The Second Impeachment of Donald Trump Approaches

February 3rd, 2021 by Tom Lynch

Next Tuesday, the 9th of February, the Senate will begin the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump. With ten Republican Representatives voting in the affirmative, the House impeached the former president for inciting insurrection on 6 January, an insurrection that has resulted in the deaths of five people.

Trump supporters in Congress and around the country have viciously attacked the ten House Republicans who voted for impeachment. Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney, the third most powerful Republican in the House, has come under particular fire. Die-hard Trump disciples have petitioned Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to remove her from her leadership post. That group is reported to have more than 100 signatories to its petition. The entire caucus will meet about this later today. It could happen that when the dust settles tonight, Liz Cheney, who, with Leader McCarthy’s approval, gave voice to her conscience, could become the only person to this point punished for anything that happened on the 6th of January. I make this point to illustrate just how far the devolution of Congress has progressed.

On the Senate side of the building, Trump’s latest lot of lawyers yesterday filed a 15 page initial brief that bases their defense of the former president on two major points. First, Trump did nothing wrong either before or during his 6 January rally in DC; he was simply exercising his First Amendment rights. Second, they contend it is unconstitutional to impeach Trump, because he is no longer in office and therefore cannot be “removed,” a view that is shared by most Senate Republicans ( there is also a third defense position – the Bill of Attainder defense – that is altogether too wacky to go into).

With respect to the first defense, the question before the Senators is whether Trump’s oratory was advocacy or incitement. The U.S. Supreme Court explained in Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969) that “the constitutional guarantees of free speech and free press do not permit a State to forbid or proscribe advocacy of the use of force or of law violation except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.”  The Court’s ruling in Brandenburg meant that KKK leader Clarence Brandenburg’s statements such as “it’s possible that there might have to be some revengeance taken” did not amount to criminal syndicalism under Ohio law.

In addition to the “incitement to lawless action” charge, there is the “clear and present danger” test. In applying the clear and present danger test in Schenck v. United States (1919)Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., observed: “The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent.” Holmes cited the example of a person who falsely shouts “Fire!” in a crowded theatre, causing a panic. The impeachment prosecutors will doubtless advocate that Trump really did, metaphorically, shout “fire” on 6 January, causing his followers to panic and storm the Capitol.

Regardless, the House Trial Managers are going to have great difficulty in convincing people who do not want to be convinced, in fact, refuse to be convinced, that Trump’s words at his rally on 6 January presented a clear and present danger to incitement to lawless action. This, despite the video and myriad recordings showing Trump egging on his followers to “fight” and “be strong,” because he “won in a landslide” and “the election was stolen” from him.

The Trump defense team’s second claim, that impeaching an out of office president is unconstitutional, will be equally difficult to counteract, even though the Congressional Research Service (the best research agency you’ve probably never heard of), at the request of House members, published a study on 15 January that showed clearly the precedence and constitutionality of such an action. The study, which is quite the civics history lesson, should be required reading for every high-school student.

In the study, Legislative Attorneys Jared P. Cole and Todd Garvey meticulously analyze this issue and write:

The Constitution does not directly address whether Congress may impeach and try a former President for actions taken while in office. Though the text is open to debate, it appears that most scholars who have closely examined the question have concluded that Congress has authority to extend the impeachment process to officials who are no longer in office. As an initial matter, a number of scholars have argued that the delegates at the Constitutional Convention appeared to accept that former officials may be impeached for conduct that occurred while in office. This understanding also tracks with certain state constitutions predating the Constitution, which allowed for impeachments of officials after they left office.

They also note:

Scholars have noted that if impeachment does not extend to officials who are no longer in office, then an important aspect of the impeachment punishment is lost. If impeachment does not apply to former officials, then Congress could never bar an official from holding office in the future as long as that individual resigns first. According to one scholar, it is “essential” for Congress to have authority to impeach and convict former officials in order to apply the punishment of disqualification; otherwise Congress’s jurisdiction would depend on the whims of the individual who engaged in misconduct. Another scholar notes that the grave nature of the disqualification punishment indicates that it should apply independently of the need for removal.

Some Trump defenders point to the Richard Nixon case. When Nixon resigned on 9 August 1974, the House of Representatives had already drawn up articles of impeachment. After his resignation, the House did not send the articles to the Senate for trial. Less than a month later, President Ford granted Nixon a full pardon, thereby ending the case. The Trump defenders claim not impeaching Nixon proves their case that a president cannot be impeached after leaving office. What they fail to mention is that Nixon had already served two terms as president and was barred from running again by the 22nd Amendment. The whole purpose of impeaching someone after leaving office is first, to set an example, and second, to disqualify them from future office. Donald Trump, if not impeached and convicted, is free to run again for President in 2024.

Let me end on a hypothetical question. Suppose a President commits an impeachable action on the 19th of January; say it is discovered a week later that he or she had been colluding with a foreign power for personal gain at the expense of our nation. If the action is committed while in office, but not discovered until after he or she flies off in Marine 1, what is to be done about it? It is almost sacred theology that a President cannot be criminally charged for actions committed while in office (See the Mueller Report). How else is the miscreant punished other than impeachment?

I have no illusions about the Senate convicting Donald Trump of “high crimes and misdemeanors,” although I think he is guilty as charged. Further, I think he is responsible more than anyone else for the deaths that happened during and after the storming of the Capitol.

It is dispiriting for me to have to conclude that, rather than suffering one day of punishment for any of it, he will just live in the lap of luxury for the rest of his horrid life, the same mass of stunted protoplasm he has always been.

 

Thoughts Of The Day

January 18th, 2021 by Tom Lynch

Was Azar intentionally lying, colossally incompetent, or both?

Given the last four years, I’m guessing Door Number 3.

Because both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two shots, administered 21 and 28 days apart, respectively, Operation Warp Speed’s initial plan, announced in early December, was to hold back half the supply to make sure there was enough for the second shots. At the same time, the Trump Administration was saying it would vaccinate 20 million people by the end of the year.

On Tuesday, 12 January, as it became apparent the first doses of COVID-19 vaccinations were proceeding much slower than predicted (the 20 million prediction had turned into an 11.4 million reality), U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar announced the government was making all of the coronavirus reserve vaccine supply immediately available, urged states to provide shots to anyone 65 and older and warned governors that states with lagging inoculations could see their supply shifted to other places.

You could hear the collective country-wide sigh of relief. Help was on the way.

That is, until three days later when we learned the only place the “reserve supply” existed was in Alex Azar’s imagination, because the Administration admitted to state and federal officials it stopped stockpiling the second doses at the end of last year as it attempted to hit the 20 million goal. The reserve supply no longer existed. The states were left to scramble again, as they have throughout the pandemic. Remember the PPE fiasco? States were forced to compete against each other and the Feds to get any. Remember the Administration’s leadership about masking? Neither do I. I could go on.

This latest FUBAR catastrophe led President-Elect Joe Biden to tell the world the vaccine rollout was “a dismal failure.” Seems fairly accurate to me.

“Never ruin an apology with an excuse” – Benjamin Franklin

Here’s the way it worked. After the election, which he lost, Donald Trump spewed lie after lie about how he actually won “in a landslide.” And he convinced millions of people this was so. A new Quinnipiac poll reports 73% of Republicans believe there was “widespread fraud” in the election, which allowed Joe Biden to win. Trump’s two-month assault on truth led to the 6 January armed insurrection.

It is questionable whether he would have persuaded his millions of followers to believe the lies if he had not had profound assistance from Twitter, Facebook and conservative media. Case in point: the conservative outlet American Thinker which, with no investigation,  bought the Dominion Voting Machines stole-the-election line – again and again.

Yesterday, American Thinker “screwed its courage to the sticking post” and apologized. It was not one of those, “We did a bad thing, but we did it because…” things. No, this was an apology that would have made Ben proud. Here it is in full:

We don’t know what prompted American Thinker to so abjectly fall on its sword. I choose to think optimistically, believing journalistic ethics won the day. Regardless, this is how you do an apology.

Speaking of optimism

Why not end on a lighter note?

Back in pre-pandemic times (you remember those, don’t you?), when you wouldn’t think twice about sitting in a pub with friends discussing the metaphysics of Sartre, I once did just that with two friends, one a conservative republican with whom one could actually debate policy issues with smiles all around; the other, an MIT engineering professor.

We were talking about how people so often view the same thing in different ways, which led us to a discussion about optimism. That led to further discussion about the differences between people who were naturally optimistic and those who were naturally pessimistic.

One of us brought up the old glass half full or empty screed. I, the eternal optimist, said to me the glass was always half full. My conservative friend said he couldn’t help seeing it as half empty.

My friend from MIT said, “There’s too much glass.”

Stay safe – and, if you can, optimistic.

 

 

 

 

 

This Is What Happens

January 14th, 2021 by Tom Lynch

This is what happens when leaders sell their souls for power.

In the last week, our country and the very concept of democracy have come perilously close to being crushed by the triumph of insurrection. Every day, every hour, we learn more about the plot to bring down the government and establish Donald Trump as de facto dictator. That this was predictable, yet still happened, will be analyzed for years. That it failed (so far), should give no comfort to anyone.

Sabateurs, terrorists in the literal sense of the word, hiding in the belly of the mob, were on a mission to kill Nancy Pelosi, Mike Pence and probably others if they could find them. The FBI is discovering a carefully planned attack, and we are fortunate, indeed, that the traitors’ targets survived. It could easily have gone the other way.

This is what happens when monumental hubris and blind ambition turn the leader of a political party, the party of Abraham Lincoln, into Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus. Four years ago, a Kentuckian named McConnell agreed to a deal with the Mephistopheles who rode the golden escalator in June of 2015 as The Music of the Night, from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera, blasted through the basement of Trump Tower. How fitting.

In this Faustian bargain, the Kentuckian’s deepest desires were granted: remaking the nation’s judiciary; changing tax laws to benefit corporations and the wealthy; dismantling environmental regulations; eviscerating the country’s immigration system; abandoning global partnerships; solidifying a populist base. In exchange for this unholy alliance, Marlowe’s devil-in-chief ran amuck around America preaching authoritarianism, white supremacy and “American carnage,” which he “alone could fix,” to a congregation of millions of vulnerable citizens long fearful of the way life was changing and leaving them behind. They swallowed it whole.

This is what happens when, in April, 2021, armed white supremacists, Neo-Nazis calling themselves Proud Boys, but acting more like “Brownshirts,” stage a rehearsal for last week’s coup attempt in Lansing, Michigan, invading and taking over the state’s capital with plans for capturing and killing the governor, after which they face zero criticism from our modern-day Mephistopheles. What a boost to their movement.

This is what happens when a country, bombarded with more than 34,000 presidential tweets and 323 fan-the-flames presidential rallies over four years, becomes so desensitized to the stoking of racism and intense polemical bullying that politicians, elected to serve their constituents and the Constitution, become too fearful to denounce such behavior, let alone suggest it should never be condoned in America.

This is what happens when, taking a page from the propaganda manual of Joseph Goebbels, lies are told loud enough and often enough that gullible people believe with biblical certainty that the most secure election in our history was rigged and riddled with fraud. Polls continue to show more than 60% of Republicans believe this.

This is what happens when no one but toadying sycophants, whose moral corruption knows no bounds and whose sole job requirement is total devotion to the whims of their Mephistophelean leader, are placed in senior positions of authority. Now, as their deal with the devil unwinds, they are deserting the ship of state with nary a lifeboat in sight.

This is what happens when hate replaces kindness and a willingness to work collaboratively toward the common good to the extent that winning requires annihilation of one’s opponent. The result is a deep crack to the nation’s foundation.

This is what happens when the worst pandemic in a century is allowed to kill more than 400,000 of our fellow citizens by the time Joe Biden utters the solemn words of his oath of office. A pandemic during which never once has Donald Mephistopheles addressed the nation with words of comfort, empathy or even hope. A time in which the Oval Office has become an oval room of mirrors, where everywhere he looks he sees only himself. There’s no one there, Donald.

This is what happens when leaders sell their souls for power.

 

 

Plus ça Change, Plus C’est…

December 10th, 2020 by Tom Lynch

Republicans, Democrats, the White House, and all the lobbyists on K Street continue to scrimmage over a relief package for tens of millions of our fellow citizens who hang on by the thinnest of threads, getting thinner by the moment, as they wait for the end of 2020 when the moratorium on evictions will end, unemployment benefits will end, life as they know it — will end. State governments can’t help. Local  governments can’t help. Small businesses can’t help. None of them have any money. They all need help, too.

Meanwhile, back at Ronald Reagan’s “shining city upon a hill,” internecine, malodorous warfare is in full view. Looking for all the world like a gussied-up version of the Hatfields and McCoys, Republicans and Democrats are assembled in a highly organized circular firing squad, seeming far more intent on annihilating each other than on devoting themselves to the moral imperative of bringing help to our neighbors, economically pulverized through no fault of their own. As Joseph Welch said to Joseph McCarthy, “Have you no sense of decency at all?”

Throughout history, governments have let their citizens down. We’ve done it before, horribly, and haven’t learned a thing. The more things change…

1932 – Washington, D.C.

At the close of World War I, Congress decided to thank the war’s veterans for their service with some cash — $500, which, in today’s dollars, would be about $7,500. Quite a bonus. But there was a catch: The “bonus” authorized by the Adjusted Compensation Act of 1924 would not be paid until 1945. The veterans did not complain at the time. It was The Roaring Twenties. Everyone was flush.

But then along came the Great Depression. The economy descended from full employment in 1929, where the unemployment rate was 3.2 percent, into massive unemployment in 1933 when the unemployment rate reached 25 percent. From sitting on top of the world, plutocrats were suddenly seen jumping out of windows on Wall Street. Breadlines became the meal du jour. The word, “Hobo,” which had been around, but hardly used, since 1888, became a symbol for the forgotten man.

In the summer of 1932, 25,000 penniless, desperate veterans and their wives and children descended on Washington, D.C. They camped in District parks, dumps, abandoned warehouses and empty stores.  These aging warriors had come to the nation’s capital to ask Congress, admittedly 13 years early, for their $500. Newspapers christened them “the bonus Army,” or “the bonus marchers.” They called themselves the “Bonus Expeditionary Force,” the BEF.

The men drilled, sang war songs, and, once, led by a Medal of Honor winner and watched by a hundred thousand silent Washingtonians, marched up Pennsylvania Avenue bearing flags of faded cotton.

The BEF had pleaded in vain with Congress for the money. They were ignored and left to wither. As a last resort they appealed to President Hoover to meet with them. He sent word he was too busy. Then, confronted with 25,000 squatters he would later label “communists,” while asserting less than 10% of them were veterans*, he isolated himself from the city, canceled plans to visit the Senate, had police patrol the White House grounds day and night, chained the gates of the Executive Mansion, erected barricades around the White House and closed traffic for a distance of one block on all sides of the Mansion. A one-armed veteran, attempting to picket, was beaten and jailed.

Conditions for the veterans were pathetic. The summer heat was severe. Lacking shade or screens, the BEF was beaten down by the climate’s fury. Since the founding of the city, Washington was viewed as a place to be avoided in the summertime. In the words of an official guidebook, Washington was “a peculiarly interesting place for the study of insects.” The veteran men and their families had arrived at the height of Cherry Blossom season, but by July they were debilitated, ghostly, dehydrated and hot. Very hot. The columnist Drew Pearson called them “ragged, weary and apathetic with no hope on their faces.” Downtown businessmen complained through the Chamber of Commerce that “the sight of so many down-at-the-heel men has a depressing effect on business.”

And that was the extent of their crime, their threat to the country. They weren’t good for business.

General Douglas MacArthur, the Army’s only four star general who, even then, referred to himself in the third person, had met with some of the men and assured them if he had to evict them he would allow them to leave “with dignity.” But when the end came for the BEF at 10:00 A.M. on 28 July 1932 there was no dignity to be found. Hoover had had enough, and he ordered “Mac” to get rid of them. Trouble was, he didn’t tell the General “how” to get rid of them. MacArthur, who never did anything small in his life, was unleashed.

First, Police Commissioner Glassford, who had been sympathetic to the men, was sent to tell them they had to leave, orders of the President. They refused, which was when MacArthur sent the Army in, led by then Major George Patton and his 3rd Mounted Cavalry — with him prancing at the front atop his privately-owned horse (he had a stable-full; he was rich) — followed by infantry and a World War I vintage Tank Brigade. Bullets began to fly. BEF men were killed. Two babies were gassed to death. And Joseph Angelino suffered a deep wound from Patton’s sabre-wielding cavalry, the same Joseph Angelino, who, on 26 September 1918, had won the Distinguished Service Cross, the Army’s second highest medal, for saving the life of a young officer named George Patton.

By midnight that day, the Army had driven the BEF veterans, their wives and children across the Potomac and out of the city. But that wasn’t good enough for MacArthur and Hoover. The BEF was chased and harassed west and south, out past Ohio and all the way down to Georgia. Then, the veterans just folded into the vast transient population that roamed the land in 1932.

In 1936, overriding a veto by President Roosevelt, Congress voted to immediately pay World War I veterans their full $500 bonus specified in the Adjusted Compensation Act of 1924.

2020 – Washington, D.C.

Although on the 1st of June, while discussing protests following the George Floyd killing President Trump said, “We need to get control of the streets. We need 10,000 troops up here [in Washington]. I want it right now,” a repeat of MacArthur’s mayhem is unlikely, especially with a “kinder, gentler” administration about to assume command. However, since their one moment of unified governmental leadership — passage of The Cares Act during the early days of the pandemic — the grand poobahs in D.C., stunned and surprised by the pandemic’s severity and longevity, have become paralyzed and have turned their backs to so many in need. They remind me of wizened gnomes with green eyeshades and stubby pencils ticking off their profits at the end of the day, never seeing suffering people all around them.

With little or no leadership  from the Trump Administration, except leadership by cavalier, egomaniacal tweet, and the bunker-like workings of Congress as each side walls itself off from the other, just as Herbert Hoover did in 1932, the situation of millions grows daily more dire.

Despite the lack of progress, one must remain hopeful that morality, courage and decency will rear their heads and, finally, leaders will emerge. Finally, leaders will put their gargantuan egos aside and do whatever it takes to rescue all those who at this moment lie on the bottom of the economic bird cage. After all, we really are all in this together. We really are our brother’s and sister’s keepers. We, all of us, really have been driven low by this deadliest of pandemics. Is it too much to ask our Elected leaders to begin acting like the leaders they claim to be?

 

*The Veterans Administration, which had the actual service records would subsequently refute that with an exhaustive study concluding that 94% of the  bonus marchers were veterans.

And Nero Fiddled While Rome Burned

November 20th, 2020 by Tom Lynch

Speaking on CBS this morning, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar said the delay in allowing President Elect Biden’s transition team to meet with Trump Administration health officials will cause no harm to anyone, because, “The same career professionals there on January 19th will be there on January 21st.” Hmmmm.

Have you ever had the exquisite experience of being part of a team buying a company? If you answered “yes” you know what that involves. Even if, as buyer, you intend to make no operational changes, which, admittedly, is rare, there is a lot to learn as you approach  the sale. Data rooms are complicated. So are the people you’ll be employing. What senior staff will you keep? Who will go? After you execute a Term Sheet, understanding product development, the logistics of distribution and the financial labyrinth will take time, usually more than a few months.

Suppose the company you’re buying is Amazon, the company owned by Jeff Bezos, the richest person in the world. Amazon’s reported operating expenses for the year ending 30 September 2020 were $328.04 billion. Try to wrap your head around how long such a purchase would take and what it would involve. It would be an awesome undertaking.

Now, think of the U.S. government. According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analyisis, U.S. expenditures for the 2019 fiscal year, ending 30 June 2020, were $7.3 trillion, a tad larger than Amazon’s operating expenses.

The 2021 budget for Health & Human Services, which runs 184 pages, calls for $1.3 trillion in spending; 1.2 trillion for mandatory programs like Medicare and Medicaid and $94 billion in discretionary spending.

We are engaged in two massive efforts: first, to control the spread of the novel coronavirus, and second, to vaccinate 330 million people as quickly as humanly possible – twice. Atul Gawande, a member of Biden’s Coronavirus Transition Team, in an interview following Azar’s, said roadblocks delaying the baton pass will, not could, cost lives, thousands of them. He said Azar’s claim that no one would be hurt by delaying the transition is “absolutely not true.”

Consider that Pfizer announced this morning that it will file for Emergency Use Authorization for its vaccine today. But the Biden team has had zero conversations with HHS. Not CDC, not FDA, not CMS, not NIH. Not a soul in government.

Meanwhile, back at the White House, Donald Trump remains out of sight, concentrating on manufacturing out-of-this-world conspiracy theories rather than on the job the Electoral College hired him to do in 2016. He’s giving the term “grasping at straws” an entirely new meaning. Nothing is too outlandish. Case in point: His fairy-tail spouting “Personal Lawyer’s” cringe-worthy press conference yesterday. Everything that comes out of Rudy Giuliani’s mouth these days is full of what makes the grass grow green and tall, but people are buying it.

This is sticking a very sharp knife into American Democracy.

According to a new Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted from 13 to 17 November, 55% of Republicans surveyed think Donald Trump “rightfully won” the election, only to have it stolen from him by widespread voter fraud. Only 55% of all adults in the United States surveyed by the poll said they believed the Nov. 3 presidential election was “legitimate and accurate,” and 28% said they thought the election was “the result of illegal voting or election rigging,” which is up 12 points from four years ago. It is unfathomable why so many of our neighbors fixate on the rigged election theme with the intensity of devoted biblical scholars. They have become habituated to believing the rants that spew from Mr. Trump and his sycophant toadies. And in this case, old habits don’t so much as die hard, as they refuse to die at all.

One can only hope Joe Biden and his team, whenever they’re able to begin taking the reins of government, will find a way to clean America’s gaping societal wound and start the healing.

How optimistic about that are you?

Now There Are Two, And Other Thoughts

November 16th, 2020 by Tom Lynch

The Moderna Vaccine

Moderna’s announcement today that its vaccine candidate, mRNA-1273, is more than 94.5% effective in early trial results is wonderful news. Pfizer’s similar announcement from last week about its vaccine, BNT162b2, (also mRNA-based) gives us great hope that by mid-2021 the U.S. may have vaccinated most of the country’s population.

One advantage Moderna has over Pfizer is that its vaccine does not require “ultra cold storage,” as in minus 103 degrees Fahrenheit. As we wrote here, Pfizer says it has developed specially designed, temperature-controlled shipping packages, using dry ice, to keep its vials at roughly minus 103 below Fahrenheit for up to 10 days. But what happens if the doses are not used in ten days? This is one of the many things that is concerning governors and health care experts who are wrestling with the logistics of large-scale vaccinations.

We won’t know if Pfizer’s and Moderna”s vaccines can really do what it seems they might be able to do until the final results of their trials are known, but there is one thing we won’t know even then: How long will they protect us from the Coronavirus? Although both companies will follow all test subjects for a couple of years, if they each file quickly for and receive Emergency Use Authorization, which is all but guaranteed, they will go to market with about four months of data.

Will this lack of certainty about long-term protection cause people to forego vaccination? Personally, I don’t think so. But there is another possibility.

As we have seen for many months, despite the lack of competent leadership from 1600 Pennsylvania avenue, there are significant segments of the population taking the virus more seriously than others: seniors, those who are health-compromised, and myriad others who have paid attention to the science. It is conceivable these groups will take the vaccine, but refuse to return to any semblance of pre-pandemic life until long-term efficacy is known, and that won’t happen until well into 2022. If this happens, it is likely that masks, remote work, telehealth, and a host of other accommodations we’ve made due to the pandemic are here for quite some time longer.

Speaking of vaccines, here comes China

Flying under the media radar was an article in Foreign Affairs (subscription required) from 5 November by Eyck Freymann and Justin Stebbing. China Is Winning The Vaccine Race: How Beijing Positioned Itself as the Savior of the Developing World is an eye-opening look at China’s herculean effort to rebound from its tragically bungled initial response to COVID-19. From the article:

As a result, the disease spread around the world, crippling economies, killing more than 1.2 million people, and badly damaging Beijing’s image. In 2021, China plans to redeem itself by vaccinating a large chunk of the global population. Although it faces stiff competition from the United States and other Western nations in the race to develop the first vaccine, Beijing is poised to dominate the distribution of vaccines to the developing world—and to reap the strategic benefits of doing so.

Four of the 11 worldwide vaccine candidates are Chinese. The most promising of these, developed by Wuhan-based Sinopharm, is already being given to frontline workers in the United Arab Emirates.

Half the world’s population lives in the developing world, and Donald Trump’s administration, with its America First mantra, has no plans to distribute vaccines to that half of humanity, leaving a wide open door through which China is already walking. Also from the article:

The United States has declined to participate in a World Health Organization (WHO) initiative to deliver two billion vaccine doses to at-risk populations in developing countries, and it has not extended financing to or signed preferential vaccine distribution deals with such countries, as China has done.

While the U.S. will supply vaccines to its own citizenry and sell them to other developed countries, the vast underbelly of humanity will go a-begging. The emerging markets of Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America can barely afford vaccines, China has seized this opportunity by announcing subsidies and striking loan deals with the eighteen countries where its vaccine candidates are now in Phase Three clinical trials. As far back as May, Chinese President Xi Jinping promised that any successful Chinese vaccine would be used for a “global public good.” Thus far, he has kept that promise.

Throughout the pandemic (and, for that matter, the entire Trump presidency), America has ignored no, stiff armed the half of humanity most in need. This is just another Everest the incoming Biden Administration will have to climb as it tries to undo four years of foreign policy misfeasance, which the Oxford English Dictionary defines as “the wrongful exercise of lawful authority.” Kind of fits, doesn’t it?

Barack Obama returns

President Obama jumped back into the political scene as a force for Joe Biden during the recent campaign. Our first Black president did his part to help rally the African American vote, which proved so consequential in Biden’s victory.

Now, President Obama has written the first book in what will be a multi-book memoir. The Promised Land goes on sale tomorrow. So, he’s begun the book interview marathon, that, in his case, will be widely covered by the media. Case in point Yesterday, he turned up twice on CBS, first with Gayle King on CBS Sunday Morning and second with Scott Pelley on Sixty Minutes.

I’m sure the book is interesting and will sell a gazillion copies, but that’s not what I want to mention here. No, I’d like to end this column with a little story Mr. Obama told at the end of his interview with Ms. King.

Having become a private citizen at 12:01 pm, 20 January 2017, the former president began to reacclimate to private life. For security reasons, he was still prohibited from driving himself. So, as he tells it, there he is in the backseat of some vehicle checking his iPad and being driven somewhere by a Secret Service Officer. Then, the car slows and stops. Since this never happens in a presidential motorcade, he wonders why they stopped. Had something happened? Was there some danger? He looks up and sees the red light. At that moment, another car drives up beside him and he sees children playing in the back seat. As he told Ms. King, “Welcome to private life, Barack.”

Sixty-five days from now, Donald Trump will begin to encounter his own red lights for which he must stop. That will be a reality show worth watching.

 

 

This Is Madness

November 13th, 2020 by Tom Lynch

Let’s start with the numbers.

Global Cases

Global COVID-19 cases are rising and the rise is accelerating, as documented by the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. There have been nearly 53 million cases around the world, 660 thousand yesterday. There have now been about 1.25 million deaths, and the death rate is also rising.

U.S. Cases

According to the New York Times Latest Map and Case Count, America’s case rate is surging faster than at any time in the pandemic.

Consider these four points from the above chart:

Since the beginning of COVID-19 in the U.S., the health care community has made tremendous gains in treating the disease, that is, in preventing deaths. However, no one yet knows the extent of long-term complications due to contracting the virus. Although COVID-19 primarily affects the lungs, it can damage many other organs as well. This organ damage may increase the risk of long-term health problems. Regardless, deaths are once again rising.

With respect to keeping safe, absolutely nothing has changed since the beginning of the pandemic. Hand washing/sanitizing, social distancing, mask wearing, and testing are, to this day, the only things we can do to control the disease. At some point in the future, perhaps by mid-spring, the vaccine cavalry will come charging over the hill. But until then, we’re on our own. COVID-19 is the enemy, the opposition, and we have to outlast it. Everyone needs to put on the moral cloak of responsibility.

It would be nice if that moral cloak were to become moral leadership from the White House, but the Trump Administration, obscenely obsessed with fighting the will of the majority, has gone AWOL, once again leaving the states to fight the disease by themselves, and most are now fully engaged.

Consider Ohio, where Republican Governor Mike DeWine is doing everything he and his team can to drive home the need for masks, hand washing and social distancing. Case in point: His Department of Health created a compelling video to illustrate the value of social distancing.

One of the most tragic things I have ever observed is going on right now across America. Millions of people have been persuaded the washing, wearing and distancing things are lies meant to steal the soul of the nation in a socialistic, Mephistophelean conspiracy. They believe government is trampling on their “rights.” Meanwhile, many of them get sick, some of them die, and they bring great harm to their neighbors who are trying to do the right thing. This is madness.

Can We Ever Learn From History?

November 10th, 2020 by Tom Lynch

Yesterday was the 82nd anniversary of Kristallnacht, Germany’s Night of Broken Glass.

Two days prior to Kristallnacht, Herschel Grynszpan, a 17-year-old Polish Jew, had assassinated Ernst vom Rath, a young diplomat at the German embassy in Paris, shooting him five times at close range. This gave Hitler and his Minister of Propaganda*, Joseph Goebbels, the excuse they needed to organize a pogrom against Jews in Germany and parts of Austria and Czechoslovakia.

Goebbels told an assembly of National Socialists, “The Führer has decided that … demonstrations should not be prepared or organized by the (Nazi) Party, but insofar as they erupt spontaneously, they are not to be hampered.”

And so, on 9 November 1938, thousands of Nazis and Hitler Youth erupted “spontaneously,” attacking Jewish homes, schools, synagogues and businesses, smashing windows and destroying property. They put everything Jewish to the torch. Firefighters were told to let the fires burn themselves out. Goebbels instructed police to round up as many Jewish young men as possible and cram them into jails.

As far back as 1925 when he wrote his autobiographical Mein Kampf (My Struggle) from jail, Adolph Hitler had made known his anti Semitic intentions. And by 1933 the people of the UK and America knew also, because in that year Mein Kampf was translated into English. Nobody paid attention.

Kristallnacht was Hitler’s first, large scale, organized and overt attack on Jews. Consequently, many historians consider 9 November 1938 the beginning of the Holocaust.

Immediately following the close of the Second World War, social scientists and historians began trying to figure out why so many Germans had, lemminglike, followed, even embraced, hate-filled Hitlerism. The answers are complicated.

Following the First World War, the victors had punished Germany in monumental fashion, both economically and politically. Germans resented this with seething anger. Hitler capitalized on this.

Then there was the Great Depression of the early 1930s, which plunged Germany into even more profound economic chaos. Hitler took advantage of this, also, calling on Germans to throw off the yoke of humiliation. He gave fiery speeches, observed by American and British diplomats, which should have alerted governments to what was coming, but did not.

Hitler  instilled in the German people an us-against-them world view, or Weltanshauung. They would have followed him anywhere, and they did.

A week ago today, more than 70 million Americans voted for Donald Trump. That’s four million more than voted for him in 2016. Although I’m sure perhaps half of them voted out of economic self interest – they like his policies enough to stomach his lies and boorishness – what about the other half, the cheering cult, his own lemminglike followers at his rallies and beyond? As Hitler before him, Trump has sold them the us-against-them Kool Aid, and they have swallowed without questioning and without caring if whatever comes out of their Leader’s mouth is true or not.

As far as I can see, Joe Biden won the presidency and the republican party won the election. Not a single state legislature flipped. Republicans gained seats in the House, and are on the verge of holding on to the Senate. The last time we had a democrat elected president and a republican senate was 1885, 135 years ago, with the presidency of Grover Cleveland.

Donald Trump will eventually leave the White House, but he’s not going away, and neither are his followers or Trumpism. He gets tremendous satisfaction from his Rallies. Can you see him abandoning them? No, he will continue to stoke fear and hatred, just as a certain Austrian wannabe artist did long ago.

If you think 2020 was bad politically, just wait until you get to experience 2021.

Good luck to us all.

* Originally, Goebbels opposed the word propaganda, because in the public usage of the day it connoted – wait for it – Lies!

Shameful Leaders Play Chicken With The Economy Hanging In The Balance

November 9th, 2020 by Tom Lynch

Today, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced productivity, output and earnings data for Q3, 2020. This follows its announcement three days ago that the nation’s unemployment rate in October had fallen to 6.9%, the 6th consecutive month it has dropped.

While the drop in the unemployment rate is certainly good news, the long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) increased by 1.2 million to 3.6 million, accounting for 32.5 percent of the total unemployed. Further, the country has seen only half of the 22 million people who lost jobs due to the pandemic return to the workforce.

Regarding today’s announcement, while productivity and output rose 43.5% and 38.6%, respectively, real earnings, a very important number, dropped 9.1% in Q3.

Most of the relief bills passed earlier in the pandemic have expired, including the $2.2 trillion CARES Act, which provided for additional unemployment benefits of up to $600 a week for many individuals.

The Federal Reserve, led by Chairman Jerome Powell, as well as the nation’s leading economists, have been arguing for months that we need a second relief package. Powell maintains that businesses, cities and states, and the unemployed are in dire need of help. On 6 October, in a speech to the National Association for Business Economics, he said the unemployment rate would be closer to 11% were it not for misclassification of idle workers and for people leaving the workforce. He warned the group that without additional support, the economy could slip into a downward spiral “as weakness feeds on weakness.”

Powell and his colleagues at the Federal Reserve say we need a new relief package NOW, and we need it to be BIG. Personally, I am not optimistic about that. I’m no economist, but I have friends who are, and they are not optimistic, either, at least not in the short term. And, although the 74 million (and increasing) Americans who voted for Joe Biden are happy Donald Trump has been handed his walking papers, we remain a house divided now more than ever. Some of us are euphoric, some in denial, others in despair, still others angry beyond words. It will take time and a lot of compassion for healing to even begin. But time is something many of our neighbors in horrific economic difficulties through no fault of their own simply don’t have.

In the next few days and weeks we’ll discover if our elected leaders can get out of the way of their ego-driven lust for power and display enough moral fiber, presuming they have some, to help the businesses, cities, states, and millions of our fellow citizens who hang by their fingertips over the edge of an economic abyss.

 

One Day More

November 2nd, 2020 by Tom Lynch

Music is built on mathematics. Together they form humanity’s only universal language. With that in mind, here’s One Day More, the greatest Act One Finale in the history of theatre. Just to set the tone and get your blood moving.

“Tomorrow we’ll discover what our God in heaven has in store.”

No gloom and doom today. Just a thank you to all who have voted and who will vote. We’ll probably wind up with the largest vote count in the history of the country in both raw numbers and as a percentage of population. If Donald Trump has done nothing else, and he sure has done a lot, he’s brought out the vote.

After the dust settles, we’ll get more into that “done a lot” thing.

Stay safe.