responsibiliy

Potpourri – v12.0


Reading time – 5:15  .  .  .

BREAKING NEWS!

Hope Hicks, President Trump’s closest aide, has tested positive for coronavirus. Hours after the announcement of her infection we learned that both the president and Mrs. Trump had tested positive for coronavirus, too. So have some senators and White House staffers, with more surely in the Covid queue. That isn’t the breaking news.

The important story for America is that even after learning he had been exposed to the infected Hicks, Trump continued his normal schedule, including a round-table with supporters and a fundraiser reception, both at his Bedminster, NJ club. He did all that without wearing a mask.

There have been subsequent unverified reports that he didn’t know he had been exposed prior to the Bedminster events. Regardless, Trump remains a one man super-spreader event and a totem, a roll model for the third of this nation that is in denial about this disease.

Also note that Trump was in close proximity to V.P. Joe Biden and Chris Wallace at the debate on Tuesday night. And the president was talking loudly, projecting clouds of his spittle, necessarily putting the others at risk.

I am steadfastly resisting the enormous urge to send a “We told you so” tweet to our now hospitalized president and am proud that instead I’m wishing him and the rest of the infected good health. I’m proud, too, of Joe Biden for withdrawing criticizing ads of Trump while he’s down. It’s a visible demonstration of the decency Biden has promised to bring to the White House, even though, as of this writing, Trump has continued his attack ads against Biden. As I’ve said, there is no low that is so low that Trump won’t go there.

For now, I fervently hope the leaders of the Democrats are devising a plan for the election if Biden goes down sick due to Trump projecting his infection at him and he can no longer run for office. And, because it would be unseemly to kick Trump while he’s down, Kamala Harris and her team better be retoolng her V.P. debate focus.

Going after Pence won’t take long. Everyone knows he’s smarmy, disingenuous and plainly dishonest. Indianans were in the process of throwing him out of the governor’s office when the V.P. gig lifeline was thrown to him. He really isn’t worth much attention. That leaves the rest of the 90 minutes for Kamala to go after Trump, now having to do it gently. Bummer for the former prosecutor.

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It’s So Taxing

Trump claimed hundreds of millions of dollars in profit while at the same time claiming a $47 million loss on his IRS tax form, so he paid no taxes. Imagine if you tried such a deception.

He has hundreds of millions of dollars of loans – debt – money owed – coming due within the next four years and he has no way to pay it back. Plus, we don’t know to whom he owes that money – could be Vladimir Putin or Mohammad bin Salman, which would raise enormous national security issues.

For anyone else, that much debt from any source would disqualify him/her from even the lowest security clearance, because anyone’s knowledge of the debt is kompromat and the enormity of it is financial leverage. In the absence of seeing Trump’s financial documents we’re left wondering who has Trump’s privates in their vice.

Trump was facing financial disaster in 1990, so he did what any enterprising fellow would do: he attempted to grab all of his father’s wealth for himself. He sent a lawyer and an accountant to the elder Trump’s home to get him to change his will. He did that as his father was falling into dementia. With that kind of self-serving pathology as his guide, what do you imagine Trump would do to the United States over four more years and with all that debt hanging over his head?

This is President Flim-Flam and, sadly, Lincoln was right about being able to fool some of the people all of the time. None of Trump’s malfeasance means a thing to his ardent, information refusing supporters. Many of them are prepared to use violence against fellow Americans in support of him, as they wave their American flags and misuse Thomas Jefferson’s Tree of Liberty quote, imagining themselves to be patriots in their flagrant law breaking. And all the while Trump eggs them on.

Perhaps some of the independents, the folks in the middle, will figure out they’ve been victims of the biggest scam in our history and will act accordingly in this election to stop the madness.

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From Peter Strzok’s book COMPROMISED

Page XXIII

Speaking about having lived in 4 countries that each went through revolution by a strongman dictator, Strzok writes, ”  .  .  .  all shared common characteristics, and all taught me lessons about dictators and authoritarians and their hunger to consolidate power and obtain – or at least convey – legitimacy. That quest for legitimacy played out in a host of ways. One was the desire to manipulate, control, or discredit media. A relentless distortion of reality numbs a country’s populace to outrage and weakens its ability to discern truth from fiction.

“Another way dictators sought to secure power and legitimacy was by co-opting the power of the state – its military, law enforcement, and judicial systems – to carry out personal goals and vendettas rather than the nation’s needs.

“Still another was by undermining dissent, questioning the validity of opposition and refusing to honor public will, up to and including threatening or preventing the peaceful transfer of power.”

Page 307

“Authoritarian leaders and tin-pot dictators don’t tolerate dissent or criticism, and when they hear it, they smear their critics in outlandish terms, as traitors, as enemies of the people, as saboteurs and spies. If they can imprison or execute their critics, they frequently do. If they can’t they call for their imprisonment [think: “Lock her up.”] or execution instead, or demand mob retribution against them. Corrupt and compromised, with no moral center and no ethics and only their own self-interests to guide them, such leaders see criticism as a challenge to their legitimacy and, when challenged continuously, rage louder – ruining lives, destroying careers, and worse.”

“One of [the pipe bomber, Cesar] Sayoc’s attorneys would later explain in court that his client’s ‘blind admiration for the president’ [much like MAGA hat wearers] had fed his spiral toward violence. ‘It is impossible, I believe,’ the lawyer said, ‘to separate the political climate and his mental illness.'”

Strzok continued, speaking of “[Trump’s] impact on the vulnerable fringes of American society, on troubled people susceptible to suggestions and inflammatory rhetoric.”

Somebody please tell me what the violence-prone Trump supporters will do when Trump loses and continues his ranting about a rigged election, fake news, lock somebody up and dog whistle calls to violence.

Read traditional conservative David Brooks’ eyes-wide-open comments about the chaos debate last week, the immoralist who created it and the threat it signals for America.

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Coronavirus – Again

We’ve known all along what to do to stop dying from COVID-19. And how to stop suffering debilitating illness from it. And the way to prevent long term lung and heart damage. I wrote about that here.

We haven’t done those things.

Leadership has lied about proper protocols, waffled on protections, recommended lethal cures and valueless treatments and refused most positive actions to stop this pandemic. Left to the states, failure was certain. That’s because some states imposed serious measures to protect the people, while neighboring states blindly, spinelessly followed the President’s lead, claiming COVID-19 was like the flu that would “magically go away”, or some other excuse for inaction. And then people traveled from infected areas to non-infected areas, which spread the disease very quickly. Now, over 210,000 Americans are dead. It was all predictable and avoidable.

We chose not to avoid.

We have a temper-tantrum narcissist, responsibility-refusing president. He sits in his highchair, pounding on his tray and screaming his fantasies, while his enablers say, “Whatever the president wants, it’s his. I’ll do whatever he says.” Republican senators and governors knuckle under, as though they’ve lost all higher brain functioning. They are all children, acting as though there are no consequences to anything, focusing only on what they can imagine they’d like to have and thinking only as far as the immediate future for themselves. They abdicate all responsibility and refuse their accountability for the consequences of their actions on others.

Exactly like misbehaving, disobedient children.

Together, these irresponsible leaders instruct large portions of the population to distrust reality, to flaunt their bravado and to continue to spread the disease and death. Then our citizens act exactly as their leaders do, like misbehaving, disobedient children. And all the while people die for lack of responsible leadership.

This disease won’t go away until we all start acting like adults, conscious of our responsibility to ourselves and one another. What do you suppose that will require?

Read How America Lost 200,000 Lives to COVID-19 – even better, watch the video – for more.

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

Update – v1


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

Reading time – 4:48 .  .  .

Update To The Trump Election-Rigging Show

This is an occasional feature of these posts to and through the November election, as Trump attempts to manipulate, lie and cheat* his way to staying in office.

Recall that Trump must win the election in order to avoid criminal indictments for fraud, money laundering, obstruction of justice, Conspiracy Against the United States and more**. Those indictments will land in his lap the moment he leaves the protection of the Justice Department “no-criminal-indictments-while-in-office” memo. Let’s just say that he’s motivated to be “creative” in order to stay in office.

  1. Trump installed Louis DeJoy as postmaster general. DeJoy is no joy, as he has removed 600 high speed mail sorting machines, removed hundreds of mail drop boxes, eliminated overtime for postal workers and he makes postal trucks run around empty. The result is a hobbling of the Postal Service, such that it advised 46 states that mail may not be delivered in time to meet state requirements for the election. That will effectively throw millions of ballots into dumpsters. Trump wants to see that happen because more Democrats vote by mail than Republicans.
  2. Trump has accelerated his attack on the FDA. At first it was just blatantly disagreeing with the science around the pandemic. Since then it has become pressure to approve treatments that aren’t fully vetted and even more pressure to produce a vaccine, whether vetted or not – and he’s promised that it will be delivered before the election.
  3. He’s cut funding and recommendations for testing for COVID-19 in an effort to reduce the apparent number of cases. Of course, reducing testing won’t reduce the number of people infected and, in fact, will increase the number of Americans who get sick and die, since we won’t know to self-quarantine or be able to trace contacts.
  4. He’s attacked the FDA and now, ”  .  .  .  the administration recently installed a gun-rights advocate and right-wing journalist as the FDA’s chief spokesperson, allowing for partisan communication from an agency that has historically put out apolitical messaging. Now Trump has baselessly claimed that the FDA was part of a “deep state” conspiracy to harm his reelection campaign.
  5. He repeats his completely fact-less accusations of in-person and mail-in voter fraud.
  6. Trump used the White House, National Mall and other federal properties for his nomination acceptance speech. Looked great, if a bit over the top. But that ain’t kosher.
  7. He had Attorney General Wm. Barr’s Justice Department investigate the investigators of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Look for the release of Barr’s dishonest Trump-suck-up summary in mid-October, just as Barr did with the Mueller Report. He will then withhold its distribution so that there isn’t time to get the truth out before the election. Sadly, there is no law against the Attorney General, the top law enforcement official in the country, lying to the public.
  8. At Trump’s direction, The Office of the Director of National Intelligence will no longer give in-person briefings to our legislators, leaving them semi-ignorant at best. This is another Trump dirty trick to keep us in the dark about Russia’s involvement to help him win re-election and his conspiracy to defraud**.
  9. September 2 – From the Times: “Senior officials at the Department of Homeland Security intervened to prevent the publication of an intelligence report raising alarms about Russian interference in the 2020 election, according to a report by ABC News last [Wednesday].” That effectively prevents you and all of us from knowing about the breadth of Russian interference in our current election.
  10. Trump urged supporters in North Carolina to vote by mail and then attempt to vote in person on November 3. He later claimed that was how they could determine if their mail-in vote had been counted. Actually, Trump solicited fraud, a felony.
  11. September 11 – “President Donald Trump threatened Thursday to ‘put … down very quickly’ [protests and] riots on election night should aggrieved Democrats take to the streets in the wake of his potential victory.” Politico No word on whether he’d do the same if there were protests and riots by right wing hotheads when Biden wins.
  12. September 12 -“Political appointees at the Department of Health and Human Services have sought to change, delay and prevent the release of reports about the coronavirus by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention because they were viewed as undermining President Trump’s message that the pandemic is under control.” Washington Post
  13. September 13 – Trump signed an Executive Order in a last-ditch drug pricing plan to force pharmaceutical companies to charge Medicare no more than the lowest prices charged in other countries. While that sounds attractive: first, it isn’t clear he has the power to do that; second, a lawsuit is on the way to stop this; third, other than flap his lips about phantom victories over drug pricing for 3.5 years, why do you suppose this is happening just 50 days before the election? Could it be that the election is more important to him than the health of American seniors?
  14. Michael Caputo, the assistant secretary of public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services, accused the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of harboring a ‘resistance unit’ determined to undermine President Trump, even if that opposition bolsters the Covid-19 death toll.” He accused CDC scientists of sedition and predicted left-wing violence if Trump loses the election and refuses to leave office. Perhaps worst, he’s in charge of warping CDC communications to the public into what Trump wants us all to hear.
  15. ”  .  .  .  first Politico, then The New York Times and other news media organizations published accounts of how Mr. Caputo and a top aide had routinely worked to revise, delay or even scuttle the core health bulletins of the C.D.C. to paint the administration’s pandemic response in a more positive light.” New York Times

That’s just top of mind stuff. With 40 days to go, we can be sure of an October surprise. What needs to be included? Provide links if you can. With your help we’ll keep a running tally until and beyond this election, showcasing the most brutally ANTI-DEMOCRATIC acts of this most ANTI-AMERICAN president in U.S. history.

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* Read Frank Bruni’s clear take on this.

** 18 U.S. Code § 371. Conspiracy to Commit Offense or to Defraud United States

If two or more persons conspire either to commit any offense against the United States, or to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose, and one or more of such persons do any act to effect the object of the conspiracy, each shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.

18 U.S. Code § 2383. Rebellion or insurrection

Whoever incites, sets on foot, assists, or engages in any rebellion or insurrection against the authority of the United States or the laws thereof, or gives aid or comfort thereto, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.

Just getting started on the list.

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From RepresentUs:

“With just 2 weeks until voter registration deadlines across the country, don’t let National Voter Registration Day pass you by without confirming that you can vote this fall. 

“Our voter registration tool powered by VoteAmerica makes it easy. So register to vote – or confirm your registration today.”

Click this sentence and confirm your right to vote.”

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

Here’s How To Fix This


Reading time – 6:15  .  .  .

Preface: Presidential Leadership In The Time of COVID-19

In Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward’s new book Rage we see the words of the President of the United States acknowledging the deadly danger of this disease. He says it will infect “through the air” and is five times more deadly than the “most strenuous flu.” Then he says that he wants to “play it down,” rather than marshal our national resources and the public to fight this pandemic. That’s what he’s done and continues to do, as Americans die.

We don’t have to take Woodward’s word for all of Trump’s deceit because Woodward has audio recordings of their conversations. They are as clear and as damning of this president as can be.

He’s lied to us over and over and put us all at lethal risk. He’s held election rallies that he knew would cause the spread of infections. You could ask Herman Cain about that, but he attended a Trump rally and then died of Covid-19.

Trump has ridiculed those advising and those practicing proper precautions, influencing millions of Americans to refuse those protections. That has unavoidably caused the massive spread of this infection. The result of that behavior is that a lot more people have suffered, a lot more will live with terrible debilitation that may last years and a lot more people have died.

In an Oxford study earlier this year they reported that between 70 – 99% of Covid deaths in the U.S. could have been prevented had this president provided proper leadership. We’ve suffered nearly 200,000 deaths from this disease, so in the most conservative estimate there are 140,000 dead Americans who would still be alive had the President of the United States not been intentionally derelict in his duty.

What is every bit as important is to recognize that the Republicans in Congress have never confronted Trump on this. They’ve said not one word about his intentional and deadly betrayals, even as the CDC projects that we’re headed toward 415,000 Americans dead of COVID-19 by the end of the year.

In fact, the Republicans in Congress have never confronted Trump on anything.

This package of lethal deceit and cowardice is our current reality. It should never happen.

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Here’s How To Fix This

I’ve been clubbing Republicans since the Gingrich Vigilante Inquisition in the 1990s, especially those in the age of Trump. Let me be fair and say from the heart that every bit of it is deserved.

If you disagree, please list in the Comments section following this post the names of all the Republicans in the House and Senate who have done the right thing and stood up to any of Donald Trump’s horribles, be they illegal,  unconstitutional, anti-democracy, culture and values destroying, immoral or cruel. I’ll give you Mitt Romney as a part-time critic; very occasionally, tepidly, Lisa Murkowsky and Susan Collins have spoken up.

Former Senators Jeff Flake and  Bob Corker realized that their days as senators were numbered when they saw that their opposing Trump resulted in the rest of their colleagues hiding under their desks, so they left the Senate. Who are the others in Congress who did more than whisper in the cloak room? I must have missed them when the call to stand and be counted was sounded.

They all knew that Trump attempted to extort President Zelensky of Ukraine, demanding his unconstitutional foreign interference in our 2020 election. Trump pressured him by threatening to withhold from Ukraine desperately needed military assistance. These Republicans also knew that Trump obstructed justice in the investigation of that wrongdoing, yet on an almost complete party line vote (Romney voted yes to obstruction of justice), the Republican controlled Senate voted to acquit this criminal president in his impeachment trial.

Following that Republican disgrace, not one of these cowards has demanded that Trump confront Vladimir Putin about the bounties he’s paying to the Taliban to kill American soldiers. Are you seeing the pattern?

John Bolton outlined a lot of examples of Trump obstructing justice and these legislators knew about many of them even before Bolton’s book was published. The Mueller report outlined 10 specific charges of obstruction of justice (refer to Section II) and they knew about all of those, too. Still, Republican crickets.

These legislators know that Trump has manipulated the Justice Department, too, to get away with his wrongdoing. To put that in perspective, think of those westerns where the bad guy, the wealthy cattle and land baron, has the sheriff and judge on his payroll and in his pocket, enabling him to control and fleece the townspeople. You hated that bad guy, right? Well, now he’s in the Oval Office and Attorney General William Barr is that sheriff and judge in Trump’s pocket. He is yet another Trump crime enabler.

Trump has constructed his swampy Cabinet to benefit himself with no concern at all for ethics, like posting former lobbyists as “acting” department heads. And the Republicans in the Senate, which should have been vetting and rejecting these guys, instead has abdicated their duties and enabled Trump’s swamp to stink yet worse. Congressional Republicans know that he’s crashed through every guardrail of democracy that stood in his way and that he is consistently undermining our international safety and security. Still, these Republicans in Congress sit on their hands.

I ask again, who are the Republicans who have spoken out against Trump’s assault on American bedrock? Show me who has cast a vote against this child tyrant, sitting in his high chair, kicking, screaming and banging his fork and spoon on his tray. They cave in time after time. What happened to the courage of these Republicans? Their cowardice has earned them a Jellyfish Award.

Sadly, the cowardice doesn’t stop on Capitol Hill.

The state government of North Carolina was controlled entirely by Republicans until the 2018 election, when a Democrat was elected governor, although the state house remained in Republican hands. Just before the gubernatorial switch was made the Republican majority in the state house and the outgoing Republican governor (Pat McCrory, the guy who refused to concede and said he wouldn’t leave office) enacted laws to hamstring the incoming Democrat governor. They made it so that he would be unable to undo their horrific voter suppression acts – things like stripping voters’ registrations, closing polling places in college towns and in poor and non-white areas, and requiring IDs that are difficult for many poor people to obtain.

It isn’t just in North Carolina where the Republicans have done these things. They’ve done it in Wisconsin (why are there only 5 polling places – down from 180 – in all of Milwaukee?) and in Kentucky (only 1 poling place in Louisville – the same in Lexington), in Texas (how come it’s so hard to get a mail-in ballot for those under age 65, but for the likely Trump voters – those over 65 – it’s automatic?). And it’s just as cowardly and corrupt as that in yet more states.

Just as for the Congressional Republicans, these state Republicans have earned a Jellyfish Award, too.

We love our equivalencies, be they true or false, so let’s be fair and ask the equivalencies question: Don’t Democrats do such things, too?

Of course they do. Or, rather, they have. But Democrats haven’t tried to suppress anyone’s vote for a really long time. If you think I got that wrong, please note your examples below.

We’ve known since at least kindergarten that cheating must be punished or it will continue and become worse. Indeed, we’ve seen that worsening happen in the Trump administration every day since January 20, 2017, with Congressional Republicans remaining silent all the while. What is the proper punishment for our spineless, cowardly Republicans? Try this:

VOTE THEM OUT OF OFFICE – EVERY ONE OF THEM!

Okay, let’s be reasonable. We need traditional conservatives to repopulate the Republican Party into something that doesn’t look like it came from the House of Horrors. The ones who must go are the Trump Republicans, the Freedom Party wackos and every one who chickened out and refused to speak up. You know who they are. Give them the boot – every one of them.

Click me to hear a speech by a 17 year old kid that’s better than anything Trump has done.

I don’t know Emma Gonzalez, survivor of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre and co-founder of Never Again, but I’ve seen her work. I feel confident she and her generation will call “BS!” to Trump and to our Republican jellyfish. The rest of us must do the same.

The past 4 years have been a most amazing demonstration of both fraud and Congressional cowardice. It’s time to put an end to this reign of terror.

NOTE: I’m not a registered anything and certainly am not a Democrat shill. I used to think of myself as an Eisenhower Republican, but that’s pretty much an extinct species. There are a few proud Republicans (mostly former) with starch in their spines and I’ll be publishing a list of some of them on September 30. We’re counting on those folks to resuscitate the Republican Party once our long national nightmare is over. Until they do, it’s up to us to fix this.

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The Simple, Clear, Non-negotiable Marching Orders To Beat Covid-19

 

  1. Wear a mask in public.
  2. Socially distance.
  3. Wash your hands often.
  4. Put your damn mask on.

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Click me

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.
  4. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.

JA


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

A Critically Important View From Europe


Reading time – 7:15  .  .  .

Presidential Befoulment of the Military Update

It has been 3 days since the foul statements of Donald Trump about our military were exposed. To date, not a single Congressional Republican has spoken out against his cruel, disparaging words and behavior. Not one.

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The G7 Summit is scheduled to meet virtually in November or perhaps later. In anticipation of that and our mail-in ballot season, some notion of how the rest of the world sees America is crucial, because America’s world leadership is on life support. That makes our election choices and actions critical.

A friend forwarded the opinion piece below from The Irish Times (many thanks to JS) and it gives us a view into what America looks like from a European democracy. Consider it in the context of my piece last April, Absolute Power, as well as the closing section of Potpourri v11.0 – The “How Can We Be This Stupid?” Edition.


Donald Trump Has Destroyed The Country He Promised To Make Great Again
The world has loved, hated and envied the U.S. Now for the first time, we pity it.

Irish Times-April 25, 2020 – By Fintan O’Toole

Over more than two centuries, the United States has stirred a very wide range of feelings in the rest of the world: love and hatred, fear and hope, envy and contempt, awe and anger. But there is one emotion that has never been directed towards the US until now: pity.

However bad things are for most other rich democracies, it is hard not to feel sorry for Americans. Most of them did not vote for Donald Trump in 2016. Yet they are locked down with a malignant narcissist who, instead of protecting his people from Covid-19, has amplified its lethality. The country Trump promised to make great again has never in its history seemed so pitiful.

Will American prestige ever recover from this shameful episode? The US went into the coronavirus crisis with immense advantages: precious weeks of warning about what was coming, the world’s best concentration of medical and scientific expertise, effectively limitless financial resources, a military complex with stunning logistical capacity and most of the world’s leading technology corporations. Yet it managed to make itself the global epicenter of the pandemic.

As the American writer George Packer puts it in the current edition of the Atlantic, “The United States reacted … like Pakistan or Belarus – like a country with shoddy infrastructure and a dysfunctional government whose leaders were too corrupt or stupid to head off mass suffering.”

It is one thing to be powerless in the face of a natural disaster, quite another to watch vast power being squandered in real time – willfully, malevolently, vindictively. It is one thing for governments to fail (as, in one degree or another, most governments did), quite another to watch a ruler and his supporters actively spread a deadly virus. Trump, his party and Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News became vectors of the pestilence.

The grotesque spectacle of the president openly inciting people (some of them armed) to take to the streets to oppose the restrictions that save lives is the manifestation of a political death wish. What are supposed to be daily briefings on the crisis, demonstrative of national unity in the face of a shared challenge, have been used by Trump merely to sow confusion and division. They provide a recurring horror show in which all the neuroses that haunt the American subconscious dance naked on live TV.

If the plague is a test, its ruling political nexus ensured that the US would fail it at a terrible cost in human lives. In the process, the idea of the US as the world’s leading nation – an idea that has shaped the past century – has all but evaporated.

Other than the Trump impersonator Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, who is now looking to the US as the exemplar of anything other than what not to do? How many people in Düsseldorf or Dublin are wishing they lived in Detroit or Dallas?

It is hard to remember now but, even in 2017, when Trump took office, the conventional wisdom in the US was that the Republican Party and the broader framework of US political institutions would prevent him from doing too much damage. This was always a delusion, but the pandemic has exposed it in the most savage ways.

What used to be called mainstream conservatism has not absorbed Trump – he has absorbed it. Almost the entire right-wing half of American politics has surrendered abjectly to him. It has sacrificed on the altar of wanton stupidity the most basic ideas of responsibility, care and even safety.

Thus, even at the very end of March, 15 Republican governors had failed to order people to stay at home or to close non-essential businesses. In Alabama, for example, it was not until April 3rd that governor Kay Ivey finally issued a stay-at-home order.

In Florida, the state with the highest concentration of elderly people with underlying conditions, governor Ron DeSantis, a Trump mini-me, kept the beach resorts open to students travelling from all over the US for spring break parties. Even on April 1st, when he issued restrictions, DeSantis exempted religious services and “recreational activities”.

Georgia governor Brian Kemp, when he finally issued a stay-at-home order on April 1st, explained: “We didn’t know that [the virus can be spread by people without symptoms] until the last 24 hours.”

This is not mere ignorance – it is deliberate and homicidal stupidity. There is, as the demonstrations this week in US cities have shown, plenty of political mileage in denying the reality of the pandemic. It is fueled by Fox News and far-right internet sites, and it reaps for these politicians millions of dollars in donations, mostly (in an ugly irony) from older people who are most vulnerable to the coronavirus.

It draws on a concoction of conspiracy theories, hatred of science, paranoia about the “deep state” and religious providentialism (God will protect the good folks) that is now very deeply infused in the mindset of the American right.

Trump embodies and enacts this mindset, but he did not invent it. The US response to the coronavirus crisis has been paralyzed by a contradiction that the Republicans have inserted into the heart of US democracy. On the one hand, they want to control all the levers of governmental power. On the other they have created a popular base by playing on the notion that government is innately evil and must not be trusted.

The contradiction was made manifest in two of Trump’s statements on the pandemic: on the one hand that he has “total authority;” and on the other that “I don’t take responsibility at all”. Caught between authoritarian and anarchic impulses, he is incapable of coherence.

But this is not just Donald Trump. The crisis has shown definitively that Trump’s presidency is not an aberration. It has grown on soil long prepared to receive it. The monstrous blossoming of misrule has structure and purpose and strategy behind it.

There are very powerful interests who demand “freedom” in order to do as they like with the environment, society and the economy. They have infused a very large part of American culture with the belief that “freedom” is literally more important than life. My freedom to own assault weapons trumps your right not to get shot at school. Now, my freedom to go to the barber (“I Need a Haircut” read one banner this week in St Paul, Minnesota) trumps your need to avoid infection.

Usually when this kind of outlandish idiocy is displaying itself, there is the comforting thought that, if things were really serious, it would all stop. People would sober up. Instead, a large part of the US has hit the bottle even harder.  And the president, his party and their media allies keep supplying the drinks. There has been no moment of truth, no shock of realization that the antics have to end. No one of any substance on the US right has stepped in to say: get a grip, people are dying here.

That is the mark of how deep the trouble is for the US – it is not just that Trump has treated the crisis merely as a way to feed tribal hatreds but that this behavior has become normalized. When the freak show is live on TV every evening, and the star is boasting about his ratings, it is not really a freak show anymore. For a very large and solid bloc of Americans, it is reality.

And this will get worse before it gets better. Trump has at least eight more months in power. In his inaugural address in 2017, he evoked “American carnage” and promised to make it stop. But now that the real carnage has arrived, he is reveling in it. He is in his element.

As things get worse, he will pump more hatred and falsehood, more death-wish defiance of reason and decency, into the groundwater. If a new administration succeeds him in 2021, it will have to clean up the toxic dump he leaves behind. If he is re-elected, toxicity will have become the lifeblood of American politics.

Either way, it will be a long time before the rest of the world can imagine America being great again.

——————————-

If this report seems far-fetched; if the perspective seems far too narrow; if you’re inclined to dismiss this as just one disgruntled Irish guy opining, then I urge you to have a look at Tom McTague’s essay from London in The Atlantic entitled “The Decline of the American World.” Be clear that Trump is engineering that very thing. E.g. last week Trump announced that we won’t participate in the worldwide effort to develop a vaccine to battle Covid-19. What do you suppose that looks like from abroad?

From McTague’s post:

Bruno Maceas, Portugal’s former Europe minister, whose book The Dawn of Eurasia looks at the rise of Chinese power, told me, “The collapse of the American empire is a given; we are just trying to figure out what will replace it.”

You can check with the folks at Gallup for more. Here’s a recent graph of how Europeans view American leadership. The charts for how Asians and people in the Americas see American leadership look the same. Be clear that the rising black line on the right represents increasing disapproval of U.S. leadership over the past 3 years.

On the left of the graph you can see the high disapproval of the leadership of George W. Bush. Then there were eight strong years of approval for American leadership during the Obama administration (the green line). Now Trump has managed to achieve the highest leadership disapproval of America by our global neighbors. Ever. This is what Trump’s destruction of alliances and his sucking up to tyrants have done to our place in the world. Click the chart and read the report for yourself.

Consider if you were accosted by a street tough. You likely wouldn’t respect him. On the other hand, you’d be keenly aware of have and great respect for the assault rifle and semi-automatic pistol he carried and you would be exceedingly clear about the destruction and chaos they can cause. It’s quite the same for the the way the world views the United States of Trump.

Finally, five years ago the offices of the French satire magazine Charlie Hebdo were attacked and eleven of its staff were murdered by Islamist terrorists affiliated with al Qaeda. The trial of some accomplices to those murders began last Wednesday and Charlie Hebdo once again published the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammed and Islam that triggered the attack. Once again they’ve put a stake in the ground to declare freedom of the press will not be stifled. So, once again we can all declare, Je suis Charlie.

——————————-

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.
  4. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.

JA


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

No Time To Be Silent


Reading time – 2:31; Viewing time – 3:34  .  .  .

It was a November evening in Chicago in 2008 that was much warmer than we had a right to expect. Hundreds of thousands of us gathered in Grant Park along Lake Michigan to watch the election returns on the Jumbo-Trons set up for that purpose. The cops were there on their gorgeous thoroughbreds, but there wasn’t any crowd control needed. In fact, the cops were off by the vendor stands eating pizza.

At last we saw Wolf Blitzer on the CNN screen near us and heard him announce that Ohio (I think it was Ohio) had gone for Obama and that put him over the top – he had won. People in the park were cheering, dancing, jumping, hugging, crying, smiling and doubled over in relief. We were there with our family that night and we did all of that and more. I recall yelling what Rachel Maddow had said when Obama won the 95% white Iowa caucuses 10 months earlier: “This is the kind of country I want to live in.”

Of course, much of the celebration was because a Black man had been elected president, with all that implied. It would be a mistake, though, to fail to recognize the long dark night that was the administration of George W. Bush and which led to that November celebration that was in stark contrast to the Bush years. The relief that November evening was one of at last having a feeling of hope once again, a feeling that had been absent for 8 years and two stolen elections.

I was reminded of that celebratory night following Joe Biden’s acceptance speech last Thursday. Gone were the gaffs, the missteps and fumbles. Before us was a warrior for the people, for democracy, for the United States of America and for the entire world. And he showed up just in time, as we’re neck deep in the cesspool of Trumpism. It’s been an inescapable nightmare of corruption, of subverting the rule of law, of manipulating the government solely to serve Trump, of division and cruelty and we have been absent of hope for four years. To paraphrase President Gerald Ford, the long national nightmare of Trump may soon be over.

And that’s why following Biden’s speech I thought of Grant Park on that wonderful November evening 12 years ago.

Now we have to complete the story. Now we have to do the hard work to make hope real. Now we have to make the twister that causes Biden’s house to fall on the Wicked Witch of Mar-a-Lago. Only then can we cry out, “Ding dong, the witch is dead.”

So, it’s time to get to work helping people register to vote, to help them sign them up to vote by mail, for voting early ourselves and by doing all the things that will raise Biden’s house into the sky so that it will drop in just the right place.

From Elie Wiesel:

“Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

This is no time to be silent.

Remember:

Democracy is a participation sport. Its a patriotism thing.

Be a patriot. The Founders would be proud.

Opportunities

Speed counts, because early voting and mail-in voting start in some places as early as two weeks from now.

Phone bank for candidates – pick any state or race you like. It’s way easier than you may think – and it’s non-confrontational.

Volunteer with MoveOn – lots of ways to put a stake in the ground.

Check to make sure you’re registered to vote and haven’t been voter suppressed – go to Vote.org.

Send post cards to swing state voters to urge people to vote with the simple system of PostCardsToSwingStates.com.

Volunteer with Biden For President.

It’s hard to read, but the add-on at the bottom reads, “FUNCTIONING ADULT”

Volunteer for the candidates of your choice by going to their websites. Find them by googling, e.g.  “Ooblick for Senate.” I shouldn’t have to say this, but substitute the candidate’s name for “Ooblick” and don’t include the quotation marks.

Post a lawn sign and get a bumper sticker for the candidates you support. Go to the website of your local Democratic Party affiliate. Start here. While you’re there, kick in a few bucks to help out.

Go to Mayday America and volunteer – lots of ways to do this.

Check with friends, family and the elderly people in your life who aren’t online savvy. Offer to help them and remind them to vote.

In my neck of the woods, go to the Tenth Dems site or the Democrats of Northfield Township. Go to Indivisible Evanston (there are links to affiliates in other states) and review their list of ways to make a difference.

Go to Media Matters to stay informed.

To be clear on why this isn’t just important, but is critical, read this from Ben Rhodes. He served as U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser to President Barack Obama from 2009 to 2017. Then pass this post along to others.

This is a battle for the soul of our nation.” – Joe Biden. So, put your soul into this – JA

—————————————-

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.
  4. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.

JA


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

I’m No Anti-Vaxxer


Reading time – 6:14  .  .  .

Conspiracy theories about vaccines abound. As well, reasonable, science based objections have made solid challenges to vaccines, too. Regardless, history tells us that blind acceptance of vaccines probably isn’t a good idea.

Take, for instance, the recent comments of FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn. He insisted that any Covid-19 vaccine would have to “adhere to standards” for safety and efficacy. Perfect. We want to know that a vaccine or med we take to protect us both works and is safe. That’s especially important reassurance now, given the enormous political pressure being applied to develop a vaccine by election day. That’s where this story grows dark.

Dr. Stephen Hahn, Commissioner, FDA

Trump is making fantastical claims that we’ll have a vaccine by the election. Sometimes he makes solid promises – “We’ll have 100 million doses by November.” Sometimes they’re typical Trump vacuous teasers – “might be,” “very soon,” “like you’ve never seen before,”  “I think in some cases, yes possibly before [the November election], but right around that time,” “It will be unbelievable,” etc. Side note: He uses the word “unbelievable” like a circus sideshow barker to describe nearly everything he is promoting or claiming as a victory for himself. When he does that I know that he is at last speaking truth: it probably is unbelievable; i.e. not worthy of our belief. Back to the main point.

Nearly every time Trump speaks about the pandemic, fiction comes from his mouth in an avalanche, as he struggles to paper over his abject failure to meet the challenge. Note that when he at last admitted in March that the pandemic is here and is a big deal, he said we’re fighting a war and that he’s a wartime president. If that’s so, then it’s fair to say that he’s lost nearly every battle and the enemy is winning this war decisively. That’s why he’s desperate to have a vaccine before the election. His eagerness has nothing to do with your health.

So, Trump is leaning hard on the doctors, scientists, epidemiologists, researchers and pharma company CEOs to bail out his sinking wartime command ship. The good news is what Hahn said about adhering to standards. What you probably didn’t hear is that he left the door open to “emergency use authorization” of vaccines that haven’t yet “adhered to standards.” It’s a bit like chancey, off-label use of a drug; for example, hydroxychloroquine.

As you likely know, it’s a drug used to treat patients with malaria. That, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis are the sole FDA authorized uses of this drug. Fairly early in this pandemic somebody decided to try using it to treat Covid-19. In fact it was given FDA off-label authorization for that use – right up until our VA hospitals realized that they were killing our vets with hydroxychloroquine. That’s when the FDA rescinded the off-label use of the drug.

To be fair, there are reputable criticisms that suggest that hydroxychloroquine wasn’t used properly, in that it wasn’t used in conjunction with medically significant adjunctive treatments. Regardless, it was the government/FDA’s authorization that caused the problems.

Oddly, our president continued to recommend the use of hydroxychloroquine. He even said that he was taking it prophylactically, although he didn’t use that big word. The result was that there was enormous demand for the drug. People stockpiled it in case they got sick. There were two problems with that. First, people who had malaria, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis couldn’t get their meds on time because production couldn’t keep up with the Trump-caused, artificially inflated demand. Second, hydroxychloroquine just might kill the stockpilers if they were to use it to treat their Covid-19 and did so improperly. Nevertheless, Trump continues to either promote the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat Covid-19 or allows his prior nonsensical rah-rah for it to linger because he is incapable of admitting he made a mistake. And we pay the price for his limitations with our health and our lives. The key point is that the FDA allowed off-label use of hydroxychloroquine and that killed people.

Follow the money: Who benefits from the increased demand for hydroxychloroquine and why is Trump so invested in that?

Again, while Dr. Hahn promised that the FDA and manufacturers would “adhere to standards” for a Covid-19 vaccine, he left the door open for emergency use authorization of these as-yet unproven vaccines. That is expressly, intentionally not adhering to standards.

In other words, Hahn and his agency might succumb to political pressure and roll the dice with the lives of granny, your children and you so that Trump can get reelected. Wild guess: That probably doesn’t sound too good to you and you’re already doubting Covid-19 vaccines. It turns out this story gets worse.

AstraZeneca is one of the key players in Covid-19 vaccine development and their drug is in a phase 3 trial. They have selected 30,000 people to be vaccinated and then watch to see if they become protected from the virus or if they get sick and perhaps die. I’m wondering if they intentionally expose these human Guinea pigs to the virus to test the vaccine. How else would they know if the vaccine had successfully protected them against the virus unless they knew test subjects had been exposed to it? That makes me think of the infamous Tuskegee Syphilis Study.

There are two efficacy problems with the trial. The first is that they are only testing healthy, relatively young people. That means that if you have any underlying health issue, especially hypertension, diabetes or obesity, or are older or a child – any condition that is substantially different from the test group  – whatever the phase 3 trial shows, you won’t know if the vaccine will work for you as it did for those phase 3 trial subjects.

The second issue is that this phase 3 trial is being run without a placebo comparison; i.e. this isn’t a blind, much less double-blind test. That means that there will be no way to determine the true efficacy of the drug – whether it actually works. And we are expected to trust this vaccine with our lives.

The FDA’s mission is to protect the public health by assuring the safety, efficacy and security of human drugs and more (taken from the FDA’s Mission Statement). That’s why they have protocols and standards. And President Trump is leaning hard on Mr. Hahn to abandon those protocols and standards in order to win his election. Frighteningly, Hahn may be willing to cave in to the pressure and issue “emergency use authorization” of these non-adhering-to-standards vaccines before the election.

“Do you feel lucky?” Dirty Harry Click the pic.

This looks to me like they’re giving the anti-vaxxers big gun ammunition at a time when we desperately need confidence in something to protect all of us and stop the Covid-19 rampage.

I’m no anti-vaxxer, but as I said, blind acceptance of vaccines – especially a proposed, new generation, emergency-use-authorization vaccine, the use of which is entirely politically motivated – probably isn’t a good idea.

Makes me think of Dirty Harry. Like the guy in the car, my answer is no. Click the pic to the right and you’ll understand.

———————

Post Office Update

Stopping by the post office to mail a letter just in time for the last pickup of the day brought me face-to-face with Lizzy (not her real name), a postal service worker who was emptying the collection box. We chatted for a bit and I asked her about the reported slow down of the mail system orchestrated by the new Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy. He is a big Trump contributor and a complete postal system know-nothing. He has eliminated overtime, slowed the sorting process and done other things, which have resulted in reported mountains of undelivered mail, especially at the big sorting centers. That’s what I asked Lizzy about.

“Oh, yeah, everything’s slowed down,” she said. “We hate that – we care about service.”

DeJoy claims to be a logistics expert and declares that he’s reducing costs. Sounds good. But our most mailed-in election balloting in history is already underway and he’s clogging the system. What do you suppose Donald Trump will say about the election when it appears he’s lost big and those mountains of undelivered mail are highlighted by him on November 4? Decide for yourself how much Trump election conspiracy to assign to that and let Professor Laurence Tribe be your guide:

Key Impact Point: Go to your secretary of state’s website, register to vote and request a mail-in ballot. The clock is ticking and soon you may run out of time to do that and make your vote count. Especially with DeJoy screwing up the system, you better move on this.
 

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Conservative Corner

Have you noticed how many things have gone on in the Trump era, like what’s covered in this post, that aren’t remotely conservative? As I’ve written so many times, we need the traditional Republican party to come back, to saddle up and hit the trail for America. Where are you guys?

Another 4 years of Trump won’t bring back conservatism. In fact, Trump will crush under his heel everything that conservatives hold dear and which he hasn’t already destroyed. It goes without saying that the things liberals/progressives hold dear are terminal, too.

Have you always voted Republican and cannot even imagine pulling the lever for a Democrat (I have such relatives and friends)? Now’s the time to imagine something bigger and for you to dare to go where you haven’t gone before while you still can. Remember that Trump has repeatedly threatened to cancel elections. That ain’t conservative.

———————

Finally

Leonard Cohen in 1988. Click the pic for his biography.

From poet and songwriter Leonard Cohen:

Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.

These are hard times and it’s difficult to know what to do and where to start. What is important is simply that we start. That we ring the bells that still can ring. Follow Leonard Cohen’s advice. Today is a good day for that.

——————————-

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.
  4. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.

JA


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

Questions For the August Town Halls


Reading time – 2:56  .  .  .

The House of Representatives remains in session this month. In contrast, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called a recess for the month of August for the Senate. That means that August town halls are solely with senators. Feel free to ask any of these questions of your Republican senator, as they don’t apply if s/he is a Democrat.

From constituent #1:

Senator, thank you for taking my question.

There is a pandemic in our country that is taking down millions of Americans. Over 158,000 of our friends and family have died from it and the disease is extending its reach and accelerating its spread.

Our economy is cratering, as GDP has fallen more in one quarter than at any time in the past 150 years.

Tens of millions of Americans are out of work, with a million more joining the ranks of the unemployed every week. The supplemental aid package ran out at the end of last month and millions are facing the inability to pay for their housing, which will lead to foreclosures and evictions. Millions of Americans will be unable even to feed their families.

Congress is willfully paralyzed over extending a hand to our people. Sen. McConnell called a recess of the Senate and you and your colleagues dutifully vacated the premises as directed.

It’s your job – we pay you – to represent us and promote our welfare, but instead you’re here politicking for your next election, working for yourself. My question is simple:

Why aren’t you back in Washington working for us?

From constituent #2:

Senator, you’ve been in Congress for a long time and have been a staunch promoter of American values around the world. You’ve been a forceful opponent of Russian aggression and a plain spoken critic of Vladimir Putin.

President Trump fails to confront Putin for his paying bribes to the Taliban to kill Americans; he failed to forcefully oppose Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and occupation of the Crimea; he fails to confront Putin over the ongoing Russian cyber-espionage on the U.S. and now is pulling a large percentage of our military from Germany, weakening our position throughout the region and further damaging our  relationships with NATO allies. There is nothing conservative about any of those failures.

Throughout all of this and worse from this president you’ve remained silent, without so much as voicing a single objection, much less mounting opposition to Trump’s dereliction of duty to protect and defend. In your silence you have been an enabler of his sell-out of America, meek as a lapdog. Why aren’t you speaking out, senator?

From constituent #3:

Senator, you voted against the PPP program and every other measure to help working Americans during these perilous times. In contrast, in 2017 you voted for the tax cut bill that sent 83% of its benefit to the richest people and corporations in the country. You vigorously promoted it, saying it would generate wage increases, but that didn’t happen and the economists told you that’s what would happen. But corporations did buy back their stock, which boosted stock prices solely to the benefit of rich people.

Tell us why you like rich people so much and clearly don’t care about middle class or poor people.

From constituent #4:

Thank you for being here today, senator, and for taking our questions.

My question is about the anonymous federal troops that President Trump has sent to 7 of our cities and who have brutalized and terrorized largely peaceful protesters. We’re told that these troops are from the Department of Homeland Security, the purview of whose policing force is solely to defend federal property. However, nearly all of the actions of these troops has taken place well away from federal property.

These troops are heavily armed and anonymous, as they wear no agency or unit identifying insignia, police star numbers or name badges and they drive unmarked SUVs. They have kidnapped our citizens without warrant, have failed to Mirandize those they have kidnapped and have held them without cause and without charge.

Please don’t claim that the demonstrators were violent, because we have amateur video and press coverage that plainly shows that’s a lie. My question is simple: Why have you remained silent as our friends and family are being beaten, gassed, shot and pepper sprayed? Where is your voice to stop this brutality?

From constituent #5:

Thank you for taking my question, senator.

The manufacturing facility where I’ve worked for 14 years is shut down because of the pandemic. The extra help I used to get from the federal government made it possible for my family to hold on, but that’s cut off now. And you’ve opposed financial aid to laid off workers, saying that providing that aid is a disincentive to working.

I’ve played by the rules all along and am now in a really tough spot because of a disease over which I have no control, and you’ve essentially called me and millions of other Americans bums. I invite you to apologize to us all right here, right now, and then go back to DC and do your job to work for us. Otherwise, you can come to my house and explain to my kids why there not only won’t be any birthday presents, but that they should be happy with just 1 or 2 meals a day. And you can explain to my wife that she’ll have to do without her insulin that we can’t afford.

So, what’s your choice, senator: my house or DC?

——————————-

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.
  4. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.

JA


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

Judgment


Reading time – 3:31  .  .  .

We all know that there are many people who refuse to wear a mask or social distance or wash their hands frequently. Each of them has his/her reasons, including  seeing these safety and health measures as government overreach, they don’t appreciate the danger, they’re angry about the intrusion on their liberty or they think it’s a hoax, a conspiracy. Here’s some clarity about those conspiracy believers.

From Anne Applebaum’s new book, Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism (read this book):

“The emotional appeal of a conspiracy theory is in its simplicity. It explains away complex phenomena, accounts for chance and accidents, offers the believer the satisfying sense of having special, privileged access to the truth.” (page 45)

I get that there is a sense of power and control in embracing conspiracy theories. So, I offer a “Well done!” to the cable blatherers, the talk radio babblers and the online conspiracy promoters for their excellent job of willfully stoking reality denial and hatred. Their work is powerful and it has an impact far beyond the TV and radio ratings and online Likes: it threatens all the rest of us.

We declare that we honor our front line troops, the nurses, doctors, techs, EMTs, ambulance drivers and the rest of the folks who are fighting this war against pandemic. We’ve seen the hospital scenes, watched the personal videos and get lumpy-throated in empathy for these people. We see that these heroes work absurd hours. They live with death all around, feeling they’ve failed, even as they are powerless to stop it. But I wonder if that honoring of these people is true for all of our mask refusers and deniers, especially the conspiracy types.

Click me for the story from The Onion.

It seems to me that the conspiracy embracers and the rest who refuse to do those 3 simple things to help to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are more than a danger to those nearby. They hasten the spread of infection that horribly affects those same front line people by putting more sick people into their already over-maxed hospitals. It dumps more hard, overly-demanding work on top of already exhausted medical staff. It dishonors them in that way, even as over 1,000 of our front line medical people have died working to save others from this horrible disease.

That’s why I have some judgments about the conspiracy types and even for the rest of the people who knowingly refuse to do the 3 simple things that can help us all:

First, it’s clear that they put themselves and their individual rights above the rest of us.

Second, the harm they do makes circumstances far worse for people who have lost their jobs, whose kids can’t go to school, for our elderly trapped in nursing homes and for everyone who wants their life back. They push national recovery yet farther away into the future.

Third, it dishonors and penalizes the very people they themselves will meet when they show up at a hospital ER barely able to breathe, because our front line medical troops will nevertheless be standing by to serve them.

Click me for the full story.

In an insightful opinion piece in the New York Times last weekend entitled, “How To Actually Talk to Anti-Maskers” author Charlie Warzel makes the how-to of that conversation both clear and obvious. Even better, it has application for your conversations with any who are foolish enough to not agree with you.

It has to do with what Mom told you: be respectful, courteous and listen to others. And as you listen, just seek to understand how they feel and why they believe as they do – not preparing to tell them all the reasons they’re wrong. That’s because the instant you try to persuade them to your superior view, you’ll have nothing but confrontation. The only thing that changes that way is that each is even more entrenched in their bubble, certain that those who disagree are idiots. We remain polarized, perhaps even more so than before. Remember that each of us thinks we’re right and justified in the opinions we hold.

It can be most satisfying to be reactive – believe me, I know about this and sometimes I’m conscious and able to resist my knee-jerk behavior. When I fail,  I get a momentary rush from being “right.” Then not much good happens for anyone.

Finally

We have a very dangerous virus in America. It’s been in the newspapers, on TV and radio and clogging the webisphere since February. Because of that you already know that the U.S. has just 4% of the world’s population but it has spawned about 25% of its coronavirus infections and deaths. That’s happening right here in our first world, advanced medicine country even as we’re proud to be the leader of the free world.

Have you ever wondered how the rest of the world sees us, and specifically how we’re seen as we mishandle this pandemic? The New York Times brought the story of the virus in America to people around the world and video recorded their reactions. You need to see this.

When you go out, wear your mask and social distance. And wash your hands a lot. If you won’t do those things, please stay away from me. And everyone else.

Here’s a behavioral take on this from Paul Krugman.

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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.
  4. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.

JA


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

Nagging COVID Questions


Reading time – 3:21  .  .  .

On The Hunt

It makes good sense not to put all our eggs into one basket in pursuit of a safe and effective vaccine for COVID-19. That’s why we have Operation Warp Speed, wherein we are stimulating the development of vaccines along several different avenues to find one that works and to do it as quickly as possible.

We just awarded $1.6 billion to Novavax to develop enough doses of a vaccine to treat 50 million Americans (2 doses each) by early 2021. If they can do that it will be quite an accomplishment, because the world record for vaccine development for a new virus is 5 years.

In addition, “.  .  .  an international group, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, awarded up to $388 million to Novavax in May to make its coronavirus vaccine available globally.” In addition, “In June, Novavax secured a $60 million contract from the Defense Department to guarantee the delivery of 10 million doses to vaccinate American troops for the coronavirus.”

That’s a lot of money to give to a company that has never brought a product all the way to market. Why would we do that?

The Trump Administration is doing its best to prevent transparency of where our taxpayer money goes in pursuit of a vaccine. What we know is that we have sent $4 billion to a total of 6 companies to produce a vaccine and we haven’t a clue how those companies were chosen, whether they have a track record suggesting they might succeed, if there are penalties for failing to produce a vaccine or where the money is coming from – i.e. which existing programs will become underfunded in order to pay these companies to develop safe and effective vaccines five times faster than such a thing has ever been done.

Because of Trump’s secrecy we also don’t know whether there has been favoritism or any other shady behavior involved in these significant public financial awards to private companies. This may all be on the up-and-up; maybe not. But the secrecy may well become damaging to our future health and the sleight of hand would be a scandal in any other administration. Today, it’s just another day at the White House.

Oh, and by the way, vaccines are only valuable to us if We the People take them, and there is considerable resistance to doing so. Only half of us say we’ll get the vaccine when it’s available; 30% are unsure what they’ll do; and 20% of us will refuse a COVID-19 vaccine. How will we deal with that in the absence of strong scientific, medical, social and moral national leadership?

Our Government and Your Health

The mission statement of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) begins this way:

The Food and Drug Administration is responsible for protecting the public health by ensuring the safety, efficacy, and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, and medical devices;

Sounds great. We want them to ensure the safety and efficacy of the medicines we put in our bodies. That’s why they did the slow work to make sure that if you contract malaria that hydroxychloroquine will be both effective against the disease and safe for you to use.

They didn’t do all the same work looking into that drug when used to treat COVID-19. But they did review its use in VA hospitals and found that it was useless against the coronavirus and an all too likely side effect of that malaria drug used against the coronavirus was death.

Now a Henry Ford study is claiming that the FDA review was flawed and – surprise! – Donald Trump is using that claim to once again promote hydroxychloroquine as a preventative and a treatment for COVID-19.

In the absence of a standard FDA approval based on its guidelines and procedures for safety, efficacy and security, why would Trump promote this drug to fight COVID-19? He’s a total know-nothing about medical and pharmacological science and has no authority to prescribe medications. That leaves us wondering about his motivation for his outrageous insistence on using this drug that has the potential to kill Americans. What’s in it for Trump to do that? Who is benefiting? As always, follow the money.

Schools

Click me

Last week Trump told us that he will “put pressure on governors and everyone else” to fully open schools in fall.

  • Nobody knows how to safely open schools in the presence of this pandemic and no nation has ever tried to send kids back to school with a virus raging at the level this one is in America. Said one school nurse in New York, “It feels like we’re playing Russian roulette with our kids and our staff,”
  • Click me

    Shouldn’t we instead consider the CDC’s clearly and consistently outlined dangers from this disease and give strong consideration to its recommendations for “opening” as we make decisions for our kids? And doesn’t our own common sense scream in our ears not to do stupid stuff?

  • Gambling with our kids’ health just isn’t a great idea. And caving in to the unhinged and self-serving demands of Donald Trump is exactly as nuts as it sounds.
Where Do You Get Your Information?

This is for our rugged individuals who refuse direction that impinges on their individual freedom or who simply don’t trust easily.

Karen Hughes

If you were to receive your coronavirus advice from a conservative Republican and if the advice were strong, clear and consistent, would you be willing to set aside your personal desires in order to do your part for the welfare of us all, including you?

Then read this essay by Karen Hughes, counselor to the president and undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs during the George W. Bush administration. Yes, that kind of conservative Republican. Then put on your mask whenever you leave home, because we can defeat this pandemic if at least 95% of us take this simple step.

And send along a link to Hughes’ essay to your friends and family who have found reasons not to wear a mask. Surely, they don’t want to put us all at greater risk, so help them to get the message.

Separate and Timely Issue: Voting By Mail

The president, vice-president and a significant proportion of senators and congressmen vote by mail. So do most of our military personnel, as do citizens who travel. Millions of people routinely vote by mail and there isn’t even a whisper of voter fraud to be heard, except what comes from the fraud-spouting mouths of politicians who are afraid for their jobs should the people make their voices heard and the majority at last rules.

Click me to learn about voting by mail in your state.

Because you don’t want to stand in line for hours with unmasked voters, you need to learn what to do to ensure you can vote by mail. Here’s a link if you live in Illinois and here’s a link if you’re a Wisconsin resident. Every state has its own website and procedures, so check for yours. I recommend doing a search on “vote by mail in ______” replacing the underscore with the name of your state. And don’t include the quotation marks in your search. Or you can click on the logo to the left and they’ll direct you. Pay careful attention to the instructions for your state because you’ll have to apply for a mail-in or absentee ballot within a defined and limited time range. Then VOTE!

Bonus Question

There are 195 countries in the world. For 10 points, list each country that erects statues to and names their military bases for traitors to their country. Submit your answer below.

Special hint (we normally don’t offer hints): This list is very short.

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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.
  4. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.

JA


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

A Most Unusual Fourth of July


Reading time – 3:11  .  .  .

My post last Wednesday – What’s Most Important – was about the baseline, the sine qua non obligation of any President of the United States: national security. It is the president’s solemn, sworn duty to protect our nation and our people from foreign threats. Yet now we are at greater risk because this president has once again failed us, as Russia pays bounties to Taliban fighters to kill Americans.

Trump is always in attack/excuses/blame mode and he didn’t disappoint this time. First he claimed the story was fake news. Then he claimed he had never been briefed, that he didn’t know anything about it. Then he said it was a hoax. But he can’t know that it’s a hoax if he doesn’t know anything about it, so there’s some lying going on.

Regardless, that brings us to the obvious: it doesn’t matter what Trump’s perfidious story is. What matters is that the Russians – Trump’s BFF, Putin – are paying to get our people killed and Trump not only hasn’t done a thing about it, but he’s letting it continue.

How do you think the world feels about America as Trump once again goes subservient to Putin and fails to protect and defend? That question has an answer: pity.

Today’s Russian murder story is heaped atop our national death spiral, now accelerating past 50,000 conscripts per day and over 129,000 dead.

Thanks to Trump’s ongoing failures, there are no holiday parades, few fireworks displays, next to no way to safely gather with our families and fellow citizens. At the same time, our troops are in greater danger. This is a most unusual Fourth of July that teaches us what we Americans need to understand quickly.

If we allow Trump to fold in the face of Russian aggression and at the same time allow this pandemic disease to decimate our country; if we allow our economy to collapse; if we fail to at last learn the lessons of our racism; if we continue to put Bandaids on the gushing wound of police brutality; we will cede world leadership to the dictators Trump worships and democracy will be over. Ref: Trump’s “Nuremberg rally” at Mt. Rushmore on Friday.

The good news is that we seem to be awakening from our crippling national slumber.

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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.
  4. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.

JA

 


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

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