September Surprise?

No, my friends, it is NOT fake news.  Yesterday afternoon, the New York Times published a report about Trump’s taxes for the past decade or so.  Not surprisingly, we have learned from this report that Trump is a lousy business manager, that he has lied and cheated to keep from paying taxes, and that his businesses are profiting from his position as president, among other things.

Trump immediately held a press conference to deny deny deny, but his denials fell flat.

According to the report:

  • In both 2016 and 2017, Trump paid exactly $750 in federal income taxes. Look back at your own taxes for those two years … I bet you paid a significantly higher amount in taxes, though you aren’t a billionaire or even a millionaire.  In 2016, my daughter, a nurse earning under $50,000 per year, paid $3,431 in federal income taxes, and in 2017 she paid $3,969.  She paid more than 5 times what Donald Trump, a billionaire, paid.
  • Trump had paid no taxes at all in 10 of the 15 years prior to his election. Think about that one for a minute, folks … he paid no taxes … not a single dime … 2 out of every 3 years.  If you’re not angry yet, then please go get a cup of coffee to wake yourself up!
  • In 2010, Trump claimed and received a tax refund of $72.9 million. The IRS has reportedly been auditing him over this and he stands to owe more than $100 million to We the People if when they find his refund requests were fraudulent.  $72.9 million of our money went to this jackass!
  • He has claimed as business expenses … his personal/family residences, the cost of the aircraft he uses to shuttle him between residences, and even $70,000 to style his “hair” … what hair??? He wears a critter atop his bald pate!
  • And speaking of ‘hair’, his ‘daughter’ Ivanka has been paid over $100,000 to be his hair and makeup ‘artist’. So, she gets paid to make his skin turn orange and place the critter on his head???  And he uses his payment to her to reduce his tax burden?
  • Trump is often hailed by his followers as a “successful businessman”, yet his golf courses alone have lost more than $315 million, and his Washington hotel, which opened in 2016, has already lost more than $55 million.
  • Within the next four years, Trump has $421 million in loans coming due, much of which he is personally responsible for.

A good businessman?  Hardly.  It should come as no surprise, for we already knew that Trump has declared bankruptcy six times due to his inability to pay his massive debts.  A good conman is more like it, for he conned some 40% of this nation into believing his outsized lies.  The Times promises there will be more to come about Trump’s taxes and financial records, and even that will be only the tip of the iceberg.  This conman has been living a life of luxury … paid for by other people’s money.  We always suspected it, I always said that if he had nothing to hide, he would have put the issue of his finances to bed by releasing his tax returns as every other president has done for decades, but now we have proof.  Stay tuned for more …

Claytoonz


In other news, former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge, a lifetime Republican, penned an OpEd in The Philadelphia Inquirer stating that …

“I will cast my vote for Joe Biden on Nov. 3. It will be my first vote for a Democratic candidate for president of the United States. But it is not the first time I have said ‘no’ to Donald Trump. I urge my fellow Pennsylvanians to join me.

Donald Trump has proven over these last four years he is incapable of such leadership. It is not within him. He lacks the empathy, integrity, intellect and maturity to lead. 

He sows division along political, racial and religious lines. And he routinely dismisses the opinions of experts who know far more about the subject at hand than he does — intelligence, military, and public health. Our country has paid dearly in lives lost, social unrest, economic hardship and our standing in the world.

Vice President Biden and I both know that supporting his candidacy now certainly won’t dissuade me from speaking out later when I disagree with him. But we surely will do so with civility and respect, not with childish name-calling and Twitter tirades.

I believe the responsible vote is for Joe Biden. It’s a vote for decency. A vote for the rule of law. And a vote for honest and earnest leadership. It’s time to put country over party. It’s time to dismiss Donald Trump.”

It’s time to put country over party … that says it all, my friends.  Maybe it’s also time for the Republican Party to reassess its values, or lack thereof, to put the people of not only this country, but the world, ahead of corporate greed and profit.  Think about it.

Humour: A New Weapon In The Arsenal

I came across this piece by Nicholas Kristof yesterday and thought it quite fitting!  Rather like a spoiled toddler, Trump thrives on attention, even negative attention, but the one thing he cannot stand is to be made fun of, to be mocked.  And let’s face it … there is much to mock from his inability to string together a coherent sentence to that creature residing atop his head!


To Beat Trump, Mock Him

The lesson from pro-democracy fighters abroad: Humor deflates authoritarian rulers.

nicholas-kristof-thumblargeBy Nicholas Kristof

Opinion Columnist

Can critics of President Trump learn something from pro-democracy movements in other countries?

Most Americans don’t have much experience confronting authoritarian rulers, but people around the globe are veterans of such struggles. And the most important lesson arguably is “laughtivism”: the power of mockery.

Denouncing dictators has its place, but sly wit sometimes deflates them more effectively. Shaking one’s fist at a leader doesn’t win people over as much as making that leader a laughingstock.

“Every joke is a tiny revolution,” George Orwell wrote in 1945.

American progressives have learned by now that frontal attacks aren’t always effective against Trump. Impeaching Trump seemed to elevate him in the polls. A majority of Americans agree in a Quinnipiac poll that Trump is a racist, yet he still may win re-election. Journalists count Trump’s deceptions (more than 20,000 since he assumed the presidency) and chronicle accusations of sexual misconduct against him (26 so far), yet he seems coated with Teflon: Nothing sticks.

America has had “Baby Trump” balloons, “Saturday Night Live” skits and streams of Trump memes and jokes. But all in all, Trump opponents tend to score higher on volume than on wit. So, having covered pro-democracy campaigns in many other countries, I suggest that Americans aghast at Trump absorb a lesson from abroad: Authoritarians are pompous creatures with monstrous egos and so tend to be particularly vulnerable to humor. They look mighty but are often balloons in need of a sharp pin.

Even before it collapsed, the moral authority of the Soviet Union had been hollowed out by endless jokes. In one, a secret policeman asks another, “What do you think of the regime?” Nervously, the second policeman replies, “The same as you, comrade.” At that point the first one pulls out handcuffs and says, “In that case, it is my duty to arrest you.”

Are the stakes too serious to laugh? Does cracking jokes devalue a democracy struggle? I don’t think so. One of the most successful examples of laughtivism came two decades ago when university students took on the regime of Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia. Milosevic committed genocide and isn’t an obvious target of humor — but the students’ wit helped topple him.

A typical stunt: They taped a picture of Milosevic on the side of a barrel and invited passers-by to take a swing at it with a baseball bat. The resulting photos of the police “arresting” the barrel and hauling it away were widely publicized and made Milosevic seem less mighty and more ridiculous. In 2000, Milosevic was ousted and handed over to an international tribunal to be tried for war crimes.

Here in the United States, we’ve also seen the power of wit. One of the most effective critics of “Boss Tweed” and Tammany Hall in the 19th century was Thomas Nast, the cartoonist. And Senator Joseph McCarthy’s nemesis, and the man who coined the term “McCarthyism,” was the cartoonist Herblock.

(Don’t tell my editors, but cartoonists, now an endangered species, are often more incisive social and political critics than columnists.)

In South Africa, the cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro skewered President Jacob Zuma so deftly and often that he was arguably one reason Zuma was forced to resign in 2018. Zuma sued Shapiro, whose response was a cartoon in which Zuma rages that he will sue for “damage to my reputation.” Shapiro coolly responds, “Would that be your reputation as a disgraced chauvinist demagogue who can’t control his sexual urges and who thinks a shower prevents AIDS?”

In Malaysia, Prime Minister Najib Razak was toppled the same year in part because of the work of another cartoonist, Zulkiflee Anwar Haque, who persevered despite prosecutions and physical attacks.

That’s one gauge of the power of humor: Dictators fear mockery. The Committee to Protect Journalists says it has intervened this year alone to defend seven cartoonists around the world who were arrested, threatened with prosecution or threatened with death.

In Russia, the dissident Aleksei Navalny uses withering sarcasm in his efforts to bring democracy to Russia. Navalny, now recovering in Germany from what apparently was an attempt by Russian officials to murder him with Novichok nerve gas, responded to Russian suggestions that he had poisoned himself:

“I boiled Novichok in the kitchen, quietly took a sip of it in the plane and fell into a coma,” he wrote on Instagram. “Ending up in an Omsk morgue where the cause of death would be listed as ‘lived long enough’ was the ultimate goal of my cunning plan. But Putin outplayed me.”

Leaders like Trump who pose as religious are particularly easy to skewer, as Iranians have shown in their use of humor to highlight the hypocrisy of their own mullahs. Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi is still nicknamed “Crocodile” because of a cartoon many years ago by Nik Kowsar, who now lives in exile in America because hard-liners arrested him and threatened to murder him.

No, I won’t be drawing cartoons or trying stand-up. I know my limitations. But I’m frustrated by the lack of traction that earnest critiques of Trump get, and I think it’s useful to learn lessons about how people abroad challenged authoritarians and pointed out their hypocrisy with the simple precision of mockery.

I’m also frustrated that some forceful criticisms of Trump sometimes come across to undecided voters as strident or over the top. People like me are accused of suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrome, and our arguments are dismissed precisely because they are so fervent.

Something similar happens in many countries. Citizens who aren’t political are often wary of pro-democracy leaders who are perceived as radical, as irreligious or as overeducated elitists. But those ordinary citizens appreciate a joke, so humor becomes a way to win them over.

“The grins of the people are the nightmares of the dictators,” wrote Liu Xiaobo, the Chinese dissident who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 while in prison. He is best-known for his eloquent essays calling for democracy, but he argued that humor is also essential in undermining authoritarian rulers.

Liu generously added — and this may be relevant to a polarized country like the United States — that satirizing an authoritarian is good for the nation because it makes the eventual downfall and transition softer and less violent.

“A clown needs less revenge than a monster does,” he observed.

Your Money Or Your Life???

Three-time Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas L. Friedman’s OpEd in yesterday’s New York Times needs no introduction, for it speaks for itself.  We would all do well to listen to what he says.


Trump’s Motto: Your Money or Your Life

The president claims you have to make a choice, but you don’t.

thomas-l-friedman-thumbLargeBy Thomas L. Friedman

Opinion Columnist

Whenever I talk about Covid-19 or climate change with skeptics, I use a simple analogy: Imagine that your child is sick with a disease and you decide to take her to 100 different doctors to get multiple opinions — and 99 doctors give you the same diagnosis and prescribed treatment and one tells you that there’s nothing to worry about, that your child’s disease will “disappear … like a miracle, it will disappear.”

What parents in their right minds would follow the advice of the doctor with the one-out-of-100 diagnosis?

This, alas, is no hypothetical. This, alas, is actually the most important question facing voters in choosing our next president. Are you ready to trust your own child’s and the country’s health to the guy who holds the one-out-of-100 view on both climate change and Covid-19? He being Dr. Donald Trump, founder of Trump University, where he apparently earned a B.S. in B.S.

It is stunning to me how many conservatives want to go with the doctor with the one-out-of-100 diagnosis, since doing so is anything but conservative. It’s Trotskyite radical.

And to riff off Trotsky for another moment, Republicans may not be interested in Mother Nature, but Mother Nature is interested in them. Both climate change and Covid-19 have brutally elbowed their way into our lives in the past year, and for the same reason: We have been stressing our ecosystems to their limits and beyond.

We’ve done this by invading wilderness areas and extracting wildlife carrying viruses never borne before by human beings and by emitting CO₂ that is heating the planet, amplifying storms that brought four months of rain in four hours in Florida and wildfires of epic proportions to the West Coast.

Joe Biden wants to proceed with more caution, and Trump wants to throw caution to the wind. That’s why the widely respected science journal Scientific American did something last week for the first time, declaring: “Scientific American has never endorsed a presidential candidate in our 175-year history — until now. The 2020 election is literally a matter of life and death. We urge you to vote for health, science and Joe Biden for President.”

The choice could not be more stark or important. Trump’s implicit motto when it comes to Covid-19 and environmental protection is always the same: Your money OR your life?

Which do you value more? Biden’s motto has been your money AND your life — you should not, and do not, have to choose between them, if we are wise and follow science.

How so? On Covid-19, for Trump, it’s jobs or masks, opening school or masks, social distancing or Big Ten football, science or church. Everything is black or white. And so is the result: So many Americans are jobless today and watching their kids learning remotely from home because Trump pitted masks against in-classroom schooling, masks against jobs, masks against indoor restaurant dining and masks against gathering for church services.

And too many Americans chose jobs and school and church out of desperation, and they’ve already paid the price or will pay it.

Biden, by contrast, is a unifier. He’s argued that if everyone wears a mask, practices social distancing and gets tested, we can BOTH protect many more jobs AND protect many more lives. Masks are not at war with jobs; they are the driver and protector of job growth in a pandemic. Masks are the vehicle to opening schools and other indoor activities — not their enemy. Just ask the Germans, Singaporeans or South Koreans.

Ditto when it comes to the environment and climate change. Trump wants everyone to believe that protecting nature means unemploying people. It’s clean air OR economic growth. It’s gas guzzlers OR unemployment. He’s forever pitting jobs against nature.

Biden stands for the unity of jobs AND the environment, the unity of jobs AND mitigating climate change. A clean, green economy equals better health AND more and better jobs. And the beauty is this: All that Biden has to do to prove his point is read aloud from the business and science pages:

Oct. 15, New Scientist: “The green economy has grown so much in the U.S. that it employs around 10 times as many people as the fossil fuel industry — despite the past decade’s oil and gas boom.”

June 30, Bloomberg.com: “Tesla Inc.’s market value has surpassed Exxon Mobil Corp.’s in a sign that investors are increasingly betting on a global energy transition away from fossil fuels.” Tesla makes electric cars, batteries and solar products.

Aug. 25, CBS News: “Exxon Mobil, which joined the Dow Jones Industrial Average in 1928, is being removed from the blue-chip stock market index. Its replacement: enterprise software company Salesforce.com.”

April 6, Recharge: “Renewables accounted for nearly three-quarters of global power capacity additions last year — half of which was switched on in Asia, according to latest figures from the International Renewable Energy Agency.”

Sept. 17, Fortune editor Alan Murray: “Lululemon C.E.O. Calvin McDonald told me yesterday his company now has more U.S. stores closed due to environmental risk — fires in the West, hurricane in the Gulf, etc. — than due to Covid-19.”

If climate change turns out to be a less serious problem than predicted, and we pursue all of the above anyway, we will be like an athlete who trains for the Olympics, but the Olympics are postponed. No problem. We’ll just be that much healthier. Our air will be cleaner, our industries and vehicles and homes and industries will be so much more efficient and our economy will be the world leader in the clean power technologies that every country will want to import from us — climate change or not — as we add nearly a billion people to the planet by 2030. Yes, there will be nearly one billion more people on the planet in 10 years.

On the other hand, if we treat climate change like a daydream and it proves to be a nightmare, we will be in real trouble as a species.

So, I hope Biden goes into next week’s debate and just says: “My fellow Americans, you don’t hire an arsonist to put out forest fires. You don’t hire a divider to heal racial wounds. You don’t hire a poisoner to clean up your water supply. And most of all — most of all — you don’t hire someone who pits nature against jobs and jobs against health at a time when we so clearly need them all and we so clearly can have them all.”

When Good People Don’t Act …

Over the last couple of years, I have wondered how so many of my friends could seemingly ignore what was happening in this nation.  It is as if they are oblivious to anything that is outside their own little world, as if they were wearing blinders and could not see the atrocities happening in our nation, but instead focus exclusively on what’s for supper, what concert they will go to next weekend, the cute little things their kids or grandkids said yesterday.  As if … nothing has changed, life goes on, it isn’t their problem that kids are kept in cages, that more than a thousand people die every day from the coronavirus, fires are raging on the West Coast, climate change is taking a steep toll and we are doing less than nothing to stop it, and there is a madman at the helm who will soon drive this ship into an iceberg.  None of that seems to bother far too many of the people I know.  Where is the outrage?  Do they simply not care?

The following by Charles Blow in yesterday’s New York Times mirrors my own thoughts, only much more eloquently than I can state them.


When Good People Don’t Act, Evil Reigns

Stop thinking that the horrors of the world will simply work themselves out.

Charles BlowCharles M. Blow

By Charles M. Blow

Opinion Columnist

I have often wondered how major world tragedies and horrors were allowed to unfold. Where were all the good people, those who objected or should have? How did life simply go on with a horror in their midst?

How did the trans-Atlantic slave trade play out over hundreds of years? How did slavery thrive in this country? How was the Holocaust allowed to happen? How did the genocides in Rwanda or Darfur come to be?

There is, of course, nearly always an explanation. Often it is official policy; often it is driven by propaganda. But I’m more concerned with how people in the society considered these events at the time, and how any semblance of normalcy could be maintained while events unfolded.

It turns out that our current era is providing the unsettling answer: It was easy.

As I write this, nearly two hundred thousand Americans have died — many of them needlessly — from Covid-19, in large part because the Trump administration has refused to sufficiently address the crisis, be honest with the American people and urge caution. Instead, Trump has lied about the virus, downplayed it, resisted scientists’ warnings and continues to hold rallies with no social distancing and no mask requirements.

Things are poised to get worse: Models now predict that the number of Americans killed by the virus could double between now and Jan. 1. According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington:

“We expect the daily death rate in the U.S., because of seasonality and declining public vigilance, to reach nearly 3,000 a day in December. Cumulative deaths expected by Jan. 1 are 415,090; this is 222,522 deaths from now until the end of the year.”

And yet, Americans still flock to Trump rallies, Republicans continue to defend his pandemic response and it is not clear that he will be defeated in November. We are, in many states, back to restaurants and bars, schools and churches, gyms and spas. It’s not as if we don’t know that there is a deadly virus being transmitted through the air, but it seems as though many Americans, weary of restrictions, have simply made their peace with it.

We have a climate crisis that continues to worsen. Storms are getting stronger. Droughts are severe. Rivers are flooding. The sea level is rising. And yet, we don’t do nearly enough to stop it and may not do enough before it’s too late to do anything.

Right now much of the West Coast is ablaze with hellish scenes of orange skies, and yet too many of us entertain climate change deniers, or, perhaps worse, know well the gravity and precariousness of the situation and still haven’t changed our habits or voted for the candidates with the boldest visions to save the planet.

Right now, China has detained as many as one million mostly Muslim citizens, in indoctrination camps, hoping to remold many into what The New York Times called “loyal blue-collar workers to supply Chinese factories with cheap labor.”

And yet, the world does little. Many look away. Life goes on.

This is how these catastrophes happen — in full sight — and people with full knowledge don’t revolt. People sometimes think that the issue is far away, or if it’s not, that it’s too big and they are too powerless.

They think provincially, or even parochially, concerned with their own house, their own street, their own community.

“It’s too bad that those children are in cages, but I can’t worry about that now, the clothes in the dryer need folding.”

“It’s too bad that an unarmed Black man just got shot by the police, but I can’t worry about that now, the yard needs mowing.”

I guess in some ways this impulse is self-protecting, preventing the mind and spirit from becoming overwhelmed with angst and rage. But, the result is that evil — as a person or system — rampages, unchecked, taking your personal laissez-faire as public license.

If you don’t complain, you condone.

But this mustn’t be. Stop thinking of yourself as weak or helpless. Stop thinking that things will simply work themselves out. Stop thinking that evil will stop at the gate and not trample your own garden.

Gather the energy. Gather your neighbor. Fight, vote, email, post. Do all you can to stand up for the vulnerable, for the oppressed, for the planet itself. Don’t let history record this moment as it has recorded too many others: a time when good people did too little to confront wickedness and disaster.

As Edmund Burke wrote in his 1770 “Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents”: “When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.”

But you may be more familiar with another quote often attributed to Burke: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

End of Republican National Convention 🙏

As I’ve noted before, I did not waste so much as a single minute watching the ludicrous circus that was called the Republican National Convention.  I read a few news stories about the cast of clowns who spoke, nothing really surprised me, and I chose to largely ignore it, for I really do have better things to do with my time than listen to a pack of ugly clowns telling lies and screeching like banshees.  Frank Bruni, writing for the New York Times, however, gives us his take on the “grand finale” last night with his usual clear insight and tongue-in-cheek humour.


Is There Nothing Trump Won’t Say?

Shamelessness meets illogic in a memorable (and endless) speech.

bruni-2By Frank Bruni

Opinion Columnist

I’m so relieved that the pandemic is over! I’d somehow missed that news, but then I watched the Republican National Convention, culminating in President Trump’s big speech on Thursday night, and learned that with his swift, muscular action, he’d pretty much vanquished the “China virus” and other countries wish they were so lucky. I learned that the economic toll of it was fast receding and would be a blurry memory soon.

I learned that it’s now perfectly safe for hundreds of people to sit cheek by jowl without masks, because that’s what they did in order to bathe the president in applause and chants of “four more years.” I learned that anyone who says different is just being a hater. But Trump is a lover. I learned that, too.

How to reconcile that with the vicious tone and vitriolic content of much of his remarks, which were as grounded in reality as a Tolkien novel and about as long? I’m stumped.

But I’m impressed: that he claimed such big-heartedness while showing such small-mindedness; that he twisted facts with such abandon and in such abundance; that he again trotted out that nonsense about having done more for Black Americans than any president since Abraham Lincoln; that he disparaged Joe Biden for not “following the science” about Covid-19 when he, Trump, mused about injections of bleach and vouched recklessly for hydroxychloroquine; that he characterized Biden’s positions as a “death sentence for the U.S. auto industry” when the Obama administration helped to save American carmakers.

It was an astonishing performance.

When Joe Biden spoke a week earlier, he never uttered Trump’s name. Trump sure as hell uttered Biden’s, over and over, in order to call him a latent leftist or an enemy of cops or a friend of terrorists or a baby killer or the bridge to economic Armageddon or any other awful thing that popped into Trump’s and his speechwriters’ minds.

A few of Trump’s attacks in particular demonstrated one of his superpowers, which is smearing opponents along the very lines where he’s most flawed and vulnerable. It’s a crafty form of denial and a potent kind of diversion — you just have to be amoral enough to avail yourself of it.

Trump availed and availed. There was the science bit, and then there was the suggestion that he had special intelligence that China was rooting and possibly working for a Biden victory because, in Trump’s words, “China would own our country if Joe Biden got elected.” If ever a hostile foreign power connived for a certain result and seemed to own an American president in the aftermath, it’s Russia in the case of Trump. But that didn’t give him pause.

He also accused Biden of betraying blue-collar workers as he “gave them hugs — and even kisses.” The “kisses” prompted laughter from people in the audience, who clearly heard what Trump surely intended: an allusion to some women’s stories about Biden. But those accounts pale, in number and severity, beside the accusations of sexual assault by Trump and his “Access Hollywood” confession of grabbing women “by the pussy.”

Still, Trump went there. He’ll go anywhere. And a shockingly large number of Americans will follow him.

On Thursday night he didn’t just give a middle finger to norms by delivering his convention speech at the White House. He reveled in that naughtiness. He milked the magisterial setting for all it was worth, appearing first with Melania on a balcony, then taking an eternity to descend a curved staircase with her, then musing aloud on the history of the residence, complete with a roll call of many of its most beloved denizens before him.

He later taunted Democrats by gesturing at it and saying, “We’re here and they’re not.”

This wasn’t patriotism. It was puerility. He was rubbing his rebellion against tradition and presidential etiquette in his critics’ faces.

He also insisted that he had kept all his promises. Really? How’s that wall coming, Mr. President? And will Mexico’s payments for it come in installments or one lump sum?

He said precious little about the pandemic, except to blame it all on China, and he most certainly didn’t mention that we’re No. 1 in the world in recorded deaths (more than 180,000) and in reported infections, which are quickly nearing 6 million. He had different figures, ones that painted us as the envy of other countries. Gee, then why aren’t they letting Americans visit? Is that just sour grapes?

Given how thoroughly the convention had reinvented Trump, I half expected him to show up at the lectern on Thursday night with the physique of a man half his age and the hair of a man in less follicular distress. If he’s going to fabricate his character and record, inserting a saint in his place, why not do the same with his appearance, inserting a stud?

I wrote in a previous column that this convention was defined by its shamelessness, which President Trump’s speech certainly exemplified. I gave short shrift to its illogic.

Why would we need to make America great again again — an actual pledge that Mike Pence made on Wednesday night — if Trump had made America great again already? This isn’t a re-election campaign. It’s a tape loop. I’m surprised Trump on Thursday night didn’t crow that he alone can fix what he alone didn’t fix despite more than three and a half years so far to do so.

He did tell Americans to look long, hard and fearfully at recent scenes of lawlessness and violence in some cities for a glimpse of Biden’s America. But, wait, isn’t this Trump’s America? The unrest is happening on his watch, so how does keeping him in office protect America from it?

It takes a vacuum of integrity to sell such bunk with such righteousness. It takes a Trump.

Like Ivanka! Introducing her father, she bragged that he, unlike those icky career politicians, didn’t “kick the can until it was someone else’s problem.” Did she mean a can like the national debt, which he promised to curb but which ballooned monstrously during his first term, even before the pandemic came along?

Ivanka achieved a norm-busting double whammy by not only shilling at the White House but deciding that it was OK as a federal employee to make a nakedly partisan speech at an expressly partisan event, much as Kellyanne Conway and Mike Pompeo and Ben Carson before her had done. It was another trailblazing moment for America’s princess, who can put a picture of it in her photo album alongside portraits of her and the president with Kim Jong-un in the Demilitarized Zone.

Will this mix of pageantry and prevarication work? My stomach is in knots, maybe just because the stakes are so high, maybe because Trump offers the kind of simple answers and jingoism that are often most seductive to voters, maybe because, in the midst of all the malarkey, there was a cunning recognition of where Biden and Democrats are weak.

“How,” Trump said, “can the Democrat Party ask to lead our country when it spends so much time tearing down our country?”

That’s a misrepresentation, of course, but one that will have resonance for many voters. Biden should beware of it and shut it down, lest Trump’s barely endurable speech presage a wholly unendurable second term.

The Blood on Trump’s Hands — Is Ours

I have shared Nicholas Kristof’s work before, and I do so again today.  Kristof is a two-time Pulitzer Prize winning author and journalist whose major interests are human rights and social injustices.  He is more than just an opinion writer – he is a scholar, a deep thinker, and a man of great intellect.  What follows is his column in the New York Times yesterday evening.


‘We Did the Exact Right Thing,’ Says Our Glorious Leader

So why does the United States have 4 percent of the world’s population and 22 percent of coronavirus deaths?

nicholas-kristof-thumblargeBy Nicholas Kristof

Opinion Columnist

What a relief!

I’d worried about the coronavirus, but we’re fine! I’ve been watching the Republican National Convention, and it turns out that while everyone else stood helpless before the pandemic, our national lodestar, President Trump, stepped up and saved millions of lives. Whew!

“From the very beginning, Democrats, the media and the World Health Organization got the coronavirus wrong,” according to a G.O.P. propaganda film shown at the convention. Fortunately, “one leader took decisive action to save lives: President Donald Trump.”

“We did the exact right thing,” Trump said in his speech on Monday. “We saved millions.” He has moved seamlessly from the fantasy that the virus would “go away,” as he has said some 31 times, to the fantasy that he has already dispatched it.

I feel well equipped to cover the Republican convention, having covered personality cults in China, Iraq and North Korea. But this grotesque manipulation deserves a response, for it dishonors and erases the 180,000 Americans confirmed to have died from Covid-19.

“The Trump administration is responsible for the single worst public health failure in the last 100 years,” Peter J. Hotez, a global health expert and dean at the Baylor College of Medicine, told me.

Devi Sridhar, an American who is professor of global public health at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, said it had been “astounding” to watch the Trump narrative from afar. In Scotland, she noted, children are now back in school because the government there was committed to suppressing the virus.

“The biggest obstacle to an effective Covid-19 response is President Donald Trump,” Sridhar told me. “There is a path through this crisis, but it requires strong leadership, transparency and letting scientists lead the response.”

That’s the problem in America: Trump fought science, and the virus won — so the public lost.

(The hostility to scientific expertise is also evident in the Republican National Convention’s obliviousness to climate change, even as California is in flames and a hurricane bears down on Texas and Louisiana.)

The consensus among health experts is that while local leaders and citizens sometimes messed up, and that luck matters along with other random factors we still don’t fully understand, huge responsibility lies with that “one leader.”

Some 40,000 confirmed infections are being reported each day in the United States, and another American still dies of the virus every 90 seconds. The University of Washington model projects that about 310,000 people will have died by Dec. 1 — a figure greater than the number of American combat deaths during World War II.

So portraying this toll as a tribute to Trump’s leadership takes real chutzpah.

Trump initially dismissed the coronavirus as like the flu, scoffed that it was “totally under control” and insisted it would disappear “like a miracle.” He imposed some travel restrictions on China (with enormous exceptions), which may have helped modestly, but he fumbled testing, didn’t ensure adequate protective equipment, and offered confused messaging.

The president resisted masks and embraced miracle cures — some dangerous ones, like injecting household disinfectants. He encouraged followers to “liberate” states with lockdowns and his administration pressed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to revise testing guidelines to exclude those without symptoms. He has suggested that his aim is to “slow the testing down,” so that fewer people will test positive; that’s like trying to reduce cancer fatalities by ending cancer screening.

Trump still doesn’t have a national Covid-19 strategy any more than he has a 2020 campaign platform.

The United States does not, as many Trump critics believe, have the highest death toll from the coronavirus on a per-capita basis; deaths per million have been higher in Belgium, Peru, Spain, Britain, Italy, Sweden, Chile and Brazil.

Yet while other countries made terrible mistakes — especially initially — they learned from them. China at first put more effort into suppressing warnings of the virus than into suppressing the virus itself. Italy delayed a lockdown. Britain at the beginning didn’t take the risks seriously.

Yet those countries were able to self-correct and bring infections down, although imperfectly and with risks of a return. Italy brought infections and deaths down and currently has a death rate over the last seven days just one thirty-second that of the United States. In contrast, Trump never learned and still tackles the virus with magical thinking while resisting a coherent national strategy driven by science.

Pandemic control involves not a single tool but a broad set of skills, making it a measure of good governance. It’s not surprising that Germany — led by a disciplined scientist, Angela Merkel — has done particularly well, with a death rate now only one forty-eighth that of the United States.

If Trump had managed the pandemic as well as Merkel, some 143,000 American lives could have been saved.

Think about those people’s lives when you see Trump try to rewrite history this week. The indisputable truth is this: The United States has 4 percent of the world’s population and 22 percent of the world’s confirmed coronavirus deaths.

NOT Hyperbole — But Truth

Thomas Friedman, three-time Pulitzer Prize winner, author of numerous books on foreign affairs, global trade, the Middle East, globalization, and environmental issues, and weekly columnist for the New York Times, has written a column this week that I think every adult in this nation needs to read.  I have long said that if Trump is allowed a second term, the structure of our nation will be forever changed, that Donald Trump has every intention of turning this nation into a full autocracy.  But my saying it is a bit less likely to reach the ears of many, and less likely to be taken seriously, than Thomas Friedman saying it.  So please, friends, read and if you can, share this one with any and all who might be sitting on the fence this election year.

Will 2020’s Election Be the End of Our Democracy?

A free and fair vote and the prospect of a peaceful transfer of power are both in question.

friedmanThomas L. Friedman

By Thomas L. Friedman

Opinion Columnist

Here is a sentence I never in a million years thought that I would ever write or read: This November, for the first time in our history, the United States of America may not be able to conduct a free and fair election and, should President Trump be defeated by Joe Biden, have a legitimate and peaceful transfer of power.

Because if half the country thinks their votes were not fully counted due to deliberate sabotaging of the U.S. Postal Service by this administration, and if the other half are made to believe by the president that any mail-in vote for Biden was fraudulent, that would not result in just a disputed election — not another Bush v. Gore for the Supreme Court to sort out — that would be the end of American democracy as we know it. It also isn’t hyperbole to say it could sow the seeds of another Civil War.

The threat is real.

So, personally, I will walk, I will jog, I will skip, I will crawl, I will slither, I will bike, I will hike, I will hitchhike, I will drive, I will ride, I will run, I will fly, I will roll, I will be rolled, I will be carried, I will trek, I will train, I will trot, I will truck, I will strut, I will float, I will boat, I will ramble, I will amble, I will march, I will bus, I will taxi, I will Uber, Lyft, scooter, skateboard or motorcycle — and I will wear a face mask, a face shield, gloves, goggles, a hazmat suit, a spacesuit or a wet suit — but I damn well will get to my neighborhood polling station to see that my vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris is cast and counted on Nov. 3.

And it is not because I am some raving liberal. It’s because I believe that America, at its core, is still a center-left, center-right country and is best governed by someone who can reforge the two and lead from there. I believe that Biden is the one who can do that best, and that is actually the source of his appeal to many Americans.

I understand that in the midst of a pandemic in-person voting the way I intend to do is simply not an option for many people for reasons that have nothing to do with Trump.

To begin with, many retired people, who usually staff polling stations, are afraid to volunteer this year out of fear of contracting the coronavirus. And many other people legitimately fear that if they have to stand in crowded, longer lines at fewer polling stations, this, too, could increase their likelihood of infection.

Also, it is not Trump’s fault, per se, that the Postal Service is not normally set up to get a massive crush of mail-in ballots out and back in time for every vote to be cast and counted.

What is Trump’s fault is that instead of leading — pulling Congress and all the governors together to organize an emergency response to this unprecedented challenge posed to our national election — the president has used his bully pulpit to try to persuade the country that any mail-in vote — except in states that might support him, like Florida — should be seen as fraudulent, and he has deliberately sought to choke off funds to the Postal Service needed for an emergency expansion of its capacity to efficiently handle all these votes by mail.

Trump said in a press conference last Wednesday that he would not sign off on either $25 billion in emergency funds for the U.S.P.S. or $3.5 billion in election assistance to help states, both of which Democrats have been pressing for as part of a federal Covid-19 relief bill.

“They need that money in order to have the post office work, so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots,” Trump told Fox Business Network the next day. “But if they don’t get those two items, that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting, because they’re not equipped to have it.”

I have covered banana republic dictators who were more subtle than that in attempting to rig their elections or undermine votes for their opponent.

What to do policy-wise? Bombard your congressman’s and senators’ offices with email and protests, protect your neighborhood mailbox from being removed and, most important, join those protesters in the streets outside the Northwest D.C. home of Trump’s postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, putting him on notice that if he does not change his ways, for the rest of his life, everywhere he goes, every restaurant he enters, every movie he attends, every time he walks his dog, people will say, “There goes the man who deliberately eviscerated the Postal Service so that Americans could not have their votes counted in the 2020 election.”

That prospect already seems to have made some headway with DeJoy. While the president continues to plant utterly bogus seeds of doubt everywhere he can about mail-in voting, DeJoy on Tuesday declared that he was suspending cost-cutting and other operational changes.

But we cannot rely on DeJoy or Trump to play this election straight. For instance, DeJoy didn’t say that he would reverse moves already made that have been cited as intended to undercut vote-by-mail.

We have to help every locality recruit more poll workers — Republicans and Democrats, we need multitudes of both to ensure everyone feels represented — so that polling stations can open and handle everyone who wants to vote.

If you are young and healthy or have recovered from Covid-19, volunteer to work at the polls. Go to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission’s website for details on how to become a poll worker and rules for voting in each state.

At the same time, go to vote.org/am-i-registered-to-vote and make sure you are registered to vote and, if you are and want to vote by mail, go to vote.org/absentee-ballot and secure an absentee ballot for the November election.

To me, this is our generation’s D-Day or E-Day. Think about it. The American soldiers who landed on Normandy Beach, under a barrage of Nazi artillery fire, on June 6, 1944, were actually voting with their lives so that the rest of us could vote with our ballots — in person or by mail — in every election from that day forth, even if it was in the middle of a pandemic.

Now is our turn to step up, Don Baer, President Bill Clinton’s director of White House communications, remarked to me the other day, explaining: “There are millions of college students living at home or taking classes remotely. They are more or less the same ages as those troops who hit the beaches of Normandy that morning in June 1944.

“It would be so helpful if they enlisted to be poll watchers, to take Covid tests and, if they are free of the disease, help take at-risk voters, their fellow citizens, to the polls, one by one, so they can vote, and to help sanitize polling places as often as necessary to make them safe places for people to enter and exercise the most fundamental freedom we have.”

So, I don’t care who you vote for. But don’t let this election be stolen by people trying to deliberately engineer it so not everyone can vote — or so that not every vote will be counted. That would be the ultimate insult to the boys of Normandy Beach.

A Bit Of Un-Masked History

Comparisons have been made more than a few times between today’s coronavirus pandemic and the pandemic of 1918 known as the Spanish Flu.  Turns out that one of the issues we are grappling with today, mask-wearing, was a big issue back then, too.  I thought this bit of history from the New York Times was quite interesting!


The Mask Slackers of 1918

As the influenza pandemic swept across the United States in 1918 and 1919, masks took a role in political and cultural wars.

christine-hauserBy Christine Hauser

Aug. 3, 2020

Updated 12:29 p.m. ET

flu-1The masks were called muzzles, germ shields and dirt traps. They gave people a “pig-like snout.” Some people snipped holes in their masks to smoke cigars. Others fastened them to dogs in mockery. Bandits used them to rob banks.

More than a century ago, as the 1918 influenza pandemic raged in the United States, masks of gauze and cheesecloth became the facial front lines in the battle against the virus. But as they have now, the masks also stoked political division. Then, as now, medical authorities urged the wearing of masks to help slow the spread of disease. And then, as now, some people resisted.

In 1918 and 1919, as bars, saloons, restaurants, theaters and schools were closed, masks became a scapegoat, a symbol of government overreach, inspiring protests, petitions and defiant bare-face gatherings. All the while, thousands of Americans were dying in a deadly pandemic.

1918: The infection spreads.

The first infections were identified in March, at an Army base in Kansas, where 100 soldiers were infected. Within a week, the number of flu cases grew fivefold, and soon the disease was taking hold across the country, prompting some cities to impose quarantines and mask orders to contain it.

By the fall of 1918, seven cities — San Francisco, Seattle, Oakland, Sacramento, Denver, Indianapolis and Pasadena, Calif. — had put in effect mandatory face mask laws, said Dr. Howard Markel, a historian of epidemics and the author of “Quarantine!”

Organized resistance to mask wearing was not common, Dr. Markel said, but it was present. “There were flare-ups, there were scuffles and there were occasional groups, like the Anti-Mask League,” he said, “but that is the exception rather than the rule.”

At the forefront of the safety measures was San Francisco, where a man returning from a trip to Chicago apparently carried the virus home, research archives show.

By the end of October, there were more than 60,000 cases statewide, with 7,000 of them in San Francisco. It soon became known as the “masked city.”flu-2“The Mask Ordinance,” signed by Mayor James Rolph on Oct. 22, made San Francisco the first American city to require face coverings, which had to be four layers thick.

A ‘pig-like extension of the snout’

Resisters complained about appearance, comfort and freedom, even after the flu killed an estimated 195,000 Americans in October alone.

Alma Whitaker, writing in The Los Angeles Times on Oct. 22, 1918, reviewed masks’ impact on society and celebrity, saying famous people shunned them because it was “so horrid” to go unrecognized.

“The big restaurants are the funniest sights, with all the waiters and diners masked, the latter just raising their screen to pop in a mouthful of food,” she wrote.

When Ms. Whitaker herself declined to wear one, she was “forcibly taken” to the Red Cross as a “slacker,” and ordered to make one and put it on.flu-3The San Francisco Chronicle said the simplest type of mask was of folded gauze affixed with elastic or tape. The police went for gauze masks, which resembled an unflattering “nine ordinary slabs of ravioli arranged in a square.”

There was room for creativity. Some of the coverings were “fearsome looking machines” that lent a “pig-like aspect” to the wearer’s face.

Mask court

The penalty for violators was $5 to $10, or 10 days’ imprisonment.

On Nov. 9, 1,000 people were arrested, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. City prisons swelled to standing room only; police shifts and court sessions were added to help manage.

“Where is your mask?” Judge Mathew Brady asked offenders at the Hall of Justice, where sessions dragged into night. Some gave fake names, said they just wanted to light a cigar or that they hated following laws.

Jail terms of 8 hours to 10 days were given out. Those who could not pay $5 were jailed for 48 hours.flu-4The ‘mask slacker’ of San Francisco is shot.

On Oct. 28, a blacksmith named James Wisser stood on Powell and Market streets in front of a drugstore, urging a crowd to dispose of their masks, which he described as “bunk.”

A health inspector, Henry D. Miller, led him to the drugstore to buy a mask.

At the door, Mr. Wisser struck Mr. Miller with a sack of silver dollars and knocked him to the ground, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. While being “pummeled,” Mr. Miller, 62, fired four times with a revolver. Passers-by “scurried for cover,” The Associated Press said.

Mr. Wisser was injured, as were two bystanders. He was charged with disturbing the peace, resisting an officer and assault. The inspector was charged with assault with a deadly weapon.

In Los Angeles, ‘To Mask or Not to Mask.’

That was the headline for a report published in The Los Angeles Times when city officials met in November to decide whether to require residents to wear “germ scarers” or “flu-scarers.”

Public feedback was invited. Some supported masks so theaters, churches and schools could operate. Opponents said masks were “mere dirt and dust traps and do more harm than good.”

“I have seen some persons wearing their masks for a while hanging about their necks, and then apply them to their faces, forgetting that they might have picked up germs while dangling about their clothes,” Dr. E.W. Fleming said in a Los Angeles Times report.

An ear, nose and throat specialist, Dr. John J. Kyle, said: “I saw a woman in a restaurant today with a mask on. She was in ordinary street clothes, and every now and then she raised her hand to her face and fussed with the mask.”

In Illinois, the right to choose, and to reject.

Suffragists fighting for the right to vote made a gesture that rejected covering their mouths at a time when their voices were crucial.

At the annual convention of the Illinois Equal Suffrage Association, in October 1918, they set chairs four feet apart, closed doors to the public and limited attendance to 100 delegates, the Chicago Daily Tribune reported.flu-5But the women “showed their scorn” for masks, it said. It’s unclear why.

Allison K. Lange, an associate history professor at Wentworth Institute of Technology, said one reason could have been that they wanted to keep a highly visible profile.

“Suffragists wanted to make sure their leaders were familiar political figures,” Dr. Lange said.

‘Four weeks of muzzled misery’

San Francisco’s mask ordinance expired after four weeks at noon on Nov. 21. The city celebrated, and church bells tolled.

A “delinquent” bent on blowing his nose tore his mask off so quickly that it “nearly ruptured his ear,” The San Francisco Chronicle reported. He and others stomped on their masks in the street. As a police officer watched, it dawned on him that “his vigil over the masks was done.”

Waiters, barkeeps and others bared their faces. Drinks were on the house. Ice cream shops handed out treats. The sidewalks were strewn with gauze, the “relics of a torturous month,” The Chronicle said.

The spread had been halted. But a second wave was on the horizon.

By December, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors was again proposing a mask requirement, meeting with testy opposition.flu-6Around the end of the year, a bomb was defused outside the office of San Francisco’s chief health officer, Dr. William C. Hassler. “Things were violent and aggressive, but it was because people were losing money,” said Brian Dolan, a medical historian at the University of California, San Francisco. “It wasn’t about a constitutional issue; it was a money issue.”

By the end of 1918, the death toll from influenza had reached at least 244,681, mostly in the last four months, according to government statistics.

1919: A new year

In January, Pasadena’s city commission passed a mask ordinance. The police grudgingly enforced it, cracking down on cigar smokers and passengers in cars. Sixty people were arrested on the first day, The Los Angeles Times reported on Jan. 22, in an article titled “Pasadena Snorts Under Masks.”

“It is the most unpopular law ever placed on the Pasadena records,” W.S. McIntyre, the chief of police, told the paper. “We are cursed from all sides.”

Some mocked the rule by stretching gauze across car vents or dog snouts. Cigar vendors said they lost customers, though enterprising aficionados cut a hole in the cloth. (They were still arrested.) Barbers lost shaving business. Merchants complained traffic dropped as more people stayed home.

Petitions were circulated at cigar stands. Arrests rose, even of the powerful. Ernest May, the president of Security National Bank of Pasadena, and five “prominent” guests were rounded up at the Maryland Hotel one Sunday.

They had masks on, but not covering their faces.

The Anti-Mask League.

As the contagion moved into its second year, so did the skepticism.

On Dec. 17, 1918, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors reinstituted the mask ordinance after deaths started to climb, a trend that spilled over into the new year with 1,800 flu cases and 101 deaths reported there in the first five days of January.

That board’s decision led to the creation of the Anti-Mask League, a sign that resistance to masks was resurfacing as cities tried to reimpose orders to wear them when infections returned.

The league was led by a woman, E.J. Harrington, a lawyer, social activist and political opponent of the mayor. About a half-dozen other women filled its top ranks. Eight men also joined, some of them representing unions, along with two members of the board of supervisors who had voted against masks.

“The masks turned into a political symbol,” Dr. Dolan said.flu-7On Jan. 25, the league held its first organizational meeting, open to the public at the Dreamland Rink, where they united behind demands for the repeal of the mask ordinance and for the resignations of the mayor and health officials.

Their objections included lack of scientific evidence that masks worked and the idea that forcing people to wear the coverings was unconstitutional.

On Jan. 27, the league protested at a Board of Supervisors meeting, but the mayor held his ground. There were hisses and cries of “freedom and liberty,” Dr. Dolan wrote in his paper on the epidemic.

Repeal came a few days later on Feb. 1, when Mayor Rolph cited a downturn in infections.

But a third wave of flu rolled in late that year. The final death toll reached an estimated 675,000 nationwide, or 30 for every 1,000 people in San Francisco, making it one of the worst-hit cities in America.

Dr. Dolan said the story of the Anti-Mask League, which has drawn renewed interest now in 2020, demonstrates the disconnect between individual choice and universal compliance.

That sentiment echoes through the century from the voice of a San Francisco railway worker named Frank Cocciniglia.

Arrested on Kearny Street in January, Mr. Cocciniglia told the judge that he “was not disposed to do anything not in harmony with his feelings,” according to a Los Angeles Times report.

He was sentenced to five days in jail.

“That suits me,” Mr. Cocciniglia said as he left the stand. “I won’t have to wear a mask there.”

Some Republicans Leaving The Trumptanic

Donald Trump is a frustrated ‘man’.  He thinks he should have won a Nobel Peace Prize, mainly because he is jealous that President Obama won one in 2009.  Only four U.S. presidents have ever won the Nobel Peace Prize, and Trump is about as far away from one as anybody I can imagine.

And then, there is the fact that his ugly mug will never be carved into the side of Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, though he has long said he would like to see that happen.  He has illusions of grandeur that are just that … illusions.

And, of course, there is the fact that his poll numbers are tanking and the only way he’s going to win in November is “by hook or by crook”.  Even life-long republicans are stepping back from Trump.  The New York Times recently interviewed some republicans in swing states who enthusiastically voted for Trump in 2016 but either aren’t sure if they will this November or else are sure they won’t vote for Trump again.

Take, for example, Judith Goines of Fayetteville, North Carolina …

“I think if he weren’t such an appalling human being, he would make a great president, because I think what this country needs is somebody who isn’t a politician. But obviously with the coronavirus and the social unrest we’re dealing with, that’s where you need a politician, somebody with a little bit more couth. I’m ashamed to say that I’ve voted for him.”

Or Robert Kaplan of Racine, Wisconsin …

“He said he was going to, quote unquote, drain the swamp, and all he’s done is splashed around and rolled around in it.”

It appears that about 14% of those who voted for Trump in 2016 are less certain this time around.  6% say they don’t support Trump but say there’s “some chance” of voting for him again.  Some 2% claim not to support Trump, and don’t know if they will vote for him again.  Then there is the 6% who say there is “not really any chance” of supporting Trump.  The number of defectors is small, yes, and he still has a rabid base who will vote for him no matter what, but it is encouraging to see that some of those who voted for him last time are not so sure this time.

Many of those interviewed said they initially voted for him because he was a businessman, not a politician, and specifically because he was not Hillary Clinton.  But they largely say they have soured on his handling of the presidency. Several mentioned his divisive style and his firing of officials who disagreed with him, and especially his response to the coronavirus and to the unrest in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd in police custody.

The majority of them are not yet willing to commit to backing Joe Biden … that would be a stretch … but would likely just stay home on election day.  Take John Crilly, of Reeders, Pennsylvania, who voted not so much for Trump as against Clinton …

“What changed my mind? 120,000 deaths. He refused to realize, ‘Oh my god, there’s a virus coming our way; shouldn’t we do something, guys?’ Covid was the turning point. It’s the thing that touches home with everybody.”

Crilly says he cannot bring himself to vote for Biden, largely because of his age, but will write-in a local candidate’s name.  Then there’s Ariel Oakley of Grand Rapids, Michigan, who says she will vote for Joe Biden …

“With coronavirus, even just watching the press conferences, having him come out and say it’s all fake. I have family who have unfortunately passed away from it.”

Trump’s blatant racism in the aftermath of the George Floyd murder by police has cost him votes, as well.  Kelvin Pittman II of Jacksonville, Florida, is an African-American who voted for Trump in 2016, because “he was a great businessman.”  Pittman himself owns a small business and thought Trump would be the best option.  But now, in light of Trump’s response to Black Lives Matter protests and calling the movement a “symbol of hate” …

“It was kind of the last straw. It was like, this dude is just in it for himself. I thought he was supposed to be for the people.”

And others say it’s his personality that has turned them off.  I find this one confusing because his personality showed through loud and clear throughout his campaign in 2015-2016 … could they not see then that he was a bully when he told campaign workers to “beat up” protestors, and called his opponent at least 100 different ugly names?

The aforementioned Robert Kaplan, who voted for Trump mainly because he wanted ACA (Obamacare) abolished, says he was disappointed from the start …

“He’s an embarrassment. He’s like a little kid with a temper tantrum when he doesn’t get things to go his way. He’s very punitive — if you disagree, he fires you. He disrespects very good people in Washington trying to do some good. And I think it’s very disrespectful of the office to be tweeting all the time.”

The article in the Times is worth the read and has a number of polling charts showing what people like the least about Trump.  In all, I predict with 90% certainty that Trump will, once again, lose the popular vote.  However, my bigger concern at this point is the bag of tricks the GOP is using and will use to attempt an electoral win, but that is a topic for another day.  I’m just encouraged at the moment to see that some who voted for Trump last time have finally “seen the light”.

Understanding Juneteenth

Today is Juneteenth, and I would like to start with a few words from President Barack Obama …

Obama“Juneteenth has never been a celebration of victory, or an acceptance of the way things are. It’s a celebration of progress. It’s an affirmation that despite the most painful parts of our history, change is possible––and there is still so much work to do.”

I planned to write a piece about Juneteenth, but I found that it had already been done, much better and much more authentically than I could possibly have done it, by Jamelle Bouie, an opinion columnist for the New York Times, and former chief political correspondent for Slate magazine.


Why Juneteenth Matters

It was black Americans who delivered on Lincoln’s promise of “a new birth of freedom.”

jamelle-bouieBy Jamelle Bouie

Opinion Columnist

Neither Abraham Lincoln nor the Republican Party freed the slaves. They helped set freedom in motion and eventually codified it into law with the 13th Amendment, but they were not themselves responsible for the end of slavery. They were not the ones who brought about its final destruction.

Who freed the slaves? The slaves freed the slaves.

“Slave resistance,” as the historian Manisha Sinha points out in “The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition,” “lay at the heart of the abolition movement.”

“Prominent slave revolts marked the turn toward immediate abolition,” Sinha writes, and “fugitive slaves united all factions of the movement and led the abolitionists to justify revolutionary resistance to slavery.”

When secession turned to war, it was enslaved people who turned a narrow conflict over union into a revolutionary war for freedom. “From the first guns at Sumter, the strongest advocates of emancipation were the slaves themselves,” the historian Ira Berlin wrote in 1992. “Lacking political standing or public voice, forbidden access to the weapons of war, slaves tossed aside the grand pronouncements of Lincoln and other Union leaders that the sectional conflict was only a war for national unity and moved directly to put their own freedom — and that of their posterity — atop the national agenda.”

All of this is apropos of Juneteenth, which commemorates June 19, 1865, when Gen. Gordon Granger entered Galveston, Texas, to lead the Union occupation force and delivered the news of the Emancipation Proclamation to enslaved people in the region. This holiday, which only became a nationwide celebration (among black Americans) in the 20th century, has grown in stature over the last decade as a result of key anniversaries (2011 to 2015 was the sesquicentennial of the Civil War), trends in public opinion (the growing racial liberalism of left-leaning whites), and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Over the last week, as Americans continued to protest police brutality, institutional racism and structural disadvantage in cities and towns across the country, elected officials in New York and Virginia have announced plans to make Juneteenth a paid holiday, as have a number of prominent businesses like Nike, Twitter and the NFL.

There’s obviously a certain opportunism here, an attempt to respond to the moment and win favorable coverage, with as little sacrifice as possible. (Paid holidays, while nice, are a grossly inadequate response to calls for justice and equality.) But if Americans are going to mark and celebrate Juneteenth, then they should do so with the knowledge and awareness of the agency of enslaved people.

Juneteenth-2

Credit…David J. Phillip/Associated Press

Emancipation wasn’t a gift bestowed on the slaves; it was something they took for themselves, the culmination of their long struggle for freedom, which began as soon as chattel slavery was established in the 17th century, and gained even greater steam with the Revolution and the birth of a country committed, at least rhetorically, to freedom and equality. In fighting that struggle, black Americans would open up new vistas of democratic possibility for the entire country.

To return to Ira Berlin — who tackled this subject in “The Long Emancipation: The Demise of Slavery in the United States” — it is useful to look at the end of slavery as “a near-century-long process” rather than “the work of a moment, even if that moment was a great civil war.” Those in bondage were part of this process at every step of the way, from resistance and rebellion to escape, which gave them the chance, as free blacks, to weigh directly on the politics of slavery. “They gave the slaves’ oppositional activities a political form,” Berlin writes, “denying the masters’ claim that malingering and tool breaking were reflections of African idiocy and indolence, that sabotage represented the mindless thrashings of a primitive people, and that outsiders were the ones who always inspired conspiracies and insurrections.”

By pushing the question of emancipation into public view, black Americans raised the issue of their “status in freedom” and therefore “the question of citizenship and its attributes.” And as the historian Martha Jones details in “Birthright Citizens: A History of Race and Rights in Antebellum America,” it is black advocacy that ultimately shapes the nation’s understanding of what it means to be an American citizen. “Never just objects of judicial, legislative, or antislavery thought,” black Americans “drove lawmakers to refine their thinking about citizenship. On the necessity of debating birthright citizenship, black Americans forced the issue.”

After the Civil War, black Americans — free and freed — would work to realize the promise of emancipation, and to make the South a true democracy. They abolished property qualifications for voting and officeholding, instituted universal manhood suffrage, opened the region’s first public schools and made them available to all children. They stood against racial distinctions and discrimination in public life and sought assistance for the poor and disadvantaged. Just a few years removed from degradation and social death, these millions, wrote W.E.B. Du Bois in “Black Reconstruction in America, “took decisive and encouraging steps toward the widening and strengthening of human democracy.”

Juneteenth may mark just one moment in the struggle for emancipation, but the holiday gives us an occasion to reflect on the profound contributions of enslaved black Americans to the cause of human freedom. It gives us another way to recognize the central place of slavery and its demise in our national story. And it gives us an opportunity to remember that American democracy has more authors than the shrewd lawyers and erudite farmer-philosophers of the Revolution, that our experiment in liberty owes as much to the men and women who toiled in bondage as it does to anyone else in this nation’s history.