Seeking Election Integrity …

Dan Coats was the director of national intelligence from 2017 to 2019. He resigned on July 28th 2019 when he was apprised that he was about to be fired.  The reason?  He did not play Trump’s game, did not take that oath of fealty that required him to be naught more than a yes-man.  He affirmed in no uncertain terms that Russia had indeed interfered in the 2016 U.S. election, contrary to Trump’s denials of such interference.  Today, Mr. Coats has written the following OpEd in the New York Times about the security of the upcoming election and offers one possible solution.


What’s at Stake in This Election? The American Democratic Experiment

Trump’s former director of national intelligence on how to firmly and unambiguously reassure all Americans that their votes will be counted.

dan-coatsBy Dan Coats

We hear often that the November election is the most consequential in our lifetime. But the importance of the election is not just which candidate or which party wins. Voters also face the question of whether the American democratic experiment, one of the boldest political innovations in human history, will survive.

Our democracy’s enemies, foreign and domestic, want us to concede in advance that our voting systems are faulty or fraudulent; that sinister conspiracies have distorted the political will of the people; that our public discourse has been perverted by the news media and social networks riddled with prejudice, lies and ill will; that judicial institutions, law enforcement and even national security have been twisted, misused and misdirected to create anxiety and conflict, not justice and social peace.

If those are the results of this tumultuous election year, we are lost, no matter which candidate wins. No American, and certainly no American leader, should want such an outcome. Total destruction and sowing salt in the earth of American democracy is a catastrophe well beyond simple defeat and a poison for generations. An electoral victory on these terms would be no victory at all. The judgment of history, reflecting on the death of enlightened democracy, would be harsh.

The most urgent task American leaders face is to ensure that the election’s results are accepted as legitimate. Electoral legitimacy is the essential linchpin of our entire political culture. We should see the challenge clearly in advance and take immediate action to respond.

The most important part of an effective response is to finally, at long last, forge a genuinely bipartisan effort to save our democracy, rejecting the vicious partisanship that has disabled and destabilized government for too long. If we cannot find common ground now, on this core issue at the very heart of our endangered system, we never will.

Our key goal should be reassurance. We must firmly, unambiguously reassure all Americans that their vote will be counted, that it will matter, that the people’s will expressed through their votes will not be questioned and will be respected and accepted. I propose that Congress creates a new mechanism to help accomplish this purpose. It should create a supremely high-level bipartisan and nonpartisan commission to oversee the election. This commission would not circumvent existing electoral reporting systems or those that tabulate, evaluate or certify the results. But it would monitor those mechanisms and confirm for the public that the laws and regulations governing them have been scrupulously and expeditiously followed — or that violations have been exposed and dealt with — without political prejudice and without regard to political interests of either party.

Also, this commission would be responsible for monitoring those forces that seek to harm our electoral system through interference, fraud, disinformation or other distortions. These would be exposed to the American people in a timely manner and referred to appropriate law enforcement agencies and national security entities.

Such a commission must be composed of national leaders personally committed — by oath — to put partisan politics aside even in the midst of an electoral contest of such importance. They would accept as a personal moral responsibility to put the integrity and fairness of the election process above everything else, making public reassurance their goal.

Commission members undertaking this high, historic responsibility should come from both parties and could include congressional leaders, current and former governors, “elder statespersons,” former national security leaders, perhaps the former Supreme Court justices David Souter and Anthony Kennedy, and business leaders from social media companies.

This commission would be created by emergency legislative action. During that process, its precise mandate, composition, powers and resources would be defined. Among other aspects, the legislation would define the relationship between the commission and the intelligence and law enforcement communities with the capability necessary for the commission’s work. And it would define how the commission would work with all the individual states.

Congressional leaders must see the need as urgent and move quickly with common purpose. Seeking broad bipartisan unity on such an initiative at such a fraught time goes against the nature of the political creatures we have become. But this is the moment and this is the issue that demands a higher patriotism. No member of Congress could have any valid reason to reject any step that could contribute to the fundamental health of our Republic. With what should be the unanimous support of Congress, the legislation must call upon the election campaigns of both parties to commit in advance to respect the findings of the commission. Both presidential candidates should be called upon to make such personal commitments of their own.

If we fail to take every conceivable effort to ensure the integrity of our election, the winners will not be Donald Trump or Joe Biden, Republicans or Democrats. The only winners will be Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping and Ali Khamenei. No one who supports a healthy democracy could election 2020want that.

Think Trump’s Not Moving Toward Total Autocracy? This International Analyst Knows the Signs Too Well…

Earlier today, I re-blogged a post from Annie of annieasksyou fame, and this evening I am sharing another. Annie has collected a series of observations made by International Analyst Michael McFaul that paint a picture that is … chilling. Please do take a minute to check it out. Thanks again, Annie!

annieasksyou...

Michael McFaul, Stanford University

[Note from Annie:I’ve extracted from Twitter a series of observations made by Michael McFaul last week after viewing the Republican National Convention that I think form a compelling picture of the dangers we’ll face if we don’t remove President Trump from office in November.(The emphases are mine.)

McFaul served as Special Assistant to President Obama and Senior Director for Russian and Eurasian Affairs at the National Security Council at the White House from 2009 to 2012, and then as the United States Ambassador to Russia from 2012 to 2014. The author of several books and an academic at Stanford, he cites his research interests as American foreign policy, great power relations, and the relationship between democracy and development.]

—————————————

For those of us who study autocracies, including elections in autocracies, there were a lot of familiar messages, symbols, and methods on display this week…

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How The World Sees Us Now

We know about the divisiveness, the chaos, the hate that is dominating the headlines here in the U.S.  We are fed a steady diet of daily abominations, accusations, and ignorant spew.  But how do people in other countries see us?  Until four years ago, we were largely viewed with respect … sure, we had our flaws, but we tried to do the right thing … most of the time.  We helped our allies and others around the globe.  We were doing our part to promote solutions to climate change, nuclear disarmament, and to contribute to a global defense structure.  And then, came Donald Trump, riding the waves of the populist movement all the way to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, occupying a chair that he would never fit.  So … how are we viewed abroad today?

From an article in The Guardian back in June …

The coronavirus crisis has caused a dramatic deterioration in the European public perception of the US, extensive new polling reveals.

More than 60% of respondents in Germany, France, Spain, Denmark and Portugal said they had lost trust in the United States as a global leader.

A report based on the survey’s findings argues that the shock of the pandemic has “traumatised” European citizens, leaving them feeling “alone and vulnerable”.

In almost every country surveyed, a majority of people said their perception of the US had deteriorated since the outbreak. Negative attitudes of the US were most marked in Denmark (71%) Portugal (70%), France (68%), Germany (65%) and Spain (64%). In France, 46% and in Germany 42% said their view of the US had worsened “a lot” during the pandemic.

On Tuesday, PEW Research released a new poll of 13 foreign countries that reveals that perceptions of America have dropped drastically in recent years.  I strongly encourage you to take a look at their data.

PEW-chart

Let’s hear directly from some of those people, shall we?

  • Have you tried turning your country off and then on again?
  • I think Mexico is probably now in favour of that wall
  • Sad. Disappointed. We used to think pretty highly of you, but now we just feel sorry for you. You are so divided we’re not sure how you can ever come together as a country again. Your guns are out of control. Your racism is dividing you. Your politics are a disaster. Your healthcare system is a joke. Your pandemic is out of control and you will soon be in the depths of a depression, with more than 30m people without jobs. How do you feel so far?
  • Being an Italian and knowing roman history, I can say that in my opinion America is showing the classic symptoms of an empire in decline
  • The US always appeared like an older, stronger brother – now it feels like this brother started using meth.
  • Being in the U.K. right now kind of feels like being a little boat that has broken down and everyone’s too busy being mad at the captain to fix anything. But then you look to the left and there’s a big cruise ship burning as it sinks with people fighting on every deck, and the captain’s throwing gasoline on everything, and you feel a little bit better about the s***** boat you’re in.
  • I used to really admire America. The last few years have changed that perception drastically. The blatantly corrupt politics seem to have the whole country in such a tight grip that from the outside it looks like a 3rd world country. Your president is lying constantly and obviously yet he has outspoken followers in the millions who just disregard his lies. There seems to be no safety net for the average person at all and you seem to rely on luck to get through your life.
  • I live in Germany. When I was younger, I always wanted to live in America. I thought it was great. Now, not even for a million dollars, I would never move there
  • I knew there were lots of idiots, but the sheer quantity is mind blowing. And how so many Americans just can’t handle a view that’s different to their own or at least allow others to have a different view, is crazy.
  • You’re a country blessed with diverse land, money and democracy. But you have become your own worst enemy—healthy patriotism has turned into extreme nationalism and xenophobia, freedom has turned into anarchy. Also guns, like howww are they still a thing? Sad.
  • The Second Amendment is there to protect your precious democracy from tyrants. Ironic who the gun owners support the most.
  • What saddens me the most is how the basics, such as universal healthcare and social support are so reviled by so many. Worst is that those who are the most vocal are probably not far from those who would benefit the most.
  • I keep wondering why the “richest” country in the world still doesn’t have national free health services.
  • I can’t believe how Americans can politicise EVERYTHING?! Wearing masks, postal service and before these newer topics universal healthcare, free (or at least vastly cheaper) uni, higher taxation etc. are a reality in most developed countries, but in America it seems like you can just scream socialism and people are against everything. From my German point of view the two party system and electoral votes is seriously f**ked up and even the moderate democrats are pretty right-wing.
  • With the economic divide larger than ever, I don’t believe the majority of Americans, who struggle to live decently, pay for healthcare and their kids education, still buy the freaking “american dream” BS.
  • Trump is an Emperor, with his princess and princes. Everyone with any insight or brains can see it, but there are a lot of supremely uninformed Americans in the Rust belt, the south and parts of the north who have been fed the line from Fox and Facebook that he is their saviour.
  • I’m a Canadian, living in Mexico since 2014. I seriously can’t wrap my head around it from either vantage point. It’s like watching a slow-motion car wreck – it’s horrifying and you know nothing good is going to come of it but it’s fascinating at the same time.
  • As a Millennial from Toronto, I grew up thinking America was awesome. I thought it would be cool to live in New York when I was older. The past 5 years have been such a s*** show, I am so thankful to be from Canada. I dont think its Trump that is the main problem (although hes a huge one.) Its his legion of supporters that feel the same way he does. They will not go away once he leaves office. The problem is more permanent than some realize. Its been sad to see the US deteriorate.
  • I feel sorry for the sane people over there.
  • Sadness
  • I genuinely feel sorry for you people.

Remember when we were mostly respected by people in other countries?  Remember when Trump said he would “make America great again”?  Remember when we thought of this as a country of equal opportunity for all?  Remember when we had a president, not a tyrant in the Oval Office?  Think long and hard about it between now and November 3rd, for your vote could help save this country, or it could help sink it.

“It’ll Start Getting Cooler. You Just Watch.”

I’ve written a couple of times in the past week about the West Coast wildfires, but our friend Jeff today shared an open letter to Trump by the esteemed Governor of Washington, Jay Inslee, that pulls no punches, that “tells it like it is”! I have always respected Governor Inslee, and now even more so! Thanks, Jeff, for sharing this letter!

On The Fence Voters

Every day, the current president seems to be on a mission to eliminate as many people as he can in the United States of America. Whether it’s through his immense incompetence and failures to address the worst pandemic in a century, or ignoring the ongoing climate crisis, we can see in real time how devastating another four years of this administration would be to human life and suffering.

Today, I’d like to share a letter written by the current Governor of the state of Washington, Jay Inslee, that was published today on Medium. In it, he addresses the current president in an open letter to lambaste him for his abject failure to even acknowledge there’s a climate crisis emergency in progress.

Open letter to President Donald Trump on the role of climate change in historic wildfires

WA Governor’s Office

WA Governor’s OfficeFollowSep 14·5min read

September 14, 2020

The Honorable…

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Going Once, Going Twice …

Arguably the single most important issue facing the world today is climate change.  In the throes of the current pandemic, and amidst the undeniably craziest election the U.S. has ever seen, we in this country seem to have largely forgotten about the damage that we humans have done to this planet over the past 100 years or so.  The wildfires on the West Coast and the onslaught of hurricanes in recent years should have been a wake-up call, but … we are still focusing on other things, while the world burns.  We are nearing the point of no return in our wanton disregard for the environment, yet few seem to care.  Robert Reich speaks wise words …


Trump doesn’t care if wildfires destroy the west – it didn’t vote for him

Robert Reich-4Robert Reich

The climate crisis is upon us all but the president pursues more rollbacks. This election offers an existential choice

The air outside my window is yellow today. It was orange yesterday. The Air Quality Index is over 200. The Environmental Protection Agency defines this as a “health alert” in which “everyone may experience more serious health effects if they are exposed for 24 hours.” Unfortunately, the index has been over 200 for several days.

The west is burning. Wildfires in California, Oregon, and Washington are incinerating homes, killing scores of people, sickening many others, causing hundreds of thousands to evacuate, burning entire towns to the ground, consuming millions of acres, and blanketing the western third of the United States with thick, acrid, and dangerous smoke.

Yet the president has said and done almost nothing. A month ago, Trump wanted to protect lives in Oregon and California from “rioters and looters.” He sent federal forces into the streets of Portland and threatened to send them to Oakland and Los Angeles.

Today, Portland is in danger of being burned, and Oakland and Los Angeles are under health alerts. Trump will visit California on Monday, but he has said little.

One reason: these states voted against him in 2016 and he still bears a grudge.

He came close to rejecting California’s request for emergency funding.

“He told us to stop giving money to people whose houses had burned down because he was so rageful that people in the state of California didn’t support him,” said former Department of Homeland Security chief of staff Miles Taylor.

Another explanation for Trump’s silence is that the wildfires are tied to human-caused climate change, which Trump has done everything humanly possible to worsen.

Extreme weather disasters are rampaging across America. On Wednesday, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration released its latest State of the Climate report, finding that just in August, the US was hit by four billion-dollar calamities. In addition to wildfires, there were two enormous hurricanes and an extraordinary Midwest derecho.

These are inconvenient facts for a president who has spent much of his presidency dismantling every major climate and environmental policy he can lay his hands on.

Starting with his unilateral decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement, Trump has been the most anti-environmental president in history.

He has called climate change a “hoax.” He has claimed, with no evidence, that windmills cause cancer. He has weakened Obama-era limits on planet-warming carbon dioxide from power plants and from cars and trucks. He has rolled back rules governing clean air, water and toxic chemicals. He has opened more public land to oil and gas drilling.

He has targeted California in particular, revoking the state’s authority to set tougher car emission standards than those required by the federal government.

In all, the Trump administration has reversed, repealed, or otherwise rolled back nearly 70 environmental rules and regulations. More than 30 rollbacks are still in progress.

Now, seven weeks before election day, with much of the nation either aflame or suffering other consequences of climate change, Trump unabashedly defends his record and attacks Joe Biden.

“The core of [Biden’s] economic agenda is a hard-left crusade against American energy,” Trump harrumphed in a Rose Garden speech last month.

Not quite. While Biden has made tackling climate change a centerpiece of his campaign, proposing to invest $2 trillion in a massive green jobs program to build renewable energy infrastructure, his ideas are not exactly radical. The money would be used for improving energy efficiency, constructing 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations, and increasing renewable energy from wind, solar, and other technologies.

Biden wants to end the use of fossil fuels to generate electricity by 2035, and to bring America to net zero emissions of greenhouse gases by no later than 2050. If what is now occurring in the west is any indication, his goals may be too modest. 2050 will be too late.

Nonetheless, Americans have a clear choice. In a few weeks, when they decide whether Trump deserves another four years, climate change will be on the ballot.

The choice shouldn’t be hard to make. Like the coronavirus, the dire consequences of climate change – coupled with Trump’s utter malfeasance – offer unambiguous proof that he couldn’t care less about the public good.

America’s Wake-Up Call — Jeff & Jill Are Baaaaack!!!

The date for the re-start of mine and Jeff’s project, September 11th, came about quite by accident … to start with, that is.  We counted back eight weeks from election day, picked the first Friday in those 8 weeks, and … were stunned to see that with this logic, our first post would be on the 19th anniversary of 9/11.  Nineteen years … wow.  In some ways, it seems like only yesterday, doesn’t it?  The building I was working in, a publishing company here in Cincinnati, has since been demolished, but I remember the exact place I was standing when one of my staff called me over to tell me that a plane had hit the World Trade Center.  The rest of that day is a blur, but that single moment in time remains frozen in my mind.

For a number of reasons, 9/11 is very personal to me, as it is to many of you but that isn’t my focus with this post.  This is the final leg of mine and Jeff’s project, started back in January of this year with the goal of helping our readers understand the importance of this election year, the issues, and why it is so crucial that each and every one of us do our part.  It just happens, though, that this anniversary of the events of September 11, 2001, provides us with a good lead-in to jumpstart our project.  The title for this second half of our project is “America’s Wake Up Call”, and by the time you finish reading this post, I think you will understand why.

On September 11th, 2001, terrorists flew planes into the two towers of the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and one that we believe was headed for the White House that was brought down by heroes in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.  In under two hours, our lives were changed.  At that time, President George W. Bush was at the helm.  No matter what happened later, no matter what mistakes or poor decisions he made in the months and years that followed, I will always remember him for what he did in the hours and days that followed:  he united us.  He comforted, he understood, he grieved along with us.  His was the voice of caring, of compassion, of intellect, of … calm and reason.

This is the text of his address to We the People on the evening of 9/11 …

bush-2Good evening.

Today, our fellow citizens, our way of life, our very freedom came under attack in a series of deliberate and deadly terrorist acts. The victims were in airplanes or in their offices: secretaries, business men and women, military and federal workers, moms and dads, friends and neighbors. Thousands of lives were suddenly ended by evil, despicable acts of terror. The pictures of airplanes flying into buildings, fires burning, huge — huge structures collapsing have filled us with disbelief, terrible sadness, and a quiet, unyielding anger. These acts of mass murder were intended to frighten our nation into chaos and retreat. But they have failed. Our country is strong.

A great people has been moved to defend a great nation. Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shatter steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve. America was targeted for attack because we’re the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world. And no one will keep that light from shining. Today, our nation saw evil — the very worst of human nature — and we responded with the best of America. With the daring of our rescue workers, with the caring for strangers and neighbors who came to give blood and help in any way they could.

Immediately following the first attack, I implemented our government’s emergency response plans. Our military is powerful, and it’s prepared. Our emergency teams are working in New York City and Washington D.C. to help with local rescue efforts. Our first priority is to get help to those who have been injured, and to take every precaution to protect our citizens at home and around the world from further attacks. The functions of our government continue without interruption. Federal agencies in Washington which had to be evacuated today are reopening for essential personnel tonight and will be open for business tomorrow. Our financial institutions remain strong, and the American economy will be open for business as well.

The search is underway for those who were behind these evil acts. I have directed the full resources of our intelligence and law enforcement communities to find those responsible and to bring them to justice. We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.

I appreciate so very much the members of Congress who have joined me in strongly condemning these attacks. And on behalf of the American people, I thank the many world leaders who have called to offer their condolences and assistance. America and our friends and allies join with all those who want peace and security in the world, and we stand together to win the war against terrorism.

Tonight, I ask for your prayers for all those who grieve, for the children whose worlds have been shattered, for all whose sense of safety and security has been threatened. And I pray they will be comforted by a Power greater than any of us, spoken through the ages in Psalm 23:

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil for you are with me.

This is a day when all Americans from every walk of life unite in our resolve for justice and peace. America has stood down enemies before, and we will do so this time. None of us will ever forget this day, yet we go forward to defend freedom and all that is good and just in our world.

Thank you. Good night. And God bless America.

Now, fast forward to 2020.  Can you envision the current occupant of the Oval Office, whom I refuse to refer to by the title of “president”, giving such a speech or acting in such a rational manner as G.W. did on that day?  Try to imagine, if we had a similar crisis in this nation today, how Donald Trump would react.  He would screech, he would point fingers, his face would be twisted into a hundred contortions.  He would blame … he would blame Democrats, he would blame Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, Chuck Schumer.  He would blame any and every one of us in one way or another.  Would we feel comforted as we did nineteen years ago?  Hell no!  We would be terrified! 

Bush-1George W. Bush united the people of this nation … he brought us together in our shared grief, and helped us to understand that we needed to reach out to each other, that we were all in this together and that together we would get through the days ahead, the loss of loved ones, the shattering of our lives.  Donald Trump is not anywhere near the man that George W. Bush is and was on that day.  Donald Trump would use the crisis as a means to drive the wedge that already exists between the people of this nation just a little bit deeper, to cause us to fear one another instead of reaching out and offering comfort, just as he has done with the current pandemic.

I can offer at least one hundred reasons that Donald Trump must be defeated on November 3rd, that Joe Biden must be elected, but this may well be the best reason … we need a leader who leads, who cares about us, who has the intelligence and demeanor to remain calm in the midst of a storm and unite rather than divide.  We do not have that leader today … let’s make sure that next January we do.

Discord & Dissent Table of Contents

♫ Imagine ♫

Yes, I know I have played this one several times already, but please bear with me.  I tend to play this song when … well, when I need to … imagine.  When I need to imagine that there is hope for this world, when I need to believe that humans will eventually find their better side, will begin to care someday, care about others, care about the land, about all living creatures.  Today is the 19th anniversary of the horror that would become known as 9/11.  2,977 people died on that day, more than 400 of them police and firefighters.  Since then, hundreds more rescue workers have lost their lives as a result of the toxicity at Ground Zero. But, we lost more than human lives that day.  We lost … I think that was the day we all came to realize, though even today we would deny it, that “Peace on earth” is a myth that will never be realized.  We came to realize, I think, that … nothing would ever be quite the same again, and that no, it won’t all be okay.  But we want to still believe … I think we must still believe, else … what is the point in it all?  And so, my friends, I give you John Lennon and his view of … a better world.

Imagine
John Lennon

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky

Imagine all the people
Living for today (ah ah ah)

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion, too

Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man

Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world

You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

Songwriters: John Winston Lennon
Imagine lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Downtown Music Publishing, BMG Rights Management

11 September 2020 … Memories

With the exception of 2018, I have published this post each year since 2015 on September 11th, sharing memories of that day in 2001 when life changed, my thoughts and reflections.  I planned to write a new one this year, but as I read over it, I realized that I cannot say it any better today than I said it five years ago, and frankly, amidst the rubble of chaos, turmoil and divisiveness in our nation today, inspiration simply did not come to me.   I’ve come to realize that not only did we not learn the lessons of that day, but that in every way imaginable, the United States has become a much crueler, harsher, less respected and less respectable nation today than it was in 2001.  I skipped my 9/11 post in 2018, for I felt that amidst the chaos and divisiveness of this nation, it had lost its relevance.  I was wrong … we need to remember … we must not forget, we must look in the mirror and ask ourselves if we have learned anything in the 19 years since our world turned upside down in a matter of 102 minutes.


Humanity

911-cover-4Nineteen years ago.  It seems so much longer … another lifetime.  And yet … and yet, it seems like such a short time ago. I remember the morning well.  A key staff member was on vacation and I had to cover, so I arrived at work well before dawn, but I stepped outside sometime between 8:30 and 9:00 for a smoke break.  The sky was the bluest I could recall ever seeing it and I thought it must be the most perfect day ever.  Within a half-hour, I would be left in tears, cursing the day, hoping to awaken from this nightmare.

911-cover-9I went back inside from my smoke-break, and an employee, Susie, came up to me and asked if I had heard about the plane that crashed into the World Trade Center.  If the building I worked in then had not since been demolished, I could show you the exact tile I was standing on at that moment, just as I could tell you that when we received news of the assassination of JFK, I was at home plate with bat in hand, waiting for the pitch that would never come.  Just as my grandfather often told exactly where he was and what he was doing when the news of the attack on Pearl Harbour came over ‘the wireless’. You think it is a literary trick when an author says “time stood still”?  Well, I can tell you … for me, time did stand still, as I must have also.  I seemed to have lost all feeling, all senses shut down … I could not hear nor see.  After that, it all blurs into a series of news updates … a 2nd plane, then the Pentagon, then a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, the name Usama bin Laden.  A gathering in the cafeteria, a television rolled into another room where we all gathered.  Financial statements, payroll, printing presses and the like forgotten for the moment.  Tearful phone calls home to the girls.  Then day after day, glued to the television every waking moment.  In my household, we had a then-6-year-old and finally had to turn to Nickelodeon, but the images remained in our eyelids, in our hearts, in our souls. And the tears never stopped.

911-cover-2Today we mark the 19th memorial of that awful day.  We do so in many ways, but the saddest thing for me is that we did not learn the lessons we needed to learn from that tragedy.  Today, our nation is more divided than ever.  In the days and weeks that followed what would become known simply as 9/11, it seemed we were on the right path.  People from all over the nation and Canada traveled to Ground Zero to help with search and rescue, and eventually cleanup operations.  Shopkeepers gave out free food and water.  People helped neighbors, friends and strangers.  We all empathized with each other, treated each other a little kinder, gave a bit more freely of our hugs and kind words.

Compare and contrast to today, when we are a nation divided by hatred, divided by a lack of understanding for those who do not look, act or think like us.  And there are many who blame today’s vitriolic environment on 9/11, those who decided to hate all who share a religion with the plotters and perpetrators of the horrific acts of 9/11.  But it doesn’t stop there … our nation has renewed its call for racial discrimination, religious intolerance, and hatred of those who are perceived as ‘different’ in one way or another.  We have lost our way.


Commercialism

That which “we will never forget” has already been forgotten by some, it would seem.  A mattress company releases the following ad:

“Right now, you can get any sized mattress for a twin price!” says a grinning woman flanked by two employees in the 20-second spot. She flings her arms out and the men tumble backwards, knocking over two tall piles of mattresses. The woman screams “Oh my God!” in mock panic, then immediately recovers her composure and adds, with a half-smile: “We’ll never forget.”  It quickly attracted local, then national outrage. The ad was taken down, and Mike Bonanno, the owner of Miracle Mattress, issued the following statement:  “I say this unequivocally, with sincere regret: the video is tasteless and an affront to the men and women who lost their lives on 9/11.” 

How did he not realize how “tasteless” it was before it aired?

9-11One Wal-Mart, in conjunction with Coca-Cola, erected a display to “commemorate” the 9/11 anniversary.  It was taken down after much criticism.  And other companies have also tried to use 9/11 for sales and profit.  It is not a commercial holiday. We do not celebrate with hot dogs and beer. It is a day of national mourning.  It is a day of solemnity.  Commercialism has no place on this day, no right to use it as a gimmick.  Can you imagine Pearl Harbor, or the assassination of President John F. Kennedy being commercialized?  There was one commercial ad that truly was a tribute to the day.  It aired only once, in 2002.  I still find it to be a beautiful tribute and it still brings tears.  Please take just one minute to watch it.

Before airing the commercial, Anheuser-Busch sought and received approval from Congress, as well as then-mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani. There is no company logo until the end, and since it aired only once, given the cost of producing the ad, the company made no profit from it, nor did they intend to. It truly feels like a tribute rather than a cheap shot. It was tasteful … respectful.


Positive, Encouraging, Hopeful Messages

In 2016, in a rare display of partisanship, 200 members of Congress stood on the steps beneath the recently restored Capitol dome and prayed, observed a moment’s silence and, accompanied by a marine band, sang God Bless America to mark the imminent anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks. The remembrance ceremony, with Democrats and Republicans standing side by side, was heartening, though it would have been much more so had all 535 members of Congress participated.  Will we see that repeated this year?  I doubt it.

I understand that Donald Trump and Joe Biden both plan to attend a 9/11 memorial held at the field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania today.  In my opinion, politics has no place in this ceremony or others, and Trump only desecrates the day with falsehoods, as I can never forget that after the towers fell, he bragged that now his was the tallest building in the city.


I end where I began, by saying that we have lost our way, we have failed to learn from this, and to some extent we have failed to keep our promise to “never forget”.  The nation is more bitterly divided, more everything-phobic today than it was prior to 11 September 2001.  Rather than embracing our differences, we are using them as an excuse for hatred.  Rather than loving our fellow man, we are killing him.  Unless we learn to unite and work together for the sake of not only our nation, but of humanity, we are doomed to repeat the past. I would ask the readers of this blog to do this one thing:  be kind today, do not put anyone down, offer a smile to any you see, and hug your family just a little tighter today … just for today. Below are just a few pictures I would like to share, to remind us all of that day.

911-1

911-4

911-dust-lady

Marcy Borders, the ‘dust lady’, sadly died 25 August 2015 of cancer related to 9/11

ground zero

twin-towers

No Longer The Country We Think We Are

Nicholas Kristof’s column in the New York Times today speaks for itself …


‘We’re No. 28! And Dropping!’

A measure of social progress finds that the quality of life has dropped in America over the last decade, even as it has risen almost everywhere else.

nicholas-kristof-thumblargeBy Nicholas Kristof

Opinion Columnist

This should be a wake-up call: New data suggest that the United States is one of just a few countries worldwide that is slipping backward.

The newest Social Progress Index, shared with me before its official release Thursday morning, finds that out of 163 countries assessed worldwide, the United States, Brazil and Hungary are the only ones in which people are worse off than when the index began in 2011. And the declines in Brazil and Hungary were smaller than America’s.

“The data paint an alarming picture of the state of our nation, and we hope it will be a call to action,” Michael Porter, a Harvard Business School professor and the chair of the advisory panel for the Social Progress Index, told me. “It’s like we’re a developing country.”

The index, inspired by research of Nobel-winning economists, collects 50 metrics of well-being — nutrition, safety, freedom, the environment, health, education and more — to measure quality of life. Norway comes out on top in the 2020 edition, followed by Denmark, Finland and New Zealand. South Sudan is at the bottom, with Chad, Central African Republic and Eritrea just behind.

The United States, despite its immense wealth, military power and cultural influence, ranks 28th — having slipped from 19th in 2011. The index now puts the United States behind significantly poorer countries, including Estonia, Czech Republic, Cyprus and Greece.

“We are no longer the country we like to think we are,” said Porter.

The United States ranks No. 1 in the world in quality of universities, but No. 91 in access to quality basic education. The U.S. leads the world in medical technology, yet we are No. 97 in access to quality health care.

The Social Progress Index finds that Americans have health statistics similar to those of people in Chile, Jordan and Albania, while kids in the United States get an education roughly on par with what children get in Uzbekistan and Mongolia. A majority of countries have lower homicide rates, and most other advanced countries have lower traffic fatality rates and better sanitation and internet access.

The United States has high levels of early marriage — most states still allow child marriage in some circumstances — and lags in sharing political power equally among all citizens. America ranks a shameful No. 100 in discrimination against minorities.

The data for the latest index predates Covid-19, which has had a disproportionate impact on the United States and seems likely to exacerbate the slide in America’s standing. One new study suggests that in the United States, symptoms of depression have risen threefold since the pandemic began — and poor mental health is associated with other risk factors for well-being.

Michael Green, the C.E.O. of the group that puts out the Social Progress Index, notes that the coronavirus will affect health, longevity and education, with the impact particularly large in both the United States and Brazil. The equity and inclusiveness measured by the index seem to help protect societies from the virus, he said.

“Societies that are inclusive, tolerant and better educated are better able to manage the pandemic,” Green said.

The decline of the United States over the last decade in this index — more than any country in the world — is a reminder that we Americans face structural problems that predate President Trump and that festered under leaders of both parties. Trump is a symptom of this larger malaise, and also a cause of its acceleration.

David G. Blanchflower, a Dartmouth economist, has new research showing that the share of Americans reporting in effect that every day is a bad mental health day has doubled over 25 years. “Rising distress and despair are largely American phenomenon not observed in other advanced countries,” Blanchflower told me.

This decline is deeply personal for me: As I’ve written, a quarter of the kids on my old No. 6 school bus in rural Oregon are now dead from drugs, alcohol and suicide — what are called “deaths of despair.” I lost one friend to a heroin overdose this spring and have had more friends incarcerated than I could possibly count; the problems are now self-replicating in the next generation because of the dysfunction in some homes.

You as taxpayers paid huge sums to imprison my old friends; the money would have been far better invested educating them, honing their job skills or treating their addictions.

That’s why this is an election like that of 1932. That was the year American voters decisively rejected Herbert Hoover’s passivity and gave Franklin Roosevelt an electoral mandate — including a flipped Senate — that laid the groundwork for the New Deal and the modern middle class. But first we need to acknowledge the reality that we are on the wrong track.

We Americans like to say “We’re No. 1.” But the new data suggest that we should be chanting, “We’re No. 28! And dropping!”

Let’s wake up, for we are no longer the country we think we are.

Da Queen of Snark Strikes Again!

There are so many things that have crossed my radar in the past 24 hours that my head is reeling and I don’t know where to begin.  I’ll try to be brief in my snippetry today …


Nobel PEACE Prize???  Surely NOT!

I guess every country has its share of nutcases in government.  I really thought Norway was better than this, but apparently I was wrong.  For the second time, Donald Trump, the person who stirs conflict wherever he goes and pits people against each other, has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.  His very nomination disgusts and sickens me, rather reminiscent of Trump awarding the Medal of Freedom to the very dishonourable Rush Limbaugh.

The person who nominated Trump this year is the same one who nominated him in 2018, far right, xenophobic member of Norway’s parliament, Christian Tybring-Gjedde.  He claims he is not a big fan of Trump, but that …

“The committee should look at the facts and judge him on the facts – not on the way he behaves sometimes.”

The facts are, Mr. Tybring-Gjedde, that Donald Trump is the most hateful, cruel person ever to lead this nation!  Donald Trump is the least peace-promoting person on this planet!  He has done more to divide the people of this nation than any other president in our history, and he is continuing to do so every day.  Peace???  HAH!  If he is awarded this prize, then every past recipient should return their awards, for they will have lost all meaning.

Hopefully, the Nobel Prize Committee will have good sense as they did in 2018, and ignore Trump.  His odds are at about 20/1, and the most likely projected winners are among the World Health Organization, Greta Thunberg, and Jacinda Ardern … all three are excellent choices … far more worthy than a cruel tyrant.  He does have the support of QAnon, however, and gun-totin’ member Marjorie Taylor Greene, possibly the next U.S. representative from Georgia tweeted her gushing support.  DISGUSTING!


We the People pay for Trump’s sexual harassment???  WHY???

Author E. Jean Carroll accused Donald Trump of rape, in a Bergdorf’s dressing room in the mid-1990s. After Trump denied ever meeting her and dismissed her story as a Democratic plot, she sued him for defamation.  There is much I could say here … I fully believe Ms. Carroll’s story, as well as those of the many other women who have accused Trump of everything from grabbing them inappropriately to out and out rape. Trump called Ms. Carroll a liar and said he did not know her, even though the two had been photographed together at a party in 1987 with Ms. Carroll’s former husband. However, none of that is my point today.

Ms. Carroll’s defamation suit is still pending, but this week, the corrupt Attorney General of the United States made a decision that means if Ms. Carroll wins her suit, it will be We the Taxpayers who pay the penalty, while Trump skates free.

The White House asked the Justice Department to replace Trump’s private lawyers in this suit.  The Justice Department’s intervention in the lawsuit means that taxpayer money will be used to defend Trump, and it threatens the continued viability of the case of the plaintiff, Ms. Carroll.

Mr. Barr defended the decision to intervene, arguing that it was routine for the department to take over lawsuits against federal officials — substituting the government as the defendant.  Ms. Carroll’s lawsuit has been reassigned from a New York State court to a Federal District Court judge in New York, Lewis A. Kaplan. If he signs off on the department’s certification that it meets the standards to substitute the government as the defendant, he could dismiss the lawsuit because the government has sovereign immunity and cannot be sued for defamation.

Ms. Carroll has requested a DNA sample from Trump to determine a match.  An innocent man would give up the sample and be done with it … case closed.  But, this is akin to his withholding of his tax returns … a man with nothing to hide would release the returns!

So, Trump rapes a woman and we pay the price.  Frankly, she should have done a Lorena Bobbitt on him when she had the chance!


Destroy the nation, but don’t make “Trump look bad”

Brian Murphy, who had previously served as undersecretary for the Office of Intelligence and Analysis within the Department of Homeland Security, filed a 24-page complaint on September 8th, alleging that he was instructed to halt the reports on Russian influence activities in the United States because they were making “the president look bad.” The report was delivered by Murphy’s attorney, Mark Zaid, to the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday.

The report alleges that acting Secretary Chad Wolf, his predecessor Kirstjen Nielsen, and other senior DHS brass engaged in “a repeated pattern of abuse of authority, attempted censorship of intelligence analysis and improper administration of an intelligence program related to Russian efforts to influence and undermine United States interests.”

In his complaint, Murphy claimed he was instructed by Wolf to stop reporting on Russian activities altogether and “instead start reporting on interference activities by China and Iran.” Wolf told him that the instructions came from Robert O’Brien, President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, and Murphy pushed back and said he would not comply “as doing so would put the country in substantial and specific danger.”homeland-securityTaken in conjunction with last week’s announcement by Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe that he was suspending in-person briefings to Congress about foreign threats to the 2020 election, I think we all have ample reason to be concerned … very concerned.  Our government, led by a cruel tyrant, is withholding vital information from us, and from Congress.  THIS, my friends, is an abomination!  It’s as if … as if we are naught but cardboard cutouts with no ears, no eyes, no brains.  Funny, though, how the government that doesn’t even pretend to represent us still takes our taxes every week, isn’t it?


I’m not even halfway through my list, so you can count on more later!  On a brighter note, even though George Conway is no longer an active participant in The Lincoln Project, they are still turning out some great, hard-hitting ads!  Here is one of their latest …