Food for Thought During this Pandemic

This is a long post, but I thought that I would like to put a few things in perspective with regard to the disinformation that I keep seeing about the coronavirus pandemic. I had originally posted this information to Facebook, but I decided that it would be worthwhile to share it here. Please note that all of the statistics that I cite are only valid for today, April 13th, 2020. By tomorrow all of the data will have changed dramatically. Nevertheless, it is the concepts that are important here, not the specific numbers.

Overview

I see a lot of comparisons between the numbers of reported COVID-19 cases and deaths in the USA as compared to the numbers in Europe, or when compared to a single country in Europe. In addition, I often see map-based comparisons of reported cases and deaths by superimposing the geographic land masses of Europe and USA. The trouble is, those comparisons and maps are useless; the number of reported cases and deaths when distributed across population densities are a more accurate measure for comparison. With that in mind, here are some statistics to put things in perspective.

First of all, take a look at the following maps; those websites do a much better job of quantifying the available data.

ECDPC Worldwide Situation Update https://bit.ly/2y8BFCW
ECDPC European Situation Update https://bit.ly/2K4zx1P
Real-time COVID-19 Tracker https://www.bing.com/covid

Populations

Let's begin with a comparison of the overall populations of the USA and Europe:

Nation Population
USA 330 million
Europe 746 million

In other words, Europe has a population that is 2.3 times the population of the USA, even though their land masses are roughly comparable in geographic size (depending on the map that you're using). There are, of course, around 50 countries that make up Europe, and it would be unproductive to list them all here, but nevertheless - here is an excerpt that contains the population numbers for several of the largest populations in Europe (ordered by size):

Country Population
Germany 83 million
Turkey 83 million
United Kingdom 68 million
France 67 million
Italy 60 million
Spain 47 million

Reported COVID-19 Cases (04/13/2020)

Using the data from the websites that I listed earlier, here is a comparison of reported COVID-19 cases as of 04/13/2020:

Nation Reported Cases Percent of the Population
USA 582K cases 0.2%
Europe 782K cases 0.1%

In other words, Europe has 1.3 times the number of reported cases when compared directly with the USA. However, those numbers do not portray an accurate picture of what's going on from a proportional point of view. Europe has a larger population, so a larger number would be expected, but those numbers are slightly disproportionate; the USA has a slightly higher number of reported cases when distributed across its population than Europe does. Of course, the USA has only 0.2% reported cases across its population as compared to Europe's 0.1%, but still - if all things were equal, you would expect the numbers to be aligned proportionally. Once again, for the sake of completeness, here is a list of the reported cases for several of the largest populations in Europe (in order of reported cases):

Country Reported Cases Percent of the Population
Spain 170K cases 0.4%
Italy 160K cases 0.3%
France 137K cases 0.2%
Germany 129K cases 0.2%
United Kingdom 89K cases 0.1%
Turkey 61K cases 0.007%

Reported COVID-19 Deaths (04/13/2020)

Here is a comparison of reported COVID-19 deaths as of 04/13/2020:

Nation Reported Deaths Percent of the Population
USA 22K deaths 0.0006%
Europe 76K deaths 0.001%

In other words, Europe has 3.4 times the number of reported deaths when compared directly with the USA. However, when those numbers are distributed across entire populations, Europe has a slightly higher number of reported deaths than the USA. (Of course, that's only 0.0004% higher.) Once again, just for the sake of completeness, here is a list of the reported deaths for several of the largest populations in Europe (in order of reported deaths):

Country Reported Deaths Percent of the Population
Italy 20K deaths 0.003%
Spain 17K deaths 0.004%
France 15K deaths 0.002%
United Kingdom 11K deaths 0.002%
Germany 3K deaths 0.0004%
Turkey 1K deaths 0.0001%

Reported Cases versus Deaths

The last comparison that we should examine is a percentage that gets tossed around a lot - the number of reported cases when compared to the number of reported deaths:

Nation Ratio Fatality Rate
USA 22K deaths to 582K cases 3.6%
Europe 76K deaths to 782K cases 9.7%

Those numbers are both staggering and profound, and I am only presenting the numbers themselves; I am not editorializing on them. There are people who will attempt to bend and twist those numbers into all sorts of unintended meanings, such as quality of healthcare in the USA versus Europe, tirades against socialized medicine, etc. However, that is not my intent. That being said, I know that for some countries - such as Italy - the age of those who were infected was a contributor for the disproportionately higher numbers of reported deaths that were seen in Europe.

Summary

With that in mind, anyone who compares the total numbers of reported cases and deaths in the USA directly against Europe or any of its countries, without taking into account the population densities for each region, does not understand basic math. When the numbers of reported cases and deaths are represented as a percentage of the total populations for each region, the comparisons are considerably closer to parity. Of course, this disease has not run its path, so those numbers will continue to change over the coming months.

For another perspective, I have shared the animation at https://bit.ly/34syL8h in a few discussions. If you take a look at that animation, it should put things in a better perspective. By way of explanation, that video shows the number of deaths in the USA per day as compared to several of the common causes of death (e.g heart disease, cancer, etc.) The dates in the lower right hand of the screen show the day that is being measured, and watch what happens around 3/20/20.

In closing, I feel that the following tidbit is worth mentioning: Russia has only 18K reported cases, despite having a population of 147 million. This means that the pandemic has affected only 0.001% of the Russian population, which is far better than either the USA or Europe. While I may not be a fan of our current commander in chief, there was a time not long ago when our President was receiving a never-ending stream of partisan harassment and venomous vitriol from everywhere in the country about being a hateful racist for trying to restrict air travel from countries that were afflicted with higher infection rates. While at the same time, Russia slammed its borders closed. Now that this pandemic has wreaked havoc across the globe, number 45's actions do not look all that unreasonable. Our President may have many faults - but attempting to restrict travel when the pandemic was taking hold was a good idea. However, in our revisionist history society, I am willing to bet that during the political quagmire of the ensuing election season, those who hate our President will attempt to nail him to the cross of having failed to lock down the country sooner or tighter. Of course, the President took action against the WHO's advice, and the WHO has since been outed as having pandered to China when COVID-19 first entered the world stage, but that's another story for another day.


POSTSCRIPT:

On a side note, I would like to take a moment or two to editorialize on a subject that I have not seen in the press: I am convinced that a primary factor in Italy's quick ascension as an early epicenter for COVID-19 cases was "Fashion Week," which took place in Milan from February 18th to the 24th this year. Thousands of fashionistas from around the globe descended on northern Italy, and spent several days in close quarters throughout the city as they watched models display the latest designer offerings that no normal person would ever wear.

It is no coincidence that Italy quickly suffered a major surge of coronavirus cases. The myriad of fashion shows were the direct cause of Milan's outbreak, which quickly spread to Venice, then the rest of Italy, and then the rest of the world as the attendees headed home. "Fashion Week" should have been cancelled, but "fashion" is a multi-billion-dollar industry, so the show's organizers pressed ahead, and the rest of the world paid the price. Keep that in mind the next time you see photos from a fashion show somewhere; the organizers of "Fashion Week" were the true villains in this story, because they would rather turn a blind eye to public safety in order to lay their sacrifices on the altar of unnecessary profits. I may be a card-carrying capitalist at heart, but still - there are limits to capitalism, and common sense should have prevailed.

By the way, I was in Milan early this year, from January 25th to the 31st. Thankfully I was long gone before the debacle of "Fashion Week" had descended on the city.

Kierkegaard on Freedom of Speech

As I watch divisive malcontents spew copious volumes of unproductive and odious drivel during these trying times, I am often reminded of the following quote...

Søren Kierkegaard - People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.

Secret Origins of the COVID19 Coronavirus

In case you were not aware, the Coronavirus was manufactured to destroy the United States. It's a sordid story, but please read through all of these details with an open mind:

  • George Soros hates America, and he was secretly channeling money through Jeffrey Epstein's financial empire to Charles Lieber, the Harvard Professor who was building the lab in Wuhan, China, where they created the COVID19 Coronavirus.
  • Charles Lieber was eventually arrested on espionage charges, (see https://bit.ly/3acJDsU), and - of course - Jeffrey Epstein was 'suicided' before his involvement could be discovered (see https://cnn.it/2U8XpqW). Epstein's and Lieber's respective demises have given George Soros plausible deniability about the origins of the Coronavirus.
  • But the story doesn't end there, because Charles Lieber's black box 'research project' for Harvard goes back several years to the Obama administration. Obama is a Communist with strong ties to the Chinese Communist Party, and he was backed by George Soros. Obama willingly participated in the conspiracy to create the Coronavirus and destroy the United States in exchange for millions of dollars from Soros, thereby making Obama one of the wealthiest men in America (see https://bit.ly/2xehV0e).
  • All of George Soros' financial dealings with Charles Lieber were communicated through Hillary Clinton's secret email server while she was Secretary of State for Obama, which is - of course - why she couldn't use official communication channels, and why she had to destroy all evidence when her email server and cell phones were subpoenaed (see https://bit.ly/2xjyiIM and https://cnn.it/2UrF5Z4).
  • The mainstream media is, of course, aware of these facts, but they are part of George Soros' plan to destroy the United States. The primary news outlets are continuously using their positions to promote news stories about the Coronavirus in order to create a general panic, destroy the US economy, force Donald Trump from office, and allow the Democratic Party (which is really just a front for Communism) to take over the government, seize everyone's guns, and cram Socialism down everyone's throats while imposing martial law in order to resolve the ongoing health 'crisis' (which they helped create).

Before I go any further, let me be very clear - I MADE ALL THAT UP.

One of the points that I have made in several blogs in the past has been that people are generally willing to accept anything that aligns with a narrative that they already believe. With that in mind, some people will think that the so-called facts I concocted sound convincing. What is worse, however, is that even when confronted with overwhelming truth to the contrary, many people will consciously choose to believe fabrications like those that I just listed, and they will consciously choose to perpetuate false narratives despite contradictory knowledge.

That being said, all rumors need to start somewhere. So if you must, feel free to use the story I just shared. But when you do, make sure that someone else's name is attached to it - because I don't want to wind up like Jeffrey Epstein.

Winking smile


POSTSCRIPT:

I should point out that a willingness to believe false narratives goes both ways. While there are many Conservatives who might think that the fabrication that listed in my original post sounds plausible, there are many Liberals who are so blinded by their hatred for Donald Trump that they will pounce on every news story and every opportunity that will make Trump look evil. ("Orange Man Bad!!! Not My President!!!") The fact that people are politicizing this time of crisis as heinously as possible is contemptible (see https://bit.ly/2wu1i0w).

This should be a time of unity; we will have plenty of time to dissect the actions of this administration after this crisis has passed. In fact, the hindsight that follows a crisis is the only real test of what worked and what didn't. For example, Obama's 'hands off' approach during the race riots that followed the shootings of Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin during his Presidency was not the right way to handle those situations. In that time of crisis, Obama should have intervened and brought peace to a hurting population; but he did nothing, which is why he actually failed his test as a leader.

However, as I have also pointed out in other blogs, there are a great number of people who were so blinded by their hatred for Barack Obama that they would pounce on every news story and every opportunity that would make Obama look evil. For example, the rumors that persisted throughout Obama's tenure in office that his administration had ordered guillotines to be used for executions is completely preposterous, yet the rumors kept circulating.

Which brings me back to my original point: people tend to believe and promote something that aligns with their beliefs, even after they learn facts to the contrary. With that in mind, I will leave you with this thought from Harlan Ellison: "You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant."

The Coronavirus Crisis, Conmen, and the Combover Crusader

Someone that I know just posted the following opinion piece from CNN, while simultaneously peddling this article as 'truth:'

In coronavirus crisis, Tom Hanks is more of a role model than Donald Trump

Wow. Just... wow.

I have seen some opportunistic articles try to spin and twist political gain from what is essentially a random act of nature, but this article?

Wow, again.

That has got to be the stupidest article that I have seen thus far. Seriously. CNN has apparently decided to absolve themselves completely from any vestige of responsible journalism and integrity.

If you've read my blogs before, you will see that I am no fan of our current President. In fact, I often refer to him by John Oliver's pet name of the "Drumpf." (I thought that nickname seemed fitting for Trump, even if it's a grade-school insult that was coined by someone who might otherwise have been mistaken for a grown adult.)

Nevertheless, I would agree with an ever-increasing number of people who feel that the Drumpf is a narcissistic twit. But if people at CNN (and their readers) are going to start pointing fingers, then let's look at some actual numbers from the CDC for COVID19 and the 2009 N1H1 outbreak:

  • As of today, the total number of COVID19 cases in the USA are 1,215, with 36 deaths. (CDC: https://bit.ly/2U4uRxg)
  • In comparison, a single year of the 2009 N1H1 outbreak yielded 60.8 million cases, with 12,469 deaths. (CDC: https://bit.ly/2U5Fb8k)

Where was the panic in 2009? Where was the righteous indignation about our then-President's inability to get out in front of that pandemic in a timely manner?

Our current President - despite being a narcissistic twit - has effectively shut down a great deal of the country in order to slow the spread of a disease that has affected only 0.002% of the population that was affected by H1N1. And yet people are crying for his head on a platter.

This 'crisis' is being exaggerated by the press, for which I am sure they have an ulterior motive - though I do not know what possible purpose crashing the stock market and terrorizing the population will achieve. (Apart from receiving millions of dollars from advertising revenue that is generated from increased traffic to news websites as panicked lemmings search in vain for information during a time of misinformation.)

Nevertheless, articles like the one my friend posted are perfect evidence of modern media's nefarious intent. I'm generally not one for conspiracy theories, but the following meme is starting to look a little more like reality each day...

Coronavirus-Hype

Momentarily disregarding people's hatred for the Drumpf - who is THEIR PRESIDENT whether they accept it or not - many opportunistic lowlifes are attempting to sow division at a time when people should be unifying. They are wholly dismissive of the facts regarding how bad this disease is (or isn't), and how this administration is handling the situation. While at the same time they are giving their beloved President-of-Choice (the Drumpf's unprincipled predecessor) a free pass for his years of dishonesty and ineptitude during his tenure in office.

Regardless of how people feel about the facts that I have just shared - they're still the FACTS. And facts don't care about their feelings. Facts don't care about their hatred. Facts don't care about their bias. And THAT is the ACTUAL 'truth.'


UPDATE: When this blog was first posted, I had written, "This 'crisis' is wholly manufactured by the press...," which was not what I actually meant. What I meant to convey was that the press was spending far too much time on the issue and winding the populace into a general panic, thereby creating a great deal of pubic panic that could have been avoided. I have amended this post to reflect that I meant that the press was exaggerating the crisis, not manufacturing it.

The Sin of Omission

Yesterday, the US and the Taliban signed a deal to bring an end the 18-year war in Afghanistan. That news was on the home page of the Associated Press (AP) website (https://bit.ly/2x0hg2n), the United Press International (UPI) website (https://bit.ly/2uKQXMU), and multiple links were on the home page of the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) website (https://on.wsj.com/3ciD0qk, https://on.wsj.com/2I9wk00, https://on.wsj.com/2VxSKjj).

apnews-headline

But what about the websites for MSNBC? CNN? BBC? There was nothing on the home page for any of those websites. They all seemed content to prattle on about Joe Biden in dozens of largely redundant articles in the wake of the South Carolina primary. That's right, you read that correctly: instead of highlighting the cessation of hostilities in the longest war in US history, most of the "mainstream" news outlets would rather gush adoringly over the career of a compulsive liar, serial groper, and reigning champion of political plagiarism. Because giving Uncle Joe hundreds of hours of free political advertising is far more important than saving the lives of US servicemen.

Make no mistake: the omission of this incredibly important news story was intentional, and the omission of this incredibly important news story was morally wrong.

I posted something to that effect on Social Media yesterday, and several of the Drumpf-Haters that I know quickly came to the defense of these news outlets. These kind folks sent me links to articles that were buried a few links deep on each of the respective news websites. However, my assertion wasn't that those news outlets didn't have any articles at all. My point was to question what is most important, and why some news agencies are intentionally burying news stories that do not fit into their biased narrative.

Politics

As of now, CNN's home page still has nothing on Afghanistan, BBC's home page still has nothing on Afghanistan, and MSNBC's home page still has nothing on Afghanistan. Yet there's still wall-to-wall coverage of Uncle Joe, and that was the point that several people seemed to miss. Don't get me wrong, I was glad to learn that if someone was willing to search long enough, they would eventually find something about what's going on in the world on those websites. Of course, people would already have to know that there's something going on in the world, and then manually look for articles about it themselves... but that completely negates the need for using those news outlets to keep up with current events, doesn't it?

To be as blunt as possible, I'm sorry for those of you who cannot stand the Drumpf. But I promise you, his day will eventually come. In the meantime, the results of the South Carolina primary are not more important than the end of an 18-year war. I mean, seriously - it's South Carolina. Who honestly cares about South Carolina? Most Americans can't even point to South Carolina on a map.

Look, I get it - all of the "Never Trumpers" that I know cannot stand the Drumpf. And even though I have made it pretty clear time and again that I do not like him, either, I recognize the fact that Drumpf-Haters feel as though their lives have been in bondage to the Great Orange Combover for the past few years, and therefore any news that might give them hope of his imminent demise should (pardon the pun) trump anything else that is going on in the world. But the rest of country - and the rest of the world - does not see things that way. Regardless of its importance to the Drumpf-Haters, Biden's win in South Carolina is simply not more important - nor is it more time sensitive - than an end to nearly two decades of war.

Someone I know attempted to defend the indefensible by stating that peace in Afghanistan "was not breaking news anywhere anymore." That idea is - of course - ludicrous. Most of the non-left-leaning news agencies have prominent links to that story from their home page, while the left-leaning news agencies do not have any links.

And. That. Was. My. Whole. Point.

Let's take a look at the home page of the UPI website; they have information about Biden, and the Coronavirus, and yet they still have links about the peace deal.

upi-home-page

Now let's look at the WSJ website; they also have information about Biden, and the Coronavirus, and yet they still have links about the peace deal.

wsj-home-page

As I just illustrated, when you look at the websites for the AP, UPI, and WSJ, those news outlets are more concerned with reporting everything that's going in the world, rather than reinforcing a biased narrative to their political base like the CNN, MSNBC, and BBC websites are doing. Make no mistake, as a former journalism student, I get the fact that news moves quickly. And with that in mind, news stories will come and go from the home pages of websites rather quickly. However, I don't think that peace in Afghanistan was highlighted on any of the home pages for CNN, MSNBC, and BBC - because that story was unimportant to them. And because they want that story to be unimportant for their readers, too. Yes, they have articles somewhere on their websites that readers can discover if they go looking for them; that way they're covered from a plausible deniability point of view.

But here's the thing, the reason why the Drumpf won the 2016 election was not because of the electoral college versus the popular vote, nor was it the fact that Hillary Clinton was the worst possible candidate to run on the Democratic ticket, nor was it because of Russian collusion, etc. The main reason why Clinton lost the last election was because many of these same news agencies who are currently hiding the real news from the world were telling the American public only what they wanted everyone to hear, and omitting everything else. That is dishonest. That is immoral. And that is bad journalism.

propagandademotivator

Based on their behaviors, I would label news agencies like CNN, MSNBC, and BBC as part of the Drumpf-Hating crowd. In the months leading up to the 2016 election, these news agencies produced a never-ending stream of biased drivel about Hillary's numbers in the polls, and how great Hillary was going to be as President, and how the planets were going to align, and how peace and prosperity would magically fall like fairy dust from the heavens, etc. But that's all it was - a fairy tale. Because if you don't report the actual news, then you're sitting in an echo chamber listening to others parrot back to you what you're saying and only what you want to hear.

So, to bring this full circle - the problem with CNN, MSNBC, and the BBC is not that they are not reporting the news at all; it's that they are predominantly only reporting what they want people to hear, and omitting everything else. The Drumpf-Haters that I know are not the least concerned by that, of course, because those news agencies are saying what the Drumpf-Haters want to hear, too. The news agencies of CNN, MSNBC, and BBC want the Drumpf to lose in November, and the Drumpf-Haters want the Drumpf to lose in November.

With that in mind, if you're a Drumpf-Hater, then sure - okay - fine - whatever. If you want to bang the drum louder for Biden or Bernie, then so be it. Go ahead and wax poetic about how Uncle Joe or Crazy Cousin Bernie or any of the other Democrats are going to beat the Drumpf. Follow the news on websites that make a habit of omitting what is actually going on the world. Be my guest. But when you do so at the expense of following everything else that is taking place, then don't be surprised if this November bites you on the ass. Again.


PS - On a related note, another debate for another time is the question about what is actually "news" these days, and what is entertainment that is masked as news in order to sell advertising.

The Assumption of Privilege is Racism

I saw this video when it came out, and I've always been bothered by it, because it is based on a flawed assumption, draws the wrong conclusion, and promotes a message that is toxic to diversity.

The textbook definition is racism is to act on one's pre-existing biases based on ethnicity; therefore, to espouse the concept of "White Privilege" is an unmistakable form of racism at its worst. To put it another way, if I walk into a room and you assume that I have some form of "privilege" based on my skin color, then for all intents and purposes you are a racist.

Because here's the thing - I grew up quite poor in a single-parent home, then I married young, and fell even deeper into poverty when I lost the dead-end job that I had when we were married. I had no career, no skills, no education, and no prospects for the future. My skin color didn't amount to anything; I was simply another nameless face in a crowd of nameless faces that would take any work to put food on the table. I eventually landed a job cleaning low-income houses after the occupants were evicted. I was paid by the hour, under the table; no insurance, no benefits, no hope.

Out of desperation, I joined the military, which offered me two hopes for the future:

  • I would have an actual/steady paycheck for the first time in my life.
  • I might finally have money to go to college when I was done.

I served eight years in crappy conditions that you can't even begin to imagine, but my perseverance and hard work paid off. I eventually got out, got my degree, and then I was hired by a great company.

It's Just Like Camping They Said

Here's something for you to consider: for everyone who served with me in the military, it didn't matter what color our skin was, what gender we were, whether our parents were together or divorced, how much money our families had, etc. Everyone was dogmeat when they got off the bus at Basic Training; the Drill Sergeants made that quite clear.

When we graduated from all of our initial training and got to our respective duty stations, it still didn't matter what color our skin was, what gender we were, whether our parents were together or divorced, how much money our families had, etc. All that mattered was how good we were at our jobs. If we were bad at it, we got to remain dogmeat. If we were good at it, we got promoted. Those were the rules. Period. (Of course, I am certain that there were racists scattered throughout the military, because in any large group you're going to have your fair share of idiots. But on the whole, none of that mattered.)

Here's what else I noticed: some people's illusions of who had "privilege" were just that - they were illusions. I knew a guy from a well-to-do African American family who went to private school and complained about the clothes his parents bought him when he was a teenager; he joined the military to run away from home. On the other hand, I knew a Caucasian guy who grew up poorer than me; he had to take a job at 12 to help put food on the table for his family. He had to buy all of his own clothes for as long as he could remember, and he commented that would have loved to have had parents that could buy him any clothes.

At the end of the day, the color of their skin was not a factor for either of these two soldiers' lives; one had privilege, and one didn't - but their skin tones don't fit into the "White Privilege" narrative, so you never hear about people like them. But here's the thing: I knew hundreds of stories just like those throughout my time in the military. One way or another, we were all dogmeat, and all that mattered was what we did with our opportunities.

As an FYI - both of those guys I mentioned left the military, got their degrees, and founded their own companies. Neither of them got to where they were at based on their environment growing up; they both succeeded by accepting the fact that they were dogmeat, and they both worked their butts off so they wouldn't remain dogmeat for the rest of their lives. Which is what I chose to do, too.

Several years ago the author Louis L'Amour put it this way: "Up to a point a man's life is shaped by environment, heredity, and the movements and changes in the world around him. Then there comes a time when it lies within his grasp to shape the clay of his life into the sort of thing he wishes to be. Only the weak blame parents, their race, their times, lack of good fortune, or the quirks of fate. Everyone has it within his power to say, 'This I am today; that I will be tomorrow.' The wish, however, must be implemented by deeds."

The Abuse of Presidential Pardons

In the wake of several pardons and commutations that were recently granted by the President, I have noticed that people's reactions to those pardons and commutations generally fall into one of two categories:

  • People who hate the president are screaming about "abuse of power"
  • People who like or tolerate the president do not seem to care

Setting the record straight, Article II Section 2 of the US Constitution states:

The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.

So there is no "abuse of power" here; the President is performing the duties that are granted to his office by the Constitution.

That being said, the following meme has been making its way around social media:

Presidential-Pardon-Statistics

Just in case someone doubts the authenticity of those statistics, here is the official Department of Justice website where they came from: https://www.justice.gov/pardon/clemency-statistics. For the record, the numbers in that meme are 100% accurate.

Of course, Trump is only ¾ of the way through his term as President, so I would expect his numbers to continue to climb. But not nearly as rapidly as Clinton's infamous Pardongate, and nowhere near the level of Obama's shockingly high numbers.

Some Thoughts on Bernie and Socialism

I recently posted the following image to social media, knowing full well that it would launch a tirade of complaints. However, with all of the information that has been offered by the prospective Democratic Presidential candidates during their debates, I think that it is an honest observation.

socialism-101-the-welfare-of-humanity-is-the-alibi-of-tryants

My intention was not to start any arguments on social media, and thankfully no arguments took place. However, there was a friendly differing of opinions offered by several people on my friends list, and I thought that I would share a few of the things that I said during our debate.

First of all, one of my friends labeled a veiled accusation that those who agree with that image must feel that providing Americans with access to healthcare is tyrannical. That was, of course, drawing an entirely false conclusion from the quotation. If healthcare was the only thing that "The Bern" was trying to socialize, then we'd have something to debate. But the truth is, Bernie is espousing a completely unrealistic, multi-trillion-dollar seizure of nearly every asset within our borders in order to fund an everything-for-free fantasy world that will fail horribly and permanently devastate our economy. Bernie's plan is so ridiculous because he's not actually a socialist; he's just using Socialism as a smokescreen to get into power. Bernie is a card-carrying Communist who's never held a job, and he is so far out of touch with the common man in this country that I am astounded on a daily basis that anyone is even bothering to listen to his incoherent ramblings.

The trouble with providing everything for free is that "Free" just means "Someone else is paying for it," and I highly resent the fact that the "someone" in this equation might be me. And this is one of the problems that I have with the "participation trophy" generation; they expect to receive "free stuff" simply because they're here - without having to do anything to earn it. Whereas everyone in the preceding generations worked our butts off for that we have; during my time in the military I spent hundreds of loooong hours separated from my loved ones doing manual labor in crappy conditions. I did all that with little to no thanks, and yet I expected nothing in return - except that which I have earned. So when a delusional Communist comes along and says that he wants to take away more than half of what my generation fought for our whole lives and give it to someone who hasn't done a thing, my reaction is - what a load of crap.

Now that being said, there are a few social programs in America: Social Security and Medicare are two such examples. However, those are opt-in/opt-out programs. What people resent and mistrust is a government that raises taxes to obscene levels in order to create programs that will steal from productive people to pay for the lifestyles of lethargic people. Therein lies the whole problem with Socialism, which we have seen played out through history around the world. While it is not necessarily the goal of Socialism per se, the net result of Socialism is to share or redistribute wealth across an entire population. There are many people who will remain content to do nothing so long as someone feeds them, while there are others who will remain productive because they desire to achieve more. However, eventually the productive people will grow tired of supporting the lifestyles of the lethargic people, which will often result in each productive person trying to find a way to cease having to pay the way for one or more unproductive people, and the economy/society will eventually devolve into a situation where the government will have to seize assets in order to make sure that those who want to be less productive are escalated to the level of those who want to be more productive.

Capitalism, despite its many flaws, has done more for the common man than any other system in history; it has elevated more of the poor to middle class, distributed vast swaths of cash around the world through philanthropy, and helped elevate the United States into one of the wealthiest countries in world history. Yes, there is corruption under Capitalism; but here's a big surprise for you Socialists out there: there's LOTS of corruption under Socialism. And as history has played out, there has generally been far more corruption under Socialism. Think about this: look at how awful our government is with managing - well, EVERYTHING. But it's especially awful at managing finances. Do we really want those clowns in charge of the redistribution of wealth? And that is precisely why most governments that enact wide-scale Socialism eventually fail and become state-run monstrosities where the only equality is that everyone suffers together - except for those in charge, who live comfortably in their taxpayer-funded palaces.

At the end of the day, whether we are discussing Socialism or Capitalism, the root cause of failures in either system is the same: they have people, and people have different needs, desires, ethics, etc. There is an old adage that says something to the effect of, "Only a fool would say that the only reason why Socialism has never worked is that the right people have never been in charge;" and therein lies the rub - it takes a special kind of hubris to look at a failure after failure after failure and think, "If only I was in charge, I'd get this right." And that's how dictatorships are formed. What we need is to reform some of our shortcomings, condense our bloated government, while ensuring that we have the appropriate level of oversight for areas that are prone to misuse (like the healthcare industry).

As I mentioned before, healthcare is a serious issue, and warrants a much greater conversation that I can fit into a blog post. But that being said, that is just one issue; the idea of abandoning a flawed but successful economic model (Capitalism) in favor of a economic system with a proven track record of catastrophic failure (Socialism) is ludicrous. And I reiterate, if Bernie was ONLY talking about socialized healthcare, then he'd have some serious debate fodder. But he's not; he is espousing a complete shift of economic models, despite the fact that Socialism has not - and will not - ever work. Yes, some individual programs are socialized overseas in tiny countries with small GDPs and much smaller populations. Conversely, the USA is a huge country with 50 states that each want to self-govern as much as possible. If one state, let's say Ohio, decided to socialize their healthcare, that's up to them. But what about Pennsylvania? West Virginia? Indiana? They might not want to socialize their healthcare. Now can you imagine trying to organize that at the Federal level? With our politicians? People in Congress like AOC can't do basic math; should we allow someone like that to decide who gets healthcare? I think every state would eventually take the Federal government to court over one point of implementation or another.

Having said all of that, let's tale a quick look at Bernie; here is a man who has consistently praised Communists like Castro for his social policies, while completely ignoring the hundreds of thousands who that same leader and those same policies put to death. This is why many people believe that it is by no coincidence that Bernie is such a strong advocate for gun control, because in every failed Socialist society, one of the first steps to domination has been to disarm the public. I am no conspiracy theorist, so I do not subscribe to alarmist conjecture. However, I am not blind to history, either. Bernie's proclamations - and those of his devotees - follow a very dangerous pattern, which is summarized in the initial meme that launched this discussion, which I will restate here with a little more context since I think Camus' second point is also apropos to this discussion: "The welfare of the people in particular has always been the alibi of tyrants, and it provides the further advantage of giving the servants of tyranny a good conscience."

Circling back to the initial meme - that quote sums up Bernie's sales pitch perfectly; Bernie is acting like he has the best interests of Americans in mind, but his plan is impossible to implement, so it's just a power grab. We have seen this political behavior manifest itself in the past, and we will undoubtedly see it again.

No One is Above the Law

There is an old adage that says, "If it weren't for double standards, some people wouldn't have any standards at all." I think the recent impeachment debacle in Washington DC is a perfect illustration of that concept. According to Nancy Pelosi and the House, "No one is above the law," and yet...

  • The Obama administration withheld national security aid to the Ukraine, unless they fired their prosecutor; regardless of whether that prosecutor was investigating Biden's son is immaterial - it was still an abuse of power. (The same abuse of power that House Democrats tried unsuccessfully to pin on Trump.)
  • The Obama administration conspired with foreign nationals to create a false narrative in order to illegally obtain FBI wiretaps against the Trump Campaign. (Oddly enough, this is the same crime that Democrats have held against the Nixon administration for years.)
  • The Obama administration deliberately misled the American Public about the details within Obamacare in order to push it through congress. (The writer of that legislation actually said that the only way that bill would succeed would be to rely on the economic stupidity of the American voter.)
  • The Obama administration conspired with DNC officials to steal the 2016 primaries from Bernie Sanders through manipulation of their "Super Delegates." (Oddly enough, Bernie was winning the Democratic popular vote, and the DNC played with the numbers to give the nomination to Hillary anyway, which casts a hypocritical light on the DNC's continued whining about Trump not winning the popular vote.)
  • The Obama administration conspired with DNC officials to provide the Hillary Campaign with the questions and answers for 2016 presidential debates. (The DNC chairperson was fired, but no one was prosecuted.)
  • The Obama administration conspired with the FBI and the Attorney General to sweep Hillary's guilt under the rug when the FBI had sufficient evidence to prosecute Hillary for crimes and obstruction of justice. (Those crimes would be running an illegal email server to avoid government oversight, the loss of a wealth of classified information to foreign intelligence services when her illegal email server was hacked, sending volumes of classified data from her illegal email server to unclassified devices, and the destruction of cell phones and her email server when they were subpoenaed.)
  • The Obama administration conspired with the Secretary of State (Hillary) to mislead the American public about their ineptitude regarding the destruction of an American Embassy in Benghazi and the death of an American Ambassador. (Despite a multitude of requests for additional security from the Embassy in Benghazi, the Secretary of State refused to provide reinforcements, resulting in several deaths. After their cataclysmic blunder was discovered, the Obama administration and the Secretary of State pinned the blame on an innocent filmmaker, whom they threw in jail, and intentionally lied to the American people to cover their guilt.)
  • The Obama administration conspired with the IRS to use IRS resources as a weapon against political rivals. (When this crime was discovered, hundreds of hard drives across the IRS were suddenly wiped clean, and amazingly enough - none of those computers had backups, despite being one of the largest agencies in our government with a huge IT staff. Note that all of the hard drives were destroyed before FBI agents were allowed to inspect them.)
  • The Obama administration illegally traded five known terrorists from Guantanamo for a known traitor, Bowe Bergdahl, without approval from Congress. (This was an illegal abuse of Executive power, for which no one was prosecuted.)

There are, of course, many other crimes committed and scandals that happened during the Obama administration; these are just the ones that I could think of right now. As I said earlier, if it weren't for double standards, some people wouldn't have any standards at all.

pelosi_justice

The International Bonhoeffer Society Denounces Trump

Someone I know recently posted the following article to Facebook, International Bonhoeffer Society Calls for 'Ending Donald Trump's Presidency' in 'Statement of Concern', and I thought that I'd share a few thoughts about that article. Before I continue, I need to point out that I have written no shortage of posts on this blog about my dislike for the current president. I stress that fact up front so that nothing that I say here will be misconstrued as though I am carrying the flag for him. With that being said, I'd like to discuss the problem that I see with the official statement from the International Bonhoeffer Society (IBS). (By the way, if I might take a brief moment to interject a bit of humor: did anyone at their society bother to realize that they share the same initials as an intestinal disease? But I digress...)

Here's the problem with statements like the one issued by the IBS: what gives them the right to speak on behalf of a long-dead theologian? By what right do they support their claim that they are the "grateful recipients, and now custodians, of the theological, ethical, and political legacy of ... Dietrich Bonhoeffer?" That is a self-appointed mission, and I have no cause or reason to recognize their authority in any political or moral debates where they are operating in Bonhoeffer's name. I have also read and studied various publications from Bonhoeffer, and if I so chose to do so, I could cherry-pick specific phrases to reinforce any point of view that I personally held with something that Bonhoeffer had said. That's the essence of "Proof Texting," and people do what with the Bible every day; people posses moral or political points of view, and they choose something that will back up their opinion. It's done all the time, but it's immoral. It's unethical. And it violates scripture. Nevertheless, trying to demonstrate that some late personage who can no longer defend their point of view is a popular tactic for those who are otherwise incapable of defending their stance.

Here's a rather inane example that should illustrate my point quite nicely: I have spent the past 40+ years of my life as a Rush fan. I have at one time or other learned the lyrics to every song, learned how to play all of their songs on the guitar, read books written by their band members, read and watched interviews with band members, gathered together with various fans and discussed or debated the deeper philosophical meanings of their lyrics, and seen Rush live on over a dozen occasions. That being said, their drummer, Neil Peart,  passed away last week, and it would be thoroughly asinine for me to band together with a group of like-minded Rush fans and issue a statement that, "It is our belief that Peart would agree with us that Justin Trudeau is God's choice for Canada's Prime Minister," or "No right-minded follower of Peart would ever support Justin Trudeau." Do you hear how literally stupid that sounds? And yet this is EXACTLY what the IBS is doing. They have no ethical right to do so; but without the weight of a fabricated association with Bonhoeffer, the IBS has no voice. And yet, they have no more right to issue proclamations in Bonhoeffer's name than the Chesterton Society does for G. K. Chesterton, or the Martin Luther King Society does for MLK, or the Augustinians do for Augustine, or we do for Christ. If something isn't specifically in scripture, then we have no right - NO RIGHT - to say, "Jesus would agree with me."

Having said all of that, the IBS is certainly correct in their assertions that "evangelicals" are often guilty of proclaiming that "God chose Trump." And in that respect, those "evangelicals" are guilty of what I was just saying that no one should be doing; they should not be speaking for Christ. But the irony is, the IBS is trying to call out sin by committing their own sin. The SAME sin, to be exact. This is, of course, the textbook definition of hypocrisy. However, throughout their official statement, the IBS makes other points abundantly clear; for example: by calling out "evangelicals" for their behavior, the IBS outs themselves as orthodox. And if I'm not orthodox, then I have little cause or desire to agree with them theologically or philosophically. In addition, the IBS's talking points easily out themselves as liberal theologians, and if I am a conservative theologian, then I have even less cause to agree with them theologically or philosophically. And in a like manner, many of the IBS's political stances are clearly the regurgitation of talking points from political liberals, and if I am politically conservative, then I have even less cause to agree with them politically or sociologically.

In the end, the official statement from the IBS is based on authority that is entirely self-appointed; it does not exist in any fashion other than their own self-infatuation, and I have no reason to accept their proclamations based on authority that I do not recognize. In addition, I am diametrically opposed to their theological, philosophical, political, and sociological positions on many issues. I may dislike our president as much as the IBS does, but I use my own voice to make my arguments. Ultimately, the IBS appears to be a group of petty, misguided academics, who are locked safely away in their ivory towers of liberal thought, issuing useless missives that they believe have some form of impact. So immoral. So unethical. So childish...

One postscript, were I one to "Proof Text," it would be trivial to shut down many of the IBS's arguments through the misuse of scripture - for example:

  • Peter 2:13: "For the Lord's sake, submit to all human authority - whether the king as head of state, or the officials he has appointed."
  • Romans 13:1-2: "Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished."
  • Hebrews 13:17: "Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls and will give an account for their work."
  • Titus 3:1-2: "Remind the believers to submit to the government and its officers. They should be obedient, always ready to do what is good. They must not slander anyone and must avoid quarreling. Instead, they should be gentle and show true humility to everyone."

Please bear in mind, I do my best to follow those points of scripture, regardless of who our president is. But that being said, I do NOT claim the authority of Christ to say, "God chose Trump as our president." However, according to scripture - that is true. Just as God chose Obama, Bush, Clinton, Reagan, Carter, etc., all the way back to Washington. And yet, we are not called to follow blindly; if our government asks to do something that violates scripture, we are demanded to follow Christ first. But in many situations, we follow Christ by following our leaders - even when we disagree with them.


UPDATE: This post is one of several that I had written, which I later discovered had never been set to "public."