Actual Existential Threats

Forget the war dead. This Memorial Day was like this – “The husband of the woman who leads the ‘Reopen NC’ movement says people should be willing to kill, if necessary, to resist the ‘New World Order’ and emergency orders imposed by state government to contain the coronavirus pandemic.”

NC is North Carolina. The issue is that state shutting down all “nonessential” commerce and public movement, and telling free people that they have to wear masks, which is tyranny. But it’s unclear who must be killed to make all of that go away. The president doesn’t wear a mask, ever, and mocks those who tell him he should, so wearing a mask is for fools who believe experts, who know nothing, as everyone knows, and thus it follows that anyone who wears a mask in public is siding with those damned “experts” and mocking this president, and thus hates this president and thus hates America, and thus wearing a mask in public is treason, which is punishable by death, traditionally by firing squad, but perhaps this fellow has other ideas. Will he shoot dead anyone who tells him to put a mask on before he enters the local Walmart? Or will he simply shoot dead anyone he sees wearing a mask in public? Imagine patriotic armed Trump Militias popping up spontaneously all across America and doing that. In just one day no one would be wearing those masks ever again. But of course this is just one guy. He’s probably not going to go out and kill anyone at all for Trump and freedom. He’s just venting. But don’t tell him that. That’d set him off. One must be careful.

So that was the issue of the day:

Three prominent Republicans bolstered North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum’s (R) emotional plea to end the “political” divide on mask-wearing requirements during Sunday morning interviews.

Unlike President Trump’s refusal to wear a mask while touring a Ford plant outside of Michigan on Thursday – despite White House staffers being ordered to do so after two aides tested positive for the novel coronavirus earlier this month – Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R), Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) and Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) are encouraging the public to take precautions such as mask-wearing seriously as states begin easing coronavirus restrictions over Memorial Day weekend.

Do these three hate this president and thus hate America? No, not exactly, but it’s complicated:

Scott told CNN’s Dana Bash that “we have to open the economy” and that in order to do so safely, it is “absolutely” necessary to take precautions such as wearing a mask and social distancing.

The Florida senator then quickly added that wearing a mask doesn’t translate to “people telling us how to lead our lives every day.”

“Do I believe people ought to wear masks? Yes, I do believe people ought to wear masks. Do I believe people ought to social distance? Yes, I believe they ought to social distance. Do we need the President and governors and all the local officials that tell us how to lead our lives every day? No,” Scott said.

Scott argued that the Bill of Rights is everything here. Its guarantees of religious freedom and personal freedom mean no one can enforce any emergency public safety rules at all, ever, period. You have your rights! The government “suggests” this and that. That’s all the government is allowed to do. People can do whatever the hell they want. But he’s sure people will do the right thing.

And of course he was wrong:

Americans were eager to get their summer started this weekend and they flocked to outdoor spaces over Memorial Day Weekend. After spending lots of time indoors, many were clearly eager to get outside and socialize again. And some did not seem to care much about social-distancing guidelines, leading to warnings about a possible resurgence of the coronavirus that has already killed almost 100,000 people across the country.

One set of images that spread like wildfire on social media involved partiers crowding together in a pool at the Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri. Locals said it was a notably big crowd. “It seems like everyone is having the same idea, to come to the lake to enjoy summer, because you can social distance at the same time,” said a local who shot a time-lapse drone video of the boat traffic on the Lake of the Ozarks on Saturday…

No social distancing and no masks and the same everywhere:

Lots of people also crowded beaches in Florida, with officials in the Gulf Coast closing beaches when they got full. Many who tried to go to the beach in the mid-afternoon ended up being turned away as beaches reached an “unprecedented level of closures.” Although some praised the way many beachgoers appeared to be trying to maintain a safe distance, others weren’t so optimistic. “I have never seen this many umbrellas,” one beachgoer said. “This is not social-distancing at all. There are way too many people.” There were also huge crowds in Daytona Beach, where a shooting erupted after some 200 people gathered in the streets.

Things were back to normal. The virus will be back worse than ever, but that was just those experts talking:

As people tried to enjoy the unofficial start of the summer and President Donald Trump celebrated that “cases, numbers and deaths are going down,” other White House officials emphasized that people still needed to be careful. Stephen M. Hahn, the Food and Drug Administration commissioner, warned on Twitter that the coronavirus “is not yet contained.” Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, said she was “very concerned” about scenes of people crowding together over the holiday weekend. “We really want to be clear all the time that social distancing is absolutely critical. And if you can’t social distance and you’re outside, you must wear a mask,” she said on ABC’s This Week.

Trump was among the many Americans who decided to spend time outside Sunday, as he headed to his golf course in Virginia for the second day in a row. The president went to play golf again hours after presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden released an attack ad blasting Trump for playing golf as the coronavirus death toll in the United States neared the 100,000-mark.

Trump shrugged, and the nation argued, and few noticed what was happening in the background:

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has vowed to implement “new policies” to boost the country’s nuclear deterrent, state media reported Sunday, underlining his decision to turn his back on denuclearization talks with the United States.

Kim made the call at a meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party’s Central Military Commission, nearly two years after he met President Trump at a historic summit in Singapore that seemed to offer hope of progress between the two nations.

Subsequent talks made little progress before dissolving in acrimony last year, and North Korea has since returned to a harder line in its public posturing.

Trump had said that he and Kim fell in love with each other. They understood each other. They respected each other. They admired each other. Kim just made a fool of Trump, but there’s more to this:

Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, said it was probably a coincidence that the announcement was made just after it emerged that the Trump administration had discussed whether to conduct the country’s first nuclear test since 1992.

“The intention in Washington for pondering such a move may be to pressure Russia and China to improve arms control commitments and enforcement,” he wrote in an email. “But not only might this tack encourage more nuclear risk-taking by those countries, it could provide Pyongyang an excuse for its next provocation.”

So, we might set off a whole series of big nuclear bombs under the desert out west once again, as a warning of some kind to Russia and China, but Kim smiled. There are no rules now. Cool. He has bombs too.

But our decision was odd:

The matter came up at a meeting of senior officials representing the top national security agencies May 15, following accusations from administration officials that Russia and China are conducting low-yield nuclear tests – an assertion that has not been substantiated by publicly available evidence and that both countries have denied.

A senior administration official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the sensitive nuclear discussions, said that demonstrating to Moscow and Beijing that the United States could “rapid test” could prove useful from a negotiating standpoint as Washington seeks a trilateral deal to regulate the arsenals of the biggest nuclear powers.

The meeting did not conclude with any agreement to conduct a test, but a senior administration official said the proposal is “very much an ongoing conversation.”

Forget that virus and the face masks! Let’s restart the nuclear arms race from Trump’s teenage years! But that might be a bad idea:

The United States has not conducted a nuclear test explosion since September 1992, and nuclear nonproliferation advocates warned that doing so now could have destabilizing consequences.

“It would be an invitation for other nuclear-armed countries to follow suit,” said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association. “It would be the starting gun to an unprecedented nuclear arms race. You would also disrupt the negotiations with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who may no longer feel compelled to honor his moratorium on nuclear testing.”

Kim did just that, but wait, there’s more:

The deliberations over a nuclear test explosion come as the Trump administration prepares to leave the Treaty on Open Skies, a nearly 30-year-old pact that came into force in 2002 and was designed to reduce the chances of an accidental war by allowing mutual reconnaissance flights for members of the 34-country agreement.

The planned withdrawal marks another example of the erosion of a global arms-control framework that Washington and Moscow began hashing out painstakingly during the Cold War. The Trump administration pulled out of a 1987 pact with Russia governing intermediate-range missiles, citing violations by Moscow, and withdrew from a 2015 nuclear accord with Iran, saying Tehran wasn’t living up to the spirit of it.

The primary remaining pillar of the arms-control framework between the United States and Russia is the New START pact, which places limits on strategic nuclear platforms.

That will be gone soon too. Trump tears up all treaties. All former presidents were fools. He’ll negotiate new treaties from scratch. He wrote the book on the art of the deal. No one else did. Look at his deal with Kim. Look at Obama’s deal with Iran and its nukes that he tore up. Look at the Paris climate accords. Okay, don’t:

One U.S. official said a nuclear test could help pressure the Chinese into joining a trilateral agreement with the United States and Russia, but some nonproliferation advocates say such a move is risky.

“If this administration believes that a nuclear test explosion and nuclear brinkmanship is going to coerce negotiating partners to make unilateral concessions, that’s a dangerous ploy,” Kimball said.

But is Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association a multibillionaire with a drop-dead gorgeous third trophy wife and who had a hit reality television show? Still, there are now new problems with the Chinese:

The United States should abandon its “wishful thinking about changing China” and stop pushing the two countries “to the brink of a new Cold War,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Sunday, trying to position Beijing as the grown-up in an increasingly fractious relationship.

As tensions between the world’s two largest economies mount by the day, Wang used a news conference during the annual piece of political theater known as the National People’s Congress to send a direct message to Washington.

“China has no intention to change, still less replace, the United States,” Wang said before a selected group of journalists. “It’s time for the United States to give up its wishful thinking of changing China and stopping 1.4 billion people in their historic march toward modernization.”

The message was clear. Stop making up shit. Don’t blame us for your own damned problems. Just grow up before you get us all killed:

In a nod toward President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who have repeatedly suggested that the ruling Chinese Communist Party is a threat to the world, Wang said American politicians “are taking China-U.S. relations hostage and pushing our two countries to the brink of a new Cold War.”

“This dangerous attempt to turn back the will of history will undo the fruits of decades-long China-U.S. cooperation, dampen America’s own development prospects, and put world stability and prosperity in jeopardy,” Wang said.

Be we’re not going to grow up:

Washington views China as a malign force out to reshape the world in its image. Beijing says the United States is trying to contain its ascent to its rightful place as a global superpower.

The conflict has taken on a new dimension with the emergence of the novel coronavirus in the Chinese city of Wuhan. The Trump administration, reeling from more than 96,000 deaths in the United States, is trying to heap blame for the pandemic entirely on China’s Communist Party.

This includes, most recently, a claim by White House trade adviser Peter Navarro that China “sent hundreds of thousands” of people infected with the virus on planes to “seed” the virus around the world. “They could have kept it in Wuhan, but instead, it became a pandemic,” he told ABC News last week.

In short, this is THEIR fault! Everything is perfect here, or was! It’s not our fault! Our president is perfect! He is the grown-up in the room!

He is? Anne Gearan looks at the current evidence:

As the death toll in the coronavirus pandemic neared 100,000 Americans this Memorial Day weekend, President Trump derided and insulted perceived enemies and promoted a baseless conspiracy theory, in between rounds of golf.

In a flurry of tweets and retweets Saturday and Sunday, Trump mocked former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams’s weight, ridiculed the looks of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and called former Democratic presidential rival Hillary Clinton a “skank.”

He revived long-debunked speculation that a television host with whom Trump has feuded may have killed a woman and asserted without evidence that mail-in voting routinely produces ballot stuffing.

He made little mention of the sacrifice Americans honor on Memorial Day or the grim toll of the virus.

This is not a serious and sober adult:

Trump plans to attend a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery on Monday and visit Fort McHenry in Baltimore, where the 1814 battle that inspired “The Star-Spangled Banner” was fought. The city’s Democratic mayor had discouraged the visit, saying it sent conflicting messages about the importance of staying home and protecting other Americans.

Although Trump on Friday had called for worshipers to return to church in person this holiday weekend, the president did not. He played golf on Sunday morning.

And then he sneered:

Retweeting one supporter in rapid succession, Trump blasted doctored images of Pelosi and two images of Abrams to his more than 80 million Twitter followers. Abrams, who is under consideration as a vice presidential pick by Biden, had “visited every buffet restaurant in the State,” Trump’s retweet said.

“To protect PolyGrip during this pandemic, we have developed 2 options. With the DJT option, she will be able to tongue and adjust her dentures more easily,” Trump retweeted, showing doctored images of Pelosi’s face, one with a “Trump 2020” mask over her mouth and the other with silver duct tape. “With duct tape, she won’t be able to drink booze on the job as much. Which do you think she will prefer? #maga #tcot #kag,” Twitter user John K. Stahl had tweeted.

Pelosi does not drink alcohol. Neither does Trump. This was nonsense, and this was rather random:

Stahl’s Twitter profile describes him as a retired tech executive and conservative. Trump appears to have scrolled through the account and retweeted numerous posts that praised Trump, criticized Democrats and the news media or voiced support for Trump’s view, which is not based on fact, that mail-in voting invites fraud.

It seems that Trump was bored and just browsing and resending this and that. Perhaps he had too much time on his hands. But then he got specific and nasty:

Trump also tweeted speculation and conspiracy theories about the death of a young woman who worked for then-Rep. Joe Scarborough (R-Fla.) in 2001. Scarborough is now an MSNBC host and a frequent Trump critic. Trump suggested without evidence that Scarborough had an affair with the married staffer and that he may have killed her.

“A lot of interest in this story about Psycho Joe Scarborough. So a young marathon runner just happened to faint in his office, hit her head on his desk, & die? I would think there is a lot more to this story than that? An affair? What about the so-called investigator? Read story!” Trump wrote Sunday.

Trump had also tweeted on May 12 about the death, asking, “Did he get away with murder?”

That was all debunked long ago and now there’s a problem:

That tweet drew criticism from some conservatives, with Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) tweeting: “Completely unfounded conspiracy. Just stop. Stop spreading it, stop creating paranoia. It will destroy us.”

It’s too late for that:

Trump also claimed Sunday that hydroxychloroquine has “tremendous rave reviews,” despite studies showing that it can be dangerous.

In a Sinclair Broadcasting interview, Trump politicized a study from Columbia University indicating that had stringent social distancing been in place a week earlier, the United States could have prevented 36,000 coronavirus deaths through early May – about 40 percent of fatalities reported to date.

“Columbia University is a liberal, disgraceful institution, to write that,” Trump said in the interview broadcast Sunday. “I saw that report from Columbia University and it is a disgrace that they would play right to their little group of people to tell them what to do.”

And face masks are stupid too. Kim is back to building nukes and we just started a new nuclear arms race that will be just like the old days, when one mistake could incinerate the planet, and China is refusing to be the bad guy and asking the world to take a closer look at Donald Trump, but yes, face masks are stupid.

No, they’re not, but Trump could be up to something. The Washington Post’s Toluse Olorunnipa and Ashley Parker explain that:

Flush with record amounts of cash and a massive organization, President Trump and his allies had planned to spend the spring unleashing a torrent of withering attacks against Joe Biden in an attempt to define him in the eyes of voters before the former vice president could do so himself.

But the coronavirus pandemic upended those plans – delaying the campaign’s blitz of paid negative television ads until earlier this month, and forcing a reckoning over what kind of campaign can be effective during a time of historic unemployment and mass death.

Trump’s moves in recent days make clear that the president has decided to revive the disruptive themes of his 2016 bid, aimed at branding his opponent as a corrupt member of the Washington establishment and himself as an insurgent problem-solver. It’s a message that often has seemed incongruent with the present reality as Trump leads the federal government’s response to the worst crisis in a generation.

In short, if you hate the government and everything the government does, then I’m your man! I run the government and see, it does next to nothing! Reelect me and it will do even less, because I hate the government just as much as you do! Biden, on the other hand, thinks an effective government would be a good thing, which is stupid:

“Sleepy Joe cannot bring us to greatness,” Trump tweeted Saturday morning about Biden before heading to his golf resort in Virginia. “He is the reason I’m here!”

That seems to be the pitch to voters:

Trump’s supporters see in Biden a kind of stand-in for Hillary Clinton, the candidate Trump defeated in 2016, and say the pandemic won’t obscure the former vice president’s flaws. They have highlighted Biden’s lack of an enthusiastic voter base, a slew of Republican investigations into his actions as vice president and his four-decade career in the nation’s capital.

“I think it’s really analogous to 2016 in lots of major thematic ways,” said David Urban, a political adviser to the president and his campaign, who led Trump’s Pennsylvania effort in 2016. “If you switch out Clinton for Biden, it overlays pretty amazingly, with the exception that Biden is now even further to the left of Clinton and I never could have dreamed of that.”

That’s the pitch. Biden would get things done. We can’t have that. But there’s the other view:

Members of Biden’s team – many of whom worked with Clinton four years ago – say things are dramatically different this time around.

“All of us know that this is nothing like 2016,” said John Anzalone, a pollster for Biden who worked for the Clinton campaign that year. “Joe Biden isn’t Hillary Clinton.”

Anzalone pointed to public polling indicating that Trump’s handling of the coronavirus has cost him significantly with voters, who give the president low marks for his stewardship. Biden has gained ground with suburban voters, independent voters and senior citizens, groups that had previously leaned toward Trump but have drifted away during his presidency, Anzalone said.

And there’s this:

A Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday showed Trump trailing Biden by 11 points, one of the biggest gaps to date. In addition to a 50 percent to 39 percent national lead, Biden also outscored Trump on honesty, leadership skills and caring about average Americans. Voters were split over which candidate would do a better job handling the economy, an issue that had been a source of strength for Trump before the pandemic.

Polling also has indicated that people who dislike both Trump and Biden now lean strongly toward Biden, in a shift from 2016, when Trump won voters who disliked both candidates in the race.

The president and his allies quickly dismissed the negative polling, pointing to 2016 as a cautionary tale for pundits.

They know. The polls are always wrong. Trump always wins. And so things fall into place:

A senior administration official said that part of Trump’s campaign will include linking Biden to an alleged attempt to hamstring the incoming administration before Trump was inaugurated.

“The narrative is going to be they set us up to fail from day one,” the official said. “The swamp was trying to stop the outsider president. We were able to succeed, but before we were even inaugurated, this is what we were up against.”

Democrats describe all of those efforts as diversionary tactics that carry little weight at a time when Americans are dealing with Depression-level unemployment and fears about their personal well-being.

Jennifer Palmieri, Clinton’s communications director in 2016, dismissed the Trump administration’s moves as “fabricated attacks” that will only turn off voters who are more interested in the “actual existential threat” posed by the coronavirus.

But what about Joe Scarborough, and don’t all of you think masks are stupid? Coronavirus isn’t really an actual existential threat, is it? And neither is global thermonuclear war next week, is it? Trump is asking those questions.

He might not like the answer.

About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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