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Nick Cave has Something to Say about Truth and Responsibility

Nick Cave has Something to Say about Truth and Responsibility

Nick Cave sends out a Red Hand File every week. This week’s file was about how we should listen to others and how we should speak while we try to adjust to this devastating coronavirus pandemic.

Now is the time to be cautious with our words, our opinions.

Now is a time to listen to those in more informed positions and to follow instructions, as difficult as that may be, as we step into the unprecedented unknowable. We should be careful about the noises we make — especially those with a public voice — and should not pretend to know what we do not. From within the clamour and tonnage of information and misinformation, of opinions and counter-opinions, of blame-games and grim prophecy and the most panic-inducing version of ‘Imagine’ ever recorded, emerges a simple message — wash your hands and (if you can) stay at home.

That sounds like good advice to most intelligent, caring people. But not to one ignorant and destructive man with a pugnacious public voice, him being President Donald Trump. He ignores more informed opinions, and he does pretend to know what he does not. He is now ignoring the advice of experts on his administration’s coronavirus team and he is amplifying lies and misinformation from dubious sources to rationalize his imperious plan to prioritize business-as-usual over the health and safety of people trying to survive the coronavirus pandemic.

From The Guardian:

[Trump] repeatedly refused to confirm that he would listen to public health authorities if they advised him to keep restrictive public health measures in place, even at a cost to the economy.

“We’ll see what happens,” he said.

“Our country was not built to be shut down,” Trump said. “This is not a country that was built for this.”

Trump said he expected life to return to normal very soon, much sooner than in three or four months. Asked if he meant the country would be re-opening in “weeks or months”, Trump said: “I’m not looking at months, I can tell you right now.”

Asked if Dr Anthony Fauci, the immunologist who has become the public face of the American scientific community during the pandemic, agreed with him on potentially re-opening the economy, Trump said: “He doesn’t not agree.”

He wants to see all of us back at our jobs by Easter, which is April 12th. That’s eighteen days from today. Based on what I’ve been reading about how fast the coronavirus is spreading in NYC and other places like right here in the Seattle area, that’s not going to happen if we all follow the advice of experts. Well at least the “experts” not named Donald Trump.

Democrats Successfully Force their Hand During Coronavirus Stimulus Bill Negotiations

Democrats Successfully Force their Hand During Coronavirus Stimulus Bill Negotiations

Just a quick update on the outcome of the coronavirus stimulus bill negotiations.

Mitch McConnell attempted to ram through $2T spending bill that focused more on boosting big business than providing care for thousands of Americans suffering and dying from severe cases of COVID-19 (and thousands more to come) and alleviating the financial stress put on millions of Americans who suddenly became unemployed because of the coronavirus. Charles Schumer and the Democrats rightly objected to the Republican Senate’s bill and fought to focus on people instead of big business. The Democrats got much of what the wanted in the bill.

The New York Times reports:

The resulting measure is an attempt to sustain the workers and businesses that are losing income as vast sections of the American economy are shutting down under quarantine orders and to help the economy rebound quickly once the pandemic abates.

It includes direct support for companies large and small that have lost all or most of their customers in recent weeks, and direct payments to low- and middle-income families. The package also includes measures meant to encourage companies to keep employees on their payrolls even if their businesses have shuttered temporarily — and it increases aid to workers who are laid off anyway or have had their hours and wages cut back.

The measure will be the third legislative action taken by Congress this month to address the pandemic. Mr. Trump previously signed both a $8.3 billion in emergency aid and a sweeping package providing paid leave, free testing and additional aid for families affected by the pandemic into law.

In the final measure, lawmakers agreed to a significant expansion of unemployment benefits that would extend unemployment insurance by 13 weeks and include a four-month enhancement of benefits, officials familiar with the unfinished agreement said. Democrats said that it would allow workers to maintain their full salaries if forced out of work as a result of the pandemic.

In the interim, lawmakers also agreed to provide $1,200 in direct payments that would apply equally to workers with incomes up to $75,000 per year before phasing out and ending altogether for those earning more than $99,000. Families would receive an additional $500 per child.

We haven’t seen a senate compromise of this magnitude in a very long time. Probably not since Mitch McConnell said in October 2010, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president”.

Bravo Democrats. It’s your time to lead. Keep doing it and do it well, then maybe President Trump will be a one-term president.

Coronavirus Stimulus Bill Sabotaged by Republicans

Coronavirus Stimulus Bill Sabotaged by Republicans

Senate Republicans don’t care about people. They only care about big business, corporate donors, and their extremely wealthy friends. We knew that when a Republican controlled senate passed President Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in December 2017. It gave huge tax cuts to corporations and provided a big tax loophole for pass-through income. The bill was advertised as a move that would lower taxes for workers and help businesses expand by providing them with more cash. Most workers saw very small decreases in their taxes and some actually saw their taxes go up a little, but businesses were left with a lot more cash in pocket and they used it to buy back their own stock to line the pockets of their already obscenely rich corporate executives. They did not increase investment any more than they would have otherwise and they did not provide any substantial increases in wages or benefits for workers. Some cities and states saw increases in wages because they mandated higher minimum wages themselves. Republicans in congress refused to increase the minimum wage like they always do.

Trump’s tax-cut was an expensive failure.

So they were fine with their 1.5 Trillion Dollar tax cut for the rich, but they aren’t so fine with a new and much needed coronavirus stimulus bill that will cost somewhere between one to two trillion dollars if most of that money is funneled to the people who really need it – the unemployed workers.

The Democrats focused their efforts on people first, not profits first. They would direct the money to the millions of people in the service industry (restaurants, bars, hotels, ride-share drivers, salon workers, dental hygienists, etc.) who are all out of work. This is a huge sector of our economy. Workers need cash to buy food, pay rent and mortgages, and obtain healthcare – all urgent stuff. The stimulus bill should provide that urgent aid first. A one-time check in the $500 to $1,200 won’t provide the long-term aid they are going to need.

The spending should cover the cost of extending the unemployment insurance for at least a year or two. It should probably force large employers to provide sick pay for as long as is necessary for their workers to recover from COVID-19. The bill should prevent people from losing their jobs because of government-mandated work stoppages. It should make sure that everyone afflicted with the disease gets the healthcare they need regardless of whether or not they have insurance. To put it simply, the stimulus bill can’t be about “creating jobs” right now. It should be all about alleviating hardship and suffering caused by the outbreak, because it can’t help put people back to work until the pandemic is gone, and it looks like that isn’t going to happen for months.

The Republicans’ bill includes $5B for a corporate slush fund. It’s weak on worker retention and has loopholes. It’s treasury lending section is vague. It doesn’t provide provisions to protect people from evictions and foreclosures. It provides zero money for state and local governments. Is that because the states hardest hit are blue states? No additional spending on SNAP when the program will obviously be under extreme pressure. No direct payments for people who did not file tax returns in 2018 or 2019. It offers no help for the uninsured and no help for people with student loans.

What this all adds up to is, as James Martin wrote in The New York Times today, a Moral Evil. That’s suffering caused by the actions of individuals or, in this case, the inaction of individuals. And even worse; the deliberate redirection of resources that should be used to alleviate suffering of the most vulnerable people to the least vulnerable, most wealthy people in our country. That’s right. Who do you think will be the recipients of a slush fund?

Maybe enough Republicans in the Senate will read The Bible tonight and decide to do what Jesus would do (from the James Martin column):

Needless to say, when caring for someone with coronavirus, one should take the necessary precautions in order not to pass on the infection. But for Jesus, the sick or dying person was not the “other,” not one to be blamed, but our brother and sister. When Jesus saw a person in need, the Gospels tell us that his heart was “moved with pity.” He is a model for how we are to care during this crisis: with hearts moved by pity.

I’m not betting on it.

RZA on the Nature of Truth

RZA on the Nature of Truth

Here is a quote about truth and lies from The Tao of Wu, an autobiographical account of RZA’s journey to enlightenment.

When a man lies to the next man, who is really being played the fool? For truth always reveals itself in its own good time. And a lie is only an illusion. For even when you lie to someone, he or she might not know the truth, but the applicator of the lie knows the truth. And that shows that the truth always exists and a lie is only a temporary illusion that vanishes once the truth is manifested.

There is only one right way, and that is the truth… The only thing you can’t change is the truth, for the truth is that which in time changes things back to their original state. Right now we are living in illusions. Five billion people are living in illusions. And out of all those people, only 5 percent advocate the truth. They are the ones who will produce thoughts of a change.

Keep this in mind the next time you force yourself to watch an entire Trump press conference about the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

What you say? Watch the lies from January through March.

Obama Fake News PSA by Jordan Peele

Obama Fake News PSA by Jordan Peele

Video technology has progressed to the “Well that’s pretty alarming” level.

I have no doubt that President Trump will soon use this example of believable, but fake video editing to tweet something like “See folks? I told you that wasn’t my voice on the Access Hollywood tape. Totally FAKE! Believe Me!!!” if he hasn’t already.

Of course we all know it was his voice on the tape, because Billy Bush confirmed it.

Is @realdonaldtrump Twitter account subject to Presidential Records Act?

Is @realdonaldtrump Twitter account subject to Presidential Records Act?

Axios reports that President Donald Trump’s lawyer, John Dowd, has taken credit for the @realdonaldtrump account’s tweet claiming Mike Flynn was fired for lying to the FBI.

Trump Lies Matter PosterI still want to know how it’s even legal for Trump’s Twitter account to present questions about the source of a tweet. Is his account to be considered official communications from the White House? Or is it an outlet where authorship is determined only by political convenience depending on the content?

I remember reading 9 months ago that the @realdonaldtrump account is subject to the Presidential Records Act. How do we keep, file, and index these records if attribution is uncertain?

Trump’s lies matter in a very real way.

Islands of Support Lose Infrastructure as Presidential Tweetstorm Wreaks Havoc

Islands of Support Lose Infrastructure as Presidential Tweetstorm Wreaks Havoc

@realDonaldTrump tweets last hopes.

As the indictments roll in, President Donald Trump (PDT) has taken to Twitter as his choice platform for denouncing the Constitutional protections provided by the foundational documents of the nation with which he’s found himself executively charged.

It was reported that PDT was clearly discombobulated due to a lack of sleep, setting the stage for an afternoon, post-siesta announcement that PDT may not be serving its original purpose. This was the first clear indication of the administration’s intentions to reverse the early 20th century policy of arbitrarily adding one hour before anyone wakes up to accommodate the mythical schedules of farming families at a time when they were seen as fundamental to the health of national economics.

“We have a history of making huge changes that do nothing but make things easier for our twenty closest associates in the great body of the United States of America’s Ruling Class, and PDT is absolutely recognized as one of those changes,” said one high-level Trump administration volunteer.

Paul Manafort, whose name translates, according to certain interpretations of ancient texts, to “Paul, Man of the Fort”, did not respond immediately to requests for comment. A young man who identified himself only as “Ma! Ma? I have cookie? No-no! Bad-man-da-phone-pa-pop!” agreed to speak with us via telephone, anonymously as far as we could tell. His story seemed strained and inconsistent, occasionally taking several minutes to speak with someone he would only refer to as “Data” and asking for an audience with “the party”, saying repeatedly to “Data” that he “need to go to the party. Have to go to party, Data!” followed almost immediately by the sounds of a few people clapping and then a flushing noise. Clear signals of guilt.

There is something very wrong with President Donald J. Trump

There is something very wrong with President Donald J. Trump

From NPR:

President Trump said on Tuesday “there’s blame on both sides” for the violence in Charlottesville, Va. The statement comes a day after Trump specifically called out the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists — and three days after his initial statement on the protests, for which he was criticized for not condemning those groups and instead cited violence “on many sides.”

Tuesday’s apparent backtrack came during a televised event about infrastructure attended by some members of his Cabinet. Trump took questions from reporters, who asked about his earlier statements and their timing. When pressed, the president pushed back and began placing blame on counterprotesters and the “alt left.”

Instead, he returned to equating the demonstrators — who came to the college town to protest the planned removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, the Confederate general, donning Confederate flags and swastikas, some carrying guns and shields, chanting “blood and soil” and “Jews will not replace us” — with counterprotesters.

… and in the transcript section at the bottom of the NPR piece is a very revealing Trump quote:

You had some very bad people in that group. But you also had people that were very fine people on both sides [emphasis added].

Right… those racist bigots on the alt-right side are very fine people – model citizens!

This was part of a press conference that was supposed to be about infrastructure. Reporters were more interested in his response to the chaos in Charlottesville – and respond he did in ways that stunned pretty much everybody except leaders of the alt-right like Richard Spencer, who said he was “Really proud of him”.

Trump’s erratic, volatile statements elicit such strong responses from the public, the media, elected representatives and other government officials that his agenda gets buried in the dust. He is without a doubt the worst leader to ever reside in the White House. He lacks any sense of right and wrong, and is ignorant of how government works. He is overtly vainglorious and responds to those who criticize him with impulsive, petulant tweets.

How much longer can such a morally bankrupt, incompetent person hold the office of President of the United States of America?

One month? Six months? a year? a full term?

Wagers anyone?

The World’s View on Trump

The World’s View on Trump

Living in one of the seven countries identified in President Trump’s Muslim travel ban, you’d have to be really into American politics to pay enough attention to know that most of us disagree with Trump just as much as they do. I have colleagues in Sri Lanka who were all surprised to the point of laughing out loud when we had our first conference call the morning after the election and everyone at the table was mourning. It felt good to express our distaste for Trump to people who’d mistakenly assumed a solid majority of us were represented by the election results.

But then I read this on how Trump is viewed by Iranians, from the Guardian:

What do Iranians actually think of America’s new leader?

Screenshot: Iranians on Trump via The Guardian

“My future is now very uncertain. I spent thousands of dollars applying to universities in the US to do a PhD there. I have been accepted at one of these universities so far, but now I am not sure whether I will be able to get a visa to go there. To make matters worse, in Iran if you don’t go back into education a year after graduating you’re expected to do military service. I worry that if I don’t sort out my next steps in time this will be the only option for me.” ~ Amir, 26 from Mashhad

“Iranians see Trump as just another American leader full of empty threats, the people are sick and tired of the same game being played out over and over with the same outcome. Trump’s travel ban has affected a minority of Iranians, but it has also pushed people to stay and serve their country. It is as though Trump is exposing the America that the Iranian government has being talking about for the past few decades.” ~ Anonymous, 19 from Yazd

“There is a lot of anxiety about Trump among ‘normal’ citizens, and by that I mean those not connected or supportive of the regime. That’s because at the end of the day it’s us who will pay for all these political games. There will be millions of crushed dreams as a result. I grew up with the internet, and American culture – at least the liberal part – has really shaped who I am. I am LGBTQ and it really helped me accept myself and be brave. I thought US culture was accepting, open and loving but now it seems the opposite.” ~ Amir, 24

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Karim Sulayman’s “I Trust You” Artful Protest vs. Anarchic Protest

Karim Sulayman’s “I Trust You” Artful Protest vs. Anarchic Protest

Karim Sulayman – I trust you from Meredith Kaufman Younger on Vimeo.

Who is Karim Sulayman? He is an Arab-American who has mastered the art of singing tenor. He has also mastered the art of protest. (And he performed it right in front of Trump Tower).

Sulayman’s protest touched people in a good way that made them stop and consider how they feel about Muslims. People watching him had to be asking themselves if they feared him and, if the answer was Yes, then why?

We need much more of this type of peaceful protest and much less of the anarchic type of protest that we saw in response to Milo Yiannopoulos’s scheduled appearance at UC Berkeley.

Did the Berkeley protest change the minds of any bigots who support Milo Yiannopoulos? I doubt it. The best way to protest a provocateur is to not show up at his event. People like Yiannopoulos relish conflict and chaos. It inflates their egos. So if you really want to marginalize him, make plans for a big protest and make sure he knows about it – and then make sure nobody shows up to protest.