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Will Anyone Dare Tell the Emperor That He Goes Around Naked?

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Falsehood flies, and the Truth comes limping after it, so that when Men come to be undeceiv’d, it is too late; the Jest is over, and the Tale has had its Effect.”–Jonathan Swift “Facts are a stubborn thing”–John Adams “People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I call it truthful hyperbole.” –Donald Trump in The Art of the Deal

[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] T [/yt_dropcap]ruthful hyperbole” as defined in the last quote above by Donald Trump may go a long way in explaining, at least partially, why he won the presidency.

It is a formula by which one gives oneself permission to lie. Truth is not objective, it is not determined by the stubborn facts out there staring me in the face, whether I like them or not, but what I say it is, what is convenient and useful for me at the moment. This is the mind-set that is convinced that the end always justifies the means, no matter how reprehensible those means are.

It also explains the success of a used car salesman. This is a great car, you will be very happy with it; it’s a winner of a car. You will get tired of being a winner with this car. And so the car gets handly sold. The unpleasant surprise will come later when the unfortunate client realizes that he has been sold a lemon by a con-man.

The metaphor of the used car explains what happened a few days ago to all those who voted for Trump and expected a replacement of Obama Care. Yes, a replacement was presented by the GPO legislators but what it misguidedly proposed was to deduct 900 billion dollars from health benefits to the poor and transfer them to the rich in the form of tax relief.

Intriguing too the fact that Trump did not put his name on the bill. He refused to dub it Trump care. That would have been appropriate given that Obamacare was invented as an insult of sorts; the proper name of the original bill was and remains Affordable Health Care Act. The aim of the Republicans in the last seven years has been to make it unaffordable and a mere privilege for the well-to-do.

Be that as it may, the first legislative act of Donald Trump, the Health Bill that would have replaced Obama Care went down in flames and proved to be a big loser. Only 17% of the people approved of it. But the used car salesman is still enthusiastically selling his used cars by telling those disappointed voters that the car they presently still owe (that is, Obama Care) is a lemon and will soon explode in their face. Then they will be left with nothing and will have to walk to work. You get the picture: after it explodes, come back to me and I have a used car to sell you.

Let’s now briefly analyze this concept of “truthful hyperbole” under the light of the philosophical branch of philosophy called “epistemology,” that is to say: the investigation of how do we get to know anything and how do we know if what we do actually know is true or false; in short, how do we know that we know. Ultimately it is the question by cynical Pilate: What is truth?

It should be quite obvious that Trump’s conception of truth is quite elastic. Even relativism wouldn’t fit very well. Relativism says that everything is relative to the situation and the society in which one finds oneself; that truth is not something transcendent outside of time and space, but has to be determined existentially in the context of the real world in which we live and have our being. Truthful hyperbole, on the other hand, says that truth is what I wish you to believe. It really didn’t rain during my inauguration, even though the evidence is still on the ground and there are pictures with their umbrellas open, the crowds were more numerous at my inauguration than at President Obama’s, even though there are pictures that prove the opposite. I lost the popular vote by 3 million votes but I want you to believe that 3 million illegal aliens voted illegally. I want you to believe that Senator Cruz’s father was linked to Kennedy’s assassination, that president Obama tapped my phone during my campaign for the presidency; and the list goes on and on.

Recently Trump held an interview with Time’s Michael Scherer where he explains that instead of weighing evidence he much prefers to trust his gut. As Trump put it: “I am an instinctual person, but my instinct turns out to be right.” The question arises: how does one make instinctual decisions based on instinctual beliefs? With Trump there are three possibilities: one, he is already correct to begin with, or two, he will be proven correct at some point in the immediate or remote future, or three, he will correct the record of the past saying that he already subscribed to whatever view is proven right now; to wit, the Iraq War. In other words, when confronted with statements made without evidence, Trump will simply respond that what happened retroactively more than justifies the claims he made. That is to say, lies are magically transformed into truths after the fact. All you need is the magic wand called “instinctual decision making.”

If this again sounds like a used car salesman, it is because it is that, even though Trump wants us to believe that he is similar to the scholarly historian revising his judgment after studying the facts carefully, but he is no scholar even if he went to the Warton School of Business (another trumped up fact) and he certainly does not respects facts.

What Trump has discovered in his business career is that while truth may be real, it may be to one’s short-term advantage to disown it and present a contrary claim. To support those claims there is plenty of biased press on cable TV to tell him that he is always right. Fox news is an example; so it The National Inquirer which he reads dutifully.

Mussolini came to believe that “Mussolini is always right!” That is to say, falsehood works much better for Trump and other assorted authoritarian personalities and dictators, and the fact that they sit at the pinnacle of power more than confirms it for them.

But this is far from being an original insight. As the initial quote above by the 18th century satirist Jonathan Swift, intimates, it is an age-old stratagem of all dishonest and manipulative people. Eventually, as Plato and Aristotle pointed out, the truth catches up, even after the damage has been done.

One can of course continue to sell used lemon cars as a successful business entrepreneur and accumulate wealth and even fame, and call it “art,” or one may, as an entertainer and expert in reality shows, rely on selective TV-edited reality, and people are usually willing to suspend their disbelief while they enjoy the show. One may continue to trust only the stories, like those in the National Inquirer, which affirm one’s biases and prejudices, but the “stubborn facts,” as John Adams put in in his defense of British soldiers who had to defend themselves against a mob, remain therefore incontrovertible, and will give pause to a wise man to make him aware of his limitations and the constraints imposed on one’s likes and dislikes by a reality-based truth.

Not so for Trump. He disregards rational consensus by experts and acts on emotions and guts. This is found liberating by many people, including Vice-president Pence who goes around praising the fact that Trump “tells it like it is.” They have never seen before the kind of president who simply disregards expertise and relies on instincts. It’s a strange marvelous phenomenon. But here the question arises: are issues of national security, say the initiation of World War III, to be decided on instincts?

Of course the confirmation of one’s biases comes easy to someone like a Caligula who was constantly surrounded by sycophants who served at his pleasure, catered to every one of his whims, who interpreted every criticism of the emperor as bad faith. He may even begin to think of himself as a demigod and have his guards kneel before him, even kiss his ass from time to time. We know what happened to Caligula.

In more democratic times a different scenario may ensue. Now presidents have to resist the temptation to think of themselves as demigods by relying on longtime friends and confidants. Those friends usually keep them grounded in reality so that they don’t end up saying that 2+2=5 because I the president say so. At that point, the only solution in enlightened democratic times is impeachment, or resignation, or perhaps an ambulance to the insane asylum, or perhaps to jail.

Adams had it on target. Facts are a stubborn thing. They tend to catch up with one’s lies and fantasies. The urgent question now is this: will enough journalists find the courage to do their job–which is that of searching for the truth–and have the backbone to shout to the four winds that “the emperor is naked?”

Professor Paparella has earned a Ph.D. in Italian Humanism, with a dissertation on the philosopher of history Giambattista Vico, from Yale University. He is a scholar interested in current relevant philosophical, political and cultural issues; the author of numerous essays and books on the EU cultural identity among which A New Europe in search of its Soul, and Europa: An Idea and a Journey. Presently he teaches philosophy and humanities at Barry University, Miami, Florida. He is a prolific writer and has written hundreds of essays for both traditional academic and on-line magazines among which Metanexus and Ovi. One of his current works in progress is a book dealing with the issue of cultural identity within the phenomenon of “the neo-immigrant” exhibited by an international global economy strong on positivism and utilitarianism and weak on humanism and ideals.

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America’s Two-Tiered Justice System

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The Constitution states only one command twice. The Fifth Amendment says to the federal government that no one shall be “deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.” The Fourteenth Amendment in 1868, uses the same eleven words, called the Due Process Clause, to describe a legal obligation of all states. These words have as their central promise an assurance that all levels of government must operate within the law and provide fair procedures to all its citizens.

In this politically divisive climate, the central promise has been broken with little to no assurance that one can trust the American democratic system where some courts have disavowed their responsibility to uphold the Constitution’s meaning of the laws passed by Congress. For instance, the Bill of Rights was passed because of concepts such as freedom of religion, speech, equal treatment, and due process of law were all deemed so fundamental to protect every legal resident in the nation; yet we are now witnessing politically charged judicial appointments eradicating these principles under which all persons and entities are accountable to equally enforce and independently adjudicate, as well as being consistent with international human rights.

On the heels of the Chinese coronavirus, there is an escalating epidemic of unequal justice and character assault where much of the news media is politically aligned with the rulers in turning a blind eye or complicit in the coverup; and in some cases, ravenously endorses the demise of what has essentially now become political dissidents falsely accused, intimidated, and jailed. While many Americans are attempting to scrape by in difficult times, they remain astute to the moral failure of the elites in power as well as the tacit elected opposition’s assiduous silence in whitewashing the legal duplicity. Historical trends over centuries of betraying the peasants eventually succumbs to a reckoning where the privileged corrupt politician and their corporate fascists will be exposed and held accountable in some fashion.  

Americans are confounded by the coronavirus decrees requiring masks to be worn for thee and not for me double standards. The politicians hammer away at enforcing mask mandates on the common folk, yet they do not adhere to their own edicts while attending fine dining with their elite backers. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Californian Governor Gavin Newsome, and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot all violated their own mask mandates in public venues while the masked servants waited on them.

President Biden was caught on video walking maskless through a swanky Washington restaurant in violation of the District’s laws on facial coverings, yet regular citizens are subject to civil penalties which result in fines of $1000.00 or revocation of licenses during the COVID-19 emergency. In defending the emperor, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said we should ‘not overly focus on moments in time that don’t reflect overarching policy.’ These double standard by the progressives are a far cry from Americans being punished and ostracized all over the country for not wearing a mask.

Identity politics has resulted in two systems of justice – one where BLM rioting and looting is described by the media as peaceful demonstrations and where assaulting police has no criminal consequences; yet the January 6th actions at the Capital has resulted in the largest round up of protesters ever seen in America. It is estimated that the Federal Government has upwards to 70 rioters/trespassers in solitary confinement and they are only let out in a larger area for one hour at 2 am due to COVID. Some of those being held in detention have been charged with trespassing on restricted grounds, others with assault and obstruction, and some haven’t been charged with anything. There are no bail hearings for these political activists yet BLM and Antifa rioters typically spend one night in the brig and let out the next day to rejoin the frontlines of carnage.  

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has vocally pushed for the January 6th ‘insurrectionists’ to be added to the TSA no-fly list. Civil liberties are being trampled by exploiting insurrection fears with people in attendance no longer permitted to take a flight in their own country and they have not been convicted of a crime. This action by the government had previously only happened to suspect foreign terrorists, and now it is happening to Americans under suspicion. We see no similar actions taken against the militant Antifa anarchists who attacked and torched federal buildings in Portland.

Washington DC has essentially been abusing these inmates in captivity. There have been complaints on the nourishment of their fellow Americans where they are served white bread and a packet of tartar sauce. This is ultimately a violation of the 8th Amendment that prohibits the federal government from imposing excessive bail, nor cruel and unusual punishments, and from inflicting unduly harsh penalties. Some judges are expressing concern at the length of these pretrial incarcerations, however they’ve largely deferred to the Justice Department. Meanwhile anarchists who burn down buildings and shoot projectiles at police officers and federal buildings have charges dismissed. Justice is not equal.   

One female trespasser was shot dead by police during the Capital unrest and there was no outcry or charges against the officer. She was white and a Trump supporter. Federal prosecutors are not seeking criminal charges against the police lieutenant whose single shot killed Ashli Babbit, the 14-year veteran who served four tours with the US Airforce. If the unarmed Babbit committed any crime, it would have been for trespassing, a misdemeanor that should have seen her arrested and not slain. The lieutenant’s life was not at risk nor was he saving the lives of others as he stood with numerous police officers in riot gear and strapped with submachine guns. If a member of BLM was shot dead by police during an unlawful riot, there would have been an immediate racial outcry from political elites and from across the news media for justice followed by looting local retailers and ransacking a police precinct. The action by BLM is considered righteous violence whereas the slain Babbit had it coming to her.  

On a very disturbing and new level of injustice is the threatening actions being taken against parents of schoolchildren by the Department of Justice. Most Americans are familiar with the Patriot Act following 9-11 where the National Security Division conducts counterterrorism operations against foreign adversaries planning suicide bombings and stealing nuclear secrets. Now the Biden Administration, under Attorney General Merrick Garland, has turned the NSD’s crosshairs against everyday Americans conducting their civil duties and free speech as school board meetings.

Garland’s actions followed the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) claim that American public schools and its education leaders are under immediate threats and intimidation as parents grow frustrated over the divisive neo-Marxist Critical Race Theory being injected into their children’s curricula. This is clearly an injustice to weaponize the DOJ and FBI investigators to intimidate and arrest parents under the same counterespionage to that of Al Qaeda and ISIS. Parents may be angry, but they are certainly not domestic terrorists in taking on the powerfully partisan school unions who somehow believe they are justified to influence civilization by indoctrinating their children.        

Garland’s poster boy for his hideous partisan support of the NSBA is a Virginia father who was arrested at a school board meeting when he attempted to raise the alarm over his young daughter being raped in the school washroom. The father became the symbol of angry parents confronting school officials when he was taken down by several police officers and apprehended for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. He became vocally upset when school officials denied the attack on his daughter, but he was not physically confrontational.

The father said it is scary that our government will weaponize themselves against parents and they’re using my video across the nation to spread fear; while the school officials did not seem to want to listen to him regarding his daughter being assaulted by a boy wearing a skirt who took advantage of transgender rules to access the girl’s washroom. The boy has now been charged with two counts of forcible sodomy, one count of anal sodomy, and one count of forcible fellatio related to the incident at that school. At a later date, the same boy was charged for a similar attack at neighboring school where he allegedly forced a victim into an empty classroom where he held her against her will and inappropriately touched her.  Regardless of the raped daughter, Garland and the NSBA still have their video of the father being wrestled down to support the use of the FBI against parents and send a chilling effect on harmless dissent.  

The Russian collusion narrative against then President Donald Trump may seem dated, however it can never be swept aside or forgotten in what may well have been the biggest political scandal and injustice to a man in American history. The country endured four years investigating Russian collusion into the legitimacy of Trump’s 2016 presidential win with senate and congressional impeachment hearings over a Clinton-paid-for fake dossier, the biased Obama hatchet men overseeing the FBI and CIA shirking the law, a frenzied media that never let up on Trump’s guilt, and a special counsel comprised of Clinton partisans that turned over every leaf that eventually found the nearly crucified Trump to be innocent of the false charges. The former president had to withstand an incessant blitzkrieg of injustice through his entire presidency while leading the most powerful country in the world.   

On the hand, there is compelling evidence that President Joe Biden spent years while in government enriching himself through family ties, specifically his son Hunter, to the tune of millions of dollars in foreign money from China, Russia, and Ukraine. The foreign players simply used the unqualified son to leverage access to Biden while satisfying Hunter’s greed and questionable lifestyle. Biden has little to no ability to stand up to China or Russia knowing they are holding damaging transactions over his head. There have been no investigations into Biden’s quid-pro-quo against Ukraine or the transfer of tens of millions of dollars to Biden family members, no impeachments, and the news media buried these stories; including damaging information found on Hunter’s laptop during the 2020 presidential election. Had Trump and his sons engaged in these activities, there would have been a very different level of justice.   

What of this injustice that is making its mark on history? If we take a moment to think through the confusion of the moment and see the morale issue involved, then one may refuse to have this sense of justice distorted to grip power rather than for the good of the country. Those who have sown this unjust wind may eventually reap a whirlwind that provokes reform by convulsion of the people instead of a natural order of business. We must all remember that democracy lies with the people of this land and whether the nation will be stirred to stand for justice and freedom in this hour of distress and go on to finish in a way worthy of its beginning.  

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Biden’s Department of Justice: parents as domestic terrorists

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In recent developments in the United States, US Attorney General, Merrick Garland, and the FBI have put under the FBI radar parents as potential domestic terrorists. You heard it right. This is now a new formal legal policy contained in memos of the Department of Justice trying to reign in parents discussions on Biden’s new school curricula. They are not going after potential outbursts but outright terrorism. 

This is an attack on freedom of speech in the sense that parents have the right to discuss and disagree with the new Biden school curricula. This is where the issue originated: parts of Biden’s new school curricula are not accepted by many parents and if they disagree, the FBI treats them now as potential domestic terrorists as a matter of policy. Apart from a First Amendment case, this is also a case for international human rights law and I reported the development to the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of speech this week hoping to get a statement.

The Department of Justice is referring to some constitutional provision on “intimidation of views” to override and take down one of the most firmly established rights, the right to freedom of speech, in quite frankly a ridiculous interpretation. Those parents that dare to speak up against controversial parts in the new text books could be investigated for domestic terrorism. This is the most incompetent interpretation on limitations of freedom of speech I have seen in awhile. 

Garland and the FBI have totally lost their marbles. The woke discussion is not funny to me anymore. It increasingly looks like a woke tyranny that has nothing to do with rights and equality anymore but simply serves as a vehicle to empower the FBI to run wild against regular people. This lunacy needs to be stopped.

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Iran poll contains different messages for Biden and Raisi

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“It’s the economy, stupid.” That is the message of a just-published survey of Iranian public opinion.

However, the substance of the message differs for newly elected hardline Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and the Biden administration as Mr. Raisi toughens his negotiating position and the United States grapples with alternative ways of curbing the Islamic republic’s nuclear programme should the parties fail to agree on terms for the revival of the 2015 international agreement.

Iranians surveyed last month by Iran Poll and the University of Maryland’s Center for International and Security Studies were telling Mr. Raisi that they are looking to him to alleviate Iran’s economic and other problems and have little hope that a revived nuclear agreement will make the difference, given lack of trust in US and European compliance with any agreement reached.

The Iranians polled seemed in majority to endorse some form of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s notion of a “resistance economy” as a way of blunting the impact of the US sanctions imposed by former President Donald J. Trump after he walked away from the nuclear agreement in 2018. Some 65 per cent of the responders said they favoured a self-sufficient economy; 54.2 per cent expected the economy to at least improve somewhat in the next three years.

A large number expressed confidence that Mr. Raisi would significantly lower inflation and unemployment, increase Iran’s trade with other countries, control the pandemic and root out corruption.

Meanwhile, 63 per cent suggested that Iran’s economic situation would be the same, if not better, if there were no return to the agreement and the government continued to pursue a civil nuclear programme. The figure seemed at odds with the 80 per cent who said Iran’s economic situation would improve if Iran and the United States returned to the agreement and both fulfilled their obligations under the deal.

The divergence may be a function of the fact that the poll, unsurprisingly, indicated that Iranians (64.7 per cent) had little trust in the United States living up to its commitments even though they expected the Biden administration to return to the deal (57.9 per cent). As a result, 73.1 per cent of those surveyed said Iran should not make concessions given that world powers would not live up to commitments they make in return.

At the same time, 63 per cent blamed the troubled state of the economy on domestic mismanagement rather than US sanctions. Only 34.4 per cent believed that the sanctions were the main cause of their economic difficulty. Iranians pointing the finger at the government rather than external forces was also reflected in the 60.5 per cent of those polled blaming Iran’s water shortages on mismanagement and bad policies.

The poll suggested that by emphasising domestic mismanagement, Iranians were going to judge Mr. Raisi on his success or failure in countering the debilitating effect of the sanctions even though 77.5 per cent of those surveyed said that the sanctions had a negative or somewhat negative impact on the economy.

Implicitly, Iranians were holding former Iranian President Hassan Rouhani responsible for the mismanagement given that Mr. Raisi only took office in August. Rated very favourable by 61.2 per cent of Iranians surveyed in 2015, Mr. Rouhani’s favorability dropped to 4.6 per cent in the most recent poll. By contrast, the favourable views of Mr. Raisi soared from 38.3 per cent in 2014 to 77 per cent last month. IranPoll and the Center have been conducting annual of surveys since 2014.

Mr. Raisi may have taken pleasure from that but more importantly, the poll implicitly suggested that he does not have much time to produce results before his significant public support starts to wane.

Of those polled, 66.7 per cent expected Mr. Raisi to improve Iran’s international standing, 55.7 per cent said he would be in a better position to negotiate with world powers, and 45.2 per cent predicted that he would enhance Iran’s security. Those expectations may have been to some degree validated in the public’s mind by last month’s acceptance of Iran’s application for membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) that groups China, Russia, India, Pakistan and several Central Asian states.

The survey results seemed to suggest that ordinary Iranians were framing their message to the United States differently from the assessment of prominent scholars and analysts. The divergence may well be one primarily of timing but nonetheless has implications for policymaking in Washington. The message of the respondents to the poll was one of immediate impact while analysts and scholars appear to be looking at the middle term.

Without referring to the poll, Vienna-based economist and strategic consultant Bijan Khajehpour argued this week, seemingly contrary to the poll, that “mismanagement and the Covid-19 pandemic have both contributed to Iran’s poor economic performance in recent years, but it remains that US sanctions…will be the key factor in determining Iran’s future prospects.”

Mr. Khajehpour went on to say that “high inflation, capital flight and the erosion of household purchasing power alongside mismanagement of resources and the deterioration of the country’s infrastructure have the potential to spark more protests and further undermine the already faltering legitimacy of the Islamic Republic in the eyes of the public.”

No doubt, the jury is out on how Iranians respond if and when Mr. Raisi fails to live up to their expectations. If the past is any indication, Iranians have repeatedly taken to the streets at often substantial risk to liberty and life to make their discontent with government performance evident as they did with the low turnout in this year’s election that brought Mr. Raisi to power.

The risk of renewed protests was reflected in the fact that responses to various questions regarding the electoral system, the limited number of presidential candidates (because many were barred from running), and the public health system showed that it was often a slim majority at best that expressed confidence in the system.

Add to that the fact that 68 per cent of respondents to the poll said that the objectives of past protests had been a demand that officials pay greater attention to people’s problems.

Yet, at the same time, they were telling the United States that its efforts to generate pressure on Iranian leaders to moderate their nuclear and regional policies by imposing harsh sanctions had for now backfired. Iranians were backing a tougher negotiating position by the Raisi government.

Ultimately that could be a double-edged sword for Mr. Raisi. He has to prove that he can be tough on the United States and simultaneously improve the lives of ordinary Iranians. Failure to do so could have in Mr. Khajehpour’s words “unpredictable consequences.”

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