If you don’t actually want to defund the police, then don’t call if defunding the police

Proposals to “defund” the police make us on the left look completely ridiculous to the rest of America.

Now, I realize that what people mean when they say “defund the police” is not always as it sounds. As reported recently:

Supporters say it isn’t about eliminating police departments or stripping agencies of all of their money. They say it is time for the country to address systemic problems in policing in America and spend more on what communities across the US need, like housing and education.

The Associated Press, Updated June 7, 2020, 8:26 p.m.

Well, if that’s what it’s about, then don’t call it “defunding the police.” Policing is one of the core functions of local government, and it doesn’t have to be done the way that we do it here in the United States. Take, for example, the country of Norway, where their police haven’t killed anybody in almost a decade.

As it is, we have all of right wing America taking it literally that the left wants to defund the police, and raising the spectre of lawlessness and chaos in the streets.

Now, forgetting for a moment about the fact that this tweet (supra) is from a Trump and that means it is at least partially incoherent — what the hell is he talking about not defunding private security and what does that have to do with the price of eggs in China? — Trump Jr. mirrors the reaction of a lot of right wing America.

It’s a shame too, because this is a potential inflection point where one might really be able to change something significant about policing. Two of the most important things that have to change are (1) attitude and (2) police protection from liability.

Attitude, needless to say, is hard to change. Some police officers will change their attitude by observing what is happening in the country right now, and a few may change their attitude because of training or other efforts to widen their consciousness. But widening someone’s consciousness, as we already know, is hard to do. The “blue line” mentality is deeply ingrained in policing.

Liability is another matter. Right now, police are generally protected from liability for their own misdeeds, and a lot of the blame for that goes to police unions who are only interested in protecting their own.1 The rules around liability, those can change.

There have been a few serious attempts to tackle the current crisis, and one of them has been put forward by a coalition of Democratic House members and Senators who released the Justice in Policing Act of 2020, which includes the following proposals2:

  1. Prohibits federal, state, and local law enforcement from racial, religious and discriminatory profiling, and mandates training on racial, religious, and discriminatory profiling for all law enforcement.
  2. Bans chokeholds, carotid holds and no-knock warrants at the federal level and limits the transfer of military-grade equipment to state and local law enforcement.
  3. Mandates the use of dashboard cameras and body cameras for federal offices and requires state and local law enforcement to use existing federal funds to ensure the use of police body cameras.
  4. Establishes a National Police Misconduct Registry to prevent problematic officers who are fired or leave on agency from moving to another jurisdiction without any accountability.
  5. Amends federal criminal statute from “willfulness” to a “recklessness” standard to successfully identify and prosecute police misconduct.
  6. Reforms qualified immunity so that individuals are not barred from recovering damages when police violate their constitutional rights.
  7. Establishes public safety innovation grants for community-based organizations to create local commissions and task forces to help communities to re-imagine and develop concrete, just and equitable public safety approaches.
  8. Creates law enforcement development and training programs to develop best practices and requires the creation of law enforcement accreditation standard recommendations based on President Obama’s Task force on 21st Century policing.
  9. Requires state and local law enforcement agencies to report use of force data, disaggregated by race, sex, disability, religion, age.
  10. Improves the use of pattern and practice investigations at the federal level by granting the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division subpoena power and creates a grant program for state attorneys general to develop authority to conduct independent investigations into problematic police departments.
  11. Establishes a Department of Justice task force to coordinate the investigation, prosecution and enforcement efforts of federal, state and local governments in cases related to law enforcement misconduct.

These are good ideas, for the most part, and I hope they actually get enacted. Especially important are the proposals to change rules around qualified immunity. Nothing will change police behavior as quickly as the knowledge that officers can be held personally liable for abusive behavior. While that might not put more police officers in jail, it will put others in risk of personal bankruptcy and that’s a powerful incentive to avoid doing certain things.

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President Drumpf is working overtime to accuse Antifa of violence in the George Floyd protests

President Drumpf has been working overtime to accuse Antifa of the violence and looting at the George Floyd protests around the country.

Unfortunately for Trump, Antifa is barely a thing. As recently explained in the New York Times:

Antifa is not an organization, and it does not have a leader, membership roles or any defined, centralized structure. It is a vaguely defined movement of people who share common protest tactics and targets.

Antifa is a thing in Germany, where it started out as an anti-fascist group under the Weimar Republic. Over here, not so much. But it makes a convenient punching bag.

There have also been people on the left who have claimed that white supremacists have infiltrated the protests and are responsible for much of the looting. I don’t think we have much evidence for that either yet.

A number of looters have been filmed on cell phone and surveillance cameras, and if they’re identified, we may have a better idea of who they are. My guess is that many of them are simply opportunists who are taking advantage of the situation to wreak a little havoc.

But who knows. I don’t have any more evidence for that then do the people accusing either Antifa or white supremacists.

Now, President Drumpf didn’t just accuse Antifa, he also accused the mainstream media of supporting the looters.

Of course, neither CNN nor MSNBC nor any other mainstream media outlet have been in support of the looters. That’s just plain silly; all you have to know that it’s not true is to watch the coverage. If anything (like most ordinary people) the media have worried about how the looting will hijack the needed conversation on racial inequality.

But as we know, that has never stopped President Drumpf. Even if the truth is right before your eyes, he will lie about it.

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They were being Video-recorded while they were doing it.

As most people know by now, there were two racially charged incidents which took place on Memorial Day, and both of which ended up on YouTube. One was of little relative consequence and one was of great consequence and has since blown up to cause massive protests and riots in some cities. To wit:

  1. A woman named Amy Cooper made a 911 call in Central Park NY to accuse a black man of threatening her, after he had asked her to leash her dog.
  2. A police officer in Minneapolis killed a black man named George Floyd by kneeling on his neck for almost nine minutes, while his fellow officers did nothing to intervene.

Here is the remarkable thing that both incidents have in common: they perpetrators could see that they were being filmed.

Let me say that again: they could see that they were being filmed. And yet that fact did not restrain their behavior in any way.

Amy Cooper

Amy Cooper was an investment manager at Franklin Templeton who was walking her rescue dog in Central Park, but not on a leash. A black man who was bird watching in Central Park and who (ironically) shares her last name — Christian Cooper — asked her to leash her dog. This so offended her that she threatened to call the cops on him and then did so, claiming that he was threatening her.

The whole incident was filmed by Mr. Cooper or his sister. The video eventually went viral, the woman was recognized and outed, and Amy Cooper was fired from her job. She is now the poster child for what entitled urban white privilege looks like, and it’s possible that she never recovers from this. (Like, who is going to hire this woman now?)

Amy Cooper is a liberal Democrat who previously donated to the Presidential campaigns of John Kerry, Barack Obama and Pete Buttigieg.1 She later apologized for her behavior. By the time the police showed up in Central Park both Coopers were long gone. No consequential harm was done to the bird-watching Mr. Cooper.

But seriously, this was her response to being asked to leash her dog? By a black man. OMFG!

The Death of George Floyd

In an incident that was remarkably reminiscent of the Eric Garner “I can’t breathe” incident from Staten Island in 2014, a black man (George Floyd) was restrained by a white officer for a potential forged check — even though he was demonstrably not resisting arrest — by a white officer who put his knee on the man’s neck for almost nine minutes.

Two other white officers and an additional officer of Cambodian heritage either assisted in restraining George Floyd or did nothing to help him, even after he became non-responsive. Floyd was arrested for allegedly passing a bad check (clearly not a violent crime). Floyd repeatedly told the officers that he could not breathe. And yet, the officer kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes, and for almost three minutes after he became non-responsive.2

All of this was, of course, being filmed on someone’s cell phone, which the officers in question could clearly see. But that did not restrain their behavior in any way.

In the Aftermath

By now we know that the officer in question is Derek Chauvin, an officer who had 18 complaints filed against him in his 19 year career.3 All four officers have since been fired, and Chauvin has been indicted for third degree murder.4 Since then:

  • Protests started to spring up, first in Minneapolis, and eventually in different cities around the country.
  • Some (although not many) of these protests turned violent and included looting.
  • The conversation has since been hijacked from one about why unarmed black men (and sometimes women) cannot interact safely with the police.
  • President Trump has, naturally (for him), fanned the flames by calling the protestors thugs and by demanding (in a phone call with the nations’s Governors) that they “dominate” the protestors.

So right now it’s important to remember that there are a lot of good police officers who don’t mistreat black men, and there are thousands upon thousands of protestors who have voiced their displeasure in completely appropriate ways.

But 52 years after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King we have made so discouragingly little progress in dealing with the race issue here in the United States.

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These things really happened this week in the world of Trump

Here at the A1Skeptic we mostly preach to the choir. We’re aware of this, as it’s very unusual for someone to persuade anyone else of political positions that they don’t already have. Our posts can boost the morale of the “troops,” so to speak, and occasionally provide information or ammunition that the troops didn’t already have.

Trump world, as we know, is filled with so many outrages that it’s hard to keep track of them. Back in the “old days” (prior to the 2016 election) we thought that these accumulating outrages might some day come back to haunt Trump. Now we know better. As has been repeatedly pointed out, Trump’s supporters love him because he hates the same people they do.

So I’m not sure that pointing out Trump’s latest outrages will do much for anyone, but every once in a while, we all have to stop, take a breath, and just recognize that this is not normal.1 So, in the last week:

  • Trump argued on Twitter and in a news conference that MSNBC television host and former (Republican) congressman Joe Scarborough is guilty of the murder of one of his former staffers (Lori Klausutis).
  • Trump threatened the Democratic Governor of North Carolina (Roy Kooper) to move the Republican National Convention out of Charlotte if Cooper cannot guarantee unrestricted access to the convention-goers.

Trump’s wildly unfounded conspiracy allegations caused Lori’s widower (Timothy Klausutis) to object and even to write a letter to the CEO of Twitter asking them to remove Trump’s tweets (which Twitter refused to do, although they did note the controversy).

With respect to the Republican convention, I don’t think that Trump has the power to move the convention (although he clearly has the bully pulpit) but I’m not sure if Trump actually knows that.

The point is this: if any previous president — not just Obama, but Clinton or either Bush or any president before them — engaged in this kind of behavior, everyone would be out of their minds. Impeachment would be in order.

With Trump, it’s just another Wednesday.

There are, of course, Republicans who object to Trump’s behavior, such as those who founded the Lincoln Project. But far too many Republicans have followed Trump like lemmings to the sea.

I thought George W. was a pretty awful President but he was basically a decent human being. One could differ with him vociferously on policy, but he wasn’t a compulsive liar or posterchild for malignant narcissism. This guy is about as awful as a human being can be short of being a mass murder. And the argument has been made, not without merit, that while Trump has not intentionally inflicted mass casualties on Americans during the coronavirus epidemic, he has engaged in the moral equivalent of negligent homicide through his incompetence.

And yet, his supporters stick with him. They will have to reckon with history, which they will soon discover they are on the wrong side of.

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How is it that China is planning to test 11 million people in 10 days, and we’ve only tested 400,000 in Massachusetts?

I find it remarkable that China has announced that it plans to test 11 million people in 10 days after some new covid-19 cases were detected in the city of Wuhan, where the infection orginated.

How are they able to do that when we’ve only been able to test about 400,000 in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts since the beginning of April?

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts. An epicenter of the medical and pharmaceutical industry in the United States and, frankly, the world.

They can test 11 million, and we can barely test 400,000?

How is that possible?1

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What to make of the Tara Reade allegations against Joe Biden

There is a woman named Tara Reade who has, in recent days, made a sexual assault allegation against Joe Biden that is certainly disturbing. What to make of those allegations?

Let’s review what we know so far: what is known is that Ms. Reade was a staffer in Joe Biden’s Senate office for about nine months from December 1992 to August 1993, with responsibilities that included primarily supervision of the office’s interns. She says that sometime in the spring of 1993 she was asked to deliver an athletic bag to Biden, and that when she found him, he pushed her up against a wall and essentially tried to finger-fuck her (“digital penetration”).

Reade said that after the incident she complained to three people in the Biden campaign: Marianne Baker, Mr. Biden’s executive assistant, Dennis Toner, his Deputy Chief-of-Staff, and Ted Kaufman, his Chief of Staff,1. Reade herself does not claim that she mentioned a sexual assault, and it’s not completely clear what she complained of to the three Biden staffers. (None of the three have any memory of meeting with Reade, and all three claim that if she had brought forward sexual assault allegations, they would have remembered.)

In March of 2019 Nevada State Assemblywoman Lucy Flores came forward with allegations that sometime in the past Biden had touched her shoulders and hair in ways that made her uncomfortable.2 This wasn’t really a shock to people who knew Biden well, as Biden was known to be a very “handsy” politician who loved to massage people’s shoulders — men and women, by the way — and who was very touchy with a lot of the people he met. A half-dozen other women came out of the woodwork at the time, saying that they had had similar experiences with Biden, and one of those women was Tara Reade. At the time Reade claimed that Biden had treated her like a “beautiful lamp.”

Reasons to Believe Tara Reade

In this day and age of the #MeToo movement we should start with the principle that women should be believed. Because someone makes an allegation is, of course, not the same as having it be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. But nonetheless, we should start with the default position that women should be believed.

Second, there are a number of people who confirm parts of Ms. Reade’s story. In particular:

  • A woman named Linda LaCosse, who was a neighbor of Reade’s back in 1995 or 1996, remembers a conversation with Reade on her front stoop. They had a discussion about custody and violence, and Reade told her the allegations about Joe Biden.3
  • A woman named Lorraine Sanchez, who worked with Reade in the office of a California state legislator in the mid-1990s, remembers that Reade claimed to have been sexually harassed by Biden.4
  • In 1993 Reade’s mother apparently called in to Larry King and said “Hello. I’m wondering what a staffer would do besides go to the press in Washington. My daughter has just left there after working for a prominent senator and could not get through with her problems at all, and the only thing she could have done was go to the press, and she chose not to do it out of respect for him.” 5
  • Reade’s brother, Collin Moulton, does recall recalled Reade telling him about an incident in the early 1990s that happened when she was asked to bring Biden a gym bag, but does not remember the details.

It certainly appears that something happened, and that Reade told her story to Linda LaCosse back in 1995 or 1996 is definitely significant. Whether that something is exactly what she described is less likely.

Reasons not to believe Tara Reade

There are also a number of reasons to be wary of Ms. Reade’s story and these include:

  • Her story has changed over time. Initially, when Lucy Flores came forward, Reade had claimed that Biden had touched her shoulder and neck in a way that made her feel uncomfortable.
  • No one in Biden’s office remembers her ever making any complaint about sexual harassment, and other women in his office at the time had a very different experience.
  • The timing of Reade’s allegation is very curious, since there was a perfect opportunity for her to make her allegations at the same time that the Lucy Flores allegations came forth, which would also have been a time where there were still prominent women in the race and the race was still competitive.
  • Reade could have a political motive. She was an outspoken supporter first of Marianne Williamson, then of Elizabeth Warren, and then of Bernie Sanders. She did not come forward with these new allegations until Sanders route to the nomination was foreclosed. 6
  • Reade claimed that she had filed a formal grievance with the Senate Personnel Office at the time, but no such grievance could be found.
  • After Biden worked to pass the Violence Against Women Act, Reade retweeted or “liked” praise for Biden and his work combating sexual assault, and did so on multiple occasions.
  • Reade became an attorney and worked as an advocate for the domestically abused, so she certainly knew her legal rights a long time ago. 

The other thing that should be noted is that these allegations are not consistent with what we know about Biden. While he was known to be “handsy,” this is the only allegation of sexual assault ever made against him, and it is well known that men who assault women sexually usually do so more than once. In addition, Biden was not known as a party boy, but as a guy who got on the train at the end of every day to head home to Delaware.

My guess as to what happened

Part of the reason that we have statutes of limitation is that it’s very difficult to prove or disprove something that happened 27 years ago. Here there is plenty of reason to believe that something happened, something that upset Tara Reid and made her uncomfortable. But there is also plenty of reason to be suspicious of the allegation that Biden suddenly decided to finger-fuck this woman, and only this woman, when he had no such history with anyone else in his professional life.

Comparison to Donald Trump

Finally, we have to draw a quick comparison with Donald Trump. Trump has had, at last counting, 20 women accuse him of sexual assault, and another five pageant contestants accuse him of walking in on them while they were in various states of undress.

It would, of course, be better if none of the candidates from the two major parties running for President had any allegations of sexual assault hanging over them. But if Tara Reade wanted the rest of us to take her allegations into consideration during the voting process, it would have been much more helpful if she could have made them public while the race was still competitive.

Now, to the degree that her allegations spread doubt about Joe Biden, it really does just make it easier for Donald Trump — a man about whom sexual allegations cannot really be in doubt7 — to be re-elected in 2020.

And that is not an outcome that any thinking person should be okay with.

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Donald Trump really does have an appalling lack of scientific understanding for an American Adult

Last week Donald Trump created a firestorm when he suggested that two treatments for coronivirus might involve injecting commercial household cleaners and using ultra violet rays to irradiate the body.

President Trump at his April 23 Daily Briefing

The Internet immediately went into overdrive, producing many precious memes about ingesting commercial cleaners to disinfect the body.


Trump defenders, on the other hand, went into overdrive themselves, asserting that Trump never claimed that ingesting disinfectants would cleanse the body, and that people who were claiming that he did were suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrome.

Trump himself immediately backtracked when the whole thing blew up in his face, claiming that he had just been “sarcastic” and used the statements as a ploy to unveil the “dishonest” media sites who would misconstrue his words.

Some of the fact-checking websites like Snopes weighed in, clarifying that while Trump indeed did not assert that people should ingest household cleaners, he had quite seriously asked his expert advisers whether they could use (1) UV rays and (2) the injection of household cleaners as a way to treat the coronavirus.

Here is the official Transcript from the President’s April 23 briefing.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. So I asked Bill a question that probably some of you are thinking of, if you’re totally into that world, which I find to be very interesting. So, supposing we hit the body with a tremendous — whether it’s ultraviolet or just very powerful light — and I think you said that that hasn’t been checked, but you’re going to test it. And then I said, supposing you brought the light inside the body, which you can do either through the skin or in some other way, and I think you said you’re going to test that too. It sounds interesting.

ACTING UNDER SECRETARY BRYAN: We’ll get to the right folks who could.

THE PRESIDENT: Right. And then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute. One minute. And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning. Because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it would be interesting to check that. So, that, you’re going to have to use medical doctors with. But it sounds — it sounds interesting to me. So we’ll see. But the whole concept of the light, the way it kills it in one minute, that’s — that’s pretty powerful.
Transcript from 4/23/2020 Presidential Briefing

Then later in the session, a reporter and the President had this colloquy:

Q    But I — just, can I ask about — the President mentioned the idea of cleaners, like bleach and isopropyl alcohol you mentioned.  There’s no scenario that that could be injected into a person, is there?  I mean —

THE PRESIDENT:  It wouldn’t be through injection.  We’re talking about through almost a cleaning, sterilization of an area.  Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t work.  But it certainly has a big effect if it’s on a stationary object.
Transcript from 4/23/2020 Presidential Briefing

More disturbing, in a way, was an article from the left-leaning British newspaper The Guardian, which suggested that Trump may have gotten this idea from a scam artist named Mark Grenon, who has long peddled the idea of bleach as a miracle cure. As reported by the Guardian:

Grenon styles himself as “archbishop” of Genesis II – a Florida-based outfit that claims to be a church but which in fact is the largest producer and distributor of chlorine dioxide bleach as a “miracle cure” in the US. He brands the chemical as MMS, “miracle mineral solution”, and claims fraudulently that it can cure 99% of all illnesses including cancer, malaria, HIV/Aids as well as autism.
Article from the Guardian

Grenon and his supporters had apparently sent a number of letters to Trump and his administration asking them to consider the curative properties of chlorine dioxide bleach.

So, what this demonstrates is an appalling lack of scientific understanding on the part of Donald Trump. This would be an appalling lack of understanding for any functioning adult, for anyone who had taken high school biology and chemistry. And the distinction between ingesting and injecting bleach was clearly lost on many Trump supporters. Just to be clear:

  • If one were to ingest any amount of bleach or other household cleanser, it would ruin your trachea and digestive system, and probably kill you.
  • If one were to inject any amount of bleach or other household cleanser, it would probably kill you.
  • Ultraviolet rays might not immediately harm a person — although prolonged exposure causes skin cancer, premature aging and other maladies — but would also be completely ineffective against the virus.

Equally important, neither ingesting or injecting bleach or any other manner of administering household cleanser into the body, would be completely ineffective in killing an airborne virus that primarily infects the lungs.

That the President of the United States — a self-declared “stable genius” who has repeatedly emphasized how well his brain works — has such an appalling lack of science awareness should make us all deranged. And Trump’s medical and science advisers clearly have to humor him and try to correct him without appearing to contradict him, so that he doesn’t fire them.

Liberals and progressives have not been too hard on Trump. If anything, we’ve been too kind. This complete moron will literally cause the unnecessary deaths of thousands of coronavirus patients with his erratic leadership, inability to grasp scientific concepts, and unwillingness and incapacity to provide the steady ( but also difficult) leadership that someone like Angela Merkel has been providing to Germany or Jacinda Arden has been providing to New Zealand.

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How Donald Trump is not like Hitler, but is a lot like Joseph Goebbels

I’ve already written several times how I am opposed to analogizing Trump with Hitler under the theory of Reductio ad Hitlerium.

Hitler was the posterchild for neurotic Psychopathy

If anything, Hitler was the posterchild for neurotic psychopathy. The man had no conscience at all. To demonstrate how little of a conscience he had, I give you the Night of the Long Knives1, where members of the Schutzstaffel (SS) and Gestapo killed at least 85 people, many of them Nazis and former comrades of Hitler. One of those killed was Gregor Strasser, one of the original Nazis who had collaborated with Hitler in the Beer Hall Putsch. And he was hardly the only one.

Again, Hitler had no conscience. He would kill anyone who he thought would get in his way, and clearly had no second thoughts about the Final Solution.

By comparison Trump is a wuss. Hitler enlisted voluntarily in the infantry in World War 1, where among other things he was a regimental message-runner and demonstrated courage under fire. In contrast Donald Trump used the excuse of “bone spurs” to avoid being drafted into the Vietnam War.

Trump is poster child for malignant narcissism

No, if Hitler is the posterchild for neurotic psychopathy, then Trump is the posterchild for malignant narcissism. He is a man-baby requiring constant praise and attention. A compulsive liar, he began on day 1 of his presidency by claiming that the crowd for his inauguration was bigger than the crowd for Obama’s first inauguration. Trump lies constantly about things which are so easily disprovable.

Now, during the coronavirus pandemic, Donald Trump:

  • Has been concerned about his TV ratings at his daily press briefings
  • Has wanted everyone to praise him for his pandemic response when it’s clear that his response has been belated, haphazard and disorganized.
  • Has been desperately looking for someone to blame, and has tried to blame Obama, China, 2and more recently the World Health Organization.
  • Has claimed power that he doesn’t have, claiming that he had “total authority” to reopen the government on his own (when most of that authority is held by the 50 state Governors).
  • Has ordered a delay in sending out the $1200 stimulus checks because he wanted his name on the checks (even though many of them will be going out electronically).

Goebbels was, of course, the Nazi’s Reich Minister of Propaganda, where the Nazi’s bought into the notion that when lying, one should keep it simple, make it outrageous, and keep repeating it over and over. That’s what Trump and his minions (especially his press secretaries3) have done.

So, for example, Trump claimed that there were millions of instances of voter fraud in the 2016 election so to make it appear that he had won the popular vote against Hillary Clinton, when he actually lost the popular vote by 2,868,686 voters (as of the most recent count). His claim of voter fraud has been debunked over and over again, and yet, it doesn’t keep him from repeating the claim ad nauseum.

Other lies promoted by Donald Trump include:

  • The lie that Ukraine tried to interfere on behalf of Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.
  • The lie that Article II of the US Constitution lets Trump do “whatever he wants”.
  • The lie that he was exonerated by the Mueller report.
  • The lie that China is paying the entirety of the cost of his tariffs on imported Chinese products.
  • The lie that his administration did not disband the US Pandemic Response Team.

Most of these lies are consequential, but Trump also makes claims that simply betray his extraordinary ignorance (and in this sense they are not like the lies of Goebbels). So for example, Trump has:

  • Claimed that windmills cause cancer.
  • Claimed that “raking” the forests will prevent forest fires.
  • Claimed that Alabama was a threatened target from Hurricane Dorian (the “sharpie fiasco”).

Trump apparently does this because he enjoys speaking off the cuff but then won’t allow himself to be contradicted.

The point here is that by now, in 2020, seventy-five years after the demise of the Nazi regime, we would be more sophisticated about propaganda. But we’re not. Even though the propaganda can be easily demonstrated and explained, so many people are emotionally attached to swallowing the propaganda. They would rather believe the “fuck you” President because it makes them feel good. And there it is.

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A Look at Propaganda in Action: Trump’s decision to punish the World Health Organization.

I got an email the other from an old friend of my bother’s, a big conservative and fanatical Trump supporter. He doesn’t usually include me in his email circulars, because he knows what my position is. But I thought, okay, WTF, let’s see what provocative thing Billy sent around today. Because Billy (that’s his name) loves to be provocative.

It turned out that what Billy sent around is an opinion piece from Fox News by Gordon G. Chang arguing that President Trump was “right to stop funding World Health Organization over its botched coronavirus response.” Mr. Chang, it turns out, is an longtime anti-Sino commentator who has been predicting the collapse of the Communist Chinese government since 2001 (see his book The Coming Collapse of China).

In any case, his argument can be summarized as follows:

First, the World Health Organization disseminated China’s false narrative that the virus was not transmissible person-to-person.

Second, the WHO supported the Chinese government’s attempt to prevent the imposition of travel bans and quarantines on travelers from China. It was these travelers who turned an epidemic in central China into a global pandemic.

Third, the WHO publicly backed the reliability of Beijing’s statistics.

Fourth, the WHO unreasonably delayed declaring the coronavirus epidemic a “public health emergency of international concern” until Jan. 30.
Gordon C. Chang’s Argument

Now there is little doubt that the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic was not the World Health Organization’s proudest moment. In a reasonably fair article from the Atlantic, the author (Kathy Gilsinan) takes the WHO to task for not doing more to independently verify the information that was first being released from the Chinese government. It’s a fair criticism. But what Trump and his minions want to do is shift the blame from Trump’s inadequate response to the pandemic to the WHO. That much is clear.1 So, to look quickly at the Trump administration’s record:

  • On January 13, 2017, the Obama administration runs an exercise for pandemic preparedness with the incoming Trump transition team.
  • On February 9, 2018, President Trump signs a budget that cuts $1.35 billion in funding for Prevention and Public Health Fund at the CDC.
  • On May 8, 2018, National Security adviser John Bolton disbanded the White House National Security Council’s Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense for no apparent reason, even though the Administration had previously received a 103 page Pentagon-authored report on the high likelihood of coronavirus outbreak in the near future.2
  • On January 3, 2020 Chinese colleagues alert the CDC Director about the novel virus.
  • On January 16 the administration announces that it will screen passengers from Wuhan.
  • On January 18 HHS Secretary Azar (who had been alerted to the outbreak at the beginning of January) is finally able to talk to Trump about the coronavirus. (The president reportedly wants to talk about political fallout from administration’s flavored vape ban).
  • On January 21 the CDC confirms that a man from the Seattle area as the first U.S. patient.
  • On January 22 President Trump states that the United States has the pandemic “totally under control.”
  • January 24, President Trump publicly thanks Chinese President Xi for his “transparency and effort” in tackling the coronavirus.
  • On January 29, the administration finally creates a Coronavirus Taskforce.
  • On January 30, President Trump states that the U.S. has the virus “under control” and hosts a campaign rally in Iowa.
  • On January 31, Trump blocks travel from China.
  • From Feb 10 to Feb 28 Trump hosts five rallies across the United States, each attracting thousands of attendees.
  • In February of 2019 the CDC rolls out American-made testing equipment with faulty negative controls, even though there was good testing equipment to be had manufactured by other countries.3
  • On February 23, 2020 trade adviser Peter Navarro warns Trump that the virus “could infect as many as 100 million Americans,” and “inflict trillions of dollars in economic damage.”
  • On February 24 Trump gives false assurance that the stock market is “starting to look very good” and the coronavirus is “very much under control.”
  • On February 26 Vice President Pence is placed at the head of the Coronavirus Task Force.
  • On February 27, HHS Secretary Alex Azar tells lawmakers that it’s unlikely that large numbers of Americans will need to be hospitalized.
  • On March 3 Vice President Pence announces that the CDC will finally lift federal restrictions on testing for the coronavirus.
  • On March 6 President Trump falsely claims that any American who wants a Covid-19 test can get a test.
  • On March 11 Trump bans travel from Europe.
  • On March 13 Trump declares a national emergency.
  • On March 16 Trump announces social distancing guidelines to be in place for two-weeks.
  • On March 17 the Trump administration announces strict southern border controls and Trump falsely states that he felt like the crisis was a pandemic “long before it was called a pandemic.”
  • On March 18 Trump signs an Executive Order allowing for use of the Defense Production Act, but later suggests that the administration will not use the Act.
  • On March 19 Trump states that the responsibility of supplying personal protective equipment to medical professionals lies with state governors, not the federal government.
  • On March 24 Trump announces he wants to re-open the country by Easter (April 12).
  • On March 27 Trump signs the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security” (CARES) Act, providing $2.2 trillion emergency relief.
  • On March 29 Trump falsely claims that he inherited “obsolete” and “broken” tests from the Obama administration.
  • On April 2 Jared Kushner says that the national stockpile of emergency medical equipment is “not for the states.”
  • On April 4 and 5 Trump says in two successive press briefings over the weekend that US citizens should try an unproven anti-malaria drug, hydroxychloroquine, in which his family has a financial interest.
  • On April 7 Trump removes Department of Defense Inspector General who was in charge of overseeing the $2 trillion coronavirus relief package.
  • On April 8 Trump threatens to withhold money from the WHO.
  • On April 13 Trump claims “total authority” on re-opening the country, superior to that of the Governors.

The Trump administration’s record is not all bad, but what the timeline clearly demonstrates is that it’s inconsistent, haphazard, and all over the map. Their haphazard response is not the fault of China or the World Health Organization. Certainly getting good information out of China and the WHO would have given the United States more advance warning, but the Trump administration had plenty of advance warning as it was. They simply squandered it.

In this blog, part of what I have tried to ferret out is propaganda, and blaming China and the WHO for the Administration’s haphazard response is clearly propaganda. It’s clever propaganda because there are elements of truth in the claims, but at bottom, the claim is a misdirection play. And a lot of Fox News consumers are going to be led down this false pathway and away from the Trump administration’s own culpability.

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How a fanatical Bernie Sanders supporter is both right and totally wrong about his withdrawal from the race.

As most of you know, Bernie Sanders suspended (but did not outright abandon) his Presidential campaign last week. 1 A number of Sanders supporters were mighty unhappy with the development, and one of them, a real-estate agent from southern Oregon named Lara Convery posted a lengthy screed on Facebook. Her post made it’s way into my feed. In it she just blistered the media and the Democratic establishment and promised that this would be her last post (not likely!).

Although not a “Bernie Bros” (since she is not a guy), her response may be a good representation of how Bernie fanatics feel about this development. In what she wrote, she is not completely wrong, and yet she is also completely wrong.

Here is the entirety of her post:

This is my last FB Post:
Dear America
With Bernie Sanders suspending his campaign today dies any hope I had in a better country or world. We are fucked, for lack of a better word.
No presidential candidate in the history of elections has won Iowa, NH and Nevada and not secured the nomination. Let me say it again: NO ONE IN THE HISTORY OF PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS HAS WON THESE SWING STATES AND NOT WON THE NOMINATION EVER! Rest assured the powers that be saw this and took control to RIG, VOTER SUPPRESS AND CHEAT this election. Biden could not win a prize in a Cracker Jacks box, let alone a primary.
I have never been more disgusted in a country or a fake election process in my life. Bernie raised more money than any other candidate based on donations of $27 or LESS. Do you know how many people have to donate small amounts to reach 46 million per quarter? A LOT. No corporations, no billionaires, no big oil, big Pharma, banks or media companies…..JUST WORKING CLASS AMERICAN PEOPLE.
Benies rallies exceeded the thousands every damn time, even in the freezing temperatures. In the larger cities they were always 25-35 THOUSAND PEOPLE. Joe Biden was lucky to have 200, if he even bothered to campaign at all.
The Exit polls were so skewed that if this happened in ANY OTHER COUNTRY the UN would have intervened. Off by over 10% in most states, the sign of election fraud is anything over 3%. You guys bitch and moan about Venezuela and Brazil and intervening in their elections so they can live in a “democracy”, WELL LOOK AT YOUR OWN COUNTRY PEOPLE!
Polling locations were closed in poor, latino and college communities, but your precious TV would not comment on that because they are paid off as well. EVERY SINGLE STATION. This includes NPR and all the ones you think are legit. They are NOT.
And yesterday we saw the absolute lowest point in the history of this countries faux election process, with people in line to vote for hours, risking their lives IN A GLOBAL PANDEMIC. If you think for one second the Supreme Court of Wisconsin was not paid off to overturn the governors ruling you are not paying attention.
This is Nazi America, and no I don’t say that lightly.
But when your basic right to vote, the basic foundation that this country was founded on is taken away then what are you left with?
When we are being stripped of every right to choose even when it comes to mandating medical procedures (ie vaccines) you are teetering on complete fascism.
When we are the only industrialized country without national healthcare, because we are lied to and told we cant afford it, then what are we?
When we watch this sham of a government continually bail out TRILLIONS TO Wall Street, BIG BANKS and CORPORATIONS, while we beg for a measly ONE TIME PAYMENT OF $1200 to make sure our kids eat, what are we? When we are out of work and the economy is tanking but yet we still are supposed to pay rent and bills WITH NO HELP FROM OUR OWN MONEY what is that?
When Big Pharma and Big Insurance are so dominating that if you get a cancer diagnosis or an auto immune disease there is a good chance you will have to declare bankruptcy and most likely have to start a Go Fund Me to pay for it, what is that? When people are dying because they cant afford medications in this country what should we call ourselves?
When “WE the People” have lost all control of a nation that is supposedly “For the People and By the People”, then what are we left with?
We are supposed to have “NO TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION”, let me assure you :
So we pay trillions in taxes with ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO SHOW FOR IT, and we don’t even bother to protest or wonder why there is no one who gives a shit when we need help. And yes I mean right now. No one is fighting for you.
Except Bernie…..
He was our only hope.
Biden cant win, the Democratic Party may as well hang it up because the DNC will be decimated by this. I know I will #demexit today, along with the millions of others who are Bernie or Bust. It was a promise and not a threat. We said look at 2016 and learn, but you didn’t. You just beat the same damn dead horse again. Biden is Trump-lite and Hilary 2.0.
Biden is also a RAPIST. And the rape apologizing that I have seen from #MeToo, #TimesUp and the Women’s March is one of the most disturbing things I have ever witnessed. You can no longer say “I dont know why women dont come forward”….BECAUSE NOW YOU KNOW.
We fought hard, but its the dying of the light….we cant fight this….it is way to powerful and they have way too much money….
Your only hope America is to:
IT IS A BRAINWASHING DEVICE. YOU CAN NOT THINK FOR YOURSELF AND WATCH IT. YOU CAN NOT BE “WOKE” AND WATCH IT. YOU CAN NOT CLAIM YOU ARE “EDUCATED” AND WATCH IT. There is absolutely no excuse left to watch it. You know it is bought and paid for propaganda, so stop watching. Take responsibility.
They own the media, so they will keep winning.
I know I will be turning off Facebook. It was my last link to the media and I will be damned if I support this massive mind fuck. The algorithm is so powerful you cant fight it, same with YouTube and Google. Censorship is real, and we are being manipulated on all fronts.
And this isn’t about Trump. It never was. You can hopefully see now, “they” get whoever they want in office. Trump didn’t “accidentally” get elected people. They put Trump there and then told all of you he was the big bad wolf…When really THEY ALL ARE THE BIG BAD WOLF. The whole machine is bad. But you fell for it hook line and sinker and blamed Trump for all of it, lets just beat Trump and it will all be ok. We were fighting the whole disease, not the symptom. We were fighting the cancer, not the nausea. But you never got it, because you won’t turn off your TVs.
This is a joke and I am done.
I am going to leave this mess to go to the country and work on my spiritual healing, it is all I have left. The collective consciousness is in pain, Mother Earth is hurting, people are suffering on a massive scale and we somehow think Joe Biden is going to save us. Its literally the most hilarious thing I have ever heard. I am going to grow vegetables in the middle of nowhere and if I need to move out of America I will.
This is that bad.
To all of my friends and comrades who have fought, knocked on doors, made phone calls, protested, shared knowledge, donated money, created visibility and in general just helped the cause, I thank you and I applaud you. It is not easy being the ones who fight. We have been bashed, shamed and made fun of this whole time by friends, family and all the moderate Normies who just don’t see yet.
But I see you.
And I love you.
But today my hope dies.
Trump will win 4 more years easily….
Welcome to the Hunger Games…..
May the Odds be Forever in Your Favor…..
Lara Convery Facebook post

Before responding to her screed, I just want to remind people that:

  • I have been a fan of Bernie’s since 1981 when he was first voted into office as the Mayor of Burlington VT.
  • I voted for Bernie in the 2015 Massachusetts primary (although I switched my allegiance to Elizabeth Warren in 2019).

How Lara is not completely wrong in what she wrote

If the current pandemic is proving one thing, it’s proving that Bernie is right on the merits far more often than he is wrong. In particular, if we had Medicare for All right now we wouldn’t have to worry about people being thrown out of work and then losing their health care.2

The pandemic is also underlining how much our safety net has been shredded since Reagan became President, how drastic financial inequality has become in the United States, and even how uneven the consequences of the pandemic are among different racial communities. Sanders has made income inequality one of his top issues for his entire career, and the pandemic is proving that he has been absolutely correct about this all along.

How Lara is completely wrong in what she wrote

However, Lara is completely wrong when she claims that there is “no one fighting for [us] except Bernie.”

  • That is completely wrong. There are plenty of people fighting for us, including for example, Elizabeth Warren, Ralph Nader, Alexandria Occasio-Cortez and the rest of her “squad.”
  • There are also thousands of other people fighting for us both in and out of politics, some with greater and some with lesser effectiveness.
  • Bernie is not like Jesus Christ, he is not somehow annointed above all others.

Secondly, Lara is completely wrong when she makes the case that only Bernie can win the election. There are a number of reasons to believe that Bernie would have a harder time winning than Biden. These include:

  • That his self-identification as a socialist is still a big problem with older Americans and a number of swing voters.
  • That he has not gotten much traction with the African-American community, a crucial community in the Democratic cohort.
  • That he has not been able to draw young people to the polls to match their enthusiasm, while older voters and African Americans are still as reliable as clockwork.
  • And while this should not matter in a better world, that his identity as a Jew will still work against him, as there are clearly still many anti-Semites among American voters.

Third, Lara is completely wrong when she implies (without stating it) that Bernie would be able to enact his agenda if elected.

  • If we don’t flip the Senate blue in 2020, then anything on Bernie’s agenda (if he were elected President) would be dead on arrival. That much is clear. 3
  • Even if the Senate was flipped, Bernie’s agenda would still face an uphill struggle because of (1) the rules around filibusters and (2) that his agenda is to the left of most mainstreet Democrats.4
  • Bernie’s voting record and Biden’s voting record is not dramatically different. Certainly there are some differences on a few important bills, but their voting record has, by and large, been more sympathetic than antithetical.5

Fourth, Lara completely ignores the important contributions that Sanders has already made to moving the dialog left.

  • Sanders has already made important contributions to the dialog especially (along with Elizabeth Warren) on issues like Medicare-for-All and raising the minimum wage.
  • We will continue to need his voice and his votes in the Senate, just like with Elizabeth Warren.
  • With his national platform, Sanders will have a critical voice in the post-pandemic analysis and in formulating policy prescriptions.

Fifth, Lara completely ignores the importance of the Supreme Court.

  • In this next election, the fate of the Supreme Court hangs in the balance. Despite her heroic efforts, Ruth Bader Ginsburg cannot continue on forever. The Trump appointees have already done lasting damage to voting rights, and it’s about to get much, much worse.
  • Lara’s “I’m taking my ball and going home” attitude completely ignores the crucial difference between Trump making the next set of Supreme Court appointments, as opposed to those that would be made by Joe Biden.

A couple of additional points:

  • Lara’s anti-television and anti-mainstream media rant isn’t much better than the anti-media rant’s conducted by Trump and his minions. While there are certainly things to object to with respect to the main stream media, at this point there are enough places where a person can get the information that they need, if they choose to make the effort. And the television is not a “brainwashing device.” That’s simply a crazy overreaction.
  • I’m not blowing past Lara accusation that Biden is a rapist. That accusation has apparently been made very recently by a woman named Alexandra Tara Reade who was, for a short time, on Biden’s Senate staff. There have always been concerns with Biden’s character — allegations of plagiarism sank one of his Presidential runs, and Biden has been known to be “handsy” for a long time — but there are reasons to be cautious about this particular allegation that are set forth in an article on Medium.com.6

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