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?

S-s-snarky S-s-snippets

I am in rather a dark mood tonight … I even yelled at an animated character, a cute li’l octopus, on television and called her a … well, you get the picture.  Two things in particular stirred my angst tonight, and both, I think, are well deserving of venting a bit of snarky steam.


Pathetic

“Suburban women: Will you please like me? Please. Please. I saved your damn neighborhood, okay? The other thing: I don’t have that much time to be that nice. You know, I can do it, but I gotta go quickly. They want me to be politically correct. I got rid of a regulation that was a disaster and it was really unfair, and you’ve been reading about it for a long time and it’s gotten a lot worse under Obama and Biden. We’re going to see that the women really like Trump a lot. Remember four years ago, they said women will never vote, then I got 52 percent. … You damn well better vote for me Pennsylvania, you better vote.”

These are the words of the incumbent in the Oval Office, spoken during a rally in Johnstown, Pennsylvania on Tuesday night.  First he begs and cajoles, then he threatens.  And this is the person who has ‘led’ this nation into chaos for the past nearly four years and hopes to be given another four years to complete the destruction.

Joe Biden, by the way, is leading in the polls in Pennsylvania by an average of 6 points.


Pointless

I have not paid particular attention to, nor written about, the hearings taking place in the Senate to determine whether or not to confirm Trump’s nominee to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the U.S. Supreme Court.  It’s not that I’m not interested – I am.  It’s not that I don’t think it’s important – I do.  It’s just that from what I have read it is just another … yawn … Republican dog-and-pony show with the outcome predetermined.  I truly have better things to do with my time than watch the Republicans preen and Ms. Barrett deflect.

To date, apparently Ms. Amy Coney Barrett has refused to answer all relevant questions, so … what is there to write about?  Ms. Barrett is 48 years old, so We the People are likely to be saddled with her religious views becoming the law of the land for the next three decades or so.

The burning questions that she has refused to answer are on the topics of the Affordable Healthcare Act (whether the majority of us will be able to afford medical care when and if we need it), Roe v Wade (whether women will retain control of their own bodies, or be subject to a misogynistic rule), and Obergefell v Hodges (whether a significant portion of the population will be allowed to marry the person they love, or whether that, too, will be dictated by a bigoted Supreme Court).  Ms. Barrett has refused to answer how she would rule on any of these topics.  In my book, that removes her from consideration, for we have a right to know who will be deciding how we must live.  And would somebody please tell me WHY Ms. Barrett’s children are front and center in the hearings???  They have no role in this, they have no place here!  Best I can figure, it’s another ‘photo op’ moment like Trump having citizens forcibly removed from the streets of Washington so he could hold a bloody book in front of a damn church!  Send the children home to do their online learning, Amy!  Better yet … go home with them, since you have proven yourself useless.BarrettIn the Republican’s book however, it is a little different.

Here are some of the questions Ted Cruz, a republican senator from Texas asked of Ms. Barrett:

  • Do you speak any foreign languages? (French)
  • Do you play any musical instruments? (Piano)
  • What was it like staying at home during the pandemic with seven children? (Challenging)
  • Why did she and her husband adopt two children from Haiti? (A long story)

Ooooohhh … what relevant questions for a potential Supreme Court Justice who will be expected to make decisions that may mean life or death for us all!  Way to go, Teddy!

Now, one thing I didn’t mention above was Ms. Barrett’s take on climate change, arguably the single most important issue of the day.

“I’m certainly not a scientist. I have read things about climate change. I would not say I have firm views on it.”

Say WHAT?  You have “read things”???  What things?  Details, woman!  How … HOW can anybody in this, the year 2020 with wildfires consuming much of the West Coast, with devastating hurricanes costing lives and untold property damages, and with the average temperature this past summer 92° in an area that usually has a summertime average of 85° … how can any sane person look at the statistics, step outside and attempt to breathe the air, and still have “no firm views”???  This woman is either very, very stupid, else she is already in the pockets of the corporate donors such as Koch Brothers and the fossil fuel industry!

I’m not a scientist, either, but I still possess some parts that Ms. Barrett may be missing:  a brain, eyes, ears, and lungs … all of which tell me that humans, in their greedy quest for more useless money, have begun and continue the destruction of the environment here on planet Earth.

So, in conclusion, Ms. Barrett refuses to voice an opinion on women’s rights, LGBT rights, the right to medical care, and worst yet, she is stupid about the environment.  GET. HER. OUT.

But no, the boot-lickers in the Senate have a majority, albeit a narrow one, and there doesn’t seem to be a single one with the cojones to “just say ‘no’” to Donald Trump.  On top of that, the unconscionably powerful Koch Brothers have thrown their support behind her nomination.  And thus began the beginning of the end of civilization in what was once known as the United States.


And I shall end on that note, for my temper is about to take me where I ought not to go.  Let me just say, though, that if Donald Trump is elected for and seated for another term, I shall renounce my citizenship from the U.S., if not from the entire world.  I can see nothing good in the future of this nation if the people continue to elect and applaud bloody fools and to put corporate profits ahead of people.

May you Rest in Peace GOP

Jeff wrote this post a week ago, but somehow I missed it until today. Some of you have already seen it, but some haven’t and I think his analysis is astute and worthy of re-blogging. Thanks Jeff, for your take on the demise of the GOP … I think they will either learn to put the people of this nation ahead of corporate profits, else they will land in a heap in the cemetery of the “ghosts of parties past”.

On The Fence Voters

It’s taken several years, but the Republican Party’s imminent death awaits on November 3, 2020. It took a malignant narcissist pathological lying president of the United States to do it, but it’s almost time to issue last rites.

When a political party embraces an accomplice to negligent manslaughter/murder, they must have calculated that it was better to stick with roughly 40% of the voting public, rather than stand up for principle and honor. We’ll never know the real reason, but the GOP’s complete fall from grace is upon us.

We can argue about the true origins of the demise if you wish. I could easily surmise it began nearly 50 years ago when President Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace in 1974, only to be pardoned days later by President Gerald Ford.

I could also make a case that the fall began when the Party decided to embrace Supreme Court decisions

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The GOP and the politics of F.E.A.R.

Blogging friend Brosephus makes some excellent and enlightening points in this post. The GOP’s mantra seems to be to instill fear as a means of control, and frankly it seems to work on some 40% of this nation … enough to give them undeserved power over us all. Thank you, Brosephus for this thoughtful and thought-provoking post! Let’s vote the bums out!

The Mind of Brosephus

This should be the GOP’s logo instead of an elephant

This post has been floating around in that empty space between my ears for a while now. I just couldn’t figure out how to tie it all together without rambling on and on and on. It all came together in a blinding fury after I quote tweeted a thread from Asha Rangappa.

Yesterday was the second time that the book Let them Eat Tweets: How the Right Rules in an Age of Extreme Inequality and the witch doctor have ended up in tweets together between she and I. So, now I know I really need to get ahold of this book and read it soon.

Anyway, the book discusses how the GOP basically uses ooga booga to scare voters into giving them power and control over government. In return, the GOP gives away everything to their wealthy donors. Lather, rinse…

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Trying To Take Away Our Voice

Voting has already begun in many states, and mail-in ballots have been sent out in most states that allow mail-in voting.  The Republican Party has made no bones about the fact that they intend to make voting as hard as possible for most of us who prefer not to clog the polls, putting ourselves and our families at risk for a deadly virus, on November 3rd.  Well, it looks like they have started their campaign to keep us from voting …


Voting in Georgia …

Early voting began yesterday in Georgia, and long lines – as much as a ten-hour wait – were reported in some areas.Georgia-votersNow, let me ask you … do you notice anything about the people in this line?  Look closer … do you see any white faces there?  I saw one, possibly two, but the majority appear to be Black voters.  This was in Cobb County, a county that has voted Democratic for the last several elections, and the same scenario took place in DeKalb County, a majority Democratic county.  In addition, two counties briefly had problems with the electronic pollbooks used to check in voters. The issue halted voting for a while at State Farm Arena, in Atlanta. Voters who cast their ballots at the basketball stadium, which was being used as an early voting site, faced long waits as the glitch was resolved.  My suspicious mind wonders if the ‘glitch’ was, perhaps, manufactured?

Think about this one … you have a job, you either work afternoons, or arranged to go in to work later so that you could go vote.  Ten hours later, you are finally able to cast your vote, your shift has ended without you, your boss will be fuming tomorrow, your kids haven’t had their supper.  How many people left the line and did not vote because they couldn’t afford to miss work, or they had to pick up their children after school?  And yes, the majority of them are Black or Hispanic.

Luckily, most of these people were pretty darned determined!  Steve Davidson, who is Black, said the late US congressman John Lewis and others had fought too long and hard to secure his place at the polls for him to get tired and leave.  “They’ve been fighting for decades. If I’ve got to wait six or seven hours, that’s my duty to do that. I’ll do it happily,” Davidson said.

Adrienne Crowley, who waited more than an hour to vote, told the Atlanta Journal Constitution there wasn’t anything that would make her get out of the line to vote. “I would have voted all day if I had to.”

Nationally, more than 9.4 million people have already voted, an unprecedented number, according to data collected by Michael McDonald, a political science professor at the University of Florida.  Georgia has long been seen as a Republican bastion, but many believe recent demographic changes have made it a more competitive state. A recent poll shows Donald Trump and Joe Biden in a statistical tie in the state.  I believe that the high turnout and shift toward the Democratic candidates are the result of having the worst possible person in charge for the last four years, of having an incumbent who has point-blank stated that he does not care one whit for our lives … “It is what it is,” he said.  People listen, people understand, people are voting … in record numbers.


Meanwhile, down in Texas …

I told you yesterday evening about the fake ballot drop-off boxes the Republican Party had installed in areas of Southern California.  Well, down in Texas, Governor Greg Abbott issued a proclamation last week limiting each county to only one ballot drop-off site, regardless of size or population.  As I told you yesterday, the State of Ohio, among others, already had such a rule, but in Texas they already have multiple ballot drop-off boxes in most counties, and Governor Abbott’s order would require removing them.  The move would disproportionately affect larger, more diverse counties and hit communities of color, making it more difficult for them to vote.  Gee, what a surprise, eh?  The GOP is doing every damn thing they can to keep the poor and minorities from voting, for they know that in a fair and honest election, they are likely to become a shell of what they once were, and in fact may well be doomed to extinction if they don’t make some significant changes.Nick Anderson cartoon

Luckily, on Friday evening, US federal judge Robert Pitman blocked Texas governor Greg Abbott’s order to shut down mail-in ballot drop-off sites across the state as the election is currently under way.

Harris County, one of the largest in Texas with more than 4.7 million residents, breathed a collective sigh of relief.  In a statement, the Harris county clerk, Chris Hollins, said:

“Tonight’s injunction reinstating Harris county voters’ ability to hand-deliver their ballots at 12 county offices is a victory for voting rights. The governor’s suppressive tactics should not be tolerated, and tonight’s ruling shows that the law is on the side of Texas voters.”

Snarky Rides Again

I suspect the snark will keep on rolling for the next few weeks, don’t you?  I wonder who’s to blame for that?  Maybe a whole bunch of people!


Ol’ Lindsey strikes out …

Good ol’ Lindsey Graham just doesn’t know when to sit down and shut up, does he?  For those who may not be aware, Graham is running for re-election to the United States Senate this November.  There was a debate scheduled for last Friday between him and his democratic opponent, Jaime Harrison.  Lindsey was exposed to the coronavirus on October 1st, when he attended a hearing with Senator Mike Lee of Utah, who has since tested positive.  Jamie Harrison, a diabetic, requested that Graham be tested for the coronavirus prior to their debate, and Lindsey refused!

Now why would any sensible person refuse to be tested before such an event where other people could be exposed?  Some speculate that he has tested positive already.  At any rate, on Thursday evening, Mr. Harrison issued the following statement:

“If Sen. Graham will not take a coronavirus test, I cannot responsibly debate in person tomorrow night and allow politics to put my family, my campaign staff, Sen. Graham’s staff, and members of the media at unnecessary risk.”

graham-harrisonInstead, each of the two men took part in an online forum that replaced the debate.  During the forum, Lindsey was asked how to address civil unrest in his home state of South Carolina.  His response …

“If you’re a young African American, an immigrant, you can go anywhere in this state, you just need to be conservative, not liberal.”

GASP!!!!!!  That statement alone should cost him his re-election!  Lindsey won by a whopping 17 points back in 2014, but this year he is in a dead heat with Jaime Harrison.  My bet is that this unconscionably racist statement will doom his campaign and we will finally be able to bid adieu to Mr. Graham.


Transparency???

Sean Hannity is another person without a conscience.  Well, he works for Fox ‘News’ and is a close confidant of Trump’s, so it goes without saying that he has no conscience.  But yesterday I read this statement by Hannity that caused my jaw to drop …

“First, we do start with a simple fact. The level of transparency in the Trump administration is unmatched. This president communicates with you, we, the American people often, he does it without a filter, he answers a million questions across multiple platforms, he does it each and every day.”

Say WHAT??? 

Now, Merriam-Webster defines transparent as:

a: free from pretense or deceit : FRANK

b: easily detected or seen through : OBVIOUS

c: readily understood

d: characterized by visibility or accessibility of information especially concerning business practices

Not a single one of these can be said to be true of Donald Trump, any of his cabinet members, his press secretary or other spokespeople!  Think about it a minute …

Free of pretense or deceit?  How many proven lies has he told now?  Last I checked it was something over 20,000 in just three-and-a-half years.  He didn’t even tell the truth about when he first tested positive for the coronavirus!  And as recently as yesterday, his “White House doctor” lied and said he was no longer a contagion risk, when scientists tell us otherwise.

And … he answers “a million questions” a day?  First, that isn’t humanly possible, especially for a person who spends half his day watching television and playing on Twitter.  But more to the point, during press briefings, he only chooses to answer the questions he likes … otherwise, he insults the reporter and moves on, or simply leaves the room.  And even when he does answer a question, he answers it with a lie, so … what’s the point?

And the last one, (d) … accessibility of information?  What about those tax returns and financial records?  What about his continuing refusal to make public the results of his medical condition and when he last tested negative for the virus?  What about ordering people not to testify before Congress?  I could go on and on … I could make a whole post about Trump’s blatant lack of transparency, but why bother?  You guys know the truth … Donald Trump has lied and lied to us since before he even took office, and there is not a damn thing transparent in his administration.  Sean Hannity is every bit as much a liar and conman as Donald Trump is … just another clown in the GOP Circus.Hannity-clown


Buses, planes & trains – stay off them!

Last month the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) drafted an order requiring all passengers and employees to wear masks on all forms of public and commercial transportation in the United States.  It makes perfect sense if you think about it … in each of these venues, passengers are in very close proximity, sometimes nearly touching shoulder-to-shoulder, and given the airborne nature of the coronavirus, of course masks should be worn, as well as gloves if you ask me.crowded-busHowever, Mike Pence, as the “head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force”, nixed the order from the start.  He refused to even discuss the matter, with no explanation.

So, since he doesn’t wish to discuss the matter, we are left to draw our own conclusions that Pence, like his boss, does not believe in the wearing of masks or simply does not care if we live or die.

CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield, who oversaw the drafting of the order, said …

“I think masks are the most powerful weapon we have to confront Covid and we all need to embrace masks and set the example for each other.”

Representative Peter A. DeFazio, Democrat of Oregon and chairman of the House committee on transportation and infrastructure was highly critical of Pence’s refusal …

“It’s especially outrageous because the science is so clear: masks save lives. The millions of Americans who work in and use our transportation systems every day — from bus drivers, train conductors and flight attendants, to the frontline workers who rely on public transit — deserve to know their president is relying on experts’ best advice and doing everything possible to keep them safe.”

Y’know … this whole thing has gotten out of hand.  People who insist on going about their business in public and refuse to wear a mask are a danger to us all, and they frankly don’t care who they put at risk – even their own families.  I’m currently reading a book that takes place during World War II, and at the mention of blackout rules and rationing, I had the thought … I suppose half the people in the U.S. would refuse those, too, and put the entire nation at risk.  There is such a thing as taking personal freedom too far, and insisting on riding a crowded bus sans mask is a step too far.  Thanks, Pence, for showing us how little our lives are worth to you and your boss.

America’s Wake-Up Call — How The World Sees Us

Donald Trump says he has accomplished more in just under four years than any other president in history.  Quite a statement, isn’t it?  Most people, on hearing his boast, rolled their eyes and muttered, “Yeah, right.”  But in one sense, he is right.  He has accomplished more to destroy our alliances and our image in the rest of the world than any other president to date.

According to a recent PEW Research survey, Donald Trump is less trusted than the leaders of Germany, France, UK, and even Russia & China.

PEW-1

In Western Europe, here is how the current administration ranks compared to the past two …

PEW-2

And I could go on with further studies and charts, but you get the picture … Donald Trump, and by extension the United States, is less trusted today than it was four years ago.  The important thing, I think, is to understand two things:  Why this is the case, and why it matters.

Of course it goes without saying that Trump’s bungling of the coronavirus pandemic is a large part of the reason our allies … or those who once were allies … have lost confidence in our ‘leadership’, but that isn’t the only area in which there are concerns.

We let our allies down in a major way by pulling out of both the Paris Climate Accords and the Iran nuclear deal … on the latter, we left them scrambling trying to salvage a deal that could very well save the world from a nuclear war.  Just yesterday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, on Trump’s orders, announced that we are imposing new sanctions on Iran’s financial sector in defiance of European allies who warned that the move could have devastating humanitarian consequences on a country reeling from the novel coronavirus and a currency crisis.  The sanctions will have a significant impact on Iran’s ability to import food, medicine, and other humanitarian needs.

Our withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accords was simply unconscionable, but to add insult to injury, Trump reversed nearly every single regulation that had been put into place by the Obama administration to attempt to reverse the damage to the environment.  It’s important for us to realize that this not only affects the air we breathe and the quality of our water, but that of every country on the globe!  The United States is the single biggest per capita emitter of CO2 on the globe, and yet we are doing the least of any industrialized nation to attempt to stop the destruction of the planet.  Is it any wonder we are not trusted?

In recent months, the killing of George Floyd and other Black Americans at the hands of police has led to massive protests both in the U.S. and around the world.  Yet, the ‘leader’ of our country, rather than using this as an opportunity to improve race relations, to provide training to law enforcement, to meet with Black leaders and work toward peaceful solutions, has taken a negative approach to the mostly peaceful Black Lives Matter protests.  He has refused on more than one occasion to denounce white supremacist groups, and as recently as last week, publicly told one of the most volatile white supremacist groups, the Proud Boys, to “stand down and stand by”, as if their gun-toting presence might be required.

When Trump sent troops to Portland, Oregon, to wantonly arrest citizens … those who were engaged in peaceful protests, those who were suspected of violence, as well as citizens simply going about their business … it did not sit well with the people of the U.S., but it also sent shock waves through the rest of the world.  According to Ana María Careaga, an Argentinian psychologist who suffered through the military dictatorship of Jorge Rafael Videla in the 1970s …

“What’s happening is very dangerous in a way similar to the dictatorships we had to endure in South America. Trump is shielding himself behind religious symbols while trying to seduce people to vote for him in the name of freedom, when it is precisely their freedom that leaders like him plan to abolish.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.  For years, part of the daily work of the US state department was to issue denunciations of police brutality, suppression of dissent, and instability in far-flung corners of the globe.  And now, under Donald Trump, we have become the ones we once fought against.  As one journalist in Beijing wrote …

“Trump is tearing apart America. He doesn’t need to send the troops. This will hurt the US’s international image. All of this is about the fight for justice, rights and equality. Whether it is Hong Kong or the US, people need to differentiate between violence and the fight for justice.”

So, even before the pandemic, other countries had reason to lose confidence in the leadership of Donald Trump, and thus in the nation.  Countries that were once staunch allies no longer trust us, and there is a very real danger in that.  From an article in Foreign Affairs magazine titled “The United States Is Not Entitled to Lead the World” …

The self-proclaimed “greatest democracy in the world” has been an erratic one since the late 1990s: in just more than two decades, the country has seen two presidents impeached, an election ultimately decided by the Supreme Court, an internationally controversial war in Iraq, and a financial crisis that sent shock waves around the world. In 2008, the country elected a globally popular Black senator to the presidency—only to lurch in a very different direction eight years later by electing a racist reality TV host who blames American allies for the country’s ills.

Which brings us to the abominable response to the pandemic by Donald Trump.  You all know the story, how he not only downplayed the virus, but outright lied to us, encouraged us to expose ourselves, discouraged the precautions the medical community was urging, and even suggested that we drink bleach or household disinfectants.  Even today, he is minimizing the risk.  As a result, the U.S. has, as of this writing, 7,845,739 cases and 217,972 deaths … the highest of any country on the globe, though we have just over 4% of the world’s population.

Cristóbal Rovira Kaltwasser, a political scientist at Chile’s Diego Portales university and co-author of “Populism, a Very Short Introduction”, sees a Trump presidency in chilling terms …

“Trump is using the pandemic to position himself as a God-given saviour coming to avert an imminent catastrophe.  His re-election, should it happen, will be considered – not least by him – as a clear indication that the time is right to push on with his radical, populist rightwing agenda. If that prediction is right, then Covid-19 will come to be seen as not just the bringer of death and recession in the US, but also as the forerunner that paved the way for the destruction of US democracy.”

The second part of the question is one that I have heard expressed in a number of different ways:  Why does it matter what the rest of the world thinks?

I literally cringe every time I hear this, no matter how it is phrased.  A few days ago someone said to me, “You know what?  I don’t give a sh*t what the rest of the world thinks … I live here.”

Donald Trump ran in 2016 on an “America First” platform, saying that the rest of the world was taking advantage of the U.S. (they weren’t) and that from now on he would only engage in international relationships where he was the “winner”.  Well, guess what, folks … there are no winners, but there are potentially a hell of a lot of losers, including the United States, once considered a leader of the free world.

You hear a lot of people condemning globalization, but folks … it’s a fact of life.  And we created it with technology.  Airplanes that can take us across the globe in just a few hours, computers and the Internet that give us instant access to what is happening around the world … the world has shrunk in this sense and it is a fool’s errand to attempt to separate one nation from all the rest.  I have often compared our role in the greater world as that of a homeowner in a neighborhood.  If you treat your neighbors crappy, don’t expect them to rush to your defense if you fall in your yard, your house catches fire, or some other disaster befalls you.

Take, for example, trade.  We cannot possibly produce every single thing we need or want, so we rely heavily on imports from other nations, just as they rely on goods produced here in the U.S.  Trade deals should be fair and equitable to all parties, but Trump is determined that such deals will benefit the U.S. more than the other nations involved.  He makes no pretense of being fair.  He has pulled out of the World Health Organization (WHO) during this time of a deadly pandemic, drastically reducing the funding for an organization whose scientists are working hard to find ways to stop transmission and prevent the spread of the coronavirus in order to save lives.  Instead, Trump taunts and ridiculously name calls, referring to the coronavirus as the ‘China virus’ and claiming that he will “make China pay”.

A good neighbor helps his neighbors … helps rake leaves, shovel snow, takes in the mail when the neighbor is out of town.  We have not been a good neighbor to our allies, though Trump panders to our adversaries.  He refuses to hold Vladimir Putin responsible for interfering in both our 2016 election and our current year election, refuses to hold him responsible for the bounties put on the heads of our soldiers in Afghanistan.  He refuses to hold Mohammed bin Salman responsible for ordering the brutal slaying of Washington Post reporter Jamal Khashoggi … and yet, he constantly criticizes our allies, particularly Angela Merkel, one of the most respected leaders of Western Europe.

Do you remember September 11, 2001?  Of course you do, but do you remember how our neighbor to the north, Canada, came to our aid that day?  Our airspace was closed, but Canadian Forces provided support for stranded aircrew and passengers from diverted commercial flights.  Canadian citizens opened their homes to stranded passengers, providing food and shelter.  They didn’t have to do that, but they did.  Today, only 35% of Canadians view the U.S. positively.  There comes a time when we all need help.  If Russia or Saudi Arabia, Iran or North Korea were to attack the United States, who would come to our aid?  Think long and hard about that one, folks, for we have not been a good friend for the past four years.  Take a look at the second chart at the beginning of this post.  President Barack Obama was respected and trusted, and as a result our nation was safer.  Today, we are less safe than we were four years ago, contrary to what the team of Trump/Pence claim.  We are persona non grata in many nations, largely for our ineptitude in dealing with the pandemic.  Another four years and we will have no allies, no friends to count on, only an autocratic ruler with little or no concern for any but himself.

The way in which the world views us is important, and right now other industrialized nations do not look upon us as a trusted friend and ally.  We need to restore that trust, but Donald Trump cannot … will not … do so, for in his mind it is always a win/lose proposition … there is no give-and-take, no compromise.  We ask that you think about this one long and hard … our lives may depend on it.