The Week’s Best Cartoons 10/24

I thought it was time to lighten it up a bit, and while the political cartoons these days often aren’t exactly funny, they are brilliant in the way they can sum up a situation with few or no words.  How I wish I had artistic talent!  So, instead of the post I had planned for this afternoon, I am sharing instead TokyoSand’s weekly collection featuring the ‘best of the best’ cartoons from the past week.  Thank you, TS, for this excellent collection!


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A Low Bar — Negative Expectations

If you have two children of approximately the same age, one is of average intelligence with normal capabilities for her age, and the other is developmentally delayed, has difficulty with the fine motor skills, then you have a different set of expectations for each.  Alicia, the fist example, might be expected to not spill her food, chew with her mouth closed, place her napkin in her lap and use it as necessary, while Sammy is praised if he merely manages to get the food onto the spoon and into his mouth.  We set the expectations for our children, our friends and our family members based on their abilities.

We should not have to lower our expectations for the president of the country based on his past behaviour.  The bar shouldn’t be moved up or down depending on who is speaking – Donald Trump is not a child, but a world leader, albeit a highly unqualified one.

I have read many opinions of Donald Trump’s debate performance this past Thursday night, and far too many gave him an A+, praising him simply for not constantly interrupting Joe Biden, and for toning down his bombast somewhat.  People … this is the ‘man’ who has spent four years as president of the United States, the ‘man’ who holds our very lives in his hands … and he is to be congratulated for toning down his vitriol, while still maintaining a steady stream of lies and partial truths?  He still continued to completely ignore the moderator who repeatedly had to say, “Okay, we’re moving on to the next question now”.  He repeatedly smirked and made other facial gestures reminiscent of a teenage boy.  And he lied … over and over and over again.

The first sentence out of the gate was a lie when he claimed more than two million Americans were “expected” to die from the coronavirus, therefore America’s current death toll of 220,000 isn’t so bad.  From there on, he lied consistently for the entire 90 minutes, about the Russia investigation, climate change, Hunter Biden, the pandemic, and much more.  But rather than call out his lies, the press, for the most part, has chosen to focus on his lower-than-usual level of bombast.  This, then, is how they would judge the president?  He can lie ‘til he’s blue in the face, as long as he is reasonably calm?low-bar-1One person gave him kudos, saying she was “very impressed” with his “self-control” … excuse me, but world leaders are expected to have self-control … all of the time, not just for 90 minutes once in a while.  If he finds self-control so difficult, why in hell are we entrusting him with the nuclear codes?  Why do we allow him to attend meetings and events with other world leaders?  Why do we allow him to sit in the Oval Office?

There is a standard to which we hold our elected officials accountable, and it is a bit higher than simply not bulldozing, bullying and threatening.  It is a standard that Joe Biden met when he said …

“I’m an American president. I represent all of you. Whether you voted for me or against me. And I’m going to make sure that you’re represented. I’m going to give you hope. We’re going to choose science over fiction. We’re going to choose hope over fear.”

This, my friends, is — or at least should be — the way we expect a president to speak … giving us hope and encouragement, not differentiating between democrat or republican, but speaking to all of the people.  Donald Trump speaks only to his base, and makes it abundantly clear that he is not considering the rest of us, doesn’t care about the rest of us.  Being ‘presidential’ is a standard that Donald Trump is incapable of meeting, but we cannot simply say, “Oh, well, at least he didn’t use vulgar language or interrupt Joe Biden more than a few times, so he wins!”  No, no, no, and again no.  Trump was Trump and that is not good enough for this nation.  It is a sad state of affairs when we have gone so low that we hold our collective breath when he opens his mouth, and are relieved when he manages not to say something totally stupid.

I had no intention of writing more about the debate, but I couldn’t let the undeserved praise for Trump, as well as the media’s lack of conscience go unnoted, for it is simply wrong.  No, he wasn’t presidential, he was his usual oafish self, as dishonest as ever, just not quite as loud and obnoxious.  What a standard, eh?  Perhaps next time ‘round, the GOP will offer up Jeffrey Toobin as their candidate of choice.

Post-Debate Grumbles

You surely don’t expect a sweet, complacent post from me after I only just finished watching the final presidential debate, do you?  A couple of times, I had to take off my headphones and step away from the computer lest I throw it or punch it, but I’m pleased to say that I survived.  They should give us buttons or stickers saying, “I survived watching the debate!”, for it is no small task!debate-3

All in all, the debate really wasn’t a debate, but at least we were able to hear and understand most of Biden’s responses without Trump talking over him.  Trump did, however, keep on talking long after the moderator had told him “Okay, we’re moving on to the next topic” repeatedly.  In my book, the only truly relevant question was the final one, when each candidate was asked what, on inauguration day, they would say to the people who didn’t vote for them.  Their responses, in part …

Trump:  “We have to make our country totally successful as it was prior to the plague coming over from China.  We are on the road to success. But I’m cutting taxes and he wants to raise everybody’s taxes, and he wants to put new regulations on everything. He will kill it. If he gets in, you will have a depression the likes of which you’ve never seen. Your 401(k)s will go to hell, and it’ll be a very, very sad day for this country.”

Biden: “I will say, I’m an American president. I represent all of you. Whether you voted for me or against me. And I’m going to make sure that you’re represented. I’m going to give you hope. We’re going to choose science over fiction. We’re going to choose hope over fear. We’re going to choose to move forward because we have enormous opportunities to make things better.

And I’m going to say, as I said at the beginning, what is on the ballot here is the character of this country, decency, honor, respect, treating people with dignity, making sure that everyone has an even chance. And I’m going to make sure you get that, what you haven’t been getting in the last four years.”

Notice the difference?  Trump used his 60 seconds to criticize Biden some more, while Biden actually answered the question with what sounded very much like the best possible way to begin the healing process.  A negative answer vs a positive message.

And that’s all I have to say about the debate … another 90 minutes of my life that I can’t get back.


According to a story in yesterday’s New York Times

The Trump campaign has been videotaping Philadelphia voters while they deposit their ballots in drop boxes, leading Pennsylvania’s attorney general to warn this week that the campaign’s actions fall outside of permitted poll watching practices and could amount to illegal voter intimidation.

The campaign made a formal complaint to city officials on Oct. 16, saying a campaign representative had surveilled voters depositing two or three ballots at drop boxes, instead of only their own. The campaign called the conduct “blatant violations of the Pennsylvania election code,” according to a letter from a lawyer representing the Trump campaign that was reviewed by The New York Times. The campaign included photos of three voters who it claimed were dropping off multiple ballots.

Last week daughter Chris, granddaughter Natasha (aka Miss Goose), and I completed our mail-in ballots.  Not trusting the United States Postal Service to deliver them in a timely fashion, we had already decided to use the drop box at the county board of elections.  Since there is only one ballot drop box per county in our state, the nearest drop box is about 15 miles from here … not a long distance, but my van is not reliable outside of a 2-mile radius, and daughter Chris works from 6:00 a.m. ‘til 6:00 p.m. Monday thru Friday.  So, on Saturday she took all three of our ballots to the drop box.  She put all three into the drop box, and yesterday I received notification that all three had been received and accepted.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with her dropping off all three of our ballots!

I find it rather creepy to think that Trump cronies might be filming her, take down her license plate number, and harass us or attempt to negate our ballots.  And are these government employees doing the videotaping?  Are we paying these people to spy on us???

The Trump campaign’s aggressive strategy in Philadelphia suggests its aim is to crack down on people dropping off ballots for family members or anyone else who is not strictly authorized to do so. Ms. Kerns demanded that the names of all voters who had used a drop box in front of Philadelphia’s City Hall on Oct. 14 be turned over to the campaign, and insisted that the city station a staff member around every drop box “at all times.” She also asked for footage from municipal cameras around City Hall.

Bullshit!  “Ms. Kerns” needs to go choke on a turnip!  It is a blatant attempt at voter intimidation and there is no law prohibiting a family member from dropping off a ballot.  What would be the difference if a family member put someone’s ballot in the mailbox for them?  None whatsoever.  This is a step too far in Trump’s attempt to claim that there is voter fraud in voting by mail, where there is none!  First it was fake ballot boxes put up by the GOP in California, and now this!  If by some chance Trump wins this election, it will not have been an honest win, but will have been because he interfered with the right of the people to cast a ballot!  Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

Republicans Have Lost Their Way

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


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

Opinion by 

michael-gersonMichael Gerson

Columnist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Lot Can Happen In Three Months …

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

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

According to The Washington Post

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tell me why I ask some more?

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

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

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

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

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

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The Week’s Best Cartoons 10/17

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

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

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

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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.

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.

Damn Trump, Anyway

I had no intention of writing further of Trump and his bout with the coronavirus, his ignominious braggadocio about how tough he is to have beat the virus and how we should not worry so much, for it’s not even as bad as the flu.  It’s bullshit and I’m sick … literally sick of hearing it.  But two nights ago, our friend Ellen sent me Dana Milbank’s column.  I read it with tears running down my cheeks.  Tonight I re-read it, again with tears that wouldn’t seem to stop.  And so, I must share this piece with you, for … it speaks volumes.


‘Invincible’ Trump tells us to live with covid-19. These people died trying.

Dana MilbankOpinion by 

Dana Milbank, Columnist

Oct. 6, 2020 at 7:05 p.m. EDT

20k-chairs

Twenty thousand chairs, each representing 10 deaths from the coronavirus pandemic, are lined up on the Ellipse on Sunday. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

After Donald Trump got out of Vietnam with student deferments and a spurious claim of bone spurs, he proposed that those who did serve in Vietnam were “stupid” and “losers,” according to various accounts. He mocked their sacrifice by saying he was a “brave soldier” in his “personal Vietnam” — avoiding sexually transmitted diseases.

We’re seeing the same thinking now with covid-19. After getting treated for his infection by a team of top-notch doctors using antidotes that are rationed or entirely unavailable to other Americans, President Trump shared a description of himself as “an invincible hero” — in contrast to all those wusses who are taking precautions against the virus.

“Don’t be afraid of it. You’re going to beat it,” Trump proclaimed in a video message Monday night after returning from the hospital. “Don’t let it take over your lives. … I’m better and maybe I’m immune. I don’t know. But don’t let it dominate your lives.” Tuesday morning, he exulted anew on Twitter that “we are learning to live with Covid,” which he falsely claimed is “in most populations far less lethal” than the flu.

“FEELING GREAT!” he added.

It was an implicit rebuke of those 210,000 Americans who already let the beatable and less-lethal virus “dominate” them and “take over” — by dying. On the four days in which Trump spent time in the hospital, 2,264 Americans died of covid-19 without access to the care and treatments he got — the modern equivalent of those stupid losers who died in Vietnam while Trump bravely dodged the clap.

On Sunday, as Trump was joyriding around Walter Reed with his captive Secret Service detail, a group memorialized the pandemic dead by setting up 20,000 empty chairs, symbolizing 200,000 lives, on the Ellipse, facing the White House. As Trump staged photos at Walter Reed, the Twitter account @FacesOfCovid continued its grim work of collating obituaries of the deceased:

On Monday night, as Trump was filming his video (without a mask) telling Americans not to let the virus dominate their lives, the West Des Moines (Iowa) Community School District announced that Jennifer Crawford, a junior high school special-education assistant, had died of covid-19 complications.

On Sunday, Julie Davis, a beloved third-grade teacher at Norwood Elementary School in North Carolina, succumbed to the virus. Davis, 49, died two months after the district resumed some in-person classes. She decided to devote her life to helping children after the Columbine shooting.

On Friday, as Trump checked in to Walter Reed, John Stephen Forester, 72, of McKenzie, Tenn., died of the virus. He had helped adults with developmental disabilities and was a longtime volunteer driver for Meals on Wheels. The death notice said his family is “heartbroken at his sudden and preventable loss.”

Also Friday, Susanne Michael, a teacher at Harrisburg Elementary in Arkansas, died of covid-19. Her husband, whom she met at Williams Baptist College, was allowed to hold her hand for her final 10 minutes. She had recently adopted one of her students, who was bound for foster care, and the student’s two siblings. She leaves behind five children.

The same day, in Highland Village, Tex., Sgt. Dennis Oliver died of covid-19 after some 11 days in the hospital. The 17-year veteran of the Highland Village Police Department leaves behind a wife and two sons.

On Thursday, when Trump was keeping his positive coronavirus test secret, Olga Quiroga, a bilingual first-grade teacher in Chicago Public Schools, died of the virus, a day short of her 58th birthday. The symptoms started “after a series of trips” to her elementary school, including a back-to-school event.

Earlier last week, as the virus spread around the White House, WOOD-TV in Michigan reported the covid-19 death of Michelle McCrackin, 53, a Title I teacher in Carson City and mother of five. Meanwhile, in Oklahoma, Rebecca A. Cryer, a 73-year-old judge on the Choctaw Nation District Court, also died of covid-19. She had survived serious injuries in the Oklahoma City bombing 25 years ago.

And on. And on. Young and old, hearty and frail. So many people who, unlike our “invincible hero” president, inexplicably let the virus “dominate” their lives.

Now the White House Gift Shop is taking preorders for $100 commemorative coins announcing “PRESIDENT DONALD J. TRUMP DEFEATS COVID.” The company, which calls itself the “original official” White House gift shop, was privatized long ago. But it has pro-Trump sentiments, saying the coin design conveys “a hint of superhero qualities.”

If we’re really going to commemorate this moment, other slogans come to mind. Perhaps: PRESIDENT DONALD J. TRUMP DEFEATS EMPATHY.

Or, if we’re trying to lend a “hint of superhero qualities” to a president who tells us to live with the virus while he receives care unavailable to ordinary losers, I’d go with this:

PRESIDENT DONALD J. TRUMP, SUPERSPREADER.