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EVEN FASCISM HAS ITS LIMITS

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on March 23, 2020 at 12:29 am

Apparently some lies are off-limits on the Fox News Network. That is, if they provoke enough angry audience response.

COVID-19 had stricken 1,016 Americans and caused 31 deaths. The virus was raging in 33 states.The stock market had had its worst week of trading since the “Wall Street meltdown” of 2008. 

But on March 9, Trish Regan, host of Trish Regan Primetime on the Fox Business Network, attacked not the virus but those who do not share her fervent embrace of Donald Trump.

“We’ve reached a tipping point,” said Regan. “The hate is boiling. Many in the liberal media are using Coronavirus in an attempt to demonize and destroy the President, despite the virus originating halfway around the world.

“This is yet another attempt to impeach the President. And sadly, it seems the left cares little for any of the destruction they leave in their wake, including losses in the stock market. This, unfortunately, is all just part of the political casualties for them.”

Trish Regan

To make certain no one in the television audience missed the point, an electronically generated caption read: “Coronavirus Impeachment Scam.”

On the same day that Regan accused Trump’s critics of being haters, Trump himself was directing hate through his weapon of choice: Twitter: 

“The Fake News Media and their partner, the Democrat Party, is doing everything within its semi-considerable power (it used to be greater!) to inflame the CoronaVirus situation, far beyond what the facts would warrant. Surgeon General, ‘The risk is low to the average American.’”

Actually, with the virus spreading quickly throughout all 50 states, the risk is not low to the average American. It is not the news that’s fake, but the lies and ignorance Trump is spouting.

SARS-CoV-2 without background.png

Coronavirus

On March 14, Fox Business Network announced that Regan’s program would be on “hiatus” until further notice. 

The reason: Using one of the favorite words of the Right, her comments had “triggered” an avalanche of criticism. Some of this came from Coronavirus victims. Some came from those related to those victims. And some came simply from people who didn’t appreciate being so blatantly lied to.

On March 13, perhaps warned of her coming suspension, Regan took a more conciliatory tone: “Our path forward right now is together, the left and the right united to fight this crisis. We’re all in this together, and we need to stay safe.”

Trying to put the best spin on her humiliating suspension, she tweeted that same evening: “I want to let everyone know that Trish Regan Primetime is now on hiatus. FBN has taken prudent steps to limit staffing levels and is prioritizing its coverage during market hours. I fully support this decision — we all must to do our part to keep our colleagues safe.”

Thus—at least according to Regan—her leaving the air was not an act of punishment but a “prudent step” to “limit staffing levels” at the station.

Is there a lesson to be learned here? Yes.

And it comes, fittingly enough, from Nazi Germany—the regime which has provided so much unacknowledged inspiration for America’s Right-wing demagogues. 

On February 27, 1943, a battalion of SS men, Gestapo agents and regular policemen fanned out across Berlin to arrest the city’s last remaining Jews. Jews still working in armaments factories, as well as Jews married to non-Jews, were the main targets.

Intermarried Jews were jailed, under SS guard, at Rosenstrasse 2-4, the Jewish community’s administration building.

As rumors of the mass arrests stirred through Berlin, the German wives of those arrested flocked to Rosenstrasse. Arriving alone or in pairs, they formed a crowd that rapidly kept expanding. One woman, accompanied by her brother—a Wehrmacht soldier in full uniform—approached an SS guard. “If my brother-in-law is not released,” the soldier told the guard, “I will not return to the front.”

As night fell, the demonstrators refused to end their protest. They demanded the return of their husbands. Several approached the SS guards and loudly complained. For a whole week, day and night, the protest continued, with the crowd often shouting: “Let our husbands go! We want our husbands back!” 

Memorial commemorating the protest 

Niki Sublime from Boston, USA / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0

As many as 600 protesters gathered at one time, and thousands had joined in by the protest’s end. Several times the SS guards shouted: “Clear the streets—or we’ll shoot!” At this, the women scattered—only to quickly return.

Even some hardened Nazis were impressed. A Gestapo guard told one of the Jewish prisoners: “Your relatives are out there protesting for you. This is German loyalty.”

On March 6, 1943, Joseph Goebbels in his capacity as the Gauleiter (Governor) of Berlin, ordered all of the people imprisoned at Rosenstrasse 2-4 released.

According to Leopold Gutterer, Goebbels’s deputy at the Propaganda Ministry, Goebbels said if force was used to crush the demonstrations, it would prompt wider protests all over Berlin, which might soon become political, and could possibly even lead to the overthrow of the Nazi regime.

So the lesson is clear, and it is this: If average citizens, even in the heart of a brutal dictatorship, can show courage against lies and injustice, so can Americans living in what is supposed to be a democracy.

WHEN HATERS BECOME WHINERS

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on March 12, 2020 at 12:23 am

COVID-19 has so far stricken 1,016 Americans and caused 31 deaths. The virus is raging in 33 states. The stock market has had its worst week of trading since the “Wall Street meltdown” of 2008. 

But on March 9, Trish Regan, host of Trish Regan Primetime on the Fox Business Network, attacked not the virus but those who do not share her fervent embrace of Donald Trump.

“We’ve reached a tipping point,” said Regan. “The hate is boiling. Many in the liberal media are using Coronavirus in an attempt to demonize and destroy the President, despite the virus originating halfway around the world.

“This is yet another attempt to impeach the President. And sadly, it seems the left cares little for any of the destruction they leave in their wake, including losses in the stock market. This, unfortunately, is all just part of the political casualties for them.

“This is impeachment all over again. And like with the Mueller investigation, like with Ukraine-gate, they don’t care who they hurt. Whether it be their need to create mass hysteria to encourage a market sell-off unlike anything we’ve seen recently, or whether it be to create mass hysteria to stop our economy dead in its tracks, don’t kid yourself. They told us how much they crave a recession as a way to get rid of Donald Trump.”

Trish Regan

To make certain no one in the television audience missed the point, an electronically generated caption read: “Coronavirus Impeachment Scam.”

On the same day that Regan accused Trump’s critics of being haters, Trump himself was directing hate through his weapon of choice: Twitter: 

“The Fake News Media and their partner, the Democrat Party, is doing everything within its semi-considerable power (it used to be greater!) to inflame the CoronaVirus situation, far beyond what the facts would warrant. Surgeon General, ‘The risk is low to the average American.’”

Actually, with the virus spreading quickly throughout at least 33 states, the risk is not low to the average American. It is not the news that’s fake, but the lies and ignorance Trump is spouting.

SARS-CoV-2 without background.png

Coronavirus

And: “Now the Democrats are trying to smear Bernie with Russia, Russia, Russia. They are driving him Crazy!”

This was a reference to warnings by national security officials that Russia—through its state-owned media—is trying to sow social media agitation and disinformation within the United States. The goal: To ensure that Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders wins the Democratic nomination for President. 

According to these officials, Russian President Vladimir Putin believes Sanders would be far easier for Trump—his preferred candidate—to beat in November.

During the 2016 Presidential race, Trump openly called on “Russia”—i.e., Vladimir Putin—to “find the 33,000 emails that are missing [from Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s computer]. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” Hours later, the Main Intelligence Directorate in Moscow targeted Clinton’s personal office and hit more than 70 other Clinton campaign accounts. 

Vladimir Putin (2020-02-20).jpg

Vladimir Putin

Kremlin.ru / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)  

And still more from Trump: “The Obama/Biden Administration is the most corrupt Administration in the history of our Country!”

This is a flat-out lie. President Barack Obama was never the subject of a Congressional or Special Prosecutor investigation—unlike Trump, who was impeached last December by the House of Representatives but acquitted by a majority-Republican Senate.

Perhaps what’s most upsetting Trump is that, since coming into office, he has touted the success of the stock market and claimed to be responsible for it. And now the market—owing to fears of Coronavirus and the Trump administration’s failures to stem it—is tanking.

On August 28, 2018, appearing on “Fox and Friends,” Trump had boasted: “I tell you what, if I ever got impeached, I think the market would crash, I think everybody would be very poor.” 

So now Trump is coming under attack in the only area where he could once claim success—even if he had nothing to do with it.

On Facebook, a NYMAG.COM story on Trish Regan’s rant ignited the following reactions:

Are these Fox News people asses or what? The entire country of Italy is shut down because of this virus. The virus doesn’t give a fat rat’s ass about Trump or impeachment. Just about spreading and infecting.” 

And: “OMG. Someone needs to sue Fox News. News is supposed to be factual reported events. I saw a news clip from Fox suggesting this is blown out of proportion by the democrats just to hurt Trump. Idiots, I used to work for the CDC (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention). Better listen to what they say. The President lies…. Sue Fox News for libel.”  

The truth is that people like Trish Regan are not asses. Assuming they are allows them to skirt responsibility for what they do and the consequences it brings. They know what they’re doing—and that is to keep in power a Russian-supported tyrant by any means at hand.

And since the truth won’t help them they resort to lies—even if untold numbers of trusting Americans follow their “advice” and become victims of a raging and deadly virus.

DYING OF THE FEAR: PART TWO (END)

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

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

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

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

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

Image result for Images of the Grim Reaper

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

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

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

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

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

Fear is stalking the streets of the United States today.

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

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

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

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

Image result for Images of the surgical masks

Standard surgical mask

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Diamond Princess (ship, 2004) - cropped.jpg

Diamond Princess cruise ship

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

Image result for Images of "Khartoum" movie poster

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

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

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

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

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

DYING OF THE FEAR: PART ONE (OF TWO)

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

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

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

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

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

World Trade Center – September 11, 2001

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

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

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

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

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

SARS-CoV-2 without background.png

 

Coronavirus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TWO DANGERS FACING AMERICA: TRUMP—AND THE CORONAVIRUS

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

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

Appearing on “Fox and Friends,” he said:

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

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

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

Donald Trump

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

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

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

So Trump escaped impeachment—and the country is now suffering for it. 

On February 27, the Dow Jones Industrial Average had its single worst one-day drop in history—falling 1,191 points.

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

2019-nCoV-CDC-23312 without background.png

Coronavirus

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

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

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

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

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

CDC headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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