A new day dawns in America

For the first time in over five years, I awoke this morning without a crushing sense of dread to read the news and find out what indignities our former administration had inflicted upon our country and upon the world. It was a literal sense of physical relief, and I still revel in it as I write this.

Over the last half-decade, political cartoonists have had a literal heyday. Never in my life has there been a president or an administration that was more thoroughly or more deservedly pilloried. If anyone wanted to anthologize all the cartoons that were done about the Orange Screechweasel and his abortive presidency, I suspect it would look like this (Volume 1): ¹

I collected a few of these over the years, more as a pressure valve than anything else and to reassure myself that it was not just me that felt these things, but I think the one that impacted me the most was this one that appeared on the morning after the 2016 election:

David Rowe of the Australian Financial Review

The eyes said it all. And although Mr. Rowe caught a lot of flak from American Trump Cultists among others, here on the morning of January 21, 2021, when the White House is occupied by President Joseph Biden, Jr., and Vice-President Kamala Harris, and a fresh, clean breeze of hope is blowing over our nation for the first time in far too long, it becomes clear that – as the saying goes – we had no idea. Mr. Rowe’s cartoon was spot-on, but dramatically understated. The horror would be far worse than anything any of us could have imagined.

There are a handful of online comics that I follow, less than a dozen and far fewer than in days past (I was always a fan of the daily funnies from my earliest days of reading The Herald Tribune in New York City), and one of the is “The New Adventures of Queen Victoria” by Pab Sungenis. The writer’s political satire has always been a favorite of mine, but the last two days of his strip pretty much say it all:

We survived. Sadly, some 400,000 of us did not – and counting – and while not all of those deaths from the Novel Coronavirus could have been avoided, a significant percentage could have been had there been functioning adults in the White House.

Well, now there are. And while no administration of either party is perfect, I feel more hope for the future now than even I did with the election of Barack Obama, whose campaign slogan was Hope and Change. He began the trend, and with this unwanted and hideous interlude behind us, I look forward to the reparation of as much damage as possible and forward motion to a nation that works for all of us, with no one left out, and a nation that can re-assume its position at the global table as a functioning, adult equal.

The inauguration yesterday morning was breathtaking in its honesty, in its beauty, and in its hopefulness. I literally wept tears of joy and release as I listened to the speeches, the poetry, and the music. It was exhilarating and cathartic.

May the 46th Administration of our great but suffering nation bring healing and progress. May we undertake effective new steps to protect our populace from the depredations of the current pandemics, one of a new and relatively unknown virus, and a second of ignorance and brainwashing by 50 years of spite and disinformation.

Our nation awakens to a fresh, new morning of hope. May we see that hope fulfilled more abundantly than our previous fears were.

The Old Wolf has spoken.


Footnotes:

¹ Not to mention all the wonderful video parodies by people such as Randy Rainbow, late-night segments by John Oliver and Stephen Colbert and so many like them, and serious critical essays by the likes of John Pavlovitz, Heather Cox Richardson, Dan Rather, Jim Wright, and countless others. Just had to add this because they shouldn’t be forgotten.

If there were justice in the world

Recently the Washington Post conducted a survey of every Republican member of congress, asking who they thought won the recent election and if they would support the winner. The results are below:

Of the individuals surveyed, 27 correctly stated that Joe Biden was the winner (with 306 electoral votes, of which over 270 have been officially certified as of this date, and over 7 million more votes in the popular vote count.) Many of those in this category declined to respond directly to the survey, but their positions have been made clear in other public statements.

Two (Mo Brooks of Alabama and Paul Gosar of Arizona) stated flat out – and incorrectly – that Trump won the election, because it was fraudulently conducted.

The remaining 220 legislators refused to comment one way or another.

Now it is unheard of in my lifetime and longer that the results of a democratically-conducted election should be disputed in this way. Election night happens; one individual wins; the other individual concedes; and an administration continues or there is an orderly transition of power. That’s the way our system has worked for as long as I’ve been alive.

So why are things different now?

Because one man, with an ego the size of Jupiter and living in an artificial reality refuses to believe that there is a world where he could lose at anything.

Long before the election was held, the incumbent was telling people right and left, day and night, “If I lose this election, it was rigged.” Mail-in and absentee balloting has been a part of our electoral system; per the History Channel, “Voting by mail can trace its roots to soldiers voting far from home during the Civil War and World War II.” But in the mind of this pathetic, infantile clown, mail-in ballots are simply a channel for millions of people to vote illegally: the dead, illegal immigrants, people of color (their votes don’t really count because they’re not really Americans), and (gasp!) Democrats and Liberals. He even installed a Postmaster, a Republican party fundraiser, to make sure that the mechanism for delivering absentee ballots was crippled, so that it would be easy to claim (as Trump did) that any ballots received after election day were invalid. This, however, is simply untrue; states decide how to deal with absentee ballots, and many allow them, particularly if they were postmarked before the actual election.

Trump hammered on these lies again and again. Lies that have no basis in fact, no basis in history, and no basis in the results. The fact that he did so is a thundering disgrace. And he lost, soundly.

But 222 Republican legislators either believed the lies, or – despite seeing the writing on the wall about what had been happening to our government over the last 4 years – were unwilling to step up and accept the results of the election for fear of losing their power and their position. And this is equally disgraceful, and in my mind it approaches the standard of sedition and treason.

The president himself will be going back to the business world after January 20; that’s a foregone conclusion, although in his mind he still thinks he won and that somehow, there’s going to be a Hail Mary play in Congress or the Supreme Court that will reverse the clear results shouted by the American people. Ain’t gonna happen. And many of the 222 who bought in to his fantasy are businessmen themselves.

If there were any fairness in the world, no one would get involved with these people ever again. Trump, or his sycophantic, spineless enablers. People of good conscience would say to them, “No, thank you. I have no desire to do business with someone who has demonstrated a total disregard for the history and traditions of our nation. I have no desire to do business with someone who has no honor. I have no desire to do business with someone who is guaranteed to stiff me.

Sadly, as everyone knows, there are many people in the world who are not of good conscience. Personal interests and the desire for gain take precedence in their lives, and in the years to come we will see many who are more than happy to conduct transactions with the ex-president (at their peril!) or with other GOP members of Congress who have shown that lies and fantasy are more profitable than principles or good governance. But Americans who believe in honor will take note, and it is my hope that they will speak at the ballot box at the next possible opportunity and replace these people with others who can see past the duplicity and corruption.

Don’t vote for Trump just because you think he’s “pro-life.” He’s not.

I have recently seen claims that Democrats support “abortion on demand up to the point of birth – and beyond – in some states.” This is a complete falsehood; not just a dogwhistle but a foghorn. Democrats do not believe in infanticide. Doctors do not believe in infanticide. People like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are simply lying when they claim otherwise.

Joseph Biden believes that Roe v Wade is the law of the land and supports it, feeling – just as Hillary Clinton does – that “abortion should remain legal, but it needs to be safe and rare,” but he has never said that he supports elective, late-term abortions unless a pregnancy has gone catastrophically wrong. This is another gross Republican misrepresentation.

It is important to understand that Donald Trump is not pro-life. He simply echoes the views of his evangelical supporters, the part of his base that he can most easily manipulate because of this single issue. And they themselves are not pro-life, they are only pro-birth, without any regard for surrounding circumstances.

If the GOP were pro-life, they would be providing increased government support to Planned Parenthood, which prevents far more abortions on an annual basis by providing family planning services than they ever facilitate.

“Roughly half of the more than six million pregnancies in the United States each year are unintended. And many of them are to young mothers: according to the Guttmacher Institute, the rate of unintended pregnancies among sexually active teens is double that of all women. Despite opponent’s claims, the vast majority of Planned Parenthood’s work is devoted to the organization’s more central goal—helping people avoid unwanted pregnancy altogether.”

(Michael Specter, the New Yorker)

If the GOP were pro-life, they would all be wearing masks and supporting a national, comprehensive plan to fight the pandemic instead of being “maskdebaters,” waving Confederate flags and screaming about “muh freedom!”

If the GOP were pro-life they would be marching in the streets protesting the horrible conditions immigrant families are subjected to, in cages, their children cruelly torn from them (and Stephen Miller has said out loud that cruelty was the point).

If the GOP were pro-life they would be immediately voting for Medicare for All instead of trying to take healthcare away from millions of Americans and dismantle the ACA – a plan they hate only because it was put in place by a “black, socialist president”, the thought of which still galls them – and maintain a status quo that favors profit and “maximizing shareholder value” over health and well-being.

If the GOP were pro-life they would be enacting reasonable gun-sensibility laws like banning the insane high-power, high-capacity rifles and other weapons that no one needs to hunt deer, supporting universal background checks for every gun sale public or private, and treating guns and gun owners with exactly the same kinds of regulations required to own and operate a car (which, it may be noted, almost everyone does regularly and abundantly, mostly without complaining about the “draconian government control” of education, licensing, inspection, insurance, registration and taxation that are part of that privilege.)

If the GOP were pro-life, they would immediately get us back into the Paris accords and work as a global leader with the rest of the world to control anthropogenic climate change. The National Bureau of Economic Research predicts that if climate change is left unchanged, higher temperatures could lead to 85 deaths per 100,000 people globally per year by 2100. Calculating from today, that comes to a half-billion lives lost. That’s not pro-life in anyone’s book.

No, the GOP and by extension Donald Trump – who has no other values than his bank account and his galactic ego – are not “pro-life.” They only use this term to court the evangelical right and make sure that their political opponents are demonized for being “baby killers.”

You may believe – as I do, parenthetically – that all life belongs to God and should be treated sacredly. I don’t fault you for this belief. But a huge percentage of our nation doesn’t share your values, and decisions of government should never be based on religion, as enshrined in the First Amendment.

A real pro-life stance is far more complicated than that.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

The Great Barrington Crime Against Humanity

I just saw something come across my newsfeed about the “Great Barrington Declaration,” a document which essentially recommends against any Covid-19 protections, like social distancing and wearing masks, and promotes the development of herd immunity by exposing less-vulnerable people through living normal lives.

But consider this, from Wikipedia (emphasis mine.)


The World Health Organization and numerous academic and public-health bodies have stated that the proposed strategy is dangerous, unethical, and lacks a sound scientific basis.

They say that it would be impossible to shield all those who are medically vulnerable, leading to a large number of avoidable deaths among both older people and younger people with underlying health conditions, and they warn that the long-term effects of COVID-19 are still not fully understood. Moreover, they say that the herd immunity component of the proposed strategy is undermined by the limited duration of post-infection immunity. The more likely outcome, they say, would be recurrent epidemics, as was the case with numerous infectious diseases before the advent of vaccination. The American Public Health Association and 13 other public-health groups in the United States warned in a joint open letter that the Great Barrington Declaration “is not a strategy, it is a political statement. It ignores sound public health expertise. It preys on a frustrated populace. Instead of selling false hope that will predictably backfire, we must focus on how to manage this pandemic in a safe, responsible, and equitable way.”

The Great Barrington Declaration was authored by Sunetra Gupta of the University of Oxford, Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford University, and Martin Kulldorff of Harvard University.

The costs were paid for by the American Institute for Economic Research, a libertarian think tank that is part of a Koch-funded network of organizations associated with climate change denial.


These social inconveniences – and that’s what they are, not oppressive, draconian measures – are admittedly not fun. It is a pain not to see people’s smiling faces. It is difficult to not go places we want to go, see people we want to see, travel to other cities or countries, gather in restaurants and bars for fun and celebrations, enjoy blockbuster movies in theaters, see Broadway plays, be at the side of loved ones who are going through difficult times, attend weddings and Bat Mitzvahs and funerals and Christmas parties and all the things we used to take for granted. Yes, it’s a massive pain in the tuchus.

But it’s the only way we will continue to fight the spread of this very evil, very nasty virus that kills across all spectra and leaves countless others with reduced quality of life forever, until the healthcare researchers can understand this virus and develop effective treatments and viable vaccines.

If you have never worn a mask in public because you think the government is oppressing you, or that the liberal left is promulgating a hoax, and you’re exercising your rights as a free American, or something else equally inane, you’re not a patriot. You’re an asshole. You may be maiming or killing people. And you need to go home and re-examine your life.

This restaurant in Las Vegas has the right idea:

The supposed “FTBA Mask Exemption Cards” are bogus and carry no legal or social weight of authority. If someone gives you one of them, give them back one of these:

For the love of all that’s holy; for the sake of decency and caring about your own health and that of your fellow humans around you, wear a mask and practice social distancing until this pandemic is under control and treatments and vaccines are available.

The Old Wolf has Spoken.

Dear Verizon (not)

Multiple times a day, multiple times a week, my phone is assaulted with “Thank you for choosing Mariott!” or some other company – Hilton, Southwest Airlines, whatever script of the moment is selected by the robocalling software used by this never-sufficiently-to-be-damned timeshare flogger in Mexico.¹

Invariably, the caller ID shows a number with my own area code and prefix, still hoping that I’ll pick up thinking it’s a neighbor.

All I want is to be able to have these calls blocked at the source. Every call that comes in with an ID of (nnn) xxx-. Permanently.

Right now I can’t even get through to a real person; your tech support number fobs off every issue onto your digital assistant, which is as useful as a set of false teeth for a rooster. All it gives me is the option of blocking 5 different numbers… for 90 days. Given that there are roughly 10,000 spoofed number possibilities with my area code and prefix, that’s virtually no help at all.

Don’t try to tell me you don’t have the tech to address this issue. Those spoofed numbers come from somewhere, and they have to be transmitted by some means during the call, and you should surely have the ability to sniff those out and block them if the subscriber desires it.

Robocalls of all sorts are a major headache costing millions of Americans countless hours, massive amounts of money (for those who fall prey to scammers), and immeasurable frustration. But eliminating neighborhood spoofing seems to be an easy enough fix, and would eliminate a huge percentage of these calls.

I’m not impressed that you don’t seem to have the will to help your subscribers by providing this option.

The Old Wolf has spoken.


¹ I’d like to drop the cabrones who run this outfit into a Fargo-style wood chipper… very slowly. Since they’re out of the country, US laws can’t touch them and they know it – these calls have been going on for years, and it’s maddening.

Trumping Columbus

Yesterday the White House issued a proclamation on Columbus Day, purportedly from the *president.

First of all, let’s be honest: The Thermonuclear Bowel Evacuation Currently Disgracing the Oval Office had virtually nothing to do with this proclamation.

  1. Columbus Day is not even on his radar, because it makes him no money.
  2. It’s full of vocabulary that is only taught after the third grade, which means there’s no way the Orange Screechweasel could have penned it. It was doubtless written by one of his sycophantic staff, and it wouldn’t surprise me if it had been penned by Stephen Miller, it’s so full of jingoistic, nationalist rhetoric.

One paragraph is especially egregious:

Sadly, in recent years, radical activists have sought to undermine Christopher Columbus’s legacy.  These extremists seek to replace discussion of his vast contributions with talk of failings, his discoveries with atrocities, and his achievements with transgressions.  Rather than learn from our history, this radical ideology and its adherents seek to revise it, deprive it of any splendor, and mark it as inherently sinister.  They seek to squash any dissent from their orthodoxy.  We must not give in to these tactics or consent to such a bleak view of our history.  We must teach future generations about our storied heritage, starting with the protection of monuments to our intrepid heroes like Columbus.

Instead of providing inspiring national leadership, 45’s *administration can never resist an opportunity to demonize his political opponents in particular and liberals in general. Fortunately, there are people like Justin P. Cowan, Associate Chair of the Department of Theatre Arts at Western Connecticut State University. He took the “red pen of rational thought” to this paragraph and crafted something far more reasonable.

The edited version is a much more satisfying read:

“Thankfully, in recent years, thoughtful citizens have sought to contextualize Christopher Columbus’s legacy. These mindful people seek to broaden discussion of his vast contributions by recognizing his failings, evaluating his discoveries alongside his atrocities, and acknowledging his achievements while not overlooking his transgressions. Rather than ignore our history, this centrist ideology and its adherents seek to engage with it, recognize its splendor, while not overlooking its sinister acts. They seek to cultivate a generation of thinkers and intellectuals. We must celebrate these tactics and consent to a more well-rounded, representative, and factual view of our history. We must teach future generations about our storied heritage, starting with the relocation of monuments to our problematic heroes like Columbus to museums where both their achievements and inherent flaws can be equally evaluated.”

I appreciated Dr. Cowan’s re-imagining of what a proclamation from a normal, human president might look like. It admits of Columbus’s significant contributions while at the same time refusing to whitewash the severe consequences of his journeys. Although Dr. Cowan is not a historian by profession, Dr. Heather Cox Richardson is, and in her “Letters from an American” she states,

For all of Trump’s attention to patriotic education, his proclamation is quite bad history. Aside from its whitewashing of the effects of Columbus’s voyage of “discovery,” the proclamation misrepresents the original point of Columbus Day, which had a lot more to do with putting down white supremacy than celebrating the “enduring significance” of Columbus in opening “a new chapter in world history.”

Her complete essay about the proclamation and other events of the day is definitely worth a read.

Don’t get the idea that I’m jumping on the “Hate Columbus” bandwagon with these thoughts. Half of my blood comes from Italy, and I respect and love that heritage. Columbus is part of the reason that I get to live under the Constitution of this nation, for which I am immensely grateful. But as Dr. Richardson went on to explain,

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt officially instituted Columbus Day in 1934, but the idea for the holiday rose in the 1920s, when the Knights of Columbus tried to undercut the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan by emphasizing the role minorities had played in America. In the early 1920s, the organization published three books in a “Knights of Columbus Racial Contributions” series, including The Gift of Black Folk, by W. E. B. Du Bois. They celebrated the contributions of immigrants, especially Catholic immigrants, to America with parades honoring Christopher Columbus. The Knights of Columbus were determined to reinforce the idea that America must not be a land of white Protestant supremacy.

As an aside, these are things I never knew; I certainly wasn’t taught these facts in school. History must of necessity take all factors into account if it is to be a valid basis for national introspection and growth. We can’t look just at the good, or just at the bad.

I’m grateful for the positive results of the voyages of Cristoforo Colombo, but I’m mindful of the atrocities that were perpetrated along the way. The best thing humanity can do to atone for the destruction of the Taino and Carib populations is to take a good hard look at the realities of the Spanish conquest of the Americas and vow to treat all people with equality, dignity, and respect in the future. As a race of people, we’ll never make it to the stars if we can’t stop rolling in the mud.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Listen to this speech, and then vote to elect this man.

Watch this video (Begin at the 3:00) mark. Listen to Joe Biden’s words. If you don’t have time to watch, read the transcript below.

While not as heart-pumping as Bill Pullman’s “we will not go quietly into the night” speech from Independence Day, this one is the real thing, addressing real issues and real dangers that we as a nation face. I don’t care if you’re liberal or conservative – this is the kind of president we need right now. Issues and concerns can be debated, positions can be put forward, compromises can be made, once people of good will – not obstructive, power-hungry ideologues – are in charge of leading us.


“Thank you all for being here. Thank you. I appreciate you being here on this gorgeous day in a magnificent, magnificent setting, until you think about all the lives that were lost here. Y’all please, all have a seat.

On July 4th, 1863, American woke to the remains of perhaps the most consequential battle in American soil. It took place here on this ground in Gettysburg; three days of violence, three days of carnage, 50,000 casualties, wounded, captured, missing, or dead, over three days of fighting. When the sun rose on that Independence Day, Lee would retreat. The war would go on for nearly two more years, but the back of the Confederacy had been broken. The Union would be saved. Slavery would be abolished, government of by and for the people would not perish from the earth, and freedom would be born anew in our land.

There’s no more fitting place than here today in Gettysburg, to talk about the cost of division. About how much it has cost America in the past, about how much it is costing us now, and about why I believe in this moment, we must come together as a nation. For President Lincoln, the Civil War was about the greatest of causes. The end of slavery, widening equality, pursuit of justice, the creation of opportunity, and the sanctity of freedom.

His words would live ever after. We hear them in our heads. We know them in our hearts. We draw on them when we seek hope in hours of darkness; “Four score, and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” Here on this sacred ground, Abraham Lincoln, re-imagined America itself. Here, a president of the United States spoke of the price of division, and the meaning of sacrifice.

He believed in the rescue, redemption, and rededication of the union. All this in a time, not just of ferocious division, but of widespread death, structural inequity, and fear of the future. And he taught us this, a house divided could not stand. That is a great and timeless truth. Today, once again, we are a house divided, but that my friends can no longer be. We’re facing too many crises. We have too much work to do. We have to bright a future to have it shipwrecked on the Shoals of anger and hate, and division.

As we stand here today, a century and a half later after Gettysburg, we should consider again, what can happen when equal justice is denied, when anger and violence and division are left unchecked. As I look across America today, I’m concerned. The country is in a dangerous place. Our trust in each other is ebbing. Hope seems elusive. Too many Americans see our public life, not as an arena for mediation of our differences, but rather they see it as an occasion for total, unrelenting, partisan warfare.

Instead of treating each other’s party as the opposition, we treat them as the enemy. This must end. We need to revive the spirit of bipartisanship in this country. A spirit of being able to work with one another. When I say that, and I’ve been saying it for two years now, I’m accused of being naive. I’m told, “Maybe that’s the way things used to work, Joe, but they can’t work that way anymore.” Well, I’m here to tell you they can, and they must if we’re going to get anything done.

I’m running as a proud Democrat, but I will govern as an American president. I’ll work with Democrats and Republicans. I’ll work as hard for those who don’t support me, as those who do. That’s the job of a president; the duty to care for everyone. Refusal of Democrats and Republicans to cooperate with one another is not due to some mysterious force beyond our control. It’s a decision. It’s a choice we make.

And if we can decide not to cooperate, we can decide to cooperate as well. That’s the choice I’ll make as president. But there’s something bigger going on in this nation than just our broken politics. Something darker, something more dangerous. I’m not talking about ordinary differences of opinion, competing viewpoints give life and vibrancy to our democracy. No, I’m talking about something different, something deeper. Too many Americans seek not to overcome our divisions, but to deepen them, we must seek not to build walls, but bridges. We must seek not to have our fist clenched, but our arms open. We have to seek not to tear each other apart, we seek to come together. You don’t have to agree with me on everything, or even on most things, to see that we’re experiencing today is neither good nor normal.

I made the decision to run for president after Charlottesville. Close your eyes, and remember what you saw. Neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and the KKK coming out of the fields with torches light, veins bulging, chanting the same anti-Semitic bile herd across Europe in the ’30s. It was hate on the march, in the open, in America. Hate never goes away, it only hides. And when it’s given oxygen, when it’s given an opportunity to spread, when it’s treated as normal and acceptable behavior, we’ve opened a door in this country that we must move quickly to close. As president, that’s just what I will do. I will send a clear unequivocal message to the entire nation, there is no place for hate in America.

It will be given no license. It will be given no oxygen. It’ll be given no
safe harbor. In recent weeks and months, the country has been riled by instances of excessive police force, heart-wrenching cases of racial injustice and lives needlessly and senselessly lost, by peaceful protesters, given voice to the calls for justice, by examples of violence and looting and burning that can not be tolerated. I believe in law and order, I’ve never supported defunding the police.

But I also believe injustice is real. It’s a product of a history that goes back 400 years, the moment when black men, women, and children first were brought here in chains. I do not believe we have to choose between law and order, and racial justice in America. We can have both. This is the nation strong enough to both honestly face systemic racism and strong enough to provide safe streets for our families and small businesses. The two often bear the brunt of this looting and burning.

We have no need for armed militias roaming America’s streets, and we should have no tolerance for extremist white supremacy groups, menacing our communities. If you say, “We should trust America’s law enforcement authorities to do the job,” as I do, then let them do their job without extremist groups acting as vigilantes. If you say, “We have no need to face racial injustice in the country,” you haven’t opened your eyes to the truth in America.

There’ve been powerful voices for justice in recent weeks and months, George Floyd’s, six year old daughter, who I met with, who looked at me and said in her small child’s voice, “Daddy changed the world.” Also, Jacob Blake’s mother was another. When she said, “Violence didn’t reflect her son and this nation needed healing.” And Doc Rivers, the basketball coach, choking back tears when he said, “We’re the ones getting killed. We’re the ones getting shot. We’ve been hung. It’s amazing why we keep loving this country and this country does not love us back.”

I think about that. I think about what it takes for a black person to love America. That is a deep love for this country. That has for far too long, never been recognized. What we need in America’s leadership that seeks to deescalate tensions, to open lines of communications, to bring us together, to heal, to hope. As president, that’s precisely what I will do. We paid a high price for allowing the deep divisions in this country to impact on how we deal with the Coronavirus. 210,000 Americans dead, and the number’s climbing. It’s estimated that nearly another 210,000 Americans could lose their lives by the end of the year; enough, no more. Let’s just set partisanship aside, let’s end the politics and follow the science.

Wearing a mask… wearing a mask is not a political statement. It’s a scientific recommendation. Social distancing isn’t a political statement. It’s a scientific recommendation. Testing, tracing, the development and all approval and distribution of a vaccine, isn’t a political statement. It is a science-based decision. We can’t undo what has been done. We can’t go back. We can do so much better. We can do better starting today. We can have a national strategy that puts politics aside and saves lives.

We can have a national strategy that will make it possible for our schools and business to open safely. We can have a national strategy that reflects the true values of this nation. This pandemic is not a red state or blue state issue. This virus doesn’t care whether you live, or where you live, what political party you belong to, it affects us all. It will take anyone’s life. It’s a virus. It’s not a political weapon.

There’s another enduring division in America that we must end, the division in our economic life. That gives opportunity only to the privileged few. America has to be about mobility. It has to be the kind of country where an Abraham Lincoln, a child of the distant frontier, can rise to the highest office in the land. America has to be about possibilities.

The possibility of prosperity, not just for the privileged few, but for the many, for all of us. Working people on their kids deserve an opportunity. Lincoln knew this. He said that the country had to give people, and I quote, “An open field and a fair chance. An open field and a fair chance.” That’s what we’re going to do in America. We’re going to build together. We fought a civil war that would secure a union that would seek to fulfill the promise of equality for all.

And by fits and starts, our better angels had prevailed again, just enough, just enough against our worst impulses to make a new and better nation. And those better angels can prevail again, now. They must prevail again, now. 100 years after Lincoln spoke at Gettysburg, the vice president, Lyndon B Johnson also came here, and here’s what he said.

He said, “Our nation founded soul and honor in these fields of Gettysburg, we must not lose that soul in dishonor, now, on the fields of hate.” Today, we’re engaged, once again, in the battle for the soul of the nation, the forces of darkness, the forces of division, the forces of yesterday are pulling us apart, holding us down and holding us back. We must free ourselves of all of them. As president, I will embrace hope, not fear. Peace, not violence. Generosity, not greed. And light, not darkness. I’ll be a president who appeals to the best in us, not the worst.

I’ll be a president who pushes toward the future, not one who clings to the past. I’m ready to fight for you and for our nation every day, without exception, without reservation, with a full and devoted heart. We cannot, and will not, allow extremest and white supremacist to overturn the America of Lincoln and Harriet Tubman, and Frederick Douglas, to overturn the America that has welcomed immigrants from distant shores, to overturn the America that has been a Haven and a home for everyone, no matter their background.

From Seneca falls to Selma, to Stonewall we’re at our best when the promise of America is available to all, we cannot, and we will not allow violence in the street to threaten the people of this nation. We cannot and will not walk away from our obligation to at long last, face the wrecking on race and racial justice in this country. We cannot and will not continue to be struck in the partisan politics that lets us, this virus, thrive, while the public health of this nation suffers.

We cannot and will not accept an economic equation that only favors those who have already got it made; everybody deserves a shot at prosperity. Folks, duty and history call presidents to provide for the common good, and I will. It won’t be easy. Won’t be easy. Our divisions today are long standing, economic and racial inequities have shaped us for generations, but I give you my word. I give you my word. If I’m elected president, I will Marshall the ingenuity and Goodwill of this nation to turn division into unity and bring us together because I think people are looking for that. We can disagree about how as we move forward, we must take the first steps. It starts with how we treat one another. How we talk to one another. How we respect one another.

In the second inaugural Lincoln said, “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we’re in to build up the nation’s wounds, bind up the nation’s wounds.” Now, we have our work to reunite America. To bind up our nation’s wounds. To move past shadow and suspicion. And so we, you and I together, we press on, even now. After hearing the second inaugural address, Frederick Douglas told President Lincoln, “Mr. Lincoln, that was a sacred effort.” We have to be dedicated to our own sacred effort. The promise of Gettysburg and the new birth of freedom was in hand.

I think it’s at risk. Every generation that’s followed Gettysburg has been faced with a moment when it must answer this question, will they allow the sacrifices made here to be in vain, or be fulfilled? This is our moment to answer this essential American question, for ourselves and for our time. And my answer is this, it cannot be that after all this country has been through, after all that America’s accomplished, after all the years, we have stood as a beacon of light to the world.

It cannot be that here and now in 2020, we will allow the government of the people, by the people, and for the people to perish this earth. No, it cannot. And it must not. We have it in our hands, the ultimate power. The power to vote. Its the note instrument ever devised to register our will in a peaceable and productive fashion. And so we must. We must vote. We will vote. No matter how many obstacles are thrown in our way, because once America votes, America will be heard.

Lincoln said, “The nation is worth fighting for.” So it was. And so it is, together as one nation under God, indivisible. Let us join forces to fight the common foe of injustice and inequality, hate and fear. Let’s conduct ourselves as Americans who love each other, who love our country, who will not destroy, but will build. We owe it to the dead who were buried here at Gettysburg. We owe that to the living, and to future generations yet to be born.

You and I are part of a covenant, a common story of divisions overcome and hope renewed. If we do our part, if we stand together, if we keep faith with the past and with each other, then the divisions of our time will give way to the dreams of a brighter, better future. This is our work. This is our pledge. This is our mission. We can end this era of division. We can end the hate and the fear. We can be what we are at our best, the United States of America. God bless you all. And may God protect our troops. Thank you. We can do this.”


I want our nation to return to sanity. The mad divisiveness that infects our politics now is not anything that our founders envisioned. We need to get back to government by reason and compromise instead of bombastic ideological warfare and obstruction. We owe it to our children, our grandchildren, and future generations.

This coming November, please vote to sweep the authoritarians from power, and return our nation to the democratic republic that we were given at the Constitutional Convention of 1787. ¹

The Old Wolf has spoken, but Joe Biden has spoken better.


Footnotes:

¹ A good exploration of Franklin’s quote, “A republic if you can keep it” can be found here.

You can’t call Public Purpose Spending “Socialism”

This blog post is republished from an entry posted on August 17, 2016 by Ellis Winningham, who wrote about MMT and modern macroeconomics. The relevant website is now defunct, but this article was retrieved from the Wayback Machine on 9/14/2020, as of 30 May 2018. It deserves to be read, and read again. Any emphasis is mine.


There is an immense problem with the term “socialism”, especially in the United States, where the word is abused endlessly by right-wing politicians, “free market” enthusiasts and now, even liberals have joined the red-baiting bandwagon, labeling former Sanders supporters, many of whom are now Stein supporters as “socialists” and any proposed economic initiatives as “socialism”. This is the result of a successful long-term propaganda campaign of intentional misinformation which causes the general public to view any public purpose spending as socialism and so, they irrationally fear the public purpose. Meanwhile, the 1% reaps the benefits through continued abuse of an unwitting public, allowing them to profit at the expense of the national economy and society. Let me assure you that there isn’t an academic definition of socialism for those of us who possess degrees and then an entirely different one for the general public. It doesn’t work that way. There is only one definition of socialism and we will discuss it today, because the nonsense needs to stop.

Many people think that universal healthcare is socialism. It is not.

Many people think that public schools and free college education are socialism. They are not.

Many people think that welfare is socialism. It is not.

Many people think that police and roads are socialism. They are not.

And many people now think that a federal Job Guarantee is also socialism. It is not.

I mentioned “red-baiting” a moment ago. It’s important to our discussion. Some of you, especially the younger generation, might not know what it is. Back in the 1950’s when the Soviet Union was the world’s enemy and the Cold War was in full swing, prominent politicians were certain of a communist conspiracy afoot in America and elsewhere in the western world and told every American to fear communist subversion.

A whack-job named Senator Joseph McCarthy rose to prominence in 1950 and led a highly un-American nation-wide campaign to root out every last commie. He claimed that communist spies were everywhere, lurking in the shadows, awaiting the opportunity to lure our children in and poison their minds. They could be teaching in our schools, working at the post office, acting on the silver screen, writing books, pumping gas, bagging groceries; they could even be in the highest levels of government. He began accusing people by name of being communist spies and sympathizers. Given the public’s fear of the Soviet Union – the result of intense Cold War propaganda – most people believed McCarthy’s accusations. This caused many to fear ending up on McCarthy’s “hit list” so to speak. The Senator’s tactics became known as “McCarthyism”.

McCarthy’s wild and unsubstantiated accusations, labeling people communists or communist sympathizers, is what we call “red-baiting”. It is a fear tactic that is used today, mostly by those of a right-wing political persuasion, to either derail or totally silence progressive political opinion and initiatives. Because the Soviet Union is long gone, the words communism and communist have mostly fallen into disuse by politicians and the general public. Today, “red-baiting” takes the form of accusing people and their ideas of being socialist. Of course, there are delusional individuals on the far right such as “the Tea Party” who accuse people of being a “fascist, Marxist, socialist commie” (whatever that is), but on the whole, accusing people of socialism is the new “red-baiting”.

Like communism, socialism is seen as un-American, unpatriotic, anti-freedom and most importantly and relevantly, “anti-free market”. If you’ve followed my articles for any length of time, you’ve learned that there is no such thing as a “free market” when a national government like the US federal government, issues its own sovereign currency. Because the market uses the government’s US Dollar, the government has the authority to regulate that market as it sees fit for the benefit of the nation. The market does not make laws and so, does not have the authority to determine what is best for the nation. That is the job of the federal government. In a modern monetary economy, the US government is the monopoly issuer of US Dollars. They come from nowhere else in the world. It is the issuer and since its US Dollar floats freely on an exchange (See FOREX) and is non-convertible fiat, it has an infinite supply of US Dollars at all times. It needs no income to spend. And when you are but a mere user of the federal government’s US Dollar, like the market is, you are entirely dependent on the federal government for your survival. There is no such thing as a “free market” and “free market ideas” cannot successfully function, nor can the market self-regulate for the simple facts that the market has no authority to create laws and it can run out of US Dollars and go broke. Involuntary bankruptcy is not possible for the federal government. It is the sovereign to which the market is subject. With that out of the way, let us turn our attention to what socialism actually is versus what many people incorrectly think it is.

Socialism is the complete control over the means of production by the workers (the people), with government as the people’s central representative authority. It need not be democratic. For instance, in authoritarian socialism, a regime could take charge of the federal government and seize the entirety of production, leaving the people as slaves to the state. Democratic socialism, on the other hand, is the democratic control over the means of production. Here, the federal government controls the entirety of the production infrastructure and the people have a democratic say in employment conditions and the direction output takes. But what is important here is that socialism, whatever flavour, means the complete control over the means of production. It is the throwing off of capitalism altogether and the restructuring of the entire economy and society to one of central planning. Public purpose spending for programmes such as universal healthcare cannot and will not result in the entire means of production in every sector shifting from independent businesses to government control. Such thinking is nonsense.

Because the federal government is the highest public authority and charged with the duty (US Constitution, Article 1, Section 8) to issue US Dollars, it must issue currency with the intent of serving the needs of the public in its entirety, not just a few private individuals and entities. The US Dollar is public “money”; the sole product of the federal government and must be issued for the public purpose. What then is the public purpose? That which benefits the entire nation.

1.) The provisioning of the federal government with goods and services, ensuring that it can properly function for the benefit of the nation.

2.) Military spending for defense of the nation.

3.) Infrastructure – transportation, railways, airports, roads and highways, bridges, power grids and energy resources, hospitals, buildings and ports.

4.) Indefinite full employment which allows for perpetual economic stability, ensuring that whatever the United States produces can be purchased by consumers.

The US government – A public entity. US Dollars – Public currency. All US citizens – The public.

Private markets – Social and individual activities within the national boundaries that are not conducted by agencies of federal, state or local government, nor a function of federal, state or local government, but which are entirely dependent on public funds issued by the federal government to function and are subject to the laws of the land – full stop.

As time advances, new technology arises that enhances the quality of life and the security of the citizenry. The US Air Force is clearly not mentioned in the US Constitution, precisely because nobody alive in 1791 could completely envision a future where man could fly, let alone use the flying contraption for defense of the nation. Hence, the US Air Force was created and is now funded by the US government to meet the needs of the military, or more precisely, to meet the needs of the public purpose.

As the US government is the sole currency issuer and as it has an infinite supply of that currency and as its constitutional duty as that sole currency issuer is to issue US Dollars for the public purpose, only the US government can ensure that infrastructure can be fully modernized, that full employment can be sustained indefinitely, that disease and spinal cord injury research can be properly conducted, that the health needs of the public, whatever the treatment needed, can be completely looked after, that the educational needs of our children and college students can be met without financial hardship.

And so, we continue with our list of what constitutes the public purpose. The question is never “how do we pay for it?” The question is always “Does the United States have the real resources available to meet the needs of the public purpose?”

5.) Education – an uneducated populace hinders today’s economy as well as a future economy by obstructing advances in technology necessary to increase the citizenry’s standard of living and enhance their quality of life as well as the expertise needed to work with that technology. Student loans do not advance education, but rather, damage today’s economy and mortgage the nation’s future by leaving students who are lucky to be employed spending a large chunk of their income on debt, rather than on goods and services today, resulting in unemployment. For those who cannot find a job in their field due to reduced consumer spending, their intellect and input remain idle, thus obstructing the advance of technological development for tomorrow. Those who cannot afford college and do not wish to go deep into debt to pay for it, forego a beneficial education, further compromising a future economy.

6.) Healthcare – an unhealthy workforce is an inefficient workforce, hindering production. An unhealthy populace means a reduced labour supply, which in turn, means reduced output capability. A population burdened by healthcare costs means debt and bankruptcy and so, reduced consumer spending which then contributes to persistent unemployment and reduced output.

There were no iPhones, cars, refrigerators and airplanes in 1791, legs and arms were amputated regularly for injuries that are easily treatable today, dentistry was questionable, people died of diseases that are easily treatable today. You cannot operate a modern monetary economy from a 1791 perspective, unless you are willing to forego all of the advancement from that day to this. Two hundred years from now, things will have advanced even further and that which is related to the public purpose will only expand, along with the federal government’s spending to ensure it. The failure of the US government to advance the public purpose through deficit spending is detrimental to the people’s standard of living, their quality of life and the nation’s security.

Understand me clearly here – a capitalist framework does not imply a restricted public purpose. Whatever technology is developed by private entities using the government’s US Dollar that enhances the quality of life of the citizenry, increases their standard of living and ensures the nation’s security, that technology has a public purpose and the federal government has a duty to fully utilize it for the common good. I am not saying here that the federal government must seize control of the technology and all sectors of production (socialism), but utilize it, fully funding both national programs which the public can access free of charge and fully funding the private entities developing that technology through appropriate levels of deficit spending, resulting in increased consumer spending, thus increased private profits and development (capitalism).

Within capitalism, there is still the federal government at the head. It is the centerpiece of a modern monetary economy and issues the currency necessary which capitalism uses to function. Universal healthcare is not socialism. Free primary and secondary education is not socialism. Police and roads are not socialism. A federal Job Guarantee is not socialism. It is capitalism functioning properly and efficiently within a modern monetary economy.

When the state seizes control over the entire means of production, issuing three and five year plans for production across every, single sector, then you can call it socialism – not before.


Stop listening to the right-wing fear-mongers and talking heads who would have you looking for Bolsheviks under your bed every night. America’s Constitution is sound, and despite efforts by The Thermonuclear Bowel Evacuation Currently Disgracing the Oval Office to destroy everything good that our nation stands for, we will never become a Soviet wannabe.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

The truth about “ugly produce.”

This post is taken from a series of tweets by Dr. Sarah Taber (@SarahTaber_bww). I’ve collected the tweets, edited them for clarity and brevity (sometime abbreviations help you meet Twitter’s length limit), and bowdlerized them just a bit for a family-friendly audience. If you don’t mind a bit of language, you can, of course, view the original thread here.


Most “ugly” produce gets turned into soups, sauces, salsa, jam, ice cream, etc. You think that stuff gets made from the pretty fruit and veggies?! Jeebus, think about it for a minute.

The amount of produce wasted because of labor problems (can’t get a crew to harvest) and bad weather (melons that rot in the field because it’s too hot and wet, etc) WAY outstrips produce thrown out because it’s “ugly.”

Because again… we eat a LOT ugly produce. You just wouldn’t know it because it’s salsa.

As someone who works in produce, this whole “ugly fruit” movement is actually kind of enraging because it’s completely disconnected from what really happens in the supply chain. It’s a big honkin’ wad of fraud that self-promoting foodies get away with because nobody knows better.

After it leaves the farm, most produce goes to a packinghouse. This is where they cool, wash, sort, and package it. In other words, it’s where the ugly fruit people think all this “waste” is happening.

he only time packinghouses throw out fruit is when IT’S ACTUALLY INEDIBLE. Like it’s either rotten or (in the case of one watermelon field that one time) it had rained so hard that the melons filled up with water and were completely tasteless. Also about to explode.

Produce gets graded by size, prettiness, and (sometimes) flavor/eating quality.

Know what happens to most of the produce that’s edible, has enough shape to survive in transit, but looks funny?

IT GOES TO THE GROCERY STORES THAT POOR PEOPLE SHOP AT.

In the broke times of my life I did not shop at farmers’ markets, because they’re at bizarre times when working class people are usually working or sleeping (late service sector nights = no 7 AM Saturday farmer’s market for you). Farmer’s Markets are built around the “9 to 5” white-collar schedule.

Most of your real poor people, when buying produce, get it from shops white collar people don’t go to.

Those shops stock ugly produce.

[The shops] that white collar people don’t go to. Then conclude, looking at their nice stores stocked with pretty No. 1 produce, that nobody’s eating the ugly stuff.

So there’s one beef. The “eat ugly fruit!” movement is as classist as it comes. You’ve got to have a debilitating level of ignorance to assume that if Whole Paycheck Market doesn’t stock ugly fruit, it must be getting “wasted.”

Upside-Down Face on Microsoft

Back to the packinghouse. When produce is EXTREMELY UGLY, it goes into cull bins.

My fave cull bins to date:

  • Sweet potatoes. Did you know that they make a *lot* of giant, freaky-shaped spuds? Like a rat king of sweet potatoes, somewhere between football and basketball sized. What happens to these ugly, unloved sweet potatoes? OH WAIT THEY GET LOVED, THAT’S WHERE EVER-LOVIN’ SWEET POTATO FRIES COME FROM!
  • Apples. We love to say we don’t mind “spots on our apples,” but actual sales data tells us we really, really do. And honestly, we should. Even “cosmetic” lesions can make micro-breaks in the apple’s skin, allowing fungus to enter. One rotten apple, barrel, etc. Fugly apples ARE WHERE APPLE JUICE AND APPLE SAUCE AND APPLE CIDER AND APPLE BUTTER AND APPLE JELLY AND APPLE PIE COME FROM! “Wasted” my eye.

    “But some apple variety are better for fresh eating, not processing!” D’ya think Hy-Vee brand apple juice from concentrate really cares at all that today’s shipment of cheap juicing-grade apples are not The Optimal For Juicing?

    NO THEY’RE GONNA JUICE THAT STUFF!

    Did you know: Honeycrisp apples are extra prone to a mostly-cosmetic skin defect called bitter pit?

    Ergo, most Honeycrisp apples become apple juice. That’s why whole, fresh, pretty Honeycrisp apples cost so fricken’ much.

    Because most of them become cheap bulk juicers.

Yes, every once in a while you’ll run into a variety of produce that only really works for fresh and doesn’t lend well to processing. This mostly happens with leafy greens (we don’t make … lettuce sauce), which is such a minuscule amount of the produce tonnage grown per year.

When produce is too far gone to sell and there’s no processing market (say, melons), it often gets fed to livestock.

That’s… actually a lot of the point of livestock, historically. They eat stuff we can’t and turn it into meat, milk, and eggs that we can.

Feeding crop and food waste to livestock also means we’re not having to use as much livestock-only cropland. Just assume that most years a certain percentage of human food crops will get messed up and become livestock feed, and that’s less pasture/grain land needed for livestock.

That Listeria outbreak in cantaloupe back in 2011? As best we can tell it happened because they fed ugly melons to cattle.

Which, in itself, is fine.

The problem is they kept driving the truck back into the cantaloupe shed AFTER getting its tires caked in cow poop during deliveries.

This whole “ugly fruit! uwu”¹ thing is bewildering because in order to believe that retail consumers can change the world by buying ugly fruit, you have to believe that the entire supply chain is made of numpties² who make a regular habit of leaving money on the table.

The food system is a hot mess but using ugly produce is one thing it’s actually really good at. Using every single part of what’s grown, if there’s any possible way to sell it.³

The one big source of food waste that I do worry about is crops that are perfectly good, and rot in the field because the farm can’t get anybody to harvest them. (Orrrrr they don’t want to pay enough for people to come harvest them.)

These labor shortages come down to 2 things:

  1. Bad immigration policy
  2. Farm business models that can’t survive a competitive labor market

(which kinda tends to feed back into that first one)

We SHOULD be worried about THAT. And “buy ugly fruit!” does virtually nothing to address it.

But those aren’t fun problems to fix, because they’re not the kinds of problems that the everyman consumer can fix by just making a simple yes/no choice in the supermarket.

They’re like … systemic or something.

Anyway, that’s my semiweekly grinching about shallow attempts to reform the food system that completely miss the point and at this point the ugly fruit thing is such an accepted belief that. like. you can’t even blame people for believing it, it’s absolutely everywhere.


I originally saw this posted on Facebook. What follows are some comments from a friend of mine who spent his entire career as an agricultural consultant and extension agent for a large midwestern university. I thought these contributed to the discussion.

Story 1: In college, I spent a couple of years in Cooperative Education working as a USDA fruit and vegetable inspector. My job was to examine a shipment of produce, pass or fail it on both cosmetic issues as well as actual decay. After the receiving company got his money back from the shipper (thanks to my report), he’d then sell the produce for top dollar. And I watched how the ugly produce would be separated and sold to organic food coops (because “that’s what organic produce looks like”…mind you, this was back in 1980, when organics were not regulated).
I remember one case where we went to a pickle factory outside of Boston. The load of cucumbers came in with over 50% rotted. Have you ever seen a rotted cucumber? It’s basically a green water balloon…touch it and it explodes. After we finished the inspection, we sat in the receiver’s office while he negotiated with the shipper. After he got almost all of his money back, he hits the intercom and says “OK, run them!”. About 10 tons of rotted, slimy, water-balloon cucumbers were dumped into the pickle juice. It was nearly 10 years before I could eat pickles again.

Ewg!

Story 2: Early in my career with Extension, I had a farmer in southern Indiana who wanted to start an organic apple orchard. He was extremely well-educated, knew a heck of a lot more about apples and apple pests than I did. He fought this for 7 years before giving up. Because in the humid Ohio River Valley, you MUST use fungicides to prevent fungus diseases, or every fruit will develop unsellable spots. His entire crop, year after year, was only good for cider. And you cannot make a living growing cider grade apples. You MUST have a high percentage of US Number 1 apples that the fresh-eating public buys. And despite what all of my organic-gardener friends tell me…if you put out two bins of apples: 1 bin with perfect-looking fruits that are labelled “sprayed every week all season long” and 1 bin with spotted apples labelled “organic,” the sprayed bin will always be bought out quickly. Always.

Story 3: When younger, I took my kids to my local strawberry farmer for U-Pick berry picking. And I watched as the general public would only pick the biggest and most perfect berries. They would leave unpicked the smaller berries (which actually are sweeter than the big ones); they would leave the misshapen ones. And that’s if they were being generous…because the farmer could always pay his workers to go back over the field and pick the skipped-over fruit. But no…the public would pick the less-than-perfect fruit, and toss it or smash it because it wasn’t good enough for them. And that is waste.


Footnotes:

¹ “UwU” is an alphabetic emoji representing a cute or smug face. You might see it as this:

² British for “morons.”

³ Just recently I saw this ad show up on my Facebook wall:

Some executive somewhere: “Hey, I’ve got a great idea how we can make money from getting people to buy the garbage we used to throw away!”