We Put A Man on the Moon …

apollo08_earthrise
Earthrise as seen by Apollo 8

W.J. Astore

Is it possible the U.S. hit a peak of sorts in 1969?  I know – 1969 was a Nixon year, another year of destruction in Vietnam, though the music in those days was far better than today.  But I’m thinking of Apollo, as in our landing on the moon in July of 1969.  Having recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, that momentous event is still on my mind, especially when I think of the old poster I had on my bedroom wall that showed the Apollo journey from earth to the moon, its various stages and maneuvers.  It was all bewildering to a young boy caught up in the space program, but at least I knew my country was at the forefront of science.

In 1969 America reached the moon!  We respected science.  Many Americans were trying to end a disastrous war in Vietnam.  People marched for civil rights, they fought for equal rights, there was a sense America’s potential was nearly limitless.

WTF in 2020?  Many Americans, including our president, don’t respect science.  We fire doctors for calling out quack medical cures.  We put a breeder of labradoodles in charge of our Covid-19 pandemic response.  Wars just go on forever with little resistance.  We’re sliding backwards in rights for minorities, for women, for workers.  And the space program?  Moribund in the USA.  We’re very much stuck on earth, an earth that is less hospitable to life than it was fifty years ago.

The years 1970-2020 has defined a half-century of American decline.  Perhaps we might speak of five bad “emperors”: Nixon, Reagan, Clinton, Shrub Bush, and Obama, now joined by Trump, our very own blend of Nero and Caligula.  He fiddles and diddles while America burns.

Joe Biden and the establishment Democrats are hardly the answer.  Even Jesus isn’t the answer unless we start taking His words about the rich (and so much else) seriously.  The Jesus of my youth had no use for greed and money and material goods – He taught us our treasure was in heaven, gained by righteous living through faith while manifesting love.  That sacrificial message is drowned out today by the so-called prosperity gospel, preached by ministers who are cashing in even as they tell their followers that wealth is the most legitimate form of God’s grace.  Back in the Catholic church of my youth, such ideas would have been blasphemous.  At my church I recall the example set by Sister Emily and Sister Jane Elizabeth – they sure weren’t living in luxury.  Forgive them, sisters, they know not what they do.

Here we are, in 2020, in a land of un-truth, in a universe of alternative facts, in belief systems where money matters more than anything, where even ministers stoke conflict, and we wonder why we can’t come together and develop a clear, coherent, and coordinated response to the coronavirus crisis.

How to change this?  How about letting experts lead us?  You know the saying: it ain’t rocket science.  But Apollo was rocket science, and so we deferred to experts, and they got us to the moon and back six times and patched together an amazing rescue of Apollo 13 when it went wrong.  To beat Covid-19, we can’t listen to Trump and his band of grifters and losers.  We must listen to the scientists, the doctors, and act collectively based on sound medical science.  The “rocket scientists” will get us through this, together with the humanists and the selfless efforts of so many medical workers and (mostly) nameless others.

Longer term, we need to re-create our government, because it has, quite simply, betrayed most of us.  Simultaneously, we need to move beyond nationalism and think and act on a global scale to save our earth.  If Apollo taught us one thing, it’s the wondrous value of our own planet.  The moon may be a place of magnificent desolation, but who wants to live permanently in desolation?  We need global vision and action, not only to help prevent future pandemics, but also to preserve our planet as a viable biosphere for a global population projected to top ten billion people in the coming decades.

Nobody said it would be easy; yet if we stay on our current course, just about anybody can guess humanity’s fate.  But if we can put a man on the moon, surely we can come together to create a better future for ourselves and our children.

The year was 1969, and this song by the Youngbloods went gold: “Come on people now, smile on your brother, everybody get together, try to love one another right now.  Right now.  Right now.”  It wasn’t – or shouldn’t be — just hippie dreaming.  Indeed, it’s the essence of true Christianity.

Random Saturday Musings

W.J. Astore

Hello, loyal readers of Bracing Views!

If corporations are people, can they catch the coronavirus?  It appears not, therefore they’re not people.  But let’s imagine corporations could catch COVID-19.  Don’t you think if Trump Inc. could be killed by a virus, the president would have acted far faster than he did?

When did fantasy become more important than science in American life?  My guess is roughly 1980, when Ronald Reagan was elected on sunny optimism and trickle-down economics.  It’s only gotten worse since then.

The military-industrial complex has been relatively quiet lately, except for all those loud flyovers in honor of medical workers, first responders, and the like.  I haven’t heard anything about the Pentagon volunteering to cut its budget, either now or in the future, to help desperate Americans make ends meet.

Those demonstrations by Trump supporters who want “to reopen America”: they sure carry some interesting signs, as in this photo from Cape Cod:

Gessen-CapeCodProtests

Some priceless symbols here: “the blue lives matter” flag to the far right, the various “don’t tread on me” flags, symbol of the Tea Party, together with signs to reopen gun shops.  It truly amazed me, as a history professor, to learn that so many of students equated freedom with the 2nd Amendment.  Reducing freedom to guns, God, and Old Glory (and perhaps gold as well) is truly a propaganda victory for the NRA, the Republican Party, and corporations in general.

Another perspective on that photo: these protesters are pro-authority, i.e. they support the police with the “thin blue line” flag but they’re anti-authority in that they resist a Republican governor’s call for social distancing during a pandemic. So they’re selectively pro-authority when it’s convenient for them to be, and anti-authority when they can’t gather and shoot their guns.

Echoing the photo above, this cartoon truly made me laugh out loud, perhaps because I had aquariums from roughly the age of ten to eighteen:

the fish

I love the fish holding the “My Choice” sign.  Except it’s not simply a “choice” when your decision to jump out of the tank imperils the lives of others.

I saw Tara Reade’s interview with Megyn Kelly, which I highly recommend.  Let’s just say I find her account far more credible than Joe Biden’s blanket denial.  Here’s the link:

When it comes to Biden versus Trump, I can’t vote for either man.  Both are deeply flawed individuals.  I do agree with Tara Reade that Joe Biden should be replaced, no matter how unlikely that seems.

We need a leader who’s calm in a storm, a leader with compassion, a leader with experience with adversity, and a leader who wants to end America’s calamitous wars.  Yup: I’d still much rather see Tulsi Gabbard than any other Democratic candidate, even Bernie Sanders.  (Bernie really let me down with all that “my friend Joe Biden” talk.)  Of course, barring the apocalypse, this isn’t going to happen.

What say you, readers?  If Biden can be replaced, who should replace him, and why?

A happy Saturday to all!

Believe Women Is Now Believe Obama

Joe-Biden
Joe Biden has a history of getting up close and personal — but Obama says it’s OK, according to Tom Perez

W.J. Astore

Tara Reade’s allegations of sexual assault against Joe Biden have generated a spate of hypocrisy, special pleading, and revealing responses like Nancy Pelosi’s statement that “Joe Biden is Joe Biden” (touchy-feely with girls and women, in other words).

But this response by Tom Perez, head of the DNC, may be the most revealing of all, as quoted in The Guardian:

Senior Democrats continue to rally round Biden. On Sunday the party chair, Tom Perez, dismissed calls for the Democratic National Committee to launch an investigation.

Biden is an “open book” who has been thoroughly vetted, the former labor secretary told ABC’s This Week, adding: “[The Obama administration] looked at the entire history of Joe Biden, his entire career. If Barack Obama had any indication that there was an issue, Barack Obama would not have had him as his vice-president. [emphasis added]

“Barack Obama trusted Joe Biden. I trust Joe Biden. And those investigations have been done.”

There you have it.  Believe women has morphed into believe Barack Obama, at least for accusations against Joe Biden.  The saintly Obama wouldn’t have picked Joe as his VP if Joe wasn’t a great guy.  Right?

Joe Biden has unequivocally denied Reade’s account of sexual assault in 1993.  He says it didn’t happen — end of story.  If so, why should the DNC fear an investigation, which could only exonerate Biden further, according to his own account?  Why not search Biden’s sealed papers at the University of Delaware, the most likely repository for Reade’s complaint from 1993?  (The National Archives wouldn’t have this complaint.)  So far, Joe Biden is insisting that these papers remain sealed.

Tara Reade’s account has considerable corroborating evidence.  There’s evidence to suggest she was effectively demoted within the Biden office after filing her complaint in 1993.  Surely the DNC should seek the most thorough investigation before going all-in on Joe Biden.  Right?

But the fix has been in since the very beginning.  Joe Biden is the nominee, credible accusations be damned.  After all, if Obama picked him, how can he be anything less than a great and wonderful guy?

The Case for Joe Biden

biden
Hold your nose and vote for Joe?

W.J. Astore

The case for Joe Biden can be summed up quickly: He’s not Donald Trump.

Frankly, for a lot of people, that’s enough.  Biden suggests a return to normalcy, a hint at bipartisanship, Supreme Court selections that won’t be carbon copies of Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, and policies that, for example, accept the reality of climate change and seek solutions to immigration that don’t enable racism or prioritize walls.

But it’s not enough for me.  Biden is a deeply flawed candidate, and his policies (such as they are) haven’t stoked my interest and earned my vote.

Yet friends tell me I must vote for Biden, since a vote for any other candidate represents a vote for Trump.

That’s what a friend told me on Facebook: That I had to put aside my ideals, hold my nose, and vote for Joe, since Trump constitutes an existential threat.  Trump’s been a disaster; indeed, I argued against him, vociferously, as in this piece from March of 2016.  But that doesn’t mean I want to vote for “the lesser of two evils.”

Here’s what I said to my friend on Facebook; I’ve only included my statements, with minor additions for context:

Very frustrating because the fix for Biden has been in since the beginning. And Joe Biden is a horrible candidate. Can’t vote for him or Trump.

I understand the sentiment [of voting for Biden]. But I want to vote for someone, not against someone else. It’s quite possible Biden will be unable to serve due to mental decay/dementia. So my response to the DNC is: How dare you give me Biden as a candidate! How dare you tell me to hold my nose and vote for yet another corrupt politician who’s clearly in decline! How dare you fix the process against progressive ideas! You have not earned my vote.

I respect your choice [for Biden]. But your logic [that a vote for anyone other than Biden is a vote for Trump] is wrong. I write frequently against Trump, and try to persuade others of the dangers he represents. So, I won’t vote for him. Period. I will vote for someone else, but I refuse to allow the corrupt DNC to dictate that my only choice is to vote for a senile corporate tool named Biden.

It’s shameful that the DNC has conspired to give us such a weak candidate to go against Trump. If Biden loses, it’s the fault of the DNC, not those voters who found him unattractive. In politics, you have to be able to earn votes. Nominating a candidate who is so deeply flawed is just plain stupid and cynical. Luckily, I live in a state where my vote really doesn’t matter, i.e. Mass. is not a “battleground” state.

A year ago, I guessed the dream ticket of the DNC would be Biden/Harris. It may be that one prediction that I get right. It’s an uninspiring ticket that’s designed to suppress progressive changes. You have to accept a grim reality: the DNC exists, not to win elections, but to suppress progressive change and candidates like Bernie and Warren. In the eyes of the DNC, they have already won, even if Biden loses in November.

What say you, readers?  Should we vote blue no matter who?

Joe Biden, Tara Reade, Sexual Assault, and the Mainstream Media

biden-reade
Tara Reade (Photo of Tara from The Intercept)

W.J. Astore

Joe Biden has a history of inappropriate touching of women and young girls.  He has half-heartedly apologized for it, talking about how social habits have changed and how he’ll try to respect personal space in the future.

Tara Reade, who worked as an aide to Joe Biden in 1993, alleges Biden went further than inappropriate touching, details she recounted last month in a podcast with Katie Halper.  At the Intercept, Ryan Grim’s article on March 24th detailed how Reade reached out for support from the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund (inspired by the #MeToo movement), only to be denied on a technicality.  (It turns out Time’s Up has a connection to the Joe Biden campaign: according to Grim, “The public relations firm that works on behalf of the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund is SKDKnickerbocker, whose managing director, Anita Dunn, is the top adviser to Biden’s presidential campaign.”  No bias there.)

The mainstream media ignored Reade’s allegation for three weeks until this Easter Sunday, when I finally saw this summary on NBC News.

Let’s look at this NBC Story.  First, the title: “Woman broadens claims against Biden to include sexual assault; The Biden campaign says the incident, alleged to have occurred in 1993, ‘absolutely did not happen.'”

So, the title mentions a “woman.”  It doesn’t say Tara Reade.  And it follows that with an immediate denial by the Biden campaign.  The article also features two photographs of Joe Biden in “strong” poses, but no photo of Tara Reade.

The article goes on to cite how Tara Reade once had some kind words for Russia and Vladimir Putin, and that she supported Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders rather than Joe Biden, all irrelevant to her accusation.

Let’s consider the timing of this story as well.  The mainstream media ignored Tara Reade’s accusation until Bernie Sanders had dropped out.  And it’s curious indeed that the story was posted after 8PM on a holiday.

Well, at least NBC posted it, right?  My guess is that they decided they couldn’t ignore the story completely, especially since Donald Trump and his campaign wouldn’t.  So, by airing Tara Reade’s story now, NBC hopes to defuse it.  And indeed the NBC story includes a blunt passage on Trump’s own alleged failings here:

“Donald Trump won the presidency in 2016 despite facing multiple allegations of improper sexual conduct and sexual assault. A recording of Trump bragging about sexual assault to an “Access Hollywood” host also emerged in the weeks before Election Day. In addition, Trump’s former personal lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, was sentenced to three years in prison in 2018, in part for his role in making secret payments to women who claimed they had affairs with Trump.”

I thought this story was about Biden and Reade?

Again, it’s hardly surprising the Biden campaign is denying the story.  Sadly, it’s also not surprising how NBC has framed the story, presenting it in a way and at a time most favorable to the Biden campaign.

Tara Reade deserves better.  We all do.  For as Joe Biden himself said, When a woman alleges sexual assault, presume she is telling the truth.

Update: At the Hill, Krystal Ball hits many of the same notes in this critique of the New York Times story:

Joe Biden Has Already Served His Purpose

again
Sorry, Bernie.  Another establishment tool has blocked you.

W.J. Astore

Joe Biden has already served his purpose: he drew enough support from Democrats to block the path of Bernie Sanders to the nomination.

Everything Bernie Sanders is, Joe Biden is not.  Bernie has integrity.  Bernie has ideas.  Bernie has passion.  Bernie mobilizes the progressive base.  And Bernie wants true change that helps workers.

Biden lacks integrity (he lies, easily and routinely).  Biden has no new ideas (he just promises a return to the Obama years).  Biden has no passion (hence Trump’s telling nickname for him, “Sleepy Joe”).  Biden wants to squash the progressive base.  And Biden wants no change (indeed, he’s on the record as telling big donors that nothing significant would change in a Biden administration).

The DNC now has its dream candidate: a figurehead, a man known for plagiarizing the speeches of others, a man who’s been in the pocket of banks and credit card companies, a man facing a credible sexual assault charge with a creepy video record of putting his hands on women and even young girls in ways that cause obvious physical discomfort to those being touched.  Biden’s response?  In part, he made a joke out of it.  (His joke was that a child gave him “permission” to touch him, which was wrong on several levels.)

Again, the DNC knows Biden’s faults and weaknesses.  But party power brokers support him anyway.  Why?  Because he’s a man with no spine, someone who can be shoved around to support the agendas of those doing the shoving.

Biden’s campaign promises to inhibit changes of substance.  And for the DNC and the donor class, that’s the very definition of victory.

There’s No Vaccine for Stupidity

As-Trump-Rips-Deep-State-Fauci-Goes-Facepalm-Knowing-Why
Trump gives himself an A+ and a 10/10 for his handling of the coronavirus crisis.  Not everyone agrees.

W.J. Astore

A few thoughts generated by these coronaviral times:

Perhaps in a year, we’ll have an effective vaccine against COVID-19.  But developing a vaccine against stupidity will remain elusive.

Perhaps we should redefine COVID-19 as a terrorist outfit, thereby unleashing unlimited funding from Congress to combat it.

People are stunned by this pandemic and the changes driven by it.  We’ve been knocked out of our routines and perhaps our complacency.  At least some of us are now open to new ideas.  Which is precisely why our government is rushing in with old ideas, doubling down on trickle down, telling us to remain in place, not only physically, which is necessary, but mentally.  Look at the parade of old ideas trumpeted by the president.  And for that matter Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, and the Democratic establishment.  Trump and Biden are literally tired old men, not in age alone, but more importantly in how they view the world.  There’s nothing fresh or original about them.  Nothing.  Whereas Bernie Sanders is fighting for health care for all, better pay for workers, and a system that puts people first instead of profits.

The courage and selflessness of doctors, nurses, first responders, and indeed all those who are risking exposure to the virus to help others has truly been inspirational.  We’re hearing a lot from the media about our doctors, nurses, etc. being “heroes,” which is encouraging.  Far too often in the U.S., and for too long, the concept of “hero” was linked to military service, with all troops being celebrated as “hometown heroes.”  Athletes, too, were called heroes for hitting homeruns or throwing touchdowns.  Our coronaviral moment is reminding us about the true nature of heroes.  As I wrote a decade ago:

Here, then, is what I mean by “hero”: someone who behaves selflessly, usually at considerable personal risk and sacrifice, to comfort or empower others and to make the world a better place.  Heroes, of course, come in all sizes, shapes, ages, and colors, most of them looking nothing like John Wayne or John Rambo or GI Joe (or Jane).

“Hero,” sadly, is now used far too cavalierly.  Sportscasters, for example, routinely refer to highly paid jocks who hit walk-off home runs or score game-winning touchdowns as heroes.  Even though I come from a family of firefighters (and one police officer), the most heroic person I’ve ever known was neither a firefighter nor a cop nor a jock: She was my mother, a homemaker who raised five kids and endured without complaint the ravages of cancer in the 1970s, with its then crude chemotherapy regimen, its painful cobalt treatments, the collateral damage of loss of hair, vitality, and lucidity.  In refusing to rail against her fate or to take her pain out on others, she set an example of selfless courage and heroism I’ll never forget.

Perhaps it takes a crisis like this for us to recognize the “ordinary” heroes among us, the ones who aren’t “top guns” flying warplanes, the ones who aren’t throwing footballs for multi-million-dollar salaries.

Remember when Trump said: “I could stand In the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters”?  This moment is proving him right.  He has colossally mismanaged this crisis, yet his followers still place their faith in him.  For his followers, Trump is the ultimate Teflon president.  Nothing sticks to him.  Eat your heart out, Ronald Reagan!

Finally, as a pandemic rages, the Trump administration is warning of a possible sneak attack by Iran even as it deploys ships and air assets in the drug war, specifically against Venezuela.  Echoing the words of Mehdi Hasan, a journalist at The Intercept, what kind of maniac does this?  But maybe it’s not mania; after all, Iran and Venezuela have something in common: huge reserves of oil, and regimes that resist the USA.  Once again, old thinking prevails, old scores must be settled, even as a new world order takes shape because of this pandemic.

Of course, Trump has never put America first.  He’s always put himself first.  He’s given himself an A+ and a 10 out of 10 for his leadership in facing this crisis.  Sad to say, his followers believe him.  Remember when I said there’s no vaccine for stupidity?