national security

Potporri – v 13.0


Reading time – 5:44  .  .  .

Culture Wars

I vacillate. I go to boiling anger over what Republicans are doing, like voter suppression, stoking of hatred, flagrantly lying and supplicating themselves in spineless obeisance to the immoralities and anti-democracy molestation done by Donald Trump. In contrast, in my more enlightened moments I look for how we will move forward together in this country, even in the presence of millions who would rather make war than peace. So, if reading these posts gives you a bit of whiplash, that vacillation probably explains it. Send me your chiropractor bill.

Culture clash case in point

Read this from the Washington Post report on violence at the numerically misnamed Million MAGA March last weekend (the actual number of attendees was 1/100th of the claim):

“On stark display in the nation’s capital were two irreconcilable versions of America, each refusing to accept what the other considered to be undeniable fact.”

We’re bedeviled by divisions that run deep, fueled by our moral certainties, such that compromise feels like  an affront against God. In the face of these dueling, absolutist convictions, how will we find a way forward with one another?

I wish I had an answer to that question. Actually, I wish that anyone had an answer. Perhaps the Braver Angels folks can give us some direction.

I do know that hate begets hate and won’t help anything beyond a momentary but illusory jolt of feeling powerful. Maybe we can find some clarity from a review of this essay. It was offered by Jeffrey H. Smith, who recently found a letter his father wrote to him in 1945. It contains great wisdom and I recommend it to you.

Donald Trump had been in office almost one year when I penned my first post about our embattled culture. It’s worth another look, as we plunge headlong into a new administration that has pledged to begin to heal our vexing national divide. Our healing will be no small task and will not be for the feint of heart.

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Race In America, Year 401

Do you think you understand race in America? I think I do, yet I most certainly don’t.

Caroline Randall Williams is an author and writer in residence at Vanderbilt University. She has penned yet another stunning essay which I wholeheartedly recommend to you if you want to learn about race from someone who lives our national conundrum every day. Find it here.

As well, read her highly acclaimed op-ed, ‘My Body Is a Confederate Monument’: Slavery, Rape and Reframing the Past. She begins her essay,

“I have rape-colored skin. My light-brown-blackness is a living testament to the rules, the practices, the causes of the Old South.”

Williams gives a clarity about race that can help us to understand – or at least more fully appreciate – the truth. She is so bright and so clear that I would listen to her read the phone book – if we still had phone books.

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  • A Covid Vaccine and You

    Trump doesn’t get this, but you do: The problem won’t go away without taking the cure. Even if the cure is painful, at least it’s temporary. Without it, the pandemic is permanent.

    There was a time when education, knowledge and learning were considered good things. We believed in science, evidentiary facts, research and other things. President Kennedy told us that college is America’s best friend and we believed him. It was a time when we trusted science to eradicate diseases like smallpox and polio. We’re there on smallpox and nearly there with polio.* When experts talked we listened and we usually followed their advice because they knew a lot more than we did. Now, though, it seems we have no need for such expertise or education, knowledge, learning or even facts, which leads to vaccine refusal.

  • The recent announcements by Pfizer and Moderna of fabulous protection by their vaccines from COVID-19 are public announcements that make shareholders happy. But their products aren’t ready for prime time because we need our FDA to review them before these products receive approval for use. Therein lies the stumbling block.
  • Take a look at the chart below. It tells us that even if a vaccine were to cut the risk of contracting COVID-19 by 90%, fewer than 70% of Americans would get vaccinated and that would allow the pandemic to continue. What do you suppose is behind that apparently self-defeating attitude?
  • Confidence in a vaccine has been undercut by Trump’s politicization of the process, corner cutting and general dishonesty about medicine and science, as well as his months of promises of vaccines coming “very soon.” (Side note: If you wait long enough, “very soon” becomes accurate.)
  • The problem Americans have with vaccines now is that we have reluctance to believe in the efficacy of any vaccine, and we’re not sure we’ll be safe from potentially lethal side effects, all due to Trump having compromised the FDA with his pressure to take shortcuts. In other words, we have to hope our fine FDA folks will refuse to succumb to Trump’s pressure and instead do their usual excellent work. (See the sidebar below.)

Click me for the story

Of course, vaccine refusal will be exacerbated by millions of people refusing to wear masks, socially distance or do much of anything to curtail this pandemic. That intransigence has made us #1 in the world in infections, hospitalizations and death, which seems to be our official national policy. Here’s what is behind that.

Trump’s coronavirus expert is neuro-radiologist Dr. Scott Atlas, a true blue coronavirus ignorant. Atlas hasn’t practiced medicine for over 10 years, but he has frequently opined on Fox News, which was enough for Trump to hire him. That wasn’t snark; it’s literally true.

Click the sidebar and read at least the first paragraph of the Times article.

When Atlas was a practicing doctor his expertise was in reading CT and MRI scans. He had no training in and knew nothing about dealing with viruses or pandemics. He still doesn’t.

Until vaccines are widely available to all 320,000,000 of us (and they are proven to our satisfaction to be both safe and effective, such that we’ll take them), Trump and Atlas want to force us to rely on herd immunity for protection. That’s the coronavirus fighting strategy of giving up. Playing and then being dead.

Sweden initially tried this surrender technique, but they realized fairly quickly that all they were accomplishing was the eradication of the population of their country. Since then they’ve stopped that craziness and they are (don’t get ahead of me) wearing masks, social distancing and washing hands.

The experts (in contrast to Trump and Atlas) tell us that seeking herd immunity in the U.S. will result in 2 – 4 million dead Americans if allowed to run its course. Honk your horn if you love that plan. If you don’t love that plan, put on your damn mask.

No vaccine will arrive in time for the 1,300 healthcare workers who have died trying to save others. They died because of the official White House policy of foot dragging to achieve herd immunity. That denied these healthcare heroes sufficient PPE to protect themselves. What should we call that? Words like “betrayal” and “accessory to homicide” come to mind. Come up with your own descriptors.

Our dedicated healthcare professionals give their all – literally – in overlong shifts, working every overlong day trying to save us from ourselves. Have no illusions about this: We’re still denying them what they need in order for them to be safe.

Here’s a quotation from Abba Eban, former Israeli politician and ambassador. It seems perfect for our time of inept pandemic leadership:

“Men and nations behave wisely when they have exhausted all other resources.”**

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Divided Government

If you like it, no need to read further, except for the footnotes.

If you don’t want divided government, if you want the Ds to be marginally in control of the Senate, you better not sit on your hands.

I wrote about why Biden won while at the same time the Rs gained ground in state governments, the House and held their seats in the Senate. The Rs will win the two Georgia Senate seats still in contest if Democrats play their cards the same way for the January 5 run-off elections as they did for the general election. If you’re aligned with the Ds and want a better outcome, you must do three things:

  1. Don’t scare the poo out of moderate voters. Just shut up about far left policies and notions (Green New Deal, Defund the Police, etc.) because those extreme ideas are repugnant to moderate voters and they are the ones who are going to decide who gets those Senate seats.
  2. Contribute to the D candidates. This is going to be a stupidly expensive campaign. The most money spent doesn’t always win (ask Jamie Harrison in South Carolina), but it sure helps a lot when the other side is blanketing the airwaves, social media, billboards, bumper stickers and knocking on every door in the state multiple times. Either Ossoff and Warnock will have the weapons to win this battle or they will lose. Be a passive observer at your peril. Way better is to help out.
  3. Reach out to register and remind Georgia voters.
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*Except for a number of American anti-vax knuckleheads who have refused to protect their children from polio and who have consequently managed to give polio a resurgence in America. Be sure to ask someone who survived polio what they think of those people.

**I had originally heard a version of this identified as a Winston Churchill quotation and have subsequently learned that both the attribution and the quotation itself are incorrect. Since Churchill never said it, I’ll modify it slightly and claim it as my own. Feel free to quote me thusly:

“We Americans always do the right thing – after we’ve tried everything else first.”

  • —————————————-

    Ed. note: We need to spread the word so that we make a critical difference, so,

    1. Did someone forward this to you? Welcome! Please subscribe and pass this along to three others, encouraging them to subscribe, too. (IT’S A FREEBIE!) Use the simple form above on the right.
    2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all to be better informed.

    Thanks!

    The Fine Print:

    1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
    2. Sometimes I change my opinions because I’ve learned more about an issue. So, educate me. That’s what the Comments section is for.
    3. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling and punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
    4. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.

    JA


Copyright 2021 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

An Historical Perspective


Join the Disambiguation Gang right over there (scroll down just a bit) →

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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Ed. note: We need to spread the word so that we make a critical difference, so,

  1. Did someone forward this to you? Welcome! Please subscribe and pass this along to three others, encouraging them to subscribe, too. (IT’S A FREEBIE!) Use the simple form above on the right.
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all to be better informed.

Thanks!

The Fine Print:

  1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
  2. Sometimes I change my opinions because I’ve learned more about an issue. So, educate me. That’s what the Comments section is for.
  3. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling and punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
  4. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.

JA


Copyright 2021 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.

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe and engage.  Thanks!  JA

 


Copyright 2021 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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