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?