Category Archives: Economics

Trump’s Presidency in Memes — Round 2

The hits just keep coming so it seems only right to share what I have found on Twitter, where I spend far too much time, and Facebook. This time I will offer a few comments along the way. Just because I can. If Republicans can twist themselves into logical pretzels that would have bedazzled Escher (Google him if new to you — very interesting work) to justify reversing the decisions made to deny a hearing/vote on Merrick Garland for Supreme Court Justice, I can add my thoughts to these precious memes. Note for the record that I did not create any of them — I chanced upon them while searching for coherence on the cited sites. The are the work of people far more creative than I.

Most prominent among Trump’s failures is his decision to downplay the severity of the coronavirus the severity and deadliness of which he knew very early on. He decided to lie about it allegedly to “avoid panic” — making him the only president in modern history to not trust the people with the truth about a killer virus — with massively deadly consequences: 200,000 dead so far and many thousands more with permanent organ damage. And no end in sight.

While Trump’s crimes against humanity are the major story of the hour, we cannot overlook the loss of icon Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The photo on the right is from the Supreme Court the night the news of her passing spread in Washington. RIP fair lady.

Below is a random-ish collection of other memes I found. One note: I have not included a number of photos of Donald Trump inappopriately engaged with daughter Ivanka. I just can’t do that, although I think those photos speak volumes about the nature of the man who sits in the White House. For similar reasons, I did not reproduce the meme that includes the infamous quotations of his comments coming off the bus with Billy somebody about grabbing women. Everyone knows those words by heart, I suspect, so no need to repeat them here. Just remember — that was man now the sitting president of the United States.

One more note: the last shot of the Trump cabinet below had a label: “No misogyny found in our investigation” or something similar. Let your imagination run wild & add your own.

 

 

 

ICYMI – Part 7: Trump Turns on the Country

News worth remembering in a few months when you vote:

TeamTrump didn’t wait 24 hours before launching racist, misogynist attacks on Joe Biden’s choice of Kamala Harris as his Vice President. Trump mouthpieces on Fox Propaganda deliberately mispronounced her name while Trump, inspired by others, signed on to the birtherism argument that Harris might be disqualified. Every respectable legal scholar I have seen agrees that her birth in Oakland, California settles the question. But in TrumpWorld nothing says “class” like a playground level name-calling campaign of lies and deflections.

Trump’s associates are the gift that keeps on … stealing. Steve Bannon, Trump’s former senior strategy adviser, and three others have been arrested for “defrauding hundreds of thousands of donors” in a crowdfunding campaign called ‘We Build The Wall.’ https://bit.ly/3aLOxxZ  See https://webuildthewall.us/ourteam/ for high school photo of Founder-President (and now defendant) Brian Kolfage, along with Steve Bannon’s ready-made mug shot (he’s Chairman of the Advisory Board). Erik Prince, “Sheriff” David Clarke and Curt Schilling also sit on the board.

How long before Trump says ‘Steve Bannon? I don’t know him?” How long before Trump pardons him? The General Counsel for the Build the Wall PAC is Kris Kobach, known mainly before this as the lead vote suppressor in Kansas and failed head of Trump’s failed commission to find voter fraud in the U.S., and who was later demolished in his races for Governor of Kansas and the U.S. Senate. [For the record, this is not “fake news;” it’s the real thing].

Chaos in the Postal Service. Conflicting stories abound regarding the Trump administration ‘plan’ to disrupt the Postal Service based on Trump’s zero-evidence-based claim that mail-in voting is fraught with fraud. https://wapo.st/2YfB1xC and https://nbcnews.to/2EmbLih In one sense the  details don’t matter. Trump has, in classical Trumpian fashion, already accomplished his mission: to induce chaos in the system and to discourage people from voting at all. If you look back at the past 3.75 years, you can readily see that chaos/confusion is the main product of the Trump administration. It’s what you get when you appoint mostly “acting” leadership so you avoid normal vetting processes that would stop unqualified ideologues from taking charge of complex federal agencies and resources.

Will Trump Leave If He Loses the Election? Trump and his White House enablers like Kayleigh McEnany continue to hint/deflect/lie about his repeated statements that the election is going to be “rigged” against him. When directly asked, the answer seems to be “we’ll see how it goes.” In 2016 the question of his respecting the outcome was answered with “yes, but only if I win.” I will break habit here and predict: if Trump loses, he will leave the White House on time – one way or the other way.

If you missed Barack Obama’s speech at the DNC, you owe it to yourself to watch the video. His speech will, I believe, be considered one of the great presidential statements in textbooks and histories for years to come. And, of course, the women. Let me not overlook the women: Michelle Obama (“It is what it is”), Dr. Jill Biden and, of course, Kamala Harris. These women were simply magnificent – intelligent, forceful, direct. Trump must be eating his own flesh, consumed with rage and envy. You know how he hates “uppity” women.

In a likely unprecedented statement, 74 former national security officials who served during the administrations of four Republican presidents, including Trump’s own, or as Republican Members of Congress, declared that

Through his actions and his rhetoric, Trump has demonstrated that he lacks the character and competence to lead this nation and has engaged in corrupt behavior that renders him unfit to serve as President.

https://bit.ly/34o3zJk The statement consists of 10 paragraphs detailing the charges, a stunning indictment of staggering scope and awesome power. If you read nothing else, read the statement. Then plan how you’re going to safely and securely cast your vote for the Biden-Harris ticket and for Democrats up and down the line so that we have a governable outcome in which coherent policies can be proposed, adopted and executed. There is no other way back from the abyss that threatens to engulf the nation.

The noose tightens as the federal district court denied a motion to delay the effect of a subpoena for many of Trump’s financial/tax documents possessed by the Mazars USA accounting firm. https://cnb.cx/3gjxk0f The request for emergency relief now goes to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. You will recall that the U.S. Supreme Court recently rejected Trump’s claim that he was absolutely immune from criminal investigation. Things may be about to get interesting if Mazars is required to turn over the documents to prosecutors in New York.

Meanwhile, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a demand for federal criminal investigation by the FBI of amateur Postmaster General Louis DeJoy for undermining voting by mail that Trump has claimed would help defeat his re-election. https://bit.ly/3gixuF8 Of course, the FBI is currently operating as an arm of the Trump administration under the command of Trump’s personal lawyer, the Attorney General of the United States, William Barr, so one must wonder what will be accomplished by this move.  Nevertheless, it’s another example of the web of corruption that infests the Trump administration from top to bottom.

QAnon wackery/quackery – take your pick – has now been embraced by major elements of the   and effectively endorsed by Donald Trump. https://nyti.ms/3l6AlEu I will not waste space setting out the Q version of the world, but you owe it to your sanity and your country to know it’s out there. Multiple Republican candidates for Congress believe the Q nonsense and some of them are almost certain to win. And you thought Congress could not descend to any lower level than the depths to which Jim Jordan and Matt Gaetz have taken it. To quote the Natural Born Killers, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Political Herd Immunity

You’ve likely heard the term ‘herd immunity’ mentioned in connection with the COVID-19 crisis. The Mayo Clinic defines herd immunity this way:

Herd immunity occurs when a large portion of a community (the herd) becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. As a result, the whole community becomes protected — not just those who are immune.

Often, a percentage of the population must be capable of getting a disease in order for it to spread. This is called a threshold proportion. If the proportion of the population that is immune to the disease is greater than this threshold, the spread of the disease will decline. This is known as the herd immunity threshold.

What percentage of a community needs to be immune in order to achieve herd immunity? It varies from disease to disease. The more contagious a disease is, the greater the proportion of the population that needs to be immune to the disease to stop its spread

Experience with COVID is too limited for a reliable estimate, but experts appear to coalesce around a figure of 70 percent infection rate of the entire population. To achieve that level would require infection and recovery of well over 200 million people in the U.S. alone. Don’t even think about it. The other path is, of course, a vaccine. No assurances there either.

So, meanwhile, the country is in total meltdown. Tens of millions of people are unemployed with no near-term prospects of getting back to work. Unemployment compensation benefits have run out, and payments from the federal government are consumed. Holds on evictions are running out as well. The Greatest Great Depression looms.

What, then, is the federal plan to help the American people? There isn’t one. The Democrat-controlled House passed a relief package back in May, but the Republican-controlled Senate sat on it. Negotiations now appear to be stalled. The President’s Chief of Staff says he is not optimistic a deal will be struck.

The President’s solution is to make threats he lacks power to carry out (such as Executive Orders that would change the tax code) and to declare that the virus will simply “go away” like “things go away.” In short, and as usual, the President has no idea what to do. The national salvation appears to be dependent upon magic, literally.

And, it appears that America’s other leadership, the captains of industry, the people who raise capital, hire workers and who keep telling us they are the backbone of the American way of life, are intimidated by the President’s fine crystalline ego that threatens to shatter at the slightest touch. Some American businesspeople have, of course, lined up to attend his “press briefings,” with the sole purpose of praising Trump’s leadership, fawning and stroking him as he needs them to do for his re-election. Other business groups make lists of proposals of why they need bailouts, each industry competing with the others for attention and a higher spot on whatever dispensations eventually emerge from the government, if any.

And that, THAT, is the problem. As we move ever closer to unrecoverable economic disaster, ALL industry leaders of consequence should band together, in a new form of herd immunity, and tell the President and the Senate leadership what is needed to save the country, and possibly the entire world, from imminent catastrophe beyond anything that has ever been seen. Every industry of consequence has one or more associations that represent its interests. WHY don’t those associations band together, agree on a program and DEMAND that it be passed and passed immediately? Take some of their vast wealth and go big, go public, go social media, in a massive way with a collective demand for immediate action.

By acting collectively, they will gain “political herd immunity” from the President’s retaliatory instincts that could lead him to lash out at any group coming to him on its own. Their collective voice would be much harder to resist and the traditional Republican approach of divide-and-conquer wouldn’t work. This would require a lot of discipline among the groups, so they don’t break ranks and get picked off one-by-one with inducements for their industry alone. Hopefully, these people will realize that the only hope for a good outcome rests on unity to the end. This approach would also require that many in the herd replace their ideological preferences with a realistic appraisal of what is about to happen in the absence of coherent federal action.

I am not naïve about the problems this solution faces. Having worked in Washington and its political penumbra for decades, I understand how hard getting agreement on anything of substance can be even within one industry, let alone across many. I also get the aversion to taking political risks. However, the stakes now are higher than they have ever been in our lifetimes and beyond. The current political process is not working. Something better must be tried. Catering to the whims of a personality like Trump is not getting the job done. Instead of trying to get coherent policy  from a White House whose key advisors are afraid of the President’s ire more than anything else, it’s time to stop fawning and demand action. Tell, don’t ask. Before it’s too late.

 

 

 

Defeating Trump’s Coup d’état

Donald Trump is planning to take control of the U.S. government regardless of the outcome of the 2020 election. I believe that deeply. Even if I’m wrong about that, we must prepare on the assumption that I’m right. If wrong, and he goes quietly, fine. If I’m right, saving the country and its republican form of democracy will likely depend on how we prepare in the next three months.

The classical definition of a coup d’état is the “sudden, violent, and illegal seizure of power from a government.” But there are other, more subtle ways of accomplishing a coup. Trump himself, a master of the “I am a victim” trope, has argued repeatedly that the Mueller investigation was an attempted coup. Many Republicans have reiterated that “argument.” Now the argument has morphed into an attack on mail-in voting, a process similar to absentee voting and identical to the voting procedures used in five states: Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and Utah.

Timothy Snyder, author of  On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from The Twentieth Century, has described Trump’s position as a “prime historical fascist tactic”: create a crisis, then use that as an excuse to reject the peaceful transfer of power. Snyder knows a thing or two about tyranny and how it can work to destroy a democracy. He has written that “Trump’s ‘Delay the Election’ tweet checks all 8 rules for fascist propagandahttps://wapo.st/3i0remw We ignore his warnings at our extreme peril.

Since Trump can’t legally delay the election on his own, his main task is to find someone to foul up the election so he can claim a right to stay in power. The tactic is not unlike the infamous “will no one rid me of this turbulent priest,” an utterance by a king that led to the murder of the Archbishop of Canterbury. He has launched a multi-front attack to get his way: undermining the U.S. Postal Service and claiming mail-in voting is the cause of massive voter fraud.

Let’s move from the sublime to the practical. According to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, there are about 200,000 polling places in the United States even after the Republicans’ massive voter suppression efforts in multiple southern states to reduce polling places so as to increase voter travel and waiting-in-line times. Election Administration & Voting Survey, 2018 Comprehensive Report to Congress. https://bit.ly/39UakD7

That Report notes that,

more than120 million Americans voted in the 2018 general elections, a turnout rate of 52 percent of the Citizen Voting Age Population (CVAP) .… turnout in the 2018 general elections increased in nearly all states when compared to 2014. Some states saw turnout levels that approached those of a typical presidential election.

That was the glorious Blue Wave that swept Democrats into control of the House of Representatives. Moreover,

More than half of voters cast their ballots in person on Election Day, and one-quarter of participants cast their ballots by mail. Nearly one-fifth voted early at in-person early voting sites, a rate that more than doubled since the 2014 elections. In six states, more than half of ballots were cast at in-person early voting sites. Although the overall rate of by-mail voting has not changed significantly since 2014, the states of California, Montana, and Utah saw large increases in their statewide by-mail voting rates.

These remarkable results involved more than 600,000 volunteer poll workers. However, nearly 70 percent of responding jurisdictions reported that it was “very difficult” or “somewhat difficult” to obtain a sufficient number of poll workers. That was, obviously, long before the coronavirus pandemic. This year the challenge will be massively greater.

There are numerous other obstacles to more robust voting. For example,

Thirteen states do not offer online voter registration

Fewer than half of states allow for same day voter registration

Only three states run their elections entirely by mail (4 others have all-by-mail voting in select local jurisdictions

About a quarter of states require in-person early voters to provide an excuse for doing so

Less than one-third of states have vote centers or allow voters to cast ballots at any polling place in their jurisdiction.

That is what Republican control of many state legislatures, combined with active Republican voter suppression tactics, have left us.

Given the pandemic and ongoing threats to voting by Republicans in 2020, what could go wrong? Answer: everything; the signs are unmistakable.

Republicans, including Trump himself, have publicly admitted that, for example, changes like universal automatic voter registration and mail-in voting will favor Democrats. Therefore, Republicans conjure various bogus and non-evidence-based claims of massive voter fraud, mistakes and delays, even as Trump’s appointee to head the U.S. Postal Service works to cripple the Service’s ability to adapt to major volume increases for the upcoming election. And Trump urges the voter suppression work onward because, as Prof. Snyder has observed, he pretty well knows he’s going to be defeated in a fair election process.

What can Democrats do to avoid the roadblocks Republicans are going to place in the path of increased voter turnout?

The answer is to plan out every potential obstructionist scenario and prepare countermeasures accordingly.

At the most basic level, it is crucial to identify polling places where long lines are likely on November 3. For every such location, Democrats should provide portable toilets, snacks, water, rain ponchos and anything else that will make it easier for voters to stay in line as long as it takes. Virtually everyone who gives up and leaves the line will not return later to vote, so it crucial to help every Democrat stick it out as long as needed.

The actual voting process must be closely observed to assure that bogus obstacles are not thrown in the path of voters. In cases of asserted issues, poll watchers must insist that provisional ballots be provided, and a close count must be maintained of how many such ballots are collected. Watching the final tally at the end of the voting day is equally important. This process can be tedious and a bit complicated; trained observers are important, as their mere presence will discourage shenanigans during the counting and reporting process.

To the extent consistent with local laws, videos and photographs should be taken of the physical setup of each polling place. Record any incidents of potential voter interference outside the polling station. The recent incidents in Minnesota, for example, in which armed “protesters” demanded removal of mask requirements and opening of lockdowns at state legislatures and elsewhere are evidence suggesting that armed groups may appear at polling places in “open carry” states to try to intimidate voters by their presence.

Democratic watchers must be present to record any such incidents and to reassure waiting voters that they should not be deterred from exercising their right to vote. Armed “militias” should not be allowed to, for example, interrogate voters approaching the polling station about why they are there. Poll-watchers should be equipped with contact information for the State and Local Police as well as key media outlets in the area. The more eyes on the situation, the less likely actual acts of intimidation will be successful. In polling places located where potential disruptions are considered most likely, Democrats should always have more than one person on-site from opening to reporting of the final tally.

These recommendations are a tall order, requiring a large commitment from many people. Nevertheless, the stakes are also extremely high — nothing less than the survival of American democracy. Trump intends to steal the election by whatever method works and he has started multiple paths to that end. Having sent federal “troops” to Portland and other cities on the pretext of protecting federal property, with the predictable result of further destabilizing the situation and increasing the violence, he will stop at nothing to get what he wants. The people must stop at nothing to thwart his plan to undermine democracy.

It’s important to remember that Trump’s hard-core supporters are a minority of the voting population. Hillary Clinton’s popular vote was larger by just under 2.9 million votes. Her defeat was a product of many things, not least of which was Russian interference and the Electoral College, the vestige of a past time that enhances the voting power of the smaller states and thus, for example, enlarges the impact of southern state resistance to social policies favored by Democrats. It is likely Trump is getting help from Russia again this year. The election rules are fixed for now so the answer to Trump is maximum Democratic voter turnout.

Also keep in mind that Trump has lied repeatedly about his agenda. Just one example — his lawyers are in court right now trying to end insurance protection of pre-existing conditions. If re-elected, Trump will have free-reign to bring down what remains of America’s best institutions. If defeated, we can immediately begin rebuilding a civil society that treats all citizens fairly and promotes the common good of everyone, including recovery from the pandemic.

It’s up to you. If you can do it, please volunteer to help on Election Day. We must prepare for the worst case if we’re going to win.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let Them Eat Cake

Putting aside the apocryphal nature of the title phrase, it fits perfectly the current attitude of the Republican Party in the Senate where they are doing their best to mimic Ebenezer Scrooge by denying suffering workers a meaningful relief program. The situation is so bad that,

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said on Sunday he was not optimistic on reaching agreement soon on a deal for the next round of legislation to provide relief to Americans hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. [https://reut.rs/2EIOKpL]

The key problem should be the easiest to resolve:  whether to extend the $600 per week in extra federal unemployment benefits for Americans that has literally saved millions from total economic destruction. The benefit expired on July 31.

According to the Reuters report,

The Trump administration and some Senate Republicans have been pushing for a reduction in those extra federal benefits, saying they should be tied to wages. Other Senate Republicans have rejected any extension. [emphasis mine]

Treasury Secretary Mnuchin claims Trump supports the enhanced benefits but does not want people to make more when they are unemployed than they would if they had a job. Mnuchin reportedly said, ”we want to make sure there’s the right incentives.” Typically, Republican leaders are more worried about a few people getting an “undeserved benefit” than helping the overwhelming majority of people who are is increasingly desperate need of help.

Yale economists have studied the data on the alleged disincentive to work arising from unemployment benefits and concluded that “expanded jobless benefits did not reduce employment.” https://bit.ly/3gnWdIY At the risk of letting actual economics get in the way of Republican orthodoxy, the Republican Party would do itself and the country a favor if it stopped bowing down to Donald Trump’s uninformed view of work incentives for people with whom he has only enjoyed a master-servant relationship. The Republicans are focused on the wrong, and least significant aspect, of the problem.

In addition to the classically dense Republican view of economics, the most stunning element of this fiasco is that the Democrat-controlled House proposed relief legislation in May – MAY – but it has languished in the Republican-controlled Senate until last week (more than two months of no action) and Republicans remain divided on what should be in the next round.

Meanwhile, America burns while the Republicans fiddle.

It’s time to hold the Republicans’ feet to the fire they have stoked. The coronavirus rages largely out of control around the country and the economy is in a dead stall. Republicans own the disaster because they supported Donald Trump’s ignorance, incompetence and corruption. The time for political posturing is over. It’s time to act and help the people who elected this legislators and expect them to do their job.

ICYMI – Part 6: Fast & Furious

News worth remembering in a few months when you vote:

If you’re looking for something positive to do, consider signing up to work with ProtectOurVotes.com (@ProtectVotes on Twitter). The group is working on multiple projects to guard against vote manipulation in November, an increasing risk in many states led by Republicans. And, in case it’s not obvious (it is), contribute as much as you can as often as you can to the Biden campaign as well as down-ballot candidates in your state. We must not only win the presidency but also control the Congress to prevent Republican obstruction of the post-Trump recovery.

Per Axios [https://bit.ly/2CTjqEr] the Trump administration is sending increased PPE, test kits and top health officials like Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx to coronavirus hotspots as part of a campaign called the “Embers Strategy.” The name “Embers Strategy” is meant “to highlight the risk level of ’embers’ to decrease the likelihood of ‘fires,'” a senior WH official said. If anyone knows what the hell that means, please advise.

While three former presidents were eulogizing Rep. John Lewis, the sitting president of the United States was on Twitter hawking pizza from a company on Long Island, NY whose leader apparently said something nice about Trump. Don’t believe me? Here it is:

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

Support Patio Pizza and its wonderful owner, Guy Caligiuri, in St. James, Long Island (N.Y.). Great Pizza!!!

10:26 AM · Jul 30, 2020

Two hours later, Trump pinned a new tweet raising the question whether the 2020 election should be postponed. Sen. John Cornyn mansplained to reporters it was just a joke “so all you guys [no females in press corps??] in the press, your heads will explode and you’ll write about it.” By this standard, everything Trump ever said was a joke, including all the claims about his intelligence, business skill and leadership qualities. Oh, yes, and his loyalty. That was a joke too. Just ask Vladimir Putin. Meanwhile, many Republicans are saying “oh, no, the election will not be postponed,” as if the U.S. Code was not absolutely clear on when the election is to be held. Trump, however, may yet think otherwise since he fancies himself a king with supreme power over everything: “I can do whatever I want.” The price of freedom, someone once said, is eternal vigilance.

Speaking of law, and the rule thereof, the Michael Flynn case is going to be heard by the full federal circuit court (en banc, we lawyers call it) in the District of Columbia, thus staying the panel decision that overturned the trial judge’s decision to investigate the Justice Department’s decision to drop the Flynn prosecution. Wheels within wheels. Trump/Flynn celebration may have been premature. https://wapo.st/312r86X

Trump endorsed as “very impressive” and “spectacular” the rantings of a witch doctor {licensed to practice pediatric medicine in Texas) who believes, among many bizarre ideas, including that vaginal cysts and endometriosis are caused by people having sex in their dreams with demons and witches. She also believes  scientists are developing a vaccine to prevent people from being religious and that hydroxychloroquine cures COVID-19. https://wapo.st/316QY9W Nothing more to say about this except that millions of Trump supporters believe her and him and they’re going to vote in November. You know what to do.

In a shocking (for Ohio) display of fealty to the rule of law, the Ohio House of Representatives voted 90-0 to remove Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder from his position as Speaker, following his indictment by a federal grand jury for a $61 million bribery scheme. He was noteworthy for having led the fight to establish concealed carry, always popular with the 2nd Amendment crowd, and defunding Planned Parenthood.

In a new extension of Trump’s totalitarian ambitions, the Department of Homeland Security, formed after the 9/11 attacks to coordinate the protection of the US homeland from foreign attacks, was revealed to have been compiling ‘intelligence reports’ on journalists who published leaked documents. https://wapo.st/2EH3pSu In the ensuring firestorm of criticism, DHS removed the acting head of the department’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis. https://politi.co/3i2UjOl Apparently, the office also monitored protesters’ electronic communications. It’s hard working for Trump – one minute you’re doing as ordered; the next minute, you’re the sacrificial lamb. As the election draws closer and Trump becomes even more panicked at the prospect of defeat, we can expect more lambs being hatcheted by the “firer in chief” – cleaning house to free him, he thinks, of the taint of corruption that he has manifested throughout his presidency.

 

Trump’s America – Food Lines in New York City

As I was walking home from an optician’s office today and passing Lincoln Center, I was jolted to see a line of people pulling grocery carts and/or carrying empty satchels. The line snaked down into the garage entry that goes underground on Ninth Avenue and came back up the other side, then went down Ninth to West 62nd and continued to the edge of Damrosch Park which is about halfway down the long block to Amsterdam Avenue. I suspected what was happening but decided, despite the 91-degree heat and my having started my walk at 79th and Broadway, to inquire. A security guard told me that the Food Bank for New York and some other companies were distributing free food to anyone who needed it.

The photo above and the one below capture the scene. It made me sick to my stomach to see this in New York City in 2020. This is where Donald Trump’s mismanagement/neglect and incompetence/stupidity has brought us. Food lines stretching for blocks. The security guard told me the lines had developed at 6 am and remained all day:

I returned to our apartment on West 59th, discussed the situation with my wife who, as usual, leapt into action pulling food items from the kitchen cabinets. We’ve been fortunate to have income during the pandemic and were well stocked with foods of various kinds. We filled our grocery cart two-wheeler (bought when we moved here and never used) and I walked it back to Lincoln Center. I was shocked to see the lines were gone, but there were still a few stragglers approaching the distribution site. I presented our offerings which were gratefully received by the young volunteers.

It’s pretty clear that people are now desperate for basic staples of life. Most of the people in the line were not young and, as I said, it was very hot and humid. This had to be a struggle for many of them.

This, then, shows us yet again the consequences of the utter failure of our national leadership – the Donald Trump administration – to address the COVID-19 pandemic. Americans in bread lines. COVID deaths exceeding 152,000 and climbing.

And what does the president do? He spends his time hawking products of companies whose leaders have praised him and promoting the use of drugs found by extensive medical studies to be ineffective and in many cases dangerous. He promotes the “opinions” of a quack doctor/minister who believes people in their sleep have sex with demons and insists that Trump’s pet drugs are the “cure” for COVID-19. And he dispatches federal law enforcement people to multiple American cities; personnel who wear no identification and use extreme violence to harass and arrest lawful protesters still enraged over the lack of action in the wake of George Floyd’s murder.

This is Trump’s America. These are the acts of a tyrant and a fool. We are at the point of no return. Either Trump is put out of office through the electoral process in November or the United States is finished. Period.

Baseball in the Pandemic– Fix It!

Having tried to watch my team, the World Champion Washington Nationals, in their opening “season” games against the New York Yankees, I am experiencing serious withdrawal symptoms. It’s not just that it’s early in the season – this year there is no “early” because the entire regular season is only 60 games long. The problem for me is that there are no fans. Piped in sound or, as I saw in a West Coast game the other day, human cutouts in the stands behind home plate, are no substitute for the real thing.

I expressed that sentiment during the season opener, and my wife came up immediately with an inspired idea: why not let the active military (maybe all veterans), first responders, and healthcare workers attend the games at no charge? Even a few hundred or more fans would add a lot of energy to these vacant ballpark situations while providing a reward to people who without doubt deserve one. MLB ballparks are plenty spacious to permit this concept with plenty of social distancing and mandatory masking. There would, of course, be some limited costs involved but surely MLB can afford them. There may be some logistics challenges but, viewed from a distance, they don’t seem insurmountable.

I tweeted the idea to the Washington Nationals but, of course, received no response. I can’t think of a sound reason not to do this. With a committed effort, a workable process could be developed in under a week and initiated soon enough to add some much needed “reality” to the nation’s pastime.

Did I mention that my team, the Washington Nationals, won the World Series last year?

ICYMI – Part 5 [The Land of Oz]

The best hope for the country’s survival until Trump can be removed may lie in the inescapable fact that, like Trump himself, his administration is populated with some of the least competent grifters in history. Trump and his acting (like most Trump appointees) Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf don’t have the same understanding of why a federal force was sent to subdue Portland’s protesters:

While Trump said he sent federal law enforcement officers in to restore order, acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said federal agents were in Portland primarily to protect federal buildings like the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse, which had become a target for protesters. [emphasis added]

[https://bit.ly/3hm1gcW] Trump’s administration remarkably resembles the Keystone Kops of comic book fame. At the same time, I cannot help but wonder why the mayor of Portland cannot initiate a meaningful process involving BLM leaders, among others, to address the concerns that led to the protests. Until that happens, it appears that the turmoil in Portland will continue (assuming Trump does not order his paramilitary forces to start shooting the protesters).

While there is much unknown about the federal assault on Portland, the evidence so far suggests the federal presence has led to escalation in violence, unlawful assaults and arrests by “police” and severe injuries to some protesters. Of course, it’s also true there has been property damage and that is unlawful and, in my view, counterproductive. On the other hand, as I tweeted earlier today, the solution is not physical suppression. If there is a solution at this late stage, it lies in the government addressing in a meaningful substantive way the reasons the protests started.

In related news regarding the federal invasion of Portland, retired Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honore was reported to have said “”Police don’t do this. Watch this, what kind of b—-t is this?!” He added that Chad Wolf needs “to be run out of Washington. He has no business in charge of Homeland Security.” https://fxn.ws/30zUeus

Trump’s Storm  Troopers arrived in Columbus, Ohio and dragged at least one protester off the street into an unmarked vehicle. https://bit.ly/2CyjGIw These “officers” show no outward identification other than “police” on their other clothing. They brandish automatic weapons and threaten onlookers to “stay back.” This conduct is blatantly unlawful and must be stopped through intervention by the courts. I understand ACLU has filed suit. The Trump administration is responsible for these unconstitutional “arrests” in which no probable cause is stated and no Miranda warnings are given.

In a statement inexplicably reported by the Washington Post as an “apology,” Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.), who reportedly called Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) “disgusting” and a “fuc*ing bitch” during an unplanned encounter on the Capitol steps, denied “offensive name-calling” [is there another kind?] He admitted to the “strife I injected into the already contentious Congress,” but his “apology” referred only to the “abrupt manner of the conversation.” In a masterpiece of linguistic legerdemain, Yoho said, “The offensive name-calling words attributed to me by the press were never spoken to my colleague, and if they were construed that way I apologize for their misunderstanding.” Thus, Yoho does not deny that he said the words, just that he didn’t say them “to my colleague,” and his apology then only relates to someone else’s mistake in attributing the implicitly admitted statements as directed at AOC. Uh huh.

According to WAPO, and in a replay of the classic Republican response to situations like this, “Yoho appeared to become emotional as he described what he said was his experience with poverty, recounting that he and his wife used food stamps early in their marriage.” https://wapo.st/2X2ZW7d And, of course, the final Republican flourish, ““I cannot apologize for my passion or for loving my God, my family and my country.”

Trump would be proud of this performance: His playbook says, “When caught, never actually apologize; deflect, then bring up God and country.” Another interesting aspect of this encounter is that Rep. Roger Williams (Tex.), could hear some of the exchange, but in classic Republican mode, he demurred by claiming he was not paying attention to the confrontation because he was so engrossed in  thinking about issues in his district. The Republican Party should rebrand itself as the Stepford People.

While on the subject of clarity, a favorite, I was stunned the other day to read this in a WAPO news report subtitle: “Kathy Spletstoser is suing Gen. John Hyten for alleged sexual assault in federal court.” Admittedly, the report appeared in Apple News and the subtitle does not appear on WashingtonPost.com [see https://wapo.st/2CUU1Kb ], but the formatting suggests the subtitle was not invented by Apple News. Sooo, first, the allegation is not that the “alleged sexual assault” occurred “in federal court.” Second, and more important,  Col. Splestoser (Army, Retired) is not suing for “alleged sexual assault.” She is suing for “sexual assault,” which at the pleading stage is still just an allegation, but there is no offense (civil, criminal or military) of “alleged sexual assault.” One does not sue for relief from “alleged sexual assault.”

I understand this may be a pretty fine point. But we are in an era in which the so-called Main Stream Media is under attack by the government and is not trusted by a shockingly high percentage of the population. A recent online poll – I don’t much trust polls – by Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and The Harris Poll found that “41% of Americans believe the news media are the “enemy of the people.” It is therefore particularly important that the real media (aka the MSM) be clear and as specific as possible in reporting news. People are easily confused by legal  and scientific language (witness the ongoing squabble over the difference between “total tests” and “tests per capita.” Trump does not know the difference and apparently many others don’t either. The  media need to be careful. This is one of the roles of editors. Do we still have editors?

On the merits of Col. Splestoser’s six sexual assault claims, the article reveals some shocking information about the military justice system:

The Justice Department attorneys representing Hyten have cited numerous rape and sexual assault cases that have been blocked over the years, including one in which the court said that “while the acts of sexual harassment served no military purpose, they were incident to” the plaintiff’s military service. Another says “even sexual misconduct can be within the scope of employment” in the military. [emphasis added]

Unfortunately, no specific cases are cited for these points and, not being versed in military law, I can’t address them. But, if accurate, these are genuinely astounding principles to operate in a modern military of the United States. Perhaps yet another example of how far we have to go in achieving the aspiring heights to which the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and basic morality call us. It is hard to understand why independent investigation of these types of charges is not required.

Our boy Matt Gaetz is in the news again with ethics issues. https://politi.co/2BnMdQx

Florida GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz has spent nearly $200,000 in taxpayer funds renting an office [“at or below market rate”] from a longtime friend, adviser, campaign donor and legal client.

Naturally, Gaetz denies wrongdoing, claims everything was above board, no worries. Trumpworld in action. Read the article if you want a good, but ultimately depressing, laugh.

On a more positive note, the House has voted (with 72 Republicans joining – ooooh, Trump’s not gonna like that) to remove all the Confederate statues from the Capitol. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md  observed that “Defenders and purveyors of sedition, slavery, segregation and white supremacy have no place in this temple of liberty.” Meanwhile, back at the KKK rally, President Trump lost his appetite at the thought that traitors would no longer be honored in the nation’s capitol. But, maybe he doesn’t have to worry too much. The bill’s chances in the Republican-controlled Senate must be considered iffy in light of this disgraceful statement from Majority Leader McConnell:

What I do think is clearly a bridge too far is this nonsense that we need to airbrush the Capitol and scrub out everybody from years ago who had any connection to slavery  [https://bit.ly/2CUzZiN]

Mitch McConnell — defender of liberty, as long as you’re white, and standing firmly behind the “principles” of the 1800s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ICYMI – Part 3

Such a cornucopia of Trumpian gems, it’s hard to choose.

Ignoring the ongoing slaughter of Americans at the hands of COVID-19, Trump has decided that the path to his re-election requires doubling-down on racially divisive themes of grievance. This will motivate his diminishing political base but seems destined to alienate many former supporters and entire classes of ethnic voting groups. https://wapo.st/3f6LG4f: “Never in our lifetimes has the Independence Day holiday been used for such divisive and personal ends.”

In a stunning move against the environment, the Democrat-led House Armed Services Committee voted to yield 800,000 acres (one-half) of southern Nevada’s Desert National Wildlife Refuge to the Air Force for training activities at the already enormous Nellis Air Force Base (more than 3.2 million acres of land next to the refuge). Less surprisingly, the move was led by U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, a Utah Republican who thinks it a good idea to convert public lands to private use. https://bit.ly/2VUE1yp The move is consistent with the Trump administration policy of repurposing national parkland and other natural treasures for commercial exploitation. Until, to repurpose the great line from Kismet, “no one but me is left.”

Coronavirus infections set a new record on Independence Day, with the 7-day rolling average at a new high for the 27th day in a row, testimony to the gross mismanagement of the crisis by the Trump administration. https://wapo.st/2O6OBhb Indeed, Trump seems to have thrown in the towel to the virus and moved on to other issues, mainly centered on retaining racially motivated monuments. Republican-led states whose governors accepted/adopted Trump’s phantasmagorical thinking about the imminent disappearance of the virus are now backtracking on premature re-openings and “do your own thing” policies on masking and social distancing.

Trump is holding up funding for the military (that he claims to love) – a  $740 billion defense authorization bill — to stop the renaming of Army bases named after Confederate generals. https://wapo.st/2ZJLSQd The president has now firmly and openly aligned himself and the Republican Party with the white supremacy element of American society.

In perhaps the most ludicrous act of his bizarre presidency thus far, Trump signed an executive order calling for creation of a national monument park to contain new statues of the “greatest Americans to ever live.” If the list didn’t reflect the insane thinking of the Trump administration, it would make a great comedy skit. Defending against what he called an “assault on our collective national memory,” Trump named Billy Graham, Davey Crockett, Antonin Scalia, Daniel Boone and, wait for it, Audie Murphy. Excluded were Democratic presidents – so no Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy or Lyndon B. Johnson – Native Americans (no “heroes” there – we killed them all; Trump doesn’t like dead people, even though he’s responsible for killing some 130,000 so far). General George Patton was ‘in’ but Dwight Eisenhower was not. You can see the full list here: https://wapo.st/38Cnh43

After much struggle, the Trump Administration finally gave the SBA permission to disclose the recipients of at least the largest loans under the Paycheck Protection Program. https://wapo.st/2ZJqLO4 Not surprisingly, ethical considerations appear to have had no role in the decision-making. Thus, significant loan money was given to businesses owned by or closely connected with members of Congress, Trump’s personal lawyers, tenants of Trump’s real estate company, as well as,

private schools catering to elite clientele, firms owned by foreign companies and large chains backed by well-heeled Wall Street firms. Nearly 90,000 companies in the program took the aid without promising on their applications they would rehire workers or create jobs.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao’s (wife of #MoscowMitch, Republican Senate Majority Leader) family’s shipping business was a beneficiary. And many others too numerous to mention separately. One must wonder, of course, how much of the Trump tenants’ relief money will end up in Trump’s pocket as rent. Grifting by Trump and his Republican enablers is nothing new, certainly. In keeping with established practice,  Yeezy, owned by Trump sycophant and supremely wealthy alleged musician Kanye West, was awarded between $2 million and $5 million. https://bit.ly/300UMcz

Of course, the program was intended to help workers stay off unemployment, but there are some real curiosities in that regard. Among recipients, for example,

48,922 reported zero as the number of jobs they would retain with the money, and 40,506 applicants appeared to leave that section blank. It appeared that 10 other companies received between $5 million and $10 million but reported retaining only one job with the money they received.

Also curiously, the SBA ordered affiliates of Planned Parenthood, a favorite target of Trumppublican “pro-lifers,” to return their loans.

And so it goes. More gems soon.