No Helmet, no mask = free [not!]

In the world of bikers, rules about wearing helmets are often considered overreach. One of the pleasures of motorcycles is being out in the elements: feeling the alternation of cool and warm air on your face, smelling fields and forests as you pass. The helmet is a barrier.

Likewise, the COVID-19 mask is shunned. But neither of these items of safety gear is for the wearer alone. Accidents and contagion affect many more people. This two sentence news item from Time Magazine dramatically underscores the far-reaching social consequences of ignoring precautions.

Fun loving, party hardy, macho bikers have cost society more that 12 billion ($12,000,000,000) plus spreading suffering that’s impossible to quantify.

I haven’t heard how the town of Sturgis is doing. Could it have been worth it when the economic benefits are accounted for? This is a preview and a demo of what may happen this fall. The administration continues to downplay the threat. The president and his faithful followers continue to scorn mask use. Yes, he’s grudgingly begun to appear wearing a mask, but he makes no bones about not liking it.

Meanwhile the death rate hovers at 5,000 souls a week and experts estimate it will rise from the present 200,000 total to over 400,000 in December. At one point the president and some of his staff proffered the idea of letting COVID-19 run its course so that herd immunity could develop and the people’s lives (and the all-important economy) could return to normal. The Lincoln Project has vividly panned this bad idea in a recent political ad.

The ad is over-the-top harsh, and my initial reaction was that it’s deceptive. But then I considered the president’s actions of late. He’s pressured the CDC to recommend NOT testing people who are not symptomatic. He’s holding maskless rallies in indoor venues. He’s pressured schools to open before they are prepared to do so safely. The GOP legislature hasn’t passed enabling legislation, so the Democratic Governor’s mitigation rules have been declared unconstitutional. The President routinely contradicts his own experts’ assessments of risks and the timeline for vaccine protection. And he’s attacking mail-in ballots to necessitate in-person voting at crowded polling places.

All of those acts would be consistent with a plan to reopen and briefly enjoy the election week illusion of normalcy while COVID-19 does its grim work. Although millions would eventually die, the surviving 99% would be “fine.”

Teflon Don no more


It didn’t need to be this way.

It doesn’t need to be this way.

The President is accountable, but the propaganda and disinformation coming from Fox News and Sinclair Broadcasting shield his base from reality.

In March, 63% of Fox News regulars, polled by the non-partisan Pew Research Center’s Election News Pathways Project said the president’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic was “excellent”. Just 23% of average Americans – and a mere 2% of MSNBC regulars – agreed.

The Guardian

Denial has been lethal for tens of thousands because the US did not and does not have a coherent strategy for limiting contagion. The economic cost will be many multiples of what is might have been limited to judging from the experience of more successful countries.

Source: Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Center

This cumulative curve of deaths per 100,000 population continuse to have a steep rise. Testing indicates a rising trend in positive results as a percent of those tested — and indicator of accelerating spread. Business and school openings will tend to increase contagion.

Political Violence

The violence that has marked the BLM protests is deplorable. Data shows that right-wing violence exceeds radical left-wing violence about two-fold, although DHS has attempted to suppress that fact in reporting on violence.

Now we see a coordinated effort by people close to DJT, and DJT himself, to incite violence.

I’ve been urging those I correspond with to look past the words at the actions.  I also urge that we look at the character of the people involved. Roger Stone in this instance.  He boasts about (and markets) his talent for lying to manipulate elections. And then there are all the Russian operatives.

God Save America.

Unthinkable? The Warnings Signs are here

Historians are seeing the parallels between authoritarian takeovers of european democracies, and what’s happening in America. It can’t happen here, we are inclined to think.

But those who study history aren’t so sanguine. They aren’t lulled into complacency by the normalcy of work, home life, entertainment, … all the stuff that remains routine, except for COVID-19 of course.

Timothy Snyder, the Levin Professor of History at Yale University, distilles his concerns into a short, punchy book. “Today our political order faces new threats, not unlike the totalitarianism of the twentieth century,” he warns.

Timothy Snyder

Historian Heather Cox Richardson echoes the same sentiment, most explicitly in this recent post on her blog “Letters from an American.”

Here is the article by Farhad Manjoo that Richardson opens with. Manjoo came to America from South Africa and he’s seen that the blessings of democracy can be lost more easily that most Americans think.

There are more authors concerned about authoritarian tyranny and the demise of democracy:

Lots of Laughs

An obscure story that DJT had mini-strokes and was rushed to Walter Reed was dismissed by most of us as speculation and rumor. When the story resurfaced with the embellishment that VP Pence has been alerted to be ready to assume presidential powers, DJT fired off a flurry of angry tweets that brought the story back into the mainstream.

When Bret Baier of the Fox News Channel asked Pence about the event, Pence said he didn’t “recall” if he had been asked to be on standby.

Does that ring true? When your main official job is to be prepared to assume the president’s duties and then, after three and a half years of staying informed and ready, you are actually alerted that the moment may be at hand, a hugely significant and dramatic event if it ever happens, wouldn’t it tend to stand out and be memorable?

Pence’s lie is transparent and laughable. Of course, the effect of DJT’s gratuitous tweets, and Pence’s obvious dodge, is to confirm beyond any reasonable doubt that the rumor was fact, not fake news.

It must be hard to live in that world of illusion, smoke, and mirrors, immersed in a perpetual fog bank where one needs to keep track of what the “alternative facts” are.

… by Their Fruits

For years I’ve said that Americans are being played. The GOP convention presentations performances were worthy of P. T. Barnum: a circus of deceptions.

The Democrats focused on character: positively for Biden and negatively for Trump. The Republicans? They presented political drama with the sole purpose of reshaping our perception of reality. It was an epic of gaslighting. They ignored the crucial threat of climate change, and denied bungling the US COVID-19 response. With nobody to blame but themselves, they instead spoke as if the pandemic was already history.

As has become a pattern for President Trump, the GOP presented themselves as the future solution to a problem they have created: violent protests. Since the Nixon Administration, the criminal justice system has been the primary way that the GOP addresses the persistent problems of inequality and poverty – beat it down.

Numerous journalists and news commentators have documented how the facts don’t support the GOP rhetoric. Robert Reich and Nicholas Kristoff’s opinions are below. I’ve saved the best for last – Don’t miss Doug Muder’s brilliant analysis revealing the four big lies hidden in the many little ones that are so very obvious.

The Facts

Trump’s Record for lack of character.

Trump’s character, actually his lack of it, is clear to all except the more ardent followers. There have been almost daily revelations. Many would have been terminally scandelous in other times. McSweeney’s is a satire site. Yet the list their editors published appears to be a straight-up and credible catalog of #45’s venality. 

Years ago I challenged DJT’s followers on Facebook to contribute something, anything, they could think of that would qualify as an act of Trump altruism or selflessness in service of the public good. I have yet to receive an item. One MAGA woman said she was much too busy to enumerate them, but she was sure there were many. I did, eventually, learn of one on my own — he donates his salary of $200,000 a year as President to charity, according to the White House. We’ll let that be and not speculate on his motives. Also, we won’t calculate any offset for the emoluments and collateral revenue his properties accrue, or the compensation his family accepts. The cost of accommodating his Secret Service entourage at his Mar-a-Lago property already about equals his total pay to date. I don’t have the tab for Bedminster.

At the convention, followers sought to persuade us that the private Donald Trump was a caring and compassionate person. We are not to believe what we see in public to be truly representative of the inner man it seems.

Not surprisingly, there was no convention discussion of honesty or truthfulness. The Washington Post’s tally of false or misleading statements (“lies” to speak plainly) has passed 20,000. Have you ever heard him admit to any error or personal failing? He is big on blaming anyone but himself.

His accomplishments? Many of those listed by right-wing conservatives are regarded as grievous mistakes by those concerned about peace, integrity, equality, and stewardship.

Prior to his election in 2016 most of the leading newspapers in the US published editorials saying Trump was unqualified. He was not presidential material they argued. Many of his latterday followers at the time agreed as the Lincoln Project demonstrates. Even ex-members of his own administration agree.

Four Big Lies Concealed by all the Obvious Smaller Ones.

Doug Muder crafted a brilliant example of critical thinking and analysis that is rich in factual support and draws on many sources to validate the assertions he makes. If you are interested in seeing how Americans are being played, this post analyzes how our perception is manipulated, read it carefully,  Compare it for style and content with the opinions you see from right-leaning media. We’ll see what plays out over the next weeks of the campaign.

A group of guys I meet with every two weeks has read On Tyranny by Timothy Snyder. All of them are serious people (Insurance Executive, College President, Clinical Psychologist, Landscape Architect [Viet Nam Memorial], and a Merrill Lynch executive.) Their consensus is shared alarm and fear for America. None of us are sure that DJT won’t steal the election, though we are all committed to preventing that. We know that 40%, the Trumpists, will vote Republican without thinking or even considering anything but the propaganda from GOP and Fox. The question is, how many more low information voters will be taken in?  And how many will be too confused orcomplacent to vote.

It’s not hyperbole to say that democracy is at risk.

Are we now inured to mendacity?

To be inured is to become so accustomed to something negative that you no longer react.

Americans have become so accustomed to being lied to that they don’t react. No matter how flagrant or destructive, we don’t react. This makes us all the more vulnerable to being played. You say you don’t rely on anything politicians say. Yet the future of your children, your business, and what happens when you are old and frail depends on the actions of politicians.

The Doctors are worried

“Unlike many countries in the world, the United States is not currently on course to get control of this epidemic. It’s time to reset,”

report released this week by Johns Hopkins University.

“If the nation does not change its course — and soon — deaths in the United States could be well into the multiple hundreds of thousands.”

report from the Association of American Medical Colleges

The Washington Post article citing these two reports is alarming, but not alarmist. Here are the reports:



Reports like these are not sound bites or off-the-cuff comments. It takes time for these organizations to arrive at these conclusions and recommendations. These doctors have been worried for months.

Excessive loyalty

Anne Applebaum of the Atlantic has published the article that I would like to have written myself, but I just couldn’t quite piece my thoughts together as she has done so effectively. She lays out how Republicans’ loyalty is being played citing historic parallels. It’s clearer to us when we look at the distant past.

Good men and women, who at some point saw the danger can have their values gradually eroded when the stakes of not conforming to peer pressure are high. I’ve experienced it in business situations, and I’ve observed it in sports and religious communities. College professors study it in veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Groups can become cult-like in enforcing conformity and supressing dissent. Those on the inside lose perspective and, as the popular cliche goes, “drink the Koolaid.” If you think it couldn’t happen to you, think again. This article is long, but it is well worth reading. She’s nailed the problem both parties face.

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