Trump’s coronavirus propaganda

In a recent article in the Atlantic, McKay Coppins calls out President Cheeto-head’s disinformation campaign, designed to hide the number of people he’s responsible for killing.  He points out that on February 28, Donald Trump stood before a crowd of supporters in South Carolina and told them to pay no attention to the growing warnings of a coronavirus outbreak in America. The press was “in hysteria mode,” the president said. The Democrats were playing politics. This new virus was nothing compared with the seasonal flu—and anyone who said otherwise was just trying to hurt him. “This is their new hoax,” Trump proclaimed.  Six weeks later, the coronavirus has killed more than 25,000 Americans, the U.S. economy has been crippled—and Trump is recasting himself as a pandemic prophet.  More recently, Trump said “I knew it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic.”  “I knew everything,” he reiterated a couple of weeks later. Asked to assess his response to the virus, he says, “I’d rate it at 10.”  Whoa.  I’d encourage you to look at what Taiwan did and when they did it.  Surely, it shows that we have a 2nd rate federal government and a train wreck of a chief executive.

Why we don’t trust our elected officials

It’s no secret why Americans don’t trust our politicians, and like them less than cockroaches.  This New York Times article explains how the $2 trillion stimulus relief bill just passed includes a provision that’s likely to give a $170 billion tax break to the top 1% of taxpayers.  Specifically, real estate speculators like Donald Trump and his henchman Jared Kushner.  Even without this giveaway, we subsidize the ultra-rich.  Portions of Trump’s 1995 tax return published by The Times showed nearly $916 million in losses, which could have permitted him to avoid paying any federal income taxes for almost two decades.  This new rule is judged to be the 2nd biggest tax giveaway in the $2 trillion legislation.

San Fran is 7th Worst City in the World

According to this Forbes article, San Francisco is the 7th worst city in the world in which to live (and the worst in the Americas).  Not a big surprise, even the SF Examiner recognizes its poopiness, by exclaiming “Yes, our glorious city is recognized the world over as the premier defecation destination”.  Thanks to the homeless/drug problem and the cost of lodging, Oracle is moving its annual conference from SF.  It’s too bad because there are a lot of natural beauty and cultural aspects of the city to like.  But I’m in no hurry to go there anymore.2321902561_5c8cf65c92_kFWIW, according to the article, Montreal is the best city in the Americas.  Gotta love those Canucks.

 

Who Can Pardon Rapists and Murderers?

The answer to the question is:  a politician.  For some reason I can’t understand, we give state governors the right to pardon anyone they like, for any reason they like.  This is insane!

I think it’s pretty well accepted that politicians aren’t any wiser than the general public, or fairer, or more honest.  Heck, look at this case, where a governor pardons a killer in exchange for money, and a child rapist because he figures he was smarter than 12 jurors.  Or look at the partisanship in the Trump impeachment; there’s not a shred of honesty involved in half the politicians!  A politician’s only special skill is the skill to be elected.  Why then should we allow state governors or cheeto-head presidents to let criminals out of jail?  It’s crazy.  There should be some oversight, like a parole board.  I’m not suggesting that they aren’t capable people; most are.  So is my postal carrier, the local librarian, and the guy who put in my new septic tank.  But why should we trust any governor or president to do this very special thing?

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Media Bias

In a search for sources of unbiased news, I stumbled upon this really interesting site, which attempts to categorize news sources by two useful attributes:  degree of actual news reporting, and left/right bias.  It’s a great chart; check it out.

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This cartoon symbolizes one of the biases … liberal vs. whatever-passes-for-conservative these days.  I think we all understand the concept, though I doubt many would agree on the way their favorite media site is classified.  Last week, a conservative friend of mine declared that the National Review is fair and unbiased.  (It’s not).

The other dimension of bias is the degree which a media site provides actual news reporting vs. analysis/opinion.   Some of us simply want the news, and some of us want someone to interpret it for us so we know what to think.  The authors of this book would argue that most citizen/voters get their opinions from the tribe they identify with, so they need media sources that deliver opinions vs. news/facts.  I flatter myself by claiming that I can form my own opinions, so I’m seeking sources that report only facts/news.  Having said that, people much smarter than me do some amazing analysis, so AFTER I vet their left/right biases, I’ll occasionally seek them out.

Trying PBS for news for now.  Analysis sources are hit or miss.

 

 

 

Has the News Overtaken Reality?

In this excellent article in The Guardian, Oliver Burkeman writes that “for a certain segment of the population, the news has come to fill up more and more time – and, more subtly, to occupy centre stage in our subjective sense of reality, so that the world of national politics and international crises can feel more important, even more truly real, than the concrete immediacy of our families, neighbourhoods and workplaces. It’s not simply that we spend too many hours glued to screens. It’s that for some of us, at least, they have altered our way of being in the world such that the news is no longer one aspect of the backdrop to our lives, but the main drama.”

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I highly recommend the entire article, but here are some snippets:  He writes “To live with a part of your mind perpetually in the world of the news, exposed to an entire planet’s worth of mendacity and suffering, railing against events too vast for any individual to alter, is to feel what Greenfield, author of the book Radical Technologies: The Design of Everyday Life, calls “a low-grade sense of panic and loss of control”, so normal it has come to feel routine … Perhaps you have felt that ridiculous yet discernible pressure, on social media, to emit an official opinion about every natural disaster, celebrity death or Trump administration policy announcement, as if each of us were the ambassador of a small nation, from whom silence might be interpreted as callous lack of concern.”

He correctly observes that news isn’t reality; it distorts our views of reality.  He writes that “A functioning public sphere also depends on collective access to a shared body of facts about reality, to serve as the stable ground on which to hash out our differences of opinion. But with such an enormous surplus of information, filtered on the basis of what compels each user’s attention, that shared basis of facts is soon eroded. Meanwhile, the algorithms of social media invisibly sort us into ever more separate communities of ever more similar people, so that even if you are discussing, say, movies or sport, you’re increasingly likely to be doing so with those who share your political affiliations; the more you engage with politics, the more everything becomes political – and, research suggests, the harder it becomes to understand your political opponents as fully human. This is a situation ripe for exploitation by demagogues, who understand that their power consists in turning the whole of life into a battleground divided along political lines, thereby maximising their domination of public attention.”  Demagogues?  Trump?

Finally, “This raises a possibility alien to news addicts, committed political activists and journalists alike: that we might owe it not only to our sanity, but also to the world at large, to find a way to put the news back in its place.”

 

 

 

 

Why We Can’t Solve Homelessness

According to this article, the vast majority of people being pushed out onto the streets by America’s growing urban economies do not need dedicated social workers or intensive medication regimes. They simply need higher incomes and lower housing costs. The article goes on to claim that “The biggest hindrance to solving homelessness is that city residents keep demanding the least effective policies.”  Such as criminalizing panhandling and bulldozing tent encampments.

Alarmingly, the article finally states that “the only way to address the crisis is through a concerted — and costly — expansion of government assistance. And yet, even as homelessness becomes a defining feature of urban growth, no city in America can afford to meaningfully address it. Before the 1980s, most of the responsibility for low-income housing, rental assistance and mental health treatment fell on the federal government.  Since then, though, these costs have been systematically handed over to cities. And there are no signs that it’s going to get better. The economy is creating new homeless people faster than cities can house them.”

The entire article, and links to supporting articles, are worth reading, but IMO the key point being made is that homelessness can’t be solved at the local level.  In our local community, it’s clear that this is true.  So I have to ask, where is the federal or even state leadership?

Homeless Camp in Santa Cruz

Homeless camp in Santa Cruz, Winter/Spring 2019

 

Guinea worm is almost eradicated*

*And other good news. 

It’s really easy to focus on all the things that are “getting worse”.  Like, the number of hours per day dedicated to reading about one of the Kardashians, or the stupidity of Trump’s tweets.  But this article takes the long view on a number of important measurements, in the US and WW.  Things like world hunger, homicides rates, and poverty are getting better.  It’s not a comprehensive list, but if you think things are going to “hell in a handbasket”, first take a look at the stats in the article.  And smile.

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You are who you hate

Interesting comment in issue 872 of the Editor’s Letter in The Week magazine:  “For much of the electorate, politics is a ritualized display of tribal identity, not a mere choice of policies.  You are who you hate.”

IMO, it’s in the self-interest of our political parties (tribes) to drive ever harder wedges between one another, because the #1 function of a tribe is to out-compete other tribes.  It’s hard-wired into our genes from our primate ancestors.

George Washington warned against the formation of political parties and urged the nation to choose leaders for reasons that transcended partisan politics.  Hmmm.

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