuits based on the truth.

On August 1, 2018, families of four students and two educators who died in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre filed a defamation lawsuit against Right-wing broadcaster and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.

Jones hosts The Alex Jones Show from Austin, Texas. He had claimed the mass shooting was fake.  

Twenty children and six adults were killed in the December 14, 2012, attack by 20-year-old Adam Lanza. 

On his program in January, 2015, he said: “Sandy Hook is a synthetic completely fake with actors, in my view, manufactured. I couldn’t believe it at first. I knew they had actors there, clearly, but I thought they killed some real kids. And it just shows how bold they are, that they clearly used actors.”

Alex Jones Portrait (cropped).jpg

Alex Jones

Michael Zimmermann [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D

According to the complaint: 

“The Jones defendants concoct elaborate and false paranoia-tinged conspiracy theories because it moves product and they make money. Not because they truly believe what they are saying, but rather because it increases profits.” 

Thus, a reasonable person would understand that Jones meant the massacre was staged and the deaths were fabricated.

So Jones responded with another lie: “This is all out of context….And it’s not even what I said or my intent,” he said. “I’m not going to get into the real defects of this, I’m going to wait until it’s thrown out with prejudice.”

Jones’ lies did him no good. On August 4, 2022, a Texas jury ordered Jones pay two plaintiffs $4.1 million in compensatory damages. The following day, he was ordered to pay $45.2 million in punitive damages.

Other trials are pending.

DIFFERENT LIVES–AND DIFFERENT LEGACIES

In Entertainment, History, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on August 15, 2022 at 12:12 am

Two deaths. Two entirely different legacies.

The first—of Rush Limbaugh—came on February 17, 2021.  

The second—of Olivia Newton-John—came on August 10, 2022.

Limbaugh hosted The Rush Limbaugh Show, which was nationally syndicated on AM and FM radio stations from 1988 until his death in 2021.

Rush Limbaugh

With 15.5 million listeners, Limbaugh’s radio show was the most popular one in the United States. He became one of the most prominent Right wing voices in the country during the 1990s. 

Among his targets: Blacks; liberals; Democrats; gays; lesbians; feminists (whom he called “feminazis”); consent in sexual relations; environmentalism; climate change; abortion rights; Barack Obama; the need for masking and vaccinations against COVID-19.

Among the personalities and causes he championed: The 2003 Iraq war; torture at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison; eliminating taxes on the wealthy; smoking; Donald Trump; 

His attack on Sandra Fluke, a third-year Georgetown University law student who testified before Congress on February 23, 2012, was typical Limbaugh. 

Fluke said that insurance companies should cover the costs of birth control. As a student at a Jesuit campus that refuses to provide insurance coverage for contraception, birth control costs can be as high as $3,000 during the three years a woman attends law school.

Limbaugh’s response: “So Ms. Fluke and the rest of you Feminazis, here’s the deal: If we are going to pay for your contraceptives and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it.  And I’ll tell you what it is.  We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch.”

Sandra Fluke was among the millions who didn’t mourn when Limbaugh died at 70 on February 17, 2021, of lung cancer caused by a lifetime of cigar smoking.

If the legacy of Rush Limbaugh was darkness personified, the legacy of Olivia Newton-John was one of sunshine and joy. 

Olivia Newton-John

Larry D. Moore, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

She dominated the pop charts of the 1970s and ’80s with mega hits “Hopelessly Devoted to You,” “I Honestly Love You,” “Have You Never Been Mellow?” “Magic,” and “Physical.” 

Vanity Fair described her thus:  “Her angelic beam matched with a clear, sweet-yet-supple soprano was vocal satin, giving her a versatile edge in singing feel-good numbers across genres and styles.” 

But her biggest splash came in “Grease,” the top-grossing movie for 1978, where she co-starred with John Travolta. Her role as Sandy, an Australian exchange student, brought her international acclaim and further propelled her musical career. The movie’s soundtrack remains one of the world’s best-selling albums.   

“I don’t think anyone could have imagined a movie would go on almost 40 years and would still be popular and people would still be talking to me about it all the time and loving it,” Newton-John said in 2017.

She won four Grammy awards and racked up five number-one hits and another 10 top-10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 and two number-one albums on the Billboard 200. Eleven of her singles and 14 of her albums have been certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America.

Having sold more than 100 million records, Newton-John is one of the most popular singers of the 20th and 21st centuries.

“I love to sing, it’s all I know how to do,” she told CNN in 2017. “That’s all I’ve ever done since I was 15, so it’s my life. I feel very grateful that I can still do it and people still come to see me.”

An animal-rights advocate, she cancelled a 1978 concert tour of Japan to protest the slaughter of dolphins caught in tuna fishing nets.

Among the charities and foundations she supported: Cure Breast Cancer, Red Cross, Healthy Child Healthy World, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. She was a performer on the 1979 Music for UNICEF Concert for the UN’s International Year of the Child, televised worldwide.

Behind her bright smile and sunny disposition lay the shadow of tragedy. In 2005 Newton-John’s then-boyfriend, Patrick McDermott, disappeared at sea while on a fishing trip off the coast of California.

“It’s very hard to live with that,” she told CNN’s Larry King in 2006. “It’s probably the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced, and I’ve been through a lot of things.”

In 1992, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She recovered, but for more than 40 years she lived with the constant threat of its return.

“I draw strength from the millions of women who have faced this challenge successfully,” she said in a statement. “This has been detected early because I’ve had regular examinations, so I encourage other women to do the same.”

Then, in May 2017, she announced that the cancer had returned and metastasized to her lower back. 

Asked during a February 2021 interview if she had contemplated her own death, she replied, “I have quite a few times,” adding it was “sooner than I would have wanted. I mean—we all know we are going to die. I think we spend our lives probably much in denial of it.”

The title of her 2019 autobiography, Don’t Stop Believin’, summed up her attitude toward life.

On August 8, 2022, Olivia Newton-John died from cancer at her home in the Santa Ynez Valley of California. She was 73. 

Euripides, the Greek  tragedian, was right: When good men dietheir goodness does not perish, but lives though they are gone. As for the bad, all that was theirs dies and is buried with them.”

CELEBRATING IGNORANCE–WITH DEATH THREATS

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on April 13, 2020 at 12:26 am

“I’ve chosen this life. I know what it is. There are things about it that sometimes are disturbing. But you just focus on the job you have to do. And just put all that other stuff aside.””

The speaker wasn’t a longtime Mafia enforcer turned-State’s-witness. He was Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

And he was speaking with an NBC News reporter about death threats he had received.

At 79, Fauci is getting the sort of protection reserved for organized crime witnesses through the Justice Department’s Witness Security Program.

NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D.

Dr. Anthony Fauci

The U.S. Marshals Service has deputized nine officers from the Department of Health and Human Services as bodyguards for Fauci.

So what has this man—who has dedicated his entire adult life to protecting Americans against infectious diseases—done to require such protection? 

He has merely spoken the hard medical truth about Coronavirus. In doing so, he has at times contradicted President Donald Trump’s statements filled with ignorance or outright lies. 

For example: Trump has been loudly touting hydroxychloroquine, used for treating malaria, as a miracle cure for the Coronavirus.

Yet Fauci has dared to point out there have been no scientific trials of the drug for its effectiveness against Coronavirus. Moreover, given the medical condition of some patients, it could even prove fatal.

Statements like this have infuriated Trump’s base of—at best—half-educated fans.

During the 2016 Presidential race, after winning the Nevada primary, Trump infamously celebrated his victory: “We won the evangelicals. We won with young. We won with old. We won with highly educated. We won with poorly educated. I love the poorly educated.”   

A February 24, 2016 USA Today story covering this event carried the headline: “Donald Trump loves the poorly educated—and they love him.”

And at the bottom of the story came this warning: “Some—journalists, mostly—noted that Trump’s proud embrace of poorly less educated voters and the resulting shock may only cause those less educated voters to embrace Trump all the more.” 

And they do.

A Colleague Admits that Support for Trump Derives from Selfishness ...

There has been a growing divide between Democrats and Republicans on the merits of higher education.

An August 20, 2019 story in Forbes noted that a Pew Research survey, conducted in July, had found that “67% of Democrats and Democrat-leaning respondents say higher education is having a positive effect on the country compared to only 33% of Republicans and Republican-leaning participants.” 

Furthermore, “the percentage of Republicans attributing a positive effect to higher education has steadily eroded from 58% (2010), 53% (2012), 54% (2015), 43% (2016), and 36% (2017). Among Republicans, 59% now say higher education has a negative effect on the U.S., compared to just 18% of Democrats.” 

This disdain for education in general—and science in particular—has led to the following: 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.

These are the same people who get their version of reality from Right-wing sources like Fox News Network and Rush Limbaugh. 

Rush Limbaugh

On his March 27 show, Limbaugh dismissed Coronavirus as “the common cold,” then added: “We didn’t elect a president to defer to a bunch of health experts that we don’t know

“And how do we know they’re even health experts? Well, they wear white lab coats, and they’ve been in the job for a while, and they’re at the CDC and they’re at the NIH, and they’re up, well—yeah, they’ve been there, and they are there.

“But has there been any job assessment for them? They’re just assumed to be the best because they’re in government. But, these are all kinds of things that I’ve been questioning.” 

This is the same Rush Limbaugh who said, in 2015: “Firsthand smoke takes 50 years to kill people, if it does Not everybody that smokes gets cancer. Now, it’s true that everybody who smokes dies, but so does everyone who eats carrots.”

Five years later, in February, 2020, Limbaugh—a longtime and heavy cigar smoker—announced that he had Stage Four lung cancer.

And then there is President Trump—and his chorus of cheerleaders, both within his administration and on Fox News. 

On February 25, Kayleigh McEnany, his fourth press secretary in three years, said on Fox Business: “This President will always put America first. He will always protect American citizens. We will not see diseases like the Coronavirus come here.”

During February and March, she repeatedly downplayed the threat of the disease, even as it spread across the United States. 

By April 11 there were  561,103 cases of Coronavirus throughout the country, with 22,106 deaths. 

These, then, are the types of “reliable sources” that millions of Right-wingers take as gospel—while dismissing the warnings of the medical profession as erroneous or, worse, products of a liberal conspiracy. 

And by daring to contradict such blatant ignorance—if not outright lies—Dr. Anthony Fauci has made himself a target for Right-wing hatred and death threats. 

Their hatred for Fauci proves once again the correctness of Ernest Hemingway’s definition of Fascism: “Fascism is a lie told by bullies.”

YOUR CORONAVIRUS CZAR

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on March 16, 2020 at 12:09 am

On February 26, President Donald Trump appointed Vice President Mike Pence to lead a task force to combat the spread of the Coronavirus. 

In doing so, he rejected calls to appoint an outside medical expert.

This put the Federal medical establishment under a trusted sycophant—and gave Trump a convenient scapegoat if something went wrong.

So here’s what America is getting as its medical savior.

Michael Richard “Mike” Pence served as a Republican member of the House of Representatives from 2001 to 2013. He also served as Chairman of the House Republican Conference from 2009 to 2012.  His record included:

  • Voted, in 2007, to defund Planned Parenthood because it provides abortions.
  • Opposed, in 2009, giving American citizenship to children born to illegal aliens living within the United States.
  • Compared the U.S. Supreme Court’s upholding the Constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
  • Voted to eliminate funding for climate education programs and to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2012, he ran for Governor of Indiana, won the election, and assumed this office in 2013.

As Governor, Pence: 

  • Signed legislation in 2015 that repealed an 80-year-old Indiana law requiring construction companies working on publicly funded projects to pay a prevailing wage.
  • Successfully lobbied in 2013 to limit reductions in sentences for marijuana offenses.

On July 15, 2016, Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump announced on Twitter that he had selected Pence as his Vice Presidential running mate in the 2016 Presidential election.

But for all of Pence’s actions as Congressman and Governor, the one which may prove the most far-reaching may be this: His signing into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

As Governor of Indiana, he did this on March 26, 2015. The law allows any individual or corporation to cite its religious beliefs as a defense when sued by a private party.

Related image

Mike Pence

Officially, its intent is to prevent the government from forcing business owners to act in ways contrary to strongly held religious beliefs. Unofficially, its purpose is to appease the hatred of gays and lesbians by the religious Right, a key constituency of the Republican party.

Thus, a bakery can legally refuse to make a cake for a gay wedding or a restaurant can refuse to serve lesbian patrons.

And a hospital can refuse to provide care to a gay or lesbian patient. 

The bill was passed overwhelmingly by both chambers of the Republican-controlled state legislature.  

“Today I signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, because I support the freedom of religion for every Hoosier of every faith,” Pence said in a statement on the day he signed the bill.

“The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action.”

Yet for all his praise for the bill, Pence signed it in a ceremony closed to the public and the press. The media were asked to leave even the waiting area of the governor’s office.

At least one unintended consequence of that legislation has already surfaced: The First Church of Cannabis.

The day after Pence signed the Act, church founder Bill Levin announced on his Facebook page that he had filed paperwork with the office of the Indiana Secretary of State.

Its registration had been approved—and Levin was ecstatic: “Now we begin to accomplish our goals of Love, Understanding, and Good Health.

“Donate $100 or more and become a GREEN ANGEL. Donate $500 or more and become a GOLD ANGEL. Donate $1000 or more and become a CHURCH POOHBA.”

This legislation has not only brought legal marijuana to Indiana. It may bring Sharia law as well.

Since 9/11, Right-wingers such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity have warned that Muslims are trying to impose Sharia (Islamic law) on America. And now Indiana’s legislators, in elevating religion above the law, may have laid the legal foundations for making that possible.

Related image

Muslims demanding the imposition of Sharia law–on themselves and non-Muslims

What will happen when: 

  • Muslims in Indiana claim their right—guaranteed in Islamic religious law—to have as many as four wives?  
  • Muslims demand a taxpayer-funded “halal” non-pork food shelf at free food pantries for the poor? (Exactly this happened among Somali refugees in Minnesota in 2015.) 
  • Muslims demand that police departments cancel counter-terrorism courses by claiming that their materials are anti-Muslim? (Exactly this happened to several police departments in Illinois.)

And when they claim that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act protects those rights? 

Now that Pence is Coronizavirus Czar, it’s essential to remember:

  • In 2001, when he ran for Congress, he posted on his campaign website: “Despite the hysteria from the political class and the media, smoking doesn’t kill.”
  • As a Congressman, Pence voted against legislation allowing the Food and Drug Administration to regulate the tobacco industry.
  • During a CNN panel in 2002 about abstinence education, Pence said: “Frankly, condoms are a very, very poor protection against sexually transmitted diseases.”
  • In 2015, Indiana had an unprecedented HIV outbreak. Although the Centers for Disease Control recommended clean needle exchanges, Pence, as governor, opposed this.

As the Coronavirus threatens to overwhelm the United States as it has Italy, the appointment of Mike Pence as America’s Dr. Marcus Welby is not an event to celebrate.

WHAT “PATRIOTISM” MEANS TO RUSH

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 19, 2020 at 12:06 am

On February 4, President Donald Trump awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Right-wing propagandist Rush Limbaugh.

It was the Big Surprise on the night of his fourth annual State of the Union address to the nation.

And all that Limbaugh had had to do to earn the prestigeous medal was to spend 30 years spewing hatred at anyone who rejected a Fascistic agenda. And—oh, yes—for the longtime cigar smoker to announce the day before that he had been diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer.

Previously, Limbaugh had declared that smoking didn’t cause cancer.

Rush Limbaugh

The Medal of Freedom is supposed to be awarded “for especially meritorious contribution to

  1. the security or national interests of the United States;
  2. world peace; or
  3. cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”

So let’s take a look at one of Limbaugh’s “meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States.”

On April 8, 2009, four Somali pirates boarded the Maersk Alabama when it was located 240 miles southeast of the Somalian port city of  Eyl.

The ship, en route to Mombasa, Kenya, was carrying 17,000 tons of cargo, including 5,000 tons of relief supplies for Kenya, Somalia, and Uganda.

As the pirates boarded the ship, the crew members locked themselves in the engine room. To buy time for his crewmen, the captain, Richard Phillips, surrendered to the pirates.

Captain Richard Phillips 

The crew later overpowered one of the pirates, and sought to exchange their captive for Phillips. The crew released the  pirate, but the other three pirates refused to release Phillips.

The pirates left with Philips in a lifeboat which carried ten days of food rations, water and basic survival supplies.

On April 8, the destroyer USSS Bainbridge and the frigate USSS Halyburton were dispatched to the Gulf of Aden to deal with the hostage situation, and reached Maersk Alabama early on April 9.

On April 9, a standoff began between the Bainbridge and the pirates in the Maersk Alabama’s lifeboat, where they continued to hold Phillips hostage.

On April 12, marksmen from SEAL Team 6 simultaneously opened fire with telescopic-sighted assault rifles and killed the three pirates on the lifeboat.

The SEALS believed Phillips faced an immediate threat of execution, having received a report that one of the pirates was pointing an AK-47 at his back.

The SEALS, known for their legendary marksmanship, took out all three pirates with shots to the head.

 SEAL Team marksmen

Phillips was rescued in good condition.

The vast majority of Americans rejoiced. The Maersk Alabama had been the first American cargo ship to be hijacked in 200 years. And the encounter had ended with the ship and crew safe and its captain rescued without injury.

But not everyone was happy about the outcome. Naturally, the pirates infesting the Somali coastline were infuriated at this setback.

But, surprisingly, there were some Americans who felt more sympathetically toward the Somali pirates than the man who had ordered Phillips’ rescue: President Barack Obama.

One of these was Rush Limbaugh, the American Right’s chief propagandist. 

The Rush Limbaugh Show airs throughout the U.S. on over 400 stations and is the highest-rated talk-radio program in the United States. When Limbaugh speaks, his “dittohead” audience listens—and acts as he decrees.

On April 14, 2009, Limbaugh gave his take on the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips:

“The Somali pirates, the merchant marine organizers who took a US merchant captain hostage for five days were inexperienced youths, the defense secretary, Roberts Gates, said yesterday, adding that the hijackers were between 17 and 19 years old.

“Now, just imagine the hue and cry had a Republican president ordered the shooting of black teenagers on the high seas….

“They were kids. The story is out, I don’t know if it’s true or not, but apparently the hijackers, these kids, the merchant marine organizers, Muslim kids, were upset.

“They wanted to just give the captain back and head home because they were running out of food. They were running out of fuel, they were surrounded by all these US Navy ships, big ships, and they just wanted out of there. That’s the story.

“But then when one of them put a gun to the back of the captain, Mr. Phillips, then bam, bam, bam. There you have it, and three teenagers shot on the high seas at the order of President Obama.”

And there you have it—an American Fascist making common cause with the heirs of Blackbeard and Henry Morgan against the nation’s first black President.

The rescue of Richard Phillips has been dramatized in the 2013 movie, “Captain Phillips,” starring Tom Hanks in the title role.

Audiences cheered at the climactic moment when the three pirates met their deserved fate. But what they didn’t see depicted was Limbaugh’s Greek chorus for the Right—and the sheer hatred he and they have for anyone who doesn’t share their Fascistic views.

The ordeal of Captain Phillips and the crew of the Maersk Alabama is over. But the heirs of Blackbeard still roam the seas near Somalia.

And the heirs of Francisco Franco, Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini still conspire to remake America in their own Rightist image.

THE TRUTH ABOUT LIARS

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on July 5, 2019 at 12:05 am

Ernest Hemingway was right: “Fascism is a lie told by bullies.” 

Thus:

  • “The Holocaust never happened.” 
  • “The Sandy Hook massacre never happened.” 
  • “The MAGAbomber is a Democrat who’s mailing letter-bombs to make Republicans look bad.” 

These are among the lies regularly hurled by “lunatic fringe” Right-wingers—and, more importantly, “mainstream” Republicans.

Many liberals—such as those who regularly take to Facebook—believe Right-wingers simply lack correct information.

According to this viewpoint: If only Right-wingers knew the truth about such matters as:

  • The millions slaughtered during the Holocaust;
  • The horrific massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School; and
  • The pro-Trump motives of the MAGAbomber

they would be telling the truth.

There are two motives behind such blatant lying—and mere ignorance is not one of them. 

Motive #1: Right-wingers don’t want to admit the truth about events most people instinctively believe are evil.

Right-wingers intuitively know that shoving huge numbers of naked men, women and children into gas chambers is the arch-example of evil. And so is spraying scores of bullets into scores of helpless men, women and children in churches, nightclubs and schools.

They know they can’t convince decent people that such atrocities are really acts of humanity. So it’s easier (for them) to simply deny that they actually happened.

The tobacco industry paved the way for such arguments. 

The Tobacco Institute—a trade association created in 1958 to pose as a “smoking research” center—cast doubt on scientific studies linking smoking with lung cancer, emphysema and heart disease.

Tobacco Institute ad

Its premise: “We really don’t know if smoking causes cancer. We need more studies to make certain.”

And, for the Tobacco Institute, there could never be enough studies to prove that smoking was a thoroughly deadly habit—that reaped billions of dollars every year for the tobacco industry.

Motive #2: Right-wingers claim Right-wing atrocities didn’t happen to put the victims of such atrocities on the defensive.

This, too, was a major aim of the tobacco industry. By constantly demanding “Prove to us that smoking is deadly” and then arrogantly dismissing all evidence put forward, tobacco executives put the onus on their opponents.

Thus, after the MAGAbomber was arrested and his van was found plastered with pro-Trump stickers, Right-wingers reflexively seized on a series of lies to “cleanse” themselves.

Lies such as: 

  • “He’s a liberal put up to it by other liberals.”
  • “The bombs were fake, to stir up sympathy for liberals before the November elections.”  

Consider:

  • Right-wing talk-show host Rush Limbaugh: “Would it make a lot of sense for a Democrat operative or Democrat-inculcated lunatic to do it? Because things are not working out the way they thought.”
  • Right-wing propagandist Dinesh D’Souza: “I hear the FBI squeezed lemon juice on the suspicious packages and a very faint lettering revealed a single word: DEMOCRATS.”

Totally ignored was the truth that Cesar Sayoc had mailed pipe-bombs to 10 prominent Democrats—including two former Presidents and a former First Lady. 

FBI Director Christopher Wray—a Trump appointee after the firing of James Comey in May, 2017—publicly stated that the bombs were real: “Though we’re still analyzing these devices in our laboratory, these were not hoax devices.”

Chris Wray official photo.jpg

Christopher Wray

So how did Right-wingers react to Wray’s no-nonsense rebuttal of Right-wing conspiracy lies?

With more lies.

They attacked the FBI as part of the “deep state” determined to thwart and, if possible, impeach Donald Trump.

According to one Rightist theory: The FBI made the bombs and sent them out to implicate some poor Trump supporter—if not the President himself.

Fortunately, there is at least a partial solution to such lies: Lawsuits based on the truth.

On August 1, 2018, families of four students and two educators who died in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre filed a defamation lawsuit against Right-wing broadcaster and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones,

Jones hosts The Alex Jones Show from Austin, Texas. He had claimed the mass shooting was fake.  

Twenty children and six adults were killed in the December 14, 2012, attack by 20-year-old Adam Lanza. 

On his program in January, 2015, he said: “Sandy Hook is a synthetic completely fake with actors, in my view, manufactured. I couldn’t believe it at first. I knew they had actors there, clearly, but I thought they killed some real kids. And it just shows how bold they are, that they clearly used actors.”

Alex Jones Portrait (cropped).jpg

Alex Jones

Michael Zimmermann [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D

Jones has also accused the U.S. government of faking the 1969 moon landing footage and planning the Oklahoma City bombing and the September 11 attacks.

According to the complaint: 

“The Jones defendants concoct elaborate and false paranoia-tinged conspiracy theories because it moves product and they make money. Not because they truly believe what they are saying, but rather because it increases profits.” 

Thus, a reasonable person would understand that Jones meant the massacre was staged and the deaths were fabricated.

So how did Jones respond to the lawsuit?  

With more lies.

“This is all out of context….And it’s not even what I said or my intent,” he said. “I’m not going to get into the real defects of this, I’m going to wait until it’s thrown out with prejudice.”

LIES TOLD BY BULLIES

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on November 15, 2018 at 12:03 am

Ernest Hemingway was right: “Fascism is a lie told by bullies.” 

Thus:

  • “The Holocaust never happened.” 
  • “The Sandy Hook massacre never happened.” 
  • “The MAGAbomber is a Democrat who’s mailing letter-bombs to make Republicans look bad.” 

These are among the lies regularly hurled by “lunatic fringe” Right-wingers—and, more importantly, “mainstream” Republicans.

Many liberals—such as those who regularly take to Facebook—believe Right-wingers simply lack correct information.

According to this viewpoint: If only Right-wingers knew the truth about such matters as:

  • The millions slaughtered during the Holocaust;
  • The horrific massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School; and
  • The pro-Trump motives of the MAGAbomber

they would be telling the truth.

There are two motives behind such blatant lying—and mere ignorance is not one of them. 

Motive #1: Right-wingers don’t want to admit the truth about events most people instinctively believe are evil.

Right-wingers intuitively know that shoving huge numbers of naked men, women and children into gas chambers is the arch-example of evil. And so is spraying scores of bullets into scores of helpless men, women and children in churches, nightclubs and schools.

They know they can’t convince decent people that such atrocities are really acts of humanity. So it’s easier (for them) to simply deny that they actually happened.

The tobacco industry paved the way for such arguments. 

The Tobacco Institute—a trade association created in 1958 to pose as a “smoking research” center—cast doubt on scientific studies linking smoking with lung cancer, emphysema and heart disease.

Tobacco Institute ad

Its premise: “We really don’t know if smoking causes cancer. We need more studies to make certain.”

And, for the Tobacco Institute, there could never be enough studies to prove that smoking was a thoroughly deadly habit—that reaped billions of dollars every year for the tobacco industry.

Motive #2: Right-wingers claim Right-wing atrocities didn’t happen to put the victims of such atrocities on the defensive.

This, too, was a major aim of the tobacco industry. By constantly demanding “Prove to us that smoking is deadly” and then arrogantly dismissing all evidence put forward, tobacco executives put the onus on their opponents.

Thus, after the MAGAbomber was arrested and his van was found plastered with pro-Trump stickers, Right-wingers reflexively seized on a series of lies to “cleanse” themselves.

Lies such as: 

  • “He’s a liberal put up to it by other liberals.”
  • “The bombs were fake, to stir up sympathy for liberals before the November elections.”  

Consider:

  • Right-wing talk-show host Rush Limbaugh: “Would it make a lot of sense for a Democrat operative or Democrat-inculcated lunatic to do it? Because things are not working out the way they thought.”
  • Right-wing propagandist Dinesh D’Souza: “I hear the FBI squeezed lemon juice on the suspicious packages and a very faint lettering revealed a single word: DEMOCRATS.”

Totally ignored was the truth that Cesar Sayoc had mailed pipe-bombs to 10 prominent Democrats—including two former Presidents and a former First Lady. 

FBI Director Christopher Wray—a Trump appointee after the firing of James Comey in May, 2017—publicly stated that the bombs were real: “Though we’re still analyzing these devices in our laboratory, these were not hoax devices.”

Chris Wray official photo.jpg

Christopher Wray

So how did Right-wingers react to Wray’s no-nonsense rebuttal of Right-wing conspiracy lies?

With more lies.

They attacked the FBI as part of the “deep state” determined to thwart and, if possible, impeach Donald Trump.

According to one Rightist theory: The FBI made the bombs and sent them out to implicate some poor Trump supporter—if not the President himself.

Fortunately, there is at least a partial solution to such lies: Lawsuits based on the truth.

On August 1, 2018, families of four students and two educators who died in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre filed a defamation lawsuit against Right-wing broadcaster and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones,

Jones hosts The Alex Jones Show from Austin, Texas. He had claimed the mass shooting was fake.  

Twenty children and six adults were killed in the December 14, 2012, attack by 20-year-old Adam Lanza. 

On his program in January, 2015, he said: “Sandy Hook is a synthetic completely fake with actors, in my view, manufactured. I couldn’t believe it at first. I knew they had actors there, clearly, but I thought they killed some real kids. And it just shows how bold they are, that they clearly used actors.”

Alex Jones Portrait (cropped).jpg

Alex Jones

Michael Zimmermann [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D

Jones has also accused the U.S. government of faking the 1969 moon landing footage and planning the Oklahoma City bombing and the September 11 attacks.

According to the complaint: 

“The Jones defendants concoct elaborate and false paranoia-tinged conspiracy theories because it moves product and they make money. Not because they truly believe what they are saying, but rather because it increases profits.” 

Thus, a reasonable person would understand that Jones meant the massacre was staged and the deaths were fabricated.

So how did Jones respond to the lawsuit?  

With more lies.

“This is all out of context….And it’s not even what I said or my intent,” he said. “I’m not going to get into the real defects of this, I’m going to wait until it’s thrown out with prejudice.”

FBI DOESN’T SPELL P-O-T: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Law, Law Enforcement, Social commentary on May 23, 2014 at 12:11 am

On November 6, 2012, Americans overwhelmingly re-elected Barack Obama as President of the United States.

And on the same date, Americans in Colorado and Washington state overwhelmingly voted to decriminalize and regulate the possession of an ounce or less of marijuana by adults over 21.

Both measures called for setting up state licensing schemes for pot growers, processors and retail stores.

But at the Federal level, marijuana remains a prohibited, Schedule 1 drug.

And in a marijuana-related decision–King v. Kentucky–the Supreme Court ruled in 2011 that police can force their way into a home without a warrant.

By an 8-1 vote, the Court upheld the warrantless search of an apartment after police smelled marijuana and feared that those inside were destroying incriminating evidence.

Police drug raid

Prior to the November 6 marijuana-legalization votes, the Obama Justice Department had issued a policy for handling states that had legalized “medical marijuana.”

This said that Federal officials should generally not use their limited resources to go after small-time users, but should investigate and prosecute large-scale trafficking organizations.

The result was increased Federal raids on marijuana dispensaries–much to the outrage of potheads and liberals.

Since the legalization of “recreational marijuana” in Colorado and Washington state, senior White House and Justice Department officials have considered taking legal action against those states to undermine their voter-approved initiatives.

The Federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in particular sees the legalization of marijuana as a direct challenge to its authority to enforce Federal anti-drug laws.

US-DrugEnforcementAdministration-Seal.svg

The agency’s official position in marijuana is as follows:

Marijuana is properly categorized under Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), 21 U.S.C. S 801, et seq. 

The clear weight of the currently available evidence supports this classification, including evidence that smoked marijuana has a high potential for abuse, has no accepted medical value in treatment in the United States, and evidence that there is a general lack of accepted safety for its use even under medical supervision.

The campaign to legitimize what is called “medical” marijuana is based on two propositions: first, that science views marijuana as medicine; and, second, that the DEA targets sick and dying people using the drug.  Neither proposition is true. 

Specifically, smoked marijuana has not withstood the rigors of science–it is not medicine, and it is not safe.  Moreover, the DEA targets criminals engaged in the cultivation and traficking of marijuana, not the sick and the dying.  This is true even in the 15 states that have approved the use of “medical” marijuana.

Click here: http://www.justice.gov/dea/docs/marijuana_position_2011.pdf

Among the DEA’s weapons: Federal asset forfeiture laws allow the Justice Department to seize properties used to facilitate violations of Federal anti-drug laws.

To increase the penalties for violating such laws, Congress amended the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984.

Section 881(a)(7) authorizes the forfeiture of real property “which is used, or intended to be used, in any manner or part, to commit, or to facilitate the commission” of a felony violation of the Federal Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970.

Congress intended that section to attack the economic power underwriting illegal drug operations.  As a result, the Justice Department can seize houses and/or land from a landowner owing to a tenant’s illegal drug activity.

This holds true even if the landlord didn’t participate in or claimed to be unaware of the drug-law violations.

Before civil forfeiture can proceed, two requirements must be met:

  • An exchange of a controlled substance; and
  • A substantial connection between the property and the illegal activity.

Once the government has proved the property was used to “facilitate” the violation of Federal anti-drug laws, seizure of the property can occur.

This usually means invoking the “innocent owner” defense: “I didn’t know or consent to what was going on.”

It’s up to the landowner to prove his innocence.  And proving a lack of knowledge and/or consent is extremely hard.

If an “affirmative” defense can’t be proved, forfeiture of the property is virtually inevitable.

The U.S. Attorney General then has the legal right to sell the forfeited property.  The profits from this sale can then be forwarded to various agencies of the United States Government.

Prosecutors and case agents think of this as a tax on criminality.

There is an additional incentive for local and State law enforcement agencies to seize properties involved in drug-law violations: They are allowed to keep some of the proceeds once the property has been sold.

Thus, financially-strapped police departments have found pursuing drug-law crimes a lucrative way to fill their own coffers.

Still, the Federal Government finds itself not only at war with marijuana-legalizing states but with itself.

President Barack Obama has claimed that the affects of marijuana are no different than those of alcohol.  But Michele Leonhart, director of the DEA, opposes legalizing marijuana as “reckless and irresponsible.”

This has reportedly led her boss–Attorney General Eric Holder–to order Leonhart to “get in line” with the administration’s efforts to legalize marijuana and lessen the penalties for people who commit federal drug crimes.

Until there is a concensus by lawmakers and citizens on what America’s policy on marijuana should be, the results will be continued tension and confusion.

FBI DOESN’T SPELL P-O-T: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In History, Law, Law Enforcement, Social commentary on May 22, 2014 at 12:50 am

The FBI has a problem.

The Bureau needs more specialists to combat cybercrime–especially now that the Obama Justice Department has indicted five Chinese military officials for hacking into American companies to steal trade secrets.

On the other hand: Many of the tech-savvy experts the FBI wants to hire are as much into marijuana as they are into computers.

On May 19, FBI Director James Comey tried to inject a note of humor into this situation when addressing a New York conference.

FBI Director James Comey

Comey said the FBI was grappling with balancing its desire to recruit a strong workforce against changing attitudes on marijuana use by states and young adults.

“Some of those kids want to smoke weed on the way to the interview,” said Comey.

The comment landed Comey in hot water at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committe on May 21.

“Do you understand that that could be interpreted as one more example of leadership in America dismissing the seriousness of marijuana use and that could undermine our ability to convince young people not to go down a dangerous path?” asked Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama).

“Very much, Senator,” Comey replied. “I am determined not to lose my sense of humor, but, unfortunately, there I was trying to be both serious and funny.

“I am absolutely dead-set against using marijuana. I don’t want young people to use marijuana. It’s against the law.  We have a three-year ban on marijuana.   I did not say that I am going to change that ban.”

By this, Comey meant that the FBI will not hire anyone who has used marijuana during the previous three years.

Comey was referring to marijuana’s still being illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act.  Despite this,  many states now allow its use for “medical” purposes.

In Colorado and Washington state, it can be legally used for any purpose.

Which, in turn, brings up a salient point:

The dangers of secondhand smoke are now almost universally accepted, even by smokers.  But from a strictly health-related viewpoint, there is as much reason to restrict exposure to marijuana smoke.

Consider the following from the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment OEHHA) of the State’s Environmental Protection Agency:

“MARIJUANA SMOKE LISTED EFFECTIVE JUNE 19, 2009 AS KNOWN TO THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA TO CAUSE CANCER [06/19/09]

“The Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) of the California Environmental Protection Agency is adding marijuana smoke to the Proposition 65 list, effective June 19, 2009.

“Marijuana smoke was considered by the Carcinogen Identification Committee (CIC) of the OEHHA Science Advisory Board at a public meeting held on May 29, 2009.

The CIC determined that marijuana smoke was clearly shown, through scientifically valid testing according to generally accepted principles, to cause cancer.

“In summary, marijuana smoke is being listed under Proposition 65 as known to the State to cause cancer:”

Yet marijuana smoke is treated as something harmless, even as a subject for humor.

On “The Tonight Show,” Jay Leno often joked about the growing number of “patients” who need “medical marijuana” as a remedy for glaucoma.

In San Francisco–long known as a bastion of tolerance for drug-abuse offenses of all types–police are cutting back on the enforcement of drug crimes.

Marijuana

This is especially true in the case of marijuana.

The SFPD claims this reflects a shift to focusing on violent crime,

The decline is also partly due to a 10% staff cut during the past two years, as well as a $600,000 reduction in state and federal grants for drug enforcement.

The president of a property management agency recently told me that if a tenant complains of marijuana smoke pollution from another unit, the police will not enter the unit from which the stench is coming.

Yet marijuana remains illegal under the Federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA), classified as a Schedule 1 substance.

A Schedule 1 substance is defined as having the following characteristics:

  • It has a high potential for abuse.
  • It has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.
  • There is a lack of accepted safety for its use under medical supervision.

And despite the unwillingness of the SFPD to enforce anti-drug laws, a 2011 Supreme Court decision allows police to force their way into a home without a warrant.

By an 8-1 vote, the Court upheld the warrantless search of an apartment after police smelled marijuana and feared that those inside were destroying incriminating evidence.

In addition, Federal asset forfeiture laws allow the Justice Department to seize properties used to facilitate violations of Federal anti-drug laws.

On November 6, 2012, Americans overwhelmingly re-elected Barack Obama as President of the United States.

And on the same date, Americans in Colorado and Washington state overwhelmingly voted to decriminalize and regulate the possession of an ounce or less of marijuana by adults over 21.

Both measures called for setting up state licensing schemes for pot growers, processors and retail stores.

On December 6, 2012, hundreds of potheads gathered at Seattle Center for a New Year’s Eve-style countdown to 12 a.m., when the legalization measure took effect.

When the clock struck, they cheered and lit up in unison–as though inhaling cancerous fumes and a skunk-like stench was something to celebrate.

 

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