” The Only Good Democrat is a Dead Democrat”

“The Only Good Democrat is a Dead Democrat”.

Trump praised this statement (he did not say it himself) on Twitter. The statement was made in a video by a commissioner in New Mexico and a Trump supporter. The guy from New Mexico said he did not mean the statement literally, but it is entirely possible, given Trump’s constant moves to suppress the Democratic vote, the way he praises his gun-toting followers/defenders, his resolve to end coronavirus protocols as soon as he learned that it was attacking (and killing) mainly minorities and seniors (although he is a senior) is perceived by Himself, (does he actually perceive or does his gut just burble satisfaction when he listens to its urgings) to be perfectly justified because the Democrats are at the top of his enemies list. Democrats are not seen as people, just targets for vengeance and if you happen to be a Democrat how can you not be frightened by this, and forewarned?

We the people who are still rational and believe in a common morality are trying to avoid an explosive confrontation with Trump until after we see what happens in the 2020 election, and I guess we owe it to our founders to make the most of this last tool in the Constitutional toolbox. But if cops keep killing black folks we may lose it. That may even be what these acts are: provocations to get us to respond physically against these wrongful acts.

We want to see the police as protectors and defenders against antisocial acts, but watching three cops with knees on a supine man in handcuffs who is not resisting arrest hardly projects an image that is respectful of citizens. Even if there is history between the arresting officer and George Floyd, that was not the basis that was given for this arrest. Supposedly Mr. Floyd passed a counterfeit $20 bill. If I had a counterfeit $20 bill would I even know it was counterfeit? Would I lose my life? Maybe, I am a Democrat, but probably not because I do not have pigmented skin.

We the people do not want this awful pattern to play out over and over again. It is racist: it is wrong: and it is tragic. It is a tragedy we do not need in a world that is already quite tragic enough. It is also unnecessary because if a stimulus bill focused on those at the bottom of the economy passed it might have kept poverty at bay. So this explosion is not just the province of the city of Minneapolis or the police; it is also on Mitch McConnell’s plate, the President’s plate and the Republicans in the Senate own it too. They all own this because they refuse to see that when people are robbed of economic hope they may have to resort to desperate measures, which may be the true cause of all the current tensions in American society. This, along with anger at centuries of discrimination, may help explain the looting. America has had black Americans under a knee, or many knees since they were brought here in slavery. The knee pressure may lighten at times, but in times like this, when a virus is depressing our economy that pressure is getting stronger each day as the unemployment rate rises and the food stamps are cut.

The federal government must help the people at the bottom, the people whose upward trajectory literally ended up on life support. If you don’t and you start killing those who are left without adequate food or support systems you will start something you may not be able to end. The President also tweeted, “once there is looting, there will be shooting, quoting a Floridian from 1967.” The President may declare that he did not say that he would favor violence, but he has telegraphed violence often enough that denial seems strictly pro forma.

If we continue down this road we are on, the racism, the vigilantes with long guns, we the people will have to arm ourselves and get ready for the second civil war in America history. A majority of Americans cannot continue to rationalize inaction and allow our nation to be turned into something unspeakable. There are Democrats who own guns, of course, but the left does not have armed militias. In a war who would our soldiers back, who would our policemen back? It could be a massacre and we know it. Do we go with Malcolm X or do we stay with Martin Luther King? There are 200 new right-wing judges on federal courts for life. The things we object to may become the law of the land. Are the sheeple just the people who love Trump and worship him, or are the sheeple any of us who put up with his twisted governance. I have never been in a war; I do not want to be in a war, but, like the abolitionists all over America and the world who fought with words and then with guns in the first civil war which ended slavery, but did not end racism; if police continue to pick off black folks one death at a time we will have to prepare a response that is powerful enough to show that we do not now and never will tolerate racism in America any longer.

Photo – Restavek Freedom from a Google Image. Search

The Topeka School by Ben Lerner – Book

Cover of The Topeka School by Ben Lerner – KCRW.jpg

The Topeka School by Ben Lerner covers a lot of ground, both culturally and politically. It is one of those novels that jumps around in time, which at first makes it seem disjointed and a bit obscure. Once we manage to focus on the characters and let them guide us through the social commentary there is great depth to the content, which is made more effective by the nonlinear presentation. If you lived through the sixties, seventies, and eighties, if you smoked pot or dropped acid, if you got caught up in the movement those psychotropic substances engendered of self-analysis, of getting rid of personal baggage, and eventually professional analysis, then you will get Lerner’s book. Perhaps you remember therapies like Reiki, Feldenkrais, Transactional analysis – “I’m OK, You’re OK, and Primal Scream therapy.

The Topeka School is a foundation that applies Freudian and other psychological methodologies to treat adolescents who stray from acceptable societal norms, or whose behaviors will short circuit future success. Even the therapists often end up analyzing each other. Kansas is an odd location for a foundation full of political liberals. The children of the resident therapists attend a school known as Bright Circle (sounds a bit cultish but is actually more a combination of hippie philosophy and southern conservatism – a mix that already builds in an element of schizophrenia). Jane is the main therapist character we follow, although she is not the key figure at the Foundation; that is the mythic Klaus. Jane is married to Jonathan and her son is Adam. Adam is relatively well-adjusted, has plenty of friends and fits in well enough that he can also buck the culture by being a debate nerd. He has a few setbacks that require parental and psychological intervention, but nothing major. What bothers his mother the most is a culture of toxic male behavior which is a rite of passage for young men in the South, even more so than in other corners of American culture. Darren is another character involved with the Foundations whose behaviors are less well adapted to the cultural experiences of schooling in America and whose trajectory contrasts with that of Adam.

The novel is actually taking place in the days of the Trump administration, although given the many flashbacks, the commentary on right-wing politics and Trumpian behavior, however insightful, is intermittent. Obviously Trump is not responsible for the manly code in Topeka that requires physical violence when another male disrespects you in any way, but Trump’s own behaviors work against therapeutic attempts to change male behavior and to help men evolve into humans who handle personal interactions in less pugilistic ways. The Foundation and the Topeka School is a clever convention that allows the author and the reader to consider modern male behavior and the reasons we are bothered by the Trump administration and to revisit therapeutic models that have been taken to the edge of obsolescence by modern pharmaceuticals. Interestingly enough, in The Topeka School the Foundation leaves Kansas and moves to Texas. Why the school chooses to embed itself in places where American culture is such a mismatch to the culture of the Foundation is left for us to decide. The Topeka School by Ben Lerner was a trip, a trip worth taking.

How Do Dems Compete With the Drama


From a Google Image Search – Getty Images – NPR

After all this drama, after these days when it is almost impossible to ignore our federal government and let it get on with the task of governing, will regular order prove too tame for many Americans? About one-third of the nation experiences thrills each and every day as their dumpy “savior” ‘sticks it to the libs’ and urges his troops to orgies of laissez faire rule over the states – except when he doesn’t and threatens to cut off a recalcitrant state’s funding. The economy trumps everything, pandemics be damned, floods-earthquakes-tornadoes-hurricanes be damned, just go to work, cough it up for business and keep that stock market climbing. Don’t be wimps like your President who is protected by layers and layers of security. Take your lumps and do your job for American prosperity. Make American First even if it kills you. Won’t you be so proud (as you look back on the living from the afterlife – which will be glorious, we are assured by the faithful)?

The remaining two-thirds of us look on in horror each day as instead of expanding social security the administration continues to assault it. Instead of health care there is a case before the Supreme Court to be decided in July which could end the ACA (Obamacare) forever. Instead of supplying PPE’s our leaders hemmed and hawed and tried to figure out how to make a profit. Rather than prop consumers up so that they would not have to fight a virus and poverty at the same time, this government stuck to its view that money given to those on the bottom of the economy is wasted. ‘What those people need is to learn how to conquer adversity and win, like we did’ (is there a punctuation mark for incredulity). We the people, the wicked libs and our new allies among Progressives, Independents, moderate Conservatives, and even some Libertarians, watch our President dismantle all our agencies, place his toadies in charge of everything, and appoint his big donors to act as Inspectors General to oversee, I mean, rubber stamp, any old crooked thing he gets up to. And he does not hide the crooked things he does, at least not all of them. He likes to telegraph misdeeds and call that transparency. We are not even to be allowed to keep the United States Post Office? Why not, because someone has figured out a way to rip it off and stop paying good salaries to middle class Americans, and end those “plush” pensions.? Nor are we allowed to vote-by-mail. What happened to that good old laissez faire federal governance?

One thing government has not been is calm, or orderly, or businesslike. We get multiple thrills a day which either actually thrill you or chill you depending on your politics. So if we get Joe Biden and sanity and reason and good government will we be bored? Can we get Democrats elected without some fireworks and razzle-frazzle? We could definitely use a bit of help on the entertainment front. I love that we are earnest and thoughtful and that we are practically focused on solving problems, but it could seem a bit ho-hum given the steady diet of crass theater and bad ideas, cover-ups and the fomenting of revolts against states. The Supreme Court decided that it still is not time to let Congress (meaning Democrats) see the unredacted Mueller Report that we all paid for. How does sanity compete with this? Those who are campaigning might want to put some creative energy into generating culturally popular ways to entertain the masses if you want to get elected. There is a lot of great talent on the side of the Democrats. You know what happens if we don’t win in 2020. Democracy/our republic dies a slow and painful death. This is the last tool we have in our toolbox except for time, possibly decades of time.

Never Put a Narcissist in Lockdown

EyyyyieE. Watching Donald Trump handle the times of the novel coronavirus has never been easy. Maybe the virus would have gotten away from him even if he did heed the wisdom of past virus protocols, but we will never know because we are all operating on “the wisdom of Trump’s gut” which was created in 1950 and is connected to a brain that was created in the Reagan era in a cauldron of sycophancy and toadyism and Daddy’s largesse. So his gut tells him what is best and then his brain says, “you’re a genius,” and then our brains say “we are screwed.”

When Ebola appeared on the global scene the US health apparatus, the CDC and local public health agencies immediately isolated people and tracked who they had been in contact with. These are the tools we eventually came to use for slowing this virus, self-quarantine and contact tracing. To that we have added, much later, social distancing and masks. Donald Trump fought against every one of these policies. Perhaps he thought he could halt the virus and save the economy by sheer force of will. He fought against it all because doing these things meant admitting the virus was real and that people would die on his watch. Two months were lost with only some isolation – those cruise-ship 14-day quarantines. There was very little contract tracing or none, and then once the virus reached the community spread stage it basically got so big that contact tracing was impossible. But that was true only on the West Coast and in NYC. Other communities could have used these tools, but the President of the United States kept lying to them.

The President made an enormous number of deaths sound like nothing. He kept excusing himself from any blame. He kept flailing around to place blame anywhere but on him. However, he does bear some blame for the dimensions of this disaster, if not the cause of it. He will not – he refused – to consult the wisdom of past administrations, in fact he despises Obama so much that he erases him piece by piece, legislation by legislation, executive action by executive action. Had Trump not folded the Pandemic agency into the military and had he allowed the CDC to act with their usual strength Trump may well have been able to go out in public in the Rose Garden each day and give us good news. He is a vengeful man who could not stand to walk in the footsteps of Obama, even if they were footsteps many Presidents helped make, a well-trodden path.

Instead we got his gut, his bile-filled gut that refused to help blue states get the medical supplies they needed. He told the states they would have to fend for themselves. He even sold essential PPE’s to other countries while the states were scrambling. Why? It’s the crooked businessman who lives in the head. Every day is just about protecting himself from imagined attacks by counterpunching wildly at whoever or whatever. And about wheeling and dealing. Eventually he was persuaded to use his emergency powers to order factories to switch over to produce the medical equipment the states needed but it was not done in a spirit of national unity and it made us feel even more like a divided nation.

He was far more concerned about the stock market and he only agreed to an economic pause to keep the stock market from bottoming out. He agreed to bail out the economy but he still wanted to only send money up the chain. He and his Republican cohorts have a deep disdain for people down the economic chain. In order to keep control over where the stimulus went he fired the IG who was supposed to have oversight and, of course, the neediest companies went without while the largest corporations took in goo-gobs of bucks. Now the Democrats would like to do another stimulus that would help those on the bottom, the ones who can’t put food on their tables, who are losing their small businesses. But the Republicans and Trump do not understand Capitalism. They do not understand that without small business and consumers those at the top will eventually starve. They still see the middle class and the poor as drags on the American economy, as the Takers. And they say, “you won’t take anymore from big taxpayers (us).”

Trump wants the country to reopen. He wants it so badly that he speaks out of both sides of his face. One side says that we should heed the public health wisdom, and the other side allows his ersatz militia to threaten states that won’t reopen. It is clear from the data that the disease has not struck equally everywhere. It is a matter of population density, which was already becoming a big divider in America. Rural states resent metropolitan centers and they are tired of having city folks call the shots. So they don’t need to follow the same health guidelines as those idiots who live in cities. They agree with Trump’s gut. As long as you stay out of a meat plant, or an nursing home, or a prison and stay away from minority neighborhoods you can do whatever you like. It is, after all, every state for itself. We want our NASCAR, our concerts, our summer fun and we will take it at gunpoint.

Trump has some other concerns these days. His tax case is before the Supreme Court. He cannot allow his lawyers to handle his defense without some personal oversight and behind-the-scenes manipulations. He pulls out of his bilious gut the magic words, “Obamagate,” ohhh it’s bad but I can’t tell you the details right now. It seems to go back to the Steele documents. Somehow the Dems exchanged money for this ‘oppo’ research and Trump insists that this document did, what, lost him the election – no it didn’t. Trump contends that the Steele documents started the whole Russia investigation. The Steele documents were not all vetted and they were not such a stable base for the Russia investigation, but they were not the only evidence either. Trump uses the rocky base of the Steele documents to argue that the entire investigation was flawed. It’s a distraction. Hear Russia, say Steele. Perhaps Trump has twisted the facts to blame the Dems for the hacking of the DNC although Trump got the info dump via Wikileaks. Or perhaps Dems feel the Russia investigation dates to  when Trump (as a joke – a bad joke perhaps) asked Russia to find Hillary’s 30k emails. So when he begins to erase the Mueller Report last week, and the DOJ releases Michael Flynn, drops all charges, how does this lead to the cry of Obamagate? Just to distract? There is also the optic that “I lose I wreak vengeance; I win I wreak vengeance. It will take an awful lot of distraction to get us to overlook this travesty of justice. Paul Manafort is also out of jail because of the virus.

Today I see an article in the NYT’s which states that Jared Kushner is looking into changing the date of the 2020 election and alarm bells go off all over the place. Kushner says that it is almost impossible to do because the Constitution speaks to this directly. But I say that the Constitution has been turned into face masks to provide PPE’s to essential workers and what is left of it is in such tatters that it will not stop Trump from doing whatever he pleases. Given four more years our founding documents will be nothing but memories treasured by a few over-the-hill generations of Americans.

So the President does not want an actual account of how many Americans have or had the virus. He does not care to count the actual deaths that can be attributed to the virus. Tests give data and data is the enemy of a man who lives only by his gut and his twisted brain and his vengeful spirit. But now the virus has entered the President’s castle and, because he has such superior genes, he has no expectation of actually contracting the novel coronavirus, but he is angry, angrier than he has ever been. And he is lashing out in every direction. His cluster of allies in Washington is getting ever smaller and half of them are quarantining themselves and he just can’t sign that new stimulus bill that the libtards want him to sign, and someone will pay. Guess who?

Photo: From a Google Image Search – salon.com

The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel – Book

The Mirror and the Light, by Hilary Mantel – NPR

The Thomas Cromwell that Hilary Mantel gives us in her trilogy, and especially in this last offering, The Mirror and the Light is half real, half imagined and yet he seems entirely real. Thomas Cromwell was the son of a blacksmith who drank. Thomas never knew when his father, Walter, would turn abusive and beat him, but he was always bruised and on the verge of running away. He grew up in a situation that could have led to a harsh life and an early grave. A few relatives intervened when they could and eventually he was given a place in the kitchen of a wealthy family. Then he, in a fit of anger, killed a boy his own age who liked to bully him. He did not intend to kill him and there was never a charge resulting from his violence. But killing someone changes you.

This third book in the trilogy has Thomas in his 50’s. He has succeeded in law, in business, and he has become the closest advisor of the King, Henry VIII. Henry needed to bypass the Pope in Rome when he wanted to divorce his first wife so he could marry Anne Boleyn. Cromwell, knew the sins of the Catholic Church, the usual sins of greed, gluttony, lust, and the scams involving the sale of relics and the statues that cried blood. He did not think the Catholic Church represented any true connection to God. It is the time of Martin Luther, but he is considered a heretic. Anyone who challenges the church in Rome is, by association, also considered a heretic. When Henry declares himself the head of the church in England, when he basically combines the functions of Pope and King in one body (his), Cromwell backs him up, and keeps sending emissaries into Europe to keep track of repercussions against England. Will the Catholic nations go to war against Britain. Cromwell also helps Henry break up the monasteries and nunneries and move their wealth from the church to Henry’s treasury. He also helps himself to some of the properties that become available and divvies others out to British royals and aristocrats. He is valuable to the king. He has become a very stable, organized, and talented man – and very rich.

Cromwell straddles the Catholic religion and the new religions that allow even poor people to read the Bible, now that it has been printed in every language. His mentor in his early years was Cardinal Wolsey, a Catholic who is turned out of all his houses and left, as an old man, in conditions far cruder than he is used to. Wolsey will not back the King’s divorce. He is on the way to his execution when he dies of natural causes. When Cromwell is asked to rid the King of Anne Boleyn, he sees his chance to also take down Wolsey’s enemies. He holds this grudge and takes his revenge. Killing so many courtiers though may lead to his eventual downfall.

Cromwell lives, in this third book, both in his past and in his present. Is he too distracted to make the decisions he has always made with confidence? Henry VIII is a very unstable king to serve. He imagines that he is still young and heroic, when he is actually old and portly, with a injured leg which will not heal. He looks in his mirror and he finds himself bathed in the light of earlier days (there are many mirrors in this book so full of self-reflection). He is shocked when his new wife, in a marriage that Cromwell helped arrange, cannot hide her disappointment that she will marry this old man. She is not as beautiful as Henry thought she would be. The marriage does not take and Henry blames Cromwell. He wants out.

At this critical time Cromwell has a return bout with the malaria he picked up in Italy and while he is ailing others in the council and the parliament creep in and influence the King. Cromwell is arrested and charged as a heretic who supports the church of Luther, and he is charged with treason because jealous men attest untruthfully that Cromwell wished to marry the King’s daughter Mary and place himself on the throne of England. Although Cromwell is guilty of pride and has feathered his own nest and enjoyed the advancements the King has offered, although he has his fingers in every British pie, he is not guilty, according to what records are available, of either heresy or treason. But the King is ever worried about betrayal and once he thinks you have betrayed him all your loyalty means nothing.

These books are a tour de force and I am sorry to leave the England of Hilary Mantel and Thomas Cromwell. Mantel’s writing alone evokes the mid 1500’s in the reign of Henry. There is an immediacy in her prose:

“The Cornish people petition to have their saints back – those downgraded in recent rulings. Without their regular feasts, the faithful are unstrung from the calendar, awash in a sea of days that are all the same. He (he is always Cromwell) thinks it might be permitted; they are ancient saints of small worship. They are scraps of paint-flaked wood or stumps of weathered stone, who say and do nothing against the king. They are not like your Beckets, whose shrines are swollen with rubies, garnets and carbuncles, as if their blood were bubbling up through the ground.”

And this is just a tiny taste. It’s a long book, but since I didn’t want to leave it, the length made me happy.

Troubling Times


Here are our heroes – those who had to play an active role in our national coronavirus emergency. These pictures are imprinted in our brains – the ICU videos with all the signs of the catastrophic struggles to save lives – the rows of beds, the crowd of medical staff around one patient, the worried expressions in their eyes (which are all we can see of their faces) the packages of opened medical devices scattered across the patient, the coded conversations that determine the next steps to stabilize just this one person – a single Latinate word, a lifted eyebrow, a request that sends one of the team off in search of a new medicine, or a piece of equipment. The drama of the moment is gripping even to us, the spectators. It is a drama that has been repeated thousands of times in the past month and a half. It is a drama that continues, although, as the cases decrease, the intensity diminishes.

There are the canyons of our biggest cities echoing with the applause of those of us who must stay home – whose only heroic action is inaction. There are the recovered, applauded by those who labored to save them.

There are the demonstrators. They have had enough of sickness. They feel that they are killing their prosperity out of respect for people who don’t deserve the gesture; the old, the sick, the immigrant, darker-skinned Americans. After all, not all Americans are at equal risk. As the numbers reveal what we knew all along, that COVID19 was killing the old and the less wealthy masses. Youth, and American youth lasts a long time, demands a return to work. The demonstrators are overwhelmingly white. Whiteness lasts a lifetime. These demonstrators who demand to work are not the minimum wage workers who have had to keep putting themselves at risk in jobs considered essential, without the personal protection of masks and gloves or even social distancing (which is free). They labor at low wage jobs in grocery stores, pharmacies, warehouses, trucking firms, fast food restaurants, meat processing plants, burying the dead. They don’t choose to work; they are required to work.

These demonstrators can’t be those workers – they would have to be at work. Some of these demonstrators seem older – perhaps they just want to party and travel, get their massages, their facials, their hairdos. Some look like they may own a small business. Perhaps they would not be demonstrating if the government aid had been more forthcoming.

But it is the tattooed, bearded, muscle-shirted guys with stony, intimidating faces, and long guns that contrast so jarringly with those whose heroic actions have allowed our nation to control and suppress this killer disease. It is, this time, Americans who do not resist, who do not demonstrate, who stay home and keep their distance, who give up their pleasures for the greater good; these are the Americans who have kept America from turning into a charnel house.

As an American who watches America from the cheap seats and tries to decide what keeps American democracy alive and what forces seem bent on destroying our republic, I have to come down on the side of the heroes, the everyday heroes. What do those with long guns expect America to do – knuckle under to a posse of citizens dressed up like outlaws, purposely using intimidation to get their way, placing America between a rock and a hard place – if the virus don’t get you the bullets will. They can’t think to beat a virus with a gun, so it is the government that must bow down to them. Then we won’t have a government; we’ll have anarchy with mob rule.

And, because we don’t want a confrontation, it looks from where I sit, as if intimidation is working, although these scary folks chose a moment when the country was almost ready to reopen anyway. Long gun-vigilante-style is working better than the more peaceful demonstrations of other disobedient unarmed citizens. In these days when we have been trying to avoid becoming an authoritarian nation, have been trying to avoid becoming a nation split in two and headed for a second civil war – I am just not sure how people keep these two Americas in mind and still trust that America is one nation, with a singular and unified vision. Why do some Americans feel the need to threaten other Americans with long guns and why does the President of our nation encourage their intimidations? Will they become Trump’s army in 2020? Will the South rise again? And if it does God help our heroes, and all of us. I did not think our Grand Experiment would come to this and I still think it can be saved. Our founders said, “we give you a republic, if you can keep it.” I want to keep it. How about you?

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – the intelligencer,  Ebaumsworld

Loving America to Death by N. L. Brisson


This is a series of book, all entitled Loving America to Death, one for 2010-2011 and then one of each of the other years in the decade. 2012,2013,2014,2015,2016,2017,2018,2019

As an example I use the book for the year 2017.

2017 begins with the inauguration of Donald J. Trump as the 45 th President of the United States of America and a mad roller coaster ride begins as Trump and the GOP rush to erase at least 50 years of American history and 240+ years of American law and tradition. The attacks on “mainstream media” engage our “Big Brother” fears as we are told to believe that the only truth emanates from 45 and right-wing media. Free speech is up for grabs but the nations gun clearly are not. We begin the era of Trump’s America First agenda with withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement and end with a President who denies help to Hurricane victims in Puerto Rico.

An Overview:

After observing and writing about this turbulent decade in our politics I am publishing the essays that I posted to my online blog at The Armchair Observer. Beginning with the Obama years, witnessing the strange behavior of the Republican Party as exhibited in one astonishingly obstreperous stance and act after another. They seemed determined to be the most rabid patriots ever to dismantle the laws and traditions of America and our republic. When they were Trumped in 2016 attacks on our democracy increased exponentially. We the people have been divided and coopted to help increase wealth inequality in America, to vandalize the planet in the name of fossil fuels and old school manufacturing, to sign on to isolation from our best allies, to xenophobia, racism and white supremacy, to feed an old man’s ego and to help destroy our democracy. In this series you can refresh your memory about some of the oldies but goodies.

Author Bio:

Nancy Brisson, that’s me, but as an author I use N. L. Brisson. For the past decade I have been watching news, reading newspapers and books, with a focus on politics and writing on first one website, The Brissioni Blog at Blogspot, and then at Word Press on a site entitled The Armchair Observer. Retirement gave me an opportunity to tune into politics at a very turbulent time, a time when people like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Mark Levin and others seemed to delight in whipping some Middle-class Americans into a frenzy that led to a disavowal of compassion for those less fortunate than themselves. Factories sat empty and later homes sat empty as the Great Recession hit America and we forgot that selfishness never profits anyone; it only makes life meaner and divides a nation that prides itself on being united.

My family was a poor family and a big family. With a lot of help I was able to go to college. I earned my BA degree at SUNY Potsdam and eventually became an Assistant Professor at an EOC in SUNY. I earned an MEd at the University of Arizona at Tucson on a sabbatical leave. It was only after I retired that I became focused on what was happening in our beloved nation, the United States of America. I sit in the cheap seats, not always the best close-up view, but an excellent overview position.What I observed is the subject of my series of books Loving America to Death. If we want to preserve the America values we treasure we all need to think about what we believe to be true about societies and governments. My articles also appear at Tremr.com. I have also read and reviewed many books and my reviews are on Goodreads.com.


Our Coronavirus Situation: A Recap and Some Speculation

On the one hand we have the virus, a very nasty bug, almost the pandemic we have worried about for so long, but probably not the pandemic to end all pandemics. This virus got away from us. It was not isolated and squashed as happened with Zika and Ebola, Mers, Sars and H1N1. Perhaps it was able to infect many people who showed no symptoms and this helped it become more prevalent. The response of our Federal government and the President, who insists that he is all-powerful, clearly played an enormous role in the path of destruction that the novel coronavirus has cut through America. Although it affected every country more or less, President Trump had more advance warning than most other nations.

We had already dealt with several potential pandemics and there were structures designed to deal with any microbial disaster that might arise. But these structures were dismantled. Some of the conditions that favor oddball viruses and microbes seem to have arisen because we live in a more global world where people without immunities are exposed to germs or bugs they would rarely have met up with before travel became so popular, and before so many consumers were so flush with money to spend abroad. There is also evidence to suggest that lab research on infectious diseases may have run amuck and several oops-moments may have loosed these tough invaders on an unsuspecting world.

Of course the Federal government could not be to blame for the disease even if a lab accident caused it. But what the Federal government does get the blame for is botching the treatment of the disease. Getting this government to move at all was difficult at first because a President focused on the economy could see the ruin ahead and he thought denial and just bulling his way through might serve. When that assumption proved to be incorrect and the disease took over the news cycle you would think the President would have switched gears and pitched in to help in whatever ways he (in his infinite power) could. But it was like he was operating in a time warp which made him always out of sync with the facts on the ground. Denial works for small government crises which are often protected by real or imagined national security concerns, but you cannot deny an epidemic this widespread. Our leader did try though and his refusal to accept reality most likely made the effects of the virus worse.

On the other hand we have the economy. America cannot remain closed, even though it is not completely closed. The entire American economy is based on sellers and buyers, in other words, Capitalism. Now that the discussion about opening things up has begun to reach critical mass it is only a matter of time before we are operating full-tilt once again. Because this virus is not conquered, life will, most likely, still be strange. How many businesses will come back? Will cities be full of boarded up shops of bankrupted businesses? The coronavirus seems to be mutating with the new attacks on younger people and the strokes and the blood clots. Will that trend continue? We seem close to a vaccine which would solve many immediate problems but much could happen before we have a reliable vaccine.

There are many speculations. Will the virus dictate the changes in our economy? Will we use this moment of a pause in commerce, which may never happen again, to contemplate a different path for the future? Would it be possible to choose a sort of Capitalism Lite, and keep some of this time for families? I know families are under pressure from too much enforced proximity, but I can’t help thinking that parents and children will wish for some of this time back if the normal rat race returns; running to work, picking children up from afterschool activities, dropping them off at clubs, lessons, play dates, racing through the days. Do we have any control at all over what economy we get or is all that in the hands of the top 1% or even the top 10%?

Paul Krugman in the NYT says we will never pay off this deficit and we don’t need to. I found that comforting, although no Conservative will ever agree with it. They will begin to talk of cuts because of the deficit any minute now. For all their love of Capitalism they do not understand it. Healthy Capitalism does not work without buyers. Buyers cannot buy without income, money. If you starve all your buyers, all your consumers, will the 10% at the top generate enough consumption to keep Capitalism booming? If we could design the reboot of the economy what would it look like? If we don’t design it what will we get? Can we get off the ride, slow the roll given the current wins Capitalism has experienced; all the regulations undone, all the environmental protections thrown on the rising heaps of global garbage? The people who want to reopen, who insist that we just go, open the faucet all the way, are unlikely to accept anything that slows down the return of the old economy. They would be happy if it was raging tomorrow. If we can’t ease into a calmer economy, an economy that offers room for leisure (Conservative anathema) then will this virus come roaring back and force the issue? So many things we do not know, cannot answer.

Articles talk about changes already occurring in the environment, even from this short reprieve. Animals are wandering into spaces temporarily abandoned by humans. Smog and dirty air, unbreathable air, has disappeared over manufacturing centers. Crowded nations have had time to clean streets and let the works of man shine. Although if the works of man shine for no one, who is there to appreciate them. People do need to return to this equation, but will we have a new respect for our surroundings? This is a time of grief and loss, and it is  also a time of opportunity. I think it is an opportunity we will miss because the drumbeat of commerce is the most insistent music of our times and the most powerful, the wealthiest, will not allow us time to lick our wounds and think our thoughts and see our way through to a new day. It will be a shame to waste the sorrowful lessons of these tiny organisms who would not mind surviving even as they the kill their hosts. How can so many big brains be so clueless?

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – World Science Festival

The Colors of All the Cattle by Alexander McCall Smith – Book

Alexander McCall Smith has written over 20 books in his series about The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency and each one is like a perfect little piece of Mma Potokwane’s fruit cake and a refreshing cup of tea. I am reading this particular book in the time of the novel coronavirus when a bit of Mma Romatswe’s Botswana wisdom and her solid home-grown values are a perfect antidote to the fears of contagion and social isolation.

The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency is one of the faux families we create sometimes when we are in close contact with the same people every day, in this case Mma’s employees, and because her office is in the same building as her husband, Rra J.L.B. Matekoni’s, mechanic business, this small work- family includes her husband’s employees.

The cases that Mma Romatswe and Makutsi take on are often small family matters such as infidelity or money matters. But this time there is a matter that is somewhat more serious. Some developers want to build a hotel over what was a graveyard. Although Precious Romatswe has no desire to run for the empty seat on the Gabarone council, her strong feeling for traditional Botswana customs, and a lot of pressure from her work family sees her signing the application and running for office.

A customer at Tlokweng Motors also reveals that he was a victim in a hit and run accident in a smaller Botswana village. And Charlie, a handsome young man who turns out to be a fairly hopeless mechanic, but a somewhat lucky assistant detective finds Queenie-Queenie, who seems to be the girl of his dreams. These homey stories, and more, are surprisingly absorbing and I find that these characters have become a kind of faux family to me. If you crave a little sincerity and kindness in your day you will find it in The Colors of All the Cattle by Alexander McCall Smith. I hope the real people of Botswana have not been affected very deeply by the COVID19 virus.

Photo – Your Botswana

American Kids Need Computers

We have many students in America who live in poor neighborhoods and do not have access to broadband, or even dial-up, and they do not have laptops. It is also a fact that their parent/s most likely still have to go out to work every day. Who is able to homeschool these children? Fortunately the child in this photo is not one of these children who cannot do assignments on their computers because they don’t have any or whose parent has to come home from a long day at work and patiently homeschool their child. But not having access to a computer is a situation that puts already at-risk kids at even greater risk of growing up without an adequate education. It further limits the opportunities of those whose life options we have historically limited (to our shame.)

We have found ways to hook people up with cheap and practically indestructible computers and satellite internet connections in Sub Saharan Africa. Why doesn’t every American child have access to a computer and to the internet in the time of novel coronavirus when all schools are closed and there is only one way to access schoolwork? Perhaps teachers in inner city and rural schools have, once again, gone over and beyond to deliver and collect worksheets and assignments in books. I have not seen any stories on the news about this. Today I finally saw Stephanie Ruhle cover this on MSNBC.

I wrote my representatives in NYS and in Federal government about this several weeks ago but they are not really in session and are very busy trying to plug up holes in the economy. Big brush items are so important now that they are pushing aside the smaller issues. But I do not want to see another generation of children have to struggle against their more-well-to-do contemporaries to provide a good life for themselves and the children they will have one day. When you short change our poorest children who we already punish for their skin pigmentation, or their immigration status, the damage is generational. We could and should solve these particular inequalities right here and now. Even if losing a year of school will be difficult to remediate the effort must be made. I am hoping one of our philanthropic billionaires will take this on as a project and keep working at it until no child in America is without a computer and the knowledge of how to use it.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – A Getty Image through Vox