national security

An Historical Perspective


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Reading time – 3:18 .  .  .

COVID-19 has at last caught up to our science-denying President. Of course, it was inevitable, given his flaunting of all protections, other than getting tested, which isn’t protection at all. By the time someone tests positive they’re already both sick and contagious.

In President Trump’s case, he did what he always does: He thought only of himself and managed to knowingly infect many others, including hundreds at his Bedminster club. The next episode of his contagion spreading happened Sunday at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. He went for a joyride to greet the crowds lining Rockville Pike at the western edge of the hospital campus. He rode in the President’s armored, hermetically sealed SUV, along with his Secret Service detail of 2 agents.

In a sealed vehicle.

As he exhaled clouds of coronavirus containing droplets.

They were all wearing masks, but that isn’t complete protection for the Secret Service agents from Trump’s viral fog in that sealed space. The extra bad news is that whatever infection was passed from Trump to those agents they’re going to take home to their families.

On the other hand, I’m sure Trump appeared to be the strong warrior to his fans on the sidewalk. Being a tough guy is very important to all of them, Trump included. Knowing that helps to explain the schoolyard bully behavior of demeaning others and name calling. For them, putting others down is a strength of character thing. King of the mountain. Manly man. Macho. Puff-up stuff.

When Trump arrived back at the White House on Monday evening he stood on the Truman balcony and saluted Mussolini-style. The last thing he did before turning and walking inside was to strip off his mask, heedless of the infection he was almost certain to spread to others in the always heavily-peopled White House.

From the New York Times Tuesday morning newsletter,

“’Don’t be afraid of Covid,’ President Trump tweeted, on the same day that the White House outbreak spread further and another several hundred Americans died from virus complications.”

This is just the latest series of incidents to generate this question: What would the hair-on-fire Republicans be saying if instead it had been President Obama going for that joyride and entering the White House mask-less?

They’d be apoplectic. They’d be maniacally blurting and frothing. They would be all over cable news and on the Sunday talk shows with their eyes bulging and the veins in their necks throbbing in self-righteous indignation and rage. We know that because we saw that almost weekly for the 8 years of the Obama administration. They even went berserk over Obama wearing a tan suit.

If you close your eyes and listen carefully, you can almost hear their wailing today:

“O’ the fecklessness!” (They liked to use that word when speaking about President Obama.)*

“O’ the betrayal of our brave Secret Service agents!”

“O’ the abandoning of our national security!”

“Woe be unto us from this reckless, feckless Black president!” They’d leave out “Black” but everyone would hear the dog whistle just the same.

That’s not what’s happening in reaction to President Trump’s joyride and his restarted campaign to infect White House staff. The Republicans are absolutely silent about what Trump has done. I guess fecklessness, the lives of Secret Service agents and the White House staff and Trump’s ditching of our national security just don’t matter as much now as they did back in the Obama years.

Or perhaps this is just another Republican spineless moment. Time for an additional Jellyfish Award. And time to vote these invertebrates out of office before they do yet more damage.

Numbers of Note

7.4 million Americans have been infected by the coronavirus. That’s 2.2% of our total population. Of those infected, over 211,000 have died.** That’s a COVID-19 mortality rate of 2.8%. Roughly 200,000 more are predicted to die by the end of the year.

The seasonal flu is not a reportable disease, so the CDC doesn’t have perfect numbers for it. Their best estimates are that in 2019-2020 between 39 – 56 million Americans became sick from seasonal flu (that’s between 11.8% and 17% of our total population) and between 24 – 62 thousand died. That’s a seasonal flu mortality rate of 0.06% – 0.11%.

That means the mortality rate of COVID-19 is at least 25 times worse than seasonal flu.

This pandemic  is not “no worse than the seasonal flu.” It’s deadlier. And it hasn’t and it won’t “miraculously disappear,” especially if we continue to refuse to do what is necessary to beat it.

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*Feckless: lacking initiative or strength of character; irresponsible.

**It’s likely that approximately 80,000 additional people have died of COVID-19 in the U.S., based on several analyses. Precise reporting is quite difficult in the middle of a pandemic; plus, there have been many deaths at home or otherwise away from reporting centers due largely to an overwhelmed medical system.

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Copyright 2020 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Why We’re Watching


Reading time – 3:36; Viewing time – 4:44  .  . .

The Watergate story is an epic one of a petty political crime, dogged investigation, political intrigue, Congressional courage and cowardice and a foolish obstruction of justice that brought down a paranoid president and sent his underlings to prison. It threatened the stability of our country as few things have and the impeachment hearings themselves were riveting political theater. Nothing since then has captured our national attention in that way. Until now.

James Comey, the fired former FBI Director, former Assistant Attorney General and consistent non-supplicant to President Trump will testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee tomorrow. He will be free to speak about anything that isn’t classified or part of an ongoing investigation, so we are expecting him to refute Trump’s claims about Comey’s alleged comments to the president over whether Trump was under investigation in connection with Russian hacking. Further, we’ll be looking for Comey’s testimony pertaining to implications of obstruction of justice by this president. We are poised to watch like we haven’t been since 1974, because this, too, is nothing if not riveting political theater.

But all of that matters far more than the value of the entertainment spectacle, because:

  1. This president has offended our dearest and longest term allies, including Canada, Mexico, Australia, Great Britain, Germany, France, and more, isolating and weakening those countries and our own. Who do you suppose will benefit from the erosion of our strength? It might be Russia.
  2. This president has undermined NATO, our strongest military alliance and bulwark against an aggressive Russia. I reiterate the question about who benefits from the erosion of our strength.
  3. This president has lauded despicable dictators and political strongmen in the Philippines, Turkey, China, the Ukraine, Saudi Arabia, the Palestinian territories, and, of course, Russia.
  4. This president has announced the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, leaving world leadership of this entire issue to China and ensuring higher energy prices which will benefit Russia.
  5. This president has rallied middle east leaders against Qatar, where we have our largest military presence in the region, threatening our ability to keep our forces there, which would benefit Iran and, of course, Russia.
  6. This president began investigating the removal of Obama era sanctions against Russia over its invasion of the Ukraine and the Crimea and for meddling in our election, this even before this president took office. The sanctions removal Trump sought would be without conditions or anything favoring the U.S. and benefiting only Russia.
  7. This president has named as heads of departments of government people who are expressly opposed to even the existence of the departments they lead and they have already begun neutering their organizations and endangering America and Americans.
  8. This president has refused to staff the departments of the executive branch of government so that we are woefully unprepared to ensure our government will work. Over 1,000 positions remain unfilled.

In his less than 140 days in office this president has consistently acted to strengthen Russia’s influence. At the same time, this president has done much to weaken the United States, seemingly in line with the desires of his chief strategist Stephen Bannon, who is a self-described Leninist and wants, ”  .  .  .  to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.” Trump’s motives are suspect in the extreme.

The Comey testimony and that of our intelligence officials are more than riveting political theater; they are critical to the safety and security of America. That’s why we’re watching.

Finally, you made it this far, so give yourself a treat by watching this video of artist Joe Everson as he paints and sings the National Anthem at a Toledo Walleye hockey game last October. This, I promise, will give you goose bumps.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

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Copyright 2020 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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