Saturday, August 8, 2020

Trump stumbles on "Yosemite"

     "The best defense is a good offense."

                  Military adage        

Joe Biden has a gaffe problem. Luckily for Democrats, so does Trump.


It is no secret that Joe Biden makes verbal stumbles. Trump and his media allies point to them, smirk, and call them evidence of Biden's senility. Trump has settled on an approach to disqualify Biden: describe him as a demented old fool, the puppet of younger radical leftists, who would be helpless to stop a socialist dystopia beset by enemies at home and abroad. Biden's verbal stumbles are the best evidence for the line of attack.

Click: 12 seconds
Biden has a defense: a good offense. 

Trump's struggles with reading prepared speeches. He made an amusing and surprising gaffe midweek in a speech about national parks. He cited the Grand Canyon, Old Faithful, and then he got to a word he struggled with, Yosemite. He hesitated, then called it:    "Yoh-Semite."

Watch the short clip.

I wish to make two points. The first is the moment of "Wow, that's odd. Surely Trump has heard the word Yosemite ten thousand times. Strange mistake."

The second is the source of the clip here.  Note that is the content of a DNC War Room tweet, one of the ways the gaffe circulated right after hit was made.The Biden team understands that Biden's best defense against the gaffe/senile charge is not the one that this blog made the  day before yesterday, that Biden has a stutter. That is the minimize-and-explain defense. It may work in normal human interactions, and I believe it to be useful context for people reading this blog, but it does not work in political messaging and advocacy. 

Trump has shown us that in today's media and political environment, what works is war. Don't explain. Don't look to third parties to referee. When hit, hit back. Indeed, it is not war in any formal, stylized way, as in a court of law or a debate where marshaling facts matter, or even in a clash of armies in which position and logistics matter. 

It is simpler than that. Trump has taught us that politics is war the way it is fought in middle school schoolyards.

Boy One:"You're senile."

Boy Two: "So are you! You are ten times more senile than me."

Click: funny
Boy One: "You said 'dog face pony soldier.' You're so stupid.

Boy Two: "You said 'Yoh-Semite.' You don't even know Yosemite. I'm rubber, your're glue. You are more stupid."

Some readers will think this an exaggeration and trivialization of a great Republic choosing its national leader, but it is close to dead earnest. Watch Fox News. Listen to Trump. Watch late night comedy. 

This clip from the Daily Show in effect shows both sides of the schoolyard fight because it mocks the tactic of Fox News in their furrowed-brow criticism of Biden's presumed incapacity by interposing it with Trump's own verbal miscues, starting with "Yoh-Semite."

It is an example of "So are you!" Late night comedy is one of Biden's media allies.

In politics, minimization and contextualizing validates the accusation, therefore backfiring. It frames the debate as "just how demented is Joe Biden?" and that question itself means that Trump has won the schoolyard fight. Trump has demonstrated that distraction, subject-changing, and accusation is a better tactic. Apparently the media and voters have no interest or attention span for careful consideration of nuance or degrees of something. Partisans have their minds made up. 

Biden's best defense of his own mental competence is to demonstrate that he can throw a punch right back. If Biden can defend himself, then that very fact alone demonstrates Biden's mental fitness for office. Don't defend; attack. Make Trump the subject. Look at Trump and his Yoh-Semite. And that raises a much better question from Biden's point of view: "Just how demented is Donald Trump?"

Biden's team is hitting back: Gaffes? What about you, Mr. 'Yoh-Semite." And physical fitness? Let's do some push-up right now, me against you.

Friday, August 7, 2020

Trump: Biden will "Hurt God. He's against God."

Trump sounds desperate. 

We understand this moment. It is the "Hail Mary" moment, when character is revealed. 

     "[Biden will] take away your guns, destroy your Second Amendment. No religion, no anything. Hurt the Bible. Hurt God. He’s against God. He’s against guns. He’s against energy. Our kind of energy."

End of the road for Joe McCarthy

In storytelling sometimes a central character, in defeat and exhaustion, gives it his last best shot. In the Frank Capra movie, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, the character is sympathetic and eloquent in his desperation and exhaustion, and wins over hearts and minds of opponents, and succeeds. In football, the Hail Mary moment is when the quarterback throws the ball deep downfield into a clutch of defenders in an improbable play, yet with no other choices. Sometimes the ball is caught, miraculously, by the winning team's receiver.  In Cool Hand Luke, the Paul Newman character, or in the first Rocky movie, the Sylvester Stallone character, ends the fight defeated but still swinging, wildly but ineffectively, and each becomes heroic in their defeat, persisting past all hope.

Sometimes desperation looks good and works. Other times not.

Paranoia revealed
Sometimes in the moment of desperation, character flaws get revealed. Humphrey Bogart, the captain in the Caine Mutiny, rambling and looking crazed as he sits on the witness stand, rattles steel balls. Joe McCarthy, who became increasingly relentless and accusatory in the McCarthy-Army hearings, destroyed his own reputation. He went past a tipping point, and a famous question at long last was asked: "Let us not assassinate this lad further. Have you not done enough, senator? Have you no sense of decency?" We realized that McCarthy indeed did not.

Watch Donald Trump on the tarmac in Cleveland. The clip is two minutes long and worth a reader's time: Click Here.

It looks unhinged. He went past a tipping point himself. It doesn't look heroic. It looks wild and dishonest. 

Trump--when looking strong--comes across as confident and cruel. He toyed with Elizabeth Warren, calling her Pocahontas, with a smirk. Trump put down opponents with punches that landed. Jeb Bush, as this blog photographed and described, did in fact carry himself with low energy posture, arms dangling at his side. Trump exploited that. "Little Marco" Rubio is, indeed, short in stature. Joe Biden is, in fact, low drama--call it "sleepy"--compared with Trump.

Beat. Hopeless.
But Trump in Cleveland is entirely different. Accusations that aren't remotely credible hurt the accuser, not the accused. This clip is an in-your-face notice that he is willing to say anything, if he thinks it hurts his opponent. There will be people deep within a partisan or media bubble who absolutely agree with Trump, ready to believe any charge, so long as it is negative about a Democrat. This kind of talk will bring cheers from a small, thoroughly vetted partisan crowd. That will be a misleading and dangerous signal to Trump.

Joe Biden as an anti-God, anti-Bible frightening socialist simply does not seem plausible to people outside Trump's closest orbit. Biden is an ethnic cradle-Catholic. A church-goer. He prays, he goes to Mass, he gets ashes on his forehead on Ash Wednesday. We know people like Biden. They aren't anti-Bible. Biden's Party has become secular, but Biden has not. Biden's Party has moved left. Biden hasn't, not much. Nina Turner calls him a "half bowl of shit." 

Biden doesn't look like a tyrant out to hurt God. 

Among storytellers, if this scene of Trump desperation were to come with many pages still to come, then we would understand this to be a fore-shadowing, not the climax. We are at a hinge point, where Trump could either persist and go over the cliff, or turn back. There are still pages in this real-life story. There is still time for Trump to settle down and realize that wild talk hurts him, and he will ease up and become more disciplined. However, in stories and in life, this is the time when character is revealed. I do not expect change. Wild accusations got him this far, and Fox News encourages more outrage, not less. He will get feedback that encourages these charges, so I expect Trump to accentuate, not change. 
Trump in Cleveland .

This isn't over. Biden could lose. Biden could sabotage his own campaign, or Biden's allies could say and do things that prove Trump's case. But if Trump keeps sounding like this, then Trump will be hurting himself. 

Trump sounds like the car salesman when the buyer is walking out the door, not ready to buy, the salesman desperate--desperate--to have you talk to the sales manager before you leave. 

Your instinct is to say you need to leave and to walk briskly to your car.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Biden stutters. He always has.

Joe Biden stammered in boyhood, and mostly overcame it. Traces remain.

It is being weaponized against him. 

     "Let's state some facts. Biden loses his trend of thought often. He mixes up numbers often. He struggles to remember certain words. At times, he doesn't even know what day of the week it is, what state he is in, what office he is even running for."
          Sean Hannity, on Fox

Tongue tied

Stuttering appears in approximately 1% of humans and it has a strong genetic component. Joe Biden's uncle, on his mother's side, was called "Uncle Boo Boo." His uncle stuttered his whole life and had trouble saying his own name. 

Joe Biden is open about having been a boyhood stutterer and The Atlantic magazine had a long feature story about it in the January-February issue, when Biden's chances for the Democratic nomination seemed the most remote.  When confronted by Senator Kamala Harris about his busing record Biden did not parry the attack with an eloquent response about his leadership on race, or his evolution on the issue. He was tongue tied. Viewers interpreted this as guilt, as weakness. Harris won; Biden lost credibility.

The National Institutes of Health--the NIH--describes stuttering: 

     "Stuttering is a speech disorder characterized by repetition of sounds, syllables, or words; prolongation of sounds; and interruptions in speech known as blocks. An individual who stutters exactly knows what he or she would like to say but has trouble producing a normal flow of speech. These speech disruptors may be accompanied by struggle behaviors, such as rapid eye blinks or tremors of the lips."

We see remnants of that behavior in Joe Biden. It appears most frequently when he is confronted directly, attacked, when he feels on the defensive. The outburst in which he rapidly spurted out "You're a lying dog faced pony soldier!" came when he had a moment of frustration over questions from a citizen at a town meeting. We saw it again this week when a CBS reporter asked him if he had taken a cognitive test. How ridiculous, Biden thought. What an insult. Biden became tongue tied, and in frustration asked the reporter if he had taken a drug test himself and if he were a junky.
That was the occasion for Hannity and other Fox commentators call it disqualifying.  Hannity continued,
     "He's experiencing frequent bouts of irritability, anger, confusion. I'm not a doctor, I don't know what's going on with Biden, but it's obvious that something is off, very off. And even though he barely leaves his basement bunker, he looks exhausted."

Sarah Sanders, now a regular Fox contributor, piled onto the disqualification message of the next three months. Biden is a secret socialist under the influence of AOC and arsonists and will be helpless to resist them because his speech demonstrates his incapacity:

     "Joe Biden can't get through a single interview, put one coherent sentence together and, yet they [the media] sit quietly. If he can't handle a couple of softball questions from reporters without losing his cool every single time he gets a little bit of pushback I think that's one of the big reasons that Donald Trump is going to do very well in November, because people at the end of the day know that Joe Biden is not ready to lead this country and certainly not ready to take on the challenges we face ahead."

Joe Biden has a challenge. Stuttering is not senility. Being tongue tied is not the same thing as being confused and addled. But Biden needs to show he has composure under pressure.  Biden's greatest point of positive comparison with Trump is that Biden has quiet, low-drama experience and character, who can deal with adversity with calm assurance, in contrast with Trump's erratic, high-drama inexperience and narcissism. 

Can Biden do this? Can an old dog learn new tricks? That is the challenge for Biden and his campaign staff.

Biden's vulnerability is apparent. Journalists, Republican officeholders, and most especially Trump himself will try to provoke Biden. He will get baited. Trump does not need training on how to insult, bait, troll, and get in the face of opponents. Biden is the one who needs training.  If he can respond with amused dismissal when baited, he will negate that line of attack. He will show grace under pressure. He can be president. But if he blusters in frustration, he will make Trump's case. 

Simple, right? Simple, yes, but not easy.

If a stutterer could simply get an amused, graceful answer to come trippingly to his lips, then he wouldn't be a stutterer. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Rigged! Democrats will steal the election!

Trump:  If he wins, he wins. If he loses, it was stolen.

Donald Trump has a task: Prepare Americans to reject the election results because of absentee voter fraud. 

Donald Trump has a problem: Florida Republicans use absentee voting to get out the Republican vote.

Trump had a simple, blunt message: that Democrats were arranging to steal the election. He tweeted:

     "There is NO WAY (ZERO!) that Mail-in Ballots weill be anything less than substantially fraudulent Mail boxes will be robbed, ballots will be forged & even illegally printed out & fraudulently signed. The Governor of California is sending Ballots to millions of people. . . This will be a Rigged Election. No way!"

Click: NBC news story
Republican officeholders and Fox News took up the fight against mail-in voting. Mailed ballots have become a partisan issue now, for the first time. In Nevada the legislature voted on party lines on the issue of sending ballots to every voter, with every Republican voting no.

Newt Gingrich joined the fight:

     "I think this is going to be the most disastrous election in American history at the rate at which the Democrats are trying, frankly, to set up an ability to steal it because I don't think they think they can win an honest election.”

There is a problem with this message of opposition to absentee voting. One is that Trump himself, his family, Republican officeholders, and his staff vote by mail themselves. Another is that vote by mail elections have been going on for years, including in bright red states, and Republicans hold office because of elections with mailed in votes. A third is that it has been a longtime successful practice in Florida--a swing state essential to Trump's election chances--to encourage Republicans to vote by mail. It is a big part of the successful Florida Republican GOTV program. Trump heard from Florida Republicans. 

Polling shows Trump's attack on mail voting was working and that Republican voters were becoming less likely to vote absentee and would choose instead to vote in person, a voting method that is less reliable and accountable than vote by mail. People intending to vote on election day sometimes run into problems, long lines, schedule conflicts, traffic. Things come up, especially for seniors, who had traditionally been Republican and Trump voters in Florida.
Click: Fox web story

One of Trump's gifts in politics is his bluntness. It gets him in trouble but his messages are not diluted or muddled by nuance. Tweets suit him. Words like "There is NO WAY (ZERO!)" are unambiguous. 

Now Trump has a problem. He needs to thread a needle, and be credible while he does it. Making a careful, nuanced good faith argument is the luxury of politicians who have credibility as scrupulous truth-tellers--not Trump's brand. For better or worse, Trump is a blunt force partisan messenger. 

The Florida situation forced Trump to change his message. Now he is saying that Nevada's mail-in voting is fraudulent, of course, and his campaign is suing Nevada,  but that Florida's mail in voting system is, actually, just fine, after all.

Then Trump said aloud the quiet part, the reality that needed to be hidden by hypocrisy.  Florida, Trump said, "has got a great Republican governor and it had a great Republican governor." Therefore, he has "great confidence" in the Florida election. This isn't a good faith distinction, it is a partisan one, which undermines his argument that they can do absentee balloting "extremely professionally. Florida is different from other states." The difference is the political party of the governor. 

Oops. Too obvious. Even Fox News cannot avoid noting the hypocrisy. The Fox website this morning read:   

     "Trump has railed against mail-in voting over fraud concerns as more states seek to increase it during the pandemic.  On Tuesday, however, Trump encouraged voters in Florida to request mail-in ballots, where he said the system was 'Safe and Secure, Tried and True.' Trump has voted absentee in Florida." 

In fact there are potential problems with mail in voting. Oregon has experience with it and has systems in place to deal with them. On ballots that come in before the election day deadline, they contact the voter if there is a questionable signatures. There is a hard deadline that ballots must be received by 8:00 p.m. on election day, so voters are repeatedly urged to send them in by the Saturday prior to the Tuesday election to give the Post Office ample time to deliver them. There are secure drop boxes.

Trump is leading Americans  toward a situation in which, in a close election, Trump will either win or be able to contest it as stolen if he loses. The attack on absentee ballots sets that up because we have experience of elections in which the first ballots counted were votes by people who voted in person, but excluded mailed in ballots. Trump could announce based on early returns that he won fair and square based on the first votes tallied, and that votes that came in late should not be counted because, having been mailed, they were fraudulent, as he had warned. This would be the nightmare scenario. Trump and Fox claiming victory--done deal-- with county clerks and states mired in lawsuits over whether mailed in ballots could even be opened, much less counted. Having claimed victory, a change would be presented as a theft. Trump would be arguing that votes that happened to skew Republican were valid; votes that happened to skew Democratic were not--that it was a matter of vote credibility.

Except he spilled the beans. Republican partisans will not mind him saying aloud that Republican governors can be trusted and Democrats cheat, and therefore absentee balloting in Florida is OK but not so in states with Democratic governors. But Trump muddled his message, and made the partisanship explicit.

Even Fox News noticed it.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Democratic Platform: Decriminalize Pot

Biden needs to do something to energize young people. Democrats take a half step:

De-criminalize marijuana, but don't exactly legalize it.

     “Democrats will decriminalize marijuana use and reschedule it through executive action on the federal level. We will support legalization of medical marijuana, and believe states should be able to make their own decisions about recreational use. The Justice Department should not launch federal prosecutions of conduct that is legal at the state level. All past criminal convictions for cannabis use should be automatically expunged.”

                Draft Democratic Platform

Opinions changed.
American opinion has changed on marijuana legalization. In 1969 only 12% of people told Pew Research that they favored marijuana legalization while 84% opposed it. Now 67% say they support legalization and only 32% oppose it.

The Democratic position--Biden's position--lags behind the public's, but it is a shift for him and it is a differentiator with the Trump-Justice Department-GOP position, which still criminalizes it, but ignores it in some states. The current legal environment is crazy.

 Right now people in Colorado and Oregon are proudly, openly, profitably making, processing, and selling products from the cannabis plant, the two primary ones being THC, an intoxicant, and CBD a non-intoxicating chemical that appears to have pain relieving properties. There are people serving long prison sentences in state and federal prisons right now for doing what people in my community are doing in open fields, with state regulators approving, monitoring, and taxing the product. The Democratic position will take the federal government out of cannabis prohibition, but it will leave subject to state laws, some of whom will criminalize it. With the federal government out, one of the significant obstacles to the industry will be removed. People in the industry could use banks. Vendors will be paid with checks, not stacks of $20 bills.

Biden's position on marijuana is typical Biden--a move "left" but a cautious one. States are left to be "laboratories of Democracy." On this issue, as on most issues, Biden represents the center of Democratic party thinking on issues, with all its ambiguities and compromises, not going far enough for some, going too far for others. Some Democrats oppose full legalization. The Democratic platform committee rejected full legalization by a 106 to 50 vote. Change is hard and slow.

Still, this would be something that people on the progressive left can point to: Biden would be change, decriminalization if not full legalization, better than Trump. Biden would stop prosecution and expunge records, and treat it like alcohol. Regulate it and tax it.  

Up Close Observations

The cannabis industry got normalized and respectable, at least in Oregon. The production of THC and CBD is done openly in fields, and it is by far the largest agricultural crop in my region, supporting thousands of jobs and hundreds of businesses. Beginning about six years ago some of my Financial Advisory clients began confiding in me they used cannabis in some form. My clients were mostly people in their 60's and 70's and 80's, prosperous business people and professionals. Taxpayers. People in authority, people treated with respect by people in authority. They told me they smoked or ate it or vaped it, treating it as an alternative to a glass of wine, a Tylenol for minor pain, or as a sleep aid. Six years ago there was a tiny bit of an avant grade risqué element but that has eliminated now. Cannabis is mainstream.

In Oregon, especially southern Oregon, it is a high margin, high value crop. Some cannabis plants were planted by seed or clones in greenhouses in the winter and were set out in May.   Those would be THC variety plants. Plants double in size about every week or ten days and are the size of washing machines now, and some are twice that big. Drivers see visible from roads hooped structures made from plastic pipes, outfitted with opaque tarps that are pulled over them in late afternoon to create artificial darkness of 12 hours per night, not the 9 hours we would normally get at this date and latitude. Those long artificial nights trick the plant into going into flower early. Plants given "light deprivation" treatment in mid June are almost ready to harvest now.  

Plants grown for THC are sharply limited either in number of plants or the size of land on which "recreational" cannabis can be grown. This creates scarcity. This crop is sold for the highest price when sold as trimmed buds, ideally large unbroken ones, giving "bag appeal," the cannabis version of "curb appeal." This crop sells for prices more or less than $1,000 per pound wholesale, fluctuating sharply depending on normal supply and demand factors. Product with broken buds, seeds, or other flaws sell to be made into extracts which then finds its way into edibles and concentrates. It sells for less.

Big plants harvested in the fall might have three to four pounds of dried buds.

There is a whole network of suppliers for this industry, including vendors for soil amendments (e.g. peat moss and coconut husks and pumice), fertilizers (e.g. bat guano, chicken and cow manure, blood and feather meal), irrigation equipment, fencing, security systems, pest control systems including live predator bugs like ladybugs and chemical sprays, and equipment dealers.

Below are photos of different crops in different stages of development. This is not a hobby business for stoned hippies. This is an industry.

Preparing to plant, late July. Hemp (i.e. CBD plants) transplants go into the ground in July and are harvested at the end of October. See hoop house in the back, with the white tarp over it. It is late afternoon, and the growers have started the artificial darkness.

Planting hemp last week. The three people place transplant into a slot, which drops them down where the planting machine tears a hole in the plastic, drops in the transplant and then, using the two black tires at the very back, tamp in the plant. A person in each row straightens and adjusts the transplant.

Some plants go in perfectly straight, but most need a bit of adjustment.  Under the strip of plastic are two  flat tubes for the drip irrigation. 

Planted last week. 2,000 plants per acre. 95% survival so far. Seeds cost a dollar per seed.

Foreground is a THC plant, planted as an 18 inch high transplant in mid May. Five feet high and five feet in diameter now. It is being grown for harvest in October. In the background is a hoop house for the early-crop, with the opaque cover removed for their 12 hours of daylight. They have been in flower for six weeks.

Flowers in the light deprivation hoop house. Buds are an inch and a half thick, and dense, the thickness of two fingers. The buds are very sticky with resin, which contains the THC, and can be harvested soon.

Monday, August 3, 2020

Laid off. No health insurance. Sick.

     "McConnell draws red line on liability protection in next coronavirus legislation."

              CBS News headline

Republicans are setting the stage for Democrats to re-align their coalition and re-gain the votes of the white working class. Republicans are choosing to be cruel. And tone deaf.

Republican senators are thinking about their donors, the owners of businesses. Not to the voters who put Trump into office.

Republican senators--like everyone--want the economy to open. Trump set the tone and policy: open up the economy and schools sooner rather than later. Yes, a few extra people will get sick, but not that many, not that sick, and the sooner we get this over with the sooner we can return to America made great again. That approach would have been a winning strategy had Covid disappeared in the spring, like magic.

But Covid remained.

Meanwhile, Republican senators are trapped by the policies that got them elected. They had convinced a majority of Americans back in 2010 that we did not want universal health care or even expanded health care. They are stuck being on the side of opposing the ACA, even though time and events have changed the public mood.

Republicans have a traditional position against a higher minimum wage, convinced it will hurt small businesses and make it harder for marginal workers to find work. 

They oppose requirements that employers provide health insurance and have enabled laws that let employers skirt around providing it. The result of these two policies is that there is a vast army of people without health insurance paid an amount that leaves them in poverty, the "working poor." 

Republican orthodoxy was to consider health care a high price consumer good, a matter of choice. Then Congressman, now Fox opinion host, Jason Chaffetz put it this way:

     "And you know what? Americans have choices. And they've got to make a choice. And so, maybe rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love and they want to go spend hundreds of dollars on that, maybe they should invest it in their own health care. They've got to make those decisions for themselves.”

And meanwhile, too, Republicans want to cut unemployment benefits, the better to incentivize people to take jobs, even at risk of Covid. They are hearing from their small businessmen supporters that some of them want to re-open their businesses, on a limited basis perhaps, but that some workers don't want to take the jobs. If the laid off worker fought through the tangle and delays of getting unemployment payments via the overburdened state systems, with the extra $600/week add-on, they lose money by coming back to work, and part time work disrupts the unemployment benefit in place. Don't complicate things. Stay home. Stay safer. Get paid. It is a rational decision.

But meanwhile, yet another complication: employer liability. Who is responsible if a worker, comes to work for an employer, works in close proximity to others, and catches the virus in a workplace hotspot?  Republicans officeholders recognize this to be a giant concern for employers and they have the answer: the worker's liability.

Put it all together, here is the Republican position: People in low wage jobs, including "essential workers" only earn enough to live in deep poverty, don't get health insurance, but are required to go to work in jobs that might put them at risk of Covid, and if they do get sick, the liability is theirs. 

This suite of policies make sense only if Republicans are thinking primarily of the owners of small businesses, the donor class, not the workers. This gives Democrats the window of opportunity that they need to restore their connection with the working class, the "regular American" who had been an essential part of the Democratic coalition. 

Covid-19 is communicable, which changes the calculation a critical mass of people might have about the health of the person in the next neighborhood. It isn't an I-phone. No one chooses to get sick, not even people who refuse to wear masks. Americans need people in certain occupations to show up to work. We need other people to stay home. We need the produce clerk who isn't feeling well, and who has a wife who tested positive, to stay home from work himself. We want the wife to get health care. We want the produce clerk to self-quarantine. We don't want his incentives to be to "chance it" and go to work. 

If he brings the disease to the grocery store, and fellow clerks, each working 29 hours a week to be kept from being eligible for health benefits, get sick, and the cost is borne by them, then Republicans are giving Democrats exactly what they need to make their case for a major re-think of the health care system. We would have a sympathetic victim, indeed lots of them, young and old, Black and White and Latinix. These victims will be the Rosa Parks equivalent, those in-our-face victims who create a political majority ready for change. And we would have a villain, on record insisting of putting in place an unfair and unsafe situation, notwithstanding its cruelty, punishing the brave, the most vulnerable.

Events are changing the narrative. Health care isn't a consumer good. It is a matter of public health, and people who deny that reality are cruel. We have a simple story to tell and understand. Republicans would be screwing the little guy and Democrats would be the rescuer.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Google Security Lockout

City walls.  Castle motes. Door locks.  Google security. 

We spend a lot of resources protecting the resources we have.  

Today will be a short blog post.  I am locked out of my Blogspot account.  I am writing this on an I-phone, which is apparently some approved master device, one which approves the other devices, but apparently today approves nothing but itself.

Today a quick reflection: the artifacts which survive from ancient times are burial monuments (pyramids), religious monuments (Stonehenge, pyramids) and defensive fortifications (Wall of China’s, city walls, castles.). Americans bemoan the expense of our defense spending— I certainly do— but consider what an investment of the capacity of ancient civilizations would have been the walls at Jericho or the Great Wall of China. If a civilization has something worth having then someone will want to take it away. I liked having access to my blog and liked the idea that people who disliked what I wrote could not enter and do mischief, so therefore I have what Google calls two-factor authorization.  That means I get a prompt on my phone when I sign in— is that really you, Peter?  I am required to type in the 6 digit code they sent me.  I do, then bingo, the city gates open. 

This time they didn’t.  And the backup systems gave me the notice that I have tried too many times to enter, so I am locked out.  Apparently—maybe— someone last night had been trying repeatedly to access the account.  Not me. Anyhow, I am locked out myself.

My blog post today was to be about distrust—what a coincidence. Trump succeeded in getting a majority of Republicans to doubt that Obama was born in the USA.  He suggested that maybe a massive fraud had happened, a conspiracy that would have involved the State of Hawaii, two newspapers, and multiple witnesses.  They weren’t trusted. You can’t trust Hawaii. Or hospitals. Or that this dark man with a strange name. Maybe he was really an interloper who had sneaked into the walled community. 

The significant thing was not that Trump tried this gambit, but that people were ready to believe it. Birtherism worked to spread doubt that possibly a massive fraud was taking place.

Trump is saying not to believe the news media—all fake. Or public health authorities, too cautious. Or the FDA, hiding a great cure. Or our FBI or other intelligence services—Deep State.  He said our voting and election systems are rigged, with millions of illegal votes. These institutions aren’t to be trusted.  

He had said our judges weren’t to be trusted if they had Mexican heritage. He said the weather service wasn’t to be trusted if it disagreed with his reference to where a hurricane would hit. He said the post office cannot be trusted to deliver mail.  He said the military cannot be trusted to enforce fairly the rules of engagement and discipline of our own troops. 

Distrust. Frauds are everywhere. 

Trump’s saying Fauci is “wrong” and that America’s problem is too much testing, may be the tipping point that changes the Trump trajectory of successfully undermining trust in civic institutions. More Americans trust Fauci than Trump. Trump has an interest to protect with a lie. Fauci appears to have no goal other than our welfare. Fauci gives bad news but he seems sincere about it.

Trump has successfully fed off Americans’ distrust and amplified it. This time, on Covid, in a sea of distrust, a majority of people distrust Trump. Political pundits can examine a million nuances and factors to explain the campaign and the polls, but that one factor may be sufficient and explain everything. We don’t trust Trump on Covid.

Trump won’t get beat by Biden. He will be beat by Trump.