Tuesday Reads: “While the Rest of Us Die”

1897, from Retrospective Exhibition of Wada Eisaku

1897, from Retrospective Exhibition of Wada Eisaku

Good Morning!!

Last night I watched a fascinating, disturbing program on Vice TV, “While the Rest of Us Die: Secrets of America’s Shadow Government. It was the first of a series of six episodes about the U.S. Government’s secret plans to save elite government officials in the event of a nuclear attack or other massive global disaster. Like maybe an out-of-control pandemic that overwhelms the health care system and kills millions of people? Here’s a trailer:

The series is based on a book by Garrett Graff: Raven Rock: The Story of the U.S. Government’s Secret Plan to Save Itself–While the Rest of Us Die.

From Variety: Vice TV Sets Debut of ‘While the Rest of Us Die: Secrets of America’s Shadow Government’ With Jeffrey Wright.

Based on the book by Garrett M. Graff, the six-part series exposes the U.S. government’s flawed plans to protect its citizens. The show unpacks America’s national security spending on hidden underground cities, a secret air force and a plan to suspend democracy in order to serve the interests of the elite class.

The series features interviews with political figures including former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson and former National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure, Protection and Counter-terrorism Richard Clarke, and national security experts Malcolm Nance, Elizabeth Goitien and Paul Rieckhoff. It will be narrated by “Westworld” star Jeffrey Wright.

“The events of this last year have laid bare the economic, political and health inequities at the core of American society,” said Graff. “Our hope with ‘While The Rest Of Us Die’ is to show Americans how those inequities are central to the way our supposedly egalitarian society and democratic government operates. From Puerto Rico to COVID-19 to Black Lives Matter, America has long treated some American lives as more worthy than others. This isn’t new, and in fact, in the seventy years since the Cold War, the U.S. has long prioritized spending trillions of dollars in the wrong places in the wrong ways, a problem that has been felt from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan to the streets of American cities.”

Françoise Vadon

By Françoise Vadon

Take a look at what Trump has been up to lately. He decapitated the top leadership of the Department of Defense, and he apparently has been fantasizing about how he can unleash destruction on the world before his lame duck period ends.

The New York Times: Trump Sought Options for Attacking Iran to Stop Its Growing Nuclear Program.

President Trump asked senior advisers in an Oval Office meeting on Thursday whether he had options to take action against Iran’s main nuclear site in the coming weeks. The meeting occurred a day after international inspectors reported a significant increase in the country’s stockpile of nuclear material, four current and former U.S. officials said on Monday.

A range of senior advisers dissuaded the president from moving ahead with a military strike. The advisers — including Vice President Mike Pence; Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; Christopher C. Miller, the acting defense secretary; and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — warned that a strike against Iran’s facilities could easily escalate into a broader conflict in the last weeks of Mr. Trump’s presidency.

Any strike — whether by missile or cyber — would almost certainly be focused on Natanz, where the International Atomic Energy Agency reported on Wednesday that Iran’s uranium stockpile was now 12 times larger than permitted under the nuclear accord that Mr. Trump abandoned in 2018. The agency also noted that Iran had not allowed it access to another suspected site where there was evidence of past nuclear activity.

Mr. Trump asked his top national security aides what options were available and how to respond, officials said.

After Mr. Pompeo and General Milley described the potential risks of military escalation, officials left the meeting believing a missile attack inside Iran was off the table, according to administration officials with knowledge of the meeting.

Mr. Trump might still be looking at ways to strike Iranian assets and allies, including militias in Iraq, officials said. A smaller group of national security aides had met late Wednesday to discuss Iran, the day before the meeting with the president.

Agutte, Georgette Marcel Sembat lisant, 1910-20

Georgette Agutte, Marcel Sembat lisant, 1910-20

 

Trump also wants to pull U.S. troops out of foreign conflicts without any serious planning for the consequences. The New York Times: Trump Is Said to Be Preparing to Withdraw Troops From Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia.

President Trump is expected to order the U.S. military to withdraw thousands of troops from Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia by the time he leaves office in January, using the end of his time in power to significantly pull back American forces from far-flung conflicts around the world.

Under a draft order circulating at the Pentagon on Monday, the number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan would be halved from the current deployment of 4,500 troops, officials said.

In Iraq, the Pentagon would trim force levels slightly below the 3,000 troops that commanders had previously announced. And in Somalia, virtually all of the more than 700 troops conducting training and counterterrorism missions would leave.

Taken together, the cuts reflect Mr. Trump’s longstanding desire to stop shouldering the cost of long-running military engagements against Islamist insurgencies in failed and fragile countries in Africa and the Middle East, a grinding mission that has spread since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

But the president’s aspirations have long run into resistance, as his own national security officials argued that abandonment of such troubled countries could have catastrophic consequences — such as when the United States pulled out of Iraq at the end of 2011, leaving a vacuum that fostered the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

It would be great for us to get out of these endless wars, but doing so without planning for what happens next could lead to disaster, and it would also interfere with Joe Biden’s ability to deal with these conflicts in more serious ways than Trump is capable of.

Pissarro, Camille (1830-1903) Jeanne Pissarro reading, 1899

Camille Pissarro Jeanne Pissarro reading, 1899

And then there’s Trump’s attempted coup.

Historian Federico Finchelstein at The Washington Post: What the history of coups tells us about Trump’s refusal to concede.

Historically across Latin America, when constitutionally elected leaders were denied their legitimate mandate, there was just one word for it: coup. Just think of the emblematic cases of Salvador Allende in Chile (1973) and Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala (1954) — both democratically elected leaders who were toppled by the military. In other cases, such as in Uruguay in 1973, Peru in 1992 and Venezuela in 2017, presidents decided to ignore the law and attempted to stay in power indefinitely via self-coup.

A coup against a democratic regime can be defined as any political action by state actors that aims to either maintain or take over power by unconstitutional means. In short, there is a coup when military renegades or democratically elected leaders suspend the democratic process.

This definition — and global history — is why Donald Trump’s refusal to accept his electoral defeat and his refusal to initiate a transition of power has alarmed so many, and led some to question whether a coup was in progress.\To be sure, Trump’s clumsy attempts to deny President-elect Joe Biden’s win already look to be failing. But his actions — denying and attempting to overturn the results of the election and getting top Republicans and Attorney General William P. Barr to indulge these dangerous efforts — are still symptoms of the fragility of American democracy at this moment.

And this is exactly why we should be talking about the history of coups: how they happened and, most importantly, how they have been stopped. Trump’s refusal to concede is an attack on the state and democratic government. While his actions may be dismissed as merely tantrums, the history of dictators in Latin America over the past century suggests the need to take this dangerous moment seriously.

Read the whole thing at the WaPo. 

Porfiry Lebedev, Morning News, 1950s

Porfiry Lebedev, Morning News, 1950s

Keep in mind that the continuity of government plans discussed in the Vice documentary give Trump vast powers to declare martial law and take other dictatorial actions in case of a national emergency. Remember Trump has already declared a national emergency in the case of the coronavirus pandemic–which he and his thugs are deliberately exacerbating.

Case in point: Scott Atlas. The Washington Post Editorial Board: Scott Atlas’s rabble-rousing will lead to illness and death. He should be fired.

Scott Atlas is a neuroradiologist, not an infectious disease expert, nor an epidemiologist. As President Trump’s leading adviser on the coronavirus pandemic, he continues to make statements that will cause more illness and death. He ought to be fired immediately.

This weekend he was speaking about Michigan, which, like other states in the Upper Midwest, is struggling with the raging virus. Hospitalizations are way up, new cases are shooting ever higher, deaths are four times greater than in September, and the test positivity rate is 9.8 percent, indicating the virus is spreading. On Sunday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) announced reasonable new restrictions in an effort to slow the spread, including closing bars and restaurants, casinos and bowling alleys; sending college and high school students to remote classrooms; and ordering all but essential workers to labor from home.

“We are in the worst moment of this pandemic to date,” she said in words that could apply to the entire country. “The situation has never been more dire. We are at the precipice and we need to take some action because as the weather gets colder and people spend more time indoors, the virus will spread, more people will get sick, and there will be more fatalities.”

Dr. Atlas has frequently belittled lockdowns and pandemic restrictions, saying they have deleterious knock-on effects and are unnecessary, and that only the “vulnerable” need protection. Of the Michigan restrictions, he wrote on Twitter: “The only way this stops is if people rise up. You get what you accept. #FreedomMatters #StepUp.” So, while the governor was desperately trying to save lives by slowing the virus transmission, Dr. Atlas was urging people to disobey and revolt. This is incendiary talk, especially since the governor was the target of a kidnapping plot foiled by the FBI before the election. Dr. Atlas later insisted he would never encourage violence and was talking about voting and peaceful protest.

Nybo, Poul Friis (1869-1929) A favorite author

Poul Friis Nybo, (1869-1929) A favorite author

But the damage was done. His message was that people should ignore the governor and resist the pandemic restrictions, as Mr. Trump did with his “LIBERATE” tweets in April. If Dr. Atlas’s advice is followed, more people will get sick and die. The nation is engulfed in coronavirus infections; the spread is extremely alarming, with more than 100,000 new cases every day since Nov. 4. The tidal wave of disease is stressing hospital systems to their limit and all but ensures that deaths will be increasing in the weeks to come.

Trump’s disinformation campaign against public health recommendations has convinced many of his followers that the virus either does not exist or is not dangerous.

Alternet: A ‘horror movie that never ends’: Nurse says she’s had patients dying of COVID-19 who think it’s a hoax.

On Saturday, South Dakota nurse Jodi Doering had a night off and decided to tweet about what she was seeing as her state. Doering’s tweets were about COVID-19 patients who are literally dying from contracting the virus but still do not believe that the virus is real, or that they have it. She explained how sad and frustrating it was to watch people in such angry denial, furious that this hoax was being perpetrated on them, only to “stop yelling at you when they get intubated. It’s like a fucking horror movie that never ends.” On Monday, Doering was on CNN to talk about her experience. It was tragic and eye-opening.

In the interview, Doering explained that she really hadn’t expected her tweets to go viral like this and was not blaming the victims of this virus or making a political statement. She was just reporting on some of what she was seeing. She explained she just became so sad thinking about the many patients she has seen who are in such denial and so angry that they are missing out on what is in many cases their final chances to speak with their families before passing away. And because Doering is an adult and a professional, she held CNN’s Alisyn Camerota’s hand to explain to her that she didn’t take the anger of her patients personally. “I think it’s just a belief that it’s not real and nursing happens to be on the receiving end of that. And that’s okay. That’s where we’re there for. It’s just, in the bigger picture, when you try to reason with people, can I call your family, your kids, your wife, your friend, your brother? And they say, no, because I’m going to be fine,” it really hits hard.

She said that since they first started seeing cases of COVID-19 in March, while they have gotten better at treating and alleviating some of the cases, they cannot defeat the surges in the virus and the political bullshit that comes with fighting against basic public health protections like social distancing and wearing masks. 

The pandemic is certainly a national (and global) emergency at this point, and Trump is actively making it worse. Will he use it to exert dictatorial powers that are available to him? Maybe. Maybe not.

Okay, I’m probably just catastrophizing and none of this will end up leading to a Trump dictatorship. But he can do immense damage over the next couple of months until Biden’s inauguration. I’m just putting this out there for your consideration.

Let me know what you think, and as always, please take care of yourself and those you love today and always.

 


23 Comments on “Tuesday Reads: “While the Rest of Us Die””

  1. bostonboomer says:

    • quixote says:

      Before the plague, my big worry was that he’d start bombing someone as a distraction once he lost.

      Then I thought the plague was enough death and destruction to keep him occupied. Silly me.

      Now I’m realizing he can do both, unless the military balks.

      So now the thread by which my hope hangs is that the military balks.

      Besides the National Popular Vote getting passed to rid us of the dictatorship of a minority that is the Electoral College, we desperately need to get out of that Pony Express timetable between election and inauguration.

      • bostonboomer says:

        I’m just hoping he’s too incompetent and indecisive to stage a coup. But others like him may follow.

      • dakinikat says:

        Cheer up … Idiots walk among us like this one …

        • quixote says:

          “Lucifraise” is, I assume, that special brand of strawberries eaten in hell?

          As opposed to luciferase, which can produce bioluminescence and is used in the research phase of lab work to mark certain products to make given results visible. (And would be harmless even if it did remain in the final product, which it doesn’t.)

          Christ on a frisbeed petri dish. These mole people.

          • quixote says:

            And “nanobytes.” Ooooh, nanobytes. Way smaller and more deadly than microbytes, or the quite harmless minibytes, which is just a synonym for party food.

            Right?

          • dakinikat says:

            She seems to be day drinking with some of these things would be my guess but maybe she is just that ignorant too!

          • bostonboomer says:

            Quixote,

            Does the Moderna vaccine use different technology from Pfizer’s? I recall you said that the Pfizer one changes your inner biology in some way.

          • NW Luna says:

            They both use mRNA — a bit of the virus’ genetic code which is used by our immune system to recognize it and then make B-cell antibodies to prevent infection of healthy cells, and to prime T-cells to destroy infected cells. This is in very simple terms. This process is much faster than the traditional way.

            Other vaccines heretofore have used a weakened (aka live attenuated) virus, or a killed virus, to trigger our immune system to recognize and destroy or block the virus.

            Using DNA for vaccines is also being researched. With either DNA or mRNA the question is after they’ve done what’s intended and helped our body build immunity, do these bits of genetic material do anything else?

            Causing infection is always a possibility with traditional vaccines as well.

            Quixote is more knowledgable than I about microbiology workings so I look forward to hearing from her.

        • NW Luna says:

          Why is it all these Trumpists and conspiracy-theorists never know how to spell?

    • NW Luna says:

      Nice overview of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and how mRNA vaccines work here.

      https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/11/17/covid-vaccines-what-you-need-to-know/?arc404=true

      • quixote says:

        Excellent article. In terms of the crucial bit of explanation:

        Both vaccines use a snippet of the virus’s genetic code to instruct cells to build the spike protein on the surface of the coronavirus, teaching the immune system to recognize the real thing.

        That’s the crucial difference to any previous vaccine. Those all used a snippet of viral *protein* to train the immune system to attack the actual virus. Foreign protein can’t do anything in your body except be digested or be irritating and get destroyed by the immune system.

        These new vaccines use RNA (future ones may use DNA) which can go on producing proteins (their usual job) inside your cells.

        When what they’re doing is producing a viral protein and thus training your immune system, that’s great. Theoretically, it stops there. When you hear that these vaccines passed safety tests, what they mean is they produced the right protein and it behaved as expected without causing problems.

        But there simply hasn’t been the *time* to be sure that those viral snippets of genetic code don’t do unexpected things inside your cells.

        The further wrinkle is whether the RNA (or DNA) is self-replicating. I’m not sure about the Moderna-NIH vaccine. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has four variants. The one next door to being okayed for use is “b2” and is NOT self-replicating. One of the other four is.

        Even when not self-replicating, there can be issues with snippets of code inserting themselves into the host genome and sometimes doing nothing and sometimes messing up gene regulation. That is not good. Precisely how much Not Good depends on where it happens to park itself.

        When self-replicating, it’s *designed* to go on working inside your cells. I’m not clear on how it knows to stop producing viral protein after the immune system “gets it.” It would not be a good idea to have a continual source of immune system irritation for no purpose. I’m not clear on how it stays out of other cellular processes where it has no business.

        Maybe they have that all figured out and it’s no problem. If so, I’d think they’d be explicitly presenting their evidence showing that. It *looks* like they’re planning on a huge field experiment with the world’s population and just assuming there won’t be any downstream problems. Before they try to give us self-replicating RNA vaccines (which Pfizer is not doing yet), I *hope* they’ll be ethical enough to let people know about the lack of long term safety testing of the method. Not the viral protein. Plenty of people are happy to test new vaccines for the good of humanity, tens of thousands. But nobody is happy to be a patsy!

        • NW Luna says:

          Thx, quixote!

          With these new vaccines, I’m not certain how antigen-presenting cells are involved in the immunity process. Or how the self-replicating feature affects the cells which produce more of the ‘blueprint’ which allows T- and B-cells to recognize what to attack or block.

          With regards to drugs newly on the market, the biostatisticians tell us it takes about 5 years to get a good idea of the %s of adverse effects to that drug. Hope it isn’t so for these vaccines.

        • bostonboomer says:

          Thanks Quixote and Luna!

  2. bostonboomer says:

    For Dakinikat:

  3. Enheduanna says:

    I’m continually impressed with the depth of everyone’s grasp here on the vaccines and these out-of nowhere political appointees. Thank you for all the information!

    I, otoh spend hours on things like binge-watching The Crown on Netflix – lol. Season 4 is available and I highly recommend it (for the record I’m appalled there are still such things as a monarchy and could care less what Megan Markle et al are up to). But how can you not watch Jillian Anderson chew the scenery as Margaret Thatcher – she completely steals the whole season. Trigger warning – you want to throttle her.

  4. NW Luna says:

    If I fire you, I undo the truth! screams the orange autocrat.

    Trump fires top DHS official who refuted his claims that the election was rigged

    Earlier in the day, Krebs in a tweet refuted allegations that election systems were manipulated, saying that “59 election security experts all agree, ‘in every case of which we are aware, these claims either have been unsubstantiated or are technically incoherent.’ ”