Cancel EVERYTHING – June

A COVID-19 Diary (of Sorts)

June 30

Another month is coming to an end. Half the year is gone and essentially four months have been spent living with the concerns about the COVID-19 virus. That, in and of itself, seems crazy. But I fear that the next six months will be even crazier as we add in the insanity of an election campaign where DT is one of the candidates.

But the truly troubling concerns have to be related to the unchecked spread of the COVID-19 virus. Over 10 million cases have been registered worldwide with over 500,000 deaths. Here in the US, we have over 2.6 million cases alone and are approaching 130,000 deaths — and that is just in four months. Conservative estimates are projecting at least another 50,000 deaths in the next three months.

Do NOT kid yourself and tell yourself that we’ve got this under control, or that it is dying out. At LEAST 50,000 more people will die in just a few months and, At the rate that we see infections increasing, you have to believe it will get worse. 500 – 700 people are dying every day — and that will likely increase as time goes on.

Dr. Fauci said today in testimony on the Hill that he is deeply disturbed and that we’re going in the wrong direction. We’ve already jumped from a low of 20,000 new infections a day to 40,000 recently, and he fears, if we fail to act wisely, that number could climb to 100,000 cases a day. That’s 3 million a month! Dr. Fauci said he had not yet modeled the number of deaths, but we all know it’s not going to be good.

Meanwhile, in yet another example of corporate profits taking priority over public health, American Airlines has decided to fully book its flights and not leave middle seats open. “Airlines For America,” an industry advocate claims that airlines have a “multi-layered approach” for health and safety of passengers and employees.”

I’m not convinced. The governors of Texas and Arizona and Florida and many other states told us that they, too, were fully prepared to keep people safe with reopening. That didn’t work out too well, did it?

Sixteen states are now putting reopening “on hold” but we have no idea what that really means. Again, we have disjointed, uncoordinated approaches, mixed messaging and half measures. That won’t be enough, and we’ll continue to pay the price. Why is it that we are so incapable of taking the tough measures, of offering determined leadership, and of mobilizing a national response with clear, consistent messaging?

Much, but not all the blame rests with Trump. Many governors could have bucked his nonsense and offered the right approach in their states… but they didn’t. And far too many of our fellow citizens have just been irresponsible and thoughtless. Far too many. And so we’re in a crisis and I don’t know if we have a way out.

And, by the way, there’s a new swine flu virus that has been identified by the Chinese and it has the potential to become a new threat. Fauci is worried about that one too. So should we all be.

It’s a hell of a note on which to start the second half of the year. But it’s all we’ve got.

I’d wish you a happy July — and indeed, I hope you will have one — but, under the circumstances, “happy” may be a relative term.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

No photo description available.

June 29

Here we are facing another Monday. The day is over half gone as I sit to write. We started the day early walking the dogs before the humidity and heat got the better of them. It was a nice way to start the day.

We wore masks, not so much because of COVID, but because of pollen. But it’s funny… we would never have thought to wear a mask because of pollen before, but now… now it’s routine anyway and it doesn’t even look strange.

But that just goes to show you how much life — and our expectations of the future — have changed. Talking to friends yesterday it was clear that all of us have more or less written off 2020. There just seems so little likelihood of travel, concerts, movies, or much else involving exposure to others in any significant way.

The grocery store experience has changed too. Almost all the other shoppers here in Northern Virginia have been masked — good for them — and most have at least a degree of social distancing. Checkout cashiers are disinfecting the belt between each customer. We only step up near them long enough to click our phone at the sensor. It’s strange.

Our engagement with our kids and grandkids takes place in a virtual sphere far more than a physical one (yet, it is nice — even reassuring — to have the frequent contact.

We have to accept that this is our reality for awhile. Even as Trump runs away from the pandemic… even as he tells us soon we’ll see only the dying embers… we continue to set record numbers at the state and national level. Hospitalizations surge. And deaths will inevitably rise. And, for me, it is this incredible refusal to face reality and to act like a leader that baffles me. If it’s just about politics, it’s an unconscionable game that callously is leading to ever more deaths. And if it really is just a lack of competence and/or understanding, THAT is frightening as can be in the man who is supposed to lead our nation through this crisis.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

June 28

I am totally beyond words today. Now we are to the point where COVID numbers are on the rise in 36 states. There are only 2… repeat TWO… states where there is a decline.

Our son Tony, has been tracking numbers in Texas where he and his wife live. (A few of the charts he made are below.) It’s frightening. The rate of increase is staggering and the projection for potential hospitalizations in the coming weeks is staggering… over 830,000 by the end of August. Not that long ago the estimate was 31,000. This is just insane.

I recognize that these are just projections. And it all can change… particularly if the leadership and people of the state make a concerted effort to change course. But will they? It’s the same question we can ask in every one of the 36 states seeing a rise in infections. And there is no doubt that this is the most compelling and troubling issue. Voice after voice is decrying the failure of leadership at the national level.
There’s really no excuses left. We can say that it’s a new virus, that there was a sharp learning curve, that the science surrounding it is still uncertain. And all of that would be true. But despite all those challenges, so many other countries have gotten this under control. Look at Italy or Spain — both of which were particularly hard hit just a few months ago. Their infection rate peaks were like our own. And they brought them down, down, down. Over the same period we brought ours down briefly by only about one-third and now we are seeing them soar again to record levels.

There is no question that this is about a failure of leadership, commitment, engagement and vision. And that starts at the top. And as more people fall ill, as hospitals are under ever growing pressure, and as the death tolls mount, Trump and Pence and all their minions have to take responsibility. They can shirk it, they can deny it’s their fault, they can tell us it’s all OK, but we know better.

I listened to HHS Secretary Azar this morning trying to tell us about the incredible progress we’ve made. Trying to convince us that the government is committed. But neither he nor any Republican I heard this morning on the Sunday talk shows would acknowledge that Trump failing to wear a mask is a problem, that his politicizing wearing masks is a problem, or that his mocking of those who DO wear masks is a problem.

Dodge, ignore, and pretend you didn’t hear. That’s the strategy. What will it take for any of these spineless jellyfish to actually take a stand. To do what is right? This morning Trump retweeted a short clip of a supporter in a golf cart with a Trump 2020 sign. He called the folks in the video great people. Of course, one of them shouted out “White Power.” But I guess those are Trump’s “great people.” Trump has since deleted the Tweet.

Alex Azar was shown the Tweet. Asked for a comment. He said,“I haven’t seen the Tweet so really don’t want to comment.” It was mentioned to him that he had, indeed, just been shown it. But god forbid that he should ever suggest that retweeting a video of that sort was wrong.

You can claim all you want that the administration has been very clear in condemning such racism and white supremacy haters (they haven’t, of course). But if you’re not willing to even say that the President erred in posting such a thing and if you’re not willing to call for it to be taken down, you cannot expect to be seen as credible in anything else you say about the administration — including on it’s COVID-19 efforts.
At a time when we need principled leaders, we have sycophants and slavish followers. This is true of virtually all who remain in the cabinet. It is true of the overwhelming majority of Republican legislators. It is true of the Republican governors who put their citizens in harms way because they rushed to reopen to fall in line behind Trump.

These are not profiles in courage by any means. This is not what we need. And I don’t believe it is what we deserve. Or at least what most of us deserve.

These are sad days in America. But we will survive. Because we must.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

No photo description available.

June 27

It’s Saturday. A busy day ahead. I’ve already prepped dinner. Made a nice veggie soup — very summery — broth, veggies and greens with lemon juice to make it “bright,” and fresh oregano from the garden, and some other spices for base flavoring, a mix of coconut aminos, vegan Worcestershire sauce and green sriracha for depth of flavor and voila. I also prepped a salad and roasted broccoli, onions, grape tomatoes and garlic and I’ll add them to rigatoni later, with a bit of olive oil and lemon juice and zest. Voila.

Cooking is therapy. And god knows I need something other than the delusional madness of our so-called leaders and the devastating news of this virus’s wild spread. On the one hand, there were 45,000 new cases yesterday. Another record. It’s insane. It’s getting worse every day. The death toll seems to be almost secondary to the conversation these days, but we have over 127,000 people dead… so far. BUT… and here’s where the craziness overwhelms me… the Vice President told us yesterday that all 50 states are reopening safely and responsibly. What planet does he live on?

Seriously. How can he stand before the nation and make such claims. He confuses, misleads, and offers false hope with what can only be called blatant lies. It’s palpable nonsense and anyone with a brain can see it. But still he makes his assertions. Bonkers.

And Trump is just moving on. He wants to distract us and shift the narrative as he vows to protect the statues of confederate generals and others. Right. THAT’S the priority. THAT is what we need to worry about. Unsurprisingly, he skipped the coronavirus task force meeting. The virus is “dying out” after all. That’s what he says. Good god. It’s frightening.

And, even as he denies the virus is a threat, he is ensuring that his team take extraordinary measures to protect him from it (even as he inserts himself repeatedly into high risk environments where he puts others at risk). Reportedly he is worried about how it would “look” if he falls ill from the virus he has dismissed. Moron.

So I cook. But also, how many of you have been playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons? I received it as a gift for Father’s Day. It’s not a shoot-em-up video game or a role playing adventure. It’s just… nice. Sweet. And in the course of tending our orchards, weeding gardens, fishing, collecting fossils, building the museum and more, you can interact with family and friends online.

We visit each other’s islands. We chat on the phone as we discuss game play and the art of cultivating bamboo. We sit together in the zen-like setting of our museum’s butterfly rooms where the butterflies we catch flutter by peacefully. There’s no COVID-19. There’s no culture wars. No hostility and conflict. It’s amazingly peaceful. And pleasant.

As we struggle with all the challenges that beset us, a place of refuge — whether it’s the kitchen, or the world of Animal Crossing — is good for us all.

Happy Saturday.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

June 26

Today is our son Joe’s birthday.  He was born into a very different world than the one we’re living in today.  I wish we could turn back the clock a bit.  But, of course, we can’t.  So on we go.

“Something is not working… “  That was a comment from Dr. Fauci regarding the government’s testing strategy.  Yes… that the strategy that Trump calls the best in the world.  Absolutely perfect.  Except, as we keep saying, it isn’t.

Yesterday, we had another record high in new infections of over 40,000 cases.  32 states are now showing increases.  A month ago it was 17.  This is incredibly bad.  And still Trump tries to tell us that what we all can see with our own eyes is just an illusion.  That this is just an artifact of the greater number of testing.  Every single expert disputes it.  Trump says that if a kid has the sniffles it’s listed as “coronavirus or whatever you call it.”  

We’re testing too much, he says.  We all know it is too little.  Not enough testing, possibly not the right testing, we’re not getting a good picture, we’re not contact tracing, and we’re not getting leadership.  It’s a disaster on every level.  As I said the other day, any gains we made with our efforts in March and April have been squandered by Trump leading the charge to reopen and our failure to use the time to prepare.  No one took it seriously.  And now we are on the verge of sinking further into the abyss.  

Adding insult to injury, Trump’s Justice Department, led by his loyal pup, Bill Barr, is trying yet again to get the Supreme Court to invalidate Obama Care.  This at a time when enrollment has surged 46% during the pandemic and where people desperately need every safety net available to them.  But what the heck… why not screw with national health insurance in the midst of the greatest health crisis in our lifetimes?  Why not put the most vulnerable at even greater risk?  It makes sense right?  

Well… maybe not.  Especially given that the Administration has NO plan for how to replace it.  But that doesn’t stop Trump and his band of self-serving acolytes who care only about getting him reelected.  It’s predictable.  And it’s disgusting.  

This morning, as I let the dogs out, one of the many eclectic pieces of art that fill our house caught my eye.  It is a woman… I often think of her as wonder woman… flying serenely over all on a kite.  I envied her this morning.  Wondered if we could just fly away like that to a place that is covid free.  Free of discord and bigotry and fear-driven anger and hate.  It would be nice.

That’s what I wish for Joe on his birthday.  That we’ll find our way to a safer world, healthier world, and one where we have moved beyond the divides that we struggle with today, to a society that has hope of a brighter and more equitable future for all.  I think we can get there.  Maybe not in my lifetime, though I hope so, but certainly in his.  At least if the gods are kind and the dangerous demagogue in the White House doesn’t destroy us totally before we can effect change.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy!

June 25

It’s crazy to see how, in so many ways, we’re heading right back to where we were just a few short months ago. From 20,000 cases a day a few weeks ago… we had 36,880 new cases yesterday — the highest single day total we have seen since the pandemic began.

We essentially have allowed all the sacrifice that folks made personally and economically during the shutdown to be tossed out the window in our haste to reopen. It’s devastating.

I know how hard the shutdown was and the costs to some of our most vulnerable and economically challenged citizens. We saw the families who have struggled even to feed their families and who flocked to food banks. It’s SO tough. But that sacrifice ultimately meant nothing. And now, we are faced once again with the same devastatingly hard choices we had to confront in March. THIS is the cost of poor leadership, poor planning and the refusal to listen to the dictates of science.

We all need to reorient ourselves to this grim reality. We aren’t moving back to what once was. We are stuck with the realities of COVID-19 and we had better figure out what that means.

The one thing I’m struggling with today, though, is the furor we are seeing over masks. In Miami, where numbers are surging out of control, the local officials mandated that folks where masks in public. This isn’t lock down, it’s not a draconian measure… it’s just a mask. You all know the reasons why masks in public make sense. It’s not about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It’s not about surrendering personal autonomy. It’s about living in society. Respecting each other. Caring for each other. Protecting each other.

But NOT in Miami, apparently. At least for some of the citizens. But it’s not just Miami. It’s across the country. People outraged at being told they have to wear masks. They’re angry, vitriolic and over the top.

I get the culture wars. I get the political symbolism that Trump has injected into this topic. But, it’s still sad, and it breaks my heart a bit more as we, as a nation, cannot even come together on something so simple, so important, and something that gives us a chance to show that we truly understand what “in it together” really means.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

June 24

Unless you’re a ninja master of incredible skill, dodging bullets generally doesn’t work. One of them will inevitably hit you.

Unfortunately, the governors of states like Arizona and Florida and Texas do not have those skills and, though they a dodging with all their might, the COVID-19 bullet is not going to give them any peace. They KNOW what needs to be done. They KNOW their citizens are at risk. They are seeing the light — or feeling the heat — and KNOW that action is called for. But still, they wait, they dodge, and they hope perhaps for a miracle. None is coming.

Texas’ governor “suggested” that folks might want to “consider” staying at home as the state reported well over 5,000 new cases yesterday alone. That’s just an example. Arizona’s hospitals will soon be in free fall — much like the crisis in New York some months ago — and god only knows what will happen in Florida where the governor whistles past the graveyard and doesn’t act.

Leadership means making the tough decisions. And they can be unpopular ones at times — but you know what is right and you do it. Politics in our nation has increasingly become divorced from leadership, however, and we are lucky if an elected official is also a leader. Too many are just politicians. And this is hurting us now.

Months ago I fumed over the failure to act, over delays in making calls to close down and tackle this pandemic head on. And the failure wasn’t just at the state level. It was at the federal level, too, and it was about the lack of a clear policy, consistent narrative, and strong leadership and messaging. It still is. And now, as numbers are rising in over half the country, (particularly in all those places that reopened too soon) we need effective leadership at all levels more than ever.

New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are imposing mandatory quarantine (or so they say — how they will implement is beyond my understanding at the moment) on travelers from states with high infection rates. The EU may ban travelers from the US — and that will be easier to do and it comes as no surprise. What did we expect? (I know… no one really though about things like that… surprised?).

This pandemic is real. People still don’t seem to get it. It isn’t going away and we keep feeding it with targets of opportunity. We don’t have leaders strong enough to guide this fractious and divided nation in this time of crisis and we squandered the progress we made with a semblance of action in April and May.

We lost our will, we lost our focus. People got bored. They whined and complained. (Though some, admittedly faced truly impossible choices — but those can be addressed in the broader context of the public health response).

And now the virus is roaring back, possibly worse than ever, and we are once again repeating the same dance around the issues that characterized our initial response.

We are also, sadly, seeing more stories of stupidity and bigotry and hatefulness. The white woman who complained that a Latina and her mother and baby were too close (they were not — they were on the social distancing marker as we hope everyone will do). When she heard the younger woman speak to her mother in Spanish this woman lost it… and then removed her mask and stepped forward to deliberately cough on the baby several times.

What a world where we unleash our hate and bigotry on a baby and we attack with our germs. The lady may not have had the virus. But she might have. Either way she was so, so wrong.

It seems we learned nothing — even with the example of the last few months so vivid in our experience. I’m frustrated. Disgusted. Sad. I thought we were better than this. I’m beginning to fear we’re not.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

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June 23

It’s so sad.  All the warnings we heard a month ago as we rushed to reopen seem to be coming true.  

We are now seeing numbers starting to climb again in 26 states and there are several more likely to be added to the list soon according to Dr. Michael Osterholm who I’ve often cited before.  A week or so ago it was 10, then 17, then 20.  You see the trend lines.  Los Angeles has seen 35% of its infections occur in just the past few weeks.  The steady climb in Florida since May 4 has been Everest-like in its slope and scope.  

The White House is all over the board.  Pence tells us the second wave talk is overblown.  Navarro says they are actively preparing for the second wave.  He says they are stockpiling… but I’d love to see details.  We saw the debacle of supply chain and response when all this began and I worry that as to whether they have learned any lessons.  

The President says the virus is fading… dying out and in the rearview mirror.  But the facts, and the words of his own medical experts tell us otherwise.  We’ve been hit badly with recent surges, Tony Fauci said today.  Lack of consistency?  Oh, yes.  

And, further compounding the confusion, Trump declared this morning that “I don’t kid” when he was asked about his claim that he told his administration to slow down testing.  His advisors swore it was a joke.  He tells us otherwise. 

Deliberately slowing testing as the virus spreads?  That would be insane… and deadly.  Yet the President doubled down on it this AM.  But Dr. Fauci, in congressional testimony — also today — says the task force was never told to slow down testing.  Admiral Giroir of the Public Health Service, in charge of testing, says the same.  Obviously, someone isn’t telling the truth.  Any thoughts as to who?  

Game-playing about this subject is worse than dangerous.  It’s criminal.  It puts even more lives at risk, sows confusion and diminishes the effectiveness or our response even as the virus continues to prey opportunistically on us all.  Fauci and Giroir argue that we have to expand testing… to test as many as we can.  The President seems to disagree.  What a mess.

Fauci also warned that as numbers rise, deaths may follow (as we have seen before) — even among the younger people who are becoming infected in greater numbers.  Worrisome.

And while the President and VP dismiss a second wave, let’s not get sucked into that debate while, by every measure, the first wave is still with us.  Dr. Osterholm thinks that the first will continue right through the summer and into the fall and into flu season.  It’s like a forest fire being fueled by all the targets of opportunity that we have put in its path.  

If you saw the graph yesterday comparing the US and the EU, it is worth noting that the EU, even with 100 million more people than the US, saws its peak steadily flatten due to testing, tracing, and isolation.  Unlike the EU, our peak dipped only slightly, and then has remained at a high plateau ever since.  

What does that tell you about the difference in our responses?  It’s not impossible to manage.  But we have to do it right.

Summer didn’t kill this virus.  Hydroxychloroquine and disinfectants won’t save us.  Ignoring it doesn’t work.  Dismissing science isn’t the answer.  Playing politics doesn’t help.  We just didn’t make the smart choices and now, sadly, even after so many months, we are not positioned for success.   

The lack of clear, cohesive and consistent response is killing us.  Literally.  

It’s not rocket science.  Masks matter.  Distance, distance, and more distance, matters.  And, importantly, leadership — and the clear, cohesive and consistent approach that we are missing right now — matters.  

But the president doesn’t buy it.  He goes his own way, concerned only for his reelection, not the people he is supposed to serve.  And so the butcher’s bill will grow ever higher. 

Look at the EU, or Australia, New Zealand, or South Korea, and you will see what could have been.  It’s not too late to regroup.  But we won’t because the President will never do it.  And so more will fall ill, more will die, and the fall will likely be even worse.  History will judge.  My guess is that it won’t be kind.

That’s how it looks to me on a muggy Tuesday in Virginia.  

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

June 22

And… It’s Monday. Maybe I should just stop there. It says it all… right?

But I’ll add a bit more because that’s what I’ve committed to myself that I’ll do. I told myself I’d trying to chronicle the COVID-19 experience as a reflection of how I’ve experienced it. If, in the process, I also spark discussion or inform someone’s thinking or pique their interest, that’s great. But the goal is to create a personal record. So I’ll write.

I feel, though, that at times I’m belaboring the obvious but, if the “obvious” is what is on my mind, I guess that is what I’ll write about.

So, here’s one thing that is obvious… and scary. Although we are often focused on our own issues in the US — and we have plenty — we’re nonetheless affected by what happens on the rest of the planet. And, not only do we have COVID-19 here, but numbers are growing faster than ever globally, and we need to pay attention.

How will the growing rate of infection globally affect us down the road? What will it mean in terms of other waves? Can it spark mutations of the virus over time? Will it lead to further economic collapses, societal unrest, and human tragedy on a global scale? And if so… what does that mean for us? Food for thought.

Today or tomorrow the global number will exceed 9 million. Global deaths are approaching 500,000. Brazil — whose President has styled himself as Donald Trump’s mini-me and who has scoffed at the virus — has become the second country (we were the first) to exceed 50,000 deaths. And it’s not slowing down there.

India is accelerating. That’s scary. China is worried about new outbreaks in Beijing. In Africa, it is spreading rapidly. In some nations, like Nepal, we’re seeing a 65% increase in cases week-on-week. None of this is good.

Meanwhile, in our own country, we now have 23 states with rising numbers and in 11 states there was a 50% increase in their new infections in just a week. Rates of hospitalizations are increasing. Deaths are rising. And the President still wants to ignore the realities. He wants us to believe that this is all because we are testing more and thus discovering more mild cases — that we’re finding folks who are positive but not so sick that they had gone into a clinic.

If this was just a function of finding mild cases that were previously ignored hospitalizations wouldn’t be rising — but they are. And if this was just a function of testing, rather than an increase in infection rates, we also would be seeing deaths coming down — but we aren’t.

The administration can try and spin this six ways from Sunday. They can tell us what a great job they’ve done. How it’s all under control. How fears of a second wave are overblown. But spin doesn’t change facts.

The facts show us that we are failing in our efforts to deal with the first wave of this virus. And THAT makes the thought of a second wave all the scarier.

If you want a comparison that will jar you, just look at the graph below. At one point, the US and Europe were experiencing this pandemic similarly. We were both seeing almost 30,000 new cases every week. And we were both stunned and worried. But then look at what happened.

We have never brought our numbers down significantly and we continue to see 20,000 – 25,000 cases a week. Europe steadily got their numbers under control and now they are experiencing only 2,000 – 2,500 cases a week. One tenth of our numbers.

And what’s shocking isn’t just that we have not been able to reduce our numbers even after months of struggle. The truly shocking thing is the complacency of our leaders in just accepting this. The sense of emergency is gone. The commitment is gone. The white flag has been raised and we seem to say… oh well… it’s Ok.

Except that it’s not. There’s nothing OK about infections that don’t need to occur sickening our citizens and killing the vulnerable. There’s nothing OK about deaths that don’t need to happen. And there’s nothing OK with trying to hide from reality rather than trying to change it.

Today, 700 people will likely die from COVID-19 in America. And again tomorrow. And Wednesday. And Thursday. And Friday. You see it. I see it.

It’s obvious. But I’ll belabor it because it’s also heinous. It’s wrong. And it doesn’t need to be.

Mondays. They kind of suck, don’t they?

Be strong, be safe, be healthy.

No photo description available.

June 21

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there. Just as with Mother’s Day we’ll be marking the day a bit differently. But it reminds us — as this pandemic has all along — that love transcends physical presence. We miss being physically close to our children. We miss hugging people we care about. We miss time together laughing and being at ease. But because we care about them we know we have to keep our distance.

The day begins with headlines about the President’s remarks last night. She said he told his team to “slow the testing down” — apparently because he wanted to slow down the growth in the coronavirus numbers. That’s the essence of it. His spin doctors were quick to say he was “just kidding.” How many times have we heard that?

None of the other “just kiddings” over the past few years have SOUNDED like he was just kidding. And this one didn’t either. And if he was… what a topic to “joke” about! 120,000 Americans are dead. Testing is not a joking matter.

Meanwhile, it was a bit of a surprise to see that his massive crowds didn’t appear last night. And that became a subject for lies as well. “Violent” demonstrators kept his supporters from attending he said. Only there were hardly any demonstrators, those that there were, were not violent, and the police presence had things under control.

Lies and misdirection. That’s what this campaign is all about. I just listened to another Trump apologist — his trade advisor Peter Navarro — assert on CNN that the COVID virus was “created” by China, that they sent their citizens out to spread it in the world, and that China has killed over 100,000 Americans. Trump was just a victim of the perfidious Chinese. We shouldn’t even THINK about suggesting that this administration screwed up. Even worse that we should expect to President to take any responsibility for the problems we have had here. It’s all China. Or maybe…just maybe, it’s all BS.

Trump signaled more of what we can expect in the months ahead as well. He once again was calling the virus “Kung Flu,” demonstrating his continued insensitivity by hurling racially-influenced epithets. Even Kelly Ann Conway, his bulldog defender who runs roughshod over facts and reality when it suits her purpose, has called that phrase deeply offensive. But he used it anyway. Because that’s Trump. Fueling divides, enshrining manufactured grievances, and attacking others with specious insults rather than coherent arguments based on ideas and principle. It was, simply, pathetic.

Even as Trump continues to minimize the virus that threatens our nation in so many ways, the virus surges. The growing concern is that we are seeing so many young people getting infected. So many of them seem to believe that they can ignore the virus. That even if they get it, they will be fine.

But they can’t be sure. Young people are increasingly filing hospital beds in Florida, Texas, Georgia, and elsewhere. Young people will get seriously ill and some of them will die. And those who bring their cavalier attitudes to the fore will likely infect many others — including parents, grandparents, and others who are vulnerable and at even greater risk.

And, when Trump dismisses the virus, when he doesn’t lead by example, when he won’t wear a mask, when he makes it all a measure of your political loyalty, he only adds to the problem. There’s nothing new in that. But seeing the way this is spreading among our nation’s youths, you have to worry and fear for them. And as a father, on Fathers’ Day, that kind of breaks my heart.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy

June 20th

It’s so hard to believe it is June 20th already. Almost half the year is gone. Summer begins today. It will not be a normal summer but this year has been anything but a normal year.

So… unsurprisingly… the Trump team added more to the craziness last night. Once again, they waited until late on a Friday evening, when they hoped fewer would notice, to declare that the US Attorney for the 2nd District of New York had resigned. The only thing is, he hadn’t.

Geoffrey Berman, who is the US Attorney in question, said he only learned of his so-called resignation in the Justice Department press release. He said he will NOT be resigning, essentially telling Bill Barr and Donald Trump that he is NOT going to be bullied or sidelined.

This is the U.S. Attorney who led the investigations into Trump attorney Michael Cohen, into Rudy Giuliani, into Rudy’s associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman (who were involved in the Ukraine fiasco and other shady dealings), and into Turkey’s state-owned Halkbank which is charged with helping Iran evade sanctions on billions of dollars in oil funds.

Interestingly, Bolton’s new book claims that Trump had told Turkey’s strongman leader, Recep Erdogan he’d fix the problems in the second district — that they were Obama people (although Berman WAS nominated by Trump).

We know what this is about. It’s not about justice. It’s not about effective leadership in the 2nd District of New York. It’s about anger over a prosecutor who, unlike Bill Barr, chooses to follow the law, not the President’s whims. Make no mistake, Berman was a Trump supporter. But he chose to follow the law and not the partisan political wishes of a President who serves only those who share his views, not all the citizens of our nation.

Unlike many in this Administration, Berman fulfilled his oath.

Bill Barr, as our Attorney General, is our nation’s top law enforcement officer. But every day it becomes clearer that he is not our nation’s lawyer. He is only Donald Trump’s lawyer.

For Barr, who has faced striking judicial rebukes for his actions of late, it’s clearly not about the law. It’s about politics. As is true for any good lackey, Donald’s enemies are his enemies. The law be damned. Justice too. Let’s win reelection and make Trump look good.

Laws are inconvenient things. They level the playing field. They protect us all. They give us all a fair hearing. They impose constraints on would-be-dictators and strongmen — like those who admire Putin, Kim, Erdogan. Like Donald Trump. Trump and Barr would like to pretend the laws don’t exist. They do. And the courts this week continue to remind them with loss after loss — including the rejection today of the Justice Department’s effort to block John Bolton’s book

Meanwhile, today Donald Trump will go ahead with his rally in Tulsa.

Science suggests (you all remember science, don’t you?) that perhaps as many as 1,000 new coronavirus infections could result from that event. 19,000 people, packed into an indoor venue for hours, speeches, cheering, chanting. All of this will take place against a backdrop of record high infections in Oklahoma, and in Tulsa in particular.

Aerosolized droplets of COVID-19 floating through the air. SUCH a lovely image. More disturbing though, is that those thousand people will go home. They’ll infect family members, co-workers, and even casual contacts. It is estimated that every infected person in the US might currently infect 2-2.5 others. So that 1,000 could infect another 2,000 and they 4,000, and then 16,000 and so on. You get the idea.

So you’ll go ahead, Mr. President; disregarding science, disregarding requests to at least move this outside. You’ll go ahead not caring about who gets infected, who dies, and whose families are devastated. You’ll do it so that YOU can have your rally. Good for you.

And his supporters? “We have a right to be here.” “It’s up to individuals to make the choice”. “We accept the risk.” They have made their choice. A choice that puts their rights over the common good. A right that says they seemingly disregard the risks that they will pose to others. We say, “We’re all in this together.” Obviously not.

Trump will say outrageous things tonight. He’ll feed his supporters the vitriol they crave and he’ll further fuel their sense of victimhood. Those poor, discriminated white men with their guns and their grievances. The crowds will chant and scream. He’ll get his headlines.

But many of us know better. We see him for what he is. The master of distraction. A divider, a narcissist, and a petulant bully who is being called out and is running out of places to hide. A man who disregards our constitution and our laws and who will sacrifice anyone — including the well-being of his own supporters — to achieve his end.

This isn’t about politics. It’s about who we are. What we believe, what we stand for, and who we care about. In 136 days we will make a choice. We’ll see then who we truly are as a nation.

But that’s in 136 days. Today it’s Saturday. Time for chores, time to chill.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

June 19

Happy Juneteenth.  And no… Donald Trump didn’t make it famous.  

He, of course, asserts that he did.  

It shocks me at times just how much everything has to be about him.  

◆Juneteenth is now all about HIM making it topical.  

◆Folks who wear masks are doing it to oppose HIM.  

◆The Supreme Court ruling on DACA is about the court not liking HIM.  

Everything is about him.  It is about his enormous ego (yesterday he claimed he built the greatest testing machine for COVID -19… ever!)  It is about his sensitive psyche — the poor boy is so beset by his enemies.  And it is about his sense of entitlement that convinces him he can lie, manipulate, and cheat with impunity. 

Even after three+ years all this shocks me.  This deviation from all the norms of leadership and morality that we have always held folks to is disturbing.  

There is something fundamentally wrong and it is obvious to anyone willing to look.

And now he is moving forward without a care and putting thousands at risk by holding a rally tomorrow in Tulsa.  The callous disregard for the safety of his own supporters would be shocking if it wasn’t so typically predictable.  He doesn’t care as long as he can hold the rally.  He needs the rally.  He needs to bolster his ego so he can keep telling himself that he is worshipped.  And he’ll tell his assembled acolytes that all is well.  That he has defeated COVID-19.  The rest is just fake news (like the ad that his campaign so totally faked yesterday).  It is truly disturbing. 

And meanwhile… things go from bad to worse on the COVID-19 front.  Florida had 3,000 new cases on Wednesday and over 4,000 new cases on Thursday.  In Arizona, hospitals are maxing out on ICU beds.  Tulsa saw a 110 percent increase in new cases in just one week.  

And every day the equivalent of two jumbo jets full of people are dying in our nation.  Every day.  And it’s showing no signs of easing.  To the contrary, it may very well get worse.  

I know that none of this is new.  I know I seem to repeat the same sort of grim statistics and warnings again and again.  But we HAVE to repeat them.  We have to tell the tale.  We have to maintain our awareness and continue to educate if we want to minimize the spread and to protect ourselves and those we love.  We have to do that.  And that means we must repeat and repeat and repeat until the day comes when we no longer need to do so.   

We have to do it because those in leadership won’t.  Trump and Pence hide the truth and they lie to the public.  But, even worse, they and all those governors who say they will never accept shutting down again are, at the same time, refusing to take the steps that will prevent the need to do so.  These modern day Neros are prepared to let Rome burn again and again and again all the while telling us that it’s all OK.

And so, it’s up to us.  Up to us today, and up to us in November.  

But, for now, it’s Friday.  I’ll try to “Keep Calm and Carry On” as the poster that has adorned my offices for years (even before it was “cool”) says.  The sun will rise tomorrow, the republic we hope will still stand, and I hope we’ll all be ready to face another day in good health.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

June 18

Today is day 100 of my effort to write a bit of something every day. I thought perhaps I should mark the occasion by writing something particularly prescient, but… naw… I don’t have it in me. Instead it will be more of the same.

More of the same surreal, parallel-reality-universe that we are living in. A parallel universe where our leaders apparently exist on some plane to which those of us who are “mere mortals” cannot aspire. In fact, we can barely get a glimpse of those elysian fields where it is always summer, the air is pure, and coronavirus is a mere nuisance — perhaps just a tiny cloud in an otherwise pristine sky.

That is obviously where our President lives. Lucky him. You may have heard him in an interview yesterday. He was asked if he worried about people becoming sick if they were exposed to the virus at his upcoming rally. His answer was “No, because if you look, the numbers are very minuscule compared to what it was. It’s dying out.”

See what I mean? In the wonderful world that is Trumpland the virus is disappearing and there are only minuscule numbers. Nothing to see here folks.

Isn’t it great? At least for him.

For the rest of us, living in a land called America, our numbers are far from minuscule. We see 750-800 people dying every day. Almost 118,000 deaths already and it is likely that at at least 80,000 or more will die in the next three and half months. Unlike the president, WE live in a land where 23 states are seeing their numbers climb.

In Trumpland I guess the laws of science don’t apply. In America, however, they do.

I remember writing in mid-May about all the warnings of the risks of premature reopening. I remember all the evidence presented by epidemiologists — the scientific rationale as to why states that jumped the gun risked undoing much of what we had gained by trying to flatten the curve.

I remember saying that I hoped the dire assessments would not come true even though we all feared they would. I remember saying that we would have to wait and see… that time would reveal the answer. And now it has.

In Georgia, one of the states least willing to heed the lessons of science, hospitalizations have risen steadily for the last ten days and it now has its highest level of new daily infections since April.

Florida was another of those states whose governor believed in the universe according to Trump. And as a result, that state is now the new epicenter of the disease. New cases are skyrocketing — 2,800 new cases on Monday alone — and in a state with so many elderly citizens and nursing homes, the impact could be particularly deadly.

But, in Trumpland, the bands play on.

It’s horrible to see, but a month ago so many folks told us this is EXACTLY what would happen.

Medicine and science follow a pretty clear set of rules. And those rules don’t care if we ignore them or not. They still apply. Tony Fauci talked about an anti-science bias in America. I fear he’s right. And it comes with a cost that we’re paying now.

But none of the folks who dream of Trumpland want to listen to him. (And now that he has voiced about concerns about the NFL season they’ll tune him out even more.). So many of those who should be paying attention will blithely ignore his cautionary notes — and why not. After all, those “experts” at Fox News tell their listeners to dismiss him as part of the “Deep Medical State.” (A new creation of the Fox News pundits).

Yes… that’s our world. Science disregarded. Fox News manufacturing conspiracy theories that the president amplifies through his megaphone. Willful blindness to a surging pandemic. It’s a hell of a time.

One hundred Days. When I began we had 1,000 cases confirmed in the US. Deaths were in the single digits. Now look at where we are. In 100 days.

We’ll see what day 101 brings.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

June 17

It just boggles my mind how desperately some of our purported leaders are trying to avoid facing facts.  Tulsa just registered its highest number of new daily recorded cases.  But the White House seems unwilling to make masks required — or even recommended — for the President’s rally in Tulsa.  His press secretary couldn’t even say if the campaign team had asked doctors for their view on the wisdom of the rally.  But that’s ok.  We know what they would have said.  It is just insanely stupid.

Florida saw 2,600 new cases yesterday.  A week or two ago they were only at 1,000 a day.   The positive rate of testing is running over 10 percent — which is the highest they have seen.  But the governor swears there’s no going back.  No restrictions.  No reconsidering reopening. 

Texas also reported a record-high number of daily Covid-19 hospitalizations on Monday, with 2,326.  Ten states are seeing their highest seven-day average of new coronavirus cases per day since the pandemic started months ago,  The states seeing record-high averages are Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina and Texas.

The President and VP deny there’s a second wave.   They’re right.  There isn’t a second wave… yet.  This is still the FIRST wave that has never ended.  And poor decision-making has given it renewed energy.  Joe Biden today gave the President some of the best advice I’ve heard:  “Wake up and go to work.”  But we know that this isn’t going to change.  

And meanwhile, things are crazy elsewhere.  Crazy and deeply disturbing.  I won’t even dwell on the reports that are coming, one after another, related to John Bolton’s book and the President’s bizarre decision-making including, reportedly, condoning China’s moving forward with concentration camps for Uighur Muslims.  

That even pales alongside the felony murder charge (plus ten other charges) against Garret Rolfe in the killing of Rayshard Brooks.  The speed of this is amazing but welcome and desperately needed.  The other officer, Devin Brosnan, is also being charged with aggravated assault and two other charges and he has agreed to be a state’s witness.  New footage showed not only that Brosnan stood on Brooks shoulders as he lay dying (ostensibly, in case Brooks tried to pull a gun) but it showed Rolfe, who had called out “I got him!” After shooting Brooks twice, kicking the dying man.  

I’m sorry.  I don’t recognize this country.  So-called leaders who care only about themselves and who lie repeatedly to our nation.  And leaders unwilling to face reality or show empathy and compassion.  I know I can’t share the black experience in America but that doesn’t mean I can’t call “bullshit” when Senator Tim Scott, the only black Republican Senator — stands before the press and declares that this isn’t a racist nation.  How can he say that?  How can the Attorney General pretend there’s no institutional racism?  How can the President, when signing a toothless executive order on police abuses, offers only platitudes, and spends his time telling everyone the police are perfect and we, the American people, want law and order desperately — even if we don’t know it.

Enough with stupidity, bigotry and nonsense.  I’m so mad I could “spit tacks” as my mother would have said.  So angry, disgusted, revolted, and ashamed.  

November can’t come soon enough.  Not nearly soon enough.

It’s only Wednesday.  God knows what lies ahead this week.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

June 16

I am bemused. Befuddled too. The President persists in saying things like “if we stop testing right now, we’d have very few cases, if any.” Huh? Yes… it’s true that if we never tested another soul we’d never have another case of COVID-19 confirmed in the United States.

Of course, people would still get sick with it, they’d still infect others, and deaths would soar even higher.

I think he understand this — at least I hope so — but he is so inarticulate when he talks about this that the message is totally lost. And the message is wrong anyway. What he and the VP are trying to say, I think, is that as the number of confirmed cases goes up in the United States, it is not about a surge in new infections, but primarily because more testing is leading to identification of more existing infections.

That is true to a point and that is good news, as far as it goes. We need to continue to accelerate testing. We need to know the full extent of the crisis if we are to respond effectively. So I do hope that more testing will find the cases, and the fact that numbers will go up because of that, isn’t all that alarming. It doesn’t change the reality of “what is.” It just gives us a better understanding of it.

What IS alarming, though, is that the President and the VP (in his call with governors yesterday) are trying to convince folks that the number of new infections are not really on the rise in 20+ states. Pence referred to this as a “marginal rise in numbers in a few cases, and as “intermittent spikes.”

That’s not what health officials in those states are saying. That view is not reflected in the modeling by infectious disease experts. And I doubt that even his coronavirus task force would agree — except we don’t hear from the doctors anymore. Just from Trump and Pence. Excuse me if I take it with a huge grain of salt.

It’s so frustrating that this severe public health crisis is reduced to sound bites and political posturing. That, instead of acknowledging we are seeing the costs of premature easing of restrictions and collectively tackling them, our leaders want to pretend there’s “nothing to see here” and let’s get back to stoking the economy — which happens to be critical to any hope of reelection for the president.

Public health leaders know the truth and are acting accordingly. But it worries me that there are many citizens who will listen to what comes out of Fox News and the White House (ok, perhaps that is redundant) and think that we’re home free.

Meanwhile, here in the land of soundbites and 140 character Tweets, the President took tweeting and self-promotion to another level today when he chose to retweet himself and then comment on his own retweet. I’ll look forward to Trevor Noah and Steven Colbert tonight. I’ll be curious to see how they handle the president’s conversation with himself. It seems too rich on comedic potential to ignore.

◆Donny: “Gee, Donald… your retweet today was SO TRUE.”

◆Donald T: “Yes. It was. Brilliant — if I say so myself.”

◆Donny: “Well… you did say so yourself. But it was brilliant. I don’t know why people can’t appreciate that.”

◆Donald T: “I don’t understand it either. But at least YOU appreciated it Donny. That’s what matters.”

And so goes Tuesday. And it’s not even noon.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

Image may contain: text that says 'Shhh! I'm talking to myself. DON'T INTERRUPT!'

June 15

Where to start today? Another Monday. Another day of turmoil.

Touching first on the COVID-19 virus, there are more reports that document that the states that opened the earliest (prematurely, in many views) are now experiencing the highest rates of resurgence. Florida has now jumped from 1,000 new cases a day to 2,000+ per day in recent days. Texas is at record numbers. And so it goes. This is the same lesson the world learned during the Spanish Flu pandemic 100 years ago. But we didn’t learn it well enough. And so, as the saying goes, since we didn’t learn the lessons that history teaches, we’re doomed to repeat the mistakes.

The thing is, remedial learning isn’t the preferred course — especially when it comes with costs in human lives.

The Institute for Health Metrics Evaluation at the University of Washington has been one of the entities that the government has turned to often for assessment of where we are and where we are going with the virus. Their estimates are often a bit more conservative and build their mainline assessment around assumptions that various smart steps will be taken by governments (national, state and local) and our citizens to control the virus.

Here’s their newest assessment. The bottom line is that they anticipate the second wave beginning in three months and it’s not a pretty picture. Here’s what they have to say:

“The forecast shows 169,890 deaths in the US by October 1, with a possible range between 133,201 and 290,222. Deaths nationwide are predicted to remain fairly level through August and begin to rise again in the fourth week of August with a more pronounced increase during September, although some states will see the increase earlier due to increased mobility and relaxation of social distancing mandates.”

Given that we are already at 117,000 deaths, the lower end of their estimate seems wishful thinking. And this is based on assumptions that we will do all the right things to limit the spread of this disease. But we know, from what we have seen over the past four months, that we won’t. We won’t even come close. 200,000 -300,000 deaths seems very likely. And that’s only between now and October 1.

I keep puzzling over why we can’t be smarter. Why we can’t be better. And I don’t know. I did hear one person talk, though, about how our nation is experiencing the virus differently. If you live in the Northeast around New York, your experience of the virus has been far different than if you lived in Wyoming. You would be far more likely to know folks who were sickened and died. In Wyoming or Alabama, you might be more likely to know folks who lost their jobs or who were facing economic struggles.

It’s about “empathy of experience” and if our experiences are radically different so will be our attitudes and reactions. In a country as large and diverse as our own, this is inevitable perhaps, but that, of course, is all the more reason why we need national level leadership helping to educate and bridge the gap between these very different experiences.

That empathy of experience may also color how our citizens see and respond to the ongoing protests over racial injustice and police abuses. The experience of black or brown Americans is far different than that of whites. But the difference in experiences doesn’t excuse our being blinded to the facts.

The latest killing — that of Rayshard Brooks — is another case in point. You can argue that this got out of hand BUT Brooks’ initial “crime” was sleeping in his car that was blocking traffic at a drive-through. He had been drinking. But he volunteered to lock his car up. To walk to his sisters. He cooperated. But then they sought to handcuff him.

I’m not sure why they felt they had to take him into custody. Maybe they would have done that to me if they had found me sleeping it off in my car. But I wonder. And yes, Mr. Brooks then grabbed an officer’s taser and ran. He was chased. Mr. Brooks did even seem to fire the taser at the pursuing officer. But it wasn’t a lethal weapon. They weren’t at risk. They weren’t hit. Mr. Brooks was running away, not charging toward them. He wasn’t a criminal who committed a violent crime. Even if he ran off, was this a case where he should be shot two times in the back and killed? Because that’s what happened.

Did the police have reasonable fear for their safety? Doesn’t seem like it. But we do hear the cop — sounding pretty ticked off — declaring “he’s got my f’ing taser, he’s got my f’ing taser.” And then, as he fires and kills Mr. Brooks, he declares “I got him!” Were there alternatives? If Mr. Brooks had been white, might this have ended differently? Might they have called for backup? I am guessing the answer is yes.

The fundamental question we all have to ask is did another black man need to die at the hands of white cops? There, I think, the answer is clear. And it’s… no — Mr. Brooks shouldn’t be dead today. It may not look like George Floyd’s murder, but I see no fundamental difference when black men die at the hands of white police. Die for no reason other than the white police officer wielding power — and abusing it.

Cell phone video is changing the world. We see more and more. There is new video showing the officers in Tulsa who cuffed and abused the two teens for “jaywalking” on a street where there was no sidewalk. Do they look like they were targeted for being black? Yes. Did one of the officers appear to kick and abuse a handcuffed teen that he had already put into the car? That’s the way it looked.

Today alone, I saw three other videos. Not involving killings but all involving abuse. Involving white cops and black men. And every one was disturbing and paints a picture that gives life to all the concerns being voiced in the protests on the streets in recent days. You can say that videos can be deceiving. You can tell me that they only capture part of the story. You can argue that not all cops are racists (and they aren’t); But that doesn’t change the fact this happens again and again and again. We have a problem and we can’t hide from it or excuse it. Period.

I want to believe that I don’t need to share the experience of discrimination to have empathy. National leadership and vision would be good with this problem too. But we are no more likely to see it on these issues than on issues related to the pandemic.

Rayshard Brooks. Say his name.

And so it goes on yet another Monday.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

June 14

I’ll start by taking a few paragraphs from the Washington Post today because it very succinctly reminds us of where we are.

“With coronavirus cases rising in states across the country, Anthony S. Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, warned waves of infection could come “back and forth” for months and said it could be about a year before things return to normal.

“I would hope to get to some degree of real normality within a year or so. But I don’t think it’s this winter or fall, we’ll be seeing it for a bit more.

“New infections are trending upward in at least 21 states across the South and West, prompting some governors to rethink reopening plans and renewing concerns that the country could be a long way from containing the pandemic. Alabama, Oregon and South Carolina are among the states with the biggest increases. Alabama saw a 92 percent change in its seven-day average, while Oregon’s seven-day average was up 83.8 percent and South Carolina’s was up 60.3 percent.”

I’m glad, for now, I’m not in Alabama, or Oregon, or even South Carolina. But the challenge is that none of us knows where it will spike next. And although a month and a half ago it seemed clear we were not on track to do the level of routine testing experts said would be required to reopen safely we now seem to have just dropped the subject as if we’ve just accepted its not going to happen and are preparing to face the worst. A quick online search for US testing levels didn’t show any new stories in recent weeks and it’s hard to find the information that would reveal just how we’re doing. It’s a bit disheartening.

And the extensive contact tracing that is also essential if we are going to control potential spikes. That too is nowhere near what it should be. It’s laughable, for example, to even pretend that Tulsa is ready to contact trace the cases that might arise from a superspreader event like Trump’s planned rally there next week. It seems the height of irresponsibility for a president to expose people and to exercise so little care when it comes to public health. But, it’s Donald Trump, after all, and after three and a half years, no one should be surprised.

I’m not going to worry about his silliness today. Not his attacks on a US company (Comcast) because he doesn’t like their positions, not his continued disregard for facts when it comes to the realities of the protests on the streets of our nation, not his abject abandonment of any pretense of leadership on the pandemic response, nor his slavish love affair with Fox News which, remains mired in the journalistic depths as it photoshops images to incense and scare its viewers about the situation in Seattle.

Nope. Going to worry about none of it. Our daughter and her family are coming over for a carefully distanced meal together. She’ll bring the vegan butter tofu and chapatis and I’m covering the black dhal, the veg cutlets, coriander mint chutney and rice. There are some samosas as well in the equation.

The afternoon will be about family, about silly grandkids, and about good food. That’s worth celebrating on a Sunday afternoon in early summer. And so we will.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

June 13

There are some days, even in this crazy world we are living in, where there really is not much to add to what was said the day before or the day before that. Today feels like such a day.

The virus is still with us and we are seeing marked increases in some states… but decreases in others. Dr Fauci says a second wave isn’t inevitable IF we do the right things.

That’s one big “if.”

The President shifted his Tulsa rally by a day so that it is no longer on Juneteenth. But it’s still going forward, folks still have to sign waivers about possible coronavirus infections, and it is still likely to give rise to outrage and cheers depending on where we sit on the political divide.

Jim Mattis got it right when he said that this President cultivates division. That it got him where he is, and if he can divide us enough as a nation, he believes he can win reelection. So, hang on to your hats… it’s only going to get uglier.

Meanwhile, I was struck yesterday by the tone on a community website as folks in our area debated masks… to wear them or not. The vitriol was striking. The resentment towards governments “making us lick the boot” and telling us what to do. I guess I hoped when it came to simple things like masks in the grocery store, for no other reason than respect for each other and protecting the vulnerable, folks might get it.

Apparently, I was wrong. I want to believe that fundamental faith in our common decency is not wrong or misplaced. But a public forum discussing the issue of masks is NOT the place to find it.

Even in a quiet community on the edge of the Shenandoah Valley the culture wars are alive. The anger simmers. And political rhetoric intended to spin us up will only make matters worse.

I can’t wait for November. Yes, I hope for a change and I hope that will allow the temperature to slowly start to come down in 2021. And I hope that as we recover from the pandemic, we can recover as well from the pervasive anger and hostility that has replaced civility and common courtesy.

It’s a beautiful Saturday. I’ll try not to dwell on the any of this and instead just enjoy the day. Hope you do as well.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

June 12

The President of the United States said yesterday that racism in the US is going to go “quickly” and “easily.” Just what planet does he live on? These issues are too real, too painful, and too deeply-seated to be cavalierly dismissed.

But, given his positions, it is perhaps not too surprising that he has chosen to hold his first major rally in months in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where, ninety-nine years ago, our nation saw the worst racial attack in our nation’s history.

Over the span of two days in 1921 — May 31 and June 1 — white mobs ended up attacking the Greenwood community including what was then known as Black Wall Street — where prosperous black businesses were thriving. In the wake of the violence, 35 city blocks lay in charred ruins. Over 800 people were treated for injuries and as many as 300 people may have died. More than 1,200 homes burned to the ground while white mobs refused to let firefighters save them. Hundreds of other black families saw their homes looted by the mobs. Over 6,000 black citizens were held in camps for as long as eight days by armed guards.

I am embarrassed to say that I never knew about this until I saw the HBO show Watchmen. And, when I saw it portrayed in the show, I still didn’t realize at first that this was fact — not fiction. Maybe it’s not surprising though. For decades there was a deliberate effort expunge this from our collective memory. There were no public ceremonies, no memorials for the dead, nor any efforts to commemorate the racist mob violence in Tulsa.

The Tulsa Tribune removed the front-page story of May 31, 1921, that sparked the chaos from its bound volumes, and scholars later discovered that police and state militia archives about the riot were missing as well.

Instead of hiding from the past, we need to educate ourselves to the realities of our history and of our present if we are ever going to change this picture. So, the President has chosen Tulsa for his rally. And he will do it on “Juneteenth” — the day that is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States.

Now, that place and that day might be a fitting venue for a speech on healing and on building a new future for our nation through policies and practices that actively advance the goal of racial justice and true equality. It could be the right place and time to move forward with the effort to education and foster a national dialogue on race and social justice.

But do you think that a President who won’t acknowledge systemic racism and says this is an “easy” problem will offer words of healing? Or will he further fan divisions as he plays to his core supporters?

Don’t get me wrong. I know that there are many who have supported Trump for many different reasons. We are a diverse people with diverse views. But we also know that Trump’s supporters include white supremacists and others among our citizen who will always see black and brown Americans as less than themselves. And anyone who disputes that these individuals are drawn to Trump, or that he takes pains to preserve their support, is being willfully blind. Even if you choose to support him for other reasons — the economy, or his foreign policy, or whatever — you are also enabling the message of division that is part of his narrative as well.

So, I don’t expect a message of conciliation or healing in Tulsa. Instead I expect more of the usual fare as the President throws red meat to his dedicated supporters who will cheer every inflammatory utterance with full-throated roars of approval. And they will expel countless speech droplets as they do so.

It sounds gross when you think of it. But we know it is more than gross when it occurs in a city that is already experiencing a significant spike in coronavirus cases. Then it potentially becomes a super-spreader event. Then it becomes dangerous.

And, because the Trump team knows the dangers, they are insisting that participants sign waivers giving up their right to sue if they become infected. But they are going ahead with the rally anyway.

So… to recap: the President has decided to hold a rally, even though he knows he will expose participants to the risk of illness and, for some, death. And, although the situation is so bad that he needs to protect himself and his campaign from lawsuits, he tells the public that the pandemic is fully under control; no need for masks or responsible social distancing, or other preventive measures, apparently. Got it.

Despite his assertions, however, the virus has NOT chosen to take a summer vacation this year. It is surging again as we drop our guard and this is causing several states to reconsider their reopening plans. In Florida 50% of the residents in some counties are testing positive. Oregon, Texas, South Carolina, Utah, Arizona, North Carolina, Arkansas, Alabama, California, Nevada, and Florida, all reached their highest seven-day rolling averages of new coronavirus cases on Thursday. The health director in San Antonio says the second wave has begun and Houston, “on the precipice of disaster” according to local officials, is considering issuing new stay at home orders.

These increases are the result of choices. Choices made by national and state leaders and by individuals alike. But every time we make a choice that prioritizes economic growth or hanging in the bar with friends over medical science and public health, we have to realize that it comes with a cost in terms of lives lost. I know that there are desperate people out there and that the public health measures come with real costs for many of us. But there are things we can do to address these real concerns and still be responsible about our policy decisions and our personal choices.

There are countries that have cracked the code. There are countries that have had responsible leaders showing the way. America hasn’t been one of them. And as we surpass 2 million infections and 115,000 deaths we have to ask whether we’ll continue to make choices that accelerate this course or that will rein it in.

The President has told us what he thinks — or at least what he wants us to believe. The virus is in ashes. We’ll stomp out any sudden flares. Well, I hope he wears his stomping boots to his rally. He’ll need them.

I’m glad it’s Friday.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

June 11

Look at the picture below and you tell me if the Trump-Pence campaign understands the message about the risks of COVID-19. And there’s the VP — who ostensibly leads the effort — without a mask and giving the thumbs up apparently to all the workers clustered together, cheek by jowl, in the re-election bullpen. I won’t say it’s shocking. It’s barely a surprise given the messaging and example of the President and his VP who follows without protest even though it contradicts every basic argument that the COVID-19 task force seeks to advance.

And that picture comes as we continue to see reports about significant surges in COVID-19 cases around the world but, more particularly, in the United States. It is deeply troubling to see the increases and to see the new estimates of likely deaths that range from 70,000 to 100,000 more deaths in just the next 2-3 months.

I could go on and on. Some days I have. Today I just am at a loss for what more can be said. Too many are being willfully blind to the risks and too many, including folks who are trying to do the right thing but are exposed to those who aren’t, will die. And so many of those deaths could be forestalled. But they won’t be. It’s all too much.

And it unfolds as protests continue and as the President remains as insensitive to the calls for an end to systemic racism and for police reform as he has been to the trauma of COVID-19. Today we saw yet another video — two black teens in Tulsa being detained and handcuffed for jaywalking. Look at the video (in the comment below). Was it warranted? Necessary? Just what was it about — other than “walking while black?” It’s more of the same. But the president and his team deny repeatedly that there is systemic racism or issues to address. Incredible.

Now, more than ever, it all comes back to us. We need to set the example and declare where we stand. From wearing masks to social distancing to being not just distressed by the news but to being actively anti-racist. We need to spend less time paying attention to the messaging of a tone-deaf President and much more attention to the messages WE send.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

Image may contain: one or more people and people standing, text that says 'Mike Pence @Mike_Pence 1h Stopped by to see the great men and women of the Trump-Pence Trump Team today! Thank you for all of the hard work, keep it up! #FourMoreYears #KAG'

How many think it coincidence that the only two black men in the sea of white happened to be in the front of the picture? Hmmm?

June 10

I wrote more than I intended yesterday. There are times when the events unfolding around us just spark a gut reaction. I’m glad I’ve opted to write daily… it’s a healthier way to respond than throwing things through the TV, I think.

And today it’s more of the same on some levels. The Republican Senators — other than Romney and Murkowski — were almost comical in their professed ignorance about Trumps tweet about Martin Gugino, even though it dominated the news on every channel and on every weblink covering current events. We’ll find out in November if the old saying that “you can run but you can’t hide” is meaningful in today’s world of short news cycles and shorter memories on the part of many in the public.

That’s what Trump and many others count on. That we’ll be distracted by another new shiny object before we actually have to pass judgment in November. We’ll see.

Gugino is not the only subject that the Republican leadership — and the White House — is silent on today. Not a word from the President of late about the coronavirus either — despite its insidious and persistent spread.

We’re starting to see the fruits of Memorial Day. So many thought it was OK to be out and about — encouraged in large part by the President and (mostly Republican) governors who echoed his call for rapidly reopening the economy. And now, two weeks later, cases are rising instead of declining in two dozen states.

As I wrote yesterday, some states are seeing record numbers. Arizona saw a 180% spike in the last two weeks. Kentucky 200%

Against that backdrop, the President is planning to resume his campaign rallies, and you can bet most folks will be, like the President, mask-less. They’ll show the rest of us how foolish our fears are and how misplaced our concerns for public health. That is until they fall ill, infect others who may not share their foolish disregard for common sense measures, and increase the death toll across the nation.

Of course we shouldn’t worry. Jared Kushner is reportedly telling officials in the administration that it’s all under control — even as the virus continues to infect at least 100,000 of us a week. And I’m guessing that Jared’s advice about public health issues must be at least as good as the President’s, right?

Now that may not reassure some of us but, what the heck. It’s the best we’ve got since the real doctors are being ignored.

But those doctors aren’t totally silent. Tony Fauci said again yesterday that this disease is his “worst nightmare” — in some ways worse than Ebola or HIV “In a period of four months, it has devastated the world… and it isn’t over yet.”

In contrast, the President asserted the other day that “We’ve made every decision correctly… we may have some embers or some ashes or we may have some flames coming, but we’ll put them out. We’ll stomp them out.” Good for him The Smokey the Bear of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s an amusing image perhaps, but among the ashes he mentions will be those of our fellow citizens who will die unnecessarily.

Yes, this disease will continue to infect us and take lives even with a perfect response but we KNOW that in other countries the number of fatalities as a percentage of the population are far, far less. Yet our death toll steadily grows every day even after three-plus months and many of those deaths can be attributed to the failed response at the national level.

Our government did not act early enough, did not act effectively enough, did not offer national leadership or a coherent vision. Instead of encouraging responsible behavior and a shared commitment to the public welfare, our President condoned the actions of armed protestors who sought to undermine the leadership of governors who were trying to keep their citizens safe. They were good people, he said. Just a bit frustrated.

We could wish he felt the same about those of our fellow citizens whose frustration stems from decades of discrimination and abuse. But he somehow can’t seem to find the way to speak with the same empathy and compassion to them as he has shown to protestors in Michigan or, even more sadly, to those in Charlottesville. And today, because it is politically expedient to do so, he continues to disregard the fundamental concerns of those citizens while also minimizing the pandemic that threatens us all.

And now that I’ve written all of this… now, on my 92nd consecutive day of writing this journal… perhaps my TV set will be spared destruction for another day. But, faced with daily examples of failed leadership, moral cowardice, blindly hateful bullying and nauseatingly delusional self-congratulation from on high, I can’t guarantee its safety for the long term.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

June 9 (Part Two)

George Floyd was buried today. In his death he has become yet another face in a heartbreaking tableau of men and women of color who have died senselessly… needlessly… at the hands of the police in our nation.

The spotlight is shining more brightly than ever before on the actions of police departments across the nation. And the more that light penetrates into the dark corners where injustice and criminality have been hidden, the more we are forced to confront realities that have always been with us, but that we were disinclined to see.

John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” looked at the topic of policing in America on Sunday night. It’s on You Tube. Watch it. It is compelling. It is angry. It is heartbreaking. It is frightening.

You may want to say it’s an exaggeration or that he’s a hyperbolic liberal social commentator who always pushes the boundaries to get ratings. You can say it. But that doesn’t make it true. And, even if he pushes his narrative further than you might like (and I honestly think he did very little of that), there are hard truths in his report that you have to acknowledge if you are intellectually honest.

He examined the linkages between white supremacists and the police who, for decades, enforced laws designed to target, suppress and blatantly discriminate against black women and men. The legacy of racism and bias that continues to today. You may not want to see it or admit — but it’s there. As are intransigent police unions that make true accountability impossible and that enshrine a mindset that the police somehow are above the law that they are charged with enforcing.

He also touched briefly on the militarization of our police forces and on the training that many receive that tells them they are predators and if they are not willing to pull the trigger — to shoot to kill — the other “predators” they encounter, then they’d better find a new line of work. Frightening? Hell, yes.

And all you have to do is to look at the video footage of the past two weeks. See how heavily armed the police are. They look like combat soldiers going to war. Not like the defenders or our citizens… not like protectors or guardians. They looked like what they have been created to be… predators.

Now, some will tell you that they have to be armed with heavy weapons. Look what they’re up against, they will say. Look at the weapons that the bad guys carry. Yes indeed. Look. THIS is the price we pay as a society for allowing the trafficking in guns that has become so pervasive. Gun violence is indeed out of control. The bad guys and the ostensible good guys… all armed to the teeth. Somehow I don’t believe that is what the framers of the constitution envisioned with the second amendment. But this too is part of the problem.

How many more stories and video clips do we have to see before we, as a socieity, cry out in revulsion and demand change? Look at the footage on John Oliver’s show or on any new channel. Yes, there was violence on the streets — but FAR too much of it was unprovoked violence by police officers.

Look at the images. Police pushing aside old man with a cane shuffling to get out of the way (not Martin Gugino — ANOTHER old man). Pulling masks off people’s faces to spray them with mace rom inches away. Smashing people’s heads and ribs with batons. Targeting journalists, shooting pepper balls and rubber bullets at folks who had the temerity to record them. Attacking without cause. Even engaging in gratuitously vindictive acts like slashing the tires of protestor’s cars. (Yep… quite a story from Minnesota about that too — with the far-too-familiar lame “justifications” for these senseless abusive acts by police).

There are too many examples to ignore, and we can’t say this is a few bad cops. “

This is a systemic problem. Not just systemic racism, but systemic injustice. A system in which abuse of authority is condoned and protected by laws that shield the abusers, and by leaders who are unwilling to challenge them. A system in which intimidation and violence are given free rein while OUR rights to gather, to protest, to seek redress of our grievances are ignored.

This is not an overreaction on my part. It is a far-too-long-delayed reaction. But that I fear, is what happens when the color of our skin protects us from the realities that those whose skin is a different color live with every day.

Listen to the voices of our black countrymen. Listen to their stories and their fear and open yourself to their pain over the loss of their children, or fathers, or mothers, at the hands of the police.

And please, don’t let those who would preserve the status quo mislead or confuse you or turn this into another cultural battle. “Defunding the police” isn’t a call for anarchy. It isn’t about abandoning the streets to criminals. Rather it is about rethinking our approaches. Determining the best allocation of resources.

Police aren’t mental health workers, social workers, experts on drug abuse, or countless other issues we ask them to tackle. But they are forced to play roles for which they are unprepared and ill-suited because we haven’t defunded critical programs that build stronger communities and that support critical social needs.

We need to be clear that the debate isn’t between police and no police. It’s about the proper role for police, the proper training, the relationship between police and the people they serve (emphasis on those last words — “the people they SERVE”), and it is about the need to build safer, stronger, and more resilient communities.

Communities where there are programs to address mental health and addiction. Communities that offer the homeless refuge. That care for the most vulnerable. That build a future together. And where police and communities really work in partnership.

Camden, New Jersey, has been redefining these relationship for years. It offers one positive model. We CAN do this if we choose to.

Yes… there will be criminals. There will be bad people. And we will still ask those who choose to serve as police to confront them. To help keep us safe. And we need to support those police officers by giving them the tools and the training they need as an integral part of our community.

They should be honored and respected. Presently, they are not. They are what they and their leaders have allowed them to become. Sadly they are now, in many cases, as much of a threat to our citizens, and to our society, as any other proponents of racism and violence.

There ARE good police officers. But the system of policing and the broader criminal justice system is broken. These are the issues that “calls for defunding the police” seek to get at: how we, as a nation, will allocate resources to address these complex issues, and redefine this entire process. It’s time. It’s a debate we must have and we cannot let opponents hide behind false narratives that trying to address the issues means we are soft on crime, or that we are naive idealists who want to throw open the doors wide to criminals, rapists, and drug dealers.

That’s how the narrative will be framed, if we let it. Let’s make sure we don’t. Folks are still struggling to envision the alternatives to the present system. We see it in Minneapolis where proponents of defunding the police aren’t able yet to articulate what reinventing the process will look like. It will take time. It will take discussion and honest and painful exchanges of perspective. It will take admitting to our fears, defining our values, and finding ways to come together with those who may have very different viewpoints.

It will not happen overnight. But it has to begin, and it has to be real, and it has be meaningful. It is work that our children and grandchildren will have to continue. But we fail them if we don’t begin now. Today. Tomorrow. And in November.

Pandemics of disease, of racism, of abuse. They must all be faced. It’s on us.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

June 9 (Part One)

This is one of those days where I just don’t know where to begin. I wondered if I could distinguish between those topics about which I’m simply concerned and troubled from those about which I’m outraged. But I realize I can’t draw the line because the anger and frustration and, in some cases, disgust, that fuels the outrage ends up bleeding across the whole range of issues roiling in my mind.

What that means is that this is either a very bad day to write… or a very good one. It depends on how you like your commentary. Calm and objective, or fiery and pissed off. I fear mine will be a hodgepodge mix of both.

Where to start? How about the pandemic? The numbers are on the rise again in half the nation’s states. And that is BEFORE the impact of the intense intermingling of folks during the protests has had a chance to result in measurable new infections. Texas, Arkansas, Florida, and Utah, are all facing significant new infections. Georgia, which was the first to ease restrictions that were half-hearted to begin with, has seen a 50% increase in the number of cases there over the past seven weeks. We continue to see 25,000 – 30,000 new infections daily and 800+ deaths every day.

I may not be “outraged” by the fact that we are forced to confront the pandemic but I am by the fact that many of the deaths we see are the direct result of failed leadership and poor decision-making that disregarded science and facts. And you can’t help but wonder if those decisions were made easier by the fact that those most likely to be affected with those with the least power in our society.

In any event, since yesterday the Institute for Health Metric Evaluations, which tends to be on the lower side of projections, raised its estimate of deaths by August 4th from 140,000 to 146,000. Where will they be in another week?

Nationwide, we’re on a pace that will double our infections every two months. So, does that mean we’ll be at 4 million cases in August and 200,000 deaths? I don’t know. It seems very possible. And it could be even worse as the impact of the protests is factored in. I hope not.

One thing is clear though: even if many people are doing their best to forget about the pandemic, or ignore it, the pandemic hasn’t forgotten about us.

Meanwhile, the race for the vaccine continues, and I get this horribly uncomfortable feeling when I hear leaders in the medical community worry aloud about the possibility of a premature vaccine release. They voice concern that in an election year, the President will push for the release of a vaccine that hasn’t been tested or evaluated nearly enough.

As was the case when the President touted hydroxychloroquine, or his infamous “can’t we use disinfectants internally” suggestion, I can see this “I’m not a doctor” president urging us to go ahead and try an inadequately tested vaccine. “What can it hurt?” he’d say.

We’ve seen this film before. It doesn’t end well.

Let me shift gears now to what is really sticking in my craw today. Yes… it is about the President’s shameless tweet this morning. If you don’t want a rant, you should stop here. But let me be clear. This isn’t about politics. It’s about decency. It’s about leadership. It’s about judgement.

Today Donald Trump chose to attack the 75 year old man in Buffalo who was pushed to the ground by police and left bleeding on the ground. So many of us have seen the video. But Trump chose to try and gaslight us anyway. Or at least he is trying to feed his base the diet of conspiracy theories and alternative reality that they, like him, seem to thrive on.

His source for this latest manipulation of reality? “One News America” — which can only be described in the loosest of terms as a “news” network on cable. It traffics in outlandish conspiracy theories and it panders to the darkest imaginings of those who are willing to be drawn into the world of anger and hate that ONA and others capitalize on.

Kristian Rouz, who shared the “story” the President seized on has previously written for the Kremlin-owned outlet, Sputnik. The US intelligence community has concluded that Sputnik played a role in Russia’s election interference efforts during the 2016 presidential race and Rouz did a report last month peddling the theory that the coronavirus pandemic was “a globalist conspiracy to establish sweeping population control” backed by George Soros.

But the President of the United States nonetheless deemed her reporting worth adopting as his own. He suggests that Martin Gugino, was trying to scan police communications… that he was an Antifa provocateur… that it was a set-up… that Gugino “fell harder than he was pushed.” All of this taken from Ms. Rouz’ report.

Yes indeed, Mr. President. I’m sure that Mr. Gugino deliberately fell and let his head crack into the pavement so that blood would stream from his ear and he could be hospitalized in serious condition to make the police look bad. Yep. You’ve got it.

The stupidity and insensitivity of this attack by the President of the United States is breathtaking in its ludicrousness. It is meant, as Jim Mattis observed the other day about this President, to divide us. To fuel the culture wars and to shift the discussion from his incompetence to his other forms of idiocy.

It has to raise concerns, as well, about the darkness within his own vision of the world and his sense of what will inspire his followers. It is as frightening as it is disgusting. And it deserves condemnation but it should not shift our focus from the real issues that stand at center stage in our nation at the moment.

I guess this WILL have to be at least a two part

blog. More to come.

June 8

60,000,000.   That’s how many infections a new study has estimated we WOULD have experienced in the US had we not taken any measures to stop the spread.  So, instead of 60 million, we have 2 million.  See… there ARE things for us to be grateful for.

And, instead of 110,000 deaths (and counting), we would likely have been at 3 million or more.  That’s a LOT to be grateful for.  

But it’s also a reminder of just how virulent this disease can be,  How opportunistic and how quickly it can and will spread when we let our guard down.  As seems to be happening now.  Am I nervous about what will happen in the fall?  You bet.  And we’ll have a president in the midst of an election campaign come September.  Will he want to slow things down?  Restrict movement?  Limit businesses?  Of course not.  Will he be guided by science or politics?  What do YOU think?

Meanwhile, it’s interesting to see that Michigan, where the governor resisted calls for rapid reopening, there were only 121 new cases and four deaths yesterday.  In Florida, where the governor — who sees himself very much in the Trumpian model — has been quicker to ease restrictions they have averaged over 1,000 new cases a day since last Tuesday.  And sadly, nationwide, we’ve seen an uptick in numbers with 30,000 new cases a day in recent days.  We had been as low as 20,000 a day.

It’s hard to know which numbers to look at.  Hard to interpret them.  Best estimates at the moment project 17,000 deaths this month and next, taking us to around 140,000 deaths by August 4.  But what will be the impact of the days of protesting coupled with the shift we seem to see in general in terms of actions and attitudes.

I read an interesting piece, a few weeks ago, about how pandemics end.  They can end medically or they can end socially — they can “end” because people grow tired of hearing about it, fearing it, or living with it.  So they, in effect, “end” it in their mind and go about living a life that is far closer to “normal” than public health experts would recommend.  And that “ending” can lead to a more dangerous resurgence with more deaths.  But folks seem prepared to cross that bridge when they come to it.  

I know there’s much to think about as the debate intensifies on issues of how policing operates in our society.  They are compelling discussions and we need to sustain what does seem to be a sea change in public opinion on the issues of racism and social and economic justice.  This can’t be another “cause of the day” that is then forgotten as something new grabs the headlines.  But let’s not forget that we have a pandemic to deal with as well.  

We can and must address both with the responsibility and care that they deserve.  Let’s get back to being a nation that does what is right because it is right… not because it meets some ideological litmus test, or because it is what our “side” is rallying around.  I don’t know if we are capable of doing this in the current environment, but if we fail, the health of both are physical bodies and our body politic are both in danger.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

June 7

When I wrote last night I said perhaps I would, today, turn my thoughts back to the COVID-19 pandemic. After all, what issue is more existential, more threatening to our well-being — to our lives?

But, I can only say so much. Cases are rising globally, the numbers here remain plateaued — and daunting. And, it is hard to look beyond the fact that there is seemingly no national-level leadership, no focus, and no commitment. Tony Fauci says the President barely talks to him any more. Trump seems to have turned the page — at our peril.

Unsurprisingly, the issues of the day, revolving around George Floyd’s murder and the wide-ranging protest and debate this has sparked, continue to hold our immediate attention. Nonetheless, public health concerns could still be addressed, leadership could be shown, and preparations could be made for a second wave in the fall but it doesn’t seem to be happening. While some public health professionals are trying to maintain focus and awareness, without national leadership and vision it will be too little I fear. And even IF the president and others turn their attention to this in a meaningful way, I fear it will also be too late.

Meanwhile, the issues that we have all grappled with over the past few days continue to resonate powerfully across society. Some want to vilify George Floyd, attack the protestors, and chant a mantra of “law and order,” without recognizing that the anger and despair we see in our black fellow-citizens has incubated for years in the stew of unconscious bias, blatant racism, and social injustice. Others want to defund and/or disband the police. Hopefully, we’ll find a path that works for us all.

One theme though, that we hear again and again — because it is true — is that for decades we didn’t understand, we didn’t truly listen, and we didn’t want to face the uncomfortable truths. It’s time we do.

Sadly, however, there are still many among us who don’t want to hear. Who want to hide from the reality. Foremost among them are some of those those who profess to lead. I watched with disgust as a stream of Republican Senators ran and hid and refused to speak as the President and his administration attacked peaceful protestors, vilified them in his Tweets, and as he continues to tweet and retweet messages of division from within the fortress which he has made of the White House.

These senators dodged the questions… said that “they weren’t there” at the protests so they couldn’t answer. Said they were “late for lunch.” Others just ran… scurrying away… refusing to even look at the press or say a word. They hope it will go away — and meanwhile they continue to stall on issues such as anti-lynching laws or how to address qualified immunity for the police.

History will judge them (and us all). But it has been shocking to watch these so-called leaders disappear into themselves as they enable the President in his divisiveness, in his abandoning of the norms of leadership, and in his immorality.

Before the election in 2016 Lindsay Graham called the President a “jackass,” a “nut job,” and a “race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot.” Now Graham condones the President’s worst abuses with the passion of an acolyte genuflecting before the altar of power. He is complicit. He has sold his soul. And so have McConnell, Cornyn, Grassley, Kennedy, Johnson, and almost every one of the Senate Republicans. They have empowered the President in his abuses, in his abandonment of our allies, and in his attacks on our citizens, our values, and our rights. They have ignored his countless lies and, in accepting these falsehoods without question, they acknowledge the power the President has over them.

There’s a fascinating article in The Atlantic. “History will Judge the Complicit” that discussed much of this. The author, Anne Applebaum, suggests that the goal isn’t to convince us of the truth of the lie. It is to demonstrate that the liar has the power to compel us to accept what we know is untrue. When the President lied about the size of the crowds at his inauguration, despite photographic and video evidence that shows the claim to be blatantly false, it began to take us down the slippery slope that finds us where we are today. And today he is lying about the size of the protests yesterday in DC… claiming that these demonstrations — some of the largest ever — were “smaller than expected.”

The President demonstrated his power by compelling his press secretary to tell the known lie about inaugural crowd size, and compelling others in his administration to support that lie. And the Senate Republicans, in refusing to challenge him or recoil from his blatant and repeated lies on countless topics, opened the door for even more abuses while simultaneously acknowledging his power over them.

Their complicity, and the complicity of many others, is as much to blame as Donald Trump for why we are where we are today. They give him the power to diminish us, to demean our values, and to drive us deeper into crisis.

A week ago, Senator Booker said “If America hasn’t broken your heart, you don’t love her enough.” It’s worth repeating. We need to love our country more than ever. We need to love our country enough to put truth above politics. We need to love our country enough to not be complicit.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

June 6

I’m late in writing today, but am determined to continue the streak. Every day since March 11.  That’s getting to be awhile.

Even when I haven’t had something particularly noteworthy to offer I’ve written for my own sake.  And today is no different.  

I almost tried to do a video blog today.  It can be easier.  But there wasn’t even time for that.  This morning it was house cleaning and then a break for a bit of breakfast and coffee.  Then it was off to Whole Foods, a stop to see Tjiama and the grandkids at a social distance and by the time we got home it was after 2. I could have written then but instead it was time to cook!  

Vegan palak paneer, a dal makhani, and a quiche (also vegan) and basmati rice.  

And so… the afternoon fled.  And then the early evening disappeared too, as we sampled the palak paneer and dal with fresh basmati rice.  

In many ways, the kitchen is my place of refuge.  I can tune out the world for a bit.  And as the week draws to a close that didn’t seem a bad choice.  

On the one hand it’s amazing to see what is happening across the country.  People coming out in unbelievable numbers.  George Floyd’s murder was the catalyst but we all know that event, tragic and heinous as it was, would not have sparked a response of this magnitude were it not for the curse of systemic racism of which this was just another example.

And now the protests are further fueled by responses that seem designed to perpetuate every stereotype of insensitivity and police brutality.  The President’s remarks, and the actions of the troops called in by him, set the tone.  But in this day of cell phone videos there are few secrets, and it seems every example of police excess or brutality is captured for us all to see.  And we’ve seen plenty, including the Buffalo cops’ casual disregard for the well-being of the 75 year old man they pushed to the ground and then stepped around as blood streamed from his ear.   

I am not a police hater.  I believe that there are good cops.  We’ve some who have shown tremendous understanding and sensitivity in this difficult time.  But I worry that there may not be as many as I thought.  There are SO many instances of brutal responses, excessive force, racism, and abuse of power, you can’t help but conclude that it’s not just a few bad apples as some profess.  

There are deeply embedded problems that require police reform on a massive scale and we must be willing to address them.  It isn’t about good or bad cops…it’s about a system that tolerates (if not encourages) these abuses of power and the racism that goes hand in hand with them.  And who is easier to abuse, to disregard, or to target than those the system has already marginalized because of their color or economic standing.  

I’m closing in on 70.  I don’t want to have to think about these things at this point in my life.  But we have to.  We can’t walk away.  That’s been done too much, for too long, by too many.  

Perhaps tomorrow I’ll think more about our other current crisis, this pandemic that is unrelenting and that keeps us from hugging the grandkids, from traveling the world, and from living our best lives.  But that’s tomorrow.  See you then.  (And for fun, let me share our gnome, repainted in his summer colors

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

June 5

Good news, bad news. It seems that the yin and the yang of the universe is determined to make itself evident with a vengeance.

Yesterday there was a powerful, and in many ways hopeful, memorial service for George Floyd. And meanwhile Rand Paul blocked a Federal anti-lynching law in a display of petty politicking.

Yesterday, protests were largely peaceful as communities came together to share theiir pain and their hopes. And meanwhile, in Buffalo police pushed an elderly man to the ground and walked by as he lay bleeding and, in Tacoma, another black man has died in police hands raising the specter of another murder by law enforcement officers dedicated to protect and serve..

Today the jobless numbers were better and more folks may be getting back to work in a heartening development. But Blacks and Latino citizens’ jobless numbers are worse than ever.

Today the President rushed to share the good news about the economy in public remarks. But, in doing so, he reminded us that throughout the past week of pain and sorrow, he has been unable to spare even a few words to heal or to address issues of social and economic justice.

Today the streets are still full of citizens of all colors and creeds coming together as communities committed to change. But the President has further walled himself off from those citizens with higher walls and fences.

And in the past few days, national security leaders, past and present, have decried the thought of American soldiers being deployed against our citizens. The President meanwhile highlighted a letter from his lawyer to one the critics in which the peaceful protestors we all saw on TV were portrayed as ‘terrorists filled with hate.’

Yin and Yang. Good and bad. Hope and fear. Decency and hatred. Nothing new in their juxtaposition. And there’s nothing new in the reality that we have to choose where we stand on that spectrum.

The pendulum swings. Perhaps we’ve finally reached the limits of the swing towards division and discord and we’ll start the journey back in the other direction. Perhaps. There’s an awful lot of anger out there, though, across society. Cory Booker was on A Late Night with Stephen Colbert last night. If you have a chance watch it. He talked about that anger and he talked about the need to find love. In an honest, raw and candid way. He was reminded, he said, about the words of Dr. King. About how we all an “enemy” we can point to these days. Someone we can blame. Someone we can curse.

Dr, King said though, that it’s not about “them”… it’s about us. It’s about finding the love, decency, and forgiveness in ourselves that will allow us to move forward together. He had some heartfelt words, heavy with the power of his passion and emotion. Something to ponder as we start the weekend.

And as we do, I hope folks will remember that demonstrations with folks marching in tight crowds, showing solidarity and commitment, can also be vectors for spreading COVID-19. It’s like our defenses are being dropped overnight. We wear our masks, but rush to resume life. Please… let’s take care. The number of new infections and deaths aren’t dropping — in fact globally the rate of new infections is speeding up — and the economic surge we’ve seen can be easily undone by this pandemic that pays no attention to anything but its imperative to spread.

Someone cautioned this morning about the risks if there’s a resurgence in September. I’m still thinking we’ll be lucky if the resurgence waits until then. Either way, exercising care to protect ourselves and others is as much a part of the current necessity as is unity, forgiveness, and positive action. So please… proceed with all due caution as you experience this summer of COVID and George Floyd.

What a year… and it’s only June.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

June 4

It’s a hot sultry day in Northern Virginia. The weather seems to capture something of the national mood, though, it does seem as though the heat of the moment in the public square may be easing a bit. That’s good if it opens the door to thoughtful discourse and meaningful action. It’s also good if it allows us to focus as well on the pandemic that is very much still with us. But it shouldn’t be one or the other that we’re addressing, and neither pandemic… the one that attacks our bodies, or the other that attacks our social fabric… can be ignored.

We have already seen that inaction and indifference only leads to more infections and to more deaths when it comes to COVID-19. And inaction and indifference to the pandemic of racial, social and economic inequality will only have similar destructive impact on our body politic in the long run if we fail to act.

Our centuries-old experiment in democratic governance — one where power and authority is derived from the consent of the governed — has evolved in the years since our founders articulated their vision. That’s appropriate. This is a different world. Our system must be able to adapt and adjust. But if it becomes too distorted, if power flows not from the people but from the 1 percent, if decisions are made to benefit the elites at the expense of the bulk of our people, we have a problem. And there are many who would argue, with persuasive evidence, that that is exactly what we are in the process of becoming — if we are not already there.

We face these twin crises against the backdrop of other issues, just as compelling, for the health of our nation. The perversion of our second amendment rights to allow our nation to become one of the most deadly on the planet –with the cost measured in our citizens lives. Handguns and automatic weapons used not for sport but for violence. Weapons that have been turned on our children, on worshippers at prayer, on people at play. And we face a planet in crisis as well. One where ice caps are melting, where temperatures rise, where our seas are becoming more acidic, where the storms we face are more dangerous and where societies across the world are facing threats to the sustainability of life.

Meanwhile, again yesterday, there were 20,000 new COVID infections in our country. There were 1,000 more deaths. And it shows no sign of stopping. And it is no surprise that the four countries with the worst experience in dealing with this virus, the US, Russia, Brazil, and the UK — are all being led by anti-liberal white men who espouse a faux populism while exhibiting authoritarian tendencies. Hmmm. I’ll let you ponder THAT one for a while. The only nation doing worse, by some measure, is Sweden, with the highest per capita death rate thanks largely to what many now acknowledge was a mistaken focus on creating herd immunity

We could throw up our hands and just give up, I guess. It certainly is easier to narrow our focus, to constrict our world to what we can affect and control, and hope that the chaos will leave us be. But, at least for Leija and me, we know that this affects our children and their future and the future of our grandkids even more. And we know that there’s nowhere we can truly escape from these challenges.

So we wash hands, we wear masks, we socially distance ourselves. And we speak out and write to legislators. We try to protect the planet in our own small way. We vote for those who seek to end the horror of gun violence in our society, for those who believe in science and reason, and who believe in our people. We act because, if enough of us do, it really DOES make a difference. And even if others falter, or give up hope, or just don’t care, we can say at the end of our own journeys — at least I tried.

For me, writing daily is becoming part of “trying.” It focuses me and makes me remember that I need to find ways to actualize my commitment and concern about the world we will leave to our kids. It is a personal journey — though not that different from those many of us are grappling with, I wager. But, because it is personal, there are some days where it is harder to “share” than others.

Yesterday was one of those. A day where anger and frustration and exhaustion weighed more heavily on my soul than usual. And on days like that, it can be even harder to share, especially in this highly polarized world where trolls lurk — waiting to attack those with differing views. But now more than ever, I think it is time for us all to be heard.

Stay safe, stay strong, stay healthy.

June 3

I’m feeling less than enthused today. About anything. I heard someone last night on one of the talk shows talking about feeling exhausted. I get it.

I think we’re tired of stress and of anger and of fears and of division and of all the noise.

I think we’re tired of numbers that keep going up without end.

I think we’re tired (at least many of us are) of the talk about the need to change but the lack of action.

I imagine folks are tired of reading posts like this too. I don’t blame you.

So, today I’m tired. And I’m still angry and alienated and, to a degree, spoiling for a fight The cultural wars that the President seems determined to fuel have made it clear, on so many levels, that there are some very fundamental divisions that are not going to be bridged. Our views are too different. Too deeply held.

I know we want to believe that somehow we can find ways to come together. But I am hard pressed to believe that there will be a Kumbaya moment. I don’t think that we will somehow find the right words, the magic moment that will lead to us moving forward in harmony.

I always hoped, as an Ambassador, that we could find such words when I was in Eritrea, with what seemed to be an impossibly hostile government. I wanted to make such a difference. But sometimes we can’t. I had to accept that our fundamental views of the world were too different. That we were too far apart on values. I had to realize it wasn’t always about building bridges.

Sometimes it’s about standing for what we believe. Sometimes it’s about recognizing there are fundamentally different values and we have to fight to advance them. And what was true in Eritrea is, I think, true today in our nation. So yes, I’m spoiling for a fight.

In the mood I’m in today, perhaps this isn’t the time to write. But I’ll hope today, as I do every day, that despite it all, we can and will…

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

June 2

I’m not sure what to say today. I’m still trying to get my head around all that is happening in our nation.

The legitimate anger and the protests have to be uncoupled from the acts of those whose agenda is criminal — we all get that. And no one wants criminal acts, or attacks on police, any more than we want attacks on peaceful demonstrators exercising their first amendment rights.

De-escalation and defusing are essential. Listening is essential. Empathy. Courageous acts, as we see when protestors protect a policeman separated from his cohort, or when we see them protect a store at threat from looters. And it’s the same empathy and courage we see from police officers who take a knee, who march with the protestors, and who engage in dialogue that allows folks to feel heard. It doesn’t solve all the problems by a long shot — but it’s a start.

Threats of massive retaliation aren’t the answer. Flooding the streets with soldiers will not answer long-standing grievances, or ease pain, or help in healing. Tweeting gleefully about “dominance” on the streets of DC after attacking peaceful protestors with tear gas and flash bang grenades says that the president values his photo ops and image more than listening to citizens who truly wanted to be heard.

We’ve all been stressed by the pandemic in so many ways. But last night was the first time I’ve been gripped by fear. As the military police, called upon by a bully and authoritarian leader who rejects the basic principles of our constitution, stepped ever closer to citizens with their hands raised in peace and supplication, I feared the outcome. I feared that chaos would be unleashed. A spark would ignite a conflagration and innocent people would die. I truly did.

On the streets of our nation’s capital. Outside the “people’s house” the President and the Attorney General assembled their forces to be used on our citizens. For show. For a photo op. They unleashed violence on men and women exercising their rights and then crowed about it. Created videos showing the President marching to the nearby church as if he were a conquering hero.

Make no mistake… when he threatens to send in the military if states don’t act the way he wants, he is cutting down yet another guard rail that protects our democracy. The fact that he lacks the authority isn’t the point. That he entertains the idea as appropriate is. And the fact the chairman of the Joint Chiefs didn’t bat an eye… that he was seen as supporting and implicitly endorsing… is deeply troubling.

Months ago I began to write daily about a dangerous virus as one way of expressing my concerns and organizing my own thoughts. I still am. Only this virus is not just a threat to our physical health… it is a threat to our nation’s future, to the health and well-being of our body politic. And if we do not stand now to protect all that we stand for, all we will leave our children is the withered husk of democracy, and another failed state.

Yes. I believe it is serious. Biden said today that America’s story isn’t a fairy tale. We must fight for our values and our democracy and our freedoms. It is never an easy struggle, and the outcome is not guaranteed. I used to make the same point in countries where folks struggled against authoritarian leaders and where the descent into demagoguery and dictatorship was just one more abuse away.

I don’t believe in fairy tale endings either… but I believe that hope and decency and honesty can prevail. But only if we refuse to be cowed. Only if we have courage. And only if we act.

Today, more than ever…

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

June 1

Another month begins amidst chaos and uncertainty. The worst racial and civil unrest our nation has seen in decades is bringing new tragedy and despair even as the pandemic continues its relentless spread. Don’t forget… we’re up to almost 1.8 million cases. By the end of the day we’ll surpass 105,000 deaths. And although numbers vary state to state, overall, the daily cases have been on the rise again over the past five days even though places like New York and New Jersey, that once drove the US epidemic, are dropping. And who knows what the mass protests will do to the numbers among both the protestors and the first responders.

All of this unfolds against the backdrop of the protests sparked by George Floyd’s death but that reflect a far deeper pain. The pain of years of injustice; years of racism; years of being invisible. One protestor yesterday was holding a sign that said “Can You See Us Now?” That’s the question isn’t it? What do you have to do to be seen?

We can decry the violence, but the sad fact is that for many in our society, they have to ask what other course do we have? What will it take to be heard and to be seen? What IS the answer? You tell me. This is not the first time in our history that civil disobedience, and even violent protest, has been the response when those who hold authority and power fail to redress legitimate concerns and expectations of citizens.

There is so much to unpack. Tough issues that involve morality, ethics, values, governance, the nature of social compacts, social order, public safety, and more. Much more. It is not easy. And we’ve lost our ability to talk to each other, and to find ways to bridge ever-widening gaps to find common grounds, and solutions that work for all.

And it doesn’t help when the President focuses only on the security dimension and not on the human realities. We have to be able to do both. Instead, again today, we saw the President berate the nation’s governors. “You have to dominate or you’ll look like a bunch of jerks, you have to arrest and try people… most of you are weak.” He urged them to use more force. But for him, that’s what strength looks like. Not strength of character, or the strength of values. Not the strength it takes to remain measured, judicious, and even compassionate, in the face of challenges. Instead it’s the strength of force. Perhaps the “vicious dogs and ominous weapons” he seemed so impressed with in his tweet the other day.

We recognize that there has to be order. But escalating force can lead to escalating violence and at what point do we see our fellow citizens being shot down in the streets. Even if there are agitators — from the right or the left who are trying to push us to a breaking point — there are tens of thousands of protestors exercising their first amendment rights who will be caught in the crossfire.

Walking the fine line of appropriate response is tough, but the President has gone way over the line in one direction. I wonder if he’s appalled by the police officers who knelt in solidarity with protestors. I wonder if he’s offended by the Minneapolis police chief kneeling at the memorial to George Floyd. I wonder if he shakes his head at the image of police and protestors hugging — recognizing our shared pain and shared humanity.

He may not get it, but guns and flash bangs and tear gas alone are not the answer.

He may look at images like these and see weakness. But I look and I see the empathy and openness and courage that allows us to begin to talk and perhaps to heal. And in my book, that’s not weakness… it’s the strength that we so desperately need.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.