Saturday, September 19, 2020

Response to The Same Mistakes

(See: Just Above Sunset : The Same Mistakes)

Down South?

"Deep in their bones they know they lost that Civil War – that’s rather obvious…”

I’m not convinced of that. A friend of ours down here in Atlanta who grew up mostly in Macon, Georgia, once told us she was never taught in school that the South had lost the war! She said it wasn’t until her family moved to Ohio when she was in high school that she learned the North had won.

So much for an American common narrative!

It always seemed odd to me that all those Southern “Tea-Partiers” celebrated something that happened in Yankee Boston, also not realizing that the intent of the original Tea Party was largely a defense of the right of rich local merchants like John Hancock to continue smuggling, just like they always did, maybe to keep the cost of imports down, but not so much to do with "Taxation without Representation". But whatever. 

But while I have always been a bit puzzled about this “cancel culture” business that Trumpers keep talking about, I have to admit I might agree with some of it, especially when it comes to banning a mostly-benign movie like “Gone With the Wind” as "racist”.

Yes, they have a point that the book it came from, being the perspective of an early 1930s authoress who grew up in the south, hearing all those tales handed down from the days of yore that plantation owners “treated their slaves like family” and that, once given their freedom, those “uppity ungrateful darkies” really lorded it over their defeated masters, but also overlooking that Scarlet imagined she was exercising her birthright to slap Prissy silly, simply for not knowing nothing about birthing no babies, which certainly served as an insufficient example of how white people actually dealt with black "members of their own family" who didn’t do as they were told. And in truth, we can be pretty sure that episode of the movie mostly sugar-coats actual history.

But frankly, my dear, I never really liked that movie anyway. I remember telling my boss at CNN when he told me that his boss, Ted Turner, held that film in high regard — that I thought it was a “chick flick” that glorified some spoiled bitch who never did learn to act like a nice human being. (Besides that, shouldn’t a war movie have more scenes of men shooting at each other?)

And okay, maybe people who don’t share my own grasp of the historical context of this bullshit flick should probably only see it in conjunction with an explainer of some sort.

About that NY Times Magazine "1619 Project”? I really don’t know that much about it, but from what I’ve read, I do see some possible problems.

The first, the least of them, is they’re leaving the impression that it’s named after the first year African slaves arrived in North America, when in fact that's not actually true. Slaves from Africa were first brought into Georgia and South Carolina in 1526, almost a century before 1619, when they landed in Virginia, but those were brought by the Spanish, not the British, which I suppose makes a difference because the British colonies eventually became ourselves, although some might see that distinction as arbitrary.

But the project presents a different problem in its intention, as it says, "to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of [the United States'] national narrative”, along with a suggestion that 1619 might now be considered the "nation's birth year.”

This reminds me of an 1890s American history textbook I once bought at an antiques fair, that I discovered, on arriving home, was probably designed for use in Roman Catholic schools since every chapter seemed to focus on either a particular travail or achievement of Roman Catholics in America. How odd, I thought, that Catholics found it necessary back then to place their own selves at the very center of all American history.

But this is exactly what the 1619 Project seemingly hopes to do for African Americans. While I confess that other versions of the American story might be faulted for making African Americans feel sidelined in their own land, the solution is not to arbitrarily declare that the country began only once their own ancestors arrived on the scene, which would be like Donald Trump tracing the history of the country only as far back as when his grandfather arrived from Bavaria in 1885.

(My personal belief, by the way, has always been that 1776 was not our nation’s birth, and that everything preceding March 4, 1789, when our new Constitutional government called itself to order in its provisional capital in New York City, was merely the pre-game show, since the previous U.S. government under the Articles of Confederation was not really of a nation made up of states, but instead merely a collection of individual nation states in their own right, each being, in a technical sense, just as sovereign as France or the Netherlands. 
In fact, some of these little nations were even ruled by presidents, rather than governors. In truth, what was referred to as the United States only became a nation once the country that our Constitution called for came into being, which was in the spring of 1789.)

In any event, who really thinks Donald Trump (who is probably the first American president ever, since Abe Lincoln himself, to be inaugurated without ever having learned that Lincoln was a Republican“'Great president. Most people don’t even know he was a Republican,' Trump said while addressing attendees at the National Republican Congressional Committee Dinner. 'Does anyone know? Lot of people don’t know that' … appearing to be unaware of the fact that the GOP is commonly referred to as the 'party of Lincoln'") is the right guy to be preaching to the rest of us about the shortcomings of American education?

In fact, I’m thinking he could have learned of Lincoln's politics had he actually taken that SAT that he reportedly paid someone else to take for him.

But still, I agree with Trump — (Quick! Could someone please gag me with a spoon?) — that we would have a hard time teaching anything about the founding of the country if we erased from our collective memory any record of any founder who owned slaves, since the knowledge of they’re having done that should serve as a great example of a major feature in our founding, that we are a nation that allows itself to correct its mistakes and improve over time, and not be dragged down to hell by realization of all the things we’ve done wrong — a realization that every American kid should be made aware of.

And only someone who refuses ever to apologize, much less admit to his mistakes, since that would be a sign of weakness, could disagree with that, nor even comprehend why the majority of Americans — that is, those who won’t end up voting for him! — actually don’t want to see their country made over in his likeness.

In fact, anyone having even vague knowledge of our founding era probably knows that many, if not most of our founders — even those who themselves owned slaves — knew slavery was evil and a trap that the country, at some point in its future, would have to extricate itself from.

But Confederate generals and whatnot? Forget it!

Rather than being American heroes, those people were the kind of folk we traditionally teach our children not to be — turncoat traitors who killed Americans, and who also happened to be fighting for the perpetuation of a right of humans to own other humans. These people contributed no more good to our story than Benedict Arnold did. All Americans and their children need to know that we don’t celebrate American traitors and villains.

And don’t forget, we’re talking here about a guy who confessed to Bob Woodward that he gets along better with autocratic leaders than with democratic ones:

"It's funny, the relationships I have, the tougher and meaner they are, the better I get along with them. … But maybe it's not a bad thing. The easy ones I maybe don't like as much or don't get along with as much.”

He can’t seem to understand why, but he prefers the company of jerks like himself, and doesn’t so much like our American allies. This is an American president who doesn’t really understand his job, nor does he even understand his own country. Why would any democracy want to grant any such chief executive jurisdiction over the education of its children?

On the other hand, to be fair, there may be legitimate reasons to beware of Joe Biden, who very possibly could be much much worse than Trump!

In fact, I heard the other day that he recently said he was “happy to be back in Vermont", when he was actually in New Hampshire! Have you ever heard of anything so frightening? I get goosebumps on my neck just contemplating the thought that this guy could someday be running our country!

And besides, this Biden guy is in his goddam seventies! What do we do if he dies?

Unlike his opponent, of course, who comes with a built-in advantage in that, if he were to die, nobody would panic.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Response to Those City Folks

(See: Just Above Sunset : Those City Folks)

Donald Trump may or may not be a "stable genius", but if so, why does he have such a hard time understanding the simple concept of not putting “the-cart-before-the-horse”?

For example:

1. Racial unrest in America is what is behind all this so-called "violence in the cities"  except, of course, for that which is just made up by Fox News.

Trump brushes off questions about race in America and accuses reporters of ignoring the “real” issue, which is the violence. If he were a true genius, you’d think he’d realize that we’re not going to solve the so-called violent protests until we solve the problem of Black people being chronically mistreated by White-run America, especially by our cops.

One might suspect he doesn’t even want to talk about race in America because he just doesn't see the problem. I think he figures we can just go on living forever with our racial injustice in the same way we can learn to live with North Korea having the bomb.

In any event, Trump, the stable genius, doesn’t understand that race-relations is the horse, and peace in the cities is the cart. If the cart's not moving, it just might be that you have a sick horse.

2. The reason that Obama’s great economy, which Trump has been quite successfully taking credit for since his inauguration, suddenly stopped working for him is he has been ignoring for too long the reality that the Coronavirus is a much bigger deal than the flu. 

Maybe, when you're a president, you can pick and choose the solutions to the nation’s big problems you have to solve, but you don’t get to pick and choose the problems themselves. The inconvenient truth is, when national crises present themselves to presidents, they show up uninvited and pre-packaged by the history that preceded them.

Because of his dithering early on, Trump has neglected this huge pandemic that everyday flesh-and-blood Americans know is a threat, whether he knows that or not, sending our bullish economy into a nosedive, and it will not come back up until everybody gets serious about dealing with what could justifiably be called the “Trump Virus”.

(Maybe back when it was only in China, one could call it the “China Virus”, but now that it’s in Trump’s jurisdiction, it seems only right that he take credit for it.)

Anyway, everybody knows you can't just force everyone into the cart and assume it'll start moving on its own, you first need to look up front and make sure you got yourself a healthy horse. Any rural Trump-loving farmer could've told you that.

I suspect it’s because Trump knows so little about America’s past that he’s never heard of that old saying about not putting “the-cart-before-the-horse”.

Joe Biden’s actually smart! I'm guessing that, back when he was in class learning about the horses and the carts and whatnot, Don was out in the parking lot, squeezing lunch money out of his lessers  not because he needed the money, but just for practice, just in case someday he decides to go into politics.

And I'm also betting that, back in the day, Biden's dad never loaned him a million bucks so he could go out and pay someone to take his SATs. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Response to Nothing Left To Stop

(See: Just Above Sunset : Nothing Left To Stop)

Concerning this Post Office business:

Something I wish we all were discussing is, shouldn't the United States Post Office go back to being a regular department of government, like it used to be? Maybe Biden should tout that idea, or even campaign on it.

My belief is that, before we choose whether a service should be performed by government rather than the private sector, we need to decide if…

(1) We the People think it’s an essential service, and one that we’re willing to cover the losses for with our taxes, and

(2) that it can’t either be performed at all, or can’t be performed adequately for the country’s needs, if left to the private sector.

Given the fact that most people think that, in its present state, it can’t do the job we want it to — that is, deliver letters and packages anywhere in U.S. jurisdiction in the world, no matter how far away, for the same price — and by “people", I mean not just “normal people” but also Republicans! — then it should go back to being a governmental department. It’s really just that simple.

Whether it can pay its own way shouldn’t even be a consideration once it's been determined that the American people think it’s an essential service of government.

The way this is being presented is, if it's having financial problems, then we need to “privatize” it — remembering that the word “privatize”,  in this case, is just another word for “abolish”. There’s no need to convert the Postal Service into a private company that isn't able to handle our needs, since there are already private companies out there doing that.

And who do we have to thank for a Post Office Department that suddenly can't perform the functions it had been doing for hundreds of years? 

First, there was President Richard Nixon, who, following the settlement of a nationwide postal strike in 1970, abolished the "Post Office Department” and, for some obscure reason, converted it into the United States “Postal Service”, an "independent establishment" of the federal government which, though still under the thumb of the government but with no help from taxpayers, will now be required to support itself.

And then, in 2006, something else happened to make it even harder for the service to pay its way. This is from Eric Levitz in New York Magazine:

The Postal Service’s financial problems are largely an artifact of a 2006 law that arbitrarily requires the agency to pre-fund 75 years worth of its retirees’ health benefits.

Its status as an independent, self-sustaining agency is also relatively novel and unnecessary. The federal government could cover the Postal Service’s annual losses for about $14 billion a year — which is roughly one-tenth of the amount of money that Congress has added to the Pentagon’s annual budget since Donald Trump took office. 
Our country can easily afford to sustain an unprofitable public institution that provides 600,000 Americans with good jobs, and 90 percent of all U.S. residents with a service they approve of.

Nixon gave libertarian conservatives what they’ve always wanted, even though the American public never has, and apparently did so after little if any public discussion. We the People are now going to have to undo these so-called reforms foisted upon us by the likes of Donald Trump, and then pay more attention from now on.

First of all, do we demand that the Pentagon, for example, “pays its own way”? God knows what foolishness that would lead to  and in fact, there’s been some consideration by this president to rent out the army as sort of a mercenary force to countries willing to pay the freight.

For the same reason, we should not expect the White House itself to earn enough to cover expenses to run itself. How? From tour ticket sales? Maybe the building could be converted to a hotel, complete with four-star restaurant? Maybe they could charge to have a photo taken with the president! (You think he hasn't considered that idea?)

Speaking of which, it might be a good idea from now on for us to put a cap on how much the White House can spend. If we do that, then maybe some corrupt president wouldn’t assume the rest of us should pick up the cost of his flying Air Force One to Florida every weekend, and then charge us rent to house Secret Service agents.

The idea should be that, after a certain amount, the president could foot those bills himself. And if he decides not to pay for housing the agents? He could just leave them behind in Washington. No skin off our teeth!

But that’s just one of many American reforms a President Biden could promise, another being getting rid of the Electoral College, which most of the country should, by now, be ready to admit has not served us well.


Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Response to Hurting God

 (See: Just Above Sunset : Hurting God)

Jason Mulder, an evangelical Christian in Sioux Center, Iowa, says:

"I feel like on the coasts, in some of the cities and stuff, they look down on us in rural America. You know, we are a bunch of hicks, and don’t know anything. They don’t understand us the same way we don’t understand them. So we don’t want them telling us how to live our lives.”

That may be it right there. Both sides don’t like each other because each thinks the other is telling them how to live their lives — and they’re both right.

Still, any equivalence of the two sides may be imaginary, especially if most evangelicals think of themselves as those “Dordt Defenders” who cast out those who don’t share their religious prejudices. (In fact, not all those on the losing side of the 1619 "Synod of Dordrecht were merely expelled, at least one of their leaders was beheaded.)

As it is, I may indeed harbor a dislike of those evangelicals, although not because they’re Christians — heck, Barack Obama is a Christian and I like him just fine! (I myself am an agnostic, though not an evangelistic agnostic; I don’t really much care what you believe.) In fact, my dislike is more because of their dislike of me and my belief system.

So these evangelicals in Iowa admit that Trump is probably not a real Christian, even though he may be just their local Mafia Don who has agreed, for reasons of his own that they don't care to be aware of, to protect their neighborhood.

But do they really think he was sent by God? If so, my response would be, if you really believe in a God that is good, you almost have to also believe in that other god, the bad one. And so then the question becomes, which one sent Trump?

And if it turns out that he was sent up here, rather than down
, wouldn’t this give credence to those accusations of the "coastal elites”, that those midwestern red states are populated by "naive hicks"?

I like the way E.J. Dionne nails it when he says, “The more religion is associated with right-wing politics, the more alienated from religion progressives become, and the more inclined they are to dismiss religious people altogether.”

Or maybe it’s just that the moderate left doesn’t choose to make deals with Satan!

True, a higher percentage of liberal Democrats may be religiously unaffiliated, but at least we never beheaded anyone because of their choice of religious inclinations.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Response to That Interview

No, Trump's problem is not his staff, or even that he “doesn’t have control” over his reality.

His reelection problems all spring from the fact that he was (1) elected accidentally, and (2) elected as a “minority president”, which he still is.

Donald Trump won in 2016 because his particular schtick appealed to a small bunch of voters who were annoyed that the smart people who were running the country and making the country the way it was were people they didn’t particularly like. 

And, of course, these voters were able to prevail because of America’s stupid "Electoral College" system of electing presidents (which should have been eliminated long ago, but don’t get me started on things we need to do to make this a “more perfect union”) allows a minority group of quasi-crazies who don’t want the same things the rest of us do, if situated in just the right states, to get their way.

But one problem with this is, the quasi-crazies themselves have no idea of how to run a country, which means that nor will their candidate, and also, that their candidate will likely win with smoke-and-mirrors, and smoke-and-mirrors will fail when it comes to actually governance when real problems arise, such as having a heaven-sent prophet (in the person of a kneeling football player, warning that Black Lives Do Matter) ignored for several years, and a predictable global pandemic not being handled the way it should be, and early enough to do some good, the failing of which naturally causes the economy to collapse.

(Yes, Donald Trump was way too showbiz to comprehend what was being asked of him, but maybe it really wasnhis fault! Maybe the fault was with America not taking enough care to avoid electing a natural-born loser — after all, Trump didn't elect himself!)

It’s not that Trump has lost his magic touch, it’s that magic is all illusion, and real crises are not fixed by smoke-and-mirror illusions, which is all Trump has in his toolbox. (He's really what we call a "one-trick pony".)

And as for Newt Gingrich?

“I think it took several months to realize that all the tools that worked brilliantly for four years were not in tune with where the country was,” Gingrich said.

No one should forget that Gingrich was the guy who started digging the hole we find ourselves in today, and the fact that he probably doesn’t realize that is reflected in the fact that he really thinks that Trump’s tools "worked brilliantly for four years”.

The voters who elected Trump, and especially those who eventually came to believe in him, expected him to eventually pay off with something good, but what he ended up delivering turned out to be a huge disappointment, and too late for any of his magic to turn around.

It’s funny watching a discussion amongst his Republican goons about what Trump can do to pull himself out of his nosedive, when the answer seems to be obvious:


(Or so I hope, along with just about everyone else on the planet.)


Saturday, June 27, 2020

Response to Wishful Thinking Got Us

(See: Just Above Sunset : Wishful Thinking Got Us)

Why should all Americans, even the ones that like him, refuse to vote for Trump in November?

It’s really quite simple. We have three huge simultaneous crises going on right now, and all of them caused by him, mostly because he likes to be in control of everything, which is why he doesn’t seem to ever recognize any problems that are not of his own making:

* First, there’s all those nationwide “Black Lives Matter" protests, with rioting and burning and looting thrown in — probably mostly by outside kibitzers, horning in — none of which would have happened had he attended to what Colin Kaepernick was trying to tell us years ago about the chronic mistreatment of black people in this country, especially by the police.

Trump tried to let America off the hook by turning that into an issue of “patriotism" and “respect for the flag and the military", which a competent president might, at the very least, have been able to handle at the same time as he addressed what Kaepernick was talking about, which was recognizing the problem and trying to fix it — which is what a president Hillary would have done, which we know because she campaigned on the issue.

But Trump couldn’t do that, of course, because he didn’t really see it as a problem, so he sided with the cops — or at least the “bad apples” among them, assuming that was the case.

* Likewise, Trump screwed up Covid-19 badly, first of all by pretending it was not going to be a problem for America, which was just the first domino to fall. He finally got off to a late start dealing with it, if in fact he has been dealing with it, stumbling between saying it’s up to the states to do it themselves, then declaring that he’s in charge after all, then back again.

And now he insists that he and his people have been doing a spectacular job, despite the fact that, with only 4% of the world’s population, our country has 25% of all the world’s Covid-19 deaths! And that’s not a fact he can escape by blaming it, as Pence does, on the First Amendment of the Constitution, which the VP seems to argue gives all Americans the right to kill themselves, even if it means taking down hundreds or even thousands of Americans with them.

* And finally, the economy. Trump inherited a great one from Obama, which he kept taking credit for without contributing much to it other than failed trade wars, until he dropped the ball completely by mishandling our huge health crisis, by not knowing enough about the country he accidentally became the minority-president of to know that he was supposed to be in charge of guiding the states to safety.

One of his most blatant missteps was in thinking that, if we were to suddenly open the free market again, everything else would just take care of itself, and getting people back to work was more important that saving their lives!

Had he taken the management of this seriously, he’d have taken care of the money — not stimulus money to open up businesses, but food-and-rent-and-whatnot money to tide everyone over, allowing folks to stay safe at home until the virus was effectively beaten, and the curve was flattened into virtual nonexistence, as has happened in other countries.

And about all these deaths, which he and his people seem to think are not as important as the First Amendment? Hey, Americans have freedom of speech protection, but that doesn’t keep people from suing someone for libel, and winning! Someone else's constitutionally-protected freedom shouldn't mean a death sentence for you and me!

And as for the “relatively few" lives lost to Covid not being enough to care about, when it comes to protecting the freedom of Americans to do what they want?

Hell, two-thousand four hundred three deaths at Pearl Harbor was enough to get us into World War II the very next day, and just under three-thousand deaths on 9/11 got us into war with Afghanistan (and arguably also Iraq), so why do we allow a minority of nutcase-Americans who think it’s okay for 125,000 (and counting) of their fellow countrymen (that’s 52 Pearl Harbors!) to die just to defend their constitutional right to not be told they have to wear a face mask in Trader Joe's, to prevent us from fighting full-bore against this damn pandemic?

Because too many Americans don’t like to be told what to do are too lazy to care what happens to their fellow countrymen, the rest of us are forced to do everything we can just to keep from coming anywhere within breathing distance of them, lest we keel over dead, bequeathing this nice planet to their useless ilk? That just doesn’t seem right!

If we are to somehow get rid of this American malignancy, maybe it will be because just the right number of voters come to their senses about what he’s done to this country in the last four years, and this time try to not accidentally do what they accidentally did back in 2016.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Response to Ending Some American Carnage

(See: Just Above Sunset : Ending Some American Carnage)

About those recent Gallup numbers:
The percentage of Americans expressing extreme pride in the country has been declining over the past 20 years, especially recently. Just over half, 55%, felt extreme pride in the initial January 2001 reading, prior to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In the three subsequent years, between 65% and 70% were extremely proud as the public rallied around the flag. 
By 2005, that reading fell to 61% and remained steady until 2015 when it dropped to 54%. The current reading is the sixth consecutive year since then that it has fallen to a new low in Gallup’s trend…
And how low did it go?
Although a majority of adults in the U.S. still say they are “extremely proud” (42%) or “very proud” (21%) to be American, both readings are the lowest they have been since Gallup’s initial measurement in 2001.
Forty-two percent!! You think this might be what we
get when we decide to put just any old doofus in the White House? Okay, good poll for our side, but I still have to ask myself...

Am I even “proud” to be an American?

Not really, since I don’t really find it meaningful to talk about being “proud” of one's nationality.

After all, are you proud of the size of your feet? Proud of your gender? Or how about your race? Not I, but neither am I ashamed. I was born a white male human being, and with relatively small feet, in the United States of America, none of which are “accomplishments" that I can take credit (or blame) for.

Yes, I like living here, but while I have the choice to live elsewhere — and I’ve been elsewhere and seen other countries that I enjoyed visiting — I choose not to move there, because in spite of its problems, I’d really rather stay put right here

Besides, I do like the idea of America being a place that implicitly recognizes its ability to improve itself, although that’s something only American liberals 
seem to care about, not so much conservatives. We liberals tend to see Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling as recognition that America needs to fix its race problems, particular in the area of police interactions with African Americans, while conservatives only seem to see it as an insult to the country or the flag or to the troops that fought for them somewhere.

Personally, I think that sort of oversimplified disingenuousness hurts, rather than helps the country.

And I’m proud to have made the choice to see this country as a good idea, rather than some club that I’m supposed to be loyal to, because not doing so, in public, would make some not-very-bright people I don’t particularly like very much mad at me.

And I’m glad that, somewhere along the way, I picked up on the notion that Stephen Decatur famously toasting "his country, right or wrong” was wrong — that if your country is wrong, you don’t offer an after-dinner toast to it, you make your country right!

So maybe I’m proud to be a liberal Democratic American, because first of all, that’s a good thing to be, but it’s also an accomplishment I can actually take credit for.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Responding to Finally Losing It All

(See: Just Above Sunset : Finally Losing It All)

Maybe he should have said, "I’m your president of 'Law ad Order, Criminal Intent’”. After all, it’s hard to think of Donald Trump without also thinking of some sort of criminal intent. (Maybe he could follow that with, “Check local listings.”)

And while it’s been characterized in the media as some sort of "photo-op" of him holding a bible in front of a church, I think it’s actually more than that. This should be taken in its entirety:

* We start with one of his famous “no-questions-from-the-press,-please" press conferences, laying out the contention that governors and mayors are too weak to take care of business the way it needs to be taken care of, which includes a promise to send Federal troops, complete with sticks and shields to hit people with, into any state that refuses to voluntarily invite them in (or something like that), followed by...

* A demonstration of how it’s done: Military guys and cops in various type of uniform, out in front of the White House, on split screen and without warning, start brutalizing nearby street protestors (“peaceful” protestors? “Car-burning” protestors? Hey, for our purposes, no need to put too fine a point on that!), which then clears the way for...

* Generalissimo Bonespurs, surrounded by a gaggle of self-satisfied goons and goonettes, to strut through the newly-emptied Lafayette Park, to the nearest boarded-up church they can find, where he can…

* Okay, let’s pause here. He can do what? It didn’t look like they had fully thought this part through. Say something memorable? … although, right now, I forget what memorable thing he said. Okay, how about pose for a picture? But wait! Do it while holding up a Bible! But signifying what? Something about Jesus being on our side? Who knows! Let people use their imagination! Hey, how about the rest of you crowding into the picture here? Come on, don’t be shy!

(Hey, maybe he was imagining how our boys felt when they liberated Paris! He’d always wondered, but was just too young to serve in whichever war that was.)

So you see? That’s how it’s done! First, a bunch of friendly demonstrators were standing here, but then we had big men with sticks shove them out of the way, and now, WE’RE standing here! Easy as pie! Now all you weak governors, you go ahead and try it!

The whole presentation had all the klutzy grace of a second-grade Thanksgiving pageant, minus the charm.

Apparently he’s been feeling left out lately; first, nobody paying him any attention, and then he finally gets some ink, but it turns out to be the story about him and his family having been whisked off to a bunker, like scared bunny rabbits! They’re making him look like a fool, dammit! He needs to somehow get outside the building and make himself look tough!

The staged theatrics of this, taken alone, were almost comical, in a really bizarre, scary-for-America sort of way. I’m thinking we may all someday ask each other where we were on June 1st, 2020, the day President Trump took his “Funny Walk” across the street.

But is using the military in combat uniforms as part of his little “Passion Play” publicity stunt even legal?

Who knows! Who cares!! It’s not a big deal! Maybe the reason America has gotten so flabby is because they think too much! They take everything sooo seriously!!

Who knew back in the Framers’ day that the concept of what America is all about would end up being too complicated for one of its presidents to comprehend! He thinks our country is no different at its core from all those dictatorships he’s heard about and learned to envy, nasty countries that have mean men in gaudy uniforms, shoving their citizens around this way and that. If the writers of the Constitution were to wake up today and see what they’ve done, they’d scurry back 
into their graves, just to roll around.

And it’s not that Trump had nothing to do with all the craziness going on in the country today. In fact, he had everything to do with it.

First, starting with the easy stuff:

It’s not that nobody warned him about the upcoming virus crisis; it’s just that Trump found it too boring and wouldn’t listen.

Here’s a virus timeline, that includes a corresponding timeline for the rotten economy that sprang from it, from Robert Reich in the American Prospect:

 In 2018, he let the pandemic preparedness office in the National Security Council simply dissolve, and followed up with budget cuts to HHS and CDC this year. That team’s job was to follow a pandemic playbook written after global leaders fumbled their response to Ebola in 2014. Trump was briefed on the playbook’s existence in his first year…

The initial outbreak of the coronavirus began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.

By mid-January 2020, the White House had intelligence reports that warned of a likely pandemic.

On January 18, HHS Secretary Azar spoke with Trump to emphasize the threat of the virus just as U.S. diplomats were being evacuated from Wuhan.

[On January 20], the virus was confirmed in both the U.S. and South Korea.

That week, South Korean officials immediately drafted medical companies to develop test kits for mass production. The WHO declared a global health emergency. But Trump … did nothing.

As Hubei province went on lockdown, Trump ... barred entry of any foreigners coming from China … but took no additional steps to prepare for infection in the United States.

He said, “We pretty much shut it down, coming in from China.” He didn’t ramp up production of test kits so we could begin isolating the virus.

By February, the U.S. had 14 confirmed cases but the CDC test kits proved faulty; there weren’t enough of them, and they were restricted to only people showing symptoms. The U.S. pandemic response was already failing.

Trump then began actively downplaying the crisis and baselessly predicting it would go away when the weather got warmer.

Trump decided there was nothing to see here, and on February 24, took time out of his day to remind us that the stock markets were soaring.

A day later, CDC officials sounded the alarm that daily life could be severely disrupted. The window to get ahead of the virus by testing and containment was closing.

Trump’s next move: He compared coronavirus to the seasonal flu … and called the emerging crisis a hoax by the Democrats.

With 100 cases in the U.S., Trump declined to call for a national emergency. Meanwhile, South Korea was now on its way to testing a quarter-million people, while the U.S. was testing 40 times slower.

When a cruise ship containing Americans with coronavirus floated toward San Francisco, Trump said he didn’t want people coming off the ship to be tested because they’d make the numbers look bad.

It wasn’t until the stock market reacted to the growing crisis and took a nosedive that Trump finally declared a national emergency.

By this time, South Korea had been using an app for over a month that pulled government data to track cases and alert users to stay away from infected areas…

Only when the stock market crashed did Trump finally begin to pay attention … and mostly to bailing out corporations in the form of a massive $500 billion slush fund, rather than to helping people. And then, with much of America finally and belatedly in lockdown, he said at a Fox News town hall that he would “love” to have the country “opened up, and just raring to go” by Easter.
So as you may have heard:

On May 3rd, there were 65,307 Covid-19 deaths reported in the United States, while, according to a Columbia University study, had social distancing started just one week earlier than it did, the estimated deaths on May 3rd would have been 29,410!

That’s about 36,000 Americans, maybe even someone you know, who might have survived the pandemic had the delay not happened. 

And that brings us up to the Cops-Killing-Blacks crisis. (Yeah, that’s on him, too.)

This used to be a hot political topic back before the 2016 election. Candidate Hillary Clinton campaigned on it, claiming that, while the police apparently were killing way too many black people, policing was a dangerous job and we need our cops to protect our towns and cities, so somehow, we needed to bring these two sides together and solve it.

Trump, on the other hand, campaigned for the law enforcement vote, mostly ignoring whatever the other side had to say.

By the way, do more blacks really get killed by the cops than whites in America?

Oddly, not really. In fact

According to The [Washington] Post’s database of fatal police shootings, since 2015 police have shot and killed about twice as many white people as black people...

Cops may shoot and kill twice as many white people as black, but there are about six times as many white people as black people in the United States. Proportionally, black people are much more likely to be shot and killed by cops.

If we look at shooting deaths of unarmed people, cops have shot and killed about the same number of whites and blacks, which means an even wider racial disparity as a percentage of the population. This is probably because when interacting with black people, police officers seem more likely to see innocuous movements — or even efforts to comply with their orders — as threatening.
So despite there being fewer blacks living in America than whites, African-Americans are, according to a 2015 study, 2.8 times more likely to be killed by police than whites.

So, is there a problem here? Maybe so, but not if you ask Donald Trump. He never discusses it. Maybe he hasn’t heard about it on Fox News?

And it was already a big problem when Colin Kaepernick tried to remind us about it in 2016, the year before Donald Trump came to office and started mocking Kaepernick, pretending that, by “taking a knee” during the national anthem, the football player was just trying to insult the American flag and American armed forces.

So Donald Trump, who single-handedly ginned up a distraction, can’t claim he wasn’t aware of an important issue that demanded the attention of the American president, and one that finally came back around just this last week to bite him in his more than ample Scottish bahookie.

I know, I know, there’s a tendency nowadays for people like me to trace every American mess back to our very own President Capone, but that's because, let’s be honest, can you think of any evil anywhere on the planet today that isn’t somehow connected to this guy?

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Response to Checking the Math

(See: Just Above Sunset : Checking the Math)

Hate to say it, but Chris Christie has the guts to make the conservative case, and it’s a strong one: Yes, people will die, but so what? People die all the time! There’s no cure for death, so let’s stop trying to cure it and just get on with living our lives!

I see his point, although I still side with the liberals: We value human life and try to save as much of it as we can, since we believe that you don’t just sit back and not try to improve the human experience; we are all in this together, and should try to make things better!

It all goes back to the Renaissance, when liberals said we can fix all this, while conservatives asked, what’s the point? Don’t try to improve on God’s creation, since he seems to know what he’s doing.

Remember Anderson Cooper’s recent interview with Carolyn Goodman, the independent mayor of Las Vegas?

She was trying to make the same argument, although not as succinctly as Christie did: Yes, people will die as we open up the economy, but you don’t shut down the world just because people die! People are going to die, no matter how hard you try to prevent it, so in the meantime, if people start running out of money, they run out of food, then people can’t pay their bills, and they starve, and then you’re in real trouble!

Be that as it may...

So Trump, the president, tells the states to carefully follow the rules and do things right, but Trump, the candidate, encourages states to crawl out there on that limb, then saw the limb off behind them. Who can blame him for not choosing the correct course of action between two, when he picks both of them?

I see this as kind of the “Dumbo’s Magic Feather” approach:

All people need is something to give themselves confidence in themselves! And the way to do that is to do whatever you want to do, but just make sure everyone thinks you’re trying to do it right — even if you’re not. After all, who can blame you if you screw it up, as long as you gave it your best effort, then let the chips fall where they’re gonna fall?

As long as you fool everyone into believing you’re reopening the economy with the utmost of care, nobody’s gonna notice that you’re lying about the “utmost of care” part.

Afterward, you can always talk yourselves out of it by claiming that “nobody could have foreseen that all those states would all go tumble down to the ground, with dead bodies spread everywhere like that! But I’ll say this, we did a miraculous job, didn’t we? I mean if it weren’t for us, and with no help from those useless Democrats, the death toll would have been much worse!”

Mark my words, I expect that Trump will say something like that.

But where this analogy falls apart is, in the Dumbo story, the elephant really can fly without the feather, while in real life — in that reality that, if you stop believing it, it doesn’t go away — in real life, if Dumbo jumps out of that tree? He dies.

Okay, magic may be fun, but no, in real life, elephants can’t fly by just flapping their ears.

If we look back several centuries to when we emerged from the dark ages, we can see there were people who saw ways to make our lives better — by inventing forks and spoons and printing presses, engines to drive our trains and cars and ships, machines to make clothes and to allow us to fly to the moon, and even concocting medicines to help us fight off disease.

Improving our chances of survival doesn’t take belief in magic, it just takes intelligence and hard work and patience and good judgement, all of which are necessary building blocks for civilization, without which many of us — maybe you, maybe me, maybe both of us — would not be alive today.

So I’m not saying the conservative just-let-em-die approach, held by Carolyn Goodman and Chris Christie, aren’t legitimate points of view, I just prefer the liberal Democrats’ let’s-make-things-better-if-we-can point of view way more.

So in fact, this is a clash of different civilizations, between those of us who want to keep the virus from killing so many of us, no matter how much wealth we lose along the way, and those of us who want to exercise their right to just live their lives, no matter how many others of us have to die to make that happen.

Where do we all meet?

I realize that no matter when it is that we all conclude it’s safe to “reopen” our world, some people will end up dead as a result. Tragically, whatever time we choose should be based upon the question, how few of us can we sacrifice in order to come to that safe landing?

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Response to Bumper Sticker Foolishness

(See: Just Above Sunset : Bumper Sticker Foolishness)

Uh! Oh! Puppy pooped on carpet! Need to put puppy outside, where he can poop all he wants without annoying everybody!

Okay, later in the day, the puppy took a hike. Trump says he had nothing to do with the guy’s decision, but in fact, everything Modly did and didn’t do, just his being there, acting in a position that he took over from a guy that Trump fired because Trump knows how to do stuff he doesn't understand, insulting the captain of a ship in a way that insulted the whole crew, and his finally jumping or being pushed out of there? Trump may have had nothing to do with it, except that’s not true at all. The whole filthy episode has Trump written all over it, and I’m guessing that Mr. “Look-at-me!-I’m-running-the-world!” had everything to do with all of it.

Although there’s no use yelling out loud about this guy, Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly, since most Americans are already members of the choir, and the rest probably think he’s perfectly normal.

Still, it’s worth pointing out that the Trump administration should be the perfect study of some enterprising social scientist, along the lines of Laurence J. Peter’s The Peter Principle”, a managerial theory in which he describes how it is that so many people on their way up the ladder somehow stop rising at exactly the moment they reach their level of incompetence. The point is, nobody ever takes the time to move him back down to where his abilities were.

But back to our study, which would demonstrate the process in which a nasty blockhead at the top of an organization eventually ends up presiding over all these other nasty blockheads — all the nice smart people have been let go over the years, while all the budding nasty stupid-heads have been rewarded for turning themselves into Mini-Me replicas of the head jamoke, by adopting qualities not generally valued much in society at large.

Sort of like some virus that, by invading the cell, is able to replicate itself, lasting until the organism either successfully kicks it out, or dies in the attempt. Seems to be a lot or that going around lately.

And here's just one of the issues that illustrates what’s happening within the Trump administration, the presumption amongst its minions that a free range news media — that is, one with an unhealthy obsession with the very concept of “truth" —  is the natural-born enemy of all real Americans, especially those who might have accidentally volunteered to serve in our Navy, such lucky sea-dogs as happened to have heard, and maybe even recorded, this pep-talk from our late “acting” Navy Secretary:
You can jump the Chain of Command if you want and take the consequences, you can disobey the chain of command and take the consequences, but there is no, no situation where you to go the media. Because the media has an agenda and the agenda that they have depends on which side of the political aisle they sit and I’m sorry that’s the way the country is now but it’s the truth and so they use it to divide us and use it to embarrass the Navy. They use it to embarrass you. 
So think about that when you cheer the man [off] the ship who exposed you to that.
In normal times, anybody in any leadership position of government who believes the news media is the enemy would be, and should be, physically and rudely removed from office, in the same way that any Secretary of the Navy, acting or otherwise, would be immediately shit-canned during the Cold War were he to publicly proclaim his allegiance to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

Anybody in any position of leadership in the U.S. government who doesn’t understand that countries in which the public gets all their information from the government, instead of from an independent press, are countries not to be emulated. 

None of the politicos overseeing our military lately have seemed to have the brain cells needed for the job. In Modly’s case, if my calculations are correct, he was born about when I was finishing up high school — not old enough to have learned anything from our mistakes in Vietnam, and in the case of President Bonespurs, he suffers from a delusion that he actually WAS in the military, when in fact he was only in a private military academy (now defunct, having followed Trump University into a history best left forgotten) — which would be like me imagining myself a genuine Great White Hunter after having taken the jungle-themed cruise through Adventureland.

I harbor no delusions that this Modly guy’s anti-press prejudices will disappear from the regime after he’s gone. In fact, it seems to follow logically that some let's-pretend Commander-in-Chief would think it's okay to loosen the rules for some despicable war criminal in the ranks, at the same tighten the rules for sailors only trying to escape death from a rampaging pandemic, especially if you know that that commander learned everything he knows about the military by attending a military-themed high school.

So another “acting” whatever falls by the wayside, soon to be replaced by some new acting part-time something-or-other — one moving target replacing another — which seems to be Trump’s newly-discovered defense mechanism that this disease called “The Trump Administration” has adapted in order to survive.

But with any luck, this disease will have run its course by year’s end, at which time maybe we’ll all feel free to once again emerge from our hiding places and go back to putting our collective lives back in our control.

Unless, of course, we fail to stamp out the disease, and it stamps out us instead. 

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Response to To Fight or Flatter

(See: Just Above Sunset : To Fight or Flatter)

First, we need to remember this as how president Donald Trump brought the nation together during one of its darkest hours:

Trump said he had instructed Vice President Mike Pence not to call the governors of Washington or Michigan – two coronavirus hotspots – because of their public criticism. “If they don’t treat you right, I don’t call,” Trump said.

Close your eyes and imagine Abraham Lincoln, about to comfort the mother of a union soldier who died at Gettysburg, but after being told that she didn’t vote for him in the last election, he cancels the meeting. “Hey, you know, if they don’t treat you right…"

I think history will remember Trump for stuff like this. What do you remember about James K. Polk? How about Martin Van Buren? Nothing? Exactly!

But Trump? There you go! I’m pretty sure he’ll be remembered as the W.C. Fields of presidents, a clueless and self-centered dork who stumbles around with toilet paper stuck to the bottom of his shoe, striking out resentfully at anyone who sees him for what he is.

I wonder if, during the 2016 elections, Trump had promised everyone that, should someday the country be hit by a huge pandemic, all the states will be on their own and shouldn’t count on the federal government for help or even coordination, I wonder, would that have hurt his chances, or would that have helped him?

After all, if he’s the president, what the hell is he even president “of”?

If national disasters are to be dealt with by all the individual states, then what’s the point of us being “one nation, indivisible”? He doesn’t even know what his job is!

Or am I just being a “liberal”, thinking everybody shares my own liberal assumptions of a nation that looks out for all of itself, not just the parts that voted for whatever bean-dip-for-brains president happens to be in power at the time?

I view Andrew Cuomo’s fireside chats as the liberal Democrats, demonstrating to the conservative Republicans — Donald Trump, in particular, of course — how it’s supposed to be done. But of course, what’s missing in all this is Cuomo spelling it out that way.

Apparently he doesn’t want to rudely blurt out, “Ya see, Donald? This is the way OUR side does this! Leaders are supposed to do the RIGHT THING, not act like some Banana-Republic dictator who won’t do anything for anybody unless they give him the proper respect!”

Trump's worst shortcoming is that he doesn’t seem to get the fact that he just doesn’t get it, much less does he get the degree to which he doesn’t get it. He’s the most destructive kind of weak leader in that he spends most every waking hour doing little but trying to prove on Twitter how much stronger he is than everyone else.

I keep thinking that, while I was growing up, watching all those Hollywood movies, always rooting for the good guy, Trump must have been rooting for the villain. Who does that?

It’s an updated version of that famous old “Problem of Evil” question from philosophy 101:

If God is all-benevolent and all-knowing and all-powerful, then how the hell did he ever let this Donald Trump goofball become president?