This is NOT a drill

by Erik Dolson

Another day lost to the coronavirus, another week gone by.  We’re in a row boat, Republicans have the only oar. They row on their side only and around, around we go.

“The states will do testing,” Trump says (on Monday, could change any time). Mitch McConnell says “blue” states should be punished for past spending by withholding money needed to pay cops, nurses, firefighters. “Let them go bankrupt,” he says.

It’s one thing if McConnell’s Kentucky opens up for business today or tomorrow. Agreed, that’s up to their governor. But then, do we restrict travelers from Kentucky because they can’t afford to test? How do we know if Kentucky is a hotbed of virus? If some states test and others do not, do we build walls between them?

Once again: The coronavirus is a national problem, affecting national health and the national economy, and requires a coherent national response. Here is a minimum national strategy, suggested by someone who knows, Paul Romer, a 2018 Nobel laureate in economics and former chief economist for the World Bank, as reported in the Washington Post:

“… federal government should test every American once every two weeks to reestablish national confidence and jump-start the economy — an effort he estimated at $100 billion, all told.

That cost, he said, pales in comparison to the amount of lost economic activity the pandemic has caused. Romer, an expert in economic modeling, estimates that the United States is losing at least $500 billion a month in domestic production; other economists have suggested the figure is larger still.

‘Every month of delay makes the recovery slower — and take longer,’ Romer said.”

This is not a drill. As Trump flounders, American’s die and prospects for the future grow dim.

Give Trump a break!

By Erik Dolson

God, it pains me to say it.

The press is being unfair to Trump.

His missteps last Thursday at the coronavirus update were serious. Talking about using light on people to kill the virus in a minute, or wondering if there was some way disinfectant could be used internally to destroy the virus, was not his best moment.

But if I usually try to look at what Trump means, as opposed to what he says, I have to do the same here. In his own way, Trump was asking if these things might be possible, not advocating that people mainline Clorox or stand outside, mouths open, facing the sun.

Of course, it’s Trump, so he got in this trouble hoping to take credit if a cure was discovered that could even remotely be tied to his questions. Great leader stops the volcano!

It was only Trump’s fundamental inability to express himself clearly (reflecting education and mental ability) that made it seem like he might have been making a recommendation. Which makes it no less dangerous, just less stupid.

But Trump’s inability to acknowledge shortcomings or mistakes made the situation much worse the next day, when he claimed his comment was made sarcastically as a way to trap a hostile press. There’s a lot of video out there that shows this was clearly not the case.

Trump was caught in a trap of his own making: he said something kinda dumb, then obviously lied about it. At that point, he couldn’t explain away his earlier statements without being caught by the classic lawyer’s checkmate: Are you lying now, or were you lying then?

No wonder the press briefing the next day was so short.

Since then, the story that Trump was advising people to treat their insides with antiseptic has been elaborated on and joked about (this writer guilty). Which simply reenforces the idea on the right that the Left is incapable of being fair to Trump.

The episode has deeper meaning, however. It is not just that those believing every Word of Trump is Gospel are put in danger by his inability to recognize that the office of President of the United States is an obligation greater than Trump. What the country needs right now is a leader to inspire during a true crisis that affects us all, to unite us, to bring out the best in us, to create a plan of action based on sound professional advice.

But since the coronavirus crisis struck, Trump has shown over and over again he is not that man.

Everything coming out of his mouth has been intended to serve his ego and preserve his power. From dismissing the virus as one person coming in from China, to blaming China and the World Health Organization for not giving him information he already had, to blaming impeachment as a distraction, to saying an obviously bungled program to test and provide protective gear was not his doing, to saying he was in control of virus strategy and then saying instead it was up to governors, and then undercutting governor’s orders, Trump has proven that a presidency founded on serving his interests fails when we need leadership the most.

So the press should lay off on the light / antiseptic miscommunication of last Thursday, and give the man a break. We all make mistakes when speaking, and there was a lot of pressure to seem like he was in command. Instead, we should focus on the real issue: Trump is simply unfit for the office.

What will survive the virus?

By Erik Dolson

The coronavirus is a once-in-a-generation event. As it has ended many lives, going forward it will define many others. It will perhaps define our country, what we have become and who we will be.

The virus is an insidious enemy, spreading among people who do not appear to be sick. It can attack in terrifying ways, causing blood clots and strokes in young and seemingly healthy people, invading the lungs in a way that does not cause shortness of breath until there is too little oxygen for life.

But the damage is not suffered just by individuals with the virus, and their families. Our economy teeters on the edge as we try to limit a death toll that reached 50,000 in this country alone in about one month. We have had to change how we live. The coronavirus and its aftermath are threats to the whole country, a threat to the whole world.

One argument against the U.S. going to war against the Nazis was they were “over there,” on the other side of a great moat that separated America from Europe. That was a false argument then, too, but there are no moats any more, if there ever were, against disease.

Diseases like this are wars between species, and ours is under threat. It’ s the type of threat that requires us to come together as a people, as humanity. It is a threat that should unite us in a battle where our collective will can overcome an alien species that takes individual lives and may destroy whole nations.

Others here know history far better than I, but phrases from past crises come to mind. “A house divided against itself cannot stand,” “United we stand, divided we fall.”

America has excelled when faced with this type of challenge. Acknowledging  Winston Churchill’s back handed compliment, “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing — after they’ve tried everything else,” we have done the right thing, and we prevailed. We saved countless lives, we saved nations, we saved democracy, we saved freedom.

But we did it together.

Trump’s strategy of spreading fear and loathing, divide and conquer, winning is all that matters, has been shockingly successful in this Age of Facebook where ideologies are reenforced and common interests buried. The strategy helped Trump take over the Republican party and helped Republicans capture the debate of what it means to be an American.

But over the last several weeks, it’s been obvious that strategy is the wrong way to fight the coronavirus. The virus is not contained in New York. The Midwest is not a separate world. Louisiana is not south of the border. We can’t shrug and let each state take care of their own. We are in this together.

We can’t let urban states go bankrupt, as if they didn’t support rural states with money and expertise as they do. We can’t let rural states suffer as if their culture wasn’t a crucial strength of America, as we have in the past. We can’t turn our backs on anyone. If the virus hides out in a pocket in Kentucky, or in Africa, it WILL escape and come for the rest of us.

I am not advocating action as a liberal. There are many liberal agendas I do not support, and there are left wing interests I feel are destructive. But now is not the time to take sides. Despite two generations of depletion by liberals and deconstruction by conservatives, America united still has the ability to lead the world in this fight against an enemy that could kill any of us, and destroy all of us.

But only if we stand shoulder to shoulder.

If we can own our individual responsibility to America, and to humanity, we will defeat the coronavirus and future generations will look upon America with appreciation, and perhaps incorporate the principles on which she was built of value to each of us.

If our efforts are driven by selfishness, pettiness, and discord, if divided we will fail. The great American experiment will have been nothing more than a great American Dream unfulfilled, American exceptionalism will have been an exception we never meant it to be.

(Virus photo DAVID MARCHAL/SCIENCE SOURCE)

Just shut up

By Erik Dolson

Shut up! Just shut up, you Cheeto-colored, fat-headed blowhard! Shut up and quit using coronavirus updates to put your ineptitude on display, as if you were proud of it like a five-year-old holding up a drawing done in kindergarten. You are embarrassing America.

Your ignorance, your cluelessness, your egotistical grandstanding, your obvious floundering, are making the Pretend President Show painful to watch. And dangerous. More popular than “The Bachelor,” you say? Bigger audience than “Monday Night Football?” Are you kidding me? What kind of inane, insane monster are you? Turn it off.

Shut up, because we all know English is a foreign language to you, and that you’ve never been that bright, and that adults who still monitor your White House play pen should talk directly to America about the virus. I don’t mean Pence, either, that mealy-mouthed lick-spittle.

Shut up about your “perfect” early response to the virus, about how you prevented diease carriers from coming in from China, because  the virus was already here! People in the White House knew it! Shut up about the World Health Organization too, because for all their faults, they did a better job than YOU.

Shut up about “liberating Michigan,” after you turned virus response over to governors who are making agonizing decisions every damn day. Shut up about disapproving the opening of Georgia for business after you suggested they do exactly that! God, you are such an asshole.

Shut up about your greatness in testing, you pouting, soft-lip scum sucking incompetent, because it’s not true. Testing? We would be testing ourselves but there isn’t an oxymeter to be found in Oregon, nor a bottle of disinfectant, by the way. Why not? Why aren’t there gallons of alcohol disinfectant for sale in every damn drug store in the nation? Because that is clearly something you could do, if you’d stop putting it in our gasoline.

Shut up about your miracle cures, because they aren’t real and YOU ARE KILLING PEOPLE with your ignorance. You have the power of the U.S. government at your fingertips, and you promote bullshit from Rudy Gulianni? Just shut up.

Shut up about how great it’s going to be, real soon, because we are still mourning loved ones we have lost, more deaths to the virus than anywhere in the world, including CHINA!

You don’t think it’s that bad? How many friends have you lost to the virus, how many relatives? None?

Maybe that’s because you are just better than the rest of us, cleaner, more virtuous, you pig-faced grifter, you fake businessman, you shill, you flatulence-exhaling con man. Or, maybe you haven’t lost anyone, and maybe you don’t worry about disinfectant or tests or deaths, beause you live in a bubble of gold plated bathroom fixtures cleaned by servants after every crap you take.

Maybe you don’t care because you don’t have to, and you never did, you silver-spoon-fed pile of twisted  lies, damaged ego and disgusting selfishness.

So just shut up.

Narcissist strategy

By Erik Dolson

Donald Trump  does not care how many die of the virus. He does not care about the economy, either, except how it affects his own wealth. He only wants to be reelected, and rich, and prove he is the greatest man in the world.

On Monday, realizing the economy is getting ugly, he panics. He wants to reopen the country for business, now!  He says he has total control over the nation.

Somebody points out this isn’t true, and actually makes him responsible if things don’t work out. Deaths don’t matter, reelection does.

So on Thursday, he bellows that he’s giving governors the right to open — or not —their individual states. That he had no such power doesn’t matter — he gave himself cover if opening businesses too early results in more deaths. Not his fault! Deaths don’t matter, reelection does.

On Friday, he tweets support for those protesting restrictions, undercutting the governors he “allowed” to act just the day before. So if the economy falls off a cliff, he tried to prevent it! Not his fault! Deaths don’t matter, reelection does.

It’s a perfect strategy for the narcissist. If deaths go up, it’s not his fault! If the economy tanks, he tried to prevent it! And, who else is better qualified to lead the country out of a pandemic depression? Why, it’s Donnie Wonderful to the rescue! Four more years!

Labels can mislead

By Erik Dolson

Yesterday, a man I’ve worked with and deeply respect said I wasn’t really a “liberal.”

He’s a “conservative,” and it’s one of his favorite light-hearted jabs when we agree on something before we move on to disagree about something else. Perhaps I shouldn’t move on so easily. By saying I’m “really a conservative,” my friend resolves the conflict that he respects the thinking behind my opinons.

We all dismiss with labels rather than reflect on the arguments. Maybe it’s easier to change the label than face the agreement.

I’ve dodged “boxes” most of my life. I’ve long said I was a “political economist.” To me, the ideologies of the left and right were more faith-based than data-based. Both ignore that the laws of economics are about as immutable as the laws of physics and we waste incredible energy and resources oblivious of that fact.

Rather than recognize the benefits of the other’s ideology, each seems inclined to ignore the cost of their own and emphasize the cost of the other.

Liberals seem to believe that no one should be responsible for themselves; conservatives forget that we all benefit when we take care of each other, and there is a role for government in warding off economic anarchy. My conservative friends believe too many “undeserving” are stealing the fruit of their labor, my liberal friends see the top one percent using privilege to steal from everyone else while trashing our common treasure.

Another good friend and I were out shooting the other day. I made some crack about the inconsistency of being “liberals who enjoy guns.”

“It’s NOT an inconsistency,” he fired back (sorry). He is more rigorous in his thinking than I am, and fine-tunes his labels more precisely. But consequently, he may have even more difficulty communicating to a world that prefers easy, broad-brushed colors of red and blue.

Believing that Trump is an intellectual derelict, as damaging to America as Covid-19, an ineffectual immoralist, a fountain of selfishness, hate and anger, doesn’t make me a “liberal.” Neither does my belief than no person in America should be without healthcare.

Believing that English should be our national language and a baker should be able to bake a cake for whom he chooses does not make me a conservative.

When do labels stand in the way of our agreements, and keep us from getting something done?

Why bailout stalled

By Erik Dolson

Republicans are using the national pandemic to enrich themselves and their friends. Democrats want to help Americans. It’s about that simple.

Trump wants to put Steve Mnuchin in charge of distributing bailout money. Mnuchin, formerly of Goldman Sachs, the company at the center of “Main Street bails out Wall Street” during the Great Recession. (see photo of Mnuchin and wife above — Chicago Tribune)

Mnuchin thinks economic health starts with big business in New York. The rest of us are expendable. Under his plan, how much money will go to Trump family hotels?

Need another example of Republican priorities? After receiving inside information that the economy was in trouble, Senator Richard M. Burr, Republican of North Carolina, and Senator Kelly Loeffler, Republican of Georgia, (whose husband is chair of the New York Stock Exchange) appear to have sold massive amounts of stock while reassuring America that everything was okay. 

Everything is not okay, especially because of the Republican party of oligarchs and plutocrats. This pandemic is worse because of their actions and inaction.

Democrats want to give relief to ordinary people who are out of work, those worrying how to pay rent or make house or car or insurance payments. Democrats want to make sure these people have sick leave so they don’t spread the virus. Democrats want to help Americans see a doctor!

Trump did not cause the Corona virus, but his policies and those of the Republican party have made the consequences much worse for the working men and women of America.

Those Trump insulted for the last three years — scientists, the Federal Reserve, and yes, bureaucrats, are trying to help average Americans survive.

They know their duty is to all of America, not just padding the lives of the top 1 percent.

What are friends for?

By Erik Dolson

“Daddy!”

Donnie Boastful was at his desk in the Oval Office trying to solve the Tik Tok Toe game in the “Washington Times.” Normally he wouldn’t tolerate an interruption, but it was Ivanka, and, well …

“What can I do for you, you gloriously amazing most wonderful human (from my loins) who ever graced this planet earth in the history of time?”

“Daddy, they say I should give back my China trademarks that I got after our wonderful trip there last summer! Because that bad Biden boy had to quit his job on a China board of directors!”

“Ivanka, sweetest and most lovely creature who ever walked the world, what have I always told you since you were a tall, willowy young female of immense beauty?”

“That if I wasn’t your daughter…”

“Not that.”

“I know! I know! You said to never tell the truth! That it just confuses people!”

“That’s true, it does. But I was thinking of something else. It’s about ‘rules.’ “

“I know! Rules are for other people! We Trumps do what we want!”

“That’s right! So the bad Biden boy has to resign, but you and Don Jr., and that other boy in the family don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. That’s just the way it works.”

“Oh, Daddy, thank you!” Ivanka ran over to his desk and took both his small hands in hers and held them tightly to his side while she gave Donnie Boastful a peck on the cheek.

“Oh, hi Uncle Rudy!” She sang out as she left and Rudy the Rat walked in.

“Hi, Ivanka,” Rudy said. “Boss, I think we got a problem, two of my men got busted as they were leaving the country.”

“What do you mean, Rat, ‘we got a problem?’  Didn’t you just say they were ‘your’ men?”

“Well, they gave a lot of money to your campaign.”

“A lot of people gave a lot of money to my campaign. I couldn’t possibly know all of them. Or any of them. By the way, now would be a good time to ask: Are you still my lawyer?”

“Of course! I just said so on TV!  Some wise guy reporter asked if I was working for the government in Ukraine, and I said, ‘No, I work for the President!’ ”

“You could have said yes, because I’m the President and working for me is working for America. Say, did you see Lou Dobbs? He said that I fulfilled yet another campaign promise getting us out of the Middle East, that pulling out was a brilliant, seventh level chess move.”

“I didn’t see the Dobbs show today, but I’m supposed to go on it tomorrow again. Sheesh, I think I’ve been on Fox 17 tines this month!”

“Rat, don’t start thinking you’re a star. I’m Prime Time Donnie, capiche?”

“I work for you, Mr. America.”

“Great answer. I’ve got a press conference in 20 minutes and have to pretend to slap that guy from Turkey around for roughing up the Kurds. I’m gonna say I’m thinking about destroying his economy, and that I’m going to have conversation on what to do about it. I might send a team over to Turkey. I’ll have them stay in the Trump Twin Towers. It’s the most spectacular hotel in Istanbul!”

“That’s brilliant, Boss. All those people whining about the Kurds. What do they know? What did the Kurds do for us? They’re just in the whey. We made the Kurds some promises … so what, promises are made to be broken, right? This is Trumpworld, right? Just ask them people who built your hotels in Atlantic City!”

“Yeah, didn’t the Kurds read my book? Hellooooo?! They been fighting for so many years over there, it’s easy for them!”

“Who really cares, Boss? Just those people who talk about honor like it’s something you can spend!”

“That’s right, Rat. And it got that impeachment hoax off TV for a whole week! That’s not the reason we’re clearing out of the Middle East, though. I wouldn’t do sumthin’ like that just to change the subject or nothing, right?! It’s because I promised my base!”

“And you keep your promises, Mr. President. Even if Lindsey Graham yesterday said kinda sorta not the nicest thing about what you did.”

“Lay Down Lindsey? He’s just providing a little cover for himself. He’ll fall in line. Vladimir told me he’s got dirt on Lindsey and if I have any trouble, I just need to give Vlad the word. Besides, so what if we pull out of the Middle East? What difference is it going to make? Let them solve their own problems over there! Maybe it’ll disappoint a couple of people, but who cares?”

The intercom on the desk in the Oval Office buzzed.

“Mr. President, the prime minister of Israel is on Line 1. He says it’s urgent.”

“Hey, Rat, would you mind using the back door as you leave? I’m not sure we want that a lot of people see you’re still around.

“Bibi! How you doin’? How’s things in Jerusalem? You know that’s one of my favorite places, right? I think you need a Trump Towers Jerusalem, Bibi, has a nice ring to it, don’t it? It should go right on the beach. Maybe we can do a deal. Hey, sorry I didn’t get back to sooner, it’s been a little hectic around here, maybe you heard … ”

Ack! I’m conservative!

By Erik Dolson
I received a text from the Bernie Sanders people yesterday, asking if I was on board with his new campaign to become president. I told them “No.”

No, because Bernie is stepping on his necktie. Elizabeth is scaring people. Too many others are saying “YES!” to fringe ideas. Bill Clinton and Obama know what the message has to be. Is anyone listening? 

Message: “America is facing challenges and is under attack. We need to face these challenges and attacks with policies that benefit ALL Americans, not just the top one percent (Republicans) or one-issue groups (Democrats).

Owners of capital are investing in automation, not in people. We are losing jobs to Asia, and to robots that build cars or pick crops. Our economy will founder if Americans don’t have work: social security, medicare, infrastructure, military, all depend on America working — and buying. To work, Americans need health, education, and infrastructure, not tarrifs, monopolies, and corrupt politics.

America’s health care system is a relic left over from WWII. We have the most expensive medical care in the world, but our health is just average in terms of outcomes. Why? Because special interests take advantage of their power in Congress to line their pockets with our tax dollars.

For solutions, Conservatives and Democrats can together look to the free market, but not the hoax we have today. Government should not get into the business of making medicine, Ms. Warren, but Americans should be able to buy the least expensive high quality medicine from any place in the world, Mr. Romney.

We need to lower “barriers of entry” so new companies with new solutions can enter the market. Reduce patent periods. Enact policies that favor investment. And ultimately, either break up or restrict oligopolies that are killing Americans with their profiteering by jacking up prices by 200 percent, 500 percent, 1000 percent on drugs that have been around for decades.

Medicine should be tested by our government for quality and purity. It is not “bureaucratic” to ensure health and safety. How does it happen that blood pressure meds sold to millions of Americans were made with chemicals from China contaminated with carcinogens? How does it happen that insurers or pharmacy benefits managers did not tell patients these drugs were contaminated?

We need to accept that robots have arrived and are taking what used to be high paying, middle class jobs. We can not prevent this, because other countries will outcompete us if we do. But we do need to guarantee that the information age does not lead to an age of American impoverishment, even more divided between those who own robots and those without jobs, which is where we’re headed now under Republican management. This will involve hard redefinitions, but if Americans don’t have income, businesses don’t have market.

If we pull apart, we will fail. If we pull together, we are unbeatable. Everyone in America, Democrat and Republican, libertarian and socialist, has a stake in the outcome.

Sadly, the Republican party has decided to lie to America by claiming that tax cuts were evenly distributed, that we can’t afford decent health care for all, that a rigged economy  represents a fair and honest playing field. These arguments are the result of money buying power to rewrite laws in their favor.

Democrats have tough disagreements. Gay rights versus a baker’s liberty to choose for whom to bake a cake. The difficult line between abortion and a woman’s right to choose. Individual freedom to achieve versus the right of an individual to fail, and expose all of us to the reality of being human.

Everything can’t be done, and Democrats should not try to do everything, or promise everything. But generally, the Democratic party offers the best chance of success for farmers in the midwest, for displaced factory workers in the northern states, for coal miners left out in the southeast, and for coastal cities facing massive disruption as the world grows hotter as the result of unfettered greed. 

But to develop a winning strategy, Democrats HAVE to listen to people outside their own tiny circles. So, no, Bernie, you are not the right candidate for the job.

Ideas are what Democrats have to sell. ALL of America is the market.

Connie Chung’s remarkable letter

by Erik Dolson

During the aftermath of the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation hearing, retired newswoman Connie Chung wrote a remarkable letter to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford who had come forward to describe a decades old assault by Kavanaugh.

Chung empathized with Ford after Republican men on the committee, and the president, implied the assault could not have occurred as she remembered it, in effect saying: “This didn’t happen or you would have told someone at the time.”

In the letter, Chung revealed a painful truth: As a young woman, still a virgin and in college, she had been assaulted by her family doctor from whom she had asked for a prescription for birth control. Read more…