What is it about the prospect of wearing a mask that turns sentient adults into rambunctious two-year-olds, eager to abandon reason and follow the King of Chaos, the new Pied Piper, over the cliff?
Millions follow his lead. Irony abounds.
Because the Chaos King and those close to him are tested daily, he seems to feel safe in his little White House bubble and feels no responsibility to ensure that others are protected when, maskless, he and his minions venture out. Yet recently, he observed that “a person can test negative day after day and then all of a sudden they have the virus” or words to that effect. He was baffled, even amazed. "Is it magic?" he seemed to ask. "How does that happen?"
The irony doesn’t end there. Unmasked, he insists on holding rallies for his shrinking band of boosters who, following his lead, show up bare-faced and ready to spew out droplets with every cheer. They’re the very voters he’s courting, the ones who, with good health and lives extending into November, are most likely to go to the polls and cast their ballots in his direction. But now, they’re risking their lives. And for what? To hear a raspy, rambling recital of the same incoherence they’ve heard for three long years? Would wearing a mask interfere with that? And, if so, why would they care? They know what he’s going to say. There’ll be no nuance there.
Apparently, the King of Chaos believes wearing a mask is for sissies … sort of like wearing a seatbelt or taking vitamins or looking both ways before you cross the street. He doesn’t see it as an undemanding way for all of us to protect each other, nor does he see that he should participate. It's "white privilege" run amuck.
Of course, protecting others has never been a big thing for him. … Think kids in cages … black men and women murdered at the hands of police … white women groped by the hands of the CK himself. And now, foolish backers called to risk it all to soothe the King of Chaos.
His fearful party--what's left of it--refuses to stand up to him. On the national level we are leaderless in the most tumultuous time in several generations. VOTE November 3rd!
I’m more than ready to return to the “good old days” when I thought nothing of meeting friends for lunch at our favorite eatery or playing pickleball at the local courts or running to the market for a few items in the middle of the day. However, I find myself mysteriously apprehensive about the prospect of resuming what we’ve come to call normal life.
It isn’t the “normal life” as described above that gives me pause. It’s what has passed for normal life on the political scene.
“Never let a crisis go to waste,” we’ve been told at various junctures. If ever there was a time to heed this, it is now. My apprehension grows out of a concern that we’ll allow this, the quintessential crisis of our time, to eventually “resolve” without addressing the deep flaws it has made so glaringly apparent. Such things as …
And those don’t even begin to cover the immense challenges of climate change which threatens to make the planet uninhabitable and the need for upgraded, new and improved infrastructure in the areas of mass transit, broadband, highways, and schools. The list goes on.
A year ago, we (I, anyway) couldn’t have imagined a scenario like the one we’re living through. The fact that we have a disorganized, uneducated leader exacerbates the situation, but this would have been difficult in any event. We’ve ignored for years all the early warning signs that we must address the many challenges we face. Now we have a global pandemic that has lit up our flaws like a klieg light. The emperor truly has no clothes and we have truly ignored the rot in Washington that has left many among us behind in so many ways. If this doesn’t get our attention and produce action to address deep and abiding injustice, I don’t know what will.
Every day for the past few days, Andrew Cuomo, governor of the besieged state of New York, has been conducting a master class in the art of leadership in a crisis. The man who most desperately needs such instruction, unfortunately, doesn’t attend. He’s too busy conducting sessions of the “how not to do it” variety in the White House. I imagine most of you have seen at least snippets of the latter, but you may have missed Gov. Cuomo. If so, click here to see a sample.
The difference between the two is striking—in tone, content, and delivery. Cuomo sits at a table, aides seated at a safe distance on either side. Trump stands at a podium, aides crowded shoulder to shoulder behind him. Those visuals alone tell you a lot about the level of respect each gives his assistants in these perilous times.
Cuomo speaks calmly, with assurance, looking at the reporters, gesturing on occasion. He’s informative and articulate. He uses no notes, but prepared highlights of his main points appear on a screen as he speaks. He exudes genuine concern and believes in what he’s saying. He understands the human condition and shares personal stories. Discussing families in distress, he talks about his experience when his daughter was in isolation and says three-word sentences can make a difference: “I love you. I miss you. I need you.”
He inspires confidence, even as he announces a new level of restriction for the residents of his state. Sensitive to words, he calls his plan New York State on PAUSE: Policies that Assure Uniform Safety for Everyone. “Shelter in Place” scares people, he points out; it’s associated in many people’s minds with active shooter situations or nuclear attacks.
He tells people not to blame anyone county officials, mayors or others of that ilk for the heightened restrictions. “I accept full responsibility,” he declares. When the crisis is over, he wants to be able to say he did everything he could to save lives.
In a word, Gov. Cuomo is presidential.
Our president, quite frankly, is not. He doesn’t take responsibility. He doesn’t inspire confidence. He came late to the game and can’t catch up. He sees everything through the prism of his own self-interest. He insults reporters.
My family—siblings, offspring, and nieces and nephews—are scattered about the country. Like all families at times like this, we worry about each other. One of my sons lives in the heart of Manhattan. I’m glad Gov. Cuomo is the guy in charge in that state.
No matter who the Democratic nominee is, Trump is obligingly providing all the raw material the party will need for the inevitable parade of attack ads.
He waffles wildly. Regarding the coronavirus, for instance …
Oh my! Trump lives in his own reality, untethered from Planet Earth and us earthbound earthlings hindered by our old-fashioned commitment to empiricism.
Either that—or he lies. Take your pick.
Then there’s the boasting. Childlike, he hasn’t yet figured out the sun doesn’t rise and set with him. The universe has other business to attend to. I’m waiting for the day when the long-suffering press corps (how much of this can they take?) rises up, holding signs above their heads, saying, “THIS ISN’T ABOUT YOU!”
But that’s a topic for another time.
There are bright spots. Few and far between, they burst from the quagmire of our capital and illuminate the landscape like late-night lightning in a thunderstorm.
Adam Schiff, the unassuming congressman from California and chair of the House Intelligence Committee, lit up the political landscape with lightning clarity last week—especially in closing remarks as he wrapped up the House floor managers’ presentations in support of the impeachment of Donald Trump.
On Wednesday, after a day in which the House managers provided detail after detail supporting the charges against Trump, Schiff spoke about the courage of the career diplomats who risked their futures by coming forward to testify. He challenged Republicans to display the same kind of daring.
“Why is it that Col. Vindman, who worked for Fiona Hill, who worked for John Bolton and Dr. Kupperman, why is it that they were willing to stick their necks out and answer lawful subpoenas when their bosses wouldn’t? … I think this is some form of cosmic justice—that this ambassador [Marie Yovanovitch] that was so ruthlessly smeared is now a hero for her courage. There is justice in that. But what really vindicates that leap of faith that she took is if we show the same courage. They risked everything, their careers. And yes, I know what you’re asked to decide may risk yours, too. But if they can show the courage, so can we.”
The following day, Schiff closed his final statement by appealing to listeners’ sense of what is right.
“The American people deserve a president they can count on to put their interest first,” Schiff said. “… if right doesn’t matter … it doesn’t matter how good or bad our advocacy in this trial is. It doesn’t matter how well written the oath of impartiality is. If right doesn’t matter, we’re lost. If truth doesn’t matter, we’re lost. The framers couldn’t protect us from ourselves if right and truth don’t matter.
“And you know that what he [Trump] did was not right. … here right is supposed to matter. It’s what’s made us the greatest nation on earth. No constitution can protect us. Right doesn’t matter anymore and you know you can’t trust this president to do what’s right for this country. You can trust he will do what’s right for Donald Trump. He’ll do it now, he’s done it before, he’ll do it for the next several months, he’ll do it in the election if he’s allowed to. This is why, if you find him guilty, you must find that he must be removed. Because right matters. Right matters and the truth matters. Otherwise we are lost.”
Republicans, are you listening? Are you thinking? Are you taking the long view?
Would the people who raised you be proud?
Drifting Into Danger
*The Stockholm Syndrome is a psychological condition in which hostages identify with their captors and come to see them in a positive light
**In the Citizens United decision, the Supreme Court ruled that campaign expenditures by corporations and unions are protected under the First (free speech) Amendment and not subject to restriction by the government.
***Albright, secretary of state during the Clinton administration, warned of a drift towards fascism in the U.S. and other western democracies in her book Fascism: A Warning.
Wacky? Ignorant? Cruel? Trump
Shortly after World War II, a German Lutheran pastor, Martin Niemoller, wrote what became an oft-quoted and oft-revised prose poem. It crystallized the role we all play in our own fate and the fate of others. Being very adaptable, it has been through many iterations at the hands of sundry writers. In the original English-language form, the poem referred to the Nazis using a simple pattern: “First they came for …” as in “First they came for the socialists … “
As we know, “they” took their victims away, incarcerated them and murdered millions. We tend to think of the perpetrators of the assault as parts of the official Nazi apparatus, but as Nazism grew, fearful neighbors turned on each other in order to curry favor with officialdom. How about our wildly proliferating mass shooters? Do they, in their derangement, believe they are currying favor with the hater-in-chief?
Will some dystopian future bring us a similar fate? Herewith a warning.
A Warning for the Time of Trump
First they went after the African Americans
And I did not speak out
Because I was not African American
Then they went after the Latinos
And I did not speak out
Because I was not Latino
Then they went after the Muslims
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Muslim
Then they went after the immigrants
And I did not speak out
Because I was not an immigrant
Then they went after the poor
And I did not speak out
Because I was not poor
Then they went after those who were lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer
And I did not speak out
Because I was not lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer
Then they went after the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew
Then they went after the women of reproductive age
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a woman of reproductive age
Then they went after the writers
And I could not speak out …
Because then they came after me …
Dabbling in Sweden's Affairs ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Watching the news, I hear reports that Trump is criticizing Sweden for charging a rapper named A$AP Rocky with assault after an altercation on the streets of Stockholm. He claims concern that Sweden (Sweden!) is letting the African-American community down. Sweden?Rocky, it turns out, has been incarcerated since the fracas, which occurred about three weeks ago, and the commentators seemed puzzled about why Trump, the grand incarcerator, is speaking up now.
Think, people! In the aftermath of the Mueller hearings, the pundit chatter hasn't been as devastating as we might have expected, but it hasn't been all sweetness and light either. Distraction, deflection, the glow of global attention: Trump's strategy doesn't change much from one day to the next. And his finger-pointing (not to mention projection) knows no bounds.
Anyway ... I understand Trump spoke to the Swedish prime minister and offered to guarantee Rocky's bail if Sweden would release him. And with Trump's (claimed) pile of money and his alleged ability to honor such a financial commitment, why not accept the ... Oops! Never mind! The Swedes probably have their reasons. (They may have heard about his penchant for stiffing contractors, making false claims, lying. ... You know how it is.)
Aside from all that, there are other relevant facts: Sweden's constitution bars the prime minister from interfering in pending legal cases; foreign visitors regarded as flight risks are routinely held in jail until trial, and there is no such thing as bail in that country. It might be wise to check these things out before you put your foot in your mouth. (Now, there's a visual for you.)
And why is there no such thing as bail in Sweden? Well, according to the secretary-general of the Swedish Bar Association, Ann Romberg, it's because a bail system would give wealthier people an advantage. "We believe it has to be the same rules for everyone," she says.
A foreign concept in the USA these days.
Can't you just imagine how Trump would respond if another nation suggested it behooved us to release one of their countrymen jailed on a similar charge?
The outrage! The insults! The angst! Oh, my!
Give Trump the Attention He Deserves _______________________________________________________________
The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good government.
I’ve been silent, so to speak, for a month. Until recently, it’s been hard to exercise restraint as I watch the craven and impolitic decisions emanating from the White House and the cowardly politicians (you know who they are) who won’t stand up to the man ensconced therein. Now, however, while I’m not indifferent, I am unschockable, and I’ve fallen into the Trump torpor commentators have feared.
Trump rambles through the verbal wilderness, and I mute the TV. I know he will lie. I know he’ll denigrate the work and wisdom and warnings of experienced national leaders; I know he’s easy prey for Putin and Kim Jong Un and the Saudis; I know he has a damningly inflated opinion of his own brain; I know flattery works; I know…I know…I know. And some days I just don’t care.
I can’t respect the man or the knowledge and wisdom of those who put him there. And, while we’re on the subject, let me point out that the politicians who helped him onto his perch on the catbird seat aren’t only those of the Republican stripe. The blame lies with all those who, for years, have pandered to wealthy donors in order to serve their highest priority—holding onto their own powerful perches—rather than serving the true interests of their constituencies. The gaping income gap, the national debt, the stagnation (or reduction) of wages, welfare for the rich at the expense of those who live on the edge of survival, crumbling infrastructure, failing schools—all those and more are largely attributable to legislators who have failed us.
Remember that old saw? Which comes first—the chicken or the egg? Do we have failing schools because we have failing legislators? Or do we have failing legislators because we have failing schools?
Regardless of the answer, the dilemma we’ve created for ourselves is partially (but only partially) the result of two obvious factors: The first, a flawed system, which not only tolerates blatant gerrymandering but also holds the country hostage with an antiquated electoral college; the second, an inadequately educated populace, often poorly served by schools that fail to adequately teach history, the basics of democracy, and critical thinking skills.
Neither of these situations—or any of the other causes of our malaise—will be corrected any time soon. In the meantime, we need to fight Trump torpor.
I’ve never subscribed to the old saw that “everything happens for a reason.” After all, it’s easy enough, after the fact, to make up plausible reasons for almost anything. At 21, you rear end another car and a few months later marry the hapless driver you met in the aftermath. You say, “Well, that’s why that accident happened. It was to bring Raymond into my life.”
No. The accident happened because you were fishing for your cell phone which started ringing somewhere in the bowels of your handbag and you took your eyes off the road to search, you ninny!
As a result, you crashed into Raymond’s life, which as far as we know was going along swimmingly at the time. Now, I know if you’re of a certain bent, you’re likely to come back with something like, “Well, but God wanted me to be with Raymond and that’s why the accident happened” or words to that effect. That’s a belief you happen to have. Proof of causation? No.
After a few blessed weeks of relative silence, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders recently emerged to proclaim her belief that God wants Donald Trump to be president of the United States. I respectfully (more or less) disagree, and I was heartened—though shocked—to find an article in a publication called Premier Christianity also questioning Sanders’ belief.
It’s a sad state of affairs when we assume a publication with any kind of Christian connection is going to spew forth offensive, ill-founded claims. Nevertheless, seeing (in my Google search) the title “Q&A: Did God want Donald Trump to be president?” I was steeled for an evangelical (another misused term) diatribe supporting his presidency.
Instead, what I got was a reasoned counter argument by writer Alex Williams to Sanders’ assumption. Williams wrote:
“Scripture shows that, on the whole, God is the God of the underdog. He’s about taking folks who are low and raising them high, to a calling. … that to me doesn’t feel like the story of Donald Trump. I would love to ask Sarah Sanders: ‘If God chose Trump then did he choose Obama too?’ And I suspect she might say no. And if she did, I would ask her: ‘So was God having an off day at that point, was he just not powerful at that point?’”
Analyze. Question. Study history. Understand our electoral system. Recognize that we are the ones responsible for the nightmare we’re living right now, and it's up to us to correct it.
TrumPutin, the GOP and the Stockholm Syndrome _______________________________________________________________
Nero fiddled while Rome burned. But we do things differently here.
Congress fiddles while our wanna-be Nero, befuddled and reckless, blunders about the globe torching alliances and embracing foes.
I’m not sure which is more dangerous—the roving wanna-be or the Republican-dominated Congress, whose incompetence was on full display in the joint hearing of the House Judiciary and Oversight committees yesterday. For nine hours, that group grilled Peter Strzok, Deputy Assistant Director of the FBI, whose major mistake was using his FBI-issued cell phone to send the kinds of text messages millions of us write every day—words expressing dismay and disgust over the politics of our time.
His most egregious offense, in the view of his GOP inquisitors, seemed to be that when his girlfriend sought reassurance Trump would never be elected, Strozk had replied “…we’ll stop him,” thus shocking the tender sensibilities of the Republicans, who saw it as a threat.
I was briefly in Madrid during the run-up to the 2016 election. One evening while a group of us dined at an outdoor café, a Brit stopped by our table seeking the same reassurance. We offered it, saying things like, “… we’ll never let that happen …never fear; not a chance …” Strozk’s response sounded a lot like ours. No threat, just a naive statement we believed at the time was true.
Carried gavel to gavel by major networks, the committees’ hearing offered only one thing: incontrovertible proof of the dysfunction of our legislative branch. What the committees saw as the purpose of their hearing is unclear. They were confused about the difference between political opinion and bias. Mr. Strzok helped them with that—or tried to—as he explained that we all have opinions, whereas bias means we allow those beliefs to so taint our view that we act, not in accordance with known facts, but in conformance with our beliefs. (I might add, since Mr. Strzok didn’t, that a lot of that tainting goes on inside the beltway these days.)
In my opinion, the purpose of the hearing was about the same as the purpose of those ever-recurring falsehood-strewn Trump rallies—entertainment for the GOP base, spiced by dismay for the rest of us. Now, in all honesty, there was some entertainment involved. At one point, Rep. Louie Gohmert, (R-Tex) alluded to Strozk’s infidelity, which was, incidentally, unrelated to the subject at hand. With that, the Dems had had enough; they roared disapproval, and an outraged New Jersey legislator, Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman demanded of Gohmert, “Do you need your medication?”
Clearly, the GOP needs more than their meds. Spending nine hours in a pointless hearing … while thousands of children, ripped from their parents, remain alone; while Trump insults our NATO allies in Brussels; while anti-Trump protests erupt in the UK; while wanna-be Nero insists he wants to meet alone with his hero Putin?
Really? Republicans, you control Congress. What say you?
“When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history. You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but you will not destroy America … America will triumph over you.”
This was John Brennan, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, speaking to Trump in response to the firing of Andrew McCabe, a scant 26 hours before McCabe reached his 50th birthday, thus becoming eligible to draw his full pension upon retiring from the FBI. I don’t know whether McCabe was, as Trump had charged, guilty of misconduct, but regardless, by all accounts he had performed admirably for 22 years, and to fire him at such a time displays a level of gratuitous cruelty and mean-spiritedness worthy of the most despicable back-alley bully.
That, after all, is what we now have in the White House: an aging version of a schoolyard thug. How else to explain the name-calling, insults, lies, and childish boasting he pours out daily to contaminate the world we all inhabit? The childish chaos and constant churn of personnel? The fringe figures he puts in crucial positions? John Bolton? Really? The hawk who suggested not long ago that we should attack North Korea before they attack us?
But here’s the larger question: Where are the Republicans? And when will they grow up, confront their own complicity in the creation of a situation which now endangers us all, and take responsibility?
Trump won’t be the only one relegated to the “dustbin of history.” The Republican party will be there with him, I believe.
Republicans, you whose priority is not the good of the nation but the greedy glee of your donors, whose major goal is to keep yourselves in office ... you will be remembered as the party of hard-hearted, self-absorbed sycophants lacking even a semblance of moral clarity. You've clearly conveyed this message: low-income, sick, needy voters be damned; we're here to take care of the guys that fill the campaign coffers.
Trump is the worst kind of dangerous because he’s the worst kind of ignorant. He doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. And I’m beginning to wonder, Republicans, whether the same is true of you.
Thoughts for Our Time
“Conservatism discards Prescription, shrinks from Principle, disavows Progress; having rejected all respect for antiquity, it offers no redress for the present, and makes no preparation for the future.”