Just living

The Thinker by Rodin

The covid-19 crisis has certainly upended things. Our old world went away around the time we got back from a March cruise, one of the last to go out and come back infection free. Since then, pandemic avoidance went from being weird to rote. I don’t know how to leave the house anymore without putting on a mask. It seems unnatural not to.

Of course, a lot of people are still getting covid-19 with 200,000 of us dead from it and rising steadily. This is mostly due to the fact that they can’t avoid exposure easily, but also because a lot of people are morons, refuse to wear masks and attend events like a massive South Dakota bikers rally which is estimated to cause 250,000 new covid-19 cases. With a 3% fatality rate, that’s 7500 people right there, mostly people who didn’t go to the rally but caught it from someone who attended the rally. Our idiot president of course continues to cheer on these morons.

I thought my 55+ community would be especially vulnerable to getting the disease, but I was wrong. First, we’re almost all white. Second, we are probably disproportionately rich-ish. Some of us have second homes and RVs. In any event, our kids are gone and social isolation is not that big a deal. Community parties are out but we can chat in the street or at the mail kiosk from a safe social distance. The older the resident is though, the less I see them outside, and their masks look especially high quality and taut. So, no fatalities here, thank goodness.

In general, we’ve been lucky. Massachusetts was one of the worst hit states when the pandemic began. Now we are one of the best states to avoid getting covid-19. It hit hard but our governor and mayors quickly did sensible stuff. Our county still gets dozens of new covid-19 infections every week, but fatalities are now rare. Some of the college students have returned to Smith, U Mass Amherst and the rest, but most are tele-educating from afar.

I still see a lot of unmasked people on my daily walks, despite the prominent signs even on the trails saying masks are required. About a third aren’t wearing masks but no one seems to be getting cited by the police. The rest of us either keep them on, or like me (I sheepily confess) don them when I’m in fifty feet or so of someone walking toward me. Being retired, to the extent I work, I work from home. I can understand why people working in the public would not want to wear one. I am glad for any opportunity to doff my mask.

So, I see the likelihood of me getting covid-19 to be miniscule. We’re used to not doing anything in public. If it is, it’s outdoors. There’s a grill run from a trailer along the side of the road a few miles from here. You can eat outdoors on their metal tables, properly socially distanced, and we have twice so far. It’s hardly fine dining, but it’s going to a restaurant, sort of, and beggars can’t be choosing.

At home, no one gets in or out of our house without masks on, except us. This has one downside though: no one comes to visit us. And really there’s nowhere for us to go either. Life is safe but more than a little bit boring.

And while millions are struggling to get by, or simply aren’t getting by, we are swimming in money. This is in part because we have fewer places to spend it. Also, my work from home business is going very well. I’ve had a couple of long term, commercial rate paying contracts. The work is generally engaging and really unnecessary, as we don’t need the money. It does however stave off boredom. It’s nice to be paid well to move bits around the Internet. Meanwhile the pension keeps getting deposited monthly. With no mortgage or debt of any kind, we could live much more expansively if we had some place to spend the money.

And that’s a problem. I actually want to spend money but can’t find anything to spend it on. This has resulted in us donating more to charity, but it’s monetary donations. Volunteering has stopped, although it may restart soon. Our house is just five years old so it doesn’t need much. I did find one thing to spend money on: having someone come in and put in a duct to the outside for our stove. We might put a bathroom in upstairs, but as that would be a project spanning weeks, it’s too dangerous right now with contractors.

Vacations are theoretically possible but virtually impossible. Our daughter hopes to drive up and visit us in November, but it may not be legal for her to do so. She’d have to quarantine before or after coming, and since she works as a 911 operator, she can’t do that from home. The alternative is to get a negative covid-19 test shortly before coming up. Legally she would need to report her arrival to the State of Massachusetts. Violations cost up to $500/day. She’s a hermit by nature but even so we’d be a little leery to have her simply because if she did pass covid-19 onto us, we would be particularly at risk.

So, there’s a lot of killing time around here. Innumerable days seems to pass by. We can’t tell weekdays from weekends except by looking at the date on the newspaper. We’re both introverted, but we also know we need more social interaction than we are getting. Maybe that’s why I’m walking in the afternoon. It’s sort of social to say hello passing strangers on a trail or sidewalk.

Of course, we all want what we can’t have. For many Republicans who swallowed the Trump Kool-Aid, they don’t seem to care enough to remain socially isolated and wear masks when not. Maybe for an extreme extrovert, the risks of infection are worth it.

I want what I can’t have: another cruise, or a fancy trip to Europe and normally we would just go ahead and do it, particularly with all this money we have amassed from cooling our heels for six months. It’s gotten such that with rising markets I’m thinking when we do travel again, maybe we’ll just fly business class. But right now, international travel is almost impossible, and visiting most states requires a host of protocols and conditions that make it more hassle than it is worth. So, you take comfort where you can.

Like going to the Best Buy. I went to the one in Holyoke a few weeks ago. The salesmen wore masks and kept a physical distance. In the past they would have been all over me, but the Best Buy looked sad and they happily let me fend for myself. Their shelves were half empty. I found what I was looking for, but the activity still cheered me up. It was a small, diminished example of something I used to take for granted, but is now so rare it feels like a treat.

Meanwhile, time to keep hunkering down and pass another day.

Time to buy a pitchfork

The Thinker by Rodin

So my wife is in a funk. Her dying friend finally died yesterday. Otherwise she is obsessing over the possibility that somehow Donald Trump will win reelection. She doesn’t want to live in a world with another four years of Donald Trump in it. In the event he does win, I hope I can keep her from jumping off a cliff.

While anything is possible, I still believe that Trump is destined to lose, barring some sort of turnaround that is hard to imagine and would probably require Trump getting a brain transplant. Ideally, Trump would lose gracefully but that definitely would require a brain transplant.

Much more likely is that Trump will claim he has won and will send out armies of lawyers to various swing states trying to invalidate mail in ballots and such. It’s also possible that Republicans will ratchet voter disenfranchisement up to 11, and somehow keep ten times as many people of color from voting as they have in the past. Maybe that would do it.

But Republicans don’t necessarily control all swing states, and not all Republican governors are as crazy as Georgia’s governor Brian Kemp. The Supreme Court unwisely inserted itself into the 2000 election, famously flipping Florida’s electoral votes. It’s possible they might do the same and meddle in lots of states. If they do that not only do we need to fear another four more years of Trump, but also we can effectively kiss our republic goodbye.

The party conventions have demonstrated the electorate has not moved. It’s as polarized as electorate as it’s been for many months. We can expect a so-called miracle vaccine in October that Trump will hope to ride to reelection. But voters already seem to expect this scam and at least the educated ones know a vaccine can’t be trusted until it undergoes a much larger clinical trial than can happen before the election. Also, a vaccine won’t be a cure. At best it might offer something like eighty percent immunity, and it’s likely that the coronavirus will keep mutating, requiring new vaccines and boosters over time. Things won’t go back to the way they were before but we will get better at dealing with it and its impact will lessen over time.

So other dirty tricks will likely be tried: doctored photos of Biden and some call girl, perhaps. Basically, Trump has to persuade voters that he can do a better job in the next four years than Biden. Given his track record, it’s no wonder opinions about Trump are largely set in stone by the electorate now.

Moreover, things will just get worse. They already are getting worse. Our president believes the 17-year-old gunman that killed two people in Kenosha, Wisconsin was defending himself somehow, although there is plenty of video evidence that is laughable. It’s a new level of crazy, even for Donald Trump and you know he’s only going to get crazier. Soon he will be openly supporting white vigilante groups. This does nothing to broaden his coalition and might even help fracture it. His supporters have an unusually high tolerance for disbelief, but some small minority of them must retain enough sanity to say “Enough!”

covid-19 deaths will continue to worsen as a second wave begins, with the first wave never really ending. The flu season will add to the mounting casualties and of course there won’t be anything resembling a plan to fix it. He won’t suggest that parents do something pragmatic, like keep their kids from going to school. He’s all for the Silence of the Lambs. Most parents though will keep them home, at least if their school system is stupid enough to demand they keep coming to school anyhow.

So realistically, the best and most likely case for Trump is that he will say the election was rigged and he tried all he could do to unrig it, but the Deep State had it all fixed. So he will, with much bellicose and bluster, eventually accept his defeat. He likes an audience though so most likely he will keep us guessing until the end, while groups of vigilantes supporting him raise occasional violent ruckuses and his Justice Department turns a blind eye to it all. The true impact of his defeat though will be measured in how many Republican casualties go down with Trump’s ship. The size of an expanded House Democratic majority, and a new Senate majority will indicate the real size of the Republican disaster.

So I understand where my wife is coming from. We are mostly fear-based creatures and Trump will pull all the strings, even when it gets comical. I get similar nightmares, but then when I awake I realize the fundamentals of the election haven’t changed and almost certainly won’t change. It will be hard to call the election on Election Night because of all the absentee and vote-by-mail ballots. Since Democrats will disproportionately cast them, it may appear briefly that Trump is ahead somehow. Florida will be the key. It has mail in ballots down to a science. They’ll all be counted by Election night, except perhaps for some overseas military ballots. If he loses Florida, he’s toast. If he somehow keeps Florida, he is most likely toast unless a whole lot of states suddenly flip in unexpected ways contrary to late polls.

As I’ve noted, it’s the time between Election Day and the inauguration that really has me worried. It remains to be seen if the white power structure can peacefully cede power, and Trump will find it his interest to fan the flames. A run to the local hardware store may be in order: I may need a pitchfork.

The coming Democratic blowout

The Thinker by Rodin

How much does Donald Trump want to win reelection? So much that there is literally nothing he won’t try to win it. The only weird part is that the harder he tries, the more he screws himself.

He’s going for broke, which is sort of the way he’s run the Trump Organization, given its many bankruptcies over the years. He’s only increasing the odds that he will have to deal with many criminal charges and civil lawsuits after leaving office. In addition to his actions being counterproductive to him, they are going to devastate Republican candidates across the board, including in state legislature races.

Literally no other president would even consider doing something so patently illegal as maiming the Post Office. The Post Office has the overwhelming approval of people in all parties. It’s one of the few functions of government specifically written into the U.S. Constitution. Our founders saw a mail service as so essential that it is explicitly chartered as an allowed government service. Since its first postmaster Benjamin Franklin set it up, it’s been largely untouchable.

But to Donald Trump, it’s just something to manipulate to help ensure his reelection. His toady of a new postmaster general has prohibited overtime and removed mail sorting machines from hundreds of mail processing facilities, as well as removed dozens of people from his senior staff with deep institutional knowledge. It’s true that mail volume has decreased and some of this is necessary, but not when Americans are filling the mail system with ballots. Mail is backlogging in postal facilities nationwide and in many cases it now must be sorted tediously by hand by postal clerks who are prohibited from accruing overtime. People, particularly rural people who vote disproportionately Republican, depend on it for critical things like getting prescription drugs and social security checks. How do you think this way play politically for Trump?

But that’s all appears to be expendable to Donald Trump because he’s convinced if ballots can’t be counted because they don’t arrive, he’ll win. It will throw a huge amount of chaos into the election, but it’s unlikely to change any results in his favor. People concerned about their vote counting will probably drive by city hall instead and insert their ballots into the ballot box instead. That’s likely what we are going to do.

Similarly, there are his executive orders. Four were recently issued, but actually only one (the other three were memorandum with little teeth) qualifies. All this is because he and Democrats in Congress can’t agree on a pandemic funding bill. Democrats offered $3 trillion; he offered $1 trillion. Democrats suggested meeting in the middle at $2 trillion and he said $1 trillion and we’re not going any higher. When Democrats wouldn’t take the bait, he issued these “orders” instead, cutting the previous benefits from $600 to $400, of which states had to chip in $100 for unemployed to get any of this money. These states are already running in the red because the economy is down so virtually no states can afford this “system”. Oh, and the money would come from disaster relief funds … no chance of needing some of that money considering we’re having a very active hurricane season, right?

Then there’s his unilateral payroll tax “cut”, but it’s really a tax deferral. The taxes are still owed; it’s just that some employers may stop collecting them. This is very dubious legally, but of course it expands the budget deficit and worse, strikes at the heart of the solvency of the Social Security system. This is something else Trump doesn’t like and this looks like an end around to wound it, but his most staunch voters depend on its solvency.

Most likely Trump will eventually realize he has to strike a deal more to Democrats’ liking. He can hope of course that some of voters’ ire will also be directed at Democrats that can’t come to a deal, but the Democrat’s position looks much more politically tenable than Trump’s. In addition, it’s not like Democrats have been sitting on the sidelines. The Democratic House passed a generous bill back in May, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to take it up. McConnell couldn’t even create a consensus bill among his own party and effectively washed his hands of the issue.

About half of his conference is opposed to all the deficit spending although not one of them will call for the repeal of their tax cuts for the rich to address the issue. That’s why Trump is left to negotiate with Democrats who are at least reasonably reunited. Naturally he can’t negotiate with Nancy Pelosi or Chuck Schumer directly. He’s got a tiff with Pelosi going, so it will have to be through his chief of staff and Treasury secretary. In the meantime, the unemployed don’t have much if anything in the way of income and most can’t pay their rent and many are likely to be evicted.

Then there is his continued bungling on the pandemic, which is now hitting mostly red states the most severely. He keeps pushing for deeply stupid things that make the crisis worse, which will get much worse when schools start to seriously reopen. Students will transmit the virus home to parents, and pass it on to their teachers and school staff. This will push infection rates even higher into the fall.

It’s a strategy not just for losing, but also for a Democratic blowout. And it’s not hard to figure out why. It’s because neither Trump nor the Republican Party have a clue on how to govern.

No shortcuts to controlling covid-19

The Thinker by Rodin

Early in the Trump Administration, presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway coined the term “alternative facts”. The term that could have come out of George Orwell’s book 1984. By definition a fact is not disputable, but Ms. Conway made them so. Apparently, if actual facts won’t provide the answer you need, you invent another fact instead.

Since then the Trump Administration has been inventing all sorts of alternative facts, otherwise known as lies. And with the exception of a small group of die-hard Never Trumpers, Republicans have embraced Trump’s truthiness. It does solve a lot of messy problems, like having to admit reality is, well, real. Decide on your new reality and move forward. Problem solved!

But their world of alternative facts is crumbling. You can deny reality if you want, but at some point it cannot be denied. In canceling the Republican convention, Trump was acknowledging reality that getting covid-19 is in fact a lot worse than getting the sniffles; in fact it can kill you. Rather than tell Trump he was full of crap, Republicans simply decided they weren’t going to his convention. So to avoid humiliation not to mention all the covid-19 cases that would invariably result, Trump had to cave.

Obviously, most Republicans are perfectly fine with those other people getting covid-19, but not them in particular. After all they can stay in their gated communities and buy their kids private tutoring if needed. That’s true of most Republicans who control the party, but obviously not all of them. Many of them aren’t quite so moneyed.

Here’s a prediction that’s pretty easy to make: virtually no school district in the country will open for in-person classes this fall. All it takes is one kid in a school district to test positive to close the schools. In the unlikely event a school superintendent won’t; parents will make the choice for them. They won’t put their children in jeopardy and will keep them home.

So far, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is continuing to buck the trend, insisting that all Florida schools will reopen on time in a few weeks. But he will buckle like Trump did because actual facts will force him to do so. He looked so popular when the state’s infection rate was relatively low but obviously that has changed. He’s already more unpopular than Trump is in the state. Assuming he wants to win reelection in a couple of years, he’s got to pivot. He will, but it’s unclear whether voters will forgive his insistence that their kids were fair game in Trump’s world of alternative facts.

Like the Wicked Witch of the West, the Republican Party is melting. Reality is catching up with the party. Donald Trump is melting too, and bringing down much of the party with him. In many ways, this is a perfect political storm. As much as Republicans hoped to escape reality by inventing their own facts, reality won’t bend. The coronavirus will keep doing what it is doing and will kill people regardless.

False hopes like herd immunity and throwing caution to the wind won’t do much beside leaving many more of us dead or victims of the disease. Restarting the economy hasn’t saved us. In fact, it’s made things much worse, prolonging the disease, greatly enlarging its impact and slowing our recovery, putting us at a competitive disadvantage to other more enlightened countries.

It’s actually a lot worse than that. Effectively, no Americans can travel internationally until we contain the virus. Even traveling state-to-state is chancy. If you wanted to visit me in Massachusetts, after August 1 in most cases you would have to self quarantine for up to two weeks before or after coming or get a covid-19 test showing no exposure within 72 hours of arrival. If you don’t quarantine before coming, you must also produce a negative exposure test to get out of quarantine. There’s even a form you have to fill out. Violations can cost up to $500 a day.

It appears that the coronavirus won’t listen to all the truthiness out there. Let’s hope one result of all this mess is the end of truthiness and alternative facts, along with the Republican Party.

Trumping Trump

The Thinker by Rodin

It should be obvious that Donald Trump is pulling out all stops to ensure his reelection. We can’t expect him to leave office quietly, regardless of how much he is trounced in the election. He’s been laying a lot of the groundwork already, claiming with of course no evidence that millions of mailed in ballots will somehow be rigged. He claimed that millions of “illegals” voted in the 2016 election with of course no evidence too. In his post-truth world where any evidence that doesn’t agree with his point of view is “fake news”, he can’t be expected to see things objectively. As with his malignant narcissism, we can’t expect him too. He’s no more capable of discerning truth than his false claim that his inauguration had the largest crowds ever on the national mall.

He’s also a president that has no respect for norms and is busy pushing the envelope to the maximum extent. A wannabee dictator, he is running on “law and order” and if that means sending unmarked federal agents to Portland, Oregon to throw protestors into the back of unmarked vans, well, where’s the problem? His buddy Philippine president/dictator Rodrigo Duterte had no problems telling his forces to shoot suspected criminals, screw the legal process. Trump seems compelled to see what he can get away with, and many people are taking notes. We must not allow it.

Portland is just the first city to experience this unwanted policing. It appears these are agents from Custom and Border Protection. They don’t appear to be trying to round up “illegals” but to prohibit citizens from exercising their constitutional rights to protest. It is likely that these agents are not legally allowed to do what they are doing, but like Duterte it doesn’t bother Trump. He is haphazard about obeying courts that strike down his many actions. In short, Trump plays a game of dare me and sees if he will suffer any consequences. For the most part, he won’t. By not removing him in January, Republicans in the Senate effectively put him above the law, at least until he is out office.

We are clearly in uncharted constitutional waters and it’s likely to get worse before and after the election. Trump expects that he won’t be held accountable, so why not push all envelopes? While he’s president anyhow he’s immune from most criminal charges and lawsuits, so he has plenty of incentive to remain. And if you don’t have any scruples, all’s game.

How do we deal with all of this? The answers are largely unknown. It will probably require a lot of intelligent tactics by his opponents. One thing that may help is not to inflame things, which is what Trump wants. Putting unmarked “police” in Portland has already had the obvious consequence of enlarging protests. This gives Trump an excuse to add more police and to keep upping the ante. There is some logical limit as the number of these police is limited. Too much civil unrest though could give Trump the excuse to deploy active duty troops to “keep the peace”, which is not legal but again that’s wouldn’t stop him.

So protesters can help by reducing tensions. This is not forever. We are closing in on three months until the election. Some of their tactics so far are at least innovative: a “wall of moms” and a Naked Athena confronting police. The optics of his forces tear-gassing moms is very bad. Trump feeds on conflict, so the less of it that presents itself; the likelier he is to find other things to distract him. Trump needs plenty of distractions because without them it’s easier for us to focus on the 140,000 or so who have died due to his bungling of the coronavirus outbreak, or the double-digit unemployment.

Trump is destined to lose massively in November, and bring down much of the Republican Party with him. So the real question is whether he can still retain power somehow. Legally, it’s moot. At noon on January 20 unless he wins reelection he is no longer president. Whether President Biden is sworn in our not, Biden would be president. If Biden died unexpectedly, his chosen VP would be president. It would then fall to Nancy Pelosi, assuming she retains her title of Speaker of the House. So the only issue is whether Trump could pull off some sort of coup.

Thankfully, the answer is likely no. Anyone who acted for him will be in violation of the law, as their terms expires when his does. It is true that our military in general leans more to the right than the left, but a true occupation of government would require the military’s active consent. Given how huge the country is, it’s hard to see how it could be carried out. Occupy all fifty state capitals too? There is no reason to think the military would do anything other than what they’ve always done: follow the orders of the Commander in Chief.

But as I have noted before, we can assume it will get very ugly and Trump will pull out all stops. It’s possible a massive vote against him will force him to accept reality, but given his condition it’s unlikely. So it will amount to his followers abandoning him. His cabinet won’t want to serve an illegal administration and risk criminal charges. Republicans in Congress are likely to abandon him too. No one really likes Trump, so he will be abandoned.

That won’t mean he won’t press his hardcore supporters. White guys with guns are likely to make shows of force here and there and they likely can’t be brought down until Trump is out of office. It might take the armed forces to find and kill these insurrectionists, leaving Biden with the worst possible mess to try to clean up. The period between Election and Inauguration Days are likely to be the most politically fraught and dangerous in anyone’s living memory.

The country should survive it somehow, with lots of trauma. Hopefully enough of the rule of law will remain to hold accountable all those who encouraged and ordered these events. Unlike President Ford, President Biden should not use his pardon powers to clean things up. Instead, the fundamental weaknesses in our constitutional system need to be addressed through appropriate legislation that hopefully a Democratic congress will provide.

November is likely to fatally maim the Republican Party

The Thinker by Rodin

In January 2019 I wrote this post about how Trump was likely to kill the Republican Party. At the time, a Marist poll noted that 57% of voters surveyed said they would never vote for Trump, which if true pretty much doomed his reelection prospects. I said then it was likely to kill the party. Since then of course Donald Trump has been busy making sure to do his best to definitely kill the party.

Of course, it’s not entirely Trump. It’s also circumstances, specifically the covid-19. My hairdresser, who lost sixty percent of her customers due to covid-19, asked me if I thought I’d ever see a pandemic. And the truth was yes. We were overdue for one, and we’ve had a number of mini-pandemics recently to use as an example. There was the SARS outbreak (severe acute respiratory syndrome) of 2002-2004 that caused 8000 cases and 774 deaths, including four deaths in the United States. The last big pandemic was about a hundred years ago, the so-called Spanish Flu. It was badly named, as its origin was likely at an army base in Kansas. Fortunately, covid-19 is unlikely to be quite as lethal as that disease, which took an estimated seventeen to 50 millions lives worldwide. But its impact is going to be far more than the lives lost and the millions affected by it.

What would it take to destroy the Republican Party? The party is actually a loose conglomeration of capitalists, libertarians, racists and evangelicals, with skin tone being the main thing they have in common. Take away too many of these groups, and the party as a whole is unlikely to endure. The party’s symbol, the elephant, might offer a clue. Elephants are deeply familial creatures, deeply protective of their children and their tribes. Break those bonds and the party may crumble.

That of course is exactly what Republicans are doing to themselves and the rest of us. While a conglomeration of interests, the party is actually controlled by the capitalists. And its capitalists have no problem inflicting pain on those in the party that emphasize family and stability.

This is best evidenced by Trump and the party’s obsession to open schools, damn the costs and objections. Trump wants schools to open next month, five days a week, in person in the classroom, damn the torpedoes. He is threatening to cut federal funding to states that don’t comply, which he can’t do. In any event, federal funding accounts for less than ten percent of local school funding. So it’s a pretty empty threat. For it to be effective, he needs to convince governors to open the schools. In states like Florida, he is finding receptive governors.

If this prevails, the outcome is already obvious based on how the disease has progressed. Children will carry the disease home and spread it among the community. Most children will be passive carriers and probably won’t know they are carriers, but some will get it and die too. Much more likely to die are their teachers and others at the school and the children’s parents. Why is this being done? Because Donald Trump wants to get the economy roaring again because he believes that’s how he will win a daunting reelection. As a consequence, teachers feel stuck between a rock and a hard place. Some are writing their wills.

Parents will soon have to decide where their priorities lie. Do they send their kids to school where they might contract the disease, or pass it on to others, like them? Or do they keep them home and maybe try remote learning instead? Remote learning is at best a poor teaching experience, but given the unpleasant choice between risking their or their children’s lives to making Donald Trump happy, most are probably going to keep the kids home. They have to keep their family safe. Mass disobedience on this sort of scale cannot be enforced by truant officers.

It also breaks the compact between Republicans. If Republicans are going to put the family unit in such direct jeopardy, Republican with kids in the public schools finally have a deeply emotional rationale for bailing on the Republican Party. Their own party will have betrayed them. Come November, it will be in their own interest to vote out Republicans who can’t be bothered to protect their children. This may explain the 15-point lead that Joe Biden has amassed in the latest Quinnipiac Poll.

What would the Republican Party look like without most of its so-called value voters? Most likely it would look like a party on its last legs.

The November election is going to blow a devastating hole in the Republican Party. Democrats will retake the White House, Congress and probably a majority of governorships and possibly many state houses. Democrats need only two pickups to control the governorships. We’re going to see states we never thought would vote for Biden vote for him, like possibly Texas, but most likely Arizona, North Carolina and Georgia.

It all amounts to citizens needing a government that governs. Republicans only know how to drown government in a bathtub. It is likely that not just Trumpism that will die in this election, but Reaganism too. When we hear “I’m from the federal government, and I’m here to help” we’ll likely say, “Please”. Republicanism will prove a textbook case for why we need government.

If the party survives, let’s hope it looks a lot more like the party of Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt. If it doesn’t, it probably won’t survive.

Disney is going to screw the pooch

The Thinker by Rodin

Donald Trump deciding to hold an indoor rally in Tulsa was a bad idea. As I noted in my last post, Herman Cain likely contracted COVID-19 at the event, along with probably many others, which is likely singularly responsible for most of the recent rise in COVID-19 cases in Oklahoma.

After Trump’s recent event at Mount Rushmore, the girlfriend of his son Donald Trump Jr. reported testing positive for COVID-19, prompting the couple to drive back to New York.

After six months even Donald Trump is starting to realize the optics look bad. Yesterday, he was seen wearing a mask in his visit to Walter Reed Hospital. The Republican Party is considering moving their convention to an outdoor venue. They would be much wiser to act like the Democratic Party and hold it virtually. If they hold a convention, I bet half the invitees won’t attend.

So why the hell is Disney opening up Disney World on July 11? In the history of bad corporate decisions, if they follow through, this is likely to be seen in retrospect as one of the stupidest corporate decisions of all times. If Trump’s optics look bad, consider what Disney’s short term pursuit of profits is likely to do with their family-friendly, squeaking-wholesome brand. If I had any Disney stock, I’d be putting in a frantic sell order.

Yes, of course Disney is claiming that it’s all quite safe. Attendance will be limited. Everyone will be required to wear masks. There will be social distancing. Doubtless they will be sanitizing surfaces regularly. But this is not just any theme park. This is the biggest theme park in the world. It brings in people from around the world. There are too many people in too confined a space coming from and going to too many places for this not to become a new super spreader event. Unlike a one-time Trump rally in Tulsa this is a super spreader that is likely to keep on spreading, making moot a lot of the efforts elsewhere to control the disease. It is likely to ensure a continuing set of COVID-19 casualties in the months ahead.

Consider what happened in and around New Orleans during Mardi Gras this year. It resulted in a spike of cases in the city and the state, but because people came from all over the world for the event, attendees carried the virus back home. It likely did a lot to spread the disease and likely killed thousands. It’s hard to say for sure.

Who knows what the effect of reopening Disney World will be? Umm, anyone with a brain. This is a state that had over 15,300 new cases of COVID-19 yesterday. In any rational state, the Department of Public Health would lock the gates. It would be a no-brainer.

But Trump apologist “Governor” Ron Desantis, who is having a hard time even shutting the bars down, is running Florida. He wants to open the schools next month too, five days a week, damn the torpedoes, not to mention the students and teachers. St. Donald tells him it will all be fine.

Trump sent in the troops to quell protests in Washington D.C. If he wants to do some good, why not send in the troops to shut down Disney World or any other theme park that thinks it is safe to open up? This is a public health emergency. What Disney is going to do will be Mardi Gras on steroids. It’s going to spread the virus across the country and, if other countries lift their airline restrictions on our country, the rest of the world too.

This is just an appalling lapse of judgment on Disney’s part. Walt would be appalled, but more importantly perhaps its shareholders will be appalled when they discover the value of their brand is going to sink along with its share prices when this thing takes hold and the finger pointing starts.

This should go without saying, but don’t go to Disney World. If you have reservations, cancel them. If you have friends who have been there recently, shun them. Petition your governor to require Disney World attendees to go into a two-week quarantine if they are foolish enough to go there, or really any place in Florida.

This one company is likely to infect millions of us and kill tens of thousands more of us. Shut it down now, Disney, to protect your brand and what’s left of your good name.

Trump is doing everything wrong

The Thinker by Rodin

Our national horror show continues with no relief in sight before November 3rd, now thankfully less than four months away. That’s when I am certain Trump will lose reelection spectacularly. This is simply because he is doing absolutely everything to lose it, and to take as many Republicans down with him as possible too.

It’s hard to believe that any politician can be as inept and stupid as Donald Trump. But then he ran as an anti-politician. In that sense alone he has vastly exceeded expectations. He’s turning off almost all possible voter groups and will be left with only the hardest of his core group, a group that is fully vested in his nihilism and anarchy. You know, those few uninfected Boogaloo Bois.

It’s like he is taking secret orders from Vladimir Putin. It’s like he has a secure line to Vlad who tells him exactly what and how to mess things up next, which he quickly executes. I’ve never been big on conspiracy theories, but at this point Occam’s Razor definitely suggests he is compromised by Russian interests.

Recently he had his toady of an attorney general, Bill Barr, fire the head of the Southern District of New York office of the Department of Justice, the very man charged to oversee a variety of sensitive investigations into Trump and his businesses. I sometimes wonder what he’s got on one of our local representatives, Richard Neal. Neal is in charge of the House Ways and Means Committee, the most powerful committee in the House. Neal could examine and hold hearings on Trump’s tax returns, but Neal won’t take it up. It must be some great dirt on Neal, who has a viable challenger this year in local Holyoke mayor Alex B. Morse.

So while Trump is terrible at governing, he’s proven unusually adept at protecting his own interests. He’s created a government of toadies and sycophants that exist to further enrich him and help his interests. He’s managed to shutdown almost all investigations that could damage him, or at least postpone them until he is out of office.

It would not surprise me in the least to find out that after Biden’s inauguration he discreetly flees the country and we find our “president” exiled in Russia. The arm of the law will eventually catch up with him otherwise, and we all know that Trump won’t allow himself to be held accountable for anything if he can avoid it.

Meanwhile, The Donald is busy doing everything he can to destroy our country and lose the election, leaving no stone unturned. He’s either planning to lose or (because he is so tone deaf) he can’t figure out that he can’t win reelection by only doubling down for the craziest of his supporters. If the election were held today he’d lose the popular vote by ten percent at least. To the extent he has a strategy, it’s to try to deny people likely to vote against him the opportunity to do so, by trying to disallow mail in voting.

The most likely result of the election will be a huge electoral rout of Trump and Republicans in Congress, which will likely cascade down to the statehouses too. If any president can manage to bring back the overwhelmingly Democratic Congresses of the 1970s and 1980s, it will be Donald Trump.

He actively promotes death every day. He went to Tulsa, held a rally and people are getting sick in Oklahoma as a result. One of them includes former presidential candidate and pizza chain magnate Herman Cain, cheering without mask at his rally. His most recent rally at Mount Rushmore will doubtless claim more too. One is apparently the girlfriend of Donald Trump Jr. who recently tested positive for covid-19.

If Republicans are stupid enough to hold their convention in Jacksonville, that alone will wipe out a significant number of elite Republicans. Most likely though even Trump won’t be able to command his minions to attend. It looks like they are finding reasons not to go. Survival is a pretty powerful instinct. Even Florida, or at least the host city of Jacksonville, doesn’t want them anymore. Meanwhile, Florida’s hospitals are nearly overwhelmed with covid-19 cases. The situation in predominantly red states like Florida is only going to continue to get worse.

And now his most recent insane suggestion: send the kids back to school five days a week. He’s says he will to cut federal funding to school districts that don’t comply, although he doesn’t have the authority. He wants to turn our schools into super spreaders. Nothing like having our children infect their families, teachers and communities, making our already record-breaking covid-19 infections exponentially worse. Think of all the orphans in the making! That’s progress!

It’s all leading up to a great crescendo of awfulness timed to arrive around Election Day. We’re still in the first wave of this thing. We may never get to a second wave, but if we do it’s likely to arrive in the autumn on top of the seasonal flu. There’s plenty of room to make things worse. We have about three million confirmed cases, but that’s only one in 100 of us so far. But there will be many more awful things to hit: record rates of evictions, high unemployment, likely little more in the way of relief checks and when Wall Street realizes the underlying fundamentals, a second collapse of stock markets.

It’s just insane, which arguably makes Donald Trump insane. He may not be clinically insane, but his narcissistic personality disorder though effectively makes him insane. He will continue to act in what he thinks is his own interest no matter how many of us it kills. He has empathy only for himself. And he will relentlessly fight any actions to improve the situation.

Stay safe. Stay home. Use masks. Wash hands frequently. Pay attention to your local health officials. But plan to risk life and limb to vote on November 3rd, because this may be the only way to keep those of us who are still sane alive.

A time for courage and for antacids

The Thinker by Rodin

Five months from today we are likely to wake up and find that Joe Biden is our president elect. Donald Trump’s reelection seems increasingly unlikely, given that many polls now show Biden has a ten-point lead over Trump. Or maybe we won’t know. One factor in this election is that there may be a crush of absentee ballots that will take days to tabulate. But hopefully we are less than five months away before we can begin to return to some semblance of normalcy.

But can anything go back to normal after such a disruptive president as Donald Trump? Trump has been our gorilla in the china shop president, gleeful in breaking norms and rules. Given his advanced case of narcissism, as I speculated in an earlier post, he is unlikely to go quietly. In fact, he will go kicking and screaming, and will do his best to initiate a fascist state before then.

This week’s events alarmed most of us, which were preceded by last week’s alarming events with the death of George Floyd, unquestionably murdered by three officers of the Minneapolis police. You can watch all 8:46 seconds of it online, if you have the stomach for it. The murder caused predictable demonstrations followed by some looting and violence. Never one to miss an opportunity, Trump used the event to move us more dangerously close to fascism. He threatened to deploy active duty troops wherever needed, supposedly to restore order. There is a law called Posse Comitatus that prohibits just this, but of course Trump never seems to be concerned about his law breaking. He may use the Insurrection Act instead which other presidents have used, for example, to force integration in Alabama public schools but which most scholars agree is out of line for these events.

Chances are if it is even a fig leaf excuse, he will use it, which suggests dark days ahead. It was brought out on Monday when he ordered the Secret Service and Park Police to clear Lafayette Square of protestors who were peacefully demonstrating, all in order to stage a photo op in front of nearby St. John’s Church holding a Bible held upside down. To show what a man he was, the forces used tear gas, rubber bullets and a dangerously low helicopter hovering over protestors.

Clearly Trump hasn’t read the Bible, but even if he were a Christian he wouldn’t be the first Christian to ignore Jesus’s advice to turn the other cheek. In pursuit of the Christian evangelical voters, his forces also pushed out a pastor of the church. All this was made much worse because the order apparently given by our Attorney General supplicant Bill Barr and endorsed by our Secretary of Defense Mark Esper. Esper later seemed to walk remarks that active duty troops should be used to quell unrest.

The next day Trump engaged in another obscenity by staging himself next to a statue of Pope John Paul II, who must be turning in his grave in the Vatican. Meanwhile, protests continue. Even our little city of Northampton, Massachusetts had more than a thousand people protested in front of the police department. Our chief of police took a knee with protestors. A huge dance is underway nationally and there’s really no way to know how this will all turn out. For most of us with a lick of common sense, we know it’s likely to get much worse, not better.

Trump is feeling the heat, of course, but all he knows how to do is double down. None of this actually helps him get reelected, so it’s counterproductive. He and the Republican Party are hoping with enough voter suppression they will eke out a win somehow. Trump didn’t win in 2016 with his base; he just managed to convince enough other voters in a few swing states (just 80,000) to pull off his unlikely victory. To win he will have to persuade more than his base, but it’s clear he won’t bother. From the day of his election he’s believed that he can win reelection with just his base, which is slowly diminishing.

All this plus a COVID-19 pandemic. It has officially caused more than 100,000 deaths in the United States. Just his handling (or rather lack of handling) of that is enough to doom his reelection, but it only gets worse from here on. A country that has five percent of the population and 30% of its deaths is obviously doing things catastrophically wrong. A twenty percent unemployment rate won’t help either. As the deaths mount up, it will just shrink his base, which are disproportionately old and white. Many seniors seem to have woken up and Biden now leads among them, perhaps because the sense Trump would go after Social Security and Medicare if reelected.

But of course the election won’t matter if you can neatly create a dictatorship before then. Trump realizes he can’t stop the election and he is likely to lose it, but that doesn’t mean he can’t claim it was rigged and see if he can use the armed forces to ensure that he retains power. He seems to be doing all the things that wannabee dictators are doing, just ineptly. It remains to be seen whether the military would be true to the people or Trump. It sure looks like these demonstrations are being used by Trump to see what he can get away with.

In any event, if you’re not having trouble sleeping and you aren’t reaching for the antacids, you should be. There are some signs of hope, but it’s hard to know how much to read into them. George W. Bush, for example, spoke up for protestors without actually criticizing Donald Trump. Any Republicans left who are looking for cover for mildly rebuking Trump can site Bush. Barack Obama doesn’t seem to be staying on the sidelines either. We haven’t heard from our only other living ex-president, Bill Clinton, but hopefully he will pile on the criticism too.

None of this is likely to matter to Trump, but it is likely that whatever he attempts he may find himself hastily walking back. It may be that his ever-expanding line of privilege will finally make too many key Republicans turn against him. A bully’s power is actually very fragile. Republicans may be already sensing the electoral disaster likely to take many of them out now less than five months away. Some may be more scared of being voted out of office than hanging with a losing Trump.

As screwy as today’s events are, I know in my gut that the time between Trump’s defeat and the inauguration of his likely successor will be the most dangerous time for our country since the Civil War, or perhaps in our country’s entire history. It’s time to stock up on the antacids. It’s also time for many of us to show the backbone we haven’t, particularly many people of privilege, i.e. white and moneyed guys like me. This likely won’t be solved at the ballot box, or by liking someone’s tweets, but by uncomfortably personal, face-to-face, civic engagement likely happening tonight in a city near you.

Chaos causes more chaos

The Thinker by Rodin

For those of you pining for anarchy, look around. Happy yet?

You should be ecstatic. For the rest of us, it’s feeling a lot like hell. Yesterday’s job report showed a 14.5% unemployment rate and more than twenty million newly unemployed people. The real unemployment rate is likely above twenty percent. Meanwhile, civil society is getting increasingly uncivil. Although less than thirty percent of us want to stop social distancing, those thirty percent are making a huge ruckus. They want to go back to the way things were, as if that were suddenly possible. Who cares if it kills grandma? Real freedom means being able to eat a Big Mac at 2 AM.

A few dozen of these idiots were protesting locally in Northampton, Massachusetts on the Coolidge Bridge, which spans the Connecticut River. The good news is that Massachusetts’s idiots are not quite a stupid at Duval County Florida idiots; some of who are rubbing shoulders on Jacksonville area beaches. About half of our protesters were wearing masks and at least attempting to keep a social distance. I hope they got it out of their system and returned to staying at home. We’ve managed to plateau COVID-19 infections here locally. It wouldn’t take too many of these protests to push the rate up again. And these idiots would be some of the most likely to contract the disease, and show Darwinism in action.

We spend billions of dollars a year supposedly to mitigate the risks for pandemics like we are experiencing. This crisis has revealed how poorly these agencies are doing their jobs. The Centers for Disease Control apparently has a set of guidelines for more safely opening up local economies. But they won’t see the light of day because the Trump administration won’t let them publish them. The part of our government that is supposed to function, the Executive Branch, is being held hostage by a constantly vacillating “president”. Voters elected Donald Trump because he was going to bring change to Washington.

Well good news there! Trump has brought change to Washington. He’s changed our government from one that often worked in the interests of the people to one wholly captive to his constant changes of mind, mood swings, tweets and general obnoxiousness. He has no idea what he is doing because he has spent his career running things chaotically. And his narcissism makes him impervious to criticism.

He’s a seventy-something Calvin (from Calvin & Hobbes), still in his terrible twos. I was all for his White House COVID-19 task force shutting down. They weren’t doing anything useful anyhow, because doing something requires a plan. Trump is incapable of adhering to any plan and will change his mind on a dime if he thinks it will improve his reelection prospects. The result of course is chaos. A chaotic mind with power is bound to cause a lot of chaos.

So of course we’re not doing the sensible stuff other countries have done to get them out of their COVID-19 quagmires. The USA has 5% of the world’s population and as of today 32% of its reported cases, and the number of reported cases vastly undercounts the likely number of cases. We also have 28% of the deaths, also probably vastly understated.

The testing that we are actually doing is a tiny fraction of the testing needed to determine whether it is safe to reopen local economies. There is no coordination or marshaling of resources so the pandemic can be fought logically. Trump finds it convenient to push responsibility onto the governors. It’s easier to do this than think and plan, things he is utterly incapable of doing. And of course, it allows him to blame others. Meanwhile his son-in-law Jared Kushner has been trying to deal with the issue by getting unpaid interns to dial around for masks and personal protective equipment. They have no experience in this and have proven ineffective, but neither does Jared Kushner.

We do have this entity called the Defense Logistics Agency whose mission is to adroitly find, marshal and distribute supplies just for things like this. It has 26,000 people trained to do exactly this who could be put to work. Logistics though is anathema to this administration. Logistics implies thought, order and planning. It’s quite likely that no one in the White House even knows the DLA exists. If Trump wanted to help his reelection prospects, he could put a general in charge of the effort then shut up about COVID-19 and let the professionals do their work. But of course he can’t. He will vacillate on anything. The DLA’s role in this crisis is ancillary at best.

Trump likes to say that nobody knows more about X than he does. The truth is just about anyone, even you, know more about X than he does. I suspect any of you reading this could do a better job of managing the procurement of nasal swabs than Trump or Jared Kushner. In fact, when Trump says nobody knows more than me about X, it’s a sure sign his narcissism is acting up again and he feels the need to cover for his deficiencies. Nobody knows more about nuclear proliferation than Donald Trump, someone who hardly ever reads. Yet some of his supporters actually believe this stuff. The truth is, Trump is dumb as dirt. By applauding this idiot his supporters are revealing they should be considered dumb as dirt too.

Trump’s one skill is simple carnival barking. He knows how to throw up a show. He knows how to entertain. He knows how to project what he wants to project. He gives his supporters what they want: validation, outrage and entertainment. Unfortunately for the rest of us, we need competence and true governance, something he is incapable of.

The result is the chaos all around us: twenty million unemployed and a country rapidly devolving into third world status. If that’s what you voted for, congratulations. Trump is doing a great job.