Category Archives: Decline of the west

A president spirals out of control

 

On January 4, 2021, the day before a crucial run-off vote to determine which party would control the Senate for at least the next 2 years, Donald Trump appeared at a rally in Georgia ostensibly to assist two candidates for the U.S. Senate, but the rally was marked by lying that even by Trump standards wildly overshot his own standards. He did this because on January 6, 2021 the joint houses of the American Congress were to meet to approve or reject the votes by the Electoral College, which gave Biden the victory. Trump’s minion, Mike Pence would have the job of “presiding” over the joint meeting of both Houses, but the job is ordinarily ceremonial. At this rally Trump said he would like Pence “a lot less” if he did not do what Trump wanted. Somehow he thought Pence could manipulate things so that the votes of the Electoral College could be overturned in his favour.

Trump may also be desperate to avoid becoming the subject of numerous House of Representatives or Department of Justice investigations that are being contemplated.

These two forces seem to have driven Trump completely out of control. Here is what Daniel Dale, CNN’s Trump fact-checker who probably rarely sleeps, had to say about Trump’s speech the day before that meeting after Don Lemon asked him what stood out about that speech:

“What stood out was that the speech was like from an alternate universe. The president is not even remotely connected to reality. Either he’s lying, his brain has been completely captured by internet weirdos, or both. And frankly as a fact-checker I’m bored. Like have you ever sat at a family gathering or at a bar or on a date that had someone just talk your ear off with complete nonsense like for an hour and you feel like you can’t escape? That’s all of us right now because that’s the president right now. He said over and over that he had won the election by a landslide. He lost the election. He said over and over that the other side engaged in mass cheating, stealing, forging, ballot dumping, none of which happened. He stood there and read, this is not ad-libbed, this is reading from a teleprompter, imaginary statistics about voting in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin. It’s all wrong. It’s all debunked by fact-checkers. It’s all dismissed by the courts. On and on. It hardly feels worth it to get into the details of this, though it’s actually my job and I get paid for it. I do think it’s worth getting into some of the false claims he made about the Democratic Georgia candidates. Of course we have an election tomorrow. For example, he claimed that Raphael Warnock talked about ‘opening up the jails.’ If you go back and watch that full clip in context when Warnock last year talked about releasing prisoners who were arrested for marijuana offences in particular, not just letting all criminals out. Jon Ossoff is part of the crusade to defund the police. John Ossoff is on record for months over and over saying he opposes defunding the police, he wants police reform. This was just a wildly dishonest speech. One of the worst honestly I have ever heard from the president.”

 

Of course those lies had consequences. Trump was not able to fire up enough Georgian voters to get his candidates elected. He may though have fired up the Democrats enough to come out in droves to vote against them. As well he may have been effective in getting his supporters to show up on January 6 for a rally in front of the White House from where he would “lead” them to the Capitol. He turned out he led them from the rear, but he they were fired up enough to wreak havoc. The Capitol was invaded by his followers. Lies have consequences. Sometimes those consequences are serious.

More Brave Defenders of the Truth

Before the riot in the Capitol, and after Brad Raffensperger the Republican Secretary of State for Georgia stood up to Trump, another Republican also did himself proud. This was Gabriel Sterling the Georgia Voting System Implementation Manager. One day after Trump unsuccessfully failed to bully Raffensperger to do his illegal bidding, based on a basket of lies, Gabriel Sterling patiently and methodically went through Trump’s lies line by line, demolishing each Trump claim about voter fraud and voting irregularities. Sterling is another Republican official who stood up for the truth.

Sterling also made it clear that he believed the Trump team was intentionally trying to mislead the Georgia State Senate and the public. They had all the information to know that their claims were false but continued to make them in order to try to keep Trump in office. Clearly the Trump team, with their bosses agreement, was trying to undermine public faith in the electoral system. That is often the first step toward fascism.

CNN asked their fact checker Daniel Dale to review the famous telephone call Trump and his chief of staff and legal team made to Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

Here is what Dale said about that call and others:

“Nothing the president of the United States is saying about the election is true. I’ve said over and over again on CNN that the president is a serial liar, but he usually sprinkles in some truth amid the lies. Since election night it has been all nonsense. It true about Georgia, it true about Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Arizona. He’s spouting conspiracy theories either deliberately or because his brain has been captured by weird people on the internet, I don’t know. The media likes to describe this as a debate or a feud. There is no 2 sides here. One side we has facts and other side we have lies.”

The key issue of course is what will the Republican Party, and even more importantly the American people, do about Trump’s slide to untruth and fascism? Steve Schmidt a former Republican and advisor to Republican John McCain has described the modern Republican Party as “an American autocratic movement with Fascistic markers.” Stuart Stevens another Republican has said this about his own party:

“The bottom line is that the @GOP has become a threat to democracy. I spent decades helping elect members of the party and it’s painful to admit. But it’s a clear and present danger and should be treated as such.”

Finally and most importantly what about the American public. 70 million or more Americans voted for Trump in 2020. Are they prepared to put up with  this tsunami of lies? There is significant evidence that they will. Most of us don’t want to believe it. But we have to beware of the truth of this statement made by John Cassidy: “This is primarily Trump’s work, but it’s not just Trump’s work. Not by a long shot.

Even if Trump leaves the Oval office, this is far from over.

A Call to Arms: Inciting Violence

 

I prepared this post last night (January 5, 2021) in anticipation of the Joint meeting of the 2 houses of the US Congress and Trump’s comments I heard on the television):

 

Trump appeared at a rally in Georgia on January 4, 2021 ostensibly to support 2 Republican candidates for the US Senate, but, of course, he could not hold back on efforts to promote his own special cause of overcoming his defeat in the election in November. In fact Trump went so far it seemed like he was inciting his supporters to get violent to support him. At least it certainly could be characterized that way.

Here is what Amy Davidson Sorokin said in an article in the New Yorker,

“Trump is not fighting for his legacy but to unconstitutionally and criminally hold on to a position that he has already lost. In typical Trump style, he is doing so, in part, by calling his opponents the real crooks: “The Democrats are trying to steal the White House—you cannot let them!” he said in Dalton.

But what does that injunction mean for Trump supporters who are not elected officials or judges? What plate does Trump expect them to step up to? He wanted them to vote for Perdue and Loeffler, but that wouldn’t be enough. In the course of the rally, he warned that if “we don’t do something fast,” there will never be another free election and the United States will succumb to “communism.” “If you don’t fight to save your country with everything you have, you’re not gonna have a country left,” he said. He appeared to be past caring whether anyone listening heard that as a call to violence. The system is corrupt, he said, it is rigged, his supporters have a mission. “We have to go all the way, and that’s what’s happening,” Trump said. “You watch what happens over the next couple of weeks, you watch what’s going to come out, watch what’s going to be revealed.” The crowd cheered, and did so again a moment later when he said, “They’re not taking this White House; we’re going to fight like hell.What else did they need to hear?”

 

To people who love their country and hate communism with passion, this is a call to save the country from people who are trying to steal it. Would such people, if properly coached not be willing to join a war to defend it? Is this not a call to war?

A Bully against a Brave Defender of Truth

 

By now everyone has likely heard about the hour long phone call between Donald Trump, his chief of Staff Mark Meadows, a bunch of his lawyers, and Brad Ratffensperger, Georgia’s secretary of state together with his General Counsel.   I listened to most of the telephone call and it really did sound as Michael Bromwich, a former inspector general at the Justice Department,  described it commented on Twitter as reported by John Cassidy in the New Yorker,

“The entire call is astonishing, the bullying, the threats, the insults, the credulous embrace of discredited conspiracy theories. Like a crime boss, Trump occasionally says that all he wants is the truth. But he doesn’t—he wants the win.”

Trump wanted Raffensperger to kick the election his way. Simple. Find the votes—somewhere. So Trump leaned on Raffensperger.

President Trump rambled on for many minutes, as he tends to do, urging Raffensperger the Republican Secretary of State, whose job it was to certify the election results in Georgia, a state that Trump narrowly lost by to find the 11,780 votes he needed to overturn Biden who beat him by a measly 11,779 votes. Trump and his allies were trying to get the Secretary of State to override the will of the voters of Georgia in his favour based on dubious discredited claims of various irregularities.

As Cassidy reported,

“Raffensperger and his general counsel, who was also on the call, calmly pointed out that his office had investigated all of these claims and found them to be false. (Georgia’s state supreme court and a federal judge appointed by George W. Bush rejected the Trump campaign’s claims as well.)”

Raffefsperger quietly  and repeatedly told the president he was not telling the truth and the truth would come out. The “facts” Trump was relying on where not true. But Trump was not deterred by the truth coming out. He never is. It doesn’t even phase him. Instead he reverted to bullying. Again a typical Trump response.

Trump responded like a true wanna-be despot: Trump wasn’t to be put off. “So what are we going to do here, folks? I only need eleven thousand votes,” he repeated. “Fellas, I need eleven thousand votes. Give me a break.” Find me the votes.it didn’t matter where. Raffensperger could admit he made a mistake or whatever. It didn’t matter how he explained it. What mattered was that he found 11,800 votes. The crime boss was pleading. But, he did not stop there. He strongly suggested to the Secretary of State that the people of Georgia would be angry with him and the act of refusing to do what Trump asked for was illegal and he and his General Counsel could get in trouble for that. Nothing like a little muscle when asking nicely doesn’t work.

Yet bravely, Republican Brad Raffensperger stood up to the President of the United States to uphold the truth. Americans should be proud, but there are still a lot of people who support Trump in his efforts to defeat the will of the majority of the people of Georgia. That is the real issue here.

To say that Trump is a wanna-be autocrat is not interesting any more. It is too well known. What is scary is that so many Republicans agree with this. So far more than 100 Congressmen and 11 Senators have said they will support Trump in his plan to overturn the election on January 6, 2020 when the two houses of the American Congress will be asked to ratify the electoral college vote. Normally that is a mere formality. Not this time. Vice-president Mike Pence will be presiding. Ominously this is what Pence has already said, as reported by John Cassidy:

“Soon after this news emerged, Vice-President Mike Pence, a politician who gives invertebrates a bad name, issued a statement saying that he “welcomes the efforts of members of the House and Senate to use the authority they have under the law to raise objections and bring forward evidence before the Congress and the American people on January 6th.”

It could be very interesting to see how far down the slope to fascism the Republican Party will go on January 6, 2020. Keep watch. We should all do that. Who said the price of liberty is eternal vigilance?

Is it really the fault of the homeless?

 

Manitoba has the second highest rate of deaths from Covid-19 iun Canada. Only Quebec has more.

Recently, I heard Manitoba health officials said the reason Manitoba was in such poor shape during this pandemic was because Manitoba had so many homeless and poor people. I believe that is true. But is it really the fault of homeless and poor people? That  begs the real question—why does Manitoba have so many poor people? And why have Manitobans not cared about them? At least until now.

Now some people are starting to realize that during a crisis we are only as strong as our weakest members. Inequality in other words is dangerous. I wish more people learned this valuable lesson. Reducing inequality is good for all of us. It is not just poor people who benefit from such measures—we all do.

 

A Hanukah gift for Jared: A Pardon for Papa

Recently, on a pardon spree Trump pardoned Charles Kushner, the father of his son-in-law, Jared.

Chris Christie former Republican governor of New Jersey and before that a federal prosecutor who prosecuted Kushner said this,

“I thought it was so obvious that he had to be prosecuted. If a guy hires a prostitute to seduce his brother-in-law and video tapes it, and then sends video tapes to his sister to attempt to intimidate her from testifying in front of a grand jury, do I really need any more justification than that? I just laid out the facts and anyone confronted with he facts knows I had a moral and ethical duty to bring that prosecution.”

Christie said Kushner was “loathsome” and disgusting. In fact he reminded us that as a prosecutor in New Jersey he saw some pretty loathsome cases, but this one was the worst. We should remember too that Charles Kushner was no innocent. He pleaded guilty. Something rich white men rarely need to do. But, Jared calls him Dad. And Trump implicitly said, “he’s good enough for me. My kind of guy.”

All is permitted

 

 

During Watergate in the 1970s Richard Nixon famously said, “When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.” But in his day his Republican congressmen had some courage and did not put up with that, so he gave up trying that approach. In fact both parties essentially agreed on this until Donald Trump was in power. But in 2020 when Trump’s lawyer Alan Dershowitz said basically the same thing at the Senate impeachment trial, only one Republican Senator dissented. The rest all fell into line. In 2019 Trump’s lawyers argued that anything the president did, so long as he thought it was helpful to getting elected was lawful. The checks and balances were completely emasculated. His lawyers also  argued in a federal case that a sitting president cannot even be investigated. Even an impeachment inquiry is “constitutionally invalid.”

Then in the recent Presidential election, his Republicans in Congress acquiesced and more than 73 million Americans in the 2020 election did not object either. The president could be as corrupt as he pleased and it would make no difference. Effectively the president was a dictator. Democracy was dead. The swamp is alive with nasty creatures, many of which have found a friend in the White House. Corruption is alive and well.

Trump has tried to use the federal law enforcement people for his own advantage. That meets the strict legal definition of corruption. As Peter Baker of the New York Times said,

“He is trying to turn the people charged with federal law enforcement into presidential fixers, starting with Mr. Barr, who finds himself in a tight spot.”

In the case of Nixon the proud checks and balances worked and the country and the constitution were protected. Now with the current crop of Republican sycophants that is clearly not the case.

This is the corruption that millions of Americans voted for. Many Americans seem to like it.

This is what happens when a country elects a crime boss as its leader!

Anti-vax memes myth the mark

 

Confession: the Winnipeg Free provided me with that snappy title.

Today is December 20,2020 so you can expect crazy things. Besides the serial 20s,  this is my birthday. Yikes.

Today, I read a fascinating article by Joel Keilman in the Winnipeg Free Press  that reflected on exactly the issues I have been blogging about of late. The issues are truth, lies, and ethics. The article commented on some of the myths surrounding the vaccines that have now been developed and appeared in Manitoba this week. It’s time for people who have lost confidence in science to come out. And they have come out.

The lies and falsehoods are spreading out and a credulous public is lapping them up like thirsty dogs. Keilman reported on a TikTok video like this,

“As a melodramatic song plays, Rousseau, young, blonde and elaborately mascaraed, silently portrays a woman beaten to death for refusing to take a vaccine that contains a microchip carrying the mark of the beast. At the end, she enters a heavenly skyscape emblazoned with the words: “Well done, good and faithful servant.

The video has been seen more than 680,000 times, garnered 47,000 likes and, despite thousands of mocking comments (“Ma’am, this is a CVS”), earned plenty of positive reviews.

“This is so incredibly powerful,” one viewer wrote.”

Unsurprisingly, in our polarized world, thousands of people have been inspired by this video to praise the Lord and thousands have been inspired to mock the gullible. In this case at least, I think it is clear which side got it right.

Here are some of the myths (that is really too kind a word) people are spreading on line:

  1. The vaccine contains a microchip

Apparently this one has been around for years, but has been amplified recently. People fear that microchips have been secretly implanted in vaccines so that the government can keep track of you. People worry about this rather than the device everyone carries that can actually be used to do this—smart phones. This conspiracy theory has been spread by many, including in particular Alex Jones and InfoWars, the conspiracy theorist Trump loved so much. Supposedly Bill Gates is also involved as is 5G technology.

Other myths include these:

  1. The vaccine will alter your DNA
  2. The vaccine will give you COVID-19
  3. Our immune systems are better than vaccines

There are others but you get the idea.

The anti-vax movement has been strong and I suspect is growing stronger in recent years. According to Keilman’s article a recent poll showed that only 47% of Americas intend to take the vaccines. The percentages of Canadians are probably not that far behind. I know people who say they won’t take a vaccine. They are suspicious of it. There are some reasons to be wary, primarily related to the surprising speed of the development and approval of the vaccines and particularly to fear that the current American president may have had his foot on the accelerator.

The problem is that society needs people to trust the vaccines. Particularly because the vaccine’s have such a high efficacy rate, wide- spread use of them could bring about herd immunity soon and that would be a tremendous benefit for millions of people and our health care systems and workers. The vaccines’ high efficacy rate, much higher than that of flu shots, could swiftly bring about herd immunity that would prevent people from encountering the virus at all.  But if people are afraid to take the vaccines because of the lies they are fed on the internet all of us will suffer. Even those who take the vaccines because we all pay for our health care system and many of us won’t get the proper treatment because of unnecessary Covid cases in hospitals.

And this brings me to the point I have been trying to make. These credulous people are not innocent. They are dangerous! They are dangerous to public health. In times of a public health crisis we need to trust science, we need to respect the truth and the truth gathering process. We need to be suspicious of crazy stuff we find online. The misinformation being spread on the internet is dangerous. Fomenting distrust in public institutions as so many are now doing, including political leaders, is a dangerous and costly to us all. That is why irrational beliefs are not innocent. We should not tolerate them. We should voice that intolerance quietly and respectfully without scapegoating, but we should not keep quiet.

Beliefs have consequences. Therefore they are not all ethical.

 

Did you know Tump won 3 or 4 Noble Peace Prizes?

 

For quite some time, significant portions of modern society have demonstrated an impressive devotion to ignorance. They wear their ignorance on their sleeve, suggesting they are proud of it. As a result it is hardly surprising that ignorance seems so often to be on the march.

Just yesterday I posted about Baldwin’s profound  idea that “Ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.” Then later the same day I listened to a stellar example. A television interviewer on one of the Comedy News shows interviewed a Trump supporter. The interviewer wondered why the supporter continued to support Trump after he was soundly defeated in the 2020 election and his claims of voter fraud had been repeatedly rejected  by the courts. The woman gave an amazing answer. She said, “I support Trump because he won 3 or 4 Noble Peace prizes.” Then when the interviewer mockingly said, “You are very knowledgeable,” to which the woman responded “Thank you.” She had no idea she was being mocked.

Such stunning ignorance dos not happen by accident. It is the product of decades of disdain for knowledge, education, and reasoning. That’s what we get for glorifying ignorance.

I know that there are plenty of ignorant supporters of the left and the right. Ignorance is not unique to Trump supporters. There is plenty of ignorance to go around. But we must always remember, such ignorance is dangerous.

 

When reason sleeps madness rules

 

If you want to know more about what happens when people get in the habit of believing whatever they want to believe entirely without evidence, look no farther than the United States. Look right now.

The United States is in the midst of a pandemic. Recently the United States daily death rate has gone over 3,000 people. Every day more people die from Covid-19 than died in the 9/11 crash into the Twin Towers of New York. Yet what are Americans doing about it? They are going crazy!

The United States is now filled with Covid-deniers joining their climate change deniers. People are attacking each other over the issue of masks. Many people ignore the evidence that masks help keep people safe. One of the consequences of this is ugliness and violence.

As the Associated Press reported,

“Arguments over mask requirements and other restrictions have turned ugly in recent days as the deadly coronavirus surge across the U.S. engulfs small and medium-size cities that once seemed safely removed from the outbreak.

In Boise, Idaho, public health officials about to vote on a four-county mask mandate abruptly ended a meeting Tuesday evening because of fears for their safety amid anti-mask protests outside the building and at some of their homes. One health board member tearfully announced she had to rush home to be with her child because of the protesters, who were seen on video banging on buckets, blaring air horns and sirens, and blasting a sound clip of gunfire from the violence drenched movie Scarface outside her front door.

“I am sad. I am tired. I fear that, in my choosing to hold public office, my family has too often paid the price,” said the board member, Ada County Commissioner Diana Lachiondo. “I increasingly don’t recognize this place. There is an ugliness and cruelty in our national rhetoric that is reaching a fevered pitch here at home, and that should worry us all.”

 

South Dakota has recently rocketed to the top of the United States in Covid-19 caused deaths, but that has not brought the health officials any respite from the local crazies. Instead, things have got worse. In Rapid City the mayor and City Council Members were harassed and threatened over a proposed citywide mask requirements even though the proposal failed to gain support. It seems that as the city and really the country see a surge in American deaths and new Covid-19 cases the people are turning away from evidence and reason in favour of noise and mayhem. Meanwhile the Governor, Kristy Noem has been loud in her opposition to mask requirements. Amazingly, people who showed up at a City Hall meeting  vigorously endorsed the do-nothing approach even as doctors warned them that the only hospital in the western part of the state is in a crisis state for lack of space. Patients were being flown out of the South Dakota, but the public does not want to wear masks. Ignoring science, the people said the dangers of the virus are overblown and mask requirements violate their liberties.

In Boise people also threatened politicians leading to 3 arrests outside the homes where they were protesting. In Gallatin County in Montana protesters gathered for 2 consecutive weeks outside the Bozeman home of county health officer Matt Kelly to voice their vociferous objections to his regulations requiring state-wide mask wearing.

Reason doesn’t rule in much of the United States; madness rules.