February 2021 – COVID Month 11

February 28

It’s a very rainy Sunday here in Haymarket. Even the pups are feeling it. Lo Khyi slept in, resisting his normal urge to get outside until well after 10. Finally he stretched, ventured our for a quick bit of business, and came back in and hunkered down on the landing, halfway up the stairs, where he can still see the world out of the windows.

The other dogs seem to feel equally lazy. So do I. But I have a few tasks ahead. I’ve got some veggies to transform into something so I’m taking the easiest way out. Some onion and garlic into the pot to be followed by potatoes and broccoli and celery and carrots. Maybe a few peas too. Veg broth and water and, I think, some fresh lemon juice and cumin and we’ll see what other spices will round out the venture. I am often undecided at the start of these adventures in the kitchen, but much like my public speaking, something always ends up coming out OK in the end. 

That’s often the best way. Recipes and scripts have their pace. At times they are even essential. But there’s something to be said for just being open to going where the spirit takes you.

That’s what I hope the conversation will be on Wednesday with NPR’s Lisa Mullins and Jane Lillian Vance, our dear friend and partner in creating the Ambassador’s Dog. Lisa has interviewed heavy hitters throughout her career. World leaders and people of note. The conversations can be weighty and substantive. I hope that this one will be, in its own way, as enriching if not as heavy. Not every dialogue of note has to be about matters of life and death and global policy. Or, perhaps it is better to say that some conversations of note can be about different aspects of our lives. 

What happens in the Middle East is important — indeed it is. But what happens to each of us on our personal journeys is as well. Reflecting on who we are, on how we see the world around us, and perhaps most importantly — to me at least — how we engage that world are every bit as important. 

“The Ambassador’s Dog” did not start out to be a modern day parable carrying messages and symbols and deep meaning. It was just a story. A story that I told again and again whenever asked about Lo Khyi — and sometimes offered even if unasked! But I had to ask why — why did I keep returning to this tale, why did it touch me, why did it resonate so strongly, why did I care about a meeting on the trail with an abandoned pup with blue eyes and a hidden wisdom waiting to be shared? 

And as I asked myself those questions, the story became more than a story. It became a tale about beauty and wonder and about how we listen to the voices on the wind. It became a story of hope — and if you can believe in Lo Khyi and his tale, if you can hear his words and understand, if you can connect to his spirit and be touched, then suddenly doors long hidden can open and anything — everything — may be possible.  

I think that Jane feels the story in the same way. What pathways it leads her down, she will share, perhaps on Wednesday. And each listener may be touched differently. Each reader may have their own trails to follow that will lead them to wonder and to surprises as well. That is what this story does. It offers us a path and we all can decide what we see as we traverse it.  

As a former diplomat — and I guess my instincts still reflect my years in that world — what we say and how we say it matters. But, even more, what we hear and how we listen matters even more. Understanding begins with listening… with truly hearing what is being told to us. And that is why I remind our grandkids all the time…”Puppies really CAN speak… you just have to know how to listen.” 

I heard Lo Khyi that day on a trail in Mustang. I truly did. And that experience… that reminder of the value and importance of truly listening also is at the heart of the tale. Perhaps that is why I told it again and again in the belief that some who heard it would truly listen and would understand. 

That’s what I hope we talk about on Wednesday. We’ll see though. We never know what will happen when we start a conversation… or start a soup. 

I’m going to go and do the latter. But, as I said yesterday, I do hope some of you will join us for an adventure — because that’s what conversations like these always are — on Wednesday at 5 PM EST on Zoom. I’ll put the link below.

And now… off to the kitchen.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

https://delawarelibraries.libcal.com/event/7506561fbclid=IwAR3p9l80T2HolvjI9b5RLANVz8KJLaQn27ASoFmuMtMuVlPap9o3g0aK_-8

February 27

It’s been a busy day of working at home. I pushed my back a bit more than it wanted to be pushed yesterday working out in the yard. I was refilling the bird feeders, doing battle with some nasty thorny bushes that have become a true nemesis, and starting the process of clearing away some of the desiccated remnants of last year’s garden to make way for new growth. And that new growth is around the corner! Can’t wait. 

I can remember as we were taking refuge from the growing COVID storm and hiding out last spring how working the garden and watching it come to life was a comfort. It made me feel connected. And even if the degree of threat may not be quite as intense this spring (the jury is still out on that) I know I’ll still find joy in seeing the greenery return and the flowers start to bud. 

Our biggest challenge is the slope in the back. When it is covered in snow and ice it becomes a bit more daunting these days if I have to climb it to bring Lo Khyi, the Prince of the Mountains, back down to the lower elevations. I could use some help in designing an easier path. And we’d love to turn even more of it into a wild garden to attract pollinators, butterflies, hummingbirds and more. There’s all sorts of related projects that may become our next undertaking. It will be fun.

And though I’ll be happy to have some help, and my back will be the better for it, I look forward to my own role in planting and nurturing new additions to the ever-wilder, ever-more-colorful world we create outside the door. If I can enlist that help earlier enough I may even let them dig out the roots of the bushes that I cut back to almost nothing yesterday.  Thank god for the extra thick, extra long garden gloves I wore. II fear I would have been soundly defeated without them. Perhaps, on the next sunny spring day, I might be inspired to take shovel in my hand and give it a shot but, for the moment, those roots can wait while my back re-energizes itself!

I realize it could be my fault. Perhaps my back was reminding me that although we might be descended from ancestors with tremendous talent at swinging in trees, I was not meant to climb onto precarious posts to stream new prayer flags. I did that too. But it IS spring — or close enough, after all. And young Gus DeLisi WAS born just days ago and that needed to be acknowledged. So, climb and twist and turn I did.  And today the new flags are flying brightly and that’s worth any temporary diminution in my own ability to match their lively movement.

So, my energies were more focused on other challenges, and the rain this morning gave me further reason to look inward instead. I spent the day working on some of the many tasks that are part of keeping Engage Nepal operational. And there was, of course, the work of sending out copies of “The Ambassador’s Dog” (orders keep coming in slowly but steadily) and I began preparing for the Zoom event with the Delaware Public Libraries on Wednesday (hope some of you will join us — it would be good to see familiar faces!) And today I started to contemplate in earnest our first travel in well over a year — a careful journey to Texas to meet Gus, the newest member of the clan, and to offer our blessings.

He doesn’t, of course, really need them. He has wonderful loving parents. He’s warm and safe and watched and monitored and is blessed many times over already.  But it can’t hurt if we add ours as well along with a kiss and a hug (or a shower of kisses and hugs). It never hurts to know that you’re loved. That you’re part of a clan. That you fit into the line of those who have come before and those who will come after, just like the keystone in an arch. And what better way to know that than to have your grandparents reaffirm it with their hugs. 

So even if my fitness tracker is looking at me with disdain today, it should think twice about giving me too much static. Just ask the thorn bushes what happens when you become my nemesis!  

Until tomorrow… 

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

February 26

It’s Friday. The last one in February. That just seems crazy. It seems like just yesterday we were celebrating the start of 2021 and hoping for a far different year than 2020 and now two months are already gone. I swear time moves faster the older we get. Not sure why it feels that way but it does. 

Meanwhile, the pandemic still dominates the news. It’s been more than a year since we first started to grapple with this issue and it hasn’t let go yet. A year ago today, Donald Trump blithely assured the American public “we’re ready for it.” We weren’t. He said he wasn’t worried. He should have been. Many of us were. And still are.

I realize, though, that I don’t focus on the numbers like I used to. It has become such a constant in our lives that we seem to have come to terms with the reality of it. We don’t need to be checking the scoreboard to confirm that it’s really as bad as it seems. It is.

There are some bright spots. The vaccine news continues to be really good. Almost 50% of those of us 65+ have had at least our first shots. That’s up from just 8% six weeks ago. Impressive. The Johnson and Johnson vaccine is on the verge of approval, Moderna and Pfizer have promised more doses and they are working on boosters to counter variants like the South African one. All good.

But this virus is persistent and unforgiving, and if we give it an opening, it will seize on it. For the past six weeks we’ve seen a steady decline in the number of new daily infections and that’s great, BUT that decline has plateaued and we’re now stuck at the level of 70,000+ new infections per day still. That’s an ugly number. It is way too high under any circumstances and, with the new variants becoming ever more prevalent, we could still see another major surge. 

It’s crazy. And this is not under control yet. Not by a long shot. And that’s why I get nervous with the states easing restrictions and that’s why I am still very cautious about letting my “double-vaccinated” status lead me to make major changes in how I approach the virus at this point. 

And just in case you thought we were out of the woods on the political craziness, that too is as persistent and pernicious as the virus. The big annual CPAC conference is underway. Their breakout sessions are all about perpetuating the big lie, about the election being stolen. Ted Cruz was babbling on about the great folks “battling” alongside Donald Trump — a troubling choice of words in the aftermath of January 6. And Trump? He’ll be the keynote speaker. 

He still seems to “own” the party. And that’s deeply concerning. Mitch McConnell — who declared not long ago that Trump is morally and directly responsible for the horrible attack on the Capitol nonetheless told Fox News yesterday that he would absolutely support Trump if he were the party nominee in 2024. 

I know we’ve come to expect expediency over principles in politics. I know that we are becoming inured to the hypocrisy that is the refuge of these failed leaders. But it’s still troubling — especially as we continue to hear of threats from the radical right, including talk about bombing the Capitol when Biden does his joint address to Congress.

2021 did indeed start with hope and the hope has not been totally misplaced. There has been progress on many fronts and I hope that there will be more. And I hope that we will all be energized to play constructive and engaged roles as citizens. But hope is fragile…  and so is the progress we have made. It’s a step at a time right now as we confront ongoing challenges and daunting divides. 

But we won’t solve any of it today. The weekend lies ahead. Let’s enjoy it. 

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

February 25

It’s another beautiful day here in Haymarket and it gives me itchy feet. I want to get out and do things. It feels like spring… it smells like spring. You just know that the flowers and plants in the garden are just itching to get moving too.

Of course, winter may not be done with us yet. But here in Virginia March seldom brings any lasting snow or cold. We’re on our way to spring. And that’s good.

And, after a day of feeling so-so after the second COVID shot, I already feel pretty much back to normal.  Can’t complain about that! I’m trying to damp down the urge to just start planning. Of course we’ll wear masks and socially distance as appropriate but there’s an eagerness to just have a chance to do things. Go visit the new grandbaby. Have the other grandkids come over and actually be able to be at ease. Go to the eye doctor. Get a haircut. 

Suddenly I start to think about all the things that were part of the normal rhythm of life a year or so ago. It’s not that it was impossible to bear, but now that I can contemplate them reentering my life they seem like something new and special. Something to be coveted and desired.

I’m sure, that after a while, in whatever the post-covid “normal” looks like (and we certainly aren’t post-covid yet), The idea of getting a haircut or eating in a restaurant won’t seem so shiny and new and exciting. But as we get closer to the point where that is possible, it all looks pretty damn good to me right now!

I actually went online today looking at flights to Austin — I’m hearing the call of that new grandbaby loud and clear. It felt funny to actually be considering travel. We’ve internalized so much caution and concern about the virus that it now has become deeply embedded and almost instinctive. I wonder how long it will be before we are able to make a choice without it factoring into our calculations.

In any event, it’s a beautiful day and I can, at least, go for a walk with the dogs and not worry about THAT. And so I will. They’ll love it and so will I.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

February 24

Not feeling wonderful today as the second shot kicks in but also not feeling terrible. More tired than anything else. A small price to pay for being fully vaccinated.

I just saw a news conference with the Governor of Virginia. He announced a further easing of restrictions. I don’t know… I just wonder if they’re riding the wave of good news on reduced cases too vigorously. There’s part of me that says it can’t hurt to go a bit slower, take a bit longer.  

As I said yesterday, it seems we’re moving in the right direction. How nice it would be if we could finally and consistently turn the corner.  

Even if I’m not feeling fantastic, we still have to eat. So today it will be a quiche. Maybe with roasted broccoli, grape tomatoes, leek and peppers. (I think I’ve got a leek in the fridge yet). Will also put together a vegan “egg” salad… chickpeas, black salt, nutritional yeast, lots of veggies and red lentils and fresh dill. Full of protein and flavor. 

We’ve been buying organic produce from Misfits Market online and have been pretty happy both with the quality and the life span, but it does keep me busy. With plenty of fresh veggies I have to make sure they get used. 

Other than that, I’m still on the high associated with Gus’ birth yesterday. Family matters so much. Our children and grandchildren… connection, love, continuity.  There’s a richness there, a simple joy that is so important to us. As the years go by and we are less consumed by the day to day demands on our time these connections become more “front of mind.” 

I have been asking myself lately what I want the coming years to look like. What is important and what I want to prioritize. How will I live my “best life” in the days to come? As the pandemic recedes I think many of us will be reexamining those questions, rethinking our options and looking at life differently.  

It will be interesting to see the choices we all make.

But good food has to be part of any formula for the future as far as I’m concerned. And good food doesn’t just happen by itself. So, it’s off to the kitchen. I’ve got two hours before my next ZOOM call and the broccoli won’t roast itself.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

February 23

There are some days that are just good days. 

Today the temps are in the 50’s. The sky is blue. There’s a promise of spring in the air. 

Today we got our second COVID vaccinations — even if we had to drive 50+ miles to do so. It was quick and efficient and we got it. (We had been cancelled twice and not rescheduled by our other option with CVS.) There’s a sense of relief of and hope and of new possibilities.  

AND today our youngest grandson joined the family at 12:08 pm CST. Agostino Owen DeLisi was born to proud parents Natalie and Tony in Austin, Texas. He’s beautiful, he’s handsome, he’s healthy and he’s already a joy. Nat was a superstar. And Tony did a pretty good job too!  

It’s all good on a day like this. The COVID numbers have continued to drop and yes, I know that there could still be new surges and that this virus isn’t done with us yet, but you also can’t help but feel that maybe we are indeed turning a corner.  And that’s so promising. It’s been long, it’s been hard, and it still is. But we’ll get there.

And now that we’re fully vaccinated the thought of careful travel to see our newest family member doesn’t seem totally far-fetched. God knows that would be a blessing.  

Gus has come into a world that offers equal measures of trials and hope. I want to believe that he and our other grandkids will see the hope and the promise realized and trials and challenges overcome. I want to believe that his world will be kinder and healthier and more forgiving and accepting. 

These are the dreams we always have for our children and grandchildren. We want their lives to be richer and better in all the ways that truly count. We want them to know love and joy and peace. We want them to have the courage and strength to engage the world and to change it for the better. 

Big dreams for Gus… and for Sofie and Leo and Luca. But I believe that they are dreams that can come true. Their papa will certainly do all that he can to help that along.

It IS a good day..

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

February 22

Today we will reach the half million mark in COVID deaths. It’s tragic. And all of us who have lived through these grim months will be forever changed, I think.

I haven’t lost someone I loved but most of those who died had families who loved them and who were heartbroken to lose a father or mother or grandparent or child. Wherever they fit within the web of relationships that surround us all, they left an emptiness that will never be filled.  

We all have seen the tragic tales of families that lost multiple members. Of couples whose own love stories ended with both of them passing from COVID, sometimes minutes apart.

And the victims of this pandemic are not just those who died or those who are now long haulers. The victims include kids and teens who have seen the normalcy and predictability of their lives disappear. The expectations around which they built their vision of their high school years and college experience shattered with nothing certain to replace them.

We’ve seen families devastated by the economic impact of this disease and some of them will deal with the disruption for years. Some will never recover fully.

We won’t really know what has been lost until the dust settles, perhaps. And that could be a long time coming. Is shaking hands forever gone? Hugs and kisses among friends? I miss that. 

Will we travel as freely? (God, I hope so, but I worry.)  What will life be like? Where will we find those new experiences that fill us with wonder? Hell… when will we be comfortable eating out again? (I know some already are… I’m certainly not.)  

There’s so much that has changed and will continue to change and we don’t know when it will truly be over. Right now, there are signs of optimism, but no one is confident yet that we have turned the corner.

As we hit this very sad milestone, there’s nothing to be gained today at least in recounting how and why we got here or what could have been done differently. That is for another day. 

We have lived through a tumultuous year, and that has followed several difficult years that have seen our nation roiled and disrupted in ways that have been profound.  We have lost much and we face an uncertain future, but we’ll manage. We always do. We’ll adapt to the changes and carry on. And for those, for whom change and adaptation is harder, we’ll offer support and we’ll be understanding and we’ll try to show them the way. 

And, ultimately, we’ll move forward into the better days that I believe do lie ahead. 

But today, I’ll take a moment to join President Biden and VP Harris and others in mourning our collective loss. May their memories be a blessing to us all.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

February 21

After almost a year in semi-isolation due to COVID there are moments when you realize how much of a “lost year” it has been. That’s not say it hasn’t been productive in some ways. It has. “The Ambassador’s Dog” came to life. We’ve made a difference with the work that Engage Nepal has done to help people struggling to cope in the face of the pandemic in Nepal. In our own small ways we became engaged in the political debate that is so critical to our future. We had the time to look more closely at really concerning issues such as systemic racism and to see its pervasive impact across our society.

It has not been a wasted year by any means. But yesterday there was a moment when I realized that the measures by which we normally mark the passage of time just haven’t been the same. There were no momentous moments. No gatherings to celebrate milestones. No fantastic trips. No special events with unique experiences that become the markers that help to anchor the year in our memories.

It has been an odd year. The year of staying home. I can’t say that I’m excited about doing another of those.

There was a “milestone” of sorts yesterday. I went into State, where I’ve been working part-time as a consultant since my retirement, and cleaned out my office. I will continue to work, as I have been for the past year, from home — at least through this transition year. But I decided I’m never going back into the building to work. No more commutes into D.C. and, probably, before too long, no more work for State at all. 

This year marks 40 years of service… 34+ full time… the rest as a consultant. It felt odd to clean out the few things that decorated my little corner of the office suite. It was time though. I hadn’t been in the building since March 7 last year. It was indeed time. 

My plants had survived, thanks to the care some officemates had provided. The candy I stashed there to fill the candy dish was long since eaten so I didn’t have to worry about that. The buddha and prayer beads, the family photos, and the thangka and the khatas that brought color to the walls were easy to pack. The fan, and the small desk lamp that gave my corner a homey-touch were a bit harder, but they too slipped into the small wheeled cart or my backpack. Two trips in and out and I was done. It seemed a rather uneventful conclusion to my years of working in the building there on C Street. 

It was odd too. Never have I seen it so quiet. There was a single guard in the lobby, barely visible seated behind the reception desks. As I walked to my office, which was all the way over on the D Street side of the building, I never saw a soul on either trip back and forth. It felt strange… and a bit sad. I had felt throughout the Trump administration that the building was being hollowed out — diminished — and it certainly felt as if this was the demonstration of that.

Of course we are still dealing with a pandemic and it should not have been bustling and loaded with people on a Saturday afternoon. And I know that under Biden there is already a new sense of purpose within the Department. But as I wandered through the empty corridors yesterday it still felt as though I was accompanied by the still-lingering  ghosts of Trump. 

It’s time to move on. It’s time make new memories, to have new experiences that will serve as waypoints for remembering 2021 in the years ahead. 

I’m ready to get started.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

February 20

I am among the millions of people whose COVID vaccination plans have been upended by the weather. We’re scheduled at one site now for Tuesday AM for our second shot, and we may — possibly — hear from CVS about an earlier opportunity. It will happen. Of that I’m pretty sure. And I’m still optimistic that it will happen soon enough and that it will fall within an acceptable window for the time between the first and second vaccinations.

There are those, of course, who are suggesting that a hold be put on all second doses until more folks get their first. Most of the public health community still seems to be holding out for second doses on schedule — I’ll stick with them.

I had anticipated getting our second shots yesterday, though, and hadn’t planned much for today. So the calendar is pretty much open and there is the opportunity for a lazy Saturday and that is exactly what it feels like at the moment. I have not yet energized myself to do much of anything. Even writing feels like too much of an effort. Not a chore, mind you, but one of those tasks that requires the expenditure of a degree of energy — or at least a degree of brainpower — that feels like it’s in low supply.

So, today may be more about recharging than anything else. 

I will comment though, that there are several stories about efforts underway in Florida, Georgia, Texas, and other Republican-leaning states to make voting more difficult. They are perpetuating the big lie about voter fraud to impose new and more onerous restrictions on voting that have nothing to do with protecting the integrity of the ballot and everything to do with making voting more difficult for people of color, for students, for those with less access and less savvy about online processes.  

The Republican Party in these states should be rethinking it policies and approaches to the issues in order to engage the groups whose voices matter more and more as demographic realities shift. The party should be redefining its message to tell these voters what conservatism means and why it is relevant to them. But it isn’t. 

Instead the party seems determined to be the party of “white” America, doing all it can to preserve white privilege, to protect their hold on power and economic resources, and to ensure they remain competitive electorally through ever more aggressive voter suppression efforts and and equally aggressive gerrymandering. 

This isn’t new, but it is kicking up into high gear as they desperately try to limit the impact of the vote of those they see as a threat to their ability to hold onto power. Even as many of us want to see broader opportunities for mail-in voting they seek to make it harder. There are those who have argued for years to make Election Day a holiday and to start voting earlier to give the working poor, in particular, a better chance of being able to get to the polls. There are so many proposals to make it easier for us all to cast our ballot and you would think that is an outcome that proponents of democracy and free elections in which there is active public participation would all welcome. 

But, of course, you’d be wrong if you believed that the Republican leadership shares that view. Their concern for voter fraud is specious and there is no evidence to support their assertions just as court after court threw out Trump’s claims of massive voter fraud and irregularities because there was no evidence. But they perpetuate the lie and gin up outrage in their base about how liberals, blacks, hispanics, and… god forbid… socialists (gasp!)… are stealing their election and their birthright as white Americans.  

And hiding behind a professed desire to protect the integrity of our polls they are seeking to ensure that the voting is as restricted as possible, as difficult as possible, and as white as possible. 

And they are twisting state and local geography into contorted voting districts in an effort to minimize the collective impact of minority votes in any one location. In other words, those who lead the redistricting efforts are pulling out all the stops (and Democrats do this too) to choose their voters rather than letting their voters choose their representatives.  

So, with the presidential election behind us, I’ll donate what I can to protect the vote efforts and to those groups fighting to take redistricting out of the hands of self-interested politicians and put them into the hands of non-partisan redistricting committees.  

Our democracy IS at risk of being stolen from us. Still. But not by black and brown voters, not by liberals and socialists, and not by some cabal of devil-worshipping pedophiles. Instead, those who scream the loudest about the democracy being stolen are those who are trying to steal it in plain sight with their callous voter suppression efforts. 

Whew… that’s enough for today. Time to be lazy.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

February 19

Percy Goes to Mars. Sounds like the title of a book I’d have grabbed at the library when I was a kid. But it’s not a book of course — it’s what happened yesterday when a Mars lander named Perseverance sent by NASA landed on the red planet. 

300 million miles. About seven months. And then the “seven minutes of terror” as the rover descended through the atmosphere and negotiates a soft landing — all 2200+ pounds of it. With radio signals taking 11 minutes to travel across space from earth to Mars, the rover, of necessity, was on its own during those seven minutes. The planning had to be meticulous and the engineering and science pretty damned incredible. And they were.

The rover descended with its own sky crane that, after parachutes slowed Percy’s decent from its initial 12,000+ miles per hour speed, lowered the rover itself on three cables towards the surface. Ultimately the combination of chutes, the sky crane, and rocket bursts allowed Percy to land gently and safely in the Jezero Crater.

The crater would have been inaccessible in the past due to the uneven, rough terrain. But new technology allowed Percy to navigate the hazards and find a safe spot to land. 

Percy will search for evidence of life — current and past. It will collect rock samples, take photos and video and record audio. We will come to know Mars better than ever before and see areas that were previously inaccessible. The science and technology are incredible. When we achieved our first fly-by of Mars in 1964 we couldn’t know then that we’d be landing rovers — and perhaps explorers — during our lifetimes. But we believed it was possible.

When I was a kid we were breaking new frontiers in space and in science and technology. We’d watch “The Jetsons” a cartoon vision of a utopian future where people lived in housing in the sky, drove aerocars that looked like flying saucers and have incredible tech devices that transformed their lives. We thought it was all possible. 

We aren’t living the life of the Jetsons yet — but life has changed so dramatically since my childhood it’s not surprising that many are finding it a challenge to recognize the world. Not all the changes are in the world of tech but so many are. And we’ve almost come to take the changes and constant evolution for granted. Perhaps it takes a Percy to remind us of the wonders we are still capable of achieving.

We can’t take this for granted. Let’s marvel for a minute at what mankind can do. And let’s hope that science and technology will continue to fuel a future of hope. That it will help us to deal with the craziness of what one expert has started to call climate “weirding.” And weird it indeed is. But that’s for another post, I guess.

The point is, we ARE capable of so much. Innovation and new approaches can change our lives and the world.  Perseverance reminded me of that yesterday. And, although science and technology can’t fix everything, they can offer us hope. And that’s a good place to be as the work week ends.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

February 18

We are now at over 490,000 deaths from the pandemic. Life expectancy in the US has decreased by a year for the population as a whole. For black citizens it has decreased to 72 years… a 2.7 year drop. Hispanics saw a 1.9 year decrease.  It’s shocking when, over our lives, we’ve seen the numbers routinely rise.

Soon we’ll hit half a million deaths. Half a million. We need to let that sink in. A year ago, it was going to “disappear.” Right. We knew better, of course. Thank god that many of us listened to the experts and wore masks, and distanced, etc. Even if Trump didn’t lead. Imagine where we’d be if we hadn’t at least done that much.

The pandemic really has been an eye-opener. It has exposed so much within our society. Issues of leadership, of racial injustice, of economic disparities all are tied up in this. The pandemic driven unemployment crisis cuts along lines of race and gender. The pandemic has forced us to look at education differently, at the role (and importance) of our teachers and how much we’ve taken them for granted. It has compelled us to think about issues of child care, of our health system. 

These issues would be with us whether or not we had a pandemic, but pre-COVID it was easier to look past the realities and, of course, there was Trump sucking up all the oxygen. It was about our politics and, most fundamentally, it was about our democracy and our future. It still is. But perhaps now we can look beyond personality and the politics of outrage and grievance and begin to look at the real issues.

Today we saw new unemployment numbers — almost 900,000 new unemployment claims filed in the past month. Millions of women who have lost jobs, have been pushed out of the work force. For many, the jobs are just no longer there. For others, the challenges of child care, managing education for their kids, running the house, and possibly managing elder care issues became impossible to balance with the demands of work in the pandemic environment.  And too often we’ve ignored these issues or seem them as matters that are just concerns for women. We assume they’ll just “sort it out.” We don’t recognize them for what they are —significant public policy and economic concerns for the nation as a whole.

There is far too much we have ignored for far too long.  

There’s recognize that there is not much new in any of this and I realize I’ve written about these concerns before but at various inflection points along the way — and a half million deaths is a hell of an inflection point —I am reminded again about how important these concerns are and that we cannot just go back to sleepwalking past them when the immediate crisis has passed. 

So, meanwhile, we didn’t get the high snowfall amounts that folks thought we’d see but there’s still enough to create problems when there’s a layer of ice underneath and more ice to come later today/tonight.  I just came in from clearing the driveway and sidewalks — the better to create a nice skating rink. Hopefully, though, it will help to clear it more quickly.

And with that I’ll sit back and catch my breath.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy,

February 17

We have a winter storm warning staring us in the face.  This time tomorrow we could look out and see the ground covered in 2 -10 inches of snow (depending on which forecast you believe) with freezing rain and sleet falling on top of it. Fun. Our second vaccination, scheduled for tomorrow afternoon, has been moved to Friday afternoon due to “unforeseen developments.” I don’t know what that’s about. I don’t know that it matters. But it’s probably for the best in any event. Just hoping that the Friday shot stays on track.

Meanwhile… or as Steven Colbert would say, “quarantine-while,” Joe Biden did a town hall meeting last night in Wisconsin. It wasn’t always a model of concise and focused answers, but it was SO different from what we’ve had for the past four years I have to say it lifted my heart.

One mother had her eight-year old daughter with her and talked to the President about the little girl’s fears of COVID. Biden’s answer was so heartfelt as he talked to the little girl that you couldn’t help but hear echoes of grandpas across the nation trying to ease the concerns of their grandkids. 

And, in refusing to bite when asked to criticize Republican Senators who voted to acquit Trump, he kept the focus where it needed to be — on the challenges faced by all of us. He talked about the pandemic and about reopening schools (and his belief that vaccines for teachers should be prioritized). He talked about the minimum wage and criminal justice and systemic racism. He didn’t get bombastic, didn’t make outlandish promises, and didn’t offer false promises. But he clearly tried to offer honest assessments and shared a vision of hope. Good for him.

Beyond that, I have to say I have a new pet peeve. Last year sports gambling was approved in Virginia and it launched in January. Since then we’re being deluged with TV ads for online sports betting and every time I see them I feel irritated. It’s not just that the ads themselves are over the top and obnoxious — though they feel that way to me — but there’s a public policy issue here that’s really troubling.

We can debate the role of the state in protecting people from themselves but I can’t help but feel these ads offering all sorts of “come-ons” to convince folks to gamble are way too much. Maybe we have to let folks make their own choices, but we don’t have to encourage and facilitate ads that induce the vulnerable to fall into a web of gambling addiction. And that will happen for some. 

We don’t let cigarettes advertise any more. We decided that there was a public interest in banning those ads. So too can we manage and control the type of advertising these folks put out there? 

I wonder if others feel the same. I wonder if there will be pressure to bring a measure of common sense to this. We’ll see. 

We’re over the hump for another week. Let’s see what we get on the downside. 

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

February 16

Texas is the nation’s icebox. How strange is that? Far colder there than it is here in Virginia where we’ll reach 50 degrees or more today. Glad we’re here but so frustrated that Nat and Tony are still without power in Austin. There’s nothing we can do do to help, of course, but hate that they’re in their second day of all this and still have no clue as to when power will be returned.

Sure, it’s a huge challenge for a state like Texas when it is hit with weather unlike any that they’ve experienced in a hundred years. But it reminds us how vitally important our infrastructure is. Whether it’s power, or water, or roads, or telecommunications, it’s critical. We’ve listened to leaders talk about “infrastructure” for years. We all see the aging of our systems and we know that bridges and sewage treatment plants are failing. We know that road systems are deteriorating. We know all of this. But have seen little action. 

The costs, of course, will be huge. And local governments, counties, states, and the federal agencies all look at each other to try and decide who will act, who will pay, and who will lead. And very little gets done. 

I fear we’ll hit a point where we’ll experience system failures with increasing frequency in the course of normal day-to-day life and not just because a once-in-a-century storm sparks a crisis. There are many challenges that life ahead for our nation and it’s about time that we start to tackle them.

Just as the storm in Texas is reminding folks of challenges there, the once-in-a-century pandemic has exposed some of the systemic problems in our health care system. It’s too decentralized. It’s too profit- focused. It emphasizes disease management more than it does prevention and wellness. Care is uneven across the nation and even within communities. And, if you’re a person of color, or lower-income, the quality of the care you access to is likely going to be far different than the care I receive. And this is just the starting point if we were to seriously want to examine the process. 

These issues are incredibly complex, I know, and we shouldn’t let the pandemic experience drive us to try and create a pandemic-centric health care system. But there are lessons we can nonetheless learn from the pandemic experience. And we can strive to create a system that in which there are fewer disparities and which is more rational, effective, and responsive to our needs as end-users and not just to the interests of the insurers, big Pharma, and the big medical infrastructure entities. 

I recognize that the private sector pharmaceutical companies matter — just look at the coronavirus vaccine development effort. I recognize that big health care systems and medical networks and insurers are important actors and can’t be replaced overnight. We can’t be knee-jerk and reactive in our response. But we can’t ignore the reality that there needs to be a more rational and holistic approach to health care in America. We need to rethink.

And that’s what the whole infrastructure debate should be about. The need to rethink. We need to be visionary and creative. We need to ask where we need to be in a hundred years rather than reengineering how we did things for the last hundred. 

What will our planet look like? How do we deal with the realities of climate change, water shortages, imperiled oceans, and so much more? How do we use our ever-broadening base of scientific knowledge and new technologies to change the world? When will we embrace the opportunities these present rather than resist them? When will we accept the changing nature of the world and our places in it rather than seek to preserve a status quo that is unsustainable.

That is, in part at least, what some of our current political turmoil is about. We need to get past it. And our leaders need to be addressing these serious challenges before us rather than bickering over ideological unity and engaging in partisan attacks. 

Of course, it’s easier to identify the problems than it is to solve them. But we have to begin somewhere. Fingers crossed we will — and fingers crossed that the heat and lights will be on in Tony and Nat’s corner of Austin before the day is out. One priority at a time, right?

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

February 15

There’s not a lot that is really new when you sample the day’s headlines.  

The virus is still with us. Concerns about new variants and about a possible fourth surge compete with good news about the slow but steady decline in new cases and new hospitalizations. 

It’s pretty much the same conversation that has dominated virus reporting over the past week or two but it continues to be important. The bottom line is that we’re still not out of the woods, but there’s hope — if we are smart. Given our track record, that is kind of a big “if.” Fingers are crossed.

Then there’s the very disheartening, but unsurprising, news that some of the Republican Senators who voted to convict Trump, (like some of the House Republicans who voted to impeach him), are now facing censure from their state Republican parties. 

These legislators voted their conscience — an act which required a degree of political courage. They knew that within their own legislative caucus and among their voters there would be blowback. And I doubt they were surprised when state party leaders decide that their primary concern has to be about loyalty to the cult of Trump rather than respecting (or even applauding) legislators who acted on principle. Even if it was predictable, however, it’s still scary and still disheartening.

We have to wonder where the line is between respecting and admiring a political leader (think of those who were so invested in Barack Obama) and becoming part of a cult of personality. At what point do we suspend critical thinking? When does respect shift to slavish adoration? 

These state Republican parties seem to have crossed the line. They seem disinclined to allow independent views and no disloyalty to “the Donald” will be tolerated. They are perfectly willing to disregard fact and objective truth without a blink in order to perpetuate the myth of Trump. 

These are supposed to be party leaders. But how can they claim to be any different from the conspiracy theorists and blindly loyal Trump followers who insist it was ANTIFA that attacked the capitol; that it was a false flag operation not MAGA loyalists?

They claim it was all a scam staged to make Trump look bad. And they believe it. Just as they believe that there was no plane that hit the pentagon, there was no Sandy Hook Elementary slaughter, no Las Vegas concert shooting, no kids hiding in fear for their lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 

These are the same folks who assert “there is no coronavirus — it will all go away after the election.”  These are the same folks who unquestioningly accept Trump’s “Big Lie” that “Trump actually won in a landslide but the election was stolen.”

The delusion continues. The conspiracy theories multiply. And it is all given even greater credibility when state party leaders censure those who act based on their conscience. And perhaps even worse, these same leaders remain silent when folks like Jaime Herrera Beutler, a Republican member of Congress, who is accused of being disloyal to Trump, receives death threats from Trump supporters. State officials and even citizen volunteers who were part if the electoral process are also being threatened along with their family members.

And I worry that the threats will give way to more acts of violence. We saw what happened on January 6.  And I fear that the ugliness we saw at the Capitol, instead of shocking these folks back to their senses, will  encourage them to believe that attacks and intimidation are the answer.

Meanwhile, the true story of the day may be the weather that is hitting Texas. Our son and daughter-in-law are hunkered down at home and are now 8 hours or more without power. No idea when it will be restored as they deal with cold that is far worse than anything we’ve experience this year in Virginia. Homes in Texas are not built to cope with weather like this. Infrastructure is not designed to manage weather like this. It’s another one of those once in a century events. 

Maybe it’s setting the stage for the birth of grandson Gus. Maybe he’ll arrive on the heels of a this storm, bringing back the sun and the warmth (and the power). THIS is the story we’re tracking more than any other as the week begins. The story of Gus. That’s one that is worth our time.  

Happy Monday.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

February 14

First, the news. Trump is acquitted — again. Surprise? No. I’ll tip my hat to the Republicans who voted to convict — I believe he deserved it — and shake my head at those who lacked the political courage to vote their conscience. If they had, I think there almost certainly would have been a conviction. But no surprise. Nothing different than my expectations.

What a message it sends to Trump though. He can do anything, I guess, and get away with it. That’s what he has believed… and will continue to believe. He’ll tout it as a great “victory” that only 57 Senators believed him guilty of acts of insurrections against our nation. That’s the twisted logic of Trumpworld. But I still hope that, after the dust settles enough are disgusted by him and by those who make up his “movement” that they turn their back on him and his message. 

To be ignored, mocked, and dismissed is, I imagine, Trump’s worst nightmare. Maybe now that this impeachment, with its foregone conclusion is behind us, we can move on. I hope.

Today, of course, is also Valentine’s Day, so Happy Valentine’s Day to all! I hope we’ll take a moment to remember, today, those who may have no one to send them that reminder that they are loved and special. 

And, today would have been my father’s 98th birthday. How I wonder what he would have made of today’s world. He never really spoke out much on current events — at least to his kids. But he paid attention. I remember when he and Mom came to visit when we served in Sri Lanka and then again in Botswana. He was filled with curiosity. Full of questions about the life and culture and seemed fascinated by the differences. My Dad liked people. Genuinely and sincerely. And he quietly helped those in need with a compassion and decency that lay at the core of who he was. 

We talk about folks who have a “big heart.” Well, that was Joe DeLisi. A heart that encompassed not only his family, about whom he cared so very deeply, but so many others as well. He was, quite simply, a good man. He’s been gone for 20 years this June. And I miss him. 

I wish that our grandkids, Sofie, Leo and Luca — and Gus whose birth is imminent — could have met him. They would have loved him — kids gravitated to him — and he would have loved them all. Instead, I hope that perhaps they will come to know him through the stories that we tell — the memories we share. I’ve written a couple of small “memory” pieces about him in the past few years. I’ll put links in a comment below for those who knew him (and those who only know him through my words.)

As the years go by, I come to realize how important those stories and memories are. They hold power. They bridge generations and ensure that all those who guided us and loved us remain part of the lives of those who, in our turn, we guide and love.

So, happy 98th birthday, Dad. I miss you and love you.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

https://diplodogsinretirement.wordpress.com/2019/06/15/becoming-your-father/

https://diplodogsinretirement.wordpress.com/2020/01/16/if-bullshit-was-snow-and-other-memories-of-my-father/

February 13

Today was the day of the first — and perhaps only — Gus DeLisi Half Marathon, run in Austin, Texas.

What, you might ask, is the Gus DeLisi Half Marathon? It was created by our son, Tony, in anticipation of the birth of his and his wife Natalie’s first child. The baby, who is due in 19 days, will be a little boy and he will be named Agostino Owen DeLisi.

My grandfather was also an Agostino DeLisi. He was the one who came to America. He is the one who took on the huge challenge of tackling a new life in a new land. He believed in the promise of America… the land of opportunity… and followed so many others from Sicily and from nations around the world in pursuit of the dream of a better life.

And four generations later, little Gus DeLisi will keep his name — and I wager his memory — alive. And that’s pretty cool. Up until now, his uncle Joe has played that role, carrying Agostino as his middle name. And now he’ll have little Gus to help play that role too.

Tony, of course didn’t have to run a half marathon today — on a bitterly cold Saturday in Austin when the temp felt like 16 degrees when he set out on his run this AM. But he did. Before the run he might have wavered once or twice in his determination — the training regimen was tough. But he carried on.

And today, even when energy flagged, he said he reminded himself that Nat had already been on her own marathon carrying Gus to the finish line. He figured that childbirth was tougher than his two hour run so he owed it to Nat and Gus and himself to stay the course.

And at the end of two hours, on the dot, the race was run. What a cool story to be able to tell Gus some day; that his Dad chose to train and run a half in his honor just days before his birth.

As a Dad myself, I know how much we hope our kids will care about our stories. We hope that they will come to know us through our actions, captured in those tales. And although Tony has many stories he can share of his younger days (his siblings will, if he doesn’t) this may be one of the first tales in which Gus will play a role. And that’s pretty special. Tony can tell Gus too, that his Papa was on the treadmill in his honor today, as well, on this sleeting, icy day! After all, I’ve got to do my part too!

So, good for Tony, good for Gus (and good for Natalie who supported Tony’s training). 

And Gus… we can’t wait to meet you!

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

February 12

It’s Friday. And the President’s Day Holiday is Monday. Even part-time work allows you to appreciate a three-day weekend. Looking forward to it!  

And next week, on Thursday afternoon, we’ll join the ranks of those Americans who have been fully vaccinated.  That’s something else to look forward to, and I’ll admit it will come as a relief to reach that point.

The number of folks we know who contracted COVID has grown steadily over the months. We’re grateful that no one we know personally has died from it, and most cases have been manageable, but we also know that has not been true for hundreds of thousands. As we come ever closer to half a million fatalities — something we feared, but a year ago we hoped would never happen — I hope we will never forget the lessons we have learned.

Foremost among them? Good leadership matters. The truly abysmal performance of Trump and his team when confronted with this pandemic turned a serious threat into an out of control crisis. His irresponsibility when it came to messaging about masks and social distancing, his misleading guidance intended to bolster his political fortunes, his thoughtless idiocy in exposing countless people to the risk of the virus in his mega-rallies, his division of the nation into blue and red states when it came to the public health response… the list goes on and on. 

He’s gone. And I hope he’ll increasingly be forgotten. The madness of Trumpism will, I hope, recede in the coming months (I saw today that Nikki Haley has joined the ranks of Republicans who’ve had an epiphany when it comes to Trump) and perhaps we will be able to determine what a post-Trump America will look like.

I’m not naive about the divisions, but I also believe that we are both a resilient people and also fundamentally decent. I know that over the past four years as Trump encouraged the discord and division that has come to plague us and as the politics of racism, nativism, and grievance were enshrined, it has been hard to see a way forward. The worries we have felt for our future are not misplaced. 

And I get it that when the storm is raging around you it can be hard to see the point where the tide starts to turn (having been caught in a wicked cyclone on the Isle St. Marie off the coast of Madagascar years ago, this analogy does ring true!). We’ve wondered if we can ever heal. Ever come together again. Ever again work to address the real problems that confront us and not the artificial concerns of a vicious minority.

Being asked to wear a mask for public health reasons is NOT tyranny at work. Your favorite bar being closed to stop the spread of a deadly pandemic is not cause for armed insurrection. And attempts to address persistent systemic racism and prejudice should be acts of promise and hope for the future and not the existential threat that many of those who attacked our Capitol seem to believe it is.

That vocal and ugly minority has had their voice amplified by politicians like Trump and idiots like Marjorie Taylor Green. But folks are pushing back. People are speaking out. And we have responsible leaders once again at the helm. Leaders who believe, I think, that we are better than we have appeared. Who have faith in the people that they represent. And who have faith in the strength of the values that have defined us.

Last night I did a quick FB post about how impressed… and how proud… I was when looking at the legislators who comprised the House team of impeachment managers. There was much to applaud, but what I felt most strongly was that they were not speaking as Democrats attempting to hold accountable a former Republican president. 

They spoke, in my view, as concerned leaders who see our values, our institutions and our future at risk. They spoke as believers in the rule of law. And they spoke from the heart, I think, when saying that those who are entrusted by the people with the responsibility to lead cannot betray that trust with impunity.  

I don’t know what the future holds. My guess is that the path will be rocky for a while. And I have to believe that once we get to the other side of all this we will be changed as a nation. We have been forced to confront some ugly truths and question the validity or the narrative we have told ourselves about ourselves.

We have work to do.

But I believe we can emerge with our dream of building a more perfect union intact, and that the chaos we have experienced may propel the pendulum back towards hope, reform, and constructive change. 

That may be hard to see right now. There’s no guarantee we’ll get there. But nothing happens, nothing changes if we don’t try. And I think we’ll see a lot of folks coming forward who are ready to do just that. To try. 

I have always been intrinsically optimistic. That optimism has been tested greatly in the recent past. But it has not been beaten down. The Biden inauguration gave me hope. The conduct of the impeachment, gives me hope. The progress against the pandemic gives me hope. The early action to address critical issues from climate change to racial and economic injustice — these too give me hope.

It’s a nice feeling to have. 

Happy Friday.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

February 11

It is a challenge, some days, to find the time to write but this has become part of my routine that I don’t really want to let slip despite the other demands. Today marks 11 months since I started writing. That’s 338 days. 

I don’t pretend it’s 338 days of brilliant commentary or analysis. But there’s value in a record. There’s value in journaling — for the author, if no one else — and I’ve found this process to be meaningful. 

To capture reflections, to memorialize a moment in time. It’s worth it. Maybe there will come a day when a grandchild will muse over what their papa had to say. Maybe it will never be seen again. Either way, it’s OK. I’ll write.

And today, like so many days in the past eleven months, there are dark moments and bright spots. 

Among the dark, is the impeachment trial that is playing in the background. I’ve watched much of the last two days. It is sobering and so disturbing. Watching the attack on the Capitol was bad enough on January 6. To see the far more detailed, almost forensic examination of the attack being presented by the trial managers is even more so. 

We’re seeing new footage, learning even more about the ugliness and violence that our own fellow citizens were willing to inflict on those who defended our nation’s democratic heart and who sought to kill… to kill… our elected officials. 

The power of a mob — the mindlessness of a mob when it is unleashed — is a frightening and dangerous thing. And in this age of cellphone videos and selfies, and with rioters gleefully live-tweeting their hateful acts, we can see it all again and again and again. And it’s ugly and scary and depressing every time. 

It sparks anger and outrage all over again. And the outrage is compounded every time I hear a Republican Senator who seeks to minimize the role that Trump played in creating the environment that made this possible. From the days of his first campaign and throughout his presidency he has condoned violence.  

He told his supporters to “knock the hell” out of protestors at his rallies and promised he’d pay their legal fees. The examples of Trump encouraging and condoning the violence were played… one after another… during the trial today. And it was disgusting and shameful that anyone who aspired to lead — and then led — our nation could say such things to the delight of his followers.

And the big lie about the election… told again and again and again. Well, I don’t need to belabor how it became the “truth” to his followers and how much it contributed to the mob that attacked the Capitol. And to pretend that he doesn’t bear responsibility, to pretend that he wasn’t recklessly criminal throughout all of this is to defy reality. But there are Republican legislators who will excuse, rationalize and pretend. It’s all pretty disgusting.

I hate reliving this. But at the same time, we can’t forget about it. Even though Trump will likely be acquitted because many of the Senate jurors will continue to put their own political interests ahead of our nation’s, it is important that this record be created. And it is important that people listen. And remember. And that we never let this happen again in our lifetimes. 

Trump’s defeat does not mark the end of this struggle for our nation’s soul. And his acquittal does not mean he wins. It just means that some Senators lack the courage to stand for the truth. But that doesn’t make them right or Trump right. 

The struggle will continue. The trial makes it clear that, if nothing else, the threat has not just disappeared. It is not over. But we can overcome this. We can preserve our democracy. We must.

So yes… the impeachment is part of the darkness that we must confront on this cloudy and cold February day in Virginia. But there is good news too. The vaccination effort against the pandemic continues to move forward with growing speed and efficiency. 

Tony Fauci believes we may see vaccine “open season” by April, where everyone will be eligible for inoculations and where the vaccine will be available in numbers that makes this possible. That’s a bright spot. The declining numbers in terms of cases… are a bright spot.  And yes… I know that we could still see surges due to the new variants. I know that we aren’t out of the woods. But there are bright spots. And today I’ll hold onto those for a bit because… well, because a few bright spots are sorely needed.

I’ll leave the trial on this afternoon because I believe I should. I believe it’s important to be reminded and to stand as a witness to this. But I’ll watch it while getting my kitchen therapy. There’s a wonderful looking Thai cauliflower curry to prepare along with grilled tofu and veg skewers marinated in sriracha, honey, and lime juice. And maybe there will be a Thai crunchy salad as well.  

So… with the kitchen calling, I’ll stop for the day. There’s always more to write but it can wait for tomorrow.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

February 10

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water.

Somehow, that tag line from the Jaws 2 trailer seems appropriate today.

The Trump loonies and QAnon conspiracy theorists are at it again. Apparently, in the lala land in which they live, we can expect big changes ahead. Trump will be sworn in on March 4 as the 19th president of the US. All will be revealed. All the pedophiles and devil worshipping democrats and Hollywood stars like Tom Hanks will be swept away by the “storm.”

That’s when it will begin… March 4. 

The QAnon and Sovereign Citizen movements have found common cause. The SC thinking is that the US somehow ceased to exist as a Republic back in 1871 when we went off the gold standard. No laws passed since then are valid. No president since number 18, Ulysses S. Grant, has been legitimate. And they, as Sovereign Citizens, are not bound by the laws that the rest of us follow and respect.

And, for QAnon, the assertion that “restoration of the Republic” is coming on March 4  (if we’re as willing to suspend belief in facts as QAnon acolytes are) is a perfectly rational reason to continue to subscribe to the cult of Trumpism and to fight to allow the worst elements in our society to define our values and future.

We can scoff at this crap, of course. But there are thousands who are subscribing to this nonsense. And if there we so many millions in our nation who bought into Trump’s big lie, why NOT buy into the latest version?

Yes. Craziness continues. And the political drama too. The impeachment trial reminds us of just where we were… just what dangers our nation faced just a month ago — and still faces. The true believers, the racists, the anti-semites, the paranoid conspiracy theorists — they’re all still with us. This isn’t new. We’ve had elements like this within our nation before. 

They come and go. There are times when they take on a greater influence, feeding upon fears and insecurities among some elements of our society. This seems to be one of those times. And we’re not done yet. So be careful about dipping a toe into the water quite yet. There are still sharks. And I think they’re hungry.

Meanwhile, on the pandemic front the word is that there is scientific evidence that  double-masking does work. That it does significantly reduce the transmission of the virus. That’s cool. We had been double masking for weeks in any event. But it’s nice to have it confirmed.

And yesterday CVS announced that they would start administering the vaccine in our area. A quick visit to their site and… voila… our second dose appointments were set. So, instead of driving an hour plus to West Virginia and get the shot at a Walgreens, we can now get it just up the road! 

The pace of vaccinations is really starting to pick up. And that is important if we want to keep the new variants from continuing to mutate and put progress against the virus at risk. There are still sharks in those waters too. And this is another threat that we still face, still must control, and that also requires that every one of us recognize the challenges and stand up to make a difference.

“These are the times that try men’s souls” said Thomas Paine in an essay in December 1776.. He could have been talking about America in 2021. In it he remarked “’Tis surprising to see how rapidly a panic will sometimes run through a country.” It was true then. It is true today. And it is equally surprising at times to see how rapidly some people can be sucked into the madness… how quickly crazy can spread.

Let’s stand for “not crazy.” Let’s stand for what we’ve known to be true about our nation and about ourselves throughout our lives. Let’s stand for the future. 


Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

February 9

So, the impeachment trial hasn’t started yet as I begin to draft this. That’s good. To the extent that I watch it I will only get angry all over again I imagine.  Not just angry over what Trump did but angry over the unwillingness of the Republican senators to address the substance of the issues. They’ll hide behind flimsy constitutional arguments that most legal scholars have dismissed in order to avoid facing the ugliness of what Trump did. 

I think there are many of them who are appalled by Trump. But they won’t say so because it will anger the Trump base. It’s a matter of political survival — some would say political cowardice. 

We all know that politicians are… politicians. And don’t get me wrong. I’ve met many legislators, from both parties, who are committed to serving our nation and to take on the ever-more difficult work of legislating and finding a path forward for our nation. And, god knows, these days it is tougher than ever. And although there are the loonies like Marjorie Taylor Green, there are many who are not.

But, even recognizing that there will always be “politics” in politics, and that political self-interest will at times take precedence over principle, there are also those times when the issues are so important — so fundamental — that we must stand for what we believe. 

Political courage and leadership are what we need now, more than ever. The issues are too fundamental to our democracy and to our future to hide behind a procedural fig leaf. But that is what the majority of Republican Senators will do. If they truly believe that Trump’s actions were not impeachable offenses then let them say so. Let them stand up and be counted. But they likely won’t. 

And, at a time like this, when the issues are this critical to who we are as a nation, that is not just disappointing, it is shameful.

But life goes on and there’s plenty to keep me busy. I’m still hoping that we’ll be getting our second vaccinations on Feb 18, but there’s some confusion now about whether we’ll be allowed to get the shot at the Walgreens in West Virginia that we are presently scheduled with. The process keeps evolving. CDC’s system still has the appointment confirmed but the county public health folks have offered conflicting information. It’s an adventure. 

It’s not as though our lives will change dramatically following a second vaccination, but there will be a sense of relief and a greater degree of comfort that there is a significant level of protection from the virus. We will still live a largely virtual life for a while, yet. But that’s not bad. We had a virtual baby shower for Nat and Tony not long ago and that was great. And we’ll do a book talk through the Lewes Delaware Public Library system on March 3. Lisa Mullins from NPR will lead the conversation with Jane Lillian Vance who illustrated “The Ambassador’s Dog” and me. It should be fun. Join us!

And meanwhile, there are more discussions, or at least hints, that life in the second half of the year will start to edge us closer to a life that is lived more robustly. We can’t wait. But for now we remain patient, we remain careful, and we listen to the experts. It’s the best we can do.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

February 8

It’s a bit late in the day for me to be starting my blog. I wonder sometimes if I write differently at different times of the day. Maybe. 

Today it was just too busy to write in the morning. I did some work for State. I did some work for Engage Nepal. I did some work in promoting our book. Then there were errands to run. And then, it was just too bright and sunny and briskly pleasant to not enjoy the weather, so, off I went with Lo Khyi and Gyptse Jane for a two mile walk.

So now I sit to write. I took a peek at the headlines. And then wished I hadn’t. The debate continues to rage about how and whether to open schools, how and when to vaccinate teachers, and how and where the new variants are holding sway. Doctors are echoing the concerns I mentioned yesterday about the rush in some states to lift covid restrictions at the worst possible time.  

And then there was the political reporting. Trump’s impeachment trial will start tomorrow and we’ll hear an endless stream of analysis. There will be storm and fury and righteous anger and indignation, and at the end of the day not much will come of it, I wager. And life will go on. All you have to do is read a story or two and you’ll find so much hypocrisy, so many wild accusations and theories, so much sheer stupidity and insanity that you have to know the Chinese and Russians and others are watching us staggering under self-inflicted wounds with glee.

And with all the noise there’s so much that I worry we’re missing. We all have seen (if we’re paying attention at all) the racial inequities that manifest around the pandemic. But we are only starting to really appreciate the gender inequities — another issue of real concern.  

In the past year over 5.4 million of the 9.8 million jobs that have been lost in the economy due to the pandemic were held by women. In the past year over 2.1 million women have left the work force completely. Last month alone over 158,000 black women left the work force and last month virtually all of the 156,000 jobs lost in the economy were held by women (16,000 new jobs created were taken by men).

Even before the pandemic millions of women were already supporting themselves and their families in low-income jobs and these same working mothers, many of whom were also single mothers, had to shoulder family caregiving responsibilities for children and often elder care as well.

That’s not to say working dads don’t face similar challenges and there are dads who are caregivers, too, but we all know that the burden falls most heavily on women. 

We know that women are significantly over-represented in service industry jobs and in leisure and hospitality jobs that already were among the lowest paying jobs in our economy. They struggled to make it even before the pandemic and the future only looks bleaker. Far too many women are not able to telework but they also struggle in the face of woefully inadequate childcare options. That’s another thing we’ve never prioritized as a society or considered the lack of adequate support, on this front, as another sign of unthinking gender bias.  

Faced with impossible choices, women are being left behind again and they won’t quickly recover. Over 40 percent of women currently unemployed have been out of work for six months or more and history tells us that if and when they reenter the work force they will do so at a lower wage and that it may take years for them to recover from the impact of this economic crisis. 

But it’s a crisis if only we’re willing to see it. And I think there are too many in Congress who wouldn’t recognize the challenges for what they are, if they were a wolf that jumped up and bit them, as my mother would have said. They wonder why more financial aid is needed for families that are suffering, they resist an increase in the minimum wage (of course THEY don’t work for $11 an hour and have to support a family on that) and now they’ll question the latest proposal for childcare support to families for the next year at least and call that unnecessary as well. 

Women got the right to vote over 100 years ago, but that was just the start of a struggle that continues today. And as a husband, as the father of a daughter, as the grandfather to a granddaughter, the persistent inequalities offend the hell out of me. 

I know we’ve got our hands full with the pandemic and the craziness. I know there are more issues than we can count. But our way out of the problems isn’t along a path that leaves women behind, that ignores economic injustice and racial divides. We need to recognize that our hope for the future requires a broader, more holistic vision. It is a time and an opportunity for transformation. I hope we seize it.

On another note, George Shultz died yesterday at age 100. He was a statesman, a leader, and a gentleman. He was my first Secretary of State, and it is an honor to say I served under his leadership. He is, without question, one of the most impressive of the Secretaries of State I saw in my career, and even last year I know that Ambassadorial hopefuls from the non-career ranks sought his counsel and support. He was of a generation that saw public service as an honor and responsibility, who saw service to our nation — not service to our egos — as paramount. May he rest in peace and may his service — and example — continue to inspire. 

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

February 7

It’s another snowy day in Virginia. It’s a wet slushy snow… so much so that even the Prince of the Mountains — Lo Khyi, our Tibetan Mastiff — decided that the living room was a far better spot to hang out than his perch on top of the hill.

I guess there will be some snow shoveling ahead for today. Maybe some cooking as well. And a bit of relaxation I hope. The Super Bowl, I must confess, isn’t sparking tremendous excitement at this end, but it is a cultural experience — a shared national experience — so we may tune in. And the commercials can be fun. We’ll see. The game is only part of the story.

Meanwhile, I was taken aback to hear this morning about what seems to me to be some real craziness! Iowa — and it’s not the only state to do such things — is lifting its requirement on mask wearing in indoor places. Some states are also easing indoor dining restrictions and other measures meant to control the spread of the virus.

I get it that the numbers are coming down at the moment and vaccinations are going up. And that’s good news. But there’s a reason that President Biden has asked us to do a 100 day mask wearing challenge. And there’s a reason that public health experts are deeply worried about the days ahead despite the good news. They are particularly worried that the more highly contagious variants that are coming to the fore can lead to an even greater surge of the virus that builds on the currently still way-too-high baseline.

They are worried about the still dangerous days ahead. So, I just don’t get it. I really don’t. Just as we start to see glimmers of hope why NOT hold on a little bit longer? Why not continue to wear masks at a minimum? I don’t get it. 

I recognize the economic pressures that make leaders want to re-open as much as possible. But you have to weigh the short term relief folks might feel as life “re-opens” against the costs of fueling an even worse resurgence of the virus. Another month or two of measured public-health responses might make far more sense.

Leaders have to guide people to follow the path we need to follow… not just the paths we want to follow. I fear that too many of these leaders have forgotten that lessen — or are still too willing to respond to a public health crisis based on their political ideology rather than the wisdom of science.

There’s plenty of craziness to go around, though, on so many fronts. I do hope, though, that we’ll gradually claw our way back to sanity a step at a time. 

Happy Super Sunday.

Stay safe, stay strong, stay healthy.

February 6

The issue of school reopenings is one I wrote a bit about yesterday and it continues to generate a lot of attention. It is another of the artifacts that remain from the Trump Administration’s decentralized and generally chaotic approach to the COVID pandemic. Across our nation we have thousands of school districts and authorities. City, county, state and federal actors all have their views, their voice, and their points of leverage. So do teachers and parents. 

Too many voices, too little guidance, and too many unanswered questions and conflicting approaches. And, even with the best of intentions, schools will need support and resources to manage reopening safely and effectively.  

Just this week, two days after reopening schools, a San Diego county had to order 100 staff and students to go into quarantine due to exposure. There will be challenges of this sort no matter what we do. But we have to be prepared and able to deal with them across the nation and my best guess is that we aren’t.  It’s not about competing ideologies. It’s not about good guys and bad guys. It just about folks trying to make good choices in a very bad situation and clearly, it’s not easy.

Now Biden seeks to provide leadership at the federal level on this and that’s great. But the disparities across the various school authorities across the nation make this pretty damn difficult. And where are the greatest problems likely to be found? In the poorest communities, of course. 

And, generally, across the nation, which kids are most likely to bear the brunt of the challenges, fall further behind, and be left at ever greater risk? The children of our poorest families. Children who are more likely to be black or brown. Children whose parents face impossible choices when it comes to going to work or being home with kids who aren’t in school and who now may have to contend with the concerns about sending their children back to school in some of the least prepared school districts in the nation.  

And so it goes. We have all talked a lot about racial injustice in our nation and, when we witness a cop kill a black man by kneeling on his neck, we respond — appropriately — with outrage and horror. But systemic racism is more than just police abusing their power and discriminating against those who are not white. It is about perpetuating economic inequality, It is about treating the disparities in our educational system as an intellectual exercise rather than a call to action.

If we believe that Black Lives Matter why aren’t we speaking out for the kids of color who are being left behind? Why aren’t we outraged at the wildly disproportionate impact this pandemic is having on our Black and Latino communities. 

Poverty, economic necessity, inequality in education, in health care, in access to online learning. The racial divide tracks along with all these concerns and we have to address it. There are, of course, white families who face the same challenges and who are also at risk. And for all of them — for all our citizens who are struggling to feed their families, to keep or find a job, to keep their kids safe and healthy and offer them a decent education — we need to do more. We need to act. We need a commitment to fundamental change that goes beyond political sound bites and that transforms into action.

The American Dream is supposed to be for all of us. But we know it’s not. Not today. Not yet. 

It’s something to think about as we enjoy our weekends.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

February 5

Sorry. One of the big stories in the news is about Marjorie Taylor Green. But she’s gotten enough attention. I’m not going to add to it. She’s been outrageous in the things she has said and I find her half-hearted repentance to be less than compelling. Enough.  For today at least. 

But what else is out there? Plenty. It’s fascinating that a year into the pandemic we’re still debating the issue of reopening schools and whether teachers need to be vaccinated before that happens. 

I have believed that we should let the experts guide us on these questions — that science rather than politics should be the lodestone we follow. So when I hear the new CDC Director and Tony Fauci and others argue that schools can be reopened and operated safely and not be a major vector for spread of the disease, I tend to believe them. 

But there are nuances to every argument. The subtext of reopening and operating safely includes things like compliance with masking, the ability to monitor and contact trace, schools with adequate room for distancing and adequate ventilation to keep air flowing. And the problem, of course, is that many schools can’t meet these considerations — and they won’t be able to unless there’s much more funding as envisioned in the “American Rescue Plan” that Biden has proposed. Hopefully those funds will be forthcoming and we’ll be able to move forward to reopen schools safely.

There were also concerns expressed by some experts, though, about the wisdom of reopening if infection rates in a given community are too high and the virus is spiraling out of control. And then there are the teachers. When CDC Director Walensky suggested the other day that immunizing all teachers was not a prerequisite for the safe reopening of the schools it sparked a backlash. This remains one of those hot button issues we have to grapple with.

It may be that if the other pre-requisites for safe reopening of schools are met (and we don’t know how long that will actually take in school districts across the nation) maybe Dr. Walensky is right that teacher immunizations do not have to be immediate. But then again… why not?

Instead of sparking debates founded in fear and worry, why not just give priority — as we have started to — to immunizing teachers across the nation? If it’s so important that we get kids back to school — for the sake of the kids, for the sake of the economy and for the sake of parents everywhere — then why not just make this easier and ensure that teachers get their shots? 

The process is underway in any event. We’re ramping up vaccinations as we speak. I don’t think anyone would (or should) begrudge moving teachers to the front of the queue. We want them to go back to work and take the risks of engaging with the students every day — and god knows we’ve seen teachers get infected and die already because they were in those schools that had reopened. So why should we ask them to put themselves into a higher risk environment if we aren’t willing to at least give them the protection that vaccinations afford. 

Schools may not turn out to be a major driver of the pandemic if things are done right, but that doesn’t mean that teachers on the front lines within the schools aren’t going to be vulnerable. The two aren’t mutually exclusive. So, let’s protect our teachers. We’ve never paid them what they’re worth — let’s at least give them a fighting chance when it comes to their health.

To me it’s a no-brainer. There are times when common sense just has to be our first principle. But I’ve worked in and around government long enough to know that isn’t always true. Let’s hope it will be this time around.

Happy Weekend.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

February 4

We all know that the world is changing and I wager most of us are caught up in it and still struggling to make sense of it. It’s hard to believe that 20 years ago there was no Facebook. No Twitter. No Alexis or Siris or Hey Googles. We didn’t have Instagram or Snapchat and we didn’t have the dark corners of the internet that lead to the contagious spread of  bizarre and dangerous conspiracy theories. 

Our phones weren’t central to our lives. Our attention wasn’t pulled in a million different directions throughout the day and our worth wasn’t measured as much by the number of our followers but by the quality of our friendships. 

The rise of the internet has indeed changed the world. It has given rise to the concept of the “attention economy” in which all these different voices clamor for our attention and whoever can capture the biggest share of that attention is the winner. It is, in part, at least, what has given rise to Donald Trump whose need for validation makes him obsessed with external measures to prove he is loved. 

How many times did he talk about the “ratings” news show had, the political conventions had, or that his inauguration had. Crowd sizes, the number of twitter followers and number of “likes” he got became a measure of his worth. It wasn’t about vision or intellect or his world view… it was about how much of our attention he could command in the highly competitive world of the attention economy.

How many times a day do people feel compelled to look at their phones? To check their Twitter feed or the Facebook updates or the latest online news? How often do we sneak a peek at the screen or find ourselves staring at them—waiting for the latest update — even as we watch tv or carry on a conversation?

Our attention is a finite commodity, and with so many competing for it ,the battle becomes ever-more intense and the sensationalism becomes the norm in the effort to draw our glance and win a “click.” 

In less than two decades so many people have come to live so much more of their lives online and we are changing as a result. Some suggest that our brains are changing. That the way we process information, the way neurons fire in our brain, that the way we think and feel and react are all changing. And they are probably right.

There are good things and bad aspects to all of this. But the genie isn’t going to go back into the bottle. We can do all the digital detoxing we want but the world is forever changed and us with it. And the future will seem an even stranger and more alien landscape for those of us whose formative years are rooted in the world that existed “before.”

Our grandchildren will never know what it was like to live in a world where information came to us in dribs and drabs rather than as an overwhelming torrent from which we can only sample the smallest of bites.  Their lives may increasingly be lived online — at least in some ways. I wonder what that will be like? I wonder how much virtual reality, especially as the technology becomes ever more robust, will complement or supplant the “real” reality.  

Will a virtual safari in the African bush capture the richness of the experience. Will a virtual sunrise on the Mekong Delta capture the feel of the breeze, the scent of the river and the earth, the warmth of the morning sun as it overcomes the morning mists? 

All I know is that the world continues to change faster than I can measure and the pandemic may, in some ways, be accelerating the increasing use of, and reliance on, the internet. 

For those of us who straddle the world before and the world of today I can’t help but think we feel more than a little nostalgia for what has been lost even if we can appreciate some of the marvels we have gained. How to manage these marvels though, and ensure they aren’t really a Pandora’s box of ills will be the challenge of the generations to come. 

And though I’ll use the online resources available to us without hesitation, I still hope that there are adventures in the non-virtual world still ahead. Another African sunrise, another unexplored city in which I can become lost, another wonder of nature to encounter in person. I’m not ready yet to swap those for a VR headset version of adventure — at least not yet.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

February 3

And it’s Wednesday. We start the back side of the week after today, though. That is a distinction that doesn’t mean quite what it used to. 

The fact that I still do some work as a “senior advisor” for State gives my weeks a certain degree of structure, admittedly. Mon-Friday looks and feels a bit different than the weekend. And that’s good, I guess. The days already blur a bit too much one into another. 

The other thing I notice is something I’ve already written about. The diminished degree of outrage. We have plenty of concerns to address, I know, and there are threats to manage and more than enough to worry about. But somehow, the end of the Trump presidency and the relative quiet with him not in every headline gives us a chance to focus on the problems more than a polarizing personality.

Meanwhile, amidst all the concerns about the pandemic, QAnon conspiracy theorists and all the other challenges we face, the stories about GameStop and Robin Hood and hedge funds and WallStreetBets are all over the news. I don’t quite understand it all. I’ve never fully understood the market and it’s machinations, and at this point in my life I’ll leave it to others to sort out.

Some try to cast it as the little guys vs the big guys. There are questions about manipulation and collusion. Efforts to “stick it to the man” and disrupt the system. The system, of course, as little as I understand it, is one that — transparent and accountable or not — includes the retirement funds and investments of tens of millions of us. So, to some extent, I guess, I need to pay attention.

I realize that folks with retirement funds being handled by the big institutional investors probably did well last year. For many that’s hugely important. I’m among them. So I can’t complain, I guess. But still, you can’t help but wonder about the system that we’ve created. We think about the number of scandals over the years. The degree to which the scramble to increase wealth… the degree to which greed, in many cases, has led to abuses and scandal, has to give us pause. 

And those of us who don’t understand it all but who pray for an outcome that will let us face retirement with some financial stability are the ones who end up hurt when the bubbles burst and when the price has to be paid for the recklessness and selfishness of the hotshots on Wall Street.  

Trump was obsessed with market performance during his time in office and suggested it was a measure of his success. Of the extraordinary success of the economy on his watch. Hmmph. Even now the market is strong and so, by that logic, is the economy.  

Don’t ask the millions whose jobs have been lost, though, and who are still unemployed. Don’t ask the father waiting in line at the food bank whose sense of self worth has plummeted knowing that he can’t feed his kids. Don’t ask the women — legions of them — who have been among the first to lose work and who may be among the last to be rehired. Young women trying to get a start. Single mom’s trying to balance families and jobs in a pandemic and with little or no help from the government when it comes to childcare or support.

There’s something wrong, in my book, when we are talking more about GameStop and Robin Hood and reddit investor groups than we are about the very real economic crisis that our nation is facing. We’ve got to get our priorities straight. We need to act but Republicans in Congress have now, after four years of Trump cutting taxes for the wealthy and creating huge deficits, suddenly decided that fiscal discipline is needed.  Yep… let’s ensure the wealthy get tax cuts that may further fuel the rise of the markets and put even more money in their pockets, but let’s not act to help those in our nation who truly need help and need it now.

I don’t pretend to understand all of it. I don’t. But I wager that most of the legislators on Capitol Hill don’t either. You think Marjorie Taylor Green does? Do you think Ted Cruz worries about this? Do you think most of the geriatric set of Senators really wade through the details of legislation or give careful thought to the shaping of these policies?  

So they make political choices in deciding complex economic issues and meanwhile a system that has been the breeding ground for corruption and abuse in the past continues to roll merrily along. The reddit insurgents do battle with the entrenched hedge fund moguls and, meanwhile, ordinary people are the casualties of our misplaced priorities. 

I’m sure that there are plenty of you out there who can tell me where my thinking is flawed and that I really don’t understand the process. And I’d agree. I don’t get it. I’m willing to bet there are lots of us who don’t, but whose guts tell us that there’s something that just isn’t right about all of this. So, I hope the Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders and AOC and Joe Biden and Janet Yellin and others don’t give up. It’s time for change.

And that’s it for mid-week musings. 

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

February 2

The news for the next week will increasingly come to focus on Trump’s impeachment trial. The preliminary case, as prepared by the impeachment managers, is pretty damn compelling in terms of Trump having gone way beyond the acceptable in encouraging the mob. 

We’ll see folks get wrapped around the axle on  issues related to “free speech,” “protected speech,” and “political speech.” It will all be of interest for constitutional scholars. But it will mean little for any of us in the long run. 

Absent new evidence or witnesses we have no clue about right now, Republicans will choose not to address the substantive issues. They will instead argue that it is unconstitutional to try Trump after his time in office has ended. And they will use that as their rationale to acquit. It will all be political theater.

The result appears to be a foregone conclusion. And Trump will not be held accountable and Republicans will not take a stand on calling Trump out for behavior that was shocking and dangerous in our President. It will not be a profile in courage.

I wish I found it all surprising and shocking, but it isn’t. Not any more. And it says something really disturbing about how our democracy and political process has changed over my lifetime. 

We need fundamental change — I just don’t know how we bring it about.

Meanwhile, I have to admit something shocking — I’m tired of the pandemic. What?  You are too? How about that. I’m tired of the limits, I’m tired of the isolation, tired of not going out, tired of not traveling, tired about having to worry. Tired of it all. But will I quit paying attention? Hell no. Will I quit wearing masks, quit maintaining distance, or quit being a responsible citizen? No, on all counts.

We all want our lives back. But even with vaccinations, the lives we want to live are still months away. As I wrote yesterday, every day we learn more about the new variants and every day the concerns about them seem to grow, making the struggle to get to whatever normal will be in the future, all that much harder. 

There is a growing worry that the South African variant, in particular, could become a real problem. It appears it may be capable of reinfecting those who have already been infected. That’s definitely not good! The urgency of vaccination becomes all the more self-evident — but at the same time vaccine hesitancy continues to be a problem that is going to have to be addressed along with the logistical challenges that we’re starting to smooth out. 

And so it goes. 

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.

February 1 

This morning I was listening to the briefing from the COVID Response Team that the Biden Administration has fielded. I have to say, the best part of it was that there wasn’t a politician in sight. No one trying to hijack the science, no one trying to take credit, skew the narrative or cast it in terms of red and blue states.

It was just a bunch of scientist. There were moments when they were geeking out on epidemiology science. There were moments that bordered on the boring. But there was a ton of information. There was good discussion on vaccinations and the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine and why it will be important and effective even if its numbers aren’t as high as the other two. There was an announcement about at-home testing kits. There was a plan. 

That WAS the best thing. Plans. Structure. Facts. It all has to come together, of course, but it is promising. Information is flowing and being shared. And we can hope, at last, that there will be progress.

We need it. Even though our overall numbers are down, which is great news, we know that they can readily surge again. The multiple variants still pose a serious concern and if we don’t accelerate vaccinations quickly enough numbers could surge again and, more troubling, further mutations can follow.

Along with the work of the scientists, we need the COVID response package — in some form — to pass. We need action sooner rather than later and we need to commit enough in terms of resources to ensure that we have an impact. 

It’s not just about money for vaccinations — though that is needed — and it’s not just about stimulus for folks in need. It’s about child care, it’s about job assistance, about rental relief, it’s about keeping the economy from imploding further. It’s about making schools safer. It’s about helping state and local governments. It’s about helping families put food on the table. 

We’re dealing with some of the worst economic numbers in 60+ years. We have to act sooner rather than later. I’m glad Biden is meeting with Republicans today, but the question is whether the ten who are heading to the White House are prepared to negotiate seriously or if this is only about what is politically palatable. 

There’s always room for compromise, but we have to do enough to make a real difference. I think it is possible to reach agreement if we’re serious about it. I think Biden is — at least to a point. But the other side has to be forward leaning as well. It cannot drag on, though. Action has to come and if it cannot be bipartisan something has to happen nonetheless. 

It’s a totally different environment in Washington right now. The debate is more about policy than personalities. It’s more about outreach that outrage. And I hope that we’ll see progress. I’m struck, though, as I listen to folks talk about how Biden “promised” bipartisanship, and I’ve heard a few Republicans suggest that he’ll have ‘broken his promise” if he doesn’t cut a deal. Excuse me, but… let’s keep perspective.

Bipartisanship has to be a two way street. It’s not just about Biden. Republicans need to bring the same spirit to the table. They never did with Obama who tried to build a bipartisan spirit but was met with McConnell’s vow to make him a “one-term president.” For eight years we saw Republican stonewalling. Let’s hope both sides recognize what’s at stake and let’s hope that they act like grown-ups.  

Where it will lead is a matter of concern to us all. It will be fascinating to watch.  

Happy Monday.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.