YOU CAN’T FOOL MOTHER NATURE

90 years on this big chunk of dirt has allowed me to witness a plethora of amazing things. The following blog points out that we’ve screwed up our share of things, and there is lots of bad stuff going on as we speak, but we have also done a lot of good stuff. I have consistently underestimated the ability of my fellow men and women to do amazing things, but I am even more impressed with this latest generation. They seem eager to involve themselves in politics and environmental activism, which leaves me hopeful that they may do a better job of listening to what Mother Nature tells us.

Thousands of scientists worldwide devote their lives in search of such understanding. There certainly will be more pandemics and other crises to come, and an understanding of nature is our only hope for defense or prevention. My hope is that these bright young souls will learn from our mistakes, for we truly are all in this together. We have been honored guests on this planet for only a short time, and lack of respect for our earth mother could further shorten our stay. To have “dominion” over all these wondrous living things carries with it an awesome responsibility. We ignore it at our own risk. In this post, I hope to illustrate examples of how we humans have attempted to control Mother Nature and the consequences I’ve observed.

The Big Fox Hunt

My first exposure to humans trying to control Mother Nature was when I was 12 years old. Once upon a time (as the saying goes) , I was excited to be asked to participate in a fox hunt. This was not to be replete with trumpets, and people dressed in red jackets on horseback, but rather a bunch of serious good old boys in blue denim bib overalls and wampuses. The hunt was to be composed of a combination of fox and rabbit hunters. Granted, there were some who fit into both categories, but the strategies were very different and required different canine talents. The beagle was the breed of choice for rabbit hunters while fox hounds were much larger.

The idea of a fox hunt had originated with the rabbit hunters after a several year decline in the rabbit population of the county which they blamed on the red fox, the rabbit’s chief predator. The fox hunters were all for the operation. WWII was in full swing, the depression was over, there was full employment and much of clothing manufacturing capacity was used by the military, all of which conspired to make fur coats desirable. Consequently, fox pelt prices were at an all-time high. The strategy for this hunt was to recruit large numbers of bodies (even kids) to walk behind a long line of dogs with the thought that the foxes would be driven towards a line of hunters with guns. Since a large portion of the male population was off fighting the war, many of us kids were recruited for the big hunt.

The plan was never implemented. Not surprising, since due to the war, gasoline was rationed and ammunition for hunting was not available. Nevertheless, the plan was a small example of man’s attempt to intervene into the much more comprehensive plan which had been devised by nature, or God if you will, long before Adam and Eve arrived on the scene.

Mother Nature fixed the Rabbit Problem

However, in this instance without human intervention, it did not take too many years for the rabbit population to rebound and the fox hunters to complain that their dogs couldn’t even “catch a scent.” Apparently, since the fox’s natural predators in our area had long since been deposed by the world’s top predator (humans), the fox population grew rapidly, soon overwhelming the rabbits. With their favorite meal no longer available, the foxes either moved on, or starved, and the rabbits rebounded without our help. Now that fur coats are no longer fashionable, rabbits are scarce, and foxes which were formerly rarely seen, are active scavengers in urban areas.

It seems as if the predator system worked well for a few million years until the new top dog came along, and set out to screw it up.

The Apex Predator

About 200,000 years ago humans evolved to become the new apex predator, and the system of checks and balances was upended. This new kid on the block was not nearly so athletic, as his competitors, nor did he possess the acute sense of smell, vision or hearing as did most of his competitors, but his huge brain coupled with his upright posture allowed him to develop the manual dexterity necessary to make tools and weapons.


Those skills were honed to an extent beyond the imagining of our distant ancestors, and also allowed us to totally dominate the planet as per the Biblical injunction: Genesis 1:28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

There is little doubt that we have been compliant with the fruitful and multiply part, but negligent about “replenishing.” The World Wildlife Federation reports that in just the last 50 years we humans have been responsible for the extinction of 60% of the world’s population of mammals, birds, fish, and reptiles. [Source: https://www.wwf.org.uk/updates/living-planet-report-2018 ] If the scripture is referring to the replenishment of the human population, no doubt we have done a good job and then some. Just during my time on this planet the population of the world has nearly quadrupled, standing now at nearly 8 billion. It is estimated to have been a paltry 5 million souls in 5.000 BC. [Source: www.worldometers.info/world-population/world-population-by-year/.]


Earth’s Population | Malthusians vs Cornucopians

In 1798, Thomas Malthus, an English economist and clergyman, warned that overpopulation would lead to world-wide starvation due to the limited ability of the earth to provide enough food [Link to “An Essay on the Principle of Population”]. Of course, his theory was later discarded by most as he failed to take into account the development of more efficient farming methods. Since his time, the population has increased 5 fold, 20% of the food grown in the U.S. is wasted, and although food shortages exist in some parts of the world, they are largely due to problems of distribution, wars, or climate change, yet there still remains debate between the so called “Malthusions” and the “Cornucopians” (futurists who believe progress and provision of material items for mankind can be met by similarly continued advances in technology) as to the limits of the planet’s ability to support life as we know it. With the mechanization of much of agriculture, farming has become much less labor intensive, and large families, which were a cheap source of labor, have become expensive.


There are also now widely available and effective means of birth control which at first glance would lead one to believe the world’s population was declining, but increased longevity and a decrease in infant mortality have resulted in an explosive increase. Yet, the Cornucopians believe in a future in which we will see a decrease in the world’s population and that technology will triumph to keep our planet sustainable. Currently, the world population continues to increase but at a slower rate than previously. The UN predicts it will stabilize at around 11 billion by 2050, but such predictions have proved inaccurate in the past.


Some governments continue to take note of Malthusian principles and have attempted to regulate population growth by either encouraging or limiting it, usually with disastrous results. The most recent example is China where a one-child policy was adopted in the 1960s after a period of famines was felt to have been caused by overpopulation. Enforcement procedures were sometimes drastic with enforced sterilizations as a penalty for non-compliance. The policy proved to be too successful as the slowed birth rate coupled with increased longevity has resulted in too many retirees, and a shortage of workers to support them. The country has now initiated policies designed to increase the birthrate, which so far, have not been successful. Contrasting, but equally draconian efforts by the communist dictator of Romania, Nicolae Ceausesca, to increase the population of his country in 1966, resulted in thousands of orphaned children that overwhelmed the orphanages of the country. Consequently, a generation of children were neglected as I described in a previous blog.

Malthus blamed much of the poverty and associated hunger of his day on hereditary factors setting the stage for development of eugenics in which governments initiated policies designed to limit population growth. In 1927, the Supreme Court led by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., who famously said: “three generations of imbeciles is enough” approved forced sterilizations of the mentally disadvantaged, not our nation’s finest hour. A few years later, Hitler in his attempt to purify the “Aryan Race” decided it was much more efficient to simply execute those deemed “defective” and his gas chambers proved to be quite efficient in that regard. Although Malthus writings awakened awareness of potential problems in our environment, they also have demonstrated the dangers associated with social engineering gone awry.

Overpopulation and Pandemics

Scientists suggest that the overall human impact on the environment, due to overpopulation, with its accompanying overconsumption, pollution, and proliferation of technology, has pushed the planet into a new geological epoch known as the Anthropocene. A case can be made for overpopulation as a factor in many of the world’s geopolitical problems including wars, migrations, civil unrest, famine, and climate change to name a few, yet even in this global pandemic which threatens every life on the planet, little note is taken of how population density factors into this COVID-19 thing.


Pandemics have been around throughout recorded history. One study that analyzed the origins of 1415 diseases which infect humans, found that 62% originated via contact with animals. [Source: https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rstb.2001.0888]. Indeed, the spate of epidemics we have experienced over the past few years, such as Ebola, SARS, Swine Flu, and COVID-19, etc., as well as the oft mentioned Spanish Flu of 1918, and bubonic plague are all said to be zoonotic diseases (meaning those that jump from animal to man). Even smallpox, the scourge that had figured in wars and other upheavals throughout history, and decimated native populations in the Americas, is felt to have jumped from a rodent flea to humans in Egypt 10,000 years ago. There are multiple factors that can lead to increased contact of wild animals with humans.

Humans & Wildlife

For example, I spent my early years hunting, fishing and roaming the hills where I now live without ever seeing a deer, but as I write this, there are five white tail deer grazing in my back yard and I live in a populated area. Deer are now considered a pest by many, especially farmers, who see their corn fields decimated. Naturalists are concerned about over population with its concomitant increase in Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), an illness that infects the brains of deer, moose, and elk, and is closely related to Mad Cow Disease. In an attempt to reduce the numbers, the legal limit per hunter was increased resulting in 184,465 legally killed deer in Ohio last year with little apparent effect. So far, there are no reports of CWD having jumped to humans, although we know of many examples of mutations in other microbes resulting in cross species vulnerabilities.


The increase in our local deer population is fueled largely by deforestation rather than what we see with most species, for deer are grazing animals and consequently do much better in open rather than densely wooded areas while with other species logging can totally destroy their habitat. There are multiple factors that put us in closer contact with wild animals due to infringement or destruction of their habitat or upsetting the normal balance of nature. We now see instances in which the reintroduction of predator species results in a healthier ecosystem, a practice which a few short years ago would have been seen as counterproductive. It has now become obvious that we humans did not possess the wisdom required for us to have: “dominion over…every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”

Learning by our Mistakes

It is only by having screwed things up badly that we have begun to learn a little about how the whole thing works, but in putting this paper together I have been amazed to learn a bit about how it all fit together before we took charge, and began the process of exterminating species, and contaminating our soil, air, and water. We even managed to make the earth less hospitable to ourselves and all living things by messing up the climate. It required a lot of people to accomplish all that and as I mentioned previously, there are a lot of us. Ignorance is no longer an excuse, for we now know what needs to be done, and the only way for us to atone for our sins would be for all of us to work on putting it back together.

In the past, livestock farmers were well aware of the amount of pasture required for their herd and “culling the herd” via sending the less healthy or vigorous to the slaughter house was a regular practice. They are also aware of the increased susceptibility to disease that can result from over-crowding. The developers of factory farms find it more efficient to raise livestock in extremely crowded situations, and photos of hog farms show animals packed so tight they can barely move. This increases the risk of epidemic, yet these gallant entrepreneurs are not to be denied. They routinely add antibiotics to the feed, which many infectious disease experts suspect is a major cause of antibiotic disease resistance in humans, a good example of how our attempts to bypass nature’s rules cause even worse problems,

To date our only defense against the COVID-19 virus is so-called social distancing which could be more accurately referred to as asocial distancing and the use of a mask which also limits our non-verbal communications. Does that not speak to the possibility that our dense human habitats may contribute to our vulnerability to viruses? We humans have evolved into instinctually social or herd animals if you will, and herds of humans may now number into the millions.


We Are All In This Together

My research for this essay has shown me that we really are “all in this together” and I don’t mean just concerning the current pandemic. We are not only connected to our environment, we are an integral part of it. We are so interdependent that whatever happens to one species effects many others, and I am heartened to see that much research now focuses on ecosystems rather than individual plants animals or microorganisms. For example, such studies have resulted in a greater understanding of our symbiotic relationships that extends even to bacteria. Last evening, I watched a documentary on PBS about the rehabilitation of Yellowstone Park by the reintroduction of wolves. Their step by step exhibition of how the entire area benefited including animals, fish, birds and vegetation was remarkable. Other such experimental programs currently implemented in other areas of the world are reaching similar conclusions.


The question as to what is the optimum world population remains a subject of debate. It is clear that there is an inverse relationship between standards of living and population growth for we have witnessed populations decrease in those countries whose people become more affluent. Cornucopians present this as truth that overpopulation, if it exists, will be self-correcting while Malthusians point out that with affluence there is an increase in utilization of resources and acceleration of global warming, another damned if you do or damned if you don’t conundrum.


With the upper level predators such as wolves, coyotes, bears, bobcats, and eagles, etc., long gone via the efforts of the apex predator (us), the balance has been upset and many species have proliferated leaving them vulnerable to disease, as apparently happened with our deer population. With urbanization has come an increased interest in wild animals and urban sprawl has encroached on habitats. Many of the zoonotic illnesses are transmitted by bites of vectors, i.e., usually arthropods, such as fleas, ticks, or mosquitoes, or by direct contact with the body fluids of infected animals, as was the case with Ebola. Of course, such animals can be avoided, but bacteria and viruses have a genetic code that can spontaneously change. Such mutations may alter them in such a way that they may find a way to move from one human body to another, and when it does, an epidemic is on its way. The Center for Disease Control reports that 3 out of 4 emerging diseases happen this way as has the current pandemic. [Source: https://www.cdc.gov/onehealth/basics/zoonotic-diseases.html ]

Measles & COVID-19

Back in the dark ages, when I was practicing family medicine, measles was an accepted part of life. Antibiotics, which had recently appeared on the scene, had proven to be worthless against viruses, and measles was largely accepted as the most communicable of all the infectious illnesses. Viruses were mysterious little buggers and as a matter of fact we had no idea as to what they looked like until the invention of the electron microscope in 1931. When this covid thing reared its ugly head, I was struck by its similarities to the measles virus. They both are spread by respiratory droplets, and are infectious before symptoms appear, two factors which conspire to make them highly communicable and very difficult to control, although, the covid 19 virus is obviously the more serious of the two.


If there is anything good about measles, it is the fact that people who contract it develop a lifetime immunity. Since nearly every old person like myself had it in childhood, it is classified as a childhood disease. It has been shown that if 70 to 80% of the population is immune to a communicable disease, its spread is limited. This phenomenon is referred to as herd immunity and is the latest very bad idea to come from the White House’s latest false prophet sycophant, a guy whose day job is reading x-rays. His plan is to allow the virus to infect everyone except for the elderly (I like that part) and immune compromised. One person predicted this would lead to 1.2 million deaths and totally overwhelm our hospitals’ ability to care for the sick. Sweden did initiate such a policy, which was disastrous, resulting in 10 times more deaths than had occurred in neighboring Denmark. In addition to those problems, it is not even clear how long immunity lasts after recovery, if at all.


Science Is Simply A Search for the Truth

As has occurred at other times in history this pandemic has brought the world to its knees although some countries have definitely done a better job at handling it than we have. For more that a half century we have been warned by the scientific community that pandemics were inevitable, and by not heeding them we now pay a price, yet we seem to have learned little for anti-science views persist. As previously mentioned in other blogs, science is simply a search for truth. It is a discipline that seeks to understand the marvelously complex mechanisms which operate our universe. It is not a religion, but the knowledge it provides can and should enhance the reverence of the faithful.


The Questions We Need to Ask

As is usually the case with studies of natural phenomena, this covid pandemic leaves us with more questions than answers. Are we really the apex predator or does this invisible particle which infects us deserve that title? Is this pandemic nature’s way of culling the herd? Is there an optimum level of population above which the system cannot function? Does our technology possess the power to undue the damage we have done to the world or perhaps a better question is do we have the will to do it? My Grandmother said: “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. For years epidemiologists have warned us of the inevitability of pandemics. We have turned a blind eye to research on preventive efforts and now suffer the consequences. Let’s hope this one will be a wake up call.

USA Tops COVID-19 Cases and Deaths Map from Johns Hopkins

The Speech I Wish President Trump Would Have Delivered at the Onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic

INTRODUCTION by EshrinkBlog.com Author, Darell J Smith, M.D.

It was not until the death of my parents many years ago that I realized how little I knew about their childhood, and set out to write some vignettes for my grandchildren (and children) about what growing up was like for me.  These stories morphed into one story about a year in my life as a 12-year-old during WWII.  Imagine my surprise when I was presented with a book [link to Reflections for the Future book. Free download. On-demand printing of hard cover book] with my name on it containing a bunch of the stuff I had written.  This was the doings of daughter number four, Maggie, the journalist.  I was so pumped at the sight of my name on a dust jacket that when Maggie signed me up for a blog, I jumped right in, convinced that I was to become the Grandma Moses of essayists.  She has remained involved as my editor, but rarely makes any changes in the copy always insisting that it is good even when it sucks.  

Now you have the opportunity of reading Maggie’s marvelously comprehensive and detailed treatise as to how the COVID-19 pandemic should and could have been handled.  It begs the question as to how many lives might have been saved and how much suffering could have been averted by the exercise of such leadership.  The format, as the speech which should have been made, is a very creative means by which to deliver the message, and is a very typical Maggie approach. 

Although this type of critical thinking should not have surprised me, I still have difficulty at times reconciling myself to the realization of the talents exhibited by this once skinny shy little redhaired girl.  Since we now have less than a month until the election, it is too late to mount a write in campaign to elect Maggie, but I am certain that after reading her speech, you will agree that she should be sitting behind that big desk in the oval office.  


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE—The speech I wish the President of the United States of America would have given in February. As the leader of the free world, the President of the United States had the opportunity and the responsibility to inform Americans. Time and again throughout history, great leaders have emerged due to their unselfish sacrifice, character, compassion, strength, and communications skills during a time of crisis. Americans don’t panic, as Trump said regarding his rationale for not telling us the real score. I wrote this speech in an hour after hearing the tapes of President Trump being interviewed in early February by Bob Woodward.  This is the speech I wish the President of the United States, Donald Trump, would have given in February. The USA accounts for 4.5% of the world’s population, but has 20% of the world’s cases of COVID-19 and 20% of the world’s deaths from COVID-19.

Words matter. Leadership matters. We, as Americans, deserve more than a president who hides information because he thinks we are a bunch of panic-stricken cowards who can’t handle the truth. We deserve a president who cares more about the country, all Americans, and the future and well-being of our Republic than he does himself, politics, his image, and celebrity status. Please read the following and see if it you think our country would be in a better place today if we had a president who would have been willing to put his ego aside and give us the following information. I’m just a normal American, with a normal job, two children, who loves this country and the opportunity it represents. We’re not perfect. No human is perfect. No government is perfect. No system is perfect, but our founders certainly built an exceptional form of government for the people and by the people. It’s our job to do our best each day to build upon that foundation to learn, improve, and get better. It’s our responsibility to make sure we build upon that foundation and elect people in all branches of government that showcase the best attributes and characteristics we possess as Americans.

THANKS FOR READING:
Maggie Smith

The SPEECH I WISH OUR PRESIDENT WOULD HAVE GIVEN at the ONSET of the CORONAVIRUS

Fellow Americans:

We have a challenge in front of us that is unlike any other we’ve faced in our lifetime. COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus, is an invisible threat to our health and welfare. Together, we will find the best way forward and we will prevail. We will remain calm but also vigilant.  As Americans, we have overcome crises before and we will use that same dedication to hard work, sacrifice, ingenuity, focus, and teamwork to overcome this crisis.

Today, I will outline what we know, the steps we have taken. What you can expect from this administration, resources you can use, and what you can do to help.

Now, is the time to put politics aside. Now, is the time to put divisiveness aside. Now is the time to rely on the brilliant scientists who are dedicated to learning about this new virus and finding the best ways to treat it with the ultimate goal of developing a safe and effective vaccine.

We must work together as Americans and citizens of the world to navigate this viral threat in order to minimize the damage and stop the spread as quickly as we can. This will require vigilance from all of us. We want to contain this virus and stop the spread in order to save lives.

Here is what we know:

As of today, we know that a new coronavirus has infected Wuhan, China. I have Dr. Faucci, who is one of our nation’s top epidemiologists with me and he will share medical information about the virus when I’m finished, but in broad terms, coronaviruses are a large group of viruses that cause diseases in animals and humans. They often circulate among camels, cats, and bats, and can sometimes evolve and infect people. You might remember SARS that affected many in Asia back in 2004 and there was MERS, the Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome, that affected many countries in 2012. Both of these were coronaviruses. The origin of this coronavirus is still being investigated. As I mentioned, we know the first recorded case was in WuHan, China, but again we will learn more as scientific investigators amass information. You’ll also hear the term COVID-19, where the CO stands for corona and the VI stands for Virus, the D stands for Disease and 19 is the year this particular virus was identified when China reported it to the World Health Organization on December 31, 2019). The World Health Organization has provided the following information about testing, symptoms from the people infected so far, and how the virus spreads. [LIST ALL THE INFORMATION THAT WE KNOW WITH EACH SOURCE OF THE INFORMATION LISTED. (How many people infected worldwide, how many in the USA- for instance, in early February, we only had 12 cases and they were people who had returned to the US from China but some had not been in the Wuhan province, the CDC’s guidance that was published February that urged all people who had travelled to the US from mainland China since January 19th to self-quarantine and report their status to health officials, etc., just the facts and who is providing the information. Who What When Where and Why. Back to the speech

What the U.S. Government has done so far to prepare:

Here are the steps our administration has taken to combat the pandemic as of today.

We’ve set up a governor’s task force to help each state get the information and resources they need. Each member of the task force has been assigned 5 governors. They start their day with a meeting with each governor and then again at the end of the day to identify progress on action items established during the morning meeting. I am briefed at the end of each day by the task force members. We know that each state will have different needs and different levels of outbreak. The best way to minimize the spread of COVID-19 right now is for us to stay ahead of it and minimize contact with one another.

I have daily meetings with the leadership of both parties in Congress in conjunction with the Surgeon General, CDC director, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, FDA, and FEMA. This is a time for transparency, not politics. This is a time for scientists and epidemiologists, not conspiracy theories or snake oil cures. Please be especially careful of sharing inaccurate information. We know we will learn more each day, each hour about this virus. Therefore, truth and transparency is critical, but an understanding that information may change as doctors, epidemiologists, and scientists learn more about how the virus spreads, what treatments are the most helpful, and how it affects different populations.

The World

That brings us to the world. This pandemic doesn’t know any boundaries of country. We’ve organized a global COVID-19 task force that is comprised of each branch of government here in the United States and key members of my cabinet that will be in constant contact with the World Health Organization, the United Nations, and our allies to get key updates. This is a time when it’s helpful to have relationships around the world, especially the 80 years we’ve partnered with NATO. This Global Coronavirus Task Force is working to find the source of this novel coronavirus, COVID-19, to gain as much information as possible about the virus in order for us to understand it so we can combat it effectively. Again, information sharing and coordinated research efforts will help us be more effective to stop the spread of this virus, find the most effective treatments, and to identify the most accurate tests to diagnose coronavirus.

Accurate and reliable tests to know who has been infected with coronavirus is step 1 right now. The World Health Organization has provided testing information. Obviously, since this is a new virus, tests are limited. Therefore, we will work with the private sector and our government agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health and the Center for Disease Control to find the most efficient way to increase the number of accurate tests. We will need to triage based on real data that shows where contagion is the greatest. Just as manufacturing ramped up during World War II, converting factories of all kinds to make much needed supplies such as tanks, airplanes, etc., that were critical to our success during the early war effort, our brilliant and dedicated scientists and doctors are critical to our success during this early part of the pandemic. Together, they will find the best path forward to get accurate and reliable tests while also working on treatment for this who are sick and also working with the world health community to find a safe and effective vaccine. But you are a critical part of our success to mitigate the spread of this virus, too. We all must do our part and there might be some short-term sacrifice involved, but as Americans, we play the long game and are willing to make sacrifices today to create a better tomorrow.

ACCURATE INFORMATION IS KEY

When crises are unfolding, it’s easy for inaccurate information to be distributed. Sometimes, it’s because the information appears correct but later is proven to be incorrect as we learn more. That’s why I encourage you to be extremely careful about your information sources and be responsible in what information you share. In short, always cite your sources. You should know where you are getting your information and let people know where you read it, heard it, or saw it.

One good source of information is the Johns Hopkins Hospital website. They have created a COVID-19 tracker that the entire world is using to track the virus. Their statistics and data input have been vetted by my administration and those in the scientific and medical community.

IMPORTANCE OF THE MEDIA

In talking to you about information, I must include the media. I know I have talked about FAKE NEWS and ALTERNATIVE FACTS in the past. However, this type of rhetoric is not useful during a time of crisis. Responsible reporting and distribution of the facts by the journalists in the media is imperative. While I’ve continuously called out reporters and news outlets during specific examples of what I think is an inherent bias during my term as president, the majority of reporters are dedicated to truth and responsible reporting. My personal opinions and popularity are not important during a crisis of this scale. Therefore, I implore each American to follow the truth, follow the facts, and I pledge that my administration will lead by example and be transparent with the media and with you. With that said, please know that information and data will most certainly change as WE LEARN MORE. This administration will work very hard to release information that has been properly vetted through reliable sources. All of us must work together to stay safe, stay healthy, and take care of each other.

I pledge that our administration will address the American people each night at 7 pm with the latest information. My team will provide access through every available channel, whether it be online, social media, streaming, network TV, or radio.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

So, what can you do as an American in the face of this crisis. First, remain calm. Secondly, do the normal things to stay as healthy as possible, including good hygiene and hand washing, getting enough sleep, watching for the symptoms we know are part of this virus (especially loss of smell and taste). If you have a fever, please call your doctor. Tests are limited and you want to minimize exposure to other people, but you don’t want to ignore symptoms. Please contact your doctor’s office and have them help you figure out the best option for your situation. Finally, accurate information is important. Please know that we are doing everything possible to find the right answers, minimize the negative impact of this virus, fight this pandemic with all of our resources. You can help by making sure you are responsible and careful with the information you share. This is a time for us to work together as Americans. We have faced challenges before and as a country we have succeeded by working together and bringing out the best in each other. I pledge to make sure I lead by example. I will not allow politics, rhetoric, and conspiracy theories to take center stage during a pandemic. We need everyone right now to be at the top of their game and that means you. Republicans, democrats, independents, and everything in between…party doesn’t matter, politics don’t matter…we are all in this together! All of our energy must be focused on minimizing the impact of coronavirus on the lives and health of Americans.

Please tune in for updates each day. If you have specific questions, you can contact the coronavirus hotline (it is a partnership between the federal government, state governments, and the private sector). You can call 1-800-555-1600, email info@cornonavirus.org, and get information at that website www.coronavirus.org.

Finally, please thank the nurses and doctors and all the healthcare workers. They stand ready to take on this virus. We appreciate their service and sacrifice. Obviously, we hope the protocols and planning we are putting into place now won’t be needed, but we must hope for the best while we prepare for the worst.

Please stay strong. Stay safe. God bless you and God bless the United States of America and the world.”

Final Note from Eshrink Editor and Daughter of Eshrink
When I wrote this speech, I wasn’t trying to Monday morning quarterback as they say…I was trying to illustrate how leadership makes a difference, especially in a crisis. Below are some resources I hope you find interesting and informative.

First Case of 2019 Novel Coronavirus in the United States

What Is Coronavirus from Johns Hopkins University

The World Coronavirus Tracker by Johns Hopkins University

National Foundation for Infectious Diseases – a non-profit founded in 1973 to provide dedicated to educating the public and healthcare professionals about the burden, causes, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of infectious diseases across the lifespan.

Daily Updates for the Month of February to MIT staff regarding COVID-19

List of Deaths Per Capita (the USA is – Click here for the full list

  • Peru
  • Belgium
  • Bolivia
  • Brazil
  • Chile
  • Spain
  • Ecuador
  • Mexico
  • USA

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Brain of Trump Voter

An Attempt to Understand Trump Fans (a.k.a. Trumpsters | Trumpers)

LOYAL TRUMP FANS

An enduring puzzle for we anti-trumpers is why the President’s support never wavers in spite of his behaviors or the direction of the political winds at any given time.  Rarely have we seen in this country such loyalty to a political figure.   It seems as if weekly we see another book published with more information about this man, any one of which would scuttle or at least diminish the stature of any other political figure, yet he remains unscathed.  The fact that he was elected with the help of women voters in spite of a widely distributed video of him bragging about his position providing him with license to sexually molest women is unfathomable.  There was also the issue of his fraudulent Trump University, history of multiple bankruptcies, along with unethical and dishonest business practices.  His so-called charitable foundation was closed down due to its illegal dispensing of funds, and the list goes on.

Since Trump’s election, the new cottage industry of fact checking has sprung up, and his record of lies has eclipsed by thousands that of any other politician past or present. While I don’t have the time to provide a comprehensive list of all the unethical, sometimes illegal, and often immoral things Trump has done (afterall, I just turned 90), I’ve listed some of the highlights as a reminder:

  • He has used his power as President to free or lessen the sentences of colleagues, and refuses to hold himself accountable for his actions by ignoring lawfully executed subpoenas.
  • He has taken extreme measures to keep secret the contents of his meetings and phone calls with Putin, his favorite dictatorial leader, and is chummy with most of the others.
  • He admits to never having broached the subject with Putin of his bounties on U.S. soldiers.
  • He gives a wink and a nod to the Saudi Prince who ordered the assassination of a U.S. resident friendly to us (a reporter who wrote articles about the Saudi government that were unflattering).
  • He rewarded the Kurds, who fought beside us and played a major role in defeating Isis, by abandoning them to be slaughtered by another of his fascist buddies – Erdogan.
  • He regularly insults our friends and sucks up to our enemies around the world.
  • He seems determined to destroy NATO, the longest lasting successful peace maintenance organization in the history of the world.
  • His policies are also on track to promote more pollution and enhance climate change.
  • He denies facts and the expertise of scientists on a routine basis.

But his most recent outrageous ploy is to only provide the Congressional Intelligence Committee with written reports in order to prevent them from asking questions…and allow him to keep more secrets from Congress and therefore keep more secrets from us: the people (remember that “government for the people, by the people” deal?).  But this is only a very small part of the lists of my complaints about this guy for a more complete one would fill several books and it has! Nevertheless, when I get on a roll I find it hard to stop!

Why Do Intelligent People Continue to Support this Flawed Individual?

Back to the question at hand – why do intelligent people continue to offer unwavering support for this flawed individual?  According to the latest Gallup poll, his approval rating has not budged from 42%.   Although this has troubled me for some time, it was brought to the fore recently when a fellow anti-trumper brought up the question by mentioning a disagreement he had with one of our mutual friends.  We agreed that this person was extremely intelligent, nevertheless, he was quoted by my friend as saying regarding Trump: “While I would not choose Trump for a friend, I will vote for him again”.  He also saw Trump as a victim and praised Barr for defending him.  It was not clear why he felt Trump was worthy of a job as the most powerful man in the world, yet not as a friend, but I assume this attitude may reflect the thinking of many people.

Does Character Count for Anything?

It would appear that to our friend, issues of character were not very important in a leader.  Likewise, we have the incongruous situation in which evangelical Christians are said to be in general very supportive of Trump.  Regarding his moral deficiencies, they respond that their faith requires them to be forgiving. However, my understanding of scripture leads me to believe that in order to be forgiven, one must show contrition, and ask for forgiveness…not exactly the style of the Donald.

As I watched Trump give his address on that desecrated White House lawn to this group of unmasked people sitting shoulder to shoulder obviously ignoring any policies designed to prevent infection with a potentially fatal virus, I wondered how such a group of very intelligent people could do such a stupid thing, and put themselves and their families at risk.  Trump’s strategy was of course obvious in that with a death occurring from COVID every 80 seconds, and the world’s worst record in containing the virus, perhaps it was wise to ignore the facts and emphasize the minor efforts he had put forth to contain the illness no matter their ineffectiveness.  Granted, many in that audience may benefit in a personal way from such a relationship with the President, yet these people have not been living under a rock, which makes it hard to believe they don’t question some of Trump’s rhetoric.

The Road to The White House via Reality TV | The Greatest Con Ever

Much has been written about the psychological make-up of Trump, even by people like me, but perhaps it would be more helpful to understand the thinking of those who are loyal to him.   Trump spent several years honing his skills as a reality TV host.  Of course, most reality TV has little to do with reality, but a lot to do with feigning reality.  Undoubtedly, this was very helpful in the development of a certain amount of charisma.  Acting is all about pretending to be something you are not.  The professional actor is able to step out of his role and display his real self when the show is over, but the antisocial personality presents his act to be who he really is, which is the secret to the success of any con man.  Since he lacks a superego, the anti-social Trump is unencumbered by the feelings of guilt or concern for others and is therefore, very believable and ingratiating.  Add to this, the pseudo-confidence of the narcissist and the con is complete.

Personal Freedom? 

We humans insist that we treasure our freedom, yet the idea of personal freedom has only been prevalent for  200 to 300 years.  As I have mentioned in previous blogs, we are by nature tribal or herd animals, and a herd must have leadership to function.  Our founders are said to have been concerned as to the susceptibility of their citizens to a charismatic leader with nefarious intent, which is one of the reasons they are said to have settled on the bizarre system of an electoral college. On the other hand, a certain amount of charisma is necessary in order to become a leader.

The First Act

Trump’s entrance into the run for president in 2016 was largely seen as a publicity scheme, and the pundits mostly treated it as a joke.  As he descended the escalator at Trump Tower to announce his candidacy, he was cheered on cue by a group of recruits who had been paid to participate in the production.  We will probably never know if he actually felt he had a chance to be president, but to most people’s surprise his “unconventional” approach to campaigning provided him with a great deal of free publicity. That part was not surprising since his career, indeed his whole being, had been devoted to being noticed.  His outrageous behavior and utter contempt for the traditional decorum of the Republican debates left his adversaries helplessly babbling, and a large group of voters who were fed up with Congress began to take him seriously.

The Second Act

With his nomination, Trump’s message to middle class Americans who had felt neglected by their government for 30 years was that he could fix it.  With Congress’s approval in the teens and on occasion even below 10%, his tough guy persona definitely appealed. Consequently; his “make America Great Again” slogan resonated and his entertaining rallies were met with a great deal of enthusiasm.  As a matter of fact, his core supporters became rabid in their belief that he alone could and would “drain the Swamp” even if that’s not the way the founders designed our system of government.

Trump thrives on mass political gatherings and his disciples crowd into them with the enthusiasm of fans attending a rock band concert.  He offers little in the way of policy commitments, but directs them as to who they should blame for whatever problems trouble them.  There are also lessons as to who they should fear and why.  He arrives on stage with his signature baseball cap assuring them he is just one of the guys while at the same time convincing them that he is the only one tough enough to solve their problems.  His continuous use of twitter keeps that theme alive along with the continual drum beat as to whom they should beware.

He makes liberal use of projection, i.e., accuse others of whatever wrong doing you are guilty of, and when caught in a lie, deny, distract, divert, or double down repeatedly since persistent repetition eventually mimics truth.

Michael Cohen Trump's Fixer Pleads guilty

 

Loyalty or Brainwashing?

In a recent interview, Michael Cohen, Trump’s former fixer turned informer, indicated that the Trump organization was like a cult.  Indeed, Cohen had once said that he would “take a bullet for him (Trump)”.  The apparent fanaticism of many of his followers, their unwavering loyalty in spite of his lies and irreverent behavior, along with their refusal to even hear negative comments about their hero are cult-like qualities, but it would be a stretch to consider Trump devotees as cult members.

 

Fear and Anger Trump the Day

It appears to me that the glue which unites his followers is the combination of fear and anger.  Trump has exploited their anger with his own tirades.  The message in his speeches are not nearly as important as the way in which they are communicated.  The sarcastic, belittling, and insulting characterizations are particularly effective against those belonging to what Trump refers to as the “liberal elite.”

This led the so-called common man to believe that Trump understood their feelings of disrespect by those of a higher socioeconomic standing – quite an accomplishment since those of a liberal persuasion have always seen themselves as champions of the working class while Trump’s career is replete with examples of his scamming them.  He also validated their conviction that their needs and opinions were ignored by their government.  He espoused his own brand of patriotism with outrage that our government has allowed ourselves to be disrespected and cheated by other countries, and that the U.S. has been signatories to a variety of bad deals.  There was also anger over the movement of industries off shore and subsequent loss of jobs, and as a matter of fact about anything that was wrong real or imagined.  Nothing unites a people like a common enemy and the raucous cheers of “lock her up” that erupted with his campaign rallies were effective in stirring up the crowd.  They went wild when Trump dealt with hecklers by promising to pay the fines of anyone who would “punch them in the nose.”

The following email, allegedly sent by Steve Harvey, explains the reasoning of my Trump supporting friend in addition to the anger. It also explains why disclosures of Trump’s character defects have no effect on his supporters.  They already know that he is a jerk, a liar, and grossly lacking in integrity.  They not only don’t care, but actually admire his obnoxious behavior.

HOW I FEEL ABOUT TRUMP: By Steve Harvey

Editors Note: The following communication was NOT by Steve Harvey, the comedian and host of Family Feud…just another lie. Every single fact checking organization has debunked it as well as Steve Harvey himself.   FactCheck.org | Snopes.com | PoliticiFact.com

You’ve been on vacation for two weeks, you come home, and your basement is infested with raccoons.. Hundreds of rabid, messy, mean raccoons have overtaken your basement.. You want them gone immediately!.. You call the city and 4 different exterminators, but nobody can handle the job.. But there is this one guy, and he guarantees to get rid of them, so you hire him.. You don’t care if the guy swears, you don’t care how many times he’s been married, you don’t care if he has a plumber’s crack, you simply want those raccoons gone!..

You want your problem fixed!.. He’s the guy.. He’s the best!

Here’s why we want Trump: Yes, he’s a bit of a jerk; Yes, he’s an egomaniac; but we don’t care!..

The country is a mess because politicians suck, the Republicans and Democrats can be two-faced and gutless, and illegals are everywhere.. We want it all fixed!.. We don’t care that Trump is crude, we don’t care that he insults people, we don’t care that he’s been married 3 times, we don’t care that he fights with Megyn Kelly and Rosie O’Donnell, we don’t care that he doesn’t know the name of some Muslim terrorist.. This country became weak and bankrupt, our enemies were making fun of us, we are being invaded by illegals, we are becoming a nation of victims where every Tom, Ricardo, and Hasid is a special group with special rights to a point where we don’t even recognize the country we were born and raised in; “AND WE JUST WANT IT FIXED”..

And Trump is the only guy who seems to understand what the people want..

We’re sick of politicians, sick of the Democratic Party, sick of the Republican Party, and sick of illegals!.. We just want this thing fixed.. Trump may not be a Saint, but we didn’t vote for a Pope.. We voted for a man who doesn’t have lobbyist money holding him back, a man who doesn’t have political correctness restraining him.. We all know that he has been very successful, he’s a good negotiator, he has built a lot of things, and he’s also NOT a politician, NOT a cowardly politician.!..

And he says he’ll fix it.. And we believe him because he is too much of an egotist to be proven wrong, or looked at and called a liar.. Also, we don’t care if the guy has bad hair.. We just want those raccoons gone, out of our house, NOW!!!

You are welcome to copy/paste/share this.. Thousands of people who haven’t voted in 25 years seem to be getting involved.. And the more people get this message, the more that will understand why Trump was elected.. The raccoons have got to go!!!

Willful Ignorance

It appears that some people are not so worldly and choose to believe what the President says. For example, I recently saw an interview with an unmasked Trumper at a rally in which he was asked whether he was concerned about the virus.  He replied that there was nothing to worry about because “that whole pandemic thing” was a hoax, and that all those alleged casualties from the virus were actually people who were dying from causes unrelated to COVID.  Trump had given up the use of the word “hoax” to describe the pandemic several months ago, but this guy had apparently heard nothing more on the subject after Trump’s original pronouncement.   This is a feature which I call willful ignorance, i.e., when a person accepts something as fact, then closes their mind to consider any information that might debunk or contradict their belief.  This effect is maximized when as is the case of Republicans, they have their own personal propaganda machine, Fox News, or the democrats with their left leaning MSNBC.  (This is why I occasionally hold my nose and tune into Fox in order to reassure myself that I am not totally in the grip of confirmation bias.) Unfortunately, we all have a tendency to search for confirmation of our beliefs, which of course contributes further to our divisiveness.

Fear Mongering

The incitement of fear has been a consistent strategy throughout the Trump campaign and his time in office.  His initial focus was on immigration, in which he assured us that hordes of thugs, criminals, rapists, murderers, foreign agents, and other undesirables were invading our country, and must be stopped at all costs.  One of Trump’s strategies that some find appealing is his ability to simplify complex problems.  Consequently, his solution to the immigration problem ignored those knotty issues like murder of innocent citizens, mayhem, and mob rule against immigrants (legal or illegal), which were the norm in the countries of origin for those seeking asylum.  His solution was simple – build a fence, and better yet, have Mexico pay for it.  Studies have demonstrated that the vast majority of those seeking asylum are law abiding people who fear for their lives and the lives of their families, but Trump pulls out the fear mongering tactic with stories about MS13, a vicious gang, which he falsely attributes to having infiltrated the ranks of those seeking asylum.

With the the COVID-19 pandemic and the word out that immigrant kids were being separated from parents and kept in cages, border crossings were down and a new boogie man was needed.  The George Floyd murder with the resulting demonstrations arrived just in time.  Soon rioters arrived on the scene, and Trump’s right-hand person, Kelly Ann Conway, confirmed that she thought the broken windows, fires and looting would be good for the reelection campaign.  Always alert to a new opportunity, our President immediately went into law and order mode.  He championed the couple who were pictured guarding their home in a high-end gated community with an AR15 and hand gun.   He promised to straighten things out in minutes by sending in troops, although local mayors and governors insisted this made things worse.  Just in case those suburban “housewives” who voted for him the last time around missed it, he reminded them in a speech that he was protecting them by preventing any subsidized housing from being built in their neighborhoods so they would need not fear any invasions from the rif-raf.  Meanwhile, he was telling them they had nothing to fear from the one thing which deserved their fear: COVID-19.

Now that Biden appears to be leading in the polls, it appears Trump strategists are back to milking conspiracy theories.  Trump is once again referring to the “deep state” as a group of conspirators who operate within the government to undermine the democratic process and perpetrate all kinds of dastardly deeds.  The more recent version is that Biden is a closet socialist – this one designed to court the Cuban Latinos who fled Cuba’s Castro a generation ago, but all the dark state theories are designed to stoke fear of all democrats, and to undermine confidence in institutions.  However; if one looks at how the administration uses the awesome power of government to flout our laws, politicize our institutions, punish Trump’s adversaries, and reward his friends, one might easily conclude the “deep state” actually resides within the bowels of the White House.  Remember that thing I said about projection?

EDITOR’S NOTE:

As I talked with my 20-year-old daughter during a road trip to her grandparents’ house, I wondered if it was coincidence or genetics when she declared, “I’ve been trying to figure out how the Trump people think.” After all, she does possess some eshrink genetics! She said something like: “It seems like their thought process starts and ends with specific beliefs instead of processing information by evaluating the facts.” They think all democrats want to have abortions, are socialists, want to take their guns away, are unpatriotic and want a bloated government that is inefficient. 

For my part, I go back to the revisionist history and the bizarre inability to accept or process REAL EVENTS (videos of Trump; Trump Tweets) that show the hypocrisy that these people profess to hate about Washington. While Trump had been talking about the rigged system ramping up to the election when polls showed he would most likely lose, he kept denigrating the Electoral College (which was never meant to be a perfect system, but a compromise: read About a week before the 2016 election when Trump thought he was going to lose, his rhetoric was about the idiocy of the founders Electoral College process. Once he won the election via the Electoral College, but lost the popular vote, all the sudden it wasn’t such a bad idea ???

Now, as we get ready for another election, he starts again: the system is rigged (maybe he was right…maybe it is rigged and that’s why he won). What just baffles me is that these Trump supporters don’t see a problem with his type of bizarre thinking. If he professes our elections are rigged and he won, then he shouldn’t be our president. If he doesn’t think the election was rigged, then he was lying “playing them” and is doing the same thing now. If he does think the 2016 election was rigged, then he’s had four years to do something about it…so how can this one be rigged? How in the hell is this con man running as if he hasn’t been the guy in charge for four years? It is so bizarre, it baffles my brain. But I think it’s supposed to be that way. I’m supposed to be so confused that I think I’m the one that’s crazy…they call it gaslighting and I think the entire country is suffering at some level.

Below, are articles I found that might be of interest.

NOTE: Five times a candidate has won the popular vote and lost the election. Andrew Jackson in 1824 (to John Quincy Adams); Samuel Tilden in 1876 (to Rutherford B. Hayes); Grover Cleveland in 1888 (to Benjamin Harrison); Al Gore in 2000 (to George W. Bush); Hillary Clinton in 2016 (to Donald J. Trump).

Here’s what Trump said to Lesley Stahl about the Electoral College and a national popular vote for President on Sixty Minutes on November 13, 2016:

Link to full article

Stahl: Now for months you were running around saying the system is rigged.  The whole thing was rigged.  You tweeted once that the Electoral College is a “disaster for democracy.”

Trump: I do.

Stahl: So do you still think it’s rigged?

Trump: Well, I think the Electoral College.  Look I won with the Electoral College.

Stahl: Exactly.  But do you think it’s rigged?

Trump: Yes. Some of the election locations are. Some of the system is. Ah.

Stahl: Even though you won, you’re saying that.

Trump: Well, I mean, I’m not going to change my mind just because I won.  But I would rather see it, where you went with simple votes. You know, you get 100 million votes, and somebody else gets 90 million votes, and you win.  There’s a reason for doing this.  Because it brings all the states into play. The Electoral College. And there’s something very good about that.  But this is a different system.  But I respect it.  I do respect the system.

Although Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton rarely agree, Clinton said in 2000,

“I believe strongly that in a democracy, we should respect the will of the people … and move to the popular election of our president.”

https://www.bbc.com/news/election-us-2016-37673797

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/donald-trump-calls-electoral-college-a-disaster-during-2012-tweetstorm/

https://www.politico.com/story/2016/08/donald-trump-100-days-226850

https://www.history.com/news/electoral-college-founding-fathers-constitutional-convention

Article by Psychology Today
https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/mind-in-the-machine/201812/complete-psychological-analysis-trumps-support

Opinion Piece by The Street

https://www.thestreet.com/opinion/what-it-looks-like-inside-the-brain-of-a-donald-trump-voter-13554000

 

A Republic. If You Can Keep It.

Is Our Republic in Jeopardy?

During the recent impeachment hearings, frequent reference was made to the quote by Benjamin Franklin when he was asked when leaving the Continental Congress in 1787 what type of government had been devised: a monarchy or a republic. He is alleged to have answered “A republic if you can keep it.”

We are once again in a time when many feel our ability to “Keep It” is in jeopardy. For over 200 years, such a thought would have seemed ludicrous, but recent events lead many of us to believe that our government is now at risk.

Politicians talk a great deal about public service, but the nature of that service involves the need for power. In a democratic republic such as ours, we elect people to do our bidding, and cede power commensurate with what is needed for them to do the jobs we hired them to do.

Unfortunately, power is intoxicating, and can be addicting. As with all forms of addiction, such a lust for power can overwhelm moral and ethical prohibitions and result in corruption – thus the oft quoted saying: “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”


As is commonplace with all addictions, once power is conveyed, it is never enough. A taste merely whets the appetite for more. History is replete with examples of elected heads of governments progressing from employee to ruler, sometimes accomplished by means of violent overthrow, but in more recent times by the subversion of institutions designed to limit power. In order to stay in power, it is necessary to maintain control over those governed, thus information, the most powerful freedom of all, must be controlled. Since secrecy is important, terms such as “national security and executive privilege” are often used to prevent the masses from becoming well informed.


Truth. Facts. Confusion.

With the advent of what has been called the “information age” secrecy has been difficult to sustain leading to the use of misinformation as a tool to keep the masses confused and/or unaware. Unfavorable news can be effectively buried by diverting attention to something more dramatic…either real or imagined. Our news media has become as biased as our political parties, which makes truth ever more elusive. There seems little attempt to separate fact from opinion especially now that we see more people getting their news from TV or online. Trust in our institutions is faltering. Conspiracy theories abound and effectively obliterate truth.


The Rise of the Executive Branch

Presidents have become progressively more powerful since the beginning of our nation. This has culminated in our witness to a President who not only evades oversight, but whose power so completely dominates his party that he has been able to trample long-held traditions and the Constitution itself without a whisper of dissent from a Republican controlled senate. It appears that his failed impeachment has resulted in an extension of his reach for power.

Trump and the RNC Convention

I did suffer through his acceptance speech last night although I cringed at the sight of his continued violation of the Hatch Act while presenting himself as the purveyor of law and order. Mark Meadows when questioned about this responded that: “No one cares about that (the Hatch Act)”, and sadly that seems to be true for many if not for everyone as it is for most of the administration’s other transgressions. Nevertheless, I was sickened by the desecration of that hallowed residence as I watched it being used as a backdrop for a political carnival.


Fact checkers have apparently given up on their usual chore, the distortions partial omissions, half-truths, and downright lies presented in his acceptance speech are well beyond the scope of this little ditty, but the one I found most disconcerting was the realization that during the 70 minutes he was pontificating about how well he has handled the COVID-19 pandemic, 47 Americans were dying. In ICUs across the country, wires were removed, tubes were extracted, oxygen valves were closed, bodies were covered, and transferred from beds to gurneys. 47 families would receive the dreaded phone call, denied the option of that final kiss or squeeze of a hand. Yes, over 1,000 people still die of this scourge in our country daily while Nero Trump fiddles and pretends it is “under control.” Whatever happened to the term: negligent homicide?

 

A Brief History of Campaigning and Elections

With Trump’s survival of impeachment, the only recourse left for those of us who are convinced that he is unfit for office is to replace him by voting him out. It didn’t take long after the birth of this republic for people to start looking for ways to game the system. The founders were a bit skittish themselves about who they should trust with the power to hire people to run things. Half the population was eliminated from the start for everyone recognized that women were much too emotional and illogical to be allowed such awesome power. However, it is interesting to note that there were already signs that rebellion was afoot, for Abigail Adams wrote her husband to suggest to him that it was time for women to have their say. John of course realized this was ridiculous (sorry Maggie). Native Americans and slaves were among other groups who were automatically denied voting privileges.


Although there was general agreement among the founders that self-government was the ideal, there was no precedent as to how this could be accomplished as monarchies and theocracies had been the rule for centuries. There was concern as to the ability of the masses to make informed decisions due to their lack of literacy and their perceived naivete leaving them more vulnerable to charismatic leaders. I found it interesting to note that many, John Adams in particular, were also concerned about the formation of political parties which he felt could lead to divisiveness. There was prolonged debate as to how elections could be done, but they finally arrived at the compromise we call the electoral college.

 

Initially it was considered unseemly for one to campaign for the Presidency for it was felt to be an honor to be chosen and not solicited. It was not long however until campaigns, especially for the highest office, became competitive and efforts to cheat began. Buying votes with money, booze, food, or privilege was common. Following the Civil War with masses of former slaves having won the right to vote emphasis shifted to finding ways to prevent voting with poll taxes, literacy tests, vagrancy laws, requirements to own property, or threats of bodily harm, largely initiated by democrats who were a majority in the south. With the civil rights movement headed by a democrat, the south rapidly switched parties and took over the voter suppression business.


In 1965 the voting rights act became law consequently; efforts to suppress voting have become much more sophisticated. There has been gerrymandering, shortened hours to vote, fewer polls in selected districts, increased difficulties in registering, purging of rolls, and more complex ID requirements. Since nationwide, democrats outnumber republicans, and a larger percentage of republicans usually vote, a lower vote total usually favors the republicans. Now we have a unique problem in that we are facing the challenge of conducting a national election in the midst of a serious pandemic.


Voting Today

In the midst of a time when it is advisable to minimize human contact, the most obvious solution would be to enhance voting by mail. Several states have had very favorable experiences with such plans including a significant increase in voter turnout which from the republican point of view may not be such a good thing. Fortunately for Republicans our genius President has implemented a plan. He appointed a buddy to run the postal department with instructions to dismantle or at least disable the entire system in order to prevent a millions of ballots from being counted. He has also promised a backup plan to intimidate disadvantaged voters by dispatching police or armed troops at polling places throughout the country (guess which ones?).

Trump using White House as prop and military saluting at the RNC political event held at the White House. Right: Putin

RED FLAGS Anyone? | Don’t Say I Didn’t Warn You! 

For the first time in our country’s history a sitting president has suggested delaying a national election. He has also refused to agree to abide by the results of the upcoming election, and appears to be setting the stage to invalidate it by predicting that there will be lots of fraudulent votes and that it is “rigged.” He characterizes the press as “the enemy” and has set an all time record regarding the number of associates and staff members who have been found guilty of felonies. He meddles in court decisions and constantly finds ways to subvert constitutional oversight. He has congratulated and expressed envy of those world leaders who have been given lifetime terms in office. He alienates our nation’s friends and coddles our enemies. I have written in previous blogs as to how I believe his insatiable ego needs prevent him from experiencing any concern about right, wrong, or the effects his behaviors might have on others. In ordinary circumstances Trump’s braggadocio, bullying, lying, impulsiveness, and impaired judgement would be laughable, and indeed it was before he became president, but now that he has become the most powerful man in the world these qualities make him the most dangerous man in the world.


Trump and I Agree on One Thing

There is one statement made by Trump in which I am in total agreement: this is indeed the most important election in my long memory and perhaps the most important in the entire history of this nation. We must spare no effort to assure this election is not stolen and that every vote is counted. That includes making a lot of noise about this attempt to cripple the postal service.
Meanwhile, be alert, stay healthy and vote early.

DOES ANYONE GIVE A DAMN?

Monday I tuned into the cable news to watch the John Lewis festivities.  I always thought the Bard had it wrong when he said: “The evil that men do lives after them,” for it seems to me that when people die, we usually give them a pass and tend to focus on all the good stuff they have done.  For example, it is unusual for an obituary or eulogy to say much about the deceased’s less endearing qualities.  In Lewis’s case there seems little doubt that he was a genuine American hero and that his stature as such is warranted.  Even his adversaries don’t question the worthiness of those accolades, although I am expecting a tweet from on high before the week is over!

I spent the day flipping between CNN and MSNBC hoping to see something other than a hearse either parked or proceeding at 2 miles per hour through the streets of DC while various anchor people tried to fill in the time.  I was so engrossed in the anticipation that something worth watching would happen that I forgot to check in with Fox News.  It would be interesting to know if they felt any of it newsworthy.

When I checked late that afternoon the temperature in Washington DC was 95 degrees, and as is usually the case in DC, the humidity level was high.  There had been a heat advisory issued earlier in the day.  I initially became concerned about that while I watched the honor guard at the airport standing at attention in their full-dress uniforms waiting to carry the casket from the plane to the hearse, but that phase was uneventful (although I was surprised they had survived standing motionless on the concrete at the mercy of an unrelenting sun).

Having spent some time in the military, I was aware of how standing rigidly motionless for long periods of time can result in a temporary loss of consciousness due to orthostatic hypotension which is usually caused by prolonged immobility or a decreased blood volume such as dehydration.  In this case, it seemed likely that both scenarios were in play, so that when the hearse finally arrived at the Capitol, the same or similar honor guard was standing at attention at the bottom of the steps of the Capitol building.  It was composed of 2 marines, 2 army, 2 navy, and 2 air force enlisted men along with a squad leader.

With the arrival of the hearse at the capital, I was hopeful that those guys would not be forced to stand there as long as they had at the airport, but as the commentators dragged on my hopes were dashed.  I commented to Barb that although those guys are trained to remain motionless in these kinds of ceremonial missions, there are limits to human tolerance, and I did not imagine they would be able to tolerate much more time standing at attention in that intolerable heat.

Those words had barely escaped when one of the sailors collapsed.  This was not one of those faints in which one gradually sinks to their knees and slides to the ground, but the sailor fell flat on his back much like a tree being felled.  The other members of the squad did not so much as twitch, and a capital policeman walked over to attend to the fallen one.  I was concerned as to the possibility of a head injury since he had fallen so hard with the point of impact appearing to be the back of his head.   To my surprise he was eventually able to walk away with some assistance, and finally the remaining 7 guys were able to carry the casket up the steps into the rotunda.

US Sailor collapses in heat during honor guard service Rep John Lewis funeral ceremony

Click here to watch video

When the sailor passed out, I was watching MSNBC.  They briefly followed the incident but with no follow-up.  When I toggled to CNN, they made no mention of it, and had panned away from the honor guard.  Through it all they continued their commentary as if nothing had happened.  I was appalled at the disregard exhibited by the media for an accident which could have or maybe did result in a fractured skull.  We will never know the extent if any of his injuries since the media giants did not deem it important enough to follow-up.

An even more important question is: why in the world were those poor guys left to suffer in what could in other situations be described as torture with risk of serious injury or illness.  I recall one of the broadcasters saying that the ceremony was running 20 minutes behind schedule, but I am certain those guys were out there longer than 20 minutes.  Even so, why would anyone order them out there knowing there was a delay.  Was anyone in charge?  Were they aware of the risk to the honor guard, If not, why not, and if they did know, did they care?

Did anyone give a damn?

 

Editor’s Note: Here is link to how the military press covered the sailor’s crash with concrete: Link to Article

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Funny Image about Aging Disgracefully

AGING GRACEFULLY

The idea of aging gracefully is an admirable trait. It is also an ideal that I have failed miserably to achieve. Although Barb has forbidden me to use that dreaded three-letter word, denial is no longer possible. It is time to admit that I am O-L-D.

Of course, it is also true that I am not only old but I am getting older, which is the good news for as has oft been said, the alternative has little appeal. As a matter of fact, that alternative looms larger with each passing day as my circle of friends dwindles. This was brought home to me recently when a person who had been a friend of mine for more than 60 years died. I could count on him to call at least once a week just to chat, discuss politics, or whatever else was on his mind. He was a champion story teller, but as his memories faded (which happens with tired old brains) the stories were becoming repetitious and I sometimes complained to Barb, especially when those calls came as we were having dinner. She admonished me by reminding me that I should be grateful to have such a friend. She was right because I now miss those phone calls and the those stories.


PLAYING THE “OLD GEEZER” CARD

Old age is a mixed bag. It does allow one to get away with stuff. For example, one can be insulting with little risk of physical retaliation. I have learned to take full advantage of people’s tendency to be deferential or even patronizing to an old geezer like me. A prop of some kind is helpful in perpetrating this kind of fraud, and the use of a cane will frequently get you a free ticket to go to the front of the line. Another advantage of aging? Permission to fail…all kinds of screw-ups are typically forgiven as a sign of impending senility.

RESPECT YOUR ELDERS?

When I was a kid I was taught to “respect my elders.” I never did understand this axiom, but suspect it was a hold-over from the days when ours was an agrarian society where vital information was passed down through generations…which is in marked contrast to today where we old folks can’t even program our TV remotes. Today, society seems ambivalent towards old people. On the one hand we venerate those who reach certain milestones yet when they become a burden they are frequently dumped in an institution.

Much of the blame for this conundrum lies at the foot of the medical profession for it is clear that we are now living much longer, but at considerable cost. In a previous blog I have written about the exponential increases in medical costs as we age. We take a lot out of the economy, but don’t put much back. It could be said that we are living too long. If that is true, I hope they will make an exception for old bloggers.


IT’S A SUPPLY and DEMAND SITUATION

In the U.S., there are a lot more widows than widowers, partly because women live 5 years longer than men on average, while in Canada (a socialized medicine country by the way) both sexes live nearly 4 years longer than in the good old U.S. of A – go figure. (Click here for source link) Consequently, old guys can take some comfort in the availability of replacement chicks if the need arises. This only seems fair since we men contribute to our early demise with risky behaviors designed to attract and impress our mates. Throughout the animal kingdom, men must do stuff to be noticed while women only need to look good (sorry Maggie). 

 

AFTER 40 IT’S JUST PATCH PATCH PATCH | AGING AIN’T for SISSIES

It seems clear that time does take a toll on the human body. There are undoubtedly multiple factors which conspire to damage organs only some of which are self-inflicted. In my case 50 years of tobacco use added a couple of cancers among other things to my medical record. But even you who have had the good sense to take care of your bodies and are looking forward to retirement should realize that there is some truth in the adage that “getting old ain’t for sissies”. You will find that in spite of your best efforts, organs will not work as well as they once did. A pain free bowel movement becomes a cause for celebration.


Other excretory functions will likely also become impaired. Prostate glands loom large in old men’s lives both literally and figuratively resulting in difficulty eliminating urine while women experience the opposite problem. Diminished bladder capacity means prolonged road trips must be calibrated carefully to include proper pit stop planning. Old folks who, like me, are prone to flatulence, may find themselves at risk of becoming social pariahs for such explosions may occur spontaneously without warning. This can become a particularly acute problem as you find yourself attending more funerals where a strategic exit is not possible. You can only hope that it will not occur during a moment of silent prayer.


With the exception of a few very emotionally disturbed people, everyone dislikes pain, and as you enter the “golden” years you will likely become well acquainted with that sensation. Athletes say that the legs are the first to go, and indeed since they get the most work, they do go quickly and the knees are the most vulnerable part of the lower extremities. When you see a gimpy old fart like me hobbling along with his cane it is usually a safe bet that he has a bad knee or knees. Not to worry, for you can get a new one for the paltry sum of $57,000 on average. It is not clear if you get a quantity discount for doing both at once.  


But the knees are merely the introduction to what is to come. You soon learn to appreciate the wide spread density of pain fibers throughout your body, and come to a greater understanding of the term chronic. Archaeologists tell us that a major factor which led to man’s dominance was his learning bipedal locomotion, yet with age walking upright becomes a liability. The National Institute of Aging reports that falls by those over 65 result in 2.8 million Emergency Room visits, 800,000 hospitalizations and 27,000 deaths each year. The latter statistic is personal for me as I have lost two friends from falls. The loss of lower extremity muscle mass also limits agility. Thus, to fall when alone even though not injured can be serious if you can’t get up. The agility factor also affects some of the simplest of activities. For example, before senility set in, I sneered at those who went to a Podiatrist to get their toenails trimmed. I now understand.


Funny Image about Aging Disgracefully

RETIREMENT?

As one gets a few years behind them, the retirement thing becomes an issue. It may seem like a godsend, but for some it can be a death knell if you believe that well warn maxim about how indolence will hasten a person’s demise. Conventional wisdom is that one should prepare for retirement by planning activities of some kind – travel, hobbies, volunteering, or even a second career. I initially retired at age 70 however; I was one of those people lucky enough to like what I was doing for a living, consequently, I decided to go back to work.
Although it is true that shortly after I retired for the first time Barb said: “I don’t get anything done when you are around here all day”, the real reason I went back to work was that I missed my patients and colleagues. Besides, there was a serious shortage of psychiatrists and all those people who were recruiting me to come work for them made me feel important. Barb did have some plans for our retirement, but I assured her I would only work for a year or two until they found a replacement. A replacement could not be found, and time goes fast not only when you are having fun, but when you are old consequently; I had hit the trifecta. I finally hung it up for good 12 years later.

Travel?

A desire to travel is a common theme I have heard from those planning retirement. I have not traveled a great deal, but what I have done has left me feeling that it is overrated. My few trips to Europe have not been as exhilarating as have those of PBS’s Rick Steves. The idea of spending long hours squashed into plane seats which would have been marginally comfortable when I was 10 years old in order to stand in long lines to catch a glimpse of some famous object or place has even less appeal. For a guy who can remember a time when getting there was almost as much fun as being there, the idea of such a trip sits right up there along-side waterboarding as one of my least favorite pastimes.


This retirement protocol is upside down anyway. If retirement is to give one the time and wherewithal to have fun, then it makes little sense to bestow it on us when we barely have the energy to make it from our lift chair to the bathroom. Why not retire first and go to work later? On second thought that would present a number of problems. For example, after having all that fun would we ever be interested in work? There does seem to be some inherent need in most humans to be productive, or is it simply a learned behavior (perhaps a good topic for a blog).


YOUTH WORSHIP (AND I’M NOT TALKING ABOUT CHURCH CAMP)

The opposite of old is young and the latter seems to be the most highly valued time of life. The myth of a fountain of youth has been around for thousands of years. Herodotus wrote about it in the 5th century BC, and the search continues. In 2018 Americans spent $16.5 billion dollars on cosmetic surgery and $49.2 billion on cosmetics alone. Most, if not all these efforts, seem to be designed to promote a more youthful appearance, and are not confined to women alone.


The worship of youthfulness is not the exclusive province of those with idyllic childhoods, for many of my patients who had endured horrific experiences as kids also did what they could to present a youthful appearance. People who choose healthy lifestyles in order to promote longevity are to be admired, but I daresay there is a much larger group who are more preoccupied with how they look, and in particular with all those drooping and wrinkling tell tale signs they are getting old. The question arises as to whether they are trying to fool the world or themselves. After all, an appointment with the grim reaper looms larger each day, as the walls of denial crumble.

90 on the HORIZON

When my age is revealed I often get the response: “You don’t look that old.” I don’t know if I should thank them, apologize, or be insulted. In a couple of months, I expect to have completed 9 decades of residence on this planet and get ready to start my 10th, and the kids are already planning to make a big deal of it. For no particular reason other than we have used the decimal system for a few thousand years, we tend to make a big deal out of any figure which ends with a zero. Birthdays have always been a mixed blessing for me because my son has the same birthday, and I have always felt that my birthday took something away from his celebration. It has never seemed that he should have to share a cake.

Although 90 years seems like a long time, in my case it is not nearly enough, and I would like a bit more. I first became interested in this phenomenon we call life about 75 years ago and it became my life’s work. In spite of the monumental discoveries of the past century, it remains a wondrous mystery, and I am convinced that a total understanding of its complexities is beyond our ability to comprehend. No doubt, I will continue to complain about the vicissitudes of old age (how else could I get any sympathy) in spite of having witnessed first-hand suffering far beyond what I can even comprehend, not to mention the horrors endured by millions of others around the world.  Indeed, it is clear that I can no longer deny that I am O-L-D, but it has caught me by surprise for it happened overnight.  Little did I know when I first saw light on that autumn day in the midst of the Great Depression that I had hit the mother lode and was destined to be blessed with the most wonderful life imaginable.

By the way, does anyone know how to blow out candles while wearing a mask?

Barr's unmarked militia in DC during protests

Let’s Learn from the Past

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

George Santayana

“The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing”

Edmund Burke

Editor’s Introduction: These two quotes are important preludes to Eshrink’s latest blog post. My father’s knowledge of history, his expertise and experience treating mental illness, and his skill to communicate via the written word means he truly understands the importance of DOING SOMETHING in the face of evil…even if it’s just taking the time to stand up and speak your mind. Additionally, his nine decades on this earth have provided him with the wisdom we need in times like these.

HISTORY

Adolph Hitler’s rise to power was facilitated by a paramilitary group of ex-soldiers from the first World War colloquially referred to as the Brown Shirts. They were so named because they wore surplus army shirts which were cheaply available. They initially were used as bouncers at Nazi meetings, and to disrupt the meetings of Hitler’s adversaries. They became increasingly violent, culminating in “Kristallnacht” the night in which Jewish homes, businesses, synagogues, and schools were ransacked and looted. Jews were forced to wear a star of David with the word Jude (Jew) emblazoned on it. 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and untold numbers murdered. This marked the beginning in earnest of the persecution which would come to be known as the holocaust. Initially, those arrested would be housed in so-called concentration camps, later the even more horrible “final solution” would be implemented by Hitler and his followers.

Hitler’s genius lay in his use of propaganda. He had been so successful in convincing the country that Jews were the source of all the country’s problems that there was no resistance from local law enforcement. As a matter of fact, it has been said that hundreds of civilians joined in with the Brown Shirts. Earlier in the year, 1938, Nazi troops had annexed Austria and the Nazis were off and running to create an “Arian Nation” which would rule the world. The leaders of the Brown shirts were not deemed to have been sufficiently loyal to the Fuhrer so they had been executed and the Brown shirts were superseded by the SS who would prove to be better organized and more efficient at persecuting and killing those deemed enemies of the state.

 

TODAY in AMERICA | 2020

As is my usual habit, this morning I tuned into Fox News for my usual dose of Trumpisms. They were featuring a news conference in the Oval Office with Trump, Barr, and a group of other law enforcement types. The topic was law and order, and the failure of democratic mayors to control the recent rise in crime in their cities. Of course, there is nothing new in this, for Trump’s most recent attempt to divert attention from his failures, especially with the pandemic, has been to go with the tried and true law and order spiel. I flipped channels to the other cable news networks, and was pleased to see that they had ignored this latest dog and pony show and were proceeding with their regular programming, for I have been critical for of them for showing him on the tube every time he chooses to open his mouth.

My joy was short-lived however. Trump introduced the unmasked group who surrounded him as a task force headed by his personal defender and hatchet man Bill Barr, who would be tasked with apprehending and prosecuting his favorite group of boogey men, MS13. He proudly announced the arrest of “key figures” in New York and Nevada. No doubt these are very bad guys and their arrest is good news. It is also timely since Trump is in desperate need for some good news with his approval ratings in a precipitous decline. In addition, since this gang originated in El Salvador, it fits nicely into his anti-immigration policies. But the thing that disturbed me was a statement he made about how he planned to rid those cities mentioned as crime ridden by whatever means necessary since local law enforcement was not doing the job. He even mentioned the use of national guard troops.

The mere idea that our President was considering the idea of federal enforcement of state and local laws made my hair stand up. Our system of justice is organized with the principle that only federal laws are to be enforced by the feds. There has been a proliferation through the years of many different agencies that have been granted such police power, and the Patriot Act has further blurred the distinction between federal and local crimes.*

Barr's unmarked militia in DC during protests
My immediate reaction was to hearken back to those images of Barr’s anonymous uniformed armed militia guarding the White House grounds. When questioned, they refused to answer any questions as to their identity, by whom they were employed who paid them or the nature of their mission. To the best of my knowledge we still do not know who these guys were, who ordered them there or why, although it is generally assumed that they were a motley crew recruited by the Attorney General from various federal agencies who had some kind of police power. At the time there were serious questions as to why they displayed no badges or other means of identification. Even more disturbing was the fact that they were so secretive.

THE MOST DANGEROUS MAN ON EARTH

The idea of a secretive group assuming police powers without specific authorization by a deliberative arm of government is antithetical to a democracy. As with most of the weird stuff occurring in our government these days this incident and the President’s promise in today’s TV show to send in his own forces to replace local police has produced scant reaction from the press or Congress. In previous blogs I have commented at length on the instability of this president. I have also predicted that as he becomes cornered his behavior will likely become even more erratic and perhaps dangerous.

 

There are rumors of an increase in the severity and frequency of his temper tantrums. The diatribes against his perceived enemies have become more intense and less rational as his poll numbers decline, and his incompetence is exposed.
His defenses of denial, divert, and blame are no longer effective and I am concerned as to what he might do next. The subtext of the most recent Trump tell all book which labels him “The Most Dangerous Man on Earth” is not hyperbole in my opinion, and I am not alone. Thousands of mental health professionals have agreed that our country is now presided over by a man with very serious mental health problems. His fragility increases the likelihood of further decompensation and of his becoming desperate and totally irrational. Unfortunately, some of the same situations which exposed his deficiencies are the same ones which divert attention to his potential to do impulsive, crazy stuff.

At the risk of sounding like an off-the-rails conspiracy theorist, I would remind you of our fearless leader’s admiration of the world’s dictators. His Attorney General shows signs of being like-minded, his current Secretary of Defense refers to American cities as “battle spaces” to be dominated, and Trump has surrounded himself with a group of yes-men and women who are likely to support whatever crazy idea he pursues. Thus, his avowed intention to usurp the power of state and local police coupled with the apparent trial balloon of Barr’s secret police scares the Hell out of me, and the lack of any note of this by the press or congress makes it worse.

“The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing”
Edmund Burke

Editor’s Note: I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Trump’s emboldened threats (and use) of military force against civilians started once the Generals advising the Trump were summarily dismissed or “resigned.” For those living outside the USA, it might seem ironic that the departure of military Generals from the President’s cabinet would be promote Trump’s emboldened threat to use military force on U.S. citizens, but General Mattis and General Kelly had military training and education that focuses on the core purpose of the military and the responsibility to protect and defend The Constitution of the United States of America NOT the President. Sadly, it seems most rabid Trump supporters haven’t even read the Constitution, let alone grasp the importance of that oath.

Article John Kelly criticizes Trump threat to used armed forces on protesters

Article Former Defense Secretary Mattis’ Statement on Trump’s Handling of Protests

*Editor’s Note: This isn’t the first time Trump has tested the waters in threatening to use federal troops against civilians. 

June 1, 2020: “If a city or state refuses to take the actions necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them,” Trump said, referring to himself as “your president of law and order and an ally of all peaceful protesters.”

He said he was already dispatching “thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel and law enforcement officers” to Washington to stop the violence that has been a feature of the protests here.

Watch the video of his announcement at this link.

 

No Filter | Straight Talk from Eshrink | Pandemic Unplugged

Updated 9:03 PM to correct COVID-19 Numbers.

Editor’s Note: All pertinent links are at the bottom of this post so they don’t interrupt Eshrink’s Straight Talk. Eshrink confided in me that he was concerned this post might be too sarcastic, it might offend some people, it might be too negative. I reminded him that sarcasm is a powerful literary device that has been used by scores of Pulitzer Prize Winning authors. I reminded him that Eshrinkblog.com is a censorship-free zone. I reminded him that he has earned the right to write whatever he sees fit.  So fasten your seat belt loyal eshrink readers, this retired psychiatrist who dedicated six decades to a career in medicine is unplugged and uncensored.

Pence and White House Task Force on Coronavirus COVID-19

Yesterday, I tuned into the latest White House dog and pony show.  The big dog was absent.  Apparently, keeping him away was the only way to prevent Donald Doofus from screwing up this latest campaign event masquerading as a report by the White House COVID-19 task force.  However, the ass-kisser-in-chief, Mr. Pence, did an admirable job in explaining in great detail what a wonderful job the president has done in managing the pandemic and saving “thousands” of lives.  He outlined in great detail how the administration has provided the leadership responsible for the control of the pandemic.  He touted the marvelous job done by federal agencies in providing needed medical equipment and protective gear.  Even more amazing was the “tremendous” success in providing COVID-19 testing.

All in all, the Veep’s chat was very reassuring (unless you are person who dares to look at the facts).

Johns Hopkins Map illustrates COVID-19 Data Pandemic Worldwide

  • The United States accounts for about 4.3% of the world’s population, but has 25% the worldwide COVID-19 deaths.
  • We are #1 in COVID-19 Confirmed Cases. 2.6 million.
  • #1 in COVID-19 related deaths. 126,493 in the USA out of 507,166 worldwide
  • We are #1 in COVID!

No wonder I didn’t feel reassured.  Having years ago, read a bit about the risk of world-wide pandemics, I likewise was not reassured when Trump early on minimized the seriousness of the “Kung Flu.”  Furthermore, I doubt that those who have survived this illness, lost loved ones to it, or witnessed their last breaths, would see the humor in that term.  It was not until the very end of Pence’s lengthy introductory remarks that he spoke a truth when he said: “We still have more work to do.” Talk about an understatement!

 

Dr. Birx

Next up was Dr. Birx – the lady of the $600 Hermes neck scarves.  She serves as one of the experts on pandemics.  Back in the days before all the world’s information was available on the internet, physicians attended a lot of conferences in order to stay on top of the latest poop in medicine.  We laughingly defined an expert as someone 50 miles from home with slides.  In addition to her scarves, Dr. Birx proved her bonafides as an expert with an array of slides, which were dazzling in their quantity and complexity.  She flipped through them in such rapid succession that even if I were smart enough to understand them, it wouldn’t have helped.

Dr. Fauci at White House Press Conference COVID-19 briefing press conference

Next up, the always sensible and understandable Dr. Fauci, who usually leaves me wondering as to what he thinks about the crap he hears coming from the mouths of Doofus and his sycophants.  Dr. Redfield, the CDC director was next up.  He was all in favor of Motherhood and Apple Pie.  There has been some suggestions that he has been muzzled by the great one, but how could anyone even consider that all these elite scientists who have dedicated their lives to learning about science, infectious diseases, and medicine, could know as much about this stuff as our own very stable genius President.

The Veep’s closing remarks and “question-no-answer” session was blessedly brief, generally following the maxim: “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.”  The Q & A session ended rather abruptly when the press corps insisted on real answers.  In the absence of the big dog who would have been courageous enough to confront them about their audacity to seek information for the public by asking questions, the only option for the little dog  (Pence) was to walk away.  After watching to the bitter end, I took a few minutes to calm my raging anger, and attempted to make a list of all the distortions, half truths, and misinformation spewed out by Pence to be used in this blog, but I was soon overwhelmed by the sheer volume.

While watching the performance, this tired old brain did light up with an insight.  It suddenly occurred to me that therein may lie the answer to a question which has bothered me for some time i.e. how in the world did this COVID thing become politicized.  After all, the virus does not belong to a political party and we are all equally susceptible to infection, yet red state and blue state responses seem to be different.   Charades like this “press conference” along with Trump’s insistence that everything is under control and his constant assertion that the “fake news media” is exaggerating the seriousness of the pandemic must be factors which lead to the false sense of security which is so often seen in those who proudly wear their red baseball caps.  The message is undoubtedly enhanced by Trump’s own propaganda machine – Fox News (not to mention his own tweets).

Trump at Tulsa Rally during COVID 19 Pandemic

Loyal Trumpers show up by the thousands to watch their hero’s one man shows.  They are absolutely fearless and crowd in shoulder to shoulder.  Their naked faces are a testament to their disdain for all that overblown scientific stuff and they insist, as does VP Pence, that they have a constitutional right to refuse a face mask.  I did not realize the constitution said anything about a right to disseminate disease, but what do I know?  However, the “breaking news” today was that not only was Pence seen wearing a mask, but he announced that everyone should follow his lead and wear face masks.  The pundits made a big deal about this being a break with Trump, but I can’t imagine Pence having the gonads to challenge his highness.

This was the first White House production by the task force in more than a month, but was improved only due to the absence of Trump.  Fauci did provide useful and straightforward information, but I was left wondering how many more lives may be lost as a result of the failure to adequately portray the seriousness of the situation in which we face with this highly infectious serious illness for which we have no effective treatment.  Without a treatment, our only hope is to contain it until a treatment or preventative vaccine is available.

As Fauci pointed out, such strategies require sacrifices on the part of people to which they are unlikely to adhere if they are not appraised of the danger we face.  Self aggrandizement can wait.  For now let’s focus on solutions please.

 

Link to Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Map

Link to White House Task Coronavirus Task Force Briefing June 26, 2020, with video

Blast from the Past: Editor’s Pick | The Priceless Video of Dr. Birx when Trump wants her to confirm she is looking into injecting disinfectants into the human body and or inserting a powerful light into human beings to fight the pandemic

 

Are You For It or Against It? The Danger of Polarity in America.

Introduction by the Eshrink Editor: I am woefully behind on my blog duties. Eshrink wrote this blog more than two weeks ago. The subject arose from a discussion we were having about the polarity of this country (I think at the time, we were talking about the wearing of masks in that it seemed we had become divided as in “the mask people” and the “no-mask people”) and the idea that people seem to be fervently against something more than being fervently “for” something. He takes you step by step on what’s wrong, but brings us back to hope in the end…see the excerpt below.

In my most recent essay, I defined integrity as the value which incorporates the personal qualities we hold dear, all of which involve caring. The past few months have abruptly and severely tested the integrity of the American people, and with few exceptions they can be proud of their success. We have seen millions venture out with faces covered in order to protect others. We witnessed courage and dedication, of those directly and indirectly involved in caring for the sick. Thousands have volunteered to work in food banks. People of all colors, ethnicities, and genders in the hundreds of thousands have gone forth to demonstrate for racial equality.

 

The Values Series Led Me Here

While ruminating over this stuff about values, it occurred to me that as a society, we seem to be more preoccupied with what we are against than what we are for. Such a position presents a major impediment to negotiation and is likely to provoke anger. This appears to be the case with our two houses of Congress, in which the most recent bill proposed by the house was promised by McConnell to be “dead on arrival” in the senate, hardly an invitation to look for common ground. Of course, what the senate proposes is not likely to be greeted with open arms by the house either. Consequently; the process of negotiation won’t happen. Perhaps John Adams had it right in his assessment of the two-party system. But then I continue to be amazed at the wisdom of those old guys and in particular of their ability to foresee the problems involved in preserving what they had built.

John Adams Quote that warns about the problems with a 2 party system

 

COVID-19

There is little good news to be found today. The death toll from the corona virus has now passed 115,000, yet these numbers do not tell the whole story. Nearly all of these souls died alone, and isolated from family. Traditional measures used to facilitate grieving have been restricted due to the pandemic. Well over 40 million survivors have filed for unemployment with untold numbers standing in line to follow suit. The United States, touted as the most advanced and prosperous nation in the world, has now achieved the dubious distinction of becoming the world leader in such horrific numbers. With only 4.2% of the world’s population, the United States has now registered over 25% of the deaths due to COVID-19, yet our President heaps praises on himself for having done a great job in managing the pandemic. We were warned for decades that such a pandemic was inevitable, yet we were woefully unprepared, and even worse at exercising any control over it.

 

GEORGE FLOYD

If that were not enough, we now find ourselves witnessing the murder of one of our citizens by one sworn to protect us. There was universal outrage and sadness. Peaceful demonstrations protesting police brutality and injustice soon became hate filled with wanton destruction throughout the land. Throughout history, our most successful civilian defenders of human rights have used peaceful protests as their weapons of choice. Ghandhi and Martin Luther King were the most recent initiators of that strategy, but more than 2500 years ago Buddha said: “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”


Complicit Passivity

It is obvious that we screwed up big time in leaving ourselves so vulnerable, and I emphasize the word “we” for we have been complicit by our passivity in not making ourselves aware of what our elective representatives are doing or neglecting to do. The politicians have protected us from injury from a falling sky by never admitting that they screwed up, but in spite of years of warnings by our scientists, we have been very poor stewards of our environment thereby setting the stage for a catastrophic pandemic. In like fashion, since its beginning, we have suffered from a lack of leadership in dealing with issues of civil rights and equal justice under the law.

 

I’m Against It

Although there is a long history of disagreement between republicans and democrats, in the past, the focus was to a large extent on issues. For example, when a Democratic President pushed through a Civil Rights Bill, the south quickly switched to the party of Lincoln and those in the North who mostly supported the legislation became Democrats. The once solidly democratic south became rabidly republican in less time than it takes to say “back of the bus.”

 

Then came the abortion issue, which proved to be even more divisive, since for many, it involved strongly-held religious beliefs. Both these issues were very personal to large segments of the populace and consequently divisive.


Although not so overt as the abortion rights ruling, civil rights issues continue to smolder, and in the past few days have reared their ugly heads again. Some Christians see abortion as murder and therefore feel obligated to protest. This has led to episodes of intimidation, name calling and even violence. There have been other times in our history when issues have been divisive, e.g. prohibition, women’s suffrage, Vietnam, and worst of all a Civil War, all from which we have largely recovered. The current climate of personal animus continues to deepen with political discourse routinely including personal insults and character assassination.


Follow the Money

It has been said that in order to follow most things in politics one must follow the money, and in our last presidential election there was a lot to follow. According to open secrets.org, 5.6 billion dollars was spent on the presidential and congressional election campaigns of 2016. In addition to that, it is estimated that Mr. Trump received an additional 5 billion dollars of free time on the networks by being TV savvy, thereby proving that outrageousness sells. Ten years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that money equals speech and since then there has been a lot of such speech so that in the coming election it is expected the ante will be increased even more.


The foregoing factors, along with research indicating that negative campaigning is more effective than a focus on issues, resulted in personal attacks becoming the norm. The effectiveness of this strategy is demonstrated by its effect on Hillary Clinton whose approval dived from 71% in 2011 to 43% in 2016. See this link for more info. There was much anecdotal information that many of the votes for Trump were actually due to an intense dislike for Clinton, a modern-day version of the ancient proverb: “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”


Such a political orientation can be dangerous, for it may lead to decisions overly influenced by emotions. The current pandemic is the latest example in which political orientation seems to override facts. I have been totally amazed to see the response to this virus, which proposes a threat to all of us to be viewed differently depending on party affiliation. Although the same facts are available to everyone, we face the same enemy, and we are all equally at-risk, responses differ largely along party lines.


Previous Assaults on Our Country

During my lifetime, I have witnessed two previous dramatic assaults on this country, every detail of which I remember in vivid detail. The first was The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which resulted in a resounding and immediate flourish of patriotic fervor with unbounded support for the government. Later, the destruction of the World Trade Center produced a similar reaction. In both these instances, there was indeed a sense that we really were “all in this together.” The focus was on what could be done and how to do it. Who to blame or what could have been done to prevent these disasters were put aside to be debated at a later time.


This pandemic is an equal opportunity threat not only to our country but to the whole world. Granted, there is much to complain about and I have been among the chief complainers. Nevertheless, there is much of which we can be proud. Although there have been instances of profiteering by the usual group of pathetically twisted individuals, they are an insignificant minority. We have witnessed with awe those hundreds of thousands of ordinary people go forth without weapons to courageously battle an unseen foe, while others have risked their lives in order to provide the means which allow the rest of us to remain safely tucked away in our homes.


Hope Springs Eternal…

In 1732, Alexander Pope wrote: “Hope springs eternal in the human breast,” and in spite or perhaps because of, all the potentially catastrophic events confronting us, there are signs that such hope may now be springing forth. Hope is the great motivator. It adds zest. It welcomes challenge and allows big dreams. Without hope, life lacks meaning. Indeed, hopelessness is frequently associated with suicidal ideation, and there has been a well-documented increase in the rates of depression and suicide in the past few years. It is also true that we have not seen a lot of good news or optimism about the future of ourselves or our planet, and as a consequence it appears to me that we have become focused on all those things we are against with little thought as to what we are for.


You may be thinking “what in the world is hopeful about rioting, looting, massive unemployment, climate change, pollution, racism, and thousands of deaths from a worldwide pandemic that is hopeful.” A couple of nights ago, I stayed up very late mesmerized while watching the demonstrations which mostly featured lawlessness fueled by hatred, greed and disrespect. I went to bed feeling very sad and asking myself the age-old question, what is happening to my country, and does anyone give a damn? I only knew that I was against whatever was going on.


The Helpers

The next morning, I awakened to a view of people who had brought their own shovels and brooms to begin cleaning up the broken glass and debris left by the rioters. Since the looters had retired for the day and there was no sensational news available, the TV crew interviewed some of these kind souls who told of how disheartened they were to see their peaceful demonstrations marred by hoodlums, and how they had tried to stop them. Since then, I have been heartened to hear stories of how many of those charged with law enforcement have been able to show respect for the demonstrators and their cause. They learned that in many instances kneeling with them was more effective than pepper spray. It appears to me that the witnessing of an actual murder on nationwide TV has had a significant impact as witnessed by the large number of white folks who join in the demonstrations. It is all enough to give hope that hundreds of years of racial injustice may finally end.


Integrity and Us

In my most recent essay, I defined integrity as the value which incorporates the personal qualities we hold dear, all of which involve caring. The past few months have abruptly and severely tested the integrity of the American people, and with few exceptions they can be proud of their success. We have seen millions venture out with faces covered in order to protect others. We witnessed courage and dedication, of those directly and indirectly involved in caring for the sick. Thousands have volunteered to work in food banks. People of all colors, ethnicities, and genders in the hundreds of thousands have gone forth to demonstrate for racial equality.


Granted, there has been much anger and even hatred demonstrated, but our ideals are not lost. The integrity of the average guy gives me hope that problems can be solved and love will take care of the hatred for as the good book says: THE GREATEST OF THESE IS LOVE.

ANNIVERSARY REVIEW by ESHRINK


This morning, I happened to look up at the top of a tree growing next to my patio and was amazed to see how big it had become. I guess it must be nearly 50 feet tall. It stands in full view of its lower half from this little office where I compose my literary masterpieces. I have probably spent hours looking out at the lower portion of that tree while trying to organize some great truth, yet today is the first time I remember looking up at its top.

 

It has been 35 years since I planted it. It was a scrawny thing with a bulbous out-pouching around its base. I have no idea as to its species, but it has become a good friend. It has used all that energy from those years in the sun to grow into this magnificent specimen which now shields me with its shade. One of the reasons I was shocked to take in its full size is that its trunk does not appear to be large enough to support a giant upper body.

 


Fortunately, I had preempted Barb earlier in the day by wishing her a happy anniversary before she had an opportunity to put my failing memory to the test for, I have a history of forgetting such important dates. Barb on the other hand has one of those minds which has allowed her to catalog not only birthdays and anniversaries of immediate family, but of anyone else we have ever known. Actually, I had prepared for the event by squirreling away an old card which I planned to recycle for the event, but I misplaced it–thereby losing my opportunity to be a real hero.


The day held little promise of anything exciting, especially since there is not much about the number 67 to generate enthusiasm, but just as we were on the verge of declaring this anniversary a washout, son Peter called to say he and Sue were on their way here. They brought flowers, Pete did some of my chores, and got takeout from Bill’s Barbecue, which we enjoyed on the patio. Trudy had called previously to tell us they would be coming to spend the weekend of Father’s Day with us, and after Pete and Sue left we retrieved a voicemail from Maggie and a text with her flattering epistle about us old buggers and our marital style.

 

As for Maggie’s analysis of our “discussions” she mentioned, I am sure most of them ended with my surrender for I am still no match for Barb. But on the bright side she fights even harder FOR me. It is easier to find a lover than a friend, and to spend my life with someone who is both makes me a very lucky guy. Later Barb and I did some reminiscing, which was sort of like looking up at that tree to see whole thing.

The view was pleasing.

 

 

 

The Smith Crew circa 1969

The Smith Crew circa 1967

 

60th Wedding Anniversary Dinner

Prepping for 2020 during Christmas 2019 Photo Shoot!

The progeny: The only thing better than perfect children is PERFECT GRANDCHILDREN