Archive | October, 2020

220. Are the Newer Problems in the US, Unique?

17 Oct

When I think about the current problems facing the USA, it seems that they are worse than anything we have experienced in the past. I have been thinking a lot about this and here is my analysis.

Current Problems. I list three as most disturbing and involving large portions of the population. I fear that some current problems may be very long lasting.

The virus, covid-19 is unique for the modern world. In the past few decades, we have never had such a serious disease. It is highly infectious and has already killed 220,000 of our citizens, and many more world-wide. It has severely disrupted and damaged many lives.

Climate-Change. The current status is certainly a unique and a serious problem. Although we have known about this for decades, we had never in the past been so close to the point of no return, that is, where the effects become almost permanent. Scientists generally list the following more serious effects: floods, forest fires, worse hurricanes, and draughts. Many of these will cause mass migrations, which ultimately cause panic, riots, and maybe even wars.

President Trump is unique in US history. He has made 20,000 lies or extreme exaggerations, recorded by the Washington Post. To be brief, we can list: undermining US government agencies, takeover of the Dept. of Justice, calling 90 percent of our news media fake, ignoring and worsening the pandemic, alienating allies, threatening political rivals with arrest, and many other errors. He was impeached. (See my previous blogs).

Past US Problems. My list below is based on my personal impressions, having lived a long time. Others might make a different list.

Two world wars, WWI and WWII, come to mind. The second one ended in 1945. These were very serious and stand out in history. I could also mention Vietnam, Korea, Iraq, Afganistan, and Kuwait as important but lesser wars.

McCarthyism. According to Google: “a vociferous campaign against alleged communists in the US government and other institutions carried out under Senator Joseph McCarthy in the period 1950–54.” I was alive at that time and remember that for many outstanding citizens it was a disaster. It could be compared to “Trumpism,” which I think is far worse.

President Nixon. This president caused some serious national problems, but nothing compared to the Trump era. He was forced to resign for his role in the Watergate crime.

Epidemics in the Last 100 years. Here is a very complete list of world-wide epidemics: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_epidemics I lived through many of these diseases and nothing was as serious and wide-spread as the covid-19. Other serious diseases that stand out in my mind are: AIDs, Ebola, cholera, bubonic-plague, malaria, measles, and smallpox. Note: the bubonic plague has a long history and has recurred from time to time for many years — even in the last 20 years.

Conclusions. After writing the above, I still believe that the problems of today have had a more profound effect on our citizens than anything that happened in the past. The virus has affected all of us: deaths, masks, quarantines, isolations, restaurants closed, bankruptcies, evictions, limited travel, etc. Depending on your location, climate-change effects can be lethal and what is worse, will gradually become more disastrous. And Trump presents serious governmental problems, which have never been experienced in our entire US history. So to answer the question in my blog title, YES, the newer problems in the US, are unique. And if you have the courage to think about it, many of today’s problems could last for many years. But, here is a positive thought. I truly believe that all of our current problems have good solutions, but can only be solved by our most sincere and intelligent, global efforts.

219. Republican Senator Critisizes Trump

16 Oct

I found a complete transcript of Senator Ben Sasse phone-call regarding Trump. It is a long statement so I have extracted the important parts. When a quote is negative, I have included any associated positive remarks, to be fair. This phone call, of course, is very significant, because currently, it is rare for any Republican holding high office to make such criticisms. The full transcript is available from the REV.COM blog, with the URL:

http://www.rev.com/blog/transcripts/ben-sasse-phone-call-transcript-criticizing-donald-trump (October 15, 2020)

Here are my selected quotations and some comments. (Quotations are in blue (as written, not corrected), my emphasized remarks are in red.)

In the beginning, he states Donald Trump is our president now, so I’ve worked hard to develop a good relationship with him, he’s got a hard job.” Also: “there are definitely places where we agree.” “I think he’s done some stuff well and some poorly.”

The following quotes are concerned with foreign policy. “Kisses dictators butts,” “He ignores that the Uighurs are in literal concentration camps” (in China), and has not helped the people of Hong Kong. Fails to lead our allies” and “regularly sells out our allies.“When all of our allies from the Pacific have sided with China because Trump’s isolationism was so weak, that our allies begin to doubt, for the first time since WWII, whether they can trust in US strength, and US will, and US courage, and US virtue and values.”

More quotations on different topics: “the way he treats women and spends like a drunken sailor.”he mocks evangelicals behind closed doors.“treated the presidency like a business opportunity.” “Nebraskans, they don’t really want more rage tweeting as a new form of entertainment.” Trump won the 2016 election because “Hillary was unpopular.” (My note, actually, Hillary won the popular vote.)

. TRUMP REFUSED TO TREAT THE VIRUS SERIOUSLY

Re the covid-19 virus: “at the beginning of the COVID crisis, he refused to treat it seriously for months, he treated it like a news cycle, by news cycle PR crisis rather than a multi-year public health challenge, which is what it is.

He remarked that covid-10 it is not “Donald Trump’s fault. But continues “that he careened from curb to curb. First he ignored COVID, and then he went into full economic shutdown mode. He was the one who said, 10 to 14 days of shutdown would fix this. And that was always wrong. I mean, and so I don’t think the way he’s lead through COVID has been reasonable, or responsible, or right.”

Regarding the Senate: “I’m now looking at the possibility of a Republican bloodbath in the Senate. And that’s why I’ve never been on the Trump Train. It’s why I didn’t agree to serve on his reelection committee, and it’s why I’m not campaigning for him.”

A summary for this blog, in the actual words of Ben Sasse is: What the heck were any of us thinking that selling a TV-obsessed, narcicisstic individual to the American people was a good idea?”

218. Science: Its Nature and Early History

11 Oct

Science plays an ever increasing role in global politics and government. It is the basis for climate-change, defeating pandemics and many other diseases, energy use, GMO foods, and many types of manufacturing. So when I saw the book review noted below, I decided to explore its topic.

Michael Strevens wrote a book called “The Knowledge Machine.” A detailed review can be found in The NY Times, October 7, 2020, by Jennifer Szalai. I am not writing a book review. I am writing a blog about the nature of science and responding to some ideas in the book review.

Modern science began its development in the 17th Century. Strevens, in his book presents reasons why it did not develop earlier. Here is one of the main arguments. Science involves long, tedious, and boring measurements and observations, that often are unfruitful. Strevens says that this kind of endeavor is irrational and inhuman. It is argued that for this reason modern science developed slowly. No one wanted to do a lot of boring work.

While there may be some truth to this, we should consider other factors. First, much of scientific work involves processes that are not boring. Spending time in exotic locations like rain forests is fun for many people. Second, spending a few years doing boring work can have the huge rewards of outstanding publications, high salaries, Nobel prizes, powerful academic positions, and a lot of admiration. Many women (or men) are attracted to highly intelligent and successful scientists and professors.

It is not just science that involves some tedious work leading to great rewards. Great paintings can take months of tedious artistic work, but seeing the final picture and showing it in exhibitions is very satisfying. Many of the more artistic and literary professions have tremendous rewards.

Second, it is the nature of science to be progressive. The long delays in the development of modern science depended upon some difficult discoveries. The early growth of science a few centuries ago, depended on some technical factors. One early factor is good communications systems. The advance of science involves the cooperation of many people, and these people must have communication methods like newspapers, for example, which depended on the invention of the printing press. The early ability for people to gather together for the rational discussion of issues was also important. I imagine that many centuries ago, long before the beginnings of modern science, people made some important observations, there was no way to properly communicate these ideas.

Early inventions of certain tools were important in developing scientific topics. For example, it took many years to develop useful glass structures like lenses. These could be used for telescopes, and microscopes. The discovery of electricity was extremely important. Having tools like these allowed for amazing discoveries and stimulated interest in many areas of research.

Final thoughts. First, I want to clarify that Strevens does recognize the value of science. I believe that his main concern is why it started so slowly. I have tried to show that the establishment of key societal structures, and inventions, such as telescopes, microscopes, and electricity were necessary before modern science could take off. The slow development of these necessary factors is understandable. We can also point to the fact that many promising early societies were overrun by powerful, violent armies, like those responsible for the fall of the Roman Empire. The development of science was also slowed by leaders that believed in rigid, traditional dogma.

217. Kamala Harris Wins Debate

8 Oct

Kamla Harris did a terrific job and won the Vice-President debate on October 7, 2020. She had good affect, clear speech, and mostly answered questions appropriately. She interrupted very little and followed the debate rules. When Pence interrupted during her allotted time, she would politely say something like, “I am speaking now.”

On the other hand, Pence was a boring speaker and had great difficulty with the rules. He often ran well over his time limit and ignored the pleas of the moderator. Like Trump, he often interrupted when he heard something he did not like. He totally ignored a question on transfer of power if Biden is elected. What would he do if Trump did not leave office? On the other hand, Pence interrupted frequently and kept speaking after his time was up. I am sure Trump was proud of him because he is the perfect yes-man. He avoided answering a question of about transfer of power if Biden is elected. Trump indicated that if he loses the vote count, he will cause a lot of trouble by raising legal complaints, and who knows what else. He is against mail-in ballots even though everyone in the White House votes that way and it is common in many states.

Although Kamala’s answers were very good, I felt, at several points, that she overlooked some powerful arguments. Below are a list of these factors, which are more like supplemental info than a criticism.

There was a lot of discussion on covid-19. Perhaps the clearest error that Trump made was to discourage the use of masks. He actually ridiculed Biden for wearing a large face mask. Except for one or two brief instances, he ridiculed masks for the entire period when the virus was active: from March to present (October). She could also have mentioned that Trumps lack of a mask on many occasions set a bad example.

Regarding trade policies, one serious Trump failure is with US soy farmers. They were very dependent on China for soy sales and China terminated these sales. Farmers were devastated and Trump had to provide them with large subsidies, paid for from our taxes.

She could have mentioned that Trump successes in unemployment numbers and market upward trends were just continuations of the eight years of the Obama Presidency. Obama started with a very poor economy and made a remarkable recovery over his eight years.

Re global warming, Pence noted that the number of hurricanes stayed pretty much the same, but she could have said that the strength of them has steadily increased with the warmer waters, and destruction has worsened.

There is a tendency for Republicans to blame Biden for problems during the Obama administration. The simple fact is that Vice Presidents have little effect on major policies, which are controlled mostly by Congress and somewhat by the President at that time.

I don’t think that Kamila explicitly stated that there is NO Republican health insurance plan, that is documented in any way and available for examination. This is a continuing and important point.

There is a lot more that could have been said about Trumps anti-science attitudes. He has replaced directly or indirectly many skilled scientists in many areas of government, and has influenced the alteration of their reports to match his political goals.

The nature of protestors could have been made more explicit. Actual protestors tend to be non-violent. When there are demonstrations, certain anarchists from all over the country, may join in and use the opportunity to commit violent crimes. They, in fact, have a negative effect on the goals of those trying to demonstrate.

Trump policy has always been non-cooperative. There is much conflict because he attacks, even the mildest of critics, with vicious name calling and invalid accusations.

These are the thoughts that I had during the debate. Kamalas performance was excellent, and to cover every applicable argument would be impossible for anyone. Although, in the past, I have had some negative feelings about her, I am very happy to say that now my feelings about her are very positive. During the debate, Kamala Harris was very likable, and appropriately controlled — a great choice for Veep.

216. Covid-19 and Outdoor Infection

4 Oct

About four days ago,  Trump had a White-House Rose Garden event introducing his Supreme Court nominee. This was attended by many top administration officials and other prominent people. Shortly afterwards, several attendees tested positive for the virus, including the President and his wife. Where they were infected, is still uncertain, but it could have been in the Rose Garden. Note, it is often assumed that because an event is held outside, it is safe.

However, just being OUTSIDE is not always SAFE. On the average, it is a little better than indoor events. But if people are close together and there is no wind, then virus droplets can spread dangerously. Even with distancing, if a small wind is in the right direction, DROPLETS COULD MOVE A FEW YARDS and cause infection. The basic rule is always: distancing PLUS wearing a good mask. To make good decisions, you must imagine people spewing out droplets, and where they might end up given the wind conditions. Trump was a good distance from his Rose Garden audience, but a mass of virus droplets could travel towards him if a small wind was blowing in his direction.

Officials concerned with impressions and election results, cannot be trusted to make good safety decisions. It is just a matter of common sense, and the rule, that if you are near others, anywhere, then good protective masks are needed. And those wearing masks, for greatest safety, should have masks that are protective for themselves, as well as for others. The President needs to encourage masks and not make fun of others that are following established safety rules. It also would be of great benefit, if our government developed inexpensive masks that protect the wearer, and distributed them in some way at low or no cost.