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Posts Tagged ‘SUPREME COURT’

ANCIENT ROME COMES TO AMERICAN POLITICS

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on September 5, 2022 at 12:10 am

The 1960 Kirk Douglas epic, Spartacus, has proven to be more than great entertainment. It has turned out to be a prophecy of the end of the American Republic.

In the movie, Spartacus (Douglas), a Roman slave, entertains Marcus Crassus (Laurence Oliver) the richest man in Rome. He does so by fighting to the death as a gladiator.

Poster for Spartacus

While Spartacus and his fellow gladiator/friend, Draba (Woody Strode), slash and stab at each other in the arena, Crassus idly chats with his crony, Marcus Glabrus (Jon Dall).

Crassus has just secured Glabrus’ appointment as commander of the garrison of Rome. Glabrus is grateful, but curious as to how he did it.

After all, Gaius Gracchus (Charles Laughton), the leader of the Roman Senate, hates Crassus, and vigorously opposes his every move.

“I fought fire with oil,” says Crassus. “I purchased the Senate behind his back.”  

Just as Crassus bought the Roman Senate in Spartacus, billionaires similarly bought the 2016 Presidential election.

In 2016, Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, ran as the pet candidate of casino billionaire Sheldon G. Adelson.

Since 2007, Adelson had spent millions in support of Gingrich and his causes.

Newt Gingrich

Adelson put up seed money and, ultimately, $7.7 million between 2006 and 2010 for a nonprofit group that served as a precursor to Gingrich’s presidential campaign.

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Sheldon Adelson

Such a contribution is beyond the means of the average American. But Adelson is listed by Forbes as the eighth-wealthiest American, with a net worth of $21.5 billion.

Adelson denied any selfish motives for giving millions to a candidate for the most powerful office in the world:

“My motivation for helping Newt is simple and should not be mistaken for anything other than the fact that my wife Miriam and I hold our friendship with him very dear and are doing what we can as private citizens to support his candidacy.”

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney also relied heavily on a small group of millionaires and billionaires for support.

By February, 2012, a quarter of the money amassed by Romney’s campaign came from just 41 people. Each contributor gave more than $100,000, according to a Washington Post analysis of disclosure data. Nearly a dozen of the donors had contributed $1 million or more.

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Some of Romney’s biggest supporters included executives at Bain Capital, his former firm; bankers at Goldman Sachs; and a hedge fund mogul who made billions betting on the housing crash.

Four years later, in May, 2016, Adelson met privately with Republican Presidential nominee-in-waiting Donald Trump. 

Adelson promised to contribute more to secure Trump’s election than he had contributed to any previous campaign—up to and exceeding $100 million.  

Meanwhile, Trump bragged that he was “not beholden” to any “special interests” because “I’m really rich.”  This falsehood proved a main reason for his popularity as a candidate.

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Donald Trump

Fast forward another three years—and a December 4, 2019 story in Fortune: “2020 Presidential Campaign Fundraising (and Spending) Are on Track to Smash Records.”

By then, Trump had raised $165.3 million.

But Democrats altogether had outstripped him with $475.6 million raised.

Among the largest Democratic money-raisers (in millions):

  • Bernie Sanders: $74.5
  • Elizabeth Warren: $60.3
  • Pete Buttigieg: $51.5
  • Tom Steyer: $49.6
  • Joe Biden: $37.8 

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg entered the race on November 24, 2019. Within a week he paid $57 million for TV ads.

His fellow billionaire Tom Steyer spent over $60 million since July, 2019.

The 2020 Presidential election proved the most expensive in American history—so far.

Joe Biden raised $1.06 billion. Donald Trump raised $0.80 billion.

All of this can be directly traced to the 2010 “Citizens United” decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that ended limits in corporate contributions to political campaigns. The decision is so named for the group that successfully sued over federal campaign finance laws.

The 5-4 decision led to the rise of Super PACs—outside groups affiliated with candidates that can take in unlimited contributions as long as they don’t directly coordinate with the candidate. The overwhelming majority of this money goes for negative ads—that slander opponents without saying anything about what a candidate proposes to do.

Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia brushed aside criticism of the corrupting role money played in politics: Change the channel or turn off the TV.

“I don’t care who is doing the speech—the more the merrier,” Scalia said. “People are not stupid. If they don’t like it, they’ll shut it off.”

On the contrary: A fundamental principle of propaganda holds that most people are stupid—or can be made to behave stupidly. If they are ceaselessly bombarded with mind-numbing lies, they will eventually substitute these for reality.  

During the early 1960s a series of movies about the Roman Empire—like Spartacus and Cleopatra—hit the big screen. In these, rich criminals like Marcus Crassus openly bought the favors of ambitious politicians like Julius Caesar.

No doubt millions of moviegoers thought, “Boy, I’m glad that couldn’t happen here.”

But it has happened here—and it’s happening right now.

NAZI DEJA-VU AMERICAN STYLE: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on August 23, 2022 at 12:10 am

In the Twilight Zone episode, “No Time Like the Past,” Paul Driscoll (Dana Andrews), a scientist in early 1960s America, uses a time machine to visit Nazi Germany on the eve of World War II. 

He’s rented a motel room overlooking the balcony from where the Fuehrer, Adolf Hitler will soon make a speech. And he’s eager to watch that speech—through the lens of a telescopic-sighted rifle.  

Just as he’s about to pull the trigger, there’s a knock at his door–by the maid. Driscoll hustles her out as soon as possible, then once again picks up his rifle. He—and viewers—can once again see Hitler through the cross-hairs of his weapon.  

Paul Driscoll prepares to shoot Adolf Hitler

But instead of the anticipated shot, there’s another knock at his door—his time by the black-uniformed secret police, the SS. Driscoll knows the game is up, and disappears into the present just as the thugs break down his door.  

And the audience is left to ponder how different the world would have been if Driscoll—or someone in Nazi Germany—had succeeded in assassinating the man whose wars would wipe out the lives of 50 million men, women and children around the globe.  

One 2016 Republican candidate for President dared to invoke the menace of Nazi Germany in warning of the dangers of a Donald Trump Presidency. And to argue that Americans could prevent that past from returning.  

In November, 2015, John Kasich, the governor of Ohio, was peddling a message of creating jobs, balancing the Federal budget and disdain for Washington, D.C.  

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John Kasich

But he remained far behind in the polls, dropping 50% in support in just one month—from September to October. Meanwhile, Trump, the New York billionaire developer, was being backed by 25% of Republican primary voters.  

So, with nothing to lose, Kasich decided to take off the gloves. He invoked the “N” word for Republicans: Nazi.  

He authorized the creation of a TV ad that opened with ominous music—and the face of a snarling Donald Trump.

“I would like anyone who is listening to consider some thoughts that I’ve paraphrased from the words of German pastor Martin Niemoeller.” 

The voice belonged to Tom Moe, a retired colonel in the U.S. Air Force—and a former Vietnam prisoner-of-war.

“You might not care if Donald Trump says Muslims must register with the government, because you’re not one,” continued Moe. 

“And you might not care if Donald Trump says he’s going to round up all the Hispanic immigrants, because you’re not one. 

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Donald Trump

“And you might not care if Donald Trump says it’s OK to rough up black protesters, because you’re not one. 

“And you might not care of Donald Trump wants to suppress journalists, because you’re not one.

“But think about this: 

“If he keeps going, and he actually becomes President, he might just get around to you. And you’d better hope that there’s someone left to help you.”  

Martin Niemoeller (1892–1984) was a prominent Protestant pastor who had commanded a U-boat during World War 1. He became a bitter public foe of Adolf Hitler.

A staunch anti-Communist, he had initially supported the Nazis as Germany’s only hope of salvation against the Soviet Union.

But when the Nazis made the church subordinate to State authority, Niemoeller created the Pastors’ Emergency League to defend religious freedom. 

For his opposition to the Third Reich,  Niemoeller spent seven years in concentration camps.

With the collapse of the Reich in 1945, he was freed—and elected President of the Protestant church in Hesse and Nassau in 1947. During the 1960s, he was a president of the World Council of Churches.

He is best remembered for his powerful condemnation of the failure of Germans to protest the increasing oppression of the Nazis:

First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist, so I did not speak out.

Then they came for the Socialists, but I was not a Socialist, so I did not speak out.

Then they came for the trade unionists, but I was not a trade unionist, so I did not speak out.

Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew, so I did not speak out.

And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.

Neither “Adolf Hitler” nor “Nazi Party” was mentioned during the one-minute Kassich video. But a furious Trump threatened to sue Kasich if he could find find anything “not truthful” within the ad.

Apparently he couldn’t find anything “not truthful,” because he never sued.

So threatened the man who had called Mexican immigrants “rapists” and accused President Barack Obama of being a Muslim and an illegal alien.

The Kasich ad was the darkest attack made against Trump by any candidate—Republican or Democrat. And it raised a disturbing question:

If Donald Trump proved to be America’s Adolf Hitler, would there be an American Claus von Stauffenberg? 

Colonel Claus Schenk von Stuaffenberg was the German army officer who, on July 20, 1944, tried to assassinate Adolf Hitler. 

TREASON–PEOPLE WHO NEED TREASON

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

On November 3, 2020, 81,255,933 Democratic voters elected former Vice President Joseph Biden the 46th President of the United States.

President Donald J. Trump, running for a second term, got 74,196,153 votes. Biden also won decisively in the Electoral College: 306 votes to 232 for Trump.

Yet more than two months after the election, Trump refused to concede, insisting that he won—and repeatedly claiming falsely that he was the victim of massive vote fraud.

Immediately after the election, Trump ordered his attorneys to file lawsuits to overturn the election results.

Throughout November and December, cases were filed in Wisconsin, Arizona, Nevada, Michigan, Minnesota and Georgia challenging the election results. None were supported by evidence of fraud—as even Trump’s lawyers admitted when questioned by judges.

On November 13, nine cases attacking President-Elect Joe Biden’s win in key states were denied or dropped. A law firm challenging the vote count in Pennsylvania withdrew from the effort.

By November 21, more than 30 cases were withdrawn by Trump’s attorneys or dismissed by Federal judges—some of them appointed by Trump himself.

Ultimately, from November 3 to December 14, Trump and his allies lost 59 times in court, either withdrawing cases or having them dismissed by Federal and state judges.

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Donald Trump

On November 19, losing in the courts, Trump invited two Republican legislative leaders from Michigan to the White House. The reason: To persuade them to stop the state from certifying the vote.

The Michigan legislators said they would follow the law.

On December 5, Trump called Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and asked him to call a special legislative session and convince state legislators to select their own electors that would support him, thus overturning Biden’s win.

Kemp refused, saying he lacked the authority to do so.

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Brian Kemp

On December 8, the Supreme Court refused to hear Trump’s bid to reverse Pennsylvania’s certification of Biden’s victory.

Representative Mike Kelly (R-PA), a Trump ally, argued that the state’s 2.5 million mail-in votes were unconstitutional.

The Court’s order read, “The application for injunctive relief presented to Justice [Samuel] Alito and by him referred to the Court is denied.”

Although Trump had appointed three of the Court’s Justices, not one of them dissented. 

On December 8, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed his own lawsuit at the Supreme Court. A Trump ally, Paxton has been indicted on felony securities fraud charges. 

In Texas v. Pennsylvania, he alleged that Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin violated the United States Constitution by changing election procedures through non-legislative means.

On December 10, 2020, the Supreme Court refused to hear the case. 

“Texas has not demonstrated a judicially cognizable interest in the manner in which another state conducts its elections,” the court said without further comment. It dismissed all other related claims as moot.

Seventeen Republican state Attorney Generals—and 126 Republican members of Congress—supported the lawsuit. They did so in an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief. 

They feared Trump’s fanatical base would “primary” them if they didn’t publicly declare their loyalty—to a man they knew was slated to leave office within two months.

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The Supreme Court

Had the Court acted on Paxton’s request, the results for democracy would have been catastrophic. 

“Texas seeks to invalidate elections in four states for yielding results with which it disagrees,” Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro told the justices in legal papers. 

“Its request for this court to exercise its original jurisdiction and then anoint Texas’s preferred candidate for president is legally indefensible and is an affront to principles of constitutional democracy. 

“The court should not abide this seditious abuse of the judicial process, and should send a clear and unmistakable signal that such abuse must never be replicated,” 

The outcome of the 2020 Presidential election marked the first time a losing candidate tried to overturn the will of millions of American voters.

It also marked the first time that state Attorney Generals and members of Congress tried to overturn the results of a Presidential election.

The signers represented nearly two-thirds of the House GOP.

Among them: The House’s top two Republicans: Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.),

Only 70 Republican House members refused to sign the brief.

By December 11, 2020, only 23 Republicans in Congress—14 Representatives and nine Senators—had acknowledged Biden’s victory.

On January 6, Trump instigated an attack on the Capitol Building to stop the counting of Electoral College votes, which was certain to prove Biden the winner.

Despite this, Republican members of Congress continued trying to throw the election Trump’s way.  

Six Republicans in the Senate and 121 in the House backed objections to certifying Arizona’s electoral outcome. Seven Republicans in the Senate and 138 in the House supported an objection to certifying Pennsylvania’s electoral outcome.

Not since the American Civil War (1861-1865) has the United States seen a more blatant—and deadly—case of sedition.

In 1861, 11 Senators and three Representatives were expelled from Congress for refusing to recognize Abraham Lincoln’s election—and supporting insurrection. 

Democrats need to summon the same courage and ruthlessness against their sworn enemies.

Trump’s refusal to admit that he lost fuels the danger of another attack on Congress and/or President Biden.

He—and his Republican accomplices—must be forcibly taught there are penalties for treason.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: BRIBES FOR THE SENATE, TANKS FOR UKRAINE

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on May 16, 2022 at 12:11 am

Anyone wondering where Vladimir Putin got the idea he could invade Ukraine with impunity need look no further than the United States Senate.

On April 16, 2018, the New York Times published an editorial taking direct aim at the vast majority of Congressional Republicans.

Specifically, it noted their unwillingness to speak out against threats by President Donald Trump to fire deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and/or Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Director Robert S. Mueller- III.jpg

Robert Mueller

Its key paragraph:

“Make no mistake: If Mr. Trump takes such drastic action, he will be striking at the foundation of the American government, attempting to set a precedent that a president, alone among American citizens, is above the law. What can seem now like a political sideshow will instantly become a constitutional crisis, and history will come calling for Mr. [Orrin] Hatch and his colleagues.”

Orrin Hatch was the Republican United States Senator from Utah. He and Republican Senators Lindsey Graham (South Carolina) and Chuck Grassley (Iowa) had warned Trump not to fire  Rosenstein or Mueller. 

But most Republicans had held silent.

Why?

The Times editorial offers two reasons:

First, Republicans feared enraging an easily infuriated Trump—who might aim his Twitter account at them and cost them votes in the upcoming fall elections.

Second, Republicans feared enraging Trump’s fanatical base—which, in this instance, had two meanings:

  1. “Something (as a group of people) that reliably provides support (such as for a business or political candidate)”—Merriam Webster; and
  2. “Without moral principles; ignoble”—Oxford Living Dictionaries

On April 17, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would not allow legislation to protect Mueller’s independent investigation to reach the Senate floor.

Mitch McConnell portrait 2016.jpg

Mitch McConnell

“I’m the one who decides what we take to the floor. That’s my responsibility as majority leader. We’ll not be having this on the floor of the Senate,” the Kentucky Republican said in an interview on Fox News.  

Earlier in the day, another Republican, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, claimed that legislation to protect Mueller was “unnecessary.” 

“It would not be in the President’s interest to [fire Mueller] and I think he knows that,” said the Wisconsin Congressman.

But there is an additional reason why so few Republicans dared to stand up against Trump. 

Trump received help from Russian Intelligence agents during the 2016 Presidential campaign. And House and Senate Republicans have received Russian help of another kind: Bribe monies.

Of course, these are not officially classified as bribes. Officially, they are “campaign contributions.” 

In recent years, a network of Russian oligarchs—all of them answerable to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin—has been increasingly contributing to top Republicans. 

And, thanks to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010, the donations are entirely legal

The following data comes from the Federal Election Commission.

One such major contributor is Len Blavatnik, who holds citizenship in both the United States and the United Kingdom. During the 2015-16 election cycle, he proved one of the largest donors to GOP Political Action Committees (PACs).  

Blavatnik’s net worth is estimated at $20 billion. Before 2016, he donated to both Democrats and Republicans in meager amounts. But in 2016, he gave $6.35 million to GOP PACs. 

Millions of dollars went to top Republican leaders—such as Senators Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio (Florida) and Lindsey Graham (South Carolina)Specifically, he contributed

  • A total of $1.5 million to PACs associated with Rubio.  
  • $1 million to Trump’s Inaugural Committee
  • $41,000 to both Republicans and Democrats in 2017.
  • $1 million to McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund.
  • $3.5 million to a PAC associated with McConnell
  • $1.1 million to Unintimidated PAC, associated with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. 
  • $200,000 to the Arizona Grassroots Action PAC, associated with Arizona Senator John McCain. 
  • $250,000 to New Day for America PAC, associated with Ohio Governor John Kasich
  • $800,000 went to the Security is Strength PAC, associated with Senator Lindsey Graham.

Another Russian oligarch, Alexander Shustorovich, contributed $1 million to Trump’s Inaugural Committee.   

Altogether, four Russian oligarchs—Blavatnik, Shustorovich, Andrew Intrater and Simon Kukescontributed $10.4 million from the start of the 2015-16 election cycle through September 2017. Of this, 99% went to Republicans.  

As Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell participated in high-level intelligence briefings in 2016. From agencies such as the FBI, CIA and the code-cracking National Security Agency, he learned that the Russians were trying to subvert the electoral process.  

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In October, 2016, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) issued a joint statement: The Russian government had directed the effort to subvert the 2016 Presidential election.

Two weeks later, McConnell’s PAC accepted a $1 million donation from Blavatnik.

On March 30, 2017, McConnell’s PAC accepted another $1 million from Blavatnik. This was just 10 days after former FBI Director James Comey testified before the House Intelligence Committee about Russia’s efforts to subvert the 2016 election.

Millionaires and billionaires don’t give six- or seven-figure monetary contributions to politicians without expecting to get something in return. And this is especially true—and frightening—when the contributors are linked to a former KGB agent like Vladimir Putin, whose aggressive intentions are increasingly on display. 

It’s clear that the Republican party has moved from “Better Dead than Red” to “My Wallet, First and Always.”

WHY SOME PEOPLE WON’T WEAR MASKS: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on January 27, 2022 at 12:47 am

There are five reasons why millions of Americans refuse to wear masks during a deadly pandemic:

  1. A feeling of solidarity against authority.
  2. “If liberals do it, it’s fascistic.”
  3. Rejection of the death-toll caused by COVID-19.
  4. Disdain for education in general—and science in particular.
  5. Religious fanaticism.

To these must be added:

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. Trump has 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.

The following states require their citizens to wear masks when in public: California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington.

The following states still refuse to order their citizens to wear masks when in public: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming.

Yet even in states where wearing a mask is mandatory when venturing out in public, many people refuse to do so. Fights have erupted before mask-less and mask-wearing customers—and sometimes store employees—who asked them to put on a mask before entering.

  • Two men were arrested for felony battery after starting a fight with employees at a Los Angeles Target store over wearing masks inside the store.
  • A woman entered Curbside Eatery in La Mesa, California, without a mask, pulling her T-shirt over her face. When the owner told her to mask up or leave, the woman yelled: “This is ridiculous! You’re discriminating against me!’ and threatened a lawsuit.
  • In a Costco in Fort Myers, Florida, a masked man asked an unmasked customer to wear a mask. The unmasked man screamed that he was being harassed: “I feel threatened!”

On February 2, 2021, the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) required all airline travelers to wear masks. By December, the TSA had logged more than 4,100 mask-related air-rage incidents. 

Refer to the following caption.

So: How should those who refuse to wear a mask—and thus present a clear and present danger to others—be dealt with?

Ideally, President Joe Biden could issue a mandatory emergency order requiring everyone to wear a mask when in public. But the President lacks the legal authority to do so.

Governors, mayors and business owners 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 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 give tickets to mask-evaders. They will simply ignore them—or consider them a cheap price for going without a mask. 
  • Major retailers should hire professional guards to arrest mask-evaders—and turn them over to police.
  • Police should arrest everyone not wearing a mask in public and jail them—without bond—until the plague is over. 
  • Create tip hotlines for reporting mask-evaders.
  • Offer rewards for tips that lead to arrests.
  • Police and prosecutors should publicize these arrests and jailings—to warn other potential mask-evaders.  
  • Arrest, prosecute and imprison Right-wingers who openly display and/or threaten unarmed civilians with firearms.
  • Above all: Stop admitting the unmasked and unvaccinated to hospitals. Forcing them to pay the price for their irresponsible behavior will end hospital overcrowding.

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.

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

What's The Harm?

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.

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

All those who have written upon civil institutions demonstrate…that 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. But time, which has been said to be the father of all truth, does not fail to bring it to light.

WHY SOME PEOPLE WON’T WEAR MASKS: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on January 26, 2022 at 12:11 am

Not only did President Donald Trump refuse to wear a mask, but he suspected the loyalty of his staffers and Republican allies who didn’t follow his mask-less example.

On April 28, 2020, Vice President Mike Pence toured the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Pence, who led the White House task force on the virus, refused to wear a mask, even though all the officials and medical personnel clustered around him did. 

Pence even visited with a patient who had survived the Coronavirus and was going to give blood.

Pence lauds Minnesota's COVID-19 fight in Mayo Clinic visit

Mike Pence at the Mayo Clinic

Few White House aides wore masks, although they claimed that Trump hadn’t told them not to wear them. Some Republican allies asked Trump’s campaign how they would be seen by Trump if he saw them wearing a mask.

“It’s a vanity thing, I guess, with him,” Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House of Representatives, said. “You’d think, as the President of the United States, you would have the confidence to honor the guidance he’s giving the country.”

By refusing to wear a mask, Trump convinced untold numbers of Americans—mostly Right-wing males—that ignoring the dangers of Coronavirus was the manly thing to do.

(On July 20, 2020, he tweeted an image of himself wearing a mask and called it “patriotic” to wear one. Hours later, however, he appeared without a mask at a fundraiser at the Trump International Hotel in Washington.)

Meanwhile, former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee for President, often appeared in public wearing a mask. During a June 26 television interview he said that, if he were elected President, he would require wearing face masks in public to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. 

“The one thing we do know—these masks make a gigantic difference,” Biden said. “I would insist that everybody out in public be wearing that mask.”

Yet even in states such as California and New York, where this is required, many people still refuse to do so.  

From May 5 to May 12, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) surveyed 4,042 adults throughout the country on wearing masks. The agency found that 60.3% of respondents said they always wore a mask when out in public. Another 13.8% said they often wore a mask in public.

But 17.1% said they either rarely or never wore a mask in public.

The CDC found that women were more likely than men to say they always wore a mask in public.

CDC headquarters in Atlanta

There are several reasons why people refuse to wear masks.

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 Trump uses to dismiss any news stories that highlight his mistakes and criminality. 

Fourth: Republicans disdain education in general—and science in particular. 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 radio broadcaster 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 [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and they’re at the NIH [National Institutes of Health] 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.” 

In 2015, Limbaugh said: “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.”

Six years later, on February 17, 2021, Limbaugh—a longtime and heavy cigar smoker—died from Stage Four lung cancer. 

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 CDC warnings by meeting in large numbers indoors.

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.”

WHY SOME PEOPLE WON’T WEAR MASKS: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on January 25, 2022 at 12:24 am

The United States is now two years into a deadly plague. More than 71.7 million Americans have become infected with COVID-19 and at least 868,000 have died.

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 from the pandemic’s start.

And yet vast numbers of Americans still refuse to do either. Just as they refuse to get vaccinated, despite three vaccines now widely available.

Surgical Face Mask 50 Pack - Face Masks & Hand Sanitiser ...Surveys find strong support for COVID-19 mitigation measures over time | Hub

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In the early weeks and months of the pandemic, cloth face masks weren’t universally endorsed, even by public health experts.

“One, we didn’t know whether they were actually helpful, and two, there was a lot of concern that if people were using medical masks then people like myself, were not going to have access to them,” said Dr. Craig Spencer, director of global health in emergency medicine at Columbia University Medical Center.

No less an authority than Dr. Anthony Fauci,  the country’s leading infectious disease expert, said in March, 2020, that “people should not be walking around with masks.”

Only in early June, 2020, did the World Health Organization (WHO) urge non-healthcare workers to mask up. The WHO advised people to don masks when social distancing was not possible, such as when visiting stores and using public transportation.

world-health-organisation-logo – definearth

According to Dr. Jeremy Faust, the change in attitudes toward masks should be seen as the nature of science, and not as a flaw.

“That is what experts, in fact, do. They don’t just have an opinion and stick to it,” said Faust, an emergency physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in Boston, Massachusetts. “They actually let their opinions develop and evolve as better information becomes available.” 

Only in January, 2022, did the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urge Americans to wear N95 masks—the most effective ones available.

In 2020, the CDC had urged Americans to not use N95s. The reason: They feared this would create a shortage of these masks for doctors, nurses and paramedics working closely with COVID patients.

N95 and Other Respirators | CDC

N95 mask

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, and can remain airborne for hours in some cases.

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.

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

SARS-CoV-2 without background.png

Coronavirus

So why do so many Americans refuse to wear a mask?

Start at the top: With Donald Trump, 45th President of the United States.

From the outset, Trump refused to wear a mask in public.

A colossal egotist, Trump is orange-skinned, morbidly obese and lacking a neck. Yet he still thinks of himself as dangerously handsome. And he fears that covering his face would diminish his power and appeal.

“Appearing to play it safe contradicts a core principle of masculinity: show no weakness,” wrote social sciences professor Peter Glick at Scientific American magazine. “Defying experts’ warnings about personal danger signals ‘I’m a tough guy, bring it on.’”

On May 21, 2020, Trump refused to wear a face mask as he toured a Ford facility in Michigan that was manufacturing ventilators and personal protective equipment. This violated the policies of the facility, the governor’s executive order and warnings from the state’s attorney general.

After a three-month nationwide “lockdown,” states began “reopening.” So Trump scheduled his first 2020 re-election rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma. 

It was held on June 20 at the BOK Center. Scientists had learned that Coronavirus is more likely to be transmitted indoors than outdoors, when masses of people are packed together, and when people are loudly talking—or, worse, shouting.

Masks were available for those who wanted them. But Trump made it clear that his supporters shouldn’t wear masks, as a sign of support for him. Photos of the rally show men and women densely packed together, with none of them wearing masks.

Trump rallies supporters in Wis. as Democrats debate in Iowa

A Trump rally

The Tulsa event was followed by another indoor rally in Phoenix on June 23. “Students for Trump” featured a packed crowd, with almost no one wearing masks. 

After staging COVID-spreading rallies at Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Phoenix, Arizona, Trump scheduled another one for July 3 at Mount Rushmore, in Keystone, South Dakota.

Such rallies had been put on hold since March, due to the issuing of stay-at-home orders across the country by states’ mayors and governors.

Health experts expressed fears about a large gathering during the Coronavirus pandemic. But South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem said people would “not be social distancing” during the celebration—nor required to wear masks.

WHAT A BIBLE-BASED AGENDA FOR AMERICA WOULD MEAN

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, RELIGION, Social commentary on November 11, 2021 at 12:07 am

On February 18, 2012, Republican Presidential candidate Rick Santorum warned about the “phony theology” of President Barack Obama.

“It’s not about you,” Santorum told supporters of the Right-wing Tea Party in Columbus, Ohio. “It’s not about your quality of life. It’s not about your jobs.

“It’s about some phony ideal. Some phony theology. Oh, not a theology based on the Bible. A different theology.”

What would a Bible-based agenda mean for the country?

The death penalty would be vastly expanded to cover such “crimes” as:

  • Sabbath-breaking: Because the Lord considers it a holy day, anyone who works on the Sabbath must be put to death.  (Exodus 31:12-15)
  • Adultery:  If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife, both the man and the woman must be put to death. (Leviticus 20:10)
  • Fornication: A priest’s daughter who loses her honor by committing fornication and thereby dishonors her father also, shall be burned to death.  (Leviticus 21:9)
  • Nonbelievers: They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and soul; and everyone who would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, was to be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman. (2 Chronicles 15:12-13)
  • Homosexuality:  If a man also lies with mankind, as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death.  Their blood shall be upon them. (Leviticus 20-13)

A modern-day stoning–in Somalia

The Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution—which forbids slavery—would be repealed. 

The Bible not only permits slavery but lays out rules for its practice—such as:

  • However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. (Leviticus 25:44-45)  
  • When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed at the end of six years as the men are. (Exodus 21-7)
  • Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. (1 Peter 2:18)

Almost all scientific progress would be discarded, since most of its findings conflict with the Bible:

  • One generation passes away, and another generation comes: but the earth abides forever. (Ecclesiastes 1:4). 
  • This claim is totally contradicted by what astronomers now know about the eventual fate of the Earth: In about 7.6 billion years, the sun will exhaust its nuclear fuels. This will vastly increase its heat and gravitational pull, and at least Mercury, Earth and Venus will be vaporized.

The sun

  • The Bible speaks of a world where physical laws are often violated by the will of God.  Thus, Jesus turns water into wine and raises Lazarus from the dead; Jonah lives inside a fish for three days; Noah dies at 950 years; and demons are exorcised.
  • In Biblical times, mental illness was seen as a manifestation of demonic possession.  Today we know that mental illness has nothing to do with evil spirits.

Laws guaranteeing equal rights for women would be repealed:

  • I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. (1 Timothy 12:10)
  • Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. (Ephesians 5:22)
  • A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. (1 Timothy 2:11)
  • But if…and evidence of the girl’s virginity is not found, they shall bring the girl to the entrance of her father’s house and there her townsman shall stone her to death. (Deuteronomy 22:20-21)

Military conflicts would be fought without regard to the Geneva Convention—as the Israelites did:

  • “You are my battle-ax and sword,” says the Lord. “With you I will shatter nations and destroy many kingdoms. With you I will shatter armies, destroying the horse and rider, the chariot and charioteer. With you I will shatter men and women, old people and children, young men and maidens.  With you I will shatter shepherds and flocks, farmers and oxen, captains and rulers.”  (Jeremiah 51:20-23)

Depiction of the taking of Jericho by the Israelites

  • Samuel said to Saul, “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’” (1 Samuel 15, 1-3) 

* * * * *

Yes, a nation governed by “a theology based on the Bible” would be one far different from the United States we know today.

Since a number of Old Testament practices might lend themselves to easy abuse, this is not a matter to be taken lightly.

AMERICA–LIKE AFGHANISTAN–HAS ITS OWN TALIBAN: PART THREE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, RELIGION, Social commentary on September 9, 2021 at 12:06 am

Bernardo Gui was the chief inquisitor of the Dominican Order during the Medieval Inquisition (1184 – 1230s). 

Gui closely studied the best methods for interrogating “heretics.” He set forth his findings in his most important and famous work, Practica Inquisitionis Heretice Pravitatis. or “Conduct of the Inquisition into Heretical Wickedness.”

Here’s how such an interrogation might go:

When a heretic is first brought up for examination, he assumes a confident air, as though secure in his innocence. I ask him why he has been brought before me. He replies, smiling and courteous, “Sir, I would be glad to learn the cause from you.”

Interrogator: You are accused as a heretic, and that you believe and teach otherwise than Holy Church believes.

Accused Heretic: (Raising his eyes to heaven, with an air of the greatest faith) Lord, thou knowest that I am innocent of this, and that I never held any faith other than that of true Christianity.

Interrogator: You call your faith Christian, for you consider ours as false and heretical. But I ask whether you have ever believed as true another faith than that which the Roman Church holds to be true?

Accused Heretic: I believe the true faith which the Roman Church believes, and which you openly preach to us.

Interrogator: Perhaps you have some of your sect at Rome whom you call the Roman Church. I, when I preach, say many things, some of which are common to us both, as that God liveth, and you believe some of what I preach. Nevertheless you may be a heretic in not believing other matters which are to be believed.

Accused Heretic: I believe all things that a Christian should believe.

Interrogator: I know your tricks….But we waste time in this fencing. Say simply, Do you believe in one God the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost?

Accused Heretic: I believe.

Interrogator: Do you believe in Christ born of the Virgin, suffered, risen, and ascended to heaven?

Accused Heretic: (Briskly) I believe.

Interrogator: Do you believe the bread and wine in the mass performed by the priests to be changed into the body and blood of Christ by divine virtue?

Accused Heretic: Ought I not to believe this?

Interrogator: I don’t ask if you ought to believe, but if you do believe.

Accused Heretic: I believe whatever you and other good doctors order me to believe.

Inquisitor: Those good doctors are the masters of your sect; if I accord with them you believe with me; if not, not.

Accused Heretic: I willingly believe with you if you teach what is good to me.

Inquisitor: You consider it good to you if I teach what your other masters teach. Say, then, do you believe the body of our Lord, Jesus Christ to be in the altar?

Accused Heretic: (Promptly) I believe that a body is there, and that all bodies are of our Lord.

Interrogator: I ask whether the body there is of the Lord who was born of the Virgin, hung on the cross, arose from the dead, ascended, etc.

Accused Heretic: And you, sir, do you not believe it?

Interrogator: I believe it wholly.

Accused Heretic: I believe likewise.

Men like Bernard Gui—and Franklin Graham—do not seek a golden future. They crave to return to a “golden” past—which includes the power Christians once held to forcibly impose their religious beliefs on others.

Among those slated for forced conversions by the Religious Right:

  • Atheists
  • Jews
  • Women
  • Homosexuals
  • Lesbians
  • Non-Christians
  • Liberals

To gain absolute secular power over the lives of their fellow Americans, the Religious Right will support any candidate, no matter how morally despicable. 

During the 2016 Presidential race, evangelicals—and their leaders such as Franklin Graham and Jerry Falwell, Jr.—fervently supported Donald Trump, despite:

  • His being twice divorced;
  • His multiple affairs (including one with porn star Stormy Daniels);
  • His documented ties to Russian oligarchs and Mafia chieftains;
  • His viciousness, greed, lying and egomania.

Related image

Donald Trump and Jerry Falwell, Jr., at Liberty University

And they continue to fervently support him.

They expect Trump to sponsor legislation that will—-by force of law—make their brand of Christianity supreme above all other religions. 

Legislation such as The Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

This was signed into law on March 26, 2015, by Mike Pence, then Governor of Indiana.

This allows any individual or corporation to cite its religious beliefs as a defense when sued by a private party.

Officially, its intent is to prevent the government from forcing business owners to violate their religious beliefs.

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

Thus, a bakery that doesn’t want to make a cake for a gay wedding or a restaurant that doesn’t want to serve lesbian patrons now has the legal right to refuse to do so.

And a hospital can legally turn away a gay patient if it wants to.

Islamic countries are notorious for their persecution of non-Muslims. Now the Religious Right wants to impose its own version of sharia law on American citizens.

AMERICA–LIKE AFGHANISTAN–HAS ITS OWN TALIBAN: PART TWO (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, RELIGION, Social commentary on September 8, 2021 at 12:06 am

American Right-wing elements relentlessly claimed that President Barack Obama was waging “a war on religion.”

GOP candidates like Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney intended to make this a major theme of their respective campaigns for President.

Obama supported a woman’s right

  • to obtain abortion—including in cases of rape and incest;
  • to obtain birth control; and
  • to obtain amniocentesis (pre-natal testing).

By promoting women’s rights, Obama was “waging a war against religion”—according to American fascists.”

Since access to such medical procedures as birth control and pre-natal testing has long been entirely legal, what’s all the fuss about?

It’s simple: The Right is not waging a “war for religious liberty.”

It’s waging a bitter struggle to establish a government that uses force or the threat of it to impose reactionary religious beliefs on religionists who do not share such religious beliefs.

And on atheists or agnostics, who share none at all.

These Rightists and their theocratic allies have less in common with Jesus Christ than with Tomas de Torquemada (1420 – 1498), the infamous Grand Inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition.

Christ never ordered the torture or death of anyone. Torquemada—claiming to act in “defense” of the Roman Catholic Church—presided over the deaths of at least 2,000 “heretics.”

Tomas de Torquemada

Nor did these unfortunate victims of religious fanaticism meet their death quickly or painlessly. They died by perhaps the cruelest means possible—by being burned alive at the stake.

Torquemada didn’t hesitate to pronounce someone a heretic. He “knew” who such people were. They were Jews, Muslims, atheists. They were “lapsed Catholics” who, in his view, failed to show fervent devotion to the religious authorities—like himself—who tyrannically ruled their lives.

For such people, Torquemada believed, the only road to salvation lay in being “cleansed” of their sins. And nothing burns away impurities like fire.

But before the fire-stakes came the fire-mindset: The arrogance of “knowing” who qualified as “saved” and who would be forever “damned.”

Unless, of course, his or her soul had been “purified” by fire.

“Heretic” burned at the stake

Fundamentalist Christians can no longer sentence “heretics” to the stake.

But the mindset that ruled the Spanish Inquisition has not disappeared. It has been vividly displayed by no less a religious authority than Franklin Graham, son of America’s most famous preacher, Billy Graham.

Franklin Graham

Appearing on the MSNBC program, “Morning Joe,” on February 21, 2012, Graham was asked if he thought that Barack Obama, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney qualified as Christians.

On Obama: “Islam sees him as a son of Islam… I can’t say categorically that [Obama is not Muslim] because Islam has gotten a free pass under Obama.”

On Santorum: “I think so. His values are so clear on moral issues. No question about it… I think he’s a man of faith.”

On Gingrich: “I think Newt Gingrich is a Christian, at least he told me he is.”

On Romney: “Most Christians would not recognize Mormons as part of the Christian faith. They believe in Jesus Christ. They have a lot of other things they believe in too, that we don’t accept, theologically.”

Thus, Graham pronounced as “saved” a notorious multiple-adulterer like Gingrich. He also gave a pass to Santorum, who married a woman who had lived “in sin” with an abortionist for six years.

But he unhesitatingly damned a longtime churchgoer like Obama or a devout Mormon like Romney (whose faith, most evangelicals like Graham believe, is actually a non-Christian cult).

Six years later, in 2018, Graham defended President Donald Trump, a notorious womanizer and multiple-adulterer, against charges that, in 2006, he had slept with porn star Stormy Daniels.  

“I believe at 70 years of age the president is a much different person today than he was four years ago, five years ago, 10 years ago. He is not President Perfect.”

This differs greatly from his position on President Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky: “If he will lie to or mislead his wife and daughter, those with whom he is most intimate, what will prevent him from doing the same to the American public?”

It’s easy to imagine Graham transported to the French city of Toulouse in the 14th century. And to imagine him wearing the robes of Bernardo Gui, the chief inquisitor of the Dominican Order during the Medieval Inquisition (1184 – 1230s).

Gui closely studied the best methods for interrogating “heretics.” He set forth his findings in his most important and famous work, Practica Inquisitionis Heretice Pravitatis. or “Conduct of the Inquisition into Heretical Wickedness.”

In this, he offered a vivid example of how such an interrogation might go. The following is taken from that manual:

When a heretic is first brought up for examination, he assumes a confident air, as though secure in his innocence. I ask him why he has been brought before me. He replies, smiling and courteous, “Sir, I would be glad to learn the cause from you.” 

This is not a dialogue between equals. The Inquisitor literally holds the power of life or agonizing death over the man or woman he is interrogating.

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