An Old Age Question

Whenever we ask out Trump-loving friends why they continue to support him despite everything, the most frequent answer we get is that Joe Biden is senile. It’s now a common trope on the rightwing talk radio shows and some of the Fox News opinion programs, where they love to endlessly replay a montage of the Democratic presidential nominee mispronouncing words, momentarily losing his train of thought, and stumbling through sentences.
style-“text-indent:20px;”>It is indeed pretty embarrassing, and enough to raise questions about electing a 77-year-old. Some of it is the sort of thing that even a hearty 50 year old might say at the end of a long day of non-stop talking on the campaign trail. Also, every cable network and late night comedy show has a montage of Trump that is longer and even more damning.
By now the 73-year-old Trump is well known for malapropisms. He wanted to look into the “oranges” of the Mueller investigation. He responded to a question by saying “When you say per capita, there are many per capitas so you have to ask yourself “per capita relative to what?” He boasted of the great work being done by his “adminstrazizess.” His always misspelled and randomly capitalized “tweets” have featured similar offenses against the English language.
just this week Trump has spoken of the “Yo-Semite” National Park, although he quickly changed that to “Yo-Seminite.” He also pronounced Thailand as “Highland.” ,Similar examples are far too numerous to list, and at least twice a day the president says something that subjects him too late night ridicule.
Which is not to mention Trump’s penchant for making such obviously insane suggestions as injecting bleach into Covid-19 patients and stopping hurricanes with nuclear bombs.
Both make a case for nominating younger leaders, as most people’s mental sharpness starts to decline after ge 60 even if they accumulate more knowledge and wisdom. Alas, none of the younger generations have stood out for their leadership, and America is left to decide which of two septuagenarians is less senile.

— Bud Norman

It’ll Go Away, Eventually

During his Wednesday coronavirus briefing, President Donald Trump remained as hopeful as ever in deus ex machina solution arriving soon. “It’s going away,” Trump said.”It’ll go away, like things go away. There’s no question in my mind it will go away.”
As much as we admire Trump’s eternal optimism, we don’t think it’s a sufficient strategy for getting the coronavirus under control. Trump cited some rosy statistics from various states that have been recently, but didn’t note that might be because of insufficient and botched testing. He largely ignored the larger picture. More than 158 Americans have died of Covid-19, the death toll continues to mount at a rate just under 1,000 a day, More than 4,830,900 Americans have been infected, and although most will live through a painful recovery many will have suffered permanent lung damage. Things are getting better in some places, for now, but overall the situation remains grim and grows grimmer by the day”.
“It is what it is,” Trump said twice during a disastrous interview with Axios’ Jonathan Swan that aired Saturday on HBO. Eager not to seem callous about it, he insisted that the coronavirus was under control to the extent anyone could control it. Meanwhile, the government’s top expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, was telling CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta that America had the worst outbreak in the world and that most other countries had done a better job.
The American public will reach its own conclusion on Election Day. Trump had better hope that the coronavirus will have just gone away by then.

— Bud Norman

Over-Promise, Under-Deliver, Repeat

Several weeks ago Trump announced that in two weeks he would be signing a bill to massively overhaul America’s health system, which was obviously balderdash. Even with a Democratic president and both chambers of Congress controlled by Democrats, it took months of acrimonious debate for Obamacare to be passed, and given a Democratic House majority Trump clearly couldn’t get anything done in two weeks. Trump doesn’t mind telling such obvious and inevitably disproved lies, however.
A few weeks before the last mid-term elections Trump promised to sign a 10 percent middle class bill, which came as a surprise to both the then-Republican Speaker of the House and the Senate majority leader, who admitted they were unaware of any such legislation. The promise was quickly forgotten after the Democrats won a large House majority, but he still looked pretty damn stupid.
From the he announced his candidacy Trump has promised a plan to repeal Obamacare and replace it with something that would cover every American a far lower cost. He never revealed that plan, however, and even with Republicans in control of Congress he couldn’t win a repeal because there was still no better replacement on the table.
This time around Trump has at least issued an executive order to expand the popular “telehealth” program that was created in response to the coronavirus epidemic, which is a good idea but hardly the major overhaul of the health system he as long promised. Over-promising and under-living has been Trump’s style since his business, and no amount of bankruptcies has caused him to question it.
Eventually it leads to further erosion of the public’s confidence that the President is telling us the truth, though, and makes his next grandiose all the more dubious.

— Bud Norman

A Dreary Day for Democracy in Kansas

Today is primary election day here in Kansas, and for the first time we’re not looking forward. We’ll show up at our polling place, but more to keep our perfect record intact that because of any enthusiasm for any of the candidates.
The big deal is the race for the Republican nomination for a rare vacated Senate seat, and it’s been an orgy of mud-slinging. The two main contenders are former Kansas Secretary of Kris Kobach and former doctor and current First District congressman, although businessman Bob Hamilton’s well-funded campaign still has a long shot. All three are pro-gun, pro-life, anti-immigrant and pro-Trump, not necessarily in that order, so they only way they can distinguish themselves is by attacking the others.
Most of the accusations that have been hurled are true. Kobach’s anti-immigration zealotry has led to accusations of racism, and it turns out his longtime friend and campaign advisor has been donating to explicitly white nationalist causes and posting some very nasty things on white power sites. Marshall did indeed once try to run a a neighbor over in his pickup trucks, and did indeed get off virtually scot-free with help from political cronies. We’ve forgotten what Hamilton was accused of, but vaguely recall there was something to it.
Fortunately, there is a fourth option, although most Republicans won’t know that until they look at the ballot, as he has little name recognition and small amount of campaign money and left out of the mud-fight. He’s David Lindstrom, a former defensive end for the Kansas City Chiefs who into business an became a Johnson County commissioner after hanging up his cleats. His campaign has stressed such pre-Trump Republican issues as balanced budgets and a sound agricultural policy. He’ll definitely get our vote.
We don’t much like our incumbent Fourth District Congressman Ron Estes, and will vote for any quixotic kook whose name might appear on the ballot. If there isn’t one, we’ll write in the name of our friend Bob Weeks, a stalwart fellow Never Trumper.
Still, we’ll rouse our limited and energy and our civic duty.

— Bud Norman

The Grand Unified Field Conspiracy Theory

Of all the wacky conspiracy theories afloat these days — and they are more plentiful than ever — the wackiest and most dangerous is QAnon. The theory is that President Donald is secretly working to round up and arrest a shadowy international cabal of well-positioned Satan-worshipping child molesters who have been running the world for decades. All of Trump’s critics, according the theory, are in on it.
As far-fetched as that might sound, a lot of people believe it, and President Donald Trump subtly encourages that belief. His son has “retweeted” QAnon posts, people in “Q” t-shirts have long been prominent and welcome at the rallies he used to hold, and he’s never refuted the theory, and he’s set to endorse several Republican House candidates who openly embrace QAnon. Given that the theory casts Trump as a messianic figure bravely fighting the powers of darkness, and explains his frequent misspellings random capitalizations in his “tweets” as code talk to the faithful, so he’s not likely to dispute it.
It all started when someone calling himself “Q,” which refers to the highest level security clearance, claimed he was working within the “deep state” and was aware of its international Satanic child molesting program. There’s no way of knowing who “Q” actually is, and nothing to back up his claims, but conspiracy theorists don’t require any proof to be convinced.

Some of “Q’s” prophecies have already been disproved by events. He told his followers that special investigator Robert Mueller was actually working with Trump against the cabal, and only pretending to be at odds with the president as cover. Some of the QAnon followers still probably believe that, but they’ll have to come up with something pretty ingenious to explain why. “Q” had also predicted that Trump would round up all the villains before they thwart his presidential reelection, but he has only three months to make that prediction come true, and we wouldn’t bet on it. Jeffrey Epstein an Ghislaine Maxwell did run a child ring and had such friends as former President Bill Clinton and Prince Andrew of Britain as well as Trump, but Epstein died of reported heart attack while in prison and Maxwell is in jail awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges, and although Trump has wished her well she’s probably not powerful enough to escape justice. In any case, it’s not the mass round-up that “Q” promised.

QAnon is a spinoff from the “Pizzagate” theory that was popular during the 2016, which theorized that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton was running a child sex ring from the basement of a specific D.C pizza parlor, and it inspired a gunman to invade the restaurant before discovering it had no basement and giving himself up local police, explaining that he’d received “bad intel.” QAnon has also inspired several acts and criminal cases, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation has concluded it is one of the “anti-government, identity-based, and fringe political theories” that “very likely motivate some domestic extremists to commit criminal acts,”
Still, Trump will give the QAnon “community a wink and a nod, and welcome its support. The president is an avid fan of conspiracy theories, blaming his Russian and Ukrainian scandals on the “deep state,” and is already warning that a Democratic plot is afoot to use mail-in ballots to deny him a landslide reelection. Most sane people reject such fanciful conjecture, and although they’re dwindling in numbers we hope they’ll still prevail on Election Day.

— Bud Norman

Like Nobody’s Ever Seen

Not so long ago President Donald Trump was plausibly bragging about the best economy, and hoping that would carry him to reelection despite everything else. The latest economic figures suggest we’re now in the worst economy ever, however, and Trump is struggling to find another argument.
The jobs and gross domestic product numbers are undeniably gruesome. Another 1.4 million Americans have applied for unemployment benefits in the past week, bringing the overall unemployment rate to 14.7, which is higher than in any previous post-war recession. Over the past three months the GDP shrank at an annualized rate of 32.9 percent, which is even worse than the worst quarter of the Great Depression.
The cause of all this the coronavirus epidemic, which is unlikely to away by Election Day, and is currently getting worse in many parts of the country. Trump does his best to defend his administration’s response, but but he’s not convincing any skeptics and even losing some supporters. He’s peddling a cure that most scientists believe would do more harm than good, relying on the advice of some very dubious doctors, and has resisted public health measures a consensus of medial opinion are urging. Some of his die-hard supporters will appreciate his defiance, but the rest of the country won’t.
Lacking a boast-worthy record to run on, Trump is instead pursuing two related strategies. One is o claim that his expected loss in the election will be due only to massive fraud by mail-in ballots, and the other is to argue that his Democratic opponents “sick people” bent on destroying everything good about America. Trump will have a hard-time arguing that the man he’s nicknamed “Sleepy” Joe Biden is up to such a gargantuan task, and there’s nothing in Biden’s 40 year record that suggests he want to do it.
Trump “tweeted” a suggestion that the election be delayed, but his most loyal allies in the Senate shot that down, and a few extra weeks of a deadly epidemic currently killing an American every minute and a continued Great Depression economy wouldn’t do him much good.

— Bud Norman

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Big Tech

Even in these hyper-partisan times, Democrats and Republicans alike can at least agree on one thing. Both sides share an intense dislike of the giant tech firms that dominate social media and on-line commerce.
The House’s top antitrust subcommittee called the chief executive officers of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google to testify, and they all came in for harsh questioning from both sides of the aisle. The two sides didn’t have the same complaints, as Democrats are mostly worried the companies are using their considerable clout to crush potential competitors, while the Republicans are mostly worried the companies have a left-wing bias and are censoring right-of-center opinions.
Both sides came with evidence-backed questions the CEO’s had difficulty answering, but we can’t get on board with the booing and hissing.
We don’t worry much about monopolies, as they tend go away without any government intervention. Once upon a time there was worry that Sears & Roebuck would wipe out every Main Street retailer in America, but no one is afraid of the company anymore. More recently Wal-Mart was expected to dominate the retail sector of the economy, but it’s now a distant second to Amazon, which is so dominant that some big money will try to take a chunk out of its market share, and by that time Amazon will be too ponderous to respond to whatever new idea the competition comes up with. Apple is powerful, but it’s a stretch to say they have a monopoly on the rapidly developing computer industry. If you don’t like Google you can search the internet on Bing, which is owned by the Microsoft Corporation that once seemed poised to take over the world. Facebook doesn’t have any significant competition in social media business at the moment, but we notice that people routinely abandon it and assume they’re finding other ways to share pictures of what they’re having for dinner.
As for the worries about censorship, we only worry when the government is doing the censoring. We’re free speech purists, but we also support the right of any company decide what information it wants to disseminate. Some on the right are angry that a video calling itself Frontline Doctors has been pulled from most of the social media platforms for being skeptical about face masks and social business and economic restrictions, saying that hydroxychloroquine is a proved cure, but they also believes that some gynecological diseases are caused by women having sex with demons in their dreams and doctors are creating medicines with alien DNA and the Illuminati are developing a vaccine against religious belief. We can’t see why any conservative would want to equate that with conservatism, and conservatives should also distance themselves from the conspiracy theories and racist rants that are routinely banned. There are still other places to post such nonsense, and if they’re not as widely viewed there’s a free market reason for that.
It’s nice to see both sides united, if only for a moment and for far different reasons, but it’s hard to see them coming up with any legislative solution that will satisfy everyone. For now, we have bigger problems to worry about than Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google.

— Bud Norman

If It Quacks Like a Doctor

Donald Trump Jr.’s Twitter account was restricted on Tuesday due to violations of the company’s policy against spreading disinformation about the coronavirus. His father spread the very same disinformation to q wider audience without consequences, but wound up looking justice as foolish.
Both Trumps shared a short video by a group calling itself Frontline Doctors, and emphasized a statement by a Houston pediatrician who said that there’s no need to wear face masks in public or practice social distancing or ban mass gatherings because she has used a mix of hydroxyclhoroquine, zinc and zithromax to cure 300 patients of the disease. There is no proof that a pediatrician with a small clinic in a strip mall has cured any COVID-19 cases, and o credible medical organization endorses these views, with the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and World Health Organization all having conducted studies showing it does not work and poses additional risks to people.
President Trump continues to tout the benefits of hydroxychloroqine, and seemed happy to hear from anyone share that view, and noted in Tuesday’s public health briefing that “I took it 14 days, and I’m still here,” and then endorsed Immannuel as “a woman who was spectacular in her statements about it.” When a reporter noted that Immanuel also believes many gynecological problems are caused by women having sex with demons in their dreams, and that pharmaceutical companies are using “alien DNA” to create medicines, along with other conspiracy theories, Trump backed off slightly.
“I can tell you this,” Trump said. “She on the air with many other doctors, they were big fans of hydroxychloroquine, but I know nothing about her.”
So Trump winds up admitting he’s basing public health policy on the word of someone he knows nothing about. Which is not reassuring.
Trump also criticized Twitter for restricting his son’s account, and groused about how many negative stories will appear on Google is you search for his name. Facebook and all the other major social media platform banished the Frontline Doctors, but Immanuel seemed unworried about it, “tweeting” “Hello Facebook put back my profile page and videos up or your computers will start crashing till you do. You are not bigger that God. I promise you. If my page is not back up face book will be down in Jesus name.”
Later in the press briefing Trump conceded that Dr. Anthony Fauci is more popular than himself, and wondered aloud why that might be, concluding “maybe it’s my personality.” We’re not at all fond of Trump’s personality, but there’s probably more to it than that. Fauci’s credentials as an epidemiologists are better than Trump’s and Immanuel’s combined, and most of what he says is the consensus of the world’s leading experts, and people might like Trump better if he followed the best advice rather than quackery of someone he knows nothing about.

— Bud Norman

When Coronavirus Hits Home

Our hometown of Wichita largely locked down at the moment, a response to the increase in coronavirus that followed a brief unlocking, and that’s unsettling enough. Worse yet, we’ve learned that we’re in the most infected part of town.
The 67203 zip code is a nice area, comprised mostly of the picturesque Riverside neighborhood and the adjacent historic Delano district, and the folks here are mostly friendly and don’t deserve this. We attribute the high infection rate to facts that it’s in heart of the city, and that Riverside’s many parks and art museum and botanical garden as well as Delano’s popular nightspots draw many visitors from all around the city. Also, people here tend to socialize with their neighbors more than in other parts of town.
These are usually selling points for the area, but not during a coronavirus epidemic. Suddenly it’s better to be of those boring suburbs no ventures into except to deliver packages and nobody even knows his neighbors.
There’s not much to do about it except to stay at home as much as possible and wear a face mask when forced to venture outside. We’ve already been doing that for what seems an eternity, and try to be even more strict about it until given an all-clear signal by the local health officials. At this point we’re willing toke our chances, but we don’t want to put any of our nice neighbors at risk.

— Bud Norman

The Next 99 Days

Several stories we read on Sunday noted the presidential election was 100 days away, so by our calculations there are only 99 days to go. President Donald Trump spent much of Sunday golfing with former Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre, but starting today he should spend more time in the office.
The latest batch of public opinion polls were released on Saturday, and they’re even worse for Trump than the last batch, which were very bad. Trump can believe that each of the 19 polls released are “fake news,” but just in case they’re not he’ll need to deal effectively with very serious problems in the country.
The coronavirus will eventually “just go away,” as Trump has long promised, but it probably won’t happen in the 99 days. So far, with the death toll past 146,000 and cases spiking and hospital filling up in parts of the country he’ll need for reelection, the public seems unimpressed with his response. The states were the worst increases are occurring were states that Trump urged to fully reopen their economies earlier than health officials had advised, and all of their Republican governors are now restoring the measures and even ordering face masks in public, yet Trump continues to urge a laissez faire coronavirus response. The problem is bad enough that Trump reluctantly cancelled his convention in Florida, but he believes it not so bad that children can’t be back in school by mid-August, although most public health experts and the administration of the elite private school Trump sends his youngest son disagree.
So long as the coronavirus persists the economy will remain at its Great Depression level, and Trump seems indifferent to the tens of millions of unemployed who are set to lose the government largesse they’re counting on to pay rent and buy groceries. Nor does Trump want to offend the free market Republicans who are rightly worried about the exorbitant cost, although it probably won’t help the economy if tends of millions stop paying rent and buying groceries, and so he doesn’t have any alternative solutions to offer.
There’s also been outbreaks of rioting and looting and property destruction around, and although that would be bad news for most presidents in ordinary circumstances it actually gives Trump a glimmer of hope. He clearly intends to frighten the country to such an extent that they’ll turn to Trump, but that also carries political risks. Rioting and looting and property destruction are not at all popular, but sending militarized secret police units into cities where they are not wanted and beating and teargassing peaceful protests as well as violent rioters is also unpopular. Once again, Trump seems to have no middle-ground solution.
The president will probably spend most of the next 99 days trying to convince the public that presumptive Democratic nominee Joe is a greater threat than anything Trump is dealing with now. He’s already accused Biden of wanting to defund the police and hand the country to the “left wing mobs,” as we as wanting to “abolish the suburbs” and “ban windows” and “shut down” America’s energy industries except for those cancer-causing wind turbines, but it’s going to be a hard sell even for such a formidable salesman as Trump. “Sleepy Joe” has been Trump’s preferred taunting nickname, but it doesn’t sound very scary, and we expect that many Americans would now appreciate a president sleepier then Trump. Trump had also derided Biden as a “career politician,” which is true given his 40 years of public service in the Senate and as Vice President, but by now an experienced hand might seem appealing to a lot of Americans, and there’s nothing in that 40-year record that indicates he might turn America over to rampaging mobs or abolish the suburbs or ban windows and close a vital sector of the American economy.
Seventy-four-year-old Trump also likes to question the cognitive abilities of the 77-year-old Biden, but that would be more effective he stopped boasting about his ability to distinguish a lion from a camel and recited the words Person Woman Man Camera TV in order and count backward from 100 by seven. Biden has long been gaffe-prone, and will have many gaffes in the next 99 days, but none will probably be on the order of suggesting COVID-19 patients be injected with bleach or sending best wishes to an accused sex trafficker.
Trump still has 99 days, though, and he’s a resourceful fellow. Except that despite his best efforts to prevent early voting starts in early September in many states.
— Bud Norman