Saturday 21st of May 2022

for and against...


Across America in a few hours' time, turkeys will be going into ovens, millions will be hurrying from regional airports to get to see loved ones, roads will likely be jammed. 

And people will be preparing to gorge themselves on that egregious crime against cooking, sweet potato casserole and marshmallow. I mean sweet potato casserole - yum. Marshmallow - why not. But blended together in one dish? Ewww. 

That said, Thanksgiving is the loveliest of occasions. It is the midpoint between the ghastly excess of Halloween and the naked commercialism of some aspects of Christmas. And it is not about feverishly unwrapping presents. It is about families and friends coming together and giving thanks. 


BY Jon Sopel (BBC)



My most vivid - and painful - Thanksgiving was in 2017. 

We were across the road at our friend Jeff's in Georgetown. A few months earlier his wife, who was 39, had died of a very aggressive cancer. But round the table we went, taking it in turns to say what we gave thanks for - including his kids - Eleanor who was then 10, and Charlie who was eight. They spoke of the support of friends and family and how this had been of comfort to them in this unspeakably horrid year.


Strangely perhaps, it was an occasion that underlined to me what is great about America - the positivity, the optimism, the hope - and yes, resilience too. 


This will be my eighth and final Thanksgiving before I move back to the UK, and the thing that has struck me about living here is the courtesy, respect and old-fashioned politeness. 

When I tell Americans there are those in Britain who could learn from this, they seem startled. Surely, they ask, Britain - with its royal family - is the epitome of etiquette and courtliness. I ask if they've ever tried to get on the Victoria Line at Oxford Circus in the rush hour.

But there will be a lot of families who won't be gathering this year. 

A friend from Ohio - the kindest, most gentle soul - says his family won't be getting together because of toxic divisions that have come to the fore in the past few years. He works in the media and is sick of having his family telling him he works for fake news. It has been a growing and depressing phenomenon in America, where the list of no-go topics for the dinner table is now so extensive, better to call the whole thing off. 

There have always been divisions in the US, some of them going back to America's original sin, slavery. And recent court cases have underlined the profound feeling of grievance that the legal system doesn't work equally for black and white defendants.

But the list seems to grow daily. 


Abortion, guns, capital punishment - those divisive issues go back decades. But today we can add to that taking a knee, cancel culture, LGBTQ rights, critical race theory, defund the police (was ever a slogan better designed to alienate a lot of people?). 

And of course the casus belli for the attempted insurrection on January 6th, the "stolen election" - which of course wasn't stolen. 

These fissures became full-scale tears during the Trump presidency, when America was either passionately pro the 45th commander in chief, or downright hostile. Few were indifferent. And so crazy things have become a political dividing line. 

In the South there were restaurants and bars that banned people from entering if they WERE wearing a mask. Just think about that. In the land of the free, during a pandemic, some would deny you the choice of wearing a face covering for your and others' safety, because PPE had become political. 

There was a recent governor's election in Virginia, where the Republican pulled off a hugely impressive victory. But the Democratic candidate had a 14-point lead - among those who'd been vaccinated. That's astonishing. Being jabbed in the US is now an indicator of likely voting behaviour. 

In September I was in New York for the 20th anniversary of 9/11, a scarring moment for the US back in 2001, but an event that united the country.

That was in those innocent pre-social media days. 

Sure, there were the odd conspiracy theories - it was a Zionist plot (for reasons I've never been able to quite fathom), but they didn't have the highly inflammable propellant of algorithms back then, nor bad actors - state and non-state - who could sow confusion and chaos with such apparent ease. I really do wonder what it would take to unite this nation today.

Joe Biden came to power promising to lower the political temperature and to bind the wounds of a fractious nation, but there's no evidence that he's succeeding in that. 

Inflation is rising, the pull-out from Afghanistan was catastrophic, Covid has not gone away, there are supply chain issues that threaten Christmas - and his approval ratings are diving, despite getting his massive programme of infrastructure improvements through Congress.


So this Thanksgiving, there will be the turkey and all the trimmings - but a lot of Americans feeling thankless, even when this beautiful, wealthy, creative, entrepreneurial country still offers so much opportunity.

This lunchtime I will give thanks for my time here, for the journalistic assignment of a lifetime, for the wonderful American friends I've met - and will keep. 

I will also give thanks for the weather. America has far more bright, clear days than Britain. Sunlight is the norm. But I will keep to myself my dread - of returning and listening to those soul-sapping weather forecasts: "It will be overcast with thick cloud and drizzle…"

Happy Thanksgiving

Post script: In sitting down to write this, I have been thinking about all the things I will miss about the US, and all the things I won't:

What I'll miss (not in any order)


National parks and the great outdoors

Skiing in America - so much better organised

Fabulous geographical diversity

Weather reports - so much weather here

Paved cycle trails through stunning countryside

College sport - particularly March Madness basketball competition

Being able to watch all the Premier League football matches you can - even the 3pm kick offs (which you can't in the UK)

The singing of the national anthem

Burgers and fries

Can do attitudes/innovation


Washington museums and memorials

The device on petrol pump nozzle where it automatically clicks off when tank is full, so you don't need to keep hand on it (not significant I know)

Epic complexity of Washington politics

Friendliness and kindness

Work ethic

What I won't miss

Guns - worst bit of my seven years has been going to all the mass shootings

Endless TV ads for prescription drugs promising miracles for first 20 seconds and warning of - in rare cases - catastrophic death in last 20 seconds

Endless political ads during election season that just make you want to live on a desert island

A terrible health system that only works if you have money

Hearing people in front of me at the pharmacy saying they can't afford the drugs they've been prescribed

Seeming lack of interest in what happens in the rest of the world

Restaurants (this is a whole subsection)

- Food that is often too salty or too sweet

- You feel you have to tip 20% cos staff are so badly paid

- Ludicrous hierarchy where you can only talk to waiter/waitress allocated to your table, and not get service from anyone else

- Also why is the person who pours your water never able to take your food order

- Surf and turf - do one, but not the other

Being asked my opinion endlessly about Charles and Diana/William and Kate/Harry and Meghan - the royal family is an obsession


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some facts...



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Please note: This posting does not mean that Gus is a Trump supporter. He's not a Biden supporter either. As usual the US shoots themselves in the head for having to choose between two dorks — one a deceiving old fool and the other one being a deceiving old fool. Take your pick. The media chose for you — by hiding the truth about Biden. Easy choice.


Note: the figures in the cartoons are CORRECT. For Trump this was the number of deaths in the last two years of his presidency and for Biden the figures are for the first 10 months of his presidency...

800,000+ dead...

More than 800,000 Americans have now died from the coronavirus, the highest national death toll from the global pandemic. 

It comes as the US reached 50 million confirmed cases of Covid-19 on Monday. 

Most deaths have been recorded among the unvaccinated and the elderly, and more Americans died in 2021 than in 2020.

The US is again seeing deaths rising at an alarming rate.

The last 100,000 deaths came in just the past 11 weeks, a quicker pace than any at other point aside from last winter's surge.

"The waves of illness that we're seeing will continue until the population-level immunity is high enough to prevent them. Quite simply, we're not there yet," said Dr Keri Althoff, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.


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Read from top.





biden's feet of clay...


Welcome to President Joe Biden’s America: record-high inflation, an ongoing crisis on the southern border, and the rapid expansion of the national debt, all while giving up on his main campaign promise to shut down Covid-19.

The numbers, whether metrics from the U.S. economy or public polling, don’t bode well for Biden, the soon-to-be octogenarian heading into just the second year of his presidency. I don’t want to get out over my skis, given President Donald Trump seemed to have a clear path to reelection this time just two years ago, but Republicans seem poised to make big gains in this year’s midterms. If a red wave crashes this November, Democrats will try to blame the DINOs, namely Sens. Manchin or Sinema, but the blame falls squarely on Biden’s shoulders for his abysmal record.


Preliminary data shows that the cost of consumer goods rose about 7 percent in 2021. The 7 percent increase in prices set a new record for the U.S. in the 21st century, which prior to last year had not eclipsed 4 percent . In fact, one has to go back all the way to 1981 to find an inflation rate higher than the one Americans experienced last year. At the time, the U.S. was in the midst of a recession caused, in part, by then-Chair of the Federal Reserve Paul Volcker’s decision to increase short-term interest rates for an extended period of time to bring the stagflation of the Carter years to heel, which it eventually did.

Biden’s first year also added about $2 trillion to the national debt, which already sat at a staggering $27.8 trillion when he took office. This increase was thanks primarily to Biden’s misdirected Covid relief and an infrastructure package filled with progressive priorities, rather than the infrastructure improvements the American working class actually needs.

Furthermore, 1.78 million migrants were apprehended at the southern border, and 1 million migrants have been expelled from the U.S. under Title 42, the health regulations put in place by the Trump administration to turn away migrants in March 2020 because of Covid-19, in FY 2021. At first glance, this might seem like a silver lining, but the increased number of expulsions and apprehensions have been caused by the Biden administration’s rhetoric and policies that encouraged a record-breaking number of migrants to seek entrance to the United States. The 1.78 million migrant apprehensions is nearly quadruple that of the 458,000 apprehensions in 2020, and nearly double that of the 977,508 apprehensions in 2019, which saw a migrant crisis of its own.

The migrant surge has contributed to a record-number of pending cases in immigration courts, which now stands at 1.6 million. When Trump left office, the immigration case backlog was 1.3 million cases.

Arguably, Biden’s foremost campaign promise was that he would “shut down” Covid-19, which killed just over 385,000 Americans in 2020. However, less than a year into his presidency, Biden openly admitted his administration would not be able to deliver on that key promise. “There is no federal solution,” to Covid-19, Biden told a group of governors during a late-December phone call. Last year, more than 450,000 Americans died of Covid-19, despite the proliferation of vaccines. It’s astonishing how quickly Biden admitted defeat in the face of Covid-19. For comparison, President George H.W. Bush took nearly two years to renege on his promise of “no new taxes.” That didn’t end well for the 41st president.

Even Biden’s defenders in the corporate media have been forced to admit the first year of Biden’s presidency, which was supposed to deliver the nation from the darkness of the Trump years, has been an unmitigated disaster. “Joe Biden enters the second year of his presidency looking for a reset after a tumultuous first 12 months,” one CNN headline read. A NBC News headline proclaimed, “Biden ends first year as president with ‘bleak, discouraging’ marks from the public,” announcing the findings of a new NBC News poll. Another headline, surely intended to be the most damning of Biden’s first year, from Politico, read, “Biden’s first-year report card: Just like Trump’s.”

Of course, once the 2022 election cycle is in full-swing, Biden’s defenders are sure to fall in line. But Biden’s first year seriously calls into question his viability as candidate for Democrats come 2024. This isn’t a cheap shot at Biden’s mental faculties or age (he’d be 82 at the start of his second term), though those considerations merit serious discussion. No, this is purely based on the president’s performance. Rumors are already circulating that Harris, Buttigieg, or Warren might replace Biden as the Democrats’ frontman (or woman). If Republicans retake the House, and possibly the Senate, could Biden benefit from the low expectations that a divided government brings? It’s possible. But for now, I’m thinking: One year down, three to go.


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Note: A little war with Russia might help Biden's cheeks to get back some colour...


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603,558 covid deaths since biden inauguration……...

US President Joe Biden on Thursday mourned the 1 million American lives lost to the pandemic, saying each of the dead represented "an irreplaceable loss'', leaving behind a family, a community, and a nation "forever changed".

Biden marked the grim milestone in remarks opening the second Global Covid Summit, a virtual gathering of world leaders, nongovernmental organizations and private sector companies hosted by the White House.

"One million empty chairs around the family dinner table. Each irreplaceable, irreplaceable losses," Biden said in recorded remarks from the White House. "Each leaving behind a family, a community, forever changed because of this pandemic. My heart goes out to all of those who are struggling."

"As a nation, we must not grow numb to such sorrow. To heal, we must remember. We must remain vigilant against this pandemic and do everything we can to save as many lives as possible, as we have with more testing, vaccines and treatments than ever before," he said.

Biden ordered flags to be flown at half-staff at the White House and all public buildings, grounds, military posts and naval vessels until sunset on May 16 to honor the dead.

"This pandemic isn't over," the president declared. He said that tackling COVID-19 "must remain an international priority".

"This summit is an opportunity to renew our efforts to keep our foot on the gas when it comes to getting this pandemic under control and preventing future health crises," Biden said.

Separately, and ahead of addressing the summit, Biden urged Congress to deliver funds needed for the next phase of the pandemic, including for testing, vaccines and therapies. That lack of funding is a US reflection of faltering resolve that jeopardizes the global response to the pandemic, he said in a statement.

Biden has requested an additional $22.5 billion. US lawmakers had reached a $10 billion deal, but the additional tranche of funding has been delayed over various concerns.

In addition to the 1 million Americans, the coronavirus has killed at least 6.2 million people globally since it emerged in late 2019, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

The precise toll of the pandemic may never be known. Some people who died while infected were never tested and aren't represented in the data. Others, while having COVID-19, may have died for another reason such as cancer, but were still counted as COVID deaths.

More people died in two years of the COVID-19 pandemic in the US than in 40 years of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

The toll dwarfs the estimated 675,000 deaths during the 1918-19 Spanish Flu outbreak. The 1 million is also more than the number of American deaths from World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War combined.

The coronavirus ranks behind only heart disease and cancer as America's leading causes of death over the past two years. By comparison, the flu season of 2017-18, one of the deadliest in recent decades, claimed an estimated 52,000 lives.

A recent Gallup poll has shown the public's concern about the virus has declined since the Omicron wave. In March, 63 percent of respondents said the COVID-19 situation is improving, a jump from 20 percent in January, with worries highest about new variants and unvaccinated people.