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The Real Fight

Welcome to 2022!  This is the year that we beat Covid-19 into submission. At least, I hope so. I can give you the statistics, but I guess you already know them. We are in the midst of yet another spike. Over 75% of the new cases are the new Omicron. This new variant is supposed to be highly contagious but, less deadly.

All I know is I do not want the coronavirus. I do not want the original virus. I do not want the Delta variant of the virus. I do not want the Omicron variant. I will continue to do what I can to avoid this virus. I will continue to wear a mask. I will continue to social distance. I do not go to restaurants, movie theaters, or sporting events. I avoid crowds. I am vaccinated and boosted, I encourage you to do the same.

American democracy

When we think about American democracy, we think about one-man (one-woman), one-vote. Yet, the original United States Constitution was not really about every adult voting. The original Constitution was about the rich voting or more correctly men who owned land voting. The Framers believed that people who held land were more important than “regular” folk. They believed that white-skinned people from Europe deserved the vote, but not the original inhabitants of the continent. Or women. Or people from Africa brought over to be property. Senators were not even elected by “we the people,” but appointed by state legislatures.

Over the centuries the Constitution has been changed. Now, we can vote for our representatives to both the House and Senate. But the real question remains—is America about us or about the rich?

Not my job

Recently Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) called out Warren Buffett, billionaire CEO of Berkshire Hathaway. It appears there is a steelworker strike of the Special Metals plant in Huntington, West Virginia (where I live). Berkshire Hathaway owns the parent company of Special Metals, Precision Castparts. Sen. Sanders asked Warren Buffett to pay his workers more. He correctly pointed out that these steelworkers work for a company that makes plenty of money. Yet Warren Buffett said, “That’s not my job” [to raise their pay.]

Really? Isn’t this the classic rich-vs.-poor struggle that we’ve seen in the United States for over close to 200 years.

In A People’s History of the United States, author Howard Zinn describes a, 1839 fight between tenants and the Rensselaer estate in New York’s Hudson Valley. The tenants were farmers that lived on the estate. They had to pay taxes and rents to the Rensselaers. The famers believed that the taxes and rents were too high: they barely had enough money to live on after they paid their dues.

The disagreement between the Rensselaers and their tenants became a huge fight. The sheriff was brought into collect rent or to evict tenants, but he retreated after being confronted with hundreds of angry farmers. Then the sheriff returned with a posse—and thousands of angry farmers threw stones and beat the posse with sticks. Again, they retreated. A petition for an anti-rent bill was submitted to the New York legislature in 1845. The bill was signed by 25,000 tenants. It was defeated. Finally, a guerrilla war broke out. People were killed on both sides. Although the farmers won some minor victories, the landlord-tenant structure basically stayed in place. This fight lasted for more than 20 years. Yet in the end, not much changed.

The fight between rich and poor is an ongoing battle in the United States. Think about the fights that we’ve been discussing in this space for over a decade. When you think about them in the context of rich versus poor, they make more sense.

Healthcare

Universal healthcare shouldn’t be a big deal. It’s not that we can’t afford it. We clearly can. Universal healthcare would raise millions of Americans out of poverty. Universal healthcare would not be tied to your place of work but instead would be tied to your citizenship here in the United States.

Think about it: if you’re poor and working two jobs and develop a toothache, you would have nothing to worry about. You would simply go to a dentist and have you tooth taking care of. Done.

Living wage

Think about a living wage. This would basically mean you would only work two jobs if that’s what you truly wanted to do. Most people who work two jobs, do it because they need the money. Now, if we had a living wage in the United States, people would have enough money to cover their living expenses. They could buy a car (not lease). They could rent an apartment in a decent neighborhood—or buy a house. They could pay more in taxes, which would upgrade the school system.

Yet, we don’t have a living wage or universal healthcare in the United States. Why? I think the answer is obvious. What did Warren Buffett say? It is not my job. (What if the management of that steel company decided to pay every worker $250,000 per year? Would Warren Buffett sit back and say that’s not my job? Or would he fire all management personnel and hire some folks who would get the situation of worker pay under control?)

We don’t have universal healthcare or a living wage because the rich want the poor to stay needy.

January 6

A recent poll by one of the major news outlets found 1/3 of the electorate thought that under certain circumstances it was okay, or even necessary, to overthrow our government. After the events of January 6, I’m not surprised by these polling numbers.

Let’s just think about the aftermath of the 2020 election. Over the last 50 or 60 years, the presidential election has been out in the open. The person who got the most votes was elected president.

(Except in 2000 and 2016. Come to think of it, a majority of American voters have cast ballots for a Republican only once in the past 30 years—yet three times the Republican candidate “won” the presidency, thanks to the Electoral College—another of the Founders gifts to the rich at the expense of the poor).

Yet our 2020 election really depended upon just a handful of Republicans who believed in American democracy.

There was the Secretary of State in Georgia, Brad Raffensberger, who withstood presidential pressure, recorded on an angry, whiny one-hour phone call, and pressure from fellow Republicans, to “find” votes. Almost the same pressure was seen in Arizona. Michigan Republican lawmakers were actually flown to the White House to meet with President Trump. He tried to persuade them to do “something” to help his cause. And there was Vice President Pence, who surprised not only the president and his White House cabal, but the American people, by standing up for principle and certifying Biden and Harris as the winners—and Trump and himself as the loser—of the election.

Think about how close we came to a coup. The riot, the insurrectionists, on January 6, 2021, were simply the icing on the coup cake.

At the crossroads

American democracy is at the crossroads. Donald Trump, Fox News, Kevin McCarthy, Marjorie Taylor Green, Madison Cawthorn, Alex Jones, Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Newsmax, and other members of the right-wing propaganda machine have left reality and democracy behind.

They have to keep their public riled up. This means they have to push more and more outrageous conspiracies. Yesterday’s conspiracies like Hillary Clinton leading a satanic cult of pedophiles based in a Washington, DC, pizzeria, are tame compared to the new conspiracies these anti-American propagandists are dreaming up.

Are the rich bothered by these developments? Nope. They are going to be okay no matter what goes down.

So this is our fight. The fight is not with each other. The fight is against the rich. I’m not talking about athletes who make a couple million a year. I’m talking about people who are truly rich. People who have so much money they can’t give it away. I’m talking about Rockefellers, Carnegies, DuPonts, Vanderbilts, and others. Their newer counterparts include the Kochs, the DeVos clan, and the Waltons (of Walmart)—older tycoons like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, and more recent entrepreneurs Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Elon Musk of Tesla, and Marc Zuckerberg of “Meta,” i.e. Facebook.

Can we fix it?

There are probably somewhere around a thousand American families that have this kind of money—half a billion or more, per person! What can we do about them?

We must take corporate and billionaires’ money out of politics. No political TV ads. No super PACs.

We must stop gerrymandering. This is killing our democracy. We need national standards for voting and districting.

We need voting to take place on Saturday, not on a Tuesday. If you want people to vote in state and local elections, that day should be a holiday. This is how we make America work for the everyday people instead of the rich alone.

By |2022-08-18T23:21:19-04:00August 18th, 2022|Domestic Issues, Healthcare|0 Comments

Justice in America

Justice, according to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, is the maintenance or administration of what is just: Impartial adjustment of conflicting claims. Another definition is the quality or characteristic of being just, in partial or fair. Sometimes, justice in our legal system can be extremely elusive.

Justice not done

I am sure most of you remember Trayvon Martin. Mr. Martin was a 17-year-old walking back from a corner store when he encountered a community-watch guard, George Zimmerman, in February, 2012—almost ten years ago. George Zimmerman thought he had the right to stop in question Trayvon Martin. An altercation broke out, and George Zimmerman fatally shot and killed the unarmed Trayvon Martin.

In the subsequent trial, George Zimmerman claimed that he feared for his life during the altercation. Therefore, he said, he was justified in defending himself (by shooting Trayvon). Mr. Zimmerman was acquitted of second-degree murder and manslaughter.

This was not justice.

No justice in Wisconsin

In August of 2020, Kenosha, Wisconsin police shot an unarmed 29-year-old gentleman named Jacob Blake. The video of this shooting was extremely disturbing. Blake was actually getting into his car. His kids were in the back seat. The police officer opened fire. Fortunately, Mr. Blake did not die—but he was left paralyzed from the incident.

Rioting broke out in Kenosha following the shooting. Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old white man (boy), who lived in a neighboring state, decided that he needed to drive to Kenosha to help protect private property and also to act as “a medic.” (Rittenhouse has no formal medical training that I can find.) He brought with him an AR-15 rifle, though it is illegal for someone under 18 to own such a weapon (an adult illegally bought it for him).

As you can imagine, a man walking the streets during a large and sometimes violent street protest with a rifle will get noticed. An altercation broke out. Kyle Rittenhouse shot and killed two men. He wounded a third man.

The trial of Kyle Rittenhouse did not focus on the fact that he was a 17-year-old kid with delusions of grandeur who clearly walked into a heated situation with an illegal weapon. Instead, it focused only on the immediate minutes before he open fire. Kyle Rittenhouse—just like George Zimmerman—testified that he feared for his life. He imagined the two unarmed men were going to disarm him, and therefore he had to protect himself. By shooting them to death.

The jury found Kyle Rittenhouse not guilty on all counts. He was allowed to walk free. Again, this isn’t justice.

George Zimmerman and Kyle Rittenhouse are similar people. In my opinion, they used poor judgment, and because of their actions innocent people needlessly died. George Zimmerman had no right to stop Trayvon Martin. Kyle Rittenhouse should have never brought a semiautomatic rifle to a volatile protest. Yet both men were allowed to walk free.

I do not believe that justice was served. As a matter fact, I would argue that both men were allowed to walk free because of the NRA. Both men were beneficiaries of laws that were written by the National Rifle Association.

Maybe Merriam-Webster needs to update its definition of justice and its opposite. The opposite of “justice” isn’t only “injustice”; sometimes it’s “white privilege.” And yet …

Justice achieved—in Georgia

Ahmaud Arbery was a 25-year-old black man who was out for a run in his hometown in Brunswick, Georgia. By all accounts, he was a kind and loving man. He like to stay in shape—so he went out jogging.

He was not far from his home when he was confronted by two men in a pickup truck—father and son, Gregory and Travis McMichael. A third man, William Bryan, joined the pursuit. For some reason—or for no reason, other than that he was African American—these three white men concluded that Mr. Arbery was the same man who had vandalized house that was under construction in their neighborhood.

Gregory McMichael is a former investigator for the Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office. They decided they had the right to make a “citizen’s arrest.”

An altercation ensued. There was in a fight over the shotgun that Travis McMichael was carrying. Two shots were fired. Ahmaud Arbery was dead.

Because this happened in a small town in Georgia, the case almost disappeared before it got started. One prosecutor argued there was not enough probable cause to arrest those who shot Mr. Arbery. Another recused himself. The case finally went to the Cobb County prosecutor.

Fast forward to the trial, in which, somehow, an almost-all-white jury in Georgia (11 Whites, one Black) found all three men guilty on all courts. This was justice.

(In September, 2021, former Brunswick District Attorney Jackie Johnson was indicted in for “showing favor and affection” to her former subordinate Gregory McMichael during the investigation, and for obstructing law enforcement by directing that Travis not be arrested. This, too, is justice.)

Omicron

On November 24, the day before Thanksgiving, South African scientists reported to the World Health Organization that they had discovered a new variant of the coronavirus. It is being called “omicron” (the 15th letter of the Greek alphabet).

Right now, it is too early to determine whether this variant is more infectious or even more deadly than the original virus or the delta variant that hit this summer and fall. The initial response from the international community has been to restrict travel from South Africa. The United States is jointing suit.

I am not sure that this is the right move. Two years ago, China first identified the coronavirus, and the Trump administration told us that everything would be fine. They stood around and did nothing—and then they opted to limit travel from China. As it turns out, by the time the Trump administration had decided, the coronavirus had already crossed the Pacific Ocean and was in Washington state.

What was completely unknown at the time was that the coronavirus had actually crossed the Atlantic Ocean and was beginning to ravish New York. Apparently, it had already reached various places in Europe directly from China. The China travel ban was completely useless.

As of this writing, the omicron variant is already here. Eighteen states have reported the omicron variant by early December. I am not sure that limiting travel to South Africa has any value; in part, it punishes South Africa for doing the right thing: immediately alerting the world to the new variant. Instead, testing all passengers from South Africa and those who recently traveled to South Africa for coronavirus might be a much better move.

When will we learn?

We are beginning to enter our second year of dealing with the coronavirus. As soon as a surge passes, we begin to relax. Life begins to return to almost normal—then there is another surge. Over 789,000 Americans have died because of Covid-19, and many more will die during the next surge—and the one after that.

We must get as many people as possible vaccinated. We need to help the rest of the world get vaccinated. This is truly an international disaster. Until we get everyone vaccinated, we are going to continue to fight Covid. (By everyone I mean more than 90% of the adult population.)

’Tis the Season

So Merry Christmas to everyone. I’m serious. Merry Christmas. May your hearts be full of love and joy. In addition, wear a mask. Find a couple of special masks for the holiday season. Get together with family and friends who are vaccinated.

I would still avoid large crowds. I haven’t been to a movie theater in over 20 months. And remember, I love movies. I have been to theaters for the opening week of every James Bond movie since The Spy Who Loved Me. But I didn’t see No Time to Die until it was available on Google Play. Although I hated not to see it on the big screen, I thought that the title was talking to me. It was telling me not to risk it. Going to a movie wasn’t worth my life. It isn’t worth your life either. This is no time to die. 2021 was better than 2020. And truly, I’m looking for 2022 to be even better. So, not just Merry Christmas, but Happy New Year to all!

By |2022-08-18T21:15:31-04:00December 18th, 2021|Coronavirus, Domestic Issues, Healthcare|Comments Off on Justice in America

Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS)

(I wrote this for the Urban News, January 2021)

It was almost 11 months ago when I wrote about TDS or Trump Derangement Syndrome. It is that is the feeling that falls over you when multiple conservatives have repeatedly lied to you. It is a combination of nausea, disgust, and anger—overlaid with frustration.

Recently, the lies have been flowing like the mighty Mississippi river. If there were an Olympic category for lying, Trump would be a gold-medal decathlete. If, for some reason, you thought that he would crawl into his gold-plated Mar-a-Lago hole and disappear because he lost the general election, you were, and are sadly mistaken. His crazy, stupid, paranoid, delusional and un-American tactics to overturn the election results have been overwhelming.

I could go over the list of more than 60 lawsuits that Trump and his allies have filed in state and federal courts since the election. For the most part, Trump and the GOP have lost all their “legal” challenges. All of them. What I thought was the boldest and most un-American move was when Donald Trump invited a group of Republican members of the Michigan state legislature to the White House, where he tried to pressure them into overturning the election. In what can only be called an act of patriotism and duty, the Michigan legislators, after meeting with Trump, stated in a joint press conference that they had not seen any information that would change the outcome.

Our Democracy

Conservatives always like to point out that we don’t actually live in a democracy but a “constitutional republic.” For the most part, this difference is meaningless. Our Constitution is set up so that our government is chosen by its citizens—a democracy—and works within a system of checks and balances reflecting its different governing parts—a republic.

For example, if the president tries to overstep his authority, Congress and the Supreme Court have the power to reign in the president. Also, states have authority over certain rules and laws that the federal government cannot override—including how to run elections.

But over the past four years, those checks and balances have been stretched to the limit. Trump requires everyone to be loyal to him personally, or be fired. He believes they take an oath of office to obey him, not the Constitution or the laws of the United States. Unfortunately, our founding fathers did not have an answer for this. They did not foresee all three branches of government being taken over by one person.

In my opinion, our democracy is in trouble. The rule of law is in peril. This is not like after Watergate when Americans, overwhelmingly, rejected Nixon and the Republicans who supported him. Instead, we have a large swath of Americans who believe and support the lies of Trump.

Republican Sen. Josh Hawley has stated his plan to publicly object to the Electoral College being free and fair. He’s been joined by eleven other Republican senators: Cruz of Texas, Johnson (WI), Lankford (OK), Daines (MT), Kennedy (LA), Blackburn (TN) and Braun (IN), and four newly elected senators who took their seats Jan. 3—Cynthia Lummis (WY), Roger Marshall (KS), Bill Hagerty (TN) and Tommy Tuberville (AL).

Their objection to Biden’s election will cause contentious votes in the Senate. More importantly, I think it causes more and more Americans to distrust our system. I have no idea how we get the trust back. I don’t think that there’s anything that Biden/Harris can do or say that would sow the seeds of trust in those who have swallowed the nonsense of the Trump administration. Without trust, our democracy will fall apart.

Coronavirus

As a nation, we continue to be in the midst of the worst pandemic in over 100 years. The Trump administration has inexplicably chosen to downplay the virus at every turn. Trump himself explained to best-selling author Bob Woodward last January that he always wanted to downplay the virus—because he didn’t want to cause a “panic.” Well, what he has caused instead is millions of infections which were completely preventable. Over three hundred thousand Americans have died, many because of mismanagement and misinformation. Trump’s refusal to wear a mask or endorse mask wearing has itself killed tens of thousands of Americans. The simple wearing of masks saves lives. This is a fact.

Now it appears that we have two effective vaccines. Yet, because Republicans hate government, it is near impossible for them to make the government work effectively. Back in August or September, the Trump administration knew that the vaccine from Pfizer and the vaccine from Moderna appeared to be on track for FDA approval. This is when “Operation Warp Speed” should have begun comprehensive planning on how to get the vaccine to hundreds of millions of Americans quickly. This is a huge logistical nightmare. (more…)

By |2021-01-15T21:55:59-04:00January 15th, 2021|Congress, Elections, Healthcare|Comments Off on Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS)
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