Thursday, April 23, 2020

April 23
Tribal communication
A lie gets halfway around the world
                 before truth puts on its boots.

In the present circumstances, “going viral” is a bitterly ironic description of the spread of false, negative and dangerous ideas, claims and themes on the internet. 

The right wing is less a political movement in any ordinary sense than a sect or a tribe, and its impulse is rejection of order and commonality. Its reaction to the coronavirus crisis consists of conspiracy theories, denial of basic facts, and obstruction wrapped in faux patriotism.  Once such idiocy would have had a limited influence, but now, thanks to the internet, it races to a vast audience conditioned to accept, repeat and, in some cases, act on it.  Better communication breeds greater ignorance.

Lest any among that audience question the claims, the Babbler-in-Chief offers reassurance and reenforcement, as with his inane encouragement of rallies demanding reopening: “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!”  “LIBERATE MINNESOTA!” and most irresponsible of all, “LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!”

Some of the protesters showed poor judgment in joining the rallies, both as to association and the need for continued distancing, but carried signs reflecting genuine concerns, such as “Earning a living is essential. Reopen” and “I want my job back. Reopen.”  Other signs demonstrated the effects of viral lies: “Fake crisis,” “COVID-19 is a scam,” “COVID-19 is a lie,” and “It is just a cold virus.”  Those and the chant “Fire Fauci” captured the anti-science, down-with-facts mentality.  The tendency of the right toward separatism was revealed by the presence of Confederate flags and guns.  Some signs provided comic relief and revealed the phoniness of the protests: “Freedom Trumps the commie virus” and “I need a haircut.” 

Trump’s daily performance aids the protests but, by any rational standard, is pathetic.   The Washington Post has tallied his lies, which is a useful metric, but branding Trump as a liar would miss the point.  A rational, powerful man could be a liar.  In that case, his lying would be noteworthy in itself, and we would ask: why does he lie?  With Trump, the lies are merely one of the manifestations of his utter inability to cope with the demands of an office he should not hold.  He is ignorant, egocentric and insecure, and reacts to every challenge in the predictable manner of such a person: lying, boasting, threatening, shifting blame.    

The country is divided.  In a time of crisis, a leader would unite it, but not the Present Occupant.  He is disinclined to unite because he sees division as his ticket to re-election.  The tribal messages serve that end.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

April 11, 2020
Atheists in church

Possibly, just possibly, the country will learn a lesson from the coronavirus crisis: don’t put people in charge of government who don’t believe in it.  The damage is especially great if the federal government is in their hands.

They reject what they are told by government agencies.  They are reluctant to use government resources, preferring to dump responsibility on the states.  They argue that private enterprise can work more efficiently than any public body.  When they are forced to act, they bungle, being unfamiliar with, and resentful of, administrative practices, and needing resources that they have neglected or destroyed.

Governmental agencies, employees and experts are part of the dreaded Deep State.  Trump knows that he
mustn’t trust them because Rush Limbaugh, to whom he awarded the Medal of Freedom, told him so.  Rush dismissed the coronavirus as merely the flu and, when those with some knowledge of the subject declared otherwise, offered this rebuttal: “You know, we've talked about the ‘Deep State’ all these years since Trump was elected . . . well, the Deep State extends very deeply. And the American people did not elect a bunch of health experts that we don't know. We didn't elect a president to defer to a bunch of health experts that we don't know.”29  

For the President, inspectors general are the epitome of the dreaded Deep State (a concept so captivating that he referred to his foreign office as the Deep State Department).  Any action by an inspector general is suspect and probably disloyal.  After all, one of them, the Intelligence Community Inspector General, informed Congress of the whistle blower complaint about the Ukraine phone conversation.  Trump fired him.

Another such sinister operative produced a report on the current crisis: “The Office of Inspector General at the Department of Health and Human Services conducted phone interviews with administrators from 323 hospitals across 46 states” which revealed that hospitals are “unable to keep up with COVID-19 testing demands" and are experiencing "severe shortages."  Trump’s response: “It's just wrong, Did I hear the words ‘inspector general’? Really? It's wrong."30

As part of the stimulus plan, Congress created the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee (PRAC), within the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE).  On April 1, 2020, the CIGIE released a statement that, "The PRAC will promote transparency and support independent oversight of the funds” provided by the stimulus bills and "prevent and detect fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement."31  Acting Pentagon Inspector General Glenn Fine was selected by a council of inspectors general to lead the Committee.  Trump fired him as Defense IG. and, because he is no longer an inspector general, he is ineligible to hold the committee post.  “Inspector General” and “independent oversight” are frightening terms.

Fortunately, there is an antidote to the Deep State readily available: Jared Kushner, all-around expert whom no one will accuse of depth. 

Republicans in Congress, surprisingly, voted for relief bills.  However, the administration’s ineptitude and its reliance on private banks has delayed distribution of funds.  As to obtaining badly needed protective gear, it first left that to the states, then interfered with orders for equipment placed by them.

Even if the Trump administration had realized early on how serious the virus pandemic is, its previous anti-government bias would have left it ill-prepared to respond.  A group specifically designed to warn of possible pandemics was disbanded, and numerous relevant positions were unfilled.32  This thinning out was no accident.   Stephen Bannon had declared that “the mission of the Donald Trump Administration would be ‘deconstruction of the administrative state’.”  Those appointed to Cabinet posts, he said, “were all selected for a reason. And that is the deconstruction.”33 

Despite efforts to dismantle government, warnings about a possible pandemic were made and, at least in theory, reached Trump.  According to ABC News, “As far back as late November, U.S. intelligence officials were warning that a contagion was sweeping through China’s Wuhan region, changing the patterns of life and business and posing a threat to the population.”  The warning was contained in “a November intelligence report by the military's National Center for Medical Intelligence.”  That led to “briefings through December for policy-makers and decision-makers across the federal government as well as the National Security Council.”  Finally, “a detailed explanation of the problem . . . appeared in the President’s Daily Brief of intelligence matters in early January.”34 
Even if Trump doesn’t read the Daily Brief, or have it read to him, even if he dismissed those reports as coming from Deep State experts, a warning was circulated by another, presumably trusted source.  Peter Navarro, the President’s trade adviser, authored a memo on January 27 stating: “The lack of immune protection or an existing cure or vaccine would leave Americans defenseless in the case of a full-blown coronavirus outbreak on U.S. soil. This lack of protection elevates the risk of the coronavirus evolving into a full-blown pandemic, imperiling the lives of millions of Americans.”35 

Should Trump act?   No: "It’s going to disappear. One day, it's like a miracle, it will disappear." Even if it doesn’t, the administration won’t take the lead: “States can do their own testing. . . . We’re the federal government. We’re not supposed to stand on street corners doing testing.” As the organization he nominally heads has no role, he can  tell us “I take no responsibility at all.” 


29. shouldnt-be-trusted

30. covid-19-testing/




34. story?id=70031273


Saturday, April 4, 2020

April 4, 2020
Trump unbound

Off script, President Trump has numerous salient characteristics.  He focuses on himself and what makes him look good.  He attacks anyone who criticizes him, or is perceived to have done so.  He blurts out whatever comes to mind, sometimes unintentionally telling an inconvenient truth.  Finally, he isn’t bright, so doesn’t always realize the effect of what he says.

Mitch McConnell, ever eager to protect Trump, offered this excuse for his Leader’s inaction on the coronavirus outbreak: That issue "came up while we were, you know, tied down in the impeachment trial. And I think it diverted the attention of the government, because everything, every day, was all about impeachment,"25  Trump, displaying the first, third and fourth traits, destroyed McConnell’s excuse:
“Did it divert my attention? I think I’m getting A pluses for the way I handled myself during a phony impeachment. . . . I don’t think I would have done any better had I not been impeached, okay? And I think that’s a great tribute to something, maybe it’s a tribute to me, but I don’t think I would have acted any differently, or I don’t think I would have acted any faster. 26
I think that we can agree with that.

The third and fourth traits produced an accidental admission of GOP election strategy.  Democrats proposed giving $4 billion to states to boost mail-in ballots, requiring states to send absentee ballots to every registered voter, requiring online and same-day voter registration, and expanding early voting by 15 days. Trump’s response: “The things they had in there were crazy. They had things, levels of voting that if you ever agreed to, you would never have a Republican elected in this country again.”27  Yes, making voting difficult is a core Republican strategy; thanks for making that clear.

The first and second were on display in one of his rants about Governors who don’t praise him.  “I don’t have to call” them, he said; “I get Mike Pence to call. I get the head of FEMA to call. I get the admiral to call.”  Why doesn’t he talk to Governors?  “Because when they disrespect me, they’re disrespecting our government.”28  It’s tempting to add L’├ętat c’est moi.  A more original and more apt comment on his boast is a cartoon by Ann Telnaes in The Washington Post showing Trump as Mussolini with the caption “Il Donald.” A populist buffoon is a better subject for comparison than the Sun King.


25. trump- impeachment-trial-prevented-action

26. mcconnell



Posts © 2011-2012 by Gerald G. Day