TRUMP, RUSSIA, THE ELECTION, AND THE COUP


We’re Learning the Truth About Trump,

Russia,

the Election,

and the Coup,


and It’s Even Worse Than You Probably Thought

by umair haque

How far was Trump prepared to go to steal the election? And why was he willing to go so far? A much, much clearer picture is finally emerging. It’s every bit as bad as those of us called “alarmists” feared, and then some.

Another revelation surfaced recently. Trump pressured the Justice Department to declare the election “illegal” because it was “corrupt.” Why? So that Congress could could invalidate the certification of Electoral College results — an effort that Trumpists had already begun in earnest as that point.

Think about that for a second — what it all really means. This isn’t some ad-hoc, random, tantrum. On the contrary, it’s a sophisticated plan. By a sitting head of state. Pressure the judiciary to declare an election illegal — so that your allies in the legislature can then refuse to certify it. What happens then? I’ll come back to that. First, let me put in context.

That’s a breathtaking attempt to destroy a democracy. It’s not the stuff of amateurs. It’s the stuff of autocrats and authoritarians who are versed in how to kill democracies. Why do I call it “sophisticated”? It’s all three branches of government working in concert — executive, legislative, and judicial — to destroy a democracy from within. Again, think about that. All three branches working together to seize power: it’s the stuff of complex and coordinated plans. It’s not amateur hour at open mic autocrat night.

What do we now know Trump tried, properly speaking? An attempted soft coup. A soft coup is an attempt to use the procedural and formal mechanisms of democracy to seize power. It’s a coup without the tanks and paramilitaries and so forth. What Trump attempted was a textbook soft coup — he wanted “his” judiciary to declare an election illegal, so the legislative branch could refuse to accept its results, and he’d presumably retain power.

What happens then? Well, then any number of scenarios become possible. Martial law. Another election — this time, the actually corrupt one. The prosecution of the opposition — after all, they’ve “broken the law.” Show trials and persecution campaigns of critics and opponents of any kind. Real violence by paramilitaries.

All that was what America was facing. That’s the textbook pattern of how soft coups play out. Afterwards, in the aftermath of a shattered democracy, autocracy and authoritarianism of the hard kind tighten their grip. None of that was a joke, and America, we now know, came incredible close to all that happening. Trump really was the aspiring autocrat that many feared — far worse and more dedicated to the cause than most pundits knew or wanted to admit to themselves.

And that was only one leg of the plan. The other one? If the soft coup didn’t work, there was to be a hard one. That’s another classic autocratic pattern: if destroying democracy from within doesn’t work, by abusing the law, norms, rules, and codes, procedurally and formally — well, then send in the goons.

That’s exactly what happened, too. When it was clear that the soft coup wasn’t working out as planned, finally, on Jan 6th, Trump seemed to incite a hard coup. The now infamous storming of Capitol Hill. A huge mob of hardcore fanatics marched to Capitol Hill, and, in the words of the cops defending it, were intending to “kidnap or kill” members of Congress. Why? To stop the certification of the vote.

The hard coup was a bloody, violent affair. It was a very, very real hard coup. No, there weren’t tanks — that’s because the heads of the military, fearing just such a hard coup, had already prepared against it. Still, Trump used whatever force was at his disposal — if it wasn’t America’s tanks, then it was his fanatical right-wing paramilitaries. The mob that stormed the capitol was dressed in military gear, knew exactly where to go, who to look for, and had carefully coordinated their movements and goals. It wasn’t a rabble, and it certainly wasn’t “tourists.”


We now know too that it was a minor miracle that a massacre didn’t happen on Capitol Hill on Jan 6th. Don’t take it from “alarmists” like me — take it from Officer Hodges, who said there was “no doubt in my mind” that the mob was looking to kill Congresspeople.

See how the goals of the soft and hard coup were exactly the same? To prevent the certification of the vote — so that Trump could stay in power, and presumably, begin to abuse it in much, much worse ways?

Put the pattern together and you have something incredibly disturbing beginning to emerge.
Exactly what scholars and survivors of authoritarianism and fascism like me had predicted. Yes, Trump really was modern-day authoritarian. Yes, he really was leading a neo-fascist movement. Yes, there really would be coup attempts if the election didn’t go their way.

We now know that all that was true. There was not just one but two coup attempts, the soft one and the hard one. They were linked in the classic pattern, the hard one being incited when the soft one didn’t seem to be working fast enough. The coup really was a fascist one — again, don’t take it from me, take it from Officer Hodges, who called it a “white nationalist insurrection,” or Officer Dunn, who wept recounting how he was taunted with racial slurs, and then threatened with death. And the goal of all this really was for an authoritarian to seize power, thwart an election, and keep power, maybe for life.

All that was incredibly real. America still doesn’t quite grasp, I think, how narrow it’s escape really was. Take those brave officers — make their instinctive reactions slightly less incredibly brilliant, leading the mob down the wrong hallway — and bang. American democracy was on the brink of death. Yes, really.

All that raises the question: why? Why did Trump attack his own country?

Why was Trump dedicated to the destruction of his own country’s democracy? You see, this is where the situation begins to differ from poorer nations. There, coups happen because governments are ineffective or corrupt or malign. That’s not to say they’re good things, only that they’re the product of dysfunction and chaos. America’s government is ineffective, sure, and maybe even corrupt — but not at those levels. It’s just incompetent and garden-variety corrupt. It’s not, say, warlords of the Congo level abusive.

We now have an answer about why Trump attacked his own country, too. And that answer is also every bit as bad and then some as those of us on the critical side said. The answer can be summed up in one word: Russia.

A theory emerged over the years that Trump was a Russian puppet. This theory gained credibility, eventually, but not widespread acceptance, really. That’s largely because while Trump’s actions were incredibly weird and suspicious — who else cozied up to Russia? Who else seemed to do its bidding? Why else attack NATO and your own allies? An endless list of bizarre questions — the evidence, as such, the hard evidence, was missing. It’s pretty hard to prove, after all, that…the President of the United States is a puppet and maybe even a spy.

Last month, though, the Guardian finally dropped the bombshell. Russia really had installed Trump, with a sophisticated intelligence campaign. How sophisticated? The Kremlin launched a “coordinated multi-agency operation” to install a, in their words, “mentally unstable” Donald Trump in the office of the President. Why? To sow “social instability” and “social turmoil” in America — and bring about the “theoretical political scenario” Russia wanted, “social explosion” of the nation. How important was all this to Russia? “It is acutely necessary to use all possible force to facilitate his [Trump’s] election to the post of US president,” the leaked directives say.

Russia knew that it could control the “impulsive, mentally unstable and unbalanced,” because it had compromising material collected during “non-official visits to Russian Federation territory”. Once in office, Trump could be the stuff of spymasters’ dreams — an American President controlled by Russia. Not only he could share all the info, he could be told what to do and when to do it.

That’s why Russia did use “all possible force.” Just as the plan said, it planted “media viruses” in the American population, to “alter mass consciousness” — remember all that Facebook disinfo? It hacked Hillary’s emails and the DNC at just the right moment and so on. To Russia, getting Trump into the Presidency was the single greatest opportunity of the post-war era, one of the greatest in history.

And when Russia did install Trump as President, their plan, all that effort, paid off in spades. Donald Trump became the first President in American History to attack his own country. With a soft coup, and a hard coup. To try to destroy its democracy. To seize power for himself. To cheer for bloodshed on the steps of the Capitol.

And lest you think all that’s over, Americans are still living in the nation forged by all that. Trumpism’s still alive and well — healthier than ever, in some regards. There’s a new wave of fanatical Republicans, who are now hardened authoritarians, who openly preach violence, who openly call for democracy to basically come to an end. Trump has total control of the GOP. Trumpism is now a fascist movement in rude health, vast swathes of the nation fully committed to the project of an ethnically cleansed, racially purified America, ruled according to theocratic principles for the true of blood and pure of faith.

Russia’s plan didn’t fail. It succeeded beyond its wildest dreams. Sure, the ultimate success would have been Trump, the Russian asset, as an American Gaddafi — a lifelong dictator. But that was probably too good to believe, too astonishing to ever come true. Second best was plenty good enough. Trump shreds American democracy, anyways — leaving it wrecked, ruined, smoking wreck in his wake. The “social turmoil” Russia wanted did happen — Trumpism is a neo-fascist movement which has cleaved America in two, the GOP is a fully autocratic, authoritarian party, and meanwhile, Trump’s back on the re-election trail.

Now we know the truth. It’s weirder, stranger, and darker than many believed. Except those us, who, from the very beginning, suspected it all along.

Because we couldn’t help but believe what we saw with our own lying eyes.

NO DOUBT ABOUT IT…COVID-19 VACCINES ARE SAVING LIVES

Why some people don’t want a Covid-19 vaccine

By David Robson

Social media is rife with posts disparaging the vaccine hesitant – but these reactions to a complex and nuanced issue are doing more harm than good.

Consider some recent statistics from the UK. In a study tracking more than 200,000 people, nearly every single participant had developed antibodies against the virus within two weeks of their second dose. And despite initial worries that the current vaccines may be less effective against the Delta variant, analyses suggest that both the AstraZeneca and the Pfizer-BioNTech jabs reduce hospitalisation rates by 92-96%. As many health practitioners have repeated, the risks of severe side effects from a vaccine are tiny in comparison to the risk of the disease itself.

Yet a sizeable number of people are still reluctant to get the shots. According to a recent report by the International Monetary Fund, that ranges from around 10-20% of people in the UK to around 50% in Japan and 60% in France.

The result is becoming something of a culture war on social media, with many online commentators claiming that the vaccine hesitant are simply ignorant or selfish. But psychologists who specialise in medical decision-making argue these choices are often the result of many complicating factors that need to be addressed sensitively, if we are to have any hope of reaching population-level immunity.

The 5Cs

First, some distinctions. While it is tempting to assume that anyone who refuses a vaccine holds the same beliefs, the fears of most vaccine hesitant people should not be confused with the bizarre theories of staunch anti-vaxxers. “They’re very vocal, and they have a strong presence offline and online,” says Mohammad Razai at the Population Health Research Institute, St George’s, University of London, who has written about the various psychological and social factors that can influence people’s decision-making around vaccines. “But they’re a very small minority.”

The vast majority of vaccine-hesitant people do not have a political agenda and are not committed to an anti-scientific cause: they are simply undecided about their choice to take the injection.

The good news is that many people who were initially hesitant are changing their mind. “But even a delay is considered a threat to health because viral infections spread very quickly,” says Razai. This would have been problematic if we were still dealing with the older variants of the virus, but the higher transmissibility of the new Delta variant has increased the urgency of reaching as many people as quickly as possible.

Fortunately, scientists began studying vaccine hesitancy long before Sars-Cov-2 was first identified in Wuhan in December 2019, and they have explored various models which attempt to capture the differences in people’s health behaviour. One of the most promising is known as the 5Cs model, which considers the following psychological factors:

Confidence: the person’s trust in the vaccines efficacy and safety, the health services offering them, and the policy makers deciding on their rollout

Complacency: whether or not the person considers the disease itself to be a serious risk to their health

Calculation: the individual’s engagement in extensive information searching to weigh up the costs and benefits

Constraints (or convenience): how easy it is for the person in question to access the vaccine

Collective responsibility: the willingness to protect others from infection, through one’s own vaccination

In 2018, Cornelia Betsch at the University of Erfurt in Germany and colleagues asked participants to rate a series of statements that measured each of the 5Cs, and then compared the results with their actual uptake of relevant procedures, such as the influenza or the HPV vaccine. Sure enough, they found that the 5Cs could explain a large amount of the variation in people’s decisions, and consistently outperformed many other potential predictors – such as questionnaires that focused more exclusively on issues of trust without considering the other factors.

It is useful to examine the various cognitive biases that are known to sway our perceptions

In currently unpublished research, Betsch recently used the model to predict people’s uptake of the Covid-19 vaccines, and her results so far suggest that the 5Cs model can explain the majority of the variation in people’s decisions.

There will be other contributing factors, of course. A recent study from the University of Oxford suggests that a fear of needles is a major barrier for around 10% of the population. But the 5Cs approach certainly seems to capture the most common reasons for vaccine hesitancy.

Confirmation bias

When considering these different factors and the ways they may be influencing people’s behaviour, it is also useful to examine the various cognitive biases that are known to sway our perceptions.

Consider the first two Cs – the confidence in the vaccine, the complacency about the dangers of disease itself.

Most people hesitant about taking the vaccine do not have anti-scientific views like the small minority of anti-vaccine protesters (Credit: Tolga Akmen/AFP/Getty Images)

Most people hesitant about taking the vaccine do not have anti-scientific views like the small minority of anti-vaccine protesters (Credit: Tolga Akmen/AFP/Getty Images)

Jessica Saleska at the University of California, Los Angeles points out that humans have two seemingly contradictory tendencies – a “negativity bias” and an “optimism bias” that can each skew people’s appraisals of the risks and benefits.

The negativity bias concerns the way you appraise events beyond your control. “When you’re presented with negative information, that tends to stick in your mind,” says Saleska. The optimism bias, in contrast, concerns your beliefs about yourself – whether you think you are fitter and healthier than the average person. These biases may work independently, meaning that you may focus on the dangerous side effects of the vaccines while simultaneously believing that you are less likely to suffer from the disease, a combination that would reduce confidence and increase complacency.

It is easy to dismiss someone else’s decisions if you don’t understand the challenges they face in their day-to-day lives

Then there’s the famous confirmation bias, which can also twist people’s perceptions of the risks of the virus through the ready availability of misinformation from dubious sources that exaggerate the risks of the vaccines. This reliance on misleading resources means that people who score highly on the “calculation” measure of the 5Cs scale – the people who actively look for data – are often more vaccine hesitant than people who score lower. “If you already think the vaccination could be risky, then you type in ‘is this vaccination dangerous?’, then all you are going find is the information that confirms your prior view,” says Betsch.

Remember that these psychological tendencies are extremely common. Even if you have accepted the vaccine, they have probably influenced your own decision making in many areas of life. To ignore them, and to assume that the vaccine hesitant are somehow wilfully ignorant, is itself a foolish stance.

Health authorities need to produce simple, easy to understand information which shows the vaccine is safe (Credit: Tang Ming Tung/Getty Images)

Health authorities need to produce simple, easy to understand information which shows the vaccine is safe (Credit: Tang Ming Tung/Getty Images)

Nor should we forget the many social factors that might influence people’s uptake – the “constraints/convenience” factor in the 5Cs. Quite simply, the perception that a vaccine is difficult to access will only discourage people who are already sitting on the fence. When we spoke, Betsch suggested that this might have slowed the uptake in Germany, which has a very complicated system to identify who is eligible to receive the vaccine at any one time. People would respond much more quickly, she says, if they received automatic notifications.

Razai agrees that we need to consider the question of convenience, particularly for those in poorer communities who may struggle with the time and expense of the journey to a vaccination centre. “Travelling to and from that may be a huge issue for most people who are on minimum wage or unemployment benefits,” he says. That’s why it’s often best for the vaccines to be administered in local community centres. “I think there has been anecdotal evidence of it being more successful in places of worship, mosque, gurdwaras, and churches.”

Finally, we need to be aware of the context of people’s decisions, he says – such as the structural racism that might had led certain ethnic groups to have lower overall trust in medical authorities. It is easy to dismiss someone else’s decisions if you don’t understand the challenges they face in their day-to-day lives.

Opening a dialogue

So what can be done?

There is no easy solution, but health authorities can continue to provide easy-to-digest, accurate information address the major concerns. According to a recent report by Imperial College London’s Institute of Global Health Innovation (IGHI), the major barriers continue to be patient’s concerns about the side effects and the fears that the vaccines haven’t been adequately tested.

I would urge governments to stop thinking they can reach the mass of niches out there with one mass-market vaccine message – Sarah Jones

For the former, graphics showing the relative risks of the vaccines, compared to the actual disease, can provide some context. For the latter, Razai suggests that we need more education about the history of the vaccines’ development. The use of mRNA in vaccines has been studied for decades, for instance – with long trials testing its safety. This meant the technique could be quickly adapted for the pandemic. “None of the technology that has been used would be in any way harmful because we have used these technologies in other areas in healthcare and research,” Razai says.

Sarah Jones, a doctoral researcher who co-led the IGHI report, suggests a targeted approach will be necessary. “I would urge governments to stop thinking they can reach the mass of niches out there with one mass-market vaccine message, and work more creatively with many effective communications partners,” she says. That might involve closer collaborations with the influencer role models within each community, she says, who can provide “consistent and accurate information” about the vaccines’ risks and benefits.

Making vaccine centres easy for locals to get too – like this one in India – makes them more likely to be used (Credit: Sunil Ghosh/Hindustan Times/Getty Images)

Making vaccine centres easy for locals to get too – like this one in India – makes them more likely to be used (Credit: Sunil Ghosh/Hindustan Times/Getty Images)

However they choose to deliver the information, health services need to make it clear that they are engaging in an open dialogue, Razai says – rather than simply dismissing them out of hand. “We have to listen to people’s concerns, acknowledge them, and give them information so they can make an informed decision.”

Saleska agrees that it’s essential to engage in a two-way conversation – and that’s something that we could all learn as we discuss these issues with our friends and family. “Being respectful and recognising their concerns – I think that could actually be more important than just spitting out the facts or statistics,” she says. “A lot of the time, it’s more about the personal connection than it is about the actual information that you provide.” * David Robson is the author of The Intelligence Trap: Why Smart People Do Dumb Things. His next book is The Expectation Effect: Transform Your Health, Fitness, Productivity, Happiness and Ageing.

LIES – PARTISANSHIP – DEFNITIONS

I just watched House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy give a speech at noon today. Watching that display inspired me to read:

From the Washington Post
Opinion by Greg Sargent and Paul Waldman
Opinion columnists covering national politics – July 21 at 5:08 p.m. EDT

…. And then to look up the definition of the words House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy represented in that speech…..

According to WEBSTERS NEW WORLD COLLEGIATE DICTIONARY, the definition of

LIE – a) To make a statement that one knows is false, esp. with intent to deceive.
b) to make such statements habitually

To give a false impression; be deceptive, to bring, put, accomplish, etc. by lying
A false statement or action, esp. one made with intent to deceive
Anything that gives or is meant to give a false impression
To charge with telling a lie
To prove to be false; belie or to tell afoul or outrageous lie

SYNONYM – lie is the simple direct word meaning to make a deliberately false statement; prevaricate strictly means to quibble or confuse the issue in order to evade the truth, but is loosely used as a formal or affected substitute for lie; equivocate implies the deliberate use of ambiguity in order to deceive or mislead; fabricate suggest the invention of a false story, excuse, etc. intended to deceive and is, hence, sometimes used as a somewhat softer equivalent for lie; fib implies the telling of a falsehood about something unimportant and is sometimes a euphemism for lies.

And then I was further inspired to look up the definition of PARTISAN

According to WEBSTERS NEW WORLD COLLEGIATE DICTIONARY, the definition of:

PARTISAN – A person who takes the part of or strongly supports one side, party, or person; often specif., an unreasoning, emotional adherent

Any of a group of guerrilla fighters; esp., a member of an organized civilian force fighting covertly to drive out occupying enemy troops

                        Of, like, or characteristic of a partisan

                        Blindly or unreasonably devoted

                        Of, or having to do with military partisans

SYNONYM – FOLLOWER – partisanship

LESTER THE MAINE LOBSTERMAN

People “from away” say Lester leads a simple life. His time-weathered, sunburned face tells quite a different story, however. He will smile at anyone approaching, proudly revealing his gold tooth, top row, prominently in the center of his other misaligned baked-bean-brown teeth. Lester proudly wears each salt air, sun-kissed wrinkle on his face and brow. He knows only a life of cool and damp foggy mornings, high and blustery seas, sopping wet, slippery decks, and long hours of hard work on a boat constantly heaving to and fro in the mighty ocean waves. His thick, leathery, chapped lips were such a befitting frame for the gold tooth that glimmered when the sun hit it at just the right angle.

LESTER THE LOBSTERMAN

His days begin at 3:30 a.m., hauling lobster traps out of the icy saltwater and ending by filling the “lobster car” in the harbor with his day’s catch. Sometimes he wonders how he will get thru the following month due to new restrictions and laws made by those “business suits” in Augusta. Costs are going up for everyone, but when you have to discard nearly all your equipment, it is like starting a whole new business each time. “What must they be thinking, where’s the gain, and who is getting it?”…. He asked himself aloud, knowing that no one has even an adequate answer.

By now, he knows how to “size” a lobster by eye alone, although he knows using the State-issued Maine gauge ensures it is legal size. Lester has been in the business of “lobstering” since he was about twelve years old and the first mate on his grandfather’s boat. He worshipped his grandfather, loved listening to tales of his Abenaki family and what his fishing excursions were like when he was a boy. The tales of his grandfather scooping giant lobsters with his native father from a canoe fascinated Lennie, along with hearing of the enormous size of the crustaceans back in that time.

Lester looks forward with childlike glee to the one annual holiday tradition he affords, the fourth of July! He knows he can socialize with all the local harbor folk who gather around his outdoor stone fireplace to swap their versions of tales of the sea. In the evening, after everyone has partaken of his famous clambake, they share spectacular fireworks over the harbor sky from Lester’s dock. He will be the quiet one standing in the shadows, mouth agape, gold tooth intermittently reflecting the colorful sparks in the coastal Maine sky like a strobe light.