Nero

Proper Names


Trump has abandoned nearly all presidential duties since November 3. What’s missing from this list?

Reading time – 3:29  .  .  .

The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper name. – Confucius

The Crash occurred in October of 1929 during Herbert Hoover’s first year as President. He had been successful in business and had held several high level government posts where he produced good results. He beat Al Smith in the 1928 presidential election, was sworn in and proceeded to bungle his presidency because of his grossly inadequate response to the Great Depression.

Hoover opposed efforts to provide federal relief measures for the millions of suffering Americans, which was quite odd. He had led the American Relief Administration to help European countries following WW I and also led the federal response to the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 to provide emergency relief. But he refused to do the things that were needed to help struggling Americans and to dig this country out of the depression.

Seattle Hooverville

One of the outcomes of Hoover’s intransigence was an enormous amount of homelessness. People were evicted for nonpayment of rent, but they didn’t just vanish. The had to go somewhere, so they found what materials they could and built ramshackle shelters. These hovels joined with others to create slums and there were hundreds of these miserable villages of homeless people all across the country. In a derisive gesture at the insufficient actions of the president they were called “Hoovervilles”.

Hoover wasn’t responsible for the crash, just as Trump isn’t responsible for the virus. Each of them, though, is accountable for their response to an American catastrophe that confronted them and each failed miserably. Hoover refused to do what was necessary. Trump blatantly said, “I don’t take responsibility at all.”

Click me

Trump proceeded to make a lot of noise about Covid-19, promising wildly impossible things (“It’s going to disappear. One day — it’s like a miracle — it will disappear.”), recommending treatments that are ineffective (hydroxychloroquine) or even toxic (Lysol and Clorox) and doing effectively nothing to protect the people. We’re nearly a year into the pandemic and we are still woefully short of PPE, Covid tests, contact tracing to create safety quarantines, and leadership to encourage the simple preventive measures that can minimize our suffering and deaths. There are vaccines, but Trump has refused to see the job through, making it impossible to get vaccines into American arms rapidly. Instead of helping the people, he’s still doing his “don’t blame me” dance. Trump’s refusal to take responsibility means that he put Harry Truman’s “The buck stops here” sign into locked storage and abandoned his post.

The old saying is that Nero fiddled while Rome burned, but of course that isn’t literally true. The violin wasn’t invented until 1500 years after his death. But, “His infamous reign is usually associated with tyranny, extravagance” and ruthlessness. He killed his own mother. Perhaps oddly, Nero was a populist, having captured the fancy of many commoners. Nevertheless, Nero was a cruel sociopath.

Most of those descriptors of Nero sound painfully familiar today. Instead of his fiddling, we can accurately say that Trump golfed while hundreds of thousands died. It’s projected that 700,000 Americans will be dead from this disease by the time 75% of us are vaccinated some time late this year. At 2,000 – 3,000 deaths per day over the winter, the math is pretty simple. If the vaccine distribution problem isn’t fixed quickly, the mortality numbers will be far worse.

Roughly 75% of all of the deaths from this pandemic would not have occurred with proper presidential leadership from the start (see this).  The number of excess deaths caused by Trump’s ineptitude and intransigence are staggering. Biden’s plan should help, but the momentum is baked in for producing a terrible total.

Vaccines stuck in warehouses or on hospital shelves don’t help a bit.

It’s crucial that we apply the proper name to Trump’s well-earned responsibility for our massive, preventable suffering and death. What shall we call that? Trump Fever? Death by Sociopath? Leadership Abandonment Syndrome?

And what is the proper name for the slums of today that are populated by people displaced by this pandemic? Trumpvilles? MAGA Motels? Trump Tower Slums?

History will record the craziness of these years and the great harm brought to our country by a madman. There will be headlined paragraphs in history textbooks with the proper names for these times. One will be American Supplication to Russia. Another will be The Massive Assault on Democracy. Still another will be When America Abandoned Reality. But the biggest, boldest headline of all will be Massive Death and Suffering By Presidential Abandonment.

Here’s hoping that we learn the painful lessons* before us and make 2021 the year we restarted America’s great march to form a more perfect union.

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  • * Try this on for a painful lesson we need to learn.
  • From a recent commentary: “the casualties to date are shocking and far in excess of what was expected  .  .  .” But are we really shocked?
  • Front line healthcare workers have been shocked. Families of the dead were shocked. The unemployed and food insecure are shocked. But a huge percentage of Americans – tens, perhaps hundreds of millions of us – go on with only minor changes to our lives, which doesn’t result in shock – only minor inconvenience. Worse, the numbers of the infected, hospitalized and dead are so large as to be mere statistics without an apparent connection to human beings and their suffering. It seems that there is no shock unless people are impacted directly. Perhaps we have a national empathy outage.
  • What shall we do with this lesson?
  • And millions of Americans oddly refuse to believe that Covid-19 is real. With the reality of suffering and death all around, they steadfastly hold to their claim that it’s a hoax and respond to calls for simple public health measures with refusal and scorn. Of course, that spreads the disease quite efficiently, which means far more people get sick.
  • What is the lesson begging for understanding in that?

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

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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. Said John Maynard Keynes, “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?” So, educate me and all of us. 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.

Consequences In One Long and Two Short Parts


Reading time – 5:36  .  .  .

Part 1. Healthcare Wake-Up

The Kaiser Family Foundation just reported that, “.  .  .  nearly 27 million people will lose health insurance as a result of being laid off during the COVID-19 pandemic.” Some will go on the ACA exchanges; the majority will wind up on Medicaid; and 6 million poor Americans will have no insurance at all to cover the enormous expense of battling COVID-19 or any other malady and will have to figure out the impossible. Said another way, these folks are already struggling to stay financially afloat and a COVID-19 anvil may be dumped hard onto their little boat.

I know a fellow who commented on a different catastrophe, offering a Machiavellian (or Ayn Randian) comment that sounded like this: “It’s sad, but they made their choices and now they have to live with the consequences.” Is that our official attitude toward poor people?

We’re now being told to get out there, go back to work and go shopping, where we will encounter lots of nice people, some of whom will be disease carriers and may send us to the hospital. I worry what will happen in 2 – 3 weeks to those who are packing bars now and are not wearing face masks. Indeed, the CDC tells us that the likelihood of infection is growing greater in many parts of the country.

Wait, greater? And we’re supposed to go back to work and drive the numbers still higher?

Yes, because we’re warriors, wartime President Nero tells us. So, get out there and fight. Drive up herd immunity, which to the best of my understanding, means that those who manage to survive this deadly virus will probably have immunity. Or not. The experts really don’t know how that will work. And you have to get sick first to get that immunity but you might die from the infection long before you would have become immune. Further, well over 6 million Americans won’t be able to pay for their healthcare if they survive the disease.

Can we agree that we need to figure out the best way for all of us to be able to get healthcare when we need it? Actually, we don’t all agree about that, but the overwhelming majority of us do. If that’s the goal, then how do we get there?

What I see is that we’re about to pay for the healthcare, one way or another, for an additional 27 million Americans who got laid off due to the pandemic and who have little or no insurance. What if we just put on our big boy and big girl pants and face up to the facts that the bumper stickers are right, that shit happens, and that we think everyone should be able to get healthcare irrespective of their wealth? We’re paying for much of it anyway, so what if we were intentional and created a really good solution?

I can hear Libertarians wailing and can see Ayn Rand true believers bent over with cramps. I only have two problems with that rugged individualist philosophy. First, it only works for people who are young, healthy and strong. If you can’t check all three boxes, you’re screwed. Second, Ayn Rand wrote novels – fantasies – all of it was not-real, didn’t happen stuff. Doing so brought her fame, fortune and popularity with idealistic (mostly) young men during their formative years. Most of us grew out of believing in the made-up story not long after finding out that there is no Tooth Fairy. Sen. Rand Paul and members of the House Freedom Caucus, however, didn’t get the message and are still looking under their pillows every morning. Okay, that was snark.

We’re living in the real world where not everyone is young, healthy and strong – or wealthy. Not everyone had open to them the path to true free market enlightenment and success. Some are being cast adrift due to layoffs. Doing nothing while watching that little boat of theirs sink after the anvil crashes into it is a cruel consequence of our own design.

There is a Jewish imperative – Tikkun Olam – which means “repair the world.” The Boy Scout version of that is to always leave your campsite better than you found it. Pretty good ideas. No, actually they are imperatives. What repairs are we doing to leave things better than we found them? It is our obligation to our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren and they are counting on us to do the right things right now.

Which brings us to,

Part 2. Napoleon

There is no shortage of commentary about both what Joe Biden should be doing now, as well as speculation about his relative lack of visibility. I’m reminded of a quotation from Napoleon used by Theodore White in his book The Making of the President 1964. White wrote,

“Never were Republicans denounced [by President Johnson] as such; the opposition was involved in its own civil war, and the president obeyed Napoleon’s maxim: Never interfere with the enemy when he is in the process of destroying himself.”

That proved to be a big help in sending Johnson’s opponent, Sen. Barry Goldwater, back to Arizona and I’m wondering if that is the advice Joe Biden is following today.

In that light, you must read Frank Bruni’s piece from April 26, “Trump Self-Destructs.” He ends his essay this way:

“Americans who take any comfort from [Trump’s nightly coronavirus briefings] were Trump-drunk long ago. The unbesotted see and hear the president for what he is: a tone-deaf showman who regards everything, even a mountain of corpses, as a stage.”

Which brings us to,

Part 3. The Math Update

Our first reported death from coronavirus was on February 6; the next two deaths were on February 26. Things ramped up slowly at first and then, as you well know, the death count ramped up very quickly.

It has been 100 days since that first case and we now have a minimum of 89,000 of our fellow citizens dead from coronavirus. We’re losing about 2,000 of our friends, neighbors and family every day, which translates to a Pearl Harbor every 1.2 days and a 9/11 every 1.5 days. The White House tells us that things could get worse and predicts that 100,000 – 240,000 Americans will die from this disease.

Well, things are worse right now. We better be really careful how we “open up” our economy, including doing COVID-19 testing in numbers a couple of orders of magnitude greater than we’re doing now or we may find out that the White House finally got something right – the counting of our dead. And that is a disastrous consequence of our federal ineptitude.

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

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!).
  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. Refreshing when someone wants to get the facts right, eh?
  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.

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