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.

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."

Facebook Community Standards Suck

Wow - that was... interesting. The kind and warmhearted people at Facebook just pulled down a joke that I posted earlier today for violating their "Community Standards" (see the image below to see if you agree). Then they forced me to go through a full security check before they would let me log in again, and then they threatened to ban my account from Facebook if I posted another joke.

No More Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap

And yet, when I reported a truly objectionable page to the kind and warmhearted people at Facebook that showed graphic photos of police officers being killed at point blank range, and photos of police officers lying dead in puddles of their own blood, these same kind and warmhearted people at Facebook said that graphic photos of dead police officers were not a violation of their "Community Standards" (see the following image).

Facebook Hates Police Officers

With all of that in mind, I have to admit: I really do not understand Facebook's "Community Standards." When a harmless joke at the expense of an 80s-era heavy metal song can get me banned, while domestic terrorists who advocate the public executions of police officers are acceptable, it appears that I may disappear from Facebook one of these days. If and when that occurs, it will probably happen because I said the weather was nice today, which somehow violated Facebook's "Community Standards."

Angry smile

 

It looks like I may need one of these in the near future...

Get Out of Facebook Jail Free

 


FYI - here's a screenshot of what Facebook actually said about the image I posted:

Facebook Thinks I Post Spam

I am sure that my post was flagged by some sort of Facebook "Artificial Intelligence Bot," which reminds me of a question that I heard a few years ago: "Why are we spending vast quantities of time and money researching Artificial Intelligence, when Artificial Stupidity would be far cheaper and far more realistic?"

Facebook Terminator

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.

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."

Presidents versus Terrorists

Let me say up front that I think Trump is the least-presidential president that we have had in many years. In fact, I have made it abundantly clear in other blog posts that quite often I think Trump acts like a world class buffoon. But that being said, I recently read a social media post wherein someone who simply hates Trump was spouting off about Trump attempting to act like the King of America and starting wars after a US drone airstrike killed Iran's General Qasem Soleimani. This person is one of a growing group of misguided malcontents who are so blinded by their rage against our current president that they are incapable of properly analyzing the situation.

With that in mind, here are a few facts that everyone should consider.

  • First of all, the President is Commander in Chief (CiC) of our Armed Forces; everyone in the military reports to him. For all intents and purposes, Trump outranks every general in the Pentagon. If the military has viable intelligence that they can take out a known terrorist and Trump gives them the go ahead, then that's well within the powers that are granted to his office.

  • Second, our military killed a known enemy militant who was actively engaged in planning additional acts of terrorism outside of his own country. Soleimani was an Iranian general and terrorist who was in Iraq in order to direct the actions of several groups of insurgents who were attempting to overthrow their democratically elected leaders. Soleimani was directly responsible for an indeterminate number of innocent deaths; and if left on his own, it is guaranteed that additional lives would have been lost.

  • Third, in contrast to the killing of an Iranian terrorist on Iraqi soil, when Obama gave his permission to kill Bin Laden, a group of heavily armed American forces crossed into a foreign nation (Pakistan) and killed someone who was hiding out with their permission. As Commander in Chief (CiC), Obama - like Trump - was operating within the powers that were granted to his office.

    • However, in the grander scheme of political diplomacy, Trump killed a positively-identified enemy combatant with a precise drone strike, whereas Obama ordered the slaughter of an entire household of civilians based on unconfirmed intelligence (that thankfully turned out to be true).

    • But make no mistake: when US forces went after Bin Laden, our military violated the borders of a sovereign nation. In no uncertain terms, we invaded Pakistan when we killed Bin Laden. Whereas in Soleimani's situation, our military was already stationed in Iraq as a peacekeeping force, and the Iranian general and his cohorts were the invaders.

    • Think about it this way: when a group of revolutionaries recently attempted to stage a coup in Turkey, they were doing so under the orders of a man who is currently residing in the USA, whom Turkey considers a traitor and terrorist. How would you feel if a heavily armed group from the Turkish military snuck over the borders into the United States and slaughtered every man, woman, and child in that guy's house? Most Americans - including you - would be highly offended; but that's exactly what we did with Pakistan, and no Americans care.

  • Fourth, when you compare the conditions of Obama's and Trump's operations, Obama ran the risk of open hostility with an ally, whereas Trump ran the risk of open hostility with a country that was already openly hostile to us. Remember, Iranian insurgents attempted to overthrow our embassy just a few days ago. With that in mind, let's examine presidential reactions to acts over terror over the past few decades:

    • When a crowd of Iranians overthrew one of our embassies during President Carter's administration, a large number of Americans were held prisoner and psychologically tortured for the next couple years.

    • When a group of terrorists from Libya bombed US forces in Germany, President Reagan ordered the bombing of Muammar Gaddafi's private palace - and we never heard from him again (until his own people overthrew and executed him in 2011).

    • When Sadam Hussein invaded one of our allies in the early 1990s, President Bush Sr. deployed our military in overwhelming force and routed the Iraqi invaders in a brilliantly-executed military campaign.

    • However, when terrorists working for Bin Laden bombed the Twin Towers in New York in 1993, President Clinton did nothing. In fact, President Clinton passed on every opportunity to kill Bin Laden that the military presented during his time in office. What is worse, whenever terrorists would bomb or kill US forces anywhere on the planet, Clinton would withdraw all US forces from the region, thereby giving the terrorists EXACTLY WHAT THEY WANTED ALL ALONG. In the end, the Clinton Presidency was the greatest terrorist training program in world history; President Clinton proved that terrorism works - the US will withdraw its forces, and no one who is responsible for terrorist acts will be punished.

    • When Bin Laden bombed the Twin Towers in New York in 2001, President Bush Jr. invaded both Afghanistan and Iraq, deposed their corrupt governments that sponsored global terrorism, and allowed their people to democratically elect their leaders for the first time in many, many years.

    • However, when a group of insurgents attempted to overthrow our embassy in Libya during President Obama's administration, both Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State (SoS) and Obama as Commander in Chief (CiC) ordered our military to stand down. As a direct result - our ambassador to Libya was killed (along with several other people), and our embassy compound was burned to the ground. (And don't even get me started on how Obama gave hundreds of millions of dollars to Iran, traded a host of known terrorists from Guantanamo prison without the required congressional approval in exchange for a known deserter and traitor, and he made it possible for Iran to create Nuclear weapons.)

    • On the other hand, when a group of insurgents attempted to overthrow one of our embassies under Trump's tenure, he sent in the military to reinforce the embassy and disperse the crowds of insurgents, and then he ordered their ringleader killed with a drone strike.

So, yeah - Trump is a doofus. But what Trump did was perfectly legal, as it was for Obama with Bin Laden. However, there is no comparison when it comes to results:

  • Carter (as CiC), both Clintons (Bill as CiC and Hillary as SoS), and Obama (as CiC) were all miserable failures with regard to foreign policy and terrorism.

  • On the other hand, Reagan (as CiC), Bush Sr. (as CiC), and Bush Jr. (as CiC) were demonstrably better at foreign policy.

The future will tell as to whether Trump will fare as well at foreign policy during his time as CiC. But that being said, just because you cannot stand Trump does not grant you the right to disparage what was well within the realm of his duties as Commander in Chief. In fact, at the moment it appears as though his decision to take out a known terrorist was incredibly well executed; with minimal loss of life to US, Iraqi, and even Iranian personnel.

As I said earlier, these are just some things to consider.


UPDATE: When this blog was originally published, it made no reference to the drone airstrike. As a result, the context was missing. That gaffe on my part was corrected later.

Ranger Up - A Sad Tale of Customer Service Failures

As a veteran, I love Ranger Up's products. Sometimes their products make me laugh, while at other times their products make me proud of my time in the service. In fact, I wear at least one of Ranger Up's t-shirts every week. But my love for that company was seriously damaged when they completely failed again and again to fulfill a very basic order. To better understand what I mean, here are the details:

I placed an order near the end of November for three products that I wanted to give as Christmas presents to my son-in-law, who is a fellow veteran. Two weeks later, I received only one of the products, even though Ranger Up's website and email notifications claimed that the order had been fulfilled. I understand that mistakes happen, especially around the holidays, and I wasn't concerned because there was still plenty of time to rectify the situation. To that end, I tried using the contact form on Ranger Up's website, then I tried using the web-based chat on their website, then I tried sending emails to their customer service address, and I left a couple voice mail messages at their customer service telephone number. I heard nothing from all of these attempts. Once again, I understand that the holiday season is busier than normal, but still - I heard not the slightest peep from Ranger Up.

After several days of hearing nothing, I followed a friend's suggestion and I reached out to Ranger Up's Facebook account. To my amazement, I heard back in a few hours, whereupon I was informed that I needed to allow 2-3 business days for follow ups from Ranger Up's staff due to the holiday volume. (I had already done that, of course.) But I was assured that someone named "Regina" would follow up with me that day to get everything squared away.

But I heard nothing more that day. Nor the next day.

As I mentioned before, the missing items were meant to be Christmas gifts, and by that time it was already a few days away from Christmas. With that in mind, I reached out to Ranger Up's Facebook account again, and I informed them that I had already waited longer than their requisite 2-3 business days, yet I still had not heard anything from them - despite assurances that I would hear from them on the same day that I had contacted them through Facebook. I pointed out that in order to receive the rest of my order in time for Christmas, Ranger Up would have have to ship my remaining items by 2-day mail. The following day I received an apology for my order "falling through the cracks," and I was assured that Ranger Up would ship the rest of my original order via FedEx, and Ranger Up would cover the additional shipping costs. (Just to be safe, I bought my son-in-law a couple extra gifts.)

A day passed, then two, then three... and eventually Christmas arrived - but still I had received nothing from Ranger Up. On the day after Christmas, I received an email that my order was finally on its way. By this point, I didn't hold my breath.

I'll spare you the additional details and cut to the chase - the remaining items from my order arrived today. FIVE. DAYS. AFTER. CHRISTMAS. More than a week after I was assured that my order would arrive in time for Christmas, more than two weeks after I first contacted Ranger Up to let them know that there was a problem, and more than a month after I placed the original order, which for any other company would have been plenty of time for the holidays.

At the end of the day, I'm a realist; I completely understand that things go wrong. And I'm patient; I do not call companies and scream at people who are trying to do their jobs. And in the grander scheme of life, missing a couple gifts for the holidays is a really small thing; I have my health, I have a wonderful wife, I have great kids, and I have cute grandkids.

But all that being said, Ranger Up failed. Big time. Again. And again. And again.

On Ranger Up's contact page, they proudly proclaim the following:

"From August 26th to 5 January 2016, Ranger Up used a third-party partner for customer service and fulfillment. During that period of time many orders did not get fulfilled and many customers were ignored. Those days are over. We will get back to you within 1-2 business days, and we will remedy all issues to your satisfaction. We learned the valuable lesson that no one cares about our customers as much as we do and we look forward to being us again in 2017."

From my perspective, it seems as if nothing has changed; my order was not fulfilled, I was clearly ignored, I did not hear from Ranger Up within 1-2 business days, and they certainly did not remedy any issues to my satisfaction.

Ranger Up's website also proudly proclaims the following: "Founded by veterans with an ethos forged by service." I'm not sure how things work in the military now, but in my day a soldier who demonstrated that level of failure again and again would have had his butt kicked over and over until he learned how to do his job.

Use the Self Checkout Line and Be Happy About It

A friend recently posted the following image to Facebook, which had the following caption appended to it: "Is this how you feel too? My how times have changed. Used to be there were tons of cashiers. Dressed in uniforms."

Use-the-Self-Checkout-Line

This type of toxic sentimentality that pines for "the good old days" is so far out of touch with reality that it boggles the mind. For example:

Let's assume that a particular supermarket has 10 checkout registers, and these days they only staff three of those. (Which has been my observation quite often.) To staff the remaining 7 registers, you would obviously need 7 more employees. At $15 per hour, that comes to around $31,000 per year per employee, and around $218,000 for the entire store. However, that doesn't include benefits per employee like health insurance and such, nor does that include additional overhead like uniforms, bathroom supplies, etc. So let's estimate an even $300,000 per store to staff those additional cashiers. (Which still doesn't include any employees that will bag your groceries for you, by the way.)

In any event, that $300K has to come from somewhere, and so - obviously - it will have to come from increased customer revenue. With that in mind, if the store was to hypothetically raise their prices across the board by an estimated %10, the additional profits earned at your expense means that you could have those additional 7 cashiers. Of course, your monthly food bill will have increased significantly just for you to have your peace of mind, but that might be a small price to pay for your nostalgia. (Both literally and figuratively.)

However, if this hypothetical supermarket chain hired additional cashiers across all of their 1,000 stores nationwide, that would mean they would need to come up with $300,000,000 in order to ensure similar staffing across the country. That would have major positive and negative ramifications across the country:

  • On the positive side, the chain of stores just created hundreds of new jobs.
  • On the negative side, they just increased the cost of living for every single customer, to include every one of their new hires. As a result, most of those cashiers will need raises simply to make ends meet - and guess where that money comes from? (Hint: customer revenue.)

I should also like to add that none of this discussion takes into account the fact that the Food Stamp, WIC, Welfare, and Social Security programs would need to be restructured to match the increased costs, which creates an additional burden on taxpayers.

Truth be told, in many countries across the world you are required to bring your own bags with you to the store and bag your own groceries as you are checking out; no one seems to have a problem with that in those locations. Of course, there are many other countries where shopping means walking to a local meat market where fresh kills are hanging in a vendor's makeshift stand, and in many other countries you actually have to grow your own food or track and kill your own game.

IMG_0296

Personally, I'd rather not have to put up with any of that. Nor would I prefer to endure having to interact with a cashier who clearly cannot stand their job and is questioning every life decision that led to their current station in life. Nor would I like to pay more than what I deem as necessary to buy my prepackaged, ready-to-eat sustenance.

With all of that in mind, it never bothers me when I get to skip the cashier line at a store, swipe my own groceries across a laser scanner, and ultimately pay a lot less for the privilege of living in the most-industrialized society in the history of humanity. I think self-checkout lines and everything that goes along with them are vital parts of a highly efficient system of commerce that our forefathers would have clamored to have had available to them. Waxing nostalgically about "better days gone by" is a useless exercise that fails to accurately appreciate the better days we have in the present.

Propaganda and Purges and the Death of Stalin

Here is a simple thought from Voltaire on the 66th anniversary of Josef Stalin's death: "It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere." Of course, Voltaire was not referring to Stalin directly, since Voltaire passed away 200 years before Stalin was born. However, Voltaire's observation is apropos when we consider the effectiveness of Communist propaganda on public opinion during Stalin's lifetime.

The text in the following photo reads, "Народы чтут память вождя," which translates as, "The people honor the memory of their leader." The mourners in that photo were obviously staged for propaganda purposes, but still - few people who haven't studied Russian history fail to realize how many Russians loved Stalin, even though he put to death nearly three times as many of his own citizens as the Nazis.

Stalins-Mourners

Stalin's level of adulation was primarily due to the USSR's disinformation machine, which spent years elevating Stalin's cult of personality to epic proportions. For many Russians, Stalin was their hero, their savior, their loving parent, and the sole victor of WWII.

When I was studying Russian, I was once involved in a heated discussion with one of my instructors. (In Russian, of course). She had recently defected from the Soviet Union, and she had yet to learn some of the actual facts about her own country; she only knew the propaganda that she had heard in her childhood. All the other students in the class were backing my discussion points, when the instructor broke down and started crying while lamentably exclaiming, "But I'm Russian! I should know my own history!" All I could say was, "Yes - you should know your history. But you need to visit a library, because you've been deceived." (It's amazing that our group of students didn't get in trouble for making an instructor cry.)

Stalin

While it is inarguable that every industrialized nation - to include the United States - has used propaganda to further its respective agenda, Communist nations like the USSR (and a few of its Communist allies) used a two-phase approach of propaganda coupled together with purges in order to subdue their populations. Propaganda is, of course, the use of state-controlled media to feed a carefully-constructed narrative to the masses, and purges are used to: a) reduce the numbers of those who are too intelligent [and therefore a perceived threat to the state], and b) terrify those who are left alive into silence.

Propaganda and purges were used with particular effectiveness and ruthlessness in Stalinist-era Russia, the result of which was that the average Russian - the peasants, the hawkers in the streets, the poorly-educated, and the bulk of the population - actually believed the lies. And why not? The propaganda is all they knew from what little education they had, and there were no other sources of information. The press and the media were both controlled by the Communists, and those who possessed enough knowledge to put up an intelligent argument were either killed or imprisoned.

large_1531048734stalin_cremlin

While I may agree that the US and its allies have certainly used one form of propaganda or other, the "state" controls neither our press nor our media, nor have we resulted to purges in order to wipe out mass segments of a dissatisfied population. As a result, we have had both the knowledge and the freedom to say, "This president sucked," or "That president sucked," or "We should vote every member of Congress out of office and start over."

propagandademotivator

To clarify what I said earlier when I was discussing Communist purges, I wasn't referring only to Stalin's purges - I was also referring to Lenin's Communist purges, and Mao's Communist purges, and the North Vietnamese Communist purges, and the Cambodian Khmer Rouge's Communist purges, and Cuba's Communist purges, and North Korea's Communist purges, and Eastern Europe's Communist purges, etc. It is a concrete statement of fact that in nearly every state where the Communists gained power during the 20th century, whole populations of people were eradicated. Communism has emerged as the single-greatest cause of deaths in human history; more than all the disparate diseases and wars combined.

And yet, whenever these purges are mentioned, some addle-brained miscreant who hasn't cracked open a history book will proffer a comparison to the "post-WWII demonization of Communists in the West," which resulted in a handful of arrests for acts of treason or conspiring to commit treason, and a few deportations, and a few misguided defections to the East, and several pro-Communist Hollywood script writers losing their jobs. Let me be clear, if anyone thinks that the post-WWII Red Scare was anywhere near the level of a Communist purge, then they have not been paying attention to history. The documented deaths of over 100 million people during the Communist purges of the 20th century are a genocide of epic proportions. There is simply no comparison between the complete eradication of entire populations in the name of Communism and the meager number of arrests that were made during the Communist scares of the 1920s and 1950s.

For what it's worth, I learned the Russian language from teachers who had defected from the Soviet Union, and I learned first-hand of how they had suffered under Communism. Later, I was the translator for Russian defectors in Germany during the 1980s, and I heard their personal stories of why they were forced to flee for their lives. I met and spoke with several members of the Soviet Military prior to the fall of Communism, and learned of how atrocious their living conditions were. I learned Spanish from a woman who had defected from Cuba, and she told stories of her horrifying treatment by the Communists who ruined her country. I interviewed a man who had lived 10 years in a Communist gulag, where his only crime was fighting for freedom of speech. I attended Russian schools in Western Europe that were founded by and staffed with Soviet defectors, and I listened to their lectures on the many follies and failures of Communism. One of my Russian teachers had been a popular actress in the Soviet Union during her youth, and her husband was one of the Soviet Union's acclaimed directors... until they defected, and then their names were wiped clean from the pages of Russian history. She and I watched one of her movies together, where her name was stripped from the credits despite her appearance in the film, and her husband's name was removed as the director despite his work on the project. That being said, every other actor and actress involved in the film who stayed in the Soviet Union was dead - some were sent to gulags, some were arrested and never heard from again, and others killed themselves rather than continue to live under Communist rule.

These people whom I have mentioned were not faceless people from history books, these were actual Russians whom I befriended during a lifetime of studying the consequences of Communism and its caustic effects on society. If anyone cannot see the difference between the personal sufferings that I have described and the perceived injustices that were endured by a handful of people during our government's infatuation with chasing down Communists who had infiltrated Washington DC and Hollywood, then let me be very clear: those crimes are not equal in the annals of history. Charging someone with treason because they belong to organizations that are plotting to overthrow the country is not the same as killing millions of people because you disagree with their politics.

Returning to my earlier discussion of propaganda, here is an additional thought: I was physically present on the East German border when several people lost their lives attempting the flee their Communist captors. If Communist nations were lands of Golden Opportunity as Communist propaganda actively promoted, then why were people willing to risk their lives to leave those countries? If Communism had created Utopian Societies, then why did millions of people need to be slaughtered?

All of this discussion is academic, of course. Communism has emerged as the worst ideology to infect humanity in history, and anyone who believes otherwise merely stands to gain something from it.

Having taxed my readers' patience enough, I am reminded that it's time to watch one of my favorite movies: "The Death of Stalin."

Open-mouthed smile


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