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TBR News July 12, 2020

Jul 12 2020

Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

The Second Coming

by W.B. Yeats

 

 

Sinners, wrung with true repentance,
Doomed for guilt to endless pains,
Justice now revokes the sentence,
Mercy calls you; break your chains.

 

The Voice of the White House
Comments:”The laws of gravity, business and political science dictate that what goes up, must come down. Donald Trump and his claque are about to discover this. In Trump’s case, his standard techniques of bribery, theft and connivance might, and do, work in business but only work for a short time in domestic politics. Trump, a narcissist, has so infuriated the entire domestic and global political spectrum that his collapse and disappearance is only a matter of time. Given his mental problems, if defeated in the polls, he will not willingly leave the White House so a defeat in November will, of a certainty, make interesting post-election reading in the media.”

The Table of Contents

Robert Mueller breaks his silence and condemns Trump for commuting Roger Stone’s sentence
The Boogaloo Tipping Point
The Far-Right Revolution Was Waiting for an Opportunity. Now, It’s Here.
Trump’s push to reopen schools part of bid to boost suburban standing
Trump and McConnell are the twin tribunes of America’s ruin – vote them out
Another hidden cost of the fattening of America.
Only in America
Exciting Historical information you need to know about shipping Manure
Encyclopedia of American Loons

  Robert Mueller breaks his silence and condemns Trump for commuting Roger Stone’s sentence
US special counsel defends his investigation into allegations of corruption during 2016 election
July 11, 2020
by Joanna Walters in New York
The Guardian

The former special counsel Robert Mueller made a rare move on Saturday to publicly defend his two-year investigation into allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in the 2016 election – and to castigate US president Donald Trump’s decision to commute Roger Stone’s prison sentence.

Mueller wrote an opinion article for the Washington Post published under the headline “Roger Stone remains a convicted felon, and rightly so”.

“The work of the special counsel’s office – its report, indictments, guilty pleas and convictions – should speak for itself,” he wrote.

“But I feel compelled to respond both to broad claims that our investigation was illegitimate and our motives were improper, and to specific claims that Roger Stone was a victim of our office …

“Stone was prosecuted and convicted because he committed federal crimes. He remains a convicted felon, and rightly so.”

Trump commuted the sentence of Stone on Friday night, sparking outrage from Democrats and some senior Republicans.

Stone was a former campaign adviser to the president, convicted in November 2019 of seven crimes including obstruction of justice, lying to Congress and witness tampering.

The 2017-19 Mueller investigation uncovered evidence of communications between Stone and WikiLeaks related to the release of hacked Democratic party emails during the 2016 election, discovered in a separate inquiry into Russian intelligence officers charged with hacking the emails and staging their release.

The partially released Mueller report in April 2019 described Russian efforts to tamper with the election and the Trump campaign’s receptivity to certain “Russian offers of assistance to the campaign”.

It outlined actions by Trump that may have amounted to obstruction of justice and concluded: “While this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

Mueller also concluded he did not have the power to charge Trump even if he thought it was warranted.

Mueller wrote: “The special counsel’s office identified two principal operations directed at our election: hacking and dumping Clinton campaign emails, and an online social media campaign to disparage the Democratic candidate.

“We also identified numerous links between the Russian government and Trump campaign personnel – Stone among them. We did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired with the Russian government …

“The investigation did, however, establish that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome. [And] that the campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts

Trump has repeatedly attempted to discredit Mueller and his investigations.

Mueller has kept his counsel since he testified in Congress in July last year. It was a muted affair, and many perceived Trump was emboldened in his efforts to seek assistance in his current election campaign from the Ukraine.

This led to the historic impeachment of the president, and Trump’s ultimate acquittal by the Senate earlier this year.

On Saturday Mueller wrote: “Russia’s actions were a threat to America’s democracy. It was critical that they be investigated and understood.”

The Boogaloo Tipping Point
What happens when a meme becomes a terrorist movement?
July 4, 2020
by Dale Beran
The Atlantic

On May 29, two federal security officers guarding a courthouse in Oakland, California, were ambushed by machine-gun fire as elsewhere in the city demonstrators marched peacefully to protest the killing of George Floyd. One of the guards, David Patrick Underwood, died as a result of the attack, and the other was wounded. For days, conservative news broadcasters pinned the blame on “antifa,” the loosely affiliated group of anti-fascist anarchists known to attack property and far-right demonstrators at protests. But the alleged culprit, apprehended a week later, turned out to be a 32-year-old Air Force sergeant named Steven Carrillo, the head of a squadron called the Phoenix Ravens, which guards military installations from terrorist attacks.

According to prosecutors, Carrillo and an accomplice, 30-year-old Robert A. Justus Jr., were part of the “boogaloo” movement, a patchwork of right-leaning anti-government libertarians, Second Amendment advocates, and gun enthusiasts all preparing for another American civil war.

Authorities say that when they went to apprehend Carrillo at his residence, he attacked them with pipe bombs, killing a police sergeant named Damon Gutzwiller. Investigators found a boogaloo-themed patch in a vehicle used by Carrillo. And Carrillo had scrawled boog, along with various boogaloo slogans, in his own blood on the hood of a car.

The boogaloo movement originally grew from the weapons discussion section (“/k/”) of the anarchic anonymous message board 4chan over the past several years. By 2019, its culture had disseminated across social media into a mix of online groups and chat servers where users shared libertarian political memes. In the past six months, this all began to manifest in real life, as users from the groups emerged at protests in what became their signature uniform: aloha shirts and combat gear. As nationwide unrest intensified at the start of the summer, many boogaloo adherents interpreted this as a cue to realize the group’s central fantasy—armed revolt against the U.S. government.

In Colorado earlier in May, then in Nevada in June, police arrested several other heavily armed self-identified boogaloo members, who the authorities claimed were on their way to demonstrations to incite violence. Disturbingly, the boogaloo movement is at least the third example of a mass of memes escaping from 4chan to become a real-life radical political movement, the first being the leftist-libertarian hacktivist collective Anonymous, which emerged in 2008; the second was the far-right fascist group of angry young men called the alt-right, which formed in 2015. (The conspiracy theory QAnon might be considered a fourth, but it is more than a political movement.)

American conspiracy theories are entering a dangerous new phase.

At first glance, armed right-wing militants dressed in floral shirts may seem like another baffling grotesquerie in the parade of calamities that is 2020. However, their arrival can be explained by tracing their online origins. Similar to other right-leaning extremist movements, they are the product of an unhappy generation of men who compare their lot in life with that of men in previous decades and see their prospects diminishing. And with a mix of ignorance and simplicity, they view their discontent through the most distorted lens imaginable: internet memes.

Since its founding in 2003, 4chan has attracted a unique population of deeply cynical men, once all young, but now aged from their 40s down to their teens, who generally use the board to express their angst through dark humor. People who are unhappy with the circumstances of their life tend to retreat there. The unhappier they are, the longer they stay and the more they post.

The site was originally conceived as a blank slate, where anyone could scrawl what they pleased. Gen Xers and Millennials started out wanting to talk about escapist fantasies such as anime and video games, but after two decades of economic crises and political deadlock, the discussion eventually evolved into cartoon-inflected talk of political mobilization.

The birthplace of the boogaloo movement, 4chan’s /k/ section, is ostensibly devoted to the ownership and purchase of weapons. But in practice, it is a space where weapons discussions combine with 4chan’s politicized male anger. The name “boogaloo boys” is a reference to the critically maligned 1984 sequel Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo—around 2012, users on /k/ began referring to the possibility of “Civil War 2: Electric Boogaloo.” Half-serious posts about how certain weapons might be employed in “the boogaloo” evolved over time and grew more elaborate. Like many memes on 4chan, each new version was more cryptic than the last, a means to express insider knowledge and in-group status.

This meant that the oft-repeated phrase Electric Boogaloo became corrupted into the similar-sounding Big Igloo and Big Luau. Soon users were creating images in which revolutionaries appeared beside houses made of ice and at Hawaii-themed parties.

The co-option of Hawaiian imagery and igloos was inherently cynical and meaningless. There was no connection to the group’s ideology outside of the linguistic resemblance of the word boogaloo to igloo and luau. But this co-option fit the ethos of online spaces perfectly, with a niche group celebrating its anti-government, libertarian views by draping them in colorful jokes and nonsense that could be remixed and reinterpreted endlessly.

The message board /k/’s culture overlapped heavily with 4chan’s virulently racist politics discussion board /pol/. However, by 2017, the movement that had developed there—the alt-right—had largely imploded, after the disastrous Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

While overt fascism fell out of vogue for many, the core demographic of disenchanted men remained, their circumstances and unhappiness largely unchanged. Indeed, the unique mixture of right-wing male discontent appealed to many who never frequented 4chan. By 2018, as talk of fascism declined on /pol/, the more libertarian and less overtly racist culture of 4chan’s /k/ and the boogaloo movement began to fill the empty niche.

The memes about a new civil war spread from /k/ to various groups on Facebook and Reddit, all with names that evoked the terms boogaloo, igloo, or luau. Enthusiasts also congregated in group chats using services such as Discord. The politics of the boogaloo boys are deeply contradictory and varied but can be roughly summed up by a few agreed-upon ideas. They are libertarian, in favor of gun rights, and opposed to government police forces. Many users say they are active-duty service members or military veterans.

The boogaloo groups disagree when it comes to racism. Some members are white supremacists. Others compare the movement to the left’s campaign against police brutality. Many boogaloo memes are focused on police overreach, equating the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and FBI sieges at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and Waco, Texas, in the ’90s with the recent high-profile police killings of Black Americans.

As with the alt-right, many boogaloo posts are about men in crisis, humiliated or debased. Intermingled with memes about revolution are nostalgic images and video clips, glitched out to look like old VHS tapes, of what they imagine was the ideal existence: being the patriarch of a middle-class American nuclear family sometime between the 1950s and the 1990s.

As alt-right protests waned, boogaloo boys began to appear on the streets. Armed men in aloha shirts and boogaloo patches made their first widely noticed appearance at a heavily attended pro–Second Amendment rally in Richmond, Virginia, in January. And they came out again for the anti-lockdown protests in March. Later, many attended protests over the killing of George Floyd, some in solidarity, others to oppose the left.

The catalyst was similar to what mobilized so many young people on the left: the notion that the government enriched a privileged few at the expense of the people. In this, the boogaloo boys shared the anti-corporatist left’s belief that the government had betrayed public trust by maintaining a growing police force to perpetuate an unjust status quo. President Donald Trump’s inconsistent response to the coronavirus pandemic and his promise to march the military into American cities to quell unrest only strengthened these convictions.

The recent killings in the name of the boogaloo appear to blend two once-distinct domestic-terrorist movements, one new, one old.

Last summer, murderers who identified as fascist “incels” (involuntary celibates) attacked synagogues and mosques, and, in one case, a Walmart. Like the boogaloos, their stated goal was to spark a larger conflict. And in addition to posting hateful manifestos on the 4chan copycat site, 8chan, some coated their automatic weapons and gear in images from memes from the chans.

But Carrillo’s crimes in Oakland are also closely related to Timothy McVeigh’s bombing of an Oklahoma federal building in 1995. McVeigh was a military veteran whose experience in the Gulf War left him radicalized and resentful of the government as a source of injustice. His hatred killed more innocents than the ATF and FBI did at Ruby Ridge or Waco, his bloody-shirt causes that have since become the boogaloos’.

Having spent the past several years speaking with radicals on 4chan for a book I wrote on its political history, I’m not surprised by the odd mixture of ideologies that the boogaloo movement encompasses. One of my first sources was a chan-going Black man in his 30s, an accelerationist Communist who was friends with a variety of radicals, including many in the alt-right. What these men shared was years of marginalization and a hatred of the present state of society.

As decades of rising inequality produced successive generations who felt they were consigned to the fringes, 4chan became an outlet to express rolling waves of escapist memes and radical anger. Among the left, this uptick in radicals and the corresponding increase in funding for law-enforcement agencies have generated further support for protests aimed at defunding the police and diverting the funds to social programs. Among libertarians, they have produced phenomena such as the boogaloo boys.

Boogaloo boys certainly do not face the economic disadvantages of marginalized groups in the United States, but like the alt-right, they are unhappy enough to form their own radical identity politics of collective grievances. Also like the alt-right, they now face a wave of de-platforming. In the past few months, both Reddit and Facebook have purged major boogaloo groups, though not all of them, from their sites.

But 4chan occupies a unique place on the social web, distinct from more mainstream sites. If 4chan’s history is any indication, it’s extremely likely that some portion of these social-media users and posters on /k/ are federal agents. Having interviewed many young men who ran chan-style sites, I know that state security agencies knock on their doors early and often and ask for comprehensive records. On 8chan, many posts were automatically logged for federal agencies issuing subpoenas in a data-collection system nicknamed “Sunshine.” (8chan was taken offline last summer and replaced by a site called 8kun.) When chan radicals are caught and prosecuted, court documents often reveal police “honeypots,” meant to tempt extremists into unwittingly plotting crimes with undercover agents.

Indeed, before most people, including myself, got wind of the boogaloo movement, Rutgers University had generated a “contagion and ideology report” for law-enforcement agencies in February that detailed the group’s online network. Its conclusion: The boogaloo boys are terrorists. Its recommendations: more law enforcement, more surveillance.

DALE BERAN is a writer based in Baltimore. He is the author of It Came from Something Awful: How a Toxic Troll Army Accidentally Memed Donald Trump into Office.

 


The Far-Right Revolution Was Waiting for an Opportunity. Now, It’s Here.
July 11, 2020
by Murtaza Hussain
The Intercept

At this point, it’s become a staple of dark humor to observe that 2020 has been the year in which the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse seemingly decided to descend on the United States. Yet even before our fears of war, pestilence, and economic collapse began taking physical form, one could already observe morbid symptoms spreading within the extremities of our body politic. The strongest sign of a looming social illness has been the rebirth and spread of extremist ideologies — beliefs not long ago dismissed by liberal triumphalists as relics of historical memory.

Mutated through new information technologies and drawing strength from feelings of economic and demographic dislocation, fascist and sectarian ideologies have found a home in the hearts of members of a new generation of Americans.

Whether most people have connected the dots or not, a violent struggle is already playing out. Over the past few years, a steady drumbeat of massacres have been carried out by extremists associated with the new far-right. These attacks have targeted synagogues, mosques, and communities where immigrants are concentrated. In their wake, the shooters left behind manifestos damning a world that they claimed was shrinking in space for people like them.

What these ideologues drifting within the currents of this movement have really been waiting for, however, is a real crisis, one that would give them an opportunity to put their ideas of racial warfare and ethnic purification into full effect. That crisis is here.

The combination of the coronavirus and the sudden collapse of the American economy has given society an exogenous shock unseen in generations. The pandemic and the social tensions it has unleashed are likely to supercharge the forces that gave rise to the new far-right extremism, even as they produce countervailing energies that could revive the best promises of liberalism.

Engaging in political predictions is a foolish, high-risk, low-reward activity. But having followed the iterations of this new extremist ideology at home and abroad — and grappled with the fact that there is a pool of young men who have proven themselves willing to die for it — it strikes me as irresponsible to not advise people to brace for what is on the horizon.

Although some have yet to accept it, the U.S. is in the midst of an unstoppable cultural and demographic transition into multiculturalism. The natural challenges entailed in such a shift should not be ignored. It is incumbent upon everyone to do their part to make it a success, while ensuring that everyone feels they have a place in this country.

This demographic shift, though, has also given rise to serious anxieties among some within the majority community — anxieties that helped enable the rise of a white nationalist named Donald Trump to the presidency. These majoritarian sentiments are likely to escalate as minority groups grow to embrace their own forms of racial consciousness, often based on redressing past injustices suffered at the hands of the majority.

The current wave of national protests was triggered by a killing with strong sectarian overtones — another Black man killed by a white police officer. From a historical perspective, countries that have experienced wholesale economic collapse at the same time as exploding ethnic tensions have often had a difficult time dealing with that, to put it mildly. The United States still has a lot of resources at its disposal to handle these challenges, but the gravity of the present situation should not be understated.

Americans are experiencing levels of unemployment unprecedented in their modern history. According to some estimates, nearly half of these jobs may never return. At the same time, stunning acts of symbolic cultural transformation are playing out in real time. As statues of polarizing figures tied to America’s European founding come crashing down one after another, often with the support of liberal white Americans, the political project of those on the extremes — particularly white nationalists — is simultaneously jeopardized and emboldened.

On the surface, it seems that events are driving the U.S. in the opposite direction of white nationalist goals and that they will likely taste defeat. But, on the other hand, a structural collapse of American society that fractures it along ethnic lines is the prerequisite for their own dark vision of a society purified by the fires of racial violence.

“One of the things that white nationalists have always been interested in is imposing their own understanding of time: a narrative of what the past looked like and what the future should look like,” said Alexandra Minna Stern, the author of “Proud Boys and the White Ethnostate: How the Alt-Right is Warping the American Imagination.” “In that sense, the coronavirus and the protests have destabilized time. History is being rewritten and the marginalized are being recognized.”

“For white nationalists, this is a crisis as well as an opportunity,” Stern said. “In their opinion, movements like Black Lives Matter are a form of identity politics par excellence. If it is succeeding and gaining currency, then in their view white racial consciousness might rise as well.”

This is not to equate the Black Lives Matter movement with white nationalists of course. But amid the roiling social changes we are now witnessing, many of them progressive, far-right identitarians also see an opportunity at hand.

It should go without saying that it is a choice to view things from an ethno-nationalist perspective. In the U.S., that choice is today not an obviously popular one. A large proportion — perhaps even the majority of the tens of millions who came out into the streets in the unprecedented protest movement triggered by the killing of George Floyd — were white Americans. It remains to be seen how long this support will last, but the spontaneous outrage over the murder of an unarmed Black man by a white police officer is noble and encouraging.

However, those white people who are ethno-nationalists — and there are many of them — will likely view these developments much more darkly: as a sign that they are on the verge of being displaced from their privileged historical role in American society, or, even worse, reduced to a marginalized minority. In a country with loose social bonds and easy access to weaponry, it doesn’t take many people thinking that way to do serious harm.

If you peer into the shadows, you can already see the contours of a threat that will be with us for years to come. In early May, a group of men, described by prosecutors as having “U.S. military experience,” were arrested and charged with trying to spark violence as part of a broader plot to cause the collapse of the federal government and trigger a civil war. A number of shootings and car-ramming attacks carried out during the recent protests should signal that there are people ready for their most extreme beliefs to reach praxis.

Even more ominously, for a state hollowed out by years of elite corruption, there are signs that law enforcement agencies and the U.S. military have been infiltrated by individuals adhering to far-right ideologies. If a serious crisis comes, history suggests that it will be people like this — with access to training and guns — whose defection to the side of the extremists would have the most dire implications.

At the same time, just as it is wrong — dangerous even — to promote essentialized racial categories that lump together huge numbers of diverse people, it would be a mistake to impute onto the far-right movement a unity that it does not possess. Not all of the various subgroups are willing to engage in violence nor do they all hold the same views on every issue. To the extent that the far right can be described as having a unified perspective, it is on the issues of race and immigration. On this count, the spread of the coronavirus and the minority-led protest movement in the U.S. are two sides of the same coin: both products of globalization, which is the one force that they are united in their desire to destroy.

We should expect the far right to continue waging this battle to undo globalization with whatever tools are at its disposal, legal and illegal, violent and nonviolent. Those of us who have to live with the reality of a complex, cosmopolitan world — including the tens of millions of Americans and Europeans of minority backgrounds whose very existence and identity is a product of that reality — must negotiate an appropriate response. The one thing we can’t do is fall into a trap of believing that this conflict doesn’t exist, or that it can be ignored.

“For those whose ultimate goal is a multipolar world where everyone is siloed and in their own place, recent events are seen as a rebuke against globalization,” said Benjamin Teitelbaum, an expert on the far right at the University of Colorado, Boulder and the author of a new book about former Trump guru Steve Bannon called “War for Eternity: Inside Bannon’s Far-Right Circle of Global Power Brokers.”

“If one takes the view that the primary expression of decadence in our age is cosmopolitanism,” said Teitelbaum, “the only way to survive that age is through a militant anti-cosmopolitanism.”

 


Trump’s push to reopen schools part of bid to boost suburban standing
July 12, 2020
by James Oliphant and Jarrett Renshaw
Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump’s demand for U.S. schools to fully reopen this fall amid the coronavirus pandemic is central to an emerging re-election strategy that seeks to resuscitate his flagging support in the nation’s critical suburbs.

Trump in recent weeks has taken stances on hot-button issues his campaign hopes will appeal to suburban voters, particularly women, who have soured on the Republican president since his 2016 election and continue to move away as the virus rages across the country and the economy sputters.

Along with aggressively pushing for students to return to classrooms – “Schools must be open in the Fall,” he tweeted on Friday – Trump has warned of rising urban crime rates and threats to civil order in the wake of protests over racial injustice while pointing to the vibrant stock market as a marker of economic health.

The messaging amounts to a fresh effort to position Trump as the candidate of public safety and social and economic stability, several people close to the campaign said.

So far, there is little sign the approach is working. Trump trails his presumptive Democratic opponent in the Nov. 3 election, Joe Biden, in both national and battleground state polls.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted last week found that in the nation’s suburbs, just 36% said they approve of Trump, while 59% disapprove. Among suburban women, three in 10 approve of Trump, while four in 10 men support the president.

Suburbs in key election states such as Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Florida are filled with affluent swing voters, and many feature large, robust public school systems.

Shannon K. Alsop, a 39-year-old doctor and mother of two school-age children in prosperous Bucks County outside of Philadelphia, said Trump is politicizing the reopening of America’s schools because he believes it will benefit his campaign.

“At the end of the day, all of us parents just want our families to be safe,” Alsop said. “The question is, Can we open our schools and have them be safe? I want that decision to be founded in research and science. I don’t trust the president to make that call for us.”

Trump’s campaign views K-12 schools’ reopening as one key to an economic recovery, allowing working parents with young children to be more productive while addressing concerns that distance learning is harmful to some students.

Public schools also provide meals and other social services for at-risk children.

“It’s about the economy. It’s about the education of their kids,” said Rick Gorka, a spokesman for the Trump campaign. “Parents are extremely frustrated.”

“TIME TO GET BACK TO NORMAL”

At a White House event on schools last week, Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos advocated for their opening in contravention of the guidelines set forth by government public-health experts. The president has threatened to strip schools of federal funds if they fail to comply.

School districts across the country are taking a cautious approach to reopening as U.S. COVID-19 cases reached the 3 million mark last week. Many districts plan to will offer a mix of in-person and online learning, and say they will require masks and social distancing on school grounds.

Some parents are keen to see schools reopen.

Virginia Lee, 37, a registered nurse in Bucks County, said while she does not support Trump, she agrees with his push on schools. Her two school-age children learned little from the virtual instruction provided during shutdowns in the spring, she said.

“I don’t usually agree with anything about Trump. I do agree schools need to open back up,” Lee said. “It’s time to get back to normal.”

Bucks County split very narrowly in favor of Hillary Clinton in 2016, with the Democratic candidate winning by a 0.8 percentage point margin over Trump.

Biden’s position on reopening has largely been in line with that of the teachers’ unions that back his candidacy, which have criticized Trump’s demands as dangerous. The president of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, warned last week that a full reopening of schools could lead to an exodus of educators.

The former vice president also wants schools to reopen, Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates said, and has “laid out clear steps that would give schools the guidance, resources and support they need to do so.”

Joe Zepecki, a Democratic strategist and parent who lives in Shorewood, Wisconsin, a suburb of Milwaukee, said the issue is “coming up more and more” in his community but is too nuanced for Trump to gain traction.

“Parents absolutely want kids back in school, but it’s not a straightforward either-or dynamic. The concerns are many and varied,” Zepecki said. “The president is casting about for a resonant issue he can latch onto that is overwhelmingly popular and gets him back in the game. This ain’t it.”

Reporting by James Oliphant in Washington and Jarrett Renshaw in Bucks County, Pennsylvania; Additional reporting by Chris Kahn; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Leslie Adler

 


Trump and McConnell are the twin tribunes of America’s ruin – vote them out
Under leaders as callous as these, the ravages of Covid-19, economic disaster and systemic racism can only get worse
July 12, 2020
by Robert Reich
The Guardian

Fate has been unkind to the United States. The nation is grappling simultaneously with a pandemic that has claimed the lives of more than 130,000; the most severe economic downturn since the Great Depression; and mind-numbing police brutality, which has generated the largest outpouring of grief and anger against systemic racism in memory.

Perhaps America’s greatest misfortune is that these crises have emerged at a time when its leadership is too incompetent to respond to them, if not maliciously dedicated to worsening them.

Donald Trump has not only refused to contain Covid-19 but is actively pushing Americans into harm’s way, demanding the nation “reopen” while cases and deaths continue to rise. Meanwhile, he’s siphoning federal money intended to dampen the economic crisis into the pockets of his cronies and family. And he is deliberately stoking racial tensions to energize his “base” for the upcoming election.

As if this weren’t enough, Trump continues to attack the rule of law, on which a democracy depends in order to deal with these and all other challenges.

But he could not accomplish these abhorrent feats alone. Senate Republicans are either cheering him on or maintaining a shameful silence. Trump’s biggest enabler is the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell.

McConnell’s response to Trump’s overt appeals to racism? “He is not a racist,” says McConnell. His reaction to Trump’s failure to contain Covid-19? “President Obama should have kept his mouth shut” rather than criticize Trump. McConnell’s take on Trump’s multiple attacks on the rule of law, including Friday’s commutation of former Trump campaign aide Roger Stone’s prison sentence? Utter silence.

But McConnell has been a vocal opponent of the Heroes Act – passed by the House in early May to help Americans survive the pandemic and fortify the upcoming election – calling it a “liberal wishlist”. In fact, it’s a necessary list.

McConnell and his fellow Senate Republicans don’t want to extend the bill’s extra-$600-a-week unemployment benefits, enacted in March but due to expire on 31 July. They argue the benefits are higher than what low-income workers are likely to earn on the job, so the money is a disincentive to work.

Baloney. Few jobs are available to low-income workers, and most are in so-called “essential” work rife with Covid-19. Besides, the US economy can’t be revived unless people have extra money in their pockets to buy goods and services. Even before the pandemic, nearly 80% of Americans lived paycheck to paycheck. Now many are desperate, as revealed by lengthening food lines and growing delinquencies in rent payments.

Yet McConnell and his ilk are happy to give away trillions of dollars in bailouts to Wall Street bankers and corporate executives, on the dubious premise that the rich will work harder if they receive more money while people of modest means work harder if they receive less. In reality, the rich contribute more to Republican campaigns when they get bailed out.

McConnell and Senate Republicans quietly inserted into the last Covid relief bill a $170bn windfall to Jared Kushner and other real estate moguls. Another $454bn went to backing up a Federal Reserve program that benefits big business by buying up debt.

And although that bill was also intended to help small businesses, lobbyists connected to Trump – including current donors and fundraisers for his re-election – helped their clients rake in more than $10bn, while an estimated 90% of small businesses owned by people of color and women got nothing.

McConnell’s response? He’s willing to consider more aid to “small business”.

But McConnell urges lawmakers to be “cautious”, warning that “the amount of debt that we’re adding up is a matter of genuine concern”. He seems to forget the $1.9tn tax cut he engineered in December 2017 for big corporations and the super rich. Is he willing to roll it back to provide more funding for Americans in need?

The inept and overwhelmingly corrupt reign of Trump and McConnell will come to an end next January if enough Americans vote this November. Trump’s polls are plummeting and Senate Republicans seem likely to lose at least four seats, thereby flipping the Senate to Democrats and consigning McConnell to the dustbin of Capitol Hill.

But will enough people vote during a pandemic? The Heroes Act provides $3.6bn for states to expand mail-in and early voting but McConnell isn’t interested. He’s well aware that more voters increase the likelihood Republicans will be booted out. (Which is also why Trump is claiming, with no evidence, that voting by mail will cause widespread voter fraud.)

If there is another coronavirus bill, differences between McConnell and the House will have to be resolved within two weeks after Congress returns from recess on 20 July. McConnell says his priority will be to shield businesses from Covid-related lawsuits by customers and employees who have contracted the virus.

If he had an ounce of concern for the nation, his priority would be to shield Americans from the ravages of Covid and American democracy from the ravages of Trump.

Robert Reich, a former US secretary of labor, is professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley and the author of Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few and The Common Good. His new book, The System: Who Rigged It, How We Fix It, is out now. He is a columnist for Guardian US

Another hidden cost of the fattening of America.
Hospitals Feel the Weight of Treating the Severely Obese
Novation survey shows hospitals face additional costs to treat larger patients

IRVING, TX — Hospitals around the country are being forced to buy specialized equipment and in some cases even remodel their facilities to cope with the growing number of severely obese patients, according to a survey of hospital purchasing executives.

The survey by Novation, the largest group purchasing organization for hospitals and health care institutions, found that hospitals are seeing more severely obese (overweight by at least 100 pounds) patients than ever before. Most of the respondents to the survey said these patients are having an effect on how their organizations accommodate other patients and hospital visitors. Some hospitals estimate additional costs associated with treating or accommodating the severely obese can reach up to $500,000 per year per institution.

“That’s a dramatic statistic,” said Jody Hatcher, senior vice president of Novation. “We are finding that hospitals across the country are buying more large-size beds, larger blood pressure cuffs, wider, reinforced wheelchairs and larger versions of other basic supplies to adjust to patient needs. It’s also a worker safety issue. If hospitals don’t have the right type of equipment, transporting or moving obese patients could lead to injury of hospital personnel. Given the existing nursing shortage, having a nurse out with a hurt back would create additional burdens for the health care organization, so hospitals are looking at this issue seriously.”

A typical example is Wausau Hospital in Wausau, Wis., where administrators say they spent an additional $200,000 this year to remodel rooms, order special equipment and train staff to deal with a growing number of obese patients.

“We’ve had to buy special, longer surgical gloves and even needles and syringes,” said Kent Demien, director of materials management at Wausau. “Standard equipment becomes obsolete on many of our larger patients.” He also added that in the last two years, the hospital’s bariatric department has grown from one surgeon to four, although the special supply needs extend to every corner of the hospital where obese patients could be.

The growing number of obese patients drives up costs in non-clinical areas, too. Demien said many patients or hospital visitors are simply too heavy for a standard, wall-mounted toilet, which can accommodate patients up to 300 pounds. The standard wall-mounted toilets cost $350, but the hospital is looking to replace them with sturdier pedestal commodes priced at $750, which can hold up to 2,000 pounds.

“This is a new trend we’re seeing among the 1,400 VHA and UHC hospitals we serve,” Hatcher said. “We’re working on ways to bring these costs down through our purchasing agreements, programs and services.”

The federal Centers for Disease Control has estimated that care for overweight and obese patients costs an average of 37 percent more than for people of normal weight, adding an average of $732 to the annual medical bill of every American.

The Novation survey polled administrators from 69 hospitals, representing small, rural hospitals and large urban systems, scattered in different markets around the country. It focused on areas of economic impact: the effect on physical facilities, patient care and procedures, and other patients. “It’s important to note that this survey was not designed to produce exact numbers on how the severely obese are affecting hospitals,” Hatcher said. “But it clearly shows that this is a serious challenge, and one that is having an increasing financial impact on health care organizations.”

In the survey, hospitals were asked to answer eight questions:

Has your hospital seen more severely obese patients in the last year than ever before? (80 percent of the hospitals responding to the survey said yes.)

What specific equipment or supplies has your hospital had to purchase to accommodate larger patients? (The most commonly cited items were beds, wheelchairs, gowns, and blood pressure cuffs.)

Have you remodeled physical facilities to accommodate obese patients? (17 percent said yes.)

Do the costs incurred in treating obese patients increase the cost of health care for other patients? (53 percent said yes.)

Estimate how much the hospital has been impacted financially by the growing number of severely obese patients. (The range was between $3,500 and $500,000 annually.)

Estimate how much more a seriously obese patient might spend on a hospital visit versus a patient of average weight. (Range was between $500 and $10,000 per visit.)

Has your hospital introduced any changes in patient procedures to accommodate an increased number of obese patients? (41 percent said yes.)

How much has your hospital been affected financially by the changes in patient procedures? (Responses ranged from $5,000 to $220,000.)

For a full copy of the survey, “Obese Patient Care Survey Market Research Report,” contact Kristin Lucido at (972) 581-5116 or klucido@novationco.com.

 

Comment: “It’s hereditary,” “it’s a gland problem,” are the excuses given for the growing number of grossly overweight Americans. Various American health organizations now agree that fully 40% of Americans are significantly overweight and at least 15% of these are truly enormous, weighing over 300 pounds at the bottom end and 800 pounds or more at the top. The real reason for the fattening of America has nothing to do with heredity or glandular disorders and has everything to do with self—indulgence, terrible diet and total lack of exercise. Those who are truly bloated are certainly not expected to live overly long and are guaranteed to suffer from diabetes and serious heart problems before they die.

And after they die, disposing of the mountainous remains presents a serious problem. A very fat person cannot be cremated; they will not fit in the ovens and if by some chance they can be squeezed into a burning kiln with sticks, there is a very good chance that the melting fat will be ignited and either cause a major fire or, at the worst, cause the oven system to explode.

Burying a fat person is also a problem. They are much too big to squeeze into a normal casket and now the American funeral industry has had to manufacture special “fat” coffins that look for all the world like piano crates.

In hospitals, as our article shows, enormous wheel chairs, reinforced like fork lifts are a necessity in all medical centers as are special beds capable of holding behemoths without collapsing. Also, the truly fat cannot squeeze their swollen bulk into the ordinary lavatory without the aid of a crowbar and twenty pounds of Crisco. If they should manage to get inside without having to remove the door first, toilet seats cannot stand up to the enormous weight placed on them and break. Heavy ceramic toilet bowls have been known to shatter, dumping their visitors onto the floor.

Not only do the hospitals have special problems, the commercial airlines are similarly afflicted. A truly fat person cannot sit in the standard aircraft seat and has to buy two seats and have a special safety belt on board to allow them to buckle up prior to takeoff and landing. As far as use of the aircraft lavatories is concerned, it is impossible for one of the truly bloated to even get a leg inside the cramped toilet.

Motion picture theaters cannot seat the enormous and there have been occasions when it took at least three members of the theater staff to pull a jumbo out of a seat into which they had become wedged like a basketball in a gopher hole.

Public transportation such as busses and street cars are also impossible for the very fat and the idea of one attempting to drive anything but a reinforced golf cart is impossible to even contemplate.

What is obviously coming are special Apartments for the Fat, establishments that cater to the truly immense. All rooms would be on the ground floor, beds would rest on concrete pylons, bathrooms would have sunken tubs big enough to float the Titanic, toilets would have to be at least four feet wide and set in cement with flushing controls at foot level and the refrigerators and stoves would have to be of restaurant size to prevent daily trips to the supermarkets and the purchasing of three shopping carts full of food for the day’s needs. The apartment house offices would have to be stocked with Hoyer lifts in case a tenant couldn’t roll out of bed and also keep on hand a number of very strong personnel and various padded garden and carpentering implements to pry guests out of doorways.

The end result of all this will be that the truly tubby will begin to form protest groups, demanding respect, more food and easier access to markets (where a single fat person is fully capable of brushing canned goods off of the shelves on both sides of the aisle at the same time) and very slow crossing lights at street intersections. It has been estimated that it takes an average 600 pounder at least ten minutes to get from one curb to an opposite one and it should be evident that a passenger car, or even a small truck, that impacted with a laboring leviathan wheezing across a crosswalk, would be totally destroyed and the occupants either killed or severely maimed.

Although it might appear that the tremendous of girth are not capable of any kind of productive sexual activity, most of them not having seen any part of themselves located south of the equator in years, they do seem to breed. There has been some Biblical references made to the fatted calf but perhaps there other uses for turkey basters than are dreamt of in our philosophies.

The poor we have always with us and now it looks as if we can add the truly fat to the roster as well. One possible advantage to having a nation filled with tubbies is that in the event of a famine, the rest of the nation can survive.
Dr. Michael Suslov

Only in America

  1. Only in America……can a pizza get to your house faster than an ambulance.
  2. Only in America……are there handicap parking places in front of a skating rink.
  3. Only in America……do drugstores make the sick walk all the way to the back of the store to get their prescriptions while healthy people can buy cigarettes at the front.
  4. Only in America……do people order double cheeseburgers, large fries, and a diet coke.
  5. Only in America……do banks leave both doors open and then chain the pens to the counters.
  6. Only in America……do we leave cars worth thousands of dollars in the driveway and put our useless junk in the garage.
  7. Only in America……do we use answering machines to screen calls and then have call waiting so we won’t miss a call from someone we didn’t want to talk to in the first place.
  8. Only in America……do we buy hot dogs in packages of ten and buns in packages of eight.
  9. Only in America……do we use the word ‘politics’ to describe the process so well: ‘Poli’ in Latin meaning ‘many’ and ‘tics’ meaning ‘bloodsucking creatures’.
  10. Only in America……do they have drive-up ATM machines with Braille lettering.

 

 

EVER WONDER

 

Why the sun lightens our hair, but darkens our skin?

Why women can’t put on mascara with their mouth closed?

Why don’t you ever see the headline “Psychic Wins Lottery”?

Why is “abbreviated” such a long word?

Why is it that doctors call what they do “practice”?

Why is it that to stop Windows 98, you have to click on “Start”?

Why is lemon juice made with artificial flavor, and dishwashing liquid made with real lemons?

Why is the man who invests all your money called a broker?

Why is the time of day with the slowest traffic called rush hour?

Why isn’t there mouse-flavored cat food?

When dog food is new and improved tasting, who tests it?

Why didn’t Noah swat those 2 mosquitoes?

Why do they sterilize the needle for lethal injections?

You know that indestructible black box that is used on airplanes? Why don’t they make the whole plane out of that stuff?!

Why don’t sheep shrink when it rains?

Why are they called apartments when they are all stuck together?

If con is the opposite of pro, is Congress the opposite of progress?

If flying is so safe, why do they call the airport the terminal?

 

Things You Should’ve Learned By Middle Age

 

  1. If you’re too open-minded; your brains will fall out.
  2. Age is a very high price to pay for maturity.
  3. Going to church makes you a Christian, like standing in a garage makes you a mechanic.
  4. Artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity.
  5. If you must choose between two evils; pick the one you’ve never tried before.
  6. The best way to do housework is to sweep the room with a glance.
  7. Not one shred of evidence supports the notion that life is serious.
  8. It is easier to get forgiveness than permission.
  9. For every action, there is an equal and opposite government program.
  10. If you look like your passport picture; you probably need the trip.
  11. Bills travel through the mail at twice the speed of checks.
  12. A conscience is what hurts when all of your other parts feel good.
  13. Eat well, stay fit, die anyway.
  14. Men are from earth. Women are from earth. Deal with it.
  15. No man has ever been shot while doing the dishes.
  16. A balanced diet is a cookie in each hand.
  17. Middle age is when broadness of the mind and narrowness of the waist change places.
  18. Opportunities always look bigger going away than coming towards you.
  19. Junk is something you’ve kept for years only to throw away three weeks before you need it.
  20. There is always one more imbecile than you counted on.
  21. Experience is a wonderful thing. It enables you to recognize a mistake when you make it again.
  22. By the time you can make ends meet; they move the ends.
  23. Thou shalt not weigh more than thy refrigerator.
  24. Someone who thinks logically provides a nice contrast to the real world.
  25. It ain’t the jeans, Mom, that make your butt look fat.

Exciting Historical information you need to know about shipping Manure

In the 16th and 17th centuries, everything had to be transported by ship. It was also before commercial fertilizer’s invention, so large shipments of manure were common. It was shipped dry, because in dry form it weighed a lot less than when wet, but once water (at sea) hit it, it not only became heavier, but the process of fermentation began again, of which a by-product is methane gas. As the stuff was stored below decks in bundles you can see what could (and did) happen. Methane began to build up below decks and the first time someone came below at night with a lantern, BOOOOM!

Several ships were destroyed in this manner before it was determined just what was happening. After that, the bundles of manure were always stamped with the term “Ship High In Transit” on them which meant for the sailors to stow it high enough off the lower decks so that any water that came into the hold would not touch this volatile cargo and start the production of methane. Thus evolved the term “S.H.I.T,” which has come down through the centuries and is in use to this very day.

You probably did not know the true history of this word. Neither did I. I always thought it was a golf term.

Encyclopedia of American Loons

David Tucker (and anyone affiliated with the AllergiCare Relief Centers)

AllergiCare Relief Centers are a chain of franchises founded by one David Tucker. Tucker does not appear to have any medical or scientific background, but his centers offer diagnosis of allergies using biofeedback, as well treatment of allergies by laser acupuncture – none of which is remotely based on reality, evidence or science, something the centers actually admit: They claim that what they are doing does not count as medical treatment, but has instead “been developed from an entirely different field of therapeutics using the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine, the study of human physiology and an in-depth knowledge of allergens.” Though the diagnoises and treatments are bullshit from beginning to end (and the last two claims in their disclaimer obviously false), Tucker and his centers seem to have enjoyed some success, and they have received ample free advertisement from gullible journalists.

Their main device is something called the BAX3000, which according to their website “is the first and only FDA cleared, US patented system for eliminating allergies” – this is, in fact, quite untrue, insofar as the device is a biofeedback machine approved only for biofeedback by the FDA. In reality, of course, the BAX3000 is merely yet another one of an impressive array of quack electronic diagnostic and treatment devices (EAVs), the history of which goes at least back to the 1950s, making various claims based on (basically) measuring galvanic skin conductance – in the current case claiming that they are measuring what patients are allergic to. The treatment, then, is apparently to return the frequencies measured back to the acupuncture points – “homeopathic frequency magic with machines and electricity” might not be too inaccurate a description.

As you might have expected, virtually anything is a sign of allergies according to the AllergiCare Relief Centers. If you use their “allergy symptom checker” on their website to enter your own symptoms (or, apparently, anything whatsoever), they will invariably find an allergy that they pretend to be able to treat in exchange for a few hundred bucks (the striking exception seeming to be anaphylaxis, something that might of course land them in real trouble if they pretended to be able to handle). T

And although they have no systematic studies to back up their claims, they claim to know that their treatments work by anecdotal reports of improvement – i.e. people being exposed to the alleged allergen without an allergic reaction after undergoing AllergiCare’s suggested regime – which shouldn’t be too hard to achieve insofar as the victims patients were never even remotely allergic to the things AllergiCare diagnosed them as allergic to.

Diagnosis: According to Stephen Barrett, practitioners who use EAVs “are either delusional, dishonest, or both,” which seems more or less accurate.

 Donna Martonfi

You’re probably aware of backward masking, demon-possessed toys and tales of Satanic cults involving priests and presidents, but there are those for whom such things are all too mundane. Donna Martonfi, for instance, will freely tell you about that time 80-foot tall demons got into her house and swallowed her whole. And then there are these Satanic baby farms she knows about. Apparently the proper response to these stories is to be scared and send her money.

Martonfi – might be pseudonym – runs the website Psalm 40 ministries, where she for instance laments the fact that even Christians won’t recognize that Santa and his elfs are a devious ploy to replace Jesus at Christmas time (“Hark the Harold Angels CRINGE”) is the unintentionally apt title of the article) and how the intrusion of superheroes, who are demonic idols (just look at how “Yoda is a demonic looking creature”; Martonfi would know), in popular culture and everywhere is evidence of the challenges faced by Christianity in the US today, which of course also shows that the end is near. You can also request prayers from her, and Martonfi’s prayers are powerful: from a young age Martonfi “prayed for the sick and they recovered;” she’s also once healed a washing machine and prayed her way out of a $2900 car repair bill. Apparently her broken watch required a bit more effort: to begin with, God did nothing, but after a week or so “[a]gain, I petitioned God, only now I was really serious. I remembered the acronym P.U.S.H. Pray Until Something Happens. I was not going to be deterred.” Eventually, she put away the kids gloves and reminded God of His duties to her: “Dear Lord, I stand on your Word that says that You shall supply all of my needs and dear Lord, I need to know what time it is!” This did the trick, and according to Martonfi her “watch has not missed one second since.” I think the lesson is that you just have to show God who da boss sometimes.

It seems that she’s also written an autobiography.

Diagnosis: Despite their content, her posts are mostly grammatical and semi-coherent. They’re completely unhingend nonetheless, and although she’s pretty obscure we suspect that her views are shared by a large enough group of people that they cannot be completely dismissed as harmless fringe delusions.

 

 

 

 

 

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