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Monday, April 27, 2020

A Foreigner's View On America

What many Americans already know is spreading throughout the World. What do they see when they look at the USA now? Here’s what Ireland’s most respected mainstream political writer says.

Irish Times
April 25, 2020
By Fintan O’Toole

THE WORLD HAS LOVED, HATED AND ENVIED THE U.S. NOW, FOR THE FIRST TIME, WE PITY IT
Over more than two centuries, the United States has stirred a very wide range of feelings in the rest of the world: love and hatred, fear and hope, envy and contempt, awe and anger. But there is one emotion that has never been directed towards the US until now: pity.
However bad things are for most other rich democracies, it is hard not to feel sorry for Americans. Most of them did not vote for Donald Trump in 2016. Yet they are locked down with a malignant narcissist who, instead of protecting his people from Covid-19, has amplified its lethality. The country Trump promised to make great again has never in its history seemed so pitiful.
Will American prestige ever recover from this shameful episode? The US went into the coronavirus crisis with immense advantages: precious weeks of warning about what was coming, the world’s best concentration of medical and scientific expertise, effectively limitless financial resources, a military complex with stunning logistical capacity and most of the world’s leading technology corporations. Yet it managed to make itself the global epicenter of the pandemic.
As the American writer George Packer puts it in the current edition of the Atlantic, “The United States reacted ... like Pakistan or Belarus – like a country with shoddy infrastructure and a dysfunctional government whose leaders were too corrupt or stupid to head off mass suffering.”
It is one thing to be powerless in the face of a natural disaster, quite another to watch vast power being squandered in real time – willfully, malevolently, vindictively. It is one thing for governments to fail (as, in one degree or another, most governments did), quite another to watch a ruler and his supporters actively spread a deadly virus. Trump, his party and Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News became vectors of the pestilence.
The grotesque spectacle of the president openly inciting people (some of them armed) to take to the streets to oppose the restrictions that save lives is the manifestation of a political death wish. What are supposed to be daily briefings on the crisis, demonstrative of national unity in the face of a shared challenge, have been used by Trump merely to sow confusion and division. They provide a recurring horror show in which all the neuroses that haunt the American subconscious dance naked on live TV.
If the plague is a test, its ruling political nexus ensured that the US would fail it at a terrible cost in human lives. In the process, the idea of the US as the world’s leading nation – an idea that has shaped the past century – has all but evaporated.
Other than the Trump impersonator Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, who is now looking to the US as the exemplar of anything other than what not to do? How many people in Düsseldorf or Dublin are wishing they lived in Detroit or Dallas?
It is hard to remember now but, even in 2017, when Trump took office, the conventional wisdom in the US was that the Republican Party and the broader framework of US political institutions would prevent him from doing too much damage. This was always a delusion, but the pandemic has exposed it in the most savage ways.


Abject surrender
What used to be called mainstream conservatism has not absorbed Trump – he has absorbed it. Almost the entire right-wing half of American politics has surrendered abjectly to him. It has sacrificed on the altar of wanton stupidity the most basic ideas of responsibility, care and even safety.
Thus, even at the very end of March, 15 Republican governors had failed to order people to stay at home or to close non-essential businesses. In Alabama, for example, it was not until April 3rd that governor Kay Ivey finally issued a stay-at-home order.
In Florida, the state with the highest concentration of elderly people with underlying conditions, governor Ron DeSantis, a Trump mini-me, kept the beach resorts open to students traveling from all over the US for spring break parties. Even on April 1st, when he issued restrictions, DeSantis exempted religious services and “recreational activities”.
Georgia governor Brian Kemp, when he finally issued a stay-at-home order on April 1st, explained: “We didn’t know that [the virus can be spread by people without symptoms] until the last 24 hours.”
This is not mere ignorance – it is deliberate and homicidal stupidity. There is, as the demonstrations this week in US cities have shown, plenty of political mileage in denying the reality of the pandemic. It is fueled by Fox News and far-right internet sites, and it reaps for these politicians millions of dollars in donations, mostly (in an ugly irony) from older people who are most vulnerable to the coronavirus.
It draws on a concoction of conspiracy theories, hatred of science, paranoia about the “deep state” and religious providentialism (God will protect the good folks) that is now very deeply infused in the mindset of the American right.
Trump embodies and enacts this mindset, but he did not invent it. The US response to the coronavirus crisis has been paralyzed by a contradiction that the Republicans have inserted into the heart of US democracy. On the one hand, they want to control all the levers of governmental power. On the other they have created a popular base by playing on the notion that government is innately evil and must not be trusted.
The contradiction was made manifest in two of Trump’s statements on the pandemic: on the one hand that he has “total authority”, and on the other that “I don’t take responsibility at all”. Caught between authoritarian and anarchic impulses, he is incapable of coherence.


Fertile ground
But this is not just Donald Trump. The crisis has shown definitively that Trump’s presidency is not an aberration. It has grown on soil long prepared to receive it. The monstrous blossoming of misrule has structure and purpose and strategy behind it.
There are very powerful interests who demand “freedom” in order to do as they like with the environment, society and the economy. They have infused a very large part of American culture with the belief that “freedom” is literally more important than life. My freedom to own assault weapons trumps your right not to get shot at school. Now, my freedom to go to the barber (“I Need a Haircut” read one banner this week in St Paul, Minnesota) trumps your need to avoid infection.
Usually when this kind of outlandish idiocy is displaying itself, there is the comforting thought that, if things were really serious, it would all stop. People would sober up. Instead, a large part of the US has hit the bottle even harder.
And the president, his party and their media allies keep supplying the drinks. There has been no moment of truth, no shock of realization that the antics have to end. No one of any substance on the US right has stepped in to say: get a grip, people are dying here.
That is the mark of how deep the trouble is for the US – it is not just that Trump has treated the crisis merely as a way to feed tribal hatreds but that this behaviour has become normalised. When the freak show is live on TV every evening, and the star is boasting about his ratings, it is not really a freak show any more. For a very large and solid bloc of Americans, it is reality.
And this will get worse before it gets better. Trump has at least eight more months in power. In his inaugural address in 2017, he evoked “American carnage” and promised to make it stop. But now that the real carnage has arrived, he is reveling in it. He is in his element.
As things get worse, he will pump more hatred and falsehood, more death-wish defiance of reason and decency, into the groundwater. If a new administration succeeds him in 2021, it will have to clean up the toxic dump he leaves behind. If he is re-elected, toxicity will have become the lifeblood of American politics.
Either way, it will be a long time before the rest of the world can imagine America being great again.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Oh Boy, We Got A New Project And Look What We Found

We can thank the Coronavirus for it. With the perspective of no tourists visiting Campobello this summer, some ideas which had been concocted years ago but never been followed up on, are now surfacing.
One of those ideas was building a bigger more substantial greenhouse. And now is the time to do it.

First order was to find an ideal location on the property. It shouldn't be in the way, nor should it be too far away from the house. And the spot should not be too difficult to build on.

So looking around, I eyed the space between the garage/woodshed and the little lawn mower-shed I had built last summer. But there was an appletree and a little spruce tree in the way. The apple tree had been a bit of a nuissance all the time as the apples weren't good but plentiful and all of them would land on the ground to rot there, creating a mess to clean up. And the little spruce tree was too close to the lawn mower shed anyway.

So I quickly decided that this would be the future building site for a new greenhouse. Within 1hr. both trees were gone. Looking around I realized a number of old tree stumps being in the way as well. And of course, I had the two of the newly cut down trees on top of it. With the big axe and a shovel I hacked and dug around the three old stumps, and finally they were lose enough so I could break them out of the ground. They were half rotten and not too difficult to deal with. I tried the same technic with the fresh apple tree root, but it wouldn't budge. So I needed a bit more power - like the V8 engine of our old pickup.

With a chain around the root and the truck put in forward gear I got the root on the third attempt. Yahoui... The same was then done with the smaller root of the spruce tree.



Now I had a fairly open space for the green house project. But the real work came first today.

Bea and I started digging a trench for the foundation 16' x 10'. First part wasn't too hard, but then we got into some rock-hard clay mixed with stones. While we were making a slow headway something really odd turned up. Down in the dirt we found a pistol! Now that makes me wonder whether this is a gun someone has been murdered with and whether there could be a body in the ground as well. Could this be an old cold case?

And now our American friends can try to find out what kind of gun we have found. We know it already, just testing your knowledge. Leave a comment and we will present our findings to you a coupla days later.

We worked hard for about 3hours until we called it a day.

By-the-way the weather was April-style, which means strong cold wind and snow for 15 minutes (running to grab a jacket) then hot sun (throwing off my jacket). Repeat!
The plan is to level off the ditch with a layer of gravel then putting up a foundation of cinder blocks filled with concrete. From there it will be a wooden construction. We have a number of old storm windows, for the sides. And they can be opened. The roof will be done with UV-stabilized clear plastic.

Neighbours are already wondering when the first plants will be ready for sale. Not gonna happen this year for sure, but maybe next year. But we are planning to use this greenhouse for vegetables. Tomatos, cucumbers, squash, that kind of stuff we will have. And the greenhouse will also allow for some earlier production of lettuce, cabbage and some other kinds.

Next step will be hauling gravel. That's gonna be some neck-breaking work as well, but eventually it'll be paying off to get it done right.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Trump Is Shrinking Before Our Eyes

From the "ATLANTIC"

by Peter Wehner

Trump's massive failure in leadership stems from a massive defect in character. 
Trump is such a habitual liar that he is incapable of being honest, even when being honest would serve his interests. He is so impulsive, shortsighted, and undisciplined that he is unable to plan or even think beyond the moment. He is such a divisive and polarizing figure that he long ago lost the ability to unite the nation under any circumstances and for any cause. And he is so narcissistic and unreflective that he is completely incapable of learning from his mistakes. The president’s disordered personality makes him as ill-equipped to deal with a crisis as any president has ever been. With few exceptions, what Trump has said is not just useless; it is downright injurious.
The nation is recognizing this, treating him as a bystander “as school superintendents, sports commissioners, college presidents, governors and business owners across the country take it upon themselves to shut down much of American life without clear guidance from the president,” in the words of Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman of The New York Times.
Donald Trump is shrinking before our eyes.
The coronavirus is quite likely to be the Trump presidency’s inflection point, when everything changed, when the bluster and ignorance and shallowness of America’s 45th president became undeniable, an empirical reality, as indisputable as the laws of science or a mathematical equation.
It has taken a good deal longer than it should have, but Americans have now seen the con man behind the curtain. The president, enraged for having been unmasked, will become more desperate, more embittered, more unhinged. He knows nothing will be the same. His administration may stagger on, but it will be only a hollow shell. 
The Trump presidency is over.

Monday, April 13, 2020

So You Want To Be Anonymous?

This blog has been running for 9 years from 2011, and over the years readers from many walks of life and from all over North America have posted their comments. After our years with traveling the blog has seen many postings not related to travel topics. The political situation in the US has had a major impact on my postings. This has resulted in that some readers have left the blog while others have joined in. While I realize and respect that some readers would not want to leave comments on political topics on a publicly accessible blog, others have expressed their opinions, whether they were pro or contra.

As the owner and admin of this blog I expect every comment to reflect an opinion based on logical facts and remain civil in its language and being posted under a name.

Unfortunately, most of the wildest and rudest comments I have received, were under "anonymous". Consequently, they were deleted. Once in a while, I have received otherwise qualifying comments under "anonymous" and they have been published.

However, most of the anonymous comments were either spam comments or falling under the category mentioned above.

If you like to have your comment published, then get yourself a Google ID with your name.  

Yet, I reserve the right to not publish a comment even under your name, if it contains plain insults or re-hashed right-wing propaganda and lies. There is enough of that at Fox News & Co. and it will not be tolerated on this blog. 

I will also encourage everyone to leave this blog if you don't agree with my position, which is based on free social -democratic principles. 

With that being said, I still hope all the others will continue to follow my mixture of entertainment and political points of view.

Stay safe and 6ft away from other people. It's how we can defeat the virus and return to normalcy as quickly as possible.

And if you missed the NY-Governor's press conferance, here is a link. (hope it's working)

https://www.nytimes.com/video/us/politics/100000007084910/cuomo-coronavirus-update.html

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Easter Is Upon Us

Dear reader, I am writing today as we are about to celebrate Easter again. And as is with Christmas it makes me think back. 

Way back.


It's the days of my early childhood I remember the most of. I mean if I say "the most" it is the good things I remember.

My Easter always was sunny and warm. I'm sure there were rainy ones, but I just not remember them. We kids were in shorts, white shirts and the whole family went on an Easter egg hunt in the surrounding woods. Before that, our parents always had a few gifts for us. And of course, there were candy eggs and Easter bunnies of chocolate. Mom always had a festive dinner prepared. I was so indredibly lucky that my parents knew how to turn those days into festive family events. I just wish I could say Thank You to them once more.
So many of these good customs have accompanied me through-out my life.

Looking around, Easter doesn't seem to be quite the same anymore. Our good old world seems "upside-down", though the current state of the world also gives us a chance to think about whether we want to continue the way things were before the corona crisis, or whether we can imagine to make this world a better place for ourselves and future generations after this is all over.


Shouldn't we put in more ressources for better preparedness for medical emergencies? Should we make sure that we have a social security net enabling people to seek medical help without fear of bankrupting themselves or losing their jobs. Shouldn't we make sure that people have enough to live of when unemployment hits? And what about our enviroment? During the world-wide lockdown the world got rid of a lot of pollution. For decades people in a village 200kms from the Mt. Everest could not see the majestic snow covered peaks, but when the pollution in the air cleared people were in awe about the view. The air over the Hudson river cleared so New-Yorks's skyline stands clear and in details before you looking across from New Jersey. We have such a beautiful world, why can't we take care of it so that even future generations can live here and enjoy it? Are we egomaniacs refusing all responsibility for the state of this world? Or can we make the turn-around to a world many of us remember from our early days? The pandemic showed us that nature can recover if we give it a chance. 


Wishing you all a wonderful Easter!

 Happy Easter - Village of Colonie, NY

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Easter

Easter is only a few days away and most of us would think what a sad Easter this is gonna be.

In fact, for me it is the worst Easter in my soon to be 68 yrs., mostly because I have to think of all the families who have lost loved-ones to the Covid-19 disease.
14,695 people have died so far in the US, and 1,788 just today. How many grand kids have lost their Grampa or Grandma? How many have lost parents, how many have lost dear friends?

Compared to such a death toll, Canada's death number is only slightly over 400. No confirmed cases on the island, only one on the American side in Washington Co.
The whole of New Brunswick has just a little over 100 confirmed cases and no death yet.
Our borders (also to neighbouring provinces) are closed to all non-essentiel travel. Most people respect social distancing and obviously we got the better results.

In order to lighten the mood, we keep ourselves busy with home-style projects. Bea has been cleaning up the ground behind the garage, while I repaired the fence around our veggie garden. Since we enjoyed some warmer weather today I took out the business lettering for the new van and attached it to the sides. That way I will be ready, should travel restrictions be lifted.

Later I got busy in the kitchen department. A sumptuous dessert has been on my mind for a few days, and yesterday I got the missing ingredients for it. So it was time to try my luck. 

The project starts with baking a cake. I used a Yellow cake-mix. The finished cake must cool completely. Meanwhile you have prepared a banana pudding. I made mine from scratch with 2 mashed bananas. You also need pineapple bits, strawberries (or cherries) and you may want a couple of bananas cut up. Chopped walnuts, or pecans or almonds are also nice to have. And make sure you have chocolate syrup.
You can use Cool-Whip or real whipped cream. (my preference)

After the cake has cooled, you cut it up in small pieces. Take a big bowl and make a layer of cake pieces. Top it with a layer of pudding, followed by layers of strawberries, cream and pineapple Then start over with cake pieces again. You must have a last layer with cream. Now comes the decorative part. Sprinkle the top with the chopped nuts/almonds. Place your strawberry slices (or alternatively cherries) on the cream layer and finish the whole thing with a grid of choclate syrup.

WARNING!  This is a calorie bomb! You can safely drop your supper for it.
The day ended with a nice sunset.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

To All Americans

Your President has just asked 3M to stop sending N95 masks to Canada. The memory of your President is short.

Things that Canada did during 911 have obviously been forgotten by the moron that Donny has shown himself to be. Canadians took in thousands of stranded Americans in Newfoundland when planes were told to land immediately. Canadians took these people in free of charge as they had to await days to head home.
Following that, our soldiers stood side by side with our US neighbors and some of them made the ultimate sacrifice on our and your behalf in Afghanistan.

Some of you may remember the covert operation that helped save US lives of Americans being held in Iran.

To say that Canadians are pissed at this is an understatement. I along with many others in Canada from coast to coast hope that your President rescind this directive immediately and understand that Canadians are your closest allies in the world. We may be small but we have helped your country out without asking for anything back on countless issues.

Don't let our memories include this shortsighted and dangerous directive.

Approximately a thousand medical workers cross the Ambassador bridge everyday to work in the Metro Detroit area. Workers that can be placed to work back in our country at this challenging time. I don't think you'll want that to happen.

As Canadians, we are watching closely at what is happening in your country. We are all pulling for you to come through this with the least damage possible and least number of deaths. May God Bless you all but don't forget those whom have always stood at your side as not just friends but also as family.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

End-Time

Good Day,
or should I say Good Evening? It's evening here and it could already be night with you. "Good night" .... but that fits more at the end, which brings me to the topic.

The end.

For days I have had the feeling of being at an end. The end of life as we know it, which normally includes that quick run to the market or the hardware store, when you need a package of screws or have to bring something in for repair. Or just go on a tour. 

All of that and much more is over. The neighbor doesn't dare to come over and we don't go to the neighbor. Others are no longer allowed to visit their family members. The bank has the "drive-thru" open only and so do the restaurants, well some of them. Calling anywhere is pointless. The number of employees or office employees has been reduced and you are lucky if there is anyone at all. 40 minutes waiting on the phone to get information from the tax office is too much of a strain for me. So I hang up and try to find it on their website.

Yes, it's a feeling of the end times, which has befallen me. And after just 1 week I feel "Cabin Fever" spreading in my head. 

The garage is tidier than ever and after that the turn came to my workshop. And if the weather wouldn't be so bad now, more trees would have fallen victim to my chainsaw. The Mt.Everest of our firewood pile is so high that it has become difficult to throw up the logs produced.

You can't plan anything either. The planned winter vacation 20/21 is more than doubtful, even a trip to the scenic surroundings outside of our island has been outlawed. Tourism is not essential and therefore not allowed. Even cars should now be parked at a distance from each other. Provincial parks are officially closed, although we're still walking the trails. nobody else is there anyway. In general, everything is deserted. No road traffic, hardly any pedestrians. In the cities, the traffic lights change from green to red without cars stopping at the intersection or crossing it. I am not a friend of large crowds but without ..... it  feels strange.

In sunny warmer weather one could connect the water hose and wash the cars. And the interior could benefit from a visit by the vacuum cleaner. But it drizzles or it even rains. It's just end time weather. The ground is slowly thawing and it is becoming increasingly muddy.

I'm worried about the next 2-3 weeks. The transition came too quickly, I had no time to get used to it.

And then there is the terrible news from the media. Our imagination is refusing to picture more than 10,000 dead. And there are more every day. 

End-time. 

There it is again the final feeling "it's all over".

Our authorities do not know anything more precise. 

We have to live with it - for now.