Happy Halloween Elections !!

Greetings from California, in a world dominated by corona virus!


Last night was Halloween. Today and tomorrow are Día de Muertos, the Day of the Dead.  It’s a season of sadness. Like all seasons, it won’t last forever, but you might think so when you’re caught in the midst of it, and don’t know how long it actually will last.

Meanwhile, our Castro Valley block community staged a socially-distanced Halloween. Instead of meeting kids at the door, we set out tables with candy for them to take. (the candy, not the tables).  Then one of the neighbors, on her garage door, showed the Disney animated movie Coco, which has a lot to say about Día de Muertos. We also had a Halloween “Egg Hunt.”

Another neighbor sent for Chinese food for all the adults.  And so we all sat outside, at a distance, celebrating the European, Mexican and Asian roots of life in California. Some complained that the weather was a bit chill, but we’re all weather wimps here.  It was still warm enough to sit masked in shirt sleeves to chat with the neighbors or watch the movie.

My Father

My greatest source of sadness this season is my father, whose life is gently fading away. I plan to fly down to Arizona this week to see him for just a couple days, since he’s only able to handle brief visits. What with the pandemic, he’s almost the only one for whom I’d undertake such a trip.

My sister went two weeks ago and my step-sister last week.  My father’s lungs had been scarred, and as he ages, he’s ever less able to compensate for their stiffening. The scarring probably is the result of a disease called Valley Fever that he caught twenty years ago.  To all appearances he had recovered from it, but the scarring remained.

Covid 19 in America

Actually, it reminds me of Covid 19, which also may leave permanent damage in the bodies that “recover” from it. What a curse it has proven to be for us in the USA (as well as the rest of the world). Last April I wrote this to a friend of mine:

“This disease seems tailor-made to appeal to the sociopaths among us, in that it mainly attacks those who are old, infirm, or otherwise weak. So from their point of view, it’s more rational to encourage the disease to run its course, even at gunpoint. The strong will remain to strengthen the economy while resources are not wasted on those with limited ability to contribute. Holy Nietzsche! as Batman might say. Social Darwinism at its purest.”

“But in general, this behavior is not what we observe. We see health workers, grocery clerks, and restaurant workers risking their lives, while the rest of us huddle at home, often alone, often losing jobs and income, all in a desperate effort to slow the spread of an evil that none of us really understands. This response is greater than simple enlightened self-interest. It’s a mass movement based on love and caring, so no matter the personal beliefs of individual warriors, the same God is present in all.”

“And further, if I’m forgiven a bit of second-guessing, this disease could be our God-given opportunity to strengthen the bonds of love, so that when the even-greater danger comes later, we humans may have a chance of surviving it. That disaster, of course, is the warming of our earth, with its attendant climate instability. Its a problem nowhere near as straightforward as any disease. It can only be conquered through love, as no human law could force compulsion against such a complex phenomenon. So may we all work to strengthen those caring bonds.”

Now it’s six months later, and I’ve found another reason to mourn.  Never in a million years did I think that the sociopath point of view would prevail. Last week the white house chief of staff mentioned in passing that they have no federal plans to fight the corona virus! Thus they’ll let it simply wash over the population to create “herd immunity” in those who survive (“herd immunity” is a term coined to describe pervasive vaccinations), while we all wait for a theoretical vaccine to be developed in the fastest time in history. In fact, our head of state is doing all he can to encourage his followers not to cooperate with those trying to handle the virus. And unfortunately, they have been following his lead.

Need I mention that the examples of so many countries — New Zealand, Korea, Canada, Germany, and others, which demonstrate that this virus actually can be slowed and perhaps stopped by simple methods presently available to all? All of these countries are pretty close to normality. We can’t we be there, too?

There’s been no local transmission at all for 200 days in Taiwan, while Americans are still losing citizens to the virus at a faster rate than we lost soldiers in WWII, yet the head of state claims that doctors are exaggerating the  numbers of cases so they can profit more from the pandemic. It’s hard to imagine anybody whose own imagination is so twisted as to make such an allegation.  Is it no wonder that a recent study showed that this same head of state produces the most disinformation about the virus in the entire country, and significantly so for the entire world? Again, it’s a cause for sadness, and sadness for the world.

But it’s how this particular head of state rolls — through constant, relentless lies. The Washington Post has documented over 20,000 of them. The New York Times, in one of his 90-minute rallies, found 131 false or inaccurate statements. To me truth matters. I don’t deal well with liars. It’s a mystery why so many would vote for such a man, when they themselves would never lie like that.

America’s Covid 19 Success

So I didn’t know whether to cry or to cry when I saw this short opinion video from the New York times entitled “The Great American Covid Success,” which is not snark, but demonstrates our own CDC’s (Center for Disease Control) success in controlling the Covid 19 virus around the world.  It demonstrates why I’ve always been so proud of my country and its leadership in so many areas, even when it has also too often taken misguided political and military actions. So George W. Bush, whatever his faults, is also responsible for saving countless lives from AIDS in Africa.

Furthermore, when I see the doctors in Thailand and Korea in that video, I know that my country has Thai and Korean doctors, too, either immigrants or the children of immigrants, and that this connection not only serves us well, but the entire globe.

Yet the CDC, in its home country, has been hobbled. The current regime disbanded our disease pandemic unit,  for not being politically convenient .  They’ve meddled in the CDC’s internal workings for the same reason – for not being sufficiently loyal to the party. Seems like Soviet times.  In so many ways, in just four years, they have hollowed out so many kinds of agencies that serve the public good and provide leadership abroad.

These actions are not hidden. They are reported in traditional news media, but the head of state’s bizarre behavior attracts all the attention away from them.  I am so tired of hearing news anchors admitting that, no, in past years, this or that egregious behavior from an American head of state has never occurred before.  I’d rather stick to his policy actions.

He’s also working to separate us from our traditional allies like Germany and France and move us closer to dictatorships around the world like Russia and North Korea, even as he denigrates America’s true greatness. And so again, I’m overwhelmed by mourning. How long will it take to earn back the consequent lack of trust?

Election Day and Politics

Tuesday this week is election day. Some people overseas may imagine that the ballot is only about our head of state. Actually there are lots of offices on the ballot, as well as proposed laws to consider, as can be seen in the pictures here.The picture at left shows this year’s ballot. The next picture shows some of the study materials that came with it.

The third picture shows just some of the advertising mailed to me about it. Add to that the radio, television and social media ads, and it can seem almost overwhelming.

One of my overseas friends asked if people really do spend so much time studying and agonizing over so many choices.

And the answer is yes, at least for my own friends and family. We literally spend hours reading background material and considering our votes, as if we were the only ones voting. And that was also true before we all retired, when free time was harder to find.

Luckily, California is a state that makes it easy to vote. I even voted from Tianjin when I was living there. So this year I voted about two weeks ago, as did my friends and family.

As for the “top of the ticket,” the challenger has held a lead of between 6 and 10 percentage points ever since last spring. The incumbent, in contrast, has never won an approval rating of over half the country in four years. He may be the only one in history never to break the majority mark. From that, you’d think that the election outcome would be easy to predict.  But so much in the last few years has never happened before, so I hesitate to predict anything.  Even if the challenger wins by several million votes, the incumbent may yet find tricks to staying in power.

And this all stems ultimately from those with money (some of them).   In fact, due to their political influence, the rich have increased their wealth significantly during the pandemic, including snagging huge amounts of money in the relief passed so far, while so many ordinary people struggle.  Those ordinary strugglers must feel betrayed by their own country. Well, as a wise man once said, “The love of money is the root of all sorts of evil.

Meanwhile the head of state no longer leads a normal American political party, having let the old embodiment of his party die, under the crush of the rich. Normally, every four years, American political parties publish a “platform,” a set of goals that show what the party stands for. Importantly it demonstrates that a party does have principles which it follows. Well, this year, for the first time ever, the head of state’s party published no platform. Instead it published a statement of loyalty to this particular head of state.

It shows that loyalty and power are the be-all and end-all of this particular “party.” Well, the lack of a platform (while the other party had hashed out theirs over a period of weeks) should have been no surprise when half the key speakers at its convention this summer were members of the head of state’s own immediate family, as if it were a mafia association.

So I’m not really looking forward to this year’s election, since the election itself may not be the end of it. One thing I’ve learned over the past four years is how much our system normally depends upon custom and good will. Well, I don’t see a lot of good will this time around.  I don’t want yet another example of “Hey, we’ve never had anything like this before” but it’s quite possible. <sigh>

Hummingbird Magic

Luckily I have a back yard to retreat into. And sometimes magic takes place there. So last week, I stood entranced, watching hummingbirds dance.  And then I realized that my camera was sitting by my left hand. So I grabbed it and recorded a couple minutes, which you can see here! Truly, it’s pure magic.

For music this time, I’ll leave everybody with a suite by Joe Hisaishi, one of the most remarkable composers in Japan. He specializes in background music for movies, mainly those from the animation studio Ghibli.  He’s in the same league as John Williams. He’ll never be counted among the greatest technical  innovators, but the man can come up with melodies so intensely beautiful as to leave you crying, but not for a sad reason.  I’ve been listening to his music for a couple days to keep up my spirits while composing this update. One of my favorites is here. Here’s another favorite.