Republicans Have Lost Their Way

Michael Gerson is a ‘neo-conservative’ Republican.  He served as the White House Director of Speechwriting and a senior policy advisor for nearly six years under President George W. Bush and is now a columnist for The Washington Post.  Like other Republicans and former Republicans, Gerson is no fan of Donald Trump and he makes no bones about it.  In his latest column, he takes on the Republican Party of which he is a member, and his assessment is spot-on.


The GOP’s agenda under Trump: Voter suppression, pandemic denial and a personality cult

Opinion by 

michael-gersonMichael Gerson

Columnist

Oct. 19, 2020 at 3:30 p.m. EDT

One of the most symbolic moments of campaign 2020 was when the apparatus of the Republican Party strained and groaned to produce a platform reading, “RESOLVED, That the Republican National Convention will adjourn without adopting a new platform until the 2024 Republican National Convention.”

It was, in its own content-free, witless way, an assertion of power. The party that had produced a platform every four years since 1856 had become, well, anything President Trump wished at the moment. It was a declaration and recognition of personal rule.

After nearly four years, it is fair to ask: With the GOP as putty in Trump’s hand, what form has it taken? What are the large, organizing commitments of the GOP during the Trump captivity?

One would have to be voter suppression. What began, for some, as an effort to ensure ballot security has become a campaign to control the content of the electorate by limiting its size.

Not long ago, I would have regarded this as conspiracy thinking. At some point, however, a pattern becomes a plot. There have been Republican efforts to make voting more difficult in Georgia, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Texas, Iowa and Oklahoma. These have included: complicated absentee ballot processes, strict voter ID rules, obstacles for voters returning from prison, objections to the broad distribution of ballots and logistical obstacles to early voting. The Republican governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, set the example of shamelessness by limiting vast counties to a single ballot drop box. The president has attempted to destroy trust in the whole electoral enterprise in preparation for legal challenges to mail-in votes.

Again and again, Republicans have used, or attempted to use, the power they gained from voters to undermine democracy. This has a political intention but (for some) it also has an ideological explanation. It is the logical electoral implication of nativism. If too much diversity is the cause of our national problems, it can be fought by restricting immigration or by restricting the democratic participation of minorities. In either case, these are actions motivated by Republican fears of being swamped by people they can’t relate to and voted into obsolescence. So the GOP seems to expend more energy and creativity on discouraging minority voting than it does on doing minority outreach.

The second characteristic of the new GOP is denial of a pandemic in the midst of a surging pandemic. Trump and many other Republicans think they can win only if American voters forget about more than 219,000 deaths* from covid-19 and the utterly incompetent federal response to the crisis. It is hard to recall any American presidential campaign that depended so directly on the outbreak of mass amnesia.

Trump’s recent campaign visit to Wisconsin was remarkable for its brazenness. On a day Wisconsin saw its highest level of new infections during the pandemic, Trump told a crowd that had to be screened for coughs and fevers that the country was “rounding the corner” on covid-19 and that their state was insufficiently open. This is denial pressed to the point of lunacy. It is the elephant urging people to ignore the elephant in the room.

The third organizing commitment of the GOP under Trump is loyalty to his person. At the beginning of his term, there was a Republican attempt to understand the populism that elected Trump and draw its policy implications. That ended quickly. The president made clear that the only thing that really mattered about populism was its end product: himself.

Populist causes — such as discrediting the media and “owning the libs” — are instruments to protect Trump from attack and project his own power. His whole term has been the chaotic and brutish attempt to find the people who would take his whims as law. And elected Republicans (except the admirable Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah) have been ruled by the fear of Trump’s tweeted tantrums. As Trump seems headed toward electoral failure, a few Republicans are recovering their own voices. But it won’t be easy to escape this taint. Years of complicity with Trump’s assault on American institutions is less like a bad haircut than an infected tattoo.

Some would add a conservative judiciary to this list of GOP commitments, and there is a case to be made. But this is no longer advocated in the context of moral conservatism, as it was in the Reagan era. The goal now is to secure conservative judges from a morally anarchic administration. A cause has been reduced to a transaction.

What should we make of this GOP agenda: voter suppression, disease denial and a personality cult dedicated to a con man? It is the weakest appeal to the public of any modern presidential candidate. The Republican Party may win or lose. But it deserves to lose.

*Note that as of this writing, the death toll in the U.S. from coronavirus is at least 225,570.

A Lot Can Happen In Three Months …

The official death toll from the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. is currently at 225,222 (as of 11:04 p.m. on 10/19/2020).  There are over 2.7 million active cases of the coronavirus in the nation at this time.  The most recent unemployment data, from September, shows 12.58 million people are unemployed in the U.S.  And yet, Trump & Co were planning a cut to the food stamp program that would have cut off food stamps to some 700,000 people.

It has long been obvious that neither Trump nor any of his cronies have that thing we call a conscience, that they do not care about anyone but themselves, or anything but wealth.  But, fortunately for the people of this country, despite Trump’s efforts to pack the courts with partisan judges, some fair and honest judges remain on the bench.  One such is U.S. District Chief Judge Beryl Howell, who on Sunday struck down the Trumpian plan to restrict the federal food safety net.

According to The Washington Post

Beryl-HowellIn a scathing 67-page opinion, Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell of D.C. condemned the Agriculture Department for failing to justify or even address the impact of the sweeping change on states, saying its shortcomings had been placed in stark relief amid the coronavirus pandemic, during which unemployment has quadrupled and rosters of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program have grown by more than 17 percent, with more than 6 million new enrollees.

The rule “at issue in this litigation radically and abruptly alters decades of regulatory practice, leaving States scrambling and exponentially increasing food insecurity for tens of thousands of Americans,” Howell wrote, adding that the Agriculture Department “has been icily silent about how many [adults] would have been denied SNAP benefits had the changes sought . . . been in effect while the pandemic rapidly spread across the country.” The judge concluded that the department’s “utter failure to address the issue renders the agency action arbitrary and capricious.”

Funny, isn’t it, that the federal government, comprised of uber-wealthy men … and a few equally wealthy women … is quick to make cuts in funding to programs like food stamps, quick to say “no” when California asks for assistance fighting the worst wildfires in history, but they can seem to find the money to fly Trump, his grown children, his assistants, and a Secret Service crew all over the country … to golf courses, his Mar-a-Lago resort, and his inane rallies where few wear masks and care not a whit about the well-being of their families and friends!  Oh yes, and let us not forget that We the People paid an estimated $40,000+ for him to take a helicopter for the 8.5 mile trip from the White House to Walter Reed hospital earlier this month.   And then, there was the cost of his care for the three-day stay at Walter Reed.  You or I … well, suffice it to say we would have stayed home, drank hot tea, rested, and hoped for the best.

So, we can afford the extravagances of Trump, his family, and his minions, but we cannot afford to feed people who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic.  In addition, Trump & Co have plans for two more measures that would cap deductions for utility allowance and limit access to food stamps for working poor families.  It is my hope that those, too, will either languish incomplete until Trump leaves office on January 20th, or that they, too, will be struck down in the courts.

Where, I would ask, is the humanity in our federal government?  It damn sure isn’t in the White House or any of the federal agencies tasked with a variety of things from the health and safety of the nation to protecting the environment to the education of our youth!

In recent days, federal agencies have been rushing to enact regulatory changes affecting millions of people in this country, as they are seeing the very real possibility that their time to do so is likely to be limited to another three months.  Some of their rushed proposals include easing limits on how many hours some truckers can spend behind the wheel, giving the government more freedom to collect biometric data and setting federal standards for when workers can be classified as independent contractors rather than employees.  There is also a proposed rule to allow railroads to move highly flammable liquefied natural gas on freight trains … just what we need!

Trump’s team is limiting or sidestepping requirements for public comment on some of the changes and swatting aside critics who say the administration has failed to carry out sufficiently rigorous analysis.  The Trumpites are also working to fill key vacancies on scientific advisory boards with members who will hold their seats far into the next presidential term, committees that play an important role in shaping federal rule making.  Given that, in the middle of a deadly pandemic, Trump selected a man, Scott Atlas, who has absolutely zero experience or knowledge of public health or infectious diseases to lead his coronavirus task force, it’s almost a given that the people who are selected for the scientific advisory boards will be equally unqualified.  A climate change denier in a key position at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)?  Oh wait … we already have that in the form of one Andrew Wheeler, head of the EPA and a former lobbyist for the fossil fuel industry.  Until 2017, Wheeler represented Murray Energy, one of the dirtiest, most crooked coal companies in the nation, but a big donor to the 2016 campaign of one Donald Trump.

There are exactly two weeks until election day, but we won’t likely have final results for a week or longer thereafter.  Then another two months until inauguration day when, hopefully, we can say “Goodbye and don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out” to Donald Trump.  But in the interim … there is so much damage that could potentially be done.  Let us hope the courts keep on doing their jobs and striking him down, because if they don’t, we will pay the price in spades.

To Hold Trump Accountable — Or Not?

I apologize in advance for the lengthiness of this post, but I thought it was one worth consideration.  I have mixed feelings on this issue of whether Trump should be held to account for his actions such as obstruction of justice, bribery, conspiracy to defraud, and campaign finance violations once he leaves office.  On the one hand, I do want to see him treated just as any of the rest of us would be for harming the people of this nation, but on the other hand … can we truly begin to heal the Great Divide in this nation if Trump remains headline news for the next two years or longer?  I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read Sam Tanenhaus’ OpEd from The Washington Post last Friday


The reckoning

The country can’t recover from Trump’s presidency unless he’s held accountable

tannenhaus-samBy Sam Tanenhaus

October 16, 2020

Some Americans entertain a fantasy that goes like this: President Trump is voted out of office, finally faces justice for his serial misconduct and shuffles off to prison. A wearier, probably larger population looks forward to scrubbing the nation’s memory of these past four years and returning to pre-Trump life. A third sizable group shows unwavering loyalty to Trump.

One lesson of American history is that the country’s worst injuries are those we’ve caused ourselves. This history is not uplifting, but it is edifying, and it haunts. Failing to perform the necessary diagnostic surgery after a time of collective wrongdoing has costs. The steepest is this: Subsequent generations inherit a weakened democracy. Today it is imperative to confront the facts of the Trump era. We elected as president a homegrown insurrectionist. He rose to the highest position in our democracy and damaged it. Even now, he continues to assault our laws and institutions, our independent judiciary, our national security, our health, and our constitutional system of checks and balances. It’s unimaginable, ludicrous even, to contemplate doing nothing about Donald Trump.

No single course for a post-Trump reckoning will satisfy, let alone reconcile, the country’s divergent constituencies. And some damage can’t easily be undone — harm to America’s standing in the world, for example, and the fatally negligent response to the coronavirus pandemic. But in the search for accountability there are middle-path options that fall between prosecuting this singular president and prosecuting his broader legacy. One is to begin with a problem that Americans across the ideological spectrum agree needs fixing: our elections.

Elections are the place to start because so much of Trump’s misconduct relates to them. Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election resulted in three dozen indictments or guilty pleas and five prison sentences, all related to Trump campaign actions during that election and afterward, when the president and others tried to cover up what they had done. Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and his longtime lawyer, Michael Cohen, have both done time. The Senate Intelligence Committee — led by Republicans — produced a nearly 1,000-page report detailing the Trump team’s misdeeds, most pertaining to the 2016 election. Prosecutors in New York, meanwhile, are digging further into Trump’s payment of hush money to a porn star ahead of the vote. And of course, in his impeachment, Trump was charged with misusing his office to try to get help from Ukraine in his reelection campaign — in violation of election law and of the framers’ fear that a president might, in James Madison’s words, “betray his trust to foreign powers.”

In at least one thing Trump has been proved right. Joe Biden is a strong opponent. If he is elected (increasingly likely), and if Democrats hold on to their majority in the House (it seems probable) and achieve one in the Senate (distinctly possible), they will be in a position to mount the kind of full-scale investigation they have been kept from doing while Trump is president.

But will the next administration hold the Trump crew truly accountable for past crimes, such as those uncovered by Mueller, the House impeachment committees and the Senate, to say nothing of the Trump family’s financial dealings? Should it? Yes, some will say, because of Trump’s long trail of malfeasance and mis-governance, which also involves top administration figures such as Attorney General William Barr. But the price of such an inquiry would be considerable. It could rebound against Democrats and undermine public confidence in their fairness and sense of proportion.

We are a fiercely divided country. As the historian Garry Wills remarked to me recently, the true crisis of our moment consists “of Trump showing us not about Trump but about us.” Republicans continue to support Trump as faithfully as any president in modern memory. It is true that he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton in 2016, but he won 30 states. No matter the result in November, the tribal feelings that now define American politics will not change. They might intensify.

This is partly an outgrowth of Trump’s approach to the presidency — his unapologetic conception of the office as explicitly serving him and those on his side, even as he wages war against those who oppose or even question him. The formula, as Jonathan Chait wrote in New York magazine, is blunt and direct: “If Trump’s opponents are doing something, it’s a crime; if Trump and his allies are doing it, it isn’t.”

The president’s supporters have a grievance of their own. They can say that Trump’s enemies tried to delegitimize him from the moment he took office. His detractors spoke early and excitedly about impeachment, as though the removal of a president was sport. This was why cooler heads, like Speaker Nancy Pelosi, urged caution after Democrats regained a majority in the House.

With Ukraine, everything changed. The facts were clear. Trump’s plea to the Ukrainian president that he “do us a favor” by announcing that he would investigate Biden was a textbook case of abuse of power. It hardly mattered. Republicans mounted a counteroffensive, echoing Trump’s cry of “witch hunt.” The rest was an elaborate performance in which the only verdict that seemed to matter was public opinion. Yet the most significant poll showed that two-thirds of Americans, regardless of the outcome, would not change their minds.

Attacks on Trump, no matter how justified, have dependably aroused his base. There is no reason to think his post-presidency will be different. What’s to stop Citizen Trump from continuing to operate at the margins of the law, but without the cover of the White House and in the knowledge that there would be a reluctance to prosecute a former president? A fresh investigation, broadcast over the “lying” media, could play right into Trump’s program of self-glorification.

And yet, America is not just a political carnival with gladiators in the arena and spectators in the stands. It is also a democratic republic — a nation of laws, procedures, history and tradition. A good, or rather ghastly, example of history failing to hold its chief actors accountable is the first president to be impeached, Andrew Johnson, in 1868. For many years schoolchildren were taught, with the aid of the book “Profiles in Courage” by John F. Kennedy, that Johnson’s escape from removal was an act of high statesmanship. Supposedly Sen. Edmund Ross of Kansas, a Republican who went against his party and voted to acquit, “may well have preserved for ourselves and posterity constitutional government in the United States.” The real villains, in Kennedy’s view (shared by many at the time), were the “Radical Republicans,” who arrogantly treated the defeated Confederate states as “conquered provinces” and wanted to “crush their despised foe” and voted to convict.

Today the episode is judged very differently. Johnson, most agree, was one of the worst presidents in history and a danger to the republic. Taking office after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, he flagrantly violated the principles of post-Civil War Reconstruction. He sided with “all-white Southern state governments full of ex-Confederates, stood by when they enacted ‘black codes’ that oppressed ex-slaves, and took no action when racist mobs began to murder black Southerners,” according to a history in The Washington Post. Johnson’s removal would have sent a powerful message about the nation’s new, post-slavery course; his acquittal instead reinforced pro-Confederate sympathies, which have lingered for generations.

So, too, with the case of the next president to face impeachment, Richard Nixon. He resigned in 1974 when it became clear that he faced removal for his Watergate crimes. His successor, Gerald Ford, pardoned him. For years, the thinking was that Ford’s action was statesmanlike, and the nation gratefully heard his soothing assurances that “our long national nightmare is over.” But the pardon helped plant the seeds of a counter-history of Watergate, promulgated by Nixon and his defenders, that Nixon was not the perpetrator but the victim, hounded by the liberal media, and that the investigations and impeachment were an  example of “the criminalization of politics.”

What happened afterward may suggest a sensible approach to holding Trump accountable. In 1975, after the New York Times published a sensational report by Seymour Hersh under the headline “Huge C.I.A. operation reported in U.S. against antiwar forces, other dissidents in Nixon years,” the Senate organized a committee to examine the long history of Cold War intelligence. The chairman was Sen. Frank Church of Idaho. Respected legislators from both parties, giants of the period, also were on the panel. Their inquest looked hard at the Nixon administration but also pressed further and turned up patterns of wrongdoing by three predecessors, Presidents Dwight Eisenhower, Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. Not everyone was happy with the result. The intelligence community felt under siege. But no one could accuse the committee of being partisan.

Here is a possible road map, then, for a public accounting of the Trump years. Instead of mounting an investigation of all his excesses and corruptions, the Biden administration could reach out to Trump’s supporters with a statement acknowledging their concerns, and Trump’s, that our elections are “rigged.” Why not take him at his word? To some extent, many are — in both parties. Each has assembled teams of lawyers and operatives for state-by-state legal battles, in the expectation that if Trump loses, he will challenge the results.

At that point, rightly or wrongly, a substantial portion of the country will question the validity of our elections. This has happened before, in 2000. Biden, as president, might address these concerns, respectfully announcing that he will set up an Election Commission, a formal investigation on the scale of the Warren Commission, which tried to uncover the facts of the Kennedy assassination, or the commission formed after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

A more immediate example is the panel convened after the 2000 election. Chaired by former presidents Ford and Jimmy Carter, it presented recommendations. One was that there be a ceiling of 2 percent on the share of votes thrown out because of errors. Another was to have a federal agency create national standards for voting machines. A third was to restore voting rights in all 50 states to felons who had served their sentences. President George W. Bush supported the “key principles” stated by the panel and urged Congress to act on them. But the operative word was “recommendations.” The report did not say the government should require these changes. And so almost 20 years later, the defects remain.

But the circumstances are different now; the crisis has grown. Trump has sown doubts about our elections for the whole of his presidency. As soon as he took office, he declared that the 2016 election was “rigged” because the popular vote had gone against him. He organized a “commission” of his own on voter fraud, with Vice President Pence in charge. It quietly disbanded eight months later, having met a total of two times and without filing a report. The material it did produce was “glaringly empty,” in the words of one member. A commission set up by Biden could take up the work of Trump’s panel, only push much further.

And this is where the Church Committee could be a good model. Just as it pursued the trail of intelligence wrongdoing back to the early years of the Cold War, so Biden’s blue-ribbon panel would start with the 2000 election and the recommendations made afterward, this time pointing out what was lost because those recommendations were not adopted. From this premise, the commission could range widely and hear testimony on many important matters — for instance, efforts to suppress African American and Hispanic votes in battleground states. Every Republican who has affirmed or suggested that the 2020 elections are rigged, beginning with Trump himself, would be given a chance to testify with immunity and in a closed session, their words recorded. The findings would be released with ample transcripts.

Such a proceeding will be vulnerable to accusations of bias. But the facts would be on the record, and perhaps we would learn more about how democracy works, and doesn’t work, and what we can do to repair it.

Trump Will Take White Evangelicals Down With Him

It would seem, based on the evidence, that evangelical Christianity produces some of the world’s most gullible fools. Sigh. Our friend Jerry takes a look at some of the lunacy and hypocrisy.  Good post, Jerry … thanks!

On The Fence Voters

Ralph Reed, president of the conservative evangelical Faith and Freedom Coalition,recently stated, “I think the 81 percent of the evangelical vote that Trump received four years ago is the floor. I don’t think it’s beyond the realm of possibility that he could end up in the mid-80s.”

No Moving the Truly Faithful

While polls have found every other demographic class leaping from the disaster-bound Trump train—and that includes white menin general—most white evangelicals are determined to hang on for the wild ride to the last stop—Obliteration Station.

While polls have found every other demographic class leaping from the disaster-bound Trump train—and that includes white menin general—most white evangelicals are determined to hang on for the wild ride to the last stop—Obliteration Station.

Yes, even many of Trump’s basest Congressional grovelers have finally deciphered the writing on the doomed king’s wall and havebegun to…

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Tell me why I ask some more?

Our friend Keith asks a lot of questions … questions we should ALL be asking … and more. Thank you, Keith, for homing in on some of the most relevant questions we must all be asking in the course of the next two weeks.

musingsofanoldfart

I am puzzled with inconsistencies. Using The Beatles’ song “Tell me why?” once again, allow me to ask a few more questions.

Why should we believe someone who said two months ago he did not know who QAnon is, tweeted more QAnon based inane conspiracies. applauded a Georgia Republican Congressional candidate who touts such inanity and then repeats on national TV he still did not know who QAnon is?

Why should we believe the same person whose modus operandi is to create fear, say he did not want to tell Americans the truth about the coronavirus as he did not want to create a panic? Panic is his currency. It seemed OK for him to relay the inane QAnon tweet about Osama Bin Laden.

Why should we believe someone who repeatedly says and does racist things and endorses groups that want to diminish the rights of non-whites, then claims he…

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The Week’s Best Cartoons 10/17

As she does every week, our friend TokyoSand has searched high and low for the week’s best political cartoons.  While these days, the cartoons may not make us laugh very much, I still find it amazing how the artists can sum up a major news story with a drawing and few or no words!  Sigh.  Would that I had that kind of talent …

So, without further ado or verbiage from moi, I ask you to hop over to TS’ site and check out her selection!  Thank you, TS, for your diligence in always finding the cream of the crop!

Here are a couple of samples, but please be sure to head over to The Week’s Best Cartoons 10/17  for the full collection!

toon-2toon-3

Saturday Surprise — 2020 Wildlife Photographer Awards!

I thought I might struggle to find a fun thing for Saturday Surprise this week, but then … I discovered that this week the 2020 Wildlife Photographer winners were announced on October 13th, and I knew I couldn’t pass that one up!  The photos are always so great.  This is the 56th year for the contest, and for the first time ever, the awards ceremony was conducted virtually due to the pandemic.  As I told you in last year’s post about the Wildlife Photographer of the Year awards,  this is the largest wildlife photography competition in the world. It is an annual international wildlife photography competition owned by the Natural History Museum.  The first competition was held in 1964, with three categories and around 600 entries. By 2008, the competition had grown to over 32,000 entries from 3100 photographers in 82 countries.  This year, there were over 49,000 entries!

And as was the case last year, I cannot possibly show you all the gorgeous photos, but have picked the ones I thought were the best of the best. You can find more at the Natural History Museum website, as well as information about the photographers and other trivia.


Of course, we must begin with the grand title winner, Sergey Gorshkov, who won with this photo titled The Embracewild-2 This picture shows the intimate moment an endangered Siberian tiger hugs an ancient Manchurian fir tree to mark it with her scent. It took Russian photographer Sergey Gorshkov over 11 months to capture using motion sensor cameras.  Sergey scoured the forest for signs of Amur, or Siberian, tigers, searching for the best place to set up his camera trap. He knew his chance of photographing one was slim, but his mind was made up. “From then on, I could think of nothing else,” Sergey says. Finally, his dedication paid off: he captured a rare glimpse of this magnificent tiger in its wild habitat.


This year’s Young Photographer of the Year (ages 15-17) award went to Liina Heikkinen of Finland for this photo, titled The Fox That Got the Goosewild-13It was on a summer holiday in Helsinki that Liina, then 13, heard about a large fox family living in the city suburbs on the Finnish island of Lehtisaari. The island has both wooded areas and fox-friendly citizens, and the foxes are relatively unafraid of humans. So Heikkinen and her father spent one long July day, without a hide, watching the two adults and their six large cubs, which were almost the size of their parents, though slimmer and lankier. In another month, the cubs would be able to fend for themselves, but in July they were only catching insects and earthworms and a few rodents, and the parents were still bringing larger prey to them. On this evening, the vixen arrived with a barnacle goose. Feathers flew as the cubs began fighting over it.


Frank Deschandol’s original aim was to photograph the vibrant cuckoo wasp. In a sandy bank on a brownfield site near his home in Normandy, France, he located tiny digger wasp burrows suitable for a cuckoo wasp to use. He then set up an infrared beam that, when broken by a wasp, would trigger the super-fast shutter system he had built. Despite the extremely narrow depth of field and tiny subjects, he captured not only the cuckoo wasp but also the sand wasp.wildlifeTitled A Tale of Two Wasps, this remarkable simultaneous framing of a red-banded sand wasp (left) and a cuckoo wasp about to enter next-door nest holes is the result of painstaking preparation. The female cuckoo wasp—just 6 millimeters long—parasitizes the nests of certain solitary digger wasps, laying her eggs in her hosts’ burrows so that her larvae can feast on their eggs or larvae. The much larger red-banded sand wasp lays her eggs in her own burrow, which she provisions with caterpillars, one for each of her young to eat when they emerge.


This next one is titled The Pose … I would swear this guy used to be my boss!  This is a photo by Mogens Trolle of a young male proboscis monkey seemingly deep in thought (or asleep). wild-11


The Village Cat by Masood Hussainwild-8

Masood spent the evening tracking a tiger in a nearby forest. Just as he was heading home at sunset, his driver spotted this big cat, lying on the wall of an abandoned village school.


Late Delivery by Catherine Dobbins d’Alessiowild-20


Surprise! by Makoto Andowild-19


The Perfect Catch by Hannah Vijayanwild-16A brown bear pulls a sockeye salmon from the shallows of a river in Alaska’s Katmai National Park. The greatest concentration of bears – and tourists – is around the waterfall at Brooks River, where viewing platforms enable visitors to watch bears catching salmon leaping up the falls.

Young Hannah chose to focus on a quieter scene and a different style of fishing.

Instead of snatching at leaping fish or jumping on them, the female put her head under the water to look for one.  She catches a nutrient-rich sockeye still in its ocean form – before it has developed its reproductive red colour and pronounced jaws.  The presence of the salmon in autumn ensures the bears’ survival through the winter.  Alaskan brown bears are among the world’s largest bears. Males may eat 30 salmon a day and weigh more than 450 kilograms by the end of the summer. Females are smaller and typically weigh a third less.


Eye of the Drought by José Fragozowild-14Believe it or not, there’s a hippopotamus in there!  An eye blinks open in a mud pool as a hippopotamus emerges to take a breath – one every three to five minutes.  The challenge for José, watching in his vehicle, was to catch the moment an eye opened.

For several years, José has been watching hippos in Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve, a remnant of the drought-stricken Mara River.  Hippos spend the day submerged to keep their temperature constant and their sensitive skin out of the sun. They emerge at night to graze on the floodplains.


Life in the Balance by Jaime Culebraswildlife-3A Manduriacu glass frog snacks on a spider in the foothills of the Andes, in northwestern Ecuador. As big consumers of invertebrates, glass frogs play a key part in maintaining balanced ecosystems. That night, Jaime Culebras’s determination to share his passion for them had driven him to walk for four hours, in heavy rain, through the forest to reach the frogs’ streams in the Manduriacu Reserve. But the frogs were elusive and the downpour was growing heavier and heavier. As he turned back, he was thrilled to spot one small frog clinging to a branch, its eyes shimmering like mosaics.


wild-27wild-26wild-10wild-7wild-6wild-4wild-3wild-1

I hope you enjoyed the beautiful photos and critters!  Now, go have a wonderful weekend, but please, my friends, observe every possible safety measure if you’re out in public.

Crazy Uncle vs Intelligent Hombre …

Due to circumstances beyond my control (stubborn headphones), I missed the first 20 minutes or so of Joe Biden’s town hall last night, and due to other circumstances beyond my control (family obligations), I was only able to watch about 20 minutes before having to stop.  I never had any intention of watching Trump’s town hall and wouldn’t have even if he hadn’t scheduled his to compete with Biden’s, but I had hoped to watch all of Biden’s.  I have, however, read most of the transcript of Joe’s town hall, and some key takeaways from Trump’s.

I must say that it was great, the few minutes I was able to watch Biden’s event, to be able to hear Biden answer the questions asked of him without interruption.  It was great not to have to look away from Trump’s freakish facial contortions while he muttered and blathered.  We actually got to hear what Joe thought, what he plans to do once he is in the Oval Office.  Much more informative and less stressful than the debate a few weeks ago.

Most of Biden’s responses to questions were what we’ve come to expect from Biden:  calm, thoughtful responses, intelligence, no raised voice, and even speaking in complete sentences.  He covered what he would do differently regarding the coronavirus pandemic, and spoke about a vaccine, saying …

“If the body of scientists say that this is what is ready to be done and it’s been tested, they’ve gone through the three phases, yes, I would take it, and I’d encourage people to take it.”

He mentioned that while he would like to be able to make the vaccine mandatory, he realizes this cannot be done …

“You couldn’t, that’s the problem.  You can’t say, ‘Everyone has to do this.’”

Perhaps one of the most glaring differences between Joe Biden and Donald Trump is the ability to admit to a mistake.  Last night, when Joe Biden was questioned about the 1994 crime bill that he sponsored while in the senate, he defended and explained parts of the bill, but was also able to admit that in hindsight, some parts were a mistake.  Trump, on the other hand, has never admitted to a mistake and still gives himself kudos for his horrible handling of the pandemic that has now cost the U.S. 223,000 human lives.

From what I’ve read, the two town hall events were as different as night and day.  Joe’s could be said to be almost boring in contrast, but that’s fine with me!  I’ll take boring over bombastic any day of the week!  I agreed with most of what Biden said, the only thing I would argue is that I think fracking should be banned, Biden doesn’t.  But hell … if that’s the only thing we disagree on, that’s nearly a miracle in itself!

I was also impressed with Biden’s response to the final question by moderator George Stephanopoulos, “Mr. Vice President, if you lose, what will that say to you about where America is today?”

“Well, it could say that I’m a lousy candidate, and I didn’t do a good job. But I think — I hope … that it doesn’t say that we are as racially, ethnically, and religiously at odds with one another as it appears the President wants us to be. Usually, you know, the President, in my view, with all due respect, it’s been divide and conquer, the way he does better if he splits us and where there’s division.

And I think people need hope. I think — look, George, I’ve never been more optimistic of the prospects for this country than I am today. And I really mean that. I think the people are ready. They understand what’s at stake. And it’s not about Democrat or Republican.

If I get elected, you know, I’m going to be — I’m running as a proud Democrat, but I’m going to be an American president. I’m going to take care of those that voted against me as well as those who voted for me, for real. That’s what presidents do. We’ve got to heal this nation, because we have the greatest opportunity of any country in the world to own the 21st century. And we can’t do it divided.”

And that in and of itself, my friends, makes me want Joe Biden as my president more than ever before.

Now Trump, on the other hand …

… was apparently his usual obnoxious self, perhaps even more so, but he met his match with moderator Savannah Guthrie!  Given that I do not watch television, I had never seen Ms. Guthrie in her spot as co-anchor of the NBC News morning show, but … this lady is gooooood!  She held Trump’s feet to the fire, and apparently, he squirmed!

From The Washington Post’s article, “5 takeaways from the dueling Trump and Biden town halls”

When Trump claimed that a study showed 85 percent of people who wear masks still get the coronavirus, Guthrie noted he falsely characterized the study.

When Trump defended his pandemic response by citing another study that showed 2 million people could have died of the coronavirus, Guthrie rightly noted that model predicted that only if the government did precisely zero mitigation.

When Trump declined to denounce QAnon because he said he didn’t know what it was about, Guthrie provided details about what it was about and invited him to do it, noting Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) has flatly denounced it as a baseless conspiracy theory. Trump instead offered that he liked that QAnon was against pedophilia.

When Guthrie pressed Trump on his retweets this week of a bizarre conspiracy theory about Osama bin Laden’s death, Trump explained by saying he was just passing along information. (“That was a retweet, I’ll put it out there. People can decide for themselves.”) Guthrie then provided the retort those tweets have long demanded: that he’s the president, not someone’s “crazy uncle” spouting off on Twitter, and that the information he promotes matters.

I particularly love that last part … “he is the president, not someone’s ‘crazy uncle’ spouting off …”  LOVE IT!!!  Part of me almost wants to watch the clip, just to see the look on his face when she said that!  Maybe I will.  Crazy Uncle Donnie!  Has a certain ring to it, don’t you think?

I have a policy that I do not donate money to political candidates, even ones I support.  Why?  Because there are people going without food, homeless people living on the streets, sick people who cannot afford medical treatment … when you compare the pleas of a politician who has never gone hungry a single day in his/her life against those needs … well, if I have an extra $25 or $100, I donate it to the local food bank or homeless shelter.  Tonight, I broke that policy … so impressed with Joe Biden was I, that I donated $25 to his campaign.  Not much, but given that 75% of my monthly income goes to pay for my insulin and other medications, it was the best I could do.  It was my way of saying, “I believe in Joe Biden.”

We’re in the final days, my friends.  Some 15 million votes have already been cast by mail-in ballots and early in-person voting.  There is a new enthusiasm that we didn’t see even in 2016 … and it isn’t enthusiasm for another four years of the hell we’ve lived through for the last four!  It is hope … the hope for a president who represents ALL of the people, not only the wealthy, not only those who support him, but each and every one of us.  Hope for a brighter future, hope that we can re-establish our relationship with our allies, hope that we can begin to address the racial issues that are tearing this country apart.  Hope … it’s a beautiful word, and tonight, Joe Biden showered me with hope.

Wise Words And A Question

ACBAlways a voice of reason, Nicholas Kristof has written yet another introspective and timely column in yesterday’s New York Times.  Whereas I tend to rant, Kristof is the calm voice of reason, yet even he admits that the United States may be on a backward-facing treadmill.  He concludes his column with an important question for us all.  I urge you to read what he says …


Will We Choose the Right Side of History?

In Amy Coney Barrett, Republicans are once again backing a Supreme Court nominee who could take us backward.

nicholas-kristof-thumblargeBy Nicholas Kristof

Opinion Columnist

Amy Coney Barrett has been following recent precedent in her confirmation hearing before the Senate, pretending that she has never had an interesting thought in her life.

Is it illegal to intimidate voters at the polls? She didn’t want to weigh in. A president postponing an election? Hmm. She’d have to think about that.

What about climate change? “I have read things about climate change,” she acknowledged, warily emphasizing that she is not a scientist. “I would not say I have firm views on it.”

If she had been asked about astronomy, she might have explained: “I have read things about the Earth being round. I would not say I have firm views on it.”

But for all the obfuscation, which nominees of Democratic presidents have engaged in as well, there is no hiding the essential truths that Barrett: A) is very bright; and B) would solidify a conservative Supreme Court majority whose judicial philosophy has been on the wrong side of many of the great issues of my lifetime.

We sometimes distinguish between “liberal judges” and “conservative judges.” Perhaps the divide instead is between forward-thinking judges and backward-thinking judges.

Partly because of paralysis by legislators, partly because of racist political systems, forward-thinking judges sometimes had to step up over the last 70 years to tug the United States ahead. Those judges chipped away at Jim Crow and overturned laws against interracial marriage, against contraception, and fought racial and sexual discrimination.

Just this week, Bernard Cohen, the lawyer who won the interracial marriage case in the Supreme Court in 1967, died — a reminder of how recent such progress is. In that case, Richard and Mildred Loving, a white man and Black woman who married in Washington, D.C., had moved to Virginia, where the police barged into their home at 2 a.m. and arrested them in bed for violating an anti-miscegenation law. Forward-thinking justices struck down such laws — and that wasn’t about “activist judges” but about decency, humanity and the 14th Amendment.

It was as recent as 2003 that enlightened Supreme Court judges struck down state sodomy laws that could be used to prosecute same-sex lovers. Three backward-thinking justices, including Antonin Scalia, Barrett’s mentor, would have allowed Taliban-style prosecutions of gay people for intimacy in the bedroom. (Barrett refused in the hearing Wednesday to say whether the case was rightly decided.)

It is true, as some conservatives argue, that this path toward social progress would ideally have been blazed by legislators, not judges. But it is difficult for people who are denied voting rights to protect their voting rights, and judicial passivism in these cases would have buttressed discrimination, racism, sexism and bigotry.

That brings us to another historical area where conservatives, Barrett included, have also been on the wrong side of history — access to health care.

Over the last hundred years, advanced countries have, one by one, adopted universal health care systems, with one notable exception: the United States. That’s one reason next month’s election is such a milestone, for one political party in America is trying to join the rest of the civilized world and provide universal health care, and the other is doing its best to take away what we have.

The G.O.P. is succeeding. Census data show that even before the Covid-19 pandemic the number of uninsured Americans had risen by 2.3 million under Trump — and another 2.9 million have lost insurance since the pandemic hit. Most troubling of all, about one million children have lost insurance under Trump over all, according to a new Georgetown study.

I’m not trying to scare readers about Barrett joining a conservative majority to overturn the Affordable Care Act. My take is that Democrats are exaggerating that risk; the Republican argument in the case, to be heard next month, is such a legal stretch that it’s unlikely to succeed fully, even if Barrett is on the court.

But it is possible, and that would be such a cataclysm — perhaps 20 million Americans losing insurance during a pandemic — that it’s worth a shudder. It should also remind us of the importance of renewing the imperfect, on-again-off-again march of civilization in America, away from bigotry and toward empowerment of all citizens.

Barrett is not a horrible person; on the contrary, she seems to be a smart lawyer with an admirable personal story. Yet she’s working with a gang of Republican senators to steal a seat on the Supreme Court. This grand larceny may well succeed. But for voters, this hearing should underscore the larger battle over the direction of the country.

Voters can’t weigh in on the Barrett nomination, but they can correct this country’s course.

Here’s the fundamental question: Will voters reward the party that is working to provide more health care, or the party that has painstakingly robbed one million children of insurance? Will voters help tug the United States forward, or will they support the backward thinkers who have been on the side of discrimination, racism, bigotry and voter suppression?

At the polls, which side of history will you stand on?