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Highlights and Lowlights

But… so… I think… I think it would be… I think it would be very, very… I think we’d have a very, very solid — we would continue what we’re doing. We’d solidify what we’ve done. And we have other things on our plate that we want to get done.

Donald Trump, when asked to elaborate on his plans for a second term.

———

Well, Joe Biden is now the official Democratic nominee for president, and, although I usually tune out both conventions, I watched about half of the Democratic proceedings. The party did surprisingly well. They got creative and made the event enjoyable despite the absence of the usual crowds and hoopla.

As for the Republicans, I didn’t watch a single second of their rubbish. I did some reading, and I watched DVD movies instead. CNN and MSNBC reported the GOP lowlights in great detail, so I was adequately informed about the lies, poison, and alternate reality that Trump’s relatives and sycophants were selling.

You’re aware, I assume, that holding campaign-related events at the White House and other public properties is illegal. You can’t use a government facility as a political prop, so the Republicans were in egregious violation, numerous times, of the Hatch Act. I’m sure the Attorney General will do his job in that regard.

And, always classy, the conservatives sat shoulder-to-shoulder and declined to wear face masks at the GOP events. No surprise there.

No surprise, either, that the two conventions so perfectly highlighted the difference between Democrats and Republicans. Especially in these wretched times, the two parties are as different as the Elves of Lothlórien and the Orcs of Mordor. And we all know which is which.

Consider the following excerpts from speeches by the Trump people, who were in wild-eyed-and-hysterical mode.

———

Kimberly Guilfoyle

This election is a battle for the soul of America. Your choice is clear. Do you support the cancel culture? The cosmopolitan elites of Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, and Joe Biden, who blame America first? Do you think America is to blame? Or do you believe in American greatness? Believe in yourself? In President Trump? In individual and personal responsibility?

They want to destroy this country and everything that we have fought for and hold dear. They want to steal your liberty, your freedom. They want to control what you see and think and believe so that they can control how you live. They want to enslave you to the weak, dependent, liberal victim ideology to the point that you will not recognize this country or yourself.

Don’t let the Democrats take you for granted. Don’t let them step on you. Don’t let them destroy your families, your lives, and your future.

Don’t let them kill future generations because they told you and brainwashed you and fed you lies that you weren’t good enough.

Matt Gaetz

I’m speaking to you from an auditorium emptier than Joe Biden’s daily schedule. But we are a nation of full hearts and clear minds. We see the choice clearly: strength or weakness, energy or confusion, success or failure.

We must fight to save America now or we may lose her forever. Joe Biden might not even notice. Settle for Biden — that’s the hashtag promoted by AOC and the socialists. The woketopians will settle for Biden because they will make him an extra in a movie written, produced, and directed by others.

It’s a horror film really. They’ll disarm you, empty the prisons, lock you in your home and invite MS-13 to live next door.

The McCloskeys (Who pleased Trump by waving guns at protesters walking near their mansion)

Mark McCloskey: Whether it’s defunding the police, ending cash bail so criminals can be released back out on the streets the same day to riot again, or encouraging anarchy on our streets, it seems as if Democrats no longer view the government’s job as protecting honest citizens from criminals, but rather protecting criminals from honest citizens.

Patricia McCloskey: They are not satisfied with spreading the chaos and violence into our communities. They want to abolish the suburbs altogether by ending single-family home zoning. This forced rezoning would bring crime, lawlessness and low-quality apartments into thriving suburban neighborhoods. President Trump smartly ended this government overreach, but Joe Biden wants to bring it back.

Mark McCloskey: At this moment in history, if you stand up for yourself and for the values our country was founded on, the mob — spurred on by their allies in the media — will try to destroy you. Trump brought us the greatest economy our country had ever seen. The Democrats have brought us nothing but destruction.

Jim Jordan

The Republican party is the pro-America party. President Trump is the pro-America candidate. This election is about who can preserve the values, principles, and institutions that make America great.

Don’t believe me? Look at what’s happening in American cities — cities all run by Democrats, crime violence and mob rule. Democrats refuse to denounce the mob, and their response to the chaos: “defund the police,” “defund border patrol” and “defund our military.”

While they’re doing all this, they’re also trying to take away your guns. Look at the positions they’ve taken in the past few months, Democrats won’t let you go to church, but they let you protest.

Donald Trump, Jr.

People of faith are under attack. You’re not allowed to go to church, but mass chaos in the streets gets a pass. It’s almost like this election is shaping up to be church, work, and school vs. rioting, looting and vandalism — or, in the words of Biden and the Democrats, “peaceful protesting.”

Anarchists have been flooding our streets and Democrat mayors are ordering the police to stand down. Small businesses across America — many of them minority owned — are being torched by mobs.

Joe Biden is basically the Loch Ness Monster of the Swamp. For the past half-century, he’s been lurking around in there. He sticks his head up every now and then to run for President, then he disappears and doesn’t do much in between.

So if you’re looking for hope, look to the man who did what the failed Obama-Biden Administration never could do, and built the greatest economy our country had ever seen. And President Trump will do it again.

Nikki Haley

Last time, Joe’s boss was Obama. This time, it would be Pelosi, Sanders, and the Squad. Their vision for America is socialism. And we know that socialism has failed everywhere.

They want to tell Americans how to live and what to think. They want a government takeover of health care. They want to ban fracking and kill millions of jobs. They want massive tax hikes on working families. Joe Biden and the socialist left would be a disaster for our economy.

———

I repeat: wild-eyed and hysterical.

Too bad they didn’t have time to mention the rampaging pandemic that, on their watch, is killing one thousand Americans a day.

To be clear, I don’t think most Republican politicians are bark-at-the-moon crazy. I think they’re just opportunists and hypocrites. Based on the messaging, however, they do seem to think their followers are hopeless loons. And maybe they’re right.

For a refreshing contrast to the feverish ranting of the Trump people, consider these excerpts from several Democratic Party speakers.

———

Jill Biden

How do you make a broken family whole? The same way you make a nation whole: with love and understanding, and with small acts of kindness, with bravery, with unwavering faith. You show up for each other in big ways and small ones, again and again.

We’re coming together, and holding onto each other. We’re finding mercy and grace in the moments we might have once taken for granted. We’re seeing that our differences are precious, and our similarities infinite. We have shown that the heart of this nation still beats with kindness, and courage.

Michele Obama

So what do we do now? What’s our strategy? Over the past four years, a lot of people have asked me, “When others are going so low, does going high still really work?” My answer: going high is the only thing that works, because when we go low, when we use those same tactics of degrading and dehumanizing others, we just become part of the ugly noise that’s drowning out everything else. We degrade ourselves. We degrade the very causes for which we fight.

But let’s be clear: going high does not mean putting on a smile and saying nice things when confronted by viciousness and cruelty. Going high means taking the harder path. It means scraping and clawing our way to that mountain top. Going high means standing fierce against hatred while remembering that we are one nation under God, and if we want to survive, we’ve got to find a way to live together and work together across our differences.

Kamala Harris

I’m inspired by a new generation of leadership. You are pushing us to realize the ideals of our nation, pushing us to live the values we share: decency and fairness, justice and love.

Years from now, this moment will have passed. And our children and our grandchildren will look in our eyes and ask us: Where were you when the stakes were so high? They will ask us, what was it like? And we will tell them. We will tell them, not just how we felt. We will tell them what we did.

Joe Biden

All elections are important. But we know in our bones this one is more consequential.

America is at an inflection point. A time of real peril, but of extraordinary possibilities. We can choose the path of becoming angrier, less hopeful, and more divided. A path of shadow and suspicion. Or we can choose a different path, and together, take this chance to heal, to be reborn, to unite. A path of hope and light.

This is a life-changing election that will determine America’s future for a very long time. Character is on the ballot. Compassion is on the ballot. Decency, science, democracy. They are all on the ballot. Who we are as a nation. What we stand for. And, most importantly, who we want to be. That’s all on the ballot. And the choice could not be clearer.

———

Could not be clearer, indeed.

The best GOP line of the week came from Congressman Gaetz, who said, “They’ll disarm you, empty the prisons, lock you in your home and invite MS-13 to live next door.” I know the quote is genuine because I saw the video clip.

That statement is so absurd, so over-the-top, so Kafkaesque that it warrants special mention. Gaetz deserves a creativity award in the category of histrionics.

This is the way I see it: Democrats are not hard to understand. They simply want to make life better for themselves and others. Liberals are honest and straightforward about their main goal, which is to pool and use our resources for the greater good. No need to lie or obfuscate.

But conservatives are virtually the opposite. For assorted reasons, mostly related to mental and emotional abnormalities, they are frightened, angry, and defensive. Which makes them small-minded and closed-minded.

The Republicans have devolved into cartoon villains, which might be a source of macabre amusement if their actions weren’t so harmful — if they hadn’t saddled us with Donald Trump, an immoral, no-talent conman, cheat, and traitor.

Trump should not hold elected office of any kind because he is solidly under the control of Vladimir Putin. Trump knows Putin can ruin him in a heartbeat by calling in all those decades of shady loans and spilling all those decades of accumulated dirt.

I thank God I’m a liberal. I am so grateful to have nothing whatsoever in common with the conservatives, or with our disgrace of a president, or with the certifiable wackos of the right-wing. (A juicy example: the QAnon nut-jobs who claim Trump was elected to save us from the secret worldwide cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophile cannibals. Seriously?)

The right-wingers have been a steadily growing menace for decades. Now, owing to their criminal mishandling of the pandemic, they are literally killing people.

Vote! And for crying out loud, vote for Democrats. We need to let the fresh air back in. We have a mess to start cleaning up.

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Crème de la Crème

I spent some time recently, probably too much time, reading up on the all-time best guitar work in rock music. Or, more accurately, various opinions on the subject.

A good guitar riff is a deeply satisfying thing. And, because tastes vary widely, the subject is gloriously, wonderfully subjective.

I’m partial to Hotel California, Bad Moon Rising, and Money for Nothing. I don’t care much for Iron Man and Smells Like Teen Spirit. But that’s just one dude’s opinion.

My research protocol consisted of reading countless online lists of favorites compiled by fans, music pros, etc. Sometimes, the lists ranked the songs in order, sometimes not. When ranked, Smoke on the Water appeared in first place most often.

My takeaway: regardless of personal taste and the subjectivity angle, most of the lists contained — would you believe it? — more or less the same songs.

Namely, these 25, which I list alphabetically; ranking them would be presumptuous and not cool.

———

Another One Bites the Dust, Queen
Bad Moon Rising, Creedence Clearwater Revival
Back in Black, AC/DC
Black Dog, Led Zeppelin
Born to Be Wild, Steppenwolf
Born to Run, Bruce Springsteen
Day Tripper, The Beatles
Enter Sandman, Metallica
Free Bird, Lynyrd Skynyrd
Heartbreaker, Led Zeppelin
Hotel California, The Eagles
Iron Man, Black Sabbath
Johnny B. Goode, Chuck Berry
Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Rolling Stones
Layla, Derek and the Dominoes
Money, Pink Floyd
Money for Nothing, Dire Straits
Pretty Woman, Roy Orbison
Purple Haze, Jimi Hendrix
Satisfaction, Rolling Stones
Smells Like Teen Spirit, Nirvana
Smoke on the Water, Deep Purple
Sweet Child of Mine, Guns n’ Roses
Sweet Home Alabama, Lynyrd Skynyrd
Voodoo Child, Jimi Hendrix

———

That, my friends, is a righteous list of tunes.

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Last week, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) made a speech on the House floor that was a pleasure to hear and will be remembered for a long time. I chased down the transcript.

———

Thank you, Madam Speaker. And I would also like to thank many of my colleagues for the opportunity to not only speak today, but for the many members from both sides of the aisle who have reached out to me for support following the incident this week.

About two days ago, I was walking up the steps of the Capitol when Representative Yoho [Rep. Ted Yoho, R-FL] suddenly turned a corner — and he was accompanied by Representative Roger Williams — and accosted me on the steps right here in front of our nation’s Capitol.

I was minding my own business, walking up the steps, and Representative Yoho put his finger in my face. He called me “disgusting.” He called me “crazy.” He called me “out of my mind.” And he called me “dangerous.”

And then he took a few more steps, and after I had… recognized his comments as rude, he walked away and said ‘I’m rude? You’re calling me rude?’

I took a few steps ahead and I walked inside and cast my vote, because my constituents send me here each and every day to fight for them and to make sure they are able to keep a roof over their head, that they are able to feed their families, and that they are able to carry their lives with dignity.

I walked back out, and there were reporters in the front of the Capitol, and in front of reporters, Representative Yoho called me, and I quote, “a fucking bitch.”

These were the words that Representative Yoho levied against a congresswoman, the congresswoman that not only represents New York’s 14th Congressional District, but every congresswoman and every woman in this country, because all of us have had to deal with this in some form, some way, some shape, at some point in our lives.

And I want to be clear that Representative Yoho’s comments were not deeply hurtful or piercing to me, because I have worked a working class job. I have waited tables in restaurants, I have ridden the subway. I have walked the streets in New York City. And this kind of language is not new. I have encountered words uttered by Mr. Yoho and men uttering the same words as Mr. Yoho while I was being harassed in restaurants. I have tossed men out of bars that have used language like Mr. Yoho’s, and I have encountered this type of harassment riding the subway in New York City. This is not new. And that is the problem.

Mr. Yoho was not alone. He was walking shoulder to shoulder with Representative Roger Williams. And that’s when we start to see that this issue is not about one incident. It is cultural.

It is a culture of lack of impunity, of accepting of violence and violent language against women, an entire structure of power that supports that. Because not only have I been spoken to disrespectfully, particularly by members of the Republican party and elected officials in the Republican Party, not just here, but the President of the United States last year told me to “go home to another country,” with the implication that I don’t even belong in America. The Governor of Florida, Governor DeSantis, before I even was sworn in, called me a “whatever-that-is.”

Dehumanizing language is not new. And what we are seeing is that incidents like these are happening in a pattern. This is a pattern of an attitude towards women and dehumanization of others.

So while I was not deeply hurt or offended by little comments that were made, when I was reflecting on this, I honestly thought that I was just going to pack it up and go home. It’s just another day, right?

But then yesterday, Representative Yoho decided to come to the floor of the House of Representatives and make excuses for his behavior. And that I could not let go. I could not allow my nieces, I could not allow the little girls that I go home to, I could not allow victims of verbal abuse and worse, to see that — to see that excuse — and to see our Congress accept it as legitimate, and accept it as an apology, and to accept silence as a form of acceptance. I could not allow that to stand, which is why I am rising today to raise this point of personal privilege.

And I do not need Representative Yoho to apologize to me. Clearly, he does not want to. Clearly, when given the opportunity, he will not, and I will not stay up late at night waiting for an apology from a man who has no remorse over calling women and using abusive language towards women.

But what I do have issue with is using women, our wives and daughters, as shields and excuses for poor behavior.

Mr. Yoho mentioned that he has a wife and two daughters. I am two years younger than Mr. Yoho’s youngest daughter. I am someone’s daughter too.

My father, thankfully, is not alive to see how Mr. Yoho treated his daughter. My mother got to see Mr. Yoho’s disrespect on the floor of this House towards me on television. And I am here because I have to show my parents that I am their daughter, and that they did not raise me to accept abuse from men.

Now, what I am here to say is that this harm that Mr. Yoho levied — tried to levy — against me was not just an incident directed at me, but when you do that to any woman, what Mr. Yoho did was give permission to other men to do that to his daughters. In using that language in front of the press, he gave permission to use that language against his wife, his daughters, women in his community, and I am here to stand up to say that is not acceptable.

I do not care what your views are. It does not matter how much I disagree, or how much it incenses me, or how much I feel that people are dehumanizing others. I will not do that myself. I will not allow people to change and create hatred in our hearts.


And so what I believe is that having a daughter does not make a man decent. Having a wife does not make a decent man. Treating people with dignity and respect makes a decent man. And when a decent man messes up, as we all are bound to do, he tries his best and does apologize. Not to save face. Not to win a vote. He apologizes genuinely to repair and acknowledge the harm done so that we can all move on.

Lastly, what I want to express to Mr. Yoho is gratitude. I want to thank him for showing the world that you can be a powerful man and accost women. You can have daughters and accost women without remorse. You can be married and accost women. You can take photos and project an image to the world of being a family man and accost women without remorse and with a sense of impunity.

It happens every day in this country. It happened here on the steps of our nation’s Capitol. It happens when individuals who hold the highest office in this land admit — admit — to hurting women and using this language against all of us.

But once again, I thank my colleagues for joining us today. I will reserve the hour of my time and I will yield to my colleague, Rep. Jayapal of Washington. Thank you.

———

Several other House Democrats spoke after her. They had a tough act to follow.

Few Democrats get under the skin of the conservatives like AOC. She has a knack for making Republican politicians, chiefly the men, apoplectic with rage. They seem to abandon reason when she is involved. Invariably, they accuse her of being a socialist. Oh, the horror.

Who cares if she’s a socialist? More to the point, she believes in egalitarianism, not the “I’m for me first” philosophy of the Republicans. She supports Medicare for all, the Green New Deal, addressing climate change, and not being a jerk to women. Good for her.

The congresswoman has valuable skills, and she is a potent weapon for the Democrats. I hope the party has the sense to use her intelligently.

AOC

 

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Surreal Times

In my heart, I knew — knew with absolute certainty — that the right-wingers eventually would politicize COVID-19. I know these people.

For them, it is perfectly in character to object to physical distancing and wearing face masks because doing so infringes on their rights. And, for good measure, shows personal weakness.

These are, after all, the white MAGA faithful. These are manly men who brandish guns and Confederate flags in public. These are self-righteous women who cough on store clerks.

I’ve been around for a long time. My memories go back 65 or 70 years. I’ve watched in real time as the American political landscape has devolved from policy disagreements to a conservative right that has spazzed out and gone insane.

The political left, mind you, has changed very little over the decades. The liberal views and goals have remained quite consistent and, for the most part, rational and fair-minded. Meanwhile, the right wing has spiraled steadily downward into madness.

When I was young, conservative Republicans were led by honorable men. Dwight Eisenhower. Henry Cabot Lodge.

But over time, the Republicans morphed into caricatures of themselves. Eisenhower and Lodge became Nixon and Reagan.

Now, Nixon and Reagan have been replaced by a sea of cartoonish villains — McConnell, Cotton, Cruz, Hannity, Limbaugh.

And then there is Donald Trump.

To be clear, Trump is neither a Republican nor a conservative. He is a self-serving leech. But the Republicans, in a veritable pact with the devil, choose to stand with him.

As President, Trump is the personification of incompetence. And he has committed enough crimes — treason chief among them — to have been routed from office a dozen times.

Recently, news is out that Russian military intelligence paid bounties to Taliban fighters in Afghanistan to kill American troops. Trump is aware of this, but voices no objection. Now he claims the report is fake news and a hoax.

My first thought about this was of Trump’s sycophantic relationship with Putin. Trump won’t confront Putin about anything because Putin could ruin him. Putin is Comrade Trump’s banker.

My second thought was to marvel once again that Trump is “Teflon Don,” seemingly immune from being held accountable and ejected from office, as anyone else certainly would be.

The Access Hollywood tape came out, and he won election anyway. Illegally withholding military aid to Ukraine did not bring him down. Nor did obstruction of justice. Nor do daily violations of the emoluments clause.

Now Trump looks the other way while Putin offers cash to kill American soldiers. This is treasonous. Malfeasance. Dereliction of duty.

And the Republicans say nothing.

These are surreal times:

Trump’s shockingly awful and inept performance as president. The cowardly behavior of the Republicans. The fools at MAGA rallies, sitting shoulder to shoulder during a pandemic. The selfish jerks who endanger the health of others by refusing to take sensible precautions.

The oblivious crowds in bars and on beaches. The pathetic government response to COVID-19. The continuing spread of the virus in the U.S. while much of the rest of the world recovers.

I am ashamed of my country.

Trump bounty

Trump 1998

 

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Nate White is a British advertising copywriter. Last year, he wrote an article that explains Donald Trump’s personality and character with remarkable accuracy. I missed it at the time, but recently ran across it online.

White’s description of Trump is gloriously spot-on. He makes my own attempts seem inadequate, and God knows I’ve labored mightily to find words that adequately describe one of the worst human beings ever to besmirch the planet.

Here is White’s assessment of the Orange Vulgarian.

———

Why do some British people not like Donald Trump?

A few things spring to mind. Trump lacks certain qualities which the British traditionally esteem. For instance, he has no class, no charm, no coolness, no credibility, no compassion, no wit, no warmth, no wisdom, no subtlety, no sensitivity, no self-awareness, no humility, no honour and no grace – all qualities, funnily enough, with which his predecessor Mr. Obama was generously blessed. So for us, the stark contrast does rather throw Trump’s limitations into embarrassingly sharp relief.

Plus, we like a laugh. And while Trump may be laughable, he has never once said anything wry, witty or even faintly amusing – not once, ever. I don’t say that rhetorically, I mean it quite literally: not once, not ever.

And that fact is particularly disturbing to the British sensibility – for us, to lack humour is almost inhuman. But with Trump, it’s a fact. He doesn’t even seem to understand what a joke is – his idea of a joke is a crass comment, an illiterate insult, a casual act of cruelty.

Trump is a troll. And like all trolls, he is never funny and he never laughs; he only crows or jeers. And scarily, he doesn’t just talk in crude, witless insults – he actually thinks in them. His mind is a simple bot-like algorithm of petty prejudices and knee-jerk nastiness.

There is never any under-layer of irony, complexity, nuance or depth. It’s all surface. Some Americans might see this as refreshingly upfront. Well, we don’t. We see it as having no inner world, no soul.

And in Britain we traditionally side with David, not Goliath. All our heroes are plucky underdogs: Robin Hood, Dick Whittington, Oliver Twist. Trump is neither plucky, nor an underdog. He is the exact opposite of that. He’s not even a spoiled rich-boy, or a greedy fat-cat. He’s more a fat white slug. A Jabba the Hutt of privilege.

And worse, he is that most unforgivable of all things to the British: a bully. That is, except when he is among bullies; then he suddenly transforms into a snivelling sidekick instead. There are unspoken rules to this stuff – the Queensberry rules of basic decency – and he breaks them all.

He punches downwards – which a gentleman should, would, could never do – and every blow he aims is below the belt. He particularly likes to kick the vulnerable or voiceless – and he kicks them when they are down.

So the fact that a significant minority – perhaps a third – of Americans look at what he does, listen to what he says, and then think “Yeah, he seems like my kind of guy” is a matter of some confusion and no little distress to British people, given that:

• Americans are supposed to be nicer than us, and mostly are.

You don’t need a particularly keen eye for detail to spot a few flaws in the man.

This last point is what especially confuses and dismays British people, and many other people too; his faults seem pretty bloody hard to miss. After all, it’s impossible to read a single tweet, or hear him speak a sentence or two, without staring deep into the abyss. He turns being artless into an art form; he is a Picasso of pettiness; a Shakespeare of shit.

His faults are fractal: even his flaws have flaws, and so on ad infinitum. God knows there have always been stupid people in the world, and plenty of nasty people too. But rarely has stupidity been so nasty, or nastiness so stupid.

He makes Nixon look trustworthy and George W look smart. In fact, if Frankenstein decided to make a monster assembled entirely from human flaws – he would make a Trump.

And a remorseful Doctor Frankenstein would clutch out big clumpfuls of hair and scream in anguish: ‘My God… what… have… I… created?’ If being a twat was a TV show, Trump would be the boxed set.

Nate White, Advertising Creative (2006-present)
Drinks coffee. Writes copy.

———

A fat white slug. Assembled entirely from human flaws.

Well said, Mr. White. Well done, sir.

Trump and Elizabeth

 

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This Runaway Train

Recently, an ICU nurse wrote a harrowing, sobering account about treating COVID-19 patients. Her original story was on Facebook. I found it later on Imgur. It begins like this:

Julianne Nicole

Julianne Nicole continues in great detail about the reality of life in her ICU. She explains how the virus affects its victims and what can be done for them. Sometimes, very little.

Her report is frightening. On Imgur, the first comment at the end of the post was “Dear God.”

You owe it to yourself to read this.

After that, call your loved ones and pet your dog. Remind yourself that your duty right now is to be smart, venture out in moderation, and maintain a safe distance from others. Do it for the common good. It’s a small price to pay.

In addition, listen to the experts. Ignore the clown in the White House. Ignore the politicians pushing to reopen more businesses and public places, consequences be damned.

And, please, when the time comes, vote the way you know you should, for the sake of us all.

Here is Julianne Nicole’s story…

———

I am a Covid ICU nurse in New York City, and yesterday, like many other days lately, I couldn’t fix my patient. Sure, that happens all the time in the ICU. It definitely wasn’t the first time. It certainly won’t be the last. What makes this patient noteworthy? A few things, actually. He was infected with Covid 19, and he will lose his battle with Covid 19. He is only 23 years old.

I was destroyed by his clinical course in a way that has only happened a few times in my nursing career. It wasn’t his presentation. I’ve seen that before. It wasn’t his complications. I’ve seen that too.

It was the grief. It was his parents. The grief I witnessed yesterday, was grief that I haven’t allowed myself to recognize since this runaway train got rolling here in early March. I could sense it. It was lingering in the periphery of my mind, but yesterday something in me gave way, and that grief rushed in.

I think I was struck by a lot of emotions and realities yesterday. Emotions that have been brewing for weeks, and realities that I have been stifling because I had to in order to do my job effectively. My therapist tells me weekly via facetime that it’s impossible to process trauma when the trauma is still occurring. It just keeps building.

I get home from work, take my trusty companion Apollo immediately out to pee, he’s been home for 14 hours at a time. I have to keep my dog walker safe. No one can come into my apartment.

I’ve already been very sick from my work exposure, and I’m heavily exposed every day that I work since I returned after being 72 hours afebrile, the new standard for healthcare workers. That was after a week of running a fever of 104 even with Tylenol around the clock, but thankfully without respiratory symptoms. I was lucky.

Like every other healthcare worker on the planet right now, I strip inside the door, throw all the scrubs in the wash, bleach wipe all of my everyday carry supplies, shoes and work bag stay at the bottom of the stairs.

You see, there’s a descending level of Covid contamination as you ascend the stairs just inside my apartment door. Work bag and shoes stay at the bottom. Dog walking shoes next step up, then dog leash, then running shoes.

I dodge my excited and doofy German shepherd, who is bringing me every toy he has to play with, and I go and scald myself for 20 minutes in a hot shower. Washing off the germs, metaphorically washing off the weight of the day.

We play fetch after the shower. Once he’s tired, I lay on the floor with him, holding him tight, until I’m ready to get up and eat, but sometimes I just go straight to bed.

Quite honestly, I’m so tired of the death. With three days off from what has been two months of literal hell on earth as a Covid ICU nurse in NYC, I’m having an evening glass of wine, and munching on the twizzlers my dear aunt sent me from Upstate NY, while my dog is bouncing off the walls because I still don’t have the energy to run every day with him.

Is it the residual effects of the virus? Is it just general exhaustion from working three days in a row? Regardless, the thoughts are finally bleeding out of my mind and into a medium that I’m not sure could possibly convey the reality of this experience.

There’s been a significant change in how we approach the critically ill covid-infected patients on a number of different levels over the last two months. We’re learning about the virus. We’re following trends and patterns. We are researching as we are treating.

The reality is, the people who get sick later in this pandemic will have a better chance for survival. Yet, every day working feels like Groundhog Day. All of the patients have developed the same issues. This 23-year-old kid walked around for a week silently hypoxic and silently dying. By the time he got to us, it was already far too late.

First pneumonia, then Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS), essentially lung failure. Then kidney failure from global hypoxia and the medications we were giving in the beginning, desperately trying to find something that works. Then learning that it doesn’t work, it’s doing more harm than good in the critical care Covid population.

Dialysis for the kidneys. They are so sick that your normal three-times weekly dialysis schedule is too harsh on their body. They’re too unstable. So, we, the ICU nurses, run the dialysis slowly and continuously.

They are all obstructing their bowels from the ever-changing array of medications, as we ran out of some medications completely during our surge. We had to substitute alternatives, narcotics, sedatives, and paralytics, medications we’re heavily sedating and treating their pain with, in an effort to help them tolerate barbaric ventilator settings.

Barbaric ventilator settings while lying them on their bellies because their lungs are so damaged that we have to flip them onto their bellies in an effort to perfuse the functioning lung tissue and ventilate the damaged lung tissue.

Lungs that are perfused with blood that doesn’t even have adequate oxygen carrying capacity because of how this virus attacks.

Blood that clots. And bleeds. And clots. And bleeds. Everything in their bodies is deranged. Treat the clots with continuous anticoagulation. Stop the anticoagulation when they bleed.

GI bleeds, brain bleeds, pulmonary emboli, strokes. The brain bleeds will likely die. The GI bleeds get blood transfusions and interventions.

Restart the anticoagulation when they clot their continuous or intermittent dialysis filters, rendering them unusable, because we’re trying not to let them die slowly from renal failure. We are constantly making impossible treatment decisions in the critical care pandemic population.

A lot of people have asked me what it’s like here. I truly don’t have adequate descriptors in my vocabulary, try as I might, so I’ll defer to the metaphor of fire.

We are attempting to put out one fire, while three more are cropping up. Then we find out a week or two later that we unknowingly threw gasoline on one fire, because there’s still so much we don’t know about this virus.

Then suddenly there’s no water to fight the fire with. We’re running around holding ice cubes in an effort to put out an inferno. Oh yeah, and the entire time you’ve been in this burning building, you barely have what you need to protect yourself.

The protection you’re using, the guidelines governing that protection, evolved with the surge. One-time use N95? That’s the prior standard, and after what we’ve been through, that’s honestly hysterical. As we were surging here, the CDC revised their guidelines, because the PPE shortage was so critical.

Use anything, they said. Use whatever you have for as long as you can, and improvise what you don’t have.

 As we’re discussing medication and viral research, starting clinical trials, talking treatment options in morning rounds for your patient with the team of doctors and clinical pharmacists, suddenly, surprise! Your patient developed a mucous plug in his breathing tube.

Yes, that vital, precious tube that’s connected to the ventilator that’s breathing for them. It’s completely plugged. Blocked. No oxygen or carbon dioxide in or out. It’s a critical emergency.

Even with nebulizer treatments, once we finally had the closed-delivery systems we needed to administer these medications and keep ourselves safe, they’re still plugging. We cannot even routinely suction unless we absolutely have to because suctioning steals all of the positive pressure that’s keeping them alive from the ventilator circuit. One routine suction pass down the breathing tube could kill someone, or leave their body and vital organs hypoxic for hours after.

Well, now they’re plugged. We are then faced with a choice. Both choices place the respiratory therapists, nurses, and doctors at extremely high risk for aerosolized exposure.

We could exchange the breathing tube, but that could take too long, the patient may die in the 2–3 minutes we need to assemble the supplies and manpower needed, and it’s one of the highest-risk procedures for our providers that we could possibly carry out.

Or we could use the clamps that have been the best addition to my every day carry nursing arsenal. You yell for help, you’re alone in the room. Your friends and coworkers, respiratory therapists, doctors, are all rushing to get their PPE on and get into the room to help.

You move around the room cluttered with machines and life sustaining therapies to set up what you need to stave off death. You move deliberately, and you move FAST. The patient is decompensating in the now-familiar and coordinated effort to intervene.

Attach the ambu bag to wall oxygen. Turn it all the way up. Where’s the PEEP valve? God, someone go grab me the PEEP valve off the ambu bag in room 11 next door. We ran out of those a month ago, too. It’s all covid anyway, all of it is covid. Risk cross-contamination or risk imminent death for your patient, risk extreme viral load exposure for you and your coworkers, and most certain death for your patient if you intervene without a PEEP valve.

You clamp the breathing tube, tight. The respiratory therapist shuts off the ventilator, because that side of the circuit can aerosolize and spray virus too if you leave it blasting air after you disconnect. Open the circuit. Respiratory therapy attaches the ambu bag. You unclamp. Bag, bag, bag. Clear the plug. The patient’s oxygen saturation is 23%. Their heart rate is slowing. Their blood pressure is tanking. Max all your drips, then watch and wait while this patient takes 3 hours to recover to a measly oxygen saturation of 82%, the best you’ll get from them all shift. These patients have no pulmonary reserve.

All of our choices to intervene in this situation risk our own health and safety. In the beginning we were more cautious with ourselves. We don’t want to get sick. We don’t want to be a patient in our own ICU. We’ve cared for our own staff in our ICUs. We don’t want to die. Now? I’ve already been sick. I am so, so tired of the constant death that is the ICU, that personally, I will do anything as long as I have my weeks-old N95 and face shield on, just to keep someone alive.

I’ve realized that for many of these patients in the ICU, it won’t matter what I do. It won’t matter how hard I work, though I’ll still work like a crazy person all day, aggressively advocate for my patients in the same way.

My coworkers will go without meals, even though they’re being donated and delivered by people who love and support you. Generous people are helping to keep local restaurants afloat. We can always take the meal home for dinner, or I can devour a slice of pizza as I walk out to my truck parked on the pier, a walk I look forward to every day, because it gives me about eight minutes of silence. To process. To reflect.

I’ll chug a Gatorade when I start feeling lightheaded and I’m seeing stars, immediately after I just pushed an amp of bicarb on a patient and I know I have at least five minutes of a stable blood pressure to step out of the unit, take off my mask and actually breathe.

Every dedicated staff member is working tirelessly to help. The now-closed dental clinic staff has been trained to work in the respiratory lab to run our arterial blood gases, so that the absolutely incredible respiratory therapists who we so desperately need can take care of the patients with us.

Nurses in procedural areas that were closed have been repurposed to work as runners. To run for supplies while the primary nurse is in an isolation room trying to stabilize a patient without the supplies they need, runners to run for blood transfusions.

Physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech and language pathologists being repurposed to be part of the proning teams that helps the nurses turn patients onto their backs and bellies amidst a tangled web of critical lines and tubes, where one small error could mean death for the patient, and exposure for all staff.

Anesthesiologists and residents are managing airways and lines when carrying out these massive patient position changes. Surgical residents are all over the hospital just to put in the critical invasive lines we need in all of our patients.

The travel nurses who rushed into this burning building to help us are easing a healthcare system. The first travel nurse I met came all the way from Texas. Others terminated their steady employment to enlist with a travel agency to help us. Every day there are more travelers arriving.

A nurse from LA came to me after she found out I was part of the home staff, in my home unit, where this all first started in my hospital what feels like a lifetime ago, and said, “I came here for you. For all of the nurses. Because I couldn’t imagine working the way you guys were working for how long you were working like that”.

During our surge and peak in the ICU, we were 1:3 ratios with three patients who normally would be a 1:1 assignment. And they were all trying to die at the same time. We were having to choose which patients we were rushing to because we couldn’t help them all at the same time.

The overhead pages for emergencies throughout the hospital rang out and echoed endlessly. Every minute, another rapid response call. Another anesthesia page for an intubation. Another cardiopulmonary arrest. A hospital bursting at the seams with death. Refrigerated trailers being filled.

First it was our normal white body bags. Then orange disaster bags. Then blue tarp bags. We ran out of those too. Now, black bags.


The heartbreakingly unique part of this pandemic, is that these patients are so alone. We are here, but they are suffering alone, with no familiar face or voice. They are dying alone, surrounded by strangers crying into their own masks, trying not to let our precious N95 get wet, trying not to touch our faces with contaminated hands.

Their families are home, waiting for the phone call with their daily update. Some of their loved ones are also sick and quarantined at home.

Can you even IMAGINE? Your husband or wife, mother or father. Sibling. Your child. You drop your loved one off at the emergency department entrance, and you never, ever see them alive again.

Families are home, getting phone calls every day that they’re getting worse. Or maybe they’re getting better. Unfortunately, the ICU in what has quickly become the global epicenter for this pandemic is not a happy place. We are mostly purgatory where I work, so this snapshot may be more morbid than most.

These people are saying goodbye to their loved ones, while they’re still walking and talking, and then maybe a week or two later, they’re just gone. It’s like they disappeared into thin air.

That level of grief is absolutely astounding to me, and thaht’s coming from a person who knows grief. I was there at the bedside, I held my young husband’s hand when I watched his heart stop beating. I was there. That grief changes you immeasurably. 

But this grief? This pandemic grief? It’s inconceivable. These families will suffer horribly, every day for the rest of their lives. They might not even be able to bury their loved one. God, if they can’t afford a funeral with an economic shut-down, their loved one will be buried in a mass grave on Hart Island with thousands of others like them. What grave will they have to visit on birthdays and holidays?

Yesterday, I was preparing for a bedside endoscopy procedure to secure a catastrophic GI bleed in this 23-year-old patient.

It was a bleed that required a massive transfusion protocol where the blood bank releases coolers of uncrossmatched O negative blood in an emergency, an overhead page that, ironically, I heard as I was getting into the elevator to head to the fourth floor for my shift yesterday morning; a massive transfusion protocol that I found out I would own as a primary nurse, as I desperately squeezed liters of IV fluids into this patient until we got the cooler full of blood products, and then pumped this patient full of units of blood until we could intervene with endoscopy.

Before the procedure, I stopped everything I was doing that wasn’t life-sustaining. I stopped gathering supplies to start and assist with the procedure.


I told the doctors that I would not do a required “time-out” procedure until I got my phone out, and I facetimed this kid’s mom because I didn’t think he would survive the bedside procedure.

She cried. She wailed. She begged her son to open his eyes, to breathe. She begged me to help her. Ayudame. Ayudame. She begged me to help him. She sang to him. She told him he was strong. She told him how much she loved him. I listened to her heart breaking in real time while she talked to her son, while she saw his swollen face, her baby boy, dying before her eyes through a phone.

Later in the day, after the procedure, his mom and dad came to the hospital. He survived the securement of the bleed, but he was still getting worse no matter what we did. He’s going to die. And against policy, we fought to get them up to see their son.

We found them masks and gowns that we’re still rationing in the hospital, and we let his parents see him, hold him. We let them be with their son.

Like every other nurse would do in the ICU here, I bounced around the room, moving mom from one side of the bed to the other and back again, so I could do what I needed to do, setting up my continuous dialysis machine, with the ONE filter that supply sent up for my use to initiate dialysis therapy. This spaceship-like machine, finicky as all hell, and I had one shot to prime this machine successfully to start dialysis therapy to try to slowly correct the metabolic acidosis that was just ONE of the problems that was killing him as his systolic blood pressure lingered in the 70s, despite maxing all of my blood pressure mediations.

Continuous dialysis started. You press start and hold your breath. You’re not removing any fluid, just filtering the blood, but even the tiniest of fluid shifts in this patient could kill him. But you have no choice.

His vital signs started to look concerning. I could feel the dread in the pit of my stomach, this was going south very quickly. Another nurse and the patient’s father had to physically drag this mother out of the room so we could fill the room with the brains and eyes and hands that would keep this boy alive for another hour.

She wailed in the hallway. Nurses in the next unit down the hall heard her crties through two sets of closed fire doors. We worked furiously to stabilize him for the next four hours.

Twenty minutes before the end of my shift last night, I sat with the attending physician and the parents in a quiet and deserted family waiting room outside the unit. I told his mother that no matter what I do, I cannot fix this. I have maximized everything I have, every tool and medicine at my disposal to save her son. I can’t save her son.

The doctor explained that no matter what we do, his body is failing him. No matter what we do, her son will die. They realized that no matter how hard they pray, no matter how much they want to tear down walls, no matter how many times his mother begs and pleads, “take me instead, I would rather die myself than lose my son”, we cannot save him.

We stayed while she screamed. We stayed until she finally let go of her vice grip on my hands, her body trembling uncontrollably, as she dissolved into her grief, in the arms of her husband.

This  is ONE patient. One patient, in one ICU, in one hospital, in one city, in one country, on a planet being ravaged by a virus.

This is the tiniest, devastating snapshot of one patient and one family and their unimaginable grief. Yet, the weight is enormous.

The world should feel that weight too. Because this grief, this heartbreak is everywhere in many forms. Every person on this planet is grieving the loss of something.

Whether that’s freedom or autonomy sacrificed for the greater good. Whether that’s a paycheck or a business, or their livelihood, or maybe they’re grieving the loss of a loved one while still fighting to earn a paycheck, or waiting for government financial relief that they don’t know for certain will come.

Maybe they’re a high school senior who will never get to have the graduation they dreamed of. Maybe they’re a college senior, who won’t get to have their senior game they so looked forward to. Maybe they’re afraid that the government is encroaching on their constitutional rights. Maybe it’s their first pregnancy, and it’s nothing like they imagined because of the terrifying world surrounding them.

Or maybe they lost a loved one, maybe someone they love is sick, and they can’t go see them, because there are no visitors allowed and they’re an essential worker. Maybe all they can see of someone they love is a random Facetime call in the middle of the day from an area code and a number they don’t know.

Everyone is grieving. We’ve heard plenty of the public’s grief.

I don’t blame anyone for how they’re coping with that grief, even if it frustrates the ever-living hell out of me as I drown in death every day at work. It’s all valid. Everyone’s grief is different, but it doesn’t change the discomfort, the despair on various levels. We are at the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Basic survival, physiological and safety needs. I’ve been here before. I know this feeling. How we survive is how we survive.

Now that I’ve had the time to reflect and write, now that I’ve let the walls down in my mind to let the grief flood in, now that I’ve seen this grief for what feels like the thousandth time since the first week of March as a nurse in a Covid ICU in New York City, it’s time you heard our side.

This is devastating. This is our reality. This is our grief.

———–

Her original Facebook post is here.

How this will end is anyone’s guess. But things will be different for a long time.

This is our reality.

ICU

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Come to Georgia

Despite the threat posed by the illness, which has already infected more than 886,200 people and killed at least 50,360 people around the United States, (Georgia) Gov. Brian Kemp loosened the state’s shutdown, allowing certain close-contact businesses, such as gyms, barbershops, hair and nail salons, tattoo parlors, and spas to reopen. Elective medical procedures can also be resumed.

From Business Insider, April 24, 2020.

———

Friends, are you ready for a satisfying sit-down meal at a restaurant again? Then come to Georgia.

Overdue for a workout at the gym or fitness center? Come to Georgia.

Want to wow your friends again with your bowling skills? Come to Georgia.

Anxious to get that special tat? Come to Georgia.

Planning to get an ear or a nostril pierced? Come to Georgia.

Need a haircut or a beard trim? Roots need a touch-up? Come to Georgia.

Ready for an in-theater movie experience? Come to Georgia.

All set for a relaxing massage? Come to Georgia.

Legs need waxing? Eyelashes need extending? Come to Georgia.

Need your teeth cleaned? Come to Georgia.

Tired of putting off that elective surgery? Come to Georgia.

Got your heart set on attending cosmetology school? Come to Georgia.

Not satisfied by online church services? Ready to slide into the pews again? Come to Georgia.

Friends, if you’re frustrated because the global COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted your life and routine…

If you’re out of sorts because, well, you’re not sure if the virus is really that contagious, really that deadly…

If you’re dying – dying – to return to normal times…

then this is the chance you’ve been waiting for.

You only live once. Roll the dice. Come to Georgia.

Kemp 4-20

Statement by Gov. Brian Kemp on April 1, 2020. Possibly a joke for April Fool’s Day.

 

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Kemp’s Folly

You probably know that Georgia’s bonehead governor, naturally a white conservative Republican, is relaxing the stay-at-home order and allowing a baffling array of businesses – hair salons, tattoo parlors, restaurants – to reopen. Someday, I expect, this act will be known as “Kemp’s Folly.”

Speaking as one of Kemp’s guinea pigs, I have no intention of going inside a restaurant, a massage parlor, or anything else until medical professionals tell me it’s okay.

You may be aware that Governor Kemp was Georgia Secretary of State while running for governor, and in that capacity, he blatantly purged large numbers of Democratic voters from the rolls.

As a result, Kemp beat Democrat Stacey Abrams, but just barely. Although celebrated among Republican politicians for his win, he is widely considered something of a dim bulb.

Kemp is reopening Georgia for several reasons. For one, the on-air clowns in conservative media have been wondering lately if we really need to stay hunkered down so much. Sure, people are dying by the thousands, but, well, the shutdown is really bad for business.

For another thing, Kemp watched as Florida’s bonehead white conservative Republican governor reopened the beaches. The beaches promptly filled up with wall to wall people, probably the MAGA faithful. The bonehead white conservative Republican MAGA faithful.

Further, Kemp probably was influenced by the “spontaneous” wave of protesters, the gun-toting tough guys and the strident middle-aged white women who showed up at several state capitals, railing about freedom and demanding that we mix and mingle again and get haircuts and such.

Add to that President Douchenozzle, cheerleading the bonehead white conservative Republican MAGA protesters with tweets of ‘LIBERATE MICHIGAN” and ‘LIBERATE MINNESOTA” and ‘LIBERATE VIRGINIA.”

This is the same stable genius who tried to pitch a malaria drug as a miracle cure for COVID-19, and who wondered on live television if injections of disinfectant, or maybe somehow shining light inside the body, could kill the virus.

Faced with a global health crisis, with bodies piling up, with no end or relief in sight, you would think the nation’s bonehead white conservative Republicans would put aside petty politics and shut up, so the experts can try to stop the virus and save us.

You would think that, just this one time, under these awful circumstances, facing widespread misery and death, they would engage their brains.

You would be wrong.

The right-wingers are too wacko for that. Most have spiraled so far down into a pit of lunacy that they are hopelessly lost.

They have a way of coming down on the wrong side of virtually every issue. Invariably, they take positions that are ignorant, illogical, and, too often, dangerous to themselves and others.

And they do it with bravado. They are proudly ill-informed. Defiantly ignorant.

It appears they can’t help themselves. It’s simply in their nature as bonehead white conservative Republicans. At least you can count on them to be consistent and predictable.

Sometimes, I think about the rational Republicans out there – people whose brains haven’t shorted out, but who, for their own reasons, stay silent.

In my better moments, I try to understand, relate, sympathize.

But not much, and not for long. They gave us Trump.

Bravado-1

Bravado-2

Bravado-3

 

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And Another Thing

Last month, I posted a tirade about President Douchenozzle and the members of his cabinet in which I described them as a motley assortment of Snidely Whiplash-style villains (Ross, Mnuchin), shameless toadies (Pence, Barr), and outright buffoons (Carson, DeVos).

Although I stand by the post and my characterizations fully, I was remiss in one respect: I stopped short of expressing my contempt for the rest of the equally nefarious right-wingers who burden American society. Namely:

Virtually all Republican elected officials, local, state, and national, who are, in varying degrees, mean-spirited, selfish, cynical, misguided, unbalanced, and/or delusional.

Fox News and the rest of the right-wing spin machine, whose decades of lies and half-truths created the MAGA crowd and today keeps the conservative herd in a perpetual lather.

The low-life, avaricious leaders of the religious right, whose support of a reprobate like Donald Trump proves they are about as religious as cockroaches.

Democrats and liberals are not choirboys, but they are rational and sane. Moreover, they are capable of expressing empathy and compassion. Today’s wacko conservatives are not.

Most progressives believe the resources of government should be used for the common good, which includes helping the poor and disadvantaged. That’s logical. Sensible. Decent.

But, to a conservative, the fact that you’re poor or disadvantaged proves you are a deadbeat, and the country owes you nothing. If you’re a black or brown person, the eyes of the typical right-winger narrow even further.

Today’s conservatives simply are not normal. Empathy and sympathy are not in their nature. Which helps explain why they are so pointedly angry, fearful, and defensive.

Put it this way: only conservative boneheads would claim COVID-19 is a hoax, a conspiracy to bring down Trump, and urge people to attend church in defiance.

Here’s a thought. For every instance of a church service held while such gatherings are forbidden for public health reasons, 90 days in jail for everyone on the church payroll, and a fine of $1,000 for everyone in the pews.

Here’s another thought: bring back retired general Russell Honoré. Assign him to straighten out the supply chain for essential medical equipment. And authorize him to lock up any public official who exempts religious services or other gatherings from public safety restrictions.

Lock ‘em up for the duration, and then some.

There. I feel much better now.

Moron

Moron, douchenozzle.

MAGA

Morons, douchenozzles.

 

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Rogues’ Gallery

The word pandemic comes from the Greek words pan, meaning all, and demos, meaning people. I didn’t want to know that either.

———

So… the world is in the grip of a global pandemic that might be our undoing, and we have to depend on the Trump Administration – a veritable rogues’ gallery of corrupt and incompetent villains to save us.

My first thought when Trump got elected was clear and simple, and I’ve expressed it often on this blog: electing this orange gasbag was a tragic mistake, and it will not end well for us. Nothing has happened yet to change my mind.

For God’s sake, take a look at the bunch in charge.

First, of course, there is Donald Trump, self-styled playboy, former TV show host, and a failed businessman, who, as you know, inherited his wealth, lost millions during the 1980s and 90s, filed for bankruptcy several times, and eventually began taking loans from Russian oligarchs. He is, and long has been, owned by Vladimir Putin.

You can count on Trump to boast, bully, and BS his way through any situation he faces. He lacks the skills, qualifications, or temperament to be President, but there he sits.

Then there is Vice President Mike Pence, former congressman from Indiana and former governor of Indiana, whose lone skill is being a professional conservative politician. He was an early supporter of the Tea Party movement and is a long-time opponent of legal abortions.

Pence believes being gay is either a choice or “learned behavior.” He has emerged as the administration’s ass-kisser-in-chief, one of the most appalling sycophants ever.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, another Republican hardliner, has a 100 percent rating from the National Right to Life Committee and a zero percent rating from Planned Parenthood.

At his confirmation hearing in 2018, when asked if he could avoid being a “yes man” to Trump, Pompeo said he had been Employee of the Month at Baskin Robbins twice (!?). When Trump personally attacked members of the FBI and the State Department, Pompeo said nothing.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin is a former hedge fund manager and investment banker best known for aggressively foreclosing on homeowners. After Sears went bankrupt, the company sued Mnuchin for “asset stripping” during his tenure on the board of directors. Mnuchin’s priorities: weaken the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act and cut corporate taxes.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, another Republican insider, was a senate staffer and later chief of staff at the Heritage Foundation, the conservative think tank. More recently, he was a lobbyist for the defense contractor Raytheon. Yes, Trump’s Secretary of Defense is a former lobbyist for a defense contractor.

An especially egregious member of the Cabinet is Attorney General William Barr, who, when he was AG to Bush No. 1, convinced Bush to pardon six officials who pulled off Ronald Reagan’s Iran-Contra scheme. Look it up. Barr also pushed to increase the national rate of incarceration.

You may recall, too, that Barr lied to us about the Mueller Report and was held in criminal contempt of Congress for ignoring subpoenas. He is a political hack who has no shame about serving as Trump’s personal lawyer instead of Attorney General.

Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt is a former energy industry lobbyist whose clients included Halliburton and the Independent Petroleum Association of America. Yes, the man charged with protecting America’s natural resources is a former lobbyist for the petroleum industry.

Predictably, Bernhardt has defended the reversals of environmental regulations instituted by the Trump Administration. In 2019, he was caught using national park entrance fees in ways Congress specifically had forbidden.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue is another example of the long line of Republican politicians who use their positions to enrich themselves. In 2003, he signed an executive order that prohibited state officials in Georgia from accepting gifts worth more than $25, yet, as governor, he accepted over $25,000 in gifts.

As Governor, he was slapped with ethics complaints 13 times. In 2004, he bought $2 million worth of land near Disney World from a developer he had appointed to Georgia’s economic development board.

Former investment banker and now Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is known as the “King of Bankruptcy.” He was skilled at buying failed companies, stripping them of their remaining assets, and selling off the remnants.

In the 1980s, when Trump’s three Atlantic City casinos faced foreclosure, Ross convinced the bondholders to back off and give Trump more time. In 2018, reports surfaced that his business partners had accused him of stealing $129 million.

Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia, the son of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, was an attorney who specialized in helping large corporations fight federal labor and financial regulations. “Suing the Government? Call Scalia” read a 2012 headline in Bloomberg News.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar is the former president of the drug manufacturer Eli Lilly and a former lobbyist for the pharmaceutical industry. In the 1990s, he spent two years working for Ken Starr on the investigation of the Clintons’ real estate investments (the Whitewater thing).

While at Eli Lilly, Azar tripled the price of insulin. He is an opponent of Obamacare, claiming that the “free market” can best meet the country’s health care needs. Yes, a Big Pharma executive and lobbyist is in charge of Health and Human Services.

Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson was a successful and respected neurosurgeon until he spazzed out and turned to Republican politics. He quickly proved himself to be an airhead, ill-informed on most subjects.

Carson is the guy who, in 2017, was caught spending $31,000 on a dining set for his office. In 2019, at a meeting about transgender persons in homeless shelters, Carson warned of “big, hairy men” infiltrating women’s shelters.

Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao is a veteran Republican politician married to Mitch McConnell. Her father is a Chinese shipping magnate, which creates a spectacular conflict of interest that should get her booted from office. Her department has tried regularly to cut funding for shipping companies that compete with the family business.

In 2018, Politico reported that in her first 14 months in office, Chao had 290 hours of “private” appointments; her underlings said the meetings were labeled private for security reasons.

Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette was a top lobbyist for Ford Motor Company and more recently a member of the Louisiana Mineral and Energy Board. Brouillette is a strong believer in the Trump policy of maximizing the use of fossil fuels and rolling back regulations that are bothersome to the oil, coal, and natural gas industries.

The cost of wind power and solar power may be dropping rapidly, but Brouillette, he’s a big fan of fossil fuels. And nuclear power, too.

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is so wrong for the job that the Republican-dominated Senate barely confirmed her. The vote was 51-50, with Mike Pence having to break the tie. DeVos is a rich socialite and a seasoned Republican fund-raiser. She made her name among conservatives by advocating charter schools and vouchers and opposing the traditional system of public schools. So, naturally, Trump made her Secretary of Education.

DeVos is married to the former CEO of Amway. Her brother Eric Prince is the former Navy SEAL who founded Blackwater USA, which is its own sordid story.

Another Republican insider, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie worked on Capital Hill for several Republican senators. Raised in North Carolina, Wilkie is dumb enough to have stated publicly that the Confederate cause was “honorable.” He also said people who opposed slavery during the War of Yankee Aggression were “enemies of liberty.”

Wilkie got in trouble at his confirmation hearing for misleading Senators about “lost cause” speeches he gave to the Sons of Confederate Veterans and similar groups.

The acting Director of Homeland Security, Chad Wolf, has a background of working for Republican senators and lobbying firms. As Chief of Staff to former DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, he was involved in shaping Trump’s repulsive family separation policy.

In February, the State of New York sued the Trump Administration because Wolf is penalizing the state for its “sanctuary” immigration policies.

And don’t forget White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, one of the most rabid conservatives in public life. He is a bomb-throwing tea-partier and a member of the Freedom Caucus. When Hurricane Sandy whacked the eastern seaboard in 2012, he voted against the disaster relief package. He strongly supported the government shutdown of 2013 as a way to get rid of Obamacare.

For years, Meadows’ official biography claimed he held a Bachelor of Arts degree. After that was revealed to be untrue, he changed his bio to read Associate of Arts. Meadows was fined $40,000 by the House Ethics Committee for failing to address sexual harassment allegations in his office.

———

I repeat: the world is in the grip of a global pandemic that might be our undoing, and we have to depend on the Trump Administration – a veritable rogues’ gallery of corrupt and incompetent villains – to save us.

Maybe these are, indeed, the end times.

As I write this, I can hear one of the daily Coronavirus Task Force briefings in progress on the TV set in my living room. Later, I will check CNN or MSNBC to learn what happened and find out what falsehoods Trump spread today.

At the moment, I can vaguely hear Trump’s voice. I assume he is BSing and pontificating about something, careening from thought to thought.

Perhaps he is berating a reporter, or maybe taking a shot at Obama for something. Winging it as usual, stream of consciousness style.

This moron is the President. God help us.

Trump et al

 

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