Category: Politics

PoliticsVoting Rights

2020 Election: Americans Voting From Abroad

According to the Federal Voting Assistance Program, there are 2.9 million Americans eligible to vote from abroad. But their turnout is consistently low — about 7 percent in the last presidential election in 2016, compared with 60.2 percent domestically.

As an American living abroad for the past seventeen years, I can attest to the difficulty of voting from abroad. While living in the Middle East during the 2012 election cycle, my ballot materials from Washington State arrived too late for me to vote. I was quite upset, but realized I should have requested my absentee ballot materials as early as possible.

My experience was very different from that of my Australian colleagues who simply drove to their nearest consulate on a weekend to vote in person. Imagine the common sense of holding elections on weekends when people would be more likely to show up and vote, rather than a working Tuesday as is the case in the USA!

What all this means is that as Americans living abroad we must be much more organized and vigilant if we want our votes to be counted. 2020 is anything but a normal election year and the Trump Administration is doing everything within its power to limit voting rights since it’s their belief that the more Americans that cast ballots, the lower their chances of winning the election.

If you’re living abroad and want to make sure your vote counts, NOW is the time to take action. Here is a link to votefromabroad.org with further helpful links to all the voting rules and regulations for each US state. Take advantage of your right to cast a ballot for the kind of country you want to represent as a US citizen living abroad.

votefromabroad.org

How to register to vote at USA.gov

peace~henry

Politics

Election 2020: 10 Weeks to Make a Difference

And looking at Facebook’s lopsided political media ecosystem might be a useful reality check for Democrats who think Mr. Biden will coast to victory in November.

Kevin Roose NYT 8/27/2020

It’s easy to become despondent after witnessing this week’s American reality TV show (AKA, the Republican National Convention) which aired from various locations including the White House in Washington, DC.

One after another, the lineup of koolaid-drinking Trumpoids further fed the nation’s seemingly insatiable appetite for fear mongering. Each night was a further assault on the reality of America’s diverse citizenry and a nose-thumping to the roots of the many problems facing the country.

They screamed (at times literally) that a Joe Biden administration would destroy the America people like them – white rural and/or suburban residents – had worked so hard to build.

Kimberly Guilfoyle, Don Jr’s girlfriend and a Trump Campaign fundraiser, during her melodramatic address at the RNC. Photo Credit: Reuters.

  • There was no mention of the Chinese laborers who broke their backs building railroads to the West so that Manifest Destiny could be realized.
  • There was no gratitude expressed to the enslaved from Africa who were brought to America’s shores to provide labor for the South’s agricultural plantations.
  • No respect was paid to the millions of Latino workers who now harvest the food these same white Americans buy at their local supermarkets.
  • Nor was there any mention of the millions of immigrants that fill the low-wage, dirty jobs that most white Americans refuse – working in meat-processing plants, as dish washers in restaurants or as maids cleaning rooms in hotels from sea to shining sea.

Talk about an almost complete disconnect with the reality of daily life in America! Today’s Republican Party has become nothing more than the Cult of Trump! Need we be reminded yet again of the conditions that created the rise of the Nazi Party in 1930s Germany?

As with most aspects of the US Presidency over the past four years, Donald Trump has bent the job to fit his twisted personality and enormous ego. Did anyone actually think he would grow into the job like most of his forty-four predecessors?

Trump personifies the shady businessman who massages the truth to suit his own aims and then screams ‘foul’ when he’s caught with his hands in the cookie jar. He lies, manipulates and ‘uses’ the legal system to gaslight the public and achieve his own narrow personal aims. This is hardly the American experiment the country’s founders envisioned.

A magazine spread shows the Trumps at home in their cozy, little gold gilded Trump Tower penthouse on New York’s 5th Avenue. An every man – NOT!

In short, Trump has intentionally done everything in his power to further rip apart the already fraying fabric of American society. Ever since his first appearance on the campaign trail in 2016, he has utilized the age-old strategies of divide and conquer, deny, deny, deny facts and repeat lies so often that they become the talking points of his followers. How can a leader who constantly refuses to accept responsibility be seen as someone who wants to secure a brighter future for the nation?

Trump has continually fanned the dangerous flames of division within the Us electorate. His friendship with defacto dictator Vladamir Putin of Russia has been treated like a joke by Trump’s core supporters.

And yet, incredibly, his loyal supporters continue to drink his bitter brew and blame their problems on others, particularly immigrants and other people of color. This is a reflection of Trump’s lack of humility, empathy and his complete abhorrence for facts.

I mean, hey, it’s obvious why many of the super wealthy would support Trump and his tax cuts for the rich, but what exactly is he offering that seems so attractive to the average working stiff? Wouldn’t a true leader accept responsibility for failures and work with others to repair past mistakes?

On to Election 2020

I realize this is all just a rehash of the same thoughts many of us have had since the 2016 election results. Donald Trump had long garnered publicity and it should have been clear to all but the most unaware voters that he was a sham, a snake-oil salesman (and not a particularly good one at that) merely posing as a concerned American citizen in order to promote his brand and feed his ego.

But, for those of us who believe in facts, there is a distinct possibility that this incompetent fool might be reelected. We need to network now more than ever with other like-minded, caring citizens to do whatever we can to ensure Donald Trump doesn’t buy or steal a second term in the Oval Office. Such a possibility is too dark to contemplate at the moment.

We need to do more than just preach to the choir on blogs such as this. We must work together with other groups like moveon.org and use social media to counter the fake news being churned out minute by minute by the morally bankrupt forces seeking to give Trump a sequel.

For insight into the RNC’s campaign of disinformation, please check out the following New York Times article illustrating the grass-roots movement being employed by Trumpoids on Facebook. It’s both shocking and enlightening.

What if Facebook is the real silent majority? By Kevin Roose, NYT 08/27/2020

Facebook’s Top 10 pages each week

peace~ henry

 

Health and Well-beingPolitics

Being Humbled By The Universe

As a child, I remember laying in my grandparents yard on delightfully dark nights while gazing at the clearly visible glow of our galaxy – the Milky Way – and the sparkle of uncountable twinkling stars. Star-gazing gave me a sense of wholeness and complete peace and calm, as any earthly problems I had lost their significance when compared to the vastness and timelessness of space itself.

Unfortunately, suburban sprawl and accompanying light pollution have enveloped the area where I grew up, making it impossible to view the contours of our galaxy without the aid of a telescope. Still, that feeling of personal insignificance in the larger scheme of the universe has stayed with me throughout my life.

After seeing images of a distant Earth taken by Voyager 1 in 1990 as it headed for the outer limits of our solar system, American astronomer and well-known science educator Carl Sagan eloquently summed up my feelings.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.
-Carl Sagan

Sagan’s words seem particularly notable during our current time of crisis as governments and citizens bicker over the perceived best way forward when faced with the difficult choice between saving human lives or protecting livelihoods. While individuals and organizations in many regions of the world are coming together to support those in need, there are some who are using the current situation to further their own narrow political agenda with little regard for the rights of others or the greater good.

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Covid-19Health and Well-beingPolitics

Covid-19: The Next Phase

While some areas of Europe and the USA are beginning to see a flattening of the Covid-19 transmission curve and subsequent death rates, much of the rest of the world is still in the early stages of the pandemic’s first wave. Business lock-downs and population quarantines have become the widely accepted means of reducing the spread of infections across the globe. Governments — in countries both rich and poor — are now grappling with how to restart sagging economies without risking an overwhelmed healthcare sector.

Meanwhile, millions of workers in the informal economies of the developing world — who scrape together what they and their families need to survive on a daily basis — are becoming increasingly restless as insufficient government efforts fail to supply food to the neediest across the globe. Many governments in Latin America are facing the threat of medical worker strikes unless they can provide the personal protective equipment (PPE) desperately needed by staff.

As rich and poor countries compete for the same limited international supplies of PPE as well as ventilators for the most severely ill patients, a pattern is beginning to form. The developing world is being priced out of the very supplies necessary to fight the pandemic.

As infections and deaths continue to increase in the poorest regions of the world, indications are that social unrest will grow as well. This is especially true in countries such as Chile and Ecuador that saw weeks of protests, rioting and looting during last fall’s uprising against corrupt, institutionalized systems that have always favored the wealthy, leading to some of the world’s most dramatic economic inequality. Such raw feelings will be easily reawakened by the ongoing ravages of hunger, illness and death associated with Covid-19.

Here are some of the stories I followed for readers this week across Latin America and beyond.

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Health and Well-beingPolitics

What Happened America?

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the USA’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, made the following statement about the new coronavirus in an article published in the New York Times on February 2, 2020.

It’s very, very transmissible, and it almost certainly is going to be a pandemic.

-Dr. Anthony Fauci

As of March 28, 2020, the USA leads the world in the number of confirmed cases with more than 124,000 and over 2,000 deaths.

Infectious disease specialists working with the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) predict the number of new COVID-19 infections in the USA may not peak for three to six weeks.

How high will the number of confirmed cases and deaths have climbed by then?

What will America’s healthcare systems look like at that point?

How did we get here?

1. Absence of leadership at the highest levels of the US Government
2. Leaders who dismiss scientific evidence at every turn
3. Ignorance of the threats of COVID-19
4. Lost opportunity to blunt the spread of the virus

Americans must depend on those who
are risking their own lives at the moment
on the front lines of the battle
at times without proper
protective equipment
our brave and dedicated

MEDICAL WORKERS ♥♥♥

Medical personnel transferring a COVID-19 patient at a hospital in Rome, Italy. Photo Credit: Gemelli Policlinico via Reuters

  • Remember that the lives of medical workers may depend on the decisions you make each day.
  • Do whatever you can to avoid being infected and becoming a burden on already stressed hospitals and clinics.
  • Only trust the preventive measures listed on the websites of the CDC and WHO.

As a close friend living under a mandatory quarantine in Italy advised me this week, “Stay home.”

peace and good health~henry

Health and Well-beingPolitics

Donald Trump and the Corona Virus: Can He Be Trusted?

Even though our factual truth is never completely free of interpretation or personal perspective, this situation cannot serve as an argument against the existence of reality and facts, nor can it justify blurring the dividing lines between fact, opinion, and interpretation. The outcome of such blurring is a confused public that cannot differentiate between fact, fabrication, and opinion.

-Philosopher Hannah Arendt

The mid-20th century writings of Arendt seem prophetic in today’s post-truth world where maintaining political advantage often outweighs the common good. In such an era, what happens when a confused public is faced with contradictory information relating to a topic as important as public health? A comparable scenario was created this week by the Trump administration while discussing the level of risk the US population may face from the current world-wide corona virus (COVID-19) epidemic.

The stage was set by acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney who accused the media of stoking virus fears to “bring down the President.” Mulvaney’s comments were purely political and had no basis in fact, and indeed, ignored the seriousness of the worldwide COVID-19 epidemic. They also fly in the face of health experts worldwide.

In an interview with the BBC, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) director of health emergencies, Mike Ryan, noted the advice posted on the official WHO website on Friday, February 28. “We have now increased our assessment of the risk of spread and the risk of impact of COVID-19 to very high.” This is the WHO’s highest level of warning.

The WHO warning calls for “all countries to educate their populations, to expand surveillance, to find, isolate and care for every case, to trace every contact, and to take an all-of-government and all-of-society approach.” According to the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “the potential public health threat posed by COVID-19 is high, both globally and to the United States.”

 Tom Toles – Washington Post

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CulturePoliticsTravel

Learning From History At Jewish Museum Berlin

As the capital of a country with a long and complicated history, Berlin wears German history on its sleeve. From the prominently placed and emotionally moving Holocaust Memorial to the East Side Gallery’s graffitied remnants of the Berlin Wall, warnings for humanity to learn lessons from its collective past are everywhere.

One of the city’s most interesting and educational monuments to the past is the Jewish Museum Berlin. Drawing on an extensive collection, each gallery builds upon the next as visitors are invited to trace the history of German and Eastern European Jews from the Middle Ages up to horrors of Nazi Germany under the rule of Adolph Hitler.

The Jewish Museum Berlin complex consists of three buildings–a historic baroque palace, a contemporary glass building designed by renowned American architect Daniel Libeskind and the W. Michael Blumenthal Academy which was once a wholesale flower market. Photo: Henry Lewis

This is not a museum solely dedicated to the Holocaust, but one that does an especially good job of identifying the ever-changing status of local Jewish communities during the millennium leading up to Germany’s modern age in the 19th and 20th centuries. Through text, illustrations, paintings and personal objects, non-Jewish and Jewish visitors alike are able to fill in any missing gaps in their understanding of the events that led to the darkest days of Nazi Germany.

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Human RightsPoliticsVisual Arts

Medellin’s Comuna 13–Violent Barrio Turned Tourist Mecca

Many Americans still ask if it’s safe to travel to Colombia. Their vision of this visually stunning and culturally rich nation is rooted in past decades when violent drug cartels run by infamous leaders such as Pablo Escobar ruled the streets of the country’s major cities and when left-wing guerrilla groups dominated large swaths of the rural countryside. This is part of a complicated history that many Colombians have tried to put behind them, even though popular TV productions such as Netflix’s “Narcos” have made turning the page more difficult. Over the past two decades, Colombia’s citizens (often in spite of their government’s actions) have made great strides in creating safer communities where the country’s rich heritage and wealth of cultural diversity are now on full display.

Medellin born artist Fernando Botero’s painting of a dead Pabo Escobar. Photo: Henry Lewis via the Botero Museum, Bogotá.

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Politics

Art of Impeachment–Nixon*Clinton*Trump

The impeachment of Donald Trump has turned what was already an editorial cartoonist’s dream administration into a full-on party. The rich cast of characters legislating our lives from their Capitol Hill offices in Washington, DC can always be depended upon to create the kind of drama that can best be summed up in a cartoon.

Political commentators have been busy recently drawing comparisons between the on-going formal proceedings involving Donald Trump and those of Richard Nixon in 1974 and Bill Clinton in 1998. Due to overwhelming evidence of his knowledge of the Watergate break-in, Nixon actually resigned before being formally impeached by a full House vote, while Clinton was impeached by the House in late 1998 but acquitted in the Senate early in 1999 after a trial that lasted just over a month.

While we may think partisan politics is a recent phenomenon, a look back at some political cartoons produced during the impeachment inquiries into Nixon and Clinton tell a different story. It seems that in the past party loyalty has been prioritized over moral and ethical principles just as it often is today.

In this post, I’m presenting a curated selection of cartoons that illustrate and compare the political will and public mood in all three of these periods during which the strength of American democracy has been tested. Mind you, Trump’s political fortunes – and those of his GOP supporters – are yet to be determined as history continues marching on…

In this cartoon, Richard Nixon is depicted as a man about to be hanged – Wild West style – by the Democratic House Judiciary Committee. Artist: Carl Hubenthal (07/21/1974) LA Herald-Examiner and The Opper Project, Ohio State University Cartoon Research Library.

Bill Clinton being chastised for his sexual history. For those who weren’t around at that time, Clinton was impeached for lying under oath about having a sexual affair with a White House intern and for obstruction of justice during the investigation which followed. Artist: Steve Sack – Minneapolis Star Tribune.

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Politics

American Democracy–Down for the Count?

Growing up during the divisive Vietnam War era, political discussions at the dinner table were the norm. True to their North Carolina farm roots, both my parents were socially conservative, but their views on politically charged topics varied greatly.

Prior to Ronald Reagan’s two terms in office, much of the American South was solidly Democratic. Politicians such as North Carolina’s ‘country lawyer,’ Senator Sam Ervin, who served from 1954 to 1974 and famously chaired the US Senate Committee that impeached Richard Nixon, supported policies with benefits that reached far beyond their provincial constituencies. Years later, another North Carolina senator, Republican Jesse Helms, made an art of conducting mud-slinging campaigns and using the senate filibuster to promote his own personal agenda.

Even given that background, neither of my parents would recognize today’s American political landscape. Despite my mother’s Democratic leanings and my father’s closet Republican mind-set, they both valued the shared truth that our nation’s government was designed to work for ALL the people, and not just any select few.

They believed that just as successful personal relationships involved inevitable struggles and a great deal of compromise, so did a properly functioning government.Their values of honesty, integrity and respect for human dignity seem completely out of fashion now, having been replaced by verbalized hatred and the belief that unethical and immoral behavior is to be tolerated as long as someone’s narrow agenda is being fulfilled.

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