Enough Is Enough: To Vote in November, Act Now!

On Juneteenth, the holiday celebrating the arrival of the news of emancipation from slavery, rallies were held throughout the U. S.. It was the Friday before the weekend of the Trump rally in Tulsa, at the end of the fourth week of protests over the murder of George Floyd, and a week where 23 states had upward trends in new coronavirus infections (and states like Florida had seen record increases of over 3,000 new cases per day for 4 straight days), when DT took another shot at ending the separation of powers in the U. S. government. And he did it while trying to hide it behind a whirlwind weekend.

 

He fired Geoffrey Berman, the U. S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. This is one of the most powerful independent legal offices in the nation and one that is investigating DT’s associates including his present personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and previously investigated his former personal attorney, Michael Cohen. But the fight is not over.

 

He first attempted to do this on Friday, Juneteenth. He had Attorney General Barr falsely announce Mr. Berman had resigned, and that he would install his own candidate, Jay Clayton, the Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman and a friend of his, to the office. But Berman issued his own statement. He denied he had resigned and stated he refused to do so. The President then had to officially step in on Saturday, the 20th. The result of Berman’s defiance and the negotiations which followed was that Barr and DT could not immediately install Clayton to the post, and had to allow Audrey Strauss, Berman’s deputy, to temporarily assume the office and thus continue current investigations⎼ at least until the Senate could approve a permanent successor.

 

This will not be easy for DT to accomplish, as even his supporter, Senator Lindsey Graham, has said that he would not allow the Clayton nomination to move forward without the approval of the 2 Senators from New York, Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, who have called on Clayton to drop out of contention for the office.

 

This follows months of DT firing 5 Inspector Generals and pardoning corrupt officials. He has threatened to formally adjourn congress and subvert the constitution.

 

In May, Eric Lutz, in an article in Vanity Fair, speculated that DT might be trying to set the stage to cancel the November election. In the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, DT threatened to withhold federal funding from Michigan and Nevada, “lying that the states—each of which is governed by a Democrat — are allowing illegal voting.” He attacked the state of Nevada, “baselessly accusing it of attempting to ‘cheat in elections’.”

 

He claimed voting is an “honor” not a right guaranteed by the constitution and he and his adherents in the Republican party are doing all they can to disenfranchise voters, especially voters of color.

 

The protests in the streets calling for justice for the murder of George Floyd and other African Americans by police are one of the few forces protecting the last remnants of democracy in our nation right now. The protests have spread not only throughout the country but the world. Not only do the protests proclaim Black Lives Matter but the civil rights protections in the constitution matter and must be enforced. Our voices matter. They show politicians and other people with institutional power that the power of the people once released will not be silenced. Enough is enough.

 

And DT is clearly afraid of the protests, as well as polls showing him trailing Joe Biden by a considerable margin. In February, as COVID-19 was just striking the US, before he even became the recognized Democratic candidate, Biden was leading DT by 4.8 points. In June, Biden went ahead by 8 points or more. A June 17 poll by Reuters/Ipsos showed Biden ahead by 13 points. In swing states, Biden is gaining considerably, putting into play states that used to be Red.

 

Even the Tulsa rally this weekend, which DT said would be filled to capacity and was supposed to lift his spirits and campaign, failed to do so. He had to cancel planned outdoor events because the audience for it did not exist. Even inside the arena, a good portion of the seats were empty. The Tulsa Fire Department estimated there were under 6,200 people in the 19,000 capacity arena.

 

Trump blamed the limited attendance on the media and the interference of protestors outside the arena. But the numbers of in-person protestors was relatively small. If anyone had a hand in the smaller numbers, besides DT himself and his declining approval ratings, it was young people. TikTok users and K-pop fans said they registered for potentially hundreds of thousands of free tickets, and then posted they couldn’t go.

 

DT is losing in many areas. Whether he actually tries to cancel or delay the election, pull a surprise coronavirus vaccine out of the air to distract voters from his malignant, corrupt, negligent and racist response to the pandemic, or declare some other kind of “emergency,” it is clear this election is and will continue to be different from any other⎼ more fraught with election interference from Russia or elsewhere, more voters threatened or subject to long lines and other obstructions. We will have to prepare to protect polling places or to go to the streets to protect the election results.

 

And to do that, we must act now. No matter our race, we benefit from joining the Black Lives Matter protests and calling for justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many others. Right now we must call Congress and demand an investigation into the firing of Geoffrey Berman, universal mail-in ballots, more voting places, extended voting hours. Right now, we must call to protect the USPS. We have the coronavirus pandemic, the hundreds of years old pandemic of racism, and we have DT. All 3 are interconnected and the time to fight them is now.

 

*This post was syndicated by the Good Men Project.

 

The Justice We Demand for Others Is the Justice We Demand for Ourselves

Since the murder of George Floyd on May 25, I have been reminded again and again that if we want to understand something at more than a surface level, we must feel, not just think. Or imagine and feel our self into the experience we are hoping to grasp. Not that we can always get it by using empathy, but we can grasp that we don’t get it. In the past, I kept myself at an emotional distance from the reality of racism. But we pay a price when we don’t let the fact of another’s pain touch us.

 

Pain is uncomfortable, but it is something we all share. We know this. We each have our own memories, our own experiences, our own type and weight of pain. Too many have way too much of it. But the actuality is something we share.

 

Sometimes, pain is too much to face and we put it aside in fear it will overwhelm us. Sometimes, the moment is not right.  And as a white person I can enjoy a sense of safety that others are denied.

 

But sometimes witnessing pain can crack us open. Our own wounds cry out: we, too, could be feeling this. One person’s suffering touches our own and reminds us who we are⎼ reminds us maybe we’re all not siblings, but we are all human beings. And we deny this at our peril.

 

I’m not sure of much right now but I feel this very strongly: this time, right now, is our best hope to address hundreds of years of racism, of pain and injustice. And by doing so, by taking action, we save this nation from becoming something even more awful, of becoming a full dictatorship or a white nationalist state. We save the possibility of what Martin Luther King called the “real promises of democracy.” Racism is at the heart of what has undermined democracy and the rule of law in this country since it was first conceived. How can we have a rule of law when violence against some is built into the system supposedly for all?

 

The murder of George Floyd and the protests are making clear to so many how much racist violence is built into our society. On Friday, Rayshard Brooks, a 27 year old African American, was shot by police in Atlanta. There have been 11 other murders of Black people during the protests. There’s Marvin McAtee, who was cooking for people in his restaurant and went out his front door to see what was happening with the protests when he was shot by either police or the National Guard. Dave Patrick Underwood, a security guard at a federal courthouse, was killed by a drive by. Italia Kelly was shot as she was leaving a protest. And on and on. African Americans are killed by police at a rate far disproportionate to their numbers.

 

Even during the protests against racism, armed black men were arrested recently while armed white men avoided charges. Earlier, armed white nationalists were emboldened by the President. Last week, in mostly African American counties in Georgia, lines at polling places were up to 7 hours long, machines didn’t work, absentee ballots showed up late, etc. The GOP in Georgia have long been accused of purposefully working to make it difficult for African Americans to vote.  And that is just one example of GOP voter suppression. Afterall, for DT, voting is not a right guaranteed by law and the constitution, but an “honor”.

 

And there’s COVID-19, which has not only exposed the racism, inequities and failures of our health system, but the malevolence and incompetence of the DT administration. African Americans have died from the virus at 3 times the rate of whites. The White House claims this is due to underlying health conditions common in Black people, like diabetes. But the statistics show another underlying condition- racial inequities, like lack of access for testing and treatment. There are even inequities in data from the DT administration, which until this past week failed to keep statistics on the relation between race and deaths. The data we do have comes mostly from independent investigators and states. African Americans have also been hit extremely hard by the economic consequences of the pandemic.

 

We have seen DT use racism, along with sexism and other forms of hate and division, to capture and keep power⎼ and keep his face and voice in the front of the news cycle. His comments about Charlottesville, attacks on women of color in Congress, reporters, judges, etc. have filled headlines. To DT and his administration, we, those not rich and white, are merely chattel, “stock”. He has worked continuously to transfer wealth and power from the lower and middle classes to a small group of those rich and white.

 

Only over the last few weeks has he been pushed back to second or third place in the news. But he is trying to recapture attention. For example, he scheduled a campaign rally on June 19th, Juneteenth, the date slavery was ended in this country, in Tulsa, home of the Tulsa massacre. Then he decided to reschedule it. The very idea of the rally was so outrageous that it captured much attention. He is, for many of us, the face of awful. But this makes him, for others, their savior.  As reported in the New York Times, Omar Wasow, an assistant professor of politics at Princeton, said that there’s little reason, considering his history, that DT planned to go to Tulsa of all places “to try to ease intercommunal hostility rather than exacerbate it.”

 

Likewise, he outrageously scheduled a discussion (and fund raiser) in Dallas to talk about policing, but did not invite the African American Chief of Police, Sheriff, and District Attorney.

 

He first tried to destroy the protests with the military, then tried to steal their power with an executive order banning choke holds except when an officer’s life is at risk, and establishing a data base to track police misconduct. It is amazing that he took this step. But Business Insider and others noted, his order was “more about optics than making major changes.”

 

The pressure of protests in the streets is working and have spread worldwide. They have forced the people in power to recognize Black Lives Matter and they have reminded the rest of us our voices matter. Minneapolis is now planning to replace its police department with a community-led model. Many states, like New York, are reforming policing. Iowa passed reform legislation in just one day. Choke holds are being outlawed and the legal prohibitions for prosecuting police are being questioned and, in some places, dismantled. The House has introduced legislation to overhaul police policy and add accountability.

 

Racism has undermined the humanity and promise of this nation since its inception. But right now so much is on the table. The officers who murdered George Floyd are one face (amongst too many others) of racism. DT is another. Besides going after African Americans, Latino, Asian and Native Americans, DT has gone after Muslims and Jews. He has gone after women, seniors, transgender people, etc. Who is next?

 

So all of us, including those of us who are white, would benefit morally, emotionally and politically by ending racism. We benefit by actively supporting and joining the protests against the murder of George Floyd, against police brutality of people of color, and against the murder of justice.

 

Some of us might have to learn how to get better at tolerating discomfort and fear. But the justice we demand for others is also the justice we demand for ourselves.

 

Syndicated by The Good Men Project.

**Photo: thanks to Gary Bercow.

Amidst Anger, Fear, and Outrage there is Hope

Maybe I’m crazy. Amidst the anger, fear and outrage I feel right now, there is hope.

 

I am white and I support Black Lives Matter. I support speaking out for justice and against the abuses of governmental power. I support not only the righteous anger but the compassion for others expressed by these demonstrations. Rev. Al Sharpton spoke about the collective pain in the African American community. There is too much pain in our nation right now and the only medicine for it is justice.

 

A man, an African American man named George Floyd, was murdered by police. His video-taped cry “I can’t breathe” eerily echoed the same words spoken by Eric Garner in NYC in 2014 before he, too, was killed by police. And in Tacoma Washington, the Medical Examiner just ruled that Manuel Ellis was killed on March 3 by police. He, too, called out “I can’t breathe” before dying.

 

George Floyd was murdered last week, just about two months after another African-American, Breonna Taylor, was shot by police in her own home, and three months after Ahmaud Arbery was shot. It took three months before the murderers of Mr. Arbery were arrested.

 

All across the country protests began against this latest murder, largely peaceful protests, calling for justice. But then reports and videos of violence followed the demonstrations. Curfews were instigated, national guard activated. Chaos seemed to ensue in several cities.

 

This was frightening. Then photos were taken and shared, and peaceful Black protestors called out white instigators of that violence. It seemed these disrupters were mostly either thieves taking advantage of the protests to rip off businesses or white nationalists trying to discredit the demonstrations or instigate further violence. And one white man, a supporter of DT, drove a tractor-trailer into a huge crowd of protestors, evoking the image of a deadly attack by a terrorist driving a truck into a crowd of people in Nice, France, in 2016.

 

I feel outrage not only against the murder but that peaceful demonstrations could be twisted to serve the purposes of white nationalists and others, who represent the very deep social forces in this nation that have perpetrated violence against African-Americans and others in this country for years, since the beginning of this nation.

 

And in the background, DT fuels the flames, incites violence by his MAGA supporters, calls the African-American protestors “thugs.” Threatens to send in the military. But the armed white nationalists, who protest against the orders of Democratic Governors to stay home to keep themselves and others safe⎼ they, of course, are “good people.”

 

He is using the protests to create a new crisis and distract us from the ongoing pandemic of racism and COVID-19, which is still killing thousands. But I think⎼ or hope⎼ he has made a mistake. In the past, DT has worked to instill, in his supporters, hate of African Americans, Latinos and other people of color, Muslims, Jews, Democrats, and others, and instill fear in anyone who opposes him. (He even re-tweeted a video of a supporter saying, “The only good Democrat is a dead Democrat.”) What he’s done this time is turn his opponent’s frustration over continuing injustice into a conviction that the only viable choice they or we have is taking action.

 

And while the demonstrations are continuing, people are dying due to the coronavirus. Over 106,000 people have died. This virus has been made more lethal by the malignant mismanagement of the crisis by the DT government. The GOP have exploited the pandemic instead of responsibly facing it. Some have profited financially, not just for themselves but their mega-rich donors. According to Common Dreams, 41 million people have lost jobs while American billionaires grew $500 billion richer. They have readily sacrificed people to suit their own purposes, and African-Americans have disproportionately been the victims.

 

This all must end.

 

The police officer who killed George Floyd was charged this Wednesday with second degree murder. The others who stood by and aided and abetted in that crime have also been arrested. These arrests and the prosecutions that will follow, as well as changes in the operation of the police in Minneapolis, will be a tremendous first step. They are largely the result of people speaking up and taking to the streets. It is one step at a time. Changing the nation as a whole ⎼ that will hopefully follow.

 

In Minneapolis, there is at least a Democratic Mayor who has shown understanding of the history of racism this murder has exposed (although the president of the police union has not). The nation has a very different leader. For any deeper changes, DT must go.

 

So, why hope? Because we need hope to act. Because more than half of the people of this nation are sick of these injustices and are saying so. People are sick of one murder after another⎼ and sick of coronavirus deaths. Of the stupidity, injustice, and malevolence. Of the racism institutionalized into a political, economic and social system that is at the center of the malignancy that is splitting open this nation. Justice for this murder might lead to justice for other murders and abuses of government power. And then the rule of law and the civil rights protected in the constitution will be protected in the streets, the courts, and the Congress.

 

And inside the anger there are tears. When everyone took a knee at a demonstration  yesterday protesting the death of George Floyd, the sadness over his death, over so many lives taken, suddenly hit me, hit everyone. But instead of crying I write this.

 

Only voices united in opposition can reveal and expel that malignancy and create the social and legal situation where a guilty verdict against police is possible. In 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke at the Lincoln Memorial about “the real promises of democracy.” He said, “It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment.” He spoke of his hope. His dream. It is illustrative of this moment that DT has stationed troops at the Lincoln Memorial to drive away the hope and the dream. He won’t succeed.

 

So, after the fear, anger, and outrage⎼ and the sadness⎼ the hope shyly follows.

 

*This post has been syndicated by The Good Men Project.

 

*The photo is from Gary Bercow.

We Still Live in A Democracy, Despite What DT Would Have Us Believe

It is wrong to say this nation is now a dictatorship, an oligarchy, fascist state or a monarchy. I myself have pretty much said these things at one point or another or said we are no longer a democracy. But the US is still a democracy, despite the way DT tramples the landscape of democratic institutions⎼ the separation of powers, the rule of law, and the oath requiring him to protect the constitution. Since he came to power, he has done everything he could to undermine our nation and political system, even suspend constitutional protections.

 

DT is not a dictator or monarch. He is a “would-be” dictator or “would be” monarch. He is a wannabee. And we can’t crown him with our language. We can’t give him, and must resist giving him, what he wants.

 

To say the US is no longer a democracy is to say DT has won. He hasn’t. He is losing every day. He has never received the support of a majority of citizens. The fact that we hear and can talk about his abuses of power, lies, negligence, corruption, and incompetence shows this. The fact that nurses (wearing masks and social distancing) could protest outside the White House against his failures in responding to the pandemic shows this. The fact he and the GOP have been trying for years to end the right to protest (depending on who is doing the protest) and haven’t succeeded shows this.

 

According to DT, white nationalists, and other armed groups protesting against orders by Democratic Governors that protect people from the coronavirus, are “good people,” ⎼ while African-Americans, protesting the murder by police of someone in their community, are “thugs.”

 

The fact that he signed an executive order intended to exercise control over social media, after Twitter announced it would fact-check DT’s tweets, shows this. The fact that he is trying right now to make sure there are no more whistleblowers and Inspector Generals shows this. The fact that he acts to stop any criticism of him, and will attack or threaten those who do so, especially the media, female Democrats, or any democrat of color, shows how insecure he is. No one, certainly no political figure, is safe from him.

 

A strong person does not treat an opponent as an evil with no right to exist. But this is exactly what DT does. He is a weak person, yet he unfortunately has tremendous institutional power. He has been unraveling before our eyes, as illustrated by his comments about ingesting disinfectants or taking a drug not proven either safe or effective against the coronavirus, but somehow is still in office….

 

To read the whole article, please go to The Good Men Project.

What Do You Do When There’s a Bear in the House? – Getting the Grizzly of Ignorance and Malignancy Out the Door

Last night, in a dream, a black bear was somehow in our apartment. We were a bit freaked and didn’t know what to do. I had an idea of opening the sliding glass doors so he could get outside. Of course, we don’t live in an apartment and we don’t have any sliding glass doors⎼ but it’s a dream. After I snuck around the bear toward the doors, I realized our dog, about the size of a Lab, was asleep by the doorway and I feared waking him. I didn’t know what he would do. Then the bear noticed the dog and jumped up on top of the bookcase near me. By the way, we also don’t have a dog, although I have been wanting one.

 

Suddenly discovering we have a bear in our home would definitely constitute a dramatic change in our daily routine. But a black bear is one of the smaller, less aggressive bears. I always thought they were cute until I saw the mangled mess one of them made of our bird feeder. But let’s imagine it was a grizzly in our home, a truly dangerous creature. What then?

 

And we do have a dangerous creature in our homes now or are afraid of one. Or afraid of two. There is a meme going around that we are faced with two pandemics, COVID-19 and ignorance⎼ the virus and the ignorant, incompetent and malignant response to it by DT. Most people facing a bear in their dreams, or awake, would hopefully avoid panic and open that door, push the dog out of the way, and let the bear out. But right now, many of us are afraid and feel powerless and don’t know how to get the grizzly out the door. But maybe we can simultaneously take care of ourselves  as we take care of our world.

 

The Pastor Martin Niemoller wrote a prose-poem just after World War II about the Holocaust. Many of us know it. It was a confession of how German intellectuals and the Church stood by as one group after another was murdered by Nazis. “First, they came for the Communists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist… Then the trade unionists…then the socialists… then the Jews…Then they came for me.” The Nazis were the grizzly in the house of the Germans and instead of forcing the grizzly out, they invited it to stay. And millions were killed.

 

Today, DT is acting with almost as much evil as the Nazis, and the GOP is supporting what he does. But about 52% of us or more are quite aware of the malignant grizzly in our nation. Almost three years ago thousands, or hundreds of thousands spoke out when the GOP tried to end the ACA and destroy our health care system. We demonstrated in the streets and Congressional offices and called Congress. And we stopped that legislation. Of course, the pandemic greatly limits what political action we can take today to oppose him. But how many of us are calling Congress now?…

 

DT wants us to forget and feel powerless. We can’t give him what he wants. When we don’t act, we feel burdened by what we don’t do. When we act out of care and compassion, we feel strengthened. We protect not only ourselves but others. We push the grizzly of ignorance and malignancy out the door.

 

To read the whole post, go to The Good Men Project.

Slavery or Sacrifice? Risk Your Life at a Job Infected with the Virus or Lose your Income

This is the choice many workers are being forced to make: Risk getting sick or lose your income.

 

This is especially stark at meat processing plants, where the workers usual salary is just enough to get by week-to-week and many of the workers are relatively recent immigrants. Now DT is saying he will sign an executive order under the Defense Production Act to stop closures of meat processing plants by declaring them “critical infrastructure.” He will force the employees at these plants to go to work despite dangerous conditions. Is this action initiating a form of slavery? Is he sacrificing American workers to fit his own political purposes?

 

Workers at many of these plants have, for over a month, been scared to go to work, but they did so because they had little choice. And now, under DT’s executive order, if they choose not to work, they will neither get a paycheck nor be allowed to collect unemployment.

 

This is not just true of workers in meat processing plants. It is true in Iowa where the Governor wants to gradually open up all businesses, despite continued spread of the virus. If people refuse to go to work, due to fears of getting sick, they will lose their unemployment insurance. To make this even more blatant, Mitch McConnell said he has drawn a “red line” regarding the next coronavirus bill: no more relief from Congress for infected people, medical supplies, or businesses unless the businesses he forces to open are protected from liability claims. He knows he is putting lives at risk but he either doesn’t care or is willing to sacrifice them.

 

Rachel Maddow interviewed former OSHA policy advisor Debbie Berkowitz about the situation at the meat processing plants. Berkowitz said the administration is claiming we have only one choice: safety for workers or a break down in the US food supply. This, she says, is a false choice. The claim that we must either “feed America or keep Americans safe” is a false choice that exposes “government malfeasance.”

 

DT wants to force these plants to resume business in order to resurrect a crumbling economy, protect his power, and preserve profits for his supporters. Likewise, Rachel Maddow revealed that the situation was made worse than it had to be by the DT administration. When the CDC inspected the plants and found violations, instead of doing what it usually does, and issue required changes in the way the plants operated, they issued suggestions. Is this because DT’s Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia decided he would not make the health guidelines for meatpacking plants mandatory and would not enforce the changes in the plants the CDC laid out back in March, and again just recently? The result? 1700 people have died in different meat processing plants, and the virus is spreading through the local communities.

 

In Black Hawk County, Iowa, the Sheriff spoke of his fears ⎼ not only that the coronavirus will continue to spread through the Tyson meat processing plant, but spread throughout the population of his city. He said the “hole is blown in the front line of defense” against the virus.

 

In order to open the plants, significantly more testing will be required. Vice President Pence said that, after large outbreaks in plants in Greeley, Colorado, he would “flow” testing to those plants. It has not happened. Could there be even more positive cases at that plant? Nobody knows. The testing never happened and is not happening now, despite the plant being given a public health order telling them to test every employee.

 

Since the crisis began, it is not clear why DT has not pushed for more testing. Is it incompetence, malevolence, corruption, or maybe a fear of what the numbers might reveal? Is it racism, since a disproportionate number of the deaths are of people of color?  Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said that the “lack of testing,” not just for meat packing plants but for the general population, is “probably the number one problem in America and has been from the beginning of this crisis.” He added that the White House’s happy talk “is just absolutely false.”

 

Some might imagine they are not affected by these actions. They might think this is just happening in red states or in Iowa, Colorado, or South Dakota, or just those with meat processing plants. These plants exist in many states, largely along the east coast and Midwest.

 

How about the air we breathe? That affects everyone. Since the DT EPA reduced air quality standards, air pollutants in places like Houston’s heavily industrialized areas have surged as much as 62%. Residents have said “we don’t even know what we’re breathing.” “They are basically killing us.” But this danger is affecting people of color disproportionately, who live closest to affected areas.

 

And this list of how DT threatens the great majority of Americans could go on almost indefinitely. DT has rolled back protections on our drinking water, undermined our ability to face this crisis, undermining our right to vote, our jobs, etc. We must not allow this to go on.

 

This post was partly inspired by a conversation on FB and partly by a Rachel Maddow program.  Maddow reported on the CDC not closing or enforcing its guidelines at any meatpacking plant but the one in Sioux City owned by Smithfield. This plant was closed because one female worker sued the plant, not to get money, but to compel the owners of the plant to adequately protect its workers. We can take action. When we do research, share information, and show compassion, we can energize ourselves and inspire others to act.

 

On Tuesday, 4/21, a bill to require OSHA safety standards be enforced was introduced in the U. S. House of Representatives and 34 Senators sent a letter to DT objecting to the lack of protections at the meat processing plants. We need to pressure Congress to get this passed. This is one action we can take this week. We need to do what we can to protect each other from this president.

 

Whether it be joining other people, with signs on cars, to protest on Friday, May Day, or on any other day, calling Congress, or writing letters. We must do what we can to stop DT from ending the stay-at-home orders too soon and sacrificing people to serve his power and profit.

Are We All in this Together? Sketches of A Future Drawn in the Present

I wish I had at least a vague idea of what the future could look like in a year, or even a month, but I don’t. When the world is threatened, the urge to know can become overwhelming. Usually, we at least know what the usual is. But now, for many of us, aside from what the inside of our homes looks like, we don’t even know that. Too many changes.

 

Every 10 days or so I drive into town. The roads and buildings are the same as before the pandemic, and I imagine once this crisis is over, we can simply return to our “normal” lives.

 

But then I notice all the restaurants and stores with closed signs. I hear on the radio that news outlets have been losing so many workers (except Fox) they can barely function. Accurate news reporting could be threatened. Or, on the positive side, NPR reported that pharmacy companies, previously known for putting CEO and shareholder profits above everything else, are joining together to find vaccines and treatments for the virus.

 

One prediction I can make is that more people in the future will want to become doctors, nurses and other first responders, the heroes of this time.

 

What I mainly have are questions. On the tv and radio, in advertisements and public service announcements, the meme “we are all in this together” keeps getting repeated. It is a sentiment I agree with and one that has become a powerful force for creating pressure to improve our overall health care system and for legislation to protect most Americans, not just the rich and corporations, from the harmful consequences of the pandemic.

 

It expresses a dynamic truth. With an illness that is so destructive, that can be deadly and spread so easily, with many people infected but showing no symptoms ⎼ anyone can get it, even the powerful, rich, and famous. Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister of Britain, got the illness and wound up in the ICU. Many celebrities, athletes, politicians have been infected. Too many have died. Over 158,000 people worldwide have died so far from it.

 

So if anyone can get it, we are all in this together.

 

But some are more likely than others. The poor more than the rich. The people who work in the fields or production plants and can’t stop working, either because their job is too essential or they can’t afford to stop. For example, one of the Smithfield food processing plants was closed only after the mayor of Sioux Falls forced them to. 350 of its workers had tested positive for the virus. The pandemic is exposing social inequities that have existed for years and have been getting worse. The racism. The poverty. These have always threatened people’s lives and they are doing so now….

 

To read the whole post, please go to The Good Men Project.

 

Lies Are Killing People: Lies and Caring Only for One’s Own Power

On Thursday, 4/2, Ari Melber, on his MSNBC program, interviewed Kirsten Gillibrand and later talked with Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel and others. I greatly appreciated Senator Gillibrand saying “we need truthtellers now.” And Dr. Emanuel continuing with this theme, saying we have to pay attention to facts. Lies are killing people.

 

The Coronavirus is making it abundantly clear what half of the population of the US already knew—not only that DT lies, constantly. Not only does he do so to serve his own self-interest or express his ignorance. But these lies are dangerous. They can and are, right now, killing people. We have to combat the lies, distortions, fake news in order to save not only ourselves but the lives of all those we care about.

 

Likewise, earlier in the week Senator Chris Coons (D, Delaware), and on Friday, Rachel Maddow, talked about the fact that DT, just like George Bush with Katrina, and most of the “reduce government” GOP, feel it is not their job to save lives in a crisis, not their job to organize the manufacture and supply of medical equipment or relief aid.

 

In fact, according to CNN and recordings of the “news conference,” on Thursday, 4/2, DT’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who is now in charge of the coronavirus relief effort, chastised governors for asking the Federal Government to send the medical supplies in its stockpiles to the cities and states that desperately need them. At one point, Kushner even said that the federal stockpile of emergency medical supplies is not meant for the states. “It’s supposed to be our stockpile.” The CNN article questioned who did Kushner mean by “our?” I wonder. Did he mean the Trump family? Or the Federal government? If he meant the latter, the Federal Government, clearly that would mean the people of this nation who need them, right? If he meant the former, he shouldn’t be in charge of anything in the government.

 

But maybe the Trump family is exactly what he meant. Kushner’s father-in-law told Vice President Pence to ignore the calls for aid by Governors who did not show appreciation for him. Some states, like Florida, led by devotees of DT, got all the aid they asked for, and quickly. Others still haven’t seen all or any equipment. Meanwhile, DT outbid Governors for needed supplies.

 

Since he became President, DT ignored warnings of a possible pandemic and ignored warnings about this pandemic. He cut funds for the CDC, NSC, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services to fight global diseases and dismantled the White House team in charge of global health security.

 

According to the New York Times, he has invoked the Defense Production Act hundreds of thousands of times to help the military.  But now, when so many lives are at stake, he won’t actually use it. There is no rational reason for this behavior except that he doesn’t think it is in the best interests of corporations to use this power, or he thinks it is not in his best interest to end the crisis quickly, and not his job to serve the best interests of most of the people of this nation. This is one aspect of what “smaller government” means to him and to many in the GOP.

 

It is not just that DT is totally unsuited for the Presidency but that he will use anything, even a pandemic, as a means to serve his own ends, even if those means end up sacrificing the nation.

 

We need to get or stay healthy, and when we can, make calls, write letters, put up signs, do everything we can not only to vote but to get others out to vote in November, and secure mail-in ballots for all. As we can now see, our lives might depend on it.

 

*This post was syndicated by The Good Men Project.

Using Corona Shock to Sacrifice Democracy

Just imagine hearing someone describe you as expendable, or saying you weren’t worth saving from a disease. And this isn’t “The Lottery,” the short story by Shirley Jackson, about a small but modern village that sacrifices a person each spring to ensure a good harvest. It isn’t the ancient Inca who sacrificed children, or ancient Britain or Sumer. This is the United States, today.

 

This is the Lt. Governor of Texas saying people should go back to work despite the pandemic, and the old people who are more vulnerable and might therefore die from the illness should be glad to sacrifice themselves so the economy can be saved.

 

It includes Larry Kudlow, DT’s chairman of the National Economic Council, saying: “we’re gonna have to make some difficult trade-offs”, i.e. we’re going to have to let some people die so the Stock Market can live.

 

It includes the Governor of Florida, Ron DiSantis, who kept open their beaches so the young could frolic in crowds and later bring the virus to towns and cities throughout the nation. But the old—they could be sacrificed.

 

It includes Republican Tate Reeves, the Governor of MississIippi, who decided to override all town and city stay-at-home orders to send workers back to their jobs, despite increasing numbers of coronavirus victims in neighboring states. And DT has decided that by Easter, all will be well. People must go back to work. His economic numbers must look good.

 

Esquire Magazine has a highly disturbing article about just how far the far right has been taking the meme that some need to be sacrificed. This sacrifice never includes the rich (I think they would sacrifice a Jewish or person of color who was rich) and never includes decreasing the profits of large corporations. One spokesman talked about social isolation as creating a “demonic atmosphere” — maybe they think a commitment to save all lives is Satan’s work.

 

In contrast, Governor Cuomo of New York said it’s not an either-or choice, to protect public health or protect the economy. “My mother is not expendable.” There are choices the President could have made for the last two months and could make now to avert a deeper disaster, but he isn’t doing it. For example, he could use the Defense Procurement Act to get manufacturers to switch to producing more ventilators and other medical supplies. He has signed the order to invoke the act but hasn’t (as of 3/25) used it to get anything produced….

 

To read the whole post, go to The Good Men Project.

Corona Shock: Getting Perspective and Taking Action to Protect Ourselves and Our Nation

Besides keeping ourselves mentally clear and calm and physically healthy, and helping others do the same, we have to stay informed about what DT is doing to further undermine the health, any remnants of democracy and the security and stability of our nation. After three years of shocks to  our personal emotions, our collective mental health and our political and legal system, almost two months of the coronavirus has changed almost every aspect of our society. So many changes that we can barely digest it.

 

DT did not cause the coronavirus. And our health care system was inequitable, too expensive, cumbersome, etc. even before DT. But so much has been revealed about how his lack of judgement, incompetence and greed has made the crisis even worse.

 

Let’s go back to January 13, 2017, 7 days before DT took office. As Politico reports, DT’s aides, future cabinet members, even a future press secretary, were briefed by President Obama’s aides as part of the transition of power, on topics like preparing for a possible pandemic, and securing funding from Congress to improve our health care system, prepare antivirals, masks, etc. Besides the fact of the instability of the DT administration that has led to about two-thirds of those officials no longer being in their position, there is little evidence that DT took any of the briefing to heart. Susan Rice, who was at the meeting said: “Rather than heed the warnings, embrace the planning and preserve the structures and budgets that had been bequeathed to him, the president ignored the risk of a pandemic.”

 

He further set up this crisis with his tax cuts to the rich passed in 2017. This reduced government income and increased the national debt, thus making the nation more vulnerable and  less able to respond to a crisis such as the one we are in now. He proposed to help pay for these huge handouts to the rich by cutting programs that serve and protect the majority of us, including Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

 

DT and the GOP in general have made us all more vulnerable to a pandemic by wasting government time and resources with their attacks on the Affordable Care Act (Obama-Care) and proposing legislation that helps insurance companies more than the insured. If people cannot afford health care, they might not go for treatment when they feel ill, and thus spread the illness to others.

 

DT’s attitude toward public health could at best be called short-sighted and at worst idiotic and cruel. He proposed cuts to the 2020 and 2021 budgets for the CDC. Cuts to the CDC began in 2018 or earlier, when Obama-era health security funding was cut and the agency ran out of money. According to Fortune Magazine, “Overall in 2018, Trump called for $15 billion in reduced health spending that had previously been approved, …cutting the global disease-fighting budgets of the CDC, National Security Council (NSC), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and Health and Human Services (HHS) in the process.” He dismantled the entire White House team in charge of global health security that was also created by Obama. Later, he denied knowing about this cut, but video of his talking about the cut shows that is clearly untrue. He proposed Medicaid cuts to nursing facilities for the elderly.

 

In fact, The Atlantic ran an article about how DT’s response to the Coronavirus insured the worst possible outcome. As the New York Times reports, DT has continuously minimized the scale of the coronavirus crisis, treating it as a foreign threat that could be eliminated by building a wall to keep it out. He has contradicted his own public health officials, by talking about going to work when sick, shaking hands with people on his travels (as if the warning by health officials to wash one’s hands was nonsense), and claiming a vaccine will be available soon when it will take a year or more to produce. He has politicized the crisis while blaming the Democrats for doing so, blaming Obama (again), making false statements about how our previous President handled the swine flu epidemic, implementing rules that made testing more difficult (but never happened).

 

DT claimed that the media coverage is part of a political conspiracy to destroy his presidency. He focused more on creating his wall against the “foreign virus” then getting out the test kits that are needed to actually stem this crisis and find out who and how many people actually have the disease.  In fact, the US is clearly far behind other nations in terms of the numbers of those tested.

 

It is good that DT relatively quickly stopped travel to and from China. It is good that this week he is trying to actually, finally, listen to scientists and speak more moderately in his briefings. But some of his proposals to reduce the crisis and help those of us who are sick or have lost jobs or businesses due to the illness, will make things worse. For example, his proposal to cut Medicare and suspend the payroll tax will further hurt those most vulnerable in this crisis. Suspending the payroll tax could undermine SSI while doing nothing to help people who have lost their jobs or businesses due to the virus. If you have no paycheck, a suspension of the tax does nothing for you. It predominantly helps the wealthy. Also, his cuts in the food stamp program and proposed cuts in sick leave will only worsen the situation.

 

And his constant lies, not only about the coronavirus but almost everything, the disinformation campaign propagated by his followers, and his attempts to gag health officials, scientists and others, makes the crisis worse because we can’t trust anything he says.

 

And remember: this crisis began just after DT interfered in the Roger Stone sentencing, fired the former acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire (after he had his aides brief Congress on Russia’s threat to our next election), and replaced him with a DT loyalist. He is clearly trying to turn the intelligence community into an agency to serve his personal political interest, not the nation’s, as he already did at the DOJ. We could go on and on describing his attempts to undermine the rule of law and what’s left of democracy in this nation.

 

We need, once again, to make calls to Congress. We can’t have big protests, due to the virus, only persistent little ones. But we can call and demand investment in health and other infrastructure⎼ we need health care for all, better and free testing, money targeted to assist those most in need, not further entitlements for the rich. A check for a thousand dollars might be nice, helpful for many of us, but will be a bitter pill to swallow by those who lose their food stamps, Medicare, Social Security, hospital bed, or life.

 

 

Here are a few phone numbers of Democratic Senators: NY Dems: Schumer: 202-224-6542 & 212-486-4430, Gillibrand: 202-224-4451. Others: Doug Jones, Al. 202-224-4124; Joe Manchin, W. VA. 202-224-3954; Krysten Sinema, AR: 202-224-4521.

GOP: Lamar Alexander: 202-224-4944, Cory Gardner: 202-224-5941, Mitt Romney: 202-224-5251, Susan Collins: 202-224-2523, Lisa Murkowski: 202-224-6665, Portman: 202-224-3353, Ben Sasse: 202-224-4224, Mike Lee: 202-224-5444.

Dem House: Nancy Pelosi: 202-225-4965

Steny Hoyer: 202-225-4131