A 9/11 Every Day

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the daily death toll from COVID-19 is likely to exceed the total from the September 11 terrorist attacks for the next 2 to 3 months. Good thing we’re not responding to the coronavirus the same way that we responded to 9/11.

Home for the Holidays

The authorities keep telling us that we shouldn’t travel, whether it was for Thanksgiving or now for the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. If they’re so worried about the spread of COVID-19, why don’t they simply ban air travel? Because that wouldn’t be nearly as much fun as shaming us.

Why Didn’t the Xenophobe-in-Chief Close the Borders?

US-Canada border will remain closed to nonessential travel at least June 21 | CNN Travel

            The COVID-19 pandemic was a crisis tailormade for a xenophobe like Donald Trump. The coronavirus provided an ideal opportunity to turn the president’s biggest liability in early 2020 — the nativist bigotry that went so far as to lock babies in cages and then lose hundreds of them, and elicited disgust even among some of his supporters — into a strength. Trump’s inexplicable failure to knock this easy pitch out of the ballpark is my biggest single explanation for why he lost the election to a singularly lackluster opponent.

            My report card for Trump’s handling of COVID-19 after lockdowns began in late March is more nuanced than that of most people who share my political leanings.

Give the president his due. It’s not like he didn’t do anything. He hired Dr. Anthony Fauci. He didn’t fire him (though he thought about it). Aside from obnoxious tweets and dumb remarks at rallies, Trump mostly got out of the way while public health officials and local and state politicians shut down the economy to try to flatten the curve. That cannot have been an easy decision for an incumbent during an election year. A Columbia University study found that 130,000 fewer Americans (out of 220,000 at the time of the study) would have died had the United States enforced public-health protocols similar to those in other countries; that still means tens of thousands of people would have died no matter what. It’s not true that he eliminated Obama’s pandemic response unit.

            But Trump’s clownish messaging was morally inexcusable and politically inexplicable—and it contributed to the deaths of those 130,000-plus people. He equated mask-wearing with effeminacy, held mass rallies where social distancing was discouraged and virtually nonexistent and went months refusing to be seen in public wearing a mask. To the president’s many failures and unforced errors on the coronavirus I add: slandering the Chinese government whose cooperation we desperately needed, slashing the budget of the Centers for Disease Control, pulling out of the World Health Organization, failing to ramp up production and distribute masks to American households, allowing supplemental unemployment benefits to expire in the middle of the summer, failing to declare a rent and mortgage holiday, and refusing to pivot to a free healthcare system at least for COVID-related treatment and ancillary related illnesses.

            That’s quite a list. Yet not all of those crimes devolve exclusively to Donald Trump. Much of it is ideologically inherent to America’s system of gangster capitalism. Any whiff of government-supplied healthcare is vigorously opposed by both the Republican and Democratic parties, and that’s true of President-elect Joe Biden. The U.S. is exceptionally stingy when it’s time to cut checks to get citizens through hard times, no matter which party is in charge.

            What baffles me most is how Trump responded to, or did not respond to, the early days of the crisis during the first few months of this year. This was a man who had been elected in large part on a promise to build a big beautiful wall on the southern border, and somehow finagle a way to make Mexico pay for it. One of his first major policy moves was to ban people from Muslim countries from visiting the United States. He started a trade war with China. Once it became clear that a deadly virus was spreading across the globe — a disease that originated in China of all places — why didn’t he close the borders and suspend international air travel? The novel coronavirus fit his America-First narrative that foreigners were dangerous to a T. Why didn’t he respond and message accordingly to a bug that originated with that most bizarre and exotic of foreign creatures, the pangolin?

            Trump says he shut the borders early. He dawdled. “Forty-five nations imposed travel restrictions on China before the United States did,” reported The Washington Post. “The earliest of those restrictions went into effect Jan. 24, nine days before the U.S. travel ban went into effect on Feb. 2. The U.S. travel restriction came a month after China first announced its outbreak and at a point when the United States and more than 20 other countries had already reported coronavirus cases.”

Trump’s “ban,” such as it was, was full of holes. It “only prohibited U.S. entry to foreign nationals who had visited China in the last 14 days. Americans and U.S. permanent residents returning from Hubei Province were still allowed, subject to a 14-day quarantine. After these policies were enacted, hundreds of thousands of travelers continued to arrive in the United States via direct flights from China. Until Feb. 27, no other travelers to the United States faced such travel restrictions and quarantine requirements — even if they were arriving from other nations that were reporting coronavirus cases.”

            The economic impact of travel restrictions no doubt influenced Trump’s foot-dragging when it came to closing the U.S. to arrivals from overseas. Nevertheless, it ranks as one of this year’s great political ironies that the Nativist-in-Chief presided over one of the last nations on the planet to protect its borders. On a rare occasion when America needed an isolationist leader, it instead got a globalist.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Political Suicide: The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

 

A New Shithole Country

If nothing else, the political and economic collapse of the United States means it no longer has much stomach for lecturing other countries.

After The Donald, The Deluge?

French Revolution Series Ordered at Netflix - ComingSoon.net

           Joe Biden enjoys a double-digit lead over the incumbent president because he promises a return to normalcy—not the platonic ideal of objective normalcy in a country that doesn’t torture or spy on its citizens or let them starve because their coding chops are a few years out of date. Americans desperately want to resume “normal” political life as Americans knew it before the last four years of manic presidential tweetstorms, authoritarian strongman antics and pandemic pandemonium. As Michigan voter Katybeth Davis told The Guardian, “I just want it [the Trump presidency] to be over with. I really do.”

            Be careful what you wish for. Things could get even crazier under Biden.

            Even though it’s only a few weeks away, I am hesitant to call the election. Biden has a huge lead in the polls but Trump has an ace in the hole: an unprecedented volume of mail-in ballots due to the COVID pandemic, which will run predominantly Democratic and provide attractive targets for Republican attorneys to drag out state vote counts past the December 14th electoral college certification deadline, which would trigger the obscure 12th Amendment scenario in which 50 states each get one vote for president in the next House of Representatives, in which case Trump wins even if Biden wins the popular vote by a lot.

            But let’s assume Biden prevails. Let’s say it’s a blue wave election and the Democrats expand their majority in the House and take control of the Senate. What happens next? Revolution, maybe.

            Revolution would certainly be likelier under Biden than under Trump.

            One of history’s least-discussed ironies is a counterintuitive pattern: it is not the vicious tyrants who are overthrown by angry mobs, but well-meaning liberal reformers who promise to fix a broken system and fall short of expectations.

            A Biden Administration will face several daunting existential challenges. Unlike Obama, whose high approval rating at inauguration prolonged his political honeymoon into his second year, Biden will enjoy little to no support from Republican voters or elected representatives. Progressives will pressure him from the left. Worse, Biden will inherit problems that have been neglected or exacerbated for so long that no solution will be able to come fast enough.

A president who will have achieved victory by campaigning against his predecessor’s mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic will be expected to quickly turn around the ongoing medical and economic disasters with lightning quick results. Like Obama, Biden has promised to add a “public option” to the Affordable Care Act; he’ll need to do that right away. That’s only the beginning: the ACA will collapse unless Congress vastly increases premium subsidies to middle-class patients and orders Medicaid expansion nationally.

The $600-a-week supplemental unemployment benefits that both parties allowed to expire during the summer will have to be replaced in some form. There will need to be meaningful broad-based relief for distressed renters and homeowners facing eviction or foreclosure; without an infusion of cash millions of people who formerly belonged to the middle and working classes will become homeless, adding to social and political instability. Billions will have to be pumped into the economy in the form of direct stimulus checks to every man, woman and child. The alternative is economic collapse.

The presidency, of course, is about more than policy. Many Americans who believed in exceptionalism a few years ago are wondering aloud whether the U.S. is literally over and done. During times of crisis, leaders are called upon to reassure citizens that a wise and steady hand is at the helm and that a team of intelligent and innovative advisors is running the show behind the scenes.

Can Biden deliver? On most fronts, probably not.

The Democratic Party is too beholden to its corporate donors to enact the FDR-style stimulus and social programs that are required to dig out of an economic hole filled with tens of millions of newly unemployed workers and where one out of five businesses have gone broke. Biden comes out of the Clinton/Obama/Democratic Leadership Council austerity wing of his party. His instinct will be to spend as little as possible in order to try to balance the budget.

“When we get in, the pantry is going to be bare,” says Ted Kaufman, who will run the transition office that will select Biden’s top personnel. “When you see what Trump’s done to the deficit…forget about COVID-19, all the deficits that he built with the incredible tax cuts. So we’re going to be limited.” Kaufman, a former Delaware senator, promises that Biden won’t significantly increase federal spending.

The streets are already seething. Austerity will bring things to a boil.

Political suicide by fiscal means.

The Soviet Union didn’t collapse under Josef Stalin. It couldn’t have. He would have ruthlessly crushed any meaningful opposition. Nikita Khrushchev and Leonid Brezhnev presided over graduated liberalization but it was under Mikhail Gorbachev, architect of perestroika, that the USSR went out of business. Gorbachev, arguably the best, brightest and most decent premier the Soviet system could allow to come to power and the best the Russian people could hope for, failed to deliver the improvements in living standards and personal freedoms people wanted and needed. It was precisely the fact that he was so excellent, yet couldn’t deliver, that exposed the corruption and incompetence inherent to the system.

Neither Khrushchev nor Brezhnev nor Gorbachev were the problem. The system itself was. It had to go.

Similarly, the French Revolution couldn’t have succeeded under Louis XIV; the Sun King was too brutal and autocratic. Louis XVI attempted numerous reforms to make life better for the French, including the free distribution of grain, slashing the royal budget and the abolition of torture and servitude. He granted equal rights to Jews and Protestants, tried to tax the nobility (they refused) and began a transition toward parliamentary monarchy as in Great Britain. But the reforms were insufficient, internal forces were intransigent and resentments had built up for too long. The French were hungry and angry so Louis XVI lost his head to the guillotine.

So it went in Russia. Although Czar Nicholas II was a bit of a clueless dolt, he recognized the crisis and desperately tried to save a collapsing system. He introduced civil liberties, worked to increase literacy, granted representation to local districts throughout the country and modernized the empire’s infrastructure. Again, it wasn’t enough. He destroyed the economy by squandering the treasury on wars of choice, refused to consider democratization and ultimately succumbed to the resistance of shortsighted Russian aristocrats. Lenin and the Bolsheviks had long argued that the Russian government was corrupt and unwilling to provide for the needs of the people. Only when Nicholas II’s reforms proved to be too little too late did they agree and rise up.

Like Gorbachev, Louis XVI and Nicholas II, President Biden will disappoint at the worst possible time.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of the biography “Political Suicide: The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

 

 

The Bizarro World of the Overmasked

Everyone focuses on the Republican areas where the locals refuse to wear a mask in order to make a political statement of some kind. But there are other areas, dominated by liberal Democrats, where a different kind of insanity prevails.

President Trump Neither Needs Nor Deserves Our Thoughts and Prayers

Salem • View topic - Know Your Enemy.

            I don’t give a damn if Donald Trump lives or dies. I don’t wish him well. I don’t send him thoughts or prayers. If COVID-19 or green men from Mars or liopleurodon take him to his despicable maker, so be it. Everyone dies. Being famous and or a billionaire and or President of the United States does not entitle you to universal goodwill.

            Neither do I wish Trump ill. That’s how little I care.

            Republicans, members of the self-proclaimed Party of Personal Responsibility, ought to acknowledge that this man has been asking for this. I’m not talking about karmic retribution for the 200,000+ Americans who died on his watch while he plainly didn’t much care. Trump has been cruising for COVID-19 spring, summer and fall, avoiding masks and social distancing the way he dodges the construction contractors he chisels out of pay. If you drink like a fish, you’re cruising for liver disease. If you like to run red lights, don’t whine if you get broadsided by a semi-truck. Trump wanted this virus and he got it.

            What’s fascinating and enlightening though is the semiotic contortions that liberal Democrats twist themselves through in order to simultaneously dogwhistle their glee at the President’s medical misfortune while patting themselves on the back for their phony compassion.

            MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, the former progressive to whom I point whenever I’m trying to instance the term “sellout,” tweeted a watered-down liberal version of “hearts and prayers” in response to the big news: “God bless the president and the first lady. If you pray, please pray for their speedy and complete recovery — and for everyone infected, everywhere.” Atheists, thank the Lord, are apparently off the hook.

            Maddow continued sympathy shaming for Trump on her nightly TV show.

“If you know someone who smoked for years and years and years and never even tried to quit despite knowing the risks of lung cancer from smoking and then that person who you know got lung cancer, how do you react to that?” she asked. “Well, part of the way you react is that you understand why they likely got it. Your instinct might even be to blame them for getting it. Go right ahead. Enjoy that schadenfreude.” Internet searches for schadenfreude soared over the weekend.

“But also, you’re a human being in this situation,” Maddow went on. “If your friend has lung cancer now, regardless of what you feel about how he or she, how he or she got it, once you find out that they’re ill, you wish and hope and try to save them, right? You get them into treatment. You help them try to survive it. You move heaven and earth to cure them. That’s how we do as humans, right? That’s how this works!”

Well, yes. The keyword is “friend.” If your friend screws up, you are there for them. But Trump is not my friend.

Trump made excuses for and let Saudi Arabia off the hook for butchering Jamal Khashoggi. Trump bombs innocent people with drones. Trump kills the poor in Yemen. Trump coddles neo-Nazis and cops, who are often the same people. Trump doesn’t care if I die due to lack of healthcare. Trump doesn’t care about all the homeless people sleeping outside tonight.

So Trump is my enemy.

He’s probably yours too.

And when your enemy suffers, you have no obligation whatsoever to care. You are allowed to laugh. Pretending that you care about your enemy, especially when they are a mass murderer—every American president is—is the pinnacle of psychological alienation. Make no mistake: your enemy would do the same to you. That is, if he even knows you exist.

            It’s interesting that Maddow used the F-word. I don’t know if she is friends with President Trump the same way that Ellen DeGeneres chills with George W. Bush, but there’s an important similarity: both men and both women belong to a privileged class of ruling elites for whom rules and laws do not apply as stringently as for the rest of us. Maddow earns $7 million a year and is worth $20 million. The rich are different from you and me: they don’t care about us.

            From a class perspective, Trump and Maddow might not be friends. But they are part of the same clique. And if anything makes these insanely wealthy people nervous—aside from succumbing to a mysterious disease or getting strung up by an angry mob of revolutionaries —it’s their suspicion that we might not like them. That we might not consider them “friends.” Not only that we might not give a damn about them, but that we might actually take pleasure in their suffering.

            40% of Democratic voters told a poll that they were happy that Trump had COVID-19. I was surprised that anyone took such a poll and that any media organization published the results. That wouldn’t have happened 40 years ago.

There isn’t much historical data to compare to but it’s a fair bet that most Democrats felt sympathy for Ronald Reagan when he was shot in an assassination attempt in 1981. I was a leftist and I hated Reagan. His financial aid cuts forced me to work multiple jobs through college and pushed many of my classmates to drop out of school. But I was glad he recovered. At the time, an attack on the majesty of the presidency was shocking.

            The presidency no longer has much majesty; I’m not sure that’s a bad thing.

            The liberal Democrats who fall over themselves in order to shed crocodile tears for a man they excoriate every day and every night showcase the nature of the system under which we live and the separate class interests that divide the American people. While talking heads on CNN and columnists for the New York Times virtue-signal their concern for the latest murderous president, policemen are shooting unarmed people of color in their cars and in their homes with impunity, renters who lost their homes to the COVID-19 lockdown are being evicted, unemployment benefits still haven’t been renewed, people in the Middle East are getting blown up by Hellfire missiles and cultural gatekeepers have nothing to say.

            We might not have internalized the fact that they are our enemies.

But they know we are theirs.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of the biography “Political Suicide: The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

 

Hope and Change 2: the Biden Years

Every candidate attracts unrealistic expectations but the Democratic idea that Joe Biden is going to fix everything that is wrong under Donald Trump has brought magical thinking to a fever pitch. Newsflash: if things get any better, it won’t be much better.

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