Archives for category: Evil

Greg Sergeant of the Washington Post insists that Trump is not “in denial” about the pandemic. He is malevolently ignoring it and hoping it will go away. Maybe it’s wishful evil thinking. Open the link to see his many links to sources.


To paraphrase George Orwell, when it comes to President Trump’s bottomless malevolence and depravity, accurately describing what’s right in front of our noses is a constant struggle — and a perfect example of this is the ubiquitous claim that Trump is “in denial” about coronavirus.

With Trump now launching a campaign to get schools reopened, versions of this are everywhere. The new push shows Trump has “learned nothing” about the perils of reopening society too quickly, declares CNN’s main Twitter feed.

Trump is lost in “magical thinking,” proclaims one health expert. Trump is “basically in denial,” insists one Democratic governor. Trump is “incapable of grasping that people are dying,” frets one advocate for educators.

But is the problem really that Trump is incapable of learning, or that he’s deceiving himself, or that he’s closed his eyes to reality?

The preponderance of the evidence points to something far worse.

Trump has been widely and repeatedly informed by his own and other experts for many months that his failure to take coronavirus more seriously could have utterly catastrophic consequences, that it could result in widespread suffering and needless deaths.

It isn’t enough to point out that Trump repeatedly ignored that advice. What’s more important is that Trump has repeatedly seen the predicted consequences of those failures come to pass, and is seeing that right now.

Yet Trump still continues not just to downplay the severity of the virus’s continuing toll, but also to actively discourage current efforts to mitigate the spread — by failing to set an example through mask-wearing, for instance — and to urge the very sort of rapid reopening that has already contributed to catastrophic outcomes.

The carnage is mounting once again. Total cases just hit 3 million. They have risen in 37 states over the last two weeks — hitting single-day records in six — and the national rolling average of 50,000 new daily cases is far outpacing June’s.

There’s no doubt that the decision to reopen rapidly in many states — which Trump urged — has played some kind of important role in the current surges. As a former Baltimore health commissioner noted: “The key is we did not have to be here right now.”

Yet Trump has shown zero signs of even trying to grapple with the cause and effect behind these new circumstances. Instead, he continues to lie about them, falsely claiming we have the lowest mortality rate in the world, falsely claiming that “99 percent” of cases are “totally harmless,” and absurdly claiming the virus will “disappear.”

Can this really be described as being in denial?

In the past five months, President Trump has repeatedly played down covid-19’s toll on the United States even as the number of cases and deaths has risen.

Trump was privately warned in January by his Health and Human Services secretary that a pandemic was coming. He dismissed this as “alarmist,” then largely refused to act for weeks, only to see coronavirus rampage out of control here as a result.

And experts loudly warned in April that a rapid reopening could prove disastrous. Trump urged it anyway, and we’re now learning the experts were right.

We know why Trump did these things. He feared that publicly taking coronavirus too seriously would spook the markets, which he sees as crucial to his reelection. His allies frankly admitted reopenings would fuel the impression of rapid rebound, helping his reelection (or so they thought).

In those cases, Trump made an active choice to prioritize his own perceived political needs over what experts — including his own — recommended as in the best interests of the country. He has now seen them proved right twice.

We’re seeing something similar once again. Trump’s own Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now recommending that localities minimize crowds at voting places by pursuing “alternative voting methods” amid coronavirus’s new spread.

It is a certainty that Trump will continue falsely claiming that vote-by-mail is subject to massive fraud, to make it politically harder for local officials to scale it up. We know why Trump does this. He has told us himself: He fears vote-by-mail makes it more likely that Republicans will lose the election — meaning that he will lose.

When Trump repeats these lies about vote-by-mail in the wake of the CDC guidance, will we claim Trump is merely “in denial” about the dangers of discouraging such alternative voting options?

Not clueless and hapless. Malevolent.

Once we dispense with the idea that Trump remains “in denial,” we’re left with a few interpretations. The most charitable is that Trump continues to have principled disagreements with experts over these matters, but there are zero indications he has any substantively grounded views on them of any kind.

A far less charitable interpretation is that he’s merely indifferent to the catastrophic consequences that are resulting from these failures — and will continue to do so — and that he’s prioritizing nakedly self-interested political calculations over any such concerns.
Trump has been steadily wrong in these political calculations, to be sure. At each stage, he has believed not acting was in his immediate interests, only to discover the consequences of inaction proved politically worse.

There may have been a species of denial at play in those faulty political calculations — a misguided faith in his magical ability to re-create his political reality through the force of will and tweet. But we can’t pretend any longer that Trump isn’t perfectly aware of what the real-world consequences of his actions — or inactions — will be.

The press critic Jay Rosen has repeatedly suggested that the effort to obscure Trump’s role in this ongoing fiasco is producing one of the biggest propaganda and disinformation campaigns in modern history. Central to getting this right is dispensing with the idea that Trump is a hapless, clueless actor rather than a deliberate and malevolent one.

ProPublica dug up a shameful story, just one more for an era of shameful stories. I wrote previously that the Trump presidency will make Teapot Dome look like a tea party. For those of you who don’t know, Teapot Dome was taught in the textbooks as the prime example of political corruption.

The following is a textbook case of profiteering at the expense of vulnerable people.

A former White House aide won a $3 million federal contract to supply respirator masks to Navajo Nation hospitals in New Mexico and Arizona 11 days after he created a company to sell personal protective equipment in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Zach Fuentes, President Donald Trump’s former deputy chief of staff, secured the deal with the Indian Health Service with limited competitive bidding and no prior federal contracting experience.

The IHS told ProPublica it has found that 247,000 of the masks delivered by Fuentes’ company — at a cost of roughly $800,000 — may be unsuitable for medical use. An additional 130,400, worth about $422,000, are not the type specified in the procurement data, the agency said.

What’s more, the masks Fuentes agreed to provide — Chinese-made KN95s — have come under intense scrutiny from U.S. regulators amid concerns that they offered inadequate protection.

Mitch McConnell, Senator from Kentucky, says that the federal government should let the states go bankrupt.

This would destroy the pensions and health insurance of every public sector worker, including teachers, police, fire fighters, and others.

Workers in McConnell’s home state, his own constituents, would be grievously harmed. So would public sector workers in every other state that was forced into bankruptcy by the costs of the pandemic.

David Sirota wrote this article. He was a speechwriter for Senator Bernie Sanders. Please consider subscribing to his newsletter. He is a seasoned investigative journalist. Readers of this blog may remember when Sirota embarrassed PBS into returning millions of dollars to billionaire John Arnold, who had used his money to persuade PBS to run a documentary about “The Pension Crisis,” which is Arnold’s bete noir (he believes that public sector workers with their big pensions are bankrupting the country). After Sirota’s expose, PBS returned Arnold’s money.

Sirota writes about McConnell’s evil intentions here:

It’s not every day that a U.S. Senator explicitly enriches his out-of-state Wall Street donors while telling his own constituents to drop dead. Usually that kind of behavior is somewhat obscured by legislative machinations and spin. But if there was going to be any lawmaker who would be unabashedly blatant about it, you had to know it would be Mitch McConnell.

The Senate Republican leader just finished up shoveling trillions of dollars of federal largesse to businesses and billions of dollars of tax cuts to the super-rich. Having allocated all that cash to the interests that bankroll his political career, McConnell is now taking a hardline stance against a modest amount of aid to states because he says he doesn’t want resources used to prevent cuts to government workers’ retirement and health benefits.

“There’s not going to be any desire on the Republican side to bail out state pensions by borrowing money from future generations,” McConnell said.

His goal is to use the coronavirus crisis to realize one of the most radical long-term goals of the conservative movement: empowering states to break existing contracts and slash previously pledged pension benefits for teachers, firefighters, cops, first responders and other public-sector employees.

In a half-assed play to avoid looking like he’s deliberately enriching his elite financiers and starving the peasants, McConnell cast himself as a principled opponent of “blue state bailouts” — a seemingly shrewd anti-coastal framing for his own potentially difficult reelection campaign.

In reality, though, McConnell’s opposition to pension aid is even worse than a pathetic Gerald Ford impression. It is him giving the big middle finger to hundreds of thousands of his own constituents whose Republican-leaning state is now facing one of America’s worst pension crises after McConnell’s Wall Street courtiers strip-mined Kentucky’s public retirement system.

Kentucky Fried Pensions

That’s right: for all the talk of pension shortfalls in blue states like Illinois and California, the bright red state of Kentucky has one of the most underfunded pension systems in the country. The gap between promised benefits and current resources has been estimated to be between $40 billion and $60 billion. One of the state’s pension funds is less than 15 percent funded.

Those shortfalls are not the product of Kentucky’s public-sector workers being greedy or lavishly remunerated — Kentucky teachers, for example, are paid 23 percent less than other workers with similar educational credentials, and they do not receive Social Security benefits.

No — the shortfalls are the result of 1) state lawmakers repeatedly refusing to make annual contributions to the system, 2) investment losses from the 2007 financial crisis and now the COVID downturn, and 3) especially risky hedge fund investments that generated big fees for politically connected Wall Street firms, but especially big losses for the state’s portfolio. (Executives from some of those specific firms are among McConnell’s biggest collective donors, and those firms could be enriched by other parts of McConnell’s federal stimulus bill.

The pension emergency in Kentucky has become so dire that teachers staged mass protests last year, resulting in national headlines and a PBS Frontline special, and a court case that ultimately overturned the Republican legislature’s proposed pension cuts, which the GOP literally attached to a sewer bill.

Typically, a state facing this kind of budget catastrophe would be psyched to have its senator in a prime position like Senate Majority Leader, so that it could have some extra special leg up in securing federal assistance to prevent cuts to pensions and other basic public services.

But McConnell isn’t typical — he is as close to a comic-book villain as has ever occupied an office in the highest ranks of America’s legislative branch. And so rather than taking up Democrats’ offer to work on a bipartisan aid package, McConnell is positioning himself to block the very aid that would especially help hundreds of thousands of his own constituents during his state’s dire emergency.

Empowering States To Use Bankruptcy To Crush Workers

Instead, McConnell is proposing to empower states like Kentucky to declare bankruptcy — a financial maneuver that in practice could allow states to reverse their promises and slash retirees’ promised health benefits and subsistence income.

For retired teachers in Kentucky, a state declaration of bankruptcy and subsequent reneging on promised benefits might mean huge cuts to fixed incomes and medical coverage in the middle of the pandemic.

While retirees struggle to make ends meet, Republicans continue to depict government workers as greedy pigs getting rich off taxpayers. That portrayal is designed to create political support for letting states use bankruptcy to fleece workers — a top consevative movement goal for at least a decade.

“A new bankruptcy law would allow states in default or in danger of default to reorganize their finances free from their union contractual obligations,” wrote Jeb Bush and Newt Gingrich in a 2011 op-ed that explained the overall scheme and demonized public employees. “In such a reorganization, a state could propose to terminate some, all or none of its government employee union contracts and establish new compensation rates, work rules, etc…The lucrative pay and benefits packages that government employee unions have received from obliging politicians over the years are perhaps the most significant hurdles for many states trying to restore fiscal health.”

This is not the entire article. Open the link to read it all.

McConnell is fleecing the people who elected him.

He will be on the ballot in November.

If you live in Kentucky or if you have friends there, please send them David Sirota’s article.

The people of Kentucky need a Senator who represents them, not Wall Street.

Fred Klonsky, retired teacher in Illinois, recounts Erik Prince’s long history of engaging in espionage against his fellow citizens.

https://preaprez.wordpress.com/2020/03/07/erik-prince-recruits-cia-and-british-spies-to-spy-on-us-for-donald-trump/

He writes:

The story in the Times details how Prince recruited ex-U.S. and British spies to infiltrate organizations including, but not even closely limited to, teacher unions.

Erik Prince is Betsy DeVos’ brother. DeVos is Trump’s Secretary of Education. Devos also has close ties to many Michigan-based right-wing, anti-union organizations. Among them is the Mackinaw Center for Public Policy.

One of the former spies, an ex-MI6 officer named Richard Seddon, helped run a 2017 operation to copy files and record conversations in a Michigan office of the American Federation of Teachers, one of the largest teachers’ unions in the nation. Mr. Seddon directed an undercover operative to secretly tape the union’s local leaders and try to gather information that could be made public to damage the organization, documents show.

Of course, this is nothing new.

For example, in 2011 all my work emails and personnel files were the subject of a FOIA filed by Ben Velderman of the Michigan-based Education Action group which had ties to the Mackinaw Center and Betsy DeVos.

This was just after having served as president of my NEA union local for ten years.

(The operations reported in the Times were) run by Project Veritas, a conservative group that has gained attention using hidden cameras and microphones for sting operations on news organizations, Democratic politicians and liberal advocacy groups. Mr. Seddon’s role in the teachers’ union operation — detailed in internal Project Veritas emails that have emerged from the discovery process of a court battle between the group and the union — has not previously been reported, nor has Mr. Prince’s role in recruiting Mr. Seddon for the group’s activities.

This is a step up from the days when these groups were using hacks like Ben Velderman to do their dirty work.

Now they are using professional spies.

Is this legal? Can’t Erik Prince be sued for violating the civil rights of others?

Erik Prince, brother of Betsy DeVos, imagines himself a hero. He owned a mercenary army, which hired killers for foreign conflicts, now he has a network of spies who infiltrate peaceful domestic organizations, like teachers’ unions. If your phone is tapped, Erik or one of his spies might be listening in. Is this even legal? Does he care?

The New York Times reported on Prince’s latest vile caper:

Erik Prince, the security contractor with close ties to the Trump administration, has in recent years helped recruit former American and British spies for secretive intelligence-gathering operations that included infiltrating Democratic congressional campaigns, labor organizations and other groups considered hostile to the Trump agenda, according to interviews and documents.

One of the former spies, an ex-MI6 officer named Richard Seddon, helped run a 2017 operation to copy files and record conversations in a Michigan office of the American Federation of Teachers, one of the largest teachers’ unions in the nation. Mr. Seddon directed an undercover operative to secretly tape the union’s local leaders and try to gather information that could be made public to damage the organization, documents show.
Using a different alias the next year, the same undercover operative infiltrated the congressional campaign of Abigail Spanberger, then a former C.I.A. officer who went on to win an important House seat in Virginia as a Democrat. The campaign discovered the operative and fired her.

Both operations were run by Project Veritas, a conservative group that has gained attention using hidden cameras and microphones for sting operations on news organizations, Democratic politicians and liberal advocacy groups. Mr. Seddon’s role in the teachers’ union operation — detailed in internal Project Veritas emails that have emerged from the discovery process of a court battle between the group and the union — has not previously been reported, nor has Mr. Prince’s role in recruiting Mr. Seddon for the group’s activities.

Both Project Veritas and Mr. Prince have ties to President Trump’s aides and family. Whether any Trump administration officials or advisers to the president were involved in the operations, even tacitly, is unclear. But the effort is a glimpse of a vigorous private campaign to try to undermine political groups or individuals perceived to be in opposition to Mr. Trump’s agenda.

Mr. Prince, the former head of Blackwater Worldwide and the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, has at times served as an informal adviser to Trump administration officials. He worked with the former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn during the presidential transition. In 2017, he met with White House and Pentagon officials to pitch a plan to privatize the Afghan war using contractors in lieu of American troops. Jim Mattis, then the defense secretary, rejected the idea.

I just opened my email and discovered this brilliant post by Audrey Watters, whose critical voice on EdTech is indispensable.

Watters lists the 100 biggest EdTech debacles of the past decade, and seeing them all in one place is astonishing.

What strikes me is the combination of unadulterated arrogance (i.e., chutzpah), coupled with repeated failures.

What is also impressive are the number of entries that were hailed by the media or by assorted journalists, then slipped quietly down the drain, without impairing the reputation of the huckster who took the money and ran.

Again and again, we encounter EdTech start-ups and innovations that are greeted with wild acclaim and hype, but whose collapse is ignored as the parade moves on to the next overpromised miracle technology.

Whatever happened to the promise that half of all courses in school would be taught online by this year (false) or that most colleges and universities would die because of the rise of the MOOC (false)? Why do virtual charter schools make money even though they have horrible outcomes for students (lies, lies, lies)?

This post is stuffed with flash-in-the-pan technological disruptions that planned to “revolutionize” education, from K-12 through higher education but then tanked.

Please read it. Share it with your friends and colleagues.

Lessons: Learn humility. Believe in the power of human beings, not machines designed to replace them. Don’t let them sell you stuff designed to control the brains, emotions, and social development of students. Be wary. Be skeptical. Protect your privacy and the privacy of children.

Protect your intellectual freedom.

Read Audrey Watters.

 

 

 

 

This is an important, can’t-miss podcast about the malign plans of one of the richest men in the world.

Business reporter Christopher Leonard has written a best-selling new book called Kochland: The Secret History of Koch Industries and Corporate Power in America.It’s an eye-opening account of how the Kochs built the private company that has made them richer than Bill Gates. Leonard spent seven years reporting the book, which gave him plenty of insight into what he describes as the Kochs’ fixation on dismantling public education. In a recent episode of the Have You Heard podcast with Jennifer Berkshire and Jack Schneider, Leonard was blunt about what the Kochs are after. “The ultimate goal is to dismantle the public education system entirely and replace it with a privately run education system. ” Leonard says don’t be fooled by the Koch’s sales pitch (like the Koch Network’s latest education venture, Yes Every Kid, headed by the VP of Communications for Koch Industries.) “There are going to be a lot of glossy marketing materials about opportunity, innovation, and efficiency. At its core though the Koch Network seeks to dismantle the public education system because they see it as destructive. So that is what’s the actual aim of this group. And don’t let them tell you anything different.”
You can listen to the entire interview here: https://soundcloud.com/haveyouheardpodcast/kochland

 

ProPublica posted excerpts from what had been a secret Facebook page where 9,500 border patrol agents exchanged messages. Their contents are disgusting: racist, sexist, cruel, crude.

The article begins:

Members of a secret Facebook group for current and former Border Patrol agents joked about the deaths of migrants, discussed throwing burritos at Latino members of Congress visiting a detention facility in Texas on Monday and posted a vulgar illustration depicting Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez engaged in oral sex with a detained migrant, according to screenshots of their postings.

In one exchange, group members responded with indifference and wisecracks to the post of a news story about a 16-year-old Guatemalan migrant who died in May while in custody at a Border Patrol station in Weslaco, Texas. One member posted a GIF of Elmo with the quote, “Oh well.” Another responded with an image and the words “If he dies, he dies….”

Perhaps the most disturbing posts target Ocasio-Cortez. One includes a photo illustration of her engaged in oral sex at an immigrant detention center. Text accompanying the image reads, “Lucky Illegal Immigrant Glory Hole Special Starring AOC.”

Another is a photo illustration of a smiling President Donald Trump forcing Ocasio-Cortez’s head toward his crotch. The agent who posted the image commented: “That’s right bitches. The masses have spoken and today democracy won.”

The posts about Escobar and Ocasio-Cortez are “vile and sexist,” said a staffer for Escobar. “Furthermore, the comments made by Border Patrol agents towards immigrants, especially those that have lost their lives, are disgusting and show a complete disregard for human life and dignity.”

A screenshot from the Facebook group.

The head of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Joaquin Castro, reviewed the Facebook discussions and was incensed. “It confirms some of the worst criticisms of Customs and Border Protection,” said Castro, a Democrat who represents San Antonio. “These are clearly agents who are desensitized to the point of being dangerous to migrants and their co-workers.” He added that the agents who made the vulgar comments “don’t deserve to wear any uniform representing the United States of America.”

Let us pause and remember the men and women who lost their lives while serving in the military.

The older I get, the more I hate war.

I despise those who see war as a political tactic, those who stir up war talk to get votes.

Those who drop bombs and fire missiles to raise their poll numbers are contemptible.

There is evil in the world, for sure.

I saw it when I visited the “killing fields” in Cambodia last year.

There is a high school in Pnomh Penh that was turned into a torture camp by the Pol Pot forces.

The walls of the school are lined with photographs of hundreds and hundreds of men, women, and children, taken just before they were killed. Horrifying.

It is our challenge to be on the side of kindness, justice, charity, love, and forgiveness.

That may be hard. But in a time when so many nations have weapons of mass destruction, we have no choice.

“We must love one another or die.” (W.H. Auden).

He also wrote, in another version of the same poem, “We must love one another and die.”

Both statements are true.

 

 

Is this America?

Pipe bombs directed at the leaders of a major political party. Today, a shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh and multiple fatalities. Neo-Nazis and white nationalists marching in public and beating up protesters. Efforts to suppress the votes of blacks and Hispanics in multiple states. Transgender people stripped of their rights. Mobs chanting “Lock her up” at presidential rallies, referring to the candidate who lost the last election. Attacks on freedom of the press. Bombs for the media. On and on the hatred goes, rolling from group to group, growing in intensity.

Guns everywhere. Military-style weapons freely available at gun shows and on the Internet. A powerful lobby controlling the votes of elected officials, who protect the right of gun-sellers to traffic in guns without any limits.

Racism. Misogyny. Homophobia. Xenophobia. Anti-Semitism. These are not new phenomena in American history. Until now, government and the law and the mainstream media actively opposed bigotry and hate crimes, and public schools taught tolerance, anti-racism, understanding.

Hatred knows no bounds. It invites and unleashes more hatred.

Where is the poison coming from?

Who cleared the way for this toxic effluence?

Why now?