If we don’t know our history, we are destined to repeat it

I read this week from a UPI article that 60% of millennials and Gen-Zers are unaware that 6 million Jews were exterminated in the Holocaust by the Nazis in World War II. I use the word “exterminated” as that is what the Nazis did by gassing Jews after they rounded them up. If the brashness of this statement offends – I apologize for the needed candor. It is meant to wake people up.

But, the Nazi genocide of Jews is among too many persecutions around the world and over time. The United States has had three persecutions of groups of people, two of which leading to many deaths. We should never forget these sad parts of our history or white-wash (word intentionally chosen) them away.

– European settlers of the US over time seized land from, killed many and moved Native Americans over the course of three centuries. Even today, Native Americans have to go out of their way to protect the rights granted when they were forced to move or areas dear to them were protected by law. It seems the pursuit of fossil fuel acquisition and transport usurps rights.

– Slavery of blacks in the US is well known and was the principal reason the Civil War was fought. Even the reason for the war was white-washed and taught as a battle for states’ rights in too many class rooms. This propaganda was to get poor whites to fight the battles of landowners to allow their richer neighbors to keep slaves. Slaves were treated and abused as property. Yet, after the reconstruction period was legislated away years later, an ugly era of Jim Crow laws began to suppress blacks and make/ keep them as second class citizens. I encourage you to read “To Kill a Mockingbird” or listen to Billie Holiday sing “Strange Fruit” about black bodies swinging in the trees regarding this hateful period.

– To protect them (and other Americans, as a stated reason), FDR ordered the encampment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. These folks and their families were taken from their jobs and homes and imprisoned in camps during the war. They were not killed, although maybe some were while trying to escape, yet their rights were taken away.

Outside of North America, USSR premier Josef Stalin rounded up and killed far more people as enemies of the state than Adolph Hitler ever did. Yet, it did not get the notoriety of Hitler’s heinous crimes of the holocaust. In the 1990s, Radovan Karadzic and the Bosnian Serb military commander, General Ratko Mladic, were among those indicted for genocide and other crimes against humanity as they captured and killed about 8,000 Bosniaks.

In 1994, a planned campaign of mass murder in Rwanda occurred over the course of some 100 days. The genocide was conceived by extremist elements of Rwanda’s majority Hutu population who planned to kill the minority Tutsi population and anyone who opposed those genocidal intentions.

More recently, in Iran the Sunnis felt left out of the largely Shia governing body in Iraq after Saddam Hussein was toppled. They made the mistake of inviting in Daesh to help them. Daesh conducted genocide against all who stood against them, with beheadings and terror, until they were contained.

Sadly, there is so much more. Often the conquering power or the group in power will suppress people in their own lands. The leaders of the Mongols, Romans, Spaniards, Greeks, Brits, Syrians, North Koreans, Russians, Chinese, etc. have put down dissidents or dissident groups or made them disappear. There is an old saying – winners write the history – so, written history may be kinder than oral history to the strong-arming

These sad events involve two themes – power and fear. The first theme is obvious. The second is an age old practice. Tell people to fear another group, tell them these groups are the reason for your disenfranchisement and the people will do what you tell them.

How do we avoid this? So-called leaders who tell us whom to fear, should be questioned. This is especially true if the voice is not one of reason or veracity. Fear is a lever to divide and conquer – we must guard against its wielders.

Global view of America and Trump worsens

Earlier this week, Business Insider posted the following article, “Trump is less trusted than Putin and Xi and the US is hitting historic lows of approval from its closest allies.” The full article can be linked to below, but I note several key paragraphs that speak for themselves. I also encourage you to click on the link to Jill’s similar post, which includes quotes from non-Americans, and is an excellent read.

“The United States’ image has soured within the international community, hitting all-time lows among key allies since Pew started polling two decades ago.

Among the 13-countries surveyed include Canada, France, Germany, UK and Japan. The results showed that people have less confidence in Trump as a leader than Russia’s Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping. Majority of the publics also say Trump mishandled the US’s coronavirus response.

President Donald Trump has on average received low approval ratings from Americans during his time in office — and new data shows people around the world continue to view him very negatively.

In Canada, one in five people expressed confidence in Trump, a drastic drop from 51 percent who held that view a year ago.

Similarly, Germans gave the US some of ‘its worst ratings,’ the authors note, with only 10% who said they have confidence in Trump, compared with 13% in 2019 and 86% in 2016 while Barack Obama was president.

Most people across the 13 countries surveyed said they have less trust in Trump to ‘do the right thing’ than they do in Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Only an average of 16% said they have confidence in Trump as a leader, versus 19% who said the same for Xi and 23% for Putin.

Overall, the report found that roughly 34% of people expressed a positive view of the US. Pew Research Center conducted its survey to 13,273 respondents from June 10 to Aug. 3.

Though Trump has consistently been rated low by the rest of the world over the past four years, the study released Tuesday depicts a deepening downward trend of the US’ international reputation, likely due to his coronavirus response — the US has the world’s highest reported death toll, which is nearing 200,000.

All 13 countries ranked the US lowest for its handling of the pandemic, averaging a mere 15% who said the country has done a good job.

Germany, on the other hand, gained the highest ratings, as a median of 76% said they have confidence in Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has been praised internationally for leading an effective coronavirus response in the Western European country.

The Pew poll comes amid renewed criticism nationally against Trump for how he dealt with public health crisis, after damning audio recordings revealed that he publicly downplayed the virus’ severity at the onset of the outbreak.”

In short, America is less trusted because its president is untrustworthy. He is relentless in his disregard for the truth. So, my strong advice is to start from the basis to not believe a word the president says or tweets. The odds are well in your favor.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/trump-is-less-trusted-than-putin-and-xi-and-the-us-is-hitting-historic-lows-of-approval-from-its-closest-allies/ar-BB194Kdq?ocid=msedgdhp

How The World Sees Us Now

Bob Woodward – a few tidbits from “60 Minutes” interview on Sunday

For some reason, the president of the United States agreed to be interviewed by Bob Woodward, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winning reporter and author. This is a writer who, with Carl Bernstein, helped uncover the truth behind the corruption and deceit of Richard Nixon leading up to and following the Watergate break-in. So, the most untruthful and corrupt president, in my lifetime, including the aforementioned Nixon, sat down for recorded interviews with Woodward.

Relating to the “60 Minutes” interview between Woodward and Scott Pelley, I found the three paragraphs from a news summary by Ted Johnson called, “Bob Woodward Tells ’60 Minutes’ Why He Made A Judgment Call That Donald Trump Was The ‘Wrong Man For The Job: ‘It’s A Conclusion Based On Evidence'” revealing

“In his last interview with Trump in August, Woodward said, the topic again was on the coronavirus, as the pandemic continued to spread throughout the country. Trump insisted during the interview that ‘nothing more could have been done’ to curb the virus.

‘Nothing more could have been done. Does he remember what he told me, back in February, about it’s more deadly than the flu?’ Woodward told Pelley. ‘I mean it almost took my breath away, that there was such certainty, when he was absolutely wrong about the issue that defines the position of this country right now.’

Meanwhile, Trump continues to downplay the potential for the virus to spread, as he has mocked his rival Joe Biden for wearing a mask. His campaign continues to hold rallies in which supporters are tightly packed together and many not wearing masks. In fact, just as the 60 Minutes interview was airing, the Trump campaign was getting ready to hold its first indoor rally in three months, an event scheduled Sunday evening in Henderson, NV. Masks are recommended but not required.”

What troubles me about the last paragraph is even after the beans were spilled that Trump knew of the danger and lied about it, he still continues to hold rallies. It is akin to inviting people to a party where you know some of the food has spoiled. Trump has called Woodward a “wack job” and his book as “fake,” but most of the trouble from Woodward comes from Trump’s own words. His followers might want to listen to what Trump said.

Narcissism and pandemic misleading

The following is a brief letter I sent to my newspaper. Please feel free to adapt and use. Note I softened the last line from the word that I think best defines the actions – sociopathic.

The revelation the president admitted he knew of the pandemic risk, while misleading us, downplaying it and calling it a hoax, is troubling. Epidemiologists and historians have noted mission one in pandemics is tell people the truth, then they are prone to follow healthy safety directions. When we needed leadership, he passed and decided not to create a panic, which is absurd and deadly.

Help me understand, what kind of person holds several rallies without caution, knowing the virus is air borne, putting his most faithful fans at risk just to garner applause? This is beyond narcissism, in my view.

A sad party run by sad people

As a fiscal conservative and social progressive, I left the Republican Party about twelve years ago. My main reasons for becoming an independent were the Republican stance on climate change, an unhealthy focus on evangelicals and guns, and a tendency to make things up. These reasons still exist twelve years later.

The Grand Old Party is no longer grand and it really is no longer Republican. At the recent RNC convention, they did not vote on a platform, so as one reporter said, “the platform is whatever Donald Trump says it is.” In and of itself, this is the final takedown of the old flag and raising of the new Trump Party banner.

Further, evidence of the dissolution, is an Alternate Republican convention was held the same week. This convention brought together several groups of Republicans bent on the defeat of Trump in November. They include The Lincoln Project, Republicans for the Rule of Law, and Republican Voters against Trump. Two additional groups of former Republican governors and intelligence leaders have also come out against Trump.

The Trump Party is a sad group led by sad people. Here are a few things that seem to be the major tenets in of the Trump Party:

– Truth, decency and empathy are not valued
– Protecting Americans against the COVID-19 pandemic is less important than winning the election. Not informing Americans of known risks is inexcusable.
– Civil rights of non-whites is less important and protestors of all races seeking equality for blacks are “thugs.”
– Soldiers who fight for America are “losers” and “suckers” and if captured, not heroes. It is OK that a country can put bounties on our soldiers without pushback.
– Using the presidency for profit is acceptable and it is OK to extort and use other countries for personal gain.
– Any Inspectors General, whistleblowers or those who testify under oath over legitimate concerns about wrongdoing can be removed without questions.
– Finally, it is OK to say absolutely anything to further the cause. It is OK to malign the voting process without doing a darn thing to make it secure. It is OK to blame any person or group for things that are caused by the president. It is OK to name call any critic. Trump called two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Bob Woodward a “wack job,” but it was the president’s own words that are causing the furor.

These words make me sad for our country. It makes me more sad to know sycophants, rationalizers, and enablers have allowed this to happen. Names like McConnell, Graham, Cotton, Johnson, Nunes, Cruz, Jordan, McCarthy, Meadows, Miller, Kushner, et al should be remembered along with the Trump name as people who led to the demise of the Republican Party, our democracy and our planet. If this corrupt and deceitful person wins again, America will move even more toward an autocracy run by a sad person.

Ten reasons to believe Trump disparaged the military (per Bill Press of The Hill)

Two letters to my newspaper framed the issue. One from a veteran said it is easy to believe Trump disparaged the troops based on his past actions and words. Another said she felt it was a “smear job” and encouraged the anonymous sources to come forward. Bill Press of The Hill wrote an opinion piece called “Trump gives military middle finger salute.” In it, he cites ten reasons to believe the story by a reputable source and corroborated by four other sources, is true. The highlighting of three reasons is my doing for emphasis.

“Admittedly, it’s hard to imagine any American president, Republican or Democrat, calling our soldiers, especially those killed in battle, ‘losers’ or ‘suckers.’ Still don’t believe it? Let me give you 10 reasons why you should.

One, Trump ducked military service in Vietnam by getting five deferments, including one of them for ‘temporary’ bone spurs – based on a diagnosis written by a New York podiatrist, according to his daughters, as a favor to Trump’s father. Two, this is the same Donald Trump who bragged to radio host Howard Stern in 1997 that his ‘personal Vietnam’ was dating in the ’90s without getting STDs.

Three, New York businessman Donald Trump fought repeatedly to ban disabled vets from selling goods on Fifth Avenue. ‘Whether they are veterans or not,’ he wrote in a 2004 letter to then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg, ‘they should not be allowed to sell on this most important and prestigious shopping street.’ Four, according to his niece Mary Trump, when Donald Jr. told his father he was considering joining the military, Trump said he would disown him.

Five, as candidate for president, Trump spent a week disparaging Gold Star parents of Army Capt. Humayun Kahn, after his father spoke at the Democratic National Convention. Six, he also insisted that John McCain was no ‘war hero’ because he was captured and later, as president, resisted honoring McCain’s death. ‘We’re not going to support that loser’s funeral,’ he reportedly told his staff.

Seven, he told the widow of slain Army Sgt. La David Johnson ‘he knew what he signed up for.’ Eight, in 2017, according to the Washington Post’s Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig, he told top generals at the Pentagon: ‘I wouldn’t go to war with you people. You’re a bunch of dopes and babies.’ Nine, he called four-star General and former Defense Secretary James Mattis ‘not tough enough’ and ‘overrated.’ Ten, when our intelligence agencies reported that Russia was paying Taliban terrorists a bounty to kill American soldiers, Donald Trump did – absolutely nothing.

Given that history, no wonder not one military leader has stood up to deny the Atlantic’s report. They know the truth. Donald Trump’s been bad-mouthing the military all his life.

The full editorial is below. The words that Trump have been alleged to have said are entirely in character. The choice of words and the targets are meaningful and consistent.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/press-trump-gives-military-middle-finger-salute/ar-BB18Osjk?ocid=msedgdhp

Former Republican Chair is committed to seeing Trump lose

Michael Steele, a long-time Republican and former Chair of the Republican Party, has had enough. Steele is actively working to assure the current president loses in November. Wny? David Smith writes in The Guardian about his interview with Steele, an African-American, in the following piece entitled “‘They capitulated to Trump’: Michael Steele on the fight for the Republican party’s soul.”

Here a few paragraphs from the article, which can be linked to in full below.

“’I asked myself, what are the things that matter to you? It mattered that this president has openly said to us, I’m not going to accept the outcome of this election if I don’t win. It matters to me what he’s done with the Postal Service to prevent Americans from accessing the ballot box. I see this is the time for choosing, and the choice that unfortunately many in my party, particularly in the party leadership, have made is that they choose Trump. They choose winning an election at all costs over the country and I think, as an American, I should be bigger than that.’

‘Out of the gate, he starts, ‘Mexicans are murderers and rapists, I’m gonna build a wall, they’re coming after you’, creating this other narrative about the very people, the very voters that the party had just spent over a million dollars putting on paper that they wanted to attract. What was the party response? Capitulation.

‘I can’t explain it because it damn sure wouldn’t have happened if I were chairman, I can tell you that, and people in this party know that’s true. So the fact of the matter is they need to explain why they allowed Donald Trump to crap all over their plans to build out the party after they lost the 2012 election.’

He goes on: ‘They have to explain why they capitulated on Russia and deficit spending and allowed Donald Trump to put children in cages and they remained silent. They have to explain why a party that stood with the Statue of Liberty in the New York harbor and promoted legal immigration and promoted the ideals of this country suddenly was interested in building a wall. I can’t explain that. That goes against my values.’”

I have watched Steele be interviewed or participate in panel discussions multiple times. While I may not always agree with what he says, I find him to be reasonable and articulate in his views. He shows a willingness to listen. His history, his service and his character support someone who has thought about what he says and believes. So, his stance against the president speaks volumes.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/sep/06/michael-steele-donald-trump-republican-party-interview

It is sad the president lies to defend that he is not lying

Per a story by Amanda Marcotte of Salon, as reported in Raw Story called “Why Trump’s denials of his contempt for the military are likely just more lies — and why it matters,” please read the first two paragraphs. The whole story can be linked to below.

“Donald Trump is likely lying, of course, in denying a new report by Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic that accuses the president of calling the fallen American soldiers of World War I ‘suckers’ and ‘losers.’

We know this because of Trump’s pathological pattern of telling lies, first of all. But also because in his tweeted denials, Trump now claims he never called the Sen. John McCain a ‘loser’ for being captured during the Vietnam War, even though there’s a recording of him doing so, in the same rant during which he declared, ‘I like people who weren’t captured.’ Trump was so proud of this smear of the late Arizona Republican that he tweeted it out at the time.”

We should not forget Trump’s active role in trying to avoid the lowering of the flags for John McCain’s funeral, which he was famously uninvited. He denied this in his tweets as well, but several folks in the know have corrected him. But, we should not forget that he also denigrated a Gold Star family who had the temerity to criticize him.

There are a number of folks who have come out to say they did not hear Trump say these things. That does not mean they were not said. Conservative pundit David Brooks noted Jeffrey Goldberg has an excellent reputation for accuracy and his reporting was corroborated by four sources. One of those sources was the national security correspondent for Fox News, Jennifer Griffin, who Trump is trying to get fired.

Trump supporters complain that these folks are anonymous, yet what they fail to consider the vindictive nature of the tempestuous president. We should not forget how honorable people who testified under oath about concerns over Ukraine have all been handled. We should not forget that Inspectors General who raised concerns have all been handled. We should not forget how Trump sycophants in Congress beat up on Michael Cohen who called Trump a racist, con man and a cheat under oath.

Trump wants blood. Critics must be identified and fired. He must know names, so he can discredit them as “losers.” Is it so hard to believe that Donald Trump would call a group of people losers or suckers, given his nature? And, take it to the bank – Goldberg, Marcotte and Griffin will each be called “losers” and their publication is in “trouble.”

Why Trump’s denials of his contempt for the military are likely just more lies — and why it matters

Saturday sense and sensibilities

It is going to be another hot one today, maybe too hot for “Saturday in the Park,” which was my first title. Instead, allow me to borrow from Jane Austen to summarizing a few sense and sensibilities.

The president has denied calling fallen soldiers “losers and suckers,” even though it has been corroborated by four news agencies, including Fox News. A few additional reasons to believe the comments were made are his on-the-record comments about Senator John McCain only being a hero because he was captured, plus calling him a “loser” and not wanting to lower flags to half-staff when he died. He took on a Gold Star family who had the temerity to criticize him. And, his favorite name calling word for critics is “losers.” Apparently, he has used such expressions on more than one occasion, saying soldiers who fought in Vietnam were “suckers” per a Fox News report. I guess he is forgetting that “draft” thing and how he avoided going.

PBS Newshour had an excellent report on the Australia, UK and Switzerland response to the COVID-19 pandemic. They have each handled it better than the US, with the UK having to wait some on its Prime Minister’s initial cavalier attitude to change (until he was infected). The keys are telling folks the truth, leaders not doubting the science, and central management of the problem. Having national healthcare, helped as it took the issue off the table who will pay for things. Sadly, the US crossed 187,000 COVID-19 deaths yesterday. Trump gets good marks for funding the vaccine research and this new simplified testing release, but overall his mishandling and misinformation has contributed to our poor results. Too many Americans do not take this seriously enough, starting with the president.

On the good news side, 1.4 million people went back to work in August, lowering the unemployment rate to 8.4%. Economists are pleased, but cautious as the number includes 238,000 temporary Census workers and the numbers are expected to fall off again. One economist from Grant Thornton noted, the unemployment rate is actually closer to 10%. And, many economists worry about that cavalier COVID-19 attitude above, where some think reopening things means returning to normal. It does not.

Finally, we saw two visits to Kenosha by the presidential candidates. One stood in front of a burnt building, while the other visited with the victim, his family and community. The latter sat down with members of the community and listened. As Jonathan Capeheart and David Brooks said in the weekly review on PBS Newshour, one candidate’s visit was political, while the other was presidential. The presidential one was done by the one who is not president. Brooks noted it is good that Biden is condemning violence and looting saying they are not protesting. That needs to be said, as protecting people, their homes and their businesses is important, as well. It is not an either/ or paradigm as the president points out. We need better and fair policing that supports all in the community.

An interesting economic tidbit – trade deficit

A relatively small economic news item is worth noting given the amount of attention given by the president. In an article by the AP’s Martin Crutsinger entitled “US trade deficit surges in July to 12-year high,” the US trade deficit “surged in July to $63.6 billion, the highest levrl in 12 years…”

Per the article, “the Commerce department reported…the gap between what America buys and sells to foreigners, was 18.9% higher than the June deficit of $53.5 billion. It was the largest monthly deficit since July 2008 during the 2007 – 2009 recession.” The increase was “driven by a record 10.9% increase in imports” with a corresponding “8.1%” fall in exports.

Let that sink in. We are living in unique times with the pandemic. But, the whole world is exposed, not just the US. There are two points to be made.

First, the president has placed tariffs on major trading partners, who responded in kind. As economists have long noted, no one wins a trade war. Buyers just find less costly sources.

Second, America has so woefully handled the COVID-19 pandemic, the world is aghast. With around 4% of the world’s population, the US has around 22% of the global COVID-19 deaths. And, sadly the deaths continue. This truism runs in direct contrast to what the president touted at the RNC.

With other countries less impacted than we are, they can get closer to normal than we can. But, our folks can still buy from home. So, these numbers are not a surprise. As with any issue, the only way to solve a problem is to admit it exists.